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Towards the beginning of our parashah, the Torah lists the names of the tribal leaders, the "nesi'im," whom Moshe sent to scout the land. The Torah writes that they were all "anashim," important and distinguished people. As the Ramban notes, the Torah did not present the list in sequence according to the births of the twelve tribes, nor do the tribes appear in the order of travel or population. "It seems, that it saw fit to list them here according to their level, for they were the leaders and nesi'im of the nation, as it says. It thus mentioned the most respected first, for it listed them according to level of the individuals, and not according to the greatness of the tribe." As we look over the list of people, we find Kalev listed third and Yehoshua fifth. As we know, Kalev led the tribe of Yehudah, the tribe of kingship, and he continued to lead this tribe during the conquest of the land (34:19). Yehoshua, however, served as king over all of Yisrael, who in its entirety accepted his authority. They even declared, "Any man who disobeys your mouth and not listen to your words regarding anything you command him shall die" (Yehoshua 1:18). From this pasuk we derive the status of the king in halachah and the obligation of obeying him (Sanhedrin 49a).
We can only wonder, if Yehoshua was not of the highest level, how did he make his way to the front and ascend to the highest peak of authority in the nation? The Torah itself provides the answer: "he would not budge from inside the tent" (Shemot 33:11). Through his diligence and exertion in Torah study, Yehoshua ascended to the highest levels, as Hazal promise, "Learn out of love, and the honor will eventually come"; "and it [the Torah] gives one kingship and authority."
This calls to all the yeshivah students to strengthen themselves, to apply themselves diligently in learning, so that through their diligence they can reach the highest peaks.
There once lived a religious Jew whom Hashem blessed with great wealth; any business venture that he undertook succeeded. He knew how to show his appreciation to the One responsible for his success and prosperity, and he understood that he did not earn his fortune through his own efforts. He acknowledged his having been selected by Providence to serve as a loyal patron for his brethren and assist his fellow Jews as best he could. Indeed, he supported many people and literally brought people back to life. He lived during a difficult period, when there were many hungry people. Fires broke out one after the other, destroying entire towns and leaving their inhabitants penniless. The victims looked with hope to the council, which consisted of three charity officials appointed specifically for this purpose by the wealthy philanthropist himself. He instructed them not to discriminate and give to whoever came forth. When larger amounts were requested for expenses such as medical bills, marriage, or the reconstruction of a home or business, then they should ask for authorized recommendations and thoroughly inquire as to the integrity of the request. These were his guidelines, and everyone praised him for his generosity.
There was also one final instruction: if a community rabbi or rosh yeshivah would ask for donations on behalf of Torah institutions, then he should come straight to him. In the interests of "kevod ha'Torah," proper respect for Torah personalities, he felt it appropriate for him to give them the money directly and receive their berachah. Indeed, he harbored great respect for Torah and its scholars, and he saw it as his own honor to respect them as their stature required.
As mentioned, he lived in particularly difficult times, and the Ramban writes that whoever is more sanctified then the other suffers greater destruction. One cannot describe the crisis suffered by the yeshivot during this period, as their students experienced the shame of hunger. One of the roshei yeshivot was compelled to travel to raise funds, so he made his way to the home of this certain philanthropist. This occurred during the dead of winter, when windswept rain poured in buckets from the skies, and the rosh yeshivah entered the man's house with his clothing dripping wet. He walked in, and, standing in the entranceway, he removed his golashes and soaked coat, while the butler went to inform his master of the guest's arrival. The man rose out of respect for the rabbi, who walked across the thick carpet to shake the host's hand. They sat together at the table and the rosh yeshivah spoke of the troubles facing his institution. The man sighed sympathetically at hearing of the difficulties, and signed a check. He gave quite a respectable sum; if other donors would give this amount, the students' troubles would be over.
As he thanked the man for his generosity, the butler announced the arrival of the "Saba" of Nevarduk, the founder of the renowned network of yeshivot. The "Saba" walked into the house quickly, his golashes leaving puddles of water along the lavish carpet. He dropped a friendly, casual slap on the man's shoulder, sat with his drenched coat on the lavishly upholstered chair, and said, "So, what will be with you -- you are still an ignoramus!" He shot a glance at his watch and begged, "Look, my time is precious; please write a check quickly so I can move on." Without saying a word, the wealthy man signed his name on the check and gave it to the "Saba." The other rosh yeshivah saw that the amount was several times the sum he had received! The "Saba" once again patted the wealthy man on the shoulder and said, "Remember what I said -- an hour of Torah study is worth more than all this," his hand waving around to point to all the fortune in the house.
After he left, the rosh yeshivah turned politely to the man asked, "Perhaps you could explain to me: I conducted myself with the utmost respect towards you and received a respectable sum. The Saba acted with such obvious disrespect -- and received even more?!"
"Exactly," responded the wealthy man. "The rosh yeshivah treats me with respect because of my wealth. In turn, I likewise look upon my assets with importance and do not give away too much. But the Saba imbues within me the sense that money is worth nothing; Torah is the only important thing. It is therefore much easier for me to part with my money on behalf of Torah scholars." A true story, one which teaches us an important lesson and relates to this week's parashah.
Our sages tell us that Benei Yisrael were originally to have conquered Eress Yisrael without a battle. "Indeed, if they had not sent the spies, they would have entered without a war; the dwellers of Canaan would have fled . " (Seforno, Bemidbar 11:35). But Benei Yisrael came and requested a scouting mission "as do all those who come to wage war against a foreign land, that they send spies to know the roads and entrances into the cities" (Ramban 13:2). If they choose natural means of warfare, then the Creator leads them along this path. They thus required seven years of conquest -- seven years they could have spared.
It thus turns out that the Creator deals with us like that wealthy donor: He relates to us as we relate to Him. If we rely on Him, then He grants us assistance and hurries our salvation. But if we think that we can take care of things ourselves, then He lets us be, and the results, as we know, are our own fault.
The Creator pleads with us, "Turn to Me and be saved, for I am the Al-mighty, and there is none other" (Yeshayahu 45:22). Who will be foolish enough to rely on only himself, rather than relying on the all-powerful Master of the world?
"The Land is Very, Very Good"
Yehoshua and Kalev rose to contradict the words of their comrades, insisting that the land does not "consume its inhabitants." Its environment is good and it flows with milk and honey (see Ramban). What, however, did they mean when they said, "Tovah ha'aress me'od me'od" -- "the land is very, very good"? A beautiful explanation appears in the commentary, "He'amek Davar" by the Nessiv zs"l of Volozhin, an approach to which he refers several times throughout his work on Humash (Beresheet 1:31, 3:8; Bemidbar 32:11). Indeed, there is no land in the world like Eress Yisrael! However, can the air quality compare with that of Switzerland, does it produce fruit like that of California, water like Turkey, oil like Kuwait, diamonds like the Congo, or gold like South Africa? How are we to understand the greatness of Eress Yisrael?
We introduce the answer with another question: who receives greater enjoyment from a good meal -- a millionaire or commoner? Undoubtedly, a regular person enjoys a big meal more, as he is not accustomed to luxury. Likewise, Israelis enjoy the air of Switzerland, while the Swiss themselves have grown accustomed to the clear air and do not realize this special quality of their country. We can now begin to understand the unique greatness of Eress Yisrael. Some countries are blessed with an abundance of a given quality -- water or sun, clear air or fruits. Others are lacking in every which way; they are dry, barren and poor. Our land is special in that it possesses everything but without one permanent quality. There are rainy winters and dry winters; difficult summers and easier summers; a bountiful produce and weak produce. We are therefore always aware of the blessings we receive and capable of appreciating them and thanking the Al-mighty. "The land is very good" -- and we can then again appreciate the goodness: "very, very good."
Why is this? First, in order that we express our gratitude to Hashem each time anew, just as we recite "sheheheyanu" when partaking of a new fruit. Secondly, the main reason, so that we constantly realize our dependence on the Creator. By His will the winter will be blessed with heavy rainfall, and by His will it will be dry. And it all depends on our conduct: "If you listen to My misvot. I will give the rain of your land in its time, and you will harvest your grain, your wine and your oil. Beware, lest your heart strays. He will withhold the heavens and there will be no rain, and the land will not give its yield." We thus constantly lift our eyes to the heavens, working to improve our ways.
"The land is very, very good"
The Midrash cites Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi as comparing Benei Yisrael's request of a scouting mission to a prince who, after his father made a match for him with a beautiful, wealthy girl from a distinguished family, asked to go see her.
The sacred Kabbalist Rav Haim Vital zs"l explained that this alludes to the three important qualities of Eress Yisrael. First, it is "beautiful" in its spirituality. It marks the "gate of the heavens" through which Am Yisrael's tefilot ascend to the heavens and Hashem's blessing descends from the heavens, as it says, "Hashem's eyes are constantly on it." It is also situated opposite the heavenly Bet Hamikdash, as it says, "to glorify the site of our Mikdash." Secondly, Eress Yisrael is "wealthy" in material terms, as the pasuk says, "a land where you may eat food without stint, it lacks nothing therein." It is therefore referred to as "a land flowing with milk and honey," as demonstrated by the fruits brought by the scouts.
Finally, Eress Yisrael is "from a distinguished family." Meaning, whoever earns the privilege of living there is called a sadik, as the pasuk says, "And your nation is all sadikim, they will always inherit the land." This also alludes to the fact that the land's "ancestors," the sacred patriarchs, lived there and recognized its goodness and sanctity!
The Ar"i Hakadosh zs"l
We all know of the great efforts invested by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a with regard to the issue of high standards of kashrut. He established the scrupulous "Bet Yossef" supervision agency to help ensure the maintenance of these standards, as kashrut brings one to purity of soul. The Hovot Halevavot zs"l wrote (Sha'ar Hateshuvah 5) that one should abstain from "seventy gates" of permissible food rather than bring himself into a situation of even a possible, single "gate" of forbidden food.
As recorded in the work, "Meir Einei Hagolah" (297), the Ar"i Hakadosh would refrain from eating the entire back section of the animal out of concern that the forbidden fats and "gid hanasheh" may not have been thoroughly removed.
Once, the Bet Yossef zs"l invited him to eat with him. The Ar"i apologized and said that he could not eat with him if he serves meat from the back section of the animal. The Bet Yossef guaranteed the Ar"i that he would personally perform the work of "nikkur" (removing the fats and "gid hanasheh") such that there would be nothing to worry about.
The Ar"i consented and came to the meal. But when the meat was served, the Ar"i moved his plate away. The Bet Yossef asked, "Why does the master not eat the meat -- I myself properly performed the 'nikkur'!"
The Ar"i took a piece of meat from the plate and showed the Bet Yossef that there was a piece from the "gid nasheh" in the meat.
The Bet Yossef's face turned white from shame, and he likewise refrained from eating. That night, the angel (the "maggid"), who would often come to reveal secrets to the Bet Yossef, came to him and said, "Do not worry. You should know that the meat was perfectly kosher. But if the Ar"i took upon himself not to eat meat from the back of the animal, then sinews can appear to him out of nowhere. "
Responsa and Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
A. If one cannot remember whether or not he recited birkot ha'Torah in the morning, should he recite them out of doubt?
B. Is there a prohibition against studying Torah before reciting birkot ha'Torah?
A. One who is unsure as to whether or not he recited birkot ha'Torah should not recite them out of doubt, since the general principle we follow dictates that we never recite berachot of whose obligation we are unsure. If he has yet to recite shaharit, then he should preferably have in mind to fulfill the obligation of birkot ha'Torah through the recitation of "ahavat olam" before keri'at shema. (He should also learn something after tefilah.) Or, if possible, he should ask someone else, who has yet to recite birkot ha'Torah, to recite the berachot and fulfill the obligation on his behalf. The listener should answer "amen" and thus fulfill his obligation by listening to the berachot of the other. (Yabi'a Omer vol. 3, Orah Hayyim 27:10; vol. 8, Orah Hayyim 5:3, footnote pp.14-16.)
B. One may not engage in Torah study before reciting birkot ha'Torah. One must recite the berachot whether he wishes to study Tanach, mishnah, Gemara, halachah, or Midrash. (Yabi'a Omer vol. 4, Orah Hayyim 8:23. See also Yabi'a Omer vol. 3, Orah Hayyim 27:10; vol. 8, Orah Hayyim 5:3 in the footnote.)
Before reciting birkot ha'Torah, may one recite pesukim in the form of prayer and supplication, rather than as study, such as the pesukim mentioned in Selihot or those of "Vatitpalel Hanah" recited before shaharit, or "tikkun hassot" and the like?
It is proper to be stringent in this regard and not recite any pasuk, even in the form of a prayer, until after having recited birkot ha'Torah (except in a situation of a misvah opportunity that will soon pass, such as answering kedushah and the like). Therefore, those who arise early for the recitation of Selihot should first recite all of birkot ha'shahar, including birkot ha'Torah, and only then proceed to recite Selihot. Similarly, those who recite the pesukim of "Vatitpalel Hanah" or "tikkun hassot" and the like should do so only after having recited birkot ha'Torah. Nevertheless, those who are lenient in this regard have authorities on whom to rely. (Yabi'a Omer vol. 4, Orah Hayyim 7. See also what I wrote in Torat Hamo'adim, Hilchot Yamim Nora'im 1:16; see also footnotes to Shut Ha'Rambam Pe'er Ha'dor 104, pp.218-222.)
Seeing With the Ears
A certain Italian researcher conducted a particularly interesting experiment over two hundred years ago. He took several bats, brought them into a completely dark room, and, just to be sure, blindfolded them. Afterwards, he let into the room some insects that bats generally enjoy eating. Without hesitation, the bats flew directly towards the food. The researcher then closed their nostrils and tried the same experiment. Once again, the bats flew straight to the insects. He even spread strings along the room in an attempt to block the bats' flight, but they avoided the obstacles without any trouble. Amazing - how do the bats see without their eyes? It was discovered that bats are capable of hearing sounds of very high frequency that the human ear cannot pick up at all. These sounds are known as "ultrasounds." They are created at very high frequencies and hit various objects situated in the area. The sounds survey the objects in the area like a ray of light, and the echoes are then caught in the bats' ears. The bat received from the Creator exceptionally sensitive ears, which absorb the echoes.
Afterwards, the brain processes them, such that the bat can paint for itself a picture of the object lying before him. Perhaps even more remarkably, the bat can measure the time differences between the sounding of the tone and the echo that reaches its ear. When a long period of time elapses between the two, the bat knows that the food is still some distance away. If it detects a shorter period of time, then it knows that the food is near. The tiny differences in frequency that the bat's ears detect assist it in assessing with remarkable precision the speed and direction of the flying insect.
Just imagine the importance of each note that reaches the ears of the bat! Each and every sound plays a role that in the end gives the bat a complete picture that it so desperately needs. In human life, too, sounds emitted into airspace, no matter how strongly, even when uttered silently and in privacy, can overturn worlds and have a profound effect once they leave the person's mouth. For this reason, the Jew is prohibited from sounding words of lashon hara and is commanded to think carefully before speaking. Even if one does not see the effects of his words immediately, in the long run they have an effect. It is well worth remembering that "if a word costs one coin - silence is worth two."
The Tree and its Shadow
When Benei Yisrael requested a scouting mission, Moshe Rabbenu, the loyal shepherd, gathered the spies and instructed them not to restrict their inquiry to the superficial, easily discernible fortresses. These were of marginal significance. Instead, Moshe urged the spies to look at the secret, most threatening weapon: "Does it have trees?" As Rashi explains, "Does it have an upright person who will protect them with his merit."
The sadik protects his generation. Even the wicked residents of Sedom and Amorah, with all their evil and corruption, could have been spared if sadikim dwelled within their gates. The Gemara says that one who asks, "Of what use are the sages?" is a heretic, as the pasuk explicitly states, "I will protect this city to save it, because of My servant David."
Each misvah that the sadik performs, all his prayers and study, form a protective wall around the entire generation. The Ramhal writes (in "Mesilat Yesharim" 19): "It befits every pious individual to be motivated in his actions by a concern for the good of the entire generation, a desire to benefit and protect them. This is the intent of the pasuk, 'Praise the righteous for he is good; for they eat the fruits of their deeds.' The whole generation eats of their fruits. Our sages have commented similarly, 'Does it have trees' - is anyone there who shelters his generation as a tree? We see it to be the will of Hashem that the pious ones of Yisrael benefit and atone for all the other levels within the nation, as Hazal intimated in their statement concerning the lulav and its accompanying species, 'Let those come and atone for those.' For the Al-mighty does not desire the destruction of the wicked; it is rather a misvah devolving upon the pious one to benefit and atone for them. This intention must be contained in his divine service and it must manifest itself in his prayers; that is, he must pray on behalf of his generation to seek atonement for him who needs atonement, to turn to repentance he who requires it, and to speak in defense of his entire generation. Hazal tell us in relation to the pasuk, 'And I have come with your words,' that Gavriel did not return within the Divine Curtain until he had defended Yisrael. And it is said about Gidon, 'Go with this, your strength,' the strength of his having defended his people. The Al-mighty loves only he who loves Yisrael; and to the extent that one's love for Yisrael grows, to that extent does the love of the Al-mighty grow for him. These are the true shepherds of Yisrael whom the Al-mighty greatly desires, who sacrifice themselves for His sheep, who concern themselves with their peace and well-being, and exert themselves for it in every possible way."
How fortunate we are that we dwell in the secure shade of the great giant, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, whose Torah protects us and whose misvot offer us security. His actions ensure that Torah will never be forgotten from Yisrael and that the boundaries of sanctity will expand. May the Creator bless him with health and strength to continue restoring the glory of Torah and bring the nation's heart back to its Father in heaven.
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
The Halachot of Talmud Torah
There is a "missvat aseh" (positive commandment) upon each Jew to learn Torah to know the halachot, as it says, "You shall study them, and ensure to perform them" (Devarim 5:1). It is written in Shu"t Teshuvah Me'ahavah that one's main study should be that of "halachah lema'aseh," practical halachah, and one with limited time for learning should afford preference to practical halachah. The Gemara says at the end of Masechet Niddah, "Whoever studies halachot each day is guaranteed a portion in the world to come." The Rashbash writes that this refers to two halachot studied each day. One must also review the material learned so that he does not forget it.
There are two other misvot regarding Torah study, as well: "You shall teach them to your children" - the obligation to teach one's children Torah and provide them with a Torah education, and, additionally, every Torah scholar must go around to teach Torah, just as Shemuel traveled around Yisrael to spread Torah. Today there is a great thirst for Torah learning, as we have seen the fulfillment of the pasuk, "Behold, days are coming, when I will send a famine in the land: not a famine for bread and not a thirst for water, but to hear the words of Hashem" (Amos 8:11). People wait anxiously for others to come teach them the ways of life, to guide them and direct them. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (99a) considers one who has the ability to teach Torah but does not do so as having "scorned" Torah and is punished with "karet," Heaven forbid. By contrast, one who teaches Torah in this world earns the privilege of teaching it in the world to come (Sanhedrin 62a).
The Gemara in Berachot (61b) tells that Rabbi Akiva continued teaching Torah even when the government decreed a death sentence upon one who does so. He explained that just as fish would never ascend onto dry land to escape the fishermen's nets, as there they would surely die, so can we never leave Torah in an attempt to escape. Torah for us is life. Since everybody needs life, the misvah of Torah study applies to everyone, rich and poor, single and married, etc. The Hid"a writes in Birkei Yossef that one who teaches for a living does not fulfill his obligation of setting aside time for learning through this teaching. He must therefore designate time for study outside the framework of his job. We may, however, qualify this principle to cases of one whose main intention is for his livelihood. His teaching is thus like any other job and he must therefore allocate other times for learning. But a teacher whose main desire is to learn and teach, and he takes a salary only to allow him to continue doing so, then the time he spends learning certainly fulfills the misvah.
Everyone must realize that he has the capability of becoming a Torah scholar; nothing stands in the way of sincere desire. Regarding one who makes the effort and exerts himself in this regard it is said, "Happy is the man who listens to me, coming early to my gates each day, waiting outside my doors. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from Hashem" (Mishlei 8:34).
Luna Bat Miriam and Yosef Ben Geraz
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