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“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”
Fulfilling the Torah in Golus/Exile
“הואיל משה באר את התורה הזאת” (דברים א:ה)
“Moshe began to explain this Torah” (Devorim 1:5)
Rashi explains that “באר את התורה” /explained the Torah” teaches us that Moshe translated and explained the Torah to Bnei Yisrael in seventy languages.
On the surface, this explanation is difficult to understand, for the Torah was only given to Bnei Yisrael and they spoke loshon hakodesh/Hebrew, so why would they need translation into other languages!? And if the translation is for the nations of the world, this is even more difficult, for there is a prohibition to teach Torah to non-Jews!?
However it appears that Moshe explained the Torah in all the languages of the nations for the benefit of the Jewish people. That is, when they go into exile and intermingle among the Gentiles and speak in their language, even though their languages are foreign to the Torah, similar to the nations who speak them, as it says “פה להם ולא ידברו… כמוהם יהיו עושיהם” / “they have a mouth and do not speak… so shall be with their makers” (Tehillim 115:5-8), Moshe taught the Torah in seventy tongues so that the sanctity of the Torah would be placed within the words of each language so that the Jews would be able to learn Torah everywhere – keeping them faithful to their G-d- until they return to Israel!
Additionally, we can explain that Moshe prepared a blueprint of how to approach learning in each generation as well of what learning to emphasize in each time period in order to keep the Jewish people firmly attached to the Torah and its fulfillment in anticipation of their return to Israel. A proof that Moshe influenced the Jewish people throughout all generations is echoed in the words of one of the last prophets Malachi (3:22) who said “זכרו תורת משה” / “Remember the Torah of Moshe”, meaning that Moshe’s influence will last forever!
According to the above explanation, it is well understood that Moshe spoke to the people approximately a month before his demise for after his death the people will get their first taste of golus/exile as they parted from their loyal sheppard – Moshe! And so the sages say that when Moshe died the Jewish people forgot 3000 Torah laws (Tamura 16a). Similarly, we have learned that when Yaakov died, his descendants began to be subjected to the golus/exile of Egypt.
From here we learn the need to follow the direction of the leading rabbis of each generation, for they continue the path originally forged by Moshe and through following their instruction and direction we are ensured to continue faithfully in the ways of the Torah until we eventually merit to return back to the promised land of Israel.
Tu bAv 5777
The Two Cleansing Agents of Eretz Yisrael
“… ארץ הכנעני והלבנון” (דברים א:ז)
“… land of the Canaani and the Levanon” (Devorim 1:7)
Why is Eretz Yisrael called by these two names “הכנעני והלבנון” / “the Canaani and the Levanon”?
It appears that they signify the two major ways in which a person can improve himself and atone for his sins in Eretz Yisrael. They are:
One – Humility, as this is the root of the word “הכנעני“, and two – Sacrifices, as the root of והלבנון”” – is white, hinting to the cleansing and “whitening” of one’s sins. This is accomplished through repentance and the sacrificing of sacrifices when the Beis Hamikdash/Holy Temple stood which is referred to as “והלבנון” as Rashi explains the posuk “ההר הטוב הזה והלבנון” / “this good mountain and the Levanon” (Devorim 3:25), “the good mountain” is referring to Jerusalem and “the Levanon” is referring to the Beis Hamikdash” as it states “והלבנון באדיר יפול” / “and Levanon shall fall by a mighty one” (Yishaya 10:34). Why is it called “Levanon”? For it (the Temple) whitens the sins of the Jewish people (Sifri).
Additionally we find in the Medrash (Rabbah) “אפך כמגדל הלבנון” / “your nose is like the tower of Levanon” (Shir Hashirim 7:5). This is referring to the Beis Hamikdash, for just as the nose is located at the height of a person, so too the Beis Hamikdash sits at the height of the world. “כמגדל הלבנון” / “as a tower in Levanon” – “Levanon” refers to the Beis Hamikdash as it מלבין / whitens the sins of Israel.
From the above we learn that even when the Beis Hamikdash stands in ruins, there remains an avenue through which we can improve our ways and atone for our sins – and that avenue is humility! See the Ramban (in his explanation on the Mishna in Rosh Hashanah, ch. 4), the Ran (Sanhedrin 46b), the sefer Sechel Tov (pt. 2) and the sefer Ma’asei Hashem (The act of Eypt, ch. 5) who explain the connection between humility and atonement.
Tisha b’Av: Under the Rule of the Gid Hanashe/The Stricken Sinew
Below we have brought several commentaries who explain the connection between the prohibition to eat of the gid hanashe/stricken sinew and the day of Tisha B’Av.
The Kometz Mincha: The holy Zohar (Parshas Vayishlach, pg. 170b) teaches us that there are 365 negative commandments in the Torah which correspond to the 365 days of the year which correspond in turn to the 365 sinews in man, and Tisha bAv corresponds to the sinew called the gid hanashe. (See there.) That is, as we learn in Gemora Chulin, sinews do not have the energy of life as organs and limbs do, yet they play a great role in that they allow man to stand on his feet. Without a connection to life, how do the sinews function? They function through one’s fulfillment of the negative commandments, and it appears that the gid hanashe functions through the fulfilling of the commandment not to eat from the gid hanashe.
This is the idea of Tisha B’Av in which we follow the laws of mourning, where it is as though we don’t exist at all, as we don’t leave our homes, don’t work, don’t learn Torah – only sit silent as do the deceased. This is as it is written“המתאבל יאבד יום… אל יחד”… / “the mourner loses a day” (Iyov 3:3-6) as this is the desire of a mourner – not to be found in this world at all, almost denying its very existence!
This is what sustains Tisha B’Av as the sages have said (Taanis 30b) one who mourns on Tisha B’Av will merit to see its joy – as in the future it will become a Yom Tov. (Maybe for this reason, this sinew is called gid hanashe which means to forget in Aramaic, meaning that it is upon us to reflect on the day as though it doesn’t exist at all. This for two reasons: 1) For the day is a day of destruction and 2) in the end of days the power behind this destruction will disappear from the earth as the posuk states “רוח הטומאה יעבור מן הארץ” / “and the spiritual defilement will vanish from the world” (Zechariah 13:2).
Sefer Orach L’Chaim (Parshas Vayishlach): The posuk states “לא יאכלו בני ישראל את גיד הנשה” / “the children of Israel shall not eat the gid hanashe” (Bereishis 32:33) which teaches us that the Jewish people should refrain from having any pleasure from this world. This we learn from the addition of the word “את“, meaning with the enjoyment of the evil inclination which is called the gid hanashe “עד היום הזה” / “until this day”. “Until this day” is referring to the future when the evil inclination will cease to exist“ואת רוח הטומאה יעבור מן הארץ” / “and the spiritual defilement will vanish from the world” (Zechariah 13:2) and the evil inclination will be transformed into a holy angel as its evil will desist completely and only good will be found in the world. This is “עד היום הזה” which has the numerical value of טו”ב/good – as then only good will be found in the world!
Sefer Punim Yafos (Devorim 2:4): See what it says in the holy Zohar (Parshas Vayishlach pg. 170b). He adds that the posuk “ויקצוף ה’ ביום ההוא” / “and Hashem became angry on that day” teaches us that Hashem imbedded His anger into the essence of the day of Tisha bAv for all generations, for Tisha B’Av fell under the control of the השט”ן whose numerical value is שס”ד – which is 364. (Meaning, on the 365th day the satan/evil inclination rules.)
Although the posuk says regarding Yaakov “ויזרח לו השמש” / “And the sun rose for him” (Bereishis 32:32) which teaches us that Yaakov recovered from the touch of the angel, the posuk is referring only to Yaakov himself and not to his descendants for the full repair and cure has yet to arrive. Therefore, we are prohibited to eat the gid hanashe until the coming of the Moshiach when the words of the prophet will be realized – “בלע המות לנצח” / “and death will be forever eradicated” (Yishaya 25:8).
The Sefas Emes (Tisha bAv likutim) adds that the sages decreed that we fast on Tisha bAv for through the suffering of the fast and the teshuva/return of Bnei Yisrael to the ways of Hashem, each and every year the damage of the gid hanashe and its effect on the Jew lessens until its effect is finally uprooted, and then the day of Tisha B’Av will become a Yom Tov/a day of joy and celebration.
Menachem Av 5778
The Power of Hearing
“הנוטע אוזן הלא ישמע אם יוצר עין הלא יביט” (תהלים צד:ט)
“The One who plants an ear (in a person’s head) will He not hear (Himself), if He creates an eye, will He not see!? (Tehillim 94:9)
The choice of נטיעה/planting to describe the creation of an ear andיצירה /creating to describe the creation of sight needs explanation.
We can suggest with G-d’s help as follows: the eye sees all that stands within its view while the ear does not see at all but only hears. Now sight is considered to be greater than hearing as we accept witnesses who saw the case and not those who merely heard it. Similarly, we find that a blind man is considered as one without life (Nedarim 64b), whereas the same is not said of a deaf person. Thus we learn that seeing is greater than hearing.
According to the above, why then did Hakadosh Baruch Hu decide to give His holy Torah through the medium of hearing as it says“כל אשר דבר ה’ נעשה ונשמע” / “all that Hashem speaks we will do and hear” (Shemos 24:7) and“שמע ישראל את החוקים ואת המשפטים אשר אנכי דבר באזניכם היום ולמדתם אותם ושמרתם לעשותם” / “Listen Israel to the statutes and the laws that I am speaking in your ears today and learn them and guard them to do them” (Devorim 5:1). Why was hearing chosen over seeing if seeing is greater!?
If you’ll say that they did as well receive the Torah through the medium of sight as the posuk states “וכל העם רואים את הקולות” / “And all the people see the sounds” (Shemos 20:15) and Rashi explains that they saw – and not only heard – the words of the Ten Commandments!? We can suggest in answer that this seeing was in order to help clarify that which they heard but the basic tool of transfer was hearing!
Therefore, we are still left with the question why we received the Torah mainly through the medium of hearing?
It appears that there are two reasons for this:
1) Sight connects one with externality while hearing picks up a more subtle, internal message and this is needed in order to pick up the sublime messages of the Torah.
2) The eye is satisfied through seeing and thus its impact on the soul which is hidden within a person is limited, and thus hearing is a better medium for impacting the soul with the messages of the Torah.
For these reasons, among others, the Torah was given through hearing for only this sense can lead the person to internalize the message of the Torah.
Therefore, the wording of planting or implanting is written to describe the creation of hearing as through it the Torah is implanted in the soul. And the word creation, meaning expansion, is used to describe the creation of sight for its role is to see how to apply the message internalized through hearing. This is as we say in the blessing over the Torah “וחיי עולם נטע בתוכנו” / “the Torah (which affords the person with everlasting life) was implanted in a person”.
With this we can explain the words of our sages in Gittin (60b) Rebbi Yochanan said Hakadosh Baruch Hu only made a covenant with the Jewish people with the Oral Law as it says “כי על פי הדברים האלה כרתי אתך ברית ואת ישראל” / “for through these words I made a covenant with you and with the Jewish people” (Shemesh 34:27) for that which is heard makes a greater impression on a person and lasts and this is the purpose of a covenant.
Menachem Av 5778
Wishing you a good Shabbos and an easy fast on Sunday!
May be merit to see the rebuilding of Jerusalem in the very near future!