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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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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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כי לא על הלחם לבדו יחיה האדם... כי על כל מוצא פי ד' יחיה האדם

Man does not live on bread alone, but that man may live on anything that Hashem decrees. (8:3)

The forty years of wandering in the wilderness served as a course of instruction and training – instruction about Hashem’s Hashgachah, Providence, and training for serene and disciplined surrender to His guidance. When our lack of conviction in Hashem’s Omnipresent care and guidance over us diminishes, our practice, which fulfills the requirements of our moral and spiritual training, likewise wanes. For forty years we lived a lifestyle that impressed upon us the notion that, “It is not by bread alone that man make a life for himself.” We have been taught that the prime factor for man’s sustenance is the…

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ויאמר ד'... ראיתי העם הזה והנה עם קשה ערף הוא

Hashem said… “I have seen this people, and behold! It is a stiff-necked people.” (9:13)

Stiff-necked, otherwise known as stubbornness, obstinacy, is usually incompatible with uprightness and righteousness, because a stubborn person makes up his mind and sticks to it – even if his conduct is less than desirable. He has made up his mind, and he will stick to his guns. Hashem informs Moshe that the nation’s stubbornness is not conducive to their spiritual growth. He will send an angel to lead them. Hashem wants no part of an obstinate people. If we look back to the original redaction of the sin in Parashas Ki Sisa (Shemos 34:9), however, Moshe beseeches Hashem, Yeileich na…

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עשה משפט יתום ואלמנה

But upholds the cause of the orphan and the widow. (10:18)

The Torah teaches us that Hashem is concerned about the honor of the downtrodden, the widow and orphan, individuals who are alone with no one to care for them. The exhortation to preserve the honor of a widow applies even to a king’s widow. In his commentary to Bereishis 37, Rabbeinu Bachya quotes this from a Midrash. The reason for this stringency is that their spirits are low and their tears are frequent. Widows and orphans who are oppressed have no one to turn to other than Hashem – Who listens. Horav Ovadiah Yosef, zl, was very careful to safeguard…

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ואתחנן אל ד' בעת ההיא

I implored Hashem at that time. (3:23)

In the Zera Kodesh, the Ropshitzer Rebbe, zl, observes that the pasuk neglects to identify “that time.” Was Moshe Rabbeinu referring to a specific time? The Ropshitzer explains that this omission is by design. The Torah is teaching us a critical lesson with regard to tefillah, prayer. No specific time is established for petitioning Hashem. We can approach the Almighty at any time. No “appointments” are necessary. A son need not have a special time to speak with his father. (If he does, both father and son have a problem.) Hashem is our Heavenly Father, Who waits for our entreaty…

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וזאת התורה אשר שם משה לפני בני ישראל

This is the Torah/teaching that Moshe placed before Bnei Yisrael. (4:44)

V’nasan lanu es Toraso, “And Hashem gave us His Torah” is the motif that should accompany each Torah learning session. When we study Torah, we are hearing the words of Hashem and carrying out His will. He gave us His Torah, so that we should learn it, learn from it, observe its precepts and lessons. It is from the Torah that we, as Jews, receive and accept our guidance concerning our derech ha’chaim, way of life. The Jew that lives his life with the Torah as his lodestar has the ability to navigate the murky, stormy waters of life, to…

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ושננתם לבניך

You shall teach them thoroughly to your children. (6:7)

Rashi comments that “children” is not an exclusive category. It applies, likewise, to one’s students, since the Torah considers students to be like children. We have a responsibility to reach out and teach, or see to it that all children are taught. If one has limited time, and he must decide between teaching his own children or someone else’s children, however, his children take precedence. Horav Yechezkel Sarna, zl, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, and premier expositor of the Slabodka approach to gadlus ha’adam, the greatness of man, was a prime example of a Rosh Yeshivah/Rebbe to whom his talmidim, students, were…

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אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל... בין פארן ובין תופל ולבן וחצרות ודי זהב

These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael… between Paran and Tophel, and Lavan, and Chatzeiros, and Di Zahav. (1:1)

Eileh ha’devarim is reference to Moshe Rabbeinu’s rebuke of Klal Yisrael for their past insurrections. In his attempt not to embarrass and offend his listeners, Moshe did not mention the sins in detail; rather, he made veiled references to the sins by using place names which alluded to the sins. Chazal (Tamid 28a) teach that one who rebukes his fellow l’shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven (solely to help and guide his fellow back to a path of appropriate behavior), will merit to dwell in the portion of Hashem… Moreover, the Heavenly Court extends over him a cord of…

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אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל

These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael. (1:1)

Moshe Rabbeinu’s “words” were words of reproof, in which he lectured the nation for their past indiscretions. He did not censure; rather, he subtly alluded to their sins by mentioning places which intimated their sin: Why did he refer to the sins via the medium of place, rather than period/time during which the sin occurred? The Mei HaShiloach implies that since the place where they were encamped at the time of the sin’s occurrence was not their decision, they had some sort of excuse to mitigate their behavior by blaming the effects of the environment in which they were located,…

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