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Vol. 21 No. 45
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(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
Moshe's Personal Prayer
" … I pleaded (vo'Eschanan) with G-d at that time saying … " (3:23).
Rashi points out that "vo'eschanan" means a free gift - a gift that one does not deserve.
When Moshe Davened on behalf of K'lal Yisrael, says the Oznayim la'Torah, he spoke to G-d, he spoke without reservation "Why Hashem, are You angry with Your people?", "Relent from Your burning anger and reconsider regarding the evil against Your people!", "Forgive now the sin of this people!" - "Like the rich man who speaks brazenly".
It was only when he Davened on behalf of himself that his humility came to the fore. That was when he could find no reason why G-d should listen to his prayers, and all he could hope for was that G-d should deal with him kindly, irrespective of his unworthiness.
How about Aharon?
Moshe Davened for permission to enter Eretz Yisrael (despite the oath G-d had taken forbidding him to do so). Why, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, did he not Daven for Aharon too, before he died?
He Davened on behalf of himself, he explains, only after having conquered the land of Sichon and Og, which, at least in some regards, was part of Eretz Yisrael. He therefore figured that, since part of G-d's vow seems to have been rescinded, prayer would result in G-d's rescinding the rest.
Secondly, he answers, since G-d instructed him to take off Aharon's clothes and place them on Elazar, prayer on behalf of Aharon would be futile, as Chazal have said that 'the sovereignty of one king cannot encroach on that of another by even as little as a hair's-breadth.' Consequently, Moshe knew that it would be futile to Daven for prolongation of Aharon's life, seeing as Elazar's time had come to take over the reins of the Kehunah from his father, this would mean abrogating the leadership of Elazar as Kohen Gadol.
This would not have affected Moshe Rabeinu however, since when G-d informed him that he was about to die, He did not name his successor.
Indeed, the Oznayim la'Torah adds, Moshe may well have seen this omission as a sign that the door was still open for him to pray for a reprieve.
Another possible answer lies in the Medrash (cited by the author in Parshas Matos), which describes how the fifteen thousand remaining people of the generation of the desert who were destined to die in the fortieth year arose from their graves (that they had initially dug on the eve of Tish'ah ba'Av) on Tu be'Av, and discovered that they had been pardoned.
That too, would explain why, on the one hand, Moshe, thinking that perhaps he too, was eligible for a Divine Pardon, Davened for himself, but not for Aharon, who had died a short time earlier, on the fifth of Av.
Vindicated before Yisrael
If, as we explained earlier, Moshe's Tefilah was perfectly understandable, why did he see fit to tell Yisrael about a prayer that he had made before G-d, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, particularly bearing in mind that the prayer was not accepted?
He explains that when Moshe informed the people that he would not lead them into battle against the formidable thirty-one kings of Cana'an, they were afraid. Moshe had just proved himself as a supreme commander in the battles against Sichon and Og (discussed at the end of Parshas Devarim). Yehoshua on the other hand, had commanded only one battle (in Parshas Beshalach against Amalek) and all he had managed to do was to weaken Amalek, but not to defeat them. Consequently, they might easily have accused Moshe of forsaking them, of leaving them to embark on the conquest of Cana'an with an incompetent leader. Moshe therefore wanted Yisrael to know how much he cared about them, how he had pleaded with G-d to allow him to cross the River Yarden, and that he only stopped when G-d had declared the matter closed.
Moshe, it seems, was fulfilling the command of "being vindicated before G-d and Yisrael".
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Zochor & Shomor
"Observe the day of Shabbos to sanctify it .. " (5:12).
As is well-known, Zochor" and "Shomor" were said simultaneously. Why then, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, does the Torah write "Zochor" in Parshas Yisro, and "Shomor" in Va'eschanan?
Before answering the question, we need to define the difference between the two words. "Zochor", among other things, refers to the positive side of Shabbos - Kidush, whereas "Shomor", in keeping with the word in general, refers to the negative side, the Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh - of desisting from work.
That being the case, the author explains, in Parshas Yisro, Yisrael were about to spend a prolonged period of time in the desert, with all their needs provided for and no work that needed to be done. Consequently, Shabbos was essentially no different than the other days of the week, and the hallmark of Shabbos lay in reciting Kidush. Externally perhaps, their modus vivendi was much the same as it was during the week, and the difference lay in the fact that even their Torah-study and their Tefilos were elevated to a higher level of sanctity.
"Shomor" under those circumstances, was not really appropriate!
The current Parshah was taught immediately prior to entering Eretz Yisrael - "each man under his vine, each man under his fig-tree." They were about to embark upon a new lifestyle, where they had to spend the week working. Shabbos now took on a new meaning. It was essentially a day of rest, where they desisted from mundane activities, switching from the physical to the spiritual. In that case, the Torah is fully justified in using the word "Shomor".
Waiting for Shabbos
Another connotation of "Shomor", says the Oznaym la'Torah, is to wait for Shabbos - as in the phrase in Vayeishev (37:11) " … and his (Yosef's) father kept the matter in his heart (waited for the dream to come true)".
Shabbos ought to be such a beautiful experience that one longingly awaits its arrival the entire week.
Sanctify the Shabbos
Many people enjoy the Shabbos by relaxing, going for walks, and visiting friends. Strictly speaking, this is not a contravention of the laws of Shabbos.
The question is, is that what the Torah means when it adds the word "to sanctify it"? It seems that it is possible to keep Shabbos without actually sanctifying it.
One sanctifies the Shabbos, says the Oznayim la'Torah, by means of an extended Davening, more Torah-learning and reflection (e.g. in the Parshah or in Hilchos Shabbos).
"Sh'ma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod" (6:4).
The Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch rule like Rebbi Meir, that the Mitzvah of Kavanah is confined to this Pasuk only (i.e. one needs to repeat the Sh'ma if one recites it without Kavanah).
The L'vush adds that the Mitzvah extends to the next Pasuk ("Baruch Sheim").
In reply to a Rav who asked the Oznayim la'Torah for the L'vush's source, he cites a Medrash Tanchuma in Parshas Lech-L'cha, which specifically writes that someone who is walking must stop to recite 'Sh'ma" & "Baruch Sheim" with Kavanah, after which he may continue walking.
Hashem is One
Based on the fact that 'Hashem' stands for G-d's Midas Rachamim and 'Elokim, His Midas ha'Din, the Oznayim la'Torah offers the following alternative explanation: Whether G-d deals with us with Midas ha'Rachamim ("Hashem") or with Midas ha'Din ("Elokeinu"), it is always with the intention of doing good to us in the end ("Hashem Echad").
Hence the Torah writes in the next Pasuk that we should love Him - 'be'chol me'odecha" - 'whatever Midah He deals us' - whether it is "Hashem" or
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