Blind Spot

This Shabbos, ח אב, is the Yahrzeit of the Alter from Kelm. The Rav mentioned that in Kelm, on a Yahrzeit, a Yasom didn’t daven at the Amud. They would say the reason is because the Amud is not a Yasom. (This was prompted by someone in the Shul having Yahrzeit and not davening for the Amud.)

In the Sefer חכמה ומוסר (Volume 2, Siman 71, titled מכל מלמדי השכלתי), the Alter from Kelm writes something that is connected to the beginning of Devarim (1:9-14). Moshe Rabbeinu mentions his appointing of judges which seems to be referring to the advice that Yisro gave him in Parshas Yisro when he said נבל תבל גם אתה גם העם הזה אשר עמך. Regarding this point, the Alter from Kelm writes that Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest leader and teacher in the history of Klal Yisrael. He took them out of Mitzrayim, split the sea, and brought the Torah down from heaven. Yet, his father in law Yisro, who was מפטם עגלים לעבודה זרה and came to convert after hearing about Yetzias Mitzrayim, rebuked Moshe Rabbeinu regarding how he dealt with the judicial process with Klal Yisrael. Rashi says שהוקשה הדבר ליתרו שהיה מזלזל בכבודן של ישראל והוכיחו על כך. The Alter from Kelm asked how it could be that Moshe Rabbeinu made a mistake and couldn’t see that which what Yisro saw. To which he answered it must be it was in order to give an opportunity for Moshe Rabbeinu, the Raban Shel Yisrael, to teach us another lesson. The lesson being that even a great person could have blind spots and not realize what others, who are smaller than him, realize. Therefore he should always be attentive and listen to what others say to him. This is the lesson that Hashem allowed Moshe Rabbeinu to miss this in order for him to have the opportunity to teach this most important lesson.

Judges and Leaders

Although it would seem that Moshe Rabbeinu is telling over the incident with the appointment of judges that came with the visit of Yisro, nevertheless when looking closely at the Psukim, there is a difference between how it’s described here and how it is said in Parshas Yisro. In Devarim, the Pasuk says ואמר אלכם בעת ההוא לאמר לא אוכל לבדי שאת אתכם וכו' הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם ואשימם בראשיכם as if to say it was Moshe Rabbeinu who felt the difficulty and then suggested the appointment of judges. But when reading the Psukim in Parshas Yisro, it’s clear that it was Yisro who noticed the problem and suggested the appointment of judges as the Psukim say וירא חתן משה את כל אשר הוא עשה לעם ויאמר מה הדבר הזה אשר אתה עשה לעם מדוע אתה יושב לבדך וכל העם נצב עליך מן בקר עד ערב, ויאמר חתן משה אליו לא טוב הדבר אשר אתה עשה, נבל תבל גם אתה גם העם הזה אשר עמך כי כבד ממך הדבר לא תוכל עשהו לבדך, עתה שמע בקלי איעצך ויהי אלהים עמך היה אתה לעם מול האלהים והבאת אתה את הדברים אל האלהים.

Furthermore, the requirements for judges that Moshe mentions in Devarim differ from that which Yisro say in Parshas Yisro. In Yisro, the requirements are יראי אלהים אנשי אמת שנאי בצע, traits that focus on character and not about intellectual capabilities. But in Devarim, the requirements are חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם which are traits that focus on intellect and not on character. Lastly, in Parshas Yisro, Yisro says to Moshe ואתה תחזה מכל העם אנשי חיל יראי אלהים אנשי אמת שנאי בצע that Moshe should be the one to choose them. But in Parshas Devarim, Moshe says to the Jewish people הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם ואשימם בראשיכם that they themselves should be the ones to elect the judges. So is Moshe Rabbeinu appointing these people or is Klal Yisrael appointing these people?

Because of these differences, the Rav suggested that the appointment being recorded by Moshe Rabbeinu in Devarim is not referring to the appointment of judges that Yisro suggested. Yisro suggested the appointment of judges who needed to be of high character, who were יראי אלהים אנשי אמת שנאי בצע. But Moshe Rabbeinu was referring to an appointment of leaders who functioned differently than judges and it was therefore important for these leaders to be of high intellect, to be חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם.

Meaning Yisro spoke only of appointing judges. However once Moshe Rabbeinu internalized the idea that he can’t do it himself, he realized that it’s not just in terms of judging but also in terms of leading that he can’t do it alone. Therefore, he decided on his own to also appoint leaders. Therefore, not only is there no mention of Yisro, but also that these leaders were elected by the people as opposed to the judges that Yisro suggested which were appointed by Moshe. The reason is because only leaders that were elected by the people would they allow to be led by. This is why by the judges with Yisro, the description is יראי אלהים אנשי אמת שנאי בצע because to be judges they needed sterling character and therefore the emphasis is on their character. But by the leaders, it’s not enough that they should be kind and nice people but they also have to have the understanding and the vision to lead and that is why by the leaders the emphasis is on the חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם.

חורבן as a Process

The Medrash Rabbah, in the beginning of Eichah, says that three people prophesized with the word איכה. The first is Moshe Rabbeinu in Devarim 1:12 איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם. The second is Yeshayah 1:21 איכה היתה לזונה (the Haftorah for Shabbos Chazon). The third is Yirmiyah who said איכה ישבה בדד. It’s obvious that we aren’t just talking about the word איכה that appears three times in Tanach. Rather it must be that Chazal are coming to emphasize the connection between these three in particular.

Perhaps the idea is that they represent the process how the Jewish people decline. It first begins with theאיכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם, which is the lack of respect for the Gedolei Torah. This leads to the איכה היתה לזונה which describes the lack of Torah observance. This in the end leads to the איכה ישבה בדד, which is destruction. חורבן is not just a state rather it’s a process over time.

This idea can help answer an apparent difficulty. The Gemara in Nedarim 81a says על מה אבדה הארץ דבר זה נשאל לחכמים ולנביאים ולא פירשוהו, עד שפירשו הקדוש ברוך הוא בעצמו, דכתיב: ויאמר ה' על עזבם את תורתי וגו' אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שאין מברכין בתורה תחלה. It would seem from this Gemara that the Churban happened because the Jews weren’t making Birkas HaTorah in the beginning of the day. The Ran explains this to mean כלומר שלא היתה התורה חשובה בעיניהם כ"כ שיהא ראוי לברך עליה שלא היו עוסקים בה לשמה ומתוך כך היו מזלזלין בברכתה. However, the Gemara in Yoma 9b says מקדש ראשון מפני מה חרב? מפני שלשה דברים שהיו בו: עבודה זרה, וגלוי עריות, ושפיכות דמים. So was the Churban because שאין מברכין בתורה תחלה or was it because of עבודה זרה, וגלוי עריות, ושפיכות דמים?

The answer could be that the actual Churban happened because of עבודה זרה, וגלוי עריות, ושפיכות דמים but it was a process to get to the point where the Jews were doing the ג' עבירות חמורות. It started with שאין מברכין בתורה תחלה which, as explained by the Ran, was a break down in חשיבות התורה and for those who learned it. Once they lacked a חשיבות התורה, they were able to fall to a point of doing עבודה זרה, וגלוי עריות, ושפיכות דמים which brought about the Churban.

Connecting as the חמור אבוס בעליו

The Pasuk in the Haftorah says ידע שור קנהו וחמור אבוס בעליו ישראל לא ידע עמי לא התבונן (ישעיה א,ג). It would seem that the ידע שור קנהו corresponds to the ישראל לא ידע and the חמור אבוס בעליו corresponds to the עמי לא התבונן. The idea is that the ידע שור קנהו that an ox knows and recognizes his owner as opposed to ישראל who is לא ידע that they don’t know their God. חמור אבוס בעליו is that although the donkey doesn’t have the intelligence to know it’s owner, it at least can recognize that it has an owner, through it’s food. It recognizes that its food must’ve come from its owner-מבין דבר מתוך דבר. But עמי לא התבונן, that Yisrael can’t even perceive and come to recognizing their God through all the good.

Chassidim would give Tikun after davening. They would say that we tried to daven and connect with the Ribono Shel Oilam through Tefilah but unfortunately ישראל לא ידע. But maybe we could connect to him on the level of חמור אבוס בעליו that through the food, we’ll recognize the Ribono Shel Oilam.

This is the idea of a ברכות הנהנין that we make a Brachah on הנאה. Such a thing could actually separate a person from the Ribono Shel Oilam that he could get הנאה in a way that distances himself from the Ribono Shel Oilam. But the proper way is that not only should the הנאה not distance us but it should actually make us closer. If we recognize when making a ברכות הנהנין that it all comes from Hashem and that we are thankful for it, then it’ll bring us closer to the Ribono Shel Oilam. That is the Avodah of חמור אבוס בעליו.

Construction Through Destruction

The Tur in OH Siman 428 gives the סימן for the Moadim with א"ת ב"ש וכו' that they are all based on Pesach.

סימן לקביעות המועדים א"ת ב"ש ג"ר ד"ק ה"ץ ו"פ פי' ביום א' של פסח יהיה לעולם ט' באב וסימן על מצות ומרורים יאכלוהו ביום ב' שבועות ביום ג' בו ר"ה

The first day of Pesach is always on the same day as Tisha BaAv, which is the א"ת; the א being the first day of Pesach and the ת being תשעה באב. The Tur adds וסימן על מצות ומרורים יאכלוהו that the same day that we eat Matzah, we also experience the מרורים, the bitterness of Tisha Baav.

The idea could be that although destruction and construction are opposites, nevertheless it is important to understand that it’s not a wheel of fortune rather it’s a גלגל הוא שחוזר בעולם and it depends on our behavior. We can transform redemption into Churban and Churban into redemption. The א and the ת, the redemption of Pesach and the Churban on Tisha BaAv, are really two sides of the same thing because it’s all about how we behave and that we can turn this into that and that into this.

In Halacha, it says that on Erev Tisha BaAv that falls out on Shabbos, one can be מעלה על שולחנו אפילו כסעודת שלמה בשעתו. Shlomo had a שעתו when he was the מלך ישראל but then he also had a time when he was exiled from the kingship and then he came back. It all depends on if you are fit for the Meluchah or not. A person could have it all and lose it all and he could have lost it all but still not lose hope. If a person doesn’t lose hope, then he can get back to where he was. So the סעודת שלמה בשעתו on Erev Tisha BaAv that falls out on Shabbos emphasizes the idea that although Shlomo Hamelech is the one who built the Beis Hamikdash and now we are mourning the Churban of the Beis Hamikdash, we can nevertheless relates to the סעודת שלמה בשעתו in this situation because we understand that the שעתו and שלא בשעתו are two sides of the same coin. This is the same idea that Chazal say Mashiach will be born on Tisha BaAv because the redemption lies in the destruction. If the Churban is taken in the right way, then it will be the root of the rebuilding and therefore one must not despair and lose hope.

ראייה without a Korban

The Pasuk in the Haftorah says כי תבאו לראות פני מי בקש זאת מידכם רמס חצרי (ישעיה א,יב). This Pasuk is referring to עליה לרגל so what is the meaning of the words מי בקש זאת מידכם because it’s an explicit Pasuk שלוש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך את פני יהוה אלהיך במקום אשר יבחר so how could it say מי בקש זאת מידכם when it’s an explicit Mitzvah?

The next Pasuk says לא תוסיפו הביא מנחת שוא קטרת תועבה היא לי which is the idea that the Korban of a רשע is פסול because of זבח רשעים תועבה. The Rambam writes the following in the beginning of Hilchos Chagigah:

שלש מצות עשה נצטוו ישראל בכל רגל משלש רגלים ואלו הן: הראייה שנאמר יראה כל זכורך, והחגיגה שנאמר תחוג לה' אלהיך, והשמחה שנאמר ושמחת בחגך, הראייה האמורה בתורה היא שנראה פניו בעזרה ביום טוב הראשון של חג ויביא עמו קרבן עולה בין מן העוף בין מן הבהמה, ומי שבא לעזרה ביום ראשון ולא הביא עולה לא דיו שלא עשה מצות עשה אלא עובר על לא תעשה שנאמר לא יראו פני ריקם

According to the Rambam, the מצות ראייה is only with a Korban. According to this, the explanation of the Pasuk כי תבאו לראות פני מי בקש זאת מידכם is since their Korban is פסול because of זבח רשעים תועבה, therefore there is no obligation to come to the Beis Hamikdash being that they won’t be able to come with a Korban. That’s why Hashem is saying to Klal Yisrael מי בקש זאת מידכם as if to say no one was asking for this.

Severity of the חטא המרגלים

When discussing the essence of the time of the year of בין המצרים, the Bnei Yisaschar writes the following:

מבואר בכוונת האריז"ל כוונת ברכת אבות בימי בין המצרים סיום הברכה ברוך אתה י"י יכוונו חילוף הוי"ה בשם טדה"ד, היינו אותיות הקודמים לאותיות הוי"ה [פע"ח שער הברכות פ"ז], הנה השם הזה בהתחלקו ירמוז לימי בין המצרים לתמוז ואב, אותיות ט"ד הם י"ג רומזים לי"ג ימי תמוז מן התענית עד סוף החדש, ואותיות ה"ד הם ט' רומזים לט' ימים אשר מן ר"ח אב עד התענית אשר אלו הימים כביכול הם בהסתר עד ירחם הש"י ב"ב

The Bnei Yisaschar says in the name of the Arizal that when making ברכת אבות during the בין המצרים, he should have in mind the חילוף הוי"ה of טדה"ד when saying ברוך אתה י"י. The letters טדה"ד are each the letter which precede the letter in the אותיות הוי"ה. The simple understanding is because the ימי בין המצרים are a time of הסתר and therefore the שם הוי"ה is הסתר which is בשם טדה"ד.

The Bnei Yisaschar further explains the breakdown of טדה"ד that the טד are the numerical value of thirteen which correspond to the thirteen days in the month of Tammuz, from י"ז בתמוז till the end of the month. The הד have the numerical of nine which correspond to the nine days in the month of Av which are part of the ימי בין המצרים. The thirteen days in Tammuz are when the חטא העגל happened and the thirteen days correspond to the יג מידות הרחמים that Moshe Rabbeinu said after the חטא העגל. The nine days in Av are when the חטא המרגלים happened and Moshe Rabbeinu only used nine of the יג מידות הרחמים.

Being that the nine days of Av corresponding to the חטא המרגלים are stricter in mourning than the thirteen days in the end of Tammuz which correspond to the חטא העגל, it’s clear that the חטא המרגלים was, in a sense, a more grave sin than the חטא העגל. Also, that which Hashem says סלחתי כדברך by the חטא המרגלים could be understood that they were forgiven חטא העגל but for the חטא המרגלים, they weren’t forgiven. How could this be understood that the חטא המרגלים was in a sense more severe if the חטא העגל was the great sin of עבודה זרה while the חטא המרגלים was seemingly just speaking Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisrael.

Perhaps the explanation could be because the חטא העגל was an intellectual mistake which is reversible. That’s why we received כפרה for the חטא העגל and was able to be fixed quickly. However, the חטא המרגלים showed that there was a flawed character trait and a bad character trait can’t be fixed so quickly.

But what was this negative character trait that they had which allowed the מרגלים to fall to such a level. Even the words of the מרגלים are perplexing as they are self-contradicting. On the one hand they said ארץ אוכלת יושביה and therefore even if they would be able to conquer it, it wouldn’t be worth it. But on the other hand they said כי עז העם הישב בארץ והערים בצרות גדלת מאד indicating that even if they wanted the land because of all its good, physically they wouldn’t be able to conquer it. Therefore, why did they bother saying its ארץ טובה if they couldn’t get in anyways?

The answer to these question could be found in the פסוק in פרשת דברים:

ותרגנו באהליכם ותאמרו בשנאת ה' אתנו הוציאנו מארץ מצרים לתת אתנו ביד האמרי להשמידנו (א,יז)

It’s clear from this Pasuk that the fall of the מרגלים was because of the feeling that Hashem hated them. A person who feels hated and unworthy who receives a present either thinks one of two things. Either that the present is actually bad, or that which the person is giving is only that it should be perceived as if he’s giving him something, but in the end he’s not going to give him anything. This explains how the מרגלים were self-contradicting to say that it was ארץ לא טובה and לא נוכל לעלות אל העם. But the question still remains how could the Jews even begin to believe that after all the miracles that Hashem did for them, that he could possibly hate them? Rashi on the Pasuk quoted above says:

והוא היה אוהב אתכם, אבל אתם שונאים אותו. משל הדיוט אומר, מה דבלבך על רחמך מה דבלביה עלך

The idea is when one can’t reciprocate a positive emotion, such as love, he feels uncomfortable by the mere thought that someone else loves him. Therefore, he must make up in his head that the feeling is not as such, so as not to feel guilty. The Jews didn’t love Hashem the way that He loved them back. This made the Jews feel uncomfortable. They didn’t feel worthy of His love and therefore couldn’t love Him back. The ספורנו on that פסוק says they thought Hashem hated them because על מה שעבדנו עבודה זרה במצרים.

This feeling generally stems from a lack of self-worth. The Jews didn’t feel adequate, therefore they didn’t let themselves believe that Hashem loved them. The מרגלים, the cause for the eventual חורבן, was all caused by a lack of self-worth which led to the thought that Hashem hated them.

In the ספר תולדות יעקב יוסף in פרשת וארא, he says in the name of his רבי the בעש"ט that the reason משיח has not yet come is because we aren’t מאריך in אהבה רבה. This fits well with the idea that the חורבן and גלות came because of the חטא המרגלים, which ultimately came because בשנאת ה' אותנו. Therefore to rectify that, we must be מאריך באהבה רבה which discusses the tremendous love Hashem has for us. Since the חטא was that they interpreted the positive as negative, therefore the תיקון for us in גלות is to interpret the negative as positive. Therefore, regardless of what we experience, we nonetheless say אהבה רבה אהבתנו and we believe that everything that happens to us is really good and an expression of love.


Shabbos Chazon

This week is Shabbos Chazon. The רמ"א סימן תקנא paskens that one should not wear בגדי שבת on Shabbos Chazon. The Mishnah Berura writes that in Vilna, they hold like the Gra and therefore they wear Shabbos clothing. However he is hesitant, and says that at least one garment should not be from בגדי שבת. But today everybody wears Shabbos clothing without a question. How could this be explained? The Rav suggested based on the מהרי"ל that says the reason we don’t wear Shabbos clothing on Shabbos Chazon even though there is a potential issue of אבילות בפרהסיא is because an onlooker who sees someone not wearing Shabbos clothing might assume that he doesn’t have any Shabbos clothing. Based on this, in later generations where it is inconceivable that someone wouldn’t have Shabbos clothing, not wearing Shabbos clothing would be אבילות בפרהסיא and therefore we all wear Shabbos clothing.

But unfortunately, today our Judaism is so external that if we take away the פרהסיא, there won’t be anything left because our whole practice is almost completely limited to the פרהסיא. Therefore, it is important to recognize that it is a time of אבילות even though we are not displaying it.

One might think that the reason we wear בגדי שבת is because we are more sensitive to the כבוד of שבת but really it’s because we are less in tune to the אבילות of the חורבן. Like we find in the מסכת יומא that two Kohanim were racing up the ramp of the Mizbeach to do the Avodah and one stabbed the other with a knife. The father of the murdered Kohen pulled the knife out and said since his son wasn’t completely dead yet, the knife isn’t טמא. The Gemara asks did the father respond that way because murder was so cheap to them or because טומאת כהנים was so important to them? But in our case, we can for sure say that it’s not because Shabbos became so important to us and therefore we wear Shabbos clothing, rather it’s because we are less in tune and connected to the אבילות of the חורבן.

Preserving Dignity While Rebuking

The first Pasuk in the Parshah seems like a very specific address, on the corner between etc. But really it’s all the places the Jews messed up and Hashem got angry at them. However, it was all hinted מפני כבודן של ישראל. But it’s not that we have two conflicting values one being preserving the dignity of the Jews against the need for rebuke, but rather preserving the dignity of the one receiving rebuke is essential for having the תוכחה received and accepted. If the recipient of the תוכחה is being put down, then he will tune out and not be willing to listen.

Rashi on פסוק ד says Moshe waited to give mussar until they defeated סיחון ועוג and they got their land, because otherwise the Jews would’ve thought the תוכחה was only לקנתר. The Jews would have said he hasn’t fulfilled his promise and now he is looking for excuses for why he wasn’t able to fulfil his promise of bringing them into the land. Therefore he waited until now to give תוכחה to eliminate such a claim by the Jews.

Additionally, a reason could be that because the most opportune time to give mussar is when a person is feeling good about himself, contrary to what people believe that it should be given when a person is feeling down about himself. But since תוכחה is meant to build a person and not destroy them, when it’s given when the person is feeling down about himself, then you are just contributing and making him feel worse about himself. But if you chose to give a person direction and guidance when he is already riding high and point out how much better he can be, then it will be effective.

This idea is expressed in the הפטרה on fast days, where Hashem says לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם ולא דרכיכם דרכי. Rashi explains that Hashem is saying to the רשע “How come”, כלומר I’m surprised you aren’t acting godly and divine like me, and it’s not that Hashem is saying that you’re a failure and inadequate. We see from the way Hashem gives mussar that the way to do it is by building the person up and not by putting the recipient down.

The Chasam Sofer in his commentary on Chumash asks what it means that Moshe only hinted the mussar to the Jews if the entire Sefer has direct and explicit mussar. He answers that in the beginning you have to hint it and get the person thinking about it himself. Once he is there thinking about it himself and realizes on his own that he has what to correct and improve, then you could give him the more explicit and direct mussar. As opposed to if you spell it out right away, then he closes up and won’t listen.

This is all along the lines that תוכחה needs to be given in a way of כבוד and that allows for the תוכחה to be received. The word תוכחה is not really rebuke but it means to reproof, like the word להוכיח. Because it’s about proving to a person that he made a mistake. But that can only happen if he reaches that conclusion on his own and not by you forcing what you think on to him. In פסוק ו, it says רב לכם שבת בהר הזה. The Chizkuni on this Pasuk says פתח להו הכי כדי לקרובי דעתייהו במילי דבדיחותא. This is the same idea that in order to give someone mussar, there is a specific way to do it.


עוג was מיתר הרפאים and the Pasuk says about him that ערשו ערש ברזל, that his bed was an iron bed. The simple understanding of this is that he was so big that a wooden bed couldn’t withstand his size. The Rashbam says it is referring to his crib-עריסה של קטן, and he would break any wooden crib. The Chizkuni says that ערש means a fortified city.

The end of the Pasuk ends with his dimensions and says באמת איש. Rashi says באמת איש is באמת עוג. The אבן עזרא disagrees and says its באמת כל אדם because the Pasuk is trying to give us a size and if it was באמת עוג, then we wouldn’t know the size. But either way he was a massive human being.

The Gemara in Brachos 54b describes his downfall. It begins with describing how he lifted up a massive rock and he wanted to throw it on the Jews. But Hashem sent little tiny ants to eat the rock and it fell on his neck and he wasn’t able to move. At that moment, Moshe, who was ten Amos tall, jumped ten Amos and hit עוג’s heel with a ten Amos long stick. The idea being portrayed is that even something as massive as עוג could be overpowered by something as small as ants who do as little as they do, but consistently over and over. Moshe could have hit his heel right away and didn’t have to wait for the ants to do what they did to the rock. Why did he wait until after the ants ate through the rock and it fell on his neck? A suggestion could be because only once Moshe saw what small ants could accomplish even against something as big as עוג, at that moment he got the encouragement and came to the realization that even something so small and insignificant can overpower something as big as עוג. Therefore it was only at that moment, after the ants, did he grab the stick and hit עוג on his heel.

This is in contrast to the מרגלים who said ויהיו בעינינו כחגבים. There are things that grasshopper can do that others can’t. Even ants, which are smaller than grasshoppers, were able to crawl and eat the rock and do what they did to עוג. Therefore, a person should not focus on his disadvantages, but rather focus on how his disadvantages could be an advantage and should focus on his own unique qualities. Then when a person focuses on his own unique qualities and he uses them consistently and persistently, then he can succeed.


Thursday Night Parsha Shiur 5782


Thursday Night Shiur 5780


Thursday Night Parsha Shiur 5781