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Vayishlach, 5782

ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר

And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. (32:25)

It was in middle of the night that Yaakov Avinu encountered a “man” who fought with him until he was bested by the Patriarch. We know that this was no ordinary man – and no ordinary fight. This was none other than Eisav’s Heavenly angel, and the battle was one which represented the forces of evil against the forces of good. The angel representing Eisav lost the fight, but, throughout the millennia, he has not thrown in the towel, as he has attempted at every available juncture to turn the tide against Yaakov’s descendants. The question that confronts the reader…

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Vayishlach, 5782

על כן לא יאכלו בני ישראל את גיד הנשה עד היום הזה

Therefore Bnei Yisrael are not to eat the Gid ha’nasheh, displaced sinew on the hip-socket,…to this day. (32:33)

When Eisav’s angel saw that he could not best Yaakov Avinu, he made one last attempt at maiming the Patriarch by striking his gid-hanashe. To commemorate this battle, Yaakov’s descendants are prohibited from consuming the nerves/sinew which are included under the rubric of gid ha’nashe. The commemoration of the miracle of Yaakov’s triumph in battle over the forces of evil seems counterproductive. Issur achilah, prohibition from eating, is a shev v’al taaseh, passive form of celebrating the miracle, the direct opposite of the manner in which we celebrate the many miracles which are part of our continued existence. Horav Moshe…

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Vayishlach, 5782

ויקחו שני בני יעקב שמעון ולוי אחי דינה איש חרבו... ויהרגו כל זכר

And two of Yaakov’s sons, Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each (man) took his sword… and killed every male. (34:25)

In his commentary to Nazir 29b, Rashi comments based upon the Midrash that Levi was thirteen years old at the time that he and Shimon took vengeance on the men of Shechem. Wherever the Torah uses the word ish, man, it refers to someone over the age of thirteen years. Likewise, we find that Betzalel, architect of the Mishkan, was thirteen years old when he made the Mishkan. Concerning him, the Torah writes, Ish ish mimelachato, “Each (man) of them from his work” (Shemos 36:4). Additionally, we find that the Rambam reiterated the halachah that the age of thirteen years…

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Vayishlach, 5782

ויהי בהקשתה בלדתה ותאמר לה המילדת אל תיראי כי גם זה לך בן

And it was when she had difficulty in her labor that the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for this one, too, is a son for you.” (35:17)

The Brisker Rav, zl, observes that Rachel Imeinu’s fear was not of dying, but rather, her anxiety resulted from her agonizing over losing a shevet, tribe, in Klal Yisrael. Thus, when the midwife told her, “Have no fear, this child will carry on your legacy as one of the Shivtei Kah, tribes of Hashem, Rachel calmed down and was prepared to confront her mortality. The Brisker Rav expressed a similar idea following the European Holocaust. He related to Horav Eliezer Palchinksy, zl, that not a day passes that he is masiach daas, diverts his attention, from thinking about his family…

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Vayeitzei, 5782

ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע... ושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך... כי לא אעזבך.

Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva… I will guard you wherever you go… for I will not forsake you. (28:10,15)

Yaakov Avinu was compelled to make a hasty departure from Be’er Sheva. He would have loved living in the vicinity of his parents, but that would have meant putting his life in mortal danger. After Yaakov’s “appropriation” of the brachos, blessings, Eisav swore that he would seek ultimate revenge. This was Yaakov’s cue to take an extended trip. He stopped in Beis El, and, while he was there, he was privy to an incredible dream in which Hashem assured him of His Divine protection and blessing. It should have been all good, with the Patriarch calm and looking forward to…

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Vayeitzei, 5782

ותקנא רחל באחותה

Rachel became jealous of her sister. (30:1)

Horav Shabsi Yudelewitz, zl (grandfather and namesake of the famous maggid), knew that his days on this world were numbered. He was not a well man to begin with, and the physical travail which he sustained emigrating to Eretz Yisrael during the turn of the century, followed by the poverty and hunger he experienced in Yerushalayim, had taken its toll on him. He knew that would soon go the way of all men. He and his wife had been assured early in their marriage by a great tzaddik, righteous person, that “In the future, you will give birth to a…

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Vayeitzei, 5782

ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע

Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva. (28:10)

Rashi comments that as long as Yaakov Avinu lived in Beer Sheva, he constituted its hod, glory, ziv, splendor, and hadar, beauty. Once he left the community, these qualities left with him – a phenomenon that occurs whenever a tzaddik, righteous man, of repute leaves a circle of people. His influence, which consists of these three qualities, departs with him. We must add that every individual tzaddik has his own unique form of these qualities. Thus, even though Yitzchak Avinu and Rivkah Imeinu remained, their form of these qualities left a different impact on those around them. Theirs was a…

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Toldos, 5782

אברהם הוליד את יצחק

Avraham begot Yitzchak. (25:19)

The Torah underscores that Avraham and Yitzchak were father and son. One would think this is a confirmed verity and does not require the Torah’s reinforcement. Apparently, as Midrash Tanchuma (quoted by Rashi) posits, the leitzanei ha’dor, cynics of the generation, intimated that Sarah Imeinu actually had become pregnant during her short captivity in the home of Avimelech, so that Avraham Avinu had not fathered Yitzchak, but actually, Avimelech had fathered him. Therefore, Hashem made Yitzchak’s features so undeniably similar to Avraham’s that no one could doubt Avraham’s status. Two questions glare at us: Why were these scoffers referred to…

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Toldos, 5782

ויאמר עשו אל יעקב הלעיטני נא מן האדם האדום הזה... על כן קרא שמו אדום

Eisav said to Yaakov, “Pour into me, now, some of the very red stuff… (He therefore called his name Edom).” (25:30)

Avraham Avinu fathered Yishmael about whom we read in the previous parsha. The other symbol of evil born from a Patriarch was Eisav ha’rasha, Yaakov Avinu’s twin. The Torah makes a point to enumerate the alufim, heads of the tribes, of both Yishmael and Eisav, more so than other pagan nations. This is because these two individuals/nations represent the root source of the evil of all the other pagan nations. Horav Moshe Shapiro, zl (Mimaamakim), explains that Yishmael and Eisav represent the two primary categories of the seventy nations of the world, with each individual nation drawing its source of…

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Toldos, 5782

הנה אנכי הולך למות ולמה זה לי בכרה

“Look, I am going to die, of what use to me is a birthright?” (25:32)

Eisav’s negative position vis-à-vis the bechorah, birthright, is clear: He was not interested in it. His reason: “I am going to die, of what use to me is a birthright?” Rashi explains Eisav’s rationale. He was likely to die as a result of performing the sacrificial service improperly. A deeper understanding of this may be that a life of relinquishment, or spiritual life as he knew it, was tantamount to death. Eisav viewed spirituality, with its various demands and strictures, as an imposition on his desired lifestyle. He was on earth to live – not die. A sincere person understands…

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Toldos, 5782

עקב אשר שמע אברהם בקלי וישמר משמרתי מצותי חקתי ותורתי

Because Avraham obeyed My voice and observed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees, and My Torahs. (26:5)

Hashem gifted the Holy Land to Avraham Avinu due to his fidelity in obeying Hashem’s word. The Torah speaks of four categories of commandments which cover the entire corpus of Biblical and Oral Law, including Rabbinic enactments that were established to safeguard the Torah from incursion. Avraham did all this without Hashem commanding him to do so. He was able to perceive the entire Torah through Ruach HaKodesh, Divine Inspiration, and he observed it voluntarily (Ramban). Chazal teach that Avraham even adhered to the law of Eiruv Tavshilin, joining two cooked foods, in order to prepare on Yom Tov for…

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Chayei Sarah, 5782

קבר אברהם את שרה אשתו אל מערת שדה המכפלה... היא חברון

Avraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpeilah… which is Chevron. (23:19)

The Meoras Ha’Machpeilah is the final resting place of four couples: Adam/Chavah; Avraham/Sarah; Yitzchak/Rivkah; Yaakov/Leah. As such, it is sacred ground which no one has penetrated and returned to report about. There was, however, one person who went, entered and even, exited – Horav Avraham Azulai, zl, author of the Chesed L’Avraham, great-grandfather of the Chida, zl. The story took place in 1643, in the city of Chevron. The sultan of the Ottoman Empire decided to visit the many places of distinction that were part of his vast empire. Chevron, which is home to the Meoras Ha’Machpeilah, was one of…

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Chayei Sarah, 5782

ואומר אל אדני אלי לא תלך האשה אחרי

And I said to my master, “Perhaps the woman will not follow me?” (24:39)

Rashi notes that the word u’lai, perhaps, is usually spelled with a vov. Here it is spelled without a vov, which allows for the three letters, aleph, lamed, yud to be read as eilai, to me. By using this (three letter) spelling, the Torah seeks to convey Eliezer’s personal hope. He, too, had a daughter whom he would have loved to marry off to Yitzchak. Therefore, when Eliezer asked Avraham what to do if by chance the girl refused to go with him, he was not simply asking a question; but rather hoping that she would not return with him….

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Chayei Sarah, 5782

ואבוא היום אל העין

“I came today to the spring.” (24:42)

Rashi comments, “Today I embarked, and today I arrived.” This teaches us that, “kaftzah lo ha’aretz, the earth contracted for him, allowing for his journey to be miraculously shortened.” Apparently, it was critical to seal the match that day since Hashem had caused a miracle to occur in order to bring both sides together in the most expeditious manner. Horav Shlomo Levenstein, zl, offers a practical reason for Eliezer’s hastened arrival: A shidduch was presented to the distinguished rav of a community regarding his son: the daughter of a wealthy businessman who lived in a different city. The prospective father-in-law…

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Chayei Sarah, 5782

ותאמר שתה וגם גמליך אשקה

And she said, “Drink, and I will even water your camels.” (24:46)

Rivkah is lauded for her incredible sensitivity and kindness in offering water to Eliezer. This was the finishing touch upon which her selection to be Yitzchak Avinu’s wife was predicated. Imagine, someone has been wearily trudging through the sun-baked wilderness. His throat is parched; he is sweating profusely. He badly needs water. Would the person who reaches out to him with a jug of water be considered especially kind or, simply a decent human being? Horav Eliyahu Dushnitzer, zl, explains that Rivkah’s greatness shone forth when she offered to water the camels as well. Eliezer had asked for a drink…

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Vayeira, 5782

ותצחק שרה בקרבה

And Sarah laughed to herself. (18:12)

Sarah Imeinu, the tzadekes, righteous and pious Matriarch, was a prophetess. Thus, her incredulous laughter begs elucidation. Is anything beyond Hashem’s ability? Indeed, it is specifically this question that Hashem presented to Avraham Avinu. Furthermore, why did Sarah deny her mirthful reaction to the news that she would have a child? It seems that when Avraham Avinu laughed at the same news, it was acceptable. Why did Sarah’s reaction draw the Almighty’s subtle rebuke? To set the record straight, Sarah Imeinu’s laughter was no different than that of Avraham; both expressed joy and gratitude. Nonetheless, Hashem saw a nuanced variation,…

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Vayeira, 5782

ויהי בשחת אלקים את ערי הככר ויזכר אלקים את אברהם וישלח את לוט מתוך ההפכה

And so it was when Hashem destroyed the cities of the plain that G-d remembered Avraham; so he sent Lot from amidst the upheaval. (19:29)

Rashi asks: What is the remembrance of Avraham concerning Lot? He explains that Hashem remembered that Lot was aware that Sarah was Avraham’s wife, and he heard Avraham say (in Egypt) that she was his sister. Lot did not divulge that Sarah Imeinu was, indeed, Avraham Avinu’s wife. Therefore, Hashem took pity on Lot. In other words, Lot was rewarded with his life because he did not inform the Egyptians that Sarah was actually Avraham’s wife. If Lot would have spoken up, the Egyptians would have killed Avraham, leaving Sarah a widow. Sarah was really Yiskah, the daughter of Haran,…

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Vayeira, 5782

והאלקים נסה את אברהם

G-d tested Avraham. (22:1)

The question is obvious: Why is the Akeidah, Binding (of Yitzchak), considered a test of Avraham Avinu’s conviction? One would think that for a thirty-seven-year old man to “stretch out his neck” and prepare to be slaughtered as an offering to Hashem is an extraordinary test of his own faith. Why is it not considered the test of Yitzchak? The commentators, each in his own idiomatic manner, offer an insightful explanation. Yitzchak Avinu achieved a level of spirituality which was extraordinary. As the first one willing to allow his father to slaughter him as a sacrifice to Hashem, Yitzchak not…

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Vayeira, 5782

וישם אותו על המזבח ממעל לעצים

And he placed him on the Altar atop the wood. (22:9)

The Yalkut Shemoni (Parashas Vayeira 101) teaches that Avraham Avinu’s eyes looked into Yitzchak Avinu’s eyes,while Yitzchak’s eyes gazed up at the Heavens. Tears dropped incessantly from Avraham’s eyes. We derive from here that Avraham did not abrogate his human emotions. He was a father whose overwhelming love for his son was evident throughout the Akeidah. His love for Hashem was evidently greater. Avraham wanted to carry out Hashem’s command with total equanimity and joy. Nonetheless, it pained him greatly that executing the command meant slaughtering his son. The Alter, zl, m’Slabodka wonders why Avraham did not subdue his emotions…

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Vayeira, 5782

וישב אברהם אל נעריו... וישב אברהם בבאר שבע

Avraham returned to his young men… and Avraham stayed at Be’er Sheva. (22:19)

The Torah informs us that following the Akeidah, Avraham Avinu, made an about face and returned home with the two lads – assistants (Eliezer and Yishmael) who had accompanied him and Yitzchak Avinu on this momentous journey. Four people left – three people returned. Where was Yitzchak? Targum Yonasan explains that the future Patriarch, who was prepared to relinquish his life for Hashem, seems missing from the equation. Apparently, Avraham had sent his primary son to Shem ben Noach to study in his yeshivah. Yitzchak spent the next three years studying Torah from Shem. This directive begs elucidation. Why did…

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Lech Lecha, 5782

לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך... ואעשך לגוי גדול

Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house… and I will make you a great nation. (12:1,2)

The Torah begins its introduction to the life of Avraham Avinu with Hashem’s command to him to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s home. No other introduction describes the Patriarch, his qualities, ethical and spiritual character and achievements up until this time. Conversely, concerning Noach, the Torah writes about his righteousness and perfection, his family and the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of the society in which he lived. It is almost as if Avraham Avinu’s spiritual persona and his moral compass were of no consequence concerning his role in the formation of our beliefs and his rise to…

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Lech Lecha, 5782

ואברם כבד מאד במקנה בכסף ובזהב

Now Avram was very laden with livestock, silver and gold. (13:2)

The mere mention of the word Ruzhin conjures up images of wealth and royalty. Indeed, the saintly Ruzhiner Rebbe, zl, was a legend in his own time. Everything about him, from his clothes to his living quarters to his total demeanor was resplendent with wealth and monarchy. Nonetheless, he was regarded as one of the greatest tzaddikim, righteous leaders, of his time. The greatest gedolim, Torah giants, of his generation would travel for weeks just to spend a brief visit with him. They viewed him as a Heavenly agent, dispatched to this world on a Divine mission to reach out…

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Lech Lecha, 5782

ותקח שרי אשת אברם את הגר המצרית שפחתה... ותתן אתה לאברם... ותהר ותקל גברתה בעיניה. ותעניה שרי ותברח מפניה... ויאמר לה מלאך ד' שובי אל גברתך והתעני תחת ידיה

So Sarai, Avram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maidservant… and gave her to Avram… she conceived… her mistress was lowered in her esteem… and Sarai dealt harshly with her, so she fled from her… and an angel of Hashem said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her domination.” (16:3,4,6,9)

The narrative concerning Sarah Imeinu and Avraham Avinu regarding Hagar, followed by Sarah’s anger, Hagar’s running away, and the angel’s instruction that she return, even if it meant submitting to Sarah’s domination, is confounding. Clearly, the profundity escapes the superficial reading of the story. Sarah has been recognized in our sacred tradition as a woman who represents the epitome of all good and noble virtues. To think that all this goodness dissipated when Hagar conceived and gave birth to Yishmael, especially when it was Sarah’s idea that Avraham take her on as an additional wife, is unacceptable. Furthermore, if Sarah…

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Lech Lecha, 5782

ובן שמונת ימים ימול לכם כל זכר לדורתכם

At the age of eight days, every male among you shall be circumcised throughout your generations. (17:12)

The following incident, which occurred about two hundred years ago with the saintly Chasam Sofer, gives us a glimpse into the extraordinary greatness of the man who is responsible for saving Hungarian Jewry from the tentacles of the Haskalah, Enlightenment. The Chasam Sofer was not only the leading posek, halachic arbiter, of his day, but also a holy and righteous Torah giant, who obviously was as comfortable in the Heavenly sphere as he was in the mundane world. The story is cited by Horav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, zl, who heard it from the son-in-law of the Rav of Kashua, a…

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Noach, 5782

צא מן התיבה אתה ואשתך

Go forth from the Ark, you and your wife. (8:16)

Chazal teach that when Noach emerged from the Ark to find a world destroyed, he complained to Hashem: “You should have shown mercy on Your children.” Hashem replied, “Foolish shepherd, you should have spoken up before I destroyed the world.” Clearly, Chazal’s words are laden with profound wisdom and numerous lessons. One message that Hashem’s words immediately impart addresses the need to care for others. Noach knew that a flood would occur. He seemed to be concerned for himself and his family. At the end of his journey, when he perceived the scope of the devastation, it hit home that…

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ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר

And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. (32:25)

It was in middle of the night that Yaakov Avinu encountered a “man” who fought with him until he was bested by the Patriarch. We know that this was no ordinary man – and no ordinary fight. This was none other than Eisav’s Heavenly angel, and the battle was one which represented the forces of evil against the forces of good. The angel representing Eisav lost the fight, but, throughout the millennia, he has not thrown in the towel, as he has attempted at every available juncture to turn the tide against Yaakov’s descendants. The question that confronts the reader…

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על כן לא יאכלו בני ישראל את גיד הנשה עד היום הזה

Therefore Bnei Yisrael are not to eat the Gid ha’nasheh, displaced sinew on the hip-socket,…to this day. (32:33)

When Eisav’s angel saw that he could not best Yaakov Avinu, he made one last attempt at maiming the Patriarch by striking his gid-hanashe. To commemorate this battle, Yaakov’s descendants are prohibited from consuming the nerves/sinew which are included under the rubric of gid ha’nashe. The commemoration of the miracle of Yaakov’s triumph in battle over the forces of evil seems counterproductive. Issur achilah, prohibition from eating, is a shev v’al taaseh, passive form of celebrating the miracle, the direct opposite of the manner in which we celebrate the many miracles which are part of our continued existence. Horav Moshe…

Continue Reading

ויקחו שני בני יעקב שמעון ולוי אחי דינה איש חרבו... ויהרגו כל זכר

And two of Yaakov’s sons, Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each (man) took his sword… and killed every male. (34:25)

In his commentary to Nazir 29b, Rashi comments based upon the Midrash that Levi was thirteen years old at the time that he and Shimon took vengeance on the men of Shechem. Wherever the Torah uses the word ish, man, it refers to someone over the age of thirteen years. Likewise, we find that Betzalel, architect of the Mishkan, was thirteen years old when he made the Mishkan. Concerning him, the Torah writes, Ish ish mimelachato, “Each (man) of them from his work” (Shemos 36:4). Additionally, we find that the Rambam reiterated the halachah that the age of thirteen years…

Continue Reading

ויהי בהקשתה בלדתה ותאמר לה המילדת אל תיראי כי גם זה לך בן

And it was when she had difficulty in her labor that the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for this one, too, is a son for you.” (35:17)

The Brisker Rav, zl, observes that Rachel Imeinu’s fear was not of dying, but rather, her anxiety resulted from her agonizing over losing a shevet, tribe, in Klal Yisrael. Thus, when the midwife told her, “Have no fear, this child will carry on your legacy as one of the Shivtei Kah, tribes of Hashem, Rachel calmed down and was prepared to confront her mortality. The Brisker Rav expressed a similar idea following the European Holocaust. He related to Horav Eliezer Palchinksy, zl, that not a day passes that he is masiach daas, diverts his attention, from thinking about his family…

Continue Reading

ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע... ושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך... כי לא אעזבך.

Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva… I will guard you wherever you go… for I will not forsake you. (28:10,15)

Yaakov Avinu was compelled to make a hasty departure from Be’er Sheva. He would have loved living in the vicinity of his parents, but that would have meant putting his life in mortal danger. After Yaakov’s “appropriation” of the brachos, blessings, Eisav swore that he would seek ultimate revenge. This was Yaakov’s cue to take an extended trip. He stopped in Beis El, and, while he was there, he was privy to an incredible dream in which Hashem assured him of His Divine protection and blessing. It should have been all good, with the Patriarch calm and looking forward to…

Continue Reading

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