Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XII, Number 33
26 Sivan 5758
June 20, 1998.
The Sabrin family
in memory of father
Shlomo ben Chaim a"h
In this week's parashah, we read of the first instance (after
the Torah was given) when someone trangressed the laws of
Shabbat. The gemara relates several different opinions regarding
what his sin was. According to one opinion, his sin was carrying
in the public domain (where there was no eruv).
Why is carrying prohibited on Shabbat? Indeed, what is the
idea underlying the 39 prohibited categories of "work"? Dayan I.
Grunfeld z"l (see page 4) explains as follows based on the
teachings of R' Samson Raphael Hirsch z"l:
The 39 categories of "work" form a cross-section of all the
main types of human productive activity. Through these
activities, man is engaged in a constant struggle to gain mastery
over G-d's creation, to bring nature under his control. While
doing so, man tends to forget that the very powers he uses in his
conquest of nature are derived from his Creator, in whose service
his life should be conducted.
In a world increasingly forgetful of G-d, Yisrael was entrusted
with the task of preserving this all-important truth. G-d
willed, therefore, that the Jew, while subduing and controlling
his environment as does every other human being, must recognize,
and show that he recognizes, that his powers are derived from
One higher than himself. This recognition he is to express by
dedicating one day in every week to G-d, and by refraining on
that day from every activity which signifies human power over
On this day we renounce every exercise of intelligent,
purposeful control over natural objects and forces; we cease from
every act of human power, in order to proclaim G-d as the Source
of all power.
In light of this exposition, Dayan Grunfeld writes, one can
easily see how senseless is the oft-repeated argument that it is
no exertion to switch on an electric light or to write a word.
As if using electricity were any less a conquest of nature
because it happens to be effortless!
What of carrying, which requires no intelligent effort and in
which no productive process is involved? Carrying is the
characteristic form of "work" by which man pursues and attains
his purposes in society. By ceasing from carrying we acknowledge
Him as our Master in the sphere of human society. (The Sabbath ,
"See the land - how is it? And the people that dwells in it
- is it strong or weak?" (13:18)
Rashi writes: Moshe gave them a sign - if the people dwell in
open cities, they are strong, thus they rely on their strength
for protection. If they live in walled cities, they are weak.
R' Elya Meir Bloch z"l (20th century; rosh yeshiva of Telshe in
Cleveland) comments: Some Jews believe in withdrawing from
society and having no dealings with the outside world. Others do
the opposite, attempting to be positive influences on their
surroundings. To outward appearances, the first group, in its
fortress of Torah and mitzvot, appears to be stronger, but maybe
this is not so. Perhaps such withdrawal is a sign that a person
is unsure of his spiritual strength.
On the other hand:
We are taught in Pirkei Avot (2:4), "Do not believe in yourself
until the day you die." When Hillel made this statement, he had
in mind the case of Yochanan Kohen Gadol who, after serving in
the Bet Hamikdash for 80 years, suddenly became influenced by
Greek culture and became a heretic.
But on the other hand:
R' Levi Yitzchak of Bereditchev z"l (late 18th century) writes
that the statement, "Do not believe in yourself until the day you
die," is part of the statement that comes before it, i.e., "Do
not separate yourself from the community." Chazal promise that a
person who causes others to do mitzvot will be protected from
spiritual harm. "Do not separate yourself from the community;"
rather, attempt to teach them. Only in this way can you be
(Quoted in Vayaged Yaakov)
"Kalev silenced the people . . ." (13:30)
R' Moshe Feinstein z"l observes: Hashem considered this to be a
great act, as it is written (14:24), "But my servant Kalev,
because a different spirit was with him and he followed Me
wholeheartedly . . ." We can learn several lessons from this.
First, we can learn that a person is obligated to speak or act
when G-d's honor is at stake, even if he will not make an impact
(just as Kalev is praised even though his rebuke was not heeded).
Perhaps even one person will listen.
Second, we can learn that, just as we are obligated to do
everything possible to lengthen another person's life even if we
know that that person has only a short time to live, so, too, we
are obligated to lengthen a person's spiritual life, even if it
will be short-lived. This is what happened here, where the spies
retorted to Kalev's words by repeating the same thing they had
said before; apparently, Kalev swayed his listeners briefly - for
which the Torah praises him - and the spies had to repeat their
attack on the Land.
"Kalev silenced the people towards Moshe, and said, 'We
shall surely ascend . . .' " (13:30)
What does it mean "towards Moshe"? R' Meir Simcha of Dvinsk
z"l (20th century) explains as follows:
In last week's parashah, two of the elders prophesied that
Moshe would die and Yehoshua would lead Bnei Yisrael into the
Land (see Rashi to 11:28). This left Bnei Yisrael dispirited,
for they believed that all of the miracles that Hashem had
performed were only in Moshe's merit. Kalev silenced the people
"towards Moshe," i.e., regarding Moshe. He told them, "We
shall surely ascend, even without Moshe."
This explains why it was Kalev and not Yehoshua who rebuked the
people. Had Yehoshua spoken up, Bnei Yisrael might accuse him of
having his own interests in mind.
"The land through which we have passed, to spy it out, is a
land which devours its inhabitants." (13:32)
R' Meir Leibush Malbim z"l (19th century) writes: The spies
told the truth, they just did not understand what they had seen.
The fact that Eretz Yisrael appeared to be devouring the Seven
Nations is a sign of the Land's holiness. Eretz Yisrael was
created for Bnei Yisrael, and only for Bnei Yisrael.
Dr. Judith Grunfeld z"l
born approx. 5663/1902 - died 5758/1998
This past week marked thirty days since the passing of one of
the pioneers of the Bais Yaakov movement, the first system of
organized Torah education for girls in Poland. Dr. Grunfeld (nee
Rosenbaum) was born in Budapest and grew up in Frankfurt,
Germany, where she attended and graduated from the high school
founded by R' Samson Raphael Hirsch. The program at the Hirsch
School shaped Dr. Grunfeld; she recalled in an interview given in
1986 that the Hirsch School offered girls only one formal class
in Torah studies, but that "the way we learned our secular
subjects obliterated the line between secular and Jewish study."
Every subject, whether mathematics, biology, or botany, was
presented as a lesson in Hashem's wonders and as a springboard
for discussion of related Torah topics.
After high school, Dr. Grunfeld attended a (non-Jewish)
teaching seminary and, at age 20, began work on a doctorate in
education. During one of her semester breaks, Moreinu Dr. Yaakov
Rosenheim (a Frankfurt communal leader and President of the World
Agudath Israel) prevailed on her to go to Poland and assist with
the recently-founded Bais Yaakov school.
(Before Bais Yaakov, Orthodox girls in Poland either attended
public school or stayed at home. As a result, while their
brothers attended cheder and yeshiva and drew inspiration from
Poland's many chassidic rebbes, thousands of girls drifted
farther and farther from a Torah way of life. Alarmed by this
situation, a seamstress from Cracow by the name of Sarah Schnerir
closed her dress shop in 1923 and, with the blessings of the
Chafetz Chaim and the Gerrer Rebbe, opened the first Bais
The future Dr. Grunfeld was one of several German-bred and
educated instructors in the new Bais Yaakov. It has been said
these instructors provided the organizational abilities and
educational theories that complemented Sarah Schnerir's chassidic
enthusiasm. After six weeks in Poland, Dr. Grunfeld went home,
but she soon returned to Poland and remained there for much of
the 1920's. During vacations, she traveled throughout Western
Europe collecting money for Bais Yaakov. In 1929, Dr.
Grunfeld returned to Germany to complete her doctorate. Soon she
married a young talmid chacham/Torah scholar and law student by
the name of Isidor Grunfeld. Following the Nazi rise to power,
the couple fled to England, where Rabbi Grunfeld planned to study
British law in preparation for settling in Eretz Yisrael.
The couple remained in England and, in 1938, the one-time
lawyer became a dayan/rabbinical judge on the bet din/court of
Britain's Chief Rabbi. (Over his remaining years - he died in
1975 - Dayan Grunfeld became known as a leading expositor of the
teachings of R' Samson Raphael Hirsch to the English-speaking
public. In addition to writing several original works which
built on the teachings of R' Hirsch, Dayan Grunfeld also
translated Horeb, R' Hirsch's encyclopedia of the mitzvot, and he
wrote an introduction to Horeb which put the works of R' Hirsch
in their historical perspective and adds a great deal to one's
understanding of them.)
For her part, Dr. Grunfeld continued her teaching career,
joining the faculty of the Jewish Secondary School. During the
War years, when the school was removed to the countryside for
safety reasons and the children were boarded in non-Jewish homes,
Dr. Grunfeld was instrumental in ensuring that the 450 children
in her care remained observant Jews. (Sources: Daughters of
Destiny, pp. 119-147; Yated Ne'eman, 11 Sivan 5758)
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ("lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah"), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Project Genesis
start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
Text archives from 1990 through the present
may be retrieved from
to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.
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The Counting of the Omer
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Something Great and Awesome
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Why Women Saved the Day
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