Shevii shel Pesach 5780


A sense of gratitude[1]

הים ראה וינס הירדן יסב לאחור
The [Reed] Sea[2] saw and ran away, the Jordan River turned backwards[3]

During the holiday of Pesach (as well as every other holiday), we recite Hallel during the morning prayers. It consists of chapters 113 to 118 from Psalms. Chapter 114 describes how when the Jews left Egypt, nature was entirely subservient to them. Nothing stood in their way. Most pronounced was the miracle of the splitting of the sea. On the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate this event with the Torah Reading being the Song at Sea that the Jews recited[4] after this miracle[5]. In Psalms the sea is described as “running away” from the Jews, meaning that it split in two, after seeing something. What did it see that made it split? Chazal teach us that it was the coffin[6] of Yosef[7]. Why would the coffin of Yosef be the reason the sea split?

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Mikeitz 5780


The goblet of the wise[1]

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…[2]

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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Balak 5778

Personalized rebuke[1]

ותאמר האתון אל-בלעם הלא אנכי אתונך אשר-רכבת עלי מעודך עד-היום הזה ההסכן הסכנתי לעשות לך כה ויאמר לא
The donkey said to Bilaam: “Am I not your donkey which you have ridden upon from when you first started[2] until now? Have I ever been in the habit[3] of doing this to you?” [Bilaam] replied: “No”[4]

As the wicked gentile prophet Bilaam was on his way to curse the Jewish people, an Angel of Hashem blocked his path[5]. He could not sense the Angel, unlike the donkey he was riding on. As the donkey kept trying to change course, Bilaam hit it. A miracle happened, and his donkey spoke to him. She asked him why he would hit it. This donkey had served him faithfully all these years, and surely this change in behavior was for some yet-unknown reason. Bilaam couldn’t deny the donkey’s logic. Chazal note[6] that there are two instances in the Torah were a person was rebuked and became speechless; they had no way to respond. These instances are to teach us to heed the final day of judgement, where Hashem will show us our failings, and we will be unable to respond. The first instance is with Yosef and his brothers[7]. Despite having his brothers sell him to slavery, Yosef became the viceroy in Egypt. When he finally revealed his identity to them, they were speechless. The second is with Bilaam and his donkey. When Chazal teach this lesson, they phrase it in a strange way. They say that when Hashem will rebuke us, He will do so in a manner that is in accordance to each person. What does this phrase mean?

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Beha’alosecha 5778

Salvation for those who stumble in loshon hara[1]

ותדבר מרים ואהרן במשה על-אדות האשה הכשית אשר לקח כי-אשה כשית לקח
Miriam and Aharon spoke about Moshe regarding the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman[2]

Miriam and Aharon felt that Moshe wasn’t treating his wife properly, and they discussed the matter between themselves[3]. While they had positive intentions, their facts were incorrect. As a result, their discussion was deemed loshon hara, evil speech[4]. The Torah describes[5] that Miriam was stricken with tzaraas, a leprous-like malady which results from loshon hara[6]. There’s no mention that Aharon was punished. This is odd, as both of them were discussing Moshe. Some say[7] that in fact, Aharon was stricken with tzaraas. This is inferred from the fact that the Torah says[8] that Hashem was angry at them, meaning both Miriam and Aharon. The reason the Torah only mentions Miriam getting tzaraas is because Aharon was quickly healed from this condition[9]. Why was he healed so quickly, while Miriam had to wait seven days before she recovered[10]?

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