The first of Nissan and the first of Tishrei mark the beginnings of the Jewish year. The solar aspect of our calendar—representing the fixed laws of nature—begins in Tishrei; whereas the lunar cycle—symbolizing the ups and down of Jewish history—begins on the first of Nissan.
Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe lei'mor is the most commonly occurring verse of the Bible. While it is usually translated as, “G-d spoke to Moshe, saying”, our rabbis saw additional meaning in the word lei'mor. If it only meant “saying”, then it would be superfluous; if the Torah tells us that G-d spoke to Moshe, then surely something was said.
Since the time of Joseph, infighting has been the Achilles heel of the Jewish people, causing untold pain, suffering and national calamity. So much of our collective energies are wasted on disagreements with others; many of them are so trivial when viewed from the perspective of history. The schisms of the 19th century, caused to a large extent by such topics as sermons in the vernacular or the placement of the bimah in a shul, are being felt today in ways that many are not even aware of.
“Therefore, the Jewish people will not eat the gid hanasheh, sciatic nerve, that is on the hip joint, to this day” (Breisheet 32:33). Sefer Breisheet provides much information on how not to act; we read about every kind of social dysfunction—be it drinking, sibling rivalry, jealousy, greed or more violent crimes such as robbery, kidnapping, rape, incest and murder.
“And there was a famine in the land, aside from the first famine that was in the days of Avraham...And G-d appeared to him [Yitzchak] and said: Do not go down to Egypt, dwell in the land that I will tell you” (Breisheet 26:1-2).
The time has come for new leadership. “I am no longer able to come and go, and G-d has told me you will not cross the Jordan” (Devarim 31:2). While the people complained plenty about Moshe's leadership, clearly they were very nervous about him leaving the scene. Moshe reassured the people that all will be fine with Yehoshua, and that he, too, will have Divine assistance in his mission.
"Shamor v’Zachor b’dibur echad". This phrase, sung every Friday night, notes the most famous difference between the recording of the aseret hadibrot in parshat Yitro, where we are commanded to “remember, zachor, the Shabbat” and Moshe's recounting of the events 40 years later, where we are commanded to “guard, shamor, the Shabbat”.
“Do not desecrate My holy name. I must be sanctified among the Israelites" (Vayikra 22:31).
The holiday of Chanukah is a most beloved one. Lighting the candles is the only mitzvah that has, built into its performance, a three-tiered system: what we may call good, better and best. We begin with the basic mitzvah of one candle per household on each of the eight nights of Chanukah. We may opt for the more beautified version, mehadrin, where we light candles according to the number of people in the home on each night.
“G-d said to Avram, go away from your county, your birthplace and your father’s home, to the land that I will show you” (Breisheet 12:1). While it is self-evident that Avraham would take his wife with him, it is not at all obvious that his nephew Lot would or should accompany him. Perhaps it was precisely his family—parents, sibling, cousins, nieces and nephews— that he must leave behind in order to establish a great nation in a faraway land.