Friday, December 15, 2017

Dvar Torah & Podcast for Parshas Mikeitz

       AIMeM Torah would like to wish all our readers a Happy Chanukah!

       Parshas Mikeitz finds Yosef in the complete opposite situation from last week’s parsha. After correctly interpreting the dreams of Paroh, Yosef is raised to second-in-command of Egypt with total control over all functions of the kingdom. His main assignment was to prepare for the upcoming seven-year famine which he had predicted. With this foreknowledge and a plan, Yosef built Egypt into the wealthiest country in the World; people from every country came to Egypt to purchase food.
       Eventually, Yaakov’s sons make their way down to Egypt. Yosef had prepared for this and had them gathered up and brought to his palace. He then proceeded to put them through an emotional ordeal by first accusing them of being spies and forcing them to return to Eretz Yisrael to bring back Binyamin to prove their innocence. In the meantime, he kept Shimon in jail as a hostage. What was the reason for this whole charade? Yosef must have known it would be difficult for his father to let Binyamin, his only remaining reminder of Rachel, leave his side for an extended period of time. Also, with all the tortures his brothers put him through when selling him as a slave, did that mean Yosef allowed to take revenge on them now? Why did he put Yaakov and his brothers through this torment?
       The Ramban explains based on the pasuk, “וַיִּזְכֹּ֣ר יוֹסֵ֔ף אֵ֚ת הַֽחֲלֹמ֔וֹת אֲשֶׁ֥ר חָלַ֖ם לָהֶ֑ם“And Yosef remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them (his brothers) (Bereishis 42:9). When Yosef saw his brothers bowing down to him, he recalled the dreams from his youth, the ones they had all interpreted to mean that he would one day rule over his brothers. However, when the brothers first appeared in front of him, the dream was not completely fulfilled; according to his dream, all eleven of his brothers had to bow down to him, so he had to have Binyamin brought down as well. Once Binyamin arrived and all eleven brothers bowed down to him, Yosef was ready to move on to the second dream which included his father bowing down to him, and sent for Yaakov to come down to Egypt. The Ramban acknowledges that this whole episode must have been torture for the family, but he declares that it was worth it so that the dreams should be fulfilled.
       The question is obvious: was it that important that the dreams be fulfilled to the exact detail that Yosef had to torture his brothers, and worse, his father? Chazal teach us that in every dream, even in the most true ones, there is a part which is not true. Why couldn’t Yosef chalk up Binyamin not being there to that principle? What is the big deal about his dreams?
       I came across a number of answers, but one that stood out to me comes from Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky. He explains that it wasn’t specifically about the dreams that made Yosef go through this entire process. There was a lesson he had to teach his brothers which even after all the years of his being gone, they still hadn’t learned. The brothers were wise men who acted only for the sake of Hashem. When they observed Yosef’s behavior as a youth, how he preened himself, and entertained (in their minds) delusions of grandeur, they felt he was threatening the long-term future of the family culture they had carefully constructed. After all, this was not a group of simple shepherds, they were to be the founders of the great Nation of Hashem! Therefore, without even consulting their father, they put together a Beis Din and sentenced him. This was no kangaroo court, however; they had a fair judgement, and based on their observations, came out with a fair ruling. However, they were clearly mistaken; and even all these years later, while they felt bad for their father, they still felt they had made the correct decision in regards to Yosef.
       Yosef wanted to teach his brothers a lesson that went beyond just him, that even though they were great men, they could still make a mistake in their initial, simple assumptions. It was possible to have a fair and impartial judgement, but if the assumption was incorrect, the whole idea would be incorrect. Until they went through all the tortures in this week’s parsha, they had never entertained this possibility. It was so important to show them this, that he made sure every detail of the dream was exactly the way it had been foreseen, just to make sure this point was illustrated to the fullest. And his planned worked, as it says in the pasuk, “וַיֹּֽאמְר֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ אֶל־אָחִ֗יו אֲבָל֘ אֲשֵׁמִ֣ים | אֲנַ֘חְנוּ֘ עַל־אָחִ֒ינוּ֒ אֲשֶׁ֨ר רָאִ֜ינוּ צָרַ֥ת נַפְשׁ֛וֹ בְּהִתְחַֽנְנ֥וֹ אֵלֵ֖ינוּ וְלֹ֣א שָׁמָ֑עְנוּ עַל־כֵּן֙ בָּ֣אָה אֵלֵ֔ינוּ הַצָּרָ֖ה הַזֹּֽאת“And they said to one another, ‘Indeed, we are guilty for our brother, that we witnessed the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us.” (Ibid 21).

Shabbat Shalom!




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Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts) 

 The Dvar Torah is now available on parshasheets.com! Check out the site for links to Divrei Torah in both Hebrew and English, written by people around the world

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AIMeM     

Friday, December 8, 2017

No Dvar Torah this Week

Due to circumstances beyond our control, there is no new Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayeishev. Please click here for last year's Dvar Torah and Podcast for this week's parsha. We will, b'ezrat Hashem, return next week with a brand new Dvar Torah & Podcast!

Shabbat Shalom!

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AIMeM

Thursday, November 30, 2017

No Dvar Torah this Week

Due to unforeseen circumstances, there is no new Dvar Torah or Podcast for this week's parsha, Parshas Vayishlach. Please click here for last year's Dvar Torah for Vayishlach. We will, b'ezrat Hashem, return next week with a brand new Dvar Torah.

Shabbat Shalom!

For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMTorah@gmail.com.

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AIMeM

Friday, November 24, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayeitzei & Podcast

       In Parshas Vayeitzei, Yaakov leaves his home to travel to the house of his uncle, Lavan, intent on building his family. As a direct result of Lavan’s trickery, he ended up marrying four women from whom he had the twelve shevatim, while he originally intended to marry only Rachel. As much as Yaakov prepared for Lavan tricks, he couldn’t do enough.
       The story is well-known, about the group of shepherds Yaakov met upon his arrival. While they waited for enough people to gather to help remove the large stone placed on top of the well, they were lounging with their flocks around the well right in the middle of the work day. Yaakov immediately strikes up a conversation with them, asking all sorts of questions you would expect a friendly, perhaps naïve, tourist to ask, but not a man on a mission like Yaakov. He begins with a simple question, “מֵאַ֣יִן אַתֶּ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ מֵֽחָרָ֖ן אֲנָֽחְנוּ “…Where are you from? And they said, ‘We are from Haran.” (Bereishis 29:4). He then begins to grill them about Lavan. “וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם הַיְדַעְתֶּם אֶת לָבָן בֶּן נָחוֹר הֲשָׁלוֹם לוֹ“And he said to them, ‘Do you know Lavan the son of Nachor?...Are things well with him?” (29:4-5). While these seem to be innocent questions of a man checking up on his relatives, the Kli Yakar explains that Yaakov was doing research.
       He asks two questions on the language used in the pasuk. First, why would Yaakov refer to Lavan as the son of Nachor, his grandfather? He should have referenced his father, Besuel. Secondly, when asked if they knew Lavan, the shepherds replied, “יָדָֽעְנוּ”, “we know.” Why wouldn’t they have said, “we know him”?
       Once Yaakov heard these shepherds were from Lavan’s town, he knew they must know of him. The Kli Yakar explains that Yaakov was trying to find out the character of Lavan. Nachor was a righteous man while Besuel was a depraved person. Yaakov wanted to know if Lavan was following the path of his father or his grandfather. Furthermore, Yaakov was checking to see if there was any question as to Lavan’s lineage. By referring to Nachor, he was making sure Lavan was completely part of the family line. The shepherds responded, “We know”, we know he is Nachor’s grandson both in terms of actions and lineage.
       However, Yaakov was not convinced with one question. He decided to ask another, “Are things well with him?” Charan was mostly made up of reshaim; Yaakov knew that any tzaddik living there would be the subject of harassment and ridicule. When the shepherds replied that everything was well with Lavan, to the extent that he sent his young daughter out alone in the fields with all those men, Yaakov knew he couldn’t possibly be a tzaddik.
       This was just one of the preparations Yaakov made to protect himself from Lavan’s trickery and lies. While he wasn’t able to defend himself from every shtick Lavan tried to pull, ultimately he was successful in the most important aspect. Even though he spent 20 years in Lavan’s house, grew a large family and became a wealthy man, he and his family were not affected by the bad influence of Lavan in the slightest. He remained totally connected to Hashem until the day he left. In our galus we face many challenges from our surroundings. We must recognize what is right and proper and keep our course in that direction, regardless of the niceties that tempt us on the road.


Shabbat Shalom! 

The Dvar Torah is now available on parshasheets.com! Check out the site for links to Divrei Torah in both Hebrew and English, written by people around the world.


Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts) This week marks our 50th episode!

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AIMeM

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Toldos & Podcast

       Parshas Toldos begins the next generation of the Jewish People with the story of the life of Yitzchak. If you stop to think about it, this parsha stands out among the others in Sefer Bereishis as the only parsha to discuss the details of Yitzchak’s life. While Avraham’s life was discussed over the previous 3 parshiyos and Yaakov’s takes us to the end of the Sefer, Yitzchak’s life was only deemed necessary to discuss for one parsha. Why is this? The whole purpose of writing the details of the lives of our Avos in the Torah is to teach us life lessons. Were there not enough lessons to be learned from the life of Yitzchak? Was he, perhaps, less important than Avraham and Yaakov? G-d forbid!
       Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky explains that like we said earlier, the purpose of telling us the story of the Avos is to teach us specific life lessons, of which each of the Avos taught a different one. However, the amount of attention each one gets in the Torah directly correlates to the influence they had upon the world. Why was Yitzchak’s lesson not as influential as the others?
       Let’s examine the lessons of each one of the Avos. Avraham’s main attribute was Chessed. The simple understanding of his mission is he would provide for people and when they wanted to thank him, he would teach them to thank Hashem instead. However, it goes deeper than that. Avraham recognized that everything he had was an act of kindness on the part of Hashem. When Avraham did Chessed, he did it in order to model his actions after those of the Creator. So when his guests would thank him for his kindness, he would direct their thanks heavenward; “You think I’m giving you all this? I’ve been blessed with kindness as well! All this comes from Hashem, He’s the one you should thank. I’m just passing His gifts along to you!” A life based on kindness and mercy is an attractive one to be a part of and drew many people closer to Hashem.
       Yaakov’s main characteristic was his pursuit of Truth. His pursued truth by learning Torah, the ultimate guide to the universe, written and given to us by Hashem Himself. By plumbing the depths of the Torah, Yaakov was able to discern the real truths of the universe. He spent his life representing honesty and teaching Torah to anyone who would listen. It was through him that the young nation became connected to the Torah and formulated a relationship with Hashem. While it may not be as attractive as a warm inviting home of kindness, a knowledge of truth and is attractive as well. Therefore, Yaakov drew many people to Hashem as well.
       Yitzchak’s main characteristic was his diligence in his service to Hashem, a trait that was built on his strong sense of Din and Mishpat, which Reb Yaakov translates in this context to mean that a person must live his entire life strictly within the guidelines that Hashem has set up, without compromise. This is a difficult standard to hold oneself to, complete commitment without wavering at all! The only person to whom this is an expected way of life is one to whom this lifestyle is so precious, that his relationship and commitment to Hashem is so important, and that he is ultimately ready to give up his life for it.
       This was Yitzchak’s relationship with Hashem and the Torah. His view on life was demanding but with the ultimate commitment. One of the best things in life is loving something or someone enough that you would die for it, which Yitzchak showed he was ready to do without hesitation when he volunteered to become the sacrifice Hashem needed by Akeidas Yitzchak. His life may have been exact, but Yitzchak wasn’t an unhappy person. He didn’t live his life with a sense of foreboding or fear of overstepping the lines, he lived with a happiness of being able to serve his Creator to the max. And because it was so important to him, he demanded of himself complete commitment to his lifestyle.
       Yitzchak taught us the idea of Mesiras Nefesh, dying for a cause, specifically the cause of Hashem. Sadly, Jews have had to follow this practice too many times throughout history, but the idea of dying for a cause has been and will always be admired. This was Yitzchak’s contribution to the Jewish People. However, this lifestyle and level of commitment is not one for everyone, and Yitzchak did not attract nearly as many followers to Hashem as Avraham and Yaakov.
       The amount of words spent on each of the Avos is in correlation to how many people they attracted to the religion at their specific time since the number of stories that they took part in ultimately comes down to how many people they interacted with and affected, of which Yitzchak had the least. In the long run, however, the amount written about each one in the Torah is insignificant; the important part is what they contributed to us, the Jewish People, their children. The lessons they taught us about how to live our lives as Ovdei Hashem. While in the times of the Torah Yitzchak may not have had many followers, his contributions towards the future nation were just as significant as his father’s and son’s. In fact, while Chessed teaches us how to be like Hashem and Torah teaches us to understand Hashem, the self-sacrifice and Mesiras Nefesh of Yitzchak is what ultimately seals our relationship with Hashem.


Shabbat Shalom! 



Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts)

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AIMeM

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Chayei Sarah & Podcast

       This week’s parsha begins with tragedy as the Torah tells us of the death of Sarah Imeinu. The pasuk tells us that she was 127 years old when she died, but the real lesson is learned from the how her age is written. “וַיִּֽהְיוּ֙ חַיֵּ֣י שָׂרָ֔ה מֵאָ֥ה שָׁנָ֛ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְשֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֑ים שְׁנֵ֖י חַיֵּ֥י שָׂרָֽה“And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; the years of the life of Sarah.” (Bereishis 23:1). Why did the pasuk write out each set of years separately?
       The classic explanation comes, as usual, from Rashi. He explains that each set of years is meant to make a point. First, when she was one hundred, she was like a twenty year old in terms of sin. Until the age of twenty, a person is not liable for punishment from Heaven for any sins they may do; even at the age of 100, Sarah had not sinned in any way to require punishment from Heaven. Secondly, when she was 20, she still had the pure beauty that is attributed to a little girl; in this example, a seven year old. The pasuk breaks down each level separately to accentuate these ideas.
       Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch asks another question on this pasuk, how come the pasuk needed to write “the years of the life of Sarah” at the end? Isn’t it obvious that’s what we’re discussing? In fact, that’s the entire pasuk! To explain, he expands on this medrash.
       The three ages of 100, 20, and 7 that are broken down in the pasuk, are representative of the three stages of a person’s life: youth, adulthood, and old age. Chazal teach us that the best way for a person to live their life is to act their age in each one of these stages. What is meant by this?
       As a person lives and goes through these life stages, the lessons learned from each stage should be internalized and used to be successful in the next stage. So theoretically, the mistakes and lessons a person learns as a child should affect how he lives as an adult, and the happenings of an adult should teach and influence him how to live his life as an older person. What should end up happening is that the older person has the most life experience from which to draw wisdom and insight into events in the world, while in turn the adult has more wisdom and experience than the youth. When life follows this pattern, with a person accepting and internalizing past experiences and building upon them in the next stage of life, Chazal say this is a true life.
       This brings us back to the medrash and the breakdown of Sarah’s life. To read the medrash simply sounds ridiculous. The lack of sin on the part of the 20 year old is due to what is called the “innocence”, read- naiveté, of the youth. You can’t hold an unknowledgeable person responsible for their actions! And there’s no pride in being compared to that kind of innocence. (But people actually think there is!) In reality, the true conqueror of sin is the one who has been faced with the challenges of life, the attraction to depravity, the desires for shallowness, slowly building up experience and knowledge throughout their adult life until they come out shining on the other side. The real comparison you want drawn is the 20 year old should be clean from sin like the 100 year old, the one who has faced those challenges and come out on top!
       The same is true when it comes to beauty. As an innocent, ignorant child, it is easy to maintain the pure, clear beauty of youth. But the one who has faced peer-pressure, possibly derision, and the expectations of the outside world, yet still maintained that pure beauty, both inner and outer, upon reaching adulthood, that is someone to be admired. This is a stage that is meant for those in the prime of life when the thoughts of others are stronger on the consciousness and the physical body is in peak condition. And it is one that can be conquered by them. This person is to go through these challenges, come out shining on the other side and is to be compared to a young child who knows nothing of such things!? It’s insulting.
       Sarah was someone who embodied this “true life”, taking the lessons of her youthful beauty to service her as an adult, and the lessons on avoiding sin into her later years. This is why the pasuk breaks down her age into these three stages, represented by the numbers 100, 20, and seven. So while these 127 were indeed “the years of the life of Sarah”, they were also “the life of Sarah”; they tell the story of her journey through the stages of life until she left this world, fully accomplished, having perfectly completed the sum of the purpose of her entire life.
       May this understanding of our amazing ancestor be an inspiration to us all, and teach us how we should view each portion of our lives. Any challenges we face are only there to make us stronger, and our lives are only complete when we can use everything we have learned, our lives can only then be called “truly lived”, when we have reached the final stage.

Shabbat Shalom!


Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts)

For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email us at AIMeMTorah@gmail.com.

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AIMeM


Friday, November 3, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Vayeira & Podcast

       Our forefather, Avraham was known for his tremendous Chessed, the extraordinary acts of kindness he performed with the people of his generation. Our parsha opens with one such example, where only three days after a painful Bris Milah, Avraham sat out in the hot sun waiting for potential guests to walk by so he could provide for them. Eventually, Hashem sent three angels disguised as humans to satisfy Avraham. Besides for this, the angels each had an additional mission, to heal Avraham, to inform him that he would soon have a son, and the last one was sent to destroy the city of Sodom.
       What exactly did the people of Sodom do to merit total destruction? Chazal teach us that among their many sins, Sodom forbid any type of “tzedakah,” charity or kindness, in the city. Everyone was expected to provide for themselves without relying on anyone else. They forbid guests from outside the city as well since it violated this principle. This description is in stark contrast to the attitude of Avraham, so well-illustrated at the beginning of the parsha. But why would ignoring these principles warrant complete erasure from the Earth? What is so important about tzedakah that singled out Sodom from any number of evil societies?
       Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch explains the mindset behind the mitzvah of charity. Hashem tells us to treat those around us with two basic principles, Mishpat and Tzedakah, Justice and Charity. (See Hoshea 14:10.) These became the guiding principles for those who would follow Hashem, namely, Avraham and his descendants (us!). What exactly constitutes justice and charity? Rav Hirsch explains that justice is when one man can demand something from another because it is already coming to him; it is something he deserves, that belongs to him. Charity is different but not exactly what we would expect. It is something which I cannot demand from anyone, but I am allowed to expect it since Hashem has made it clear that it will be coming to me. If we understand this principle correctly, it totally changes our perspective on giving charity.
       The normal belief of every individual is that whatever money he has belongs to him. He worked hard and sacrificed for it, and while the money is truly a blessing from Hashem, now that he has it, it is his to do with as he pleases. He believes that giving charity is important since it teaches him to be giving and provides the opportunity to help others, but any charity he gives should be considered as a gift coming from his own pocket. The explanation Rav Hirsch though, sinks this understanding.
       On the surface, Rav Hirsch makes no sense; obviously I can’t demand the money since it’s not mine, but hen how can I expect it to come? I have no connection to it! The true understanding of money is that I work hard and sacrifice for it, and Hashem blesses me with it and allows me to enjoy it; but at the same time He has given me an important job. The money is not truly mine, it’s still Hashem’s; I am simply His steward in spreading it around to those who need it, to those who have not been blessed by Him as I have. And as long as I continue to do my job properly, He will continue to bless me.
       This was Sodom’s big mistake. They looked at everything they had as the product of their own sweat and tears. Even if Hashem had blessed them, at this point the money belonged to them. What right did anyone else have to take part? But Avraham knew better. He was one of the richest men in the world, but he knew that he was only a distribution center for Hashem. While he was able to enjoy his money himself, it was just as important for him to share it with the rest of society, all of whom were creations of Hashem. He was so enthusiastic in his duties that he even sat outside in the blazing heat just three days after having surgery.
       This is not simply a vort from Rav Hirsch on the pasuk, this is actually how we pasken the halacha! This attitude towards chessed and tzedakah was the defining attribute of Avraham; it was what made him the Father of the Jewish People and was the main attribute which he passed down to us. We must be sure to emulate him and realize that all we have in this world is a gift from Hashem, given to us only because we are responsible to provide for those around us as well. That way, we can all enjoy the blessings He has bestowed upon us.


Shabbat Shalom!


Click here to listen this this week's Podcast (Also available on Apple Podcasts)
For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email is at AIMeMtorah@gmail.com.

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Don't forget to check out hashkafahandbook.com to learn about my book,Reality Check. And Like it on Facebook.

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AIMeM