Category: Chumash

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The King’s Highway, A Metaphor

I was wondering about something related to the attempt to travel on the Derekh haMelekh through Edom. Derekh haMelekh is the name of an actual highway of the time. But it sounds much like a reference to the core mitzvah of “וְהָלַכְתָּ֖ בִּדְרָכָֽיו – and you shall go in His Ways” (Devarim 28:9). The Rambam (Hilkhos Dei’os 1:5-6) explains this...

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The King’s Highway, The Reality

In parashas Chuqas, Bamidbar 20:17, Moshe asks of the nation of Edom: נַעְבְּרָה־נָּ֣א בְאַרְצֶ֗ךָ לֹ֤א נַעֲבֹר֙ בְּשָׂדֶ֣ה וּבְכֶ֔רֶם וְלֹ֥א נִשְׁתֶּ֖ה מֵ֣י בְאֵ֑ר דֶּ֧רֶךְ הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ נֵלֵ֗ךְ לֹ֤א נִטֶּה֙ יָמִ֣ין וּשְׂמֹ֔אול עַ֥ד אֲשֶֽׁר־נַעֲבֹ֖ר גְּבֻלֶֽךָ׃ Allow us, then, to cross your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, and we will not drink water from wells. We will follow the king’s...

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Anav Mikol Adam: reactions

My previous post engendered a couple of responses and a follow-up thought of my own that I would like to share. A quick reminder: In that post, I suggested that maybe “וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה עָנָ֣ו מְאֹ֑ד מִכֹּל֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃” can be defined not only as “Moshe was a very humble man, more so than any other human on earth.”...

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Anav Mikol Adam

A quick thought on something from the parashah (Behaalosekha), based on how one translates the words in the title. Bamidbar 12:3. The context is that Miriam and Aharon just complained about Moshe’s neglected wife, noting that no other prophet saw it necessary to do this. וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה עָנָ֣ו מְאֹ֑ד מִכֹּל֙ הָֽאָדָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָאֲדָמָֽה׃ Moshe was a very humble man,...

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The Uncounted Convert

The placement of one section of parashas Naso struck me when reviewing the parashah last week. We just has a parashah and a half of counting the Jewish People — first the 12 shevatim, then the levi’im. By sheivet and clan. And each one given it’s place in the camp. Immediately after (Bamidbar 5:1-4) there is a short section about...

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The Chatas and the Olah

There is a difference in halakhah between how a bird is slaughtered when brought as a qorban chatas and when brought as a qorban olah. The Torah says (Vayiqra 5:8-10) that the kohein must “וּמָלַ֧ק אֶת־רֹאשׁ֛וֹ — flick off its head” of the bird offered as a chatas. But there is no similar instruction for the olah; it is just...

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Ki and Im

How likely is it that someone would spill ink and it would legibly depict the Mona Lisa? How likely is it to win the lottery? The two questions differ in one way… When you go to the lottery winner and ask them about their chance of winning, they are amazed. But from the perspective of the lottery, someone usually wins....

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Pieces of Sapphire

In this week’s parasha (Shemos 34:1), when Hashem tells Moshe to carve the second luchos, He says “פסל לך – carve for yourself”. The gemara comments on the apparently superfluous “לך – for yourself” by explaining that Hashem was telling Moshe that he could keep the extra precious stone to make the writing surface. “לא העשיר משה אלא מפסולתן של...

Keruvim on the Aron 0

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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Doing what is Customary

When the Jews reached the Red Sea and saw the Mitzriyim catching up, “וַיִּֽירְאוּ֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־ה’ — they became very fearful, and the Benei Yisrael cried out to Hashem.” (Shemos 14:10) Rashi, on the word “וַיִּצְעֲק֥וּ — they cried out”, quotes the Mekhilta, “תָּפְשׂוּ אֻמָּנוּת אֲבוֹתָם — they picked up their ancestors’ profession” and then quotes a pasuq...

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Hardening the Heart vs. Weighing it Down

So, I recently noticed that the translation of Unqelus I am using offers “hardened Par’oh’s heart” and the like regardless of whether the original word ויחזק (Aramaic: ואתקף) or another word built from \חזק\ or whether it was ויכבד (Aramaic: ויקר) or some other conjugation of \כבד\. I guess “חזק”, strengthened, could refer to hardening, although the Targum’s “ואתקף” refers...

Rembrandt: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel 4

Why is this, that you ask my name?

In Vayishlakh, this week’s parashah, Yaaqov Avinu battles an angel. At the end he asks the angel what his name was. The angel answers, “לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי — why is this that you ask my name?” A mal’akh is literally a messenger. An angel is defined by its mission. Thus the name of the angel of healing is simply...

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Which Rainbow?

An interesting tidbit from the Seforno on Ber’ 9:13 “vehaysa le’os beris”: והיתה לאות ברית: בהיות הקשת כפולה. כי אמנם נלאו חכמי המחקר לתת טעם לסדר צבעי הקשת השנית אשר הוא על הפך סדר צבעי הקשת הראשונה המורגלת. והיא תהיה אות לצדיקי הדור שדורם חייב. כאמרם כלום נראתה הקשת מימיך. ויתפללו ויוכיחו וילמדו דעת את העם: And it will be...

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Why Parashas Balaq?

A lesson that can be learned from Parashas Balaq…. Why is the story of Balaq trying to hire Bil’am in the Chumash altogether? The Moavim don’t learn a lesson, they remain our enemies. Bil’am certainly didn’t change. And the Jews? We didn’t know anything about it at the time. And if it weren’t in the Torah, we still wouldn’t. My...

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Epistemology in the Torah

There are three verbs in pasuq 31 describing the steps in which being saved at the Red Sea impacted the Jews:

vayyar – they saw
vayyir’u – they felt yir’ah (fear / awe)
vaya’aminu – they believed

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Meshekh Chokhmah – BeChuqosai

Parashas BeChukosai begins “אם בחוקוני – If you follow My statutes… ” and continues by promising “I will give you your rain .. in its time.” The reward for following Hashem’s laws is measure-for-measure through His natural law. The Mechech Chokhmah discusses the centrality of natural law, that the world wasn’t made to run on miracles, and miracles aren’t the point...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Behar

Parashas Behar opens with the mitzvah of shemittah. The Meshakh Chokhmah’s first two entries on the parashah are about (1) what shemittah implies about how Hashem gave Eretz Yisrael to us and (2) the distinction between shemittah and yovel. Audio:   Video:  The first comment shed some light on the second. We see Hashem call Israel a gift, and...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Emor

Part of parashas Emor (VaYiqra 22:26-23:44) contains a survey of the holy days of the year. It is well known because it is also read on the first day(s) of Sukkos and in the diaspora, the second day of Pesach. The Meshekh Chokhmah makes a profound statement in his commentary on the end of 23:21, in the description of Shavuos,...

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Shaarei Yosher – VeAhavta leRei’akha kaMokha

Vayiqra 19:18 famously says “VaAhavta lerei’akh kamokha, ani Hashem — love your neighbor as yourself, I Am Hashem. Rav Shimon Shkop has much to say about this pasuq, so I followed up the previous shiur on “qedoshim tihyu qi Qadosh Ani — be holy for I Am Holy” with another. In that shiur, we saw that Rav Shimon defines our...

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Shaarei Yosher – Qedoshim

Instead of discussing a comment by the Meshekh Chokhmah this week, I chose to present an idea from Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction to Shaarei Yosher. The thoughts in this shiur are bits taken from a much longer treatment in my book, Widen Your Tent. The chapter which consists of the introduction to Shaarei Yosher itself, with my translation, is available...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Acharei Mos

The Torah returns to the topic of the death of two of Aharon’s sons when introducing the Yom Kippur service in the Beis haMiqdash. What is the connection between the two topics? The Yerushalmi says it is that just as Yom Kippur atones, the death of the righteous atones. Is it any righteous person’s death? And doesn’t this somewhat beg...

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With Great Wealth

דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ ׀ מֵאֵ֣ת רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃ Please tell the people to borrow, each man from his friend and each woman from her friend, silver utensils and gold utensils. – Hashem to Moshe, Shemos 11:2 This verse raises a compelling question. Here we are, at the end of some 210 years of slavery. So now...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Introduction to Vayiqra

There is a dispute between the Rambam and the Ramban’s Castilian school about the role of qorbanos. The Rambam apparently* says that qorbanos were proposed as a strategy to wean people away from avodah zara. The Ramban and his whole Catalonian school objected. Adam, Qayin and Hevel brought sacrifices before idolatry was invented. Noach brought his when there were no...

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Erasing Amaleiq

I heard (via YouTube) a thought in a shiur by Rabbi Yaakov Haber that I wanted to share and embellish. When we first found out in 2012 that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons against their own people, we were shocked. It was repeatedly in the news headlines. It is now 2019. They are still gassing their own people;...