21st Century P’shat: 1-2 minute divrai Torah for each aliyah

Rosh Hashana Day Two

  1. Avraham splits the wood before leaving. On the one hand this shows a tremendous level of conscientiousness. He seems to be making sure the offering faces no hickups. On the other, surely there will be wood closer to mountain. Why doesn’t he just bring Yitzchak, a knife, some fire and an ax and hop on a horse? Perhaps Avraham, unable to square Hashem’s request, is slowing things down while ensuring he can carry out the command. He is not wasting time – just doing things as thoroughly as possible.
  2. Yeshivat Har Etzion’s Rav Bick points out that Avraham travels three days and the mountain is still far away. In essence, he tries to square Hashem’s command, but it is still distant. He can’t make sense of it. I’m always interested in the word used for knife – it literally means eater. It is a brutal blade.
  3. Yeshivat Har Etzion talks about the trait of fear of Hashem being developed through this story – this is why Hashem sees it in Avraham. What fear though? Of losing his son and his future? He’s giving that up. I think the correct translation is awe – acceptance of the appropriateness and truth of even that we don’t understand. Amazingly, Hashem doesn’t just learn about Avraham, Avraham sees Hashem. What does he see? Perhaps he understands that Hashem wants to develop our souls – and while that sometimes that requires pain and confusion for even the greatest of people, pain and confusion are not the goal or even the reality.
  4. Why are we compared to the sand on the lip sfat (literally language or lip) of the sea and the stars in heaven? Why not the sand in the desert. Last week’s parsha might have an answer. It says the Torah is not in Heaven or across the seas but in our hearts and in our mouths. Perhaps in our role as stars we pull the Torah of the heavens into our hearts and as sand on the lip of the sea we draw the Torah of the world’s creation into our mouths (lips).
  5. In this reading, Avraham learns his brother is far ahead of him in offspring. But we know how this turns out – Nachor is not a major character. Perhaps it is a lesson to us – we should trust in Hashem to maximize our reality and not concern ourselves with immediate comparisons to our brothers or friends.

Addendum

The Mussaf Amidah has a progression of Shofar blowing. There is Malchiut (Kingship). We blow for each other and to coronate Hashem by indicating our joy in serving him. The tone should be powerful, confident and regal which is why I blew the Kudo Shofar.

There is Zichronote. When Hashem Zochers in Chumash he is rescuing those in dire need about whom there is a brit (covenant). There is not necessarily any merit in the rescuee – just a brit that obligates Hashem to save. Noach and the animals needed Zichron when they ran out of food (Noach would have needed to eat the animals who were supposed to survive). FYI, Tzvi Fischer pointed out the Noach connection. Yishmael needed Zichron when he was near death from dehydration. He was saved by the covenant with Avraham which promised he would be a great nation. The Jewish people were remembered in the same way when they risked being like other slaves, no longer having children. And so on. I think the most recent Zichron was the creation of the State of Israel after the desperation caused by the Holocaust. The Zichron blowing is one of the Jewish people to Hashem. It is a blowing of desperation. I used the small and tinny shofar for these brief notes.

Then there is Shofarote. In Chumash, the shofar is the sound of revelation. It is the sound of redemption – either by us recognizing Hashem’s Kingship or by us being in desperate straits. In either case, Shofarote is the voice of Hashem to the Jewish people. It is the Shofar heard round the world. It is strong. And so for these notes I again blew the Kudo.

 

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