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Parshat Vayikra: The Man in the Middle

Excerpted from Rabbi Norman Lamm’s ‘Derashot Ledorot: A Commentary for the Ages’– Leviticus  The key verse in our sidra, which introduces the entire subject of sacrifices, reads: “adam k yakriv mikem korban laHashem,” “When any man of you bringeth an offering unto the Lord” (Leviticus 1:2). The Zohar, intrigued by the use of the term “adam,” […]

Knowing and Announcing the Molad

In honor of the upcoming Shabbat Mevarekhim Chodesh Adar, OU Press is proud to feature an excerpt from Rabbi Elchanan Adler’s new book ‘Yerach Tov: Birkat HaChodesh in Jewish Law and Liturgy’, the prayer we recite ushering in the new month.    Sha’arei Ephraim writes (p. 145): Some say it is appropriate to know during […]

Parshat Vayakhel: Understanding Shabbat

Excerpted from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s ‘Unlocking The Torah Text: An In-Depth Journey Into The Weekly Parsha- Shemot Click here to buy the book  Context  As the curtain rises on Parshat Vayakhel, Moshe assembles the nation in order to convey God’s commandments concerning the construction of the Mishkan. Suddenly, however, he opens his remarks with the following directives […]

Parshat Teruma— Interpreting God’s Blueprint

As previously indicated, God initiates the creation of the Mishkan (the portable Sanctuary in the desert) with the seemingly straightforward directive, “And they shall create for me a mikdash (a holy place), and I will dwell within them.”

Parshat Mishpatim – Enlightened Self-Interest

Excerpted from Rabbi Norman Lamm’s ‘Derashot Ledorot: A Commentary for the Ages’- Exodus  Historians tell us that when they find a law in a document, they assume that the mode of conduct which this law prohibits is the one that generally prevailed before the law was passed. With this in mind, let us turn to […]

Parshat Yitro: A Healthy Distance

The physical posture of the Israelites during the Revelation at Sinai is clearly delineated in advance when, preparatory to Matan Torah, God instructs Moshe: “Set a boundary for the people roundabout saying, ‘Beware of ascending the mountain or touching its edge; whoever touches the mountain shall certainly die…”

This commandment of hagbala (setting a boundary), however, will not be divinely enforced. Instead, God commands the Israelites to execute anyone who crosses the mandated perimeter.

Parshat Beshalach: Miriam’s Song

After recording the triumphant song offered by “Moshe and the children of Israel” on the banks of the Sea of Reeds, the Torah states: “And Miriam the Prophetess, the sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand; and all the women went out after her with drums and with dances. And Miriam sang unto them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; the horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea.’ ”

Parshat Bo: Unnecessary Roughness?

As the intensity of the afflictions increases over the course of the plagues, Pharaoh offers three compromise positions to Moshe and the Israelites: worship your God in Egypt, depart Egypt temporarily with some of the people while others remain, depart Egypt temporarily with the entire nation but leave your cattle behind.

Moshe emphatically rejects each compromise in turn.

The second of these potential compromises appears towards the beginning of Parshat Bo, in the following puzzling conversation between Moshe and Pharaoh:

Pharaoh: “Go and worship your Lord! Who are they that shall go?”

Moshe: “With our young and with our old we will go! With our sons and with our daughters! With our sheep and with our cattle! For it is a festival of the Lord for us!”

Parshat Va’eira: Belated Introductions

When Moshe’s birth was chronicled in Parshat Shmot, the text deliberately omitted any description of his lineage, choosing instead to preface his birth with the mysterious sentence “And a man went from the House of Levi and he took a daughter of Levi.”

This omission of Moshe’s bona fides is now addressed in Parshat Va’eira.

God commands Moshe to return to Pharaoh and again demand the release of the Israelite slaves. When Moshe objects, citing his speech impediment, God repeats the directive, this time to both Moshe and Aharon.

The Torah then abruptly digresses to present a genealogical table listing the descendents of Yaakov’s oldest sons, Reuven, Shimon and Levi. The listing concludes with a detailed description of the lineage of Moshe and Aharon’s family within the tribe of Levi.

Upon completion of this genealogical record, the Torah returns to the narrative of the Exodus with the words “This was Aharon and Moshe…. They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh…. This was Moshe and Aharon.”