Category: 2- Shemos

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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...

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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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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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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;...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Haftaras Pequdei – Hester Panim

It seems that by the time we get to the end of the discussion of the Mishkan, haRav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk already wrote all the more philosophical points he wanted to make about the subject. So this week, we’ll take a look at what the Meshekh Chokhmah says on the haftarah, on Melahim I 5:18. He opens by referring...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Vayaqhel – Shabbos & Miqdash

In Ki Sisa, last week’s parashah, the discussion of building the Mishkan is preceded by the obligation to observe Shabbos. However this week’s parashah placed the Mishkan first — and Rashi says this is the source of the idea that building the Mishkan does not override Shabbos. Implied is that had only the telling in Ki-Sisa stood, building the Mishkan...

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VeShomru

The opening of the middle berakhah of Shabbos Morning Admidah is somewhat famously odd, “Moshe will be rejoicing with the giving of his portion, for You called him a loyal servant. A crown of splendor descended on his head when he stood before You in Mount Sinai, and two stone luchos he brought down in his hand. And Shabbos was written in them,...

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Coin of Fire

זֶ֣ה ׀ יִתְּנ֗וּ כָּל־הָעֹבֵר֙ עַל־הַפְּקֻדִ֔ים מַחֲצִ֥ית הַשֶּׁ֖קֶל בְּשֶׁ֣קֶל הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ עֶשְׂרִ֤ים גֵּרָה֙ הַשֶּׁ֔קֶל מַחֲצִ֣ית הַשֶּׁ֔קֶל תְּרוּמָ֖ה לַֽה’׃ This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-sheqel by the sanctuary weight — twenty gerahs to the sheqel — a half-sheqel as an offering to Hashem. – Shemos 30:13 The word “זה – this” generally refers to pointing...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Ki Sisa — Nature and Revelation

1- Shemos 32:19: The mistake that led to the eigel was thinking Moshe had inherent qedushah, and therefore they needed an an inherently holy eigel to replace him. Therefore, Moshe breaks the first luchos, despite their being carved and written by G-d, forcefully demonstrating that even they don’t have inherent qedushah. 2- Shemos 32:16: The luchos could be read from...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Tetzaveh – Mizbeiach & Aron

Hashem (Shemos 29:42) speaks of revealing Himself from the entrance of the Ohel Mo’eid, from where the daily tamid was offered. And yet elsewhere we learnt that Hashem spoke to Moshe from between the keruvim, atop the aron. Rav Meir Simcha haKohein miDvinsk uses this contrast to discuss: What is the role of each of these keilim within the purpose of...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Mishpatim – Personal and National Religion

What happened between Shemos 24:3 “kol hadevarim asher diber Hashem na’aseh” and v. 7 “kol asher diver Hashem na’aseh venishmah”? Why did we accept the Torah twice, using two different terminologies? Audio:   Video: שמות כ״ד:ג-ז וַיָּבֹ֣א מֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיְסַפֵּ֤ר לָעָם֙ אֵ֚ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י ה֔׳ וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֑ים וַיַּ֨עַן כָּל־הָעָ֜ם ק֤וֹל אֶחָד֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר ה֖׳ נַעֲשֶֽׂה׃ ג – 3 Moses went and...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Yisro – Intellect or Action?

The Meshekh Chokhmah on Shemos 20:18 discusses Moshe’s approach through the smoke to the top of Har Sinai. What does the smoke represent? How did Moshe perfect himself to be capable of reaching Sinai. The difference between the prophecy at the burning bush and the revelation at Sinai. HaRav Meir Simcha haKohein contrasts the philosopher’s idea of self perfection, which...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Beshalach – Thought and Deed

(Yes, this title is an intentional play on last week’s.) The Meshekh Chokhmah writes on Shemos 14:23, a line describing the crossing of the Red Sea. The Meshekh Chokhmah compares how individuals are judged and nations. For individuals, sins of action, such as idolatry or Shabbos desecration, are punished. But flaws in one’s middos or a lack of politeness are...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Bo – Thought and Emotion

Rav Meir Simchah haKohein has a lot to say about parashas Bo. I chose his comments on Shemos 12:21, which discuss the roles of intellect and emotion in Judaism — and is also quite long. (In contrast to their relative roles in paganism.) The topic both touches on hashkafah and how we relate to Divinity and on mussar and how...

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Meshekh Chokhmah – Va’eira – Challenges and Rewards

In his commentary on Shemos 6:13, Rav Meir Simchah haKohein notes that if you look closely, not only Par’oh was asked to free Benei Yisrael, but Benei Yisra’el also were. What’s that about — who among the Jews were holding other Jews as slaves? When Moshe and Aharon approach Par’oh, there is a big step back in describing who they...

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Meshech Chokhmah – Introduction to Shemos

In his introduction to seifer Shemos, Rav Meir Simchah haKohein discusses a few themes, some of which we covered in this shiur. Why is Moshe’s nevu’ah special? Interestingly, the Meshekh Chokhmah emphasizes how we know that Moshe received nevu’ah, not the nature of the nevu’ah itself. Moshe, prophecy, and free will. The central role of free will in life. And,...

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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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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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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...