Most of the "double-parashah" which we read this week is
devoted to the laws of tzara'at which, our Sages teach, was a
punishment for speaking lashon hara. The gemara (Erachin 15b)
teaches: How does one atone for the sin of lashon hara? If he is
a Torah scholar, he should engage in Torah study, and if not, he
should humble himself."
This teaching requires explanation, says R' Heschel z"l
(Krakow, Poland; died 1663). Since we are taught that one's
repentance must "fit" the sin, why does a Torah scholar have a
different means of achieving atonement for lashon hara than do
other people? He answers:
The gemara teaches that a Torah scholar may not forego the
honor due him. If so, the gemara asks, how did Hashem serve as a
guide for Bnei Yisrael in the desert? [Hashem is obviously a
Torah scholar. Was it not beneath his dignity to serve as a
travel guide?] The gemara answers, "Hashem is different, for the
whole world is His. A Torah scholar does not own the Torah [so
he cannot relinquish its honor]."
The gemara then asks: But do we not read (Tehilim 1:2), "In his
Torah he meditates day and night" - suggesting that the Torah
scholar does own the Torah? The gemara answers: "After he
studies it, it becomes his."
In short, the true atonement for speaking lashon hara comes
from humbling oneself [for it is haughtiness and arrogance which
causes a person to speak ill of others]. However, a Torah
scholar is forbidden to humble himself and to forego the honor
due to the Torah unless he has acquired the Torah and made it
his. Thus, a Torah scholar who has spoken lashon hara must first
engage in Torah study in order to achieve forgiveness for his
sin. (Chanukat Ha'Torah)
"When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a
possession ('achuzah'), and I will place a tzara'at
affliction upon a house in the land of your possession."
The gemara (Yoma 12a) learns from this verse: "A house in your
'possession' can become defiled by tzara'at, but a house in
Yerushalayim cannot become defiled by tzara'at." Why? Because
Yerushalayim was not given to any tribe when the land was
divided, and it therefore is not "the land of your possession."
R' Shmuel Deutsch shlita (a rebbe in Yeshivat Kol Torah in
Yerushalayim) discusses the following questions that the
commentaries raise regarding the above statement. First, Tosafot
asks: The gemara (Zevachim 53b) teaches that the reason that the
southeastern corner of the Temple altar had no "yesod" / base was
that three of the altar's corners were in the territory of the
tribe of Binyamin, while the southeastern corner was in the
territory of Yehuda. If this is so, why does the gemara state in
Tractate Yoma that Yerushalayim was not allotted to any of the
tribes? Apparently, the Temple site, which was in Yerushalayim,
was assigned to the tribes just like the rest of the Land!
Furthermore, R' Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz z"l (the "Chazon
Ish"; 1879-1953) notes that we read explicitly both in the Book
of Yehoshua and in the Book of Shoftim that Yerushalayim was
divided between the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin, just as the
rest of Eretz Canaan was divided among the tribes! What then is
the meaning of the gemara quoted above?
R' Deutsch answers: There are two kinds of rights that were
given to Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Canaan. One is called "nachalah"
/ inheritance, and the other is called "achuzah" / possession.
The former implies that the land's holder has the right to pass-
on ownership of the property to his heirs; the latter implies the
right to use the property. When the gemara says that
Yerushalayim was not given to any tribe, it means that no tribe
exercised achuzah-rights, i.e., had possession of, or dominion
over, Yerushalayim. In that sense, Yerushalayim remained the
property of all of Israel. However, geographically speaking,
Yerushalayim stood on land that was part of the inheritance
("nachalah") of the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin. Although
these tribes could not put their inheritance to any practical
use, it was nevertheless theirs.
This distinction between "achuzah" and "nachalah" is found in
many chapters of Tanach. For example, in Parashat Pinchas, we
read that the daughters of Tzelofchad asked Moshe to give them an
"achuzah," but G-d responded that they would receive a "nachalah"
and an "achuzah." In other words, the daughters of Tzelofchad
requested only that they be given a plot of land to use during
their lifetimes, but Hashem said, "No! Not only will I give you
land that you can call your own, it will pass to your children as
an inheritance." This explains why the elders of Tzelofchad's
tribe (who were afraid that the land would pass out of their
tribe's possession when the daughters of Tzelofchad married) did
not voice an objection immediately when Tzelofchad's daughters
made their request, but only after G-d had spoken. Tzelofchad's
daughters' request would not have caused their tribe to lose any
land, for the women sought only to hold a parcel of land for
their lifetimes. If, however, they received a "nachalah" as
well, and then married men from other tribes, their father's
tribe would be the loser.
"Beware of rashut / rulers, for they befriend someone only
for their own benefit; they act friendly when it benefits
them, but they do not stand by someone in his time of need."
(Chapter 2, mishnah 3)
R' Don Yitzchak Abarbanel z"l (1437-1508; advisor to King
Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and an important Torah
commentator) writes: Rulers are called "rashut" because
everything is in their "reshut" / possession or control. One who
serves a ruler should be very cautious with his words, in his awe
of the ruler and in the alacrity with which he fulfills his
assignments, and he should not count on having his mistakes
forgiven because of the ruler's love for him.
Also, this mishnah includes another warning: Do not allow your
pride in your closeness to the ruler to cause you to take
advantage of other people or to pain them. This is because
rulers do not love any person inherently; rather, they appear to
love people as long as those people can benefit them.
This is what King Shlomo meant when he wrote (Mishlei 21:1):
"Like streams of water is the heart of the king in the hands of
Hashem . . ." Just as water flows quickly and does not retain a
shape, so the heart of the king changes rapidly. Where then can
one find security? "In the hands of Hashem," i.e., by serving
Him. This, says R' Abarbanel, is why our mishnah is placed
adjacent to the next mishnah, which states, "Treat His will as if
it were your own will . . ."
(Nachalat Avot p. 100)
R' Eliezer Zvi Safran z"l (the "Komarno Rebbe"; died 1898)
offers a less literal interpretation of this mishnah:
A "reshut" is something which is optional, neither mandatory
nor forbidden. The Torah warns us to be careful around things
which are "reshut," for they often lead one to transgress. [For
example, eating is a "reshut," but it may lead to over-indulging,
which is sinful.]
Things which are in the category of reshut "befriend someone
only for their own benefit," i.e., they benefit the body, which
is in the control of the yetzer hara. "They act friendly when it
benefits them," i.e., a person thinks that material things are
his friends, "but they do not stand by someone in his time of
need," i.e., in the World-to-Come.
(Zekan Beito p. 165)
Introductions . . .
This week, we present excerpts from the introduction to
Likutei Halachot by R' Yisrael Meir Hakohen z"l (the "Chafetz
Chaim"; circa 1838 - 1933). Besides authoring such popular
works as the halachic code, Mishnah Berurah, and several
works discussing the laws and the evils of lashon hara, the
Chafetz Chaim took it upon himself to encourage scholars,
especially kohanim, to study the laws of the Temple service.
Likutei Halachot, a compendium of such laws, was written to
further that goal, as the Chafetz Chaim explains in his
Learning Torah may be divided into two parts: (1) learning to
know the mitzvot and to observe them, which involves learning
things which have application today -- this type of learning
precedes everything -- and (2) learning those things which do not
have direct application in our times, for example Zera'im / the
agricultural laws and Taharot / the laws of ritual purity.
[Ed. note: These words were written in 1899, when there was not
yet a significant Torah-observant farming community in Eretz
Yisrael.] This latter type of learning is very dear in G-d's
eyes, for it shows that one values G-d's words and wants to toil
in them and understand them. [Ed. note: This is shown more so
when one studies things that have no practical use.] Know!
Learning the laws of Kodshim / the sacrifices, although they also
are of no practical consequence today, is very, very lofty. It
says in the midrash that it is regarding Kodshim that the verse
says (Tehilim 19:9): "The command of Hashem is clear,
enlightening the eyes." The midrash lists this as nearly the
highest form of Torah learning. When one learns these laws
today, it is as if he has sacrificed sacrifices, as it is taught
at the end of Tractate Menachot. . .
The gemara says regarding the verse (Malachi 1:11): "In every
place, it is brought up in smoke and brought near for My Name" --
is it possible that sacrifices are brought in every place?
Rather, this refers to Torah scholars who study the laws of the
sacrifices, and G-d considers it as if they have brought
sacrifices. . .
It always amazed me [the Chafetz Chaim writes] that rather than
devoting extra effort to learning this Order [i.e., the section
of the Talmud called Kodshim], which, after all, would fulfill
the mitzvah of learning Torah and be equivalent to bringing
sacrifices, the Order of Kodshim is neglected to such an extent
that the great Torah scholars and the average ignoramus are equal
in their knowledge of it. Most students of Torah do not even
know those laws of the sacrifices to which numerous verses are
devoted in the Torah. If it was announced that the Bet Hamikdash
had been built, the lowliest among Israel would not hesitate to
spend tens of rubles to reach our Holy Land and to bring an olah-
offering before Hashem . . . , but we don't seem to care that
Hashem has assured our holy Patriarchs that our learning these
laws is equivalent to bringing a sacrifice, without traveling and
without great expense. It is very close to us. Each person can
find his atonement in his own house or study hall just by
studying these laws - yet we are negligent in this.