Thursday, August 16, 2018

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Shoftim (Celebrating 9 years of AIMeMTorah!)


       This week's marks the beginning of the 9th year of AIMeMTorah. Thank you to all our subscribers and readers for your continued support, we look forward to sharing divrei Torah with you many more years to come.

       Perhaps the most central theme of Parshas Shoftim is the responsibilities and authorities of the leaders and guides of Bnei Yisrael. This position would develop over time, beginning with a single authority in Moshe Rabbeinu, morphing into prophets and Shoftim, and eventually splitting into a Beis Din responsible for determining and deciding all matters related to Torah law, and a king responsible for enforcing the law and day-to-day needs of the nation. During the time that Moshe was leading the nation and they could observe his direct pipeline to Hashem, it was easier to accept his authority and believe he was giving over the correct message. However, as we moved away from Moshe, and the leaders’ connection with Hashem became more hidden, it became necessary for the Torah to establish the authority of the nation’s future leaders.
       A clear example of this is found in Perek 17 Pasuk 11, “עַל־פִּ֨י הַתּוֹרָ֜ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר יוֹר֗וּךָ וְעַל־הַמִּשְׁפָּ֛ט אֲשֶׁר־יֹֽאמְר֥וּ לְךָ֖ תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֑ה לֹ֣א תָס֗וּר מִן־הַדָּבָ֛ר אֲשֶׁר־יַגִּ֥ידוּ לְךָ֖ יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאל“According to the teaching that they will teach you and according to the judgment that they will say to you, shall you do; you shall not turn from the word that they will tell you, right or left.” Rashi comments on the usage of the phrase “right or left”, that even if they tell you left is right and right is left, you must listen to them. The Ramban expands on this that even if you believe the opposite of what Beis Din determines is the halacha, even to the point where it seems as obvious to you as the difference between right and left, you must trust and support their decision.
       This same concept is seen later on in the parsha in perhaps an unexpected location. The Torah warns us, “לֹ֤א תַסִּיג֙ גְּב֣וּל רֵֽעֲךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֥ר גָּֽבְל֖וּ רִֽאשֹׁנִ֑ים בְּנַֽחֲלָֽתְךָ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּנְחַ֔ל בָּאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ לְרִשְׁתָּֽהּ“You shall not move back the boundary of your fellow, which the early ones marked out …in the land that Hashem, your God, gives you to possess it.” (19:14). As we saw earlier in the Torah, portions of Eretz Yisrael were divided out to each shevet based on a careful determination of what each tribe required. While Hashem was the one who determined these portions, the pasuk attributes it to the “early ones”, which the Ramban explains refers to Elazar the son of Aharon and his successor as Kohen Gadol, and Yehoshua bin Nun, the successor to Moshe, along with the heads of each individual tribe. Why are they given credit for acting on Hashem’s direct orders? In order to make the same point as before.
       The Written Torah is in many ways incomplete. There are many examples of laws found in the Torah with little detail to how they are supposed to be done. As a result, it is up to our Torah experts to determine the true meaning of the Torah and how we are supposed to practice. However, explains the Ramban, it’s impossible for everyone to come to the same conclusions when dealing with vagueness and ambiguity. Without trusting the authorities, the Torah would break down very quickly into several different versions. Therefore, the Torah itself teaches us that we must trust in our leaders.
       Even if an individual might have clearer logic, greater intelligence, or perhaps even better intentions, it makes no difference. As leaders of the Jewish people, they have been blessed with guidance from Hashem to the point where even though they may not be on the same level of greatness as Moshe, in our eyes we must afford them the same amount of respect.

Shabbat Shalom!


Thank you to everyone who participated in this year's SOS program. The program has now ended for the Summer. Stay tuned for next year's!


Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts)

For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email is at AIMeMtorah@gmail.com.

Please Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @aimemtorah

Don't forget to check out hashkafahandbook.com to learn about my book,Reality Check. And Like it on Facebook.

Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!



AIMeM

Friday, June 29, 2018

Dvar Torah for Parshas Balak


       After seeing how easily the Bnei Yisrael defeated the powerful armies of Sichon and Og, Balak, the king of Moav, hired Bilaam, the magician and prophet, to use his powers to curse the nation. In this way, Balak hoped to weaken the Jewish people before their inevitable conflict. The pesukim detail how he sent messengers to recruit Bilaam who initially refused to come since Hashem had not allowed him. Balak doubles down by promising Bilaam even more wealth and honors if he’ll come. Bilaam, filled with a desire to go, waits to see if Hashem will change His mind. Hashem gives him a puzzling response.
       “וַיָּבֹ֨א אֱלֹהִ֥ים | אֶל־בִּלְעָם֘ לַ֒יְלָה֒ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ אִם־לִקְרֹ֤א לְךָ֙ בָּ֣אוּ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים ק֖וּם לֵ֣ךְ אִתָּ֑ם וְאַ֗ךְ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֛ר אֲשֶׁר־אֲדַבֵּ֥ר אֵלֶ֖יךָ אֹת֥וֹ תַֽעֲשֶֽׂה” “And Hashem came to Bilaam at night and said to him, ‘If these men have come to call for you, arise and go with them, but the word I speak to you- that you should do” (Bamidbar 22:20). The Ohr HaChaim points out several perplexing items in this pasuk. First, why is Hashem seemingly in doubt as to the purpose of these visitors? Of course He knows why they’re there! Secondly, why would Hashem ever allow Bilaam to go and even attempt to curse the Jewish People? Lastly, why did Hashem change His mind from earlier when He told Bilaam not to go? What changed in the meantime?
       He explains that Hashem wanted to make sure there would be no doubts as to the fact that Bilaam would, and why he would, fail. If He would have let Bilaam go right away, people would have thought that Bilaam had control over his actions, that the reason he failed was because he decided not to curse the Jews; as opposed to the reality that Hashem didn’t let him. If He wouldn’t have let Bilaam go at all, people would have thought that Hashem couldn’t control Bilaam and wanted to make sure he didn’t get a chance to curse the Jews. Therefore, He solved both these issues by at first refusing, and then consenting to Bilaam’s going.
       The Ohr HaChaim gives a second, fascinating answer. Hashem gives all of His creations the opportunity to collect their reward; it’s up to the creations to take it. We are told later on (31:8) that Bilaam was killed in the battle with Midian. Chazal teach us that the reason Bilaam was there at all was to collect his reward for his services. (While Bilaam failed to curse the Jews, he did entice them to sin with the daughters of Midian; see Perek 25.) This entire episode would eventually lead to his death. Therefore, Hashem tells him not to go! He gives Bilaam the opportunity to save his own life; but Bilaam doesn’t see this, he’s too blinded by his hatred for Bnei Yisrael. And while Hashem wants only what is best for each and every human being, He also allows man to go in the path he chooses for himself, even if it leads to sin. (See Makkos 10b which explains how this famous principle is derived from this story.)
       So when Bilaam returns to ask Hashem a second time, Hashem allows him to go. Not because He changed His mind, but because He’s fulfilled His obligation to do good, and will now allow the free-will of man to take hold. When Hashem seems confused as to why these men are visiting Bilaam, He is actually asking Bilaam if he is interested in what these men are offering. He’s telling Bilaam, ‘Don’t you understand? This evil act will eventually lead to your downfall!” But once He sees that’s what Bilaam wants, He lets him go, thereby allowing that most amazing of opportunities, the free-will of human beings.

Shabbat Shalom!


Click here for last year's Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Balak

Click here to join the 'Summer of Subscribers'!

There is no Podcast this week.




For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMTorah@gmail.com.

Please Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @aimemtorah

Don't forget to check out hashkafahandbook.com to learn about my book,Reality Check. And Like it on Facebook.

Don't forget to check out the Dvar Torah on parshasheets.com!

Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!



AIMeM

Friday, June 15, 2018

The 6th Annual Summer of Subscribers! (SOS)

Dear Subscribers,
Wow! Eight years of AIMeM and still going strong! Thanks to all of you for your continued support. Whether you read, listen, or distribute, every contributor to the proliferation of the divrei Torah is doing a tremendous service to us and Klal Yisrael. 
Summer has begun and it is time once again for the annual Summer of Subscribers (SOS) project. For those of you who don't remember from last year, or are new subscribers, here is how SOS works: Every year during the summertime, we set aside a few weeks for subscribers to submit their own Divrei Torah. Check out the list of parshiyos at the conclusion of this email, pick a week, and send in your Dvar Torah. We will then email it and post it to the AIMeM blog. Every year, we have a few subscribers write in, some repeats and some new. This is your chance to have your Dvar Torah sent out and read by over 200 people! Divrei Torah can be written in someone's memory or honor, or just to share your Torah thoughts with the world. And with our new base on parshasheets.com, your dvar Torah is reaching more people than ever before.
The podcast platform will be available as well! A few subscribers took advantage of this last year and it was a big hit. Send in an audio file (preferably mp3) of your Dvar Torah, and we will post it to the website (hashkafahandbook.com) and on Apple Podcasts! (If you need help editing or formatting, please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate.)
If you are interested in contributing, please let us know anytime between now and the week you are interested in. (The earlier the better!) Latest time to reserve a spot is the Wednesday morning of that week. You can send in just a written version, just an audio version, or both! You don't need to worry about editing, formatting, posting, or any of the technical stuff, that will all be taken care of. For more information, please ask. All submissions are subject to final approval by AIMeMTorah.

We hope that everyone will get involved in this project. We enjoy it because it helps us get a better idea of the style of Divrei Torah our readers prefer, while also allowing our readers to share their thoughts with the general readership. Not to mention the Summer vacation we receive!
We are very excited to offer you the same zchus we have each week, the opportunity to share words of Torah with people all over the world.

Thank you for your continued support and have a wonderful summer!
Available Parshiyos: (and the Tuesday date of that week- Wednesday morning is the latest time to reserve)

Parshas Balak                          (June 26)
Parshas Pinchas                       (July 3)
Parshas Mattos- Masei              (July 10)
Parshas Devarim                       (July 17)
Tisha Bav                                (by Thursday July 19)   
Parshas Vaeschanan                (August July 25- Wednesday)
Parshas Eikev                         (July 31)
Parshas Re'eh                         (August 7)
Parshas Shoftim                     (August 14)
Parshas Ki Seitzei                   (August 21)

The program has ended for this year. We'll see you in 2019!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Shelach


       Parshas Shelach recounts the tragic tale of the Meraglim, the twelve spies sent to scout out Eretz Yisrael ahead of Bnei Yisrael. Instead of returning with the true praises of Eretz Yisrael and all it could be for them, the spies returned with negative reports, burying the goodness of the land under stories of giants, fortified cities, and grave danger. The nation believed them completely and refused to enter Eretz Yisrael, even after hearing everything Hashem had told them about how incredible Eretz Yisrael is and would be. In return for this lack of faith, they were sentenced to spend a total of forty years wandering in the desert, and none of the adults alive at the time would make it to Eretz Yisrael.
       The question is of course, why were the spies sent in the first place? The parsha begins with Hashem commanding Moshe to send the spies; but why would He command them to do that if He had already told them about how great it was? Rashi explains that the Bnei Yisrael had come to Moshe asking him if they could send an advance team to check out the land; he thought it was a good idea and asked Hashem if he could send them. Hashem responds, “שְׁלַח לְךָ֣ אֲנָשִׁ֗ים“Send out for yourself, men” (Bamidbar 13:2). If it was up to Me, Hashem says, I wouldn’t do it. But if you want, go ahead!
       So now it appears that it was Moshe’s fault for sending the spies! Why didn’t he tell the Bnei Yisrael when they asked him not to worry about it, trust in what Hashem has told them and everything was going to be awesome? And while Moshe spent the same time in the desert and didn’t enter Eretz Yisrael like everyone else, the pasuk doesn’t seem to blame him for what happened!
       The Ramban explains that what Bnei Yisrael requested, and what they actually ended up doing, were two different things. They presented a practical idea to Moshe, that they send an advance team, not to check out the quality of the land, but to plot a course of action for conquering it. What the terrain looked like, the layout of the cities, how prepared the natives were; these were all important ideas that needed clarification. Moshe heard this idea and decided it was a good one. Hashem advised him against it, “send for yourself” He told Moshe, but let him go ahead with it in the end. However, the spies had different ideas. They went not as an advance team, but instead tried to undermine the entire move into Eretz Yisrael. That was something Moshe did not intend, and therefore, he did not receive the blame.


Shabbat Shalom!

Click here for a previous year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Shelach





Click here to listen to this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts)

For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMTorah@gmail.com.

Please Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @aimemtorah

Don't forget to check out hashkafahandbook.com to learn about my book,Reality Check. And Like it on Facebook.

Don't forget to check out the Dvar Torah on parshasheets.com!

Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!



AIMeM

Friday, June 1, 2018

Dvar Torah for Parshas Behaloscha


       If you compare the parshiyos in Sefer Bamidbar with the rest of the Torah, you find the amount of storylines per parsha is much higher than everywhere else. Each parsha has so many topics to speak about, some easily missed if you don’t look hard enough.
       With millions of men, women, and children to take care of, the travel methods for Bnei Yisrael through the desert were very important. This week’s parsha discusses how the nation planned their travels and its implementation, culminating in a description of their first journey as a nation.
       The Bnei Yisrael spent a year at Har Sinai after Matan Torah studying the Torah, learning how to keep the mitzvos, and building the Mishkan. Finally, it was time to leave. The pasuk describes their first journey, “וַיִּסְעוּ֙ מֵהַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה דֶּ֖רֶךְ שְׁל֣שֶׁת יָמִ֑ים וַֽאֲר֨וֹן בְּרִֽית־יְהֹוָ֜ה נֹסֵ֣עַ לִפְנֵיהֶ֗ם דֶּ֚רֶךְ שְׁל֣שֶׁת יָמִ֔ים לָת֥וּר לָהֶ֖ם מְנוּחָֽה“They traveled a distance of three days from the mountain of Hashem, and the Aron of Hashem’s covenant traveled three days ahead of them to seek a place for them to settle” (Bamidbar 10:33). While the beginning of the pasuk is simple, the second part of the pasuk is incredible! The Aron, not the one in the Mishkan, but a second Aron, would travel ahead of the nation a distance of three days, in order to smooth out the road ahead of them so travel would be as easy as possible; even easier. Any mountains, valleys, dangerous animals, were all removed so the Bnei Yisrael could stroll ahead with no worries or extra effort.
       Chazal explain, however, that these two statements of traveling in the pasuk are in contrast to each other. While the Aron traveled three days in order to make things easier for travel to Eretz Yisrael, the Bnei Yisrael traveled three days to escape Har Sinai. After being there for a year and soaking up the kedushah of the place, we would expect Bnei Yisrael to not want to leave. Even excluding their amazing experiences, who wants to leave a place which after years in slavery, probably felt like home! But the truth was that the nation had gotten tired of all the work they were doing learning how to practice follow the Torah and they believed the longer they stayed there, the more laws would be given to them. So the first chance they had, they didn’t just leave, they ran away!
       How ironic is this the pasuk; while the Aron traveled three days ahead to make things as easy as possible for the nation, they traveled three days as well, to make things easy on themselves by abandoning the Torah! Even more so, the Aron was leading the way to Eretz Yisrael, the place where it would easiest and best for them to practice the Torah, while all they wanted to do was escape it! Both parties may have been physically travelling in the same direction, spiritually they were opposites. Instead of a three day distance between them, there was actually a six day distance getting farther and farther all the time, until it comes to a head later in the parsha when the nation is punished.
       The Kli Yakar explains that this is the same principle that keeps us in galus after all these years. It may look like we are physically headed in the same direction, we all do mitzvos and follow the Torah. But when we look into our thoughts and minds, are we still heading the same way? We are after Shavuos and have reaffirmed our connection to the Torah. Let’s solidify that affirmation both in our actions and in our hearts. With that, we can recalibrate our direction in congruence with Hashem and the Torah, and bring the geulah.
Shabbat Shalom!


There is no Podcast this week.





For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMTorah@gmail.com.

Please Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @aimemtorah

Don't forget to check out hashkafahandbook.com to learn about my book,Reality Check. And Like it on Facebook.

Don't forget to check out the Dvar Torah on parshasheets.com!

Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!



AIMeM

Friday, May 25, 2018

Dvar Torah for Parshas Nasso


       Parshas Nasso contains some of the highest and lowest points of spiritual episodes in Jewish life. On one hand, it contains the famous “Parshas Hanesi’im”, the account of the gifts each Nasi brought in celebration of the opening of the Mishkan. It also contains the story of the Sotah, a woman suspected of adultery, with strong but circumstantial evidence behind the accusation. There are several tragic elements to this story, the obvious one being that a Jewish woman could even be suspected of such an act and the discord in her relationship that led to this possibility. From a different perspective, the fact that we erase Hashem’s name in the water she drinks from (and is ‘judged’ by) is also something we do not take lightly. In fact, the administering Kohen reminds her again and again of the ramifications of doing so, only in order to avoid erasing the Name.
       The Ramban points out a unique element in the case of Sotah. The basic process of the Sotah drinking is simple, she drinks the water containing the pesukim detailing the laws of Sotah erased in it. If she is guilty, the second the water touches her lips, her body immediately begins to warp and deform until she passes away very shortly after. Furthermore, Chazal learn out from the pesukim that the guilty man, even though he isn’t in the Beis Hamikdash or required to drink from the water, will suffer the same fate at the same exact time as the woman!
       While there are many instances where the Torah requires us to live based on the principle that Hashem will provide whatever we need, never are we promised there would be a supernatural occurrence derived directly from a physical action. In fact, says the Ramban, this is the only time in the entire Torah where a law is upheld based on an open miracle! This is in accordance with what Chazal teach us about Hashem and Creation; He set up a natural order  for the word to run and He prefers for it to operate in that fashion. It’s rare that an open miracle occurs, which is why we make a big deal in every instance they do. And open miracles are always to reward, punish, or make a statement; never just to uphold the laws of the Torah. That is the responsibility of Beis Din. So how come Hashem made this one exception by Sotah?   
       He explains that our principle still holds; the primary reason for the miracle of the Sotah water was not to punish, but for effect. In order to impress upon the nation the degree of severity with which He treats acts of lewdness, Hashem was willing to change the laws of nature and create a unique punishment for this circumstance. In order to maintain the holy stature of Bnei Yisrael, Hashem will change the entire world.
       However, this concept only existed as long as Bnei Yisrael held themselves to a higher standard. The Sotah water was only used if we weren’t sure of the woman’s guilt. If it was proven she (or the man) was guilty, the Sotah water was not used. Similarly, Chazal teach us that when the episodes of Sotah became more frequent, they stopped using the Sotah water. When the level of holiness is clearly not there, then the miracle of the water is not only not necessary, but not applicable. With average spiritual levels comes the natural order of the world.
       While this concept is illustrated by Sotah, the idea is true in all aspects of life. As long as we hold ourselves to a higher spiritual standard, Hashem will continue to design the world around that standard; which means less nature and more open exposure of Hashem. Hashem can operate the world any way He wants, He chose to design nature as it is because it made the most sense for the world. However, the more we expose ourselves to Him, the more He can expose of Himself to us. Therefore, the more breakoffs from nature, the more Hashem is showing Himself in this world. As we reach higher levels of kedushah, we will begin to see Hashem more clearly, not only in a case of Sotah, but in all corners of reality.

Shabbat Shalom!


There is no Podcast this week.




For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMTorah@gmail.com.

Please Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @aimemtorah

Don't forget to check out hashkafahandbook.com to learn about my book,Reality Check. And Like it on Facebook.

Don't forget to check out the Dvar Torah on parshasheets.com!

Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!



AIMeM

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Shavuos

       As Shavuos comes around once again, we must find ways to connect to the greatest gift Hashem gave us, the Torah. The primary way of connecting is through study, i.e. showing how much we appreciate this great gift. However, even for those who cannot or don’t study it, there are other ways to use it to connect to Hashem. Not only the Torah itself, but the reality surrounding it is full of connections. By understanding this reality, we can cultivate a connection.
       The last parsha in the Torah is Vezos Habracha, where Moshe blesses the different shevatim before his death. The parsha begins with a reference to the giving of the Torah. “וַיֹּאמַ֗ר יְהֹוָ֞ה מִסִּינַ֥י בָּא֙ וְזָרַ֤ח מִשֵּׂעִיר֙ לָ֔מוֹ הוֹפִ֨יעַ֙ מֵהַ֣ר פָּארָ֔ן וְאָתָ֖ה מֵרִֽבְבֹ֣ת קֹ֑דֶשׁ מִֽימִינ֕וֹ אֵ֥שׁ דָּ֖ת לָֽמוֹ” “And he (Moshe) said, ‘Hashem came from Sinai and shown forth from Seir to them; He appeared from Mount Paran and came with some of the holy myriads; from His right hand was a fiery law for them.” (Devarim 33:2). The various commentaries explain that this pasuk comes before the blessings of Moshe because the entire reason why the nation could be blessed was because they had received the Torah.
       However, a part of the pasuk doesn’t seem accurate. It reads, “Hashem came from Sinai”; Hashem didn’t come from Sinai to deliver the Torah, He came towards Sinai and delivered it on top! The pasuk seems to have it backwards. Rashi explains that it means to say that Hashem brought His Shechinah towards the Bnei Yisrael, similar to a groom going to meet his bride. But the pasuk could have said instead that Hashem came from heaven towards Bnei Yisrael. Why say Sinai when that is not an accurate statement?
       The Kli Yakar explains with another similarly perplexing statement. The very beginning of Avos reads, “משה קבל תורה מסיני” “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai” (Avos 1:1). What does it mean Moshe received the Torah from Sinai? The more correct version should read either he accepted it on Sinai or from Hashem; what is the meaning behind this phrasing? The answer to both these question lies in the famous medrash why Har Sinai was chosen as the mountain upon which to give the Torah.
       Even though there were many other taller and more beautiful mountains, Hashem chose the small, plain Sinai to make a point. The Torah is the greatest gift imaginable, within it are contained all the secrets of the universe and receiving it is the greatest proof of Hashem’s love. With all this significance, it is vital to remain exceedingly humble while possessing it. This is what is mean by Hashem coming from Sinai; He was showing Bnei Yisrael the proper way to accept the Torah. And the Mishna shows us that Moshe, who the Torah teaches was the most humble man ever, internalized this lesson and accepted the Torah not on Sinai, but from Sinai. The message of the mountain was received.
       Shavuos has a specific goal attached to it, to connect ourselves to the Torah in the best way possible. This is not accomplished only by showing our love for it through study, but in showing that we truly internalize the messages it gives us. Let us learn from Hashem, Moshe, and Har Sinai, and work this Shavuos to internalize Torah in every way.

Chag Sameach!

Click here for a Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Bamidbar

Click here for a previous year's Dvar Torah for Shavuos




Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts) 

For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMTorah@gmail.com.

Please Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @aimemtorah

Don't forget to check out hashkafahandbook.com to learn about my book,Reality Check. And Like it on Facebook.

Don't forget to check out the Dvar Torah on parshasheets.com!

Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!



AIMeM