Volume 36, No. 2
3 Marcheshvan 5782
October 9, 2021
Mrs. Esther Liberman and family
in memory of husband and father
Yaakov Azriel ben Aharon David a”h
The Vogel family
on the yahrzeit of grandfather
Aharon Shimon Kalkstein a”h
Martin and Michelle Swartz,
on the yahrzeit of
Mrs. Ruth Rosenzweig a”h (3 Cheshvan)
R’ Gamliel HaKohen Rabinowitz-Rappaport shlita (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Sha’ar Ha’shamayim in Yerushalayim) writes: The obvious connection between this week’s Parashah and Haftarah is the verse in the latter (Yeshayah 54:9), “For like the waters of Noach shall this be to Me. As I have sworn never again to pass the waters of Noach over the earth, so have I sworn not to be wrathful with you or rebuke you.” On a deeper level, R’ Rabinowitz notes that this week’s Haftarah is also read during the Seven Weeks of Consolation following Tisha B’Av–half of it (Yeshayah 54:1-10) for Parashat Re’eh and half (54:11-55:5) for Ki Tetze. Just as these verses console us after we recall the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, so they console us after we recall the destruction of the entire world in the Flood.
There is a practical lesson in this, writes R’ Rabinowitz. If a person undergoes a tragedy or some suffering, he must not remain in a state of mourning. He must seek and accept consolation. Another lesson is that after parents or teachers punish a child or student as appropriate, they must offer the student words of consolation and encouragement as well. It is noteworthy, R’ Rabinowitz adds, that Hashem taught the prophet Yeshayah these words of consolation over the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash 110 years or more before that destruction occurred. This teaches us how important it is to Hashem that we console those who have experienced suffering. (Tiv Ha’haftarot)
“Now the earth had become corrupt before Elokim, and the earth had become filled with robbery.” (6:11)
We read (Iyov 4:20), “They are ground down from morning to evening; without Meisim / contemplation, they are lost forever.” Our Sages interprets this verse as a reference to the Generation of the Flood, with the word “Meisim” alluding to civil laws, as in the verse (Shmot 21:1), “And these are the civil laws that Tasim / you shall place before them.” In other words, the Generation of the Flood was condemned because it failed to enforce civil laws, i.e., monetary laws that permit a society to function.
R’ Yerachmiel Shulman z”l Hy”d (Menahel Ruchani of the Bet Yosef-Novardok Yeshiva in Pinsk, Poland; killed in the Holocaust) asks: Does not the Torah tell us why the Generation of the Flood was condemned–because “the earth had become filled with robbery”?
He explains: When Bnei Yisrael stood at Har Sinai, they were on the level of Adam before his sin. Every single Jew experienced prophecy when the Torah was given. As such, was it really necessary for Hashem to command Bnei Yisrael not to murder, steal, commit adultery, or desire someone else’s property? One answer, writes R’ Shulman, is that the Torah has a different definition of murder than a person would have on his own. For example, humiliating someone by giving him charity in public is considered by G-d to be equal to murder. Commandments of the Torah that seem obvious to us are meant to teach us to think in the Torah’s terms, not in our own terms or with our own biases.
Furthermore, continues R’ Shulman, a person can be a great observer of the positive commandments, yet be far from adequate when it comes to the negative commandments. There is an apocryphal story of a man who found a lost object, returned it to its owner, and then stole it. When he was asked why he bothered returning the item before stealing it, he replied, “Returning lost objects is a Mitzvah, and I am a good Jew! But, then I stole it, because that is how I earn a living.” In real life, there certainly are people who endow Shuls or Yeshivot with ill-gotten wealth, R’ Shulman writes.
Our Sages say that the robbery of which the Generation of the Flood was guilty involved repeatedly stealing very small amounts of money at a time. How does such behavior come about? The quoted verse in Iyov explains that it comes about from not paying proper attention to the fine details of monetary laws. In the eyes of the world, stealing pennies here and there may not be theft, but Hashem has different standards. This what Tehilim (147:18-19) refers to when it says: “He relates His words to Yaakov, His statutes and judgments to Yisrael. He did not do this for any other nation; such judgments–they know not.” (Letter #1, printed at the beginning of Peninei Ha’chochmah)
“He sent out the raven, and it kept going and returning until the waters dried from upon the earth.” (8:7)
A Midrash relates that Noach said to the raven, “Of what use are you? You are not kosher to eat, nor fit for a Korban / sacrifice.” Hashem told Noach, “Take it into the Ark, for a time will come when it will be needed. There will be a Tzaddik, Eliyahu Ha’navi, who will bring a drought to the world. I will send him to live alone, and (Melachim I 17:6), ‘The ravens [will] bring him bread and meat in the morning. . .’”
R’ Yerachmiel Shulman z”l Hy”d (see above) writes: This Midrash illustrates Hashem’s trait of tolerating, and even sustaining, a species or family for thousands of years–tens of thousands of beings, in all–simply because of some good that will come out of that species or family in the distant future. Why, in fact, was the “useless” raven used to sustain Eliyahu? To make clear that his sustenance came from Hashem. (Peninei Ha’shlaimut: Sha’ar Ha’savlanut 1:10)
This year–a Shemittah / sabbatical year, when agricultural activities in Eretz Yisrael are restricted and certain loans must be forgiven by lenders–we will iy”H devote this space to discussing Bitachon / placing one’s trust in Hashem.
We continue with another source discussing a connection between Shemittah and the trait of Bitachon.
We read (Vayikra 25:19-21): “The land will give its fruit and you will eat your fill; you will dwell securely upon it. If you will say, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year? Behold! We will not sow and we will not gather in our crops!’ [Hashem answers:] I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield a crop sufficient for the three-year period [i.e., the pre-Shemittah, Shemittah, and post-Shemittah years].”
R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv z”l (1910-2012; Yerushalayim) asks: Why must the Torah make this promise to those who observe the Shemittah? Will they not already have seen before the Shemittah begins that the produce of the sixth year (i.e., the pre-Shemittah year) was threefold?
R’ Elyashiv answers: The Torah is not anticipating that one will ask this question in the sixth year or the seventh year. Rather, it is man’s nature to worry about the distant future; therefore, he will ask in the first year of the Shemittah cycle: “How can I comfortably eat my produce during the next six years? I must put something away for the Shemittah year!”
Were a person to think this way, continues R’ Elyashiv, it would defeat the entire purpose of the Shemittah year, which is to inculcate Bitachon in the Creator of the world, and to implant in a person the Emunah / faith that there is no difference between the source of our sustenance for 40 years in the desert and the source of our sustenance in Eretz Yisrael–though one appears to be miraculous and the other, natural. Therefore, the Torah commands (verse 19): “The land will give its fruit and you will eat your fill; you will dwell securely upon it.” You will not need to skimp out of worry for the future.
One might ask further, writes R’ Elyashiv: After a person sees G-d’s blessing during the first Shemittah cycle he experiences, why will he have doubts in later Shemittah cycles? The answer, writes R’ Elyashiv, is that the fulfillment of Hashem’s blessing is dependent on our expressing our Bitachon by eating our fill, as the verse says. If a person skimps during the first Shemittah cycle and waits to see if Hashem’s promise is fulfilled, it will not be fulfilled. As we read in Tehilim (121:5), “Hashem is your shadow.” To the extent that we express our Bitachon in Hashem, He validates our feelings of trust. If we do not demonstrate our trust, He responds accordingly.
R’ Elyashiv adds: [Nevertheless, one might argue that worrying about the future is a good trait. To those people, we ask:] Do you worry about your spiritual future to the same degree that you worry about your material future? Why do so many people not try to build their spiritual fortunes? (Mishnat Ha’grish: Shevi’it 257)