by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VO'ES'CHANAN 5766 BS"DCh. 4, v. 3: "Asher holach acharei baal p'ore" - Who has gone after baal p'ore - Sforno says that this refers to cleaving to the daughters of the baal p'ore adherers. Once they involved themselves with these women they inevitably fell into the trap of serving baal p'ore. Although this is historically what happened, why does the Sforno mention this to explain our verse, which could be understood in a straightforward streamlined manner, simply that they served baal p'ore? Perhaps it is because the verse says "holach acharei." Rashi (Breishis Raboh 44:5) on Dvorim 11:30 says that "acharei" always means "after by quite a distance." Had our verse said "holach achar baal p'ore" we would explain it in the direct manner. Now that it says "acharei" it means "he went after it from a distance." The Sforno therefore explains that the intention is that "he involved himself in baal p'ore from a distance," namely, first getting involved with women, who then enticed him to serve this false god. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 4, v. 6: "Chochmas'chem uvinas'chem" - Your wisdom and your understanding - The gemara Shabbos 75 a says that this refers to certain celestial calculations.
The Rokei'ach writes that when we take these two words and transpose their letters through the "At Bash" system, their numerical value is 613. Perhaps his intention is that the above-mentioned calculations are also included in the study of Torah.
Ch. 4, v. 8: "Chukim umishpotim tzadikim" - Statutes and laws that are correct - The Bnei Yisos'chor in his maaro'rei Chodesh Tishrei 2:34 writes that we find righteous people whose behaviour is not understood by the masses, and others whose behaviour is obviously very righteous. Some tzadikim are like "chukim," not understood, while others are like "mishpotim," understood.
Ch. 4, v. 9: "Rak hishomer l'cho ushmor naf'sh'cho m'ode" - Only safeguard for yourself and safeguard your soul greatly - Kli Yokor explains the seemingly double-talk. "Hishomer l'cho" refers to guarding one's physical health, while "Ushmor naf'sh'cho" refers to one's soul. The Holy Chozeh of Lublin seems to have understood these words the same way, because he interprets "rak" at the beginning and "m'ode" at the end as: When it comes to your physical needs, although they should be safeguarded, "rak," a limited effort is sufficient, but when it comes to "naf'sh'cho," this does not suffice. It requires "m'ode," great safety.
Alternatively, "Rak hishomer l'cho" refers to "Torah shebiksav," while "ushmor naf'sh'cho m'ode'' refers to "Torah sheb'al peh." (Haflo'oh) "M'ode" is readily understood when referring to the oral Torah, as per the Medrash Tanchuma on parshas Noach #3, which elaborates on the relative ease of studying the written Torah, as compared to the study of the oral Torah.
Ch. 4, v. 9: "L'vo'necho v'livnei vo'necho" - To your sons and to your sons' sons - Baal Haturim says that the 3 letters Nun in these words are reversed to allude to the statement of the gemara B.M. 85a, "He who is a Torah scholar as well as his son and grandson, is guaranteed that the Torah will not lapse among his descendants." I don't grasp the connection between reversed letters Nun and the statement of the gemara.
Ch. 4, v. 37: "Va'yotziacho b'fonov" - And He took you out in front of him - Everything takes place in front of Hashem, so what is the meaning of "b'fonov"?
1) When Hashem took the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt He placed them in a prominent position, as if they were in front of Hashem, as per the verse in Shmos 14:19, "Va'yeilech mei'acha'reihem." (Rashi)
2) In front of our Patriarchs, even though "b'fonov" is singular, so are the Patriarchs expressed in the singular, "b'zarO acharOV" (Rashi)
3) With a face of anger upon the Egyptians (Ibn Ezra)
4) Through an angel, which is expressed as "ponim," as per the verse, "umalach PONOV hoshiom" (Yeshayohu 63:9) (Ibn Ezra)
5) Waging war, as per the verse "ufo'necho holchim b'kerev" (Shmuel 2:17:11) (Ibn Ezra)
6) Through His word, "b'meimrei" (Targum Onkelos)
7) With willingness, "b'a'pei r'u'sei" (Targum Yonoson ben Uziel)
8) With Hashem in front, as per the verse "vaShem holeich lifneihem yomom" (Shmos 13:21) (Rashbam) This is totally the reverse of Rashi's first explanation.
9) With acts that are beyond nature (Sforno)
10) In front of Yaakov (based on the explanation of the Rokei'ach that the change to singular form of "b'zarO acharOV" refers only to Yaakov)
Ch. 4, v. 40: "Ulmaan taarich yomim al ho'adomoh asher Hashem Elokecho nosein l'cho kol ha'yomim" - And so that you extend the days upon the land that Hashem your G-d gives you all the days - The final two words of this verse, "kol ha'yomim" seem problematic. To which earlier part of the verse do they connect? Possibly it is to the beginning, "V'shomarto," and you shall safeguard, and when should you do this, "kol ha'yomim." Possibly it is to "asher yitav l'cho ulvo'necho acha'recho," and when will He bestow good upon you and your descendants, " kol ha'yomim." We could even go so far as to say that it connects to "asher onochi m'tzavcho ha'yom," and the intention is that although I am commanding you today, nevertheless, this "ha'yom" should be "kol ha'yomim," as per the maxim, "b'hol yom yi'h'yu v'einecho kachadoshim" (see Rashi on Dvorim 11:13 d.h. "m'ta'veh").
With any of these explanations we still have the words "kol ha'yomim" misplaced in the verse, a hanging phrase. Perhaps it flows with the immediate previous words, "asher Hashem Elokecho nosein l'cho." The gist of Moshe's words are that the bnei Yisroel will be privileged to occupy Eretz Yisroel, but conditional upon their scrupulously adhering to the mitzvos. To indicate how tenuous their staying in Eretz Yisroel is, Moshe expressed the GIVING of the land in the present tense, i.e. Hashem is giving it and giving it, dependent upon your behaviour. There is no, "I HAVE GIVEN it" and it will always remain yours. The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh says a similar thought on the words "ho'oretz asher ani NOSEIN lochem" (Vayikra 25:2). (Nirreh li)
Ch. 4, v. 41: "Oz yavdil Moshe" - At that time Moshe would set aside - This verse and the next two seem to be glaringly out of place, coming smack in the middle of a major pep talk about commitment to the mitzvos, which indeed comes to a crescendo with the repetition of the Ten Commandments. Also, once these three verses give us the complete details of the three Trans-Jordan cities of refuge, why does the Torah go back to the previous subject of Moshe's transmitting the various mitzvos without a division, namely, a paragraph divider, just as it does when beginning this seeming non sequitur?
Obviously, the bnei Yisroel were in the general geographic location of these 3 cities of refuge, although they are somewhat distanced one from the other. Moshe could easily have first set them aside and then uninterruptedly could have delivered his exhortation about the importance of complying with all the mitzvos. However, for dramatic effect that would enter the hearts of the masses, he began with a short history of what had earlier taken place, a sort of "musar shmuess," and then at the beginning of chapter 4 began in earnest to extol the importance of mitzvoh adherence. What better way than to stop dead in his tracks and "b'po'al mamash" do a mitzvoh himself, and especially one that would not be effective immediately, as these three cities would not be functional as cities of refuge until the three in Eretz Yisroel would be set aside as well? This sends a profoundly powerful message to not only "do as I say," but to also "do as I do." (Nirreh li)
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