Vol. 8 No. 45
This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Yerachmiel ben Yitzchak David ha'Levi
Wallace z.l. t.n.t.b.h.
Parshas Ki Sovo
The Twelve Stones
Moshe and the elders commanded the people, that when they crossed the River Yarden with Yehoshua, they were to pick up twelve large stones from the river bed (one stone corresponding to each tribe) and carry them into Eretz Yisrael. Once there, they were to take them to Har Gerizim and Har Eival, construct a Mizbei'ach with them and lime them. On the Mizbei'ach they were to write the entire Torah (in Lashon ha'Kodesh as well as in the seventy universal languages), after which, they would sacrifice peace-offerings on it.
According to the Gemara in Sotah (34a), there were three sets of stones, each consisting of twelve stones, and not just one. The first set (which Chazal derive from a gezeirah-shavah, and which also contained the words of the Torah in all languages) was erected by Moshe in Arvos Mo'av when he re-established the covenant that they had nullified when they worshipped the Golden Calf. The second set, Yehoshua ordered to be placed in the Yarden itself as they crossed. According to Rabeinu Bachye, the function of this set was for the Kohanim (who stood their ground holding the Aron whilst the people crossed, until the water returned to its original course), to stand on, to avoid having to stand in the mud. This makes it unlikely for the Torah to have been written on them, though in any event, there is no indication that it was.
And the third set was initially erected on Har Eival in the form of a Mizbei'ach, as we explained, and then, after sacrificing on it, they took it apart and carried the stones to Gilgal, where they spent their first night in Eretz Yisrael, and where they re-erected them.
Incidentally, Rashi's explanation in the Chumash (that the three sets refers to the Yarden, Har Eival and Gilgal) does not conform with this Gemara (and the Agados Maharsha, among others, queries him on this point).
The significance of the use specifically of stones for this triple Mitzvah is reminiscent of the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. Bearing in mind that here too, they were to contain the Torah, the Torah's choice of material in both cases, can hardly have been a coincidence.
The Agados Maharsha explains that stone represents something fundamental, and that certainly aptly describes both the Ten Commandments and the entire Torah. Perhaps we can add the significant qualities of stone in that it lasts and does not rot and is not subject to Tum'ah, and here too, these descriptions are equally pertinent to Torah. And finally, a stone is called 'even', because it was created for 'binyan', for building purposes. Torah too, is a binyan, inasmuch as the Mitzvos and other 'components' cannot be seen as independent entities, but as part of a glorious building.
At least two miracles occurred in connection with these stones. To begin with, Har Gerizim and Har Eival were a distance of sixty Mil (one and a half days walking distance). Yet they traveled there, set up the stones, wrote the entire Torah on them in all seventy-one languages and went through the entire ceremony described in this Parshah and returned, all before nightfall.
The second miracle is cited by the Ramban, who, on the assumption that the stones were not that gigantic, ascribes the fact that they were able to write the entire Torah on them seventy-one times, with all the Tagin (crowns) to a miracle. He discounts the opinion of Reb Sa'adya Ga'on, who maintains that it was only the Taryag Mitzvos that were written on the stones, since the wording of the Pasuk here implies otherwise.
It is interesting that one of the miracles concerned, transcended time, whilst the other transcended place.
It seems strange that the Ramban should have doubts about the size of the stones under discussion, seeing as the Gemara in Sotah (34a) gives the volume of each stone as forty Sa'ah (one Amah by one Amah by three Amos - the measurement of a minimum size Mikvah). See Rashi by the Meraglim (13:23), who cites Chazal, who use the size of the stones to gauge the size of the cluster of grapes that the spies brought back with them.
(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)
"And it will be when you come to the land" (26:1).
This Pasuk follows that of eradicating Amalek. The moment Yisrael entered the land, they became obligated to blot out Amalek, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains.
And that explains why Amalek tried to stop them from reaching Eretz Yisrael. And this 'he' did by informing Par'oh that Yisrael had fled (in an effort to have them brought back to Egypt. Because according to one Medrash, when the Torah writes in Beshalach 13:5 "And it was told to the King of Egypt that the people had fled", the informant was none other than Amalek).
Nor was this the first time that Amalek adopted these tactics, for he was also the one who informed Lavan that Ya'akov had fled.
And that in turn, explains why the Parshah of Bikurim (containing the words '"Arami oved ami", with reference to Lavan) appears in this Parshah.
Giving is Getting
"And you will rejoice in all the good ... when you finish giving all the Ma'aser" (26:11/12). The juxtaposition of these two Pesukim reminds us that it is the giving of Ma'asros that results in experiencing the goodness of Hashem, as Chazal have taught 'Give Ma'aser in order to become rich'.
What Are We Doing in Eretz Yisrael
" ... a land flowing with milk and honey ... today I am commanding you to perform these statutes and judgements" (26:15/16).
This hints at what the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (with reference to the lands of the seven nations - comprising Eretz Cana'an) "And He gave them the lands of the nations so that that they should observe his statutes and keep his laws".
In fact, this theme appears in the Torah on numerous occasions (see for example Re'ei (11:31/32).
" ... with all your heart and with all your soul ... you carved out (designated) Hashem ... " (26:16/17).
"With all your heart and with all your soul" hints at the Sh'ma (which contains these words). As the Gemara explains in B'rachos (6a) 'You carved Me out in the world (by reciting the Sh'ma), I will respond by carving you out', as the Pasuk writes in Divrei Hayamim 1, 17:21 " ... and who is like Your people Yisrael, a unique nation on earth!"
And what's more, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, "You carved Hashem out" ("es Hashem He'emarto ha'yom") has the same numerical value as 'Zu K'riy'as Sh'ma'.
The Six Sedarim
"You carved out Hashem - to be for you a G-d, and to go in His ways, and to observe His statutes and His mitzvos and judgements and to listen to His voice" (26:17).
This Pasuk hints at the six Sedarim of the Mishnah, says the Ba'al ha'Turim: -
"to be for you a G-d" hints at Seder Zera'im, which begins with the Sh'ma, as well as dealing with T'rumos and Ma'asros, which are synonymous with the fear of G-d.
"and to go in His ways", at Seder Mo'ed, by which it is written "if you will withdraw your feet (with reference to Shabbos).
"and to observe His statutes" hints at Seder Nashim, in connection with which the Torah writes "and you shall observe My statutes".
"and His mitzvos", at Kodshim, which incorporates Korbanos, by which the Torah writes "These are the mitzvos".
"and judgements" - hints at Seder Nezikin.
"and to listen to His voice", at Seder Taharos, by which it is written "The words of Hashem are pure words".
Correspondingly, the Torah continues, "And Hashem has carved you out today", and continues with six blessings:
"to be for Him a treasured nation",
"to place you on high"
"for a (good) name"
"and for glory"
"and that you shall be a holy nation".
For Praise, for a Name and for Glory
"For praise, for a (good) name and for glory".
This means that whatever Yisrael pray to Hashem, will be returned to them to wear like a crown.
And this is what Chazal are referring to when they say that 'G-d will one day be a crown on the head of every Tzadik.', because the very same crown that they create for Hashem when they stand before Him in prayer, will be returned to them.
Who ever suggested that any (sincere) prayer can ever go to waste?
On the other hand, Chazal have said that someone who talks idle chatter in Shul during Davening will be surrounded by thorns that will pierce his flesh.
Sixty Mil Away
"And it shall be, on the day that you cross the Jordan River ... you shall set up these stones (on which the entire Torah will to be written - in all seventy-one languages)" (27:2).
Despite the expression "on the day ... ", Har Gerizim and Har Eival were sixty Mil (60 kilimeters, one and half days walking distance) away from the spot were they crossed. This is hinted in the fact that there is no 'Samech' in this Parshah (from Pasuk 1 to 8), because the numerical value of 'samech' is sixty.
Also, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, the numerical value of the words "ha'Torah ha'zos ba'er heitev" is equivalent to that of 'gam be'shiv'im leshonos'.
" ... to shed innocent blood ... cursed be the one who does not keep the words of this Torah ... and all the people shall respond with 'Amen' " (27:25/26).
The juxtaposition of these Pesukim teaches us that murder is equivalent to breaking the whole Torah, says the Ba'al ha'Turim.
And "Amen", he points out, has the equivalent numerical value as the two Names of Hashem, Havayah and Adnus.
That explains why someone who answers 'Amen' to a b'rachah is greater than the person who recited it, because whereas the latter recites only one Name, the one who answers hints at two (though it is unclear why 'Hashem Elokeinu' (which is part of the text of each B'rachah) is not considered two Names?)
(based largely on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
Atoh Gibor Le'olom Hashem
(based specifically on the Arugas ha'Bosem quoting the Levush, except where otherwise indicated)
The first B'rachah of the Amidah is based on the phrase in Tehilim (29:1 ) "Ascribe to Hashem, the sons of the strong ones ... " ('B'nei Eilim'), a title conferred upon the Avos, of whom Avraham was the first), and it refers predominantly to Avraham, as we already explained. Similarly, the second B'rachah is based on the (next) phrase "Ascribe to Hashem glory and strength", which in turn, hints at the Midah of Yitzchak (strength of character), and the third, on "Ascribe to Hashem the glory of His Name", which hints directly at Ya'akov, as will be explained later.
In addition, the key theme of this B'rachah (Techiyas ha'Meisim, the coming to life of the dead) has particular relevance to Yitzchak, whose Neshomoh, Chazal have taught us, left him at the Akeidah ('the binding of Yitzchak'), and was returned to him. This means that Yitzchak Avinu was the first person in history to experience Techiyas ha'Meisim.
Besides the B'rachah, none of the B'rachos begin with 'Boruch Ato Hashem', because they all follow the first B'rachah, whose opening phrase pertains to them too (and this is known as a 'B'rachah ha'semuchah la'chavertah').
Atoh Gibor Le'olom Hashem
The Eitz Yosef, commenting on the word 'le'olom' ('forever') in this context, explains how the strength of human beings tends to wane as they grow older. Consequently, no matter how mighty a man may have been in his prime, he will have become considerably weaker in his seventies and eighties. And by the time he reaches ninety, he will have become a weak man. When we say that Hashem is strong forever, we mean that He is unique, inasmuch as His strength never wanes, because, as the Name 'Havayah' implies, He is as He was, and He will always be as He is (the true meaning of the word 'Hashem Echad'). Indeed, according to the Medrash, this was Haman's mistake, when he assured Achashverosh that he should feel free to annihilate the Jews, and that, as far as G-d's wrath was concerned, he had nothing to fear, because G-d had become old, and was no longer able to protect them. To which Hashem responded " ... and until old and age and until venerable age, I am He" (G-d may well grow older, but He never grows old!).
And I heard another explanation of the word 'le'olam' in the name of the Brisker Rav. The Brisker Rav refers to the Gemara in Gitin (56b), whch interprets the Pasuk in the Shirah "Mi chomachah bo'Eilim Hashem" ('Who is like You among the strong ones') as if it had written "Mi chamocha bo'ilmim Hashem" ('Who is like You among the dumb ones, Hashem!"). They say this in connection with Titus, who, after taking a prostitute into the Kodesh Kodshim, pierced the Paroches and blasphemed G-d. Yet G-d remained silent.
And that is what is meant here by 'le'olam. Hashem is always strong, even when He gives the appearance of being weak. (Perhaps we can ascribe this to Chazal in Pirkei Avos, who describe a strong man as one who exercises control over his Yeitzer ha'Ra').
And, in connection with the fact that it is in this B'rachah that Chazal instituted the mention of rain ('Mashiv ho'ru'ach ... '), due to the fact that rain, like Techiyas ha'Meisim, brings life to the dead. According to the G'ra, what the two have in common is that both are entirely supernatural. And this is why Chazal refer to rain as 'Gevuros Geshamim'.
The Four Keys
The Tur explains that this B'rachah is based on the four keys which G-d retains under His jurisdiction: the key of rain (Matar), sustenance (Parnosoh), revival of the dead (Techiyah), and childbirth (Chayah). These four institutions (which are hinted in the acronym of the word 'Mi*F*Tei*aCh') He declines to delegate to the angels. And all of these are hinted in the course of the second B'rachah. Even that of childbirth, which is not directly mentioned, is alluded to in the words 'and He loostens the bound' (because, before the baby is born, both it and its mother are considered to be in prison). And it is due to this analogy that we recite the Pasuk "Hodu la'Hashem ki tov ... " at a B'ris, because one of the four who need to thank Hashem for their salvation is someone who was set free from bondage. and in the context of a B'ris, this pertains to the mother and baby, as we just explained (P'rishah).
Mechayeh Meisim, Mechayeh Meisim,
The Avudraham ascribes the three direct references to Techiyas ha'Meisim in this B'rachah to the three areas of demise where G-d employs revival. He wakes us up each morning (and indeed, we thank Him for returning our Souls each day), He sends the rain, and He will eventually bring the dead back to life with the ultimate Techiyas ha'Meisim (hence the use of the 'hey' in 'Techiyas ha'Meisim').
The Eliyah Rabah points out that in fact, there are two further allusions to Techiyas ha'Meisim - 'and He keeps His faith to those who sleep in the dust' and 'King who kills and who brings back to life'. In this connection, he refers to the four people who are considered like dead (a poor man, a Metzora, someone who has no children and someone who is blind). The first four references pertain to these four, all of whom Hashem brings back to life when it suits Him to do so. Whereas Baruch Atoh Hashem, Mechayeh ha'Meisim', the grand finale, pertains to the ultimate Techiyas ha'Meisim, as we just explained.
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