Volume 30, No. 43
23 Av 5776
August 27, 2016
Nathan and Rikki Lewin
in memory of his father
Harav Yitzchak ben Harav Aharon Lewin a”h
Nach: Iyov 27-28
Mishnah: Shevi’it 5:7-8
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Bava Kamma 88
Much of our parashah is devoted to praises of the Land of Israel. We read, for example, “For the Land to which you come, to possess it — it is not like the land of Egypt that you left, where you would plant your seed and water it on foot like a vegetable garden. But the Land to which you cross over to possess it . . . from the rain of heaven shall you drink water.” (11:10-11)
Unlike Egypt, which has a constant water supply in the Nile, Eretz Yisrael is dependent on rain. Nevertheless, writes R’ Moshe Yechiel Epstein z”l (the Ozhorover Rebbe; died 1971), our verse is difficult to understand. The verse in Bereishit (13:10) praises Egypt as “G-d’s garden.” Why then does our verse seem to deprecate Egypt?
The answer is in the second verse quoted above. In Eretz Yisrael we are dependent on G-d’s kindness in bringing rain. This is desirable because it causes us to humble ourselves before G-d. The Nile, on the other hand, made the Egyptians feel secure and therefore bred arrogance.
When Yitro heard how G-d punished the Egyptians, he praised Him for acting measure-for-measure. On a simple level, this refers to the fact that Hashem drowned the Egyptians just as they drowned Jewish children. On a deeper level, however, Yitro may have been referring to the fact that Hashem struck the Nile, the very source of Egyptian pride and arrogance. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Esh Dat p.190)
“Perhaps you will say in your heart, ‘These nations are more numerous than I; how will I be able to drive them out?’ Do not fear them! Remember what Hashem, your Elokim, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt.” (7:17-18)
R’ Azariah Figo z”l (Italy; 1579-1647) writes: The reason we mention the Exodus on every occasion when we remember and speak about Hashem’s wonders (for example, by saying “Zecher l’yitziat Mitzrayim” / “In remembrance of the Exodus” in Shabbat and yom tov kiddush) is to engrave on our hearts a belief in Hashem’s hashgachah / Providence. It also teaches us that not through our strength or power will we escape from the trials and tribulations of the Exile; rather, it will only come about through His Will.
That is the message of our verses as well. If we are confident that we will defeat our enemies because we have superior military power, then we should indeed fear them. However, if we acknowledge that our enemies are far stronger and more numerous than we are and that we should be unable to defeat them, but we place our trust in Hashem, then we truly will have nothing to fear. (Binah La’ittim: Drush no. 24)
R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1785-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) writes: The above-quoted teaching of the Binah La’ittim can help us better understand the incident of the Spies. It is difficult to understand what their sin was; after all, Moshe told them to report back whether the nations of Canaan were strong or weak, and so on. Also, why did Moshe pray for Yehoshua to be saved from the Spies’ counsel? If Moshe suspected the mission would go badly, why did he send the Spies? Indeed, why did Hashem permit the incident to occur?
R’ Kluger explains: The answer to all of these questions is that Hashem expects us to live within the natural order. That is why, for example, we must go to work to earn a living. Likewise, Hashem expects an army to send spies before invading another country. However, whether working for our livelihood or invading other nations, we must be aware of where success really comes from–Hashem! What should have happened was that the Spies would have returned and said, “The Canaanites are very strong. We cannot defeat them ourselves. Nevertheless, we will defeat them with Hashem’s help!” The Spies did not do that, because they experienced a failure of emunah. It was the possibility of such a failure that Moshe foresaw and which caused him to pray for Yehoshua. Even so, the Spies had to be sent because that is how the world is meant to function. (Chochmat Ha’Torah: Shelach p. 1)
“You will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless Hashem, your Elokim, for the good Land that He gave you.” (8:10)
Before performing a mitzvah, we recite a berachah. Why, then, is no blessing recited on the mitzvah of Birkat Ha’mazon?
R’ Elazar Fleckles z”l (Prague; 1754-1826) writes: Some commentaries explains that a berachah is required before performing a mitzvah to affirm that the action that follows is being done for the sake of Heaven. Birkat Ha’mazon, however, involves praising G-d; therefore, such a declaration is not required. For the same reason, those commentaries write, no berachah is recited before reading the Pesach Haggadah.
R’ Fleckles adds: Possibly, the reason no berachah is recited before reading the Pesach Haggadah is that kiddush serves that function. After all, we say in kiddush at the Seder: “He has sanctified us with his commandments . . . zecher l’yitziat Mitzrayim” / “In remembrance of the Exodus.” Thus, kiddush has the essential text that would have been in a berachah recited over the Haggadah. Regarding Birkat Ha’mazon, R’ Fleckles writes, there actually are many mitzvot over which no berachah is recited, and we do not have a clear tradition that explains why our Sages did or did not establish a berachah in each situation. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Ma’aseh B’Rabbi Elazar: Introduction)
“A Land that Hashem, your Elokim, seeks out; the eyes of Hashem, your Elokim, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” (11:12)
R’ Aharon Lewin z”l Hy”d (the Reisher Rav; killed in the Holocaust in 1941) writes in connection with this verse:
We read (Shmot 34:24), “No man will covet your land when you go up to appear before Hashem, your Elokim, three times a year.” The Gemara (Pesachim 8b) comments: Not only will no person covet your land, your cows will not be harmed while they graze and your chickens won’t be hurt while they peck at garbage. Rashi z”l explains that not only is one’s land protected when he makes the pilgrimage to Yerushalayim for the festivals, all of his property is protected. (The fact that property other than land will be protected is learned from the superfluous article “et” (aleph-tav) which disappears in the translation of the verse.)
Still, this requires explanation, for the Torah only promises that “no man” will harm the pilgrim’s property. It does not say that no animal predators will harm the pilgrim’s property! The answer, writes R’ Lewin, is that man has the free will to harm others, while animals do not. Once Hashem has promised to protect the pilgrim’s property from people, who have free will, it follows that He certainly will protect that property from animals, which do not have free will. (Ha’drash Ve’ha’iyun)
R’ Moshe ben Maimon z”l (Rambam / Maimonides; 1135-1204) writes: Hashkafot / ideas and beliefs which are not tied to actions that publicize them and preserve them in the minds of the multitudes will not have a lasting existence. Therefore, we were commanded to sanctify this day [Shabbat] in order to solidify the foundational belief that the world is created [not, as some believed, that it always existed]. This belief is publicized when we all rest on one day. This will cause people to ask us, “What is the reason for your behavior?” and we will tell them that Hashem created the world in six days. (Moreh Nevochim Part II, ch.31)
R’ Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg z”l (1884-1966; rosh yeshiva in Berlin and a major halachic authority) writes (in a letter to R’ Akiva Glasner z”l, rabbi of Cluj Romania): Rambam is teaching that we do not rest on Shabbat because Hashem “rested” on that day. Rather, Hashem blessed and sanctified the day of Shabbat and commanded us to “rest” as a means for us to publicize our belief in Creation.
Based on this idea, R’ Weinberg continues, we can answer a question that R’ Glasner had posed: Why is there a mitzvah of Tosefet Shabbat / adding time on to Shabbat at both the beginning and the end when Hashem’s Shabbat was certainly only 24 hours long? The answer, R’ Weinberg writes, is that our Shabbat does not directly commemorate Hashem’s Shabbat, as discussed above. As for Tosefet Shabbat, that is a separate mitzvah to sanctify the mundane. Adding to Shabbat is an application of the mitzvah, not the mitzvah itself. For this reason, Tosefet Shabbat is not a time-dependent mitzvah from which women would be exempt. (She’eilot U’teshuvot Seridei Esh: Orach Chaim No.27)