These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1346 – Minhag Yisroel Torah: The Power of Minhag. Good Shabbos!
The pasuk in Parshas Re’eh says, “You are Children to Hashem your G-d, you shall not cut yourselves and you shall not make a bald spot between your eyes for a dead person.” (Devorim 14:1) In the past, there was a custom among non-Jews for people to cut or somehow mutilate themselves as a sign of mourning when a person’s relative died. The Torah prohibits this practice. The commentaries all point out the fact that this is the only mitzvah where a negative prohibition is introduced with the statement “You are Children to Hashem your G-d.” We don’t find such a preamble by the prohibition to eat pig or to wear shatnez or anywhere else! Why do we find this unique introduction to the mitzvah of “Lo sis’godedu” about mutilating oneself?
The Seforno gives a beautiful interpretation. Rashi gives an interpretation. I heard a different interpretation, also very interesting, from a talmid chochom from England, whom I met while touring the Swiss Alps.
The person identified himself as a “Monarchist” meaning he supports and believes in the monarchy of England. The fellow is a Yeshivishe fellow, he authored a sefer on the Rambam’s Ma’aseh HaKorbonos, and is a fine talmid chochom – but he is into the monarchy.
He mentioned that the year at that time (2017) marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. At the time of her death in 1997, her passing generated headline stories throughout the world for quite a long period of time. He said that at the time when Diana died, her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry were twelve and ten years old.
In England, the protocol is that the coffin is carried by horse, and the mourners march in back of the coffin as it proceeds to the cemetery. The young boys were instructed to march behind their mother’s coffin, and they were told that they were not allowed to cry. The boys protested, “We don’t want to march, and if we want to cry, we’ll cry!” They were told that this was not their option. They were the princes and this is what protocol called for: March in back of the coffin and do not show any emotion. Bnei melachim, children of kings have special duties. Sons of kings need to act in a certain way.
You and I can disagree, and we can say that telling a ten-year-old that he should not cry at his mother’s funeral is ridiculous. We are not here to debate that, but this is the royal protocol in England.
However, this monarchist was making the point that a person who is the son of a king is royalty, and needs to act differently than other people. He needs to be in control of his emotions.
Using this background, he offered insight into the pasuk, “You are Children of Hashem your G-d, do not cut yourself…” You are the sons of royalty, not figurative royalty but real royalty – the King of all kings, the Holy One Bless Be He. We are the children of the Ribono shel Olam. The Gemara says many times that “all of Israel are the children of kings” (e.g., Shabbos 67a, 111a, 158a).
I am not suggesting that we don’t cry if chas v’shalom we face tragedies in life. Just the opposite is true. We believe in “three days for crying ” (Moed Katan 27b). But we do believe in controlling our emotions. The Torah says over here – you may be tempted to mutilate yourself. Perhaps you have experienced so much pain that you feel like you need to inflict more pain upon yourself. Do not do that! Ay, your emotions drive you in that direction… But, no! You are Children of Hashem, your G-d, and you must retain control over your emotions. You are princes. Princes cannot act like everyone else. They must act with dignity. That is why the Torah says “Do not cut yourself and do not make a bald spot between your eyes over death.”
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 Shoftim is provided below:
- 019 – Copying Cassette Tapes
- 109 – Hasogas G’vul: Infringing on Another’s Livelihood
- 155 – Ba’al Tashchis: Cutting Down That Troublesome Tree
- 202 – Melech v’lo Malkah: A Jewish Queen?
- 249 – May A Daughter Say Kaddish?
- 338 – Relying on a Goral
- 383 – Circumstantial Evidence
- 426 – The Mitzvah of Escorting Guests
- 470 – May a Convict Escape?
- 514 – Can a Ger Be a Rosh Yeshiva?
- 558 – Competition Among Teachers
- 602 – Saying Kaddish for 12 Months
- 646 – Cutting Branches of Fruit Trees
- 690 – The Grandson and Kaddish
- 734 – Making a Bracha on a New House
- 778 – “I’m Bar Mitzvah” – Do We Believe Him?
- 822 – Making a Chanukas Habayis for a New Home
- 866 – Saying Yizkor During the First Year
- 910 – Business Competition Asur or Mutar
- 954 – Visiting The Sphinx in Egypt−Is It Permitted?
- 997 – Finding Out The Future: Mutar or Asur?
- 1041 – Finding Out If “It” is a Boy or Girl? A Good Idea?
- 1085 – Killing Innocent Civilians During Times of War
- 1128 – Getting Undeserved Kavod – How Honest Must You Be?
- 1170 – The Electric Blanket and the Power of Chachomim in Our Days
- 1214 – The Danger of Cutting Down a Fruit Tree
- 1258 – Brachos on the Tefillin – One or Two Brachos?
- 1302 – Cutting Down Your Fruit Tree for Your S’chach
- 1346 – Minhag Yisroel Torah: The Power of Minhag
- 1390 – Saying VaYechulu Friday Night in Shul
- 1434 – Yizkor on Yom Tov – Why?; In the First Year? And Other Yizkor Issues
- 1478 – Can Women Be Told Not to Come to Shul In Order to Make More Space for Men During Covid?
- 1522 – Can You Say Kaddish for More Than One Person at the Same Time?
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