Parshas Devorim 5757 - '97
Outline # 46
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
This issue is in memory of Rav Moshe Stern, the Debritzin Rav, who passed
away this week. An outstanding Talmid Chacham of pre-war Europe, he survived
the concentration camps to become one of the preeminent authorities of Judaism.
New Mitzvos in Sefer Devorim (Deuteronomy)
Ramban states that the fifth book of the Torah was addressed to the new
generation, who would be entering the Land. He notes that there are some
new mitzvos here, not previously discussed, even though all the commandments
were given earlier. Ramban offers two suggestions as to why these mitzvos
have not been discussed previously: 1. Perhaps these mitzvos would only be
obligatory upon arrival in the Land, and 2. those laws which were not so
common, were only mentioned at the end of the forty years in the desert.
Several commentaries challenge the Ramban's statements, notably the Radbaz
and Abarvanel. See Kli Chemdah, where these issues are discussed at length.
Mitzvos and the Land
One of the difficulties raised: What do these additional commandments
have to do with the Land? There is a rule that laws dealing with land, i.e.
agricultural rulings, are generally only in Eretz Yisrael. However, the new
laws here include marriage and divorce and various other laws that have nothing
to do with agriculture!
However, Ramban stated his opinion previously, especially in parshas
Acharei. The Forefathers only considered themselves obligated in mitzvos
in the Holy Land. For this reason, Ramban explained, Yaakov was able to marry
two sisters in the Diaspora, but upon his entrance into Eretz Yisrael, Rochel
Rav Elchanan Wassermann explained: There are two aspects of the mitzvos.
1. The reason for the mitzvah. 2. The legal requirement. The Patriarchs lived
before the Torah was legally binding. Therefore, they only kept the commandments
because they perceived the reason; the reasons only applied in Eretz Yisrael.
Once the Torah was commanded at Sinai, there is a legal obligation to keep
the commandments which is not dependent on locale. (Kovetz Shiurim, end of
The Institution of Kidushin -- Marriage
Rambam wrote in Mishnah Torah: Before the Torah, a man and a woman would
meet, they would go home and become man and wife. Once the Torah was given,
it commanded us to behave in a more civilized manner, with a marriage ceremony,
called Kidushin -- "sanctification."
Before Torah, the marriage was more of a convenience. Marriages could
be made quickly, and dissolved quickly. The formal procedures of Kidushin
-- marriage -- and Gitin -- divorce -- add structure, security, and, indeed
-- sanctity -- to the family.
Rav Chayim of Brisk (quoted in Moadim Uzmanim) described Yaakov's marriage
of two sisters. Certain relationships are prohibited because of incest, that
is, the partner is already a relative. Certain relationships, however, are
only forbidden because of the marriage agreement. For example, two sisters:
the marriage of each sister would have been acceptable, but once one sister
is married to a man, the second sister becomes prohibited because of her
sister's previous marriage.
It is only the formal institution of the Kidushin -- marriage -- that
prevents a man from having a relationship with two sisters. Yaakov did not
yet have the institution of Kidushin -- marriage -- before the Torah was
commanded. The laws of the Torah were not yet in effect. Even if the Forefathers
kept the concept of the mitzvos, the legal procedures did not yet take effect;
that is, marriage and divorce had no technical applications as yet. (In fact,
Rashi in Chayei Sarah, and Da'as Zekeinim in Vayeisheiv, state that the marriage
ceremony was held by the Patriarchs and Yaakov's sons. It is only that the
full legal consequences had no meaning as yet.)
How fascinating that Ramban, at the beginning of our discussion, associated
Kidushin with entrance into Eretz Yisrael, the Holy Land. Only when the Jewish
People came into the Land, did the Torah institute the sanctification of
marriage. The Holy status of the Holy People, first became fully operative
in the Holy Land.
Chodshei Hashanah Part Thirty One
The Ninth of Av -- The Loss of Sanctity
We have struggled for centuries to maintain dignity and sanctity, without
the holiness of the Holy Land. Our Prophets and Teachers have helped us to
keep the picture of our Forefathers and Sages before us. Yet, the breakdown
of the basic institutions of family life is apparent. Relationships are taken
lightly. Commitments are not made, or if they are made, remain lip service.
Our services, too, remain lip services, but not the service of the heart,
tefilah -- prayer. Oh yes, we have the Holy Land -- but it is not so Holy.
We use it for political, social gains, but not for its holy purpose. Even
the cries of "Save the Holy Land" are often politically twisted. We need
a fresh infusion of Kedushah -- Sanctity -- and a renewed appreciation of
the ancient institutions of the Holy People in the Holy Land.
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court