In Parshat Naso (5:6), the Torah writes, “The sacred offerings of every individual will be his. Each man who will give to the Kohen – it shall be his.” The literal and simple explanation of this Pasuk is that although one is obligated to give of his possessions to the Kohen, he still can choose which Kohen to give it to. No single Kohen has the right to all the gifts.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green told an interesting parable in the name of the Chofetz Chaim which gives the Pasuk a deeper meaning. There was once a man, whom we will call David, who was a servant to the king. The king, who had quite high standards, assigned David to complete a certain task, which David failed to do. David was in great fear and did not know what to do. He could think of only three people to call upon in his time of need: Shimon, Levi, and Yehuda. Shimon had been David’s close friend for his entire life, and David was sure he could count on him. Levi was another friend of his whom he could depend on. Yehudah was more of an acquaintance of David’s whom he had never felt very close to.
David first asked Shimon to accompany him on his journey to the king’s palace in order to stand in his defense. Shimon replied that he was sorry but just could not help him. Devastated, David went to Levi thinking he might help him. Levi offered to walk him to the gates of the palace but no farther. Having no other option, David turned to Yehuda. To David’s amazement, Yehuda offered to go with him every step of the way and defend him to the best of his ability before the king.
This story teaches us a very important lesson. Every Jew is David and going to face the King of Kings after death. Shimon represents material objects and wealth. For our entire lives, we rely on Shimon and depend on him for everything, but he is unable to accompany us after death. Levi represents our families and close friends who are always there for us. They cry for us and try their best, going even as far as our graves, but they cannot go beyond that point. Yehuda represents Torah study and Mitzvot. We never really thought he would be our best friend, but had we taken the time to give him an important role in our lives, he would have been there through thick and thin. Yehuda is the only one we take with us and it is our best defense and testimony in front of Hashem.
Relating back to the original Pasuk, “The one who gives…it shall be his.” Truly, what he gives shall be his. Mitzvot, if one creates a proper relationship with them, are something that safeguarded one’s life, both in Olam HaZeh and Olam HaBa.
A Kedushah of Caring
by Chaim Strassman
Parshat Naso presents an array of laws, including those of the Nazir. The Nazir can be any man who wishes to draw closer to Hashem and attain a higher level of Kedushah. In order to maintain this level of Kedushah, the Nazir is not permitted to drink wine, cut his hair, or become Tamei Meit (impure through contact with a dead body).
It is interesting to note that the Torah forbids the Nazir to attend the funeral of his mother, father, or any of the seven family members that a regular Kohen, who is also forbidden to become Tamei Meit, is allowed to attend. This puts the Nazir on the level of the Kohen Kadol, the high priest, demonstrating to Bnei Yisrael that even if they are not from Sheivet Levi, they can still attain such high levels of Kedushah.
This Kedushah comes at a price, however. The Torah states that if someone dies suddenly in close proximity to the Nazir, he must shave his head and bring several offerings, including a sin-offering, in the Mishkan. His original Nezirut is nullified, and he must rededicate himself, because “he sinned regarding the dead person.” This expression is very puzzling; after all, it was not the Nazir’s fault that the man died and made him Tamei! Why does the Torah say that the Nazir sinned and obligate him to bring a sin-offering?
Perhaps the Torah is trying to show us that another attribute of the Nazir is caring for the rest of Bnei Yisrael. As Chazal say, “Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh LaZeh,” all Jews are responsible for one another. The similarity of the Nazir to the Kohen Gadol may indicate that the Nazir should attempt to imitate Aharon, the Kohen Gadol in the desert generation, who went to great lengths to restore peace between quarreling Jews. Even though the Nazir who became Tamei did not do anything actually wrong, he may have neglected to show the kind of care that Aharon would have – to be constantly on the lookout for a Jew in need of aid. Along with the rest of the elements of Kedushah comes a requirement to look for ways to help others beyond the letter of the law. In this sense, the Nazir did not fully keep to the standards he attempted to set for himself (otherwise a Jew would not have died suddenly in his presence), and hence must bring Korbanot to atone for this slight “sin.”
by Tzvi Zuckier
In its introduction to the subject of Sotah, the possibly adulterous woman who must undergo a unique ordeal to prove or disprove her faithfulness, the Torah (5:11) begins as it does in many occasions: “Vaydabeir Hashem El Moshe Leimor,” “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying.” This phrase is always used when Hashem is giving Moshe a message to be repeated to the Bnei Yisrael. Although this common Pasuk is rarely expounded upon, the Midrash states in this context that “Leimor” means “Ledorot,” that the message should be related for future generations. Why does the Midrash feel compelled to comment here? This Pasuk is always an indication that Moshe is to relay a message to later generations as well his own; what does the Midrash add by making this point about the laws of Sotah?
The Tiferet Yehonatan explains this based on the Gemara’s statement (Yoma 75a) that the generation of Bnei Yisrael who received the Mann were not obligated in the laws of Sotah. The Gemara there discusses possible meanings of the phrase “KeZera Gad Lavan” (Bemidbar 16:31), which describes the quality of Mann, apart from the literal translation, “like a coriander seed and white.” After offering several explanations, the Gemara suggests that the words Gad and Lavan could mean that the Mann could tell (“Maggid”) the judges what the conclusion should be (“Lavan”) in a case whose facts are ambiguous. One of the examples of such ambiguous cases that the Gemara presents is a husband who claimed that his wife cheated on him, but whose wife responded that he was just trying to cheat her out of her Ketubah money. When the Mann was collected the next morning, the Omer of Mann (one person’s serving) that the wife normally received would determine who was correct. If it turned up in the house of the wife’s father, it meant that the woman had been faithful and that the husband was just trying to find a way out of presenting her with the Ketubah money she deserved. If, on the other hand, the Mann found its way into the husband’s house, it meant that she had committed the grave sin of unfaithfulness to her husband, and would therefore not receive the Ketubah money. In this miraculous way, the Mann indirectly judged an obscure case. This Gemara shows that in the generation when the Mann fell, Bnei Yisrael did not need the Mitzvah of Sotah because the Mann determined the judgment for all potential Sotah cases.
This explains that why the Midrash made its seemingly unnecessary comment. The word “Ledorot” is not trying to add future generations of Bnei Yisrael to the list of Jews who are to be given the laws of Sotah; rather, it is coming to restrict the application of these laws to only the future members of the Bnei Yisrael. The Jews to whom Moshe is speaking, however, are not actually obligated in these laws.
Perhaps we should not overlook even such simple and common Pesukim as the one quoted above – as in this case, even they can carry great significance.
by Ari Manas
Many different ideas are discussed in Parshat Behaalotcha, ranging from the lighting of the Menorah to the Halachot of Tzaraat. Included in the vast array of topics is the commandment of Pesach Sheni, the Second Passover. The purpose of this Mitzvah is to allow those people who missed the main Chag to make it up. Who, specifically, is obligated in this Mitzvah, for whom the Torah supplied a second Chag?
There are two groups of people who are required to bring a second Passover offering: people who live too far from the Beit HaMikdash to travel to Jerusalem for the main offering and people who were Tamei, impure, during Pesach. If any person who is physically close and ritually pure misses the first Passover offering, he will suffer the terrible fate of Kareit.
If these are the only circumstances for which someone brings the second Passover offering, then Behaalotcha must be referring to people who were Temei’im, as Bnei Yisrael were not yet obligated in Aliyah LeRegel, the Mitzvah to congregate on the Regalim, and all of the camps in Bnei Yisrael were set up equidistant from the Mishkan. How did these unnamed people become Tamei, and who were they? Why were they so fervent in their Avodat Hashem that they demanded a second chance from Moshe to do a Mitzvah they were no longer obligated to observe?
According to Rabi Yossi HaGelili (Sukkah 25a), the people who beseeched Moshe for a second chance were the people who carried the bones of Yosef HaTzaddik from Egypt. They were Temei’im from contact with bones, a source of impurity. However, Rabi Akiva argues that these unknown people could not have been the carriers of the bones, because they and Bnei Yisrael were camped at Har Sinai for nearly a year by this time, giving them sufficient time to become Tehorim again. If that was the case, then they would actually be Chayavim Kareit, because they were negligent in becoming pure and therefore missed the offering of Hashem! Rather, the people who were Temei’im were Mishael and Eltzafan, the two individuals who carried the remains of Nadav and Avihu from the Mishkan. Rabi Yitzchak offers a third opinion. He says that Rabi Yossi HaGelili cannot be correct, using the same logic as Rabi Akiva. However, Rabi Yitzchak says that Rabi Akiva cannot be right either, because Mishael and Eltzafan also had ample time to become Tehorim. The deaths of Nadav and Avihu occurred on the first day of Nissan, and the Korban Pesach is on the 14th day of Nissan, giving the carriers more than the needed week. According to Rabi Yitzchak, the unnamed people were those who buried a Meit Mitzvah, an unknown person whom they found dead. Rabi Yitzchak’s opinion highlights the great status of the Jewish people in the Midbar – even average people were involved in Mitzvot as important as Meit Mitzvah.
There is no right or wrong answer in this Machloket, and indeed, all of the opinions highlight the great level of the nation. Even according to those who disagree with Rabi Yitzchak’s opinion, the debate reflects positively on the era that requested a Mitzvah without any incentive to do so other than its love of Hashem. As Rabbi Jachter said in class, there is a connection between the forefathers and the children, and hopefully, with the Will of Hashem, we will all be able to rise to this level that members of our nation reached in that time.
A Positive Spin
by Avi Levinson
After spending forty days spying Eretz Yisrael, the Meraglim returned with their negative report: claiming that the nations in the land were too powerful for Bnei Yisrael to conquer (13:29), the Meraglim discouraged Bnei Yisrael from entering Eretz Yisrael. Accepting the report, the people complained bitterly against Hashem and Moshe and announced that they will choose a new leader and return to Egypt. As punishment for this grievous sin, Hashem decreed (14:34), “BeMispar HaYamim Asher Tartem Et Haaretz, Arba’im Yom, Yom LaShanah, Yom LaShanah Tis’u Et Avonoteichem Arba’im Shanah,” “Like the number of years that you spied out the land, forty days, a day for a year, a day for a year you shall bear your sin, forty years.” For each day that the spies were in Eretz Yisrael, Bnei Yisrael would be punished, Middah Kenegged Middah, with one year of wandering in the desert. This punishment is difficult to understand – the Meraglim sinned only by speaking Lashon Hara for a few hours, perhaps one day at most; why were Bnei Yisrael punished for the days the Meraglim spent in their spying mission, when, on the surface, no sin was committed during that time?
Rabbi Yissochar Frand explains that there are two ways to view any event: one can “look on the bright side,” or one can take a pessimistic, darker view on the matter. Rashi (13:32 s.v. Eretz), explaining the Meraglim’s comment that Eretz Yisrael is “Eretz Ochelet Yosheveha,” “a land which devours its inhabitants,” writes that wherever the Meraglim went in Eretz Yisrael, they saw funeral processions. The Meraglim could have viewed this event in two ways. They could either have recognized that Hashem had performed a miracle – that many people suddenly died so that the residents of Eretz Yisrael would be occupied with the funerals and not notice the Meraglim – or they could take the negative outlook that the land must be uninhabitable. Because they took this latter view, they reported that the land “devours its inhabitants.” In essence, therefore, their sin of telling Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisrael began on the very first day they entered the land, when they first saw the funerals and concluded that the land was problematic. Ergo, the Meraglim actually spent forty days involved in the sin of Lashon Hara, and Bnei Yisrael were punished accordingly with forty years of exile.
If Lashon Hara really begins with viewing an event negatively, a strange Pasuk in Parshat Tazria also becomes clearer. In discussing Tzaraat HaBegged, Tzaraat that appears on clothes, the Torah dictates that a piece of cloth which has questionable Tzaraat must be “quarantined,” or closeted away with the affected area marked, for seven days. If the affliction remains unchanged after seven days, the cloth must be washed and quarantined again. If, after this second seven-day period, the Kohen sees that “Lo Hafach HaNega Et Eino,” literally “the affliction has not changed its eye,” the cloth must be burned (Vayikra 13:55). Rashi explains this strange phrase to mean that the Tzaraat has not changed color, interpreting “changed its eye” as “changed in his eye” (the eye of the Kohen). However, it is unclear from Rashi why this strange phraseology is used. Rabbi Frand explains that because Lashon Hara really starts with a negative view of an event, the Pasuk can be understood literally. The Tzaraat, which was likely caused by Lashon Hara, did not “change its eye” – the person did not change his negative outlook which caused the Tzaraat in the first place. The Torah is hinting that the problem in the person’s viewpoint has not been corrected, and the cloth must therefore be burned.
The Sefat Emet notes that the words “Nega” (affliction, the word used for Tzaraat), spelled Nun Gimmel Ayin, and “Oneg” (enjoyment), spelled Ayin Nun Gimmel, have the same letters. The only difference between them is where the Ayin is placed – at the beginning of the word or at the end of the word. The word “Ayin” is not only a letter, but also the word for eye. Thus, the only difference between being “afflicted” (Nega) and enjoying this world (Oneg) is where the Ayin, the eye, is placed. If one has a positive outlook, seeing the good side of things and judging others favorably, then he or she will truly enjoy this world. If, on the other hand, one has a negative attitude, concentrating on the bad in everything and speaking Lashon Hara, then he or she will be constantly “afflicted,” unable to enjoy life.
A powerful lesson emerges. The only way to avoid the terrible sin of Lashon Hara is to see the good in people and events. Judging others LeKaf Zechut, favorably, is so important and so difficult. With Hashem’s help, we should all merit to judge others favorably and thereby uproot the sin of Lashon Hara.
by Gilad Barach
Korach’s main feature is Korach’s rebellion against Moshe’s leadership. Ibn Ezra notes that this rebellion seemingly parallels the Cheit HaEigel in several ways. Most importantly, both occurrences contain a group’s outspoken desire to replace leaders. During the Cheit HaEigel, Bnei Yisrael wanted to find a communal replacement for Moshe, because they feared that he had died on Har Sinai. In rebuking Korach for his accusations, Moshe stated (Bemidbar 16:10), “UVikashtem Gam Kehuna,” “And you also desired the Kehunah,” which had been exclusively Aharon’s. Another similarity is relevance of the firstborns. Due to their part in Cheit HaEigel, the firstborns lost the privilege of serving in the Beit HaMikdash, which was given instead to the Leviim (see Devarim 10:9). Immediately after the first Avodah in the Mishkan, the first Avodah done by Leviim, Korach (himself a Bechor) and 250 other Bechorim led this revolt. Therefore, the theme of leadership appears in both the Cheit HaEigel and Korach’s rebellion through leaders and firstborns, the challenged and the challenging.
The exact actions that Moshe and Aharon take in both incidents are also parallel. Moshe smashed the Luchot when he saw the Maaseh HaEigel, without receiving any instruction from Hashem. When facing Korach, he declared, also without any Nevuah from Hashem, that the earth would open up and swallow Korach. In both instances, Moshe was quick and harsh in his response.
Aharon, on the other hand, was much lighter and more patient in each case. He pretended to go along with the Cheit HaEigel, trying to procrastinate until Moshe would come to Bnei Yisrael’s rescue. Similarly, when a plague threatened Bnei Yisrael after Korach’s rebellion, the Torah states, “Vayaamod Bein HaMeitim UVein HaChaim, VaTei’atzar HaMageifah,” “And [Aharon] stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped” (Bemidbar 17:13). Aharon was more concerned with stopping the catastrophe from spreading than with punishing those who started it. Hashem spoke fondly of Aharon for his actions, and made his staff the only one to flower and blossom in the Pesukim following his actions.
What makes a leader? Is it better for a leader to care for individuals and be more tolerant, or is it more important to be very strict in keeping rules and protecting their sanctity? Modern history has shown no definitive answer, and using our new understanding of Moshe’s and Aharon’s different styles of leadership, we can see why. Both approaches to power have roots in the two greatest leaders of Bnei Yisrael. There is no clear winner between the choices. Obviously, it is best for a leader to balance both compassion and firmness, but, quite frequently, the resulting courses of action are mutually exclusive. The best setup, therefore, seems to be to have two different leaders, like Moshe and Aharon, acting in their own natural ways which collectively form a cohesive unit of power.
Snake on a Stick
by Benjy Lebowitz
In Parshat Chukat, the Torah tells us that Bnei Yisrael complained about the Mann that Hashem provided. Although the Mann was a miracle that Hashem provided every day, Bnei Yisrael nevertheless complained, “Lama HeElitunu MeeMitzrayim LaMut BaMidbar Ki Ein Lechem VeEin Mayim VeNafsheinu Katzah BeLechem HaKelokeil,” “Why did you bring us up from the land of Egypt to die in this Wilderness, for there is no food and no water, and our soul is disgusted with this insubstantial food?” Because of this display of ingratitude, Hashem brought fiery serpents against Bnei Yisrael, and a large number of people died. After seeing the destruction that these snakes caused, the people understood their transgression, and they approached Moshe, begging him to intercede with Hashem on their behalf. Hashem told Moshe to make for himself a snake and place it high upon a pole, and whoever would look at the snake would be healed of his snakebites. Rashi, quoting a Mishnah in Masechet Rosh Hashanah, explains that the copper snake did not in and of itself bring healing. Rather, when Bnei Yisrael looked towards heaven at the snake on the pole, they would focus their hearts on Hashem and would therefore be healed.
The Torah tells us that Moshe made a serpent of copper and placed it on the pole. Why did Moshe specifically choose to make the snake out of copper? After all, Hashem had only told him to make a snake. Rashi explains that Hashem told Moshe to make a “Nachash”, which is etymologically similar to the word Nechoshet (copper), both of them containing the sequence Nun, Chet, Shin.
The Ramban writes that there is much more taking place here than just a simple play on words. He explains that the way of the Torah is that it will often produce something that is a miracle within a miracle. Normally, a person runs away from the source of something that has harmed him or has caused him to get sick. Moshe, however, understood that the exact way in which Bnei Yisrael were harmed was the same way in which they would be healed. Moshe specifically made the snake out of copper because the appearance of a fiery serpent is similar to the color of copper, and by picturing the snake that had harmed them, Bnei Yisrael would be healed. The lesson for Bnei Yisrael was that clearly the source of healing was Hashem, for only Hashem could heal somebody in the exact way that they were harmed. By comprehending this lesson, Bnei Yisrael understood that Hashem is behind everything and that it is inappropriate to complain against anyything that Hashem had done for them.
A very important message can be derived from this story. We must appreciate the daily miracles that Hashem does for us in our own lives and never express any ingratitude for the things that Hashem does for us. The Jewish people’s every need was provided for in the desert, yet they started to forget what Hashem had done for them and complain. Therefore, Hashem had to bring a plague upon them to remind them of everything that He does for them. It is important for us to remember and to be grateful to Hashem for everything that He does for us.
by Marc Poleyeff
In the middle of Parshat Chukat, Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, passes away: “Vayivku Et Aharon Shiloshim Yom Kol Beit Yisrael,” “And all of Beit Yisrael mourned for Aharon for thirty days” (Bemidbar 20:29). In Sefer Devarim, when the Torah discusses Moshe’s death, the Pasuk (34:8) states only, “Vayivku Bnei Yisrael Et Moshe Be’Arvot Moav Sheloshim Yom,” “Bnei Yisrael cried for Moshe in Arvot Moav for thirty days.” There is no mention in the Pasuk regarding Moshe’s death of the entire nation weeping, as is recorded regarding Aharon’s death. Rashi explains that this is because Aharon was a Rodeif Shalom, a pursuer of peace. He established peace between a man and his friend and frequently brought harmony between husband and wife; hence, “The entire house of Israel” wept because Aharon’s passing was felt more by the common Jew. The Yalkut furthers this point, adding that Moshe’s job was to judge, and he therefore rebuked many people, which caused his truly pleasant personality to diminish in many people’s eyes.
The Or HaChayim also tries to resolve this difficulty. He quotes the Ibn Ezra who says that the outpouring of grief for Aharon showed respect for Moshe, his older brother, who survived to mourn him. The Chizkuni adds that Moshe wept first for Aharon, and when the nation saw Moshe cry, they too were moved to tears. Since Aharon’s death was sudden, the Or HaChaim continues, Bnei Yisrael had no time to prepare for his death. Moshe’s death, on the other hand, was forthcoming. Therefore, Bnei Yisrael were shocked when Aharon died and cried more than they did for Moshe’s death, with which they able to cope because they knew about it for a long time in advance.
Additionally, Aharon’s death caused the Ananei HaKavod to leave Bnei Yisrael, leaving Bnei Yisrael more vulnerable to enemy attacks. Although this also occurred following Moshe’s death, at that time, Bnei Yisrael were already looking forward to entering Eretz Yisrael, so their distress was not as heightened. Also, after Moshe passed away, Yehoshua was recognized as his successor. He did not fully take the place Moshe, but the mere realization that someone was taking over the position as leader was consoling. However, Aharon’s successor and son, Elazar, could not replicate Aharon’s warm personality and amicability towards the people, and Bnei Yisrael were therefore more upset by his death than by Moshe’s. --Adapted from a Dvar Torah in Peninim on the Torah
Stay Away and Be Admired
by Ilan Griboff
In Parshat Balak, Bilam praises Bnei Yisrael as “Am LeVadad Yishkon UVaGoyim Lh Yitchasheiv,” “A people that shall dwell apart and not be reckoned among the nations” (23:9). The Netziv in his Sefer HaEimek Davar explains the meaning behind this blessing. He says that Bilam is pointing out a difference between Bnei Yisrael and the rest of the nations. When another nation is exiled from their land, the nations in the land they move to usually admire them more than they did when they were in their original land. It is just the opposite in regard to the Jews. Only when we “dwell apart” from the other nations and do not assimilate will we be admired. This is shown by what happened in Mitzrayim. The Jews decided that to get on the good side of the Egyptians, they would start acting the Egyptians and stop practicing certain parts of Judaism. The result was the exact opposite of what they expected. Instead of finding favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, they were enslaved made miserable (Chazal teach that the same occurred in the Persian exile).
If we “dwell apart” and keep the Torah, then we are admired for our accomplishments. On the other hand, if we become more like the other nations and “dwell among them,” then they will just see us as bothersome people because we no longer have anything positive over the other nations.
May it be Hashem’s will that we will no longer have to worry about living in exile with the other nations, and that Maschiach will come and show the world that Bnei Yisrael really are the chosen and special nation.
Worthy of Peace?
by Doniel Sherman
Balak concludes with the story of Pinchas killing Zimri, the prince of the tribe of Shimon, for behaving promiscuously with a Moabite. In Parshat Pinchas, Hashem rewards Pinchas for his zealousness by giving him a “covenant of peace.” Hashem usually punishes and rewards Midah KeNegged Midah, a response befitting the action. Why would Hashem reward someone who has just killed another man by giving him a covenant of peace? Furthermore, Pinchas was the grandson of Aharon, who was known as an “Ohev Shalom VeRodeph Shalom,” one who loves and pursues peace. One would expect that an individual raised in such a peaceful atmosphere would himself be peaceful and not involved with acts of murder and revenge.
The Ibn Ezra posits that the promise of peace Pinchas received was necessary to protect him from the other members of the tribe of Shimon. Having just killed the leader of the tribe, Pinchas might have been attacked by the members of the tribe in reprisal. Hashem therefore assured Pinchas of his safety.
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein offers a second answer. He quotes a Gemara in Sanhedrin (82a), which derives from “And he got up from amongst the congregation and he took a spear in hand” (25:7) that it is forbidden to enter a Beit Midrash with a weapon. Because Pinchas had to get up to take a weapon, the Gemara assumes that he generally stayed in the Beit Midrash. He rose from his normal conduct and spirit in order to correct the immoral wrong that had been committed by Zimri. This teaches us another thing about Pinchas. He had the mettle to stand up do what was required while the rest of the nation was in a state of crisis. Thousands of Bnei Yisrael had participated in the idol worship of Peor, plague was rampant among the nation, and the leadership had broken down. Pinchas realized that his radical act, a demonstration so contrary to his innermost beliefs, was necessary to right the wrongs and lead Bnei Yisrael back to a state of calm order. It is now understandable why Pinchas needed a promise of peace. He has just broken a psychological barrier within himself by publicly killing another Jew. Regardless of the years he had spent living a tranquil life studying, there was the danger that he had lost the sensitivity towards human life as soon as he killed Zimri (see the comments of the Netziv). It was therefore imperative that he receive a covenant of peace, an assurance that he would be able to return to his natural and desired path.
In Hashem’s Hands
by Nachi Friedman
The first Pasuk of Masei states, “Eileh Masei Venei Yisrael Asher Yatzu MeiEretz Mitzrayim LeTzivotam, BeYad Moshe VeAharon,” “These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went forth from the land of Egypt according to their legions, by the hand of Moshe and Aaron.” The end of this Pasuk, “by the hand of Moshe and Aharon,” is interpreted by some as teaching that because it was done through human hands, our redemption from Egypt was not a permanent one. We subsequently needed to be exiled, according to this approach, because the first redemption was not done on a high enough level, i.e. by Hashem Himself.
The need for Hashem’s direct Hand in redemption expresses itself in a story of Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz, who once spent a Shabbat at a hotel in Vienna. In the midst of a “tisch” with his students, the Rebbe stopped to listen to a melodious sound coming from the adjacent room. When the Rebbe and his students walked over, they saw a young soldier sitting alone at a table, learning from a Sefer with enormous concentration.
The Rebbe waited at the door. Finally, the soldier saw him and rushed to greet him. The Rebbe then asked what was the soldier’s story was, why he was there, and why he was learning with so much intensity.
The soldier explained that when he had been drafted into the army, he had made only one request to Hashem: that he would not have to desecrate Shabbat. He miraculously had been lucky enough to be placed as a special assistant to an officer. This officer, unlike any other officer, allowed him to observe Shabbat on the condition that he work the other six days diligently.
The soldier concluded, “I vowed that if I was given the ability to keep the Shabbat every week, I would dedicate every moment of the Shabbat to serving Hashem.”
When the Rebbe left this young soldier’s room, he commented to his students, “Who knows if the Torah of that soldier is not postponing the Geulah?” The perplexed students immediately begged for an explanation. The Rebbe explained that it is possible that Hashem values this soldier’s prayers above any of the Korbanot that will be brought in the Beit Hamikdash.
The Rebbe’s words show that the future Geulah will be entirely brought by Hashem. Even though the soldier was serving Hashem so fully, which we normally assume hastens the arrival of the Geulah, it was still up to Hashem to decide what would be best. Unlike the first redemption, Hashem is ultimately in total control of this one – and it will be eternal. Editor’s note: For a different approach to redemption see Rabbi Jachter’s articles on Rabi Akiva as the role model for Religious Zionism (available at www.koltorah.org).
A Matter of Place
by Michael Rosenthal
In Parashat Devarim, Moshe recalls in his speech three seemingly random stories in succession: the introduction of the judging system, the deploying of spies into Eretz Yisrael, and Bnei Yisrael attacking the Emorim in Eretz Yisrael. Why does he mention these stories at all, and why specifically next to each other?
Perhaps we can find the answer by examining the results of each story. In retelling the story of implementing the judging system, Moshe first gives Bnei Yisrael a blessing that they should increase in size, then continues that he instructed them to find wise and distinguished men to judge them. Bnei Yisrael agreed to this suggestion, and we hear nothing negative about the experience.
The stories about the spies and attacking the Emorim, on the other hand, are presented entirely differently. Moshe gives no blessings, he does not tell of introducing the ideas to Bnei Yisrael before implementing them, and in the end, he describes how Bnei Yisrael ignored Hashem’s instructions and caused major problems for themselves. In the story of the spies, they were punished with being banned from entering Eretz Yisrael because of the slander about the land, and in the story of the Emorim they were defeated because they attacked despite Hashem’s warning not to.
It seems that Moshe recounts these stories together in his speech to stress that the best results occur when the people use their best judgment to evaluate the ideas of their leaders, rather than overwhelming their leaders with suggestions or overruling them. It is not for the people to pressure their leaders into agreeing with their ideas or to simply override what a leader says, as they did in the stories of the spies and the Emorim. Rather, they should either approve or disapprove the suggestions of their better-educated leaders, as they did with the suggestion of the system of judges. The leaders, meanwhile, must do their part, contributing helpful and well-thought-out suggestions. If both parties act within these bounds, their potential for success is boundless.
The Middle Road
by Yitzchak Richmond
Most people appreciate it when a friend does something extra for them, beyond what is required. Strangely, the Torah seems to contradict this concept! It commands (4:2), “Lo Tosifu Al HaDavar Asher Anochei Metzvaveh Etchem VeLo Tigre’u Mimenu,” “Do not add on to the thing that I am commanding you and do not detract from it.” Why would Hakodosh Baruch Hu not want us to add to the Mitzvot? Would that not further show our devotion to Him?
The Dubno Maggid answers with a Mashal: There was once a man who, whenever he borrowed an item from his neighbor, would return the item with more of the same. If he borrowed a spoon, he would return two spoons; if he borrowed bowls or platters, he would return twice as many as he had borrowed. One day, his neighbor asked the borrower, “How come you always return two of what I lend to you?” The borrower answered seriously, “When I bring each item into my house, it becomes pregnant and gives birth to another like it!” One day, the borrower asked his neighbor if he could borrow his silver Menorah for Chanukah. The neighbor gladly handed him the Menorah, thinking to himself, “Tomorrow I’ll get another Menorah!” However, the Menorah was never returned, even after several days. When the neighbor asked the borrower what had happened, the latter answered, “I’m very sorry, but when I brought the Menorah into my house, it died.” The neighbor, astonished, exclaimed, “But a Menorah can’t just die!” The borrower replied, “Well, spoons don’t just give birth and have children either. If you are going to believe me about the spoon giving birth, you have to believe my claim that the Menorah died.”
If we are Mosif – if we add to too much –we will eventually come to be Gorei’a, to detract.
Based on this prohibition, the Rashba in his commentary to Rosh Hashanah wonders how Chazal could institute the blowing of extra Shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah. After all, the minimal number of times, according to the Torah, that one is required to blow the Shofar is only nine; does blowing one hundred not violate this prohibition of Bal Tosif? Furthermore, we may ask, how can Chazal instruct us not to blow the Shofar when Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbat? Does this not violate Bal Tigra?
The Rashba teaches that the Mitzvah applies only to an individual, because on his own he will come to do absurd things. For example, one might think it is a good idea to wear Tefillin on Shabbat, but even though he may have the best intentions, he is starting down a slippery slope, and hence he violates the prohibition. Chazal, however, since they are perceptive enough not to make such mistakes, can decide to make a decree that adds or detracts in some way.
The ideas of the Duvno Maggid and the Rashba demonstrate that even though we might have good intentions, we still must not alter the Torah’s body of Mitzvot. Sometimes we feel that it is a good idea to be Machmir on every single little thing, without consulting our Rav for guidance. However, this may lead us to be like the borrower, to say to ourselves, “It’s too much! Enough of all of this adding!” Eventually, like the borrower, we will come to detract from our fulfillment of the Mitzvot. Rav Nachman of Breslov sagely observed that if we come to be excessively Machmir upon ourselves, the Mitzvot will become a burden. Let us rather follow the Rambam, who develops the concept in Hilchot Dei’ot that one should keep to the “Shevil HaZahav,” the “golden” middle path. In so doing (and by consulting our Rav), we will prevent ourselves both from adding and from taking away.
What are Mitzvot Really For Anyway?
by Moshe Blackstein
People often wonder what Hashem really wants from us. Does Hashem really need us to do Mitzvot? What purpose is there in performing these seemingly unnecessary actions?
Rashi explains that the only thing that Hashem requests from us is that we fear Him. Rashi extracts this from the fact that the Torah writes (10:12), “And now Israel, what does Hashem your God ask of you? That you fear Hashem your God…,” from which the Gemara derives, “Everything is in the hands of Heaven with the exception of fear of Heaven.” The one thing Hashem does not control is our internal and spiritual fear of Him. It is up to us to relate to Hashem with the utmost fear that He obviously deserves. Rashi continues that while one can fear God by making a sacrifice to Him, one can also fear Him by performing His Mitzvot.
The Rambam offers an alternative answer. He explains that Hashem never actually demands anything in life for His own sake. Rather, Hashem demands specific things solely for our benefit. Therefore, the Pasuk says, “Behold, to Hashem, your God, belong the heaven and highest heaven, the earth and everything that is in it.” Hashem already has everything; He does not need us whatsoever. By giving us Mitzvot, Hashem expresses His love for the Jews. The Jewish people are Hashem’s chosen nation, and He rewards us by obligating us in Mitzvot.
We should never look at any of the Mitzvot as something that is bothersome or annoying. As much as people feel that Mitzvot prevent them from “enjoying” themselves, in reality these commandments mean the world. While performance of Mitzvot gives Hashem “nachas,” it is also intended to make the Jewish people better. We must do our utmost to capitalize on this very special set of obligations that Hashem has placed upon us.
In the Presence of Simcha
by Joseph Jarashow
The theme of Simcha recurs throughout Parshat Re’eh. The notion of Simcha is first introduced regarding Korbanot, which must be eaten in Yerushalayim with one’s family in a festive manner. Similarly, Parshat Re’eh delivers the commandment of Maaser Sheini, which must also be eaten BeSimcha in Yerushalayim. The Parsha concludes with the Chiyuv to rejoice on the Shalosh Regalim.
Rav Soloveitchik points out that there is a connection between Simcha and being “Lifnei Hashem,” in the presence of Hashem. The Chiyuv of Simcha is triggered when one is in the presence of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Thus, there is an obligation of Simcha on the Shalosh Regalim and when bringing Korbanot and Maaser Sheini, because all three take place in Yerushalayim, in presence of Hashem. However, Simcha does not only stem from being in close physical proximity to the Shechinah; the Chiyuv of Simcha also exists when we are spiritually close to Hashem. For example, because we are spiritually close to Hashem on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there is an element of Simcha on those days, as well (as the Rambam states in Hilchot Chanukah).
Although Halacha indicates that the degree of Simcha required is equivalent on all of the Regalim, this does not seem to be true from the Pesukim. The Torah does not even explicitly mention an aspect of Simcha on Pesach, and mentions the word Simcha only once regarding Shavuot. On Sukkot, however, we are emphatically commanded to rejoice, a point highlighted by the words “VeHayita Ach Sameiach,” “and you shall be exceedingly happy” (16:15). In addition, in Parshat Emor, the Torah again commands us to rejoice on Sukkot. Why is it that Sukkot seems to have a greater degree of Simcha than the other Regalim?
Rav Zvi Sobolofsky answers this question based on the Rav’s connection of Simcha to being Lifnei Hashem. As mentioned above, the Yamim Noraim bring us spiritually closer to Hashem. In fact, the Rambam writes (in the seventh chapter of Hilchot Teshuva) that before performing Teshuvah on the Yamim Noraim, we are extremely distant from Hashem. Once we perform Teshuvah, however, Hashem is directly in our presence. Because we are so close to Him after the Yamim Noraim, and being close to Hashem triggers the Chiyuv of Simcha, the holiday of Sukkot, which immediately follows the Yamim Noraim, carries a stronger level of Simcha.
May we all merit to achieve Teshuvah, thereby drawing ourselves spiritually closer to Hashem, and to become close to Him in a physical sense as well with the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash BiMeheirah BeYameinu.
by Chaim Strassman
Parshat Shoftim is in the middle of Moshe Rabbeinu’s main speech to Bnei Yisrael. In this speech, Moshe discusses many of the laws of how to govern the people. He also talks about punishments and rules regarding war. These rules include who is exempt from war and how enemies should be treated. The Torah says that if we are at war and capture a city, everything in that city may be plundered, and the women and children may even be taken captive and enslaved.
The Parsha goes on to mention three very interesting things. First, when Bnei Yisrael are at war they are not permitted to cut down fruit trees, because fruit trees provide food for them. Second, if a man dies in a middle of a field, the Sanhedrin is supposed to investigate the matter. Third, the Torah exempts a man from army service if he has a new wife, vineyard, house, or even if they are scared. How can the Torah have so much compassion over a tree, one dead man, and men’s feelings and at the same time allow us to go into a city and capture and enslave women and children?
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin explains that really we can not take just any woman and child. The Torah is teaching us that only when the women and children take an active role in attempting to harm Jews we need not have pity on them. Peace loving, gentle women and children must be left alone.
This teaches us an important lesson in kindness. It is essential to know where compassion is appropriate and where it is misplaced. Chazal (see Yoma 22b) tell us that anyone who takes pity on the cruel ends up being cruel to the merciful. We must evaluate each situation carefully so that we do not allow those who seek our harm to remain free.
by Jesse Dunietz
Although the Torah fixes the number of Malkot (lashes) that a court can administer at forty (25:3), Chazal (Makkot 22) derive from the word “BeMispar,” “by a number” (25:2), that only the number closest to forty – thirty-nine – can actually be administered. The Gemara there adds in the name of Rava, “How silly are most people, who stand for a Sefer Torah but not before scholars, yet even though the Torah writes ‘forty,’ the Rabbis went and subtracted one, [which demonstrates their greater stature].” Rav Yehoshua of Kutna notes that this seems to contradict another Gemara (Kiddushin 33), which comments, “Before those who learn [Torah] we stand; how much more so we should stand for [the Torah] itself.” Which is truly greater and more worthy of such respect – the Torah, or its scholars?
Rav Yehoshua answers based on a grammatical distinction, which he borrows from a Gemara in Berachot (10a), between the two ways to formulate a word in Hebrew for one who does a particular action. The more common way is to use the same form as the verb – “Chotei” can mean either “he sins” or “a sinner,” “Lomeid” either “he learns” or “one who learns.” The other way is to switch the vowels under the past-tense verb, putting the Patach under the first letter and the Kamatz under the second. This form is generally used to indicate an occupation – a “Gamol” (to use an Ashkenazic transliteration) is a camel-driver, a “Sapor” is a barber, and so on. The Gemara uses this distinction to differentiate between a “Chotei” and a “Chato,” of which David HaMelech prays for the destruction only of the latter (Tehillim 104:35). Rav Yehoshua explains that this is because a “Chotei” is someone who simply does a sin, be it by accident, by happenstance, or perhaps because of an overpowering urge. But a “Chato” is one whose very nature is one of sin, whose occupation, as it were, is sinning.
This may also be the distinction between the scholars who deserve greater respect than the Torah itself and those who apparently do not. While those who merely learn Torah are certainly praiseworthy, and we do indeed stand for them, their stature is dwarfed by that of the Torah itself. Those who make Torah their occupation, however, and who are therefore of the stature that they can even decrease the number of Malkot that a simple reading would indicate, hold greater esteem even than a Sefer Torah.
Though we may not all be able to “make Torah our profession,” and arguably should not all do so, Rav Yehoshua’s message is fundamental to the way we conduct our lives. Judaism unquestionably believes strongly in the overarching value of action – hence the 613 Mitzvot – but not in action alone. As the Sefer HaChinuch develops in his beautiful essay on the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKein (from earlier in Ki Teitzei; see 22:6-7), the purpose of all the actions Hashem prescribed is, ultimately, to effect changes in our character. If we truly wish to achieve the highest level of following the Torah, we must not only perform the actions, but make them an integral part of our behavior pattern and character.
Happily Ever After
by Zack Fagan
Parshat Ki Tavo and Parshat Bechukotai include passages of Tochachah (rebuke). However, there is a marked difference between the two. In Bechukotai, Hashem concludes His rebuke with words of hope: “VeZacharti Et Beriti Yaakov, VeAf Et Beriti Yitzchak, VeAf Et Beriti Avraham Ezkor, VeHaaretz Ezkor,” “Then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.”
But in the Tochachah in Devarim, there is no hopeful ending. Hashem merely concludes: “VeHitmakartem Sham LeOyevecha LaAvadim VeLiShfachot VeEin Koneh,” “You will sell yourselves there to your enemies as bondsmen and bondswomen, and no one will buy you.” Why are there no verses of hope at the end?
According to Ramban, the Tochachah in Vayikra refers to the destruction of Bayit Rishon and Galut Bavel. That exile was decreed by God to last for a specific number of years (seventy). Therefore, that Tochachah ends with a verse of hope. But the Tochachah in Devarim refers to the destruction of Bayit Sheni, and the Galut which is still going on. As there is no definite date given for its conclusion, there are no verses of hope at the end.
Rav Soloveitchik suggests that there is in fact a hopeful ending, found in the next Parsha, Nitzavim. The Pasuk there states, “It shall come to pass when all these things have come upon you – the blessing and the curse which I have set before you – that you shall think among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and you shall return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice…” In other words, this exile ends when the Jews do Teshuvah, and therefore there is no specific number of years given. The length of the Galut depends on our actions. According to the Rav, our Teshuvah, however long it takes, will turn the curses turn into blessings.
The question is where to start. What kind of Teshuvah would best turn the Tochachah’s curses into blessings? The Gemara in Masechet Yoma says that the destruction of Bayit Sheni and our present Galut were caused by “Sinat Chinam,” baseless hatred. If treating people badly brought the curses upon us, what might be the effect of treating people right?
At the beginning of the Parsha, before the Tochachah, the Torah says that after bringing Maaser Ani and announcing that he has followed God’s commands, including gifts to the poor, a Jewish farmer would say, “Hashkifah MiMe’on Kodshecha, Min HaShamayim, UVareich Et Amecha Et Yisrael,” “Gaze down from your holy abode, the heavens, and bless your people Israel.” The word “Hashkifah” – gaze down – is usually used in the Torah when Hashem gazes down in anger and judgment, such as when He was about to destroy Sodom and Amorah. Midrash Tanchuma comments that this case is an exception. The word “Hashkifah” is used because giving gifts to the poor changes Hashem’s anger into mercy. The Kli Yakar explains that when people show compassion and conquer the natural tendency to be cruel, Hashem changes His anger into compassion for us. Little acts of kindness can have major effects.
This same Parsha that presents the Tochachah also includes a suggestion for Teshuvah that can turn curses to blessings. Our compassion invites God’s compassion. Treating others with kindness and mercy may help to write a hopeful end to the long Tochachah.
Necessity of the Whole
by Nachi Friedman
Upon entering Eretz Yisrael, the Jews assembled on Har Gerizim and Har Eval to swear fidelity to the Torah. The Pasuk states (27:26), “Arur Asher Lo Yakum Et Divrei HaTorah Hazot Laasot Otam,” “Cursed is the one who will not uphold the words of this Torah to perform them.” Many ask what this Pasuk means. Can the Torah actually say that regardless of how great one is, even if he is the greatest Talmid Chacham, the punishment for one little sin is a curse? If this is the case, is there anyone is the world who is not cursed? If at one time in someone’s life, he slipped and the Yeitzer Hara overtook him, it would seem inevitable for him to be cursed!
The Rambam explains that this Pasuk is not talking about someone who sinned out of weakness, as a Chacham might, but is rather talking about someone who claims that some Mitzvot are not relevant to him at all. For example, the Pasuk is not talking about someone who lights a fire on Shabbat, but rather someone who believes that the Torah is not addressing him when it says, “Lo Teva’aru Aish BeChol Moshevoteichem BeYom HaShabbat.”
Rabbeinu Yonah explains that the Torah is talking about someone when he is careless in doing a sin and does not feel any regret. However, if once in a while, someone does a sin, but afterwards he repents and feels embarrassed, he is not cursed, because the Pasuk is not referring to such sins.
The Ketav Sofer explains that the Pasuk talks about a different case entirely. It refers to someone who claims that he is only taking upon himself a few Mitzvot because it is too difficult for him to keep all of the Mitzvot. This argument, however, is misleading. In order to understand this, Rabbi Moshe Leiber tells over an analogy. The Torah is compared to a highly sophisticated computer. If one removes any part from the computer, the whole machine will not work, because the circuitry of the computer works as a whole. With a single missing piece, the computer cannot function. So too, a Jew needs to practice all of the Torah’s Mitzvot. The removal of a single Mitzvah will affect the entire person as a whole, and will cause one’s entire body to be negatively affected. In this sense, one who does so will truly find himself cursed.
When Does a Prayer Have a Prayer?
by Jeremy Jaffe
Every time we recite Selichot, the prayers for forgiveness and mercy that we say before the Yamim Nora’im and on fast days, we constantly repeat one phrase from Parshat Shelach (14:20): “Vayomer Hashem Salachti KiDvarecha,” “And Hashem said, ‘I have forgiven according to your words.’” At first glance, it seems that we are mentioning a time when Hashem forgave our sins in the past to beg He repeat this forgiveness for our sins today. However, when we look at the situation in Shelach, it is not so clear that this is the model case of complete forgiveness. Bnei Yisrael, who had sinned by believing the spies’ derogatory report about the land of Israel and refusing to go fight for it, were still punished even after this “forgiveness” – they were forbidden to enter the land of Israel (14:23). Were they really forgiven, as Pasuk 20 states, or were they not forgiven, as it seems from Pasuk 23?
The Ramban answers that they were partially forgiven for their sin, in that their children were allowed to inherit the land and were not annihilated in a plague, as Hashem had threatened earlier (Pasuk 12). The reason for this partial forgiveness, claims the Ramban, is that Moshe Rabbeinu only prayed for them with a partial prayer. Moshe did not pray for a full abolishment of their sins, but rather for Hashem to cleanse them of their sins through a gradual punishment, instead of wiping them out instantly in His fury. Thus, even though the prayer was accepted, their sins remained, not yet fully erased, until they were punished. The Ramban proves this from Moshe’s retelling of the story of the spies in Perek 1 of Devarim, where he rebukes Bnei Yisrael for fearing to enter the land, but does not mention his personal prayer that Hashem forgive them. This shows that the prayer was not significant enough to be recounted, as it was only a prayer that Hashem reduce their punishment, not that He forgive them completely. In contrast, Moshe’s prayer regarding the golden calf is actually recounted elsewhere in Devarim (Perek 9). Apparently, Moshe recorded only full-fledged prayers, but not partial ones.
Although this Ramban fits well with the Pesukim and appears logical, it raises a perplexing question: why would Moshe Rabbeinu pray for Bnei Yisrael more completely in the episode of the golden calf than in that of the spies? To answer this question, we must first explain the Ramban’s understanding of the sin with the golden calf.
When Moshe heard that Bnei Yisrael had sinned by worshipping the calf, he immediately begged Hashem to reconsider His decision to destroy Bnei Yisrael in anger (Shemot 32:11). Though Hashem answered Moshe’s request in the affirmative, He was merely promising to refrain from lashing out at the nation in anger, as the Torah writes (32:14), “And Hashem reconsidered regarding the evil which He had said He would do to His people.” He did not, however, fully remove the sin (Ramban to Shemot 32:11). Later, when Moshe went back up to the mountain to pray for Bnei Yisrael a second time (32:31), he was asking Hashem to absolve Bnei Yisrael completely of their sin, which explains why that story is recounted in Devarim.
The strange thing about this request, though, is that it was never explicitly accepted. When Moshe pleaded that Hashem either forgive Bnei Yisrael or erase Moshe’s name from the Torah (32:32), Hashem merely responded, “[Only] he who has sinned towards me will have his name removed from My book” (32:33), implying that Moshe, who did not sin, would not be punished with having his name removed (Ramban to Shemot 32:32). Bnei Yisrael, however, were not forgiven (at this point of the aftermath of the Cheit HaEigel), since only the sinner himself can fully repent his actions – no one, not even Moshe, can repent for the sins of another.
If this is the case, we can now understand why Moshe did not pray for a full forgiveness at the sin of the spies. He already learned from experience with the calf incident that Hashem would not accept such a prayer. Instead, he prayed only that Hashem spread out their punishment over time, so that they would not be wiped out immediately. Moshe knew that Hashem would accept this prayer, since He had accepted Moshe’s first prayer regarding the golden calf, in which he had similarly asked that Hashem refrain from killing Bnei Yisrael instantly.
The problem with this answer is that it assumes that no one can ever become completely forgiven due to someone else’s penitence or prayer. While this assumption holds true in the incident of the golden calf, it seems to fail in the book of Iyov. This book is the story of a very rich, God-fearing man who, tragically, loses all his money and watches all his many children die. In his misery, Iyov starts believing that he must be more righteous than Hashem, Who appears to be punishing him for nothing, but his friends, furious at this suggestion, insist that Hashem must be punishing him for sinning. By the end of the book, Iyov finally admits that he can not complain against Hashem, and Hashem, in turn, rebukes Iyov’s friends for falsely accusing Iyov of sin instead of comforting him for his losses. He commands them to bring sacrifices, and tells Iyov to pray for them so that He can refrain from giving them a harsh punishment. If golden calf incident teaches us that such a prayer can never be fully accepted, why is Iyov told to pray for his friends’ forgiveness?
The simplest way to answer this question is to say that Iyov’s prayer for his friends is not a prayer that Hashem forgive them completely, but rather a request that he refrain from punishing them immediately so they will have time to repent. This answer would fit well with the current premise that such a prayer could be accepted. In addition, the Tanach does not elaborate on what kind of prayer Iyov prayed, so it is reasonable to say that it was only a prayer for forestalling punishment. If this is the case, however, it would seem that Iyov’s friends were never actually forgiven completely. Although there is nothing in the Pesukim which contradicts this notion, Rashi (to Iyov 42:8) states that the sacrifices which Iyov’s friends bring, along with Iyov’s prayer for them, will be able to bring about forgiveness for their sins and to permanently prevent Hashem from recalling their sins. How does this Rashi jive with our current understanding that a combination of punishment and prayer is necessary to achieve forgiveness?
We must therefore say instead that it was the sacrifices which Iyov’s friends brought which enabled Iyov’s prayer to be fully accepted by Hashem. Indeed, this concept appears to be at work in Perek 4 of Vayikra, where the whole nation, prince and common man, received forgiveness for their sins as a result of their sacrifices and Aharon’s prayer for them. It was only the Kohen who was required to pray to enable his Korban to effect forgiveness (Ramban to Vayikra 4:11), but the rest of the people’s Korbanot brought atonement by virtue of the priest’s prayer alone. Thus, one person’s prayer can enable the sacrifices of another to achieve forgiveness.
However, the Ramban’s assertion that only the Kohen had to pray seems to contradict a parenthetical comment that he quotes from the Ibn Ezra on our original Pasuk from Shelach (14:20). He compares Moshe’s prayer for Bnei Yisrael after the Cheit HaEigel to the Korban that the Kohen Gadol brought in Vayikra, stating that both did not bring forgiveness “until [the sinner did] complete Teshuvah.” This sentiment is also echoed in Yeshayahu (1:11), where Hashem rejects Bnei Yisrael’s sacrifices and urges them to do Teshuvah and turn away from their evil actions instead. How could Aharon’s Korban have enabled forgiveness for others, as Iyov’s prayers did, if forgiveness could only come to Bnei Yisrael with penitence? Furthermore, why would Iyov’s friends not have to do Teshuvah, as Bnei Yisrael did in all the cases we have seen?
The answer to these questions appears in the Rambam’s Hilchot Teshuvah, Laws of Repentance (1:6). In describing the various types of sins and the Teshuvah process for each, the Rambam mentions that the procedure through which the Kohen Gadol atones for all of Bnei Yisrael on Yom Kippur atones only for the “light” sins (i.e. those not punishable by death or Kareit). The Kohen Gadol’s sacrifice can only atone for “heavy” sins, however, if the sinner does Teshuvah, as well. This explains why Moshe was never able to bring forgiveness upon all of Bnei Yisrael: since, in the cases discussed above, the nation deserved the death penalty, Bnei Yisrael could be forgiven only with Teshuvah, so they deserved punishment even after Moshe’s prayers. In the case of Iyov’s friends, on the other hand, the combination of sacrifices and prayer was enough to bring total forgiveness, since their sin (unfairly accusing Iyov) did not incur the death penalty, and no Teshuvah was technically required.
A Separate Book
by Mitch Levine
Parshat Devarim is the beginning of the last book in the Torah. It starts with “Eilah HaDevarim,” “these are the words.” What exactly are these words? Rashi posits that “the words” are Moshe’s strong words of rebuke. Moshe begins his teachings here by subtly reminding his Bnei Yisrael of their many failures since the beginning of the Torah. Ramban offers an alternate answer, suggesting that “the words” are the commandments from Perakim 5-26 that form the bulk of Sefer Devarim. The first 4 Perakim serve as a preamble to “the words.”
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin presents a third answer. He notes that the second, third, and fourth books of the Torah are connected to Bereishit and to each other with the letter Vav. Sefer Devarim, on the other hand, does not begin with a Vav. The Torah is hinting to us that this last book is separate from the other four. Furthermore, the content of the last book is incomparable to that of the others. Much of Sefer Devarim is a recounting of the previous four books, which is why Chazal call Sefer Devarim the “review of the Torah.” The only connection that this book has to the other four is that all five books were written by Moshe in accordance with what Hashem told him.
The Fusion of Civil and Spiritual Practice
by Ms. Rochi Lerner
Parshat Naso, we find the third and final account of the building of the Mishkan. The first account appears in Sefer Shemot and the second appears in Sefer Vayikra. As the Torah does not unnecessarily repeat itself, each of these accounts must communicate a particular message.
Sefer Shemot speaks of the meeting between Am Yisrael and Hashem. As such, the Mishkan account can be understood as the nexus of that meeting. Hashem instructs Am Yisrael to construct a Mishkan so that He may dwell in their midst. Sefer Vayikra concerns itself with the laws of the Kohanim and is therefore referred to as Torat Kohanim. Since the Kohanim worked in the Mishkan, it stands to reason that the Mishkan should also appear in Sefer Vayikra.
Why is the Mishkan included in Sefer Bemidbar, which relates the accomplishments of Am Yisrael? Rav Kook explains that the answer resides in the wording of the account. “The princes of Israel, the heads of the families, that had carried out the census, came to the Mishkan. They brought with them sacrifices” (Bemidbar 7:2-3). The Torah then provides a lengthy description of each of the sacrifices brought by the twelve princes, despite the fact that each prince brought the same sacrifice. The Parsha then concludes, “This was the dedication of the Mishkan on the day that it was anointed by the princes of Israel” (Bemidbar 7:84).
From this it appears that the princes’ sacrifices constituted the final act of the dedication of the Mishkan. The Mishkan became functional with their contribution. What made these sacrifices so significant? The Mishkan was always associated with the Kohanim whose domain it was and who acted in its service. But Rav Kook explains that the Mishkan really belongs to all of Am Yisrael. The princes of the nation represented the political aspirations of Am Yisrael, and this aspiration is equally valid and relevant to the Mishkan as the Divine inclination of the Kohanim. The Mishkan was fused with both a spiritual and a civil (political) dimension. This fusion is substantiated by the Parsha wherein the princes brought sacrifices to the Mishkan. Not only did they actively participate in the dedication of the Mishkan, the Mishkan was deemed completed by their sacrifices. It is when the two forces within the nation join, the spiritual and the political, that we create a true home within which Hashem can reside.
by Ephraim Tauber
In the beginning of Parshat VaEtchanan, Moshe says (3:24), “VaEtchanan El Hashem BaEit HaHi,” “And I prayed to Hashem at that time.” Chazal say that Moshe was very persistent about praying for entry into the Holy Land, and even prayed 515 times to be allowed into Eretz Yisrael. This can be derived from the Gematria, numerical value, of the word “VaEtchanan,” which equals 515.
From Moshe we can see the love and desire one should have for the Land of Israel. Indeed, the Ibn Ezra comments on the next verse that the purpose of this entire section is to enable us to cherish the Land – only those who cherish the holy land of Israel can truly keep the commandments of Hashem.
The number of times Moshe prayed to get into Israel demonstrates how much he cherished the Land and wished to observe all of Hashem’s commandments. May we be able to show our love for Israel to be as strong as Moshe’s, and to observe the commandments on it accordingly. --Adapted from a Dvar Torah in Growth Through Torah
Anywhere But Here
by Tzvi Zuckier
Towards the end of Parshat Shoftim (20:19), the Torah instructs Bnei Yisrael, “Ki Tatzur El Ir Yamim Rabim LeHilachem Aleha Letofsah, Et Eitzah Lindo’ach Aleha Garzen, Ki Mimenu Tocheil,” “When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it, do not destroy its trees by swinging an axe, because from it you will eat.” The Seforno explains that normally, if a soldier finds that he has absolutely no chance of overcoming an enemy, he will try to be as destructive as possible – to deal as much damage as he can before he is killed or forced to retreat. When he expects to be victorious, however, he would never cause damage to future spoils. This is the message that the Pasuk is conveying to future combatants in Bnei Yisrael: when they fight, they must trust in Hashem, confident that He will guide them to capturing the land for which they are fighting. They may not try to injure enemies’ trees or reduce other types of their rivals’ booty, “because from it [they] will eat” – doing so would be destroying wealth that will end up under their control.
This concept seems to contradict a Pasuk elsewhere in Tanach in which Elisha HaNavi instructs Bnei Yisrael about an upcoming war against Moav. Elisha commands (Melachim II 3:19), “VeHikitem Kol Ir Mivtzar VeChol Ir Mivchor, VeChol Eitz Tov Tapilu, VeChol Maaynei Mayim Tistomu, VeChol HaChelkah HaTovah Tach’ivu BaAvanim,” “You shall strike every fortified city and every important city, you shall chop down every good tree, you shall plug every spring of water, and you shall clutter every piece of good land with stones.” Contrary to Sefer Devarim, this seems to say that when the Bnei Yisrael go to war, they should indeed ruin various parts of enemies’ property! In fact, it teaches the exact opposite of the Mitzvah in Devarim – whereas the latter forbids toppling trees, this Pasuk in Melachim mandates it! How can these seemingly contradictory Pesukim be resolved?
The Avnei Azel answers that Parshat Shoftim discusses a battle in Eretz Yisrael, in which spoils must not be harmed, whereas the battle in Melachim II takes place in Moav, where the prohibition of reducing enemy wealth and riches does not apply. He proves this from the aforementioned explanation of the Seforno, who clearly assumes that Bnei Yisrael are destined to conquer the land referred to in Shoftim. It is only because of this destiny that the Jews may not diminish any of their foes’ wealth – there is no doubt that they will end up receiving it. However, the Pesukim in Melachim II specifically indicate that Elisha’s words concern Moav, which is not part of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, Hashem’s promise to give the land to Bnei Yisrael does not apply, and although it is always good to have faith in Hashem, a soldier who cuts up trees or other enemy assets during such a war does not show the same lack of faith.
The Avnei Azel’s answer shows how powerful Hashem’s promise to give the Jews the Land of Israel is. Even though we must always trust that Hashem will guarantee our success, the Mitzvah to leave enemy booty unharmed as a demonstration of complete faith in Hashem applies only where there is also that definite promise of Eretz Yisrael. May we see that promise fulfilled again BiMheirah VeYameinu. --Adapted from a Dvar Torah in Maayanah Shel Torah
e Kol Torah summer issue has been dedicated by the Kol
Torah staff in honor of outgoing editors-in-chief Ariel
Caplan and Jesse Dunietz, whose tireless efforts on behalf
of Kol Torah made it all possible.
Special thanks as well to our other staff members who are graduating this year.
This publication contains Torah matter and should be treated accordingly.