A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Summer            Sivan-Elul 5763             June-September 2003              Vol.12 No.33

In This Issue:

Rabbi Joel Grossman

Rabbi Ezra Weiner
Ely Winkler

Rabbi Joel Grossman
Ari Selevan
Moshe Rapps
Yisrael Ellman

Ariel Caplan
Andy Feuerstein-Rudin
Jerry M. Karp
Sruli Rapps

Jesse Dunietz

Dr. Joel M. Berman
Donny Manas

Rabbi Hershel Solnica

Tish'a Be'av:
Rabbi Yosef Adler
Rabbi Ezra Weiner

Mrs. Nancy Edelman
Willie Roth
Danny Shulman

Mr. Sam Davidowitz
Etan Bluman
Moshe Rapps

Jerry M. Karp
Andy Feuerstein-Rudin

Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought
Rabbi Howard Jachter

This issue has been sponsored by the following parents of Torah Academy’s Class of 2003:


Dr. and Mrs. Dubin in honor of Zvi and Josh
Mr. and Mrs. Feigenbaum in honor of Zev
Dr. and Mrs. Fischer in honor of Daniel
Mr. and Mrs. Ginsberg in honor of David
Dr. and Mrs. Gordon in honor of Aaron
Mr. and Mrs. Jacobson in honor of Yehoshua
Dr. and Mrs. Kagedan in honor of Binny
Mr. and Mrs. Kohn in honor of Dani
Mr. and Mrs. Kolb in honor of Moshe
Dr. and Mrs. Levine in honor of Duvie
Mr. and Mrs. Leichman in honor of Joey

Mr. and Mrs. Manas in honor of Yair
Mr. and Mrs. Meir in honor of Reuven
Mr. Peretz in honor of JJ
Mr. and Mrs. Ratzersdorfer in honor of Yoni
Mr. Shenkman in honor of Yoni
Mr. and Mrs. Schonzeit in honor of Gabe
Dr. and Mrs. Teicher in honor of David
Mr. and Mrs. Tessler in honor of David
Mr. and Mrs. Weinstein in honor of Jonathan
Dr. and Mrs. Wisotsky in honor of Brian 

This issue has been sponsored by Africa Kosher Safaris,
This issue has been sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Stanley Shapiro and Aaron in honor of Rabbi Jachter.
This issue has also been sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Seth Landa in honor of Zvi and Josh Dubin, and David Teicher.
This issue has also been sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg in memory of the Yahrzeit of Yiddle Rosenberg, Richard’s father
Special thanks to the entire Kol Torah staff, as well as all the Rabbeim, faculty and student writers, for making this summer issue possible.
The staff of Kol Torah would like to thank our outgoing seniors for all of their hard work on behalf of Kol Torah.


Work Together

by Rabbi Joel Grossman

The Pasuk states (Bamidbar 8:4) “V’zeh Maaseh HaMenorah Mekshe Zahav,” “This is the work of the Menorah, hammered-out gold.” Chazal teach that whenever the word “Zeh,” “this,” is used in the Torah it implies that something tangible was shown to the listener. For example, in Sefer Shemot 12:2, when the Torah states “Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem,” “This month, the new moon, will be for you,” it implies that God actually showed Moshe Rabbeinu the position of the new moon so that Moshe would know for the future when to proclaim Rosh Chodesh and establish the calendar. Similarly, Rashi explains that God showed Moshe what the Menorah should look like because Moshe failed to grasp how it was supposed to be made. Rabbi Goldwasser, in his work Something To Say, asks what was so puzzling to Moshe about the Menorah that God had to actually show it to Moshe? He answers that the command of “Miksheh,” that the Menorah must be one piece of gold hammered out from its base to its top, represents the indispensable unity of Klal Yisrael. We are all one and “in this boat together.” It was this formation from a single unit that required the visual model to facilitate Moshe’s learning how to perform this task.
The Kozhnitzer Maggid was famous for saying, “When all Jews will join hands, all of the hands will forge into one hand that will reach the heavenly throne.”
This concept is illustrated in the concept of the Machatzit Hashekel, which each Jew people had to donate in order to purchase public sacrifices. The Torah specifically instructs that says, “The rich may not give more and the poor may not give less than the half shekel,” in order to reinforce the idea of Jewish unity. We constitute one unit and each of us must contribute to Klal Yisrael and sanctify the name of God. We must realize that we need each other and we cannot do it alone and therefore my half and your half shekel together will combine to make one complete Shekel. We must realize in all of our endeavors that “Lo Tov Heyot L’Adam L’vado,” it is not good for a person to be alone and we need the help of others. The Pasuk in Kohelet states, “Tovim Hashanim Min Haechad”, two are better than one, a concept that not only applies to learning Torah but to every aspect of our lives.
This might be what was so puzzling to Moshe about the Menorah being hammered out from one piece of gold. If we can keep this point in our minds and work together, we will be merit our ushering in the Melech Hamasheach speedily in our days and see the beautiful Menorah once again in the Beit Hamikdash.

Kalev's Visit
by Rabbi Ezra Weiner

The Torah records regarding the Meraglim: “Vayaalu Banegev Vayavo Ad Chevron”(13:22).
The Talmud in Sotah 34b comments on the apparent switch from the plural (“Vayaalu”) to the singular (“Vayavo”) and states, “Rava says, ‘This teaches us that Kalev separated himself from the intentions of the spies and went and spread himself out on the graves of the Avot.’”
R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch raised the following difficulty with this interpretation.  The Torah tells us that the Yaldey Haanak (children of giants) were located in Chevron.  If it is indeed true that only Kalev traveled to Chevron how can the entire clan of spies claim later in verse 28, “And we also saw the children of the giants there”?  Secondly, the cantillation (“trop”) on the phrase “Vayaalu Banegev Vayavo Ad Chevron” is a Zarka Segol, which indicates that the subject of both “Banagev” and “Chevron” is the same (i.e. referring to all of the spies).
R’ Hirsch suggests a more simple understanding of the above phrase which does not contradict the Gemara in Sotah and may actually support it as well.  “Vayavo” refers to the same group of people as “Vayaalu,” i.e. the spies.  “Vayavo” is put in the singular to indicate that the spies came to Chevron as one man.  They were in complete unison in mind and purpose with only positive intentions.  However, when they witnessed the children of the giants and huge dimension of the city, they lost their courage.  Kalev’s faith, courage, and determination predominated when they first arrived in Chevron and they were indeed like one man (“Vayavo”).  When Kalev noticed change of heart from this unity, he went to pray at the graves of the Avot for continuing courage.
In truth, therefore, it is not that “Vayavo” refers to Kalev who came to Chevron alone, but rather it is the sudden change from a unified “Vayavo” that elicited Kalev’s response of Tefillah at the Kivrei Haavot.

Were They Really Meraglim?
by Ely Winkler

The most popular story in Parshat Shelach is the episode of the Meraglim.  The term Meraglim, and its root, is used many years earlier by Yosef, when he accuses his brother’s of being spies, and later when Yehoshua sends spies out to Israel.  Where, though does the term Meraglim come from?  Upon reading Parshat Shelach neither the word Meraglim nor its root is found once!  The Torah first mentions the spies merely as “Anashim,” people, and later in the Parsha they are called by Moshe “Tarim,” explorers.  But never once is the term Meraglim found in the entire Parsha.
The word “Ragel,” the root of Meraglim, denotes gossip and slander.  This fits in with Yosef and the accusations against his brothers.  He suspected them of spying for a country, which they would go back to report about Egypt.  The twelve spies were sent on a mission to just look over the land, and then to simply report back about it.  However this is not what happened.  The spies did not know their proper place, and give their opinions as to whether or not the land was conquerable.  Therefore, in Moshe’s recap of the story in Sefer Devarim, the word “Vayeraglu,” from the root Ragel, is used to describe the spies’ actions in the land.  This is how the Meraglim got their name.  Meragel is fundamentally not a negative term.  Yehoshua’s Meraglim did nothing wrong.  Also, two of Moshe’s twelve emissaries that appear in this Parsha, Yehoshua and Kalev, do nothing wrong when they return from spying the land.  However, with respect to the other ten spies and Yosef’s brothers, the term is used negatively.
The hidden lesson behind the Meraglim is a very important one.  The challenge of a Jew in life is to make sure he knows what his tasks at hand are, and not to deviate from them.  By always staying true to one’s mission, and by properly doing Avodat Hashem, one can reach his ultimate goal.

Cure for the Disease
by Rabbi Joel Grossman

In Parshat Korach, after the argument of Moshe and Korach, the Torah records, “Vatiphtach Haaretz Et Piha Vativla Otam, “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them,” referring to Korach and his assembly.  In the fifth Perek of Pirkei Avot, we are told that ten things were created on Erev Shabbat at twilight during the week of Creation.  One of them was the opening of the earth that swallowed Korach and his followers after this dispute with Moshe.  Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser in his Sefer Something to Say asks, “What do we learn from the fact that the mouth of the earth was created for this task from twilight on Erev Shabbat of Creation?”
He cites an answer from the Meorah Shel Torah that when people find themselves in difficult situations, it may appear as though there is no way out.  The Mishnah is teaching us that this is not true; rather, God creates the cure before the disease.  The answer to one’s problem has already been prepared by Hashem and it is one’s task to uncover it.  This is a mission that requires intense effort on a continuous basis.  The Parsha shows this since even though Moshe was in danger with Korach, the mouth of the earth had already been prepared for his enemies from the beginning of Creation.  Too often we are oblivious to the elaborate plans that God has made for our benefit.  The Mishnah in Masechet Berachot teaches us that we must make a Beracha on the good and the bad that befall us, since in reality, everything that happens to us is for the best and for our benefit.
Why specifically did the mouth of the earth swallow up Korach and his assembly? How does the punishment fit the crime? Rabbi Goldwasser quotes the Belzer Rebbe who explained that the punishment constituted Midah Kineged Midah, (measure for measure).  Korach and his assembly sinned with their mouths, talking poorly and spreading bad reports about Moshe, and their punishment fit perfectly, since they were swallowed up by the mouth of the earth.

We must learn a great lesson from this Pasuk, firstly, to control our mouths from speaking Lashon Hara, Rechilut and Motzi Shem Ra so that we are not punished as Korach and his assembly were. Secondly, we must learn how to live our lives, not questioning God for problems which may happen to us but rather work to find answers and solutions to our difficulties for we must understand that God created the answer to our problem before we received them just as He created the answer to the problem of Moshe from the beginning of creation. Hopefully we can keep this message in our mind and that will help enhance our lives when we realize that all is not hopeless and there is light at the end of our individual and communal tunnels.

by Ari Selevan

“And Moshe said, ‘by this you will know that Hashem has sent me to do all these acts, that it is not from my own heart,’” (16:28).
The language used in this Pasuk is somewhat repetitive.  What is the difference between knowing that “Hashem sent Moshe” and that “it is not from [his] own heart?”  The Rambam in his commentary on Mishna Sanhedrin enumerates the thirteen principles of faith.  The seventh of these principles states the belief that Moshe was a true Navi and that no other Navi ever has or ever will supersede him.  The eighth principle asserts that the Torah of Moshe is the word of Hashem and is not falsified or altered.
Korach and his followers denied both of these principles as can be seen in 16:3: “It is too much for you!  For the entire assembly are all holy and Hashem is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?”  In other words Korach is accusing Moshe and Aharon of exalting themselves over Bnai Yisrael, an accusation that clearly denies the eighth principle.  Rashi relates earlier in 16:1, quoting the Midrash, that Korach ridiculed Moshe by asking, “Does a garment of Techelet need a Techelet string?  Does a house full of Sefarim need a Mezuzah?  These things were not commanded by Hashem rather, you made them up yourself!”  Indeed, the Yerushalmi paraphrases Korach as saying “The Torah is not from Hashem, Moshe is not a prophet, nor is Aharon a [legitimate] Kohen Gadol!”  This clearly shows Korach’s denial of the seventh and eighth principles.
Therefore, in order for Moshe to refute Korach’s accusations he made two statements.  He declared that in Korach’s punishment he would see that “Hashem sent me to do all these acts.” Moshe is saying, “I have been true prophet of Hashem in everything that I have done.  The second statement is that “it is not from my own heart.”  Moshe is saying that the Torah was not his own fabrication rather, Hashem wrote it.
There is a story mentioned in Bava Batra 74a about Rabbah bar bar Channah.  One time he was traveling in the desert when an Arab nomad offered to show him the place where Korach and his followers were buried alive in the ground.  Rabbah bent down to the ground and heard the confession of these men, clearly reflecting their two sins: denial of the authenticity of the Torah and the denial of Moshe’s prophecy.

The Flower of Life
by Moshe Rapps

Parshat Korach, the Torah talks about how Hashem proved the greatness of Aharon.  Hashem commanded that each Tribe of Israel appoint a leader and each leader shall take a staff and inscribe his name on it.  These twelve staffs, Aharon’s name being on the staff of Shevet Levi, were put into the Mishkan.  The very next day, Moshe saw that the staff of Aharon had miraculously blossomed, as it says, “Vehenei Parach Mateh Aharon, Vayotzei Perach, Vayatzetz Tzitz, Vayigmol Shekeidim,” which means, “the staff of Aharon had blossomed; it brought forth a blossom, it sprouted a bud and it bore almonds.”  The obvious question arises: Why did the Torah have to state three ways that the staff of Aharon blossomed, one should have been enough, especially since one sprouting alone was a tremendous miracle?
Chizkuni, commenting on the Pasuk, says that the phrase “Vayotzei Perach” alludes to the Pirchei Kehuna that would eventually sprout from Aharon, the phrase “Vayatzetz Tzitz” alludes to the Tzitz Hazahav, the golden headband the Kohen Gadol would wear, and the phrase “Vayigmol Shekeidim” hints to the word Shoked, which means zealous or passionate.  Kohanim are often described as Zerizim, or zealous in their service to Hashem.  All of these phrases refer to the future of Aharon’s children, the Kohanim.
My cousin, Uri Schechter, said the following.  The three phrases can be applied to the way man lives his life.  In the early stages of his life he is no more than budding flower, much like the Pirchei Kehuna.  As he matures, he learns more Torah and impresses his teachers and parents, just like Bnai Yisrael were impressed by the Tzitz of the Kohen Gadol.  And in his later stage of life, when he has mastered all of the Torah, he emerges as a ripe almond.

A Code Among Thieves
by Yisrael Ellman

In Pirkei Avot 5:17, the Mishna that says:
“Any Machloket that is for the sake of heaven will last, any Machloket that is not for the sake of heaven will not.  What is a Machloket for the sake of heaven?  Hillel and Shammai’s Machloket.  What is a Machloket that is not for the sake of heaven?  Korach and his followers’ Machloket.”
There is a strange inconsistency in this Mishna.  Hillel and Shammai’s Machloket was between Hillel and Shammai but Korach and his followers Machloket was between Korach and Moshe, not Korach and his followers.  Why is Moshe’s role not mentioned?
In addition, why would Hashem want a Machloket?  Even if it were an argument strictly for the sake of finding the correct Halacha with no anger between the two parties, why would Hashem want to have a wrong opinion continue to exist?
The Gemara (Bava Metzia 59b), records a story in which Rabbi Eliezer and the Chachamim were embroiled in a Machloket.  In order to prove his point Rabbi Eliezer said, “If I am right, this carob tree will prove it” and the carob tree left the spot where it was planted.  However, the Chachamim said “we do not take proofs from carob trees.”  So Rabbi Eliezer said, “If I am right, this stream will prove it” and the stream suddenly began to flow uphill.
“We do not take proofs from streams” they replied.
Finally Rabbi Eliezer said, “If I am right heaven will prove it” and a voice from heaven came and said that he was right.  Despite everything he had done the Chachamim still were not convinced.
“The Torah is not in heaven,” (Devarim 30:12) they said.
This story tells us something important about a Machloket about a Halacha.  The Torah was given to us, and it is in our hands to derive the Halachot from it.  As long as we reach an opinion based on the rules for analyzing the Torah, it is right.  When there are conflicting opinions, we follow the majority.
The Machloket between Korach and Moshe was not a Machloket.  Moshe derived his opinion by following the rules of the Torah while Korach did not.  Therefore the only right opinion was Moshe’s and there was no argument.
So then why did the Mishna say “Korach and his followers’ Machloket”?

Korach wanted to claim the Kehuna without concern for who had it.  Bnai Reuven wanted to claim their firstborn rights without concern for the Leviim, who already had them etc…  Each person was doing it for his own personal interest, with no regard for anyone else.  Every man was for himself- there’s no code among thieves.  The Machloket of Korach and his followers actually was between Korach and his followers.

by Ariel Caplan

The first few Pesukim in Parshat Chukat state, “Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon saying, ‘This is the law of the Torah, which Hashem has commanded, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel, and they shall take to you a red cow…’” There are two questions that can be asked on these pesukim.  The first is why the Torah had to bother saying the phrase “This is the law of the Torah, which Hashem has commanded, saying.”  We seemingly would have been fine without it.  The second question is why the Torah said that this is “the law of the Torah” and not a law or the law of Tumah (or Taharah).
In response to the first question, Rashi says that it is because the Satan and the nations of the world mock the Jews over this Mitzvah, asking what this Mitzvah is and what its reasons are.  Due to this, Hashem says that it is a law from Him and we have no right to question it.
The Kli Yakar quotes Rashi’s comment and expands on it, saying that the second question’s answer is just an extension of the first, so the phraseology is just to emphasize that it is an answer to those who mock the Jews.  However, this does not seem very convincing by itself.
The Or Hachaim believes that the second answer is unrelated to the first.  He offers two explanations.  The first explanation is that the laws of tumah and taharah are symbolic of our having accepted the Torah, as only those who have accepted the Torah can become impure through a corpse.  The second explanation is that one who carefully observes these Mitzvot is considered to have fulfilled the entire Torah, as this is a sign of the righteousness and faith that is required to fulfill all Mitzvot.
Of course, Rashi is famous for his conciseness and implied messages in his commentary.  R’ Meir of Primshlan believed that this was an example.  He said that Satan truly refers to the Yetzer Hara, which bothers the person both before and after the Mitzvah.  Rashi’s quote of the mockery is to be divided into two parts to correspond with these two times.  Before the Mitzvah, the Yetzer Hara asks, “What is this Mitzvah?”- what is its special value that causes you to perform it now - you can’t find Mitzvot that are greater and more important?  Once the Mitzvah is done, the Yetzer Hara asks, “What is the reason for this Mitzvah?”- do you know the real great reason that you did it?  This is a great Mitzvah, above which there is no other!  Thus, the Yetzer Hara tries to create feelings of arrogance within the person.  In addition, it creates a feeling of complacency within the person to cause the person to lose the desire to accomplish more Mitzvot.
In his Sefer Parparot Latorah, Rav Menachem Baker adds that Rashi apparently gives two answers, one to each question of the Yetzer Hara.  To the question of “What is this Mitzvah?” one can reply that Hashem commanded it and due to this alone one desires to do it.  To the question of “What is the reason for this Mitzvah?” one can respond that it is forbidden to question its reasons.
R’ Yechiel Michel of Zlochov expounded on Rashi in a different manner.  He asks why it is specifically this Mitzvah that is targeted by the Satan and the nations.  He notes that later in the Parsha, Rashi says that the reason for the Mitzvah of Parah Aduma is to serve as atonement for the Sin of the Golden Calf.  Thus, the Satan and the nations are trying to make the Jews mention the sin and thereby bring about an accusation against the Jews.  Therefore, Hashem hid the reason and used the word “Chukah,” which means a law without a given reason.
Based on this, one can say that Rashi actually did answer both of our original questions in his comment.  The Kli Yakar can be slightly modified to say that the phraseology is to emphasize that the mockery given by Rashi will come up and need to be answered.  However, we will not be able to give the true answer, as this will only harm ourselves.  Rashi solves our dilemma by explaining that the answer is right in the Pasuk and telling us how to view the Pasuk to see the replies we should give.

The Significance of the Red Heifer
by Andy Feuerstein-Rudin

The laws of the Parah Adumah, the red heifer, are included in the category of the statutes, or Chukim.  The Midrash relates that a Roman aristocrat asked Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai to explain the strange laws involving the Parah Adumah to him.  Rabbi Yochanan replied “Just as a person afflicted with a certain disease is cured of illness by taking a certain medicine, similarly, the ashes of the Parah Adumah when prepared in the prescribed way and dissolved in water disperse the unclean spirit.”  The Roman left satisfied with the answer he received.  Rabbi Yochanan's students said that the answer was satisfying for the Romans, not for them.  To answer the students, Rabbi Yochanan said, “The dead man does not make a person impure nor do the ashes make him pure again.  My explanation, therefore, is that the law concerning the Parah Adumah is that it is a Chok, or a heavenly decree and we have no right to question it.”
The Sefer Lilmod U’Lilamed says that in this response lies the reason of Chukim.  We cannot always comprehend the things that Hashem gives man since our understanding is limited.  It is sufficient for us to know that by obeying the Chukim, we are doing Hashem's will.  See, however, the third chapter of the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim, for a different approach.

Have Faith
by Jerry M. Karp

In Parshat Chukat, we read about the encounter with the king of Arad.  In the beginning of Perek 21, the Torah says, “The King of Arad, who lived in the South, heard that Israel came by way of Atarim.”  Immediately following this, the king of Arad goes to fight against Bnai Yisrael.  Many commentators ask what the king of Arad heard which prompted him to attack Bnai Yisrael.  After all, we know that the nations of the world were very fearful of Bnai Yisrael.  In Sefer Yehoshua, Rachav says to the spies that when the inhabitants of Eretz C’naan learned about that which Hashem did for Bnai Yisrael, “We heard and our hearts melted.”  Clearly, the nations would not attack Bnai Yisrael because of their fear of being destroyed by Hashem.  Why, then, did the king of Arad attack Bnai Yisrael?
Ramban quotes Unkelus and explains that when the Meraglim were returning to report to Bnai Yisrael, the king of Arad saw them and decided to attack.  He says that the word HaAtarim is related to the word Tarim, “spies.”  However, this does not explain why the king of Arad decided to provoke Bnai Yisrael.  Nechama Lebowitz explains that when Bnai Yisrael sent the Meraglim, it was a sign of their fear and lack of faith in Hashem.  The king of Arad decided to capitalize on this fear and attacked them when they were vulnerable.
The lesson from this short episode is very important.  When Bnai Yisrael lost faith in Hashem, they were immediately attacked.  If we have faith in Hashem, He will protect us from any troubles that befall us.

The Parah Adumah
by Sruli Rapps

The Mitzva of Parah Adumah is a Chok, a Mitzva that no reason is given for it.  Some Meforshim say that the cow acts as a redemption for the Golden Calf that was made in the desert.  Just like Bnai Yisrael were so quick to get all of their riches in order to make the Golden Calf, similarly, in regard to the Parah Adumah, Bnai Yisrael have to pay for it with their own money.
Before the sin of the Golden Calf, the Bnai Yisrael were whole and flawless, and afterwards they were filled with sin.  The Parah Adumah made Bnai Yisrael whole and flawless once again.
The Parah Adumah was burnt together with cedar wood, some scarlet thread, and a hyssop.  These three items represent the three thousand men that were killed because of the sin of the Golden Calf.  The cedar tree is the highest of all the trees, and the hyssop is the lowest.  This teaches that when somebody sins because he feels that he is much higher than everyone else, he is sprinkled with ashes of a hyssop, the smallest and modest of all plants.  The ashes are preserved forever, just like the participants in the Cheit Haegel were never forgiven.

It's a "Dirty" Job
by Jesse Dunietz

As is the case with most prophecies, many of Bilam’s words in Parshat Balak are quite cryptic. One of the most difficult phrases to understand is in 23:10, where Bilam asks, “Mi Manah Afar Yaakov?”  “Who can count the dust of Yaakov?”  Obviously, he is expressing a deeper idea than numbering dust motes.  Rashi explains, “The mitzvot that Bnei Yisrael perform using dirt are innumerable:  Not plowing with mixed animals, not sowing Kil’ayim, the ashes of the Parah Adumah, the dust given to the Sotah, and the like.”  He believes that Bilam refers to the “dirty” mitzvot that earn Bnei Yisrael so much credit.  However, he fails to answer the key question:  what’s so special about earth?  After all, we do plenty of mitzvot with food, too, but Bilam never praised us for our hors d'oeuvres!
The Shem Mishmuel explains Rashi as follows: In cursing Bnei Yisrael, Bilam’s aim was much higher than making everyone’s day a bit less pleasant.  He wanted to cut them off from the world.  When Balak said (22:6), “And I will drive [Yisrael] out of the land (‘Min Ha’aretz’),” he meant it homiletically as “Min Ha’artziyut” – from worldliness.  Balak and Bilam tried to thwart Hashem’s designs of a nation that could infuse Kedushah into the worldliest of activities.  The intent of the curse was to so completely inculcate the world – the “earth” – with Tumah that there would be no opening left for Bnei Yisrael to turn everyday endeavors into Avodat Hashem.  Thus the “dust,” a symbolic term for the mundane, worldly activities, would become inaccessible to us.
As Rashi makes clear, however, the plan was defeated.  When Hashem changed Bilam’s curse to a blessing, the prophet found himself praising Bnei Yisrael’s diligent performance of the mitzvot.  In a direct contrast with his goal, he particularly emphasized the “Afar”, the mitzvot pertaining to the mundane, through which we incorporate the spiritual into the physical.  In the end, Hashem totally inverted everything Bilam had attempted.
Pirkei Avot teaches, “V’hevei Kol Ma’asav L’shem Shamayim.”  “All one’s actions should be for the sake of Heaven.”  As many commentators explain, the lesson there is the same one taught here to Bilam.  The Jewish approach is not to shy away from the physical, but to sanctify it.  As it also says in Avot, “Mi Hu Chacham? Halomed Mikol Adam.”  “Who is wise?  He who learns from every person.”  Let us all learn the lesson of Bilam, and turn all of our actions toward the higher purpose of Avodat Hashem.

Acquire a Living Rav
by Dr. Joel Berman - Science Department

We learn in 25:39 how the tribes of Reuvein and Gad had acquired "Mikneh Rav," a lot of livestock, and as a result they asked Moshe if they could remain on the east bank of the Jordan where they felt they could better take care of their animals rather than enter Eretz Yisrael. Rav Bunum M'Pshischa zt”l offers an original explanation of this Pasuk. "Mikneh Rav," he says, means "Kinyon Hayah Birabom," that they had acquired a Rav with whom they were extremely attached. They somehow knew that their Rav, Moshe Rabeinu, was destined to be buried on the east bank of the Jordan and so wished to settle there near his Kever. This was a mistake. Far from hotbeds of Torah it was not long before those Jews on the east bank of the Jordan began to drift away. Indeed they were the first tribes to disappear.
Centuries later, the Gemara describes how the Romans wanted to find Moshe Rabeinu's kever and turn it into an Avodah Zarah. They repeatedly climbed up and down the mountain where he was buried. Hashem made a miracle and the location of Moshe Rabeinu's Kever became a moving target - virtually impossible to find.
I once heard Rabbi Ezrael Tauber Shlita wonder aloud at the wisdom of a group of Jews who were spending thousands of dollars and using their vacations in order to go to Eastern Europe and visit their Rebbe's Kever. Rabbi Tauber said that their Rebbe would surely be happier if the instead used their vacations to learn Torah in a local Beit Medrash.
We learn from Reuvein and Gad that although there are good reasons to sometimes Daven or say Tehillim by the Kever of a Tzadik, this must not become a focus of a person's religiosity. We also learn from Reuvein and Gad how a Jew must live in a Torah community. Otherwise, no matter how well intentioned or well meaning such a Jew might be his connection with Judaism will eventually weaken.

Back Talking
by Donny Manas

Parshat Matot begins by outlining the different kinds of vows a person can make and how to annul them.  It also commands that a person should not go back on his words and that one should perform everything that leaves his mouth.
Why does the Torah have to say both the positive, doing everything that leaves one’s mouth, and also the negative of not to go back on one’s words?  Mepharshim point out that the Torah is alluding to the fact that making a vow is elevating a person’s words and turning them into a commandment, as if his words were biblical.  They describe how we are above animals because we can speak, and we should use that power wisely.
They also point out that speech is a power, able to raise and lower people’s spirits.  Some commentaries even point out how we have two eyes, two ears, and two nostrils, but only one mouth, proving that one mouth can do damage or cause good like two of any of the other body part.
Yet, there is something else that can be used to symbolize the power of speech.  Our mouths have sharp teeth, but have soft lips to protect us from exposing those teeth.  We may have bad things to say, but we have to use our lips to prevent ourselves from speaking negatively.  But we have a tongue, which is also soft!  Maybe we should learn to protect our insides from thinking negatively about others, so that we will not have to come to use external measures not to say them!  It all starts from the inside.  The Torah is urging all of us to improve our lives from our insides, and improve someone else’s life with our outsides.  The Torah also teaches us that we should watch what comes out of our mouths, and not violate the negative of going back on our words.

Basic Lessons - Self-Inspection and Care for Others
by Rabbi Hershel Solnica

Sefer Devarim begins with a seemingly unnecessary phrase “Eleh Hadevarim Asher Diber Moshe El Kol Yisrael,” “These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel.”  In the past, the Torah simply stated, “Vayidaber Moshe,” and Moshe spoke.  Rav Simcha Bunim observed that the opening language of Sefer Devarim teaches that all of Israel must be close and bound together with a all-encompassing unity.  Other commentaries add that the phrase “El Kol Yisrael” emphasizes not just preaching to Israel but to oneself first- “El Kol Yisrael,” everyone, but start with yourself.
This is a powerful way of starting Mishnah Torah, the last Sefer in the Chumash.  We are all very familiar with the distinction between Mitzvot that are Bein Adam Limakom and Bein Adam Lichavero (between people and God, and between people).  We often forget the third dimension, Bein Adam Liatzmo (between man and himself).
Education, tracking, and teaching must start and receive its greatest impetus by self-examination.  Between Pesach and Shavuot we engage in a certain degree of mourning due to the death of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples.  The students died because they did not give respect to one another and in turn they lost their own self-respect.
Harav Oelbaum Shlita, of Kew Garden Hills remarked in one of his Shiurim- Why is it that Hillel said to the convert, “If you observe one commandment of Viahavta Lireacha Kamocha, love your neighbor as yourself, then you can consider yourself having learned the entire Torah ‘on one foot’?”
The answer lies in the fact that we are expected to be Shomrei Mitzvot to observe to the best of our ability all 613 commandments.  But that is impossible.  I am not a Kohen, I cannot do Mitzvot Hateluyot Baaretz; I cannot bring Korbanot!  However, when every Jew does his best to fulfill his obligation then as a unit, observing Viahavta Lireacha Kamocha, love your neighbor as yourself, then we can together be considered as totally Torah observant Jews.  The lesson is clear, it is time for self-inspection and care for others, for then God will look kindly on us all.

Tish'a Be'av
Someone is Listening
by Rabbi Yosef Adler

“Od Heim Midabrim Va’ani lo Eshmah,” “They are still speaking, but I am not listening.”
The primary expression of a committed Jew’s service unto Hakadosh Baruch Hu on a regular basis is Tefillah.  As an individual prays thrice daily, one expresses his/her dependency upon Hashem for his daily survival and the fulfillment of the aspirations of our people.  We believe firmly that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is a Shomea Tefillah, a listener of prayers.  He always gives us His individual attention no matter what time of the day we pray.  He does not always grant us out request but he always listens.  As a parent occasionally honors, and at times denies a child’s request, so too, Hakadosh Baruch Hu at times grants us a favorable response, and at times an unfavorable one.  However we should always feel secure knowing that He is, at least, listening.
The only exception to this firm belief is Tisha B’Av.  On this day, as echoed by Yirmiyahu in Megillat Eichah, Satam Tifilati, my prayer is denied, and falls upon deaf ears.  During the evening and morning hours of Tisha B’Av when Kinot are recited we do not recite Shalosh Esrey Midot, invoking the thirteen attributes of mercy.  The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 17b) tells us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu told Moshe, “Kishechotim Bnai Yisrael Taasu Lifanay Kaseder Hazeh Va’ani Mochel Lahem,” “Tell the Jewish people that when they sin they need only repent and declare the Shalosh Esrey Midot and I assure them that I will forgive them.”  On Tisha B’Av there is no such recital because Satam Tifilati, my ability pray and have my requests granted are denied to me.
As the Gemara further states (ibid) Hakadosh Baruch Hu will likely respond to us when we treat other people with dignity and respect.  Let us commit ourselves to an added dose of Ahavat Yisrael to replace the Sinah, the Lashon Hara, and Richilut and then be privileged to learn “Od Hem Midabrim Vaani Eshma Terem Yikra Vaani Eeneh,” “Even while they are talking, I am listening, and even before they call out, I will respond.”

Backward and Forward
by Rabbi Ezra Weiner

Tisha Be'av is not only a holiday that enables us to reflect on the tragedies of the past, but probably more importantly, it  affords us an opportunity to look forward to the blessings of the future.  There are actually various laws that are in practice nowadays, which operate solely on the principle of Mihera Yibane Hamikdash (“The Temple will be speedily rebuilt”).  The underlying principle of Mihera Yibane Hamikdash functions as follows:  Wherever the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash would cause a change that would necessitate a greater stringency in the ruling of a certain law, then we must rule more strictly even when there is no Beit Hamikdash.  The fear is that “the Temple will be speedily rebuilt” and people will say, “Last year we were lenient regarding this law,” not realizing that last year’s leniency was only due to the absence of a Beith Hamikdash.  For example, Raban Yochanan Ben Yackai decreed that it is forbidden to eat from the new grain for the entire day of the 16th of Nissan, even though the Halacha is that when there is no Bait Hamikdash (and therefore no Korban Omer) the new grain becomes permissible at dawn of the 16th of Nissan.  This decree was issued due to concern that Mihera Yibane Hamikdash and the people will say “last year (when there was no Mikdash), did we not eat from the new grain at dawn?”  The people will end up eating from the new grain at dawn when in fact they are required to wait until the Omer sacrifice is offered.
The Talmud in Masechet Taanit 17a records a dispute between Tanaim regarding the application of Mihera Yibane Hamikdash to the law of Sh’tu’yai Yayin (the prohibition of Kohanim taking part in the service when they are under the influence of wine).  The Chachamim maintain that nowadays Kohanim may not drink wine since the Bait Hamikdash will be speedily rebuilt and a Kohen fit for service will be needed.  Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi disagrees and mentions that Kohanim may drink wine explaining, Shetiknato Kalkalto i.e. that which disqualifies the Kohen from serving (the destruction of the Bait Hamikdash) permits him to drink wine.  Rashi explains that according to Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi since it has been a number of years that the
מקדש has not been restored we do not take into account that the Mikdash may be rebuilt.  Halacha follows Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi (as stated in Misechet Taanit) therefore Kohanim may drink wine nowadays.  The Gevurot Ari raises the obvious difficulty.  Why does the Talmud rule in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi’s opinion when in fact, this contradicts the widely accepted principle of  Mihera Yibane Hamikdash?
The answer to this difficulty lies in the basic difference between Shtuyay Hayayin and the other cases of Mihera Yibane Hamikdash.  In the case of the new grain, for example, the fear is that someone will err and eat from the new grain before the Korban Omer is offered.  There is a reasonable likelihood that this error will occur.  However, in the case of the Kohanim, the undesired result (of a Kohen performing the service while under the influence of wine) will only occur if there are no other Kohanim fit for service.  The possibility that all Kohanim in the world will be Shtuyay Hayayin on the day the Mikdash is rebuilt is highly unlikely.  Secondly, it is also highly unlikely that the Mikdash be rebuilt with suddenness that the Kohanim would not even have time for the wine to wear off.  May we be Zoche this Tisha B’Av to a true מועד and the fulfillment of Mihera Yibane Hamikdash.

Ki Lo Al Halechem Livado Yichyeh Ha'adam
by Mrs. Nancy Edelman - English Department

The last Pasuk of Parshat Vaetchanan and the first Pasuk of Parshat Eikev seem to suggest that the Torah requires only strict, mechanical adherence to mitzvot. Vaetchanan concludes with the affirmative obligation: “Vishamarta Et Hamitzvah Viet Hachukim Viet Hamishpatim Asher Anochi Mitzvacha Hayom Laasotam,” (Vaetchanan 7:11). Eikev appears to begin with the consequences of fulfilling this obligation: “Vehaya Eikev Tishmeun Et Hamishpatim Haeleh Ushmartem Vaasitem Otam, Veshamar Hashem Elokecha Lecha Et Habrit Viet Hachesed Asher Nishba Laavotekh.” (Eikev 7:12). In other words, if the Jewish people abide by Hashem's commandments then Hashem will honor his commitments, as promised all along. Indeed, the remainder of Perek Zayin is devoted to describing the blessings and riches that the Jewish people will receive as part of its covenantal relationship with Hashem.
One question, however, is why the Torah appears to repeat the need to observe mitzvot at the outset of Perek Chet. “Kol Hamitzvah Asher Anochi Mitzavecha Hayom Tishmiun Laasot, Lemaan Tichyun Urvitem Uvatem Viyirishtem Et Haaretz Asher Nishba Hashem Laavotecha,” (Eikev 8: 1). The Torah seems to be demanding again that we must strictly observe mitzvot if we are to enjoy the benefits of Hashem's bargain with our forefathers. The Torah's choice of words, though, demonstrates that Perek Zayin and Perek Chet are far from redundant. Both at the end of Vaetchanan and in the first Pasuk of Perek Chet, the Torah chooses to use the singular “Mitzvah” and not the plural “Mitzvot,” which would have paralleled the plural “Chukim” and “Mishpatim” that are the focus of the remainder of Perek Zayin.  By using the singular "Mitzvah," though, the Torah appears to be introducing a different concept necessary for full compliance with Hashem's covenant.
It is the use of the word “Kol” at the beginning of Perek Chet to modify the singular "mitzvah" that points to this distinct concept. In Parshat Yitro, the Rav zt”l examined the Pasuk introducing the Aseret Hadibrot, which reads, “Vayidaber Elokim Et Kol Hadivarim Haeleh Leymor” (Yitro, 20:1). The Rav questioned the need for the seemingly redundant word “Kol” in the Pasuk, answering that “Kol” has two connotations. On one level, Kol means "all" as in each and every.  But “Kol” can also mean “all” as in the entire or the whole of something. With respect to the Aseret Hadibrot, the Rav explained, Hashem was not simply reciting each of the Dibrot, but rather was imparting to us the whole essence of the Dibrot.

Recognizing that Kol can be defined as the essence or the whole point of something helps us appreciate Parshat Eikev’s purpose in describing not only the need to observe the Mishpatim, but also the need to understand the concept of mitzvah. While Perek Zayin discusses the very tangible consequences of observing the very tangible “Mishpatim,” Perek Chet reminds us that when we observe this singular “Mitzvah,” we shall remember the spiritual experience of the affliction in the desert. The Mishpatim, properly observed, bring us Hashem's blessings for physical comfort, material wealth, good health, and protection from our enemies. But what of our spirituality? That seems to be where this singular “Mitzvah” comes in. It's very easy for us to mechanically observe Mishpatim, but if we are blessed with material wealth for doing them, we run the risk of becoming too comfortable and forgetting where it all came from. We must be reminded, then, of the essence, the ultimate purpose of the mitzvah. Otherwise, we live by “bread alone.”

Action and Reaction
by Willie Roth

In Parshat Eikev, there are many topics that Moshe addresses.  One major idea mentioned throughout Perakim 9 and 10 is that of the sins of Bnai Yisrael.  In Perek 9, the sin that is constantly mentioned is Chet Haegel.  The Perek starts out with Chet Haegel, then mentions the sins in Masah, Ta’averah, and Kivrot Hata’avah.  Then Moshe briefly mentions the major sin of the Meraglim.  However, Moshe returns to Chet Haegel, mentioning his prayer to Hashem that saved Bnai Yisrael.  In Perek 10 there is a repetition of the story of Chet Haegel with other small stories including the Aron and Shevet Levi.  Why does Perek 10 repeat the previous Perek in which Chet Haegel is mentioned several times?  Rabbi Zvi Engle suggests that if Perakim 9 and 10 are lined up side by side, it is clear that Perek 10 is an atonement for the sins mentioned in Perek 9.  For example, in Perek 9 the Torah discusses Bnai Yisrael’s sin with the image of Chet Haegel.  Then in Perek 10 it mentions the making of the Aron so that when Moshe goes up on to Har Sinai Bnai Yisrael will have something to look at as a reminder that Moshe is getting the Torah, and then they will not forget Hashem again.  Another example is that in Perek 9 Moshe prays for Aharon after his involvement with the sin.  Then in Perek 10 we see the consequence of his sin -- Aharon dies and the Leviim are appointed to teach Bnai Yisrael.  We see how each Perek compliments the other, and for every action of Bnai Yisrael, there is a reaction to prevent them from repeating their sins.

Spirituality, How Do You Achieve It?
by Danny Shulman

The first Pasuk of this week’s Parsha states, “Vihaya Eikev Tishm’un Et Hamishpatim Ha’ayleh,” “This shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances.”  The Midrash Tanchuma writes that the word “Eikev” can be translated into “heel,” but can still maintain its context in the Pasuk if it is interpreted to mean that you should not ignore Mitzvot that you deem unimportant, those you “rub out with your heel.” The classic explanation for this is given in Pirkei Avot where it says that one does not really know the significance of each Mitzva and therefore one cannot determine the relative value of a particular Mitzva.  However, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter zt”l offers a different approach based on the second part of this Pasuk.  He explains the Pasuk to mean that if one keeps these Mitzvot he will be blessed with acts of kindness and the Torah as a way of life.
Mitzvot that occur only sporadically and seem important for keeping one’s spirituality are usually termed “big” Mitzvot.  However, more likely, the opposite is true, because a person has a natural drive to perform those uncommon Mitzvot with passion, so any connection to Judaism made based upon doing these Mitzvot is most likely only for the time being and would not affect the way one lives.  How, therefore, can one attain a spiritual connection if the “big and important” Mitzvot will not be spiritually uplifting?  It all comes back to those seemingly small and regular Mitzvot that will help one attain spirituality, those that are normally ignored.  By performing those Mitzvot one can reach a spiritual high, and can use even uncommon and sporadic Mitzvot to elevate himself because, the more common Mitzvot will be fulfilled based on a desire to fulfill all Mitzvot and not just the uncommon and “special” Mitzvot.

Choose Wisely
by Mr. Sam Davidowitz - English Department

Upon first glance, the opening verses of Parshat Re’eh can be quite stirring.  After all, the preceding Parsha, Parshat Eikev ends on a very positive note by reminding us what Hashem has done for us and implying that we are indeed Hashem’s chosen people based on how He has been caring for us.  We are to believe that a very promising future awaits Bnei Yisrael.  The tone of Parshat Re’eh, though, is quite ominous and notes that a k’lalah, a curse, will be set before those who fail to follow Hashem: “V’ha’k’lalah im lo tish’m’oo el misvot Hashem elokaychem v’sartem min haderech asher ahnochi mesaveh etchem hayom lalechet ahcharei elokim acherim asher lo y’datem,” “And the curse, if you shall not listen to the commandments of Hashem your G-d, but turn from the path that I have commanded you this day, to go after other gods, which you have not known” (Devarim 11:28).  The message is extremely simple: if one does the right thing, positive things will happen; however, if one chooses to not follow the ways of Hashem, a k’lalah will follow.
A main issue with the k’lalah of Parshat Re’eh is that one might assume the mention of the k’lalah is only meant to be an incentive.  While a k’lalah from Hashem may be a strong motivator, in actuality, the k’lalah should really be seen as a repercussion of the choices that some people might choose to make.  The notion that one should follow Hashem only out of the fear of a harsh punishment is a dangerous concept.  After all, there is no true value in something that is done out of fear rather than out of respect, devotion, and gratitude.
The mitzvah of tzedakah is anchored in Parshat Re’eh: “Ki fa’toh’ach tiftach et yad’cha lo v’ha’a’vet ta’a’vitenu dey machsoro asher yechsar lo,” “You should surely open your hand to him and should lend him adequately for his needs that are essential” (Devarim 15:8).  In Tiferet Bet Levi, Rav Yitzchak Levi of Berditchev tells of how one shul sought to stop its poorer members from causing a nuisance by begging door to door: the shul encouraged its wealthier members to give tzedakah through the shul.  The shul would then distribute the tzedakah to the poorer members of the community based on their individual needs.  One would think that Rav Yitzchak Levi would be happy with this plan as it would allow the recipients of the tzedakah to remain anonymous—something that the Rambam notes in the Mishneh Torah as being favorable.  Conversely, Rav Yitzchak Levi was extremely upset by this idea, for he believed that the members of the shul were not looking out for the well-being of the poorer in the community and noted that the city of S’dome had a charity box where wealthier residents could leave a donation without having to encounter the poor, wretched people amongst them—thereby allowing them to live a carefree life in ignorance of the problems of the real world and fostering the idea that they were far removed from poverty and suffering.
One of the lessons that Rav Yitzchak Levi is trying to impart is that we must understand that following the ways of the Torah is not easy, and, as Parshat Re’eh teaches us, each of us has a choice as to how we will live our lives: will we follow the examples of Hashem in caring for His people and extend that lesson into a true commitment to help others, or will we wallow in our own vanity and hubris and ignore the gifts that Hashem has given us?

Bechirah Chofshit
by Etan Bluman

In the first Pasuk of Parshat Re’eh, the torah says “I set before you this day a blessing and a curse.” The Chachamim ask why Moshe says this Pasuk in the present tense and not in the past.
The Torah wants to teach us that the main focus of Judaism is that every member of Am Yisrael has a right to choose his own path between bad and good. The Mishna in Pirkei Avot teaches, “Do not believe in yourself until your dying day.”  These words of Hillel warn a person not to bank on the good things that one has done in the past but to look ahead at the challenges that one has in the future. The caution that a person must have will cause the man to take the right path through life.
The Vilna Gaon says that what Moshe is trying to say here is that every day in a persons life, one has the ability to choose whichever path he wants, whether it is the cursed path or the blessed path. In order to choose which path he wants to take, he must recognize what each path is and then he will realize that he should choose the blessed path.
The Rav of Lelov explained that in order to teach a small child proper behavior, it may be necessary to resort to reward and punishment, because a child cannot understand the values of right and wrong. A mature adult, however, should understand that doing what is right and avoiding wrongdoing should not be dependent on a reward or punishment.
The Maayana Shel Torah explains that Moshe’s point is this: “After forty years of trying to teach you right and wrong, I must still recourse to reward and punishment.” Moshe is telling Bnai Yisrael that they are acting like young kids and not mature adults. The only way that Moshe could believe that Bnai Yisrael is maturing is when they no longer need external reward or punishment to behave properly.
If you unscramble the last letter of the four words “Et Habrocha Asher Tishmeu” you get the word Torah. The Baal Haturim says that this is a hint that in the merit of the Torah, the blessing will come.

The Missing "Vav"
by Moshe Rapps

Parshat Re’eh discusses the prohibition of bringing sacrifices anywhere outside of the Beit Hamikdash once it is erected.  Davarim 12:5-6 states, “Ki Im El Hamakom Asher Yivchar Hashem Elokeichem…Vehaveitem Shama Oloteichem,” “Rather, only to the place that Hashem, your G-d will choose…you will bring your burnt offerings.”   In the same Perek, Pasuk 12, the Torah writes “Vehaya Bamakom Asher Yivchar Hashem Elokeichem Bo Lishaken Shemo Sham Shama Taveu… Oloteichem,” meaning, “It shall be that the place where Hashem, your G-d, will choose to rest His Name- there you shall bring…your burnt offerings.”
An obvious question arises. If the Torah does not use extra phrases, why is this commandment written twice?  Rashi explains that the first commandment is talking about the prohibition of building a personal altar in the time of the Mishkan in Shiloh and the second commandment is the prohibition of building a personal altar during the time of the Beit Hamikdash.
However, another issue arises.  Why is the first Oloteichem written Chaser, missing a Vav, while the second Oloteichem is written Maleh, with the Vav?  Rav Moshe Feinstein in his Sefer Darash Moshe says that we find in the book of Shoftim that in the times of the Shoftim (Judges), Bnai Yisrael served Hashem appropriately.  However, between each Shofet (Judge) there is a time when Bnai Yisrael sinned and turned away from Hashem, subsequently resulting in the appointment of a new Shofet.  It is for this reason that the Beit Hamikdash was not built during their time, rather the Mishkan was still used.  Yet, even though they had the Mishkan it was still not complete like the Beit Hamikdash, so the text is written Chaser.  Conversely, when the Beit Hamikdash was built in the time of Shlomo, the ability of Bnai Yisrael to worship Hashem was complete, and that is why the text is written Maleh.

Hashgachah Pratit
by Jerry M. Karp

At the end of Parshat Shoftim, the Torah discusses the rather unusual Halacha of Eglah Arufah.  We are told that if a person is found murdered between two cities, and we do not know the city from which the murderer came, a calf is brought by the closer city and its neck is broken as the elders pray for forgiveness.  This process seems very peculiar.  What is the reason for this ritual?
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the reason for this procedure.  He says that at first, one might think that the cities are trying to demonstrate how seriously they treat criminals. The calf would represent the murderer, and its neck is broken to show what would have been done if the murderer were to be caught.  However, the Gemara in Sotah 46a says that we use an immature calf for Eglah Arufah because this calf has not yet had children, and likewise, the murder victim was prevented from doing Mitzvot.  It would seem from this that the calf is supposed to represent the victim.  On the other hand, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 52b which discusses the Halachot of an Eglah Arufah compares the calf to murderers, who, like an Eglah Arufah, should be killed at the neck by a sword.  Therefore, says Rav Hirsch, the Eglah Arufah is meant to show the murderer what he has really done.  Not only has he curtailed his victim’s life and robbed him of good deeds, he has also ruined his own life.  Anything that he does for the remainder of his life will be fruitless.  After Cain murders his brother, Hashem tells him, “Ki ta’avod et ha’adamah lo toseif teit kochah lach, nah vinad tihiyeh ba’aretz,” “When you shall work the land, it will no longer yield its strength, and you will be a wanderer in the land.”  If the Bait Din does not exact punishment toward the murderer, he will still be punished by Hashem.
This is yet another affirmation of Hashem’s Hashagachah Pratit on our lives.  We know that even if justice cannot be carried out by people, Hashem, the ultimate proponent of Tzedek, will ultimately carry out what is just.

The Am Segulah
by Andy Feuerstein-Rudin

In Sefer Devarim Am Yisrael is called an “Am Segulah,” “a chosen nation.”  Am Yisrael is compared to a precious stone which is carefully watched and proudly displayed.  The Jews are unique in world history; no other nation has survived as long under such adverse conditions.  No other nation has been so prominent in world history nor contributed to the welfare of many countries.  Such great Torah scholars as the Rambam and the Abarbanel greatly contributed to the countries in which they lived.  Jews have stimulated the economies of many countries and have shown mankind the way to monotheism and greater morality.  Proportionally, the Jewish people as a whole have contributed more inventions, discoveries, and works of art than any other nation.  We have always achieved the top in academics and yet we have still found ourselves persecuted.  The State of Israel is faced with a difficult situation.  Yet, it successfully fights terrorism, and contributes to humanity.  We are truly an “Am Segulah.”

Halacha of the Week
Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited in Rav Shimon Eider’s Halachos of the Three Weeks) rules that one may not use mouthwash on Yom Kippur or Tisha B’Av.  He views using mouthwash as a form of “bathing,” which is forbidden on both of these days.

Food For Thought
by Jerry M. Karp

      Look at Bamidbar 5:14.  Is this Pasuk repetitive, or does each section of the Pasuk have its own significance?
      Why does the Torah record Aharon’s appeal for Miriam in Perek 12 of Bamidbar?
      Where is Moshe’s response to those who were afraid of dying in 17:27-28?
      What is the significance of Rashi’s comment that only one shifchah had been captured by the king of Arad (Bamidbar 21:2)?
      Why does Moav bring the parable of the ox licking the grass of the field in Bamidbar 22:4?
      Why is the request by the 2½ shevatim to receive the land east of the yarden not placed right after the conquest of Sichon and Og?
      Why are the springs and date trees of Elim mentioned in Bamidbar 33:9?
      Why are the Avim and Kaftorim mentioned in Devarim 2:23?
      Why does the selection of the three Arey Miklat not appear in Sefer Bamidbar?

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