Noach in a fur coat
אלא תולדת נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו את-האלקים התהלך-נח
These are the chronicles of Noach. Noach was a perfectly righteous individual in his generations; Noach walked with Hashem
One of the more famous comments by Rashi is at the beginning of parshas Noach. He is bothered by the Torah’s qualification that Noach was perfectly righteous in his generations. What is the message being conveyed? He says that some understand it to be in his praise. Noach was so righteous in such a wicked generation. Just imagine how great he would have been had he lived amongst a generation of other righteous individuals! Others say that it’s stated to his detriment. He was only righteous because of the generation that he found himself in. Had he been in the generation of Avraham, Noach wouldn’t have been considered so special.
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Tefillas Geshem – The merit of Moshe’s sin
זכר משוי בתבת גמא מן המים, נמו דלה דלה והשקה צאן מים, סגוליך עת צמאו למים, על הסלע הך ויצאו מים
Recall the one (Moshe) who was in a wicker basket, drawn from the water; who drew forth and gave the flock water, Your treasured nation who thirsted for water; who hit the rock and came out water
Starting from Shemini Atzeres, we begin praising Hashem for rain during our daily prayers. This coincides with the beginning of the rainy season in the land of Israel. To cap off these praises, we recite a communal prayer for rain. In this prayer, we mention various Torah references to water. These are meant to awaken Divine mercy and justify our requests for rain. Quite surprisingly, one of these references are to Moshe hitting the rock.
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The plan to save Moshe
וידבר יקוק אל-משה בעצם היום הזה לאמר: עלה אל-הר וגו’ ומת בהר אשר אתה עלה שמה וגו’
Hashem spoke to Moshe on that very day, saying: “Go up the mountain…and you will die on the mountain that you will ascend…”
The Torah says that Hashem told Moshe on that very day to go up the mountain to meet his demise. Rashi brings that the Torah says the expression “on that very day” three differnent times. The first is with Noach, when he entered the ark he had built as a salvation from the flood. The second is when the Jews left Egypt. The third is in this week’s parsha with Moshe. Rashi says that all three of these instances of this expression are teaching us the same thing.
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Resurrection of the dead and knowledge of the future
ויאמר יקוק אל-משה הנך שכב עם-אבתיך וקם העם הזה וזנה אחרי אלהי נכר-הארץ וגו’
Hashem said to Moshe: “Behold, you will lie with your ancestors, and this nation will get up and sway after the gods of the inhabitants of the land…”
A non-Jewish matron once asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya a theological question. Two basic tenets of the Jewish faith are that Hashem knows the future, and that in the final redemption there will be a resurrection of the dead. This matron asked for a source to these two beliefs. He responded from a verse in this week’s parsha. Hashem told Moshe הנך שכב עם אבותיך, you will lie with your ancestors. Moshe was told he was about to perish. Then it says וקם העם הזה וזנה אחרי אלהי נכר הארץ, the nation will get up and serve idols. Rabbi Yehoshua said to read the verse as if וקם, “will get up”, as if it was referring to Moshe. Meaning, Moshe will die, but then he will get up. We see the dead will be resurrected. Furthermore, the verse says that the nation will serve idols, which they did. This shows Hashem knows the future.
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וירם משה את-ידו ויך את-הסלע במטהו פעמים ויצאו מים רבים ותשת העדה ובעירם
Moshe raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff. A lot of water came out and quenched the thirst of the congregation and their animals
The episode of Mei Merivah is one of the more famous episodes in the Torah, and one of the most difficult to understand. The whole story is only a few verses long, and describes the Jews’ thirst for water, Hashem commanding Moshe to speak to a rock, and Moshe’s sin of instead hitting this rock. The commentators struggle to understand what exactly he did wrong. Despite Moshe’s sin, the people got the water they requested. Hashem miraculously brought forth water from a rock, just because Moshe hit it. The verse says that a lot of water came out. This extra benefit would seem to be something positive, but perhaps there’s more to this miracle than meets the eye.
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What it takes to be a leader
ויאמר אנכי אלקי אביך אלקי אברהם אלקי יצחק ואלקי יעקב ויסתר משה פניו כי ירא מהביט אל-האלקים
[Hashem] said: “I am the G-d of your forefathers, the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak, and the G-d of Yaakov.” Moshe then hid his face, as he feared to stare at the Divine
ויען משה ויאמר והן לא יאמינו-לי ולא ישמעו בקלי כי יאמרו לא-נראה אליך יקוק: והיה אם-לא יאמינו לך ולא ישמעו לקל האת הראשון והאמינו לקל האת האחרון: והיה אם-לא יאמינו גם לשני האתות האלה ולא ישמעו לקלך ולקחת ממימי היאר ושפכת היבשה והיו המים אשר תקח מן-היאר והיו לדם ביבשת
Moshe answered and said: “But they won’t believe me! They won’t listen to me and they’ll say that Hashem didn’t appear to you”…“If it will be that they don’t believe in you and don’t believe the first sign, they will believe the second sign. And if it will be that they don’t believe these two signs, and won’t listen to you, take from the water of the Nile and pour it on the ground. It will be that the water that you took from the Nile will turn to blood on the dry land
Hashem’s first dialogue at the burning bush with Moshe is very interesting. Moshe didn’t realize that this conversation would pave the way for him becoming the leader and savior of the Jewish people. There’s a lot of back and forth, as Moshe was initially not willing to take the position. He had all sorts of excuses. We can learn a lot from this episode, but the following is just a couple of lessons that we can glean. The first lesson comes from Moshe’s initial demeanor during this discussion, and the second comes from Hashem’s response to Moshe’s concern that the Jews won’t believe him.
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The required rebuke
שובה ישראל עד יקוק אלקיך כי כשלת בעונך
Return, Israel, to Hashem your G-d! For you have stumbled in your sins
The first Midrash in parshas HaAzinu seems to have a completely irrelevant halachic query. What’s the law if someone has some sort of ear ailment on Shabbos? Is it permissible for them to seek medical help? The Midrash answers that our Sages taught us that preservation of life overrides Shabbos. This back and forth sounds like some sort of cryptic riddle. What’s it alluding to? Is there some relevance to the time period that we find ourselves in?
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אלה שמות האנשים אשר-שלח משה לתור את-הארץ ויקרא משה להושע בן-נון יהושע
These are the names of the men who were sent by Moshe to scout out the land. Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun: Yehoshua
When the Jews had almost arrived at the land of Israel, they had the idea to send spies to scout out the land. They wanted to know not only about the landscape, but about the inhabitants. Were they a conquerable force, or not? Twelve men, one for each tribe, were selected for the task. One of them was Moshe’s faithful student, Yehoshua. He was originally called Hoshea, but Moshe, as a form of prayer, added the letter yud to his name, making it Yehoshua. Moshe was concerned that the spies had evil intentions, and would falsely give a negative report. He therefore added a letter from G-d’s name to Yehoshua’s, pleading that Hashem should save Yehoshua from the council of the spies. What prompted Moshe to give this name change to Yehoshua? One explanation is that Moshe saw Yehoshua’s great humility, and thus felt he needed this prayer. What does one have to do with the other?
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The most fitting match
ויואל משה לשבת את האיש ויתן את צפורה בתו למשה
Moshe decided to dwell with [Yisro]. [Yisro then] gave his daughter Tsiporra to Moshe [as a wife]
After Moshe saved a Jew’s life by killing an Egyptian taskmaster, he became a wanted man. He had no choice but to flee. He escaped to the land of Midian. There, he found Yisro and his family. Once Moshe impressed this prominent figure, Yisro had no reservations to suggest he marry into the family. Moshe agreed to marry Yisro’s daughter Tsiporra, and with that they were wed. If we look closely, we’ll be surprised to see how fitting this match was.
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Judging ourselves favorably
ואלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל-כל-ישראל בעבר הירדן במדבר בערבה מול סוף בין-פארן ובין-תפל ולבן וחצרת ודי זהב
These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel, on the other side of the Jordan River, in the wilderness, in Aravah, opposite Suf, between Paran and Tofel, and Lavan and Chatzeiros and Di Zahav
The book of Devarim, also known as Deuteronomy, takes place right before Moshe’s death. It’s essentially a goodbye speech to the people. He takes the opportunity to teach them new laws, as well as recount past experiences. The first verse in the book takes great pains to detail the exact geographical location of Moshe’s speech. Rashi explains that some of these aren’t even real names of places, but rather subtle references to past sins of the people. Moshe was rebuking the people, hoping they would catch the hint and learn from their mistakes. The last four cities mentioned, Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeiros and Di Zahav refer to three separate incidents. Tofel and Lavan refer to the sin of the Jews complaining about the munn, the manna that they ate in the wilderness. Tofel implies complaining, and Lavan means white, the color of the mun. Chatzeiros refers to the Korach rebellion. Di Zahav, which means “enough gold”, refers to the creation of the Golden Calf from the abundance of gold they had been given. The obvious question on this list of sins, is why was the Golden Calf listed last? It was the first to occur chronologically, and was undoubtedly one of the worst sins the Jews ever committed.
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