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Parshas Shoftim - Vol. 9, Issue 48
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Mi ha'ish ha'yarei v'rach ha'leivav yeilech v'yashov l'veiso (20:8)

In listing the people who are permitted to return home from the battle front, the Torah includes (20:8) one who is afraid and weak-hearted. Rashi explains that this refers to a person who is fearful that the sins which are in his hand will cause him to die in the battle. It is difficult to understand the use of this peculiar expression. In what way is it possible for sins to be in a person's hand more than they are in his heart or soul?

Further, one of the examples given (Menachos 36a) of such is a sin is a person who speaks between putting the tefillin on his arm and placing the tefillin on his head, mitzvos which are presented in Parshas Vaeschanan. Since this isn't from the more severe sins which require Yom Kippur to effect forgiveness, why doesn't he merely confess and repent his sin, which will effect immediate forgiveness and allow him to remain and fight?

Rav Shalom Schwadron suggests that Chazal specifically referred to the sin as being "in his hand" to hint to the fact that he has yet to relinquish his improper actions and is still figuratively holding on to them. The reason that he is unable to simply repent his actions is that he doesn't want to. Nevertheless, although he is unwilling to admit the error of his ways and correct them, he is still intellectually cognizant of their impropriety and therefore fears the consequences of placing himself in the danger of war. Although he recognizes that his actions are inappropriate and could lead to his death, he is still unable to release them from his hand and properly correct his ways due to the tremendous force of habit.

Rav Yisroel Salanter is quoted as saying that the greatest distance between two places in the world is the gap between a person's mind and his heart, which we see illustrated here. The soldier believes in something in his mind, but unless he can find a way to internalize it in his heart and know it with every fiber of his being, it won't affect his actions.

For this reason, Hashem told Moshe in Parshas Tetzaveh that the unique garments that were worn by the Kohanim during the time that they served in the Beis HaMikdash were so special and holy, they couldn't simply be made by anybody who possessed the necessary skills and craftsmanship. Rather, Hashem instructed Moshe (Shemos 28:3) to command the wise of heart to make these special garments for Aharon and his sons.

The Torah recognizes that the primary criterion for evaluating wisdom lies in the ability to connect one's mind, and the information stored therein, with his heart, which guides and determines his decisions and actions. It is for this reason that Hashem stressed the importance of selecting the truly wise - the wise of heart - to make the special garments worn by the Kohanim.

Although the society in which we live holds wisdom and its pursuers in high esteem, we must recognize that our study of Torah cannot become just another source of intellectual stimulation and knowledge. The Torah is described as a "Toras Chaim," for it is intended to provide us not just with intellectual stimulation, but to shape our actions and to guide us in every decision that we make in life. Therefore, as we pursue our studies, it is important to be cognizant of the Torah's message about the true definition of wisdom. As we begin the difficult work of honestly evaluating ourselves and attempting to improve and grow throughout the month of Elul, the first step is to understand that whatever we study must penetrate our hearts and become part of us so that it influences and guides our future actions and makes us truly wise, a recognition which will allow us to loosen our grips on our sins and completely release them from our hands.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Torah admonishes (16:19) judges against accepting bribes and warns that doing so will blind the eyes of the wise and twist the words of the righteous. Why does the Torah forbid the judge to take a bribe but not similarly prohibit the parties from giving a bribe? (Tosefes Beracha)

2) A king is not permitted to have more than 18 wives (Rashi 17:17). If a man was married to 19 women and subsequently appointed king, was he required to divorce one of them? (Derech Sicha)

3) The Torah forbids (18:10) a Jew to practice sorcery. Is it permitted to perform the slight-of-hand tricks commonly practiced by magicians today? (Chochmas Adam 89:6, Torah L'Daas Vol. 5)

4) One who kills accidentally is required to flee to one of the cities of refuge and to remain there until the death of the Kohen Gadol (19:4-5). In the event that he exits before this time, even temporarily, the redeemer of the blood is permitted to kill him (35:26-27). If the accidental murderer encounters the blood-avenger, is he permitted to kill him in order to protect himself, or is that considered an act of murder? (Mishneh L'Melech Hilchos Rotzeach 1:15)

  2014 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net


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