Friday, July 31, 2020

geulah is not simply a restoration of the past

Before I get to nachamu, just a word about last week's haftarah of chazon because if I don't write this now I will forget by next year. In siman 282 in hil shabbos by the dinim of maftir the S.A. writes that if there is no one who knows how to read the haftarah except for someone who already got an aliya, that person is called up for maftir and says new brachos and reads the maftir pesukim even though he already got an aliya earlier.  Achronim quote from the Rivash (see MB sk 26) an extension of this din that is a chiddush: On shabbos chazon even if there are multiple people in shul who can read the words and even lein the haftarah with the normal trop, that's not good enough -- only someone who can lein chazon with the trop of kinos can be called up for maftir, even if it means calling up someone who already got an aliya.  

We see from here that the haftarah of chazon is not just a regular haftarah with a different tune -- no one says the din of the S.A. would apply at other times if there is someone who can read the words correctly but doesn't know the trop.   It applies specifically to chazon because chazon is a kinah, and it has to be read as such.  If not, then it's like not reading it at all.

Turning to this week, shabbos nachamu, the haftarah of nachamu.  Hashem sends the navi to bring a message of nechama to Klal Yisrael. 

ק֚וֹל אֹמֵ֣ר קְרָ֔א וְאָמַ֖ר מָ֣ה אֶקְרָ֑א (1:6) 

There seems to be a shakla v'terya here, but it's not clear what's going on.  Hashem is saying to call out to the people, and the response is "Mah ekra," what am I supposed to say?  Metzudas David:

קול אומר קרא – קול נבואה אומר להנביא קרא והכרז ברבים.
ואמר – כאלו הנביא שואל מה אקרא 

Hashem just said that the navi has to bring a message of nechama, so what's the question?

When do we give nechama?  You do nichum aveilim after a person dies and is gone forever.  Rashi (Brashis 37:35) writes that Yaakov Avinu could not accept nechama for the loss of Yosef because Yosef in fact was still alive.  Chasam Sofer explains (in Toras Moshe at the end of Va'eschanan, and see Malbim for a different answer) that this is what bothered the navi.  How can I give nechama for Klal Yisrael for the churban ha'bayis when the beis ha'mikdash is still alive for them?  "Haysa k'almana" we read in Eicha -- "k'lamanah" with a kaf ha'dimyon because we are not really an almanah.  We expect Hashem to come back to us, to come back to Yerushalayim, to rebuild the mikdash again.  We are suffering but a temporary separation.  For that, there is no nechama.

The answer Hashem gives is that the ultimate redemption will not simply be a restoration of what once was.  "Yaveish chatzir naveil tzitz."  That beis ha'mikdash of the past built by human hands is gone and will never be brought back. For that, Klal Yisrael needs and deserves nechama.  "U'dvar Elokeinu yakum l'olam" -- there will be another mikdash built by Hashem's hands, and that mikdash will stand for eternity. 

davening - an end in itself

Moshe davened 515 tefilos, gematriya of "va'eschanan," pleading with Hashem to let him enter Eretz Yisrael, but in the end, Hashem answered "rav lach" and told him to cease davening.

Hashem knew in advance what the outcome would be.  Why then did he wait until Moshe davened 515 tefilos before stopping him?  Why not just tell him up front, after one tefilah, that the answer is no?

The yesod of tefilah is dveikus, writes R' Nissin Yagen.  We daven to connect to Hashem.  All the good things we hope to get from G-d by davening, whether it be refuah, bracha, geulah, etc., are all just ancillary benefits, but they are not why we daven.  A conversation with G-d is not a means to an end -- it is an end in itself.   

Had Hashem stopped Moshe after one tefilah, Moshe would have been deprived of 514 other opportunities to grow in his connection to Hashem. Therefore, even though Hashem knew the answer would be no, he let Moshe keep davening.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

temporary annoyances

Moshe tells Klal Yisrael at the start of Parshas Devarim that "rav lachem sheves ba'har ha'zeh," (1:6) enough dawdling at Sinai, now that the Torah was given and the Mishkan built it is time to move on and head towards Eretz Yisrael.  In between that declaration and the sending the the spies, which would set things back 40 years, Moshe describes how he appointed judges to help manage the burden of leadership. 

The Midrash notes that this episode is out of place.  The appointment Moshe describes is either the appointment of judges that took place immediately after Yom Kippur before the Mishkan was built, or the appointment done after the misonenim story, much later.  Either way, it did not happen after the people broke camp at Sinai to start the journey to Eretz Yisrael.  Why does Moshe in recounting events put things out of order?

Some explain that Moshe was thematically linking the appointment of judges to the journey toward Eretz Yisrael.  Our task is to setup a just society in our homeland.  By appointing judges Moshe was establishing the framework through which that could be accomplished.

Rav Shachter writes that R' Soloveitchik used to have the baal koreh at Shabbos mincha/Mon/Thurs before parshas Devarim stop not at sheni, which is what the sidur says to do, but to read through until after this section describing the appointment of judges.  RYBS said this was the minhag in Brisk.  Not pausing reinforces this link between the journey to Eretz Yisrael at the start of the section and the appointment of judges -- it is one topic.

The Sefono takes a different approach.  He and links the parsha of appointing judges to the theme of Moshe's opening speech -- tochacha.  He ties the parsha not to the road ahead, to Eretz Yisrael, but rather to the sojourn in the midbar:

זֶה סִפֵּר לְהַזְכִּירָם אֶת פִּשְׁעָם, שֶׁאַף-עַל-פִּי שֶׁבִּשֵּׂר אותָם שֶׁיִּכָּנְסוּ לָאָרֶץ בִּלְתִּי שׁוּם מִלְחָמָה, שֶׁהָיָה עִנְיָנָהּ רַב הַתּועֶלֶת וְהַכָּבוד יותֵר מִכָּל נִכְסֵיהֶם וְעִנְיְנֵיהֶם בַּמִּדְבָּר, לא נִמְנְעוּ מִלְּעורֵר דִּבְרֵי רִיבות אִישׁ עַל חֲבֵרו, בְּאפֶן שֶׁהֻצְרַךְ לְמַנּות מַדְרֵגות שׁופְטִים, עַד שֶׁכָּל עֲשָׂרָה מֵהֶם הָיוּ צְרִיכִים לְדַיָּן פְּרָטִי, וְאֵין זֶה כִּי אִם מֵרעַ לֵב.

Am Yisrael was on the road and moving quickly.  It is an 11 day journey from Chorev to Kadesh Barne'a ,but Klal Yisrael was able to do it in a mere three days, as Hashem wanted to help hurry their arrival into Eretz Yisrael.  How long would it be before they arrived in Eretz Yisrael? Moshe did not anticipate more than a few more days of travel.  And yet, Moshe tells the people, I had to appoint judges along the way.  You could not avoid arguing, you could not avoid having disputes that needed to be worked out and resolved, even for that short period of time, even though you knew you would soon be in Eretz Yisrael, each person with his own portion.

It's like a person who wins the lottery and on the way to collect his winnings gets into a fight with the cab driver about the fare.  You're about to become a millionaire -- who really cares whether the ride costs a few dollars more or a few dollars less?  It's not worth fighting about!  Here too, Moshe was telling Klal Yisrael, "You are about to inherit Eretz Yisrael, the greatest land, the holiest land -- is it really worth fighting about things in the midbar, things that are temporary annoyances, until we get there?!"

Anyone who reads this Seforno has to say to himself/herself: We are in the aschalta d'geula! So why do we keep up the petty arguments with each other?   Would anyone get into a fight with their interior decorator about whether this chandelier or that chandelier belongs in their dining room if they knew that tomorrow they would be moving to Yerushalayim?  Or get into a fight with their neighbor about whose fault it was that their car got dinged if tomorrow they were moving to Eretz Yisrael and the car ain't coming along?  If we really believed geulah was just around the corner, so much of what we bicker over would just be so trivial and unimportant. 

Our 2000 year long trip is almost over -- time to start acting that way.

when was the nevuah of shabbos chazon given?

חֲזוֹן֙ יְשַֽׁעְיָ֣הוּ בֶן־אָמ֔וֹץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָזָ֔ה עַל־יְהוּדָ֖ה וִירֽוּשָׁלָ֑‍ִם בִּימֵ֨י עֻזִּיָּ֧הוּ יוֹתָ֛ם אָחָ֥ז יְחִזְקִיָּ֖הוּ מַלְכֵ֥י יְהוּדָֽה׃

Rashi and other meforshim explain that the opening pasuk of chazon is an introduction which tells us that Yeshayahu prophesied for the duration of the reign of four kings.  The Metzudah puts it succinctly:

בימי ארבעת המלכים האלה ניבא עד שעמד מנשה והרגו.

When was this particular nevuah that we read on shabbos chazon given?  That's not clear.  At the end of Rashi in parenthesis there is a comment that says it was given at the end of Chizkiyahu's reign, but there is no justification for that claim given nor it is clear that the comment is even from Rashi.

Malbi"m has a different pshat.  He writes:

חזון ישעיהו נבואה זאת נבא בימי עוזיהו ושנה אותה בימי כל מלך ומלך.

The first pasuk is not telling us historically how many years Yeshayahu prophesied for, but rather is telling us when he gave this specific prophecy -- namely, he gave it in the days of Uziyahu, and then again in the days Yosam, and then again in the days of Achaz, and yet again in the days of Chizkiyahu.  Again and again Yishayahu went around giving the same exact message, hoping that this time, in this king's reign, someone would finally listen! 

Yishayahu may have been killed by Menashe, but he is still giving us the same prophecy and the same message, year after year, shabbos chazon after shabbos chazon, hoping someone will finally listen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

rashash vs aruch hashulchan on placement of nacheim

The Yerushalmi writes that the bracha of nacheim should be recited in avodah, similar to the way we recite ya'aleh v'yavo in avodah.  Yet that's not what we do -- we stick it in bonei yerushalayim.  There is no source in the Bavli that says to do that, so why do we disregard the Yerushalmi?

RI"F writes that our practice is based on the Bavli's din that one is permitted to add a bakasha to a bracha so long as it is in keeping with the bracha's theme.  For example, if you know someone is sick, you can add a bakasha for them to be healed into refa'einu.  We therefore add our bakasha for nechamas Yerushalayim to the bracha that deals with binyan Yerushalayim.

Aruch haShulchan is not satisfied with this alone.  He points out that the Yerushalmi may be l'shitaso.  The Yerushalmi's nusach ha'tefilah incorporates es tzemach David into bonei yerushalayim as one bracha. Therefore, since the theme of nacheim does not relate to es tzemach David, it cannot be incorporated into the bracha of bonei yerushalamim/es tzemach as it only fits half the topic.  The Yerushalmi had no choice other than to put it in avodah.  According to the Bavli that es tzemach is its own bracha and bonei yerushalayim is its own bracha, nacheim fits perfectly into bonei yerushalayim, and that is why we put in there.

Even though we reject the Yerushalmi, the Rashash in Taanis (30) comes up with a chiddush l'halacha based on it that is implicitly at odds with this Aruch haShulachan.  Some background: S.A. writes (294:4) that if you omit something from tefilah that you are not required to repeat for, once you finish the bracha you cannot go back.  R' Akiva Eiger adds that you don't even have to finish the bracha -- once you say "baruch ata Hashem..." and say the shem Hashem, you can't go back.  For example, if you forgot havdalah on motzei Shabbos in the bracha of ata chonein, once you said "baruch ata Hashem" to end the bracha, you just go on.  The MG"A (114:8) adds that you cannot even add the missed words in between the bracha you finished and the next bracha either -- i.e. it is not just a matter of avoiding wasting shem Hashem by going back.

Rashash argues that nacheim is different.  If you miss saying it, you can stick it in between the brachos.  Since according to the Yerushalmi es tzemach David and bonei yerushalayim is one bracha, the placement of nacheim where we have it must assume that there is a connection between nacheim and the themes of both brachos (not like Ah"S who says Ylmi l'shitaso would not hold of where we place it!) Therefore, even if you finished the bracha of bonei yerushalayim, you are still holding in the same topic by es tzemach david and may add in nacheim.  (There are a few other wrinkles that he adds to bolster the point, but this is the main argument.)

Aside from the chiddush l'halacha, there is an important idea in hashkafa as well.  According to Rashash, the theme of binyan yerushalayim that we hope and pray for in nacheim does not stand by itself -- it is linked to es tzemach david, to geulah and mashiach.  Even though we may even be able to stand in Yerushalayim on 9 Av under an Israeli flag, we still must recite the tefilah, as the redemption of Yerushalayim remains incomplete so long as we lack full geulah. 

Mizrachi campaign to raise funds for yeshivot and seminaries

World Mizrachi is running a two day campaign to try to raise much needed funds for yeshivot and seminaries in Eretz Yisrael.  There is a large pool of institutions participating.  Here's the link if you care to give:

Seems like a good opportunity to support Torah learning at institutions many of us are familiar with.

mesirus nefesh for torah

The parsha tells us that Klal Yisrael immediately agreed to Moshe's suggestion that they appoint dayanim, and for that Moshe was critical of them.  Rashi comments (1:9)

ותענו אותי וגו׳ – חלטתם את הדבר להנאתכם. היה לכם להשיב: רבנו משה ממי נאה ללמוד, ממך או מתלמידך? לא ממך, שנצטערת עליה. אלא ידעתי מחשבותיכם, הייתם אומרים: עכשיו יתמנו עלינו דיינים הרבה, אם אינו מכירנו, אנו מביאין לו דורון, והוא נושא לנו פנים.

R' Chaim Elazary in his Darchei Chaim is medayeik that Rashi doesn't say that the people should have preferred to learn from Moshe because he was the biggest talmid chacham of the dor, that he had heard Torah directly from Hashem at Sinai and therefore no one could know it better than he could.  What Rashi says is that the people should have preferred to learn from Moshe because "לא ממך, שנצטערת עליה" -- Moshe went through more trouble than anyone else, i.e. Moshe had more mesirus nefesh for Torah than anyone else. 

A great rebbe is not necessarily the biggest genius, but rather it's the person who is most willing to suffer with and on behalf of his students.

Friday, July 24, 2020

blowing chatzotzros -- to have hargasha

Magid Mishneh at the beginning of hil taanis asks:

וראיתי לרבינו בספר המצות שלו שמנה תרועה זו ותקיעה שבשעת הקרבנות במצוה אחת. ותמה אני למה שהרי שני פסוקים הם בכתוב. ונראה שדעתו ז"ל שהמצוה היא אחת כללית לתקוע בחצוצרות במקדש בעת הקרבנות ובעת הצרות בין במקדש בין בגבולין ואין ראוי למנותן בשתי מצות ועוד צ"ע

Meaning, in P' Beha'aloscha, we have a command (10:9) to blow chatzotzros at a time of danger, such as war:

 וְכִֽי־תָבֹ֨אוּ מִלְחָמָ֜ה בְּאַרְצְכֶ֗ם עַל־הַצַּר֙ הַצֹּרֵ֣ר אֶתְכֶ֔ם וַהֲרֵעֹתֶ֖ם בַּחֲצֹצְרֹ֑ת

There is another command (10:10) to blow chatzotzros when offering korbanos:

וּבְי֨וֹם שִׂמְחַתְכֶ֥ם וּֽבְמוֹעֲדֵיכֶם֮ וּבְרָאשֵׁ֣י חׇדְשֵׁיכֶם֒א וּתְקַעְתֶּ֣ם בַּחֲצֹֽצְרֹ֗ת עַ֚ל עֹלֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם וְעַ֖ל זִבְחֵ֣י שַׁלְמֵיכֶ֑ם

These are two independent commandments, done at two completely different times and circumstances.  Why then does the Rambam lump them together and count them as one mitzvah?

(Some compare it to the mitzvah of blowing shofar on Rosh haShana and the mitzvah of blowing shofar at the start of yovel: same action of blowing shofar, but Rambam counts it as two mitzvos since it is done at two different times.  One could argue that the analogy is false.  Rambam writes that the mitzvah on Rosh haShana is מצות עשה של תורה לשמוע תרועת השופר.  The mitzvah on yovel (hil shemita 10:10) is מצות עשה לתקוע בשופר בעשירי לתשרי בשנת היובל.  One is a mitzvah of listeing to shofar, one is a mitzvah of blowing shofar.  Two different actions, therefore counted as two mitzvos.)

Rav Bakshi Doron has an answer in his sichos on 9 Av that I think is really rooted in the Pri Megadim (O.C. 575 M"Z 2).  In any case, the underlying message immediately brought to mind a vort from R' Bloch of Telz that I've written about before.  The Midrash tells us that Moshe's singing "az yashir" as a tikun for his having used that same word "az" earlier (Shmos 5:23) in questioning G-d's treatment of the Jewish people וּמֵאָ֞ז בָּ֤אתִי אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר בִּשְׁמֶ֔ךָ הֵרַ֖ע לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה.  Just because both phrases use the word "az" doesn't mean much -- what is the connection Chazal are trying to make?  How does singing "az yashir" make up for Moshe's earlier remark?

Rav Bloch explains (there is a famous Beis haLevi that has a different answerr) that what Chazal are telling us is that when Moshe saw the Jewish people suffering, his question, וּמֵאָ֞ז בָּ֤אתִי אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙, was not some abstract philosophical dilemma, but was a cry of acute pain and emotional anguish.  He felt the suffering of the Jewish people in the deepest way.    But maybe that's not such a good response -- maybe it would be better to cultivate dispassionate objectivity?  The Midrash answers that argument: someone who is more of a cold fish may not cry out in distress, but a cold fish can't sing shirah either.  Davka because Moshe had the capacity to feel "mei'az basi" and cry out in pain could he also sing out "az yashir" in true elation.  They are two sides of the same coin and go hand in hand.

Blowing chatzotzros is the ma'aseh mitzvah, but the kiyum mitzvah is b'lev, in the heart.  Blowing  chatzotzros is meant to arouse one's heart so that one feels the distress of Klal Yisrael in an eis tzarah.  Blowing chatzotzros when offering korbanos is also meant to arouse the heart, to feel closeness to Hashem in a time of avodah.  It's one and the same mitzvah -- to be an oveid Hashem with hargasha. 

This is perhaps what Chazal mean when they tell us that only one who mourns Yerushalayim can rejoice in its rebuilding.  Chazal are not just talking about whether you wear sneakers instead of leather shoes or sit on the floor instead of a chair on 9 Av.  Anyone can go through the motions.  What Chazal are after is whether you fulfilled the kiyum b'lev of aveilus.  Do you feel anguish that there is no Beis haMikdash?  Do you feel pain at seeing Yerushalayim not yet fully restored to its glory?  Do you have a hargasha?  Because if you are not emotionally invested enough to feel the pain and suffering of what we are missing, then don't expect to feel elation and joy when we get it back. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

afraid yet?

When you look at the unrest in Portland, in Seattle, in Chicago, in other cities, and you see the complete lack of control the mayors of those cities have over the mob -- aderaba, the mayors are on the side of the mob and against enforcing the law -- I dont' know how you can not be afraid.

Unfortunately the leadership of our community still operates under two delusions: 1) It won't happen in our neighborhoods; 2) The police will protect us.

Remember Crown Heights in 1991?  Good times under Dinkins:

5:05 P.M: Caller to 911: "They're heading down to my house. They're breaking the windows, please come!"

5:08 P.M: Caller: "They're breaking all the windows on my block. ... Where are the police?"

5:09 P.M: Caller: "Please get the police here. ... I am shaking. It's a riot."

7:40 P.M: Caller: "It's a pogrom. ... If we have to wait for the killings, we're finished. ... I'm not safe in my house. ... I want to get out."

No police response for three days, and only 1 person arrested.  Look at the more recent example from last week of what happened to Michelle Malkin when the police were given a stand-down order and offered no protection from the mob.

But what do we think?  Those are chassidim and not us, they live in a "bad" neighborhood, not like us, etc.

It will eventually get to our neighborhoods too.  It may take weeks, it may take months, it may take a little longer.  These riots are just a warm up for the unrest they will try when Trump wins in Nov (and if chas v'shalom he doesn't, it will be worse).  And when it does, and you call 911, what will you do when no one shows up?

rav lachem sheves ba'har ha'zeh

 ...Rav lachem sheves ba'har ha'zeh (1:6)

Rashi comments:
רב לכם שבת – כפשוטו.
ויש מדרש: הרבה לכם גדולה ושכר על ישיבתכם בהר הזה – עשיתם משכן מנורה וכלים, קבלתם תורה, מניתם לכם סנהדרין שרי אלפים שרי מאות (ספרי דברים א׳:ו׳).

"You made a mishkan, menorah, and kelim..."   Why does Rashi single out the menorah?  Why does it deserve special mention and is not subsumed under "kelim?" 

I don't have a good answer.  Suggestions?

Another point:

Why does Rashi quote a midrash?  Why is he not satisfied with the peshuto here?  Sifsei Chachamim says Rashi is bothered by the use of "rav" instead of "dai," but he does not explain why one term is more appropriate than the other.  I wont do your homework for you -- get our a concordance and check where else "rav" is used and see what the difference between those pesukim and this one is.  Does the term "rav" apply to a measure of time? 

I would suggest that Rashi is bothered by the entire phrase.  Why not just say פְּנ֣וּ׀ וּסְע֣וּ לָכֶ֗ם etc (pasuk 7)?  Compare with Gur Aryeh in next week's parsha 3:26, Hashem's response of "rav lach" to Moshe's tefilah.  It is the phrase itself which is unnecessary, not the usage of one word vs another which bothers Rashi.

Why indeed does Hashem not simply say פְּנ֣וּ׀ וּסְע֣וּ לָכֶ֗ם -- why the need to add that they have spent too much time at Sinai?  Netziv explains that there is a lesson and tochacha (see Kli Yakar as well) here:

רב לכם שבת בהר הזה – הרי היה קשה לפניו יתברך העיכוב שלכם אפילו בהר הנבחר והנעלה, כי היה חפץ למהר להכניסכם לארץ.

Even though you were "b'har ha'ZEH," the singular mountain of Sinai, the exalted place of mattan Torah -- what could be greater than that? -- Hashem wanted you to move on and not spend more time there.  The goal is not to attain spiritual heights in a desert, but rather to get to Eretz Yisrael and build a country.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

only those in the shuk have answers

Commenting on the fact that Moshe spoke to the entirety of the people, Rashi writes at the beginning of our parsha:

אל כל ישראל – אילו הוכיח מקצתם, היו אילו שבשוק אומרים: הייתם שומעים מבן עמרם ולא השיבותם דבר מכך וכך, אילו היינו שם היינו משיבין אותו. לכך כנסם כולם, ואמר להם: הרי כולכם כאן, כל מי שיש לו תשובה ישיב.

Had Moshe spoken to only some of the people, the others in the shuk, in the market, would have said, "Had we been there, we would not have taken the rebuke sitting -- we would have answered back."  Big words.  So Moshe gathered everyone, and said, "You think you have answers -- OK, let's hear what you all have to say."  And no one said anything. 

Pshat seems to be not that Moshe cowed everyone into silence, but to the contrary, he wanted to afford them the opportunity to speak, but there was nothing for them to say as there were no excuses or justifications possible.

Yet, the Midrash comments on Moshe's bracha, "Yosef aleichem kachem eleph pe'amim," as follows:

אמר רבי אחא:
יכולין היו ישראל לומר לו: רבינו משה! אנו יש בנו אחד מכל הדברים שאתה מוכיחנו וקבלנו תוכחותיך אלא שתקו, לפיכך הוא אומר: ככם צדיקים, כיוצא בכם מקבלים תוכחות ושותקים

Moshe blessed the people that they should increase "kachem," that the thousands that would come after them should be like them, as they could have answered back and defended themselves against his rebuke but instead chose to remain silent.

So which is it -- could they have spoken up and defended themselves, or was it all bluster and in truth there was nothing that could have been said?

The Bnei Yisaschsr (Chanukah maamar 3:24) explains that if you believe in yad Hashem, then you get your parnasa directly from yad Hashem, like it was in the midbar.  If you believe in the marketplace, albeit with hashgacha working in the background, then you have to go out to the marketplace and do your work and hashgacha will operate in the background.  The mitzvah of ner Chanukah is "ad she'tichleh regel min ha'shuk," until we reach the level where we don't need the shuk, the marketplace, as an intermediary.  The gemara says at the time of geulah bread will grow on trees -- the the veil of teva, the harvesting, grinding, and baking, wont be needed anymore..

The Yismach Yisrael explains that we all think we have excuses for everything we do or don't do, and in the context of our lives, those excuses really might have some validity.  For example, a person can say a whole torah on the importance of hishtadlus to explain why he spends X number of hours of work and has only minimal time to learn, and it may not all be posturing -- he may be sincere, and really can justify his actions.  When you are in the shuk, whether it is the marketplace of secular ideas or the marketplace of parnasa, it makes sense.  Those in the shuk thought that they had good answers for whatever Moshe would bring up.

However, when actually standing in front of Moshe Rabeinu where you can see and feel yad Hashem in a direct way, those same arguments suddenly seem insignificant and lacking in merit. B'mechitzaso shel tzadik ha'dor, there are no answers.

Do you really think all the excuses for what we do in life will hold water when we are standing b'mechitzaso of the Beis HaMikdash?  Here is galus those stories work, but not there.  Geulah means we escape the shuk, but to do so means dealing with some hard truths.  Tochacha = from the shoresh "toch," inside, says the Sefas Emes.  Who really wants to dig deep down inside?  Might find things are not so pleasant.  But lately, the outside world is not such a pleasant place either, especially for Jews.

Monday, July 20, 2020

the yahrzeit of Aharon

Netziv points out that the Torah does not give the date of Moshe's death or the date of Miriam's death. Only the date of Aharon's death -- Rosh Chodesh Av -- is recorded (33:38).  Why?

ללמדנו שאותו החודש גרם להיות לשטן לגדולת עבודת המשכן שהיתה ע״י אהרן הכהן הראש. ומזה סימן לדורות דבחודש אב יהא נחרב בית המקדש.

The month of Av portends tragedy for avodas haMikdash. The loss of Aharon foreshadows the loss of Beis haMikdash and korbanos.

chazak chazak chazak

Aruch haShulchan 139:15:

ודע דבקרא ד"לא ימוש" כתיב: "חזק ואמץ". ומזה נהגו לומר למסיים ספר "חזק חזק ונתחזק!" 
ויש רוצים שיאמרו "חזק" שלוש פעמים שהם במספר "משה", ונכון הוא.

homeland for everyone

Why is it that the arei miklat in chu"l did not function as sanctuary cities (we had the idea first) until after kibush v'chiluk and the arei miklat were set up in Eretz Yisrael?  Meshech Chochma suggests (see here for a second hesber that he offers) that had there been refuge cities in chu"l without there being any in Eretz Yisrael then anyone who kills b'shogeg would immediately flee Eretz Yisrael and run to chu"l.  The Torah does not want even murderers (true, they are shogeg) to be forced to leave Eretz Yisrael!  

Friday, July 17, 2020

Tzror haMor on Bnos Tzelafchad (a segulah for shidduchim)

Everyone always wants to find segulos for shidduchim.  Look no further than the Tzror ha'Mor at the end of our parsha:

להורות כי לפי שבנות צלפחד חבבו הארץ. זכו בשכר זה שכל השבטים היו רצים אחריהם. וכולם היו רוצים וחפצים להזדווג להם. באופן שכשראו זה ראשי האבות של מנשה. נתייראו שיזדווגו לשבט אחר. והם היו רוצים להשיאן לבניהם.

The reward for the Bnos Tzelafchad having such great love for Eretz Yisrael is that everyone wanted to marry them!  (Dont be so cynical and think that it was only because they suddenly found themselves blessed with a portion of land = $$$).  This is what worried the leaders of sheivet Menashe.  With so many suitors, the Bnos Tzelafchad were liable to marry out of the tribe and take their portion of land with them to another sheivet. 

The parsha relates their complaint and Moshe's response:

Vayikrivu roshei ha'avos... m'mishpichos Bnei Yosef (36:1)
...kein matei Bnei Yosef dovrim (36:5)
Mimispichos bnei Menashe ben Yosef hayu l'nashim (36:12)

Why again and again is Yosef mentioned here?  We all know Menashe is the son of Yosef?

Recall Rashi in last week's parsha explained that the Torah introduced the Bnos Tzelaphchad by giving us their yichus all the way back to "..Menashe ben Yosef" (27:1) because:

למשפחותא מנשה בן יוסף – למה נאמר, והלא כבר אמר: בן מנשה? אלא לומר לך: יוסף חיבב את הארץ, שנאמר: והעליתם את עצמותי (בראשית נ׳:כ״ה), ובנותיו חיבבו את הארץ.

Yosef was a Zionist, he loved Eretz Yisrael.  The Bnos Tzelafchad were a chip off the ol' block and reflected that same attitude.

This is why the Torah stresses Yosef's identity in explaining the argument of the leaders of Mensahe.  "Where did that love of Eretz Yisrael through which you earned a portion of nachala come from?" they argued to Bnos Tzelafchad.  "It came from the genes of our sheivet -- the genes of Yosef hatzadik who loved Eretz Yisrael.  Therefore we have a right to hold that land in within the tribe because if not for the genes you got from us, you wouldn't have a claim."

Hashem responds to their complaint by saying:

 לַטּ֥וֹב בְּעֵינֵיהֶ֖ם תִּהְיֶ֣ינָה לְנָשִׁ֑ים אַ֗ךְ לְמִשְׁפַּ֛חַת מַטֵּ֥ה אֲבִיהֶ֖ם תִּהְיֶ֥ינָה לְנָשִֽׁים׃

Which is it?  Can the Bnos Tzelafchad marry "la'tov b'eineihem," whoever they liked, or must they marry "l'mishpachas avihem," only within their sheivet? 

Chazal resolve the issue (see Ramban, Meshech Chochma) by darshening that Bnos Tzelafchad could marry whoever they liked, but as an eitzah tovah they should marry within the sheivet. 

Tzeror haMor explains pshat is that Hashem is agreeing with the leaders of Menashe -- the land should not be taken from the sheivet.  However, half of sheivet Menashe lives in Eiver ha'Yarden.  Someone who lives there might marry one of the Bnos Tzelafchad and maybe just keep an apartment in Eretz Yisrael for vacations.  Therefore, Hashem also said that they should not only marry within the sheiveit, but women such as these who so strongly feel a love for Eretz Yisrael should marry "la'tov b'einehem," only to those who they consider "tov," those who share their same idealism and outlook and passion for Eretz Yisrael.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

three questions

We have in our parsha the mitzvah d'oraysa of conquering and settling Eretz Yisrael.  The gemara (Shabbos 108) relates that when Shmuel became aware that a "gavra rabba" was coming from Eretz Yisrael to Bavel he sent Karna to check out whether he was a talmid chacham or not.  The gavra rabba was the great sage Rav.  Karna asked him three questions to test him:

1) How do we know that tefillin must be written only on the hide of a tahor animal?
2) How do we know that only red colored blood (dam nidah) is tamei?
3) How do we know that the mitzvah of milah is to cut the foreskin?  (Maybe the orlah referred to is just metaphorical?)

The gemara quotes derashos that Rav gave to answer all three of the questions.

Why did Karna ask these questions in particular?  Did he just pull three random issues in halacha out of a hat, or was there some deeper meaning to the queries?

Rav Kook explains that Karna was in fact trying to take the measure of Rav's attitude toward Eretz Yisrael.  What was the hashkafa of this person who was making yerida to Bavel?  Each question had a message behind it:

Karna's first question was meant to convey that the letters of tefillin may be holy, but they do not float in a vacuum -- you can't put a davar she'b'kedusha on that which is tamei.  So too, Torah ultimately cannot take root in an environment of tumah.  Ain Torah k'toras Eretz Yisrael.  As great as the yeshivos in Bavel might be, they are not a permanent substitute for our homeland.

The second question was meant to hint to Rav that Eretz Yisrael was acquired through heroic red blood spilled by our people.  That alone makes it worthy of being cherished even were it not for its kedusha.

The third and final question was meant to convey that our love of Eretz Yisrael needs to translate itself into concrete action.  It's not enough to celebrate an "idea" of Israel.  We have to aspire to take on the physical work of building a tangible, real country.

Karna was in effect saying, "Dear Rav, Welcome to Bavel.  But don't forget from where you came, as that is the real home of Am Yisrael."

Everyone these days is getting "woke," but sadly we are the last to wake up.  Eight years of Obama y'mach shemo should have been enough evidence that our idyllic stay here in the US is coming to an end, but we are slow to get the message.  Hashem prodded up a little harder and onto the stage stepped AOC, Rhashida Tlaib, Linda Sarsour, Ilhan Omar.  And still we sleep.  The Jewish News out west reports, "The Aug. 4 primary offers a path to oust the outspoken, pro-BDS congresswoman, but Jews are staying out — or backing her."  What hope is there if you support your own enemies?  And what of our brothers and sisters who think they can engage with BLM advocates though "dialogue" and "education?"  

Hashem gave us such a chessed -- our own country.  Every yeshiva, every day school, should be drumming one message into kids: make aliya, make aliya, make aliya.  Do it while you are young and have few responsibilities.  Take advantage of the opportunity to get out of this galus on your own terms.  Fulfill a mitzvah d'oraysa.  Instead, we continue to sleep, thinking the Five Towns are safe, Teaneck is safe, heilege Lakewood is safe.  Build your beautiful home there, where you are comfortable, drive a big SUV, work in some profession where you can keep your hands clean, and what could be bad?  What indeed?

This is not what Hashem wants from us.  Period. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

becoming a new person

After lauding Pinchas for his courageous actions that we read about at the end of last weeks' parsha, the Torah tells us about the victims: "V'shem Yisrael ha'MUKEH... v'shem ha'isha ha'MUKAH" -- the man who was killed, the woman who was killed.  Why the passive voice?  Why not say the man who Pinchas killed...? 

The Zohar answers that es pas nisht for a kohen to kill someone.  In last week's parsha, Pinchas was not yet a kohen, so the Torah celebrated his actions.  Now that Hashem gave Pinchas the reward of kehuna, the Torah conceals those very same actions since they are not befitting someone who is a kohen.

What the Zohar is teaching us is that actions are transformative.  When you do a mitzvah, you become a different person.  "Mitzvah gorreres mitzvah" because after you do the first good deed, you are on a higher level, a therefore more good needs to follow.  By the same token, actions that may have been appropriate -- even praiseworthy -- earlier in time, may now seem small and tainted after a person grows.  Think of it this way: what your teacher gave you praises for in elementary school is expected, not celebrated, once you mature.  Pinchas' great act of mesirus nefesh in last weeks' parsha made him into a different person, and based on the standards of who he is now, in Parshas Pinchas, the Torah conceals that same deed because it no longer measures up to the expectations for the new Pinchas. 

Thursday, July 09, 2020

step up to the plate

וּבְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ לֹא־הָ֣יָה אִ֔ישׁ מִפְּקוּדֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה וְאַהֲרֹ֖ן הַכֹּהֵ֑ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר פָּקְד֛וּ אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּמִדְבַּ֥ר סִינָֽי׃

Rashi comments that the pasuk specifies "ish" because it meant to exclude the women:

– אבל על האישה לא נגזרה גזירת המרגלים, לפי שהיו מחבבות את הארץ. האנשים אומרים: נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרימה (במדבר י״ד:ד׳), והנשים אומרות: תנו לנו נחלה. לכך נסמכה פרשת בנות צלפחד לכאן.

The men had participated in cheit ha'mergalim and did not want to enter the land (see Kli Yakar).  The women, however, were Zionists!  They wanted to settle the land, as we see from the next portion where the Bnos Tzelafchad demand their inheritance of a portion in Eretz Yisrael.

The Bnos Tzelafchad were 5 exceptional people.  Granted, sometimes there is a "yotzei min ha'klal" that is "melamed al ha'klal," but how can we really generalize from the behavior of these 5 women to say that all women had a love for Eretz Yisrael?

What we see is that even a small number of people who take a stand can effect on an entire population.  When you have such staunch lovers of Eretz Yisrael like the Bnos Tzeflafchad, other women hear about it, they go home and look in the mirror, and they say to themselves, "Nu, what about me?  Where is my love for Eretz Yisrael?"  You can't live around people who radiate enthusiasm for a cause without some of it rubbing off and causing others to try harder, to do more, to step up to the plate.

But it all starts with one person or one small group having the courage to take action. 

"...Va'yakam mitoch ha'eidah va'yikach romach b'yado..."  Pinchas got up from amidst the people and took action.  Why not just tell us what he did -- why do we need the "va'yakam mitoch ha'eidah?"  Rav Nissim Yagen explains that the Torah wants to emphasize that before this event, Pinchas was not someone special.  He was "toch ha'eidah," just another guy in the camp of Klal Yisrael.  He could have easily gone about his business, chosen not to be involved, declared this was not his responsibility, and he would have been no different than anyone else.  But "va'yakam mitoch ha'eidah" -- he broke free of the lethargy and indifference of the masses.  One person -- and it stopped the mageifah.

"B'kanoh es kinasi b'socham..."  Sefas Emes (5647) writes that inside every person in Klal Yisrael was the feeling that what Zimri did is wrong.  What made Pinchas different was that he acted on that feeling; he didn't just let it sit inside, b'socham, and die a death of quietude. 

You don't have to take action on the scale of what Pinchas did to make a difference.  Simple things --a seder that is kavu'a, a minyan you always attend, etc. might be the one act that inspires others, the one act that causes people to say that if Ploni can do it, why not me?   

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

a little Ohr haChaim today, on his hilula

At the end of last week's parsha we read that "va'yachel ha'am liznos b'bnos Moav," yet, it was not one of the Moabite girls that Zimri sinned with, but rather (25:6) with "haMidyanis," THE Midyanite girl.  Note that every single time she is mentioned it is with the hey-hayidiah, THE Midyanite girl.  How did the Midyanim get mixed up into the picture?  

Ohr haChaim haKadosh, whose hilula is today, suggests that there was in fact no more than one Midyanite girl who went out to the Jewish camp, hence the hey-ha'yediah.  Who was this one Midyanite girl?  There answer can be found in a Midrash that identifies Tzur as Balak.  Recall that Rashi in last week's parsha (22:4) told us that Balak was actually from Midyan.  Balak assumed the throne of Moav when both nations made peace for the sake of working against Bnei Yisrael, their joint enemy.  When his plot to have Bilam curse BN"Y failed, Balak returned home, "V'gam Balak halach l'darko." (24:25)  Tzur was "rosh umos beis av b'Midyan" (25:15) -- not "l'Midyan," but literally "b'Midyan," as that is where he lived.  Before departing, however, he heard the advice of Bilam that Klal Yisrael could be taken down with znus.  Moav was willing to send their daughters out because Bilam had propheized and revealed to Moav "es asher ya'aseh ha'am ha'zeh [Yisrael] l'amcha [Moav] b'ACHARIS HA'YAMIM,"  that it would only be in the future that Moav would have to pay its dues for the trouble it caused, but not now.  Midyan had no such guarantee.  It was not worth it to them to risk the lives of their daughters.  The one exception was Balak himself, who was so consumed by hatred, so passionately devoted to the cause of taking down Am Yisrael, that he sent his daughter joined the Moabites in their efforts.

Why does the Torah only reveal the names of Zimri and Kozbi in this week's parsha and not in last week's, when it records what happened?  My thought was that from Pinchas' perspective, it did not matter who it was who was doing the sinning -- whether it was the head of a sheivet, a princess of Midyan, or a nobody.  It was the crime that had to be stopped, irrespective of who the perpetrators were.  Ohr haChaim writes that the Torah is not in the business of tattling.  No matter how great the crime, the names of the perps don't belong on the front pages of the newspaper, or in this case, recorded in the Torah for posterity.  There has to be some to'eles to our knowing for the name to be revealed.  In our parsha, where the Torah wants to tell us just how great Pinchas' deed was, to tell us why he deserved the special bris of shalom, it now gives us the names and the identities of the perps as a rosh sheiveit and princess.

Monday, July 06, 2020

how many pesukim do you have to read for parshas parah?

I meant to note this when we read parshas Parah, but better late than never.  If you look in the halachos of 4 parshiyos it does not tell you exactly how much of Chukas needs to be read to be yotzei parshas Parah.  However, if you look back in siman 137 the S.A. quotes a KolBo that says if you just read until "v'la'ger ha'gar b'tocham l'chukas olam" (19:10) you are not yotzei -- you have to read the entire chapter.

Maaseh she'haya that where I was davening this year on parshas Parah the baal koreh read until sheni of parshas Chukas (19:17), until "mayim chaim el keli," and stopped there.  This is further than "v'lager ha'gar..", but is still 5 pesukim short of the end of the perek, until "titma ad ha'arev."  Are you yotzei?

I found that the Aruch haShulachan explicitly address this exact case:

כתב הכלבו: מעשה בחזן אחד שקרא בפרשת "פרה" ופסק "להגר הגר בתוכם", וגלל ספר תורה וישב במקומו. והקפיד רבי על הדבר ואמר: לא קריתם הפרשה. ודומה כאילו לא קרינו, שלא אמרנו אלא ברמז בעלמא. וחזרו ופתחו והתחילו בראש הפרשה, והקורא בירך לפניה ולאחריה מטעם רבי, וגמרו כל הפרשה עד "תטמא עד הערב". עד כאן לשונו, והובא בקצרה בשולחן ערוך סעיף ה. ונראה לי דדווקא משום שפסק ב"הגר הגר בתוכם", דעדיין עיקרי דיני טהרת הפרה לא נתבארו עדיין, דלהלן כתיב: "הנוגע במת הוא יתחטא…". אבל אם סיים "מים חיים אל כלי", אף שלא גמר כל הפרשה – אינו צריך לחזור ולקרות. דכן מבואר מלשונו, שכתב "שלא אמרנו אלא ברמז בעלמא", כלומר: שעיקרי דיני טהרת מי חטאת עדיין לא נתבארו (ועיין מגן אברהם סעיף קטן י"א).

Moshe's response to Mei Meriva

One thing that struck me in last week's parsha is Moshe's Rabeinu's response -- or lack thereof -- to being told that as a result of the sin of Mei Meriva he will not be able to enter Eretz Yisrael.  After Hashem passes this sentence on Moshe, the parsha immediately jumps (20:14) into the story of Moshe sending messengers to the king of Edom asking permission for Bnei Yisrael to be able to pass through his land.  It's incredible -- here Moshe's lifelong dream of entering Eretz Yisrael has just been crushed, and he doesn't say a word.  There are so many interpretations of what Moshe might have done wrong; you would think that Moshe would ask Hashem to clarify what it was that sealed his fate.  You would think that Moshe would daven and ask Hashem for forgiveness, as he did so many time for Bnei Yisrael, but he doesn't (at least not here and not now).  Instead, it's right back to business as usual, dealing with Edom.

Daughter #1 suggested since Moshe's sin was rooted in his having an emotional reaction to the rebellion (this fits well with the view that holds his sin was getting angry or calling the people rebellious), his response to Hashem's words was one of stoicism.  The response served as a tikun for the cheit. 

Friday, July 03, 2020

every individual counts

Chazal (Taanis 9a) tell us that the mon fell in Moshe's zechus, the be'er came in Miriam's zechus, and the ananei ha'kavod came in Aharon's zechus.  Miriam died -- no more be'er.  Aharon died -- no more ananei ha'kavod.  We read about what happened as a result in Chukas.  Yet, Chazal tell us that the be'er returned and the ananim returned because Moshe was left.  His zechus alone was enough to merit all three gifts.  

Everyone asks: if Moshe's zechus alone was enough to warrant Hashem giving us mon, the be'er, and the ananei ha'kavod, then why at first did the latter two come only in Miriam and Aharon's zechus?

Chasam Sofer answers that each of these three leaders of Klal Yisrael taught us a different lesson.  Moshe taught us the power of Talmud Torah.  Aharon taught us the power of avodah.  Miriam taught us the value of chessed.  (Interestingly, the Torah makes it very clear to us just how important Moshe and Aharon's contribution was.  Only Aharon could wear special bigdei kohen gadol and do avodas Yom haKippurim.  Every parsha in the Torah is a testimony to Moshe's role as teacher of Torah.  But what do we really know about Miriam?  Rav Bakshi Doron writes in his sichos that the greatest chessed is that which is done quietly and without fanfare, that which does not call attention to the neediness of the recipient or to the role the giver plays.  This was Miriam's contribution.  It deliberately remains hidden behind the scenes, as all great chessed should.)  For 40 years in the desert each one inculcated these midos in Klal Yisrael.  After 40 years of Klal Yisrael learning about the power of avodah from Aharon, Moshe could bring back the ananim.  After 40 years of learning about chessed from Miriam, Moshe could bring back the be'er.  However, at the start of the journey, before Klal Yisrael absorbed the lesson of Aharon and Miriam's life, Moshe's own zechus would not have been sufficient.   

The Radomsker in Tiferes Shlomo offers a different answer, one that we can take heart in for our own avodah. 

The gemara (Taanis 21b) writes that there was a plague in Sura, but the town where Rav lived was spared.  Everyone thought that the reason they were not affected by the disease was, of course, the zechus of Rav.  The townspeople all had a dream and it was revealed to them that this was not so.  To spare the town from disease was too small a thing to warrant being pushed off because of Rav's zechus.  Rather, the reason they were spared was because of a certain person who would lend out his shovel and spade to the chevra kadisha to do burials. 

Maharasha asks the obvious question: Yesh bichlal masayim manah!  If sparing the town required only minimal zechuyos, so few that even the chessed of just lending a shovel was enough, then certainly Rav's great zechus should have been sufficient.  Why was it revealed that davka Rav's zechuyos had NO part in the matter?

We see from this gemara an amazing yesod: Hashem makes space for the little guy.  Yes, of course Rav's zechus would have been enough to space that town.  But Hashem decided that that was not Rav's role in life.  His role was bigger and better things.  Hashem decided that sparing that town would be the role a simple guy who was willing to lend out his shovel would play in life.

There are tzadikim, talmidei chachamim, roshei yeshivos, greater than you and me.  So what does Hashem want need us for?  What's our contribution?  How is my drop of davening, my drop of learning, making any difference? 

"Ani a'avir kol tuvi al panecha," Hashem tells Moshe.  I'll reveal everything to you, you have the greatest zechuyos.  However, "V'chanosi asher achon v'richamti es asher aracheim," and Chazal add "afilu aino kadai."  My chassadim and rachamus come into the world not just because of you, Moshe.  I choose to use other vehicles as well, even those who are not so worthy.  Even if all the good they do is lending out a shovel for a burial.  I want their avodah too, and have therefore chosen to direct hashpa'ah specifically in their merit and not yours.

Hashem's chessed is not just in the gifts he gives us, but in the opportunities he gives us.  What each one of us does is important.  The mon, the be'er, the ananim could have have come b'zechus Moshe from day #1.  But Hashem deliberately chose to direct his hashpa'ah through Aharon and Miriam so that they too could have a zechus in sustaining Klal Yisrael. 
So too, Hashem carves out a role, a mission, for each individual, an accomplishment that rests on his/her specific zechuyos to the exclusion of what even greater people might accomplish. 

No one else, no matter how great, can make up for your accomplishing what Hashem wants from you.