Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

Please send your answers and comments to: SHOLOM613@ROGERS.COM


1) Ch. 4, v. 2,3: "Lo sosifu, Asher holach acha'rei Baal P'ore" - What is the connection between these two verses?

2) Ch. 4, v. 15: "V'nishmartem m'ode l'nafsho'seichem ki lo r'i'sem kol tmunoh b'yom di'ber Hashem a'leichem b'Choreiv mitoch ho'aish" - How do the first three words of this verse flow with the rest of the verse? This question is even stronger with the interpretation of the gemara of the first three words of our verse. The gemara Brochos 32b relates that a highly placed minister passed by a "Chosid" who was praying and the minister greeted him. The person who was praying did not interrupt his prayers to respond. The minister waited until the prayers were completed and said, "For your impudence in not responding to me I could have put you to death with no fear of any negative consequences. Should you not have responded even in the middle of your prayers since your Torah requires you to guard your life, as is written 'V'nishmartem m'ode l'nafshoseichem?'"

What is the connection between guarding one's life and not seeing a graphic vision of Hashem when the Torah was given?

3) Ch. 4, v. 39: "Bashomayim mimaal v'al ho'oretz mitochas" - Isn't it obvious that the heavens are above and the earth is below?

4) Ch. 5, v. 16: "Ka'beid es ovicho v'es i'mecho kaasher tzivcho Hashem Elo'kecho" - Why do we find the expression "kaasher tzivcho Hashem Elo'kecho" here, but not in Shmos 20:12.

5) Ch. 6, v. 8: "Ukshartom l'ose al yo'decho v'hoyu l'totofose bein einecho" - The gemara Sotoh 44a says that only righteous men may join the Jewish army. The gemara gives an example of a transgression which would disqualify someone from joining the ranks of the men enlisted in the army. If someone were to talk between placing his arm tefillin and his head tefillin upon himself he would be sent back from his battalion. The gemara says that "a'veiroh hi b'YODO," this is a sin IN HIS HAND, and he is sent back.

This only causes him to make an extra blessing which would have been unnecessary had he not spoken in between. See Rashi and Tosfos as to how many blessings are required. In any case, this doesn't seem like a very grave transgression. Why does the gemara give specifically this case as an example? Secondly, what is the intention of the expression, "a'veiroh hee b'YODO?"



The Trumas Hadeshen explains the juxtaposition of these two verses in a most marvelous manner. The Torah exhorts us to not add on of our own volition any mitzvos, nor to diminish from the mitzvos. The gemara Sanhedrin 63b says that it is a mitzvoh to ridicule a false god, an avodoh zoroh. The gemara Avodoh Zoroh 45b says that one is only liable for punishment for transgressing the sin of idol worship when worshipping it in its proper manner. If the ritual is an act of honour, then one must do that prescribed act. (Bowing, sacrificing, bringing libations, or incense for an avodoh zoroh is always liable.) The manner of properly serving the avodoh zoroh of Baal P'ore was through defecating in front of it. Even though this is a most demeaning act, nonetheless for Baal P'ore, this is its proper ritual.

One might say that he intends to embarrass Baal P'ore by doing as mentioned above, in keeping with the dictum of the gemara Sanhedrin, that it is a mitzvoh to demean idols. However, one should not undertake to add onto the mitzvos of the Torah, as we see by Baal P'ore, where doing so is considered properly serving B.P. and one is liable for the death penalty. The P'ninim Mishulchan haGR"A says the same. The GR"A obviously did not see the Trumas Hadeshen.

However, the Tosfos on gemara Sanhedrin 64a says that if one serves B.P. in its prescribed manner, but has the intention of demeaning it, he receives no punishment.


In verse 12 it says, "Ki lo r'i'sem t'munoh zulosi kole." The Malbim and the N'tzi"v raise the question that the last two words of this phrase seem superfluous. They interpret these words to mean that Hashem did not appear to the bnei Yisroel in a graphic vision, "zulosi kole," - there was only a vision of a voice. This means that the bnei Yisroel saw the letters of the words of the first two Commandments in the air above Har Sinai.

The gemara Shabbos 88b says that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said that after hearing each of the Commandments the souls of the people left them, as it says in Shir Hashirim 5:6, "Nafshi yotzoh v'dabro." They were resuscitated by Hashem with the dew that will be used at the time of "t'chias ha'meisim." The departure of their souls can be understood as being a result of the powerful experience of seeing the letters of the words emanating from Hashem. Seeing that which is normally heard is a spilling over of the senses, indicating an extremely powerful spiritual experience, with the vision of letters serving as a bridge between the physical and the spiritual.

If they would have been exposed to a graphic vision of Hashem, "t'munoh," then the experience would have been much stronger, causing such a great cleaving to Hashem that the departure of their souls from their bodies would be on the level of "k'los nefesh," a total extinction of their souls as they cleave to Hashem. Hashem wanted to minimize the miracle of resuscitating them and gave them a limited vision of only the letters. Their revival was thus not as extreme a miracle.

We can now understand the flow of the words of our verse. "V'nishmartem m'ode l'nafsho'seichem," - guard exceedingly your wellbeing. You can learn this from the fact that you did not see a graphic vision of Hashem at Matan Torah. This would have caused a total extinction of your souls, which would have required a colossal miracle to revive you. If Hashem limited the vision to minimize the level of your souls' departure, you can learn from this to guard your lives.

The Maharsh"a in his "chidu'shei halochos" on the gemara Brochos 32b d.h. "ksiv" explains our verse as simply saying that one should guard his soul from sinning by creating a graven image, as the Torah mentions shortly thereafter in verse 16. This can be shown by the fact that Hashem did not expose the bnei Yisroel to a celestial vision at the time of Matan Torah. Although the gemara says that the beginning of the verse teaches us that one should safeguard his life, this was only the interpretation of the minister, but is not the proper understanding of these words.

I am perplexed by the words of the Maharsh"a as Tosfos on the gemara Shovu'os 36a d.h. "U'shmore naf'sh'cho" clearly states that we derive from the words "V'nishmartem m'ode l'nafshoseichem" that one may not injure himself. (Please note that there is a printing mistake in the text of Tosfos, and in the place of the word "mei'v'hishomru" it should say "mei'v'nishmartem.) We see from this that Tosfos accepted the interpretation of the minister in Brochos 32b as accurate. As well, the simple flow of the story seems to indicate this, as the "Chosid" who did not respond during his prayers, afterwards explained to the minister why he did not interrupt his prayers, but did not tell him that he had incorrectly interpreted the verse.


The Chid"oh interprets these words to mean that regarding HEAVENLY matters, "bashomayim," we should look upwards, "mimaal." We should not rest on our laurels, but rather realize that there is upward room for improvement. However regarding physical matters, "v'al ho'oretz," we should be satisfied, saying that there is always a situation that could be lower or worse, "mitochas." The Orchos Chaim authored by the Rosh lists many moral directives. In #59 he says that regarding the physical, one should always see that there is someone below him. In #81 he says that regarding the spiritual, one should always realize that there is someone above him.


The Kedushas Levi aks this and cites the gemara Y'vomos 6a and B.M. 32a, which say that although one must honour his parents by doing their bidding, this is only true when they do not request their child to contravene the laws of the Torah. This is the meaning of "kaasher tzivcho Hashem Elo'kecho." One is required to do as his parent requests when it is in keeping with "that which Hashem has commanded." Since at the time of the giving of the Torah in parshas Yisro there were no other commandments, as they were just being given, the Torah could not say, "as I have commanded you."

I have a bit of difficulty in understanding this, as there were a number of mitzvos that Hashem had already given all of mankind. It is unlikely that at the moment of receiving the mitzvoh to honour one's parents if a parent would command his child to kill someone, that the child would be required to do so, as the logic of "you and your father are both required to honour Me" mentioned in the above gemaros would surely apply.

Perhaps the insight of the Kedushas Levi can be extended to "kaasher tzivcho Hashem Elo'kecho" in verse 12 by Shabbos, as well. The Ramban explains that the term ACH found by Shabbos (Shmos 31:13) limits the guarding of Shabbos to indicate that there are exceptions when one is required to transgress the laws of Shabbos. A number of examples are, circumcision on the eighth day since a child's birth, sacrifices that have a set time, i.e. tomid, daily incense, musof of Shabbos, musof of Yom Tov, korban Pesach, and cutting of the grain for the "omer" offering. Before the Torah was given there was no ruling that permitted one to transgress the Shabbos, hence no "kaasher tzivcho Hashem Elo'kecho" in the Ten Commandments in parshas Yisro.


The gemara is teaching us a profound lesson. One might have the attitude that although Hashem is an active presence in our daily lives, however when it comes to warfare all is dependent upon might. This is symbolized by the arm, the foremost organ of physical strength. The spiritual factor, one's merits by virtue of adherence to Torah and mitzvos is symbolized by the head, the thinking component of the human. One who speaks between the placing of the HAND tefillin and the HEAD tefillin symbolizes one who thinks that at the time of war we must separate the ARM, the physical, from the HEAD, the spiritual. Therefore the gemara says that a person with such an attitude should be sent back from the army. This is a sin "IN HIS HAND," thinking that the outcome of the war is totally IN HIS HAND and not connected to spiritual merit. Indeed, Hashem plays a very active role in war, as is stated in Shmos 15:3, "Hashem Ish milchomoh."

It is well known that the tribe of GAD was considered the most courageous warriors and led the advance of the Jewish army, as is stated in the end of last week's parsha, "Chalutzim taavru lifnei acheichem" (3:18).

Gad had the spiritual merit to lead the Jewish army, as its tribe was very focused on the spiritual component necessary in winning the war. They were connected to the tefillin of the head, symbolizing the connection to Hashem during a time of war. The name GAD is spelled Gimmel-Dalet, numerically THREE and FOUR. The head tefillin have two letters Shin on them, one with THREE strokes and one with FOUR.

As well they connected the arm and head concept and in war physically demonstrated this by slaying their enemies in a unique manner, "V'toraf zro'a af kodkode" (Dvorim 33:20). They killed the enemy not by the standard manner of decapitation by sword, but rather by cutting the head off at an angle, so that an arm would also be cut off at the same time, still being attached to the head, a physical demonstration of the arm-head connection.



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel