Volume 34, No. 40
25 Av 5780
August 15, 2020
Nathan and Rikki Lewin in memory of his father Harav Yitzchak ben Harav Aharon Lewin a”h
Robert & Hannah Klein in memory of her father Shlomo ben Zvi Koplowitz a”h
Micheline and David Peller in memory of their daughter Zipporah a”h bat David ׳חיש
R’ Moshe Yehoshua Hager z”l (1916-2012; Vizhnitzer Rebbe) writes regarding the upcoming month of Elul: It is well-known that R’ Shalom of Belz z”l (1871-1855; R’ Shalom Rokeach, first Belzer Rebbe) interprets “Elul” as being related to the Aramaic root “Aleph-lamed-lamed,” which means “to reconnoiter” (see Onkelos to Bemidbar 13:2). That is the foundation of the coming month, leading-up to the upcoming Days of Awe. One must “reconnoiter” the recesses of his soul. “The heart knows its own bitterness,” in the words of Mishlei (14:10). [In other words, every person can discover what he or she needs to correct, and he or she is better-suited than anyone else to do so.]
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe continues: The accounting that a person must do relates to more than the sins he committed. One also should examine whether his enjoyment of worldly matters is being done to fulfill his pleasures, or for the sake of Heaven. The Mitzvah of Shofar, which awakens us, calls upon us to analyze whether we sleep for the sake of Heaven. And, the Mitzvah to refrain from eating and drinking on Yom Kippur calls upon us to analyze whether we eat and drink for the sake of Heaven. However, Elul is the time to prepare for those accountings.
He adds: We read in our Parashah (12:8), “You shall not do everything that we do here today, every man what is proper in his eyes.” The Gematria of the Hebrew words for “You shall not do” equals the Gematria of “Sha’ah Talmud” / “an hour of Torah study.” The Gematria of the Hebrew word for “everything” equals the Gematria of “Chessed” / acts of kindness. “Today,” says the Zohar, refers to Rosh Hashanah. The preparations for that big day, our verse teaches, are Torah study and acts of kindness. (Yeshuot Moshe)
“Come to the place that Hashem will choose.” (12:26)
Why does the Torah not identify the site of the Bet Hamikdash?
R’ Chaim Zaichyk 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; and (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 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 are children to Hashem, your G-d.” (14:1)
R’ Yisroel Meir Kagan z”l (the Chafetz Chaim; died 1933) writes: Imagine that someone (“Reuven”) has a son who behaves improperly. Imagine further that another person (“Shimon”) gossips about Reuven’s errant son and publicizes his misdeeds. Reuven would be justifiably angry at Shimon. Reuven (the father) would say, “Even if you meant well, you should have rebuked my son privately rather than humiliating him publicly. Moreover, I know that your intentions were not pure; rather, you enjoy seeing other people’s shame.”
Our verse teaches that we are children to Hashem. The Torah means this literally; Hashem’s love for us is similar to a parent’s love for a child, even an errant child. Therefore, Hashem “rejoices” when good things happen to us, and He is “pained” when we have troubles. Let us imagine, then, how He “feels” when someone shames a fellow Jew! (Shemirat Ha’lashon: Sha’ar Ha’tevunah ch.5)
“If there shall be a destitute person among you, any of your brethren in any of your cities, in the Land that Hashem, your Elokim, gives you, you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother.” (15:7)
R’ Chaim Palagi z”l (1788-1868; Izmir, Turkey) asks: Why does the verse refer at first to a “destitute person,” but later refer to “your destitute brother”?
He explains: According to the letter of the Halachah, one should not give Tzedakah to a Rasha / wicked person. However, when one refuses to give charity to a person he considers to be a Rasha, he invites the Heavenly Court to open its books and determine whether he (the one refusing to give) is himself as righteous as he thinks. Therefore, says the verse, if there is “a destitute person among you,” view him as “your destitute brother,” i.e., your equal. (Zechirah L’Chaim Al Haggadah Shel Pesach p.77)
“So that you will remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” (16:3)
The Gemara (Berachot 12b) records: The sage Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah says, “I always contended that the Exodus should be recalled at night as well as during the day, but I could never persuade my colleagues until the sage Ben Zoma came along and interpreted our verse as follows: ‘The days of your life’ (without the word ‘all’) refers to the days; “All the days of your life,” includes the nights. [Until here from the Gemara. The recalling of the Exodus referred to here is the recitation of the third paragraph of Kri’at Shema, which mentions the Exodus.]
R’ Ben Zion Nesher shlita (one of the senior rabbis in Tel Aviv, Israel) asks: Why did Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah believe that the Exodus should be recalled at night? It could not have been for the reason Ben Zoma gives, since Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah had already formed his opinion long before he heard Ben Zoma’s interpretation of the Pasuk!
R’ Nesher answers: The Midrash Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (ch.48) records the opinion of Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah that Bnei Yisrael were in Egypt for 210 years. Why, then, does the Torah say (Shmot 12:40), “The habitation of Bnei Yisrael during which they dwelled in Egypt was 430 years”? There were 210 years from the time Yaakov arrived in Egypt until the Exodus. Yosef’s children Menashe and Ephraim were born five years before that, for a total of 215 years. But, the Egyptians subjugated Bnei Yisrael day and night, thus causing each year to count twice, for a total of 430 years. [Until here from the Midrash as explained by the commentary of R’ David Luria z”l (1798-1855; Lithuania)]
R’ Nesher continues: According to Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, only if we count the nights separately from the days can we say that Bnei Yisrael were in Egypt for 430 years, as the Torah says. And, this is appropriate, because Bnei Yisrael were subjugated at night also. Therefore, the Exodus should be remembered at night.
R’ Nesher concludes: Those who argue with Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah count the 430 years from the Berit Bein Ha’betarim, when Hashem told Avraham about the (then) future exile. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Shir Tziyon p.49)
R’ Gedalia Schorr z”l (1911-1979; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Voda’as in Brooklyn, N.Y.; referred to as “the first American Gadol”) writes: The days of the month of Elul [which begins this coming Friday] are called, “Yemei Ratzon” / “Days of favor and goodwill.” The days of Elul and the first ten days of Tishrei, until Yom Kippur are the 40 days when Moshe Rabbeinu was on Har Sinai receiving the second set of Luchot. Our Sages say, “Just as the first 40 days were in a state of Ratzon, so, too, the last 40 days [i.e., these days] were in a state of Ratzon.
R’ Schorr elaborates: The time of the Giving of the Torah certainly was a time of Ratzon Above. At that point in history, Bnei Yisrael were on a very high level, and about those days we read (Tehilim 82:6), “I said, ‘You are angelic, you are all sons of the Most High’.” G-d gave this high level to them as a gift. [As a result, for example, all of Bnei Yisrael experienced prophecy without having prepared as other prophets must.]
At the same time, R’ Schorr continues, Hashem tested Bnei Yisrael to confirm that they merited this gift. That test was the sin of the Golden Calf. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 4a) teaches: “Bnei Yisrael were not worthy of that terrible deed–making the Golden Calf. It was all in order to teach Teshuvah to the masses.” This does not mean that G-d took away their free will. Rather, He withdrew the support that He usually gives a person to help him not sin. Why? To teach the masses that there is a type of Divine service whose basis is Teshuvah. After the sin of the Golden Calf, Bnei Yisrael needed to use Teshuvah to reawaken, so-to-speak, the Divine Ratzon that prevailed before the sin. In this way, they paved the way for future generations to serve Hashem through Teshuvah during this time of the year. (Ohr Gedalyahu: Moa’adim p.6)