“Might Through Justice”
Volume 24, No. 18
29 Shevat 5770
February 13, 2010
Dr. and Mrs. Jules Meisler
in memory of Jules’ mother Anne Meisler a”h
and sister Gladys Citrino a”h
Elaine and Jerry Taragin
on the yahrzeits of
Mrs. Shirley Taragin a”h,
Mr. Irving Rivkin a”h
and Mrs. F. Rivkin a”h
Dr. and Mrs. Robert Klein
on the yahrzeit of his father
Meyer ben Kalman, Milton Klein a”h
The Katz family
on the yahrzeits of
Yitzchak Zvi ben Chaim Hakohen Katz a”h
and Avraham Abba ben Avigdor Moshe Hakohen Katz a”h
Howard Benn and family
in memory of his mother Fay Benn
(Fayga bat Alter Yitzchak Dov a”h)
Nach: Yirrmiyah 39-40
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Bava Batra 176
Begin Sanhedrin on Sunday
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Berachot 32
The Midrash Rabbah on this week’s parashah opens with a verse from Tehilim (99:4), “Mighty is the King Who loves justice.” The midrash continues: When does G-d show His might? When He judges the idolators [who oppress the Jewish People, as illustrated by the fate of Nevuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who destroyed the first Bet Hamikdash]. “Might” belongs to the King of kings, and He loves “justice” and has handed it over to Yisrael, who are His beloved. What is meant by the continuation of the verse: “You founded fairness”? Through the justice that You have given them, they fight with each and then practice justice and make peace among themselves. [Until here from the midrash]
R’ Yitzchak Ze’ev Yadler z”l (1843-1917; Yerushalayim) explains: The midrash wishes to explain why our parashah–which presents the civil law– begins with the word, “V’eileh” / “And these.” The Torah is warning us that even when a person knows that halachah is on his side–for example, if he sees his belongings in someone else’s possession–he should not take the law into his own hands (except in special circumstances where halachah permits self-help). Therefore the Torah emphasizes, “These are the laws.” The midrash confirms this by demonstrating that even though Hashem is the King of kings and has the might to do as He pleases, He loves justice and He practices it.
Why, in fact, does G-d act this way? Why are the oppressors of the Jewish People not struck down in summary fashion? R’ Yadler explains that Hashem hides Himself so that man will have free will to decide whether to believe in Him and serve Him. (Tiferet Zion)
“If the servant shall say, `I love my master, my wife, and my children — I shall not go free.’ Then his master shall bring him to the court and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever.” (21:5-6)
Rashi z”l explains: Why is the ear pierced rather than any other limb of the servant’s body? The sage Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai said: “That ear which heard on Har Sinai (Shmot 20:13), `You shall not steal,’ yet its owner went and stole and was therefore sold as a slave, should be pierced! Or, in the case of him who sold himself from destitution, having committed no theft, the reason is: The ear which heard on Har Sinai that I said (Vayikra 25:55), `For to Me Bnei Yisrael are servants,’ yet its owner went and procured for himself another master, should be pierced!”
R’ Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht z”l (1924-1995; founder and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh) elaborates: It appears that it is specifically the sense of hearing which the slave in our verse has failed to use to its fullest potential. This may be understood in light of the words of Rabbeinu Yonah z”l (Spain; died 1263), who writes in his work Sha’arei Teshuvah (II:12):
- Our Sages have taught that the ear is the most notable of all the limbs of the body. If one were to blind another person, he would have to pay his victim for his eyesight. In contrast, one who deafens another person must pay his victim’s entire worth. Why? Because the ear is the body part through which one hears rebuke. The midrash states: “If a person falls off a roof and breaks all of his bones, he would need a cast for his entire body. However, if a person sins with all of his limbs, he needs only a healthy ear in order to be cured, as the verse says (Yeshayah 55:3), `Incline your ear and come to Me; listen and your soul will be rejuvenated’.”
The ear, of all of the organs, is associated with learning, knowledge and understanding, R’ Goldvicht observes. Thus, the verb “li’shmoa” means “to hear,” “to obey” and “to understand.” In the same vein, when the Torah describes the difference between the high level of Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecy and the lower level of all of the other prophets’ prophecy, it says that Hashem spoke to Moshe “mouth-to-mouth” (i.e., Moshe “heard” Hashem’s “voice”), whereas other prophets only “saw” visions. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Asufot Maarachot p.146)
“If a fire goes out and finds thorns, and a stack of grain or a standing crop or a field is consumed, the one who kindled the fire shall make restitution.” (22:5)
R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzato z”l (Ramchal; 1707-1746; best known as the author of Mesilat Yesharim, but also one of the most important kabbalists in history) writes: Know that the Torah’s secrets are like fire in that one who gets too close will be injured. The “thorns” in our verse are those people who are unworthy of knowing kabbalah. Just as fire consumes thorns and thistles, so the Torah’s secrets do great harm to those who should not know them. `A stack of grain” refers to Talmud, whose content must be sifted through to discover the halachah, just as grain must be sifted. “A standing crop” refers to mishnah, in whose merit the Jewish People will “stand” at the time of the redemption. “A field” refers to the Five Books of the Torah, which contain everything, just as the stack of grain and the standing crop are found in a field. Even a person who has studied chumash, mishnah and Talmud may be unworthy of studying kabbalah and therefore may be “consumed” by its “fire.” Who will be held accountable? The “one who kindled the fire”–the irresponsible teacher. (Otzrot Ramchal)
“If you see the donkey of someone you hate crouching under its burden, would you refrain from helping him? — you shall help repeatedly with him!” (23:5)
Commentaries ask: About whom is this verse speaking? Is a Jew permitted to hate another Jew? They explain that it refers to a Jew who you witnessed committing a sin and who you are therefore permitted to hate.
Even so, writes R’ Moshe Cordervero z”l (Remak; 1522-1570), it is preferable not to hate such a person. We are taught to emulate Hashem, and one of His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy is “Lo he’hechezik la’ad apo” / “He does not hold on to His anger forever.” Even when a person continues to sin, Hashem withholds His anger and is not quick to punish; rather, he awaits the sinner’s repentance.
Likewise, R’ Cordevero writes, even when we have the right to harshly rebuke another person or our children, we should subdue our anger. Even though we are permitted to hate a sinner, the Torah teaches us to help him with his struggling animal in order to draw him close, for maybe that is what will cause him to repent. (Tomer Devorah: midah 5)
R’ Mordechai Scheinberger shlita (Yerushalayim) writes: This requires explanation, for if we are permitted to hate a sinner because he has disobeyed G-d and we are standing up for G-d’s honor, then why should we not hate him? Indeed, what right do we have not to hate someone who has betrayed G-d?
The answer lies in the last phrase of Remak’s statement: “Help him with his struggling animal in order to draw him close, for maybe that is what will cause him to repent.” We do not draw him close because it is a humane thing to do or because we love all people, but specifically in the hope that he will change his ways. (Va’yomer Moshe al Tomer Devorah)
“Na’aseh ve’nishma” / “We shall do and we shall hear.” (24:7)
R’ Elazar Azkari z”l (Turkey and Tzefat, Eretz Yisrael; 1533-1600) cites this verse as the basis for putting on tefilin before reciting Shema. He explains: The source for the mitzvah of tefilin is found in the first two paragraphs of Shema. “Na’aseh” / “We shall do”–performing the mitzvah–must come before “Nishma” / “We shall hear”–i.e., reciting the verse which contains the mitzvah. (Chareidim Al Yerushalmi: Berachot 2:3)
“The appearance of the glory of Hashem was like a consuming fire . . .” (24:17)
R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1784-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) notes that it is only Hashem’s “appearance” which is fearsome like fire. His true “essence” is Kindness. (Kohelet Yaakov: Rosh Hashanah p.4)
“Shamor and zachor – in a single utterance the One and Only G-d made us hear.” (From the Friday Night prayer Lecha Dodi)
Commentaries ask: Why did R’ Shlomo Alkabetz z”l (1505-1584), the author of Lecha Dodi, place “shamor” before “zachor” when they are in the opposite order in the Torah?
At first glance, one might answer that he did this so that the acrostic of the poem would spell his name, “Shlomo Halevi.” However, writes R’ Baruch Epstein z”l (1860-1941; author of the chumash commentary Torah Temimah), this answer is untenable. Firstly, R’ Alkabetz was a noted kabbalist who is said to have experienced ruach hakodesh, and he should not be presumed to have deviated from the verses based on personal considerations. Secondly, he could have written, “Shabbat kodesh b’zachor v’shamor b’dibur echad . . .” / “The holy Sabbath was presented to us with zachor and shamor in one utterance . . . ,” thus beginning with the letter “shin.”
Rather, R’ Epstein writes, R’ Alkabetz may have been alluding to the midrash cited by Ramban which states that “zachor” refers to the daytime and “shamor” refers to the nighttime. Thus, “shamor” precedes “zachor” in practice. (Baruch She’amar)
Why in fact does “zachor” refer to the daytime and “shamor” to the nighttime? The work Likrat Kallah (an anonymous collection of commentaries on Lecha Dodi) explains: Our Sages say that zachor alludes to the affirmative commandments of Shabbat (e.g., kiddush) while shamor alludes to the negative commandments (e.g., not working). Affirmative commandments are associated with ahavat Hashem / love of G-d, while negative commandments are associated with yirat Hashem / fear of G-d. Likewise, daytime is associated with ahavat Hashem, while nighttime is associated with yirat Hashem.
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 Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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