This dvar Torah was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: #1153 Parshas Ki Sisa – Rinsing Out Your Mouth on A Fast Day. The second dvar Torah was adapted from the hashkafa portion of the shiur on Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei, which was Parshas Parah that year. Good Shabbos!
The Gemara [Chulin 139] asks “Where is there an allusion to Esther in the Torah? Where is there an allusion to Haman in the Torah? Where is there an allusion to Mordechai in the Torah?” Regarding this last question, the Gemara cites the pasuk in this week’s parsha “Mor Deror” [Shemos 30:23], translated by the Aramaic Targum as Mora Dachye – which, when put together, sounds very much like the name Mordechai. This, the Gemara says, is the Torah’s allusion to Mordechai.
Each one of the Talmudic derivations – the one for Esther and the one for Haman – need explanation. But what specifically is the meaning of the statement that Mor Deror, translated as Mora Dachye, is an allusion to Mordechai in the Torah?
The Chasam Sofer gives a very interesting interpretation. There is a Talmudic discussion in the sixth perek of Maseches Brachos as to the correct Brocho to recite over a substance known as ‘musk’. The Chasam Sofer says that Mor Deror (myrrh) is a form of ‘musk’. The Rosh there in Keitzad Mevorchim cites a dispute among the early commentaries whether musk may be used as a spice for consumption. Some authorities believe that musk comes from an animal that has some kind of pocket on the back of its neck where blood coagulates. Eventually, the blood dries up and becomes a powder like substance, which is the source of musk. A person is certainly permitted to smell the musk, but the Baal HaMaor holds that since it originally comes from blood, it is forbidden for consumption. The Rosh also cites the opinion of Rabbeinu Yonah, who justifies consumption of musk because in its present form, it is totally divorced from its earlier status of blood, and is now merely a powdery substance. In halachik terminology, “panim chadoshos ba’oo l’kan” (a new identity appears before us now, and we do not consider its origins).
The Chasam Sofer links this opinion of Rabbeinu Yonah with the Gemarah in Chulin, which asks, “Where do we have an allusion to Mordechai in the Torah? As it is written ‘Mor Deror,‘ which is translated as Mora Dachye.” The Chasam Sofer asks: Who was Mordechai? The Megillah identifies him as “Mordechai son of Yair son of Shimi son of Kish, a man from the Tribe of Benjamin” [Esther 2:5]. We do not necessarily know the identification of all the individuals named in this family tree, but we do know the identity of Shimi. Shimi ben Geirah is mentioned in the book of Melachim. He was a very bad person. When Dovid haMelech needed to escape from Yerushalayim because his son Avshalom rebelled against him, Shimi ben Geirah, who was an enemy of the king, cursed out Dovid haMelech in a very horrible fashion. According to the Gemara, he called Dovid an adulterer, a murderer, and a mamzer. On his deathbed, Dovid instructed his son and successor, Shlomo, “You will know how to properly take care of Shimi ben Geirah.”
This Mordechai haTzadik, who is now on the Sanhedrin and part of the Anshei Keneses haGedolah, one of the heroes of the Megillah, was the grandson of this wicked Shimi. The lesson is that a completely righteous tzadik can emerge from a totally wicked rasha. Even though he has bad Yichus (genealogy), nonetheless, panim chadashos ba’oo l’kan (he is a new person and we do not consider from where he came).
Where is this concept alluded to in the Torah? It is from Mor Deror – the substance Mora Dachye – musk, which originates from forbidden blood but now it is changed to a pleasant-smelling powdery spice. Rabbeinu Yona rules that it is totally permitted.
This is not just a play on words. We can learn from Mordechai not to worry about our origins. It is who you are now that is important. A person or substance can come from bad beginnings, and yet be a tzadik or permissible substance now.
A Biblical Obligation to Read Parshas Parah?
This week is Parshas Parah. The Shulchan Aruch quotes an opinion that the obligation to hear Parshas Parah is Biblical. This is a perplexing Halacha. Many Rishonim hold that there is a D’Oraisa obligation to hear Parshas Zachor once a year, in fulfillment of the obligation “Remember what Amalek did to you on the road when you left Egypt.…” [Devorim 25:17]. But, why on earth would there be a Torah obligation to annually hear the reading of Parshas Parah?
The source of this opinion is a Rashba in Maseches Brochos. However, the Rashba does not cite a Biblical source to back up this assertion. The question is, why would it be a Biblical obligation? Many later commentaries try to find an answer.
The Meshech Chochma (Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk [1843-1926]) writes that when the Rashba or Shulchan Aruch record that the obligation to read Parshas Parah is D’Oraisa, it does not mean that there is a Biblical obligation to hear the reading that we will read this Shabbos from the second Sefer Torah. Nobody holds that. Rather, it means, according to the Meshech Chochma, that during the time of the Beis HaMikdash, they read this parsha when they made a new batch of ashes from the Parah Adumah for the purpose of ritual purification of individuals who had experienced tum’as meis (“death impurity”).
The Meshech Chochma writes that this is akin to what takes place on Yom Kippur when the Kohen Gadol reads the Avodas Yom Kippur (order of the Temple Service for the Day of Atonement) from a Sefer Torah. Just as the burning of the Parah Aduma (Red Heifer) and the mixing of the ashes with water is part of the ritual, so too reading the Torah section of Parshas Chukas, dealing with the ritual, is part of the process of making a new batch of Parah Adumah ashes.
The Malbim (Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Wisser [1809-1879]), who is best known for his biblical commentary, also wrote a Halacha sefer called Artzos HaChaim on the Orach Chaim section of Shulchan Aruch. (Only about 30 or 40 Simanim from this sefer survived). The Simanim we have cover Hilchos Tzitsis and Hilchos Tefillin, the beginning chapters of Shulchan Aruch. The Malbim there gives a very different, but interesting, interpretation as to the meaning of the statement “Parshas Parah is D’Oraisa.”
The Malbim asks, why shouldn’t the reading of the Parsha of the Egel haZahav (Golden Calf) be a Biblical obligation? One of the Six Remembrances which we are required to remember is “Remember, do not forget, how you angered Hashem, your G-d in the Wilderness.” [Devorim 9:7] This refers to the Chet Ha’Egel. Just as “Remember the Shabbos day to keep it holy” [Shemos 20:8] is a Biblical command which is the source for the requirement to make kiddush and “Remember that which Amalek did…” [Devorim 25:17] is the source for the Biblical command to read the Torah section at the end of Parshas Ki Seitzei, why is there not a ceremony called “Reading the parsha of the Egel haZahav to commemorate our angering of Hashem in the wilderness?
The Malbim answers that the reason there is no such obligation is because that chapter highlights unseemly behavior on the part of the Jewish people. The Torah did not codify remembrances which would humiliate Klal Yisrael by bringing up embarrassing moments from our history. Imagine a law which stated: We are all going to get together now and read how bad our grandparents acted in the Midbar – that in the shadow of Mt. Sinai they started worshipping an idol! The Torah does not require us to engage in such unpleasant rituals.
The Malbim cites in this connection a beautiful Magen Avraham (Rabbi Avraham Abele Gombiner [1635-1682]). This week’s parsha (Ki Sisa) is structured very strangely. About two-thirds of the parsha is read for the first two aliyahs, with the last third of the parsha divided up between five very short aliyahs. I had my Bar Mitzvah on Parshas Ki Sisa. A Bar Mitzvah boy does not appreciate very much needing to read two-thirds of the parsha before he can take a break! Why is it like that?
The Magen Avraham shares a beautiful thought. The reason why the first two aliyos are so long is because we want to make sure that a Levi gets the reading of the Egel haZahav. A (Kohen or) Levi is the only one who does not need to be embarrassed by the Chet HaEgel because the Tribe of Levi were the only ones who were not involved in this aveira (sin). Only a Levi can read this parsha without feeling ashamed of his ancestors. “It’s not my problem!”
Similarly, the Malbim says here, we do not want to require a public reading of the parsha of the Egel haZahav in order to remember how bad we were in the Midbar. But, says the Malbim, we need to remember this aveira, and Parshas Parah does obliquely allow us to remember it. Why is that? It is because Chazal say that the Parah Aduma is atonement for the Egel haZahav. Rashi brings in Chumash: Let the mother (cow) come and wipe up the dirt of the child (calf) [Rashi to Bamidbar 19:22]. So, the reading of Parshas Parah is a subtle means of remembering the aveira of the Eigel.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Ki Sisa is provided below:
- # 046 Dealing with Illness on Shabbos
- # 089 Returning From a Medical Emergency on Shabbos
- # 137 The Census: Can Jews Be Counted?
- # 184 You and the Seriously Ill: How Much of a Responsibility?
- # 230 The Mitzvah of Shekalim and Davening Musaf
- # 274 Saying Tehillim at Night
- # 320 The Melacha of Dyeing
- # 364 The Melacha of Memachek
- # 408 Fax Machines on Shabbos
- # 452 Kiddush Shabbos Morning
- # 496 Tallis: Bringing It Home On Shabbos
- # 540 Machatzis Hashekel
- # 584 The Meat Delivery At Your Door
- # 628 Mincha – How Early, How Late?
- # 671 Neigel Vasser- Washing Hands When Arising
- # 716 Shaliach Mitzva: Is He Always Safe?
- # 760 Can You Sell Your Aveiros?
- # 804 Great Grandchildren
- # 848 Oy! The Fridge Light Is On
- # 892 Borer: Can You Separate White Meat from the Dark Meat?
- # 936 The Obligation to Learn Tanach
- # 979 Chilul Shabbos to Save a Person Who Will Die Shortly
- #1023 The Onion That Was Cut With a Fleishig Knife
- #1067 Cleaning Plastic Tablecloths, Contact Lenses on Shabbos
- #1110 Washing Your Hands Before Mincha
- #1153 Rinsing Out Your Mouth On A Fast Day
- #1196 Taking a Choleh to the Hospital on Shabbos: You or a Non-Jew?
- #1240 Borer Shailos: Piles of Seforim, Pots in the Fridge and the Messy Freezer
- #1327 Nagel Vasser By Your Bed: Necessary?
- #1371 The Hazala Member Who’s NOT On Call On Shabbos: Can He Go On the Call Anyway?
- (2019) Is It Six Hours Since I Ate Fleishigs? Can I Be Maikil and Eat Milchigs Anyway?
- #1460 Being Mechalel Shabbos to Relieve the Anxiety of a Choleh Mesukan: Is it Mutar?
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