Although the tzoraas affliction is no more in contemporary times, it teaches lessons that are eternal. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that foremost among these lessons is the greatness of Torah leaders and their wisdom. Another lesson: The opportunity the affliction presented to the afflicted for repentance and seld-improvement.
When Rabbi Berel Wein began working for the O.U. kashrus division, he shared an office with Rabbi Alexander Rosenberg a’h, the founder of the kashrus division and its administrator for thirty years.
More than 1500 people died on the Titanic. As a result of the tragedy, out of date conventions and procedures were changed, navigational mistakes were identified and corrected, and the threat of ice was taken seriously—even in the era of modern ships. Walter Lord, in his seminal book on the disaster, A Night to Remember (1955), wrote: “Never again would men fling a ship into an ice field, heedless of warnings, putting their whole trust in a few thousand tons of steel and rivets. From then on Atlantic liners took ice messages seriously, steered clear, or slowed down. Nobody believed in the ‘unsinkable ship.’
The commentators discuss the meaning and implications of the “strange fire” brought as an offering by Nadav and Avihu. In his discussion of this perplexing passage, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, discusses their early demise and observes that their death served a greater purpose (through the sadness that ensued) and that despite receiving a divine death penalty, the Torah regards them as great people.
“Tell Bnei Yisrael, “These are the creatures you should eat.” – Vayikrah 11:2 Chovos Halevovos (Sha’ar Avodas Elokim 3) explains that Hashem created man out...
Why was spontaneity wrong for Nadav and Avihu, yet right for Moshe Rabbeinu? The answer is that Nadav and Avihu were kohanim, priests. Moses was a navi, a prophet. These are two different forms of religious leadership. They involve different tasks and different sensibilities, indeed different approaches to time itself.
In this week’s parshah the Torah teaches us which animals are kosher to eat and which are not. The Torah says that the pig, although it has split hooves, is not kosher since it does not chew its cud. The medrash on this pasuk says that the reason that the pig is called “chazir” is because in the future Hashem will return (lehachzir) the pig to Bnei Yisrael and permit it to be eaten.
Historically, one of man’s greatest shortcomings has been taking credit for Hashem’s work. Only too often does a man find success and, in his arrogance, feel his power and his might created his empire. The Torah warns us, Remember: it was Hashem who brought all this to be.
On April 14, 1912, at 11:40 p.m., the Titanic struck an iceberg. It sank at 2:20 a.m. on April 15. Thus, this month (both according to the Jewish and secular calendars) marks the centennial of the disaster. Despite the passage of time, the tragedy still fascinates people and continues to be a source of lessons learned - both good and bad.
The miraculous splitting of the Sea of Reeds was one of the pinnacles of Israel’s closeness to Hashem. It raises a question, though: Why? Hashem typically hides His presence somewhat, conducting the world in a discrete way and never revealing His presence so openly. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, this spectacle on the Sea of Reeds was performed with two great purposes in mind.
In order to fulfill one’s obligation in the mitzvah of matzah, one must eat a k’zayis amount of matzah. This is because the Torah uses the wording of achilah (eating) when it commands the mitzvah of matzah.
An act never dies. Each word you utter, each mitzvah you do, continues to ring in the world for all eternity. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, teaches it was such an eternal act that was the undoing of Pharaoh and the making of Israel as a nation of holy people.
After months and months of rebellion, Pharaoh finally admitted he was wrong. The Dos Zakainim explains that the plague of barad moved Pharaoh more than any other. And it was because of one factor: Moshe had warned him that the hail would kill anything living. Again and again, Moshe cautioned Pharaoh to take his livestock and his slaves inside. Because Pharaoh was repeatedly warned to save the living creatures, he was moved and recognized his error.
The Gemara in Pesachim 115a says that there was a machlokes regarding how one was supposed to eat matzah and marror in the times of the Beis HaMikdash. Hillel said that during those times, when there was a korban Pesach, matzah and marror should be eaten together. His peers argued that they must be eaten separately. The Gemara concludes that since the halacha was not paskened we eat matzah separately, then marror separately, and then both together to accommodate both opinions.
After a long and detailed description of the avodah (service) to be done in the Mishkan, the parshah ends with statement that “Aaron and his sons did as they were told.”
The evil inclination likes to tempt us to indulge in material delights. It is important to know that these delights may have another purpose, too: kedushah (holiness).
In this week’s parshah the Torah teaches many of the halachos of the korbanos. Each of the korbanos has a limited amount of time when they may be eaten, after which they become nosar and forbidden.
In her book The Watchman’s Rattle, subtitled Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction, Rebecca Costa delivers a fascinating account of how civilizations die. Their problems become too complex. Societies reach what she calls a cognitive threshold. They simply can’t chart a path from the present to the future.
“At the time that my wife and I made aliyah, the Ministry of Interior required certification through the chief rabbinate that any new immigrants were Jews in order to qualify for citizenship and immigrant benefits. After an hour-long wait at the ministry to be interviewed, my wife and I sat before a hard-faced clerk. I did not have a letter from a rabbi certifying to my Jewishness, but I felt confident that since I was on the chief rabbinate's list of approved rabbis whose letter would be accepted to verify the Jewishness of others, I would suffer no problem.
To the modern mind, korbanos may seem foreign or hard to understand. Yet they were a key component of the service of Hashem. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that offerings served many purposes, including a primary purpose of expressing thanks to Hashem. Thus, following the book of Exodus comes the book dealing with sacrifices as an expression of thanks for the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
The Dos Zakainim explains that the reason every korban must be brought with salt is to remind us that just as salt is a preservative that allows food to last longer, so too the sacrifices are permanently ours to cleanse us from our sins.
At the conclusion of this week’s parshah, the Torah discusses the halachos of one who stole from another. The pasuk says, “veheishiv es hagezeilah asher gazal – and he shall return the stolen object that he stole.” We derive from this that there is a mitzvas assei to return a stolen object.
We think of a sin as something we did intentionally, yielding to temptation perhaps, or in a moment of rebellion. That is what Jewish law calls b’zadon in biblical Hebrew or b’mezid in rabbinic Hebrew. That is the kind of act we would have thought calls for a sin offering. But actually such an act cannot be atoned for by an offering at all. So how do we make sense of the sin offering?
May 1864 was one of the bloodiest months in American military history. At what came to be known as the Battle of the Wilderness, General Grant’s Union forces suffered close to 18,000 casualties between May 3 and May 6. It seemed as yet another Union general, even one such as Grant who had been successful out west, lost to General Robert E. Lee.
Despite the intense suffering of slavery in Egypt, it was there that Israel became a nation – not just in the spiritual sense, but in the physical sense: it was there that our numbers swelled. This is to the credit of the Jewish women, who despite their oppression at the hands of Egypt relentlessly encouraged the growth of Israel. This provides a glimpse of the greatness of the Jewish women of that generation. Likewise in our times, it is the Jewish woman’s selfless devotion to service of Hashem that builds and sustains Israel.