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 together.
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 Shechinah’.”
(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 of 1836:
“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 Temple.”
(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.” (12:21)
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)
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