5780 28 Tazria Metzora
The proper precedence
…אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר וטמאה שבעת ימים וגו’
…when a woman gives birth to a boy, she shall be spiritually impure for seven days…
At the end of the previous parsha, there were many details related to the spiritual impurity imparted by animals. This week’s parsha begins a long series of laws related to the spiritual purity and impurity of humans. Seemingly, the order is backwards. Since mankind is the principle player in the Torah, shouldn’t their laws come first? That which is primary takes precedence over what is secondary. Why then are the laws of animals taught first? Rashi addresses this, by reminding us that in the Torah’s description of creation, first the animals were created, and only then mankind. Just like the animals preceded Man during creation, their laws of impurity are taught first.
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The end of all miracles
למנצח על אילת השחר מזמור לדוד
For the conductor, regarding a morning doe, a song for David
We are taught that Psalms Chapter was recited by Esther. It starts off by referring to a morning doe. The gemarra explains why she decided to start her composition this way. She wanted to inform us that just like the morning is the end of the night, so too the miracles of Purim were the end of all miracles. To this, the gemarra retorts that Chanukah also had miracles. The gemarra says that Chanukah wasn’t recorded in Tanach, unlike Purim. While this may be true, its still misleading to say that Purim was the end of all miracles. What was Esther trying to convey? As well, what’s the significance of saying that the morning is the end of the night? One could just as easily say that the night is the end of the day.
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The goblet of the wise
הלוא אשר ישתה אדני בו והוא נחש ינחש בו וגו’
Is [this goblet] not that which my Master drinks from? He also divines with it…
Yosef, as the viceroy of Egypt, had his brothers fooled. They didn’t recognize him as their brother, and he sent them home without a clue. More than that, Yosef had a plan to set up his brother Binyamin. Yosef had someone plant his precious goblet in Binyamin’s bag. As the brothers journeyed home, they were arrested for theft. What was Yosef’s purpose for this whole ruse?
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The rejected gift
ויאמר יקוק מסיני בא וזרח משעיר למו הופיע מהר פארן וגו’
He said: “Hashem came from Sinai, shined forth from [Mount] Seir; He appeared from Mount Paran…”
In the last parsha in the Torah, Moshe gave each of the tribes a final blessing. Before these blessings, he describes the Torah itself and how the Jews accepted it. It says that Hashem “came” from Mount Sinai, having “shined forth” from Mount Seir and “appearing” from Mount Paran. We’ve all heard of Mount Sinai. That is where the Torah was given to the Jews, who gladly accepted it. What is Mount Seir and Mount Paran referring to? Mount Seir is usually associated with the descendants of Eisav, and Mount Paran is usually associated with the descendants Yishmael. Picking up on this, the Midrash explains the verse to be describing a historical backdrop to the accepting of the Torah.
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The three pillars of a positive character
דבר אל-אהרן ואמרת אליו בהעלותך את-הנרת אל-מול פני המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות: ויעש כן אהרן אל מול פני המנורה העלה נרתיה כאשר צוה יקוק את-משה
Speak to Aharon and say to him: When you ignite the lights, let them illuminate towards the center of the Menorah. Aharon did so; he ignited its lights towards the center of the Menorah, as Hashem commanded Moshe
This week’s parsha begins by discussing the Menorah, including its make and how it was lit. The Torah uses an unusual way to describe the lighting of the Menorah wicks: בהעלותך. Literally, with your raising up the lights. There are many things learned from this, but one of them is the fact that Aharon was instructed to construct a three-step block of stone in front of the Menorah. Meaning, the verse is telling Aharon and his descendants to “go up” to light the Menorah, using these steps. The next verse teaches us that Aharon properly constructed these steps. We could say that this was a practical necessity, in order to reach the top of the Menorah. Why though were there specifically three steps? Also, was there any more significance to this steppingstone?
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The toil of Torah
אם-בחקותי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו ועשיתם אותם
If you walk in my decrees, and you guard my mitzvos, and perform them….
The parsha begins by spelling out all the good that will happen to us if we follow Hashem’s Will, and everything else that will happen if we don’t. The Torah begins this stipulation with a vague requirement to walk in Hashem’s decrees. What does this mean? It can’t mean that we should observe Hashem’s commandments, as that’s what the rest of the verse expresses. We are taught that it means that we are expected to toil in Torah. Not just learn it, but be fully engaged in the learning experience. This is in addition to our mitzvah observance. We are also taught that Hashem so-to-speak yearns for our toil in Torah. Why is this so, and why is this the introductory requirement in order to receive Hashem’s blessings?
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The Week of Sheva Berachos, Day #4 – Torah
במערבא אמרי בלא תורה…דכתיב האם אין עזרתי בי ותושיה נדחה ממני
In the West they say: [Any man who doesn’t have a wife lives] without Torah…as it is written: “Is it that I have no help in me, and that sound wisdom is driven from me?”
As part of the Jewish wedding ceremony, seven blessings known as sheva berachos are recited under the chuppah. As well, our Sages tell us that once a couple gets married, they are to spend the first week of their marriage rejoicing. During these seven days, the sheva berachos are again recited, at the end of a festive meal. Some say that these seven blessings correlate to the seven things that a man acquires when he gets married. Our Sages inform us that until a man gets married, he doesn’t have joy, blessing, goodness, Torah, fortification, peace, nor is he a complete Man. As such, it would be appropriate during this week to elaborate on each of these seven qualities, and how they relate to marriage.
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Coerced acceptance, part one
ויוצא משה את-העם לקראת האלקים מן-המחנה ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר: ויקח ספר הברית ויקרא באזני העם ויאמרו כל אשר-דבר יקוק נעשה ונשמע
Moshe took the people out from the camp to greet Hashem, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. [Moshe] took the book of the Covenant and called out to the ears of the people. They all said: “All that Hashem says, we will fulfill and we will listen!”
The holiday of Shavuos celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. It’s when the Ten Commandments were stated. Before the great revelation of the Divine, the Torah says that the Jews stood “at the foot” of the mountain. However, literally read, the verse says that they stood “under” the mountain. Chazal expound that this teaches us that Hashem picked up the mountain, and held it over their heads. He said to them: “if you accept the Torah, good. But if not, then this will be your burial place”. Thankfully, the Jews accepted the Torah. In fact, they later accepted it anew in the days of Achashverosh, out of love. However, this shows us that initially it was only through coercion. This seems to contradict a different verse, where the Jews proudly announced that they will do whatever Hashem commands them. This sounds like they were initially happy to accept the Torah. If so, why then did Hashem force them to accept it? How do we resolve this contradiction?
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The undisturbed student
צו את-אהרן ואת-בניו לאמר זאת תורת העלה היא העלה על מוקדה על-המזבח כל-הלילה עד-הבקר ואש המזבח תוקד בו: ולבש הכהן מדו בד ומכנסי-בד ילבש על-בשרו והרים את-הדשן אשר תאכל האש את-העלה על-המזבח ושמו אצל המזבח
Command Aharon and his children, saying: “This is the law of the elevation offering. It is the elevation offering that remains on the altar pyre the entire night, until morning. The fire of the inner altar should be ignited from the outer one. The Kohen will don his linen tunic and linen pants against his body. He will then raise up the ashes from the fire that consumed the elevation offering on the altar and place them next to the altar”
This week’s parsha begins with a command to Aharon and his sons, the Kohanim. It is interesting to note that in the entire previous parsha, Aharon isn’t mentioned once. Every command so far regarding the Temple offerings mentions only Aharon’s sons. For example, with regards to the elevation offering (which is the subject of our verse), the previous parsha said: “…the sons of Aharon, the Kohanim, will offer…”. It later says: “The sons of Aharon will place a fire on the altar”. Or with the flour offering, it says: “He will bring it to the sons of Aharon, the Kohanim…”. Why is here where Aharon is specifically mentioned and not earlier?
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.