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Showing posts from November, 2017

Yitzchak's Blindness - Parashat Toldot - November 17, 2017

In this week’s parasha, Toldot, the Torah shines its spotlight on Yitzchak and Rivka. We are introduced to their children, Yaakov and Esav, and presented with some of the struggles that Yitzchak encountered in settling Eretz Yisrael.

The parasha culminates in Yitzchak’s blessing his two sons and the description of the ruse which Yaakov employs to receive the appropriate blessing from his father. The Torah begins this section with the introduction, vayehi ki zaken Yitzchak; vatechena einav me'reot - and Yitzchak was old and his eyes were dimmed from seeing (being able to see).

Our commentators discuss many issues about this verse, including, why, among the patriarchs, Yitzchak alone suffered from the dimming of his eyes. As they are wont to do, our commentators offer many explanations. According to the commentator, Imre Yosher, these explanations fall into two categories – those who maintain that Yitzchak’s blindness was a punishment for a transgression and those who maintain that …

Parents and Children - Parashat Chaye Sarah - November 10, 2017

This week’s parasha, Chaye Sarah, opens with the death of Sarah Imenu – 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 prec…

Visiting the Sick is an Encounter with the Almighty - Parashat Vayera - November 3, 2017

This week’s parasha opens with Hashem appearing to Avraham Avinu through prophecy while he was sitting in his tent in the heat of the day.

The Midrash famously comments that this interaction occurred on the third day of Avraham’s recovery from his brit milah. Based on this understanding, the Talmud in Masechet Sotah writes:

R. Hama son of R. Hanina further said: What does the verse: “You shall walk after the Lord your God (vehalachta bidrachav)” mean? Is it possible for a human being to walk after the Shechinah (Divine Presence); for has it not been said: “For the Lord thy God is a devouring fire”? But [the meaning is] to walk after the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He. As He … visited the sick, for it is written: “And the Lord appeared unto him (Avraham) by the oaks of Mamre”, so do you also visit the sick.

Through this teaching, our Chachamim convey that we are obligated to emulate Hashem’s ways of relating to the world. As He acts with mercy, so must we be merciful. As He…

Seeing Beyond What is in Front of Us - Parashat Lech Lecha - October 27, 2017

At the beginning of this week’s parasha, Lech Lecha, Avram – on the command of Hashem – picks up and moves to Canaan. After his arrival, the land experiences a severe famine. Avram decides to travel with his wife, Sarai, to the land of Egypt in search of food.

Knowing Egypt’s reputation as a decadent and corrupt society, Avram plans a ruse with Sarai – Avram and Sarai will present themselves as brother and sister as opposed to husband and wife. Should a powerful Egyptian take an interest in Sarai, Avram would be seen as a facilitator instead of a rival. Once in Egypt, Avram’s concern came to fruition and Sarai is noticed for her beauty. Sarai is taken to Paroh. Sarai escapes the clutches of Paroh unscathed only by the grace of Hashem’s Providence.

Our mefarshim debate the appropriateness of Avram’s decision to go to Egypt in search of food. The Ramban, Nachmanides, argues that because Avram knew how morally decrepit Egyptian society was at that time, he should never have left Canaan an…

Man Changed After the Flood - Parashat Noach - October 20, 2017

This week’s parasha, Parashat Noach, presents the personage of Noach - the link between the antediluvian and post-deluge worlds – the link between Adam and Avraham.

At the end of last week’s parasha, before introducing us to Noach, the Torah explains that Hashem will destroy the world because all of man’s inclinations were evil and his society had become corrupt. The world had been created for man’s benefit, yet man distorted and perverted its purpose – necessitating its destruction. Hashem commits to destroying the world. However, Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, chooses Noach as the vessel through which the world would maintain continuity with its beginnings.

After the deluge, Noach emerges from the ark and builds an altar to Hashem – upon which Noach offers animals as a sacrifice. Hashem accepts Noach’s sacrifice and commits to Himself to never again destroy the land and all living things. The Torah provides the rationale for Hashem’s commitment – because man’s inclinations are evil…