Monday, December 31, 2012

YUTorah on parashat Shemot

Audio Shiurim on Shemot
Rabbi Elchanan Adler: Realizing Our Greatness
Rabbi Hanan Balk: The Sins That Condemned the Jewish People to Egyptian Bondage
Rabbi Yedidya Berzon: Sefer Shemot as a Blueprint
Rabbi Yosef Blau: Moshe & Aharon The Balance between Emes and Shalom
Rabbi Asher Brander: Moshe at the S'neh
Rabbi Chaim Brovender: Vayakam Melekh Hadash - New And Not Improved
Rabbi Yitzchok Cohen: Bitachon in Hashem During Trying Times
Rabbi Avishai David: A New King?
Rabbi Ally Ehrman: We Are Maaminim Bnei Maaminim
Mrs Atara Eis: Behind Every Great Redeemer: The Mysterious and Heroic Life of Tziporah Eshet Moshe
Rabbi Chaim Eisenstein: 2 levels of Avodah, 2 levels of Milah
Rabbi Aaron Feigenbaum: Moshe's early years
Rabbi Joel Finkelstein: The Secret of the Jews in Egypt
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg: The Secret of Our Survival
Mrs. Yael Goldfischer: From the Furnace to the Future of Am Israel: Galut Mitzrayim Reasons and Ramifications
Rabbi Eric Goldman: Understanding the Motivation for Our Actions
Rabbi Yehuda Goldschmidt: Step Over the Small Thread and Climb the Big Mountain
Rabbi Moshe Gordon: An Overview of the reasons for Golus Mitzrayim
Rabbi Ephraim Greene: Yetzias Mitzrayim, Shovevim, and You!
Rabbi Shalom Hammer: Clarity and Vision
Rabbi Jesse Horn: Moshe, the Sneh and the value of curiosity
Rabbi Shimon Isaacson: Getting through the Tough Times /a>
Rabbi Ari Kahn: A new King - who Forgot Yosef
Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky: The Tzadik Rises Out of Galus
Rabbi Binyamin Kwalwasser: What's Right and What's Wrong?
Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz: Moshe: The Anti-Water
Rabbi Eliezer Lerner: What it means to be a believer
Dr. Michelle J. Levine: Forging Our Nation's Identity: The Lessons of Exile and Redemption
Rabbi Ben Leybovich: Make hope happen
Rabbi Shmuel Marcus: Adaptability and Faith
Rabbi Eitan Mayer: The Reluctant Recruitment of Moshe Rabbeinu
Mrs. Chani Newman: The Evils of Egypt - Why We Got In and How We Got Out
Mrs. Chana Prero: The Immortal Donkey?
Mrs. Nechama Price: The Tensions of an Isolated Jew in a Foreign Land: Yosef and Moshe
Rabbi Dani Rapp: Gilgulim
Rabbi Hershel Reichman: Manifestations of Galus
Rabbi Dovid Rosman: Keys to Jewish Leadership
Mrs Ilana Saks: Shifra & Puah
Rabbi Hershel Schachter: The Unique Nevuah of Moshe Rabbeinu
Mrs. Shoshana Schechter: Moshe Rabbeinu:From Man of Egypt to Prince of God
Rabbi Avi Schneider: Thanks Again!
Mrs. Shira Siev Shechter: Moshe Rabbeinu: A Part of the Nation or Apart from the Nation
Rabbi Baruch Simon: Caring About Others
Mrs. Shira Smiles: Redeemer's Reluctance
Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik: Moshe and Aaron – Emet and Chesed
Rabbi Reuven Spolter: The Forgotten Dream
Rabbi Moshe Stav: גאולה פנימית
Rabbi Moshe Taragin: Visionary Yirat Shamayim
Rabbi Michael Taubes: Naming Children
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner: Eliezer's Brit Milah
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg: The Mission: Building the Fourth and Final Wall
Dr. Shira Weiss: Pharoah: Malicious Tyrant or Divine Puppet?
Rabbi Jeremy Wieder: They Did Not Change Their Language An Introduction to the Targum
Rabbi Avraham Willig: The Distractions and Decoys of Olam Hazeh
Rabbi Andi Yudin: Becoming A Caring Person
Rabbi Ari Zahtz: Moshes Trouble Speaking
Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler: Where Are You Hashem?
Articles on Shemot

Dana Adler: Artificial Resuscitation and Midwifery: from Torah Times to Today
Rabbi Etan Moshe Berman: Why?
Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn: I'm Already There
Rebecca Feldman: Was Moshe Left Handed? The Case of the Sinister Minister
Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg: The burning bush, deep down every Jew wants to serve Hashem
Rabbi Ozer Glickman: Leaving on a Jet Plane
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin: A Blueprint for Persecution
Rabbi Avraham Gordimer: Significant Signs
Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb: The Secret of Moshe’s Selection
Rabbi Maury Grebenau: Moshe: A Name In Kind
Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg: הסתר פנים של משה
Rabbi David Horwitz: The Uniqueness of Moshe Rabbenu
Mrs. Rivka Kahan: The Hatan Damim Episode: A Preamble to Yetziat Mitzrayim
Rabbi Dr. John Krug: Bystanding Or By Standing
Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl: Hakarat Hatov
Rabbis Stanley M Wagner and Israel Drazin: Protecting the Dignity of Israelite Ancestors
Parsha Sheets on Shemot

HALB DRS: Dvarim Hayotzim Min Halev
MTA (YU High School for Boys): Shema Koleinu
YU/Torah miTzion Toronto Beit Midrash: Toronto Torah
Haftorah Shiurim on Shemot

Rabbi Avraham Rivlin: נשים באות מאירות אותה
Rabbi Zvi Romm: The Suffering of Klal Yisrael
Rabbi Jeremy WiederLaining for Parshat Shemot
See all shiurim on YUTorah for Parshat Shemot
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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why can't Moshe hit the water?

from the Golden Haggadah, Spain, 1300s
An interesting question posed at Judaism.StackExchange (that is, Mi Yodeya):
As a kid I learned that Moshe wasn't allowed to hit the water because it saved him when he was a child and he had to show hakaras hatov (similar answer for why he couldn't hit the sand that saved him by hiding the body of the mitzri he killed). But the water didn't save him, the little basket, the Egyptian lady who yanked him out or even the sister who watched him might have saved him, the water didn't do anything. If someone was in a car accident an survived unharmed they would say the seat belt saved them, not the road. How can we make sense of this ma'amar chazal?

I think that just as you can't ask a kasha on a maaseh, you often can't ask a kasha on a midrash.

On a peshat level, the reason it is Aharon who hits the water and the sand is that Hashem established Aharon as a spokesperson for Moshe, in the 4th perek of Shemot:

יג  וַיֹּאמֶר, בִּי אֲדֹנָי; שְׁלַח-נָא, בְּיַד-תִּשְׁלָח.13 And he said: 'Oh Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom Thou wilt send.'
יד  וַיִּחַר-אַף ה בְּמֹשֶׁה, וַיֹּאמֶר הֲלֹא אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ הַלֵּוִי--יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-דַבֵּר יְדַבֵּר הוּא; וְגַם הִנֵּה-הוּא יֹצֵא לִקְרָאתֶךָ, וְרָאֲךָ וְשָׂמַח בְּלִבּוֹ.14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: 'Is there not Aaron thy brother the Levite? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee; and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.
טו  וְדִבַּרְתָּ אֵלָיו, וְשַׂמְתָּ אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים בְּפִיו; וְאָנֹכִי, אֶהְיֶה עִם-פִּיךָ וְעִם-פִּיהוּ, וְהוֹרֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֵת אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשׂוּן.15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.
טז  וְדִבֶּר-הוּא לְךָ, אֶל-הָעָם; וְהָיָה הוּא יִהְיֶה-לְּךָ לְפֶה, וְאַתָּה תִּהְיֶה-לּוֹ לֵאלֹהִים.16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people; and it shall come to pass, that he shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him in God's stead.
יז  וְאֶת-הַמַּטֶּה הַזֶּה, תִּקַּח בְּיָדֶךָ, אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶׂה-בּוֹ, אֶת-הָאֹתֹת.  {פ}17 And thou shalt take in thy hand this rod, wherewith thou shalt do the signs.' {P}

and later in perek 7:
א  וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, רְאֵה נְתַתִּיךָ אֱלֹהִים לְפַרְעֹה; וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ, יִהְיֶה נְבִיאֶךָ.1 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'See, I have set thee in God's stead to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.
ב  אַתָּה תְדַבֵּר, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּךָּ; וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ יְדַבֵּר אֶל-פַּרְעֹה, וְשִׁלַּח אֶת-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאַרְצוֹ.2 Thou shalt speak all that I command thee; and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.

Still, it is irregular that sometimes Moshe takes action, and sometimes Aharon takes action, but there are surely peshat resolutions to this issue.

The Midrash is derash and derush. By derush, I mean that it is meant to teach a moral / ethical lesson. On a practical level, on which normal and sane people conduct themselves, people don't need to show gratitude to inanimate objects, which did not mean to assist in any way, and have no senses such that they would be hurt by being hit. And the river was hit anyway, whether by Moshe's direct action or by his command.

But the midrash is highlighting these actions by Aharon as a homiletic way to highlight the important trait of gratitude. And perhaps even gratitude for unintended side effects of other people's actions. Someone did not directly intend to benefit you, but they still effectively helped you out -- you should show, and feel, gratitude. Even if someone benefited you in a limited, transitory way, you should show, and feel, gratitude.

However, in terms of the challenges posed by the question, I think that they are readily surmounted. The sand hid the slain Egyptian. The water hid baby Moshe, such that the Egyptians did not find him. And it kept him their until he was found by the daughter of Pharaoh.

Further, there is a midrash that the astrologers told Pharaoh of one, soon to be born, who would challenge his power,  but that that person would die by water. (Think of Moshe hitting the rock and as a result dying in the midbar.) Therefore, Pharaoh commanding casting all infants into the Nile. The midrash continues that as soon as Moshe was cast into the water, the astrologers informed Pharaoh that they had sensed that this usurper had been cast into the Nile. And immediately, Pharaoh rescinded his decree. Thus, one could say that it was the water itself which had saved Moshe.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

posts so far for parshas Vayechi

Dec 2012

1. YUTorah on parashat Vayechi.

2. Why is Vayechi setuma? Ibn Caspi suggests that a parsha break is required here for reasons of reading length, rather than on logical grounds.

January 2012

1. Vaychi sources, even further expanded.

2. Three reasons for Yaakov to avoid being buried in Egypt --  R' Yonasan Eibeshitz explains why each is necessary. These three reasons are:

  • in the end, its dust would become lice
  • that the dead of chul laAretz only live via the pain of underground rolling
  • so that the Egyptians should not make him a deity.

  • 3. YUTorah on parashat Vayechi.

    4. Chasam Sofer on מִטֶּרֶף בְּנִי עָלִיתָ -- Parsing it as referring to tarof toraf yosef, he interprets it in a consistent, positive, manner. That Yehuda has moved out from under the chashad of offing Yosef.

    5. What nekitas chefetz was there, if Yaakov was nolad mahulSo asks Rav Chaim Kanievsky, further exploring the path set by Mizrachi. By Avraham, it was nekitas chefetz on the milah, and Avraham's very first mitzvah. Not so for Yaakov, on two counts. Rav Kanievsky's answer, and then I explore further.


    1. Vaychi sources -- further expanded.
    2. Is חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת a hendiadysI don't know. But I think that this is what Rashi, following the midrash, is suggesting as a matter of peshat.
    3. Does Rashi predict moshiach in 2011No. He cites Rav Saadia Gaon who predicts it in 1405, or rather, 1399. Of course, if you want to kvetch it, you can make Rashi or any sources say anything you want it to. But this shows only your own creativity and ability to distort Jewish sources. Also, a nice tie-in to this week's parasha, Vaychi.
    4. Darshening El Yisrael as Eil Yisrael --  Is this a revocalization for the sake of derash, or does it reflect their actual vocalization?
    5. Reuven and Bilhah --  In Midrash Rabba, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi takes a peshat-approach to the incident.
    6. Parsha questions -- From Junior's school parsha sheet, questions on the parsha for Shabbos table discussion. Coupled with my answers.
    7. The incident with Reuven and Bilhah, in light of Divrei Hayamim and the Code of Hammurabi --  The Torah's recording of the incident in Vayishlach is terse, and Chazal interpret it in two ways. And the seeming reference to the incident in Yaakov's blessing in Vaychi is cryptic. But Divrei Hayamim expands upon it. Plus, there is a fascinating parallel in the Code of Hamurabbi that sheds excellent light on the matter.
    8. A blessing for Yosef, or for his sons?  Rumors of a popular variant have been greatly exaggerated. And in fact, contextcan support a blessing for Yosef alone. Update: I am wrong about the Peshita on this postI was misled by a mislabeled Targum.
    9. Salvation -- nothing to sneeze atWhy the sudden interjection in Yaakov's blessings?

    Dec 2009

    1. Vaychi sources -- more than 100 meforshim on the parsha and haftora.
    2. For how long does Binyamin consume his preyA Chizkuni on Vaychi, where he parses apasuk apparently against its trup, past the etnachta, as baboker yochal ad la'erev. With the same justification he offered in last week's parsha.
    3. The trup on va`ani -- A variant trup has revii on Bereishit 48:22 instead of gershayim. What would be the difference, in terms of the parse of the pasuk?
    4. Ibn Caspi on the "calling" of Yehuda -- Once again, Ibn Caspi interprets the trup, which informs us of meaning. This time the revii on Yehuda of Yehuda ata yoducha achecha. Also, a clarification of what Ibn Caspi means when referring to the gaaya -- namely, a zakef gadol, which is a disjunctive accent..
    5. The yetiv on ad ki yavo Shilo -- According to Rabbenu Bachya's rebbe, the trup on ad ki yavo Shilo led Onkelos to renderad as forever, such that it is "forever once mashiach comes", rather than "until mashiach comes". This is a good response to Christians. But Shadal doesn't find it compelling.
    6. The possible double entendre of Lo Yasur Shevet Miyhuda -- namely, until Shelah comes.

    Jan 2009
    December 2007
    • An Open Canon Vs. Changing The Truth
      • Did Yaakov really command the brothers to tell Yosef to forgive his brothers their transgression. This hooks into the question of whether Yaakov ever found out about the sale of Yosef. Now, the brothers relate this command to Yosef, but we never see Yaakov command this. And a gemara in Yevamot, 65b, states that this was a changing of the truth for the sake of peace, as a precedent for doing the same. It is also a closed-canon approach. An open canon approach would allow otherwise unknown event to occur. And an example from Yona where something happens without being previously mentioned.
    • The Trup On "Asher Kana Avraham"
      • and why on such similar words across pesukim, the trup shifts over. A Wickes-based explanation, featuring trup charts and Prepositional Phrases.
    • The Count of Pesukim in Sefer Bereishit
      • Understanding the extended gematria in a masoretic note. Plus, ד appears to stand for shem haShem here!
    • Yaakov Avinu Didn't Die
      • We consider the famous midrash, and discussion in Taanit that Yaakov Avinu did not die. Was Rav Yitzchak going for a spit-take? What are the implications of this statement? How exactly is this deduced midrashically from the pasuk in Yirmiya, and how does that pasuk work on a peshat level, from the perspective of poetic parallelism?
    Dec 2004


    • Maaseh Avot Siman LaBanim
      • To Eliezer's oath to Avraham. An oath to a dying man, a theme of staying rooted in Eretz Yisrael. Also, where they differ.
    • Why Did Yaakov Bow? And Did Yaakov Bow?
      • I recommend this one. In it, I suggest that vayishtachu does not mean "bowed" but rather "lied prostrate," because he was weak and sick. This is in contrast to later, when the pasuk relates that he became strengthened and sat on the head of the bed.
    • Further Maaseh Avot Siman LaBanim
      • A striking similarity between the presentation of Ephraim and Menashe to Yaakov, and the earlier meeting of Esav and Yaakov.
    • A Final Maaseh Avot Siman LaBanim
      • In which Yaakov seemingly recreates his theft of Yitzchak's blessing when he blesses Ephraim and Menashe.


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