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This shall be the reward when you listen to these ordinances. (7:12)The word "eikav," when or because, also means heel. Thus, Rashi interprets the phrase to mean: when you listen to those mitzvos that appear to be of lesser significance, commandments which a person might tread upon with his heel. In Pirkei Avos, 2:1, Rebbi says, "Be as scrupulous in performing a minor mitzvah as a major one, for you do not know the rewards given for mitzvos." Can we view any mitzvah to be minor? Yes, if we view mitzvos to be a confirmation of ceremonies and rituals. When we realize that each mitzvah is one component in a vast integrated system, however, we no longer question the degree of importance. When each component exists to perform a specific function in an interrelated system, all are equally important. Horav Shlomo Breuer, zl, interprets the word "eikav" as "consequence," since the heel naturally follows the foot movement. Hashem calls upon us to fulfill our Divinely mandated duties. He promises the prosperity of our material existence as a natural consequence. This interpretation focuses upon the second word of the phrase, "tishmeun", and its root, "shma" to hear/listen. He cites the Midrash that discusses why Moshe used the expression "Shema Yisrael" to address Klal Yisrael as they prepared to cross the Jordan. The Midrash analogizes this to a king who gave his bride two precious stones in recognition of her virtues. After the wedding, much to the king's chagrin, she lost one of the stones. He admonished her to be very careful not to lose the second stone. Hashem rewarded Klal Yisrael for the two virtues expressed in the words "naase v'nishma," "we will do and we will listen/obey." When they sinned with the Golden Calf they lost one "stone". Thus, He took "naase", "we will do," from them. Thus, He reminded the nation to "listen" - to be especially cautious not to lose the second virtue/stone - v'nishma. This is the message of Shema Yisrael. Klal Yisrael - listen! If you listen and obey Hashem's command, you will repair the rift, correct the deficiency which was created by the sin of the Golden Calf. Our pasuk "v'hayah eikav tishmeun", underscores this same idea, as it admonishes us to listen carefully to Hashem's laws.
He afflicted you and let you hunger, then he fed you the manna that you did not know, nor did your forefathers know. (8:3)Moshe recounts the trials and tribulations of Klal Yisrael's sojourn in the desert, as well as the effects it produced. Hashem had tested them, but it was for a specific purpose. As the Ramban explains, at times a father must chastize his son in order to prepare him for the future. It was better to endure the hardships of the wilderness, so that they would more freely appreciate the riches and the beauty of Eretz Yisrael. The commentators address the "affliction" and "hunger" which Moshe mentions. Moshe is referring to the Heavenly food, the manna, which Chazal in the Talmud Yoma 75 say was the food of the angels. They ate manna during their forty-year trek in the wilderness; in the manna, they perceived the taste of every food. Why would the Torah regard eating manna as a test? Horav Eliyahu Schlesinger, Shlita, cites the pasuk in Bamidbar 21:5, in which Klal Yisrael critiqued the food/manna they were "forced" to eat. They said, "Our soul is disgusted with the lechem ha'klokel, insubstantial food." We note that as this was declared at the end of the fortieth year in the wilderness, the individuals who were issuing this complaint were the new generation, those about to enter Eretz Yisrael. These people had been born in the desert. They were not the people who left Egypt during the Exodus. What was their problem with the manna? Their description of the manna, lechem ha'klokel, is noteworthy. Ibn Ezra says that the word "ha'klokel" is derived from the word "kal," which means light or easy. The generation that suffered in Egypt, that was subordinated to Pharaoh's cruel and merciless bondage, yearned for the day when they would obtain their food b'derech kal, through an easy, simple manner. They hoped for a neis, miracle, for a miraculous deliverance, when their food would be dropped down from Heaven. They valued the miracle of the manna. They understood only too well the difficulty of avodas perach, crushing labor. Yes, they appreciated the value of the Heavenly food.
The second generation, those who had not been in Egypt, who had never really suffered, who were raised on manna in the desert, had a different perspective. They had no need for Heavenly food. They did not and could not appreciate a food that was literally delivered to their door, that had in it every taste known to man. They did not want a gift; they wanted to work for their bread. They wanted to earn their bread; they sought no favors. "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread" (Bereishis 3:18). The curse of Adam Ha'Rishon was a blessing for them! They wanted to sweat for their bread. Working constituted a mitzvah. Moshe understood this generation's dissatisfaction with the manna. They remained hungry after eating manna because it was not their bread, which they had earned. They could not assimilate its wonderful attributes into their being, because it was not what they viewed as their type of sustenance. True, they were afflicted, and they were tested - but they had brought it upon themselves.
At that time Hashem said to me: Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first...and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets...and I placed the tablets in the Aron which I had made. (10:1,2,5)Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl., makes note of the fact that when the Torah discusses the Luchos, tablets, it mentions the material, avanim, stone, of which they were composed. This teaches us that the words of the law are engraved in stone. They are unalterable and absolute as stone. This lesson is especially significant in contemporary times when there are those who would raise their quill against the Torah, attempting to "modify" its laws to suit their own purposes. In the past, this practice has been the exclusive domain of the non-practicing Jew. Today, however, this malady has spread even to those who count themselves among the observant. Hashem does not alter the law in order to accomodate the lapses in man. Two alternatives are before us: defection from the Torah; or complete and total return to the Torah. We cannot reform the Torah to suit our needs. Hashem wrote the same text on the new Luchos that He had written on the original ones. Man changes; the Torah does not change. The second Luchos were placed in the Aron together with the Shivrei Luchos, the broken pieces of the original Luchos. This serves to reinforce a dual memory. First, our iniquitous behavior broke the original Luchos. Every generation must remember to atone for that transgression. Second, atonement can be comprised only of a complete return to the old Torah.
And Hashem loves the ger/convert to give him bread and garment...you shall love the ger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (10:18,19)The Torah repeats the mitzvah of Ahavas Ha'Ger, loving the convert, no less than thirty-six times! One would assume that the Torah would reiterate mitzvos such as Shabbos, the prohibitions against idol worship and murder, emphasizing their obvious importance. Indeed, the Torah does not repeat these critical mitzvos. The Torah is very careful with its words; every word has its own specific message. Yet, the Torah has no qualms about reminding us numerous times of our obligation to the ger. Why? We can derive a profound lesson from this pasuk regarding human nature. Man's natural instinct is to denigrate those that are different in race, color, even status and position. Regardless of a person's humanistic values, the yetzer hora, evil inclination, prompts him to view with disdain those who are different. The Torah specifically reminds us to love the ger, imbuing us with the tools to overcome the challenge of the yetzer hora. What are the tools? What prescription does the Torah provide for us so that we will treat the ger with the dignity he deserves? The Torah enjoins us to remember the Egyptian bondage, "And you know the soul of the convert, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (10:22) Rashi comments, "Consider how painful it is when he is persecuted." Feel the pain that the ger feels. Experience his humiliation. Taste his degradation. After all, in Egypt it was your lot. You should recall the time in your life when you were a ger, a stranger in a strange society. Many people, however, cannot accept this type of logic. Indeed, reflecting on the ordeals of the past can have a negative effect. For some, it literally backfires, compelling them to act out their anxieties on those who are presently going through the same ordeal that they themselves had experienced. Their ears become deaf to the pleas of the downtrodden. They relive too many bad memories. Perhaps they think that by acting in an inconsiderate manner, they might erase the hurt and deprivation which they themseves endured. We approach that person in a specific way. We remind him that he is no different than the hapless ger. He was once a stranger - in Egypt. Who does he think he is? How can he denigrate the immigrant when he himself was once an immigrant? It is ironic that so many of us become "citizens", quickly forgetting how we ourselve were recently immigrants. Regardless of the approach, the Torah finds it necessary to reiterate the importance of being sensitive to the needs of he who is not "like us." One does not have to be extremely different; as long as he is not like us, we consider him to be different. The Torah senses the gravity of this malady and prescribes the ingredients for effecting its cure.
And you shall teach them to your sons. (11:19)Regarding the word "v'nitzaltem" "and you will empty out (Egypt)", in Sefer Shemos (3:22), Rashi comments that the word "v'limadtem," "and you will teach them", which appears in our pasuk, is the piel form, intensive conjugation, of the word "lilmod," to learn. Actually, the word that should be used to describe "teaching" should be the 'hiphil," causative form, of the verb. Hence, the Torah should have said, le'halmid, to make someone learn. This would be similar to the word, l'halbish, to dress someone. What is the reason for this change in the conjugation of the word? Horav Yosef Berl, zl, infers a profound lesson from this. Teaching an individual Torah is an entirely different act than simply dressing him. It is not sufficient to merely impart knowledge to a pupil. It is necessary for one's teaching be an intensification of one's own learning. The rebbe's Torah study should be so powerful that it overflows and reaches out to the talmidim. The rebbe's metzuis, essence, pours out with love and enthusiasm for the Torah and the students. This idea helps us to understand the sequence of the pasuk in Krias Shma: "And you shall teach them to your sons, and you shall speak in them." It would make sense that one first acquire the Torah by studying it before he speaks words of Torah. Should not Torah learning precede Torah speaking? The Torah is teaching us that even after one has personally acquired Torah knowledge, in order to dissemninate this knowledge to others one should speak the Torah wherever he goes, when he sits down, when he travels. In this way, the Torah he teaches is the product of his own unremitting learning. This comprises the Torah's idea of "continuing education." 1. Moshe prayed on Aharon's behalf after the sin of the Golden Calf. Was his prayer successful? 2. a. Moshe made an Aron of wood. When did he make it? b. What specific function did it serve? 3. The Torah says that Aharon died in Moserah. Is this true? 4. What happened to Korach's possessions? 5. The Torah praises Eretz Yisrael's physical attributes in comparison to Egypt. What are these attributes? 6. Why are idols referred to as elohim acheirim, other gods? 7. What is the difference between "pachad" and "morah"?
Answers:1. He succeeded partially since two of Aharon's sons died and two lived. 2. A. He made the Aron prior to going up on Har Sinai to receive the second Luchos. B. Klal Yisrael took it to battle with them. 3. No. Aharon died in Har Hahar. After his death, however, the people were overcome with depression and fear as a result of the disappearance of the Pillar of Cloud. Consequently, they went back eight cities to Moserah. where they had fought with Bnei Levi. After this tragedy they realized that the change in their circumstance had been precipitated by Aharon's death. They proceeded to mourn him over again as if he had just died in Moserah. 4. They were all swallowed up in the ground. 5. The Egyptian farms must be irrigated by the Nile, since rain is scarce. Eretz Yisrael, on the other hand, has abundant rain. 6. Since they do not respond to the pleas of their worshippers, they are like strangers. Hence the term "other gods". 7. Pachad refers to sudden fear, which is short-lived; morah refers to continued anxiety.
TORAH THOUGHTS ON THE PARSHA
QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
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