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.
Parshas Pikudei begins with a detailed accounting of all of the gold and silver that was collected for the Mishkan. A cursory reading would lead us to assume that while of course a man as great as Moshe was above question, he must have asked for this calculation because public leaders must remove any suspicion no matter how farfetched.
The Rambam, in Hilchos Shabbos 24:7, rules that Beis Din may not carry out the punishment of either death or lashes on Shabbos. He cites the same pasuk of “lo seva’aru” as the source for this halacha. In his Sefer Hamitzvos the Rambam lists as a separate negative commandment (number 322) that Beis Din may not judge or carry out a punishment on Shabbos.
The name Bezalel was adopted by the artist Boris Schatz for the School of Arts and Crafts he founded in Israel in 1906, and Rav Kook wrote a touching letter in support of its creation. He saw the renaissance of art in the Holy Land as a symbol of the regeneration of the Jewish people in its own land, landscape and birthplace. Judaism in the Diaspora, removed from a natural connection with its own historic environment, was inevitably cerebral and spiritual, “alienated.”
Klal Yisroel stood at Har Sinai and accepted the Torah in a state of supreme purity and complete unity. Every Jew reached a level of prophecy and witnessed an unparalleled revelation of G-d. Then Moshe ascended Har Sinai for forty days so G-d could teach him the laws and details of the Torah.
Being human, we are limited in our ability to understand. Tragic events seem senseless, without a rhyme or reason. World events can seem confusing, with the future uncertain. On Purim, we recognize that God’s Hand is guiding it all. The King is working behind the scenes, pulling the strings. We may not understand all of the twists and turns of the narrative, but we know the Author. All we have to do is put our trust in Him.