Friday, September 26, 2008

Parshas Nitzavim - "The World Was Created For Me"

I was talking to the famous Ben Yeamans today and he brought something very interesting to my attention. He told me that the Sfas Emes says that if this Shabbos is observed correctly it is michaper for all other sins that have been done on previous Shabbosim.

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: Why does the Torah say that we are responsible to listen to all that G-D teaches TODAY? (30:2)

A: The Seforno answers that the word TODAY teaches that throughout all generations we must strive to perform mitzvot with a freshness and excitement as if they were given TODAY and never by rote.

* Courtesy of Rabbi Dov Lipman Shlit"a -
(Devarim 29:9) "Atem Nitzavim Hayom Kulchem....Rasheichem Shivteichem"

"You are standing today, all of you...the heads of your tribes..."

The literal translation of the words "Rasheichem" and "Shivteichem" is is your heads, your tribes. This seems to be a rather peculiar language when referring to our leaders. Surely there is more graceful terminology of our lay leaders?

Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt"L answers that it is forbidden for any person to denigrate himself by saying that because his talents are so minor, he cannot be a great man or leader; such humility is actually the evil inclination!

Rather, every man must develop the self esteem to realize that he, too, can be a leader of his generation, and so he must learn the Torah in its entirety and in great depth with all of his ability. If man does his part the Hashem will surely finish off mans plan by instating him as one of the greats.

If man chooses to belittle himself and says that he will never be great in Torah or at good deeds then as a slippery slope he will never learn Torah and nothing that he does will ever be suitable.

For this reason the Torah chooses to write, "your heads, your tribes" instead of saying "the heads of your tribes" to show us that everyone must hold themselves in the highest regard and that everyone is capable of leadership.

We must hold dear to ourselves the concept of "Bishvili Nivra HaOlam - The world was created for me" for without it we accomplish very little. We have outlived many of the greatest civilizations in the world. We hold the most Nobel prizes.It is this adage in addition to the help of the Ribbono Shel Olam which has made us, Jews, successful.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Parshas Ki Teitzei - "The Endless War"

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: Why does the Torah say the seeming extra word FOR YOU when it describes the soldier taking the yefat toar as a wife? (21:11) Of course if he marries her it will be FOR HIM!

The Kli Yakar explains that this hints to the fact that there are going to be problems with the children which come from such a union and not a marriage from a true relationship. The marriage will be FOR YOU but it won't be beneficial to the children from that marriage.

*Courtesy of R'Dov Lipman (

Devarim 21:10 "Ki Teitzei Lamilchama Al Oivecha, Unisano Hashem Elokecha Biyadecha VShavta Shivyo"

"When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your G-d, will delive him into your hand, and you will capture [its people] as captives."

The above verse forces the reader to delve deep and truly ask themselves whether or not the pasuk is true. Fore we know all too well that there have been many instances throughout Jewish History (even dating back to Yehoshua in Ai) when the Jewish people have been entrenched in wars and have still suffered terrible defeats. So how come Hakadosh Baruch Hu is phrasing this pasuk as if it is a given that Klal Yisrael will win all of their battles?

The Baal Haturim answers this question by telling us a message that we have heard many times but as the maxim goes - "it is easier said than done". Yaakov Ben Asher of Toledo Spain tells us that the answer to our success in battle entirely lies in our belief in the Ribbono Shel Olam. If we truly believe that Hashem will deliver our enemies into our hands then we are ensured victory. If not however, we are destined for failure. This can be derived by the juxtaposition of words from last week's Parsha to the words at the beginning of this week's Parsha. Parshas Shoftim ends with the words, "Ki Taaseh HaYashar BiEinei Hashem - For you shall do what is upright in the eyes of Hashem" while Parshas Ki Teitzei starts with the words "Ki Teitzei Lamilchama Al Oivecha -When you will go out to war against your enemies…." This integral juxtaposition is teaching us that the key to success against our enemies lies entirely in fulfilling what is 'upright' in the eyes of Hashem.

Interestingly, the Chofetz Chaim writes that the introductory verse of this week's Parsha is not talking about physical battle but a psychological, philosophical, and physiological battle that occurs between man and the Yetzer Hara. Unlike physical battles which have a beginning point and ending point, the human battle with the Yetzer Hara is never ending. Rav Asher Weiss Shlit"a posits that we must battle the evil inclination with a steadfast conviction and an"earnest struggle" then Hashem will make sure to handle the rest.

As the days of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur approach us we must stop and think about even the most mundane of decisions. The Yetzer Hara is persistent and will not relent but Hashem promises us that as long as we do our part Hashem will, "deliver them into our hands".


* Image courtesy of

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Parshas Shoftim - "A License To Carry"

QUICKIE/Funfact: Why is the mitzvah of appointing judges and community leaders juxtaposed to the mitzvah of not planting an asheira next to the mizbeach. Rav Meir Shapiro (creator of the Daf Yomi movement) answers that just like the inside of the mizbeach is made out of dirt and the outside is made of copper, our judges should also be humble and wise yet stern and competent on the outside ready for judgement.

"V'Haisa Imo V'Kara Bo"
"It Shall be with him and he shall read it"

When discussing the mitzvos that surround the institution of the Kingship and the King himself the Torah says that the King must have two sifrei Torah. One to carry on himself at all times and one that should be kept in his royal archives. At second glance however one realizes something very interesting with the introductory words of this Pasuk, "V'Haisa Imo V'kara Bo". The work V'Haisa has a feminine connotation while the words V'Kara Bo are male. Why is this so?

The Daas Zikainim answers that the King would carry with him a single sefer Torah which in actuality only had in it the Aseres Hadibros. The entire Aseres Hadibros are composed of 613 letters which is the equivalent of all of the mitzvos in the Torah. Therefore it is called a Sefer Torah even though it is really only "one" Parsha. A single parsha is a feminine word much like the Eretz Yisrael is also nikaiva (feminine). Therefore the beginning of the pasuk is feminine because it is talking about the Torah that the King had on him at all times (10 commandments) while the second half of the pasuk is talking about the Kings (male) responsibility to read the second Torah which he keeps in his royal archives.


You are Sorely Missed!

You are Sorely Missed!