Vol. 6 No. 20
Oil and Incense
Parshas Tetzaveh - Zachor
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)
Oil and incense gladden the heart, and the sweetness of his friend from the counsel of his soul" (Mishlei 27:9).
Shlomoh ha'Melech warns us here to take pity on the convert who abandoned the land of his birth to become part of our nation. In many places, the Torah instructs us not to hurt him, either verbally or financially, as it is written "Do not hurt a convert" (Sh'mos 22:20) and "Do not oppress a convert" (Sh'mos 23:9). Therefore Shlomoh comes to teach us here that when a man has abandoned his home-town, one is faced with the dual obligation of providing him with his basic needs, and of showing him kindness.
Indeed, this possuk is a continuation of the theme contained in the previous possuk "Like a bird that wanders from its nest, so is the man who wanders from his place". Shlomoh compares a man who abandons his home-town, the place where he was born, to a bird who leaves the nest where it originated - following this immediately with "oil and incense", which refer respectively to the food that is cooked in oil, and to the smoke that rises from the cooking food. With this, he is obliging others to make him happy by providing him with food, for "oil and incense gladden the heart".
And he inserts the additional obligation of showing him kindness, when he then adds "and the sweetness of his friend from the counsel of his soul". Because in addition to his basic needs, the convert also has need of a friend who speaks kindly to him. "From the counsel of his soul" - meaning that that sweetness and kindness must be sincere, it must stem from love and not from flattery. In fact, the sweetness of the lips is worth more to the convert than the gift that accompanies it, as the Gemoro in Kesubos (111b), (based on the possuk in Vayechi [49:12] "And the whiteness of teeth more than milk") explains 'Better is the one who shows his friend the whiteness of his teeth (by flashing him a smile), than he who gives him milk to drink'.'
This concept is also expressed by the Novi Yeshayah (58:7) "Is it not by giving your bread to the hungry (sustenance) and presenting him your soul (a friendly smile)?".
The Medrash however, explains the possuk in a different vein. The 'oil', it explains, refers to the Menorah which was lit at the same time as the ketores was brought on the golden Mizbe'ach, as the Torah writes "And when Aharon kindles the lights in the afternoon he shall burn it (the ketores)" - and 'the heart that it gladdens' refers to none other than G-d Himself.
Because, in the same way as Dovid ha'Melech ascribed happiness to G-d after He had created the world, when he wrote in Tehillim "May the glory of G-d last forever, may He rejoice with his works", so too, did Shlomoh ha'Melech ascribe happiness to G-d after the construction of the Mishkon, when He commanded the kindling of the Menorah and the burning of the Ketores, and His Shechinah rested on the work of their hands. That is why Shlomoh wrote "Oil and incense gladden the heart".
Indeed, the Medrash compares the construction of the Mishkon to the creation of the world. And that explains why, in the same way as, after the creation of the world, there was someone who acknowledged G-d, who served Him and who declared His unity - Odom ho'Rishon - so too, after the completion of the Mishkon, G-d found it necessary to appoint over the Mishkon, someone who would serve Him and declare His unity - the Kohen Gadol.
And it is because the catalyst that brought down the Shechinah into the Mishkon and caused it to rest there was the Ketores, that the Torah writes "Oil and incense gladden the heart".
At a deeper level, the Ketores (which has its roots in the Arama'ic 'kitra' - a knot) is called by that names because, in a spiritual sense, its aroma is bound to G-d's qualities of kindness, and the joy of those qualities imbues the Kohen who brings them with an inner joy that increases his level of Ru'ach ha'Kodesh. In other words, as a result of the blessing sparked off by the bringing of the Ketores, the spirit of G-d descends to the lower world.
The oil that was lit simultaneously with the bringing of the Ketores was olive oil, which earned this distinction because, in the days of No'ach, it was the olive tree that brought light to the world, as it is written "And behold, it held a plucked olive-leaf in its mouth" (Bereishis 8:11). That is why the Torah commanded the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah with olive oil, as it explains in the opening possuk of Tetzaveh.
Adapted from the Sefer ha'Chinuch
To Remember Amolek
The Torah commands us here two mitzvos:
1. To remember what Amolek did to us - verbally, explains the Sifri (and that is the source for the reading of Parshas Zochor);
2. Not to forget what Amolek did to us - in our hearts (to bear a grudge, so to speak).
Bearing a grudge, of course, is not generally something that Hashem wants us to do. Quite to the contrary - he has issued us with the la'av of "lo sitor" which emphatically forbids us to do so. So why does it suddenly become a mitzvah here?
The Sefer ha'Chinuch (Mitzvah 603) gives the reason for the mitzvah: 'to take to heart that whoever oppresses Yisroel is hated by Hashem ...'. When we remember what Amolek did to us, the Sefer ha'Chinuch is saying, we are not bearing a personal grudge against him; nor, when we fulfill the mitzvah of destroying his name, are we taking personal revenge.
It is not our honour that is at stake here, but that of our Father in Heaven, who detests those who would do us harm. So, it is in defence of His honour that we remember what Amolek did and, when the time comes, it will be in defence of His honour that we will wage war with Amolek and blot out his name.
The fact that it is we whom Amolek attacked, and that that attack is the catalyst that sparked off that hatred is irrelevant. Our obligation is to suppress the personal hatred that we must naturally feel towards him. We will take up arms, not as an act of revenge for what he did to us, but to avenge the honour of our Father in Heaven that Amolek desecrated.
To Exterminate Him
The Sefer ha'Chinuch (Mitzvah 604) initially explains that the mitzvah of destroying Amolek is a communal one, and he quotes as his source the Gemoro in Sanhedrin (20b) 'When Yisroel entered the land they were commanded three mitzvos: to appoint a king; to build the Beis ha'Mikdosh; and to destroy Amolek' (the Gemoro specifically inverts the order of the latter two).
He adds however, that in reality, the mitzvah is an individual one, and that any man who has the opportunity of killing an Amoleki (man, woman or child) fulfills a mitzvah if he carries it out (and presumably has nullified a mitzvah if he does not).
After having quoted the Gemoro in Sanhedrin, it is not clear what causes the Sefer ha' Chinuch to add that the mitzvah is an individual one, since this does not appear to conform with the Gemoro. The Gemoro seems to interpret the "timcheh es zecher Amolek" ('exterminate the memory of Amolek') used by the Torah, quite literally, in which case there would be no point in individuals killing Amolekim, since that does not comply with the order to exterminate them.
The logic of the Sefer ha'Chinuch on the other hand, seems clear. He exempts women from the mitzvah of remembering Amolek, because it is the way of men to exterminate, not women. Clearly then, he presumes that the mitzvah of remembering Amolek and that of exterminating him, are two parts to the same mitzvah (indeed, they appear together in the Torah as if they were) - in other words, we are charged to remember in order to destroy. In that case, in the same way as the mitzvah of remembering Amolek is an individual, ongoing one (the Sefer ha' Chinuch and the Rambam present the mitzvah in this way - Parshas Zochor, according to them, is only mi'de'Rabbonon) so, too, must the mitzvah of destroying him be an individual one.
The Chicken or the Egg
In the previous article, the Sefer ha'Chinuch compares the mitzvah of destroying Amolek to that of remembering what he did (which the Torah, after all, places first).
Tosfos on the other hand, rules that the mitzvah of remembering Amolek (in the form of Parshas Zochor) is min ha'Torah (to be performed annually, because after one year, one tends to forget). Perhaps, in their view, we take the Gemoro in Sanhedrin literally, to present the mitzvah of destroying Amolek as a communal one like we explained earlier. And perhaps Tosfos compares the mitzvah of remembering what Amolek did to that of destroying him (which is the main objective). That will explain why min ha'Torah, remembering Amolek too, is a communal mitzvah.
THE MITZVOS OF TODAY
(The Mitzvos Asei)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
72. To admonish the sinner - as it is written (Vayikro 19:17) "You shall surely admonish your neighbour". One should inform him that it is himself whom he is harming with his evil deeds, and that one is only correcting him for his own good, in order to bring him to Olom ha'Bo.
The obligation to rebuke remains in force until the sinner listens to him or until he retaliates by striking him. Others take a more lenient view, and absolve the rebuker the moment the sinner begins to shout at him. In any event, this only applies by someone who is transgressing a Torah law, and when the rebuker assesses that his words will bear fruit.
Should the rebuker be convinced that the sinner will ignore him, then he should refrain from admonishing him, to allow him to be a shogeg rather than a meizid. This does not apply to a sin written explicitly in the Torah.
Even an inferior is obligated to admonish his superior, should this be necessary. Someone who is able to admonish and fails to do so, becomes a partner in the sin.
Even though it is a mitzvah to admonish the sinner, one should not put him to shame initially (i.e. as long as the sinner does not refuse to respond, and as long as he is not sinning in public).
It is a mitzvah for the sinner to accept the admonishment and to love the person who is admonishing him.
Our sages have said in Shabbos (41a) that one may label someone who transgresses deliberately, 'a sinner', even if he has only transgressed an Isur de'Rabbonon (a Rabbinical offence).
This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.
73. To judge the laws of inheritance - as it is written in Pinchos (27:8) "When a man dies, leaving no son, you shall pass on his inheritance to his daughter".
Not only does a son take precedence over a daughter, but so do all of his offspring. In the same manner, all the offspring of a daughter take precedence over the next of kin - the deceased man's father. Next in line (if the father too, is no longer alive), comes his brother, then his sister, and then his father's brother. A first-born son receives a double portion (i.e. each of his brothers receives one portion, he receives two). A man inherits his wife mi'de'Rabbonon.
A will overrides the laws of inheritance (provided it is written correctly) - with the exception of the double portion of the first-born, which the father is forbidden to give away - though even that can be overcome.
This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.
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