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Breshis
At the end of the Torah, it says: "in front of the eyes of all Israel". Rashi comments that this refers to Moshe’s act of breaking the tablets. However, we can understand his motive for doing this. The people were not on a high enough spiritual level to receive such holy tablets. The Steipler ‘z’l ties this together with the beginning of Breishis. There also we find that G-d hid the loftier lights of creation for the tzaddikim in the future. Perhaps this is from where Moshe took his lesson and did what he felt was necessary.

The medrash suggests that an objective of HaShem’s creation was the mitzvah of taking "challah" - the portion of each dough. Why this mitzvah as opposed to others? R’ Chaim, shlita, reasons such : HaShem wanted to create man and woman. If so, he wanted to give them each a personal mitzvah. Women have three that are listed in Chazal. Niddah, challah and candle lighting. Now, niddah was part of the punishment of Chava. Candle lighting is not of Torah origin. Therefore, we are left with challah.

A medrash says: "Why did Adam HaRishon sin? Because he saw two and not three." What does this puzzling medrash mean? The Vilna Gaon offers an explanation. The Mishna states in Pirke Avos: "Focus on three facts and you won’t sin." One is the birth of the human being from humble origin. Adam, however, was the creation of G-d and therefore was lacking in this one piece of mussar.

In counting the years of Adam it says the days "he lived". The same expression is found concerning Avrohom Avinu. What is its significance? The Mahril Diskin explains. The medrash tells us that Adam should have lived longer but he relinquished 70 years to Dovid HaMelech. Likewise, Avrohom lived 5 years less so he would not see Eisav leave the fold. He adds that Yaakov too lost 33 years from his life because he cursed Rochel, but concerning Yaakov it does not say "that he lived". This is because we know "Yaakov lo mais" – Yaakov Avinu did not really die.

Chazal illustrate the awesome power of tshuva by relating the fact that Kayin was able to limit his punishment by doing tshuva. Adam HaRishon was amazed at its power and began to sing. However, we learn an even greater fact about tshuva from the parsha. HaShem twice invited Kayin to do tshuva. First, He explained to him that if he would also rectify his presentation as a "korbon", HaShem would gladly accept it. Second, after Kayin killed his brother, HaShem said, "Where is Hevel your brother"? Rashi comments that HaShem entered into conversation with Kayin in the hope that Kayin would confess and admit his wrongdoing. Although Kayin passed up two opportunities for doing tshuva and only did tshuva the third time, his tshuva was accepted.

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Noach
Hashem, using strong language, promised to destroy all the inhabitants of the world. Had it not been for Noach, the whole world would have been destroyed. Against such a corrupt society, Noach was still able to remain a tzaddik. What then was the greatness of Avrohom Avinu over Noach? Perhaps, in the time of Noach, there was still a remembrance of the name of Hashem. The people, although corrupt, still remembered Chanoch, and such people. However, it seems, that ten generations later there was no semblance whatever of a mention of G-d's name and Avrohom Avinu on his own had to rediscover the obvious.

At first Noach is called a tzaddik and a tamim but afterwards only a tzaddik. Explains the Ksav Sofer. The criticism of Noach for not admonishing his generation perhaps only began after the death of Mesushelach. Since Mesushelach was older, the burden of reprimanding the people belonged to him. When he was alive, Noach has complete title. However, once he passed away and the burden shifted to Noach and he did not respond properly, he lost his title of perfection.

The possuk refers to Nimrod as a hunter. The Noda B’Yhuda was once asked if a Jew is allowed to join in the sport of hunting. He answered that the only two hunters documented by the Torah are Nimrod and Eisav. It is obviously not a Jewish trait. Furthermore, we find in the "Rema" that one greets his friends’ new purchases with "titchadesh", similar to "use in good health". However, this does not apply to leather goods for we recognize that they came from an animal that was once living. Clearly then, we should not hunt just for pleasure. This then is the meaning of "now it is said, like Nimrod, a hunter" – something which was not said about others of our people. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

The final decree of the generation of the flood was sealed because of theft and people’s conduct in their interpersonal relationships. Where is evidence of this found in the possuk? We are told that there lived among them a great tzaddik, Msushelach. However, he died a week before the great tragedy that befell the world. Usually the death of a tzaddik acts as a kopora for the generation – so why not here? The possuk compares, later in the Torah, the day of Yom Kippur and the death of tzaddikim, both of which act as atonement. Since we are told that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d, likewise concerning the tzaddik. This is why Msushelach’s death did not shield and protect, for the people of his generation were involved in transgressions between man and fellow man. (Kvoda Shel Torah).

"And you will take from all the foods for yourselves that are eaten and gather them to you and it will be for you and them to eat". The expression at the end of the possuk seems redundant. The Vilna Gaon explains that Noach actually gathered only enough food to provide a minimum amount of food for each meal. However, HaShem caused a brocha and there was satisfaction equal to a full course meal. It "will be" for you to eat.

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Lech Lecha
Hashem tells Avrohom Avinu to leave 1) the land 2) his birthplace 3) his father's house. These are three influences upon a person's life. 1) The land in which he lives, the season's, the area, etc. 2) The immediate environment of friends, neighbors, etc. 3) The family and parents. This then is what Hashem was telling Avrohom Avinu; leave your land and also break off from your social and family influences and then you will be able to fulfill your mission in life.

All of the mforshim search for a reason why Hashem first commanded Avrohom Avinu about bris mila when he was old at the age of 99. The Ksav Sofer explains very simply. The sublime and secretive hidden importance of bris mila is far beyond our capacity to understand and appreciate.

Therefore, it is a covenant which we should really initiate at the earliest point in our lives. However, to an Avrohom who well understood and comprehended the value of it, certainly it was fitting that it was given at a later age.

The name Avrom was changed to Avrohom and one is forbidden to refer to Avrohom using his previous name. However with Yaakov, although his name was changed to Yisroel, he still retained his previous name - why? The Vilna Gaon gave a simple answer. The Sifri defines the two words, "Vihaya" and Yihiye". The first is an indication of an immediate occurrence, whereas the second is a prediction of a future time. HaShem told Avrohom that his name would become Avrohom immediately, "Vihaya". If so, it was a complete name change. Yaakov, on the other hand, was informed that his name would become Yisroel, "Yehiye", not an immediate occurrence, and so not a full name change.

Avrohom said "you have not given me a child and the person of my house (Eliezer) will inherit me." R’ Moshe z’l’ finds it difficult to assume that the problem of inheritance was a monetary one. He explains, rather, that Avrohom Avinu was depressed at the thought of not having an offspring who could continue his spiritual responsibility of spreading the beliefs of HaShem and the Torah. Now, although Eliezer was a master servant who, in the words of Chazal, drew from the spiritual waters of Avrohom and served those who were thirsty, it was not a spiritual possession for which he would be prepared to risk his life to insure its perpetuation. This is the complaint of Avrohom Avinu; there must always be a Jewish people, the chosen people, who will guard the precious treasure of Torah and who will continue to believe in it. They will insure that it will not be diluted or adulterated. An Eliezer is not sufficient for this task. In short, it must be a "family business".

Avrohom Avinu refused to take the spoils of war and chose to return them to the King of Sdom. However, he first gave maaser to Malki Tzedek. The king of Sdom announced, "give me the people and you take the spoils." Avrohom refused to take the spoils so that no one should say that Avrohom became rich from the King of Sdom. R’ Chaim, shlita, asks : If the spoils legally belonged to Avrohom; why not take them? If they didn’t, why remove maaser from them? If they did belong to Avrohom, why did the King of Sdom say, "keep them"? He answers that Avrohom had no obligation to return these lost articles to the King of Sdom, hence he removed maaser from them. The King of Sdom assumed, however, that Avrohom would go beyond the letter of the law and do an act of kindness. To this he said, "I forgive you and will forgo the retribution." At this point, Avrohom sensed that the King of Sdom would take credit for the future wealth of Avrohom and therefore proclaimed "it should not be said I caused the wealth of Avrohom".

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Vayera
The great heritage of the Jewish people and in whose merit we constantly ask Hashem to help us is the Akeida, the binding of Yitzchok. Although there are many aspects to the willingness of Avrohom and Yitzchok to sacrifice, we find an interesting insight of the Chazal. Avrohom prepared for the journey and took a knife with him. The Torah uses a rare word to describe it - "macheles". The root of this word is "ochel", to eat or consume. In his second pshat, Rashi says it is so called because the Jewish people are still "eating" the rewards of this great act of Avrohom. Why did the Torah choose to emphasize this at this point of the episode? It would seem that the fact that Avrohom Avinu prepared even the sharp knife to take on the journey was the true test of his total commitment to the mitzvah of Hashem. It was this extra effort that "feeds" the Jewish soul for all generations.

The mforshim speak at length about the tefilos of Yitzchok for Rivka to have a child. It discusses the power of a tzaddik, who is the child of a tzaddik. However, if we look at the same problem that plagued Avrohom Avinu, how did Sara merit a child? The Gemora in Bava Kamma 92 explains the sequence of the story of Avimelech to the birth of Yitzchok. Hashem told Avimelech that if you ask for forgiveness, Avrohom will daven for you. Afterwards when he did and Avrohom davened for another person, he was answered first. From here we learn, say Chazal, the best formula for tefilla in every case is to daven for another person. In this case Avrohom was davening for a person who acted improperly and so surely he displayed compassion. As a result, his tefilla was answered.

In parshas Lech Lecha Avrohom was already informed by HaShem that he and Sarah would bear a child. If so, why didn’t he immediately inform Sarah of the good news? The Ramban seems to imply that the Bris Milah and the arrival of the angels happened so quickly that he did not have the time. This is difficult to believe. Perhaps since it was said to Avrohom in the form of a prophecy, then he did not have a right to reveal it without the command of the Almighty. (Shai L’Moreh).

Sarah had mentioned the fact that Avrohom was old. HaShem changed the wording to "I am old" so as not to insult Avrohom and to keep the peace between them. Why would Avrohom become angry? It was certainly a fact that he was almost a hundred years old. The Kedushas Levi answers in this way: The Gemora informs us of the love HaShem has for the genuine, sincere prayers of the tzadikim. For this reason they did not have children until late in their lives because HaShem waited for their heart-filled prayers. Although Sarah, who was humble, would not view herself as a tzadekes, she was of a madrega that she should have realized that the only reason Avrohom was old was to encourage the prayers of the tzadkik. His age was not an obstacle. Therefore, HaShem changed the wording to protect her from the embarrassment of not realizing the greatness of Avrohom.

Avrohom placed the wood for the offering on the shoulders of Yitzchok. However, wasn’t Yitzchok already a holy offering and therefore forbidden to be used for mundane work? The answer is Avrohom acted like Hillel in the Gemora (Pesachim 61). He refrained from actually consecrating Yitzchok as a "korbon" until the last minute so as not to mistakenly use him for mundane work. This is also the reason why when Yitzchok asked his father, "where is the animal for the offering?" Avrohom did not respond, "you are the offering" for then Yitzchok would actually become sanctified as a korbon and this Avrohom wished delay. (M'Shulchan Gevoah).

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Chaya Sora
Eliezer told Lavan and Besual that Sarah gave birth to a child "after her old age". Now the proper term would be "at her old age". Why this odd term? The answer could be that if we understand the posuk to mean that Sara already was beyond the child-bearing years and miraculously returned to her youth. If so, then she actually gave birth "after her old age". (Imrei Shefer).

At the end of the parsha it says "Yitzchok was comforted after the death of his mother". Rashi points out that he saw that the same miracles occurred with Rivka as with Sara. Now it was a few years since the passing of Sara. Initially Yitzchok felt depressed that his mother died upon hearing the news of the Akeida, which would perhaps indicate he was at fault. But now that he saw that the girl who was born exactly at the time of his mother's passing was a worthy replacement for his mother, he was comforted and understood that the sun of Sara had to set to enable the rise of Rivka's "sun".

"Do not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan amongst whom I dwell." Why did Avrohom add the words "amongst whom I dwell"? The Klei Yakar offers the following explanation. Avrohom understood that in the final analyses neither country offered a proper atmosphere for his son Yitzchok. However, he realized that it would be much better to take a wife from a foreign land and bring her to this land. If she had grown up in this land she would continue her close relationship with family and friends and would be greatly influenced by them. If he brought her from another land she would not know the people and their customs. Also, the people of Canaan would resent the fact that they were not "good enough" for Avrohom’s family and would keep their distance. This is why Avrohom emphasized the people "amongst whom I dwell".

"And to Rivka there was a brother and his name was Lavan". The Chazal present a rule that when referring to tzadikim, "his name was -------" is written, whereas concerning reshaim, "------- was his name" is written. If so, why does this rule change here regarding Lavan? The Or Hachaim answers: Although Chazal say Lavan ran to get some of the gold of Eliezer, the possuk does not mention the gold until after he ran to Eliezer. Therefore the Or Hachaim feels that, on the contrary, Lavan heard all that Rivka told her about this strange person and the strange encounter, and he ran to defend the honor of his sister. Only when he saw the jewelry and heard the entire story did he realize the truth. If so, the Torah gives him the credit he deserves during this episode and refers to him with the respect given to a tzadik, "his name was Lavan".

The servant of Avrohom is sent on a very special mission - to acquire a wife for Yitzchok. Eliezer was, in his own rights, a tzadik, raised and nurtured by Avrohom himself. There was certainly reason for Eliezer to believe that his own daughter would be worthy of the son Avrohom. Despite this, he proceeds to carry out this task with complete faith and ‘syata d’shmaya’, and immediately sees results. The very first girl is obviously the one. The possuk describes Eliezer as being "amazed and astonished to see how quickly things have developed". However, one could question this translation (used by most mforshim). Rashi commented already concerning the people of the house of Avrohom that they were quite comfortable with angels and miracles. If so, why the complete wonderment? It is probably for this reason that the great commentator "Onkelos" merely translates the possuk, "the man was waiting, quietly to see the fulfillment of his mission." Eliezer’s faith was so simple and so complete that it was just a matter of time before the mission would be accomplished.

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Toldos
And the children wrestled within and Rivka said if so, why me? Rivka and Yitzchok understood that Avrohom went to great lengths to acquire a wife for Yitzchok only from his own family, probably to assure that their offspring would be "kodesh" and a "tzaddik". However, when she passed the house of idol worship and there was movement, as if to say, there was a personality who would be involved with such activities, she proclaimed, if so, why me? Why did he need to travel so far, if the result is the same? (Imrei Shefer).

And Yitzchok loved Esav because the trapping (of food) was in the mouth (of Yitzchok). We could however, interpret the possuk differently. The Chazal describe Esav as a glib, smooth talker who was able to convince people of his righteousness. He was one who could trap a person with his tongue. If so, then the possuk would read - Yitzchok loved Esav because he was misled, because Esav trapped with his mouth.

Because Eisav asked for red soup, he was called "Red" – "Edom". Why is this event considered major enough to warrant a name change? When Eisav was born red, he was suspected of having a tendency towards, and a predisposition to murder. The medrash relates that when Shmul Hanavi saw Dovid the first time he was worried about the same "red" blood-spilling characteristic. HaShem assured him that Dovid would only kill with the sanctions of Sanhedrin. Now when Eisav was born, although there was worry and doubt on the part of Yitzchok, he gave him the benefit of the doubt and named him a nice name, "Eisav", which derives from "oseh", one who accomplishes. Years later when Eisav showed his "true color", he was called Edom. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

Yitzchok expressed his concern about the identity of the person in front of him. Was he Eisav or Yaakov? The possuk reads "He blessed him", and only after that did he ask, "are you my son Eisav?" – Why? The Kehilas Yitzchok gives a unique answer. Yitzchok reasoned that if he gave a brocha to this "person" and it was construed to be the real brocha, (although it wasn’t) the person would then reveal the truth about his identity. Therefore, it was only afterwards that he asked, "are you my son Eisav?".

The possuk tells us that Rivka gave Yaakov the precious set of clothing she had with her in the house. Chazal tell us that these were the clothes of Eisav which he had acquired from Nimrod. What was the nature of these clothes? The Gemora in Pesachim 54 traces them to Adam. In fact, the Gemora says that, according to one opinion, these were created Erev Shabbos at bain hashimoshos among the other important items created then. Now Rashi and mforshim explained that every type of animal and bird was engraved on these clothes. Utilizing this set of clothing Nimrod was able to attract and hunt with ease all the beasts of the field and forest. As a result, they were very desirable and Eisav too used them to become a great hunter. The irony of all of this is the fact that these clothes were given originally to Adam HaRishon to show to the animal world the dominion of man and man’s higher calling. It was to elevate man to realize his special obligation to live as a greater being. And yet these two turned them into some type of costume and masquerade to trick the animals and kill and hunt purely for satisfying pleasures. What an example of the ability of man to take a diamond and use it as a door stop!.

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Vayetzei
"Im yehiye Elokim imadi". If Elokim will be with me. All the meforshim ask why he required this condition if it said already Hashem was standing near him. The answer could be that Hashem is the Name of mercy and pity whereas Elokim is the Name of judgment without mercy. If so, then Yaakov was already promised by Hashem that he would be granted mercy. Yaakov, however, desired to be assured of the rewards of Hashem also with midas hadin, that he should deserve it even with the letter of the law. This is why he ended with the words "I will separate the maaser for Hashem" because in the merit of maaser one can almost 'demand' a reward. (Imrei Shefer).

And Yaakov loved Rochel also from (more than) Leah. The word "also" seems to be unnecessary in the context of the possuk. Perhaps, first Yaakov loved Rochel because of her beauty. After the episode with Leah when Rochel assisted her sister and showed great "mesiras nefesh" for her, Yaakov loved her more which was in addition to before "also" (he loved her) from (what she did for) Leah.

Yaakov Avinu said "this is the house of HaShem and this is the gateway to shomayim". The Gerrer Rebbi ‘z’l at the dedication of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin of the tzadik R’ Meir Shapiro ‘z’l explained this possuk. The gemora defines "fear of G-d" – yiras shamayim – as the main room or hall, whereas the study of torah is the anteroom or gateway. Yaakov sensed and felt the genuine yiras shamayim in this place and proclaimed "this is Bais Elokim" and this, the last fourteen years he spent learning Torah, was the gateway. He then proceeded to wish and hope that the yeshiva should encompass both torah and yiras shomayim. (Pardes Yosef).

Yaakov Avinu arrives as a stranger in a strange land and when he sees the shepards gathered, he reprimands them for coming so early. The obvious question to be asked is what right does he, a stranger, have to give "mussar"? The answer can be found in the reason and the method. First, Yaakov was totally honest and ethical in all his dealings as is evident from later in the parsha. Secondly, he prefaced his words with a very important introduction. He called them "my brothers". He convinced them of his sincerity and his pure motive. Only then did he proceed to reason with them. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

An interesting question would be, "why did HaShem not protect Dina from Shechem (in parshas vayishlach) as He had done previously with Sarah and Rivka, with Paroah and Avimelech? The Chasam Sofer explains this with this weeks parsha. The posuk reads that HaShem was standing by the ladder. However when Yaakov prayed for future assistance, he said "if Elokim will be with me". The meforshim wonder why Yaakov said "if" which indicates his uncertainty as to the Divine help. The answer is that a tzadik does not wish to "bother" HaShem with requests for miracles – he would rather live in a natural world. Elokim is the name implying the way of nature. Hence, Yaakov was not sure what form the heavenly help would take, HaShem or Elokim. HaShem granted his wish and Dina was saved by a "natural" miracle, without the need to tamper with nature as happens with outright miracles.

"And HaShem remembered Rochel and heard her prayers". In this one possuk we find the ingredients for success in our endeavors. HaShem remembered Rochel. Rashi comments that He remembered the devotion that she displayed for her sister Leah, the special merit she had. The Sforno comments He remembered her efforts to have children, by giving her maid servants, and with the "dudaim". However, even with all of this, HaShem needed to hear her prayers. This is the comment of the Or HaChaim. The three ingredients would be: a) merits and deeds b) effort, "hishtadlus" c) davening.

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Vayishlach
The possuk says I delayed until now. Yaakov proclaimed his piety in the house of Lavan, "I kept the mitzvos", but ended his statement with the words, "until now". What is the meaning of the expression "now"? The Baal Haturim explains. Esav was prepared for war with Yaakov. He said, "if you are so confident, come wage war with me now". To this Yaakov answered with a prediction of the future contained in the letters of the word "atah" (now). The letter "iyin" is the seventy years of the exile of Bavel. The "tuv" is the 400 years of the "galus" Egypt and the "heh" is the five (thousand) years until the last thousand when the Moshiach will come to judge the mountain of Esav.

The Brisker Rav understood from the comment of Rashi "the camp will escape because I will wage war against Esav" that Yaakov was confident he could defeat Esav in war. Nevertheless he tried to avoid confrontation and opted for the other two choices, gifts and honor, or a peace settlement. From this, he concludes, the way for Bnei Yisroel to deal with the enemy is to first engage in dialogue before resorting to physical strength, even in a situation of superiority.

And the malach wrestled with Yaakov – Chazal tell us this was the minister of Esav who came to fight with Yisroel. They add, that so it is in every generation – the evil struggles with the holy ones for dominion. R’ Elchonon ‘z’l asks "why didn’t he come and fight against Avrohom and Yitzchok as he did with Yakov?" He answers that the Chazal tell us that Hashem will forgive and overlook all types of sins, from the easiest to the most severe. However, He will not forgive the sin of spending idle time instead of learning Torah. The reason, he explains, is that one can count upon the strength of the warrior in all cases, as long as he has his weapons. Once he loses his weapons, the war is lost. The Torah is the weapon of the Jewish people. Avrohom possessed chesed – kindness. Yitzchok embodied true service to HaShem. But, only Yaakov was the personification of Torah study, the weapons of the Bnei Yisroel. To this end, the angel put all his efforts into trying to disarm the Jewish people of their precious weapon, the Torah.

When Yaakov was rehearsing the language to be used by the messengers when talking to Esav he referred to his brother as "my master" and himself as "your servant". The problem is that this was used even before the dictation of the exact message. Why was it necessary to belittle himself even before the message, in front of the messengers? The answer could be found in the statement expressed by Yaakov, "exactly as I spoke, you should say to Esav." Yaakov meant to inform Esav that even when Yaakov spoke to the plain messengers, he was careful to give proper respect, showing his true obedience to his older brother. (Shai L’Torah).

A fascinating idea is given by the Chasam Sofer as to why Chanucah was not affixed as a day for simcha and seudos. In Seder Hadoros, the passing of Yaakov Avinu is reported as being the first day of Sukkos. If so, the seventy days of mourning ended on the first day of Chanucah. Therefore, the Chachamim did not see fit to establish it as a festive day.

The essence of Chanucah is days of Hallel to HaShem Yisborach. The only other action of mitzva we are commanded to do is the lighting of the menora. This is to publicize the miracle, but the main objective is the joy and Hallel. Every other Yom Tov contains an element of eating, drinking and physical enjoyment. Perhaps for this reason the Rambam chose to detail all the laws and customs of Hallel in Hilchos Chanucah, as opposed to another Yom Tov.

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Vayeshev
Yosef refused the advances of the wife of Potifera. The possuk reads "he refused and said 'my master has totally entrusted me with the house-how could I do such a thing and sin to G-d?'" How could he give the impression that if not for the fact that it wasn’t ethical he would transgress the word of HaShem? The answer could be found in a different interpretation of the possuk. Yosef was saying that, on the contrary, the master was totally oblivious to the doings within the house and it would be quite easy for Yosef to transgress but – "I can’t transgress the word of HaShem". This is related to the Chazal that one should always say the sin is possible but I can’t go against the word of HaShem. This way he will never have an excuse not to listen to HaShem. (Mishulchan Gevoah).

A rav told R’ Chaim Ozer z’l the following story. Through false accusations this rav was placed in jail without any justice or judgement. The rav received a chance to plead his case in front of the minister of justice but only for ten minutes. This is what he said. The original Jewish inmate was Yosef. The possuk says "he was placed in jail with the other captives and he was there in jail". Why does it say again he was in jail? Also, why does it state the jail "where the captives were?" Also why did Yosef ask to "taken out of this place". Why not ask for full freedom? The rav continued and said there are two types of people placed in jail, one who had a case or suspicion against him, but has hope to be vindicated. On the other hand, one who is just thrown into jail to remain there forever has no hope to ever be released. This explains the psukim. "He was in jail" for good with no reprieve, therefore he only asked "take me from this place" and at least, place me with people who have a chance. The minister nodded his head in agreement. (Har Tzvi).


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Miketz
When Yosef interpreted the dream of Paroh, he added a piece of advice. Paroh should appoint someone to be a manager over the affairs of state, namely Yosef. The simple question is "what did this have to do with the dream?" We could answer with a "moshol". Two rich people arrive at a train station and are met by a band playing music. Each one claims the band is there to honor him and not for the other one. Seeing a poor Jew standing near the platform, they decide to ask him to settle the dispute. To enlist his aid they immediately give him a certain amount of money. So, they ask, "for whose sake did this band come, mine or his?" The poor man answers, "for my sake it came because I needed money for Pesach!" So too, Yosef said to Paroh, "the dreams did not come for you or for your land, but for my sake, to take me from this prison and to give me a prestigious position". (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

"And Yosef remembered the dreams he had dreamt for them". The words "for them" seem improper. The K’sav Sofer answers. When one bows down to a person because he needs a favor, this does not indicate any great honor given that person – it is honor given to his position and ability to be of assistance. If one bows without expecting a favor, then he is bowing to give honor to the person in power. The dreams of Yosef had been about the grain and food and indicated the fact that Yosef would be a provider for his family. The bowing of the brothers did not elevate him over the brothers. This is why when Yosef expressed it as "bowing to me", Yaakov became enraged. The bowing was to the power, not the man. Now, when Yosef saw it was true he said, "the dreams he dreamt for them" - it was for their sake, not to his credit or honor.

And it was at the end of two years of days. Rabenu Bachaya explains two complete years of days. The Chasam Sofer explains that two years of the solar calendar is 730 days. Yosef said to the butler "im zechartani" - if you remember me. The numerical value of the two words is 728 which is the same as "tischach" – forget, and if you add the two words themselves, it adds up to 730.

Yaakov commanded his sons when they were forced to return to Egypt for food to "take from the (zimras) song of the land, a present to the man." It lists certain precious spices which Eretz Yisroel was famous for and the people would "sing their praises". This does not deviate from the literal translation of a "song of the land". Here we see the wisdom of our father Yaakov. As Sforno explains they realized the man (Yosef) was not hungry for money and it wasn’t necessary to bring a gift such as the likes of the gift he sent to Eisav. However, it must be something rare and precious, hence these spices. However, by using the word "zimras" he was hinting to the sons to show a certain amount of joy and cheer and to appeal to that lighter side of this demanding person and that will bring results. This small amount of diplomacy was the wisdom of Yaakov Avinu.

And Paroh was standing above the Nile. The Medrash comments that an evil person is above his god. The Nile being the god of the Egyptians. This means the evil one is not ready to accept everything G-d says but wishes to choose. It is for this person that Paroh in the time of Yosef was quite willing to accept the word of G-d that Yosef brought for it was to his advantage. Not so with the Paroh in the time of Moshe who wished to force him to free the Jewish people - he questioned - who is HaShem.(M’Shulchan Gevoah).

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Vayigash
Yaakov said "I will go down and see Yosef before I die". One could ask, isn't this a contradiction to the statement we say in the Hagaddah that he was forced to go down by the word of Hashem? Some answer that the statement of Yaakov here meant he would go see Yosef and then return. Perhaps we could explain it differently. The Hagaddah refers to the whole sequence of events which was quite obvious to Yaakov that he was being carried by divine intervention to Egypt and he now was saying the following. I will go down with full faith and conviction that all will turn out the way the Almighty wishes. Yes, he was forced but he committed himself to the hashgacha of Hashem.

At the end of parshas Miketz when the cup was found in the bag of Binyomin, the ruler Yosef claimed him as a servant. The brothers seemingly created a worse situation by suggesting death for the one who stole the cup. If so, how could Yehuda and the brothers have the audacity to now beg for his freedom when they self imposed the penalty upon him? The answer can be found in the carefully worded statement of Yehuda. "You are like Paraoh. Therefore your words are scrutinized and not to be taken lightly. You firmly stated that the child should stay and ‘you go in peace home to your father’. Now this is surely an impossibility. Yehuda then cleverly began to describe how Yaakov’s life and his peace of mind was tied up with the well being of Binyomin. Therefore it would be impossible to fulfill the command to return home in peace, without Binyomin. Therefore, although it sounded like a review of past history, it was really a very moving plea for the health of their aged father, and brought Yosef to tears. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

Yehuda quoted the words of Yaakov and his refusal to send Binyomin. He emphasized Yaakov’s overprotection of Binyomin. Why would this have a bearing upon the facts that Binyomin was discovered to be a thief? The Bais HaLevi offers the following. When a thief is punished, the pain is suffered also by the parents and family. Why should this be so? The answer could be that they were not protective enough and were not proper disciplinarians and allowed him a free hand which led to his involvement with crime. Yehuda claimed, then, that Yaakov did not deserve a punishment since he was so careful not to allow this son freedom to roam about and, on the contrary, Yosef forced him to send Binyomin.

When Yosef beseeched Yaakov to come down to Egypt, Yaakov proceeded, in the words of the Chumash, to offer karbonos to the G-d of his father Yitzchok. Why didn’t he also mention Avrohom? The Kedushas Levi offers a simple solution. As we see from the psukim and the Chazal, Yaakov did not really wish to leave Eretz Yisroel and live in Egypt. Of course he was ready to listen to the command of HaShem. Now, he knew that in a similar situation Avrohom was allowed to leave the land and Yitzchok was admonished not to leave the land. By using the concept of the "G-d of Yitzchok" he hoped to receive the same results.

It would seem that, although Yosef attained prominence as an administrator of Egypt, he in reality was endangering the Jewish people by causing all the anguish to the Egyptian people. True, he did everything for their benefit but still he was domineering. How did he remedy this problem? In the psukim we see the brilliance of Yosef. He never once forced the people or even suggested the next step. Rather he allowed them to suggest their own fate. They offered to be slaves to Paroah and he accepted. They never could claim Yosef was the cause of their pain. According to the Ramban, Yosef did not even accept their offer to be slaves but opted to have them as share croppers. The end of the parsha then is giving us helpful advice how a Jew should manage the affairs of state when in a prominent position.

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Vayechi
Before Yaakov Avinu even begins to explain its purpose he asks Yosef to swear. So adamant and intent is Yaakov not to be buried in Egypt that he is nervous and worried about its prospects. He even phrases the wish as "don't bury me in Egypt" which is even of greater importance to him than being buried in Eretz Yisroel - why? Upon scrutinizing the life of Yaakov one thing becomes clear; his was a life of trials and tribulations of the greatest degree. However, it could be said, that the last seventeen years of his life when he lived in peace, tranquility, prosperity and with his whole family at hand, were the greatest test of the righteousness of Yaakov Avinu. This was the test of assimilation, to which so many of our brethren succumbed to in the last two hundred years. This explains the calculated determination of Yaakov - don't allow me and perhaps all my children to remain one minute longer in this land of assimilation.

A certain Russian officer once questioned R’ Nachumke, why if the Torah states that the staff (Shevet) of leadership will not cease from Yehuda do no Jews hold high positions in the army? R’ Nuchumke answered with a different interpretation of the possuk. Nowadays we are not sure as to which tribe we belong. We have adopted a prestigious name of Yehudim as if we all belong to the distinguished tribe of Yehuda. When Moshiach comes, we will again be united with our respective tribes and families. This then is the meaning of the possuk. The (Shevet) name of tribe will not cease to exist in Yehuda until Moshiach comes and the nations (tribes) will be reunited. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

In the parsha is the reference to the partnership of Zevulun, the supporter, and Yissacher, the talmid chocham. Both individuals have many obstacles to overcome. Each person is judged according to the trials and tribulations of the times. The Chofetz Chaim related a story about a conference of rabbonim at which the speaker was R’ Zev, the Maggid of Vilna. The Maggid vividly painted a picture of man’s judgement in the world to come. The great leaders of each generation would be chosen to preside as judges over their specific generation. This is a result of the fact that each generation encounters new and different tests and problems. Since these are germaine to that specific time period it is only fitting and proper that a first hand observer of the times should judge. At this point a member of the audience arose and with tears in his eyes said, "Rebbi, since you will probably be the judge of our generation in the world to come, I beg you to tell me now my verdict so I may, at least, strive to do teshuva. Later it won’t be possible."

Yosef saw that Yaakov had placed his hands incorrectly upon the two children, his left hand upon Menashe, the first born. He reached out to change it but Yaakov refused. He exclaimed, "I know my son, I know". Why did Yosef think otherwise? The answer is quite simple. Many years before this, the exact same episode occurred when Yitzchok was about to give a brocha to the "wrong" son, Esav. Yosef’s grandmother Rivka intervened and the brocha was granted to the deserving son Yaakov. Yosef was convinced that "history was repeating itself." In fact here also the Torah introduces the story with the fact that the "eyes of Yaakov were dim and weak" just as the Torah described the eyes of Yitzchok. Perhaps, then, this explains the double expression, "I know my son, I know". I know what you are thinking about and this is not the case, and I know which son is the most deserving of the brocha.

Yaakov told the children to gather and said, "I will tell you the future" and then again told them to gather and listen. Chazal tell us that he wished to reveal the time of Moshiach but he was prevented from doing so. Where is this hinted to in the possuk? The Klei Yakar explains. The expression "haosfu" is used in reference to gather into the house, a place secluded from the public domain. This then is a place to reveal a hidden secret. However, then the possuk uses the term "hikovtzu" which would indicate a public gathering. So we see that Yaakov’s original intention was to reveal a secret but later was unable and told the brochos.



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Shemos
The possuk in the beginning of the parsha reads first in the present tense "these are the names of the B'nei Yisroel that are coming to Egypt". However, it concludes with the phrase "A man and his household came" which is past tense referring to the coming of Yaakov to Egypt. The Chasam Sofer explains: Chazal, quoted in Rashi, comment that the bondage began with the passing of Yaakov. Now elsewhere the Chazal say that the beginning of the bondage corresponded to the death of the last of the brothers. The Gemora states that the shuls and yeshivos will be transported from the diaspora to Eretz Yisroel. If so, then we can imagine them as a "piece of Eretz Yisroel". Since Yaakov relocated his yeshiva in Egypt, as the Gemora in Yoma 28 describes him as an elder learning in yeshiva, then, as long as he was alive the B'nei Yisroel did not totally envision themselves in Galus. After his passing it was as if now they came to Egypt.

When Moshe refused to go as the messenger of HaShem, he was told "go and this will be the sign that I will send you. I will be with you and you will bring the people out of Egypt; they will serve HaShem on this mountain." Now why was it necessary to give a sign if HaShem was talking directly to Moshe? The answer could be that Moshe’s refusal stemmed from his humility. How could he act in the capacity of redeemer? To this HaShem countered with the statement "I will be with you". On the contrary, HaShem loves the humble and self-effacing individuals. What is the proof of this? Chazal tell us that, although there are many greater and larger mountains than Sinai, HaShem chose this small unassuming mountain upon which to give His Torah. This is the meaning of our possuk: I will be with you, especially you, just as I will choose the humble mountain of Sinai for them to receive the Torah. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

And it will be if they don’t listen to the first two signs, they will listen to the third. What is the significance of the third sign? When the staff turns into a serpent and the hand becomes sickly white, these are great miracles. However the message they transmit is by no means as clear and consonant with the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people as that of the third. With the third sign, the very waters into which the babies of the Jewish mothers were thrown, the very waters into which these Jewish children’s blood was shed is turned to blood. The moment a Jewish man or woman desires to drink, there is water, but for the Egyptian, the water turns to blood. Only when the Egyptians offer a gift, an atonement to the Jews for his water, are they able to drink. This then captures the essence of all the plagues and all the miracles of Egypt. Therefore, the Torah is confident they will listen to the third sign. (Aznaim l’Torah).

The parsha seems to imply that Tziporah took a sharp instrument to perform the Bris Milah on her son Eliezer. The Gemora questions this in light of the fact that a woman is not eligible to perform such duties. The Gemora answers by reading the word "vatakach", as she assisted another in taking the knife. Now the problem is evident – who was this other "Jew" who could have performed the mitzva of Milah? Perhaps it was her other son Gershon who was at that time three years old. From here R’ Chaim, shlita, cites a source from the Rambam (ch. 2 – Milah) that a koton, a child, is eligible to perform Bris Milah.

The possuk describes the union of Amram and Yocheved in anonymous terms. A man went from the house of Levi and took a daughter of Levi. Why did it choose this type of description? The Ramban comments that the word "vayelech" - he went - denotes an initiative in a new direction. When others were complacent, this couple was "on the move". Perhaps, in light of the past performance of Levi and the curse which Yaakov pronounced, the Torah is proclaiming for eternity that Levi was able to harness that energy and that power to take the first step and use it in a constructive manner. Likewise Moshe, the Levi, also was not satisfied sitting in the palace, but "went out" to see the plight of his brethren. Also we could conjecture that his movement with the sheep of Yisro was also deliberate, away into a desert to seek a new initiative.

These are the names of the B’nei Yisroel that came to Egypt, Yaakov and his family came. Why does the possuk begin with the name Yisroel and end with Yaakov? îäøéì' ãéñ÷éï answers: we know all the greatness we acquired was through our withstanding the trials and tribulations of Egypt. So the possuk relates: we became a distinguished nation with the title B’nei Yisroel, however, it only came about from a difficult beginning as Yaakov.

HaShem heard the cries of the B’nei Yisroel. Life is filled with trials and tests. Poverty is a test as is wealth. R’ Yisroel Salanter described a circumstance in which wealth could be the greater test. A person with a very high temperature is usually in greater danger than one with a lower temperature. However, the opposite is also possible -, how? The person with the high temperature lives close to a doctor who can care for him- the person with the low temperature doesn’t, he is in greater danger. The person who lives in poverty, although worse off, has a broken heart and cries out to G-d. The wealthy person, on the other hand, is missing the close reliance to HaShem and, in ways, is further away.


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Vaera
In this weeks Parsha, the name of Moshe’s parents is mentioned, whereas when he was born and as he was growing, they were mentioned anonymously. Darash Moshe, teaches us from this that although the world lit up when Moshe was born and he was brilliant and good, the parents only found true pride when he was already accomplished as the Jewish leader. He points out how important a lesson this is.

The parsha tells of the water turning to blood. The Egyptians did not have drinking water. Chazal say that the Bnei Yisroel became rich by selling water to them. The Pardes Yosef suggests that this could be the source for the fact that the word "domim" has two translations : "blood" and "money".

This was the Aaron and Moshe to whom HaShem spoke. The next possuk adds - They were the ones who spoke to Paroh, this was Moshe and Aaron . Rashi comments that at times the Torah places Moshe before Aaron and at times the opposite. In these two p’ssukim, why does it say them in this order? Sfarim answer: Since HaShem speaks more to Moshe, the Torah places Aaron first to show his importance. However, when the Torah discusses speaking to Paroh, since Aaron was the primary spokesman, the Torah places Moshe first to show that he is equal.

"That is Aaron and Moshe that HaShem told them to take the Bnei Yisroel from Egypt; they were the ones who spoke to Paroh, that is Moshe and Aaron." Rashi comments that the possuk at first places Aaron before Moshe and then Moshe before Aaron to indicate they were equal in status. The Chasam Sofer explains. Aaron’s love for his people and his ability to enhance the shalom was exemplary. Moshe’s ability to wield a staff of miracles was obviously unmatched. Since each had his special "talent", they were equal. Therefore in reference to the Bnei Yisroel, it places Aaron first. In reference to Paroah and the miracles, Moshe comes first.

"HaShem hardened the heart of Paroah in order to bring more plagues upon the land." The mforshim obviously wonder about the removal of free will from Paroah and each explains this in a different way. One could define it as an increase in Paroah’s pain threshold. HaShem did not remove his free will but rather gave him the stamina and stubbornness to tolerate more and thus could bring more "makos" upon the Egyptians. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

"There did not die from the animals of Bnei Yisroel until one." This is the literal translation. The implication is that one did die. The Maharil Diskin explains. If the Jewish people owed taxes, one out of every ten animals and he only had ten, one died so as not to enrich Paroah with that one. The possuk hints at this idea. At first it says "from the cattle of Bnei Yisroel not even one died" and later when Paroah sent (to collect) the possuk says "until one".

The Medrash criticizes Moshe’s statements about the process of redemption. It likens it to the reasoning of Shlomo Hamelech when he insisted the only reason a king could not increase wives is because they would lead him astray and therefore the law did not apply to him. The possuk reads "he should not increase the number of wives and they will not turn his heart." Shlomo Hamelech inserted a "pshat", an interpretation of his own. The possuk has two possible meanings. Don’t increase, but if you do, then beware they should not lead you astray. The lesson is simple. Although in the context of Talmud study this may be a valid mode of thought, whenever one chooses to change the old or lighten the burden, one should not rely just on a "pshat".


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Bo
The possuk concerning Tefilin states "in order that the Torah of HaShem should be on your lips". The Chofetz Chaim points out that although the Gemora describes the one who does not put on Tefilin as a person lacking basic beliefs, and not really one who subscribes to Jewish philosophy, still the Tefilin themselves are only a preparation for the main theme of the life of a Jew – the Torah. He describes Torah as the lifeline of the Jew, and without it the Jew cannot exist. We have seen that the demise of religious Judaism as the ultimate disappearance of many families from the Jewish scene is directly related to the study of and adherence to the Torah.

"You should watch the matzos". Rashi quotes two interpretations. One is to guard the matzo from becoming chometz. The second is to guard all mitzvos from becoming stale, that is to say, perform the mitzva immediately. The "Shaloh" explains that it is not two "droshos". The matzo represents the yetzer hatov and the chometz, the yetzer harah. The difference in the spelling of the two words is the letter "heh" which has an opening (as Chazal say, for the Baal Tshuva to re-enter) and it becomes closed up in the "ches" of chometz. The Torah is not just warning us of the singular mitzvah, but a lesson in mitzvos in general. Listen to the yetzer tov, don’t look for the easier way out.

The importance of Bris Milah is emphasized by the fact that the precious mitzvah of Korbon Pesach cannot be performed by one who is uncircumcised. Also the mitzvah given to the Jews to merit the Geula was milah. And the first mitzvah of Yehoshua was milah. What is the significance of Milah? The Shulchan Aruch directs us to set a place for Eliyahu Hanavi. The source is a Pirke D’R’ Eliezer which recounts the fact that upon the split of the Kingdoms of Israel, the Malchei Yisroel forbid milah. Eliyahu championed the cause by declaring a drought. When Jezebel wanted to kill him, he fled. HaShem said to him "this is the second time you have displayed zealousness on my behalf. I promise you that at every bris the Jews make, you will be present." So we see that milah itself is measure for measure an act of zealousness and "msiras nefesh", the act of shedding ones "blood" for the sake of adhering to His ways. This, then, is how we initiate the child into his role as an observant Jew.

Paroh asked Moshe, "who are the ones that will go with you"? Moshe answered, "the old and the young will go to serve G-d". Paroh refused - why? The world’s concept of a servant to G-d is an older, mature adult. Moshe introduced to him the Jewish approach which enlists even the children in the performance of a mitzvah. How fitting then, that the resulting mitzvah of yitzias mitzraim, which is the eating of the Pesach offering is incumbent on all members of the household both yound and old as Rashi comments later, "all who are capable of eating are eligible".


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B'Shalach
And Moshe said to Yehoshua to choose men and engage in war with Amalek. Later we find that the hands of Moshe became heavy during the battle. Rashi comments that the cause for this was the laxity on the part of Moshe in performing the mitzvah of the war against Amalek. He appointed somebody else to do it. The question could be asked. The Chazal tell us many times that the children of Amalek will fall into the hands of the descendants of Yosef. In this case, that would be Yehoshua of the tribe of Ephraim. Furthermore, the Ramban explains Moshe’s reasoning. Moshe would daven and give the people a morale boost while Yehoshua would fight. Yet, still Moshe was punished? Although he would not fight the battle, he could have appointed the generals. From here we are taught that one most carry out every part of a mitzvah to his fullest capacity before he relinquishes it to another person.

Chazal say that the maidservant saw great revelations at the Yam Suf and exclaimed, "This is my G-d". How did the Chazal know it was the maidservant, not one of the leaders of Klal Yisroel? The possuk continues, "The G-d of my fathers." Now a Jew would always introduce "my fathers" since they were the first to recognize HaShem and only afterwards say "my G-d". Since the possuk began with "my G-d" it was obviously said by a convert, a maidservant who could not proclaim "G-d of my fathers". (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

In the parsha it tells of the waters of Mara which were bitter. Moshe cast a stick into them and they sweetened. The possuk, however, then refers us to the mitzvah of Torah study and the adherence to mitzvos. HaShem promises us that if we keep His mitzvos none of the sicknesses of Egypt will harm us. How do we understand this sequence of statements? The "Netziv" explains that the nation at that time was a nation of Torah study. They had not yet come to Eretz Yisroel to tend to their livelihoods. Moshe told them that HaShem will care for them but only the necessities. They would be protected from sickness but would not enjoy the luxuries of life. This is all understood with the final statement – "I am HaShem who heals you". This is the way of Torah, bread and water. He compares those who study Torah to the soldiers of a king who are provided for but not in an extravagant way.

"They complained against Moshe and Aaron in the wilderness". Why was the complaint about the lack of food denoted with the extra word "bamidbar", in the wilderness? The Maharil Diskind explains. Rashi tells us that it was just at that time that the matzos which they had brought from Egypt ran out and they had no food to eat. This, then, was their complaint. Why didn’t you lead us to a place where we could, at least, buy provisions? At least to "Eilim" where they could have cut dates to sustain them, not in the wilderness. They were insinuating that the itinerary for the traveling was credited to Moshe and Aaron and they criticized them. To this Moshe answered "you will see that HaShem took you from Egypt". He will tend to everything.

With the wind of HaShem’s power the waters piled up. The Vilna Gaon, makes an astounding observation. Man is but a pile of matter, a pile of clay. He is motionless and unable to think or reason. HaShem blew into man the source of life and he became animated. Here also, the wind of HaShem gave life to the waters and they piled up by themselves. This then is the meaning of the targum Chachimu Mia,"the waters acquired wisdom".

Why are you davening? Speak to Bnei Yisroel and they should travel, HaShem was telling Moshe. Although the Tefilot of a Tzadik are great and effective on behalf of another person, the commitment of the Bnei Yisroel to move forward and place their faith in HaShem would be even more beneficial (R' Yosef Mislotzek).


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Yisro
The possuk tells us that they camped at the mountain. The Chazal comment that they were united as one. The Brisker Rav connects this to the fact that they said they would perform the mitzvos even before they understood "naaseh v’nishama". Just as each human being is different in appearance, so they are different in their conceptual understanding. He says that it would be impossible to come to a situation of unity if not for the fact that they unconditionally accepted the mitzvos. He explains that phrase in the "zemer" "uvau chulam b’vris yachad" – they came together in the covenant "naaseh v’nishma amru kiechad" because they said, "we will do" before we will understand.

It is told about the Vilna Gaon that one time he spoke about the famous ger tzedek of Vilna, Pototzki, and spoke of the praise of the gerim in klal Yisroel. Chazal say that the Jewish people are on a higher level than "malachim". The angels are able to pronounce Hashem’s name after three words: "Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh", whereas we are able to pronounce it after two words: "Shma Yisroel". In this parsha, Yisro, we see that the ger Yisro said "Baruch HaShem", which means he was able to say the Name after one word.

And you will be a treasure among nations because the whole world is mine.

"If you will do this (the plan of Yisro), you will be able to stand". The simple interpretation is that Moshe will have the strength to control the situation. R’ Chaim, shlita, explains this in a lighter sense. The Chazal rule that the judges in a Bais Din are to be seated and the parties in the case should stand. If so, now that Moshe spent the whole day as a judge, he would be seated. "Therefore", Yisro said, "if you follow my plan you will ‘be able to stand’".

The Chazal say that all that Bnei Yisroel live with is nurtured from their belief in HaShem. Why is this so? There is a famous question posed by many mforshim. How can we say there is no reward in this world? If we work, then we deserve wages. One is not allowed to delay paying his workers, and certainly HaShem would adhere to this law. The answer is that the Gemora in Bava Metzia exempts an employer from this responsibility if the hiring is done through a third party. This then is the explanation of the Chazal. All the other mitzvos were related to us through Moshe, but not the first two, which embody the basic "emunah", belief, in Hashem. Therefore, the Bnei Yisroel lives off this belief.

We are commanded "not to take the Name of HaShem in vain". In the Chazal and Rambam, this is referring to swearing a nonsensical type of oath. To use the Name of HaShem to swear that gold is gold or such is an example of this. From this we see that it is not only the idea of "wasting" the "Name" in such a format, but the whole idea of using the Name in one’s everyday activity to the extent that it becomes cheap and is used to support one’s every statement - a great lesson in the respect and honor one must give.


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Mishpotim
One of the various laws mentioned in this parsha is the law of one who causes his Canaani slave to lose a limb. The punishment is that the servant becomes a free man and a full Jew. In Gittin the Gemora relates a discussion as to whether it is beneficial for a slave to be freed. On the one hand, he becomes a full Jew and a free man. On the other hand, he was accustomed to a loose, unrestricted life and now has to conform to a strict life of mitzvos. If we follow the opinion that it is not beneficial, why would the Torah "punish" this person who has lost a limb, to be further abused? The Maharitz Chayos answers that in this situation where he has been mistreated all agree it is beneficial. Another answer is that the Torah is written to present the truth and the essence of life. Therefore, the Gemora is discussing an issue in the time of the Mishna, which depends on the psychology of the people involved, but the Torah is telling the absolute truth and the reality of this world. From this we learn to view the world only through the eyes of the Torah. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

"If you will lend money to my people, the poor man with you". The Gemora criticizes greatly one who lends money without having proper witnesses to the loan. This is to ensure the honesty and integrity of the two parties. On the other hand, tzedaka should be given privately without fanfare or witnesses. The Vilna Gaon explains our possuk with this in mind. If one lends money – have people involved, but for the poor – only with you, not to be publicized.

R’ Yaakov ‘z’l in the end of this week’s parsha presents a very beautiful essay about the different aspects of Torah study through the generations. He points out the oddity that the prohibitions on recording the oral law and reciting orally the written law have almost disappeared. How could this be? He explains: the mode of education has passed from the father as the rebbi to having a structured school system as the Rambam records. Also the age that one begins Gemora has changed and is earlier - why is this? He answers that the Gemora has become as the written law and the Mforshim as the oral law. All of this, he explains, was necessary to safeguard the Torah and its teachings, and this is the essence of "a time to do for HaShem".


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Teruma
The Parsha relates all the materials and blueprints of the construction of the Mishkan in the desert. Obviously it was an exciting time in the history of the world. Did they have prior knowledge of this great event? The Gemora in Kesubos (628) tells a story of Rabeinu Hakadosh who had planned a wedding at a later date and then rescheduled it for an earlier date. When questioned about the change, the answer was given that it could be likened to Hashem who originally stated in Shiras HaYam "He will bring you and plant you on the ‘mountain’, which will contain the Bais HaMikdosh". Yet these were a "change of plans" and they built a Mishkon in the midbar. The Maharsha explains that the Torah was a document of Kiddushin, betrothel and mishkon was the chupa. Why then were they not informed of this great moment when the divine spirit filled them and inspired them to sing Shira? The Divrei Yoel explains. The perfect opportune time to build the Mishkon was surely after the receiving of the Torah when the people proclamied "Naaseh ViNishma". It was then that their hearts were cleaned of the Yetzer Hara and the Shchina could be among them. The Gemora Shabbos (89) tells of the plight of the Satan at that time he was busy searching for ways to disrupt the tranquility of the moment. Therefore it was necessary to give the Torah quietly and indiscreetly not to allow the Satan to interfere (Sanhedrin 26). Likewise we find the rise of Dovid to be Melech was also shrouded in secrecy. Until the last moment the law of Amoni and not Amonis was not known. It was because of this that Hashem did not reveal to the people the major event of the Mishkon for it would be necessary to also reveal the nature of the preparation for such a high level of existence, the receiving of the Torah. So too explains the actions of Rebeinu HaKadosh who comes from the house of Dovid who conducted his affairs similar to his creator. He did not want the Satan to interfere with a holy festive occasion.


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Titzave
The "mehil" was like a "talit katan" and had bells and ornament pomegranates on the edge. The gemara in arachim teaches that it atones for lashon arah, for it is a devar shebakol. The Chafetz Chaim elaborates upon this theme. It was completely the color of  tchelet which is a reminder of the heavens and the kiseh a kavod for lashon harah reaches all the way to the kiseh a kavod (Tana Dvei Eliahu).

"You Moshe, should bring close Aaron and his sons". Why isn’t the command stated with the words "appoint", why "bring close"? Moshe was greatly respected by the Jewish people. If another appointment would be made, maybe the people wouldn’t accord him the same respect. If, however, they would see that Moshe "brings him close" and discusses problems with him, this will elevate the new person in the eyes of the people. (Beit Yitzchak).

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Ki Sisa
In this weeks parsha before the epic episode of the Golden Calf there are four subjects which are introduced: 1) the half shekel 2) the washing utensils 3) the anointing oil 4) the incense or kitores. Why are these used to introduce this terrible story of our failing as a nation? The half shekel, of course, acts as atonement, but what of the others? Perhaps it is a lesson we are being taught about what brings about an "agel". The washing before the service in the Mikdosh represents the sanctification of our deeds. The anointing of ourselves and our vessels represents the dedication of ourselves and our deeds. And the kitores is the "sweet smell" and love with which we perform our responsibilities. Perhaps if we always have these as preparations we will never create an "agel". On the contrary, it is followed by a command of Mishkon and Shabbos, sanctity of place and time.

The people saw that Moshe was slow in returning and they made the calf of gold. We all stand in amazement how a people who had just recently uttered the memorable words "naaseh v’nishma" could stumble and fall from such a high pedestal. The Bais Halevi answers. They had achieved a most lofty level of performance of mitzvos. At the same time, their perception and insights into the mystical and hidden ways of the Torah were enhanced. However, here lies their mistake. When one wishes to create a dwelling place for G-d without being duly commanded and without proper supervision, instead of a Mishkon, one could conceivably create a calf of gold.

Three thousand people died because of the Golden Calf. The Medrash comments "five times the value is paid for (stealing and selling) the ox." What is the meaning of this odd statement? The Vilna Gaon explains. The Medrash explains on the possuk in Koheles "one in a thousand men I found, but not one woman amongst them". This refers to the Golden Calf. One out of a thousand sinned and no women were among the sinners. Now the question is obvious – if they were 600,000 in number, then one of a thousand would be 600 - so why three thousand? To this the other Medrash answers that five times paid for the ox (calf). Five times 600 are 3000.

"The rich will not increase and the poor will not decrease from the half shekel." The Chasam Sofer offers a novel p’shat. Although there is no real reward in this world for mitzvos, we are told to give a tenth to charity and it will increase our wealth. "Aser bishvil shetisasher". In the case of the half shekel, however, it was purely as an atonement. Therefore the Torah tells us the rich will not increase - i.e. they will not get richer (from giving the half shekel) but also the poor will not decrease (their wealth), for a mitzva always protects one from loss.


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Vayakhel-Pekudei
R’ Shneur Kotler ‘z’l pointed out a unique factor in the building of the Mishkon. In Parshas Teruma, the request for materials precedes the purpose given, which is to build a mikdosh. Should it not be in the reverse? He explains that, unlike other construction, the "kavana", the intentions of the donors, had a direct impact on the final product, the Mishkon. Therefore, the full heart and mind of the people resulted in a bigger Mishkon. This is why the nisiim were reprimanded for thinking the Mishkon could be incomplete. As long as the hearts and minds were complete, the Mishkon would be complete. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

Mishkon Hoedus – Rashi explains that the Mishkon was a testimony that Hashem forgave the Bnei Yisroel for the Calf. The Sfas Emes explains. The sign was the "luchos Hoedus" – the tablets of testimony, the Torah itself. This was the "eid" or crown that they received on Sinai, an understanding of Torah, a radiance which settled on each one individually. Therefore, there was no necessity for an Aron or a Mishkon. However, after the sin, the Gemora explains that all this was removed and given to Moshe Rabenu. This was his special shine and the "ohel" or tent or shine that he removed from the people? Hence the "ohel Moed" the tent of meeting, a place to receive this special radiance at certain predetermined times.


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Vayikra
The person who brings a "goat" as a sin offering is referred to as the one the Kohain will atone for and he will be forgiven. Usually this phrase is completed with the words "forgiven for his sin". Why were the words "for his sin" deleted in this case? R’ Yehoshua Leib ‘z’l answers. The Gemora points out that we pray and confess silently not to cause additional embarrassment. Likewise the bloods of the plain korbon olah and the chatos, the sin offering, were sprinkled in the same place, so as not to cause embarrassment. Now a person who is obligated in a sin offering could opt for a sheep which could be mistaken for an "olah" offering and disguise his identity as a sinner. The one who chose to bring a goat is advertising his iniquity and his desire for atonement. Therefore the embarrassment alone acts as a cleanser of sin. So even before he actually offers the korbon, the reference to sin is deleted.

The Medrash repeats many times the fact that of all the 600,000 Jews in the midbar, Hashem only called Moshe. Vayikra el Moshe. If we would analyze the greatest attribute of Moshe, obviously it would be his humility. The Kedushas Levi says that the letter "alef" is small in the word Vayikra to denote that the reason why Hashem called to Moshe was because he was "small" and humble.

The poor man who cannot afford to bring an animal offering is allowed, in certain situations, to bring instead two birds, one a chatos, a sin offering, and one an "olah". The Gemora in Chulin emphasizes that the olah also must be brought during the day. The Rashba questions the validity of the text, for are not all offerings brought only during the day? R' Meir Simcha answers. The E'bn Ezra explains that since the "chatos ha'of" has no portion that is burnt on the alter - the olah is "its portion". Now since the portions of a korbon can be burnt all night, one might also think that this offering could be brought at night. Therefore the Torah dispels this idea. It is told that when R’ Meir Simcha fell asleep after having said this thought, he dreamt that the heavenly Yeshiva was extolling its clarity and truth.



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Tzav

ויאמר אל אהרון קח לך עגל בן בקר

ופרש"י להודיע שמכפר לו ע"י עגל זה על מעשה העגל שעשה

On the eighth day of the dedication of the Mishkon, Aaron brought, as an offering, a calf to atone for, in the words of Rashi, “the calf which he made”. The question is, already in the seven days, before this final special eighth day, a bull was brought as an atonement for the golden calf (shmos 29:1)? מהרי"ל דיסקין answers that the offerings during the seven days were the atonement offered by the congregation as a cleansing process for the Kohanim and the mizbeach. Here, however, represented the personal offering of Aaron to atone for the fact that he made the calf, although he was not held responsible, he was still the conduit for it. That is the meaning of Rashi, the calf he made, not the sin of the calf.

Each Kohain, upon his induction to serve in the Bais HaMikdosh, would bring a מנחת חינוך, a mincha offering of installation. The very same korbon was brought each day by the Kohain Gadol, although with another name מנחת חביתים. The שפת אמת suggests that, although there is a question in the Gemora, as to whether the Kohanim are servants of the people or of HaShem, the Kohain Gadol is likened to a מלאך, an angel, and certainly a servant of HaShem, and thereby, renews the Kedusha each day. Also the Gemora in Krisus points out, in a miracle, the drops of anointing oil remained on the beard of Aaron and continued for generations to enlighten the Kohain Gadol with renewed kedusha each day. Therefore, he required this korbon each day of his life.


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Shemini
In the parsha is the tragic passing of the sons of Aaron during the festivities of the dedication of the Mishkon. Although it would seem an impossible task for Moshe to comfort his brother as such a time, he expresses almost admiration for him and the greatness of the sons who died. The Dubno Maggid describes this scene with a simple parable. A child comes home from school very upset. The Rebbi scolded and reprimanded me and not another boy who was equally guilty and equally responsible. A smile forms on the face of the father who is quick to point out to his son the great compliment the Rebbi had paid him. You see, said the father, obviously the Rebbi realizes your value and your abilities and therefore chose you to direct as a student. The other boy was a lost case and not worthy of the Rebbi’s rebuke. This, said the Maggid, is the essence of the holiness of the children of Aaron, the comforting words of Moshe.

The possuk points to the “chazir”, the pig, as one of the species of non-kosher animals. Oddly enough the word itself means to return – “chozer”. The Chazal inform us that in the future it will be a kosher animal. Now we know that the Torah will not change an iota, so how could this be? The Or Hachaim answers that the biological nature will change and it will begin to chew its cud. The Chofetz Chaim comments that this shows that the signs are the reason for the fact that it is “tomei” and not its species or such. (M’Shulchan Gevoah) Perhaps the lesson here is that one is never intrinsically bad or evil, only he is influenced by his character traits. If these can be recycled to a better posture, one can become a “chozer betshuva”. There is always a small bridge between “chazir” and “chozer”.

Aaron lifted his hands and blessed the people. Rashi interprets this to be the three blessings of the Kohanim. The Baal Haturim relates them to the three different offerings brought on that day. “He will guard you”, “viyishmorecha”, this is guarding us from sin, the chatos. “He will shine upon you”, “yaer”, this is the reference to the Olah, to ascend to Yerushalayim so Hashem could show his shechina to you. Finally, “shalom”, peace, this is certainly the “shlomim” offering which is the peace and perfection granted to the one who brings it.

וישא אהרון את ידיו אל העם ויברכם
ופרש"י ויברכם ברכת כהנים יברכך יאר ישא

Rashi explains the brocha of Aaron was the familiar Birkas Kohanim and proceeds to list them. Why was this necessary? הר צבי explains that perhaps Aaron on his own composed these brochos and HaShem incorporated them into Torah. With this he explains the language of האמורה מפי אהרון in Birkas Kohanim. Although we say the brochos are in the Torah, we attribute them to the mouth of Aaron, for that is where they originated.

Last weeks parsha carefully described all the actions, service and korbonos of the seven days of miluim. This week we encounter the famous eighth and final day, the special day of inauguration. It begins with Moshe calling Aaron and informing him of the duties of the eighth day. It seems that Aaron had no advance notice. Why wasn’t he given a time to prepare korbonos like we are told concerning the tamid offering? R’ Moshe זצ"ל comments that from here we are taught a lesson that there are times that one must be prepared to go from one mitzva immediately to a second mitzva without any preparation.

ויתנו בהן אש וישמימו עליו קטורת

There is a change of language evident in the possuk. First it uses the expression ויתנו for the אש and then וישמימו for the קטורת? In כבודה של התורה an answer is given. The Gemora in Menochos explains the word שימה as placing less than a required amount. If so, although they brought an uncalled for ketores, but since it was not a required amount, they were not liable. This explains the need for other causes for the passing of Bnei Aaron as is found in Medrash.


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Tazria
Rashi explains that, if one did not have both signs of צרעת, and he is quarantined for the week, if the white on the skin does not diminish, that person is deemed a מצורע. The רמב"ן counters that the Gemora implies only if it should spread. ר' משה ז"ל suggests that Rashi, perhaps, is reading into the simple p’shat of the possuk. Although it is not the real interpretation, it is at least implied to be a lesson to us. The spreading indicates the ill effect one has upon a friend when he does not conduct himself properly. The sign of not spreading, but also not diminishing is a reference to one who is also a מצורע and must be thought of as such, but since he doesn’t affect others, he doesn’t receive the full punishment of isolation, etc. So the Torah has driven home this message by its choice of words.

The Chofetz Chaim once gave a pithy moshol about the power of the tongue to convolute ones actions or to control ones actions. A person enters a factory which has 248 different pieces of machinery. After being impressed by all the ingenious work of the machinery and also the expense, he is shown the most important machine, which is the power source for all the other machines. So, he said, the tongue is the power switch for all our limbs and controls all our actions.

The possuk implies that if the צרעת spreads over the whole body the person is, on the contrary, טהור. It seems to defy logic. The אזנים לתורה offers a solution. There is an internal sickness called צרעת and there are the external signs of צרעת which indicate a spiritual dilemma. For a person to have every limb filled with צרעת indicating that he has no mitzvos, nothing positive to redeem, at least one limb, is hard to believe. Every Jew has some mitzvos. Therefore we attribute the malady to a real sickness, not a spiritual one.

The Zohar relates that one who is not careful with oneg on Shabbos will cause a reversal of the letters to spell “negah”, or tzoraas. The Sfas Emes traces the letters to “Eden” “Na’har” “Gan” the reference to Adam being placed to guard the Gan Eden. Likewise man is to be in control of his mind, body and speech. Therefore, part of the purification process of the metzora is to sprinkle onto the hand, ear, and foot to dedicate his whole being to restoration of their sanctity. So also the opposite of the “closing” or quarantine of the metzora is the expansion on Shabbos of the Neshama to include the Neshama Yesira, the extra neshama of Shabbos.

Possuk 33 is the possuk directing the one whom has tzoraas on the place of hair to shave around it. This could alude to the custom to shave on the 33rd day of the Omer. The “Gimmel” is large alluding to the three days before Shavuos when some have the custom to complete their sfira and shave. The psukim 13-14-15 have 49 words referring to the custom not to shave the entire time of sfira. (Pardes Yosef).

The Chasam Sofer explains the need for the process of the birds and all the karbonos even after the metzora has experienced the pain and humility of the sickness itself. He says that since the person did not initiate his own path of tshuva but rather needed the intervention of Hashem and His punishment, for that alone he requires an extra and added atonement, supplied by the purification process.

Rashi emphasizes the fact that the creatures were created before man to temper the arrogance of man – “see even the fly was before you”. On the other hand, man was created with a “prepared table” - a complete world at his disposal. The Ksav Sofer explains. The Mishna says “one who honors the Torah, he is honored by the creatures”. In reality the animals are stronger, faster and more independent than man. In this respect mankind has difficulty in boasting. However, man has a higher and nobler calling. His is the task of perfection through performance of Torah and mitzvos. This then is the meaning. One who honors the Torah is automatically elevated over all the other creatures. However, if he chooses to follow their lifestyle then, we say to him, even the fly was created superior.

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Metzora
1. A first born male, both paternal or maternal should fast on erev Pesach to commemorate the miracle of the first born being saved from the plague. This includes also Kohanim and Leviim.
2. If one suffers even a slight headache he can break the fast. Also if one will not be able to eat the matzos at night properly, he should not fast. In either case, he should eat lightly.
3. At his Shmone Esrei at mincha he would mention "anenu"
4. The custom was for a father who is not a bchor himself to fast on behalf of his first born son (over a month old)! If the father is a bchor the mother would fast.
5. It has become almost a custom for the first born to participate in a seudas mitzvah to exempt them from fasting. This year being a long day it is surely advisable not to fast under any circumstance, but to participate in a siyum.
6. Past the fixed times one, of course, does not eat chometz. We also do not eat egg matzo past that time.
7. The original rule was not to eat any matzo which could be used at night, from daybreak erev Pesach. Some now refrain even from Rosh Chodesh. This does not include matzo which is chometz.
8. Leave over some real chometz to burn. Don’t pour on it some liquid or lighter fluid which would render it inedible, before you set fire to it.
9. The rest of the day one may eat cooked items made with matzo meal but not something baked.
10. Showers, haircuts and general preparation of the Seder should be tended to during the day. Remember the Seder starts late this year and the table should be set, ready to start when you come home.
11. If possible, the chores should be divided in a way each member of the household should be able to nap during the day.
12. Remember to recite the order of Korban Pesach before or after mincha.

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Achrei Mos
Concerning the Kohain Gadol on Yom Kippur when he enters the Kodesh it says "no man should be present when he enters". "Har Tzvi" suggests that this is a source for the fact that the Yomim Noraim liturgy focuses only on our relationship with HaShem and there is no place for requests for health or family, etc. "No man" is present, only HaShem is the focus.

The Vilna Gaon insists that Aaron HaKohain was permitted to enter the Kodesh at all times, provided he followed the procedure prescribed in this parsha. The later Kohanim, however, were restricted access except for Yom Kippur. Reb Yaakov ‘z’l offers a proof to this position. The Gemora Gittin relates that this parsha was taught on the day of the inauguration of the Mishkon. Rashi points out the problem that it wasn’t applicable until Yom Kippur. According to the Gaon, it actually was applicable even then.

The Chassam Sofer skillfully describes the difference between the Bnei Aaron and Moshe Rabeinu. Moshe, upon encountering HaShem the very first time, hid his face and only gradually rose in levels of kedusha. It was because of this humility and patience that he deserved and was rewarded with honor and greatness. Nadav and Avihu, on the other hand, were too anxious and too quick to break through beyond their capacities. Eventually they were punished.

The parsha ends with a call to the Jewish people to create fences to avoid the pitfalls of sin and transgression. The possuk then proceeds to give four reasons for keeping these restrictions and fences. A) "statutes" - laws which defy our logic. One might begin to look at these laws as illogical. B) "that were done (by those) before you" - it is already part of society, one might therefore succumb - Ebn Ezra C) "Don’t defile yourself" - Or HaChaim points out that even unintentionally these sins defile the person. D) "I am HaShem your G-d" - Rashi says I am your G-d only on condition you keep these laws of purity.

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Kedoshim
The first three years after a tree begins to grow, any fruits it might produce are forbidden to be eaten. The fruits of the fourth year are to be eaten in Yerushalayim. Although the laws are similar to the laws of ma’aser sheni which also must be eaten there, the Nitziv explains the difference in purpose. The possuk about ma’aser sheni focuses on the learning experience involved with coming to Yerushalayim and increasing ones yiras shamayim. Here, however, concerning Revii, the fourth year fruits, the possuk emphasizes this as an act of praise to HaShem, that we bless and thank the Almighty for our fruits and the future growth. This is why, he explains, these p’sukim about Revii are the source for all the brochos we recite before we partake of any food.

In Kedoshim, concerning shatnez (wearing a mixture of wool and linen) it states "It should not cover you as clothing" and is positioned next to mixing seeds of two species in the planting process. In Devarim, the possuk states "You should not wear shatnez" and is positioned next to the prohibition of hitching two different types of animals and plowing with them. The Meshech Chochma explains. The Rambam says if Reuven places shatnez on Shimon and both are aware of it, only the one who wears it is punished. If, however, the one wearing it is not aware of its being shatnez, the one who placed it is punishable. Here, in Vayikra, it is discussing a case of a complete mixture which is not readily visible, like two seeds growing together in a field. Hence, the statement is in third person or referring to the clothing being placed. In Devarim, the case is a visible one, like two animals hitched to a plow. Hence the emphasis is on the one who is wearing it and said in second person.

Concerning leaving a portion of the field for the poor the possuk reads, "don’t completely destroy (harvest) the field". It uses an expression which usually means destruction. The Panim Yafos explains with a Gemora in Shabbos (Kuf Yud Chet) The brocho of Klall Yisroel is without boundary or border. If one never harvests the field all the way to the border, it is always in the middle of the field and the brocho takes effect. If, however, one completes until the border then, chas v’shalom, the destruction sets in, not brocha.

One is obligated to rise to show respect to an older person. However, concerning one who is knowledgeable in Torah, the possuk says to "give honor and beauty to the "zokain". The first part is concerning any older person, for as the Gemora points out, that older person has lived through life’s many experiences. For this we show respect by standing up for him. However, the Torah scholar deserves even more. For him we are obligated to treat with the same respect we are to show a parent. This explains the two parts of the possuk in Kedoshim 19:32. (Klei Yakar).

Twice the possuk in Kedoshim instructs us to love another Jew as oneself. Once concerning our friend, neighbor or any one born a Jew. The second, however, is in reference to a convert, a ger, "love him as yourself" 19:34. This demonstrates to what extent the Torah expects us to embrace the ger, to the same love we show for all Jews, with no exception.

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Emor
The Possuk in Thilim 31:21 "You will protect them in sukkah from troubles of the tongues". The Gaon explained that the four letters of the word "Sukka" are each emitting from different sources. The first is from the letters which use the teeth to pronounce them. The second is from the group which uses the lips. The third from the throat and the last letter from the neck. The only group not represented is the letters using the tongue. This then is what Dovid HaMelech meant : "The letters and mitzva of sukkah protect from loshon harah, the evil tongue.

The parsha of Emor is basically a parsha of the restrictions placed upon Kohanim to elevate them to a higher level. R’Moshe z’l’ gives a beautiful overview of their position of holiness. Theirs is a higher calling. They are the teachers of the people, the role models. This is obvious from the brochos granted by Moshe Rabeinu. It is for this very reason that the Torah piles on them these added obligations to assist them in attaining holiness. However, he points out, the expression which introduces this concept is one of "Amira", not "Dibur". As the Gemora explains that "Amira" is an expression of soft and smooth, not difficult and strict. The Torah cajoles and convinces the Kohanim to accept their new positions and all its inherent problems. With this R’ Moshe comforted all people involved with Jewish education to accept their job and duties with love and joy.

The Lechem HaPonim was removed on Shabbos and distributed among the Kohanim. As small a piece they would receive still satisfied them. Why did this take place on Shabbos? The Aznaim L’Torah explains in practical terms. A whole week the Kohanim were treated to the meat and breads of all the various karbonos. On Shabbos there were no karbonos except for the Tamid and Musaf, of which no portion was given to Kohanim. To offset this, the Torah grants him the special brocha of Lechem HaPonim. R’ Zalman z’l’ points out, therefore, that the lesson is quite obvious. The day of rest, not only does not interfere with ones parnoso, but it gives an added brocha!

The Possuk reads "One who has a physical blemish should not come close to bring the bread (offering) of HaShem." The next possuk gives the reason "for any man who has a physical blemish should not come close". It seems to just repeat itself. The answer could be that the Torah expects us to give respect to HaShem, at least, as much as we would give to a flesh and blood ruler. The palace guards are always the most perfect looking specimens of humankind. In case one would think that the one with a blemish is being disqualified for a possible lack of performance, the Torah follows with "no such man should even enter into the sanctuary to represent HaShem’s legions.


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Behar
The Possuk in Thilim 31:21 "You will protect them in sukkah from troubles of the tongues". The laws of shmita are positioned in the parsha in connection with Mount Sinai. It is quite fascinating that a nation could develop laws about agriculture, business, commerce and other land related laws, all in a wilderness! They were without a land and certainly these were foreign to them. The answer, then, is it all came through divine revelation on Sinai. (Meshulchan Gaboah).

The possuk seems to repeat itself. First it says to proclaim freedom and then it repeats with the words "each man will return to his place". The Brisker Rav z’l’ explains. The Rambam describes the year of yovel. From Rosh HaShana until Yom Kippur the slaves did not return home but ate and drank were happy in a festive spirit. On Yom Kippur the shofar was sounded, after which they returned home. This then could explain the double expression. First they were released from bondage but not until later did they return home.

The parsha discussed (Onahat Dvarim) taking advantage of someone’s weakness. The example given is not to remind a baal tshuva about his past. R. Elchonon z’l’ explains with this an interesting aspect of loshon hara. Why is it that the sin of loshon hara is realized even when it is true? The person did the act and I am not permitted to tell anybody. The answer is because maybe he wasn’t aware of the severity. Maybe he did it unknowingly. Maybe he did tshuva since then and we see from our parsha that I may not offend him with his past history. If so, reasons R. Elchonon, even "true" loshon hara is perhaps "not true".


"Ki Li Bnei Ysroel Avadim Avdei Hem Asher Otzeti Otan"

The possuk repeats twice, "they are HaShem’s servants, they are my servants". The answer is that even without the whole episode in Egypt we are the servants of HaShem. However, after He took us from slavery there is an added reason why we are His slaves (for He took us in exchange).

The parsha ends with "keep my Shabbos and respect my holy place". The Ibn Ezra insists this is again referring to shmita (Shabbos) and yovel. (Holy shall it be). However the ñôåøðå explains it as a call to the future when we will no more occupy the land and we will spend centuries in galus. The two keys to our existence are Shabbos and the holy places - the shuls and the yeshivas. May we see the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdosh and the return to Eretz Yisroel in our times.

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Bechukosai
Chazal say that one who learns Torah and does not fulfill its mitzvos, it would have been better had he not been born. The Vilna Gaon explains that the reason a "malach" teaches a person all the Torah before he is born, is because the environment there is pure and conducive to Torah. Then when he enters this world he is able to comprehend its hidden secrets, for he is only finding that which he lost. This is the meaning of the Chazal "if you try and don’t find, don’t believe it." One who learns in this world, is just finding a lost article. Now, since one learns Torah with a "malach", obviously, the purpose in this world is twofold. One, to struggle and toil to regain that Torah. Two, to perform its mitzvos. If so, this is the meaning of the medrash, it would be better not to have been born for the Torah itself he learns with a "malach".

Concerning the brochos, the verse says "the tree of the field will give forth its fruit" but concerning the curses it refers to it as the "tree of the land" (will not give its fruit) Why the difference? The Steipler ‘z’l answers. During the bountiful years, there is a fully planted field and the tree is in its midst. However, during the curse and famine years the lone tree stands on the land without a field around it.

Among the brochos expressed in the parsha is the promise "I will place my Mishkon (a reference to Bais HaMikdosh) among you. I will not distance you from me, I will walk in your midst, I will be your G-d and you will be my people." Such a beautiful positive promise, why does it add the negative statement "I will not distance you", why would we think He would, if it is a time of Brocha? Also Rashi comments "I will walk with you" in Gan Eden. The possuk seems to be speaking about the present. The Alshich has a beautiful interpretation. I will place my genuine, full presence among you as I did by Sinai. However, then you were not really capable of sustaining such a closeness. Now, however, I won’t have to separate you from this tremendous spiritual existence. It will be so radiant, that I will walk with you then as with the Tzadikim in Gan Eden. HaShem’s expectations were so great, His reward so abundant and yet we were not able to deserve this and realize this pure existence. No wonder the frustrations of the N’viim.

In the parsha we read the "tochicha" - all the terrible calamities that could befall us. The custom is to read it fast and in a low voice. The Chofetz Chaim disagreed with this approach. He compared it to a person who walks in a dangerous place and covers his face so he won’t see all the problems. It seems that the mussar is to be digested and appreciated, not shunned.

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Bamidbar
The parsha revolves around the counting of the Bnei Yisroel. In the days of Dovid HaMelech there was a mistake in the census taking. Rashi implies that he did not count them by shekel but by head. The Ramban refuses to accept this obvious mistake but rather claims the mistake was that he counted them with no real purpose. Many died in the plague that ensued. The question is raised why did the people suffer from the mistakes of one person? The answer is, that our chances are better, when we are judged together with the group, rather than being singled out for our own merits. The result was many fell in the plague. This is why, when we pray for a sick person, we emphasize "besoch shaar cholei Yisroel" among all the other sick ones of Israel. The hope is the combined merits will bring the proper results. (Meshulchan Gavoah).)

Tosfos in Megila explains the order of the parshios. Bamidbar always is read before Shavuos so that the "curses" of Bechukosai should not come next to Shavuos which is a type of judgement day (for the fruits). How beautiful are the ways of Torah! The Torah was specifically given in a wilderness. - Midbar Sinai. The medrash says "that a person who is not open and humble as a wilderness is not really able to acquire the wisdom and sublimity of Torah. How fitting then, that we introduce Kabolos HaTorah with parshas Bamidbar.

The Gemora in Pesachim relates the joy of Rav Yosef on the day of Shavuos. He said "if not for this day, how many Yosefs are in the market". Why only Rav Yosef said such a statement. Also Rav Yosef was a very humble person as documented in ms’ Soteh. The answer could be as follows. The tablets that were given on Shavuos were broken by Moshe Rabeinu. The new ones were given and brought down on Yom Kippur? Why do we celebrate Shavuos instead of Yom Kippur. From this it is quite evident that even the broken pieces have significance and, as the Gemora relates them, this gives respect and honor even to the Torah scholar who has forgotten his learning. Now it comes clear. Rav Yosef became sick and forgot his learning. He was comforted and then happy by the fact that Shavuos was chosen for this day and thereby giving honor even to "the broken pieces". (Kahalat Yitzchak )

And Naami saw that Rus was struggling to go with her. This could be interpreted with a Gemora in Bava Metzia that relates the story of Reish Lakish. Before he accepted to learn Torah he had abundant strength to swim far distances. After he accepted the Torah, immediately his strength waned. This then could be what Naami noticed. Rus was "struggling", her strength was not equal to the older woman, so Naami realized that she fully accepted the Torah and its mitzvos. (Kahalat Yitzchak ).

The possuk points out that the formation of the camp was adhered to also when they traveled. The possuk states that the Mishkon traveled in the midst of the other tribes. The Meshech Chochma quotes the Gemora that true honor is only in a place of honor. An example is the obligation to show respect to another individual allowing him tp go first is reserved for the door, which has a mezuzah, but not when one is traveling. However, the Gemora tells us that the Mishkon continued to "operate" even when they traveled, i.e. the Lechem HaPanim did not lose its kedusha. This means the shechina was still very much with them. Therefore, they kept their camp in a position commensurate to importance for it still was a place of honor, a position of importance.

Boaz blessed Rus that Hashem should "rightfully pay your wages and your reward should be complete from Hashem". The Vilna Gaon traces the etymology of the words. "Poalech" is the wages paid for the exact service rendered. On the other hand "sichorech" could mean a bonus paid for a complete job. Now although Rus did not devote a full lifetime to being a religious Jewess, Boaz wished upon her a complete reward in the world to come for her life in this world.

"And it was on the third day and there was thunder and lightning and the people trembled". The people had expressed a desire to be actual witnesses to the shechina and hear the Torah directly from Him. Hashem wanted to demonstrate to the people their level of belief. The Chovos Halivovos relates the story of a tzaddik who was found sleeping in a wilderness. When asked was he not afraid of the lions and wild animals he responded "it would be an affront to the honor of Hashem to be afraid of another being." Likewise, the fact that in the presence of Hashem they could tremble at the sight and sound of the lightning and thunder was a test of their true faith. (Mahril Diskin).

"Where you will go I will go." The Chazal interpret the posukim to refer to the many mitzvos that Rus was to accept as a convert. Upon scrutiny we see that the less severe mitzvos were told to her first and kept building up to the more severe. At matan Torah, the opposite was in effect. First they were informed of the severe punishments of idol worship and afterward gradually were informed of all the lesser punishments. Why the difference? R’ Chaim, shlita, explains. Hashem wanted the Bnei Yisroel to accept the Torah so he did not overwhelm them with hidden facts. Up front he told them the major punishments, they accepted – the rest was easy. The conversion of a ger, on the other hand was to verify, for sure, the conviction and persistence of the individual. Therefore we first tell the easier mitzvos and gradually increase the severity, which, by nature, strikes an element of fear into the person. Rus, however, accepted everything with a full heart.

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Shavuos
The seforim write that the Aseres Hadibros contains 620 letters. 613 correspond to the 613 mitzvos and the extra seven represent the seven mitzvos d’robonon. The 613 end before the two words "asher l’reeicha", "which is to your friend". The Chasam Sofer finds a unique hint here to the words of the Chovos Halivavos. He writes that the obligations of the limbs are limited – they correspond to the number 613. The obligations of the heart increase with the expansion of the person’s comprehension of his Creator. Since in medrash Hashem is referred to as "your friend", then the number 613 ends before one begins focusing on the obligations of the heart, your friend.

The custom is to remain awake the night of Shavuos, immersed in learning Torah. A reason given is the fact that the Bnei Yisroel had to be awakened to give them the Torah. The question is obvious, how could they have allowed themselves to fall asleep? The answer could be that they put great effort in the preparation to receive the Torah and perhaps they felt fulfilled in their purpose and complete in their preparation. The lesson to be learned is that there is really no end to ones developing readiness for spiritual growth. (Darkei Hashlemos).

Although a person may be on a much higher spiritual level than another person, the Torah defines the counting of each individual according to age, not spiritual development. This equality in the eyes of Hashem is a boost to each person, that he has qualities on level with the greatest and therefore he has what to strive for. This is why the parsha of Bamidbar precedes the receiving of the Torah (and perhaps why Arachim in Bechukosai precedes Bamidbar). This is to show the true value of each and every Jew. (Darash Moshe).

We find the efforts of Arpah in helping Naomi to be commendable. She tries accompanying her back to Eretz Yisroel and Naomi thanks her genuinely for all her help. It would seem that she is a woman with virtues. However, after she is convinced to return and sees that the future with Naomi would bear no fruit for her, the Chazal tell us she fell far and fast into a very degenerate level of existence. How could this be? The answer is that the desire of man is to be on a high level and if this doesn’t happen, man cannot comprehend, or come to grips with, a secondary position. Instead, he falls and eventually assumes a totally different attitude. Also of note is the persistence of Arpah in the beginning - why? The answer could be found in the statement of Rus that she would not forsake Naomi and "your G-d is my G-d." Arpah, perhaps, saw in Naomi a noble and gracious person who could be a role model, but was easily dissuaded to join her. Rus, on the other hand, possessed a different agenda. She respected Naomi, for she saw in her the attributes of a true servant of Hashem and therefore, although Naomi said, "she had no other children whom Rus or Arpah could marry, Rus saw the entire Jewish people as her new family.

Boaz told Rus "Hashem should repay you for your work and your wages should be complete for that which you came under the wings of Hashem". Now what are these two statements of payment? The Ksav Sofer points out that although there is no reward in this world for mitzvos, the extra effort invested in doing the mitzvah is paid for even in this world. Therefore, Boaz meant, you came, you traveled, you put extra effort into your conversion and for this you will receive reward, even in this world. The full reward, however, will be in Olam Haba. We would add, one does not know the true reward for mitzvos. The reason for this is because Hashem calculates into the formula all the effort invested and resistance one encounters in the performance of a mitzvah. This is what Boaz said - although you will receive reward for effort, this will not detract from the mitzvah being considered on a greater level in the world to come.

Chazal trace the name of Rus to two words, which mean he satisfied (G-d) with song. This is a reference to Dovid’s tehillim. The Chasam Sofer explains. The Chazal were puzzled by the fact that the purpose of this Megila was to strengthen the lineage of Dovid Hamelech and yet it is called Megilas Rus. Therefore they traced Dovid’s name in the word Rus. In addition, the fact that Rus abandoned her home and people to find a new refuge with G-d, was the opposite of Elimelech who left the hunger of Eretz Yisroel to find a home in a strange land. So it was with Dovid, that even in the most difficult situations he remained a faithful servant, and as the many chapters of tehillim indicate, he sang songs of praise even in these trying and oppressive situations in his life.

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Naso
In the parsha we find two seemingly unrelated subjects side by side - soteh and nazir. This is the woman whose husband has cast suspicion upon her and the result thereof and the nazir who swears off and abstains from certain worldly pleasures. What is the connection between the two? The answer could be found by examining the Torah’s view of them. The Rambam writes in the end of the laws of Soteh that, although it is a healthy thing in order to keep fidelity and holiness in a household, it is not the preferred method, to immediately lodge a claim in front of witnesses. Rather, one should be able to accomplish the same results with quiet diplomacy and education in the home. Likewise Chazal describe the nazir, who feels he must adopt an extreme position as somewhat a sin. Again, although the resulting level of kedusha is enviable as the Ramban emphasizes in the parsha, but it would be better if he could accomplish the same results without resorting to radical changes. This, then is the thread that connects the two parshios of elevated kedusha in the proper procedure.

The possuk reads "HaShem should favor you". The Chazal ask why do the Jewish people deserve to be favored by HaShem, more than others: The answer is, I require Bircas HaMazon only when one is satisfied and they are exact upon themselves even to the smallest amount. Reb Chaim Voloszhiner points out a beautiful aspect of this statement. They were exact only upon themselves in determining the size of a meal. Concerning the poor, needy, or a guest, they gave with a full hand. (Kahalat Yitzchak).

"Ish Et Kodsho lo Yehi Ish asher yiten lacohen li yiehi"
The Chazal warn us that if we don’t give properly to the Kohain, Levi and poor we will keep it for ourselves, we will not have fields that will produce to their capacity. Isn’t this, then, also a punishment to the Kohain? The answer is that the "collector" is also guilty for not having proper influence upon the "giver". The story is told about Reb Nochunke that once when collecting tzedaka the prospective giver slapped him. To this Reb Nochunke responded "that was for me, what about something for the poor person"? Reb Yechezkel Abamsky z’l’ interpreted this as "now I am exempt from further reprimanding you on this subject" (Me Shulhan Gavoa).

In the parsha it records the Bircas Kohanim derived from the possuk "they will place my name on Bnei Yisroel and I will bless them". The Sifri points out that this perhaps refers to the Bircas Kohanim in the Bais HaMikdosh, where is there a source for it outside the Bais HaMikdosh? The Sifri quotes a possuk in Shmos "wherever my name will be remembered I will come and bless you". The Vilna Gaon shows the accuracy of the two droshos. The Gemora relates that only in the Mikdosh did they utter the real name of HaShem, not outside. This then is the clarity of the droshos, in the Mikdosh it is "my name", outside it is just a "reminder".

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Behalosicha
The possuk says that when the Aron HaKodesh traveled Moshe said "rise up HaShem and scatter all of your enemies". What is the connection between the prayer of hope and the movement of the Aron HaKodesh? Likewise, we find the Aron Hakodesh accompanied them into war. What power did it wield? The Gemora in Taanis describes the situation during severe drought. They would remove the Aron HaKodesh from the Beis HaKineses to the street and begin a process of prayer and penitence. Again, what does this signify? The answer is that when life is normal and the times are not times of oppression the "man in the street" is greatly influenced by the prevalent idioms and "isms" of the day. The Aron HaKodesh - the Torah - remains as if sequestered in the shul or Bais Medrash. Not so when the times become difficult and all the myths of social redemption fade and wither, then the Aron HaKodesh travels among the people and they then realize the Torah is the rallying point for the Jewish people. (Me Shulchan Gaboah).

From the word "behaalosecha", which means to lift up or elevate, the Chazal derive two different laws concerning the menorah. A) There was a step in front of it to elevate the Kohain b) the Kohanim should be sure that the lights of the menorah are self sustaining. The obvious question is how could two unrelated droshos be derived from one word? The answer offered by R’ Moshe Feinstein z’l is in reference to the menorah symbolizing Torah and Torah education. The Rebbi or teacher must teach his talmid the subject clearly and well enough that the talmid becomes self-sufficient. In order to do this, the Rebbi must have a control of the material and investigate it properly. To represent this the Torah depicts the Kohain on a step, high above the menorah, thereby enabling him to properly scrutinize the cleaning and preparation of its lights.

"And Moshe said to Chovav" - the Ramban comments that this name was given to Yisro upon his conversion as is the custom to change the name of a convert. Chovav describes the love for Torah that he possessed. R’ Yosef M’Slutzk z’l explains with this a statement of Chazal in Berochos æ' .The Gemora questions the significance of the name of Rus the Moabite, from whom came King David. What prompts the Gemora to ask? The answer is that, it seems, this was her name from before, so why didn’t she change it? To this the Gemora shows the beauty and significance in the name "Rus".

Moshe Rabeinu was officially the king, the ruling monarch of the B’nei Yisroel. His successor, Yehoshua was quite capable and possessed many beautiful qualities. However, the handiwork of Moshe was preserved for eternity in the form of the Mishkon and the Shemen HaMishcha, the annointing oil. How did HaShem mark the passing of Moshe Rabeinu as a significant loss to B’nei Yisroel? How did He emphasize the uniqueness of this the greatest leader of the Jewish People? HaShem commanded Moshe to make trumpets to gather the people, to lead the people, to proclaim the sovereignty of Moshe. The Torah uses the expression "make for you", to which Rashi comments that after the passing of Moshe the trumpets should be buried forever, not even to be used by Yehoshua. A statement attesting to the special position of Moshe Rabeinu in the history of the world.

In the parsha is the section which begins "vayihi binsoa haron" - the traveling of the camp. Before and after this section is the letter "nun". The medrash refers to this section as a book by itself, thus making seven books of the Chumash. Why did the Torah choose the letter "nun" to isolate this book? The Vilna Gaon was quoted as saying that the Torah wished to show that even this small section contains all the fifty gates or levels of holiness or kedushah. This is the numerical value of "nun".

Moshe opened his attempt to persuade Yisro to follow the Bnei Yisroel with the words "come with us". Yisro refused. Moshe seemingly repeated the same statement "You will go with us" and Yisro this time did not respond in the negative. Why? The Vilna Gaon traces the meaning of the word "es"- to join with a person, more physically than philosophically. The word "im", denotes a closer relationship between parties. If so, originally Moshe said "come" "itanu" which would not place Yisro on an equal footing. After he refused Moshe expressed the idea with the word "imanu" which denotes a closeness in spirit and purpose. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

Yehoshua said to Moshe about the fact that Eldad and Meidad were saying prophecy in the camp "my master Moshe, lock them up and punish them". Now the halacha is that a student should never refer to his teacher by the first name. The Shulchan Aruch says, however, that if he uses a title it is permissible - my master Moshe. The Shach infers that this should not be done to the person’s face. If so, how could Yehoshua say it? The answer could be, he was trying to magnify the sin of those people for usurping the power of "my master" even if not Moshe, or even "Moshe" the great man, even if not "My master". (Kivoda shel Torah).

Hashem acquiesced to Moshe’s request for help. He would give of the special spirit of Moshe upon seventy men. How interesting to note that, although this would be done with heavenly intervention, the initial choice of these seventy men would be obvious to Moshe. "Atoh Yadahto" - you know. But how would he know? Rashi explains that Jewish overseers who suffered at the hands of the Egyptians rather than persecute their brethren; those are the ones who are fit to be appointed. The true test of a Jewish leader is his willingness to suffer on behalf of his people.

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Shilach
They found a person desecrating Shabbos. The Torah does not mention his name.R’ Akiva reveals it is Tzilofchod and is criticized for revealing it if the Torah didn’t. The question is that the Medrash insists that his intentions in descrating were pure and innocent. The people were destined to die in the desert, they lost hope and beleived they were not responsible for mitzvos. This punishment would prove them wrong. So why was R’ Akiva criticized? The answer is that R’ Akiva expressed an opinion in Ms’ Makos that he would always find a way to make a defendant innocent and this applies also to Shabbos (Tosafot). If so, then R’ Akiva didn’t think the strategy was the way the medrash said and thought he was guilty of bad intentions. That is why he was criticized (MeShulchan Gavoa).

The possuk states at the end of the parsha "You should not follow your hearts and your eyes". The Chazal interpret the first part to infer you should not follow false gods and false philosophies. How did they know to interpret it as such? Mah"aril Diskin, offers the solution. The Chazal say that the heart and the eyes are agents for ones inclination to sin. As Rashi quotes "the eyes see, the heart desires, and the body completes the task." If this is so, then the possuk should be in reverse order "your eyes and your hearts". The answer is that the Gemora in Kedushin informs us that in one area of sin, a Jew is already held responsible and guilty for thoughts alone - that is the thoughts of false gods and false philosophies.

The Nitziv explains so beautifully the whole concept of the Bnei Yisroel sending spies. They left Har Sinai in the previous parsha. They then were on an elevated level of kedusha and were prepared to enter Eretz Yisroel without any man-made assistance. However, when they made the first few stops and we saw all the problems they had, and many died in the travails of the complainers and critics of the "manna" etc., they opted for a more natural existence, hence they desired spies, reconnaissance. Also according to the medrash, they heard the prophecy of Eldad and Maidad that Yehoshua would lead them, which further threw a scare into them. So, at Har Sinai Hashem told them to "go and capture the land" but by this time already He seemed to agree to "Shilach Licha".

The parsha discusses various topics that seem more suitable for Vayikra. There are the laws of Nisochim and Minachos, the wine and flour that accompanied offerings on the mizbaiach. Also the laws of separating challah, a portion of dough, and giving it as a gift to the Kohanim. The Ramban and others feel this is a form of comfort to these Jewish people whose future was reduced to remaining in the wilderness. "Who knows if even our children will enter Israel". To this HaShem refreshed them with the laws of karbonos. It is amazing how the Chofetz Chaim, in our time, upon realizing that we were losing our hope and yearning for a Bais HaMikdosh, reinstated the study, in depth, of Kodoshim and all the areas of Karbonos.

Yehoshua is referred to as "been nun", son of Nun, but not with the customary word "ben" – why? The Chasam Sofer explains. The "yud" in the name Yehoshua was borrowed from the "yud" of "Sarai" which was converted to Sarah. Now the "yud" in Sarai had no vowels under it. It was necessary, therefore, also to borrow some dots. "Ben" has three dots under the "bais". If we borrow two to from the first part of Yehoshua, only one remains and therefore it remains "been".

Kalev quieted the people "to Moshe". What exactly is this phrase supposed to mean? The Ksav Sofer suggests. Moshe sent the spies not to see what their opinion would be about the feasibility of entry and the success of such a mission, but only the strategy they should employ. Of course they returned with all kinds of ideas and advice. This is what Kalev meant. "To Moshe" is the decision about the war effort. These men were not chosen for that purpose.

Moshe used a very definite tactic to release the fatal decree from upon the Bnei Yisroel. The Egyptians will hear what you do and will attribute it to the inability of Hashem to bring them to the land. Now why did he mention Egypt more than other lands? The answer is that other nations would assume that the Bnei Yisroel sinned and were punished. Egypt, however, knew that even when in Egypt the Jewish people sinned and still Hashem redeemed them, so that this must be for a different reason. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

In Avos DR’ Noson it points out the obligation of treating ones friend as a teacher. Aaron addressed Moshe in this week’s parsha as "my master". The Tosfos Yom Tov asks that already at the story of the egel he addressed him with the title "my master". If so, why not quote that source? The Haemek Davar answers. At that point in time Aaron had not, as yet, learnt the Torah from Moshe so the title was understandable. He, however, already was a chaver, of sorts, and still retained the title of "adonee".

The possuk says that the Bnei Yisroel tested Hashem "this ten times". It seems to create a unit of ten instead of referring to it as "these ten times". Perhaps, if the Bnei Yisroel would have tested Hashem and through this strengthened their faith, the criticism would not be so great. Since, however, after ten times they would still generate a scandal of the proportion of the spies, it reflects back on all the "tests" that they were to no avail and therefore instead of being viewed as constructive, they are punished for initiating them.

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Korach
Moshe said to the B’nei Levi "isn’t it enough that Hashem has distinguished you as Leviim, that you still seek the Kehuna." The Chasam Sofer explains this as follows. The Jewish people are referred to as stubborn and courageous. In fact the Chazal attribute to this, the fact that the Torah was given to them. It is not easy to set ourselves off from the rest of the world in the way we eat, the way we walk and talk and the way we dress. This requires a great amount of fortitude. Then even among ourselves the Leviim and Kohanim have extra requirements and restrictions. All of this, of course, makes for a difficult trial in life. This, then, is what Moshe said to them, "isn’t the trial of being a Levi enough that you should seek more limitations as Kohanim.

"And you and Aaron should take a fire pan (of Ketores)" The possuk says each one his own pan. What is the significance of this? The Meshech Chochma explains: The Chazal explain that the original vessels of the Mishkon were annointed in order to be placed into service in the Mishkon, afterwards the service alone created the Kedusha of the vessel. Therefore Moshe specifically directed Aaron to not take the pan which was already consecrated but rather his own, to demonstrate that only his service was the legitimate one and would bring the Kedusah to the vessel.

The "Shaloh" points out the various lessons in keeping peace and not allowing arguments.
a) All the greatness of Korach and his future lineage did not help him or save him when he became involved in "machlokos", argument. He also was one of those who carried the Ark.
b) Aaron never spoke one word and refused to feed into the argument. The less one speaks about "machlokos" the less will result from it.
c) Moshe completely humbled himself and personally went to Doson and Avirom to stem the tide of the heated argument. How great is the obligation to keep peace.

Moshe Rabenu referred to the opening of the earth to swallow Korach and his people. Rashi points out the fact that this was created from the six days of creation. In Pirke Avos ch. 5 this is documented among other future miracles that were created and programmed into the world at twilight Friday evening of the creation. R’ Yaakov ‘z’l explains as follows. The world was created with such order and perfection that one could almost believe there is no creator. For this reason when HaShem was about to give the world into the hands of mankind, He specifically arranged for certain unnatural occurrences to allay the suspicions of those who believe it operates on its own. Even the "pliers, the original ones which created the second pair" which is listed at the end is the general statement of the fact that the original "everything" was by the hands of HaShem. This then is what Moshe wanted to teach the people that "all is brought about by HaShem".

The Parsha follows the thread of the story of the battle over Kehuna. First Korach and his community are destroyed. The people still complain and a plague ensues. Still not satisfied Aaron is commanded to take his staff among the other staffs and his blossoms forth. Certainly this has been a trying ordeal for Aaron and he probably would rather just quietly assume his position. However, at this point, we observe an interesting lesson in life. HaShem announces to all, with great joy (Rashi) the many gifts that a Kohain, that Aaron will receive. Once the issue has been laid to rest, credit should been given to the rightful party.

The possuk says, "those who died in the plague were 14,700 besides those who died because of Korach". Since they complained a second time the plague took effect. The possuk says, "separate them from the people". R’ Yehoshua Leib z’l’ learns this to be a reference to the removal of the people who have sinned. The process would be similar to terumah. Now terumah in a larger amount would be 1/40. If the people were 603,550 then 1/40 would be 15,088. We see 14,700 died. But the possuk says "besides those who died with Korach". That would be another 250 men plus Korach, Doson and Avirom, which equals 14,953. This plus 135 would be 1/40. The number 135 are equal in numerical value to "kahal". Now notice before it used the word "edah" but at the end it says, "he ran into the ‘kahal’", this being the last 135 in danger.

The Chofetz Chaim explains the degrading nature of jealousy. It is well known that it "eats away" at a person. However, even with this terrible trait there are two strains of it. One could be jealous of what the other has, because he would also enjoy having it. But even worse than that is the individual, who does not begrudge the other person to have wealth, honor, etc. Korach projected the latter by claiming Moshe "you have more than you deserve". This, of course, was the downfall of Korach.

The Steipler ‘z’l points out a major discrepancy in the parsha. The jealousy of Korach stemmed from his desire to be leader over his Levite family and yet he projected a philosophy of equality for all men. "We are all holy". We see from the Communist Revolution that this is the way of the wicked. They have their own agenda but veil it in a humanistic plea for the people. Interestingly enough, the wife of On ben Peles was not tricked and prevented her husband from joining them fully.

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Chukas - Balak
The Medrash relates Shlomo HaMelech’s frustration at not comprehending the secret of Porah Adumah, the red heifer. Now, in reality there are many reasons given even by Chazal themselves, so what bothered Shlomo HaMelech? The answer is found in the drosha "take unto you", that HaShem revealed the most sublime and esoteric inner meaning of Porah Adumah only to Moshe Rabeinu. No other person, even Shlomo, was privy to this information. Realizing this, when Shlomo HaMelech, interpreted all of the mitzvos of the Torah and found satisfaction, he eventually came to Porah Adumah. Here, although he also offered beautiful explanation, he was well aware of his inability to comprehend what Moshe Rabeinu did and therefore was frustrated, not about this, but, perhaps, in all the other mitzvos he was not grasping the full meaning "I said I was wise (in the other mitzvos) but (when I reached Porah) I saw it (the other mitzvos) was far from me. (Chanucas HaTorah).

Rashi tells us that the nations criticize us and taunt us for keeping the mitzvos of which we don’t understand the reasons. The Sfas Emes explains this in a different way. In our present state of existence and comprehension the secret of Porah cannot be translated into our level and sphere of spirituality. However, in the future it will all become clear to us. In fact, to Moshe Rabeinu, on his level as an Ish HaElokim, he clearly understood it and how it fit into every day life. In fact, he writes, we as a nation, on Sinai were also able to understand the Edos. However, we fell from this level and it clouded our understanding. This is the scorn placed upon us by the nations. They call us fools for losing all the spiritual growth we had attained.

Concerning the sin of the waters of the rock, we find, among others two interpretations - Rashi and the Ramban. Rashi says Moshe Rabeinu hit the rock instead of speaking to it. The Ramban faults him for speaking harshly to the people. The Kedushas Levi insists they are one in the same. When a leader gives mussar to the Bnei Yisroel by pointing out their greatness and holiness, he in turn elevates them and the whole creation is called upon to be subservient to the wishes of Bnei Yisroel. However, if the leader gives mussar by focusing on their shortcomings, he lowers them and the creation is no longer subordinate to them. Because Moshe spoke harshly to Bnei Yisroel it was necessary to hit the rock and not enough to talk to it.

"If Balak will give me a full storage house of gold and silver I cannot ignore the words of Hashem." At first glance it seems like a very noble and praiseworthy statement. The Bais Halevi however compared it to a person who is called upon to slap the King in the face and says for no money would he do it. Of course he wouldn’t do it and of course he would not be able to do it. Therefore his mere statement effuses arrogance and haughtiness. Would he say "I will not pick up that mountain for all money in the world." Bilam showed his true colors by even suggesting the possibility.

Bilam said "don’t curse the people for they are blessed" The Chazal, in reference to this, say to respond with "we say to the bee, don’t give me your honey, or your sting" The world, in dealing with the Jewish problem, takes two approaches. Either destroy them and cause misery to them, or treat them kindly and try to encourage them to assimilate. When Bilam saw the first way was not being successful, he changed tactics. He suggested rather to praise them and treat them with respect, but still with the same results in mind. (Mayana shel TORAH).

Bilam rose early in the morning and prepared, by himself, his donkey for the trip. Hashem said "Rasha, Avrohom Aveinu already preceded you with his zeal to perform the mitzvah of akeida, he also saddled his own donkey. R’ Moshe points out from here the following thought. We are taken to task to reproduce all the zeal, fervor and commitment we exert for our business, our profession, our family, our philosophy - in our service to Hashem. If Avrohom had not duplicated this act, then the act of Bilam would have created a criticism of the actions of the Jewish people. Furthermore, it should be understood that, in reality, the source of the zeal of the two acts can be traced to two opposite emotions. Bilam’s hatred of the Jewish people produced the simple emotion of a desire to harm them and to hasten this. Avrohom’s zeal to bring his own child was not a natural reaction but a calculated result of his genuine belief in Hashem and therefore a major accomplishment ( lekach tov ).

Or HaChaim:

In the prophecy of Bilam is a full description of Moshiach.

"I see him but not now -- as a star shoots through the sky"

"I see him but not close -- as a ruler rises among the nations"

We are told by Chazal that if we are deserving, then Moshiach will come suddenly like a shooting star. If not he will come in due time, up through the ranks as a ruler. Also the star is a reference to Moshiach ben Dovid. If we are in lower category of "Yaakov" then we will only merit Moshiach ben Dovid but Moshiach ben Yosef will be killed. However if we will be on a level of "Yisroel" we will merit both saviors. We are instructed to pray for the welfare of both.

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Pinchos
Rashi explains that the possuk relates the lineage of Pinchos to Aaron because the people insisted on referring to him as the grandson of Yisro who had served idols. The "Yad Shaul" has a unique approach for explaining this. Since Moshe, Aaron and Yehoshua were all present at the time of the incident and the only one to act was Pinchos, the people assessed it as a careless act and traced it to his other lineage. Therefore, the Torah clearly points out that, on the contrary, his was an act that even outshines the Tzadikim that were present at the time.

In the tfila of Mussaf l'Shabbos we say, "to bring the Korbon Mussaf Shabbos properly" The word properly seems to be unnecessary for don't we offer all the Korbonos properly? The "Be'er Yosef" explains and extracts a great lesson. We know that although a Korbon must be processed only in the daytime, however, the fats and such, which are burnt on the "mizbeach", are allowed to be burnt even in the nighttime. If so, it would seem logical, that the Shabbos Korbon, which is the Mussaf, would be burnt after Shabbos to avoid chillul Shabbos. However, we learn otherwise. So great is the obligation to perform a mitzva immediately and not to delay that the Mussaf was done "properly" with no delay, even the fats, etc., were offered on the mizbach.

We find two different personalities mentioned in the parsha of Balak. One is Bilam and one is Pinchos after whom this week’s parsha is named. The difference between them is in the idea of truth. The donkey scolded Bilam "why are you hitting me"? Bilam responded, "I should really kill you." Now what was the meaning of the dialogue between them? The donkey had crushed Bilam's foot against the wall. The donkey was impressing upon Bilam "you are the cause of your problems, your willingness to travel with your feet to curse the Jewish people, you have to be honest with yourself". Bilam was obviously much more satisfied to throw all the blame on the donkey who certainly was not to blame. Pinchos, on the other hand, had every excuse not to act. The man was a prince of his tribe. Moshe, Aaron and Yehoshua were all standing there, not able to react. And yet Pinchos placed the burden upon himself. This honesty came from his ancestor, Yosef HaTzaddik. Yosef could have easily rationalized and said, "nobody is here, nobody cares, nobody will know." Yet he did not; he was honest and did not give excuses or place blame on someone else. The medrash in reference to the brothers and Yosef says, "woe is to the day of judgement, the day of debate and reproach." The "Madregas HaOdom" asks, should it not be the reverse " the day of debate and reproach and then the day of judgement? He answers - mankind always harbors this idea that even after the judgement he will be able to give excuses and rationalize his actions. In one split second, the brothers realized that all their excuses as to why they conducted themselves with Yosef the way they did were useless. This then is the greatest obligation of a person to be honest with himself. That is the meaning - the day of judgement and then the day of debate - the debate will be to no avail.

The "vuv" of Shalom is severed. This could be explained by the extensive life history of Pinchos. Chazal say that Pinchos is the same person as the prophet Eliyahu. If so, the beginning of his existence was a display of a promotion of peace as is described in the Parsha relating to Pinchos. Also the future holds in store a similar feat of returning the hearts to their Father in heaven. However, in the middle we find criticism of Pinchos in the time of the Shoftim and, in fact, he is blamed for various catastrophes which befell the Jewish People at that time. He should have waged a war of protest but he didn’t. (Tanah B’Eliyohu 11) If so, then the "vuv" of Shalom indicates this sequence. The beginning and the end are complete but in the middle it is broken. (M’Shulchan Gevoah)

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Matos - Masei
The possuk reads "you should be innocent in the eyes of HaShem and Yisroel". The Gemora in Shikalim derives from here an important fact of life, one should always be above suspicion. Since the possuk compares it to the obligation of being straightforward to HaShem, the sefer Taam V'daas learns from here that even one's thoughts should be above suspicion. Perhaps, this could be a source to Rav Safra. Rav Safra was reciting Shma and a potential buyer gave him an offer. He raised the price, thinking that Rav Safra was refusing his offer. In reality, he was saying Shma and could not respond. In the end, Rav Safra honored the original offer. This is innocence of thought.

Moshe Rabeinu drew up a conditional contract with the Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven. However, although the half tribe of Menashe eventually received a portion on the eastern side of the Yarden, they did not seem to be in the discussions. The Brisker Rav explains this. The area of land that was under discussion with the Bnei Gad and Reuven was not part of the original land that was promised to Avrohom Avinu. It was destined to be divided equally by all of Yisroel, even the Kohanim. Since the two tribes wanted it as their own, this required a special contract, conditional on their participation. The half tribe of Menashe, however, was asking for a piece of land captured from the Kings Og and Sichon and was in reality part of the land promised to Avrohom Avinu and therefore could legitimately be apportioned to Menashe.

The possuk reads "Their departures to their journey, etc., and these are their journeys to their departures." The possuk changes the order. R' Chaim, shlita, describes their journeys in the desert. The 42 stops mentioned were probably not inhabited cities until the Bnei Yisroel camped there. Assisted with the water of the rock, and the "mon", they were able to establish cities that eventually became inhabited. In fact, the Bnei Yisroel probably named these cities. This then is the explanation. They first departed without any specific place of destination, for there were none. However, in recounting their travels, it says the travels (stops) after their departure.

The Possuk reads "you should be above suspicion and clean of guilt both from the eyes of Hashem and the eyes of your fellow man." The Chasam Sofer pointed out that it is easier to fulfill the part about Hashem than the part about man. This is due to the fact that so many people harbor thoughts of mistrust for one another that it is almost impossible to escape their misplaced thoughts. He explained with this the statement of Shlomo Hamelech "there is no righteous man who will do good and not sin". That is to say, that even when he does well, others will perceive it as sin. He adds that, although the tribes of Gad and Reuven did all that was in their power to allay suspicion about their motives, in the end they were the first to be exiled since, maybe, they were not successful enough.

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Devorim
The possuk describes the return of the spies and the reaction of the people. They, the spies, spoke well about the land. "They" is referring to Yehoshua and Caleb. The criticism seems to stem from the fact that the people should have listened to the report that the land was good. The problem with this is obvious. There were more spies claiming the land was not good, so why should the people listen to the minority? R’ Chaim, Shlita, answers. As the Zohar explains the spies realized that they would be demoted from their position of influence upon entering Eretz Yisroel and therefore their statement "the land is bad" was prejudiced. However, the two who reported the land was good had no special reason to do so. This then is the complaint of the Torah. The report of Yehoshua and Caleb was much more reliable and you should have listened to them.

And Sichon did not allow you to pass through his land. The possuk attributes this to two causes. He hardened his spirit and strengthened his heart. The Vilna Gaon explains these two similar statements. The heart is the seat of the desires of man. This creates a definite position of either a pure heart or an impure heart. The Yetzer on the other hand presents a case for bad and a case for good. This is the good or bad spirit of man. Dovid Hamelech said Hashem gave me a "lev tahor", a pure heart, and a "ruach nachon", a proper spirit. This then is the description of the stubbornness of Sichon. He had an intrinsically evil heart and a strong evil spirit. With this we can also understand the popular phrase "chazak veematz" for this is the exact language, although in the negative, in this possuk.

R’ Yaakov ‘z’l comments in this Parsha on the interesting fact that the word man in loshon kodesh "ish" does not become "ishim" in plural, but rather "anoshim". He insists the same is true in some other languages. The reason is a profound one. A collection of men is not just a combination of units of "man" but a whole new entity. The power of a group is unique and greater than its component parts.

R’ Zalman Sorotskin ‘z’l offers a very sobering reason why the approach of Bnei Yisroel at Har Sinai was different than when they requested "miraglim", spies. Rashi calls to attention the fact that at Har Sinai there was proper decorum; the youth gave respect to the elders. Here, however, the youth were pushing the elders out of front position. Says R’ Zalman, before when it was a spiritual matter, the youth was willing to defer to the elders. However, when it is a subject of land and money, the youth think they have a better handle on the situation.


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Voeschonon
And you will seek Hashem your G-d and you will find Him because you search for Him with all your heart 4-29. The first word seek is in plural but the word find is in singular. Why. The Vilna Gaon answers that the Gemora in Rosh Hashana describes when two people enter to daven and only one is answered, the Gemora attributes this to a lack of kavana. This is the possuk here. Two will seek but only one will find, for he will seek with all his heart.

The Gemora in Chagiga extols the greatness of one who reviews his learning. It says that there is no comparison of one who learns 101 times to one who learns 100 times. It is said from the Vilna Gaon that the numerical value of "Shachach" ùëç, which means to forget, is 328 and Zachor æëø, which means to remember is 227. So one who reviews 101 removes that much from the forgetting and remains with remembering.

On Shavuos which was the time that we received the Torah, we read, appropriately the "Aseres HaDibros". Also on Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos of comfort, when we await the total redemption, we read the Aseres HaDibros. The Kedushas Levi comments, that with the coming of Moshiach there will be a clear understanding of the Torah, as if there is a new Torah being given to the Jewish people. Therefore it is a day that we await a new acceptance of the Torah, a new day like Shavuos.

And you should love Hashem with your heart. The Chofetz Chaim would explain this. One's love for Hashem should fill the heart to capacity that there is no room for another love.

The Chofetz Chaim described Hashems love for his nation. Hashem provides for all mankind. He gives, He protects, He cares for each and everyone. Our task is to earn this reward by perfecting our service to Him and to our fellow man. We could compare. This, said the Chofetz Chaim, to the rich man that owned a factory. He appointed a very capable manager over the factory. Now, the manager had a relative that he wished to hire, but there were no positions available. So, instead, he told Him to come and pick up a check, a salary each week without work. One day the owner decided to check out the progress of the factory. He interviewed each worker, what is your job, what are your hours. The embarrassed relative, when asked what is your job, responded, I receive a salary. This embarrassment is what we try to avoid with our service to Hashem.

"The words should be on your heart, you should teach it to your sons, you should speak about these words". The possuk begins with your personal growth in Torah, switches to teaching the children and then returns to personal learning. The answer is that you’re own personal learning and conduct many times is the best way to "teach your sons". Another beautiful explanation is to understand the obligation of the father to teach a child. Is this a mitzvah of the father to enhance the mitzvos of the son, similar to "bris" and "pidyon haben", or is this rather part and parcel of the individual’s own obligation to learn? This means personal learning should involve teaching one’s children. This is the "pshat" in the "possuk". Inserted in the middle of the obligation for personal growth is an obligation to teach the children, for this too is part of your Torah learning (Har Tzvi).

"Honor your father and mother as Hashem commanded you". In the first set of "luchos" it does not have this addition "as Hashem commanded you". The Kedushas Levi explains. The phrase is informing us, say Chazal, that one only must heed the directive of a parent if it does not contradict Torah law, for you and your parents are obligated to honor the Torah. If so, then at the giving of the first set of "luchos" the Torah and its mitzvos had not yet been offered so the Torah could not use the phrase "as Hashem commanded you.".

Hashem said to Moshe "don’t speak to me again in the matter". The Vilna Gaon gives a little different explanation. The Zohar says that Moshe was taught a proven way to accomplish in "tfila". A "tfila" enhanced by the word "na", please, repeated twice would certainly not be turned away. This we find by Moshe davening on behalf of Miriam. "Na" refa "Na". Here also Moshe uttered the word "na", please allow me to enter Israel. However, before he could repeat it, Hashem told him "don’t speak again this word."

"Utzidaka thiye lanu ki sishmor" And it will be to us for a charity if we keep the mitzvos of Torah. Many people are under the impression that the giving of charity offsets a multitude of sins. This possuk lies to rest that contention. "Charity will be to us, but only if we continue to keep and adhere to all the mitzvos.

Don’t add on to the Torah. This possuk is followed by "your eyes have seen what happened at Peor". What is the connection? R’ Moshe ‘z’l explains. The Rambam traces the origin of avoda zara, idol worship, as the peoples desire to honor the sun and moon as emissaries of Hashem. This was an act of "adding on" which caused what "your eyes have seen" as a result.

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Ekev
Rashi relates the word "Ekev" to the heel or foot, the mitzvos one accomplishes with his foot. The Ksav Sofer explains the connection between the words at the end of last week’s parsha and the words beginning this week’s parsha. We say that the true reward for mitzvos cannot be found in this world. However, the extra effort that one invests in a mitzvah, the trip that one may make to perform a mitzvah, these result in a reward even in our present world. If so, the possuk ended with "today" in Voeschanon and Rashi comments today to do, tomorrow to receive reward. So how do we merit entering the land? To this the Torah answers with "Ekev" the legwork that one puts into a mitzvah results in immediate reward.

The possuk reads "es HaShem Elokecha tira", you should fear HaShem. The extra word "es" certainly has a hidden meaning. The Gemora relates that R’ Shimon Hoamsoni had a drosha for every "es" in the Torah. When he realized he did not have one for this possuk he backed off on all the other droshos. R’ Akiva, the Gemora continues, felt that the "es" came to direct us to fear also HaShem’s servants, the Talmidei Chochomim. R: Yisroel Salanter asked "why didn’t Shimon Haomsoni incorporate this into his list of droshos and salvage all his teachings. From this we see the greatest display of integrity, intellectual honesty and yiras shomayim. He would rather sacrifice all his teachings, rather than to subscribe to one drosha that he felt wasn’t proper.

"And the Bnei Yisroel traveled to Mosara, there Aaron died and Elazer became Kohen Gadol." What is the significance of the word "there" in the possuk? The Imrei Shefer explains. The Gemora explains that one who dies and leaves a capable son to follow him has not really died. When Aaron died, the clouds left the Bnei Yisroel temporarily so the people sensed the loss, but only "there" for afterwards they were comforted with Elazar. Or perhaps the clouds returned in the merit of Elazar, so only "there" Aaron died.

The picture we draw in our minds of the Jewish people of old, is many times, powerful Shimon and Levi, the mighty people that fought in Eretz Yisroel, the great Dovid HaMelech. So why has this changed, that we are not the great warriors of old? This, in spite of the fact, that the young Jewish youth is trying to project a rugged, tough image! The answer is in the parsha and the Ramban. Ekev 8:18. Remember HaShem for He gives you the strength to wage war. The Ramban comments. The Jewish people are strong and courageous and they defeated many great kings. Remember, however, that you wandered in the midbar and you had no power even to care for yourself. You were in the constant care of HaShem. If so, then even now your strength is from HaShem. If you forget Him your strength will wane and you will lose. So the formula is simple. When we are the legion of HaShem we are victorious.

The Vilna Gaon made an interesting connection between the Parshios Voeschonan and Ekev. The Gemora tells us that there is no reward for mitzvos in this world. The Gaon qualifies this statement. There is no reward or wages in a conventional way, the worker does not realize the wages. However, it will be paid to a descendant of this person who is worthy and righteous. For this, Hashem could wait many generations. Now to connect the parshios. Voeschonan ended with "Hashem guards the mitzvos for a thousand generations" but the possuk continues in this parsha "when you will keep the mitzvos, then Hashem will keep the mitzvos to pay you.

The Chofetz Chaim on this week’s parsha comments on the possuk "Hashem took you through the desert for forty years to afflict you and test you". The word for test is "nasosicha". He points out that the word "neis" also means to elevate. The two are intertwined. When Hashem desires to elevate a person, he tests him, for this is the way one can elevate him.

The possuk says "all the mitzvos that I command you guard them to do them and you will merit to come to Eretz Yisroel." The Kedushas Levi gives a different interpretation to the word "tishmiroon". The word in Breishis "vishamar" meant to wait in expectation. If so, then, the posuk is telling us, if you, at least, yearn for and wait with expectation for the mitzvos you cannot perform, this alone will grant you the merit to come to the land and do the mitzvos.

"What does Hashem ask of you, only to fear Hashem". The Gemora wonders "is yiras shomayim such an easy task"? The Gemora answers, "for Moshe it was". How does this help the rest of the generation? Answers the Dubno Maggid. He heard from the Vilna Gaon that the process of one having influence upon his talmidim, his environment, his generation, could be compared to a large cup surrounded by many little cups. When the large one gets filled to overflowing it automatically pours into the rest. The one who is saturated with Yiras Shomayim will inevitably have influence. The Maggid, in turn, interpreted the above mentioned Gemora. Since, for Moshe it was attainable then the rest of the generation could also have hopes to accomplish a level of yiras shomayim.

The Torah makes a very fundamental comparison to illustrate the goodness of Hashem. In perek 8 possuk 10 it says "you will eat and be satisfied and bless Hashem". This is the Torah requirement for bircas hamazon, you will be satisfied. Only two passukim further the Torah warns "lest you eat and become satiated … and forget Hashem". The Torah is sending a message that the "good" could be a double-edged sword and our task is to "bless Hashem" with our wealth.

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Reah
Concerning the mitzvah of giving tzedaka, the Torah repeats the word twice. "Aser tiaser" which both mean to separate a tenth of your earnings. The Chazal make a drosha on the second word and read it as if it was written with a "shin" and hence the word means to become rich. Now the possuk reads "give a tenth so you may become rich". Where did Chazal get license to interpret the possuk in this way? They explain it in the name of the Vilna Gaon. We find in the Gemora in Bava Metzia 31A that a double expression means a reoccurring obligation. If so, how could the Torah command a second tithing when the person gave already from the little money he had? Using the explanation given by Chazal, the person will become rich, enabling him to again give ma’aser. Both droshos are contained in the one word. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

The beginning of the parsha is "Re’ah" - "you see" which is said in singular, but is followed by "lifneichem" - before you - which is already plural. Many answers are offered. The Chasam Sofer explains it with a Chazal that calls upon us to always view the situation of the world as half-guilty and half-innocent. With this in mind, then each individual has the power to tip the scales. This is what the possuk is relating to us. You as an individual are empowered with "brocha" - blessing - for all of you, all of the world. This is the plural language.

The Sfas Emes in this parsha describes the third meal of Shabbos as being the Shmini Atzeres of Shabbos. HaShem expresses his desire to stay with the Bnei Yisroel. We also have that yearning to remain with the Shabbos spirit all week. This alone gives us a connection to Shabbos and a feeling of the neshama yisera.

The Gemora in Pesachim presents a contradiction. The possuk says the Yom Tov should be to you. The other possuk says it should be to HaShem. The Gemora provides an answer that Yom Tov should be divided between your enjoyment and service to HaShem. The Vilna Gaon asks why the Gemora uses the expression "divide". He answers that the word "laShem" is the numerical value of 56, of which 28 is half. The word "lachem" is 90, of which half is 45. If we add 28 and 45 it is 73, the exact value of Yom Tov.

In this parasha we find two different prohibitions. One is not to process an offering to HaShem outside the Bais HaMikdosh. The other is not to process a privately owned animal inside the Bais HaMikdosh. Now we must always assume that the Torah is addressing itself to even the most noble of intentions. A person wishes to influence his family and friends, to draw them towards HaShem by involving them with the service, away from the Bais HaMikdosh. Or a person wishes to engage in mundane activities in the holy confines of the Bais HaMikdosh to elevate his spiritual level. To both of these the Torah says, there is a place and time for everything, nothing is left to the whims of mankind.

"You should not say how do these nations serve their gods and I will do the same." Rashi interprets this to mean actual idol worship. The Ramban, however, understands this to mean that you might try to incorporate the service performed by the nations into our service to Hashem. The follow up, in fact, is not to add or subtract to the Torah. The Chasam Sofer joins together both ideas. If not for the fact that we were commanded to do so, any thought of bringing an offering to Hashem borders on idol worship. Does Hashem require such gifts or service? Therefore, any act more than the prescribed is, in reality, an act of avoda zara.

The brocha, that you will listen to Hashem; the curse, that you will not listen to Hashem. R’ Moshe ‘z’l explains in a simple fashion. The only brocha to mankind is the adherence to the word of Hashem. Then even if his life is one of poverty and difficulty, it is still a life fraught with blessings for he acquires eternity. On the other hand, a curse is evident and one obvious result of not listening, for then even with a comfortable life it is but a curse to the individual. Hence not if you will listen, but that you will listen.

Regarding the sequence of psukim "you should be happy (on the holidays), you should give to the unfortunate ones and you should remember you were slaves in Egypt" the Ksav Sofer explains. It is difficult for a person to give charity with joy. One always feels he has not enough for ones own needs. Even more so on the holidays when the money is even tighter. The Torah addresses this by reminding us of the time we were in Egypt and we existed on a bare meager allotment, we did not look for more, so this will enable us to "open our hands" with joy.

The month of Elul is upon us. The story is told of a drunkard who was summoned by a soldier of Czar Nikolai to halt and stand at attention. Being drunk he did not heed the warning, not the first time or second time or even the third time. The soldier shot and wounded him. Later, under investigation, the man complained "didn’t you see I was drunk - how could I respond properly?" To this the soldier countered "when one hears the name of the Czar Nikolai, even a drunk should sober up". In whatever situation a Jew finds himself, the mere mention of Elul should "sober him up". (Lekach Tov).

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Shoftim
Do not take bribes for it blinds the eyes of the wise. In Mishpotim, the term, "it blinds the intelligent ones" is used. The Vilna Gaon explains that since these verses refer to a judge, and a judge must be well versed, not only in Torah but also in worldly knowledge, the possuk is telling us the following: Taking a bribe not only dulls one’s understanding of Torah, but also harms his understanding in all areas of study.

The possuk refers to a mitzva of appointing a king. Yet, when the people requested a king, Shmuel HaNavi rebuked them. Why were they out of line for requesting that which the Torah expected of them? The m’forshim explain that the answer can be found in the change of language. The Torah views it as placing upon you a king, i.e. he is in control. They, however, used the expression "place for us", i.e. we will be the ones to decide policy.

The possuk instructs us to listen to the decision of the Bais Din HaGadol, the Sanhedrin, even if it seems to say left is right and right is left. The one who argues and decides on his own is called a "zakain mamre". The Chasom Sofer offers an insight to this expression "right is left, etc.". Even in a situation where the court itself cannot reach a clear decision and therefore concludes that regarding a Torah law one must be stringent, we still must adhere to their ruling. This includes times when, in contradictory cases they will choose to be stringent in both cases. Although it is "left is right and right is left", we are not to follow our own understanding, however clear it may seem to us.

The parsha instructs the king what to do and what not to do. He is to write a Sefer Torah and always have it with him "to learn to fear HaShem." Now, we are certainly talking also of a king of the caliber of Dovid HaMelech or someone who was a G-d fearing person when he assumed the position of king. The Torah is telling us that in every new position or situation that one finds him or herself, there is a new learning process to ensure that he or she will continue to fear HaShem under all circumstances.

The Medrash Robah at the end of Yisro describes the scene at HarSinai and again with Eliyohu on Har Carmel. There was a complete and absolute state of silence and solitude. The total and complete focus was on the voice and existence of the Creator of all men. The medrash ends with the words of the Navi in this week’s Haftora, that in the future redemption "Anochi", Anochi Anachemchem"- HaShem says, "I alone will comfort you." The sefer Shaarie Ora explains the connection. The only true state of redemption is when the entire world stands silent and only HaShem is heard nothing is attributed to any other source of strength. This is the promise of "I, I alone will comfort you".

When the possuk describes the many jobs that a Cohen has, it lists four. 1) To serve in the Bais Hamikdosh 2) to bless the Bnei Yisroel 3) to judge them 4) to clarify the "negaim", the laws of tzoraas. R’ Moshe ‘z’l, with keen insight, finds in this the perfect description of a Jewish leader. He must first and foremost, fear G-d - serve Him. He must love his fellow Jew – bless them. In the same time he must perceive their faults and reprimand them – judgment, and the act of seeing the "blemish". Many find fault with the leader who presents the problems to be solved by the people. However, this is the true leader and one who loves his fellow Jew.

In Parshas Shoftim, there are two paragraphs that deal with laws involving war. 1) The obligation to call for peace before we engage in any war 2) the prohibition to destroy a fruit-bearing tree even in the process of siege. The Parsha ends with the law of "egla arufa", the law governing the finding of a corpse, not necessarily in wartime. Since the next Parsha further discusses a law of war, "yifas tohar", it presents a problem - why did the Torah interrupt with this story of a tragic death not in wartime? A great Rav in Europe once commented how murder was never a Jewish failing. And yet, at that time, after the Russo-Japanese War, there were many cases of such in the Jewish world. He questioned the reason for this. He answered that just as there are contagious diseases and epidemics so there are contagious spiritual diseases. War cheapens human life and brings on a rash of murder. For this reason, the Torah interrupts the laws of war to explain the preciousness of human life depicted by the great commotion induced by the "egla arufa". He continued with the question of if there have always been wars, why only now have the Jewish youth been affected by it? He answered. Every sickness has a serum, a medicine to relieve it. The only cure for curbing bad traits and character is the Torah. Until recently, he said, the Jewish youth was inoculated with Torah and unaffected by the ways of war. Now, he sighed, things have changed. (Bais Yitchok).

You will clear the innocent blood from you, if you will act properly. The possuk is only expressed during the processing of the "egla arufa", when we really don’t know who the murderer is. If so, what is the meaning of this statement? R’ Chaim, Shlita, answers. The Targum hints to, and the Shalah specifically writes, that if the generation is deserving, then worms would exude from the dead carcass of the calf and run a line to the house of the real murderer. (The last letters of this phrase form the word "Rima", worms) This then is the hope of the statement; you will act properly and clear the air of the spilt blood of the innocent man.

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Ki Seitzei
In the parsha of the rebellious child, the Chazal comment that although the child has not as yet committed a crime punishable by death, the Torah foresees he will commit murder, and invokes a rule of "let him die innocent of such sins". The Mahril Diskin asks, if the punishment for murder is "sayif" (the sword), then why here do we kill him with "skila" (stoning)? He answers that the Torah foresees that the rebellious child will commit all types of sins, many punishable by "skila". For those, the Torah would wait until they are performed before meting out punishment. However, the sin of murder, which involves taking the life of another person, is something that must be avoided; we remove him now before the tragedy, but give him the punishment of the future.

"Remember what Amalek did to you." "Erase the memory of Amalek, don’t forget". The mforshim are puzzled at the double expression "remember…, don’t forget". The Ksav Sofer explains that they are two different directives. Remember the sin of Amalek and erase his memory. However after that, "don’t forget" the source of his causing trouble. The Chazal say because the Bnei Yisroel were lax in Torah studies, Amalek found an opening to cause trouble. Don’t allow history to repeat itself. Don’t forget your involvement.

The possuk instructs us to keep our camp holy. The reason given in the Torah is that "HaShem walks amongst you". Now in those times it meant exactly that. As the Rashbam points out, the Aron HaKodesh went with them even into war. While this was the case then, it would not apply nowadays. However, the Chinuch explains the fact that the "nefesh" of the Jew is constantly connected to its creator in heaven. This is a different dimension. Still, how is this relationship created? How do we create the "holy" camp? The answer is given by Rashi in Shabbos. He explains the possuk that the place of your encampment should be holy for "the Jewish people are constantly engaged in Torah thoughts". So we see that the aura of kedusha can be created by the true presence of HaShem or by our merely involving ourselves in "divre kedusha".

When R’ Zvi Pesach Frank ‘z’tl was asked to present a reason why women should not be drafted into the army for service other than carrying weapons and facing combat he responded. The Torah commands those who are weak of heart to leave the camp. Rashi explains from the Chazal that this refers to people afraid of the sins they possess. If so, we must conclude that the remaining Jewish army was composed of very righteous men. Yet the Torah addresses the issue of taking home a gentile woman from the war. Rashi attributes the chain of events to the power of the yetzer hara. Obviously, the atmosphere of the war and the camp of soldiers is counterproductive to raising levels of kedushah. He completed his thought; therefore, even to draft the women to say thilim in an army atmosphere could prove to be a danger to their spiritual level and should be avoided. (M’Shulchan Gevoah).

Remember what Hashem did to Miriam on the way out of Egypt. What is the meaning of these additional words? If a plain person sins before a king, he must receive due punishment. An officer, however, need not receive punishment other than that of being removed from his position. An exception would be if his sin was so great that punishment would be required in addition to being demoted from his position. This then is what Moshe is telling the people. Remember the history of Miriam - from the time she left Egypt she was a prophetess, "Miriam Haniviah". Now she is only plain Miriam. Why then is she punished? The punishment in addition to demotion demonstrate the severity of Loshon Hara. (Imrei Shefer).

In this parsha we find a very definite obligation of hakaras hatov, expressing ones appreciation. It is a mitzva which is not well known and follows a well-known obligation. The Torah commands us to return an article, taken as security for a loan, to its rightful owner for use at night, i.e. night clothing. This now is not only a mitzva but also an obligation. The possuk relates, "he will bless you" (the owner). The Sifre comments, "he is commanded to bless you". The Torah expects of this person a display of recognition for an act of kindness, albeit an obligation of the first person. However, the possuk concludes that if he doesn’t do so, Hashem will still consider it as a kind act and He will bless you. (Rashi).

The possuk directs us not to add one lash more than the guilty person deserves. This is the source for not causing harm to a fellow Jew. Any blow is more than he deserves. The Vilna Gaon clarifies an interesting point. A father who strikes a child in anger, transgresses this sin. We are allowed to strike a child for disciplinary measures as is written in Mishlei of Shlomo Hamelech. However, this is to fulfill a mitzva of Hashem to properly educate our children. When performed in anger, it only satisfies ones own desire and is totally forbidden.

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Ki Savo
Why did HaShem divide the people into two groups on two mountains to deliver the brochos and the curses? The lesson is that although one can accomplish in this world even in the worse situations, in the most lowly environment, as we find in the Gemora, this is not the preferable approach. Dovid HaMelech said "I chose to dwell in the house of HaShem rather than in the tents of the wicked". What was he implying? Although one can acquire Olam HaBah under difficult conditions, I chose to live in the environment more conducive to Torah and mitzvos. So HaShem divided the place of brocha from the place of klala to demonstrate this fact.

The psukim seem to indicate that the command was to write the entire Torah on the stones erected in the Yarden and then again inscribe the Torah on the stones at Gilgal or Har Aival. Only the second time does the Torah mention the inclusion of the Torah translated into the seventy languages. The Chasam Sofer infers from here that all 70 languages were a legitmate translation of the simple understanding of Torah, but only the Targum of Onkelos remained intact and authoritative. He adds that the Torah wished to give greater importance to the Torah itself and therefore required only it to be written twice. Finally, he points out, that perhaps this is the source of the mitzva of reciting each weeks’ Torah portion twice in the Chumash and once in the Targum.

The nations of the world will see that the name of HaShem is upon you and they will fear you. The Ksav Sofer presents a beautiful idea. The name of HaShem is the titles given to describe HaShem – kindness, merciful, etc. The Medrash tells us that the tzaddikim acquire these titles. If so, the promise is that the nations will see your even-handedness and your sincerity. They will realize that they need not fear that you will try to conquer them. Yet they still will have awe and respect for you because you carry the Name of HaShem and you are in His image.

Moshe Rabeinu directed the Bnei Yisroel concerning their obligation upon entering Eretz Yisroel. The first command was concerning the building of a "mizbeach", an altar, on the mountain called Har Aival. There they should bring "korbonos", both "olos" and "shlomim". They should be happy and also there they should engrave the Torah on stones. In this parsha we are told all of the terrible calamities that could befall the Jewish people. Unique among the admonitions of HaShem is the statement relating the troubles to a lack of joy and happiness in the performance of mitzvos. Now we understand, the very first words of Moshe are to bring offerings and "be happy". Moreover, where should you display this joy? On Har Aival, the mountain upon which the curses were directed to be given. Moshe’s words were a plea to the Jewish people to have faith and trust in all situations and never lose the love and joy in the performance HaShem's mitzvos.

"Cursed is the one who hits his fellow Jew in secret". Chazal say this refers to slanderers and informers against another Jew. The following episode was told to the author of Chosen Yehoshua by the Nachlas Dovid from R' Chaim Voloshiner about the Vilna Gaon. On one of the Gaon's trips, he rode in a wagon driven by a Jewish wagon driver. The horse became a bit wild and wandered astray into the field of a gentile, causing some damage to his crops. The man had witnessed the scene from afar and ran with vengeance toward the person sitting in the wagon, the Vilna Gaon. The Gaon was just about to shift the blame onto the wagon driver who was more responsible, but controlled himself and tolerated the blows administered by the Gentile. This he did so as not to be an informer and speak "Lashon Hara" about his fellow Jew. The Gaon said afterward that had he spoken up, all his Torah and mitzvos would not have saved him from the terrible punishments of heaven.

The possuk reads "Arami wanted to destroy my father, and he (my father) went down to Egypt. What is the connection between these events? R" Chaim Shlita explains. Meforshim quote a Medrash that when Yaakov escaped from Lavan, Lavan sent a message to Eisav to kill Yaakov. Eisav was advised by his men not to, for then Eisav would have to be the subject of the exile in Egypt decreed upon the son of Yitzchok. Instead he directed Amalek his grandson to wage war against the Bnei Yisroel, but only after they left Egypt. Now the sequence of the possuk. Lavan really wanted to destroy Yaakov (through Eisav) but they had to go to Egypt and the prevented him.

The first of one's harvest is of great joy to the owner of the field. Why should he have to share this satisfaction with a relative stranger, the Cohen to whom he gives them? The Cohen knows nothing of the sweat and toil this person has invested in these crops. Answers R' Moshe 'z'l. The true owner of the field is Hashem and by giving the fruits to His designated agent, the Cohen, the present occupant of the field demonstrates his acknowledgement of this important fact.

The Ramban in Chumash explains that the "tochecha", the curses of sefer Vayikra, are a reference to the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdosh; the ones here in Devorim refer to the second Bais Hamikdosh. Perhaps one would find a simple clue to this. The first ones were said as a result of the fact that the Jewish people broke the covenant by worshipping the Golden Calf and also committing the other severe sins. This is like the time preceding the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdosh. At the time of the reading of the second set of curses, here in Ki Savo, the people themselves were not engaged in any wrong conduct and probably wondered why all the terrible curses now. This would be like the time preceding the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdosh when the people themselves could not comprehend their own guilt.

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Nitzovim - Vayelech
In the Medrash, the story that occurred on the last day of Moshe Rebeinu’s life is related. HaShem spoke directly to Yehoshua. When asked by Moshe what He had said, Yehoshua responded, "did I ask you what He said all the forty years?!" Moshe was gripped with a sense of jealousy. He agreed that it is better to die then to live in such framework. Why was Yehoshua so mean to his teacher? The Vilna Gaon gives a beautiful interpretation. HaShem wanted so much that Moshe should agree to his final fate, that He commanded Yehoshua to respond with the exact words he said. Only afterwards did Moshe realize the source of the statement, but by then he already had tasted the taste of jealously and agreed to the divine decree.

Man was created with many multiple limbs – two hands, two feet, and so on. However, he was created with only one mind. Why is this so? The answer is that if he were to possess two minds, he would be constantly pulled in two separate directions. This is what HaShem told Yehoshua in His charge to him as the new leader: "Strike them on the head, one leader to a generation." He was saying that the mind is the leader and there should only be one. (M’Shulchan Gevoah) We know however, that Chazal refer to the Yetzer HaTov and the Yetzer HaRa as two hearts. So we see that, in essence, man was created with two seats of thought and decision making. This is what the possuk "See I have placed before you good and evil" means. That is to say, you are being drawn in two directions - choose the right path.

In the parsha when it discusses the abundance of your property, it lists the animals first and then the produce of the field. In parshas Ki Savo the list is reversed - first the fields and then the animals. R’ Chaim, shlita, explains that the parsha of Ki Savo is a reference to those who adhere to the words of the Torah, the tzadikim. Their lives paralleled the sequence of the cycle of the year starting with Nisson. Hence, the grain is first harvested and only later in Av and Elul is the time for tending to the animals (MS’ R.H.8) This parsha, however, is the parsha of the Baal Tshuva, who only changes in midstream. As such, the Torah lists the more important possessions of a man, the animals, before the grains of the field. (MS’Chulin 86).

At the end of the parsha, Moshe Rebeinu writes a Sefer Torah and commands the people to place it on the side of the Aron HaKodesh. In Bava Basra 14 there is a famous controversy as to whether it was actually inside the Aron HaKodesh or on a ledge on the side of the Aron HaKodesh. Perhaps, both are essential to the understanding of the Sefer Torah. On one hand, it parallels the importance of the tablets. It deserves a place alongside the "luchos" and is of equal "kedushah". On the other hand, the significance of the Torah is of even greater meaning to the Bnei Yisroel. This is their teacher and guide. This is what is held up to them as a model and also as a testimony of the life they should live. Hence, it could not be concealed or encased out of sight of the people. So, in essence, the Sefer Torah filled the role of both places and both are correct.

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Rosh HaShana
"Hashem Ori Viyishi" - Hashem is my light and my salvation. The Medrash explains that "my light" is Rosh Hashanah, and "my salvation" is Yom Kippur. R' Yisroel Salanter asks, "if Yom Kippur is forgiveness of sins, and Rosh Hashanah is the day of Judgement, shouldn't Yom Kippur come first?" He answers. Rosh Hashanah is the judgement of all our physical existence and we connect more with these problems than the spiritual parts of our life. Since Yom Kippur is our atonement for the spiritual we would not be up to it if not for the fact that we first are fired up for the Rosh Hashanah encounter. This then is the kindness of Hashem; He gives us light on Rosh Hashanah and therefore can offer salvation on Yom Kippur. (Kihilos Yitzchok)

In all our davening we recite the holy words the text prepared by the Anshei Kinesses Hagedola. Now, we strive to understand the sublime and secret inner meanings of each passage. However, we fall far short. We should not despair. We could liken ourselves to the horse that turns the wheel that creates the power to grind the wheat. The horse itself knows nothing of the real inner workings of the wheel and only is aware of the path upon which it walks. The rest follows as a result of his action. So too, our job is just to walk the path of the simple "kavana" of davening. All the rest of the heavenly and elevated implications of the prayer occur automatically. (Kihilos Yitzchok).

It is written in the Maasei Rav of the Vilna Gaon that one should not cry on Rosh Hashanah for it is not the theme of the day to cry. On the other hand, it is written from the Ari 'z'l that he commended those who cry on Rosh Hashanah. R' Yisroel Salanter reconciled these two opinions. The Gemora in Rosh Hashanah expresses the theme of Rosh Hashanah as bending ones personality and as being a time to humble oneself. If so, then one whose tears flow freely for every little calamity should, on the contrary, not cry on Rosh Hashanah. One, however, who by nature refuses to cry should bend himself and cry on Rosh Hashanah. (Kihilos Yitzchok).

To understand the power of the Shofar we need only to read the Gemora in Rosh Hashanah 26. The Gemora tells us of the prohibition of using gold in the service in the Bais Hamikdosh for it reminds Hashem of the golden calf. Likewise, the Gemora points out that the horn of a calf should not be used, for it is also a reminder of the golden calf. The Gemora, however, asks that, the prohibition only applies to the Kodesh Kodeshim. To this the answer is that since the Shofar is a direct reminder to Hashem it is equal to the Kohain Gadol entering the Kodesh Kodeshim.