Volume 33, No.46
30 Av 5779
August 31, 2019
Robert & Hannah Klein
in memory of her father,
Shlomo ben Zvi Koplowitz a”h
Our parashah opens: “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv z”l (1910-2012; Yerushalayim) asks: Why does the verse say “today”?
He explains: If a person remembered everything that ever happened to him and all of Hashem’s kindness to him, he would stop at nothing to be able to devote all of his energies to serving Hashem with all his heart. However, man’s nature is that, although when he is first saved from danger he thanks Hashem profusely, he soon returns to his routine and forgets Hashem’s kindness.
This, writes R’ Elyashiv, is the meaning of the verse (Devarim 32:18), “The Rock gave birth to you, forgetful one, and you forgot Kel Who brought you forth.” G-d gave man the ability to forget as an act of kindness; otherwise, life would be unbearable. Without forgetfulness, man would remember at every moment every terrifying experience he had ever had and every mistake he had ever made. Who could bear such a burden? Forgetfulness allows man to put those thoughts behind him. For the same reason, G-d decreed that one’s memory of the deceased would diminish with time.
Yet, instead of seeing forgetfulness in this way, man uses that power to forget Hashem. That is why our verse says “today.” At all times, one must remember that Hashem has placed before him a choice between receiving a blessing or a curse. Man must remember “today” and every day so that he chooses properly. (Kitvei Ha’GRYS: Avot Vol. II p. 274)
“Re’eh / See, Anochi / I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” (11:26)
R’ Avigdor Tzarfati z”l (France; 13th century) writes: “Re’eh” can mean “understand,” as in the verse (Kohelet 1:16), “My mind ‘ra’ah’ / has seen much wisdom and knowledge.” The verse is saying: “Understand [what is at stake, i.e., a blessing or a curse]! Then you will choose the Torah, which includes the commandment: ‘Anochi Hashem’.”
Another explanation: Moshe said, “See what I (‘anochi’) have chosen and what resulted,” referring to the rays of light that emanated from Moshe’s countenance. “This happened to me because of the Torah.” (Peirushim U’pesakim Le’rabbeinu Avigdor Tzarfati)
“Come to the place that Hashem will choose.” (12:26)
Why does the Torah not identify the site of the Bet Hamikdash?
R’ Chaim Zaitchik z”l (1906-1989; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Bet Yosef-Novardok in Buczacz, Ukraine; later in Israel) offers three reasons:
1. So that the nations will not fight extra fiercely to hold on to it.
2. So that whoever is occupying it will not destroy and deface it.
3. So that the tribes of Bnei Yisrael will not fight over it.
Also, R’ Zaitchik writes, human nature is to long more for the unknown. If we had known all along where the Bet Hamikdash would be, it would have become “old news” by the time it was actually built.
For this reason also, R’ Zaitchik adds, Halachah prohibits building structures using the same design as the Temple and making implements (for example, a Menorah) using the design of the Temple implements. If we were permitted to do that, we would forget what we are missing by not having the Bet Hamikdash. (Ohr Chadash: Mo’adim p. 425)
“You shall strike the inhabitants of that city with the sword; lay it waste and everything that is in it, and its animals, with the sword. You shall gather together all its booty to its open square, and you shall burn in fire completely the city and all its booty . . . . No part of the contraband may adhere to your hand, so that Hashem will turn back from His burning wrath; and He will give you mercy and be merciful to you and multiply you . . .” (13:16-18)
R’ Nosson Lewin z”l (1857-1926; rabbi of Rzeszów, Poland) writes: The Torah commands here that, if an entire city in Eretz Yisrael turns away from Hashem and worships idols, all of its inhabitants shall be put to death. The Torah further commands that all of the property in that city be destroyed; none of it may be taken as booty.
R’ Lewin continues: Besides the literal meaning, there is another message in the command, “No part of the contraband may adhere to your hand.” Those who are tasked with carrying out this city’s punishment might take something intangible away from their experience–i.e., feelings of cruelty and vengefulness. Take care that human life not become cheap in your eyes, the Torah warns. To assist you, “[Hashem] will give you mercy and be merciful to you and multiply you.” He will have mercy on you, on your family, and on your people. (Bet Nadiv p.185)
“You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor, and to your destitute in your Land.” (15:11)
R’ Chaim Palagi z”l (Izmir, Turkey; 1788-1868) writes in the name of R’ Yitzchak Luria z”l (“The Arizal”; 1534-1572): Giving Tzedakah “unifies,” so-to-speak, Hashem’s Name. The coin that is given parallels the letter “Yud,” which, like the coin, is little more than a small dot. The five fingers of the giver’s hand parallel the letter “Heh,” whose Gematria equals five. The giver’s outstretched arm parallels the letter “Vav,” which has an elongated shape. Finally, The five fingers of the recipient’s hand parallel the second letter “Heh.” (Zechirah L’Chaim Al Haggadah Shel Pesach p.88)
“For seven days you shall eat Matzot, Lechem Oni / bread of affliction, for you departed from the land of Egypt in haste . . .” (16:3)
R’ Yitzchak Maltzen z”l (1854-1916; Lithuania and Eretz Yisrael) writes that many commentaries explain the Four Questions at the Pesach Seder (i.e., Mah Nishtanah) as only one question: Why are there contradictory symbols at the Seder–Matzah and Maror representing affliction, and reclining and dipping representing freedom?
In fact, observes R’ Maltzen, each of the four symbols mentioned in Mah Nishtanah contains contradictory allusions within itself. For example, Matzah represents the hasty Exodus, but it also represents the affliction of the Jewish People. This may be understood, writes R’ Maltzen, based on the answer to another famous question: How can Matzah remind us of the hasty Exodus when the command to eat Matzah was given two weeks before the Exodus occurred? The answer is that when Hashem brings salvation, He turns darkness to light, so-to-speak. He did not merely bring about the Exodus; He made the Exodus parallel exactly the suffering that preceded it. For example, just as the Egyptians oppressed Bnei Yisrael and did not permit them to bake bread, so at the time of the Exodus they did not have time to bake bread. This parallelism increases the wonder of the redemption. Of course, this was Hashem’s plan all along; therefore, the command to eat Matzah to commemorate the haste of the Exodus could precede that event.
Similarly, Maror / the bitter herb commemorates the bitterness of the exile, but it also commemorates the Exodus, for it was that bitterness that allowed the Exodus to take place 190 years early. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Siach Yitzchak p.8a)
R’ Yehuda Halevi z”l (Spain; died 1141, in Eretz Yisrael) writes: Only man-made laws and ideas go through a process of development. That which comes from the Divine is sudden, just as Creation did not exist one moment and did exist the next. (Kuzari I:81)
Siddur Avodat Yisrael cites a custom to recite Psalm 97 on the Shabbat on which Parashat Re’eh is read. Accordingly, we present here verses from, and commentaries on, that Psalm.
“Lovers of Hashem, despise evil!” (Verse 10)
R’ David Kimchi z”l (Radak; 1160–1235; Narbonne, France) writes: This is one of many psalms whose purpose is to reassure those who have lost hope of the eventual redemption. [In his commentary to verse 2-7, Radak shows how the psalm describes the judgment and punishment of idol worshipers and evil-doers in the future.] At that time, all will recognize (verse 9), “For You, Hashem, are Supreme.” And, then, says our verse, all who love Hashem will despise people who are “evil.” In our present circumstances, in contrast, it is difficult to hate evil, because Hashem Himself seems to be oblivious to it. (Peirush Radak Ha’shalem)
“Rejoice, Tzaddikim, in Hashem, and give grateful praise at the mention of His Holy [Name].” (Verse 12)
R’ Gamliel HaKohen Rabinowitz-Rappaport shlita (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Sha’ar Ha’shamayim in Yerushalayim) writes: The greatest joy a righteous person can experience is when he merits to achieve D’veikut / clinging to Hashem. This is hinted to in the first half of our verse: “Rejoice, Tzaddikim, in Hashem.”
Ironically, however, a person can be so busy studying Torah and praying that he can lose sight of the ultimate purpose of those activities, i.e., D’veikut. Therefore, says the second half of our verse, “Give grateful praise at the mention of His Holy [Name].” When you remember His Holy Name, i.e., when you remember to cling to Hashem, give praise for that fact. (Tiv Ha’tehilot)