Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Parshas Bamidbar (5776)

When is the "Wilderness of Sinai"?

The Torah writes (Numbers 1:1):
AND THE LORD spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after the were come out of the land of Egypt, saying
Rashi (ibid):
... for on the first day of Nisan the Tabernacle was erected (Exodus 40:2) and shortly afterwards, on the first day of Iyar, He counted them.
Rashbam (ibid):
all the communications, instructions, we heard about in the first year of the Israelites’ wanderings, before the Tabernacle had been erected, were characterised by the words בהר סיני, at Mount Sinai. Once the Tabernacle had been erected on the first day of the first month of the second year, the words בהר סיני as the source of the legislation do not appear again, but are replaced by the words במדבר סיני באהל מועד.

Who are the Princes?

The Torah writes (Numbers 1:4-15):
And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of Reuben, Elizur the son of Shedeur. Of Simeon, Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. Of Judah, Nahshon the son of Amminadab. Of Issachar, Nethanel the son of Zuar. Of Zebulun, Eliab the son of Helon. Of the children of Joseph: of Ephraim, Elishama the son of Ammihud; of Manasseh, Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. Of Benjamin, Abidan the son of Gideoni. Of Dan, Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. Of Asher, Pagiel the son of Ochran. Of Gad, Eliasaph the son of Deuel. Of Naphtali, Ahira the son of Enan.’
Elizur was one of the 250 men with Korach (Bamidbar Rabbah 11:26).
There are opinions that all the princes ended up among the 250 men with Korach (Shnei Luchos haBris, Korach, Torah Ohr 29 in the name of Rabbeinu Bachya; see also Sefer Taamei deKrah)
Shelumiel was Zimri (Talmud Sanhedrin 82b) 

Nachshon died during the same (second) year (Seder Olam).
Nachshon was also the father of Elimelech, Salmon, Ploni Almoni and Naomi's father in Megilas Ruth (Talmud Baba Bathra 91a)

Nethanel was the person who advised the princes to bring their offerings (Rashi Number 7:18 in the name of Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan) 

Eliasaph, son of Deuel is called "son of Reuel" in Numbers 2, and Deuel here, and in Numbers 7 and 10 (see Josh Waxman's parshablog)

(see also Sefer Shaarei Aharon for alternative explanations for all of the names of princes, which are nicknames, and not real names)

Related posts:

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Parshas Behukosai (5776)

What is "The Pride of Your Power"?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 26:19):
And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass.
Rashi (ibid) explains:

This is a reference to the Temple; for thus does it state, (Ezekiel 24:21) “Behold I will profane my sanctuary, the excellency of your strength”.
Sforno (ibid) explains:

by the destruction of the Tabernacle in Shiloh. Compare Psalms 78:60 “He forsook the Tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent He had set among men.”
Rashbam (ibid) explains:
as we read in verse 26 בשברי לכם מטה לחם, “when I will break your proud glory,” (economic independence)
Baal Haturim (ibid) explains:
"pride" - numerical value of "that is the Temple"; "the pride of your power" - numerical value of "Jerusalem"
The Talmud (Gittin 37a) explains (as per Rashi):
Rabbi Yosef learns - these are the rich people of Judah

Whom did G-d make a covenant with?

The Torah (Leviticus 26:45) writes:
But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.
Rashi (ibid) explains:
THE COVENANT OF THE ANCESTORS — i. e. of the twelve Tribes (cf. Sifra)
Haemek Davar (ibid) explains:
... the covenant which was made with Moses was on behalf of all future generations and now [the Torah] adds that regarding their livelihood in the land of their enemies He will also watch them because of the remember of the covenant with the first generation which was taken out from the Land of Egypt
(see Sefer Shaarei Aharon for further discussion of these opinions)

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Parshas Emor (5776)

Who Was the Blasphemer?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 24:10-12):
And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and the son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. And the son of the Israelitish woman blasphemed the Name, and cursed; and they brought him unto Moses. And his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in ward, that it might be declared unto them at the mouth of the LORD.
Rashi writes (ibid):
THE SON OF AN EGYPTIAN MAN — It was the Egyptian whom Moses had killed ... AMONG THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL — This teaches us that he had become a proselyte
Rashi above (Exodus 2:11) explains further:

AN EGYPTIAN MAN — This was one of the taskmasters appointed over the Israelite officers and he used to rouse them from their beds at cock-crow that they might proceed to their work ...  SMITING A HEBREW MAN — beating and flogging him. The latter was the husband of Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri (see Leviticus 24:11), and the Egyptian taskmaster had set his fancy upon her. During the night he compelled him (her husband) to rise and made him leave the house. He, however, returned, entered the house and forced his attentions upon the woman, she believing it was her husband. The man returned and became aware of what had happened, and when the Egyptian perceived that he was aware of it he beat him and flogged him the whole day long
The Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:28) explains that she was the wife of Dathan

The Zohar (Vayikra 106a) also states that the blasphemer was either fighting with another son of Dathan from a different wife, for Dathan divorced Shelomith or he was fighting with Dathan himself

However, Pirkey deRabbi Eliezer (48:1) cites another opinion:
Bedijah, the grandson of Dan, married a wife from his tribe, Shelomith, daughter of Dibri,' and in that night the taskmasters of Pharaoh came to her, for they slew him and came to her, and she conceived and bare a son.
[There are also some opinions that he was the son of an Egyptian convert, whose name isn't known]

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Parshas Kedoshim 5776

What is Molech?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 20:1-2):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: Moreover, thou shalt say to the children of Israel: Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
Rashi explains (above 18:21):
This was an idol the name of which was "Molech", and this was the manner in which it was worshipped: that he (the father) handed his child over to the priests of the idol. These lit two large pyres one opposite the other and made the child to pass on foot between the two pyres (based on Sanhedrin 64)
Ibn Ezra (ibid) based on the Talmud adds:
And our Rabbis taught that this includes anything [i.e. any idol] that one makes a king over him
Rashi (Kings II 23:10) explains the process further:
the Tofeth: This was the Molech. Since priests would bang on drums so that the father would not hear the groans of the child when he would be burned by the hands of the pagan image, Molech, they called it Topheth. 
(other commentaries ibid say that the child was burned between the two sets of fires and not the hands of the idol, see also Rashi on Jeremiah 7:31 that elaborates that they placed the child in the hands of the idol which were heated up)

Sefer HaChinuch (208) explains a disagreement as to what the exact worship of Molech was:
Rashi and Rambam learn that they did not burn the child only that the worship of this idol was to pass the child in front of it, and once the child has passed the parents are liable. However, the Ramban learns that they would pass the child into the fire until his/her soul left [and he/she died]
Ibn Ezra (ibid) cites a similar opinion:
And some say that they would pass the child through the fire, and some children lived and some died
Ramban (ibid) cites opinions connecting this with other idols in Tanach:
It is an idol named "Molech" and it is mentioned by name for it was well known in Egypt and thus known to them, and Rabbi Abraham says that this was probably "Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon" (Kings II 23:13) and "then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh the detestation of Moab, in the mount that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestation of the children of Ammon" (Kings I 11:7) and it was also known to them
(see also our earlier post)

However, the Talmud cites another opinion that Molech was not an idol - as explained by Rashi (ibid):
For Molech specifically was mentioned in the verse ... and not because it is an idol only because it is a decree (חוק) for them and the Torah punishes this decree with stoning
 Sforno (ibid) explains the reasoning behind this:
the difference between offering sacrifices to the Moloch and to G’d respectively is that to G’d only animals are sacrificed, whereas to the deity known as Moloch, human beings, specifically one’s son, is sacrificed. This would indicate that the worshipper of the Moloch considers him as more powerful than G’d, for why else would he sacrifice his dearest possession, his son, to him and not to G’d?

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Parshas Acharei Mos (5776)

What is Azazel?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 16:8):
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for Azazel.
Rashi (ibid) explains (based on the Talmud Yoma 67b):
עזאזל AZAZEL — (The word is taken to be a compound of עזז "to be strong" and אל "mighty"). It was a precipitous and flinty rock — a towering peak, for it is said (v. 22) "[and the goat shall bear upon it their iniquities into] an גזר) "ארץ גזרה means to cut) — into a craggy land (Yoma 67b).
(see also Ibn Ezra ibid that explains that this refers to a name of a mountain, and it was a mountain near Mt. Sinai)

Daas Zkenim (ibid) explains this is referring to the Satanic forces:
גורל אחד לה' וגורל אחד לעזאזל, “one lot for the Lord and one lot for Azazel.” Ibn Ezra, [at the conclusion of his commentary on this verse, Ed.], writes that when we get to thirty three, we will be able to understand the meaning of this procedure. [At the beginning of his commentary, he had already hinted that there is a mystical element, kabbalah, in all this. Ed.] What he meant was that when we count the next thirty three verses in the Torah and we get to Leviticus 17:7 the Torah will explain that the procedure described here is meant to teach us not to sacrifice to Satanic forces in the universe anymore. These Satanic forces are symbolised by the scapegoat. Just as the bird released into the air by the priest performing the ritual of the person afflicted with tzoraat is perceived as taking away his former sins, so the scapegoat is supposed to do this on behalf of the whole Jewish nation on the day of Atonement. Ibn Ezra understands the word עזאזל as a combination of two words, similar to גלעד in Genesis 31:47 or to בנימין in Genesis 35:18 or ראובן in Genesis 29:32 and many others. Whereas the first male goat is offered to the Lord as a burnt offering, the second one is symbolically tendered of the Satanic forces, the complete destruction of that animal pointing at the uselessness of idolatry The two words לעז אזל, “it went to waste, to destruction ” symbolise this concept.
Shadal (ibid) explains in a similar fashion:
It seems that this used to be a name of an evil god - Satan ... and for those who believe in the oneness of G-d do not believe in the existence of an evil god, this simply refers to complete evil, similar to the way today we say "Satan" to talk about a great evil and destruction, and this goat was sent to its destruction in the desert for it died from hunger ... however after the land was settled and there was not enough wilderness left it was then necessary to pus hthe goat off a cliff so it does not wonder into another city
Kli Yakar (ibid):
It seems that these two goats were similar to the two goats that Jacob made for Isaac, and one was made into good foods that he loved and that is the portion of Samael...
Yalkut Shemoni (44:1) explains that this refers to angels:
[At the time of the Flood] two angels stood up and said in front of G-d ... gives us permission to go down and walk among mortals and see how we will sanctify your name. G-d told them to descend and they sinned with the daughters of men ... Shamchazai repented ... but Azael did not repent ... and therefore the Jews sacrifice sacrifices on the Days of Atonement - one to G-d to atone for the Jewish people, and one to Azazel
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (The Living Torah ibid) cites other opinions:
... others say that azazel means 'to be sent away' (Septuagint), or 'to carry away sins' (Symachus; Vulgate) ... Some say that Azazel represents the forces of nature (Hirsch)

Where Did the Sons of Aaron Die?

The Torah writes (Lev. 16:1):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD, and died;
Sifra / Toras Kohanim (Shemini, Milum 35) writes:
Rabbi Eliezer said: they did not die but outside, in a place Levites are permitted to enter as it said: "they drew near and carried them by their tunics". If so, why does it say "they died in front of G-d"? An angel obstructed them, and pushed them out, and they went out. Rabbi Akiva said: they died inside as it says "and they died in front of G-d". If so, why does it say "they drew near and carried them by their tunics"? - to teach us that they took hooks of iron and dragged them out.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Parshas Tazria (5776)

Why Aaron was Chosen?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 13:1-2):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying: When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, or a scab, or a bright spot, and it become in the skin of his flesh the plague of leprosy, then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests.
Ibn Ezra (ibid) explains that this includes the High Priest, regular priests that are not outside the Temple, and not priests that are disqualified from service

Rashi (ibid) explains:
It is an enactment of Scripture (גזרת הכתוב) that the uncleanness and purification of leprous plagues are pronounced only by the mouth of a priest (Sifra).

Meshech Chochma (ibid) explains further:
The subject of afflictions being given over to Aaron, the Priest, is one of the mysteries of the Torah that holy and profane is dependent on the priest ... However, it is possibly to answer differently that these afflictions are a sickness that attaches itself ... and it is necessary to have extreme providence for the one who busies himself with it in order to be saved from it and to be separated from it so the afflication does not attach itself to him, and therefore the Torah choose the descendents of Aaron who are separate from the rest of the Jewish nation and have more direct providence ...
Kli Yakar (ibid) also explains that Aaron had three good traits which counteracted the three sins causing tzaaras: he loved peace which counteracted evil speech, he was humble which counteract haughtiness, and he did not have any land in Israel which counteracted the sin of desire for money

Who Inspected Tzaraas on Miriam?

The Talmud (Zevachim 102b-103a) states as follows:
Rab said: Our teacher Moses was a High Priest, and received a share of the holy sacrifices ... An objection is raised: Who shut Miriam [outside the camp]? If you say, Moses shut her up, surely Moses was a non-priest, and a non-priest cannot inspect plagues [of leprosy]. If you say that Aaron shut her away, Aaron was a relation, and a relation cannot inspect [leprous] plagues. Rather, the Holy One, blessed be He, bestowed great honour upon Miriam in that moment, and declared, I am a priest: I will shut her away, I will declare her a definite [leper], and I will free her. He teaches at all events, ‘Moses was a non-priest and a non-priest cannot inspect plagues’? — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: The inspection of leprosy is different, because Aaron and his sons are specified in that section.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Parshas Shemini (5776)

Why did Nadab and Abihu Die?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 10:1):
And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
Rashi (ibid):
Rabbi Eleizer said: the sons of Aaron died only because they gave decisions on religious matters in the presence of their teacher, Moses (Sifra; Eruvin 63a)
Rabbi Ishmael said: they died because they entered the Sanctuary intoxicated by wine.
Vayikra Rabbah (20:9):
Because they did not wear the proper garments for it says (Exodus 28): "and it should be on Aaron and his sons", and what were they missing? The robe (מעיל)
And because they entered without washing their hands and feet, for it says (Exodus 30): "and they should wash their hands and feet, and not die", and it says: "when they come to the Tent of Meeting, they should wash with water"
And because they did not have children
Aba Hanin says: because they did not have wives for it says: "He should atone for himself and his household", household means "wife"
The Midrash adds (ibid 20:10):
Rabbi Levi said: they were arrogant, for many women sat unmarried because they wanted to marry them. What did they say? Our paternal uncle is king, our maternal uncle is a prince, our father is the High Priest, and we are two deputy High Priests, where would there be a woman that is fit for us!
Another reason (ibid, Talmud Sanhedrin 52a):
Moses and Aaron were walking, Nadab and Abihu were walking behind them, and all the Jews behind them. They said to each other: "When these two elders will die, then we will rule over everyone". G-d said back to them:  "Let's see who buries who"
Another reason (ibid):
"And to the nobles of the Children of Israel He did not lay His hand" (Exodus 24:10) ... for they looked at G-d like someone who looks at his friend while eating and drinking
Another reason (ibid 20:8):
For coming close, for they entered inside and inside [i.e. into the Holy of Holies]
And for bringing, for they brought a sacrifice that was not commanded
And for strange fire, for they brought it from a stove [i.e. not from the outer Altar]
And because they did not seek advice
(see the Sifra that explains that they did not seek advice from Moses or from each other)
Another answer (cited by Kli Yakar ibid):
And some say for the sin of the Golden Calf that Aaron made caused this to happen to them
Another answer (Meshach Chochmah 19):
The simple explanation is that they brought incense on the outer Altar
Another answer (Rashbam ibid):
Even though on ordinary days the rule of “the sons of Aaron will place in these pans fire on the altar” (Leviticus 1:7) was in effect, this rule did not apply to the day of inauguration, and Moses had not wanted any man made fire to be introduced into the Tabernacle. This was because he expected heavenly fire to manifest itself so that the addition of man made fire would have completely ruined the impact of the miracle.
Another answer (Shadal 10:1):
They did not intend to bring the morning incense for if so there would be not need for two pans, only they brought incense not commanded by G-d and they sinned because of arrogance: It was not enough for them to help their father serve ... they also wanted to show that they were also priests like Aaron, and since Moses did not assign any specific service for them to do they chose a service for themselves and brought in front of G-d a foreign fire...
Another answer (Abarbanel ibid):
the two of them sacrificed together and that was a great sin for incense is a service done by one person only, and not two people together
On the eighth day Moses served as the High Priest and only he was allowed to bring incense

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