Category Archives: Tanach

From the Pillar of Fire to the Fire of Torah

“And G-d went before them by day (yomam) in a pillar of cloud, to lead them along the way (haderech), and by night (layla) in a pillar of fire, to give them light, to go by day and by night: the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, did not depart (lo yamish) from before the people.” (Shemot 13:21-22)

Continue reading From the Pillar of Fire to the Fire of Torah


Why Yosef Forgave His Brothers

Most people think that the reason that the prohibition against revenge is an interpersonal one, which has much support from it juxtaposition to the mitzvah of ואהבתך לרעך כמוך.  However, the Rambam implies that this is not the case.  Rather, it is a theological command.  The truly religious person will realize that in the grand scheme of things, it is not worth taking revenge. Continue reading Why Yosef Forgave His Brothers

Adam’s True Directive

And G-d commanded Adam saying, ‘From all the trees in the Garden – eat. However, from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat, and on the day that you eat from it, you shall die.’” (Bereishit 2:16-17)

What exactly was Adam’s charge at these formative moments? Which parts of these verses were included under G-d’s command? Perhaps the most common perspective is that His only command was to refrain from eating the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge. Man was not obligated to eat the Garden’s other produce– he was permitted to, so long as he did not violate the one limitation placed on him. (See, for example, Ibn Ezra and Radak’s first interpretation.) G-d was happy for Adam to enjoy, provided Adam did something to show that he did not forget by whose largesse he lived in Paradise. While intuitive, this approach is textually difficult – if the command was only to avoid the Tree of Knowledge, why was this law separated from the word “commanded” by an entire verse? Continue reading Adam’s True Directive

What does it mean that Sichon didn’t trust Yisrael?

In last week’s Haftara, we find a discussion between Yiftach and the king of Amon.  The king tells Yiftach that he is determined to take back the land that the Jewish people took from him when they left Mitzrayim.  Yiftach responds that it wasn’t the Jews’ fault that Amon lost its land – Yisrael had asked to pass through the land of several nations peacefully, but instead Sichon the King of the Emori waged war on the nation of Israel.  God granted Yisrael victory, and it was because of their victory in that unwanted war that Yisrael conquered the lands of Amon. Continue reading What does it mean that Sichon didn’t trust Yisrael?

The Land Flowing with Wine and Honey?

“The land flowing with milk and honey” is a favorite poetic description of Eretz Yisrael in the Torah.  It is less known that Chazal in several places understand this phrase as not referring to all of the land, but rather to specific parts of it.  Israel is called the land flowing with milk and honey because it is the land that contains areas with this property.  Hence the following discussion of the Amoarim who had seen the areas with this property, culminating with the claim that only an area of 22 by 16 parsa can be referred to by this property.  Continue reading The Land Flowing with Wine and Honey?

The Rainbow in the Clouds

Over Shabbat Rabbi Amnon Bazak spoke in shul about the image of the rainbow as the sign of the covenant between God and mankind. I found his idea very insightful, so I’m sharing it here.  He suggested that in fact it is not the rainbow that is the symbol, but rather the rainbow in the clouds.  Throughout Tanach the image of the keshet, the bow, as well as the image of arrows are described as God’s weapons.  Clouds symbolize protection/cover from the Divine presecnese.  Thus, he suggested, that the sign of the covenant is God’s weapon embedded in the cloud – which represents God withholding of his punishment.

He wrote up a longer version of it on the VBM – the relevant paragraph is below:

אמנם ייתכן שהקשת מבטאת הפסקת לחימה בדרך שונה במקצת. המילה קשתאינה מופיעה בפרשה בגפה. בכל שלוש הופעותיה היא סמוכה למילה ענן‘, וצירוף זה – הוא הוא אות הברית: “אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנָן וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץוְהָיָה בְּעַנְנִי עָנָן עַל הָאָרֶץ וְנִרְאֲתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָןוְהָיְתָה הַקֶּשֶׁת בֶּעָנָן וּרְאִיתִיהָ לִזְכֹּר בְּרִית עוֹלָם“. הווה אומר: לא הקשת גרידא היא אות הברית, כי אם נתינתה בענן. הענן משמש במקרא ככיסוי, כגון לכבוד ה‘ (“וַיִּשְׁכֹּן כְּבוֹד העַל הַר סִינַי וַיְכַסֵּהוּ הֶעָנָן שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים[שמות כד, טז]), לכפורת (“וְכִסָּה עֲנַן הַקְּטֹרֶת אֶת הַכַּפֹּרֶת אֲשֶׁר עַל הָעֵדוּת וְלֹא יָמוּת[ויקרא טז, יג]) ולמשכן (“וּבְיוֹם הָקִים אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן כִּסָּה הֶעָנָן אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן[במדבר ט, טו]). נתינת הקשת בענן מסמלת אפוא את כיסויהּ – אות להפסקת אש‘, כמו השבת חרב לנדנה: הקבה מכסה אחד מכלי מלחמתו ומתחייב שלא להשתמש בו עוד.1 כשיעלו עננים לשמים ותיראה הקשת בענן, סימן הוא שהקשת עודנה מכוסה, ולא תשמש עוד כנגד כל בשר.2

1דומה שכך יש להבין גם את המדרש הזה: ” ‘והיתה הקשת בענן וראיתיה‘ – כי דרכתי קשתי והבאתי עליה מבול, אבל מעתה ראיתיה שלא דרוכה” (פסיקתא זוטרתא [לקח טוב], בראשית ט‘, טז). נתינת הקשת בענן משמעה שהקשת נתפסת כלא דרוכה“.