Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Noach II

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In Parshas Noach, we learn of the great flood with which Hashem destroyed most of the world’s population. The deluge was punishment for the misbehavior of the majority of the world. Because Noach and his family alone were righteous, Hashem commanded him to build a huge ship, which saved him and his family.

From the creation until after the flood, humankind subsisted on a vegan diet. People could only eat fruits and vegetables. After the flood, Hashem granted permission to eat meat, as the Torah states,[1] “Every moving thing that lives shall be yours to eat; like the green vegetation, I have given you everything.”

However, Hashem did restrict this. There was a prohibition again eating the blood of an animal. This is as the Torah says[2], “Flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat. Your blood, of your souls, I will demand [an account]; from the hand of every beast, I will demand it. From the hand of man, from the hand of each man, his brother, I will demand the soul of man.”

Rashi cites the words from the verse “your blood,” and writes, “Even though I permitted you to take the life of animals, your blood I will demand of one who sheds his blood.” 

We know that Rashi is very precise about the words he uses. It seems odd that Rashi uses the term “sheds blood,” rather than a phrase such as “murders.” From this, we see that, according to Peshat, one is liable for “shedding his blood,” even if it does not cause sickness or death.

This answers a very famous question, which many of the commentaries ask. We know that Avrohom fulfilled all of the Mitzvos before Hashem commanded us to do so[3]. However, there is one commandment, which he did not perform until Hashem expressly told him to fulfill, the Mitzvah of circumcision, Bris Milah.

Now we understand why Avrohom Avinu waited. This that he kept all Mitzvos before the giving of the Torah was due to his great piety. He was going beyond his obligations. However, because he was a descendant of Noach, G-d prohibited him from “shedding his blood,” which would be the natural result of circumcision. His righteousness could not override an actual obligation. Therefore, he had to wait until Hashem expressly commanded him to perform this Mitzvah.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 10, p.138 ff.

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[1]. Our Parshah, Bereishis 9:3.

[2]. Ibid, ibid. 9:4-5.

[3]. Talmud Yoma 28b.

Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Noach

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In this week’s Parshah, Noach, the Torah tells us of the Mabul, the great flood which Hashem brought upon the world. The only people Hashem saved were Noach and his family.

At the very beginning of our Torah portion, the Torah explains why Hashem chose to save Noach. “These are the generations of Noach. Noach was a righteous man. He was perfect in his generations; Noach walked with G-d.[1]” Rashi explains why the Torah specifies that Noach was perfect in his generation[2]. “Some of our Sages interpret it (the words ‘in his generation’) favorably: How much more so if he had lived in a generation of righteous people, he would have been even more pious. Others interpret it derogatorily: In comparison with the time in which he lived, he was considered righteous, but if he had been in Avrohom’s generation, he would not have been considered of any importance.”

We need to understand the reason to interpret the Torah’s words as a negative description of Noach. We find that the Torah refrains from speaking in a derogatory manner of a non-kosher animal[3]. How much more so is this true of Noach, who the Torah describes as being both righteous and perfect? We must say that there is a fundamental reason for this. It must be to teach an essential lesson in our service of Hashem[4].

The Alter Rebbe explains[5] that the words[6] “Come into the Ark (Taivah in Hebrew, which also means a word)” teach us how to escape a flood. This flood refers to the worries of “making a living,” surviving in this physical world. One may become obsessed, drown in these concerns. The Torah advises us to take refuge in the words of the Torah and prayer.

One may feel that this suggestion will only help one who is already righteous, like Noach. Therefore, Rashi teaches us that some of the Sages interpret the word righteous in a less than flattering manner. Each one of us can save ourselves from becoming entangled in this world by surrounding ourselves with the Torah’s holy words.

            We should all take this lesson to heart. In this merit, we will surely merit the ultimate redemption through our righteous Moshiach.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 5, Page 2

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מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

לזכות
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
*
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס


[1]. Our Parshah, Bereishis 6:9.

[2]. Rashi’s comments ibid.

[3]. See Talmud Bava Basra 123, a.

[4]. The word Torah is related to the word Hora’ah, meaning a lesson, or a teaching.

[5]. See Torah Ohr on our Parshah.

[6]. Our Parshah, Bereishis 7:1.

Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Bereishis II

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This week we read Parshas Bereishis, which is the first portion in the Torah. This portion tells us how Hashem created the world during the first six days of Creation and rested on Shabbos, the seventh day.

On the fifth day of Creation, Hashem created all fish and fowl, as the Torah writes[1], “G-d created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that crawls, with which the waters swarmed … according to their kind, and every winged fowl, according to its kind. And Hashem saw that it was good.”

Rashi cites the words “the … sea monsters” and teaches us that this refers to “the great fish in the sea. In the words of Aggadah[2], this refers to the ‘Livyoson’ (Leviathan) and its mate, for He created them male and female …”

What is the deeper meaning of these “sea monsters?” What lesson can we learn from them in our service of Hashem?

The Alter Rebbe explains[3] that the word “Livyoson” is related to the word “Levi,” which means connection[4]. Hence, the spiritual level of “Livyoson” is a righteous person who is wholly connected to Hashem.

One might think that it is beneficial for most of us to have a study-partner and a partner with whom to fulfill Mitzvos. After all, the Mishnah explicitly states that[5] one must “acquire a friend for oneself.” To succeed in serving Hashem, one must have the perspective and advice of a friend. One cannot be objective himself in evaluating his plan of action to serve Hashem.

However, perhaps this should not apply to one of “the great fish in the sea.” He may be able to trust his own decisions in terms of how he should serve G-d. The fact is that he is connected!

That is why Rashi lets us know that even the great fish also needs a “mate.” Each of us needs help in deciding how to focus on our service of Hashem.

In the merit of beginning the Torah yet again, immediately after concluding it, we should have a year which is blessed beyond all measure. This should certainly include the ultimate blessing of Moshiach Now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 5, Page 16

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חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
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הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס


[1]. Our Parshah, Bereishis 1:21.

[2]. See Tractate Bava Basra 74b.

[3]. Likkutei Torah Parshas Shemini 18b.

[4]. Parshas Vayeitzei, Bereishis 29:34.

[5]. Pirkei Avos, 1, 6.

Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Bereishis

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In this week’s Parshah, we begin reading and studying the Torah once again. It starts with the famous words,[1] “At the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth.” Rashi cites the words “In the beginning” and writes the following. “Rabbi Yitzchok said, “(it would seem that) the Torah should have begun from[2] ‘This month is to you the first month,’ which is the first commandment that Hashem commanded the Jews. Why did the Torah begin with the words ‘In the beginning?’ Because of (the verse)[3], ‘The strength of His works He told His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations.’ If the nations of the world tell the Jews that ‘you are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations (of Canaan),’ they will reply, ‘The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whomever He saw fit. When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.'”

We need to understand what sort of claim this is. Why should the conquest of the Land of Canaan be considered robbery? No one of the nations are permitted to steal. Nevertheless, we never find one nation being punished for conquering land from another. The claim seems to lack any validity.

The explanation is that transferring an object from one person (or nation) to another does not change its essence. This is true in whatever manner the transfer took place, whether it was sold, inherited, gifted, conquered, etc. The original owners can always take it back.

The one exception to this is the conquest of the Land of Israel. Once the Nation of Israel conquered this land, they changed the land’s essence. It became the Holy Land, the land of Israel for the Nation of Israel. This is true even during the exile; when “we were exiled from our land[4].” It always remains “our land,” which no one can take from us. We prevented them from ever being able to take the land back. This is the rationale behind the claim of the nations of the world.

Our beginning the Torah should mark the beginning of a blessed year. May we merit being in our land with Moshiach Now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 5, Page 2

DEDICATED IN HONOR OF THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE
מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

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חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
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[1]. Parshas Bereishis, Bereishis 1:1.

[2]. Parshas Bo, Shemos 12:2.

[3]. Tehillim 111:6.

[4]. Liturgy for Pilgrimage Festivals.

Pearls of Rashi: Simchas Torah

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This coming Shabbos and Sunday, we will celebrate the holiday of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. At that time, we will conclude the yearly cycle of reading (and studying) the Torah[1]. The final Torah reading is the Parshah V’zos Haberochoh.

In this portion, we read that[2] “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the inheritance of the Congregation of Yaakov (the Jewish Nation).” Rashi cites the word “Torah,” and explains that “the Torah which Moshe commanded us is an inheritance of the Jewish people; we have taken hold of it, and we will not forsake it.”

Rashi is very particular with the words he uses. We need to understand why he writes that we have “taken hold of the Torah?” It would seem to be more appropriate to say that we study, or that we listen to the Torah.  There is something else that we need to understand. After saying that the Torah is an inheritance of the Jews, he then says that we have taken hold of it. There must be some connection between the fact that Torah is our inheritance, and the fact that we take hold of it. Just how are the two related to each other?

One possible explanation is, that the Hebrew word for holding on to (אחזנוה), is also related to the word אחוזה, which means an estate. This means that the word which Rashi uses also connotes the concept of an inheritance. The Torah is the inheritance of each Jew without exception. An estate which one inherits always belongs to him. In the same manner, every Jew without exception always retains ownership of the Torah.

Even when a Jew is in exile among the nations, the Torah is still his. It is our estate; the Torah is the constant property of every Jew, despite the circumstances in which he finds himself.

Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah are all called the “Time of Our Rejoicing.” Hashem should help that our joy should be complete, in the simple sense of the word. We should all have the best year ever, in all spiritual and physical matters. This will certainly help bring about the ultimate blessing of Moshiach Now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Volume 29, Page 229

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מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

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חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
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נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס


[1] Upon the completion of the Torah, we immediately read the beginning of the Torah. This is because no one ever finishes learning Torah. Torah is Hashem’s will and wisdom. Just as He is infinite, so too is the Torah.

[2]. Parshas V’zos Haberochoh, Devorim 33:4.

Pearls of Rashi: Shemini Atzeres

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This Shabbos we will celebrate the festival of Shemini Atzeres. The Torah reading tells us to1 “Keep the month of spring, and make the Pesach offering to Hashem. For in the month of spring, Hashem brought you out of Egypt at night.” Rashi cites the words “keep the month of spring” and explains the meaning of these words. “Before (the month of) Nissan arrives, watch that it should be fit for spring, capable of producing ripe ears of barley by the sixteenth of the month. These would be needed to offer as the Omer offering. And if not, (if it is not yet spring,) proclaim it a leap year2.”

We can understand everything in the Torah on many different levels. There is the simple meaning of each verse. However, each verse can also be interpreted according to an infinite levels, each higher and more profound than that which preceded it. We would like to explain the above verse with Rashi’s comments in a manner that will provide us with a lesson in the service of Hashem.

During the winter, all growth is hidden; it is asleep. It seems to us as if there is no growth whatsoever. During the spring, the beauty and greenery suddenly awakens. We become aware that nature was temporarily gathering its strength. Now, in the spring, it appears in all of its glory.

The same was true during our exile in Egypt. It was a bitter time, both for the physical body and the soul. When we left Egypt, we were on the forty-ninth level of impurity. We were able to lift ourselves up in a mere fifty days days to a level that allowed us to receive the Torah directly from the Almighty Himself.

This provides each of us with a lesson. At timers we may (G-d forbid) undergo a period during which there appears to be no growth. Everything around us seems to be frigid and lifeless. We must realize that this is just a temporary state. We are merely gathering the strength needed to “spring” into life. We must indeed never become despondent. We need to be constantly aware that we are now able to step up, to rise to the complete and true redemption with our righteous Moshiach immediately now.

I wish one and all a good Shabbos, Yom Tov, and the best year ever!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Igros Kodesh Volume 4, Letter 994

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מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

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Pearls of Rashi: Sukkos II

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This Shabbos, we will celebrate the holiday of Sukkos. As such, we push off the regular Torah Portion. Nevertheless, we still learn a daily portion from this week’s Parshah, V’zos Haberochoh.

In this portion, the Torah tells us the blessings which Moshe gave to all of the tribes of Israel. The blessing which Moshe gave to Binyomin was[1], “And of Binyomin he said, ‘Hashem’s beloved one shall dwell securely beside Him; He protects him all day long, and He dwells[2] between his shoulders.’”

Rashi cites the words “dwells between his shoulders” and explains as follows. “The Holy Temple was built on the highest point of his (meaning Binyomin’s) land …” Rashi continues that “it was King Dovid’s intention to build it at the highest point … however, they said to Dovid ‘Let us build it a little lower, because the Torah says, ‘and He dwells between his shoulders[3],’ and there is no part of an ox which is more beautiful than its shoulders.’”

The is a deeper reason for building the Holy Temple “a little lower.” The Bais Hamikdosh spreads Divine light throughout the entire world; including the (spiritually) lowest places. In order to reach these places, it could not be built on the greatest heights. Its illumination had to be accessible to everyone, everywhere.

Just as the Temple was a holy building on the Temple Mount, so too each and every one of us is required to be a Bais Hamikdosh; we must all illuminate our portion of the world.

If our G-dly soul was totally removed from this world, it would be impossible for us to provide it with a source of illumination. Rather, each of us must “lower” ourselves by dealing with this world. We must apply ourselves to drawing down holiness into the world. In order to accomplish this, we must use our animal souls, bodies, and our portions in this world in the service of Hashem. In this manner we will[4] “make Me a sanctuary and I, Hashem, will dwell in their midst.”

We should celebrate Sukkos, the Time of Our Rejoicing, in the simple meaning of the word, by rejoicing! May we all have a good, sweet year both in all spiritual and physical matters, in a revealed manner. We should merit the ultimate blessing of Moshiach Now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Volume 10, Page 146

DEDICATED IN HONOR OF THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE
מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

לזכות
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
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הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס


[1]. Our Parshah, Devorim 33:12.

[2]. The words “He dwells” refer to the Bais Hamikdosh, Hashem’s dwelling place.

[3]. The shoulders are lower than the head.

[4]. Parshas Terumah, Shemos 25:8.

Pearls of Rashi: Sukkos

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Our Parshah, Ha’azinu, tells us that Moshe called the heavens and the earth as witnesses while telling the Jews of the consequences for their actions. Afterward, the Torah tells us that Moshe taught the Jews, while accompanied by his prize pupil, Yehoshua[1]. “And Moshe came and spoke all the words of this song into the ears of the people, he and Hoshea bin Nun.”

The surprising thing here is that the Torah refers to Yehoshua as Hoshea. That was his name many years earlier when he was sent as one of the twelve spies. When they left on their mission, we are told that[2] “… Moshe called Hoshea bin Nun, Yehoshua.” Why does the Torah revert to his former name? It was already forty years that he was not called by this name.

Rashi explains this as follows. “… Why does the Torah call him Hoshea here? This is to imply that Yehoshua did not become haughty. Although he was given high status (having been appointed as Moshe’s successor), he humbled himself just as he was at the beginning (when he was still called Hoshea).

Why does the Torah choose to tell us of Yehoshua’s humility here? Here Hashem chose him take Moshe’s place as leader of the Jewish Nation after his teacher’s passing. He was genuinely attaining greatness, as the one who would lead the Jews into the promised land. Nevertheless, he remained as humble as ever.

Whoever merits a position of leadership receives Divine assistance to help him fulfill his mission. Hashem never gives one a job that he is incapable of handling. Leading Jews is certainly a most difficult task, as we saw throughout Moshe’s forty years of leadership in the wilderness. Together with the position, comes the Divine power which aids one in handling it.

What lesson can we derive from this? As a result of attaining a position of leadership, and receiving this Divine aid, one may believe that he truly deserves it. This may cause a feeling of haughtiness. Nonetheless, we must all learn from Yehoshua, that no matter what the position, we must always retain the necessary feeling of humility.

May we all have a good, sweet year both in spiritual and physical matters. The new year which we just began should be sweet in a revealed manner. We should merit the ultimate blessing of Moshiach Now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 29, Page 201

DEDICATED IN HONOR OF THE LUBAVITCHER REBBE
מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

לזכות
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
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נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס


[1]. Our Parshah, Devorim 32:44.

[2]. Parshas Shelach, Bamidbar 13:16.

Perlas de Rashi: Parshas Ha’azinu I

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Esta Parasha, Ha’azinu, dice que Moshe llamo a los cielos y a la tierra como testigos mientras les hablaba a los judíos acerca de las consecuencias de sus acciones. Después, la Torah nos dice que Moshe enseño a los judíos, mientras estaba acompañado de su preciado pupilo, Yehoshua[1]. “Y Moshe vino y hablo todas las palabras de este canto a los oidos del pueblo, el y Hoshea bin Nun.”

Lo sorprendente aquí es que la Torah se refiere a Yehoshua como Hoshea. Ese era su nombre muchos años atrás cuando fue enviado como uno de los doce espías. Cuando salían para su misión, se nos dice que[2] “… Moshe llamo a Hoshea bin Nun, Yehoshua.” ¿Por qué la Torah se refiere a su nombre anterior? Ya eran cuarenta años que no se lo llamaba así.

Rashi explica y dice: “… ¿por qué la Torah lo llama Hoshea aquí? Esto es para aludir al hecho que Yehoshua no se volvió orgulloso. Aun cuando se le había otorgado un muy elevado estatus (siendo nombrado el sucesor de Moshe), él era humilde, así como fue al principio (cuando era llamado Hoshea).

¿Por qué la Torah decide hablarnos de la humildad de Yehoshua aquí? Aquí Hashem lo escogió para tomar el lugar de Moshe como líder de la nacion judia después de su muerte. El había alcanzado genuinamente el nivel más alto, como el que guiaría a los judíos a la tierra prometida. No obstante, el permaneció humilde como siempre.

Aquella persona que obtiene una posición de liderazgo recibe asistencia Divina para ayudarlo a cumplir con su misión. Hashem nunca otorga a alguien un trabajo que no puede cumplir. Ser líder de los judíos es ciertamente un trabajo muy difícil, como pudimos observar de Moshe durante los cuarenta años en el desierto. Empero, junto con la posición, viene el poder Divino el cual nos ayuda a sobrellevarlo.

¿Qué lección Podemos derivar de esto? Como resultado de obtener una posición de liderazgo, y de recibir la ayuda Divina, uno puede llegar a creer que de verdad lo merece y esto puede crear un sentimiento de orgullo; empero, debemos aprender de Yehoshua, no importa cuál sea la posición o estatus, siempre debemos mantener el sentimiento de humildad.

Que todos podamos tener un ano dulce, en lo fisco y en lo espiritual, y que sea dulce en una marea revelada que podamos ser merecedores de la ¡más grande berajá, Mashiaj Ahora!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Rabbi Yochanan Salazar Loewe- traductor

Adaptado de Likutei Sijos Volumen 29, Pag. 201

מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש
לזכות
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
*
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס


[1]. Esta Parshah, Devarim 32:44.

[2]. Parshas Shelaj, Bamidbar 13:16.

Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Ha’azinu II

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This week’s Torah portion, Ha’azinu, tells us that[1] When I call out Hashem’s name, ascribe greatness to our G-d.” Rashi explains that “… When I call out and make mention of Hashem’s name, you shall ascribe greatness to Him, and bless His name. From here, our Rabbis derived that (one who hears a blessing) should respond, ‘Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom (forever and ever)!” in the Holy Temple[2].”

The Sifri, here, has a different take on this verse. “How do we know that one must respond ‘Omain’ to every Berochoh? Because our Parshah says, ‘ascribe greatness to our G-d.’”

As we have discussed many times, Rashi limits himself to explaining the simple meaning of each verse, i.e., Peshat. The Sifri, on the other hand, is a Midrash.

In this case, it seems to be the other way around. The Sifri explains that ascribing greatness to Hashem’s name is accomplished by answering “Omain” to a blessing, which appears to be the Torah’s simple meaning. For nearly two thousand years, we have not had a Temple. Each of us responds “Omain” upon hearing a Berochoh. Even during the time of the Bais Hamikdosh, we recited very few blessings in the Mikdash. This very clearly appears to be Peshat.

Contrast this with Rashi’s explanation. Rashi writes that “ascribing greatness to Him” refers to answering “Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom (forever and ever)!” in the Holy Temple. These words seem to have no connection whatsoever to Peshat.

The explanation is that this verse is answering an important question. Throughout the years of wandering, Moshe mentioned Hashem’s name to the Jews countless times. Why did he wait forty years to tell them that they “need to ascribe greatness to Him” when mentioning His name?

Therefore, Rashi explains that this refers to mentioning Hashem’s name in a way that did not occur earlier. On Moshe’s last day, the Jews were on the threshold of entering Israel. There we would build the Temple, where we will pronounce the name of G-d. We will then need to ascribe greatness to it.

May we learn from Rashi and the Sifri, to ascribe greatness to Hashem’s name under all circumstances.

May we all have a good, sweet year both in all spiritual and physical matters. The new year which we just began, should be sweet in a revealed manner. We should merit the ultimate blessing of Moshiach Now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Hisvadu’yos 5742 Volume 1, Page 106

מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

לזכות
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
*
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס


[1]. Our Parshah, 32:3.

[2]. Outside of the Bais Hamikdosh, we respond “Omain” when hearing a Berochoh.