Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Bechukosai: Cruel to Oneself
Volume XVII, No. 33
22 Iyar 5763
May 24, 2003
the Katz family
in honor of Leora's bat mitzvah
Kinim 3:6 / Kelim 1:1
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Avodah Zarah 72
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Yoma 32
A significant part of this parashah is devoted to the Tochachah
/ Rebuke, which foretells the troubles and punishments that will
(and have) come upon the Jewish People when they sin. The
Tochachah warns repeatedly that we will continue to suffer as
long as we attribute our suffering to "keri" / "chance" rather
than to our sins.
Rambam (Hil. Ta'anit ch. 1) writes that the Torah commands us
to react to suffering with prayer and repentance. Rambam adds
that one who does not do this, saying that his suffering is
simply the way of the world, is "achzari" / "cruel."
What does Rambam mean by this expression? asks R' Shimson David
Pinkus z"l (rabbi of Ofakim, Israel). At first glance, Rambam is
saying that a person who fails to repent is "cruel" to himself,
for he brings additional punishments upon himself. But that
cannot be correct, says R' Pinkus, for every person who sins
makes himself liable for punishment. Why would Rambam single out
a person's failure to repent from all other sins?
Rather, explains R' Pinkus, Rambam's meaning is as follows: One
who believes that suffering occurs by chance is accusing G-d of
cruelty. He is suggesting that G-d created us, but then
abandoned us. The teachers of Mussar / character development and
ethics teach that one generally sees in others the faults that he
himself has. Thus, one who would wrongly attribute cruelty to G-
d must himself be cruel. (Tiferet Torah)
"If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments .
. ." (26:3)
Rashi writes that "If you will follow My decrees" refers to
toiling in Torah study. If so, writes R' Akiva Yosef Schlesinger
z"l (Hungary and Yerushalayim; died 1922), we can understand why
this verse follows immediately after the verse, "My Sabbaths you
shall observe." Specifically, the Midrash Tanna D'vei Eliyahu
states that the primary time for Torah study is on Shabbat, when
one is free from working.
"Then they will confess their sin and the sin of their
forefathers, for the treachery with which they betrayed Me .
. . I, too, will behave toward them with casualness and I
will bring them into the land of their enemies." (26:40-41)
Why, if Bnei Yisrael confess their sins, will Hashem behave
toward them with casualness and bring them to the land of their
enemies? R' Moshe Freidiger z"l (communal leader in Pest,
Teshuvah means confessing one's sins and not making excuses.
Here, Bnei Yisrael will confess, but they will justify their
actions by saying that their forefathers acted the same way.
Such a "teshuvah" will be rejected.
(Quoted in Otzrot Tzaddikei U'geonei Ha'dorot)
"I will make the land desolate . . . And you--I will
scatter among the nations . . . During all the days of her
desolation, the land will rest; those sabbaticals that it
did not observe while you were on the land, it will observe
R' Avraham Yitzchak Kook z"l wrote: Upon being exiled, the
Jewish people were freed of any national concerns; they rather
turned their eyes and hearts heavenward. Jews were no longer
preoccupied with the same concerns that draw the attention of the
other nations, and at the same time, Jews ceased to chase after
the idols [literal and figurative] of the nations. The spirit of
Hashem prompted the Jew to recognize the value of every soul, and
particularly, the spiritual worth of the Jewish nation. The
Torah was appreciated more than fine gold and silver, just as in
the nation's youth. Because of their holy faith, the Jews in
exile went to martyrdom with love and happiness.
The Jew in exile always turned toward his land [Israel], but
not as one who yearns for his home because it satisfies his
hunger and his other physical needs. The Jew looked toward his
land with a gaze filled with holiness; he looked toward its inner
nature as the land that complements his yearning for G-d.
The time of the redemption is hidden. Who is privy to G-d's
secret, knowing when the land and the nation will have been
completely purified, that beloved time when the land and the
nation will be reunited? Our sages have said that there is no
greater sign of the onset of the redemption than the fulfillment
of the verses from the Prophets: "And you, mountains of Israel,
give forth your branches, present your fruits to My nation,
Yisrael, for they are near to arrive." "And the cities will be
settled and ruins will be rebuilt, and I will increase men and
animals on the land and they will multiply . . ."
(Introduction to Shabbat Ha'aretz)
"There are four characteristics among those who sit before
Torah scholars: (1) a sponge; (2) a funnel; (3) a strainer
(`mishameret'); and (4) a sieve."
In 1946, R' Yoel Teitelbaum z"l (the Satmar Rav) was invited to
speak at Yeshivat Bet Avraham - Slonim in Yerushalayim. He
introduced his lecture with the following explanation of the
above Mishnah: The Gemara mentions that certain pious
individuals used to spend nine hours a day either preparing for
prayer or actually praying. The Gemara asks, "How then is their
Torah accomplished?" The Gemara answers, "Because they are
pious, their Torah is `mishtameret'."
The Gemara's answer is usually understood to mean that their
Torah knowledge is "protected" by the merit of their prayer.
However, this answer is difficult to understand, said R'
Teitelbaum. If "mishtameret" means being "protected," it can
only refer to the Torah which these pious individuals have
already learned. How, however, will they learn more if they are
so occupied with prayer?
Rather, the Gemara means "mishtameret" in the sense of the
"mishameret" / "strainer" of our Mishnah. The Mishnah describes
a mishameret as something that lets the wine pass through but
keeps out the dregs. For the ordinary person, accomplishment in
Torah requires extraordinary effort; for the pious, who spend the
bulk of their time in prayer, Torah is easily "strained." True
insights are acquired with less effort, while the "dregs" / false
leads and misunderstandings fall by the side.
(Mimayanot Hanetzach, p.274)
R' Shlomo Kluger z"l (Poland; died 1869) understands our
Mishnah to be speaking not of Torah scholars but of the
supporters of the Torah. This is based upon the verse (Devarim
33:18), "Rejoice, Zevulun, in your excursions, and Yissachar, in
your tents"--a reference to the fact that Yissachar and Zevulun
shared the profits of Zevulun's business and the rewards of
Yissachar's Torah study. Note that Zevulun is mentioned before
Yissachar in the verse.
There are four types of Torah supporters, the Mishnah says: a
sponge, a funnel, a strainer, and a sieve. The first is someone
who "absorbs" all requests for charity, whether the recipient is
deserving or not. The second steals in order to give charity;
the money just passes through his hands, as through a funnel.
The third--the "strainer"--accepts requests only from those who
are not worthy, just as a strainer passes the wine, and retains
the dregs. Finally, the fourth is like a type of sieve which
holds the finest flour and allows the bran to pass through--he
accepts requests only from the worthy.
R' Aharon Lapapa z"l
R' Aharon Lapapa was born in Magnesia, near the western coast
of Turkey, in approximately 1590. He studied in Salonika,
Greece, where his teacher was R' Avraham Motal, and in
Constantinople, under R' Yosef Tirani ("Maharit").
R' Lapapa began his rabbinic career in the town of his
birthplace in 1632, serving the poor community as rabbi without
pay. At the same time, he headed a yeshiva where many prominent
rabbis were trained. In the spring of 1665, he accepted the post
of dayan (judge) left vacant by the passing of R' Yosef Escapa,
rabbi of Izmir (Smyrna). In that position, R' Aharon ruled on
civil cases, while another rabbi, R' Chaim Benveniste (author of
Knesset Hagedolah), ruled on the community's ritual questions.
R' Aharon's tenure in Smyrna was short-lived. He was an
opponent of the (now known to be) false messiah, Shabtai Zvi, who
had a strong following in Izmir. On 6 Tevet 5426 / 1665, the
latter proclaimed R' Benveniste supreme rabbi of the community,
effectively dismissing R' Aharon from his post. Thereafter, R'
Aharon was afraid even to walk the streets, and not until the
false messiah converted to Islam was R' Aharon safe again.
R' Aharon was famed as a posek, and some of his responsa are
published in Bnei Aharon. Others of his works were never
published. The 18th century bibliographer, R' Chaim Yosef David
Azulai ("Chida") mentions a view that part of the Shittah
Mekubetzet attributed to R' Bezalel Ashkenazi may have been
written by R' Aharon.
R' Aharon died on 26 Iyar 5427 / 1667.
Copyright © 2003 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
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