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Many passages in the Torah appear at first glance to be repetitious. Often, each iteration has a unique and deep message. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, finds such a case (in the passage of the Blessings and Curses) in the Torah's instruction to keep Hashem’s commandments and walk in His ways. Also in the passage of the Blessings and Curses, Rabbi Miller highlights the great blessing of a long life.
Parshas Naso is notable for its length, and its length is notable for its redundancy. The Torah minces no words, and therefore we understand that the repetition in the description of the Mishkan's inaugural service is purposeful and laden with meaning. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that this is a reflection on the importance and centrality of the Mishkan.
The truth is sometimes unpopular or uncomfortable. Thus, people who wish to dismiss the Hand of Hashem from history and human affairs may be taken aback by the assertion of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, based on the beginning of this parshah, that the suffering that befalls Israel comes for a Divine purpose. Rabbi Miller finds this purpose explicit in the opening words of Bechukosai, and observes that this “wish” (to dismiss the Hand of Hashem from history) is not a Jewish way of thinking.
The Talmud tells us that compassion is one of the three traits that distinguish the nation of Israel (the others are shame and kindness). The Torah abounds with commandments that exercise this quality, and Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that they are given for exactly that purpose.
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.
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.
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.
“For I have made heavy his heart and the heart of his servants in order that I should put these signs of mine in his midst and in order that you should relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son how I dealt with Egypt, and you should know that I am Hashem” (10:1-2).
“And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt” (41:45). This was one of the greatest tests he underwent in his career. Wearing the king’s ring (41:42), clothed in royal linen with a golden chain around his neck (ibid.), riding in the second royal chariot with runners before him (41:43), having full power over the land (41:44), having an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife the daughter of a priest, he had every reason to disown his family which had so wronged him, and he could have without any effort become a full Egyptian in heart and soul.
The story of Joseph’s rise to power is striking. Each facet of Joseph’s life was a preparation for his grand career as one of Israel’s foremost leaders. In this episode, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, found Hashem’s providence to be strikingly evident and saw in each incident of his life the future benefit for Israel.
Hashem has many agents who do His bidding and bring about in the world the ends He desires. Sometimes the agent is rather unlikely, as when an evil person’s deeds bring about something beneficial. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that such was the case when Rivkah’s family bestowed upon her a blessing that in fact alluded to Israel’s ultimate elevation over the other nations, and Hashem’s ultimate kingship over all the world.
Jewish religious observance suffered a propitious decline in early- and mid-20th century America.