Oroh V'Simchoh

Meshech Chochmoh
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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 19, v. 27: "Lo sakifU p'as rosh'CHEM v'lo sash'chis eis p'as z'ko'necho" The first prohibition in this verse is expressed in the plural form, while the second is expressed in the singular form. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH explains this with the gemara Nozir 57b. There is an opinion brought that there is a Torah prohibition to remove the sideburns of a minor. Tosfos d.h. "v'Rav Ada" says that according to this opinion it is likewise prohibited for a man to cut the sideburns of a woman. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH says that this is why the verse says "rosh'CHEM," in the plural form, to indicate that it is also prohibited to do this to a woman. The later prohibition against shaving one's beard is limited to doing it to a man only, hence the singular form is used.

Alternatively, he offers that according to the opinion in the gemara Nozir 41a that "hakofas kol horosh lo shmei hakofoh," - shaving all the hair of one's head including the sideburns is not a transgression of this law, there is no exception to this rule. Even when one shaves the head of a "metzoro" in his purification ritual, all the hair of the head is removed, and this does not push aside "lo sakifu." Therefore the Torah expresses the prohibition in the plural form, to indicate that it applies to all circumstances. When shaving the beard of a "metzoro" the prohibition of "v'lo sash'chis eis p'as z'ko'necho" is pushed aside, so to indicate the limited application of the prohibition, it is expressed in the singular form.

While on the subject of shaving one's head and beard, the MESHECH CHOCHMOH brings Breishis M.R. 11:6, where a philosopher asked Rabbi Hoshia, "Why do you shave the hair of your head but not that of your beard?" Rabbi Hoshia responded that the hair of the head grows in "shtus," foolishness, while the hair of the beard grows "in wisdom." On a simple level this is understood to mean that the hair of the head begins to grow when we are very young, a time when we are immature, while the hair of one's beard begins to grow when we have already reached the age of majority. However, the MESHECH CHOCHMOH offers a much deeper understanding of the response of Rabbi Hoshia. He says that although the Torah sometimes gives us mitzvos that are a safeguard to avoid doing an even greater sin, Hashem has not built safeguards into the way the world functions.

However, there is an exception with the sin of not mingling and sinning with women. Beyond the physical differences between a man and a woman that are required for their specific functions, Hashem created man with the nature of growing a beard, while a woman does not. This is done so that one can immediately differentiate between a man and a woman. This creates a safeguard against sinning.

This is the intention of Rabbi Hoshia when he said that the beard grows "in wisdom," meaning that is purpose is to safeguard against sin.

The gemara N'dorim 9b relates the story of a young man who had very beautiful hair that brought him to Narcissian self admiration. To avoid having this attractive feature bring him to sin, he vowed to become a Nozir, which necessitated his totally shaving his head (Bmidbar 6:18), thus removing enticement. We see that hair of the head can bring one to sin, hence Rabbi Hoshia's response that hair of the head is grown in "foolishness," as any sin is done only when a spirit of foolishness enters a person (see Rashi on Bmidbar 5:12).

Ch. 19, v. 30: "Es Shabsosai tishmoru u'Mikdoshi tiro'u" The mishneh in Pirkei Ovos 4:2 says that Torah study in tandem with pursuit of a livelihood makes one forget (distanced from) sinning. Either this is because the combination of the two totally occupies a person, leaving him with no strength to sin (Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenura), or because Torah study teaches one to not sin, and coupled with pursuit of a livelihood, a person avoids being tempted to steal for lack of sustenance (M'iri).

However, when one keeps Shabbos he is not occupied with work on that day and has ample opportunity to sin. This is compounded when Yom Tov comes and he has even more free time, and added to this he mingles with women who come to the assembly at the houses of prayer and lectures, as per the gemara Kidushin 81a, "sakva d'shata rigla," - the most wobbly (insecure) time of the year is Yom Tov. This means that at that time of the year one's spiritual level falters, as he mixes with women at public assemblies in the house of prayer. The Rambam hilchos Yom Tov 6:21 writes that community heads should appoint officers to see to it that men and women do not assemble for lightheadedness, as this can lead to severe sinning. This is the intention of our verse. "Es Shabsosai tishmoru," when you keep Shabbos properly, and thus have free time on your hands, "u'Mikdoshi tiro'u," make sure to behave with trepidation and fear in the places of public assembly. (MESHECH CHOCHMOH)

Ch. 19, v. 31: "Al T'VAKSHU l'tomoh vo'hem" The prohibition against defiling oneself through involvement with the occult is expressed most unusually, "al T'VAKSHU," - you shall not SEEK to defile yourselves. The gemara Sanhedrin 68a says that the prohibition against involvement with the occult is limited to learning the subject matter with the intent to use it, but not if the intent is to learn what is prohibited and what is allowed. Rashi on Dvorim 18:9 says a similar point. This is why the verse ends with "ani Hashem Elokeichem." This expression is often used to indicate that even if a person has a loophole to do something that is basically prohibited, but with certain intentions it is allowed, Hashem knows all that is in a person's heart, and knows his true intention. If a person will study the occult under the guise of learning it to differentiate between the prohibited and the permitted, Hashem knows if it is really so, or if he really has in mind to learn this subject with the intention of using it. (MESHECH CHOCHMOH)

Ch. 19, v. 35 "Lo saasu o'vel bamishpot bamidoh bamishkol u'vamsuroh" Do not commit a misdeed "with justice" by way of measurements, weight, or volume. You know that someone owes you money, but you cannot recover it. When he comes to purchase something from you that has to be measured or weighed, you might feel that it is justified to shortchange him in order to recover part or all of what he owes you. This verse tells us to not cheat to recover it. (MESHECH CHOCHMOH)

Ch. 20, v. 12: "V'ish asher yishkav es kaloso mose yumsu shnei'hem tevel ossu" At first thought one would assume that the sin of having relations with one's own daughter, his own flesh and blood, is more severe than having relations with his daughter-in-law, who is only related to him through his son's acquiring her as his wife. Yet the punishment for relations with one's own daughter is "sreifoh," a less severe punishment than having relations with his daughter-in-law, where the punishment is "skiloh" (according to the first opinion in the mishneh Sanhedrin 49b that "skiloh" is stricter than "sreifoh," which is the halacha, as per the Rambam hilchos Sanhedrin 14:1).

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH says that this question is predicated on the assumption that the reason for the prohibition by both one's daughter and daughter-in-law is because of closeness of the relationship. However, our verse says that the sin of having relations with one's daughter-in-law is called TEVEL. This word means a mixture, as we find "t'valul b'eino" (Vayikroh 21:20), a flaw of the eye where the dark iris colouring is mixed with the white colouring surrounding it. The prohibition to have relations with one's daughter-in-law is because the father and son both mix their seed in one person. Therefore it is a more severe sin than having relations with one's own daughter, and is deserving of a stricter punishment. See the Ibn Ezra on Vayikra 21:20 who writes that "t'valul" means "destruction," and if it is the same word source as TEVEL, then TEVEL means the same. He adds that TEVEL could mean "mixture," but the word source is not TEVEL, but rather, BoLoL, as in "bluloh vashemen" (Vayikra 2:5).


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

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