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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5761) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz


Volume XV, No. 19
8 Adar 5761
March 3, 2001

Today’s Learning:
Ketubot 13:1-2
Orach Chaim 385:1-3
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Gittin 24
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Sanhedrin 15

In addition to Parashat Terumah, this week’s reading includes Parashat Zachor, which contains the commandment to remember how the people of Amalek attacked our ancestors, and the commandment to destroy Amalek. Why are we commanded to eradicate Amalek? Why is that nation’s fate so much harsher than the fate of the other enemies of Israel?

R’ Chaim Friedlander z”l (mashgiach of the Ponovezh Yeshiva; died 1986) explains: Amalek represents and espouses “zilzul” / disparagement or belittling of the values which the world respects. The Sages observe that the verse in Parashat Zachor (Devarim 25:18), “Asher karcha ba’derech” / “He happened upon you on the way,” can also be translated, “He cooled you off on the way.” The Sages explain by likening Amalek’s unprovoked attack on Bnei Yisrael shortly after the latter’s Exodus from Egypt – the very first attack on the Jewish people following the miraculous splitting of the Yam Suf – to jumping into a scalding bath. All the nations of the world were afraid to enter the bath, i.e., they were in awe of G-d’s power and of His protection of the Jewish people, but Amalek said, “Even if I am burnt by the bath, I will at least cool it down. I will demonstrate that G-d and His people are not invincible.”

Based on the proximity of two verses (Shmot 17:1 and 7), the Sages teach that Amalek’s attack was a consequence of Bnei Yisrael’s bittul Torah / neglect of Torah study. Why was this a fitting punishment for bittul Torah? Because neglecting Torah study is also a disparagement or belittling of that which is most valuable. One who recognizes the worth of Torah study does not neglect it. (Siftei Chaim: Purim p. 165)


“They shall make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them.” (25:8)

Why didn’t Hashem say, “You (plural) shall make a sanctuary. so that I may dwell amongst you”? R’ Shmuel Tayib z”l (Tunisia; mid- 19th century) explains:

The entire Mishkan / Sanctuary and all of its vessels were simply tools designed to assist Bnei Yisrael in preparing their hearts to be resting places for the Shechinah. The righteous, such as Moshe, do not need this assistance, for they are themselves the “Merkavah” / “chariot” for the Shechinah. Therefore, Hashem could not say to Moshe, “You shall make a sanctuary . . . so that I may dwell amongst you”; Moshe himself did not need this. Only “They,” i.e., Bnei Yisrael, needed the Mishkan.

We read in Melachim I that King Shlomo prayed at the dedication of the Bet Hamikdash (8:57), “May Hashem, our G-d, be with us, as He was with our forefathers . . .” R’ Tayib explains that King Shlomo was expressing the same idea stated above: It is our hope that You will rest Your Shechinah on us — through the Temple if necessary — but our real hope is that we merit to become the carriers for the Shechinah just as our forefathers did without having a Bet Hamikdash. (Af’apei Shachar)

R’ Ben Zion Halevi Bamberger z”l (mashgiach of the Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak; died 1980) writes similarly:

Our Sages have already pointed out that the Torah does not say, “Make a Sanctuary for Me . . . so that I may dwell in it [i.e., the Mishkan],” but rather, “So that I may dwell among them [i.e., the People].” This is more than a nice expression. G-d is not primarily concerned with a temple of wood and stone; the purpose of the physical temple is to inspire us to make _ourselves_ into temples for the Shechinah.

R’ Bamberger continues: “Coming close to the Shechinah” may be a concept to which most of us have difficulty relating. However, we all aspire to reach Olam Haba / The World-to-Come, and what is Olam Haba if not basking in the aura of the Shechinah?! Indeed, Hashem’s very reason for creating the world was to make it possible for a being (us) to bask in His “light.” Therefore, every person must evaluate how he will reach that end. (Sha’arei Zion p. 88)


“You shall make a table . . . and you shall cover it with zahav / gold.” (25:23-24)

R’ Chaim ben Betzalel z”l (1515-1588; brother of the Maharal of Prague) notes that “Zahav” is an acronym for the three blessings of Birkat Hamazon (“bentching”) which are ordained by the Torah: “zayin” for “zahn”; “heh” for “ha’aretz”; and “bet” for “boneh.” (The fourth berachah is rabbinically ordained.) “You shall make a table and you shall recite Birkat Hamazon on it.” (Iggeret Ha’tiyul)


Megillat Esther

“The Queen was greatly distressed; she sent garments to clothe Mordechai so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.” (4:4)

Presumably, says R’ David Soloveitchik shlita (in the name of his father, the “Brisker Rav” z”l), the reason Esther wanted to send clothes to Mordechai was so that he could enter the palace to confer with her on a plan to counter Haman’s decree. (After all, Mordechai had his own clothes at home!) Why then did Mordechai refuse? Because the halachah states that when an evil decree is made against us, we must dress in sackcloth, fast and pray. This is the first order of the day and it takes precedence over meeting with politicians or lobbyists to work against the decree. (Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Shai La’Torah p. 417)


“Mordechai left the king’s presence clad in royal apparel of turquoise and white with a large gold crown . . . ; and the city of Shushan was cheerful and glad.” (8:15)

Was the city of Shushan cheerful and glad because Mordechai was wearing these royal garments, or does the verse contain two separate pieces of information?

R’ David Soloveitchik shlita answers in the name of his father: We say in the hymn recited after the Megillah reading, “Shoshanat Yaakov . . .” / “The rose of Yaakov was cheerful and glad when they jointly saw Mordechai robed in royal blue.” It appears, therefore, that Mordechai’s garb was the cause of Shushan’s joy. Why?

After Haman was forced to lead Mordechai around Shushan on the king’s horse, the verse says (6:12), “Mordechai returned to the king’s gate.” The gemara states that Mordechai returned to wearing sackcloth and fasting at the king’s gate. Why? Because although he had personally triumphed over Haman, the Jewish people were still in danger. That was what concerned Mordechai, and he would not remove his sackcloth until the Jews were safe.

It follows, then, that when Mordechai did remove his sackcloth and don royal robes, it was a sign for the people of Shushan to be cheerful and glad that Haman’s evil plot had been defeated. (Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Shai La’Torah p. 425)


Introductions . . .

This week, we offer part of the introduction to Sefer Hachinuch, a 13th century encyclopedia of the 613 mitzvot. Although the author of this work identifies himself only as “a Jewish man from the house of Levi, from Barcelona [Spain],” and his true identity is unknown, Sefer Hachinuch has become a classic of Torah literature and is regularly studied either on its own or together with the 19th century commentary, Minchat Chinuch.

Anything that has been agreed upon by the majority of the world’s population is considered by mankind to be true. And, the majority of the world has agreed that the testimony of witnesses should be believed. The more witnesses that there are, the more that people tend to believe the witnesses’ testimony. The testimony of witnesses is considered so reliable that most societies will condemn a man to death based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

It is also common that people accept their parents’ and grandparents’ accounts of their experiences or of their ancestors’ experiences. Certainly, the greater the number of parents that witnessed an event and related it to their children, the greater the children’s acceptance of the account will be. This is why, when Hashem wanted to give the Torah to Israel, He gave it before 600,000 people, a number which does not include the women and children. Also, in order that their testimony would be stronger and more reliable, He gave them all the power of prophecy, because that which becomes known through prophecy cannot be questioned. This is the meaning of the verse which Hashem said to Moshe (Shmot 19:9), “So that the people will hear as I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever.” In other words, [Hashem said,] they and their children forever will believe in Moshe and his prophecy, for they will know for certain “that Hashem will speak to a person and he can live” (Devarim 5:21).

If not for the fact that Bnei Yisrael merited to see through prophecy all of the wonders that Moshe did before the eyes of Pharaoh [– Ed. note: the majority of Jews did not, of course, observe personally that Moshe caused the plagues –] someone might argue: who knows whether Moshe did the whole thing through black magic etc.? . . . After experiencing prophecy, however, no one could have any doubt, and everyone knew clearly that everything that was done was done at the command of the Master of the World, and from His hand this came to them. – To be continued –

Sponsored by The Dimont family on the bar mitzvah of grandson Elazar Ginsburg

Copyright © 2000 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.

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