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5781, Behar

כי ימוך אחיך ומכר מאחזתו... ואיש כי לא יהיה לא גאל והשיגה ידו ומצא כדי גאלתו

If your brother becomes impoverished and sells part of his ancestral inheritance… if a man will have no redeemer, but his means suffice and he acquires enough for his redemption. (25:25,26)

An ancestral field should not be sold. It is supposed to remain within the family. If it must be sold in order to generate badly needed funds, it may be sold only for the number of crops it will yield until Yovel, the upcoming Jubilee year, when it reverts back to its original owner. If the owner does not have the necessary funds to redeem his field before the Jubilee year, the responsibility falls on his relatives to help him out. If he has no “redeemer,” relative, to assist in extricating him from his bind, the field remains with the…

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5781, Behar

וחי אחיך עמך

And let your brother live with you. (25:36)

The Talmud (Bava Metzia 62a) discusses the halachah of a hypothetical case in which two men are stranded in the wilderness with one serving of life-sustaining water between them. What do they do? If both drink – both die; if one drinks, he will survive, but his friend will not. Ben Peturah derives from the words, V’chai achicha imach; “Better they should both perish than one should see his friend die, while he survives. (Your brother shall live with you.) This was the accepted opinion until Rabbi Akiva came and taught, “And your brother shall live with you” – indicating…

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5781, Bechukosai

אם בחוקותי תלכו

If you will follow My decrees. (26:3)

Rashi explains that this pasuk refers, not to mitzvah performance, but rather, shetiheyu ameilim baTorah, that we engage in intensive Torah study, with the intention that such study will lead to mitzvah observance. Contrary to the mistaken notion that observance and study are two distinct Jewish functions, mitzvah observance is actually a function of Torah study – not its goal. An observant Jew’s life revolves around Torah study which guides and defines his mitzvah observance. The Talmud (Shabbos 31a) teaches that when one arrives in Olam Habba, the World-to- Come, he is asked, Kavaata ittim laTorah, “Did you set aside…

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5781, Bechukosai

העשירי יהיה קדש לד'

The tenth one shall be holy to Hashem. (27:32)

According to halachah, the tenth animal to pass through the pen is designated as maaser beheimah, tithe of animals, and becomes holy – even if the owner does not actually verbalize the words, Kodesh l’Hashem, “Holy to Hashem.” Nonetheless, the Torah demands that one articulate the words. Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, derives an important lesson from here, which can – and should – be applied not only to educating and raising our children, but, indeed, to all interpersonal relationships. Even if something is already holy, its kedushah, sanctity, must be maintained. If not – it will lose its sanctity. Likewise,…

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Emor, 5781

לנפש לא יטמא בעמיו

He shall not defile himself for the dead among his people. (21:1)

No Kohen may defile himself for a dead person who is not one of his seven close relatives as enumerated in the Torah. Sforno explains the reason why a Kohen may not defile himself to a corpse. “The Kohen is a chief, a leader among his people, whose function is to learn and to teach as the Navi Malachi says (2:7), ‘For the Kohen’s lips shall preserve knowledge, and they should seek Torah from his mouth.’ It is, thus, proper that such an individual conduct himself as a prince, so that his words will be listened to. It is (thus)…

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Emor, 5781

ולא תחללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל

You shall not desecrate My holy Name; rather I should be sanctified among Bnei Yisrael. (22:32)

The Torah commands us to sanctify Hashem’s Name and also to make certain not to profane it. The Sefer HaChinuch explains the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem as the only manner in which we may execute the purpose of our creation, “For man is created only for the purpose of serving Hashem. One who does not sacrifice his body in the service of his master is not a good servant. People give their souls for their masters, all the more so should we for the commandment of the King of Kings.” We derive from here (Rabbeinu Yonah 3:143) that one who…

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Emor, 5781

וביום השביעי שבת שבתון מקרא קדש כל מלאכה לא תעשו

And the Seventh day is a day of complete rest, a holy convocation, you shall not do any work. (23:3)

The Talmud (Shabbos 10b) teaches, “Hashem said to Moshe Rabbeinu, ‘I have a matanah tovah, good gift, in My treasure house and Shabbos is its name, and I seek to give it to Yisrael. Go and inform them about it.’” The Steipler Gaon, zl observes that, obviously, when Hashem instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to inform Klal Yisrael about Shabbos, it was not concerning hilchos, the laws of Shabbos, because Moshe had an obligation to teach the laws of all the mitzvos. In this area, Shabbos would not be unique. In what area was Shabbos distinguished from all other mitzvos that Hashem…

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Emor, 5781

ויצא בן אשה ישראלית והוא בן איש מצרי ... ויקב ... את השם ויקלל

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

The story of this Jew who committed the abhorrent sin of blasphemy, is without a doubt a gut-wrenching tale whose placement in the Torah leaves one bewildered. It happened once – one person from a murky pedigree, the only one like him in all Klal Yisrael. His mother was the only immoral woman in the entire nation. He was the only Jewish man fathered by an Egyptian. His father was the one Egyptian that was killed by Moshe Rabbeinu to protect a Jewish man. Rabbeinu Bachya wonders why the Torah felt it necessary to include this tragic debacle in the…

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Acharei Mos, 5781

בזאת יבוא אהרן אל הקדש בפר בן בקר לחטאת ואיל לעולה ... ומאת עדת בני ישראל יקח שני שעירי עזים.

With this shall Aharon come into the Sanctuary: with a young bull for a sin-offering and a ram for an elevation offering… from the assembly of Bnei Yisrael he shall take two he-goats. (16:3,5)

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 21:11) state that the three korbanos, offerings, that were brought on Yom Kippur represented the three Avos, Patriarchs. The young bull that served as a korban chatas, sin-offering, represented Avraham Avinu. The ram that was used as a korban olah, elevation-offering, symbolized Yitzchak Avinu. The two he-goats denoted Yaakov Avinu. When the Kohen Gadol entered the Sanctuary, he did so b’z’chus, in the merit of, the three korbanos that he brought. Avraham Avinu sacrificed himself, manifesting extreme devotion, for the purpose of bringing a pagan world closer to Hashem. His love for people and his constant…

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Kedoshim, 5781

לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך

You shall not hate your brother in your heart. (19:17)

The Torah alludes to one reason why one should not hate a fellow Jew: he is your brother; brothers do not hate. Clearly, this is a prohibitive mitzvah which, for “some reason,” people have difficulty observing. Chazal (Talmud Yoma 9:B) teach that Hashem destroyed the Bais HaMikdash Rishon, First Temple, because people transgressed the three cardinal sins of murder, adultery and idol worship. During the period of the Second Temple, the generation studied Torah diligently, observed mitzvos, and performed gemilus chasadim, acts of loving kindness; yet, because they fell short in their interpersonal relationships, due to sinaas chinam, baseless hatred,…

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Kedoshim, 5781

ואהבת לרעך כמוך

You shall love your fellow as yourself. (19:18)

To love a fellow Jew as one loves himself is the fundamental rule of the Torah. According to Ramban, this mitzvah enjoins us to want others to have the same measure of success and prosperity that we want for ourselves. Obviously, this is not in consonance with human nature, whereby one’s ego always wants a little more or a little better for himself. He does not begrudge his fellow’s success – as long as he has more. How do we define love? How do we understand loving our fellow on the same level as we love ourselves? We find the…

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Tazria, 5781

אדם כי יהיה בעור בשרו... והובא אל אהרן הכהן

If a person will have on the שאת skin of his flesh a seis… he shall be brought to Aharon HaKohen. (13:2)

When Moshe Rabbeinu noticed that inspecting the physical plagues that appeared on a body was included in the function of a Kohen, he was troubled. Chazal (Vayikra Rabbah 15:8) say that Moshe had tzaar gadol, great pain, concerning Aharon HaKohen’s function to view and render his halachic decision concerning the plague’s impurity. He felt that it was below his brother’s dignity as Kohen Gadol, High Priest, to engage in such an unappealing task. Hashem quickly reminded Moshe that Aharon and his descendants enjoy twenty-four matnos, gifts, of Kehunah, which Klal Yisrael shares with them. Chazal teach us an important message…

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Metzora, 5781

זאת תהיה תורת המצורע

This shall be the law of the metzora. (14:2)

The Talmud (Horayos 12b) relates that Rava asked Rav Nachman if a Kohen Gadol who was afflicted with tzaraas, spiritual leprosy, may marry a widow. (Under normal circumstances, the Kohen Gadol may not marry a widow. However, since as a metzora he is disqualified from serving, perhaps the prohibition against marrying a widow would not presently pertain to him.) The answer was not available to him. On another occasion, Rav Pappa raised the same question to Rav Nachman. This time, Rav Huna, son of Rav Nachman, interjected with the answer that, just as a Kohen Gadol who becomes tamei, ritually…

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Metzora, 5781

זאת תהיה תורת המצורע

This shall be the law of the Metzora. (14:2)

The Torah devotes no less than 115 pesukim (Tazria-Metzora) to the various forms of tzaraas and their purification process. Clearly the lengthy focus on tzaraas indicates the significance the Torah extends to the precursor of tzaraas: lashon hora, evil/slanderous speech. The motzi shem ra, individual who uses his tongue to propagate negative information about a fellow Jew, is the one who becomes the tzaraas victim. Thus, the parshiyos dealing with the tzaraas plagues indicate the severity of lashon hora. Interestingly, the only allusion in the Torah that connects tzaraas with lashon hora is in Devarim 24:8,9 when the Torah admonishes…

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Shemini, 5781

ויקחו בני אהרן נדב ואביהוא איש מחתתו

The sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan. (10:1)

Yalkut Shemoni (Shemini, Remez 524) adds that each one – Nadav and Avihu – took his fire pan, mei’atzmo, on his own, neither discussing it with – nor accepting advice from – his brother. The two brothers erred in thinking that it was a mitzvah to offer on their own without first receiving a Divine mandate. It makes sense to assume that their error was extremely minute, as they were such righteous individuals. They certainly did not arrive at their individual decisions without intense cogitation. Clearly, they thought the matter through and rendered their individual decisions. Nonetheless, the Yalkut implies,…

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Shemini, 5781

וימתו לפני ד'

And they died before Hashem. (10:2)

When a person renders a decision, he must take into consideration its effect on others, as well as all the ramifications, direct and indirect, present and future, that will result from his decision. Nadav and Avihu did not marry. Chazal (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 20:10) consider them guilty of haughtiness for not marrying. They would say, “Our father is the High Priest;” “Our father’s brother is the king/leader of the nation;” “Our uncle is the Nasi, Prince of the tribe of Yehudah.” “We are next in line for the hierarchy of the Priesthood. Is there a woman that is suitable for/worthy…

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Shemini, 5781

אך את זה לא תאכלו ... את הגמל כי מעלה גרה הוא ופרסה איננו מפריס ... ואת השפן כי מעלה גרה הוא ופרסה לא יפרים ... ואת הארנבת כי מעלת גרה היא ופרסה לא הפריסה טמאה היא לכם

But this is what you shall not eat… the camel (for it brings up its cud), buts its hoof is not split … and the hyrax, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split… and the hare, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split. It is unclean to you. (11:4,5,6)

The Torah teaches us that an animal achieves kosher status when it possesses two identifying signs/characteristics: split hooves; and chews/brings up its cud. We are taught that three animals, the camel, hyrax and hare, chew their cud, but, since they do not have split hooves, they are deemed unkosher. In his Nitzotzos, Horav Yitzchak Hershkowitz, Shlita, observes what appears to be an anomaly in recording the three circumstances of a lack of split hooves. In animal number one, the camel, the Torah writes, uparsah einenah mafris, which loosely translated means, it presently does not have split hooves. The next animal,…

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Shemini, 5781

כי אני ד' אלקיכם והתקדשתם והייתם קדשים

For I am Hashem your G-d, you are to sanctify yourselves and you shall become holy. (11:44)

Ibn Ezra adds to the pasuk: “You shall sanctify yourselves because I am Hashem your G-d. I gave you mitzvos and statutes to guard (and observe), so that you will maintain your holiness.” In other words, the mitzvos which we observe protect us. The greater our affiliation with and observance of mitzvos, the greater is our protection from failure and falling into the abyss of sin and spiritual contamination. One night, quite late, Horav Akiva Eiger, zl, Rav of Posen and the preeminent Torah giant of his generation, heard knocking at his door. As Rav of the city, the people…

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Tzav, 5781

זאת תורת העלה היא העלה על מוקדה על המזבח

This is the law of the Olah/Elevation-offering (that stays) on the flame on the Altar. (6:2)

The Korban Chatas, Sin-offering, is brought when one inadvertently commits a transgression for which the punishment is, when intentional, either kares, Heavenly excision, or the death penalty [any of the four forms of capital punishment/execution]. A person brings a Korban Olah for a sin which he committed with his mind, in which he had improper, sinful thoughts. Interestingly, when one performs a sin with his hand, his punishment is chatas, which is partially eaten by the owners and Kohanim. In contrast, when one commits a sin with his mind, he must bring a korban which is completely burnt. Why is…

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Tzav, 5781

ופשט את בגדיו ולבש בגדים אחרים

And he shall take off his garments, and put on other garments. (6:4)

In his Sipurei Chassidim, Horav Shlomo Y. Zevin, zl (cited by Imrei Shammai) relates that Rav David Tzvi Chein, a Chabad chassid, who was Rav in Chernigov, was scheduled for his yechidus (private interview with the Rebbe, during which the chassid seeks guidance and inspiration) with Horav Shmuel, zl, of Lubavitch. He arrived late, so he decided that he would wait outside the Rebbe’s study. In that way, when the Rebbe would leave, he would quickly ask his question. He was late, and he had to return to Chernigov. As he was waiting, he was joined by the Rebbe’s gabbai,…

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Tzav, 5781

וזאת תורת זבח השלמים

And this is the teaching of the offering of the meal-of-peace. (7:11)

Previously (Ibid 3:1), the Torah referred to the Korban Shelamim, Peace-offering, as Zevach Shelamim, meal of peace. The Korban Shelamim is the only offering that carries with it the added appellation, zevach, meal/feast. In his commentary to Sefer Bereishis (46:1), Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, writes that Yaakov Avinu was the first Patriarch to offer a Korban Shelamim. This was only after he heard that Yosef HaTzaddik was physically and spiritually safe. When the Patriarch arrived in Be’er Sheva, he was in his happiest frame of mind, having reached a zenith in his life, enabling him to leave his troubles…

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Vayikra, 5781

אשה ריח ניחוח לד'

A satisfying aroma to Hashem. (1:9)

The service comes to its conclusion as the aroma of the offering rises up in smoke to Hashem. This pleases Hashem because, as Chazal (Sifra, cited by Rashi) explain, “I have spoken, and My will has been carried out.” Hashem certainly is not into aroma, nor does He require offerings. We do not understand the esoteric rationale behind korbanos, offerings. We do understand, however, that when Hashem commands – we respond by executing to His will. What could be more pleasing than having one’s will carried out to perfection. Indeed, the Talmud (Menachos 110a) teaches: “The term ishei reiach nichoach…

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Vayikra, 5781

ואם זבח שלמים קרבנו

If his offering is a feast peace-offering. (3:1)

A Korban Shelamim is unique in that it is self-motivated, brought voluntarily, because a person has been moved to express his gratitude to Hashem for favors granted, and to enhance his closeness with Him. Shelamim is derived from shaleim, wholeness, perfection and shalom, peace. It increases good will, since so many people – the Kohanim, the family and friends of the donor – participate in its consumption. Ramban focuses on the relationship of the Shelamim with sheleimus, wholeness. He observes that the donor who offers a Shelamim is doing so freely, not to atone for an infraction on his part….

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Vayikra, 5781

אשר נשיא יחטא

When a ruler sins. (4:22)

Rashi explains the word asher, as related to ashrei, fortunate: “Praised/fortunate is the generation whose leader is bold/courageous enough to offer penance/korban/offering for his shegagah, inadvertent sin; kal v’chomer, how much more so, if he is prepared to show remorse/ regret over his willful sin.” It is a rare leader who does not conceal his error, who does not hide behind his exalted office, often denying that he committed an error in judgment or had a lapse in his spiritual relationship with Hashem, one who proclaims, Chatasi, “I have sinned.” This is unfortunately a rare phenomenon, but this alone is…

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5781, Vayakhel

לא תבערו אש בכל משביתכם ביום השבת

You must not kindle a fire in all your dwelling places on the day of Shabbos. (35:3)

Chazal (Shabbos 70a) debate the reason for the singling out of meleches havarah, kindling a fire, on Shabbos. Some say l’laav yatzah, it is singled out to teach a negative precept, (lo saaseh) that one who lights a fire is subject to the death penalty, kares, Heavenly excision, or bringing a sin-offering – as is the law regarding any other one of the avos melachos, 39 primary categories of labor prohibited on Shabbos. The other position vis-à-vis havarah is l’chalek yatzas, it was singled out to separate the melachos of Shabbos. This means: If one, out of ignorance, transgresses the…

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כי ימוך אחיך ומכר מאחזתו... ואיש כי לא יהיה לא גאל והשיגה ידו ומצא כדי גאלתו

If your brother becomes impoverished and sells part of his ancestral inheritance… if a man will have no redeemer, but his means suffice and he acquires enough for his redemption. (25:25,26)

An ancestral field should not be sold. It is supposed to remain within the family. If it must be sold in order to generate badly needed funds, it may be sold only for the number of crops it will yield until Yovel, the upcoming Jubilee year, when it reverts back to its original owner. If the owner does not have the necessary funds to redeem his field before the Jubilee year, the responsibility falls on his relatives to help him out. If he has no “redeemer,” relative, to assist in extricating him from his bind, the field remains with the…

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וחי אחיך עמך

And let your brother live with you. (25:36)

The Talmud (Bava Metzia 62a) discusses the halachah of a hypothetical case in which two men are stranded in the wilderness with one serving of life-sustaining water between them. What do they do? If both drink – both die; if one drinks, he will survive, but his friend will not. Ben Peturah derives from the words, V’chai achicha imach; “Better they should both perish than one should see his friend die, while he survives. (Your brother shall live with you.) This was the accepted opinion until Rabbi Akiva came and taught, “And your brother shall live with you” – indicating…

Continue Reading

אם בחוקותי תלכו

If you will follow My decrees. (26:3)

Rashi explains that this pasuk refers, not to mitzvah performance, but rather, shetiheyu ameilim baTorah, that we engage in intensive Torah study, with the intention that such study will lead to mitzvah observance. Contrary to the mistaken notion that observance and study are two distinct Jewish functions, mitzvah observance is actually a function of Torah study – not its goal. An observant Jew’s life revolves around Torah study which guides and defines his mitzvah observance. The Talmud (Shabbos 31a) teaches that when one arrives in Olam Habba, the World-to- Come, he is asked, Kavaata ittim laTorah, “Did you set aside…

Continue Reading

העשירי יהיה קדש לד'

The tenth one shall be holy to Hashem. (27:32)

According to halachah, the tenth animal to pass through the pen is designated as maaser beheimah, tithe of animals, and becomes holy – even if the owner does not actually verbalize the words, Kodesh l’Hashem, “Holy to Hashem.” Nonetheless, the Torah demands that one articulate the words. Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, derives an important lesson from here, which can – and should – be applied not only to educating and raising our children, but, indeed, to all interpersonal relationships. Even if something is already holy, its kedushah, sanctity, must be maintained. If not – it will lose its sanctity. Likewise,…

Continue Reading

לנפש לא יטמא בעמיו

He shall not defile himself for the dead among his people. (21:1)

No Kohen may defile himself for a dead person who is not one of his seven close relatives as enumerated in the Torah. Sforno explains the reason why a Kohen may not defile himself to a corpse. “The Kohen is a chief, a leader among his people, whose function is to learn and to teach as the Navi Malachi says (2:7), ‘For the Kohen’s lips shall preserve knowledge, and they should seek Torah from his mouth.’ It is, thus, proper that such an individual conduct himself as a prince, so that his words will be listened to. It is (thus)…

Continue Reading

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