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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5759) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Contributing Editor: Daniel Dadusc


Volume XIII, No. 20
11 Adar 5759
February 27, 1998

Today’s Learning:
Pe’ah 5:5-6
Orach 58:7-59:2
Daf Yomi: Yoma 54
Yerushalmi Sukkah 5

This week, in addition to Parashat Tetzaveh, we read Parashat Zachor, in which we are commanded (Devarim 25:19), “You shall eradicate the memory of Amalek,” the nation that launched an unprovoked attack upon Bnei Yisrael immediately after the Exodus. Elsewhere (in the Torah reading for Purim – Shmot 17:14), we read, “I [Hashem] will surely eradicate the memory of Amalek.” If Hashem is our partner in this endeavor, asks R’ Nachum Mordechai Friedman z”l (the “Chortkover Rebbe”), why has it proven so difficult throughout Jewish history to defeat Amalek and nations like it?

He explains: Our task and Hashem’s task are different ones. Hashem protects us from the physical Amalek, while it is our responsibility to battle the Amalek, i.e., the evil, within each of us. Moreover, Hashem’s ability to destroy the physical Amaleks of the world is dependent upon our destroying our own Amaleks. This is the meaning of the gemara (Chullin 139a) which states: “Where is Haman alluded to in the Torah? In the verse (Bereishit 3:11), ‘Hamin ha’etz’/’From the tree from which I commanded that you not eat, did you eat?'” When Adam committed the first sin in history, he made possible the existence of Haman and Amalek. (Haman was a descendant of Amalek.)

In truth, however, the difficulties of the exile make it hard for us to battle our personal Amaleks. [Ed. Note: This dvar Torah was said by the Chortkover Rebbe in Vienna, Austria in 1935.] We must therefore look to the verse (Devarim 25:19), “And it will come to pass _when_Hashem_will_let_you_rest_ from all your enemies around you, [then] you shall eradicate the memory of Amalek.” (Doresh Tov)


“And you shall speak to all the chachmei lev/wise-hearted people whom I have invested with a spirit of wisdom.” (28:3)

The gemara (Berachot 55a) teaches: “Hashem gives wisdom only to one who has wisdom, as it is written (Shmot 31:6), ‘I have endowed the heart of every wise-hearted person with wisdom.’ It also is written (Daniel 2:21), ‘He gives wisdom to the wise.’ Hashem operates the world such that a full vessel can receive more, while an empty vessel cannot receive anything. [Thus, one who already has wisdom can receive more, while one who has no wisdom cannot receive any].

If so, asks R’ Chaim of Volozhin z”l, how does one acquire wisdom in the first place? The answer is to be found in the words of both King David (Tehilim 111:10) and King Shlomo (Mishlei 9:10), “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem.” The “wisdom” which precedes Hashem’s gift of wisdom is fear of Heaven.

A person can acquire this initial “wisdom” (i.e., fear of Hashem) only through his own toil. Our sages say (Berachot 33b), “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven.” Thus, the gemara’s statement that Hashem does not give wisdom except to one who has wisdom means that Hashem gives wisdom only to one who has acquired fear of Heaven through his own hard work. Similarly, the “wise-hearted people” of our pasuk are those who possess fear of Heaven. (Ruach Chaim 4:1)

Consistent with the above idea, the Ba’al HaTurim (14th century) notes that the gematria of “chachmei lev asher”/”wise- hearted people that” (in our verse) equals the gematria of “yirat”/”fear of” (in the verses quoted above from Tehilim and Mishlei).


“They shall take the gold, the turquoise, purple and scarlet wool, and the linen.” (28:6)

Why does the Torah introduce the making of the Priestly Garments by listing these materials? R’ Simcha Zissel z”l (the “Alter” of Kelm; died 1898) explains: Before Hashem commanded Moshe to make the individual garments for the kohanim, He told Moshe to gather all of the materials which would be needed. From here we learn that one must prepare himself before he begins to perform a mitzvah. (Quoted in Mi’shulchan Gavohah, p. 189)


“They shall make the ephod of gold. . .” (28:6)

When Hashem commanded Moshe to make each of the Priestly Garments, He said, “You shall make . . .” However, regarding the ephod, Hashem said, “They shall make . . .” Why?

R’ Ephraim of Lunschitz z”l (17th century) explains: The gemara (Arachin 16a) teaches that the ephod provided an atonement for the sin of idolatry, a sin which Bnei Yisrael had transgressed by making the golden calf. [Those Jews who did not sin actively sinned passively by not rebuking their neighbors.] Thus, all of Bnei Yisrael contributed to making the ephod so that they might achieve atonement for that sin.

Moshe, however, had no part in the sin of the golden calf, as he was on Har Sinai. Thus, he had no reason to contribute to making the ephod, and the verse therefore says, “They – not you – shall make the ephod.” (Kli Yakar)


“They shall know that I am Hashem, their G-d, Who took them out of Egypt to rest My presence among them. I am Hashem their G-d.” (29:46)

Ramban writes: “There is a great secret here. According to the simplest understanding, the fact that the Shechinah rests in the midst of Yisrael is for man’s sake, not for G-d’s sake. However, the correct understanding is that conveyed by the verse (Yeshayah 49:3), ‘Yisrael, through you I receive glory’.”

This Ramban is difficult to understand, notes R’ Simcha Zissel Brevda shlita (Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva in Yerushalayim). Ramban appears to be stating that Hashem Himself benefits from being among us! Can this be? Don’t we read (Iyov 35:6-7), “If you have sinned, have you affected Him? If your transgressions multiply, what have you done to Him? If you were righteous, what have you given Him, or what has He taken from your hand?” Indeed, Ramban himself writes (commenting on Devarim 22:6), “The benefit of the mitzvot is not to Hashem Himself; rather the benefit is to man, either to distance him from a source of injury, a wrong belief, or a bad character trait, or to help him remember G-d’s miracles in order to know G-d. . .”

R’ Brevda explains: In halachah, we find two types of gift- giving. There is ordinary gift-giving, by which the giver gives a gift to the recipient. Also, there is the situation where the giver physically hands over a gift to the recipient, but the giver is considered to have received a gift. This occurs when the recipient is so distinguished that it is an honor for the giver that the recipient has accepted his gift. (A practical application of this halachah is as follows: Ordinarily, a woman is considered married to a man if he gives her a wedding ring. However, if the bride does not receive the ring, but instead gives it, she would still be halachically married if the groom were so distinguished that it is an honor for the bride that the groom accepts her gift.)

Similarly, Hashem takes man’s gifts as a favor to man. Hashem, in His kindness, wants to give us the maximum number of opportunities to receive reward, and He therefore created the illusion that we can give Him gifts and He accepts them. We say in the berachot before Kri’at Shema (on weekday mornings), “The Beneficent One fashioned honor for His Name,” i.e., because Hashem is beneficent, He created the possibility that mankind can give honor to His Name. Indeed, what sense does it make for lowly man to pray and offer praise to the Highest Being? The answer is that Hashem accepts that praise as a kindness to man, just as a distinguished mortal might accept a gift as a favor to the giver.

This thought should give us a new appreciation for a portion of the prayers where it is harder to concentrate, i.e., the portions of the prayers that are not requests that our needs be taken care of, but rather that contain praise of Hashem (for example, the Pesukei D’Zimrah). We should appreciate the kindness that Hashem is doing by allowing us to come close to Him by reciting His praise. (Som Derech, p.424)


Letters from Our Sages

This Shabbat, congregations throughout the world will read Parashat Zachor, recalling Amalek’s attack on Bnei Yisrael shortly after the Exodus. In accordance with the late 19th century ruling of the Mishnah Berurah (685:18), many Ashkenazic congregations will read the last verse of Parashat Zachor twice. As the Mishnah Berurah explains:

“Know that some say that the word ‘zkr’ should be pronounced ‘zaicher’ with the vowel called a ‘tzairai’ and some say that it should be pronounced ‘zecher’ with the vowel called a ‘segol.’ Therefore, it is correct to read it twice.

The Mishnah Berurah does not cite a source for the two opinions, but some have suggested that the source is the following letter by R’ Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821). R’ Chaim was a leading student of R’ Eliyahu, the Gaon of Vilna, and the following letter was written by R’ Chaim to the publisher of Ma’aseh Rav, a collection of testimonies about the Vilna Gaon’s personal customs.

“Life and Peace to my beloved friend:

“I have received your pleasing words that sought my advice whether to print the practices of our great and holy teacher, his soul is in Eden, so that they will not be forgotten. Certainly, it is fitting to print them. . .

“Regarding your question whether the practices described are accurate, of some, I know nothing. The ones of which I am aware are described accurately except that you wrote [that the Vilna Gaon said in Kedushah] ‘u-shi-va-cheh-cha’ with a ‘yud’ and a ‘segol.’ It is true that that is what the pious rabbi, R’ Menachem Mendel, may his light shine, printed in the commentary on Shulchan Aruch, but those who heard it thus are mistaken. I paid attention, and I heard from the holy mouth [of the Vilna Gaon], ‘u-shi-va-chi-cha’ without a ‘yud,’ and vowelized with a ‘chataf patach.’

“As for what you wrote to say in Parashat Zachor, ‘zecher,’ I heard from the holy mouth of the Vilna Gaon that he read it ‘zaicher.’ I do not know whether those who claim to have heard otherwise are mistaken or whether he changed his mind in his old age. Please try to find out the truth.”

Sponsored by Alan and Paula Goldman in memory Sam W. Goldman

Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.

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