Friday, August 18, 2006

Parshas Re'eh

לא תעשון כן לד' אלקיכם (12:4)

אמר רבי ישמעאל וכי תעלה על דעתך שישראל נותצין את המזבחות אלא שלא תעשו כמעשיהם ויגרמו עונותיכם למקדש אבותיכם שיחרב (רש"י)

After instructing the Jews to break, smash, and burn the idolatrous temples and pillars which they will find in the land of Israel, the Torah warns against doing the same to Hashem by destroying the Beis HaMikdash. Rashi questions why a Jew would consider breaking apart the Holy Temple and explains that the Torah means to forbid one from copying the immoral actions of the non-Jews which will cause the Beis HaMikdash to be destroyed by their enemies.

However, Rashi also quotes the Gemora in Shabbos (120b), which derives from our verse that although one is forbidden to erase Hashem’s name, it is Biblically permissible to cause it to be erased in an indirect manner (גרמא). How can our verse, which the Gemora clearly understands as prohibiting only direct action and permitting indirect causality, also be interpreted as forbidding actions which will only indirectly bring about the Temple’s destruction?

The Chazon Nachum, brother of the Tchebiner Rav, and Rav Aharon Kotler answer that the Medrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 3:6) refers to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash as the grinding of already ground flour. In other words, although the non-Jewish oppressors carried out the actual destruction of the physical edifice that was the Temple, in reality its spiritual beauty and splendor had already been removed as a result of the improper paths which the Jews had followed. Had this not been the case, the non-Jewish army would have had no control or power over the place where Hashem’s presence dwelled. When Rashi interprets the verse as an admonition against following the non-Jewish practices and causing the destruction of the Temple, he isn’t referring to indirect causality, as the Gemora in Shabbos understands the verse as permitting this. Rather, just as the Gemora forbids directly erasing Hashem’s name, Rashi is teaching us that our sins and immoral choices directly destroy Hashem’s Beis HaMikdash!


כי יסיתך ... לאמר נלכה ונעבדה אלהים אחרים ... לא תאבה לו ולא תשמע אליו ולא תחוס עינך עליו ולא תחמל ולא תכסה עליו ... כי הרג תהרגנו ... וסקלתו באבנים ומת כי בקש להדיחך מעל ד' אלקיך (13:7-11)

The Torah is stricter regarding the מסית – inciter – than it is with any other sin. The Torah specifically instructs that one should have no mercy or compassion on him and shouldn’t attempt to prove or argue his innocence, principles of justice that we find by all other suspected sinners. However, the Alter from Kelm notes that in reality, the inciter didn’t actually accomplish anything.

Although he attempted to convince another Jew to worship idolatry, he was unsuccessful, as the other person followed the commands of the Torah not to listen but rather turned him in and stoned him to death. Even so, the desire and attempt to intentionally sway another person from the path of the G-d-fearing is so severe as to receive such a stringent penalty.

Rashi writes (Shemos 20:5) that Hashem’s reward for those who listen to His commandments is 500 times greater than the punishment meted out to sinners. Many times, one who is engaged in kiruv rechokim – attempting to educate our not-yet-religious brethren – invests valuable time and energy trying to reach out and teach Torah values to another person but finds his utmost efforts to be totally unsuccessful. As frustrating as this experience must surely be, the Alter from Kelm offers beautiful and inspiring words of comfort and consolation based on the aforementioned principles. If Hashem reserves His most severe and stringer punishments for one who merely tries to persuade another Jew to leave the Torah-true path, then how much more must be the unbelievably immense reward lying in store for one who tries, even unsuccessfully, his utmost to pull our wayward brethren back to their Creator!


עשר תעשר את כל תבואת זרעך (14:22)

A well-known Gemora in Taanis (9a) interprets our verse by playing on the similarity between the letters “shin” and “sin,” and renders our verse עשר בשביל שתתעשר – tithe and you will become rich. How did the Gemora know that tithing will indeed make a person wealthy?

The Vilna Gaon notes that the Gemora (Bava Metzia 31a) generally understands a repeated verb as requiring a person to do an action even 100 times. If so, our verse should be understood as requiring a person to tithe his money even 100 times. However, the Gemora in Kesuvos (50a) states that the Rabbis instituted that a person shouldn’t give more than one-fifth of his money to charity. If so, the Gemora in Taanis questioned how could a person be permitted to tithe, by giving one-tenth of his money, even three times, as this would require him to give more than one-fifth of his assets to charity. To this the Gemora answered that the Torah guarantees that one who does so will become rich and will therefore have enough money to continue tithing, even 100 times, without ever falling below the threshold of having given one-fifth of his original possessions to charity!


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Gemora in Sanhedrin (113a) rules that a wayward city (עיר הנדחת) which contains even one mezuzah may not be destroyed, as the burning of the mezuzah would violate the prohibition against erasing Hashem’s name. Why isn’t the burning of the city prohibited based on the Talmudic rule that עשה דוחה לא תעשה – one is permitted to perform a positive commandment even if doing so entails the transgression of a negative one? (Toras Chaim Sanhedrin 71a, Minchas Chinuch 464 and 142, Chiddushei Rav Akiva Eiger printed at the end of Shu”t Rav Akiva Eiger Vol. 3, P’ninei Kedem, Matamei Yaakov, Kometz HaMincha 69, MiTzion Mich’lal Yofee, M’rafsin Igri)

2) The Torah permits (14:6) the consumption of any land animal which chews its cud and has split hooves. Where do we find a species of animal which meets both of these criteria and yet the Torah explicitly states is non-kosher? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel 14:7, Nidda 24a, Tosefos Chullin 60b d.h. V’ki Moshe)

3) The Gemora in Megilla (9b) relates that when the Greek king Ptolemy ordered the Sages to translate the Torah into Greek, they made a number of changes, including changing the name of the hare mentioned (14:7) as one of the four forbidden animals which possess one sign of kashrus but not the other. Because Ptolemy’s wife was named “Arneves,” the word the Torah uses for the hare, the Sages changed the wording so as not to offend him. How were they permitted to do so in light of the ruling of the Yam Shel Shlomo (Bava Kamma 4:9) that one is required to give up his life rather than alter a single word or ruling of the Torah to appease others? (Taam V’Daas Parshas Shemini)

4) Although Adam HaRishon was forbidden to kill animals in order to eat them, Noach and his descendants were permitted to do so (Bereishis 9:3). The Ramban explains that because the animals only escaped the flood by Noach’s bringing them into the ark, they therefore became subordinate to him and mankind was thereafter allowed to consume their meat. If this is the sole basis of their permissibility, why does the Torah allow us to eat fish (14:9), as they escaped the flood even without Noach’s assistance and therefore should remain with their original prohibition? (Mishmeres Ariel Parshas Shemini)

5) With regard to land animals and birds, the Torah specifies by name various species which are non-kosher, yet when discussing permitted and forbidden fish, no species are mentioned by name. Why don’t we find anywhere species of fish being referred to by name? (Paneiach Raza, Tosefos Chullin 66b d.h. kol, Baal HaTurim, Chida, Kli Chemda Parshas Bereishis)

6) One of the species of birds ruled non-kosher by the Torah is the “chasidah” (14:18). Rashi (Vayikra 11:19) explains that its name is derived from the fact that it displays kindness (“chesed”) by sharing its food with others. If it is so merciful and compassionate, why does the Torah forbid its consumption? (Chiddushei HaRim, Taam V’Daas, Even Meira, Matamei Yaakov)

7) The Gemora in Kesuvos (25a) records that the Jewish people weren’t obligated to separate terumos and ma’asros (agricultural tithes) during the 7 years in which they conquered the land of Israel and the 7 years in which they divided it up among the tribes. Rashi explains that this is because the Torah only requires (14:22) one to tithe תבואת זרעך – the crops which you planted and which are uniquely yours, which wasn’t the case until the land had been divided. According to this reasoning, why is one ever obligated to tithe produce which grew in Jerusalem, which was never divided up among the tribes (Megillah 26a, Rambam Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 7:14) and which should be considered as the rest of the land of Israel prior to its division among the tribes? (Har Tzvi, Shu”t Har Tzvi Zeraim 1:16)

8) The Torah requires (14:23) one to bring his agricultural tithes and the firstborn of his cattle and flocks to the Beis HaMikdash and to eat them there. How can this be reconciled with the fact that firstborn animals are given to the Kohanim to be eaten and aren’t consumed by their owners? (Paneiach Raza, Darash Moshe)

9) The Torah requires (15:7-11) one to be compassionate and merciful toward his poor brethren and to generously open his hand to dispense loans and charity to assist them. The Gemora in Kesuvos (50a) records a Rabbinical decree not to spend more than one-fifth of one’s income doing so. Is a wealthy person or one who has tremendous trust in Hashem permitted to dispense even more than one-fifth of his income and possessions for charitable purposes? (Tuv’cha Yabi’u quoting Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Periush Mishnayos L’Rambam beginning of Peah, Shita Mekubetzes Kesuvos 50a, Gra quoted in Tiferes Torah, Lulei Sorash’cha quoting Rav Shach)

10) The Torah requires (15:7-11) one to be compassionate and merciful toward his poor brethren and to generously open his hand to dispense loans and charity to assist them. Does one fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah if he gives money or another item with a monetary value of less than one perutah – which is generally considered the smallest amount of money which is considered to have any legal value? (Shu”t Maharil Diskin quoted in Tzedakah U’Mishpat, Matamei Yaakov)

11) The Torah requires (15:7-11) one to be compassionate and merciful toward his poor brethren and to generously open his hand to dispense loans and charity to assist them. The Gemora in Chagigah (5a) rules that it is preferable not to give tzedakah than to give it in a way which humiliates the recipient, thus violating the prohibition against embarrassing another Jew. Although far from ideal, why isn’t it better to give tzedakah even in such a manner based on the Talmudic rule that עשה דוחה לא תעשה – one is permitted to perform a positive commandment even if doing so entails the transgression of a negative one? (Maharsha, Matamei Yaakov)

12) Parshas Re’eh contains the mitzvah to ascend to the Beis HaMikdash three times annually on the festivals of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos. In the present day, when there is no Temple, is there still a concept of ascending as close as possible to the Temple Mount on these festivals, and if so, must one actually see the floor of the Temple Mount when doing so? (Ran beginning of Taanis d.h. v’eeka, Kaftor V’Ferach Chapter 6 d.h. v’kein, Shu”t Maharit 1:114, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 117:1, Maharatz Chayos Nedorim 23a, S’dei Chemed Ma’areches Eretz Yisroel Os Aleph, Moadim U’zmanim 7:141, Piskei Teshuvos 529:13)


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