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Vol. 5 No.2
So striking was the contrast between the sin of the "Dor ha'Mabul" and that of the Dor ha'Flogoh that, whereas the former was destroyed not only from the World to Come, but also from this world, the latter lost their portion in the World to Come only. They were scattered, but they survived. To teach us, says the Medrash, the power of peace. The Dor ha'Mabul raped and stole, whereas the Dor ha'Flogoh were united and at peace with each other. Their peaceful co-existence may have given them the edge over the Dor ha'Mabul, earning them to continue to exist in this world. Yet see where it led them! It was that very peaceful co-existence which caused them to rebel against G-d. It may have earned them the right to continue to exist in this world - but at one and the same time, it drove them out of the World to Come, even causing them to lose their greatest asset in this world. From here we see clearly that, just as one can use the Yeitzer ho'Ra to serve Hashem ("be'chol levovcho"), so too is it possible to use one's Yeitzer ha'Tov to rebel against Him.
That is why the Mishnah writes in Sanhedrin that unity is bad for the resho'im and it causes harm to the world. And that is why G-d scattered the Dor ha'Flogoh. Because if they used their tranquility and their unity to rebel against Him, then He would have to deprive them of these wonderful advantages. He would scatter them across the face of the earth, and disunite them by making them all speak different languages. As the Mishnah writes there, when the wicked are scattered, it is good for them, and good for the rest of the world.
Although it is not clear from the Torah's description as to what the Dor Haflogoh’s sin comprised, it is however, possible, from the Torah's few sparse words; to understand the category of sin of which the Dor ha'Flogoh was guilty, and to assess the vast distinction between *their* sin and that of the Dor ha'Mabul. The latter (mentioned) generation sinned with their emotions. Like most sins which are rooted in desire, they were not previously calculated, certainly not from a communal point of view. Their sin was more similar to the type of sin described by the Novi in Shoftim (17:6) "each man did as he saw fit".
In stark contrast, the former sin was an intellectual one, rooted in pride and in vanity. There, the rebellion was pre-planned and communally perpetrated.
The Gemoro in Sanhedrin (109a), cites two conflicting opinions as to what the Dor ha'Flogoh were guilty of. This is how the Maharsho there explains it: According to some, the tower was a plan to prevent another flood. On the assumption that G-d's strength lay in the water (a notion that would be copied by the Roman generalm Titus many years later), and not believing that G-d would keep His word - never to bring another flood upon the world - they decided to climb up to the sky, and, once there, to hammer holes into it, until all the huge supplies of water which, they imagined, must be stored there, would drain. In this way, they figured, G-d would be deprived of His 'amunition'.
But others say that they were divided into three groups. One group thought it a good idea to go and build the tower in the heaven and live there, because if Hashem were to send a flood cascading down to earth, they would remain unaffected by it. The second group planned to climb up to the sky and serve idolatry. Meanwhile, the tower would serve to unify them, and as a result of it, G-d would tolerate even their serving idols, since He only rejected the Dor ha'Mabul because they were disunited. And the third group, questioning G-d's right to monopolise the heaven and restrict *them* to earth, plotted to place an idol on top of the tower with a sword in his hand, symbolising the battle they were waging against G-d.
Each of the three groups received its fitting punishment: The group that wanted to go and live in the heaven, were scattered throughout the world; those who planned to wage war against Hashem, were turned into monkeys; and, as for the group that planned to serve idols, they are the ones whom Hashem punished by changing their language, so that they were unable to communicate with each other.
The Shema and its B'rochos
Part I - Introduction
If we were to enumerate the fixed texts that the Torah instructs us to recite on a regular basis, we might be tempted to include the regular reading from the Torah every Monday, Thursday and Shabbos, and the recital of Hallel, which according to some opinions, was already said at the Yam-Suf, after the drowning of the Egyptians (see Pesochim 117a).
However, this would not be correct, since both of the above cannot be considered more than a mitzvah de'Rabbonon. Moshe Rabeinu was the one to institute the reading of the Torah three times weekly (see Bovo Kamma 82a, which uses the term "the Nevi'im among them") and those same Nevi'im it was who instituted the recital of Hallel whenever Yisroel would be delivered from their tzoros.
We would however, enumerate the Parshah of Bikurim, that of Sottoh and Parshas Zochor, all of which were read in their appropriate times. Yet if we were to list those specific sections that the Torah requires of us to read on a daily or at least on a regular basis, we would find that such a list would be confined to the Kriy'as Shema, and to the Kriy'as Shema only.
Birchas ha'Mozon is min ha'Torah, so is Tefillah (according to the majority of Poskim) and so is the mention of the Exodus from Egypt. Yet none of these are specifically worded by the Torah. Birchas ha'Mozon consists of the obligation to thank Hashem for our food, incorporating three B'rochos, one on the food, one on the land (in which we are required to make mention of the Bris Milah and of Eretz Yisroel) and one on Yerusholayim. But the text was composed by Moshe Rabienu, Yehoshua bin Nun, and Dovid and Shlomoh respectively. Regarding Tefillah, even assuming that Tefillah is an obligation that must be performed daily and not just whenever we are in trouble, as some Poskim maintain, the Torah prescribed no fixed text for us to say, but left it to the individual to express his feelings in whichever way suited him best. It was the Anshei Kenesses ha'Gedolah, some thousand years later, who instigated the eighteen b'rochos, and set the general rules upon which our Nussach ha'Tefillah is based. And as for the mention of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, the Gemoro in B'rochos (12b), discussing the third Parshah of Kriy'as Shema, suggests inserting Parshas Bollock, or the Parshah of interest or of weights and measures, instead of that of Tzitzis. So clearly, the Torah left it to the individual, or to the Chachomim, to decide which Parshah we should say that contains the mention of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim. Chazal chose Parshas Tzitzis for the reason quoted there in the Gemoro.
Consequently, we are left, as we wrote earlier, with the Kriy'as Shema, the only fixed text which the Torah obliges us to say - not just daily, but twice daily. Regarding the first paragraph, or at least the first possuk, this is certainly the case, since we rule that at least that is min ha'Torah'; the second Parshah is subject to a dispute among the Poskim; while the third Parshah, that of Tzitzis, is certainly not specifically prescribed by the Torah, as we wrote earlier. The Chofetz Chayim, in his abridged Sefer ha'Mitzvos, rules that all three Parshiyos are min ha'Torah. In any event, the Shema is the only quotation from the Torah, which the Torah has obligated us to say every morning and every evening, so its importance cannot be over-estimated. And it is with this in mind that we begin our commentary on Tefillah with the Shema and its b'rochos.
Part II - The Shema and its B'rochos
The Seforim write that Shachris is actually divided into four sections. These sections in turn correspond to the four worlds: Birchos ha'Shachar correspond to this world; Pesukei de'Zimra to the world of the planets; Shema and its b'rochos to the world of the angels; the Amidah to the world of G-d's holy Throne.
These four worlds, explain the Nefesh ha'Chayim, are hinted in the greatest praise of Hashem uttered by mankind - "Yehei Shemei Rabbo", where we announce that G-d's great Name is blessed le'olam (1) u'le'olmei (2) ulmayo(1), hinting at the above-mentioned four worlds. This will help us to understand better why we insert "Borchu" at this point of the Tefilah: because, as we have just seen, all the worlds are obligated to proclaim that Hashem is blessed, so Chazal placed "Borchu" here at a most strategic point - in the middle of the Tefillah, in between the two sections of Tefillah representing the two lower worlds and the two sections representing the upper worlds.
Elaborating on the idea of the division of the four worlds: the world of the planets, which P'sukei de'Zimra represents, is the world which serves as a connecting link between this world and the upper worlds. In fact, it really belongs to this world.
The world of the B'rochos of Shema on the other hand, is the world which serves to connect Hashem's throne to this world. It belongs therefore to the world of G-d's throne.
It transpires that Birchos ha'Shachar and Pesukei de'Zimra belong to the lower worlds, whereas Birchos Shema and the Shema belong to the upper worlds. It is therefore befitting that one enters the upper worlds with a "dovor she'bi'K'dushah" - (Borchu) - the worlds which symbolise G-d's blessing exclusively - by acknowledging that G-d is blessed.
Borchu es Hashem ha'Mevorach
The Anaf Yosef explains the difference between "Boruch" and "ha'mevorach". That G-d is "Boruch" is a fact, he explains, quoting from the Kad ha'Kemach. Hashem is the source of blessing. But in addition, He is also proclaimed by all to be blessed (as we say in "Keil Odon" - "boruch, u'mevoroch be'fi kol Neshomoh"). In other words, He is self-sufficient, generating everything that He requires for His own continued existence and for the continued existence of all the worlds.
But that is not enough for the continuity of the worlds. For the worlds to be able to continue to exist, it is essential to attach themselves to the eternal source by acknowledging it. And that is the meaning of "ha'mevorach" - namely, that Hashem's Name is acknowledged to be blessed by all souls.
"Borchu" can now be explained like this: "Proclaim Hashem (who is blessed by all, because they need to do so) to be the source of blessing". And the community replies: "Hashem who is proclaimed by all to be the source of blessing, is indeed the source of blessing forever and ever". (He is the eternal source that never dries up.)
(Shabbos Rosh Chodesh) (Yeshayah 66:1-24)
The Haftorah opens with Hashem's bitter complaint that He no longer had any need of their Beis ha'Mikdosh. His throne was the Heaven and His foot-stool, the earth. It was all fine as long as Yisroel appeared before Him with humility and with a broken spirit, but now that they would beat the owner in order to steal from him the ox which they wanted to bring as a sacrifice, shechting a sheep for a Korban was of no more significance than breaking the neck of a dog; their flour-offerings were like the blood of a pig and their frankincense was compared to a gift marked 'stolen'.
They deliberately chose to go on that evil path, they chose to do those things which G-d described as abominable; G-d in His turn (in keeping with the principle "ka'mayim ha'ponim la'ponim" [Mishlei 27:19] - the sort of face that one shows in the water, is the face that G-d reflects back), has chosen to mock them and to allow all their fears to materialise - because they refused to respond to His call to do teshuvah.
Hashem reassures the Chareidim who tremble at His word that there will come a time when they will rejoice. At that time, all those Jews who hate them and who pour scorn on them, will think, that through the type of sacrifices described above, they can compare with the Chareidim and are their equals. But they are mistaken. Hashem appreciates genuine avodah, not what is put on for show, in an attempt to flatter Him. Consequently, those Jews will be thoroughly ashamed, and the Chareidim will rejoice alone (Malbim).
After referring briefly to G-d's vengeance of Gog and Mogog, the Novi discusses the extraordinary joy that will follow the swift return of the exiles to Yerusholayim. It is those who mourned over Yerusholayim in its desolate days, who will rejoice with her then.
Yeshayoh then discusses the exquisite pleasures that Yisroel will experience at that time and the great honour that the nations of the world will shower upon them, and he goes on to describe how G-d will ultimately gather the evil nations to Yerusholayim to join the camp of Gog and Mogog. There, they will bear testimony to His glory before He kills them with terrible plagues. Some will be allowed to escape, in order to travel to distant lands, to tell the nations who did not witness Hashem's glory. But they will be plagued, in order to show the people first hand, how those who attacked Yerusholayim suffered.
And when the nations of the world will hear how G-d destroyed the camp of Gog and Mogog, they will bring Him a gift to Yerusholayim, in the form of the Jews who will still remain in their lands. They will ride them triumphantly on horses and in wagons, accompanied by song and dance, back to Hashem's holy city, Yerusholayim.
Among those Jews who come from far will be some Cohanim and Levi'im. Hashem will restore even them to the Avodah, to serve in their rightful capacity, even though they may well have strayed from the true path (Redak).
The Novi Yeshayoh concludes both this prophecy and his Seifer with the information that, at that time, month by month and week by week, the whole of mankind will come to bow down before Hashem. And when they arrive in Yerusholayim, they will go down to the valley of Gey ben Hinom, to see the corpses of Gog and Mogog and their hordes, to witness firsthand, G-d's Divine justice on those who rebelled against Him and His people. And they will see the fire that will continue to consume their bodies, and the worms that will be unaffected by the fire, eating their flesh (Redak - one of a number of explanations).
However, this can only apply to the first seven months, during which time Yisroel will bury those who are slain in the battle of Gog and Mogog (see Yechezkel 39:12) - after which, no corpses will remain to be seen.
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