This week's parashah begins 36 days before Moshe's death, and in it
Moshe begins his farewell address. He opens by rebuking Bnei Yisrael for
their prior follies and warning them not to stray from the Torah once they
enter Eretz Yisrael. R' Yishayah Halevi Horowitz z"l (1560-1630; the
Shelah Hakadosh; Chief Rabbi of Prague and Yerushalayim) writes that these
verses teach us how to rebuke. Moshe says (1:9-13), "I said to you at that
time, saying, `I cannot carry you alone . . . How can I alone carry your
contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? Provide for yourselves
distinguished men, who are wise, understanding, and well known to your
tribes, and I shall appoint them as your heads'." [This is a rebuke hidden
within a compliment. By implication, Moshe is telling them, "Despite your
contentiousness, there are among you men who are distinguished, wise and
understanding." Alternatively, he is telling them, "Despite your
contentiousness, you are fit to be led by men who are distinguished, wise
This teaches us that one who wants to rebuke another should not say,
"You are no good." That will only make the other person hate the speaker,
and he certainly will not listen. This is what Shlomo Ha'melech meant when
he said (Mishlei 9:8), "Do not rebuke a fool, lest he hate you." Do not
rebuke someone by telling him he is a fool. Rather, says King Shlomo,
"Rebuke a wise man and he will love you." Rebuke someone by telling him
how wise he is and that his deeds are unbecoming a person of his wisdom.
Then he will listen to you and will love you. (Mussarei Ha'Shelah Al
"Hashem, our G-d, spoke to us in Chorev, saying, `Enough of
dwelling by this mountain'." (1:6)
R' Avraham ibn Ezra z"l (1089-1164) writes: "Chorev is Sinai."
R' Moshe ben Nachman z"l (Ramban; 1194-1270) disagrees. He writes: In
my opinion, Chorev is the name of the place close to Har Sinai where Bnei
Yisrael camped for a year. The desert is a large place, and it contains
the mountain that Hashem desired - Har Sinai. Therefore, the whole desert
is also called Sinai. Perhaps, writes Ramban, they both take their name
from the shrub known as "sneh." In any case, the specific location where
Bnei Yisrael camped opposite the mountain is a nearby place--maybe even a
We read near the beginning of the Book of Shmot (3:1), "[Moshe] guided
the sheep far into the wilderness, and he arrived at the Mountain of G-d,
toward Chorev." Says Ramban: Moshe was shepherding Yitro's flock at, or in
the direction of, Chorev when he saw from a distance the sneh that was
burning on the Mountain of G-d, i.e., Har Sinai. That is why Moshe said
there (verse 3), "I will turn aside now and look at this great sight -- why
will the bush not be burned?" [Moshe had to turn towards Har Sinai to
investigate this sight because he was not already on the mountain as people
Ramban concludes: This explanation is proven by the Midrash which
comments on the verse (Yishayah 48:8), "You have not heard nor have you
known, nor was your ear opened to them from before . . ." The Midrash
comments: "You have not heard - at Sinai; nor have you known - at Chorev;
nor was your ear opened to them from before - in the Wilderness of Moav."
This indicates that Sinai and Chorev are two distinct places.
Specifically, Chorev was the encampment near Sinai where the Mishkan stood
and where Hashem spoke to Moshe during the year after the Torah was given.
This is what is meant by the verse (Malachi 3:23), "Remember the teaching
of Moshe, My servant, which I commanded him at Chorev . . ."
(Peirush Ha'Ramban Al Ha'Torah)
"Enough of your circling this mountain; turn yourselves
/ northward." (2:3)
"Tzafon" / "North" also is the root of the verb, "to conceal." Thus
the Midrash comments, "Conceal yourselves! Where can one conceal himself?
If one sees that the enemy is attacking, one should conceal himself in the
R' Yitzchak Eliyahu Landau z"l (Lithuania; 19th century) explains: Our
Sages say that as long as the voice of Yaakov may be heard in the bet
midrash, the hands of the idol worshippers (represented by Esav) cannot get
the upper hand. Chazal have similarly said, "The sword and the book came
down from Heaven together." Therefore, when the enemy attacks, run to
"The days that we traveled from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed
Zered Brook were thirty eight years, until the end of the entire
generation, the men of war, from the midst of the camp, as Hashem
swore to them." (2:14)
R' Aharon Lewin z"l hy"d (rabbi of Rzeszow, Poland; killed in the
Holocaust) writes: The Torah tells us in Parashat Shelach (14:34) that
Hashem decreed 40 years of wandering on Bnei Yisrael because they accepted
the negative report of the Spies who had toured Eretz Yisrael for 40 days.
In fact, however, as our verse indicates, Bnei Yisrael wandered for only 38
years after the sin of the Spies. Where are the missing years?
The answer is as follows: Two years before the sin of the Spies, Bnei
Yisrael had made the Golden Calf. And, although Hashem forgave them for
that sin, it was not a complete forgiveness. Rather, Hashem told Moshe that
the punishment for the sin of the Golden Calf would be distributed among
the punishments for future sins. Thus, when Bnei Yisrael sinned by
accepting the Spies' report, that was the last straw, and the sin of the
Golden Calf was reawakened. Therefore, their 40-year long punishment was
calculated retroactively from that earlier sin.
Still, from the sin of the Golden Calf on the 16th of Tammuz in Year
Two until Bnei Yisrael's entry into Eretz Yisrael in Nissan of Year 40 is
only 39 years and nine months. Where are an additional three months
accounted for? R' Lewin answers:
Presumably Bnei Yisrael were punished only for the daylight hours that
the Spies were away. After all, the Spies did not sin when they were
sleeping. Thus, each twelve-hour day that the Spies were touring the Land
parallels one twelve-month year in the desert. It follows that the three
months that are missing from our calculation parallel three hours of one
day. Our Sages say that when the Spies left the Sinai Desert to begin
their journey to Eretz Yisrael, they were still righteous. If so, then
they must have prayed Shacharit that day, and they did not depart until
after the time for the morning prayers. When is the time for Shacharit
according to halachah? Up until the end of the third hour! In those three
hours of the first day, the Spies did not sin, and therefore the decree was
actually for three months short of forty years.
R' Eliyahu Guttmacher z"l
R' Eliyahu Guttmacher was born near Posen (Poznan) in eastern Germany
(today, Poland) on Rosh Chodesh Av 5556 / 1796. After studying in the
yeshiva of Rawicz, he became, at age 19, a student of R' Akiva Eger, rabbi
of Posen. He remained in R' Eger's yeshiva for four years and was a
favorite of the teacher.
Even as a youth, R' Guttmacher studied assiduously and remained awake
late into the night writing down his Torah insights. A turning point in
his life occurred when he discovered a copy of the Zohar with the marginal
notes of his teacher, R' Eger. R' Guttmacher had previously believed, as
did most people, that R' Eger was opposed to the study of Kabbalah.
However, upon realizing that his teacher did, indeed, delve into that
subject, the student began his own study of Kabbalah.
As an outgrowth of this study, R' Guttmacher began to reflect upon the
causes of our exile and the steps that we can, and must, take to end it.
He came to believe that the spiritual state of the Jewish People was
declining rapidly and it was necessary to force the arrival of mashiach,
something that could be achieved only if the Jewish People strengthened
their attachment to Torah and returned to Eretz Yisrael. He strongly
encouraged the establishment of both yeshivot and farming communities in
the Holy Land, and when most leading rabbis either did not support his call
(and many openly opposed it), he declared that the Sattan / the prosecuting
angel had blinded them in order to delay the Redemption.
R' Guttmacher's study of Kabbalah also drew him close to the chassidic
movement, and he became surrounded by chassidim of his own. He discouraged
people from seeking his blessings, saying that he was an ordinary person.
He also said that just in case his prayers carried any weight in Heaven, he
was already praying for all Jews; thus, there was no need to visit him.
But all of his efforts to be left alone were futile.
R' Guttmacher published several pamphlets describing his ideas about
the Redemption and the return to Eretz Yisrael. He also left behind many
manuscripts on "traditional" Torah subjects, and some of his commentaries
are published in the back of the standard Vilna edition of the Talmud.
(Some of his larger works were first published in the 1970's and 80's.) He
also kept a diary, which he closed with the words: "I am leaving for my
world [i.e., Olam Haba] comforted that the Shechinah pines for those who
love It. I feel that the three part cord - the Torah, the Holy One,
blessed is He, and Yisrael - is in the process of being tied again."
(Encyclopedia La'chassidut p.643)
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