Parashat Lech Lecha 5762 Rabbi Fishel Todd

Parashat Lech Lecha 5762

Rabbi Fishel Todd

What is the teva of our father Abraham?

lech lecha (Gen. 12:1) (‘go’) ‘…that I spread the knowledge of your teva in the world’. (Rashi, ad loc, based on a Midrash, Tanchuma Lech Lecha 3.) What does this mean? The development of changes in Hebrew throughout the generations is too large a subject for this column, but the Sages said ‘the language of Torah is distinct, and the language of the Sages is distinct’ (Hulin 137b). Since Talmudic times many more changes have taken place in the language. Here we will limit ourselves to looking at the changes that have occurred in words derived from the root Tet, Bet, Ayin.

In the Tanach we find verbs derived from this root and it means sink, immerse, drown. The noun taba’at (‘ring’) also appears frequently and it would seem that it was called so because rings were made with symbols on them to impress (or sink) into a seal. In the language of the Sages words derived from this root are matbe’a (‘coin’), tiv’a (‘authority’ the thinking here may be that one who has authority can mint coins), and also tiv’ah (a particular coin) (Jastrow). The Gemara in Nidda (20b) uses the word tiv’a; the two major Talmudic dictionaries explain the word differently; Jastrow explains it as ‘a coin’, Melamed as ‘Nature’.

In 1705 the Chacham Tzvi wrote (Responsa No. 18) to the leaders of the congregation Sha’arei Shamayim (London) about the sermon delivered by their rabbi, R’ David Nieto, who said ‘Hashem Yitbarach and Nature, and Nature and Hashem Yitbarach are all One. I say that I said this and I confirm this and prove it, as David haMelech supports it in Psalm 147 “…He covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth and causes the grass to sprout on the hills”; but you need to know (pay heed Jews, for it is the first principle of our faith) that the noun teva was coined relatively recently – some four or five hundred years ago, close to our own era, and is not to be found in the works of our early Sages’. After quoting this passage from R’ D. Nieto’s sermon, the Chacham Tzvi refers to him as ‘the exalted Sage, our Master and Rabbi, David Nieto’ and praised his opinions. These rabbis are saying that teva meaning ‘nature’ was coined in the Middle Ages, and teva in the Gemara in Nidda cannot mean nature.

The period when Rabbi David Nieto indicated that the word teva (‘Nature’) originated is that of the Ramban and indeed the Ramban uses the word teva in this meaning. He writes ‘No man has a share in the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu until he believes that all our matters and happenings are all miraculous and are not teva or the way of the world. Rabbi Yehuda ibn Tibbon’s Hebrew translation of Sefer Kuzari also provides examples of this new meaning of the word teva, ‘there is a cause for something which moves of itself, and comes to rest of itself, and that cause is teva’. Clearly in both of these cases teva means Nature.

In the Chumash with Rashi translated into English (Rosenbaum and Silberman, Jeruslaem 1973) ‘your teva’ is translated as ‘your character’. After discussing the various meanings of teva in the Talmudic period, Jastrow, out of character with the goal of his dictionary, adds ‘[In later Hebr.: nature, character, Nature.]’. We can see that Jastrow agrees with the opinion of R’ D. Nieto as reported by Chacham Tzvi. In accordance with the 18th century rabbis, and in accordance with Jastrow a 20th century scholar, a preferred translation of Rashi’s comment of ‘…that I spread the knowledge of your teva in the world’ would be ‘…that I spread the knowledge of your authoritative [opinions] in the world’.

* * * *

uvein ha’ai (Gen. 13:3) (‘And between the Ai’) The Mislol (a widely quoted Hebrew grammar book, first published in Hamburg, 1788, my edition Vilna, 1858 p.165) states:

A proper noun is a noun which is known and recognized as being that and no other; like the names of men and women such as Avraham … Sara … and the names of mountains … and rivers … and peoples and the like. A proper noun is distinct from other nouns by virtue of four features: 1. it cannot be used in the plural to say “Avrahamim” … because a proper noun only refers to a specific single item; 2. it does not accept the definite article Heh to say “haAvraham” …; 3. it does not accept pronominal suffixes to say “Avrahamcha” … 4. it does not accept the construct state (semichut) to say “Avraham Yerushalayim” where the intention is Avraham of Yerushalayim; for all of the above denote definition, and there is no need for definitive information for this noun as it is known to be specific.Although this rule applies throughout the Tanach, here there is an exception. Ai is a proper noun naming a city but nevertheless comes with the definite article. It seems to me that in spoken Hebrew the rule is not binding.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

The Shulchan Aruch Project

The story is not one of a person who is born from the land but one of always already coming from somewhere else.”

Paraphrasing Boyarin, the key value of the Jewish people is in ongoing journey. Perhaps, we should take the advice and try to continue our journey, keep developing rather than staying at the same level of our education, worldview and spirituality. Or, perhaps, it can have a more literal meaning. Maybe we always need to have a fresh look at the world from outside. One of the advantages of constantly being on the way is that it allows the person to be outside all the time and see what local people usually ignore. What if Jews are being constantly commanded ‘Lech lecha’, ‘go forth’?

Rashi, however, understood ‘Lech lecha’ differently. ’Lech Lecha’, according to his interpretation, the phrase means ‘go for you, for your own benefit, for your own good’. Following Rashi’s understanding, we should always look inside ourselves and trust our feelings when we make decisions. In the famous Hasidic teaching “Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said, ‘In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?” Perhaps, the phrase ‘Lech lecha’ is a reminder for us to stop for a moment and to listen to ourselves and ask ‘What is good for me? What would be a good decision for me?’

The two meanings of ‘Lech Lecha’ are thus two human dimensions – our inner world which calls ‘Lech lecha’ (go for you) and the world around us, which calls ‘Lech Lecha’ ‘go forth’. Each of us is in the middle of the two worlds, a coincidence of two contradicting dimensions of the whole.

Another coincidence is that this Tuesday, 7th of the Jewish month Cheshvan, there was a brand-new Jewish festival, which is called ‘Diaspora Israel Day’. It was introduced to the Jewish world by the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism and it is beginning to be marked in some synagogues’ calendars.

The 7th of Cheshvan is chosen for the festival because in the Mishnah, Ta’anit 1:3 it is written that Israel-based Rabbis didn’t recite prayers for the rain for fifteen days after the Festival of Sukkot to let Diaspora Jews come back home safe and dry. This is an ancient example of the bond and care between Israel and the Diaspora. The Torah portion ‘Lech Lecha’ has a key role in the special Haggadah made for this ‘start-up’ Jewish festival. It begins with the following commentary on the first verse of the Torah portion ‘Lech Lecha’: ‘The Hebrew people did not begin its life in the Land of Israel, but outside. From this first journey down to the present day, the Jews have maintained their character as a wandering people, to and from the Land of Israel.’ The connection between Israel and Diaspora is deeply rooted in our tradition. There is even a traditional food for the day – marzipan. It is sweet, it has been made and used in different cultural settings and it symbolizes the rich diversity of Jewish life.


YPS Pearls of Life Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Avigdor teaches us that if immorality is uncontrollable, how can we blame society for its descent into wickedness? The fact is that up till recently, and even today, most people are controlling it. The fact is that what’s depicted in the newspapers and in the other media is not a picture of life; it’s a perverted and crippled picture of what’s in the minds of the writers. Actually, many people are living normally; as you walk down blocks and blocks of Irish houses and Italian houses, they’re living more or less normally. They’re living married lives, and they are controlling themselves; otherwise there’d be mayhem, there’d be murder on all sides. Human beings are controlling themselves. Does it mean every Irish man is perfectly perfect all his life? This I wouldn’t say. But in general people are controlling themselves because that is the only way for civilized people to live. And therefore, we can’t say that the world has lost its control. Of course the liberals are doing their best to break down everything. But despite them, human nature abhors disorder; human nature likes a certain amount of decency, and therefore it will continue no matter what they do. Of course we have to try to stop the torrent of wickedness; we have to attempt to abolish pornography and so on, but that doesn’t mean that we’re losing the fight. We’ll never lose that fight; it’s inherent in human nature. There’s no society that ever abolished morality entirely; impossible. The Roman society, even the Greek society, even though they had certain perversions, but they had certain principles; you have to know a society that’s going to break down all the restrictions is going to decay and fall apart. And if America won’t stop this headlong flight into perversion, who knows what’s going to happen. Let’s hope the Italians and the Irish will win out against the Jewish liberals. Jewish liberals are doing the best to ruin America. I say the Jewish liberals – the truth is that the Orthodox Jews should help a little more than they’re doing; the Jewish Orthodox should identify with American scene and they should all join in the fight against pornography, against gays, and against women’s rights which really means immorality; women’s rights mean mixed dormitories in the colleges, mixed barracks in the military. The United States military has already yielded long before the ERA was passed – right now military barracks are mixed.

And so, it’s up to us to speak up and write letters; we must write to congressmen and protest constantly. And not to vote for liberals! Don’t vote for a liberal! Reagan is running now; it’s an opportunity. He’s a decent man. Of course I’m not going to put an OK on him and say a kosher l’mehadrin min hamehadrin, but as far as goyishe candidates go, everybody should work for Reagan [President Donald J. Trump]. Forget about being a Democrat, forget about your party affiliation, forget about the private deals. Some institutions make private deals with the politicians and they sell their vote or the votes of the Jews; don’t listen to them! Make it your business that the Jewish people should vote for Reagan – he’s more conservative and more decent than the others – because we have to fight for decency. It’s our big job today.

The Pearls of Life brings the holy words of Rebbe Nachman, who emphasized of the most important things in life is to be happy in every situation! Be happy, dance, thank Hashem! You’re already serving Hashem by the fact that you accept His will with emuna. That way, you serve Hashem in every situation and you can alsodo Teshuva. Remember well, it’s impossible to do Teshuva without joy! There is no such thing as being a JEW without joy! If there isn’t joy, there is nothing. So when you are happy, you can understand what Hashem wants from you, thank Hashem, you can do Teshuva, you can rectify! When you have happiness, you have light! You see! You can go forward! Look at Yosef Hatzaddik, [The Righteous] he was thrown into a dungeon not knowing if he would ever get out! Yet he didn’t get depressed! No wife, children, bank account nothing! There is a creator, and we have to accept and be very happy with whatever He wants! We must serve Him with joy in every situation, always! Pure faith brings a person to happiness, enabling him to be happy in every situation, in every circumstance! Happiness is a result of pure faith! And pure faith leads you to talk with the Creator, because if you believe, you talk! You don’t believe, you don’t talk! Don’t fool yourself, if you don’t talk, you don’t believe! Why fool yourself? Do you believe that the Creator of the Universe is next to you? Talk to Him! He is the boss. He is the sole address that there is in the world! He is the sole power that there is in the world! Talk to God! Pour how your heart to Him, ask His advice and most importantly thank Him for life, and all you have! The Creator decides everything. Let not the hysteria of politics etc overwhelm you! It’s all been decided! But we as mere mortals have to make that effort! Talk to God in every situation no matter how difficult the tribulations are! Anyone who undergoes some trial in life, some grief and yet expresses gratitude to GOD will rise from there to greatness. Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Shulcan Aruch Project

Parshas Vayera Genesis Rabbi Fishel Todd


Shulchan Aruch Project


Rabbi Fishel Todd

Parshas Vayera

Genesis 18:19

A verse which leads the Ramban to an important philosophical insight.

For I know him (Hebrew: “yedativ”) because he will command his children and his household after him and they will keep the way of Hashem to do righteousness and judgment, that Hashem shall bring to Abraham that which He spoken of him.


For I know him: Rashi: This (the word “yedativ”) is an expression denoting affection, as in (Ruth 2:1) “a kinsman of her husband” …………..But, in fact the essential meaning of all these examples is “knowledge” since one who likes someone draws him near to himself and gets to know him and is familiar with him. And why do I hold him dear ?

“Because he will command” because he commands his children regarding Me to keep My ways. But if you will explain (the word “yedativ”) as the Targum does ( “I know of him that he will command his children” etc.) then the word (Hebrew: “l’ma’an”) does not fit.


Rashi is dealing with the word “yedativ” which literally means “I have known him” but Rashi finds this translation difficult in the syntax of this verse. Therefore he shows that the same verb which ordinarily means “knowing” can also mean “having affection for”, and that is its meaning in our verse. In short Rashi does here what he frequently does, gives us his understanding of the correct meaning of a word.


The Ramban offers other meanings, in addition to Rashi’s, to the word “yedativ.” Then he ends by saying something quite astounding. He says:

“But the correct understanding, in my opinion, is to “know him” literally. This hints at the principle that G-d’s knowledge, which is divine providence, in this lower world is (just) to guard the species and even humans He leaves them to chance happenings. Until their time of accounting ( i.e. death) comes. But with His righteous ones He directs His heart to know him individually, to have His protection cleave to him at all times. As it says (Job 36:7) “He does not remove His eyes from the righteous man.” There are many other similar verses which make this point.”


The Ramban is telling us something that is quite different from the common understanding of the Jewish view of “hasgacha pratit” – personal providence in our lives. The Ramban says that only for the righteous is there divine guidance for what happens to us in this world. (The Rambam – Maimonides – takes the same position.) All the ordinary people are subject to the “whims” of nature and other accidents. This is quite different from the Talmudic saying that “No man stubs his finger in this world unless it was decreed from Above. “(Tractate Chulin 7b) which means that everything that happens to people in this world is the result of divine decree. The Ramban is saying this is not so. Such divine providence exists only for the truly righteous.

The “Jewish” View on Things

When discussing Jewish Hashkafa questions, we should keep in mind that there are many and varied opinions expressed by the Torah giants. Some of these opinions may appear surprising to us when compared to the views most advocated today. Let us keep our minds open to constantly learn from our teachers, the Torah greats throughout the generations.

As Abraham was sitting before his tent, after having circumcised himself, God appeared. Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw three men standing there. Abraham invited them to come in and made a fine meal for them.

One of the men said that Sarah would have a son by the time he returns to their tent. Sarah heard this comment and laughed to herself, saying, “Oh, that I shall have the greatest fulfillment now that I am already worn out and my husband is an old man!”

God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Is there anything too wondrous for God?”

The visiting men left and Abraham escorted them on their way to Sodom. Now, God said, “Should I keep undisclosed from Abraham that which I am doing? The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah already weighs very heavily. I will go down and see if I need to destroy it. If not, I shall handle it case by case.”

Now, Abraham stood before God asking, “Will you ruin the righteous along with the wicked? Perhaps there are fifty righteous in the city. To kill the righteous along with the wicked such that the righteous should be like the wicked–to do such a thing, I know would be a profanation to You, God. Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?”

And God said, “If there be 50 righteous, I will forgive the city because of them.”

Abraham continued, “See, now, I have begun to speak with my Lord and I am only dust and ashes. How about if there were only forty-five righteous? Or 40? Or 30? Or 20? Or 10?”

And God responded to each. “I shall not destroy the whole city if there are forty, or thirty, or twenty or even ten righteous people.”

After Abraham and God parted, the two angels went to Sodom in the evening. Lot greeted them with a reverent bow and urged them to stay at his house overnight. At first they refused, but then they agreed and Lot made them a feast.

But before they lay down to sleep, the men of Sodom surrounded the house. They wanted Lot to reveal his guests, but Lot refused, begging them to not act wickedly. But the men pushed harder until they almost pushed down Lot and his door. The visitors grabbed Lot and brought him inside, then struck down the men with blindness so that they could no longer find the entrance.

The visitors then told Lot to get his family and leave Sodom, for God had sent them to destroy the city. Lot lingered, but God took pity on him and had the men seize him and his wife and two daughters and lead them out of the city. They warned them, “Do not look back and do not stand still. Escape.” God caused sulfur and fire to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah. When Lot’s wife looked back, she became a pillar of salt.

Lot ended up in a cave with his daughters. Because the daughters wanted to give descendants to their father, they made their father drunk with wine. Each slept with their drunken father, but he did not know when each daughter lay down or when each rose up. The elder daughter bore a son and named him Moab. He is the ancestor of Moab. The younger bore a son and she named him Ben-Ami. He is the ancestor of the sons of Ammon.

Abraham journeyed to the land of Abimelekh, king of Gerar. He said that Sarah was his sister, so Abimelekh took Sarah for his wife. Now, God came to Abimelekh in a dream and said, “You shall die, because the woman you have taken is already married.” But Abimelekh responded, “My God, will you even slay a righteous nation? They both told me they were siblings. In my innocence I have done this.”

And God answered, “I know you did this out of innocence. That’s why I prevented you from sinning against Me and touching her, even indirectly. Now, restore the wife to her husband, for he is a prophet, so he will pray for you and you will remain alive.”

Abimelekh returned Sarah and gave Abraham animals and servants, money and the right to settle on his land. He told Sarah she no longer had to disguise her marriage. So Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his handmaids, and they gave birth.

Now, God remembered Sarah, and she conceived and bore Abraham a son, Isaac, at the appointed time, which God had spoken. Abraham circumcised his son Isaac on the eighth day. Isaac grew, and on the day he was weaned, Abraham made a great feast.

But Sarah saw Ishmael, the son of Hagar, the Egyptian woman, making mockery. Sarah said to her husband, “Cast out this handmaid and her son, for the son shall not share the inheritance with our son, Isaac.”

But the matter was very displeasing in the eyes of Abraham because of his son. And God said to Abraham, “Let it not be evil in your eyes because of the lad and your handmaid. Hearken to Sarah’s wishes, for in Isaac shall be your seed. And also for the son of the handmaid, I will make a nation, for he is your seed.”

Abraham rose early in the morning, took bread and water and gave it to Hagar and Ishmael and sent them away. Hagar lost her way in the wilderness of Beer Sheva and the water came to an end, and she threw the child under a shrub. She sat away from him, saying “Let me not look upon the death of the child.” Then she cried.

But God heard the voice of the lad, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said, “What ails you, Hagar? Do not be afraid! For God has already heard the voice of the lad. Arise, pick him up and strengthen your hand upon him for I will make him a great nation.” And God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. God was with the lad and he grew up and became a master archer.

And it came to pass that God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham.”

“Here I am,” Abraham responded.

God said, “Take, I beg of you, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and get yourself to the land of Moriah and offer him on one of the mountains.”

So Abraham did as he was told, journeying with his wood for the offering and with his son and his servants to the place that God had told him. On the third day, Abraham and Isaac left the servants and took the wood for the offering, some fire and a knife. So they went, both of them, together.

Isaac spoke to his father, Abraham, “My father!”

Abraham said, “Here I am, my son.”

“Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering?” asked Isaac.

”God will see that we have a lamb for the offering, my son.”They came to the place of which God had spoken, and Abraham built the altar and arranged the wood and bound Isaac, his son, and placed him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. And an angel of God called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am!” said Abraham. And God said, “Do not stretch your hand toward the lad, nor do the slightest thing to him, for now I know that you are God-fearing and did not withhold from Me.”

Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and lo! There was a ram caught in the hedge. Abraham took the ram and offered it up as offering in place of his son. Abraham named this place, “God sees.”

An angel of God called to Abraham a second time out of heaven and said, “By Myself have I sworn, says God, because you have done this thing and not withheld from Me your son, your only son, that I will bless you without fail, and without fail multiply your descendants as the stars in heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore, and your seed shall inherit the gate of its enemies. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves through your seed, as a consequence of your having hearkened to My voice.”

Then Abraham and Isaac and the servants returned to Beer Sheva.


Rabbi Fishel Todd

Parsha Noach Rabbi Fishel Todd


And as for Me – Behold I am about to bring the Flood-waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which there is a breath of life under the heavens; everything that is in the earth shall expire (Bereishis 6 17).

The prophet Yeshayahu (54 9) refers to the Flood as mei Noach- the waters of Noach-thereby implying that Noach bears at least partial responsibility for the Flood. Sforno suggests that Noach’s failure lay in failing to teach his generation to know Hashem and to walk in His ways. Had he taught them to know Hashem, they would surely have repented.

We can explain this Sforno as follows. The Midrash comments on the phrase, “the path (derech eretz) to the Tree of Life,” that derech eretz is middos, proper character traits. Middos are the paths that lead to the Tree of Life, the Torah. Hence, “Derech eretz precedes Torah.” First one refines his middos, and only then can the Torah dwell within him. The Torah cannot reside in one who does not possess good middos “where there is no derech eretz there is no Torah” (see Rabbeinu Yonah to Pirkei Avos 3:22). Even though only Torah can bring one’s middos to ultimate perfection, where there is no foundation of proper middos, the acquisition of Torah is impossible.

Rabbeinu Yonah’s categorical negation of the possibility of Torah residing in one who lacks good middos can be understood in two ways, both true. The first is that a person’s lack of good middos make ultimate retention of his Torah knowledge-no matter how great- impossible, because his lack of middos prevents the Torah from fully meshing with the essence of his soul. Hence when he leaves this world, the Torah will not accompany him but be left behind with his other external physical components.

An alternative explanation is that even in this world the Torah will not remain with him. This idea can be illustrated with the following anecdote. Rambam had a dispute with a philosopher whether instinct or training is the decisive factor in animal behavior. To prove the efficacy of training, the philosopher taught cats to stand erect, balance trays and serve as waiters. He dressed them for the part and conducted a banquet with the cats as the waiters. Rambam countered his proof by releasing some mice at the banquet. The cats, forgetting all their training, let the trays and dishes crash to the ground as they rushed about on all fours in pursuit of the mice.

Human beings also have their baser instincts and desires that, without training, drag them onto all fours. A human being is distinct from the animals, however, by virtue of his ability to perfect his middos so that they control his baser instincts. One who has not worked on perfecting his middos will, like the trained cat, be able to put on a show of Torah discipline for a time, but only so long as no “mice” are released in his path.

A talmid chacham, says Rambam, is one who has mastered good character traits. Since he has perfected his character, his sins are by their very nature incidental, not symptomatic of basic character flaws. Therefore we are told that if we see a righteous person sin at night we should assume that by the next day he has repented. Because the sin did not flow from an intrinsic character flaw, he certainly recognized the need to repent in the interim.

Rabbi Chaim Vital explains that middos were not enumerated in the Torah among the mitzvos because they are the very foundation of all mitzvos and the Torah itself. It is in his ability to emulate the perfect character traits attributed to Hashem that man is in the image of God. One who lacks proper character is therefore deficient in the very essence of humanity.

The Alter from Kelm once remarked that Darwin was able to formulate his theory of evolution only because he had never seen a real human being. Thus he could view men as no more than smarter monkeys. “Had he seen my rebbe, Reb Yisrael Salanter, who developed his character traits to a degree of perfection that fully expressed the essence of the Divine Image, he never could have entertained the possibility that human beings evolved from monkeys,” said the Alter.

Darwin’s peers were surely socially respectable people, but with regard to true character development, they remained mere trained cats, whose instinctive desires could at any moment bring them down on all fours.

The sins of immorality and robbery of the generation of the Flood were merely symptoms of the underlying disease of deficient character development. Noach attacked the symptom, but failed to cure the disease. He did not teach them to know Hashem through contemplation of His middos and to walk in His ways by correcting and developing their own character traits. Hence he was unsuccessful. His rebuke may occasionally have suppressed the symptoms, but they soon reappeared, since the underlying cause had not been treated. Without changing their underlying character, no true repentance was possible.

The Torah describes the generation of the Flood as “rabbas ro’as ha’adam.” This can be translated to mean the evil they perpetrated was beyond the boundaries of adam-of human beings. They corrupted the very essence of their humanity, their middos. Hence, the Midrash says, they were punished measure for measure with the overflowing of the great deep. They destroyed their natural humanity, and therefore the natural order was abrogated and the waters of the deep breached their. boundaries and inundated the world. Likewise, the result of the Flood was literally to dissolve their human forms-an external manifestation of their inner spiritual decay.

The mystical works explain that the colors of the rainbow are representations of God’s middos (attributes). Thus, the rainbow is the symbol of God’s promise not to bring another Flood, for by reflecting on and emulating God’s middos we ensure that another Flood will not be necessary.

Only after the Flood did God permit the consumption of meat. Sefer Halkrim explains that mankind prior to the flood equated animal life with human life; man was, in their eyes, reduced to but a glorified and more developed animal. To counter this tragic mistake, Hashem permitted mankind to eat meat. He thereby demonstrated that there is an essential qualitative difference between men and animals that gives us the right to kill them for food That essential difference is inherent in man’s ability to develop and emulate the middos of his Creator

Unlike Noach, Avraham was able to influence the people of his generation precisely because he concentrated on teaching middos. He was thus able to remedy the disease and not just the symptoms. At the age of three, Avraham knew that there was a God, but not until forty, says Rambam, could he be described as “knowing his Creator,” i.e., as recognizing Hashem through the comprehension of His middos and their emulation. Only then did Avraham begin to teach his generation. By teaching middos, he succeeded in breaking the idols. He convinced his contemporaries to abandon gods made in their image for the service of the true God.

Hashem explains His choice of Avraham as the progenitor of the Jewish people: “For I know that he will command his children and household after him that they will keep God’s way, doing charity and justice” (Bereishis 1819). Hashem knew that Avraham would direct his descendants in derech Hashem – the path of middos that leads to the Tree of Life, Torah. That is why we, Avraham’s descendants were worthy of eventually receiving the Torah.

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd

Rabbi Fishel Todd, the Pirchei Rav is the Rosh Yeshiva for the international Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim based in Yerusalem and Lakewood. The largest orthodox rabbinical organization in the world. Providing chaplains to the US Armed Forces, rabbinical leaders to religious synagogues, Torah learning and Kashrus oversight, and veterans support. WIth over 10,000 alumni, YPS is the premier rabbinical organization with executive rabbinical level leaders for the 21st century. Along with the vast rabbinical staff supporting YPS, a deep vault of letters of recommendation, blessings and approvals from the Chief Rabbinute in Israel to key intternational rabbis, Pirchei Shoshanim has returned to its legacy of teaching Torah and building strong leaders.


1750 [Lithuania]

There was a lot going on in the city of Polungian, Lithuania one fine summer’s day. It was the eve of the festival of Shavuos, and all the people were hard at work preparing for the holiday. In the synagogue, the shammash [caretaker] was busy decorating the synagogue with greenery and branches in honor of the festival. To those who asked about this custom, he enjoyed telling them that the festival of Shavous falls each year precisely three months after the seventh of Adar, the birthday of Moshe Rabbeinu. It was on this day of the month, three months earlier in the year, that Moshe Rabbeinu’s mother hid him in the midst of the needs in the Nile river. And so the shammash would decorate the synagogue with branches and greenery, adding in a few flowers here and there to finish off the look.

The shammash was nearly done. As he put the final touches on the display, the door of the synagogue suddenly burst open. In ran a small ten year old child, fleeing from a group of children who were chasing him. In his rush, the little boy didn’t pay too much attention to where he was going.

Bang, The shammash watched, aghast, as the child tripped over one of his careful arrangements. The entire display of greenery tipped and fell, ruining hours of careful and painstaking work. The shammash couldn’t control his anger. The sound of a slap echoed through the synagogue as the shammash hit the youngster with all his force.

A short while later, Rabbi Shlomo Itzik, the Rabbi of Polungian, happened to pass by the synagogue on his way to the mikvah. He noticed a child sitting and crying in front of the building.

“What’s wrong?” he asked with concern.

In between sobs, the boy managed to relate the story. After hearing him out, the Rabbi asked the boy to gather all his friends to gather together all the children of the town. When all the children had arrived, the Rabbi led them in the synagogue, where the shammash was still hard at work, fixing up the display of greenery.

“We will no longer decorate the synagogue with greenery on the ever of Shavous,” the Rabbi announced. “Instead  you.” He turned to the children, “will be responsible for fixing up all the torn seforim [books] in the synagogue. Together with the shammash you will fix all the torn sefarim [books] with paper and tape, so everyone will be able to use these holy books. Now go take the greenery out of the synagogue!”

From that day on, it was no longer customary to adorn the synagogue in Polungian with greenery in honor of the holiday of Shavuos. Instead, a group of children, aged 5-13, would gather in the synagogue, to repair the ripped and torn sefarim so everyone would be able to see them.The name of this group?  Pirchei Shoshanim