Maintaining the relationship
אם בחקתי תלכו ואת-מצותי תשמרו ועשיתם אתם
If you will walk in My decrees, and safeguard My commandments, and perform them
Would it be strange to say that Hashem has ta’avos, often translated as desires or lusts? One would be right to think so. However, we find statements from our Sages that indeed, Hashem has ta’avos. Our Sages ask why the foremothers were all barren. The reason was so that they would pray for children, for Hashem desires the prayers of the righteous.
Continue reading “Behar/Bechukosai 5783”
Quarrelsome quorum quandaries
ולא תחללו את-שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל אני יקוק מקדשכם
Do not profane My Holy Name, and I will be sanctified amongst the Children of Israel; I am Hashem Who sanctifies you
A fundamental principle in Judaism is that declarations of holiness need a quorum. In other words, kaddish, kedusha, Torah reading, the Kohanic blessings, and the like, all require ten adult male Jews be present. The idea is that when we sanctify Hashem’s name, it needs to be done in a public fashion, with a minimum of ten men. How do we know this? A rather ironic source.
Continue reading “Emor 5783”
Seeing the full picture
ואם-פרוח תפרח הצרעת בעור וכסתה הצרעת את כל-עור הנגע מראשו ועד-רגליו לכל-מראה עיני הכהן
If the tzra’as spreads on the skin and the tzara’as covers the entire skin, from his head to his feet, the full view of the Kohen
This week’s double parsha mostly deals with the laws of tzara’as, most commonly translated as leprosy. While being a whitish skin condition, in reality it’s a totally unrelated spiritual malady with physical symptoms. Chazal tell us that someone who contracts tzara’as, known as a Metzora, usually committed a certain sin. One example is that of loshon hara, evil speech. As a result of his sin, he is infected with a disturbing skin condition, and has to have his status established by a Kohen. If the Kohen determines he is spiritually pure, then he is. The opposite is also true.
Continue reading “Tazria/Metzora 5783”
Less culpable, harder atonement
צו את-אהרן ואת-בניו לאמר זאת תורת העולה וגו’
Command Aharon and his sons, saying: “This is the law of the Olah offering”…
This week’s parsha begins with a discussion of the Olah offering. This offering is often voluntary, and can be used to atone for failing to fulfill positive precepts. The offering is totally burned on the altar, not to be consumed by man. It’s entirely “elevated” to Hashem, and is thus called an Olah. One can ask why the parsha begins discussing the Olah offering when the Chatas offering, brought for certain severe sins, always precedes an Olah.
Continue reading “Tzav 5783”
Honey and leaven; the golden rule
כל-המנחה אשר תקריבו ליקוק לא תעשה חמץ כי כל-שאר וכל-דבש לא-תקטירו ממנו אשה ליקוק: קרבן ראשית תקריבו אתם ליקוק וגו’
All flour offerings that you bring to Hashem should not become leaven. For all leavening and honey shall not be burned on the altar as a fire for Hashem. [However], you shall bring [from] them [for] first offerings
The Rambam teaches us what’s become known as his golden rule. Extremes are never good. A person should always act in a balanced way, neither leaning to one extreme or the other. Arrogance is abhorrent, but a lack of self-worth can lead to depression. Someone who gives things away uncontrollably is unstable, yet someone stingy is looked down upon. A healthy balance is key. The Rambam suggests that if someone is leaning to one extreme, they should act in the other extreme, in order to end up somewhere in the middle.
Continue reading “Vayikra 5783”
Admitting the ability to deny
וכי תזבחו זבח-תודה ליקוק לרצנכם תזבחו
When you bring a thanksgiving offering, you shall offer it willingly
When the Torah instructs us regarding bringing a thanksgiving offering, it tells us to offer it willingly. This is quite surprising, as shouldn’t this be true regarding all offerings? In fact, the Torah tells us in general to bring offerings willingly. Why then does the Torah specify this requirement with thanksgiving offerings?
Continue reading “Emor 5782”
Correctional bird manipulation
וצוה הכהן ולקח למטהר שתי-צפרים חיות טהרות וגו’
The Kohen shall instruct, and two pure, live birds shall be taken for the one seeking purification…
A large segment of the parsha deals with the spiritual contamination of one who spoke wrongly about his fellow, known as a Metzora, and his process of purification. One of the requirements the Torah prescribes is to take two birds, one to be slaughtered, and one to be released into the wild. Why does he need to bring birds? Rashi explains because birds are known to “tweet” all day long, which symbolizes this guy’s constant “tweeting” gossip about his fellow. According to this reasoning then, why is there a need for two birds? Seemingly one should be sufficient. Furthermore, now that there are two birds that are required, why is one slaughtered, and one sent away? Finally, there’s a law that this bird must be sent out specifically in an open field. Why is that?
Continue reading “Metzora 5782”
The mixed blessing of familiarization
ובבא עם-הארץ לפני יקוק במועדים הבא דרך-שער צפון להשתחות יצא דרך-שער נגב והבא דרך-שער נגב יצא דרך-שער צפונה לא ישוב דרך השער אשר-בא בו כי נכחו יצא
When the people would come before Hashem for the Festivals, one who came through the North Gate to prostate should exit through the South Gate, and one who came through the South Gate should exit through the North gate. A person shouldn’t return through the gate that they had come through, but should exit through the opposite one
Similar to last week, parshas Parah, where we read a special Torah reading and haftarah, the same is true for this week, known as parshas HaChodesh. On it we recite verses connected to the Passover offering, in anticipation for the upcoming Festival of Pesach. The special haftarah follows a similar theme, and addresses various laws and customs associated with the Temple. One of the practices described is that visitors to the Temple were instructed to enter through one gate, and to leave through a different one. They were not to leave through the same gate they had entered from. Why should this be? What can we learn from this practice?
Continue reading “Tazria / HaChodesh 5782”
The puzzling paradox of the crimson cow
זאת חקת התורה אשר-צוה יקוק לאמר דבר אל-בני ישראל ויקחו אליך פרה אדמה תמימה אשר אין-בה מום אשר לא-עלה עליה על
This is the decree of the Torah, which Hashem commanded, saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel, and take for yourselves a completely red heifer, that has no blemish, one which has not had a yoke placed on it”
The shabbos after Purim is called parshas Parah, the parsha of the cow. It receives this title because on it we read about the parah adumah, the red heifer. Before the holiday of Pesach, the Jewish people would need to become spiritually pure. Sometimes it would be necessary to use the ashes of a completely red heifer. The sprinkling of these ashes onto the impure person would enable them to bring their Pesach offering. We read this parsha to remind the Jewish people to become pure before the Festival.
Continue reading “Shemini / Parah 5782”
Thoughts of denial
…זאת תורה העלה…
…This is the law of the Olah offering…
Of the many offerings that can be brought in the Temple, the one that is entirely consumed in flames is known as the Olah offering. While some offerings are brought voluntarily, and some to atone for immoral actions, our Sages teach us that an Olah offering is brought to atone for improper thoughts. What’s the source for this idea? They tell us that it’s an explicit verse, which says: והעלה על-רוחכם היו לא תהיה, אשר אתם אומרים נהיה כגוים, That which goes up in your mind shall never come to pass, that you say that you’ll be like all the nations. Now, the word for “that which goes up” is the same word as an Olah offering, which entirely “goes up” to Hashem. As such, we see the Olah offering associated with thoughts, and in the context of the verse, bad ones. Now, it’s hard to call this an explicit verse for this idea. It’s more of an allusion than anything else.
Continue reading “Tzav 5782”