Hashem’s curious questioning
ויבא אלקים אל-בלעם ויאמר מי האנשים האלה עמך
G-d “came” to Bilaam and said: “Who are these men with you?”
Bilaam, the non-Jewish prophet, was sought after by the Moabite King Balak. Balak intended to hire Bilaam to curse the Jews. Bilaam foolishly thought that he could get Hashem to curse His own people. When Balak’s men first came to Bilaam, Hashem asked Bilaam a simple question: “Who are these people with you?” Bilaam responded that they were Balak’s men, etc. Rashi explains that obviously Hashem knew who these men were. Why then did He ask this to Bilaam? The intent was to trick Bilaam into thinking that Hashem isn’t completely omnipotent, Heaven forbid. Bilaam thought that Hashem only sometimes knows what’s going on, but doesn’t know everything. Bilaam thus felt empowered to try to “trick” Hashem into cursing the Jews, which ended up backfiring, as the story shows.
Continue reading “Balak 5783”
ומשלם לשנאיו אל-פניו להאבידו וגו’
He repays His enemies to their face, to destroy them…
The Torah makes a vague statement regarding Hashem and His enemies. This is seemingly referring to wicked individuals who brazenly commit crimes and atrocities against Hashem and His Torah. The Torah says that Hashem repays them to their face, to destroy them. What is this referring to? We are taught that it means that Hashem repays the wicked for their mitzvos in this world, so that they don’t receive any reward in the next world. Consequently, when they die, they’ll be destroyed, as they won’t have access to the World to Come.
Continue reading “Vaeschanan 5782”
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…
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 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?
Continue reading “Pekudei 5782”
את-שבתתי תשמרו ומקדשי תיראו אני יקוק
You shall safeguard my Sabbaths and revere my Sanctuary; I am Hashem
The gemarra derives a law from the juxtaposition of the mitzvah to safeguard Shabbos and the mitzvah to revere the Holy Temple. They teach that just like the safeguarding of Shabbos, it’s not that you’re to revere Shabbos itself, but rather the One who commanded it, so too with revering the Temple, it’s not the Temple that you are to revere, but rather the One who commanded it. We see it’s a given that there’s no idea to revere Shabbos, and the innovation is that the same holds true for the Temple itself. How do we know that there’s no idea to revere Shabbos? Rashi tells us because we don’t find it written anywhere that we are to revere it. Sounds simple.
Continue reading “Behar / Bechukosai 5781”
The value of shalom
וכתב את-האלת האלה הכהן בספר ומחה אל-מי המרים
The Kohen shall write these curses on parchment, and blot it out in the bitter waters
The Torah describes what’s known as the Sotah ritual. If a married woman, due to her immoral behavior, becomes a presumed adulteress, her and her husband cannot live together until the matter is confirmed. If she indeed committed adultery, they have to divorce. If she is in fact innocent, they can resume married life as normal. How can they clear up this scandal? The Torah provides a unique avenue for her to prove her innocence. The woman, now known as a Sotah, is taken to the Temple. Various rituals are performed, and offerings brought. This includes writing down on a piece of parchment a set of curses which are to fall on her if she is guilty. This parchment contains instances of the name of Hashem. It is then placed in a cup of bitter water, the writing dissolves, and she is to drink it. Miraculously, after the ceremony, it became clear to everyone if she is innocent or not.
Continue reading “Nasso 5780”
The joy of redemption
מלא שבע זאת ונתנה לך גם-את-זאת גו’
Complete this week, and she will be given to you [in marriage] as well…
The Mishnah teaches us that it is forbidden to get married on Yom Tov, as well as the intermediary days of Yom Tov. The reason given is that it is a simcha, a joyous event. Why is that a reason to forbid it on Yom Tov?
Continue reading “Vayeitzei 5780”
It wasn’t a coincidence
…הכר-נא הכתונת בנך הוא אם-לא: …הכר-נא למי החתמת והפתילים והמטה האלה
Yehudah: “…Please identify if this coat belongs to [Yosef] or not”.
Tamar: “… Please identify who owns this seal, cloak and staff”
After Yaakov’s sons decided to sell their brother Yosef into slavery, they had to create a coverup story to tell their father. They decided to take Yosef’s coat, dip it in goat’s blood, and show it to their father. He would hopefully intuit Yosef was dead. Yehudah asked his father if he recognized the coat, and Yaakov assumed a wild animal had eaten Yosef. He was devastated by this news, and refused to accept any comfort from his family. Twelve years later a seemingly unconnected story occurs with Yehudah.
Continue reading “Vayeishev 5778”
בעת ההוא אמר יקוק אלי פסל-לך שני-לוחת אבנים כראשנים ועלה אלי ההרה ועשית לך ארון עץ: ואעש ארון עצי שטים ואפסל שני-לחת אבנים כראשנים ואעל ההרה ושני הלחת בידי
At that time Hashem said to me: “Carve for yourself two stone tablets, like the first ones [that you broke], and come up to Me to the mountain and make for yourself a wooden Ark. I [then] made an Ark of Shittim-wood, and I carved two stone tablets like the first ones; I went up to the mountain and the two tablets were in my hand
In this week’s parsha, Moshe continues his rebuke of the people. He reminded them of their sin with the Golden Calf, and all the events that happened afterwards. In his fury at their betrayal, Moshe broke the stone tablets which had the Ten Commandments engraved on them. Moshe then had to plead with Hashem that He not destroy the people. After receiving forgiveness, Hashem commanded Moshe to make new stone tablets to replace the ones that were smashed. He then told Moshe to create a temporary wooden Ark to store them in, until the golden Ark would be created. However, a careful reading of the verses shows Moshe didn’t exactly follow these instructions.
Continue reading “Eikev 5777”
It’s the effort that counts
ויקם משה את-המשכן ויתן את-אדניו וישם את-קרשיו ויתן את-בריחיו ויקם את-עמודיו
Moshe erected the Mishkan; he placed the sockets and inserted the beams, placed the bars and erected its posts
This week’s parsha includes an accounting of the materials of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the manufacturing of the clothing of the Kohanim, and finally the construction of the Mishkan itself. The verse describes how Moshe erected the Mishkan, placing the kerashim, the beams, into their sockets. The Midrash describes the prelude to this: how everyone came to Moshe and said to him that they couldn’t construct the Mishkan; it was too heavy. The beams were massive, and weighed a ton, especially since they were plated in solid gold. Moshe responded by asking them what they expected him to do about that. Moshe was an elderly man in his eighties; they couldn’t reasonably demand that he do it for them. Hashem told Moshe to make an attempt to erect it. Even though his own efforts would have been meaningless, Hashem would do the rest. He made the attempt and was able to erect the beams.
Continue reading “Vayakhel – Pekudei 5777”