Oroh V'Simchoh

Meshech Chochmoh
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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 21, v. 2: "L'imo u'l'oviv" - Here by the regular Kohein, where the Torah permits defiling oneself to a deceased parent the Torah mentions a mother first, to indicate that even when the Kohein's father is still living he may defile himself to his mother. One might have thought that this would only be permitted when the Kohein's father is no longer living and in some circumstances his mother has no one else to involve himself with her burial except for her son the Kohein.

By the case of the Kohein Godol's parents death, where the Torah prohibits his defiling himself (21:11), the Torah first mentions his father to tell you that even if the Kohein Godol's father has already died, his son may not defile himself to his mother, even though her husband is not alive to tend to her burial needs. (MESHECH CHOCHMOH)

Ch. 21, v. 9: "Es ovihoh hi m'chaleles bo'eish tisoreif" - The gemara Makos 2a tells us that if witnesses are found guilty of lying in the manner called "hazomoh", the Torah mandates a reciprocal punishment. The gemara Sanhedrin 90a says that if witnesses were caught lying about the daughter of a Kohein having committed adultery, they do not receive the punishment of the Kohein's daughter, "sreifoh," but rather the punishment which would be meted out to the adulterer who has committed this sin, "chenek." This is derived from the word "l'ochiv" in Dvorim 19:19.

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH explains that since the Torah stresses that when a Kohein's daughter commits this sin, it is not only a blemish upon her, but also a great disgrace for her father, once found innocent, the Torah does not want to reciprocate with the punishment for adultery which is administered uniquely to the daughter of a Kohein. The fanfare created by killing by way of "sreifoh," even if applied to the false witnesses, would advertise that the Kohein's daughter was accused of this terrible sin, and would undeservedly heap shame upon the Kohein. Therefore the false witnesses receive the punishment reserved for the man and not the woman.

Ch. 23, v. 3: "Shabbos hee laShem b'chole moshvoseichem" - What do we learn from the words "b'chole moshvoseichem" - in all your dwellings? Rashi in parshas Mishpotim _ _ writes that the Saducees misinterpreted the Torah and derived from the words "bechorish uvkotzir tishbose" that one is required to keep the Shabbos holy only when there is a Shabbos restriction to not plow nor harvest. During the "shmitoh" year when there is a prohibition to plow or harvest every day of the week there is no Shabbos. Following their mistaken reasoning, Shabbos would still apply outside of Eretz Yisroel even on a "shmitoh" year, as plowing and harvesting are always permitted outside of Eretz Yisroel. We would thus have an anomaly of Having Shabbos outside of Eretz Yisroel during a "shmitoh" year, while there would be no Shabbos in Eretz Yisroel. The Torah is teaching us that the ruling of the Saducees is false, by stating that Shabbos applies "b'chole moshvoseichem," in all your dwellings, whether they be in or outside of Eretz Yisroel. (MESHECH CHOCHMOH)

Ch. 23, v. 10: "Ho'oretz asher ani NOSEIN" - In Bmidbar 32:5 the verse says, "Yutan es ho'oretz hazose laavo'decho," may this land be given to your servants (Reuvein and Gad). The recital when bringing "bikurim," the first-ripened fruit to the Beis Hamikdosh, includes thanks for living in the Holy Land, "V'eis ho'adomoh asher nosatoh lonu eretz zovas cholov udvosh," and the land that You gave us a land that flows milk and honey (Dvorim 26:15). The gemara Yerushalmi Bikurim 1:8 states two opinions regarding land requirements for the mitzvoh of bringing bikurim. One opinion is that bikurim can only be brought from produce grown in Eretz Yisroel, since the verse says "eretz zovas cholov udvosh." Only west of the Jordan Eretz Yisroel has this accolade. A second opinion is that the stress should be placed on the words "asher nosatoh lonu," meaning that only Eretz Yisroel that was GIVEN to us, is the land from which bikurim may be brought. (The parcels of land that were given to the tribes of Reuvein and Gad were REQUESTED by these tribes.) The gemara says that there is a difference in law between these two reasons. According to the opinion that we require a land that flows milk and honey, even the land parcel of half the tribe of Menasheh that was outside Eretz Yisroel is exempt from bikurim, while according to the opinion that bikurim is brought only from a land that was GIVEN, there is a requirement to bring bikurim from the land of Menasheh even though it does not flow milk and honey, but nevertheless, because the tribe of Menasheh did not request this land bikurim must be brought.

Based on this we have an answer to a difficulty the MESHECH CHOCHMOH raises on the opinion of Rashi in Sanhedrin 10b. Rashi states that the "omer" meal offering may be brought from barley grown on the Trans-Jordanian side. The Ran in his commentary on the gemara N'dorim disagrees and says that it may only be brought from the western side of the Jordan. MESHECH CHOCHMOH, based on the derivation of "asher nosatoh lonu," and not that which was requested, says that we should likewise derive from the words of our verse, "ho'oretz asher ani NOSEIN" that "omer" can only be brought from the west of the Jordan, as the Trans-Jordanian lands were requested.

However, it seems that this should present no difficulty for Rashi, based on the above gemara Yerushalmi. The land given to the half of Menasheh tribe was not by virtue of their request, and there is no reason to exclude it from "omer," and this could well be Rashi's intention, that omer may be brought from the area of Menasheh. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 23, v. 22, 24: "U'v'kutz'r'chem lo s'cha'leh pas sodcho, Bachodesh hashvii b'echod lachodesh" - The M.R. Vayikroh 29:2 brings the verse in Yirmiyohu 39:11, "Ki e'e'seh choloh b'chol hagoyim ach os'cho lo e'e'seh choloh," and comments that the nations who totally end their fields, i.e. harvest everything for themselves and leave nothing for the poor, I will bring to an end. However, the bnei Yisroel who do not end their fields, i.e. they leave over that which the Torah prescribes (two of these items are mentioned in our verse), I will in turn not bring to an end. The M.R. ends by saying that with this interpretation we understand the juxtaposition of "lo s'cha'leh pas sodcho" to "bachodesh hashvii b'echod lachodesh." The M.R. requires elucidation, although it is clear that the last words come to answer why some of the laws of agricultural charity are placed in the middle of the listing of Yomim Tovim, between Shovuos and Rosh Hashonoh.

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH explains the M.R. by predicating the verse in Thilim 9:9, "V'hu yishpote teiveil b'tzedek u'l'umim b'meishorim," that Hashem judges the world with righteousness. The gemara R.H. 16b and Yerushalmi R.H. 1:3 say that Hashem judges a person "ba'asher hu shom" (Breishis 21:17), as per his present status. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH proposes a novel interpretation that this not only means "his present status" in relation to his future status, as was the case with Yishmo'eil, but also in relation to his previous status, i.e. if he sinned a while back and more recently has not sinned, he is judged more leniently, and also conversely, if he has fulfilled many mitzvos earlier, and more recently has not done so, he is judges less favourably.

In earlier generations the majority of people were involved in agricultural pursuits, both Jews and non-Jews. Thus in the winter, when the larder is full and there are no agricultural activities, one can occupy himself with his true interests. The majority of bnei Yisroel will busy themselves with Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos, while the majority of non-Jews would indulge in all sorts of inappropriate activities. When spring comes and one must involve himself in the field, there is no major difference in the activities between these two groups, as all must plow, fertilize, sow, etc., leaving little time for either doing mitzvos or for sinful indulgence. It is therefore most surprising that Hashem has placed Rosh Hashonoh, the day of judgement towards the end of the agricultural season, when the mitzvos of the bnei Yisroel wane and the sins of the non-bnei Yisroel also wane. Why not have Rosh Hashonoh in the spring shortly before Pesach, when the "ba'asher hu shom," recent behaviour, of the bnei Yisroel's mitzvos are the strongest, and the "a'veiros" of the nations are the strongest?

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers with the gemara B.B. 11a. The gemara relates the story of Binyomin "hatzadik," the righteous Binyomin. He administered charity in his community, distributing it to the needy. During a year of famine a woman approached him, imploring him to give her some charity. All funds had been exhausted, as it was a year of famine. He told her that the coffers were empty. She responded that if he would give r no charity, she feared that she and her seven children would die of starvation. He responded by digging into his own funds and helping her. Later, while still quite young, he became deathly ill. The administering angels in heaven appeared in front of Hashem, pleading his case. "Master of the world, You have stated, 'Whoever sustains even one person it is as if he has sustained the whole world' (mishneh in Sanhedrin 37a, M.R. Bmidbar 23:6, Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer ch. 48). How then can Binyomin the righteous, who sustained a needy woman and her seven children die at such a young age?" The negative decree was immediately destroyed, and 22 years were added to his life.

It is obvious that notwithstanding this great act of kindness, Binyomin was a very righteous man, as he was called "Binyomin the righteous" before he responded so charitably. If so, why weren't his other meritorious acts sufficient grounds to grant him long life? It seems that righteousness alone is insufficient to guarantee long life. However, by his doing an act that extended others' lives, he in return was also granted an extension to his years, "midoh k'neged midoh," reward in kind.

We now understand why Hashem placed Rosh Hashonoh towards the end of the agricultural season. This gives us the opportunity to leave over "leket, shokchoh, pei'oh, ol'lose," and "perret" for the needy, thus sustaining them and in turn being a merit to extend our lives. These particular objects are different from tithes and Trumoh, in that tithes and Trumoh may be given to the recipient of your choice, thus directly benefiting the giver as well. However the items mentioned in our verse are left to any person who deems himself poor, with no control by the farmer on whom the recipient will be, whether he is worthy in the eyes of the farmer or not. So also in kind we activate a similar response in heaven, that our lives be extended even if we are not so worthy. This is the intention of the M.R. Because the non-ben Yisroel takes all for himself he has no merit to be dealt with in such a kind manner, but the bnei Yisroel who do not annihilate (take all produce for themselves) the field will in turn not be destroyed, as per the verse in Yirmiyohu 30:11.

Although it does not offer an understanding of this M.R., possibly another answer to the MESHECH CHOCHMOH's question of why Rosh Hashonoh does not occur before the agricultural season begins is that Hashem is not ready to judge a person only when he has free time to study the Torah and fulfill a limited amount of mitzvos. The acid test of the Torah knowledge one has in practical application, if it has permeated his being, in the realm of mitzvos between man and man, "bein odom lacha'veiro," takes place during the agricultural season. We then see if he treats his workers fairly, paying them on time, honouring his financial commitments, not overworking them, selling and buying these goods in an honest and fair manner, and giving and leaving of his produce for the less fortunate. Then, and only then, is Hashem ready to judge us.

Ch. 23, v.31: "Kol m'lochoh lo saasu chukas olom l'doroseichem" - The MESHECH CHOCHMOH asks why the verse only mentions the restriction to work as a statute for all time, and not the restriction to eat or drink. He answers that since King Shlomo waived the restriction to eat or drink on Yom Kippur when the Beis Hamikdosh was completed, the prohibition to eat and drink is not for all times. Therefore our verse only mentions the restriction to work as a law for all times.

I have a bit of difficulty with this from Vayikra 16:31 which says, "Shabbas Shabbosone hee lochem v'ini'sem es nafshoseichem chukas olom." We see the Torah mentioning that the law applies to all times regarding both the restraint from work and to afflict oneself (fasting). Perhaps the word "l'doroseichem" missing in 16:31 and appearing in 23:31 makes a difference.

Ch. 23, v. 32: "Shabbos shabbosone HU lochem" - In parshas Acharei Mose (16:31) it says "Shabbos shabbosone HEE lochem." The MESHECH CHOCHMOH says that our verse refers to the DAY (DAY being masculine) of Yom Kippur being a day of total rest, refraining from even doing "m'leches ocheil nefesh," just as Shabbos is called "Shabbos shabbosone" in numerous places (as in Shmos 16:23, 31:15, 35:2). The verse in Acharei Mose tells us that the "shvisoh" (feminine), the refraining from activities, belongs to you. As explained by the Ra"n on the gemara Yoma 76a, the Torah requires more deprivation on Yom Kippur than just refraining from eating and drinking. Which deprivations these are, is given to the Rabbis to decide. This is expressed in the words "Shabbos shobbosone HEE LOCHEM" that the decision of what is considered an appropriate "shvisoh," manner of refraining, is LOCHEM, is given into the hands of the Rabbis.

Ch. 21, v. 8: "V'kidashto kodosh yi'h'yeh loch" - Rashi (gemara Gitin 59b) says that we sanctify the Kohein by giving him the first turn and honouring him to lead the grace after meals.

These days the people whom we hold as Kohanim are people who have had this status from generation to generation, i.e. the previous generation tells us that the fathers of today's Kohanim received the first "aliyoh," that they "duchaned," gave the priestly benediction, etc.

If a complete stranger comes to a community and claims that he is a Kohein, do we believe him? If yes, to what extent? The Shulchan Oruch E.H. 3:1 says that these days if a stranger claims that he is a Kohein we do not believe him, neither regarding the privilege of receiving the first "aliyoh," nor regarding "duchaning." The Ram"o writes that we do allow him to do either of these two rituals, since the main concern we have is that if we trust him to do either of these two rituals there is the fear that he will gain the status of Kohein in the eyes of the masses, and one might offer him "trumoh," which may only be consumed by a Kohein. Since "trumoh" is not offered to any Kohein nowadays, we allow him the privileges of the first "aliyoh" and "duchanen." The Chelkas M'chokeik, a commentator on the Shulchan Oruch writes that the basis of the Ram"o's ruling is the writings of the Rama"k. However, the Rama"k only permitted his receiving the first "aliyoh," because even a Yisroel may receive the first "aliyoh." It is only by Rabbinical injunction to avoid discord that it was instituted to give a Kohein the first "aliyoh," as per the mishneh Gitin 59a. We therefore trust him, as the worst-case scenario is that he will only have transgressed a Rabbinical ruling. However, regarding "duchanen," if a non-Kohein does this ritual, he will have transgressed a Torah law, an "issur a'sei," as per the gemara Ksubos 24b. The Rama"k therefore does not allow a person to "duchan" based only on his own say so that he is a Kohein. The Beis Shmuel, another major commentator on the Shulchan Oruch, likewise agrees with the Chelkas M'chokeik.

The Chasam Sofer questions even his being allowed an "aliyoh" as a Kohein when there are other "established" Kohanim present. How can his "doubtful" right to "v'kidashto" push away their "definite" privilege of "v'kidashto"?

The Chasam Sofer justifies the position of the Rama"k, Chelkas M'chokeik, and Beis Shmuel with an insightful approach to the mitzvoh of "v'kidashto." He says that the mitzvoh of "v'kidashto" is not centred on the so-called Kohein factually being a Kohein, but on our showing reverence to "k'hunoh," priesthood. If we believe that a person is a Kohein and sanctify him by giving him the first "aliyoh" because of this belief, even if factually it is not so, we have properly fulfilled "v'kidashto." However, this is not true regarding other matters, i.e. giving him "trumoh," allowing him to "duchan." Regarding these and other matters, the Torah requires an halachically acceptable Kohein.

It would seem that according to these words of the Chasam Sofer, one who claims that he need not sanctify a Kohein because there is the possibility that he is not truly a Kohein, as his mother might have conceived through a non-Kohein, an issue dealt with earlier in this verse by the M'lo Ho'omer, is rebutted. Even if he is halachically not a Kohein, i.e. we do not apply "haloch achar horov," as long as we sanctify him because we think he might be a Kohein, we have sanctified the institution of K'hunoh.


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