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Posted January 18, 2019 - 12:00pm
Parashat Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

What is it? This is what the Children of Israel asked when they saw the manna when it first appeared in the wilderness. Before it appeared they had been grumbling against Moses and Aaron because their bellies craved more than what they had at the time. They were so dissatisfied that they spoke about their time of slavery in Egypt as if it brought back nostalgic memories for them saying, “We sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full” (Exodus 16:3). Hashem heard their grumbling and told them He was going to put an end to it. He would give them quail in the evenings and manna in the mornings. They would have no more reason to complain.

The LORD told Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day” (Exodus 16:4). He calls the manna “bread from heaven.” What does this phrase mean and why is it used? First, throughout the Scriptures the word bread is used as a general word for food. In this context it simply means that the food Hashem is going to provide for them is going to be unlike any food they have ever eaten. It will be something miraculous and of a divine nature. How so?

Our sages tell us that the manna was completely unparalleled in that it was uniquely tailored to each individual. No matter the size or the need of the person they gathered exactly enough and exactly what they needed. It provided not only what that person needed, but also what he desired. To one it would taste this way and to another it would taste that. This is based on the passage in our portion that says:

They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. (Exodus 16:17–18)

Posted January 11, 2019 - 7:53am

Parashat Bo

Exodus 10:1-13:16

In Parashat Bo we learn about the final three plagues with the culmination being the death of the firstborn. This is the final act of God that released the Children of Israel from the grip of Egyptian slavery. But right before this final plague is poured out, the Children of Israel are given instructions for the Passover Lamb and all that went with it. They were to take a male lamb without blemish on the tenth day of the month and keep it until the fourteenth day when they would slaughter it. They would then smear some of its blood upon the doorframes of their houses so that the firstborn of the Israelites would not face the same fate as that of the Egyptians.

That night they were to eat it “roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Exodus 12:8). And whatever was not eaten was to be burned in fire. They were to eat it in a special way: “with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste” (Exodus 12:11).

All of these instructions were to be observed meticulously so that the firstborn of the Children of Israel would be spared when the LORD struck the firstborn among the Egyptians. But after this we read about how this event should be memorialized and relived year to year thereafter. Aside from the offering of the Passover Lamb most of the instruction is focused around matzah, unleavened bread. In Exodus 12:17 there is a fascinating instruction given that most people miss because of our English translations. Most English translations render it, “And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread.”

Posted December 21, 2018 - 1:49pm

Who Are These?

Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)

When Jacob was one hundred and forty-seven years old he realized his life on this earth had come to an end. Because of this he called Joseph to him and made him swear that when he departed from this life that Joseph would not bury his body in Egypt, but take it back to Canaan and bury it there. The next thing we learn is that Jacob has become seriously ill. When Joseph understood the severity of his father’s illness he brought his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to his father so that he would bless them. Jacob tells Joseph:

And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. (Genesis 48:5–6)

However, when Joseph presents his sons to his father, Jacob acts as if he doesn’t know them after being around them for the last seventeen years. He asks Joseph, “Who are these?” (v. 8). Most people attribute Jacob’s question of their identity to his eyesight, because just two verses later the Torah tells us, “Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see” (v. 10). However, there may be a deeper answer given to us by the Torah, and one that can help us see a beautiful picture of what Yeshua has done for us.

Posted December 14, 2018 - 3:34pm

The Power of Hope

Genesis 44:18-47:27

Is this week’s Torah portion we learn about the reunion of Joseph and his family. How appropriate for the name of the portion to be called Vayigash, which means, “and he came near.” After a long period of being apart from his family, Joseph was able to come near his family. Not only did Joseph reveal himself to his brothers after the long wait for his plan to succeed, but he was also reunited with his father who had given up hope of Joseph’s survival years beforehand. 

After revealing himself to his brothers, he instructed them to go back and get their father and all of their possessions and move down to Egypt where he would provide for them. Once they got back home to their father, however, Jacob did not initially believe the news about Joseph:

And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. (Genesis 45:26–27)

In this translation we read that Jacob’s heart “became numb.” However, the Hebrew is more evocative. It says that his heart “fainted.” He simply could not believe Joseph could be alive after all these years. His pessimism was based on his challenging life. Jacob was 130 years old and had lived through many difficult circumstances. When he ended up moving down to Egypt and met Pharaoh, he explained:

The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning. (Genesis 47:9)

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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