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Vol. 21 No. 18
ר'יואל זאב בן ר' יוסף הלוי אינטרקט ז"ל
on the occasion of his sixth Yohrzeit כ"ז שבט
The Sapphire Brick
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)
"And they saw (the Glory of) the G-d of Yisrael, and beneath His feet was the likeness of a sapphire brick, and its appearance was like the clarity of the Heaven for purity" (24:10).
This brick lay in front of Him when Yisrael slaved to manufacture bricks, so as to remember the suffering of Yisrael, Rashi explains, and, with reference to the end of the Pasuk, he adds that when they were redeemed, there was light and joy before Him.
The Oznayim la'Torah poses two questions concerning why G-d chose to show Yisrael this brick specifically now after the slavery.
1. Why did He not show it to them at the time of the slavery, to reassure them that He had not forgotten them (via Moshe at the burning bush, for example, where He demonstrated to him how He was with them in the time of trouble)?
2. Why did He not show it to them after the episode of K'ri'as Yam-Suf (in connection with which the Torah records "This is My G-d" which Chazal interpret to mean that every member of K'lal Yisrael, saw the Shechinah)?
And he gives two explanations, one to answer each question.
In answer to the first question the Oznayim la'Torah explains as follows:
G-d showed them this apparition at this juncture to teach them, not just how much He cared about them, but to explain to them why He brought such suffering to K'lal Yisrael, placing them under the jurisdiction of the Egyptians who forced them to work with bricks and mortar.
The vision demonstrated that the period of slavery served to purify them and brought them under the protection of the Shechinah. The Egyptian brick had turned them into sapphire-stones, purifying their souls "like the heaven for purity". It raised them to a level that was higher than that of angels, to the point that they announced 'Na'aseh ve'nishma'. And it informed them that once the Galus had achieved its purpose, it was not a brick of mortar and cement that mingled with the blood and bones of the Jewish babies that lay beneath G-d's feet, but a brick of sapphire that resembled the clarity of the Heaven for purity.
And in answer to the second question, he explains like this: When G-d sent Moshe to request from Par'oh to let His people go, he specifically stipulated that it was in order to sacrifice to Him in the desert. The question arises as to when they actually did so? And the answer has to be that it was at Har Sinai, when they brought burned-offerings and peace-offerings on the Mizbe'ach at the foot of the mountain (as described in the current P'sukim). Indeed, he points out, Rashi in Chagigah (6b) specifically says this, when he explains that they brought the Chagigah (which is normally a Yom-Tov offering), although it was not a Yom-Tov. And he adds that in doing so, they actualized what Moshe had requested of Par'oh in Egypt "And let them celebrate (ve'yochogu) to Me in the desert".
The reason that Moshe waited until this moment to bring those Korbanos was because, at the episode of the burning bush (which took place on Har Sinai), G-d had told Moshe that, when he would take Yisrael out of Egypt, they would serve Him "on this very mountain". And because Yisrael were now thanking G-d for taking them out of Egypt (the Shiras ha'Yam was a thanksgiving for the miracles of the Yam Suf), G-d for His part, now appeared to Yisrael and showed them how He had been with them in their troubles, even as they slaved with bricks and mortar. He showed them how He had kept a brick under His Throne of Glory. And now that they were redeemed, the brick had turned from one of mortar to one of sapphire, denoting that "Splendour and glory were before him, strength and joy in His place".
This is something that He could not possibly demonstrate at the Yam-Suf, since Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu does not rejoice at the downfall of wicked, just as He did not allow the angels to sing Shirah on the night of K'riy'as Yam-Suf.
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(Based on the Oznayim la'Torah)
Civil Law - from Sinai
"And these are (ve'eileh) the judgements that you shall place before them" (21:1).
Rashi explains that the word "ve'Eileh" comes to teach us that just as the Mitzvos in the previous Parshah (the Ten Commandments) were given at Sinai, so too, were the Mitzvos in this Parshah given at Sinai.
In that case, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, why does the Torah not add "ve'Eileh" to all the Parshiyos in the Torah? Why specifically to this one?
This Parshah - that of civil law - is different, he explains. The B'nei No'ach too, are commended to set up courts and to enact a system of civil laws. Only they are not given any details of how to do it. All they need to do is to judge people who contravene the seven Mitzvos that were given to No'ach, and to punish them. One may therefore have thought that the same applies to Yisrael, who must set up courts and judge in the manner that they see fit.
Therefore the Torah teaches us that the entire system of civil law, together with all the details (that a shor tam [an ox that has gored less than three times] pays half, and a shor mu'ad [that has gored three times], in full) was handed to Moshe at Har Sinai. And so David ha'Melech writes in Tehilim "He taught … His statutes and His judgements to Yisrael. He did not do this to all the nations; He did not teach them His judgements".
Surely this is one good reason for the Din that Chazal learn from the very next phrase "that you shall place before them" - "before them", and not before non-Jewish (or secular) courts. Seeing as gentiles are not permitted to study Torah (and secular Jews don't study Torah), how can they possibly judge in accordance with the Torah law that was taught at Sinai?
Interestingly, the Bartenura makes a similar comment on the first Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, which begins with the words 'Moshe received the Torah from Sinai'. The Bartenura explains - that the gentiles too, have compiled books on ethics and interpersonal relationships based on their own personal concepts. And it is in order to stress that Pirkei Avos, our Book on ethics and interpersonal relationships is not based on the personal concepts of our sages (great as they were), but on the teachings of what G-d Himself handed down to Moshe at Har Sinai.
Two Kinds of Eved
"When you acquire a Jewish servant …" (21:2).
In Parshas Re'ei, the Torah refers to a Jewish servant as "your Jewish brother", comments the Oznayim la'Torah.
And he explains that whereas the Pasuk here is speaking about a person who is sold by Beis-Din because he stole, the Pasuk there is speaking about one who sold himself, not as a direct punishment for any particular sin. True, he lost all his assets because he did business with the fruit of Sh'mitah, but that is a small sin compared to that of theft. And besides, the author points out, he has already suffered by having to sell his movable assets, his fields and even his daughter, before being forced to sell himself. And having now to suffer the ultimate degradation, he becomes once again 'your brother'. Not so the thief. His status has dropped to that of an Eved (a slave),
Nor can he claim to possess the regular sanctity of his fellow-Jews, which explains why his master can force him to live with a non-Jewish slave-girl, whose children from him will be slaves.
The Reward for Serving Hashem
" … (if) you will serve Hashem, He will bless your bread and your water, and He will remove (all) illnesses from your midst" (23:25).
This is how the Oznayim la'Torah explains each phrase in this Pasuk:
1. When one bears in mind that 'serving Hashem' generally refers to Tefilah, the fact that only the opening phrase is written in the plural, whilst the rest are written in the singular, this serves as a powerful lesson with regard to the importance of Tefilah be'Tzibur (Davening with a Minyan). Because it is only if one does that one is guaranteed the B'rachos mentioned here.
Perhaps one may add the lesson that even though the Tzibur Daven the same Tefilah, each person's prayer is answered according to his individual needs - for the same reason as Birchas Kohanim is said in the singular.
2. The Torah writes "your bread" and "your water" because for the last forty years, Yisrael had been eating Manna that fell from Heaven and drinking water from the miraculous well that travelled with them - G-d's bread and water, so to speak. From now on they would eat their own bread, which they had to cultivate and manufacture, and to drink their own water, which would fall naturally, and which they had to collect and prepare for drinking.
3. It is all well and good to have food and drink that are blessed by G-d Himself, the author explains. But what use is that if one is plagued by illnesses that make eating and drinking difficult? Therefore the Pasuk concludes "and I will remove (all) illnesses from your midst".
The Borders of Eretz Yisrael
"And I will place your borders from the Yam-Suf until the Sea of the P'lishtim (the Mediterranean Sea), and from the desert until the River (Euphrates) …" (23:31).
The Oznayim la'Torah cites the question that some commentaries ask - if the Torah is referring to the borders from south to north and from east to west, then it ought to have said 'from the Yam-Suf (in the south) until the River (in the north), and from the desert (in the east) until the Sea of the P'lishtim (in the west)'?
What the Pasuk is actually saying is 'from the south to the west and from the east to the north, which is not the way that one generally speaks.
And he answers that the Pasuk is not presenting the borders at all (that it does in Parshas Mas'ei). In fact, the word "ad" does not mean 'until'. It means 'also', and what the Torah is telling us here is that Yisrael was destined to inherit the Yam-Suf and (also) the Mediterranean Sea (two large seas) on two sides, and the great river and the desert on the other two sides.
And we find the word "ad" used in this context in Shoftim (in T'nach chapter 15), where the Pasuk writes "the hay-stacks and also (ad) the standing corn".
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