Behar-Bechukosai 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 contact@parshaponders.com.

Emor 5777

Gleanings from the parsha[1]

ובקצרכם את-קציר ארצכם לא-תכלה פאת שדך בקצרך ולקט קצירך לא תלקט לעני ולגר תעזב אתם אני יקוק אלקיכם
When you reap the harvest of your land, don’t finish off the corners of your fields as you reap, and don’t collect the gleanings of your harvest; leave them for the poor and the convert, I am Hashem your G-d[2]

The end of this week’s parsha describes the various Jewish holidays. In between the holidays of Shavuos and Rosh Hashanah, the Torah mentions[3] the mitzvos of peah (lit: corner) and leket (gleanings). When a Jewish farmer is harvesting his crop, there are special mitzvos of tzedakah that he must fulfill. He must leave a corner of his field unharvested, allowing the poor to take as they need. Likewise, when harvesting crops, sometimes some of the produce falls to the ground, known as gleanings. The farmer is commanded to leave those on the ground for the poor to collect. In addition to commanding the farmer not to harvest peah and leket, the Torah adds the injunction to specifically leave them for the poor and the convert. What is this adding? If the farmer isn’t harvesting them, he is inherently leaving them for others. Why is there this redundancy?

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Acharei Mos-Kedoshim 5777

The forbidden fruit[1]

וכי-תבאו אל-הארץ ונטעתם כל-עץ מאכל וערלתם ערלתו את-פריו שלש שנים יהיה לכם ערלים לא יאכל; ובשנה הרעיעת יהיה כל-פריו קדש הלולים ליקוק
When you come to the land and plant any fruit-bearing tree, you’ll consider its fruit orlah, it will be orlah for three years and not be eaten. And in the fourth year all of its fruit will be holy, a praise[2] to Hashem[3]

This week’s parsha introduces a unique prohibition to fruit trees. The fruit they bear cannot be eaten by Jews for the first three years after it is planted. This prohibition is known as orlah, related to the Hebrew word for blockage[4], meaning the fruit is blocked from consumption[5]. During the entire fourth year of the tree all of its fruit is considered holy, and must be brought to Jerusalem for consumption[6]. Afterwards, the fruit may be eaten and treated normally. What are the reasons for this mitzvah? What is its purpose, and what is it trying to teach us?

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Tazria-Metzora 5777

Double walled protection[1]

זאת תהיה תורת המצורע ביום טהרתו והובא אל הכהן: ויצא הכהן אל מחוץ למחנה וראה והנה נרפא נגע הצערת מן הצרוע
This shall be the law of the Metzora on the day of his purification: He shall be brought to the Kohen. The Kohen will go out of the camp and see and behold the tzara’as affliction has been healed from the Metzora[2]

This week’s double parsha deals mostly 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[3] with physical symptoms. Chazal tell us[4] that someone who contracts tzara’as, known as a Metzora[5], usually committed a certain sin[6]. 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. Once declared impure, there are a series of laws he must follow while in that state. An example is that he has to leave the city he is in and dwell by himself[7]. There are also a different set of laws on how to purify himself. Part of the purification process involves the Metzora going to the Kohen[8] and having him determine if the malady has diminished sufficiently. The problem is the very next verse describes the Kohen being the one leaving the city to go to the Metzora. Who is going to whom?

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Shemini 5777

Alien Fire[1]

ויקחו בני-אהרן נדב ואביהוא איש מחתתו ויתנו בהן אש וישימו עליה קטרת ויקרבו לפני יקוק אש זרה אשר לא צוה אתם: ותצא אש מלפני יקוק ותאכל אותם וימתו לפני יקוק
The sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took their fire pan, put fire in it, placed on it incense, and offered before Hashem an alien fire that they were not commanded [to bring]. A fire then went forth from before Hashem and consumed them and they died before Hashem[2]

Right after the inauguration of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, tragedy strikes. The entire Jewish people are overjoyed that their hard work has paid off.  They’ve finally built the Mishkan, and Hashem has shown that His Divine Presence is with them[3]. Two of the sons of Aharon, wanting to express their gratitude, offered a voluntary incense offering. Their plan backfires and a fire comes forth and kills them. The verses seem to indicate that their sin was bringing an unwanted offering. However, Chazal indicate that there were other sins which caused their deaths.

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Vayikra 5777

What’s in a name, anyways?[1]

ויקרא אל-משה וידבר יקוק אליו מאהל מועד לאמר
[Hashem] called out to Moshe; Hashem spoke to him from the tent of meeting saying[2]

Chazal inform us in the Midrash[3] that Moshe had not only one, but ten names. Some examples are: Tuviah, from the word טוב, because when he was born it says ותרא אתו כי טוב הוא, they saw that he was good[4]. Yered, meaning he brought down, because he brought down the Torah from the Heavens. Chever, meaning to join together, because he connected the Jews to their Father in heaven[5]. The Midrash ends by declaring that Hashem only wants to call him Moshe, the name that the daughter of Pharaoh gave him[6], as demonstrated by the first verse of this week’s parsha.

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