The haftarah, which gives this Shabbat its name "Shabbat Nachamu,"
opens: "Nachamu, nachamu" / "Comfort, comfort My people - says your G-
d. Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim and proclaim to her that her
time [of exile] has been fulfilled, that her iniquity has been
conciliated, for she has received from the hand of Hashem double for
all her sins."
R' Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog z"l (first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi
of Israel; died 1959) commented on these verses as follows in a 1948
address: How are these verses different when we read them today from
when they were read in the past? In the past, the fulfillment of
these verses was in the distant future. Today, these verses relate
all at once to the present, the near term, and the distant future.
Chazal comment on these verses, "She [i.e., Yerushalayim] sinned
doubly, she was doubly punished, and she was doubly consoled."
Yisrael / the People of Israel has a double nature. On the one hand,
it is a nation; anyone who says that Judaism is only a religion is
mistaken. On the other hand, anyone who thinks that Yisrael is a
nation like any other nation is mistaken, and is misleading others.
Yisrael is a holy nation, with the loftiest mission, given from G-d,
of any nation. Therefore, when Yisrael sins, its sin is a double sin.
Yisrael is not the only nation that has been exiled from its land;
many nations, large and small, have experienced this fate. However,
those nations, once they are destroyed, disappear. They assimilate
and no memory remains of them, and, at the same time, their suffering
ends. Such is not the lot of Yisrael. An invisible "hand" forced
Yisrael not to assimilate, but rather to remain apart and dispersed,
and to suffer without end. Why? Because Yisrael is a nation destined
for greatness, specifically, for moral greatness - for that greatness
which in the awesome future will be the lot of all of mankind.
Therefore, they were doubly consoled: In the future, there will be
open miracles. For now, the time for open miracles has not yet come,
but certainly miracles have taken place and will continue to take
place . . . (Ha'techukah Le'Yisrael Al Pi Ha'torah III p.258)
"Ve'shinantam / You shall teach them thoroughly . . ." (6:7)
The word "ve'shinantam" also can mean "you shall sharpen." Thus,
our Sages teach that one must study Torah until its words are "sharp
in your mouth," i.e., until one knows the material thoroughly and
R' Avraham Yaakov Hakohen Pam z'l (rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaath in
Brooklyn; died 2001) writes: The work Birkat Shmuel [by R' Boruch Ber
Leibowitz z"l; died 1940] notes that a person's obligation to study
Torah has two components, one qualitative and the other quantitative.
Our verse alludes to the quality of one's Torah learning. As for
quantity, we read (Yehoshua 1:8), "You shall contemplate it day and
However, R' Pam continues, one is exempt from studying Torah at any
moment in which he must work for a living. One should not think that
earning a living merely mitigates the prohibition of bittul Torah /
wasting time from Torah study. To the contrary, at a time when one
must work, that is his mitzvah, not studying Torah. After all, we are
commanded (Devarim 11:14), "You shall gather in your grain, your wine,
and your oil." (See Berachot 35b.)
Of course, writes R' Pam, the opposite side of the coin is that one
must be honest with himself. One who is working more than he must to
attain luxuries is not exempt from Torah study. One should remember
that "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread" (Bereishit 3:19)
was a curse.
The story is told of a chance meeting in approximately 1916 between
R' Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (rabbi in Russia and later on New York's Lower
East Side; died 1973) and R' Avraham Yishayahu Karelitz z"l (the
Chazon Ish; 1878-1953) in the waiting room of the rabbi of Stuyepitz,
R' Yoel Sorotzkin z"l. Although older than R' Henkin, the Chazon Ish
was unknown to most people at that time. While both men waited for
the Stuyepitz Rabbi, R' Henkin said to his fellow visitor, "Shalom
aleichem! What is your name?"
"Avraham Yishayahu Karelitz," came the answer.
"What do you do?"
"I am a storekeeper." (In fact, Mrs. Karelitz kept a store while
her husband learned full time.)
"And when does a Jew learn?" R' Henkin prodded.
"When there is time, one learns," the unknown visitor responded.
"And what brings you here?"
"The rabbi has sent for me."
R' Henkin imagined that his fellow visitor had been sent for
because one of his customers or suppliers had lodged a complaint
against him with the rabbi. How great was R' Henkin's surprise when
he learned why R' Sorotzkin has sent for R' Karelitz - he wished to
ask R' Karelitz to serve as rabbi of Stuyepitz while R' Sorotzkin had
to travel away from the town for several months.
Was the Chazon Ish being flippant when he said, "When there is
time, one learns"? No, says R' Pam. That is in fact one's
(Atarah La'melech p. 156)
"You shall be greatly beware for your lives." (4:15)
R' Moshe Chaim Luzzato z"l ("Ramchal") writes: Among the deterrents
to serving Hashem with zeal is excessive trepidation and fear of what
time may bring, of heat and cold, of accidents, of illness, of winds,
etc. As King Shlomo wrote (Mishlei 26:13), "The lazy person says,
`There is a lion on the road'." Chazal condemned this trait,
attributing it to sinners. Rather, the proper rule of conduct is (in
the words of Tehilim 37:3), "Trust in Hashem and do good, dwell in the
land and cultivate faith."
One might ask: Chazal have instructed that a person be especially
attentive to his well-being and not place himself in danger, even if
he is righteous. In line with this, the Gemara (Ketubot 30a) says,
"Everything is in the hands of Heaven except chills and fevers." The
Torah [in the verse quoted above] commands the same thing, all of
which indicates that a person should not place his trust in G-d in
this area! Does this teaching not contradict what was stated in the
Ramchal answers: Know that there is fear and there is fear. There
is appropriate fear and there is foolish fear. On the other hand,
there is confidence and there is recklessness. Hashem has invested
man with intelligence and judgment so that he may follow the right
path and protect himself from the instruments of injury that have been
created to punish evildoers. One who chooses not to be guided by
wisdom and exposes himself to dangers is displaying not trust, but
The type of fear and self-protection which is appropriate is that
which grows out of wisdom and intelligence. It is the type about
which it is said (Mishlei 22:3), "The wise man sees evil and hides,
but the fools pass on and are punished." "Foolish fear" is a person's
desire to have multiple levels of protection, such that he devotes
himself to building up these layers of protection and neglects Torah
and Divine service. The criterion by which to distinguish between the
two types of fear is implied in Chazal's statement (Pesachim 8b),
"Where there is a likelihood of danger, it is different." Where there
is an identifiable risk of injury, one must be careful, but where
there is no apparent danger, one should not be afraid.
(Mesilat Yesharim, ch. 9)
On a related theme, R' Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz z"l (see above)
writes: There is a deep-rooted misconception in people's minds
regarding bitachon / trust in Hashem. To many people, bitachon
implies an obligation to believe that, when a person stands at a
crossroads where there are two roads before him with an uncertain
future ahead and with a possibility of a good outcome or an outcome
which is not good, the good outcome is inevitable. These people think
that if they doubt this at all, they are lacking bitachon.
That is not a correct understanding of bitachon at all. Unless it
has been prophetically foretold, the future is never certain, for who
can know Hashem's judgment or how He repays men for their deeds.
Rather, bitachon is the belief that nothing in the world is left to
chance, that everything that happens under the sun has been ordered by
Hashem. When a person encounters a situation in which, according to
the laws of nature, he is in danger, and that person strengthens
himself and remembers that nothing is left to chance and that nothing
in the world can prevent Hashem from coming to the rescue, that person
is practicing bitachon.
(Emunah U'bitachon, ch.2)
Letters from Our Sages
This week's letter was written by R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook when he
served as Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim. It is printed in Igrot
Ha'Reiyah, Vol. IV, No. 980.
B"H, In the holy city, Yerushalayim, may she be built and established,
11 Tishrei 5680 [October 5, 1919]
An Open Letter
To the honorable board of the organization, Mizrachi:. . .
I think that the question has three parts:
1) Regarding the halachah-is it permitted or prohibited?
2) Regarding the good of the community-can anything good come to
the Jewish people either from a positive answer or a negative answer?
3) Regarding the ideal-does our moral consciousness negate this
thing or demand it?
Regarding the halachah, I have nothing to add to those rabbis who
preceded me . .
It remains for us to deal with [the question from] the
perspective of the good of the community. Regarding this, I think
that we are obligated to inform all of our brothers from the various
factions-all of whom certainly seek the good of our nation and the
broadening of our rights in Eretz Yisrael-that the declaration by the
British government [i.e., the Balfour Declaration], which planted a
delicate shoot that may grow into the redemption, is based primarily
on the viewpoint from which the best of the nations in general and the
British in particular see our rightful connection to Eretz Yisrael as
something sanctified by Heaven. They are influenced to this outlook
by the Tanach which is considered holy by the majority of civilized
peoples in our day . . .
The enemies of Yisrael, from both within and without, make use of
the accusation that the Jewish youth has lost its connection to the
Holy Book and therefore has no right to the Land of the Tanach. We
are obligated to stand guard to demonstrate to all that the soul of
Yisrael is alive in its true form and the Land of the Tanach belongs
to the People of the Tanach . . . This will come about specifically by
protecting our true form according to the decrees of the Torah and its
laws, which guide us towards a life that will elevate our honor and
lead us towards a higher freedom and redemption.
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