Parashat Terumah

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Cohen

They shall make a Sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them. (25:8)

It is apropos that the first week Yachad Kollel begins learning in the new building is Parshat Terumah, the portion dealing with the building of the Mishkan. The Alshich HaKadosh, zl, notes the use of the word, b’tocham, in them, rather than b’tocho, in it. This teaches that every Jew must serve as a veritable Mishkan, sanctuary, for Hashem. Every Jew is a mikdash me’at, miniature sanctuary. This should be our self-view, and likewise, the way we look at others.

So while the Kollel enjoys the surrounding of a new beit midrash building, it is the people who it was built for that are the real Mishkan. May the community merit to see the mishkan me’at that is within us and the mikdash me’at that is the Kollel grow together!

Shabbat Shalom

 

Parashat Mishpatim

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh

וְכִֽי־יַכֶּ֨ה אִ֜ישׁ אֶת־עֵ֥ין עַבְדּ֛וֹ אֽוֹ־אֶת־עֵ֥ין אֲמָת֖וֹ וְשִֽׁחֲתָ֑הּ לַֽחָפְשִׁ֥י יְשַׁלְּחֶ֖נּוּ תַּ֥חַת עֵינֽוֹ׃

When a man (master) strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye.

Many question Hashem’s fairness and mercy when a child is born with a certain defect, or when a youngster gets sick or passes. Obviously, this is very hard for the relatives and everyone should pray for them. However, Ben Ish Chai in his drashot on the parasha gives an explanation to solve the riddle. He says we can see the answer from the words of this pasuk: וְכִֽי־יַכֶּ֨ה אִ֜יש – when a man strikes his slave. This phrase is hinting to when Hashem strikes a person by a blemish. לַֽחָפְשִׁ֥י יְשַׁלְּחֶ֖נּוּ – It is for sending him free on the account of a certain spiritual blemish.

Ben Ish Chai continues to explain from the following verse: וְאִם־שֵׁ֥ן עַבְדּ֛וֹ אֽוֹ־שֵׁ֥ן אֲמָת֖וֹ יַפִּ֑יל – If he knocks out the tooth of his slave (he goes free). שֵׁ֥ן is a shortened form of the Hebrew word Shana (year). If the master causes the years of his servant to be lost, it is to free him from his blemish. He explains that the Neshama actually begs Hashem for these defects since they will help fix the soul.

Shabbat Shalom

 

Parashat Yitro

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

This week’s portion contains the most important incident in the Torah which is Matan Torah. Rambam states our belief in Judaism is not because of the miracles Moshe performed, but rather because 600,000 Jews from age 20 and up were at Har Sinai and heard the Almighty talking. They all agreed by saying, “Naaseh ve nishma,” meaning we have so much faith in you that we are willing to do everything we are commanded and we will educate ourselves about it. No other nation in the world can claim that God spoke to them. This was only because of the Almighty’s love for Beni Israel.

It is interesting to note that before receiving the Torah, it says Beni Israel were standing under Mount Sinai. The Gemara asks why does it say under the mountain? Shouldn’t it say by the mountain?The Gemara answers that the Almighty picked up the mountain and placed it on top of the nation and warned them that if they don’t accept Torah, the world will cease to exist and they all would die.

The obvious question is, “Didn’t they say ‘Naasee ve nishma’ (we will do and educate ourselves)? So what was the reason for forcing them?”
Maaral answers that God wanted to show Beni Israel that of course we need to accept the Torah lovingly, but we need to understand that the world cannot exist without the Torah and merit in the world only exists because of Torah.

That’s why we make a blessing everyday thanking Hashem that we had merit that the Torah was given to Beni Israel, because Torah is the source of all the blessing. Let’s try to bring this great blessing to ourselves and family by keeping and learning the Torah.

 

Parashat Beshalach

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Shasho

וַיִּרְא֣וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וַיֹּ֨אמְר֜וּ אִ֤ישׁ אֶל־אָחִיו֙ מָ֣ן ה֔וּא כִּ֛י לֹ֥א יָדְע֖וּ מַה־ה֑וּא

“When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”—for they did not know what it was” (Shemot 16:15). Says the Ben Ish Chai the maan was one of the ten things created on Erev Shabbat before nightfall (Pirkei Avot 5:6). This teaches us the way of life according to the Torah.

The ten things created before nightfall are hints to the time of the end of the exile before the year six thousand. The six days of creation parallel the six thousand years of the world. The seventh day of creation is paralells the last thousand years of the world which will be a Shabbat (day of rest) for all those who merit to live in Olam Haba. Therefore the end of exile, which is the end of the six thousand years, is parallel to the Erev Shabbat of the days of creation. Most of the years leading to the six thousand have passed and we are still in exile. The maan was created at that time to teach us a lesson in the last years of exile. Even if a person is having financial difficulties, he should remember the maan which God provided the Jewish people in the desert. In the desert which was empty and desolate, God gave every single person – around three million people – food every single day. They were given bread from heaven which tasted like any food you could dream of.

A rabbi and a group of people once took a trip to Alaska where they witnessed firsthand Hashem’s influence in the world. They were on a ship when they passed by an area where many animals were hibernating in caves. The rabbi asked, “How do these animals survive during the brutal winter? What do they eat?” The tour guide explained that shrubbery grows around the caves where they sleep and that is enough to keep them going until they can find other food after the winter is over. גּ֣וֹל עַל־יי דַּרְכֶּ֑ךָ וּבְטַ֥ח עָ֝לָ֗יו וְה֣וּא יַעֲשֶֽׂה׃ “Leave all to God; trust in Him; He will do it” (Tehilim 37:5). No one is coming to give these animals food except God himself. If Hashem shows mercy to these animals in their time of need, how much more so to his children the Jewish people.

Every person should take time to understand and make this concept a part of his life. To have faith and trust in Hashem, the one who created and runs the world. It is upon us to rely on Hashem who can make something from nothing, especially in this generation where times may be tough and we don’t always see Hashem’s hand in everything. We must constantly build on our belief that everything is in Hashem’s hands.

 

Parashat Bo

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Avraham Moeinzadeh

The mitzva of tefillin is mentioned in four places throughout the entire Torah, two of which are written in our parasha, Parashat Bo. This week’s parasha commands us to write all four parts where the mitzva of tefillin is being discussed and tie them on the weaker hand and on the head because Hashem took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.Finding a connection between the way the mitzvah is performed and the reason behind it seems quite difficult since tefillin is meant to remind us of the strong hand. Then why we are commanded to place them on our weaker hand?Furthermore, what is the connection between tefillin on the head and the strong hand of Hashem?

Harav Moshe Feinstein writes that the “strong hand” is a symbol of doing things with passion. In the process of yetziat mitzrayim, Hashem went above and beyond what was necessary for the redemption, not just to fulfill his promise to Avraham Avinu but because of his love for Bnei Yisrael. As a response to this, it is expected from us to fulfill the mitzvot with passion and enthusiasm. This, however, is a level that is not achieved unless a person makes his mind tuned for it. The importance of keeping the Torah and mitzvot should be so clear to the person that he should be able to put all his other worries aside and be totally focused on performing the mitzva with his full heart. The prerequisite for having a mitzva loving mind is doing as many mitzvot as one is able to do even though he is not able to put all his strength in it. That is why we first have to place the tefillin on the hand and only then do we put the tefillin on our head.

 

Parashat Vaera

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shlomo Zargari

Shalom

Paroh, the King of Egypt, was a deep philosophical thinker and an intellectual researcher. His country was plagued with blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, and pestilence. It was a massive offensive, like clockwork exactly as he was warned. He was also told that nothing would happen to the Children of Yisrael. He sent agents to check the facts and bring the results to the government cabinet for investigation. They pored over the findings, reports and testimonies as it says :

וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְהִנֵּ֗ה לֹא־מֵ֛ת מִמִּקְנֵ֥ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַד־אֶחָ֑ד וַיִּכְבַּד֙ לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שִׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם׃ (פ)
When Paroh inquired, he found that not a head of the livestock of Yisrael had died; yet Paroh remained stubborn, and he would not let the people go.(Shemot 9,7)

The Iben Ezra explains not even one died.
Not even one died of a different sickness or old age, even ones on their deathbed didn’t die!!! But Paroh, “Remained stubborn, and he would not let the people go.” The Seforno says on this Pasuk that even though it was an impossible wonder and could only be attributable to the Creator Almighty, he still refused.

So what happened? Paroh himself sent for the investigation??? The answer is that we should not be naive… Some just like to question, to attack, to create havoc and disbelief. If they lose, they’ll just ignore and act as if nothing happened…

The Alshech Hakadosh points this out from the pasuk :
כִּי֩ יְדַבֵּ֨ר אֲלֵכֶ֤ם פַּרְעֹה֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר תְּנ֥וּ לָכֶ֖ם מוֹפֵ֑ת וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן קַ֧ח אֶֽת־מַטְּךָ֛ וְהַשְׁלֵ֥ךְ לִפְנֵֽי־פַרְעֹ֖ה יְהִ֥י לְתַנִּֽין׃
“When Paroh speaks to you and says, ‘Produce your marvel,’ you shall say to Aharon, ‘Take your rod and cast it down before Paroh.’ It shall turn into a serpent.”(Shemot 7,9) The Alshech says that the word לאמר seems to be extra. He explains that HaShem is telling Moshe and Aharon that Paroh is looking for proof only to disprove it. He just wants to be shown a “marvel “ so he could try to disprove it and attack it. But even if you show him many of these “marvels,” he will just ignore them and look the other way!!!

Sound familiar??

 

Parashat Shemot

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Cohen

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the first was Shifrah, and the name of the second was Puah. (1:15)

Rashi cites Chazal who say that Shifrah and Puah were none other than Yocheved and Miriam, Moshe Rabbeinu’s mother and sister, respectively. Shifrah was given this name because she beautified the newly-born infant. Puah, Miriam, was given her name because she was poeh, had spoken soothingly, calming down the infant. We note that up until this point Yocheved and Miriam had not been mentioned by their real names. The only names by which we know them are names describing their interaction with the infant. One would think that such elementary and natural activity, something which is commonplace among women, would not draw attention to the extent that it be worthy of acknowledging with a name.

Horav Yerucham Levovitz, zl, the great Mashgiach of the Mir, explains that names are important, playing a critical role in describing a person’s essence. Therefore, when the Torah refers to Yocheved and Miriam as Shifrah and Puah, it is indicating that these names characterize them. A simple, everyday activity has the power to convey the essence of a person. This teaches us that in this world there are no minor actions or major actions. It is all based on the individual who carries out the activity. A great person lives and acts with greatness. Every activity is an indication of his greatness, even the most trivial ones.

 

Parashat Vayechi

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh

זְבוּלֻ֕ן לְח֥וֹף יַמִּ֖ים יִשְׁכֹּ֑ן וְהוּא֙ לְח֣וֹף אֳנִיּ֔וֹת וְיַרְכָת֖וֹ עַל־צִידֹֽן׃
Zebulun shall dwell by the seashore; He shall be a haven for ships, And his flank shall rest on Sidon.

And Rashi explains:
לחוף ימים. … שֶׁהָיָה זְבוּלֻן עוֹסֵק בִּפְרַקְמַטְיָא וּמַמְצִיא מָזוֹן לְשֵׁבֶט יִשָּׂשכָר, וְהֵם עוֹסְקִים בַּתּוֹרָה. הוּא שֶׁאָמַר מֹשֶׁה שְׂמַח זְבוּלֻן בְּצֵאתֶךָ וְיִשָּׂשכָר בְּאֹהָלֶיךָ (דברים ל”ג), זְבוּלֻן יוֹצֵא בִּפְרַקְמַטְיָא, וְיִשָּׂשכָר עוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה בְּאֹהָלִים:
לחוף ימים

For Zebulun was engaged in business and provided food for the tribe of Issachar whilst they engaged in the study of the Torah. It is to this that Moses alludes, (Deuteronomy 33:18) “Rejoice Zebulun in thy going out and Issachar in thy tents”, — Zebulun goes forth to trade and Issachar studies the Torah in the tents (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayechi 11; cf. Rashi on Genesis ישב אהלים 25:27).

The Midrash states Zebulun is blessed for being the supporter of the Torah of Issachar. Despite the fact that Issachar was older than Zebulun, in Yaakov’s blessings Zebulun precedes Yissachar. Because Zebulun dealt with trade and Issachar dealt with Torah, Zebulun would come and feed Issachar and therefore he blessed Zebulun before his brother.

Gemara Pessachim 53a/b tells over a scenario that unfolded during the period of the Roman Empire. Todos the Roman Jew had instituted a custom that whole roasted goats were to be eaten by Jews on the eve of Pessach. The sages who were not happy about his actions ( as this appears like eating Korban Pessach outside of Jerusalem) sent him a letter of objection stating, “If you were not Todos we would decree ostracism on you.” Further the Gemara asks what caused the sages to hold back the decree. Was Todos an important person, or was he a strong / violent man who they were afraid? The Gemara provides the reason he was no ostracized.

רבי יוסי בר אבין אמר מטיל מלאי לכיס של תלמידי חכמים היה …
Rabbi Yosei bar Avin said: Todos was one who cast profits from merchandise into the purse of the Torah scholars (so they could open businesses). As Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Anyone who casts merchandise into the purse of Torah scholars is rewarded and sits in the heavenly Yeshiva, as it is stated, “For in the shadow of wisdom, is the shadow of money” (Ecclesiastes 7:12). One who provides Torah scholars with support will merit being with them in the shadow of wisdom.

Parashat Vayigash

Parasha Thoughts

Rabbi Yosef Shemtov

The most fascinating subject in this week’s portion is the confrontation between Yosef and his brothers. Now Yosef is the prime minister of a world power, Egypt, and his brothers are strangers who don’t have bread to eat. Yosef remembers his dreams and his brothers curtly as they had caused him so much sorrow. He remembers that he stayed in jail for 12 of the best of his years.

How does Yosef respond to his brothers when he introduces himself? “Don’t worry that you sold me into slavery because G-d has sent me here to provide you and the family with food.”

How did Yosef have such a power to forgive his brothers and comfort them? This is something supernatural. We know from last week’s portion that two years of jail time were added to Yosef’s punishment because he put his trust in human being by asking and begging so much the butler.

During these two years Yosef realized that God has a master plan and there must be a reason for everything that happens to a person. If Yosef went to jail, there must have been a reason for it. This way Yosef was able to forgive and forget.

Chanukah

Parasha Thoughts

By Rabbi David Shasho

The Gemara in Shabbat (21b) says the Mitzvah of Chanukah is to light a candle for a person and his household and the “Mehadrin,” someone who is more meticulous, lights a candle for each person in his family. One who is at an even higher level is the “Mehadrin Min Hamihadrin,” who lights adding a candle for each night. We see three levels of beautifying this mitzvah. Why with this mitzvah specifically did the rabbis give more options to be more meticulous and make the mitzvah more special, something we don’t find by any other mitzvah?

The Midrash says the Yom Tov of Chanukah is a reminder of the Menorah in the Bet Hamikdosh and we light it to remind us of the miracle that happened with it. It says three times in the Torah to be careful in the mitzvah of lighting the menorah, how to light it, and what to light it with. This is why we have three levels of beautifying the mitzvah, in the same way it applied to the menorah in the Bet Hamikdosh. We also find that when they rededicated the menorah, it took time to get money for a new one. First they made it out of copper, then silver, and finally gold – three levels of dedication.

When Hashem appeased Aharon HaKohen at the time of the Chanukat Hamishkan (Inauguration of the Tabernacle) with the lighting of the Menorah because he didn’t get to bring a sacrifice to Hashem as the other Shevatim had done, the Rambam explains that this alludes to the Chanukah lighting which takes place even without the Bet Hamikdash.

Our Rabbis tell us that the Chanukah light emanates from the inner soul of a Jew and therefore is not limited to a specific time and place. Perhaps this is because the sefarim teach us that the Menorah and the Chanukah candles emanate from the Torah Shebe’al Peh, the oral tradition, which is within the Jewish soul. This is the light which is our source of life in our bitter exile and will bring us to enjoy the light of Mashiach Amen.