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Parshas Va'eschanan -
Vol. 3, Issue 44
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Va’eschanan el Hashem (3:23)
Moshe petitioned Hashem 515 times to rescind His decree and allow him to enter the land of Israel. The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Devorim 940) teaches that this is hinted to in the word Va’eschanan – and I beseeched – which has a numerical value of 515.
The P’nei Yehoshua (Berachos 32a) writes that this figure may also be mathematically derived. Rashi writes that Moshe began to entreat Hashem after conquering the lands of Sichon and Og. This area, where the tribes of Reuven, Menashe, and Gad dwelled, would later possess some of the holiness of the land of Israel. Because Moshe was permitted to enter this region, he thought that perhaps Hashem had revoked His oath prohibiting him from entering the land of Israel.
Even before the actual military battle, Moshe know that the Jewish people would emerge victorious. Hashem told him not to fear Sichon and Og (2:31, 3:2) since He had already delivered the Heavenly angel in charge of their lands into Moshe’s hands. The Gemora relates (Bava Basra 121a, also see Rashi 2:17) that Hashem told him this on 15 Av. On that day, the last of those sentenced to die in the wilderness due to the sin of the spies passed away, and the Jews once again merited Hashem’s prophecy.
From 15 Av until Moshe’s death on 7 Adar, there are 200 days. If Moshe implored Hashem during each of the three daily prayers, he would have petitioned a total of 600 times. However, it is forbidden to pray for personal needs on Shabbos (Mishnah Berurah 288:22). Subtracting the prayers that he wasn’t permitted to say on Shabbos, of which there were 28 during this period, leaves 516 prayers.
However, prophecy didn’t return to Moshe on 15 Av until the morning, leaving him without a reason to beseech Hashem during that day’s evening prayers. From the morning of 15 Av until his death on 7 Adar at the time of Mincha (Tosefos Menachos 30a d.h. mi’kan), Moshe prayed for the nullification of the decree precisely 515 times!
Ki tolid banim u’vnei banim
v’noshantem b’aretz v’hischasem … v’asisem ha’ra b’einei Hashem Elokecha
l’hachiso ha’idosee ba’chem ha’yom es ha’shomayim v’es ha’aretz ki avod
toveidun maheir (4:25-26)
The Torah threatens that after the Jewish people become accustomed to living in Israel, if they take it for granted and perform evil acts in Hashem’s eyes, He will have no choice but to promptly destroy them. Rashi writes that the numerical value of the word v’noshantem – and you grow old in the land – is 852. This hints that they will be exiled after 852 years of living in Israel. However, if Hashem allowed them to remain for the full period, He would be forced to carry out the threat of the next verse: to annihilate them. To allow them to remain intact, Hashem mercifully exiled them prematurely after 850 years.
While Hashem’s compassionate act was certainly beneficial, it remains difficult to understand why He sent them into exile two years early. Wouldn’t it have sufficed to allow them to remain in the land for one more year, during which time they would have an opportunity to repent their sins, and to expel them at the end of 851 years if they hadn’t corrected their ways?
The Leket Yosher writes in his introduction that the Terumas HaDeshen suggested that this difficulty is the source for the widespread belief that when comparing the gematrios of two words or phrases, they are permitted to differ by one and still be considered equivalent. Had Hashem permitted the Jews to remain in Israel for 851 years, He would no longer have been able to lighten their sentence by merely exiling them. Since 851 is only one year less than the numerical value of v’noshantem, it would have been considered a fulfillment of the Torah’s frightening threat, and Hashem would have to destroy the Jewish nation. To avoid that catastrophic scenario, He had no choice but to send them out two years early!
Lech emor la’hem shuvu la’chem l’ohaleichem (5:27)
There is a Talmudic maxim (Yevamos 97b) that ger she’nisgayer k’katan she’nolad dami – a non-Jew who converts to Judaism is legally considered newly reborn, and is no longer the person he was with the relatives he used to have. In his commentary on Avodah Zara (63b), the Chasam Sofer writes that he was troubled his entire life at his inability to locate a source for this ruling which the Gemora in many places seems to take for granted.
The Meshech Chochmah suggests that this rule may be derived from our verse. Moshe’s father Amram was one of the greatest men of his generation and was married to his aunt Yocheved, a marriage which is forbidden to Jews but permitted to non-Jews. If one of the leaders was married to his close relative, it is reasonable to assume that many other Jews did likewise and married family members who weren’t forbidden to non-Jews.
After the giving of the Torah, Hashem instructed Moshe to tell the people to return to their tents. The Gemora in Moed Katan (7b) understands this as a reference to their wives. Although they were required to abstain from marital relations for three days prior to the giving of the Torah in order to receive it in a state of spiritual purity, they were now permitted to resume normal family life.
However, at this point, those Jews who were married to relatives to whom they were now forbidden by the Torah should have been required to divorce them. If Hashem told Moshe to permit all of the Jews to return to their wives, their conversion must have made them as if they were reborn and no longer related to their wives. This permitted them to remain married, and from here we may derive the source for the law which the Chasam Sofer sought!
V’ahavta es Hashem Elokecha b’chol l’vav’cha uv’chol naf’shecha uv’chol m’odecha (6:5)
The first paragraph of Shema commands us to love Hashem with all of our hearts. This is difficult to understand. How can Hashem require a person to love Him, as emotions must be genuine and sincere, and mandated love is hardly an ideal level to strive for?
Rav Akiva Eiger suggests that feelings of love toward Hashem should come naturally. It is human nature to instinctively love a person who we feel loves us. Shlomo HaMelech writes in Mishlei (27:19) k’mayim ha’panim l’panim kein lev ha’adam l’adam – just as water reflects back the face of the person looking into it, so too does the human heart mirror the emotions that it receives from others.
We need merely focus on contemplating and internalizing the unfathomable love that Hashem feels for every Jew, and reciprocal feelings of love will automatically well up in our hearts. It is for this reason that we conclude the blessing which immediately precedes the morning recitation of Shema with the words Ha’bocher b’amo Yisroel b’ahavah – Who chooses His people Israel with love – and the evening recitation with the words Oheiv amo Yisroel – Who loves His people Israel. As we focus on these words and remind ourselves of the tremendous love that Hashem feels for us, we can’t help but experience reciprocal feelings of love, which will allow us to recite Shema with the proper emotions and concentration.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Although Hashem forbade Moshe to actually enter the land of Israel, He did allow him to see the entire land, commanding him (3:27) to ascend to the top of a cliff and raise his eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward in order to take in the entire land. As Moshe was standing to the east of the land of Israel, why did Hashem command him to also look to the east when the land he would see in this direction wasn’t part of Israel? (Oznayim L’Torah)
2) Moshe exhorted the people (4:9) not to forget that which they had seen or learned at Mount Sinai. Chazal list many things which can cause a person to forget his Torah learning. How many of them can you name? (Kuntres Sefer Zikaron by Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Torah L’Daas Vol. 5)
3) The Torah commands (4:39) a person to know – v’yadata ha’yom – that Hashem is G-d in the Heavens and the earth, and there is no other power besides from Him; the Rambam similarly refers (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1:1) to a mitzvah to know this reality. Why is this mitzvah known as emunah – belief – instead of yediah – knowledge? (Toras Chaim)
4) If Reuven asks Shimon to kill him, it is forbidden for Shimon to do so, and if he does so in the presence of witnesses who give him proper warning, he is put to death for violating the prohibition against murder (5:17). Although prohibited, if Shimon is preparing to kill Reuven at Reuven’s request, is he legally considered a rodef – pursuer – whom one is permitted to kill if necessary in order to save Reuven’s life? (Minchas Chinuch 34:13)
5) There is a legal principle known as shomea k’oneh – a person may fulfill his obligation to recite a blessing or prayer by listening to the recitation of another. Is it possible to perform the mitzvah of saying Shema by listening to another person say it? (Shu”t Maharam Alshaker 10, Magen Avrohom 59:5, Eliyah Rabbah 62:2, Aruch HaShulchan 62:8)
6) The Mishnah in Taanis (26b) teaches that Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur were the days on which Jewish maidens would go out in the field in order for the eligible males to select their matches. What was special about Tu B’Av, and in what way did this make it a day especially suited for the making of shidduchim (matches)? (Derashos U’Sichos Sheivet HaLevi 5759 pg. 346-7)
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