Category Archives: Parshas Vayikrah

Parshas Vayikra – Zachor: United We Stand Divided We Fall!

Parshas Vayikra – Zachor

United We Stand Divided We Fall!

“He [Moshe] named the place Massah and Merivah because the B’nei Yisrael had quarreled [Merivah] and because they had tested [Massah] Hashem, saying, “Is Hashem among us or not?” Amalek came and fought with [B’nei] Yisrael in Rephidim.” (Shmos 17:7-8)

This Shabbos, we have a mitzvah to hear Parshas Zachor being read from the Torah. The Torah exhorts us to always remember Amalek’s evil and cruelty. They had no reason to attack us. All the other nations feared Hashem when they heard about all the miracles that Hashem had done when freeing us from Egypt. The nation of Amalek was the only nation that did not fear Hashem. They fought against us because we represent Hashem! The battle against Amalek is an eternal, ongoing battle, even in our time. When Moshiach comes, Hashem will eradicate all traces of this evil people.

Since the battle against Amalek is a battle throughout the ages, it is beneficial for us to know what causes Amalek to battle us. It is also exceedingly important to know what WE can do to weaken Amalek’s power.

The Kli Yakar says that when Jews are at peace with Hashem and at peace with one another, then Amalek has no power at all. The Chofetz Chaim zt”l adds, that when we don’t have strife, we are also protected from other nations (Sefer Shmiras HaLashon, quoted in Biurei Chofetz Chaim on the Torah by Rabbi Yisroel Braunstein).

“He [Moshe] named the place Massah and Merivah because B’nei Yisrael had quarreled [Merivah] and because they had tested [Massah] Hashem, saying, “Is Hashem among us or not?” Amalek came and fought with [B’nei] Yisrael in Rephidim.” (Shmos 17:7-8)

The Kli Yakar continues that the Jewish People quarreled with each other and against Moshe. They also questioned if Hashem was there to help them. These two behaviors enabled Amalek to wage war.

The Jews complained against Moshe, demanding water, even though they still had some water. “Refidim”, the name that the Torah gives for their location in the desert, at that time, hints as to why they had no water then. Ref-idim, is a contraction of raf and yadayim. This hints to the fact that their yadayim, their hands, were weakened, because they had weakened their Torah learning. The Jews also questioned if Hashem was there to help them. (See HaEmek Davar who questions how the Jews could possibly have said this after having witnessed so many miracles. He says that the Jewish people wondered if Hashem would continue to perform daily miracles for them even after Moshe passed away.)  Haman, a descendant of Amalek, wanted to annihilate the Jewish People. When he spoke to King Achashverosh, requesting permission to do so, he said that the Jews had failed in these same two areas. “Haman said to King Achashverosh: “There exists a particular people, far-flung, widespread among the peoples in all the colonies of your realm. Their customs differ from those of all peoples, and they do not abide by his majesty’s bylaws; his majesty has nothing to gain by tolerating them.” (Megilas Esther 3:8) The words of the pasuk, “מְפֻזָר וּמְפֹרָד”, scattered and separate, refer to the fact that the Jews were not unified with each other, and that they also separated themselves from Hashem.

The Beis HaLevi quotes the Talmud (Bechoros 5) that Hashem allowed Amalek to fight against us in the desert because of these two sins; The Jews weakened their Torah learning and questioned if Hashem was in their midst.

The Ohr HaChaim says that Hashem allowed Amalek to fight against the Jews as a punishment for having neglected Torah which is compared to both fire and water. The fiery sword of Amalek and the thirst for water were the punishments which fit the “crime”.

Rav Elchonon Wasserman zt”l (Koveitz Ma’amarim, quoted in in Biurei Chofetz Chaim on the Torah by Rabbi Yisroel Braunstein) says that our best weapon against our enemies is to increase our Torah learning. He says that every Jew who learns a chapter of Mishnayos or a page of Gemorah weakens the power of Amalek and has a share in the mitzvah of eradicating Amalek. This helps protect us even more than military strategies. 

During the war with Amalek, “When Moshe raised his hand, [B’nei] Yisrael prevailed; but when he let his hand down [to rest] Amalek prevailed.”  (Shmos 17:11). The Chofetz Chaim zt”l points out that it says,”כַּאֲשֶׁר יָרִים מֹשֶׁה”, “When Moshe will raise his hand”, in the future tense. Moshe raising his hand refers to the strengthening of Torah. This teaches us that, even in the future, when we strengthen our Torah learning, “וְגָבַר יִשְׂרָאֵל”, “[B’nei] Yisrael prevailed”; We will overcome Amalek.

We should not underestimate the importance of Jewish unity and the importance of our Torah learning. They bring us closer to each other and to Hashem.

They also protect us from ALL our enemies!


Parshas Vayikra: Lemonade, Anyone?

Parshas Vayikra

Lemonade, Anyone?


“…with all your offerings you must offer salt”. Vayikra 2:13

Alex Scott was less than a year old when she was diagnosed with cancer. After receiving a stem cell transplant around her fourth birthday, she vowed to start a lemonade-stand to raise money for other children going through the same thing. With the help of her brother, the first stand raised $2,000. The lemonade-stand to support cancer research became an annual event for her family and Alex raised over $1 million before losing her own battle at eight years old. Her family continues to carry on her legacy through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and has raised over $150 million to date in the hopes of finding a cure.


Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who served as vice consul for the Japanese Empire in Kaunas, Lithuania. During World War II, Sugihara helped save thousands of Jewish refugees. In direct defiance of his pro-Nazi government, Sugihara put his life and the lives of his family at risk by issuing approximately 6,000 life-saving transit visas to Jewish refugees, allowing them to flee to Europe.


In July of 1940, Sugihara and his family woke up to find a crowd of Polish refugees gathered outside the gates of the consulate. Desperate to flee, the refugees knew that their only chance to escape the impending Nazi invasion was to head east. Sugihara was sympathetic to their situation but needed permission from his foreign ministry in Tokyo to grant the visas. His request was denied, but he decided to issue the visas anyway.


Aware that he would soon have to leave the country, as the consulate would soon be shut down, Sugihara wrote thousands of visas by hand over six weeks. He worked all day, every day, late into the night until his hands ached so much that his wife had to massage them just so he could fall asleep. When Sugihara boarded the train back to Japan, it was reported that he was still writing visas and throwing them out of the window into the desperate crowd as his train departed. Because of Sugihara’s heroic actions, thousands of Jews were saved.


A boy went to a coed Hebrew day school. He was a typical American who enjoyed playing basketball and baseball. After day school, he went to a modern Jewish high school where he was president of the student council and a starting centerfielder for the baseball team. At the age of 17, he went to Jerusalem to learn in the Mir yeshiva. He learned Torah very diligently day and night, often only stopping at 2 in the morning. He became the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivas Mir. Much later, during the last 30 years of his life, he continued learning and teaching Torah, despite having Parkinson’s disease. He also continued to fundraise for his yeshiva. Under his guidance and tutelage, the yeshiva grew to over 7,000 students! This great Rosh Yeshivah and great human being who went from playing center field to become one of the great Torah leaders of our generation, was Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l.


The Torah (Vayikra 2:13) commands us to put salt on every korban that is brought on the alter. Why was that imperative? Rav Ovadia from Bartanura explains that during the six days of Creation, Hashem wanted to make the rakiya which divided the upper and lower waters. The lower waters “complained”. “Why are we different from our friends [the upper waters] that we have to be far from the Heavenly throne?” The lower waters felt saddened that they would be far from Holiness. Hashem heard their cries and promised them that they would also be close.  The lower waters (those of the oceans) received an assurance that they would be offered on the altar in the form of salt, and as water in the ceremony of “the libation of water” (nisuch hamayim) on the Holiday of Succos.


The Maharal (quoted in Emes L’Yaakov by Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky zt”l) questions how Hashem resolved the waters’ complaint by saying that salt would be sprinkled on every korban! It was the lower waters that complained to Hashem. Hashem should have said that the lower waters themselves, should be poured on every Korban.


The Sifsei Chachamim‘s explanation of Rashi gives one answer to the question. He says that water is brought to the altar by the means of salt because salt has its origins in water.


Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt”l gives a different explanation. First, he quotes Rashi’s description in the Talmud (Kesubos 79B) of how salt is manufactured. A person digs a ditch next to a body of saltwater, allowing some saltwater to overflow into the ditch. The heat of the sun then causes the water to evaporate, leaving only the salt. The evaporated water rises and joins the upper waters. That is how it achieves holiness, which was its initial concern. The residue of salt may be used to sprinkle every korban. The residue, the lowest part of the lowest waters, that which remains after the lowest water rise heavenward, is what Hashem desired to be put on a korban. Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt”l says that this teaches us a very important lesson, that Hashem prefers the “low”. Spirituality and holiness is not only for the great people! Rabbi Yissocher Frand (Rabbi Frand on the Parashah 2) learns from this that no matter what the status is of an object, there is always potential for greatness.  The lowest of the low was sanctified by being placed on a korban.


Similarly, a “regular” person can become great by overcoming his personal tests and temptations.

Hashem does not expect us to be perfect like angels. Hashem cherishes and rewards our efforts.

Our mission is to to reject the lures of the yetzer hara who tries to drag us down,

while we keep trying to be as good as we possibly can.