Kiddush Sponsorship

The Kiddush this Shabbos was sponsored by Reb Matisyahu Ginsberger in honor of the birth of a baby boy. Although usually a boy has the bris and a baby girl has a Kiddush, the Baal Simchah felt, due to a variety factors, that the birth of this child warranted an additional Kiddush. Regarding this feeling that was felt by the Baal Simchah, the Rav said over the following Radak.

הושע writes of Hashem’s wrath towards בני ישראל with vivid imagery. He describes the way in which Hashem will act as the revenge of a mother bear whose young children have been snatched from her protection (הושע - י״ג, ח׳). The רד״ק wonders about the choice of animal in the metaphor; why not a lion or leopard? Are they not more ferocious! He explains that unlike other animals, the mother bear is a very active participant in bringing her children into this world. She must bite through a very thick placenta to release the cub from within. Due to her invested effort, she clings to her children more than other animals. The deep love she has for them results in a tremendous pain, and thus fury, in the event of their death. What we learn from mother bear is the reality of how to create a deep connection with something. The more we invest and effort and difficulty we put into something, the deeper and more real the product.

Re’eh and Chodesh Elul

Parshas Re’eh usually falls out right before Rosh Chodesh Elul. The Shelah writes that the timing of when Parshiyos fall out are usually connected to that time period. Therefore, there must be a connection to Parshas Re’eh and Chodesh Elul.

Perhaps the connection could be understood based on the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva. The Rambam has three chapters in Hilchos Teshuva (5-7) dedicated to the topic of בחירה-free will. It’s clear that the entire concept of Teshuva could only exist if there is such a thing as free will and free choice. If a person doesn’t believe that he has free will and that everything is predetermined based on his DNA and natural surroundings, then Teshuva has no meaning to him because he can’t be held accountable for his actions and choices. But if a person believes that he has free will and that he is responsible for his actions, then there could be a concept of Teshuva. As the source for free will, the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva 5:3 brings the first Pasuk in the Parshah ראה אנכי נותן לפניכם היום.

The Rambam in the כותרת to Hilchos Teshuva writes וביאור מצוה זו ועיקרים הנגררים עמה בגללה בפרקים אלו. It would seem that the Rambam is referring to the Perakim that discuss בחירה when he writes ועיקרים הנגררים עמה בגללה because if not for בחירה, there wouldn’t be Teshuva.

At the end of the fifth Perek in Hilchos Teshuva, the Rambam raises the famous question of בחירה and ידיעה that how could there be free will if Hashem knows what’s going to be. To which he responds אין דעתו של אדם יכולה להשיג דבר זה and he ends with הוא שהנביא אמר כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם. The meaning of כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם could be that in spite of the fact that in the realm of מחשבותיכם we can’t understand or see how free choice coexists with Hashem’s knowing of the future, nevertheless in the realm of מחשבותי these two things coexist.

This Pasuk appears in the context of the Navis call for Teshuva as the he says יעזב רשע דרכו ואיש און מחשבתיו וישב אל ה' וירחמהו ואל אלקינו כי ירבה לסלוח: כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם ולא דרכיכם דרכי נאם ה'. So the Navi is saying יעזב רשע דרכו ואיש און מחשבתיו וישב אל ה' וירחמהו, but the person might be thinking that Teshuva doesn’t make sense because everything is predestined, preordained and there is no choice. So to that the Navi concludes כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם that even though man can’t understand it, one nevertheless does have free choice and therefore a person is responsible for what he did and is also capable of doing Teshuva. So that which the Rambam is bringing כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם as the basis for Teshuva is really explicit in the Psukim, in the Navis call for Teshuva.

The ראה, the לפניכם, and the היום

The Parsha begins ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה. The Baal HaTurim, among others, asks why does the Pasuk begin with ראה which is singular and conclude with לפניכם which is plural. The Baal HaTurim has a few answers but another explanation could be as follows.

The ראה-seeing expresses that each person has their own psychological makeup and unique way of thinking. Therefore, the path to Torah is for the individual. But the destination is one. That’s why the ראה is singular to indicate that the path is individual but the destination is לפניכם, which is the same for everyone but each person is only reaching the common destination through his individual path.

Another explanation could be based on the Rambam Hilchos Teshuva 3:4 that says:

לפיכך צריך כל אדם שיראה עצמו כל השנה כולה כאילו חציו זכאי וחציו חייב, וכן כל העולם חציו זכאי וחציו חייב, חטא חטא אחד הרי הכריע את עצמו ואת כל העולם כולו לכף חובה וגרם לו השחתה, עשה מצוה אחת הרי הכריע את עצמו ואת כל העולם כולו לכף זכות וגרם לו ולהם תשועה והצלה.

A person has to view himself and the world as חציו זכאי וחציו חייב and one Mitzvah could tip the scale for the whole world- עשה מצוה אחת הרי הכריע את עצמו ואת כל העולם כולו לכף זכות. According to this, the ראה in singular form is to show that each individual can be responsible for the rest of the world, the לפניכם in plural form. So ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם is that not only does the fate of the individual depend on himself as indicated by the ראה in singular form but also the fate of the entire world depends on the individuals’ ראה because his ראה is נתן לפניכם.

Lastly, the היום is that Hashem is giving us the ability to focus on the “now”, the present- אנכי נתן לפניכם היום that Hashem is giving us the היום. People have a tendency of harping on the past and dreaming about the future. But the truth is that it’s all about the היום-the now, because it’s the “now” that could really shape the past.

This three part explanation of the Pasuk ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה is expressed in the Mishna in Avos 1:14 אם אין אני לי מי לי וכשאני לעצמי מה אני ואם לא עכשיו אימתי. The ראה in singular form is the אם אין אני לי מי לי that a person must first recognize himself that his fate depends on himself. The לפניכם which is plural is the וכשאני לעצמי מה אני that a person mustn’t remain to himself but must realize that he can’t do it on his own and he must be part of the Tzibur. Lastly, the היום is the ואם לא עכשיו אימתי.

Additionally, the Pasuk can be telling us ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם, “SEE” meaning Hashem is giving us the power of seeing. The power to see is because depending on how a person subjectively sees and experiences the objective reality transforms a קללה into a ברכה and a ברכה into a קללה. What really matters is if through his life experience he comes to תשמעו or he comes to לא תשמעו.

Purpose of Maser Sheni

The concept of Maser Sheni is also discussed in the Parsha (chapter 14 Pasuk 22). The other things to give such as Terumah, Maser Rishon, and Maser Ani are understandable because the recipients of those tithes are poor. However, what is the meaning of Maser Sheni that a person is obligated to take his produce, or at least its value on redeemed money, to be eaten and used in Yerushalayim?

The Chinuch in the end of Parshas Bechukosai discussing Maser B’Heimah, which is מענינא דיומא because Rosh Chodesh Elul is Rosh Hashanah for Maser B’Heimah (Rosh Hashana 2a), gives an explanation for the purpose of Maser Sheni:

משרשי המצוה, שהאל ברוך הוא בחר בעם ישראל וחפץ למען צדקו להיות כולם עוסקי תורתו ויודעי שמו, ובחכמתו משכם במצוה זו למען ילמדו יקחו מוסר, כי יודע אלהים שרוב בני אדם נמשכים אחר החומר הפחות בשגם הוא בשר, ולא יתנו נפשם בעמל התורה ובעסקה תמיד, על כן סיבב בתבונתו ונתן להם מקום שידעו הכל דברי תורתו על כל פנים, שאין ספק כי כל אדם נמשך לקבוע דירתו במקום שממונו שם. ולכן בהעלות כל איש מעשר כל בקר וצאן שלו שנה שנה במקום שעסק החכמה והתורה שם והיא ירושלים, ששם הסנהדרין יודעי דעת ומביני מדע, וכמו כן נעלה לשם מעשר תבואתנו בארבע שני השמיטה, כמו שידוע שמעשר שני נאכל שם, וכן נטע רבעי שנאכל שם, על כל פנים או ילך שם בעל הממון עצמו ללמוד תורה או ישלח לשם אחד מבניו שילמד שם ויהיה ניזון באותן פירות.

ומתוך כך יהיה בכל בית ובית מכל ישראל איש חכם יודע התורה, אשר ילמד בחכמתו כל בית אביו, ובכן תימלא הארץ דעה את יי. כי אם חכם אחד לבד יהיה בעיר או אפילו עשרה, יהיו הרבה מבני אדם שבעיר וכל שכן הנשים והילדים שלא יבואו לפניהם כי אם פעם אחת בשנה, או אפילו ישמעו דבריהם פעם בשבוע ילכו הבית וישליכו כל דברי החכם אחרי גום, אבל בהיות המלמד בכל בית ובית שוכן שם ערב ובוקר וצהרים ויזהירם תמיד, אז יהיו כולם, אנשים ונשים וילדים מוזהרים ועומדים ולא ימצא ביניהם שום דבר חטא ועוון, ויזכו למה שכתוב [ויקרא כ"ו, י"א - י"ב] ונתתי משכני בתוככם וגו' והייתם לי לעם ואנכי אהיה לכם לאלהים.

The idea is that people naturally are pulled to live where there Parnassa is. But in order to have a steady connection to Yerushalayim, where במקום שעסק החכמה והתורה שם, Hashem commands us to go there to eat Maser Sheni, or at least send it there for one of his children who are living there- או ישלח לשם אחד מבניו שילמד שם ויהיה ניזון באותן פירות. As a result, each family will have at least one family member living in Yerushalayim who is איש חכם יודע התורה and he will be able to teach the rest of his extended family who don’t live in Yerushalayim.

What’s the Reward For

The Parsha discusses the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. The Psukim sayכי יהיה בך אביון מאחד אחיך באחד שעריך בארצך אשר יקוק אלהיך נתן לך לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפץ את ידך מאחיך האביון: נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך יקוק אלהיך בכל מעשך ובכל משלח ידך.

The Gemara in Ksubos 49b says כי הא דרבא כפייה לרב נתן בר אמי, ואפיק מיניה ד' מאה זוזי לצדקה that Rava forced Rav Nosson Bar Ami to give 400 zuz to Tzedakah. Tosfos asks how was Rava allowed to be כופה if Tzedakah is a Mitzvah that has מתן שכרה בצדה because the Pasuk says יברכך יקוק אלהיך בכל מעשך and the Gemara in Chulin 110b says כל מצות עשה שמתן שכרה בצדה אין בית דין של מטה מוזהרין עליה? Tosfos gives a variety of answers, one of them being that Tzedakah has תרתי לאוי לא תאמץ ולא תקפוץ and therefore could be כופה.

However, the Avnei Miluim (71:4) has a unique reading of the Pasuk in order to get out of the question of Tosfos. The Pasuk says נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך. The Avnei Miluim understands that when the Pasuk says כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך, it’s not going on the dry action of giving Tzedakah rather it’s going on the ולא ירע לבבך as if to say that a person only gets the מתן שכרה בצדה if he gives the Tzedakah in way that is לא ירע לבבך. But since this person is being כופה to give, then he isn’t giving Tzedakah as לא ירע לבבך and therefore there is no מתן שכרה בצדה and there could be כפייה. The Baal HaTanya makes the same suggestion as the Avnei Miluim as well in the מאמרי אדמור הזקן תקע"ב דף רי as does the Rashash in Baba Basra 8b and the Minchas Chinuch in Mitzvah תעט. It interesting that all these four people said the same thing on their own without having seen it from each other.

The משנה למלך alludes to this reading of the Pasuk in Hilchos Avadim Chapter 3 when he discusses whether or not we are כופה a אדון to מעניק his עבד. He says maybe there shouldn’t be כפייה because it’s a מ"ע שמתן שכרה בצדה because the Pasuk says לא יקשה בעיניך וגו' וברכך ה' אלהיך בכל אשר תעשה. And then he says the following:

ועוד היה נ"ל חילוק אחר דאפשר דאין המתן שכר דהענקה אלא על מה שלא יקשה בעיניו אלא שמעניק בלב טוב ובנפש חפצה ואם אינו מעניק לו בלב טוב זהו עונשו שלא יהיה מבורך מה' אבל על הענקה עצמה לא שמענו לא עונש ולא שכר ולפי זה כייפינן ליה וזה היה נ"ל חילוק נכון אלא דקשיא לי צדקה דהתם נמי כתיב ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו כי בגלל הדבר הזה וגו' וא"כ נימא דהמתן שכר לא קאי אלא על לא ירע לבבך אבל על הצדקה עצמה ליכא מתן שכר ומש"ה אכפייה רבא

It’s clear that he has an option to learn like the Avnei Miluim by Tzedakah but rules it out because Tosfos clearly holds that the כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך is going on the giving and not on the לא ירע לבבך and he therefore asks his question.

The Ramban, in the end of Sefer Hamitzvos in his section called מצות ששכח אותן הרב ממצות לא תעשה כפי דעת הרמב"ן writes the following:

מצוה יז שנמנענו גם כן שלא יחר לנו בתתנו צדקה לעניים ולא נתן אותה אליהם בעין רעה ונחשוב אותה מיעוט לנו, אבל יהיה זה בעינינו שכר ותועלת ותוספת בממונו, לפי שהוא ית' ישלם לנו הכל בכמה כפלים והוא אמרו יתעלה נתן תתן לנו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך ה' אלקיך בכל מעשיך ובכל משלח ידך.

When the Ramban explains the לאו that should be counted, he says that a person shouldn’t consider giving Tzedakah to be a loss rather he should consider it to be a gain. Because the כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך is giving reason to why a person should be נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו that he shouldn’t resent giving because Hashem will repay him with much more and it’s because he is giving that Hashem will repay him. According to this, it’s clear that the Ramban learned like Tosfos (and not like the Avnei Miluim) that בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך is not going on the ולא ירע לבבך בתתך rather it’s going on the actual giving because it’s saying a person shouldn’t be ירע לבבך בתתך and feel bad when giving because its גופא because of his giving that Hashem will bless him- כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך.

Tzedakah- To Perfect One’s Character

The Pasuk by Tzedakah says כי לא יחדל אביון מקרב הארץ על כן אנכי מצוך לאמר פתח תפתח את ידך לאחיך לעניך ולאבינך בארצך. What is the meaning of this Pasuk? The implication of the Pasuk is that there is a Mitzvah to give Tzedakah only because there are poor people that because poor people will not cease to exist, therefore there is the commandment of Tzedakah. But why is the Pasuk depending the Mitzvah of Tzedakah on the fact that there will always be poor people?

The Rav said in the name of his father the following answer. If people knew that they could solve the problem of poverty by giving charity, then there would be no need for a Mitzvah because most people aren’t cruel by nature and therefore they would be happy and willing to give. However, once the Torah tells us כי לא יחדל אביון מקרב הארץ that there will never be a solution to poverty and giving charity is like throwing money to bottomless pit, now there needs to be a Mitzvah of Tzedakah because otherwise people wont give. Therefore the Pasuk says כי לא יחדל אביון מקרב הארץ that because there will never be a solution to poverty, על כן אנכי מצוך לאמר פתח תפתח את ידך-therefore there is the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. And that’s why on the Pasuk נתון תתן לו, Rashi says אפילו מאה פעמים because the Torah is emphasizing that a person might have to give and give again and give again because there is no getting rid of the problem.

Additionally, this that the Pasuk by Tzedakah says נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו and Rashi writes אפילו מאה פעמים could be understood as follows. The Rambam in Avos (3:15) הכל לפי רוב המעשה. He writes that if a person has an opportunity to give small amounts of Tzedaka on a daily basis or a onetime large sum of money, it’s better for him to do the daily small amount. That’s the idea behind רוב המעשה, that we acquire the מידה of נדיבות by doing small acts of נדיבות over and over again and not by doing one large act of נדיבות. The more times we repeat simple acts of kindness, that’s what will make us into a better person. So when Rashi says נתון תתן לו - אפילו מאה פעמים, it’s through the many giving’s that a person will develop the character trait of נדיבות and will be לא ירע לבבך בתתך לו that he won’t regret giving it.

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah is not really that the needs of the poor should be fulfilled because the world could’ve been set up in a way that there are no needy people. Rather the purpose is to allow people to develop the character trait of generosity. Therefore Hashem says כי לא יחדל אביון מקרב הארץ and he say’s נתון תתן לו- אפילו מאה פעמים because it’s not something that people could get rid of rather it’s something that Hashem want’s people to practice over and over again.

At the end of the Parsha of Ir Nidachas, the Pasuk says ונתן לך רחמים ורחמך (יג,יח) and the Ohr Hachaim explains the following:

כוונת מאמר זה כאן לפי שצוה על עיר הנדחת שיהרגו כל העיר לפי חרב ואפילו בהמתם מעשה הזה יוליד טבע האכזריות בלב האדם, כמו שספרו לנו הישמעאלים כת הרוצחים במאמר המלך כי יש להם חשק גדול בשעה שהורגים אדם ונכרתה מהם שורש הרחמים והיו לאכזר, והבחינה עצמה תהיה נשרשת ברוצחי עיר הנדחת לזה אמר להם הבטחה שיתן להם ה' רחמים הגם שהטבע יוליד בהם האכזריות מקור הרחמים ישפיע בהם כח הרחמים מחדש לבטל כח האכזריות שנולד בהם מכח המעשה.

After this killing of all the people and animals in an Ir Nidachas, there is concern that it’ll be יוליד טבע האכזריות בלב האדם-it’ll turn people cruel. Therefore there is a special promise from Hashem that he will restore within us the מדה of רחמנות and then as a result of Hashem restoring with in us the מדה of רחמנות, then it’ll be ורחמך.

The Ohr Hachaim says that he heard from the ישמעאלים that the executioners for the king would develop a negative character and they actually enjoy what they are doing. It interesting that the Chinuch says this as well in Mitzvah 16 when he says כי האדם נפעל כפי פעולותיו ולבו וכל מחשבותיו תמיד אחר מעשיו שהוא עושה בהם, he discusses the same thing that the Ohr Hachaim says hundreds of years later about the ישמעאלים but the the Ohr Hachaim doesn’t mention the Chinuch.

Dovid HaMelech says אחת שאלתי מאת ה' אותה אבקש. Besides for the fact that this sounds repetitious, to first be שאל and then again to be אבקש, the first time it’s said in past tense- שאלתי but then אבקש could either be present or future tense. So did Dovid HaMelech ask? Is he going to ask?

The idea is that there is a difference between the word שאלה which means to ask and the word אבקש which means to want. So Dovid Hamelech says אחת שאלתי, that he always asked for one thing and it was through that, that he reached a level of אותה אבקש. Sometimes a person needs to act before he has the feeling for it as was mentioned from the Chinuch above that expressions create impressions and shape our character. Similarly, the Mesilas Yesharim says this in Chapter 7:

ואמנם, התבונן עוד, שכמו שהזריזות הוא תולדת ההתלהטות הפנימי, כן מן הזריזות יולד ההתלהטות. והיינו, כי מי שמרגיש עצמו במעשה המצוה כמו שהוא ממהר תנועתו החיצונה, כן הנה הוא גורם שתבער בו תנועתו הפנימית כמו כן, והחשק והחפץ יתגבר בו וילך. אך אם יתנהג בכבדות בתנועת איבריו, גם תנועת רוחו תשקע ותכבה. וזה דבר שהנסיון יעידהו.

The way a person acts, he actually becomes that. Therefore, its not only that he does what he is but also that he is what he does. So this concept is seen on the negative side by the Ir Nidachas and is seen on the positive side by the נתון תתן לו. This is why most of the 613 Mitzvos are about what to do and what not to do and very few deal with what a person should or should not be thinking, believe or not believe, and the reason is because what a person becomes is based on how he acts and not what he thinks.

This idea is also seen in the Gemara Baba Metziah 61a that says why do we need לא תגנבו if it could be learned out from רבית ואונאה to which the Gemara answers לכדתניא: לא תגנב - על מנת למיקט, לא תגנב על מנת לשלם תשלומי כפל. Rashi says לא תגנב על מנת לשלם תשלומי כפל is שרוצה לההנותו, ויודע בו שלא יקבל that he knows a person needs money but wont take it. So he orchestrates a whole גניבה and goes through all the embarrassment of a court case in order that he should be able to give the person תשלומי כפל. The Rambam in Hilchos Gneivah 1:2 says the reason why this is Assur is שלא ירגיל עצמו בכך. So we see even though this person had all the right intentions, there is nevertheless a concern that he’ll become רגיל עצמו בכך and therefore the Torah prohibits it. This is another example that a person’s actions make much more of an impact on who he is than what he thinks.

Machlokes Reb Yishmael and Tana Kama

The Pasuk says ונתצתם את מזבחתם ושברתם את מצבתם ואשריהם תשרפון באש ופסילי אלהיהם תגדעון ואבדתם את שמם מן המקום ההוא that when Klal Yisrael enters Eretz Yisrael, they are obligated to destroy the מזבחתם of the Goyim. The next Pasuk says לא תעשון כן ה' אלהיכם.

Rashi brings a Machlokes between Reb Yishmael and the Tana Kama regarding the Pasuk of לא תעשון כן ה' אלהיכם: דבר אחר ונתצתם את מזבחותם ואבדתם את שמם לא תעשון כן, אזהרה למוחק את השם ולנותץ אבן מן המזבח או מן העזרה. אמר רבי ישמעאל וכי תעלה על דעתך שישראל נותצין את המזבחות אלא שלא תעשו כמעשיהם, ויגרמו עונותיכם למקדש אבותיכם שיחרב.

Why is Reb Yishmael so bothered with the explanation of the Tana Kama, that it’s a אזהרה for removing a stone from the Mizbeach because we find many אזהרות for things that we wouldn’t think people would do and yet Reb Yishmael doesn’t question it and say וכי תעלה על דעתך. So what is unique here that Reb Yishmael questions and says וכי תעלה על דעתך?

An explanation could be because the Jewish people are now about to enter Eretz Yisrael and are commanded to destroy all the מזבחותם of the Goyim. But nobody would think that commandment should apply to the מזבח of Hashem. There is a clear distinction between the מזבחותם and the מזבח in the Mishkan. Therefore, Reb Yishmael questions and says וכי תעלה על דעתך and comes up with a new explanation שלא תעשו כמעשיהם, ויגרמו עונותיכם למקדש אבותיכם שיחרב.

But a possible explanation for the opinion of the Tana Kama who understands that לא תעשון כן ה' אלהיכם is a אזהרה לנותץ אבן מן המזבח is as follows. The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim writes that the purpose of Korbanos was in order to rehabilitate Klal Yisrael from all the Avodah Zara and animal sacrifice in Mitzrayim. Being that it would be too difficult for Klal Yisrael to completely stop, Hashem created Korbanos as a solution. However, now that Klal Yisrael was about to enter Eretz Yisrael, there was a serious concern that they might feel they no longer have a purpose for Korbanos because they have now been rehabilitated. Therefore, there was a concern that they might destroy the Mizbeach of Hashem along with the מזבחותם of the Goyim. Therefore there is a need to say לא תעשון כן ה' אלהיכם to be a אזהרה לנותץ אבן מן המזבח.


Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Elul

This week is Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Elul. One would think that when comparing the two, Shabbos is greater than Rosh Chodesh. However, from the Gemara in זבחים דף צא ע"א it appears that Rosh Chodesh is greater and more holy because the Gemara wants to prove that תדיר precedes מקודש because the musafei Shabbos come before the musafei Rosh Chodesh which is תדיר even though Rosh Chodesh is more מקודש. How can we understand this?

The Avudraham says that אלול is alluded to in the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim אני לדודי ודודי לי teaching us that the month of Elul is about the love between Hashem and כלל ישראל. However, the significance of the month of Elul comes from the fact that Moshe Rabeinu spent forty days in heaven in preparation for receiving the second luchos. However, the Yerushalmi in Rosh Hashanah says that the months of the year only came about through the עולי בבל. Therefore, it is difficult to understand that the מעלה of חודש אלול should be expressed as a רמז in a Pasuk that only came to be many generations later when this month was given the name Elul, but until then, it never had the name Elul?

Rashi explains that the Psukim earlier in Shir Hashirim talk about when the Jews were given the permission to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash and the goyim wanted to participate in the building. To which the Jews responded אני לדודי ולא אתם לו ולא תבנו עמנו. In the beginning of חגי, the prophecy of the rebuilding of the second Beis Hamikdash was given on the first day of Elul. We see that the connection of Elul to the Pasuk of אני לדודי ודודי לי is not just because it alludes to it in the Roshei Teivos but because this Pasuk is connected to the time period where the Jews received the prophecy to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash, and It was in that context that the Jews said אני לדודי ודודי לי.

It also says in חגי that גדול יהיה כבוד הבית הזה האחרון מן הראשון. This is seemingly perplexing because it would seem that the opposite is true being that there were five things that existed by the first Beis Hamikdash but weren’t in the second Beis Hamikdash, as the Gemara in Yuma 21b says. Therefore how could it be the second Beis Hamikdash was greater than the first?

There is a similar idea expressed by the First and second לוחות. The אבן עזרא (שמות לד, א) quotes a Gaon who says the second לוחות were more נכבד than the first in seven ways. But the אבן עזרא disagrees very strongly and says it’s obvious the first לוחות were greater because they were written by Hashem as opposed to the second pair which were by Moshe and how could you says that מעשה משה was more נכבד than מעשה אלוקים. The Gaon, in his fourth reason why the second pair were better than the first pair says exactly the opposite that the מעלה of the second pair was כי בם חלק מן השמים ומן הארץ, as opposed to the אבן עזרא who says specifically for that reason was the first pair better than the second pair.

However it’s seems from the Midrashim that the לוחות שניות were greater, and that Hashem told Moshe not to be sad that he broke the luchos because the second pair were greater. However, the אבן עזרא still has his question? The Beis Halevi (דרושים שו"ת ס' יח) says based on the Yerushalmi in Shekalim that the Luchos Rishonos had תורה שבכתב and תורה שבע"פ written on them as opposed to the Luchos Shniyos, they only had תורה שבכתב and the Torah Shbal Peh was left available for the Chachamim to expound. Therefore, the reason why the Luchos Shniyos were greater than the first pair was because it left room for Humans to bring out the רצון ה' by being מפלפל בפלפולה של תורה. This level of involvement creates a greater connection to Hashem. We could suggest this to explain what the Gaon was saying that the Luchos Shniyos were greater because they were from שמים וארץ because it was the human involvement and toiling to bring out the Torah Shbal Peh which wasn’t written that gave them their greatness.

The Gaon uses the words נכבדים יותר specifically to express this point. Based on the Gemara in Chulin 60a that says יהי כבוד ה' לעולם ישמח ה' במעשיו. This Pasuk is referring to when the דשאים made a ק"ו from the trees to be יצא למינו. At that moment, that Pasuk was said. The idea is that כבוד come when a person does something on his own without being commanded explicitly. The same is by the Luchos Shniyos, that they are more נכבד than the Rishonos because of the the Torah Shebal Peh that was not written explicitly but rather which was brought by the Chachamim.

This is the same idea by the second Beis Hamikdash as opposed to the first. Even though it was missing the five things that existed by the first Beis Hamikdash, the second Beis Hamikdash has the human involvement element and the exclusion of the help from the goyim. Just like by the luchos Shniyos, it was a fulfillment of the Pasuk ונפלינו אני ועמך. Because the Medrash says the fact that the luchos Shniyos did not include Torah Shbal Peh was in order to prevent the אומות העולם from taking the Torah from us, and thus it remains in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. This is the same idea by the second Beis Hamikdash that it was the Jews involvement and the exclusion of the help of the goyim, being that it was an exclusive and unique relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people of אני לדודי ודודי לי.

This all explains why the month of אלול is hinted in the words of אני לדודי ודודי לי and was only revealed at the time that the Jews were going up from בבל to build the second Beis Hamikdash, and was also the month where Moshe went up to receive the Luchos Shniyos. Because all these things are expressing the same message that there is a greater מעלה when the human effort plays a role as opposed to when it is just given with not human effort.

In spite of the fact that the significand of the month of Elul was always there, but it only became fully expressed in the time of Bayis Sheni when prophecy ceased and it was the beginning of the era of Torah Shbal Peh. It was at this point specifically that the significance of Elul was fully expressed as אני לדודי ודודי לי that we reach out to Hashem and he reaches back out to us. Until that point, we still communicated with נבואה which was Hashem reaching out and us responding. But with the onset of Bayis Sheni, נבואה ceased and it now was about us reaching out to Hashem and him responding, which is the idea of אני לדודי ודודי לי.

The Gemara in Brachos 49a says אין חותמין בשנים. But the Gemara ask that we sayמקדש ישראל והזמנים to which it answers ישראל דקדשינהו לזמנים. The Gemara asks again what about מקדש השבת וישראל והזמנים to which it answers חוץ מזו which is the נוסח of the Gemara as we have it. But the Rabbeinu Yonah has a נוסח because it is all one because Shabbos is mekadesh the Jews and the Jews are mekadesh the Yomim Tovim. When it comes to Kedushas Yisrael, there are two dimensions of Kedusha. There is the Kedusha of Shabbos which is inherent and can’t be taken away as it was a מתנה as it says in Shabbos 10a. That’s the idea of אע"פ שחטא ישראל הוא because it is a Kedusha that is God given and therefore irrevocable. The other dimension is that of the Moadim that Jews have the ability to be מקדש the Zmanim. We are meant to be mekadesh that which is not Kadosh inherently like are שכל. That is the Kedusha of the Zmanin. Based on the previous idea explaining the מעלה of the Luchos Shniyos and the second Beis Hamikdash, it could be understood how the Kedusha of mekadesh hazmanim is greater than the Kedusha of Shabbos, because it’s the human effort which creates that higher level.

A person might think that the previous generations had a better and more effective Elul than what we have today. But really it’s the opposite because the farther away we are, the more room there is for choice and with choice comes the human effort which has a greater מעלה than when there is less choice and therefore less human effort.

Power of Seeing

The Parshah starts with ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה. Everyone ask why does it start with ראה which is singular and then switch to לפניכם which is plural?

The ראה-seeing expresses that each person has their own psychological makeup and unique way of thinking. Therefore, the path to Torah is for the individual. But the destination is one. That’s why the ראה is singular to indicate that the path is individual but the destination is לפניכם, which is the same for everyone but person is only reaching the common destination through his individual path.

Additionally, the Pasuk can be telling us ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם, “SEE” meaning Hashem is giving us the power of seeing, but that can either be a Brachah or a Klallah and it depends what you use that strength for. There is Brachah or Klallah in the ראה.

Also, when it says אנכי, Hashem is giving us the sense of אנכי, the sense of self. The sense of self can also be either a Brachah or a Klallah. A person can have a sense of self that encourages him to do more when it comes to the service of Hashem. But on the other hand a person’s sense of self can cause him to become selfish and self-centered and move him away from Avodas Hashem.

The Pasuk says כי יהיה בך אביון. The אור החיים says that אביון is referring to מלך המשיח because he is going to be a עני ורוכב על החמור and he concludes שמו חיים. The אור החיים name was also חיים and therefore he seems to be referring to himself.

Similarly, in the end of אבן העזר סימן קכט, the בית שמואל goes through the different names and spellings of men and women for writing גיטין. By the name שכנא, he says שכנא is with a כ and that מוהר"ר שכנא, the Rebbe and father in law of the רמ"א and prominent Talmud of Reb Yackov Pollack, gave a סימן from the Pasuk לשכנו תדרשו in order to not mix it up the כ with a ב. Reb Shachna restored Limud Hatorah in Poland after the גזירת ת"ח ת"ת. On the bottom of the page in the הגהות שי למורא, he is bothered why a Pasuk was needed to explain that the name is with a כ and not a ב. He explains that a ש"ס in Krakow was found with הגהות from Reb Shachna and in Perek Chelek when it discusses the various names of Mashiach, he added אני אומר שכנא שמו שנאמר לשכנו תדרשו and this was the Siman Reb Shachna gave to himself.

It is very hard for us to relate to what the Ohr Hachaim is saying and what Reb Shachna is saying. However, one thing is clear that these people who had a tremendous impact on the Jewish people did have a sense of אנכי, a sense of self, that brought them to be active and do beyond what mortals can do. Reb Shachna was responsible for building Torah in Poland when it was at an all-time low.

Similarly, the Beis Yosef, the author of the Shulchan Aruch and the Posek for all generations to come, wrote a sefer called מגיד משרים where he has conversations with a מלאך. The conversations are constantly about the Malach telling the Beis Yosef about his role in history and how he is going to write the Shulchan Aruch. But these things don’t happen to a person who thinks he is a nobody and a nothing. Similarly, Reb Chaim Vital in his ספר החזיונות, he mentions many times that the אריז"ל told him that he will be Mashiach. Even though it didn’t materialize, nonetheless he was the main expounder of Kabbalah which changed the landscape of Jewish scholarship and practice for the rest of history.

We might not feel that we will be the one to bring the final redemption, but every person should feel אנכי נתן לפניכם and have that sense of self. Firstly to himself he should have a sense of self and when it comes to impacting others, he should have a sense of self and responsibility to others. It is not a sense of self that makes a person arrogant and feel that he is above, rather it’s the sense of self that imbues in him a sense of responsibility to make a positive difference not only in one’s personal life but in the lives of other as well.

בנים אתם לה אלוקיכם

The Pasuk says בנים אתם ליקוק אלהיכם לא תתגדדו ולא תשימו קרחה בין עיניכם למת. All the Rishonim deal with what is the connection between the first part of this Pasuk to the לאו of לא תתגודדו. The אבן עזרא says once Hashem tells us that we are his children and he loves us more than a father loves his son, therefore don’t tear out your flesh when seemingly bad things happen such as a death, because everything he does is for the good. And even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we must rely on him just like children rely on their father even when they don’t understand.

The Ohr Hachaim says the idea that when a person dies, he is not lost rather its comparable to a father who sends his son to do business in another city and after a while his father calls for him back. Therefore, when a person dies, he shouldn’t rip out his flesh because the person who dies is just going back to his father which is the Mekor Hachaim.

The Ramban says that בנים אתם ליקוק אלהיכם tells us that the Neshama is eternal and that is who we are. Therefore, death is not such a significant thing because the Neshama lives on. Based on all this, it would seem that there is no room for the concept of אבילות. The Ramban write in the preface to his sefer תורת האדם that nonetheless the Torah does allow for mourning because it caters to human nature which is to be sad when there is a separation.

Chazal learn from לא תתגודדו שלא תעשו אגודות אגודות that can’t have a place with two Minhagim. How did Chazal get to that Halacha from the main prohibition of not tearing out your flesh? The prohibition of ripping out ones flesh is giving prominence to the body. But if we identify as our soul, then we are all one and we are expected to live like one in harmony and unison. Therefore, לא תתגודדו שלא תעשו אגודות אגודות is only possible on the level of the physical. But if we experience ourselves as spiritual beings, then we experience ourselves as all one and we will therefore not be אגודות אגודות.


Thursday Night Parsha Shiur 5781


Thursday Night Parsha Shiur 5780