Parashat Ki Tesse
THE SMALL FOXES
We find ourselves right in the middle of the month of Elul -the Days of Awe
are just around the corner. Everything regarding the coming year will soon
be determined. How have we been preparing ourselves for such an awesome and
Let us remind ourselves of the advice offered by Rabbi Yisrael of Salant
zs"l to his students: the most critical preparations for the Days of Awe
involve the small mistakes, those seemingly insignificant errors which we
all make. It is regarding these "minor" transgressions for which we will be
asked, "These were so easy to avoid - how did you still manage to make the
mistake? How could you have gone wrong on such a simple matter?"
Let us therefore pay extra attention to these simple matters: reciting
"birkat hamazon" (grace after meals) with more concentration, understanding
the words we say during prayers, placing specific emphasis on the first
verse of "shema" and the first paragraph of "Amidah." Let us make more of
an effort to attend Torah classes and be more careful regarding the laws of
"lashon hara" (inappropriate talk about others). Let us increase our
performance of small acts of kindness and generosity, specifically regarding
our family and friends. Let us make a special effort to pray with a minyan
on a consistent basis.
The Ben Ish Hai, the anniversary of whose death occurs this week, applies
this concept to a verse in Shir Hashirim, "Grab for us foxes, small foxes
who destroy vineyards." Specifically the "small" transgressions which seem
insignificant to us threaten to destroy, Heaven forbid, the entire vineyard.
We know that the Temple was taken from us as a result of our inability to
properly get along with one another, a sin which, tragically, we take so
lightly. Therefore, in the coming weeks, let us be extra careful in the
smaller matters, and thereby merit a good and blessed year, replete with the
blessings of the Al-mighty.
BECAUSE OF FOUR THINGS
The sun, moon, and stars were not created for their light alone. Eclipses
- the absence of the light of these luminary bodies - serve an important
function, as well. In fact, this function is listed in the passuk before
their responsibility to provide light to the world: "And Hashem said, 'Let
their be luminaries in the heavens...and they will serve as signs,'" which,
as Rashi explains, refers to eclipses which are seen as a bad sign for the
world, "...and they shall be luminaries in the heaven," understood by Rashi
as referring to the light which they provide.
This Tuesday night there will be a full lunar eclipse in Israel. As
mentioned, Rashi writes that such a phenomenon forebodes badly for the
world, and Rabbi Meir (Masechet Sukkah 20) says that the eclipse is a
specifically bad sign for the Jewish people, Heaven forbid. Why? Rabbi
Meir explains that just as when a teacher walks into the classroom with his
discipline-rod the student who is accustomed to being slapped begins to
worry, so must we - who are accustomed to being punished - be the most
concerned when the divine whip appears on the scene. The Maharsha adds that
the student who is reprimanded the most is the indolent student, the one
whose talents are great and, therefore, so are the expectations. Similarly,
the Jewish people are granted the potential to achieve great spiritual
heights. Therefore, when we fall short, the disappointment is greater, and,
consequently, so is the punishment. The Gemara continues that the lunar
eclipse, asopposed to the solar eclipse, represents an especially negative
sign for the Jewish people, as our calendar is based upon the moon, not the sun.
Our rabbis have asked, how could the Gemara see an eclipse as a threatening
and foreboding phenomenon? After all, natural causes produce the eclipse,
and we can predict precisely when it will occur. The author of "Iyun
Yaakov" zs"l answers that indeed, certain times of the year are cut out for
blessing and goodness and other times are set aside for the opposite. The
month of Adar is specifically identified as a month of joy and salvation;
Nissan is seen as the special month of redemption; the month of Av is
certainly not a month of joy. In fact, a Jew should not go to court against
a gentile during the month of Av. The Ar"i revealed to us a whole series of
dates on which one should not conduct business. It is not surprising, then,
that the period of an eclipse is marked by Heavenly prosecution against us,
Heaven forbid. Hazal did us a great favor by revealing this to us, allowing
us to refrain from dangerous activities during this period, just as a
physician advises his patient how to take care of himself during an illness.
Even if we behave properly and follow the correct road, we must make a
special effort to avoid any form of inappropriate behavior. Rashi writes in
the aforementioned passage, "When you perform the will of the Al-mighty,
you need not worry from disaster [during the eclipses]." Hazal have taught
us specifically regarding what we need to be careful: "Because of four
things eclipses occur - false tale-bearers, false witnesses, those who raise
small cattle [and allow the sheep to destroy other people's property], and
those who cut down good trees [meaning, fruit-bearing trees, an act which
demonstrates his lack of appreciation to Hashem]."
What is the common denominator of these four violations? Each of them, in
its own way, constitutes an "eclipse" of its own, a transformation of light
into darkness. There is no greater eclipse of light than by darkening one's
reputation through false rumors, allegations, and testimonies. Similarly,
sending one's sheep into the property of another, ruining his trees for some
immediate need, chopping down a tree and showing disrespect for the great
kindness of our Creator - all these activities serve to eclipse our value
system. When an actual, astronomical eclipse occurs, there opens, as it
were, room for the prosecutor to bring us to task for these moral eclipses.
We stand here and wonder to ourselves - how will we survive this scrutiny?
Cutting down fruit-trees - rejecting the blessings of Hashem - is not one of
the defining characteristics of an affluent society the disrespect shown
toward food, an attitude shunned in previous generations. Those who raise
small cattle - a lack of concern and respect for the property of others and
not honoring his individual rights. Perhaps worst of all, the spreading of
false rumors and allegations.
The continuing battles being fought through mass media, words transmitted
verbally and electronically - who can possibly begin to imagine the amount
of degradation, humiliation, scorn and contempt which is continually passed
through these means of communication? False rumors, created from thin air,
substantiated by false testimonies with no sense of common decency and
concern for others - and all this captures the attention of a
Perhaps the eclipse thus arrives at the perfect time, to turn our attention
to the moral eclipses which occur in our lives on a daily basis. Indeed,
this is the most appropriate time, the days of "selihot," a time which calls
for intense introspection, specifically regarding these four points.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a
Bread Made from "Kitniyot" (Legumes)
When one eats bread baked from ground rice, he recites a mezonot before
eating and borei nefashot afterward. However, the Rishonim (early Medieval
commentaries) are in dispute regarding bread baked from other forms of
kitniyot. The Rif and the Rambam draw a distinction between rice and other
kitniyot, and the blessing for bread from kitniyot is shehakol, not mezonot.
The reason given relates to Rabbenu Yonah's comments regarding bread made
from beans, namely, that generally speaking legumes are eaten whole or
cooked. Rarely are they ground into flour for baking purposes. Therefore,
we may safely assume that the farmer who planted these kitniyot had intended
for them to be eaten whole or cooked. Therefore, the blessing is shehakol,
as the Shulhan Aruch rules that one recites a shehakol when eating a cooked
fruit or vegetable if that item is generally eaten raw. Here, too, since
the farmer presumably had intended for the kitniyot to be eaten whole or
cooked, the proper blessing for the bread is shehakol. Regarding rice, on
the other hand, there appears in the Gemara the opinion of Rabbi Yohanan ben
Nuri that rice is to be considered a species of grain. Although we do not
follow this view, the existence of such an opinion demonstrates the unique
stature of rice over other kitniyot, and therefore bread baked from rice -
but not other kitniyot - requires a mezonot.
This is the opinion of the Rif and the Rambam.
The Rosh and Rabbenu Yonah, however, argue that no distinction should be
made in this regard between rice and other kitniyot, and bread baked from
all kitniyot requires a mezonot. They contend that kitniyot satiate the
appetite just as rice does, and therefore bread made from kitniyot requires
a mezonot. (Although the Bet Yosef raises a question whether the Rosh
distinguishes between millet and other kitniyot, the "Bi'ur Halachah" cites
the Tosafot Harosh which states explicitly that no distinction should be
drawn. The Bet Yosef did not have access to the Tosafot Harosh, for it was
printed only several generations later.)
The Shulhan Aruch (208:8) rules in accordance with the Rif and the Rambam,
against the Rosh, and thus bread made from any form of kitniyot other than
rice requires a shehakol, and not a mezonot.
In summary, when one eats bread made from rice, millet, or other kitniyot,
he recites the blessing of "shehakol nihyah bidvaro," as the Shulhan Aruch
rules. If the individual mistakenly recites a mezonot over such bread he
has still fulfilled his obligation, for the halachah states that if one
mistakenly recites a mezonot for any food other than water and salt he has
fulfilled his obligation.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
This Monday, the 13th of Elul, marks the anniversary of the passing of
Rabbi Yosef Hayim zs"l, known as the "Ben Ish Hai." He was the greatest
leader of his generation for whom it is better to praise with silence rather
than do injustice to his greatness. He was an incredible genius with
command over both the revealed and hidden areas of the Torah, Jewish law,
Midrash, in both scope and depth, and offered many novel interpretations.
It is no wonder, then, that he merited beholding exalted visions and was
graced with a degree of "ru'ah hakodesh" (divine intuition).
The "Ben Ish Hai" zs"l
Several months before his passing the leaders of Yerushalayim wrote him a
letter inviting him to accept the position of Rishon Lessiyon in place of
Rabbi Yaakov Shaul Elishar zs"l. In his response, the great rabbi wrote to
his student, Rabbi Ben Siyon Hazan zs"l of Yerushalayim, that he cannot
accept the offer. He requested that his student present the letter to the
rabbi who suggested the idea, and, if he was not available, the letter
should be given to a different rabbi, who also came up with the idea.
Rabbi Ben Siyon took the letter and proceeded to the rabbi. He was told
that the rabbi had left the city due to unforeseen circumstances and would
not return for some time. Rabbi Ben Siyon therefore took the letter to the
second rabbi. When Rabbi Ben Siyon discussed this matter with his peers,
they concluded that this must be a revelation of "ru'ah hakodesh," that the
Ben Ish Hai new in advance that the first rabbi would be out of town. Rabbi
Ben Siyon wrote to the Ben Ish Hai about the conversation he had with his
peers. With great humility, the rabbi outright denied the claim that he had
merited ru'ah hakodesh and added, "Not only am I not capable of ru'ah
hakodesh, but Hazal write that once the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed ru'ah
hakodesh was annulled and given to the infants - and this level is beyond
me, even in my old age!"
In conclusion, we cite a different piece from the same letter which relates
to this time of year: "You should know that I am writing you this letter
during the days of teshuvah, during which each minute is as important to me
as an entire month!"
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"When you build a new house"
The Hid"a zs"l explains this verse in a manner relevant tothis time of
year, our repentance during the month of Elul. A person takes his religious
inventory and realizes his mistakes, seeing all the houses of vanity which
he has built over the year. He performs teshuvah, tearing down these houses
and building a new, eternal house. If he sincerely wishes that his new
house remain strong and erect, that he will never again return to his sinful
ways, then "...you shall build a fence around the roof" - he should build
for himself guidelines and precautionary measures to prevent him from
sinning, and then he can feel confident that he will retain his teshuvah!
"For the one who falls will fall from it [the house]"
Rabbi Azaryah Pigo zs"l, in his work, "Binah L'itim," explains that the
verse here responds to those who wish not to construct the fence around the
roof, figuring that one who deserves to fall off should, in fact, fall.
Such an individual may think, what difference does it make if I build a
fence? If Hashem decreed that the person should fall he will fall even with
the fence; and if the decree was for him not to fall than he is safe even
without a fence! Thus, the Torah tells such a person that although this is
true, he should not get himself involved in these calculations. Let the
person fall "from it," meaning by himself, and you should not take part in
"When you encamp against your enemies"
The Or Hahayim zs"l explains that there are some serious transgressions,
less serious transgressions, and smaller violations for which one generally
is not punished. However, the prosecutor in heaven is particularly adept
during times of danger. Therefore, says the Torah, "When you encamp against
your enemies" - during times of danger, "you shall be careful from all bad
things" - which includes even the smallest violations and mistakes, for
during these times we must take extra precautions. Thus, we who have found
ourselves in danger for so many years, how careful we must be to avoid even
the slightest misdemeanors!
FROM THE WONDERS OF THE CREATOR
Antelopes and Mountain Goats
The antelope family includes the mountain goats, those which can be found
in the region of Judea, near the Dead Sea, and in the "Aravah," particularly
near springs and rivers. These goats feature very long horns which can be a
Although they do not run very well, they are blessed with the ability to
jump and skip far away. They can jump two meters high in the air and skip
even farther. This allows them to climb rather easily through the mountain
ranges, as the verse states, "High mountains for the mountain goats." The
antelopes found in the Negev region (antelopes have smaller and simpler
horns) are much quicker, running sometimes as fast as sixty kilometers per
hour. A certain species of antelope found in Africa can run as fast as
eighty kilometers per hour and can skip as much as nine meters in a single
bound. This allows them to escape from their enemies, the animals of prey.
Although these animals feature the signs of kashrut - the have split hooves
and they chew their cud - we do not eat them as we have no tradition of
eating them from our predecessors.
THE WELLSPRING OF EDUCATION
"Do Not Take Interest!"
Heavy loans weighed down upon the residents of Jerusalem, debts which
continued to pile up according to the high interest rates charged by the
Arab money-lenders. The impoverished community found no way out, so they
sent their two spiritual leaders, Rabbi Yom Tov Algazi and Rabbi Yaakov
Hazan zs"l, on a trip outside Israel to collect money to cover the debt and
assist in establishing the community and its Torah scholars. Wherever they
went they were greeted with reverence, as their reputation of scholarship
and piety preceded them. Such was the case when they arrived in Frankfurt,
where the Hatam Sofer and Rabbi Dan Guggenheim paid personal attention to
the success of their mission. As the two rabbis left the city, these two
local leaders accompanied them. The Maharit Algazi took out from his pocket
a sizeable sum of money. "This money was received from a man named
Lilnatel, and it seems to me that it is 'improper' money. I do not want to
defile Jerusalem with forbidden funds. The sanctity of the city will not be
established through such monies, so please return the money to him."
Startled, Rabbi Dan Guggenheim took the money and returned it to the donor.
Infuriated, Lilnatel exclaimed, "I'll show him -this money will be used to
serve the rabbi in his own Bet Midrash!" As the rabbis were collecting funds
in other communities, Lilnatel closed his business and made his way to
Yerushalayim. He entered the yeshivah of "Bet El" at whose head sat the
Maharit Algazi. He spoke to the caretakers about replacing the old
furniture with new, expensive tables and chairs. Needless to say, the
caretakers were overjoyed by the offer.
Soon afterward the Maharit Algazi returned from his travels and entered the
Bet Midrash. As he began walking inside, he looked around at the new
furniture, and said, "Remove this furniture from here! An aura of
contamination has been emitted by this furniture, and I cannot possibly
study Torah with purity amongst these tables and chairs!"
Why? Because Lilnatel amassed his great wealth by loaning money on interest.
There are various ways to avoid violating this prohibition, if we accustom
ourselves to obeying the rulings of our authorities of halachah. Let us
first and foremost make ourselves aware of these halachot and consult the
authorities on a regular basis.
Sing You Righteous
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller
By-product of this study (part 1)
Those who engage in the study of the Creator's wisdom and kindliness (Gadlo
Vetuvo) are indeed rewarded 1)by happiness of great achievement in this life
and 2) the happiness of the True Knowledge in the Afterlife, where "the
righteous sit with their crowns (of the True Knowledge which they gained in
this life-RMBM) ontheir heads and they enjoy the splendor of the Shechinah"
(Berachot 17a). There is, however, a by-product of this study, which
affords abundant physical reward in this life: 3) the joy which comes from
deep appreciation. "He who is of good heart (mind!) is at a perpetual
banquet" (Mishleh 15:15). This verse is quoted by RMA at the end of the
laws of Purim when we regretfully bid farewell to the happy day. RMA offers
consolation to those who yearn for happiness, and he proposes the
opportunity to enjoy an uninterrupted Purim throughout the year. This is
the feast of the Good Mind, the attitudes gained as the result of the study
of the purposefulness and kindliness of the world's phenomena.
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