Lo sa’ason kein l’Hashem
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 that the Jews followed. Had this
not been the case, the non-Jewish army would have had no control or 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.
Banim atem l’Hashem Elokeichem lo sisgod’du v’lo tasimu karcha bein eineichem
The Torah prohibits extreme forms of mourning the death of loved ones. Since the
laws of nature dictate that every living thing will eventually die, why is human
nature to mourn the loss of a loved one, sad as it may be, with such intensity
when we mentally recognize that death is inevitable?
In his work Toras HaAdam on the laws of mourning, the Ramban offers a
fascinating explanation for this phenomenon. When Hashem originally created the
first man, Adam, He intended him to be immortal and created him with a nature
reflecting this reality. When Adam sinned by eating from the forbidden fruit, he
brought death to mankind and to the entire world.
Nevertheless, although this new development completely changed the nature of our
life on earth, it had no effect on man’s internal makeup, which was designed to
reflect the reality that man was intended to live forever. Although our minds
recognize that people ultimately must die and we hear about death constantly,
our internal makeup remains as it was originally designed. We expect our loved
ones to live forever as they were originally intended to do, and we are
therefore plunged into intense mourning when confronted with the reality that
this is no longer the case.
Ki yihyeh b’cha evyon me’achad achecha … lo se’ameitz es levavcha v’lo
sikpotz es yad’cha me’achicha ha’evyon ki paso’ach tiftach es yad’cha lo
The Torah exhorts us to have mercy and 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 will protect us from
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
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 their
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.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) As all of the commandments were already accepted by the Jewish people and
given to them at Mount Sinai, why was it necessary for them to accept them once
again (11:29) at Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival? (Darkei HaShleimus)
2) Does a person who neglects to perform a positive commandment violate the
prohibition (13:1) against subtracting from the mitzvos? (Turei Even Rosh
Hashana 16, Birkas Peretz)
3) Parshas Re’eh contains the laws of kosher food and delineates which species
may be consumed (14:3-21). Why did Hashem make the majority of animals
non-kosher and the majority of birds kosher? (Yad Av)
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 sole basis of their permissibility, why does
the Torah allow us to eat fish (14:9), as fish escaped the flood without Noach’s
assistance and should remain prohibited? (Mishmeres Ariel Parshas Shemini)
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