Friday, June 28, 2013

give Yehoshua a hand -- or two

As part of the process of transferring power to Yehoshua, Hashem told Moshe “v’samachta es yadcha alav,” (27:18) to lay his hand, singular, upon Yehoshua.    However, when Moshe carried out Hashem’s command it says “va’yismoch yadav alav,” (27:23) he lay his hands, plural, on Yehoshua.  Rashi explains that Moshe wanted to give Yehoshua what he could “b’ayin yafeh,” with good measure, so he went above and beyond what Hashem commanded and used both his hands.

The Kli Yakar asks how is it that Moshe could deviate from what Hashem commanded – isn’t there an issur of bal tosif?  I don’t understand his question.  The issur of bal tosif is to change a mitzvah.  V’samach yadcha” is nowhere counted as one of the 613 mitzvos, so what's the problem?

(R’ Shteinman in his Ayeles haShachar here answers the question by distinguishing between a command given to an individual and a command given to all of Klal Yisrael.  It seems to me that his chiluk focusses on the symptom but not the root cause.  Something told to the individual is by definition not a mitzvah –- that’s why there is no bal tosif.  The size of the audience is just a siman, not the driving force.)

Secondly, adding to what Hashem says is not always bal tosif.  If I eat more than a k’zayis of matzah on Pesach night, obviously there is no problem of bal tosif.  The shiur is a minimum kiyum, not a maximum limit.  So too here, Rashi’s borrowing of the term “b’ayin yafeh” from the world of commerce in Baba Basra or from the world of hafrashas terumah indicates that we are dealing with adding something above and beyond the minimum requirement, not passing a maximum threshold.

So much for the technical details; now let’s get to the crux of what’s going on: what difference does it really make whether Moshe put one hand on Yehoshua’s head or two?

The Shem m’Shmuel suggests that Moshe understood that the next generation, the generation that would conquer Eretz Yisrael, would need two types of leadership: 1) military/political/social/economic leadership to build and run the country; 2) spiritual leadership to continue the mesorah of Torah.  (See the Derashos haRan on Parshas Shoftim.)

Hashem told Moshe “v’samach yadcha,” place one of your hands on Yehoshua – give him one of those two elements of leadership.  Let him wage war, let him become the Prime Minister and figure out how to build the country.  However, “lifnei Elazar hakohen ya’amod,” let him defer to Elazer in spiritual matters.  Even without the daf yomi, the Shem m’Shmuel remembered Rashi in Eiruvin 63b that explains this pasuk to mean that Yehoshua would have to ask questions of halacha to Elazar.  Elazar, not Yehoshua, would be the “ba’al hamesorah,” the leader responsible for the transmission of Torah to the next generation, and in this way something of Moshe’s legacy would remain for his family, the kohanim, who would be the primary teachers of Torah (see Rashi 27:23).

Moshe Rabeinu, however, decided to give both aspects of leadership to his talmid Yehoshu; he placed both his hands on his head.  Not only was Yehoshua the great general who conquered Eretz Yisrael, but as we know from the first Mishna in Pirkei Avos, Yehoshua was the next link in the chain of mesorah of Torah as well.

This was not done for Yehoshua’s benefit alone, writes the Shem m’Shmuel, but also for the benefit of Klal Yisrael.  By combining both roles in one individual, Moshe ensured that the political/economic/social development of Eretz Yisrael would be inseperable from and intertwined with Torah.

Need I spell out the lesson for our times where Torah leaders want no part in being generals and generals don’t want to hear about Torah?  Where the seperation between Torah scholarship and service to Eretz Yisrael is seen as an ideal rather than a failure to have an integrated whole? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

chiyuv ta'anis -- m'divrei kabbalah or based on minhag?

The Rambam opens Hil Ta'anis by telling us:
 יש שם ימים שכל ישראל מתענים בהם

He then lists all the fast days and tells us what happened on each of them.  In halacha 5 he writes:
 וארבעת ימי הצומות האלו--הרי הן מפורשין בקבלה

What's important is what the Rambam does NOT say -- he never writes that there is a chiyuv m'divrei kabbalah to fast on any of these days, even on 9 Av!  The fasts are described, "mefurashim," in divrei kabbalah, i.e. Nach, but the chiyuv to fast is simply based on minhag yisrael and no more than that. 

Contrast that with the language of the Tur, "Hakol chayavim l'hisanos m'DIVREI KABBALAH..."  True, the Tur quotes the gemara that when there is no shmad the chiyuv to fast depends on the ratzon of Bnei Yisrael, but it seems that according to the Tur the idea of ratzon is not a mechayeiv (which is how the Rambam must have learned the gemara), but is just an acceptance of the chiyuv that already exists m'divrei kabbalah.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ki tov b'einei Hashem l'vareich es Yisrael -- a bracha of the eyes and how to earn it

Continuing the theme from last week’s post on the topic of seeing as it relates to Tamuz and parshas Balak, I want to point out a piece in the Radomsker that I saw over Shabbos.  Va’yar Bilam ki tov b’einei Hashem l’vareich es Yisrael… “(24:1) Bilam saw that it was good in the eyes of Hashem (there’s that word “eyes” again) to bless Bnei Yisrael, so he gave up any pretense of trying to curse them and instead gave a bracha.  The Radomsker asks the obvious: Bilam knew from the moment he left his house, or certainly from the moment his donkey began to speak and he saw the angel blocking his path on the road, that Hashem was not going to let him curse Bnei Yisrael.  Why does the pasuk make it sound like there was some new revelation here, that suddenly only now Bilam saw that Hashem wanted to only bless Bnei Yisrael? 

The Radomsker teaches that there are two types of brachos.  Bracha cam be transmitted by the laying of hands upon the recipient, e.g. when Ya’akov blessed Ephraim and Menashe, he placed his hands upon them; when the kohanim bless us, it is through nesi’as kapayim, raising their hands.  Bracha can also be transferred by sight, e.g. “kol makom she’nasnu chachamim eineihem…” the gemara tells us that whatever the Chachamim set their sights on with good intent they delivered bracha (they can do the opposite as well).

When the Mishkan was completed, the Torah tells us that after his first avodah, “Va'yisa Aharon es yadav el ha’am vayivarchem,” Aharon lifted his hands and blessed Bnei Yisrael (Vayikra 9:22).  Moshe, however, gave his bracha by gazing at the work Bnei Yisrael had done, “Va’yar Moshe es kol ha’melacha… va'yivarech osam Moshe” (Shmos 39:43).  Again, we have bracha delivered through hands and bracha delivered through sight.

Let’s try to translate the mystical jargon into something meaningful for us.  A lot of times someone will come over and ask for a favor and in your heart and mind you could care less about the person’s needs or you are not really in the mood to listen to their tzaros, but you do the favor anyway because that’s the fastest way to get rid of the person.  On a little higher madreiga, someone asks for a favor and you really don’t want to be involved, but you know you owe them one (or you want them to owe you one), so you take care of it.  A little higher madreiga, you feel a moral obligation to respond when someone needs help – here too, it’s not about the other person per se, but it’s about your need to quell your conscience.  In all of these cases, make no mistake about it, you are doing the other person a favor, but it’s a bracha that comes only from the hands -- it's a utilitarian response.  The heart and mind have not been touched by the person’s story or the person’s needs. 

Then there is the rare case when someone comes to ask for a favor and you really feel their need and you empathize with their plight.  When you respond, the action taken is not just a means to an end, a way to get them off your back or get the problem out of the way, but rather is because you can genuinely identify with the person’s plight.  The ability to see other people in that way, apart from the action taken, is itself a bracha.

Bracha delivered though the eyes, explains the Radomsker, is vastly greater than bracha delivered though the hands alone.  We ask Hashem every day that it should be “tov b’einecha l’vareich es Yisrael…” good in his eyes to give us bracha.  We don’t just want Hashem to do us favors, we want him to look at us with love and empathy and give us bracha in that way. 

Bilam knew that Hashem was only interested in blessing Bnei Yisrael, but he did not realize the full extent of what that meant.  It is only after time and again that his attempt to muster any type of curse was thwarted that he realized that Hashem’s bracha for Bnei Yisrael is that special type of “Va’yar ki tov b’einei Hashem l’vareich es Yisrael,” the bracha that comes through seeing us in that special way.

How were Bnei Yisrael zocheh to this special bracha?  Because “v’kisah es ein ha’aretz,” their physical eyes, as we discussed last post, were closed.  Because, as Rashi writes on “mah tovu ohalecha,” their tent doors were turned away from each other; no one looked inside another person’s tent and intruded on their privacy.  People kept their eyes to themselves, v’ain kan makom l’ha’arich on the obvious lessons.  Midah k’neged midah, if we use our eyes properly, Hashem will respond in kind with “tov b’einei Hashem l’vareich es Yisrael…”

Monday, June 24, 2013

why did Hashem want to silence Bilam?

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me…  so why did Hashem need to stop Bilam?  Who cares if he says anything?

One approach, which we’ve done in the past (also here), is that words indeed can cause harm.  We may not understand how it works, we may no longer be able to use such power, but Hashem built into the teva such a phenomenon.  This seems to fit the simple reading of Chazal that Bilam knew the moment of Hashem's anger and could summon a curse in that precise moment (Hashem, however, did a chessed and did not show any answer while Bilam was trying to do his thing.)  Think of it this way: if you were to show someone in the ancient world a gun, they would have no idea how it worked either and would think of it as a magical device (brings back memories of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court).  We can think of the idea of using words to cause harm in the same way (Ohr haChaim, Ralbag at the end of to'eles 6).

I think it may be a bit hard to convince modern readers that words can kill.  Some other reasons Hashem stopped Bilam from cursing Bnei Yisrael:

1)    Hashem wanted to stop Bilam so that Bilam would not be guilty of wrongdoing (Seforno 22:22.  This begs the question of why Hashem should care so much about Bilam’s fate – let him sin and get the punishment he deserves?)

2)    Had Bilam cursed Bnei Yisrael, every time Bnei Yisrael did wrong and were punished, the enemies of Bnei Yisrael would give credence to Bilam’s curses rather than attribute the punishment to Bnei Yisrael’s wrongdoing (Ralbag mentions this idea and rejects it).  This is akin to Moshe’s argument in response to the cheit ha’eigel of of “lamah yomru Mitrayim…,” that the nations will attribute Bnei Yisrael’s downfall to Hashem’s lack of power c”v, not to their wrongdoing.

3)    Had Bilam cursed Bnei Yisrael, it would make it very difficult for Bnei Yisrael to do teshuvah.  Whenever they sinned and were punished by Hashem, rather than attribute punishment to their misbehavior, they would attribute it to Bilam’s curses.  (Ralbag accepts this theory over the previous one, as it better fits Malachi’s description of Hashem's stopping Bilam being a chessed for Bnei Yisrael.)

4)    Bilam’s curses would embolden the enemies of Bnei Yisrael to attack because they would perceive or assume that his curses have some effect even if in truth they cause no harm (Meshech Chochma). 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

ki ayin b'ayin yiru b'shuv Hashem Tzion -- learning how to see

I think a little background is needed to really get the torah of the Sefas Emes on this week’s parsha:

Vatipackahna einei she’neyhem…”  After their sin, the Torah tells us that Adam and Chavah’s eyes were opened and they were embarrassed by their own nakedness.  Surely Adam and Chavah did not walk around with their eyes closed beforehand –- why didn’t the pasuk just tell us that they were embarrassed, they attained a different type of knowledge, etc.  What does it mean to say that their eyes were opened? 

The Chasam Sofer quotes his rebbe, the Hafla’ah, as explaining that we have two sets of eyes: we have physical outer eyes that we are all used to using, but we also have an inner set of eyes, ruchniyus-dik eyes, that allow us to see inner spiritual pnimiyus of the world.  Depending on which set of eyes you use to view the world, you end up seeing a very different place.

The catch is that when choosing which eyes to use, it’s an either/or option.  If our inner, ruchniyus eyes are open and we use those eyes to see the world, our outer eyes must remain closed.  If we choose to use those outer physical eyes and see physical and materialistic things, the inner eye that is sensitive to ruchniyus will squint and close.

Adam and Chavah were created to use their inner, spiritual eyes to see the world.  Sin caused those eyes to close, and at the same time, "vatipacahna einei she’neyhem,” their physical eyes were opened, and the world has never looked the same since.

The twelve months of the year correspond to the twelve shevatim.  According to one view, the order starts with Nisan and sheivet Yehudah and follows the order of the degalim in the midbar.  The month of Tamuz corresponds to the fourth sheivet in the degalim, the tribe of Reuvain.  Reuvain’s name comes from Leah’s saying, “Ra’ah Hashem is onyi,” Hashem saw my pain.  The month of Tamuz, the month of Reuvain, explains the Bnei Yisascher at length, is all about what we see and how we see.

The meraglim, who Moshe sent to go see the land, came back during Tamuz and gave their report.  The mefoshim struggle to discover exactly where they sinned – it seems that every word in their report was true.  And indeed it was – so long as the land was looked at only with the outer eyes.  V’n’hi b’eineinu k’chagavim, v’kein hayinu b’eineihem,” “We were in our eyes like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” (13:33)  What eyes in the Torah talking about?  Surely not the inner eyes of ruchniyus.  The error of the spies was in closing those inner eyes and instead seeing the world only through the outer eyes, the eyes that see only see the physical, materialistic world.  What a scary and false picture they saw when they looked at Eretz Yisrael only with those eyes!  They never saw the true picture, the picture you can see only if you close those outer eyes and open the inner ones.

And now we can get to the Sefas Emes.  In our parsha, Bnei Yisrael are on the right track again, headed to Eretz Yisrael.  Balak hires Bilam to stop them (see Shem m’Shmuel).  He reports that Bnei Yisrael are encroaching on his territory, “Vayichas es ein ha’aretz,” they covered the "eye of the land."  What a strange expression!  Here’s the Sefas Emes’ explanation (first piece in 5632), and it’s worth getting it word for word – “Hi histaklus artziyus, she’Bnei Yisrael hei’iru l’hiyos ha’reiya rak el ha’pnimiyus b’kol davar, u’lvateil histaklus chitzoni, mah she’nireh lichoreh b’ein gashmi…”  Bnei Yisrael covered the “ein artziyus,” the physical eye, the eye that only sees the superficial, the eye that sees only the material world, and they opened their eyes to the pnimiyus in everything around them (the S.A. has a number of pieces on the parsha that are variations on this theme).  Balak was saying, "They just don’t see things the way we do.  We don’t see eye to eye with them."

The Midrash comments that it would be better if the wicked were blind, as we find so often evil associated with their seeing – “VaYiru Bnei Elokim…” (Braishis 6), “Va’yar Cham avi Kena’an…” (Brashis 9), “Vayiru osah sarei Pharoah…” (Braishis 12), and finally our parsha, “Va’yar Balak…”  When you see with the outside eyes, bad things are bound to follow. 

Bilam is described as "s'sum ha'ayim," which according to some means blind in one eye, but according to the Targum means he was able to see well. Perhaps both may be true: Bilam, the navi of the umos, was partially blind to the outside world, and as a result, his inner eye was open to see what others could not.

Perhaps this explains why, as Rashi explains, Bilam is told that he will never overcome Bnei Yisrael, as they celebrate the three regalim.  Why is is specifically the mitzvah of celebrating the regalim that thwarts Bilam?  Because the mitzvah of aliya la'regel involves coming "lei'raos lifnei Hashem," to be seen by Hashem, and as Chazal teach us, a person comes to the Mikdash to see as much as he comes to be seen.  Aliya la'regel is all about absorbing a vision of kedusha, and that is what Bilam was blind to.

So we have to learn to see the world in the right way.  We have to learn to use our inner eyes more and close the outer eyes that give us the wrong messages.  We have to open the eyes, the real eyes, of the world.  If we do that, instead of Tamuz being the start of three weeks marking churban, we will merit to see “ain b’ayin yiru b’shuv Hashem Tzion…”  (Yeshayahu 52).  To return to the Hafla’ah we started with, he asks what “ayin b’ayin” means – we don’t have eyes within our eyes, do we?  The answer is that yes, we do – these are the inner spiritual eyes that are deep within us, behind the physical eyes that give us our vision.  I saw a horrible letter to the editor of a Jewish newspaper last week asking why we would want to live in Eretz Yisrael with all the problems that are there.  That’s what happens when you look at things with the outer eye only.  If only that person would open their real eyes, the one’s inside, they would see the tremendous beauty of Eretz Yisrael and the process of geulah that is already underway.  If we start seeing “ayin b’ayin,” then we will surely see “b’shuv Hashem Tzion.”

mission accomplished

Earlier this week I posted my wife’s question of why Miriam died in the midbar and was prevented from reaching Eretz Yisrael.  The Torah tells us that Moshe and Aharon did not make it because they sinned at Mei Meriva, but the Torah offers no similar explanation for Miriam not making it.

You might argue (see the comments to that post) that the question should not get off the ground.  Miriam was by this point well advanced in years.  Do we need a justification for her death?  No one lives forever.  Maybe Miriam deserved to get to Eretz Yisrael, but nebech, she just passed away before getting there.  I thought a reply to that point deserved it's own post.

The Sefas Emes (5639, see here) says a yesod in last week’s parsha: Death = your task in the world is complete.  Every person has a tikun to accomplish, and once the tikun is accomplished, you move on.  It’s like a video game – when all the monsters are killed in one level, you move on to the next.

Aharon is told he must die because he sinned and could not enter Eretz Yisrael.  So what, asks the Sefas Emes?  Bnei Yisrael were not on the border of Eretz Yisrael yet -– maybe Aharon had a few more days or weeks left in him?  The answer is that Aharon already had accomplished everything he could in this world short of being mekayeim mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael.  If those mitzvos had been part of his mission – which they would have been had he not sinned – he would have continued to live.  Since those mitzvos were no longer on the agenda, his mission was up, and m’meila his time was up.

What we can accomplish in this world is not dependent upon how much time we are allotted to be here – aderaba, how much time we are allotted to be here depends on what we can accomplish.  It makes no sense to say Miriam really deserved to get to Eretz Yisrael but nebech, her time was up.  If Miriam had the zechuyos that would allow her to be in Eretz Yisrael, her mission was not over yet, and m'meila her time in this world would not have ended yet.

If you saw the update to the previous post, you saw the link to the Midrash’s answers to the question of why Miriam died.  One answer is that her well had to vanish, which could not happen so long as she was alive.  I thought this put the cart before the horse – the well vanished, I thought, because Miriam died; not that Miriam died so that the well could vanish.  My wife thought the Midrash means to tell us that the miraculous hanhaga of the midbar had to come to an end before Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael.  The miracle of getting water from Miriam’s well could not continue; in Eretz Yisrael, water would have to be drawn from rivers, means of irrigation would have to be developed,etc.  Therefore, Miriam had to die so that Bnei Yisrael could come down to earth, so to speak, and continue their mission in Eretz Yisrael, albeit without her. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

cutting it short

I am not sure at what age wearing shorts stops being cute, but it happens.  It hasn’t even been really hot here yet, but already I see teens and even adults showing up to davening wearing shorts and T-shirts.  B’shlama not wearing a hat, I understand – hats are out of fashion (at least in society at large), so not wearing one is the social norm.  But people do still wear pants, shirts with collars and buttons, jackets, etc.  In my workplace, which is business casual, they recently sent out a reminder e-mail about what is acceptable dress and what isn’t, and shorts and a T-shirt is definitely on the not-acceptable list.  If it’s not acceptable in a business casual office environment, what’s the hava amina that it is acceptable when standing before G-d?

Even in camp, where someone may rush in from the ballfield to catch a mincha, I wonder whether or not it might be better to miss minyan and take the time to change.  Who says that tefilah b’tzibur outweighs tefilah dressed appropriately?  I haven’t looked it up, but at least off the cuff it doesn’t strike me as an absurd question.
Even if you personally don’t care if you come to daven looking like a shlump, it sets a certain tone in a minyan when enough people do it.  It makes a statement: “We’re not formal here – sit back and relax, make yourself comfortable…”  My parents told me recently of a shul in their neighborhood where people come in (I am talking about the room used for davening, not the lobby) on Shabbos carrying coffee cups, pushing strollers, etc.  They feel at home; they are as comfortable in shul as they are in the privacy of their living room or lounging at Starbucks.  I don’t know about you, but “Da lifnei mi atah omeid,” doesn’t sound to me like we are supposed to feel all that comfortable.

The problem, of course, is that blog posts on the topic will change nothing.  Matzah min es mino – people who treat davening a certain way will go to daven with other people who treat davening the same way, creating a spiral that reinforces itself.  Those who agree with this post most likely do not come to daven in shorts and a T-shirt and most likely daven in places where such a thing would be an aberration; those who disagree probably think I’m a fanatic (which may be true anyway…)  The question is how to change the culture once certain norms become institutionalized.  I have no idea of the answer.

We're coming up to the three weeks, the time to mourn churban habayis.  Does anyone think it would be appropriate the show up to the mikdash wearing shorts and a T-shirt, sipping a coffee?  Of course not.  So why treat the mikdash me'at in our communities any differently?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the death of Aharon and Miriam

Why does the Torah need to tell us that Hor HaHar, the burial place of Aharon, was on the border of the land of Edom?  Rashi (20:23) explains that it was because Bnei Yisrael drew close to Edom that they lost Aharon.

All Bnei Yisrael did was ask Edom for passage through their lands, and since Edom did not grant permission, they were forced to circumnavigate their whole territory – what kind of contact was there that would cause the death of Aharon? 

The Shem m’Shmuel writes that the problem was the message sent to Edom (20:14), “Koh amar achicha Yisrael,” “This is what your brother Yisrael has to say…”  We are not brothers with Edom.  And while it is true that the navi Malachi says (1:3), “Ha’lo ach Eisav l’Ya’akov,” “Is not Eisav the brother of Ya’akov,” the navi is careful to use the name Yakaov, not the name Yisrael.  Biologically of course we are related to Eisav, but when we speak of ourselves as Yisrael, the name that alludes to our spiritual greatness, we need to recognize that we are alone and apart from all other people. 

Even though that message to Edom was sent by Moshe, and even though it was for the purpose of reminding Edom that as our brother they should have shared the burden of Egyptian slavery with us and therefore they owed us, there was still something wrong with it.

The Shem m’Shmuel does not spell out what the midah k’neged midah is here, so I just wanted to add my own two cents.  Aharon’s life work as a rodef shalom v’oheiv shalom was to increase achvah, brotherly love, within Klal Yisrael.  The use of the term “achicha,” brother, when speaking to a descendent of Eisav, proved that we did not fully appreciate what the value of true achvah is; we did not appreciate the value that Aharon dedicated his life to install in Klal Yisrael.  Therefore, Hashem took Aharon from us at that moment.

On another note, the episode of Mei Meriva gets so much attention in the meforshim that we almost forget that last week’s parsha tells us of Miriam’s death as well.  We know why Moshe and Aharon did not merit entering Eretz Yisrael; however, my wife pointed out, we are never told why Miriam died in the midbar.  Anyone have any ideas?

(Update: Here is an obscure Midrash quoted in the Torah Shleima that has an answer, but I am not sure what to make of it.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

the significance of the 9th of Tamuz

Yirmiyahu haNavi tells us (52:6-7) that on th 9th day of the 4th month, i.e. the 9th of Tamuz, that there was a great famine in Yerushalayim and the walls were finally breached.  So why do we fast on the 17th of Tamuz in commemoration of the walls being breached and not on the 9th? 

1) Tosfos (R"H 18b) explains that our fast on the 17th commemorates when the walls were breached during the destruction of the second Beis haMikdash; Yirmiyahu is speaking of the events surrounding the destruction of the first Mikdash.  To avoid making things too difficult (tircha d'tzibura), we fast only for the events of the second churban (Ramban).

2) The Yerushalmi explains that there was such confusion that occurred because of the destruction that Yirmiyahu recorded the wrong date.

The Magen Avraham (549:2) suggests a nafka minah between the answers.  According to Tosfos, if not for the consideration of tircha d'tzibura, the 9th of Tamuz should be a fast day.  Therefore, a ba'al nefesh who is able to fast should take upon him/herself to do so on that day.  According to the Yerushalmi, the 9th of Tamuz has no significance; it was only Yirmiyahu's error that even caused it to get a mention.

(One could argue that even for a ba'al nefesh there is no reason to fast on 9 Tamuz.  It's not that 9 Tamuz is a fast day but we all have an out because of the excuse of tircha -- rather, because it would be a tircha, there was never a takanah to fast on 9 Tamuz, only on 17 Tamuz.)

It is interesting that even according to the MG"A, it seems that a ba'al nefesh would only fast on 9 Tamuz, but the aveilus practices of the three weeks would start only on the 17th. 

It's strange that according to the Yerushalmi, sefer Yirmiyahu records for posterity the wrong date on which the walls were breached.  Even if Yirmiyahu erred because of the confusion of the moment, why would the sefer preserve the mistake?  Why not correct it?

The Maharasha (Ta'anis 28b) learns that there is no machlokes between the Bavli and Yerushalmi.  In reality, the churban even of Bayis Rishon took place on 17 Tamuz according to our calendar.  However, because the enemy had taken control and changed the calendar to their count, a solar calendar instead of a lunar one, the date of destruction was fixed according to their count as 9 Tamuz (take a look at how he explains why the discrepency is only 8 days -- I don't understand it).   Based on this approach, there is no error in the date of 9 Tamuz; it is correct according to the enemies calendar.

The Chasam Sofer in his derashos offers a different answer.  He writes that the breach of the walls did not occur in one moment, but was a slow process.  On the 9th of Tamuz, there was a small break in the walls.  Had Bnei Yisrael seized this final opportunity to do teshuvah, even with the enemy already beginning to penetrate the gates of the city, Yerushalayim would have been spared.  As we know, Bnei Yisrael did not do teshuvah, the walls grew weaker, the break greater, and finally on 17 Tamuz, the walls were completely breached.  According to the Yerushalmi, Yirmiyahu wanted to preserve the date of 9 Tamuz when the first weaking of the walls began because it was the failure to do teshuvah on that date that was really the final straw. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives a similar answer and adds that we can take away from here an important lesson about the power of teshuvah.  Even though the city had been under siege for over two years and time and time again Bnei Yisrael had been warned to do teshuvah or face the consequences and had not heeded the message, Hashem still did not allow the breach of the walls to go through on the 9th of Tamuz, when it was deserved, but he held the enemy back for a few more days, lest Bnei Yisrael finally return.  Even at the precipice of disaster, even for those who have sqandered previous opportunities and are so very late to the game, teshuvah is still possible.

Friday, June 14, 2013

my son's yeshiva's siyum

In past years I have always written about the end of year siyum made in my son’s yeshiva, celebrated once again last Sunday when over 70 boys finished Mes. Kesubos, and this year for some reason I neglected to do so because of silly distractions.  This final siyum is just the grand finale; there were other siyumim during the year of boys who finished chazarah sedorim on masechtos for the second or third time (and even more than that).  The boys all deserve tremendous credit for their accomplishment. 

 As I’ve written before, the boys from the yeshiva are mostly local to our Five Towns/Far Rockaway community.  We have over half a dozen kosher pizza stores in the neighborhood, countless other eateries and places to waste time, I am sure the vast majority of homes have a computer with internet, the mesivta boys all have secular high school classes to attend and most boys go to college at some point -- in short, there is no shortage of potential distractions from learning, and yet the yeshiva somehow instills in the boys a drive to finish masechtos and learn with hasmadah.  That is no small feat.

Instead of writing about something the guest speaker said or something any of the hanhala said, as I’ve done in the past, I want to just mention something one of the boys said that I thought encapsulated what makes the yeshiva special.  This was I think a 12th grader who asked reshus from the menahel to speak for just a moment, and, on his own, took the opportunity to express hakaras hatov to all the older bachurim and kollel guys who put in countless hours not just to finish the masechta themselves, but also made time to help the younger guys who also wanted to finish.  He mentioned that just that morning a boy was not quite done with the masechta but wanted to be part of the siyum, so one of the older guys in the yeshiva spent the morning learning with him whatever blatt he needed to complete.

I don’t mean to take anything away from the Rebbeim, the Rosh Yeshiva, the hanhala, all of whom deserve credit for making the yeshiva work.  But a yeshiva is made of more than it’s staff and more than the walls of a building.  I would venture to say that the influence of peers is far greater than that of Rebbeim, Roshei Yeshiva, and maybe even of parents.  We are so used to speaking of the negative influence of peer pressure, but it works the other way as well.  What this 12th grader recognized (and had the good midos to express hakaras ha’tov for) is that what makes the yeshiva a success is the guy sitting next to him who he can ask a question to at night seder, the guy whose davening may inspire him, the guy like himself who he sees covering blatt after blatt in a difficult masechta and proves that it can be finished if you apply yourself.  It’s not just that the better or older guys in the yeshiva are there as passive role models to emulate – it’s that they reach out to others, they extend the invitation for a chavrusa, they extend the invitation to a discuss a difficult Tosfos, they are there just to talk to. 

Were this just the offhand remark of a 12th grader, I have to admit that being the cynical person that I am, I might dismiss it.  But I am in the yeshiva myself many nights of the week to learn for a bit and daven ma’ariv (and parenthetically, I am not the only one – there are other parents, alumni, people from the community who are sitting and learning.  Yeshiva is not just a place to dump your teenager in, but to be effective needs to be part of your life and your community’s life, but that’s a discussion for another time…) and I see the interactions first hand.  I want to share a conversation I overheard before Shavuos.  An older boy was speaking to a younger chavrusa and asking him where he intended to spend the Yom Tov.  This younger boy said that he planned to go the shul X, where they were known to have a lavish buffet going all night.  “But,” said the older boy, “This is your yeshiva!”  (I will spare you the details of the ensuing debate among the boys as to whether the yeshiva would allow a small grill to be brought in to provide this younger boy with his needed calories; suffice it to say that as far as I know, it didn’t happen.)  It’s not the Rosh Yeshiva’s yeshiva, the Rebbeim’s yeshiva, or anyone else’s yeshiva – you have to make it your business to be here to learn, this boy recognized, because it’s YOUR yeshiva.  And showing up is just half the picture -- this older bachur did more than show up himself; he communicated to those around him why it was important to do so. 

Don’t you wish you have an older chavrusa like that when you were a teenager?

My son is a quiet type, but somehow he doesn't have a moment of his day to himself.  He doesn’t only have chavrusas with beis medrash chaveirim who he knows well and has been together with for years, but he has younger guys who he learns with as well – he has a twice a week mishmar with a 9th grader, he has a chavursa with an 8th grader learning mishnayos, he has a halacha seder with someone else in the mesivta, he just asked me about setting up a night seder during the summer with a 10th grader who asked to learn with him.  This is a boy who is perfectly happy when he gets the chance in the summer to sit in a beis medrash with no chavrusa and just keeping finishing masechtos.  But that’s not how the yeshiva operates – you can’t help but be drawn into helping the next guy, setting up yet another chavrusa when someone (especially a younger bachur) asks.  It’s not enough to finish the masechta yourself – what have you done to help the other guy do the same?

And again, I am a cynic (I prefer the term “realist”).  I can appreciate why a parent might say, “Why should I send my son to a yeshiva where there are bachurim more concerned with spending Shavuos night, of all times, fressing rather than be in yeshiva?”  This why we have a proliferation of yeshivos, each one of which tries to be more exclusive, to take only the idis she’b’idis she’b’idis; we have parents competing for their metzuyanim (what parent does not think their child is a metzuyan?) to gain entrance into these exclusive clubs.  It could be that this is what your child needs; it could be that the Shavuos fresser will drag him down and create an environment that is not conducive for growth.  What chinuch is best for your child is a personal decision.  All I can say is that 70 boys finishing Kesubos, which by my guesstimate is close to a third of the yeshiva, are enough proof for my own cynical reservations that the that the system works – that they not only are not dragged down where they are, but that they elevate and inspire those around them, myself included.

the eternal parah adumah of Moshe

Rashi quotes R’ Moshe haDarshan as explaining that the parah adumah is a kapparah for the cheit ha’eigeil.  How does that work – is it some kind of gezeirah shavah. i.e. this is a cow, the cheit was done with a calf, so they somehow go together?  Obviously there has to be more to it than that.  What’s the midah k’negged midah? 

 Two possibilities based on Ksav Sofer:
1)  Bnei Yisrael were swayed by the eiruv rav to worship the eigel.  Rashi writes that the nations will challenge us to explain the logic of parah adumah, which is impossible to do.  By proving steadfast in our commitment to the mitzvah and remaining unswayed by their arguments, we undo the error of the past (the Beis haLevi has a similar explanation).

2) In a similar vein, the sin of avodah zarah is unique in that one is culpable even for the thought of committing idolatry.  Even though those who actually worshipped the eigel were killed, the rest of Bnei Yisrael needed kapparah for thinking about it.  Rashi writes with respect to parah adumah, “ain lecha reshus l’harhei achareha,” that even though it makes no sense, one is not allowed to question the process.  (Does he mean this l’halacha, just like there is a halachic issur of thinking of committing idolatry?  That would be a tremendous chiddush!  I am more inclined to read it homiletically.)

I would like to suggest a different approach.  The Midrash tells us that the parah adumah of Moshe remained (and still remains!) extant so that a little bit of its ashes could be mixed with subsequent paros.  Chazal darshen on the pasuk, “V’Yikchu eilecha parah adumah…” that all paros are called the paros of Moshe; Moshe’s name is forever associated with the mitzvah of parah adumah (see Maharal in Gur Aryeh!).

Why was the cheit ha’eigel done?  Because we gave up hope of seeing Moshe again.  Rashi writes that the satan projected a vision of Moshe’s bier being transported to heaven.  Moshe told us he would be back on a certain day; the time came and went (at least Klal Yisrael’s mistaken calculation of the time), and we felt abandoned by our leader.  Parah adumah is the antidote to the cheit ha’eigel because it teaches us that Moshe Rabeinu will never abandon us – his parah will always be with us. 

This helps answer another question as well.  Why was the parsha of parah adumah placed here?  The mitzvah of parah was given at Marah; the parah adumah had to have been used the first year after yetzi’as Mitzrayim to be metaheir those who needed it to bring korban Pesach.  Perhaps the answer is that it is only post-mei meriva, when we knew with certainty that Moshe would not lead us into Eretz Yisrael to bring the ultimate geulah, that we needed the parah adumah to remind us that even though Moshe physically would pass on, his presence would remain with us for eternity.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

words from someone who went off the derech

I won't tell you where the quote is from until the end:
Every once in awhile, the older youth tried to straighten us up.  Lectured us and admonished us not to act so silly.
“Stop trying to be so wild.”

Their efforts were entirely fruitless.  And it got so that most people just left us alone – except for our parents and the Rabbeim.  They never stopped lecturing, and they never stopped scolding.  The problem was, they never told us why we needed to behave.
Everything was preached from a solid foundation of what had always been.  Torah this.  Torah that.  We live this way because that’s the way it is.  We live this was because it’s the way our father lived.  We live this way, and we walk this path because it’s the only way, the only path we’ve ever known.

But they never explained why....  Only that we were and we did.
That sure made for some messed-up minds and messed-up lives.  Not for the drones – those who accepted without question what they were told.  But for anyone with a speck of spirit, it could get a little crazy.

Think about it.  You are in a box – a comfortable box, but a pretty confining one.  You wonder what’s outside.  You peek out a bit now and then, and peer around.  But deep down, you know that if you step outside that box, you are speeding directly down the highway to hell and could arrive at any instant.  Boom, just like that.
You can just picture the writer, probably was a teen in yeshiva somewhere, did not care for the dress code and other rules and regulations, was absent from the beis medrash more than there, is looking for something, someone headed off the derech if not already there. 

The book is Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler.  The writer did go off the derech -- the derech of his Amish community.  I cheated and took the liberty of substituting the word "Rebbeim" for preachers and "Torah" in place of Amish, but other than that, the words are his.

Perhaps instead of looking only internally at our community to try to figure out why people go off the derech, maybe we should think more broadly about the issue and see how the problem manifests itself in other communities and how they respond.  Maybe we could even learn something from the failures and the successes of their educational institutions and support networks.  Maybe we could learn something from the voices of those, like Ira Wagler, who write about their journey.

One other heretical thought -- maybe instead of blaming the community, the yeshivos, Rebbeim, parents. etc. for not doing enough, we should recognize that rebellion happens.  It happens in all communities, it can happen to the best families within those communities, it can happen despite the best efforts to stop it.  Perhaps there are no solutions in our imperfect world. 

the Hafla'ah on Moshe's sin -- mei meriva

We once discussed (here) the amazing Chazal that says the “dibartem el ha’sela” that Moshe was supposed to do instead of hitting the rock was to learn Torah.  Chasam Sofer (brief version here at the end of Shu”T E”H 121, longer version in his commentary on chumash) adds another dimension to this interpretation that he heard from the Hafla’ah.  Chazal interpret the complaint of thirst in Parshas Beshalach as not just a thirst for water, but as a thirst for Torah; the takana of kri’as haTorah on Monday/Thursday was a response to this need.  No longer would there be “va’yelchu shloshes yamim b’li mayim;” no longer would there be three days without public learning.

The episode of mei meriva in our parsha occurred right after the death of Miriam.  It was in her zechus that there was a well in the desert; with her death, the well vanished.  The thirst of the people returned, but again, it was not just a thirst for water, but a thirst for Torah as well.  However, this time around Moshe and Aharon were in aveilus for their sister.  They could not learn torah or teach Klal Yisrael!  Lu gavan’u b’gva acheinu lifnei Hashem,” the people complained – had we died earlier, it would at least have been “lifnei Hashem,” enveloped by ruchniyus; now, we have nothing. 

The Midrash says the sin of Moshe and Ahraon was not learning even one perek or one halacha to satisfy their needs. Explains the Hafla’ah, they could have learned perek “eilu megalchin; they could have learned a din in hilchos aveilus.  There is never a need or an excuse to completely abandon learning.

The Chasam Sofer (al haTorah) adds his own two cents to this idea.  Why in the earlier episode of thirst in Parshas Beshalach was Moshe commanded to hit the rock but this time he was told to speak to it?  There are different ways to combat the yetzer ha’ra.  One way is the brute force method – crush it into oblivion.  That method is symbolized by the hitting of the rock that took place shortly after yetzi’as Mitzrayim.  Forty years later a more mature Bnei Yisrael was ready to appreciate another approach to combating the yetzer – “mashcheyhu l’beis ha’medrash,” redirecting its energy to a positive goal.  Moshe was supposed to engage in talmud torah to demonstrate that the stubborn rock could be harnessed for good as well.

the hebrew school education that could have been

Nat Hentoff has a great article here which he opens as follows:
My Jewish parents had changed their lives – inner and outer – by coming to America. When their son was old enough to go to school, they were determined not to send him to the prestigious Hebrew school on the street next to where they lived in Boston.
No, the boy was to be more fully Americanized by taking a sizable walk to the William Lloyd Garrison public elementary school in the neighborhood.
More American even than most Americans, Hebrew school was not for Nat.  His parents wanted him to absorb the values of truth, justice, and the American way (if only those values could be re-released and re-invigorated as easily as a movie!)
Nat continues:
Were they here, my parents might have asked, “What happened to America?”
“His name,” I would tell them, “is Barack Obama.”
To Nat's credit, unlike most other so-called civil libertarians who beat the drum for civil liberty only when they can use it as a weapon to attack Republican administrations, he has been consistent in his criticisms of both Bush and Obama.  The vast majority, however, remain blind to their vision of a great liberal society being destroyed.  I feel bad for folks like Nat.  The gave up so much for the American dream only to wake up (those few who do wake up!) and discover that it was exactly that -- just a dream. 

Dear Nat: It's never too late to come back to get that Hebrew school education. 

P.S. Hello NSA, IRS, etc. snoopers here to add me to the enemies list : )

Friday, June 07, 2013

winning sometimes means losing

V’haya ha’ish asher yivchar Hashem hu ha’kadosh…" (16:7)  Of course the person Hashem chooses is proven to be holiest of the group – what’s the chiddush?  Why did Moshe need to spell this out to Korach and his minions?

The Ksav Sofer offers a number of answers, but the one I liked most is built on a clever pshat of the Chasam Sofer as to why Mordechai was “ratzuy l’rov echav,” but was not looked upon so highly by the Sanhedrin after the events of the Megillah.  What did they want from the guy – he saved Klal Yisrael!?  So it might have entailed some bitul Torah, as Chazal tell us, but weighed against the danger of Haman, how can you fault Mordechai for closing his gemara to go do something about it?

Chazam Sofer answers that of course Mordechai was right to use his talent and position to save Klal Yisrael, even though he had to give up learning time to do so.  But there are many paths to save Klal Yisrael that are open to Hashem.  Doesn’t Mordechai himself tell Esther that if she doesn’t step forward, “Revach v’hatzalah ya’amod la’yehudim m’makom achier?”  Yet the very fact that the hatzalah came through Mordechai, forcing him to take away learning time, and not through some other means, proved that somehow Mordechai’s torah, Mordechai’s learning, suffered from some shortcoming (obviously we are speaking about a fault on a level we cannot even imagine).  Otherwise, says the Chasam Sofer, Hashem would have worked things out so that Klal Yisrael would be saved without disrupting Mordechai’s precious limud haTorah.  This was the criticism of the Sanhedrin. 

One might have thought that the person elected to be Kohein Gadol, who must devote time and effort to filling a leadership position, is someone whose torah and avodah in other areas is less valuable to Hashem, otherwise why would Hashem take that person out of the beis medrash?  Moshe therefore tells Korach that in this instance, that’s not the case.  The person selected by Hashem, “Hu hakadosh,” he is the holiest member of the group and is the most worthy. 

Let me end off with a little question that I don’t know the answer to: so how do we know the difference?  If a person is thrust into a position where he/she feels that he must take on a public role at the expense of private avodah and/or torah learning, how does a person know whether that means he is a Mordechai and at the end of the day will be only “ratzuy l’rov echav,” or whether he is an Aharon, “Hu hakadosh?”  I don’t think a person can really know and perhaps it shouldn’t bother him anyway.  Let Hashem take care of the cheshbonos.

hallel without hodu

A few weeks ago I wrote with respect to hallel on Yom ha’Atzmaut that if you hold that hallel should be said b'toras reading of tehillim as opposed to a formal kri’as hallel that may require a takanas Chazal to institute, then it seems to me that the responsive “hodo” after “yomar na yisrael,” “yomru na beis aharon,” etc. should be omitted.  These responses to the sha”tz (and the doubling of pesukim at the end of hallel) are specific facets of formal kri’as hallel (see Sukkah 38); if someone were just saying tehillim, it would not be done this way. 

Maybe there’s a bit of proof to my point from hallel of Rosh Chodesh, which is just a minhag.  Look at what the Rambam writes (Hil Chanukah 3:8):

 ומדלג ואומר "מה אשיב, לה'" (תהילים קטז,יב), עד "הללו יה" (תהילים קטז,יט); ומדלג ואומר "מן המצר,

Notice: no recitation of hodu at all!

The GR”A (Ma’aseh Rav) had a practice that seems counterintuitive, but actually makes perfect sense now that we know the Rambam.  On Rosh Chodesh, he would listen to the sha”tz say the pesukim of “yomar na…,” “yomru na…” etc., fulfilling his obligation of kri’ah through shome’a k’oneh, exactly like the sugya in Sukkah 38 dictates, and he would just answer “hodu” to the shat"z.  However, on Yamim Tovim he would not rely on shome’a k’oneh and would read all the pesukim.  Why would he follow the minhag as set down in the gemara on Rosh Chodesh, where hallel is just a minhag, and not on Yom Tov?

The reason we don’t rely on shome’a k’oneh like the gemara says is because it’s hard to do -– it’s easy to miss a word.  On Tom Yov, where you need to read everything, the GR"A made sure to say every word.  However, on Rosh Chodesh, where according to the Rambam you can omit all of hodu, the GR"A was not concerned if he missed a word by relying on shome'a k'oneh.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

hafrashas challah -- an opportune time for tefilah

There may not be any makor (at least that I know of) for gathering precisely 43 women to bake challah together as a special zechus and having everyone recite amein in unison to the bracha of hafrasha, but there is a good makor for using the opportunity of hafrashas challah as a time to daven.  The last Teshuvos Maimoni in the back of the Rambam Zera’im (link) ends off with an aggadic discussion of challah.  He writes that the name Chanah is an acrostic formed from the three mitzvos given especially to women, Challah, Nidah, and Hadlakas ner Shabbos.  Because Chanah was especially scrupulous in these mitzvos, her tefilos for a son was answered.  Every women, he writes, should take Chanah as a model and use the opportunity presented by these mitzvos as a time for tefilah, especially tefilah for sons who are tzadikim.  Based on this I guess women should say the same special tefilah they recite after hadlakas neiros Shabbos when they are mafrish challah. 

(Parenthetically, I recently saw that R’ Elyashiv was asked why saying this tefilah is not a problem of saying a tefilas bakasha on Shabbos, which we try to avoid.  The GR”A even went so far as to omit the Harachaman… parts of bentching.  The answer is that a bakasha of ruchniyus is not a problem, but I am not sure I understood the point correctly, so don’t trust me on that.)
R’ Ya’akov Shapira, R”Y of Merkaz haRav, said (link) that his father used to give tzedaka and daven for cholim just before the time of hadlakas neiros based on this Hagahos Maimoni.  Even though the hadlakah is usually done by women, the chiyuv of hadlakah applies to men as well (if there is no women at home, a man needs to light for himself).  Since men share in the kiyum mitzvah, it is a zman of tefilah for them as well. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Aruch haShulchan on gerama vs. being goreim gerama

I’m having a hard time understanding a chiddush the Aruch haShulchan comes up with in Y.D. 276:36-37 (link).  The gemara (Shabbos 120) writes that there is no issur of erasing Hashem’s name if done through a gerama.  Example: someone has the shem Hashem written on his skin and has to go to mikveh.  Even though the shem will be erased by the water, it’s an indirect consequence, and so going to the mikveh is permitted.  The conclusion of the sugya seems clear and is brought by the Rambam l’halacha, but is not quoted in Shulchan Aruch.  The Ah”S wants to know why.

The Ah”S suggests that even though gerama is permitted, to be “goreim gerama,” to deliberately cause a gerama to take place, is prohibited.  For example: if a person had the shem Hashem written on his skin and deliberately stood under water for the sake of erasing the shem, that is the same as just taking an eraser and rubbing it out.  Just because the water is doing the work and not the person makes no difference.  Therefore, since the gemara’s heter of gerama applies in such a limited uncommon scenario like going to mikveh, the Shulchan Aruch omits the topic entirely.

I don’t know how to make sense of the Ah”S’s chiddush once we take it out of the context of erasing shem haShem and try to apply it to other areas.  The gemara writes that melacha is prohibited on Shabbos, but gerama is permitted.  The gemara gives an example: placing barrels of water in the path of a fire, so that when the fire hits the barrels and explodes them, the water will extinguish the fire.  According to the Ah”S, why is this permitted – isn’t it being “goreim gerama” since the intent obviously is to extinguish the fire and setting the barrels in its path is just a ruse to indirectly accomplish that goal? 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

halachic proof vs. archeological proof

I have not investigated the issue of techeiles enough to even begin to have a thought on the matter, but I want to just call attention to what I think is an interesting methodological point R’ Asher Weiss makes in discussing the topic.  From the response, it appears that the person writing to R’ Weiss made the argument that the vast numbers of purpura/murex shells found in Eretz Yisrael proves that this species was used to make techeiles.  Rav Weiss responds that he recognizes that this type of argument/evidence carries weight in various fields, particularly archeology, where the goal is to construct a theory that best explains the available facts.  However, a theory, no matter how plausible, is not proof.  Whatever explanation is offered for the evidence remains just one of many possible explanations, some more likely than others, but none of which can be said with certainty to be true.  Halacha demands proof – not just a logical or plausible theory. 

Sorry if this cut and paste of an image of the relevant part is a bit sloppy:


missing the trees for the forest

Moshe asked the meraglim to investigate, “Ha’yesh bah eitz im ayin?” whether Eretz Yisrael has trees.  Rashi already is bothered by this very strange question.  Did Moshe really think Eretz Yisrael (which he knew was eretz za’is shemen u’devash!) had a shortage of trees?  And were botanical questions really critical to ask at this time?  What was Moshe after?

The key to the answer lies in the story of creation.  Hashem commanded that “eitz pri” (Braishis 1:11) appear – trees that were fruit, meaning the bark of the fruit tree was supposed to be as edible as the fruit itself.  However, the trees did not do that.  Instead, out of the ground came “eitz oseh pri,” trees that produced fruit, but were themselves inedible. 

Rav Kook (Orot Teshuvah ch 6) explains the Midrash as a metaphor.  Fruit is the desired end; the tree is the means of producing it.  Ideally, the means to a goal should themselves have some inherent value.  Reality, however, does not live up to the ideal. We perceive our stuggles toward various goals as obstacles to be overcome rather than as valuable experiences and endeavors in their own right.  (Gush's VBM has a nice shiur on this here.) 

If the trees did not fulfill the command of Hashem, why does the Torah says “Va’yehi kein” on that third day of creation?  The Nezer haKodesh explains that it was only the trees of chutz la’aretz which disobeyed; the trees of Eretz Yisrael did exactly as Hashem commanded.

In light of Rav Kook’s metaphor, what this means is that in chutz la’aretz there is no inherent value to farming, building, etc.  These are just means to an end, and if we could skip the intermediate steps and get what we wanted some other way, all the better.  Not so in Eretz Yisrael.  There, ends and means are one and the same; the tree is as tasty as the fruit it produces.  The process of building the land is valuable in its own right and deserving of reward.

Now we can understand, explains R' Ya'akov Moshe Charlap, the great student of Rav Kook, what Moshe wanted.  “Do you see trees, like you do in chutz la’aretz”, he asked the spies, “Or are you able to see that Eretz Yisrael is a land of fruit alone?”  Moshe was challenging the spies to report that in Eretz Yisrael the ta’am ha’eitz is the ta’am ha’pri, it’s all edible, everything has value, there is no difference between means and ends.  Eretz Yisrael fulfills the ideal that Hashem commanded for creation.

Had Moshe brought us into Eretz Yisrael, this is what we would have seen.  And, says R’ Charlap, is we are zocheh, we can and will find the trees like this in Eretz Yisrael – trees that are really fruit, ta’am ha’eitz k'ta’am ha’pri, just as Hashem commanded.