• Daily Aliya for Vaeira, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: In this week’s Parsha, Vaeira, Pharaoh refuses to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, even after Aaron exhibits miraculous powers, transforming his staff into a serpent. The first seven plagues strike Egypt: Blood, Frogs, Lice, Wild Beasts, Pestilence, Boils, and Fiery Hail.

    Aliya Summary: This week’s portion opens with G‑d’s response to Moshe (continuation from the end of last week’s Parsha). G‑d told Moshe that He revealed Himself to the Patriarchs and established with them a covenant to give them the land of Canaan. And now the time has arrived to fulfill His promises. G‑d told Moshe to tell the Israelites that He has heard their cries, and He will now deliver them from Egypt and bring them to the Promised Land. Moshe relayed the message, but their unbearable workload prevented them from accepting his words. G‑d then told Moshe to instruct Pharaoh to send the Israelites from his land. Moshe protested: “If the children of Israel did not listen to me, how then will Pharaoh listen to me? I have a speech impediment?” (G‑d’s answer is detailed in the Third Aliya.)

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

    Aliya Summary: Moshe and Aaron went to Pharaoh and presented G‑d’s demand. Pharaoh mocked the request and instructed the Egyptian taskmasters to increase the Israelite slaves’ workload. The Israelites were unable to meet Pharaoh’s new demands, and were viciously beaten as a result. Moshe addressed G‑d: “Why have You mistreated this people? Why have You sent me? Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has mistreated this people, and You have not saved Your people.” G‑d responded: “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for with a mighty hand he will send them out…”

    “And afterwards, Moshe and Aharon go” to Paroh and say to him “Let my People go…”. Notice that the elders are not mentioned. Rashi tells us that one by one the elders “disappeared” (in fear of Paroh) as the entourage was headed towards Paroh, until only Moshe and Aharon were left. As a result, so it was to be at Sinai: The elders were left at the foot of the mountain and Aharon and Moshe ascended.

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

    Aliya Summary: Moshe took his wife and two sons and headed for Egypt. G‑d charged Moshe to warn Pharaoh: “So said G‑d, ‘My firstborn son is Israel. So I say to you, send out My son so that he will worship Me. And if you refuse to send him out, behold, I will slay your firstborn son.'” En route to Egypt, Moshe’s wife rescued her husband from divine wrath by performing a circumcision on their son. Moshe met Aaron, who had come from Egypt to greet him, and together they went to Egypt, gathered the elders and performed the wondrous signs that G‑d had given Moshe.

    Rashi says that the donkey that Moshe used to bring his family to Mitzrayim was the same one that Avraham took to the Akeida and the one that the Moshiach will ride upon. Why not a regular donkey? To convey the idea that these monumental events were not haphazard or random, but specially prepared parts of G-d’s master plan for the world.

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

    Aliya Summary: G‑d gave Moshe specific instructions: He was to gather the Israelite elders and inform them that G‑d had remembered them and would now rescue them from Egypt and bring them to a Land of Milk and Honey. Then he was to approach Pharaoh and request permission to leave along with the Israelites. G‑d informed Moshe that Pharaoh would not accede to this request – but the redemption would come nonetheless, after G‑d will smite Egypt with a strong arm. At that point the Israelites would leave with much riches. G‑d gave Moshe three miracles to perform before the Israelites to prove that he was sent by G‑d. When Moshe protested that he was not suited to be G‑d’s messenger due to his speech impediment, G‑d assigned his brother Aaron to be his spokesperson.

    The Midrash says that Moshe had several names – Yered, Chever, Y’kutiel, Avigdor, Avi-Socho, Avi-Zanu’ach, Tovia, Heiman, Sh’maya. The Midrash further tells us that of all his names he is only called Moshe – even by G-d – to give honor to the acts of kindness of the one who found him and saved him from the water -Paroh’s daughter.

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

    Aliya Summary: Moshe was shepherding Yitro’s flocks in the wilderness when he arrived at the “mountain of G‑d.” There he saw a bush burning, yet it was not being consumed by the fire. When he approached to investigate the phenomenon, G‑d called out to him. G‑d declared that He has seen the Israelites’ afflictions, and has decided to deliver them from their Egyptian masters.

    The Gemara in Brachot teaches us that it is from the Torah’s reference to “a Land flowing with milk & honey” that we learn that milk (of a kosher animal) is permissible for us to drink. We might have thought that an animal’s milk is akin to “limb from a living animal”, which would render it a forbidden food. It is inconceivable, though, that the Torah would choose a non-kosher product in describing the Holy Land. Similarly, honey appears to be the product of the non-kosher bee. If so, it would not be permitted. But the bee processes the honey – it is not considered coming from the bee, and is therefore permissible to eat.

  • Dvar for Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

    The most repetitive phrase you hear when you get engaged/married is “you should build a Bayit Ne’eman (sturdy home), and it just so happens that this week’s Parsha is the very first time in the Torah that this concept is mentioned, so it might be nice to try and understand it:

    When Yocheved and Miriam, the 2 midwives responsible for delivering the Jewish babies, were ordered by Paroh to kill all the newborn boys, they disobeyed a direct order, thereby risking their lives. In explaining this to us, the Torah says that G-d rewarded them, the nation prospered and multiplied, and G-d “built them houses” (1:20-21) –  not literal houses, but rather that their descendants would become great pillars of Jewish leadership and religion (Rashi). From the way the Passuk (verse) elucidates it, though, it seems that they were rewarded AND there were houses built for them. Were they rewarded twice? If so, why?
    Rabbi Rubman points out that the Passuk says that it wasn’t because they risked their lives that they were rewarded with great descendants, but because they feared G-d that they deserved it. The reason for the double-language is because they were 1) rewarded for risking their lives, and 2) houses were built based on their fear and respect of G-d. What’s unique about these rewards is that their fear/respect of G-d is what warranted eternal reward, and NOT their life- risking actions. If the motives behind our actions are sometimes more important than the acts themselves, even if the act is life threatening, then the Torah’s message is that it truly is the thought that counts.

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

    Aliya Summary: Moshe was raised in Pharaoh’s palace. When he matured, he went out one day and saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew. Moshe slew the Egyptian. Word of his deed reached Pharaoh, and Moshe was compelled to flee. He escaped to Midian where he married Zipporah, the daughter of Yitro. They gave birth to a son, Gershom. Back in Egypt, meanwhile, the plight of the Israelite slaves was worsening. They cried out to G‑d, and He remembered the covenant He had made with their forefathers.

    It is interesting to note the contrast between Yosef and Moshe in this Aliya: Yosef was identified by the Wine Steward as a Jewish lad, while Moshe was identified by Yitro’s daughters as an Egyptian man. Yosef was privileged to have his remains buried in the Land of Israel, while Moshe apparently did not enjoy the same privilege. Apparently sometimes it’s good not to blend in.

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

    Aliya Summary: Pharaoh called the midwives to task for not following orders. They answered that the Hebrew women were skilled in midwifery and delivered their babies before they even arrived. G‑d rewarded the midwives for their bravery. Pharaoh then commanded the Egyptians to cast all newborn male Israelites into the Nile. Moshe was born. His mother, who feared for her baby’s life, put him into a waterproofed basket and set him afloat in the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe, and took the child as her own. Moshe’s sister Miriam, who observed the entire episode, offered to bring a Hebrew nursemaid for the child, and when Pharaoh’s daughter agreed to the suggestion, Miriam called the child’s mother. Moshe’s mother nursed the child and after he was weaned brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter.

    The Midrash explains that each threat to the Jewish people generated a corresponding bright star to help the Jews. Miriam is a result of the bitter work forced on the Jews (the root of her name is Mar – bitter). Moshe was borne of the order to throw all males into the river (the root of his name is Meshit – to draw from water). Aaron was borne of the threat to pregnancy (the root of Aaron is Erayon – pregnancy). Clearly, for every negative created in the world, a corresponding positive is brought to combat and equalize its influence – an encouraging lesson from this Aliya, and the Midrash.

  • Daily Aliya for Shemot, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: This week’s Torah reading, Shemot, begins the Book of Exodus. Pharaoh issues harsh decrees against the Israelites, beginning decades of Jewish suffering and slavery. Moshe is born and raised in the Egyptian royal palace. After killing an Egyptian, Moshe escapes to Midian and marries. G‑d appears to him in a burning bush and demands that he return to Egypt to redeem the Israelites. Moshe returns to Egypt with the intention of freeing the Jewish people.

    Aliya Summary: Jacob’s sons all died. Jacob’s descendents in Egypt, however, were “fruitful and swarmed and increased and became very very strong.” A new Pharaoh arose, and he resolved to find a solution to the “Israelite problem.” He proposed to afflict the Israelites and impose slave labor upon them, thus preventing them from multiplying. He implemented the plan, and the Israelites were forced to construct storage cities for Pharaoh. “But as much as they would afflict them, so did they multiply and so did they gain strength.” Pharaoh then summoned the Hebrew midwives and instructed them to kill all the Hebrew sons that they delivered. The righteous midwives feared G‑d, however, and defied Pharaohs order.

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