Vol. 6 No. 13
(based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)
"When a wise man rebukes and it falls on a listening ear, it is like a golden nose-ring and an ornament of gold" (Mishlei 25:12).
Shlomoh Hamelech is warning us here about the quality of reproach, since the entire Torah depends on it. To accept reprimand and to take the words of the person who reprimands him to heart, is a wonderful trait. It incorporates all good things and leads to Torah-observance.
Conversely, to hate rebuke is a despicable trait, which incorporates all evils and leads to the annulment of Torah, because it is only one step away from denial and of relieving oneself of the yoke of Torah. That is why Shlomoh wrote elsewhere (ibid. 15:2) "A person who leaves the path will suffer badly, but the one who hates reproach will die". Suffering may well be the punishment due to someone who leaves the path, but it is inadequate for the one who hates rebuke. He will not be forgiven until he is punished with death.
That is why Shlomoh warns us to accept rebuke, describing it as the embellishment of the soul and its glory.
There are two kinds of reprimand; the one obligatory, the other, to be avoided. That which is obligatory incorporates rebuking the wise, the inadvertent fools and the children; the kind to be avoided is to rebuke the mockers, the fools (who sin deliberately), and the wicked. The latter group will not take you seriously, and your words of rebuke will have the adverse affect, like we find with Yirmiyoh ha'Novi; when he rebuked his contemporaries, they responded by cursing him - because they were mockers, and a mocker hates the one who rebukes him. The sinning fool will deride him, whereas the wicked person will respond by pointing to his blemishes.
The wise men on the other hand, will love the rebuker for reprimanding them, because the wise man who sins inadvertently and by chance does not need to be rebuked often. But above all, it is the children who need to be rebuked, firstly because their minds are not yet fully developed, and secondly, because their Yeitzer-ho'ra, having had thirteen years head-start over their Yeitzer-tov, fills their minds with nothing but the pleasures of this world and their pursuit. Therefore, it is while they are still young and their nature supple, that one must constantly reprimand them, to curb their desires, to guide them and lead them to the domain of the Yeitzer-tov. But once they grow older and their minds mature, their habits, both good and bad, will become fixed, and they will not want to change them, as Shlomoh writes in Mishlei (22:6) "Educate the child according to his way, then, even when he grows ol, it will not depart from him".
That is why Shlomoh exhorts us over and over again to rebuke the child with the rod of chastisement; "foolishness is bound to the heart of the child, the rod of chastisement will remove it from him," he said (ibid. 22:15). Even if the foolishness of sin clings stubbornly to the child's heart because, due to the constant repetition, he has grown accustomed to it, one must not despair from reproaching him. He is after all, still a child and "the rod of chastisement will remove his foolhardiness from him" - by rebuking him little by little, again and again, soft words will penetrate his heart, like soft drops of water eventually penetate a hard stone and bore a hole in it.
A father who gives up and stops rebuking his son, hates him, for so Shlomoh ha'Melech writes "Someone who spares the rod, hates his son. If he loves him, he will constantly chastise him" (13:24).
"Someone who spares the rod, hates his son," explains the Medrash, refers to Dovid ha'Melech (who failed to chastise his son Avsholom) and "and if he loves him, he will constantly chastise him," to Ya'akov (who chastised his sons). From here we see that when a father fails to rebuke his sons, they turn to evil ways. This is what happened to Yishmoel, Eisov, Adoniyohu and Avsholom, all of whom were extremely attached to their fathers, yet, because their fathers (Avrohom, Yitzchok and Dovid) failed to rebuke them, they all turned to evil ways - Yishmoel to idol-worship, Eisov to commit five major sins on the day that his grandfather died and Adoniyohu and Avsholom to rebel against their father - the latter to the point that he caused the death of tens of thousands of Jews.
"And one who loves him chastises him" refers to Avrohom, who chastised Yitzchok and led him along the same path that he himself trod, and Ya'akov, who chastised his sons to the extent that all twelve of them were righteous. And it is because Ya'akov was the "wise rebuker" and his sons "the listening ear", that they were like purified silver, "golden nose-rings and golden ornaments" - true sons of their father. That is why the Torah writes about them "And these are the names of the sons of Ya'akov who came down to Egypt with Ya'akov ...".
And They Let the Boys Live
The Chofetz Chayim explains the incredible kindness of the Jewish midwives (Yocheved and Miriam), who not only refused to follow Par'oh's orders to kill the Jewish babies as they were about to be born, but actually provided them with food and water.
They had the option of resigning, he says, yet they insisted on remaining at their posts and risking their lives in the process. Why did they do that? Because they were afraid that if they
were to resign, perhaps Par'oh would appoint other midwives, whose fear of him would outweigh that of G-d, and they might well obey Par'oh and kill the Jewish babies! So they stayed on.
The Ma'aseh ha'Melech cites a story of R. Yisroel Salanter, who once advised a young man from Kovno to accept a Rabbonus position in a certain town. The young man however, who was a G-d-fearing person, was hesitant to accept the position, on the grounds that he was afraid of making mistakes and issuing incorrect rulings.
"Who then, do you think should accept the position" quipped Rebbi Yisroel, "Someone who is not afraid?"
A Rebel ...
The Gemoro in Megillah, quoting a possuk in Divrei Hayamim (1-4:18) "And his wife Yehudi'ah bore Yered, Avi Gedor, Chever, Avi Socho, Yekusiel, Avi Zano'ach, and these are the sons of Bisyah the daughter of Par'oh, whom Mered married", explains it like this:
Yehudi'ah, says the Gemoro, is the name given to Bisyoh, because she rebelled against the idolatry that her father Par'oh worshipped. Anyone who rebels against idolatrous practices is termed Yehudi, the Gemoro explains ( just like Mordechai is referred to in the Megillah as "Ish Yehudi" - because he refused to bow down to the idol of Homon).
Marries a Rebel ... A Wonderful Shiduch
And the reason that the possuk refers to her here as Yehudi'ah is because she married Mered. Now who is Mered?
Mered, explains the Gemoro, is Colev ben Yefuneh, who is called Mered because he rebelled against the plan of the spies. It was a question of one rebel marrying another - birds of a feather - what a marvellous Shiduch!
To bring up an orphan
And who are the six children listed in the possuk? In fact, these are not her children at all, but the many names of her stepson, whom she herself called by a seventh name - Moshe. So why does the possuk describe her as the woman who bore him? From here we learn, the Gemoro explains, that someone who rears an orphan is considered as if he had given birth to him.
The Many Names of Moshe
And what do the additional six names of Moshe mean?
He was called ...
Yered - because the Mon came down to Yisroel in his honour (According to the text of the Gro, it is because he brought down the Torah to Yisroel);
Gedor - because he repaired the breaches of Yisroel (by means of his prayers) whenever they sinned.
Chever - because he connected Yisroel to their father in Heaven.
Socho - because he protected Yisroel like a Succoh.
Yekusiel - because Yisroel hoped for Hashem in his days.
Zono'ach - because he rid Yisroel of their sins (by causing them to do teshuvah).
And why does the possuk write three times Avi, Avi, Avi? Because he was a father in Torah, a father in wisdom and a father in prophecy.
But the name by which the Torah calls Moshe is the one that Bisyoh gave him, to teach us how important in the eyes of Hashem, is someone who saves a Jewish life explains the Medrash.
And why did Bisyoh call him Moshe (who draws out), and not Moshuy (who was drawn out), asks the Seforno? To teach us, he answers, that someone who has been saved is morally obligated to save others - an obligation which Moshe Rabeinu would go on to fulfill to its fullest extent.
And You Shall Bind Them (cont.)
One of the Hilchos Tefillin is that one never wears the Tefillin shel Rosh without the Tefillin shel Yad. 'And they shall be frontlets between your eyes' - whenever the Tefillin are between the eyes, there should always be two, the shel Yad as well as the shel Rosh. If we perceive the former as the symbol of deeds and the latter as that of learning, then, from the Torah's prohibition of wearing the shel Rosh on its own, we can learn the dangers of Torah-study when it is not immediately taken to heart and put into practice. It is as Chazal have said in Pirkei Ovos: 'If one's learning exceeds his deeds, his learning will not last' (3:9).
Indeed this is the very essence of Judaism, as expressed in the words 'Na'aseh ve'nishma' - first the deeds, and then the learning!
And You Shall Write Them
The Torah commands us to write the words of the first two Parshiyos of the Shema on the doorpost of our houses, so that whenever a Jew walks in his house from one room to the other, he will be constantly reminded of the Kingdom of Heaven and of the yoke of mitzvos. Similarly, when he leaves his house, he will be strengthened against the outside influences as he is reminded of the purpose of his creation the moment he steps out of his front door. These thoughts will strengthen and insulate him against falling prey to those influences. And no sooner does he return home than he is reminded to leave behind all the evil influences from the street, to which he might have subconsciously become attracted, and to purify his mind before he enters his house.
This explains why it is the person who lives in the house who is obliged to put up the Mezuzos, and not the owner. It is because he is the one whose faith needs to be strengthened and whose allegiance to G-d to be reinforced - not the owner, who will in any event, not be affected by the Mezuzah or the door of the home in which he is not living anyway.
The Gemoro tells the story of Unklus ha'Ger, nephew of Hadrian, Emperor of Rome.
At the third attempt to force his nephew to return to Rome, Hadrian sent a group of Roman soldiers to bring him back, by hook or by crook. And to ensure that Unklus did not talk them into converting, as had happened to the first two groups that he sent, Hadrian ordered the soldiers to refrain from talking to Unklus - even one word.
When they arrived, the soldiers found Unklus, afixing a Mezuzah to his door. This aroused their curiosity, and despite their instructions, they could not resist asking him what he was doing.
He explained to them the difference between the Emperor of Rome and the (Divine) King of the Jews. The Emperor of Rome, he pointed out, sat in safety in his palace, whilst sentries stood on guard outside to protect him.
With the Jews, it was the opposite, he explained. It was the people who sat safely in their homes, whilst their King stood outside and protected them. Indeed, it is well-known that, when a person is beset with personal problems, then the first thing he should do is to examine his Mezuzos. The very word 'Mezuzos' is an acronym - 'zaz moves' - removes death.
The soldiers did not return to Rome - they too converted.
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