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“And Yaakov was greatly afraid and was distressed.” (32:8)

Upon hearing the grim news that Eisav was approaching, Yaakov was gripped with a terrifying fear. He immediately began preparing for this confrontation. He prepared for battle, prayed ardorously to Hashem, and did teshuvah, repentance. Fear can either be a remarkable asset or a debilitating hindrance. Horav A.H. Lebowitz, Shlita, cites the Midrash which describes another fear experienced by Yaakov’s descendants, centuries later at the time of the miracle of Purim. When Haman’s decree to annihilate every Jew in the Persian Empire, was issued, the Jews searched for a similar precedent in history.  The initial response of the past would…

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“I have sojourned with Lavan and stayed until now. And I have oxen and donkeys.” (32:5,6)

Rashi explains that Yaakov was telling Eisav, “Despite my stay with Lavan, I have still been able to observe the taryag, 613, mitzvos, and I did not learn his evil deeds.” Horav Yitzchak Z. Soloveitchik z.t.l. once met the Rav of Hamburg. During the conversation, the Rav explained how Yaakov was able to live in the presence of the evil Lavan and remain pure. Yaakov himself gave the reason for his success, when he said, “I have (an) ox and donkey.” As far as Yaakov was concerned, Lavan was equal to an ox or donkey. To Yaakov there was no…

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ידינו לא שפכה את הדם הזה

“Our hands have not spilled this blood.” (21:7)

Chazal (Sotah 45b) ask: “Did anyone suspect the elders of committing murder?” They mean to say that they did not see the traveler (deceased) and had no part in allowing him to go on his way – alone, without food or escort. If the elders would have been guilty of this neglect, they would be considered as having (his) blood on their hands. The elders/leaders of a community have an enormous responsibility. When they renege their responsibility, and, as a result, someone is hurt – they have blood on their hands. The commentators debate whose blood the elders are atoning….

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כי ימצא חלל באדמה

If a corpse will be found on the land. (21:1)

The Torah relates the halachah of eglah arufah, the axed heifer, which is used to atone for the murder of a Jew whose death came about possibly due to communal neglect or indifference. A public ritual is performed, during which the elders of the community closest to where the corpse is discovered declare their innocence and non-culpability in this incident. They then pray for forgiveness for the Jewish People. Baal HaTurim notes that the laws of eglah arufah are placed between “two wars”, the parsha of going out to war which is in Parashas Shoftim; and the war at the beginning…

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תמים תהיה עם ד' אלקיך

You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Your G-d. (18:13)

Temimus, simple faith, is not so simple. It takes a special person, whose faith in Hashem is unequivocal, to achieve temimus. It requires one: to live a life of acquiescence; to ask no questions; to believe that everything is for the good; to maintain wholesome belief in Hashem that everything that occurs in one’s life is Divinely orchestrated. The tamim lives only in the moment. The future is completely in the hands of Hashem. Horav Pinchas Koritzer, zl, teaches that only two mitzvos or observances are to be carried out with Hashem: temimus, wholehearted faith; and tznius, modesty. (Hatznea leches im…

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על פי שנים עדים או שלשה עדים יומת המת

By the testimony or two of three witnesses shall the condemned person be put to death. (17:6)

The word shnayim connotes two. Yet, later in this parsha (19:15), the Torah uses the word shnei (eidim) to specify two witnesses. Why does the text change from one pasuk to the other? Horav David Cohen, Shlita, quotes the Gaon, zl, m’Vilna, who distinguishes between shnayim and shnei (although both words mean “two”). Shnayim refers to two people (or objects) which come together or meld together as one unit, while shnei refers to two individuals, separate and/or disparate, who just happen to be together. In other words, shnayim is a “two” which maintains a stronger sense of unity. With the…

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יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל... המה מי מריבה אשר רבו בני ישראל את ד' ויקדש בם

Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael…They are the waters of strife where Bnei Yisrael contended with Hashem, and He was sanctified through them. (20:12,13)

Had Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen demonstrated greater faith in Hashem by speaking to the rock, rather than striking it, Hashem’s Name would have been sanctified. The Nation would have derived the message: If an inanimate rock – which does not hear, speak, or require sustenance – carries out Hashem’s command (when spoken to), surely we (humans) should do so Ramban explains that Moshe and Aharon certainly were not lacking in faith; rather the phrase should be understood, “Because you did not cause them (the people) to believe in Me;” for if Moshe would have followed Hashem’s directive as commanded,…

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