Vol. 6 No. 31
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)
"The tzadik is happy when justice is carried out, but the evil-doers are terrified" (Mishlei 21:15).
Shlomoh is informing us in this possuk that justice, which is the foundation of the world, strikes terror in the hearts of the wicked, but joy in the hearts of the righteous. It is well-known that 'simchah', the expression of joy that is used here, is a more powerful expression than 'giloh' or 'mossos'. That is why he writes (23:24) "The father of a tzadik will be happy with him ("gil yogil"), and the one who gives birth to a wise man (a chochom) will rejoice with him ("yismach bo"), using the word 'giloh' by a tzadik, and simchah, which expresses a stronger form of happiness, by a chochom. This is because a chochom incorporates a tzadik. Otherwise, it is inconceivable that Shlomoh ha'Melech would praise a chochom who is a rosho. And this also explains the possuk in Tehillim (32:11) "Be happy (simchu) with Hashem, rejoice (ve'gilu) tzadikim, and sing (harninu) to Him all those who are straight-hearted". The possuk here uses three expressions of joy - simchah, giloh and rinoh: it places simchah, the greatest of them, first, ascribing it directly to Hashem (for it did not write "simchu, ve'gilu ba'Hashem tzadikim ...", but "simchu ba'Hashem, ve'gilu tzadikim ...").
What the possuk now means is that the tzadik rejoices when justice is carried out in the city, and when robbery and violence are eliminated from among the inhabitants. If on the other hand, justice is not practised and robbery and violence are rampant, he is troubled, for this is the way of a tzadik; "but the evil-doers are terrified", because, when they see the wicked men being apprehended, they are afraid for themselves - maybe they too, will get caught.
Shlomoh is also teaching us here that one is obligated to be happy when a mitzvah is performed, whether it is oneself who performs it or someone else, for it is not written here "the tzadik is happy when he carries out justice", but "when justice is carried out".
It is well-known that the joy that accompanies a mitzvah is itself a mitzvah, and in the same way, that joy is considered an act of avodas Hashem (G-d-worship) no less than the mitzvah itself. Indeed, the Torah in Ki Sovo ascribes the curses coming into effect, to our not serving Hashem with joy. Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehillim "Serve G-d with joy" to teach us that it is the joy that accompanies the avodah which completes the avodah.
And it is for that very reason that they sang in the Beis ha'Mikdosh and in the Mishkon, both with the mouth and with instruments, because music is the medium that brings a person to joy. And that is why the Torah writes in this parshah (4:46) regarding the Levi'im "to serve the service of a service", which the Gemoro in Erchin (11a) interprets to mean the shir (the singing). Because the Levi'im were commmanded to sing and to arouse simchah when the Korban was being brought in order that the mitzvah should be performed with joy.
It is also well-known that a person reaches his full strength, as regards singing as well as work, at the age of thirty - for Chazal have said in Pirkei Ovos (the end of Chapter 5) "Thirty is the age of strength", and it is from the age of fifty that his strength begins to wane - which is why a Levi is disqualified from the avodah at the age of fifty. Because how can he sing to Hashem when his voice is deteriorating? And so the Mishnah in Chullin (24a) states 'Blemishes do not invalidate a Levi from performing the avodah, but age does' - which is why the Torah writes "And from the age of fifty he shall return from the avodah, and not serve any more".
And that is why the Torah orders the Levi'im to be counted between the ages of thirty and fifty, as we see in the opening possuk of the parshah.
Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim
"And a man's Kodshim will belong to him, what a man gives to the Kohen will (truly) be his" (5:10).
In terms of eternity, a man ends up with nothing from all his efforts and achievements in this world. It is only when it comes to Kodshim (in spiritual matters between man and G-d, in Torah and mitzvos), that what he has is eternally his.
Likewise, in matters concerning man and his fellow-man, it is not what he has that is genuinely his, but what he has given away to the Kohen, to the servant of Hashem.
The Chofetz Chayim quotes the well-known Medrash, which illustrates this idea with the story of the three friends who were called to testify on behalf of a man who was being accused of a crime for which he was liable to receive the death-sentence. His closest friend refused to accompany him at all, his second best friend agreed to go with him, but only as far as the King's palace - not one step further. But it was the third friend, whom he barely considered a friend in the first place, who agreed to accompany him to the King's palace and to intercede before the King on his behalf.
A person's best friend in this world is his money, but when, after a hundred and twenty years, he is called before the Heavenly Tribunal to give final reckoning for his deeds, his money will not go with him, even as far as the front door of his house. His children and family are 'willing' to accompany him on the first part of his journey, but they can go only as far as the grave. And it is a man's Torah and mitzvos, whose value and friendship one all too often tends to underestimate (whilst one is still in this world), that follow him to the grave, escort him to the Heavenly Court and intercede before the King on his behalf.
The Chofetz Chayim illustrates man's obsession with material possessions with the following parable: A man once travelled to Africa to make his fortune, to sustain his family comfortably. When he discovered that, due to the heat and shortage of good grazing-grounds, meat and fat were scarce, he opened up a meat and fat business, which soon began to flourish.
A few years went by, and his wife began urging him to return home, reminding him that their daughters were now of marriageable age. So the man began making preparations to return home. He sold his business, but figured that, rather than return home with the money in his pocket, he would do better to invest in something which would earn him a good profit. So he decided that, seeing as fat was so precious in Africa, it would be wiser to invest in fat rather than in diamonds and jewels, which were cheap there. And so, when he embarked on the ship on his homeward journey, dozens of crates of fat embarked with him. At the last moment, as he was about to board the ship, a vendor, after much sales-talk and pleading, managed to convince him to purchase a few pieces of jewellery as gifts for his wife and daughters.
Our businessman had forgotten of course, that what is a good investment here is not necessarily a good investment there - and he also forgot that crates of fat have a relatively short life-span. So by the time he disembarked a few weeks later, the stench emanating from the off-loaded crates of fat was unbearable. The tremendous welcome that the entire town, who all came to the port to greet their wealthy and prestigious colleague, had planned, backfired. His wife scolded him bitterly, for his stupidity and he too, was devastated when he realised that, due to his own folly, he had lost his entire wealth in one thoughtless action. If only he had invested in diamonds, which were cheap in Africa, but so precious here. However, it was too late!
His one consolation was the jewellery that he had recluctantly purchased as he was about to embark on the ship. This he sold, and the family lived off the proceeds for some time to come.
We come to this world for a few years, the Chofetz Chayim concludes, in order to invest for our future in the World to Come. But we often tend to forget about the jewels (Torah and mitzvos), which seem to have little value here, but which are so precious back home. Instead, we fill up barrels of fat (the pleasures of this world), which may have value here, but which are worthless there.
When we arrive home after a hundred and twenty years, we will realise, too late, that the best investments - the jewels and diamonds that were so cheap and readily available here - are inaccessible there. And not only that, but those crates of fat that we accumulated will not only prove to be valueless, but will create a foul stench - for which we will have to pay.
Our one consolation, says the Chofetz Chayim, will be the odd jewel that we picked up here and there. But oy! How we will tear our hair out when it suddenly dawns on us just how many jewels were at our disposal, which we could have acquired, in place of all those crates of fat!
And You Shall Place these Words of Mine ...
Even after you have been sent into golus, you should still continue to excel in mitzvos, explains Rashi; wear Tefillin, put up Mezuzos, in order that the mitzvos shall not be new to you when you return. The Gro is surprised at Rashi's statement, since one is obliged to fulfill Tefillin amd Mezuzos, which are personal obligations, in Chutz lo'Oretz no less than in Eretz Yisroel. That being the case, the obligation to fulfill them is intrinsic, and does not need any secondary motive. Therefore, he claims, there must be an error in Rashi. In the original text, he contends, Rashi must have written 'hey' 'tav', 'ayin', 'mem' - an abbreviation for 'Hafrishu Terumas, Isru Ma'asros', but somewhere along the line, a printer, misunderstanding Rashi's intentions, changed it to 'Hanichu Tefllin, Asu Mezuzos'.
However, apart from the fact that it would be a tremendous Chidush, seemingly contrary to the Gemoro, which exempts the separation of Terumos and Ma'asros even mi'de'Rabonon, in countries which are far from Eretz Yisroel, let alone d'Oraysa, this does not appear to conform with the gist of what Rashi is trying to say.
What Rashi (indeed, the Sifri) is clearly informing us is that, strictly speaking, the Torah was given to be kept in Eretz Yisroel, and it is evident from numerous places in the Chumash, that Hashem's intention was that Yisroel should leave Egypt and live in Eretz Yisroel, as He told Moshe and Yisroel on many occasions. That was our destination, that was to be our homeland - and if it is the homeland of the Jewish people (just as it is the homeland of Hashem Himself, as we explained earlier), then it is also the homeland of Torah - since Yisroel, Torah and Hashem are one.
The Torah may well have been given in the desert (and there are reasons for that), yet that was only a preparation for their entry into Eretz Yisroel. Once they entered Eretz Yisroel, Torah, fundamentally speaking, became confined to Eretz Yisroel - its principles do not apply intrinsically in countries which are governed by forces and powers other than that of Hashem Himself, (as the Ramban writes in numerous places).
However, the Torah is teaching us that, in spite of what we have just written, we are obliged to keep all the personal mitzvos, i.e. not connected with the land (from which one remains exempt even mi'de'Rabbonon) not because they are intrinsically applicable, but in order to be well-trained, and conversant with the mitzvos when we return to Eretz Yisroel. It is not dissimilar to the mitzvah of 'chinuch bonim', which Chazal instituted, presumably in order that the child should be conversant with the mitzvos when he turns bar-mitzvah. Likewise, the Torah commands us to keep mitzvos in Chutz lo'Oretz, and for the same reason, only whereas that chinuch is de'Rabbonon, this chinuch is d'Orayso.
And You Shall Place these Words of Mine ... (cont.)
Chazal have informed us that the first parshah of Shema is the parshah of 'Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shomayim' and the second parshah, that of Ve'hoyo im Shomo'a is the parshah of 'Kabbolas Ol Mitzvos' (B'rochos 13a), and it is this possuk to which they are referring: when we recite this possuk each morning and each evening, we are fulfilling the mitzvah of accepting all the mitzvos and of positively undertaking to carry them out - as far as the mitzvos that apply today are concerned.
The Torah commands us to place the mitzvos on (above) our hearts, and, like we explained in the first paragraph of Shema (in connection with the possuk 'Ve'hoyu ha'devorim ho'eileh' etc. ... 'al levovecho), that, by placing them above our hearts (the seat of our desires) and our souls (the source of our intellect), we elevate them above all of our personal interests, thereby ensuring that we give them top priority.
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