Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Zos Habracha

Making It by Breaking It

Volume 5 Issue 16

by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

The last verses of the Torah encapsulate a glorious career of leadership of the father of all prophets, Moshe, into a few brief sentences. "Never has there risen in Israel a prophet as Moses whom Hashem had known face to face: as apparent by all the signs and wonders that Hashem had sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his courtiers and all his land. And by all the strong hand and awesome power that Moshe performed before the eyes of Israel" (Deuteronomy 34:10-12).

Powerful descriptive. But it is as cryptic as it is powerful. What is the strong hand and that Moshe performed before the eyes of all Israel? Does it refer to the horrific plagues brought on Egypt? Perhaps it refers to the splitting of the sea or the opening of the earth to swallow Korach and his rebellious cohorts?

Rashi tells us that the words "Moshe performed before the eyes of Israel" refers to something totally different, perhaps very mortal. Rashi explains that the posuk (verse) refers to the smashing of the tablets upon descending Mount Sinai and seeing the nation frolic before the Golden Calf. He quotes the verse "and I smashed the tablets before your eyes" (Deuteronomy 9).

Rashi's comment evokes many questions. Why is smashing the Luchos counted as an awe-inspiring feat? And more important, is this the final way to remember Moshe the man who smashed the Luchos? Is that the parting descriptive of Judaism's greatest leader?

Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin of Salant, was Rav in a city when a typhus epidemic erupted. Despite the peril of the contagious disease, Rabbi Lipkin went together with a group of his students to aid the sick, making sure they had food and clothing. The roving first-aid committee imposed strict restrictions upon the townsfolk, imploring them to eat properly every day in order to ward off immunological deficiencies.

Yom Kippur was fast approaching, and Rabbi Lipkin decreed that due to the menacing disease, absolutely no one was to fast on Yom Kippur despite it being the holiest day of the year.

The town's elders were skeptical. They felt that Rabbi Salanter had no right to impose such a ruling on those who were not afflicted. Despite their protestations, Rabbi Salanter was unfazed. In fact he made his point in a very dramatic way.

On Yom Kippur morning, immediately after the shacharis services, he went up to the bimah, made kiddush, drank the wine, and ate a piece of cake!

Immediately, the townsfolk were relieved. They went to their homes and followed suit.

The elders in the town were outraged at this seemingly blatant violation of Jewish tradition. They approached

Rabbi Lipkin to protest his disregard for the sanctity of the day, but Rabbi Lipkin remained adamant. "I have taken a group of students for the last month, and together we have attended to scores of typhus victims. I guaranteed every mother that each of their children will return home healthy. On my guarantee not one of those students became ill!"

He turned to the elders and declared. "When you are able to make such guarantees then you can tell me the laws against eating on Yom Kippur!"

The Torah ends with the greatness of Moshe. It refers to his great accomplishments as his Yad haChazaka, his strong hand before the eyes of Israel -- the breaking of the two Tablets Of Law. Moshe's greatness was not only knowing how to accept the Ten Commandments, but when to smash them as well. And though not every one of us is equipped with the ability to overrule a practice or tradition, Klall Yisrael knows that when the time to act is called for the great ones will arise to build and cure by smashing what needs to be broken. Because whether it is breaking a fast or breaking the tablets, it takes a great man to understand the time to build and an even greater man to know when it is time to tear down.

Chag Sameach
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

In honor of the birth of Max Handelman on July 8 to our children Carol & Stephen Handelman of Toronto, Canada Dedicated by Mr. & Mrs. Lionel Fisch

Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.

If you enjoy the weekly Drasha, now you can receive the best of Drasha in book form!
Purchase Parsha Parables - from the Project Genesis bookstore - Genesis Judaica - at a very special price!

The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.

Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion
which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation


 






ARTICLES ON MASEI AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Where Firstborn Rush In. . .
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

The Accidental Murderer
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

Ramban: Why was Parshas Nedarim given over specifically to "Roshei haMatos?"
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

> A Book of Memories
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5767

17th of Tammuz: Why We Fast - Part 1
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Fix the World
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Take Vengeance for Hashem
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Personal Tragedies
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5767

The Red Heifer Reality
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

ArtScroll

The Longest Journey Ever
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

A Question of Faith
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

The Daughters of Tzlofchad
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Growing Pains
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

Armed with the Past
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765

On the Road of Life
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

A Lesson About Our Psyche
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information