This week, in addition to Parashat Tetzaveh, we read Parashat
Zachor, in which we are commanded (Devarim 25:19), "You shall
eradicate the memory of Amalek," the nation that launched an
unprovoked attack upon Bnei Yisrael immediately after the Exodus.
Elsewhere (in the Torah reading for Purim - Shmot 17:14), we
read, "I [Hashem] will surely eradicate the memory of Amalek."
If Hashem is our partner in this endeavor, asks R' Nachum
Mordechai Friedman z"l (the "Chortkover Rebbe"), why has it
proven so difficult throughout Jewish history to defeat Amalek
and nations like it?
He explains: Our task and Hashem's task are different ones.
Hashem protects us from the physical Amalek, while it is our
responsibility to battle the Amalek, i.e., the evil, within each
of us. Moreover, Hashem's ability to destroy the physical
Amaleks of the world is dependent upon our destroying our own
Amaleks. This is the meaning of the gemara (Chullin 139a) which
states: "Where is Haman alluded to in the Torah? In the verse
(Bereishit 3:11), 'Hamin ha'etz'/'From the tree from which I
commanded that you not eat, did you eat?'" When Adam committed
the first sin in history, he made possible the existence of Haman
and Amalek. (Haman was a descendant of Amalek.)
In truth, however, the difficulties of the exile make it hard
for us to battle our personal Amaleks. [Ed. Note: This dvar Torah
was said by the Chortkover Rebbe in Vienna, Austria in 1935.] We
must therefore look to the verse (Devarim 25:19), "And it will
come to pass _when_Hashem_will_let_you_rest_ from all your
enemies around you, [then] you shall eradicate the memory of
Amalek." (Doresh Tov)
"And you shall speak to all the chachmei lev/wise-hearted
people whom I have invested with a spirit of wisdom."
The gemara (Berachot 55a) teaches: "Hashem gives wisdom only to
one who has wisdom, as it is written (Shmot 31:6), 'I have
endowed the heart of every wise-hearted person with wisdom.' It
also is written (Daniel 2:21), 'He gives wisdom to the wise.'
Hashem operates the world such that a full vessel can receive
more, while an empty vessel cannot receive anything. [Thus, one
who already has wisdom can receive more, while one who has no
wisdom cannot receive any].
If so, asks R' Chaim of Volozhin z"l, how does one acquire
wisdom in the first place? The answer is to be found in the
words of both King David (Tehilim 111:10) and King Shlomo
(Mishlei 9:10), "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem."
The "wisdom" which precedes Hashem's gift of wisdom is fear of
A person can acquire this initial "wisdom" (i.e., fear of
Hashem) only through his own toil. Our sages say (Berachot 33b),
"Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for the fear of
Heaven." Thus, the gemara's statement that Hashem does not give
wisdom except to one who has wisdom means that Hashem gives
wisdom only to one who has acquired fear of Heaven through his
own hard work. Similarly, the "wise-hearted people" of our pasuk
are those who possess fear of Heaven.
(Ruach Chaim 4:1)
Consistent with the above idea, the Ba'al HaTurim (14th
century) notes that the gematria of "chachmei lev asher"/"wise-
hearted people that" (in our verse) equals the gematria of
"yirat"/"fear of" (in the verses quoted above from Tehilim and
"They shall take the gold, the turquoise, purple and scarlet
wool, and the linen." (28:6)
Why does the Torah introduce the making of the Priestly
Garments by listing these materials? R' Simcha Zissel z"l (the
"Alter" of Kelm; died 1898) explains: Before Hashem commanded
Moshe to make the individual garments for the kohanim, He told
Moshe to gather all of the materials which would be needed. From
here we learn that one must prepare himself before he begins to
perform a mitzvah.
(Quoted in Mi'shulchan Gavohah, p. 189)
"They shall make the ephod of gold. . ." (28:6)
When Hashem commanded Moshe to make each of the Priestly
Garments, He said, "You shall make . . ." However, regarding the
ephod, Hashem said, "They shall make . . ." Why?
R' Ephraim of Lunschitz z"l (17th century) explains: The
gemara (Arachin 16a) teaches that the ephod provided an atonement
for the sin of idolatry, a sin which Bnei Yisrael had
transgressed by making the golden calf. [Those Jews who did not
sin actively sinned passively by not rebuking their neighbors.]
Thus, all of Bnei Yisrael contributed to making the ephod so that
they might achieve atonement for that sin.
Moshe, however, had no part in the sin of the golden calf, as
he was on Har Sinai. Thus, he had no reason to contribute to
making the ephod, and the verse therefore says, "They - not you -
shall make the ephod."
"They shall know that I am Hashem, their G-d, Who took them
out of Egypt to rest My presence among them. I am Hashem
their G-d." (29:46)
Ramban writes: "There is a great secret here. According to the
simplest understanding, the fact that the Shechinah rests in the
midst of Yisrael is for man's sake, not for G-d's sake. However,
the correct understanding is that conveyed by the verse (Yeshayah
49:3), 'Yisrael, through you I receive glory'."
This Ramban is difficult to understand, notes R' Simcha Zissel
Brevda shlita (Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva in
Yerushalayim). Ramban appears to be stating that Hashem Himself
benefits from being among us! Can this be? Don't we read (Iyov
35:6-7), "If you have sinned, have you affected Him? If your
transgressions multiply, what have you done to Him? If you were
righteous, what have you given Him, or what has He taken from
your hand?" Indeed, Ramban himself writes (commenting on Devarim
22:6), "The benefit of the mitzvot is not to Hashem Himself;
rather the benefit is to man, either to distance him from a
source of injury, a wrong belief, or a bad character trait, or to
help him remember G-d's miracles in order to know G-d. . ."
R' Brevda explains: In halachah, we find two types of gift-
giving. There is ordinary gift-giving, by which the giver gives
a gift to the recipient. Also, there is the situation where the
giver physically hands over a gift to the recipient, but the
giver is considered to have received a gift. This occurs when
the recipient is so distinguished that it is an honor for the
giver that the recipient has accepted his gift. (A practical
application of this halachah is as follows: Ordinarily, a woman
is considered married to a man if he gives her a wedding ring.
However, if the bride does not receive the ring, but instead
gives it, she would still be halachically married if the groom
were so distinguished that it is an honor for the bride that the
groom accepts her gift.)
Similarly, Hashem takes man's gifts as a favor to man. Hashem,
in His kindness, wants to give us the maximum number of
opportunities to receive reward, and He therefore created the
illusion that we can give Him gifts and He accepts them. We say
in the berachot before Kri'at Shema (on weekday mornings), "The
Beneficent One fashioned honor for His Name," i.e., because
Hashem is beneficent, He created the possibility that mankind can
give honor to His Name. Indeed, what sense does it make for
lowly man to pray and offer praise to the Highest Being? The
answer is that Hashem accepts that praise as a kindness to man,
just as a distinguished mortal might accept a gift as a favor to
This thought should give us a new appreciation for a portion of
the prayers where it is harder to concentrate, i.e., the portions
of the prayers that are not requests that our needs be taken care
of, but rather that contain praise of Hashem (for example, the
Pesukei D'Zimrah). We should appreciate the kindness that Hashem
is doing by allowing us to come close to Him by reciting His
(Som Derech, p.424)
Letters from Our Sages
This Shabbat, congregations throughout the world will read
Parashat Zachor, recalling Amalek's attack on Bnei Yisrael
shortly after the Exodus. In accordance with the late 19th
century ruling of the Mishnah Berurah (685:18), many
Ashkenazic congregations will read the last verse of
Parashat Zachor twice. As the Mishnah Berurah explains:
"Know that some say that the word 'zkr' should be
pronounced 'zaicher' with the vowel called a
'tzairai' and some say that it should be pronounced
'zecher' with the vowel called a 'segol.'
Therefore, it is correct to read it twice.
The Mishnah Berurah does not cite a source for the two
opinions, but some have suggested that the source is the
following letter by R' Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821). R'
Chaim was a leading student of R' Eliyahu, the Gaon of
Vilna, and the following letter was written by R' Chaim to
the publisher of Ma'aseh Rav, a collection of testimonies
about the Vilna Gaon's personal customs.
"Life and Peace to my beloved friend:
"I have received your pleasing words that sought my advice
whether to print the practices of our great and holy teacher, his
soul is in Eden, so that they will not be forgotten. Certainly,
it is fitting to print them. . .
"Regarding your question whether the practices described are
accurate, of some, I know nothing. The ones of which I am aware
are described accurately except that you wrote [that the Vilna
Gaon said in Kedushah] 'u-shi-va-cheh-cha' with a 'yud' and a
'segol.' It is true that that is what the pious rabbi, R'
Menachem Mendel, may his light shine, printed in the commentary
on Shulchan Aruch, but those who heard it thus are mistaken. I
paid attention, and I heard from the holy mouth [of the Vilna
Gaon], 'u-shi-va-chi-cha' without a 'yud,' and vowelized with a
"As for what you wrote to say in Parashat Zachor, 'zecher,' I
heard from the holy mouth of the Vilna Gaon that he read it
'zaicher.' I do not know whether those who claim to have heard
otherwise are mistaken or whether he changed his mind in his old
age. Please try to find out the truth."
Alan and Paula Goldman
in memory Sam W. Goldman