Join our weekly Peninim on the Torah list!

[et_bloom_inline optin_id="optin_1"]

וידבר ד' אל משה במדבר סיני

Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai. (1:1)

The Midrash teaches, “The Torah was given through three media: fire, water and wilderness.” The defining characteristic of Klal Yisrael throughout the ages has been their extraordinary ability to be moser nefesh, to self-sacrifice, for the Torah and their faith. Our People went to the executioner’s scaffold, the fires of the auto de fe, and the gas chambers with their faith and commitment intact. Whenever the tyrants gave them the choice of their religion or their life, the decision was always their religion. This unique power of commitment was highlighted during these – and other – challenging incidents in the…

Continue Reading

כל יצאי צבא בישראל תפקדו אתם לצבאתם

Everyone who goes out to the legion in Yisrael – you shall count them according to their legions. (1:3)

The men appeared to have been counted as soldiers. The minimum age to serve as a soldier in the army (Jewish) – the legion – was twenty years old, since people achieve their physical maturity by then. Men older than sixty were no longer counted; they were past the age of military service. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh teaches that (miraculously) every Jew between the ages of twenty to sixty was physically able to serve as a soldier. The Kli Yakar says that each Jew was not only physically fit for Army service, but he was also spiritually fit to serve…

Continue Reading

ואלה תולדות אהרן ומשה... נדב ואביהו אלעזר ואיתמר

These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe… Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Isamar. (3:1,2)

Rashi notes that the pasuk begins by informing us who the offspring of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen were, but, in the end, only states the names of Aharon’s sons. What happened to Moshe’s sons? Rashi quotes the Talmud Sanhedrin 19a, asserting that the Torah is teaching us that Aharon’s sons were considered Moshe’s sons, because Moshe was their Rebbe: “Whoever teaches his friend’s son Torah, it is considered as if he caused his birth.” In other words, the individual who catalyzes a person’s spiritual development is likewise a partner in his physical life. Simply, we might say that a…

Continue Reading

כל פקודי הלוים ... כל זכר מבן חדש ומעלה שנים ועשרים אלף

All the countings of the Leviim… every male from one month of age and up, were twenty-two thousand. (3:39)

The Ramban asks why Shevet Levi, the tribe most dedicated to serving Hashem in the Mishkan and later in the Bais HaMikdash, the tribe synonymous with Torah study and consummate devotion to the spiritual realm of Judaism, numbered far fewer in the census than any of the other tribes. Why should not Hashem’s devotees be as equally blessed as the rest of the nation? Ramban explains that Shevet Levi had not been enslaved. In Egypt, they were permitted to study Torah unabated. During this time, while Shevet Levi was sitting in the bais hamedrash, their brothers were out in the…

Continue Reading

וידבר ד' אל משה בהר סיני לאמר

And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai saying. (25:1)

Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai concerning the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical/seventh year. Rashi asks: Why Shemittah? How is Shemittah linked to Sinai? He explains that the Torah is teaching us that just like Shemittah is detailed with rules and fine points, likewise, this applies to all mitzvos; their rules and details were taught to them at that time as well. The laws of Shemittah were not repeated again prior to the Jews’ entrance into the Land. As such, everything took place at Sinai, with Shemittah serving as the exemplar, prototype, for all other mitzvos. Is this…

Continue Reading

שש שנים תזרע שדך... ובשנה השביעית שבת שבתון יהיה לארץ

For six years you may sow your field… But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land. (25:3,4)

The mitzvah of Shemittah teaches us that Hashem rules the universe. He is the only force in the universe, not the laws of nature. By allowing his field to remain untended and unguarded, the Jew declares to the world that life is not about material bounty. When Hashem says, “Stop,” we halt our work, our production – whether it is Erev Shabbos or Shemittah. We ascribe to a Higher Power, and we believe with complete faith that Hashem will provide for our needs. During the Shemittah year, all of the produce of that year is hefker, free for all to…

Continue Reading

ונתתי גשמיכם בעתם ונתנה הארץ יבולה ועץ השדה יתן פריו

Then I will provide your rains in their time and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. (26:4)

“Rains in their time” means the time most convenient for people – such as Friday nights when people are generally at home or close by. When we get “wet,” it is for a reason. Hashem defrays anything that might prove to be a nuisance from inconveniencing us. The Midrash, however, adds that, at times, an entire community or even a city might have rain in the merit of one person who needs the benefit it provides. Chazal go so far as to posit that, at times, Hashem may send rain for the benefit of one field, even one blade of…

Continue Reading

או אז יכנע לבבם הערל

Then at last shall their obstructed heart be subdued. (26:41)

Parashas Bechukosai contains within it the first Tochacha, Rebuke/curses, whose purpose is to teach mussar, ethical direction, reproof, in order to inspire them to wake up and repent. This is alluded to by the above pasuk: the rebuke/curses will liberate them from the fetters of the yetzer hora, evil inclination. Additionally, rebuke is a good thing – in that it assures us that Hashem cares. Horav Yisrael Belsky, zl, explains that a child who misbehaves knows that he is in for a punishment when his parents become aware of his misdeed. What if they ignore it, ignore him? This implies…

Continue Reading

אך בחמשה עשר יום לחדש השביעי ... תחוגו את חג ד' שבעת ימים

But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month…you shall celebrate Hashem’s festival for a seven-day period. (23:39)

The Festival of Succos, as is the case with all the other festivals, is replete with deep esoteric meaning far beyond the grasp of the average Jew who observes it simply because it is a G-d-given mitzvah. A mitzvah, regardless of the level with which one observes it, and his understanding of its various spiritual facets, have enormous power and incredible influence. Just executing the decree of Hashem, simply because this is the way of a Jew, is powerful, as the following story related by the Tolner Rebbe, Shlita, illustrates. A baal teshuvah, penitent, who had come to the Rebbe…

Continue Reading

ויצא בן אשה ישראלית והוא בן איש מצרי...וינצו במחנה ...ויקב ...ויקלל

The son of a Yisraeli woman went out and he was the son of an Egyptian man …they contended in the camp… and he pronounced the Name … and he blasphemed. (24:10,11)

It was a truly tragic ending to a sinful relationship that had begun years earlier in Egypt. Shlomis bas Divri was a woman of ill repute, whose immoral behavior led to a relationship with an Egyptian that produced a son who later blasphemed the Name of Hashem. It might take time, but a relationship that is prohibited, that is not meant to be, will not bear good fruit unless the poison is expunged. Love conquers all – but Torah. Having said this, we quote Rashi, who explains, Mei heicha yatza, “From where did he (the blasphemer) go out?” Apparently, he…

Continue Reading