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Parshas Vo'eschanan -
Vol. 7, Issue 41
Compiled by Oizer Alport
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’vavcha uv’chol nafshecha uv’chol me’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’ahava” – Who chooses His people Israel with love – and the evening recitation with the words “ohev 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.
V’hayu ha’devorim ha’eileh asher
anochi m’tzav’cha hayom al l’vavecha
Rav Yisroel Salanter writes in Ohr Yisroel (27) that the mitzvah of learning Torah isn’t merely a requirement to spend one’s time engaged in the study of Torah. It additionally contains a second component: the mitzvah of yedias ha’Torah – knowing the entire Torah.
A group of yeshiva students once approached Rav Shach in the middle of the winter to speak with him. They began discussing the topics which are dealt with near the beginning of the tractate their yeshiva was studying at that time. Rav Shach, who was known for his strong opposition to the slow pace of study which has become prevalent in many yeshivos, chided them, “It’s your fault that we are currently in the midst of a severe draught. When Hashem looks down at the earth and sees that the yeshiva students are only up to daf “dalet,” He assumes that the winter zman (semester) has just begun, and the time for rain hasn’t yet arrived. If you would be learning at a faster pace and covering the ground you’re capable of, Hashem would realize how much of the zman has elapsed and how desperately we need the rains to come!”
Nachamu nachamu ami (Yeshaya 40:1 – Haftorah)
The well-known Haftorah which is read on Parshas Vaeschanan begins Nachamu nachamu ami – Comfort, comfort My people. Why is the word “nachamu” repeated? The Medrash explains (Eichah Rabbah 1:57) that because the Jewish people sinned doubly, as indicated by the double expression (Eichah 1:8) “Cheit chat’ah Yerushalayim” – Jerusalem has greatly sinned – they were doubly punished, as Yeshaya continues to say (40:2) “Ki lakcha miyad Hashem kiflayim b’chol chatoseha” – the Jews received double from Hashem’s hand (as punishment) for all of their sins. As a result, when they repent their sins, they will be doubly comforted, as indicated by the double expression “Nachamu nachamu ami” in our verse.
What is difficult to understand is the Medrash’s statement that the Jews doubly sinned. How is this to be understood? It can’t mean that they did a lot of sins, because then the verse would simply say that they did many sins. What does it mean that each of their sins was doubled, and what is the connection between this and a double consolation?
The Darkei Mussar explains that Hashem gave us the Torah to be a light unto the nations, meaning that the Torah is not only for us, but for all of the nations of the world. If we behave the way that Hashem commanded us, the non-Jews will see our conduct and be so impressed by it that they will want to imitate us and they will become elevated as well. For this reason, the Torah was given in 70 languages, corresponding to the 70 nations of the world.
Unfortunately, when we don’t behave properly, not only do we go down spiritually, but the non-Jews for whom we’re supposed to be role models go down as well. He writes that in his times, people complained that the non-Jews around them acted like lowly animals. He suggests that instead of focusing on them and blaming them for acting so inappropriately and immodestly, we should focus on ourselves and realize that if we behave in the way that we are supposed to, we will elevate not only ourselves but them as well, so the fact that they are acting in this manner is on some level our fault and responsibility.
In light of this, he explains that the Medrash says that the Jews sinned doubly because not only did they sin, but their actions had a negative impact on everybody around them, and they were held accountable for this as well. As a result, we were doubly punished, not only for our sins but also for theirs. However, the Medrash adds that the time will ultimately come when we will properly fulfill our mission and purpose, and not only will we be elevated, but the entire world will be elevated with us, and we will be doubly comforted for all of our pain and suffering, may it be speedily in our days.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Moshe’s petitions to enter the land of Israel were denied (3:26). Why didn’t he at least merit having his bones buried in the land of Israel so that he could enter it posthumously, as did Yaakov and his 12 sons? (Rabbeinu Bechaye)
2) 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)
3) 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)
4) 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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