Ki Tisa 5778

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

After the sin of the golden calf, G-d tells them of numerous commandments including the holidays. The list mentioned here puts Pesach over Shabbos, followed by Shavuos and Succos. In other lists of the holidays, such as in Parshas Emor, Shabbos precedes all the holidays. Why was the order switched here?
The Netziv in his commentary "Ha'amek Davar" explains that this list isn't to teach Bnei Yisroel about the holidays since they were already told of them before the sin of the golden calf (in Mishpatim). Here, this list is to repair a sense of faith that was damaged within them. After such a sin, Hashem saw it fit to reestablish and strengthen the building blocks of their faith by starting with the primary example of faith: Yetzias Mitzrayim and Pesach. By starting with Pesach and the springtime, He was looking to "plant" a sense of Avodas Hashem within them that would stretch across the year and its holidays.

Vayeitzei 5779

The Malbim notes the differences between the prophecy that Yaakov received at the beginning of the parsha to that of Moshe's. He uses the Rambam's analysis from Moreh Nevuchim to point out four distinct differences:
1) All prophecies are transmitted via dream. Only when the prophet is sleeping will he/she see a vision. Moshe, on the other hand, received prophecy while awake. As seen here in the parsha, Yaakov dreams of the vision.
2) All prophecies are given as parables or riddles. It is up to the prophet to discern and interpret what the meaning of the prophecy means. However, Moshe didn't need to do so; Hashem spoke to him directly without any explanation needed. Here, the parable of a ladder with angels is given.
3) All prophecies come via an angel; they are seen as the "middleman" between Hashem and the prophet. In Bamidbar 12:8, Hashem describes how He speaks to Moshe as two people speak to one another. In Yaakov's prophecy, angels are the main players.

Shemot 5779

As Moshe is on his way back to Egypt to speak with Pharaoh, his life is unexpectedly threatened. As he stays at an inn, Hashem looks to kill him. Tziporah acts fast by finding a sharp rock and performing a circumcision on their son Gershom. Some commentaries on this story note that Moshe had not been diligent with performing a circumcision on his son at the proper time. He had decided to focus on his lodging before performing the mitzvah; his priorities weren't in order.
Despite these explanations, it is still difficult to understand what happened here. How could Hashem look to wipe out Moshe after a week of speaking with him about saving the Jewish people from Egypt? Secondly, why such a harsh potential punishment? Circumcision is crucial to Judaism, but at the risk of ending Moshe's life and possibly delaying the redemption?
I would like to suggest an explanation based on the Rambam in his introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah. At the very beginning, the Rambam talks about four kinds of prophets; two who speak in the name of idolatry while two speak in the name of Hashem. However, out of those four types only one kind is believed and accepted as a true prophet. The first two say that either a star or that Hashem Himself came and said to worship a certain object or luminary. Even if they perform miracles, they are put to death for being false prophets of Hashem. The second two speak in the name of Hashem. However, one says that Hashem had decided to add or remove a commandment from the Torah; this also includes altering an interpretation of a verse based on drasha. This prophet is also to be put to death. Only a prophet who speaks in the name of Hashem and tells the masses to continue keeping the Torah and to do teshuvah

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