There are three verses in this week's parashah that
command us to emulate Hashem's ways. This means, say Chazal,
that just as He is merciful, so we should be merciful, just as He
is giving, we should be giving, and so on with respect to all
The first of the three verses places emulating Hashem's
ways _before_ fearing Him: "You shall observe the commandments of
Hashem, your G-d, to go in his ways and fear Him" (8:6). The
second verse places following in His ways _between_ fearing Him
and loving Him: "Now, Yisrael, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of
you? Only to fear Hashem, your G-d, to go in His ways and to
love Him" (10:12). Finally, the third verse places emulating
Hashem _after_ loving Him and before cleaving to Him: "For if you
observe this entire commandment that I command you, to perform
it, to love Hashem, your G-d, to walk in all His ways and to
cleave to Him" (11:22). R' Yisrael Meir Hakohen z"l (the
"Chafetz Chaim"; died 1933) explains:
There are three levels in serving Hashem: yirah / fear,
ahavah / love, and deveikut / cleaving or attachment. Emulating
Hashem is a prerequisite for achieving each of these levels.
First one must emulate Hashem, then he will learn to fear Him.
Next one must emulate Hashem on a higher level, then he will
learn to love Him. Finally, one must emulate Hashem on a still
higher level, and then he will cleave to Him. (Quoted in Otzrot
Tzaddikei U'geonei Ha'dorot)
"Perhaps you will say in your heart, `These nations are more
numerous than I [literally, "from me"]; how will I be able
to drive them out?'
"Do not fear them! You shall remember what Hashem, your G-
d, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt." (7:17-18)
R' Yissachar Ber of Radoshitz z"l (1765-1843) writes in the
name of his rebbe, R' Avraham Yehoshua Heschel z"l (the Ohev
Yisrael"; 1746-1825): Moshe spoke these verses to a generation of
tzaddikim about whom he had said (Devarim 4:4), "You who cling to
Hashem, your G-d - you are all alive today." How could Moshe
suspect that these same people would fear the inhabitants of the
He answers: A tzaddik does not fear someone who is truly
wicked. However, when we see a seemingly wicked person who is
thriving, we have to wonder: "Does he possess within his soul
some sparks of holiness? Is that what sustains him?"
This is what Moshe meant: "Perhaps you will say in your heart,
`These nations are more numerous from me - i.e., because they
share the same holiness that is in my soul. If so, how will I be
able to drive them out'?" The answer is: "Do not fear them! You
shall remember what Hashem, your G-d, did to Pharaoh and to all
of Egypt." Pharaoh, too, lived in a thriving society --indeed,
in the world's most advanced civilization -- before the plagues.
Nevertheless, that did not prevent Hashem from punishing Pharaoh
as He saw fit.
"Not by bread alone does man live, rather by everything that
emanates from the mouth of G-d does man live." (8:3)
R' Chaim Vital z"l (1543-1620; Tzefat and Damascus) writes:
Certainly no one would entertain the idea that man will live an
eternal life - the only "life" that matters - on bread alone.
The Torah does not need to teach us that. However, one might
mistakenly think that he can earn eternal life through mitzvot
alone (of which the blessings associated with bread are
examples). It is not so; "rather by everything that emanates
from the mouth of G-d - i.e., the study of Torah - does man live"
Alternatively, one might think that the body lives on bread,
while the soul lives on Torah. No, says the verse. The source
of the body's life is the soul, and the soul lives on the word of
(Etz Ha'da'at Tov)
"I grasped the two Tablets and threw them from my two hands
. . ." (9:17)
There is an opinion among the Rishonim / medieval authorities
that if one releases his hold on a stone and it kills someone, he
is liable for murder. It is not necessary that one apply his own
force to the stone, for example, by throwing it.
R' Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk z"l (Poland; 1880-1939) writes that
this view may be supported by our verse. Why did Moshe mention
that he was grasping the luchot before he threw them. down?
Perhaps he meant to say that he did not actually throw the
luchot. Rather, he was grasping them in his hands, and when he
stopped grasping them, it was as if he threw them.
(Quoted in Otzrot Tzaddikei U'geonei Ha'dorot)
"At that time, Hashem set apart the tribe of Levi . . .
Therefore, Levi did not have a share and a heritage with his
brethren . . . I remained on the mountain as on the first
days - forty days and forty nights . . ." (10:8-10)
What is the connection between the setting apart of the tribe
of Levi and Moshe's remaining on Har Sinai for 40 days and 40
nights, praying for Bnei Yisrael to be forgiven the sin of the
golden calf? R' Moshe Gruenwald z"l (1853-1911; one of the
leading Hungarian roshei yeshiva of his generation) explains:
The role of the tribe of Levi is to be the teachers of Torah to
Bnei Yisrael, as we read (Devarim 33:10), "They shall teach Your
ordinances to Yaakov and Your Torah to Yisrael." This is why the
tribe of Levi did not receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael, i.e.,
so that they would be free to teach Torah.
The gemara (Ervuvin 54a) states that if the luchot had not been
broken, Torah that was learned would never be forgotten. And,
the luchot, we know, were broken because of the sin of the golden
calf. It follows that the tribe of Levi's appointment as
teachers and its not receiving a share in Eretz Yisrael are a
direct result of that sin.
"Now, Yisrael, mah / what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you?
Only to fear Hashem, your G-d . . ." (10:12)
Our Sages found in this verse an allusion that one should
recite 100 blessings every day. They derived this by changing
one word in the verse as follows: "Now, Yisrael, me'ah / one
hundred does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you." [See below.]
Poskim / halachic authorities note that it is easy to recite
100 blessings on a weekday, as saying shemoneh esrei three times
(Ma'ariv, Shacharit, and Minchah) already accounts for 57
berachot. On Shabbat, however, the amidah contains only seven
blessings; saying it four times (Ma'ariv, Shacharit, Minchah, and
Musaf) yields only 28 blessings. The gemara (Menachot 43b)
suggests making-up some of the missing blessings on Shabbat by
R' Yitzchak Weiss z"l (rabbi of Verbau, Czechoslovakia in the
1930s) observes that this creates a great potential for a person
to recite unnecessary berachot or blessings in vain, for example,
a blessing that is not halachically required because one just
recited the same blessing on a different food. Therefore the
Torah warns: "What does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you? Only to
fear Hashem, your G-d." At the same time that you are reciting
the required 100 blessings, remember to fear G-d and not to take
His Name in vain.
How does this verse allude to an obligation to recite 100
blessings? One answer is that the verse has 100 letters.
Alternatively, the word "mah" has a gematria of 100 using the
form of gematria known as "at-bash." [In this form of gematria,
each letter is paired with the letter which is in the "opposite"
position in the aleph-bet. Thus, aleph is paired with tav, bet
is paired with shin, etc. Under this system, mem is paired with
yud, whose gematria is 10, and heh is paired with tzaddi, whose
gematria is 90.]
(Tosfot, Menachot 43b)
R' Menachem Mordechai Frankel-Teomim z"l (a 20th century
scholar) suggests the following connection between this verse and
the obligation to recite 100 blessings daily: The word "mah" is
seemingly superfluous in this verse, for the Torah could just as
well have said, "Now, Yisrael, Hashem, your G-d, asks of you to
fear Hashem, your G-d . . ." Presumably, then, this "extra" word
was used to tell us _how_ to attain fear of G-d. Hashem is
asking something of us - "??" can also mean "something" - asking
us to do something that will help us fear Him. What is that?
Reciting blessings. Why one-hundred? Because kabbalists teach
that that number represents completeness or perfection.
(Ki Im L'binah Tikra p. 141)
Shemittah Observance Today
[This week, we continue our discussion of the "Hetter
Mechirah" / the view that permits working the Land after
selling it to a non-Jew for the duration of the shemittah
year. We have already noted that the Hetter Mechirah may be
relied upon only if one holds that shemittah does not apply
according to Torah (as opposed to rabbinic) law when there
is no Bet Hamikdash and most Jews live in exile. This will
be discussed in greater detail next week. This week we
address a more fundamental question: Does Eretz Yisrael
retain _any_ of its holiness after the destruction of the
The gemara speaks in several places of the two times that the
Land of Israel was "sanctified." The first time was in the days
of the Prophet Yehoshua, 40 years after the Exodus (as related in
the Book of Yehoshua). On that occasion, Bnei Yisrael conquered
the Land militarily and settled it, and they remained there for
850 years, until the first Bet Hamikdash was destroyed.
Seventy years after the Destruction, Bnei Yisrael returned from
their exile in Babylon and Persia and, again, they settled the
Land. This was the second "sanctification." The dominant leader
in this period was Ezra Ha'sofer, the author of several books of
The general consensus is that the "kedushah rishonah" / "first
sanctification" (in the time of Yehoshua) was temporary, and that
the Land lost its sanctity when the First Temple was destroyed.
In contrast, the "kedushah sheniayh" / "second sanctification"
(in the time of Ezra) was permanent, and the destruction of the
Second Temple did not affect the Land's sanctity. Why?
Commentaries explain that because the first sanctification was
based on military conquest, it remained in effect only so long as
the Jewish people could maintain it militarily. The second
sanctification, however, was not a military conquest. Rather,
through a process of aliyah and settlement undertaken with the
blessing of the greatest power of that time (Persia), the Jewish
people re-sanctified the Land. Once the Land was given
willingly, no power could take it away against the will of the
Jewish people, just as one has no power to rescind the sale or
gift of any item. (See Rambam, Hil. Bet Ha'bechirah, end of
chapter 6; R' Shlomo Yosef Zevin z"l, L'Ohr Ha'halachah, p. 105.)
Because the sanctity of the Land remains in effect after the
Destruction, the mitzvot of the Land remain in effect as well.
Nevertheless, Rambam writes with regard to terumah and ma'aser /
tithes that these mitzvot apply only according to rabbinic law
because only a minority of the Jewish people returned to Eretz
Yisrael with Ezra (Hil. Terumot 1:26). [Note that Rambam does not
explicitly mention the status of shemittah, i.e., whether it
applies according to Torah or only rabbinic law following the
second sanctification. The various hints that Rambam gives
regarding this question will be discussed next week.]