Divrei Torah

Divrei Torah

Perek 2

By: Rabbi Daniel Fine

The following comparative question has (and should) been asked: how on earth can we explain the vast difference between the spies sent into the Land at the time of Moshe and Rachav. The spies were great spiritual people who had personally witnessed HaShem’s miracles for Bnei Yisrael, whilst Rachav was (according to some) a harlot in the city of Yericho. Yet whilst the spies sin via their bad report of the Land, Rachav shelters Pinchas and Calev, admits her faith in HaShem and the Jewish people, and is ultimately saved (and marries Yehoshua). How do we explain such a discrepancy. Rav Yerucham Levovitz provides an answer here. But before that, let’s have an introduction.

Rav Chaim Leib Auerbach (father of Rav Shlomo Zalman) asked why it is that at Kol Nidrei/Ma’ariv at the start of Yom Kippur, when we are most full of food and least into the purity of the day, we say the baruch shem kevod malchuso…of the Shema out loud in resemblance of the angels – whilst at the ma’ariv immediately after Yom Kippur is out, when we have been through 5 tefillos and have thoroughly woven the purity of the day into our characters and made solid commitments to better ourselves, we stop being like angels and thus say baruch shem… quietly? Shouldn’t it be the other way round? He answered that at the start of Yom Kippur our thoughts, aims, and attentions are directed towards the awe of the day and to sincere Teshuva, whilst at the very end – ma’ariv on motzei Yom Kippur – we are looking towards the food we shall be breaking our fasts on. Thus, even though at the start of Yom Kippur we have not yet become part of the day’s kedusha, since this kedusha is our mental focal point and destination, we are like angels. Whilst, since at the end of Yom Kippur our direction is towards food and material thoughts, we loss that angelic level and thus return to whispering the baruch shem.

The point here is that one is defined by where they are heading and where their goals and perspective lies. In other words if one is growing/looking to grow, then they are enveloped in purity and kedusha. When one is going downhill, the opposite is true.

It is with this idea that Rav Yerucham Levovitz answers our initial question.

The difference between the spies and Rachav was that Rachav was on a spiritual ‘up’ whilst the spies were on a ‘down.’ This made the spies more susceptible to sinning and Rachav more prone to spiritual growth and further progression. Again, the point is one of destination.

The same idea can be seen from our sedra of Vayeitzei (it’s nice when it turns out that way). Yaakov lays down to rest and dreams of a ladder whose feet are on the ground and whose head is in the heavens, with angels ascending and descending this ladder. Why were there angels both going up and going down the ladder? Rashi tells us (28;12) that the angels of Eretz Yisrael were going up  (since Yaakov was on his way out of the Land) and the angels of Chutz l’Aretz were descending the ladder to accompany Yaakov. But Yaakov was at the site of the Beis Hamikdash at this point – a place which is not on the border of Eretz Yisrael (despite what the UN might think!). Why did the angels of the Eretz Yisrael leave and let those of Chutz l’Aretz take over if Yaakov hadn’t left the Land yet?

Again the idea is that since Yaakov was on his way out of the Land, he was considered as being in Chutz l’Aretz (hence the Chutz l’Aretz angels) – for to a certain extent one is defined by where one is heading.

Perek 4

By: Chaim Golker

The Jewish Nation crossed the River Yarden and walked past the Kohanim carrying the aron. Rashi in Sotah 35a explains that the water crashed down to its normal position and divided the Kohanim and remainder of the Bnei Yisrael. Hashem performed a second miracle where the Aron rose lifting the Kohanim who flew over the River to the front of the nation. He learns it from the words Vayaalu Min Hayarden- And they ascended from the Yarden (4:16). The aron contained the Torah and therefore represents the Torah. Hashem showed the people that the Aron “carries its bearers”, although it may seem that the opposite occurs. This message is particularly prevalent heading towards Yom Kippur, if we devote ourselves to the Torah then we can receive in return miraculous and divine support. We are not supporting the Torah it is supporting us.

Perek 8

By: Rabbi Daniel Fine

As one looks through the wars of the conquest of the Land, it seems that the appearance of miracles gradually decreases. The battle with Yericho saw a supernatural miracle of the walls falling down, and though HaShem was helping us through each battle (hence the remarkably few casualties), we had to get our swords dirty and physically fight. The war with Ai had no open miracles, and though the next war saw the day miraculously prolonged, we still had to do the fighting (until the enemy ran away and HaShem brought the hail). Why was this – why the gradual scaling down of miracles?

The truth is that we can make this question a bit more painful. As the Ralbag says, HaShem only performs miracles when absolutely necessary. Furthermore, the Netziv writes that our life in Eretz Yisrael was supposed to be more ‘natural’ and less miracle-orientated. So why the initial miracles at all, and why did they die down somewhat?

Being Jewish and all, the answer is another question. Parshas Beshalach sees us fight the Egyptians at the Yam Suf, and then Amalek too. But there’s a major difference between these two wars –  one picked up on by the Ibn Ezra. He asks: Why did we essentially do nothing and sit back, letting HaShem ‘run the show’ in the battle against the Egyptians, whilst in the war against Amalek we selected warriors and physically went out and fought?

The answer (I think I heard it from Rabbi Frand) is that the first event of any given process establishes the protocol. Therefore, in our cases (Beshalach and Yehoshua), the first supernatural battles established that HaShem is in charge of everything and He ultimately ensures success of failure. But we don’t get miracles the whole time (especially in Eretz Yisrael in comparison to the desert period) – we need to go out there and physically do battle ourselves.  But even when we do go out to fight ourselves, it’s really HaShem doing it all and guaranteeing success.

So the initial miracle is a free gift to unequivocally show that HaShem is running everything. And this miracle is necessary to make sure that we realise that in subsequent wars and efforts – when we go out to fight – we realise that it is always in HaShem’s hands.

Perek 11

By: Chaim Golker

The Radak asks:  Hashem promised “As I was with Moshe, I will be with you”(1:5), yet Yehoshua lived till 110 which is ten years  less than Moshe!? It appears that the promise was broken. Chazal criticise Yehoshua for delaying the battles because Hashem promised him he would live to distribute the land and Yehoshua wanted to delay the conquests in order to live longer. This is learnt out from 11:18 “Yehoshua conducted war with these kings for many days.” This is in stark contrast to Moshe who was eager and haste in initiating war with Midyan, despite knowing he would die after it. (Rashi 31:3 Parshas Matos)

The Maharzu adds that Yehoshua lengthened the battles since he knew that the Bnei Yisrael would serve Hashem in his lifetime, but not afterwards. Nevertheless he was punished for making his own judgement and not following Hashem’s. As, the Radak observes “man makes many plans, but the plan of Hashem prevails” (Mishlei 19:21).cities-of-refuge

Perek 20

By: Chaim Golker

In  20:7-8 the Possukim describe the locations of the Arei Miklat- Cities of Refuge- as shown on the map. The obvious question asked is why are there 3 Arei Miklat on the other side of the Yarden for 2½ tribes , yet also 3 for the rest of Israel- 9½ tribes. This ratio does not seem logical! Rashi (Parshas Masei 35:14) asks this question and answers that on the other side of the Yarden “there are more murderers”. However Arei Miklat are meant for unintentional killers, not murderers?

There are 5 answers:

  1. The Maharal says that if people are used to seeing murders occur, blood becomes cheap and people will not value life. This will bring about more accidental deaths, since people are more careless.
  2. The Ramban answers that since there are more cases of murder then more people will claim that they killed accidentally and this will mean more Arei Miklat are needed to deal with the numbers.
  3. Tosfos answers that there is a Gemora in Makkos which explains that the people who are killed accidentally are those who murdered intentionally, but could not be punished (e.g. witnesses did not warn them). If there are more murderers then there will be more cases where the murderers could not be punished and therefore many accidental deaths.
  4. The Gemora states that all killers whether intentional or accidental go to the Arei Miklat before being processed, therefore more murderers will mean higher occupancy in the Arei Miklat.
  5. Some say Rashi meant that the status of the land outside Israel is that it is brings about more deaths. Whether the deaths are accidental or intentional the land causes the deaths.

Perek 24

By: Chaim Golker

In the last Perek of Yehoshua we are told “Israel served Hashem all the days of Yehoshua” (24:31). Yet, in Parshas Vayelech 31: 29 Moshe says after my death “you will surely be destroyed and you will veer away from the path which I commanded you.” This appears to be a blatant contradiction. Rashi answers there that it proves that “one’s student is as beloved to them, as one’s self.” Moshe lived on in Yehoshua after his death. Like we explained in the introduction to Yehoshua, Yehoshua’s function was to perpetuate Moshe’s leadership once Moshe was no longer alive and therefore the Bnei Yisrael followed Yehoshua devoutly. In Shoftim unfortunately Moshe was proven correct, as we will see. Shoftim begins with “Vayehi”- an expression of sadness foreshadowing the fulfilment of Moshe’s prophecy of Israel forsaking Hashem.