Friday, June 30, 2023

Amazing Kozhiglover on Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov

Fantastic Eretz Tzvi from the Kozhiglover:

מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל

Rashi explains:

על שראה פתחיהם שאין מכוונין זה מול זה

How did Rashi get that from the pasuk?

The Shem m'Shmuel writes in many places that if a person strives to do good and therefore be zocheh to Torah, they are bound to come up short and fail because the goodness of Torah is so beyond anything we can achieve or merit.  The way to be zocheh is through sur mei'ra, through avoiding the negatives, avoiding that which is harmful and wrong, because that we are able to achieve.

This is the meaning of Moshe's answer to the malachim when they challenged him as to why the Torah should be given to mankind and not them.  "Do you have a yetzer ha'ra as man does?" Moshe asked.  Meaning, without a yetzer ha'ra you do not face the challenge of evil and wrongdoing.  Your only means to be zocheh to Torah is through positive action that would merit such a reward.  To earn Torah in that way is impossible.  It can only be earned by the negation of evil.

Yaakov is called "ish tam yosheiv ohalim" in the plural, two tents.  There is the tent that closes a person in so that they avoid the temptations of the outside world, and then there is the tent the hides a person's achievements and actions so that they should be a oveid Hashem b'tzeniyus.

Mah tovu ohalecha, also in the plural, because we have inherited these two "tents" from Yaakov Avinu.

Bilam saw that "ain pischeihem michuvanim."  "Pischu li pesach k'chudo shel machat, v'eftach lachem k'pischo shel ulam." (Shir haShirim Rabbah 2)  Hashem opens gates for us far in excess of what we could do on our own.  Bilam could not understand how even that is enough, as the hasagos that one can achieve in Torah are beyond even the "pischo shel ulam."  It was only when he saw  מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹהָלֶ֖יךָ יַעֲקֹ֑ב, the tzeniyus, the sur mei'ra, the avoidance of impropriety and wrongdoing that the olahlei Yaakov represented, that he was able to fathom "ain pischeihem michuvanim" on the largest scale.

Thursday, June 29, 2023


 וְדִבַּרְתֶּ֧ם אֶל־הַסֶּ֛לַע לְעֵינֵיהֶ֖ם וְנָתַ֣ן מֵימָ֑יו  What did Hashem mean by  מֵימָ֑יו, "it's water?"  Netziv comments  לא יהיה בזה חדשות, אלא ״מימיו״ הרגילים ונעשים לטבע,, which sounds almost like a contradiction in terms, because טבע and water coming from a rock do not seem to go together.

The Be'er Mayim Chaim (sort of appropriate to quote in this parsha) quotes a remez.  If you spell out the letters that make up the word סלע you get the following: samech = סמך, lamed=למד, ayin=עין.  Take the middle letter of each word and you have the letters מים for water.  Now we understand why Moshe hit the rock, the סלע, two times -- he wanted to knock off the first letter and the last letter so that just the middle סלע was left.  The problem is that he could have accomplished the same thing by just speaking to the rock.

The larger point here is obvious: what on the surface looks like a rock can contain mayim chaim inside.  It's up to us to draw it out properly.

Whatever Moshe's sin was, the parsha continues (14:20)  וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח מֹשֶׁ֧ה מַלְאָכִ֛ים מִקָּדֵ֖שׁ אֶל־מֶ֣לֶךְ אֱד֑וֹם... נַעְבְּרָה־נָּ֣א בְאַרְצֶ֗ךָ.  Moshe knew that he would not enter Eretz Yisrael, so the faster Bnei Yisrael got there, the faster the end of the line would come for him.  Rather than enjoy the opportunity to make an extended detour around the land of Edom and prolong the journey, Moshe immediately sent messengers to ask permission to the shorter route and cut through their territory.  Moshe was not commanded by Hashem to do so; he took the initiative on his own.  That's leadership -- putting the needs of the people above concern for oneself.  

Parshas Balak starts with Balak's observation, וַיַּ֥רְא בָּלָ֖ק בֶּן־צִפּ֑וֹר, that Bnei Yisrael were on his border, and he was afraid that they would wipe him out.   וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מוֹאָ֜ב אֶל־זִקְנֵ֣י מִדְיָ֗ן עַתָּ֞ה יְלַחֲכ֤וּ הַקָּהָל֙ אֶת־כׇּל־סְבִ֣יבֹתֵ֔ינוּ כִּלְחֹ֣ךְ הַשּׁ֔וֹר אֵ֖ת יֶ֣רֶק הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה  Only then does the Torah tell us that וּבָלָ֧ק בֶּן־צִפּ֛וֹר מֶ֥לֶךְ לְמוֹאָ֖ב בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִֽוא׃.  Why stick that in almost as an afterthought instead of telling us up front something like וַיַּ֥רְא בָּלָ֖ק בֶּן־צִפּ֑וֹר מלך מואב?  Maharil Diskin explains that the expression וּבָלָ֧ק בֶּן־צִפּ֛וֹר מֶ֥לֶךְ לְמוֹאָ֖ב בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִֽוא׃ is part of what Moav was bemoaning.  Not only is there the danger from Bnei Yisrael, but, nebach, look at who we have as leader to get us through the crisis -- בָלָ֧ק בֶּן־צִפּ֛וֹר מֶ֥לֶךְ לְמוֹאָ֖ב.  (Apply to current events as you like.)  R' Shaul Alter quotes from the Sefas Emes that the Torah could not introduce Balak as "melech Moav" in that first pasuk because the whole thrust of the opening of the parsha is the fear that engulfed Moav.  Someone who is a melech, a leader, does not succumb to fear.  

Monday, June 26, 2023

Biden undermines Israel yet again

With the election of Joe Biden the US State Dept has resumed its anti-Israel policies.  As reported in Arutz Sheva, "The US government will stop funding and participating in research, development, and scientific cooperation projects in Judea and Samaria, three years after Trump approved the cooperation."  This is the explanation for denying a research grant to Ariel University.  The US also plans to rejoin UNESCO in July and pay back dues.  Why did the US originally stop paying dues?   In case you forgot, it's because UNESCO decided to unilaterally recognize Palestine as a member state.  John Bolton recently wrote in the WSJ (on 6/6), "The president couldn’t have more thoroughly alarmed and alienated the Gulf Arab states and Israel if he had planned it. The White House convinced regional allies that Mr. Biden was effectively abandoning them and empowering their enemies by ignoring concerns about the failed nuclear deal and the effect of ending sanctions."

I will never understand how can anyone in our community could have voted for Joe Biden or any Democrat knowing full well that a D administration is far more likely to implement harmful anti-Israel policies than a R one, as we see the case to be.  Could there be any issue that matters more than the support and safety of our own people?  

Friday, June 23, 2023

you're wrong even if you're right - the lesson of Korach's rebellion

Moshe told Klal Yisrael that if Hashem makes a hole in the ground to swallow up Korach, that proves Korach is a rasha and guilty of instigating rebellion.  But,  אִם ־כְּמ֤וֹת כׇּל ־הָֽאָדָם֙ יְמֻת֣וּן אֵ֔לֶּה וּפְקֻדַּת֙ כׇּל ־הָ֣אָדָ֔ם יִפָּקֵ֖ד עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם לֹ֥א ה׳ שְׁלָחָֽנִי, if Korach dies a normal death, then that proves Moshe is in the wrong. It sounds like either way, Korach is going to die.  The only question is whether he is going to die a normal death like anyone else, or whether he is going to be swallowed up by the earth.  

If Korach was in the right and not guilty of rebellion, why should he be chayav misa?  The test should be whether Korach is swallowed up or whether he lives l'arichus yamim v'shanim?  (See Malbim)  

The Yitav Lev answers that we see from here that even if all of Korach's claims against Moshe had merit, he was still chayav misa.  You can have taanos, arguments, machlokes, but there is right way and a wrong way to disagree.  Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel had many arguments, but they fulfilled הָאֱמֶת וְהַשָּׁלוֹם אֱהָבוּ.  They argued with civility.  Korach argued in a way that disrespected and undermined the kavod of Moshe Rabeinu.  Therefore, he was chayav.  The only question is whether his chiyuv was purely for the lack of respect, or whether the complaint itself was invalid and kefira.

Korach wrapped his arguments in idealistic rhetoric, "ki kol ha'eidah kulam kedoshim...," and may have even thought his rebellion was a mitzvah.  On some level he may have sincerely wanted to serve Hashem as kohen gadol.  The same is true of many misguided people who think their campaign, whatever it may be, is a mitzvah, but in reality, it's the exact opposite.  How can a person know when what they are advocating is truly mitzvah and truly l'shem shamayim vs when they are just fooling themselves or being fooled by the yetzer ha'ra?  

Agra d'Kallah writes:

 והנה הסימן על זה אם הוא באמת מצוה או אם הוא מתרמית היצר, הוא כשיבחין האדם בעצמו אם גדלה תשוקתו כל כך לשאר המצות גם כן, לאותן העניינים שהם בודאי מצוה כגון ציצית ותפילין ותורה אזי הוא טוב. אך אם רואה שאינו משתוקק כל כך לשאר המצות, יבין לאשורו שהתשוקה הזאת שמדמה בדעתו לאותו ענין הנרצה לו למצוה, הוא מפיתוי היצר להפילו במכמורת, ותחתיה תעמוד הבהרת, כך קבלנו.

If a person has equal enthusiasm for all mitzvos and all good causes, then they can rest assured that the particular cause they are fighting for at that moment is just.  However, if a person has their one hobby horse, their one cause, to the exclusion of other good causes that are not on their radar, then that's their own fight, it's not a l'shem shamayim fight.  

Agra d'Kallah goes on to give some other good advice about the dangers of jumping too zealously on that hobby horse.  David haMelech says in Tehillim (86:2) שָׁ֥מְרָ֣ה נַפְשִׁי֮ כִּֽ ־חָסִ֢יד אָ֥֫נִי  The simple pshat in the pasuk is that David was asking for Hashem's protection in the merit of his being a chassid and going above and beyond.  The Agra d'Kallah derech derush suggests a different interpretation.  A regular person can measure whether they are doing the right thing by looking in the shulchas aruch. For the chassid, who goes lifnim mi'shuras ha'din, that's not good enough.  If you tell him that it says in shulchan aruch X, he can always answer that that's just the letter of the law, but he wants to do more.  Agra d'Kallah gives an extreme example of someone who is so machmir on chameitz that no matzah is kosher enough for him, and as a result he never fulfills the mitzvas aseh.  שָׁ֥מְרָ֣ה נַפְשִׁי֮ כִּֽ ־חָסִ֢יד אָ֥֫נִי says David haMelech, because davka a chassid needs extra protection to make sure he doesn't get carried away with his zeal and enthusiasm.  Davka someone who operates outside the lines, outside the shuras ha'din, needs protection to make sure it is done in a positive way for a positive and just cause.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Korach's sin -- machzik b'machlokes

After the miracle of Aharon's mateh sprouting flowers and almonds while everyone else's remained bare, Moshe told the leaders of the other tribes to take back their matos, וַיֹּצֵ֨א מֹשֶׁ֤ה אֶת ־כׇּל ־הַמַּטֹּת֙ מִלִּפְנֵ֣י ה׳ אֶֽל ־כׇּל ־בְּנֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּרְא֥וּ וַיִּקְח֖וּ אִ֥ישׁ מַטֵּֽהוּ (17:24)  Why did Moshe have to instruct them to take their matos back?  Netziv gives a technical answer, that one might have thought that since the matos were placed in the Ohel Moed it means they have kedusha, otherwise it would be a problem of chulin ba'azara.  Kah mashma lan Moshe that the matos had no holiness and their placement in the azarah was just a hora'as sha'ah; therefore, they could be taken back.

R' Mordechai Eliyahu suggests that there is a message Moshe was giving the Nesi'im.   When the NY Times makes an error on the front page, you are lucky if a few days later they stick a correction on the bottom of some back page in section D in the smallest font possible.  Bnei Yisrael here had made a terrible mistake and misjudged the worthiness of Aharon to be kohen gadol.  The test done with the matos proved that they were wrong.  Moshe therefore told the Nesi'im not to be like the NY Times.  "Take back your matos," show them to Bnei Yisrael and publicize the miracle.  Let the correction be headline news just like the accusation was, not hidden on the back page.

R' Yerucham, the great mashgiach of the Mir, is medayek in Rashi at the beginning of the parsha, where he describes the rebellion of Korach as נחלק משאר העדה להחזיק במחלוקת.  It was not starting the machlokes which did Korach in.  Machlokes per se is not inherently bad.  There is machlokes l'shem shamayim, machlokes Hillel and Shamai.  Korach may also have at first may have had an element of l'shem shamayim to what he was doing and may have wanted the kehuna gedola so as to serve Hashem on the highest level.  What did Korach in is, as Rashi writes, is להחזיק* במחלוקת*, continuing the fight.  Most people, like Korach, when confronted with facts that undermine their opinion, don't retract.  Instead, they double-down.  That's the Korach attitude, stubbornly clinging to the same idea even when all evidence shows the contrary to be true.  That's why Moshe commanded the Nesi'im  וַיִּרְא֥וּ וַיִּקְח֖וּ אִ֥ישׁ מַטֵּֽהו.  The flowering of Aharon's staff proved them wrong, but being proven wrong too often does not end an argument.  Admitting publicly that they got it wrong does.  The taking back of the matos and publicizing the retraction, as R M. Eliyahu explains, is thus a tikun for the underlying sin of Korach's rebellion.

The Imrei Emes quotes from R' Bunim m'Peshischa a different spin entirely on this pasuk.  Everyone in life has his/her burdens and bit of suffering.  Everyone has his/her own "mateh."  Sometimes a person can think, "If only I could trade places with Ploni and have what they have..."  But as we all know, the grass only looks greener until you get there.  Trading places just removes one set of problems for different set that may be no easier to bear.  The Chovos haLevavos in Shaar Cheshbon haNefesh writes that a true believer chooses as his lot exactly what Hashem has already chosen for them to receive -- no more and no less.  They don't dream of trading places because if Hashem put them in the position they are in, that must be for the best.  Moshe took the matos from all the tribes and put them together in the Ohel Moed in a jumble.  When it came time to take the matos back, each Nasi saw what was there, וַיִּרְא֥וּ, they looked at all the portions,  וַיִּקְח֖וּ אִ֥ישׁ מַטֵּֽהו and they just took back the very mateh they put in.  They did not look to trade with anyone else.  Each person accepted their lot, their fate, and the challenges that went with it.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Moshe gave the meraglim answers, not questions

The Ch haRI"M is medayek that the pasuk does not say that the job of the meraglim was to investigate אם טוֹבָ֥ה הִ֖וא אִם רָעָ֑ה or אם שְּׁמֵנָ֨ה הִ֜וא אִם רָזָ֗ה.  It's not either/or -- Moshe was not giving the spies multiple choice test where their job was to investigate and find the right answer.  Moshe was telling them the right answer up front!   הֲטוֹבָ֥ה הִ֖וא אִם רָעָ֑ה means that if to you the land looks bad, אִם רָעָ֑ה, then you should know it's a problem with your vision and הֲטוֹבָ֥ה הִ֖וא, it's really good.   הַשְּׁמֵנָ֨ה הִ֜וא אִם רָזָ֗ה, if the land appears to you to be poor, then you should know that in truth הַשְּׁמֵנָ֨ה הִ֜וא and it can produce an abundance and you are not looking at it the right way.  Reality is not distorted -- your vision is.  

וַתֵּ֣רֶא הָֽאִשָּׁ֡ה כִּ֣י טוֹב֩ הָעֵ֨ץ לְמַאֲכָ֜ל וְכִ֧י תַֽאֲוָה ה֣וּא לָעֵינַ֗יִם  The first sin of eating from the eitz ha'daas started with Chavah looking at the tree is the wrong way, looking at it as something delicious and beneficial to eat.  Once Adam and Chavah ate,  וַתִּפָּקַ֙חְנָה֙ עֵינֵ֣י שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם, their eyes were opened, meaning, they now saw the world in a different way, in a way that distorts reality (see here). 

Moshe was telling the meraglim that entering Eretz Yisrael is the beginning of the ultimate tikun, and it all starts with correcting our vision, with seeing things the right way again.  The mitzvah of tzitzis which closes our parsha teaches us this same lesson.  Techeiles reminds us of the sea, which reminds us of the sky, which reminds us of the kisei ha'kavod.  When you look at your tzitzis, do you see just a little blue string, or do you see so much more?  

Hashem declares that the meraglim will be punished  וְכׇל מְנַאֲצַ֖י לֹ֥א יִרְאֽוּהָ ( Ohr haChaim: ומנאציו הם המרגלים) by being deprived the privilege of seeing Eretz Yisrael.   What do you mean לֹ֥א יִרְאֽוּהָ -- the cat's already out of the bag; they already saw Eretz Yisrael when they were spying?  

Sefas Emes answers: seeing through the lens of our preconceived notions is not really seeing at all.  The meraglim may have passed through Eretz Yisrael, but they really did not see it, just as many of us pass though the world without really seeing things in the way we are supposed to.

2) There is a piece on our parsha in a small collection of sichot by R' Gershon Edelstein called Kuntres Darko Shel Ben Torah.  I just wanted to mention one point that he makes.  The Torah identifies the sin of the meraglim and Bn"Y as a lack of emunah  וְעַד אָ֙נָה֙ לֹא יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ בִ֔י בְּכֹל֙ הָֽאֹת֔וֹת אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשִׂ֖יתִי בְּקִרְבּֽוֹ׃ (14:11)  Yet it would seem the opposite is true.  Bn"Y did believe that Hashem controlled their fate, as we read earlier in that same perek that the people cried,  וְלָמָ֣ה ה׳ מֵבִ֨יא אֹתָ֜נוּ אֶל הָאָ֤רֶץ הַזֹּאת֙ לִנְפֹּ֣ל בַּחֶ֔רֶב נָשֵׁ֥ינוּ וְטַפֵּ֖נוּ יִהְי֣וּ לָבַ֑ז  The question, "Why did G-d do this to us?" presupposes a belief in G-d, i.e. emunah.  Similarly, in Devarim (1:27) the Torah tells us that the people complained וַתֵּרָגְנ֤וּ בְאׇהֳלֵיכֶם֙ וַתֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ בְּשִׂנְאַ֤ת ה׳ אֹתָ֔נוּ הוֹצִיאָ֖נוּ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם.  It's not that they did not believe in G-d; it's that they thought G-d had it in for them and would deliver on the promise of bringing them into Eretz Yisrael.

R' Gershom suggests that the flaw in belief was in thinking that G-d would not carry out his promise to a generation that had sinned in cheit ha'eigel and had already rebelled in the desert.  (We discussed this idea before and it is something the Sefas Emes speaks about on our parsha as well.)  This too is a lack of emunah and is something we need to work on.

The gemara says that after 120 a person will be asked whether they fulfilled tzipisa l'yeshu'a.  A person lichora can say back to Hashem that they have an excuse.  What if they just did not live in a time which is fit for yeshu'a?  Not their fault. 

I recently posted from R' Charlap that what Chazal are telling us is that tzipisa l'yeshu'a means that we have to believe that every dor, with all its problems, with all its issues, is fit for yeshu'a.  That's what you will be held accountable for after 120. Did you believe in the potential of even our generation to experience redemption?  

Thursday, June 15, 2023

mitzvos lav le'henos nitnu - tzitzis

 1) Rambam paskens hil tzitzis 1:11

ואין עושין אותן מצמר הגזול ולא משל עיר הנדחת ולא משל קדשים ואם עשה פסול.

Kesef Mishne comments:

מ"ש רבינו ולא משל עיר הנדחת. טעמא לאו משום דאיסור הנאה הוא דהא מצוות לאו ליהנות ניתנו אלא טעמא משום דכיון דלשריפה קאי כתותי מיכתת שיעוריה וציצית יש לו שיעור למטה

We see an interesting chiddush din here, that the concept of מצוות לאו ליהנות ניתנו not only applies to a mitzvah chiyuvis that you have no choice other than to do, but it applies even to a mitzvah like tzitzis, where you have the option of not wearing a 4 cornered garment and not being obligated to do the mitzvah (Pri Megadim OC 11).

2) There is a machlokes Rashba and the Ran whether the principle of מצוות לאו ליהנות ניתנו means that just the hanaah from the mitzvah does not count as הנאה or whether it means all  הנאה, even physical benefit not connected to the mitzvah, does not count.  For example, if someone goes to mikveh on a hot day in a pool of water, the הנאה of becoming tahor does not count as הנאה, but what about the enjoyment of cooling off?  

Achronim ask: according to the Rashba that holds all הנאה that comes about in the performance of a mitzvah is ignored, why do we need aseh doche lo taaseh to allow kilayim in tzitzis?  The issur of kilayim prohibits getting הנאה through wearing linen/wool garments.  Since מצוות לאו ליהנות ניתנו, whatever הנאה you get from wearing linen/wool tzitzis does not count for anything, so there should be no issur.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

same facts, opposite conclusions

Sometimes the same facts can lead to opposite conclusions.  Why did Moshe daven for Yehoshua more than any of the other meraglim?  R' Yosef Sorotzkin quotes his father, R' Eliezer Sorotzkin, as explaining that in last week's parsha we saw Yehoshua's sharp reaction to the news that Eldad and Meidad were saying nevuah.  Yehoshua did not need Moshe to tell him וּמִ֨י יִתֵּ֜ן כׇּל־עַ֤ם ה׳ נְבִיאִ֔ים -- this he understood -- but what he objected to was the content of that prophecy, that he would lead Bn"Y into Eretz Yisrael instead of Moshe.  (According to some this is why Yehoshua said to lock up Eldad and Meidad, as he assumed they were false prophets given what they were saying.)  Yehoshua could not bear to hear that his beloved rebbe would no longer be there.  Notice how the pasuk last week's describes Yehoshua: מְשָׁרֵ֥ת מֹשֶׁ֛ה מִבְּחֻרָ֖יו -- meaning, from the time Yehoshua was a young man, he had always been at Moshe's side.  His entire existance was wrapped up in his relationship to Moshe. Therefore, Moshe thought that serving as one of the meraglim would be especially challenging for Yehoshua, as the temptation to give a bad report and stay in the midbar, prolonging Moshe's life, prolonging the time he would have with his rebbe, would be too great a burden.  Moshe thought Yehoshua more than anyone else needed his prayers in order to have a chance at success.

Now for the opposite side of the coin.  וְעַבְדִּ֣י כָלֵ֗ב עֵ֣קֶב הָֽיְתָ֞ה ר֤וּחַ אַחֶ֙רֶת֙ עִמּ֔וֹ וַיְמַלֵּ֖א אַחֲרָ֑י וַהֲבִֽיאֹתִ֗יו אֶל־הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֣א שָׁ֔מָּה וְזַרְע֖וֹ יוֹרִשֶֽׁנָּה (14:24) The Ohr haChaim asks why Kaleiv alone and not Yehoshua is called avdi and gets special reward (see Ibn Ezra, Ramban).  (See Meshech Chochma in last week's parsha 11:28 re: the term avidi.)  O.C. answers that the challenge Yehoshua faced in not going along with the meraglim was less than that of Kaleiv because Moshe had davened on his behalf.  L'fum tzaara agra, so Yehoshua did not earn the same reward.  This also explains why Kaleiv alone went to daven in Chevron at the kivrei Avos and Yehoshua did not feel the same need to -- Yehoshua knew he had an ace up his sleeve, he had the tefilah of Moshe protecting him.  Abarbanel makes a similar argument, but adds an additional point: ובהיותו משרת משה ותלמידו ונשאר במקומו בידוע שלא יהיה נוטה לרשעת המרגלי׳ ולא היה צריך לשבחו על זה.  Since Yehoshua was the משרת משה, the expectation is that he would not go along with the meraglim.  As a talmid of Moshe, he would be more inclined to do the right thing.  The very same factor of Yehoshua being the meshareis Moshe which R' Sorotzkin used to explain why Yehoshua faced a greater challenge than anyone else is used here by Abarbanel to explain why Yehoshua faced less of a challenge than anyone else.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

עֵֽדֹתֶ֨יךָ | נֶֽאֶמְנ֬וּ מְאֹ֗ד לְבֵֽיתְךָ֥ נָֽאֲוָה־קֹ֑דֶשׁ ה׳ לְאֹ֣רֶךְ יָמִֽים - an interesting Radak

 עֵֽדֹתֶ֨יךָ | נֶֽאֶמְנ֬וּ מְאֹ֗ד לְבֵֽיתְךָ֥ נָֽאֲוָה־קֹ֑דֶשׁ ה׳ לְאֹ֣רֶךְ יָמִֽים:

If you took a survey and asked people to explain this pasuk, I think most people would say something along the lines of Rashi or the Metzudos:

Rashi translates  נָֽאֲוָה (Teh 93:5) as referring to the "dwelling place" of Hashem, similar to what we say every day in az yashir נָחִ֥יתָ בְחַסְדְּךָ֖ עַם־ז֣וּ גּאָ֑לְתָּ נֵהַ֥לְתָּ בְעָזְּךָ֖ אֶל־נְוֵ֥ה קָדְשֶֽׁךָ:  

Metzudas David explains  נָֽאֲוָה  to mean a place of beauty, like the term hidur mitzvah, or, to again borrow a pasul from az yashir, זֶ֤ה קלִי֙ וְאַנְוֵ֔הוּ, the source Chazal use for the mitzvah of hidur (see Targum that explains pshat in that phrase as a dwelling). 

Radak has an original spin with a great message: ויש לפרש נאוה – תאוה וחשק, כלומר שכל אדם יתאוה ויחשוק לביתך שהוא קדש לאורך ימים  Hashem's dwelling place is a place we should desire to want to go to.  You shouldn't have to twist arms to get people to come to shul or the beis medrash.   

Nafka minah between the explanations is not just the translation, but also where you put the comma.  According to Rashi and the Metzudos, the comma is agter the word kodesh -- Hashem has a holy dwelling place.  According to Radak, the comma is after נָֽאֲוָה, and קֹ֑דֶשׁ goes together with אורך ימים, it is holy for eternity.  I have never heard anyone read the pasuk that way, probably because everyone assumes the Rashi/Metzudah meaning.

Monday, June 12, 2023

there is no middle ground

In her excellent biography of Coolidge, Amity Shlaes writes (p172):

Still, Coolidge felt certain of one thing.  The progressives could not be met.  Conciliation would not work.... This time, there was no middle ground.

The issues the progressives of the post WWI era were concerned with are vastly different than the issues modern progressives champion, but the lesson Coolidge learned in his time is no less applicable today.  There can be no compromise with the left.  There is no way to negotiate with them.  They will demonize anyone who stands in their way and will seek their destruction.  It makes no difference if the name is Trump or if the name is Brett Kavanaugh or Mitt Romney or Bush. 

Sadly, the right refuses to accept this reality, and as a result, will continue to lose.

Friday, June 09, 2023

chiyuv tefilah b'eis tzarah - chovas hatzibur and chovas ha'yachid

Although Ramban disagrees with Rambam's position that there is a mitzvah d'oraysa to pray every day, he does hold (see his hasagos to Sefer haMitzvos) that there is a mitzvah d'oraysa to pray in times of distress, as we read in our parsha  וְכִֽי־תָבֹ֨אוּ מִלְחָמָ֜ה בְּאַרְצְכֶ֗ם עַל־הַצַּר֙ הַצֹּרֵ֣ר אֶתְכֶ֔ם וַהֲרֵעֹתֶ֖ם בַּחֲצֹצְרֹ֑ת וְנִזְכַּרְתֶּ֗ם לִפְנֵי֙ ה׳ אֱלֹֽקיכֶ֔ם וְנוֹשַׁעְתֶּ֖ם מֵאֹיְבֵיכֶֽם׃.  Rambam makes the same point himself at the beginning of Hil Taanis:

מצות עשה מן התורה לזעוק ולהריע בחצוצרות על כל צרה שתבא על הצבור. שנאמר על הצר הצורר אתכם והרעותם בחצוצרות. כלומר כל דבר שייצר לכם כגון בצורת ודבר וארבה וכיוצא בהן זעקו עליהן והריעו:

דבר זה מדרכי התשובה הוא. שבזמן שתבוא צרה ויזעקו עליה ויריעו ידעו הכל שבגלל מעשיהם הרעים הורע להן ככתוב עונותיכם הטו וגו'. וזה הוא שיגרום להסיר הצרה מעליהם:

אבל אם לא יזעקו ולא יריעו אלא יאמרו דבר זה ממנהג העולם אירע לנו וצרה זו נקרה נקרית. הרי זו דרך אכזריות וגורמת להם להדבק במעשיהם הרעים. ותוסיף הצרה צרות אחרות. הוא שכתוב בתורה והלכתם עמי בקרי והלכתי גם אני עמכם בחמת קרי. כלומר כשאביא עליכם צרה כדי שתשובו אם תאמרו שהיא קרי אוסיף לכם חמת אותו קרי:

The mitzvah of chatzotzros is not just a technical chiyuv to blow trumpets, but rather requires that a person call out to Hashem and do teshuvah.

R' Soloveitchik explained that Rambam agrees that fundamentally prayer is a response to tzarah, to distress, need, anxiety.  The chidush of the Rambam is that even in day to day of normal life, man finds himself in a state of existential crisis and must turn to G-d.

Rambam continues later in that same perek:

כשם שהצבור מתענים על צרתן כך היחיד מתענה על צרתו.

What's the source for this statement that an individual has a chiyuv taanis/tefilah at times of personal distress?  Magid Mishne writes that there is no gemara he can point to, but the Rambam makes sense mi'sevara:

מלשון רבינו נראה שהוא סבור שהיחיד חייב להתענות על צרתו כשם שהצבור חייבין להתענות על צרתן ודבר נכון הוא אע"פ שאין לו הכרח מן הגמרא ...אבל דברים נראים הם שכיון שהתענית הוא מדרכי התשובה והכניעה כל יחיד ויחיד מחוייב לחפש בדרכיו בעת צרתו ולשוב אל ה

Bach (OC 5579) however writes that the Rambam does have a source, and it is another pasuk in our parsha: 

 וַיִּצְעַ֣ק מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶל־ה׳ לֵאמֹ֑ר ק-ל נָ֛א רְפָ֥א נָ֖א לָֽהּ׃ 

I think there is an important hashkafa take away from this Bach.  Lichora, the pasuk he quotes is not a makor for a person davening על צרתו.  The person having the tzarah in our parsha is Miriam, not Moshe!  But that's exactly the point -- when you daven for someone else, what you are saying to Hashem is that you empathize with that other person's plight so much that it's a tzarah for you as well.

This is exactly what Aharon told Moshe when he said  אַל־נָ֥א תְהִ֖י כַּמֵּ֑ת אֲשֶׁ֤ר בְּצֵאתוֹ֙ מֵרֶ֣חֶם אִמּ֔וֹ וַיֵּאָכֵ֖ל חֲצִ֥י בְשָׂרֽוֹ׃.  As opposed to Rashi who says the meis Aharon is referring to his Miriam ( אל נא תהי – אחותנו זו.   כמת – שהמצורע חשוב כמת  ), Rashbam learns that the meis is Moshe himself  אל נא תהי כמת – כלומר: לכבודך ובשבילך, אל נא תהיה אתה בעצמך כמת.  In other words, Aharon was telling Moshe that if Miriam is in pain, it's not just an eis tzarah for Miriam -- it's also an eis tzarah for Moshe.  Therefore, he is mechuyav to daven.  

Since when is sushi a substitute for a steak?

The Torah tells us that Bn"Y complained מִ֥י יַאֲכִלֵ֖נוּ בָּשָֽׂר, that they wanted meat, not just mon to eat.  Then the people added, זָכַ֙רְנוּ֙ אֶת־הַדָּגָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נֹאכַ֥ל בְּמִצְרַ֖יִם חִנָּ֑ם אֵ֣ת הַקִּשֻּׁאִ֗ים וְאֵת֙ הָֽאֲבַטִּחִ֔ים וְאֶת־הֶחָצִ֥יר וְאֶת־הַבְּצָלִ֖ים וְאֶת־הַשּׁוּמִֽים׃ (11:5), that they remembered the free fish and vegetables that they ate while in Egypt.  What's the connection between the desire for meat and remembering the fish and vegetables of Egypt?  A sushi roll and vegetable platter are no more a substitute for meat than the mon was, so why is it relevant?

Secondly, the mon tasted like any food in the world that you could imagine.  If you wanted a steak, you could think of steak when eating the mon and it would taste like steak.  Why then did the people complain?

Alshich writes that the mon could taste like steak, but it wasn't steak.  It did not have the same nutrients and vitamins.  You can dress up and impossible burger to look and taste just like a hamburger, but you probably need to take iron supplements and other vitamins if that's your whole diet.  

Bn"Y were feeling run down -- nafsheinu y'veisha -- and felt it must be due to the diet of mon lacking something.  Kal v'chomer, they said.  We remember eating the poor diet of Egypt, the fish that was so bad they were giving it away for free, and we still had the stamina to do the work of slaves, so why now are we feeling so run down?  It must be that we need real food, not just mon.

Chazal comment that the complaint for meat was not about food per se, but was about the obligations that now came with the food.  They comment on  אֲשֶׁר־נֹאכַ֥ל בְּמִצְרַ֖יִם חִנָּ֑ם that the word חִנָּ֑ם, free, here does not mean it was without cost.  It does not make sense that the Egyptian taskmasters who enslaved the Jewish people would have offered them at no cost good food to eat.  Rather, what it means is that they were free from the obligation to do mitzvos.  

R' Mordechai Eliyahu, whose hilula is coming up, pointed out that you didn't have to take terumos and maasros from mon, you didn't have the shecht mon, you don't do other mitzvos with mon.  The only chiyuv that Bn"Y now had was a chiyuv bracha.  What's the big deal about saying a bracha?

You can only ask that question if you don't think about what a bracha is before saying it.  If you understand that every time you make a bracha you are acknowledging that everything is b'yad Hashem and you are not in control of your life, then yes, it is a big deal.  It's that sense of dependency that Bn"Y found stifling.

R' Levi Yitzchak m'Berdichiv, k'darko, reads the entire complaint in a way that is a zechus for Bn"Y.  The mon could taste like anything you could think of, but obviously, a person can only think of that which he has seen or tasted before.  What could Bn"Y think of?  What foods were they familiar with?  They could think of the fish they had eaten in Egypt, they could think of the vegetables they had eaten, but no one had had ever had cholent before, so how could they think of cholent and turn mon into cholent?!  Or, as the Berdichever puts it, no one in the world had ever tasted meat that was prepared k'halacha, fulfilling the mitzvah of shechita, of melicha, etc.  You can't shecht a fish or a vegetable -- it's  חִנָּ֑ם from mitzvos.  The taam of food that is prepared k'halacha is a different taam, as it is invested with a flavor of ruchniyus.  Bn"Y wanted food with that taam, food that had the flavor of kiyum mitzvos, not  חִנָּ֑ם, and so they asked for real meat so they could shecht and prepare it and add that flavor to their memory banks so they could going forward get it from the mon as well.  (See Sefas Emes for a different limud zechus on the complaint of Bn"Y).   

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

nezirus in chutz la'aretz

The Mishna in Nazir (3:6) writes that nezirus can only properly be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael.  The Mishna has a machlokes Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel in a case where a person fulfilled nezirus in chutz la'aretz and then made aliya, how many makeup days do they need: 

מִי שֶׁנָּזַר נְזִירוּת הַרְבֵּה וְהִשְׁלִים אֶת נְזִירוּתוֹ, וְאַחַר כָּךְ בָּא לָאָרֶץ, בֵּית שַׁמַּאי אוֹמְרִים, נָזִיר שְׁלשִׁים יוֹם, וּבֵית הִלֵּל אוֹמְרִים, נָזִיר בַּתְּחִלָּה. מַעֲשֶׂה בְהִילְנִי הַמַּלְכָּה, שֶׁהָלַךְ בְּנָהּ לַמִּלְחָמָה, וְאָמְרָה, אִם יָבֹא בְנִי מִן הַמִּלְחָמָה בְשָׁלוֹם אֱהֵא נְזִירָה שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים, וּבָא בְנָהּ מִן הַמִּלְחָמָה, וְהָיְתָה נְזִירָה שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים. וּבְסוֹף שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים עָלְתָה לָאָרֶץ, וְהוֹרוּהָ בֵית הִלֵּל שֶׁתְּהֵא נְזִירָה עוֹד שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים אֲחֵרוֹת. וּבְסוֹף שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים נִטְמֵאת, וְנִמְצֵאת נְזִירָה עֶשְׂרִים וְאַחַת שָׁנָה. אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה, לֹא הָיְתָה נְזִירָה אֶלָּא אַרְבַּע עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה:

Why can't nezirus be fulfilled in chu"l?  It's not a mitzvah ha'teluyah ba'aretz?  Bartenura explains that שאין נזירות נוהגת אלא בארץ, משום טומאת ארץ העמים, the was a gezeira made that chu"l is tamei, and a nazir is not allowed to become tamei, so by definition the nazir cannot fulfill his/her vow in chu"l.  According to this reason, this law should not apply in our times, as even in Eretz Yisrael everyone is tamei.  Rambam (Nezirus 2:21) however does not make this distinction:

אין הנזירות נוהגת אלא בארץ ישראל. ומי שנזר בחוצה לארץ קונסין אותו ומחייבין אותו לעלות לארץ ישראל ולהיות נזיר בארץ ישראל כמנין הימים שנזר. לפיכך מי שנדר בזמן הזה בחוצה לארץ כופין אותו לעלות לארץ ישראל ולהיות נוהג שם נזירות עד שימות או עד שיבנה המקדש ויביא קרבנותיו במלאת ימי נזרו:

Raavad jumps on him:

א"א למה כופין אותו לעלות ולמנות וכי יש שם טהרה והלא כלנו טמאין טומאת מת ואין כאן הפרש בין א"י לח"ל ואסור להזיר בכל מקום:

In the footnotes to the new edition of the Meshech Chochma done by R' Kooperman he suggests that according to Rambam nezirus can be fulfilled only in Eretz Yisrael not because E.Y is a refuge from tumah, but rather because the fulfillment of nezirus requires kedushas ha'aretz of Eretz Yisrael, which is present even during the time of churban.  By way of analogy, the din is that nevuah can only be achieved in Eretz Yisrael.  Nezirus, like nevuah, is a higher spiritual state, and therefore also demands being in a place of higher kedusha. 

Monday, June 05, 2023

can you say the bracha on thunder/lightening in between washing and ha'motzi?

Friday night right after I washed and was about to say ha'motzi, I heard what sounded like a rumble of thunder, and I wondered whether one can be mafsik between the bracha of netilat yadayim and ha'motzi to say the bracha of she'kocho u'gevuraso malei olam.  I looked around in a few places, but have yet to find this din mefurash anyway.  If someone can point me to a mareh makom, that would be nice.

The Shulchan Aruch in OC 166 writes:

יש אומרים שאין צריך ליזהר מלהפסיק בין נטילה להמוציא ויש אומרים שצריך ליזהר וטוב ליזהר.  (ואם שהה כדי הלוך כ"ב אמה מקרי הפסק): 

My initial thought was that one can be medayek from the Mechaber that it's only טוב ליזהר and avoid a hefsek, but not a problem m'ikar ha'din.  Therefore, perhaps for the mitzvah overes of saying the bracha on thunder, one can be mafsik.

The M.B. writes in sk 1 commenting on the psak that שאין צריך ליזהר:

אבל אם יושב בטל ואינו עושה בינתים שום מעשה אף ששוהה הרבה או אפילו משיח מעט אין לחוש כיון שהשלחן ערוך לפניו ודעתו לאכול מיד לא מסיח דעתו

The Aruch haShulchan agrees with my diyuk, however, takes a more negative view of speaking in between the bracha on netilah and the ha'motzi:

"יש אומרים שאין צריך ליזהר מלהפסיק בין נטילה ל'המוציא', ויש אומרים שצריך ליזהר, וטוב ליזהר" עכ"ל, הרי כתב רק שטוב ליזהר, אבל עיקר דעתו שאין צריך ליזהר. אבל לדבר - וודאי אסור, אלא אם כן לצורך הסעודה,

Friday, June 02, 2023

"afar v'eifer" of Avraham and the parsha of sotah

 ריש רבא בשכר שאמר אברהם אבינו ואנכי עפר ואפר זכו בניו לב' מצות אפר פרה ועפר סוטה (Sota 17a)

What is the midah k'neged midah here?  Why should the parsha of sota be the reward for Avraham expressing his humility and saying that he is like dust?  The same question of course applies to the reward of the ashes of parah adumah for Avraham saying he is like ash.  What's the connection?

When I was discussing this with my wife during the week she suggested that in order for the water of sotah to work, Hashem's name, which was written on the megilas sota, is dissolved and erased in the water.  Chazal explain that Hashem is mochel on his kavod, so to speak, and allows his name to be erased in order to make peace between husband and wife.  Because Avraham behaved with humility and did not stand on his honor, Hashem in turn does not stand on his honor when it comes to our sake.  Baruch she'kivant, the Lubavitcher Rebbe says exactly this same idea.

The Rebbe further explains that ashes of parah adumah are metamei the person who engages in their preparation. The humility of Avraham Avinu ingrained in our genes is what allows a person to not stand on their honor and to become tamei in order to go out and bring tahara to a fellow Jew.  A beautiful idea that perfectly fits the Rebbe's outlook.

The L Rebbe's focus is on the preparation of the mei sotah, the preparation of the mei chatas.  Shem m'Shmuel focusses on the person who is tamei and needs the mei chatas to become tahor.  Unlike other korbanos that are offered in the mikdash, the parah adumah is burned outside the machaneh.  Just like a person who offers a korban is supposed to envision what is done to the animal as if it was done to their person (Ramban beginning of VaYikra), so too, a person who is tamei should envision himself as outside the camp, apart from the sanctified and pure community of klal yisrael, just like the parah.  The burning of the parah to ash and the use of the lowly eizov plant serves to emphasize the individual's debasement.  How does a person summon up the resolve to undergo such a process?  Shem' m'Shmuel (Ki Tisa 5678) explains that it comes from the legacy we inherit from Avraham:  

וי"ל שגם ההכנעה גופא זיכה אאע"ה לבניו שבאמת איננו דבר נקל לאדם לראות א"ע באמת כאלו הוא עומד חוץ לשלשה מחנות ולהשפיל עצמו כאזוב ותולעת כברש"י, אלא זכותו של אאע"ה שאמר אנכי עפר ואפר הכניס טבע זו בזרעו אחריו שיהי' ביכולתם להשפיל א"ע ולהיות באמת כעפר ואפר ואזוב ותולעת:

I would say the same is true of sotah.  Chazal explain that the sotah ritual was a public spectacle which other women were invited to come and observe.  The strength to undergo the public humiliation involved in the sotah process comes from Avraham Avinu.  It's built into our nature.

If we read the gemara carefully, it is not parah in general, or sotah in general, that Avraham is rewarded with, but it's specifically the dust used for the sota water and the ashes of the parah.  Sefas Emes (5650) reminds us that man was created from dust -  עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה (Braishis 2:7), and in fact, all of creation is rooted in dust -  הַכֹּל֙ הָיָ֣ה מִן־הֶֽעָפָ֔ר וְהַכֹּ֖ל שָׁ֥ב אֶל־הֶעָפָֽר (Koheles 3:20).  Rashi in Braishis explains that it was not just any dust that was used in the creation of man, but it was the dust from the mikdash: דבר אחר: נטל עפר שלוב ממקום שנאמר בו: מזבח אדמה תעשה לי (שמות כ׳:כ׳), הלואי תהיה לו כפרה ויוכל לעמוד.  When a person says "nafshi k'afar ti'hiyeh," it's this afar that is being referred to.  It means returning to your roots, to the essence of who you are and what you are about. Are you living a life of luxury, or do you define yourself as מזבח אדמה תעשה לי, living a life of sacrifice for Hashem?  In a few weeks we will read Balak's words  מִ֤י מָנָה֙ עֲפַ֣ר יַעֲקֹ֔ב.  What people other than us have such a legacy of afar?  Chazal tell us in Pirkei Avos הוי מתאבק בעפר רגליהם.  When we speak of Chazal, even the regel, the lowest level of a person, is afar ha'mikdash.  That is the legacy of Avraham Avinu.  

Chazal tell us that if the sotah is innocent, she will have a child.  Shem m'Shmuel asks how this works.  The sotah water is like poison.  If the woman is guilty, she drinks it and explodes.  How can the same water be the source of bracha?  He quotes a similar question from the Zohar: kohanim are a source of bracha.  We have birkas kohanim in our parsha.  How then can the kohen be the instrument by which the sotah ritual is performed?  The answer is that the water itself in neither inherently good or bad.  It just serves as the catalyst to bring out the person's core.  If the person's "lifestyle" is incompatible with afar that is from מזבח אדמה תעשה לי, then the woman will explode.  But if the person's identity is in concert with the afar of Avraham Avinu, then the same water can be a source of bracha.  

I want to suggest one additional approach to the relationship between the parsha of sotah and Avraham's great humility of "afar v'eifer" based on R' Tzadok haKohen's analysis (Pri Tzadik Naso section 3 and 6) of the structure of our parsha. The book of Bamidbar began with the layout of the shevatim around the mishkan and then spoke about the levi''im and their tasks in the mishkan.  You would expect the parsha to jump right to the gifts of the nesi'im brought to celebrate the inauguration of the mishkan.  Why are the parshiyos of gezel ha'ger, sotah, and nazir stuck in the middle here?  Ralbag (see Abarbanel as well) writes that the arrangement of the camp of Bnei Yisrael was set out to create harmony between the shevatim.  Everyone has a place and knows where they belong.  Gezel ha'ger addresses the issue of crime, which would inevitable ruin the harmony achieved.  להסיר הרע מן המחנה אשר יביא למריבה וקטטה; והוא, שיהיה האדם נזהר מלהחזיק בממון חבירו שלא כדין.  Sotah drills down further and ensures harmony of the home.  Finally, the parsha of nazir comes to create harmony within the psyche of the individual himself, to curb the tension between lust for wine and pleasure and the pursuit of a more spiritual life.  R' Tzadok haKohen has a different approach.  Without getting into the details, he sees the structure of the parsha as addressing the kedusha of the individual, which is a microcosm of the kedusha of the klal.  Setting up a harmonious camp where everyone has a place and every tribe knows their role is worthless if on an individual level a person feels spiritually lost and not rooted.  Life is filled with challenges and complications and we all mess up from time to time, so how do you keep that sense of knowing that you belong, or where you belong?  The parsha therefore introduces gezel ha'ger and the concept of  וְהִתְוַדּ֗וּ אֶֽת־חַטָּאתָם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשׂוּ֒ which is the basis of the mitzvah of teshuvah.  If you make a mistake, you can repent.  The theme of sotah, says R' Tzadok, is not shalom bayis, bur rather  וְנֶעְלַם֙ מֵעֵינֵ֣י אִישָׁ֔הּ.  You can repent only if you know what you did wrong, but there are the wrongs that we are unaware of, things outside our mental line of vision.  Parshas sotah tells us that Hashem can bring us birur even for those things.  Finally, there is the parsha of nazir, the person who aims for an even higher state of perfection.  

The difference between a humble person, a person who sees themselves as "afar v'eifer," and a person who is full of themselves, I think is this quality of  וְנֶעְלַם֙ מֵעֵינֵ֣י אִישָׁ֔הּ, of accepting that there are things outside your knowledge, outside your control.  Avraham prayed for Sdom, but it was done with an acknowledgment that he was doing so despite being  וְאָנֹכִ֖י עָפָ֥ר וָאֵֽפֶר, despite perhaps lacking the full picture, a picture that only G-d can see.  What may seem unjust may be due only to our limited vision.  Hashem therefore midah k'neged midah promised Avraham in reward for that acknowledgment that He will help with the tikun needed even for those areas.  

If you think you know it all and see it all, then Hashem will not interfere and will allow you to make your own way and the chips can fall where they may.  But if you acknowledge that you can't really do it alone, then He is there to help get you beyond your blindspots.