Thursday, February 14, 2019

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Tetzaveh


       The parshiyos dealing with the construction of the Mishkan are designed pretty simply. The structure and utensils of the Mishkan are discussed in Parshas Terumah, and the clothing of the Kohanim is discussed in this week’s parsha, Parshas Tetzaveh. However, there is one utensil which is only discussed this week, the Mizbe’ach HaZahav, the Golden Alter. In previous years we have discussed why the Torah only mentions it here. But as we discussed last week, this year I would like to focus on the significance of the extreme detail the Torah gives about the construction of the Mishkan. After all, we have no real need to know the exact specifications of everything; so if the Torah mentions it, it must be important.
       The Kli Yakar examines the specifications of the Mizbe’ach and finds a deeper meaning behind them. The function of the Copper Mizbe’ach, which was discussed in last week’s parsha, was for Bnei Yisrael to bring their sacrifices upon it. One of the basic purposes of korbanos was to serve as a kapparah, as an opportunity to gain Hashem’s forgiveness for any sins. The Golden Mizbe’ach in this week’s parsha had a different purpose. It was used only for the Ketores, the Incense Offering brought twice daily. However, the Kli Yakar explains that they were actually more similar than you originally thought.
       The korbanos brought on the Copper Mizbe’ach were almost always animals. (There was a Korban Mincha made of flour, but for the most part korbanos were animals.) Therefore, the atonement received for those sacrifices was only for your physical self. Any part your physical attributes played in the sin is atoned for by a korban on this Mizbe’ach. The dimensions of the Mizbe’ach reflect this as well. It was three amos tall, the tallest of any utensil in the Mishkan. This corresponded to man, the only upright-walking, and as such the tallest, being on Earth.
       But what about the soul? It wasn’t just the physical-self that needed atonement, the spiritual-self needed forgiveness as well. That’s where the Golden Mizbe’ach came in. As it is not physical, the soul needs a non-physical representative to gain atonement. The Ketores was exactly that. The intoxicating smell of the incense, along with the strong smoke that wafted towards the heavens, brought about the forgiveness for the souls of those Jews who had sinned.
       The Ketores was brought in the morning to represent the return of the soul from God to the body, and in the evening as we return our soul to God for safekeeping. The dimensions of this Mizbe’ach were significant as well. The length and width were one amah each, recognizing the comparison of Hashem, unique in His existence, to the soul, unique in its existence. However, the height of the Mizbe’ach was two amos, corresponding to the soul’s ability to reach above its earthly confines, and make its way to the heavenly abode of Hashem Himself.
       Once again, we see the tremendous depth that went into the construction of the Mishkan. Recognizing this depth allows us to know that nothing is for nothing; that all things from Hashem have significance. And that it is possible for us to learn a great amount from even the smallest details.
Shabbat Shalom!


Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Tetzaveh


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Friday, February 8, 2019

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Terumah


       This week we begin a series of parshiyos detailing the design and construction of the Mishkan. It’s interesting that the Torah goes into such intricate detail on the Mishkan. After all, it’s not a mitzvah for generations, this was a one-time deal. Why do we need to know exactly what materials were used? Why do we need to know the exact design of each utensil? For the most part, we can’t figure out exactly what they looked like anyway. Why do we need to know exactly how everything fit together? We would never see it anyway. Its one thing for those at the time to know all these things, but for us nowadays, why would the Torah include all this?
       It must be that these details are important. In the past two parshiyos, we heard the Aseres Hadibros, i.e. we met Hashem and committed ourselves to becoming His Chosen Nation; and last week we learned the structure of law vital to a developing society. If we accept that the details of the Mishkan are important for us to know, it follows that they are also important for the development of a nation. What they are exactly is for us to discover. This week’s Dvar Torah focuses on one such idea.
       Surrounding the actual Mishkan structure was a walled-in courtyard. The columns for this wall were made of, “עֲצֵ֥י שִׁטִּ֖ים עֹֽמְדִֽים“Acacia wood, upright” (Shemos 26:15). Rashi quotes a midrash that tells an interesting story behind these trees. Yaakov Avinu planted these trees when he came down to Mitzrayim for the sole purpose that Bnei Yisrael should take them for the Mishkan when they left. The midrash continues with an even earlier origin story. Avraham Avinu had planted them near his home in Be’er Sheva. Before Yaakov went down to Mitzrayim, he visited those trees and took them with him and replanted them there, in order that they should be used for the Mishkan.
       The obvious question on this story is “why”? Why did Yaakov need these specific trees from Avraham? Why couldn’t the Bnei Yisrael plant trees on their own? Why couldn’t they take trees that were grown by the Egyptians?
       Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky gives two answers to these questions. The first is that Yaakov planted the trees for psychological affect. Hashem promised Yaakov that He would bring his children out of Mitzrayim, and Yaakov believed that promise would be fulfilled. And while he told his children about it, he wanted to give them a constant sign that they should be prepared to leave Egypt when the time came. The sign was these trees. If Bnei Yisrael ever doubted or forgot about how they would leave Mitzrayim, they could look at these trees and remember the directive of Yaakov; that these trees had a special purpose for Bnei Yisrael after they left Mitzrayim, that they would become the chosen nation and would have a need for these trees.
       The second answer goes into the fabric of what the Mishkan was all about. The first answer we gave didn’t answer the question why Yaakov had to take Avraham’s trees to Mitzrayim. Why couldn’t he plant his own when he got down there?
       The Mishkan was meant to be the place where Hashem could rest His presence on this Earth. As such, it was only proper that its materials be from the most precious materials; but not just in quality and rarity, also in intention. Avraham planted those trees by his inn in Be’er Sheva; from the moment they were planted, they were intended to be a source of kindness to all. Their origin was one in which they were used exclusively to follow the ways of Hashem. Therefore, Yaakov felt he needed those trees. The only wood fit for the Mishkan was wood planted with the express purpose of increasing the glory of Hashem in this world, and their final mission would be to house that glory.
       This is just one example of the tremendous depth behind the construction of the Mishkan. As we go through the next few parshiyos and continue with the details of the design and construction, I would encourage you all to see for yourselves if you can uncover some of the lessons and ideas behind this awesome building.
Shabbat Shalom!


Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Terumah


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Friday, February 1, 2019

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Mishpatim


       After the giving of the Torah to Bnei Yisrael, Parshas Mishpatim begins the more practical aspects of learning a new system of life and laws. But in fact, hidden among the everyday laws of business, property damage, and personal injury, one of the most famous phrases in Jewish history is uttered. “וַיִּקַּח֙ סֵ֣פֶר הַבְּרִ֔ית וַיִּקְרָ֖א בְּאָזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽעAnd he (Moshe) took the book of the covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, ‘All that Hashem spoke we will do and we will hear (Shemos 24:7).
       Believe it or not, the well-known phrase most commonly associated with Matan Torah actually only appears a full parsha later. This leads to the obvious question: why did it take Bnei Yisrael so long to say this? They needed to hear the laws of Mishpatim in order to have this reaction? Furthermore, it’s not as if this was their first opportunity; twice previously, in 19:8 (before Matan Torah) and 24:3, the Bnei Yisrael said “we will do”, without saying “we will hear.” So what was different about this time?
       We’ve discussed this question in previous years, but this year, I’d like to focus on the answer of Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky. At Har Sinai during the giving of the Torah, the pesukim explain the amazing sites the nation witnessed. Fire, thick clouds of smoke, terrifying shofar blasts, thunder and lightning, it all made for an awesome display. The main feature of these sights may have been the sound; these elements made for a tremendous sound which overloaded the senses and had an overwhelming effect on the people present. However, Chazal explain that each person actually was only able to hear what they were capable of handling.
       Based on this midrash, Reb Yaakov explains simply that the previous two times the Bnei Yisrael exclaimed “נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה”, it was declared by parts of the nation who could not fully hear what had gone on at Har Sinai. But this time, the pasuk describes the Torah as being read “בְּאָזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם”, directly into the ears of the people. This group included the Jews who could hear all that went on at Matan Torah, which was actually the vast majority of the nation. Therefore, at this time, the Nation was ready and able to declare, “נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע!” They could now acknowledge the full force of Hashem’s power on display at Har Sinai, proudly accept the Torah, and promise to keep it to its full capacity.

Shabbat Shalom!


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



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

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Yisro


       Parshas Yisro contains the most important event in the history of the world, the giving of the Torah to Bnei Yisrael. Without this gift, Chazal teach us the purpose of Creation would have been unfulfilled, leading to the destruction of the world. But a careful reading of the pesukim reveals a confusing lead up to Matan Torah.
       Perek 19, the perek preceding Matan Torah, consists of a back and forth between Hashem, Moshe, and Bnei Yisrael, with Hashem providing instructions for the nation to Moshe, his giving over the message, and Bnei Yisrael responding positively to the instructions. One of Hashem’s main directives was that no one should come close to Har Sinai at the time of Matan Torah. The first time he mentions this to Moshe is in Pasuk 12, and then again in Pasuk 21. After hearing this directive for the second time, Moshe responds in the way any normal person would. “וַיֹּ֤אמֶר משֶׁה֙ אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה לֹֽא־יוּכַ֣ל הָעָ֔ם לַֽעֲלֹ֖ת אֶל־הַ֣ר סִינָ֑י כִּֽי־אַתָּ֞ה הַֽעֵדֹ֤תָה בָּ֨נוּ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר הַגְבֵּ֥ל אֶת־הָהָ֖ר וְקִדַּשְׁתּֽוֹ“And Moshe said to Hashem, the people cannot ascend Mount Sinai, for You warned us saying, ‘Set boundaries for the mountain and sanctify it” (Shemos 19:23). The problem with this response is obvious; while it might be ok to tell your friend after he repeats himself that you’ve already heard it, this is God we’re dealing with. Of course He knows He warned the people already! Shouldn’t Moshe assume He had a good reason for wanting to repeat it?
       The first answer to this question shows us how the Torah teaches us life lessons. Besides for telling us the mitzvos, the actions Hashem commands us to do or not do, the Torah also tells us how to live life, how to act even when we are not commanded to do a certain action. Here is an example of the Torah teaching us how to prepare an individual for a big task. If there is a certain restriction or important detail for him to know, warn him about it well in advance, but then don’t rely just on that instance. Follow it up right before the task begins with another warning.
       The second instance in pasuk 21 is Hashem doing just that. The reason for Moshe’s response, explains the Gur Aryeh, is because he was not aware this warning meant that Matan Torah was imminent. Therefore, he was confused why Hashem would need to remind Bnei Yisrael right now; which is why Hashem follows this up in Pasuk 24 by telling Moshe to go down, and come right back up with Aharon for the giving of the Torah.
       The Rishonim give a different, interesting answer. Moshe had been given the directive to insure that the Bnei Yisrael not come close to the mountain, and he was confident that he and the other prominent members of the nation could enforce this. Therefore, when Hashem told him again to be careful about this, he questioned why it was necessary. Wouldn’t he be there to warn them? Hashem surprises him with His answer in the next pasuk. “לֶךְ־רֵ֔ד וְעָלִ֥יתָ אַתָּ֖ה וְאַֽהֲרֹ֣ן עִמָּ֑ךְ“Go, descend, and then you shall ascend, and Aharon with you” (ibid: 24). Moshe wouldn’t be down with the people, because he would be up on the mountain with Hashem!

Shabbat Shalom!





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.

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AIMeM

Friday, January 18, 2019

Dvar Torah & Podcast (#75!) for Parshas Beshalach


      Parshas Beshalach follows the Bnei Yisrael on their first journeys leaving Mitzrayim and generations of slavery. Between the splitting of the Yam Suf, the miracle of the Manna, and finding water in the desert, the first few days after their exodus were not uneventful. Throughout their travails through the desert, the leadership of Moshe was on display as a steady hand guiding the young nation on their journey towards spiritual fulfillment.
       This idea is on display again at the end of the parsha with the battle against Amalek. This would be just the first of many encounters with Amalek over the course of history. This nation, descended from Esav, hated everything the Bnei Yisrael stood and continue to stand for: purity, both spiritual and physical, and righteousness. It became and continues to be our responsibility to eradicate Amalek and all those who follow his path, from the world; until this point, we remain unsuccessful.
       But at that time, it was just the first and only battle in the desert between these two nations, with Amalek trying to stop the Bnei Yisrael in their tracks. While Yehoshua, Moshe’s pupil, led the army into battle, Moshe took charge of the spiritual aspect. He climbed up to the top of a mountain overlooking the battle and raised his hands towards the heavens in prayer. This inspired the nation to pray, and their spiritual fervor quickly changed the tide of the battle. After a time, Moshe’s arms tired. So his brother, Aharon, and his nephew, Chur, held his hands aloft so the Bnei Yisrael would continue to be motivated to daven. Eventually, thanks to Moshe’s leadership, they were successful in battle.
       When describing the assistance of Aharon and Chur, the Torah uses an interesting phrase. “וַיְהִ֥י יָדָ֛יו אֱמוּנָ֖ה עַד־בֹּ֥א הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ“(As a result of their assistance) He (Moshe) was with his hands in faith until the setting of the sun” (Shemos 17:12). The Kli Yakar focuses on the usage of the “setting of the sun”; while the simple explanation is that the battle lasted the entire day, he uses it in a more poetic way. The setting of the sun refers to the end of Moshe’s life.
       Until the end of his life, Moshe was dedicated to protecting Bnei Yisrael in any way he could. In Sefer Bamidbar, the Bnei Yisrael battled the Midianite nation before entering Eretz Yisrael (Chapter 31). Hashem told Moshe at the time that upon the conclusion of the battle, he should prepare for his death. Chazal teach us that even with this knowledge, Moshe did not hesitate to go out and lead the Bnei Yisrael through the conflict. He didn’t think of his own situation for a second, the continued success of Bnei Yisrael was foremost on his mind.
       This idea is hinted at here by the first battle of the nation of Yisrael. The Torah tells us Moshe dedicated himself to the success of the army until the sun went down. Not just here, but by every conflict and every time of need, Moshe would dedicate himself to the good of the people. Until his sun set, he would be there whenever and however he was needed.
Shabbat Shalom!


Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Beshalach

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

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Dvar Torah for Parshas Bo


       Dear Readers, Thank you so much for your patience and understanding over the last few weeks. We are happy to be back sharing new Divrei Torah with you!    
   
       This week’s parsha, Parshas Bo, contains the last three of the Ten Makkos. Even with the increasing intensity of each Makkah, Paroh continued to refuse to allow Bnei Yisrael to leave Mitzrayim. Hashem had told Moshe that He would harden Paroh’s heart so he would not let the Bnei Yisrael leave, in order to make sure Paroh received his just desserts and would recognize Hashem as the true God. However, in certain aspects, Paroh didn’t need any help from Hashem and denied Moshe’s requests of his own volition. And after a point, Moshe had had enough.
       At the beginning of the Parsha, Moshe is sent to warn Paroh about the upcoming plague of locusts, the eighth plague to hit the country of Egypt. After declaring that this plague would be so incredible, the likes of which would never be seen again, the pasuk says, “וַיִּ֥פֶן וַיֵּצֵ֖א מֵעִ֥ם פַּרְעֹֽהAnd he (Moshe) turned and left Paroh” (Shemos 10:6). Understanding the proper context in the pasuk, this was a very big deal. Throughout Moshe’s interactions with Paroh, he had always gone to great lengths to treat him with the respect befitting a king. Numerous examples of this appear throughout these parshiyos, including the first pasuk in this week’s parsha when Hashem Himself tells Moshe, “בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה”, “come to Paroh” (ibid: 1). (This verbiage is a sign of respect towards the office of a monarch, regardless of whether he might deserve it on a personal level.) What caused Moshe to finally snap?
       The Ohr HaChaim explains that that this was indeed the last straw for Moshe. He had tried so hard to continue to show Paroh respect even after his continued denial of Hashem’s wishes; and at this point, Moshe thought he had finally made a breakthrough. At the end of last week’s parsha, following the Makkah of Barad (Hail), Paroh had admitted to his wrongdoings, “חָטָ֣אתִי הַפָּ֑עַם יְהֹוָה֙ הַצַּדִּ֔יק וַֽאֲנִ֥י וְעַמִּ֖י הָֽרְשָׁעִֽים“I have sinned this time. Hashem is righteous and I and my people are the guilty ones” (9:27). Paroh asks Moshe to daven for him, which he does, but then Paroh immediately returns to his previous attitude; prompting the Makkah of Arbeh, and Moshe’s disrespectful exit.
       The Ramban explains a bit differently. The Makkah of Barad was extremely frightening; while the wild animals of Makkas Arov might appear more dangerous than some extreme weather conditions, the fact remains that they were still natural beings. However, the icy hail mixed with fire of Barad went against all laws of nature; a truly frightening sight! But the Egyptians had survived; still, not without cost. The Barad knocked out half of the Egyptian crops, and with the locusts threatening to eat the rest, the Egyptians would soon starve. Moshe felt he could play on this, and instead of allowing Paroh time to respond to the threat of locusts like he’d done by other Makkos, he turned and left immediately to allow Paroh to stew in his dread. His tactic worked as Paroh’s servants convinced him to call Moshe back in to negotiate, but ultimately, Paroh continued to allow his heart to be hardened.
Shabbat Shalom!


Click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Parshas Bo

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.

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

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



AIMeM

Thursday, January 3, 2019

No New Dvar Torah this Week

Our deepest apologies, but once again there is no new Dvar Torah this week. We fully expect to have a brand new Dvar Torah next week for Parshas Bo. But in the meantime, please enjoy this Dvar Torah for Parshas Vaeira.
Shabbat Shalom!

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, available on parshasheets.com!

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



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