Author: Avi Shafran

Nitzavim – Turning Pain to Gain

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) at the start of parshas Nitzavim sees in the parsha’s opening words, “You are standing today” the message that, despite the sins and travails of Klal Yisrael up to that...

Ki Savo – Schrödinger’s Moon

Seizing on the fact that the Hebrew word for a granary – osem – shares two letters with the word for “obscured” – samui – Chazal make an intriguing assertion: Blessing [i.e. increase in...

Parshas Ki Seitzei – A Puzzling Parallel

It is striking and strange that a phrase that is to be proclaimed by the yevama, the childless widow whose brother-in-law does not wish to marry her, is the precise phrase in Megillas Esther,...

Shoftim – Commanded

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker once asked students if they would rather face the vicissitudes of their lives or be transformed into totally happy pigs. A young woman raised her hand and said, “I’d...

Re’ei – Survivors

Kol yimei chayecha – “All the days of your life” – is a phrase we first meet in the Torah when Hashem pronounces the fate of Adam after the sin of eating from the...

Eikev – Strangers in a Strange Land

Both remarkable and timely is a digression by the Sefer HaChinuch on a mitzvah in the parshah. The mitzvah, #431, is ahavas hager, the commandment to love a convert (Devarim 10:19). In addition to...

Devarim – The Rock’s Lost Lesson 

In Moshe Rabbeinu’s parting rebuke of Klal Yisrael for “not believing in Hashem” (Devarim 1:32), for all its complaining in the wake of the report of the meraglim and beyond, he refers to Hashem’s...

Matos-Mas’ei – The Final Word

Although Sefer Devarim is the final “book” of the Torah, in a sense, Sefer Bamidbar is. That is because, while Devarim includes many new laws and accounts, it also repeats some, and is thus...

Pinchas – Selfless Act, Boundless Portion?

Tzelafchad, according to one opinion, was the mekoshesh, or “wood gatherer,” who was executed for violating Shabbos. According to the Targum Yonasan (and a Midrash quoted by Tosfos in Bava Basra 119b), his act...

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