These shiurim are being given on Thursdays in Y.U. in Rav Twersky’s daily shiur. We hope to add each week’s shiur as the year progresses.
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See the table below the player for details about the shiurim in this series.
|1||Correctness of Torah||36:16||Ramban: “Arur asher lo yakim…” The kabala is not just practically complying with miztvos, but also an underlying conviction and recognition that mitzvos are emmes. “Emmes” here means that Torah & mitzvos are the true blueprint of how one comes close to HKB”H, lives morally, ethically, etc., in spiritual reality.|
Soul is naturally eternal, schar olam hazeh is miraculous. Punishment is also miraculous, since the soul is naturally eternal.
Someone who feels Torah is correct will both fulfill it and also encourage others to fulfill it.
|2||Ramban: Parshas Nitzavim||42:41||– “Lifnei Hashem” refers to the content and essence of what is being done (in addition to the permanent lifnei Hashem that is always existentially true). Alternatively, refers to the aron.|
– The shavua and curse is what’s being added in the bris. What’s HKB”H’s side of the bris? What’s he committing to? That his commitment is to all of us, rather than, for example from after the Eigel, wiping us out and rebuilding Klal Yisroel just from Moshe.
– We are very susceptible to societal influence, even when it’s disgusting like Mitzrayim, Cana’an etc.
– Sherirus libi: person would think he isn’t accepting the shavua and will do what he wants, but in fact he doesn’t have the ability to opt out.
– Sefos harava es hatzeme’ah: tayva can never be satisfied, so if one caters to the tayva instead of disciplining himself, he will both have a stronger tayva for whatever he indulged in and also will have additional tayva for other (more depraved) things. One can’t “compromise” with tayva; the more you feed it the more it grows and expands. Whatever we do is important in and of itself, and also because it creates momentum.
|3||Ramban: Parshas Vayelech||44:13||– Hester panim followed by a lesser form of hester panim, due to there only being a “hirhur v’charata”, but not a complete vidui. What’s missing? It was a hirhur balev, but not a vidui and teshuva shleima; like someone who knows he’s wrong about something but not ready to admit it. What would prevent someone from saying vidui once he realizes he sinned? If he’s not willing to muster the strength to change, he will be hesitant to verbalize it. Verbalizing comes with a heightened degree of recognition & acknowledgment, hence leaving it as a thought only.|
– Ketanim referred to in hakheil are higi’u l’chinuch, hence “yilmidu l’yirah…” One element of chinuch is parents teaching something the child can already understand, but sometimes it’s correct to plant seeds of something the child will appreciate sometime in the future. How do you read the passuk if you assume it’s yonkei shodayim? Exposing the child to such an atmosphere does have an impact on the child’s neshama.
– Tzivui means Yeshishua was appointed – minui. Rav zt”l points out that Rambam learned like this as well in hakdama to Mishna Torah, where Rambam is saying that Moshe appointed Yeshoshua as the guardian of the mesorah.
|4||Onkelus, V’zos Haberacha. Ramban, Breishis.||41:37||– Onkelus, Vzos Haberacha: “Torah tziva lanu Moshe, morasha kehilas Yaakov” – “Oraysa ya’hav lanu Moshe”. Prompted by “tziva lanu” as opposed to “tziva o’sanu”, Onkelus is telling us: it’s certainly true that we are on the receiving end of commands from the Torah, but our relationship with Torah goes much deeper: we were entrusted with Torah, to preserve and transmit it.|
– Ramban, Breishis 3:13: “ma zos asis” – Chava had a liability both for eating and for getting Adam to eat, so we see that one is accountable for getting someone else to sin. Tosafos A.Z. 15b d.h. Oveid Kochavim assumes as a given that there’s no “lifnei iver” be bnei Noach. Does the Ramban hold there is in fact an issur “lifnei iver” by bnei Noach? Speculative answer: Hakdama of Rav Nissim Gaon to Shas – any mitzvah that is clearly dictated by sevara is binding on all mankind. Ratzon Hashem was clearly communicated that he doesn’t want them to eat from the tree. Isn’t it then clear according to sevara that one should not be a co-conspirator to cause it to be eaten? Perhaps that’s what the Ramban means when he says that we see from Chava that one is accountable for getting someone else to sin.
|5||Noach’s Tzidkus. Ramban, Noach.||49:56||– Machlokes Rishonim what “toldos” means – progeny or history of events. Ramban says it’s progeny, and it’s emphasized because the key part of the mabul story was that the world survived, and it was through his progeny that this happened. Ramban says his progeny were saved in his merit.|
– Ramban explains that Noach was 100% a perfect tzaddik (“tamim”), and therefore was saved; had he just been a 99% tzaddikm he would not have been saved, since the entire world was found to be chayav. If it’s not 100%, then the commitment is not absolute. An individual is only excused from the din of the klal if he is a tzaddik tamim, not deserving any punishment whatsoever.
– Tzedek / tzedaka can indicate din / rachamim. Same root seemingly indicates opposites? As Ramchal explains in Mesilas Yesharim, middas haRachamim is informed by din and mitigates it, but does not contradict it.
– “Es haElokim…” Ramban lists off based on these words a number of things Noach didn’t do, and instead was davek b’Hashem. How does he see all that in 4 words? What they all have in common was the idea that there was determinism outside HKB”H that controls a person’s destiny. That is the antithesis of dveykus b’Hashem, which means zero separation between a person and HKB”H.
|6||Maaseh Avos Siman Labonim: Ramban on Lech Lecha||52:53||There is a causative relationship between what happens to the Avos and what has been decreed on their descendants. As long as a gezeira is in the spiritual realm, it can be preempted, etc. Once it has been figuratively concretized in this world, e.g. through the life/actions of a navi, the gezeira is finalized. This is the case with Avraham going to Mitzrayim.|
Why does the Ramban indict Avraham for going to Mitzrayim? Aren’t we supposed to make hishtadlus? Avraham Avinu is one of chasidei Elyon, so on his level it is a shortcoming in bitachon. How did the Ramban know that Avraham going down to Mitzrayim invovled a cheit? Because of siman labonim – we suffered in Mitzrayim because Avraham went down, and “kol haBein hayilod…v’kol habas t’chayun…” was because of “imri nah achosi at…”
Pokeid avon avos – HKB”H spreads out the onesh over time, and only imposes it on the banim when they are independently chayav, and thus a single onesh is actually being double counted, i.e. counting as the distributed onesh for the avos, and also count as the onesh for the sin of the banim
|7||Ramban, Vayera||45:38||– People would ask how could it be that Hashem didn’t tell him, or how could it be that Avraham didn’t daven for them; either way HKB”H told Avraham to avoid that reaction.|
– “Tzedaka u’mishpat v’shamru derech Hashem” – blending of tzedaka and mishpat, i.e. derech beinonis, is the derech Hashem.
– Tefillah is only appropriate when asking for what middos of Hashem dictate anyway. So what’s the point of tefillah? 1) Middas harachamim has to be asked for, just like a child has to ask the parent for the Shabbos treat they want to give him anyway. Tefillah opens the pipeline of shefa to the world. 2) Tefillah changes the person; it’s humbling and thus can be efficacious. Ba’al Shem Tov says a person should be a different person after davening than he was before.
– Ramban: “im chayavim heim legamrei”. What does it mean “legamrei”? All Avraham could ask for is that they be temporarily spared.
|8||Ramban’s Hakdama||44:34||– Hakdama to peirush al haTorah: Ramban appologizes for writing his peirush even though he “isn’t qualified”, but nafsho choshko baTorah (and that includes teaching.) In his hakdama to the Milchamos Hashem, he apologizes for mistakes, but not for writing itself, and there he says he is merely coming to explain the Rif.|
Hakdama to Bereishis:
– there’s a machlokes (Abarbanel vs Malbim) if Nach was word for word dictation or the nevi’im found accurate words to portray what they were shown. There is NO such machlokes about Torah – it was dictated word for word.
– “Torah & mitzvah” – Torah refers to actual mitzvos, “mitzvah” refers to the stories, which are there to teach emunah.
– Ramban – megillah nitna means Torah was written in 2 installments
|9||Ramban – Parshas Toldos. Suffering, Tefillah, Eretz Yisroel.||48:13||– According to Ramban, Rivka was in such pain that she was questioning why she’s alive. It is possible to be in such pain that one doesn’t want to live. Gemara Kesubos – Chananiah et al would’ve given in if tortured. One may not do anything to shorten someone’s life, but one may daven that Hashem end it.|
– “Lidrosh es haElokim” – tefillah is that a person is engaging with HKB”H. We are too “hard of hearing” to hear Hashem’s response, but the nevi’im hear it. Tefillah and nevuah are two sides of the same coin. In a pristine tefillah, a person gets a response.
– “Eikeva asher shoma Avraham b’koli” – all the seeming violations of halacha by the avos happened in chutz la’aretz, since the avos only kept the Torah in Eretz Yisroel, since the ikar of mitzvos are keeping them in Israel, and for the avos who were volunteering they only did so there. The main hashgacha is on Eretz Yisroel, and mitzvos, i.e. HKB”H telling us how to live, is a form of hashgacha, hence the ikar shemmiras mitzvos being in Eretz Yisroel.
|10||Ramban, Vayeitzei: Nisayon, Tefillah, Understanding Behavior of Avos.||44:13||– Rachel saying to Yaakov that she will die from the tza’ar of not having kids. Yaakov replies that even a tzaddik can’t guarantee that anything will happen via his tefilla, rather it’s up to Hashem. Yaakov is not invalidating her suffering, but one has to measure up to whatever challenge one is given.|
– When Rachel saw she couldn’t rely on Yaakov’s davening getting it done, she determined to daven on her own and was answered. Same thing happened when Chana realized that she can’t rely on Elkana. We must daven with the realization that we can rely only on HKB”H.
– “Rivalry” between Leah & Rachel to have the 12 shevatim must be understood, as must other things about the avos etc., relative to their level, not ours. If we have base traits, use them for the good, e.g. be jealous about someone else’s spiritual accomplishments, just be conscious of the fact that this middah is not the ideal.
|11||Ramban, Vayishlach: Bitachon & Hishtadlus||42:46||– Story of Yaakov & Esav there to teach about Hashgacha and hishtadlus, and their relationship: on the one hand hishtadlus is required, on the other hand it’s HKB”H who determines. Bitachon is never a substitute for what we are obligated to do. Israel is supposed to have Tzahal, a person is supposed to earn a living, and one should take care of his life/health. Not in all three would we say “me’od” – hishtadlus for paranassa is supposed to be realistic but involve every last ounce/effort, while to protect life we certainly would advocate that.|
– Pshat we gave in Lech Lecha regarding Avraham Avinu’s cheit in leaving Israel seems wrong; maybe beginning of the correct pshat is since HKB”H told him to go to Israel, and implicitly means stay there, he should’ve stayed.
– Torah tells us we are obligated to function on a natural level, e.g. melacha on Shabbos for hatzolas nefashos, melamed l’beno umnos, etc. That doesn’t encroach at all on HKB”H determining what happens. Why do Chazal indict Yaakov sending messengers to Esav instead of avoiding contact with him entirely? Because perhaps Yaakov could’ve avoided contact with Esav entirely. Our downfall in Bayis Sheni was brought about by inviting the Romans into our internal affairs, and it’s terrifying that Israeli parties would sooner for a government with Arabs than with other Jews.
– “Adoni Esav” – could be part of what you should say to him, or even not in front of him you have to refer to him that way so that a bad attitude doesn’t come across when you actually do speak to him. Not chanifa since that’s how a younger brother would address an older brother.
– Hamachane hanishar l’pleita: even when one country is treating us badly, there will be another treating us better, because this is Hashem’s promise to Avraham.
– Katonti mikol haChassadim: nisma’atu zechuyosai & shema yigrom haCheit. What’s each? With zechuyos HKB”H protects us from shogeig; Yaakov was concerned that his mi’ut zechuyos would not provide ample protection from shogeg and because of that he’d be punished.
|12||Ramban: Vayeshev||40:36||– Yaakov chose to live in E”Y under others’ rule rather than elsewhere under his own sovereignty. This fulfilled “ger yihiye zar’acha…” HKB”H’s telling this to Avraham at bris bein haBesarim highlights that being Am Hanivchar involves suffering/sacrifice. Accomplishment is bound up with mesiras nefesh.|
“to’eh ba’sodeh…” highlighting how Yosef was challenged when trying to fulfill Yitzchak’s request highlights how comitted he was to fulfilling kibud av v’em. The more committed one is, the more he will persist.
– “nas’u mizeh…dosayna” – Gavriel did not tell Yosef that they were plotting against him, rather he used language into which these things could fit, and Chazal made their drasha. Similarly, Yaakov sent a message to Esav which had 2 levels of understanding: 1) he was not made a sar/chashuv, and 2) “Im Lavan garti v’taryag mitzvos shomarti.” How could Rashi say #1, i.e. that the beracha wasn’t fulfilled? As the psak is in Yoreh De’ah 157, one can say something that can be understood 2 ways in order to save his life.
– “ha’bor rake” had they been aware of the snakes and scorpions and that Yosef was miraculously saved from them, they would’ve realized he’s a complete tzaddik and that they’re mistaken.
– 38:7 – “vayehi Air bechoro…” was chayiv misa because of his own aveiros, not because of any sin of Yehuda’s. “Va’y’ma’ein l’hisnachem” – Yaakov Avinu understood that Yosef’s “death” was a middas hadin against him, and thus thought he must’ve sinned greatly, hence couldn’t be comforted.
|13||Ramban – Parshas Vayigash: Teva, Miracles.||43:47||– Ramban quotes Ibn Ezra disagreeing with Chazal about pshat in when Yocheved was born, and says he must reply since Ibn Ezra was saying Chazal’s pshat was not nittan l’hei’omer. Ramban explains that a Neis Nistar predicted by a Navi or malach beforehand was described in Chumash, but those that weren’t were not, since neis nistar occurs every day, etc.|
– This Ramban is sometimes understood to mean that there is no natural law. That is wrong, as we saw earlier in this parsha where the Ramban explains in “vayafag libo” why Yaakov fainted using medical facts. Ramban is not denying that there is such a thing as teva. So what is Ramban saying? Bnai Yisroel’s fate is not dictated by teva. Similarly, a yachid who is a chassid will not be subject to the randomness of teva. But, this does not mean for every single yachid – only an ish chassid, as Ramban writes in Bechukosai.
Neis nigleh demonstrates yesodei haTorah, Nissim nistarim are yesod haTorah. Hashem can override teva (neis nigleh) and can operate within teva (neis nistar) since He is in control.
|14||Ramban – Parshas Vayechi: Commitment. Malchus Beis Dovid.||51:30||– What Edom (Christianity) & Yishmael (Islam) have in common is that they seek to supplant us as the am hanivchar.|
– We brought galus Mitzrayim on ourselves, just like we brought churban bayis sheni on ourselves by inviting the Romans in.
– Yaakov dafka wants Yosef involved in his burial, hence the shavua. Looking to facilitate the nevua of “Yosef yoshis yadav al einecha…” Also made Yosef swear to see to it that Yosef would exert himself to nth degree. Even for Yosef Hatzaddik, the amount of effort put in to something corresponds to how important it is; if it’s important enough, we find a way to overcome the obstacles. An absolute commitment, e.g. to learning every day, makes sure it lasts, since without it it will get chipped away at until it’s gone.
– “Elokim haro’eh osi ad hayom hazeh” – “ro’eh” as in “friend”. Not that we are informal with Hashem, but rather Someone on whom we can rely, whose ratzon we should do.
– “lo yasur shevet miYehuda” – will not depart from Yehuda once it comes to him with Dovid Hamelech. Why was Shaul first? Because the request to have a king was abominable (since Shmuel was doing it all well) and HKB”H didn’t want to begin via that wrong request. Chashmonaim were chasidei Elyon, but were obliterated for violating “lo yasur”. “Lo yasur” is an instance of Hashem’s bechira/choosing. Wherever HKB”H is bocheir something (Klal Yisroel, Beis Hamikdash, Beis Dovid) it represents HKB”H – all the “one”s in the world represent HKB”H. As such, “lo yasur” is violating how HKB”H reveals himself, and hence the Chashmonaim violating it being such a serious aveira.