Devotionals

This verse starts with the words v’zeh hadavar asher ta’aseh lahem (וזה הדבר אשר תעשה להם), ‘this is what you shall do to them.’ In the context of this verse, the Hebrew word hadavar (הדבר) means ‘the thing.’ However, hadavar can also mean ‘the word.’ According to the Sages, the use of this term in… Read more »

Immediately before his death, Moshe blesses each of the tribes with a blessing corresponding to its unique qualities. These words make reference to the fact that the Beit Hamikdash was built in the part of the city of Yerushalayim which belongs to the tribe of Binyamin. One reason offered to explain why Binyamin merited the… Read more »

Why is the definite article ‘the’ used in reference to the planks used in the construction of the Mishkan? Rashi answers that this refers to specific planks with great significance. He cites the tradition that Yaakov planted acacia trees in Egypt in preparation for the redemption, and commanded his sons to take these trees with… Read more »

When Ahasuerus offered Esther up to half of the kingdom, this was not merely an exaggerated show of generosity, but it referred to a specific geographic location. Rashi notes that the halfway mark of Ahasuerus’ empire was the site of the Beit Hamikdash. Ahasuerus tells Esther that he is willing to do anything to make… Read more »

Usually, the Torah gives us the reason why an individual, or the nation as a whole, are punished. Megillat Esther, however, does not explicitly state what the people did to deserve the threat of annihilation. When viewed in historical context, it becomes clear that the Jews of Shushan were guilty for not having returned to… Read more »

When chanted aloud in the synagogue on Purim, this verse is read in the same solemn tune as Megillat Eicha, since it mentions the exile of the Jewish people. The Vilna Gaon points out that the verb ‘carried away’ (ג-ל-ה) is mentioned three times in this verse, alluding to the fact that Mordechai was actually… Read more »

What reason was there to celebrate in Ahasuerus’s third year? The prophet Yirmiyahu, who lived at the end of the first Temple period, prophesied that the Children of Israel would be in exile for seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10). According to the Sages (Megilla 11b), Ahasuerus erroneously calculated that these seventy years had elapsed and that… Read more »

Psalm 23 has stood by the Jewish people as their support through the darkest days of persecution and exile. Over the centuries, no evil murderer or terrible tragedy has been able to crush the resilient spirit of the Jews, when they remember that “You are with me” (verse 4). King David certainly has a difficult… Read more »

Significantly, the verse does not say “that I may dwell within it.” The Mishkan is not intended to physically contain Hashem within its walls. .”Rather, the Seforno explains, it is a place which enables Hashem to dwell “among them,” meaning in the midst of the Children of Israel. Unlike pagan places of worship, the Mishkan… Read more »

Every seventh year, all farms, fields, orchards and vineyards in Eretz Yisrael are left untended and unharvested. To this very day, the Sabbatical year is kept in Israel. The message of this unique commandment is similar to that of Shabbat. Just as we are commanded to keep Shabbat and cease our daily activities every seventh… Read more »

If the watchmen are upon the walls all day and all night, then why is the superfluous word tamid (תמיד) ‘always,’ included in this verse? 20th century American Rabbi David Stavsky explains in his book of sermons: “Tamid, ‘always,’ refers to speaking up about Yerushalayim. Never should we remain silent when Yerushalayim is threatened. We… Read more »

In these verses, Hashem describes a precise plan to inherit the Land of Israel through a gradual process. Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, a well-known medieval commentator, poet and philosopher, explains that although God could have destroyed the inhabitants of Canaan instantaneously, He gave the Jewish people time to increase and take over the land in… Read more »

Any species of tree may be used to construct the sukkah, the booth used to observe the holiday of Sukkot. For this particular Sukkot, though, the people specifically looked for olive branches. Besides being one of the seven special agricultural species of the Land of Israel (Deuteronomy 8:8), the olive also plays a significant role… Read more »

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the importance of the mincha, the meal offering (see Leviticus chapter 2) that accompanied the evening sacrifice. The mincha was made of flour, oil and wine, three important products of Eretz Yisrael. Flour represents life, oil represents wealth and wine represents spiritual joy. The three fruits of the land used… Read more »