Bad intentions, Good results
ויאמר אלהם יוסף אל-תיראו כי התחת אלקים אני: ואתם חשבתם עלי רעה אלקים חשבה לטבה וגו’
Yosef said to [his brothers]: “Do not fear. Am I instead of G-d? You thought to do evil to me, but G-d considered it for the good…”
After Yaakov’s funeral, his sons were worried that Yosef bore a grudge against them for their selling him into slavery. They made up a whole story that Yaakov requested that Yosef forgive them. What was Yosef’s response? He reassured them. He asked rhetorically: “Am I instead of G-d?” He explained that although they had bad intentions by selling him, Hashem was behind the scenes. The whole sale was a way to get Yosef to Egypt, so that he could be promoted to viceroy. With his prestigious position, he was able to secure food for the Egyptian empire despite a devastating famine. This ended up being the salvation for Yaakov’s whole family. So, despite their intentions, it was for the best. What was Yosef stressing by saying that “am I instead of G-d”?
Continue reading “Vayechi 5782”
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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Four connected expressions of freedom
בין הכוסות הללו, אם רוצה לשתות, ישתה. בין שלישי לרביעי, לא ישתה
Between [the first and second, or second and third] cups, if one wants to drink, they may. Between the third and fourth cup, don’t drink [anything]
Our Sages enacted that we drink four cups of wine at the Seder, at different points of significance. One we drink for Kiddush, like any other Yom Tov. One we drink after finishing “Maggid”, the main part of the Haggadah, where we tell over the Exodus story. One we drink after saying Birkas HaMazon, the Grace after meals. The final cup we drink after finishing Hallel, Psalms of praise to Hashem for redeeming us. Our Sages specified certain rules for how to drink the cups, and in what manner. They specified an interesting rule. One is allowed to drink as much as they want between any of the first three cups. However, between the third and fourth cup, consuming any beverage is forbidden. Why would this be?
Continue reading “Pesach 5781 #2”
When Asarah BaTeves falls on Shabbos
בן-אדם כתב-לך את-שם היום את-עצם היום הזה סמך מלך-בבל אל-ירושלם בעצם היום הזה
Son of Man, write for yourself the name of today. On this very day, the King of Babylonia began his siege on Jerusalem, on this very day
Of the four minor fasts in commemoration of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the tenth of Teves is unique. This fast, which is in commemoration of the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem, is the only fast in our present calendar that can fall on a Friday. It creates an unusual situation where we go into Shabbos having not eaten the entire day prior. Usually, a person shouldn’t go into Shabbos hungry. This day is the exception. While this in fact happens this year, 5781, it’s also a very infrequent occurrence. Although it will happen again in two years, it’s been 20 years since it last happened. Something else that’s unique about the fast known as Asarah BaTeves is that in our present calendar, it cannot fall on Shabbos. The other fast days can. However, since it is forbidden to fast on Shabbos (besides Yom Kippur), they get pushed off until Sunday. This situation doesn’t occur for Asarah BaTeves, as it cannot fall on Shabbos anyways.
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Serving while sleeping
ותשקין את-אביהן יין בלילה הוא ותבא הבכירה ותשכב את-אביה ולא-ידע בשכבה ובקומה
[Lot’s daughters] gave their father wine to drink that night. The elder went and slept with her father, and he did not know of her sleeping or getting up
The episode with Lot, the nephew of Avraham, and his daughters is well known. They got him drunk, and conceived children from him. He was so drunk that he was totally unaware of what was happening, as it was happening. This begs the question, what is a person’s level of responsibility when they are in this state? Obviously a person is accountable for getting themselves this drunk. However, when they are completely not in control, oblivious to their surroundings and to their actions, are they responsible? If a mitzvah is accomplished in this state, do they get credit? If they transgress a prohibition, are they punished? These questions are equally applicable to someone who is asleep. They too are totally unaware of what is happening. What is a person’s level of responsibility when they are sleeping?
Continue reading “Vayeira 5781”
The prerequisite of unity
בני, בבקשה מכם עכבו עמי עוד יום אחד. קשה עלי פרדתכם
My children, I implore of you to stay with Me one more day. It is difficult for me preidaschem
Shemini Atzeres is an interesting festival. It follows the climax of the Days of Awe and Sukkos. Rosh Hashana we prayed and blew the shofar. Yom Kippur we fasted. Sukkos we lived in the sukkah and shook our four species. What’s the point of this final holiday? It doesn’t have any paraphernalia. It doesn’t seem to commemorate anything. What message we to take with us from this festival?
Continue reading “Shemini Atzeres / Simchas Torah 5781”
Clean from suspicion
ונכבשה הארץ לפני יקוק ואחר תשבו והייתם נקיים מיקוק ומישראל והיתה הארץ הזאת לכם לאחזה לפני יקוק
Once the land is conquered before Hashem, then you can return. You shall [then] be deemed innocent [in the eyes] of Hashem and the Jewish People. This land shall [then] be yours for an inheritance, before Hashem
After the Jews conquered the land on the east side of the Jordan River, it became considered part of the land of Israel. The land of Israel proper, on the west side of the Jordan River, still had to be conquered. Two and a half tribes, that of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe, requested for the opportunity to have their portion be solely in the land on the east side of the Jordan River. Moshe took this to mean that they weren’t interested in helping their brethren conquer the rest of the land of Israel. This could lead to distrust, quarrels, and maybe even civil war. Moshe reasoned with them that they’ll be allowed to be the sole inheritors of this part of the land if they help with the war effort on the west side of the Jordan. Upon victory, they’ll be welcome to return to their families on the east side of the Jordan River, and begin to settle it.
Continue reading “Mattos 5780”
You take half, and I’ll take the other half
ויקח מצה האמצעית ויבצענה לשתים ויתן חציה (הגדולה) לאחד מהמסובין לשומרה לאפיקומן ונותנים אותה תחת המפה וחציה השני ישים בין שתי השלימות
Take the middle matzah and split it into two. Give the (larger) half to one of those at the seder to guard it for the Afikoman, and they put it under a cloth. The second half place among the other two complete matzos
Many people have the custom to have three matzos on their seder plate. While there are practical reasons to have this number, there’s also symbolism in the number three. A famous explanation is that they represent the three forefathers: Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. The simple explanation behind this symbolism is that it was in the merit of the forefathers that the Jews were redeemed from Egypt. The part of the seder known as Yachatz is where we break the middle matzah and save the larger half for the Afikoman. Is there any connection behind this symbolism, and the fact that it’s specifically the middle matzah that is broken?
Continue reading “Pesach 5780”
Appointing a mohel and humility
זאת בריתי אשר תשמרו ביני וביניכם ובין זרעך אחריך המול לכם כל-זכר
This is my covenant that you are to observe between Me and you and your offspring that follow you: circumcise all boys
The Torah places a mitzvah on the father to give his son a bris milah. However, very often is the case that the father doesn’t know how, and he appoints a mohel to do the mitzvah for him. Seemingly, the mohel is acting as the father’s shliach, his agent. Some even explicitly appoint the mohel as their shliach. However, this isn’t so simple. Some are of the opinion that a person who can perform milah themself isn’t allowed to appoint another to do it for them. Seemingly, they hold that shlichus, agency, doesn’t work for the mitzvah of milah. Where do they know this from?
Continue reading “Bris Milah”