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Parshas Re'eh - Vol. 3,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Lo sa’asun kein L’Hashem Elokeichem (12:4)
After instructing the Jewish people to break and smash the idolatrous temples and pillars which they will find in the land of Israel, the Torah warns against doing the same to Hashem. Rashi questions why a Jew would consider destroying the Temple. He explains that the Torah means to prohibit copying the immoral actions of the non-Jews which will cause the Beis HaMikdash to be destroyed.
Rashi also quotes the Gemora in Shabbos (120b), which derives from our verse that although it is forbidden to erase Hashem’s name, it is Biblically permissible to cause it to be erased in an indirect manner. How can our verse, which the Gemora understands as prohibiting only direct action and permitting indirect causality, also be interpreted as forbidding actions which will only indirectly bring about the Temple’s destruction?
Rav Aharon Kotler answers that the Medrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 3:6) refers to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash as the grinding of already ground flour. In other words, although our enemies carried out the actual destruction of the Temple’s physical edifice, in reality its spiritual beauty and splendor had already been removed due to the sinful paths the Jews followed. Had this not been the case, the non-Jewish army would have had no power over the place where Hashem’s presence dwelled.
When Rashi interprets the verse as an admonition against following non-Jewish practices and causing the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, he isn’t referring to indirect causality, which is permitted according to the Gemora in Shabbos. Rather, just as the Gemora forbids directly erasing Hashem’s name, Rashi is teaching us that our sins and immoral choices directly destroy Hashem’s Temple!
Ki y’sis’cha … leimor neil’cha v’naavda elohim acheirim … lo so’veh lo v’lo sish’ma eilav v’lo ta’chos ein’cha alav v’lo sach’mol v’lo t’chaseh alav … ki harog tahar’genu … u’skalto ba’avanim va’meis ki bikeish l’hadich’cha me’al Hashem Elokecha (13:7-11)
The Torah is stricter regarding the treatment of the inciter than it is with the transgression of any other sin. The Torah specifically instructs us not to have any mercy on him and not to attempt to prove his innocence, concepts which aren’t found by other suspected sinners.
The Alter of Kelm points out that this stringency is even greater when one considers that in reality, the inciter didn’t accomplish anything. Although he attempted to convince another Jew to worship idolatry, he was unsuccessful. The other person turned him in and refused to listen to him. Even so, the desire to sway another person from the Torah’s path is so severe that it receives this stringent penalty.
Rashi writes (Shemos 20:5) that Hashem’s reward for those who listen to His commandments is 500 times greater than the punishment meted out to sinners. Many times, a person who is engaged in kiruv rechokim – attempting to educate our not-yet-religious brethren – invests valuable time and energy trying to reach out to another person, only to find that his efforts are completely unsuccessful.
As frustrating as this experience must surely be, the Alter of Kelm offers inspiring words of comfort and consolation based on the aforementioned principles. If Hashem reserves His most severe and stringent punishments for one who merely tries to persuade another Jew to leave the Torah path, how much more must be the immense reward lying in store for a person who tries, even unsuccessfully, his utmost to draw our wayward brethren back to their Creator!
Aseir ta’aseir es kol t’vuas zar’echa (14:22)
The Torah commands us to tithe our crops. The Gemora in Taanis (9a) interprets our verse by playing on the similarity between the letters “shin” and “sin.” It renders the words “aseir ta’aseir” in our verse as “aseir bishvil she’tisasher” – tithe and you will become rich. What source is there for the Gemora’s teaching that tithing will make a person wealthy?
The Vilna Gaon notes that the Gemora (Bava Metzia 31a) understands doubled verbs as requiring a person to repeatedly do the action referred to as many as 100 times. In other words, he is not absolved from his obligation by performing it once. He must do the mitzvah as many times as is necessary.
In this light, our verse, with its doubled command to tithe, should be understood as requiring a person to tithe his money as many as 100 times. However, the Gemora in Kesuvos (50a) records that the Sages decreed that a person shouldn’t give more than one-fifth of his money to charity. If so, the Gemora in Taanis questioned how a person could be permitted to tithe by giving one-tenth of his money even three times, as this would require him to give more than one-fifth of his assets to charity. To resolve this concern, the Gemora answered that the Torah guarantees that a person who does so will become rich and will have enough money to continue tithing – even 100 times – without ever falling below the threshold of having given one-fifth of his original possessions to charity!
Ki yih’yeh b’cha evyon me’echad achecha … lo s’ameitz es l’vav’cha v’lo sikpotz es yad’cha me’achicha haevyon ki pasoach tiftach es yad’cha lo (15:7-8)
The Torah exhorts us to have compassion upon our poor brethren. The Gemora (Bava Basra 10a) records that a wicked Roman nobleman named Turnus Rufus asked Rebbi Akiva, “If your G-d cares for poor people so much, why doesn’t He provide for them?” Rebbi Akiva answered that Hashem allows them to remain poor to provide us the merit of giving them charity, which protects us from punishment.
The Alter of Kelm questions Rebbi Akiva’s explanation. Although the mitzvah of giving tzedakah is certainly a great one, aren’t there enough other commandments that we can do to save us from punishment? What is so unique and special about giving charity, and why must the poor suffer to enable us to specifically perform this mitzvah?
The Alter explains that the mitzvah of tzedakah serves an irreplaceable function. Although one fulfills the technical letter of the law by distributing charity to those in need, in order to perform this mitzvah at its highest level a person must do more than this. It isn’t sufficient to give charity simply because Hashem commanded us to do so and we want to perform His will. A person dispersing tzedakah should feel the pain and plight of the poor beggar as if it were his very own. Just as a person who feels his own hunger naturally responds by feeding himself, so too should we strive to identify with the pauper’s anguish to the point that we would be moved to assist him even if we weren’t obligated to do so.
Rav Eliyahu Chaim Meisels, the Rav of Lodz in Poland, was renowned for his concern for the poor and downtrodden. On one fierce winter day, he knocked on the door of a wealthy, but stingy, man in his town to solicit a donation. After exchanging greetings, the man gestured that Rav Meisels should enter, but he remained outside and began his appeal. The rich man was puzzled by the Rav’s behavior, but he attempted to listen out of respect. After a few minutes he grew so cold that he was unable to continue. He interrupted the Rav and begged him to come inside.
The sagacious Rav explained, “I am here to collect money for a family which can’t even afford to build a fire on a day like today. If we enter your warm home, you won’t be able to relate to their suffering. Only by discussing toheir plight here at your door are you able to understand the magnitude of their pain.” Appreciating both the Rav’s wisdom as well as the extent of the family’s anguish, the miser gave a generous donation.
It is difficult for most of us to relate to the daily suffering that many of our brethren unfortunately know. Now that we understand that empathizing with their plights is an integral part of giving tzedakah, we should try our utmost, whether by volunteering at a soup kitchen or by walking through the park on a bitter winter night, to work on personally experiencing and feeling their pain. Our desire to generously assist them will naturally follow, and in so doing, we will be helping not only the poor but also ourselves.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Why does the Torah repeat (13:1) the prohibition against adding to or subtracting from the commandments, which was already taught in Parshas Vaeschanan (4:2)? (Tal’lei Oros)
2) The Gemora in Sanhedrin (113a) rules that a wayward city which contains even one mezuzah may not be destroyed, as the burning of the mezuzah would violate the prohibition against erasing Hashem’s name (12:4). Why isn’t the burning of the city permitted based on the Talmudic rule that “aseh doche lo sa’aseh” – one is permitted to perform a positive commandment even if doing so entails the transgression of a negative one? (Toras Chaim Sanhedrin 71a, Minchas Chinuch 464 and 142, Matamei Yaakov, MiTzion Mich’lal Yofee, M’rafsin Igri)
3) The Torah prohibits (14:1) various forms of mourning the death of loved ones. Why is the mourning period for the more natural and frequent loss of a parent longer (12 months) than that for the unnatural and seemingly more traumatic loss of a child (30 days)? (Meged Yosef)
4) Although Adam was forbidden to kill animals in order to eat them, Noach and his descendants were permitted to do so (Bereishis 9:3). The Ramban explains that because the animals only escaped the flood because Noach brought them into the ark, they became subordinate to him and mankind was thereafter allowed to consume their meat. If this is the basis of their permissibility, why does the Torah allow us to eat fish (14:9), as they escaped the flood even without Noach’s assistance and should remain with their original prohibition? (Mishmeres Ariel Parshas Shemini)
5) The Torah requires (15:7-11) a person to be compassionate and merciful toward his poor brethren and to generously open his hand to dispense loans and charity to assist them. Does one fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah if he gives less than one perutah, the smallest amount of money which is considered to have any legal value? (Shu”t Beis Yitzchok Orach Chaim 21, Shu”t Maharil Diskin 1:24, Tzedakah U’Mishpat, Matamei Yaakov)
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