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Pinchas, 5780

ובני קרח לא מתו

But the sons of Korach did not die. (26:11)

It is not as if Korach had protected his sons by excluding them from his ill-fated debacle. Rashi comments that they had been involved from the very beginning. At the time of the dispute, however, they were meharher bi’teshuvah, had thoughts of repentance in their hearts. Therefore, a place was fortified for them in Gehinnom, Purgatory, and they resided there. This means that the earth beneath them hardened above the spot designated for them in Gehinnom. Thus, they were spared due to the teshuvah thoughts they harbored. This is a powerful and inspiring lesson. Teshuvah saves. When the Ponovezher Rav,…

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Pinchas, 5780

קח לך את יהושע בן נון איש אשר רוח בו ... ונתתה מהודך עליו למען ישמעו כל עדת בני ישראל

Take to yourself Yehoshua ben Nun, a man in whom there is spirit…You shall place some of your splendor upon him, so that the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael will pay heed. (27:18,20)

Targum Onkelos comments, B’dil di yikablum minei kol k’nishta divnei Yisrael; “So that the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael will accept him.” Rashi writes, “So that they treat him with respect and fear, in the manner that they treat you.” It is wonderful to have Moshe Rabbeinu’s approval, but is it not superfluous? Once Hashem gave the order, “Take to yourself Yehoshua,” what else was necessary to segue to Yehoshua becoming Moshe’s successor? Is Hashem’s approval insufficient that it was necessary for the people to see that Moshe, too, was on board with this choice? Why did Moshe have to…

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Pinchas, 5780

וביום השבת שני כבשים בני שנה תמימים

And on the Shabbos day: two male lambs in their first year, unblemished. (28:9)

Shabbos bears testimony that Hashem created Heaven and earth. Hashem imbued this day with unique spiritual character, distinguishing it from the other six days of the week, elevating it to a higher level of sanctity. Thus, on Shabbos when the Bais HaMikdash was extant, we could offer a Korban Mussaf, Additional Offering, similar to what is offered on Festivals and holy days. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that when we bring an offering, we fix our thoughts on the significance of the day and its broad degree of sanctity. Man is impacted by his actions. Thus, Hashem commanded us to perform…

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Chukas, Balak, 5780

ויקחו אליך פרה אדומה תמימה

And they shall take to you a completely red cow, which is without blemish. (19:2)

The mitzvah of Parah Adumah, Red Cow, which is used to purify one who is tamei meis, spiritually defiled by coming in contact with a dead body, has become known as the paradigmatic mitzvah whose reason is beyond human cognition. Actually, this is true with regard to all mitzvos. We have no idea of the reason for any one of the 613 mitzvos; it is just that some are easier to relate to, because they are common-sensical. The laws of Parah Adumah are replete with anomalies. The most difficult to accept is the fact that the Kohen who carries out…

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Chukas, Balak, 5780

וישלח ד' בעם את הנחשים השרפים ... ויאמרו חטאנו ... והיה הנשוך וראה אתו וחי

Then Hashem let the poisonous snakes loose against the people … They said, “We have sinned” … that everyone who is bitten when he looks upon it he shall live. (21:6,7,8)

It was not the first time; once again, the people did not receive what they perceived they needed. Their first reaction was to complain, “This is no good; that is no good.” Immediately, they directed their discontent against Hashem. They did not doubt the authenticity of Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership; they had issues with Hashem’s guidance. They would never reach the Promised Land if they were to continue along this path in the wretched wilderness. Veritably, they had nourishment from the manna, but what about some real food and drink? Furthermore, obtaining manna was effortless, almost monotonous. They wanted some excitement…

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Chukas, Balak, 5780

וישלח מלאכים אל בלעם בן בעור

He sent agents to Bilaam ben Beor. (22:5)

Is it possible that, concerning all outward appearances, one not only manifests himself as righteous, but he even receives the fringe benefits and special treatment accorded to a tzaddik; yet, he remains throughout a despicable rasha, wicked person, of the lowest order? Yes! Bilaam showed us that it can be done. Bilaam was Hashem’s “gift” to the pagan/gentile world, so that they could not assert that they had no worthy spiritual leadership. Bilaam was on a lofty spiritual plane, a prophet of the highest order. He was the gentile world’s Moshe. So what happened? He refused to purge himself of…

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Chukas, Balak, 5780

מה טבו אהליך יעקב

How goodly are your tents, Yaakov. (24:5)

What impressed Bilaam about the Jewish tents? Bilaam saw that the entrances to one another precluded intrusions on the privacy of other families. Furthermore, tents refer to the batei medrash, study halls. (According to Rashi, it refers to the Mishkan and Batei Mikdash when they were extant). At first glance, tznius, privacy and modesty, and study halls do not seem to coincide, unless the Torah is suggesting to us that the study hall – or Torah study of those who occupy the bais hamedrash, who devote themselves wholly to studying Hashem’s Torah – should reflect tznius, privacy and modesty, in…

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Korach, 5780

ויקח קרח בן יצהר בן קהת

Korach ben Yitzhar ben Kehas took (himself). (16:1)

In his commentary (Shaar HaPesukim) to Parashas Korach, the Arizal makes a somewhat cryptic statement. “The gematria, numerical equivalent, of Moshe (Rabbeinu, our quintessential leader) is 345. If one were to deduct the gematria of the name Hevel (son of Adam and Chavah, who was killed by Kayin), which is 37, the sum would equal 308, which is the gematria of Korach.” This implies much more than mere numbers. Ostensibly, removing “Hevel” – or whatever characteristics he has in common with the personality of Moshe – can produce a Korach. Conversely, “Moshe” and “Hevel” together seem to create a cure…

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Korach, 5780

כי כל העדה כלם קדשים

For the entire congregation – all of them – are holy. (16:3)

Korach crossed the line when he debated Moshe Rabbeinu. One does not impugn the integrity of the gadol/gedolim, Torah giants, of their generation. His statement, “The entire congregation, all of them, are holy,” is the basic argument of those who reject the Torah leaders, claiming that they are as well-versed in Torah as the gedolim. They do not require a teacher or a leader. Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl (who was the posek ha’dor, undisputed halachic arbiter of his generation), explains that without the mesorah, tradition, of the great men of the generation, one can easily err – just as Korach…

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Korach, 5780

ואני הנה נתתי לך את משמרת תרומתי לכל קדשי בני ישראל

And I – behold! I have given you the safeguard of My heave-offer was of all the sanctities of Bnei Yisrael. (18:8)

The offerings Korach controversy had concluded (veritably, it never ends; a new one will unfortunately rear its ugly head to replace the former debacle), and the Torah now lists the twenty-four various gifts, matnos Kehunah, that were allotted to the Kohanim. In Pirkei Avos (6:6), we are taught that the Priesthood is acquired through twenty-four procedures. Horav Shlomo Wolbe, zl, observes that this is no coincidence. A corollary must exist between these two “twenty-fours.” He quotes the Chovos HaLevavos, who teaches that everything which Hashem grants us comes with an obligation for reciprocity. Hashem shows His kindness to us. We…

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Shelach, 5780

שלח לך אנשים ויתרו את ארץ כנען

Send forth men and let them spy out the land of Canaan. (13:2)

Moshe Rabbeinu relayed to Hashem the nation’s request for spies to reconnoiter Eretz Yisrael. Hashem told Moshe to send them. If the nation insisted on sending spies, it was best that Moshe be involved in the decision concerning whom to send. For if the nation were to act on its own, without direction from its spiritual leadership, it would be tantamount to rebellion. Furthermore, a nation without leadership is more like 600,000 leaders, each with his own opinion, acting independently of the other. Obviously, they were deficient in their emunah, faith, in Hashem. He had promised to lead them into…

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Shelach, 5780

היש בה עץ אם אין

Are there trees in it or not? (13:20)

Was Moshe Rabbeinu interested in the land’s vegetation? Rashi explains that Moshe’s inquiry concerning a tree was an allusion to a tzaddik. He wanted the spies to discern whether a righteous man was in the Land, in whose merit its inhabitants would be spared. The righteous activities of tzaddikim are undisputed. If one were asked to paint a portrait of a tzaddik, he would probably depict a man with a saintly countenance, bent over a pile of sefarim, Torah volumes. Some tzaddikim are ordinary people, but have earned tzaddik status because they are mezakei ha’rabim, bring merit upon many people….

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Shelach, 5780

ונהי בעינינו כחגבים וכן היינו בעיניהם

We were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so were we in their eyes. (13:33)

When the meraglim, spies, returned from their mission, the nation debated their negative report. They ruminated back and forth: Could they triumph over the giant Canaanites or would they be defeated? The meraglim were emphatic that they had no hope for success. The people listened to them, and they began their bechiyah shel chinam, unwarranted weeping – a weeping for which we have been punished with a bechiyah l’doros, weeping for generations. As a consequence, that night, which was the Ninth of Av, became the precursor of our national day of mourning. What did the meraglim fear? What was it…

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Beha'alosecha, 5780

בהעלותך את הנרות

When you bring up/kindle the lamps. (8:2)

Rashi cites Chazal who derive from the word b’haalosecha, which is connected to alah, go up, that there was an elevation before the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash.  The Kohen would ascend those steps in order to kindle the lamps. I once heard a profound homiletic rendering of this Chazal. Not only was it incumbent upon the Kohen to cause the lights of the lamps to rise, but he also had to rise up one step, to elevate himself spiritually as he kindled the lights. Many wonderful people illuminate society by kindling lights, but they do not necessarily elevate themselves…

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Beha'alosecha, 5780

לכה אתנו והטבנו לך כי ד' דבר טוב על ישראל

Go with us and we shall treat you well, for Hashem has spoken good for Yisrael. (10:29)

Moshe Rabbeinu asked his father-in-law, Yisro, to join the nation in its journey to Eretz Yisrael. “We will treat you well,” Moshe says. “Because Hashem has spoken good (He will provide us with His beneficence: you, too, will benefit.) The term diber tov, spoken good, is found in only one other place in Tanach. In Megillas Esther (7:9), when Charvonah tells Achashveirosh that the tree which Haman ha’rasha had prepared for Mordechai — asher diber tov al ha’Melech, “who spoke good for the king” — is standing in Haman’s house (and why not put it to good use?). The Agra…

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Beha'alosecha, 5780

שטו העם ולקטו וטחנו ברחים... ועשו אתו עגות והיה טעמו כטעם לשד השמן

The people would roam and gather it, and grind it in a mill… or make it into cakes and it tasted like the taste of dough kneaded with oil. (11:8)

Chazal (Yoma 75a) teach that the manna had within it a multiplicity of tastes, allowing the individual to experience any taste he wanted. It had no name until the first Shabbos it descended upon the camp. They called it Manna among themselves, a name which implies hachanah, preparation, for all foods; any taste could be experienced by eating it.  When on the sixth day/Erev Shabbos, however, a double portion fell, they called it Manna/man, because the mem and nun, two letters which comprise the word manna, are spelled out in double letters: mem = mem, mem: nun, nun (Kli Yakar)….

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Beha'alosecha, 5780

כי תאמר אלי שאהו בחיקך כאשר ישא האמן את הינק

That You say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a suckling.” (11:12)

Moshe Rabbeinu implied with his words that if he were indeed their (Klal Yisrael’s) father, he would have an obligation to somehow carry on alone. The Chafetz Chaim, zl, derives from here that the buck stops at the parents. No parent may shirk his/her ultimate responsibility and turn from his/her children – regardless of personal difficulties or the (at times) difficult nature of the child. Horav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zl, gleaned from here that Moshe had the capacity to “carry” the entire nation. Obviously, this is a metaphor for his ability to care for and be sensitive to the needs of…

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Naso, 5780

איש או אשה כי יפליא לנדר נדר נזיר

A man or woman who shall dissociate himself by taking a Nazarite vow of abstinence. (6:2)

Why does the Torah juxtapose the incident/parshah of the nazir upon the incident/parshah of the sotah, wayward wife? One who sees a sotah in her degradation should prohibit wine to himself by taking a Nazarite vow (Rashi). The sotah had opted to follow her sensual passion, allowing her pursuit of pleasure to take precedence over her commitment to G-d. One who falls under the grasp of wine can, likewise, fall victim to temptation. A nazir is prohibited to drink wine. A well-known story tells about a dedicated Jew who refused to eat the non-kosher food that was standard fare in…

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5780

כי נזר אלקיו על ראשו

For the crown of his G-d in upon his head. (6:7)

Because he wears the crown of G-d upon his head, a nazir has specific laws concerning his lifestyle, i.e. where he may go, what areas he may frequent, what he may consume. He is dedicated to Hashem, having chosen to live on an elevated spiritual plane. While some may consider his choice a bit extremist in nature, he is motivated by a profound desire to achieve spiritual ascendency. A nazir is an adult who has made a choice. Children and young adults do not necessarily have the ability or wherewithal to assume such a positive life change, so they often…

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Naso, 5780

ביום השני הקריב נתנאל בן צוער נשיא יששכר ביום השלישי נשיא לבני זבולון אליאב בן חלן ביום הרביעי נשיא לבני ראובן אליצור בן שדיאור

On the second day, Nesanel ben Tzuar offered the leader of Yissachar (7:18). On the third day, the leader of the children of Zevulun, Eliav ben Cheilon (7:24). On the fourth day, the leader of the children of Reuven, Elitzur ben Shedeiur. (7:30)

Noticeably, the tribe/Nasi/Prince of Yissachar preceded the tribe of Reuven, who was Yaakov Avinu’s bechor, firstborn. Furthermore, Zevulun also preceded Reuven. The Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh explains that Yissachar preceded Reuven because he was the ben Torah, of the tribe that devoted itself to fulltime commitment to Torah study. Since Zevulun was his honorary partner, supporting him while he was engaged in commerce, he was placed near Yissachar in sequence. We see from the Ohr HaChaim that not only does Torah study take primacy over every other endeavor and achievement, one who supports Torah study, albeit himself not actively engaged in…

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Bamidbar, 5780

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…

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Bamidbar, 5780

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…

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Bamidbar, 5780

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…

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Bamidbar, 5780

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…

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5780, Behar, Bechukosai

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…

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ובני קרח לא מתו

But the sons of Korach did not die. (26:11)

It is not as if Korach had protected his sons by excluding them from his ill-fated debacle. Rashi comments that they had been involved from the very beginning. At the time of the dispute, however, they were meharher bi’teshuvah, had thoughts of repentance in their hearts. Therefore, a place was fortified for them in Gehinnom, Purgatory, and they resided there. This means that the earth beneath them hardened above the spot designated for them in Gehinnom. Thus, they were spared due to the teshuvah thoughts they harbored. This is a powerful and inspiring lesson. Teshuvah saves. When the Ponovezher Rav,…

Continue Reading

קח לך את יהושע בן נון איש אשר רוח בו ... ונתתה מהודך עליו למען ישמעו כל עדת בני ישראל

Take to yourself Yehoshua ben Nun, a man in whom there is spirit…You shall place some of your splendor upon him, so that the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael will pay heed. (27:18,20)

Targum Onkelos comments, B’dil di yikablum minei kol k’nishta divnei Yisrael; “So that the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael will accept him.” Rashi writes, “So that they treat him with respect and fear, in the manner that they treat you.” It is wonderful to have Moshe Rabbeinu’s approval, but is it not superfluous? Once Hashem gave the order, “Take to yourself Yehoshua,” what else was necessary to segue to Yehoshua becoming Moshe’s successor? Is Hashem’s approval insufficient that it was necessary for the people to see that Moshe, too, was on board with this choice? Why did Moshe have to…

Continue Reading

וביום השבת שני כבשים בני שנה תמימים

And on the Shabbos day: two male lambs in their first year, unblemished. (28:9)

Shabbos bears testimony that Hashem created Heaven and earth. Hashem imbued this day with unique spiritual character, distinguishing it from the other six days of the week, elevating it to a higher level of sanctity. Thus, on Shabbos when the Bais HaMikdash was extant, we could offer a Korban Mussaf, Additional Offering, similar to what is offered on Festivals and holy days. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that when we bring an offering, we fix our thoughts on the significance of the day and its broad degree of sanctity. Man is impacted by his actions. Thus, Hashem commanded us to perform…

Continue Reading

ויקחו אליך פרה אדומה תמימה

And they shall take to you a completely red cow, which is without blemish. (19:2)

The mitzvah of Parah Adumah, Red Cow, which is used to purify one who is tamei meis, spiritually defiled by coming in contact with a dead body, has become known as the paradigmatic mitzvah whose reason is beyond human cognition. Actually, this is true with regard to all mitzvos. We have no idea of the reason for any one of the 613 mitzvos; it is just that some are easier to relate to, because they are common-sensical. The laws of Parah Adumah are replete with anomalies. The most difficult to accept is the fact that the Kohen who carries out…

Continue Reading

וישלח ד' בעם את הנחשים השרפים ... ויאמרו חטאנו ... והיה הנשוך וראה אתו וחי

Then Hashem let the poisonous snakes loose against the people … They said, “We have sinned” … that everyone who is bitten when he looks upon it he shall live. (21:6,7,8)

It was not the first time; once again, the people did not receive what they perceived they needed. Their first reaction was to complain, “This is no good; that is no good.” Immediately, they directed their discontent against Hashem. They did not doubt the authenticity of Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership; they had issues with Hashem’s guidance. They would never reach the Promised Land if they were to continue along this path in the wretched wilderness. Veritably, they had nourishment from the manna, but what about some real food and drink? Furthermore, obtaining manna was effortless, almost monotonous. They wanted some excitement…

Continue Reading