Category: Chumash

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Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue

צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיֶה֙ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ֣ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־ה אֱלֹקיךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ׃ Justice justice you shall pursue, so that you will live and inherit the land that Hashem your G-d gives to you. – Devarim 16:20 Chazal are understandably bothered by the doubling of “tzedeq tzedeq — justice justice”. What does the repetition add? Targum Unqelus translates the opening phrase in...

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The Greatness of a Person

Bereishis 1:27: וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹקים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹקים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃ And G-d created the man in his mold; in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them [on the sixth day, forming Eve from Adam’s side]. In His description of the creation of humanity, Hashem tells us of our own...

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Rising to the Test

וַיְהִ֗י אַחַר֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְהָ֣אֱלֹקִ֔ים נִסָּ֖ה אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֑ם; וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו, “אַבְרָהָ֖ם!” וַיֹּ֥אמֶר, “הִנֵּֽנִי!”׃ And it was, after these events, that G-d put Abraham to the test; He said to him: “Avraham!” and he said: “Here I am!” – Bereishis 22:1 Just stop and thing about this… Hashem presents Avraham with a test, a challenge, a nisayon. Avraham does not try to...

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Not Good!

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ ה’ אֱלֹקים לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶׂה־לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ Hashem Elokim said: It is not good for the man to be alone; I shall make for him a helper opposite him. – Bereishis 2:18 וַיֹּ֛אמֶר חֹתֵ֥ן מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֵלָ֑יו לֹא־טוֹב֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתָּ֖ה עֹשֶֽׂה׃ נָבֹ֣ל תִּבֹּ֔ל גַּם־אַתָּ֕ה גַּם־הָעָ֥ם הַזֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר עִמָּ֑ךְ כִּֽי־כָבֵ֤ד מִמְּךָ֙ הַדָּבָ֔ר לֹא־תוּכַ֥ל עֲשֹׂ֖הוּ לְבַדֶּֽךָ׃ Moshe’s father-in-law said...

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Irrational Emotion

Rashi quotes Bereishis Rabba on this week’s parashah (Vayeishev) but then continues beyond what is in the medrash. וַיַּעֲזֹ֣ב כׇּל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ֮ בְּיַד־יוֹסֵף֒ וְלֹא־יָדַ֤ע אִתּוֹ֙ מְא֔וּמָה כִּ֥י אִם־הַלֶּ֖חֶם אֲשֶׁר־ה֣וּא אוֹכֵ֑ל וַיְהִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף יְפֵה־תֹ֖אַר וִיפֵ֥ה מַרְאֶֽה׃ [Potiphar] left all he has in Yosef’s control (lit: hand) and didn’t think about anything of his except the food he was eating; and Yoseif was well...

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Welcoming Guests is Greater

Shabbos 127a: אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: גדולה הכנסת אורחים יותר מהקבלת פני השכינה, דכתיב “וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲ-דֹנָ֗י אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ, אַל־נָ֥א תַעֲבֹ֖ר מֵעַ֥ל עַבְדֶּֽךָ׃” Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, “Welcoming guests is greater than greeting the Divine Presence. “[{Avraham} lifted his eyes, and he saw — behold, three men were standing above him; he saw, he...

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Mas’ei — the Journey as a Name of G-d

Parashas Mas’ei opens with a description of Benei Yisra’el’s trip through the desert, and lists the forty-two stops made along the way. An oft-quoted Zohar identifies the stops in the desert with each of the letters in Hashem’s forty-two letter name. What’s the particular significance of the journeys and stops in Sinai that give them such cosmic significance? Taking a...

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From Your Homeland

Most young Yeshiva children come home sometime around Shavuos with the story of how Hashem offered the Torah to all the nations of the world, but only the Jews accepted it. The medrash, as told in the Yalqut Shim’oni, tells how first Hashem went to Edom and offered them the Torah. They asked, “What is written in it?” Hashem replied,...

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Calves, Cherubs, and Half Sheqels

Why is it that in last week’s parashah (Ki Sisa) we read all about the sin of the eigel hazahav but this week’s parashah we read about the mitzvah of making two keruvim atop the aron? Why is one a grave sin, and yet the other is mandatory? Skippable, but enhances the question: A while back I posted about the linkage between the...

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What did the Elders see?

I It could be that this dispute between the rishonim speaks to a fundamental difference about what it is people are meant to accomplish in life. The Rambam’s navi is fully integrated on physical, intellectual and spiritual levels, and therefore can “see” the non-physical activity around him. The goal is wholeness. The Ramban’s navi is connected to G-d sufficiently to receive communications from...

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Chamushim

(This devar Torah is unchanged from 6 years ago. I am just re-posting it because I am a proud daddy and Opa.) Someone showed me the following idea in the Be’er Yoseif by Rav Yoseif Zvi Salant. וַיַּסֵּ֨ב אֱ-לֹהִ֧ים ׀ אֶת־הָעָ֛ם דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר יַם־ס֑וּף וַֽחֲמֻשִׁ֛ים עָל֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ – שמות יג:יח ואסחר ה’ ית עמא אורח מדברא לימא דסוף ומזרזין סליקו בני ישראל...

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Living in Tranquility

וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן: “Yaaqov was living in the land where his father visited, in the land of Kenaan” – G-d, Bereishis 37:1 רש״י: … ועוד נדרש בו, וישב יעקב, ביקש יעקב לישב בשלוה קפץ עליו רוגזו של יוסף, צדיקים מבקשים לישב בשלוה אמר הקב”ה לא דיין לצדיקים מה שמתוקן להם לעוה”ב אלא שמבקשים לישב בשלוה בעוה”ז....

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The Jewish Home

וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ. And Yitzchak brought her to his mother Sarah’s tent, and he wedded Rivqah and she became a wife for him and he loved her; and Yitzchak was comforted after losing his mother… – Bereishit 24:67 ויביאה האהלה והרי היא שרה אמו כלומר ונעשית דוגמת שרה...

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Time During Creation

The whole question of time sequence in either description is questionable. Time itself was something created, and thus some rishonim (including the Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 1:30) understand chapter 1 (at least, perhaps ch. 2 as well) as discussing a logical progression, not a chronological one. That the concept of time and chronological order only make sense after creation. Rav Dessler...

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What does Hashem ask of you?

We saw earlier in our discussion of yir’ah the following gemara (Berakhos 33b, Megillah 25a and Niddah 16b): ואמר רבי חנינא: הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים. שנאמר (דברים י:יב) “עַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵֽעִמָּ֑ךְ כִּ֣י אִם־לְ֠יִרְאָה…?” Rabbi Chanina said: Everything is in the hands of [the One in] heaven except for yir’as Shamayim, as it says: “And...

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Naso: Society and the Priesthood

A thought struck me during the Torah reading this past Shabbos about a unifying theme throughout parashas Naso. Here are the topics in the parashah: The task assignments and census of the three clans of sheivet Levi. This section defines the sacred camp. The rest of the parashah discusses the porousness of the divider between the sacred camp and general...

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Why the Altar?

It makes a lot of sense that the first mitzvos the Torah teaches after the Aseres haDiberos would be the interpersonal mitzvos of parashas Mishpatim. And many rabbis have given sermons on this point. The only problem is — they aren’t. There is this brief interlude between the description of the national revelation and Mishpatim (20:18-22): יח וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, כֹּה תֹאמַר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:...

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An Altar of Earth

We just looked at the section on the mizbeiach as being more about the role of the religious rite in a life of Torah. We don’t offer qorbanos — or daven, or shake lulav and esrog or… —  to rertreat from the world and find solace with G-d, but as part of our engagement with the world, a life-long process of self-refinement. There are...

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Tzadiq ben Rasha

וַיֶּעְתַּר יִצְחָק לַה לְנֹכַח אִשְׁתּוֹ כִּי עֲקָרָה הִוא וַיֵּעָתֶר לוֹ ה וַתַּהַר רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ And Yitzchaq pleaded with Hashem opposite his wife, for she was sterile, and Hashem responded to his pleas, and Rivqa became pregnant. –Bereishis 25:21 “לנכח אשתו” – זה עומד בזוית זו ומתפלל וזו עומדת בזוית זו ומתפללת (יבמות סד.) “ויעתר לו” – לו ולא לה שאין דומה...

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A Messenger of…

I became convinced two disputes are related. I am not 100% sure of the nature of the relationship, but as it’s related to parashas Ki Sisa, I want to post what I have so far while it’s still this week’s parashah. Machloqes #1: Do kohanim serve as sheluchei didan (our messengers), representing us in our service of the Creator? Or are they sheluchei diShmaya (messengers of [the...

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Temimus and Deveiqus

The mitzvah of Beris Milah is introduced with the words, “אֲנִי קֵל שַׁקַּי, הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי וֶהְיֵה תָמִים — I am Kel Shakai, walk yourself before Me, and be whole.” To me, this pasuk addresses the focus of the most basic open question in Jewish philosophy. Clearly the attention of Yahadus is on keeping mitzvos. But what is the goal of...

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Kosher, Tahor, Qadosh

The pasuq (still in parashas Re’eih) discusses the various species of kosher and non-kosher mammals (Devarim 14:3-8), marine animals (v. 9-10), and flying creatures (v. 11-20). And the terminology is that this species is tamei, whereas that is tahor. Then, in the final pasuq (14:21): לֹא תֹאכְלוּ כָל נְבֵלָה, לַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ תִּתְּנֶנָּה וַאֲכָלָהּ, אוֹ מָכֹר לְנָכְרִי, כִּי עַם קָדוֹשׁ אַתָּה,...

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Earning one’s livelihood

The pasuq reads:  וּבָא הַלֵּוִי כִּי אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה עִמָּךְ, וְהַגֵּר וְהַיָּתוֹם וְהָאַלְמָנָה אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ, וְאָכְלוּ וְשָׂבֵעוּ, לְמַעַן יְבָרֶכְךָ ה אֱלֹקֶיךָ, בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדְךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה.  {ס} And the Levi, because he doesn’t have a portion nor an inheritance with you, and the ger, and the orphan and the widow, who are within gates, shall come, eat and be satisfied; so...

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Seeing and Listening

Thinking about the title word of yesterday’s parashah, I wondered about the two sensory metaphors we use for learning. Here our parashah opens “re’eih”– see. But usually the Torah uses “shema“, to listen. In fact, shemi’ah appears later in the very same paragraph.1 כורְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה. 26 Behold, I put before you today a blessing and a curse: כז  אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל...

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VeAhavta

My rebbe, Rav Dovid Lifshitz, passed away on 9 Tammuz 5753, 20 years ago today. I am posting a gemara that rebbe would often refer to in his shmuessin. Yuma 86a: At Rabbi Yanai[‘s school] it was said: Anyone whose peers are embarassed by what is heard about him, that is a desecration of Hashem’s name. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchaq...