Friday, December 2, 2016

Toldos - Clothes of Dominion

What were the special clothes that Rivka made sure Yakov wore when he stole the blessings from Esav? Why did wild animals become docile when they saw these garments? Why did Esav wear them whenever he served his father? How were they connected to Adam's naming of all the animals? Why did they give Adam dominion over all of the creations in the world? Why does Adam name all the animals right in the middle of the Torah's account of Hashem's creation of Eve? Why is Yakov sent to marry immediately after he receives the blessings? Why does Yakov include animal descriptions in his blessings of his children?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 24:58

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Chayei Sarah - Death and Rebirth

What does the midrash mean when it says that Esther became queen over 127 provinces paralleling the 127 years of Sarah's life? Why did Esther go through a similar experience to Sarah in becoming young again after becoming old? How does that parallel the state of the Jewish people at the time? Why does Sarah's death coincide with Rivka's birth? Why does the binding of Yitzchak coincide with the birth of Rivka? Why are Sarah, Rivka and Esther all taken by kings?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 22:02

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lech Lecha - Fame and Fortune

Why does Hashem stress to Avraham that he will become a great nation and have great fame? Is fame something that is positive from a spiritual perspective? What is the greatness of Hashem's promise to Avraham that he will have a great nation descend from him - didn't Noach have 70 nations descend from him? Why is the event of Sarah and Avraham's youthfulness returning at an advanced age such a pivotal one? What does it mean that that event is depicted on a coin, which subsequently made Avraham and Sarah famous? What is the significance of the coins that were minted for Joshua, David and Mordechai, which made each of them famous as well?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 23:50

Friday, November 4, 2016

Noach - Of Doves and Olive Branches

What is the Torah's teaching about the dove Noach sent to find dry ground? What is the significance of the olive branch in this context? Why is the Jewish Nation compared to a dove? Why is the tzaddik compared to a dove? Who was the woman who gave birth to 600,000 children? Why is that teaching found in the context of the dove? What is the significance of the numerical value of the Hebrew word for dove, which is 71? How does the dove provide light, and how does it parallel the Jewish Nation providing light?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 26:38

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Vzos Habracha-Succos - Receiving Blessings

What is the concept of blessings? Why do the major blessings of the Torah, first given by the Patriarchs, and then by Moshe, have a certain level of continuity? How are the blessings connected to the praises embodied in the Psalms of David? What is the concept of the Succah and how does it relate to the mitzvah of the four species?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 23:06

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ha'azinu - Defying Nature

What does the verse mean when it says that nothing can be added to Hashem's creation? Why does Hashem sometimes change the order of creation? Why is it sometimes done for a righteous individual? Why does one midrash seem to indicate that it is done in order to impart a sense of awe, while another seems to indicate that it is done out of love? Why does Moshe ask the heavens to stop singing their song in order that he have a chance to sing his own song - the song of Haazinu?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 22:06

Friday, October 7, 2016

Vayelech-Yom Kippur - Lengthening Lifespans

Is it possible to live longer than was decreed for a person at birth? How does one merit to live long, and how does one lose that merit? Why was the Angel of Death upset when he spoke to R' Shimon ben Chalafta? How does one change the decree of Rosh Hashana and make it into a good one? What is the judgment about during this time?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 20:14

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nitsavim-Rosh Hashana - Breaking Barriers

In the verse speaking about the fact that the Torah and mitzvah of repentance are not distant from us, the Rabbenu Bachai says that there is a hint to the concept of circumcision - what does these concepts have to do with each other? How are we able to correct our behavior of the previous year, upon which we are being judged, if we are already standing in the new year after Rosh Hashana? What does the Torah mean when it says that the mitzvos and the concept of Teshuva are 'very close to you - in your mouth and your heart to do it?' How do we remove the barriers upon our hearts and mouths which prevent us from having a full relationship with Hashem, ourselves and others?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 24:39

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ki Savo - Rain Revival

What is the connection between the blessings of rain and the revival of the dead? Why is Hashem the only One Who can 'open' the door for them? How is rain connected to the general concept of earning a livelihood? How is it connected to the concept of fish? How does this teaching relate to the idea of 'opening,' 'hand,' and 'song?'

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 24:26

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nahama D'kisufa - Beating the Bread of Shame

Nahama D'kisufa is the Bread of Shame - which in the Ramchal refers to the experience we have when we receive something that we have not earned - a feeling of shame. But hey, don't you love getting a free gift? Where's the shame? Wouldn't you love to win the lottery? Where's the shame?

But it's the foundation of reality as we know it - we're here in this world to learn Torah and do Mitzvos, so we can 'earn' the light Hashem wants to give us; a light which would be too much to handle if we had not earned it.

But why is it called the 'Bread of Shame?' Why isn't it simply referred to as something like the 'uncomfortable principle?' Or something like that?

I realized today that the 'Bread of Shame' is actually a play on the passuk which speaks of the response Hashem gave to Adam's sin. He was told he would 'eat bread by the sweat of his face.' (actually it's literally 'sweat of his nose.') Whereas the bread he ate before in the Garden of Eden was given to him without any need for effort on his part - it literally grew on trees - now he would have to be involved in the process of bringing the bread from the earth.

But notice that it doesn't say he would have to work for his bread. It just says that he would have to sweat for it. It would require effort.

So what is the way out of the 'bread of shame?' The way out is through perspiration.

Naturally, we could think that this means that whereas before it came on its own, without any effort, now I must expend much effort to receive the bread.

But it's not so.

The bread that I receive is actually still received without effort. (Just go to the supermarket if you don't believe me!) But I have to sweat in order to remove the shame of receiving something without effort.

Before, in the garden of Eden, I could receive without feeling shame, without needing to earn it by putting in effort. It felt like it was mine. And it was, because as a child of Hashem, it is my birthright to have my needs provided for. (Look around at the animal world.)

But after Adam's sin, I still receive it for free - only after I earn it.

And I can earn it in different ways.

The chiddush here is that the effort and sweat I put in does not have to directly result in the bread I receive. The effort just takes away the shame.

I can also lose the shame by going through challenging circumstances. Or by going through a process of teshuva which brings me back to Hashem and aligns me closer to the original state of Adam.

Another chiddush that comes out of this idea is that the concept of nahama d'kisufa is a state which is only applicable post-sin of Adam. Previous to it, Adam and Eve could receive great blessings without feeling shame.

It's worth thinking about how this applies to the passuk which talks about their being unclothed and not being ashamed.

Perhaps thoughts for another time...