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Vol. 19 No. 45
A False Prophet
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
"And that prophet or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death, for he spoke perversely about Hashem your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt and who redeemed you from the house of slavery, to lead you astray from the path that Hashem your G-d commanded you to follow, and you shall destroy the evil from your midst" (13:6).
The prophet under discussion is a rebel against the (divine) monarchy, Rabeinu Bachye explains. No matter how many signs or wonders he performs. If he stops the sun in the middle of the sky and proclaims that Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu issued him with a command to worship this star or some other celestial being, he has earned himself the death-penalty by strangulation - for refuting Moshe Rabeinu's prophetic command - not to indulge in idolatry in any form, under any circumstances, as the whole of Yisrael heard at Har Snai "Do not have any other god … !"
And as for the miracle that he performed, that was an act of magic - not divinely inspired.
And this total prohibition is restricted to idolatry. A prophet has the authority to permit any of the other Taryag Mitzvos, provided he performs a miracle to prove his authenticity, which is not necessary if he is a proven Navi, and the people are duty-bound to obey him. However, he is only believed on a once only basis. No Navi has ever been given a mandate to permanently negate any Mitzvah that Moshe commanded, or even to detract or to add to it.
Hence we find that Eliyahu ha'Navi ordered a Bamah to be built during his confrontation with the prophets of Ba'al, even though the Beis-Hamikdash was standing and Bamos were strictly prohibited. Likewise, Yehoshua commanded his troops to capture Yericho on Shabbos, and Elisha ordered the army to stop up the fountains and to chop down the trees during the battle against Mo'av, even though the Torah forbids it.
The Irony Surrounding a False Prophet
Regarding a true prophet who subsequently issues a command to worship idols, the Meshech Chochmah cites the Sifri which explains that, whereas on the one hand, the dreamer and prophet referred to in the Pasuk may well have earned the death sentence for his current prophesy, on the other, he is not suspect retroactively. In the name of the G'ro, he explains this to mean that his current misdemeanor does not disqualify all his previous prophesies - which in fact remain intact.
According to this, he goes on to explain, it may well transpire that the Navi concerned is sentenced to death even as the people are about to break the Shabbos or to perform another major sin - based on an order that the same prophet issued just one day earlier!
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No Doubts About That
"The blessing, when (asher) you will listen to the Mitzvos of Hashem …" (11:27).
Commenting on the word "asher" , rather than "im" (if) as it reverts to in the next Pasuk when discussing the curses, the K'li Yakar explains that G-d had no doubts about Yisrael's re-acceptance of the Mitzvos (at Har G'rizim and Har Eival). Undertaking the Mitzvos, he explains, is easy, and Yisrael were bound to accept it.
The problem is carrying them out, and what the Pasuk is informing us here is that, once they make the commitment, G-d will assist them in fulfilling it. In fact, that is part of the blessing. Perhaps, one may add, this is what Chazal say that 'If somebody comes to purify himself, G-d assists him'.
Moreover, the author explains, the Torah writes "es ha'B'rachah", adding the word "es" with reference to the performing of the Mitzvos, which G-d will facilitate for those who make the initial commitment, as we just explained.
Alternatively, it seems to me that, based on the omission of the word "im", one can interpret the Pasuk to mean that the greatest blessing of all is to be able to fulfill the Mitzvos of Hashem!
Who Eats the Firstborn Animals?
"And you shall eat before Hashem your G-d … in the location … your Ma'aser (Sheini) and the firstborn of your cattle …" (14:23).
But surely, asks the Riva, the firstborn animals were eaten by the Kohanim, and not by the owners, as implied in this Pasuk?
In his first answer he explains that the Pasuk is referring to a custom in those days, to separate two firstborn animals, the first of which the owner would give to the Kohen, the second (the next baby to be born to the mother), which was permitted to Zarim, the Torah is now teaching us, the owner would eat in Yerushalayim. A strange answer if ever there was one. Yet the Riva actually refers to a Piyut in which this Minhag is mentioned.
The same question, says the Riva, recurs later (in chapter 15, Pasuk 19) where the Pasuk once again writes that one should eat one's firstborn animal before Hashem …". Only there, he explains, Rashi interprets both the Pasuk there and the Pasuk here by the actual B'chor and establishes it with regard to the Kohen.
In that case, when the Torah says there "your cattle" and "and your sheep", it is speaking to the Kohen.
The difficulty with this in turn, asks the Riva, is that it implies that it is only a B'chor that is born in the Kohen's flock or herd that must be eaten, but not a B'chor that is given to him by a Yisrael.
He answers that the implication refers (not to the obligation on the part of the Kohen to eat it, but) to the obligation to eat it 'before Hashem' (in Yerushalayim). The Kohen is indeed obligated to eat the latter too, but not necessarily in Yerushalayim. It is not however, clear what the Riva means, since a B'chor, like all Kodshim Kalim, had to be eaten in Yerushalayim, and it had to be eaten by the Kohen (as we say in 'Eizehu Mekoman' each day), irrespective of whether it was his own personal animal or whether it was given to him as a Matnas Kehunah.
"Because a double usage of a hired laborer has worked for you - six years" (15:18).
It was customary to hire a laborer for three years, says the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos. The Torah is therefore saying that one should not feel bad about sending away one's Jewish servant after a six-year period, since he has worked twice as long as a regular laborer.
And the reason behind the custom to hire laborers for three years, says the Da'as Zekeinim, is because one or two years might or might not, contain a leap-year (which meant an extra month's work). Consequently if one were to hire someone to work for one or two years, sometimes it would be the employer who would lose, and sometimes the employee. Every three-year period on the other hand, contains a leap-year, in which case neither stands to lose.
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THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
" … from their flesh you shall not eat … This you may eat from whatever is in the water" (14:8), The juxtaposition of these two phrases, the Ba'al ha'Turim comments, reminds us of the Chazal that with only one or two exceptions, all the non-kasher animals have equivalents in the sea, and all of which are permitted.
"Seven weeks you shall count … from the time the scythe begins to cut the standing corn (ba'komoh) you shall count seven weeks" (16:9).
The Torah refers to two countings, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, hinting at what Chazal have said 'It is a Mitzvah to count the days, and it is a Mitzvah to count the weeks'.
The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that if we read the word "be'komoh" with a cholom instead of with a komatz, it will mean 'standing'. This hints at the Halachah to count the Omer standing.
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