Vaeira 5780

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Amphibian logic[1]

ושרץ היאר צפרדעים ועלו ובאו בביתך ובחדר משכבך ועל מטתך ובבית עבדיך ובעמך ובתנוריך ובמשארותיך
The frogs will swarm the river, and will go up and come into your house, and your bedroom, on your bed, and into the house of your servants, and in your ovens, and in your bread[2]

The second of the Ten Plagues was that of the swarm of frogs. More than just a noisy nuisance, they made life unbearable. They were literally everywhere, and in everything. An Egyptian couldn’t feel safe taking a bath, or going to bed, or putting on clothes, without bumping into dozens or hundreds of frogs. The Torah says that the frogs even became suicidal, jumping into the Egyptians’ ovens. Food that they were baking became contaminated by the corpses of the frogs. It’s no wonder that Pharaoh begged Moshe to stop the plague[3].

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Bereishis 5779

The downward escalator of life[1]

הלא אם תטיב שאת ואם לא תטיב לפתח חטאת רובץ וגו’‏
Is it not that if you improve then you’ll cheer up[2], and if not, sin crouches at the door…[3]

The two sons of Adam, Kayin and Hevel, took two different paths in life. Kayin became a farmer, and Hevel became a shepherd[4]. At some later point, Kayin decided to bring an offering to Hashem[5]. He brought from the worst of the fruit of his land[6]. Hevel was also inspired[7] to bring an offering. Unlike his brother, he brought the best of his cattle[8]. Hashem accepted the offering of Hevel, but ignored the offering of Kayin. This caused Kayin to become depressed[9]. Hashem, as a form of encouragement, taught Kayin a lesson. He told him that if he improves, then he will cheer up[2]. However, if he doesn’t improve, then sin crouches at the door[10]. What does this lesson mean?

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Yisro 5778

The qualities needed to receive the Torah[1]

…באו מדבר סיני: ויסעו מרפידים ויבאו מדבר סיני ויחנו במדבר ויחן-שם ישראל נגד ההר
…[The Jews] arrived in the wilderness of Sinai. They traveled from Refidim, and they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness. Israel encamped[2] there opposite the mountain[3]

Just before the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the revelation of the Ten Commandments, the Torah describes the Jews’ journeys through the wilderness. The Torah describes it in an unusual fashion, first stating that they arrived in the wilderness of Sinai, and then saying that they left Refidim to arrive in the wilderness of Sinai. Usually when describing a journey, a person would state where they left from first, and only then mention the destination. Why did the Torah make this switch?

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