Tisha B’Av 5782


The redemptive undertones of Megillas Eichah[1]

איכה ישבה בדד העיר רבתי עם היתה כאלמנה רבתי בגוים שרתי במדינות היתה למס
Alas! [Jerusalem] sits alone. The city [that once] was filled with many, has become a widow. The greatest amongst the nations, an officer amongst the countries, has reverted for plunder[2]

Megillas Eichah, the book of Lamentations, contains within it a description of the horrible tragedies that befell the Jewish people during the destruction of the First Temple. Who wrote it? Our tradition has it that it was written by the prophet Yirmiyahu, Jeremiah[3]. In fact, he prophetically[4] wrote it before the gruesome disaster even occurred[5]. He knew that the destruction was imminent and tried his best to get his generation to improve their ways. Unfortunately, they did not take kindly to his rebuke, and ultimately, he witnessed the very prophecy he had foretold come to fruition. We recite Megillas Eichah every year on Tisha B’Av, as the most fitting way to recall the destruction, which took place on that very day.

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Pesach 5780


You take half, and I’ll take the other half[1]

ויקח מצה האמצעית ויבצענה לשתים ויתן חציה (הגדולה) לאחד מהמסובין לשומרה לאפיקומן ונותנים אותה תחת המפה וחציה השני ישים בין שתי השלימות
Take the middle matzah and split it into two. Give the (larger[2]) half to one of those at the seder to guard it for the Afikoman, and they put it under a cloth. The second half place among the other two complete matzos[3]

Many people have the custom to have three matzos on their seder plate[4]. While there are practical reasons to have this number[5], there’s also symbolism in the number three. A famous explanation is that they represent the three forefathers: Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov[6]. The simple explanation behind this symbolism is that it was in the merit of the forefathers that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt[7]. The part of the seder known as Yachatz is where we break the middle matzah and save the larger half for the Afikoman. Is there any connection behind this symbolism, and the fact that it’s specifically the middle matzah that is broken?

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The Three Weeks 5778

The King’s chain[1]

ושב יקוק אלקיך את-שבותך ורחמך ושב וקבצך מכל-העמים אשר הפיצך יקוק אלקיך שמה
Hashem will return with your captives and will have mercy on you. He will return and gather you in from all the nations from which Hashem your G-d scattered you to[2]

The Rabbis teach us[3] that Hashem attached His name to our nation’s name of Yisroel[4]. The last two letters of ישראל are “El”, which means G-d. What was the purpose of this? It’s similar to a King, who has a key to a small palace[5]. The King realized that if the key remained as it was, it would surely become lost. He therefore attached a chain to it, such that if it got lost, it would easily be recovered[6]. So too Hashem, who said that if He left the Jews as they were, they would surely become lost among the nations. He therefore attached His name to theirs. This teaches that this world is really the palace of the King[7], and the Jews are the key to that palace. If there were no Jews, it would be as if the palace was sealed off[8]. If the palace was closed, it would no longer serve any purpose. It couldn’t even be referred to as a house, as it would have no entrance. So too if there were no Jews, the world would serve no purpose.

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Behar-Bechukosai 5778

Ensuring the redemption[1]

וזכרתי את-בריתי יעקוב ואף את-בריתי יצחק ואף את-בריתי אברהם אזכר והארץ אזכר
I will remember my covenant with Yaakov; as well, my covenant with Yitzchak, and I’ll remember my covenant with Avraham, and I’ll remember the land[2]

Parshas Bechukosai describes all the devastating things that will happen when the Jews will be exiled from their land. After all these events are described, Hashem assures us that we will not be forgotten. We are assured[3] that we will evade total annihilation, despite our enemies’ plans otherwise. Hashem tells us that He will recall the covenant He made with our forefathers: to be an eternal nation[4], living peacefully in our homeland[5]. When the Torah writes the name of Yaakov, it is written as יעקוב, with an extra “ו”. Rashi points out[6] that this happens five times[7] in Tanach. This is to correspond to the five times[8] that Eliyahu the prophet’s name is written אליה, missing the final “ו”. This is to teach us[9] that Yaakov, so-to-speak, “took” a letter from Eliyahu’s name as collateral, to ensure that Eliyahu will come and announce to Yaakov’s children the imminence of their final redemption[10].  If this is the lesson of the extra letter in Yaakov’s name, then why did it need to be demonstrated five times[11]? If this had happened just once, it would have been sufficient.

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