Talk Torah

Leadership Lessons and Parsha Insights


Leave a comment

Parshas Vayikra: Humility, Servant Leadership, Produces the Greatest Results

Before we begin the new book, finish the book of Exodus with a funky song: Pick One Mitzvah

Pesach’s right around the corner, and a new book’s begun. Spring’s coming in, and the birds are singing G-d’s praises. I wish you all well!

Main Dvar’s Summary: The word Vayikra is the language of affection, demonstrating that closeness to Hashem is accessible to any Jew who breaks selfish desires to connect with the truth of Torah. In our relationships and in our connection to Torah or any big ideas, the greatest way to receive the most is by making yourself a giver. Be motivated by the drive to connect, to help, to learn and grow, and eliminate to the best of your ability, objections rooted in amassing power, short-term delights or guilty pleasures. The pleasures of Torah are refined and rewarding, and are drawn from internal reflection and growth. But that deep internal reflection is actually the spark Hashem placed inside us, the call of G-d Himself. May your relationships blossom and the world shine brighter from being near you.

Heed the call, and awaken your greatest self.

Great Shabbas!

-Ari Melman

Revisit past lessons from the parsha at talktorah.wordpress.com/ 

Parshas Vayikra: Why G-d Requires Either Old Turtledoves or Young Doves for the Olah Offering

Brief Thought: When one brings Hashem an olah-offering of fowl, he must “bring his offering from the turtledoves (old only) or from the young doves” (Lev. 1:14). Why only old turtledoves or young doves? Why not young turtledoves or old doves? Rashi hammers this point home by explaining that Turtledoves must be, “Mature ones, not young ones” and young doves must be “young ones, not mature ones”. Rashi screams out for understanding.

Luckily, Rabbeinu Bachya explains, the pshat/simple explanation is that turtledoves, once they commit to a partner, are faithful to that partner forever, even if the partner dies. Likewise, Klal Israel is forever loyal to Hashem, even if His presence becomes hidden or bad times occur. On the other hand, old doves quarrel heavily and become jealous, a trait that begins in youth and worsens over time. Thus, we symbolize in our offering that we want the closest most loyal connection, after a turtledove has proven loyalty. Alternatively, we want to minimize quarrel, before it becomes so negative that the relationship becomes broken.

He then explains the Kabalistic level — turtledoves are equated to water, itself equated to Chesed, a flow of lovingkindness. Doves are equated to fire, itself equated to Din, the constraint of judgement. We want as much connection and lovingkindness as we can get, so the older, the better. But we want as minimal and controlled a fire as necessary, so the younger, the better.

Jealousy (קינא), one of the three basic negative traits (along with כבוד / honor and טיבא taiva/selfish desire) is the only one that can be elevated on the mishkan for positive purposes. Gemara Horayos 10B explains the Torah forbids bringing offerings of leaven or honey but requires bringing salt in all meal-offerings. The Sefer Hachinuch writes honey represents base physical desire/taiva because it’s a sweet tasting food. Leaven is haughty because it rises up.

The Chasam Sofer explains that when G-d split the waters of heaven and earth, the lower waters also wanted to go up and so G-d imbued them with salt to go up. Their jealousy was for greater connection to Hashem. This can be a major motivating force for growth.

Rabbeinu Bachya concludes by saying that turkeys are never allowed on the alter, because they are sexually promiscuous. Thus, we see a clear purpose of the olah offering emerge — whatever aspects of our world we can use to have a closer connection must be amplified, whatever causes us to separate must be removed. And that tricky gray area, jealousy, must be used, but with caution.

May you be blessed to overflow with lovingkindness and have just enough jealousy to accomplish all your dreams.

Great Shabbas!

Ari Melman

Summary: The word Vayikra is the language of affection, demonstrating that closeness to Hashem is accessible to any Jew who breaks selfish desires to connect with the truth of Torah. In our relationships and in our connection to Torah or any big ideas, the greatest way to receive the most is by making yourself a giver. Be motivated by the drive to connect, to help, to learn and grow, and eliminate to the best of your ability, objections rooted in amassing power, short-term delights or guilty pleasures. The pleasures of Torah are refined and rewarding, and are drawn from internal reflection and growth. But that deep internal reflection is actually the spark Hashem placed inside us, the call of G-d Himself. May your relationships blossom and the world shine brighter from being near you.

Heed the call, and awaken your greatest self.

Parshas Vayikra: Humility, Servant Leadership, Produces the Greatest Results

The name of a book represents its central theme. בראשית speaks of beginnings, שמות of establishing the Jewish people (their names), and now ויקרא speaks of G-d calling to us. The book of Vayikra used to be the first one taught to kindergarteners, and as the center book, is also the central book of the five. Bilvavi (Building a Sanctuary in the heart) writes that the primary obligation of our lives is to internalize G-d’s presence into our vision of reality — it’s not enough to intellectually believe in Torah or G-d, we must also feel the guiding presence and loving relationship throughout our lives. It’s fitting, therefore, that the book of Vayikra is dedicated to all the methods for us to individually and as a community connect to Hashem and bring Him into our lives.

Ultimately, that will include the crux of our behavioral Mitzvot — sacrifices, prayer, proper relations, kosher, Shmittah, family purity, lashon hara and many more.    

Let’s understand the importance of the word Vayikra (ויקרא). Rashi explains that the word Vayikra is the language of affection. G-d calls/vayikra to Moses three times: At the Burning Bush (Ex. 3:4), Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:3) and here, as Moses is introduced to the sacrificial service.

The Midrash expands that Moses, from his understanding of humility, felt unworthy for the mission of leading the Jews out of Egyptian slavery and repeatedly, at every refusal from Pharaoh and set-back burdening the people, wanted to withdraw from the attention and honor that go with leadership. Ultimately, he did all that G-d asked of him and upon delivering the Torah, prepared once again to move into the background. He never desired power for honor’s sake, even when at the top of his game. But G-d said to him, “I have one more task for you, surpassing all that you have done so far. Go and teach the people of Israel the laws of ritual purity and instruct them in the sacrifices.”

The noblest part of Moses’ trial only begins now. He now must use his prior experiences to shape a “kingdom of leaders/Kohanim and a holy nation”. The process of training the people morally and spiritually and teaching them the tools for self-growth and actualization are the eternal destiny of the Jewish people, beyond any single generation. This is the ultimate mission of every Jew, every parent, every spouse (Munk).

We can relate to this idea by examining life decisions in youth. As children, we begin fully dependent on our parents and teachers and are generally incapable of true individual greatness. Frequently, our early attempts at expressing change and growth go awry (such as when Moses killed the Egyptian who was killing the slaves, which forced him into hiding). We later build up our individual talents as individuals, and with the help of G-d, succeed in affecting growth and change (the Makkot/Plagues and Exodus). We then must subdue our own individuality and stature to Torah and follow the path of the just, ensuring that all our actions and thoughts are for the sake of creating harmony and unity and beauty, rather than giving in to self-centered desires (receiving the Torah). Now, we may think we’re complete, but the real journey only now begins. Now, we are ready to get married, to bind ourselves to giving to another, to pass on Torah and create living Torah in the world. All the previous steps of our development were building to this ultimate stage of life.

The Aleph/א in this third mention of ויקרא is written smaller. Rashi explains that ויקר, how Balaam is called, refers to language of transitoriness, as the word ויקר means “happened”. Balaam knew when to come to be able to talk to G-d, whereas Moses waited for G-d to come to him.

Sampson Raphael Hirsch explains that this language is to prevent misrepresentation as some kind of revelation in Moses, rather than to Moses. While many others have “imaginary visions of a so-called ecstasy, or simply as an inspiration coming from within a human being…a contemporary phase in the history of the development of the human mind”, this is not so. G-d alone is the speaker, and Moses purely serves as listener, and vessel.

It is only possible to listen perfectly if we remove our own biases and impressions first. Otherwise, we will always interpret what we hear to fit our own ideologies. Moses is the perfect model of humility precisely because of his dedication to being a perfect listener, a true vessel for Torah, without implanting his own desires on G-d’s system. This is the highest mark of a Jew, and characteristic of our gedolim/great Torah scholars — people that have so removed their own egos and personal biases that they should be judging purely from a place of Torah knowledge. Thus, humility is not shying away from the spotlight, but developing yourself to the point where you’re the ONLY proper person to be in the spotlight — the only person who can be in the spotlight without deriving any personal benefit from the glory.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l would straighten his coat and hat before coming home, as if about to enter an important meeting. He explained to his questioning student,

“When you’re going to be standing before the Shechinah, you have to look respectable.  I’m about to enter my home, and it is written, ‘A man and his wife, if they merit it – the Shechinah is there with them.  Therefore, I am now about to stand before the Shechinah.”

‘At his wife’s funeral, he said that even though it’s the Minhag to ask one’s wife for mechila/forgiveness, he knew for sure that he had NEVER done anything that made him require mechila! Rav Tauber connected the two stories – because of his approach to marriage via the Shechina, he could treat his wife so well that he never upset her!’ (told to me by Yehonasan Gefen)

Moses felt that G-d simply happened upon him, that he was nothing. G-d had to reassure Moses, telling him his task had really just begun, and all the refinement and trials that got him here had ensured his obligation to serve in the spotlight. If anyone else tried for the role, if anyone but Rav Auerbach claimed he’d never hurt his wife, it would have been arrogance. Coming from such a pure spirit, it was the greatest show of humility.

A midrash explains that the bit of ink Moses didn’t use to make the א normal sized, G-d pressed the leftover holy ink on his forehead. This made Moses’s face shine so brightly he needed to wear a mask, “Moses did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant…Moses placed a mask on his face. When Moses would come before Hashem to speak with Him, he would remove the mask until his departure” (Ex. 34:29). Moses’s radiating displays of greatness emerged from his desire to remain out of the scenes, to nullify his honor as much as possible.

The NYT bestselling business book “Good to Great” emphasizes that the most successful CEOs practice this attribute of humility, servant leadership. By bringing out the best in those around you, and communicating your desire for the team and mission to succeed more than your personal bank account, people remain inspired and achieve their best.

In our relationships and in our connection to Torah or any big ideas, the greatest way to receive the most is by making yourself a giver. Be motivated by the drive to connect, to help, to learn and grow, and eliminate to the best of your ability, objections rooted in amassing power, short-term delights or guilty pleasures. The pleasures of Torah are refined and rewarding, and are drawn from internal reflection and growth. But that deep internal reflection is actually the spark Hashem placed inside us, the call of G-d Himself.

Heed the call, and awaken your greatest self.

May you be blessed to grow in humility, maximizing your growth and contribution in the world without a need for honor. May your relationships blossom and the world shine brighter from being near you.

Great Shabbas!

-Ari Melman


Leave a comment

Parshas Ki Sisa: True love is Lifelong Honeymoon

Parshas Ki Sisa:

Dear Friends and Family,

Start off the week with an upbeat song: We got the Torah!

Parshas Ki Sisa: True love is Lifelong Honeymoon

At Mt. Sinai, G-d’s presence was so clear to the nation that it was as if we were coerced to accept Torah. The hard part isn’t accepting the relationship when our feelings are clear and true, but years down the road, when the honeymoon period has ended and keeping the feeling alive takes hard work.

That’s the significance of Purim. Even when G-d didn’t appear with any open miracles and even his name is masked, the Jewish people still gathered together and recognized his guidance behind the seeming horrors and successes of our physical world.

The sin of the Golden Calf was the decision to turn away from a direct connection to Hashem at the very moment of the closest connection. Even though the Calf was a replacement for Moses, not G-d, even though it was simply a tool for those few to connect to G-d, it was a heinous deviation because of how intimate their connection with Hashem was. Imagine if your significant other is waiting for you for a date and you come thirty minutes late because you were talking to their siblings. It’s not that you were doing the worst thing, but your actions and timing were completely inappropriate. In fact, in the proper setting, the Jews were encouraged to direct their prayers to the Aron, which was covered by the Cherubim.

The lesson for us is to recognize where we are right now. G-d is hidden in our world, which makes Purim the most relatable Jewish holiday of the year. But those that hold fast to Torah, who grip tight to Hashem, are striving for that close relationship despite any obstacles. We cannot allow distractions and lesser goods to get in our way. We cannot direct our energy and focus purely to work, or pleasure seeking, or entertainment, if it means giving up the moment of connecting personally.

Everyone has an individual responsibility to make the most of their relationship, to give their all. That’s why the word for love in Hebrew is “אהב” — literally meaning, “I will give”. Rabbi Kelemen explains that a secular marriage is healthy if each person helps the other achieve their goals 50/50 — I take out the trash and you clean the dishes, you watch the kids tonight and I will tomorrow. You be successful in your thing and I’ll be successful in my thing. The healthy Jewish marriage is one in which we are aligned and coordinated, where what I want takes a back seat for what will be best for us. I don’t get a day off if that means you’ll be more frazzled. The focus is on what’s best for us as a unit, rather than what’s optimal as individuals. Thus, the relationship changes the individual — their goals, desires and pleasures change to fit each other.

He explains that one who constantly pursues happiness for himself will always feel the lack, the gap between where he is and where he wants to be. But one who is constantly giving to the other will not be able to think of the lack in himself because he’s thinking how to fill the lack and needs of the other. And as a side benefit, he will achieve a steady state of happiness.

May you be blessed from Purim to Purim to recognize and invest yourself into the most important relationships, the most important activities, and the most important acts of giving, so that you can be truly fulfilled and happy in this world and the world to come.

Shavua Tov!

-Ari Melman


Leave a comment

Parshas Va’Eira — How G-d’s Name Reveals Himself to the World

Dear Friends and Family,

This week, Hashem reveals himself to the world. I hope to share some insights into the purpose and choice of the ten makkot, commonly simplified as plagues but more accurately described as Signs and Wonders (אתתי ואת מופתי – Shemos 7:3).

The quick drash: When Moses tells Pharaoh to let his people go, why does he only ask for three days?

As the verse says, “Let us please now go for a three-day journey in the wilderness and we shall sacrifice to Hashem our G-d” (Shemos 5:3). We know that Moses intended to take the Jews out permanently!

Rav Hutner explains that Pharaoh first deceived the Jews with soft words and only later gave hard labor (Pesachim 39A, recall last week’s drash). Because Pharaoh deceived with soft words, Moses spoke to him measure for measure. Sometimes, the only way to combat a wicked force is by using their own tools against them.

While we shouldn’t attempt this on fellows, this is an incredible tool for fighting our own evil inclination. When something’s difficult for you, tell yourself you’ll do it only another five minutes. Then another five. And so on. In so doing, you’ll accomplish a goal you first thought impossible.

The Stepiler Rav once served guard duty in Russia over Shabbos. The guard before him left the winter coat on a tree branch, making it muksa (forbidden to touch). In the freezing cold, the Steipler Rav told himself he’d take the coat in five minutes. He checked himself every so often to make sure he was still healthy. In so doing, he kept Shabbos in its entirety the entire night. That self-will and control made him great. It came five minutes at a time.

May you be blessed to overcome hurdles with many small steps, and deceive the negative voices in order to accomplish impossible dreams.

Great Shabbos,

Ari Melman

P.S. Attached are an explanation of the first seven makkot in detail as well as the Maharal’s exposition on the name Hashem.

P.S.S Summary: Hashem is G-d’s name of truth. A name represents how the outside world perceives the thing. Thus G-d wants to teach the entire world that he is the only world power. Any benefits humans get from subjugating others or the land, they need to credit to G-d and treat with care and respect. Otherwise, they are acting falsely and selfishly.

Constantly grow in truth and goodness, and you’ll understand more and more the incredible complexity required to see truth. Such that only G-d could have full knowledge. Thus, by trusting and studying his works, you come ever closer to truth and beauty.

Meaning Summary of the 10 Makkot/Plagues

Strangersגרות in their own land

Slave owner <- Slave  עבדות

Imprisonment ענוי

Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch

Abarbanel

Where plague came from:

Blood דם

Frogs צפרדע

Lice כנים

Signs (Rashi)

G-d’s Existence

Below or on Ground

Mixture of wild animals ערוב

Plague דבר

Boils שחין

Signs  (Rashi)

His Divine Providence over nations and individuals

Above ground

Hail of ice and fire ברד

Locusts ארבה

Darkness חשך

Wonders (Rashi)

His Divine Omnipotence

Heavens

Pharaoh told on the bank of the Nile (in private)

Pharaoh told in his royal court (in public)

No warning

Parshas Va’Eira — How G-d’s Name Reveals Himself to the World

This parsha focuses on two main sections:

* The name Hashem (יקוק) is officially revealed to the world and the Jewish people.

* The first seven Makkot/Plagues strike Egypt, with Pharaoh throughout begging for relief and immediately refusing freedom upon getting the relief.

At first, this seems troubling. G-d’s name (Hashem) appeared throughout Breisheis, yet this parsha opens by G-d saying, “I am Hashem. I appeared to Abraham, Issac and Jacob as K-el Shaddai, but through My name Hashem I did not become known to them” (Shemos 6:3). What does this mean?

Rashi explains, “I was not recognized by the forefathers in My aspect of truth…I am faithful to uphold My word, for I promised, but have not yet fulfilled.”

The forefathers recognized G-d through a personal, private connection with him. Although Abraham and Sarah converted many souls in Haran, those converts didn’t have a clear experience with G-d and are not heard from again. All of the miracles performed for the fathers were hidden, whether it be the angels pulling Lot out of Sodom, Avraham defeating the four kings with his tiny army, Pharaoh and Avimelech getting leprosy when they lusted Sarah, or Jacob using super strength to move the lid off the well when he saw Rachel. But the signs and wonders G-d presents in Egypt will be a public announcement of G-d’s complete authority over the world, a sign for the Jews forever and for the rest of the world to open their eyes and get the message.

What’s the purpose of a name? A name is a trait that describes the object for the outside world, since the outside world cannot know the inner world of the named thing.

Your name, while it’s your favorite word, is only useful for allowing others to identify you. The name Hashem is G-d’s aspect of mercy and absolute truth.

What is truth אמת? Truth is when every piece of information fits into a complete picture. A researcher looking for causal relationships can come to a completely wrong conclusion if he doesn’t identify an important factor. Understanding the complexity of the world, both scientifically, in daily decision making, and in understanding Jewish law, is our obligation to have a clearer idea of what complete truth could look like. Only G-d knows all the factors at play, all the various mitzvot and averas being committed. The closer we come to understanding how important each little detail is, the more we appreciate G-d’s overarching greatness.

My rabbi studied with a boy who ran away from home as a teenager. In his early twenties, he became a ba’al teshuva, and re-established relations with his family. The boy then found out that his grandmother had spent the last years of her life weeping tearful prayers every day that her grandchild would return from the path her children had left. Those tearful prayers, many years later, were fulfilled. Whether a prayer is fulfilled now or many years later is beyond human comprehension, but it helps us to see the power of G-d’s ways.

When G-d appears as Hashem to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt, he fulfills the promise he made long ago to the fathers. In so doing, their descendants are able to see the truth and place for every promise, every sign that G-d directed in the world.

May you be blessed to constantly search for truth and find G-d’s guiding hand wherever your life journey goes.

Great Shabbos,

Ari Melman

The Maharal explores the meaning of Hashem’s name:

The name (יקוק) is a conglomeration of three words — היה, הוה, יהיה. He was (before time), He is (with us in every moment), he will be (after time). Hashem is beyond space and time, and has complete knowledge and control.

Maharal breaks the name down by the letters as follows:

Yud = Future (Olam Haba) — The Yud is the 10th letter, symbolizing unity (see the 6th perek of Pirkei Avos for many examples of ten elements in creation, commandments, temple miracles, minyan to pray, etc.) The digits are 1-9, but with 10, they all come together.

Hay = Present reality. Hay (5) represents G-d’s presence in this world. The Hay is made up of a daled with a yud inside. The daled is an x/y axis, representing the 4 corners of a 2d, physical plain, with the yud of G-d infused within.

Vav = Extension. The vav means “and”. It represents that reality is such now (the six physical dimensions of the world), but it only continues because there’s a force at play continuing it.

Hay = The second hay is the ability of the world to produce more. This world is our work. It’s up to us to manifest G-d’s name in physicality.

When G-d appears as Hashem, the aspect of complete truth, he is demolishing the Egyptians. Their god of wisdom was the Serpent Sophia, whose followers “Ophites”, means “Serpent People”. The Serpent Wadjet is the patron and protector of all Egypt with an all-seeing eye of wisdom and headed all other deities and pharaohs.

Thus, when Aaron’s staff turns into a serpent and consumes all the staff serpents of Pharaoh’s best magicians and necromancers, they are sending a clear message. Your pantheism is false, your wisdom is empty. There is one true G-d, one truth greater than your masses of falsehoods.

The deeper meaning of the Makkot (Plagues)

The Makkot are G-d’s way of making himself known to the world as sole controller over the universe. The Egyptians prided themselves on great natural resources, which gave them mastery over the world. The Nile provided water and streamed throughout the land, so they weren’t dependent on rainfall, as Canaan would be. They were military leaders which no country dared fight. They were slave masters, wealthy and abusive. They had the luxury to consider their slaves sub-human and there are countless midrashim of their cruelty. When they stopped providing the straw, they told the Hebrew slaves that if they didn’t maintain the quota, the missing bricks would be made up with their dead bodies or their children. They frequently employed the women in physical labor, and allowed no rest or sanitation for the slaves as they spread lice or sunburnt-boils.

1. Turning the Nile into blood — The Nile was a major god of the Egyptians. G-d first struck the nile to show that Egyptian gods had no power without Him. The Nile provided their water. The word Dam shares the Aramaic root דמא meaning, money. One understanding is that the Jews, whose water stayed clean, made lots of money when their slave-masters had to submit to them to buy water from them. Another explanation is that the blood was a visceral reminder to the Egyptians of the horror they committed by drowning countless Hebrew babies in the Nile.

2. Frogs — When David finished Tehilim, he was proud of his accomplishment in praising G-d. A frog said to him, “I sing G-d’s praises more than you, so don’t be proud. In my every breath, there are 3000 mashuls/analogies for G-d’s greatness.” The chumash writes the frogs swarmed into houses, beds, “ovens and kneading bowls” (Shemos 7:28). They were so willing to serve Hashem, they gave their lives by jumping into live ovens. The stench “became foul”, making it extremely difficult for the Egyptians to cook or eat any hot foods for a long time afterwards. The physical pleasure of good food was taken away from them.

At Pharaoh’s entreating, “Moses cried out to Hashem, על דבר הצפרדעים , lit. Because of the talking of the frogs. Maharal explains the cracking of the frogs caused such din the Egyptians could not endure. With every sound, they voiced G-d’s supremacy. This is supported by the very word for frog, צפרדע, meaning “bird of knowledge”. A bird sings G-d’s praises throughout it’s life. Thus a frog does so on the ground, even willing to express G-d’s name in death. That’s an extremely high level.

3.  Lice — Rashi expands on a midrasnhic explanation comparing the plagues to a military siege. First the water supply is destroyed, then the trumpets are sounded [Frogs], then the army shoots arrows [lice], infantry is unleashed against the enemy [wild animals], lancers enter the battle [pestilence], enemy bombarded with burning projectiles [boils from ashes in the air], and with artillery [hail]. The main body is then sent into battle [locust]. The enemy is pinned down to their positions [darkness]. Finally, the high officials are executed[slaying of the firstborn] (Midrash Tanchuma, Bo, Ch. 4).

4. Mixture of Wild Animals — This marks the divine providence from being on G-d’s side, for G-d “shall distinguish the land of Goshen upon which My people stands, that there shall be no mixture of wild beasts there, so that you will know that I am Hashem in the midst of the land.” Egyptians might think that they drove out the animals and conquered the land, but since G-d is the one truly in charge, the animals can return on a moment’s notice, ready to serve their creator. They also left on their own rather than die, as Rashi explains (8:27) so the Egyptians could not benefit from the hides.

5. Plague — Now that Hashem made it clear he helps those who wish to serve him, he sends an epidemic “and not a thing that belongs to the Children of Israel will die.” Additionally, Rashi explains (9:10) that “An Egyptian who feared the word of Hashem brought his livestock into the houses.” Thus, G-d undermined Pharaoh’s rule step by step, rewarding those who strayed from evil and toward good. However, because those Egyptians didn’t do so from a pure heart, but merely from selfish interests, their animals still suffered in the following plagues. This teaches that when we repent/ do Teshuva, we must do so out of a true desire to be better and follow the right path. If we simply move with the flow, our behaviors will as quickly turn to bad as they do to good. This is a foreshadowing of the golden calf, which the non-Hebrew Egyptians who decided to join the Jews built. The moment the tide seemed to turn against Moses, they were the first to flip their allegiances.

6. Boils — The boils are the first time Pharaoh’s necromancers couldn’t stand before Moses. Up till now, even though they couldn’t replicate the vast majority of the signs, they refused to recognize G-d. The lesson is one still applicable today — no matter how clear the signs are to those who benefit from it and who open their eyes, there will always be well-educated, intelligent people that create vast depths of false explanations or naturalist explanations that allow them not to change their behavior.

7.  Hail of ice and fire — It almost never hails in Egypt. It absolutely never pours “hair and fire blazing inside the hail — very heavy such as had never been in the entire land of Egypt” (9:24). The mixture of opposites, the coming together of contrasting elements, are a miraculous occurrence, as Rashi explains, “by nature they do not coexist, yet to perform the will of their Creator, they made peace between themselves.” This is a lesson that can apply to all of Klal Israel — although we have many different personalities, and many contrasting outlooks, we still come to peace to perform the will of our Creator. That’s why the gemara is a series of debates, and why Jewish life is entirely dedicated to arguments for the sake of heaven. We are made to marry “a helper against us”. Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel engaged in “arguments for the sake of heaven.” Our differences are what make us great, and despite everything that makes us separate, following Hashem brings us together in peace.

That’s the meaning of truth — seeing how all the various elements, so contrasting, so different from one another, truly come together to create a better world. That’s the big lesson for us to take away, the fundamental precept of Judaism.

May you be blessed to follow the Creator’s signs and path, and find yourself always on the right side, striving to perfect the world.

Next week are the last three makkot. Until then, have a Great Shabbos!

-Ari Melman