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 Parshas Vo'eschanan - Vol. 6, Issue 46
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vaeschanan 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 ŚŗķÁūÔ Ė and I beseeched Ė which has a numerical value of 515.

The Pínei 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 Mosheís 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 Hashemís prophecy.

From 15 Av until the day of Mosheís death, 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 oneís personal needs on Shabbos (Mishnah Berurah 288:22). Subtracting the prayers which he wasnít permitted to say on Shabbos, of which there were 28 during this period, leaves a total of 516 prayers.

However, prophecy didnít return to Moshe on 15 Av until the morning, leaving him without a reason to beseech Hashem during that dayís evening prayers. From the morning of 15 Av until his death on 7 Adar at the time of Mincha (Tosefos Menachos 30a d.h. miíkan), Moshe prayed for the nullification of the decree precisely 515 times.


Uk'shartem l'os al yadecha v'hayu l'totafos bein eineicha (6:8)

In listing the people who are permitted to return home from the battle front, the Torah includes (20:8) one who is afraid and weak-hearted. Rashi explains that this refers to a person who is fearful that the sins which are in his hand will cause him to die in the battle. It is difficult to understand the use of this peculiar expression. In what way is it possible for sins to be in a personís hand more than they are in his heart or soul? Further, one of the examples given (Menachos 36a) of such is a sin is a person who speaks between putting the tefillin on his arm and placing the tefillin on his head. Since this isnít from the more severe sins which require Yom Kippur to effect forgiveness, why doesnít he merely confess and repent his sin, which will effect immediate forgiveness and allow him to remain and fight?

Rav Shalom Schwadron suggests that Chazal specifically referred to the sin as being ďin his handĒ to hint to the fact that he has yet to relinquish his improper actions and is still figuratively holding on to them. The reason that he is unable to simply repent his actions is that he doesnít want to! Nevertheless, although he is unwilling to admit the error of his ways and correct them, he is still intellectually cognizant of their impropriety and therefore fears the consequences of placing himself in the danger of war.

Although he recognizes that his actions are inappropriate and could lead to his death, he is still unable to release them from his hand and properly correct his ways due to the tremendous force of habit. As we begin the difficult work of honestly evaluating ourselves and attempting to improve and grow throughout the month of Elul, the first step is to understand that one of the greatest weapons in the yetzer haraís arsenal is the power of habit, a recognition which will allow us to loosen our grips and completely release the sins from our hands.


Ki yishalcha binch machar leimor mah ha'eidus v'hachukim v'hamishpatim asher tziva Hashem Elokeinu eschem v'amarta l'vincha avadim hayinu l'Paroh b'Mitzrayim vayotzieinu Hashem mi'Mitzrayim b'yad chazaka (6:20-21)

            The Pesach Haggadah teaches that the Torah discusses four types of children. Our verses contain the question attributed to the wise son. For each child, the Torah provides a different answer or explanation that is tailored to his unique circumstances so that the parents will be able to explain the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt to him in a manner which is appropriate for his level. Why does the Torah discuss so many different types of children, and what is the author of the Haggadah trying to teach us by emphasizing this point?

            Our Sages teach that every word in the Torah can be interpreted in 70 distinct ways. Rav Moshe Tukechinsky, the Mashgiach of the Slabodka yeshiva in Bínei Bírak, suggests that this number is no coincidence. Dovid HaMelech writes (Tehillim 90:10) that the average life span of a person is 70 years. Hashem placed in the Torah a corresponding number of levels so that a person wonít be complacent with his previous understanding, but will seek to discover a new layer of depth in each successive year. However, Rav Tukechinsky adds that it is unreasonable to expect a person to begin this project in the first few years of his life, when his intellect isnít yet adequately developed for the task. Rather, this project begins at a personís Bar Mitzvah, when the Torah considers his mind sufficiently advanced to hold him responsible for his actions. It should come as no surprise that Rav Tukechinsky died at the age of 83.

            In light of our new appreciation of the true depths contained within the Torah, we can now understand the answer to our original question. Rav Chaim Soloveitchik explains that the fact that the Torah specifically addresses each unique type of child helps us recognize its greatness. Books which are written by humans are targeted toward one level, but the Divinely-authored Torah addresses and is relevant to every person on his unique individual level.

Rav Moshe Wolfson notes that in secular studies such as mathematics, at the end of each school year the students must turn in their old books and receive new, more advanced books at the beginning of the next year. In contrast, Jews around the world study the very same Torah, Mishnah, and Gemora beginning in their youth and continuing throughout their lives, as the Divine wisdom contained therein may be accessed by each student on his personal level.

Many of us, this author included, grew up with a perfunctory introduction to the basic ďstoriesĒ of the Bible Ė Adam and the forbidden fruit, Noach and the flood, Moshe and the ten plagues, and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Although at that point we may have thought that we understood the full depth of the Torah, we are now mature and intelligent enough to recognize the folly and arrogance of this belief. The Mishnah (Avos 5:26) teaches: Delve into it (the Torah), and continue to delve into it, for everything is contained within it. This is a lesson that each of us, no matter where we are on our personal path of Jewish growth, would do well to contemplate and internalize.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     After Hashem decreed that Moshe and Aharon would die in the wilderness and wouldnít merit leading the Jewish nation into the land of Israel, Moshe repeatedly petitioned Hashem to reconsider and rescind the decree (3:23-25). Why didnít Aharon do the same, and why didnít Moshe similarly pray on behalf of Aharon? (Megaleh Amukos Vaeschanan 28, Panim Yafos Parshas Chukas, Nesivos Rabboseinu, Ayeles HaShachar 31:2)

2)     Many mitzvos may be performed by appointing an agent to do so on his behalf, such as betrothing a woman (Kiddushin 41a). Can the mitzvah of honoring oneís parents (5:16) be done via an agent? (Har Tzvi Parshas Yisro)

3)     The last of the 10 Commandments is the prohibition (5:18) against coveting another personís possessions. Is it forbidden to be jealous of another personís money, or only his possessions? (Nesivos Rabboseinu Parshas Yisro)

  © 2011 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to


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