Let's Stick Together
Volume 20, No. 41
25 Av 5766
August 19, 2006
Nathan and Rikki Lewin
on the yahrzeit of his father Dr. Isaac Lewin
(Harav Yitzchok ben Harav Aharon a"h)
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Yoma 73
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Ma'aser Sheni 20
In the final paragraphs of our parashah, the Torah presents once
again the laws of the festivals--Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. R'
Aharon Lewin z"l hy"d (rabbi of Rzeszow, Poland; member of the Polish
Senate; murdered in the Holocaust) explained in a derashah how the
laws of Pesach (not necessarily those in our parashah) set forth
important principles for the fledgling Jewish nation to bear in mind.
We present one example.
The Korban Pesach should be eaten in family groups and must be
eaten indoors. One is not permitted to take any part of the flesh
outside. This teaches us the importance of unity, privacy and
discretion. As a nation, we should keep our internal matters private.
They should not be aired in a public manner. Moreover, we must stick
R' Lewin notes that this lesson is demonstrated by our experience
in Egypt. The Torah records in Parashat Shmot (2:11), "It happened in
those days that Moshe grew up and went out to his brethren and
observed their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew
man, of his brethren." What does the last phrase, "of his brethren"
add? Obviously we know that a Hebrew man was of Moshe's brethren.
Rather, R' Lewin explains, the Torah is telling us why the Egyptian
felt at liberty to hit the Jew. Why wasn't he afraid that someone
would avenge the Jew's blood? It happened because "of his brethren,"
i.e., because the Egyptian knew that there were Jews who were traitors
to the Jewish people. As soon as there are Jews who turn against
their brethren or who fail to stand up for the honor of their
brethren, the other nations know that they have a license to oppress
us freely. (Ha'drash Ve'ha'iyun)
"Rather, only at the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose
from among all your tribes to place His Name shall you seek
out le'shichno / His Presence and come there." (12:8)
Ramban z"l (R' Moshe ben Nachman; 1194-1270) explains this verse
as follows: "You will come to the place from distant lands and you
will ask, "Which is the way to the house of Hashem?' You will say to
your friends (paraphrasing Yishayah 2:3), `Let us go up to the
mountain of Hashem, to the house of the G-d of Yaakov.'"
Ramban continues: "In the midrash Sifrei it states about our
verse, `Shall you seek'--through a prophet. I might think that we
should wait until a prophet tells us to seek the place; therefore the
verse says, `Shall you seek out His Presence and come there.' First
you will seek and find the place, and later a prophet will tell you."
Ramban concludes: "The verse says, `Shall you seek out
"le'shichno" / His Presence and come there.' According to the way of
truth [i.e., kabbalah], this means, `Seek His honor and come there to
see the "face" of Hashem, the G-d of Yisrael.' It is from here [from
the word "le'shichno"] that the Sages derived the expression, `the
(Commentary on the Torah)
Citing the second paragraph of the above Ramban, R' Zvi Hirsch
Kalischer z"l (1794-1874; German rabbi; leading advocate both for
resettling Eretz Yisrael and for renewing the Temple service) wrote to
the famous Orthodox banker Asher Anschel Rothschild z"l in the summer
"Clearly we are instructed not to wait for a prophet to come to
tell us, `Go up, seek out Hashem, and sacrifice a korban.' Rather, we
must seek on our own and go up if it is within our power to do so.
Then, we will merit for a prophet to appear to us [i.e., Eliyahu
Hanavi or mashiach]."
(Reprinted in Drishat Zion p.297)
Commenting on a different passage in the same Ramban, R' Joseph
B. Soloveitchik z"l (1903-1993) wrote:
"The searching for the sanctuary, the curiosity to know the
location of the sanctuary, is itself redeeming and sanctifying. This
curiosity hallows the pilgrimage and makes it meaningful. If one does
not search for G-d, if a Jew does not keep in mind that there is a
road leading to the Temple, then he or she will never find the
(Festival of Freedom p.54)
"[Y]ou may slaughter from your cattle and your flocks that
Hashem has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may
eat in your cities according to your heart's entire desire."
R' Yaakov Kamenetsky z"l (died 1986; rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva
Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn, N.Y.) observes: Although there are berachot
to be recited in connection with the performance of many mitzvot, the
mitzvah of shechitah / kosher slaughter of an animal is unique in one
respect. It is well established that if one performs a mitzvah [e.g.,
putting on tefilin] without reciting the berachah, one has
nevertheless discharged his duty to perform the mitzvah. Yet,
according to some halachic authorities, if one performs shechitah
without reciting a berachah, the shechitah is not valid and the animal
may not be eaten. Why?
R' Kamenetsky suggests the following answer: Before an animal is
"shechted," there are two prohibitions that prevent us from eating it.
One is the prohibition of "aiver min ha'chai" / eating from a live
animal. The other is the prohibition of "aina zevuchah" / eating an
animal that died in any way other than as a result of a proper
shechitah. The first prohibition--"aiver min ha'chai"--disappears
when the animal no longer is living. It makes no difference how the
animal died, since the prohibition applies, by definition, only to
living animals. However, the prohibition of "aina zevuchah" can be
removed only by performing the mitzvah of shechitah; any other way of
killing the animal would not suffice. Moreover, even if one would
perform the act of shechitah perfectly but he would say that he is not
doing it for the mitzvah, presumably the animal would not be
considered "shechted." Thus, our Sages established the berachah as a
declaration that the one slaughtering the animal intends to perform
not just the act, but also the mitzvah, of shechitah.
R' Kamenetsky adds: According to R' David Halevi z"l (1586-1667;
the "Taz"), one does not fulfill the mitzvah of reading Megillat
Esther if he did not recite the berachah. This may be explained in a
way similar to the above. The Megillah tells a nice story, but there
are no obvious miracles described there. Thus, in order to fulfill
the mitzvah of publicizing G-d's miracles, which is the purpose of
reading the Megillah, one must announce that he is reading for that
purpose. This is what the berachah accomplishes.
(Quoted in B'mechitzat Rabbeinu p.141)
In 1923, the Chafetz Chaim z"l traveled to Vienna to participate
in the convention of Agudas Yisrael, and he spent some time together
with R' Avraham Mordechai Alter z"l, the Gerrer Rebbe. In the course
of their discussion, the Chafetz Chaim cited the verse from this
week's parashah (13:5), "Acharei [literally, `After'] Hashem, your G-
d, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you
observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to
Him shall you cleave." The Chafetz Chaim commented:
"Our Sages observe that the Torah uses two words for `after' -
`Acharei,' which means `long after' (or `far away') and `achar,' which
means `soon after' (or `close'). Why does our verse use `acharei,'
implying that one should follow Hashem from a distance? In fact, one
should become as close to G-d as possible!"
He explained: Sometimes a person becomes depressed, and he feels
that he is standing on the brink of a cliff as far from G-d as can be.
He is confident that Hashem will not help him at this moment. One
should know that such feelings are the work of the yetzer hara.
Hashem is a Jew's "Father" at all times, and He accepts His children
when they return to Him and saves them from all troubles. Even when
one is "acharei" / "far away," he should not despair of following
Hashem. This is the meaning of the words in the High Holiday prayers,
"Fortunate is the man who will not forget You, and the human being who
will find strength in You."
The Gerrer Rebbe responded: "Now I will try to interpret this
verse in the manner of the chassidim. Specifically when a person
feels distant from Hashem, that is when he can best follow Hashem, as
it is written in Tehilim: `G-d is close to the broken-hearted'."
(Otzrotaihem Shel Tzaddikim)
Copyright © 2006 by Shlomo Katz
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