Join our weekly Peninim on the Torah list!

Join our weekly Peninim on the Torah list!

Search
Parashas
Topics
Search
Noach, 5781

אלה תולדות נח. נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו

These are the generations of Noach – Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. (6:9)

Noach is the first person to be called a tzaddik, righteous man. Chazal (Avodah Zarah 25נ) say that Sefer HaYashar (Sefer Bereishis) is the sefer, book, dedicated to the lives of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The Talmud (Taanis 15a) contends that ohr, light, is reference to the tzaddik, while simchah, joy, refers to the yashar, straight, upright person. Rashi explains that yashar is a more exalted level than tzaddik. Ohr zarua latzaddik, u’l’yishrei lev simchah, “Light is sown for the righteous, and for the upright of heart, gladness” (Tehillim 97:11). Joy is greater than light. Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, explains…

Read More
Noach, 5781

ויולד נח שלשה בנים את שם את חם ואת יפת

Noach had begotten three sons: Shem, Cham, and Yafes. (6:10)

Rav Daniel Yoffe, zl, was a distinguished layman who lived in Berlin (circa 1760). He contributed to the support of Torah and its disseminators. Despite his total devotion to Orthodoxy, he suffered greatly from the indignity and shame brought on him by his son-in-law, David Friedlander. Originally from Konigsberg, his son-in-law had moved to Berlin and established the Jewish Free School so that Jewish children could be schooled in secular Jewish studies as well as traditional studies. His lack of faith in the continuity of the Jewish nation, coupled with an ever-increasing attraction to Christianity and the lifestyle it inspired,…

Read More
Noach, 5781

והקמתי את בריתי אתך

But I will establish My covenant with you. (6:18)

Rashi explains that the covenant/promise Hashem made with/to Noach was two-fold: the food supply in the Ark would not spoil; the reshaim, evil people of the generation, would do him no harm. He would safely live on the ark. The Brisker Rav, zl, makes an interesting observation. Noach was about to enclose himself on a traveling ark with representatives of every species of animal, wild beast and fowl. One would think that this would be considered a frightening experience. These were not domesticated pets. They were vicious wild animals. Noach did not seem to be afraid. Hashem had given him…

Read More
Noach, 5781

וירא חם אבי כנען את ערות אביו ויגד לשני אחיו בחוץ

And Cham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his brothers outside. (9:22)

“The apple does not fall far from the tree” is a well-known maxim. Let us attempt to cultivate a picture of Cham and Canaan, his son, to better understand the flawed character manifest by Cham, which was transmitted to his son, Canaan. Canaan, whose moral degeneracy ultimately exceeded even that of his father and mentor. The Canaanite nation was a most despicable people, having sunk to such an abyss that the land/Eretz Yisrael which they had inhabited could no longer tolerate their residence. Mitzrayim, Egypt, was a cousin and paralleled Canaan in moral bankruptcy. Two apples from the Cham tree….

Read More
Noach, 5781

ויאמר ברוך ד' אלקי שם

And he said, “Blessed is Hashem, the G-d of Shem. (9:26)

Noach did not directly bless Shem; rather, he said that the G-d/Hashem of Shem be blessed and glorified. By saying this, Noach intimated the mission of Shem/ his descendants, of whom the standard bearer is Klal Yisrael. Their primary goal is to serve Hashem and glorify His Name in the world. Thus, when people bless Hashem, we, His children, are – by extension – blessed. Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, points out that Hashem is the universal G-d. He is everyone’s G-d. (Indeed, when the accursed Nazi held his gun to the head of the Telzer Rav and asked, “Jew, where…

Read More
Noach, 5781

הבה נבנה לנו עיר ומגדל וראשו בשמים ונעשה לנו שם

“Come, let us build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” (11:4)

Researchers say that those who participate in extreme sports do it because they want to have a life-altering experience. They are individuals who are anything but irresponsible risk takers, but rather, highly trained men and women with a deep knowledge of themselves, who simply want to experience an activity that is life-enhancing and life-changing. For them, it is an exhilarating experience that makes them come alive, transcending everyday ways of being and glimpsing their own potential. They view dealing with death as an affirmation of life that gives it greater meaning. There are those who seek to carve out a…

Read More
Bereishis, 5781

והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום...ויאמר אלקים יהי אור ויהי אור... ויבדל אלקים בין האור ובין החשך

When the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep. (1:2) G-d said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, and G-d separated between the light and the darkness. (1:3,4)

In what must be the most interpreted, but yet remains the most enigmatic, ambiguous pesukim, the Torah commences with the story of Creation. It is a topic which can be studied for a lifetime and its interpretation still remains elusive, because its profundity is far above our mortal cognitive limitations. Just to give the reader snippets to think about, I cite from Kol HaTorah by Horav Eliyahu Munk, zl, concerning the phrase v’choshech al pnei sehom; “with darkness upon the surface of the deep.” The Ramban explains that darkness is not to be thought of as an absence of light,…

Read More
Bereishis, 5781

וירא אלקים את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד

G-d saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good. (1:31)

It was not just “good” – it was very good. Each of Hashem’s creations was good in its own right. When combined together as part of the greater creation, the totality was even better, explains the Meshech Chochmah. Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, views this alternatively. Can we say that all of Hashem’s creations were good? Are suffering, pain, grief, temptation and death considered to be good? Surely, we could do without any of these. Rav Hirsch explains that, indeed, isolated and viewed in a free-standing context, these challenges to life do not come across as being good. As part…

Read More
Bereishis, 5781

ותרא האשה כי טוב העץ למאכל וכי תאוה היא לעינים... ותקח מפריו ותאכל

And the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight for the eyes… and she took of its fruit and ate. (3:6)

A horrible tragedy occurred in Telshe, Lithuania, during the tenure of Horav Yosef Yehudah Leib Bloch, zl, as Rosh Yeshivah and Rav (about one hundred years ago). A secular Jewish student with no ties whatsoever to religion rented an attic apartment in town and succumbed to the severe depression that plagued him. Following the incident, the owners of the house in which the deed was done would hear and then see plaster fall from the ceiling. The owner of the house was himself also not an observant Jew, so, at first, he ignored it. (A religious Jew takes nothing at…

Read More
Bereishis, 5781

ויבא קין מפרי האדמה מנחה לד' והבל הביא גם הוא מבכורות צאנו ומחלביהן

Kayin brought an offering to Hashem of the fruit of the ground… and as for Hevel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and from their choicest. (4:3,4)

Kayin brought his offering, followed by Hevel’s offering. Hashem turned (listened/accepted) to Hevel’s offering, but did not respond to Kayin’s offering. On the surface, the disparity between Kayin and Hevel’s offering was quality. Hevel offered his finest, choicest, while Kayin brought what he did not want for himself. The inferior crops were designated for offering. So begins the first tragic story of brother killing brother. We understand that the Torah’s narrative is replete with powerful messages and lessons. How do we understand this incident between history’s first two sons? First and foremost: Why did Hashem not accept Kayin’s korban, offering?…

Read More
5781, V'zos HaBrachah

ויבכו בני ישראל את משה... שלשים יום ויתמו ימי בכי אבל משה. ויהושע בן נון מלא רוח חכמה כי סמך משה את ידו עליו

Bnei Yisrael bewailed Moshe… for thirty days; then the tearful mourning for Moshe ended. Yehoshua ben Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, because Moshe laid his hands on him. (34:8,9)

Moshe Rabbeinu had no equal. Thus, he left behind no one that had achieved his level of prophecy. Never would there be another Rabbeinu such as Moshe. The grief over his passing was palpable due to the irreparable loss. Even grief over Moshe, however, must come to an end. Yehoshua, Moshe’s able and devoted talmid, disciple, became his successor as the nation’s Rebbe and leader. The Torah was passed to him, as he carried on Moshe’s legacy. Moshe laid his hands on him, giving him semicha, ordaining him to take over. With the laying of hands, a portion of Moshe’s…

Read More
5781, V'zos HaBrachah

יחי ראובן ואל ימת... וזאת ליהודה ויאמר

May Reuven live and not die… and this to Yehudah, and he said. (33:67)

Yehudah’s blessing is juxtaposed upon Reuven, because they had in common their individual confession of guilt to a corrupt act for which they were jointly responsible. Reuven was chastised by his father, Yaakov Avinu, for his impetuosity in moving Yaakov’s bed from Bilhah’s tent. (After Rachel Imeinu, who was Yaakov’s primary wife, died, Yaakov moved his bed into the tent of the concubine, Bilhah. Reuven felt this was an affront to the honor of his mother, Leah Imeinu). Yehudah’s role concerning his inappropriate relationship with Tamar, which almost led to her execution, was the reason for his confession of guilt….

Read More
5781, V'zos HaBrachah

וזאת הברכה אשר ברך משה... את בני ישראל לפני מותו

And this is the blessing that Moshe… bestowed upon Bnei Yisrael before his death. (33:1)

The Midrash Tanchuma (Va’eschanan 6) teaches: “Moshe Rabbeinu was (Heavenly) informed, ‘The time for you to leave this world has arrived.’ He said to them, ‘Wait for me until I bless Yisrael. For they have not found contentment from me all my days, because of the rebukes and warnings with which I rebuked them.’” Moshe then proceeded to bless the nation. Chazal are teaching us that Moshe feared that the people would not correctly perceive his admonishments, and, rather than acknowledge his boundless love for them, they would think that he harbored anger and discontent concerning their behavior, and, by…

Read More
5781, Ha'azinu

אם שנותי ברק חרבי ותאחז במשפט ידי

That I shall sharpen the shine of My sword and My hand shall grasp judgment. (32:41)

“My hand shall grasp judgment.” Chazal (quoted by Rashi) derive from the language of this pasuk (concerning the concept of “grasping” judgment), “Not like the attributes of flesh and blood (mortals) is the attribute of Hashem. Once a human being shoots an arrow, once he releases the bow, he is unable to take it back. Hashem, however, shoots His arrows and has the power to retrieve them (before they hit their intended target). It is as if He holds them in His hand (ochazon b’yado).” Rashi is teaching us is that no restrictions limit Hashem’s power. He is not restricted…

Read More
5781, Ha'azinu

שאל אביך ויגדך זקניך ויאמרו לך

Ask your father and he will relate it to you, and your elders and they will tell you. (32:7)

Issues arise; questions abound; to whom do we turn for sage advice, intelligent counsel? The Torah enjoins us to turn to “your father,” whom Rashi interprets as the Navi, prophet, Torah leader of the generation, and “your elders,” who are the chachamim, Torah scholars. After a lifetime of Torah study and devotion, these Torah scholars have honed their minds through the daas, wisdom, of the Torah which they have cultivated. Horav Avraham Yaakov Teitelbaum, zl, quotes a novel homiletic exposition of this pasuk rendered by his Rebbe, the venerable Horav Meir Arik, zl, which is practical and timeless in its…

Read More
5781, Ha'azinu

עם נבל ולא חכם

O’ base and unwise people. (32:6)

The Torah is criticizing Klal Yisrael for being an am naval, base people, and v’lo chacham, unwise. Ramban quotes Rashi who comments that they forgot the good that Hashem had done for them. They were unwise in realizing the good and bad, the consequences of their ingratitude. He then quotes Targum Onkeles who renders the phrase (critique) in a manner which begs elucidation. Naval – ama d’kablu Oraisa, “A nation that received the Torah.” Ramban explains that Onkeles translates naval as being related to navol tibul, “You will surely become weary” (Shemos 18:18). Thus, the Torah is intimating that Klal…

Read More
5781, Ha'azinu

קל אמונה ואין עול

G-d of faith without iniquity. (32:4)

Rashi explains that Hashem’s judgment is exact and fair. Everyone receives his due reward – the righteous might wait a bit, but it will arrive in due time; the wicked who have acted meritoriously will also be rewarded in kind. Life is a harmonious whole, which we, as mere mortals with limited perception, are unable to perceive. Nonetheless, we believe that it all comes together: good fortune with failure; joy in contrast to sadness, celebrating milestones, both joyous and tragic. A human being cannot fathom how the pieces of the human puzzle of life fit together, but they do. Shortly…

Read More
5780, Vayeilech

ויאמר ד' אל משה הנך שכב עם אבתיך יקם העם הזה וזנה אחרי אלהי נכר הארץ ... ועזבנו והפר את בריתי אשר כרתי אתו ... ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני ביום ההוא ... ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל

Hashem said to Moshe, “Behold, you will lie with your forefathers, but this people will arise and stay after the gods of the nations of the land… and they will forsake Me and annul the covenant that I formed with them… I will distance them and make Myself oblivious to them. So now, write this song for yourselves and teach it to Bnei Yisrael. (31:16,18)

The above pasukim paint a stark picture of the spiritual deterioration that will occur in the period following Moshe Rabbeinu’s petirah, passing. While it did not happen immediately, the dynamics that led to the nation’s freefall from their igra ramah, spiritually-elevated perch, to a bira amikta, nadir of depravity, were apparent. During certain moments in history – even in the last two hundred years, leading up to the present – we have observed an acute distancing from positive spiritual activity. For many, assimilation has almost been a way of life. Within the observant camp, a spiritual tug of war has…

Read More
5780, Vayeilech

ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני ביום ההוא

But I will surely have concealed My face on that day. (31:18)

Hashem will conceal His Presence from us. Indeed, many times Jews feel that Hashem has “disappeared” from their lives. They should know that the Almighty is always present. At times, however, He conceals Himself, making it that much more difficult for us to perceive Him. This only means that we must look harder. Why does the Torah repeat itself – hasteir astir, double concealment? Concealment, by its very definition, is absolute. Something is either hidden, or it is not. If one can easily locate it, it is not really concealed. Horav Reuven Karlinstein, zl, explains that this concealment is unique…

Read More
Nitzavim, 5780

החיים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים

I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life. (30:19)

One would think that choosing life is a decision that requires little to no mental effort. Why would the Torah exhort us to choose life? This question has inspired much commentary. Obviously, the meaning of “life” in Torah-speak is different than the mundane, physical existence to which many have become accustomed. Furthermore, as Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, observes, the Torah implores us to choose life, so that our children will live. The message is clear: the decision we make for ourselves affects our families. What our children will be in twenty years, their demeanor – moral, ethical and spiritual –…

Read More
Nitzavim, 5780

ושבת עד ד' אלקיך

And you will return unto Hashem. (30:2)

Teshuvah means return. One returns to his source, his beginning, from where it all began, so that he can start over again and repair what requires restoration. This is not consistent with the objective of society, which focuses on the future, ignoring the past. What happened, happened. Forget about it. Move on. What society ignores is the dross which envelopes us. Unless we expunge it, it accompanies us wherever we go. Focus on “Why? “Where? How did it all start?” A pathologist searches for the sources, the etiology. Teshuvah is a pathology, searching for the beginning, “Why? How? Where did…

Read More
Ki Savo, 5780

ונשארתם מחי מעט

You will be left few in number. (28:62)

The Klausenberger Rebbe, zl, made his home first in New York following the tragedies that he endured in the European Holocaust. Not to sit idle, he understood that his purpose in life at that time was to give comfort to the survivors and build for the future. He set himself to establish institutions of Torah and chesed. Institutions are not built on dreams. He knew that soliciting funds was a vital part of his mission. To this end, he was prepared to travel to other American cities in search of supporters to help him realize his dreams. During one of…

Read More
Ki Savo, 5780

גם כל חלי וכל מכה אשר לא כתוב בספר התורה ועלך ד' עליך

Even any illness and any blow that is not written in this Book of the Torah, Hashem will bring upon you. (28:61)

Chazal say that the choli and the makah, illness and blow, are references to the tragic passing of tzaddikim, righteous persons. (Veritably, this Midrash, which is quoted by a number of commentators, has yet to be found.) The Yaaros Devash quotes it (Chelek 1, Drush 4). Horav Yeshayah Pik, zl, writes that he had searched for this Midrash and was unsuccessful in locating its source. Indeed, he observed anecdotedly that this is the meaning of a blow that is not written in the Torah. He is unable to locate this Midrash. Apparently, in Shut Tiferes Tzvi Yoreh Deah 38, the…

Read More
Ki Savo, 5780

ושמחת בכל הטוב אשר נתן לך ד' אלקיך אתה והלוי והגר אשר בקרבך

And you shall be glad with all the goodness that Hashem, your G-d, has given you and your household – you and the Levi and the ger who is in your midst. (26:11)

A farmer toils, labors in the field, at times under grueling conditions. Baruch Hashem, he is successful and his field produces a bumper crop. Obviously, at this point, the farmer will be overwhelmed with joy. Why does the Torah enjoin him to rejoice? One would expect this to be a given. Horav Mordechai Gifter, zl, observes that human nature is such that man is never happy with what he has. Mi she’yeish lo manah rotzeh masaim, “One who has one hundred – wants two hundred.” He is never satisfied. Whatever success he has achieved he always feels that he could…

Read More
Ki Savo, 5780

ושמחת בכל הטוב

You shall be glad with all the goodness. (26:11)

Parashas Ki Savo begins with the mitzvah of Bikurim, the first fruits, in which the Jewish farmer is enjoined to bring his first fruits to Yerushalayim as a sign of his gratitude to Hashem. He makes a declaration of gratitude, whereby he details Hashem’s loving intervention throughout history, thus demonstrating the realization that everything that he has is only a result of Hashem’s beneficence. Hakoras hatov, expressing one’s gratitude, is a requisite for an individual to be considered a decent human being. One who is an ingrate to others will eventually act likewise to Hashem. We are accustomed to viewing…

Read More

אלה תולדות נח. נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו

These are the generations of Noach – Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. (6:9)

Noach is the first person to be called a tzaddik, righteous man. Chazal (Avodah Zarah 25נ) say that Sefer HaYashar (Sefer Bereishis) is the sefer, book, dedicated to the lives of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The Talmud (Taanis 15a) contends that ohr, light, is reference to the tzaddik, while simchah, joy, refers to the yashar, straight, upright person. Rashi explains that yashar is a more exalted level than tzaddik. Ohr zarua latzaddik, u’l’yishrei lev simchah, “Light is sown for the righteous, and for the upright of heart, gladness” (Tehillim 97:11). Joy is greater than light. Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, explains…

Continue Reading

ויולד נח שלשה בנים את שם את חם ואת יפת

Noach had begotten three sons: Shem, Cham, and Yafes. (6:10)

Rav Daniel Yoffe, zl, was a distinguished layman who lived in Berlin (circa 1760). He contributed to the support of Torah and its disseminators. Despite his total devotion to Orthodoxy, he suffered greatly from the indignity and shame brought on him by his son-in-law, David Friedlander. Originally from Konigsberg, his son-in-law had moved to Berlin and established the Jewish Free School so that Jewish children could be schooled in secular Jewish studies as well as traditional studies. His lack of faith in the continuity of the Jewish nation, coupled with an ever-increasing attraction to Christianity and the lifestyle it inspired,…

Continue Reading

והקמתי את בריתי אתך

But I will establish My covenant with you. (6:18)

Rashi explains that the covenant/promise Hashem made with/to Noach was two-fold: the food supply in the Ark would not spoil; the reshaim, evil people of the generation, would do him no harm. He would safely live on the ark. The Brisker Rav, zl, makes an interesting observation. Noach was about to enclose himself on a traveling ark with representatives of every species of animal, wild beast and fowl. One would think that this would be considered a frightening experience. These were not domesticated pets. They were vicious wild animals. Noach did not seem to be afraid. Hashem had given him…

Continue Reading

וירא חם אבי כנען את ערות אביו ויגד לשני אחיו בחוץ

And Cham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his brothers outside. (9:22)

“The apple does not fall far from the tree” is a well-known maxim. Let us attempt to cultivate a picture of Cham and Canaan, his son, to better understand the flawed character manifest by Cham, which was transmitted to his son, Canaan. Canaan, whose moral degeneracy ultimately exceeded even that of his father and mentor. The Canaanite nation was a most despicable people, having sunk to such an abyss that the land/Eretz Yisrael which they had inhabited could no longer tolerate their residence. Mitzrayim, Egypt, was a cousin and paralleled Canaan in moral bankruptcy. Two apples from the Cham tree….

Continue Reading

ויאמר ברוך ד' אלקי שם

And he said, “Blessed is Hashem, the G-d of Shem. (9:26)

Noach did not directly bless Shem; rather, he said that the G-d/Hashem of Shem be blessed and glorified. By saying this, Noach intimated the mission of Shem/ his descendants, of whom the standard bearer is Klal Yisrael. Their primary goal is to serve Hashem and glorify His Name in the world. Thus, when people bless Hashem, we, His children, are – by extension – blessed. Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, points out that Hashem is the universal G-d. He is everyone’s G-d. (Indeed, when the accursed Nazi held his gun to the head of the Telzer Rav and asked, “Jew, where…

Continue Reading

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our weekly Peninim on the Torah list!

You have Successfully Subscribed!