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  • Hal Matheson

Dedicated as a zechus for my grandmother, Rosane Rosenthal (Shoshana Raizel bas Binyomin z’l,) whose second yahrzeit is today. 

We live in a society with many convenient forms of communication. A phone call is convenient. A text message is convenient. Even a zoom call in which you need to turn your screen on, is convenient. These conveniences notwithstanding, we have all come to realize what a blessing it is to have real in-person encounters with other people. 

In Parshas Vayechi the Torah says: 

וְעֵינֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ כָּבְד֣וּ מִזֹּ֔קֶן לֹ֥א יוּכַ֖ל לִרְא֑וֹת וַיַּגֵּ֤שׁ אֹתָם֙ אֵלָ֔יו וַיִּשַּׁ֥ק לָהֶ֖ם וַיְחַבֵּ֥ק לָהֶֽם׃

And [Yaakov’s] eyes were dim with age; he could not see. So [Yosaif] brought [Ephraim and Menashe] close to him, and he kissed them and hugged them.(Gen. 18:10) 

At this point, Yaakov is well acquainted with his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe, why then does he feel the need to kiss them before giving them a bracha? 

Rav Ovadia Seforno makes the following profound point: 

We find throughout the Torah numerous instances where a blessing or  curse  is effectuated and impacted by a personal interaction, sometimes even merely with sight. 

At the end of Moshe Rabbeinu’s life, Hashem allowed him to see the land of Israel. This, says the Seforno, was so that Eretz Yisroel could have Moshe’s blessing in full force. Wicked Bilaam wanted to see the Jewish people before he cursed them, (Bamidbar 23:13) in the hopes that it would make his curse more effective. 

Yaakov Avinu, at his advanced age could not see well. But he knew that he needed to interact with his grandsons for his bracha to be as impactful as possible. So he hugged and kissed Ephraim and Menashe instead, bonding with them physically, emotional and spiritually. Yaakov Avinu’s legacy with that act is the eternal bracha of Hamalach Hagoel and the brachos that we bless our children with every Friday night.

Tonight when we bench our children, let’s take a few moments to connect with each of them beforehand. Start with a smile, a hug or even a kind word. In the busyness of the week, these all important moments don’t always happen.  Especially amongst all the hatred and violence from our enemies all around, our personal relationships with our families, and the powerful encouragement and brachos that we can offer, are needed more than ever. Let’s take advantage of the opportunities. 

Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos, 

Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

  • Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

“He started it!” “Well, she’s doing it also!”

Chances are, that if you live in earshot of children, you may have heard these words before. :)

Be it adults or children, we all usually know what is the correct, appropriate and gracious course of action, but when someone else is out of line or wrongs us personally, we feel justified in taking revenge or keeping an equal standard.

Looking over the megillah this year, the following Rashi caught my eye.

Towards the end of the megillah, Achashveirosh has agreed to allow the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies on the 13th of Adar and has issued a proclamation as such:

The megillah says,

אֲשֶׁר֩ נָתַ֨ן הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ לַיְּהוּדִ֣ים ׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּכׇל־עִיר־וָעִ֗יר לְהִקָּהֵל֮ וְלַעֲמֹ֣ד עַל־נַפְשָׁם֒ לְהַשְׁמִיד֩ וְלַהֲרֹ֨ג וּלְאַבֵּ֜ד אֶת־כׇּל־חֵ֨יל עַ֧ם וּמְדִינָ֛ה הַצָּרִ֥ים אֹתָ֖ם טַ֣ף וְנָשִׁ֑ים וּשְׁלָלָ֖ם לָבֽוֹז׃

That the King gave [permission] for the Jews in each city to gather and destroy any army or country that attacks them.. and to plunder their possessions. (Esther 8:11)

Achashveirosh knew this well that the Jews were not looking to loot, nor was Esther requesting any such thing. However, the original evil decree that Achashveirosh had made (3:13) also included this “bonus,” of ושללם לבוז, the plundering of the possessions of the Yidden. This was actually added as an incentive to encourage more wickedness in fulfilling the decree! (see Ralbag.) So Achashveirosh felt it was only “fair” that the Jews get the green light to plunder back as well.

Ultimately though, no Jew touched a dime (or more accurately, Persian “daric” coin.)

In Rashi’s words:

וְהֵם בַּבִּזָּה לֹא שָׁלְחוּ אֶת יָדָם, שֶׁהֶרְאוּ לַכֹּל שֶׁלֹּא נַעֲשָׂה לְשֵׁם מָמוֹן:

They didn’t touch the spoils to show everyone that they didn’t do it for the money. (Rashi, Esther 8:11)

Rashi is striking. Do it for the money??? They were taking action against clear enemies who wished for their total destruction and wanted to steal everything they had! If they were to take anything of their foes in the process there was ample justification, and royal permission. Yet, they didn’t. Even in the throes of battle, the Jews had the presence of mind and the perspective to take the high moral ground, avoiding any shred of doubt as to their motivation and character.

They chose to be noble, and not just to be fair.

Truly, we can say a major theme of Purim is that of nobility, and Malchus, royalty.

As we celebrate (royally!) at our seudos and as we read the megilah this year, it is a great opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the nobility of our ancestors and of ourselves.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos and a freilichin Purim,

Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

  • Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

בְּטַבְּעֹת֙ הָאָרֹ֔ן יִהְי֖וּ הַבַּדִּ֑ים לֹ֥א יָסֻ֖רוּ מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃

“In the rings of the Aron the poles shall be, they shall not be removed from it” (Ex. 25:10)

Al pi kabbalah (from a kaballistic viewpoint), whatever happens during the week, is hinted to in the weekly sedrah. It just so happens that this week’s parsha of Terumah discusses the first Jewish fundraising campaign, and it just so happens that I was solicited for a number of crowdfunding campaigns for Torah organizations this week. (Stay tuned for our BYB campaign coming up in May :))

Aside from financial support and donations for all the items of the Mishkan and the avoda within, there is another illustration in the parsha to support the cause of Torah.

The aron, ark, which housed the luchos, had unique halachic specifications. One of these relates to its badim, carrying poles. Other keilim, for example, the shulchan and mizbeach, had poles as well. Their poles, however, were only used when they were carried. The aron’s poles had to remain attached to the aron at all times.


R’ Meir Simcha of Dvinsk explains that the aron represents the Keser Torah, the crown of Torah learning, which is available to all (Yoma 72b.) Is Torah learning actually always available to all? We are not all talmdei chachamim, or BYB students learning Torah day in and day out. The fact is, however, that Hashem created the world in such a way that Torah cannot exist alone in a box. It needs the poles, the badim which represents the entire support system. We need parchment, sefarim and active Torah learners. We also need everyone else to grab onto the handles. We need crowdfunding campaigns to support our yeshivos and kollelim, and we need parents, teachers, students, volunteers and a host of other support systems to support our talmidim and talmidos in all of their learning.

Kabalistically or otherwise, this week is a great time to celebrate Torah learning and seek out new opportunities to support it further. Thank you so much to each of you for the key roles that you play in holding up the aron and BYB. It cannot happen without you, it’s just how Hashem made the world.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Shabbos,

Rabbi Binyomin Halpern

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