by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHIOS B'HAR-B'CHUKOSAI 5770 BS"D
Ch. 25, v. 17: "V'lo sonu ish es amiso" - And you shall not aggravate a man his friend - The gemara B.M. 84a relates a sorrowful story. A question was raised in Rabbi Yochonon's beis ha'medrash. A vessel is able to contract impurity only when it is considered completed. Do we say that a sword is considered a complete vessel immediately upon its being hardened when greatly heated in fire, or do we also need the next step, that it is immediately cooled in water? Rabbi Yochonon posited that it only needs the heating process, and Reish Lokish posited that it also needs the cooling process. Rabbi Yochonon responded that it was most appropriate for Reish Lokish to offer his opinion, as in his earlier years he was the head of a group of robbers, who did not hesitate to use sharp knives to induce people to cooperate. Reish Lokish was hurt to the core and responded, "Mai AHANAS li, hosom Rabi koru li hocho Rabi koru li." From the word "li" onwards this means: I was called "the head" (of the robbers) there and I am called "the head" here (in the beis ha'medrosh). The translation of the first words, "Mai AHANAS li" plays a pivotal role in understanding what then took place. Rabbi Yochonon in a rebutting manner replied that Reish Lokish now had the great benefit of being brought under the wings of the Holy Spirit by Rabbi Yochonon. Rabbi Yochonon took issue with Reish Lokish's words and was quite hurt. Reish Lokish immediately took ill. Rabbi Yochonon's sister, Reish Lokish's wife, pleaded with her brother to forgive Reish Lokish, as she feared that her husband would die and leave her a widow and her children orphans. Rabbi Yochonon remained steadfast and shortly thereafter Reish Lokish died.
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz explains that Rabbi Yochonon understood these words to mean, "What BENEFIT have I derived," and that is why he could not be forgive Reish Lokish for his words, as Rabbi Yochonon felt that it was an affront to the Holy Torah. In truth Reish Lokish meant, "Why have you aggravated me," as in "v'lo sonu" of our verse.
Missing Reish Lokish, Rabbi Yochonon had no one who would ask numerous penetrating questions and challenges to his lecture, and when he would respond it would greatly further clarify his words to all the other students. Rabbi Preida offered 24 proofs that Rabbi Yochonon was correct, while in the past Reish Lokish challenged with 24 questions. Rabbi Yochonon told Rabbi Preida that he had no need for any proofs as he knew heis words were correct. What he needed was the types of challenges Reish Lokish made. He was so aggravated at the loss of Reish Lokish that he lost his mind and behaved improperly in public. The Rabbis then prayed for his demise rather than having the glory and honour of a Torah scholar besmirched. If you will ask why the Rabbis didn't pray for him to recover from his bad mental state, the answer is that he would again suffer from the loss of Reish Lokish and would surely revert to his previous state. Rabbi Yochonon then died as well. All this was the result of the misunderstanding of one word. Let this incident serve as a deterrent to transgressing the prohibition of our verse. As many a wise man has said, "It is more important to watch what comes out of our mouths than what goes in."
Ch. 25, v. 37: "Es kas'p'cho lo si'tein lo b'neshech" - Your money shall you not give him with usury - Literally, "b'neshech" means with a BITE. Even when you agree to give someone a loan, do not accompany it with critical advice, such as, "If you were to pursue a livelihood more seriously you would not need to take a loan, etc." Do not offer biting words along with your loan. (M'leches Mach'sheves)
Ch. 26, v. 9: "Ufonisi a'leichem" - And I will turn towards you - These words appear here by the blessings, and also appear in a similar form by the chastisements, "V'nosati fonai bochem" (verse 17). Rashi explains that the word form P-N-H is used to indicate that Hashem will FREE Himself of all other duties, turn away from them, and either give reward or ch"v punishment, as is the case. The Beis Yisroel quotes his grandfather, the Chidushei ho'Rim, who says that the blessing of "ufonisi" means that Hashem will bestow upon us "pnai," free time to pursue Torah and mitzvos.
The Beis Yisroel asked how this concept could be applied to "V'nosati PONAI bochem" of the chastisements in verse 17. He answered that free time for one who behaves properly is a great blessing, while for one who misuses his time, free time will likely result in very dire consequences, hence it is included in the castigations as well.
Ch. 26, v. 3: "Im b'chukosai teileichu" - If you will walk in My statutes - The prefix letter Beis before "chukosai" can be translated as "bishvil," for the purpose of, just as Rashi explains the prefix letter Beis of Breishis. If when you walk out, "teileichu," to pursue a livelihood, but do it for the purpose of enabling yourself to fulfill My statutes, then you will indeed receive your wish. "V'nosati gishmeichem b'itom v'nosonoh ho'oretz y'vuloh," and you will be able to support yourself and do My statutes. (Mo'ore Voshomesh)
Ch. 26, v. 3,4: "Im b'chukosai teileichu, V'nosati gishmeichem b'itom v'nosnoh ho'oretz y'vuloh" - If you will walk in My statutes, And I will give your rains in their time and the land will give forth its bounty - Our Rabbis teach that we are to do the mitzvos today, meaning here on this world, but their reward will be given to us in the world-to-come. Similarly, our Rabbis have said that Yaakov and Eisov came to an arrangement where this world belongs to Eisov, while the world-to-come belongs to Yaakov. If, so why is the reward of following Hashem's precepts a generous bounty, a this-worldly payment? The Chid"o cites the Mahara"sh Parimo who answers this based on the gemara A.Z. 3a. Hashem stipulated that if the bnei Yisroel would not accept the Torah and its mitzvos upon themselves He would return the world to a state of total devastation. Eisov would be left with no world. This "sword of Damocles" hanging over the world is akin to a flood that is about to come and destroy some items. They then have the status of "hefker," ownerless. Therefore whatever the bnei Yisroel receive on this world becomes theirs as "zochim min ha'hefker." The fulfillment of Torah and mitzvos, i.e. the acceptance of the Torah gives the bnei Yisroel ownership even of this world, hence the blessing for a bountiful crop.
Ch. 26, v. 5: "Vaachaltem lach'm'chem losova" - And you will eat your bread to the point of satiation - Why doesn't the verse simply say "lechem?" What is the intention of "YOUR bread?" Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin answers that Rashi says that he who accepts the laws of "shviis" and raises no concerns is blessed with "ocheil kimo umisboreich b'mei'ov," he eats just a bit and is blessed with satiation in his innards. Says Rabbi Chaim that this is limited to what HE eats. When offering food to the poor, one should not have the attitude that giving just a bit is sufficient and that it will be blessed with the ability to satiate another. This is "lach'm'CHEM." YOUR bread will have this blessing, but give the needy in abundance. We find this same theme in the words of the gemara Brochos 20b, which says that Hashem explains that He rightfully is positively biased towards the bnei Yisroel, as He says in His Torah, "V'ochalto v'sovoto uveirachto," and they are stringent with THEMSELVES, and recite grace after meals when even consuming only a "kazayis." Note the stress on THEMSELVES, but not when offering food to the needy.
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