After many grave warnings against leaving the ways of the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu tells Klal Yisrael that learning and keeping the Torah is within easy grasp of each of us. “Acquiring it doesn’t require wings to fly to the heavens, and studying it doesn’t demand crossing oceans.” Rather, Torah is well within the reach of each person.
At the beginning of this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of bikkurim. When one sees the first fruit blossoming, he is to tie a red string on that fruit, bring them to the Beis HaMikdash, and give them to a kohen. While there, he must read a passage from the Torah found in the beginning of this week’s parshah.
At the end of a long prophecy of what will befall us if we don’t follow the ways of Hashem, the Torah seems to lay the blame on one issue: because you did not serve Hashem…amid gladness and goodness of heart when everything was abundant. It seems the pivotal point of these two extremes is based on simcha, implying that serving Hashem with happiness is critical to our success as a nation.
We live in a time when something just six months old is considered outdated. Our generation strives for the most comfortable and easy way of life, and thus we are never satisfied with the “old-fashioned” devices. We, as Torah-abiding-Jews, definitely try our hardest not to get caught up in this wild and mad pursuit of worldly pleasures and comforts, but we can certainly learn an important lesson from this craziness.
The Torah lays out our attitude and approach to the different nations and tells us, “The Mitzrim cannot be totally rejected because you lived in their country.” Rashi is bothered by this mixed expression. If we are supposed to be grateful for the good the Mitzrim did for us, why use the expression “don’t reject them”? This doesn’t sound very appreciative.
In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of hashavas aveidah (returning a lost object). The Gemara in Baba Metzia 27b derives from the pasuk in this week’s parshah, which says that one who finds a lost object should hold it until he is derosh acheichah, that the finder must investigate whether the man who claims that the lost object is his is being truthful. The Torah accepts simanim (signs) that one can provide as proof that the object is indeed his.
Does the title of this article sound familiar? Anyone over the age of 30 probably remembers a certain song by a certain boys choir with the “Shabbos Yerushalayim.” The song was released circa the late 1980’s, and you guessed it, it was sung by R’ Yerachmiel Begun’s Miami Boys Choir.
The Jewish nation as a totality was given the mitzvah of appointing judges. These judges were commanded to mediate with righteousness according to the Torah’s laws. One of the rules of a judge is that he may not accept a bribe because a “bribe will blind the eyes of the wise.”
The Rambam is of the opinion that a safek is permitted min haTorah. The rabbanan forbade one to take a chance and do something that is a safek issur. Many Rishonim disagree with this ruling and say that a safek is forbidden min haTorah. The Rishonim ask on the Rambam’s opinion from many places in Shas.
The summer season we pined for on those dreary, shivery winter days is all but coming to a close. What better way for reality to sink in than the call of the shofar that wrests us from our repose on the first of Elul, reminding us that we have serious work ahead. Luckily we get thirty days to pull ourselves together, so that we have a leg to stand on when we petition Hashem on the Yom HaDin to grant us mechila for our shortcomings of the past year.
Our rabbis teach that the first step of repentance is ackowledging our sins and errors. If we feel that our behavior is on the right track then by definition we will fail to identify our shortcomings. Sadly, then our repentance will never leave the start gate.
In this week’s parshah the Torah writes about the mitzvah to destroy avodah zarah. At the same time, the Torah says not to do avodah zarah to Hashem your God. As the pasuk says: “va’avaditam es shemam min hamakom hahu, lo sa’asun kein la’Hashem Elokeichem.”
For forty years in the midbar the Jewish people ate mon. Guided by Moshe Rabbeinu, engaged in constant Torah study with every physical need taken care of, Klal Yisrael lived on a lofty spiritual plane. Now that they were being ushered into a different era – entering Eretz Yisrael where they would begin living in a natural manner – they were given many directives to retain their status as an exalted nation.
Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber zt’l was a legendary leader of Russian Jewry for over three decades. He remained resolutely firm in his faith and practiced Torah and mitzvos throughout his arduous years behind the Iron Curtain, even in the brutality of a Russian Labor Camp. His autobiography, To Remain a Jew is his incredible account of how he remained faithful to G-d even under the most trying circumstances. The following is just one anecdote recorded in the book:
In this week’s parshah we derive the mitzvah of birchas hamazon from the pasuk of “v’achalta v’savata u’veirachta” (Devarim 8:10). This mitzvah is to recite three berachos mi’de’oraisa and one mi’de’rabbanan after one eats bread made from the five grains (wheat, spelt, oats, rye, and barley).
Ah, Shabbos Nachamu! Finally the three weeks of mourning have finished, and the seven-week period of comforting, of nechama, has begun. We breathe a sigh of relief and life goes back to normal. But wait a minute – it doesn’t seem like anything has changed!
In this week’s parshah and in Parshas Re’eh the Torah commands us not to add to the mitzvos or lessen them (bal tosif and bal tigra). For example, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 88b says that one may not have five parshios in his tefillin or five different species together with his lulav. The Ramban in Parshas Re’eh says that the pasuk in this week’s parshah is the main prohibition and the pasuk in Re’eh is referring to the korbanos.
Why do we call this Shabbos, Shabbos Chazon? The word chazon is the first word of the haftarah and it means to see, to experience a vision. If that is the reason we have to ask what is so special about this word?
תשעה באב always falls between the parshiyot of Devarim and V’etchanan. This is very appropriate, because in the parsha of Devarim we read of חטא המרגלים, and the gratuitous crying which prompted the Almighty to say that He would one day give us good reason to cry; while the parsha of V’etchanan which contains within it the passage of כי תוליד בנים ובני בנים, which we read on תשעה באב - speaks of exile, teshuvah, and redemption.
This week we begin reading Sefer Devarim. The Gemara in Baba Basra 13b says that four blank lines must be scratched onto the parchment between each of the sefarim of a Sefer Torah (i.e. between Sefer Bereishis and Sefer Shemos).
“The ox knows its owner; the donkey the stall of its master; Israel doesn’t know, My nation doesn’t contemplate.” – Yeshayah 1:3 With these words, Yeshayah HaNavi begins the rebuke of his generation, a generation that strayed, that has left the ways of the Torah and turned to other gods and foreign ways.
Louis XVI hoped that July 21, 1791 would be a turning point in the French Revolution. It was, but not quite the way he had hoped it would be. Louis had planned to cross into Austria, raise an army and invade his home country of France to crush the revolution. In fact, Louis and his family nearly made it to the border. They were a mere thirty miles away from putting his grand scheme into action. But a stable master recognized him when the carriage stopped to rest. The National Guardsmen were alerted and intercepted his carriage forcing him and his family to return to Paris embarrassed and humiliated. The French Revolution was about to take a dangerous and radical turn.
On this coming Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masai we bentch Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av. Rosh Chodesh (on Yom Sheini - Monday, July 8) marks the start of the mournful “nine days” during which we restrict many activities normally taken for granted, such as eating meat and drinking wine (Shabbos is an exception), the purchasing and wearing of new clothes, doing laundry (the washing of children’s clothing may be permitted; consult your halachic authority), listening to music, swimming and participating in joyful pursuits.
In parshas Masei the Torah discusses the halachos regarding when one person accidentally kills another. The Torah says that a relative of the victim (goel hadam) may avenge the death of his relative by killing the murderer who acted accidentally. According to the Torah, the perpetrator must go to one of the arei miklat (city of refuge). While in the ir miklat the goel hadam may not kill the murderer who acted accidentally. If he does kill him while he was in the ir miklat, he will be liable for murder.
A friend recently related the following personal story: “A few months ago I was invited to a wedding of close friends. Though the bride and groom were from New York they were celebrating their wedding in a resort village in Mexico, south of Cancun. I, and other guests who were Shomer Shabbos arranged all the food.