Shemini Atzeras, Simchas Torah, Bereshis 2017

October 11-14, 2017

Wednesday – October 11, 2017

The first days of Succos were great.  We spent them together with my sister’s family and with my mother and mother-in-law.  The food was exquisite, there was a huge variety for everyone to enjoy.  We appreciate the hard work that my wife did to make sure that everyone had enough to eat and enjoy the meal.

On the first night of Succos we did a reading on the life of Golda Meir from her autobiography.  She was a committed secular Zionist and Socialist. She was not a mean or nasty person. She grew up religious but was not as an adult.  She spoke for millions of Jews stuck in Eastern Europe subject to pogroms and poverty.  When the Jews from the Arab countries came to Israel in 1948, (I believe) she felt that the State was doing those Jews a favor in trying to take them from the third world life and mentality, to the first world.  Could the Orthodox community reconcile itself with the secular Zionists and vice versa?

I was looking forward to the second days.

Had a tough day at work on Wednesday, Erev Chag.  Went to two nursing homes and was driving through rural Illinois.  Got back to work at 3:00 PM and had to answer a flurry of e-mails.  Did two acts of charity right before I left work.  At 5:45 PM my daughter called with a major question of Jewish law and that I should call Reb Moshe Soloveichik.  I had left work and was on Lincoln Avenue.  I tried to call Reb Moshe Soloveichik, however, he did not answer so I turned down Jersey and drove to his Shul.  Reb Moshe was already in Shul.  I asked Reb Moshe the question and he gave me permission.  I did not think I would get a heter (Permission).  I was very happy because if it had been prohibited, my family member may have had to do what had been the subject of the question, due to extenuating circumstances.  The Heter puts our minds at ease.  I was able to go into the holiday in peace.

It was raining so I made Kiddush and Hamotzei in the Sukkah, and ate the meal in the house.

Thursday – October 12, 2017

Went to Shul early to learn.  I focused on Chapter 33, Verse 6.    “May Reuben live and not die, and may his population be included in the count.”

·       Rashi says on May Reuben live “in this world” and not Die, “in the world to come; that the incident of Bilhah be not remembered unto him”.

·       Rashi says on “may his population be included in the count” as follows:

Let him be counted amongst the number of his other brothers.  This is exactly similar to the idea that is exactly similar to the idea that is expressed in the text, (Genesis 35:22).  {And Reuben went} and lay with Bilhah {his father’s wife}” . . . And the sons of Jacob were twelve, which suggests that he was not excluded from the number of Jacob’s sons.”

Rashi is difficult.  Reuben committed the sin roughly 275 years earlier, and has been dead for about 200 years.  Right after the incident of Bilhah, it says that Reuben was still included among his brothers, which is the verse the third Rashi quotes.  Further texts and explanations say the Reuben repented for his act.  Why is Moshe bringing up the subject 200 years after Reuben died?

The Ranban explains verse 6 of “May Reuben live . . .” differently than Rashi.

 The IBN Ezra raises a different question.  Why didn’t Shimon get a Brocha?   The IBN Ezra answers that Moshe did not want to give the tribe of Shimon a blessing because of the incident of Ba’al Peohr; where the women of Moab drew Israel into immorality and idol worship.  24,000 people died along with one the leaders of a family of Shimon, Zimri Ben Saluh.

The Ramban disagrees with the IBN Ezra and attacks the IBN Ezra’s proofs.  The Ramban says that Moshe did not purposely exclude the tribe of Shimon from a blessing.  Look into the Ranban.  I read the Ranban 3 times before the Ranban started to become clear.  I found a new translation in Hebrew that provides footnotes and sources of the Ranban.   It was a work of art, well researched and the individuals who put it together were real Torah scholars.  I was full with joy.  I was able to get a much better understanding of the Ranban.   I still had to work on the Ranban.   What is even more impressive it came out of the New Square community, which ones does not associate with Torah scholarship.  It is great; we have Torah scholarship coming from the New Square community, greatness from Lubavitch, and YU excelling in Torah understanding and giving over Torah.  This is Achdus in Klal Yisroel.   Why are there disagreements, I will never understand.   The Rebi Reb Bunim says this on the Rashi as to we have Shimini Atzeras, “your departure back to your homes is hard on me, stay another day”.  The Rebi Reb Bunim says it means that during Succos the Jews are B’Yachad.  God says to the Jews, you’re leaving one another and breaking up the unity among the Jews is hard for me.  Stay another day so the Jews will be unified another day.

Thursday meal was great.  I made Kiddush and made Hamotzi in the Sukkah.  I wanted to also eat in the Sukkah, but was out-voted.

Simchas Torah – October 13, 2017

Thursday night had Hakofos at Mishne Ugemoro.  Very nice.  My son-in-law Mordy joined me, as did Bubby Jean and Karen’s family. Lasted from 7:15 PM to 9:15 PM.  Then went home for the meal.  David Sokoloff did his usual outstanding performance, ending up his famous zoo song.

Friday – regular davening Hakofos.  Ended Shul at about 2:15.  For our meal we had our cousin Bill, Reb Shraga Feival, and Ya’akov, one of the Anusim.  I had him tell his story and it was very interesting.


Davened Friday night by Reb Moshe with Netanel.  After the meal we sat around until midnight with Ma talking about the family.  My kids and the Schwartz kids sat with my mother, Karen, and me.   We talked about all the family stories, reminded my mother what she has done for the family and why we owe her so much.  At the Shabbos afternoon meal we did a reading in Rabbi Shai Held’s book on Bereshis.  He comes from an “Orthodox compatible” perspective, but uses secular and non-Jewish scholars.  What we read was not incompatible with Orthodox thought as to how to understand the Bible.   It was a very nice Dvar Torah titled, “What Can Human Beings Do, and What Can’t They? Or: Does the Torah Believe in Progress?” Ancient myths see human beings as recipients, not initiators, of culture and progress. Bible scholar Tikva Frymer-Kensky explains that according to these stories, “humanity did not develop any aspect of human culture… In ancient Near East myths, the gods provide humanity with all the essentials of human civilization. By contrast, in the Bible, early humans develop their own culture. The human being, a creature created by God, is the initiator and creator of its own culture.” It was very thought-provoking about human nature.

One thing I noticed and I think it is something to think about; when a verse says something benign or even seemingly positive and Rashi says the explanation is negative.  Do we give any credence to the simple meaning of Pshat without Rashi?”