Rabbi Ozer Alport has recently
If you don't see this week's issue by the end of the week, check http://parshapotpourri.blogspot.com which may be more up-to-date
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parshas Kedoshim - Vol. 11, Issue 31
Compiled by Oizer Alport
The Torah commands us not to place a stumbling block before the blind. Rashi explains that this prohibition doesn't only refer to causing a person who is literally blind to trip and fall, but it also applies to anybody who is "blind" in a certain area, as we are exhorted not to give him bad advice which could cause him to stumble. However, Rashi adds a word and emphasizes that this prohibition is transgressed by offering advice which is not suitable for him. What lesson is Rashi coming to teach us?
The Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, was once approached by the director of a prominent organization, who wanted his assessment about whether he should offer a leadership position within the organization to a certain individual. The Rav replied that he thought that the person in question was well-suited for the job and encouraged the director to hire him. When the individual was offered the position, he went to consult the Brisker Rav to solicit his opinion about whether he should accept the opportunity. He was advised to turn it down.
When the director heard that the prospective hire was declining the position at the recommendation of the Brisker Rav, he was shocked and astounded. He immediately returned to the Rav's house to ask him why he had changed his mind after initially maintaining that this individual was qualified for the job and advising him to offer him the position.
The sagacious Rav replied, "My opinion did not change at all. When you originally approached me, you asked whether it was in the best interests of your organization to hire this person, and I responded that it was. However, when he came to ask for my guidance, he didn't ask what would be best for the organization, but rather what would be best for him, to which I responded that it was not a good idea for him to accept the position. The Torah requires us to give advice that is in the best interests of the advice-seeker, and if I would have told him to accept the job, which would be good for you but not for him, I would have transgressed this prohibition," a lesson that we should bear in mind when our opinions are solicited and we are tempted to respond in the way that we would like the other person to act, even though it may not be the best advice for the questioner.
In explaining the roots of the prohibition against taking revenge, the Sefer HaChinuch (241) writes that a person is obligated to believe and recognize that everything which happens to him was ordered by Hashem. In this vein, Dovid HaMelech commanded (Shmuel 2 16:11) that Shimi ben Geira not be harmed for cursing him, explaining that "Hashem told him to curse me." The Torah therefore forbids taking revenge against a person who harms or hurts us, since he was just an agent to execute Hashem's decrees.
This idea is difficult to reconcile with an explanation of the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh in Parshas Vayeishev. The Torah records (Bereishis 37:21) that while the rest of the brothers were plotting to kill Yosef, Reuven saved him by suggesting that they instead throw him into a pit. Since Rashi writes (37:24) that the pit was full of poisonous snakes and scorpions, in what way was this considered "saving" Yosef and not merely substituting one type of death for another?
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that while humans have free will and the ability to do something which wasn't decreed in Heaven, animals have no such free choice and are limited to whatever was decided by Hashem. Reuven knew that Yosef wasn't the wicked pursuer that the other brothers thought he was and was confident that a death sentence hadn't been decreed upon him.
Nevertheless, Reuven feared that his brothers, with their free will, would succeed in their plans to kill Yosef. Reuven "saved" Yosef by having him thrown into a pit where he knew that the snakes and scorpions would have no permission to harm him. This seems to contradict the principle of the Sefer HaChinuch, who writes clearly that humans have no ability to harm innocent people and should be viewed as mere executors of Hashem's decrees.
A possible reconciliation is that in Derech Sicha, Rav Chaim Kanievsky clarifies that the explanation of the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh isn't to be taken completely literally. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh didn't mean to say that humans are capable of killing a totally innocent person against Hashem's will, but rather that a person needs more merits to be saved from those with free will. According to this understanding, this explanation needn't contradict the opinion of the Sefer HaChinuch that whatever transpires is ultimately a fulfillment of the Divine plan.
The Torah forbids the consumption of orlah, the fruits produced by a newly-planted tree for the first three years. Additionally, the fruits that grow during the fourth year have special sanctity and must be taken to Jerusalem and eaten there. Only from the fifth year onward is the owner free to eat his fruit at home. In explaining the reason for the mitzvah of orlah, the Ramban writes that typically, the fruits produced by a new tree will be of inferior quality, as it takes time for a tree to be able to yield strong and healthy fruits. Because Hashem wants the first fruits that are eaten in Jerusalem to be tasty and robust, He forbade the produce of the first three years, so that those taken to Jerusalem in the following year will be hearty and succulent, which would not be the case for the fruits that grow during the tree's first year.
However, the Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:1) gives an alternative rationale for the mitzvah of orlah, based on its juxtaposition to the commandment of (19:26) lo soch'lu al ha'dam - do not eat on the blood. Rashi writes that this is a prohibition against eating from an animal that was ritually slaughtered before its blood has completely drained out. The Medrash explains that the mitzvah of orlah is intended to teach us the invaluable quality of patience. Human nature is to seek immediate gratification; after slaughtering an animal, many people want to eat the tantalizing meat immediately. To help us overcome this propensity, Hashem specifically commands us to slow down and wait until the blood has completely emptied out. The Torah reinforces this lesson by juxtaposing the mitzvah of orlah, which requires us to wait three entire years until the fruit of a newly-planted tree may be consumed, to the prohibition of eating on the blood.
Rav Yissocher Frand points out an apparent contradiction in Hashem's instructions to Adam. He first told Adam that he was allowed to eat from every tree in the garden, only to then forbid him to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (Bereishis 2:16-17). How can this prohibition be reconciled with Hashem's explicit permission to eat from any tree in the garden, including the Tree of Knowledge?
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (Vayikra 19:26) explains that Adam was in fact permitted to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, but with the stipulation that he was required to wait until Shabbos to do so. In fact, had Adam waited, he would have made Kiddush from wine made from the grapes of the Tree of Knowledge. In other words, Adam's sin was not that he ate fruit from a tree that was completely off-limits to him, but rather that he didn't wait to consume it in the appropriate time, a mistake whose consequences continue to afflict us today.
Moreover, Rabbi Frand adds that one of the Arizal's students points out that the temporary prohibition against eating from the Tree of Knowledge was given to Adam in the ninth hour on Friday (Sanhedrin 38b), the day he was created. Had Adam patiently waited a mere three hours, he would have been permitted to consume its fruits; unfortunately, he sinned and ate from them prematurely a mere one hour later. As a rectification of Adam's inability to wait for three hours, the Torah gives us the mitzvah of orlah, which requires us to wait patiently for three full years before we may consume the fruits of any newly-planted tree. Orlah teaches us that not everything must be used or enjoyed just because it seems available and we are convinced that we must have it immediately, but rather davar b'ito mah tov - everything is good in its proper time (Mishlei 15:23).
To receive the full version with answers email the author at email@example.com.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) A person who causes another Jew to violate any of the commandments, such as giving wine to a nazir to drink, transgresses the prohibition (19:14) against placing a stumbling block before the blind. Is it forbidden to invite a non-religious Jew to come for a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal, as doing so will cause him to sin by driving back and forth? (Shu"t Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 1:98-99, Shu"t Teshuvos V'Hanhagos 1:358)
2) A person who witnesses another Jew acting inappropriately is required to rebuke him (19:17). The Gemora in Bava Metzia (31a) rules that a person is required to give rebuke even 100 times until it is finally accepted. How can this be reconciled with the statement of the Gemora in Yevamos (65b) that just as there is a mitzvah to say something which will be listened to, similarly there is a mitzvah to refrain from saying something which will be ignored (e.g. the first 99 rebukes)? (Eebay'ei L'hu, M'rafsin Igri)
Shema Yisrael Torah Network