A 30-40 shiur on a Torah topic, every working day, from Yeshivat Har Etzion and the VBM.
Miketz | Dreams and Interpretations, by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom An inquiry into the development of Yosef's dreams. There are three dream-sets in the Yosef narrative; two that he dreams, two that he interprets while in prison and the two dreams of Pharaoh. While we assume that Yosef's awareness of the meaning of his dreams was a constant, it is possible that each dream-experience enhanced his art as a dream-interpreter. We explore this approach, noting that his full acceptance of the responsibility of his own two dreams only takes place after all three dream-sets. Source sheet >>
Parashat Vayeshev with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentaries - Who Sold Yosef? It's Not As Simple As You Might Think #2 - Contemporary Commentaries - What Can We Learn from Esav's Children? An Amazing Teaching from the Oznayim Le'Torah #3 - Sparks of Chassidus - Being True To Yourself - A Beautiful Teaching from the Sefas Emes #4 - Sparks of Musar - The Hardest Thing in Life: Admitting Mistakes #5 - Halacha from the Parsha - The Prohibition to Embarrass Another Person
Vayeshev | Yosef's Dreams by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom Yosef's Dreams begin the narrative cycle we refer to as "the Yosef Story" - and these dreams impact through his life and career. What are we to make of these dreams? Are they prophetic (as he seems to believe) or are they psychologically propelled (as his brothers and, perhaps, father apparently think)? What are the "stars" as opposed to the "sheaves"? And what are we to make of the sun and moon and their obeisance to Yosef? Source sheet >>
Vayishlach | Revisiting Shkhem, by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom The "rape of Dina" and the bloody aftermath, which comprise all of chapter 34 and the middle of Parashat Vayishlach, is replete with difficulties which make the conventional understanding of Dina's rape and abduction and of Yaakov's silence as well as his response to Shimon and Levi difficult to explain. By analyzing the terms used to describe the encounter between Shkhem and Dina, we propose a novel understanding of the events, of Yaakov's broader plan in moving to Shalem, east of Shkhem and of the meaning behind Yaakov's dying words to Shimon and Levi. Source sheet >>
Parashat Vayishlach with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentaries - Shimon and Levi Slaughter Shechem: Righteous Justice or Unethical Vengeance? #2 - Contemporary Commentaries - The Greatness of Yaakov: Rav Kook's Fascinating Interpretation #3 - Sparks of Chassidus - Yaakov and the True Source of Humility: The Incredible Insight of the Sefas Emes #4 - Sparks of Musar - Harnessing the Potent Power of Prayer #5 - Midrash - Who Was Yaakov Fighting and Why Were They Fighting? A Midrashic Interpretation
Vayishlach: ויאבק איש עמו - The Mysterious Wrestling Match, by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom Yaakov's encounter with the mysterious "man" which lasts until dawn, is "a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, folded into a conundrum" - we survey four of the classic Rishonim with their widely divergent takes on this momentous episode and discuss the vantage points from which they started and which led to each unique and illuminating interpretation. Source sheet >>
Empathy: Learning About Ourselves By Connecting With Others, the second of a 2-part series on Mitzvot and Middot Bein Adam LeChaveiro, given as part of the weekly women's shiur in Kehilat Ha'Ela, by Rav Dovid Gottlieb
Parashat Vayetze with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Did Yaakov Really Place a Condition on His Commitment to Hashem? #2 - Contemporary Commentators - Torah Study as the Foundation of our Professional Lives #3 - Sparks of Musar - Yaakov's Dream and The Limitless Capacity for Human Greatness #4 - Midrash - Appreciating Greatness
Vayetze | The "Duda'im" Story: A Janus Narrative? by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom In the midst of the "birth narrative" of Yaakov's family in Haran, the Torah interjects a brief story about Reuven's collecting דודאים (mandrakes) and bringing them to Leah, his mother. Rachel desires them and agrees to give up her night of intimacy with Yaakov in order to get these valuable (?) flowers. The narrative is odd on the face of it, and there are several textual nuances that catch our attention - and redirect that attention back to an earlier narrative in Yaakov's life in which he plays an active role - and a later event in Rachel's life which proves to be fateful for her and for the family. The brief story of the דודאים reflects back and forward, providing added insight into two other narratives in the story of Yaakov's family. Source sheet >>
Parashat Toldot with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Why Did Yitzchok Want to Bless Esav and not Yaakov? #2 - Contemporary Commentators - Yaakov's Moral Dilemma #3 - Sparks of Musar - How We Spend Our "Free Time" Defines Us #4 - Sparks of Chassidus - The Greatest Gift is a Relationship With Hashem #5 - Halacha from the Parsha - Is a Blind Person Obligated in Mitzvos?
Toldot | Your Curse, My Son, Be Upon Me, by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom What did Rivka mean? When Yaakov expressed concern over his being caught by his father when trying to gain Esav's blessing, he said והבאתי עלי קללה ולא ברכה - "I may bring upon myself a curse instead of a blessing". Rivka's response to assuage his concern: עלי קללתך בני is a mysterious phrase, with a wide range of exegetical approaches taken by the Rishonim. After surveying the most well-known interpretations, we suggest a different take, anchored in a comment in Bereishit Rabbah, based on understanding Rivka's vested interest in the success of the ruse. Source sheet >>
Parashat Chayei Sara 5782 with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Avraham's Marriage Advice: Bad Midos Are Worse Than Avodah Zara #2 - Contemporary Commentators - "Ger ve'Toshav": The Dual Identity of the Jew #3 - Sparks of Chassidus - What's Truly Important in Life? A Powerful Insight from the Tolna Rebbe #4 - Sparks of Mussar - Calm Under Fire: Learning From Avraham's Inspiring Example #5 - Midrash - Who Was Eliezer? The Midrash Paints a Complex Portrait
Chayei Sara | Place your Hand under my Thigh - Solving a Bereishit Riddle, by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom When Avraham prepares to send his slave to find a wife for Yitzhak, he makes a curious demand of him: "Put your hand under my thigh" either as a prefatory act to an oath or as part of the oath itself. This request/demand appears in only one other place in Tanakh - when Yaakov has Yosef put his hand under his father's thigh before committing to bury his dying father in Canaan. What is the meaning of this odd practice? Is it rooted in near eastern oath customs? Connected to the Halakhic requirement of holding a sanctified item while swearing? Is it a sign of servitude? We survey the approaches of the Rishonim - including some surprising observations - and then offer a new wrinkle to solve this age-old conundrum.
Parashat Vayera 5782 with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - What Event Led to Akeidas Yitzhak? #2 - Sparks of Chassidus - The Secret to Avraham's Success: A Remarkable Insight from the Kozhnitzer Maggid #3 - Contemporary Commentators - The True Beneficiary of Our Chessed: A Powerful Chiddush from Rav Nissan Alpert #4 - Sparks of Mussar - Sara's Laughter And Our (non)Belief in Mashiach - An Incredible Teaching of the Chafetz Chayim #5 - Midrash What Happened to Avraham and Yitzchok On the Way to the Akeida?
Vayera | "If There Are Fifty": Why Fifty, Why Ten...Why Not One?, by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom Avraham's famous negotiations with God to spare the city of Sodom are perhaps the most gallant confrontational stand any human has taken against God - yet the power of the scene eclipse some of the oddities of the give-and-take. Why does Avraham start his negotiations with "If there are 50 innocent people..." - and why does he stop when he successfully gets God to agree to spare the city if there are only ten innocents? More to the point - what are these numbers all about? Why not argue that if one innocent person dies, to borrow from Blackstone, that is a lack of justice. In addition, the text goes out of its way to tell us that Avraham gazed down at the destruction which leaves us wondering why this story is in Chumash at all. Sourcesheet >>
Parashat Lekh Lekha with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Did Avraham Sin By Leaving Eretz Yisroel and Putting Sarah in Danger? #2 - Sparks of Chassidus - Why Was Avraham Chosen? An Inspiring Insight from the Sefas Emes #3 - Sparks of Mussar - Overcoming Life's Challenges #4 - Contemporary Commentators - What Does it Mean to be "Tamim"? A Fascinating Explanation from the Beis HaLevi #5 - Halacha from the Parsha - Is Conversion a Mitzvah?
Lekh Lekha | Who is Avraham's Future, by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom When we are first introduced to Avra(ha)m, he is married to Sara(i)h - and the first thing we learn about her is that she is barren. Yet, Hashem commands Avraham to go to K'naan where He will make him into a great nation. The apparent incongruity of the command and the reality shape one of the two journeys in Avraham's life - and the entire Parashat Lekh Lekha is the road map of those two journeys. While Avraham continues to seek out "the land that I will show you", he also continues to attempt various solutions to the progeny problem - until Hashem informs him of how it will all play out. But there are numerous surprises along the way... Source sheet >>
When Hashem charged Avraham with his mission, He directed him to leave his father's house. This could easily be seen as an obstacle to his mission - for how could he demonstrate "the way of Hashem, doing justice and righteousness" if he abandoned his father for the last 60 years of his life. We explore several Midrashic (and proto-Midrashic) traditions about their relationship and find that these traditions do not speak in one voice. We also explore the textual basis for these traditions and note the nuances which allow for these exegetical approaches to develop. Source Sheet
Parsha Tidbits with Rav Dovid Gottlieb, Vayelech-Ha'azinu-Special Yom Kippur Vort Vayelech #1 - Sparks of Chassidus - An Inspiring Teaching from R. Tzadok Hakohen - Connecting the Parsha to the Yamim Noraim Haazinu #1 - Contemporary Commentators - R. Soloveitchik's Approach to Reward and Punishment #2 - Sparks of Chassidus - Historical Sensitivity as a Catalyst for Teshuva - The Remarkable Insight of the Shem MiShmuel #3 - Sparks of Mussar - Is Success in Torah Study a Gift or a Result of Hard Work? Special Yom Kippur: The Culmination of 40 Days of Transformation
Parashat Nitzavim with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - The Gift and Responsibility of Teshuva: An Awesome Insight of the Meshech Chochma #2 - Midrash - "Lo Bashamayim Hi" - The Amazing Interpretation of Chazal #3 - Sparks of Musar - Breaking Free from the Shackles of Habit and Routine #4 - Sparks of Chassidus - Appreciating the Unity of the Jewish People: A Remarkable Teaching from the Lubavitcher Rebbe #5 - Machshava / Jewish Thought - Is Teshuva Based on Fairness or Compassion, Din or Rachamim?
Parashat Ki Tavo with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Accepting the Validity of Torah - Even More Important than Observance #2 - Contemporary Commentators - Appreciating the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael: A Beautiful Though from Rav Schwab #3 - Sparks of Chassidus - Bikkurim and Eretz Yisroel: The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Beautiful Explanation #4 - Sparks of Mussar - Appreciating the Bigness of Small Things: The Key to Avodat Hashem #5 - Machshava / Jewish Thought - Happiness as a Religious Value
Parashat Ki Tetze with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Eishset Yefat Toar: What Is the Torah Thinking? #2 - Contemporary Commentators - Parenting Lessons from the Ben Sorrer U-Moreh: Rav Hirsch's Brilliant Insight #3 - Sparks of Chassidus - Going Out to Spiritual War - Strategic Advice from the Sefas Emes #4 - Machshava / Jewish Thought - Gratitude as a Religious Obligation #5 - Sparks of Mussar - The Moral Message of the Issur to Charge Interest
Parashat Shoftim with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Rabbinic Authority - Even if They're Wrong?? #2 - Contemporary Commentators - Political Leaders as Religious Role Models - The Inspiring Vision of the Oznayim Le'Torah #3 - Sparks of Musar - Striving for Growth and Honest Self-Evaluation: R. Moshe Feinstein's Recipe for Spiritual Success #4 - Sparks of Chassidus - Healthy and Balanced Religiosity - The Kotzker's Remarkable Insight #5 - Machshava Jewish Thought - The Torah's Ideal Form of Governance and Political Leadership: 3 Approaches
Parashat Re'eh with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - The False Prophet - If He's "False" Then How is He a "Prophet"? #2 - Contemporary Commentators - The Highest of the High & the Lowest of the Low: Appreciating the Uniqueness of the Jewish People #3 - Machshava / Jewish Thought -What's the Jewish Ideal: Unity or Uniformity? #4 - Sparks of Chassidus & Mussar - Kosher Fish, "Kosher Jews": The Shared Vision of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Elyashiv #5 - Halacha from the Parsha - The Mitzvah of Tzedakah
Parashat Ekev with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Is Yiras Shamayim a "Small Thing"?! #2 - Contemporary Commentators - How Can We "Bless Hashem"? Rav Hirsch's Revolutionary Approach #3 - Sparks of Musar - Why Do We Bentch? The Amazing Insight of the Meshech Chochma #4 - Machshava / Jewish Thought - "Fear of Heaven" - What are we Scared Of? #5 - Sparks of Chassidus - The Interrelationship Between Doing and Understanding: An Incredible Teaching of the Sefas Emes
Parashat Vaetchanan with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Loving Hashem - The Rambam's Perspective #2 - Sparks of Mussar - Learning from Moshe: Belief in the Power of Prayer #3 - Machshava / Jewish Thought - "Anochi Hashem" - Knowledge or Belief in God? #4 - Moshe's Desire to Enter Eretz Yisroel - And Ours #5 - Sparks of Chasidus - Praying to be Able to Pray: The Powerful Insight of R. Levi Yitzchok
Parashat Devarim / Shabbat Chazon with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - What's Devarim All About? The Ramban's Theory #2 - Classical Commentators - Who Was Responsible for the Cheit Ha-Egel - Hashem or the Jewish People? #3 - Halacha from the Parsha - Kavod Ha-Beriyos: Human Dignity as a Halachic Value #4 - Midrash - Learning How to Give - and Grow From - Criticism #5 - Sparks of Chasidus - "Chazon": The Eish Kodesh's Inspiring Vision of Hope Amidst the Destruction
Questions of Gittin, Gerut and Mamzerut that Came Up During Corona, special shiur by Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Beit Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, and father of Shana Alef talmid Yosef Thank you Rabbi Reiss for joining us!
Parashat Matot-Masei with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Why Do We Need to Know About Alllll of the Stops in the Midbar? #2 - Contemporary Commentators - The Basis of Jewish Morality: An Amazing Insight from R. Moshe Feinstein #3 - Sparks of Musar - The Importance of Being Inspired: Rav Schwab's Beautiful Insight into Am Yisroel's Journeys #4 - Sparks of Chasidus - "Life is a Journey" - The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Inspiring Interpretation #5 - Machshava / Jewish Thought Is There Room for Personal Autonomy in Judaism: Nedarim as a Case Study
Parashat Pinchas with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Hashem Rewards Pinchas (part 1) - What Is the "Bris Shalom"? #2 Hashem Rewards Pinchas (part 2) - What is the "Bris Kehunah"? #3 - Sparks of Chassidus - Multiple Paths Up the Mountain: Religious Individuality in the Thought of the Sefas Emes #4 - Sparks of Mussar - Surprising Companions: The Extremism and Violence of Pinchas and Aharon's Pursuit of Peace #5 - Halacha from the Parsha - Tadir V'She'eino Tadir - Which Mitzvah Comes First??
Parashat Balak with Rav Dovid Gottlieb #1 - Classical Commentators - Did Hashem Give Balaam Permission to Go? Yes, No, or Maybe #2 - Sparks of Musar - The Dignity of Man - A Profound Insight from R. Chaim Shmuelevitz #3 - Contemporary Commentators - Bilaam vs Moshe: The Surprising Source of Moshe's Superiority #4 - Machshava / Jewish Thought - Did Bilaam's Donkey Really Speak? Understanding the Torah's Descriptions of Miraculous Events #5 - Sparks of Chasidus - "Am K'Lavi Yakum": The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Amazing Insight Int