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Weekly Parsha Questions

Filtering by Category: Bereishis Questions

Vayeishev Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

When Yaakov sends Yosef to “check” on his brothers there are two unusual pesukim are mentioned in between Yaakov’s command and Yosef’s arrival of his brothers:

טו) וַיִּמְצָאֵהוּ אִישׁ וְהִנֵּה תֹעֶה בַּשָּׂדֶה וַיִּשְׁאָלֵהוּ הָאִישׁ לֵאמֹר מַה תְּבַקֵּשׁ

15. Then a man found him, and behold, he was straying in the field, and the man asked him, saying, “What are you looking for?”

טז) וַיֹּאמֶר אֶת אַחַי אָנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ הַגִּידָה נָּא לִי אֵיפֹה הֵם רֹעִים

16. And he said, “I am looking for my brothers. Tell me now, where are they pasturing?”

This encounter separates Yaakov’s command to his son to seek out his brothers and the sale of Joseph to passing merchants.

The Ramban tells us that this unidentified man is the angel Gabriel ensuring that history plays itself out. Illustrating Divine providence in this story.

The question remains – If Jacob knows that the brother hate Joseph why does he send him to the front lines?

Why does G-d intervene and guarantee that Joseph is placed amongst his adversaries? What did Yosef need to experience to ensure his own future and the future of the Jewish people (see the Rashbam ad loc. on Yosef’s strength in this situation)?

Miketz Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

Dreams continue to play a prominent role in Torah, this time the dreamer is none other the the Pharoah himself. And the very nature of the dreams a deeply troubling to him. None of his dream interpreters or wise men can offer insights into these dreams that are satisfactory, so at the advice of his butler, the Pharoah called for the Hebrew dream interpreter from the dungeons, Yosef.

בראשית פרשת מקץ פרק מא

כה) ויאמר יוסף אל־פרעה חלום פרעה אחד הוא את אשר האלהים עשה הגיד לפרעה

25. And Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dream is one; what God is doing He has told Pharaoh.

What is it about Yosef’s interpretation that resonates with Pharoah?

בראשית פרשת מקץ פרק מא

לט) ויאמר פרעה אל־יוסף אחרי הודיע אלהים אותך את־כל־זאת אין־נבון וחכם כמוך

39. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has let you know all this, there is no one as understanding and wise as you.

מ) אתה תהיה על־ביתי ועל־פיך ישק כל־עמי רק הכסא אגדל ממך

40. You shall be [appointed] over my household, and through your command all my people shall be nourished; only [with] the throne will I be greater than you.”

God was present in Yosef’s interpretation and Pharoah takes note. How does the Pharoah interpret Yosef’s mention of God in his interpretation?

Where would Yosef have learned to mention God as part of his speech (See Bereishis Chapter 27:20)?

In the light of Pharoah’s reaction to Yosef, when one incorporates God into ones conversations what impact does that have on the speaker and listener?

A Proclamation by

President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Vayishlach Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

At the moment that Yaakov and Eisav are reunited the Torah describes their first interaction:

בראשית פרשת וישלח פרק לג

ד) וירץ עשו לקראתו ויחבקהו ויפל על־צוארו וישקהו ויבכו

4. And Esau ran toward him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

When one examines the word וַֹיִֹשָֹׁקֵֹהֹוֹּ ‘and he kissed’ it is written with dots over it. These are not by chance.

Why does the Torah include these dots (see Rashi)?

Commonly we say that the dots indicate that Eisav went to bight Yaakov rather then kiss him, how does Rashi interpret this incident differently and what does it teach about brotherly love?

Vayetze Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

As Yaakov flees from his brother, Esav, and he stops to rest for the night and dreams:

ויצא פרק כח

יב) ויחלם והנה סלם מצב ארצה וראשו מגיע השמימה והנה מלאכי אלהים עלים וירדים בו

12. And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it.

As Yaakov concludes his exile and nears his return to the land of Israel he has another set of dreams:

בראשית פרשת ויצא פרק לא

י) ויהי בעת יחם הצאן ואשא עיני וארא בחלום והנה העתדים העלים על־הצאן עקדים נקדים וברדים

10. And it came to pass at the time the animals prepared to mate, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the he goats that mounted the animals were ringed, speckled, and striped.

יא) ויאמר אלי מלאך האלהים בחלום יעקב ואמר הנני

11. And an angel of God said to me in a dream, ‘Jacob!’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’

יב) ויאמר שא־נא עיניך וראה כל־העתדים העלים על־הצאן עקדים נקדים וברדים כי ראיתי את כל־אשר לבן עשה לך

12. And he said, ‘Now lift your eyes and see [that] all the he goats mounting the animals are ringed, speckled, and striped, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.

יג) אנכי האל בית־אל אשר משחת שם מצבה אשר נדרת לי שם נדר עתה קום צא מן־הארץ הזאת ושוב אל־ארץ מולדתך

13. I am the God of Beth el, where you anointed a monument, where you pronounced to Me a vow. Now, arise, go forth from this land and return to the land of your birth.'”

Each dream features angels and an explicit message from God.

What is the message from each angel and how do they differ?

Is it shocking that Yaakov, who had dreamed of angels ascending to heaven, is now dreaming of business transactions? What experiences changed him?

Since the dreams of Yaakov change with his experiences, does that perhaps motivate him to take next steps? What is Yaakov’s reaction to these dreams?

Toldos Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

We gain great insight into the family life of Yitzchak and Rivkah in one short Pasuk:

פרשת תולדות פרק כה

כח) וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת־עֵשָׂו כִּי־צַיִד בְּפִיו וְרִבְקָה אֹהֶבֶת אֶת־יַעֲקֹב

28. And Isaac loved Esau because [his] game was in his mouth, but Rebecca loved Jacob.

Why is there a reason given for Yitzchak’s love of Eisav but no reason given for Rivkah’s love of Yaakov?

Why is Yitzchak’s love of Eisav written in the past tense but Rivkah’s love of Yaakov written in the future tense?

How can one translate differently כִּי־צַיִד בְּפִיו from ‘because game was in his mouth’? In whose moth was the ‘game’? How did Eisav trap Yitzchak into thinking he was perhaps a better person then he actually was (see Rabbeinu Bechaye ad loc.)?

Chayei Sarah Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

The Gemara (Brachos 26b)teaches that the times for Tefillah were established by Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. Specifically we read this week of Yitchzak establishing the time for Mincha, the afternoon service.

The Pasuk reads:

בראשית פרשת חיי שרה פרק כד

סג) וַיֵּצֵא יִצְחָק לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה לִפְנוֹת עָרֶב וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה גְמַלִּים בָּאִים

63. And Isaac went forth to pray in the field towards evening, and he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, camels were approaching.

The term ‘Mincha’ is different from Shacharis or Ma’ariv due to the fact it refers to the Mincha sacrifice rather then a specfic time in the day (Shacharis is loosely translated as Morning Service and Maariv as the evening service).

What is unique about the Mincha service?

Where was Yitzchak when he was praying to God? How is that similar to our experience stopping to pray Mincha?

Who famously stops the Jewish people’s evil practices by praying to God at Mincha (see Melachim I 18:24)?

Why is it important to pause in the middle of the day to recite Mincha?

God promises Avraham that the sun will set on Jewish liberty and they will be sent to be strangers in a foreign land for 400 years. What is the connection to Yitzchak establishing Mincha and the speculation that these 400 years of exile begin during the life of Yitzchak?

Vayera Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

In a moment of great drama, Lot, the nephew of Avraham, is whisked away from his home, Sedom, by his guests. In their instructions to Lot and his family they strongly advise:

בראשית פרשת וירא פרק יט

יז) וַיְהִי כְהוֹצִיאָם אֹתָם הַחוּצָה וַיֹּאמֶר הִמָּלֵט עַל־נַפְשֶׁךָ אַל־תַּבִּיט אַחֲרֶיךָ וְאַל־תַּעֲמֹד בְּכָל־הַכִּכָּר הָהָרָה הִמָּלֵט פֶּן־תִּסָּפֶה

17. And it came to pass, when they took them outside, that he said, “Flee for your life, do not look behind you, and do not stand in the entire plain. Flee to the mountain, lest you perish.”

The guests of Lot, angels sent by God, where explicit – now is the moment to look forward and not back.

We also know of the fate of Lot’s wife, who cannot help but turn around and gaze at the destruction of Sodom, the city they called home:

בראשית פרשת וירא פרק יט

כו) וַתַּבֵּט אִשְׁתּוֹ מֵאַחֲרָיו וַתְּהִי נְצִיב מֶלַח

26. And his wife looked from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

Why does Lot’s wife turn into a pillar of Salt for looking back at Sodom?

What does salt represent (see the Kli Yakar Bereishis 19:17) about the inadequacies of Lot?

What image does the word נְצִיב invoke (see Ibn Ezra Bereishis 19:26)

Lech Lecha Question 3

Yechiel Shaffer

After Abraham wins the day in the battle between the four Kings and the five Kings (Bereishis 14:1-17), there is a perculiar interaction between Malchizedek and Abraham. Rashi, quoting the Medrash Aggadah identifies Malchizedek as Shem, the son of Noah. We are introduced to Malchizedek in the following way:

בראשית פרשת לך לך פרק יד

ח) ומלכי־צדק מלך שלם הוציא לחם ויין והוא כהן לאל עליון

18. And Malchizedek the king of Salem brought out bread and wine, and he was a priest to the Most High God.

When Malchizedek addresses Abraham he adjusts the reference to God as ‘Most High’ to ‘Most High God, Who possesses heaven and earth’.

Why is Malchizedek compelled to add Gods dominion of heaven and earth after witnessing the conclusive victory of Abraham? According to this, what actions testify towards, not only God’s lofty nature but his dominion over the heaven and earth (See Kli Yakar Bereshis 14:19)?

How should we view our purpose in this world differently in light of Abraham’s conclusive victory and Kiddush Hashem(sanctification of God’s name)?

Lech Lecha Question 2

Yechiel Shaffer

י) ויהי רעב בארץ וירד אברם מצרימה לגור שם כי־כבד הרעב בארץ

10. And there was a famine in the land, and Abram descended to Egypt to sojourn there because the famine was severe in the land.

What future event is this foreshadowing?

What happens during Abraham’s time in Egypt (Bereshis 12:11-20) and are there parallels to the Jews experience later in Shemos?

Abraham leaves the home of the Pharoah with great wealth. The Jews will leave their exile in Egypt also with great wealth. How does Abraham choose his new found wealth? What lessons can be learned by the Jewish people following their new found wealth after the Exodus from Egypt? What does Lot, Abraham’s nephew do with his wealth?

Lech Lecha Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

With the arrival of Abraham, the world is introduced to the hero it was so desperately searching for. The founding father of monotheism, an activist who brings Godliness into this world, is the predecessor and pioneer of faith in God. Hearing the calling of God, Abraham leaves his birthplace and begins a journey to a new homeland.

בראשית פרשת לך לך פרק יב

א) ויאמר יקוק אל־אברם לך־לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל־הארץ אשר אראך

1. And the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.

Why does Abraham have to leave the comfort of home to set out towards an anonymous destination?

What agreement does God make in this command?

What happens to Abraham when he arrives at this place?

Noach Question 2

Yechiel Shaffer

Towards the conclusion of chapter 11 we are told:

ל) ותהי שרי עקרה אין לה ולד

30. And Sarai was barren; she had no child.

Why does the Torah have to stress her lack of a child?

Many of the commentaries discuss the repetition and suggest that we are gaining insight into the motivation of Avraham and Sarah to impact their world. What context does this stress on her inability to have children put their work in Chessed?

Sarah is a model of grace and belief in God. Her having children is inconceivable yet her commitment to God and the creation of an Abrahamic nation is resolute. How did her impact reach beyond her immediate family and what do we learn from her psychical disabilities that she overcomes?

Noach Question 1

Yechiel Shaffer

Noach is a divisive character who stands out during a dark time in world history. Known for his righteousness, the Torah tells us that Noach walked in the path of God and was the only person worthy of being saved from the terrible flood that ravished the world.

In the entire narrative of Noach, he is only record talking once:

בראשית פרשת נח פרק ט

כה) ויאמר ארור כנען עבד עבדים יהיה לאחיו

25. And he said, “Cursed be Canaan; he shall be a slave among slaves to his brethren.”

כו) ויאמר ברוך יקוק אלהי שם ויהי כנען עבד למו

26. And he said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be a slave to them.

כז) יפת אלהים ליפת וישכן באהלי־שם ויהי כנען עבד למו

27. May God expand Japheth, and may He dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be a slave to them.”

The nature of Noach’s statements are troubling to say the least but these being the only words the Torah recorded Noach saying must force us to ask:

Why is Noach silent throughout his entire ordeal?

What is Noach’s legacy in light of the only words he has recorded in the Torah?

There is an obvious connection to Avraham’s dramatic plea to save the wicked Sedom from destruction (see Bereishis 18) but what are the contextual similarities between the two? Is there a shared loneliness that they felt?