Toldot 5776

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Medresh asks why are there a short few psukim jotted in at the end of the parsha about Eisav. The Medresh explains that the psukim describe how Eisav took one of Yishmael's daughters as his wife, a few dvarim and that's the whole story. Meanwhile when Yaakov takes a wife, we get into the whole bubba meisa, perek after perek on ever detail of why and how everything happened. The Medresh comes to tell us that this is one of many shiduch lesson of the Torah. Some Shiduchim are as simple as Eisav and his two pesukim while some have to experience the Yaakov of Shiduchim where it becomes an expanded tale.

Vayelech 5776

Friday, September 18, 2015

The parsha discusses the mitzvah of "hakhel." During Succos of the year after Shemittah, Bnei Yisroel is required to gather at the Mikdash for a public reading of Sefer Devarim. This mitzvah includes bringing small children and babies. Why? They lack the capacity to understand and comprehend mitzvos. What is the purpose of bringing them? Rashi quotes the Gemara from Chagigah (3a) saying that it is in order to give s'char (reward) to those who brought them. But what does that really mean? Why does the Gemara seemingly go out of its way to mention an extra amount of s'char for the parents?
My rebbe, R' Yehuda Shmulewitz, explains that the Gemara is teaching the importance of one's environment. A person's surroundings have such an effect on a person, even from an early age. Bringing children to the Mikdash to hear the Torah will expose them to a healthy and wonderful environment, one that they will hopefully continue to live in as they grow. They will want to continue living in a Torah-filled life.
The Gemara in Chagigah also expresses R' Yehoshua's reaction to hearing such a statement. He calls the vort a "precious gem." Why did he find it so moving? When R' Yehoshua was a baby, his mother would bring him to the beis midrash to be among talmidei chachamim. He eventually became one of the main disciples of R' Yochanan ben Zakkai. R' Yehoshua was pleased when he heard how much s'char his mother got from putting him in the right environment.

Nitzavim 5775

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The posuk (29:18) says that when a person hears the words of the rebuke, he'll say to himself that he'll be alright; "peace will be with me," he says. Why would a person do this? Wouldn't the right reaction be fear? The Yonasan ben Uziel translates this posuk along the lines of "yeiush", giving up. A person will hear the rebuke and will lose hope in himself. After he hears about all the horrible things that would happen to him, he'd think that there's nothing he can do about it and continue living life sinfully; he'll keep on doing aveiros without regret
That's where teshuvah comes in. The opportunity to do teshuvah removes all sense of giving up. It can give a person a fresh start in life despite all that he has done.

Ki Tavo 5775

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The parsha opens up with the mitzvah of Bikkurim, to bring your first fruits as a gift to the Mikdash. When a person brings the basket of fruit, he recites a paragraph about being freed from Egypt by Hashem and his gratitude towards Him. The Abarbanel explains that there are four purposes for this mitzvah:
1) In order to make a person's heart humble. A person cherishes his first produce of the year and cannot wait to eat them. The Torah then commands him to control his urges and to separate them as Bikkurim.
2) In order that a person will not be ungrateful towards Hashem Who gave him this produce. It "forces" a person to recognize the source and be thankful.
3) Reciting the paragraph reminds a person of his past hardships in his time of success. Many people forget the hard times when everything is going well for him.
4) It strengthens a person's humility and lowliness when he puts the basket on his shoulders and when he speaks about how tough it was for his ancestors back in Egypt

Tisha B'Av 5775

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Midrash Rabbah compares the sin of Adam to the exile from Jerusalem based on a posuk from Hoshea. Hashem had brought Adam into Gan Eden and gave him an order to follow (not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge). Adam transgressed the command, causing Hashem to banish him the garden and send him out into the world. Hashem also lamented over Adam as seen from the word “Ayeka” (“where are you”), which is spelled the same as “Eichah” (“alas”).
This pattern can be seen with Bnei Yisroel. Hashed brought them into Eretz Yisroel and gave them the mitzvos to follow. They committed sins and Hashem banished them from His temple and sent them out into exile. Hashem lamented over them with “Eichah”.
Why does the Midrash compare these two entities? What connection is there between them?
The Rambam explains that before Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, he saw everything in the world as Truth and Falsehood. There was clear indication of what was the right thing to do. After the sin, Adam saw his choices as Good and Bad, a more subjective perception of things.
When the Beis Hamikdash was around, we witnessed miracles upon miracles. We saw kivyachol the Hand of G-d on a daily basis. It was as if we saw everything on a level of Truth and Falsehood. Unfortunately, we were not able to sustain that sense of choice and we resorted back to choosing between Good and Bad.
This is what we pray for everyday, that we once again reach a level of Adam before he sinned. If we can reach and maintain a level of choosing between Truth and Falsehood, we can bring back the Temple bimheirah biyomeinu.

Devarim 5775

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Ramban starts off his introduction to Sefer Devarim with stating how it is called the "Mishna Torah" because Moshe goes through many mitzvos with Bnei Yisroel. These are to warn them to follow Hashem's commandments. And Moshe doesn't just do this once or twice, he constantly warns them because they need to be. This is how both learning and mussar work; a person must always be learning and receiving mussar. A person can't just read through things and think his job is done. He must continue to review what he has learned and continue to keep himself from sinning. When we do so, we show Hashem that we want the Beis Hamikdash rebuilt bimheirah biyomeinu.

Balak 5775

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throughout the Torah scroll, there are many paragraph breaks called "pesuchas" and "stumahs". Rashi in Vayikra explains that these breaks were to give Moshe a chance to understand and internalize the prophecy he just received. But in the story of Bilaam, there are no breaks at all; it continues without any interruption. The Chofetz Chaim understands this as a reflection of Rashi's explanation. Bilaam never understood the prophecy and never allowed it to have an influence on his life. He was merely a "megaphone" for Hashem who could not think on his own. The lesson we can learn is to not robotically serve Hashem; we are to internalize His mitzvos and bring their meaning into our lives.

Chukat 5775

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Kli Yakar gives an important reason as to why Bnei Yisroel did not have any water after Miriam died. They did not grieve for her as they did for both Aharon and Moshe; they merely buried her and went on their way without missing her. Hashem then punished them for their lack of appreciation for Miriam. By drying up the well, Hashem showed Bnei Yisroel that it was only because of Miriam's merit that they had water for 40 years. The Torah is stressing how one person can make a difference and how important it is to honor and give tribute to the unsung heros of society.

Shelach 5775

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The posuk (15:39) tells us that by looking at the tzitzis we will be reminded of all the mitzvos. How so? What about the tzitzis will remind us? Rashi explains that the numerical value of the word "tzitzis" is 600. It consists of 8 strings and 5 knots. That adds up to 613, the total amount of mitzvos. The Ramban says our reminder comes from the techeiles string. The root of the word "techeiles" is "tachlis," meaning "purpose." The blue string reminds us of our purpose in life, to bring G-dliness into the world through the mitzvos.

Naso 5775

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Naso is the longest parsha of the year, mainly due to the sacrifices brought by the 12 Nesi'im (princes). The Torah begins to list each nasi and his sacrifice starting with Nachshon ben Aminadav. However, he's the only one not called nasi in the verse. Why was his title left out? The Or Hachaim explains that Nachshon was fit to bring a sacrifice even if he wasn't a nasi (unlike the other 11). Secondly, Nachshon saw himself as one of the people and not as their leader. The Torah saw it fit to leave out his title because of his righteousness and humility. After all, he showed his trust in Hashem as he walked into the Sea of Reeds up to his nose.

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5775

Friday, May 1, 2015

Of the many commandments in Parshas Kedoshim, the Torah warns us about cheating in business and immoral relations. The Gemara in Bava Basra (88b) compares the two sins and concludes that cheating is business is worse. How so? The Gemara answers that one can do teshuvah for immoral relations, but cannot do teshuvah for cheating in business. Rashi and Tosafos add that when one steals from a community, it is impossible to return money to each individual and therefore an incomplete teshuvah.

Tazria-Metzora 5775

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

These two parshiyos describe the illness known as Tzara'as, loosely translated at leprosy. A person inflicted with Tzara'as is called a Tzarua. This is made up of two words: "motzi rah," it brings out a person's bad actions. Tzara'as reveals the inner rotting of a person's soul. What sins does a person do that causes him/her to be inflicted? The Kli Yakar brings down three sins that the parsha hints to: haughtiness, greed, and lashon harah. The "s'eis" represents haughtiness, the "sapachas" represents greed, and the "baheres" represents lashon harah.

Vayikra 5775

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Vayikra as a whole deals with the numerous sacrifices given for any occasion. This week's parsha talks about the sacrifices brought for sinning. The Torah lists the sacrifices given by a Kohen, an individual, a community, and a "nasi," (a leader). When discussing the first three, the Torah uses the word "if." However, when discussing the nasi, the Torah says "when." The Seforno explains why there is a change. The nasi will sin because of the political power and control he has. It will surely corrupt him and cause him to sin. The Torah is teaching us that one in power must stay true to his values and not become corrupt. If he does, he must be humble and admit to his wrongdoing.

Vayak'hel-Pekudei 5775

The laver in which the kohanim would wash their hands was made of the women's bronze mirrors. The Kli Yakar explains that the water taken from the laver was also used to determine if a woman was unfaithful to her husband. By contributing to the laver, the women wanted to show that they would always be faithful. Secondly, water acts like a mirror. You can see your reflection and see if you look good or not; so too the water from the laver would determine if a woman is faithful or not.

Tetzaveh 5775

Friday, February 27, 2015

The 8 pieces of clothing worn by the Kohen Gadol were to atone for 8 different sins. These include the 3 cardinal sins (immorality, murder, and idolatry), lashon harah, and 4 character flaws that lead to other sins (such as haughtiness and injustice).
The Kli Yakar ties in the idea of how King Achashverosh tried to harness the power of these clothes. The Gemara in Megillah mentions how he wore all 8 pieces to the party he had at the beginning of the Purim story. Achashverosh thought that by wearing them, he would be protected from Divine punishment. However, he erred in thus regard since they only provide protection only when the Kohen Gadol wears them.

Mishpatim 5775

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In 23:2, the Torah tells us of an idea about going by the majority in different cases, but not for the wrong reason. The Ohr Hachaim has an interesting explanation. A simple majority was not enough to convict someone. For example, if there was a unanimous vote of guilty, there would be no conviction. Let's say that 22 judges vote guilty and the last judge wants to also; but if he does, there would be no conviction. He then decides to intentionally vote innocent for a conviction to take place. Alternatively, if the last judge thinks the ruling should be innocent he will intentionally vote guilty and nullify the conviction. The Torah is therefore teaching that you can't use your vote for your own intention.

Yitro 5775

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The first of the Ten Commandments states that Hashem is our G-d Who took us out of Egypt from the houses of slaves. Based on the extra phrase of "houses of slaves", the Kedushas Levi brings up the reason why the Jews weren't given the Torah before they were redeemed. One who worships out of fear is called a slave; one who worships out of love is called a child. If Hashem had given us the Torah in Egypt, we would've accepted it out of fear in the form of slaves. Once we were redeemed, we were able to accept it out of love as children. That is why the verse emphasizes "slaves;" Hashem gave us the ability to worship him out of love.

Beshalach 5775

Friday, January 30, 2015

One of the main messages of Parshas Beshalach is "bitachon," trust in Hashem. The more you trust Him equates to the amount of individual Divine Providence you receive. We see that when Bnei Yisroel question Hashem's Presence around them, Amalek immediately appears and attacks them. My rebbe from KBY, Rabbi Friedman, quotes a verse showing the power of bitachon: "Many are the sorrows for a wicked person, mercy surrounds one who trusts in Hashem" (Psalms 32:10). Shouldn't the opposite of a wicked person be a righteous person? We see that even if one isn't a full righteous person, he can be subject to a high level of Divine Providence through his faith in Hashem.

Bo 5775

As Moshe commands Bnei Yisroel to bring the Korban Pesach, he tells them to "draw forth and take a sheep" for sacrifice. The Midrash explains that Moshe was telling them to draw forth their hands from idolatry and only then can they do the service of Hashem. This idea is also expressed by King David in Psalms 34: stray from evil and do good. This is an important lesson for improving oneself. In order to serve Hashem in a genuine way, one must first remove the bad from his/her life.

Va'era 5775

We all know the acronym for the 10 plagues of Detzach, Adash, Be'achav (groups of 3, 3, and 4). Why is the grouping as such? The Kli Yakar explains that each group disproved Pharaoh's claims against Hashem. The first 3 plagues were to show that there is a G-d above everything: Hashem turned the Nile, their god, into blood. He then brought frogs from that very river who sanctified His name by leaping into furnaces. With lice, the magicians said "it is the finger of G-d." The next 3 plagues showed Hashem's Divine Providence over individuals by just attacking the Egyptians and their cattle. The last 4 plagues showed that there is only one G-d. Hashem blocked out the sun, which was considered a god, with locusts and darkness. The goat was also considered a god as well as the firstborn of all gods; Hashem killed the firstborns throughout Egypt with the last plague.

Shemot 5775

Saturday, January 10, 2015

When Moshe sees an Egyptian hitting his Jewish brother, he steps in and kills the Egyptian. The posuk mentions that Moshe saw that "there was no man around" when he did so (2:12). Rashi explains this phrase as saying through prophecy Moshe saw that there would be no convert coming from this Egyptian's family. Moshe teaches us an important lesson: to calculate each and every action one does and its future consequences. The Ramchal in "The Path of the Upright" talks about this at length. He says that one should think before doing anything in order to make sure it is the right decision.

Vayechi 5775

Friday, January 2, 2015

In this week's parsha, Yaakov blesses each of his sons before he dies. Rashi goes through each blessing and explains how they are carried out in the future. Is this how blessings work? Are they some kind of prophecy that will come true? My rebbe, Rabbi Shmulewitz, explains that blessings don't really work; one must put his/her own effort into the blessing for it to work. A blessing is merely a goal for one to reach.

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