Rosh Hashanah 5784


Turning justice into mercy[1]

זה היום תחלת מעשיך זכרון ליום ראשון. כי חק לישראל הוא משפט לאלקי יעקב
Today is the beginning of Your creation; a remembrance of the first day. For it is a decree of Israel, a judgement for the G-d of Yaakov[2]

There are a few lines in the Rosh Hashanah prayers that are seemingly confusing. We say that today is the beginning of Your creation, and then we say it’s a commemoration of the first day. Isn’t that redundant? Furthermore, the next sentence, “For it is a decree of Israel, a judgement for the G-d of Yaakov”[3], is seemingly incongruous. Now, this happens to be a verse from Psalms. If we look at the previous verse, we do find some relevance to Rosh Hashanah: “Blow [תקעו] in the month of the shofar [שופר], on the covering of the day of our Festival”[4]. How can we make sense of all of this?

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Noach 5782


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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Shelach 5779


The paths of two greats[1]

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[2]

When the Jews had almost arrived at the land of Israel, they had the idea to send spies to scout out the land[3]. They wanted to know not only about the landscape, but about the inhabitants[4]. 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[5], 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[6].

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Vaeschanan 5778

Prevented from performing a mitzvah[1]

ואתחנן אל-יקוק בעת ההיא…ויאמר יקוק אלי רב-לך אל-תוסף דבר אלי עוד בדבר הזה
I pleaded to Hashem at that time…Hashem said to me: “There’s a lot for you. Don’t continue to speak to Me about this matter any more”[2]

Moshe, shortly before his death, explained to the people why their leader would not take them into the land of Israel. Instead, his successor Yehoshua would take charge. Moshe was punished for his prior transgression[3] with dying before ever entering the land. He couldn’t take this quietly, and repeatedly prayed to Hashem to forgive him; to allow him to at least enter the land. Finally, Hashem responded with the phrase: “רב לך! There’s a lot for you! Don’t continue praying for this, as you will not enter.” Chazal pick up[4] on this unusual expression “רב לך”, and note that Moshe used this exact same phrase to Korach and his band of rebels. He said “רב לכם בני לוי, There’s a lot for you, Levites”[5]. In addition to noting this similarity, Chazal say ברב בישר ברב בישרוהו, because Moshe said רב לכם to Korach, Hashem said to him רב לך. This sounds like some sort of punishment. Chazal say[6] similarly about Yehudah, who said: “הכר נא, Identify this” to his father Yaakov, trying to trick him into thinking his son Yosef was killed. Yehudah subsequently had his daughter-in-law say to him: “הכא נא, Identify this”. In that context, it’s clear that Yehudah committed a sin by saying this to his father[7]. However, what was Moshe’s transgression? Korach and his band were trying to usurp Moshe’s Divinely given authority. Moshe had every right to rebuke them. Why was he subsequently punished with Hashem telling him: “רב לך, you will not enter the land of Israel”[8]?

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Shavuos 5777

Rabbi Reznick requested that I remove all divrei Torah that I wrote up from him. He didn’t want them in a public forum. If you would like to see a copy from this week’s parsha, please email

Vayigash 5777

To approach or not to approach, that is the question[1]

ויגש אליו יהודה ויאמר בי אדני ידבר-נא עבדך דבר באזני אדני ואל-יחר אפך בעבדך כי כמוך כפרעה
And Yehudah approached [Yosef] and he said: “Please my Master, let your servant speak something in the ears of my Master, and don’t be mad with your servant, because you are like Pharaoh”[2]

The sons of Yaakov hadn’t yet caught on that their long-lost brother Yosef is the viceroy of Egypt. Binyomin was just caught “stealing” the cup of Yosef[3], and has been sentenced to life as a slave. The brothers felt hopeless; how can they return to their father without his most beloved son? Yehudah mustered up the courage to approach Yosef for a final confrontation. The Torah uses a unique phrase to describe this act: ויגש, to approach. This phrase appeared earlier in the Chumash with Avraham[4]: Hashem had just informed Avraham that He intended to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Amorah. Avraham couldn’t allow this to happen, and the Torah says ויגש אברהם ויאמר, and Avraham approached and spoke. He tried his best to convince Hashem to change His mind, but no to avail.

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Toldos 5777

Rabbi Reznick requested that I remove all divrei Torah that I wrote up from him. He didn’t want them in a public forum. If you would like to see a copy from this week’s parsha, please email