Vol. 4 No. 47
The House of G-d!
Sacrifices could only be offered in the Beis Ha'mikdosh. Consequently, for each and every sacrifice that was brought, someone had to travel to Yerusholayim with the sacrifice in question, to arrange the ritual and to stand by the animal whilst it was being sacrificed. The Torah however, takes this for granted, and it is only by two mitzvos that it makes specific mention of "the place that G-d will choose" (an obvious reference to Yerusholayim) - both of them, interestingly enough, in this week's Parshah: the one by the Mitzvah of "Ma'aser sheini" (14:23), where it writes, "And you shall eat before Hashem your G-d in the place that He will choose to rest His Name there, the tythe of your corn, wine and oil, and the first-born of your cattle and sheep (the Torah mentions first-born, although it is speaking predominently about "Ma'aser sheini") - in order that you should learn to fear Hashem your G-d all the days" (see also 12:5) - and the other, by the mitzvah of appearing before Hashem on Yom-tov: "Three times a year all your males should be seen before Hashem your G-d, in the place that He will select: on Pesach, Shevu'os and Succos, and one should not appear in Hashem's presence empty-handed" (16:16).
The Seifer ha'Chinuch gives two reasons for the mitzvah of going to Yerusholayim. In Mitzvah 489, he writes that this display of subservience and acknowledgment that G-d alone is our Master, and that we, the Jewish people alone are His chosen servants, will serve to instill in us the fear and the love of G-d, through which we will merit His Divine benevolence and blessings. Whereas in Mitzvah 360 he explains that by taking "Ma'aser be'heimah" (the tythes of the animals) to Yerusholayim, one comes into contact with the Sanhedrin. Consequently, whether the owner himself goes with his "Ma'aser be'heimah" (Ma'aser sheini or "Neta re'vai") or whether he sends one of his sons, someone from the family will have prolonged contact with the greatest Torah authorities of the time. One assumes that he will take this opportunity of the prolonged time spent in their presence, whilst he disposes of his large quantity of Ma'aser, to learn the fear of G-d and how to serve Him properly. In any event, there will be at least one member of every family well steeped in Torah and Yir'as Shomayim, to guide and train the rest of the family along the Torah path (thus fulfilling the words of the Novi, "Because Torah will emerge from Tziyon and the words of Hashem from Yerusholayim" [Yehoshua 2:3]). And a similar explanation is given by the Seforno who writes: "Because in the chosen house is to be found the Great Beis-din, who are there with a view to teach understanding and to instruct".
The Ramban, commenting on the Torah's words: "You shall seek the House of the Shechinah and come there", writes that the Torah wants us to go to the Beis Ha'mikdosh and to ask along the way, "Which way to the House of G-d?", and each man will say to his friend: "Come, let us go up to the House of the G-d of Ya'akov".
Yes, going to the house of Hashem is an exciting event. It should be something that one looks forward to. It is something to ask each other and tell each other about, because it is an event whose importance is enhanced when it is done communally - and the more people that participate, the greater the excitement ("The glory of the King increases commensurate with the number of people who participate" - Mishlei 14:28).
Today, we have no Beis Ha'mikdosh. Instead, until such time as the coming of the Moshiach and its subsequent rebuilding, we have only "the little Mikdosh" - the Shul and the Beis ha'Medrash which, in a small way, serve very much the same purpose as the House that they represent. They too are houses of G-d, and in them we can learn Torah and the fear of G-d and His love. In them too, we can meet with the great leaders of our generation. It is therefore appropriate that, when we go to Shul, just as when we go to the Beis Ha'mikdosh, we should go with excitement, asking each other "which way to Shul", and telling each other with joy, "Come, let us go to Shul!", for so said Dovid Ha'melech in Tehillim (55:15), "Let us go to the House of G-d with excitement!"
GEMS FROM THE PARSHAH
(Re'ei) Adapted from the Gro
The Broken Ladder
The Gemoro (Bovo Basra 10a) tells the story of R. Papa, who was climbing a ladder, when the rung on which he had placed his foot broke, and he all but fell from the ladder.
Rav Chiya bar Rav from Difta suggested that perhaps R. Papa had on one occasion, not sustained a poor man who had turned to him for help.
Of all mitzvos, asks the Gro, what made R. Chiya pick this one? Perhaps his punishment was due to one of the other Taryag mitzvos, or even to a mitzvah de'Rabonon, and not to the mitzvah of tzedokoh?
"The mitzvah of Tzedokoh," he replies, "appears in this week's Parshah. The words the Torah uses are 'posei'ach tiftach es yodcho lo', and the neginos under the words 'posei'ach tiftach' are 'dargo se'vir' which means 'a broken ladder'.
And that, explains the Gro, is why R. Chiya suggested out of all mitzvos, the mitzvah of tzedokoh to explain the broken ladder.
On the following daf (11a) the Gemoro in Bovo Basra quotes a B'rayso, which tells the story of Binyomin ha'Tzadik, who was a gabbai tzedokoh.
One day, during a time of drought, he told a woman who came to him for assistance, that the tzedokoh fund was empty. When she replied that unless he helped her, she and her seven sons would die of hunger, he provided her with her needs - out of his own pocket.
Some time later, Binyomin ha'Tzadik became very ill. As he lay on his sick-bed, hovering on the verge of death, the angels pleaded with Hashem to spare him. "Someone who saves one life," they argued, "is considered as if he had saved the whole world (since the whole world descended from one man - Odom ho'Rishon). And Binyomin ha'Tzadik had saved a woman with her seven sons!" G-d acceded to their request and granted him twenty-two more years life.
"Why twenty-two?" asks the Gro.
According to the Chachomim in Sotoh (20b), a merit grants a woman who has been accused of comitting adultery (a Sotoh), three months of additional life.
The Gemoro in Bovo Basra (9b) teaches us that someone who gives a p'rutah to a poor man, receives six blessings (in this case the mitzvah of tzedokoh would have been effective to tear up the decree of death), and that for appeasing him (like Binyomin ha'Tzadik did when he swore to the woman that there were no tzedokoh funds left) he receives eleven.
Now 11 x 3 (months) = 33. And 33 x 8 (people who were saved) = 264.
And 264 months = 22 years.
Be Only Happy
"Seven days you shall be happy... and you shall be only happy."
It is well-known that the word "only" ("ach) always comes to exclude. In that case asks the Gro, why do Chazal derive from this phrase "to include the night of the eighth (Sh'mini Atzeres) for simchah"? How can they learn to include from "ach", contrary to the regular inference of the word, which is to exclude?
The Gro answers like this. It is not from the word "ach" that Chazal include the night (whether the day is also included is subject to a Machlokes Rishonim) of the eighth, but because the whole phrase is redundant - "vehoyiso so'mei'ach" on Sh'mini Atzeres. The Torah adds "ach", to tell us only simchah, and nothing else - not like the first days of Succos, when the mitzvah of simchah is accompanied by that of Succah and of Lulav.
So the word "ach" comes to exclude here, just like it always does. On Sh'mini Atzeres, the Torah is telling us, be happy, exclusively happy, without the other mitzvos -Succah and Lulav which accompany the simchah on the first days of Succos.
What, No Land!
The Gemoro in Pesochim (5b) writes that someone who has no portion of land in Eretz Yisroel, is exempt from the mitzvah of "aliyas ho'regel" on Yom-tov. Tosfos there points out that R. Yehudah ben Beseira did not go to Yerusholayim on Pesach for that very reason, because he owned no land in Eretz Yisroel. (In our Gemoro - all of the above is in Tosfos, and not in the Gemoro.)
Considering that every Jew (other than converts) owns a piece of land in Eretz Yisroel, it is at first unclear as to why Rebbi Yehudah ben Beseira did not own land in Eretz Yisroel.
The Gro however, explains this with a Gemoro in Sanhedrin (92b), which records that the dead whom Yechezkel brought back to life all went to Eretz Yisroel, married and had children - and that Rebbi Yehudah ben Beseira announced that he was one of their grandchildren.
Who were the dead whom Yechezkel brought back to life? They were, according to many opinions, the children of Ephrayim who left Egypt early, in the belief that the time to go out had arrived, 30 years before the actual Exodus took place. They were killed by the P'lishtim, which means that they were neither among those who left Egypt with Moshe Rabeinu, nor among those who entered Eretz Yisroel with Yehoshua bin Nun - the two criteria for receiving a portion in Eretz Yisroel. And that explains why R. Yehudah ben Beseira did not receive a portion of land.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HAFTORAH
(Re'ei) (Yeshayah 54:11-55:5)
The storm of golus had left poor Yerusholayim unconsolable - according to Targum Yonoson's interpretation, it was the nations of the world who deemed Yerusholayim as being unconsolable - but G-d thought otherwise. Just as in the Haftorah of Vo'eschanan, He had set about consoling Yisroel, so too here, does he set about consoling Yerushoslayim. And He describes how He will rebuild its ruins with precious stones - and not only Yerusholayim, but also its bordering cities.
"And all your sons will study the Torah of G-d, and your sons will experience an abundance of peace." (54:13). It is from this possuk that R. Elozor, quoting R. Chaninah, derives that it is talmidei-chachomim who bring peace to the world.
The Chidoh, quoted by the Ma'yonoh shel Torah, explains the possuk in this way. One Gemoro gives the reason for the Churban Bayis Sheini as sin'as chinom (Yuma 9), whereas another Gemoro (Shabbos 119) attributes the Churban Bayis Sheini to the fact that the children did not study Torah. Therefore the Novi assures us that when the ge'ulah arrives and the third Beis Ha'mikdosh is built, both of these sins will have been rectified, the Jewish children will all study Torah, and there will be peace among them. "Ahavah" will replace the "sin'ah" that brought about the churban and the golus. It is in the spirit of "tzedokoh" that Yerusholayim will be established and through distancing oneself from robbery that its inhabitants will never again need to fear their enemies.
In time to come, the Novi continues, many non-Jews will attempt to convert. Our greatness will become apparent and they will acknowledge our spiritual superiority. But Yisroel will not accept converts then. It is when Klal Yisroel are poor and downtrodden, that converts are acceptable. Those who are willing to share in our trials and tribulations, may also share in our glory. But to come and join us in our moment of glory - that is a meaningless gesture! Indeed, Chazal have taught us (B'rochos 5a) that three things one acquires only through hardship - Torah, Eretz Yisroel and Olom ha'Bo!
If it is G-d who incites the nations - the Babylonians, the Romans and ultimately Gog and Magog - against us, it is also He who leads them to their downfall. And in time to come, all their efforts to harm us will come to nought, for that is the reward that G-d promises to His servants - that they will survive all attempts to annihilate them.
Torah is compared to water, since without it, one cannot exist. After the battle of Gog and Magog, the nations of the world will at long last come to the realisation that G-d alone is King ("On that day Hashem will be One and His Name will be One" - Zecharyah 14:9). They will all come flocking to Yerusholayim in order to find out about His laws (Redak). And it is with reference to this, that the Novi writes "Hoy all those who are thirsty (for knowledge), go to water (Torah)". And what's more, he adds, it is all free of charge.
But Torah is also compared to wine (the secrets of Torah) and to milk (the revealed Torah), or, as the Redak puts it, wine "makes a man's heart happy" (Tehillim 104) whilst milk mourishes a baby and is his source of growth and development, which is why Yeshayoh adds "Go and obtain wine and milk without payment". - for that is the way to genuine happiness and for your souls to grow and develop.
And Torah is also compared to bread, because it sustains. So he continues "Why should you pay money for something which is not bread (for secular studies which are valueless) and toil over something that does not satisfy? If you will listen to Hashem and eat good (Torah is described as "good" - see Pirkei Ovos [6:3]) - then ultimately, your souls will derive endless pleasure" - Ibn Ezra.
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