Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Contributing Editor: Daniel Dadusc
Volume XIV, No. 24
11 Adar II 5760
March 18, 2000
Orach Chaim 264:9-265:1
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Yevamot 109
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Nedarim 24
This week, for Parashat Zachor, we read: "Remember what Amalek
did to you, on the way when you were leaving Egypt, that he
happened upon you on the way, and he struck those of you who were
hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and
exhausted, and did not fear G-d." (Devarim 25:17-18)
R' Yitzchak Eliyahu Landau z"l (Vilna, died 1876) writes: We
are expected to remember more than the fact that Amalek attacked
us. We are expected to remember why this happened.
Why did Amalek attack? Because you were "on the way when you
were leaving Egypt," i.e., you allowed your travels to cause you
excessive worry about where your next drink of water would come
from. As a result, you did not pay proper attention to spiritual
In particular, you did not protest that some members of the
tribe of Dan -- the tribe that traveled "hindmost" -- had an idol
traveling with them. This caused those individuals -- "the
[spiritual] weaklings at your rear" -- to be expelled from within
the Clouds of Glory. Having lost the protection of the Clouds,
they became "faint and exhausted," not only physically, but
spiritually. They began to feel that serving Hashem was
tiresome, and they "did not fear G-d."
It is important to remember this entire chain of events,
because only if we rectify the types of faults that brought
Amalek upon us can we eventually eradicate Amalek. (Patsheggen
Ha'dat: Mashal U'melitzah p. 146)
"When adam/a man among you brings an offering . . ." (2:1)
Why did the Torah choose to refer to the man bringing a
sacrifice as an "adam," rather than by one of the other words for
"man," e.g., "ish" or "gevver"? R' Avraham Aharon Yudelevitch
z"l (see page 4) explains:
Of all the words for man (or mankind), "adam" is the only one
that has no plural form. As such, the word "adam" signifies man
when he is united with his peers. Thus, the gemara (Yevamot 61a)
says that the Jewish people are called "adam," a reference to the
unique solidarity of which the Jewish people is capable.
When a person sins, he distances himself from the Jewish
people. When he repents and brings a sacrifice to the Bet
Hamikdash, he reaffirms his solidarity with his nation. This is
why the term "adam" is used in our verse.
A "midrash pliah"/"astonishing midrash" states regarding our
verse: "Thus it is written, 'Shema Yisrael, Hashem is our G-d,
Hashem is One'." In light of the above, we can understand this
as follows: When one recites Shema, he not only affirms his
acceptance of G-d, he reaffirms his own unity with the Jewish
people. This is exactly what a person does when he repents from
his sins and brings a sacrifice.
(Darash Av: Drush 123)
"If a person will sin and commit a treachery against Hashem
and lie to his comrade . . ." (5:20)
In a lecture delivered in 1970, R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik
observed: a socialist economic system is inherently more ethical
than a capitalist system, yet, in the hands of Marxist
governments, it has turned into a system of brutality and
He explained based on the above verse. These governments were
not aware of the insight of Chazal (in the Mechilta) that the Ten
Commandments were uttered in one sentence. The Aseret Hadibrot,
including those that address man's obligations to man and those
that address his obligations to G-d, are indivisible. When you
"sin and commit a treachery against Hashem," you will inevitably
"lie to [your] comrade."
(The Rav: Section 13.02)
"I have set Hashem before me always; He is at my right hand,
I shall not falter." (Tehilim 16:8)
R' Meir Marim Saphit z"l (see page 4) explained this verse as
follows: "Faltering" refers to sinning unintentionally. Although
people act with both their right and left hands, the right hand
is more likely to be involved in an unintentional sin because it
is (for most people) more active and, therefore, more likely to
act without a person premeditating.
How can one avoid this? If one sets Hashem before him always,
if one truly feels that Hashem is at his side at all times, then
he will never act unthinkingly, and his right hand will not
(Quoted in Marbitzei Torah Me'olam Hachassidut Vol. 1, p. 108)
Parashat Zachor / Purim
"The Jews confirmed and undertook upon themselves . . ."
The gemara (Shabbat 88a) teaches that although Bnei Yisrael had
said (Shemot 24:7), "Na'aseh ve'nishmah"/"We will do and we will
obey," Hashem held Har Sinai over their heads, forcing them to
accept the Torah. Technically, Bnei Yisrael were not obligated
to observe the Torah, as they had accepted it under duress.
Later, in Mordechai and Esther's time, the Jews accepted the
Torah willingly, as it is written, "The Jews confirmed and
undertook" - "They confirmed what they had undertaken before."
Another gemara (Megillah 7a) interprets this verse differently:
"The Jews confirmed and undertook" - "They confirmed above what
had been undertaken below," i.e., the Heavenly court above
confirmed that which the Jews had undertaken.
R' Yehonatan Eyebschutz z"l (Germany, died 1764) writes that
these two interpretations are closely related. He explains:
When Bnei Yisrael accepted the Torah at Har Sinai, they did so
outwardly because they were scared by the awesome revelation that
they witnessed. They did not accept the Torah fully in their
hearts. Only later, at the time of the Purim miracle, did the
Jewish people accept the Torah fully, even in their hearts. Why?
Haman was a descendant of Esav, about whom the Torah writes
(Bereishit 25:26), "Game was in his mouth." Rashi explains that
Esav used to "hunt" Yitzchak's love with his (Esav's) mouth,
pretending outwardly to observe mitzvot and asking Yitzchak
questions about how he could be more stringent in his mitzvah
Thus, writes R' Eyebschutz, when Haman threatened Bnei Yisrael,
Hashem was, so-to-speak, faced with a dilemma: should Bnei
Yisrael be saved because they accepted the Torah? They accepted
it only outwardly! Should Hashem then give them credit for what
they did outwardly? But then Haman, the descendant of Esav, who
honored his father outwardly, will deserve Hashem's kindness as
The only solution to this dilemma was for the Jewish people of
that generation to accept the Torah anew with a full heart. Only
then would they merit to be saved.
Just before Amalek, a grandson of Esav and ancestor of Haman,
attacked Bnei Yisrael in the desert, Bnei Yisrael wondered
(Shemot 17:7), "Is Hashem among us or not?" Literally, they
asked, "Is Hashem within us or not?" meaning, according to some
commentaries, "Does Hashem know our innermost thoughts or not?"
This is why Amalek, of all nations, was sent to attack them. It
was as if Hashem said, "You wonder whether I know what is in your
hearts? I will punish you with one (Esav) who performed mitzvot
All of the foregoing has a practical application, R' Eyebschutz
writes. Most people pray with their mouths, but not with their
hearts. Their lips hurry through the words, while their hearts
have no idea what the words mean. Maybe (only maybe!) a person
prays two or three proper shemoneh esreis in his entire lifetime.
Ironically, while we pray every day for an end to our exile, we
have the power to weaken the hands of our oppressors, and we do
not use that power. The verse says (Bereishit 27:22), "The voice
is Yaakov's voice, and the hands are Esav's hands." When prayer
is done with Yaakov's (i.e., a Jew's) mouth, but not his heart,
then the hands of Esav are strengthened. Conversely, if we would
pray with our hearts, we would weaken the hands of Esav.
(Ya'arot Devash Part I, No. 2, )
Rabbis of the New World
R' Avraham Aharon Yudelevitch z"l was born in Novardok, White
Russia, in 1850. His mother was a sister of R' Meir Marim Saphit
(died 1873), the rabbi of Kobrin, White Russia, and author of
"Nir," a famous commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi. R'
Yudelevitch began his rabbinic career on Motzai Shabbat Shuvah,
1874, and he served in several Russian towns before moving to
Manchester, England. From England, he moved to Boston, where he
served as rabbi. Finally, he settled in New York. He died on 4
R' Yudelevitch was a prolific author. His works include the
multi-volume Darash Av, sermons on chumash and the festivals, and
the multi-volume halachic responsa, Bet Av. R' Yudelevitch also
wrote other works. In one of them, Av Be'chochmah, he defends
what was probably his best-known and most controversial ruling.
Specifically, the Torah states that when a man dies childless,
his brother should perform the mitzvah of yibum, i.e., he should
marry his widowed sister-in-law. If, for any reason, they do not
marry, they must perform an act called chalitzah. However,
during the decades that the Soviet Union existed, it happened
many times that a widow was in the United States (or elsewhere)
while her brother-in-law was behind the Iron Curtain. Faced with
such a case, R' Yudelevitch argued that the chalitzah act could
be performed by an emissary, while the words that the Torah
requires the widow and her brother-in-law to say could be said
before batei din/rabbinical courts in the couple's respective
cities and transmitted by mail or by two-way radio. Many of the
leading European sages, including R' Isser Zalman Meltzer and R'
Yosef Rosen (the "Rogatchover"), opposed R' Yudelevitch's
ruling, and he carried on an extensive correspondence on the
subject with various rabbis in Russia.
In another responsa in Av Be'chochmah, R' Yudelevitch discusses
and condemns the actions of a certain Reform "rabbi." In that
letter, R' Yudelevitch mentions the sad state of the Jewish youth
in his day: "Their lack of knowledge of the Torah of Israel is
great. They almost do not know anything, even a bit, of the holy
Torah, and the spirit of the Torah is foreign to them in the
extreme." (Sources: Otzar Harabbanim; Darash Av, Vol. III,
Introduction; Av Be'chochmah; Marbitzei Torah Me'olam Hachassidut
Vol. 1, p. 96)
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.
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