Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dvar Torah for Va'eira

The main theme of this week’s parshah is without a doubt the Ten Makkos (plagues). The plagues were Hashem’s way of punishing the Egyptians for enslaving the Jews and to show everyone (Jews included) who was truly ruler of the world.
Some of the makkos ended when Paroh asked Moshe to daven to Hashem. Most times Paroh did not ask for Moshe to daven and instead let the makkos run their course and end on their own. I would like to go into each one of the makkos and try to explain why Paroh only asked Moshe to daven by certain ones and not by all of them. Another interesting point is that the Torah uses different words to describe Moshe’s tefillah (prayer) by each makkah. I would like to explore each situation and try to find the differences between each tefillah.
First of all, there were three makkos where it was not necessary for Paroh to ask Moshe to daven: דֶּבֶר the animal epidemic, חשך darkness, and מכת בכורות the death of the firstborn. By דֶּבֶר and מכת בכורות, they only lasted an instant, there wasn’t any time for Paroh to ask Moshe to daven. The makkah of חשך lasted six days. The first three days it was dark but they could see enough to move around, so there was no need for Paroh to beg Moshe for anything. The second three days, it was so dark that they could not move, so Paroh could not have found Moshe to ask him! So the question is only by the other seven. How come Paroh asked Moshe for help by the makkos of צפרדע frogs, ערוב wild animals, ברד hail, and ארבה locusts, and not by דם blood, כינים lice, and שחין boils?
I would like to answer this question and the question of why Moshe’s tefillos are described differently by each makkah with my own idea (if I may).
Let’s start with the second question first. By צפרדע, Paroh asks Moshe to daven for the makkah to end. As Moshe leaves Paroh’s house, as it says in the pasuk, “…וַיִּצְעַק מֹשֶׁה אֶל יְ־הֹוָ־ה עַל דְּבַר הַצְפַרְדְּעִים” “…And Moshe cried out to Hashem concerning the frogs…”.(8:8) The midrash explains that Moshe cried out for the frogs who were sacrificing their lives for Hashem’s glory by throwing themselves into baking ovens and down the throats of the Egyptians in order to cause them as much pain as possible. It was for these frogs that were giving their lives’ to prove Hashem’s dominance that Moshe davened, not for Paroh.
The next time Moshe davened was the makkah of ערוב. The word the pasuk uses to describe Moshe’s davening is “וַיֶּעְתַּר”, which is a normal language of tefillah. (This, by the way, is the word Paroh uses to ask Moshe to daven for him each time.) Moshe felt no pressure to pray any harder for Paroh’s benefit like he had earlier for the frogs. Therefore, he prayed a “normal” tefillah in order to get rid of the animals.
By the makkah of ברד, the pasuk says that Moshe left the city before he started praying and that the extent of his prayers were, “וַיִּפְרֹשׂ כַּפָּיו אֶל יְ־הֹוָ־ה” “And he (Moshe) stretched out his hands to Hashem…”(9:33), and right away the hail stopped! Why was so little effort required? Mitzrayim was a place full of witchcraft and idol worship. Because of that, Moshe had to concentrate harder to make his tefillos heard. However, once he left the city, for a man as great as Moshe, it was a simple matter of spreading his hands in preparation for prayer to make his prayers heard.
The makkah of ארבה is similar to the makkah of ערוב. Moshe was in no rush for the makkah to end, so he took his time and davened his regular tefillah to Hashem. Plus, he prayed in Egypt, which as we said made it harder for Moshe to concentrate.
So why did Paroh ask for Moshe to daven by these four and not by the other three? The pasuk says by דם, “וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת” “And the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink…” (7:24). According to some opinions, they actually did find drinkable water. If this was the case, Paroh had water and did not need to ask Moshe to stop the plague. A second possible answer is that the Egyptians could buy water from the Jews and therefore did not need to ask for the plague to end.
To answer for the plagues of כינים and שחין you could say that these two were different because these were the only two makkos which Paroh’s magicians could not preform. When Paroh saw this, he decided that it was worth the pain of the plague rather than be embarrassed by his magician’s ineptitude in front of Moshe.
The reason Paroh did ask by the other four is simply because they did not fulfill any of these problems and he therefore had no problem asking Moshe for help.
Shabbat Shalom!    

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dvar Torah for Parshas Shemos

With thanks to Aron Hertz.   

In comparison to Sefer Bereishis which is known as ספר היצירה, the Sefer of Creation, Sefer Shemos is described by the Ramban as ספר המעשה, the Sefer of Accomplishments. This is because while Bereishis tells the story of the Avos who solidified the creation of the world through their actions, Sefer Shemos tells the story of the practical application of the Avos’ efforts by their descendants. What is this application? The acceptance of the Torah by the Jewish people and the performance of those mitzvos in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, the sefer starts from when the Jews are slaves in Egypt and ends with them having accepted the Torah, traveling towards Eretz Yisrael, and building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), whose whole purpose was that Hashem should dwell amongst the Jewish people. Hashem’s filling the world with his presence is a fitting end for the sefer dealing with the application of creation.
    One of the big events in this week’s parshah is Moshe’s appointment as God’s messenger to take Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt. When Moshe faces the burning bush and is told his mission, he is very reluctant to go. His first excuse is, “מִי אָנֹכִי כִּי אֵלֵךְ אֶל פַּרְעֹה וְכִי אוֹצִיא אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם” “Who am I that I should go to Paroh and that I should take the Jews out of Egypt?”(3:11). Moshe feels that he is not an important enough person to stand in front of the King. His second excuse is, “הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָא אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתִּי לָהֶם אֱלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם וְאָמְרוּ לִי מַה שְּׁמוֹ מָה אֹמַר אֲלֵהֶם” “(Moshe says to Hashem) Behold, I will come to Bnei Yisrael and I will say to them ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’, and they will say ‘What is his name?’ What should I answer them?”(3:13). Moshe is not sure what attribute of God he should attribute his mission too. If he cannot name the aspect of God he is associated with, the Jews will not believe in his mission. And his final complaint is, “וְהֵן לֹא יַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי” “They will not believe me and they will not listen to me (that Hashem appeared to me)” (4:1). Moshe’s last ditch effort to get out of this job is to tell Hashem that the Bnei Yisrael simply won’t believe him!
     In the pesukim between Moshe’s claims, Hashem is continuously telling him more aspects of the mission and assuring Moshe that he will be successful. (Moshe is punished for this by not having the Kehunah (priesthood) come through his children, but rather from his brother Aharon’s.) Eventually, Hashem decides to give Moshe three signs to show the Jews should they believe him. The three signs are: 1) Moshe’s staff turns into a snake and then back into a staff (This sign was also later used in front of Paroh), 2) Moshe was stricken with tzaraas (best translated as leprosy), 3) Moshe changed water from the Nile into blood. The question is what is the significance of each of the three signs and why did he need to give three?
    Rashi explains that since Moshe said Lashon Hara about the Bnei Yisrael (4:1) by saying that they wouldn’t believe him, Hashem gave him signs that correspond to Lashon Hara. These are the snake, the symbol of Lashon Hara, and the tzaraas which is the punishment for Lashon Hara. The sign of the blood is a preface to the ten plagues which will start with the plague of blood.
    Why Moshe received three signs I believe is because of the nature of each of the three complaints. The first complaint is that Moshe is not worthy to appear before Paroh, so Hashem gives him the sign of turning the Nile into blood. The Nile, the god of the country of Egypt, controlled the destiny of the entire country. By giving Moshe control over the Nile, Hashem showed that Moshe could go to Paroh and have complete control of the events.
    The second complaint is that Moshe is going to go to the Jews with no identity for his mission. The key to this is Moshe’s staff. According to the medrash, Moshe’s staff belonged to Yosef before him and Yaakov before Yosef! This was the same staff that Yaakov used in Lavan’s house (see parshas vayeitzei)! This was an ancient Jewish artifact that all Jews would recognize. If Moshe could bring the staff and prove that this was the famous staff belonging to Yaakov Avinu, of course they would believe him! By changing the staff into a snake, he proved that this was a very special staff.
    The third complaint was the worst one yet, that Bnei Yisrael just would not believe that he spoke to Hashem. This is taken care of by his having tzaraas, a sickness that only comes from Hashem. Ironically for Moshe, and thankfully for us, the Jews had absolutely no problem believing Moshe even without the signs.      
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dvar Torah for Vayechi

This week’s parshah ends off Sefer Bereishis, the first of five parts of the Torah. When Yaakov realizes he is going to die soon he prepares his children for life in Egypt and beyond by blessing each one of them. These blessings were tailored for each one of Yaakov’s sons according to his strengths and needs. Not only were these blessings given to the brother’s themselves, the entire future of each shevet (tribe) is based on the brachos from Yaakov. For example, Yissachar’s brachah compares him to a donkey, an animal which can handle heavy loads. This is in reference to the heavy load of Torah study which was Yissachar’s main responsibility. Dan’s brachah compares him to a snake which bites a horse’s heal and causes the rider to fall off and die without the snake even touching him. This is in reference to Dan’s descendant, Shimshon (Samson), who killed the Plishtim (Philistines) by knocking over the support beams for their marketplace; killing many without even directly touching them.
Not all the brachos seem to have such nice references though. Reuven, Shimon, and Levi’s brachos all seem to be critical instead of praiseworthy. By Reuven, Yaakov says, “פַּחַז כַּמַּיִם אַל תּוֹתַר” “(You were) Hasty like water, do not take more (You shall not be superior)” (49:4). Yaakov tells Reuven that because he was hasty in moving Yaakov’s bed from Bilhah’s tent to Leah’s tent after Rachel’s death (see Vayishlach [35:22]), he lost out on his status as firstborn. This meant losing his double portion in the land of Israel and his right to be the Kohen (Priest) in the Beis Hamikdash to Yosef and Levi, respectfully.
By Shimon and Levi, it sounds even worse. “שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי אַחִים כְּלֵי חָמָס מְכֵרֹתֵיהֶם. בְּסֹדָם אַל תָּבֹא נַפְשִׁי בִּקְהָלָם אַל תֵּחַד כְּבֹדִי כִּי בְאַפָּם הָרְגוּ אִישׁ וּבִרְצֹנָם עִקְּרוּ שׁוֹר. אָרוּר אַפָּם כִּי עָז וְעֶבְרָתָם כִּי קָשָׁתָה אֲחַלְּקֵם בְּיַעֲקֹב וַאֲפִיצֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל” “Shimon and Levi are brothers, stolen tools are their weapons. Into their plans, may my soul not enter! Let my honor not join in their congregation. For in their rage they killed a man and in their wish, they hamstrung an ox. Cursed is their anger for it is mighty, and their wrath for it is harsh; I will divide them in Yaakov, and I will disperse them in Israel. (49:5-7)”. Rashi explains that at various times in history, descendants of Shimon and Levi will perform acts that Yaakov has no wish to be associated with. These are the story of Korach of Shevet Levi (Bamidbar 16), and Zimri of Shevet Shimon (Ibid.25). This is what is meant by “Into their plans, may my soul not enter! Let my honor not join in their congregation.” They killed a man, Shechem, and they hamstrung an ox when they sold Yosef ( who is compared to an ox in his brachah). Then, Yaakov curses them! It certainly appears as if these three brothers did not get a nice sendoff from their father.
This would be hard enough to understand without this pasuk written after the brachos are finished. “כָּל אֵלֶּה שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר וְזֹאת אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָהֶם אֲבִיהֶם וַיְבָרֶךְ אוֹתָם…” “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them and he blessed them…” Rashi asks the obvious question; how can the pasuk say that Yaakov blessed all twelve, there are some whom he did not bless? One answer is that even though each brother received his own blessing, all the blessings really went on all the brothers. Rashi also answers that it must be that the rebuke which Reuven, Shimon, and Levi received was really a brachah.  
So what’s the brachah over here? The Ohr HaChaim explains how this works. Until the sin of the golden calf, the first-borns of the Jews were supposed to perform all of the tasks in the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash. After the sin, Hashem took it away from them and gave it to Shevet Levi, the only ones not to sin with the golden calf. However, there is a Chazal that in the times of mashiach, the first-borns will serve alongside the Leviim. Says the Ohr HaChaim, the main part of Yaakov’s blessing to Reuven was calling him his first-born! In 49:3, the pasuk says “רְאוּבֵן בְּכֹרִי אַתָּה” “Reuven, you are my first-born”, and then Yaakov proceeds to rebuke him. But even though Yaakov says here how Reuven will lose his first-born rights, he still calls him his first-born! Reuven will benefit from this at the end of days even though now it seems as if he is being rebuked. (This shows us even more the value of Yaakov buying the bechora [first-born rights] from Eisav, that even in the times of mashiach, Eisav will have no right to serve in the Beis Hamikdash.)
 If you read the brachah by Shimon and Levi carefully, you will notice that Yaakov does not curse them, rather he curses their anger. This in it of itself is a blessing, this is exactly what Shimon and Levi needed in order to grow to their greatest potential, which is the main point of all the brachos.
May we all be zoche to fulfill the full potential of the brachos which Yaakov gave to our forefathers which have matriculated down to us, in order to serve Hashem in the best possible way.
Shabbat Shalom!  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dvar Torah for Vayigash

This week’s parshah is dominated by the drama of Yosef finally revealing his true identity to his brother’s. For Yaakov, this was the impossible dream come true. His long thought dead, beloved son was alive! Can we imagine what such a reunion must have been like? Lucky for us, the torah documents the entire scene.
In Perek 46, Pasuk 29, right at the beginning of Shishi (sixth aliyah), it says, “…וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו וַיִּפֹּל עַל צַוָּארָיו וַיֵּבְךְּ עַל צַוָּארָיו עוֹד” “…And he (Yaakov) appeared to him (Yosef) and he (Yosef) fell on his neck, and he (Yosef) wept on his (Yaakov) neck for a long time.” There is a famous question: how come Yosef fell on Yaakov’s neck and cried while Yaakov has seemingly no reaction whatsoever? Not exactly the reaction we were expecting!
Rashi brings a very famous midrash which explains that Yaakov was saying Shema when Yosef came. He couldn’t stop in the middle, so Yosef was left to cry by himself. The very next pasuk shows Yaakov’s true reaction, “וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל יוֹסֵף אָמוּתָה הַפָּעַם אַחֲרֵי רְאוֹתִי אֶת פָּנֶיךָ כִּי עוֹדְךָ חָי” “And Yisrael said to Yosef, ‘Now I can die since I have seen your face and you are still alive.” Yaakov also had a very emotional reunion, however, his reaction was a little delayed since he was in the middle of saying Shema.
The Sifsei Chachamim has a problem with this midrash. If it was now the time to say Shema, how come Yosef wasn’t saying Shema along with Yaakov? He also has an obligation to say Shema at a certain time, so how come he was not saying it at this time as well? The first answer is that Yosef was in the middle of the mitzvah of כיבוד אב, honoring his father. We have a rule that if you are in the middle of preforming one mitzvah, you are not obligated to fulfill another mitzvah in the meantime. Since Yosef was in the middle of כיבוד אב, he did not have to say Shema at that time.
A second answer we say is based on a gemarah in Brachos (13b). The gemarah explains that if someone is טרוד, loosely translated as “busy”, they are excused from reading the entire Shema and fulfill their obligation with just the first verse of שמע ישראל ה' אלוהינו ה' אחד. For example, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, also known as Rebbi, the author of Mishnayos, never said more than the first verse of Shema since he was constantly involved with teaching his students. So to by Yosef, he was completely involved with running Egypt and now was involved in כיבוד אב, so he did not have time to say more than the first verse. Therefore, he finished Shema long before Yaakov did, and started crying while Yaakov was still finishing up.
Still, it is a little strange that Yaakov decided to start saying Shema right now. His beloved son, whom he has not seen in over twenty years, is on the way to see him! How can he all of a sudden decide to say Shema now? He will still have time to say it afterwards? There are a few different answers, however, I would like to see if I can take one from the Ramban. In order to answer a separate question, the Ramban brings up a point from last week’s parshah that the brothers did not recognize Yosef since they had not seen him for 22 years. Yaakov, with his bad eyesight (he was 130 years old!), couldn’t recognize Yosef either! I would like to take this point for this question as well. Yaakov did not recognize that Yosef was there, so he decided to start saying Shema. In the meantime, Yosef arrives and immediately embraces him.
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dvar Torah for Chanukah

We are told that the origin of the name “חנוכה” comes from the phrase, “חנו-כה” “they rested on the 25th”, referring to when the Jews in the desert finished working on the Mishkan (Tabernacle) on the 25th of Kislev, the same day that the miracle of Chanukah took place one thousand years later. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev in his sefer, Kedushas Levi, asks why this is worthy to name a holiday after? If this is the reason, why didn’t they call Purim “חנו-יד” since the Jews rested on the 14th day of Adar?
Reb Levi Yitzchak explains that first we must understand what the purpose of a chag is. There is a concept in kabbalah that time does not go in a straight line, but rather in a circle. This means that whenever Rosh Hashanah comes around, the events and miracles that happened on previous Rosh Hashanahs are brought to light again. The same is true with Chanukah, Purim, Pesach, and the rest of the chagim. Whenever we light the Chanukah candles, all the miracles that happened to the Chashmonaim are “revealed” to us.
So how come certain miracles were picked as holidays and not others? For instance, why didn’t the Rabbanan decide to commemorate the miracle of Sancheireb (see Sanhedrin 94) or Sisrah (see sefer Shoftim Perek 3)? The answer is that only miracles which had an effect on our good character were picked. These miracles are the ones strong enough to be renewed by us every year on their anniversary. However, these other miracles happened without us having to undergo any major character changes, so they won’t have as much power.
This, by the way, will answer a halachic question. The brachah, “שעשה ניסים לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה” “…who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, in these times”, is a little strange. How come it sounds as if the miracle is still continuing? It should read, “ובזמן הזה” “and in these times”? According to this, the reason is because the miracles are still in effect until this very day!
In summary, every year on the anniversary of an important miracle, we celebrate because in reality, that day is really the renewing of the same miracle many years later. Based on this, the Kedushas Levi answers that since Chanukah is the first chag after Rosh Hashanah (and Succos, but he includes all the Tishrei- Chagim together), it has an additional point of renewing the entire year full of miracles. The word “חנוכה” is the same as “חנוכת”, which means dedication or inauguration. Because this chag dedicates the whole year of holidays, it is called “חנוכה”.
May we all work this Chanukah to make it truly the beginning of a new year of miracles, where the anniversaries of these great events are renewed nowadays and we will have the same hashgachah today as we did then.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Question on Dvar Torah for Vayeishev

I had a question on this week's dvar torah. I did not find anyone who speaks about it. In parshas Toldos, (26:6) it says that Yitzchak lived in Gerar which was in Eretz Yisrael. The word used to describe how he lived is " וַיֵּשֶׁב"! How come it wasn't a problem by Yitzchak? The only thing I saw which might be an answer is that all the meforshim explain there that this pasuk is coming to teach us that Yitzchak did what Hashem told him to do which was to live in Gerar and the word "וַיֵּשֶׁב" is not coming to teach us how he lived there. However, the word Hashem uses to tell Yitzchak to live in Gerar is "גור", from "גר"!

Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayeishev

This week’s parshah starts off, “וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן” “Yaakov lived in the land which his fathers traveled in, the land of Canaan.”(37:1). The Kli Yakar asks two questions on this pasuk. First, why does the pasuk use two different words to describe how Yaakov and Yitzchak settled in Eretz Yisrael? By Yaakov the word is “וַיֵּשֶׁב” “settled”, and by Yitzchak it says “מְגוּרֵי” from the word גר, meaning a stranger or someone who has not settled that place, but rather is just passing through. It should either say that Yitzchak also settled the land or it should say that Yaakov was a גר, like his father? Why this double language? Secondly, why does the pasuk have to say “בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן”? We already know where Yaakov is from the end of last week’s parshah, plus, we know where Yitzchak and Avraham lived?
He answers with an important idea. The word “וַיֵּשֶׁב” implies a more permanent stage of settling. The pasuk is telling us that in the same place where Yaakov’s fathers had lived like nomads, Yaakov decided to settle in permanently. Even in the land which the Avos’ children were destined to settle, the Avos were not allowed to live there like permanent residents. Why not? After all, they were promised the land as inheritance, why did they have to wait to take it over?
Chazal teach us that tzaddikim are not allowed to live in comfort in this world, only in the world to come can they completely “relax”. While in this world, the job of a tzaddik is to perfect the world around him. He is not allowed to keep to himself and let everything take care of itself, he must look around and fix what he can. When Hashem saw Yaakov trying to live in peace in this world, he said, “You want to live in peace in this world and in the next world?” Because of this, the whole story with Yosef happened and Yaakov’s temporary peace was broken.
There is a very important lesson here which each and every Jew must take to heart. Everyone wants to live a peaceful life, to be able to go through life without worries, pain, troubles, and just be able to serve Hashem with joy. That is not the job of a Jew, however. Life is not supposed to be easy. We were put in this world in order to bring it to a level of kedushah which is not normally found down here on Earth. By accepting the Torah, we not only took responsibility for our own spiritual level, but for the whole world as well! So we can’t just allow the world to spin around us, we must be proactive and change what we can. Yaakov especially had this responsibility as one of the builders of the Jewish people. Because he tried to ignore this task, he was forced back into it by eventually going down to Mitzrayim to build up an extremely impure area to serve as the Jewish people’s home for 210 years.
If we can keep ourselves on a high level and bring the world to a higher level at the same time, we will merit a place in the World to Come, where we will be able to “relax” in a completely spiritual place. (In fact, just because we accepted the Torah, Hashem has already promised each Jew a spot in Olam Habah [World to Come], and the better you are in this world, the larger your portion is.) Because we have this in our future, Hashem does not allow us to “relax” in this world too! Here we must work! We must try to bring this world to the same spiritual level we hope to reach in Olam Habah.
May we all be able to fulfill our job to purify this world so that we may merit a greater portion in Olam Habah where we will finally be able to “relax”.
Shabbat Shalom!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayishlach

This week’s parshah opens with Yaakov preparing for the conflict with his brother, Esav. His first move is to send messengers ahead to see what Esav’s attitude is towards him. He sends them with the following message for Esav. “כֹּה תֹאמְרוּן לַאדֹנִי לְעֵשָׂו כֹּה אָמַר עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב עִם לָבָן גַּרְתִּי וָאֵחַר עַד עָתָּה” “So shall you say to my master, Esav, ’so said your servant Yaakov: I have been living with Lavan and have delayed till now” (32:5). The message continues with an explanation of how Yaakov is very wealthy and wants only to be at peace with Esav.
Rashi focuses on the word “גַּרְתִּי” “have been living”. This is a very strange word to use as it is not used anywhere else in the Torah. A better word would have been “עבדתי” from the word “עבד”, servant, since he was really a servant to Lavan. He gives two explanations for it. The first is the focus on the root of the word, “גר” “stranger”. Yaakov is telling Esav that Yitzchak’s brachos which he blessed him with in Parshas Toldos, have not come true as Yaakov has not become anyone important, he was still just a regular, unimportant person in Lavan’s house. Therefore, there is no reason to be jealous since the brachos which Yaakov “stole” have not come true. The second explanation of Rashi is that “גַּרְתִּי” has the same numerical value (gematria in hebrew) as “תרי"ג”, 613, referring to the 613 mitzvos. Yaakov is telling Esav that even though he spent so much time in the house of a rasha, he still kept all the mitzvos and was still as big a tzaddik as he was before. Therefore, Esav would not be able to defeat him.
The Kli Yakar has a few problems with these explanations. First of all, he’s bothered by the fact that Rashi’s two explanations contradict each other, the first says that Yaakov was portraying himself as weak and the second one says that Yaakov was portraying himself as a strong opponent. You cannot say both of them at the same time. Also, according to the second pshat, why did Yaakov call himself Esav’s servant and send him gifts?
The Kli Yakar decides to say a different explanation by combining the two of Rashi. The first pshat stays the same, Yaakov is saying that the brachos have not come true since he is still a nobody and there is no need for Esav to fear him. He asks though, how could Yaakov deny the fact that brachos which his father gave him were not true? Isn’t this extreme disrespect? He answers that Yaakov explained to Esav that brachos only work for the person they were intended for. So since Yitzchak intended the brachos for Esav, even though Yaakov came and took them instead, they would still go to Esav.
Yaakov then preempts a question from Esav by using the second explanation of Rashi. Esav might ask that really the brachos have taken affect and the only reason Yaakov is not great is because he did not keep the mitzvos in Lavan’s house, one of the conditions for the brachos working. Yaakov explains through the use of the word “גַּרְתִּי” that he has kept all the mitzvos and still the brachos haven’t helped him at all.
This showdown was the first of many that have been and will be between Yaakov and Esav’s descendants. We must learn the lessons our Avos teach us through the Parshah in order that we will come out on top every time.
Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dvar Torah for Vayeitzei

This Shabbos I will be in the Golan with yeshiva so I won’t have time to write over a full Dvar Torah. Instead, I’d like to say over a thought I heard from my friend, Aron Hertz.

Chazal teach us that each one of the Avos had one specific middah in which they “specialized”. Avraham’s was Chesed, kindness and good deeds, Yitzchak’s was Avodah, serving Hashem, and Yaakov’s was Emes, truth. Yitzchak inherited Avraham’s middah of Chesed and combined it with his middah of Avodah, and Yaakov took both the middos of Avraham and Yitzchak and combined them with his own qualities, using them to personify the middah of emes. What this means exactly is something which could take pages to explain (maybe we will write about it next week), but in the meantime let’s leave it at that.

Aron wanted to explain how each one of these middos has stayed with us as we have traveled through our different galuyot (exiles). After the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple), the Jews knew from a prophecy by Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) that they would return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild the Beis Hamikdash after seventy years. They considered this a great chesed from Hashem that even though they had sinned enough to have the Temple destroyed, it would only be seventy years till its’ rebuilding. Here we have Avraham’s middah. This not only includes you doing chesed, but also being able to recognize the chesed that someone else does for you. This is known as Hakaras Hatov, literally translated as recognizing good, basically meaning appreciation, which is one of the most important traits a Jew must have according to Chazal.

Skipping ahead a few hundred years, we come to the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash and the galus that continues since then. We have no promise as to when this galus will end and as a result, we must constantly work on our Avodas Hashem in order to stay strong in this time of darkness. At the times when we were shut out from the rest of the world, in the shtetls in Europe and the Jews in third world countries in Asia, we used them to build up our connection to Hashem through davening, learning Torah and living Jewish lives.

After World War II, when the walls of the shtetls and ghettos were torn down, and the Sephardic Jews came west, we entered the third stage of the galus. Now that we are again at the forefront of the world, it is more important now than ever for us to stick to our beliefs. It is our job as Jews to take all that is impure in the world and turn it into the good and pure thing it was supposed to be when Hashem created it. We must use the middah of Emes to insure that we stay true to our Jewish values in a world of turmoil. And just like Yaakov combined the middos of Avraham and Yitzchak in order to complete his middah of emes, we must also utilize all the middos of our Avos in order to stay truthful to our faith and each other.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bonus Dvar Torah for Toldos

the torah teaches us that when yaakov and esav were born, yaakov was holding on to esav's heel. rashi comments on this, " [This is] a sign that this one's (Esav)  reign will not end until this one rises up and takes it from him." what do you think this means? keep in mind that the exile we are in nowadays is called the exile of edom, another name for esav. this is because esav is the father of rome, which is the source for all modern day culture. do you think rashi means this literally, that we have to go and take it? can we just work on ourselves and recieve the kingship of the world? may be something else?
rashi says to look in pirkei d'rebbi elazar, perek 32. i saw it today and it seems to be saying that we have to stand up and take it from esav. what does that mean?

Please email or comment below with your ideas.

Dvar Torah for Parshas Toldos

This week’s parshah transitions us from Avraham to Yitzchak, and ends with the beginning of Yaakov’s journey as he begins building the Jewish people. Many famous stories are found in this parshah such as, the details surrounding Yaakov and Esav’s birth, Yitzchak going to Grar, and Yaakov “stealing” the brachos from Esav. However, I would like to focus on a very small and seemingly unimportant Rashi found at the end of the parshah.

After Yaakov tricks Yitzchak into giving him the brachos, Esav swears to kill him in revenge. Rivka, their mother, quickly learns of the situation, and arranges for Yaakov to flee immediately to her brother Lavan’s house. She tells Yaakov to hide out there until Esav calms down and it is safe for Yaakov to return home. And so, in the first pasuk of the seventh aliyah, the pasuk states, “וַיִּשְׁלַח יִצְחָק אֶת יַעֲקֹב וַיֵּלֶךְ פַּדֶּנָה אֲרָם אֶל לָבָן בֶּן בְּתוּאֵל הָאֲרַמִּי אֲחִי רִבְקָה אֵם יַעֲקֹב וְעֵשָׂו” “And Yitzchak sent Yaakov and he went to Padan Aram, to Lavan the son of Besuel the Arami, the brother of Rivka, the mother of Yaakov and Esav.”(Bereishis 28:5) Avery obvious question on this pasuk is why did we have to say again that Rivka is Yaakov and Esav’s mother? By this point in the parshah we are pretty clear on this!

Rashi says something very strange here in his explanation. “אם יעקב ועשו: איני יודע מה מלמדנו” “I do not know what this is coming to teach us.” Wow! What could Rashi mean by this? The commentaries immediately try to answer what exactly Rashi is trying to say here. After all, if he didn’t have an explanation, why say anything? The Mizrachi answers that Rashi had several answers to choose from, but he couldn’t pick which one he felt was the most correct. Therefore, he wrote that he does not know what the explanation is in order that we would realize that there really is something to answer, we just have to figure out for ourselves which one is the most correct. (Notice how I say most correct and not just the correct one. This is because all the explanations are right since everyone who says an answer is saying with the right intentions, that this is all purely for the sake of learning Torah.) The Chizkuni says two answers. First, this is a proof to a gemarah in Baba Basra which says that most boys will be similar to their mother’s brother. Rivka had two sons, one was a tzaddik, and one was a rasha like her brother. Secondly, the pasuk is showing us that even though one was a tzaddik who was going to become the father of the Jewish people, and one was an evil man who was trying to kill him, she was the mother of both of them and therefore was equally concerned for both.

I think, however, that the most important point to take out of this Rashi is in the actual words that he says. “I don’t know”. How hard is it for us to admit something like that? Whether to teachers, parents, friends, and even to ourselves, it is very hard for people to admit that they are ignorant of something. So here is Rashi, the foremost commentator on pretty much every part of the Written and Oral Torah, coming right out and saying that he just does not know what the Torah was trying to tell us! Even if you say like the Mizrachi that Rashi had several answers, still, he doesn’t write that in his commentary, he does not use that to try and defend himself. He just comes right out and says it, “I don’t know what this pasuk is coming to teach us”. Can we imagine something like that? Being able to write down in a book which millions of people have already and will read, to openly admit that you don’t understand what is going on? And if you think this was a onetime thing, think again. Rabbi Akiva Eiger in Maseches Berachos (25b) lists forty- four places from all over Chumash, Gemarah, and other parts of the Torah, where Rashi says he does not know the explanation.

As much as we use the Torah and the stories of our forefathers to learn how we should live our lives, there is much to be gained from the people who studied the Torah as well, for they received all of their middos (character traits) from their study of it.

May we all internalize the lessons of this week’s parshah as well as the lessons of Rashi so that we may all witness the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash in our time.

Shabbat Shalom!

Click here for a bonus Dvar Torah on Toldos


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dvar Torah For Parshas Chayei Sarah

This week’s parshah starts off, “וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה” “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.” (23:1). The obvious question here is why is Sarah’s age split into 100 years, twenty years, and seven years? Just write that she lived for 127 years? Rashi explains on this pasuk from a Midrash that the Torah is teaching us that each set of years has its own drasha. When Sarah was 100, she was like she was twenty that she had no sins. (This is in reference to the fact that a person is not punished by heaven on account of their sins until the age of twenty.) When she was twenty, it was like she was seven in terms of beauty. Additionally, the end of the pasuk which says “שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי שָׂרָה” “the years of Sarah’s life”, is coming to teach us that all her years were equal in terms of goodness. This same system of drashas is used by Avraham when he dies. He died at the age of 175 and the pasuk splits his age into 100 years, seventy years, and five years, to say that they were all equal in that he had no sin (See 25:7).
The Ramban asks, when Yishmael dies (See 25:17) the pasuk also says “שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי” like it does by Sarah and Avraham. He explains this to mean that we are comparing Yishmael’s life to Avraham that just like Avraham was good his entire life, so was Yishmael. But we know this isn’t true, at first Yishmael was a rasha and only later in life did teshuvah? He wasn’t a tzaddik like Avraham his entire life. So this Midrash does not make sense!
The Mizrachi answers up for Rashi by clarifying his point. Rashi was going on the end of the pasuk when it repeats “שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי” “the years of (Sarah’s) life” by Sarah and by Avraham when it says “אֲשֶׁר חָי” “that he lived” after it already said “וְאֵלֶּה יְמֵי שְׁנֵי חַיֵּי אַבְרָהָם” “And these are the years of the life of Avraham” (25:7) in the same pasuk immediately beforehand. There is no reason to repeat these phrases. It is from these extra phrases that Rashi learns his explanation from. By Yishmael however, this phrase is not repeated (See 25:17), therefore, Rashi did not make the same drasha (which the Ramban assumed he would).
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dvar Torah for Vayeira

     I had a very hard time deciding what to write about this week. This parshah is packed from beginning to end with famous questions and lessons which affect all aspects of Torah learning and religion. At the end I chose this one since I feel that there is a very important lesson here which affects all of us on a day to day level, which you don’t get necessarily with all the topics in this week’s parshah (not to say that they are any less important, G-d forbid). So let’s get down to it!
      The first pasuk in this week’s parshah says, “וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְ־הֹוָ־ה בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא…” “And Hashem appeared to him (Avraham) in the plains of Mamre…” (18:1). The Ohr HaChaim asks a technical question on the pasuk which results in a beautiful thought. He asks that in all other places where it says “וַיֵּרָא יְ־הֹוָ־ה” “Hashem appeared”, including all the times it says it by Avraham, the pasuk writes the “seen”, in this case Hashem, before the “see-er”, in this case Avraham. According to the rules of Biblical Hebrew, that is the correct structure. So how come here the word “אֵלָיו”, referring to Avraham the “see-er” is written before Hashem, the “seen”?  
      There is a famous midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 82:6) which says that the Avos (our forefathers, referring to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov) were the chariot for the shechinah (Hashem’s “presence”) to come down to the physical world. Through their righteousness, we are able to have the presence of Hashem in our midst. The Ohr HaChaim explains that this started at this point in time. The reason the pasuk is written out of order is because the word “אֵלָיו” does not mean “to him” here like it usually does, rather it is translated as “עליו” “on him”. Meaning that at this time, Hashem placed his shechinah on Avraham to stay, in order that it should be in this world. If the pasuk had been written in its normal fashion, you could not have learned this out; I would have thought that Hashem revealed his presence to Avraham but not that it stayed with him afterwards.
      The Ohr HaChaim brings a proof to this from the fact that after this pasuk, the Torah never says again by Avraham that Hashem appeared to him, only that Hashem started speaking to him right away with no previous introduction. This is because that since Hashem was constantly with Avraham from this point on, Avraham was always ready to receive nevuah (prophecy). This continued through to Yitzchak and Yaakov.
      A second question can be asked. Why did Hashem decide to place his shechinah on Avraham now? What happened now more than before? The answer is obvious: Bris Milah. This meeting took place three days after Avraham had his bris. The Ohr HaChaim explains that according to the Zohar, the Bris Milah is the stamp of kedushah (holiness) on a person’s body. Anyone who has this stamp, the shechinah can rest on them.
      This applies to all of us. We have the mitzvah of Bris Milah! Therefore, we have the ability to have the shechinah rest on us! We must recall this mitzvah constantly as a way of reminding ourselves of our great potential to become physical vessels for the shechinah.
      May we all merit to reach the level where everything we do is for Hashem, where we can all be chariots for the shechinah like our great Avos.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dvar Torah for Lech Lecha

I thought of an interesting discussion for this week’s parshah. This week’s parshah tells the story of Avraham going down to Mitzrayim, Sarah is taken to Paroh’s palace and later returned after Paroh is punished. When Paroh returns her, he says to Avraham, “וְעַתָּה הִנֵּה אִשְׁתְּךָ קַח וָלֵךְ” “Now, here is your wife, take her and go” (12:19). Rashi comments that this is not like Avimelech, the king of Garar, who in next week’s parshah also takes Sarah to the palace, returns her after being punished, and then tells Avraham that he may settle in his country wherever he desires. Why was Paroh not as welcoming? Rashi answers that the residents of Mitzrayim were “שטופי זמה”, disgusting people and Paroh was afraid of trouble breaking out if Avraham and Sarah would stay in Mitzrayim, so he sent them away.
Later on in the parshah, we are introduced to Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant and Paroh’s daughter. Rashi explains that when Paroh saw who Avraham was, he decided that it was better for his daughter to be a servant in the house of Avraham then to be a princess.
So who was better, Paroh or Avimelech? On one hand, Avimelech let Avraham stay in his land, keeping him around which could possibly have led to his people becoming influenced by Avraham. Or maybe Paroh, who did not want Avraham around even though he might have influenced his people, but still sent his daughter with him to be influenced by Avraham?
I thought of two different ways to look at it. You could say that Avimelech was better because he wanted to keep Avraham in the area in order to have his influence around for the benefit of his people as well as his own. Paroh, on the other hand, wanted no part of Avraham’s spirituality in his country and sent him away. However, he recognized that Avraham was a great man so he sent his daughter with Avraham.
The other way to look at it is that Paroh was better. He realized that his people were beyond help and didn’t want Avraham to be bothered by them. However, he still wanted to make sure that his children could benefit and be influenced by Avraham, so he sent his daughter with him. Maybe because of this he merited to have children from Avraham, which is not what he was thinking of when he sent Hagar to live with him.
Avimelech on the other hand did not have the same noble intentions. Notice in the words in the pasuk that Avimelech says Avraham can live anywhere in the country, “הנה ארצי לפניך” “My entire land is before you”, he says. He doesn’t care where Avraham lives, he just knows that Avraham is a special person and that Hashem will bless Avraham wherever he goes. So if Avraham stays in Garar, the entire country will benefit from his presence. But he could live on the other side of the country and it would be the same thing.  Avimelech doesn’t want to be influenced by him, he’s just a parasite.   
I’m more inclined to go with the second side based on my understanding of the story of Avimelech in next week’s parshah and his personality. Please let me know what you guys think. Comment below or email me.
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sorry, No Dvar Torah This Week

Hey, everybody. I'm sorry, but there will be no Dvar Torah posted this week. I have been away the past two days on a yeshiva tiyul, I'm on my way now to the kumzitz, and I am going away for Shabbos. So I simply don't have the time to post one. (Don't worry though, I do have one!)
Have a great Shabbos and G-d willing, we will continue posting next Erev Shabbos.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dvar Torah for Succos

This Dvar Torah is adapted from the sefer דרש משה, by R’ Moshe Feinstein.

       “כי בסוכות הושבתי את בני ישראל I had Bnei Yisrael live in Succahs” (Vayikra 23:43). This pasuk refers to when the Jews were traveling in the desert, Hashem built Succahs for them to live in. There is a machlokes in Maseches Sukkah (11b) between R’ Akiva and R’ Eliezer if they were made of the ענני כבוד (clouds of glory) or if they were actual wooden Succahs. According to the opinion that they were actual Succahs, why would the pasuk have to mention them? If they were made out of clouds, I could understand why the pasuk would make a big deal out of it, but what’s the big deal about plain wooden huts?
       There is a gemarah in Maseches Avoda Zara (3a) that in the future, Hashem will judge the nations of the world for their ability to do mitzvos by using a Succah. Since there is very little financial obligations with a Succah, it is considered an easier mitzvah to undertake. Hashem will make it very hot until the nations won’t be able to stand it, and will leave the Succah, kicking it as they leave. There are two questions with this. First of all, the Halacha is that if you are pained by sitting in the Succah (by cold, heat, rain, etc.) you are allowed to sit inside. Secondly, why use specifically a Succah in order to conduct this test?
        The answer to these questions lies in the meaning of Succos. Succos comes after the harvest has ended; all the grain has been collected and our storehouses are full. It is very easy for a person to sit back and revel in his accomplishments. Therefore, Hashem commanded us that for a week we should leave our houses and brave the elements outside, thereby placing us in His hands. This demonstrates to us that He is control of everything; our accomplishments are only as a result of his help and blessings. Another point is to show that this world isn’t permanent; we may as well all be living in weak, wooden houses. Similarly, our accomplishments in this world are not for this world, everything we do is in order to receive reward for them in Olam Habah.
       This principle can help us understand the gemarah in Succah. Many people live their lives thinking that this world is permanent; the Succah serves as a reminder to them of the true purpose of this world. For these people, we tell them about the Succah made of ענני כבוד which were pieces of Hashem’s glory on Earth and which reminds us that all we do in this world should be for the sake of heaven. However, people who have already achieved this level in this world, we still remind them that this world is only preparation for the next. They will receive their reward in the World to Come. By having them sit in the wooden Succah, this reminder is clear.
       In reality, both R’ Akiva and R’ Eliezer agree that the B’nei Yisrael, having reached the level where they received the Torah directly from Hashem, lived in Succahs made of the ענני כבוד. When they argue, they are explaining this idea we have discussed. R’ Eliezer says the Bnei Yisrael had reached the level where everything they did was for the sake of Hashem. It is possible for every person to reach this level. R’ Akiva then adds that even someone who has reached this level can still use the reminder that this world is temporary and should only be used as a springboard for the next one. At this level, they still live in a Succah of wood. So if it will be uncomfortable for someone to sit in the Succah, the obligation falls off, because this mindset can’t be maintained if you cannot accept living in the Succah.
       May we all be zoche this Succos to absorb the lesson of the Succah and get all the enjoyment that comes with this chag. As it says in the pasuk, “וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם שִׁבְעַת יָמִים” “and you shall rejoice Hashem your God, for a seven day period” (Vayikra 23:40).

Chag Sameach!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dvar Torah for Yom Kippur 5771

Once we find ourselves on the other side of Rosh Hashanah, we are faced with the daunting spectacle of the Aseres Yimei Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance) and Yom Kippur. This week was set aside for us to repent for our sins of the past year. While Yom Kippur is obviously the most important day of them all, it being the date set aside by the Torah for repentance, this entire period must be taken seriously, with each day an added preparation for Yom Kippur. Because of this, Chazal (Acronym for “Our wise ones, may their memories be a blessing for us”, in reference to Rabbis from the time of the Mishnah and Talmud.) recommended accepting certain stringencies on yourself specifically for this week. This might seem silly since we know that starting the next week we won’t care about any of these laws. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler in his sefer Michtav MeEliyahu explains that we are supposed to try this week to familiarize ourselves with doing good as much as possible. So if that means accepting a stricter halachah for one week, so be it. Even if we don’t keep the halachah for more than a week, it is worth it in order to put us in a “do-gooder” mood.       
Let us try to understand Yom Kippur itself. The pasuk says in Parshas Emor  (Vayikra 23:27),” אַךְ בֶּעָשׂוֹר לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי הַזֶּה יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים הוּא מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם וְעִנִּיתֶם אֶת נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם” But on the tenth of this seventh month, it is a day of atonement, it shall be a holy day for you and you shall afflict yourselves…” On Yom Kippur, we are obligated to keep certain extra restrictions which are known collectively as “עינוי”. Inui, affliction, includes no eating or drinking, no washing hands below the knuckles, no wearing leather shoes, and a few other restrictions. There is only one other day during the year on which there is a concept of inui. That day is Tisha B’av, the day we mourn the destruction of both Batei Mikdash. It is very important to understand that there is a very fundamental difference between these two days. Tisha B’av is the saddest day of the year. We mourn the loss of the greatest connection we had to God in this world. As such, we treat ourselves like mourners who are obligated to pain themselves, inui.
Yom Kippur is completely different.  This day is one of the greatest gifts Hashem gives us, a chance to wipe away all of our sins and to start over completely from the beginning. It is when we show Hashem that we are ready and willing to become better people. In order to do that, we try to separate ourselves from this world as much as we can, till we reach the level of angels. We hope that by acting like angels, Hashem will treat us like holy beings and forgive us and believe that we will change. The way we separate ourselves is by undertaking the ways of inui, not to pain ourselves, but to show that we have no need of worldly pleasures. Just like a malach (angel) has no need of food, drink, or comfortable shoes, so too we do not need these things. All we need is to bask in Hashem’s presence.   
The majority of the davening on Yom Kippur is dedicated to Vidui, confession. Vidui is part of the mitzvah of teshuvah. It is a discussion amongst the various commentaries if they are two separate commandments or one and the same, regardless, everyone agrees that without Vidui, which is a verbal confession, your teshuvah is not complete. How come an internal repentance is not enough? What are you adding to the teshuvah when you confess out loud? R’ Samson Rafael Hirsch says that if you say verbally what and how you have sinned, the sin becomes an external force which you can always look at to make sure you won’t commit that sin again. Once you say something out loud, that confession is now permanent, it cannot be erased. Even if you admit you were wrong, if you don’t verbalize your guilt, you can always back out of it. Once you commit verbally, it is a full exposure of your sin. Someone who can make this type of commitment, is worthy of extreme praise. To show how important vidui is, Chazal placed it in every tefillah, including the minchah before Yom Kippur. If we can have the proper Kavanah (concentration) required during vidui, we have a good chance of Hashem having mercy on us.
While we are preparing for Yom Kippur and everything that comes with it, there is a very important gemarah to consider.  דרש ר' אלעזר בן עזריה  (ויקרא טז, ל) ‘מכל חטאתיכם לפני ה' תטהרו’, עבירות שבין אדם למקום יוה"כ מכפר עבירות שבין אדם לחבירו אין יוה"כ מכפר עד שירצה את וחביר” (יומא פה ב)Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah learned out from the pasuk ‘…from all of your sins, before Hashem, you will become pure.’ Sins that are between man and God will be absolved by Yom Kippur. Sins that are between man and his friend are not absolved by Yom Kippur. They will only be forgiven when the man pleases his friend (gets his friend to forgive him).” (Yoma  85b).The meaning of this gemarah is very clear, if we have wronged a friend over the course of the year, davening to Hashem to forgive us will not work in this case. We must seek out that person and ask forgiveness from him. In some ways, this is harder than asking Hashem for forgiveness. And even though Yom Kippur is not mechaper (does not atone) for any sin against another person, these sins are still included in your judgment! So it is extremely important to ask everyone that you might have wronged for forgiveness since they are your only way of getting forgiveness for these sins.
Yom Kippur is our day. The day when we are put in the spotlight for the final time and judged for good or bad. We must take advantage of this time and do everything we can to make the din (judgment) go in our favor. The one day the Satan has no power on is Yom Kippur. This means that there are no outside forces trying to put us in a bad light. It is only us and our actions which will decide how we are judged. At the final stage, it is completely up to us. Let us all commit to live by the Torah and all of Hashem’s mitzvos and with that we should all merit a happy, healthy year.