issue has been sponsored by the following parents of Torah Academy's Class of
Bloom in honor of Joshua
Mr. and Mrs. Eis in honor of Yoel
Dr. and Mrs. Fischer in honor of Dov
Mr. and Mrs. Fox in honor of Yonatan
Mr. and Mrs. Frank in honor of Jonathan
Mr. and Mrs. Friedman in honor of Eliyahu
Mr. and Mrs. Glass in honor of David
Mr. and Mrs. Glassberg in honor of Yisrael
Mr. and Mrs. Glasser in honor of Moshe
Mr. and Mrs. Hus in honor of Moshe
Mr. and Mrs. Katz in honor of Asher
Dr. and Mrs. Kay in honor of Jason
Mr. and Mrs. Neimand in honor of Dov
Mr. and Mrs. Safier in honor of Aaron
Dr. and Mrs. Scharf in honor of Yisroel
Mr. and Mrs. Schechter in honor of Yakir
Rabbi and Mrs. Schwarzburg in honor of Ariel
Dr. and Mrs. Shaffren in honor of Eliezer
Dr. and Mrs. Shinnar in honor of Avraham
Mr. and Mrs. Silverberg in honor of Joshua
Mr. and Mrs. Srulowitz in honor of Avi
Mr. and Mrs. Stein in honor of Gil
Dr. and Dr. Turetzky in honor of Yehuda
Mrs. Wenger in honor of Daniel
Mr. and Mrs. Whitman in honor of Harrison
Dr. and Mrs. Yagoda in honor of Craig
Mr. and Mrs. Zakheim in honor of Yonatan
Mr. and Mrs. Irving Zeidel in honor of David
Mr. Rosenberg and Mrs. Zeidman-Rosenberg in honor of Michael
to a typographical error Elana Leichman's name was misspelled in last week's
sponsor box as Ilana.
thanks to: Josh Dubin, David Gertler, Shuky Gross, and Simcha Haber.
staff of Kol Torah would like to thank our outgoing seniors Avi-Gil Chaitovsky,
Moshe Glasser, Dani Gross, and Daniel Wenger, as well as David Gertler, for all
of their hard work on behalf of Kol Torah.
staff of Kol Torah would like to extend a heartfelt thank you
and Hatzlacha Rabah to Rabbi Zvi Grumet for all of his assistance to this
publication during the past nine years.
to Play "Stump the Rebbe"
by Dr. Joel M. Berman
Et Halevim...Vitahar Otam"
the Leviim and purify them."
I entered graduate school, I often attended seminar given by physics and
chemistry professors as well as guest lecturers. These lecturers would usually use the time to present their
latest research results. I recall
after one such seminar, a student very politely asked a Kasha, a question, on
the speaker's results. The
professor became visibly agitated and defensive.
Unable to answer the question, he instead insulted the student.
After witnessing similar events over the next few months, it became clear
to me that large fragile egos and Emet, truth, cannot comfortably coexist in the
same time and space. I also learned
that you do not play "stump the Rebbe" with a college professor.
Contrast these experiences with one of my first experiences in Yeshiva.
A Talmid asked a severe Kasha on the way the Maggid Shiur understood the
Gemara. The Maggid Shiur, in
contrast to his university counterpart, was delighted.
His response was "I don't know.
That's a great question! I'll
try to find the answer and get back to you."
Reversal of History
A question everyone who learns Chumash has is what the reversed 'Nun' on
either side of the Pasuk, Vayihe Binsoa Haaron, "And when the Ark would
travel"(10:25-26), is for. Rav
Soloveitchik zt"l had a unique view of what they meant.
The stories in Parshat Behaalotcha seem to be totally unrelated and
without continuity. At the end of
Parshat Naso and the beginning of Parshat Behaalotcha we see the completion of
the Mikdash through the Korbanot Hanesiem and the commanding of Aharon to light
the Menorah. Then comes the
commandment to bring the Korban Pesach and the Mitzva of Pesach Sheni.
There is a description of how the Machaneh the camp would travel: either
through the Annanay Hakavod or the Chatzotzrot. Then, the Torah shows us the entire parade of the Machaneh in its first movement.
Moshe then has a conversation with his father-in-law, Yitro, and the
people who are Michutz Lamachaneh are incorporated into the camp.
This was followed by the story of the Asafsuf and Mitoninim.
Then, the Parsha ends with the complaint of Miriam against her brother,
Moshe. In reality, though, all of
these seemingly unrelated stories form one tragic tale.
The reason Bnai Yisrael were in the Midbar was to receive the Torah and
build the Bait Hamikdash. With the
sacrificing of the Karbanot Hanisiyim, their responsibility was discharged and
they were ready to enter Etretz Yisrael. However,
since they had been delayed in the Midbar because of the Egel, they had to bring
the Korban Pesach. The Torah then
shows us the camp as it prepared to move out and Hashem gives Moshe a means by
which to communicate with Bnai Yisrael while traveling: the Chatzotzrot.
Tension and excitement filled the air as Bnai Yisrael awaited Hashem's
word to set out, which can be readily seen from Moshe's conversation with his
father in law in which he sounds like a kid who has been promised candy and
knows he will be getting it very soon. Then,
"And when the Ark would travel Moshe would say, Arise, O Lord, let your
enemies be scattered and your foes flee before you."
This is the story of what was supposed to happen.
Bnai Yisrael were supposed to march right into Yimot Hamoshiach.
However, the people began to complain and lust for material things and
this greatly angered Hashem and Moshe. What
angered Hashem so much was that they started living the lifestyle of idol
worshippers. This complaint was worse than the Egel because idol
worshippers will realize the idol is worthless, but the adoption of the pagan
way of life is far worse. That is
why even Moshe was unable to defend Bnai Yisrael: there is no excuse for what
they did. Their adoption of the
pagan way of life was the reason Moshe asked Hashem to give him helpers or give
him death. He found out now that he
was going to take on the role of the Yonayk and give up his private life.
Finally, the Parsha ends with Miriam questioning her brother's reasons
for separating from his wife. Hashem
then explained that with Moshe's new responsibilities, he has no time for a
Lost, Hope Regained
Imagine that you, your parents, your grandparents, and their grandparents
before them had been raised with a belief that a promise, some promise, would
eventually be fulfilled and that the result would be a profound and permanent
change in your lives for all eternity. Now
further imagine that a messenger from Hashem arrived to tell you that the time
had come for the fulfillment of that promise, and even delivered the appropriate
signs handed down through the generations.
Let's take that one step further-you personally witness the fulfillment
of the first stages of that promise accompanied by wondrous miracles.
Finally, just as you were preparing yourself for the ultimate completion
of the promise, the messenger turns to tell you that you will not live to see
it. The sense of frustration is
compounded by each of the stages witnessed, and accompanying that frustration is
a deep despair.
This is the state in which Bnai
Yisrael find themselves immediately after the catastrophe of the Miraglim. They were there in the depths of Egyptian slavery; they
struggled with the question of whether to believe that Hashem was indeed
redeeming them and that Moshe was his messenger; they witnessed the miracles of
the plagues and the splitting of the sea, proclaiming Zeh Ali Vianvehu; they
were the recipients of Divine protection of the Ananay Hakavod and the
munificence of the bounty of the Man. As
far as they could tell the time for their ultimate redemption had arrived.
Yet one misstep later they find themselves literally on the border of
their promised land, the destination of their dreams, only to be informed that
they would not enter. And those who
refused to accept that reality were mercilessly defeated in battle.
The sense of despair that engulfed the people was beyond description.
It is precisely at that point that
Hashem intervenes. First, He
teaches them that when they enter the Land, emphasizing that the corporate
entity of Am Yisrael will indeed enter the land regardless of the fate of
particular individuals, that they are to bring from the produce of that land
alongside their regular sacrifices. The
assurance of their eventual entry into the land comes none too soon.
Second, He instructs them how to use the sacrificial order to recover
from what would appear be the devastating consequence of sin.
Yet this is not yet enough.
At the close of the Parsha Hashem
instructs the people in the Mitzva of Tzitzit.
Much has been written about the juxtaposition of this instruction at the
close of the devastating incident of the Miraglim, yet let us focus on the
concluding verse. After all that
has happened, Hashem lets His people in on a secret- the purpose of redeeming
them from Egypt was so that He could establish a relationship with them.
Contrary to (their) popular belief, which was that the redemption was to
bring them into their Promised Land, they are informed that the purpose of the
exodus was to begin the process of the bonding of the two covenantal partners.
Suddenly the focus has shifted, liberating the nation from its despair
and feeling that they were nothing but a failure, and helping them to understand
that their primary purpose-building and maintaining a pact with Hashem, in which
He would be their God and they His people-could still be accomplished. In too many generations our hopes that the final redemption
was imminent have been ignited, with prognosticators and visionaries pointing to
the incontrovertible signs that we are the generation to personally witness the
Messianic era, only to have those hopes shattered and with them the spirit of
the people who invested so much of themselves in those dreams.
Perhaps we would be well served to review Hashems response to that first
frustrated generation: The redemption will come, whenever that will be, yet that
experience pales in comparison to establishing a genuine and enduring
relationship with the ultimate Redeemer.
it Matter if it's Blue or White?
by Rabbi Ezra Wiener
The Midrash in Bemidbar Rabba (18:1) notes the juxtaposition of the Parsha of Tzitzit and the beginning of Parshat Korach by suggesting the following as Korach's challenge to Moshe's position of authority: does a Talit that is completely woven with threads of Techelet require Tzitzit? What is the significance of the Mitzva of Tzitzit that out of all the Mitzvot, only this Mitzva was chosen by Korach as a challenge to Moshe's authority?
R' Yechiel Reuven Mendlebaum in his work Dodai Reuven explains as follows: The Rambam in Morah Nivuchin divides Mitzvot into 2 basic categories: the first category is called Daat, those Mitzvot that increase our awareness of Hashem and our acceptance of His domain over all of creation. These Mitzvot include Shabbat, Shemittah, avoiding idol worship, etc. The second category of Mitzvot is Midot, those Mitzvot that establish within the Jewish people values that will allow for society to function properly. These Mitzvot include Arot, Gezel, Shfichat Damim, etc.
Each of the two colors in the Tzitzit represents one of these categories. The blue color of the Techelet, which, according to the Gemara in Menachot reminds us of the Kisay Hakavod, represents the first category of Mitzvot those that increase our awareness that there is a God who is Almighty, Daat. The white color represents the Mitzvot whose directive is to cleanse a person from his evil traits and to inculcate with him desire to do what is moral, Midot. When we look at the Tzitzit we will "Remember all the Mitzvot of Hashem" (Bemidbar Sinai 15:39), both the Daat and the Midot.
Therefore, Korach therefore approached
Moshe with the following challenge: if
Hashem provided the Jewish people with both Daat and Midot then there is no need
for a leader. If each Jew performs
the category of Mitzvot that provides him with the proper Emunah and also
performs the Midot category, which allows for society to function smoothly then
there should be no need for anyone to assume a position of authority.
The fact that Moshe has assumed leadership is an indication that without
him society would not follow the Mitzvot of the category if Midot (white) even
if we already have a complete set of Daat (Techelet).
Honorable Thing to Do
by Yair Manas
After Korach, Datan, and Aviram commenced their rebellion, "Moshe sent to call Datan and Aviram" (12:6). Rashi comments that Moshe himself went to find them and pacify them with words of peace. This was the same Moshe who is the great leader of Bnai Yisrael. Even with his high office Moshe did not become detached from the people. Rather, he himself went to find the rebels instead of waiting for the rebels to come to him. He did not worry about losing his personal honor. He was willing to sacrifice his honor for the sake of peace.
It is very unfortunate that some people seem to enjoy arguing and fighting amongst themselves. These people enjoy a good fight and cannot wait to attack their fellow man. Even if they are wrong, they are reluctant to apologize. Their pride would not permit them to apologize. They would say, "let the other person come to me" and the quarrel would go unresolved.
Moshe's attitude shows how foolish
this approach is. If the great
leader of Bnai Yisrael would give up his pride in search of peace, so much more
so should the average person. Moshe's
attitude teaches us that we should strive for peace, even at the expense of our
valuable pride. We should sacrifice
our pride for peace just like our leader, Moshe, does
Chukat: The Fulcrum of Jewish
by Rabbi Steven Prebor
Although Parshat Chukat is primarily a narrative, there is a section at the beginning that deals with the Mitzva of Parah Aduma. It is generally assumed that the order of topics in the Torah is based on a thematic scheme. As we read the narrative section that immediately follows Parah Aduma, it becomes difficult to understand how the two topics are connected. As we explore this narrative further, however, a link may emerge.
At the beginning of Perek 20 the Torah tells us Vayavo Binei Yisrael Kol Haedah Midbar Tzin. Rashi claims, based on the word "Eidah," that the Torah has jumped close to forty years into the future here. Those arriving in Midbar Tzin are only the Jews who will conquer Eretz Canaan. Everyone from the previous generation has already died. One striking reality of this "new generation" is that they do not appear to be any different than their parents. When there is no water, Bnai Yisrael complain that Yetziat Mitzrayim should not have taken place if its result was going to be the death of all Jews in the Midbar. Sound familiar? This same theme was articulated by the previous generation several times. In Perek 21, Bnai Yisrael complain that there is neither food nor water, and they have some negative things to say about the Manna. Once again, it is a familiar story. It does not seem like Bnai Yisrael have changed. Presumably, the forty years in the Midbar was supposed to give Bnai Yisrael an opportunity to get used to the demands of the Torah and political independence. However, thus far in Parshat Chukat, Bnai Yisrael appear ill equipped for that lifestyle.
Nevertheless, as we go on, something happens which has never happened before. In Perek 21 when Hashem sends the Nechashim Haserefim, the Jews respond by saying "We have sinned." This is truly unprecedented. Even though some Jews (the Mafilim in 14:40) do say, "we have sinned" in the aftermath of the Cheit Hameraglim; they say this as they embark on a military campaign against Hashem's and Moshe's orders. This time, however, Bnai Yisrael say "we have sinned" in the midst of a pattern of following Hashem's orders of whether or not to fight. Clearly, change has taken place. Bnai Yisrael are not perfect. However, they now have the ability to see their mistake when someone points it out to them. The forty years in the desert has achieved its goal.
Back in Parshat Behaalotcha, Bnai
Yisrael at one point comment about the fish that they ate in Egypt for
free." Rashi, dealing with the fact that Bnai Yisrael had not
received anything in Egypt for free, claims that this means free of Mitzvot.
Apparently, Bnai Yisrael were uncomfortable with the moral obligations
that their new life entailed. Now,
however, one generation later, they are ready.
They are not perfect, but they are fundamentally committed to the idea.
This may explain why Parshat Chukat starts with the Parah Aduma.
The Parah Aduma is the epitome of Chok, since it includes the inherent
contradiction of purifying the defiled while defiling the pure.
It therefore is a symbol of the central issue behind the inability of the
previous generation to succeed in Hashem's plan, and what sets them apart from
the new generation.
Camper vs. Counselor
by Daniel Wenger
Following the section of the Torah describing the laws of the Parah Aduma, Bnai Yisrael unfortunately had an opportunity to put this Chok into practice. The first Pasuk of the twentieth Perek of Sefer Bemidbar Sinai states quite succinctly that Miriam died there and she was buried there. What does the Torah record next? Surprisingly, it makes no mention of any mourning for Miriam; rather, Bnai Yisrael come complaining to Moshe that they no longer have water to drink because the rock that was serving as a well for the nation had dried up when Miriam passed away. In doing so, Bnai Yisrael not only missed their chance to mourn for Miriam, they inadvertently caused Moshe and Aharon to be mourned for as well.
Bnai Yisrael's complaints were so fierce that Moshe and Aharon had to escape them to the Ohel Moed (20:6). There they asked Hashem what to do, and they were told to gather the nation in front of Miriam's rock, at which time Moshe would speak to it and water would once again flow from it and supply Bnai Yisrael. The Erev Rav, however, did not make it so easy for Moshe to do this. Several commentators say that the Erev Rav challenged Moshe to bring forth the water from a different rock, if he was indeed a messenger of miracles. Moshe was unsure of what to do with these rebels since the Shechina had left because of them. He was not prepared to deal with dissidents at a time when a miracle was about to be performed for them and was unsure if he should follow Hashem's will or the request of the people, so he quickly became enraged. He berated the non-believers and called out to Bnai Yisrael to watch as Hashem's power was about to bring forth water.
The time had now come for Moshe to speak to the rock, but the rock did not respond. Ramban blames this on Moshe's anger, that he could not have had the proper intents in mind when speaking to the rock, so it did not do as he told it. So, as we all know, Moshe resorted to the original method of bringing forth water from rocks and smote it with his staff. This was the action that, although it brought forth ample water for Bnai Yisrael, was the cause of death for Moshe and Aharon for their not having had pure faith in Hashem's words. Thus we see that Bnai Yisrael's complaints were a source of death for their leaders.
As summer camp season is coming into
full swing this week, there are sure to be plenty of episodes of campers
flocking to their counselors to protest an administrative action that has been
taken against them. Although none
of these incidents will result in a death, God forbid, they do put counselors in
the awkward position of having to uphold the request of the administration while
keeping their campers calm and respecting of their leaders.
It should be learned from Moshe's mis-action that the correct response is
not to get angry with the children, but to find other ways to solve these
issues: first by talking it over, but never by hitting.
by Yair Manas
When Balak sends messengers to Bilam, he sends them Petorah Asher Al Hanahar... "To Pethor, which is by the river" (22:5). Rashi comments that Pethor is Aramaic for a moneychanger, so just as people bring their money to a moneychanger, so too all of the kings sent requests to Bilam for occult services. Targum Yonatan says that the word Pethor means to interpret. Bilaam started out interpreting dreams and then went on to becoming a magician and then a prophet.
Another explanation could be that Pethor, located on the shores of the Euphrates, was one of the centers of sorcery in the Mesopotamia. Black arts were known and practiced there. Therefore Balak sent messengers to Pethor to find Bilaam.
Rav Hirsch teaches that there are contradictory aspects to Bilaam's personality. Bilaam was not a friend of Bnai Yisrael. He belongs in the group of people like Malchitzedek and Yitro, who recognize the truth of monotheism. Bilam recognized Hashem. However, despite this recognition, he did not add the qualities of morality and fine character to his personality to this recognition. Even with the knowledge that there is one true God, Bilaam went and attempted to curse Bnai Yisrael. Bilam acknowledged Hashem but he did not remove himself from idol worship nor did he follow Hashem's commands.
Rabbi Elie Munk, in his book The Call of the Torah, says that Bilaam serves as an example of the need to express the knowledge of Hashem through the Mitzvot, so that, unlike with Bilaam, the recognition of Hashem can act effectively on one's character.
Bilaam teaches us that it is not
enough just to recognize God and know that He is there.
Rather one should strive to perform Mitzvot.
Through these Mitzvot, we can serve Hashem in a better way than the
by Avi-Gil Chaitovsky
In Parshat Pinchas (28:16-29:39), the Torah tells us of the special Korban Musaf brought on each of the holidays. On each day of Sukkot, the number of cows decreased by one, starting with thirteen on the first day and ending with seven on the last. The total number of cows brought over the entire holiday is 70, a number associated with the number of nations in the world. Some explain that these cows were Korbanot for all the nations of the world. If the process of decreasing by one cow each day could be easily explained, as above, why does the Torah feel it necessary to mention the Korban of each day individually (2:17-34), using the same words over and over?
One answer, found in Masechet Taanit (2b), is based on the slight differences found in the context of some of the days. On the second day the word "Veniska" is changed to "Veniskeihem." On day six, the same word is changed to "Unesacheha," and on day seven the word "Kamishpat" is changed to "Kimishpatam." The three letters that appear to be extra spell the word Mayim, water.
Rabbi Yehuda Ben Betairah says, based on the change made on the second day, that one should begin saying "Mashiv Haruach Umorid Hageshem," the prayer that states God's power over rain, starting on the second day, since the beginning of the hint to water appears here. Rabbi Akiva says we start on the sixth day, due to its extraneous letter. The extra Yud of the sixth day changes the word "Veniska," "and its libation" to "Unesacheha," "and its libations." Rabbi Akiva interprets the plural to refer to the water libation brought on Sukkot together with the regular wine libation. Since he believes that this is the hint to that additional libation, this day is the first on which we say Mashiv Haruach.
Sukkot, it seems, is really a holiday about water. The rainy season in Eretz Yisrael begins around this time, the water libation was brought, and the Simchat Bait Hashoeva was celebrated on Sukkot. One can even say that the Mitzva of Arba Minim requires rain, so that the different plants can grow.
In addition, this author suggests an
alternate usage of the water relationship, relating back to the question of why
such similar Pesukim are repeated many times.
Water is often equated with Torah. Just
as water is a source of life, Torah is the source of life.
Just as one is unable to go far without water, one will not get anywhere
without Torah. What this analogy
teaches us is to guard the Torah carefully, to learn it carefully, and to keep
by Donny Manas
Parshat Matot begins by describing the
different kinds of vows a person can make, and how to annul them.
It also says that, one, a person should not go back on his words, and
two, a person should perform everything that leaves his mouth.
Why does the Torah have to say both
the positive of doing everything that leaves his mouth, and also the negative of
not going back on his words? Commentaries
point out that the Torah 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 really
is a power, able to raise and lower people's spirits.
Some commentaries have even pointed 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 parts.
But 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.
The Innocence of Youth
by Rabbi Joel Grossman
"These are the words that Moshe
spoke to all Israel" (Devarim 1:1). Rashi
comments that each place Moshe mentioned an allusion to one of the nation's
sins, but he did not want to state them explicitly, so as not to embarrass the
people. Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his
Darash Moshe asks an interesting question on this concept.
Soon afterwards Moshe chastises the people at length over the spies and
the Golden Calf. Rav Moshe asks
since Moshe was going to speak to them specifically for these incidents anyway,
why in this instance was he so concerned to speak in this vague way?
Rav Moshe answers that in the beginning of the Parsha Moshe was not
speaking directly to the people who had sinned, since that generation was no
longer living. Rather, he was
speaking to their children who were blameless.
Moshe therefore spoke in a vague, milder tone and referred to the sins
only by allusion. Later, Moshe was repeating the reproofs he had given to the
previous generation, which had to be forceful in order to show the seriousness
of their sin. In addressing the
next generation who had not committed the sins Moshe did not have to speak
harshly; merely alluding to the sins of their ancestors was enough to remind
them that they were not immune to sin. Therefore,
as the second generation had not yet uprooted the traits that brought about
these sins, Moshe chastised them as if they had committed these sins.
Along these lines of teaching our children properly so that they rid
themselves of bad character traits and develop proper character traits, which
will lead them to doing Mitzvot, I would like to share a story I recently heard
from Rabbi Pesach Krohn, Shlita. He
told a story about a young boy in Israel who was waiting for a bus.
When he boarded the bus there was a large crowd that was boarding at the
same time. Since there was such a
hustle and bustle the bus driver forgot to punch a hole in his ticket.
He told the driver that he did not punch a hole but the driver insisted
that he did. During the trip the
driver noticed the boy sitting in his seat and crying.
He called the boy over and asked, "Why are you crying?"
The boy said in a sobbing voice, "that this ride is stealing, since
you didn't punch my ticket and therefore I didn't pay for this ride."
The driver couldn't believe his eyes and ears and he punched a hole in
the ticket. What a great job of
education this boy's parents did, to teach him never to take something that does
not belong to him, and such a person has the proper character to make sure that
he will not sin and only do what is proper.
May all of us learn a lesson from this
boy and his parents and hopefully there will be no need for anyone to chastise
us about our behavior and we will be able to make the name of Hashem holy by our
Toiling in Torah
by Yoni Ratzersdorfer
When Moshe Rabbeinu proposed to
establish a judicial and educational system to replace the system in which
everyone came to him to learn, the people replied Tov Hadaver Asher Dibarta
Laasot, "The thing that you have proposed to do is good" (1:14). Rashi comments that Moshe was upset with the enthusiastic
reaction from the nation. Moshe
responded to the people, "From whom is it better to learn, from me or from
my students? Is it not better to
learn from me, someone who has toiled and suffered in the study of Torah?"
Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that Rashi should have said that they should
have preferred Moshe Rabbeinu as a teacher because he was the original teacher,
as opposed to learning from his students. Why
does Rashi choose to say that Moshe was a better teacher because he suffered and
toiled in his learning?
This can be answered by saying that
some people who are not yet great scholars might find it easier to learn from a
student because the student does not have as great an understanding as the
original teacher. Rashi is trying
to tell us to seek out the best teacher, someone who has toiled and suffered in
learning in order to completely understand every subject.
This type of teacher does not solely rely on his great mind but
constantly labors to find the truth.
This can explain Rashi in Parshat
Bechukotai, where he says that anyone who does not toil in Torah is viewed as
someone who has not learned at all. Even
a person with the greatest of minds who has not labored but depends on his
memory and genius cannot be considered a true Talmid Chacham.
The wisdom of the Torah is far greater than the wisdom of any human mind.
Only after a person puts in effort and has suffered in his learning will
Hashem assist him in understanding the Torah.
are the Mitzvot... More or Less
by David Gertler
Parshat Vaetchanan states the most important principle of the Torah. The Torah (Devarim 4:2) writes, "You shall not add to the words that I have commanded to you, and shall not subtract anything from it." Why am I calling these the two most important Mitzvot? Additionally what is the reason behind these Mitzvot? And lastly, have we been properly keeping these Mitzvot?
These two Mitzvot lay down the
absoluteness of the Torah. These
are the most axiomatic Mitzvot of the Torah.
If one has a fervent belief that this one Pasuk is given by Hashem, that
person has obligated himself to believing the rest of the Mitzvot.
Rabbi Zvi Grumet made an interesting
observation regarding Moshe, which helps us to understand the absoluteness of
these principles. In the story of
Miriam's talking about Moshe (Bemidbar Sinai 12), Miriam comments that there is
nothing special about Moshe, as both Miriam and Aharon have spoken to Hashem. This is directly after the story of the Shivim Zekainim,
where Hashem gives Nevuah to seventy people.
During the story, Yehoshua and Moshe find out that two more than the
original seventy are prophesizing. Yehoshua becomes very upset but Moshe expresses a wish that
the entire nation should become Neviim. We
see that Moshe is not alone in being able to have Nevuah, but the story of
Miriam explains to us Moshe's uniqueness. When
Hashem is rebuking Aharon and Miriam he tells them that all other Neviim get
their Nevuah in dreams, but it is not so with Moshe.
Moshe is Neeman in the entire house of Hashem.
I am going to translate the word ðàîï as trusted,
that Moshe is trusted with all of the knowledge of the works of Hashem, and not
with riddles but clear and precise visions.
The reason that these principles are absolute and complete is because
they were given by Moshe, the only one able to receive a vision from Hashem
clearly. No other prophet was, or
will be, able to do that. And
therefore no other Navi can claim that they were given a new Mitzva or that they
were instructed to retract a Mitzva, because we are told that even if they get
Nevuah it is not on the level to be able to understand such a concept.
The Mishna states that in judging if one is a Navi all one must do is
watch for these two principles, if they violate either one they are a Navi
In recent conversation someone asked
me if we can think that we are properly observing these Mitzvot.
After all, there is so much of the Torah that is neglected, an example
being the laws of Tumah Vetaharah. I
responded that there is a difference between Neglect and stating that a certain
Mitzva, which should apply, does not. We
do not have the proper means to be cleansed of Tumat Hamet (i.e. Para Aduma),
but we yearn for the day that we do. Even
without our ability to properly keep all of the Mitzvot, we must keep those that
are accessible to us and we should strive to make more of the Mitzvot accessible
to us if possible.
That Which Is Not Said
by Rabbi Mark Smilowitz
Twice a day we say the three passages
which comprise the Kriat Shema. Of
all the passages in the Torah, these are the only three that we are obligated to
recite daily. What is unique about
these three passages? Why, of all
the possible choices, were these three singled out?
Our Sages say that the first paragraph
is important for its acceptance of Hashem as King, the second is important for
its acceptance of the commandments, and the third is important for its mention
of the exodus from Egypt (see Berachot 13a).
However, while the Rabbis used this categorization to explain the
chronological order of the paragraphs-first comes acceptance of Hashem Himself,
then His commandments, then gratitude for saving us-there might be another
explanation as to why the first two paragraphs were selected for daily
It should be noted that there is
another Jewish ritual that requires the recital of the first two paragraphs of
the Shema. The Mishna (Sotah 41a)
says that during the seventh year of the Shemittah cycle, when all the people
would gather in Jerusalem for the Hakhel ceremony, the king of Israel would read
aloud from the book of Devarim. He
would read a little from the beginning of the book, a little from the end, plus
two passages from the middle of the book, which are identified as the first two
paragraphs of the Kriat Shema. What
is the significance of these two particular paragraphs for the Hakhel ceremony?
Rav Mordechai Sabato has noted that
these two paragraphs, Shema and Vehaya Im Shamoah, serve as bookends for the
entire unit between them. If we
examine all the topics in between Shema, from last week's Parsha, and Vehaya Im
Shamoah, from this week's Parsha, we discover that they all have something in
common. For certain, they are all Mitzvot Bein Adam Lamakom,
commandments between man and Hashem. However,
there is more that links them. Here
is a basic outline of all the topics in this unit:
Do not forget Hashem to stray after foreign gods.
Do not test Hashem.
Teach your children to keep the commandments and revere Hashem.
Do not be absorbed by the surrounding nations and abandon Hashem.
There is great reward for following Hashem's laws
Do not fear the warring nations; rather, trust that Hashem will help us
Remember to thank Hashem for all the goodness He has provided.
There is severe punishment for abandoning Hashem.
Make no claims of righteousness to Hashem; He owes us nothing except for
the promise to the Patriarchs and maintaining Justice.
The only way to please Hashem is by following all of His commandments.
Hashem constantly keeps His watchful eye out for the inhabitants of
Note that some common themes that pop
up in these Parshiot are the land of Israel, the requirement to love Hashem, and
the importance of keeping the commandments.
What emerges is that this entire section, beginning from Shema and ending
with Vehaya Im Shamoah, is about basic issues of faith in Hashem.
They might be called the a-b-c's of our religion, the foundation, or the
creed. In these passages are the
fundamental elements of our relationship with the Almighty.
Perhaps when we read the first two
paragraphs of the Shema, both daily and on the seventh year pilgrimage, we are
meant to think about not only these two paragraphs, but also all of the ideas
between them. Thus, the Kriat Shema
is our way of saying to Hashem, "If we had time, we would read all the
pieces in the Torah which state our commitment of faith to You.
Please accept the first and last passages as a symbolic statement of all
that is said in between." If
we view Kriat Shema in this manner, then this prayer is not the final word in
stating our faith, but rather the first word.
It is up to every Jew who recites the Shema to think beyond what is
actually read, and add nuances of commitment and faith that are not stated
outright, but are implied.
I would like to give thanks to Rabbi Menachem Leibtag from whom I first heard this idea.
Hashem For Every Last Bit
by Effie Richmond
The Pasuk that we say every time we
bench is Viachalta Visavata Uberachta, "You will eat and you will be
satisfied and you will bless" (8:10).
Everyone is aware of the plain meaning of this statement: that after you
eat something you are required to give some sort of praise to Hashem. It says in Gemara Berachot 20b "How can I not favor the
Jewish people? It says in my Torah
'You will eat and you will be satisfied and bless Hashem' but they bless Hashem
on food the size of an olive or a fig."
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l gives a deeper meaning to this statement.
He explains that what is meant by this Gemara is that even the richest of
people should have the feeling of gratitude to Hashem before he eats anything. The reason for this is because even when the food is on his
table and he is ready to eat it there is no guarantee that he will be able to
benefit from it, and only after he eats it then he gets benefit from it.
That is why we must bless equally if we were to eat a small meal or a
feast. We should enjoy everything
that Hashem gives us and we should not take anything for granted, and that is
why we say Viachalta Visavata Uberachta.
by David Gertler
Good Math, Bad Logic:
The Final Gematria
by David Gertler
In Parshat Re'eh the Torah makes us
aware that there will be blessing and cursing on Har Gerizim and Har Eival. However, it is not until Parshat Ki Tavo that we are told
which Shevatim will be standing on which mountain.
Obviously the commentators will try to figure out the reason that each
Shevet is on a certain mountain.
The Chida quotes Rabbeinu Ephraim, as
he often does, to give insight through using Gematria.
Rabbeinu Ephraim writes that the reason that the Shevet of Asher was on
Har Eival, which was the mountain for curse, was because Asher was famous for
having a daughter (Serach Bat Asher), and the Gematria of Habat "the
daughter" is equal to that of Aror "cursed."
The Chida, having quoted that, gets
angry with Rabbeinu Ephraim, and he says: "I, the ordinary person, see
praise from what the Gemara says [about women]."
He goes on to say that perhaps one can suggest that Shevet Reuven is on
Har Eival due to his sin, to which the Torah alluded to just Pesukim earlier (Devarim
27:20). However, to say that Asher
had a daughter, and "the daughter" is equal, in Gematria, to
"cursed," and therefore they were placed on Har Eival, is not logical
for a number of reasons. The Gemara
(Baba Batra 103a, 144b) says that blessing is bestowed on the house from a
woman's presence. The Chida says
that specifically speaking the daughters of Asher were wed to Kings and High
Priests. Additionally, there is a
concept of Hakol Talui Baisha, everything is dependent on the woman.
The Chida started off his comment by
saying that one cannot say that the Gematria of "Arur" being equal to
that of "Habat" has meaning. He
ends his comments by saying that if one would like to play number games there is
another equation, which makes more sense, which one can play.
He quotes the Pasuk from Eishet Chayil (Mishlei 31:39) Vaet Alit Al
Kalnah "You rise up above them all," and says that the Gematria of
Vaet is equal to that of Habat.
The Chida seems to be saying that
although Gematrias can help one's purpose, they are not at all perfect and new
ideas should not be brought out from them.
Gematrias may be fun and interesting, but truth being told, they can work
positively or negatively. Personally
speaking, whenever I find a Gematria I always look to see if that is the only
connection between the two ideas. If
there is another connection and the Gematria helps it along, then I use it, but
if it is a new idea, only seen through this Gematria, I prefer to leave things
as they were. For example, the
Gematria of Tzitzit adding up to 600 plus the five knots and eight strings, to
equal 613, to remind us of the Mitzvot is an idea we see in the Pasuk zachartem
Kol Mitzvot Hashem (Bemidbar Sinai 15:39)- Tzitzit should remind one of all 613
Mitzvot. However the Rabbeinu
Ephraim's idea above has only ideas to contradict it and "although the math
is right, the reasoning is wrong."
The pre-battle speech of the
ëäï îùéç begins with the phrase:
Shema Yisrael Atem Krovim Hayom Lamilchama (20:3).
The Gemara in Sotah (42a) relates, "Even if you only have the merit
of fulfilling the commandment of the reading of Shema alone, you are worthy that
Hashem should save you"
Another Drasha taught in Gemara Sotah
(44a) based on a phrase found only a few verses later, seems, however, to
contradict the above. The Shotrim
make the following announcement:Mi Haish Hayoray Varecha Halevav Yalecha
Viyashav Libito. "What man is
fearful and faint-hearted? Let him
go and return to his house." Rabbi
Yosef Haglili interprets the phrase Hayare Valecha Halevav, as follows: Hayare
Haaverot Shebiyado "This refers to a person who's fearful of the
transgression in his hand." This
is an individual who was encouraged to return home from battle.
The Drasha of Rabbi Yosef states
explicitly that a person should return home from battle if he is fearful of any
possible transgressions he may have violated, yet previously the Gemara stated
that Hashem assures salvation with the fulfillment of merely the recitation of
R' Yechiel Reuven Mandelbaum in his
Sefer Doadei Reuven answers this question by first posing two additional
difficulties. Firstly, why does
Rabbi Yosef use the phrase Hayare Maaverot Shebiyado, the word Shebiyado is
superfluous, Hayare Maaverot Shelo or simply Hayare Maaverot would have been
sufficient; why must Rabbi Yosef mention "The transgressions that are in
his hands? Secondly, why does Rabbi
Yosef see in this Pasuk a requirement for all those who are fearful of violating
transgressions to return home? If
an individual is careful to follow the charge of the Kohen Mashiach and recite
Shema with the proper Kavana then he has accepted Ol Malchut Shamayim and has
therefore achieved Teshuva.
R' Mandlebaum explains that one of the
requirements of Teshuva is Azivat Hachet. Although
one has accepted Ol Malchut Shamayim if a person's Yetzer Hara is too
over-powering and he cannot remove himself from a particular sin, he has not
accomplished Teshuva. It is the
individual that recites Shema with the purest of intent but cannot remove
himself from sin and retains that sin Biyado that Rabbi Yosef orders to return
home. The term Biyado indicates
that this individual has not performed Teshuva since he has failed in the
challenge of Azivat Chet. As a
result his Shema cannot possibly be pure and its recitation is compared to one
who immerses in the Mikvah with a Sheretz in his hand.
In conclusion, there is no
contradiction between the charge of the Kohem Mashiach and the Shotrim.
The Shotrim come to clarify that of one has not performed Teshuva
completely then his Shema will actually not save him.
Therefore he should preferably return home.
by David Gertler
Parshat Ki Teitzei (24:5) states that
a newly married couple is exempt from war.
Not only are they exempt from war but, unlike the other exemptions
(20:5-7), they are also exempt from supplying the war and working behind the
scenes. However, as the Mishna in Sotah (8:7) says, this only applies
to a Milchemet Reshut (a war for any other purpose than conquering or defending
the initial land of Eretz Yisrael). However,
with regard to a Milchemet Mitzva (one for outside conquering), everybody is
required to participate "even a groom from his chamber, and a bride from
the wedding canopy." This
raises an interesting question, not whether women are permitted to fight in the
wars, but perhaps obligated, as this Mishna seems to indicate.
This question brings out interesting
answers. The most interesting of
them is that in a Milchemet Mitzva the groom is required to leave the canopy to
fight. Once he has left the canopy,
why should the bride stay there? She
should also leave, not to fight, but because she has no reason to remain if the
groom is gone! However, this answer
does not fit well with the words of the Mishna, and others therefore suggest
that she should do behind the scenes work for the war effort.
The reason for this type of reaction to the Mishna is because it was
absurd to think that women would go out to war. It is only very recently that women are accepted easily to
the armed forces. (Some
commentators attribute the disapproval of women entering the war to the
prohibition of Kli Gever, claiming that armor is male garb.
The Ibn Ezra claims that it is largely because of promiscuity that will
occur. The Gemara (Kiddushin 2b,
and others) simply states that it is not the way of a woman to be involved in
This discussion may lead to another
interesting thought. This is the
Mishnaic and Talmudic principle forbidding women to learn Torah (see Sotah 3:4
and compare with Nedarim 4:3, see also Rabbi Jachter's discussion on the topic
printed in Vol. 9 No. 15). Rav
Schachter makes an interesting observation (which for me was the best solution
to the problem that I had heard) regarding the issues.
He quotes a Gemara (Sotah 42), which states that Hashem put before Bnai
Yisrael a book and a sword and told them to choose one.
The Gemara claims that Bnai Yisrael will always be engaged in one type of
Milchama, either a Milchama Shel Torah or a Milchama Shel Cherev.
Now, comparing these two, since a woman is not permitted to engage in one
battle to engage in the other is equally forbidden.
But what is the war of Torah? Rav
Schachter explains that it is all the arguing and counter arguing that goes on
when one learns Gemara with a Chavruta. I
think that we can explain what a woman is permitted to learn and what she is not
by analyzing the way the woman will learn.
The forbiddance is not the learning but rather the war that often
accompanies the learning.
The two lessons to learn out is that
in war time, it is extremely important to engage in Milchama Shel Torah, to end
the war. And regarding the wars
with Torah or swords, women, while allowed to play a role, should not stand in
the front line, as that is improper.
Keep the Numbers Straight
by Dr. Joel M. Berman
Shesh Maot Racev...
"And he [Pharaoh] took 600 chariots …"
Why exactly 600 chariots?
And what does Parshat Beshalach have to do with this week's Parsha?
Pharaoh was one of the wisest men in the world.
He even knew of the Tochachot in this week's Parsha.
He therefore knew that Israel is undefeatable when keeping Torah and
Mitzvot. At such a time the Torah
teaches "if the enemy attacks us from one route, the enemy will flee (from
us) down seven routes." Pharaoh
also knew that when Israel is not keeping Torah and Mitzvot two enemy soldiers
will be capable of chasing 10,000 of ours.
Pharaoh felt, with some justification, that Bnai Yisrael were far from
keeping Torah and Mitzvot, and therefore every two of his soldiers would be
capable of vanquishing 10,000 Bnai Yisrael.
Since 600,000 Bnai Yisrael left
Mitzrayim, simple dimensional analysis, (600,000 Bnai Yisrael)(2 Mitzri
chariots/ 10,000 Bnai Yisrael), dictates that Pharaoh should have attacked Bnai
Yisroel with 120 chariots, not 600. R'
Chaim Rappaport æö"ì has an explanation for this
discrepancy. We recall that Rashi
teaches us that four fifths of Bnai Yisrael died during the plague of Darkness-
unbeknownst to Pharaoh. More simple
arithmetic (600,000 x 5) shows us that there were 3,000,000 Bnai Yisrael before
the Makah. Since Pharaoh believed
that he was attacking 3,000,000 Bnai Yisrael he therefore required (3,000,000
Bnai Yisroel) (2 Mitzri chariots/ 10,000 Bnai Yisroel) or 600 chariots.
Just as we appeared outnumbered when
we left Mitzrayim we must constantly remind ourselves, especially during these
worrisome times, that our wars have never been dictated by numbers of soldiers
or numbers of weapons. Our enemies
have always outnumbered us, both in weapons and soldiers, many times over.
The last Mishna in Sotah explains how the last generation before the
final Geula will have dog-like characteristics.
I have heard the following explanation.
A dog, if harassed with a stick, will bark at the stick instead of the
person controlling it. Our enemies are only a stick, sent by Hashem to punish us for
not keeping Torah and Mitzvot. The
best strategy, along with Tzahal, is provided again by the last Mishna in Sotah;
"Upon whom shall we depend? Upon
Food for Thought
by David Gertler
Why is Tzaraat an exceptionally fitting punishment for the Lashon Hara
that Miriam said? (See Rashi 12:1 and Pasuk 10)
What part of the Meraglim's report was inappropriate?
How is their punishment, as described by Rashi, even more appropriate
than Rashi explains it to be?
Why are the names of Yehoshua and Kalev switched in order, in different
places (ie. 14:30, 38)? Which one
of the two plays an active role throughout the story?
Why was the majority of the nation kept from going into Israel?
What similarities can be drawn to the reason that Moshe is kept from
entering? [Consider Rav
Soloveitchik's Shiur on Parshat Bahalotecha.]
5) Regarding what was Bilam supposed to curse Bnai Yisrael? Regarding what did he bless them? Considering Moav's next attempt to destroy Bnai Yisrael, and the result, was the blessing effective?
Pinchas is described as the son and grandson of great people and since he
too was a great person, his children would be observant forever.
How does this compare with the offspring of a Rasha, such as Korach
(28:10-11)? What practical
ramifications does this have?
Why should Bnai Gad and Bnai Reuven be rewarded, by getting land in Eretz
Yisrael, if they do not help in conquering Eretz Yisrael?
Is this somehow admitting that the land that Reuven and Gad chose was
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