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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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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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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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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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ואיש כי יתן מום בעמיתו כאשר עשה כן יעשה לו

And if a man inflicts a wound in his fellow, as he did, so shall be done to him. (24:19)

Kol ha’posel b’mumo posel, “One who finds fault (in others) (he who charges others as being flawed) is (actually) calling out his own blemish (is himself flawed). Chazal (Kiddushin 70a) present for us a psychological appraisal of those who thrive on negativism, especially concerning individuals whom they enjoy criticizing for whatever reason raises their fancy. He who denigrates others should first take a penetrating look at himself and see if, in fact, he has that same flaw. Prior to passing judgment on someone, we should take a stark look at ourselves and ask: “Is that not I whom I am…

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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…

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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…

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ויציאו אתו כל העדה אל מחוץ למחנה וירגמו אתו באבנים ...ויוציאו את המקלל מחוץ למחנה וירגמו אתו אבן

And they took the blasphemer to the outside of the camp, and stoned him to death. (24:23) The entire assembly removed him to the outside of the camp, they pelted him with stones and he died. (Bamidbar 15:36)

The Torah is teaching us about the punishment meted out to the mekallel, blasphemer. In Sefer Bamidbar, the Torah relates the punishment which the mechallel Shabbos, desecrator of Shabbos, received. The mekoshesh eitzim, the individual who gathered twigs on Shabbos, was stoned, as was the blasphemer. While their punishments were similar, the Torah’s description of the actual execution is textually different. With regard to the mekallel, the Torah writes, Vayirgemu oso even, “They stoned him with even,” which means one stone. Concerning the meksohesh, however, the Torah writes, Vayirgemu oso b’avanim, “They stoned him with stones.” Why is the blasphemer stoned…

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וספרתם לכם ממחחרת שבת

You shall count for yourselves – from the morrow. (23:15)

The halachah, as recorded in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 493:1, states that the prevalent custom is not to make weddings between Pesach and Shavuos (during a specific thirty-three day period), because it was during this time that the students of Rabbi Akiva (twenty-four thousand) died. The Talmud (Menachos 29b) states: “Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Har Sinai to receive the Torah, he found Hashem attaching crowns to some of the letters of the Torah. Moshe asked, ‘Hashem, who is holding You back (preventing you from making the Torah larger)?’ Hashem replied, ‘One day, there…

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ובחמשה עשר יום לחדש הזה חג המצות לד'

And on the fifteenth day of this month is the Festival of Matzos to Hashem. (23:6)

One year, Horav Tzvi Hirsch Levin, zl, had occasion to invite the mayor of Berlin (a gentile, but one that was quite respectful and friendly to the members of the Jewish community) for the first Seder. The mayor entered the home to observe the rich finery of the tablecloth and napkins on a table bedecked with the finest china and silver flatware. The mayor had a superficial knowledge of Jewish traditions and customs. He was, thus, taken aback that Pesach, when we sit as kings, the young child traditionally asks the Four Questions, which begin, “Why is this night different?”…

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