Toldos 5782


Two perspectives on Yitzchak[1]

‏…והיה כאשר תריד ופרקת עולו מעל צוארך
…It shall be, that when the Jews don’t keep the Torah[2], you shall remove his yoke from upon your neck[3]

There’s an interesting verse in the book of Isaiah. It says[4]: “You (Hashem) are our Father, since Avraham didn’t know us, and Yisrael didn’t recognize us.  Forever Your name is Hashem, our Father, our Redeemer.” What’s interesting about this verse is Yitzchak is strangely absent. We also find two different explanations from our Sages to this verse. At first glance, they appear to be total contradictions, one saying the exact opposite of the other. However, if we delve into their proper meaning, it will become clear that they are actually saying the same idea, just from different vantage points.

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Vayeishev 5781


Why we are called Jews[1]

יהודה אתה יודוך אחיך וגו’‏
Yehudah, your brothers will admit to you[2]

In a few weeks’ time, we’ll read Yaakov’s blessings to his kids in parshas Vayechi. The blessing given to Yehudah is that “your brothers will admit to you”. This is somewhat of a play on words, as the name Yehudah has the same root as the word מודה, to admit. What this blessing is referring to is elucidated by Targum “Yonasan”[3]. The blessing is that since Yehudah admitted his collusion with the incident with Tamar, the descendants of Yaakov will all be called by Yehudah’s name. The word Jew, or Yehudi, comes from the word Yehuda. What was the incident with Tamar, and why was it so meritorious for Yehudah that for thousands of years there would be a nation called the Jewish people?

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Va’eira 5780


Amphibian logic[1]

ושרץ היאר צפרדעים ועלו ובאו בביתך ובחדר משכבך ועל מטתך ובבית עבדיך ובעמך ובתנוריך ובמשארותיך
The frogs will swarm the river, and will go up and come into your house, and your bedroom, on your bed, and into the house of your servants, and in your ovens, and in your bread[2]

The second of the Ten Plagues was that of the swarm of frogs. More than just a noisy nuisance, they made life unbearable. They were literally everywhere, and in everything. An Egyptian couldn’t feel safe taking a bath, or going to bed, or putting on clothes, without bumping into dozens or hundreds of frogs. The Torah says that the frogs even became suicidal, jumping into the Egyptians’ ovens. Food that they were baking became contaminated by the corpses of the frogs. It’s no wonder that Pharaoh begged Moshe to stop the plague[3].

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