Sponsored by Nathan and Rikki Lewin on the yahrzeit of his mother Peppy
Sternheim Lewin (Pessel bat Naftali a”h)
Our parashah begins with what appears to be a review of Bnei Yisrael’s
travels in the desert. Rashi z”l observes, however, that there is no other
mention in the Torah of some of the place names that Moshe Rabbeinu lists
here. Rather, Rashi explains, these terms should be understood as veiled
allusions to some of the sins that Bnei Yisrael committed in the desert.
R’ Shmuel Shmelke Güntzler z”l (1838-1911; rabbi of Oyber-Visheve, Hungary
for 45 years) writes: We read (Mishlei 28:23), “One who reproves a person
will later find favor, more than one with a flattering tongue.” The Midrash
Rabbah notes that the verse can be read, “One who reproves a person after Me
will find favor, more than one with a flattering tongue,” and it explains:
“One who reproves”--this is Moshe; “a person”--this is Bnei Yisrael; “after
Me”--this is G-d, i.e., to cause them to follow Me; “will find favor”--as it
is written (Shmot 33:12), “You [Moshe] have found favor in My Eyes”; “more
than one with a flattering tongue”--this is Bilam. The midrash further
comments that Moshe reproved Bnei Yisrael “after Me,” i.e., he reproved Bnei
Yisrael regarding their relationship with Hashem (see Shmot 32:30), but also
reproved Hashem regarding His relationship with Bnei Yisrael (ibid, verse 11).
R’ Güntzler continues: How is it that Moshe Rabbeinu, who devoted his life
to defending Bnei Yisrael, would now castigate them? Indeed, like any
father, Hashem does not like when people speak harshly about His children.
That is why Moshe Rabbeinu rebuked Bnei Yisrael using subtle hints that they
would understand, but which a casual reader would not, as Rashi explains.
At the same time, his words contain a subtle rebuke of Hashem himself.
For example, the words (Devarim 1:1) “Di Zahav” can mean “enough gold,” and
they subtly hint to Bnei Yisrael that their excessive wealth caused them to
make the golden calf. At the same time, they say to Hashem, “You gave them
that gold, so how can You complain?” Moshe Rabbeinu’s words contained
veiled criticism of Bnei Yisrael, as Rashi explains, but in his heart he was
defending them. In this way, Moshe reproved Bnei Yisrael regarding their
relationship with Hashem, but also reproved Hashem regarding His
relationship with Bnei Yisrael. In contrast, says the midrash, Bilam openly
blessed Bnei Yisrael--he spoke “with a flattering tongue”--but in his heart
he was cursing them. (Meisiv Nefesh: Parashat Pinchas)
“After he had defeated Sichon, king of the Emorites, who dwelt in
Cheshbon, and Og, king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtarot, in Edrei.” (1:4)
We read in Tehilim (136:17-22), “To Him Who defeated great kings, for His
kindness endures forever; and slew mighty kings, for His kindness endures
forever; Sichon, king of the Emorites, for His kindness endures forever; and
Og, king of Bashan, for His kindness endures forever; and He presented their
land as a heritage, for His kindness endures forever; a heritage for Yisrael
His servant, for His kindness endures forever.”
Why, asks R’ Yitzchak Isaac Chaver z”l (1789-1852; rabbi of Suvalk,
Lithuania), do the verses seemingly repeat themselves: “And presented their
land as a heritage . . .; a heritage for Yisrael”? He explains: We read in
our parashah (2:9), “You shall not distress Moav and you shall not provoke
war with them.” Likewise, Bnei Yisrael were commanded not to disturb Ammon.
Yet, the lands of Ammon and Moav were meant to belong to Bnei Yisrael.
Therefore, says King David in Tehilim, Hashem “slew mighty kings”--i.e., the
kings of Ammon and Moav were slain by Sichon and Og--and “He presented their
land as a heritage” to Sichon and Og, in order that it could later become “a
heritage for Yisrael.” (Haggadah Shel Pesach Yad Mitzrayim)
R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z”l (Yerushalayim; 1910-1995) would bemoan the
fact that the general populace does not feel the loss of the Temple.
Throughout history, especially during the Three Weeks, this feeling was the
heritage of the Jewish People, he would say. The somberness and heavy heart
associated with the Three Weeks could be seen on people’s faces, especially
in Yerushalayim. Many would wear lesser quality clothes during the entire
Three Weeks as a expression of mourning.
In our generation, when the Holy Land continues to be resettled and to grow,
this feeling has been lost. R’ Auerbach commented that the words of the
kinnah / lamentation, “Over the destruction of the Temple, that was torn
down and trampled upon, I shall lament with a new elegy every year,” can
mean that it is the Destruction itself, rather than the Temple, which has
been torn down and trampled upon- i.e., it is no longer appreciated--and for
that we must compose a new elegy every year.
R’ Auerbach likewise bemoaned the lack of attention paid to the Holocaust.
He acknowledged that it is difficult to grasp the murder of six million
people, and he recommended focusing on the suffering of one family,
especially a family of Torah scholars and G-d-fearing people, and gradually
extrapolating from there to the suffering of the entire nation. (Quoted in
Halichot Shlomo: Moa’adim)
The Daf Ha’yomi
As many readers are aware, this coming week marks the completion of the
twelfth cycle of the “Daf Ha’yomi” study. The following essay pays tribute
to this historic event.
One could describe the Daf Ha’yomi (commonly called “Daf Yomi”) as a program
in which participants worldwide study the same page of Talmud Bavli (Gemara)
on any given day and complete it every seven-and-a-half years. R’ Meir
Shapiro z”l, the tzaddik who first promoted this concept, saw it much
Daf Yomi is a bridge--though fashioned of paper--which lifts the Jew
above the stormy confusion of the waters below, and he walks with more
assurance and confidence than on the firmest steel structure.
The great allure of the Daf Yomi concept lies in the realization that the
daf / page of Gemara which I learn here and now is being poured over by
countless Jews scattered over the face of the earth. While each one has his
own particular mode of learning and is influenced by the intellectual
climate of his environment, nevertheless, Abaye and Rava [two great sages of
the Talmud] remain Abaye and Rava. [From R’ Meir Shapiro’s remarks on the
occasion of the first completion of the Daf Yomi cycle on Tu B’shvat
5691/1931, reprinted in the Jewish Observer, Vol. XXII No. 1]
The two-fold purpose of Daf Yomi, first begun on Rosh Hashanah 5684/1924,
was to encourage Jews to increase their Torah study through the
implementation of a regimented program or quota, and to provide a vehicle
for uniting Jews worldwide. R’ Meir Shapiro himself observed on the
occasion mentioned above:
It was on my first trip abroad on behalf of the yeshiva of Lublin [in
1927, to the U.S., England, and Western Europe], when I found groups and
individuals learning the daf in every Jewish community I visited, that I saw
at first hand the impact that Daf Yomi has made in the Jewish world.
Whether it was in Strasbourg, London or Baltimore [here he mentioned by name
people whom he had met], while their styles of learning differed, there was
the same motivating force which is inherent in Daf Yomi.
In every generation since Daf Yomi was introduced, many Torah giants have
endorsed it. The Gerrer Rebbe studied the daf and encouraged his chassidim
to do so. The Chafetz Chaim reportedly told R’ Meir Shapiro, “In Heaven,
they love you dearly.” R’ Aharon Kotler z”l, one of the leading sages in
America in the 1950's, reportedly studied Daf Yomi as well.
In addition to the advantages of Daf Yomi which R’ Meir Shapiro himself
described, R’ Moshe Feinstein z”l notes that it gives a person the
opportunity to complete the entire Torah. R’ Feinstein proves from various
sources that every person is obligated to do this during his lifetime (Igrot
Moshe, Yoreh Deah II No. 110). R’ Feinstein notes that centuries ago it was
common practice to study a page of Talmud each day, and many towns had a
chevrah shas / Talmud society which did just that (Igrot Moshe, Y.D. IV No.
36). R’ Yaakov Lorberbaum z”l (the “Nesivos”) wrote in his famous ethical
will approximately 200 years ago that his sons should study a page of Gemara
Letters from Our Sages
Below is an excerpt from a letter by R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook
z”l (1865-1935), later the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael,
but at the time, the 24-year old rabbi of Zemel, Russia, to R’ Chaim Berlin
z”l (1832-1912), then Chief Rabbi of Moscow, and later Chief Rabbi of
Yerushalayim. The letter is dated in the week of “I have found favor in
your eyes” [i.e., Parashat Ki Tissa] 5649 . We reprint this letter in
honor of beginning the new Daf Yomi cycle next Friday, 15 Av / August 3.
. . . Something else new, which due to G-d’s kindness to us, we are not far
from putting into action -- I thought I would lay it out before the rabbi,
sir [i.e., R’ Berlin], to find out his opinion regarding this activity. I
recently had the idea to call an assembly of many of the great rabbis of our
generation to do something together for the aid of Torah study, namely, to
print a small format Shas [i.e., Talmud] similar to the small Tanach [Bible]
books that are published in Berlin and Leipzig, with letters that are not
too large, like those in the Mishnah with the commentary Zera Yisrael, so
that the entire Shas would fit in one volume no larger than three Tanach
books, maybe smaller. This will have great benefit, increasing the number
of people who are fluent in Talmud. Many sages of the past, such as the
Maharal of Prague and others, complained about this [i.e., the lack of
fluency in the Talmud among the masses]. A major reason for this is that
the printed format of the Shas is so large. [Perhaps R’ Kook meant that its
size makes it expensive to buy or impractical to use]. There are other
things to say about this, but one should not elaborate too much for a wise
man such as yourself. If we would print 10,000 copies, we could sell the
entire Shas for one silver ruble; even that would be profitable, although
that’s not the point. The profit could be used for a fund to increase the
honor of Torah. One other detail is necessary, and that is to print at the
bottom of each page an abridgment of Rashi’s commentary--only what is
essential, so that those who are reviewing their studies can quickly scan it
to remember what they have forgotten. I am sending his honor, sir, one page
as a sample so that he can express his opinion regarding it. . . (Igrot
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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