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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 16, v. 18: "Shoftim v'shotrim ti'ten l'cho" - Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself - The verses tell us that it is of the utmost of importance to appoint proper, honest, knowledgeable judges. No doubt, when they are involved in hearing litigants and thrashing out their conclusions their time for learning Torah is reduced.

The story is told of Rabbi Yoseif Yitzchok, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who left Russia and went to Riga. He called a major assembly, attended by many Rabbinical figures, Roshei Yeshivah, and community askonim. Among those present was the Ragotchover Gaon, Rabbi Yoseif Rosen. The Lubavitcher Rebbe and those assembled came to the conclusion that a committee should be formed that would meet from time to time to discuss issues and community matters in Russia, to work for the well-being of the downtrodden bnei Yisroel. The Ragotchover Gaon was also asked to join a committee. He responded that whether it was permitted to join was dependent upon a disagreement between the Babylonian and the Yerushalmi Talmuds. The gemara Brochos 32b states that the early Chasidim spent an hour in preparation for their prayers, spent an hour during their prayers, and another hour after their prayers. Since during the weekdays this totaled nine hours, the gemara asked how was their Torah studying and their livelihood (work) completed. The gemara answers that since they were Chasidim their Torah was safeguarded and their livelihood was blessed.

The gemara Yerushalmi Brochos 5:1 says basically the same, except that it ends with, "Their Torah was BLESSED." We see that the two Talmuds disagree about what level of Torah they have when they involve themselves for many hours with other, albeit important, matters. The Babylonian Talmud says that it would be safeguarded, meaning that whatever the learned remained and was not subject to forgetting, while the Yerushalmi Talmud says that it was BLESSED, meaning that their Torah knowledge would increase. Ended the Ragotchover Gaon that since we halachically follow the Babylonian Talmud, he must decline. (Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Ch. 17, v. 8: "Ki yipo'lei mimcho dovor l'mishpot bein dom l'dom bein din l'din u'vein nega l'noga divrei rivos bisho'recho" - When a matter of judgment is hidden from you between blood and blood between judgment and judgment and between an affliction to an affliction matters of disagreement in your gates - If it is hidden from you, and you wonder why there is a difference between goyish blood and Jewish blood that is R"l so readily spilled, between lenient rulings for goyim and strict unreasonable rulings for bnei Yisroel (27 years with no probation etc.), between afflictions for goyim, and afflictions for bnei Yisroel, who are hit immediately upon their bodies and do not first have a warning via afflictions on their homes and clothing first, you should attribute it to "divrei rivos bisho'recho," internal strife among your brethren. (Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin)

Ch. 17, v. 15: "Some tosim o'lecho melech" - You shall surely place upon yourself a king - A while back in Lublin there were two outstanding people, Rabbi Ezriel, the town's Rov, a Litvak, who was known as the "eizener kop," the head of iron, and the Holy Chozeh of Lublin. At the local men's mikveh a person came daily with a box of combs, which he lent out gratis to pure people, to comb their hair and beards. When this information made its way to the Chozeh, he praised the good-doer exceedingly. When it came to the eras of the "eizener kop," he dismissed it, saying that we can prove Talmudically that it is not a mitzvoh. The gemara M'nochos 42 says that when King Dovid went to the mikveh he found himself bereft of mitzvos, until he realized that having a "bris miloh" is a mitzvoh that is in continuum. Now if we were to says that handing out combs at the mikveh is a mitzvoh, why didn't King Dovid come up with this idea? It must be that it is not considered a mitzvoh.

When this response of the Rov of Lublin came to the ears of the Chozeh, he said that it seems that the Rov had forgotten an overt mishnoh, which states that included in the rulings that we derive from "Some tosim o'lecho melech," is that we should have fear of the king. Included in this is that we are not allowed to see him when he is undressed, as this would bring to our having lower estreem and fear of the king. Obviously, King Dovid was alone in the mikveh and had no one there to receive combs.

Ch. 17, v. 20: "Ulvilti sur min hamitzvoh yomin usmole" - And to not turn from the mitzvoh neither right nor left - The right (first) letter of the word "mitzvoh" is a Mem, and the left (last) letter is a Hei. These two letters spell "MoH," and expression coined by Moshe when he showed extreme humility when he said "v'nachnu MoH." If one were to remove, "sur," right and left, from the sord "mitzvoh," he would be left with "TZaV," a term connoting idol worship, as we find in the verse, "tzav l'tzov kav l'kov," as explained by the gemara Sanhedrin 56 and Sotoh 5, that he who is arrogant and haughty is equated with one who serves idols. This warning is especially needed for the king, who will have wealth and extreme authority, and can easily fall prey to haughtiness. (Chasam Sofer)

Ch. 17, v. 20: "L'maan yaarich yomim al mamlachto hu uvonov" - Why does the king need a special merit to live a long life? The gemara Psochim 87b says that "rabonus," leadership, buries the leaders; therefore he needs extra merit. This would also explain why it was a custom to give a special blessing to a king upon his inauguration, "Y'chi ha'melech" (M'lochim 1:25). (Chizkuni)

Ch. 18, v. 10: "Tomim ti'h'yeh im Hashem Elokecho" - Be complete with Hashem your G-d - This means that whatever Hashem dishes out to us should be accepted with equanimity, full trust in Hashem that all ifs for the good. The words "im Hashem Elokecho" teach us that it is insufficient to just externally show no disappointment in what happens to us, but to also harbour no ill feelings internally, in our heart. This is "im Hashem," Who knows the innermost emotions of our heart. (Chid"o)

Ch. 18, v. 10: "Tomim ti'h'yeh im Hashem Elokecho" - Be complete with Hashem your G-d - The gemara Brochos 28b relates that when Rabbi Yochonon ben Zakai was ill his students entered to visit him. He began to cry, saying that there were two paths ahead of him, one of reward and one of retribution, and he was not sure which path he was embarking upon when he would die. Very close to death he told his students to remove vessels from the house so that they not contract defilement upon his death, and to prepare a befitting seat for King Chizkiyohu who was about to meet him.

What was his concern? Did he really think that he would have to take the road to punishment? In M.R. Koheles chapter #6 it states the verse in Koheles, "Yeish ro'oh asher ro'isi tachas hashomesh," which Rabbi Shmuel bart Ami expounds to refer to the evil scheming of swindlers, like those who water down wine, dilute olive oil, and dilute honey. Rabbi Yochonon ben Zakai responded to all of these deceptions with, "Woe is to me if I will publicly discuss this, and woe is to me if I don't. if I do, although there is the advantage that those who practice deceit will realize that the Rabbis are on to their trickery, and in turn they might stop, but at the same time, I might be introducing new thoughts into the minds of innocents, and they might try their hand at this type of thievery." He decided to publicize this, stating that the verse, "Ki y'shorim darchei Hashem tzadikim yeilchu vom ursho'im yikoshlu vom" (Hoshei'a 14:10) - the paths of Hashem are straight, the righteous will walk in their paths and the evil will stumble in them, guided him. It is quite possible that this came back to haunt him, as there might have been people who learned to be deceitful after hearing his lecture. When he felt the spirit of King Chizkiyohu coming to meet him as his soul was about to depart he was comforted, as King Chizkiyohu was apprised that his future children would not go in the path of the Torah, and he did not engage in reproduction. The prophet Yeshayohu came to him and admonished him, saying that in Hashem's hidden matters, i.e. what the future held, he should not delve. Since there is a mitzvoh to be fruitful he should not refrain from fulfilling it and not take into account the possible negative effects. At this point Rabbi Yochonon ben Zakai realized that he similarly had nothing to fear. He told it as it is, as a warning to the unscrupulous and had nothing to fear of the possible negative results. (Admor of Seret)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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