Category Archives: parsha

Parsha Tetzaveh

כ וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד.

Rav Hirsch zt”l says on the words l’halos ner tamid, to kindle the lamps continually, that only this term is only used for the menorah. We are taught that one must hold a flame against the wick until wick burns on its own. Rav Hirsh goes on to say beautifully that this is how it should be with with the teachers of Klal Yisrael. They should have patience and be persevering with each student, so to light a flame that will burn on its own. Rav Hirsh published his commentary on Chumash in 1878.

Fast forward to 1932, the year that the Piazeczna Rebbe, Rav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro zt”l, published the Chovos HaTalmidim. This is taken from his introduction:
An educator, however, who wishes to uncover the soul of the child that lies hidden and concealed with him, who wants to help it grown and to ignite it so it will burn with a heavenly fire, upwards, towards the holy, so that the student’s entire being, including his physical body will increase in holiness and will long for God’s Torah, such an educator must adapt himself to the student, must penetrate into the midst of his limited consciousness and small-mindedness, until he reaches the hidden soul-spark. Then he can help it emerge, blossom, and grow. (From A STUDENT’S OBLIGATION page 5)
The same idea put forth, almost 50 years later. Two distinctly different Gadolim, using similar imagery. And why not? Neither Rav Hirsch nor the Piazeczna were interested in promoting themselves, they only wanted to teach us, so that we can continue to burn! Have a great Shabbos Kodesh.

Parsha Vayigash

For the past few years I have found the following pasukim to be a bit confusing…

Now Joseph could not bear all those standing beside him, and he called out, “Take everyone away from me!” So no one stood with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept out loud, so the Egyptians heard, and the house of Pharaoh heard. -Berashis 45:1-2 quoted from here.

I know that Rashi on the first pasuk says that by sending the Mitzriem away Yosef was being sensitive as so not to embarrass his brothers. Rashi is teaching us a very important lesson. However, why does the pasuk say that the Egyptians and Paro heard Yosef cry?

I was thinking about this and I might have found a lesson in it for me. R Yisrael Salanter said that, “One’s face is considered a r’shus harabim (public area)”, after he saw someone in the street looking very depressed. I think there is a fine line between wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve and being completely deadpan or non-emotional in the public arena.

Yosef was always setting an example not only as viceroy, but as a Jewish leader. It is common to want to be senstive to others, as Yosef was to his brothers. At times, by putting others’ needs before one’s own, one can tend to forget about himself and his feelings. I think Yosef needed to cry as an expression of his emotions before his brothers. I believe he also wanted Egypt to hear a more ‘human’ side of him, not just him as Paro’s right hand man.

To be someone who thinks about others’ feelings, and at time same time not negate their own is, in Yosef’s case, all in the timing. I hope you have a Gut Shabbos Kodesh!

Parshas Shoftim

And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the Levitic kohanim. (Devarim 17:18)

Rashi on the pasuk:And it will be, when he sits [upon his royal throne]. If he does this, he merits that his kingdom will remain established. — [Sifrei] two copies of this Torah-. Heb. מִשְׁנֵה הַתּוֹרָה i.e., two Torah scrolls, one that is placed in his treasury, and the other that comes and goes with him (San. 21b).
(Thanks to

I’ve always (well, since I first learned the Rashi) found this Rashi to be great instruction for me (even when I find myself occasionally slipping into Deceptijew mode).

The idea that the same Torah a King keeps in his treasury is identical to the one he keeps with him at all other times is a powerful idea.

Both our public and private life as a Torah observant Jew needs to mesh.

Rav Hutner was once asked about the idea of a Jew living in two worlds (secular and religious). His answer was that if a person has an apartment in one area of town and another apartment in another area of town, that is living two lives.

If, however, you have have a home with two different room that you spend equal time in, you are still in the same world.

I’d say that if you are hanging out in your front or back yard, that would count also.

I admit, I was going to save this Rav Hutner idea for a post dealing with “Bloggers as Superheroes” which was going to discuss my views on Anonymous Bloggers vs those who blog under their names (sort of a “who is a greater hero…Spiderman vs. the Fantastic Four). As I sit here I realize that the truth is that any blogger I’ve communicated with via comments or email that uses a ‘secret identity’ has always been a mentsch. On blog or off blog, at home or at work, in shul or in line to buy diapers, greenbeans, and kishka the ideal is to hold ourselves to the same Torah wherever we are.
Good Shabbos Kodesh!

Parshas Re’eh

We learn the mitzvah of tzedakka from this weeks’ parsha.

It says “If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers in one of your cities, in your land the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother.” (15:8).

Sefer HaChinuch, says (mitzvah # 479) that part of fullfilling the mtizvah of tzedakka isn’t just giving a poor person money. It applies to a wealthy person who needs something as well. What is really interesting is that the mitzvah can also be fullfilled (according to the Chinuch) by giving someone in need: food, items, a gesture, or even a kind word to make them feel better.

The Vilna Goan (from R Z Pliskin’s LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR) says that based on the pasuk using the word ‘hand’ we learn that all of ones’ fingers seem to be the same lengh when a fist is closed. When you open up your hand you see that each finger is a different length, just like each persons’ needs are different when it comes to tzedakka.

Of course a kind word or action, as tzedakka, might also fullfill the mitzvah of Chessed. For example, (not to blow my own shofar, but only to so that simple actions make a difference) I recently was visited by some people fundrasing for an institution in E”Y. In edition to giving to them a donation , I also asked if they would like me to make photocopies of their ‘lettters of introduction’, so they could leave with people who were too busy to meet with them. They were very thankful for this simple act.

Gut Shabbos Kodesh.

Parshas Va’etchanan

Rav Schwab on Prayer discusses the idea that the large ד in echod is meant to remind us not to read the words as acher, as in the pasuk “For you shall not prostrate yourselves to an alien god (Shemos 34:14).

Rav Schwab then quotes Rav Hirsch from Devarim 6:4: “The ר of the polytheistic thought is accommodatingly rounded, while the ד of the Jewish truth is sharply angular. With the loss of a little sharpness, the אחד becomes אחר . The meaning is quite clear: Hashem Echod is a sharply defined concept, it is this way, and there are no other possibilites.
It’s when I try to cut corners that I see myself go off target in my Avodas Hashem. Halacha is th “sharply angular” clearly defined parameters that we need to work in between.

Parshas Emor

וְכִי-תִזְבְּחוּ זֶבַח-תּוֹדָה, לַיהוָה–לִרְצֹנְכֶם, תִּזְבָּחוּ. ל בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יֵאָכֵל, לֹא-תוֹתִירוּ מִמֶּנּוּ עַד-בֹּקֶר: אֲנִי, יְהוָה. לא וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, מִצְו‍ֹתַי, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֹתָם: אֲנִי, יְהוָה. לב וְלֹא תְחַלְּלוּ, אֶת-שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי, וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי, בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: אֲנִי יְהוָה, מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם. לג הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים: אֲנִי, יְהוָה. (from here)

And when you slaughter a thanksgiving offering to the Lord, you shall slaughter it so that it should be acceptable for you. It shall be eaten on that day; do not leave it over until morning. I am the Lord. You shall keep My commandments and perform them. I am the Lord. You shall not desecrate My Holy Name. I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel. I am the Lord Who sanctifies you, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be a God to you. I am the Lord. (Vayikra 22: 29-33, from here)

These pasukim contain a key concepts in the life a Torah observant Jew. We are told that our offering to Hashem is not to be left over until the morning. This shows a lack of zerizus. We should complete a mitzvah that we start. If we need a reason then look at the end of verse 30: I am Hashem. If the king command us to do something, then we should do it.

What is the reason that the mitzvah of not deserating Hashem’s name (Chillul Hashem) is introducted now?
I believe that by leaving over an offering or not following through on a mitzvah we are creating a Chillul Hashem. The only way to counter-act an act of Chillul Hashem is with mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, which is why that mitzvah is introduced in the next pasuk. If we need a reason why we are obligated with a mitzvah to sanctify Hashem’s name, then look to the next pasuk… I am the Lord Who sanctifies you, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be a God to you.
Hashem brought us out of Egypt to receive the Torah and be a Kiddush Hashem.

The way we serve Hashem and the zerizus we show makes an impact on ourselves and we come in contact with.

Today I went to my children’s school to purchase some pizza tickets. Outside the school I saw a group of 6th grade boys cleaning up and working in the garden in front of the day school. They were happily working with pride

Those boys are learning that they should take pride in their school and that beautification of the school is not only an aspect of Kavod haTorah but a Kiddush Hashem to those who pass by and see kids gardening. How appropriate that I saw this as the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem falls out in Parshas Emor.

Parshas Ki Sisa

The Sfas Emes asks a question about the second set of luchos. His answer is even better than the question, IMHO. I read this over ten years ago and still come back to it several times during any given year. Have a great Shabbos Kodesh!

Why did Hashem require Moshe to spend a second forty-day period on Mount Sinai simply to receive the Second Tablets, when he had surely mastered the entire Torah during his first stay?

During Moshe’s first stay on the mountain, he was given preparation to teach the Torah to a nation of tzaddikim, as befitted the nation’s status at that time. Now that the people had sinned and struggled to repent, he had to be equipped iwht an entirely different methodology suitable to their changed condition as pentitents. The special needs of the baal teshuvah in attaining Torah knowledge are alluded to in Berachos 34b, In the place [i.e. the apprach to learning Torah] where the baalei teshuva stand, even the completely righteous are unable to stand.

Let us consider further the permanent impact left by the Second Tablets on our people. Hashem sealed His relationship with us in the form of a covenant, as the Torah states (Shemos 34:10): Behold! I seal a covenant before your entire people. The Second Tablets, which were made of stone hewn by Moshe, typified covenants in which both parties commit themselves to contribute to the common good.

Although human involvement in the Second Tablet might seem to detract form their importance, actually they speak to the condition of the contemporary Jew far better than the First Tablets, even though they were made entirely by Hashem. So removed is our generation from the experience of Mount Sinai that we cannot possibly aspire to reach the lofty levels proffered by the First Tablets. The Second Tablets, however, precisely because they embody human participation, continue to act as the backbone of our national existence until this very day. (From DAYS OF AWE: SFAS EMES pages 26-27)

Rav Hirsch on Lech Lecha

I’m a creature of habit. I say over the exact same d’var Torah for Lech Lecha every year. When I read Rav Hirsch’s commentary on the first pasuk I was hooked.

Rav Hirsh says that the addition of the pronoun lech to the verb lecha stresses the idea to “go for yourself, go your own way”, distance yourself from other things such as your family, friends and past. Hashem say to Avraham (still Avram), “Be different than your generation.”

Rav Hirsch continues to say that “every individual is directly responsible to Hashem for his personal conduct. If it becomes necessary, if the principle idolized by the majority is not the one which is truly devine, then the individual must go “alone, his own way, with Hashem”. This conviction was set by Avraham as the starting point for is own mission and that of the people to be descended from him”.”

I admit, when I read this I was 18. I was still idealistic, head-strong, ready to take on the world, and full of an explosive passion for yiddishkeit. Now, almost 36, I read Rav Hirsch and feel that way again. Torah is timeless.

Two Trees, Two Ideas

Both of these ideas I hear from Rav Moshe Weinberger. The first idea I heard on Shavuos at his shul in 2005 (thanks to the genius of Mrs. Uberdox). The second idea he briefly touches on in his tape series on Bnei Machshava Tova.

Part I
A frum doctor once spent his vacation in Radin (home of the Chofetz Chaim). After a week of learning in yeshiva with bachrim he went to speak with the Chofetz Chaim.
The doctor said, I can’t believe how I’ve wasted my life. There’s nothing better than learning Torah. These yeshiva students I’ve seen are much closer to Hashem, than I’ll ever be.

The Chofetz Chaim responded: Which tree was closer to the center of Gan Eden: The Eitz HaChaim or the Eitz HaDaas? They were of equal distance.
The Chofetz Chaim went on to tell that doctor that by being a doctor has allowed him to help people have a refuah and he has saved countless lives. Each of us has a purpose and mission. Don’t think, said the Chofetz Chaim, that you are any further to Hashem than some of these students in Radin. We are all the same distance from Hashem, like both of the trees in Gan Eden.
Part II
Rav Weinberger says that he often asks people if they are eating from the Eitz HaChaim or from the Eitz HaDaas Tov v’Ra? He explains each of the following:

Eitz HaChaim: Is the joy of living a Jewish life and the love of being an eved Hashem. It’s the excitement we feel when we have a great davening or do chessed. It’s dancing on Simchas Torah or our tears at Ne’ilah. It’s grabbing mitzvah opportunities.

Eitz HaDaas Tov v’Ra: Is the ‘cheshboning’ that we each do for what we think are the ‘big decisions’ in our day. Should I go to shul #1 to daven or shul #2? Should I make time for a chevrusa? Should I help my wife at home? Is it really so important to give to this particular tzedakah?

When we take time time to over think and rationalize our actions we are eating from the
Eitz HaDaas Tov v’Ra.

Remember: You are what you eat! Good Shabbos Kodesh!

Quick thought on Ki Teitzei

It says in Devarim 22:3 “…and so shall you do with any lost article of your brother that may become lost from him and you find it; you shall not hide yourself.” Rashi says that you can’t cover your eyes and pretend that it’s not there.

We have a halachic obligation to return something that a fellow Jew has lost. That’s pretty easy to understand. The end of this pasuk say that we have a separate mitzvah not to “turn a blind eye to a lost object” (to use the words of the Sefer haChinuch, Mitzvah # 539).

During the entire year, and of course, during Elul, we are given an uncountable number of mitzvah opportunities. I wonder if I really see these mitzvah opportunities as gifts from Hashem or do I pretend they are not there?

The best I can do is keep my glasses clean and look for what Hashem, in his infinite Chessed, has given me.