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Parsha Pearls Archives
- Devarim

Parshas Devarim

THE LAST WORD

Rashi states that Moshe (Moses) intentionally chose to reprove the Children of Israel shortly before his death. There are several advantages for one to give rebuke specifically at the end of one's life. One advantage which Rashi mentions is that rebuking at the end of one's life preludes the necessity of repeating the rebuke. This statement raises some questions. First of all, why is it unnecessary to repeat reproach if it is given at the end of one's life? It may be impossible for the message to be repeated, but how is the necessity to repeat the reproach precluded? Another question which arises is as follows: Why is it so important to avoid the need to repeat rebuke?

When someone is censured, he usually tries to rationalize his behavior. The one giving the rebuke is then faced with a dilemma. If he repeats the reprimand, and shows that the excuses given do not justify the behavior in question, a quarrel may ensue. On the other hand, if he does not respond to the justifications that are being offered it may seem that he accepts the other person's excuses even if he does not. Both of these problems are avoided if one gives rebuke at the end of his life . The recipient of the rebuke will have no opportunity to interpret the rebuker's silence as an acceptance of his excuses. Thus, one who rebukes towards the end of his life precludes the need to repeat the rebuke and refute the excuses. The fact that he does not have to repeat his rebuke is beneficial because he thereby avoids a heated exchange which can lead to a quarrel.

(Chasam Sofer - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

Hoe'il Moshe Ba'er Ess HaTorah HaZos

"Moshe began explaining the Torah."

Rashi states that this verse means that Moshe translated the Torah into all the world's languages. This indicates a vital lesson. Although the Torah was given to the Jews when they first became a nation, and were about to enter their own homeland, its guiding principles are equally relevant in any situation. The fact that the Torah was given in all languages illustrates that the Torah is a Jew's guide no matter which country he finds himself in, and no matter which culture he is surrounded by.

(K'sav Sofer - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

WISDOM FOR ALL

"Aileh Hadvorim Asher Diber Moshe Ell Kol Bnei Yisrael"

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to the Children Of Israel"

Moshe addressed his words and teachings "to all of the Children of Israel". Moshe intended that each and every member of Israel should be able to absorb the Torah's teachings. He therefore transmitted the Torah in a manner so that it could be understood on many levels. Each Jew from the simplest to the greatest can relate to the Torah on his own individual level.

(R' Simcha Bunim of P'shicha)

BENEVOLENT PUNISHMENT

"V'gam yad Hashem Hoysah Bom L'Hoomom M'kerev HaMachaneh Ad Tumom"

"And also the hand of Hashem was upon them to rush them from among the camp until their completion (their end or death)"

Hashem decreed that the generation who sinned in the desert would not merit to enter the Land of Israel. They would die in the desert upon reaching the age of 60 and the surviving generation would be the ones to enter the Promised Land.

This verse relates that Hashem purged the sinners from the camp in a relatively short amount of time.

It is interesting to note that the name of Hashem is used in this verse. Hashem has many names e.g. - Hashem, E-L Sha'aki. Each name represents a particular Divine attribute. The name Hashem represents the attribute of mercy. The question arises: Why does the verse use a title of Hashem that signifies mercy?

When Hashem purged the sinners from among the Children of Israel, it benefited the Jewish People as a whole. From the punishment, the Jews learned to fear Hashem and they became more pious.

The verse states that the sinners were rushed from among the camp "until their completion". This phrase can be understood to mean that the sinners were purged until the Jewish people as a whole reached their completion, spiritual perfection achieved by witnessing Hashem's judgment. Consequently, the verse uses a title for Hashem that expresses the attribute of mercy. Hashem in his infinite mercy provided the Jews with a valuable lesson.

Compilers note: The sinners' punishment atoned for their misdeeds, purifying their souls. They would thus be able to merit a share in the World to Come. Thus, in a sense even the sinners could be considered beneficiaries of Hashem's mercy.

DON'T GET IN THE WAY

Anochi Omed Bein Hashem U'Veineichem

"I stood between you and Hashem."

In its literal meaning, this verse states that Moshe (Moses) related to the Jews how he acted as an intermediary between them and Hashem at the Giving of the Torah. The verse can also be interpreted in a homiletic manner to indicate an important lesson.

Often, a person's ability to perceive Hashem's greatness, and accept upon himself the yoke of the mitzvos is clouded by his own overinflated ego. A person who is too self- centered usually takes credit for his successes and does not realize that Hashem is the source of all his blessings. Such a person will not be able to develop spiritually and will not get close to Hashem. This is indicated in the above verse. The term "Anochi" meaning "I" can refer to a person's own ego. Thus, the verse "I stand between you and Hashem" can mean that your own "I" - meaning excessive ego - can stand between you and Hashem and prevent you from coming closer to Hashem.

(Maharam M'Kobrin - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

V'Hoyu HaD'vorim HoEileh Asher Anochi Mitzavcho Hayom Al L'vovecha V'Shinantom L'Vonecha

"And these words which I command you today should be on your hearts and you shall impart them to your children."

These verses direct us to absorb the Torah's teachings and to impart them to our children. Our Sages teach us "That which issues forth from the heart penetrates the heart." Sincere words have the greatest impact upon the listener. This is indicated by the above verses. In order to be able to fully "impart them (the Torah's lessons) to our children, we must fulfill the directive that these lessons "should be on your hearts" and absorb them fully. Thus, we are commanded to absorb the Torah's lessons ourselves, and afterwards to convey them to our children.

(Alshich - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

TORAH: HERE AND EVERYWHERE, THEN AND NOW

"Rech Limadti Esschem Chukim Umishpotim Ka'asher Tzivani Hashem Elo-kai La'asos Ken B'kerev Ho'oretz Asher Atem Baim Shomah L'Rishtoh"

"See: I (Moshe) taught you laws and statutes like that which Hashem my G-d commanded me to do within the land that you are coming there to inherit"

When a country is first settled, it usually cannot draft its laws right away. Rather, its lawmakers need to wait and see how the people interact under unique conditions of that particular land. Once they see the problems that affect their civilization they can make laws to improve the situation. However, before the land is settled, no one can anticipate the social problems that will arise and which laws will be needed to remedy these problems.

The Torah is an exception to this rule. It was authored by Hashem He is able to write laws that are applicable to any and every situation. It was thus possible to set forth the Torah's rules for living in the Land of Israel before the Jews actually entered the Land.

This is indicated in the above verse. The verse states that Moshe taught the Jews the Laws of the Torah "within the land that you are coming there". The Jews were just about to be coming there to inherit it".

The phrase "within the land" refers to the fact that Moshe taught these laws and statutes as a guide for life for when the Jews would be "within the land".

Indeed only the Torah, of Divine origin, is able to guide the people through each and every circumstance.

The Torah continues to maintain its relevance and guide us throughout all of the generations.

(R' S. R. Hirsch)

IN G-D WE TRUST

Ki Somar B'L'vovecha Rabim HaGoyim HoEileh Mimeni Eichah Uchal L'Horisham

"If you say in your hearts, ‘'These nations are greater than me; how will I be able to inherit them?’ Do not be frightened of them."

When someone places his trust fully in Hashem, rather than in his own actions, he can rest assured that Hashem will help him. This is indicated by the above verse.

The verse states that "If you say in your hearts, 'these nations are greater than me; how will we be able to inherit them?" This can mean that the people realize that on their own, there was no way that they could overcome the people who were then occupying the Land of Israel. They could rely only upon Hashem. Consequently, the Torah continues "Do not be frightened of them". If one truly realizes that his salvation can come only from Hashem then he indeed has nothing to fear.

(Ma'asei Hashem - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

MIRACLES AND FREE CHOICE

Lo Suchal Kalosem Maher Pen Tirbeh Olecha Chayas Hasodeh

"You can not destroy them quickly, lest the creatures of the field become too great upon you."

This verse states that the Children of Israel would not be able to vanquish the people who were occupying the Land of Israel quickly, for if they did, the barren land would be overrun by the creatures of the field. The question arises: Since Hashem is capable of doing anything, why didn't He simply enable the Jews to rid the Land of Israel of their enemies without allowing the land to be overrun by animals even when it was deserted?

Hashem wants all people to have free choice whether to do good deeds or evil. For this reason, Hashem does not always respond immediately to the needs of righteous people in this world. If the needs of righteous people were immediately met, no one would have free choice whether to be righteous or not, because the advantages of being righteous would be too obvious.

The fact that humans have free will whether to do good or evil is the reason that the commandments of the Torah were given to them. When Moshe went up to Heaven to receive the Torah, the angels protested that they wished to receive the holy Torah. Moshe pointed out that the angels had no fee will whether to keep the Torah or not. Consequently, it would be preferable for humans to receive the Torah - since keeping the Torah out of one's own free will is more meritorious.

With this in mind, we can understand why Hashem would not allow the Jews to vanquish their enemies too quickly. If it were too obvious that Hashem helped the Jews miraculously, people would not have free choice whether to do good or evil. Moshe's reply to the angels as to why the Jews should get the Torah would then lose its validity. Thus the Torah says "You cannot destroy them quickly" for then, witnessing the miracles would preclude free choice. If that would happen , then indeed "the creatures of the field" - meaning the Heavenly creatures - would become too great for you - because they would then have a legitimate claim over us to get the Torah.

(Ohr Tzaddikim - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

APPRECIATION AND REALIZATION

V'Zocharto Ess Kol Haderech Asher Holichecha Hashem Elokecha...Simloscho Lo Volsoh MeiOlecha V'Raglecho Lo Botzeika Zeh Arbo'im Shonoh. V'Yoda'ato Im L'vovecha Ki Ka'asher Yiyaser Ish Ess B'no, Hashem Elokecha Miyaserecka.

"And you shall remember all the way that Hashem your g-d brought you... Your clothes did not wither from upon you and your feet did not swell these forty years. And you shall know with your heart that just as a man chastises his son, Hashem your G-d chastises you."

The sequence of these verses teaches us an important lesson. It is important to realize that Hashem does not punish people out of revenge. Rather, Hashem punishes a person out of love for him - hoping that he will improve. One can understand this better if he thinks about all the kindness that Hashem bestows upon him. He would then realize, that it follows logically, that even his suffering - since it comes from Hashem who is so kind - must be a form of disguised kindness.

This is indicated by the sequence of the above verses. If people remember all the goodness that Hashem has bestowed upon them as indicated by the verse "Remember all the way that Hashem your g-d has brought you" which includes the kindness of "Your clothes did not wither from upon you and your feet did not swell these forty years", then it will be easier to "know with your heart that just as a man chastises his son, (out of love and a desire for his son's improvement) Hashem your g-d chastises you."

(Mishlei Ya'akov)


PACKAGE DEAL

Ess Hashem Elokecha Tira
"Hashem your G-d you shall revere."

The article "Ess" implies that another item is to be included in the statement. The Talmud states that the word "Ess" implies the inclusion of Torah scholars. Torah scholars must be revered - of course not with the same reverence with which one is obligated to revere Hashem - but with reverence nonetheless. The question arises: Why does the Torah teach the lesson that one must revere Torah scholars by inference from the commandment to revere Hashem? Why doesn't the Torah teach it by inference of the commandment to revere one's parents? After all, the level of reverence due as Torah scholar is definitely closer to the reverence that one accords parents than to the level which one must accord Hashem!

The answer can be explained with a parable. A blind man, accompanied by his guide, wished to cross a border. He had a pass, but his guide had none. Consequently, the border guard allowed the blind man passage, but not his guide. The blind man protested "My pass is good for my guide as well." The puzzled guard asked "How so?" The blind man answered "My pass mentions my handicap. It is obvious that a blind man cannot travel without a guide. Therefore, it is implicit in the permission that I received to travel that a guide may accompany me. My pass thus includes my guide, as well.

Simple people are also included in the directive "Hashem, your g-d , you shall revere." In order for them to achieve piety, they must have Torah scholars to guide them. They must revere these scholars in order to be able to absorb their teachings properly. Revering Torah scholars is thus essential to their fulfilling the commandment of revering Hashem. The commandment to revere Torah scholars is thus a corollary of the commandment to revere Hashem, just as permission for the blind man's guide to pass is indicated by the permission for the blind man's own passage. The necessary prerequisites for a directive are implicit in the directive itself . Since the precept of revering Torah scholars is a corollary of the commandment to revere Hashem, it is indicated here rather than where the Torah discusses the precept of revering one's parents.

(Mishlei Ya'akov)


THE APPROACH TO MITZVOS

"V'Hoyoh im shamoa tismeu ell mitzvosai "

"And it will be if listen(ing) you shall listen to my commandments"

This verse marks the beginning of the Torah's discussion of the concept of

accepting upon oneself to fulfill all of HaShem's mitzvos (commandments). In the preceding weekly portion, the concept of accepting the Yoke of the Heavenly Kingship is discussed. It would seem at first that a commitment to fulfill all of the mitzvos is included in the acceptance of HaShem's rulership. After all, if one accepts HaShem's dominion over oneself, it automatically follows that one is obligated to fulfill HaShem's laws - the mitzvos. Why, then, is the idea of accepting the mitzvos discussed as a separate concept?

There is an important aspect to the concept of accepting the mitzvos that is not included in the idea of accepting HaShem's dominion. This aspect is the importance of fulfilling the mitzvos out of love for HaShem, and not only because HaShem is the Ruler of the Universe. This significant aspect of fulfilling the mitzvos out of love for Hashem is not necessarily included in an acceptance of HaShem's dominion. Consequently, it is appropriate to accept upon oneself the yoke of miktzvos out of love for HaShem, independently of one's acceptance of the dominion of HaShem.

Darash Moshe

NO MIDDLE GROUND

Re'eh Anochi Nosen Lifneichem Hayom B'rocho U'Kloloh Ess HaBrocho Asher Tishmoun V'Ess HaKloloh Asher Lo Tishmoun

"Behold, I have placed before you today a blessing and a curse; the blessing that you shall listen and the curse if you will not listen."

The Torah presents two options in this verse: a blessing that comes from listening to the Torah's precepts or a curse that comes from not listening to the Torah.

It is noteworthy that these are the only two alternatives presented, that there is no middle ground between "listening" and "not listening" to the Torah.

Once someone veers away slightly from "the blessing that you shall listen", he has already placed himself under "the curse if you will not listen"

(Sforni - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND

L'Shichno TiD'rshu U'Va'asem Shomoh

"Towards His dwelling place you shall seek and you will come there."

Our Sages teach, "Who comes to purify himself is helped." When someone strives to do good, he receives a special measure of Divine assistance. This is indicated in the above verse.

The term " Towards His dwelling place you shall seek " represents any quest towards spiritual greatness and holiness. If a person truly fulfills the first part of the verse, then it will follow "and you will come there." That is, the person will succeed.

(Toras Moshe - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

WHOSE MONEY IS IT ANYWAY? 

Nason Titen Lo

"Give, you shall give to him."

Why does the Torah uses redundant language to instructs us to give charity?

The phrase "Give, you shall give" indicates that whatever one gives to charity is actually given twice.

All that a person owns really belongs to Hashem. Some of that which is given to a person is meant for the person's own use, and some is meant for the person to distribute to charity.

Thus when one gives charity, he is not actually not giving from his own assets. Rather, he is giving money that was destined to somehow reach its recipient. When one gives charity, he is actually giving money that has already been "given" by Hashem to the recipient.

(Haflo'oh - Itturei Torah)

SPOTLIGHT ON THE POOR MAN'S NEEDS

Ki Pasoach Tiftach Ess Yodcho Lo V'Ha'avet Ta'avitenu Dey Machsoro Asher Yechsar Lo

"For open you shall open your hand and lend you shall lend him enough for his lacking that he is lacking."

The author of the K'sav Sofer taught, "When one gives charity he should not allow himself to be distracted by ulterior motives. Rather, he should focus upon satisfying the needs of the poor man."

The K'sav Sofer pointed out that this verse stresses the needs of the poor person. The verse states that one should give the pauper whatever is "enough for his lacking." The torah emphasizes that one should give charity according to the needs of the pauper, not according to the giver's own desires for glory or other considerations.

(Itturei Torah)

BLESSING WITH A PURPOSE

Re'eh Anochi Nosain Lifneichem Hayom B'rocha V'Kloloh, Ess HaBrocha Asher Tishmoun
"See, I placed before you today a blessing and a curse, The blessing - that you shall listen"

As the transient pleasures of this world are insignificant compared to the great value of a mitzva (commandment), the primary place for reward is in the World To Come. The promises of material goodness that are mentioned in the Torah are not intended for reward. Rather, material bounty is given to the righteous as a resource so that they be able to do more good deeds. It provides more opportunities to do good deeds.

This concept is alluded to in the above verse. The Torah states "See I placed before you today a blessing and a curse." The word "today" indicates that the blessing discussed here pertains to the present world. The words that follow, "the blessing that you shall listen" can be understood to mean that the blessing will enable us to listen and perform the commandments.

  • (R'Noach Mindes - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

DOING YOUR BEST

Acharei Hashem Elokeichem Teileichu V'Oso Tirau V'Ess Mitzvosav Tishmoru U'V'Kolo Tishmou V'Oso Ta'avodu U'Bo Sidbukun
"You shall follow after Hashem your G-d, revere Him, keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cleave to Him."

The term "Acherei" - which means "after" - connotes following at a distance. This is as opposed to the term "Acher" which also means "after" but implies following closely. Why does the Torah use the term "Acherei?" Does the Torah want us to follow G-d from a distance?

The answer is that this verse is speaking to those who feel that they are distant from G-d. The Torah is telling them not to despair. The Torah recognizes the significance of every attempt to follow G-d, even from a distance. From even a low spiritual level, a person can still uphold the continuation of the verse, " revere Him, keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cleave to Him."

  • (Chofetz Chayim - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

PERSONAL PATROL

Shoftim V'Shotrim Titen Lcho L'Chol Sha'arecha

"Judges and police you shall place for you in all your gates."

The term "all your gates" can also refer to those parts of the body which act as "gates" to the outside world. These include the sensory organs such as the eyes, and the organs of speech which express the person's words to the outside world. The verse would then indicate that one should "place judges and police" - meaning take exceedingly great care - at his personal portals to the world. He should make sure that forbidden sights do not pass his eyes, and that forbidden speech does not pass his lips.

(ShaLoH - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

LIFE STORY

V'Kora Bo Kol Yimey Chayov

"And he (the king) should read in it (the Torah) all the days of his life."

The king of the Jews had a special Torah scroll which he kept with him at all times in order to read from it constantly. The verse also has another meaning. The king should read "all the days of his life" in the Torah - meaning he should consult the Torah for every aspect of his life, so that indeed "all the days of his life" can be read in the Torah"

(Toras Moshe - Itturei Torah)

BLOW TO SELF ESTEEM

"V'Onu V'Omru Yodeinu Lo Shufchu Ess Hadom Hazeh V'Einaynu Lo Raoo"
"And they (the elders) shall answer and say "Our hands did not spill this blood, and our eyes did not see"

If a corpse is found and the murderer cannot be located, then the elders (Torah leaders) of the nearest town must perform the rite called Eglah Arufah. A calf is slaughtered in a special method. Afterwards the town elders wash their hands and recite "Our hands did not spill this blood and our eyes did not see."

Rashi notes that it is unfathomable to suspect the elders of the murder. Hence Rashi interprets the statement "Our hands did not spill this blood" to mean: "We did not see this man off without an escort."

A question arises. Why does the Torah imply that one who allows a traveller to leave without an escort is a participant in the murder?

The answer is that a traveler may feel demeaned if no one bothers to escort him when he leaves. If his self-esteem suffers then he may have less courage to ward off an attacker. Hence, if one does not accord his fellow man the proper recognition by providing him with an escort then he is not just an innocent bystander. Rather, he may have actually contributed to the circumstances surrounding his fellow man's death. Thus the elders must proclaim "Our hands did not spill this blood" - "We did not see him off without an escort."

  • (Saba of kelm - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)

GENERATOR FAILURE

Another reason why the elders could be held responsible if they failed to provide an escort is based on a statement by the famed Rabbi Yisroel of Salant.

Rabbi Yisroel said, "When a scholar in Mir studies well it prevents a professor in Berlin from abandoning his faith." He meant that when people engage in spiritual pursuits, it produces a spirit of holiness in the world that affects everyone. The actions of a very lofty person generates the greatest amount of holiness. Thus the Torah scholar, who is a member of the spiritual elite, can produce enough holiness to affect the soul of a professor in far-off Berlin.

Thus the elders would have to accept some responsibility if they  neglected to provide the traveler with an escort. As spiritual  leaders, they stand as the generators of holiness throughout their   area. Had they been more careful about the needs of others, the  holiness generated may have been able to touch the soul of even the  lowest criminal and perhaps the murderer would not have killed the  victim. Therefore, they must proclaim that they were not lax in any  way towards their fellow man.

  • (Rabbi Yaakov Neiman-Pininim Mishulchan Govoha)

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR 

"Shoftim V'Shotrim Titen L'cho"

"Judges and officers you shall give (appoint) to you"

The usage in this verse is unusual. In standard usage in Hebrew the verse would state "Judges and officers you shall give (appoint) them". Why then, does the verse state "you shall give to you?"

In this verse the pronoun "you" is referring to the people who are responsible to appoint judges in the proper manner - as prescribed by the Torah. They are described as giving the judges to themselves. This indicates that they are the prime beneficiaries of the judges' appointment. When worthy judges and officers are appointed it is the public who stands to gain the most.

(Darash Moshe)

PROPER MEANS TO THE END

"Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof"

"Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue"

The redundant form of this verse alludes to an important lesson. The phrase "Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue" can be interpreted to mean that one shall pursue righteousness - with righteousness. One should employ only means of righteousness - not of falsehood - to achieve righteousness.

(R' Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)

LEARNING THE HARD WAY

V'Lokachto L'cho L'Isho

"And take her for yourself as a wife."

The Torah states that if a warrior finds a female captive to be irresistible, he may marry her after performing certain ritual procedures. Our Sages say that the Torah's reason permitting this unusual union is to help the soldier combat his Evil Inclination.

One interpretation of this teaching is as follows:

First, as background, the laws about a rebellious son are adjacent to this section. From the Oral Torah, we know that this provides an indication that the family that results from taking a captive will include a rebellious son.

Now, the Torah does not restrict anything that is truly beneficial for people. Rather, whatever the Torah forbids is truly detrimental to a person’s spiritual well-being. However, the Evil Inclination always tries to convince us that the commandments are unnecessarily restrictive.

The Torah therefore gives special permission under certain circumstances for someone to do that which the Torah normally forbids so. In this manner, he can see for himself the devastating effects of sin. So. if a warrior feels that he cannot control himself and he must use this loophole, he will learn (the hard way) a lesson important for combating the Evil Inclination, that the Torah's restrictions are in fact beneficial for a person.

(Note: On our own, we are not permitted to experiment with sinning.)

(Ohel Ya'akov - Itturei Torah)

WORKING FROM WITHIN

U'Biarto HaRo MiKirbecha

"And you shall eradicate the evil from within you"

Sometimes evil befalls us. Especially then, the best thing to do is to work upon self-improvement so that we may merit Heavenly deliverance.

This is indicated in the above verse.

If you wish to "eradicate the evil," the evil which befalls us, one should do so "from within you," through self-improvement.

(Divrei Sha'arei Chayim - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

NEVER SAY CAN'T

Under certain circumstances, the Torah permits the Jewish soldier to marry a gentile captive woman that he felt strongly attracted to during battle. She must first complete a month-long waiting period.

Rashi states that the reason for the Torah permitting this is because of the soldier’s Evil Inclination. G-d knew that the temptation presented by a beautiful captive would be too great for a battle-weary soldier. G-d therefore provided a permissible manner to marry the captive - rather than subject the soldier to sin as a result of the stress and passions of battle.

From the fact that the Torah allowed leniency in this unique situation, where temptation is too great for a person to bear, it can be deduced that G-d never demands too much of a person. If one is faced by temptation, this means that G-d has determined that this person has the power to withstand the test - if he really wants to.

(Rabbi Yecheskel Abramsky - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

TORAH - ITS OWN REWARD

The Torah discusses the laws of the Ben Sorer U'Moreh - a wayward and rebellious youth. Under very specific circumstances, such a youth must be executed in order to save him from causing himself and society further harm.

Our Sages state that the guidelines for a youth to become a Ben Sorer U'Moreh are so narrow, they preclude the possibility of a person ever becoming one.

The only reason that the Torah discusses the issue of the Ben Sorer U'Moreh is so that we can gain the reward for Torah study by learning it.

This statement seems puzzling. The Torah is so vast and deep, that even without this portion its study would more than occupy one's entire lifetime.

The answer is that the concept of "learning about Ben Sorer U'Moreh to earn reward thereby" does not only refer to the volume of Torah added by the inclusion of Ben Sorer U'Moreh. The fact that the Torah included a set of laws that have no practical applications demonstrates a vital principle. That is, studying Torah is not only for one to know how to keep the commandments of G-d. Learning Torah is in itself the loftiest pursuit of all, for when one studies Torah, he connects himself to the Word of G-d, the highest means of connecting oneself to Him. The Torah's primary purpose is to serve as a vehicle towards holiness.

This is the meaning of the statement that the portion of Ben Sorer U'Moreh was included in the Torah so that one may earn reward by studying it. One who absorbs the lesson of this "extra" portion and studies Torah for its own intrinsic value will thereby gain the greatest reward for Torah study.

(Rav Yisroel Salanter - P'ninim, MiShulchan Govoha)

EVIL ROOTS 

A "Ben Sorer Umoreh" is a wayward son who steals from his parents and spends the money to gorge himself. He incurs the penalty of stoning, for his deeds. Although his present sins (thievery and gluttony) are not severe enough to warrant the death penalty, he is executed to prevent him from developing into an even greater sinner. No good is expected from a youth who begins his adult life by stealing to support his gluttonous habits. If he would be allowed to live, he would stoop to greater and greater sins in order to continue his lifestyle. The Torah thus directs us to nip this wicked youth's career in the bud - for his own good as well as the good of society.

The Ben Sorer U'Moreh is in effect punished for his future sins. This would seem to counter a Midrash regarding Yishmael's (Ishmael) rescue from thirst as a youth. The Midrash relates that Hashem judged Yishmael as worthy of being saved based upon his spiritual level of that time. Hashem foresaw that Yishmael would grow to be an evil person. Even so, he was not held liable at that time for his future sins. Why, then, is the Ben Sorer U'Moreh held liable for his future misdeeds?

The Ben Sorer U'Moreh's case differs from that of Yishmael in the fact that the evil roots of his potential criminal career are already present. He has already begun his slide toward total depravity. He is executed for beginning his slide, before he sinks totally into a spiritual quagmire. However, Yishmael, at the time of his rescue had not even developed the roots of his future evil behavior. He was thus judged according to his present situation - and merited salvation.

(Chizkuni)

REJOICING WITH THE GIVER

V'Somachta B'Chol HaTov Asher Nasan L'Cho Hashem

"And you shall rejoice with all the good that Hashem gave you"

When a person receives a gift from an important individual, the quality of the gift is not what gives him the greatest pleasure. Rather, the fact that someone so important thought to give him a gift is the source of the recipient's greatest enjoyment. The Torah therefore tells "And you shall rejoice with all the good that Hashem gave you". We should rejoice not only for the good that we have, but also for the fact that it is "the good that Hashem gave you". We rejoice that the goodness which we have comes from none other than Hashem.

(Tiferes Shlomo - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

ACTION!

"Arur Asher Lo Yokim Ess Diverei HaTorah La'asos Osam"

"Accursed is whoever does not uphold the words of the Torah to do them"

The seeming repetition in this verse "uphold the words of the Torah to do them" indicates an important lesson. The only way to properly uphold the principles of the Torah is to do them - to actively perform the commandments of the Torah. It is a misconception that one can "act Jewish" merely by having a "Jewish heart" and attempting to maintain a "feeling of the spirit of the law". One whose approach to his Judaism does not extend to active performance of all the Mitzvos (commandments) sadly places himself under the curse of "Accursed is whoever does not uphold the words of the Torah to do them."

(Ksav Sofer - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

FOR YOU HASHEM

Bikkurim is a mitzva (commandment) that is applicable when the Jewish people are settled in Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel). This mitzva entails bringing the first fruits of one's field to the Kohen (priest) in the Mikdash (sanctuary).

It is remarkable that the Torah commands the farmer to give away to the Kohen his very first fruits - fruits which give him special joy and pride. After all, it makes no difference to the Kohen if he receives the farmer's first fruits or his second fruits. Why then does the Torah command the grower to take fruit that is dear to him and give it to a recipient who would just as soon receive any other fruit?

It is appropriate that as one enjoys the bounty of his harvest, he should bear in mind that all the blessings that he enjoys come from Hashem. By bringing Bikkurim, one demonstrates and internalizes this by celebrating his new harvest with the real owner of his fields - Hashem. So to speak, by bringing Bikkurim to the Mikdash one "shares" the joy of the first fruits with Hashem.

We can now understand why Bikkurim had to be brought from the first fruits. While the Kohanim had the privilege of partaking of these fruits, the focus of Bikkurim was to heighten the people's awareness of Hashem's role in their lives. The benefit was for the giver not the recipient.

(Darash Moshe)

TRUE NATIONHOOD

"Hayom Hazeh Nihyayso L'om LaHashem Elokecha"

"This day you became a nation for Hashem, your G-d"

This verse refers to the time that the Jews were in the desert, before they actually entered Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel). What was it that made the Jews into a nation if they did not yet have a common homeland?

Now, this verse follows the account of a covenant that the Jews made with Hashem. It bound them to keep the laws of the Torah. Thus, the Torah way of life is the bond that unites all Jews. Torah is the reason that the Jews were able to preserve a strong national identity throughout the millennia in exile - despite their lack of a homeland.

(R' S. R. Hirsch)


KEEPING YOUR PRIDE

V'Samto BaTene
"And you shall place it [bikkurim-first fruits that were brought as an offering] in a basket"

Wealthy people brought their bikkurim to the Temple in golden baskets. Poor people used baskets of straw.

The golden baskets were returned to their owners, while the straw baskets remained in the Temple with the bikkurim and they became the property of the priests.

Given that the poor have limited resources, shouldn’t it be the reverse?

Now, it is possible that the fruits from some of the poor people were minimal and of inferior quality, reflecting the quality of their farm land. So, if their baskets were returned then they would have to be emptied on the spot and a needy person may become embarrassed when the inferior fruits are exposed.

(Harav Aharon Bakst - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


DO IT TODAY!

Hayom Hazeh Hashem Elokecha Mitzavcho La'asos Ess HaChukim HoEilah
"On this day , Hashem your G-d commands you to perform these laws."

Moshe (Moses) said this verse to the Jewish people over thirty-three centuries ago.

We can interpret this verse to have a message for us, "On this day."

We are sometimes provided with an opportunity to do a good deed but we lack the enthusiasm to do it "On this day."

Perhaps the Torah is coaching us to set overcome the lethargy and seize every opportunity to do good.

We are thus admonished not to put off a good deed until the next day.

(Chofetz Chayim - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

SILVER LINING

V'Hoyoh Ki Yavou Olecha Ess HaBrocho V'Ess HaKloloh Asher Nosati Lifonecha VaHasheivosa Ell L'vovecha

"And it will be when it will come upon you all these things, the blessing and the curse that I put before you, and you will reconsider within your hearts."

After suffering the misfortunes that are destined to befall those who stray from the commandments, the Torah promises that the Jews will redirect their hearts to G-d.

The question arises: If the primary impetus for repentance is the suffering, represented by the curse, why does the Torah mention that both the blessing and the curse will occur? It seems that the blessing will also prod people to repent. How?

Throughout the millennia, countless haters have tried to destroy the Jewish people. G-d's "hand" (so to speak) in guiding world affairs is evident from the fact that despite their efforts, the Jewish nation continues to survive. When one realizes that G-d is constantly watches over us and managing history to insure our existence as a people, this can inspire a person to return to Torah observance. The blessing of G-d’s watching over us throughout the exile is as much a cause for repentance as the misfortunes of the exile themselves.

(Ohel Ya'akov - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

SINGLED OUT

When tragedy strikes, people tend to ascribe it to natural causes. However, when only certain people are affected, it becomes clear that the misfortune is not a product of accident but rather, it is a message from G-d.

When the Jewish people experience "the blessing and the curse," when misfortune occurs to them while others appear to be blessed, then they are most likely to " reconsider" within their hearts and return to G-d.

(K'sav Sofer - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

NOT LOST

U'Motzouhu Raos Rabos V'Tzoros V'Omar Bayom Hahu Al Ki Ain Elokay B'Kirbi Motzouni HaRaos HoEiloh

"And many evils and dire straits will befall it (the Jewish Nation), and (the Jewish Nation) will say on that day, "Is it not because my G-d is not within me that these evils have befallen me."

The first part of the verse mentions "evils" and "dire straits" but the latter part but omits the "dire " straits. What is the reason for this omission?

"Evils" refer to unpleasant events that cause suffering. "Dire straits" refer a state of mind, a feeling of being trapped and confined which results from suffering.

One who lives with the belief that G-d controls human events may endure suffering but he/she will not feel lost. Rather, the person will feel secure from the knowledge that G-d is controlling events in the best possible way for him/her. This person may experience "evils" but not "dire straits".

The second part of the verse describes the Jewish people of the future as a people who have come to the realization that their suffering was caused by their distancing themselves from G-d. They have returned to their source of strength and they are now above the "dire straits."

(HaRav HaGaon R' Elazar Schach Shlita - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


Devarim 29;28 : "Hanistaros laHashem elokeinu vehaniglos lonu u’l’voneinu ad olam la’asos ess kol hatorah hazos"

That which is hidden is for Hashem our G-d, and that which is revealed is for ourselves and our children forever to perform the particulars of this Torah.

This verse can be interpreted as referring to the time of the future redemption. Apparently, there is a hidden time of Redemption, referred to in the verse as "that which is hidden." There is also a revealed time, referred to in the verse as "that which is revealed." In accord with this interpretation, this verse tells us that the hidden time was not revealed to any entity except for Hashem, Himself. This is the meaning of the verse "That which is hidden is for Hashem our G-d."

The verse also tells us that the revealed time of Redemption is a date which is dependent upon us. That is, we have the ability to bring the date closer through our own actions. Thus the verse tells us: "That which is revealed" (i.e. the revealed time of the Redemption) is for ourselves and our children forever. How so? By seeing fit, "to perform all the particulars of this Torah.

(K’sav Sofer)

Devarim 30;15,19  : "Re’eh nosati lifanecha hayom ess hachayim v’ess hatov… u’vocharta b’chayim."

See, I have placed before you today the life and the goodness… and you shall choose life"

In these verses, Moshe is advising the children of Israel on the way that they should lead their lives once he leaves them.

It appears that this is meant to be a map of how to lead one’s life on a continuing basis.

It is interesting to note the word "today" in this verse.

On a daily basis we must consciously and actively choose a proper course for life.

Darash Moshe


THERE'S NOTHING LIKE NOT SEEING

VaTiru Ess Shikutzeihem
"And you saw their detestable things (their idols)."

Rashi states that the Torah calls idols "detestable things" because the Jews felt an aversion towards idols.

We find several expressions of caution against paganism. If the Jews felt an aversion towards idolatry then why did the Torah take extra measures to warn against it?

The answer is that the Torah is teaching us that a feeling of revulsion is not a guarantee that one will not later succumb to sin. Once exposed to sin, even after seeing its loathsome aspects, a person can be negatively affected by the exposure. Hence, the Torah gives an extra admonishment to the Jews to guard themselves against the sin of idol worship, especially after seeing the idols of Egypt, even though they were repulsive.

(Rav of Brisk - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS

Ki Karov Ailecho Hadovor Meod B'Ficho U'V'Lvovcha La'asoso
"For this (the Torah) is very close to you, it is in your mouth and your heart to do."

G-d filled the Earth with resources for physical life. We note that the more vital a resource is to human life, the more plentiful and accessible it is to Mankind. For example, a person can live for a few moments without air and the earth is totally surrounded by air. Water is the next most vital element and water is found all over the world, but not as commonly as air. Food is quite plentiful but less so than water because man can live longer without food than without water. Luxuries are relatively rare.

Torah is extremely vital to our very spiritual existence. One must have a constant connection to Torah. For this reason, G-d planted the essence of Torah into every Jewish heart, which is as close to the person as it could possibly be. One needs only a sincere desire to unlock the spiritual potential that is within himself.

(HaMeir LaOlam - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


Devarim 32;3 : "Kee Shem Hashem Ekra, Havu Godel Lelokeinu"

Give praise to our G-d as I call out the name of Hashem.

The Gemara learns from this verse that one is obligated to recite a blessing before studying Torah (Berachos 21).

We must understand why Moshe is first reciting the blessing now, after teaching the Torah to the Jewish people for close to forty years.

The purpose of reciting a blessing is to acknowledge that everything comes from Hashem.
Until now, Moshe acted as an intermediary when he taught the Torah. So to speak, Hashem was speaking to the Jewish people through him. Thus, there had been no need to relate Moshe’s Torah to Hashem by making a blessing since it was as if Hashem Himself were speaking.

However, now in Parshas Ha’azinu Moshe was speaking for himself. He therefore needed to recite the blessing.

Devarin 32;52 : "Kee Minegdo Tir’eh Ess Ha’aretz, V’shama Lo Savo Ell Ha’aretz Asher Asher Ani Nosain L’vnei Yisroel

You will view the land from far off, and (to) there you will not come, to the land that I am giving to the Children of Israel.

The Torah has already told us that Hashem is giving the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. Why is it repeated here?

The Zohar says that although Moshe was prevented from entering the land at this time, he will ultimately enter Israel during the time of the Final Redemption, when many of the dead will be revived.

This is indicated in the verse by linking the ban to a present-tense reference of the land, "the land that I am giving to the Children of Israel."


PRECISION IN JUSTICE

HaTzur Tomim P'olo Ki Chol D'rochov Mishpot Kail Emunah V'Ain Ovel

"The Rock (G-d), perfect is His work, for all his ways are just. G-d who is faithful, there is no injustice"

Given that G-d is perfect in all His ways, it follows that He does no injustice. The words, "there is no injustice" seem superfluous.

This can be understood in the light that G-d's judgment is calculated down to the last detail.

When a criminal is sentenced in our court system, his/her close family and friends endure great suffering. The sentencing rarely takes this into consideration.

However, when G-d passes judgment, "there is no injustice." G-d formulates the punishment so that no one will endure even incidental pain or anguish unless they deserve to have it for themselves. Thus, only of G-d's judgment can it truly be said "there is no injustice"

(R' Yisroel Salanter - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


AMORAL ATHEIST

B'Goy Novol Achisaym

"With a vulgar nation I will anger them"

Rashi explains that "a vulgar nation" is one that does not believe in G-d. The question arises: Why is such a nation referred to as vulgar? Can't a nation consist of atheists and still be a polished and cultured?

The answer is that one who does not believe in G-d violates a basic principle of manners - that of gratitude. Even a small child is scolded if he takes something and does not say "thank you."

Thus, one who chooses not to believe in G-d is showing that he is ready to dissociate G-d with all of His blessings, such as health, sustenance, etc.

Vulgar is therefore an apt description of such a people.

(R' Moshe Rosenstein - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

ISRAEL'S UNITY : THE KEY TO TRADITION 

Torah Tziva Lonu Moshe Morasha Kehillas Ya'akov

The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Yaakov.

There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Many of the commandments apply only to specific groups of Jews (e.g. only for Kohanim or only for Israelites [non-Kohanim]). No single individual fits into all of the groups - some of which are mutually exclusive of each other. Thus, a single individual is not capable of fulfilling all 613 of the Torah's commandments. The Torah can only be upheld in its entirety by the union of Jews from all groups.

This concept is alluded to in the above verse - "Torah tziva lanu Moshe" - the Torah that Moshe commanded us. How can any one person uphold the a Torah? The second part of the verse provides the answer: Morasha Kehillas Ya’akov" - is the heritage of the Congregation of Yaakov. The Jews as a congregation, as a collective unit, can together uphold this inheritance.

(K'sav Sofer- Ma'ayana Shel Torah)

A PROOF OF VERACITY

V'Lo Yoda Ish Ess K'vuroso Ad Hayom Hazeh

"And no man knew his (Moshe's) burial place until this very day."

It is remarkable that the Torah makes a statement that does not seem to offer any information. If the Torah is not offering any information regarding the whereabouts of Moshe's burial, why does it discuss the matter at all?

The Torah makes an important point by mentioning the fact that the burial place of Moshe remains forever unknown. Moshe transcribed the Divine words of the Torah - even the account of his own death. He did not change one iota of the Divine meaning. This is apparent from account of his own death. Had he wished to tamper with the Torah for his own interests, he surely would have glorified his own end. He could have said that he ascended to heaven while still alive -a claim not unfeasible for a man with the supernatural powers of Moshe. And, as this verse indicates, he had the opportunity to make such a claim because no one was able to point to his body and prove that he had actually died - "no man knew his burial place."

Thus, although this verse does not provide any information about Moshe's burial site, it teaches an important lesson. Even when Moshe had a motive and an opportunity to change details of the Torah, he did not do so. He transcribed the Divine words 100% faithfully.

(Koheles Yitzchok - Ma'ayanah Shel Torah)

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

V'Zos HaBrocho Asher Beirach Moshe Ish HoElokim Ess B'nei Yisroel Lifnei Moso

"And this is the blessing that Moshe (Moses), the Man of G-d blessed the Children of Israel before his death."

This is the only place in the Torah where Moshe is referred to as "the Man of G-d." Why is this title conferred upon Moshe specifically just before his death?

The fact that Moshe reached a higher level of prophecy than any other prophet - before or after him - is a fundamental tenet of Judaism . It is for this reason that no prophet can ever contradict Moshe's teachings. It is therefore vital that the Torah emphasizes Moshe's status - by calling him "the Man of G-d."

However, Moshe in his great humility, did not wish such a title to be bestowed upon him. Hashem honored his wishes and give him this title until just before his death, the last available opportunity.

(Admor MiGur - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

ARMS AND HEADS

V'Toraf Z'roa Af Kudkod

"And he (the Tribe of Gad) mauls (the) arm also (the) head."

Rashi explains this verse by saying that the warriors of Gad had the unique ability to kill their enemies by severing their arms and heads in a single blow. What is the Torah trying to teach us by telling us this fact?

The Talmud states that only totally righteous people were allowed in the army of the Jews. They relied completely on G-d, not on their own strength. In the Torah army, merit is more important than might.

The Talmud states that a relatively minor infraction of the Torah’s guidelines can disqualify a soldier from battle. The Talmud provides the example of interrupting with speech between placing the tefilin (phylacteries) of the arm and that of the head.

The entire tribe of Gad was pure from any such infractions. They were therefore bestowed with a strength to sever their enemies arms and heads without interruption - measure for measure for their merit of placing their arm tefillin and head tefillin without interruption.

(Vilna Gaon - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


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