AUGUST 24-25, 2001 6 ELUL 5761
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"It shall be that when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah." (Debarim 17:18)
The Torah instructs the Jewish people when they enter the land of Israel that they should appoint a king. Clearly, Kingship is a desirable condition. However, it must be understood that the purpose of a Jewish king is very different than a gentile king. When the people approached the prophet Samuel, they said the wrong thing: "[Give us a king] so that we could be like the surrounding nations," which implies a king that aspires to glory, wealth and conquest. They should have asked for a king who would inspire them and set an example of selfless and whole-hearted service of Hashem. Kings like Shaul, David and Solomon are fine examples of great sadikim.
Our verse quoted above speaks about the law that a Jewish king must have a Sefer Torah. Rashi says he must have two Sifrei Torah, one that remains in his treasury and one that he takes with him everywhere he goes. What is the purpose of having two?
The Tomer Deborah explains that the two Torah scrolls serve a crucial role. The king is a man of the people. He leads them with the spirit of the Torah. The king must be very skilled at presenting the Torah to the people in a way that they can understand and accept it. It must be presented in the language and in the spirit of the times in which the king and the people live. It must be seen as a modern set of laws. This is the scroll that the king takes everywhere he goes. However, there is a second Torah that remains in his treasury. That Torah scroll represents the unchanging aspect of the Torah, which means that the king must always go back and study the Torah. He must make sure that in his effort to present the Torah in a modern way, he has not changed it by one iota.
The American Constitution is great because it remains up to date. However, it differs greatly from the Torah. The Constitution must be amended in order to remain current. We keep the Torah current by studying it more deeply and understanding how its noble principles and guidelines apply to our times perfectly.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Do not erect a masebah (pillar)" (Debarim 16:22)
The simple meaning of the word 'masebah' is 'pillar'. This pasuk is telling us that it is forbidden to erect a pillar in order to serve Hashem.
Our Rabbis offer another explanation for this verse by pointing out the similarity of the word masebah to the word 'masab' or 'situation'. When we read the pasuk this way, it is telling us "don't set up a position for yourself that is rigid and inflexible." No two situations are alike, and we must look at all the circumstances of each situation before we take a position.
There are times when a misvah in one situation could actually be a transgression if the circumstances are changed. A person who acts compulsively, basing his actions totally on his unbending ideas, will put himself in a position to make many errors. One must have a full grasp of the Torah principles which apply in each case, and apply them properly.
The more Torah a person learns, the more he will be equipped to react in different predicaments. This is not to say that one should sacrifice his Torah ideals in any situation. This only refers to a person's traits, and how he should apply them. At times, a person must be compassionate while at other times, he must act cruelly. Sometimes he should be generous; sometimes he needs to be stingy. The Torah is warning us that a person should be careful to avoid treating every situation the same way without taking all of the factors into account. Only in that way can he make an objective, Torah based decision. Shabbat Shalom.
"The police shall speak to the nation: Who is the man who built a new house and has not yet started to live in it - he should go and return to his house lest he die in the war and another man will live in it" (Debarim 20:5)
Rashi adds: This causes a person much emotional pain. Rabbi Yehudah Leib Chasman commented that the fact that if he dies in battle, he himself will not live in the house that he built, does not free him from serving in the army. What is? The fact that someone else will live in his house. Even though rationally there is no difference to him in any practical way whether or not someone else will live there, nevertheless, emotionally this can cause many people great pain. Why should it bother someone more because another person will benefit from his labors when he is unable to benefit? Although this attitude comes from a faulty character trait, it is still the nature of people.
This attitude is so natural and so strong that it is taken into account when the morale of the army is concerned. But it causes much resentment and pain in people's lives. "I worked so hard. Why should others gain when they didn't work as hard as I did?" is so easy to say to oneself. But the elevated attitude is, "Even if I don't benefit from my work, I'm glad that someone else is gaining from it." This is what a "giver" will say and think. The negative attitude causes pain; the positive attitude gives one emotional pleasure. Work on mastering the positive attitude. (Growth through Torah)
This Week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 51:12-52:12.
This week, we read the fourth in the series of seven haftarot of consolation. It alternates between prophecies of suffering and prophecies of redemption. The knowledge that Hashem will ultimately have mercy on us and redeem us helps to make the pain and suffering easier to bear. Hashem longs for the day when we will merit the final redemption.
This perashah teaches many laws in relation to the wars that B'nei Yisrael would fight when conquering the land. One such law is the prohibition of cutting down any fruit trees when attacking an enemy. Sefer Hahinuch explains that it is important for the soldiers, while engaged in combat, to maintain their concern for the public welfare, rather than letting their animal instincts take over. When presenting this halachah, the pasuk says, "Do not destroy its trees...for is the tree of the field a man that it should enter the siege before you?" The tree will not fight you in the war, so there is no valid reason to cut it down. Since the pasuk compares a tree to a man, our Rabbis have offered a number of comparisons between the two.
A tree is planted by putting a seed in the ground, after which the ground is watered constantly. Similarly, Hashem planted a soul in our body, and now it is our obligation to water it with Torah study and misvot. In order for a tree to fulfill its purpose, it must grow branches, flowers and fruit. Man's purpose is also to be productive with his deeds. Just as each tree is unique in its own way, so too each person has a different strength that he must cultivate. Question: What do you think is the greatest strength that Hashem has blessed you with (i.e. intelligence, wealth, a special talent)? Are your special abilities "blossoming" under your care? How can you use them more in accordance with Hashem's will?
Answer to Pop Quiz: The witnesses who testified against the one being stoned.
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