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ויתילדו על משפחתם

And they established their genealogy according to their families. (1:18)

Each tribe carried out its own census.  In this manner, one had to clearly establish from which tribe he hailed. Family purity was a strict requirement, so that the merit of their forefathers could stand in their stead during times of crisis. Chazal (Pesachim 49a) teach that one should seek the daughter of a talmid chacham, Torah scholar, as a wife. This serves to ensure the bloodlines, applying the analogy of Invei ha’gefen, b’invei ha’gefen, davar na’eh u’miskabeil; “A combination of the grapes of a vine with the grapes of another vine; which is something fine and acceptable.” [Since both…

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איש על דגלו באתת לבית אבתם

Every man shall encamp by his banner with the sign of his father’s house. (2:2)

Chazal teach that the arrangement of the Jews’ encampment in the Wilderness paralleled the configuration of the Heavenly entourage that accompanied the Shechinah when it descended upon Har Sinai prior to the Giving of the Torah. Myriads of Heavenly Angels descended with Hashem, all grouped in composition under Degalim, banners. When Klal Yisrael saw this pattern, they, too, sought a sequence of Degalim for their encampment. It did not stop there. Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:4) state that when umos ha’olam, the nations of the world, saw Klal Yisrael encamped under the Degalim, they approached the Jewish People and attempted to…

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ואלה תולדות אהרן ומשה ואלה שמות בני אהרן

These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe. These are the names of the sons of Aharon. (3:1,2)

Rashi observes that while the pasuk states that the following are the offspring of Aharon HaKohen and Moshe Rabbeinu, it only lists the names of Aharon’s sons. This, says Rashi, teaches that whoever teaches his friend’s son Torah, it is considered by the Torah as if he caused his birth. Thus, Aharon’s sons, who were Moshe’s students, are also considered to be Moshe’s sons. Horav Meir Chodosh, zl (Or Chadash), quotes the Sifri’s comments to the pasuk, V’shinantem l’vanecha, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons” (Devarim (6:7), eilu talmidecha; “These [sons] are your students.”). The Mashgiach quotes the…

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ונתנו עליו כסוי עור תחש ופרשו בגד כליל תכלת מלמעלה

They shall place upon it a tachash – hide covering, and spread a cloth entirely of turquoise wool over it. (4:6)

The Ramban observes that in the case of the other klei haMishkan, vessels of the Mishkan, they were first covered with wool and then covered over with the tachash – hide. The Aron HaKodesh was singular in that it was first covered with the tachash – hide and then was covered with the techeiles, turquoise wool.  Chazal describe techeiles as having a color similar to that of the sea, similar to the sky which symbolizes the purity of Heaven. Thus, (according to Ramban) it was placed above the tachash – to call attention to the purity and sanctity of 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…

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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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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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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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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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