The second of this week's two parashot begins: "If you will walk
following My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them;
then I will provide rain in its time and the land will give its
produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit." Rashi writes:
"Observe My commandments" clearly refers to keeping the Torah's laws.
What then is meant by "walk following My decrees"?
He answers: "Walk following My decrees" is a reference to toiling
in Torah study. "Perform them" is a reference to studying the laws of
the Torah in order to know how to live. [There are two components to
Torah study: studying the laws in order to be able to observe them and
studying for study's sake.]
R' Eliezer Zusia Portugal z"l (the "Skulener Rebbe") elaborates:
One who studies Torah is likened to one who plants seeds. One who
also applies what he has learned and observes the commandments is
likened to one who harvests what he has planted. If, G-d forbid, a
person were to study the Torah but not live a Torah way of life, he
would be like a foolish farmer who plants but never harvests.
In light of this metaphor, we can understand the reward that the
Torah promises for the one who walks following Hashem's decrees and
observes Hashem's commandments - i.e., he studies Torah and applies
what he has learned. "I will provide rain in its time and the land
will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit."
If we plant spiritual seeds and harvest them, Hashem will see to it
that the physical seeds that we plant also will bear fruit. (Noam
"The seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land..."
R' Moshe ibn Chaviv z"l (1654-1696; "Rishon Le'tzion" and author
of several halachic works) writes: The laws of shemittah, as well as
the laws of terumah and ma'aser, did not take effect until 14 years
after Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael, specifically, after they
completed their conquest of the Land. Why? The purpose of the
agricultural laws is to remind us that G-d is the Master of the Land,
not we. As long as Bnei Yisrael did not yet control the Land, they
did not need that reminder.
He adds: Why is shemittah only one year in seven? Why should we
not be reminded more often that the Land is G-d's? There are two
answers: First, G-d has mercy on us, so He lets us work our Land for
six years. In addition, it is not unusual for farmers to leave their
fields fallow every third year or so in order to let the land
rejuvenate. In order to make clear that this is not the purpose of
shemittah, the Torah commanded that shemittah be observed only once
every seven years.
(Derashot Maharam Chaviv)
"Ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the Bet
Hamikdash: . . . (8) the people stood crowded together, yet
prostrated themselves in ample space; . . . (10) no man ever
said to his fellow, `The space is insufficient for me to stay
overnight in Yerushalayim'."
R' Yisrael Dan Taub shlita (the Modzhitzer Rebbe) observes that
we find a similar phenomenon in connection with other aspects of the
Bet Hamikdash as well, for example, in the Kodesh Hakodashim / Holy of
Holies. Our Sages say that the Aron Hakodesh / Holy Ark took up no
space; it stood in the center of a room 20 amot / cubits wide, but if
one measured from each side of the Aron to the nearest wall, the
resulting measurement would be 10 amot.
We find that Eretz Yisrael has the same characteristic. The
Gemara (Gittin 57a) teaches that the Land of Israel is called Eretz
Tzvi / the land which resembles a gazelle. One characteristic of a
tzvi, the Gemara says, is that its hide shrinks when it is removed
from the animal so that it seems too small to have come off of the
animal. So, too, Eretz Yisrael appears too small to hold all of the
Jewish people, yet it seems to expand to accommodate all who settle
Why is this? R' Taub explains that wherever one finds holiness,
there he will find a blessing that allows him to be satisfied with
less. This is reflected many times in the Torah, for example, in
Devarim (12:7), "You shall eat there [in Yerushalayim] before Hashem,
your G-d, and you shall rejoice with your every undertaking, you and
your households, as Hashem, your G-d, has blessed you." When you eat
"before Hashem," your happiness is guaranteed.
This is reflected also in the construction of the Mishkan, where
the gifts went so far that Moshe had to announce that no more should
be brought. The more one connects himself to Hashem - the "Ein Sof" /
"Limitless One" - the more one finds that his belongings are not bound
by ordinary limitations.
[Ed. note: This idea is alluded to in our parashah as well. We
read (25:20-21), "If you will say, `What will we eat in the seventh
year? Behold! We will not sow and not gather our crops.' (Hashem
answers:) `I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it
will yield a crop sufficient for the three-year period'."
Commentaries ask: And if we do not say, "What will we eat in the
seventh year?" then Hashem will not bless us? They answer: A triple-
sized harvest is a curse as well as a blessing, for it must be
harvested and processed. If we place our trust in Hashem and do not
ask, "What will we eat?" then He will not multiply the harvest.
Instead, He will bless our stomachs so we will be satisfied with less
"Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah"
("The Foundation and Root of Divine Service")
This year, we are presenting excerpts from the work Yesod
Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah by R' Alexander Ziskind z"l (died 1794),
whose primary theme is improving one's concentration in
prayer. In Sha'ar Ha'ashmoret, ch. 8, the author writes:
How majestic it is, and how it makes an impression in the Upper
Worlds, if one leaves his home for shul already wrapped in the tallit
and crowned with tefilin! [The Zohar speaks the praises of one who
does this and also has a mezuzah on his home.] If one is unable to
don his tallit and tefilin at home because he lives too far from shul,
then at least he can fulfill one of the three mitzvot just mentioned
in the ideal way, i.e., that when one leaves his house, he should
reflect on the simple meaning of the mitzvah of mezuzah. What is that
meaning? The Zohar says: "This mitzvah is so that a person will never
forget G-d." As one leaves the house, he should place his right hand
over the mezuzah and accept the "Yoke of Heaven" and the "Yoke of
Mitzvot." (These are the subjects of the two paragraphs written on
the mezuzah, i.e., the first two paragraphs of Shema.) At the same
time, a person should think to himself with great joy, "You [G-d] are
the only One and the unique One, and I accept upon myself to perform
all of Your holy commandments."
R' Yitzchak Kanpanton z"l
R' Yitzchak ben Yaakov Kanpanton, known as the Gaon / Sage of
Castile (Spain), was born in 1360 and died in 1463. He headed a
yeshiva that produced many great scholars, including R' Yitzchak de
Leon, R' Shmuel of Valencia, and R' Yitzchak Abohab II (teacher of the
Torah commentator, R' Yitzchak Abarbanel, and the historian, R'
Avraham Zacut, and of R' Yaakov Bei Rav, whose student, R' Yosef Karo,
wrote the Shulchan Aruch.) After the departure of R' Yitzchak ben
Sheshet ("Rivash") from Spain and the death of R' Chisdai Crescas II
(in 1415), R' Yitzchak Kanpanton remained the outstanding authority of
the Spanish rabbinate.
It is said that R' Yitzchak knew his students so well that he
could assign a Talmudic problem to them and send them out of the room
to work out a solution, and when they returned, he could predict, "So-
and-so [one student] resolved it this way and so-and-so [another
student] resolved it this way."
Other than his being an important link in the chain of Torah
transmission, the only significant fact known about R' Yitzchak
Kanpanton is that he authored Darkei Ha'gemara, a manual for studying
Talmud. R' Yitzchak's instructions in that book include:
Pay attention to every word and phrase and ask yourself why
that word was used and not a similar word.
Bear in mind that every question and every answer in the
Talmud [even if later rejected by the Talmud itself] has
logic to it. No participant in the Talmud's discussion was a
simpleton, and every question represents a position on the
issue being discussed.
Always ask yourself what Rashi's comments add to the
discussion, how one might have interpreted the Talmud's words
intuitively if not for Rashi's comments, and why Rashi
implicitly rejected the intuitive interpretation.
It is not enough to read something once, for each time you
read it, you will see new meaning in it.
As important as hard work and review are to success in one's
Torah studies, praying to Hashem for that success also is
(Sources: Artscroll Rishonim; Artscroll Early Acharonim; Darkei
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.
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.