Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Contributing Editor: Daniel Dadusc
Volume XIV, No. 33
22 Iyar 5760
May 27, 2000
Orach Chaim 301:4-6
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Ketubot 58
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Gittin 7
This parashah describes the blessings and curses which await the Jewish people. “If you will follow My decrees . . . ,” the Torah (Vayikra 26:3) says, and Rashi comments: “You should toil in Torah.”
“And observe My commandments . . . ,” the verse continues, and Rashi writes: “Toil in Torah in order to observe it.”
“But if you will not listen . . . ,” we read later (26:14), and again Rashi explains: “If you will not toil in Torah.”
How is it, asks R’ Eliyahu Dessler z”l (died 1953), that all blessings and punishments depend on “toiling in Torah”? He explains: The pleasures of this world differ from the pleasures of the World-to-Come. In this world, the relief which is felt after a period of suffering is proportional to how far removed one is from the suffering. Not so the rewards of the World-to- Come. The reward there is the very realization that all of man’s toil in Torah and mitzvot was for a purpose; the greater the toil, the greater the satisfaction and, hence, the reward. Indeed, man’s toil for spiritual matters is an end in itself, and this is why blessings and rewards depend on it.
In truth, this is an emotion which can be felt in this world as well. On the verse (Tehilim 128:2), “You will be fortunate, and it will go well with you,” Chazal comment: “Fortunate in this world, and well with you in the World-to-Come.” Even in this world one can appreciate that his toil for mitzvot is worthwhile. (Michtav M’Eliyahu III, p. 286).
“You will eat your bread to satiety[.]” (26:5)
All blessings over food refer to Hashem as the Creator, with one exception. That exception is the berachah over bread, “Hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz”/”Who brings forth bread from the earth.” Bringing forth bread from the earth is not an act of creation, it is something done within the world as it exists.
Why is this berachah alone phrased thus? R’ Elazar Hakohen of Sochatchov (1791-1883; son-in-law of R’ Yaakov Lorberbaum, the “Nesivos”) explains: The 11th century work Chovot Ha’levavot points out that the more essential something is for life, the more readily it is available. Oxygen is everywhere. Water, too, is available almost everywhere. Bread is also readily available because it is a staple of life.
When Hashem created the world, it was understood that He would create bread because it is mankind’s primary food. Bread was not a separate creation, and this is reflected in its berachah. On the other hand, all foods besides bread are luxuries, and their existence requires a separate act of creation, as reflected in their respective berachot. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Zichron Niflaot p. 40a)
[Editor’s note: Based on the above, water, too, should not have a blessing which refers to creation, yet it does — “She’hakol nihyah bi’dvaro”/”That all came into being by His word.” It is interesting to note, however, that there is an opinion in the Mishnah (Berachot 44a) that the proper blessing before drinking water is, “Borai nefashot rabbot ve’chesronan”/”Who creates many souls and that which they lack.” (This is the same berachah which we say after drinking water.) This berachah does not refer to the creation of water, but rather to the fact that G-d provides the needs of His creations, and it would appear to fit quite well with the idea quoted above.]
“Then they will confess their sin and the sin of their forefathers, for the treachery with which they betrayed Me, and also for having behaved toward Me with casualness. I, too, will behave toward them with casualness . . .” (26:40-41)
Rashi explains that “casualness” (“keri”) means “occasionally,” i.e., lacking commitment.
Is this Hashem’s response to our confession? asks R’ Moshe Teitelbaum z”l (see page 4). Why will Hashem continue to behave casually towards us after we confess?
R’ Moshe answers: Sometimes confession erases sins, as it is written (Shmuel II 12:13), “David said to Natan, ‘I have sinned to Hashem!’ and Natan responded to David, ‘So, too, Hashem has commuted your sin; you will not die’.” Sometimes, however, confession itself is sinful; indeed, in the confession on Yom Kippur we say, “For the sin that we have sinned against you by insincere confession (‘vidui peh’).” One’s confession is insincere when one’s heart is hard and cold, and measure-for- measure, an insincere confession leads Hashem to act coldly toward the sinner. A true confession is made with a broken heart and with tears. (Yismach Moshe)
Pirkei Avot (Chapter 5)
“Whoever has the following three traits is among the disciples of our forefather Avraham; and whoever has three different traits is among the disciples of the wicked Bilam. Those who have a good eye, a humble spirit, and a meek soul are among the disciples of our forefather Avraham. Those who have an evil eye, an arrogant spirit, and a greedy soul are among the disciples of the wicked Bilam. How are the disciples of our forefather Avraham different from the disciples of the wicked Bilam? The disciples of our forefather Avraham enjoy the fruits of their deeds in this world and inherit the World-to-Come . . . but the disciples of the wicked Bilam inherit Gehinnom and descend into the well of destruction.”
What does the mishnah mean when it asks, “How are the disciples of our forefather Avraham different from the disciples of the wicked Bilam?” The difference is obvious; the former believe in Hashem and the latter are heretics and idolators!
R’ Shlomo Heiman z”l (Rosh Yeshiva in Baranovitch and in Torah Voda’ath; died 1944) explains that the mishnah means the following: Chazal teach that Avraham and Sarah had many followers. What attracted these people to become followers of Avraham and Sarah when the world around them was mired in idoltary? The mishnah answers that it happened because these people had good character traits.
Conversely, Bilam lived in the generation of the Exodus, when open miracles were commonplace. What attracted people to become followers of Bilam? The mishnah answers that it happened because these people had bad character traits. (Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Baranovitch p. 266)
“There are four types of students…3) a strainer (‘mishameret’) which lets the wine pass through but keeps out the dregs . . .”
R’ Yoel Teitlebaum z”l (the “Satmar Rav”) elaborates: The gemara mentions that certain pious individuals used to spend six hours a day in preparation for prayer and another three hours in prayer itself. The gemara asks, “How then is their Torah guarded (‘mishtameret’)?” The gemara answers, “Because they are pious, their Torah is ‘mishtameret’.”
This answer is difficult to understand, says R’ Teitelbaum. If “mishtameret” in the answer refers to being “guarded,” it can only refer to the Torah which these pious individuals have already learned. However, how will they learn more if they are so occupied in prayer? Rather, the gemara means “mishtameret” in the sense of the “mishameret” / “strainer” of our mishnah. For the ordinary person, accomplishment in Torah requires extraordinary effort; for the pious, who spend the bulk of their time in prayer, Torah is easily “strained”. True insights are acquired with less effort, while the “dregs” — false leads and misunderstandings — fall by the side. (Quoted in Mima’ayanot Hanetzach, p. 274)
R’ Moshe Teitelbaum z”l (The “Yismach Moshe”)
R’ Moshe was one of the leading chassidic rebbes of his time and the ancestor of the influential Sighet and Satmar chassidic dynasties. He himself was born into a non-chassidic family in Przemsyl, Galicia (now Poland) in 1759, was educated by two uncles, and was eventually recognized as one of Galicia’s leading Talmudic sages. The story of his joining the chassidic movement is as follows:
R’ Moshe’s daughter married R’ Aryeh Leib Lifschutz (known by his work, “Ari D’vei Ilai”), who was a chassid of the “Chozeh” / “Seer” of Lublin. R’ Moshe, who, as noted, was not a chassid, used to rebuke his son-in-law for his behavior and demanded that his son-in-law leave the chassidic fold. R’ Aryeh agreed, but only if R’ Moshe still demanded it after himself visiting the Chozeh. R’ Moshe did visit that chassidic master and soon became an ardent chassid himself.
After serving as rabbi of Shiniva, R’ Moshe became rabbi of Uhely, Hungary. It was there that he became known as a chassidic rebbe and a miracle worker. It is reported that R’ Moshe’s contemporary, the author of the important halachic work Yeshuot Yaakov, once commented, “We must be greatful to the Hungarians who made R’ Moshe into a chassidic rebbe, for otherwise he would overshadow all of the scholars of Galicia.”
R’ Moshe authored several works. His halachic responsa, Heishiv Moshe, are cited by many authorities of the next several generations, including the renowned posek, R’ Yosef Shaul Nathanson. R’ Moshe’s best known work is his Torah commentary, Yismach Moshe, and he also authored commentaries on Tehilim and Talmud.
R’ Moshe was renowned for his yearning for mashiach. His last words reportedly were:
I am the lowliest person in the world and my only positive attribute is that I never told a lie. If Moshe the son of Chana had known that his beard would turn white and mashiach would not yet have come, I would not have been able to cope. Now I ask of You, Master of the World, that mashiach should come now. Even if I will no longer enjoy the benefit [of his arrival], but for Your honor, may You be blessed, so that Your Name may be sanctified in public. May I be an atonement for Israel, and I hereby turn over my life, my spirit and my soul for the sake of the honor of Your Name.
With these words he died on the 28th of Tammuz 5601 / 1841. (Source: Gedolei Ha’dorot p. 561)
Sponsored by Judy and David Marwick, in memory of Morris Bervin a”h
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.
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