Devarim 5782

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A thousand times over[1]

יקוק אלקי אבותכם יסף עליכם ככם אלף פעמים ויברך אתכם כאשר דבר לכם
Hashem, the G-d of your forefathers, should increase you a thousand times over, and He should bless you as He said He would[2]

Moshe, as part of his goodbye speech to the people, blessed them that they should increase a thousand times over. Then, he said that Hashem should bless them as He already said He would. Why did Moshe finish his personal blessing by referring to Hashem’s blessing? Rashi explains[3] that the Jewish people, upon hearing Moshe’s blessing of the thousandfold increase, began to protest. “Moshe our teacher! How can you limit your blessing to just a thousand! Hashem’s blessing knows no limits, and He already promised us that we will be so numerous that we’ll impossible to count[4]!” Moshe’s response was that this blessing was from himself, but for sure Hashem’s blessing is still in effect. However, this doesn’t really answer the question. If the thousandfold increase was Moshe’s personal blessing, why indeed did he limit it to a thousand?

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Pekudei 5782

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Guilty conscience[1]

ויביאו את-המשכן אל-משה וגו’ הוקם המשכן: ויקם משה את-המשכן וגו’‏
[The people] brought the Mishkan to Moshe…and the Mishkan was erected. Moshe erected the Mishkan[2]

After all of the materials were collected, tapestries woven, and implements constructed, the Mishkan, the portable Temple, was ready to be assembled. We are told that the people brought the Mishkan to Moshe. What is this referring to? All of the vessels? All of the tapestries? Why did they bring it to him? Shouldn’t they have brought everything to the craftsmen behind the Mishkan? Wasn’t it their job to finish the construction? To address all of these questions, Rashi brings[3] an interesting idea from our Sages. It’s based on a verse which appears later, that the Mishkan “was erected”, which sounds passive. Immediately following this verse, we are informed that Moshe erected the Mishkan all by himself. Which one was it?

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Vayakhel / Shekalim 5782

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Careful word choice[1]

ויקהל משה את-כל-עדת בני ישראל ויאמר אלהם אלה הדברים אשר-צוה יקוק לעשת אתם: ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קדש שבת שבתון ליקוק וגו’ ויאמר משה אל-כל-עדת בני-ישראל לאמר זה הדבר אשר-צוה יקוק לאמר: קחו מאתכם תרומה ליקוק וגו’‏
Moshe congregated the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, and said to them: “These are the matters which Hashem commanded you, to perform them. Six days work shall be done and on the seventh day it shall be Holy, a restful Shabbos for Hashem…” Moshe said to the entire assembly of the children of Israel, saying: “This is the matter which Hashem commanded, saying: ‘Take from yourselves a donation for Hashem…’”[2]

The beginning of this week’s parsha contains many oddities and inconsistencies. First, we are told that Moshe congregated the entire Jewish people to tell them about the observance of Shabbos. Why was there a need to teach them about Shabbos? This isn’t the first time they’ve heard about it. In fact, it was already repeated in last week’s parsha! What’s being added this time around? Furthermore, why is it stressed that Moshe congregated them? We don’t find this action associated with any other mitzvah in the Torah.

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Yisro 5782

Problematic pronouns and family dynamics[1]

ויצא משה לקראת חתנו וישתחו וישק-לו וישאלו איש-לרעהו לשלום ויבאו האהלה
Moshe went out to greet his father-in-law [Yisro]. He bowed [to him] and kissed him, and one asked the other how they were doing, and they went into the tent[2]

As Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, came to join the Jewish people, Moshe greeted him with a grand welcome. As the two reunited, we are presented with a vague verse. It says that “he” bowed to “him”. Rashi confirms[3] the confusion by asking how can we know who bowed to whom? The answer is derived from the fact that the verse says, “one asked the other”, by using the word איש, literally man. This word teaches us that it was Moshe who did the bowing. How so? We see elsewhere that Moshe is referred to as “איש”, from the verse והאיש משה עניו מאד, Moshe was exceedingly humble[4]. The Torah uses this word to hint to us that it was Moshe who bowed to Yisro.

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Beshalach 5782

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Hashem’s question for Moshe[1]

ויאמר יקוק אל-משה מה-תצעק אלי דבר אל-בני-ישראל ויסעו
Hashem said to Moshe: “Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Jews, and journey”[2]

As the Jews reached the Reed Sea, they panicked. They were supposed to be freed from Egypt, but there was a barrier of water in their way. The Egyptian army was quickly approaching. We aren’t told how they reacted, but presumably they were terrified for their lives. The Torah doesn’t tell us what they did, but we are told Hashem’s response. Hashem asked Moshe why he was crying out to Him. Rashi explains[3] that Moshe was praying to Hashem that they be saved. Hashem responded that this wasn’t a time for prayer. They should journey towards the sea, and they shall find salvation. Indeed, the sea miraculously split, allowing their salvation.

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Bo 5782

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New Moon dilemmas[1]

החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה
This month shall be for you the beginning of the months. It is the first for you for the months of the year[2]

Our Sages learn from this verse the mitzvah of Sanctifying the New Moon[3]. Unlike our current calendar, which is fixed, the Jewish months originally weren’t set in stone. For the new month to begin, two witnesses had to declare in a Jewish Court that they had seen the Moon after the New Moon occurred. Three judges would interrogate the witnesses, and after confirming that they weren’t mistaken, the judges would declare the month sanctified, and the new month would begin.

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Shemos 5782

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Impoverishment and blemishes[1]

ויאמר יקוק אל-משה במדין שב מצרים כי-מתו כל-האנשים המבקשים את-נפשך
Hashem said to Moshe in Midian: “Return to Egypt, for those who seek[2] your life have perished”[3]

Moshe spent half[4] of his life in Midian as a fugitive. He killed an Egyptian to save the life of a fellow Jew. He took refuge in Midian and raised a family. To his surprise, Hashem tasked him with the mission to release the Jewish people from slavery. As a form of reassurance[5], Hashem told him that those who sought his life have perished. Our Sages teach us[6] that this can’t be understood literally, as we know that those who reported Moshe to the authorities were Dasan and Aviram. They were among those who were part of Korach’s rebellion in the wilderness. What does it mean that they died? Our Sages tell us that they became impoverished[7]. As such, since they lost their prestige and influence, Moshe no longer needed to feel threatened by them[8].

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Noach 5782

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Noach in a fur coat[1]

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[2]; Noach walked with Hashem[3]

One of the more famous comments by Rashi is at the beginning of parshas Noach. He is bothered[4] 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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Shemini Atzeres 5782

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Tefillas Geshem – The merit of Moshe’s sin[1]

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[2]

Starting from Shemini Atzeres, we begin praising Hashem for rain during our daily prayers[3]. 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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HaAzinu 5782

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The plan to save Moshe[1]

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…”[2]

The Torah says that Hashem told Moshe on that very day to go up the mountain to meet his demise. Rashi brings[3] that the Torah says the expression “on that very day” three differnent times. The first is with Noach[4], 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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