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Bereishis, 5782

לא טוב היות האדם לבדו

It is not good that man be alone. (2:18)

Chazal (Berachos 17a) ask: “Through what deeds do women merit eternal life? [Since they do not have the mitzvah of limud haTorah, to study Torah, they are unable to earn the merit that is ancillary to it]. Through going through the trouble of bringing their children to the synagogue to study Torah, and through sending their husbands to the bais hamedrash to study Torah, and for waiting for their husbands until they return home from the bais hamedrash.” Chazal (Yevamos 63a) “If the man is worthy, the woman will be an eizer, helper; if he is unworthy, she will be…

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Bereishis, 5782

ומפרי העץ אשר בתוך הגן... לא תאכלו ממנו ולא תגעו בו פן תמתון

Of the fruit of the tree which is in the center of the garden… you shall not eat of it and you shall not touch it lest you die. (3:3)

Rashi comments: Hosifah al ha’tzivai, “She added to the commandment; therefore, she came to detract from it.” Hashem had only prohibited them from eating the fruit – not touching it. The serpent saw an opportunity literally begging for him to cause an incursion. The serpent “complied” by pushing Chavah against the tree. Lo and behold, she did not die. “I told you so,” the serpent said to Chavah. “You touched the tree, and nothing happened. It will be likewise when you eat from it. You have nothing to be concerned about.” The Sifsei Chachamim wonders why Chavah could not have…

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Bereishis, 5782

ויקרא ד' אלקים אל האדם ויאמר לו איכה

Hashem Elokim called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (3:9)

Interestingly, in the first dialogue that ensued between Hashem and man, the question was one word: Ayeca? “Where are you?” Clearly, this was more of a statement than a question, which is obvious from the word va’yomer, “And (He) said to him.” Hashem did not ask – He said. Hashem wanted to begin a conversation with Adam HaRishon concerning his sin. Rather than immediately assert: “You are guilty!” or “Why did you do it?” Hashem began, “Where are you?” Hashem used this as a conversation opener to soothe Adam and allow him to open up with what he had to…

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5782, V'zos HaBrachah

וימת שם משה עבד ד'

And Moshe, the servant of Hashem, died there. (34:5)

A debate in Tosfos commentary (Menachos 30a) addresses when Moshe Rabbeinu died. Rav Sholom Gaon posits that Moshe died on Shabbos Kodesh. Thus, we recite Tzidkascha tzedek, affirming and accepting Hashem’s decree. Tosfos contends that Moshe died on Erev Shabbos, since his yahrzeit is on Adar 7, which that year (based on calculations) occurred on Friday. Furthermore, Moshe could not write the conclusion of the Torah on the day of his death if it was, in fact, Shabbos. As a compromise, the commentators suggest that Moshe’s death began on Erev Shabbos, and his burial took place on Shabbos. For our…

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5782, V'zos HaBrachah

ולא ידע איש את קבורתו עד היום הזה

And no one knows his burial place to this day. (34:6)

In his commentary to Sotah 14a, the Bach amends the Talmud’s narrative to include an additional passage which is found in the Ein Yaakov. Rav Chama bar Chanina said: Why is it that the gravesite of Moshe Rabbeinu is hidden from the eyes of flesh and blood? For it was revealed and known to the Almighty that the Holy Temple was destined to be destroyed and that the Jewish People were destined to be exiled from their Land. Thus, the grave had to be hidden, lest the Jews come crying to Moshe’s gravesite at that time and beseech Moshe, saying,…

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5782, V'zos HaBrachah

ולא קם נביא עוד בישראל כמשה

Never again has there arisen in Yisrael a prophet like Moshe. (34:10)

Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah 14:32) note the Torah’s statement concerning Moshe Rabbeinu that Klal Yisrael would never produce a Navi of the stature of Moshe. This does not preclude the gentile nations from producing a prophet whose gift of prophecy would parallel that of Moshe. This prophet was Bilaam. Ramban explains that, under no terms, was Bilaam comparable to Moshe. No prophet approached Moshe’s level of nevuah. Bilaam achieved his communication with Hashem only after exhausting preparation and only concerning the specific subject that he had selected. Moshe, however, could be summoned at any time to discuss anything. The fact that…

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5782, V'zos HaBrachah

ולכל המורא הגדול אשר עשה משה לעיני כל ישראל...בראשית ברא אלקים

And awesome power that Moshe performed before the eyes of all Yisrael…In the beginning of G-d’s creations. (1:1)

The first letter of the Torah is the bais. The last letter of the Torah is the lamed. Considering that the Torah is of Divine origin, the choice of these two letters is clearly not happenstance. Hashem teaches us, conveys a message to us, with the selection of these two words. The commentators, each in his own inimitable manner, address this selection. The Kli Yakar presents an inspiring thought. The bais and the lamed are the only two letters of the entire Hebrew Alphabet to which, if one were to attach any letter of Hashem’s Name, Yud Kay Vov Kay…

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5782, Ha'azinu

האזינו השמים ואדברה ותשמע הארץ אמרי פי

Give ear, O’ Heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth. (32:1)

Moshe Rabbeinu is characterized as the anav mikol adam, most humble man on earth. Thus, it appears audacious and out of character for him to make a declaration asking heaven and earth to listen to him. This is inconsistent with his humility. The Kotzker Rebbe, zl, explains that, indeed, one who is by nature humble does not speak and certainly does not call attention to himself. Therefore, when such an unpretentious person makes a declaration, it is heard. Such an individual who never speaks may posit that he has merited (by being silent thus far) that he should now be…

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5782, Ha'azinu

הלד' תגמלו זאת עם נבל ולא חכם?

Is it to Hashem that you do this, O vile and unwise people? (32:6)

Rashi defines naval as vile as a result of our lack of gratitude to Hashem Who has done everything for us. An ingrate is both an abominable person and unwise, because, when people see his lack of human decency, they will distance themselves from him. Targum Onkeles offers a novel exposition in which he translates am naval as ama d’kablu Oraysa, the nation that received the Torah. This translation begs elucidation. Why should the nation that accepted the Torah be described as naval (which is normally defined as abomination or another uncomplimentary term)? Horav Eliyahu Schlessinger, Shlita, offers an innovative…

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5782, Ha'azinu

זכור ימות עולם בינו שנות דור ודור

Remember the days of old/world history, study the generational epochs. (32:7)

Remember the days of old to incorporate their lessons into the present. Traditionally, following a major collective tragedy Rabbanim yirei Shomayim, G-d-fearing scholars, have authored Sefarim which portray events that occurred as being part of our history and demonstrating Hashem’s Divine Hand in conducting these events. When the Jews were expelled from Spain following the Tach v’Tat pogroms, this was the case. Following Churban Europa, many articles and sefarim were written to depict the Divine Hand manipulating events. I write this because the further in time that we are removed from these events, the easier it is to fall into…

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5782, Ha'azinu

זכור ימות עולם בינו שנות דר ודר

Remember the days of old/world history, study the generational epochs. (32:7)

A number of years back, during the recession that had a major impact on the financial markets and resulted in devastating blows on the finances of many bnei Torah, the question was posed to Horav Eliyahu Svei, zl: Why? These were bnei Torah who had done well financially and, being exemplary bnei Torah, they used the profits of their investments well. They supported yeshivos and promoted all forms of Torah chinuch. Their money was used to fund chesed organizations that helped individuals in need. Thus, it came as a surprise when their fortunes suffered a reversal. Why did Hashem take…

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5782, Ha'azinu

בהנחל עליון גוים בהפרידו בני אדם יצב גבלת עמים למספר בני ישראל

When the Most High gave the nations their portions, when He separated the children of man, He set the borders of nations according to the number of Bnei Yisrael. (32:8)

Following the Flood that devastated the world, the few survivors rebuilt, and all the people who lived together sinned once again by creating the Tower of Bavel. Hashem dispersed and divided them into seventy nations, with seventy distinct languages corresponding to the number of souls that had descended together with Yaakov Avinu to Egypt. The Torah is conveying the message that when the nations sinned again, they forfeited their chance to be the human bearers of Hashem’s mission for humanity. Instead, Hashem selected Klal Yisrael to replace the larger, more populous nations with the much smaller, but more distinct and…

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5782, Vayeilech

וד' הוא ההלך לפניך הוא יהיה עמך

Hashem, it is He Who goes before you; He will be with you. (31:8)

Hashem never leaves us. He listens to our prayers. The reply that we receive may not be what we are seeking, we have no question that Hashem has listened. During our periods of travail, when we think that we are alone – we are not. He is there sharing in our pain. Sadly, some people have great difficulty coping with pain, to the point that they become overwhelmed with despair and give up hope. They forget that a loving Father in Heaven guides the world, and whatever occurs is by His Divine decree. While it is understandable to feel anxious,…

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5782, Vayeilech

ואמר ביום ההוא על כי אין אלקי בקרבי מצאוני הרעות האלה. ואנכי הסתר אסתר פני ביום ההוא

He will say on that day, “Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?” And I will surely conceal My face on that day. (31:17,18)

Hashem warns that if Klal Yisrael does not put a halt to their sinful behavior, He will have no recourse but to conceal His Countenance from them. Rashi explains hester panim, Divine concealment, as if Hashem does not see our pain. Targum Onkeles adds, “I will distance them, and remove My Shechinah from them.” Apparently, the Torah has a concept of sinful behavior which incurs punishment. If we do not sin, we will, of course, not receive any affliction or hardship which we do not deserve. It seems, however, that if one sins continuously, almost as if ignoring Hashem’s Presence,…

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5782, Vayeilech

ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת

So now, write this song for yourselves. (31:19)

The Talmud Chagigah 15b quotes Rabbi Yochanan, who asks: “What is the meaning of that which is written (Malachi 2:7), ‘For the Kohen’s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek Torah from his mouth; for he is an angel of Hashem, Lord of Hosts’?” The pasuk is teaching: If a rebbe is similar to an angel, they should seek Torah from his mouth, but, if not, they should not seek Torah from his mouth.” Obviously, the comparison of an angel to a rebbe requires elucidation. Rambam offers a basic explanation, taking a frank approach. A rebbe must be a…

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Nitzavim, 5781

פן יש בכם שרש פרה ראש ולענה

Perhaps there is among you a root flourishing with gall and wormwood. (29:17)

Gall and wormwood? What is the meaning of these terms? One who is a sinner is evil. The Torah is speaking about a person who does not see the evil that he perpetrates. Such an individual will say, “Peace will be with me.” In truth, he agrees that there are others who are evil – but he is not one of them. He is one of the “good ones” who have the audacity to bless themselves and contend that they warrant blessings in their lives. Apparently, a wide gap exists between reality and this person’s perception of himself and his…

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Nitzavim, 5781

ושבת עד ד' אלקיך

And you will return unto Hashem, your G-d. (30:2)

Teshuvah should address three concepts: the sin; the sinner and before whom/or to whom one has sinned. The Nesivos Shalom explains the words, Atem nitzavim hayom… lifnei Hashem Elokeichem, “You stand here today… before Hashem, your G-d.” Remember before Whom you have sinned, and repent accordingly. Teshuvah which addresses a sin committed to a human being will not cut it. It is insufficient until one takes to heart that he has also sinned before Hashem Yisborach. He must consider who he is, his spiritual stature, his failings, but also his incredible potential, and how this sin affects who he is…

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Nitzavim, 5781

ושבת עד ד' אלקיך

And you will return unto Hashem, your G-d. (30:2)

“And you will return to Hashem.” Is this not obvious? If one has experienced a deficit in the spiritual sphere of his life, it would be understandable that his return be unto Hashem. I think the Torah is conveying a powerful message with regard to teshuvah. It is not unusual for one who is dealing with personal and familial issues to blame it on Hashem and renege his observance as a means of avoiding or assuaging his own painful burdens. In such a circumstance, returning to Hashem will be difficult, since “returning” means going back to one’s point of departure…

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Nitzavim, 5781

ושב ד' אלקיך את שבותך

Then Hashem will bring back your captivity. (30:3)

Rashi comments: “Our sages derived from here that the Shechinah resides among Klal Yisrael when they are in exile.” Why is the word shvuscha, your captivity, used instead of the more practical galuscha, your exile? Horav Lazer Brody, Shlita, suggests that shvuscha refers to a specific exilee, the tinok she’nishbah, child taken captive. In our modern day vernacular, this refers to the assimilated Jew who never had a chance to learn about the beauty of Judaism and its observance, who has been, so to speak, taken captive by the culture in which he was raised. Without the opportunity to learn…

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Nitzavim, 5781

אם יהיה נדחך בקצה השמים משם יקבצך ד' אלקיך

If your dispersed will be at the ends of Heaven, from there Hashem, your G-d, will gather you in. (30:4)

Horav Yechezkel Levinstein, zl, interprets this pasuk pragmatically. If your dispersed will have a relationship with spirituality in such a manner that they just cling to the ends of Heaven, where they have a faint positive acknowledgment of spirituality, of Yiddishkeit, of Torah, of mitzvos – this will be considered sufficient for their ingathering and redemption. The Sefarim HaKedoshim teach that this is why the human body contains a small bone which does not decompose. It is from this tiny, indescribable bone that the person will be resurrected during Techiyas HaMeisim, Resurrection of the Dead. Thus, from there b’ktzei ha’Shomayim,…

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Ki Savo, 5781

ואמרת אליו הגדתי היום לד' אלקיך כי באתי אל הארץ אשר נשבע ד' לאבתינו לתת לנו

And you shall say to him, “I declare today to Hashem, your G-d, that I have come to the Land that Hashem swore to our forefathers to give to us.” (26:3)

The landowner brings his fruits to Yerushalayim, to the Kohen, and makes his declaration acknowledging that whatever material bounty he has been fortunate to attain is due solely to Hashem’s beneficence. Thus, concerning the words, “And you shall say to him,” Rashi comments, “To show that you are not unappreciative.” The Sifri explains the need to direct this declaration to the Kohen, for it is only by acknowledging to another that Hashem has fulfilled His promise that one expresses his gratitude. Furthermore, as noted by the Bais Yisrael, zl, the pasuk begins, V’amarta, “You shall say” and follows in pasuk…

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Ki Savo, 5781

וירא את ענינו ואת עמלנו ואת לחצנו

And He saw our affliction, our travail, and our oppression. (26:7)

In the Haggadah, Chazal expound, “V’es amaleinu, our affliction – eilu ha’banim, this refers to our children.” Ibn Ezra and Ritva support this idea. One wonders why Chazal would expound a pasuk in a manner totally inconsistent with the vernacular of the pasuk. The Torah addresses the cruel and brutal labor to which the Jews were subjected in Egypt. How do children enter into the equation? Horav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, zl (quoted in V’Zos HaTorah by Horav Eliyahu Schlesinger), observes that the word amal is always used in connection to the toil that a person expends for something that he…

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Ki Savo, 5781

ונתנך ד' לראש ולא לזנב והיית רק למעלה ולא תהיה למטה

Hashem shall place you as a head and not as a tail; you shall be only above, and you shall not be below. (28:13)

The Ramban explains that the two terms are not repetitious. It is possible to be a leader to some and a follower of others. Hashem promises that if Klal Yisrael is worthy, they will follow no one. They will be highly respected – by everyone. Horav Ezriel Hildeshaimer, zl, explains that a person who grows up amid luxury, who is used to and comforted by the finer things in life, will invariably not be impressed when he is “bumped up,” elevated to another class of living. He has had so much exposure to a grandiose lifestyle, that a little more…

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Ki Savo, 5781

תחת אשר לא עבדת את ד' אלקיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרב כל

Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, amid gladness and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant. (28:47)

If we ever have needed clear, incontrovertible proof that a joyful attitude in life is important, we have it in this pasuk. Furthermore, the Torah is teaching us that mitzvah performance sans joy is of little significance. In fact, it leads a person to renege his observance eventually. Proof positive is the fact that the Torah attributes the cause of the ninety-eight curses, maledictions, punishments to our lack of joy in mitzvah observance. We translate simchah as joy. In contrast to happiness, which is a state of being, joy is a state of the moment. One can be surrounded with…

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Ki Seitzei, 5781

ותפשו בו אביו ואמו... ואמרו בננו זה סורר ומורה

Then his father and mother shall grasp him… They shall say… “This son of ours is wayward and rebellious.” (21:19,20)

The Mishnah in Sanhedrin (71a) states that both parents must be on the same page with regard to their son’s behavior – or lack thereof. If the father claims that he is incorrigible and the mother disagrees, or vice versa, the boy is not deemed a ben sorer u’moreh. Furthermore, he is executed after being found guilty only if neither parent forgives him. If, however, even after he has been warned and has received malkos, lashes, he sins again, if his parents forgive him, he is not put to death. This idea requires elucidation. He is executed because of how…

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לא טוב היות האדם לבדו

It is not good that man be alone. (2:18)

Chazal (Berachos 17a) ask: “Through what deeds do women merit eternal life? [Since they do not have the mitzvah of limud haTorah, to study Torah, they are unable to earn the merit that is ancillary to it]. Through going through the trouble of bringing their children to the synagogue to study Torah, and through sending their husbands to the bais hamedrash to study Torah, and for waiting for their husbands until they return home from the bais hamedrash.” Chazal (Yevamos 63a) “If the man is worthy, the woman will be an eizer, helper; if he is unworthy, she will be…

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ומפרי העץ אשר בתוך הגן... לא תאכלו ממנו ולא תגעו בו פן תמתון

Of the fruit of the tree which is in the center of the garden… you shall not eat of it and you shall not touch it lest you die. (3:3)

Rashi comments: Hosifah al ha’tzivai, “She added to the commandment; therefore, she came to detract from it.” Hashem had only prohibited them from eating the fruit – not touching it. The serpent saw an opportunity literally begging for him to cause an incursion. The serpent “complied” by pushing Chavah against the tree. Lo and behold, she did not die. “I told you so,” the serpent said to Chavah. “You touched the tree, and nothing happened. It will be likewise when you eat from it. You have nothing to be concerned about.” The Sifsei Chachamim wonders why Chavah could not have…

Continue Reading

ויקרא ד' אלקים אל האדם ויאמר לו איכה

Hashem Elokim called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (3:9)

Interestingly, in the first dialogue that ensued between Hashem and man, the question was one word: Ayeca? “Where are you?” Clearly, this was more of a statement than a question, which is obvious from the word va’yomer, “And (He) said to him.” Hashem did not ask – He said. Hashem wanted to begin a conversation with Adam HaRishon concerning his sin. Rather than immediately assert: “You are guilty!” or “Why did you do it?” Hashem began, “Where are you?” Hashem used this as a conversation opener to soothe Adam and allow him to open up with what he had to…

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וימת שם משה עבד ד'

And Moshe, the servant of Hashem, died there. (34:5)

A debate in Tosfos commentary (Menachos 30a) addresses when Moshe Rabbeinu died. Rav Sholom Gaon posits that Moshe died on Shabbos Kodesh. Thus, we recite Tzidkascha tzedek, affirming and accepting Hashem’s decree. Tosfos contends that Moshe died on Erev Shabbos, since his yahrzeit is on Adar 7, which that year (based on calculations) occurred on Friday. Furthermore, Moshe could not write the conclusion of the Torah on the day of his death if it was, in fact, Shabbos. As a compromise, the commentators suggest that Moshe’s death began on Erev Shabbos, and his burial took place on Shabbos. For our…

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ולא ידע איש את קבורתו עד היום הזה

And no one knows his burial place to this day. (34:6)

In his commentary to Sotah 14a, the Bach amends the Talmud’s narrative to include an additional passage which is found in the Ein Yaakov. Rav Chama bar Chanina said: Why is it that the gravesite of Moshe Rabbeinu is hidden from the eyes of flesh and blood? For it was revealed and known to the Almighty that the Holy Temple was destined to be destroyed and that the Jewish People were destined to be exiled from their Land. Thus, the grave had to be hidden, lest the Jews come crying to Moshe’s gravesite at that time and beseech Moshe, saying,…

Continue Reading

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