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רק חזק לבלתי אכל הדם כי הדם הוא הנפש. ולא תאכל הנפש עם הבשר

Only be strong not to eat blood – for the blood, it is life – and you should not eat the life with the meat. (12:23)

Rashi comments: “You may not eat meat that was torn from a living animal.” The Torah prohibits us from eating eiver min ha’chai, a limb cut from a living animal. The Sefer HaChinuch offers the shoresh, root, of the mitzvah, that we not train ourselves in the trait of cruelty, which is a most disgusting trait. Indeed, we can perform no greater cruelty than to cut a limb off a living animal and eat it. The Chinuch continues with a mussar, ethical character, directive. “I have already written numerous times concerning the great benefit that we derive in our acquisition…

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ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה את הברכה אשר תשמעו... והקללה אם לא תשמעו

See I present before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing that you listen… The curse, if you do not listen. (11:26,27)

Our parshah begins by informing us of our mandate to choose between blessing and curse, good and evil. The blessing is the result of our listening to Hashem’s Torah; the curse is the consequence of our not listening. The obvious question is: Who in his right mind would choose curse over blessing? The simple explanation is that it is not an issue of choice; rather, the Torah alludes to the idea that, on the surface, some of our actions present as a blessing, while actually concealing beneath their external façade less than satisfactory options. In other words, blessing and curse…

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ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. (11:26)

Noticeably, the pasuk begins with the singular re’eh, “see,” and continues with lifneichem, “before you,” in the plural. The Chasam Sofer cites Chazal (Kiddushin 40b) who teach: “Every person should view himself and the entire world as being half guilty and half meritorious. One mitzvah that he performs can tip the scale to the side of merit. If he commits a sin, however, he tips the scale (both personally and globally) to the side of guilt.” Thus, with every act, one must ask himself, “Do I really want to do this? With this act, I might be destroying myself and…

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שמור את חדש האביב ועשית פסח ... ועשית חג שבועות לד' אלקיך ... ושמחת לפני ד' ... חג הסוכות תעשה לך שבעת ימים ... ושמחת בחגך ... והיתה אך שמח

You shall observe the month of springtime and perform the Pesach offering … You shall count seven weeks for yourself … You shall rejoice before Hashem… You shall make the festival of Succos for a seven-day period … You shall rejoice on your festival … And you will be completely joyous. (16:1,10,11,13,14,15)

The Baal HaTurim notes that with regard to the Yom Tov of Pesach, the Torah does not mention the mitzvah of simchah, joy.  Concerning Shavuos, the Torah mentions simchah once, while regarding Succos, the Torah mentions it twice.  He explains that, on Pesach, the crops are still growing in the field. Nothing has been harvested.  Understandably, the farmer is (the Jews lived an agrarian lifestyle) nervous, hoping that he will be blessed with a good yield.  Until that takes place, however, he is a bundle of nerves.  The Torah does not compel him to rejoice.  We have a mitzvah of…

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כי יהיה בך ... כי פתח תפתח את ידך לו והעבט תעביתנו ד' מחסרו אשר יחסר לו

If there shall be a destitute person among you… You shall surely open your hand and lend him money, as much as he needs, whatever he is lacking. (15:7,8)

“Whatever he is lacking” is a tall order.  In other words, someone who has been quite wealthy and lives a far from frugal lifestyle is suddenly confronted with a reversal of his fortunes.  Instead of being on top of the mountain, he is suddenly thrust down to the cellar, with no support.  Rather than give him sufficient funds in order to make ends meet and live a lower or middle-class lifestyle, the Torah instructs us to provide for him, “whatever he is lacking.” Should we have the ability, we would be obligated to provide this formerly affluent man with the…

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אחרי ד' אלקיכם תלכו

Hashem, your G-d, shall you follow. (13:5)

When the Chafetz Chaim, zl, met the Gerrer Rebbe, zl (Imrei Emes), at the first Knessiah Gedolah, he asked him about what appeared to be an inconsistency in Rashi’s commentary concerning the definition of the word acharei.  In the above pasuk, Rashi does not view acharei as having any “geographical” impact, while, in 11:30, Acharei derech ma’vo ha’shemesh.” “Far, in the direction of the sunset,” Rashi explains the pasuk does have geographical impact: “Wherever acharei is used, it is muflag, it implies a considerable distance in time and space.”  The Chafetz Chaim asked, “According to Rashi’s explanation, how are we…

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בנים אתם לד' אלקיכם

You are children to Hashem, your G-d. (14:1)

Being children to Hashem, banim laMakom, demands that we live our lives on a higher standard. What may be an acceptable practice for the pagan culture in which we live is detestable for us. If many of our co-religionists would realize the depth of meaning which the concept of banim laMakom implies, they would change their attitude and way of life. The term banim, children (of), intimates that they have a Father who has expectations. Parents love their children unconditionally. Furthermore, a biological child remains so irrevocably, regardless of the child’s negative actions. A child identifies with his parents; thus,…

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בנים אתם לד' אלקיכם לא תתגדדו

You are children to Hashem, your G-d… you shall not cut yourselves. (14:1)

Self-mutilation is prohibited by the Torah. Rashi explains the connection of this prohibition to our pedigree as banim laMakom, children of Hashem. “Since you are the sons of Hashem, it is appropriate to look nice and not mutilated.” Obviously, it is not simply about appearances. It goes much deeper. The fact that we are Hashem’s children is not merely a nice concept; it is a verity that is so real that it becomes the source of a halachah. Chazal teach (Kiddushin 40a) that one who eats publicly in the marketplace is compared to a dog. One opinion even contends that…

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ונצתם את מזבחתם... ואבדתם את שמם... לא תעשון כן לד' אלקיכם

You shall break apart their altars… You shall obliterate their names… You shall not do this to Hashem, your G-d. (12:3,4)

A remembrance of the idols that once dotted the country should not remain in the Land. Chazal understood that Moshe Rabbeinu had no need to admonish the nation not to destroy the Bais HaMikdash or the mikdash me’at, smaller representation of the Temple, the shuls;   rather, he was exhorting the people not to burn incense whenever they so desired. This was a Canaanite practice. Alternatively, Jews are prohibited from erasing Hashem’s Name or destroying a stone from the Mizbayach, Altar. Last, we are enjoined to act appropriately, so that our sins not catalyze the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash.    The…

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והיה כי יבאך ד' אלקיך אל ארץ אשר אתה בא שמה לרשתה ונתתה את הברכה על הר גריזים ואת הקללה על הר עיבל

It shall be when Hashem, your G-d, brings you to the Land to which you come to possess it, then you shall deliver the blessing on Har Gerizim and the curse on Har Eival. (11:29)

As the nation prepared to enter the Land, Hashem instructed them to initiate a new covenant upon entering Eretz Yisrael. One does not enter Eretz Yisrael unless he first prepares himself with the appropriate sense of submission born of awe. Kabbolas haTorah, receiving the Torah forty years earlier, carried them along their journey through the wilderness. A new generation was preparing to enter the Land. In the Plains of Moav this new generation also received an induction into kabbolas ol Malchus Shomayim, accepting upon themselves the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom. The covenant into which the nation was now entering…

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