Rashi

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Jacob and Esau—Thermodynamics of Order and Chaos

And these are the chronicles of Isaac… (Genesis 25:19) So Esau went unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives that he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife. (Genesis 28:9)   This Torah portion is called Toledot. In Hebrew, toledot means “generations” or “chronicles.” Indeed, this Torah portion starts with the phrase, “These are the chronicles of Isaac.” This is not the first or the last time this word appears in Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures). It appears for the first time in the opening verse of chapter 2 of Genesis: These are the chronicles of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Eternal God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4) The second time it appears in [...]

Steering Isaac’s Blessing

And Rebekah spoke unto Jacob, her son, saying: “Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying: Bring me venison, and make me savoury food, that I may eat, and bless thee before the Eternal before my death. Now, therefore, my son, hearken to my voice according to that which I command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury food for thy father, such as he loveth; and thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, so that he may bless thee before his death.” And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother: “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. My father peradventure will feel me, [...]

My Name Is God, and I Am Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth...[1] (Genesis 1:1)   Classical biblical commentators have given the first words of the Torah many different translations and have interpreted them to have many different meanings. That said, one simple aspect has received little attention—that God is introducing Himself to us. If we take poetic license and change the order of the words, the first phrase in the Torah could be loosely translated as: “[My name is] God—[Who], in the beginning, created the heaven and the earth.” God is introducing Himself to us as the Creator of everything—heaven (i.e., the spiritual) and earth (i.e., the material). This interpretation of the first verse in the Torah may be helpful for the following reason. In truth, God is entirely unknowable. The Creator of everything, including [...]

Nadab and Abihu — Tragedy in Time

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Eternal, which He had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before the Eternal and devoured them, and they died before the Eternal. (Exodus 10:1-2) And Aaron spoke unto Moses: ‘Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the Eternal, and there have befallen me such things as these; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, would it have been well-pleasing in the sight of the Eternal? And when Moses heard that, it was well-pleasing in his sight. (Leviticus 10:19) The Torah Portion Shemini tells two stories: One of the tragic death of two sons of Aaron—Nadab (Nadav) and Abihu [...]

Salt: The Covenant of the Opposites

And every meal-offering of thine shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meal-offering; with all thy offerings thou shalt offer salt." (Leviticus 2:13)   Torah dictates that all offerings to God must be brought together with salt. Classical commentators ask: What is so special about salt that it is an indispensable ingredient of any sacrifice? Moreover, why is it called the covenant of salt? Nachmanides explains: The Torah also uses this covenant as a model for other covenants, as both the priestly covenant[1] and the Davidic covenant[2] are called “covenant of salt” because they are upheld just as the sacrificial covenant of salt…. I am of the opinion that the significance is that the salt is water, which [...]

Ki Tisa Hints at the Coronavirus

On the Eve of Shabbat, we received a government mailing containing documents that we were required to fill out and send back to the Census Bureau. The connection between the Census and the plague was not lost on me. The Torah portion we read last Shabbat, Ki Tisa. It begins with the story of the census: When you count the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.” (Exodus 30:12) This verse, linking the census with a plague, was uncanny in view of the COVID-19—Coronavirus pandemic—the modern-day plague, in the midst of which we find ourselves today. Interestingly, the word “count” in the verse above is [...]

Cosmic Symphony

Strings vibrate, Souls tremble, Angels are running and returning, God is touching and not touching – The rhythms of the universe… Nothing stays still… all is in flux. The inexorable flow of time is synonymous with the existence itself. Indeed, everything exists in time. However, from where does the time come? This is, perhaps, the greatest mystery of science. In modern physics, we do not know what time is, let alone from where it comes. We only know how to measure it – by counting the number of periodic intervals, which we accept as a unit of time. For example, in antiquity, people used a night-day cycle as the basic unit of time. This cycle was born out of observations of the apparent rotation of the sun around the earth (although, in reality, [...]

The Land We Married

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Command the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye come into the land of Canaan, this shall be the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to the borders thereof.” (Numbers 34:1-2) And ye shall inherit the land by lot according to your families—to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer, thou shalt give the less inheritance; wheresoever the lot falleth to any man, that shall be his; according to the tribes of your fathers shall ye inherit.” (Numbers 33:54) And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the [...]

The Second Derivative — The Secrets of The Double Cave

And he [Avraham] spoke with them, saying, “…Listen to me and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar. That he may give me the Machpelah (Double) Cave, which belongs to him, which is at the end of his field…" (Genesis 23:8-9) double: A house with an upper story over it. Another interpretation: because it was doubled with couples (Er. 53a) (Rashi on Genesis 23:9) In the Torah portion Chayei Sarah, Avraham purchases a Double Cave, Machpelah, as the ancestral burial plot. Almost all classical Biblical commentators interpret Machpelah (that is, "double") to mean a cave with two chambers. Rashi takes an entirely different approach and states that the cave was known for a two-story house built on top of it. So, the word Machpelah refers not to the cave itself, but to [...]

Day Six – the State of Superposition

And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good, and it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day. (Gen. 1:31)   The Biblical narrative of creation concludes with the above verse. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (a.k.a. Rashi) comments on this verse: the sixth day: Scripture added a “hey” on the sixth [day], at the completion of the Creation, to tell us that He stipulated with them, [“you were created] on the condition that Israel accept the Five Books of the Torah.” [The numerical value of the “hey” is five.] (Tanchuma Bereishith 1). Another explanation for “the sixth day”: They [the works of creation] were all suspended until the “sixth day,” referring to the sixth day of Sivan, which was prepared for the giving of the Torah (Shab. 88a). [...]

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