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

Shabbat Chol Hamoed (Pesach and Sukkot)

  1. As mentioned in the parsha writeup, there is a phrase repeated three times in this short reading in various variations – matzati chain be-einecha, I find favor in your eyesIt is a common turn of phrase – but never this common. Christians might translate it as ‘grace’. It is not exclusive to G-d. Jacob says it to Esav. It first comes up with Noach – Hashem finds favor in his eyes. Moshe distinguishes himself by taking this favor and sharing it with the undeserving people. This is the sign of a great leader.
  2. “I will make all my goodness pass across your face.” What is all the goodness of the Lord? I think this is the only mention of the goodness of the Lord. His actions and creations and gifts are credited with goodness – but Hashem’s goodness doesn’t appear. What is this? If goodness is the actualization of creative potential then what Moshe is seeing is the total actualization of Hashem’s creativity in this world. If so, it is an amazing concept and something beyond the appreciation of any man. Perhaps this is why it simply ‘passes’ by even Moshe.
  3. As mentioned in the parsha writeup, there is a weird concept of seeing G-d’s back, but not his front. When we read the text, Hashem seems to be saying ‘you’ll see all my goodness’ which is his back. If we go back to Bereshit, goodness follows Hashem’s acts of creation. Hashem hides himself with his hand – the body part of action. Perhaps Hashem’s actions actually hide him – but once the actions are removed, Moshe can see where Hashem has been and the goodness he has done. What Moshe can’t see – what no man can see – is where Hashem is going. There could be many many reasons for this. Not the least of these might be complexity – we can perceive one past. But with free will, there might be infinite futures (all within a divine plan) – and a man could be destroyed by that perception.
  4. As mentioned in the parsha writeup, Moshe has to carve out the second set of tablets? Perhaps because he plays a new leadership role. Hashem made the first set to welcome the Jewish people. The second set required Moshe’s argument. It is a gift not just from Hashem, but from Moshe. Hashem puts the words there – he creates the content. But Moshe enables the context.
  5. There is this concept of kindness to the thousandth generation but hatred only to the third or fourth. There are many takes on this – but one is simple. It says in Devarim that the forefathers loved Hashem. They got a brit or covenant as a result. This brit results in a long-term promise of kindness. But in the intervening time, the Jewish people rebel. For this, we suffer terribly – for three or four generations. It is our challenge to rejoin the long-term track. Note that there is a brit here, but a short-term one.
  6. As mentioned in the parsha writeup, note that the commandment of Maseicha has (for the first time) been added to the list of inappropriate worships. This is perhaps a reaction to the egel. Not only shouldn’t you make other gods, but you shouldn’t worship your own peoplehood. As if you needed me to tell you that.
  7. Why break the donkey’s neck if it is not redeemed? Does this somehow gift it to Hashem? It just seems like a waste of a working animal. The first born are tied back to the death of the first born in Egypt. The survival of our first born is a testament to this miracle and our connection to Hashem. Perhaps, it is a reminder that when our productive efforts are divorced from our relationship to Hashem, then the fruit of those efforts are as worthless as a donkey with a broken neck.