Showing posts from March, 2016

The Women in Moshe's Life

I don't have much to relay on this week's parsha, so I'll share some thoughts I've jotted down in the past about some women who played a significant role in the Exodus we commemorate each Pesach. There are four specifically, which is a nice correspondent number for the Seder, in which we drink four cups of wine and mention the number four as standing for the four Immahos in the song that beings "Echad mi yodeah" [Who knows one?]. 
Speaking of mothers, let's start with Moshe's. Her name, Yocheved, signifies that her face mirrored the ziv hakavod. That is to say that the divine glory shone in her countenance, much like her the face of son, Moshe, which radiated with divine light after he received the Torah.Yocheved was a woman of great accomplishment.

 According to Midrash Hagadol, she is commemorated in Aishes Chayil as one who “set her mind on a field, acquires it and plants a vineyard from the fruits of her labors” (31:16). It was because of her that …

Tzav: The merit of direct participation

As I said last week, unfortunately, there are no divrei Torah from my grandfather for several parshios in Sefer Vayikra, so I will try to fill in when I could with other  relevant insights.

For this week I'll relate part of what I heard in the shiur given by Rav Goldwicht on Monday night.  Among the sources he cited was the the famous debate between Turnus Rufus and R' Akiva recounted in Midrash Tanhuma Tazria5:
Turnus Rufus posed the question, "Whose works are superior, those of God or those of man?" R' Akiva answered unequivocally: "Those of man are superior." Turnus Rufus persisted: "But look at heaven and earth, can man make their like?" Rabbi Akiva disqualified that argument by pointing out a type of apples and oranges flaw there: "Do not draw on what is above human experience and control, but rather on that which is within our range."Then they got to the crux of the issue when Turnus Rufus asked, "Why do you circumcise?"…

Purim: Countering the confusion of correlation and causation

Unfortunately, there are no divrei Torah from my grandfather for several parshios in Sefer Vayikra, so I will try to fill in when I could with other  relevant insights.  So here's one on a central lesson of Megilas Esther.

One of the most common logical fallacies is that assumption of  post hoc, ergo propter hoc [after this, therefore resulting from it].  You can skip the Latin and just refer to the confusion of correlation with causation. We see this kind of error all the time; it's at work, for example, in attributing particular conditions that present in children in the toddler years to vaccines.  But what has that got to do with the story of Purim?  

The story begins with a royal feast with even Jews in attendance, and that, according to  Chazal was the real cause of the decree against them that only came to light years later when Haman's orders went out around the empire. At a recent lecture, Rabbi Manis Friedman explained that the Jews were guaranteed kosher food and …

Double vision: from churban to Geula

כאאֵ֣לֶּה פְקוּדֵ֤י הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙ מִשְׁכַּ֣ן הָֽעֵדֻ֔ת On this verse, Rashi comments: 

המשכן משכן: שני פעמים, רמז למקדש שנתמשכן בשני חורבנין על עונותיהן של ישראל:

The word “Mishkan”(Tabernacle) shares its root with the word mashkon, collateral. Thus, our Sages[1] teach us that the repetition of the word Mishkanin our verse hints to the two Temples that were destroyed “as collateral” from the Jewish people.

Rashi then explain the words מִשְׁכַּ֣ן הָֽעֵדֻ֔ת
ny citing the Midrash  that the designation “Mishkan of testimony” refers to the Mishkanas testament that God relents to the Jewish people,[3]forgiving them even though they have sinned.

My grandfather questions how the two go together. One stresses the double discussion, while the other indicates a sign of forgiveness.  He then quotes the famous account of R' Akiva's unexpected laughter from Makkot 24b Again it happened that Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria, RabbiJoshua and Rabbi Akiva went up to Jerusalem. When they reach…

When plans backfire

Ever have a plan that backfired? I just experienced that this week. In my case, it was a relatively minor loss that resulted from leaving for Friday what I could have done on Thursday and then finding that the job was no longer available. This was purely monetary, but for in some cases putting off something can have profound ramifications with the loss recorded for all eternity.

Rashi's comment on the verse about the nesi'im's contribution is to quote Rav Nathan: "What did the princes see that drove them to donate for the dedication of the altar in the beginning but not for the mishkan?  Their plan was for the general population to bring whatever they can and then to bring whatever was missing. However, as the people brought everything, there was nothing left. So the princes brought the shoham stones as their personal contribution."

My grandfather observes that the letter missing from the word nesi'im here is a yud, the smallest letters that hints at humility…