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Learning From Our Children - Parashat Chaye Sarah 5780, November 22, 2019

This week’s parasha, Chaye Sarah, opens with the death of Sarah Imeinu – the mother of our nation. This presentation comes on the heels of the end of last week’s parasha – the discussion of the binding of Isaac and the discussion of the proliferation of Avraham’s extended family.

The verse at the beginning of this week’s parasha states, “And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Chevron, in the Land of Canaan; and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry over her.” Our Chachamim discuss the phrase, “and Avraham came” - from where was he was coming to eulogize his recently departed wife?

The Midrash offers two possibilities of where he was coming from. Rabbi Levi teaches that he was returning from burying his father, Terach. Rabbi Yose teaches that he was returning from Har HaMoriah – Avraham was returning from the episode of the binding of Isaac. According to Rabbi Yose, Sarah died out of the pain of hearing about the episode.

Both Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Yose agree that the subject that …
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Greater Than the Sum of its Parts - Parashat Vayera 5780, November 15, 2019

In this week’s parasha, VaYera, Avraham Avinu is told of Hashem’s plan to destroy Sedom and its four sister cities. The Torah describes these cities as places of decrepit morals populated by denizens of corrupt values.

The Torah recounts that Avraham asked Hashem to preserve the cities on account of the tzaddikim – the righteous people – who lived in the cities. Avraham inquires whether Hashem would destroy the cities if there were 50 righteous people. Hashem responds that He would not. Avraham then inquires whether Hashem would destroy the cities if there were 45 righteous people. Hashem responds that He would not. Avraham then inquires about 40, 30, 20 or even 10 righteous people. Hashem responds that in any of these cases, He would not cause destruction.

Our chachamim address a number of issues related to this interaction between Avraham and Hashem. One question that they address is why Avraham chose to inquire about 50, 45, 40, 30, 20 then 10 righteous people. What was Avraham’s l…

Blessings, Blessings, Blessings - Parashat Lech-Lecha 5780, November 8, 2019

In this week’s parasha, Lech Lecha, the Torah recounts the Avram’s return from an improbable victory in a war against the four kings. On the way, he encounters MalkiTzedek, the King of Shalem.

The Torah describes the meeting: “MalkiTzedek, king of Shalem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of G-d, the Most High. He (MalkiTzedek) blessed him saying, “Blessed is Avram of G-d, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be G-d, the Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

The Malbim, Rabbi Meir Leibush, asks why MalkiTzedek blessed Avram before blessing G-d. Although the Midrash, in fact, criticizes MalkiTzedek for prioritizing the blessings in this way, Malbim explains that MalkiTzedek’s decision to bless Avram before G-d is to MalkiTzedek’s credit.

To understand what justifies MalkiTzedek’s prioritization, we first need to ask another question – how can a human being bless G-d? To say that a human being is blessed is understandable – MalkiTzedek saw…

Noach, the Parent - Parashat Noach 5780, November 1, 2019

At the end of last week’s parasha, the Torah describes the generations that descended from Adam; naming his descendants and their children. The list concludes with Noach and his three children Shem, Cham and Yefet. In the beginning of this week’s parasha, the Torah reintroduces us to Noach – a tzaddik, a perfect individual and a man who walks with Hashem. The Torah then repeats that Noach fathered three sons – Shem, Cham and Yefet. We already know that Noach has three sons! Why does the Torah find it necessary to repeat itself?

The commentator Radak addresses this question. Noach merited to be saved from the flood because he walked with Hashem. In the face of the wicked people of his generation, Noach was only involved with serving Hashem. Just as Noach walked with Hashem, he taught his children to turn away from their wicked generation and to only serve Hashem and to cleave only to Him.

Based on a verse in the book of Yechezkel, Radak explains that if Noach’s children had not served Ha…

Chibuv Mitzvot - Loving Mitzvot - Parashat Ha'Azinu 5780, October 11, 2019

In the beginning of Masechet Avodah Zara, the gemara discusses the end of days and concludes the discussion with a presentation of two totally different attitudes towards the mitzvah of sukkah:

In times to come, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will take a scroll of the Law in His embrace and proclaim, “Let him who has occupied himself with this, come and take his reward.” All of the nations will crowd together in confusion. The Holy One, Blessed be He, will then say to them, “Do not come before Me in confusion, but let each nation come in with its scribes.”

The Kingdom of Edom (or Rome) will enter first before Him. The Holy One, Blessed be He, will then say to them, “With what have you occupied yourselves?” They will reply, “O Lord of the Universe, we have established many market-places, we have erected many baths, we have accumulated much gold and silver, and all this we did only for the sake of Israel, that they might [have leisure] for occupying themselves with the study of the Torah.…

The Destiny of the Jewish People is Guided by Hashem's Providence - Parashat VaYelech 5780 - October 4, 2019

This week, we read parashat VaYelech. Parashat VaYelech records some of the final words that Moshe conveyed to the Jewish People prior to his demise. At the end of these comments, Hashem shares a prophecy with Moshe in the presence of his successor, Yehoshua.

Hashem said, “Behold, you will lie with your fathers, and this nation will rise up and stray after the gods of the foreigners of the Land, in the midst of which the nation is entering. And the nation will leave Me and annul My covenant that I have sealed with it. My anger will flare against the nation on that day and I will leave them; and I will conceal My face from them and they will become prey and many evils and distresses will encounter it. (The nation) will say on that day, ‘It is not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?’ But I will surely have concealed My face on that day because of all the evil that it did, for it had turned to gods of others.”

Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno discusses this passage…

Standing Up - Parashat Nitzavim 5779, September 27, 2019

This week’s parasha, Nitzavim, describes Moshe’s inducting b'nei Yisrael into a covenant with Hashem. Moshe Rabbenu begins, “You, all, are standing (nitzavim) here today before the Lord your God. Your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in the midst of thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water.”
In the course of developing a very interesting theory about the uniqueness of this covenant, Ohr HaChayyim asks two questions on the text of Moshe Rabbenu’s announcement. First, when describing b'nei Yisrael standing in front of Hashem, why does Moshe use the word, nitzavim, as opposed to the more common word, omdim? Second, why does Moshe enumerate each segment of the Jewish People – heads, tribes, elders, officers, etc.?
Ohr HaChayyim begins by defining the word nitzavim more precisely. He explains that the word means standing in the sense of an appointment. Americ…