Document3 from their homes and the tragic consequences for their families. In
בס"דlooking back it has been become clear that the national consequences
PARASHAT HASHAVUA have indeed been disastrous and even worse than could have been
imagined. And we are still in the midst of a war that began as a result of
the frivolous disengagement. Who can tell where all this will lead?
PARASHA : Vaetchanan At the beginning of this year of 5766, in the aftermath of the tragic
"process," I expressed my hope that time would heal the wounds, and
Date :11 Av 5766, 5/8/2006 that we will be able to overcome the feelings of crisis and tragedy. I
“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list hoped that we would return to an agenda based on nationalism,
subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for Judaism, and social needs, and that we would begin to rebuild the nation
members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden) and perhaps even the Torah, in the land that we had abandoned. To my
Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori utmost sorrow and consternation, I was wrong! Just look at the record of
Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l 5766: national leadership passed into opportunistic hands, the terrible
Please respect the Holiness of these pages "convergence" plan, fire and brimstone that have rained down on quiet
These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word and ostensibly safe cities, and the bloodletting by Iranian test weapons of
format. Anyone who is interested in receiving them, can subscribe via terrorism. All of these events have shown the dark light that flashes
the Parasha web site: http://parasha.sde.org.il/eparasha - Arieh. around the evil "disengagement" process (and we will call it this unless it
is proven otherwise).
1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)
Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel;
Disengagement and the Murder of Rabin: Where is the
http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html I want to clearly state: as far as I am concerned, from the national
STARTING POINT: "... He Who Took You Out of point of view, the trauma of the "disengagement" is no less than the
trauma of the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin! The instigator of the
Egypt" disengagement, who I dare to call evil (unless it is proven otherwise),
- by Rabbi Amnon Bazak was forbidden by a government Investigative Committee from having any
Rabbi Yehuda Halevi and Avraham Ibn Ezra did not agree about the government responsibility in security matters because he was indirectly
reason that the Ten Commandments begins with the phrase, "I am your linked to the events in Sabra and Shatilla in 1982. This man has now
G-d who took you out of Egypt, from the house of slavery" [Devarim 5:6]. been personally responsible (unless it is proven otherwise) for the
Why is G-d not described as having created the world? According to dangerous adventures in Azza and the events in Lebanon. How is it that
Halevi, the Exodus from Egypt is mentioned because faith can best be no Investigative Committee has been appointed?
based on things that a person sees with his own eyes, since this leads to Security experts who led the country's military a year ago, such as
the strongest possible belief (Kuzari, Part 1, 25). Ibn Ezra takes the General Bugi Ya'alon, General Giora Eiland, and others, have openly
opposite view (commentary on Shemot 20:1, where he writes that he discussed a suspicion that the "disengagement" was influenced (among
was asked this question by "Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, may he rest in other things) by personal motives of the darkest possible nature (what is
peace"). His approach is that faith based on knowing the ways of nature known as "media spin"). Thus, in addition to a nation-wide deep apology,
and that G-d created the world is the strongest type of belief, while faith there will be no possibility of quiet or national appeasement until a
based on witnessing historical events is most appropriate to people who committee is set up to investigate the decision making process at the
are at a relatively low level. In the Ten Commandments, G-d turned to time, concentrating on any possible hidden motives, and then making
the "lowest common denominator" among Bnei Yisrael (so that both "the recommendations for the future. Unless it is proven otherwise, the one
wise and the unwise will understand" in the words of Ibn Ezra), and this who opened the Philadelphia bypass route to free passage of weapons
is the reason that the Exodus is mentioned. and explosives in spite of the advice of his military advisors can be
On the other hand, it is possible that the mention of the Exodus from expected to suffer Divine punishment. The same responsibility carries
Egypt in the beginning of the Ten Commandments is not connected to over into the events in Lebanon, a natural outcome of the disengagement
faith but to another issue, one that is especially relevant to this week's in Azza.
Torah portion. Moshe begins his main lecture to Bnei Yisrael in Chapter There is no need to prepare a list of items to be checked by the
5 of Devarim. This is a description of the mitzvot, continuing proposed Investigative Committee. It has been lying ready in a petition to
uninterrupted until Chapter 26. It starts with an introduction, which the Supreme Court ever since the summer of 5765, a year ago. The
includes various topics, such as the source of all the mitzvot – the state (who constitutes the "state"?) claimed at the time that the
revelation at Mount Sinai – and questions related to the essence of the "disengagement" is "a measured action taken for a worthy goal" since it
mitzvot, their meaning, and their rewards. This is related to the well has in it the seeds of "improved security, a decrease in the friction
known question of the son: "What are the decrees and the laws that our between the IDF and the Palestinians, a decrease in the desire to cause
G-d taught you?" [6:20]. Here the son asks, what is the significance of harm to the Israeli population, and encouragement for the Palestinian
the mitzvot, why should the sons be obligated to observe the Authority to perform its duty in fighting terrorism." There is only one thing
commandments that G-d gave us? The answer to the son's question that must be checked: Could it be that advisors and decision makers
appears in the Torah: "Tell your son, we were slaves to Pharaoh in wrote these messianic musings, and if so, on what were they based? At
Egypt, and G-d took us out of Egypt with a strong hand... And G-d the same time, what were the hidden motives of the "state" in presenting
commanded us to perform these laws, to fear our G-d" [6:21,24]. Thus, this reasoning?
the obligation to perform the mitzvot stems first and foremost from the The Head of a Viper
need to acknowledge the good of the Almighty in freeing us from slavery. As the fast of Tisha B'Av approaches, we will turn once again to the
Only after this reason does the Torah mention other reasons for study of the stories related to the destruction of the Temple, and there we
observing the mitzvot, such as noting that doing the mitzvot is "good for will find a hint of the proper way to fight terrorism which hides behind a
us" and that it will bring us rewards (6:24-25). civilian population. We are told that Aspanius, the chief of staff of the
Especially in the book of Devarim, a theme that is repeated over and Roman army, asked Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai, "If there is a barrel of
over is that the most basic reason which obligates us to perform the honey with a serpent wound around it, wouldn't it be right to break the
mitzvot is the redemption from Egypt. For example: "You shall remember barrel in order to kill the serpent?" [Gittin 56b]. And the Talmud says that
that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall observe and perform these at that moment Rabban Yochanan did not think clearly because of his
laws" [16:12]; "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of humanitarian approach: He should have said, "One uses a vise to
Egypt, therefore I command you to do this thing" [24:22]. remove the serpent and kills it."
It is thus possible that the phrase in the Ten Commandments, "He This story is told slightly differently in the Midrash: Rabban Yochanan
who took you out of Egypt from a house of slavery," is meant not as a does not let the serpent get away in order to save the honey, but he does
basis of faith but rather as a basis for the obligation to perform the not want to use the drastic weapon of a "vise". Rather, he proposes to
mitzvot, both in the Ten Commandments and in the Torah as a whole. "bring one who can communicate with snakes to remove the serpent and
Since G-d took the Jews out of Egypt they are now His slaves, and this to save the barrel" [Eicha Rabbati 1:31]. And an unequivocal reply is
very fact obligates them to do the mitzvot. given by "an Arab duke and a Palestinian duke": "If a serpent has made
POINT OF VIEW: One Year After the Destruction: its home in a barrel, what should be done? The serpent is killed, and the
Sharon's Eternal Disgrace barrel is smashed... If a serpent has made its home in a tower, the
- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen serpent is killed and the tower is burned down."
Responsibility for a National Tragedy Who is right? This is left to my readers as food for thought...
This week marks a full year since the destruction of the nation and GUESTS FOR SHABBAT: "And I Prayed to G-d at
the land that took place in the area of Gush Katif, in the Gaza Strip. That Time"
There are not many events in the life of a nation whose consequences – – by Rabbi Benayahu Bruner, Head of Hesder Yeshiva, Tzefat
natural and Divine at the same time – are immediately apparent in all Moshe was filled with prayers and begging G-d that he should be
their strength. In this case, the situation of the country of Israel has allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael (see Chizkuni). The early commentators
changed for the worse, all as a result of the purposeful "disengagement" did not agree if prayer is a Torah obligation, as the Rambam feels, or a
from our deterrent power. The architect of the "disengagement," evil as rabbinical decree, according to the Ramban. Even the Ramban suggests
he is (we will call him this unless it is proven otherwise), did not manage that in a time of need there is a Torah obligation to pray. In any case, it is
to remain in power for a full year, as a sign from heaven. clear that the source for praying is in the Torah, even if it is not counted
As written above, I see this as a tragedy for "the nation and the land," as a specific mitzva.
since in my opinion the national crisis in the wake of the foolish plan of Moshe's main mission on the earth was the giving of the Torah, but
disengagement is much worse than the return of the areas and the there were many times when he prayed. Examples are his prayers to
shattering of the dream of "the full land" of Eretz Yisrael. In my articles save the nation after the sin of the Golden Calf and his 515 prayers (the
last year, before and during the destruction, I emphasized that from my numerical value of the word "Va'etchanan") to be permitted to enter Eretz
point of view the treachery against the values of Zionism and the Yisrael. In his commentary Haamek Davar, the Natziv explains that the
shattering of the holy (yes, holy!) nationalistic values, together with the sin of Moshe and Aharon when Moshe struck the rock at Mei Meriva was
critical gamble with the security of the citizens of this country are all that they did not teach the people to pray. "If Moshe and Aharon had
much worse than the personal suffering of those who were expelled started to pray, this would have been considered
sanctifying G-d within Bnei Yisrael, by reciting something holy in public... When we look at life in bright light, having the opportunity to see
And then Yisrael would have believed in the value of prayer, and I would every tiny detail, we are likely to feel very bad in heart and mind as a
have been sanctified. But you did not show Yisrael the way of faith in this result of the many faults that will be revealed by the spotlights that
way, therefore you will not bring them into the land... This is a project the future. If, however, we light only a candle, there will be light
punishment of measure for measure: since they did not show Yisrael and also darkness, and we will then be able to see what we should while
how to behave in Eretz Yisrael when confronted with such troubles as a we do not see what should remain hidden. As is written in the Talmud,
lack of rain, they would not bring the nation into the land." "'And you shall ignore them' [Devarim 22:1] – there are times when you
Prayer has a unique power in Eretz Yisrael, the place where "the should ignore them." [Berachot 19b].
eyes of your G-d are on it" [Devarim 11:12]. In addition, one who prays When we enter a restaurant (no connection to the cabbage we
from outside of Eretz Yisrael turns towards the land, and the Temple is a discussed above) to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary with our
"place of worship for all the nations" [Yeshayahu 56:7]. Upon entering the wife, and we know that the future lies ahead, it would be appropriate for a
land, it is necessary for the people to believe in the power of prayer and candle to split off some of its romantic aura and light up the surrounding
to understand how to take advantage of it. However, as we noted, darkness. This darkness has an important role to play, it helps hide what
Moshe's special traits were related to the Torah. It was left to King David, experience has taught us about the future. After fifty years of marriage,
the psalmist, to complete the picture by writing Tehillim, which is divided both husband and wife know that only an intoxicated person sees life as
into five books, corresponding to the five books of the Torah. And a flat plain. And that is the message of romance, it hides and glosses
Chapter 90 of Tehillim is a prayer dedicated to Moshe. over what is not needed in order to continue with the wonderful basic link
The Torah portion of Vaetchanan, in the book of Devarim – the book between man and wife.
uniquely related to Moshe – opens with a prayer and continues with the A small candle on a romantic table can be transformed into a
Torah, the events at Mount Sinai, and the Ten Commandments. Moshe mountain consumed by fire. And this reminds us how in this week's
was not granted the privilege of leading Bnei Yisrael inside the land, Torah portion the Almighty begins to talk to the nation of Yisrael in the
because he did not teach the people the benefits of prayer. But he did tell darkness, but in truth "the mountain burned with fire."
in his parting message about the many times that he prayed, thus TORAH, SOCIETY, AND GOVERNMENT: The
showing them how important it would be to pray in Eretz Yisrael. The Destruction of the Synagogues in Gush Katif
sages derived from this Torah portion the principle that "a person should
always begin with the praises of G-d and then follow with prayer." - by Rabbi Uri Dasberg
One year ago, 7,000 loyal citizens of the country were expelled from
Perhaps Moshe wanted to indicate to Bnei Yisrael that even though his their homes, and until now many of them remain displaced from their
prayers were not answered, they would help the nation in its conquest of
the land and in maintaining possession throughout the succeeding homes, from their places of work, and from their family and friends. One
question that occupied the leaders of the country a year ago was: Should
generations. the synagogues that were left behind be destroyed or not, and how
The Institution: Hesder Yeshiva in Tzefat
The yeshiva was established eight years ago, sponsored by the should this be done? Before we go into the question itself, we will
declare: How is it that one who asks about the synagogues does not ask
national Torah center in Tzefat, which was founded eighteen years ago. about the destruction of towns and cities and the displacement of people
In the yeshiva there are about 100 students from all over the country.
The yeshiva is situated in the old city of Tzefat, in the same charmed from their homes??!?
According to the Rambam, destruction of a synagogue is a violation
atmosphere where both the holy ARI and Rabbi Yosef Karo lived. Many of Torah law. "It is forbidden to destroy the Temple or a synagogue and a
books were written at this site in the last 500 years: books on the Kaballa
are based on the writings of the ARI, and books on halacha are based on Beit Midrash, as is written, 'Do not do so to your G-d' [Devarim 12:4]."
However, permission has been given to burn holy books which would
the writings of Rabbi Karo. otherwise have fallen into the hands of Gentiles who would have defiled
The educational program in the yeshiva is based on a combination of
two main themes. In the Beit Midrash, the students diligently apply them, based on the fact that King Shaul committed suicide, "lest these
uncircumcised ones come and stab me and abuse me" [Shmuel I 31:4].
themselves to all the major subjects of Torah study: Talmud, halacha, On the other hand, Shaul weighed a short remaining lifespan of his own
Tanach, Jewish thought, and Chassidut. The second theme is to
encourage the service of G-d through deep prayer, especially on (since he was in any case about to die) against the abuse that could be
expected by the enemy, while in our case the synagogues could have
Shabbat and the holidays. The program includes meetings, personal remained standing for a long time before falling into the hands of the
discussions about how to worship G-d, a general lecture series on
"Torah Hamidot," and more. Above it all, the yeshiva has developed an Palestinians. In addition, Shaul had to choose between a normal death
and death accompanied by abuse, while in our case the synagogues
atmosphere of idealistic education which is well suited for the times in were to have been destroyed in the end, no matter by whose hands. The
which we live, the era of rejuvenation of the life of Bnei Yisrael in its land.
Many of the single and young married students are active in social only difference would be if we would destroy the synagogues by
ourselves and thereby violate a Torah law or allow the Gentiles to do it,
projects in the city and the surrounding areas. leaving us with only indirect responsibility. Shaul chose to die a hero's
The yeshiva holds lectures based on the writings of Rabbi A.Y. Kook.
In addition, the Rosh Yeshiva presents a general series on the subject of death, in an honorable way (by suicide) rather than to be put to shame
(by being abused). There is no greater abuse and shame than having a
"The Past of Yisrael" – an in-depth study of the history of the Jews during synagogue destroyed by Jews! If they had been destroyed by the
past generations, with an attempt to learn the relevant lessons for our
times. Gentiles, the synagogues would not have been put to shame but rather
those who performed the deed would have been shamed. Perhaps by
The Hesder Yeshiva in Tzefat is the only yeshiva that has continued some chance they might have even changed their minds and
to operate in this city during these dangerous times, when it has suffered
from hundreds of Katyusha attacks. The organized study and prayers in transformed the synagogues into mosques. With all the pain that would
have caused, it would not have transformed the synagogues into a place
the yeshiva have continued on schedule, and the students have added of idol worship, since a mosque and Islam do not have the halachic
kindness and charity to the existing elements of Torah and prayers. They
have taken it upon themselves to distribute food every day in the air raid status of regular idol worship.
There are ways to cancel the sanctity of a synagogue, especially if it
shelters and to help elderly people, and they have established musical belongs to a private person. But this can only be done by the owners
groups to enliven the mood of the people in the shelters. One night a bar
mitzva was even celebrated in a shelter. themselves. Last year, not one of the leaders of the country thought to
buy the synagogues from their rightful owners (the inhabitants of the
The head of the yeshiva is Rabbi Benayahu Bruner, a graduate of glorious settlements of Gush Katif), and the owners definitely did not
Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, who is certified as a rabbinical court judge. He is
also the head of the marriage project of the Zohar organization of rabbis concur in having them destroyed. The destruction might have been
permitted if the synagogues were in dangerous structures, but those that
and a judge in the Haifa conversion court. The teachers in the school were destroyed were strong and well built, often providing protection to
have broad experience in the field of education.
Additional details are available by phone from Rabbi Yuval, 050- the inhabitants from missiles and rockets.
Reference: Rabbis Yaacov Ariel, Shlomo Cohen-Duras, Techumin,
4009197, and by e-mail at: email@example.com. Website: hesder- volume 26, pages 23-43
A CHASSIDIC THREAD: Light Out of Darkness TORAH LAW: Unlawful Competition
- by Rabbi Shlomo Schock – by Rabbi Yosef Carmel, Head of Eretz Hemdah Institute,
"'When you heard the voice in the darkness, while the mountain Jerusalem (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Case: Reuven was the owner of a famous restaurant, with a
burned with fire' [Devarim 5:20] - Why did the Almighty send out His regular group of clients. After many years, he decided that he had
voice from darkness and not from the light? This can be compared to the
following: A king who was an astrologer had his son married, and he worked long enough and he wanted to spend part of his remaining days
studying in a pensioner's Kollel. He therefore sold his restaurant to
hung black drapes from the wedding canopy. He said, I know that my Shimon. The sale included the reputation of the restaurant, and therefore
son will remain married to this woman for only forty days (and he will
then rebel against her). You will not be able to say later on, the king is an Reuven promised not to open a new restaurant with the same name or a
restaurant with a different name in the same area (he performed a formal
astrologer, how could he not know of his son's future? The same is true "kinyan" ceremony to give validity to his promise). A few months later,
for the parable: the king represents the King of All Kings, blessed be He,
the son represents Yisrael, and the bride is the Torah. The Almighty Shimon was surprised to discover that Levi, Reuven's son, had opened a
restaurant with a similar name a short distance from the one that he had
knew that Bnei Yisrael would not wait more than forty days (before sold.
sinning with the Golden Calf), and He therefore sent out His voice from
the darkness and not from the light, as is written, 'When you heard the Claims of the sides: The complainant – Shimon: Reuven has broken
his contract. He loaned money to his son to open a restaurant, and he is
voice in the darkness.'" [Pirkei D'Rebbe Eliezer]. also helping manage the new place. Without this help, the son would not
During a recent Shabbat meal with family and friends the
conversation turned to cabbage salad, bugs, rodents, and even bacteria. be able to open his business. He should pay me compensation as per
the contract, and he should also move the new restaurant to a new and
The consensus according to the gut feelings of most of those at the table more distant location.
was that the best practice was to follow the traditions of the home, and
that whatever was once a good practice remains valid for today. It is not The defendant – Reuven: (1) I did not open the restaurant, my son
did. (2) The new restaurant is in a different geographical area. (3) The
a good idea to move around always equipped with a microscope, looking promise was made orally and it is therefore not binding.
for the invisible, neither in the kitchen nor in life in general.
Court decision: The court accepts the complaint that the defendant notes for his own use, without intending to publish it. Only after he
tried to get around his agreement with Shimon by lending money to his received many requests to publish it, and after a large collection of his
son to open a restaurant. Shimon is also right that Reuven was not novel commentaries on the Torah and on the Shulchan Aruch was stolen
allowed to open a new establishment anywhere in the area where his from him, did he accept what had happened as a sign from heaven, and
former clients live, and distance of one kilometer is not far enough. he agreed to print the book. Rabbi Reuven Hakohen Rapaport, the
According to the Talmud (Bava Batra 3a), if two partners agree to publisher, hid the name of the author in the first edition, which was
dissolve their partnership and seal the bargain with a "kinyan" the published in Lemberg in the year 5629 (1869). Twenty years later the
agreement is not valid because this is only an "oral agreement" (see also book was published again, this time with the author's name. In his
Choshen Mishpat 157). This would seem to imply that an agreement not original notes, the author used many abbreviations, since he knew what
to open a new store near the site where his colleague does business is was on his mind. The publisher usually left the abbreviations as they
also not binding because it is only an oral contract. But in the present were, but in some cases he spelled out the full words. Thus, for example,
case, Reuven received his money on the condition that he would not in mitzva 272 ("He shall marry a woman who is a virgin" [Vayikra 21:13]),
open a new restaurant, and under these circumstances the law is not we can find the strange claim that Rav (Ketuvot 11b) feels that removing
clear: Some rabbis do not consider this as an oral agreement ("Perach the virginity is a "positive mitzva." Is this really possible? Actually, what
Mateh Aharon") while others do (Maharsham). In any case, when the was written in the original was the abbreviation mem-ayin, meaning
price of the sale was decided, the agreement not to open a competing "mukah etz" – a process that can be compared to being struck by a piece
restaurant was taken into account, and it is therefore clear that if Reuven of wood.
breaks the agreement he should pay Shimon according to the terms of In the commentary of the Ramban on the Torah portion of Vayeshev,
the contract between them. in the first edition published by Rabbi C.D. Shaval, it is written: "And
In summary, Reuven is obligated to pay Shimon as per the contract, others say that these stars are his brothers, who bowed down to him
and it would be best for Reuven and Levi to take into account the (Yosef) before his father arrived." Does this imply that there are some
opinions of some rabbis and move the restaurant to a different location. It who do not agree about the stars? Actually no, since the original text
can be added that if Shimon had looked for halachic advice before included the letters yud-aleph: in this case, not an abbreviation but a
signing the contract he could have included a clause that would have number. The actual meaning is: "And these eleven stars..."
clearly obligated Reuven to move the new restaurant much further away. Let us note that the critics who suspect printers of making mistakes
(Do you want to write a contract that conforms to halacha? Turn to in interpreting abbreviations are not always right. In the Tanchuma
"Law and Halacha in Israel" – phone 02-5382710; fax – 02-5379626.) Midrash (section 2), there is a list of bans that were made against the
A LESSON FOR THE CHILDREN: Protected from Kutim. "One who eats bread of a Kuti is the same as one who eats the
Fire! flesh of a pig; A Kuti cannot be converted as a Jew; They will not have a
- by Rabbi Yikhat Rozen, Merkaz Neria, Kiryat Malachi portion in revival of the dead, as is written, 'It is not for you and us to
build the house of our G-d' [Ezra 4:3]." But somebody wondered if this is
Here is a story that was told by Ami Shaked, who was the chief right – can we really remove them from the benefit of revival of the dead?
security officer of Gush Katif:
Once there was a terrorist attack in the town of Bedolach in Gush In any case, the verse has nothing to do with resurrection. It was
therefore suggested that the original text had the abbreviation taf-heh-
Katif. Terrorists entered the hothouses of the settlement and injured two mem, which was interpreted as "techiyat hameitim," but really should be
men. The army was called, as so was I, the regional security officer. I
arrived very quickly at the site. The soldiers wanted to kill the terrorists, "tikun hamikdash," building the Temple. But this suggestion is probably
not right. First, there is no common phrase "tikun hamikdash" which
and they therefore surrounded them, firing from all directions and not would justify using an abbreviation. In addition, in a parallel Midrash, the
allowing them to move from where they were. The terrorists remained
hidden and continued firing at the injured men and at the soldiers. The concept is fully spelled out: "They have no part in the revival of the dead,
as is written, 'not for you and us to build the house of G-d' – neither in
goal of the army was to keep the terrorists pinned down where they this world or the next." [Pirkei D'Rebbe Eliezer 37].
were, and then to slowly approach them, until they could be killed. But
the soldiers were careful not to approach too quickly so that the terrorists HOLY AND SECULAR: When Should G-d Be
would not be able to harm them. Invited?
This is a very good plan, except that injured men could not wait very - by Rabbi Amichai Gordin, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalavim High
long. They were bleeding, and their situation became steadily worse as School
time went on. In addition, the terrorists continued firing at them. We About eleven years ago, two events were held to celebrate fifty years
therefore decided to evacuate the injured immediately, and then to after the end of the Second World War. One took place in Tel Aviv
continue fighting the terrorists. University, with a discussion of where G-d was during the war and why
How could we evacuate the injured men without being killed He did not interfere in the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust. The other
ourselves? The IDF has bullet-proof vehicles, covered with thick armor event took place in Europe, with the Allied nations celebrating their
made of steel and strong glass, such that even if fired upon they victory over the Nazis. The Prime Minister at the time, Yitzchak Rabin,
withstand the bullets. We took two of these vehicles, put them together, took the trouble to send a telegram to the nations gathered in Europe
and drove them to where the injured men were lying. Men who sat in the congratulating them for the important historical victory.
vehicles tried to pull the wounded men inside, each one into another I once heard a surprising and novel comment about these two events
vehicle. But we saw that it was impossible to pick the men up without by Rabbi Yaacov Meidan. He said, "I wonder why these two events were
leaving the vehicles for a very short time. not switched. It would have been more appropriate to have a discussion
Without thinking, I left the armored vehicle in order to pick up the in Tel Aviv University asking where the Allied nations were during the
injured men. The terrorists were only a short distance away from us. Holocaust and why they did not make any effort to save the Jews, and
These evil men understood what was happening and they did not want the Prime Minister should have sent a telegram to G-d thanking Him for
their prey to escape. They began to fire at us wildly – aiming at me and the important victory of the Allied forces."
at the helpless injured men. Hundreds of bullets flew around me, in all In his insight, Rabbi Meidan pointed out a very interesting
directions. They fired at me using all the different weapons in their phenomenon. We tend to involve the Almighty when it is convenient for
possession – and they had many – but they missed me. I felt the bullets us, and to leave Him out of the picture when we do not feel that we need
passing through my hair, which was singed by the hot bullets, but with G- Him. With respect to the question of justice and the Holocaust, we feel a
d's help no bullet hit me in the head. Somehow I managed to hand the need for G-d, and He was therefore invited to the discussion. On the
injured men to my colleagues in the vehicles, and then I jumped in other hand, the military victory by the Allied forces has been credited to
myself. We moved backwards until we left the range of their fire, where many factors, and no need is felt to involve yet another factor in the
the medical staff waited to take care of the wounded men. discussion.
During the rescue, I did not think about anything, only saving the ******
wounded men. After the soldiers killed the terrorists, I remembered the A few weeks ago, when I prayed in a synagogue in the north of
hundreds of bullets that were fired at me, while I was not hurt at all. I Israel, I was reminded of Rabbi Meidan's words. Before the prayers
went to the hothouse and saw the damage from the bullets on the began, a prominent member of the congregation turned to me and said,
screens and the frames. It was almost impossible to believe. There were "You write in one of the Shabbat bulletins, perhaps you can tell me why
hundreds of bullet holes all around, and I was completely in the open, but when you people discuss what happened in the 'disengagement' you talk
I came out of the incident without a scratch. Only my hair had been and argue about practical questions but completely forget the central
singed a bit. cause of it all."
I am not a religious man, but the only explanation that I can give for "What do you mean?" I asked him. "The Creator," he answered me,
this event is that it was a miracle. At that moment I was performing a sadly. "Isn't it possible that He also has something to say about this
mission for the community, and G-d protected me. At the time of the matter? Perhaps the disengagement happened because we were not
event, I did not think what might happen to me, I just fulfilled my task worthy? Could it be that we must mend our spiritual deeds? Perhaps in
faithfully – and I was able to do the job honorably. Just like me, many our camp we have faults and problems that were the cause of this
others from the security and medical forces felt that we were protected calamity? After all, our sages taught us that when a person suffers, he
against fire, as if bullets could not hit us. Many times we went through should study his own actions."
terrible and difficult moments, but we continued to live, most often And I could not argue with this. I said, "You are absolutely right. Even
without any personal injury at all. though we do not know for sure if the troubles were as a result of our
Protected from fire! own bad actions, we must take advantage of this great tragedy as an
(Source: "Al Hanissim," stories of miracles that occurred in Gush opportunity to improve our deeds. Perhaps the disengagement was a
Katif) punishment and perhaps not, but there is no doubt that we must study
PEOPLE OF THE BOOK: Do Not Add or Detract our actions."
- by Rabbi Uri Dasberg ******
Abbreviations are not used in the Torah, but they are very common To "study our actions" does not necessarily mean negative criticism.
in the Torah literature, and they sometimes create great difficulties in It is also possible to study our actions in a positive way. It is actually very
studying. A case in point is the publisher of the "Minchat Chinuch." This easy to take note of negative deeds, but experience shows that such
was written by Rabbi Yosef B'abed (abbreviation for "sons of the heads comments are usually not very effective. What is usually much more
of the courts"), who was the rabbi of Ternipal. He wrote the book as effective is to strengthen the good and appropriate actions. When we
hear a comment that we acted in an appropriate way under
certain conditions, we will be greatly motivated to continue along the the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.” He begins his magnum
proper path. Mishneh Torah with the laws of the (Theological) Foundations of the
The three days when large crowds stayed in Kefar Maimon before Torah (1,1-6): “The foundation of foundations and the pillar of wisdoms is
the disengagement were described by the press as a festival of the to know that there is a First Cause who produced everything that exists
multitudes. One of them even called it the "Woodstock of the religious … This cause is the Lord of the world and the master over the entire
people." Tens of thousands of people, most of them youths, sleeping in earth… to know this (fundamental fact) is a positive commandment, as it
sleeping bags on every available inch of ground, created an atmosphere is written, „I am the Lord your G-d‟ (Exodus 20:1, Deut 5:6).”
of a great event and an experience. However, there was one amazing Apparently, Maimonides is taking this verse to be read, “I am (to be
phenomenon that completely differentiated between Kefar Maimon and accepted by you as) your Lord…” And Maimonides utilizes this very
all the other festivals: in Kefar Maimon, the people behaved in a positive foundation-stone of our Jewish faith to emphasize the universalist
spiritual way that is worthy of all the praise that can be heaped upon it. component of Judaism. Since everything and every one in the universe
In Kefar Maimon, there were no inspectors of modesty, and there was created by the one G-d, the first Cause Creator who is responsible
were also no fences separating the boys from the girls. But in spite of for every creation, this great Sage concludes the Mishneh Torah with a
this, the streets of the town were filled with an atmosphere of holiness. picture of universal harmony and peace under G-d: “…. And that which
Even in the face of the complex situation and great difficulty, the youths is written in Isaiah (concerning the “end of the days”) how „The wolf will
carefully observed all the rules of halacha. Even though these halachot dwell with the lamb, and the lion will graze with the kid‟ (Isaiah 11:6) is
are among the most difficult to observe, the youths met the challenge merely an allegory and analogy. The substantive meaning of this is that
and observed the laws as they should have. Israel will dwell peacefully with the (heretofore) wicked nations of the
I do not know what challenges and controversies await us in the world…. and everyone will return to the true religion. There will be no
future, but I am convinced that maintaining the sanctity of the camps is a looting and no destruction, but humanity will eat only that which is
necessary condition to succeed when the challenges come. This permissible in harmony as do the Israelites…‟” (Laws of Kings 12,1).
corresponds to what we were taught by Moshe: "For your G-d appears in Maimonides universalistic world view – based on the one G-d of all
your camp, to save you and to give your enemy over to you. And your humanity – is perhaps given clearest expression when he exhorts the
camp shall be holy, lest He see an unclean thing and turn away from Israelites to treat their gentile slaves with special consideration and
you." [Devarim 23:15]. concern: “The Israelite must be a compassionate human being who
THE CHAIN OF HALACHA: What Foods Can be Put pursues righteousness and neither lays a heavy yoke upon his servant
in a "Kli Sheini"? nor causes him pain; he rather gives him to eat and to drink from
whatever food and drink is in the household…. and speaks to him with
- by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, Rabbi of Southern Alon Shevut and a kindness. He must listen to (his servant‟s) complaints, as it is written in
teacher in Yeshivat Har Etzion
As we have seen, some foods are "easily cooked" and will cook even Job, “If I despise the fair judgments of my servants in their arguments
with me, what will I do when the Almighty will rise up (against me); what
in a "kli sheini," which has not been directly heated by a flame. Since we will I respond? Is it not the same innards that made me which also made
are not familiar with the exact definitions involved, the Ashkenazi
community avoids all cooking in a kli sheini because of a fear that any them, and were we all not prepared by the same womb? (Job 31: 13-15)”
(Laws of Servants, end of ninth chapter ).
food might be one that is easily cooked. On the other hand, there are What is strange is why Maimonides derives belief in a universalist G-
some items that are listed in the Talmud as not being easily cooked that
can be placed in a kli sheini. Examples are oil (Shabbat 40b), water d of humanity from a verse which seems so very particularistic , which
specifies how G-d took His chosen Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.
(40a), and spices (Mishna, 42a). Indeed, R. Yehudah Ha Levei (1080-1145) the author of the famous
What is Seasoning?
Onion: According to the TAZ, it is forbidden to put onion in a kli sheini philosophical treatise Kuzari, derives from this very verse the unique
relationship between G-d and Israel, and the qualitatively different and
that is hot enough to scald a hand, since onions are so sharp that they exalted position Israel enjoys within the world (Kuzari 1, 11 and 25).
cook very quickly (118:8,14). On the other hand, Magen Avraham writes
that onion can be placed in a kli sheini since it adds to the taste and is I would argue that Maimonides chose this verse for two reasons:
firstly, because it precedes the negative commandment against idolatry,
considered seasoning. “You shall have no other gods before Me,” so that it is only logical that
Both the Shulchan Aruch of "the Rav" (from Chabad) (318:11) and
the Aruch Hashulchan (318:44) write that one may be lenient with onion. this first commandment deals with the positive command to accept G-d;
secondly, because Maimonides truly believes that the exodus from Egypt
But the Mishna Berura insists that one must be stringent, explaining that also provides a universal teaching ! The great philosopher may well have
the Magen Avraham wrote only according to the approach of the
Shulchan Aruch, that any food can be put into a kli sheini. He writes that taken his cue from the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, the
Sabbath commandment, which was given both as a remembrance of the
according to the approach of the Yerei'im, who fears that various foods creation of the world (Exodus 20) as well as a remembrance of the
might be considered easy to cook, onion should also not be put into a kli
sheini. Igrot Moshe brings a proof that putting onions in a kli sheini is exodus from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5). What links these two phenomena –
the creation and the exodus? The exodus is the corollary of the creation:
forbidden, since it is necessary to set aside teruma and maaser from If indeed G-d created every human in His Divine image, then every
onions (as opposed to spices, for which this is not required), and also
from the fact that they can be eaten alone (in contrast to spices). human being must be free and no other human being dare violate
another‟s person or property. The Divine Creation of humanity set the
Lemon: The Chazon Ish writes that lemon is considered seasoning, stage for human freedom and human inviolability, the Divine creation
and it can therefore be put into a kli sheini (52:19). Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach
(Shemirat Shabbat K'Hilchata volume 1, note 150) and Rabbi Moshe necessitated the destruction of “Pharoahnic” totalitarianism and
despotism as well as the formulation of a universal code of morality: thou
Feinstein do not agree with this. shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery.
Modern-day spices: Rabbi Auerbach notes that since our spices are
finely ground it is reasonable to assume that they are easily cooked, and No wonder Maimonides insists that everyone must accept – even by
coercion, if necessary – the seven Noahide laws of morality (Mishneh
the Talmud does not refer to them in allowing use of kli sheini (Shemirat Torah, Laws of Kings 8,10), and defines the Messianic Age as a period in
Shabbat K'Hilchata volume 1, note 152). In contrast, in Igrot Moshe it is
written that cocoa and coffee are considered seasoning and they can be which the entire world will live in peace and harmony. No wonder the
major commentaries like the Ramban and Ibn Ezra see the exodus as
put into a kli sheini even if not precooked (Orach Chaim volume 4, having established G-d as the only Ruler of the Universe – as He
demonstrated by deposing Pharoah, the prototypical despot – and
thereby claiming His right to legislate morality for all. No wonder the Bible
2 - MACHON MEIR – in its prelude to the Decalogue – assigns the Israelites the task of being
MACHON MEIR http://www.machonmeir.org.il/english/main_id.asp?leng=English&len_id=2 a “Kingdom of Priest – teachers and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), which
text is defined by the S‟forno to mean “to teach the entire human species to
all call out in the name of G-d and to serve Him shoulder to shoulder …,
3 - NCYI since „from Zion shall come forth the Torah‟ (to the world) “ (Ad loc). And
NCYI Weekly Divrei Torah, From: http://www.youngisrael.org/
no wonder the second version of the Decalogue in Deuteronomy, when it
text presents the exodus as the reason for the Sabbath, explains that the
purpose of this second day “is in order for your Gentile man and maid
servant to rest lie you” (Deut 5:14).
4 – RAV RISKIN
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/
This likewise explains the connection in our Biblical portion between
the Decalogue and the Shema. There is no more universal expression of
Efrat, Israel - Two of the most famous passages in the entire Bible which our faith than “Hear o‟ Israel the Lord our G-d the Lord is One,” which
refer to G-d are to be found in this week‟s Biblical portion: “I am the Lord means, as explained by Rashi, that although the G-d of love (Hashem)
your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage,” and morality (Elohim) is now only accepted by us, ultimately He will be
the first of the Ten Commandments, and “Hear o‟ Israel the Lord our G-d accepted by everyone in the world, by the whole of humanity which He
the Lord is one,” the opening verse of the Shema, the watchword of our created as one.
faith. Neither of these verses express a frontal commandment to believe Even more: the numerical equivalent of Ehad (one) is 13, the
in G-d, and nor is there any such verse of commandment to believe numerical equivalent of ahavah (love) is 13; our G-d who is One is love.
anywhere in the Bible. Why not, and what is the significance of what And since the numerical equivalent of J-H-V-H (the Ineffable Name) is
these particular verses do teach us about G-d? 26, J-H-V-H is the One G-d Love. Moreover, there is no greater
I believe that the Bible neglects to specifically command Divine belief expression of G-d‟s love than His having freed the Hebrew slaves from
because belief in G-d alone is not what really matters; witness all of the totalitarian domination. Hence part of our twice-daily obligation to recite
fanatical wars which have been fought in name of G-d, and how Islamic the Shema includes our mention of the Exodus from Egypt.
Fundamentalists brainwash and train their youth to blow themselves up
together with innocent citizens in the name of a god of Jihad! What good
is “pure monotheism” if Allah has been transformed into Satan?! 5- UNITED SYNAGOGUE
Notwithstanding whatever has been written heretofore, the great Copyright 1999 United Synagogue Publications Ltd. http://www.unitedsynagogue.org.uk/
philosopher- legalist Maimonides (1135 – 1204) does derive a SIDRA INSIGHTS
commandment to believe in G-d from the first of the Ten by Rabbi David Rose, Edinburgh Synagogue
Commandments, “I am the Lord your G-d who has taken you out of
The first two aliyot of Va‟etchanan are quite difficult to understand. this minhag in any other siddurim in general use, nor in the manuscript
While the words are simple and majestic, the theme connecting them is siddurim of The Great and New Synagogues of the early 18th century
not. The Sidrah begins with Moses‟ plea to G-d to be allowed to go into or, indeed, in Baer‟s Avodath Yisrael. In addition, it was removed by
the Land and the rejection of that plea. Moses then goes on to expound Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovitz z"l"in the Centenary Edition of the Singer‟s
upon the lesson of the Revelation at Sinai, again ending with the fact Prayer Book. Indeed, it is sometimes suggested that this was an
that he is barred from entering the Land. We then proceed to the section innovation inspired by non-orthodox Jewish communities. However,
which also forms the Torah reading for Tisha B‟av. This is a mini version Dayan Dr Lerner discovered it in a siddur printed in London in 1864
of both the tochecha or reproof section in Parshat Ki- Tavo and the and, more significantly, the minhag was already mentioned by the 14th
promise of redemption that follows in Parshat Nitzavim. This section century commentator Abu Darham. Thus, whatever the origin of its
then ends with another plea to learn the lessons of the Exodus and the introduction into the minhag of the United Synagogue, its antecedents
Revelation at Sinai. How are we to understand this as a coherent whole? are honourable and unimpeachable. It should be noted that it will be
A hint is given by the Ramban (Nachmanides) and others. They reintroduced into the new Singer‟s Prayer Book which is currently being
have difficulty in the relation between the two halves of the section read prepared under the guidance of Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.
on Tisha B‟Av mentioned above, the reproof and the historical overview From „Torah Haminhagim‟ which is available at £5.95 including p&p
of the Exodus. They explain that the second section sheds light on the in the UK. mailto:email@example.com (020 8457 9715) to order your
first. The reason G-d reacts so strongly to the apostasy of the Israelites, copy.
exiling them and scattering them among the nations, is precisely WHAT’S IN A JEWISH NAME?
because He has uniquely redeemed them from Egypt and personally BOUGHT AND EXCHANGED
spoken to them on Mt Sinai. This is reminiscent of the famous statement by Rabbi Meir Salasnik, Bushey Synagogue
of the prophet Amos that Some Jewish names - both forenames and surnames - relate to
„You alone have I known from among the nations; therefore I will buying and exchanging. Halfan, Chalfan and Chalfen come from the
visit upon you all your iniquities‟. Hebrew for „to exchange‟ and may have been used by money changers
Israel has experienced G-d‟s power and presence and therefore is and early bankers. One of the Rabbis of the Mishna, living almost two
more accountable than others for their actions. thousand years ago, was called Chalafta. Another Talmudic Rabbi was
This idea is reinforced at the beginning of the our Sidrah, which is named Tachlifa.
now more comprehensible. Moses, who alone has spoken to G-d However, some of the above names might have another origin. The
directly, is held more accountable than others for his actions. Therefore, custom of adding a name to an ill person, effectively changing the
G-d bars him from the Land. His experience should thus serve as an person‟s identity, is well known. However, children, who received an
object lesson to the Jewish people of the fate that will befall them if they extra name, would still be the child of their parents, and the Angel of
turn away from G-d. Jews are not chosen because they are better than Death could still come to the family home looking for the child.
others; we are chosen to be better than others. This is the lesson of A further precaution to mislead the Angel of Death was to „sell‟ the
Tisha B‟av. Our special status means not that we have necessarily any child to a family with healthy children or to the whole community.
guarantees against misfortune but that G-d has a special claim on our Obviously, the child remained with his or her parents, but was no longer
behaviour. This is not always an easy lesson, but one we need to be referred to as „ben‟ or „bat‟ their parents. He was a Chalafta -
mindful of. „exchanged‟ or a Meshulam - „paid for‟. In mediaeval France, he was a
Yet the story doesn‟t end there. The Seforno has a different Matzif - derived from „emancipé‟ from the power of death.
interpretation on the connection between these passages. He connects A boy now „belonging‟ to the community might be named „Tzion‟ or
it not with the reproof but with the promise of redemption. By „Ben Tzion‟, son to all of the Jewish community.
remembering the Exodus and Revelation at Sinai we will know that G-d Rabbi Benzion Kaganoff in his „Dictionary of Jewish Names and
will never abandon us. Because He has uniquely done all this for us, their History‟ records a formula of redemption for a child from Rhodes
despite us often not being worthy, He will, notwithstanding our sins, who was henceforth called Mercado - „market‟ - and placed under the
never totally abandon us and in the end He will redeem us. That is, authority of Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes, to whose grave in Tiberias his
indeed, a worthy message for this Sabbath of Comfort. mother was to send a coin once a month.
THE HAFTARAH This may seem incredulous in our present day, but was
by Rabbi David Lister, Muswell Hill Synagogue understandable at a time of high infant mortality.
G-D IS IN HIS HEAVEN QUESTION OF THE WEEK
"Lift up your eyes heavenward and see Who created these!... by Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Despite the profusion of forces and the magnitude of strength, not Last week’s question::
one is missing." At which life cycle event does a reference to Moses validate the
The prophet invites us to behold G-d‟s strength simply by looking at ceremony?
the heavens. So let us look. Answer
The Sun burns 4,000,000 tonnes of hydrogen per second to A marriage. When giving the ring to his bride, the groom says,
maintain its surface temperature of 5,000 degrees centigrade, enough to "Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring, according to the
vaporise every substance we know. Gas jets measuring 600 miles laws of Moses and of Israel".
across erupt on the surface at 2,000 miles per hour. Billions of tonnes of This week’s question:
solar plasma periodically burst out at over a million miles per hour. set by Harvey Freeman of Hendon.
Yet, cosmically speaking, our Sun is mediocre. Supernovae Which Torah personality died in 2006?
outshine it a thousand times over. Unimaginably dense neutron stars,
five miles across, are as massive as 300,000,000 Earths. Black holes
warp the space-time continuum. Magnetars generate magnetic fields 6 -PROJECT GENESIS (torah.org)
The Jewish Learning Network http://www.torah.org/
strong enough to kill nearby life forms by rearranging their constituent
atoms. A). RAV FRAND (Rabbi Yissocher Frand)
Looking further, we encounter the universe‟s estimated hundred RavFrand, Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.
trillion galaxies, each containing billions of stars. This colossal text
mechanism, inaugurated and maintained by a few elegant physical laws, B). SFAT-EMET(Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff):
reflects G-d‟s own wisdom. text
Down here, modern communications have confirmed the human C). ABARBANEL(Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari)
propensity to generate misery. Increasingly, place names flash across
the world in a ghastly A-Z of conflict, suffering and paranoia: D). WEEKLY HALACHA(Rabbi Doniel Neustadt)
Afghanistan, Congo, Gaza, Iran, Kashmir, Rwanda, Sudan.
Maybe we need help.
As G-d manages the heavens, so He can direct His beloved
children. He charges us with calling Him to soothe His precious and 7 - HAR ETZION (VBM)
Virtual Beit Midrash, Alon Shevut, Gush Etzion 90433 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
troubled world, demonstrating His glory by living His Torah. Home Page: http://www.vbm-torah.org/
As our Haftarah says: A) INTRODUCTION TO PARSHAT HASHEVUAH
"Go up on a high mountain, herald of Zion. Raise your voice "OBSERVE" AND "REMEMBER" WERE PRONOUNCED IN A
fearlessly, say to the cities of Judah 'Behold your G-d!'" SINGLE UTTERANCE
WHY IS THIS SHUL....? by Rav Michael Hattin
By Simon Goulden, Director, United Synagogue Community Services NOTE: The first half of this article appeared last year under the title
Group together with Rabbi Jeremy Conway, Director, United Synagogue "Moshe's Liberties with the Text – Part 1." At the time, I had intended to
Religious Affairs Group complete the discussion with a follow-up article that unfortunately never
YIGDAL MAKES AN ENTRANCE appeared. I offer that follow-up now with this expanded version.
Chief Rabbi Hertz, in his 1941 commentary on the Singer‟s Prayer INTRODUCTION
Book, quotes a ruling of The Great Synagogue in London in 1722 which Last week's parasha concluded with Moshe's recollection of the
reads "The minhag of this Synagogue shall be the Polish minhag as astounding victories over Sichon and „Og, the ominous Amorite kings
used in Hamburg, with the addition of Yigdal to be chanted at the end of who inhabited the Transjordanian highlands. Those remarkable events
every Friday Evening Service". Dayan Dr Lerner does not record why occurred at the end of the wilderness journeys, as the people of Israel
this departure from the traditional Hamburg minhag was made, but finally drew close to their destination. The triumphs ushered in Israel's
confirms that it is found in every one of the early London siddurim wars of conquest and ignited in Moshe the fervent hope that perhaps
consulted. Clearly, the alternative tradition, of singing Adon Olam at the God's decree barring him from entering the land of Canaan had in the
end of the Friday Evening Service, has not been the London tradition for interim been relaxed, but to no avail, for soon that hope was dashed:
nearly some 300 years. I entreated God at that time saying: "Almighty God, You have started
In earlier editions of the Singer‟s Prayer Book, there is a rubric which to show Your servant Your greatness and Your forceful hand, for
follows after the Reading of the Torah for Shabbat Mincha "While the there is no power in heaven or upon earth that can match Your
vestments are being replaced upon the Sefer Torah, Mizmor Shir Leyom deeds and Your strength. Let me please pass over so that I may see
Hashabat is said". In his researches, Dayan Dr Lerner could not find
the good land that is on the other side of the Yarden, this fine range modifying the relative value of its component provisions. Though in a
of mountains and the Levanon." But God was angry with me on your formal sense the terms of the covenant may have been technically
behalf and He would not listen to me. God said to me: "it is enough! concluded with the parents, its ongoing fulfillment, which is anywise any
Do not continue to speak to Me any more concerning this matter! covenant's main purpose, must now devolve upon the children. Thus
Rather, ascend to the top of the heights and lift up your eyes to the Moshe's account of the sealing of the covenant can be reconciled with
west, to the north, to the south and to the east, and see it with your the narrative of the event itself, by carefully considering the nature and
own eyes, for you will surely not pass over this Yarden. Charge needs of Moshe's present audience.
Yehoshu'a and strengthen and encourage him, for he will traverse THE UTTERANCE CONCERNING THE SHABBAT
before this people, and he will cause them to possess the land that Concerning the Decalogue that follows as it is recounted by Moshe
you will see." Therefore, we encamped in the valley, opposite Bet (5:6-17), it is mostly synonymous with the version preserved in Sefer
Pe'or… (3:23-29). Shemot (Shemot 20:2-13). Though there are occasional words that are
Wholly resigned to the Divine dictate that sealed his fate, Moshe now rearranged or syntactical features that are not the same (especially
turned his attention to the people of Israel. In soaring words, he concerning the use of the conjunction), the overall convergence of the
encouraged them to cleave to God's laws while he simultaneously two texts is reasonable. There is, however, one glaring exception to the
warned them about the perils of idolatry, he recalled for them the pivotal above general analysis and that concerns the utterance pertaining to the
events associated with their wilderness sojourns, and he then began to Shabbat. Here, there are differences of vocabulary and of emphasis that
explicate for them God's statutes and laws. In the course of his remarks, are striking and seemingly irreconcilable. In Shemot 20, the fourth
Moshe mentioned the decisive episode of the revelation at Sinai, utterance reads:
reinforcing the theme of the binding covenant, emphasizing the idea of Remember ("Zachor") the Sabbath day to sanctify it. Six days shall
Divine immediacy, and proclaiming once again for the benefit of the new you labor and do all of your work, but the seventh day shall be a
generation God's thunderous Decalogue that was to forever alter the Sabbath to God your Lord. Neither you, nor your son, daughter,
course of human history. servant, maidservant, beast nor convert that dwells within your gates
ADDRESSING AND RESOLVING INCONGRUITIES shall do any manner of work. This is because in six days God made
Since the Book of Devarim is introduced from the outset as Moshe's heaven, earth, the sea and all that they contain, and He rested on
own impassioned words to Israel and his personal recalling of their the seventh day. Therefore, God blessed the Sabbath day and
history, it is only natural that there should exist discrepancies between sanctified it (20:7-10).
his retelling of earlier events and the events themselves, as they are In Moshe's recounting, however, the command concerning the
recorded elsewhere in the Torah. Often these seeming incongruities Shabbat says as follows:
reflect nothing more than didactically-inspired shifts in nuance that can OBSERVE ("Shamor") the Sabbath day to sanctify it, AS GOD
be easily resolved by considering the nature of the audience that now YOUR LORD COMMANDED YOU. Six days shall you labor and do
receives Moshe's teachings as well as the temporal setting for his words. all of your work, but the seventh day shall be a Sabbath to God your
That is to say that the generation poised to enter the land of Canaan and Lord. Neither you, nor your son, daughter, servant, maidservant,
to grapple with the urgent challenges associated with founding a state OX, DONKEY, OR ANY beast or the convert that dwells within your
inhabits a very different existential plane than their deceased forebears. gates shall do any manner of work, IN ORDER THAT YOUR
The lessons that they glean from the experiences of the Exodus will SERVANT AND MAIDSERVANT SHALL REST AS YOU DO. YOU
necessarily be different, at least in some respects, than for those that SHALL REMEMBER THAT YOU YOURSELF WAS A SLAVE IN
actually lived through those events. And their children and their THE LAND OF EGYPT AND GOD YOUR LORD TOOK YOU OUT
grandchildren in turn, though they faithfully preserve the memory of those OF THERE WITH A STRONG HAND AND WITH AN
experiences, will extract from them a message that is pertinent to them OUTSTRETCHED ARM. THEREFORE, DID GOD YOUR LORD
and to their situation. COMMAND YOU TO FULFILL THE SABBATH DAY (5:11-14).
Those that wandered in the wilderness in fruitless search of a home Once again, some of the differences between the two texts are slight
possessed a very different destiny than those that now prepare to cross while others are glaring. The opening word is, for example, entirely
the rushing waters of the Yarden and to set down roots in the new land; it different! In Shemot, we are bidden to remember and here we are
is therefore perfectly reasonable for Moshe's words to the latter, when he bidden to observe. The inclusion in Moshe's account of some further
recalls an earlier event in Israel's history, to reflect an altered set of elaboration of the generic "beast" mentioned in Sefer Shemot is notable
priorities. Thus, for example, Moshe's recounting of the sin of spies is but not necessarily at odds with the earlier text. But concerning the
markedly different in Sefer Devarim than the actual narrative of the event thrust of the Shabbat legislation, there appears to be no convergence at
as recorded in Sefer BeMidbar. In our book, Moshe more emphatically all. In Sefer Shemot, the reason advanced for the necessity to abide by
places the burden of responsibility for the debacle upon the people and the Sabbath provisions relates to the act of creation: because God
upon their leaders, for his intent is not only or even primarily to created the universe in six days and ceased from His activity on the
objectively recall events of the past but rather to communicate guiding seventh day, so too must we acknowledge His central role in the cosmic
instruction for the future. order by following His example. But now in Sefer Devarim when Moshe
Occasionally, however, the clash of sources is more acute, spells out the reason for the Shabbat, God's creation is entirely absent
especially when Moshe presents us with an ostensibly verbatim account from the text. Instead, the Shabbat is to be observed because of its
that is markedly dissimilar to the actual occurrence. The Decalogue, critical thematic link with the servitude in Egypt and because its
God's pronouncement of the Ten Guiding Principles, offers us a rare observance alone can foster a profound identification with those that are
opportunity to consider both varieties of discrepancies, the easily less fortunate. Because there we were slaves who toiled tirelessly and
resolved extrinsic and the much more serious intrinsic, and we will view without respite, we must therefore ensure that our own servants are
the matter through the perspective of the Ibn Ezra (12th century, Spain) granted a day of rest. Because God rescued us from bondage and
in his lengthy remarks to the episode as recorded in Sefer Shemot oppression, therefore must we be sensitive to those who must labor for
(Chapter 20). On the one hand, some of the differences can be others, by extending also to them a break from their labors. Because we
understood clearly as acknowledgement and affirmation of the fact that ourselves experienced state-sponsored serfdom and were liberated from
Moshe now addresses different listeners; on the other hand some of the it, therefore we are charged to ensure that our own servants are similarly
divergences seem so glaring as to be inexplicable. discharged from their duties at least one day a week. The emphasis for
THE OVERALL CONEXT OF THE DECALOGUE Moshe, then, is not the Creation of the world but rather the Exodus, not
Certainly, Moshe's description of the overall context, while the internalization of the truth that God is transcendent and all-powerful
understandably more concise in our account, is accurate. His mention of but rather that He is close by and concerned.
the covenant (5:2), his description of the immediacy and intimacy of the How then to explain Moshe's reiteration? If Moshe purports to tell
God-man encounter (5:4), his recounting of the awe-inspiring fire that the people of Israel exactly what transpired at Mount Sinai, how then can
enveloped the mountain (5:4), and his reference to the special role that he take so many liberties with GOD'S OWN PRONOUNCEMENTS?
he played in the communication of God's word (5:5), are all well-attested What, in fact, did God actually utter as the people of Israel stood
to from Sefer Shemot (see Shemot 19:16-25). On the other hand, his expectantly at the foot of smoldering Mount Sinai, and for what purpose
significant shift in emphasis in claiming that God's covenant at Sinai was would Moshe modify matters so much in his parting address to the
struck "not with our ancestors…but rather with us, we who stand here people of Israel? The implications of the discussion, of course, pertain
today, all of us alive" (5:3) is a deliberate attempt to inspire the people not only to our particular context, but to Sefer Devarim as a whole.
soon entering Canaan with the nobility as well as with the gravity of their THE EXPLANATION OF RASHI
mission. Their fathers who stood at Sinai, though they heard the word of Rashi (11th century, France) offers a well-known interpretation from
God from the midst of the fire, all perished, but the eternal covenant that the ancient Rabbis:
God sealed with them at that time did not dissipate with their demise; Observe the Sabbath day – In the first Decalogue, it says
rather, its provisions were transferred to their offspring to be realized by "Remember the Sabbath day…" Both of them were stated in one
them in the new land. utterance and as one word, and both were heard as one…(Mechilta
Significantly, the medieval commentaries, confronted with the of Rabbi Yishma'el, Masechta Yitro, Chapter 7).
obvious disagreement between Moshe's recollection and the events This explanation, that has become enshrined as part of the Sabbath
themselves (for surely God DID seal His covenant with their ancestors at eve liturgy and immortalized in Rabbi Shelomo Alkabetz's "Lecha Dodi"
Sinai!), were unwilling to take Moshe's words at face value. Almost all of hymn, essentially maintains that there is NO discrepancy between the
them (see Rav Sa'adia Gaon, Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Chizkuni) added a accounts. In fact, God simultaneously uttered BOTH words –
single word to his account that they believed could adequately reconcile "Remember" and "Observe" – at Sinai, and both words were remarkably
the texts. When Moshe says "not with our ancestors…but rather with us, heard and understood by Israel in the same moment. Clearly, such an
we who stand here today, all of us alive" (5:3), what he means to say is occurrence is only possible in the dimension of the miraculous, but the
"not with our ancestors ONLY…but rather with us ALSO, we who stand revelation at Sinai was just such an event.
here today, all of us alive" (5:3). In other words, Moshe does not deny As for the other discrepancies, Rashi is not overly concerned with
that God in fact concluded a covenant with those that stood at Sinai. But them. "Observe the Sabbath day to sanctify it, AS GOD YOUR LORD
since that generation perished almost to a man and their fulfillment of the COMMANDED YOU" is understood to mean "before the giving of the
covenant was incomplete, it is their children in their stead that must Torah, for at Mara they were commanded concerning the Shabbat"
presently be encouraged to follow and to fulfill God's word. What Moshe (commentary of Rashi to 5:11). In other words, Moshe is simply
does now, therefore, is to downplay that first, failed contract by indicating to the people of Israel that the Sabbath is so
central as to have even preceded the Decalogue – for the people arrived fact, there is no need to reconcile both versions of the Decalogue at all,
at Mara in the immediate aftermath of their exodus from Egypt and the because God only uttered the first and original one! The second
crossing of the Sea of Reeds (see Shemot 15:22-26). But there is no Decalogue, introduced in our Parasha, is Moshe's record of what God
contradiction here between his words and what God actually stated at had said, but not preserved by him (inaccurately as it were) as some sort
Sinai, only an amplification. And as for the reason advanced in Sefer of an exact, precise and literal rendering. Rather, Moshe's intention is
Shemot for the necessity to abide by the Sabbath provisions, namely that only to communicate the message of God's words, and the meaning of
their observance commemorates God's act of creation, while here in His provisions. When God tells us to remember the Shabbat, He does
Sefer Devarim the Shabbat rest recalls the thankless lot of the slave and not ask of us to simply recall it like some latent fact or piece of
the need to identify with his or her plight, Rashi once again glosses over information, but rather to be aware and mindful of it. This awareness of
the divergence and focuses instead upon the more profound theme: Shabbat is not intended as an exercise in abstraction but rather as a
Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt – for this very means to an end: we remember the Shabbat IN ORDER TO OBSERVE
reason God redeemed you, so that you might be His servant and IT AND TO CEASE FROM MELACHA on that day! That is to say that
observe His commands. the fundamental objective of remembering Shabbat is in order to observe
That is to say that the message of the Shabbat is particularly it. And the communication of that truth was obviously God's intent in His
pertinent to former slaves who experienced liberation firsthand and ought original pronouncement. Moshe's contribution, then, in repeating the
therefore to appreciate its significance. We were redeemed by God from Decalogue is not to tell us what God like some sort of a literal record, but
Pharaoh's backbreaking labors so that we might serve Him instead, with rather to bring to the fore additional aspects of those fundamental laws
our hearts and with our minds. For Rashi, then, what Moshe tells the that pertain to their essential meaning.
people of Israel now is a message that is relevant to them and was Likewise, when Moshe informs us that the purpose of the Shabbat is
equally relevant to their parents. It is thus not to be understood as a to recall the servitude in Egypt and to relieve the slave of his labors, he is
contradiction to the earlier Decalogue but rather as a complementary not communicating something that is at radical variance with the Divine
message, and presumably part and parcel of God's original utterance preserved in Sefer Shemot that focused instead upon God's
communication at Sinai. Rashi leaves us to ponder whether he thinks creation. Rather, in that earlier version, God had related that all
that all of the Decalogue in our parasha is a record of God's multi-layered members of the community are to partake of the Shabbat rest, including
utterance, with all of it having been miraculously communicated and "you, your son, daughter, servant, maidservant, beast and convert that
miraculously comprehended. dwells within your gates" (Shemot 20:9). But why ought the servant and
THE INTERPRETATION OF THE IBN EZRA the maidservant to enjoy the rest of the Shabbat? The text in Sefer
Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (12th century, Spain) authored two versions Shemot does not tell us, but
of his commentary on the book of Shemot. One of them is similar in style Moshe here tells us the REASON (for God's command): when God
to his commentaries on the other books of the Torah and, like them, is indicated that the slave ought to rest this was in order that you might
characterized by a pronounced conciseness that sometimes creates no recall that you too were a slave in Egypt like him, and God redeemed you
small degree of obfuscation. The other is a much lengthier and from there…Moshe did not have to repeat that God had formed heaven
developed version that relates not only to the straightforward exploration and earth in six days etc., because he prefaced his remarks by saying
of the immediate context but also often offers larger and more involved "as God your Lord commanded you," as if to say that all of these things
thematic discussions. These two commentaries are known respectively were included (commentary of Ibn Ezra, with some variations of
as the "Perush HaKatzar" (concise commentary) and the "Perush sequence).
HaAroch" (lengthy commentary), and occasionally they are even at odds For the Ibn Ezra, then, the explanation for the seeming discrepancies
with each other. Sometimes an explanation that is offered by the Ibn between the Decalogue related by Moshe in our parasha and that one
Ezra in the Perush HaKatzar is rejected by him in the Perush HaAroch preserved in Sefer Shemot is eminently reasonable as well as
and sometimes it is the other way around! For the purposes of this comprehensive. Ibn Ezra's explanation succeeds in resolving every one
lesson, we quote his comments from his lengthy commentary: of the divergences, while making no demands upon the student to
Thus says Avraham the author: It is the convention of Hebrew suspend his logical faculties. It is because of this that Ibn Ezra is
speakers to sometimes explain their words at great length and clarity, characterized (and characterizes himself) as a "rationalist," not because
while at other times they express the necessary idea with an economy of he disputes the Torah's divinity or else the accuracy of its transmitted
language, so that the listener might understand the essence. REALIZE text (as perhaps some modern scholars would like to believe) but
THAT THE WORDS ARE LIKE MATERIAL BODIES WHILE THE because he champions the intellect with which God has endowed the
MESSAGE IS LIKE THE SPIRIT, for the body is to the soul only a human being.
vehicle. Thus it is the convention of all wise men, whatever language B) INDEPTH PARSHAT SHEVUAH
they may be speaking, to preserve the message while not being REMEMBRANCE OF THE REVELATION AT MOUNT SINAI IN
concerned with using the exact same words, since the message is MOSHE'S SPEECH
anywise the same. Let me offer some examples… (introductory By Rav Tamir Granot
commentary of the Ibn Ezra to the Decalogue, Shemot 20:1). I. INTRODUCTION
Here, Ibn Ezra shares with us the core of his idea. Whenever there The lion's share of Moshe Rabbeinu's speech in Parashat
is a repetition in a Biblical text, whenever an episode or a law is repeated Va'etchanan deals with the revelation at Mount Sinai and the lesson
in the Torah, different words may be used in that second version. This derived from it. The revelation at Sinai and the covenant that
need not concern us, since the purpose of the repetition is to convey the accompanied it are certainly founding events in the history of the Jewish
essential MEANING of the matter to the listener or to the reader. The faith and nation, and therefore the great length to which they are
words themselves, says Ibn Ezra, are only vehicles for the discussed is not surprising.
communication of the idea, much like the physical body is a vessel for The primary exegetical question that arises when we read Moshe's
the essential soul to complete its tasks. That being the case, we need description of the revelation and its significance pertains to the
not be perturbed by these seemingly two different versions of the contribution that Moshe's speech makes to the first description of the
Decalogue, for in fact it is only the message of both that need be (and is) Sinaitic revelation in the book of Shemot.
the same. The respective language of both may therefore exhibit The great difference between the two accounts in the style of
divergences great and small as long as the fundamental message is presentation is self-evident. The account in chapter 20 of the book of
identical, for that is the crux of the matter. Shemot is written in an informative, if at times exalted, style. Scripture
"REMEMBER" AND "OBSERVE" describes the event in a narrative style, and deals neither with the
Concerning the specific matter of "Remember" and "Observe," Ibn lessons to be drawn from it nor with its significance.
Ezra elaborates: The revelation at Sinai as described in Va'etchanan constitutes the
Now I will speak concerning "Remember" and "Observe." Realize building blocks of a reproachful speech that is intended to teach the
that the meaning is preserved and not the actual words. Recall that religious lesson that may be derived from that event. Many expressions
Yitzchak told „Esav that he wanted to bless him "before I die" of rebuke, address, calling, and the like, are found in our parasha. For
(Bereishit 27:4). When Rivka related the matter to Ya'acov, however, example: "Only take heed to yourself," "take therefore good heed to
she reported that he said "so that I might bless you BEFORE GOD yourselves," "for ask now," "know therefore this day," "see," "hear, O
before I die" (IBID, 27:7). Why did she add the words "BEFORE Israel," and the like.
GOD" (if Yitzchak himself did not say them)? The answer is that she As we explained last week, however, we must understand not only
realized that Yitzchak was God's prophet and that the blessing that the purpose of repeating the story of the revelation at Sinai at that time,
he would utter would be a form of prophecy. She therefore told but also the value and novelty of that repetition for future generations.
Ya'acov "before God," because she was explaining to him the What is new here in Moshe Rabbeinu's speech, what did he stress and
REASON FOR THE BLESSING. emphasize, what did he add and what did he omit, in relation to the
In a similar manner did Moshe speak. The Decalogue as reported original account in the book of Shemot, that is meaningful for all
here in Sefer Shemot is the word of God verbatim, without addition or generations?
deficiency, and these words alone were recorded on the tablets of Before entering the thick of things, let us make the following
the covenant…but the Decalogue preserved in Parashat VaEtchanan exegetical introductory comment: Obviously, there are differences
are the words of Moshe. The proof for this is the fact that it twice between Moshe's account and the way the story is related in the book of
mentions "as God your Lord commanded you" (Devarim 5:11,15). Shemot. It is, however, incorrect to ask why Moshe described the
At the base of the brain is the faculty of memory and it is there that historical events differently than the way they actually occurred, based on
images are stored. Memory thus includes observance. The the assumption that the book of Shemot describes what really happened,
MEANING of "Remember" is to be always cognizant of the day of the and Moshe's speech is a paraphrase or rewriting of that story. For the
week, so that the seventh day be OBSERVED, so as not to perform description in the book of Shemot is also a story, and not an
labor on it. The REASON FOR REMEMBERING IS THEREFORE archaeological record of events. That is to say, even the account in
TO OBSERVE. When God uttered "Remember," all of the listeners Shemot must be read and interpreted as prose – as a story that has an
understood it to mean "Observe," AS IF BOTH OF THEM HAD objective. In other words, we must ask the same questions regarding that
BEEN UTTERED SIMULTANEOUSLY! account as well: Why does it say such-and-such, and not something
For Ibn Ezra, then, there is no need to introduce the miraculous as else, why is this detail missing, and the like. We must not assume that
Rashi asks of us, to proclaim that both words had been uttered by God at one of the stories is more precise or closer to historical reality than the
the same time and astonishingly grasped by the people of Israel. In other, for we have no access to that reality as it was, but
only to the two accounts of that reality. Our discussion will deal then with addressing the people: "And then the voice of the shofar sounded louder
the shaping of each story and the differences between them, and not and louder; Moshe speaks, and God answers him by a voice" (19:19).
with historical facts, which fall into the category of "that which is hidden" More than this it does not say.
from us. 3) Third, immediately following the conclusion of the Ten
II. THE ACCOUNT OF THE REVELATION AT MOUNT SINAI AND ITS Commandments, there appears the people's request of Moshe that he
OBJECTIVE IN Moshe's Speech in Parashat Va'etchanan should speak to them. The Torah justifies that request as follows: "And
Many have already dealt with the complex structure of the all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the
description of the revelation at Mount Sinai in our parasha, which sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking" (20:15). And from this it
divides into three separate units (one is advised to consult a Chumash): follows: "But let not God speak with us, lest we die" (20:16). The people
1) 4:9-24 experienced the intensity of the event, and asked of Moshe that he speak
2) 4:32-40 to them, out of the fear that they themselves would be unable to
3) 5:1-30 withstand God's revelation. But take note: This verse appears after the
Let us first consider the particular message that is emphasized in Ten Commandments! Why does it not say: "And the people heard the
each unit, and then examine the common elements: words of the Lord," or "And all the people heard the Lord as He spoke to
1) a. The obligation to remember God's direct revelation to Israel and them," or the like? If we compare this description to our parasha, we will
the way He uttered the Ten Commandments out of the fire (12-13). immediately note the difference: "And you said, Behold, the Lord our God
Remembering God's direct revelation and command will teach the has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice
people to fear God all their days, the primary meaning of which in this out of the fire; we have seen this day that God does talk with man, and
context is acceptance of the yoke of the mitzvot. he lives" (5:21) (as stated above, and not as the idolaters argue that their
b. An admonition by way of negation to remember "the voice of God," god cannot reveal himself to his creations and that his creations cannot
and not to remember any form, for they saw no manner of form. From bear his revelation). Here the matter is stated clearly and explicitly: The
here follows the prohibition to make for God a manner of form and thus people were deterred because they had experienced the revelation of
to break His covenant. God face to face and they had heard the voice of God.
2) Remembering the monumental experience of the revelation, 4) And fourth, the covenant described in Shemot 24 consists primarily
including both the very hearing of God's voice and His appearance in of a ceremony involving the offering of sacrifices by the representatives
fire, which despite the danger inherent in it, the people survived and did of the people and the writing of the book of the covenant. At the end of
not die: "Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst the ceremony there is indeed a direct revelation, only it is not to all of
of the fire, as you have heard, and lived… Out of heaven He made you Israel, but only to the elders who serve as their representatives: "Then
hear His voice, that He might instruct you. And upon earth He showed Moshe went up, and Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders
you His great fire; and you did hear His words out of the midst of the fire" of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel… And they beheld God…"
(4:33, 36). This remembering is the basis for the belief in the unity of God (24:9-11). And in comparison to Devarim: we have already mentioned
and the negation of all other gods, for surely no other nation ever earlier that the third unit dealing with the covenant bases it on the
experienced a direct revelation of its god. Implicit in Moshe's words is the experience of the direct revelation to the entire people: "The Lord our
argument put forward by the priests of the other nations before their God made a covenant with us in Chorev… The Lord talked with you face
believers that their gods cannot reveal themselves to the masses, to face in the mountain out of the fire" (5:2-4). According to the book of
because they would die, and therefore the religion must be passed on Shemot, the covenant is indeed based on face to face revelation, but
through the mediation of the priesthood. The exclusive aspect of what only to the people's representatives, and not to the people themselves.
occurred at Mount Sinai as a founding experience of faith lies in the proof From the positive, you can infer the negative, that is to say, this implies
it offers regarding the possibility of a direct encounter between God and that the people at large did not see.
man and nation. Thus, it follows that we alone have a living God, a true The manifest difference between Shemot and Devarim with respect
God, and that the other nations merely heard a "rumor": "To you it was to the description of the event and especially the description of the
shown, that you might know that the Lord He is God" (4:35). revelation, raises a great difficulty. Surely the entire religious lesson that
3) a. Remembering the event as the basis for the covenant that God is learned from the revelation at Mount Sinai, according to Moshe's
made with the people of Israel and with all of us today – the primary speech, stems from the one-time, face to face revelation. If according to
substance of which is the readiness of the Jewish people to accept God's the account related in Shemot, there was no such revelation, or at the
mitzvot in the future. "We shall do and we shall hear": We shall do what very least it was concealed, what then was the objective of the revelation
we have already accepted to do and we shall obey in the future whatever at Mount Sinai?
you command us. According to the words of Moshe, the covenant is The answer to this question is simple, and it follows from what is
founded upon God's face to face revelation to the entire nation. stated explicitly at the beginning of the account, when God informs
b. After mentioning the covenant, Moshe asks the people to Moshe about what is to happen. Immediately after the people of Israel
remember that it was they who had asked that God not speak with them accept God's proposal that they enter into a covenant with Him, God
further "lest they die," "and speak to us all that the Lord our God shall informs Moshe of the next stage: "And the Lord said to Moshe, Lo, I
speak to you, and we will hear it, and do it" (5:24). From here we see that come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with
the people accepted upon themselves to relate to the prophecy of Moshe you, and believe you for ever" (19:9). In light of the striking absence of
as the direct words of God. Thus, in the continuation of his speech, any description of God's direct revelation to the people, God's
Moshe commands Israel with several new commandments, as the announcement to Moshe precisely defines the nature and objective of
passage continues: "And these words, which I command you this day, the revelation:
etc." (5:6). And the people are expected to accept these commandments a) The revelation is that of God to Moshe in the presence of the people
as if they were the actual words of God, for this is what they themselves and not of God to the people. According to the book of Devarim, the
had proposed following the revelation at Mount Sinai. people constitute the addressee of the revelation. God reveals Himself to
Despite the fact that the message of each unit of Moshe's speech is them. According to the book of Shemot, the people observe the
different, they fit together and complement each other, and there is a revelation, the addressee of which is Moshe Rabbeinu.
common line of memory and meaning: b) From this it follows that the objective of the revelation was belief in
The primary significance of the revelation at Mount Sinai according to Moshe rather than belief in God. When the people will see God speaking
Moshe's speech in Parashat Va'etchanan lies in God's direct and face to to Moshe, they will know that indeed Moshe is true and his Torah is true,
face revelation to all of Israel. This is the foundation of the fear of God and they will have to accept his prophecy in the future. The essence of
that is implanted in the soul of each and every Jew for all generations. the revelation at Mount Sinai according to the book of Shemot is
This is the basis for the monotheistic faith, as is indicated by the passage expressed in the following verse: "That the people may hear when I
that immediately follows the conclusion of the description of the speak with you, and believe you for ever" (19:9).
revelation at Mount Sinai: "The Lord is our God, the Lord is one" (5:4). IV. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE
This is also the basis for Israel's obligation to fulfill the covenant that it ACCOUNTS OF THE REVELATION AT MOUNT SINAI IN SHEMOT
had made with God at Sinai, that is, to accept His mitzvot even if AND DEVARIM
afterwards they come from the mouth of Moshe. And this is also the In light of what we have said thus far, we can explain most of the
source of the concern that the people will make an image or form of what differences between the book of Devarim and the book of Shemot
they had seen or what they imagine they had seen, and the reason for regarding their respective understandings of the revelation at Mount
the admonition to remember the voices, but not the sights. Sinai:
III. THE ACCOUNT OF THE REVELATION AT MOUNT SINAI IN • In the book of Devarim, faith in the unity of God requires proof, and
SHEMOT the revelation at Mount Sinai constitutes that proof. In the book of
Let us turn now to the description given by the Torah itself, from the Shemot, faith in the unity of God is assumed, and the revelation comes
mouth of God, in the book of Shemot. Despite the commonly accepted to establish faith in the prophet of God.
understanding that chapter 20 describes the direct revelation of God to • On the other hand: In the book of Devarim, faith in Moshe is self-
the people and transmission of the Ten Commandments, an examination evident, and through that faith and through his authority, Moshe teaches
of the description of the events in chapters 20 and 24 reveals that such a the people and commands them about remembering the revelation at
thing is either not stated at all, or at the very least concealed. We shall Mount Sinai. In the book of Shemot, faith in Moshe requires proof, and
adduce several proofs: the revelation at Mount Sinai constitutes that proof.
1) First of all, the most important point is missing then from the account. • Since the revelation, according to the book of Devarim, was direct,
Nowhere anywhere in Parashat Yitro is it stated that God revealed the fear arises that the people will remember it and give form to what
Himself face to face to the people, or that He spoke to them in a direct they saw. In the book of Shemot, this concern does not arise, for the
manner. The heading to the Ten Commandments is vague: "And God people did not experience direct revelation, and thus there is no concern
spoke all these words, saying" (20:1) – to whom did He speak? To the that the memory of the event will lead to giving it form.
people? To the elders? The Torah does not say, and this stands out in • According to both books, the covenant is connected to the revelation,
stark contrast to the detailed emphasis in the book of Devarim: "The Lord but according to the book of Devarim the revelation is before the eyes of
talked with you face to face in the mountain out of the midst of the fire… the entire people, whereas according to the book of Shemot it is only
saying, I am the Lord…" (5:4-6). before the eyes of its representatives. Now, after we have described
2) Second, the Torah describes a conversation between Moshe and the differences, explained them, and offered an understanding of each
God in the presence of the people, rather than God directly account, we must understand the reason for the two-fold
description of the event, and why in the book of Shemot it is described in As is well known, there are various differences between the Ten
the one way and in the book of Devarim it is described in the other way. Commandments found in Shemot and those found in Devarim. These
In order to understand this matter, we must first of all understand the differences have been discussed at length by the Rishonim and the
location and function of each account. In the book of Shemot, the Acharonim. We wish to add another point that may deepen our
revelation at Mount Sinai is in the present, occurring in close proximity to understanding of what has been explained thus far.
the events in the recent past, namely, God's revelation through His At the heart of the Ten Commandments stands without a doubt the
Providence over the people of Israel during the exodus from Egypt. The mitzva of Shabbat. Quantitatively, this mitzva takes the most space. As
nation that just now had experienced the exodus from Egypt has no need for its location, it is found in the middle of the Ten Commandments, and
of further proof regarding God's existence or His Providence over the ferries us from the commandments between man and God to those
people. Surely after the splitting of the sea, we read: "And they believed between man and his fellow. Qualitatively, it is the mitzva, and perhaps
in the Lord, and in His servant Moshe" (14:31). While it is true that it is the only mitzva in the list – in the precise sense of the term. The first
also stated there that the people believed in Moshe, they believed in him negative precepts of the Ten Commandments are positive and negative
as one who acts in the name of God or performs wonders with His help, expressions of the faith and the covenant, and from this perspective they
but not as a prophet who delivers His word. The goal of the revelation at are self-evident. The latter negative precepts among the Ten
Mount Sinai was belief in Moshe as a prophet who speaks the word of Commandments are necessary conditions for the existence of civilized
God, and for that the people had to observe God's revelation to Moshe. society, and indeed for the most part they are agreed upon and accepted
Forty years later, the exodus from Egypt was no longer a given that was by most human societies. Shabbat is a novelty, a mitzva, because it
fixed in their consciousness, but merely a distant memory. Thus, faith in infers from faith and morality an obligation that is cast upon life itself, and
the unity of God was also not a given, but a memory that had to be changes and influences it in practice. In other words, here religious belief
turned into psychological reality. The purpose of the speech in Devarim turns into a principle of conduct and a cause for a refashioning of time.
was to establish the faith for all generations even when individuals and Indeed, the most important difference between the two lists of the
the community as a whole do not experience a revelation as had Ten Commandments relates to the explanation given for the mitzva of
occurred during the exodus from Egypt or at Mount Sinai. From here it Shabbat. The Shabbat of the book of Shemot serves as a reminder of
follows that faith in the book of Devarim rests on the foundations of the Shabbat of Creation, and thus it is an expression of thanksgiving of
prophecy, memory, and story, and not on unmediated experience. all of creation. The Shabbat of the book of Devarim is a social obligation
As for faith in Moshe Rabbeinu, the situation is just the opposite. In the purpose of which is the establishment of an egalitarian day of rest,
the book of Shemot faith in Moshe is not yet absolute, because among the meaning of which is the freedom of man, owners, and slaves from
other things this phenomenon was a great novelty in human civilization. bondage to work and master.
Moshe is not a religious priest, or a magician using special powers, but The objective of Shabbat in the book of Shemot is faith in God,
rather a prophet who proclaims the word of God that had been revealed Creator of the world. The objective of Shabbat in the book of Devarim is
to him. This novelty required proof and psychological rooting. However, man and society.
for the next generation of the people of Israel, this was self-evident. They The fundamental Shabbat of the book of Shemot is that which was
were raised on belief in Moshe Rabbeinu and his Torah. The belief in established by God at the time of Creation. We are called to remember it
Moshe is the basis out of which grew the demand to believe in the unity and join to it, but it stands on its own, it is part of the essence of time,
of God based on the revelation at Mount Sinai. The belief in the unity of whether we join it or, God forbid, not.
God is difficult to establish merely on the testimony that God spoke with The Shabbat of Devarim depends upon man and society. It is not a
Moshe, for there is no qualitative difference between this claim and the fact that must be remembered, but rather a mission or an obligation that
claims presented by the priests of all the other religions, to distinguish must be kept: "Keep the sabbath day." If we do not keep it, there will be
between truth and falsehood. Therefore, the emphasis in Moshe's no rest, no equality, no freedom for all men, and then there will also be
account is upon God's direct revelation to the people. In the book of no Shabbat. The Shabbat's home is in man.
Shemot this idea is hazy, for God is not interested in public revelation According to the book of Shemot, the thirty-nine forbidden labors
becoming the fixed medium for delivering His word. On the contrary, constitute an archetypal set of labors that symbolize Divine creation, and
prophecy is the fixed and legitimate conduit for delivering the word of through abstention from such labors, the rest on Shabbat from all labor.
God, and therefore God's unmediated revelation to the people is hidden According to the book of Devarim, the thirty-nine forbidden labors are
in the story, so as not to create an expectation or a standard that will not a list of common labors in the world of man, the purpose of refraining
be fulfilled in the future. from which is the fashioning of Shabbat as a day of rest on the real
From a wider perspective, we are dealing here with two courses of human level.
faith. In the book of Shemot faith begins with objective, external Divine We see then that the perception that establishes the nature of the
revelation. God's revelation becomes the basis for belief in a prophet. In account and the memory of the revelation at Mount Sinai, also
the book of Devarim there is no external revelation. There is a prophet, establishes the various meanings given in the two lists of the Ten
who demands faith, and stirs up the memory. Belief in God grows out of Commandments to the mitzva of Shabbat.
memory, or out of the fear that is implanted in the soul of every Jew for FOOTNOTES:
all generations, or out of faith in a prophet. The source of faith is not an  The interested reader can review some of the shi'urim catalogued in the archives of the Virtual Beit Midrash,
e.g., the shi'ur of Rav Amnon Bazak and that of Rav Mordechai Sabbato.  For joining the word "leimor,"
external, objective Divine event, but rather inner experience, tradition, "saying" to verse 4, see the commentators, especially the Ibn Ezra.  There are those who have explained that
the vision that the elders saw on the mountain was the source for the fashioning of the Golden Calf, following
memory and prophecy: "The Lord made not the covenant with our the explanation of R. Yehuda Ha-Levi and the Zohar. This, however, is not the forum to discuss the issue at
fathers, but with us, even us, who are of us here alive this day. The Lord greater length. These two understandings regarding Shabbat can explain many of the controversies found in
Tractate Shabbat. For example, the question of the source of the thirty-nine forbidden labors, the dispute
talked with your face to face in the mountain out of the midst of the fire" between R. Eliezer and the Sages regarding the separation of labors, and especially the series of disputes
(5:3). between R. Yehuda and R. Shimon regarding the basic concept of forbidden labor which are fundamental to all
of Shabbat law.
Historically speaking, the second generation was not at Mount Sinai, C) SICHAT ROSH YESHIVA
just as we were never there. Formally the covenant obligates us all. But text
what is most important is the psychological-spiritual aspect: If a person
wants to remember something that he sees, he can photograph it. But a
picture or a statue is idolatry. Why? Because it turns something that is 8 BAR ILAN UNIVERSITY
alive into something that is dead; a living event becomes an object. We A project of Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Jewish Studies, Paul and Helene hulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Sponsored by Dr. Ruth Borchard of the Shoresh Charitable Fund (SCF).
are called therefore to the memory of voice. Voice is not given to external Published with assistance of the President's Fund for Torah and Science.Web Site:
perpetuation, it has no objective presence. Once it was, and now it is http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/
gone. But it is possible to listen to a voice through memory, and through THREE SONS, AND THEN A FOURTH
the fear of God that is impressed in the heart of each and every one of Dr. Yehezkel (Hezi) Cohen Center for Basic Studies in Judaism
us. The voice of God grows out of the soul and out of the memory of Four passages in the Torah describe future conversations that
anyone who wishes to listen to it. might take place between a father and son after the Israelites enter the
Here lies another difference between the two accounts (which brings Promised Land. At the heart of each of them is the performance of
us back to R. Tzadok and the Holy Jew mentioned in the previous shiur). certain commandments related to the exodus from Egypt. Three of the
In the book of Devarim, the revelation at Mount Sinai turns from the past passages appear in Exodus, when the Israelites were leaving Egypt (Ex.
to the present. In Moshe's description the "face to face" is not what 12:25-29, 13:5-10, 11-16), and the fourth appears in Deuteronomy, in
occurred in the past, providing in the present historical proof for faith, but this week's reading (Deut. 6:20-25). The Sages gave each of the
rather an experience that can be re-experienced in the present sons mentioned in these four passages a specific characterization (wise,
existentially. Not a "pyrotechnic" reproduction, not thunder and lightning, wicked, simple, and one who does not know to ask), that has become
but rather Divine revelation to each individual. In my humble opinion, this eternalized in the Passover Haggadah.
is also Onkelos's understanding when he translates: "These words the Leaving this famous Midrash aside, I would like to examine the issue
Lord spoke to all your assembly in the mountain… with a great voice of the Four Sons according to a plain reading of the text, the Peshat. All
which lo yasaf" – lo pasik - did not cease. That is to say, that the echoes four passages have similar features that form a literary genre, and this
of that voice continue to be heard, not in the acoustic expanse, but inside necessitates closely examining the components, paying special attention
a person, from then until today. And today is every day. to the differences between them. I would like to stress the similarity
The revelation at Mount Sinai and the exodus from Egypt in the book between the three sons in Exodus and the distinctiveness of the fourth
of Shemot are the sources of faith, the origins of which are Divine and son, mentioned in this week's reading – a distinctiveness which reflects
the movement of which is from God to man. Its arena is that of objective an ideological development. Thus we obtain a graded structure of three
history. plus a fourth, whilch sets the fourth son apart as special.
The revelation at Mount Sinai in the book of Devarim is the source of The first son and the question concerning the Paschal sacrifice
faith, the origin of which is human, and whose birth in the social sense is (Ex. 12:25-29)
in the prophecy of Moshe, man of God, and in the individual sense, in the This passage deals with the manner in which one is to make the
heart and memory of every Jew. In the book of Shemot, the arrow of faith Paschal sacrifice (12:21-24). According to the plain sense of the text, the
is shot from God to man. In the book of Devarim, man restores that arrow commandment to spread the blood on the doorposts applies for all time:
to the Master of the universe. “You shall observe this as an institution for all time, for you and for your
V. EXPRESSIONS OF THE TWO PERCEPTIONS IN THE TEN descendants” (v. 24). Verse 25 asserts, as well, “And when you enter
COMMANDMENTS the land that the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall
observe this rite,” meaning also the description of how the blood is to be
applied to the doorposts. This is also understood from the question these laws, to revere the Lord our G-d” (v. 24). The response concludes
the son asks regarding the Paschal rite: “And when your children ask by describing all the good that awaits Israel in the wake of observing the
you, „What do you mean by this rite?‟” (v. 26). commandments: “for our lasting good and for our survival, as is now the
Just as the question is well-focused, so too, the answer: “You shall case. It will be therefore to our merit before the Lord our G-d to observe
say, „It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, because He passed over the faithfully this whole instruction, as He has commanded us” (v. 24-25).
houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but Between Three and Four
saved our houses.‟ Then people then bowed low in homage” (v. 27). Now let us consider the differences between the fourth son and the
The answer refers solely to the scene of passing over, thus emphasizing three who preceded him. The three sons in Exodus ask sharply focused
a particular aspect of the general story. questions (concerning the Passover sacrifice, matzah, and redeeming
The second son and the question of eating unleavened bread first-born sons), and answers are given them accordingly, mentioning the
(Ex. 13:5-10) relevant event taken from the overall story of the exodus from Egypt. In
This passage refers to the proscription against eating leavened contrast, the fourth son, mentioned in this week‟s reading, asks a broad
bread and the commandment to eat matzah: “Seven days you shall eat question and is given a comprehensive answer, relating to all the
unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival of the components of the exodus from Egypt.
Lord. Throughout the seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten; no Another difference concerns the relationship between remembrance
leavened bread shall be found with you, and no leaven shall be found in and the commandments. In the three passages in Exodus the function of
all your territory” (13:6-7). Here, too, it is clear what the subject is, and the commandments (making the Passover sacrifice, eating matzah, and
accordingly one should understand what the father is to tell his son: redeeming first-born sons) is to preserve the memory of the exodus from
“And you shall explain to your son on that day, „It is because of what the Egypt. Perhaps in this respect the commandments of the Passover
Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt‟”(v. 8). sacrifice and redeeming first-born sons have a certain advantage, since
In this passage, unlike the others, the son does not ask; rather, his they are exceptional and evoke questioning, unlike the commandment to
father addresses him. Therefore the Sages characterized this son as the eat matzah, which was a rather common practice. In contrast, in
one who does not know to ask. According to the plain sense of the text, Deuteronomy the direction is reversed: the exodus from Egypt becomes
it must be said that eating matzah, as opposed to making the Passover a founding event shaping the relationship between G-d and Israel, and
sacrifice, was a common occurrence in Scripture (see Gen. 19:3, Judges therefore remembering the event creates an obligation to perform all the
6:19). For this reason, the son does not inquire about the custom. It commandments as a whole. Hence the question is comprehensive,
remains for the father to explain that on this festival one eats only matzah and so is the answer.
and no leavened bread, and to explain to him the significance of our Different Perspectives
having been thus commanded. From a literary point of view, we suggest that the passages on the
The structure of the verse is problematic. From the phrasing of the sons in Exodus are an immediate response to the exodus from Egypt, at
Hebrew clause (ba‟avur zeh), rendered more literally, “For the sake of the time it took place. The fourth son, in contrast, expresses the view
this, the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt,” it would seem that taken from the distance of a generation away, a vantage point that
the exodus from Egypt took place for the purpose of fulfilling the makes it possible to take a broader view of all that happened in the
commandment of eating matzah, which appears to be a nonsensical exodus from Egypt and to perceive its objective, namely establishing a
statement. covenant with the Lord and entering the promised land. Once in the land,
Rashi (on Exodus 13:8), following the Mekhilta, interpreted this as the obligation to perform all the Lord‟s commandments is
follows: “For the sake of this (Heb. ba‟avur zeh) – for the sake of my understandable. The vista of the sons‟ questions is determined
performing His commandments, such as the Passover offering, eating according to the world of their fathers. In Exodus, the questions asked
matzah, and eating bitter herbs.” Thus the Sages retained the word by the sons of those who were taken out of Egypt (when, in time, they
order in the verse, but had to extend the expression “this” to include the come to the promised land) are focused, whereas in Deuteronomy, the
commandments in general, thus deviating from the plain sense of the questions asked by the sons of the generation that enters the land
text, which deals solely with eating matzah. Further on we shall see that (when, in time, they do so), are comprehensive.
one of the characteristic features of the father-son passages in Exodus is According to a straightforward reading of Scripture, the Torah refers
actually that they each deal with only one commandment, and therefore to three sons, and then a fourth. Thus we obtain a model of a natural
deviating from the straightforward sense of the text also spoils the and fitting way of viewing historical events. At first a person needs signs
pattern when it comes to this feature. in order to preserve the memory itself. From a greater distance in time,
Better is Sa‟adiah Gaon‟s suggestion, interpreting the phrase by one is able and even supposed to take in all aspects of the
inverting it: “This is for what the Lord did for me,” i.e., eating matzah is in consequences of the event and draw the relevant conclusions.
commemoration of what the Lord did in the exodus from Egypt. The  This model can also be found in Joshua 4, but further elaboration is not appropriate to the present context.
 In Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Horowitz-Rabin ed., Bo 18; Jerusalem Talmud, Pesahim 10.4.  On
father explains to his son that he performs “this,” the commandment of biblical type-scenes, see R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, New York, 1981, pp. 47-62.  The model of
three plus a fourth is common in Scripture and has been extensively treated by Y. Zakovitch, Al Shelosha … ve-
eating matzah, because the Lord took us out of Egypt. This al Arba‟ah ba-Mikra, Jerusalem 1989. Zakovitch (p. 492, especially note 66) did not relate to four sons in
interpretation has the shortcoming of necessitating a change in word Scripture, only in the homilies of the Sages, since he viewed the biblical second son (Ex. 13:5-6; this is the son
who, in the Sages‟ homilies, does not know to ask) as an exception that breaks the structure. In my opinion the
order, but it has the advantage of being well-suited to the subject matter structure of four sons stands, although there is still some explaining that needs to be done regarding the second
at hand, namely eating matzah, and it fits in with the literary genre of the one.  Thus also in R. D. Z. Hoffman, Re‟ayot Makhriyot neged Wellhausen, Jerusalem 1928, p. 6. The
Sages (Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 96a) made a distinction between the Passover of the exodus from Egypt
other passages from Exodus. and observance of the Passover festival for all time, applying the notion of “an institution for all time” (hukkat
olam) only to the Passover sacrifice and not to painting the blood on the doorposts. They arrived at this
To sum up, it appears that the passage deals with the prohibition interpretation because of the verses in Deuteronomy 16:1-8, which do not mention anointing the doorposts with
against eating leavened bread and the commandment to eat only blood. On the tension between the plain sense of the text and the rabbinic interpretation, see Ibn Ezra‟s short
commentary on Exodus 12:24.  Perhaps the unusual use of the word ba‟avur (“for the sake of” – a phrase
unleavened bread. The father tells his son about eating matzah and that does not occur in the questions of the other sons) is aimed at deliberately creating ambiguity. Avur in
explains that this commandment is related to the fact that the Lord took Akkadian means “grain.” This meaning can be seen in Josh. 5:11-12, thus Scripture here may be hinting at the
practice of eating matzah. A similar use of the word avur may be found in Jeremiah 14:4, in his prophecy about
the Israelites out of Egypt with “a mighty hand” (v. 9), that is to say, the the drought, which instead of the New JPS rendition, might be rendered as follows: “The grain of the land
diminished (instead of: Because of the ground there is dismay), for there has been no rain on the earth. The
Lord brought severe plagues on the Egyptians until finally Pharaoh plowmen are shamed, they cover their heads.” See Y. Hoffman, Jeremiah I (Mikra le-Yisrael), Tel Aviv 1988, p.
expelled the Israelites from Egypt. Due to the haste with which they had 348.  This notion begins with the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:2, Deut. 5:6), and recurs numerous times
throughout the book of Deuteronomy (for example, 5:15, 15:15, 26:1-11).
to leave, their dough did not have time to rise and they therefore had to
eat unleavened bread (12:31-34).
The third son and the question of redeeming the first-born (Ex. 9- AISH HATORA
13:11-16) (C) 1999 Aish HaTorah International - All rights reserved. http://www.aish.com/
Here, too, the subject matter is clear – redeeming first-born sons (11- A) MI-ORAY-HA-AISH (Rabbi Ari Kahn)
13). Performing this commandment might raise a question: “And when, text
in time to come, your son asks you, saying, „What does this mean?‟” (v. B) MAYANOT (by Rabbi Noson Weisz)
14). The answer focuses on a specific aspect – the Lord‟s mighty hand, WORKING FOR A LIVING
that finds expression in the hard blow He dealt to all the first-borns in "And I implored God at that time, saying: My Lord, God, You have
Egypt: “You shall say to him, „It was with a mighty hand that the Lord begun to show Your servant your greatness and Your strong hand,
brought us out from Egypt, ... When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us for what power is there in the heavens or on the earth that can
go, the Lord slew every first-born in the land of Egypt, the first-born of perform according to Your deeds and according to Your mighty acts?
both man and beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord every first male Let me now cross and see the good land that is on the other side of
issue of the womb, but redeem every first-born among my sons” (14-16). the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon." (Deut. 2:23-25)
The fourth son and the question of the obligation to perform the Rashi tells us that the Hebrew word v'etchanan, "and I implored,"
commandments (Deut. 6:20-25) taken from the root techina, is one of the ten terms meaning "prayer" in
The fourth son (Deut. Ch. 6) asks a broad question concerning the the Hebrew language. This particular word is employed to describe
obligation to perform the commandments in general: “When, in time to prayers that are offered to solicit undeserved favors. According to Rashi,
come, your children ask you, „What mean the decrees, laws, and rules Moses deliberately selected this mode of prayer as a matter of principle.
that the Lord our G-d has enjoined upon you?‟” (Deut. 6:20). The 'Even though the righteous are in a position to ask God to grant their
question pertains to all sorts of commandments that the Lord enjoined requests in return for their good deeds, that is not their way; thus Moses
upon the Children of Israel – decrees, laws, and rules. Accordingly, the deliberately beseeched God to allow him into Israel as an undeserved
answer is broad as well and describes the entire picture of the descent to favor instead of asking for it as a reward for his good deeds'.
Egypt and the exodus. It begins by describing the period of bondage: As Rashi stresses that he refrained from demanding entry as a
“You shall say to your children, „We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt” (v. deserved reward only on principle, it would appear that Moses was in a
21), and continues with an account of the plagues that preceded the position to couch his request in terms of a demand had he so desired.
exodus from Egypt: “The Lord wrought before our eyes marvelous and Apparently, the combined weight of his good deeds was more than
destructive signs and portents in Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his sufficient to have his request honored as a matter of right. And yet, even
household” (v. 22), and a description of the exodus itself: “and us He after God turned down his prayer Moses still refrained from insisting on
freed from there” (v. 23). The response does not end here, rather it his rights. Why?
continues and explains the object of the exodus from Egypt, which was Isn't the whole point of living in this world to earn spiritual rewards
entering the land: “that He might take us and give us the land that He through our Divine service? After all, as the Talmud says, why did Moses
had promised on oath to our fathers” (v. 23), as well as upholding the wish to enter Israel in the first place? Was it to eat from its fruit or to have
commandments: “Then the Lord commanded us to observe all his fill of its bounty? [Of course not!] This is what Moses
said, "Israel was commanded to do many Mitzvot that can only be again; without proper focus on the meaning of the first verse, he has not
fulfilled on the soil of the land of Israel. Let me enter the land so that I fulfilled his obligation of recital)....
have the chance to fulfill them all personally." (Talmud, Sotah 14a) Rabbi Yirmiyah was sitting before Rabbi Chiya bar Abba; he
What is the point of all our efforts if in the end we do not obtain the observed that he took a really long time over the reciting of the word
spiritual rewards that we have earned by the sweat of our brow? Why echad, meaning the One and Only. He told him, "As long as you had
didn't Moses cash in a part of his earnings in this world, as he was surely in mind to establish God as the King over the four corners of the
willing to do? Does it have something to do with the essential nature of universe as well as up above and down below, that is sufficient."
prayer? Explains Rashi: as long as you focus long enough to hold the thought
In fact, let us broaden the question a bit to embrace all prayer. Why in your heart that God is One in the Heavens and on the earth and in any
do we pray to God at all? of the four directions. (Talmud, Brachot 13b)
WHY DO WE PRAY It is quite true that we are real and we are here, but we are looking at
If we believe as we do, that all people get what they deserve through reality from our end. If we look from the opposite end and see it the way
a process of Divine Providence, which also places everyone in precisely God sees it, we are not real and not here. He needs to bring us into
the correct life-situation to be able to accomplish the tasks he or she was being constantly without cease. It is little wonder that it turns out that
sent to this world to accomplish, what is the need for prayer? Moreover, physical reality is governed by the principle of Relativity. What we have
how can prayer accomplish anything? If we deserve to have what we described may seem bizarre at first glance but it differs very little in
pray for, or if we need it to carry out our life-task, then presumably we will essence from Einstein's theory of Relativity, which is universally
receive it without having to pray for it, and if we do not deserve it, or if we accepted as the bedrock of all physical science.
do not need to have it, how can our prayers possibly get it for us? THE CONNECTION TO PRAYER
Let us begin at the beginning. One of the best-known Torah At this point we are ready to refocus on understanding prayer. Our
commandments originates in this week's Torah portion. Every one of us prayer book was arranged so that we recite the Shema as a prelude to
has a Mitzvah to accept the 'yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven' upon the Amidah, which is our main prayer. As long as we perceive ourselves
ourselves daily. We fulfill this mitzvah by reciting the Shema twice a day; as living in a dual universe, in which God and we co-exist, the rationale
the essence of the fulfillment is in the recital of the passage that begins of prayer is cloudy at best. God created the universe and us human
with" "Hear, O Israel; the Lord is our God, the Lord is the One and Only" beings in it according to certain rules and regulations, and it is not easy
(Deut. 6:4), and this very first verse is the essence of the essence. for anyone including God to alter these rules. From our side at least, the
Jewish tradition teaches that the six words of this single verse laws of nature appear to be fixed; they cannot be tinkered with or the
encapsulate the concept of the "yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven" entire structure of reality as we understand it would crumble.
perfectly. In fact it is the second sentence that a father is told to teach his Yet, when we pray that is exactly what we are requesting of God;
child as soon as he learns to speak. (Talmud, Succah 42a) 'please God, tinker with the laws of the universe for our benefit'. Before
This verse is clearly a declaration of the acceptance of God's we submit any requests to God, we first recite the Shema and accept
essential unity. How/where is the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven upon ourselves the yoke of the Kingdom of heaven, the essential unity of
encapsulated within a statement concerning God's essential unity? God. We remind ourselves that God is One and not two, because from
It seems that Rashi was troubled by this question, and he seems to His standpoint, which is the standpoint from which He responds to our
be focused on answering it in his translation of the verse: "The Lord who prayers, only He exists, and we and the universe do not. In fact, the
is our God [Israel] only at this era in history, and not the God of the universe and we along with it are constantly in the process of becoming,
nations, is destined to be the only God, accepted by all of humanity at and the manner in which we become is very much influenced by our
the end of days." In other words, according to Rashi, when we state that prayers. The true power of prayer is contained in the following thought.
God is One, we mean to say that despite the multiplicity of divinities in God takes our prayers and employs them to shape the universe.
the world at the present time, there is only one God rather than two or From the standpoint of prayer nothing in the world is fixed. The unity
three gods, and this truth will eventually be accepted by all. But even of God implies that He constantly recreates existence and that He can
according to this interpretation the conceptual link between the two therefore do so in the way He sees fit. In a universe that is only now
ideas, the idea of God's essential unity, and the exclusivity of His taking shape, all things are possible. It can be brought into existence in a
monarchy is far from clear. way that it will now contain exactly what we pray for. Moreover, this will
Let us begin by analyzing the deeper implications of the concept that not interfere with the chain of continuity between what was and what is,
God is One. because the connection between the past and the present is only a
GOD IS ONE matter of human perception and is relative to the way that we
The commentators explain (see Nefesh Hachaim, Gate 3) that the comprehend reality on our end.
statement amounts to a declaration that there is no other existence WHEN REALITY BECOMES INFLEXIBLE
besides God. To us it appears that we ourselves, and the universe we That is why it is wonderful to be alive. This flexibility of reality is there
occupy, also exist side by side with God. God may have created us and only as long as we are alive. When we pass out of this phase of our
our universe, but after the initial act of creation the things and creatures existence things do become fixed. At this point, the process of becoming
that God created also exist as part of reality. If we unravel the ends, and the process of being begins.
implications of this observation we will see that there is actually a duality All spiritual being is fundamentally based on some form of
of Divinity following creation. There is God, and there is the universe and attachment to God's own being. In the post-death phase of our lives our
everything in it, especially ourselves, and these are also God in a way. continued existence no longer presents any apparent contradiction to
This implication arises from the fact that everything God created was God's unity. We are no longer separate bits of Divine energy wandering
formed out of Divine energy. The created universe is actually nothing around loose, having slipped free of God's control. We have returned to
more than packaged Divine Energy. God is therefore no longer One, but the Source and finally become a portion of His own unity.
has become two. There is still God Himself, and there is also His Divine We have arrived at the correlation between Unity and Monarchy. The
energy in the universe and this is no longer God, for it has separated belief that God can do whatever He wants within His creation and
from His essence through His will and formed a separate reality, the therefore prayer can change the world and affect reality requires the prior
universe and ourselves. [There are obviously some very deep acceptance of the idea of God's unity. Through the acceptance of the
philosophical issues behind the information in this short paragraph; this is concept of unity, creation becomes a cooperative enterprise between
not the forum to explore them.] ourselves and God, an enterprise in which our input is appreciated and
Moreover, this apparent duality has even deeper implications. Not desired.
only does it appear that post-creation God is two, but adding insult to THE ADDITION
injury, it even seems as though God has lost control of the Divine energy A fascinating illustration of this concept is provided by the addition to
that He invested in creation. This creative energy He invested in the the Shema that we recite in an undertone; "Blessed is the name of His
universe has slipped away from God by His own consent. According to glorious kingdom for all eternity." It is quite unusual to insert an
His own Torah, He gave human beings free will and thus placed the extraneous sentence into a passage of the written Torah quoted
created universe under our control; in effect, he invested us with the verbatim; it is also quite striking that we recite this insert in an undertone
power to control the world as we see fit up to and including its except on Yom Kippur when we shout it at the top of our lungs.
destruction. Why do we say it? As Reish Lakish explained: It is written, Jacob
No doubt God has the power to reclaim the reins if He should so called his sons and told them, "Gather together and I shall reveal to
desire, but the way things are at present He does not control the you..." (Genesis 49:1). Jacob wanted to reveal the End of Days to his
Universe; we human beings do. God's Dominion is presently limited to children, but the Divine Presence left him before he could do so. He said,
Himself. His control over the created universe is dependent on our "Perhaps, God forbid, there is a rotten apple in my bed as was the case
voluntary acceptance of His will. with my grandfather Abraham who had Ishmael, and my father Isaac who
When we recite the Shema we reject this point of view. We state our bore Esau!" His children reassured him. They said, "Hear O, Israel, the
conviction that even following creation things have not altered. There is Lord is our God, the Lord the One and Only! Just as there is only One in
no duality. There is only God and nothing else besides. But how can your heart, there is only One in our hearts!" On the spot, Jacob started to
such a statement be true? Aren't we here as well? say, "Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity!"
THE WAY IT LOOKS FROM GOD'S CHAIR The rabbis deliberated, "What should we do? Shall we say it? Moses
The answer is relativity. The apparent duality is a result of the point our teacher did not say it. Shall we not say it? Jacob did say it." They
of view of the observer, in this case ourselves. If we were able to look at decided that it should be said, but quietly...
the universe through God's glasses, as it were, we would find that the A metaphor that encapsulates the reasoning: Imagine a princess
view was totally unchanged by creation. Just as there was nothing out who grew fond of eating the residue at the bottom of the pot. If you say
there before creation other than God, there is nothing there now. This [bring it to her] she will be embarrassed. If you say [don't bring it to her],
may be incomprehensible to us, but that is the declaration we make she will suffer. Her closest attendants started sneaking it to her quietly.
when we state that God is One. (Talmud, Pesachim, 56a)
We learned: "Hear O Israel the Lord is our God, the Lord is the One Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin unravels the concept for us in the Nefesh
and Only." A person reciting the Shema must clearly know what he is Hachaim (Gate 3, Ch.6z] God's Kingdom can only be appreciated in a
saying and focus his mind on the idea behind the words until he finishes created universe that exists in actuality. As long as He is One, and there
this verse (i.e. if he fails to do so, he must repeat the whole Shema once is no other existence besides, he cannot be described as having a
kingdom. But on the other hand, the existence of the
universe as a separate reality, although it allows Him to have a kingdom, This week's parsha as part of Deuteronomy, which is the Mishneh Torah
implies a duality that detracts from His absolute unity. (the Repetition of the Torah), has the Ten Commandments repeated as
Our recognition that this duality is only there for the purpose of well as having the first paragraph of the Shema.
allowing the expression of His monarchy restores the integrity of the Let us examine an apparently simple Rashi and its deeper meaning.
absoluteness of His unity. Our declaration amounts to a statement of our DEUTERONOMY 4:5-6
belief that the universe can never slip out of God's control. Its entire "See that I have taught you laws and judgments as Hashem, my
raison d'etre is to serve as an expression of God's monarchy. If it ever God, has commanded me, [for you] to do so in the midst of the
wandered away from doing His will as though it existed independently for Land into which you are coming there to possess it. And you
its own sake, it would instantly cease to be altogether. That is the shall guard and do them for it is your wisdom and
meaning of the inserted phrase "Blessed is the Name of His glorious understanding in the eyes of the nations who will hear about all
kingdom for all eternity." these laws and they will say 'But this is surely a wise and
The reason for the metaphor of the dregs of the pot becomes understanding people, this great nation.' "
obvious. The existence of God's Monarchy turns out to depend on lowly RASHI
creatures such as ourselves who often do not even invest a great deal of For it is your wisdom and your understanding, etc. - RASHI: With
their attention in its recognition. How embarrassing, but how necessary! this you will be considered wise and understanding in the eyes of the
THE REST OF THE SHEMA nations.
Now that we have begun explaining the Shema, it would be a pity to As you look at this comment what would you ask?
leave the topic before completing the thought. The remainder of the first QUESTIONING RASHI
paragraph is a set of instructions concerning how to demonstrate the A Question: What has Rashi added to what the verse says? He
principle of God's unity in our everyday lives. seems to say exactly the same thing as the verse itself.
"You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your Can you see his point?
soul, and with all your resources." Hint: What type of Rashi-comment is this?
"With all your heart" : Every inclination you have, whether You may remember that I have pointed out on other occasions that
good or bad, has to be dedicated to God's service. there are two basic types of Rashi-comments. Type I deals with
"With all your soul" : In certain situations you have to sacrifice difficulties in the text (and we ask "What's Bothering Rashi?"), but Type II
your life itself to sanctify God's Name. is less known though not infrequent, and deals with correcting a possible
"With all your resources" : You have to surrender all your misunderstanding (here we ask: "What misunderstanding is Rashi
earthly goods rather than transgress against a negative Torah helping us avoid?"). This latter type has a distinctive style. Rashi's
commandment. comment is always a short one and he inserts but a few words in
"And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your between the Torah's words.
heart" : You should always be thinking about what God expects of See the comment above: Which of the two types is it?
you in any situation you find yourself in by consulting His Torah. RASHI TYPE
"You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall An Answer: See the words "in the eyes of the nations" in Rashi's
speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, comment? They are a quote from the Torah's words. Rashi has inserted
when you retire and when you arise" : Your conversation is his own few words between the Torah's words. It is a Type II comment.
always centered on the words of the Torah, and these are the words that So we ask, "What possible misunderstanding is Rashi helping us avoid?
are the basis of the communication between you and your children. Can you see?
Whoever spends time with you should be able to appreciate that God's Hint: What does the word "it" refer to in the phrase "For it is your
commandments are the very focus of your existence. wisdom etc."?
"Bind them as a sign on your arm and let them be ornaments WHAT MISUNDERSTANDING?
between your eyes. And write them on the doorposts of your house and An Answer: An ordinary reading of our verse would lead us to think
upon your gates" : Whoever looks at a Jew on the street or that "it" refers to the Torah. The Torah is our wisdom and our
whoever passes his house should be able to conclude instantly: here understanding in the eyes of the nations.
walks a servant of God, this is the home of a servant of God. This is an incorrect interpretation, Rashi implies. He wants us to
SERVANT OF GOD avoid this interpretation; he offers us a different one. What is it?
In all his interactions with the world, the Jew lives by the Shema; his Hint: Look at the first half of this verse. What is Rashi's
very existence proudly proclaims that he is God's servant and God is his understanding of the word "it"?
true monarch. Everything that he possesses, everything that he is, UNDERSTANDING RASHI
proclaims God's kingdom. He is a living testament of God's unity. Indeed An Answer: Rashi says "it" refers to the words in the first half of the
the last letter of the first word of the Shema is written extra-large - Ayin - verse, "And you shall guard and do them." The wisdom, Rashi tells us, is
and the last letter of the last word is written extra-large as well - Daled. doing the mitzvot, not just knowing or learning them. We will be
These two letters spell the Hebrew word ed, meaning "witness." A Jew's considered wise by the nations when we do the mitzvot not just by the
very being is a living testament to God's unity. fact that we have the Torah. Having the Torah only means we possess it,
Moses was on such a high level of spirituality that there was no clear but we are not yet wise until it is part of us, until we fulfill its words. That
break between his soul and God's Presence. About Moses it is written, is the wisdom – doing, not knowing!
"the Shechina [Divine presence] spoke from his throat" (see Rashi, What evidence can you find that this is Rashi's intent here?
Numbers 12:2). He literally experienced God's unity through connecting Hint: See the Rashi-comment on verse 4:9.
the core of his being to God. To him there was no other existence that VALIDATING THIS INTERPRETATION
had to be nullified. He did not need to comment on God's kingdom. He An Answer: Rashi on verse 4:9 on the words "But guard yourself etc.
lived within God's unity. lest you forget the things" - RASHI: Then when you do not forget them
Jacob was not on such a lofty level. He lived in the world. But he and you do them in the correct way, you will be considered wise and
dedicated his entire existence and that of his family to the mission of understanding [people], but if you distort them due to forgetfulness, then
teaching the world about God's unity by establishing his exclusive you will be considered fools!
monarchy over all existence. It is he who first to declared "Blessed be the We see clearly that Rashi says if we do the mitzvot, then (and only
glory of the Name of His kingdom forever." then) will we be considered wise and understanding people.
Moses did not request entry into Israel as a reward for his good We find evidence for Rashi's interpretation that doing God's will is
deeds. If such entry would serve the advancement of the cause of wisdom from the inspiring and enlightening words of the Prophet
establishing God's unity, God Himself would have suggested it. If God Jeremiah.
refused him entry, he understood that the world as it was presently EVIDENCE FOR RASHI'S VIEW
shaped could not accommodate his presence in Israel in a positive way. In Jeremiah 9:22: "Thus said Hashem, 'Let not the wise man glory in
Moses beseeched God to reshape the world, to bring it into being in a his wisdom; let not the strong man glory in his strength; let not the rich
fashion that could promote God's purpose even if he fulfilled the Mitzvot man glory in his wealth. For with this shall one who would glory, be proud
that could only be preformed in the Holy Land. He had no wish to serve – Being wise and knowing Me, for I am Hashem who does kindness and
God unless his service advanced the cause of the spread of the kingdom judgment and righteousness in the Land for in these I delight,' says
of heaven. Hashem."
The Jewish people read Ve'etchanan on the Sabbath following the Wisdom is in imitating Hashem, He who does kindness etc. Note
9th of Av. The Haftorah, from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 40, begins: Rashi on our verse uses the same word this verse uses, "For with this"
"Be comforted, be comforted my people," says your God." when he writes, "With this you will be considered wise ..."
For this reason it is called the "Comfort Sabbath." THE LESSON
We can find comfort in the destruction of our Temple in the Mitzvah Rashi's subtle comment teaches an important, perhaps the most
of reciting the Shema that was given to us in Parshat Ve'etchanan. The important, message of the Torah. Knowing God's will is knowledge -
establishment of the kingdom of heaven is our task as a people. The lack Doing God's will is wisdom. And in this He delights.
of a Temple renders this job that much more difficult. We no longer have D) FAMILY PARASHA
physical proof of our 'chosen-ness, and we have lost the embodiment of When things get tough, there is always one place we can turn for
God's unity and the chief symbol of His Monarchy. whatever help and support we need - that place is God. In this week's
But we have not lost the Shema. We have not lost our ability to Torah portion (4:29-31), God assures us that even in difficult times He is
beseech God to reshape the world. We can still pray and our prayers are always with us and wants us to make our relationship with Him real. By
that much more necessary and meaningful. If we live the Shema we can turning to God, we come to feel close to Him, which is the most
accomplish all we need to accomplish without a Temple through the pleasurable and empowering feeling there is.
living testimony of our lives. STORY
"Get yourself upon a high mountain, O herald unto Zion. Raise your In our story, a kid going through tough times finds help from where
voice in power, O herald unto Jerusalem. Raise it, fear not, say to the he least expects it.
cities of Judah: Behold your God! Behold! My Lord God shall come with "OUT OF THE WOODS"
strength, and His arm will rule for Him. Behold, His recompense is with Steve tossed and turned in his bunk. He'd laughed when his sister,
Him, and His wage is before Him." (Isaiah, 40:9-10) Liz, had teased him that he'd miss them all once he got to sleepover
C) WHAT'S BOTHERING RASHI (Avigdor Bonchek) camp. He was sure he'd have nothing but good times away
from home and surrounded by activities, sports and fun. But now almost wants us to realize this and develop this amazing relationship to its full
a week had gone by and there hadn't been one night he hadn't practically potential.
cried himself to sleep with homesickness. Q. If God is already with us and cares about us all the time, why should a
Suddenly in the midst of his tossing, he heard a kind of humming person pray?
sound. At first he thought it was one of these monster-sized mosquitoes A. Even though God is always connecting to us and ready to help, we
that seemed to be everywhere, but then he realized it was the whispering are not always open to Him. Prayer and even just speaking to Him, helps
of Dave, the kid in the next bunk. us to stay God-focused and opens us up to receive all the incredible
'Well, at least,' thought Steve, 'I'm not the only one still awake.' He goodness He is waiting to give us.
looked again and noticed how strange it was that although Dave was Spiritual exercise: Right now and once each day, take thirty seconds to
whispering, no one else was there next to him. talk to God about how you're feeling.
"Hey, Dave, who are you talking to?" asked Steve quietly.
At first the boy looked surprised, but then he smiled. "I didn't realize
anyone was still up," he said. "I was just feeling a little homesick so I 11 – ERETZ CHEMDA
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Steve was confused. "But who are you talking to? Do you have one community service, ensures its graduates emerge with the finest training, the noblest motivations and the strongest
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of those new micro hands-free cell phones? I didn't see any wires." THE SEVEN PROPHECIES OF CONSOLATION
Dave sat up on his bed. "No," he gently laughed "I meant I was Harav Yosef Carmel
talking to God." It is the practice in the many Jewish communities of the world that
"To God? Oh, you were praying?"
"Yeah, sort of. Whenever I'm having a hard time, I just talk it out with this week we begin a series of reading seven prophecies of consolation
(shiva d‟nechemta) of the prophet, Yeshayahu, most of which are
God. I tell Him about how I feel and ask Him to help me out." concentrated in chapters 40-66. In another place, we have demonstrated
Steve shook his head doubtingly. "Do you think God is really there
and is really listening to you?" that Sefer Yeshayahu is consistently organized on a chronological basis.
It starts with the period of Uziyah (see explicit reference in ch. 6),
"I don't just 'think', I know." said Dave confidently. "Ever since I was a continues with the period of Achaz, is followed by that of Chizkiya (see
little kid, whenever I feel sad or scared or lonely, I talk to God about it
and He always helps me somehow and makes me feel better. Hey," he ch. 36-39), and ends at the time of Menashe. Menashe is not mentioned
explicitly in the book, not in the introduction and not in the beginning of
added, "I notice you're still awake too?" the section of prophecies which we believe were said in his time.
"Yeah, I have to admit I'm also pretty homesick."
"So, why don't you try talking to God about it?" Steve shook his head. However, there are strong indications that the section which is the source
for the shiva d‟nechemta was said at the end of Yeshayahu‟s life, during
"I don't think so. I'm not really the praying type, you know what I the horrible period of Menashe. We will need to explain why these
"It's up to you," smiled Dave, "But remember what I said. God is optimistic prophecies were said specifically at that time.
Our Rabbis have passed on a tradition (see Rashi on Hoshea 1:1)
always right there and ready to help." that only righteous kings are mentioned in the headings of the books of
With that the two boys said goodnight, turned on their pillows and
went to sleep. the prophets. A wicked king will be mentioned only if both his father and
his son were righteous and he is swallowed up in a progression of those
Well at least Dave went to sleep, that is. Steve heard him snoring who are fit to be mentioned. (The classic example is Achaz.) For that
after a few minutes. But no matter how hard he tried, Steve just couldn't
sleep. His mind kept going back to how lonely he felt. reason, Menashe was not mentioned in Yeshayahu. Chazal were sure
that Yeshayahu did operate in Menashe‟s time, for they relate that
After what seemed like forever, Steve couldn't take it anymore. He Menashe actually killed Yeshayahu, his maternal grandfather (Yevamot
jumped out of bed and decided to take a little walk outside. He had
intended to stay right near the cabin but as he breathed the fresh outdoor 49b). Menashe was considered the worst of all of the kings that ruled
over Judea. His sins included the classic anti-religious travesty of
air he got carried away and walked and walked until before he knew it he promulgating idol worship but also included the human abomination of
was lost and couldn't even see the bunk anymore.
Steve began to panic as realized he was out in the woods all alone in multiple murder (see Melachim II, 21: 2-9, 16). He is also the one
identified as most responsible for the pending destruction of the First
the middle of the night and absolutely lost! Temple, which was decreed in his time, although it was carried out
WHOO, HOO, HOO. Steve shuddered at the scary sounds that
surrounded him. He had heard there were even bears in these woods. during the reign of his descendant, Tzidkiyahu (see Yirmiyahu 15: 1-3).
So why were there so many optimistic prophecies at the time of so
Why had he ever done such a dumb thing? What could he do? much sinning? A prophet is not a newspaper columnist to report what is
'...remember what I said. God is always right there and ready to
help...' Suddenly Dave's words popped into his head. It would feel funny transpiring in his time. Rather, it is his job to bring the word of Hashem to
the people. At the relatively strong time of Uziyah there was a need to
to talk to God. He hadn't really prayed since he was little. But it was warn the people about the difficult future of the Assyrian conquest. In
worth a try. Steve took a deep breath.
"God, if you can hear me, I really need you now." As he spoke, it contrast, when Bnei Yisrael had reached a low at the time of Menashe,
there was a fear that they would feel so overwhelmed by what was
occurred to him that talking to God didn't feel as funny as he thought it required of them to reach the proper level. They might give up hope and
would. In fact it felt like he was really talking to someone close by who
cared. He went on, "God, I feel so lonely and lost. Please help me and decide that Hashem had given up on them once and for all. The prophet
came and pronounced clearly, “Be consoled, be consoled, My nation,
show me which way to go..." says your Lord.”
Suddenly Steve heard voices. At first he was scared, but as they
drew closer, he recognized them as two of the camp counselors heading Let us pray that we too will merit seeing the continuation of the
fulfillment of the prophecies of consolation.
to the bunks for night patrol.
"Hey, it's way past curfew," one of them said when they saw him. ASK THE RABBI
"You've got to go to your bunk and go to sleep. Come with us right now." Question: I rent out an apartment, primarily for tourists for short stays.
Steve more than happily complied. Often when I straighten up after they have left, I find articles of varying
'Wow, God really heard me!' Steve thought. "Thank you," he values left behind. I have spent numerous hours tracking down people
whispered softly, as he followed the counselors right where he needed to and figuring out how to return items, many of which I know they do not
go. care about. Do I have to continue expending funds (including mailing,
Steve lay down on his bed and thought about what happened and writing checks instead of sending cash) and an excessive amount of
how God was really with him in the woods. 'That means,' he realized, time?
'God is also with me here in the bunk and everywhere else.' As he drifted Answer: First we commend you for doing the mitzva of hashavat aveida
off to sleep, Steve felt happier than he could remember feeling in a long (returning lost objects) so diligently. It is possible that some of the
time. It looked like it wasn't going to be a lonely summer after all. returning was unnecessary (for reasons beyond our scope), but one of
QUESTIONS the major applications of acting beyond the letter-of-the-law is in this area
Ages 3-5 (see Bava Metzia 30b). The letter of the law is open-ended, applying
Q. How did Steve feel at first? even to an object worth a perutah (a few cents) and not clearly limiting
A. He was lonely and homesick. the amount of toil one needs to expend (see Pitchei Choshen, Aveida
Q. How did he feel in the end? 8:1). You may demand compensation for related expenses and lost
A. He felt much better after he realized God was with him everywhere revenues (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 265:1), but we doubt you
Ages 6-9 feel comfortable doing so. However, the essence of the mitzva is to help
Q. What life lesson do you think Steve learned that night? others, and at times the amount of effort is disproportionate to the
A. He hadn't realized that God was right with him and could be a real and recipient‟s benefit, to the extent that he would not have wanted you to
meaningful part of his life until his talk with Dave and the frightening bother. It seems that in such cases, the spirit-of-the-law is that you
experience in the woods showed him the truth. should not have to bother. The only reason we bring up the spirit-of-the-
Q. Do you think God only wants us to talk to Him when we're in trouble? law is that in cases it does not apply one need not feel bad about
A. God loves us more than we can imagine and wants us to come closer devising a valid halachic device to exempt himself from the mitzva, as we
to Him by sharing and talking with Him about all parts of our lives, both will discuss.
the happy and the challenging. Often shuls are inundated with unclaimed objects left behind, many
Spiritual exercise: Right now and once each day, take thirty seconds to of which will never be returned to their owners. Many deal with the
talk to God about how you're feeling problem by posting a sign stating that items that remain unclaimed for x
days will be deemed hefker (ownerless). In fact, several prominent
Ages 10 and Up poskim have given this advice (Igrot Moshe, Choshen Mishpat II, 45;
Q. Our sages describe God as a 'personal God.' What do you think this Minchat Yitzchak VIII, 146; Shevet Halevi IX, 308). In your case, where it
means? is relatively easy to track down some owners, it seems wrong to make
A. God is much more than a force that created everything and left it to the matter a function of time alone. Rather, we suggest writing in a lease
run on its own. God is also much more than a universal spiritual life or stating clearly before the renter‟s occupy the apartment the following:
force. God is actively involved with every detail of each of our lives. He “Anything that is worth less than $20 and is apparently not of sentimental
loves us and has an intimate personal interest in each of us and value will be held for two weeks. The renter exempts the landlord from
making efforts to report finding such items, and the renter hereby organization‟s intention to terminate the rental in three month‟s time. A
relinquishes ownership to them as of two weeks after the end of the month later, they sent a letter in which they withdrew their intention to
rental.” For more valuable items, you should continue “going the extra end the rental, which was signed by the same director. The landlord
mile.” refuses to accept the second letter. His condition for their continued
Let us briefly explain the mechanism of this provision, something that occupation of the apartment beyond the date stated in the first letter is
the aforementioned poskim did not spell out. The gemara (Bava Kamma the doubling of their rent. The organization says that the director was not
69a) discusses one who did not want the poor to be guilty of thievery if authorized to inform about the ending of the rental, as the full secretariat
they took more produce than the laws of matnot ani‟im allowed. He, must do so. In any case, they say that they withdrew the letter in time.
therefore, wanted to declare in the morning that whatever extra they Ruling: Even if the member of the organization‟s directorate is not
would take was hefker retroactively to the moment of the declaration. officially authorized to make decisions of the nature involved here, his
The complication is that it is not clear which pieces of produce would be actions are binding in this case because he was apparently acting upon
the extra ones slated for hefker. Therefore, bereirah (retroactive the will of the organization as a whole.
determination) is needed for the hefker to take effect, and this depends The Rivash (510) discusses a renter who informed the landlord in
on the machloket among Tannaim whether bereirah works (ibid.). We front of two witnesses that he is nullifying the rental agreement, only to
rule that bereirah does not work in regard to Torah laws (Beitza 38a). retract that statement later. The Rivash rules that the renter can withdraw
How then can one be mafkir an undetermined object that will be lost to his decision “because the land was acquired for the time of the rental
exempt from the Torah law of hashavat aveida? The answer is that with a full kinyan (act of acquisition) … it is his for that time, and he
bereirah applies only when the matter must take effect retroactively. If cannot remove himself from it with words alone even in front of witnesses
the hefker can take effect on delay at the time the matter is determined, it without a full kinyan, as rental is a temporary sale.” The Machane
works (Tosafot Bava Kamma 69a; see Shut Harashba II, 82). Ephrayim (Sechirut 9) argues on the Rivash and says that since the
We also included an exemption from hashavat aveida prior to the house itself remains owned by the landlord, when the renter removes
hefker so that you should not be required to make efforts on insignificant himself from it, the landlord recovers all rights automatically without a
matters during the two weeks. This works based on the rule that the kinyan. Kovetz He‟arot (Yevamot 53:5) explains that the dispute between
intended recipient of mitzvot between man and man can exempt another the two authorities is whether a renter acquires a level of ownership in
from performing the mitzva on his behalf (see Tosafot, Shavuot 30b; the property or only acquires rights to use it.
Shut Harashba I, 18). However, it appears that there will be no dispute regarding our case
MORESHET SHAUL because the rental contract limits the rental period to two years or any
“WHEN YOU GO OUT … YOU SHALL SERVE HASHEM” previous time with warning. Just as there is no need for a kinyan after the
(Notes for a Speech in 1948) stated end of the rental period, so too it is not needed when the rental
(from Harabbanut V‟hamedinah, pp. 308-9) period can be moved up with notification.
The test that the nation is facing now is not just how it will stand up to Despite the fact that the rental could be ceased without a kinyan, in
invading armies, but also and mainly how it will fare in the internal, this case, the organization can withdraw their notification and continue
spiritual battle. Will the political renewal and independence include renting at the original price. This is because the notification did not effect
spiritual reawakening and freedom from dependence on foreign factors? any legal change when it was given. Only if and after three months would
In this area, the struggle is harder. Whereas the external enemy is clearly pass would the rental period cease and the notification was withdrawn
discernable and one naturally protects himself from the palpable danger, prior to that point.
the inner enemy is disguised in the cloak of national dedication, securing
key positions. He is in the forefront of the fight for physical independence
even as he destroys the real foundations and key to our survival, the
13 COVENANT AND CONVERSATION
Covenant and Conversation, a unique new Torah commentary from the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks
spiritual ones. Bereishit ends off with the secret code of pakod pakadti, The Meanings of Shema
the sign of the true liberator. Not anyone who claims to be a liberator is “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is one.” These words are
one. the supreme testimony of Jewish faith. Each word is worthy of careful
False saviors with flashy slogans are often more dangerous than the study, but it is the first – the verb Shema – that deserves special
servitude itself. They know how to disguise themselves, speak smoothly, attention.
inspire, and enlist the masses. It requires bravery and wisdom to avoid There was a profound difference between the two civilizations of
being swept up by the excitement and discern between a true and a false antiquity that between them shaped the culture of the West: ancient
liberator. Bnei Yisrael were not told how to discern between a true and Greece and ancient Israel. The Greeks were the supreme masters of the
false liberation but liberator. Hashem told Moshe: “This is for you the visual arts: art, sculpture, architecture and the theatre.
sign: when you take the nation out of Egypt you shall serve Hashem on Jews, as a matter of profound religious principle, were not. G-d, the
this mountain” (Shemot 3:12). The liberator must not attribute success to sole object of worship, is invisible. He transcends nature. He created the
his talents but deepen the belief that the salvation is based on the universe and is therefore beyond the universe. He cannot be seen. He
nation‟s eternal foundations, those connected to the Creator. Victory reveals Himself only in speech. Therefore the supreme religious act in
should not cause the people to lose the true perspective. “When you take Judaism is to listen. Ancient Greece was a culture of the eye; ancient
the nation out”- that is the time to approach Mt. Sinai and accept the Israel a culture of the ear. The Greeks worshipped what they saw; Israel
Torah, not to copy the nations or learn from the witchcraft of Egypt. worshipped what they heard.
When Egypt was defeated, Egyptian culture and idolatry were also This is how Hans Kohn put it in his The Idea of Nationalism. The
put down. They had to realize that the Israelites‟ liberation at a time of ancient Greeks were “the people of sight, of the spatial and plastic sense
spiritual low was not just a physical victory but one of the spirit, enabled . . . as if they thought to transpose the flowing, fleeting, ever related
by the Divine Providence that administers justice in the world. The elements of life into rest, space, limitation . . . The Jew did not see so
accepting of the Torah was part of the liberation itself. much as he heard . . . His organ was the ear . . . When Elijah perceived
The state that must be formed cannot be the Land of the Philistines G-d, he heard only a still, small voice. For that reason the Jew never
or the Land of Cana‟an. It must be the Land of Israel, the Land of a made an image of his G-d.”
special, chosen nation with ideals that shape its political course. It must That is why the keyword of Judaism is Shema. G-d is not something
not be guided by the prospect of economic gain or self-interest but on we see, but a voice we hear. This is how Moses put it elsewhere in this
spiritual values. Social planning must be based on a belief in Divine week‟s sedra, describing the supreme revelation at Mount Sinai:
Providence. It must accept the equality of its citizens and not allow there Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of
to be classes that subjugate others. It should be comprised of a words but saw no form; there was only a voice. (Deut. 4: 12) This has
constituency of “a nation of kohanim,” where all act in a dedicated systemic implications for the whole of Judaism. Its way of understanding
manner as if in the Beit Hamikdash. This is the liberator and the the world, and of relating to it, is fundamentally different from that of the
liberation. Greeks, and of the philosophical tradition (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and
People ask us: why do you want laws that are thousands of years others) of which they were the founders. A listening culture is not the
old? We ask in return: how did we succeed in returning to the Land after same as a seeing culture. In this week‟s study I want to explore one of
thousands of years of exile? How did we survive the persecution of the many aspects of this difference.
nations that hate us? Why did we feel a need to remain distinct all of The Mosaic books are, among other things, a set of commandments,
those years if not to preserve that which makes us unique, the values 613 of them. That is the primary meaning of the word Torah – namely
that are inextricably linked to those old laws? Truth is eternal and law. It would seem to follow that a book of commands must have a verb
immutable, as are the Divine laws that emerge from that truth. It is our that means “to obey”, for that is the whole purpose of an imperative.
pride that the sparks of true Jewish culture are that which enabled the Obedience stands in relation to command as truth does to statement. Yet
Europeans to reach their cultural, spiritual attainments. We must there is no verb in biblical Hebrew that means to obey. This is an utterly
maintain pride in that which is authentically our legacy at this decisive, astonishing fact.
formative time. So glaring is the lacuna that when Hebrew was revived in modern
“In the secret places, my soul will cry because of pride”- for the pride times a verb had to be found that meant “to obey”. This was an obvious
of Israel that was taken from it and given to the nations of the world” necessity – especially in the case of Israel‟s defence forces. An army
(Chagiga 5b). The nations are proud of their sword and the Jews do not depends on obedience to the command of a superior officer. The word
know how to be proud of their Torah. Rather we are happy if we pick up chosen was letsayet, an Aramaic term that does not appear in this sense
some of Eisav‟s capabilities. That is wrong. While Yaakov knew how to anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. The word the Torah uses is quite
use the sword when he needed to, he also knew that “with my sword and different, namely lishmo‟a, Shema, “hear”.
bow” refers to prayers and requests (Bereishit 49:22 with Unkelus). The verb lishmo‟a is a key term of the book of Deuteronomy, where it
P'NINAT MISHPAT appears in one or other forms some 92 times (by way of comparison, it
The Effect of Notification of Desire to End Rental appears only 6 times in the whole of Leviticus). It conveys a wide range
(based on Halacha Psuka, vol. 12 - A Condensation of a Psak by the of meanings, clustered around five primary senses:
Beit Din of the Religious Council of Yerushalayim, vol. I, pp. 39-42) to listen, to pay focused attention, as in “Be silent, O Israel, and listen
Case: An organization rented an apartment for a period of two years. ” (Deut. 27: 9) to hear, as in “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was
The contract included a provision that the renter could stop the rental afraid” (Gen. 3: 10) to understand, as in “Come, let us go down and
earlier with three months warning. During the rental period, one of the confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (Gen. 11:
organization‟s directors sent a letter which expressed the 7) to internalize, register, take to heart, as in “And as for
Ishmael I have heard you” (Gen. 17: 20), meaning, “I have taken into
account what you have said; I will bear it in mind; it is a consideration
that weighs with Me”. to respond in action, as in “Abraham did what
Sarah said” (Gen. 16: 2). This last sense is the closest shema comes to
meaning “to obey”. It has yet other meanings in rabbinic Hebrew, such as
“to infer”, “to accept”, “to take into account as evidence” and “to receive
as part of the Oral tradition”. No English word has this range of
meanings. Perhaps the closest are “to hearken” and “to heed” – neither
of them terms in common use today. Psychotherapists nowadays
sometimes speak of “active listening”, and this is part of what is meant by
The best way to discover what is unique about a civilization is to
search for words it contains that are untranslatable into other languages.
It is said that the Bedouin have many words for sand and the Inuit many
terms for snow. The Greek word megalopsuchos – literally the “great-
souled” person, one blessed with wealth, status and effortless superiority
– has no equivalent in either Judaism or Christianity, two cultures that
valued, as Greece did not, humility. Shema is untranslatable –
understandably so since it belongs to biblical Hebrew, the world‟s
supreme example of a culture of the ear.
This is a fact of great consequence and should affect our entire
understanding of Judaism. The existence of the verb lishmo‟a and the
absence of the verb letsayet tells us that biblical Israel, despite its
intense focus on Divine commandments, is not a faith that values blind,
unthinking, unquestioning obedience.
There is a reason for the commands. In some cases they are rooted
in the fact that G-d created the universe and the laws that govern it:
therefore we must respect the integrity of nature. In other cases they are
grounded in history. Our ancestors were slaves in Egypt; they knew from
indelible personal experience what it is to live in an unjust, tyrannical
society. Therefore a society based on Torah will be just, compassionate,
generous. Slaves must rest one day in seven. One year in seven, debts
should be cancelled. The landless poor should not go without food at
harvest time – and so on.
The G-d of revelation is also the G-d of creation and redemption.
Therefore when G-d commands us to do certain things and refrain from
others, it is not because His will is arbitrary but because He cares for the
integrity of the world as His work, and for the dignity of the human person
as His image. There is a profound congruence between the
commandments and the laws that govern nature and history. An arbitrary
ruler demands blind obedience. G-d is not an arbitrary ruler; therefore He
does not demand blind obedience. Instead, He wishes us as far as
possible to understand why He has commanded what He has
Hence the emphasis, in Exodus and Deuteronomy, on children
asking questions. In an authoritarian culture, questions are discouraged:
“Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die” as Tennyson put it. Had
this been the case in Judaism, the Torah would have had a verb that
meant the same as letsayet, not one with the meanings of lishmoa.
On Pesach the least mature child, not the most, is “one who does not
know how to ask”. Indeed we are commanded to teach him or her to ask.
Even the verb three lines after “Hear O Israel” – usually translated as
“You shall teach these things diligently to your children”, means
according to Rashi, “you shall sharpen your children” -- meaning, teach
them the full depth of their meaning, rather than superficially (see Rashi
to Kiddushin 30a).
To be sure – this should go without saying – obedience to the
commandments should never be conditional on understanding them. It is
a contradiction in terms to say that one who does not understand or
agree with a law is free to break it. Anyone who thinks this has not
understood what a law is. But it does mean that ours is a searching,
questioning, rational, intellectual faith, one that calls for the full exercise
of the mind.
Shema Yisrael does not mean “Hear, O Israel”. It means something
like: “Listen. Concentrate. Give the word of G-d your most focused
attention. Strive to understand. Engage all your faculties, intellectual and
emotional. Make His will your own. For what He commands you to do is
not irrational or arbitrary but for your welfare, the welfare of your people,
and ultimately for the benefit of all humanity.”
In Judaism faith is a form of listening: to the song creation sings to its
Creator, and to the message history delivers to those who strive to
understand it. That is what Moses says, time and again in Deuteronomy.
Stop looking: listen. Stop speaking: listen. Create a silence in the soul.
Still the clamour of instinct, desire, fear, anger. Strive to listen to the still,
small voice beneath the noise. Then you will know that the universe is
the work of the One beyond the furthest star yet closer to you than you
are to yourself – and then you will love the Lord your G-d with all your
heart, all your soul and all your might. In G-d‟s unity you will find unity –
within yourself and between yourself and the world – and you will no
longer fear the unknown.