Monday, September 21, 2015

Parshas Haazinu 5776

Many Generations

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 32:7):
Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations; Ask thy father, and he will declare unto thee, Thine elders, and they will tell thee.
According to Rashi (ibid) these refer to:
  • generations - the generation of Enosh, whom [God] inundated with the waters of the ocean, and the generation of the Flood
  • father - these are the prophets
  • elders - these are the Sages
According to the Vilna Gaon (Aderes Eliyahu ibid):
  • the days of old - this is Moses
  • many generations - this is Joshua and the Elders whose years were extended in the second generation
  • father - these are the Prophets
  • elders - these are the Elders that were before the Prophets
 Ohr haChaim (ibid) explains:
  • the days of old - the six days of Creation
  • many generations - the two generations - the one that went out of Egypt and the one that entered the Land
  • father - these are the Prophets
  • elders - there are the Sages of Israel
 (see also Ramban ibid)

Nations and Tribes

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 32:8):
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the borders of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.
Rashi (ibid) explains:
  • gave nations their lot - this is the generation of the Flood
  • separated the sons of man - this is the generation of the Dispersion
  • the number of the children of Israel - seventy nations according to the seventy descedents of Jacob who descended to Egypt

The Rashbam (ibid) explains:
  • gave nations their lot - when He assigned them to their lands
  • separated the sons of man - after the death of Noach and the time of Avraham
  • the number of the children of Israel - twelve descendants of Canaan corresponding to the eventual 12 tribes of Israel - Canaan and his 11 sons amounted to twelve
(see also Daas Zkenim ibid)

Ohr haChayim (ibid) explains:
  • gave nations their lot - when He assigned the nations to angels
  • separated the sons of man - He did not give them to one angel, but separated them, each to a separate angel
  • the number of the children of Israel - seventy angels according to the seventy souls that descended to Egypt
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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Parshas Vayelech 5776

What is the Tent of Meeting?

The Torah writes (Deutoronomy 31:14):
And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Behold, thy days approach that thou must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may give him a charge.’ And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tent of meeting.
The tent is first described earlier (Exodus 33:7):
Now Moses used to take the tent and to pitch it without the camp, afar off from the camp; and he called it The tent of meeting. And it came to pass, that every one that sought the LORD went out unto the tent of meeting, which was without the camp.
Rashi (ibid) explains the meaning of the term: 
And he would call it the tent of meeting. That is the meeting house of those seeking the Torah.
Later on, when the Tabernacle was built, the same term was used to refer to inner part of the Tabernacle covered with skins (Exodus 40:2):
’On the first day of the first month shalt thou rear up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.
Rashi explains (Exodus 33:11):
After He spoke with him, Moses would return to the camp and teach the elders what he had learned. Moses conducted himself in this way from Yom Kippur until the Mishkan was erected, but no more [than that] ... He [God] gave over to him the second tablets, and he [Moses] descended, and He [God] began commanding him concerning the work of the Mishkan. They constructed it until the first of Nissan, and once it was erected, He no longer spoke with him except from the Tent of Meeting. -[from Midrash Tanchuma 31, Seder Olam ch. 6]
Ha-emek Davar (Exodus 40:34) explains that this term refers normally to the Holy of Holies, but may occasionally refer to the entire part of the Tabernacle covered by the skins

The Torah also explains (Numbers 7:89) how G-d spoke to Moses in the Tabernacle:
And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.

Who was Joshua?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 31:23):
And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said: ‘Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore unto them; and I will be with thee.’
He was a servant of Moses (Exodus 33:11):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he would return into the camp; but his minister Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the Tent.
and (Numbers 11:28):
And Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses from his youth up, answered and said: ‘My lord Moses, shut them in.’
He was one of the spies (Numbers 13:16), and Moses changed his name:
These are the names of the men that Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.
He also fought with Amalek (Numbers 17:13):
And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
He was picked by Moses to conquer the Land (Numbers 34:17):
’These are the names of the men that shall take possession of the land for you: Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun.
He was considered a king (Bereishit Rabbah 59:6)

He married Rachab (Talmud Megilah 14b) and only had daughters, but not sons:

That [Rahab] became a convert and she married Joshua. But did Joshua have any offspring And isn't it written (I Chronicles 7:27) "Nun his son, Joshua his son" He did not have sons, but he did have daughters.
[Published at]

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Leaders and Hewers (Parshas Nitzavim 5775)

Who Are the Heads of the Tribes?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 29:9)
Ye are standing this day all of you before the LORD your God: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel
Rashi (ibid) and Ibn Ezra learns they are the heads of the tribes:
"your heads, your tribes" - these are the heads of the tribes
The Ramban (ibid) writes:
But according to my understanding, the Torah generalizes and then gets more specific. The general is "the heads and all the tribes", and then it goes back and explains in detail - "your elders and your officers" - they are your heads for an elder and a leader is considered a head ... And they are the heads for the Jews but not all of them, and the Torah goes back and says "even all the men of Israel" - for those are the tribes...
The Sforno (ibid) explains that these are the princes:
ראשיכם שבטיכם זקניכם ושוטריכם, the people Moses describes as ראשיכם, are those who are heads of their tribes, elsewhere referred to as נשיאים, "princes". The term ראש always includes the people who wield authority. זקניכם, your judges. ושוטריכם, the law enforcers empowered by the judges to enforce their judgements.
Targum Jonathan (ibid) explains that these are heads of the Sanhedrin and their enforcers

Sefer Shaarei Aharon also cites the Vilna Gaon that explains that this refers to the leaders of thousands and hundreds.

(see also Josh Waxman's parshablog and Sefer Shaarei Aharon)

Who are the Hewers and Drawers?

The Torah continues (Deuteronomy 29:10):
your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in the midst of thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water;
Daas Zkenim says this refers to slaves (ibid):
 “from the hewers of your wood for kindling,” i.e. male slaves; “to the ones drawing your water, i.e. the female slaves.”
Rashi says these were Canaanites that came to convert (ibid):

This teaches us that in the days of Moses, Canaanites came to convert, just as the Gibeonites came in the days of Joshua. This is the meaning of the verse regarding the Gibeonites, “And they also acted cunningly…” (Josh. 9:4)
(see Midrash Tanchuma and the Talmud [Yebomot 79a), who says that these were the same Gibeonites who tried to deceive Joshua, see also Josh Waxman's post in the parshablog)
The Ramban (ibid) writes that these were Erev Rav:
And the hewers of wood and the drawers of the water were from the mixed multitudes (Erev Rav)

(see also Sefer Shaarei Aharon for explanation what is bothering the various opinions listed here)

Which Idols Does the Torah Refer To?

The Torah writes (Deutronomy 29:16):
and ye have seen their detestable things, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were with them
Rashi (ibid) writes:
You saw those made of wood and stone out in the open, because the owners did not fear that they would be stolen. However, those of “silver and gold,” they “were with them,” in their treasure chambers, because [their owners] were afraid that these might be stolen.
The Vilna Gaon (Sefer Aderes Eliyahu ibid) explains:
"detestable things" - that is the detestable thing of Amon; "and their idols" - that is the idol of Moab which is Baal Peor; "wood and stone" - those are the idols of Esau and Ishmael; "silver and gold" - those are the idols of Sihon and Og
[Published at]

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Parshas Ki Savo 5775

Who is the Aramean Referred to in the Torah?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 26:5):
And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.
The Passover Hagaddah (see here) learns that this was Laban (see also Rashi here):
Go out and learn what what Lavan the Aramean sought to do to Ya'akov, our father; since Pharaoh only decreed [the death sentence] on the males but Lavan sought to uproot the whole [people]. As it is stated (Deuteronomy 26:5), "An Aramean was destroying my father and he went down to Egypt, and he resided there with a small number and he became there a nation, great, powerful and numerous."
The Rashbam (ibid) learns that this refers to Abraham:
ארמי אובד אבי, as if the Torah had written” my father Avraham was an Aramite, lost, and exiled from his birthplace Aram.” G’d had told him in Genesis 12,1 “go forth for yourself from your homeland, etc.” Later on, Avraham himself relates to Avimelech the king of the Philistines, (Genesis 20,13) that G’d had made him wander, away from his father’s house, etc. The meaning of the word אובד here is similar to תועה, the root Avraham used to describe wandering without specific objective, almost like walking because one is lost.
The Sforno (ibid) learns that this refers to Jacob:
ארמי אובד אבי, my father, i.e. Yaakov, who was for a while a wandering lost person without a home of his own, was not at the time able to establish a nation deserving or fit to inherit this land.
[see also Josh Waxman's parshablog which discusses grammatical reasons for why this cannot be Laban. Also see Sefer Shaarei Aharon here for further discussion]

Who is the king in the Tochacha?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy  28:36):
The LORD will bring thee, and thy king whom thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation that thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone.
The Ramban (Leviticus 26:16) learns that this refers to King Agrippa II:
And furthermore a proof from what it says "And G-d will bring you, and the king whom you shall set over you to a nation which you have not known; you and your forefathers" - for King Agrippa travelled to Rome in the end of the period of the Second Temple, and from that journey the Temple was destroyed. It does not say "the king which rules over you" but "your king which you placed" - G-d hints to us that he was not fit for kingship and it was forbidden for him to rule over the Jews according to Torah law. Nevertheless, he was set to rule - he and his ancestors, against the law, as it is explained in Sotah (41b)
He adds later on (Deuteronomy 28:42) that this may also refer to King Aristobulus II:
It also makes sense that this verse hints to another king before Agrippa and that would be Aristobulus who was captured by a Roman general and brought to Rome in chains
The Talmud (Yomah 52b) cites King Josiah who thought this verse referred to him:
Who hid it (i.e. the Ark)? [King] Josiah hid it. What was his reason? He saw the verse: "The LORD will bring thee, and thy king whom thou shalt set over thee"
(Rashi [ibid] explains this based on the Jerusalem Talmud [Shekalim] that he was afraid he would go to exile in Babylon and this verse was referring to him)

(It is possible that the phrase "that you set over you" refers to Josiah because he was appointed by the people after they assassinated his father)

Midrash Lekach Tov / Pesikta Zutrasi (Ki Savo) says:
These are kings Jeconiah, Zedekiah and Jehoiakim
(The phrase "that you set over you" may refer to these kings because they were appointed by outside sources - Pharaoh Necho and Nebuchadnezzar)

Related Posts

Where did the Levites Live? (Parshas Shoftim 5775)
Who are the Elders? (Parshas Vaeschanan 5775)
Placement of Levites during the blessings and curses (Parshas Reeh 5775)
Who was Sihon, Og and Other Giants (Parshas Devarim 5775
Location of Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim (Parshas Reeh 5775)

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