Volume 30, No. 35
10 Tammuz 5776
July 16, 2016
in memory of his wife
Sarah bat R’ Zvi a”h
and his sister
Malka bat R’ Yosef Halevi a”h
Mrs. Rochelle Dimont and family
on the yahrzeit of
grandfather and great-grandfather
Harav Yechiel Shraga Feivish Halevi Tarshish a”h
Nach: Tehilim 127-128
Mishnah: Kilayin 5:2-3
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Bava Kamma 46
King Shlomo writes in Mishlei (18:4-6), “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the source of wisdom is like a flowing stream.” Rabbeinu Yonah Gerondi z”l (Spain; died 1263) explains: This verse teaches us that when a person is sitting among a group of people who are conversing, if they are speaking about mundane matters or are exchanging idle words, he should consider their words like a deep well, whose waters are useless to a thirsty person because they are too far away to be reached without a rope and bucket. On the other hand, if they are speaking words of wisdom or mussar / character improvement, he should drink up their words like a thirsty man at a flowing stream.
Alternatively, R’ Yonah writes, the first part of this verse can be interpreted in connection with our parashah [which opens with the law of the parah adumah, a decree whose logic we cannot understand]. “The words of a Man’s mouth are deep waters.” “Man” refers to Hashem, as in the verse (Shmot 15:3), “Hashem is the Man of War.” Hashem’s words – His mitzvot – that are so deep we cannot grasp their reasons.
In fact, R’ Yonah notes, mitzvot can be divided into three groups. One group consists of mitzvot that we would have observed even without a Divine command, for example, honoring parents and not murdering. A second group consists of mitzvot that we would not have thought of ourselves, but which we readily accept as G-d’s Will. These include eating kosher, not shaving certain parts of the head, and others. Finally, there are mitzvot that the yetzer hara argues will subject us to ridicule, for example, the parah adumah, hanging strings from our clothes (tzitzit), and not wearing mixtures of wool and linen (sha’atnez). We must remember that these too are G-d’s will. Moreover, one who becomes wise can discover some of the reasons for these mitzvot. (Derushei U’perushei Rabbeinu Yonah Al Ha’Torah)
“He shall put upon it mayim chaim / spring water in a kli / vessel.” (19:17)
The Torah is referred to as “mayim” (see Yeshayah 55:1) and as “chaim” (Mishlei 3:18). “Kli” is an acronym of Kohen, Levi, Yisrael. Here we have an allusion to the custom of calling a Kohen, a Levi, and a Yisrael up to the Torah. (Da’at Zekeinim Miba’alei Hatosafot)
“Then Moshe raised his arm and struck the rock with his staff twice; abundant water came forth and the assembly and their animals drank.” (20:11)
Midrash Rabbah relates: Moshe hit the rock once and water began to trickle out, as is written (Tehilim 78:20), “He struck a rock and water dripped.” Bnei Yisrael said to him, “Son of Amram! This is enough water only for a nursing child!” Immediately, Moshe became angry and hit the rock twice. Then the water washed over those who had been mocking, as is written (also in Tehilim 78:20), “Streams flooded forth.”
Why did Hashem make the water flow begin as a mere trickle?
R’ Eliyahu Hakohen (“Ba’al Shevet Mussar”; Izmir, Turkey; died 1729) answers: The Talmud Yerushalmi (Shekalim ch.6) foretells a day when water will flow from the Holy of Holies in the Bet Hamikdash. That stream will begin as narrow as the antennae of the smallest insect, then it will widen to the width of a grasshopper’s antennae, and then it will continue widening and becoming deeper until it is a fierce river. [Until here from the Yerushalmi]. R’ Eliyahu continues: Hashem wished to give Bnei Yisrael in the desert a taste of this miracle, so He caused the water to flow in a trickle at first. Had Bnei Yisrael been patient, this trickle would have become a gushing river.
This answers another question, R’ Eliyahu writes. The Torah says (verse 12), “Hashem said to Moshe and to Aharon, ‘Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael . . .’” What did Moshe Rabbeinu do wrong? Why does the Torah accuse Moshe Rabbeinu of lacking faith and preventing the sanctification of Hashem’s Name? The answer is that by losing his patience and hitting the rock again, Moshe prevented the above-mentioned miracle from occurring.
R’ Eliyahu adds: What is the purpose of this miracle? One possibility is that the appearance of a raging river that began as an almost microscopic trickle coming out of the Holy of Holies–a place where there is no natural spring–will reinforce mankind’s belief in Creation “yesh me’ayin” / “something out of nothing.” Another possibility is to indicate that the closer one is to holiness, the smaller he appears at first; in the end, however, an overpowering rush of holiness will sweep away the wicked who are distant from holiness. (Aggadot Eliyahu: Shekalim)
“Hashem said to Moshe and to Aharon, ‘Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael, therefore you will not bring this congregation to the Land that I have given them.’ They are the waters of strife . . .” (20:12-13)
Our Sages teach that the reason that Pharaoh commanded that all male babies be drowned was that his astrologers foresaw that the redeemer of Bnei Yisrael would meet his downfall through water, as in fact happened to Moshe in our parashah. Why water? asks R’ Yehuda Loewe z”l (the Maharal of Prague; died 1609). Moreover, how could the astrologers foresee something that was dependent upon Moshe Rabbeinu’s free will?
Maharal explains: Obviously the astrologers did not foresee the exact event that occurred in our parashah. [If they had, they would not have thought that the redeemer could be drowned as an infant.] Rather, they saw that the nature of the redeemer (Moshe) would be the opposite of the nature of water. How so?
The world consists of “chomer” (the raw “materials” of nature) and “tzurah” (the “forms” that are developed out of that raw material). In all of history, Moshe Rabbeinu was the person who came closest to perfection–the ultimate tzurah. In contrast, water has no tzurah at all. Moreover, the nature of water is to dissolve a tzurah with which it comes in contact back into chomer. This is why Noach’s generation was punished with water; having corrupted their tzurah in the worst way possible, their fate was to be turned back into chomer. And, this is what the astrologers saw–the redeemer of Bnei Yisrael could meet his downfall only through water. (Gevurot Hashem, ch.17-18)
“When the entire assembly saw that Aharon had died, they wept for Aharon for thirty days, the entire House of Yisrael.” (20:29)
Rashi z”l writes: “‘The entire’ – both men and women, because Aharon used to pursue peace and promote love between contending parties, and between man and wife.”
R’ Yitzchak Dadon shlita (Yeshivat Merkaz Harav in Yerushalayim) illustrates the degree to which a person can go to prevent bad feelings between people with the following story:
R’ Avraham Elkanah Kahana-Shapira z”l (1914-2007; rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Merkaz Harav and Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel) was invited to attend a bar mitzvah, but when the day came, he felt ill. Reluctantly, he agreed to his family’s entreaties that he remain at home.
Suddenly, R’ Shapira asked whether the bar mitzvah boy has an older brother and, if so, whether he (R’ Shapira) had attended the older brother’s bar mitzvah. When both questions were answered in the affirmative, R’ Shapira got up and said, “In that case I must go. Otherwise, the bar mitzvah boy could be hurt because I came to his brother’s bar mitzvah, but not to his.” (Rosh Devarcha p.436)
Letters from Our Sages
This letter was written by R’ Shlomo Wolbe z”l (1914-2005) to his grandson. It appears in the pamphlet Igrot U’ketavim, published on the occasion of R’ Wolbe’s shloshim.
To my beloved . . . peace and a blessing!
R’ Yisrael Salanter, may his merit protect us [1809-1883; founder of the mussar movement and a brilliant scholar] said, “I know that my head is equal to that of a thousand men; this merely obligates me to do the work of a thousand men.”
We learn from this that one is obligated to recognize the strengths and talents that G-d has given him. One certainly did not receive these for nothing; only in order to use them to serve his Creator through Torah and through sanctifying His Name in the world.
To be full of pride over one’s talents makes no sense, for we did not give ourselves these talents. The reason that G-d did not give everyone the same talents is that not everyone has the same task. If one takes pride in his talents, it is a sign that he does not believe that G-d gave them to him. In so doing, he is taking pride in G-d’s garment, as the verse says (Tehilim 93:1), “Hashem donned grandeur.” Grandeur [which shares a root in Hebrew with “pride”] belongs only to the Creator, not to the created.
When a person does recognize his talents, he needs to know that he is obligated to exhaust them for the sake of Torah and service of G-d. Who can believe that he is fulfilling his obligation? Everyone is obligated to do infinitely more than he is doing, using whatever talents he has. . . . Indeed, in contrast to a multi-talented individual, one who is not talented but works hard to understand and know [the Torah] is using his talents. A talented individual should feel shame, not pride, in the presence [of a person whose talents are limited]. . . . With love, Grandpa Shlomo