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Parshas Devorim - Vol. 8,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
There is a mystical idea that the content of the parsha read each Shabbos is connected to the events of the coming week. It is interesting to note that Parshas Devorim is traditionally read on the Shabbos preceding Tisha B'Av, which commemorates the tragic destruction of both Temples. What is the connection between them?
The following story will help shed light on the link between them. One day in Yerushalayim, two old friends encountered one another on the bus. Excited at the opportunity to catch up with one another, they sat down together and began talking. In the course of their conversation, one of them casually mentioned the name of an old friend. The other replied, "You didn't hear? She just got engaged last week to so-and-so!" This news left her friend both elated and shocked. "That's so wonderful that she finally got engaged … but to him!? Who would have ever thought that she would settle for a person with so many problems?" Taking the bait, the one who shared the news agreed and proceeded to list problems not only with the chosson, but also with his family's reputation. The conversation went back-and-forth, with each of them heaping more and more question-marks on the match.
After five minutes, a woman who was sitting behind them turned to the gossipers and remarked, "I know you didn't realize this, but I'm the aunt of the kallah that you've been discussing. We obviously didn't know about these serious allegations against the chosson and his family. As soon as I get home, I'm going to call my niece to convince her to break the engagement."
Aghast at the unexpected turn of events, the friends begged her not to do so. They explained, "We were just innocently chatting about recent events. We didn't mean many of the things that we said, and most of them were exaggerated. Please don't break-up this engagement because of our poor judgment." Just then, the bus reached the woman's stop. The wise woman paused before exiting and taught them an invaluable lesson. "You have nothing to worry about. I'm not really her aunt … but I could have been!"
The Gemora in Yoma (9b) teaches that one of the reasons for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash was the sin of baseless hatred of one's fellow Jews. Many times such hatred has its origins in forbidden forms of speech, such as gossip and painful words.
Our verse opens the book of Devorim by relating, "These are the words which Moshe spoke to all of the Jewish people." The Vilna Gaon reinterprets the verse to suggest that Moshe was addressing the need to rectify the sins which caused the Temple's destruction. The verse begins, "These are the words that Moshe spoke." And what were those words? The Vilna Gaon explains that the end of the verse can be read not as merely describing to whom Moshe spoke, but as the beginning of his actual message. Moshe didn't speak "to the entire Jewish people," but rather he told them, "Be united as one nation, not splintered into factions."
Many people who speak negatively justify their behavior by rationalizing that mere words cannot cause actual damage to other people, a mistake made by the two girls in our story. Since the outcome of such erroneous thinking was a widespread hatred powerful enough to destroy the Temple, we allude to the importance of rectifying this sin by beginning the week in which Tisha B'Av falls with the reading of Parshas Devorim, as "Devorim" means "words." As Tisha B'Av draws near, it would be appropriate to use the days ahead to contemplate this lesson about the power of our words and to attempt to rectify the sins which caused the Temple's destruction.
In the middle of his rebuke of the Jewish nation, Moshe blessed them that Hashem should increase their population 1000-fold. The Medrash (Devorim Rabbah 1:11) cryptically comments that our verse is what Dovid HaMelech had in mind when he wrote (Tehillim 5:8) V'ani b'rov chasdecha avo veisecha eshtachaveh el Heichal Kadshecha b'yirasecha - And I (Dovid), through Your tremendous kindness, will come into Your House, and I will prostrate myself toward Your Holy Sanctuary in awe of You - a verse which has no apparent connection to Moshe's blessing. What is the meaning of this Medrash?
Rav Elyakim Devorkes notes that the Gemora in Yoma (22b) rules that it is forbidden to count the Jewish people, even for the purpose of performing a mitzvah, since doing so could make them subject to an ayin hara (evil eye) which may reduce their numbers. Although one may not perform a head-count of Jews, it is permitted to count them via proxy, as was done in the desert when the census was taken by counting the half-shekels contributed by each person (Shemos 30:12-14).
Before beginning the daily prayer services, one often must look around the room to make sure that a minyan of ten adult men is present. However, it is forbidden to do so by counting the individual people present (Pri Chodosh Orach Chaim 55). Instead, it has become customary to choose a verse which has ten words and to recite one word of the verse when pointing to each person present in the room (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 15:3). If one is able to finish the entire verse, this is an indication that the required quorum is present. One such example of a verse with ten words is the aforementioned verse in Tehillim which is quoted by the Medrash.
Rav Devorkes explains that when Moshe blessed the Jewish people that they should become numerous, the Medrash questioned how this blessing can be fulfilled. Since Jews are required to pray with a minyan, one who performs a head-count to see if the required ten men are present will inadvertently invite an ayin hara to strike the people and reduce their numbers, thereby nullifying Moshe's blessing. The Medrash resolves this dilemma by answering that instead of counting the individual Jews present, one may count them using the words of the verse in Tehillim, which will spare them from the threat of the ayin hara and allow Moshe's blessing to come to fruition.
Rav Aizik Ausband was once faced with a dilemma. His father-in-law, Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch Hy"d, was one of the leaders of the Telz yeshiva who was tragically murdered in the Holocaust. Rav Ausband's wife was pregnant, and if the baby was a boy, he wished to commemorate the memory of his father-in-law by naming the baby Avrohom Yitzchok.
The problem was that Rav Ausband's full name is R' Yitzchok Aizik. Since the prevalent custom is not to give a child the same name as his parents, Rav Ausband wondered whether he was permitted to have a son named Avrohom Yitzchok. Should this be avoided because both names would contain "Yitzchok," or does the fact that each would have an additional name make it acceptable?
Rav Ausband presented his query to Rav Eliezer Silver, who replied that the Torah "explicitly" answers this very question at the end of Parshas Mattos. The Torah relates (Bamidbar 32:41-42) that Yair conquered the villages in Gilad and renamed them Chavos-Yair - the villages of Yair. Rashi explains that because Yair had no children, he named the villages after himself to memorialize his name.
The Torah continues and recounts that Novach captured K'nas and its suburbs and renamed them Novach in his name. Why isn't the expression "in his name" also used in conjunction with Yair naming his villages Chavos-Yair? Indeed, in our verse Moshe mentioned that Yair called the cities al shemo - after his name.
Rav Silver answered that because Novach gave his exact name to his conquered territory, the Torah says that he called them "in his name." Yair, on the other hand, added an additional name in calling his villages not "Yair" but "Chavos-Yair." Moshe considered this a memorial to Yair's name, but the additional name makes it a new name which can't be considered "in his name." As a result, the names Yitzchok Aizik and Avrohom Yitzchok, each of which contains an additional name, are considered two different names and may be used by a father and son.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (1:1) that Moshe mentioned Chatzeiros as an allusion to the sin of Korach's rebellion, and Di Zahav to hint to the sin of the golden calf. Why are these sins listed in non-chronological order, which is again repeated in Tehillim (106:16-19)? (Chanukas HaTorah)
2) Moshe commanded the judges (1:17) not to fear any potential litigant. If a judge fears that one of the litigants may kill him, is he permitted to recuse himself in order to protect himself? (Sifri, Bach Choshen Mishpat 12:1, Shu"t Shevus Yaakov 143, Shu"t Z'kan Aharon 126)
3) Rashi writes (1:17) that if a judge has a case involving a small amount of money in front of him and another case comes up involving a larger amount of money, he may not give precedence to the latter case, but must rule on the cases in the order in which they were presented. Is it forbidden to cut in a line, and if so, what is the source of the prohibition? (Ayeles HaShachar)
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