Shemot 5774

Thursday, December 19, 2013

There is a famous question regarding Yetzias Mitzrayim. If it was predetermined that Bnei Yisroel would be enslaved, why were the Egyptians punished? Nachmanides answers it was because they went far beyond mere enslavement; they wanted to wipe Bnei Yisroel out. Maimonides answers that Bnei Yisroel was to be enslaved, but Hashem never mentioned by whom. The Egyptians willingly did so out of their own choice.

Vayechi 5774

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why do we say "bless you" when someone sneezes? It is because of Yaakov that we do so. The Chizkuni explains that Yaakov asked of Hashem to give him signs when he was nearing death. One sign was the ability to sneeze without dying. Back then when a person would sneeze, his/her soul would leave the body. People were amazed when they saw Yaakov. Because of this, the Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer says to say "lechaim" when one sneezes. This is why we say gezundheit!

Vayeishev 5774

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Kli Yakar compares the sins of Pharaoh's steward and baker. The baker's sin was supplying a loaf of bread with a pebble in it. The steward's sin was handing Pharaoh a cup of wine with a fly in it. The baker's sin was completely negligent and would anger anyone. The steward's sin was more of an accident, but should have been checked. This is like how Hashem watches over every single action a tzaddik does because they are closer to Him than others are.

Vayishlach 5774

Friday, November 15, 2013

Yaakov davens to Hashem to save him "from the hands of his brother, the hands of Esav" (32:12). Why does Yaakov need to say both? We know Esav is his brother! The Beis Halevi explains that both terms are necessary. As Jews, we are either befriended by the Gentiles and they become a bad influence on us or we are persecuted by them. Yaakov is davening for protection from both aspects. He puts the term "brother" first because it is worse to befriend a bad person and learn from him.

Toldot 5774

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Ramban writes that the three wells that Yitzchak dug represent the three Temples. The first two wells, named Eisek (oppression) and Sitnah (hatred), represent the first two Temples that were destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans respectively. In both time periods, the Jews were oppressed and hated by their enemies to the point where it destroyed the Temples. The third well, Rechovot (lit. roads), represents the third Temple which will be built without oppression or hatred.

Vayeira 5774

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Avraham was tested many times by Hashem, the last test being the Akeidah. The Ramban explains the concept of a test from Hashem. A person has free will and can choose to do something or not. From his viewpoint, he sees Hashem's Word as a test. Hashem however sees this as a command to bring Man's potential into actual. Hashem wants to give Man reward for a good deed rather than just for a good heart. This is why "tests" are given to the righteous, it is for their benefit.

Lech Lecha 5774

Thursday, October 10, 2013

When Hashem promises the land to Avraham, He first tells Avraham to look at the land and then later He tells him to walk around its borders. The Kli Yakar explains that Hashem wanted Avraham to acquire the land in two aspects. By looking at the land he would acquire it spiritually and by walking its borders he would acquire it physically. The spiritual aspect would last for the generations; even when the Mikdash isn't around, we still have spiritual influence poured down on us when we long for its building

Noach 5774

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Midrash says that Shem merited a Tallis when he covered Noah in a cloth. However, Chazal say that Avraham merited techeiles on his tzitzis. The Kli Yakar explains that there is no contradiction here; these two actions work as a tag team. Shem's actions saved Bnei Yisroel from immorality while Avraham's actions saved Bnei Yisroel from poverty (he refused to take any money from the king of Sodom because he was happy with what he had). The mitzvah of tzitzis provides protection from both: it saves a person from immorality which in turn saves a person from poverty.

Nitzavim-Vayelech 5773

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Moshe brings Bnei Yisroel into a covenant with Hashem, adding that it will include "those who aren't with us today" (29:13). Rashi says this means to include future generations. But how can it be possible to include these future generations? The Sifsei Chachamim explains that a father's child is like his own leg; they are interconnected to the point that when the father accepts the covenant, the child is included in it.

Eikev 5773

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This week's parsha includes the mitzvah of prayer. We are commanded to serve Hashem (10:20) and with our hearts (11:13). How do we serve Hashem with our hearts? The Rambam explains that this means through prayer. By quoting verses, the Rambam shows that prayer is commanded right from Scripture; the time to pray and how to pray were ordained by the Sages. Nachmanides disagrees with the Rambam and holds that prayer in general is a rabbinic mitzvah; the only time that prayer is a scriptural mitzvah is at a time of need.

Va'etchanan 5773

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In this week's parsha, Moshe tells Bnei Yisroel not to forget about Ma'amad Har Sinai. Some authorities even claim that this is a positive commandment, and it is part of the 6 remembrances said at the end of Shacharis. Why is it so important to remember? It is because that it is a testimony to the world that our ancestors were eyewitnesses to Hashem revealing Himself in the world when He gave us the Torah. It is also part of the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim, which we are to remember each day.

Pinchas 5773

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Parshas Pinchas is the most read parsha during the year due to the fact it discusses the holiday offerings given throughout the year. The formula for sacrifices consists of certain numbers of bulls, rams, sheep, and goats. Rashi and Chizkuni explain that each type of animal represents a different forefather. The bull corresponds to Avraham who fed his visitors steak. The ram represents the ram given instead of Yitzchak at the akeidah. The sheep represents Yaakov and his story with Lavan's sheep. The goat is to atone for the brothers selling Yosef and dipping his coat in goat's blood.

Balak 5773

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

After Bilam receives permission to go meet with Balak, he wakes up early and quickly saddles up his donkey to leave as soon as possible. Rashi notes that hatred affects the way a person acts; Bilam was eager to curse Bnei Yisroel. He than contrasts Bilam with Avraham who also got up early and saddles his donkey to fulfill Hashem's request. We see from here that motivation can be used for both good and bad. It's our job to use it just for good.

Chukat 5773

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Moshe is afraid of Og when Bnei Yisroel go to war with him. Rashi explains this is because Og had told Avraham about saving Lot, and Moshe had thought that this merit would protect Og. Hashem then guarantees a victory over Og. The Kli Yakar expounds on this and explains that Hashem was really saying to Moshe that Og never had any merit to begin with. Og had gone to Avraham with the wrong intentions; he wanted Avraham to die, so that he himself would marry Sarah.

Korach 5773

Thursday, June 6, 2013

In selichos, we call out to Hashem to answer us just as he answered Aharon during the plague in this week's parsha. But Moshe had commanded Aharon to fight the plague, there was no answer from Hashem to Aharon! R' Moshe Feinstein answers that if Moshe had called upon any other priest, they wouldn't stand a chance. Only Aharon had the merit to fight against the plague and stop it. This is to emphasize once again that Aharon was the chosen priest of Hashem and to further dismiss Korach's claim.

Beha'alotcha 5773

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When Bnei Yisroel complain to Hashem for food, they say they remember how they ate "free fish in Egypt" (11:5). But how is that possible when they didn't even get straw for free? Rashi answers that they meant that they remember when they were free from mitzvos. Bnei Yisroel were mistaken in that regard. They had to understand that Torah and mitzvos are lehavdil like learning to play piano. You need a rule book in order to play well and to develop your own pieces of music (in this case that would be chiddushei Torah).

Bamidbar 5773

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Midrash Rabbah explains that the Torah was given with three things: fire, water, and desert. Just as these three items are free, so too are divrei Torah free (as they can be passed from Jew to Jew with ease). My rebbe Rabbi Shmulewitz explains that the three items represent different situations. It doesn't matter if the situation is good or bad, one must continue to learn Torah, anywhere and anyhow.

Behar-Bechukotai 5773

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Or Hachaim has 42 interpretations on the first posuk of bechukosai. Interpretation #17 describes a certain situation: A person is going to do a mitzvah but is prevented from doing it. Hashem gives him reward as if he had done the mitzvah. The posuk is read like this: If you are intending to go do a mitzvah but are prevented to do it, it'll be as if you had already done it.

Emor 5773

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Emor is one of the most read parshios due to containing the different holidays throughout the year. When the Torah discusses Shavuos, there is no mention of the day commemorating Matan Torah. The Kli Yakar explains that this is because Hashem (kivyachol) thought it was improper to mark a certain day for this event. We are supposed to see every single day as being the day we accept the Torah. The Torah is supposed to have a new "taste" for us every day. We can always learn new ideas that we didn't know before. This is why on Shavuos we bring a "new sacrifice" (Bamidbar 28:26).

Tazria-Metzora 5773

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The leper is considered a dead person. Rashi in Bamidbar says that just as a dead person makes a house and whatever inside it impure so too does a leper when he enters a house. He also sits outside the community just as cemeteries are placed on the outskirts of a town. What causes someone to be inflicted with leprosy? This is because of speaking lashon harah. By comparing the leper to a dead person, the Torah is telling us of the severity of speaking lashon harah.

Tzav 5773

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Korban Todah, the thanksgiving offering, is discussed in detail in this week's parsha. Rashi explains that one brought a Todah when a miracle happened to him/her. These include traveling through the desert or traveling by boat, overcoming an illness, and being released from prison. It turns out that these instances are what we say Birkas Hagomel on. Since we are unable to bring a Todah, we say Birkas Hagomel instead.

Vayikra 5773 (part 2)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A person's name defines his/her qualities. The Midrash tells us that Moshe had 10 names, signifying many different qualities. But why did Hashem choose to call him "Moshe"? It's not even a Hebrew name! Rav Chaim Shmulewitz explains that the name "Moshe" signifies "mesiras nefesh," self-sacrifice. Pharaoh's daughter put her life on the line saving a Jewish baby and named him after the risk she took. This became Moshe's main quality and was instilled in his soul. Throughout Bnei Yisroel's journey in the desert, we see Moshe put his life on the line in order to save them.

Vayikra 5773 (part 1)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why is the Alef in the word "Vayikra" written small? The Ba'al Turim explains that Moshe had wanted to write the word "Vayikar," without the Alef; this would mean that Hashem "happened" upon him in a vision rather than willingly appear to Moshe. He was humble and did not want to look like a very important person. Nonetheless, Hashem told Moshe to write the Alef, but Moshe still requested that it would be written with a small Alef.

Vayak'hel-Pekudei 5773

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The posuk (35:25-26) says that the women of Bnei Yisroel also worked on the Mishkan. The Rosh explains that when the men came to ask their wives to donate their jewelry for the mishkan, the women gave with happiness and zealousness. This is opposed to when the men had to forcefully take their wives' jewelry in order to make the golden calf. Because of their actions, the women merited not doing work on Rosh Chodesh of every month; it became a yom tov for them.

Ki Tisa 5773

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Gemara in Shabbos (118b) states that if we keep Shabbos perfectly two times in a row, then Moshiach would come immediately. However, the Yerushalmi says we only need to keep Shabbos perfectly once. The Kedushas Levi resolves this contradiction. In actuality, it only takes one Shabbos for Moshiach to come. When we properly keep Shabbos, it leaves an impact on our Avodas Hashem for the rest of the week; we worship Hashem with a pure heart. This then leads into the following Shabbos, which is then properly followed again, but this time with our "renewed" Avodas Hashem.

Tetzaveh 5773

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

There are two clothing pieces of the Kohein Gadol that the Torah describes to be "crafted by weavers" ("ma'aseh choshev"): the ephod (apron) and the choshen (breastplate). Why specifically these two? The Kli Yakar explains because they both atone for sins connected to one's thoughts, which in Hebrew is the same root as "choshev". The Ephod atones for idolatry; idolatry affects your faith and therefore affecting your thoughts. The choshen atones for corrupt judgment; a judge's thoughts are affected by his feelings in his heart.

Terumah 5773

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Parsha begins with Hashem telling Moshe to take donations from Bnei Yisroel for the building of the Mishkan. This seems to say that Bnei Yisroel was forced to donate. But didn't they give with a "nediv lev," a motivated heart? R' Moshe Feinstein writes that when one gives tzedakah he shouldn't do it because Hashem told him to; he should give because he himself wants to give. Using his yetzer tov a person implants in himself a feeling of giving tzedakah out of his own good intentions.

Mishpatim 5773

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Towards the end of Mishpatim the Torah retells the story of Matan Torah. In 24:3 Moshe tells Bnei Yisroel of various laws. Rashi notes that these were laws taught right after they crossed the Red Sea. But why is Moshe reteaching these laws? The Kedushas Levi explains that Moshe wasn't reteaching them because the posuk says he "told" them rather than "commanding" them; he was giving Bnei Yisroel encouragement in doing the Mitzvos and how it kivyachol gives Hashem pleasure. It's important to give positive reinforcement to one who needs it in his service to Hashem; it rekindles the spark to do Mitzvos with happiness.

Yitro 5773

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There is a famous Midrash based on 19:17 saying that Hashem lifted Mt. Sinai on top of Bnei Yisroel and He threatened them to accept the Torah or they will destroyed. The Kli Yakar explains that Bnei Yisroel was never forced to accept the Torah; they had already agreed to accept anything Hashem told them to do (19:8). Rather, Hashem was telling them that not keeping the Torah will be as if one is dead in this world. Keeping the Torah guarantees life in this world and the next world.

Bo 5773

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This week's parsha contains one of the most famous Rambans in the Torah. The Ramban explains how important remembering the Exodus is. Since Hashem does not do supernatural miracles for every generation, we are to have a constant reminder of the Exodus and transmit it to our children. When we do a mitzvah such as mezuzah, we are acknowledging our belief in Hashem and He being the Creator of the world and that He also took us out from Egypt.

Va'era 5773

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hashem punishes the evildoers of the world by means of "Middah Kineged Middah"- measure for measure. The Midrash Tanchuma goes through every single plague and explains how Hashem punished the Egyptians measure for measure. For example, the 4th plague of wild animals was brought upon the Egyptians because they had ordered the Jews to bring back lions and bears from the wild in order to be used for sport. The wild animals were also completely removed from Egypt so that the Egyptians got no benefit from their skins.

Shemot 5773

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"The Jews groaned because of the labor and they cried out"(2:23). Why the double language of crying out and groaning? The Kli Yakar explains that the posuk is differentiating between two groups in Bnei Yisroel: those who cried to Hashem due to the labor and those who cried to Hashem as complainers. Hashem only answered those who cried out due to the labor. We must learn to pray to Hashem with sincerity and with no sign of discomfort.
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