Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XII, Number 33
26 Sivan 5758
June 20, 1998.
The Sabrin family
in memory of father
Shlomo ben Chaim a”h
In this week’s parashah, we read of the first instance (after the Torah was given) when someone trangressed the laws of Shabbat. The gemara relates several different opinions regarding what his sin was. According to one opinion, his sin was carrying in the public domain (where there was no eruv).
Why is carrying prohibited on Shabbat? Indeed, what is the idea underlying the 39 prohibited categories of “work”? Dayan I. Grunfeld z”l (see page 4) explains as follows based on the teachings of R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch z”l:
The 39 categories of “work” form a cross-section of all the main types of human productive activity. Through these activities, man is engaged in a constant struggle to gain mastery over G-d’s creation, to bring nature under his control. While doing so, man tends to forget that the very powers he uses in his conquest of nature are derived from his Creator, in whose service his life should be conducted.
In a world increasingly forgetful of G-d, Yisrael was entrusted with the task of preserving this all-important truth. G-d willed, therefore, that the Jew, while subduing and controlling his environment as does every other human being, must recognize, and show that he recognizes, that his powers are derived from One higher than himself. This recognition he is to express by dedicating one day in every week to G-d, and by refraining on that day from every activity which signifies human power over nature.
On this day we renounce every exercise of intelligent, purposeful control over natural objects and forces; we cease from every act of human power, in order to proclaim G-d as the Source of all power.
In light of this exposition, Dayan Grunfeld writes, one can easily see how senseless is the oft-repeated argument that it is no exertion to switch on an electric light or to write a word. As if using electricity were any less a conquest of nature because it happens to be effortless!
What of carrying, which requires no intelligent effort and in which no productive process is involved? Carrying is the characteristic form of “work” by which man pursues and attains his purposes in society. By ceasing from carrying we acknowledge Him as our Master in the sphere of human society. (The Sabbath , ch.2)
“See the land – how is it? And the people that dwells in it – is it strong or weak?” (13:18)
Rashi writes: Moshe gave them a sign – if the people dwell in open cities, they are strong, thus they rely on their strength for protection. If they live in walled cities, they are weak.
R’ Elya Meir Bloch z”l (20th century; rosh yeshiva of Telshe in Cleveland) comments: Some Jews believe in withdrawing from society and having no dealings with the outside world. Others do the opposite, attempting to be positive influences on their surroundings. To outward appearances, the first group, in its fortress of Torah and mitzvot, appears to be stronger, but maybe this is not so. Perhaps such withdrawal is a sign that a person is unsure of his spiritual strength.
On the other hand:
We are taught in Pirkei Avot (2:4), “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die.” When Hillel made this statement, he had in mind the case of Yochanan Kohen Gadol who, after serving in the Bet Hamikdash for 80 years, suddenly became influenced by Greek culture and became a heretic.
But on the other hand:
R’ Levi Yitzchak of Bereditchev z”l (late 18th century) writes that the statement, “Do not believe in yourself until the day you die,” is part of the statement that comes before it, i.e., “Do not separate yourself from the community.” Chazal promise that a person who causes others to do mitzvot will be protected from spiritual harm. “Do not separate yourself from the community;” rather, attempt to teach them. Only in this way can you be spiritually secure.
(Quoted in Vayaged Yaakov)
R’ Moshe Feinstein z”l observes: Hashem considered this to be a great act, as it is written (14:24), “But my servant Kalev, because a different spirit was with him and he followed Me wholeheartedly . . .” We can learn several lessons from this.
First, we can learn that a person is obligated to speak or act when G-d’s honor is at stake, even if he will not make an impact (just as Kalev is praised even though his rebuke was not heeded). Perhaps even one person will listen.
Second, we can learn that, just as we are obligated to do everything possible to lengthen another person’s life even if we know that that person has only a short time to live, so, too, we are obligated to lengthen a person’s spiritual life, even if it will be short-lived. This is what happened here, where the spies retorted to Kalev’s words by repeating the same thing they had said before; apparently, Kalev swayed his listeners briefly – for which the Torah praises him – and the spies had to repeat their attack on the Land.
“Kalev silenced the people towards Moshe, and said, ‘We shall surely ascend . . .’ ” (13:30)
What does it mean “towards Moshe”? R’ Meir Simcha of Dvinsk z”l (20th century) explains as follows:
In last week’s parashah, two of the elders prophesied that Moshe would die and Yehoshua would lead Bnei Yisrael into the Land (see Rashi to 11:28). This left Bnei Yisrael dispirited, for they believed that all of the miracles that Hashem had performed were only in Moshe’s merit. Kalev silenced the people “towards Moshe,” i.e., regarding Moshe. He told them, “We shall surely ascend, even without Moshe.”
This explains why it was Kalev and not Yehoshua who rebuked the people. Had Yehoshua spoken up, Bnei Yisrael might accuse him of having his own interests in mind.
“The land through which we have passed, to spy it out, is a land which devours its inhabitants.” (13:32)
R’ Meir Leibush Malbim z”l (19th century) writes: The spies told the truth, they just did not understand what they had seen. The fact that Eretz Yisrael appeared to be devouring the Seven Nations is a sign of the Land’s holiness. Eretz Yisrael was created for Bnei Yisrael, and only for Bnei Yisrael.
born approx. 5663/1902 – died 5758/1998
This past week marked thirty days since the passing of one of the pioneers of the Bais Yaakov movement, the first system of organized Torah education for girls in Poland. Dr. Grunfeld (nee Rosenbaum) was born in Budapest and grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, where she attended and graduated from the high school founded by R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch. The program at the Hirsch School shaped Dr. Grunfeld; she recalled in an interview given in 1986 that the Hirsch School offered girls only one formal class in Torah studies, but that “the way we learned our secular subjects obliterated the line between secular and Jewish study.” Every subject, whether mathematics, biology, or botany, was presented as a lesson in Hashem’s wonders and as a springboard for discussion of related Torah topics.
After high school, Dr. Grunfeld attended a (non-Jewish) teaching seminary and, at age 20, began work on a doctorate in education. During one of her semester breaks, Moreinu Dr. Yaakov Rosenheim (a Frankfurt communal leader and President of the World Agudath Israel) prevailed on her to go to Poland and assist with the recently-founded Bais Yaakov school.
(Before Bais Yaakov, Orthodox girls in Poland either attended public school or stayed at home. As a result, while their brothers attended cheder and yeshiva and drew inspiration from Poland’s many chassidic rebbes, thousands of girls drifted farther and farther from a Torah way of life. Alarmed by this situation, a seamstress from Cracow by the name of Sarah Schnerir closed her dress shop in 1923 and, with the blessings of the Chafetz Chaim and the Gerrer Rebbe, opened the first Bais Yaakov.)
The future Dr. Grunfeld was one of several German-bred and educated instructors in the new Bais Yaakov. It has been said these instructors provided the organizational abilities and educational theories that complemented Sarah Schnerir’s chassidic enthusiasm. After six weeks in Poland, Dr. Grunfeld went home, but she soon returned to Poland and remained there for much of the 1920’s. During vacations, she traveled throughout Western Europe collecting money for Bais Yaakov. In 1929, Dr. Grunfeld returned to Germany to complete her doctorate. Soon she married a young talmid chacham/Torah scholar and law student by the name of Isidor Grunfeld. Following the Nazi rise to power, the couple fled to England, where Rabbi Grunfeld planned to study British law in preparation for settling in Eretz Yisrael.
The couple remained in England and, in 1938, the one-time lawyer became a dayan/rabbinical judge on the bet din/court of Britain’s Chief Rabbi. (Over his remaining years – he died in 1975 – Dayan Grunfeld became known as a leading expositor of the teachings of R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch to the English-speaking public. In addition to writing several original works which built on the teachings of R’ Hirsch, Dayan Grunfeld also translated Horeb, R’ Hirsch’s encyclopedia of the mitzvot, and he wrote an introduction to Horeb which put the works of R’ Hirsch in their historical perspective and adds a great deal to one’s understanding of them.)
For her part, Dr. Grunfeld continued her teaching career, joining the faculty of the Jewish Secondary School. During the War years, when the school was removed to the countryside for safety reasons and the children were boarded in non-Jewish homes, Dr. Grunfeld was instrumental in ensuring that the 450 children in her care remained observant Jews. (Sources: Daughters of Destiny, pp. 119-147; Yated Ne’eman, 11 Sivan 5758)
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.
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 Project Genesis start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page. Text archives from 1990 through the present may be retrieved from http://www.acoast.com/~sehc/hamaayan/. Donations to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.