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Hadrash Ve-Haiyun Archives
- Shemos

Tu B'shvat

Dedicated L'zeicher Nishmas my grandfather,
Hagaon Rav Shmuel Dovid Warshavchik zt"l
upon his eighteenth yarzeit

The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 2:1) teaches us that the fifteenth day of the month of Shavat is the new year of trees. At first glance these words would lead us to believe that on this day the trees of the field are in full bloom. However, we are well aware that this not true. The fifteenth of Shavat falls in the middle of the winter when the trees exhibit no signs of life or renewal whatsoever. What then is the nature of the new year?

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) explain that the renewal is hidden. We have a tradition that on this day sap develops within the tree to a degree where its potential to produce fruit is complete.

Another example of the hidden nature may be noted in the fact that this day is exactly thirty days before Purim. A holiday casts its influence thirty days before its calendar date. For example, we are obligated to study the laws relevant to a holiday thirty days before its arrival. The theme of Purim is one of hidden miracles, thus the first manifestation of the hidden workings of Hashem can be sensed on Tu B'shvat.

The commentators also explain that the focus of Tu B'shvat is man. A tree is a symbol of man, "For the man is the tree of the field." (Devarim 20:19).

When Moshe sent spies to inspect Eretz Yisroel, he instructed them to determine "does it have trees or not." (Bamidbar 13:20). Rashi explains that Moshe asked the spies to see if the land had a righteous individual who would protect them in his merit. If such an individual was present the Jewish people would not be able to conquer the land at that time. Chazal tell us that this man was Iyov (Bava Basra 15a). Moshe wanted to know if he was still alive.

A righteous individual is compared to a tree. Just as a tree casts it shade upon the field and provides shelter, likewise the merit of a righteous individual shelters those who live within his community.

Thus we many suggest that the day of Tu B'shvat calls upon us to take note of the hidden righteous individuals who live among us. These are people who are not necessarily in the headlines nor in the limelight, but their deeds and conduct are precious to Hashem (G-D). It is in their merit we find shelter.


Purim

The Jews had light, gladness, joy, and honor. (Esther 8:16)

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory), when analyzing this posuk (verse), derive that the word "honor" refers to tefillin. The simple interpretation is that during the period of persecution that preceded the miracle of Purim the Jewish people were unable to publicly wear tefillin. However, in the aftermath of the miracle of Purim, there was a renewed commitment to the performance of this mitzvah (commandment).

Let us suggest a homiletic relationship between tefillin and Purim.

Chazal have instructed us to fulfill four mitzvos on Purim. They are: reading the megillah, sending food presents to our friends, distributing gifts to the poor and eating a Purim meal.

It is noteworthy that the tefillin also contain exactly four parshios (Devarim 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Shemos 13:1:10, 13:11-16). Perhaps we may suggest that the four mitzvos of Purim correspond to the four parshios the tefillin.

The first mitzvah is the reading of the megillah. This corresponds to the first parshah of tefillin. The first parsha of tefillin is the first parshah of shemah that we recite twice daily. In this parsha, we accept upon ourselves the yoke of heaven. Our acceptance of the yoke of heaven includes an awareness that Hashem (G-D) has created this world and continues to guide and govern every detail of its existence without interfering with our free will. By reading the megillah we similarly express our recognition that it was Hashem who brought about the details of the Purim miracle in a hidden and miraculous way.

The second mitzvah is the obligation to send food gift packages to our friends. This corresponds to the second parshah of tefillin. The second parsha of tefillin is the second parsha of Shemah that we recite daily. The major theme of this parsha is the reward that Hashem bestows upon us for fulfilling His commandments. The rewards are described as gifts of material blessing, which can be further used to serve Hashem. On Purim we similarly send gifts to our friends so that they can use them to enjoy the holiday and incorporate them in the mitzvah of the Purim meal.

The third mitzvah is the obligation to distribute gifts to the poor. This corresponds to the third parsha of the tefillin. The third parsha of tefillin focuses on the commandment to eat matzah on Pesach (Passover). Chazal teach us that matzah is the bread of a poor man. We eat matzah on Pesach to remember that we were spiritually and physically poor in Egypt. Hashem in His kindness lifted us from our poverty by redeeming us from Egypt and giving us the Torah. Similarly, on Purim we emulate Hashem and also distribute gifts to the poor.

The fourth mitzvah is the Purim meal. This corresponds to the fourth parsha of the tefillin. The fourth parsha of tefillin focuses on the mitzvah of redeeming the firstborn son. It is noteworthy the there are major similarities between this mitzvah and the miracle of Purim. Just as the firstborn boy is redeemed so too we were redeemed from death on Purim. Just as shekalim are used to redeem the firstborn, likewise the shekalim of Haman and the mitzvah of machtzis hashekel that preceded them played an important role in the Purim miracle.

We can further elaborate the connection between the fourth parsha of the tefillin and the festive meal of Purim. Chazal ascribe unusual importance and significance to the meal that accompanies the mitzvah of redeeming the firstborn. An early source for this meal is the Gemara (Bava Kama 80a). The commentators explain the spiritual power of participating in such a meal can have an effect that is equivalent to fasting for eight-four days. Some explain that it is for this reason that garlic is customarily distributed to the guests at this meal. Garlic has the characteristic that even a small amount can give taste to a large pot of food. One can preserve the holiness of this meal by saving a small amount of garlic. The garlic can be used to flavor an ordinary meal with the holiness of the redemption of the firstborn. An in-depth explanation of the significance and importance of this meal and especially the meaning of "eighty-four fasts" is beyond the scope of this devar Torah, however it is evident that chazal did attribute extra special significance to the meal that accompanies the redemption of the firstborn. On Purim we are similarly obligated to enjoy a lavish meal to commemorate the Purim miracle where the Jewish people who are called the firstborn child of Hashem (Shemos 4:22) were redeemed from evil.

It is noteworthy that the parshios of the tefillin contain numerous mentions of Hashem's name. The parshios are written with great care, precision and holiness. They are tightly rolled and covered with a piece of parchment. They are then inserted in a small compartment, which is stitched and sealed shut. It is also noteworthy that color of tefillin is black. The combination of the double enclosure of the parshios and darkness that envelop them is symbolic of the posuk "I shall surely hide my face of that day" (Devarim 31:18).

Chazal teach us that this posuk was fulfilled in the time of Purim. This occurred when Haman and Achashvayrosh decreed that every Jew be executed and the Jewish nation be totally annihilated (Esther 3:13). The Jewish people were stunned. They asked, "Where is G-d? How can He allow this to happen?" It appeared as if Hashem was hiding his face on that day. When the miracle of Purim occurred it was as if the mask of Hashem had been lifted. The intensity of revelation matched the depth of concealment. Indeed, the commentators explain the word megillah comes from the word "giluy", which means reveal. The reading of the megillah reveals the concealment of Hashem.

The parshios of the tefillin all year round remain wrapped and sealed in darkness. Few have seen even what their own parshios look like. This is symbolic of how Hashem's ways are hidden from us. However, Purim is the day when the parshios of the tefillin are revealed in a magnificent way. The major themes of what the four parshious represent are transformed into the commandments of the day, which are observed in public with great joy and excitement.

The Jews had light, gladness, joy, and Tefillin.


Shemos

The boy grew up and she brought him to daughter of Pharaoh and he was a son to her. She called him name Moshe (Moses) as she said "For I drew him from the water" (Shemos 2:10).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the origin of Moshe's name. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that although Moshe had as many as ten names, the primary name by which he was called was Moshe. This name was given to him by the daughter of Pharaoh in commemoration of her drawing him out of the water. Chazal tell us that the name of person captures his essence and mission in life. At the time of a child's birth, parents are endowed with a degree of prophecy in order that they give their child a name that will define his future mission and accomplishments. Moshe was no exception. Moshe's mission was to free the Jewish people from their enslavement in Egypt and transform them into a holy nation by accepting the Torah on Har Sinai (Mount Sinai). The transition point between these two major events took place with the splitting of the sea. Here the Jewish people were drawn from the water and saved as the Egyptians drowned. Thus the name Moshe also alluded to the time when Moshe will draw the Jewish people out of the sea of reeds.

Rashi here explores the exact root of the Moshe's name. First Rashi quotes the interpretation of Menachem ben Saruk. Menachem was a grammarian who wrote a sefer-dictionary called Machberes. Menachem relates that the name Moshe and word mih'she'se'hu, translated, I have drawn him, are derived from two root letters, mem-shin. This root is found in the posukim "It shall not be removed from your mouth this book of the Torah" (Ye'hoshuah 1:8) and "And the ark of Hashem's (G-D's) covenant and Moshe did not move away" (Bamidbar 14:44).

Rashi disagrees with Menachem demonstrating that the two letter root word mem-shin does not grammatically fit in the posuk (verse). Rather, Rashi explains that the root is three letters, mem-vav-shin. An example of a word derived from this root is "He will take me out of many waters" (Tehilim 18:17 and Sefer Shmuel II 22:7).

In conclusion we have a dispute between Rashi and Menachem ben Saruk as to the exact root of Moshe's name. It is either the two letter mem-shin as used in sefer (the book of)Yehoshuah or the three letter mem-vav-shin as used in Tehilim and sefer Shmuel. It appears that both of these words are translated in a similar manner. i.e., "remove" or "take out." Is there any difference between the two?

Let us suggest that there is indeed a subtle difference. Let us illustrate this with an example. Room A and Room B are adjacent to each other. A person is standing in Room A and moves to room B. Two things have happened. (1) The individual has left Room A and (2) the individual has entered Room B. What was this man's primary intent? Was it to leave Room A or to enter Room B? Similarly, although both the root mem-shim and mem-vav-shin mean to leave one location and enter another, the difference between the two is the emphasis of intent. The root mem-shin emphasizes leaving or disassociating oneself with something. It is not important where you go. What is important is that you have left. Indeed the posukim (verses) cited above as examples that use this two letter root mem-shin have this connotation. For example the first posuk speaks about our relationship with Torah. It commands us, not to let the Torah leave us. The posuk is not concerned where the Torah will go only that it not leave us, its origin. However, the root word mem-vav-shin puts the emphasis on the destination, where are we going. Indeed, the posuk cited as an example of a word that uses this three letter root, mem-vav-shin focuses not so much on the fact that we leave the many waters but that we return to Hashem. Here the emphasis is on the destination.

Hashem explained to Moshe that he would have a double role in redeeming the Jewish people. First he would be instrumental in freeing the Jewish people form their bondage. Second, he would transform them into a holy nation by preparing them to receive the Torah on Har Sinai.

We may thus suggest that both Rashi and Menachem agree that the name Moshe captures Moshe's essence and his complete role of redemption. This includes freeing the Jewish people from slavery and transforming them into a holy nation by receiving the Torah. The disagreement between them is the emphasis of the primary goal. According to Menachem, Moshe's primary function was to free the Jewish people from their enslavement in Egypt. What happened afterwards was secondary for Moshe. The goal of transforming the Jewish people into a holy nation was Hashem's role. Moshe would serve only in the background. According to Rashi however, Moshe's primary function was transforming the Jewish people into a holy nation by accepting the Torah. What happened before this was just a prerequisite.

Chazal teach us that when possible we should attempt to reconcile two different opinions concerning matters of Torah. "Both these and these are the words of Hashem's living Torah." When Hashem appeared to Moshe for the first time the posuk says: "Hashem saw that he turned aside to see; And Hashem called out to him from amid the bush and said "Moshe, Moshe …" (Shemos 3:4). Chazal tell us that a doubling of one's name connotes an expression of endearment and encouragement. Homiletically, we may suggest that Hashem called Moshe twice to allude to the dual mission required of him, the mission of freeing the Jewish people from slavery and the mission of transforming them into a holy nation by receiving the Torah. Hashem called to Moshe twice, once according to Menachem ben Saruk's understanding of his name and once, according to Rashi's understanding of his name.


She called his name Moshe (Moses), as she said "For I drew him from the water" (Shemos 2:10).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) Moshe is born. The Midrash lists various names of Moshe which allude to his great spiritual qualities. It is noteworthy that the exclusive name the Torah uses in reference to him is Moshe. The name Moshe was given to him by the daughter of Pharaoh in commemoration of her drawing him out of the Nile. The commentators are puzzled as to why the Torah specifically chose to refer to Moshe by this seemingly mundane name instead of one of his other names with allude to his spiritual qualities.

We are aware that Moshe was selected by Hashem (G-D) to serve as His agent in redeeming the Jewish people. It is noteworthy that Moshe was not the first man to act as a great savior. Noach similarly served as Hashem's agent to save life on earth at the time of the great flood.

If we contrast the method of salvation of Moshe with that of Noach perhaps we may have more of an appreciation of the name Moshe.

Both Moshe and Noach lived in difficult times when decrees of annihilation were issued. In the time of Noach, Hashem decreed that all life on earth would cease to exist due to the sins of the generation. Likewise, at the time of Moshe's birth, Pharaoh decreed that all male children be cast to the Nile. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) comment that this decree applied to non-Jews as well. The Egyptian astrologers could not determine if the savior of the Jews was to come from the Jews or the non-Jews and therefore out of doubt decreed that all male children be cast into the Nile.

Furthermore, we may note that both Noach and Moshe were saved by being placed in a tayvah (box/boat). However there is a difference with regard to the exact nature of their survival. With regard to Noah the posuk (verse) says that after the great flood passed the tayvah "rested" on Mount Ararat (Bereishis 8:4). This posuk teaches that Noach survived the flood. The danger passed and he survived. Moshe on the other hand was removed by the daughter of Pharaoh from the dangerous water. The danger remained but Moshe was removed.

Moshe and Noach represent two different types of salvation. When one is faced with a problem there are two methods with which one may deal with it. One way is to simply "wait out the storm." The second method is to actively deal with problem and overcome it. Noach followed the former type of salvation. He made it known that the world would be destroyed and gave all an opportunity to repent. He did nothing more. The people failed to repent and the flood came. Noach survived in the tayvah. The flood came and went and the tayvah eventually "rested" on Mount Ararat.

Moshe on the other hand took a hands on approach. He challenged the evil Pharaoh and succeeded in bringing out the entire nation from Egypt.

We many now return to the name of Moshe and Noach. Noach who survived by passively waiting out the storm is called Noach. The name Noach is related to the Hebrew word rest. His name is symbolic of how he survived. He allowed the flood to pass and eventually had the tayvah with its survivors "rest" on Mount Ararat, rather than leading an active campaign to inspire the world to repent and thus avoid the flood entirely.

On the other hand Moshe, who Chazal teach was on a higher level than Noach, saved the Jewish people by actively liberating them from their trouble. He was thus was called Moshe which is related to the Hebrew word draw.


She opened it and saw him, the child, and behold, a lad that was crying. She took pity on it and said this is one of the Hebrew boys. (Bereishis: 2:6)

The above posuk (verse) describes Basya's experience as she discovered Moshe (Moses). It is noteworthy that the words "and behold" throughout the Torah generally connote the unexpected. For example, when Yaakov discovered that he was deceived into marrying Leah the posuk says, "When it was the morning and behold it was Leah" (Bereishis 29:25). We may thus ask what was so unexpected that prompted the Torah to introduce Basya's experience with the words "and behold." We cannot suggest that the discovery of the child itself was unexpected. If this were the Torah's true intent then the words "and behold" should have appeared at the beginning of the posuk. The posuk should have been written "and she opened it and behold there was a child who was crying. The fact the Torah first informs us that there was a child and then goes on to say "and behold the child was crying" indicates that there was something unexpected regarding the child itself.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) note that the posuk here describes Moshe as a na'ar. This is difficult because generally the word na'ar is used when describing an older child or young adult. For example, we find this word used with regard to Yosef who was seventeen at the time (Bereishis 37:2). The appropriate word for an infant is yeled. Indeed, the beginning of this very posuk describes Moshe as a yeled. Why then did the posuk suddenly switch to na'ar? Rashi answers that Moshe's voice was mature as a na'ar. Since the posuk wished to describe his cry, it refers to him as a na'ar.

Perhaps we may suggest the following. Obviously, Moshe was not an ordinary child. Basya recognized from the very start that this child possessed an unusual degree of maturity. The posuk refers to him as a na'ar. Homiletically we may suggest that the word na'ar indicates not just a mature voice but also emotional, mental and spiritual maturity. Normally, with maturity comes the ability to contain one's feelings and suppress one's emotions. It is not common to see an adult cry. However, Basya saw something unusual. On the one hand Moshe was mature, yet he was crying. This combination was unexpected and unusual, thus "And behold a na'ar is crying."

Moshe manifested true qualities of Jewish leadership. Moshe is described as a na'ar bocheh (one that cries). The connotation of the word na'ar carries with it the characteristics of maturity, self-confidence, youthful energy and optimism. Indeed the Jewish people as a whole are described positively with this title. "Yisroel is a na'ar and I (Hashem) love him" (Ho'shay'ah 11:1). However, Moshe is also described as a bocheh, one that cries. The word bocheh carries with it the connotation of emotion, sympathy, pain and compassion. Moshe on the one hand was a strong powerful and aristocratic leader, yet at the same time a man of great compassion, a man that was able to relate to the pain and suffering of his people. "And it was in those days when Moshe was grown and he began to go out to his brethren and he saw their burdens (Shemos 2:11). This unique unexpected combination is what Jewish leadership is all about. "And behold a na'ar bocheh."

It is noteworthy that in the Torah there is another individual who possessed these same two characteristics. This was Yosef. The posuk clearly describes Yosef as a na'ar (Bereishis 37:2). The Torah also records numerous times that Yosef cried. (Bereishis 42:24; 43:30; 45:2,14,15; 46:29; 50:1). Yosef was also a na'ar bocheh.

Perhaps this explains the secret of Yosef's successful leadership and sheds light on the relationship between Yosef and Moshe. We find many connections between the two. Yosef at the end of his life told the Jewish People that Hashem would surely remember them with the words "pokod yifkod" (Bereishis 50:24,25). There was a longstanding tradition that the one who would utter these words would be the redeemer. Generations later it was Moshe who uttered these exact words and thereby inspired the Jewish people to redemption (Shemos 5:31).

When the Jewish people were preparing to leave Egypt they were preoccupied with borrowing gold and silver from the Egyptians. At the same time Moshe was busy retrieving the bones of Yosef.

The common denominator of Moshe and Yosef is the characteristic of na'ar bocheh, a unique quality and necessary element of our past and future redemption.


A man went from the house of Levi and he took a daughter of Levi. (Bereishis 2:1)

Commenting on this posuk (verse), Rashi writes that due to the hardship of the shibud (servitude), Amram divorced his wife. Amram assessed that in all likelihood children born at this time would perish and were therefore better off not being born. Miriam, his daughter, convinced him that he was mistaken. She argued that Pharaoh had only decreed that male children be put to death, whereas his divorce prevented the birth of female children as well. In addition, it was uncertain if Pharaoh's decree would endure, whereas his behavior would certainly prevent the birth of any children. Amram was convinced and the next perek (chapter) begins with us being told that a man from the house of Levi took a daughter of Levi. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) inform us that this refers to the remarriage of Amram and Yocheved. The Torah then relates that Moshe was subsequently born from this union. A short while later we are told that Moshe's family was no longer able to hide him and he was cast into the Nile. Rashi explains that Moshe's family was able to hide him for three months because he was born three months prematurely. For these three months the Egyptians did not suspect the birth of a child because they only counted nine months from the time that Amram remarried Yocheved.

We may ask, why does the Torah tell us that Amram remarried Yocheved? The simple understanding is that the Torah wishes to relate the story of Moshe's roots, who his parents were, and the precise time he was conceived.

It is noteworthy that the Gemara (Sotah 12a) has a different understanding of these events. According to the Gemara, Moshe was not born prematurely. Moshe was born full term. The reason why his parents were able to hide him for three months was because Yocheved, Moshe's mother was already three months pregnant at the time when Amram remarried her, and was already pregnant with Moshe at the time that Amram divorced her. The Egyptians who were unaware of this counted nine months from the time that Amram took her back, not from the time that Moshe was actually conceived. Moshe's family thus had three months to hide him before the Egyptians came for inspection.

With this new understanding of the events we may ask again, why was it necessary for the Torah to tell us that Amram remarried Yocheved? According to the Gemara, Moshe was already conceived and would have been born even if Amram had not remarried Yocheved. Why then did the Torah relate this fact? We are forced to say that that only reason that the Torah related this fact is to tell us why they were able to hide Moshe for three months. This is because the Egyptians only counted from the time that Amram took back his wife and not from the time Moshe was actually conceived.

Let us suggest a homiletic approach to answer this question.

In the realm of halacha (Jewish law) we find differences between a person who is born to a Jewish mother and one who converts to Judaism. For example, one who is born to a Jewish mother is halachikly related to his mother and his mother's other children, whereas one who converts is not halachikly related to his blood relatives. A complicated question arises with regard to a non-Jewish pregnant woman who converts to Judaism. What status does the child have? On one hand, the child is born to a Jewish woman. On the other hand, the child was conceived when the mother was a non-Jew. The core of the question focuses on the precise moment that determines the status of the child. Do we follow the moment of birth or do we follow the moment of conception? The commentators explain with regard to different aspects of halacha we follow both.

Although the details of this halacha are beyond the scope of this article, what is important to note is the concept that there are two defining periods in the creation a person. The first is the time of conception and the second, the time of birth.

The first perek of sefer Shemos (The Book of Exodus) describes the generation that actually descended to Egypt. The first perek lists in detail the names of the people who descended to Egypt. Later in this perek we are told of the beginning of the exile and how Pharaoh tried his best to destroy the Jewish people. Indeed, from Rashi (Shemos 2:1) it appears that the first perek ends with the lowest point of the exile. This is where Amram the leader of the Jewish people divorced his wife. His action conveyed a sentiment of despair and hopelessness.

The first posuk of the next perek begins with the story of a man remarrying a woman. Rashi tells us that it was Miriam, who convinced her father to persevere. Miriam represented the new generation. Although this generation did not witness the full spiritual glory of Yaakov and his children, they did not give up hope of redemption. They believed that they would survive against all odds. Miriam's behavior was contagious. She succeeded in convincing her father who in turn set an example for all of the Jewish people.

Thus, the first perek describes the old generation, a generation that actually descended to Egypt. This generation witnessed first hand the spiritual glory of Yaakov and his children. They suffered greatly, and as seen from the conduct of Amram were affected by the hardships of the Egyptian servitude. The second perek begins with the influence of the new modern generation. Although they had not witnessed firsthand the greatness of the founders of the Jewish nation, yet due to their youth they expressed a contagious freshness of faith that influenced the old generation. Miriam who was influential in convincing Amram to take back Yocheved personified this.

We find in history many times where a succeeding generation attempts to sidestep the ideals and values of the older generation. The new generation generally feels that their elders are antiquated. They seek reform and innovative ideas to correct their errors. This is not the way of the Torah. Succeeding generations should make use of their new ideas only to enhance and expand the ideals and cherished values of the old generation. When new movements are in conflict with traditional values they should be disbanded.

According to the Gemara, Moshe our leader was conceived in the first perek of Shemos but was born in the second perek of Shemos. In other words, Moshe was conceived in the old generation but born in the new generation. Thus Moshe was a product of both generations. The symbolic significance is that Moshe would be the one who would bridge the generation gap. One the one hand, Moshe had the fresh outlook of the new generation since he was born in that generation, yet, also had the connection to the spiritual greatness of the past because he was conceived in the past generation.

The commentators tell us that the leader of every generation has a spark of our first spiritual leader, Moshe rabbainu (Our Teacher). In order for a spiritual leader to succeed he must be sensitive to the spirit of times, the values and ideals of the current generation. However his agenda should be to elevate and connect his people to the spiritual greatness of their past.


And the king of Mitzrayim (Egypt) said to the Jewish midwives, whom the name of one was Shifra and the name of the second was Puah. He said, when you assist the Hebrew women at childbirth and you see on the birth stool, if it is a son, you are to kill him and if it is a daughter she shall live. But the midwives feared Hashem and they did not do as the king of Mitzrayim commanded them and they kept alive the boys. (Shemos 1:15-17)

Why does the posuk repeat the expression "and (the king of Mitzrayim) he said." Did not the conversation take place at one point in time? In addition, Why does the posuk (verse) hide the identity of the midwives whom we know to be Shifra and Puah? Why does it refer to them in terms of their work, i.e., they beautified and pacified the newborns?

Let us attempt to answer these questions by suggesting the following: The king of Egypt knew that he will not succeed by directly instructing the midwives to kill all male children. The future mothers upon hearing the decree would not allow a midwife to assist in their childbirth. They would attempt to conceal their pregnancies or go into hiding. Therefore, in order to fool the mothers, the king instructed the midwives to follow a two-part plan. Part one of the plan called for the midwives to extend themselves and perform well beyond the call of duty in order to attain an excellent reputation. The normal job of a midwife was only to assist the mother of the child and supervise the birth. After the birth, their job was complete and they were free to leave. The king instructed them to linger on, where they would then have the opportunity to beautify and pacify the child. By performing this extra work, they would attain a spectacular reputation for their devotion and care. This would then result in their services being highly sought after and thereby allowing the midwives to know who are the expectant mothers. After their reputation would be established and they would have all the information they need, then they would be ready for part two. Part two called for the midwives to suddenly deceive the mothers and kill all male children born at that time.

It is important to note that for the period of time of part one of the plan, many male children would be allowed to live. In the king's opinion this was an investment needed to attain the greater goal of killing out a larger number at a later point. Alternatively, the king's astrologers may have told him that at a specific time the savior of the Hebrews will be born. Thus, the grace period was just a preparation for that specific time.

With this thesis we may now attempt to answer our questions. Our first question was why did the posuk say twice "and he said." The answer is one for each part of the plan. In order to explain we must reinterpret the posuk.

The posuk simply reads: And the king said to the midwives whose names were Shifra

and Puah. However we may now interpret this as follows: And the king said to the midwives see to it that your names should be called Shifra and Puah. Even though I am aware that your names are really Yocheved and Miryam, I am commanding you to give the newborn extra special care so that people should call you by the name of your work, i.e., beautifying and pacifying the child. The king then went on to part two with the expression "and he said." He then informed them that the purpose of this trustworthy reputation would be to attain private information that would be essential in implementing the master plan i.e., killing out the male children at the end.

Later upon learning that they failed to kill out the male children the king was not only angry why they failed to fulfill his wish but puzzled as well. He asked the midwives, if you had no intent of fulfilling part two of my plan by killing the male children, why then did you bother to work so hard and fulfill the first part of my plan by performing the extra work. If you planned to rebel against me, what difference does it make how and when you rebel? Why did you trouble yourselves to take extra special care of the newborns? This interpretation can be found in the words of the posuk. The posuk reads "And the king said why did you do this thing and why did you let the children live. Why is the posuk redundant? Why the need for the phrase "why did you do this thing." Would it not have been simpler to state and the king said why did you allow the children to live? The answer is now apparent. The first part of the expression is referring to the extra special work of beautifying and pacifying the newborns and the second part is referring to the second part of the plan. In essence, the king was asking them why did you trouble yourself to fulfill the first part of the decree when you had no intent of keeping the second.

Their response was "The Jewish women are not like the Egyptian women." An Egyptian woman only needs a midwife to assist the mother in the actual birth. Caring for a newborn afterwards is not part of the job. The Egyptians don't care to give the child his basic human dignity of beautifying pacifying him The Egyptians call this "overtime" and are billed accordingly. In contrast, the Hebrew women do not even need midwifes for the actual birth. A Hebrew woman can take care of herself. If you will then ask what then is the purpose of our profession? The answer is we come to provide care for the newborn. What an Egyptian considers a luxury is considered as basic human dignity by a Hebrew child, and that is the purpose of our profession. We beautify and pacify the child. We give the child the basic happiness that a Hebrew child deserves. The midwives were in essence telling the king, don't be puzzled that we have attained a good reputation. It is not as you think that we have exerted ourselves to fulfill the first part of your plan but failed in the second. In truth, we didn't even fulfill the first part because this is what we would have done anyway.


Va'eira

Behold, at this time tomorrow I shall rain a very heavy hail such as there has never been in Egypt, from the day it was founded until now. (Shemos 9:18)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the plague of hail. Rashi, commenting on the words "at this time tomorrow" writes that Moshe (Moses) scratched a mark on the wall and said to Pharaoh that tomorrow when the sun's rays reach this point the hail will descend. It is noteworthy that only with regard to the hail was the moment of its arrival predicted with such precision. All other plagues began as Moshe or Aaron performed a specific action as commanded by Hashem (G-D) or on its own at a non specific moment. Even regarding the last plague, the slaying of the firstborns we find Moshe telling Pharaoh that it will occur 'approximately' at midnight.

The birth of Yitzchak (Isaac) was also predicted with a scratch on the wall. Rashi (Bereishis 21:2) says that a year before the birth of Yitzchak, the angel who was visiting Avraham (Abraham) etched a scratch on the wall and told him that next year when the sun's rays reach this mark Sarah will give birth to a child. What is the connection between the plague of hail and the birth of Yitzchak in that both were predicted in a similar fashion?

Perhaps both the birth of Yitzchak and the plague of hail represent the concept of yiras shamayim, i.e., fear of heaven. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that Yitzchak represents the trait of fear. Yitzchak's father, Avraham introduced the trait of love for the Jewish People. We thus find Avraham associated with kindness, an outgrowth of love for another person. However, at times there is a need to balance love with fear. This was Yitzchak's contribution. Indeed, Yitzchak's association with the trait of fear is mentioned to in the Torah. The posuk says "And Yitzchak trembled a great trembling ..." (Bereishis 27:33). And Yaakov (Jacob) swore by the dread of his father Yitzchak (Bereishis 31:53).

Similarly, the plague of hail was a test of the Egyptian people's fear of heaven. Moshe clearly warned them to gather in their livestock and possessions before the coming of the hail so that they would not be destroyed. The Torah tells us that those who feared the word of Hashem brought inside their servants and livestock and whoever did not take the word of Hashem to heart left their servants outside in the field (Shemos 9:20-21). The plague of hail was the only plague that the Egyptians could have avoided. They had free will. All they needed to do was exercise their free will to be saved.

Chazal tell us that everything in this world is in the hands of heaven except for fear of heaven (Berachos 33b). Chazal further teach us that the only thing Hashem has in his storehouses is a treasure of fear of heaven. (Berachos 33b) Thus the greatest satisfaction Hashem has is when man exercises his free will to fulfill His will. We may suggest that this is why both the birth of Yitzchak and the plague of hail were announced and predicted with a scratch on the wall. This tangible mark of time indicates a yearning for the moment of arrival. Actions of man that express fear of Hashem are truly the only yearning of Hashem.

The posuk (verse) says "It will shine for those who fear my name a sun of righteousness ..." (Malachai 3:20). The posuk simply means that those who fear Hashem will benefit from the rays of Hashem's Divine Presence. We may homiletically interpret the posuk as referring to those marks mentioned above. Just as these two moments in time were awaited for by the creation of a scratch that would be illuminated by the rays of the sun at a precise moment, likewise throughout history there are many moments that Hashem looks forward to. Hashem who knows the future recognizes that these moments will bring with them expressions of fear of heaven. Thus the posuk may be interpreted as meaning that Hashem yearns for the moment when the rays of sun will shine on those scratches (the moments) when man will exercise his free will in an expression of yiras shamayim.


For this time I shall send all My plagues against your heart, and upon your servants and your people, so that you shall know that there is none like me in all the land. (Shemos 9:14)

Rashi takes note that from this posuk (verse) we may derive that the plague of hail was equal to all the other plagues combined. (This is true according to the Ma'harsha's version of Rashi as well as the standard version according to the interpretation of the Mizrachi.) What was unique about the plague of hail that gave it the status of being considered equal to all the other plagues combined? Further why only concerning this plague did Pharaoh declare, "This time I have sinned, Hashem (G-D) is the righteous One and I and my people are the wicked ones." Shemos 9:27)

Rav Baruch Epstein zt"l in his sefer (book) Tosefes Bracha takes note that when Pharaoh asked Moshe (Moses) to entreat Hashem that the hail stop, he did not mention the word "rain." However, later when the posuk records that that the hail stopped the posuk says, "the hail and the rain did not come down to earth" (Shemos 9:33). Further, when Pharaoh saw that the plague ended the posuk says "Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail and thunder ceased and he continued to sin" (Shemos 9:35) Why is the word "rain" not mentioned in Pharaoh's request but is mentioned twice later when the plague actually came to an end?

In his answer, Rav Epstein preliminarily quotes a posuk in parshas (section) Eikev. The posuk says "For the land to which you come (Eretz Yisroel) to take possession is not like the land of Egypt from where you left, where you would plant your seed and water it by your foot like a vegetable garden. However the land to which you cross over to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys, by the rain of the heavens it drinks water" (Devarim 11:10,11). Commenting on this posuk, Rashi contrasts the difference between Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel) and Egypt. The land of Egypt would require you to bring water from the Nile by your foot and to irrigate it. You must wake from your slumber and toil. The land that is low drinks but not that which is high. You would bring up the water up from the low land to the high lands. However concerning Eretz Yisroel it is written, "by the rain of the heavens it drinks water." You sleep on your bed while Hashem waters the low land and the high land, both that which is in the open and that which is not in the open together.

From the above posuk and Rashi's commentary we learn what a wonderful blessing it was to live in a land that is watered by Hashem's rain instead of living in a land that required the toil of irrigation.

Rav Epstein explains that the destructive hail was accompanied by rain. This is indicated in the posuk, which says that, "Hashem rained hail upon the land of Egypt" (Shemos 9:23), instead of it simply saying that Hashem caused hail to descend upon the land of Egypt. The phenomena of rain in Egypt was cause of great excitement. Although the destruction wrought by the hail prevented the Egyptians from enjoying the blessing of rain yet it made them aware of something that they never had but could have desperately used.

When Pharaoh begged Moshe to entreat to Hashem that the hail stop he was careful not to request that the rain stop as well. This explains why there is no mention of rain in Pharaoh's request. As far a Pharaoh was concerned he would prefer that the rain continue, as this would be a great blessing for his country. Hashem punished Pharaoh not only by smiting the land with hail but by also putting and end to rain when the hail ceased. The posuk continues to record Pharaoh frustration and it says that when Pharaoh saw that the rain had stopped as well, his heart was hardened and he refused to send out the People.

With this in mind we could perhaps answer our previous questions. There are two ways one can punish a sinner. The first way is simply to bring suffering or punishment upon the individual. The second way is to show the sinner what reward he would have received had he not sinned. When the sinner sees what he has been denied due to his evil ways, he is filled with pain and grief. This type of punishment can be far more powerful then the first type. Indeed the commentators explain that this is the form of punishment a sinner receives in Gehenom. In the next world a person perceives what spiritual pleasure he has lost due to his evil deeds in this world. This pain burns within him. This is the fire of Gehenom.

The plague of hail was unique in that it was accompanied by the blessing of rain. Rain would have been a great gift for Egypt. Had there been rain in Egypt the people would be able to spend their time more productively instead of toiling to irrigate the land. The rain that accompanied the hail was a tease to the Egyptian people that they were not worthy of receiving rain due to their evil ways. In contrast, the Jewish people were the ones destined to enjoy the blessing of Eretz Yisroel, the land blessed with rain.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the composition of the hail was water on the outside and fire within. This character of the hail defined the nature of the suffering. When the Egyptians were made aware of the rainwater that they did not deserve a painful fire burned within them.

The plague of hail was severe in that not only did it bring destruction but also brought suffering in its wake. It was a combination of both types of punishment mentioned above. Therefore it is considered equal to all the other plagues combined. Since this revelation caused the Egyptians to reflect that they were truly not worthy of blessing, Pharaoh was awakened to declare, "Hashem is the righteous One and I and my people are guilty ones."

Therefore say to the children of Israel: I am Hashem, (G-D) and 1) I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; 2) I shall rescue you from their service. 3) I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 4) I shall take you to me for a people and 5) I shall be a G-d to you; and you shall know that I am Hashem your God, who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt 6) I shall bring you to the land about which I have raised my hand to give it to Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and 7) I shall give it to you as a heritage - I am Hashem.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the four cups of wine that we drink at the seder correspond to the four expressions of redemption. If we take a careful look at the posukim (verses) where these expressions appear we will note that there seem to be more. Indeed, some commentators explain that the cup we pour for Eliyaho Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) corresponds to the fifth expression of "I shall bring you to the land." We may thus ask, why did chazal count only four? The answer is that chazal were only counting expressions that relate specifically to the holiday of Pesach (Passover). The remaining expressions correspond to events that occurred after the Exodus, namely matan Torah (The Giving of the Torah) and thereafter.

We may note that the posukim mention seven expressions of redemption. They are: 1) I shall take you out, 2) I shall rescue you, 3) I shall redeem you, 4) I shall take you to me, 5) I shall be a God to you, 6) I shall bring you to the land 7) I shall give it to you as a heritage. What is the significance of these seven expressions?

In the sefer (book) Moadei Yisroel, Harav Shlomo Goren z"l notes that in our twenty-four sifrei hatanach (Books of the Scriptures) it is recorded that the Jewish people as a whole offered the karbon pesach (Passover sacrifice) seven times. They are as follows: 1) During the actual Exodus (Shemos 12:28). 2) Exactly one year after the Exodus as the Jewish people encamped in the desert (Bamidbar 9:1-3). 3) In the era of Yehoshua, after the Jewish people entered Eretz Yisroel and encamped in Gilgal. (Yehoshua 5:5). 4) In the era of Shaul Hamelech as he prepared the Jewish people for war against Amalek (Shmuel I 15:4, see Targum Yonason). 5) In the era of Chizkiyahu Hamelech (Divrei Hayamim II 30:5). 6) In the era of Yoshiyahu Hamelech (Divrai Hayamim II 35 1-13). 7) In the era of Ezra, as the Jewish people inaugurated the second Beis Hamikdash (Ezra 6:19-22).

It goes without saying that all the years that the Jewish people occupied Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel) the karbon pesach was certainly offered. The posukim need not teach us this for Tanach is not a history book. Tanach records only significant ethical and moral lessons in history. Thus, if Tanach chose to emphasize specifically these seven incidences when the Jewish people offered the karbon pesach, obviously there is special significance.

Let us suggest that the above seven expressions of redemption correspond to the seven times the Jewish people celebrated the pesach offering in Tanach (Scriptures).

The first expression of redemption is "I shall take you out of Egypt." This clearly corresponds to the actual Exodus where the Jewish people offered the karbon pesach on the eve of leaving Egypt.

The second expression is "I will save you." This correspond to the karbon pesach that the Jewish people offered in the desert. Here, for the first time the Jewish people actually felt that they had been saved from their oppressors. In the previous year as they offered the karban pesach in Egypt they still felt the danger of their enemies. Now a year later after the sea of reeds spit out the dead Egyptians, the Jewish people were assured that their enemies were dead. Now they could truly consider themselves saved. In addition, we may suggest that at this point the Jewish people completed their first full year of miraculous survival in the desert. Thus, they offered the karbon pesach with the feeling of appreciation that they were saved from the great dangers of the desert.

The third expression is "I shall redeem you." This correspond to the karbon pesach that the Jewish people offered as they entered Eretz Yisroel. In parshas behar the word geulah (redemption) is used extensively in reference to redeeming land and property that one sold or has ancestral claims to. Eretz Yisroel is our ancestral land. Hashem promised the land to our forefathers Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov. When the Jewish people entered Eretz Yisroel and took possession of Eretz Yisroel the concept of geulah was realized in its fullest meaning. Thus when the Jewish people offered the karbon pesach as they entered Eretz Yisroel in the time of Yehoshua, it was with a true sense of "I shall redeem you."

The forth expression is "I shall take you to me for a people." This expression corresponds to the karbon pesach offered in the time of Shaul Hamelech (King Shaul). The Gemara teaches, "There is no such thing as a king without a people." Conversely, we may say that there cannot be a people without a king." The Gemara teaches that the kingdom of the earth has the likeness to the Kingdom of Heaven. Shaul Hamelech was our first king and his sovereignty advanced the Jewish people as a nation. The relationship between a human king and his nation is only a reflection of the relationship between Hashem and his people. Shaul's sovereignty highlighted our relationship with Hashem as His people. Thus, the karbon pesach offered this time was offered with a feeling of "I shall take you to me for a people."

In addition we may suggest that this karbon was offered at the time that the Jewish people prepared for war with Amalek. Amalek is described in the Torah as the first nation. This is interpreted to mean a powerful nation. At this time we offered the karban pesach with the awareness that we are the nation of Hashem and thus have no need to fear even the first nation.

The fifth expression is "I shall be a God to you." This corresponds to the karbon pesach offered in the era of Chizkiyahu Hamelech. Ever since the time when the kingdom of the Jewish people was divided between malchei Yehudah and malchei Yisroel, (Kings of Judea and Kings of Israel) the ten tribes of Malchei Yisroel were not permitted to ascend to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices. As for a replacement for the Beis Hamikdash, Yeravom ben Nevat constructed his own altar and offered sacrifices upon it, not according to halachah. During these years it seemed as though there were two gods for the Jewish people. One, for the followers of Malchei Yehudah and another for the followers of Malchei Yisroel. Chizkiyahu Hamelech (King Hezekiah) unified the kingdoms. He demanded that the ten tribes of Malchei Yisroel reunite with Malchei Yehudah and offer together the karbon pesach in Jerusalem. The Karbon was offered with a feeling of "I shall be to all of you as a God." We may note that the posuk does not say "to you" in the singular but in the plural. The posuk conveys that the time will come when all the various factions of the Jewish people will reunite and Hashem will be a God over all as during this era.

The sixth expression is "I will bring you to this land." This corresponds to the era of Yoshiyahu Hamelech (King Josea). The Gemara (Arachin 33a) teaches in the name of Rebbi Yochanan that Yermiyahu Hanavei restored the ten lost tribes and Yoshiyahu Hamelech ruled over them. The commentators explain this to mean that Yermiyahu restored only part of the ten lost tribes as we have a tradition that they will not be restored. Nevertheless, a significant number of those who had been exiled returned to the land. Certainly during this period the Jewish people offered a karbon pesach accompanied by a feeling of "I will bring you to the land."

Finally the last expression is "I shall give it to you as a heritage." This corresponds to the karbon pesach offered during the time of Ezra. In the era of Ezra the Jewish people re-captured Eretz Yisroel and rebuild the Beis Hamikdash. The Gemara teaches, according to one view, that the sanctity of the land during the era of the first Beis Hamikdash (Temple) was not permanent. The land only retained its sanctity while the Jewish people occupied the land. When the first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed and the Jewish people went into exile the sanctity departed. However, the sanctity bestowed to the land with the second conquest was permanent and did not depart even with the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash and our exile. Just as an inheritance is permanent and not subject to change, likewise it was during the second conquest that Eretz Yisroel received its permanent status of holiness and its character of an inheritance. Thus, we may assume that during the time of Ezra, the karbon pesach offered was accompanied with a feeling of "I shall give it to you as a heritage."

The Exodus is not limited to the actual story of our emancipation from Egyptian bondage. The Exodus is a recurring theme in Jewish history. Every generation has its obstacles and challenges. When we as a nation overcome our hardships, we are reliving the Exodus. This is highlighted by the offering of a karbon pesach at seven critically challenging moments in our history. Indeed, we recite in the haggadah, "In every generation they stand up to destroy us but Hashem saves us from their hands." Let us note that the word "they" is not limited to our enemies but also to the Yezer Harah,(Evil Inclination) particularly its destructive impact on interpersonal behavior. Hashem gives us the strength to overcome these destructive tendencies.

It is noteworthy that the seven expressions of redemption are sandwiched between the repetition of the phrase "I am Hashem." What is the significance of this?

The first two attributes of mercy are "Hashem, Hashem." Chazal were troubled as to how the same name of Hashem can refer to two separate attributes of mercy. They explained that the first "Hashem" relates to the attribute of Hashem's mercy before we sin. Due to Hashem's knowledge of future events, our future sins are revealed before Him. The attribute of Divine Justice demands that we be punished in advance for the sins that we will commit. Nonetheless, Hashem has mercy on us and does not hold us responsible in advance. The second "Hashem" correspond to Hashem's mercy after we sin. Even after we sin and are surely deserving of punishment Hashem still has mercy and withholds punishment.

Just as the repetition of Hashem's name is interpreted as referring to His mercy with relation to the past and the future so too we may suggest this applies to the seven expressions of redemption. The repetition of the phrase "I am Hashem" signifies that as we read about the past seven expressions of redemption, we must believe that all seven expressions of redemption will occur again in the near future.


Behold, with the staff that is in my hand I shall strike the waters that are in the river and they shall change into blood. (Shemos 7:17)

Commenting on this posuk, the Midrash quotes Rebbi Yehudah who says that the weight of Moshe staff was four hundred sah. It is interesting that the same Rebbi Yehudah later in Parshas Ki Sisa says that the luchos also weighed exactly four hundred sah. This is difficult to understand because seemingly the size of the luchos were much larger then the size of Moshe's staff. How then can they have the same weight? The answer does not lie in the materials used since in both places Rebbi Yehudah explicitly informs us that they were made from the same Safhir stone. Obviously the miracle of these two objects having a greatly different size yet the same weight tells us there is a strong connection between the two.

Perhaps the message is that Torah is compared to the staff of Moshe. Just as the staff of Moshe was instrumental in bringing many of the makos and thus demonstrated to Klall Yisroel as well as Mitzrayim that Hashem is in control, so to should each individual hold the Torah as his staff and let it guide him through life with the knowledge that Hashem is in control. The Torah was not just brought down to this world to sit on a shelf and be ignored but was meant to be used and serve as a guide of life, just as a staff is used to assist and guide an individual.

There is one difficulty though in the statements of Rebbi Yehudah. Why does he measure the weight of the staff and luchos in terms of sah. The sah is a measurement of volume not weight. For measurements of weight Chazal have many other words, like kor, chomer, lesech eiphah, omer, etc.

To answer, let us first suggest that weight and volume symbolize quality and quantity. An Item of great weight has much substance. However weight alone does not tell us anything about the quantity i.e., volume. On the other hand a measurement of volume tells us about the size or quantity of an item but nothing about its quality i.e., its density or weight. It may be true that a pound of feathers weighs the same as a pound of gold but there is a vast difference in terms of quality and quantity.

Rebbi Yehudah is teaching that Torah is weighed in volume. If we want to attain quality i.e., weight, we need four hundred sah. A sah is a measure of volume. Four hundred is the letter tav, which represents the largest number in the Hebrew alphabet. Four hundred sah can thus be interpreted as great quantity. Without a quantitative performance of Torah and Mitzvos there is no way we can achieve a qualitative performance. Quality with regard to Torah and Mitzvos only comes through much patience and practice. Only then can we hope that our Torah and Mitzvos will carry some weight.


6:2 And G-D spoke to Moshe and He said to him, "I am Hashem."

6:3 And I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) with (My Name of) 'Kel Shakai' and I did not make known to them my name of 'Hashem.'.

6:4 And I also established my covenant with them to give them the Land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning where they stayed.

In his commentary on these verses, Rashi states that from the time of the forefathers through Moshe (Moses), G-D did not fulfill his promise to the forefathers. That is, G-D never gave them the Land of Canaan.

This is difficult to reconcile with the following verse in Genesis where Hashem is speaking to Yaakov:

35:12 I will give to you the land that I gave to Avraham and to Yitzchok. And I will give that land to your children.

This verse states that G-D had already given the land to Avraham and Yitzchok. It also implies that G-D will give the land to Yaakov during his lifetime. We would certainly expect this to be fulfilled.

How do we understand these verses?

Furthermore, the book of Genesis does not record our forefathers' ownership of any land in Canaan except for some small parcels in Chevron (Hebron) and Shechem (Nabulus). Perhaps Avraham owned some real-estate in Be'er Sheva and perhaps Yitzchok owned some land in Gerar, but that appears to be all of their holdings.

What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

We assumed that G-D promised to give our forefathers the physical ownership of the land. That is, they will be the owner and they will act like owners. Perhaps we can understand Genesis 35:12 to mean that G-D will give the land to the forefathers in name only. They will be full owners, even though other people may live on the land and act like owners.

This land will always be associated with them and their descendants forever. It is the land of Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov and it is the land that is promised to their children. It is an everlasting association that survives and transcends the behavioral ownership of other people. As it is a decree of G-D, it provides legitimacy and a basis for the future physical ownership of the land. It puts the ownership of others in a temporal light.

Viewed in this manner we can indeed see the fulfillment of this promise throughout Jewish history, up to and including the time when all of the Jewish people will be restored to their status and to their land.


Bo

It shall be a sign on your hand and for totafos between your eyes, for with a strong hand Hashem (G-D) brought us out of Egypt (Shemos 13:16)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the mitzvah (commandment) of tefillin.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that there is place on the head for one to bind two teffilin (Eruvin 95). According to one opinion in the Talmud this is true with regard to the arm as well. The simple meaning of this statement is that that there is enough physical space on the head and arm to accommodate two pairs of teffilin at the same time. This certainly does not mean we are allowed to wear two pairs of teffilin simultaneously, this is forbidden due to of the prohibition of not adding to the mitzvos of the Torah. The point of this teaching is that we do not have to be exact as to where the tefillin rest on head because there is enough room for more then one pair, leaving us a safe margin of error. The Talmud in Mesechta Eruvin relates additional practical applications of this teaching in regard to what one should do if he finds teffilin in a public domain on Shabbos. Parenthetically, it should be mentioned that in modern times due to technological advances in the making of tefillin where the average size of our teffilin is significantly larger then the size of teffilin of earlier times, this rule may no longer be true in practice. Furthermore, there is also a discussion among the commentators if this teaching refers to the physical space of the head in width or length.

The words of Chazal may be interpreted on many different levels. In addition to its simple meaning let us suggest a homiletic interpretation.

At the end of the parsha the Torah repeats the mitzvah of tefillin twice within a few posukim (13:9, 13:16). Why did the Torah repeat the same mitzvah twice so close together?

The Rashbam in his commentary on the Torah appears to address this difficulty. He explains that the second mention of teffilin is not a repetition of the commandment to bind the teffilin upon one's arm and head but rather part of the reply that a father is instructed to give his son. The Torah says, "When your son will ask you at a later time, 'what is this' you should say to him 'with a strong hand Hashem brought us out of Egypt from the house of slavery.'" The Torah continues to instruct the father to tell his son how Hashem killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt and that is why we sacrifice every firstborn animal and redeem every firstborn child. Finally the Torah instructs the father to tell his son to bind a pair of teffilin upon is arm and head. The Rashbam proves that this is the correct interpretation because the posuk (verse) concludes in the plural form, "for with a strong hand Hashem brought us out of Egypt. If this posuk is part of the father's reply to his son it is understandable why it is written in plural. However, if this is a commandment of Hashem it should have said "Hashem brought you out of Egypt."

Thus we see that the Torah has commanded us to wear teffilin twice within a few posukim. However, the first commandment is direct from Hashem. The second is through the instruction of our parents.

The mitzvah of teffilin represents the concept of binding oneself to Hashem. There are two ways in which we are commanded to connect to Hashem. The first is through our parents, Our understanding of Hashem and our relationship to Him is based on the teachings and heritage of our parents and forefathers. However, one is also obligated to build upon this foundation by contributing his own unique service to Hashem. These are the two commandments of teffilin, to connect to Hashem through one's parents and independently.

We many now understand the homiletic meaning of the words of Chazal. There is place on the head (and arm) to bind two sets of teffilin. When we bind ourselves to Hashem it must be both with the heritage of our forefathers and with our own unique contribution.


In this week's parsha we learn about the plague of frogs.

In perek shira we find that the song of the frogs are the words "Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever." The commentators note that this expression is unique in that it is the only song in perek shira that is not a posuk (verse) in the Torah. We are very familiar with this expression. Indeed, we recite it twice daily after the first posuk of the Shema. We recite it immediately after we bind upon ourselves the head teffilin and we recite it three times out loud at the conclusion on Yom Kippur. Why is this expression the song of the frogs?

In order to gain a better understanding of the nature of this expression we must study a Halacha (law) found in Shulchan Aruch (OC 206). If an individual accidentally recites a blessing in vain he is required to immediately say "Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever." When one recites a blessing in vain there is a slight to the honor of Hashem's (G-D)Holy Name because it was mentioned for no apparent reason.

It is important to note that a blessing said in vain is not false. One may praise Hashem every moment of the day for everything and anything, however chazal (our sages of blessed memory) did not permit a person to recite a blessing with Hashem's name if there is nothing tangible or an obvious event or occasion. In the words of the commentators one may not mention Hashem's name unless there is something for it to rest upon.

When a blessing is recited for no reason we attempt to correct the slight of honor to His name by giving the name of Hashem a place to rest upon. This is accomplished with the recital of "Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever." Now in retrospect, we consider the mention of Hashem name as a vehicle to give praise to His Glorious Kingdom.

We may use this idea to explain why we mention this expression after we recite the first posuk of shemah. The words of Shemah are "Hear Yisroel Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One." This expression is interpreted by Rashi as meaning, Hashem who is currently recognized only as our G-d will one day be recognized as G-d of the entire world.

The mention of this posuk in our prayers is problematic because currently His Name is not recognized over the entire world. At this moment the mention of His name in reference to this concept is premature. At this moment there is nothing tangible for His name to rest upon. To counteract this problem we say, "Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever."

Another example of this concept is found with regard to the head tefillin. The posuk says "All the nations of the world will see that the name of Hashem is upon you and will be afraid of you." Chazal explain that this refers to the head teffilin. However, today when we recite the blessing on the head tefillin and bind them to our head the world is not afraid of the Jewish people. The fulfillment and symbolic meaning of this Mitzvah is premature. The name of Hashem is mentioned but there is nothing yet tangible for it to rest upon. We solve this problem by saying "Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever."

We may now understand why this expression is special to the frogs. The Torah records how Moshe asked Pharaoh to challenge him by telling him exactly when he wanted the frogs to retreat. Pharaoh answered tomorrow. Chazal explain that Moshe prayed at that very moment that the frogs should retreat the following morning. There was a delay between the prayer of Moshe and its fulfillment. Indeed this is the only plague where we find such a delay. The name of Hashem had been invoked but nothing yet had happened. Hashem's name had been mentioned but had nothing yet to rest upon. The frogs therefore croaked the song "Blessed is the name of his glorious Kingdom forever and ever."


Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the maidservant who is behind the millstone and all the firstborn of the animal. (Shemos 12:6)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the tenth plague, the slaying of the firstborn. Hashem (G-D) declared that he would slay every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on this throne to the firstborn of the maidservant. Later in the parsha (12:29), at the actual time of the slaying of the firstborn a similar posuk (verse) appears but substitutes the 'firstborn of the maidservant' with the 'firstborn of the captive in the dungeon.' Rashi in his first interpretation explains that the firstborn of the maidservant and the firstborn of the captives were slain for different reasons. The firstborn of the maidservants were slain because they were citizens of Egypt who mistreated the Jewish people. Although the maidservants were on the bottom rung of the Egyptian social ladder, they did possess a minimal degree of power which they exercised to harm the Jewish people. The firstborn of the captives however, were not citizens and had no power to harm the Jewish people. They were killed because they rejoiced in the suffering of the Jewish people.

In the sefer (book) Birchas Ish, Rav Shain uses this idea to explain a textual difficulty that many of the commentators discuss. On the one hand the Torah tells us that Hashem Himself would slay every firstborn in Egypt and not delegate this task to an angel (11:4). On the other hand the Torah says that Hashem would not allow the angel of destruction to enter the Jewish homes when it slays the firstborn of Egypt (12:23). This posuk indicates that an angel performed the slaying of the firstborn not Hashem. Rav Shain answers that Hashem Himself only killed the citizens of Egypt in punishment for mistreating the Jewish people. This included the firstborn of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the maidservant. However the firstborn captives who were not citizens and had no power to mistreat the Jewish people but rejoiced in their suffering were killed by an angel. Rashi explains that the Jewish people needed protection from this angel, for once a destructive angel is given permission to kill it does not differentiate between the guilty and the innocent.

Rav Shain continues to note that the Jewish people in Egypt were considered both residents and captives. From the time of Yosef (Joseph) the Jewish people were given the status of Egyptian citizens. Subsequently they were enslaved and treated as captives. On this evening there were two decrees. (1) To slay the firstborn citizens of Egypt. (2) To slay the firstborn of all captives. The former was to be performed by Hashem and the latter by a destructive angel. Every firstborn in Egypt was in either one category or the other, not both. Only the Jewish people found themselves subject to both decrees. They were citizens and captives. Hashem spared the Jewish people from both decrees.

In commemoration of Hashem killing the firstborn of Egypt and sparing the firstborn of the Jewish People the Torah commands us to redeem every firstborn child by giving five coins to a kohen. It is customary to celebrate the redemption ceremony with a lavish feast. Moreover, the custom is to perform the redemption ceremony in the middle of the feast unlike other mitzvos like circumcision. There we first perform the circumcision and then begin the meal. This custom seems to indicate that rejoicing is an integral part of the redemption ceremony. Why is this so?

We may suggest that the joy that accompanies the redemption of the firstborn is in commemoration of the second act of salvation, namely that Hashem did not allow the angel dispatched to kill the firstborn captives to harm the Jewish people. The firstborn of the captives were not slain because they actually harmed the Jewish people, they were not is a position to do so. Their sin was that they rejoiced in the suffering of the Jewish people. Once the angel was given permission to kill, the Jewish people needed protection for they were also captives. Just as we redeem every firstborn in commemoration of our lives being spared despite the fact that we were citizens we also commemorate the fact the Hashem took note of how our enemies rejoiced in our suffering and punished them. We are the ones who rejoice not our enemies.


Behold, at this time tomorrow I shall rain a very heavy hail such as there has never been in Egypt, from the day it was founded until now. (Shemos 9:18)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the plague of hail. Rashi, commenting on the words "at this time tomorrow" writes that Moshe (Moses) scratched a mark on the wall and said to Pharaoh that tomorrow when the sun's rays reach this point the hail will descend. It is noteworthy that only with regard to the hail was the moment of its arrival predicted with such precision. All other plagues began as Moshe or Aaron performed a specific action as commanded by Hashem (G-D) or on its own at a non specific moment. Even regarding the last plague, the slaying of the firstborns we find Moshe telling Pharaoh that it will occur 'approximately' at midnight.

The birth of Yitzchak (Isaac) was also predicted with a scratch on the wall. Rashi (Bereishis 21:2) says that a year before the birth of Yitzchak, the angel who was visiting Avraham (Abraham) etched a scratch on the wall and told him that next year when the sun's rays reach this mark Sarah will give birth to a child. What is the connection between the plague of hail and the birth of Yitzchak in that both were predicted in a similar fashion?

Perhaps both the birth of Yitzchak and the plague of hail represent the concept of yiras shamayim, i.e., fear of heaven. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that Yitzchak represents the trait of fear. Yitzchak's father, Avraham introduced the trait of love for the Jewish People. We thus find Avraham associated with kindness, an outgrowth of love for another person. However, at times there is a need to balance love with fear. This was Yitzchak's contribution. Indeed, Yitzchak's association with the trait of fear is mentioned to in the Torah. The posuk says "And Yitzchak trembled a great trembling …" (Bereishis 27:33). And Yaakov swore by the dread of his father Yitzchak (Bereishis 31:53).

Similarly, the plague of hail was a test of the Egyptian people's fear of heaven. Moshe clearly warned them to gather in their livestock and possessions before the coming of the hail so that they would not be destroyed. The Torah tells us that those who feared the word of Hashem brought inside their servants and livestock and whoever did not take the word of Hashem to heart left their servants outside in the field (Shemos 9:20-21). The plague of hail was the only plague that the Egyptians could have avoided. They had free will. All they needed to do was exercise their free will to be saved.

Chazal tell us that everything in this world is in the hands of heaven except for fear of heaven (Berachos 33b). Chazal further teach us that the only thing Hashem has in his storehouses is a treasure of fear of heaven. (Berachos 33b) Thus the greatest satisfaction Hashem has is when man exercises his free will to fulfill His will. We may suggest that this is why both the birth of Yitzchak and the plague of hail were announced and predicted with a scratch on the wall. This tangible mark of time indicates a yearning for the moment of arrival. Actions of man that express fear of Hashem are truly the only yearning of Hashem.

The posuk (verse) says "It will shine for those who fear my name a sun of righteousness …" (Malachai 3:20). The posuk simply means that those who fear Hashem will benefit from the rays of Hashem's Divine Presence. We may homiletically interpret the posuk as referring to those marks mentioned above. Just as these two moments in time were awaited for by the creation of a scratch that would be illuminated by the rays of the sun at a precise moment, likewise throughout history there are many moments that Hashem looks forward to. Hashem who knows the future recognizes that these moments will bring with them expressions of fear of heaven. Thus the posuk may be interpreted as meaning that Hashem yearns for the moment when the rays of sun will shine on those scratches (the moments) when man will exercise his free will in an expression of yiras shamayim.


It was at midnight, and Hashem (G-D) smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon and every firstborn animal. (Shemos 12:29)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the Mitzvah (commandment) of redeeming the firstborn (Shemos 13:1). The Torah requires us to redeem every firstborn child from a kohen (Priest) in commemoration of the event that Hashem smote every first born Egyptian at the time of our redemption. In Shulchan Aruch it is recorded that this mitzvah is to be accompanied with the shechiyanu blessing and a lavish festive meal. Generally, a shechiyanu blessing is only recited at joyous occasions.

It is noteworthy that there is another time we commemorate this event. It is an ancient custom that every firstborn fasts Erev Pesach (Passover eve) in commemoration of the event that Hashem smote every first born Egyptian and saved every Jewish firstborn. The commentators explain that by fasting we recognize that we were no more deserving to be spared from death than the wicked Egyptian firstborns. It was only due to Hashem's kindness that the Jewish firstborns were spared. Today it has become widespread custom to shorten the fast by participating in a siyum (celebration for the completion of study) or by giving charity.

It seems a bit odd that in commemoration of the same event we do two opposite things. On the one hand we enjoy a lavish festive meal at the redemption ceremony but also fast annually. How do we reconcile this contradiction?

Perhaps we may answer this by taking note of a posuk (verse) in this week's parsha. The posuk says that Hashem killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt. The posuk does not stop there, it goes on and gives two examples. The posuk continues "from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon." Incidentally, the Targum interprets the first part of the posuk to mean the first born of Pharaoh who was destined to inherit the throne and serve as king of Egypt. We may ask why was it necessary for the Torah to give two examples. The Torah already informed us that Hashem smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt.

Perhaps the Torah is trying to allude to two different acts of kindness that Hashem performed for the Jewish people. First, Hashem smote the firstborn of Pharaoh. Pharaoh's firstborn was the most respected man in the land of Egypt. It was he who was destined to succeed his father as ruler. His death was meant to serve as a point of contrast for the Jewish People. Hashem was showing the Jewish people that they by contrast would be become the most respected nation in the world. Indeed the posuk says "My child, My firstborn Yisroel."

Second, Hashem also killed the lowly firstborn captives in the dungeons of Egypt. This also was meant to serve as point of contrast for the Jewish people. Hashem reminded the Jewish people that they too were similar to the firstborn captive in the dungeon due to the spiritual descent. Nevertheless, Hashem guaranteed that they would be redeemed. Hashem provided them with the two Mitzvos, the karbon (sacrifice of) Pesach and circumcision with which they were able to earn merit and their redemption.

We may suggest that the two ways we commemorate the redemption of the firstborn correspond to the two examples the Torah uses with regard the death of the firstborns of Egypt.

The Mitzvah of redeeming the first born and the lavish celebration that accompanies this Mitzvah corresponds specifically to the fact that Hashem smote the firstborn of Pharaoh. Pharaoh's firstborn was the most respected man in all of Egypt. In contrast to his death, Hashem took the Jewish people out of Egypt and elevated them to the status of His firstborn as the posuk says "My Child the firstborn Yisroel." This is certainly a reason to celebrate. Thus, the Mitzvah of redemption is accompanied with a lavish meal.

The second type of commemoration is the fast we observe Erev Pesach. This corresponds to the event that Hashem smote the firstborn captive imprisoned in the dungeon. This example reminded the Jewish people that they too were at a low spiritual level and were undeserving of redemption. It was only due to Hashem's kindness that He provided them the two Mitzvos of Karban Peshach and circumcision that gave them the ability to earn their redemption. In commemoration of this we need to fast.


And it shall be for you as a sign on your arm and a remembrance between your eyes.(Shemos 13:9)

At the end of this parsha (portion) we are introduced to the mitzvah (commandment) of teffilin. It is noteworthy that this mitzvah is positioned right in the middle of the Exodus, specifically, between the final plague of the slaying of the firstborns and the splitting of the sea of reeds. We may ask, why was this mitzvah singled out from all the others and taught precisely at this moment?

A key characteristic of the Exodus was that it took place in a state of haste. Indeed, one of the reasons why we eat matzah on pesach (Passover) is so that we remember the haste in which we left Egypt. As we rushed out of Egypt we did not have enough time to allow our dough to rise (Shemos 12:39). The karbon pesach (Passover sacrifice) was also eaten in the spirit of haste. This is seen in the law where we were required to eat it while wearing shoes and with our staff in our hand (Shemos 12:11). This is symbolic of a person who is in a rush and prepared to move on the spur of the moment. We may ask, why did Hashem (G-D) bring about the Exodus in a state of haste? Why didn't Hashem allow us to leave Egypt at a slower pace where we would have been given the opportunity to properly absorb the significance of the event?

To answer this question, let us suggest that this is what the mitzvah of teffilin is coming to address. In is noteworthy that teffilin also contains the character of haste. Teffilin is unique in that it is a single mitzvah that has two separate and distinct parts. One part is the hand teffilah and the second is the head teffilah. Halacha (Jewish law) requires that we do not delay between the binding of the hand and head teffilin. In other words the binding of the teffilin must be done in haste. Indeed, the Gemara teaches that one who delays between the two by speaking has committed a serious sin and should not participate in battle, lest he be harmed due to this sin. We may ask, what is the reason why the teffilin must be bound in haste? In truth, the two teffilin are separate mitzvos. This is seen from the fact that when one cannot fulfill one of the two he is still obligated to fulfill the other. Why then must they be fulfilled together in haste?

The teffilah of the arm is symbolic of one's actions. The binding of the hand teffilah is symbolic that one must act according to the rules that the Torah has set. The head teffilah is symbolic of intent. The binding of the head teffilah is symbolic that our intentions must be for the sake of Heaven. The significance of connecting the hand teffilah to the head teffilah in haste symbolizes that one's actions must be directed toward a purpose and not just done out of habit. Even a mitzvah can be performed out of habit. For a Jew, there is no such thing as habit; everything must be done for a reason or with a purpose. From the fact that teffilin are two separate mitzvos we recognize the danger that our actions can be divorced from their purpose. However, the fact that we perform them in haste reminds us that our actions should be linked to a purpose, which is for the sake of Heaven

The posuk (verse) says that when the nations of the world will see us they will be frightened. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach, that this refers to the teffilin of the head. This simply means that when the gentiles see the head teffilin they will be frightened. We may ask, what is it about teffilin that evoke fear? With the above we may suggest that it is the symbolic concept of purpose that evokes fear in the Non-Jews. A gentile recognizes that a Jew lives with a sense of mission and purpose whereas he lives for the moment. For him, this contrast is frightening and is thus seized with fear.

When Hashem appeared to Moshe (Moses) at the burning bush and persuaded him to accept the mission of taking out the Jewish people from Egypt, Hashem informed Moshe that that His purpose in the Exodus was to give us the Torah on Har Sini (Mount Sinai) (Shemos 3:12). With this posuk in mind we may divide the Exodus into two parts. The first part was the actual physical redemption and the second was the purpose, the receiving of the Torah on Har Sini. We may suggest that the actual physical liberation from Egypt is symbolic of the hand teffilah, and the giving of the Torah is symbolic of head teffilah. Just as we understand why the binding of the teffilin must be done in haste, likewise we can now understand why the Exodus was in haste. The purpose of the Exodus was solely for the giving of the Torah. To emphasize that point, there was no time to slow down the pace and focus on the psychical freedom. There is no such thing as freedom for the sake of freedom. The purpose of freedom was solely for the giving of the Torah.

This idea is captured in the well know dictum of chazal. "There is no such thing as a free man except for one who occupies himself in Torah." This may now be interpreted as follows: for the Jewish people as a whole there was no such thing as freedom for the sake of freedom but only for the purpose of the receiving the Torah.

Thus, both teffilin and the Exodus are similar in that they are both made up of two parts. These two parts correspond to action and purpose. In addition, they both have the element of haste thereby conveying that the action is bound to its purpose and intent.


It shall be for you a sign on your hand and a remembrance between your eyes. (Shemos 13:9)

The mitzvah of tefillin is divided into two parts, the head and arm. We also know that the mitzvos (commandments) of the Torah are divided into two parts, the mitzvos between man and his fellow man and the mitzvos between man and Hashem (G-d). Let us suggest that the head tefillin corresponds the mitzvos between man and Hashem and the arm tefillin to the mitzvos between man and his fellow man. With this comparison we can derive a few lessons with regard to the two types of mitzvos.

The arm tefillin is placed on the arm, which represents the actions of man. This teaches us that with regard to mitzvos between man and his fellow man, actions are what count, not good intent. One must be practical with friends and practicability is measured in terms of real benefit provided, not goodwill. On the other hand the head tefillin is placed on the head which represents man's thoughts and will. This teaches that with regard to mitzvos between man and Hashem, good intent is what counts. Hashem does not need our actions, but He does desire our good feelings and will.

A second lesson may be derived form the observation that the donning of the arm tefillin precedes the head tefillin. In addition, when removing the tefillin, first we remove the head tefillin and only then the arm tefillin. The head tefillin may never be worn without the arm tefillin in position. This teaches us that the mitzvos between man and his fellow take precedence over the mitzvos between man and Hashem. A person should never elevate his level of service to Hashem unless he first elevates his performance in the mitzvos between man and man. It is said, that before adopting a chumra (precaution) between man and Hashem e.g. one relating to kashrus (kosher food), a person should better adopt a chumra from the category of mitzvos between man and his fellow man e.g., lashon hara (slander). Likewise, we find that the first Beis Hamikdash (Temple) was destroyed as a result of sins from the category of man and Hashem. However, the exile was relatively short only seventy years. The second Beis Hamikdash on the other hand was destroyed because of unfounded hatred, a sin between man and his friend, and for this we are still in exile today.

Using this idea we can reinterpret a well known statement of chazal (our Torah Sages). In the aftermath of sin of the golden calf, we find that Moshe asked Hashem to reveal Himself. The mefarshim (commentaries) interpret this as Moshe seeking understanding of Hashem. Hashem responded by saying that he would remove his hand and make his back visible. The Gemara (Talmud) interprets this to mean that Hashem told Moshe that he would show him the kesher shel tefillin i.e., the knot of the tefillin, that lies in the back of the head. The mefarshim go on to explain that this means Hashem showed Moshe the daled of the head tefillin. There is a slight problem since it emerges that Hashem only showed the knot of the head tefillin. If so, the word for tefillin should be in the singular i.e., tefilla, not the plural i.e., tefillin. Chazal also teach us (Chulin 9a) that a talmud chacham (Torah scholar) must know how to tie the knot of the tefillin. This is simply interpreted as meaning that a talmud chacham must know practical halacha, even to the extent of knowing how to make the daled of the tefillin.

In addition to the simple interpretations, let us now suggest a homiletic one. Hashem showed Moshe that the way to understand Hashem is to tie the message of both tefillin's together. Only when a human being integrates the mitzvos between man and man with the mitzvos between man and Hashem will he be worthy of understanding Hashem. Likewise it is not enough for a talmud chacham to master both types of mitzvos independently. He must also integrate them into one entity. Every action must be weighed in terms of his relationship with Hashem and its affect upon others. We may further note that this knot of tefillin is compared to the back of Hashem. The Hebrew word used for back is ach'or'ay. This word is also translated as 'later.' The message Hashem told Moshe is that integration only comes 'later.' It is a skill that takes a lifetime to develop. It will only come with much work and effort.


Moshe said, "This is what Hashem (G-D) has said, about the time of midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the first born of the Egyptian slave girl behind the millstones and every first-born animal." (Shemos 12:4)

The above posuk (verse) states that at the moment of midnight every first born in the land of Egypt would die. Although the posuk literally says "at approximately the time of midnight," Rashi explains that the use of the word "approximately" was only intended for the Egyptians who were incapable of calculating the exact moment of midnight. In truth the death of the firstborns would occur at the exact moment of midnight. The commentators note that midnight is not a moment in time. When the night is divided into two parts every slice of time is either part of the first half or part of the second half. The Commentators therefore ask that if the intent of the posuk is that death would occur at the first moment of the second half or at the last moment of the first half then it should have indicated so more clearly. How can the posuk use the word midnight, which does not occupy space in time? How could the death of the Egyptians occur at a moment that does not exist?

The Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveichik answers that the moment of death also cannot be defined in time. A person is alive one moment and the next moment he is dead. The exact moment of death cannot be pinpointed to any specific moment in time no matter how short it may be.

We will try to expand on this idea. This world as we know it is defined by time and space. However, this is only true with regard to mundane objects and activities. Something holy and spiritual is not confined to these limits. For example the holiest place on earth was the Holy of Holies. The holiest object on earth was the Ark, which contained the Tablets that Hashem gave the Jewish people. Although the Torah gives precise measurements for the dimensions of the Ark and the chamber of the Holy of Holies, yet chazal (our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the ark did not occupy any space within the Holy of Holies. This is because only in the realm of the mundane are objects limited to space. Thus the ark, which was holy and resided in a chamber that was completely holy, did not possess the constraints of space. The same is true with regard to time. A spiritual experience cannot be defined within the realm of time. The moment of death even for an evil Egyptian firstborn was a spiritual experience. When a soul leaves this world and enters the World of Truth it undergoes a spiritual transformation. Due to the spirituality of the event it cannot be defined within the realm of time.

Hashem was precise when he said the Egyptian firstborns would die at the moment of midnight. Just as the moment of midnight is not defined likewise the moment of death is not defined. During the entire first half of the night the firstborns were alive. However, the first moment of the second half they were dead. At what moment did they die? Midnight.

With this idea in mind we may perhaps explain another mitzvah (commandment) in this week's parsha (Torah reading). The posuk says "This month shall be reckoned to you as the head of months. It shall be to you as the first of the months of the year" (Shemos12:2). Chazal derive from this posuk the requirement to sanctify to beginning of each month based on the lunar year.

The commentators note that most of the world follows a calendar based on the solar year. Why did Hashem instruct us to base our calendar on the lunar year instead?

The solar year is defined by of the orbit of the earth around the sun. It takes approximately 365 days for the earth to complete its orbit. On the 366th day we can precisely pinpoint the beginning of a new year.

In contrast the lunar cycle is based on the orbit of the moon around the earth. It takes approximately 29 and a half days for the moon to complete its orbit. After twelve cycles we have a year. From the vantage point of man, the new moon first begins to appear as a thin sliver near the beginning of the month. It continues to wax throughout the month until the fifteenth day. On this day a full moon is visible. This is due to moon's position relative to the earth and sun. As the month continues the moon begins to wane until it appears as a thin sliver and then disappears completely. It is noteworthy that on all days of the month at least part of the moon can bee seen. The exception to this is the last six hours of the last cycle and the first six hours of the new cycle. During these twelve hours it is impossible to see the moon due to its position relative to the earth and sun. The first moment that the new moon can be seen after the six hours from its new cycle is called the molad. The molad indicates that approximately six hours ago the new cycle had begun. Beis Din at this point sanctifies the new month retroactively from the beginning of that calendar day.

We see that at the exact moment of transition the moon is hidden from the naked eye. This is in contrast to the completion of the solar cycle, which marks the beginning of a new year on the 366th day.

The Torah commands us to sanctify the new moon, symbolic of sanctifying our time with spiritual pursuits. When calculating the calendar, the lunar year serves as our model for our calendar. We see the moon in the latter part of the past month and we see it again in the early part of the new month but not the actual moment of transition. Our inability to define in time the exact moment of our calendar transition reminds us that our experience in this world should be spiritual just as all spiritual experiences are not defined by time.


Beshalach

When Pharaoh's horse came with his chariots and horsemen into the sea and Hashem (G-D) turned back the waters of the sea upon them the Children of Israel walked on the dry land amid the sea. (Shemos 15:19)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we read the Shiras Hayam, the song the Jewish people sang to Hashem when He spit the Sea of Reeds.

There is much discussion as to exactly where the shirah (song) ends. Is the above cited verse (Shemos 15:19) part of the shirah or does the shirah end one verse earlier with the words, "Hashem will reign for all eternity?"

The Ramban here in his commentary, as well as Rahsi, Tosfos (Gitten 90a) and the Avudraham are all of the opinion that the verse in question is not part of the shirah. Indeed the Avudraham explains that this is why we repeat in our prayers the verse "Hashem will reign for all eternity." We emphasize that the shirah ends here and not with the next verse. Furthermore, there is a tradition that the song has only eighteen expressions. The verse "Hashem will reign for all eternity" appears to be the eighteenth, indicating that the song ends here. However the Rambam and Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra disagree and hold that the verse in question is part of the shirah.

The issue concerns the awkward opening word of the verse "ki" which has been translated as "When." According to those who are of the opinion that this verse is not part of the shirah, the verse is not an expression of song but a description of when the Children of Israel sang the shirah. The shirah begins with the words "Then Moshe and the Children of Israel sang this song to Hashem." The verse does not tell us when this was, only, "Then." Here the verse fills in the details. It was when the Pharaoh's horse, chariots and horsemen came into the sea etc… that the children of Israel sang this song. Alternatively, the verse serves as an introduction to the next verse that describes how Miriam and her fellow women sang to Hashem. The verse is interpreted as meaning, when Pharaoh's horse, chariots and horsemen can into the sea etc… Miriam gathered all the women and sang shirah. Either way this verse is not an expression of song but a description of when song took place. The Rambam and Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra obviously disagree and hold that this verse is also an expression of song.

In the Torah the text of the shirah is written in a unique style. The text is padded with much blank space. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) describe this as a half brick on top of a full brick. In the center of every other line, a block of text appears to rest on two smaller blocks of text leaving a large blank space below.

It is our custom to write the questionable verse together with the major part of the shirah in the unique style of the shirah. This is certainly consistent with the opinion of the Rambam and Rav Avraham Ibn Ezra who hold that this verse is part of the shirah. However, according to the Ramban and others who opine that this verse is not part of the song why is this verse written in the style of the shirah? Perhaps our Torahs are written only according to the Rambam whereas the Ramban would require us to write this verse in the ordinary style. However, this answer is not satisfactory due to fact that we repeat in our prayers the verse "Hashem will reign for all eternity" to show that the song ends here like the Ramban. Furthermore, we do not find much discussion in the commentaries that would indicate that the Ramban would require a different style of writing for this particular verse.

It is noteworthy that this verse is different from the rest of the shirah in that it focuses on the individual Pharaoh. "When Pharaoh's horse came with his chariots etc…" This is unlike the major part of the shirah which is not specific to Pharaoh the individual but to the enemy Egypt the Nation.

We may suggest that there are two perspectives recorded here. The miracle from the perspective of the Jewish people and the miracle from the perspective of Pharaoh. The splitting of the Sea of Reeds was the culmination of the miracles of the Exodus. Pharaoh at this time also witnessed the Might and Greatness of Hashem. Indeed, chazal tell us that Hashem allowed Pharaoh to survive so that he would teach the world Hashem's greatness. This last verse in not our shirah, it's Pharaoh's shirah.

It is our custom that after we recite the silent Shemonah Esrei prayer the leader repeats the prayer out loud. This is done primarily for those who do not know how to pray on their own. They may fulfill their obligation by answering amein after the leader. The only exception is the modim blessing. Here chazal have formulated a special text to be recited by the congregation as the leader recites the modim of the Shemonah Esrei. It is called Modim Dirabanan. Why is this blessing different? The commentators answer; you can not appoint an agent to say thank you. One can only say thank you by himself. It is not enough to answer amein to a blessing that expresses thanksgiving, one must express his thanksgiving personally.

We may suggest that the same it true with regard to shirah. Upon witnessing miracles, one is obligated to sing to Hashem. One cannot appoint an agent to fulfill his obligation. Pharaoh also witnessed the miracles from his own unique perspective. Hashem preserved him for the purpose of relating these miracles to the world. Pharaoh also has an obligation to sing but we cannot be his agent to fulfill his obligation.

When the Ramban explains that this verse in not part of the shirah we may homiletically interpret his intent as meaning that it is not part of "our shirah." There are other ways to interpret the verse. However, all agree that the verse can also be interpreted like the Rambam that the verse is an expression of "a shirah," at least from the perspective of Pharaoh.

We may now understand why the verse is written in style of song but yet not part of the song according to the Ramban. The Torah is telling us that Pharaoh has what to sing about, but it is not for us to sing. It is for him to do so.


He said, if you will listen diligently to the voice of Hashem, your G-d and you will do what is just in his eyes and you will give ear to his commandments and observe all his statutes, then any of the diseases that I placed upon Egypt I will not place upon you for I am Hashem you healer. (Shemos 15:26)

Every year the holiday of Tu Bi'shvat falls out in the week of parshas (Torah reading) Beshalach. Let us search for an allusion to the holiday in this week's parsha which may in turn shed light on the nature of the holiday.

In this week's parsha we learn about the travels of the Jewish people in the desert. A few days after crossing the sea of reeds the Jewish people encamped at Marah. The Torah tells us that the Jewish People were unable to drink from the waters of Marah because they were bitter. After complaining to Moshe (Moses), Hashem showed Moshe a tree which he threw into the waters and miraculously caused them to become sweet. Chazal tell us that the tree that Hashem showed Moshe was bitter. We would have expected Hashem to sweeten the bitter waters with something sweet, yet Hashem performed what Chazal call a "miracle within a miracle." Not only did Hashem sweeten the water but also did so through a bitter object.

The Jewish people then traveled to Elim where they came across twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. The Ramban notes that what happened at Elim was exactly the opposite of what happened at Marah. At Elim the trees were sweet as is the nature of palms trees in contrast to the bitter tree that Hashem showed Moshe at Marah. Furthermore, At Elim the waters were sweet, otherwise it would have been impossible for the sweet palm trees to develop and grow. This stands in contrast to the bitter waters of Marah.

Exactly in-between these two events Hashem told Moshe to tell the Jewish people that if they listen to the commandments of Hashem and follow in his ways, all the disease and sickness that Hashem inflicted upon Egypt will not come upon them. (Shemos 15:26)

We may suggest that herein lies a connection to Tu Bi'shvat. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that on Tu Bi'shvat the trees begin to blossom. Furthermore, they teach us that on Tu Bi'shvat the trees cease getting their nourishing from the waters of the previous year and begin to get nourishment from the waters of the new year.

We learn from this that Tu Bi'shvat is related to the blossoming of the trees and their nourishment from a new source of water. Tu Bi'shvat is the transition point between the past and the future.

We may suggest that Tu Bi'shvat represents a symbolic transition between the bitter tree and waters of Marah and the sweet trees and waters of Elim. In the past six weeks of winter the trees have decayed, withered and died. Death is associated with bitterness. The posuk (verse) says concerning death "and its end is like a bitter day" (Amos 8:10). In the six following weeks the trees begin to show signs of life, ushering in the sweetness of life. On Tu Bi'shvat we stand in the middle. It is a moment where we are in a position to see clearly the contrast between the old bitter waters and pathetic state of the withered trees of the past and the new sweet waters and rejuvenation of the trees in the future. We symbolically stand in the middle of the bitter tree and waters of Marah and the sweet trees and waters of Elim.

In the Torah the transition point is the aforementioned posuk instructing the Jewish people to adhere to the commandments of the Torah and live healthy good lives. Chazal tell us that a tree is metaphor for man, "For man is the tree of the field" (Devarim 20:19). As we stand on Tu Bi'shvat and look at both sides if of the spectrum we see what can become of man. Man can decay and wither like the bitter tree and waters of Marah or blossom, develop and produce fruit like the sweet trees and waters of Elim. On Tu Bi'shvat we stand at the crossroads. We focus on the aforementioned posuk. Hashem asks us to choose well. "I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life …" (Devarim 30:19).


He said, if you will listen diligently to the voice of Hashem, your G-d and you will do what is just in his eyes and you will give ear to his commandments and observe all his statutes, then any of the diseases that I placed upon Egypt I will not place upon you for I am Hashem you healer. (Shemos 15:26)

Every year the holiday of Tu Bi'shvat falls out in the week of parshas (Torah reading) Beshalach. Let us search for an allusion to the holiday in this week's parsha which may in turn shed light on the nature of the holiday.

In this week's parsha we learn about the travels of the Jewish people in the desert. A few days after crossing the sea of reeds the Jewish people encamped at Marah. The Torah tells us that the Jewish People were unable to drink from the waters of Marah because they were bitter. After complaining to Moshe, Hashem showed Moshe (Moses) a tree which he threw into the waters and miraculously caused them to become sweet. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that the tree that Hashem showed Moshe was bitter. We would have expected Hashem to sweeten the bitter waters with something sweet, yet Hashem performed what Chazal call a "miracle within a miracle." Not only did Hashem sweeten the water but also did so through a bitter object.

The Jewish people then traveled to Elim where they came across twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. The Ramban notes that what happened at Elim was exactly the opposite of what happened at Marah. At Elim the trees were sweet as is the nature of palms trees in contrast to the bitter tree that Hashem showed Moshe at Marah. Furthermore, At Elim the waters were sweet, otherwise it would have been impossible for the sweet palm trees to develop and grow. This stands in contrast to the bitter waters of Marah.

Exactly in-between these two events Hashem told Moshe to tell the Jewish people that if they listen to the commandments of Hashem and follow in his ways, all the disease and sickness that Hashem inflicted upon Egypt will not come upon them. (Shemos 15:26)

We may suggest that herein lies a connection to Tu Bi'shvat. Chazal teach us that on Tu Bi'shvat the trees begin to blossom. Furthermore, they teach us that on Tu Bi'shvat the trees cease getting their nourishing from the waters of the previous year and begin to get nourishment from the waters of the new year.

We learn from this that Tu Bi'shvat is related to the blossoming of the trees and their nourishment from a new source of water. Tu Bi'shvat is the transition point between the past and the future.

We may suggest that Tu Bi'shvat represents a symbolic transition between the bitter tree and waters of Marah and the sweet trees and waters of Elim. In the past six weeks of winter the trees have decayed, withered and died. Death is associated with bitterness. The posuk (verse) says concerning death "and its end is like a bitter day" (Amos 8:10). In the six following weeks the trees begin to show signs of life, ushering in the sweetness of life. On Tu Bi'shvat we stand in the middle. It is a moment where we are in a position to see clearly the contrast between the old bitter waters and pathetic state of the withered trees of the past and the new sweet waters and rejuvenation of the trees in the future. We symbolically stand in the middle of the bitter tree and waters of Marah and the sweet trees and waters of Elim.

In the Torah the transition point is the aforementioned posuk instructing the Jewish people to adhere to the commandments of the Torah and live healthy good lives. Chazal tell us that a tree is metaphor for man, "For man is the tree of the field" (Devarim 20:19). As we stand on Tu Bi'shvat and look at both sides if of the spectrum we see what can become of man. Man can decay and wither like the bitter tree and waters of Marah or blossom, develop and produce fruit like the sweet trees and waters of Elim. On Tu Bi'shvat we stand at the crossroads. We focus on the aforementioned posuk. Hashem asks us to choose well. "I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life ..." (Devarim 30:19).


Moshe said to Aaron, "Take one jar and put a full omer (measure) of manna into it; place it before Hashem for safekeeping for your generations." (Shemos 16:33)

Rashi comments that the purpose of preserving a portion of maana was so that the Jewish people would derive inspiration from it throughout all generations. Indeed Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) displayed it to the people of his era and demanded that they devote themselves to the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvos (commandments) at the expense of pursuing a secure livelihood. He explained that just as Hashem (G-D) provided the maana for their ancestors in the desert, likewise he would provide them with sustenance.

It is noteworthy that the posuk (verse) appears to use an extra word. The posuk says that Moshe told Aaron to take a jar and put a "full" omer measure of manna into it. It would seem that the posuk could have been written without the word "full." The posuk could simply state "put an omer measure of manna into it." The commentators answer that the posuk is alluding to the additional requirement, that the jar be exactly one omer in volume. The jar was thus "full" with the omer measure of manna. The jar was now vacuum-sealed due to lack of space. Perhaps this method was employed to preserve the maana for all generations.

Perhaps we may suggest a homiletic interpretation. We are aware that the maana was a purely spiritual food. Its physical texture and composition was nothing like we know today. Hashem instructed that an omer measure of maana be placed in an earthenware jar. The Torah does not tell us the exact volume of the jar. It could very well be that the volume of the jar was larger than the omer measure of maana. However the extra word "full" in the posuk may be interpreted homiletically to indicate that this omer measure would miraculously fill up the entire jar.

Hashem commanded that this jar be preserved for all generations. In addition to the simple explanation given above we may now suggest that it taught something else. People in future generations would observe that the large earthenware jar was completely filled with a relatively small omer measure of manna. The relationship between the earthenware jar and the manna is symbolic of the relationship of the human being created from earth to the Torah. Every human being serves as a receptacle to spirituality. Just as the manna expanded to fill the entire jar likewise a person may derive that the larger receptacle of spirituality he makes himself through faith and spiritual refinement the more Hashem will expand his capacity to receive spirituality.


And the Children of Yisroel ate the manna for forty years, until their arrival in an inhabited land, they ate the manna until their arrival at the border of the land of Canaan. (Shemos 16:24)

One of the major highlights of this week's parsha (Torah reading) is the story of the manna. It is noteworthy that parshas Beshalach is also significant in that it is always read immediately before Tu' Bishvat (the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat) and in some years on Tu' Bishvat itself. We may ask is there any special relationship between the manna and Tu' Bishvat?

In parshas Chukas we learn about the sinful attitude that some Jews had towards the manna. The posuk (verse) records: The people spoke against Hashem (G-D) and against Moshe (Moses). "Why have you brought us up from the land of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is no food and there is no water and our soul detests this light bread" (Bamidbar 21:5). Immediately thereafter Hashem punished the people by sending deadly poisonous snakes to bite and kill. The sinners subsequently repented and Moshe prayed to Hashem on their behalf. Hashem then said to Moshe "Make for yourself a saraph (poisonous snake) and place it on a pole and it will be that anyone who had been bitten will look at it and live. (Bamidbar 21:8)

Rashi explains that by looking upward at the seraph the people would be inspired by the background of heaven and subject their hearts to Hashem. By doing so they would be miraculously healed.

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that as we read through the parshios during the course of the year the events recorded in each particular parsha are reenacted in this world to some degree. Thus, when we read that Hashem provided manna for the Jewish people in the desert for forty years this invokes from Hashem a blessing of livelihood for us in our times. Unfortunately many of us are unable to perceive the blessing in our livelihoods. Indeed, there are times that we are extremely frustrated and bitter. At times we are tempted to sinfully complain as those in parshas Chukas did by saying "our soul detest this light bread."

Let us suggest that as a preventive measure for frustration and complaint Hashem has arranged that the holiday of Tu' Bishvat appear immediate after the reading of the manna.

Chazal teach us that Tu' Bishvat marks the new year for trees. Where do we see renewal in the trees at this time of the year? To the naked eye, nothing has changed with the passing of the fifteenth day of Shevat. It is still the middle of the winter, the trees are barren and do not possess any sings of life. Rashi (Rosh Hashanah 14a) answers this question by explaining that the significance of Tu' Bishvat lies in the fact that on this day "the sap (s'raph) has gone up in the tree." It is true that to the naked eye no noticeable changes have occurred, yet what is important is that the sap in now fully in place to produce fruits of excellent quality in the coming spring.

It is noteworthy that the word Rashi uses for sap and the word used for the snake that Moshe was required to form have exactly the same letters i.e., sin, reish, and pey. The simple explanation for this is as follows: First we must understand that saraph literally means venom. In the posuk the snake itself is called saraph after its poisonous venom. Both the poison of the snake and sap of the tree share the character of appearing to be an insignificant sticky substance. They also share the characteristic that they are in truth both extremely potent. The only difference is that one brings death and the other is the source of food, which is a necessity of life. Their similarity of appearance and character of potency is why they are described in Hebrew with the same letters.

Further it is noteworthy that the word sap and poisonous snake are both used in the context of elevation. Moshe lifted up the seraph on the pole for all to see and the sap has been elevated in the tree.

Tu' Bishvat is the modern day reenactment of the posuk "make for yourself a saraph and place it on a pole and it will be that anyone who had been bitten will look at it and live (Bamidbar 21:8). At this time of the year when we read about the manna and reflect on our own livelihood we should be careful not to complain. We need only follow in the way of our ancestors and reflect on the sin, reish and pey that has been raised. Although the blessing in our livelihood might not necessarily be apparent, it is no different than the sap that has been put into place in the barren tree that stands frozen in the dead winter. We must look up at the sap and be inspired by heaven to have faith that Hashem has set in motion all the necessary conditions so that fruit of our livelihood will blossom in its proper time.


And Hashem (G-D) said to Moshe (Moses) "Why do you cry out to me? Speak to the children of Yisroel and let them journey." (Shemos 14:15)

We are certainly aware that prayer is a fundamental aspect of our religious service. This is seen clearly from the fact that we are obligated to pray three times a day. We may thus ask, how can it be that Hashem instructed Moshe at the sea of reeds not to pray? Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) teach us that Hashem listens even to the sincere prayers of the wicked and does not send them away empty handed, certainly then we could assume that Hashem would desire to hear the prayers of Moshe and the entire Jewish people at this critical moment.

A similar question may be asked with regard to Avraham (Abraham) Avinu. When Hashem instructed Avraham to sacrifice his beloved son Yitzchak, Avraham complied without hesitation. The commentators are troubled as to why we don't find Avraham praying to Hashem that He spare the life of his son. It may have been true that Hashem would deny his request but nevertheless, doesn't such a harsh decree warrant the heartfelt prayer of a father?

In order to answer these questions we must understand the difference between prayer and faith. When we pray, we remove ourselves from the activity of life. At least three times a day we stop what we are doing and spiritually prepare ourselves with the tool of prayer. On the other hand, faith is an attitude and belief that we express, as we are actively involved in our daily activities or as the happenings of life affect us. Faith is the tool that we act and respond with. We faithfully believe that all will turn out for the best or that all that happens is the will of Hashem even if we cannot comprehend the reason.

Chazal teach us that the sea of reeds did not split until we jumped in. To jump into a stormy sea at command of Hashem knowing that the possibility of drowning was likely required us to embrace a challenge and not hide from it. Thus, jumping into the sea was an act of faith. We now understand that Hashem told Moshe that now is not the time for prayer but the time for faith. We may now revise our question, Why did Hashem tell Moshe to act with faith and not prayer?

Likewise when Hashem instructed Avraham to sacrifice his son, our question may be revised, why did Avraham act with faith in that he willingly sacrificed his child instead of first praying on his behalf?

When a person finds himself in a difficult situation he must look at the cause of the problem. At times a problem arises not due to any special reason. In this case prayer is certainly appropriate. However, many times a person creates his own problems. We may further break down this category of self-created problems into two parts. At times a problem is the product of prior actions. Here again prayer is appropriate. However, at other times a problem is an outgrowth of a previous expression of faith.

In this case we may suggest that prayer is not appropriate, rather the solution lies in expressing more faith.

For example: A person sincerely takes it upon himself to study Torah realizing that as a consequence, it will later be more difficult for him to find a livelihood. Indeed, at a later point in times he finds himself in this difficult situation. This person can focus on one of two things, either he may invest an inordinate amount of time for prayer in hope that Hashem will provide him with a livelihood or just faithfully face the challenge. In this example the source of his difficulty was an act of faith, therefore he need not focus on prayer. Here the solution lies in expressing more faith, that being, facing the challenge. To review, if the source of a problem is past expression of faith then the solution is to express more faith. Otherwise, the approach is prayer.

The proof to this concept is the aforementioned questions. The Jewish people found themselves facing a great peril. The enemy was pursuing them from behind, the sea of reeds was in front of them and they had nowhere to go. We may ask, what was the cause of their situation. Why didn't the Jewish people just remain in Egypt? If we look back at the posukim (verses) we will discover that when Moshe first informed the Jewish people that Hashem has come to redeem them, the posuk records their response with the words "the people had faith" (Shemos 4:31). Thus, the cause of the problem that they faced now was an expression of faith, therefore the solution was to express more faith, that being, "speak to the children of Yisroel and go forward."

Likewise with regard to Avraham, Hashem was about to take the life of his son Yitzchak. We may ask, what was the source of Yitzchaks (Isaac) life? When Hashem appeared to Avraham who was physically incapable of bearing children and informed him that he would miraculously have a child, the Torah records Avraham's response with the words "he had faith in Hashem." (Bereishis 15:6) Thus again, since the very foundation of Yitzchaks life was that of faith the only thing needed now was more faith, that being to go forward with the akeidah.


Moshe said to the people, do not be afraid, stand, and see the salvation of Hashem (G-d); that which Hashem is doing for you today. (Shemos 14:13)

As the Hebrews fled the Egyptians they complained bitterly to Moshe about their dire predicament. We can ask, how can the Hebrews suddenly complain and lose faith in Hashem after witnessing countless miracles in Egypt? How could they suddenly turn on Moshe and forget how far he took them?

Let us attempt to answer this by reviewing a Rashi in parshas vayeira. As the malach (angel) rescued Lot from Sedom the malach warned Lot not to look back and witness Sedom's destruction. Rashi writes that the malach informed Lot that he was no better than the wicked of Sedom and unworthy of being saved. It was only in the merit of his uncle Avraham that he was spared. Therefore, because he was unworthy he did not deserve to witness the destruction of Sedom.

The converse will lead us to conclude that when one is saved from a tragedy due to his own merit, then he does deserve to witness the enemy's downfall and his own salvation.

Using this premise let us suggest the following: the Hebrews were aware of the miracles and destruction brought upon the Egyptians but they were not sure what precipitated these events. They knew that the Egyptians were evil and Hashem wished to punish them just as Hashem punished Sedom. Therefore, they reasoned that what was happening to the Egyptians had nothing to do with the Hebrews. Subconsciously, they accused Moshe of using this opportunity to gain independence for the Hebrews when Hashem had no such plan in mind. However, as long as thing were going well, they went along entertaining the possibility that Moshe was correct and that all that was transpiring was for their benefit. However, when their situation changed for the worse, they panicked and their suspicions took hold of them. They then bitterly complained to Moshe that he was wrong in taking them out of Egypt, this was not part of Hashem's plan. They did not deny the miracles and wonders in Egypt but they felt that Hashem had a different agenda and it was a mistake to leave Egypt.

Moshe thereupon, responded that he was correct. All that had happened and what is yet to happen was for the purpose of the Hebrews. The proof, he said, is that Hashem will allow you to witness the downfall of the Egyptians. If what happened to the Egyptians was just simply a punishment for their evil ways then Hashem would not allow you to witness their downfall. It would be no different then Sedom where Lot was not allowed to look back and witness its destruction.

This now becomes evident in the posuk (verse). Moshe tells the Hebrews to stand and see the salvation of Hashem. Only then will they realize that all that is happening today is for you.

The same message in conveyed later in the parsha. After the yam suf washed up the dead bodies of the Egyptian onto the shore the posuk reads "Yisroel saw the great hand that Hashem did in Egypt; and the people feared Hashem and had faith in Moshe His servant."

This can now be interpreted as follows: after they merited to actually see the downfall of the Egyptians, they realized that all that was done in Egypt was for them not just as a punishment for the Egyptians. In addition, only then did they have full faith in Moshe. Only then did they realize that he was correct all along when he told the Hebrews that the all the events were for their benefit.

Yisro

The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 10b) relates a dispute between Rebbi Eliezer and Rebbi Yehoshua as to when the world was created. Rebbi Eliezer is of the opinion that the world was created in the month of Tishrei and Rebbi Yehoshua is of the opinion that it was created in the month of Nisan.

The commentators explain that there is really no dispute between the two. Rebbi Eliezer is referring to when Hashem (G-D) conceived of the idea to create the world and Rebbi Yehoshua refers to the actual physical creation. Furthermore, the commentators explain that when Rebbi Eliezer and Rebbi Yeshosha discuss the creation of the world taking place in either Tishrei or Nissan, they refer specifically to the creation of man which occurred on the sixth day of creation. The first day of creation was five days before, either on the twenty-fifth of Elul or the twenty-fifth of Adar. Thus, according to Rebbi Yehoshua man was created on the first day of Nissan.

The Talmud (Sotah 2b) tells us that forty days before the formation of a child a bas kol (heavenly voice) goes forth and declares three things; 1) the daughter of so and so is destined to marry this person. 2) A specific house is destined to become the home of this person and 3) a specific field is destined to become the property of this person. These three things correspond to chazal's (our sages of blessed memory) list of the three basic necessities and goals in life. Children, life, and food. This bas kol represents a person's natural predisposition in this world as he fulfills his mission in life. The "daughter of so and so," corresponds to his children. The "house" corresponds to the quality and length of his life and the "field" is symbolic of his occupation, i.e., food.

This Shabbos (5766) is the twentieth day of Shevat. It is exactly forty days before the anniversary of man's creation. Thus, this Shabbos is the anniversary of the bas kol that preceded the creation of Adam Ha'rishon (the first man). Certainly, we can find guidance and insight by listening carefully to this voice. After all, we are all descendents of Adam Ha'rishon. Although we do not actually hear the voice we have faith that our spiritual essence hears it.

On this Shabbos we also read the Ten Commandments, which the Torah describes as "a great voice which did not stop" (Devarim 5:19). Thus, on this Shabbos we listen to two voices. However, the nature of each one is very different. The bas kol is all about man and his natural predisposition in life, in other words, what is good for us. The voice of the Ten Commandments is all about Hashem and the Torah.

We have a problem! Chazal tell us that we cannot listen to two voices at the same time (Rosh Hashanah 27a). For example, in ancient times it was customary to translate the Torah into Aramaic as it was read. Chazal warn us not to allow two people to translate the same time because it is not possible for us to listen to them both at the same time. How then can we on this Shabbos listen to the voice of the bas kol and the voice of Ten Commandments at the same time?

There is an exception to the rule. If the subject is chaviv, i.e., precious, we can listen to two voices at the same time. For example, if even ten people are reading together Megillas Esther or reciting Hallel we can fulfill our obligation by listening to them because the megillah and hallel are precious to us.

This Shabbos presents a special challenge to us. There are two voices speaking to us simultaneously. One concerns what is good for us and the other concerns Hashem and the Torah. Both voices threaten to cancel each other out. The only way we can hear both is if we appreciate how precious and cherished they both are. Indeed, chazal tell us that both Man and the Torah are precious and cherished. "Man is precious for he was created in the image of Hashem… Beloved are the Jewish people before Hashem, for a cherished utensil (Torah) was given to them (Avos 3:14).

The lesson of this Shabbos is one for our whole life. If we appreciate the value of both life and Torah we will have the best of both. However, if we only value life but not Torah or vice versa we risk loosing everything.


They would judge the people at all times; the difficult thing they would bring to Moshe (Moses) and the minor thing they themselves would judge. (Shemos 18:26)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn how Yisro approached Moshe and advised him to establish a judicial hierarchy. He suggested that only major matters be brought to Moshe for judgment and all minor matters be judged by the lower courts (Shemos 18:22). The commentators note that when Moshe implemented Yisro's advice, the posuk (verse) records that difficult matters were bought to Moshe. Why did the Torah record Yisro's advice with the word major and Moshe's implementation with the word difficult.

The commentators answer that Yisro came from a secular background and at that time he did not yet have a true appreciation of the high standards of the Torah. Yisro believed that only when a dispute involved a significant amount of money should Moshe be consulted. If the dispute involved an insignificant amount of money, it was not necessary to consult Moshe for his expert advice. Even if a judge were to make a mistake in law it would not have major ramifications.

Moshe disagreed. When he implemented Yisro's advice it was with a variation. Moshe taught Yisro and the Jewish people that according to Torah law it is not important how much money is involved. What is important is the truth. Even an insignificant amount of money whose law was complex is deserving of expert advice. This idea explains the discrepancy between Yisro's words and that of Moshe's. Yisro advised that a major matter be brought to Moshe. The word major has the connotation of a significant sum of money. Moshe corrected him by instructing the judges to bring to him only a matter that is difficult. The word difficult has the connotation of difficulty in law. The truth is important not money.

We may note that this interpretation only explains the discrepancy in the first part of the two posukim. What about the conclusion of both posukim? Both Yisro's advice and Moshe's implementation conclude with the same words "and the minor thing they themselves would judge." The word minor fits well in Yisro advice, for minor is the correct parallel to major. However, the word minor does not parallel difficult. With regard to Moshe's implementation it would seem that the posuk should have concluded "a simple or light matter they themselves would judge?"

We may suggest that the Torah is teaching an important principle in judicial proceedings and Torah study in general. There is no such thing as a simple matter. Every law no matter how simple it may seem has great depth and profundity. Indeed, Chazal (our Sages of blessed memory) teach us that one of the prerequisites for the appointment of a new judge is his ability to show how something that the Torah forbids can be logically proven to be permitted. Something is permitted or forbidden only because the Torah decreed so. In essence a new judge must prove that he has an appreciation of the fact that nothing in Jewish law is simple.

In Jewish law there are laws that are complex and super complex. The Torah tells us that matters that were complex were judged by the lower courts. The matters that were super complex were brought to Moshe for his expert counsel. The posuk could not have said that matters that were easy or light were brought to Moshe. There are no such things as easy and light matters. In the context of the posuk the word minor may be interpreted as minor in complexity relative to the super complex laws that were brought to Moshe.


They would judge the people at all times; the difficult thing they would bring to Moshe (Moses) and the minor thing they themselves would judge. (Shemos 18:26)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn how Yisro approached Moshe and advised him to establish a judicial hierarchy. He suggested that only major matters be brought to Moshe for judgment and all minor matters be judged by the lower courts (Shemos 18:22). The commentators note that when Moshe implemented Yisro's advice, the posuk (verse) records that difficult matters were bought to Moshe. Why did the Torah record Yisro's advice with the word major and Moshe's implementation with the word difficult.

The commentators answer that Yisro came from a secular background and at that time he did not yet have a true appreciation of the high standards of the Torah. Yisro believed that only when a dispute involved a significant amount of money should Moshe be consulted. If the dispute involved an insignificant amount of money, it was not necessary to consult Moshe for his expert advice. Even if a judge were to make a mistake in law it would not have major ramifications.

Moshe disagreed. When he implemented Yisro's advice it was with a variation. Moshe taught Yisro and the Jewish people that according to Torah law it is not important how much money is involved. What is important is the truth. Even an insignificant amount of money whose law was complex is deserving of expert advice. This idea explains the discrepancy between Yisro's words and that of Moshe's. Yisro advised that a major matter be brought to Moshe. The word major has the connotation of a significant sum of money. Moshe corrected him by instructing the judges to bring to him only a matter that is difficult. The word difficult has the connotation of difficulty in law. The truth is important not money.

We may note that this interpretation only explains the discrepancy in the first part of the two posukim. What about the conclusion of both posukim? Both Yisro's advice and Moshe's implementation conclude with the same words "and the minor thing they themselves would judge." The word minor fits well in Yisro advice, for minor is the correct parallel to major. However, the word minor does not parallel difficult. With regard to Moshe's implementation it would seem that the posuk should have concluded "a simple or light matter they themselves would judge?"

We may suggest that the Torah is teaching an important principle in judicial proceedings and Torah study in general. There is no such thing as a simple matter. Every law no matter how simple it may seem has great depth and profundity. Indeed, Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) teach us that one of the prerequisites for the appointment of a new judge is his ability to show how something that the Torah forbids can be logically proven to be permitted. Something is permitted or forbidden only because the Torah decreed so. In essence a new judge must prove that he has an appreciation of the fact that nothing in Jewish law is simple.

In Jewish law there are laws that are complex and super complex. The Torah tells us that matters that were complex were judged by the lower courts. The matters that were super complex were brought to Moshe for his expert counsel. The posuk could not have said that matters that were easy or light were brought to Moshe. There are no such things as easy and light matters. In the context of the posuk the word minor may be interpreted as minor in complexity relative to the super complex laws that were brought to Moshe.


And He said to Moshe (Moses) "I, your father-in-law Yisro have come to you, with your wife and her two sons with her." (Shemos 18:6)

I am Hashem, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves. (Shemos 20:2)

The Malbim in his sefer (book) HaCarmel notes that Biblical Hebrew contains two words that are both translated as "I." They are anochi and ani. Indeed the Targum translates both these words the same as anah. Nevertheless, the Malbim explains that each word has a different connotation. The word anochi connotes a strong emphasis on the individual and de-emphasizes the action of the individual. The word ani is the opposite. This word de-emphasizes the individual and places strong emphasis on the action of the individual. The Malbim illustrates this difference with an example. If one would like to say in Hebrew "I am sitting" one can say either anochi yoshaiv or ani yoshaiv. However there is a difference. If one says anochi yoshaiv then this connotes a strong emphasis on the "I." In this case the statement may be interpreted as, "I am the one who is sitting and not someone else." However if one were to say "ani yoshaiv," then this would emphasize the action and de-emphasize the individual. In our example the statement may be interpreted as, "I am sitting and not standing."

Support for the Malbim may be evinced by noting that the only difference between anochi and ani is the letter chaf. The Gemara in mesechta (Tractate) Shabbos (104a) homiletically interprets every letter of the aleph beis. The Gemara there says that the letter chaf represents a crown. Chazal teach us that two kings cannot share the same crown. The crown indicates that its bearer is unique and none other can be compared to him. The word ani is translated as "I." This "I" is the simple ordinary "I" who does not represent anything special or unique. However the word anochi may be homiletically interpreted as "I, who is wearing the crown." If this individual is wearing the crown then he must be unique and none other may be compared to him. This fits well with the Idea that anochi connotes an emphasis on the individual.

Parshas Yisro obviously has much to do with Yisro. Yisro was the first convert to enter the Jewish people and was instrumental in adding the laws of judges to the Torah. It was in light of these two things that the parsha (Torah reading) is called after his name. However Parshas Yisro is also famous for hosting the aseres hadibros(Ten Commandments). Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the aseres hadibros represent a microcosm of the entire Torah. In light of this we would have expected that the parsha be named after the aseres hadibros. We may thus ask what does the story of Yisro and the aseres hadibros have in common that they were placed together in the same parsha with the title Yisro?

Perhaps we may suggest that the common factor of both is that they begin with the word "I." Hashem began the aseres hadibros with the word anochi and Yisro embraced Judaism with the word ani. When Yisro approached Moshe the posuk records him saying "ani your father-in-law Yisro have come to you." However this leads us to ask why did Hashem begin with the word anochi and Yisro with the word ani?

We know that a central theme of the aseres hadibros is our belief that that there is none other than Hashem. It is therefore perfectly appropriate for the aseres hadibros to begin with the words anochi, which emphasizes the uniqueness of Hashem. On the other hand, Yisro, upon embracing Judaism properly expressed humility with the word ani, conveying that it was not important who he was. What was important was that he wished to come close to Hashem.

The contrast of the words ani and anochi that appear in the two major highlights of this parsha serve as a model for us. As we strive to elevate ourselves spiritually we must follow in the example of Hashem's anochi and Yisro's ani. We must recognize that there is no other than Hashem. Indeed we declare twice a day in our prayers "Hashem is our G-d and Hashem is One." Furthermore we must humble ourselves by recognizing that who we are is not important. What is important is our will to come close to Hashem.


The Ten Commandments (Shemos 20:1-14)

We are all aware that the Ten Commandments were inscribed on two tablets. The first five Commandments appeared on the first tablet and the second five appeared on the second tablet. The commentators explain that the significance of dividing the tablets into two parts is that the first five represent Commandments that are between man and Hashem (G-D) whereas the second five represent Commandments that are between man and man. Perhaps we may suggest another approach to categorize the Ten Commandments.

The Midrash (Va'eira) records that it is the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah that the staff used by Moshe to perform the plagues weighed exactly forty seah and was made from the sanpirin stone. It is interesting that the same Rebbi Yehudah in another Midrash relates that the Tablets also weighed exactly forty seah and were made from the same sanpirin stone. From these two Midrashim it appears that there is a strong connection between the staff of Moshe and the Luchos, but what is the connection?

Further, in the Haggadah we again encounter Rebbi Yehudah: Rebbi Yehudah haya nossen bo simanim…. The Radal explains that Rebbi Yehudah's true intent is that the staff of Moshe had the three words desach adash ba-achav, containing ten letters inscribed on it. A loose translation of his words are: Rebbi Yehudah says that Moshe put this acronym in his staff.

Taking all of the above together let us suggest that just as the staff of Moshe contained ten letters that were categorized into three separate parts likewise the ten commandments can also be categorized into three parts.

If we take a close look at the Ten Commandments we will discover they too fit into three sections. These categories correspond to the three words of Rebbi Yehudah's acronym of desach adash and b'achav. These groupings will consist of categories containing three, three and four elements just as they are grouped in Rebbi Yehudah's acronym. Let's locate these groupings. The first grouping is the first three Commandments: 1) I am Hashem your G-d, 2) you shall have no other gods 3) and do not swear falsely by my Name. These three commandments clearly fit into the category of those between man and Hashem.

A second grouping of four, corresponding to the four letters of b'ahav, and relating between man and man are the last four commandments: 1) Do not commit adultery, 2) do not steal, 3) do not testify falsely, 4) Do not desire the wife and possessions of your neighbor.

Finally, the third category of three consists of the middle three Commandments 1) Shabbos, 2) honoring one's parents and 3) the prohibition against murder. These Commandments serve as a bridge between the Commandments that are between man and man and the Commandments that are between man and Hashem.

Let's begin with Shabbos. On the one hand Shabbos is a day of rest. We are commanded to abstain from the physical labor. This aspect of the Commandment relates to man. However, Shabbos is also a day that serves as a sign and remembrance that Hashem created the world. This aspect of Shabbos relates to Hashem. We see here both elements, an aspect that applies to man as well as one relating to Hashem.

The Commandment to honor parents is also a bridge. On one hand a parent is special human being whom we are obligated to respect, honor and fear. Thus, it fits into the category of man and man. However, a parent is also a Hashem's partner in our creation. Indeed, the honor of a parent is compared to the honor of Hashem. Again we see this dual aspect of man and man as well as man and Hashem.

Finally, the prohibition against murder also serves as a bridge. The sin of murder by definition certainly involves a transgression that relates to man. However, a person is also an image of Hashem, a tzelem elokim and thus the sin of murder is an attempt to diminish the image of Hashem.

In summary, we suggest that just as the staff was divided into three parts likewise the Ten Commandments are divided into three parts. These are the Commandments that are between man and Hashem; man and man; and the Commandments that bridge the two.


The father-in-law of Moshe (Moses) saw everything that he (Moshe) was doing to the people and he said, "What is this thing that you are doing to the people?" Why do you sit alone with all the people standing by you from morning to evening?"

Moshe said to his father in law "Because the people come to me to seek Hashem (G-d). When they have a matter one comes to me and I judge between a man and his fellow, and I make known the statutes of Hashem and his laws." (Shemos 18:14-16)

The simple understanding of the posukim (verses) is that Yisro questioned Moshe why he sits alone in judgment. The workload is too much for a single man to bear. To this Moshe responded that people have many questions and disputes and it is his duty to answer their questions and resolve their disputes.

We may ask a number questions. If Yisro was bothered only because Moshe sat alone, why then did he mention that he observed him sitting from morning to evening? How did Moshe answer his question? Is it not obvious that the people have many questions? Why the verbosity in Moshe response? What did Moshe's mean by breaking up his response that some people come to seek Hashem while others come for dispute resolution?

Let us suggest a homiletic interpretation to this dialogue. First let us suggest that Yisro's main question was not why Moshe sat alone but why there was so many questions that necessitated Moshe to sit in judgment from morning to evening. To this Moshe responded that the problem is not because they have many questions but, on the contrary, it is because they failed to ask the questions at the proper time. Let us explain.

Moshe explained that there are two types of questions that he dealt with. The first type are those that related to mitzvos between man and Hashem. Moshe referred to these questions with the words "the people come to seek Hashem." Then there are the second category of questions, those that relate to mitzvos (commandments) between man and man. This he referred to with the words "and I judge between a man and his fellow."

However there is a big difference between the two. When the people attempt to do a mitzvah (commandment) between man and Hashem before actually doing the mitzvah they are careful to clarify any uncertainties that they have. But unfortunately when engaging in some activity with their fellow man they fail to clarify if their conduct meets the standards of the Torah. Here they are willing to take the risk and proceed without resolving their uncertainties. In this category of questions I only receive them after they are too deeply involved and the problem has gotten out of hand. This difference is alluded to in the posuk when in mentioning the mitzvos between man and Hashem Moshe says simply they come to seek Hashem. Whereas with regard to judging between man and his fellow, Moshe prefaced his words with the phrase "when they have a matter." This implies they don't get to me until it is a matter, i.e., it is too late and the matter has already gotten out of hand. If they would have only come to me before getting involved with their fellows and sought proper Torah guidance, it would never have come to such a situation were I would need to sit in judgment from morning to evening with so many individuals.

With this idea we can understand why Moshe was still judging them all alone. Moshe believed that it was possible for them to still come to the level of treating the mitzvos between man and man just as they would act with mitzvos between man and Hashem. If he would succeed in accomplishing this that would drastically diminish the number of disputes and there would be no need for more judges. However Yisro responded "this matter is heavier than you." To teach the people to treat the mitzvos between man and man with the same level of exactness as the mitzvos of man and Hashem is beyond the ability of a single man, even one like Moshe.

Mishpatim

Then his master shall bring him to court and shall bring him to the door and the doorpost and his master shall bore through his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever. (Shemos 21:6)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the Jewish slave who refuses to leave his master upon the conclusion of his six year term. The Torah tells us that his master shall take him to court and bore a hole through his ear and into the door. The slave shall then continue to serve his master until the next yovel year. Why does this slave not take advantage of an opportunity for freedom? Even if he enjoys a good life serving his master certainly nothing is better than complete freedom. Obviously, the problem lies in the fact that that the slave sees no purpose for an independent life. If so, how does the boring of the hole in his ear and door and his servitude until yovel address this problem?

Rashi explains that the reason why the ear is bored is because it was present at Mount Sinai and heard Hashem (G-D) say that the Jewish people are His servants and not servants of others. This person has defied Hashem by making himself a servant to another person. Therefore, it is punished by being bored. Rashi continues to explain why the door is bored. When Hashem killed the firstborn of Egypt he spared the Jewish People by passing over their doors. The doors were witnesses that Hashem chose the Jewish people as his servants. This person has defied Hashem by volunteering himself as a slave to another person. Therefore, he is bored in its presence.

It emerges from Rashi that the boring of the ear relates to the event that occurred on the Mount Sinai when Hashem gave the Jewish people the Torah and the boring through the door relates to the redemption of the Jewish people form their bondage in Egypt. These two items are brought together and bored.

When Hashem appeared to Moshe at the burning bush and persuaded him to serve as the leader for the Jewish people in their redemption from Egypt, Hashem explained that the purpose of freeing the Jewish people from bondage was to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai (Shemos 3:12). The redemption of the Jewish people was not a means to an end; it had a clear purpose. Freedom from Egypt would provide the Jewish people with an opportunity to receive the Torah and serve Hashem.

The Jewish slave of our parsha has failed to see the purpose in his redemption. His failure indicates that he also fails to see the connection between the redemption from Egypt and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. He is punished by having a hole bored through his ear and into the door. The door symbolizes the redemption from Egypt and his ear symbolizes the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This act of boring conveys that just as the redemption of slavery from Egypt had a purpose, namely the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, likewise his opportunity for freedom has the same purpose, to provide him with an opportunity to serve Hashem as an independent person and not as a slave. Opportunities to sanctify Hashem are certainly greater for a free man than for a slave.

The Torah requires that he continue to serve his master until Yovel. Each Yovel cycle is exactly fifty years. There were exactly fifty days between the redemption from Egypt and the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Chazal tell us that these fifty days served as a preparation period for the receiving of the Torah. This time served as a link between the two events not a break. Indeed, the Torah instructs us to count these fifty days every year with the mitzvah (commandment) of Sefiras HaOmer. We may suggest that the fifty years of servitude correspond to the fifty days between the redemption and receiving of the Torah. The slave is reminded that an opportunity for freedom has a purpose. The fifty additional years of servitude remind him of the fifty days which allowed the Jewish people to prepare for the purpose of their redemption.

We may learn from the Jewish slave of our parsha that every event and opportunity in life has a purpose. If we fail to take advantage then we have failed to see the purpose. We need to be reminded of the Jewish slave whose ear is bored through the door.


Then his master shall bring him to the judges and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost and his master shall bore through his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever. (Shemos 21:6)

Rashi here concludes that the Jewish slave's ear must be bored only on the door and not on the doorpost. The posuk's (verse's) mention of the doorpost was only for halachik (Jewish law) exposition purposes. Rashi continues to quote the Midrash that explains why precisely the door and doorpost are mentioned. "Rebbi Shimon expounded this posuk like a pearl. What makes a door and doorpost unique among all the furnishing of the house that they should be singled out in this commandment? Hashem (G-D) said, the door and the doorpost that were witnesses in Egypt when I skipped over the lintel and the two doorpost that were sprinkled with the blood of the karbon pesach (Passover sacrifice) and heard that I said "The children of Yisroel (Israel) are my servants," implying that are my servants and not servants to servants, yet despite this, this individual went and acquired a different master for himself, it is fitting that his ear should be bored in their presence."

Perhaps we may suggest an additional homiletic explanation as to why specifically the door is used.

First, as the title of this parsha (Torah reading) indicates, most of the laws of this sidrah (Torah reading) were taught to the newly ordained judges of the Jewish people. As a matter of fact, the laws of the Jewish slaves were the very first of these laws. Second, it is noteworthy that the word "door" has only appeared previously in the Torah in one other context, that being the story of how Lot protected the angles when they came to save him from the destruction of Sedom. Third, from the fact that we are here discussing the laws that are given to the judges it is interesting to note that Lot was the first official judge recorded in the Torah. This is seen from the posuk "and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom" (Bereishis 19:1). Rashi Comments that the word "sat" in the context of this posuk conveys that on that very day the people of Sodom appointed him as a judge over them. This is again clearly illustrated a few posukim later when the posuk records the reaction of the Sedomites to Lot's behavior when they declared "this one has originally come to sojourn and now he judges over us!" (Bereishis 19:9).

We may now make the following observation. The posukim record that when the angels came to visit Lot he quickly took them into his home. Later, a group of people gathered outside demanding that the guests be handed over for the purposes of sin. The posuk records that Lot went outside and "shut the door after him" in order to protect them. The evil people tried to break the door but were unsuccessful. We see that Lot, the first recorded official judge used "the door" as an instrument to protect his innocent guest.

Generally, a Jewish slave is given great privileges. The posuk says "it must be good for him with you." Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) derive from this posuk that in given circumstances a Jewish slave must be treated even better then the master. Chazal go so far as to say that whoever acquires a Jewish slave for himself has in reality acquired a master for himself. Certainly it is expected that the Judges ensure proper treatment for the Jewish slave. A most basic duty of a judge is to assist the oppressed. A slave is vulnerable and requires special attention. However, when a Jewish slave chooses not to leave his master upon the conclusion of his term the Torah considers this to be a very grave sin. Here the judges are not allowed to show any compassion whatsoever. As a symbol of the harsh treatment that the slave deserves the judges are instructed to bore a hole through his ear on the door. The door has great symbolic meaning for the judges for it was the instrument that Lot, first Judge recorded in the Torah, used to defend and protect his innocent guests. Here, however, due to the severity of the sin even this instrument is used to inflict punishment.


Whoever the court finds guilt shall pay double to his fellow. (Shemos 22:9)

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the half shekel was paid as atonement for the sin of worshipping the golden calf (Yerushalmi Shekalim 4:3). This is hinted at in the posuk (verse) "the wealthy shall not increase and the poor shall not decrease from the half-shekel to give the portion of Hashem to atone for your souls" (Shemos 30:15). We may ask, what connection is there between the sin of the golden calf and the half shekel that every Jew was obligated to give?

The posuk tells us that exactly three thousand people died as a result of worshiping the golden calf (Shemos 32:28). The Torah in parshas bechukosai gives the erech value for a male between the age of twenty and sixty as fifty shekalim. Thus, the loss of three thousand lives was equal to the loss of fifty-shekalim times three thousand which equals one hundred and fifty thousand shekalim. The number of adult Jewish men at the time of the sin of the golden calf was approximately six hundred thousand. It was these same men who were obligated to give the half shekel as the posuk says in connection to the half shekel "Everyone who passes among the counted from the age of twenty years and up shall give the portion of Hashem" (Shemos 30:14). A simple calculation shows that the total collected from all the half shekelim equaled exactly three hundred thousand shekalim.

If we take the above together with our posuk that teaches that the guilty party must pay double, we can understand why each individual was obligated to pay precisely a half-shekel. Although only three thousand people actually worshiped the golden calf nevertheless the entire Jewish people were responsible for this awful sin. The rule that every Jew is responsible for his fellow Jew applies to spiritual matters as well as the mundane and thus the Jewish people as a whole were guilty of not restraining and preventing their brethren from sinning. Therefore, because they were guilty they were obligated to pay double the loss. This is hinted to in our posuk, which may now be homiletically interpreted as "Whoever the court [of Heaven] finds guilty shall pay double [of account of] his fellow." Double the loss equaled three hundred thousand shekalim. Those who were guilty were six hundred thousand and an equal distribution equals a half-shekel per person.


When you will lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act toward him as a creditor; do not place interest upon him. (Shemos 22:24)

The Gemara (Yevomos 63a) says: Concerning one who lends a poor man money in his hour of need the posuk says: Then you will call and Hashem will respond, you will cry out and Hashem will say here I am.

The simple meaning of the words "in his hour of need" is that this phrase refers to the hour of need of the poor man. However, this interpretation is difficult. Is it not obvious? Why would the poor man seek assistance if it were not his hour of need? A homiletic interpretation would render "in his hour of need" as referring to the lender. The interpretation of this dictum would thus convey the following: If a man is so gracious that even in his own hour of need he still does not forsake the poor man then he is truly worthy of great blessing.

Based on this interpretation we may now reinterpret our posuk. The posuk simply conveys a warning not to harm the poor man who lives together with you by charging interest or demanding payment. We may ask, does this only apply to a poor man who lives together with you and not to a poor man who lives at a distance? Let us suggest that the words "with you" are not to be interpreted only as the poor man that lives together with you but rather as the poor man that shares the same class of poverty as you. The posuk now conveys the following: Even when you find yourself suffering from poverty just like the poor man that you lend money to, do not use this as an excuse to lend with interest or demand unjust payment. Rather, rich and poor alike share the same obligations when lending money to another individual.

Alternatively, the seemingly superfluous words "with you" may be interpreted based on the following dictum: When a person departs from this world he will not be accompanied by gold or silver nor precious stones or pearls but only by Torah and good deeds (Avos 6:10). Our posuk informs us that although the money itself cannot accompany you into the next world but through this Mitzvah it is now "with you" and its merit will indeed accompany you into the next world.

Terumah

On the shulchan (table) you shall place the showbread before me always. (Shemos 25:30).

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the lechem hapanim (showbread). On the northern side of the mishkan (sanctuary) stood the shulchan with an arrangement of twelve loaves of bread. The Gemarah (Menachos 94b) presents a dispute as to the exact shape of the breads. According to Rebbi Channinah the breads were fashioned in the shape of open box. This is simply understood to means that they were square in appearance. Rebbi Yochanan disagrees and holds that they were fashioned in the shape of a swift ship. This is simply understood to mean that they were round in appearance. The Gemarah details the differences between the two opinions in both the shape of the breads and how they were supported on the shulchan. What concepts do these different shapes symbolize?

The Hebrew word used by Rebbi Channinah for a box is "teivah." It is noteworthy that this same word is used by the Torah to describe the ark built by Noach. The ark of Noach is defined by the Torah as a teivah and not a ship. Both a taivah and a ship are similar in that they are vessels that float on the sea; however, there is a major difference. The primary function of a ship is transportation whereas; the primary function of a taivah is survival. Noach's taivah was a self-sufficient structure that provided the needs for all the individuals and animals for one year. The teivah of Noach was not designed to travel anywhere; its function was solely to provide safe haven for Noach, his family and the animals during the mabul (flood).

Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the purpose of the shulchan is to remind us that Hashem (G-D) provides material support to mankind. Man's continued existence is dependent upon a constant flow of material support. The shulcah reminds us that Hashem provides this support.

There are people whom Hashem blesses with an abundant measure of material blessing, whereas others are destitute and worry from where their next meal will come. Many find themselves somewhere in the middle. Each extreme has spiritual dangers. The wealthy are in danger of becoming haughty and forgetting that their blessing comes from Hashem. Furthermore, they are in danger of failing to fulfill their moral responsibility of assisting the less fortunate. On the other hand the poor are in danger of harboring bad feelings towards Hashem for their pitiful state. The shulchan teaches us that wherever one's standing in this spectrum, he must recognize that material sustenance comes from Hashem. The wealthy view the shulchan as a reminded not to forget Hashem and their moral responsibly to the less fortunate. The poor view the shulcan as a symbol of faith and hope that their fortune will reverse for the better.

We may suggest that Rebbi Channinah who says that the breads are shaped like a box focuses on the wealthy whose material sustenance is comparable to the teivah. The people and animals in the teivah had nothing to worry about; all their needs were provided for by Noach. When one is blessed to find himself in such a situation, the shulchan serves as a reminder not to forget Hashem.

Rebbi Yochanan who says that the breads are shaped like a ship focuses on the poor individual. In contrast to the self-sufficient taivah which floats aimlessly, a ship is a vessel that travels the seas to engage in commerce. Chazal commonly use a ship as a symbol of those who must travel great distances at great risk to their lives to provide sustenance for themselves and their families.

The breads of the shulchan may be fashioned in as shape of a ship or box. The shulchan covers the entire spectrum of material blessing. Each person can find a message in the showbreads that relates to his material standing.


Then his master shall bring him to court and shall bring him to the door and the doorpost and his master shall bore through his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever. (Shemos 21:6)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the Jewish slave who refuses to leave his master upon the conclusion of his six year term. The Torah tells us that his master shall take him to court and bore a hole through his ear and into the door. The slave shall then continue to serve his master until the next yovel year. Why does this slave not take advantage of an opportunity for freedom? Even if he enjoys a good life serving his master certainly nothing is better than complete freedom. Obviously, the problem lies in the fact that that the slave sees no purpose of an independent life. If so, how does the boring of the hole in his ear and door and his servitude until yovel address this problem?

Rashi explains that the reason why the ear is bored is because it was present at Mount Sinai and heard Hashem say that the Jewish people are His servants and not servants of others. This person has defied Hashem (G-D) by making himself a servant to another person. Therefore, it is punished by being bored. Rashi continues to explain why the door is bored. When Hashem killed the firstborn of Egypt he spared the Jewish People by passing over their doors. The doors were witnesses that Hashem chose the Jewish people as his servants. This person has defied Hashem by volunteering himself as a slave to another person. Therefore, he is bored in its presence.

It emerges from Rashi that the boring of the ear relates to the event that occurred on the Mount Sinai when Hashem gave the Jewish people the Torah and the boring through the door relates to the redemption of the Jewish people form their bondage in Egypt. These two items are brought together and bored.

When Hashem appeared to Moshe at the burning bush and persuaded him to serve as the leader for the Jewish people in their redemption from Egypt, Hashem explained that the purpose of freeing the Jewish people from bondage was to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai (Shemos 3:12). The redemption of the Jewish people was not a means to an end; it had a clear purpose. Freedom from Egypt would provide the Jewish people with an opportunity to receive the Torah and serve Hashem.

The Jewish slave of our parsha has failed to see the purpose in his redemption. His failure indicates that he also fails to see the connection between the redemption from Egypt and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. He is punished by boring a hole through his ear and the door. We bring together for him the door which represents the redemption from Egypt and his ear which represents the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This act conveys that just as the redemption of slavery from Egypt had a purpose likewise his opportunity for freedom has the same purpose, to provide his with an opportunity to serve Hashem as an independent person and not as a slave. Opportunities to sanctify Hashem are certainly greater for a free man than for a slave.

The Torah requires that he continue to serve his master until Yovel. Each Yovel cycle is exactly fifty years. There were exactly fifty days between the redemption from Egypt and the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Chazal tell us that these fifty days served as a preparation period for the receiving of the Torah. This time served as a link between the two events not a break. Indeed, the Torah instructs us to count these fifty days every year with the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer. We may suggest that the fifty years of servitude correspond to the fifty days between the redemption and receiving of the Torah. The slave is reminded that an opportunity for freedom has a purpose. The fifty more years of servitude remind him of the fifty days which allowed the Jewish people to prepare for the purpose of their redemption.

We may learn from the Jewish slave of our parsha that every event and opportunity in life has a purpose. If we fail to take advantage this indicates that we have failed to see the purpose. We need to be reminded of the Jewish slave whose ear is bored through the door.


They shall make a mikdash (sanctuary) for Me, so that I may dwell among them. Like everything that I show you, the form of the mishkan and the form of all its vessels and so shall you do. (Shemos 25:8,9)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the mishkan (sanctuary) and its various utensils. The main structure of the mishkan was divided into two parts, the "Holy" and the "Holy of Holies." Among the various utensils were the menorah and the shulchan. Both stood in the "Holy" before the curtain that divided between the "Holy" and the "Holy of Holies." The menorah stood in the south and the shulchan in the north.

The Gemara (Menachos 98:) presents a dispute between Rebbi and Rebbi Elazar as to exactly how the menorah and shulchan stood. Rebbi opines that both stood east to west. The length of the menorah and shulchan stood along the length of the mishkan. Rebbi Elazar disagrees and posits that both stood from north to south. Their length was along the width of the mishkan.

In the sefer Beis Yishai (Derashos Vol. 1) Rav Shlomo Fisher poses the following query. How do we understand the relationship between the "Holy" and the "Holy of Holies?" Do we view the "Holy" as a gateway to the "Holy of Holies" or are the "Holy" and the "Holy of Holies" two separate entities that just happen to be next to each other.

Rav Fisher suggests that this is the dispute between Rebbi and Rebbi Elazar. When decorating a room one can place furnishings in one of two ways, either along the width of the room or along its length. It is logical the when a room serves as an anteroom or gateway to another room its furniture is positioned along the length of the room. This gives the impression that this room leads into the next. However, when decorating a room that does not lead into another room it is logical to put the furniture along the width of the room. This gives the impression that the room ends here.

According to Rebbi the "Holy" served as a gateway to and from the "Holy of Holies." Therefore, the menorah and shulchan were positioned along the length of the mishkan. This gave the impression that the "Holy" served as a gateway to and from the "Holy of Holies." Rebbi Elazar is of the opinion that the "Holy" was not related to the "Holy of Holies." Therefore, the menorah and shulchan stood along the width of the room. This gave the impression that the "Holy" had no relation to the "Holy of Holies." It was separate and independent.

What is the homiletic significance of these two opinions?

It is noteworthy that the Torah calls this structure by two names. It is called both a "mishkan" (Shemos 25:9) and a "mikdash" (Shemos 25:8). The commentators explain that each name represents a different function. When referring to Hashem presence it was called a mishkan. The word mishkan means a dwelling place. The mishkan was the place where Hashem rested His Divine Presence in this world. From there it emanated to the rest of the world.

On the other hand the name mikdash defines the perspective of the Jewish people. This word is translated as a "Sanctuary." This word connotes that this structure was to be used by the Jewish people as a place to become close to Hashem.

Certainly all agree that the combined structure of the "Holy" and the "Holy of Holies" served both functions. However, let us suggest that Rebbi and Rebbi Elazar disagree as to what is its primary function.

According to Rebbi Elazar the primary function of this structure was the mikdash element. It was a place where the Jewish people served Hashem. With this perspective in mind, the furthest place man can go is the "Holy." With the exception of Yom Kippur the "Holy of Holies" was off limits punished by pain of death by heaven. It was not a place were man was permitted to enter. The "Holy" was not a gateway to the "Holy of Holies." Thus, according to Rebbi Elazar the menorah and the shulchan stood with their length along the width of the mikdash to give this impression that one may not go beyond the "Holy."

According to Rebbi the primary function was the mishkan element. It was the place where Hashem rested His Divine Presence. From there the Divine Presence spread to the rest of the world. With this perspective, the "Holy" was viewed as gateway out of "Holy of Holies." The Divine Presence entered the "Holy of Holies" and from there flowed through the "Holy" to the entire world. Thus, the menorah and the shulchan stood along the length of the mishkan to make it clear that the "Holy" was a gateway from the "Holy of Holies" for the Divine Presence.


And you shall pour for it four rings of gold and place them on its four corners, two rings on its one side and two rings on its second side. You shall make staves of shittim wood and cover them with gold and insert the staves into the rings in the side of the Aron (ark) with which to carry the Aron. The staves shall remain in the rings they shall never be removed. (Shemos 25:11-15)

Rashi explains that the aron had four rings into which two staves were permanently inserted. Indeed this is the way the aron is depicted in many of the sefarim (books) that illustrate the appurtenances of the tabernacle. Rashi conveys that his interpretation of the posuk (verse) is not simple. A literal translation of the posuk indicates that there were eight rings not four. Rashi however, suggests that we interpret the second half of the posuk as a clarification of the first half, thus resulting in a total of four rings not eight. Tosafos (Yoma 72a) take issue with this understanding by noting that according to this interpretation the aron only had two permanent staves that were never removed. This is difficult because the posuk (Bamidbar 4:6) clearly states that the staves of the aron were inserted only as they traveled. Therefore, Tosafos reluctantly suggest that there were eight rings and two sets of staves. Tosafos leave the matter inconclusive my noting other technical difficulties with his interpretation.

In the sefer Shiras Dovid, Rav Ahron Dovid Goldberg suggests that Tosafos' technical difficulties may be resolved with the following idea. Rav Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveitchik notes that the aron was carried in two different circumstances. The first circumstance was when the ark was taken from place to place in the desert. Here the aron was carried together with all the other appurtenances of the Tabernacle by the tribe of Levi. This service came to an end with the building of the Beis Hamikdash (Temple). The second circumstance was when the ark was taken to war as a source of protection and inspiration for the Jewish people. Indeed we see that this occurred in the time of Ali the kohen.

Rav Goldberg explains that there were eight rings and two sets of staves as Tosafos suggest. The tribe of Levi in the desert used the first set of staves when they transported the aron together with the rest of the Tabernacle. These staves were inserted through the first set of rings and were only present when the ark was transported. When the ark came to rest they were removed just as the staves of the other appurtenances were removed. When the Beis Hamikdash was build these staves became obsolete, as did the role of the tribe of Levi in transporting the Tabernacle. The second set of staves was the permanent ones that were inserted through the second set of four rings. These staves were permanent and were only used to transport the aron during times of war.

We may ask, although it is true that there were two different circumstances in which the aron was carried, why is this significant enough to warrant the need for two different sets of staves?

We are aware that there are two sets of tablets that were placed in the aron. Namely, the first set of tablets that were shattered by Moshe (Moses) in the aftermath of the sin of the golden calf and the second set. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the total weight of the tablets, aron and keruvim was too great to have been carried by four human beings as was required in any conventional way. They therefore conclude that the aron was carried in a miraculous fashion. Indeed, chazal teach us that the ark carried those who carried it. Let us further note that with regard to the first set of tablets although they simply serve as a reminder of the sin of the golden calf, they also represent a source of inspiration. They remind us of how Moshe prayed on behalf of the Jewish people and how Hashem responded by teaching the thirteen attributes of mercy. Lastly, let us note that the second complete set of tablets represents our accomplishment of receiving the Torah, which was the purpose of redemption and creation.

We may suggest that the two sets of staves corresponded to the two sets of tablets contained within the ark. The first set of removable staves, which were only used by the tribe of Levi in the desert, corresponds to the second set of tablets. As the Jewish people traveled through the desert they carried the ark with only these staves. This act conveyed that the tribe of Levi was only carrying the second set of tablets. Although it was true that the ark also contained the first set of shattered tablets, yet, the tribe of Levi did not carry them. The shattered tablets carried themselves. When the Jewish people traveled to Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel) they did not wish to focus on the shattered tablets. This would only remind them of their tragic sin and spiritual shortcomings. Instead they focused on the second set of tablets, which provided them with hope and inspiration for a new Torah life in Eretz Yisroel.

The other set of permanent staves corresponds to the shattered tablets. When the Jewish people went to war they carried only the shattered tables. Although it was true that the second set of tablets were in the ark, yet in truth they were not being carried. They carried themselves. War is a time of danger and calls for repentance and introspection. Indeed, there was a special kohen gadol (High Priest) who was appointed to oversee the spiritual needs of soldiers. At this time it was appropriate to reflect on the lessons of repentance derived from the shattered tablets. Here the Jewish people were carrying the shattered tablets with the permanent staves.

Based on our thesis it emerges that the staves that were permanently attached to the aron were those of the shattered tablets, which serve as a source of inspiration for repentance. It is only concerning these staves that the posuk says, "they shall never be removed." The Torah is telling us that although at times in our history the second set of tablets which symbolize spiritual completeness are out of reach yet the ability to repent and make use of the lessons of the shattered tablets are never out of reach. "The staves shall remain in the rings they shall never be removed."


And you shall make two cherubim of gold - beaten shall you make them - from both end of the cover. (Shemos 25:18)

The above posuk (verse) introduces us to the cherubim. The Gemara relates that the image of the cherub was that of a child. The proof to this idea is from the observation that in Bavel (Babylon) a child was called "chrevaya," a word phonetically similar to the word used by the Torah to describe a cherub. With this idea the commentators go further to suggest that the cherubim resting above the ark are symbolic of Jewish education.

It is noteworthy that in the holy-of-holies, there were actually three sets of cherubim. The first set were the above-mentioned cherubim that rested above the ark. The second set were the cherubim that were embroidered into the partition that divided the holy and holy-of-holies and the third set were the cherubim that were embroidered into the sections that served as the roof of the Tabernacle.

We may ask what is the Torah teaching us by requiring three different sets of cherubim. Perhaps we may suggest that just as the cherubim that rested above the ark clearly represent the pure angelic children immersed in their Torah study likewise the other two sets of cherubim represent Jewish children involved in their Torah education.

We may suggest that the holy-of-holies, in a symbolic sense, represents the Torah classroom. The only object found within is the Torah. Torah educators are well aware that not all students are alike. The cherubim that rest above the ark represent the students that excel in their Torah studies and are fit to dedicate their lives to full time Torah study. The cherubim that are embroidered into the partition that divides the holy and the holy-of-holies are symbolic of students who are not at the level of devoting their lives to full time Torah study but who are fit to serve the Jewish people in other holy spiritual roles. Just as the back of the partition faced the holy so too these students should be encouraged to serve the Jewish people in holy pursuits, such as communal leaders, activists and volunteers in holy causes. The third set of cherubim corresponds to those students that will serve the Jewish community through secular careers and other worldly pursuits. Just as the back of these sections faced the outside world likewise these students will pursue careers and occupations in the world at large.

By requiring three different types of cherubim to appear in the holy-of-holies the Torah recognizes that not all children are the same and fit into the same mold. Each child has his or her unique talents and mission in life. Jewish educators should be careful to direct and guide the student in his or her proper path. The only thing that all the cherubim do share in common is the fact that they are all part of the holy-of-holies. This conveys to us that Jewish educators should teach their students that whatever role they undertake in life, they should be guided and directed by their attachment to the holy-of-holies where the only object that exists is the Torah.


They shall make me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them in conformance with all that I show you, the form of the Tabernacle and the form of all its vessels; and so shall you do. (Shemos 25:8-9)

The mishkan is divided into three distinct sections, the outer courtyard, the tent of meeting and the kodesh hakadashim. Each section contained its own unique appurtenances. The outer courtyard contained the lever and the copper altar. The tent of meeting contained the shulchan, the golden altar and the menorah. The kodesh hakadashim contained the aron with the kopores and keruvim.

Let us suggest that these three sections of the mishkan directly correspond to the three domains in which we Jews interact. Namely, the public domain, the home and places dedicated to the service of Hashem, i.e., shuls and batei medrashim. Likewise, the specific appurtenances of each section highlight specific areas of conduct that are required of us in these domains.

First, let us discuss the outer courtyard. This section corresponds to the public domain where commerce is conducted. The first appurtenance found here is the lever. The implied message is that in business first we must keep our hand and feet clean. We are forbidden to soil our hands by taking what is not ours, i.e., theft. Likewise we may not soil our feet by trespassing onto another's domain of business where we prevent that individual for attaining what is rightfully his, i.e., hasagas gevul. However, business ethics doesn't end with criminal conduct. There are cases where actions may be legal according to the letter of the law, but do not conform to the spirit of the law. It is here that we are introduced to the altar. The altar symbolizes sacrifice. In business there are times we are obligated to make great sacrifices even when we think and perhaps know that we are correct. This may fall under the category of lifnim meshuras hadin. (See the works of Rabbi. Dr. Aaron Levine, grandson of the Reisha Rav zt"l especially his most recent publication Case Studies in Jewish Business Ethics, 2000 Ktav publising Company inc., Hoboken, NJ)

Next we come to the tent of meeting. This chamber corresponds to the Jewish home. The unique appurtenances here are the shulchan, the menorah, and the golden altar. The shulchan symbolizes the importance of kosher food and the mitzvah of inviting the poor to eat at our table (hachnosos orchim). Next we find the menorah which symbolizes the obligation to set aside time for the studying of Torah. There are many who have the custom to set aside time to study Torah in their places of work and in the beis medrash but Hashem put the menorah specifically here in the tent of meeting to stress the importance of setting aside time to study Torah in the home. The proper atmosphere of a Jewish home can only be created with the study of Torah in the home itself. Finally we have the golden altar which symbolizes the sacrifices we must make for what we consider the gold of our lives. Specifically, scarifies we make so that our children receive an excellent Torah education. The sacrifices must produce a sweet aroma like the ketores. The implied message is that complaint and bitterness must not accompany the sacrifices we make but only sweetness, otherwise the family may come to resent their hardship and this may have terrible repercussions years later.

Finally we come to the kodesh hakadashim which corresponds to the shuls and batei medrashim. In this chamber we find the keruvim embracing. This symbolizes unity and harmony among us. Although it many seem self-evident, the Torah finds it necessary to emphasize that in order that our Torah and teffilah be acceptable before Hashem we must achieve harmony and unity in our interpersonal relations.

With this ideas we may now reinterpret the posuk. The posuk reads: "in conformance with all that I show you, the form of the Tabernacle and the form of all its vessels; and so shall you do." The simple interpretation of the words and so shall you do is a command to build a mishkan. However we may now suggest that the words so shall you do is a command to act and behave in all your interpersonal relationships wherever they may be by exemplifying the implied message of each appurtenance.

Tetzaveh

They shall attach the Breastplate from its rings to the rings of the Ephod with a techailes cord so that it will remain above the belt of the Ephod, and the Breastplate will not will not loosened from upon the Ephod. (Shemos 28:28)

You shall make a head-plate of pure gold, and you shall engrave upon it, engraved like a signet ring, "Holy to Hashem." You shall place on it a cord of techailes and it shall be on the Turban, opposite the front of the Turban shall it be. (Shemos 28:36,37)

In this week's parsha we learn that two vestments of the of the kohen gadol were fastened with a cord of techailes, namely the Breastplate and the Head-plate. Parenthetically it should be noted that the use of a cord of techailes to fasten these vestments differs from the Robe which was completely techailes.

Twice a day in the last section of shemah we recite the mitzvah of tzitzis. We read that "you are to place on upon the tzitzis of each corner a cord of techailes." The posuk continues to instruct us "that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them and not explore after your heart and eyes which you stray" (Bamidbar 15).

Chazal teach us that by looking at the cord of techailes of the tzitzis we will be reminded of the ocean. This will then remind us of the heaven and finally Hashem's throne. This process of remembrance will inspire us to fear Hashem.

Let us suggest a homiletic interpretation.

As mentioned above, a similar mention of "a cord of techailes" is mentioned in connection to the vestments of the kohen gadol. One set of cords to fasten the Breastplate and one for the Head-Plate.

The Head-Plate was a vestment that was symbolic of the eyes. Indeed the Hebrew word for Head-Plate is tzitz which is translated as gaze. The Head-Plate was fastened on the forehead above the eyes similar to the tefilen which is called "a sign between your eyes." Symbolically, the Head-Plate represents the notion that one must sanctify his eyes and be careful as to what he looks at.

The Breastplate is fastened to the heart. In the fold of the Breastplate was Hashem's ineffable name. The fastening of the breastplate to the heart represents the notion that one must sanctify his emotions.

When one gazes at the techailes cord of the tzitzes one is reminded of the Breastplate and Head-Plate of the kohen gadol which is similarly fastened with a cord of techailes. One is reminded to contemplate on the sanctity of the holy kohen gadol, the spiritual leader of the Jewish leader and focus on the ideals that are represented by his Breastplate and Head-Plate. Indeed the posuk concludes that when seeing the tzitzis one will be able to overcome the temptations of "eyes" and "heart." We may suggest that the eyes correspond to the Head-Plate and the heart corresponds to the Breastplate.

We may now further understand why the Torah requires that the tzitzis also have white threads. We are aware the when the kohen gadol entered the Holy of Holies he did not wear his extra four vestments. He entered only with the four vestments of an ordinary kohen. These garments are called by Chazal "the white garments."

When looking at the cord of techailes one will connect with the kohen gadol. The contrast of white threads will then remind and inspire one of how the kohen gadol entered the Holy of Holies once a year. When one connects to kohen gadol standing in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur it is very unlikely he will sin.

In conclusion we may suggest that that Torah gave us the mitzvah of tzitzis as a tool to remind us of the sanctity of kohen gadol and his entrance into the Holy of Holies. Certainly, when contemplating these lofty matters one will be inspired to fear Heaven and will not easily be tempted by the evil inclination.


You shall make garments of sanctity for Aaron your brother, for glory and for splendor. (Shemos 28:2)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the clothing of the kohanim (priests) and the special clothing of the kohen gadol (High priest). The Torah dedicates almost the entire parsha to describe exactly how they are to be made. It is noteworthy that there is another Jewish leader, namely the King, who also wears special clothing, yet not only does the Torah not tell us how they shall be made, the Torah does not even mention that they exist.

In megillas Esther we find much discussion about the clothing of the King. Indeed a significant portion of the Purim miracle occurred when Haman was required to dress Mordechai in the clothing of the King. Moreover, the climax of the megillah is when we read "Mordechai went out before the King dressed in majestic clothing" (Esther 8:15). In contrast to the clothing of the kohanim, the Megillah even describes what the clothing looked like, "royal apparel of blue and white with a large gold crown and a robe of fine linen and purple" (Esther 8:15). What symbolic difference is there between the clothing of the kohen gadol and the clothing of the King?

We begin by noting that that the clothing of the kohanim and kohen gadol are called "begadim". The Torah says "You shall make bigdei kodesh for Aaron your brother." On the other hand, the clothing of the King found in the Megillah is called "levush." We read in the Megillah that Mordechai went out before the king in "levush malchus." Both "beged" and "levush" are translated as clothing but what is the difference?

The word beged has the same letters as the word "bagad." Bagad means to sin or rebel. The commentators explain that the reason why beged shares the same letters as bagad is because clothing serves as reminder for the first sin of Man.

The Torah tells us that before Adam and Chavah committed the sin of eating from the tree of knowledge they were naked and were not embarrassed. As a consequence of the sin, the evil inclination entered their souls and caused them to be embarrassed of their nakedness. Hashem made them clothing to cover their embarrassment. Thus, the word beged which is related to both clothing and sin remind us of the sin of man and why we need clothing.

The kohen gadol was the spiritual leader of the Jewish People. His primary function was to provide atonement for the Jewish people. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that not only did the service of the kohen gadol atone but even his clothing provided atonement. Each garment atones for a different sin. We may now understand why his clothing are called begadim. They atone for sins just as the word bagad means to rebel and sin.

On the other hand the primary function of a Jewish King was to maintain the material and economic wellbeing of the nation. His role is not to atone for sin; therefore his dress is not associated with the word beged. Instead, the Megillah has a special word for his garments, "levush." The Gemarah (Shabbos 77b) teaches that the word levush is an acronym for the words "lo bosh," translated as "there is no embarrassment." Clothing covers the body and removes embarrassment. The word levush in contrast to the word beged focuses primarily on the physical function of the clothing whereas the word beged focuses primarily on the spiritual character of the clothing. Therefore, with regard to the King whose responsibility is the economic well being of the people, the word levush is used.

Chazal note that the Torah refers to the holiday of Yom Kippur as Yom HaKippurim. This may be literally translated as "a day that is like Purim." This statement may imply that Purim is superior to Yom Kippur. How is this so?

Both Yom Kippur and Purim are days of atonement. On Yom Kippur Hashem forgives the sins of the individual through the service of the kohen gadol in the holy of holies. The holiday of Purim similarly provides forgiveness. At the time of the Purim miracle, the Jewish people sinned by participating in and enjoying the feast of King Achashveirosh. The feast was a celebration of the fact that according to the King's calculations the time for the redemption of the Jewish People had passed and would never come. In essence, by participating in this feast, the Jewish people were celebrating their own demise. The megillah relates that Hashem decreed that the Jewish people be thoroughly annihilated including men women and children. Subsequently, at the behest of Mordechai and Esther they repented, were forgiven and the decree was annulled. Every Year through the Holiday of Purim we relive and re-experience the repentance and forgiveness characteristics of the Purim miracle.

In the musaf prayer of Yom Kippur we read about the joy that accompanied the forgiveness of the Jewish people at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur service, "How majestic was the kohen gadol as he left the holy of holies in peace without injury." We find a similar expression concerning Mordechai. At the climax of the Purim Miracle the posuk says "Mordechai went out before the King wearing levush malchus." Chazal tell us that every time it says in the megillah the word King it refers to Hashem who is the King of the Universe. Thus, the aforementioned posuk (verse) alludes to Mordechai as going out from before Hashem in great joy wearing "bigdei malchus" similar to how the kohen gadol went out from the beis hamikdash wearing his bigdei kehunah. They both succeeded in attaining atonement for the Jewish People.

Chazal tell us there are two different types of repentance. The first type is when we repent because of fear of Hashem or punishment. The other type is when we repent out of love for Hashem. When one repents because of fear, his deliberate sins are converted into inadvertent sins. Just as one is free from punishment when sinning inadvertently, likewise through repentance he is exempt from punishment for his deliberate sins as well. However, when one repents out of love his deliberate sins are turned into merits.

Homiletically we may suggest that herein lays the difference between Purim and Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur the atonement is in the form of repentance due to fear. On Purim the repentance is out of love.

The atonement of Yom Kippur comes through the kohen gadol who wears bigdai kehunah. Beged is related to the word rebellion. On Yom Kippur our sins are covered just as clothing covers our flesh. We are not held accountable, yet the sin remains. This is similar to the function of clothing. We are always embarrassed to appear without clothing; however the clothing covers our embarrassment. On Purim, Chazal tell us that due to the miracle the Jewish People repented out of love. The Megillah records how Mordechai went forth wearing "levush malchus." Levush literally means "there is no embarrassment. Homiletically, we may suggest that because the repentance was out of love, the sin was uprooted entirely. Before Adam and Chavah sinned the Torah describes them as "they were not embarrassed." There was no sin and therefore nothing to be embarrassed about. The significance of Purim is the ability to repent out of love whereby the sins become non-existent and there is nothing to be embarrassed for. On Purim we all wear "Levush Malchus."


Now you shall command the Children of Yisroel that they shall take for you pressed olive for illumination to kindle the lamp continually. (Shemos 27:20)

During the era of the Chanukah miracle the Syrian-Greeks defiled the Beis Hamikdash (Temple). The Gemara records that when the Chashmanoyim prevailed and regained control over the Beis Hamikdash they did not find pure olive oil for the lighting of the menorah except for one flask that was affixed with the seal of the kohen gadol (High Priest).This flask was not sufficient for even for one day. Nevertheless, they lit the menorah with its oil and miraculously it lasted for eight days. The commentators note how the Gemara emphasizes that the jar of oil was affixed with the seal of the kohen gadol. What was the nature of this seal? Why specifically the kohen gadol?

One popular solution offered by the commentators is that this oil was originally designated for the minchas chavitin (offering). Everyday the kohen gadol would offer a special meal offering. Half was offered in the morning and half in the afternoon. The oil used for this offering was of superior quality similar to the quality used for the menorah. The oil used for ordinary meal offerings was not of the same quality and thus not fit for the menorah or the kohen gadol's meal offering. To separate the oil used for the meal offering of the kohen gadol and the oil used for an ordinary meal offerings, the kohen gadol would affixed his unique seal. It was this flask that was found by the Chashmanoyim at the time of the Chanukah miracle. Due to the fact that its quality was the same as that used for the menorah the Chashmanoyim were able to substitute it for this purpose.

However, the simple understanding of the Gemara is that this oil was specifically set aside for the menorah. If so, the question returns. Why did the kohen gadol affix his seal to the oil used for the menorah?

In the sefer Shiras David, Rav Aron Dovid Goldberg demonstrates that this was a special requirement sanctioned by the Torah. The source for this requirement is the first posuk (verse) of this week's parsha (Torah reading). The posuk says that Hashem commanded Moshe to instruct the Jewish People that they take "for you" pure olive oil. The Torah stressed that the oil was "for you." This is interpreted to mean that Moshe himself must inspect every jar of oil and ensure that it was acceptable. This job was later passed from Moshe to Aaron who was the acting kohen gadol. Throughout history it remained the job of the kohen gadol to inspect every jar of oil used for the menorah and affix his personal seal. We now understand why the Gemara mentions that the flask contained the seal of the kohen gadol.

Now that we have discovered the Biblical source for this requirement we may ask what is the homiletic understanding of this requirement?

The commentators teach us that the menorah is symbolic of the study and teaching of Torah. We may suggest that the pure crushed olive oil is symbolic of new Torah insights. Just as oil was crushed and refined, likewise, accomplishment in Torah study only comes with great diligence and crushing toil. The lighting of the menorah represents the teaching and dissemination of the new Torah insights. Just as the lighting of the Menorah provided light, likewise, the dissemination of new Torah insights sheds new understanding and clarity in Torah.

The Torah is teaching us that just as every flask of oil must first pass inspection by the kohen gadol, likewise, before one disseminates ones new Torah insights to the public one must first seek approval from the leading Torah sages.

When the Torah is open for interpretation by the masses, it leads to distortion and perversion. Only one who is properly trained with fear of heaven may present new Torah thoughts and insights. One must first seek permission and authorization from the leading Torah sages.

Indeed before one lectures publicly on a Torah subject it is customary to first ask permission from the sages present. Likewise it is customary to preface a new sefer with approbations from leading Torah sages and most importantly before one may decide what is Torah Law one must receive Rabbinical Ordination.


They shall attach the Breastplate from its rings to the rings of the Ephod with a techailes cord so that it will remain above the belt of the Ephod, and the Breastplate will not will not loosened from upon the Ephod. (Shemos 28:28)

You shall make a head-plate of pure gold, and you shall engrave upon it, engraved like a signet ring, "Holy to Hashem." You shall place on it a cord of techailes and it shall be on the Turban, opposite the front of the Turban shall it be. (Shemos 28:36,37)

In this week's parsha we learn that two vestments of the of the kohen gadol were fastened with a cord of techailes, namely the Breastplate and the Head-plate. Parenthetically it should be noted that the use of a cord of techailes to fasten these vestments differs from the Robe which was completely techailes.

Twice a day in the last section of shemah we recite the mitzvah (commandment) of tzitzis. We read that "you are to place on upon the tzitzis of each corner a cord of techailes." The posuk continues to instruct us "that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them and not explore after your heart and eyes which you stray" (Bamidbar 15).

Chazal teach us that by looking at the cord of techailes of the tzitzis we will be reminded of the ocean. This will then remind us of the heaven and finally Hashem's throne. This process of remembrance will inspire us to fear Hashem.

Let us suggest a homiletic interpretation.

As mentioned above, a similar mention of "a cord of techailes" is mentioned in connection to the vestments of the kohen gadol. One set of cords to fasten the Breastplate and one for the Head-Plate.

The Head-Plate was a vestment that was symbolic of the eyes. Indeed the Hebrew word for Head-Plate is tzitz which is translated as gaze. The Head-Plate was fastened on the forehead above the eyes similar to the tefilen which is called "a sign between your eyes." Symbolically, the Head-Plate represents the notion that one must sanctify his eyes and be careful as to what he looks at.

The Breastplate is fastened to the heart. In the fold of the Breastplate was Hashem's ineffable name. The fastening of the breastplate to the heart represents the notion that one must sanctify his emotions.

When one gazes at the techailes cord of the tzitzes one is reminded of the Breastplate and Head-Plate of the kohen gadol which is similarly fastened with a cord of techailes. One is reminded to contemplate on the sanctity of the holy kohen gadol, the spiritual leader of the Jewish leader and focus on the ideals that are represented by his Breastplate and Head-Plate. Indeed the posuk concludes that when seeing the tzitzis one will be able to overcome the temptations of "eyes" and "heart." We may suggest that the eyes correspond to the Head-Plate and the heart corresponds to the Breastplate.

We may now further understand why the Torah requires that the tzitzis also have white threads. We are aware the when the kohen gadol entered the Holy of Holies he did not wear his extra four vestments. He entered only with the four vestments of an ordinary kohen. These garments are called by Chazal "the white garments."

When looking at the cord of techailes one will connect with the kohen gadol. The contrast of white threads will then remind and inspire one of how the kohen gadol entered the Holy of Holies once a year. When one connects to kohen gadol standing in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur it is very unlikely he will sin.

In conclusion we may suggest that that Torah gave us the mitzvah of tzitzis as a tool to remind us of the sanctity of kohen gadol and his entrance into the Holy of Holies. Certainly, when contemplating these lofty matters one will be inspired to fear Heaven and will not easily be tempted by the evil inclination.


They shall make the ephod (apron) of gold, turquoise, scarlet wool and twisted linen with a woven design. (Shemos 28:6)

With regard to the construction of the various appurtenances of the mishkan (sanctuary), the Torah formulates it instruction in the singular: "you shall make." The only exception is the instruction regarding the aron (ark), whose command is given in the plural "and they shall make" (Shemos 25:10). The commentators explain that the Torah conveys with this change of expression that with regard to the study and support of Torah, which is represented by the aron, no individual may excuse himself by claiming that others can fill the need. Every individual has his unique obligation that cannot be fulfilled by others.

With this idea in mind we may similarly ask, why here in parshas (Torah reading) tetzaveh does the Torah command with regard to all the vestments "and you shall make," in the singular, yet with regard to the ephod the Torah commands "and they shall make" in the plural. What is special about the ephod that the Torah specifies that all have a portion in its fashioning?

In attempt to answer this question, let us review a popular thought from parshas ki sisa. Moshe requested Hashem (G-D) that he be allowed to see His Honor. Hashem replied that He would not show His face but only His back (Shemos 33:18-23). The commentators homiletically explain the dialogue as follows: Moshe requested of Hashem a profound understanding into the workings His conduct in relation to this world. Hashem replied that it is impossible for a human being to understand His actions as they occur. Only in retrospect can one contemplate and understand. This idea is captured with the precise words of the posuk (verse). The words "my face that you may not see" is symbolic of the present and future. However, the words "my back that you may see" is symbolic of the past.

From this passage we may derive the concept that the front of the body represents the present and future whereas the back represents the past.

The commentators explain that the kohen gadol (high priest) was a microcosm of the spiritual talents and potential of the Jewish people. The various vestments that cover the different sections of his body represent the beautification and glorification of different qualities.

It is noteworthy that according to Rashi the ephod was a garment that was fashioned to cover the back of the kohen gadol's body. We may now understand the difference in expression between the ephod and the other vestments. Only with regard to the garments that were worn on the front of the kohen gadol did the Torah command that they be fashioned in the singular because they represent the ability to deal with the present and prepare for the future. This power is limited to select individuals who are gifted with Divine insight and assistance in dealing with the present and preparing for the future. The ephod, which covered the back of the kohen gadol represents the beautification, glorification and preservation of the Jewish people's spiritual past. Preserving and glorifying past spiritual accomplishments does not require special talent, thus every individual is required to participate.

Thus we may conclude that every individual is expected to preserve his past spiritual attainments. However, with regard to present challenges and the future one should seek the spiritual guidance from his leaders.


Into the Choshen of Judgment shall you place the Urim and the Tumim and they shall be upon Aharon's heart when he comes before Hashem; and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Yisroel upon his heart before Hashem constantly. (Shemos 28:30)

The choshen that Aharon and the succeeding kohanim hagidolim wore symbolized judgment as the posuk itself describes the choshen as the choshen of Judgment. One explanation for the connection between the Choshen and judgment is that when the sanhedrin who specialized in judgment could not decide on a question they would seek the Judgment of Hashem through the Urim and Tumin that rested within the choshen.

With regard to judgment we are obligated to follow the letter of the law and not be swayed by our feelings or emotions. The posuk clearly conveys this message with the command not to favor the poor in judgment. (Shemos 23:3)

This idea is revisited in this posuk. The posuk states that Aharon should wear the choshen that symbolized the highest form of judgment upon his heart. The simple interpretation of the word upon is a description of the physical location where the choshen should rest. However we may also interpret the word upon as meaning above i.e., a higher authority. The message conveyed is that in judgment the intellect should be above the heart i.e., emotions. Feelings or emotions of the heart should not sway the judgment.

With this interpretation we may take a new look at a posuk and a gemarah. The posuk (Shemos 4:14, 27) relates that when Aharon was informed that Moshe would take over as leader of the Jewish people he rejoiced in his heart. The gemarah (Shabbos 139a) relates that this was a great merit for Aharon since he was older than Moshe, just as qualified and presently was serving in that capacity. For Aharon to step down and hand over the reins of leadership to Moshe was itself noteworthy, but to rejoice at the appointment of his younger brother was truly extraordinary. This display of warmth bespeaks volumes of the fine character of Aharon. The gemarah goes further to inform us that because Aharon rejoiced in his heart, he merited wearing the choshen upon his heart.

The simple interpretation is that he was rewarded measure for measure. Because he performed well with his heart, his heart was rewarded as being the carrier of the prized possession of the kohen gadal. However, based upon the idea presented above let us take a new look at this gemarah.

When Hashem told Aharon that Moshe would assume the role of the leader of the Jewish people this did not sit well with his intellect. After all, Aharon was older and equally qualified, yet because he realized that this was the will of Hashem he forced his intellect to humble itself and even forced his heart to rejoice with the good Hashem had done for Moshe. In this case Aharon caused his intellect to suffer at the hands of his emotions since this was the will of Hashem. In this merit Hashem rewarded him with the choshen which symbolized the opposite i.e., the humbling of the heart to the intellect. The power for one to control his emotions is a gift that few are able to attain. Thus, it emerges that in reward for his good reaction to his brother's appointment, Hashem did not reward him just measure for measure but with a greater measure.

There is a powerful message here. First we must note that one of the most difficult tasks we face in life is not to begrudge and accept with joy the blessing that is bestowed upon others even though we don't understand why they deserve it. Second, we must also note that many times our intellect is fully aware that our actions are completely wrong and contrary to halacha but unfortunately our emotions and drives are so strong that the intellect is powerless in controlling us. It may seem at first glance that the above two are unrelated. However, we learn from this gemarah that they are strongly connected. If we were only to behave like Aharon and force our intellect to yield to our emotions i.e., rejoice someone else's blessing even when we don't understand, then in this merit we will also come to carry the choshen above our hearts, i.e. achieve mastery over our emotions where our emotions will be humbled to our intellect and allow our intellect to prevent us from wrongdoing.

Ki Sisa

Hashem spoke to Moshe "go ascend from here, you and the people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land which I swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov Saying "I shall give it to your offspring" and I will send before you an angel, and I shall drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite and the Hittie and the Perizzite and the Hivvite and the Jebusite to a land flowing with milk and honey for I will not ascend in your midst for you are a stiff-necked people, lest I annihilate you on the way. The people heard this bad tiding and they grieved and each man did not put on his crown. (Shemos 33:1-4)

The above posuk relays that after the sin of the golden calf the Jewish people were informed that Hashem would not personally accompany them into Eretz Yisroel but instead guide then through an intermediary angel. A deeper interpretation of this posuk is as follows: Although everything that occurs in this world certainly happens only through the Will of Hashem, however, at times Hashem chooses to conceal his actions to the degree that it appears that He is not directly involved. It is only when we are truly deserving that Hashem chooses to display His Presence openly. After the sin of the golden calf we were no longer worthy that Hashem should openly display his Glory in our midst. Hashem chose to guide us in concealment to the degree that it would appear to us as if it were through an intermediary. The posuk concludes by noting the distress the Jewish people experienced upon hearing that Hashem chose to withdraw his presence from them.

It is noteworthy that above in parshas mishpatim before the sin of the golden calf the posuk uses the very same expression. The posuk there states "Behold I shall send an angel before you to protect you on the way, and to bring you to the place that I have prepared" (Shemos 23:20). Rashi there points out that this posuk refers to the aftermath of the sin of the golden calf. Specifically, the posuk lets us know that the sin of the golden calf would condemn us to enter Eretz Yisroel through an angel and not directly by Hashem. We must note that this interpretation is only in hindsight. However, at that moment before the sin, certainly these words were not interpreted as a bad omen. Indeed, we do not find a sad reaction as we do here.

Likewise in parshas chayei sarah when Avraham instructed Eliezer to seek out a wife for his son Yitzchak, Avraham used the very same words. The posuk states "Hashem the God of the heavens Who took me from the house of my father and from the land of my birth and Who spoke for me and who swore to me saying to you offspring will I give this land He will send his angel before you and you will take a wife for my son from there" (Bereishis 24:7). Certainly Avraham would only choose words of blessing that have no taint of misfortune when instructing Eliezer to seek a wife for his son Yitzchak. All the more so when the destiny of the Jewish people depended on the success of the mission. Why then was there a sad reaction here in our parsha when the same words were used?

Let us suggest that the words "before you" may have two interpretations, a figurative one and a literal one. One possible interpretation is that the words "before you" are used as a synonym for guidance. Using this figurative translation the posuk would convey a positive message, that Hashem would send an angel to guide us to our destination. On the other hand, we may suggest that the words "before you" are translated literally as in front of you or ahead of you, which connotes without your recognition and perception. In our case this would convey a negative message that Hashem would send an angel that would go only in front of us where we would not merit to witness His guidance.

If we look closely at the two posukim we may note that there is a difference in the order of the words. Here in ki sisa the words "before you" appear first and then "angel" In mishpatim and chayei sarah the order is in reverse. First the word angel appears and then the words "before you." We may suggest that the two aforementioned interpretations of the words "before you" depend on where they appear in the posuk. If the words "before you" appear first, then there is greater emphasis on these words, which leads us to translate them more literally. In our case this would have the negative connotation that we would not merit to witness Hashem's guidance. Indeed this is the way it appears here in ki sisa and that is why the Jewish people had a sad reaction. However in mishpatim and chayei sarah these words appear last, leading us to translate them figuratively, which conveys the positive message that Hashem will guide us.


Hashem (G-D) passed before him and proclaimed … Forgiver of iniquity and willful sin and error. (Shemos 34:6,7)

When the kohen gadal (High Priest) entered the kodesh hakadashim (Holy of Holies) of Yom Kipper, he confessed on behalf the Jewish people with the words "chatasi avisi pashati" (Yoma 36b, Musaf Yom Kippur). The word chatasi is translated, as "I have inadvertently sinned." The following two words, avisi and pashati are translated as different types of intentional sins. In this week's parsha in the aftermath of the sin of the golden calf, Hashem taught Moshe the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Among the list are "Hashem forgives avon, pesha and chatah." Here the inadvertent sins are placed after the willful sins. Why is there a difference in order between the confession of the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur and the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy?

First let us suggest that confession for inadvertent sins prior to intentional sins represents a gradual ascent in repentance. It is logical for one first to repent for the minor sins of inadvertent transgression and then for the more severe category of intentional sins. Indeed the Gemara (Yoma 36b) says that it would be illogical to repent for inadvertent sins after one has already repented for the intentional sins. The method of first placing the inadvertent sins before the intentional sins conveys the idea that there is a gradual progression when attempting to reach spiritual heights. There must be an order and a plan. Indeed, we see that the kohen gadol used this technique on Yom Kippur.

However in the aftermath of the sin of the golden calf this was not practical. Punishment was imminent. Moshe had just shattered the tablets and the Jewish people knew they were next. In such a circumstance, there is no time to gradually repent. Such situations require an emergency plan. Here one must skip certain steps and then work backwards and fill in the missing gaps.

It is noteworthy that on Taanis Esther it is customary to give the machtzis hashekel (Half-shekel coin). Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us that the shekalim that Haman paid to annihilate the Jewish people were negated by the machtzis hashekel coins that the Jewish people donated. Furthermore, the commentators explain that the machtzis hashekel were given as atonement for the sin of the golden calf (Shemos 30:15). We see that the machtzis hashekel was instrumental in bringing atonement both in the time of Purim and in the time of the sin of the golden calf. The explanation is that in both situations, punishment was imminent. In the time of Purim, there was a decree to annihilate all the Jews. Likewise, after the sin of the golden calf, it was Hashem's desire to destroy the Jewish People. Both cases called for an emergency plan of repentance. Indeed, in the time of Purim, Esther and Mordechai called for a three day fast and after the sin of the golden calf Moshe prayed on behalf of the Jewish people and was taught the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. In both of these situations, proper preparation, planning and order were not required. Here, the repentance was of the nature of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy where they atoned for the more severe willful transgressions first.

The Hebrew title for the Day of Atonement is "Yom Hakipurim." The commentators take note that this may be literally translated as, "a the day that is like Purim." This translation has the connotation that Yom Kippur is only like Purim but not quiet as powerful and holy as Purim. Based on this idea the commentators give various explanations to define the exact relationship between the two. With the above idea in mind we can perhaps suggest another explanation. On Yom Kippur a person can only ascend spiritual heights if he prepares and follows the proper protocol of repentance. This is seen in how the kohen gadal would first confess for inadvertent sins and then work his way up to the more serious sins. However, on Purim one can attain high spiritual levels without any preparation whatsoever. This is seen in the thirteen Attributes of Mercy where we first mention the more severe intentional sins and then the inadvertent sins.

Hashem (G-D) spoke to Moshe (Moses) "go ascend from here, you and the people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land which I swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) Saying "I shall give it to your offspring" and I will send before you an angel, and I shall drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite and the Hittie and the Perizzite and the Hivvite and the Jebusite to a land flowing with milk and honey for I will not ascend in your midst for you are a stiff-necked people, lest I annihilate you on the way. The people heard this bad tiding and they grieved and each man did not put on his crown. (Shemos 33:1-4)

The posuk (verse) here relates that after the sin of the golden calf the Jewish people were informed that Hashem would not personally accompany them into Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel) but only through an intermediary angel. A deeper interpretation of this posuk is as follows: Although everything that occurs in this world certainly happens only through the Will of Hashem, however, at times Hashem chooses to conceal his actions to the degree that it appears that He is not directly involved. It is only when we are truly deserving that Hashem chooses to display His Presence openly. After the sin of the golden calf we were no longer worthy that Hashem should openly display his Glory in our midst. Hashem chose to guide us in concealment to the degree that it would appear to us as if it were through an intermediary. The posuk concludes by noting the distress we experienced upon hearing that Hashem chose to withdraw his presence from us.

It is noteworthy that above in parshas (the section of) mishpatim before the sin of the golden calf the posuk uses the very same expression. The posuk there states "Behold I shall send an angel before you to protect you on the way, and to bring you to the place that I have prepared" (Shemos 23:20). Rashi there points out that this posuk refers to the aftermath of the sin of the golden calf. Specifically, the posuk lets us know that the sin of the golden calf would condemn us to enter Eretz Yisroel through an angel and not directly by Hashem. We must note that this interpretation is only in hindsight. However, at that moment before the sin, certainly these words were not interpreted as a bad omen. Indeed, we do not find a sad reaction as we do here.

Likewise in parshas toldos when Avraham instructed Eliezer to seek out a wife for his son Yitzchak, Avraham used the very same words. The posuk states "Hashem the G-d of the heavens Who took me from the house of my father and from the land of my birth and Who spoke for me and who swore to me saying to you offspring will I give this land He will send his angel before you and you will take a wife for my son from there" (Bereishis 24:7). Certainly Avraham would only choose words of blessing that have no taint of misfortune when instructing Eliezer to seek a wife for his son Yitzchak. All the more so when the destiny of the Jewish people depended on the success of the mission. Why then was there a sad reaction here in our parsha when the same words were used?

Let us suggest that the words "before you" may have two interpretations, a figurative one and a literal one. One possible interpretation is that the words "before you" are used as a synonym for guidance. Using this figurative translation the posuk would convey a positive message, that Hashem would send an angel to guide us to our destination. On the other hand, we may suggest that the words "before you" are translated literally as in front of you or ahead of you, which connotes without your recognition and perception. In our case this would convey a negative message that Hashem would send an angel that would go only in front of us where we would not merit to witness His guidance.

If we look closely at the two posukim we may note that there is a difference in the order of the words. Here in ki sisa the words "before you" appear first and then "angel" In mishpatim and toldos the order is in reverse. First the word angel appears and then the words "before you." We may suggest that the two aforementioned interpretations of the words "before you" depend on where they appear in the posuk. If the words "before you" appear first, then there is greater emphasis on these words, which leads us to translate them more literally. In our case this would have the negative connotation that we would not merit to witness Hashem's guidance. Indeed this is the way it appears here in ki sisa and that is why the Jewish people had a sad reaction. However in mishpatim and toldos these words appear last, leading us to translate them figuratively, which conveys the positive message that Hashem will guide us.

In conclusion, there is no contradiction between the posukim. The difference lies only in the order of the words. Likewise, when seeking a shidduch (suggestion for a date to find a mate) one should be careful to follow in the example of Avraham and figuratively formulate his or her request in the correct order. First "angel" and second "before you." The prayer would then convey that not only do we request that Hashem should send the emissary before us but that we should also merit to witness in a palpable way Hashem's involvement and presence in our personal lives.


Hashem said to Moshe, "carve for yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones and I will inscribe on the tablets the words that were in the first tablets, which you shattered. (Shemos 34:1)

Commenting on the words "carve for yourself," the Gemara (Nedarim) derives that Hashem told Moshe that he may keep for himself the valuable dust of the tablets. This is derived form the word pisol. Simply translated, this word means carve. But pisol can also be rendered to mean "inferior leftovers." With this new interpretation, the posuk is saying that the inferior leftovers, i.e., the dust of the luchos are for you to keep. It was from this dust that Moshe attained a large fortune.

Following this line of reasoning, let us suggest another rendition for the word pisol. We can relate pisol to the word pasul (rejected or disqualified). What the posuk is saying then is that Hashem told Moshe that all the pisul, i.e., problems, complaints, and troubles are going to be connected to you. In other words, Hashem informed Moshe, the prototype for all future Jewish leaders, that when acting in the capacity of a leader he would be blamed for all the problems in the community. This also implies that he will also not get any credit for all the good and success. This will be attributed to other causes but not to him or his polices. The leaders will only be the target of criticism.

Taking this idea a bit further, let us note that the main difference between the first set of tablets and the second were precisely these two words "pisol lichah." Concerning the first set of tablets the posuk says that the tablets were the work of Hashem and the text was the text of Hashem. Concerning the second set of tablets however, only the text was from Hashem, but Moshe hewed the tablets himself. The command for Moshe to hew the tablets is our posuk here, "pisol lichah."

Let us suggest that the hollow letters of the tablets symbolize the spiritual essence of Torah, i.e., the practice and study of Torah. The tablets, i.e., the stone surrounding the hollow letters, represent the Torah environment. Just as it was necessary for the tablets to surround the hollow letters in order to give them shape, likewise it is impossible for one to attain spiritual accomplishments in Torah without an excellent Torah environment. It goes without saying that one must remove himself from the contamination of the world.

With regard to the first set of tablets, we received both the letters and the surrounding stone from Hashem. This represented the lifestyle Klal Yisroel experienced in the desert. There, not only did Hashem provide them with Torah and mitzvos, he also provided them with a rich Torah environment, i.e., surrounded by the clouds of glory, manna, isolation from the world of foreign influence. Unfortunately, with the sin of the gold calf, we lost the high level lifestyle that the first set of tablets represented. Even though the first set of tablets was replaced with the second set, the second set was not quite the same. Although the letters were again to be provided by Hashem, the stone was no longer provided by Hashem but by Moshe who symbolized the Jewish leader. This symbolized that the stone, which represented the vital Torah environment, was no longer guaranteed by Hashem but fell under the responsibility of the Jewish leaders. They were the ones now obligated to ensure that their communities be sheltered form the contamination of secular society. In addition, they are the ones now obligated to provide a positive environment for Torah fulfillment.

Let us now return to our posuk. From the words pisol lichah we have derived two teachings. First we are informed that the Jewish leaders are responsible for the Torah environment and second that they will be blamed for all troubles. It is no coincidence that the two teachings are derived from the very same source; they are strongly related. Until now the role of the leaders were reserved solely for guidance in spiritual matters such as the study of Torah and performance of mitzvos. But now their role expanded to include responsibility for the environment as well. Therefore, it is precisely here in this posuk that they are informed that they will be blamed because it here that they are informed that it is now their responsibility.

Vayakhel


And he made the laver of copper from the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. (Shemos 37:8)

In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we read about the laver. The posuk (verse) tells us that it was made from "the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the tent of meeting." Rashi here provides some background. During the difficult times of the Egyptian bondage the Jewish men separated from their wives. They believed it was improper to bring children into a world of suffering. Their wives disagreed. They faithfully believed that Hashem (G-D) would soon bring an end to their suffering. It was best in their opinion to have children and preserve the continuity of the Jewish people. They used these mirrors to beautify themselves before their husbands in an attempt to persuade them to have children. Their arguments and actions prevailed and they succeeded in raising a new generation. Despite the lofty intent of the women, Moshe initially did not want to use them for the mishkan (sanctuary). They were repulsive in his eyes due to their mundane use. Hashem disagreed. Hashem explained to Moshe how dear these mirrors were to Him. They were instruments of faith and it was thus fitting they it be included in the mishkan.

The commentators ask, after Hashem instructed Moshe that they be used for the construction of the mishkan why did Moshe specifically designate them for the laver? What is the symbolic connection between that laver and the mirrors?

One answer given by the commentators is that the laver is related to the parsha of sotah. If a woman's loyalty to her husband is in question she is brought to the mishkan and tested by drinking a potion of water in which the name of Hashem was erased. If the woman is guilty she would miraculously die. If she is innocent she would be blessed with children. The water used for this test was taken from the laver. It was precisely because these mirrors were used in the past to strengthen the relationship between husband and wife that Moshe saw fit that they continue to serve this purpose. They were therefore used for the laver from where water would be taken to test the relationship between husband an wife.

Let us suggest another answer. It is noteworthy that the function of the laver was different that all the other utensils of the mishkan. All other utensils were used to serve Hashem. There are many types of services in the mishkan. One may offer a sacrifice, an incense offering, light the menorah, eat sacrificial meat or some other type of service. Each utensil in the mishkan was used for a specific type of service. The laver was different. Washing from the laver is not a service. Washing from the laver is preparation for service. Before one may serve Hashem one must cleanse oneself from all physical and spiritual contamination. The laver is symbolic of preparation.

As mentioned above, the mirrors were tools of beautification. When Moshe specifically designated the mirrors for the laver, Moshe taught the Jewish people that the true beatification in service of Hashem comes from preparation. The more one prepares the more beautiful his service will be.

The Gemara (Shabbos 133b) derives the source that we beautify the mitzvos (commandments) from the posuk "this is my Hashem and I will glorify him" (Shemos 15:2). The Gemara explains that this posuk may also be interpreted as "I will beautify Him." The Gemara goes on to give a number of examples of beautification of mitzvos; a beautiful succah, a beautiful lulav, a beautiful shofer, beautiful tzitzis and a beautiful sefer torah. The obvious question is, why did the Gemara choose to illustrate the concept of beatification of mitzvos specifically with these examples?

We may suggest that the common denominator of these mitzvos is that they all require preparation. There is a mitzvah to live in a sukkah on the holiday of sukkos, however one is not permitted to build a sukkah on yom tov (the holiday). One must prepare for this mitzvah by building his sukkah before the holiday. There is a mitzvah to take a lulav on the first day of sukkos. This mitzvah requires that one tie the myrtle and willow to the luluv. However it is forbidden to tie on yom tov. One must prepare his lulav before yom tov in order to fulfill the mitzvah on yom tov. The same is true for the remaining three examples. One must undergo elaborate preparations to attain a kosher shofer and tzizis before the fulfillment of the mitzvah. The writing of a complete sefer torah certainly requires much time. With regard to all mitzvos the best way to prepare is to study the laws and customs that apply to that mitzvah. Preparation does not only sanctify the mitzvah it is its beautification.


Betzalel made the aron of shittim wood (Shemos 37:1)

Concerning the appurtenances of the mishkan we find only three admonitions. First with regard to the aron the posuk instructs us to insert staves into the rings and warns us that they not be removed from it (Shemos 25:15). Second, the posuk warns that the choshen shall not be detached from upon the eiphod (Shemos 28:28). Third, with regard to the me'il, the posuk instructs us that its opening should have a border all around and warns that it may not be torn (Shemos 28:32). It is noteworthy that the admonition of the choshen and me'il are repeated in parshas pekudei when the Torah records the actual fashioning of these appurtenances (Shemos 39:21,23). However in parshas vayakel, when the Torah records the construction of the aron, no mention is made of the admonition that the staves not be removed. The latter omission requires explanation.

Let us suggests a homiletic answer based upon the following two insights.

With regard to the aron there is another peculiarity. We are aware that Betzalel was the master craftsman who was appointed to construct the utensils of the mishkan. Yet, concerning almost all appurtenances the Torah simply states that "he made." Betzalel's name is left out. Only with regard to the aron does the Torah explicitly give him credit by stating that "Betzalel made the aron." We may ask, why was the aron different? This difficulty is even greater when we take note that in reference to almost all of the appurtenances the command to construct them was given in the singular tense, i.e., "and you shall make." Only in regard to the aron was the command for its construction given in the plural, i.e., "and they shall make." The aron was different in that everyone was invited to participate in its construction. This was a symbolic message that all have a portion in Torah. However we may ask, if only the aron was constructed by the entire community why then does the Torah give credit only to Betzalel, especially when he does not get explicit credit for the other utensils that he did construct alone?

Rashi alludes to this question when he explains that because Betzalel displayed unusual devotion for the aron he was rewarded that it was credited to his name even though in truth it was constructed by the community. What is important for us to note is that in respect to the aron only an individual received credit for its construction even though the community constructed it.

The second prepatory point to make here is to explain what the staves symbolize. The commentators explain that the staves are symbolic of the financial support of Torah. Just as the staves supported the aron, we must also support the Torah i.e., financial assistance. Going a step further we may add that just as the Torah commanded that the staves never be removed, likewise we may never cease supporting Torah.

Taking all of the above together we may now answer why the admonition not to remove the staves is omitted in our parsha. If the admonition not to remove the staves alludes to the constant support of Torah then the omission of this requirement implies that there will be a lack of constant support. We mentioned that in this parsha, only one individual is given credit for the construction of the aron. The Torah is hinting that if only one individual is given credit then it is not possible to say that there is constant support for the aron, i.e. Torah. No matter who that individual is, the support stands on a very delicate underpinning and is vulnerable to falter quickly when that individual reduces his support or withdraws altogether. The abilities and resources of a single individual are limited and eventually his staves will fall out. It is only in parshas terumah where the command was given to the community that "they shall make the aron," that it can be mentioned that the staves cannot and will not be removed. Only through the collective support of the entire community can there be a guarantee that there will be constant support of Torah.

Pekudei

He erected the Courtyard all around the Tabernacle and the Altar, and he emplaced the curtain of the gate of the Courtyard. And Moshe (Moses) completed the work. (Shemos 40:33)

The commentators note that throughout the erection of the mishkan (sanctuary), the Torah consistently concludes each section with the words "as Hashem had commanded Moshe." Indeed this phrase is repeated eighteen times in this parsha (Torah reading). However, here in connection with the courtyard this phrase is mysteriously omitted. The posuk (verse) simply concludes "and Moshe completed the work." Why is the courtyard different than the other parts of the mishkan?

The commentators answer that a courtyard and gate are symbolic of fear of heaven. If one has a beautiful home one needs a gate to guard it. Likewise one may have accumulated much Torah and mitzvos (deeds) but without fear of heaven he is at risk of losing it all. With regard to fear of heaven the posuk says "What does Hashem (G-D) request of you but to fear Him." Hashem does not command fear, he requests it. The word "command" has the connotation that one must fulfill the instruction even if one does not understand why. However, this is counterproductive with regard to fear. Fear must be developed. In connection to fear the Torah uses the word "request." This has a gentler connotation. It is precisely because the courtyard is symbolic of fear of heaven that the posuk could not say "as Hashem commanded Moshe." Instead, the posuk concludes with just "and Moshe completed the work."

Let us suggest another answer.

The commentators note that the mishkan was a microcosm of the world. Every part of the mishkan corresponded to a specific act of creation. For example, the laver corresponds to the seas and rivers. The menorah corresponds to the sun, moon and stars. The altar corresponds to the earth, etc… (See Limudei Nissan by Rav Nissan Alpert tz"l, parshas Pekudei for an elaboration of this idea.)

The posuk says that Hashem rested on the seventh day. (Bereishis 2:2) Rashi there in his second interpretation explains that Shabbos was not just a cessation of work. Hashem created the Shabbos. Similar to the other elements of creation, Shabbos is also a creation of Hashem. The posuk therefore says that Hashem finished his creation on the seventh day itself, not the sixth day.

If we assume that everything in the mishkan corresponds to an act of creation, we may suggest that the courtyard corresponded to the creation of Shabbos. Indeed, the Torah uses the exact same word in reference to both Shabbos and the mishkan. With regard to the courtyard the posuk says "Moshe completed all his work." Likewise with regard to Shabbos the posuk says that "Hashem completed his work."

We may now answer our question as to why the posuk here does not conclude with the phrase "as Hashem commanded Moshe." With regard to all acts of creation the posuk states the command of Hashem, "And Hashem said …" However, with regard to Shabbos the posuk simply says "and Hashem completed His work."

Now that we have suggested that the courtyard corresponds to Shabbos we may take a new look at their relationship.

The Torah tells us that the courtyard had exactly sixty pillars. What are these pillars symbolic of? It is noteworthy that there are approximately 60 days in year that we treat with the sanctity of Shabbos. This calculation takes into consideration the fact that there are fifty-three parshious in the Torah. During a leap year, one parsha is read each week. Furthermore, there are seven Biblical holidays that share the basic laws of Shabbos and are called Shabbos by the Torah. This gives us a total of sixty days that have the sanctity of Shabbos. It should be noted that Ve-zos Habracha is read on Shmini Atzertz and thus two of the aforementioned shabbosim coincide, however we may make up the day by noting that Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as two days even in Eretz Yisroel. or that Yom Kippur is treated as a double Shabbos.)

The sixty pillars of the courtyard are all connected through the curtains. This teaches us that the full effect of Shabbos can only be felt and appreciated by a continuous observance of Shabbos throughout the Jewish year.

Each pillar was comprised of three parts; a base, the main segment of the pillar and a hook on top. These three parts correspond to the three meals of Shabbos.

Shabbos is describes in the Torah as a day that serves as a sign between Hashem and the Jewish people to the exclusion of the gentiles. Indeed, the Gemara teaches us that a non-Jew who rests on Shabbos is subject to death. The courtyard likewise creates an area of privacy were the Jewish people may serve Hashem away from the view of others.

The first posuk in the Torah says that Hashem created the heavens and the earth. (Bereishis 1:1) The Torah then proceeds to describe the details of heaven and earth. Every element of creation fits into the category of either heaven or earth. Heaven is symbolic of the spiritual and earth is symbolic of the mundane. In the courtyard there were two main items, the altar and the mishkan. The altar is symbolic of the mundane. This may be seen from the fact that the Torah commands that it be made from earth. Furthermore, upon the altar one would offer animal sacrifices. This is symbolic of conquering and subduing one's mundane animalistic drives. On the other hand, the mishkan corresponds to the spiritual. It was in the mishkan where the Divine Presence resided.

The courtyard enclosed the altar and the mishkan. The posuk emphasizes this point by stating "He erected the courtyard all around the mishkan and the altar." Shabbos too represents the unification of the mundane and the spiritual. Just as the courtyard enclosed the altar and the mishkan, the symbols of mundane and holiness, likewise Shabbos synthesizes the mundane and the spiritual. The sanctity of Shabbos gives us the ability to elevate the mundane in service of Hashem.


Bezalel, son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah did all that Hashem (G-d) commanded Moshe. (Shemos 38:22)

Commenting on this posuk (verse), Rashi notes that it does not say that Bezalel did all that he i.e., Moshe commanded him, i.e. Bezalel. If that were so, Bezalel should have first constructed the furnishings and then the house as commanded by Moshe. Instead the posuk reads the Bezalel did all that Hashem commanded Moshe. For in truth, Hashem commanded that first the house be built and then the furnishings should be constructed. Rashi explains that Bezalel, upon hearing the orders of Moshe, asked that it was common practice to first build a house and then the furnishings, for if the furnishings were constructed first there would be no place for them to be stored until the house is constructed. To this Moshe replied that he was correct and indeed that is exactly what Hashem commanded. Moshe went further to praise Bezalel by noting that his name is an acronym for the words "the shadow of Hashem." His name implied that he sat within the shadow of Hashem when the commands to build the mishkan (tabernacle) were given and he heard first hand exactly what they were.

However, the question remains, if Hashem did instruct Moshe that the house be constructed before the furnishings, why did Moshe reverse the order? In order to answer this question we must explain the purpose of the construction of the mishkan. In order to explain this let us look at an early reference to the permanent replacement of the mishkan, i.e., the Beis Hamikdash.

In parshas (Torah portion) Vayeitzei, after Yaakov's (Jacob's) prophetic dream of the ladder with the angels ascending and descending, Yaakov realized that he was sleeping upon the location of the future Bais Hamikdash (Temple). He then proclaimed "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of Hashem and this is the gate of heaven" (Bereishis 28: 18). The simple translation of the posuk implies that Yaakov made two statements. First, Yaakov stated with a double negative that this is none other than the house of Hashem. Second, this place is also the gate of heaven. We may ask, why with respect to his first statement did he state that this is the house of Hashem in a double negative rather then a simple straightforward statement that this is the house of Hashem? Second what did he add by calling the place the gate of heaven?

First we must understand that the word "house" has the connotation of limitation. A human being stores his possessions within the confines of his home and thereby prevents them from being scattered about the street. Likewise a person confines himself to his home at the end of his day. A home is a specific location where one or something is found to the exclusion of all other physical space. With regard to Hashem, it is not possible to say that He has a home where he contains and confines his presence. Such a statement is nothing other then pure apostasy. Hashem presence is found throughout the world and is not confined to any single location. With this idea in mind let us suggest a homiletic interpretation to the words of Yaakov. Yaakov said "this place is not a house of Hashem in its ordinary sense of usage" for with respect to Hashem that is impossible, for Hashem's presence is in no way limited to any location whatsoever. Yaakov continued "Rather the purpose of this house is to serve as a gate to heaven." The purpose of the Beis Hamikdash is none other then a location designated for us to communicate freely and openly with Hashem, something that we could not do in other locations with the same level and quality as we can here.

With this we may now answer why Moshe instructed that the furnishings be constructed first. The furnishing are the actual tools used to communicate with Hashem. The house itself is just the location where the tools of communication are stored. Because the goal of the mishkan is communication with Hashem and not the confinement of Hashem's presence, Moshe felt the need to emphasize this by commanding the construction of the furnishings first. This would help counteract the erroneous notion that this house serves to confine the presence of Hashem in any way whatsoever as does an earthly home. Likewise, today, although we do not have a Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash we do have the Mikdash Miyat i.e., the Batei Kinaysiyos (Synagogues). These homes serve solely as locations designated for us to communicate with Hashem. A place designated as a center of communication has of course its own special holiness with its own extensive laws. However, Hashem's presence can be found equally everywhere even here in cyberspace.

 


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