Oroh V'Simchoh

Meshech Chochmoh
on the Weekly Parsha

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 8, v. 5: "U'veirachto" - The gemara Brochos 21a states: Rabbi Yehudoh said, "From where do we derive from the words of the Torah that it is required to say grace after meals?" He answers that it is derived from the words of our verse. "From where do we derive from the words of the Torah that it is required to say a blessing before commencing to learn the Torah?" He answers that it is derived from the verse "Ki sheim Hashem ekro hovu godel lEilokeinu" (Dvorim 32:3). Rabbi Yochonon adds that we know that it one required to make a blessing after learning Torah through the logic of a "kal vochomer" from the grace after meals, and that one is required to make a blessing on food before it is consumed also through the logic of a "kal vochomer" from the blessing on the Torah.

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH asks, "Why is the command of "birkas hamozon" overtly in the Torah only for after eating, and the command of "birkas haTorah" overtly in the Torah only for before studying Torah?" He answers that it is obvious that one will be appreciative of the food Hashem has made available to a person before he eats, when he is hungry. After eating and being satiated, however, one tends to forget his recent hunger. There is also a fear of his loosening the reigns of the Torah as is the nature of one who is satiated and feels that he lacks little, leading to the feeling that he is the master of his own destiny. Hashem therefore gives us the mitzvoh of "birkas hamozon" after eating, openly in the Torah, a clear reminder that the bounty comes from Him. Regarding the study of Torah the opposite is true. It is obvious that one will be appreciative of the study of Torah after one has just tasted the sweetness of its holy words and has been affected positively. But before one begins the study of the Torah, there is the fear that one's approach to the Torah might be one of "l'kanteir," to misuse it for his own benefit and to aggravate others, showing them up for their lack of scholarship. Therefore the Torah clearly states the requirement of making a blessing over the Torah before embarking on the study of Torah.

Ch. 8, v. 3: "V'lo yoduN avosecho" - The gemara Kidushin 38a says that there was the taste of manna in the matzos that our ancestors took with them from Egypt. If so, why does our verse say that the manna was not known by the parents of the people Moshe was addressing? The Ramban answers that the word "avosecho" refers to the three Patriarchs. He adds that this is clearly stated in the M.R. Bmidbar 1:2. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers by pointing out that there is a letter Nun at the end of "yoduN" which does not usually appear at the end of this word. He says that grammarians explain that an extra letter Nun at the end of a verb indicates a diminutive of that word. Thus our verse is saying that those who ate the manna and even the previous generation that left Egypt had at least a limited knowledge of the manna through the taste of the manna in their matzos, but "avosecho," the generations before those who left Egypt did not have even this limited exposure to manna.

Ch. 8, v. 8: "Eretz chitoh ...... eretz zeis shemen u'dvosh" - The Torah could have incorporated all the species under one heading of "eretz." Yet the verse splits the seven species into two lists, divided by the word "eretz." The gemara Brochos 41b derives from this the order of which items get a priority in having a blessing made over them. However, to understand the splitting into two groups of species on a simple, non-halachic derivation level, the MESHECH CHOCHMOH says that the bnei Yisroel had no olives or dates in Egypt. He proves this from Bmidbar 20:5. The bnei Yisroel complained "V'lomoh he'elisunu miMitzrayim ...... lo m'kome zera u's'einoh v'gefen v'rimon." We see that they complained for lack of figs, grapes, and pomegranates. The reason they did not complain about a lack of olives and dates is because they had none in Egypt either. When they were advised that Eretz Yisroel produces the seven species abundantly, there was a different level of appreciation for olives and figs, which they did not have all the years they were in Egypt, from the level of appreciation for the other species that were available in Egypt. Therefore the Torah separates the species into two groups.

A few points that could be raised on this are:

1) It seems that they had an abundance of olives, as they had oil for the menorah and for the libations of the Korban Tomid in the desert. See the Ramban on Bmidbar 4:16.

2) According to the MESHECH CHOCHMOH the latter group is of primary value while the former group is relegated to secondary status. The gemara Brochos 41b gives halachic prominence to the first group, albeit there is an alternating factor in the priority of blessings.

3) Why would the lack of olives and dates in Egypt, which affected only those who lived in Egypt, be a reason for greater appreciation for the next generation of bnei Yisroel? They were the ones who were told the good news of the seven species and they had none of those species growing in the desert.

4) We find that they came upon 70 date trees in the desert in Shmos 15:27. However this can easily be answered, as this was probably just a one-time happening.

Perhaps with the insight of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH himself on the above quoted verse in parshas Chukas (20:5) we can answer his question in the reverse manner. The following is the insight of the MESHECH CHOCHMOH as it was brought in Sedrah Selections parshas Chukas-Bolok 5760:

Ch. 20, v. 5: "Lo m'kome zera u's'einoh v'gefen v'rimone" - Since this was a complaint about the lack of fruit types that the bnei Yisroel were looking forward to upon entering Eretz Yisroel, why did they leave out "zeis shemen u'd'vash," olives and honey-dates, which are also among the species that grow in abundance in Eretz Yisroel? The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers that although it was wrong for them to complain, they did not use fabricated claims. The flavours of oil and honey were readily available to them in the manna, as the verse says, "V'taamo k'tzapichis biDVOSH" (Shmos 16:31), and "K'taam l'shad ha'SHO'MEN" (Bmidbar 11:8).

According to these words we can say that olives and dates were less appreciated by the bnei Yisroel, including the generation that would enter Eretz Yisroel, since they had the flavours of oil and honey in their daily manna.

All four questions raised above are easily resolved.

Perhaps a difficulty in Bmidbar 13:23 can be explained according to this line of thought. The verse says that the spies took back with them to the desert "V'eshkol anovim ...... umin horimonim umin ha'teinim." It is interesting to note that they took only of the fruit that is mentioned in the first grouping in our original verse, and not olives or honey-dates, which are the two fruits in the second group. Since the spies wanted all the bnei Yisroel to take note of the unusually large fruit of Eretz Yisroel and use this as a selling point to refrain from entering Eretz Yisroel (Rashi ad loc. d.h. "va'yiso'uhu"), it is logical to say that they only brought fruit that would spark great interest. Since the taste of oil and honey was daily fare, they did not bother bringing olives or dates.

Perhaps another matter can be explained as well. Once again a dvar Torah written in a previous issue of Sedrah Selections, Shlach 5759, is being brought: Bmidbar Ch. 13, v. 23: "V'eshkol anovim ...... umin horimonim umin ha'teinim" -The Ari z"l writes that the bringing of "bikurim," the first ripened fruit, to the Kohein in Jerusalem, atones for the sin of the spies. Rabbi Menachem Ziemba zt"l Hy"d says that this is alluded to in the mishnoh Bikurim 3:1. It says that when a person notices that his fruit has begun to ripen, he should place a band on the first ripened fruit and say, "These are Bikurim." Although this applies to all seven types of produce, the mishnoh gives us only three examples, figs, a cluster of grapes, and pomegranates, exactly the three types of fruit that the spies brought back to use as a proof that the bnei Yisroel should not attempt to enter Eretz Yisroel.

According to the MESHECH CHOCHMOH in parshas Chukas that the bnei Yisroel were not as appreciative of olives and dates because they had those flavours in their daily manna, perhaps another answer to the limited choice of fruits mentioned in the mishnoh Bikurim can emerge. The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim says that the reason for Hashem's giving us the mitzvoh of taking the four species on Sukos is so that we may show gratitude to Hashem that he has taken us from the desert, a very hostile and inhospitable environment where there is no growth of vegetation, and has brought us to a land that is replete with all sorts of growth, a very inhabitable land. We therefore take these four species of vegetation to demonstrate our appreciation. Applying this line of thought to the mishnoh in Bikurim, it seems appropriate to say that since the appreciation for fruit of which they had not even its taste, grapes, figs, and pomegranates, was greater than for that which they tasted in the daily manna, olive oil and date honey, the mishnoh specifically lists only grapes, figs, and pomegranates.


See also Sedrah Selections, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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