This issue is sponsored
Vol. 20 No. 44
R' Tzvi Hirsh ben Yosef Menachem Halevi Levinson z"l
whose Yohrzeit is on 20 Menachem Av
"And you will become haughty and forget Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt
. Who led you in this vast and terrifying desert, where there are snakes, serpents and scorpions, and where there is thirst because there is no water; yet He produced for you water from the flint-rock. Who fed you the Manna in the desert
in order to afflict you and in order to test you
When the Torah mentions the afflictions of that period, it is referring to the various hardships that travelling through a desert inevitably entailed, Rabeinu Bachye explains. Their purpose, he says, was to test them, to bring them to a high level of Bitachon, trust in G-d. The on-going stream of tests would train them to live with G-d, as it were, until Bitachon and Emunah (practical faith) became ingrained, and was part of their everyday lives. The ultimate goal was that serving G-d would then come to them naturally, without having to fight with the Yeitzer-ha'Ra at every step.
As David ha'Melech said in Tehilim "Guide me in Your truth and train me ("ve'lamdeni" - accustom me). David was asking G-d to train him in His truth until serving Him became second-nature. We find the word 'Limud' used in this sense in Pesukim in Yirmiya and Hoshe'a. And this is also what the Pasuk means when it says in Re'ei (14:23) "In order that you should learn (tilmad - accustom yourself) to fear G-d (when going to Yerushalayim to eat your Ma'aser Sheini
The lesson, the author concludes, is to exploit one's closeness to G-d to transform serving Him into something that comes naturally, without the need to fight one's Yeitzer ha'Ra to do so.
(See also Parshah Pearls, where we explained the meaning of 'afflictions' specifically with regard to the Manna.)
Overall, the current Parshah is issuing a warning against arriving at a situation where, after entering Eretz Yisrael, people become too comfortable and amass a fortune. The Torah is warning them that vast wealth that is easily come by goes to a person's head and causes him to attribute his subsequent financial successes to his own business acumen. The danger that Yisrael will completely forget the miracles of Egypt (in which the people took no part) and how G-d sustained them throughout their travels in the formidable Sinai desert, where no man, let alone an entire nation, could possibly have survived on his own.
Finally, the Pasuk warns them to remember that it is G-d who furnished them with the means and the ability to attain financial success, in order to fulfil the promise that He made to the Avos.
Initially, we would have explained the insertion of the afflictions as a way of stressing G-d's kindness by keeping Yisrael safe in spite of them (much in the same way as we begin the Hagadah with the denigration of Yisrael before discussing the salvation), and that Yisrael should not forget that.
According to R. Bachye's explanation however, it is meant to warn them that Hashem invested much effort to boost their Emunah and Bitachon. Consequently, if they were to forsake Him and come to believe in their own might, they would have no excuse for the consequences. In fact, they would have to answer not only for their sins, but also for rendering null and void the forty years of effort that G-d put into training them.
* * *
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
The Afflictions of the Manna
"Who fed you the Manna in the desert
in order to afflict you" (8:16)
The Torah in Beha'aloscha 11:7 describes the Manna as pleasant to the eye (like coriander seeds; it tasted like honey-cake to begin with, but could be prepared in any way that one wished, to taste like anything that one wanted it to taste like), and it fell fresh in between two layers of dew. Moreover, it fell each and every day, sufficient for every member of the family, so that nobody ever went hungry - in a desert where nobody could otherwise have survived.
Yet the Pasuk here talks of 'affliction'.
R. Bachye presents two interpretations of 'affliction' pertaining to the Manna:
Firstly, he explains, nobody ever had Manna for tomorrow. Not only did each person receive exactly the amount that he needed for today, but if he tried to save some for the following day, it turned wormy overnight. And an empty larder is an affliction!
Secondly, even though the Manna tasted like whatever one wished, all they saw was the Manna the way it fell (like coriander-seeds), and as Chazal explain, a person who does not see the food that he eats does not enjoy his food. That too, is an affliction.
See main article.
Getting the Order Right
G-d will drive out these nations from before you
Wherever your feet tread will become yours" (11:23/24).
"These nations first" (the seven Cana'ani nations), comments R. Bachye, and then the nations that live further afield.
This was David ha'Melech's mistake, the Medrash explains, in that he first captured Aram Naharayim and Aram Tzovah (Syria) before completing the conquest of Cana'an.
Hence the Gemara in Gitin (47a) states the principle that 'An individual conquest is not considered an official conquest' - in connection with David's conquest of these two nations. It refers to it as 'an individual conquest' because a. it did not involve six hundred thousand troops, and b. because he captured them before capturing the whole of Eretz Cana'an.
And the ramifications of the Gemara's statement concern the sanctity of the land, in that the two countries in question were not subject to Ma'asros and to the Dinim of Sh'mitah min ha'Torah (though according to Chachamim mi'de'Rabbanan they were).
Had David reversed the order, then both countries would have become an integral part of Eretz Yisrael!
* * *
HIGHLIGHTS FROM . . .
. . . THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
"Hashem your G-d you shall fear (tiyro)" (10:20).
The Gematriyah of the word "tiyro", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, is equivalent to that of "Torah".
Need more be said?
"With seventy souls your fathers went down to Egypt
The Pasuk begins with a 'Beis' and ends with a 'Beis' ("lo'rov"), the Ba'al ha'Turim observes. This hints at their father Ya'akov's warning to cleave to their families and not to intermingle with the Egyptians.
And this is why Yisrael are sometimes referred to as "Beis Yisrael'.
levavchem ve'sartem va'avadtem elohim acherim ve'hishtachavisem lochem" (11:16).
Note that all seven words quoted here end with a 'Mem' (forty).
Likewise, all seven words in the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim (5:2) "Pischi Li achosi ra'yosi tamosi she'roshi
', end with a 'Yud' (ten).
Bearing in mind that the current Pasuk refers to idolatry, the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim (with reference to G-d's description of His beloved people, Yisrael, the only nation in the world to accept the Torah), the Ba'al ha'Turim comments that whoever gives credence to idolatry, denies the Ten Commandments which were given to K'lal Yisrael in forty days.
In addition, he says, the Pasuk in Tehilim (115) lists seven 'blemishes (mumin -a play on the word 'Memin') - "They have a mouth but cannot speak, eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear, a nose but cannot smell, hands but cannot feel and feet but cannot walk, nor are they able to make sounds with their throats!"
"And you shall write them on the doorposts of your houses
In order that you shall live long
Because if you will observe (guard) all the Mitzvos" (11:20-22).
The juxtaposition of these three Pesukim, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, teaches us that the reward for the Mitzvah of Mezuzah is long life (because it prevents damaging elements from entering our homes), because, as David ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim "G-d guards you, G-d is your shadow on your right-hand side" (121:4).
like the days of the Heaven on the earth (ho'oretz)" (11:21).
The word "ho'oretz" appears nine times in Seifer Devarim, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, hinting at the number of tribes who received their portion of land in Eretz Yisrael proper.
"Every location (kol ha'mokom) that your foot treads will belong to you" (11:24).
In a similar Pasuk in Yehoshua, the Navi writes "kol mokom" (omitting the 'Hey'). This hints, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, at the five tribes who did not receive their portion from Yehoshu'a.
and your dread (u'mo'ra'achem) will G-d place on the face of all the land
The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the Torah uses the same word in Parshas No'ach (9:2), when it writes "and your dread (u'mo'ra'achem) will be upon every wild beast of the land".
This teaches us, he explains, that when Yisrael entered the land of Cana'an, even the wild animals were afraid of them. And this is what the Pasuk in Bechukosai (26:6) means when it writes "And I will destroy all dangerous animals from the land".
This situation, he concludes, will recur when Mashi'ach comes, as the Pasuk writes in Yeshayah (11:6) "
and a small boy will lead them (the wolf with the lamb, the leopard with the goat, the calf with the lion
. . . TARGUM YONASAN
"A country in which you will eat your bread without shortage; you will lack nothing in it. A country whose scholars issue decrees that are clear as iron and whose disciples ask questions that are strong (relevant) as copper' (8:9).
* * *