Emor 5778

Receiving life for giving life[1]

ובקצרכם את-קציר ארצכם לא-תכלה פאת שדך בקצרך ולקט קצירך לא תלקט לעני ולגר תעזב אתם אני יקוק אלקיכם: דבר אל-בני ישראל לאמר בחדש השביעי באחד לחדש יהיה לכם שבתון זכרון תרועה מקרא-קדש
When you reap the harvest of your land, don’t finish off the corners of your fields as you reap, and don’t collect the gleanings of your harvest; leave them for the poor and the convert, I am Hashem your G-d. Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: “In the seventh month, in the first of the month, it will be for you a day of rest, of remembrance, of shofar-blasts, [and] a holy convocation[2]

The end of this week’s parsha describes the various Jewish holidays. In between the holidays of Shavuos and Rosh Hashanah, the Torah mentions[3] the mitzvos of peah (lit: corner) and leket (gleanings). When a Jewish farmer is harvesting his crop, there are special mitzvos of tzedakah that he must fulfill. He must leave a corner of his field unharvested, allowing the poor to take as they need. Likewise, when harvesting crops, sometimes some of the produce falls to the ground, known as gleanings. The farmer is commanded to leave those on the ground for the poor to collect. In addition to commanding the farmer not to harvest peah and leket, the Torah adds the injunction to specifically leave them for the poor and the convert. Why are these mitzvos placed here? It seems to serve as some sort of an introduction to the holiday that follows it, Rosh Hashanah[4]. What is this teaching us?

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Bo 5778

The difference between a request and a command[1]

אל תאכלו ממנו נא וכו’ ולא תותירו ממנו עד בוקר
Al (Don’t) eat from [the Pesach offering] insufficiently roasted[2]VeLo (and don’t) leave over any of it until morning[3]

Many times, the Torah uses the word לא, lo (don’t), when it wants to express a negative statement. However, other times it uses the word אל, al (don’t). An example[4] of both is in this week’s parsha, in two adjacent verses. The Torah introduces the mitzvah of the korban Pesach, the Passover offering, with a list of several instructions for its preparation and consumption. All of these instructions constitute individual mitzvos. There’s a mitzvah[5] not to eat a korbon Pesach which wasn’t roasted properly over a fire[6]. Regarding this mitzvah, the Torah uses the word al, when it says not to eat from it insufficiently roasted. There’s another mitzvah[7] not to leave any of the korbon Pesach over until morning[8]. It must be entirely consumed. With this mitzvah, the Torah uses the word lo, when it says don’t leave any of it over. What’s the difference between these two words? Why does the Torah sometimes choose one over the other?

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Ki Savo 5777

Taking the first step[1]

דרשו יקוק בהמצאו קראהו בהיותו קרוב: יעזב רשע דרכו ואיש און מחשבתיו וישב אל-יקוק וירחמהו ואל-אלקינו כי-ירבה לסלוח
Seek out Hashem where he is found, call out to Him when He is close. The wicked one will abandon his ways, the sinful man his thoughts; he will return to Hashem, who will have mercy on him, and to Our G-d, since He is wont to forgive[2]

The Midrash says[3] that once the Jews started to approach the land of Israel, Moshe pleaded with Hashem that he be allowed to join them. He had recently been barred from entering the land[4]. He asked: “Please can I see it”[5]. Hashem responded by asking how could He annul His decree against Moshe and yet maintain Moshe’s earlier decree? When the Jews sinned during the episode of the spies, Hashem was going to annihilate the nation. Moshe said: “Please forgive them”[6]. Hashem fulfilled his decree. By asking to enter the land, Hashem informed Moshe that it was like he wanted to hold on to a rope from both ends. If Hashem’s decree is nullified, Moshe’s decree can’t stand. Once Moshe heard this, he desisted from his prayers. This Midrash on the surface is astounding. How come one decree is dependent on the other? Why does letting Moshe into the land remove their earlier forgiveness?

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