This week's parashah contains civil laws and laws regarding the
judicial system, two types of rules without which no society
could exist. Rashi writes that the parashah begins with the
conjunction "And" to remind us that just as the Aseret Ha'dibrot
in last week's parashah were given at Sinai, so the laws in this
week's parashah were given at Sinai.
Why must the Torah remind us of this fact? R' Yitzchak Meir
z"l (died 1866; the first "Gerrer Rebbe," known as the
"Chiddushei Ha'rim") explains that because these laws are both
essential and logical, there is a risk that one would think that
they are man-made. The Torah therefore instructs us that they
were given at Sinai and that they should be observed, not because
they are logical, but because they are G-d's will.
Rashi writes that Moshe might not have taught Bnei Yisrael the
reasons for the mitzvot in this parashah, but Hashem commanded
that he should. The Sefat Emet (the second "Gerrer Rebbe")
explains similarly that Moshe did not want the Jewish people to
observe the mitzvot because they agreed with the reasons. He
wanted to ensure that Bnei Yisrael observed the mitzvot as G-d's
Hashem told Moshe, "No! Teach them the reasons. The real
challenge is to understand the mitzvot and _nevertheless_ to
observe them solely because that is the will of Hashem." (Quoted
in Ma'ayanah Shel Torah)
"He shall provide for healing." (21:19)
The midrash offers two interpretations of the verse (Iyov
36:19), "Ought then your prayers make you free of care and from
all overwhelming experiences?" The sage Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat
interprets, "Honor your Healer before you need Him." Rabbi
Shimon ben Lakish interprets, "Arrange your prayer before your
Creator so that you shall not be oppressed from above."
What are these sages teaching?
R' Moshe Yaakov Beck z"l (20th century rabbi in Hungary and
later New York) observes that the statements of these two sages
in the midrash appear to be consistent with their teachings in
Sanhedrin (44b). There, R' Elazar says, "A person should always
pray before troubles come." R' Shimon ben Lakish says, "Whoever
prays mightily below will have no oppressors above." R' Beck
explains that these two sages disagree as to which person shows
greater trust in G-d - one who recognizes Hashem even when he is
not immediately in need (by praying that Hashem keep suffering
away) or one who expresses confidence that no matter how terrible
one's suffering, Hashem can save the person from it.
The poor person's money is with you, and you must therefore
give charity. The money that you possess is only a bailment with
which Hashem has entrusted you so that you can support the poor.
(Ma'aseh Rokeach; quoted in Ma'ayanah Shel Torah)
"When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is
with you . . ." (22:24)
The gemara (Ta'anit 24b-25a) relates that the sage Rabbi
Chaninah ben Dosa was so poor that his weekly consumption of food
was limited to a quart of carobs. (Rashi writes that R' Chaninah
could not even afford bread for Shabbat.) The gemara continues:
His wife said to him, "How long will we suffer so?" He
responded, "What shall I do?" She answered, "Pray that you
be given something." He prayed, and he was presented with a
golden table leg. Thereafter, he [some say, she] dreamt
that all of the tzaddikim in Heaven sat at tables with three
legs, while R' Chaninah sat at a table with only two legs.
He discussed this with his wife and then prayed that the
table leg be taken away from him.
R' Yehonatan Eyebschutz z"l (died 1764) asks several questions
regarding this gemara: Why was R' Chaninah's wife complaining?
Surely she was righteous like her husband and was not troubled by
poverty! Also, why do all tzaddikim sit at three-legged tables,
and what is the meaning of R' Chaninah's losing a table leg? He
explains as follows:
The complaint of R' Chaninah's wife was not that she was hungry
but, rather, that she could not perform the mitzvah of tzedakah.
It pained her to see a poor person and to know that she could do
nothing to ease his suffering. She therefore asked her husband
to pray that Hashem give them the means to give charity.
However, what happened as a result of R' Chaninah's prayers was
the opposite of what his wife intended. When a person truly
desires to perform a mitzvah but he is prevented from doing so by
circumstances that are completely beyond his control, Hashem
views it as if that person had, in fact, performed that mitzvah.
Thus, so long as R' Chaninah and his wife were paupers and were
unable to give charity, Hashem judged them as if they actually
had given a great deal of charity.
On the other hand, when a person does have money and actually
gives charity, he can never be sure that he has performed the
mitzvah properly. Has he given as much as he should? Has he
prioritized his donations properly? Has he, in fact, given
substantial sums of money to people who were not deserving?
The three-legged tables in R' Chaninah's (or his wife's) dream
represented the three pillars on which the world stands: Torah
study, prayer and acts of kindness. Tzaddikim who have served
Hashem in each of the three areas sit at tables with three legs.
Had R' Chaninah and his wife remained poor, they also would have
sat at a three-legged table because Hashem would have credited
them with the mitzvah of charity (i.e. kindness) that they wanted
to perform but couldn't. However, once they became wealthy, they
became obligated to give charity, and they risked losing a table
leg if they did not perform the mitzvah properly.
(Ya'arot Devash Vol. I, end of Drush 4)
"Distance yourself from a false word . . ." (23:7)
R' Zusia of Anipol z"l (18th century chassidic rebbe) said,
"When you speak untruths, you distance yourself from Hashem and
all of your good deeds will not draw you close again."
R' Zusia's brother, R' Elimelech, said, "I am confident that
when I am asked Above whether I toiled in Torah study, I will
tell the truth: 'I did not.' The outcome will be that because I
told the truth, I will merit a place in the World-to-Come."
(quoted in Itturei Torah)
Letters from Our Sages
The following letter was written on behalf of R' Yekutiel
Yehuda Halberstam z"l (1905-1993; the "Klausenberger
Rebbe"). It appears to be a response to an individual who
was dissatisfied with a perceived lack of opportunities to
serve Hashem. The letter appears in Michtavei Torah, Volume
Your precious letter . . . was received by the Rebbe (shlita)
[zatzal]. The Rebbe instructed me to write to you that in his
opinion, the meaning of the verse [Mishlei 3:6], "In all your
ways know Him," is as follows: Whatever direction a person
"happens" to go, on whatever path a person's life takes him, he
must know Hashem and serve Him with all his heart. A person may
not let his spirit fall or get caught up in thoughts of
hopelessness over the fact that G-d did not direct him along a
smoother road. Rather, in all your ways know Him - as you are
and in whatever circumstances you find yourself.
Therefore, if one who is not fortunate enough to make the Torah
his full-time occupation and he works to support his household by
the toil of his hands, he should serve Hashem through his work
and he should remember the words of the Sages [Avot Ch.2], "Torah
study is good together with an occupation, for toiling in both of
these causes man to forget sin." If he will set times for Torah
study to the extent he is able, then the words of Torah (which is
likened to fire, as it is written [Yirmiyah 23:29], "Behold! My
words are like fire") will consume the yetzer hara, which is also
called "fire" [in a number of places in the Talmud].
Our sages have taught [Kiddushin 30b] that Hashem created the
Torah as an antidote to the yetzer hara; know that every letter
of gemara that is learned for the sake of the mitzvah of Torah
study destroys a portion of the yetzer hara, and "may all evil
vanish like smoke . . ." [as we say in the High Holiday prayers].
However, know that just as with a medicine for the body, where if
a small dose doesn't work the doctor will increase the dosage, so
with medicine for the soul, if a person feels that two hours of
Torah study has not enabled him to control the fire of the yetzer
hara, he must double or triple the amount of his Torah study
until he gets the fire under control.
In last week's issue we quoted the work Yad Haketanah and
noted that it was published anonymously in the early 19th
century. While that was correct - the work was published in 1800
- it is known that the author was R' Dov Berish Gottlieb z"l
(1740-1796), a businessman who lived in the Galician town of
Shiniva. (Source: Encyclopedia Le'chachmei Galicia p.638)
Rochelle Dimont and family
in memory of
father-in-law and grandfather
Rabbi Shmuel Elchanan Dimont a"h
Elaine and Jerry Taragin
on the yahrzeits of
Mrs. Shirley Taragin a"h
and Mr. Irving Rivkin a"h