This issue is sponsored by
Vol. 19 No. 44
Families Braverman (Givat Ze'ev),
Kisman (Atlanta) and Mensch (Los Angeles)
Miriam bas Yitzchak Ha'Levi z"l
Elka Sarah Rivkah bas Yitzchak Ha'Levi z"l
Longevity in Eretz Yisrael
"In order to prolong your days and the days of your children upon the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers to give to them, like the days of the Heaven on the earth" (11:21).
This teaches us, Rabeinu Bachye explains, that Eretz Yisrael was given to Yisrael forever - like the days of the Heaven (which is eternal). Even if Yisrael will go into exile, they will return to it. This incorporates an assurance that no other nation will take over the land and settle in it during their absence. Indeed, history has substantiated the veracity of this statement. From the time that Yisrael was exiled from the land no other nation ever made any serious effort to inhabit the land and to build it up. The land remained in ruins for almost two thousand years later, until their return .
The Gemara in B'rachos (8a) cites Rebbi Yochanan (who himself, resided in Yerushalayim and purportedly, lived to the age of four hundred), who expressed surprise when he heard that there were old men in Bavel. How can that be, he wondered, when the Torah clearly writes "In order to prolong your days and the days of your children upon the land that Hashem swore … " - longevity is reserved for those who live in the promised land, not for those who live in Bavel!
But when they informed him that they go to Shul morning (for Shachris) and evening (for Minchah and Ma'ariv), his mind was set at rest. For it was on that merit that they were granted long life.
The question remains however - since the Torah writes unequivocally, that it is in Eretz Yisrael exclusively that one merits long life, how does one find old men in Bavel? For there is nothing in the Pasuk to hint that it is confined to people who do not attend Shul regularly!
The author answers with the Gemara in Megilah (29a) which teaches us that all Shuls and Batei-Medrash in Chutz la'Aretz will eventually be transported to Eretz Yisrael. That being the case, he explains, the ground on which they are standing has the status of Eretz Yisrael, since it too, will be taken to Eretz Yisrael together with the Shul. It actually has the status of holy ground. Consequently, whoever attends Shul every morning and every evening is actually standing in the land that Hashem swore to our forefathers, and therefore merits the accompanying promise that his days and the days of his children will be prolonged … .
The answer of the K'li Yakar, which is shared by the Maharsha in B'rachos, is beautiful. The question however, troubles me. I would have thought that those who live in Eretz Yisrael will merit long life, provided they do nothing to lose that right (such as transgressing the three cardinal sins, which the land does not tolerate). But provided they observe Torah and Mitzvos, they do not require any specific merit to earn longevity.
Not so in Bavel and other areas in Chutz la'Aretz. Those who live there are not destined to earn longevity - even if they live according to the laws of the Torah. And Rebbi Yochanan is teaching us here that there is one way of earning long life even in Chutz la'Aretz - and that is by going to Shul every morning and every evening.
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(Adapted mainly from the
Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)
The Luchos that Moshe Carved
"At that time, G-d said to me 'Carve for yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones' " (10:1).
Commenting on the word "l'cho" (for yourself), the Da'as Zekeinim explains that replacing the Luchos would be to his advantage, because a). it would prevent the people from blaming him for depriving them of the precious Luchos (that he had smashed) and b). the Luchos were made of sapphire, and the word "l'cho" denoted permission for Moshe to retain the shavings, which made him a wealthy man.
There are two opinions in the Medrash as to whether Moshe discovered a sapphire mine in his tent or whether he took them from underneath G-d's Throne of Glory.
A Time to Throw …
The Pasuk writes in Koheles (3:1) "Everything has its time, and every object has its moment". There was a time to smash the Luchos and there was a time to make new ones. And this is hinted even more clearly there in Pasuk 5 "There was a time to cast down stones (with reference to the first Luchos) and there was a time to gather stones" (with reference to the second ones).
The Children are Not Blameless
And you shall know today that it is not your children (whom I am warning today) who neither knew nor saw the chastisement of Hashem and His greatness" (11:2).
This is not to say that the children of the current generation will be let off the hook should they sin, says the Da'as Zekeinim. What it means is that the extent of guilt that one can place on someone who hears about miracles second-hand cannot be compared with someone who actually lives through the experience.
Keeping Mitzvos for their Own Sake
"And you shall observe all the Mitzvos … in order (lema'an) that you shall be strong and that you shall come and inherit the land … " (11:8/9).
If this was the true translation of the word "lema'an', the Da'as Zekeinim points out, it would be a command to contravene the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos 'Not to perform Mitzvos in order to receive reward'.
The correct translation of "lema'an" must therefore be 'because of (this)', and what the Pasuk really means is that as a result of keeping the Mitzvos, Yisrael will earn the rewards listed in the two Pesukim.
Five Hundred and Two Years
"In order that your days … will be long, on the land that G-d swore to your forefathers … like the days of the heaven here on earth" (11:21).
The combined years that the Avos lived, the Rosh comments, tallies with the time it takes to walk from heaven to earth. Avraham lived 175 years, Yitzchak 180 and Ya'akov 147, a total of 502 years - and that is the time it takes to travel from Heaven to earth (Chazal actually say 500 years. The extra two, Rabeinu Bachye explains, correspond to Heaven and earth themselves).
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THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
"And what He did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and its riders … and G-d destroyed them until this day " (11:4).
The same word, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, appears in Iyov (12:23) "He causes nations to err then destroys them".
This hints to the Medrash which explains how, as the walls of water of the Reed Sea came crashing down, the male horses on which they were riding mistook the waves of as female horses - with the result that, instead of obeying their riders' orders to turn round and flee, they increased their speed and headed straight for the turbulent waves. Thus was the Egyptian army dragged to its doom.
In similar vein, the Mechilta explains how G-d deliberately left the idol Ba'al Tz'fon standing, exactly where Yisrael were encamped in front of the Reed Sea. By so doing, the Egyptians were led to believe that their great god had trapped Yisrael in front of the Reed Sea, thereby encouraging him to come chasing after Yisrael. This in turn, was merely to lure Par'oh to the Reed Sea and kill them there, before the very eyes of Yisrael.
"The Eyes of G-d are continually on it (Eretz Yisrael) from the beginning (me'reishis) of the year till the end of the year" (11:12).
By virtue of the fact that the Torah omits the 'Alef' from the word "me'reishis", its letters also spell the word 'mi'Tishri' (which is when the year begins).
Moreover, the Ba'al ha'Turim comments, the Torah continues "And it shall be if you will obey My commandments … ", a hint that the one depends upon the other - if K'lal Yisrael will listen to G-d, He will watch over their land and protect. As the Pasuk writes in Mishlei (27:19), describing the relationship between G-d and Yisrael "As water reflects a face back to a face" (whatever face you display in the water, reflects back to you).
"from the beginning of the year until the end of the year. If you will obey My commandments … then I will send your rain in its time. " (11:12-14).
The rain will fall when it is needed and where it is needed, as long as K'lal Yisrael maintain the standard of observance with which they began the year until year's end. But if G-d decrees rain following their resolutions on Rosh Hashanah, and they subsequently drop their standard in the course of the year, then He will still send the rain, only it will fall in the sea and in the deserts (Ba'al ha'Turim).
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