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The First Step is Admission - Parashat VaYikra 5776 - March 18, 2016

This Shabbat, we begin reading Sefer VaYikra and its first parasha, VaYikra. The parasha presents many of the different korbanot – sacrifices – that were offered in the mishkan and beit hamikdash.

One of the korbanot that the Torah presents is the korban asham va’dai – a sacrifice of a definite sin. In what situation would somebody bring a korban asham?

Rashi comments on the Torah’s use of the following phrase in reference to the korban asham va’dai – “and he will bring his sin sacrifice for the sin that he performed”. He explains that the case that demands this type of sacrifice is when the person who did the sin was not discovered by others but later he decided that he wanted to repent for his actions. Rashi explains that the first stage of addressing a sin is admitting guilt. After desiring repentance, the person rights whatever wrong he did (for example, repaying a debt). The last step of repentance is for him to bring a korban asham va’dai.

The commentary, Kli Yakar, elabor…

The Purim Mitzvot address Haman's Anti-Semitic Claims - Parashat Pekude 5776 - March 11, 2016

We are now in the month of Adar Sheni. The school is decorated and we are preparing ourselves for the festivities of Purim.

As we know, our Rabbis established four mitzvot of Purim:
Reading the Megillah - each man and woman is obligated to read or hear the megillah being read on Purim evening and on Purim daySpreading happiness through delivering gifts of food - each man and woman is minimally obligated to give two food gifts to one personEating a festive meal - each man and woman is obligated to eat a bread meal with wine and meatCharity to the poor - each man and woman is minimally obligated to give charity to two poor peopleWhat message do these particular mitzvot convey to those who observe them?

To address one answer to this question, let us examine Haman’s plan to destroy the Jewish People. Haman’s suggestion to Achashverosh to destroy the Jewish people was uniquely formulated. Haman said, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the p…

The Tension between the Community and the Individual - Parashat Vayakhel 5776 - March 4, 2016

This Shabbat we read the first of four special parshiyot that are read over the next five weeks – Parashat Shekalim. Parashat Shekalim describes the one-half shekel contribution that each member of b’nei yisrael was commanded to give to the operation of the mishkan. For the purposes of this contribution, individuals were not permitted to contribute more or less – irrelevant of their financial capability. Each member of b’nei yisrael gave exactly one-half shekel. By taking the sum of the total contribution and dividing by two, this half-shekel was used to calculate the population of b’nei yisrael – it served as the mechanism of conducting a census.

The Torah cautions us not to create a plague – a negef – on b’nei yisrael through the census. Our commentators struggle to explain the reason for this drastic outcome. Rabbi Yitzchak Arama – the author of Akedat Yitzchak – suggests that there is a danger in a census. Counting people – one, two, three, etc. – conveys the sense that a p…

Coping with Insecurity - Parashat Ki Tisa 5776 - February 26, 2016

This week’s perasha, Ki Tisa, describes the sin of the Golden Calf.

For forty days after Hashem’s revelation at Mount Sinai, B'nei Yisrael had been anxiously awaiting Moshe’s return. The pasuk says, “and the nation saw that Moshe delayed (boshesh) to come down from the mountain.”

There is a well-known Midrash on this pasuk. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: What is the significance of the Torah using the word boshesh – “And the nation saw that Moshe was boshesh, coming late.”? Do not read the word as boshesh – coming late – rather – ba’u shesh – six hours of the day came (and went). The Midrash continues: When Moshe ascended to heaven, he told b’nei yisrael that he would return at the end of 40 days at the beginning of the sixth hour. B’nei yisrael thought that the day that he ascended was to be included in the count of 40 days, when in fact, he said 40 complete days. He had ascended on the seventh of Sivan and he intended to return on the seventeenth of Tammuz. On the fortie…

Role Models Make a Big Difference - Parashat Tetzave 5776 - February 19, 2016

Perashat Tetzaveh presents the design of the bigde kehuna – the Priestly Garments. Tetzaveh is the only parasha of Moshe’s lifetime – four of five books of the Torah – that does not mention Moshe’s name. Clearly the focus of the Perasha is all on Moshe’s brother Aharon and his descendants.

Moshe Rabbenu’s role in the nation is clear. Hashem chose Moshe as His representative to the nation to bring them the Torah and to convey Hashem’s prophetic message. He announced the plagues to Pharoh in Egypt. Moshe Rabbenu was G-d’s messenger to the Jewish people.

What was Aharon’s role in the nation?

Aharon taught Torah to the people. He offered the nation’s sacrifices in the mishkan. Malbim explains that Hashem chose Aharon to be the nation’s messenger in serving Hashem and in teaching Torah. Thus Moshe and Aharon stood shoulder-to-shoulder. Moshe was Hashem’s representative to the people and Aharon was the people’s representative to Hashem.

What qualified Aharon to be the appropriate sele…