Avraham Avinu was commanded with a supreme test, and one of the greatest challenges ever presented to man: “Take your son, your only son, the son that you love…”
The Gemara in Kiddushin 29a derives from a pasuk in this week’s parshah that women are exempt from performing a bris milah on their sons. The pasuk says: “ka’asher tzivah oso Elokim” (Bereishis 21:4). The Gemara takes from the word “oso” (him) that women are exempt. The Rishonim there are disturbed by the following question: why is it necessary for this pasuk to be written in the Torah when it is a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma (time-sensitive mitzvah), which women are exempt from performing?
The special days of Tishrei have come and gone. But hopefully, we managed to elevate our level of spirituality so that we now feel closer to Hashem, even if just a little bit. I think that now is the right time to approach an extremely mystical aspect of Shabbos.
When Avraham Avinu was informed that his nephew Lot was captured, he waged war against the combined armies of the four kings. Miraculously, he was victorious and freed Lot.
In this week’s parshah, Hashem commands Avraham in the mitzvah of bris milah. The pasuk says that if one does not perform a bris he will be chayav kares. The Rambam writes in Hilchos Milah (1:2) that one who did not have a bris milah performed when he was a child must do so when he is an adult. He is mevatel a mitzvas assei every day that he delays doing so.
You thought that the Flood, the Mabul, was something that happened a long time ago. I did too—until I saw the Radak on a pasuk in this week’s haftarah. “For this to Me is like the waters of Noach. Just as I swore that the waters of Noach shall never again pass on to the earth, so too I swore never to be completely irate or fume at you.’ (Yeshaya 54:9)
Though history offers no hard and fast laws like we find in physics, it does provide us with some guidelines. One of the most important is that when it comes to making plans, “the enemy gets a vote” or as Winston Churchill put it: “However absorbed a commander may be in the elaboration of his own thoughts, it is necessary sometimes to take the enemy into consideration.”
The Rambam writes in Hilchos Melachim 9:1 that Adam HaRishon was commanded in six mitzvos, and Noach was commanded in a seventh. Adam was commanded to not do the following: worship avodah zarah, curse Hashem, kill, gilui arayos, and steal. He was also commanded to set up a court system. In addition to those commands, Noach was commanded not to eat from ever min hachai (a limb detached from a live animal).
While we wish the nations of the world success and prosperity, we realize that this feeling has not always been reciprocated.
He was known as one of the most successful and wealthy individuals in the country, and his fame seemed to grow as quickly as his profits. He was the envy of his acquaintances, the bane of his competition. So when the accusations were leveled against him it was an absolute shock. He was accused of murdering a seventeen-year-old girl and the evidence against him was incriminating.
The Mishnah in Sukkah 34b says that an esrog of urla (fruit from the first three years after the tree was planted) and that of terumah temeiah are unfit for use in fulfilling the mitzvah. The Gemara (35a) explains that this is because one of the requirements of the mitzvah is that one must be able to eat the esrog. Since one may not eat urla or terumah temeiah they are unfit for the mitzvah.
Every Shabbos we look forward to the delightful seudos where we enjoy delicious food and drinks, sing zemiros, say divrei Torah, and spend wonderful time with our families. This coming Shabbos, Yom Kippur, will be quite different. We will spend most of the day in prayer and repentance, begging Hashem to forgive us for our sins, and we may forget that it is also Shabbos. However, from the fact that we ask for forgiveness “on this day of Shabbos,” we see that there is an integral connection between Shabbos and the atonement of Yom Kippur.
This shemirah is represented by the sukkah - a fragile structure made of cheap, flimsy wood, without a door, without a lock, without an alarm system.
With the entire nation gathered at the foot of Har Sinai, Moshe Rabbeinu went up to receive the Torah. When he came down forty days later, the Jewish people were in a very different state from when he had left them. Through the influence of the mixed multitude, they were engaged in a form of idol worship. While it’s true that the vast majority of the people didn’t actively engage in the act, for such a people so soon after hearing, “I am Hashem Your G-d,” directly from our Creator, this was so egregious that it was considered as if they had each participated. The only hope was for Moshe to beseech Hashem for mercy.
There is a mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur. The pasuk says that we should do ennui to our soul on the ninth day of Tishrei. The Gemara, in Yuma 81b, explains that the pasuk cannot be referring to the ninth day because we know from other pesukim that the ennui is on the tenth of the month. Therefore the Gemara explains that the pasuk is teaching us that whoever eats on the ninth day is considered to have fasted on the ninth and tenth days.
Why do we call this Shabbos, Shabbos Shuvah? Is it because it’s the only Shabbos during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva? That can’t be the reason. After all, we don’t call this Shabbos, Shabbos Teshuvah. It’s specifically called Shabbos Shuvah. So you’ll tell me, shuvah, teshuvah—same thing, right? Both mean repentance. But we will see that the difference between teshuvah and shuvah is all the difference in the world.
Hashem told Moshe to engrave the names of the twelve shevatim onto the stones of the Ephod as a remembrance. Rashi explains that this was so that the memory of Reuven, Shimon, Levi, etc. would be invoked when the kohen gadol did the avodah, and Hashem would then remember their righteousness.
The Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah 16a says that on the first day of the year (Rosh Hashanah), every human being passes in front of Hashem and is judged. The Gemara there (16b) says in the name of Rabbi Kruspadai that there are three sefarim opened on Rosh Hashanah – one for tzaddikim, one for reshaim, and one for beinonim. The tzaddikim are inscribed for life, the reshaim are written for death, and the beinonim must wait until Yom Kippur to see what the judgment on them will be. If they are “zocheh,” they will be inscribed for life; if not, they will be marked for death.
"A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.
Peter Drucker famously said, “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.” Sadly, history is replete with examples of leaders who have not only ignored this principle, but who have lost focus of their immediate goals. By doing so, they not only fail to think about the second and third layers of effects, but they fail to consider the possibility of unintended consequences.
There is a famous pasuk in one of this week’s parshiyos, Parshas Nitzavim, which carries strong halachic ramifications.
After many grave warnings against leaving the ways of the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu tells Klal Yisrael that learning and keeping the Torah is within easy grasp of each of us. “Acquiring it doesn’t require wings to fly to the heavens, and studying it doesn’t demand crossing oceans.” Rather, Torah is well within the reach of each person.
At the beginning of this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of bikkurim. When one sees the first fruit blossoming, he is to tie a red string on that fruit, bring them to the Beis HaMikdash, and give them to a kohen. While there, he must read a passage from the Torah found in the beginning of this week’s parshah.
At the end of a long prophecy of what will befall us if we don’t follow the ways of Hashem, the Torah seems to lay the blame on one issue: because you did not serve Hashem…amid gladness and goodness of heart when everything was abundant. It seems the pivotal point of these two extremes is based on simcha, implying that serving Hashem with happiness is critical to our success as a nation.
We live in a time when something just six months old is considered outdated. Our generation strives for the most comfortable and easy way of life, and thus we are never satisfied with the “old-fashioned” devices. We, as Torah-abiding-Jews, definitely try our hardest not to get caught up in this wild and mad pursuit of worldly pleasures and comforts, but we can certainly learn an important lesson from this craziness.