In today's haftarah we read that an angel appeared to the
future mother of Shimshon and instructed her not to drink wine or
eat grapes because she would bear a child who was supposed to be
a nazir. The woman's husband, Manoach, asked Hashem to send the
angel once more so that he could teach them "what we shall do for
the child who is born." How, Manoach wanted to know, would they
raise him as a nazir?
The angel told Manoach, "From all that I have told the woman,
you shall beware." Manoach, too, should eat no grapes nor drink
wine. Why? Manoach was not meant to be a nazir!
Manoach's question, says R' Shimon Schwab, shlita, was: How
can I rear my son as a Nazir if he sees his father drinking wine?
How can I tell my son, "Don't do as I do but as I say"?
Whereupon the angel answered: You can't! Although there is
nothing wrong with drinking wine and a person is not required to
be a nazir, Manoach had to refrain from drinking wine in order to
set an example for his son of the higher standard that was
expected of him. Otherwise, "chinuch"/educating children is
impossible. (Selected Speeches p.98)
"A man's holies shall be his, and what a man gives to the
kohen shall be his." (5:10)
The midrash relates this verse to the verses in Tehilim (128:1-
2), "Praiseworthy is each person who fears Hashem . . . When you
eat the labor of your hands, you are praiseworthy." What is the
connection between our verse and these verses?
R' Yehuda Sobel (Rumania; 1940's) explains: The Zohar teaches
that the reason that souls come to this world is so that they can
earn Hashem's closeness instead of receiving it as a gift (which
would be the case if the soul was never born and remained in
Heaven). Yet, even a soul that toils in this world is doing so
using Hashem's gifts! Can one put up a mezuzah if Hashem has not
given him a house? Can one wear tzitzit if Hashem has not given
him clothes? If so, what has been accomplished?
R' Sobel answers: The Sages teach, "Everything is in the hands
of Heaven except fear of Heaven." Whether or not a person fears
Hashem is the one thing over which Hashem has no control.
Therefore, if one performs mitzvot in the spirit of fear of
Heaven, he is given credit for doing the mitzvah on his own.
This is the meaning of the verses in Tehilim. When is one
praiseworthy? When he fears Hashem, for then he is truly eating
the labor of his hands. And, the midrash tells us by connecting
those verses to our verse, it is only in such circumstances that
a man's holies, i.e., his accomplishments, are his.
"Any man whose wife shall go astray ('tisteh') and commit
treachery against him." (5:12)
Rashi comments: "Our Rabbis taught [based on this verse] that
one does not commit adultery unless a spirit of madness
('shetut') has entered into him."
The gemara (Sotah 3a) states more generally that one does not
commit any sin unless a spirit of madness has entered into him.
Based on this teaching, R' Shlomo Eiger z"l (see page 4) writes:
The Talmudic sage Rava is of the opinion that any time a person
commits an act which the Torah forbade, that act is legally
ineffective ("ee avid, lo mehani"). [One example which is
discussed in the Talmud is the following: if one separates
terumah from lower quality produce on behalf of higher quality
produce, which is improper, the higher quality produce is deemed
to be in a state of tevel, i.e. produce from which no terumah has
been separated.] Why? Based on the gemara's teaching that one
does not sin unless a spirit of madness has entered into him, we
can understand, for the act of a madman has no legal effect.
R' Eiger adds: this idea is alluded to by Rambam who writes
that a man who refuses to give his wife a get may, in some
circumstances, be beaten until he consents. Why? Must not a get
be given voluntarily? Rambam explains (as interpreted by R'
Eiger) that we presume that every Jew in fact wants to do what is
right, and when he refuses, it is only because the yetzer hara
has driven him out of his senses.
"May Hashem bless you and safegaurd you." (6:24)
R' Yaakov Lorberbaum z"l (see page 4) explains: a person who is
blessed needs to be safeguarded so that the very thing with which
he is blessed does not turn into a curse or a stumbling block.
"They brought their offering before Hashem: six covered
wagons and twelve oxen . . ." (7:3)
R' Shmuel Bornstein z"l (died 1926) asks: G-d did not command
that wagons and oxen be donated to the mishkan. Presumably, if
the nesi'im/princes had not donated these items, all of the
lev'im would have carried the mishkan components on their
shoulders just as the family of Kehat carried the Ark on its
shoulders. What lead the nesi'im to donate oxen and wagons to
He answers: the nesi'im wanted a spirit of holiness to descend
to the lowest levels of the physical world, even to animals, for
this would cause the "animal soul" of man to be sanctified as
(Shem Mi'Shmuel 5671)
"Hashem said to Moshe, saying, 'Take from them [i.e., from
the nesi'im/princes] . . . you shall give them [the princes'
gifts ] to the levi'im, each man according to his work'."
R' Yishayah Horowitz (the "Shelah Hakadosh") asks: although
these verses are found in the Torah after the selection of the
lev'i'm, the dedication of the mishkan (of which the gifts of the
nesi'im were part) actually took place one month before the
levi'im were selected to work in the mishkan. How then can our
verses be understood?
The answer is that Hashem hinted to Moshe that the levi'im were
destined to be selected. We similarly find that Hashem told
Moshe (Sh'mot 27:20) to take oil for the menorah even though the
actual mitzvah to light the menorah is not mentioned until later
(Vayikra, ch. 24). The reason for hinting in advance that the
levi'im would be selected was so that the levi'im could prepare
and sanctify themselves. This is based on the principle that a
person's ability to be sanctified from Above depends on his
taking the initiative to sanctify himself below.
(Quoted in Musarei Ha'Shelah Al Ha'Torah p. 98)
R' Chaim Davidson z"l
R' Chaim Davidson was born in Pintchov, Poland, in
approximately 1760, the son of a respected talmid chacham/Torah
scholar, R' David Tevele (hence the name "Davidson"). R' Davison
studied under R' Yaakov Lorberbaum (the "Nesivos") and received
semichah/ordination from him, but chose a career in business
rather than the rabbinate.
On his business trips, R' Davidson would frequently spend time
at the home of R' Akiva Eiger and would study under him as well.
A sign of R' Davidson's closeness to R' Eiger is the fact that
the latter entrusted R' Davidson with arranging a match for his
son, R' Shlomo. (After R' Shlomo's engagement, the match was
nearly broken off because of rumors that began circulating about
the bride's health. The following is R' Eiger's letter to the
bride's family when he later realized that he had believed false
I do not know why G-d brought my way such a great sin,
causing pain to such beloved souls as yourselves. . . In
my life, I have never even troubled a student to bring me
a book, for I do not know who learns from whom [and who is
greater]. . . I would rather have lain sick in bed for
twelve months [than to have erred as I did]. All I can
ask is your forgiveness . . . I do promise you that my
son Shlomo knew nothing of this, and may there be peace on
us and all of Israel.)
In his hometown of Warsaw, R' Davidson was regarded as one of
the elders and sages despite holding no official position.
Warsaw's rabbi, too, regularly consulted with R' Davidson.
At the age of 80, R' Davidson himself was elected rabbi of
Warsaw, leading the people of Warsaw to joke that they had
suffered a double loss - first they lost their previous rabbi and
then they lost their most respected businessman. R' Davidson
served as rabbi of Warsaw for fourteen years until his death in
1854. (Source: Gedolei Ha'dorot p. 611)
Barbara & Ken Strassman and family
in honor of the bar mitzvah of Chanan Strassman
Yitzchok and Barbie Lehmann Siegel
in memory of Jamie Lehmann a"h