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Parshat Balak: Why Bother

Excerpted from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Unlocking the Torah Text – Bamidbar, co-published by OU Press and Gefen Publishers

Why Bother


Fearing the apparent strength of the Israelites, Balak, the king of Moav, attempts to secure the services of Bilam, a Midianite sorcerer, to curse the nation.

God eventually allows Bilam’s participation in Balak’s plot, but warns the sorcerer: “Only the thing that I shall speak to you – that you shall do.”

Bilam’s repeated attempts to curse the Israelites are thwarted as God transforms the sorcerer’s curses into blessings.


No story in the Torah is stranger then the story of Balak and Bilam.

Why does God find it necessary to intervene in order to prevent Bilam from cursing the Israelites? We can certainly understand a divine move to preempt a physical threat against the nation. What danger, however, is potentially carried by a verbal threat such as Bilam’s curses? Why does it matter what this sorcerer says? Why can’t God simply choose to ignore him?

Deepening the puzzle is a fascinating fact concerning the story of Balak and Bilam: this is the only story in the Torah – since the patriarch Avraham enters the historical stage – that takes place totally out of view of the Israelites, their emissaries or their ancestors.

This narrative is comprised of a series of events, interactions and conversations at which no Israelite is present. Had God not informed us of these events, we would never have even known that they happened. Bilam would have pronounced his curses, God would have simply ignored them, and the Israelites would have gone blissfully on their way, forever unaware of Bilam’s words. Who knows how many other unnoted verbal threats were directed against the Israelites during the biblical era, their echoes fading into the mists of history. What makes this episode worthy of God’s or our notice? Why is the narrative of Balak and Bilam included in the Torah at all?


One perspective on the issues we raise is reflected in our discussion concerning Bilam’s power to bless or curse (see previous study). According to this approach, the threat posed by Bilam’s words emanates from God’s own decision to grant strength to man’s speech.

At the dawn of Jewish history, at the launch of Avraham’s journey, God promises the patriarch: “And you will be a blessing.” This statement is understood by the Midrash to mean “Blessings are given to your hand. Until now they were in My hand. I blessed Adam and Noach. From this time on you will bless whom you wish.”

As a result of this heavenly decree, every word spoken by man about another, for good or for bad, acquires power. God therefore moves to abort Bilam’s curses before they can acquire the power of spoken words.

We further suggested that Bilam’s words might have carried singular strength, either due to his close, albeit mysterious relationship with God, or as a result of his singular ability to tap into preexisting conditions in his environment and direct them against his enemies (see previous study, Approaches G).

God’s own self-imposed limitations in the face of man’s speech and/or Bilam’s ability to manipulate the very rules created by God to govern His universe may well have enabled the sorcerer to seriously threaten the Israelites through his words. God therefore moves to stop those words from ever being spoken.

This approach to Bilam’s threat is underscored in the Midrashic pronouncement “There were no days, from the day that the world was created, when the Holy One Blessed Be He needed to be with [the people of] Israel as much as the time when Bilam wanted to destroy [them] from the world.”

Other commentaries are unwilling to consider the possibility that Bilam’s words could have directly threatened a people protected by “the righteousness of the patriarchs and the merit of the Revelation at Sinai.” God is compelled, these scholars argue, to change Bilam’s words for other reasons.

The Ibn Ezra, for example, suggests that God acts to prevent the surrounding nations from arriving at an erroneous conclusion that would damage the nation’s honor. In the aftermath of Bilam’s efforts, the Israelites endure a devastating plague as a result of the sin of Ba’al Pe’or. Had Bilam been allowed to curse the nation, observers would have mistakenly concluded that this plague had actually been caused by the sorcerer’s curses.

Similar explanations are offered by later authorities who, likewise, maintain that God intervenes so that observers will not attribute later failings of the Israelites to the effect of the sorcerer’s curses. The Abravanel, however, rejects the Ibn Ezra’s approach, failing to see within it any compelling threat against the Israelites. How then, the Abravanel asks, are we to view the textual sources clearly testifying that, had it not been for God’s merciful intervention, Bilam’s curses would indeed have had devastating impact upon the people?

The Abravanel therefore posits a real, albeit indirect, threat potentially presented by Bilam’s words. As Balak himself clearly testifies, by the time the story begins, Bilam has earned public renown for his perceived powers in the area of blessing and curse. Had the sorcerer been allowed to pronounce his intended curses, surrounding nations would have heard and would have been encouraged to attack the “newly vulnerable” Israelites. “Open season” would have been called on the fledgling nation. Once God transforms Bilam’s curses into blessings, however, the special status of the nation in God’s eyes becomes readily apparent to all, rendering the people safe from attack.

A similar interpretation is suggested by Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen of Dvinsk, who maintains that God intervenes in the Balak/Bilam story in order to “thrust the fear of Israel upon all the kings of the nations.” Once someone of Bilam’s stature blesses the Israelites, surrounding nations will be fearful of moving against them in any way.

A creative approach to the impact of Bilam’s words is offered by Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, the pivotal rabbinic leader of nineteenth-century German Jewry whose emphasis on the universal role of the Jewish nation serves as a foundation of his religious philosophy. God visits specific individuals, whether Jewish or Gentile, with prophetic vision, to enable them to bring forward His message to the world. In this case, God wants Bilam to bless the Israelites in his role as a prophet, not for their sake, but for the sake of the surrounding nations. He wants the world to recognize that this is a “blessed people,” whose very character and mission reflect God’s will for mankind as a whole. When Bilam attempts to subvert this prophetic mandate by cursing rather than blessing the Israelites, God steps in to ensure that the intended divine message to mankind will be properly transmitted and received.

Another possible approach to the significance of Bilam’s words can be gleaned from a puzzling rabbinic observation that, at first, seems only to deepen the mysteries before us. In the book of Devarim, as Moshe recounts the Bilam-Balak episode in retrospect, he relates: “And God transformed, on your behalf, the curse into a blessing.”

Why, ask the rabbis, does Moshe speak of a singular transformation of “the curse into a blessing”? Weren’t multiple curses transformed into blessings during this episode?

The answer suggested by the scholars threatens to undermine the thrust of the entire Balak/Bilam narrative:

Rabbi Yochanan stated: From the blessings pronounced by Bilam, one can determine what was in his heart…. Rabbi Abba bar Kahana [further] maintained: [due to the sins of the Israelites] all of them [the blessings] reverted back to the original curses [my italics], with the exception of the blessing concerning synagogues and houses of study, as the Torah states, “And God transformed, on your behalf, the curse into a blessing”: “the curse” and not “the curses” [my italics].

How astounding! The rabbis would have us understand that, in the final analysis, God’s intervention in the Bilam story has limited effect. After God “troubles Himself” to change the sorcerer’s curses into blessings (an act whose necessity we have already questioned), almost all of those blessings turn back into curses. Perplexingly, the Balak/Bilam story now seems to make even less sense. Why does God bother to transform Bilam’s words if, in practical terms, those words are not truly “transformed” at all?

Perhaps the rabbis, in their own inimitable style, answer all of our questions at once. Fundamentally, they maintain, God’s message through the Balak/Bilam narrative is surprising but clear: It does not matter what Bilam says!

Phenomena like Bilam’s words ultimately have no independent power. Although God may grant credence to words spoken by man, such words are not the primary determinants of an individual’s fate.

This sorcerer can curse you or bless you; it makes no difference. Your destiny will be decided not by outside forces, but by your own merit. Your own actions will determine whether you are “cursed” or “blessed.”

Had God allowed Bilam to proceed with his intended curses, the Israelites, upon hearing of the sorcerer’s words (or barring that, upon learning of similar phenomena) could have claimed them as justification for their failings: How could we be blamed? Were we not doomed from the start?

God therefore decides to use the Balak/ Bilam episode as a teaching opportunity. He intervenes, changes the sorcerer’s curses to blessings and reveals the entire episode to the Israelites from the start. In doing so, He effectively proclaims: Now I have removed any possible excuse. The words pronounced upon you by the sorcerer are positive. The final significance and impact of those words, however, like so much else in your lives, is in your hands. If you are meritorious, Bilam’s blessings will remain intact. If not, those very “blessings” will be turned against you.

Always remember that your story will be defined by no one else. You can blame no outside force. Ultimately, it’s all up to you….

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Birkat Yitzchak – Shlach

Excerpted from Rabbi Menachem Genack’s Birkat Yitzchak Chidushim U-ve’urim al HaTorah

פרשת שלח


המרגלים ומצות ציצית – החטא ותיקונו

פרשת שלח פותחת בענין המרגלים וחטאם, וסופה נחתם במצות ציצית. והמעיין בלשון הכתוב יראה ששני ענינים אלו שייכי אהדדי. הנה במרגלים כתיב: “ויתורו את ארץ כנען” (יג, ב) ובציצית כתיב: “ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם” (טו, לט). במרגלים כתוב: “וראיתם את הארץ” (יג, יח), ובציצית כתוב: “וראיתם אותו” (שם טו, לט). ובדברי רש”י מבוארת ההשוואה אף יותר, שהביא מהמדרש תנחומא (ד”ה ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם), וז”ל: “כמו ‘מתור הארץ’ (לעיל יג, כה) הלב והעינים הם מרגלים לגוף, ומסרסרים לו את העבירות, העין רואה, והלב חומד, והגוף עושה את העבירות”, עכ”ל.

ונראה ביאור הדברים, שמצות ציצית היא התבלין והתיקון לחטא המרגלים והקב”ה נתן את מצות ציצית בעטיו של חטא המרגלים. חטא המרגלים היה שהביטו על ארץ ישראל, בראיה מצומצמת ושיטחית, ולא ראו את חמדת הארץ, שהיא ארץ סגולה, ומנגד תכליתה של מצות ציצית היא לרומם את ראיית האדם. ולכן הלשון ‘ציצית’ הוא מלשון ‘ציץ’, דהיינו לראות, וכמו “מציץ מן החרכים” (שה”ש ב,ט), שמשמעותו ראיה חודרת ועמוקה [וכ”פ במצודת ציון (יחזקאל ח,ג) את המילים “בציצית ראשי – ר”ל שער ראשי כי כל דבר היוצא מן הגוף קרוי ציץ, וכן תנו ציץ למואב (ירמיה מח,ט)”. והיינו: יציאת דבר לגילוי קרויה הצצה], ובמיוחד זוהי מצות תכלת שמרוממת את הסתכלות האדם. כי תכלת דומה לעשבים, ועשבים לים, וים לרקיע, ורקיע לכסא הכבוד (ירושלמי ריש ברכות).


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Parashat Shelah: Does It Pay to Be Good?

Excerpted from Rabbi Dr. Norman J. Lamm’s Derashot Ledorot: A Commentary for the Ages – Numbers, co-published by OU Press and Maggid Books

Does It Pay to Be Good?*

Does it pay to be good? This is a question one often hears – and asks – as a sign of frustration. Usually, it is just an expression of momentary disappointment and serves a cathartic function. But sometimes, and with some people, and especially if repeated often enough, it is elevated from a query of complaint to a philosophy of life, and from a passing mood to a firm moral judgment. So let us ask ourselves the question rather seriously: Does it pay to be good?

We must first divide the question into two parts by posing a counter-question: “pay” for whom?

“Does it pay to be good?” may refer to the benefactor, to the one asking the question; or it may refer to the beneficiary, the one who is the recipient of my goodness and generosity.

The first question – does it pay for me to be good – probably should be answered, for most cases, in the negative. If you expect dividends from your ethical investments, you are seriously in error. The good life is not necessarily the happy life. John Kennedy, born into a wealthy family, high society, and catapulted into historic political prominence, decided that “life is unfair.” Much earlier, the Rabbis broodingly concluded that the reward for virtue simply is not in evidence in this world (Kiddushin 39b). I myself, being professionally engaged a good part of the time in doing favors for people and arranging for some people to be kind to others, learned long, long ago that one thing I must never expect (if I wanted to lead a life free from constant minor disappointments) is gratitude. I now never expect anyone to show gratitude. Therefore, when, as often happens, I meet people who are possessed of that noble virtue, I am delighted beyond words at the great discovery of a genuine human being. But ingratitude neither overwhelms me nor surprises me any longer because, truth to tell, and without the least trace of cynicism,  it is the rule rather than the exception. Were a person to be good only because it pays, or because it will be recognized and acknowledged, he would have to stop being good!

But essentially the question does not even deserve an answer – for, no matter what the answer may be, our immediate reaction must be to ask: “So what?” Who says that it has to pay in the first place? An individual who plans to be moral because it pays to be good will end up either an evil person or one who will suffer constant frustration. Judaism taught us, “Do not be like servants who serve the master only in order to receive a salary or a wage” (Avot 1:3). Don’t be good merely because it pays. Judaism never urged upon us that old maxim, “Honesty is the best policy.” A Jew must be honest even when it is not a good policy. Morals and goodness are matters of principle, not prudence. Yes, we believe that ultimately there is spiritual reward – but this must never become the motive for being good in the first place.

The real question that is worth pondering is the second one: Does it pay to be good for the beneficiary of my kindness? At first glance, it is a simple matter of definition – obviously it is good for someone if I do that person good. Yet it is not quite that simple. We must consider such factors as excess, timing, and short-term indulgence which may lead to long-term damage. And here there can be no uniform answer. Here what is required is wisdom and maturity and deliberation in order to foretell whether our benefaction will ultimately prove helpful or harmful.

The incident of Moses and the spies he sent into Canaan provides an illustration of a case where it did not pay to be good. God told Moses, “Send for yourself people to spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:2). But according to the way the Rabbis (as cited by Rashi ad loc.) interpreted this incident, the relations between God, Israel, and Moses were quite complex, and the role of Moses was anomalous. Thus Rashi states:

God said to Moses, “Send a delegation of spies if you wish. But do it on your own responsibility. For Myself, I am not commanding you to do so.” For the Israelites themselves demanded such a delegation, and when Moses consulted the Divine Presence, He replied: “But I have already told them that it is a good land! Therefore, if you wish you may let them have their spies, but not without great risk.”

In other words, the sending of the spies was a concession, like the permission to appoint a king over themselves, or the granting of permission for the eating of meat to the children of Noah, or the law of the beautiful captive. And, while we may be grateful to God for being an understanding Father, it is not always clear that such indulgence is for our own ultimate good.

Obviously, here Moses was being too good. He submitted to pressure by the Israelites, when perhaps he should not have done so. He was too good – and it didn’t pay!

The commentators are undecided about the moral qualities of these spies. Some say they were truly just, some say merely innocent, and some say they were wicked. But I prefer a fourth interpretation, that of Midrash Tanĥuma, which declares them “kesilim” – a word which means both knaves and fools, primarily the latter. The spies were immature and childish. And Moses over-indulged them, pampered them and babied them, like a father who is too good to his little children.

In Deuteronomy 1:23, Moses, in recollecting the story of the spies, said: “Vayitav be’einay hadavar,” which usually is explained as, “And the plan found favor in my eyes.” But if Moses admitted that the plan was valid in his opinion, how does Rashi tell us here that Moses did not really favor it, and that he consulted with the Divine Presence which discouraged him? I submit that, perhaps, the expression of “vayitav be’einay hadavar” means, in essence: I, Moses, considered the matter and decided to be good to you. And of course – Moses erred. For to be good is not always the same as to do good. It is sometimes better to be hard-headed than soft-hearted.

Indeed, Moses already knew the harm that can come from excessive softness. After the sin of the Gold Calf, when Moses acts as the great advocate and defendant of his people, he tries to shift part of the blame for the making of the calf on God Himself! He maintains that God helped to spoil this people. “Moses said to the Almighty: O God, the gold and the silver which You gave them to excess [when they left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea], so much that they had to exclaim, ‘enough!’ – that is what caused them to make a golden calf ” (Yoma 86b); You spoiled them and led them to think that such material valuables are a true criterion of greatness, and so they deified them!

So, all of us must learn in our personal and professional and especially family lives that it does not always pay to be good. Sometimes we intend to be kind and generous, and are only inviting trouble later on for the very one whom, out of love, we seek to benefit.

We tend to sin in this respect especially as parents. It is an old Jewish syndrome of which the Bible records numerous examples: Eli with his sons, Samuel with his sons, David with his sons. In our days, we often try to give our children what we did not have, and so we fail to give them what we did have. Our generation of affluence is over-pressing material good on the younger generation, and thereby denying them a sense of discovery, of self-worth, of the achievement of earning and deserving the goods of the world. We think, “vayitav be’einay hadavar,” we are being good to them, when we are really helping them build a Golden Calf. We send teens on a trip around the world but then there is nothing for them to look forward to other than ennui and boredom. We saturate them with luxuries until they are sated and cry, “Enough!”

What else is there left for them to live for, especially since non-material values were never seriously considered? We send our children to the best universities with only the minimal attention to Jewishness, Jewish society, and the opportunity for Jewish observance. And later, even the finest Orthodox families wonder where they went wrong and why they now suffer from the problems of intermarriage.

But this idea of short-term kindness leading to eventual harm has to do not only with individuals but applies to collectivities as well.

One such case is the problem of the priorities that our liberal Jewish community sets for itself. We are generally a kindly people, and therefore concerned with the well-being of all peoples. And that is as it should be. But we have sinned in the area of priorities. We have tried to be good to others and denied our kindness from our kin. We have acted politically, socially, and economically on behalf of all the underprivileged – except for the Jewish poor; on behalf of all political causes – except our own; on behalf of all marginal people – except for those of our own people who have not yet “made it.” And so it did not pay for us or for them to be good.

A second such instance concerns the hijackings which now proliferate in the world. The policy of most governments has been to be soft, accommodating, and gentle with hijackers. Most nations told themselves, obviously in sincerity, that they were protecting the passengers on the immediate plane endangered. Yet they failed to see that in this way they were inviting further hijackings and endangering the lives of untold numbers of other, future passengers. Apparently, only the government of Israel took the right attitude: no concessions, no submissions, no negotiations. They realized that it does not pay – even for the passengers of an endangered jet – to submit to the criminals.

In this respect, I wish to single out for special condemnation and censure a recent editorial that was distinguished by viciousness and inanity rolled into one. A week or ten days ago, The New York Times, in an editorial after the Lod massacre, had the temerity and audacity to suggest that Israel itself must accept part of the blame, because when it decided to storm the Sabena jet some time earlier, this provoked the terrorists to attempt the Lod massacre.

What unmitigated gall! While the Times was pontificating in its editorial columns, its news columns were informing us that the Lod massacre had been planned long before the Sabena jet incident. Now we know, factually, that this was the case. Furthermore, this week the airline pilots of the world set June 19th as a deadline for a new policy against hijackers – once more in consonance with that of the State of Israel – and that they will strike if this policy is not worked out.

Perhaps it is a consolation for us to recall that The New York Times was usually wrong on Israel, from the beginnings of the Zionist movement until this very day. Thank the Lord that, with all our reverence for the sage advice given to us from the Olympian heights of the Times editorial room, we have been wise enough to disregard it and ignore it. Perhaps it is a measure of the justice and rightness of Israel’s cause that it evoked the displeasure of the Times editorial writer. When we satisfy the Times’ standards, perhaps then we ought to question whether we are on the right track.

To summarize, we respond to the question, “Does it pay to be good?” as follows: If the question is asked whether it pays for me to do good, the question is invalid – it is a pseudo-question because it really makes no difference what the answer is. It is irrelevant. I do not do good because it pays, but because as a Jew I am commanded to do good.

But if it means: “Does it pay to be good toward the beneficiary?” the answer is that it depends upon that individual, upon his maturity and sense of proportion, upon that person’s absorptive capacity for kindness and goodness. It is a question which demands wisdom and knowledge of the particular case in order to know how to act properly.

For, as we indicated, it is so very difficult to know when we are truly doing good and when we are going to excess, that even God was faulted by Moses in this respect. Yet, we must always rely upon Him and pray that He be good to us without overindulging us and causing us eventual harm. So we pray, in the blessing of Rosh Ĥodesh, for “ĥayim sheyimalu mishalot libenu letova,” a “life in which the desires of our hearts will be fulfilled” – but not all of them, not everything we want, not without measure, but only: “letova,” for what is truly our real good. Amen sela.

*June 10, 1972.

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Parshat Beha’alotcha: A Divine Misfire?

Excerpted from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Unlocking the Torah Text – Bamidbar, co-published by OU Press and Gefen Publishers

A Divine Misfire?


Folded into the dramatic story of Kivrot Hata’ava (see previous study) is a short narrative detailing one of the strangest events in the Torah.

Responding to Moshe’s complaint that he can no longer bear the burden of leadership alone, God commands him to assemble seventy of the nation’s elders outside the Sanctuary. When Moshe complies, God miraculously increases Moshe’s ruach hakodesh (prophetic spirit), allowing it to be shared with the elders. The elders respond with an eruption of prophecy (see following study).

The rabbis view this event as the establishment of the first Sanhedrin, the high court of seventy-one (in this case, seventy elders plus Moshe) that will serve across history as the highest legal body in the world of Jewish jurisprudence.

Suddenly, the unexpected occurs. Eldad and Medad, two individuals who are not among those gathered outside the Sanctuary, are strangely affected by these miraculous proceedings: “And the spirit rested on them; and they had been among the recorded ones, that they had not gone out to the tent, and they prophesied in the camp.”

When word of this phenomenon reaches the ears of Moshe and his protégé, Yehoshua, Moshe’s student advises swift action against the “renegade prophets.” Moshe, however, responds with equanimity: “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that God would make His entire people prophets, that God would place His spirit upon them.”


Who are Eldad and Medad? Why does the Torah describe them as being “among the recorded ones”?

God carefully orchestrates the inauguration of the seventy elders into leadership. He underscores the divine source of their new powers by insisting that they gather around the Sanctuary. He demonstrates that their leadership flows from and is subordinate to Moshe by increasing Moshe’s own power so that it can be shared.

What, then, goes wrong? Why are Eldad and Medad granted a gift that should have been reserved only for participants in the inauguration ritual? Can it be that we are witnessing a “divine misfire,” that somehow God’s miraculous bounty is accidentally extended to individuals who should not receive it? Such an eventuality would seem clearly impossible when dealing with an all-powerful God, Who, by definition, cannot make mistakes. What is the intent of the Eldad and Medad narrative and what are we meant to learn from it? How, as well, does this story relate to the overall lessons learned at Kivrot Hata’ava?


According to the Talmud, the key to the story of Eldad and Medad lies in the Torah’s statement that they were “among the recorded.”

The rabbis explain that Moshe faces a difficult political dilemma as he moves to obey God’s instructions concerning the creation of the first Sanhedrin. Recognizing the importance of the step he is about to take, Moshe struggles to find a balanced leadership model that will satisfy all twelve Israelite tribes.

What shall I do? If I choose six elders from each of the twelve tribes I will end up with seventy-two candidates, two above the required number. If on the other hand, I choose five elders from each tribe, I will fall ten candidates short of the necessary seventy. Finally, if I choose five representatives from some tribes and six from others, I will create jealousy among the tribes.

As a solution, Moshe selects six elders from each tribe, for a total of seventy-two, and then sets aside seventy-two corresponding lots. He inscribes seventy of the lots with the word elder and leaves the remaining two lots blank.

When the contenders for positions on the first Sanhedrin gather around the Sanctuary, Moshe instructs each candidate to draw one lot. He informs those who select lots inscribed with the word elder: You have already been sanctified by the heavens. To those who draw blanks, on the other hand, he avows: What can I do? The Lord has not selected you. Through this procedure he allows the selection process to be clearly guided by God’s will, thus avoiding disputes between the tribes.

Eldad and Medad are “among the recorded,” originally designated to be included in the group of seventy-two elders assembled outside the Sanctuary. They refuse, however, to participate. The Talmud offers two antithetical explanations for their refusal: According to an anonymous opinion, Eldad and Medad do not attend the ceremony because they are fearful of not being selected. Rabbi Shimon, however, maintains that they demur because they do not feel worthy of selection.

In spite of their absence from the proceedings, however, God grants Eldad and Medad prophetic vision.

Rabbi Shimon, true to his position, maintains that God further rewards Eldad and Medad for their humility. While the prophetic ability bestowed upon those who attend the ceremony outside the Sanctuary is fleeting, Eldad and Medad are divinely granted permanent prophetic vision.

Most later scholars accept Rabbi Shimon’s position that Eldad and Medad fail to participate in the selection for the Sanhedrin because they do not feel worthy of rising to leadership. God grants them prophetic vision specifically as a reward for their unassuming nature. Eldad and Medad’s story thus emerges as a moral tale, underscoring the merits of humility.

There is, however, another clear moral lesson that emerges from this strange narrative. Eldad and Medad are slated for leadership, whether they wish to accept it or not. Their attempt to avoid their fate is miraculously forestalled, as God seeks them out against their will. In doing so, He conveys a message that, at once, ties into Moshe’s wrenching realizations at Kivrot Hata’ava (see previous study) and, at the same time, resounds across the ages: No matter what your motivation, you cannot avoid your God-mandated responsibilities.


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Birkat Yitzchak – Beha’alotcha

Excerpted from Rabbi Menachem Genack’s Birkat Yitzchak Chidushim U-ve’urim al HaTorah

פרשת בהעלתך

חצבה עמודיה שבעה

ויהי בנסוע הארון ויאמר משה קומה ה’ ויפוצו אויביך וינוסו משנאיך מפניך. ובנחה יאמר שובה ה’ רבבות אלפי ישראל (י, לה-לו)

“ת”ר ויהי בנסוע הארון ויאמר משה, פרשה זו עשה לה הקב”ה סימנים מלמעלה ולמטה לרמז שאין זה מקומה, רבי אומר לא מן השם הוא זה אלא מפני שספר חשוב הוא בפני עצמו, כמאן אזלא הא דא”ר שמואל בר נחמני א”ר יונתן חצבה עמודיה שבעה אלו שבעה ספרי תורה, כמאן כרבי” (שבת קטז, א).

והנה דברי הגמ’ צ”ב, דהוא דבר תימה מה שלרבי שני פסוקים חשובים כספר בפני עצמו.

ושמעתי ממו”ר הגריד”ס זצ”ל בזה דבר נאה מאד. כפי שכבר הבאנו לעיל (אות ד) מדבריו, מבואר בפסוקים שהקב”ה היה מתכוון להביא את בני ישראל בעוד כמה ימים לארץ, ולכן אמר משה ליתרו שיסע איתם שנא’: “ויאמר משה לחובב וגו’ נוסעים אנחנו אל המקום אשר אמר ה’ אתו אתן לכם לכה אתנו והטבנו לך” וגו’ (י, כט). הרי שהיו עומדים מיד להיכנס לארץ, ולכן בפרשה זאת מדובר על המסעות שכך יסעו לארץ, ולכן ניתנה מצות החצוצרות כדי להסיע ולהקהיל את העם, וגם להריע בהם בשעת מלחמה. ונראה שהיתה כונת ה’ להכניסם לארץ ישראל מיד, כמבואר בפסוק “ויסעו מהר ה’ דרך שלשת ימים וארון ברית ה’ נסע לפניהם דרך שלשת ימים לתור להם מנוחה” (י, לג), וברש”י שם כתב, וז”ל: “מהלך שלשת ימים הלכו ביום אחד שהיה הקב”ה חפץ להכניסם לארץ מיד”, עכ”ל. ואחר הפרשה של “ויהי בנסוע הארון”, נהפך הכל, ובאה פורענות אחר פורענות. מתחילה המתאוננים, ואח”כ האספסוף, עד המעשה של המרגלים שהיתה בכיה לדורות ונגזר שלא יכנסו כל הדור ההוא לארץ וימותו במדבר. ובמקום שיכנסו ישראל מיד, לא זכו להכנס לארץ עד אחר ארבעים שנה, מפני שלא היו להם האמונה והבטחון בה’. אבל אם היו נכנסים אז לארץ ישראל ומשה מלכם בראשם וארון הברית נוסע לפניהם, היה משה רבינו זה שבונה את בית המקדש, אזי מקדש שהיה נבנה ע”י משה רבינו לא היה נחרב, וכל ההיסטוריה של עם ישראל היתה שונה לגמרי, והיו נחסכים מעמנו החורבן ורדיפות הגלות.

וזוהי כונת רבי יהודה ששני פסוקים אלו הם ספר בפני עצמו. שני פסוקים האלו הם הראשון והאחרון של ספר שהיה עומד להכתב ע”י משה כשיכנסו לארץ, אלא שלא נכתבו כל הפסוקים האמצעיים שבספר שהיו מדברים אודות הנצחון והישועה הגדולה וגאולת ישראל מפני שלא זכו להיכנס לארץ ומשה רבנו בראשם. [עיין בספר כסא רחמים למרן הגאון חיד”א זצ”ל על מס’ סופרים (פ”ו הי”א בפי’ “התוס’ שלו”), וז”ל: “כתבו המקובלים שספר ויהי בנסוע הוא ספר גדול ככל התורה ולא זכינו אלא לשני פסוקים שלו, וכשתהיה הגאולה ב”ב אזי נזכה לכל הספר של ויהי בנסוע הארון”, עכ”ל. והוא תנא דמסייע לדברי רבינו].

ונראה להוסיף ע”פ דברי רבינו זצ”ל, שהנה בגמ’ בשבת (קטז, א) איתא: “ס”ת שבלה אם יש לו ללקט שמונים וחמש אותיות כגון פרשת ויהי בנסוע הארון מצילין ואם לא אין מצילין”. דזה מישך שייכא לדין ספר של שני פסוקים אלו שגם הם הינם שיורי פסוקים וכספר שבלה חשיבי, שהרי כל החלק האמצעי לא נכתב ונשארו מהספר רק הפסוק הראשון והאחרון של הספר.

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Birkat Yitzchak – Naso

Excerpted from Rabbi Menachem Genack’s Birkat Yitzchak Chidushim U-ve’urim al HaTorah

פרשת נשא

מפליא לעשות

כל ימי הזירו לה’ על נפש מת לא יבוא. לאביו ולאמו לאחיו ולאחותו לא יטמא להם במותם כי נזר אלקיו על ראשו (ו, ו-ז).

א. הגאון ר’ יעקב קמינצקי זצ”ל העיר דבר נפלא. הנה באזהרת הכהן שלא להטמא למת והתירו ליטמא לקרובו כתובים בנו ובתו עם שאר הקרובים, ואילו כאן גבי נזיר לא הוזכרו בנו ובתו אף שאסור הוא להטמאות להם, וצ”ב פשר דבר. ועל כך השיב הוא, מדרך העולם מי הוא זה שמורד נגד תהליך העולם ומסיר עצמו ממנהג העולם לקבוע לו דרך לעצמו – בחור שדמיו רותחים מפני גילו הצעיר; וכמו המעשה בשמעון הצדיק (נדרים ט, ב) בבחור צעיר שהיה רועה צאן אביו ונסתכל בבבואתו במים וראה ביופיו והבין שיצר הרע רוצה לטורדו מן העולם ולכן קיבל על עצמו נזירות. ולכן לא מוזכרים בן ובת, כי המדובר במי שהוא עדיין צעיר ואינו נשוי ואין לו עדיין ילדים.

ב. והנה כתב האבן עזרא: “יפליא – הוא מלשון פלא, כי רוב העולם הולכים אחר תאותם”. והנה חז”ל (נזיר יט, א) אומרים שנזיר חוטא הוא כיון שציער עצמו מן היין. ופירוש הענין הוא, דנקרא ‘קדוש’ ונקרא ‘חוטא’; נקרא קדוש – שרוצה למעט בתאותו ולכן אוסר על עצמו היין; אבל נקרא חוטא – כי דרך התורה אינה להסיר עצמו מן העולם ולחיות בבדידות, אלא דרך התורה הוא לקדש את הרע, ולא להיות נפרד מן הצבור, אלא ע”י התעסקותו בעולם ולא בהבדלו ממנו, ובהתקשרות העולם הרוחני עם הגוף שם תמצא הקדושה.

והנה בהפטרת נשא, העוסקת בנזירות שמשון, כתוב: “ומפליא לעשות ומנוח ואשתו רואים”. ומכאן ראיה לפירוש האבן עזרא דהפלאה הוא מלשון פלא, שיש לומר שלכן השתמש בה הכתוב לגבי המלאך, כפי ענין הפרשה שם המדובר בנזירות שמשון, וגם הנה שם המלאך הוא ‘פלאי’.

ג. והנה הלשון שבברכת אשר יצר – “ומפליא לעשות”, לקוחה היא מכאן. ועיין באו”ח (סי’ ו סע’ א) ברמ”א, וז”ל: “יש לפרש שמפליא לעשות במה ששומר רוח האדם בקרבו וקושר דבר רוחני בדבר גשמי, והכל הוא ע”י שהוא רופא כל בשר, כי אז האדם בקו הבריאות ונשמתו משתמרת בקרבו”, עכ”ל.

הרי שמהות ה”מפליא לעשות” הוא הקשר בין הגוף והרוח, וזה ההיפך מדרך הנזיר שמתרחק לגמרי מהנאת העולם הזה ואוסר על עצמו את היין, ומגדל שערו פרע, כדי להתרחק מתאות הגוף, ולכן נחשב כחוטא; אכן משמעות ה”מפליא לעשות” הוא לחיות חיים של קדושה ורוחניות אף במסגרת הגוף. ולכן קבעו חכמים במטבע ברכה זו לשון “מפליא לעשות”, הלקוחה מפרשת נזירות שמשון, להראות שעיקר הפלא הוא לקשר עולם הרוח ועולם הגשמי, ולא כפי התפיסה הגויית, השוללת את העיסוק וההנאה הגשמית. ולכן בן נח מביא רק קרבן עולה, אבל לכלל ישראל יש גם קרבן שלמים, דיש בו חלק לה’ וחלק לבעלים.

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Birkat Yitzchak – Bamidbar

Excerpted from Rabbi Menachem Genack’s Birkat Yitzchak Chidushim U-ve’urim al HaTorah

פרשת במדבר


השראת השכינה על הר סיני ולדורות עולם

הרמב”ן כותב בהקדמתו לספר במדבר: “אחר שביאר תורת הקרבנות בספר השלישי התחיל עתה לסדר בספר הזה המצות שנצטוו בענין אהל מועד וכבר הזהיר על טומאת מקדש וקדשיו. ועתה יגביל את המשכן בהיותו במדבר כאשר הגביל הר סיני בהיות הכבוד שם צוה והזר הקרב יומת כאשר אמר שם כי סקול יסקל, יצוה ולא יבואו לראות כבלע את הקדש ומתו כאשר הזהיר שם פן יהרסו אל ה’ לראות וגו’. וצוה ושמרתם את משמרת הקדש ואת משמרת המזבח כאשר אמר שם וגם הכהנים הנגשים אל ה’ יתקדשו וגו’ והכהנים והעם וגו’ והנה צוה איך תהיה משמרת המשכן וכליו ואיך יחנו סביב ויעמוד העם מרחוק והכהנים הנגשים אל ה’ איך יתנהגו בו בחנותו ובשאת אותו ומה יעשו במשמרתו וכבוד לו כמו שאמרו אינו דומה פלטרין של מלך שיש לו שומרין לפלטרין שאין לו שומרין”.

והנה דברי הרמב”ן כאן מבוססים על היסוד שכבר יסד בפרשת תרומה שהקדושה ששכנה על הר סיני הועברה למשכן, ועצם תבנית המשכן מראה על מעמד הר סיני, הכרובים של זהב מרמזים על האש שירדה על ההר, והפרוכת דומה לערפל שסיבב את ראש ההר, וכשם שבני ישראל חנו סביב להר סיני כן לדורות סביב המקדש הוי קדושת מחנות, מחנה שכינה, לויה וישראל – וכן כאן בהקדמתו הראה על הדברים המקבילים בין סיני למשכן, זה לעומת זה.

וביתר ביאור, הרי לשיטת הרמב”ן בכל החומש ישנו לבד מפרטי תרי”ג המצוות, תיאור ה’מפגש’ בין השכינה לעם ישראל [וראה מה שהרחבנו בזה בתחילת פרשת בראשית], לכן כתב בהקדמתו לספר שמות, שפרשיות בנין המשכן נכללות בספר שמות שהוא ספר הגאולה, ולא נשלמה הגאולה ממצרים עד שחזרו למעלת אבותם, שהשכינה היה שורה עלי אהליהם של האבות, שהם הם המרכבה. נמצא שספר בראשית שהוא ספר תולדות האבות מדבר על השראת השכינה באהליהם, וספר שמות גם הוא מדבר בענין המשכן, וספר ויקרא הוא כולו ענין של עבודת המקדש, וגם ספר במדבר הוא מאותו ענין וכפי שביאר הרמב”ן בהקדמתו.

ושורש דעת הרמב”ן בענין קדושת המשכן הוא, שלא יתכן שקדושת השראת השכינה שהיתה במעמד הר סיני תופיע לשעה קלה כאירוע חד פעמי, אלא שהיא יסוד וענין לדורות. ולכן קדושת המקדש, שהיא מפני השכינה – להרמב”ם (פ”ו מהל’ ביהב”ח הט”ז), הויא קדושה עולמית ששכינה אינה בטילה. ולכן להרמב”ן יש מצוה לדורות לזכור תמיד את מעמד הר סיני. ודו”ק. [וספר דברים הוא ענין אחר, דמשה מפי עצמו אמרו, ולכן הוי ‘משנה תורה’, ואינו מסדר זה.]

והנה לפ”ז יובן מדוע אנו נוהגים לקרוא פרשת במדבר קודם חג השבועות, כי יסודו של ספר במדבר הוא שענין מעמד הר סיני אינו כלה אלא מצוי לדורות, ואף בנסיעתנו והליכתנו במדבר הוא אתנו.


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Festivals of Faith: Shavuot – Sinai Desanctified

Excerpted from Rabbi Norman Lamm’s Festivals of Faith: Reflections on the Jewish Holidays

Sinai Desanctified*

In preparation for the great event of revelation, or Mattan Torah, at Mount Sinai, the Almighty commanded Moses, Ve-higbalta et ha-am saviv, “and you shall set bounds unto the people round about the mountain, saying, ‘Take care that you go not onto the mountain or touch even the border of it, for whoever touches the mount shall surely be put to death. . . . Whether it be beast or  man, it shall not live’ ” (Ex. 19:12–13). And then, almost immediately thereafter, we read: Bi-meshokh ha-yovel hemah ya‘alu ba-har, “but when the ram’s horn sounds, then they may come up to the mountain” (19:13). One of the most incisive commentaries on the Torah, Rabbi Meir Simhah of Dvinsk (in Meshekh Hokhmah, ad loc.) observes that whereas the Almighty is quite severe in warning the people to stay away from the mountain during the time of revelation, He rather abruptly grants permission to scale the mountain thereafter. Usually, when a strong prohibition is proclaimed, some time passes before an exemption or suspension is granted. Yet here the Almighty switches from a marked prohibition to a clear permission: when the ram’s horn sounds, then they shall go up onto the mountain. Why the suddenness? Why is God, as it were, so anxious to provide the hetter immediately after pronouncing the issur?

The answer our commentator provides to this question touches on one of the fundamentals of our Jewish faith that is of perennial relevance and significance. It is, he says, a protest against the pagan mentality, both ancient and modern. Every religion, pagan as well as Jewish, knows of a category it calls the holy, something known as kedushah, or holiness. There is, however, a vast difference between how the pagan and the Jew understand and conceive of the holy. The pagan identifies it as something magical, something objective, a miraculously inherent quality. The holy object was holy to his mind, and always will remain so—it is the religion of totem and taboo. Kedushah is conceived as independent of and remote from man.

To the Jew, however, kedushah is not at all absolute and magical. There is nothing in all the world that is holy in and of itself without being made holy. Holiness comes about only when God descends to meet man, and man strains to rise to meet Him. When the encounter between man and God is done, when God has withdrawn His Shekhinah, or Presence, and man has retired from the moment of spiritual elation, then kedushah vanishes.

This is why, according to our commentator, the Almighty so abruptly informed Israel of the desanctification of Mount Sinai immediately after emphasizing its holiness. Bi-meshokh ha-yovel, when the shofar sounds, indicating the end of revelation, then hemah ya‘alu ba-har, let them scale the heights of the mountain and see that this is a mountain like all other mountains, with vegetation and foliage and insects and wild beasts. There is nothing inherent in the mountain to make it different from other desert mountains. Let the Israelites appreciate that God did not reveal himself at Mount Sinai because Mount Sinai is holy, but Mount Sinai is holy only because and when God revealed Himself on it. And when Mattan Torah is over, when God has left and man has returned from the great historic encounter, then kedushah disappears. To this very day we do not consider Mount Sinai holy. There is a Christian monastery on Mount Sinai—but no shul.

To put it simply, for the pagan, kedushah exists independent of God or man. For the Jew, kedushah comes only when God calls upon man or when man calls upon God. There can be no kedushah unless there is a mekaddesh—a sanctifier, someone, whether he be divine or human, to impose holiness. This is a conception of holiness which is indeed one of the most important principles of all Judaism. It is so fundamental to the life of Torah that it was made clear to  us ere the first word of Torah was revealed.

Thus, the holiness of a synagogue issues from the intent of the men and women who frequent it; a synagogue is not holy in and of itself. If people come to a shul to pray and study Torah and practice mitzvot and submit their lives to the judgment of its teachings, it is holy. If the praying is subservient to social experience, and the study secondary to status-seeking, and the mitzvot are ignored and the Halakhah is compromised and people seek in the synagogue a confirmation of their prejudices and failings and religious inadequacies, the synagogue is not holy, no matter how impressive its religious architecture. In Judaism, a synagogue possesses kedushah not because of its furnishings, but because of its worshipers; not because of its religious art, but because of the devout hearts; not because of the money spent on it, but because of the feelings spilt in it.

According to traditional Jewish teaching, a Sefer Torah is holy only if the sofer, the scribe, was pious and his heart and mind directed to God. If the scribe is a skeptic, even a learned one, if he has reservations in his commitment to the life of Torah, then he may boast of the most beautiful handwriting and the most expensive parchment, but it is not holy; it is just another piece of fancy penmanship.

You cannot have a religion unless you are religious. There will be no Judaism unless Jews are Jewish. There is nothing sacred unless we, in our own lives and by our own conduct, sanctify it. Kedushah comes into being only when there is first a mekaddesh, someone—either God or man—willing to bestow holiness upon the object or place.

But what does it mean “to sanctify,” to “be religious,” to “be Jewish,” to be a mekaddesh?

I believe the major answer is: to be dissatisfied; never to rest on your laurels; never to be complacent; never to accept the religious status quo as sufficient. In the realm of spirit and Torah, either we advance or we retreat; we can never stay in the same place. To be a mekaddesh, to give dignity and meaning and sanctity to all those institutions in our life and in our society that we cherish, we must resolve never to be satisfied with sentimental mementoes of a static and moribund faith, never to allow the flicker of the spirit to remain ensconced in our hearts without illuminating the world about us.

Jewish tradition, in one variant of a text in the Tosefta (Sotah 7:18), tells us that in the camp of the children of Israel in the Sinai Desert, shortly after they received the Torah on Shavuot, there were two arks. Ehad she-yotzei immahem la-milhamah hayah bo sefer Torah, ve-ehad she-sharuy immahem ba-mahaneh hayu bo shivrei luhot.

The ark they took with them in their wars, in their conquest of Canaan and their conversion of a land of pagan idols into a Holy Land, that ark contained the Sefer Torah. The ark that was stationary, that remained with them in their camp, that ark contained not a Sefer Torah, but the jagged remnants of the tablets of the commandments which Moses had broken in his anger at the Children of Israel, who worshiped the Golden Calf.

When the ark is conceived as being stationary; when it is not allowed to interfere in the personal strivings and adventures of a man’s life; when it is kept only for its historical and sentimental or ornamental value, then it cannot contain a Sefer Torah. It then holds in it only shivrei luhot—pitiful remnants of broken commandments. These, too, have historical and sentimental value. They are a tender, moving reminder of the past. But the commandments are broken. They are irrelevant. They are spiritually meaningless. They have lost their vitality. Their ability to influence the lives of men is gone.

When, however, the ark is dynamic, when it is yotzei immahem le-milhamah, when it follows—nay, leads them in their wars, in their daily struggles for bread and shelter; when it is near to them in their moments of crisis and decision; when it forms the pattern for their dreams, the basis of their prayers, and the substance of their hopes; when it is taken along into their offices and shops and stores and factories; when it is made part-and-parcel of life and is held up as a living guide to present and future and not merely as a sentimental souvenir of an over-idealized past; then it contains no shivrei luhot. Then it holds within its sacred precincts the Holy Torah itself, whose parchment is beautiful in its wholeness and whose letters, though eternal, are timely.

The ark that remains in the camp, detached from and uninvolved in the Jew’s life, may be ornamented, polished, and outwardly attractive. But it is merely a pretty casket for the broken corpse of a religion that once was and is no more. The ark that travels with him may be dirty with the soot of the great highway of life; it may be soiled from the tender caresses of hands stained with the grime of honest toil. But in it lies the Sefer Torah, a dynamic, living, pulsating heart that beats in a divine rhythm of unceasing vitality, and through which flows the life-blood of countless generations of scholars and saints, of prophets and poets, of just plain good Jews who lived Jewish lives and found favor in the eyes of God and man.

In order to be a mekaddesh, in order to infuse our lives with the dignity of kedushah, we must prefer a Torah that can fit into the suitcase of our vibrant personalities over a large and stately one that remains nobly ignored and unattended in its majestic loneliness in the ark in the synagogue,

As we prepare for the summer vacation period, let us remember that neither this synagogue nor any other will retain its kedushah unless each of its members and worshipers remains a mekaddesh throughout the summer vacation and thereafter. We cannot and must not expect that summertime is a vacation from religious responsibility and the synagogue will be awaiting us with open arms when we return without in the least diminishing its own sacred integrity.

On this holiday of Shavuot, when we commemorate the giving of Torah at Sinai, we must resolve that each of us will become a mekaddesh in the circles in which he travels. We must understand that our faith is not only a heritage from the past, but something that will create for us a future. We must under stand that the Torah depends upon us even as much as we depend upon it. We must therefore affirm that we shall not be isolationists in our Yiddishkeit—we shall not keep it for ourselves, but attempt to share it with others, whether it be through personal example, through conversation, through support of yeshivot, or by any of its means with which we are acquainted.

May the Almighty grant that as we rise for the Yizkor and commune with our own thoughts and our own memories, we recall that great principle of Judaism: the fate of Torah depends upon us. The fate of kedushah depends upon us. The fate of the future depends upon us.

May we fulfill our sacred responsibilities in the eyes of God, in the eyes of man, and in the eyes of generations yet unborn.


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Birkat Yitzchak – Bechukotai

Excerpted from Rabbi Menachem Genack’s Birkat Yitzchak Chidushim U-ve’urim al HaTorah

פרשת בחוקותי

ביסוד דין נדר שהודר ברבים

כל חרם אשר יחרם מן האדם לא יפדה מות יומת (כז, כט).

במשנה בגיטין (מה, א) תנן: “רבי יהודה אומר כל נדר שידעו בו רבים לא יחזור”. וברש”י (ד”ה שידעו בו רבים): “שנדרתו ברבים”. ובגמ’ (מו, א): “אמר ריב”ל מ”ט דר’ יהודה דכתיב ולא הכום בני ישראל כי נשבעו להם נשיאי העדה (יהושע ט), וכמה רבים רב נחמן אמר ג’ ר’ יצחק אמר עשרה דכתיב עדה”. ועיין בגמ’ גיטין (לו, א) דאמר אמימר: “הלכתא אפילו למאן דאמר נדר שהודר ברבים יש לו הפרה, על דעת רבים אין לו הפרה, והני מילי לדבר הרשות אבל לדבר מצוה יש לו הפרה”.

והנה בביאור דין נדר שהודר ברבים יתכן לומר בתרי אנפי, או דלמ”ד דנדר שהודר ברבים אין לו הפרה, כשהנדר נעשה על דעת אחרים, אין הוא הבעלים על הנדר לשאול או להפר את הנדר, דכיון דנעשה על דעת רבים גם הרבים האחרים הם בעלים על נדר זה. או אולי יש לפרש דעצם חלות נדר ברבים חמיר טפי, ולא רק משום שהנודר אינו בעלים על הנדר.

והנראה שיש לפשוט כצד השני שאמרנו, ממה דפירש הרמב”ן עה”פ “כל החרם אשר יחרם מן האדם לא יפדה מות יומת” (כז, כט, עיי”ש באריכות), וז”ל: “שעל דרך הפשט יאמר הכתוב כי כל המחרים מה שאינו שלו בשעת מלחמה שאם יתן ה’ האויבים בידיהם יחרימו את עריהם וכל מי שיחלל החרם יומת וכן מצינו גבי אנשי יבש גלעד שעברו על שבועת הקהל ולא באו אל המצפה והרגו הרבה מאנשי יבש גלעד וזה מהכתוב הזה שעברו על שבועת הקהל וכן גבי יהונתן ביערת הדבש שאכל יונתן ונתחייב מיתה וכתיב ויפדו העם את יונתן ולא מת כי לפי שאמר בו תורה לא יפדה מות יומת כתיב גבי יונתן ויפדו ולא מת כי חרם המלך והסנהדרין חל על המודרים לכלותם או על העובר גזרתם ותקנתם, וזה היה טעותו של יפתח שהקריב את בתו”.

ולפי דבריו של הרמב”ן מצינו נדר של קהל שחמור משאר נדרים, ודין נדר הקהל שונה הוא ולכן העובר עליו חייב מיתה. ולפ”ז יש לבאר ג”כ בענין נדר שהודר ברבים, שהדין שנדר כזה אין לו הפרה אינו רק משום הבעלות על הנדר שאין יכול להפר ולהתיר הנדר מפני שאין הוא הבעלים על הנדר, אלא משום דחלות הנדר שנעשה ברבים חמור טפי וכפי שמצינו חלות שם בפ”ע של נדר הקהל. ודו”ק.

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Birkat Yitzchak – Behar

Excerpted from Rabbi Menachem Genack’s Birkat Yitzchak Chidushim U-ve’urim al HaTorah

פרשת בהר

תקיעת שופר בר”ה וביובל

יום תרועה יהיה לכם (כט, א)

מצות שופר בר”ה נלמדת מהא דכתיב: יום תרועה יהיה לכם, אבל לא מוזכר שהתרועה תהיה דוקא ע”י שופר, דזה נלמד מגזירה שוה דבשביעי שביעי ממצות תקיעת שופר ביובל, דכתוב שם (ויקרא כה, ט): “והעברת שופר תרועה”, וכתיב: “תעבירו שופר בכל ארצכם”.

ולכאורה יש לתמוה, שהרי מצות שופר בר”ה היא בכל שנה ושנה, ומצות תקיעה ביוה”כ דיובל היא פעם בחמישים שנה, ולכאורה מה דתוקעין בשופר היה צריך להיות כתוב מפורש בתורה לגבי ר”ה דתדיר הוא ומשם תלמד ליובל, ואיך זה שבר”ה לא מוזכר שופר כלל.

ואשר נראה לפרש בזה, בהקדם מה שמצינו בשיטת הרמב”ם חילוק יסודי בין מצות תקיעה דר”ה ובין מצות תקיעה דיובל, דלגבי ר”ה כתב הרמב”ם בפ”א מהל’ שופר הל’ ג’ וז”ל: “שופר הגזול שתקע בו יצא שאין המצוה אלא בשמיעת הקול אע”פ שלא נגע בו ולא הגביהו השומע יצא ואין בקול דין גזל”, עכ”ל. הרי שפסק הרמב”ם דאם גזל שופר ותקע בו יצא, שאין החפצא של מצוה השופר אלא הקול ואין בקול דין גזל.

אבל עיין ברמב”ם פ”י מהל’ שמיטה ויובל הל”י שכתב וז”ל: “מצות עשה לתקוע בשופר בעשירי לתשרי בשנת היובל, ומצוה זו מסורה לבית דין תחילה, וכל יחיד ויחיד חייב לתקוע שנאמר תעבירו שופר. ותוקעין בשופר תשע כדרך שתוקעין בר”ה ומעבירין שופר בכל גבול ישראל”, עכ”ל. ושמעתי ממו”ר מרן הגרי”ד הלוי סולוביצ’יק זצ”ל דמדויק מלשון הרמב”ם (כמו שייסד הרמב”ם בתשובותיו) דשאני מצות שופר בר”ה מביובל, דבר”ה המצוה היא השמיעה ולכן כתב שמברכין “לשמוע” קול שופר ולא “לתקוע”, אבל לגבי יובל כתב: “מצות עשה לתקוע בשופר בעשירי לתשרי בשנת היובל”, הרי דהמצוה היא התקיעה ולא השמיעה. ובזה ביאר כונת הרמב”ם במש”כ: “וכל יחיד ויחיד חייב לתקוע, דהיינו דכיון דהמצוה היא עצם התקיעה, לכן אינו יכול לצאת ע”י זה ששומע קול השופר מאחר כמו בר”ה, דבר”ה המצוה היא השמיעה ועל זה אמרינן שומע כעונה, אבל ביובל המצוה היא התקיעה ולכן אינו יוצא ע”י שמיעה מאחר, וזה כוונתו במש”כ: “ומעבירין שופר בכל גבול ישראל” – שכל יחיד חייב לתקוע לעצמו. וביאר בזה רבינו ז”ל, דכיון דביובל השופר הוא מעכב (וכמש”כ הרמב”ם שם פ”י הלי”ג) והוא מקדש את שנת היובל, צריך מעשה המקדש, וזהו מעשה התקיעה. ונראה דעל תקיעת שופר ביובל אינו מברך “לשמוע” אלא “לתקוע בשופר”.

ועיין עוד ברמב”ם בסה”מ מצוה קל”ז במצוה דשופר דיובל שכתב, וז”ל: “ואין ענינה כענין תקיעת ר”ה כי הוא זכרון לפני ה’ וזהו להוציא את העבדים”, עכ”ל, הרי להדיא שחלוק דין שופר בר”ה מדין שופר דיובל, דשופר דר”ה הוא לזכרון ויש בו ענין תפילה, משא”כ שופר דיובל הוא לשחרר העבדים ולקדש את שנת היובל. ולכן להרמב”ם בשופר דר”ה דהוי לזכרון המצוה היא השמיעה משא”כ בשופר דיובל דהמצוה היא התקיעה.

ולפי”ז מכיון דלהרמב”ם ביובל התקיעה היא המצוה א”כ החפצא של מצוה הוי השופר ולא קול השופר. ונראה לפ”ז דאם גזל שופר ביובל לא יצא דהוי מצוה הבאה בעבירה.

ולפ”ז מובן שפיר למה לא הזכירה התורה שופר גבי ר”ה, ששם החפצא של מצוה הוא הקול שנוצר ע”י השופר, ולכן כתיב “יום תרועה יהיה לכם”, שהחפצא של מצוה בר”ה הוא התרועה. ולכן דוקא לגבי יובל מוזכר השופר – דשם החפצא של מצוה הוי השופר, ונלמד מיובל לר”ה ע”י גזירה שוה.