These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape #382, Circumstantial Evidence.
Home is Where the Beis Din Is
The Parsha begins with the pasuk [verse] “You shall appoint for your tribes, judges and policemen in all your settlements that G-d your L-rd is giving you, and make sure that they administer honest judgment for the people” [Devorim 16:18]. The Sifri derives a halacha [Torah law] from this pasuk that it is necessary to set up courts in every district and in every city in Eretz Yisroel [The Land of Israel]. When there were different regions within Eretz Yisroel, there was a commandment to have courts at both the local and regional levels.
The halacha states that outside of the land of Israel, it suffices to have courts at the regional level. It is not necessary to have courts in each city. The question must be asked – why is there such a distinction between the Land of Israel and outside the Land of Israel?
Rav Mordechai Gifter (1916-2001) suggests the following answer: A Court system allows society to function. Any efficiently functioning society needs a judicial system. An efficient society needs all types of courts: small claims courts, traffic courts, probate courts, superior courts, appeals courts, etc.
By introducing the above mentioned dichotomy, the halacha is making the statement that since Chutz L’Aretz [outside the Land of Israel] is not really our home, we do not need to establish such an efficient society with the whole range of Courts. The halacha makes it clear to us that in no way should we ever think that outside the Land of Israel we can have the entire infrastructure to run an efficient Jewish society. In fact, the halacha does not want us to have such an efficient society outside the Land of Israel. We should not feel like “this is our home” and that therefore we need both the state court and the local court and the whole infrastructure of an efficient judicial system. We should feel that we are somehow lacking and that things are not set up properly in Chutz L’Aretz.
I have a connection with a Gentile who produces my tapes. He lives in Woodstock, Maryland. He has a beautiful home on a beautiful estate. When one drives up to his home, one sees a sign “The Promised Land”. _He_ can make such a statement. He has the home and the grounds and the pool. For him, this IS the promised land. But this IS NOT our promised land. We need to have reminders that this is not our promised land. The reminder is that we do not have the full range of Courts that Jewish Law optimally requires. “For you have not yet come to the resting place and to the inheritance that the L-rd, your G-d, will give you” [Devorim 12:9].
The ‘Bigger’ The Person, The Happier The Person
The Parsha enumerates the various draft deferments that were granted to certain members of society during a time of war. “The officers shall then speak to the people and say, ‘Is there any man among you who has built a house and has not begun to live in it? Let him go home, so that he will not die in war and have another man live in it'” [Devorim 20:5].
There is a very interesting Rashi on this pasuk. Rashi (1040-1105) explains that “this would be a matter of great aggravation to the person”.
It would seem understandable if the Torah had said that this deferment was granted because it would be distressing for a man to build a new house and never dedicate the house or never live in the house. That would be very distressing. But that is NOT what the Torah says. Rather, the torah says “lest he die, and SOMEONE ELSE will live in the house”.
Rashi emphasizes that the person would experience extreme aggravation specifically regarding someone else living in the house. How ironic! If the worst case scenario had ‘only’ been that he would die in war, that would not be enough of a tragedy to justify a deferment. But the thought that as a result of his death, someone else would live in his house is unbearable! That thought would drive him crazy. It would affect his morale to such an extent that he could not be an effective soldier. The Torah recognized this reality and excused such a soldier from the army, lest his negative morale effect the whole military unit.
Rav Leib Chassman calls our attention to this Rashi and emphasizes that the Torah deals with reality. This is the nature of human beings. A human being may not be so upset, perhaps, at the specter of never having lived in the house that he built. But the specter of building a house, never living in it, and someone else living in that house, is too much to bear.
However Rav Chassman admonishes that if we were more spiritual and had loftier character traits, we would have a different perspective. We would feel differently about someone else living in our house. We would think, “Well, if I cannot live in this house, at least somebody else will be able to live in it.” That which Rashi refers to as causing “great aggravation” is not necessarily intrinsic to the human condition. The aggravation is caused by our own poor character traits (midos). My own lack of generosity of spirit causes my aggravation.
And so it is with many things in life:
The loftier the character traits that a persons possesses, the bigger giver he is.
The bigger giver he is, the more generous he is.
The more generous he is, the less self-centered he is.
The less self-centered a person is, the happier the person is.
The biggest incentive that a person has to be a less selfish person is not that as a result he will achieve the status of being a righteous person (a ‘Tzadik’). No! The biggest incentive a person has to be a less selfish person is that he will thus become a happier person. He will be happier, because he will not be constantly ‘eaten up’ by his own selfishness and jealousies.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Yerushalayim.
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (#338). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: Relying on a Goral. The other halachic portions for Parshas Shoftim from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
- Tape # 019 – Copying Cassette Tapes
- Tape # 109 – Hasogas G’vul: Infringing on Another’s Livelihood
- Tape # 155 – Ba’al Tashchis: Cutting Down That Troublesome Tree
- Tape # 202 – Melech v’lo Malkah: A Jewish Queen?
- Tape # 249 – May A Daughter Say Kaddish?
- Tape # 338 – Relying on a Goral
- Tape # 383 – Circumstantial Evidence
- Tape # 426 – The Mitzvah of Escorting Guests
- Tape # 470 – May a Convict Escape?
- Tape # 514 – Can a Ger Be a Rosh Yeshiva?
- Tape # 558 – Competition Among Teachers
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