Three great chassidic rebbes of the early 19th century--R' Sar Shalom
Rokeach of Belz z"l, R' Naftali Horowitz of Ropszce z"l and R' Zvi
Elimelech Langsam z"l of Dinov--once met and began discussing the verse
from this week's parashah (8:19): "V'hayah im shachoach tishkach / It shall
be that if forget, you forget, Hashem, your G-d, and go after the gods of
others, and worship them and prostrate yourself to them -- I testify
against you today that you will surely perish." R' Zvi Elimelech (known as
the Bnei Yissaschar) asked: Why does the Torah threaten such a terrible
punishment for a sin that is the result of forgetfulness? He answered: It
is understandable that a person can sin as a result of forgetting Hashem
for a time. However, an upstanding person will soon repent and regret his
forgetfulness. In that case, he has an excuse for his sin: he forgot! Not
so the person referred to in our verse. The Gemara teaches that the word
"V'hayah" connotes a joyous occasion. If person forgets his religious
obligations and is happy that he forgot, then his subsequent actions cannot
R' Naftali offered a different answer: The halachah is that a person
who forgets to make an Eruv Tavshilin before a Yom Tov that falls on Friday
may rely on the Eruv Tavshilin prepared by the town rabbi. However, a
person may only do that once. The second time he forgets, he is considered
a sinner and he is penalized by being prohibited from cooking on Yom Tov in
preparation for Shabbat. So, too, the person in our verse, of whom it
says, "It shall be that if forget, you forget." A person might forget G-d
once, but someone who forgets twice is an ordinary sinner.
Finally, R' Sar Shalom spoke: The Torah commands a farmer to leave
behind bundles of stalks that he forgets in the field so that poor people
may take them. However, says the Mishnah, this applies only to small
bundles. A large bundle is never considered forgotten. So, too, regarding
our verse, concluded R' Sar Shalom. Some things are just too important to
forget. (Quoted in Otzrotaihem Shel Tzaddikim)
"He afflicted you and let you hunger, then He fed you the mahn
that you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, in order to
make you know that not by bread alone does man live, rather by
everything that emanates from the mouth of G-d does man live."
R' Chaim ben Betzalel z"l (1515-1588; rabbi of Friedberg, Germany;
often referred to as "Rabbeinu Chaim, brother of the Maharal of Prague)
observes: The phrase, "in order to make you know that not by bread alone
does man live," implies that man does not live by bread alone, but of
course he needs bread as well. Yet, the next phrase, "rather by everything
that emanates from the mouth of G-d does man live," implies that man does
not need even bread--only the word of G-d keeps man alive. Which inference
He answers: If a person merited, he could live without bread, as Moshe
did on Har Sinai for 40 days and as Eliyahu Hanavi did also (see Melachim I
19:8). However, the typical person cannot do this. He does need bread.
Nevertheless, know that man does not live on bread alone; he must combine
the word of G-d with it. In particular, when he eats, he should bring the
word of G-d to the table [for example, by reciting a Dvar Torah or studying
a Torah work during the meal].
How do we know that a person should not feel guilty about the fact
that he needs to eat? The Torah says (Vayikra 11:2-4), "These are the
creatures that you shall eat from among the animals that are upon the
earth. Everything among the animals that has a split hoof, which is
completely separated into double hooves, and that brings up its cud -- that
one you may eat. But this is what you shall not eat..." Isn't that last
verse redundant? If the Torah says what I may eat, is it necessary to say
what I may not eat? Could we not figure that out by ourselves through
process of elimination? The purpose of the redundancy is so that we will
not interpret the first verse merely as permission, but as a directive: A
normal person needs to eat.
(Sefer Ha'chaim III, Ch. 1)
"A Land of wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate; a Land
oil-olives and date-honey." (8:8)
The Gemara teaches that if one has two of the fruits of this verse
before him, he should generally recite the berachah on the one that is
mentioned earlier in the pasuk. However, if he has one fruit from the
first clause of the verse and another fruit from the second clause, then
the blessing should be recited on the one that is closer to the world
"Land." For example, an olive (#1 in the second clause) would precede a
grape (#3 in the first clause).
R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z"l (1865-1935; Ashkenazic Chief
Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) writes: Just as berachot in general direct us
towards good traits and beliefs [for example, recognizing who gives us our
food], so all the detailed laws of berachot have something to teach us. In
this case, the lesson is the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to our beliefs.
"Whatever is closer to the Land takes precedence." The more one loves
Eretz Yisrael and the more one works to build it, the closer he is to being
blessed and achieving perfection.
Why is the verse broken into two parts? Because different people have
different reasons for being attached to Eretz Yisrael. Some see its
spiritual qualities--the five fruits in the first clause representing the
Five Books of the Torah. Others see Eretz Yisrael as a place where the
Jewish People can find rest and material fulfillment, represented by the
oil and honey of the second clause. This verse, says R' Kook, teaches the
greatness of those who desire the Land even for the latter reasons. A
fruit in the second group is blessed before a fruit in the first group if
it is closer to the Land. Someone who actually settles in Eretz Yisrael
because of its material bounty is blessed over someone who loves Eretz
Yisrael's spiritual qualities but who remains far from the Land. The
reason is that when the nation attaches itself to Hashem's Land, regardless
of the reason, it will eventually come closer to Hashem as well.
(Eretz Chaifetz p. 21)
"It will be that if you listen to My commandments that I
you today, to love Hashem, your G-d, and to serve Him with all
your heart and with all your soul." (11:13)
Rashi asks (paraphrasing the Sages), "Serve Him with a service that is
in the heart, i.e., prayer, for prayer is termed service (`avodah')."
R' Yaakov Krantz z"l (1741-1804; the Dubno Maggid) asks: What is the
purpose of prayer? G-d already knows our needs and our desires. If
something we want is good for us, let Him give it to us. If it is not good
for us, then prayer can have no effect. We are all witnesses to the fact
that a person will sometimes pray for something 1,000 times and still not
The answer is that Hashem wants us to sense the difference between
good circumstances and bad ones. If Hashem gave us everything we needed
before we asked for it, we would never sense His beneficence. We would
think that everything comes about naturally.
For example, a person who is healthy, who is whole in body and limb,
whose eyes can see and whose ears can hear, and so on, does not usually
rejoice over his physical faculties. He is not aroused to bless his
Creator for these gifts. Only a person who is lacking one of these
faculties and then is cured is aroused to appreciate what he now has.
To what may prayer be compared? To night watchmen who call out every
hour, "It is such-and-such o'clock and all is well." Why do they wake up
sleeping townspeople to make this announcement? Not because the
townspeople need to know the time, but in order to prove that the watchmen
are awake and alert. Likewise, Hashem does not need our prayers. Rather,
we pray to prove that we are "awake."
(Kol Bochim Al Megillat Eichah 1:5; Voice of Weepers, p. 14)
Letters from Our Sages
[R' Shlomo Wolbe z"l was one of the foremost teachers of mussar /
character development of the second half of the 20th century.
His best known written work is Alei Shur. The following is taken
from a short collection of letters by R' Wolbe that was published
on the shloshim of R' Wolbe passing. which occurred during Chol
Ha'moed Pesach of this year.]
Many thanks for your letter. I meditated upon your question, and I
see that you are demanding too much of yourself. To be aware at every
moment of hashgachah pratit / Hashem's watchfulness over man - that is a
very high level which cannot be attained without preparations . . .
In practice, the time to meditate on hashgachah pratit is during
prayers. Birchot Ha'shachar / the first blessings recited in the morning
are expressions of personal gratitude for Hashem's watchfulness. Pesukei
D'zimrah / the psalms and other verses recited after Baruch She'amar
describe the revelation of G-d's hashgachah throughout all parts of
creation. [For example,] Ashrei describes G-d's Attributes in general. The
next psalm ("Halleli nafshit et Hashem" / "My soul will praise Hashem")
describes G-d's hashgachah in the life of the individual. The verse "Bonei
Yerushalayim Hashem" / "Hashem builds Jerusalem" describes Hashem's
hashgachah over history. The psalm "Hallelu et Hashem min ha'shamayim" /
"Praise G-d from the heavens"-His hashgachah over nature. "Shiru l'Hashem
shir chadash" / "Sing to Hashem a new song"-His hashgachah over the
Congregation of Israel. . .
Next come the blessings surrounding Kriat Shema. First we describe
the angels' recognition of Hashem's hashgachah. [The entire first blessing
after Barchu is describing how the angels praise Hashem.] As we recite
there, the angels praise Him as the "one who alone effects might deeds,
makes new things, etc." In the blessing Ahavah Rabbah, we describe the
pinnacle of His watchfulness over us-He gave us the Torah. In Shema, we
acknowledge His uniqueness and our resulting obligations to Him, and the
fact that He rewards and punishes [which are manifestations of the fact
that He is watching over us] and the Exodus. These themes are reviewed and
summarized in the blessing which follows, until the words, "Ga'al Yisrael."
After that, once these acknowledgments of His hashgachah have
penetrated deep within us, then we [recite Shemoneh Esrei to] request all
of our spiritual and material needs.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
Text archives from 1990 through the present may be retrieved from http://www.acoast.com/~sehc/hamaayan/.
Hamaayan needs your support! Please consider sponsoring Hamaayan in honor of a happy occasion or in memory of a loved one. Did you know that the low cost of sponsorship - only $18 - has not changed in seventeen years? Donations to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.