This is a Dvar Torah that originally appeared a booklet full of Divrei Torah that my friend collated. She sends out a weekly Parsha Dvar Torah as well. If you’re interested in joining the email list, let me know.
The themes that stand out in this chapter are power and ambition and the Megillah guides us as to how we should act when wanting to increase and accept power.
Haman approaches King Achashverosh in the middle of the night to talk to him about the gallows he had made for Mordechai. However, Achashverosh asks him
, מַה-לַּעֲשׂוֹת בָּאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הַמֶּלֶךְ חָפֵץ בִּיקָרוֹ;
What should be done to the man who the king wishes to honour
According to the Malbim, Achashversosh is intentionally vague and merely says “the man”, guessing that Haman would assume the King was referring to him. Achashverosh’s instinct was correct as the verse continues with Haman’s inner thoughts
וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן, בְּלִבּוֹ, לְמִי יַחְפֹּץ הַמֶּלֶךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת יְקָר, יוֹתֵר מִמֶּנִּי
Now Haman said in his heart: ‘Whom would the king delight to honour besides myself?’—
Haman proceeds to divulge his deepest aspirations and desires. He wishes to wear the king’s clothing, ride the king’s horse, be paraded through the streets and even wear the King’s crown. According to the Targum Sheini, Haman’s proposal proves that Haman hoped that in the future he would become the king and as a result of that, Achashverosh decided to cut him down to size by making him organise Mordechai’s parade of honour.
After Mordeachai’s parade of honour, we are assured that the status quo is now just and fair. Mordechai is honoured and Haman is disgraced. The hero is recognised and the villain discredited.
וַיָּשָׁב מָרְדֳּכַי, אֶל-שַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ; וְהָמָן נִדְחַף אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ, אָבֵל וַחֲפוּי רֹאשׁ
And Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and having his head covered.
Malbim explains that Mordechai not only returned to the king’s gate, but to the position of honour he deserved, whereas Haman went home in disgrace. Haman’s disgrace is iterated by his wife Zeresh and his advisors who claim
וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ חֲכָמָיו וְזֶרֶשׁ אִשְׁתּוֹ, אִם מִזֶּרַע הַיְּהוּדִים מָרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר הַחִלּוֹתָ לִנְפֹּל לְפָנָיו לֹא-תוּכַל לוֹ—כִּי-נָפוֹל תִּפּוֹל, לְפָנָיו.
‘Since Mordechai is of Jewish descent, once you’re begun to fall before him, you’ll never over come him; but continue falling before him’
Haman’s downfall was not caused just because Mordechai was of Jewish descent, Haman’s pride and arrogant behaviour also contributed his downfall. The idea of arrogance causing destruction is found in Mishlei.
לִפְנֵי שֶׁבֶר גָּאוֹן וְלִפְנֵי כִשָּׁלוֹן גֹּבַהּ רוּחַ,:
Before destruction comes pride, and before stumbling [comes] a haughty spirit.
It was Haman’s haughtiness that caused him to hate the Jews and Mordechai, eventually leading to his own death. Haman could not simply accept that the Jews and Mordechai did not bow to him like all the other people in Shushan did. He could not accept the fact that the Jews looked to God as the ultimate authority, rather than man. Haman was not able to swallow his pride and accept beliefs different to his own. Rather, he was consumed by his hatred and became obsessed with plotting Mordechai’s death and the genocide of the Jews. It must be remembered that Haman was already second in command in Perisa, he had achieved greatness and accumulated power, but it was not enough for him. He wanted more. It was this attitude that led to his downfall.
In contrast to Haman is Mordechai, who is simply described as “Mordechai the Jew”. Not much is said about him in the text, but it appears that his aim in his life is to follow the word God. He does good where he can, saving the King from Bigtan and Teresh’s assassination plot and does not complain that he was not honoured or recognised for his efforts. When he is honoured he does not ask for more or reject it, he simply accepts it. It is Mordechai that eventually becomes the viceroy when Haman is hanged. He accepts the position and performs the job to the best of his ability, advocating his people along the way. In the closing of the Megillah we read
כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי, מִשְׁנֶה לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, וְגָדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים, וְרָצוּי לְרֹב אֶחָיו—דֹּרֵשׁ טוֹב לְעַמּוֹ, וְדֹבֵר שָׁלוֹם לְכָל-זַרְעוֹ.
For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed.
Mordechai continues to be addressed by the same title “Mordechai the Jew” throughout the entire Megillah. While Mordechai’s position may have changed, he remained the same person. He did not become arrogant as a result of his promotion and he continued to seek and speak peace.
Ambition is not bad. It is important to be motivated and to try and achieve a goal. However, we must ensure that we do not allow ourselves to be consumed by our pride and become arrogant along our path. Furthermore, when we are presented with opportunities we should not reject them, rather accept them with humility and grace. Like Shakespeare wrote in the Twelfth Night “be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em”. Mordechai proves that power is not an inherently corruptive force or something to be afraid of, we must try to emulate him and remain the same person we always were, accept our greatness and do not expect more.
This Parsha discusses the final 3 of the 10 plagues and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. The Parsha also makes numerous references to the Land of Israel.
. וְהָיָה כִּי יְבִאֲךָ יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לְךָ וְלַאֲבֹתֶיךָ וּנְתָנָהּ לָךְ:
And it will come…
Couldn’t include these in the DT, but I thought I’d write them here to share with you.
ט. כִּי מֵרֹאשׁ צֻרִים אֶרְאֶנּוּ וּמִגְּבָעוֹת אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ הֶן עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב:
For from their beginning, I see them as mountain peaks, and I behold them as hills; it is a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations.
Israel has and always will be a nation that is different, separate. We are called a גוי קדוש for a reason. Being Holy, means being distinguished, separate. In fact the word קדוש has those very connotations. We have to stop trying to be like everybody else. We have to stop trying to please everybody. We have to stop being apologetic for our religion and our beliefs. Being separate is what defines us and we MUST be proud of that and start acting thusly.
יז. אֶרְאֶנּוּ וְלֹא עַתָּה אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ וְלֹא קָרוֹב דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב וְקָם שֵׁבֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל:
17. I see it, but not now; I behold it, but not soon. A star has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel
Also, this references Mashiach. Thought y’all should know.
We should merit to see the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days - especially as 17 Tammuz is this weekend.
Sorry about the lack of Divrei Torah in recent weeks. School work has piled up, and I’ve actually been doing work on Friday afternoons! This really just a random assortment of ideas that were going through my head as I learnt this week’s Parsha.
In this week’s Parsha, King Balak, the monarch of Moab hires the magician/prophet/sorcerer/owner of a taking donkey to curse the Jews. A running theme throughout this week’s Sidrah is
ג. וַאֲבָרֲכָה מְבָרְכֶיךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ אָאֹר וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה:
3. And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you.”
This idea is first found in Genesis, were G-d tells Abraham that his descendants will become a great nation and then that He will bless those that bless Abraham, and curse those that curse him.
The juxtaposition between these two concepts - the greatness and power of the Jews and the curse/blessing - is also found in this week’s Parsha.
King Balak wishes to curse the Jews because of their power and strength.
ה. וַיִּשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים אֶל בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר פְּתוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר עַל הַנָּהָר אֶרֶץ בְּנֵי עַמּוֹ לִקְרֹא לוֹ לֵאמֹר הִנֵּה עַם יָצָא מִמִּצְרַיִם הִנֵּה כִסָּה אֶת עֵין הָאָרֶץ וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב מִמֻּלִי:
5. He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people, to call for him, saying, “A people has come out of Egypt, and behold, they have covered the “eye” of the land, and they are stationed opposite me.
ו. וְעַתָּה לְכָה נָּא אָרָה לִּי אֶת הָעָם הַזֶּה כִּי עָצוּם הוּא מִמֶּנִּי אוּלַי אוּכַל נַכֶּה בּוֹ וַאֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִן הָאָרֶץ…:
6. So now, please come and curse this people for me, for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps I will be able to wage war against them and drive them out of the land…
This theme of the Jewish people’s power continues during Bilam’s first attempt at cursing Israel - a blessing instead, is said.
י. מִי מָנָה עֲפַר יַעֲקֹב וּמִסְפָּר אֶת רֹבַע יִשְׂרָאֵל
Who counted the dust of Jacob or the number of a fourth of [or, of the seed of] Israel?
The blessing is reminiscent of G-d’s promise to Abraham.
יז. כִּי בָרֵךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ וְהַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה אֶת זַרְעֲךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְכַחוֹל אֲשֶׁר עַל שְׂפַת הַיָּם וְיִרַשׁ זַרְעֲךָ אֵת שַׁעַר אֹיְבָיו:
17. That I will surely bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand that is on the seashore, and your descendants will inherit the cities of their enemies.
Interestingly enough, G-d’s promise to Abraham is accompanied by mentions of blessings and how even the other nations of the world will be blessed through the Jewish people.
יח. וְהִתְבָּרֲכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ עֵקֶב אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹלִי:
And through your children shall be blessed all the nations of the world, because you hearkened to My voice.”
Three times Bilam tried to curse the Jewish people and three times he failed. He ended up blessing them.
י. וַיִּחַר אַף בָּלָק אֶל בִּלְעָם וַיִּסְפֹּק אֶת כַּפָּיו וַיֹּאמֶר בָּלָק אֶל בִּלְעָם לָקֹב אֹיְבַי קְרָאתִיךָ וְהִנֵּה בֵּרַכְתָּ בָרֵךְ זֶה שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים:
10. Balak’s anger flared against Balaam, and he clapped his hands. Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times.
Now, what does this mean for the Jewish people, Israel and international relations today?
This concept has been witnessed time and time again throughout the course of Jewish history. All nations and empires that have attacked and persecuted Jews are gone, vanquished, no longer powerful. Look what happened to the Byzantines, the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Babylonians…?
Let this be a lesson for all who try to curse, attack or persecute Jews or Israel. You won’t be successful. You will be cursed. You will be destroyed. You will be annihilated. You will be vanquished. You will cease to exist.
As an anonymous wise person once said
“Don’t sc**w with Israel ‘cause G-d will sc**w with you”
I’m not sure if people understand this or not: Theodore Herzl was not the founder of Zionism. Zionism was founded after the exile from Israel 2000 years ago. Herzl organised the political aspect not the ideology.
Last year, I had the opportunity to hear a man from the Shomron council give a lecture. He asked the audience “Who was the first Zionist?”.
The entire audience answered, “Herzl”.
The man (whose name I cannot remember) pointed his finger at us and said “No. Avraham was the first Zionist. At the moment he agreed to Hashem’s command of Lech Lecha, he started Zionism”.
It was this man, his lecture and his words, that inspired me, to be the Zionist I am today. He helped me realise that Zionism is not separate from Judaism - it is a part of it. Last year, one of my friends studied a subject that included learning texts from Yechezkel and Yirmiyahu. One of her assessments was an essay about the “Triangle” - the covenant between Hashem, His people and His land.
Every religious Jew who davens 3 times a day, yearns to return to his homeland, to see Jerusalem rebuilt. When people say Zionism and Judaism are separate, they are incorrect. When people say Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism are two different things, they are incorrect. Zionism and Judaism are intrinsically connected - just like Jews are intrinsically connected to their homeland and their G-d.
This connection, this Triangle, is seen through this week’s Parsha, Achrei Mot-Kedoshim.
We are told
וְלֹא תָקִיא הָאָרֶץ אֶתְכֶם בְּטַמַּאֲכֶם אֹתָהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר קָאָה אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵיכֶם:
And let the land not vomit you out for having defiled it, as it vomited out the nation that preceded you.
The Land of Israel has a different status to all other lands in the world. Israel has a low tolerance of immorality. If Jews do not follow the Torah and keep the Mitzvot in the Land of Israel, they will be “vomited out” and exiled. This is further explained by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in a Sicha that explains Rashi’s commentary on the first verse of Genesis. He explains that the moment Bnei Yisrael conquered the Land of Israel, it was given a different status, and the land itself, as well as its inhabitant, are held to a higher standard. If they do not adhere to this higher standard of Torah and Mitzvot, they will be expelled.
Two perakim later we are told
וָאֹמַר לָכֶם אַתֶּם תִּירְשׁוּ אֶת אַדְמָתָם וַאֲנִי אֶתְּנֶנָּה לָכֶם לָרֶשֶׁת אֹתָהּ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הִבְדַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מִן הָעַמִּים
So I said to you, You shall possess their land, and I shall give it to you to possess it a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God, Who has distinguished you from the peoples.
The juxtaposition of the two ideas in this verse, the possessing of the Land of Israel, and the fact that G-d has distinguished Israel “from the peoples” is significant. Jews are separated from other nations, through their fulfilment of the Torah and Mitzvot. Although the root ב.ד.ל is used here to denote separation, the root ק.ד.ש (from which the title of the Sidrah is derived) has the same connotation of separation, with the added meaning of ‘holy’. Only when Jews separate themselves through the practice of Torah and Mitzvot, are they holy and worthy of possessing the Land of Israel.
Today, we are lucky enough to see this Triangle being implemented in the Land of Israel. This generation has seen Israel become the world centre of Torah learning for the first time since the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. We celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut - Israel’s independence, through the Chidon Hatanach - the Bible Quiz. Newscasters remind their audience to count the Omer and the public sale of Chametz on Pesach is illegal.
May we merit, to see this Triangle implemented in its most ideal form, with the coming of Mashiach, במהרה בימנו אמן סלה.
Sorry I couldn’t write an orignial.
This Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Nisan and Parshat Hachodesh.
This week, we begin reading Sefer Vayikra, also known as Torat Kohanim. The major theme of this week’s Parsha, is Korbanot to Hashem.
ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אָדָם כִּי יַקְרִיב מִכֶּם קָרְבָּן לַי־הֹוָ־ה מִן הַבְּהֵמָה מִן הַבָּקָר וּמִן הַצֹּאן תַּקְרִיבוּ אֶת קָרְבַּנְכֶם:
. Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When a man from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.
Sefer Vayikra, and this week’s Parsha in particular, seem to have little relevance to our lives today. After all, how can we offer Korbanot, if we have no Beit Hamikdash? What’s the use of even learning it?
Today, we’re living on the cusp of the Geulah, during the times of חבלי משיח-the birth pangs of Mashiach. Every day in davening we say
אני מאמין באמונה שלמה בביאת המשיח, ואף-על-פי שיתמהמה - עם כל זה אחכה לו בכל יום שיבוא
I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. How long it takes, I will await His coming every day.
(Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith)
Mashiach CAN come today, and we have to be prepared. The Final Redemption will include the building of the Third Beit Hamikdash and the re-institution of the Temple services. While today we pray, during the times of Mashiach, we will offer Korbanot, once more. Therefore, we must study the laws of the Korbanot and service in the Beit Hamikdash. Learning Torat Kohanim, is one of the ways we can prepare ourselves for the Geulah.
The first verse of this week’s Parsha is
א. וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר:
1. And He called to Moses, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying,
In the Torah scroll, the word וַיִּקְרָא is written with a small Aleph. The famous explanation, is that it demonstrates Moshe’s humility. However, the Zohar offers an alternative view. The Aleph, is viewed as an imperfection. Hashem’s calling to Moshe was imperfect, because it took place in the Mishkan in a foreign land. From this we can see, that true perfection, is only found in the Land of Israel.
This theme, permeates the entire Sefer Vayikra. The generation of the Midbar was on a very high spiritual level. The lowly maidservant saw G-d at the Splitting of the Sea, the generation received the Torah directly from Hashem on Har Sinai, their cloths grew with them and they even ate heavenly good, Manna.
But, this little Aleph at the beginning of Sefer Vayikra teaches us, that no matter how good it was in the desert from a spiritual standpoint, something was lacking. True perfection can only be achieved in the Land of G-d.
This message too, has a direct significance to us. Even though our physical and spiritual lives seem completely healthy and perfect, outside the Land of Israel - something is missing. Perfection cannot be achieved. The little Aleph reminds us of our goal - serving Hashem in His Chosen Land, the Land of Israel.
May we all be zoche to commemorate Pesach in two weeks time, with the Korban Pesach in the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim - במהרה בימינו אמן
In this week’s Parsha, the Israelites betray G-d by serving a Golden Calf. It seems unbelievable that the generation that witnessed miracles like the Splitting of the Sea and the Exodus, would betray G-d by serving a god of metal.
However, despite the Israelites’ infidelity, G-d makes a covenant with His people.
י. וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי כֹּרֵת בְּרִית נֶגֶד כָּל עַמְּךָ אֶעֱשֶׂה נִפְלָאֹת אֲשֶׁר לֹא נִבְרְאוּ בְכָל הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל הַגּוֹיִם וְרָאָה כָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה בְקִרְבּוֹ אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה יְהוָה כִּי נוֹרָא הוּא אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי עֹשֶׂה עִמָּךְ:
10. And He said: “Behold! I will form a covenant; in the presence of all your people, I will make distinctions such as have not been created upon all the earth and among all the nations, and all the people in whose midst you are shall see the work of the Lord how awe inspiring it is that which I will perform with you.
This covenant says that the Israelites will be distinguished, separate from all the nations. This chapter continues with different laws, concerning the Israelites’ separation from the surrounding pagan nations. Many of these laws, are also the defining aspects of Judaism, and what makes Jews separate today.
These laws include: -Driving out the pagan Canaanite Nations occupying the Land of Israel
-Demolishing pagan idols in the Land of Israel
-Not serving pagan gods
-Pilgrimage to Jerusalem
This concept of maintaining separation is significant to the Jewish State today.
We’ve seen the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel against all odds.
We’ve seen the Israeli army win wars against massive Arab army, against all odds.
We’ve seen the re-unification of Jerusalem - the eternal, undivided capital of Jerusalem.
We too, have lived through an era of miracles, where the hand of G-d is obvious.
We must uphold our side of the covenant. We must conduct ourselves in a way that reflects Jewish values and Halacha. The State of Israel must conduct itself in a way that shows, that she IS a Jewish state.
This concept, is exemplified by Menachem Begin, the 6th Prime Minister of Israel. He would quote Tanakh, truly believed in the concept of Ahavat Yisrael and ensured that all official functions of the State of Israel would follow Halacha.
At state dinners and conferences, he ensured that all Jewish ministers would be served only Kosher food. He walked to almost all meetings that were held on Shabbat, and even walked miles to Anwar Sadat’s funeral on a Shabbat. In 1982, Begin declared that El Al, Israel’s national airline would cease to operate on Shabbat.
Menachem Begin walking to Anwar Sadat’s funeral
Menachem Begin owned a Gamma phone that relied on an indirect dialling system, to reduce the severity of Shabbat activity in the event that an urgent phone call needed to be made. Some even say, that Begin asked the Israeli media to delay broadcasting news announcements till after Shabbat.
On a personal level and on a national level, we should uphold our side of the covenant with G-d and learn from Menachem Begin’s example.
Only when we publicly show that we are Jews, behave as is outlined in Halacha and take pride in our religion and heritage, will Mashiach come speedily in our days.
That’s a Menorah that the Temple Institute have made to be used in the Beit Hamikdash iy’h.
There are actually two different opinions as to what the Menorah shoud look like.
Rashi and Rambam believe that the Menorah’s branches were straight, while other commentators including the Ibn Ezra, believe that the branches were curved (like in the picture).
The depiction of the Menorah on the Arch of Titus follows Ibn Ezra’s belief - that the branches were curved.
The Temple Institute obviously followed the opinion of the Ibn Ezra, numerous other commentators and remaining historical/archeological depictions of the Menorah.
I could; however, it takes me ages to type in Hebrew.
Or, I could handwrite it in Hebrew and then scan it as a photo.
Or, I could record myself saying it in Hebrew and then upload the video/voice recording.
Let me know what you’d prefer :)