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Posted on August 3, 2023 (5783) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 37, No. 40
18 Av 5783
August 5, 2023

Sponsored by Mrs. Faith Ginsburg and family on the yahrzeit of her father-in-law Maurice Ginsburg (Yisroel Moshe ben Yosef a”h)

In this week’s Parashah, we read the section beginning “Ve’hayah eem shamo’a” (11:13-21), the second paragraph of our twice daily Kri’at Shema. (The first paragraph, “Shema Yisrael,” was in last week’s Parashah–Devarim 6:4-9.) The Mishnah (Berachot 2:2) asks: Why do we recite Shema before Ve’hayah? The Mishnah answers, referring to the content of each of the two paragraphs: First one accepts upon himself the yoke of Heaven, and then he accepts upon himself the yoke of Mitzvot.

R’ Mordechai Sternberg z”l (1948-2022; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Ha’mor in Yerushalayim) writes: The Mishnah is teaching us to perform Mitzvot with Emunah / faith and Yir’at Shamayim / Reverence for Hashem, not merely out of habit. It is not enough to accept the yoke of Mitzvot; that acceptance must be preceded by accepting the yoke of Heaven. One who accepts only the yoke of Mitzvot, but not the yoke of Heaven, may observe the laws perfectly, but it is a stressful observance. Such a person has many “masters,” because each Mitzvah stands alone. And, those “masters” may sometimes come into conflict with each other as Mitzvot make competing demands [for example: learning Torah versus performing acts of Chessed, and both of those versus Davening with a Minyan]. In contrast, one who first accepts the yoke of Heaven has only one Master–Hashem. He will still have to resolve conflicts between Mitzvot that make competing demands, but it will not be a stressful experience, because it will all be in the service of the one Master. (Bayit Ne’eman B’Yisrael p.24)


“Hashem, your Elokim, will drive these nations away from before you little by little; you will not be able to eliminate them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase against you.” (7:22)

We read similarly (Shmot 23:29), “I shall not drive them away from you in a single year, lest the Land become desolate and the wildlife of the field multiply against you.” R’ Avraham Shimon Halevi Ish Horowitz z”l Hy”d (1876-1943; Mashgiach in Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin in Poland) wonders: Considering the Ten Plagues, the Splitting of the Sea, and the miracles of the Pillar of Fire, the Mahn and the well that traveled with Bnei Yisrael in the desert, would it be challenging for Hashem to keep animals out of Eretz Yisrael while it lies desolate?!

R’ Horowitz explains: Our perspective is backwards. Being here on earth, we are amazed by extraordinary events like the Ten Plagues or the Splitting of the Sea. Hashem’s perspective is different, however. Hashem created a world that would operate according to laws of nature (which are, of course, part of Hashem’s Creation). Hashem “doesn’t mind,” so-to-speak, changing nature briefly, as He did in Egypt and at the Sea. But, changing the behavior of entire species of animals for an extended period of time so that they would not colonize the desolate Land is something Hashem does not want to do. (Naharei Aish: Likuttei Dibburim 110)


“You will say in your heart, ‘My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!’ You shall remember Hashem, your Elokim–that it is He Who gives you strength to make wealth.” (8:17-18)

Rabbeinu Nissim ben Reuven Gerondi z”l (Spain; 1320-1376) writes: The Torah warns us not to attribute our success to our own powers. It definitely is true, R’ Nissim writes, that different people are endowed with different talents and abilities. For example, one person’s nature leads him to seek wisdom, another’s nature leads him to amass wealth, and so on. Thus, a wealthy person could, in some sense, rightly say, “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!” Even so, remember the source of your strength and might–it is “He (Hashem) Who gives you strength to make wealth.”

At the same time, R’ Nissim adds, the Torah does not dismiss man’s efforts. It does not say, “He Who gives you wealth.” Rather, it says “He Who gives you strength to make wealth.” Your talents made the wealth, but remember the One Who gave you your talents. (Derashot Ha’Ran 10)

R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (1865-1935; first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) elaborates: Human perfection is attaining Bitachon / trust in Hashem. One type of Bitachon involves expecting a miracle when necessary, but everyday Bitachon is trusting that Hashem will help one’s own Hishtadlut / efforts succeed.

We find a seeming contradiction, R’ Kook continues. Sometimes, Hishtadlut is praiseworthy and obligatory––as in Yehoshua’s war against the city of Ai (see Yehoshua 8:1)–and other times it is undesirable–as in Gidon’s war against Midian (see Shoftim 7:2). R’ Kook explains: When a person is on a higher religious level, then he will recognize Hashem even if it seems to be his efforts that are bringing about his success. In such a case, Hashem has no need to intervene with an open miracle. On the other hand, if a person is on a lower religious level, then the success of his own efforts will obscure Hashem’s role. For such a person, Hashem must perform an open miracle.

R’ Kook adds: We read (Hoshea 11:1), “When Yisrael was a lad, I loved him, and since Egypt I have been calling out to My son.” The way a parent relates to an older child is different from the way the parent relates to a younger child. Indeed, Yaakov Avinu went so far as to call his mature sons his “brothers” (see Bereishit 31:46 and Rashi z”l there). Says the prophet Hoshea: When the Jewish Nation was young, immediately after the Exodus, it required open miracles to teach it to know Hashem. But, as the Nation grew and reached higher levels, it was ready–indeed, it was expected–to live a natural life in Eretz Yisrael, all the while recognizing Hashem Who gave the people the strength to succeed. (Ain Ayah: Berachot I 143)


“Behold! I have engraved you on [My] palms; your [ruined] walls are before Me continuously.” (Yeshayah 49:16–in this week’s Haftarah)

The Gemara (Ta’anit 4a) states: The Jewish People requested inappropriately, but Hashem responded appropriately. The Jewish People requested (Shir Ha’shirim 8:6), “Place me like a seal on Your heart”–a place which is sometimes visible and sometimes not visible. Hashem responded (in our verse), “I have engraved you on [My] palms”–a place that is always visible. [Until here from the Gemara]

R’ David Cohen shlita (Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva in Yerushalayim) explains in the name of R’ Moshe Shapiro z”l (1935-2017; Rosh Yeshiva in several Israeli yeshivot; best known for his lectures on Jewish Thought): That which is “sometimes visible and sometimes not visible” refers to Hashem’s miracles. The Jewish People requested that Hashem relate to them with open miracles, which was an inappropriate request. That which is “always visible” refers to the natural order that Hashem created, hence the reference to “palms,” i.e., hands, which are the most basic tool for acting within nature. Hashem promises: Even when I am most hidden, when there are no open miracles to be seen, I will keep the Jewish Nation alive through the world’s natural order. (Yemei Ha’Purim p.8-9)



The Gemara (Shabbat 118b) teaches: If only the Jewish People would observe two Shabbatot in accordance with law, they would be redeemed immediately. [Until here from the Gemara]

R’ Yitzchak Hutner z”l (1906-1980; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, N.Y.) writes: The Gemara states that the Redemption will occur “immediately” if we observe two Shabbatot. This indicates that the Redemption is not a reward for Shabbat observance, since Hashem is described (Shmot 34:6) as “Patient,” meaning that He never rewards or punishes immediately. Rather, it must be a cause and effect.

R’ Hutner elaborates: Shabbat is referred to by our Sages as a “little bit of Olam Ha’ba,” while Olam Ha’ba is referred to as “A day that is wholly Shabbat.” This indicates that Shabbat is an illustration (“Tziyur”) of the World-to-Come, which is the thing being illustrated (“Metzuyar”). R’ Hutner says in Yiddish: “Ha’tziyur shlept sich mit es ha’metzuyar” / “The illustration pulls along with it the thing it is illustrating.” How so?

R’ Hutner explains: Generally, we view the first three days of the week as being associated with the Shabbat that has passed and the next three days as being associated with the coming Shabbat. [Thus, for example, some say that a person can still recite Havdalah through the third day of the week. See Mishnah Berurah 299:16.] It follows that we must observe two Shabbatot in order to imbue an entire week with the holiness of Shabbat–one Shabbat to sanctify the first half of the week, and the other to sanctify the second half. When the entire week is sanctified with the sanctity of Shabbat, this immediately brings about the “The day that is wholly Shabbat,” the era when all of time is sanctified–i.e., the World-to-Come that follows the Redemption. (Pachad Yitzchak: Shabbat-Sukkot p.104)