• Dvar for Vaeira (Exodus 6:2-9:34)

    The Hebrew language has so many hidden lessons, and one such lesson lies within this week’s Parsha (portion), Vaeira, where G-d promises to take the Jews from under the ‘burdens’ of Egypt (6:6). But as the Rebbi of Gur explains, the Hebrew word that means ‘burden’ also means ‘tolerant’, which would make the Passuk (verse) read…”I will deliver you from being tolerant of Egypt”. We find proof for this tolerance when even after the Jews were released from Egypt, when the situation looked bleak, they wanted to go back to slavery. Had their slavery been such a burden, why would they ever consider going back?

    The answer is that the problem was not that they were overworked, but that they were too tolerant of their surroundings. Hashem therefore told them, and is telling us, that the first step Jews have to take is to realize when we are ‘slaves’ to our society. If we tolerate our surroundings, not only will we not appreciate how lucky we are to be different, but also we’ll forget that we even are different. In a society where some people hide their religious identity, the Torah is telling us to always keep in mind our ultimate differences as Jews, to never settle for being just like everyone else, and to love it, show it, and prove it in constructive ways every chance we get. In response to this Parsha, we should all pick one way to show the world and ourselves what it means to be a Jew, whether it’s by volunteering to visit the sick, to give charity, or to say one Perek (paragraph) of Tehillim (Psalm) every day. Find a way to find our way.

  • Dvar for Vaeira (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

    Reading the story of how the Jews became enslaved to Egypt in Parshat Vaeira, and having the benefit of knowing how the story ends, we can wonder why the Egyptians were punished for enslaving the Jews, when we know that the Jews needed to be enslaved, either as part of the decree, or as the process of becoming a cohesive nation?

    The Ramchal explains that the answer lies in the Egyptian’s intent, which became clear when it was time to let the Jews go. Had the Egyptians done it with the intentions of merely doing G-d’s will, they would have immediately let them go when the situation warranted it. The same is true of our lives: We can sometimes justify not giving as much, not volunteering enough, or not learning enough Torah by claiming not to have time. The truth comes out, though, when we do have time, on weekends, vacations, or between jobs/school. If we do what we can when we can, we will prove our appreciation for the Torah, and improve our appreciation OF the Torah in the process.

  • Dvar for Vaeira (Exodus 6:2-9:34)

    Reading the story of how the Jews became enslaved to Egypt in Parshat Vaeira, and having the benefit of knowing how the story ends, we can wonder why the Egyptians were punished for enslaving the Jews, when we know that the Jews needed to be enslaved, either as part of the decree, or as the process of becoming a cohesive nation?

    The Ramchal explains that the answer lies in the Egyptian’s intent, which became clear when it was time to let the Jews go. Had the Egyptians done it with the intentions of merely doing G-d’s will, they would have immediately let them go when the situation warranted it. The same is true of our lives: We can sometimes justify not giving as much, not volunteering enough, or not learning enough Torah by claiming not to have time. The truth comes out, though, when we do have time, on weekends, vacations, or between jobs/school. If we do what we can when we can, we will prove our appreciation for the Torah, and improve our appreciation OF the Torah in the process.

  • Daily Aliya for Vaeira, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Plague Seven: Moshe warned Pharaoh that a catastrophic hail would descend upon the land. Man or beast that would remain in the field would be killed by the hailstones. Moshe stretched his rod toward heaven and hail poured down—with fire blazing inside the icy hail. Aside for damage to humans and animal, the hail destroyed all vegetation and trees. Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aaron. “I have sinned this time,” he declared. “The Lord is the righteous One, and I and my people are the guilty ones. Entreat the Lord, and let it be enough of God’s thunder and hail, and I will let you go…” Moshe prayed. The hail stopped. And Pharaoh changed his mind yet again.

    When Moshe tells Par’o that the plague of Hail will end, he says that the thunder will stop and the hail will no longer be. The terminology implies that the thunder will temporarily stop but the hail will completely end. And so it was, points out the Baal HaTurim, the hail did in fact cease, but the thunder returned to accompany the awe-inspiring events of the Sinai Experience.

  • Daily Aliya for Vaeira, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The mixture of wild beasts descended upon Egypt, destroying the entire land with the exception of Goshen. Pharaoh called Moshe and Aaron and offered to allow the Israelites freedom to serve G‑d whilst still in Egypt. When Moshe rejected this offer, Pharaoh capitulated and offered to release the Israelites if only the plague came to an end. Moshe prayed, the plague ended, and Pharaoh reneged on his promise again. Plague Five: all the Egyptians’ cattle suddenly died; none of the Israelites’ animals were affected. Plague Six: Moshe and Aaron took handfuls of furnace soot and threw them heavenward. The soot descended, covered the entire Egypt, infecting all its inhabitants with painful boils. G‑d sent Moshe to Pharaoh with a message: Just as G‑d wiped out all the Egyptian cattle, He could have easily slain Pharaoh and all his people too. “But, for this [reason] I have allowed you to survive, in order to show you My strength and to declare My name all over the earth!”

    In warning about hail, G-d says (through Moshe) that this time, I will send ALL my plagues… The Vilna Ga’on explains that G-d uses three main weapons, so to speak, to punish those who violate His commands: Fire, Water, and Wind. For example, to destroy the Generation of the Flood, G-d used Water. To disperse Dor HaP’laga, He used Wind, and to destroy S’dom, His main weapon was Fire. The plague of Blood, for example, used Water. Hail consisted of the whole arsenal – the Hail itself was Water, it had Fire in it, and the Hail was accompanied by strong Wind (the Kolot mentioned in 9:23). Definitely an escalation of G-d’s display of might.

  • Daily Aliya for Vaeira, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe prayed to G‑d, and the frogs all died. Egypt reeked from the odor of rotting frogs, and Pharaoh reneged on his promise. Plague Three: Aaron smote the earth with his staff, and swarms of lice attacked Egypt, covering man and beast. Even Pharaoh’s magicians were amazed by this, and informed Pharaoh that this is the “finger of G‑d.” Plague Four: G‑d dispatched Moshe to warn Pharaoh that his land will be infested by a mixture of noxious animals. Only the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, would be spared.

    While the Jews did not suffer from the plagues that were thrust on the Egyptians, the first time that became abundantly clear was with the fourth plague, Arov, because an entire Jewish city was excluded. It helped solidify the message Moshe was delivering with each plague: That the true G-d is controlling everything, not Paroh or any of his gods. It seems that this was conveyed in progression: Paroh’s magicians were able to turn water to blood, but not to the extent that G-d did. Same with frogs. With lice, however, his magicians finally broke the news to Paroh, that this is the work of G-d (8:15). The fourth plague now clarifies that the true G-d favors the Jews. It’s fascinating that Paroh was presented with these revelations in the order which he needed to process them, rather than forcing his hand right away. This Aliya (and exodus in general) is all about respecting the human process (even evil humans).

  • Dvar for Vaeira (Exodus 6:2-9:34)

    The Hebrew language has so many hidden lessons, and one such lesson lies within this week’s Parsha (portion), Vaeira, where G-d promises to take the Jews from under the ‘burdens’ of Egypt (6:6). But as the Rebbi of Gur explains, the Hebrew word that means ‘burden’ also means ‘tolerant’, which would make the Passuk (verse) read…”I will deliver you from being tolerant of Egypt”. We find proof for this tolerance when even after the Jews were released from Egypt, when the situation looked bleak, they wanted to go back to slavery. Had their slavery been such a burden, why would they ever consider going back?

    The answer is that the problem was not that they were overworked, but that they were too tolerant of their surroundings. Hashem therefore told them, and is telling us, that the first step Jews have to take is to realize when we are ‘slaves’ to our society. If we tolerate our surroundings, not only will we not appreciate how lucky we are to be different, but also we’ll forget that we even are different. In a society where some people hide their religious identity, the Torah is telling us to always keep in mind our ultimate differences as Jews, to never settle for being just like everyone else, and to love it, show it, and prove it in constructive ways every chance we get. In response to this Parsha, we should all pick one way to show the world and ourselves what it means to be a Jew, whether it’s by volunteering to visit the sick, to give charity, or to say one Perek (paragraph) of Tehillim (Psalm) every day. Find a way to find our way.

  • Daily Aliya for Vaeira, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh. As per G‑d’s instructions, Aaron cast his staff on the ground, and it turned into a serpent. When Pharaoh’s magicians did the same with their staffs, Aaron’s staff swallowed theirs. Pharaoh remained unimpressed—and so the plagues commenced. Plague One: Aaron smote the Nile with his staff. The river and all the waters in Egypt turned into blood, and all the fish perished. Plague Two: Aaron stretched his staff upon the Nile and droves of frogs emerged. They covered the land, entered all the houses, even the ovens and kneading bowls. Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aaron and begged them to pray to G‑d to remove the plague, after which he would release the Israelites.

    The Baal HaTurim points out that the passuk says: “G-d says to Moshe that when Paroh will ask for a sign, you (Moshe) shall tell to Aharon to take your staff and throw it (on the ground) in front of Paroh, it shall become a snake.” He explains that the staff was thrown down and then Moshe was to command it to become a snake. This was meant to show Paroh (and us) the power of speech that G-d has given to Moshe, and by extension to us, in that the staff did not change upon being thrown down (action), but by a spoken command (speech). Although we can’t create snakes with our speech, we can create venom and pain with it.

  • Daily Aliya for Vaeira, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d tells Moshe to go speak to Pharaoh, and Aaron should serve as his spokesman. G‑d informed him that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart and he will refuse to release the Israelites. At that point G‑d will “multiply His wonders” in Egypt, until the Egyptians will recognize that G‑d is the L-rd.

    How is it that Moshe is able to speak to the People of Israel throughout his “career” as leader, in light of the fact that he complained of being “speech impaired”? Could it be that the Jews wanted to hear what Moshe had to say, and therefore concentrated harder on the understanding his words, while Paroh clearly didn’t want to be punished nor to let the Israelites go, and therefore would use the excuse that he couldn’t understand what Moshe was saying. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we actually want to!

  • Daily Aliya for Vaeira, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Torah begins to enumerate the names of the tribes and family groups. It is obvious that the intention here is not to review the whole of the (almost) nation, but rather to focus on Moshe and Aharon. Note that the Torah starts the list with Reuven and Shimon, and when it gets to Levi, there is much more detail. In this brief Aliya, the Torah is identifying many of the “main characters” of the rest of the Torah. The Torah is also giving us the ability to continue to draw the timeline of Jewish history, by giving us the ages at death of Levi (we already know the ages of the three previous generation, those of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov), his son Kehat, his son Amram. That brings us to Moshe and Aharon. We are also introduced to Korach and his sons and Aharon and his family.

    Although the purpose of this partial genealogy was to identify Aharon and Moshe, the Torah began with Reuven and Shimon before it gets to Levi. A reason offered for this in one of the sources is that since Yaakov Avinu spoke critically of these three sons, the Torah here lists only them, to teach us that they were important tribes despite their progenitors’ “mistakes”.

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