In This Issue:
Rabbi Yosef Adler, Rosh HaYeshiva
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
The Torah states (Devarim 24:16), “Lo Yumetu Avot Al Banim UVanim Lo Yumetu Al Avot Ish BeCheto Yumatu,” “A parent shall not die for a transgression of his child nor shall a child die for the inappropriate behavior of his father; every person is judged in accordance with his or her actions.” However, there are two Halachot in our Parashah and a third in Parashat Re’eh which seem to punish a minor for actions for which he or she was not responsible. The Torah (21:18-21) describes the Ben Sorer UMoreh, the rebellious child who consumes large quantities of meat and wine. The child’s parents are obligated to bring him to Beit Din, who executes the child. The principle employed is “Nidon Al Sheim Sofo,” he is judged based on what we anticipate he will do. To support his meat and wine habit, he will steal and ultimately kill. Beit Din eradicates this child before he commits such crimes. What happened to the principle of “Ish BeCheto Yumato?”
Further in our Parashah (23:3), the Torah describes the Mamzer, the child of an illegitimate relationship between a man and woman, for which the penalty should be death. For example, if a woman has separated from her husband, but has not received a Get from him, and produces a child with another man, that child is a Mamzer (male) or Mamzeret (female) and may not marry another Jew other than a fellow Mamzer or Mamzeret. Why is the child punished for something that he or she obviously had nothing to do with?
Finally, in Parashat Re’eh (13:13-19), the Torah describes the Ir HaNidachat, a city in which the majority of the inhabitants engaged in idolatrous practices. The law requires every citizen of that city be killed by the sword. Rambam (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 4:6) writes, “UMakin Et Kol Nefesh Adam Asher Bah Lefi Cherev Taf VeNashim,” “Every citizen including women and children are to be executed.” I echo the question posed by Ramah, “BaMeh Asham HaTaf SheLo Avdu,” Why should an innocent child be put to death?
If one looks at Halachah, one finds that there are numerous responsibilities which a child has vis-à-vis his or her parents. A child faces the Mitzvah of Kibud Av VaEim, Yirat Av VaEim, not to strike or curse a parent, etc. We do not see much documented about the responsibilities of a parent toward a child. Yes, a parent is obligated to educate his or her children. But that is about it. There is a special Rabbinic enactment mandating that parents feed their children until age 6. Beyond that, sustenance of a child is considered Tzedakah. (Perhaps this is the origin of granting a tax deduction for a dependent.) Yet, from the way we live, it appears that our entire life revolves around our children. We structure our day-to-day lives around our children. A parent will do anything to protect a child.
Perhaps the laws of Ir HaNidachat, Mamzer and Ben Sorer UMoreh are designed to keep the parents in line. At times, an adult may be willing to engage in transgression and accept the consequences upon himself or herself. However, if he or she knows that his or her child will be impacted by their action, he or she might refrain from improbable behavior. The repelling factor is a powerful one and is driven by the fact that a parent will do anything to protect a child.
Sefer Devarim is known in Midrashim as “Mishneh Torah,” “the second Torah.” This could be interpreted to mean a repetition of the Torah; in fact, many topics dealt with in Sefer Devarim appear elsewhere in the Torah as well. However, the Sefer HaChinuch counts 200 new Mitzvot in Sefer Devarim. This week’s Parashah, Ki Teitzai, contains 74 new Mitzvot, more than any other Parashah; this week also concludes a period of three consecutive Shabbatot on which we read more than a quarter of the new Mitzvot in the Torah. How can we call this Sefer a “repetition?”
To answer this question, Abarbanel quotes the Pasuk that introduces Sefer Devarim (Devarim 1:5), “Ho’il Moshe Bei’eir Et HaTorah HaZot,” “Moshe began clarifying this Torah.” He explains that “Mishneh Torah” means that Sefer Devarim is an explanation and clarification of the first four Sefarim. Rather than being an exact repetition, Sefer Devarim presents the general ideas of the first four Sefarim from a different angle. Rav Shlomo Aviner, in his Sefer Tal Chermon, takes this idea one step further and explains that this different angle is the perspective of Eretz Yisrael. Sefer Devarim contains Mitzvot that apply to Bnei Yisrael as a nation living in Eretz Yisrael. This is why the topic of war is a central topic in last week’s and this week’s Parshiyot. War is an aspect of Jewish life that frequently occurs in Eretz Yisrael, while when Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael is lacking Jews do not deal with wars. We have witnessed this in the sixty years since the formation of the modern Jewish State, in which a war has occurred almost every decade.
Rav Aviner supports his contention from the origin of the term “Mishneh Torah,” the commandment to a Jewish king (Devarim 17:18), “VeChatav Lo Et Mishneih HaTorah HaZot Al Sefer,” “He shall write for himself two copies of this Torah in a scroll.” Rav Aviner points out that the requirement to write a second Torah, in addition to the Torah every Jew is commanded to write, is given only to a king as the leader of the Jewish nation in Eretz Yisrael. While containing the same words, the second Torah occupies a different scroll as it is a Torah not from the Galut (exile) angle, but from the Eretz Yisrael angle of Sefer Devarim. Indeed, Sifri writes that though the king’s Mishneh Torah contained all five Chumashim, the words of the Pasuk refer only to Sefer Devarim, which is called “Mishneh Torah”; one possible reason Devarim is singled out is because it is read at Hakheil. The fact that it is read at the national gathering shows the national, as opposed to individual, significance of both Sefer Devarim and the king’s Mishneh Torah
During the past sixty years, the Jewish nation has begun fulfilling the multitude of Mitzvot recorded in Parashat Ki Teitzei and the rest of Sefer Devarim, as opposed to focusing on the other four Chumashim. The Jewish state has given us an opportunity not only to perform Mitzvot HaTeluyot BaAretz, but also to enhance our performance of other Mitzvot as well. However, the Jewish state still has a long way to go, with the noted absence of a Melech (Jewish King), the Beit HaMikdash, and perhaps most importantly, all the Jews returning to Eretz Yisrael. May we be Zocheh to soon witness the completion of all the facets of the Jewish nation and the fulfillment of all the Mitzvot found in Sefer Devarim.
When explicating the Mitzvah for Bnei Yisrael to destroy Amaleik at the conclusion of this week’s Parashah, the Torah writes (Devarim 25:19), “VeHayah BeHaniach Hashem Elokecha Lecha MiKol Oivecha MiSaviv BaAretz Asher Hashem Elokecha Notein Lecha Nachalah LeRishtah Timchech Et Zeicher Amalek MiTachat HaShamayim Lo Tishkach,” “It shall be that when Hashem, your God, gives you rest from all your enemies all around, in the land that Hashem, your God, gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven – you shall not forget.” Ibn Ezra comments that this Mitzvah applies only when Bnei Yisrael, after vanquishing all surrounding enemies, are safely residing in Israel. This Mitzvah, continues Ibn Ezra (in his commentary to 26:1), is the first of a few Mitzvot HaTeluyot BaAretz (commandments that apply only when Bnei Yisrael reside in Israel), like Bikkurim (first fruits) and Maaser (tithes), that Moshe teaches Bnei Yisrael in the Midbar (desert). Indeed, the Gemara (Kiddushin 38b) teaches that the Mitzvot that we learnt in the Midbar are Chovot HaGuf, commandments upon every person’s corporeal side, and apply only in Israel, except for Shemittat Kesafim, pecuniary Shemittah, and Shiluach Avadim, emancipating slaves from bondage.
As we reach the end of the Shemittah year, this Talmudic anecdote is especially important to us, as it provides the basis for Rambam’s opinion that nowadays Shemittat Kesafim is DeRabannan and Shemittat Karka (agrarian Shemittah) is DeOraita, a key pillar in the Beit HaLevi’s contested opinion that Shemittat Karka nowadays is DeOraita.
Menachem Beker, in his Parperaot LaTorah, notes this Pasuk’s unique linguistic attributes. This Pasuk and the subsequent one are written in the first person – “Ki Yeviacha” and “Ki Tavo” – even though it is addressed to the entirety of Klal Yisrael, because the Mitzvah of making Aliyah to Israel applies personally to every Jew, and one who prematurely makes Aliyah is to be praised. Additionally, the Torah first describes Israel as a pronoun, “El HaAretz,” but then changes to possessive form (26:2) “Asher Tavi MeiArtzecha,” “which you bring from your land,” because when a farmer exerts effort and toils to farm Israel, the land does not remain a regular, run-of-the-mill, banal piece of land, but rather becomes his, intrinsically connected to the farmer.
It is interesting to note that many Mefarshim and the Torah itself underline the connection between Bikkurim, its underlying theme of fruit, and Israel. Perhaps this connection is no coincidence. In the Tochachah, the Torah writes that if Bnei Yisrael do not listen to Hashem, the land of Israel will be completely devastated. The Torah writes, however, (VaYikra 26:31) “VeShommemu Alehah Oiveichem HaYoshvim Bah,” “and your enemies that dwell therein shall be astonished at it.” After Bnei Yisrael had been exiled, Israel remained faithful to us and by remaining barren so our enemies will not be able to inhabit it. Ramban states that this proves that the Torah is true, because he himself saw this prophecy fulfilled. He writes that there was never a land as beautiful as Israel that became so desolate. During his trip to Israel Mark Twain perceived the same desolation that Ramban did and recorded it in his “The Innocents Abroad,” where he writes that Israel is a "hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land." Israel is waiting for Bnei Yisrael, and will accept no other nationality. The Gemara states (Sanhedrin 98b) that “Ein Lecha Keitz MiGulah MiZeh,” “There is no greater sign of redemption from the Exile” than Israel becoming arable once again, producing fruits and vegetables. Once Israel’s desolation disappears, the Geulah will be soon in coming. Anyone who visits Israel has the privilege to personally perceive the Geulah; its the tell-tale signs are impossible to neglect. The Chula valley, formerly infested with lethal mosquitoes, swamps, and morass, was a place even the most desperate of farmers found not arable. Nowadays, however, because of the toil, grit, and sacrifice of early Jewish pioneers and settlers, when one sees a picturesque tableau of pictorial farms stretching far past the horizon, he sees the Geulah.
As aforementioned, the Shemittah year is coming to a close, but if one has the privilege to eat fruits of Kedushat Sheviit and the honor of meticulously disposing of their remains, or hikes through or tours Israel’s natural scenery, he experiences the Geulah. Even something as seemingly simple and deemed trite as a garden in Israel, something that was previously, unequivocally considered inconceivable, is proof to the imminent Geulah. The credit for cultivating Israel is due to those who realized the importance of Aliyah and those who can call the land theirs, “Artzecha,” because they have developed it. With this idea in mind, other signs of the final Jewish return to Israel become readily apparent. Over half of the world’s Jewish children under age seven live in Israel and more Jews live in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Hopefully, soon, a majority of Jews will live in Israel, and we will observe the Mitzvot HaTeluyot BaAretz. By then, many anticipate observing the aforementioned Mitzvah of destroying Amalek, which applies only when Israel is free from all surrounding enemies. When one reads Megillat Eichah overlooking the golden metropolis of Jerusalem, he wonders how anyone could have lamented over the solitude and devastation this same Jerusalem (perhaps they have the wrong city); however, despite this sanguine explanation and prediction, we still observe Tishah BeAv because the Beit HaMikdash is not yet rebuilt. The Talmud Yerushalmi teaches that every generation has the opportunity to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash and is held responsible if it does not. Since the tell-tale signs of Geulah are showing, hopefully our generation will not be held responsible for failing to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash.
This week’s Parashah discusses the marriage of a Jewish soldier to a Yefat Toar, a beautiful woman he captures at battle. Rashi and Ramban both explain that if one captures a woman at the battlefield, the man would not be able to control himself and will cause a spiritual contamination. In order to avoid this, the Torah requires a lengthy process before the soldier can marry her. He must shave her head, the clothes given to her while in captivity are removed, she mourns for her parents for thirty days, and the woman converts to Judaism.
How do we know that a Yefat Toar’s parents are dead? Perhaps they are living and well, and therefore, why do we assume that she has to mourn for them? Ibn Ezra says that if her parents were killed in battle, she mourns over their deaths. If they are still alive, however, she mourns over the fact that she was separated from them. Through this, the Torah demonstrates to us that we should honor our parents while they are alive and while they are dead. Ramban disagrees and says that she is mourning over her former gods and homelands that she is now leaving forever.
Why is it necessary for the soldier to go through this process and wait so long to marry the woman? A shaky marriage may result if the soldier does not sincerely like the woman but is only attracted to her at first. If, after going through the Torah’s lengthy process, he still likes the woman, then it is fair to assume that a good marriage will result. The main hope is that the soldier’s desire will diminish during this time, and he will set the woman free.
The month of Elul connects to the thirty days of mourning of a Yefat Toar. The Zohar points out that Pasuk that states, (Devarim 21:13) “ViHeisira Et Simlat Shivya MeiAleha ViYashva BiVeitecha UVachta Et Aviha ViEt Ima Yerach Yamim,” “And he shall remove her garment of bondage from upon her, and she shall sit in his house and cry over her father and mother for a month”. The Torah uses the word “Yerach” instead of what the Torah usually uses to describe a month, Chodesh. A Ketuba, a marriage agreement, refers to a month as “Chodesh”, and the date of a Get, a bill of divorce, refers to the month as Yerach. The Ketuba views the month as renewal, and therefore it uses the word Chodesh, which is related to the word Chadash, new. A Get views the month as closure, and because of this it uses the word Yerach. The purpose of the month of Elul is to prepare us for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which is the end of one year and the beginning of a new year. We introspect and look back on the year we are completing. It is a month for closure, Yerach, to end what happened in the past and start a new beginning. According to the Zohar, this is how the Yefat Toar is spending her month. She has to mourn her parents, which the Zohar explains as turning away from the bad ways she was before. This month is a Yerach for her. Afterwards, she essentially begins her life again during a Chodesh, without her previous gods and previous religion, but as a new, loyal, Jewish woman.
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