Learning Group–Parshat Mishpatim

(Shabbat Shekalim)

(Exodus 21:1-24:18)

(Haftara: Melachim 2, 11:17-12:17)

1. [21:1] “These are the laws that you will put in front of them.” The Torah should say, “These are the laws that you will teach them” or “command them”. Why does the pasuk say: “…that you will put in front of them”?

2. [21:37] “…(the thief) will pay 5 cows for stealing a cow, and 4 sheep for stealing a sheep.” Rashi quotes R. Yochanan in the Talmud who says that God has mercy on a sheep thief because he humiliated himself by having to carry the sheep on his shoulders. A cow thief just walks out with the cow and there is no humiliation. The thief did not respect the owner of the sheep so why should the Torah worry about the thief’s honour?

3. [22:20] When the Torah tells us not to oppress the stranger, we are reminded that we were strangers in Egypt. In other commandments, we are not told to remember our own experiences. Why is this extra encouragement or motivation given with this commandment?

4. [23:5] “When you see your enemy’s donkey suffering under its load…” What quality of personality is the Torah trying to develop in us by telling us to help our “enemy”? Why is this quality worth developing?

5. [Shabbat shekalim] On Shabbat shekalim, we read in the Torah about how everyone must give half a shekel for the tabernacle. The rabbis see this as a commandment that shows that everyone is equal. We know however, that people are not equal. Some are more intelligent, stronger, prettier, richer than others. In what way is everyone equal?

Commentary

[23:12] “…and on the seventh day you shall rest in order that your ox and your donkey should rest…”

You should rest and have peace on the Sabbath in such an intense way that you should influence everyone and everything in your environment. Everything around you should also be at peace.

–Rabbi A. M. Alter of Gur

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

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Learning Group– Parshat Yitro

(Numbers 18:1-20:23)

(Haftara: Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5,6)

1. [18:14-18:25] Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, suggested to Moshe that Moshe should totally reorganize the Israelites? Moshe does this with God’s approval. Shouldn’t God have told Moshe to do this? Why did such a very important change come from Yitro and not from God?

2. [19:17] “…and they stood under the mountain”. Rashi quotes a midrash which says that God held the mountain over the Israelites as a threat to force them to accept the Torah. This is understood to mean that the intensity of the experience forced them to accept the Torah, and this is understood to be a lower level than the free acceptance of the Torah. Why is total lack of doubt at Sinai considered a lower level?

3. [19:6] What do you think are the qualities of a “nation of priests; a holy nation”?

4. [20:1] The last Lubavitcher rebbe, R. Menachem M. Schneersohn said that each of the 10 commandments was a greater revelation of Godliness than the previous one. How can one understand this statement? Is “Don’t be jealous…” a greater revelation of Godliness than “Keep the Shabbat” or “I am the Lord, your God”?

5. [Haftara: Isaiah: 6:3] “Holy, holy, holy…the whole earth is full of His glory”. How does God’s glory fill the whole earth?

Commentary

“I am always afraid to be more clever than I am religious. I would rather be religious than clever. But better than both religious or clever, I would like to be good.”

–R. Pinchas Shapira, 1726-1791, Koretz, Poland.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

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Parshat Beshalach
Parshat Beshalach

(Exodus 13:17-17:16)

(Haftara: Shoftim 4:4-5:31)

)Shabbat Shira)

(Tu B’shvat)

1. [14:12-14] The Israelites are brought to a situation of great fear and stress before God saves them. God could have just done a miracle and saved them. What is gained by bringing the Israelites to such a crisis?

2. [14:28] The midrash tells us that when the Egyptian soldiers were drowning, the angels were singing joyfully. God told them to stop because “my creations are drowning”. Why did God allow the Israelites to sing joyfully?

3. [15:1] “Then Moshe and the Israelites sang this song to God…” It seems that they sang spontaneously. If we hadn’t been exposed to music from early childhood, would music come naturally to us? Why is it that music has the power to express our emotions better than words?

4. [15:2] “…this is my God and I will make him beautiful (ve’anvayhu)…” “Neve” in Hebrew also means home. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch understands the word “ve’anvayhu” as the idea that my body should be a suitable place for God–God should have a home in one’s life and one’s body. How can one make one’s body and one’s life a suitable place for God?

5. [Tu B’Shvat] When we make blessings before eating fruit and other foods, we make the blessing which is specific to that family of food. There is one blessing, however, that could apply to every food—”Blessed are You..that everything exists through His word. If one blessing is acceptable for every food, why do we try so hard to make the specific blessing?

Commentary

This is the mystery of the oneness of God. Wherever I take hold of a little bit of it, I take hold of all of it. And since the Torah and all the commandments are radiations of His Being, so whoever does a commandment with sincerity and love, and takes hold of a tiny bit of the oneness of God, has really taken hold of all of it.

–The Ba’al Shem Tov, 1698-1760, Ukraine.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

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1. [1:10] “…and make war with us and leave the land.” It seems that Pharoah did not want the Israelites in Egypt, but also didn’t want them to leave. What did he want? How do you understand this pasuk?

2. [2:10] “…because I pulled him out of the water.” What quality did Pharoah’s daughter show by pulling him out of the water, and how might this choice of name have affected the development of Moshe’s personality?

3. [2:23] When the Israelites screamed, God heard them and the redemption started. The Torah does not say that they screamed to God, but only that they screamed. The Torah speaks both on the physical and the spiritual level. On an individual spiritual level, when a person screams out of his or her pain, why is that the beginning of their redemption?

4. [4:10] Moshe says that he is not fit for the mission of taking the Israelites out of Egypt because he has some kind of speech impediment. Later his speech seems to be fine and we are never told how he improved. What might have caused the improvement in Moshe’s speech?

5. (Haftara: Isaiah 27:12) When Isaiah speaks of the final redemption, he says that we will be “gathered one by one”. Why not in groups? What does this phrase tell us about the final redemption?

Commentary

[2:10] “…and she called his name Moshe, and she said, “Because I pulled him out of the water”.

From here you can understand how great is the reward for those who do acts of kindness. Although Moshe had many names, the name by which he is known throughout the Torah is the one which Batyah, the daughter of Pharaoh, called him, and even God called him by the same name.

–Midrash Rabbah

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer