Joshua 5:13

August 7, 2013, by

In the next verse, the man with the sword identifies himself as an angel, an officer in the Heavenly army. The Talmud in Eiruvin (63b) tells us that the angel chastised Joshua for being so preoccupied with preparing for the battle of Jericho that he neglected his Torah studies. Before the battle of Ai, Joshua […]

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Exodus 34:7

August 5, 2013, by

As familiar as this verse is, parts of it are obscure and even appear contradictory. In his Aramaic translation, Onkelos clarifies it with insertions to fill in the gaps. He renders this verse: “(G-d) extends mercy to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. He cleanses those who return to His Torah; He […]

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Proverbs 6:23

August 2, 2013, by

The context, as we see from the previous verse, is the protection that one receives in the Next World from the merits that he earned in this world. The Talmud in Sotah (21a) explains that the merit of a mitzvah is like a candle – it will light one’s way but only for so long. […]

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Psalms 14:1

August 1, 2013, by

The commentators see in this Psalm a prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed the Temple. The Metzudas David explains that Nebuchadnezzar acted as he did because he did not believe that G-d exists. The plural “they” in the second part refers to Nebuchadnezzar, plus the nation that followed him. The Psalm speaks in the past tense […]

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Habakkuk 1:1

July 31, 2013, by

The text gives us no biographical information about the prophet Habakkuk (Chavakuk). The Zohar on parshas Beshalach cites a tradition that Habakkuk is the son that the Shunamite woman gave birth to after being blessed by the prophet Elisha. Elisha told her, “Next year at this time, you will embrace a son” (2 Kings 4:16). […]

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Judges 11:39

July 30, 2013, by

Yiftach (Jephthah) acted impulsively by offering the first thing to greet him as a sacrifice. Unfortunately, that turned out to be his own daughter. Nowhere, however, does it say that he actually sacrificed her, human sacrifice being detestable to G-d. The Radak tells us that Yiftach built his daughter a house, where he sequestered her […]

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Exodus 28:10

July 29, 2013, by

There were two stones on the shoulders of the ephod (a garment worn by the Kohein Gadol), each bearing the names of six Tribes. The Talmud in Sotah (36a-b) discusses the matter at some length and cites a tradition that the names were divided so that there were 25 letters on each stone. The problem […]

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Shir HaShirim 1:5

July 26, 2013, by

In this verse, Rashi says, the nation of Israel answers the other nations. They have complained that Israel has been blackened by her sins and Israel replies that even though we may have been blackened by our own deeds, we remain beautiful thanks to the deeds of our ancestors. Even more, we still have beautiful […]

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Psalms 23:4

July 25, 2013, by

Where is the “valley of the shadow of death” referred to in this famous verse? Most commentators feel that David is speaking poetically but Rashi feels that David is referring to an actual event that occurred in a specific place. In I Samuel chapter 23, King Saul, who was pursuing David, almost caught him on […]

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Zechariah 9:9

July 24, 2013, by

The image of a righteous, victorious and humble king riding to Jerusalem on a lowly donkey is taken by most as a messianic prophecy. The Ibn Ezra, however, attributes it to Judah Maccabee, hero of the Chanukah story. He supports this position by citing Zechariah 9:14, just a few verses later, which states that G-d […]

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