Why did Yaakov go to sleep?
ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה: ויפגע במקום וילן שם כי-בא השמש וגו’ וישכב במקום ההוא: וייקץ יעקב משנתו ויאמר אכן יש יקוק במקום הזה ואנכי לא ידעתי
Yaakov left from Be’er Sheva and journeyed to Charan. He encountered The Place, and he lodged there, for the sun had set…and he slept in that place. [Then] Yaakov awoke from his sleep, and said: “Behold, there Hashem in this place, and I didn’t realize”
Yaakov’s journey to his uncle Lavan to seek a wife wasn’t a simple one. It actually involved a fourteen-year detour in the academy of Shem and Ever. After that, we are told that he encountered The Place. Unbeknownst to him, this was the site of the future Temple in Jerusalem. The Torah then tells us that since the sun set, he slept in that place. Why does the Torah stress in that place? This teaches us that for the fourteen years that he was studying in the academy, he didn’t sleep, as he learned day and night. This was the first time he had slept in all these years. While this sounds like a supernatural feat, let’s take it at face value. If this is what the Torah is teaching us, why indeed did Yaakov choose to sleep that night? What was different about that night than all the nights prior? Why didn’t he learn Torah?
Continue reading “Vayeitzei 5783”
Adorned Sukkah; beautified Temple
זה קלי ואנוהו התנאה לפניו במצות עשה לפניו סוכה נאה ולולב נאה ושופר נאה צצית נאה ספר תורה נאה
This is my G-d ve’anvehu: Become beautified before Him in mitzvos: Make before Him a nice Sukkah, nice Lulav, a nice Shofar, nice tzitzis, a nice sefer Torah
An interesting question is brought in the name of the Avnei Nezer. We find special emphasis given to decorating our Sukkas. There’s a category in halacha known as noi sukkah, which discusses the status of the decorations of the Sukkah. Stores try their utmost to stock up on all the greatest posters and streamers and sparkly glitter, and the like. Presumably, this is in order to beautify the mitzvah. We do find such a concept, of beautifying our mitzvos. However, as the principle sounds, this applies to all mitzvos, not just decorating our Sukkah. Why then is there this extra emphasis, specifically with regards to the mitzvah of Sukkah?
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The famous Taz and the bread of Ammon and Moav
לא-יבא עמוני ומואבי בקהל יקוק גם דור עשירי לא-יבא להם בקהל יקוק עד-עולם: על-דבר אשר לא-קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים וגו’
An Ammonite or a Moabite may not marry into the congregation of Hashem. Even the tenth generation shall not marry into congregation of Hashem, forever. [This is] for the matter in which they didn’t greet you with bread and water as you departed from Egypt…
Although marriage with a non-Jew is forbidden, obviously if someone converted to Judaism they can marry into the fold. However, some nations have restrictions on who or when they can marry. For example, an Egyptian or an Edomite may only marry into the congregation after three generations of being Jewish. In contrast, the Torah forever forbids the nations of Ammon and Moav from marrying into the Jewish people, even if they converted sincerely. Even their descendants are restricted. Why is this? The Torah says it’s because they didn’t greet us with bread and water. The implication is that had they given it to us, we would have been permitted to eat it.
Continue reading “Ki Seitzei 5782”
Refuge from death
ואם-ירחיב יקוק אלקיך את-גבלך כאשר נשבע לאבתיך ונתן לך את-כל-הארץ אשר דבר לתת לאבתיך: …ויספת לך עוד שלש ערים על השלש האלה
If Hashem will expand your borders, as He swore to your forefathers, He will give to you the land that he spoke to give to your forefathers…and He will increase for you three more cities, in addition to these three
The Torah has an interesting concept known as the Arei Milkat, the Cities of Refuge. If someone were to accidentally murder another, the Torah commands this person be exiled to the Arei Miklat. They serve simultaneously as an atonement for the person’s lack of precaution, and as a safe refuge from any relatives that may want to avenge their deceased. The Torah mandates three cities on the east side of the Jordan River, and three on the west. However, a verse in our parsha speaks of the future, the Messianic days. In those days, the land of Israel will expand in size. The Torah tells us that with this added territory will come three new cities of refuge. A question that many ask on this is that in the future, no nation shall lift up sword against nation. In fact, death will be abolished. If so, what is the need for three new cities of refuge? The original ones will prove obsolete, as there won’t be any more accidental murders, so why add more?
Continue reading “Shoftim 5782”
The redemptive undertones of Megillas Eichah
איכה ישבה בדד העיר רבתי עם היתה כאלמנה רבתי בגוים שרתי במדינות היתה למס
Alas! [Jerusalem] sits alone. The city [that once] was filled with many, has become a widow. The greatest amongst the nations, an officer amongst the countries, has reverted for plunder
Megillas Eichah, the book of Lamentations, contains within it a description of the horrible tragedies that befell the Jewish people during the destruction of the First Temple. Who wrote it? Our tradition has it that it was written by the prophet Yirmiyahu, Jeremiah. In fact, he prophetically wrote it before the gruesome disaster even occurred. He knew that the destruction was imminent and tried his best to get his generation to improve their ways. Unfortunately, they did not take kindly to his rebuke, and ultimately, he witnessed the very prophecy he had foretold come to fruition. We recite Megillas Eichah every year on Tisha B’Av, as the most fitting way to recall the destruction, which took place on that very day.
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Careful word choice
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…’”
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.
Continue reading “Vayakhel / Shekalim 5782”
Monumental mountain manipulation
למה יאמרו מצרים לאמר ברעה הוציאם להרג אתם בהרים וגו’
Why should Egypt say that [Hashem] brought [the Jews] out of Egypt with evil [intent], to kill them in the mountains?…
The episode of the Sin of the Golden Calf is an unfortunately famous one. Forty days after a National Revelation of G-d, the Jews created and worshipped a foreign idol. Hashem told Moshe that the Jews would be annihilated as a result of their betrayal. Moshe valiantly defended them, saving them from a sure destruction. One of his defenses was a concern for what the Egyptians would say. Hashem went through all this trouble to redeem the Jewish people from slavery, and for what? To kill them in the desert? What’s interesting is the way Moshe describes what Egypt would say. He specified surprise that Hashem would kill the Jews “in the mountains”. What was he adding with this specification? Besides the question of what Moshe was adding, we could ask a more basic question. What mountains was he referring to? The Jews were in the desert.
Continue reading “Ki Sisa 5782”
ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה
Yaakov left Be’er Sheva and went to Charan
After successfully preventing Eisav from receiving Yitzchak’s blessings, Yaakov had to flee for his life. His parents instructed him to go to his relatives in Charan, where he’ll find refuge, and perhaps even a wife. The thing is, our Sages inform us that he took a not so slight detour. He spent fourteen years in the yeshiva of Shem and Eiver before finally journeying to Charan. How did they know this?
Continue reading “Vayeitzei 5782”
The Guardian Angel
ויאמר אברהם אל-עבדו זקן ביתו וגו’ ואשביעך וגו’ לא-תקח אשה לבני מבנות הכנעני וגו’ ויאמר אליו העבד אולי לא-תאבה האשה ללכת אחרי וגו’ ויאמר אליו אברהם וגו’ יקוק אלקי השמים וגו’ הוא ישלח מלאכו לפניך ולקחת אשה לבני משם
Avraham said to his servant, the elder of his household…I command you through an oath…do not take a wife for my son from the Canaanite women…The servant said to him: “Perhaps the woman will not want to go with me…” Avraham said to him: “…Hashem, the G-d of Heaven…will send His Angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there
Avraham tasked his trusted servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. Avraham didn’t want Yitzchak to marry one of the local Canaanite women, so he sent Eliezer to Avraham’s homeland. Perhaps a distant relative would be better suited for his son. Eliezer was concerned his mission would prove unsuccessful, and expressed his doubts. Avraham responded that Hashem would send an Angel to help him on his mission. In the end, Eliezer successfully found a wife for Yitzchak. He met the family of Besuel and his wife, the latter being Avraham’s niece, and found that their daughter was a perfect match for Yitzchak. Yet, we don’t see any mention of an Angel throughout his journey. Where was the Angel?
Continue reading “Chayei Sarah 5782”
Reaching the greatest heights through regretting sin
חייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי
A person is obligated to get drunk on Purim to the point that they don’t know the difference between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai”
Everyone is familiar with the concept of getting drunk on Purim. Our Sages even seem to say that a person is obligated to get drunk on Purim. This begs the obvious question: How could our Sages obligate such a repugnant thing? Our scriptures are full of descriptions of the evils of drunkenness, and it is known to all that it causes people to stumble in their behavior. Why would the day of Purim be any different? This is a question that many struggle with. One suggestion is that it’s to commemorate the fact that all the miracles of Purim occurred through the drinking of wine. Vashti was sentenced to death because Achashverosh was drunk, allowing Esther to become the queen. Haman’s downfall occurred during a wine drinking party. Nevertheless, this doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory explanation. Why should this commemoration be enough to justify something so vile?
Continue reading “Purim 5781”