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by Daneal Weiner
All Sefer Dvarim is replete with praise of Erets Yisrael and it is especially heavy in this weeks
Rav Wolfson begins by noting how often the praise comes by way of her fruits. "The Land of grapes, figs, dates, barley, etc." It's also worthy to note that it is Moshe Rabbeinu who is doing the talking!
The Gemorah Yuma says Shiurim v'onshim halacha l'Moshe m'Sinai- Measures and Punishments are halachos- laws that Moshe taught us which he learned on Mt. Sinai. These refer to halachos which our Sages wouldn't have been able to extrapolated from the Torah. Only for the fact that Moshe came down from Mt Sinai and said "This is how it is," do we know it is and that's the way we kept it. This is a strange line in the Gemorah Yuma because the Torah does tell which punishments are sanctioned in the chapters dealing with criminal offenses. The Gemorah must mean something else. The Gemorah is read "Measures FOR punishments are halachos Moshe taught us..." That is something the Torah doesn’t tell us. What measure of the criminal act will earn the punishment sanctioned dealing with the crime? These measurements are literally the difference between life and death! Spiritual life and spiritual death! When the Torah says don't eat on Yom Kippur, what constitutes eating? A tongue tip taste? A bite? Cheekful? Mouthful? Side of beef and a diet coke? This is what Moshe taught us. Clear? Wait. The Gemorah Yuma then brings another opinion that the Court of Yaivitz decreed these measurements!? It seems no one argues on the measurements rather the source is being debated. But don’t worry, both are true! Our world kind of true!
Very often, when two or more opinions argue a halacha, one is true for the level the world is presently at while the other opinions are true for the world were it at a different place and time. The classic example is the differences in laws extrapolated from the Torah by Bais Hillel and Bais Shamai- the Yeshiva’s of Hillel and Shammai. (Contrary to Reform and Conservative distortions of Torah, whose “extrapolations” aren’t true, ever, not anywhere, but who enjoy waving the “Hillel and Shammai” banner as if it applied to their “differing opinion”). Hillel extrapolated Torah for a world run by Hashem’s Mercy. Shammai filtered his Torah through the lens of Hashem’s Judgement, the way we lived the 40 years in the desert. Our world is Hillel’s. After the Mashiach comes we will be back on a level to live according to the more precise laws of Bais Shammai. Right now, we need as much mercy as we can get. Baruch Hashem, we get. But I digress.
The opinions that the measurements were from Moshe and from Yaivitz are both true, present state, our level and here's how. Rashi, on the Gemorah Yuma, says that Yaivitz is Osneal ben K'naz. Who's he? When Moshe died, due to the thirty days of mourning by all of Klal Yisroel in which only mourning-related Torah was learned 1700 halachos were forgotten. Yehoshua asked of Heaven for some inspiration regarding the forgotten laws. The response was, "Lo baShamayim He." The Torah isn't in heaven. Hashem gave it once, He wasn't going to give it again. These halachos stayed lost till Osneal ben K'naz used the power of pilpul to elucidate the lost halachos. Whats pilpul? Its a method of analytical analysis, like if A=B and B=C and C=D...then Y= X^2 +5X + K.
What halachos were lost when Moshe died? The only insight we're given is Shiurim v'Onshim. But maybe that’s enough? What are some shiurim- measurements? For the Nazirite who swears off wine it is forbidden for him to eat even a grape. Eating forbidden foods will exact punishment if the amount is an olive's worth. The measure for a human bone fragment to transmit tumah is the size of a barley grain. Hmmm? A grape, an olive, barley.... where have we heard these things before? Rashi in Gemorah Brachos says it loud and clear, “The measures of the Torah are learned out from the fruits of Erets Yisrael”!
Rav Wolfson shares with us an incredible insight: Not only is every Jewish soul rooted in a letter of the Torah but also in a Mitsva! One mitsva is a person’s ikar mitsva, their principle mitsva. A mitsvah their neshama yearns to fulfill over every other mitsva. One may be able to tell which is their ikar mitsva if it is one they have a tremendous attraction to AND they also encounter the greatest obstacles in trying to fulfill it. The Yetser Horah works extra hard against ikar mitsvas. For Moshe Rabbeinu it seems his ikar mitsva was living in Erets Yisroel. When Moshe was physically taken from the world there was a spiritual loss as well and it manifest itself specifically in those halachos most related to the root of Moshe's essence.
What is it about pilpul that Yaivitz/Osneal used it to reconstruct the forgotten halachos? The Gemorah Nedarim says the power of pilpul Hashem gave to Moshe alone! Moshe chose to make it a gift to all Bnei Yisrael. Only through pilpul, a power of Moshes, could Yaivitz/Osneal reveal the halachos intimately related to Moshe.
Some of the more sensitive viewers might be upset. Moshe didn't fulfill his ikar mitsva! His obstacle was DEATH! How do you overcome that one? Never fear. Moshe was a reincarnation (of sorts) of Noach. They both were leaders, saviors who entered into a new era of existence. They were both saved by water. And whereas Noach sinned by not praying that Hashem not destroy the people of his generation, Moshe did pray that Hashem not destroy Israel. Just as Moshe atoned for a past sin, likewise, another savior, another leader heralding a new era. The Mashiach, even though from the house of David, will somehow be an embodiment of the part of the neshama of Moshe still lacking perfection and will finally fulfill his ultimate task, his ikar mitsva and lead all Bnei Yisrael into Erets Yisrael. Bimhayrah B'yamainu! Kain yehe ratsone!
And now for something not completely different.
This weeks parsha has in it the Biblical commandment V'achalta, v'savata uverachta- you will eat, be satiated and bless. It’s a Torah command to say grace after meals! Benching! A prayer most of us shmear through because after spending soooo much time eating, whose got time left to say thank you?! We’ll devote some time to it now which will hopefully inspire us to give it more time, more often. Rav Wolfson cites the Maharal as his source of inspiration as he offers an explanation of the 4 blessings in benching.
The first blessing is on the food. Pretty logical and straightforward. Of course, there is always what to ask. Why don’t we just say thanks for what we ate? Why do we praise Hashem for feeding the whole world? Why say He has never withheld food when there have been famines? That will be your homework. For our purposes, Thank G-d Who feeds all! But we don’t stop there.
The second blessing is …al ha'arets hatova asher nasan lach. Baruch ata H’ al ha'arets v'al hamazone.- ...on the good land which You gave us. Blessed are You, Hashem for the land and for the nourishment. A blessing for the land of Israel!? Why thank G-d for Erets Yisrael every time we bench?
The seed from which the world blossomed is a large stone on the Temple Mount called the Ehven Shisia and is hinted to in the first word of the Torah. Braishis can be read as a contraction of barah shis- He created the Shisia. That stone’s place in Jerusalem is not just a momento of times gone by. It expresses a present day relationship. Israel influences the growth of the rest of the world.
Koheles 2:5. Shlomo Hamelech says, "I made for myself gardens and orchards and planted trees of all fruits." Rashi on ‘all fruits' asks, how can all types of fruits survive the atmospheric condition of Jerusalem? Rashi answers quoting the Midrash Tanchumah which says “All the roots of the world drink from the dirt of Zion.” The physical connection may not be so obvious but the relatiois certain. Erets Yisrael influences the whole worlds productivity. Shlomo Hamelech knew that he would throw seeds into the ground in Jerusalem and potatoes would grow in Idaho while pineapple trees sprouted in Hawaii. How very appropriate it is while benching to bless Erets Yisrael, the source of all nourishment, while we thank Hashem for that which we ate.
The third blessing, Uvenay Yerushalayim ir hakodesh… Baruch ata H’ bonay v’rachamav Yerushalayim- Rebuild Jerusalem, the holy city... You, the source of all blessing, Hashem, Who rebuilds Jerusalem with mercy. From the last blessing we can assume the importance of Jerusalem, but then it should have been included in the last blessing. A separate blessing must mean a separate message. Rav Wolfson brings the Zohar which says, "You should pray for your food even if it is already prepared and sitting in the fridge!" (not a direct quote.) That sounds like praying before eating! Not our topic. And it makes no mention of Jerusalem which is our topic?!
In Psalms there’s a hint that at a bris the baby's cry goes straight up to the Throne of Glory. It is recommended those present say a prayer as soon as they hear the baby cry and it will be carried express, straight to the Top! What are the implications of this advice? That normally our prayers DON’T go straight up!? Where do they go? Well, why do you think Hashem let the phone company come into being? So we could appreciate that normally our prayers first gather at a local office. Then they find a carrier to the next office. Provided things are in working order, another switching system shuffles them off, etc., etc., till finally they reach the Party to Whom you are praying. Where is the controlling switching station? Jerusalem! And that is why Jerusalem has a neighborhood Talpiot (a name of Jerusalem from biblical times!) which are the same letters as Tafilot! In Hebrew the ‘p’ and ‘f’ are the same letter.
Undoubtedly you all know what it's like when there is trouble at the phone switching office. Calls don’t go through. There is echoing, static, getting cut off… So it is a great idea that as long as we are doing all this thanking and praying for food, for Israel and for the world, that we also pray for our holy switching office to rebuilt with all the latest Temple technology and priestly hardware that will assist our thanking and praying to be routed directly, clearly, the quickest way possible up to heaven! (And not have to imagine G-d sitting on His throne say, “Hello? What? Raphael, did you hear that? Gabriel, did he say ‘promotion’ or ‘grow lotion’? Ok, heads, it’s a raise, tails it a bottle of Rogaine…)
The 4th blessing is called Hatov, v'hameitiv- [the King] Who is Good and Who does good. It was added by the Sages of Yavneh after the fall of Betar. The Romans, after killing near a half million Jews, would not allow their burial. Rather the dead were piled into an 18 foot wall surrounding the fields of the local Roman General. After 6 months the Romans finally conceded to the pleas of the Rabbis and allowed proper burials. This blessing praises Hashem Who is Good, in not letting the bodies decompose and Who does good for allowing them to receive proper burial.
Why did the Romans do what they did? The simple explanation was to demoralize the Jews. The deeper message was that the Romans could not tolerate our belief in the resurrection of the dead. They felt a half million rotting corpses might dissuade our belief, that these bodies couldn’t possibly get up again. [Side note: A Gemorah in which 3 enemies of Israel were called upon from the dead and asked how they are spending eternity. Yushke and Bilaam are boiling in vats of not nice things. The third, Titus, the Roman, his will was to be cremated and his ashes cast over the ocean so G-d would not be able to find him to judge him. He said every day his ashes are gathered, re-hydrated, he is judged, again cremated and again his ashes are cast over the ocean.) Two things the Romans didn't take into consideration. Hashem created the world so that when a seed is planted it decomposes before it sprouts. Decomposition is not a contradiction to resurrection. It's part of the process. They also didn't realize that just like Talpiot = Tafilot which discribed an assence of Jerusalem, Betar is the same letters as Bris! Bris means covenant and between Hashem and us it's an everlasting covenant. Betar represents that everlasting quality which contributed to the merit which preserved the bodies which proved the Romans wrong even according to their own false understanding of things! Hy’d!
Another noteworthy…note: With Noach, Hashem made a special bris that the food supply on the ark would not rot and Yoseph had all Egypt circumcise (bris) themselves so that the food they purchased would not rot. (The food the Egyptians privately stored away had rotted.) Perhaps after these couple paragraphs we can understand the Zohar (like we understand the Kabalah) that even with food in the fridge, pray! A) You never know when your prayers will be heard and B) Just because it’s in the fridge, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna last!
Getting back, (if we hurry we may make it), when the Roman general who was sent to conquer Jerusalem, Vespasian, asked Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai what three things he wanted spared from the destruction (the Rabbi having found favor in the general’s eyes) one thing Rabbi Yochanan asked for was the lives of the Sages of Yavneh. As long as we have Torah leadership to guide us we are not lost, even in exile. Yavneh is a contraction of Yi va neh- He will build. Even before the fall of Jerusalem was already the planting of the seeds of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. How appropriate it is to praise Hashem for the good He did at Betar, a reminder of the everlasting covenant between Him and us, and via a blessing by the Rabbis of Yavenah, the seed to a rebuilt Jerusalem, when all our prayers will be answered and the world will be well nourished and the whole world will recognize Hashem as the Sole Provider, may it be speedily and in our day!
Take part in the rebuilding with 3 wonderful opportunities for benching by have a physically and spiritually nourishing Shabbot Shalom.
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