Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XII, Number 27
6 Iyar 5758
May 2, 1998.
he Katz family
on the shloshim of Kathy Rosenzweig
(Chaya Gitel Tzirel bat Harav Avraham Hakohen a"h)
Professor and Mrs. Gilbert Ginsburg
on the marriage of Herzl to Malkie Russ
Tazria - Metzorah
R' David Avudraham z"l (see page 4) writes: The reason
that Hashem commanded us to count the omer is that during
this period, people are busy with the harvest and are
dispersed in the fields. In order that people not forget to
travel to Yerushalayim for Shavuot, Hashem instructed us to
keep count of the days.
Another reason for counting the omer is that Hashem
decrees the year's grain output on Pesach and its fruit
output on Shavuot. (See Rosh Hashanah 16a). We count off
the days between these two days of judgment to remind us to
Yet another reason, R' Avudraham writes, is found in the
midrash: To what may the exodus of Bnei Yisrael from Egypt
be compared? To a prince who was imprisoned in jail and who
screamed for the king to release him and to give him the
king's daughter as a wife. After the prince was released, he
counted the days until he would marry the princess.
Similarly, after Bnei Yisrael were freed from Egypt, they
counted the days until they would receive the Torah. (Sefer
Avudraham: Sefirat Ha'omer)
As part of our preparations for receiving the Torah, we
read a chapter of Pirkei Avot every week during this period.
R' Avudraham explains (in the name of R' Yisrael ben Yisrael
z"l) that since we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our
loved one - the Torah, we study the chapters of Pirkei Avot
which encourage us to behave in the way that loved one would
expect. (Sefer Avudraham: Seder Yemei Ha'omer)
Rashi introduces this parashah with the statement that
just as man was created after all of the animals, so the
laws pertaining to man are discussed (in this and future
parashot) after the laws of the animals (which were
discussed in last week's parashah and those preceding it.)
R' Shlomo Yosef Zevin z"l notes that there are two
possible reasons for why the last element in a list might
hold that place. The last thing may be the "end" and
everything preceding--it the means to that end.
Alternatively, a thing may be the last on a list because it
is incomplete without that which came before.
Chazal give two reasons for why man was created last in
the order of creation. If he is meritorious, we say to him,
"The entire world was created before you so that everything
would be ready for you when you arrived on the scene." In
this case, man is the "end" and all other creations are the
means which serve man's goal.
On the other hand, if a person is not worthy, we say to
him, "Even the puny gnat was created before you." In such a
case we may say that man is incomplete; only if he takes a
lesson from the gnat that came before him does he redeem and
"On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be
The gemara (Nedarim 32) says, "If not for the mitzvah of
circumcision, Hashem would not have created the heavens and
the earth." The gemara also says, "If not for the mitzvah
of Torah study, Hashem would not have created the heavens
and the earth." Both of these are learned from the verse
(Yirmiyahu 33:25), "If not for My berit (covenant) day and
night, the laws of the heavens and the earth I would not
have put into place."
R' Akiva Eiger z"l asks: How can this verse refer to
circumcision, when that mitzvah may not be performed at
night? Also, it appears that the gemara is equating
circumcision and Torah study. What is their relationship to
The answer is that circumcision is a prerequisite to
obtaining a proper grasp of one's Torah studies. The
mitzvah of milah is the "outer" circumcision, while Torah
"circumcises" the heart, i.e., it removes the blockages
which prevent knowledge of G-d from entering. Thus, because
successful Torah study day and night is possible only if one
is circumcised, circumcision may be called "My covenant day
(Teshuvot Rabbi Akiva Eiger No. 42)
"He shall dwell in isolation; his dwelling shall be
outside the camp." (13:46)
The Torah instructs that a metzora must leave the camp or
city for seven (or more) days and sit alone. Chazal say
that this is a punishment for the antisocial behavior of
speaking lashon hara.
R' Yaakov Emden z"l points out the many benefits which man
can attain only when he is part of society. Indeed, Chazal
say, "Give me a friend or give me death," and the Torah says
(Bereishit 2:18), "It is not good for man to be alone."
All alone, man could not obtain all of his physical needs,
including proper food, drink, clothing, and shelter. A
person also could not fulfill the Torah if he were alone.
For example, he could not carry out the laws of property,
the laws of marriage, and the laws of child-rearing.
A person who is all alone can never pray with a minyan or
have his Torah questions resolved by scholars, and thus he
cannot properly practice a single one of the six pillars
(listed in Pirkei Avot) on which the world stands: justice,
truth, peace, Torah, prayer, and acts of kindness. Also,
how can man emulate Hashem if he is all alone? For example,
just as Hashem is merciful, man must be merciful to his
Of course, there are times for being alone, but even in
those times, man should not roam too far from home. Man is
even capable of achieving the concentration that comes from
solitude while he is surrounded by people.
(Migdal Oz: Perek Aliyat Habedidut)
"For the person being purified there shall be taken .
. . ezov/hyssop." (14:4)
One of the "pieces" of the metzora's sacrifice was an
ezov, a type of grass. Chazal say that it must be a plain
ezov, not an "ezov romi," nor an "ezov kuchli," and not any
other type of ezov that has an adjective modifying its name.
R' Moshe Sternbuch shlita explains that the lowly grass
represents humility. True humility is "plain," with no
conditions (i.e., the adjectives). It is not "romi"
("high"), i.e., a false humility. It is not
"kuchli" ("makeup"--from "kechol," a type of eye shadow),
i.e., something that one "puts on" for others to see.
R' David Avudraham a"h
Late 13th - 14th centuries
R' David ben Yosef Avudraham was the author of one of the
most popular and influential works ever written about
tefilah/prayer. It contains a clear and insightful
commentary on the prayers and blessings, a compendium of
rituals and customs, and many laws. The author introduces
his work by saying that he perceived the need for such a
popularly written book that would acquaint the masses with
the meaning and laws of the prayers. His work remains
popular to this day both as a halachic source and as a basic
text on the prayer book. (An excerpt from Sefer Avudraham
appears on page 1.)
The sources used by R' Avudraham include both the
Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, geonic writings (from the
6th through 10th centuries), and all the halachic codes down
to his own time, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic. To these he
adds his own comments, sometimes deciding the halachah based
on his original explanations of the sources. In turn, R'
Avudraham's halachic rulings are quoted by many later
R' Avudraham lived in Seville Spain, but little else is
known about his background or personal life. Some have
suggested that R' Avudraham was a student of Rabbenu Yaakov
Ba'al Ha'turim, but others have noted that R' Avudraham
quotes Rabbenu Yaakov without using the title "my teacher."
(Sources: The Artscroll Rishonim p.104; Shem Hagedolim;
Introduction to Sefer Avudraham)
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
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