Midrash Rabbah teaches that just as a king does not build a palace without
hiring an architect who brings plans to the construction site, so Hashem
consulted a plan, i.e., the Torah, when He created the world.
R’ Yehuda Ashlag z”l (1885-1954; Poland and Eretz Yisrael) asks: How can
Hashem be compared to a mortal king? A mortal king needs plans in order to
build a palace, but Hashem has no such need! Furthermore, who created the
Torah if not Hashem? He explains:
Hashem created this world as a place where we can overcome challenges posed
by the yetzer hara and thus earn eternal reward in the World-to-Come. In
order for man to have free will (without which he would have no challenges),
Hashem had to conceal His “Light.” Indeed, the word “olam” / “world” comes
from the root which means “concealment.” When we say that Hashem looked in
the Torah and created the world, we mean that the Torah is the plan He used
to conceal His Light. Where is His Light concealed? In the mitzvot of the
Torah! It is in this sense that Creation was the invention of something new
(“yesh m’ayin”), i.e., He created the constriction of His Light, which was a
Viewed from this perspective, everything that was created during the Six
Days of Creation is a deficiency, for it impedes G-d's Light, but it also is
a potential source of blessing. When will this blessing be realized? At
the end of 6,000 years when, say our Sages, the world as we know it will
come to an end. Why? Because no later than that time our task of revealing
the Light hidden in Creation will have been completed. Paralleling that
seventh millennium, when the Light will be unconstricted, is the Shabbat,
when nothing was created to constrict the Light. (Ma'amar Ha'Torah
“Va’yhi / It came to pass on the eighth day that Moshe summoned Aharon
and his sons, and the elders of Yisrael.” (9:1)
R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1784-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) writes: The Gemara
(Megillah 10b) says that the word, “Va’yhi,” always introduces trouble.
This may explain why Moshe had to summon Aharon and his sons and the elders.
Surely, on every other day, these righteous people came to Moshe eagerly
awaiting the opportunity to learn Torah from him. But, we read in Mishlei
(14:10), “The heart knows its own bitterness.” Also, the Gemara (Megillah
3a) states that one’s mazal [loosely translated, his subconscious] can sense
things of which man is unaware. Perhaps, writes R’ Kluger, Aharon and his
sons and the elders did not come to Moshe on this day as they always did
because they had an uneasy feeling arising from the fact that Aharon’s two
oldest sons would die later that day. If this is correct, it also would
explain why Moshe had to tell Aharon (verse 7), “Come near to the Altar and
perform the service.” Perhaps Aharon was reluctant because of this uneasy
feeling. (Imrei Shefer)
“Aharon raised his hands toward the people and blessed them.” (9:22)
R’ Moshe David Valle z”l (1697-1777; Italian kabbalist) writes: Don’t ask,
“Do not the priestly blessings appear only later, in the book of Bemidbar?”
He explains: First, we have been taught that the Torah is not written in
chronological order. Second--R’ Valle’s preferred answer--when Aharon
wanted to bless Bnei Yisrael, he attained ruach hakodesh / Divine
inspiration and he recited with his own lips exactly the same blessing that
would later be established for future generations.
R’ Valle adds: The word in our verse which means “his hands” (plural) is
written as if it were “his hand” (singular). Our Sages have derived a
halachah from this [see below], which is of course true. The deeper
meaning, though, is that the root of a man’s soul is called “his hand.”
This is because a man’s soul defines his “reach,” i.e., his capabilities.
When one wishes to bless his friend, he cannot bless him with more than he
(the one giving the blessing) has. Likewise, here, Aharon blessed Bnei
Yisrael from the very root of his soul, to the greatest extent of his
ability. That is why the verse says “his hand.” (Avodat Hakodesh)
What halachah is derived from the use of the singular form “his hand”
instead of the plural “his hands”?
R’ Meir ben Yekutiel Hakohen z”l hy”d (Germany; murdered in the “Rindfleisch
massacres” in 1298) writes: This teaches that the kohen should elevate one
hand, i.e, the right hand, slightly above the other. (Hagahot Maimoniot:
Hilchot Tefilah 14:3)
“Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua . .
Why does this tractate begin with this information? R’ Ovadiah Mi’Bartenura
z”l (15th century; Italy and Eretz Yisrael) writes:
It seems to me that because this tractate is not explaining one of the laws
of the Torah--rather it is all about midot / good character traits, a topic
about which gentile sages have written also--the author of the mishnah wants
to clarify that this tractate, too, is from Sinai, and the midot in this
tractate are not the product of the individual sages’ own thoughts.
R’ Shmuel de Ozeda z”l (16th century; Eretz Yisrael) offers another reason:
Our sages teach that Torah knowledge can exist only in a G-d-fearing person.
It was the fear of G-d possessed by Moshe, Yehoshua and the other prophets
and sages that allowed them to comprehend and transmit the Torah. In order
to drive this point home, the chain of transmission is mentioned at the
beginning of the tractate which speaks of good character traits. (Midrash
R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (1865-1935; Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of
Eretz Yisrael) writes:
There are two types of ethics: “Mussar Eloki” / Divine ethics and “Mussar
Enoshi” / human ethics. They are different and have different goals. In
particular, Mussar Eloki is meant to elevate a person and purify him, while
Mussar Enoshi is simply a tool that allows societies to function.
R’ Kook adds: Because Mussar Enoshi is utilitarian, a means to an end, it’s
possible for someone to be harmed by it [i.e., his needs or feelings might
be sacrificed for the perceived greater good]. This is not so with Mussar
Eloki, which, by definition, is pure. (Quoted in Sichat Avot)
Elsewhere R’ Kook writes:
The Divine wisdom teaches us about midot / the Divine Attributes so that we
will know that we must attach ourselves to His traits.
When we recognize that midot and Divine ideals cannot exist unless G-d
exists, unless there is a Source for everything, then the ideals them-selves
are elevated. If we don’t accustom ourselves to recognize the need for “the
flame to be united with the fuel,” then we have not understood anything.
On the other hand, if we don’t recognize that the reason for knowing the
Divine Names and Attributes is so that we will know that we are able to
attach ourselves to them, then we haven’t understood about those Attributes.
(Quoted in Beurei Ha’Rayah: Pirkei Avot p.7)
Letters from Our Sages
This letter was written by R' Chaim Friedlander z"l (died 1986), the
mashgiach of the Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. The letter is reprinted in
Siftei Chaim: Pirkei Emunah V'hashgachah, p. 432. The letter is dated 26
Marcheshvan, 5746 (November 10, 1985). The identity of the recipient is
In whatever circumstances one finds oneself, it is possible to take
advantage of the situation to serve Hashem. Even a condition of sickness,
suffering and physical weakness is given to a person so that he can serve
Hashem despite these limitations.
Strengthening one's prayer and one's faith and trust even a small amount in
such circumstances is counted in Heaven as an enormous step, because [we are
taught in Avot D'Rabbi Nattan 3:6], "One time with suffering is equivalent
to one hundred times without suffering." My teacher and rabbi, the gaon and
tzaddik R' Eliyahu Dessler zatzal explained in the name of his father zatzal
(see Michtav M'Eliyahu III, p.14), that this is true of any kind of
suffering. After all, our Sages said (Arachin 16a), "To what extent does
suffering go? Even if one reaches into his pocket to remove three coins and
he comes up with only two." In other words, when one has to reach into his
pocket a second time, that should be viewed as Divinely-imposed suffering
[and one is rewarded by Hashem for accepting this "suffering" and serving
Hashem despite it]. If we add a little more suffering, then the reward may
increase 100-fold. With a little more suffering, the reward increases
another hundred-fold, i.e., to 10,000 times the original reward; with more
suffering, another hundred-fold (i.e., 1,000,000 times), and so on.
If so, the reward for serving Hashem amidst suffering, when it requires
extra effort, is beyond description. In such circumstances, the value in
Heaven of a small amount of prayer, a small amount of Torah study, and a
small strengthening of one's faith and trust is enormous. Under such
conditions, one can accomplish in a short time what it ordinarily would take
many years to accomplish.
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.
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