The virtual Kehilla of Orthodox Jewry of Greater Montreal

Breishis History or Teachings?

 In first Rashi of the Torah. Rashi asks why the Torah began with Hashem’s creation of the world, and not the first mitzvah. After all, Rashi reminds us, the Torah is primarily for teaching Jews about mitzvos, not a history lesson about Creation. 

  Rashi answers that the Torah “deviated” in order to tell the world that Hashem made Creation, and that He is the One Who designates who gets which land. The gentile nations have to remember this, the Torah is saying, any time they want to call the Jewish people “thieves” who stole Eretz Yisroel from other nations. We did not steal it. The Creator of EVERYTHING gave it to us. 

 The only problem is that the people who need to hear this the most, don’t believe it is true. It’s not like they bring this point up at the UN, where the Jewish people are regularly called “thieves” by many of its members. The only people who actually HEAR the message are those who already believe in it, and who certainly want to! So again, what is gained?

   To answer this question, we must answer an even more important one. The Gemarrah tells us that when Hashem “offered” the Torah to the Jewish people, it was really an offer we could not refuse, unless we wanted to die on the spot. Apparently, when Hashem said, “Do you want My Torah,” He lifted up Mt. Sinai, held it over the heads of the people, and basically said, “If you say no, this is your burial place” (Shabbos 88a). If you wanted to remain living, there was really no way NOT to accept the Torah.
  So what was the point of the choice if it really wasn’t a choice? The answer is on the same page of the Talmud, and it says that the continuance of Creation is based upon the Jewish people’s acceptance of Torah. It’s not that Creation is just TORAH-less if the Jewish people do not accept it. It’s that Creation becomes CREATION-less if the Jewish people do not accept Torah. 

  In other words, lifting the mountain over the heads of the Jewish people was meant to emphasize to the Jewish people how dependent Creation and history is on their ongoing acceptance of Torah. Saying no to Torah, Hashem told them, was like saying no to Creation, and that just wasn’t an option. Likewise, when the Torah begins with the creation of the world to teach that the land was given by Hashem to the Jewish people, it is to emphasize this very point. He is the One Who has the nations of the world accept this, and He is the One who tells the gentiles when to accuse us of stealing the Land. When they make such accusations, it is Hashem’s way of telling US that WE are not making it clear enough to the world that He made Creation. 

  It is the obligation of the existing believing generation to make sure that the one that follows has all the necessary knowledge and tools to believe likewise on their own. The failure of the next generation is really the failure of the previous one. 

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   (32:1) “Hazinu Hashomayim V’adabeirah-Give ear Heavens and I will speak.” Rashi says that Moshe is calling as witness the Heavens and the Earth. How can the Heavens testify for or against anything? There are so many laws pertaining to proper witnesses. How can these be brought to bear witness? The Kol Torah writes that they can. Every mitzvah that we perform directly affects the physical world. By the same token every sin has its negative effect. Moshe can call the Heavens and the Earth as witness because they will be physically changed by the conduct of Klal Yisroel. The maintenance of Heaven and Earth is dependent on the behavior of Klal Yisroel. If we do our job in this world, the world will be on course. But if we emit negativity into the spiritual world, the effect will be reflected in the Heavens to the point that it will be as visible as testimony.

   On this the last day of Moshe's life, He calls the heavens to be witness to the Shira of Ha'zinu. Why is there this concept of “Yiras Shomayim” when in reality “Yiras Hashem” is what is meant? It's said over in the name of Rav Mekotzak in the Likutay Yehoshua that at the “Dawn of Creaion”, Hashem caused the heavens to be suspended with the strength of his command. They remained there without wavering in their duty from the fear of Hashem's word. This is the Yiras Shomayim that is discussed. We should learn “Yiras Hashem” from the Yira of Shomayim. Just as the Shomayim never faltered from its duties so must be our Yiras Hashem as well.

   The Shira of Ha'zinu is the fourth of ten shiras in the Torah. Each of the other shiras were motivated by some extraordinary event preceding it. “Az Yashir” was the shira sung just after the splitting of the Red Sea. In parshas Chukas they sang in praise of the well of Miriam. When Hashem stopped the sun for Yehoshua he sang shira. In each case it was a reaction to some miraculous deliverance. But the shira of Ha'zinu is different in that it depicts what will happen to the Jewish people until the end of days. It foretells their punishment for breaking Hashem's covenant. Why is this a shira? What is it in this prophetic song that prompted Moshe to feel the need to sing?

   It could be that this, being the last day of Moshe's life, was also a time when he was at the highest level of Kiddusha. He was at the apex of his prophetic vision. At this point in his life Moshe's vision was able to span the spectrum of time and view it all in one harmonious light. Future and past events are not only in harmony, but clarify one another. There can be no harmony until justice is delivered. This is the nature of this shira, to express recognition of the total harmony of the creation.

   (32:7) Zechor Yemos Olam Binu Shinos Dore V'dore Shoal Avicha V'yagedcha Zikainacha V'yomru Lecha-Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations, ask your father and he will declare unto you, your elders and they will tell you.” The Torah is telling us to learn about our past. Rashi explains that it is within our power to alter our future by studying our past. Over and over history has proven how events should have been avoided through the study of the past. This verse is the 5760th verse in the Torah. According to the Gra’ each verse in the Torah corresponds to a year of world history. So if we were to look at events of that year we would find that they relate to the verse. This verse to remember the past corresponds to the year 2000 (5760) just prior to the World Trade Center attack. A prediction unheeded, a lesson never learned. The next verse reads “B’hanchil Elyon Goyim B’hafrido Beni Adom Yatzev Gevulos Amim L’mispar Beni Yisroel-When Hashem gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the borders of the peoples according to the number of children of Israel.” The Torah is emphasizing that events of the world revolve around the children of Israel, sometimes more obvious than others.

   (32:8) Yatzev Gevulo Amim B’Mispar Shemos Bnei Yisroel-He set the boundaries of nations according to the number of the children of Israel.” Because all of humanity, at the time of the dispersion rejected Hashem, He handed over the mandate to Yisrael. The power of speech is what elevates man above the animals. All of the world was of one tongue, and that speech was Loshon Kodesh, the language used to create the universe. Such power could not be left in the hands of those challenging Hashem. Each of the nations were assigned their own Malach to oversee them, but Yisroel deals directly through Hashem. This, explains the G’ra, is the reason why someone who leaves Eretz Yisroel is considered as if he worships other Gods.

(32:13) Yarkivahu Al-Bomsei Eretz-He would make him ride on the heights of the land.” The Holy Land is like a “stage” (Boma) for all the other countries; everyone watches to see what is happening there. In our time, when the right of self-determination has been granted to all nations, dozens of new states have been formed, large and small. But who ever talks about them? The media mentions them once a year, if at all. The State of Israel, though it was only established after the Second World War, is on everyone’s lips. There is not a newspaper in the world which doesn’t mention Israel literally on a daily basis. The Holy Land is truly a stage, with the whole world as the audience. Perhaps we were granted this dubious privilege because we forgot that Hashem’s eyes “are always upon it, (the Land) from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” (11:12)  

(32:16) “Yakniuhu B’Zorim B’Toeivos Yachisuhu- They would provoke His fury with strangers, they would anger Him with abominations.”Rashi says They incited Hashem’s anger with abominations by allowing homosexual behavior.

According to the Gra’ every verse in the Torah corresponds to a year in history. The verses of this week’s parsha, Hazinu bring us to modern day history. This verse is the 5769th verse in the Torah it corresponds to the year 2009. A pivotal year in the laws of same sex marriages which became legal January 1st 2009 in Norway, April 1st. 2009 in Sweden, April 3rd. in Iowa, April 7th 2009 in Vermont, May 6th in Maine, June 3rd. 2009 in New Hampshire.

(32:19) “Vayar Hashem Vayinotz M’kaas Bonov U’vinosav-Hashem will see and be provoked by the anger of his sons and daughters.” Even here we strive to find the blessings in the curse. Hashem will be angry but as a father to his child.

   As the end of history unfolds we must remember our lessons of the past. We must never get too complacent in our host country. We must never say “it can’t happen here!” The year 5775 was connected to the Posuk (32:21) “Haim Kinuni B'lo Ale....v'Ani Akniaim B'lo Am-They provoked me with a non God ...I shall provoke them with a non nation. With a vile nation shall I anger them.” Originally when I read this verse my thoughts were on the Palestinians (a non-nation), but now after the year has passed it seems obvious that ISIS is the subject. With Iran threatening nuclear devastation the next verse is frightening. (32:22) "Ki Aish Kodcha B'api Vatikad ade Shaul Tachtis-For a fire will be kindled in my nostrils and blaze to the lowest depths." Rash comments that the verse refers to Jerusalem. Heaven forbid. But perhaps even worse is the next two years. (32:24) "Ketev Meriri-The cutting down of Meriri" Explains the Iban Ezra that this refers to poison air that kills. Chemical weapons as we have seen most recently in Syria. This verse corresponds to the year 5777/2017.

       (32:29) "Lu ChachmuYaskilu Zos Yovinu L'Achreisom-Were they wise they would comprehend this, they would discern it from their end." These verses are speaking to our generation. We must be wise and think of these verses to gain insight into the final days.

(32:30) “Ki Tzurom Mochrom-For their rock had sold them.” Whenever there is transcendence to a higher dimension, there is a test of Emunah. We find it by Yetzias Mitzraim, where after the Ten Macos and all of the miracles performed for Benei Yisroel they suddenly found themselves apparently trapped at the Red Sea with the Egyptians closing in. A test of Emunah. At the end of a person’s life the same principal holds true. The moment the soul and body are separated it finds itself in a black void. A voice whispers to it “there is no after life.” But if it can hold on to its faith for just that brief moment, the light of the next world will shine through. If not, G-D forbid, all could be lost.

   There is a tradition that in the days of Moshiach the descendants of Yishmael will lay claim to the Temple Mount. They will claim that it belongs to them and to prove it they will request that a test be conducted. Both sides will bring a sacrifice to Hashem and each will agree to convert to the other side if their sacrifice is accepted. So Benei Yishmael will bring a korban and Benei Yisroel will bring a korban. A fire will descend and consume the korban of Benei Yishmael. At this point Yisroel will cry out Shema Yisroel and refuse to convert. A fierce battle will ensue and the survivors will flee to the mountains. Forty days later the Moshiach will arrive. Those who hold on to their faith will be there to see it.

   The Gemarrah relates a story about R.Akiva who while passing the destroyed Beis Hamikdosh saw a fox emerging from the ruins and was overjoyed. When asked why, he replied that if this prophecy has come true, then the others about the redemption are also destined to come true. In this weeks parsha we have this posuk “Ki Tzurom Mochrom-For their rock had sold them.” The ROCK of this verse had sold them. The ROCK that is on the Temple Mount that is in the headlines. The ROCK upon which the Akeidah took place and upon which the future sacrifices will be brought. May we be able to keep the faith to see the final redemption quickly in our days.

   (32:44) “Vayovo Moshe.. Hu V’ Hoshea Bin Nun-Moshe came and spoke, He and Hoshea the son of Nun.” Many years had past since Yehoshua’s name was changed. Why here is he called Hoshea again? According to the Gemarra in Sanhedrin (2:6) when Hashem changed the name of Sarah from Sarai he removed the letter “Yud” from the end of her name. The letter “Yud” complained that it was no longer associated with this great Tzadeikes whereby Hashem comforted the “Yud” by telling it that eventually it would be placed at the beginning of a great man’s name. Yehoshua. Sarah’s name change took place one year before the birth of Yitzchok. So she was 89 years old at the time. Since Sarah was 127 years old when she passed away, her name change was in effect for 38 years.

   In the second year after the departure from Mitzraim, Moshe sent spies to tour Eretz Yisroel. At that time he prayed for Hoshea and added the letter “Yud” to his name. Moshe’s death took place at the end of forty years in the Midbar. The Posuk is telling us that the 38 years the “Yud” was removed from Sarah’s name have now been repaid.

   (32:43) “ V’Chipaer Admoso Amo- He will appease his land and his people.” From here we learn that the land of Israel is a Kapora. This is why people are buried in Israel. Our custom is that even people who have passed away outside of the land are buried with some of the earth of Eretz Yisroel. The Midrash quotes Kesuvos 111 explaining that if a person is buried in Eretz Yisroel his sins will be transferred to the land. The land will act like a Mikveh.

   The Zohar was very against allowing a person who has not lived in Eretz Yisroel to be buried there. He likens it to taking that which is holy and making it profane. The body which lived outside of Holy Land is elevated while the soul, the spirit, left in a profane state.

   (32:47) “Ki Lo Davar Rake Hu Mikem- For it is not an empty teaching.” The Tosfos Bracha say's these words have the same gematria as “Zeh Gematrios-These are Gematrious.” The Torah ends by telling us “Gematrios” are not an empty pursuit. Rather they are an important approach to understand the Torah. Moreover, Gematria is one of the rules of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yosi Haglili by which to elucidate the Torah (rule 29). Throughout the Gemarra Chazal use this method of interpretation.

   (32:48) "B'etzem Hayom Hazeh- At mid-day" Rashi says that there are three places that this phrase is used. The first case is when Noach was about to enter the Teivah. He entered in broad daylight despite the objections of his generation. The second case was Yetzias Mitrayim. Klal Yisroel left in broad daylight in spite of the Egyptians claiming they would prevent it. The third is here. Moshe is commanded to ascend mount Nebo and die there. Once again in this was done in broad daylight despite the protests of Klal Yisroel. But in reality there is a fourth (Bereishis 17:23) by the bris of Avraham? Rashi there says that Avraham performed the Bris Milah "B'etzem Hayom Hazeh- At mid-day" despite possible opposition from his generation? Why was it not included here? Perhaps the case of Avraham’s Bris Milah is not listed by Rashi in Devarim (32:48) because Avraham only perceived a threat; an overt threat was not really issued. In the cases of Noach, Mitzrayim and Moshe, there were glaring threats made by groups of people who vowed to interfere with the “Will of Hashem” while in Avraham’s case, he only sought to prevent others from voicing a possible objection after the fact.

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   (31:1) “Vayelech Moshe-And Moshe went" This phrase appears in Rashi without a comment, an unusual arrangement which requires explanation. R. Moshe Feinstein suggests that Rashi felt these words were self explanatory. In other words the entire nation sensed that Moshe was leaving them, even though he was still standing before them. Perhaps because of the next verse where Moshe says (31:2) “Lo Uchal Ode Lotzeis V'lovo-" I am no longer able to go or come" not that Moshe had lost any of his greatness in his final days, but that he no longer was able to lower himself enough to be able to communicate with the people. (See comment 31:2 below) After so elevating his physical essence in this world, Moshe in his final moments was closer to the heavens than this world.

   Moshe was not the same leader they had come to know these past forty years even though his replacement, Yehoshua was already in place, he was merely a reflection of what Moshe was. As the Gemarrah (Bava Basra 75a) comments "Moshe's face shone like the sun, while Yehoshua's shone like the moon." Rashi is thus implying that the Moshe we knew has left, we cannot relate to him any longer, no comment!

   (31:1) “Vayelech Moshe Vayidabaer es-Hadevorim H’ayleh El-Kol-Yisroel-Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel. Thus the parsha begins by Moshe speaking these words to ALL of Israel. Not only the generation of the desert but all future generations. The parsha ends by saying “Vayidabaer Moshe B’oznei Kol-Kahal Yisroel es Divrei Hashira Hazos Ad Tumom-Moshe spoke the words of this song into the ears of the entire congregation until their conclusion.” The words Ad Tumom means until the end of time. What was this message that Moshe conveyed for all future generations? Perhaps it was the last two Mitzvos of the Torah, which are the Mitzvah of Hakael to assemble all of Israel, men, women and children, to hear the reading of the Sefer Devorim plus the mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah. The reason is that this was the last day of Moshe’s life. He wished to secure the continuity of Klal Yisroel. How is it possible for a nation to have survived centuries of persecution? The greatest of civilizations have come and gone and yet we stand here today? The answer is our connection to the eternity of Torah. This was the message Moshe wished to convey.

   One who is alive is a “Holeich” one who “walks and accomplishes,” while one who has died is an “Omeid,” he remains stagnant, not being able to do more after his passing. Moshe was able to continue "walking" even after his passing, "Va'yeilech Moshe," specifically because his words affected all future generations, “el KOL Yisroel.”

   (31:1) “Vayelech Moshe-And Moshe went.” Exactly where did Moshe go? Until now whenever he needed to speak to the nation they would be assembled before him. Now on his last day of life, he is the one going out to speak to the nation. While Moshe was in the role of leader i.e. King he was not permitted to forgo honor. Now, after giving over that role to Yehoshua he was permitted to go out to the tribes and strengthen and encourage them.

     (31:2) “Anochi Hayom-I am today” Moshe is saying that today he is 120 years old and on this day he would die. The Gemarrah says that no man knows the day of his death? How could Moshe have known it was his day to die? The Ohr Hachaim writes that 40 days prior to a person’s death his Neshama leaves him and is shown its final resting place. If that person is worthy he remembers this journey, if not he will have no recollection of it. Moshe therefore knew that 40 days after this journey he would be passing on.

   What happens when the Neshama stands before its maker? It is asked its name. If he was a wicked person he will not be able to remember his name and this is a source of great pain for that Neshama. But if he was righteous he will be able to remember his name. This is why there is a custom to recite the verse in the Torah that begins and ends with the letters of the person’s name at the end of Shemoneh Esrei. Why is this so? Why is forgetting your name so painful? The answer is that a person’s name is his essence. It defines his life’s mission. If he lived an empty life never knowing his purpose in this world, he will arrive before Hashem not knowing his name. There can be no greater pain than discovering that your entire life had been unfulfilled. This Parsha is usually read on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashana. It is the time to re-evaluate our life’s mission, to make course corrections if necessary.

   (31:2) “Lo uchal ode lotzeis v'lovo-" I am no longer able to go or come - Even though Moshe's soul had already been on this earth in the form of other people (Hevel, Sheis, Noach) his soul was reincarnated to accomplish what was incomplete in previous lives. Now he will not “leave and come” again as a reincarnation, as he has lived a complete life, fulfilling all that was not accomplished previously. (Imrei Kodesh)

   (31:2) “Lo Uchal Ode Lotzase V’lovo-I am no longer able to go or come.” Rashi says that its not that he didn't have the strength any longer because we know that he was as strong at 120 years as he was in his youth. But rather that he no longer had permission since he gave over the leadership to Yehoshua. This is therefore the answer to the question of the word “Vayelech” in the first posuk. While Moshe was the leader of Klal Yisroel he could not forgo his honor by going out to speak to the nation. They had to honor him by coming to their leader. But now after giving over the reins to Yehoshua, it was possible for Moshe to give up some of his honor and go out to the people. This is what Rashi is trying to convey. “Vayelech Moshe-And Moishe went.” This means that Moshe’s going was the first act performed not as the King of Israel.

   Alternatively the Midrash explains that Moshe was on such a high level of Kiddusha that he had to lower himself to be able to relate to Benei Yisroel. At this point at the end of his life he was no longer able to relate to this lower level. He had reached the apex of Kiddusha that a human could attain. As is evident from the following parsha, “Hazinu” the level at which Moshe is communicating is far above our comprehension.

   In this parsha Moshe gives over the leadership of Klal Yisroel to Yehoshua. It says that Moshe called to Yehoshua. Later Hashem refers to Yehoshua as Yehoshua ben Nun. Why is this different than the way Moshe called him? The posuk writes that Moshe was giving him advise on leadership saying he should confer with the elders. Hashem was giving advice too, saying you should be your own man and make decisions from your own convictions. There is a remez to this in the name Ben Nun. The letter Nun comes two ways. The bent nun and the end nun that is straight. In this Hashem is telling Yehoshua that at times a leader must be bent and humble himself to the opinions of others. But at times he must be straight and decide on his own. The word Ben represents Binah. With this Binah he should decide when to use each nun.

(31:2) “Ben Mai'ah Ve'Eserim Shanah Anochi Hayom-.” Moshe say's “Today I am one hundred twenty years old.” Rashi says, “Today my days are complete. On this day I was born and on this day I shall die.” (The 7th of Adar) The Alshich asks what is Moshe's purpose here to state that today is his birthday? The Gemarra relates that at the time of the story of Purim, Haman cast lots (Hepil Pur) and wanted to kill the Jews at a time when the Mazal would be bad for them. He found that the month of Adar was a good time to do this because Moshe died in this month. What he did not know was that Moshe was also born in Adar. Here in our posuk Moshe Rabeinu before his death saw B'ruach Hakodesh that in the future there will be a bad time for the Jews in the days of Haman that he will want to kill the Jews on the same day that Moshe Rabeinu died. On this Moshe says to Yisroel that they need not be afraid because even though I died on this day, but as Rashi says, “I also was born on this day and that Zechus should shield and protect you.” Afterward the Posuk says “Chisku Ve'imtzu Ve'al Tirau”-Be strong Don't be afraid. But what does this mean? Why didn’t Haman know that Moshe was also born on that day? The Gemarrah in Kiddushin (72b) writes that whenever a Tzaddik leaves this world a new Tzaddik is born to replace him. The Zohar even says that there are sparks of Moshe’s Kiddusha in every generation’s leaders. Haman actually knew that Moshe was born on that day. However, since he also died then he considered this a cut-off period for Klal Yisroel. He did not know that when one Tzaddik leaves this world, a new Tzaddik- a new Moshe- is born as well!

   (31:16) “Vayomer Hashem el-Moshe Hinchah Shochev Im Avosechah-Hashem said to Moshe you will lie with your forefathers.” Since Moshe was buried on Har Nevo and the Avos are buried in the Moros Hamachpelah how can we justify this statement? However, the Yalkut Reuveini writes in the name of Sefer T’munoh that Moshe and Tziporoh were buried in the M’oras Hamachpeiloh. If so, we can take these words of our verse literally. Although the Torah tells us that Moshe was buried in the land of Moav (Devorim 34:6), the Torah says (Devorim 1:37) “Gam Atoh lo SOVO Shom – also you will not come to the land” but you will be brought there by angels. (Shaa’rei Aharon)

   (31:18) "V'Anochi Haster Aster Ponai-And I will surely conceal my face." Why is there a double Loshon of hiding? Plus we have already mentioned in verse 17, that Hashem will conceal Himself? R.Bechaye comments that the first mention refers to the Babylonian exile while the second refers to the current exile known as Golus Edom. That concealment will last a very long time, that is why the expression is repeated here twice. But this does not mean that Hashem is forsaking Israel as we find in the Talmud. Esther is found in the Torah in this verse. Even though Hashem's name is not found in the Magillah of Esther.

   (31:21) “V’Hoyo Ki Simtzaun Oso Raos Rabos V’Tzarus V’ansah Ha’Shira Ha’Zos-It Shall be when you will encounter great evil and distress, then this song shall be the answer.” How will this song answer the question for all the persecution Israel has endured? The centuries of exiles, torture and displacement, of attempted extermination? The answer is found in the promise given at the end of this verse. “Ki Lo Sishokach Mipi Zaroh-For it will not be forgotten from the mouths of your off spring.” Despite all of the attempts to eradicate the Torah from the mouths of the Jewish nation, Torah is perhaps more alive and thriving than ever. This promise, made thousands of years ago has been challenged, has been vindicated, has been questioned time and again and yet we find “Lo Sishokach Mipi Zaroh-It will not be forgotten from the mouths of your off spring.” It is eternal and is something that continues to guide us to this very day.

   (31:29) “V’Koros Eschem H’Rah-And Evil will befall you.” The evil this posuk speaks about is as was found in Portugal, when the king decreed all Jews to convert or be burned. The Jews gathered and asked where the fire pits where? They marched to their deaths with their children, singing and with Simcha. This was because in a previous life during the times of the Judges, Jews desecrated Hashem’s name by worshipping Idols. They were therefore reincarnated to correct this sin and sanctify Hashem’s name. The words “V’Koros Eschem H’Rah-And Evil will befall you.” is equal to Al Kiddush Hashem Nisraf-To sanctify Hashem’s name they were burned. (Sifsei Kohen)

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(29:9) “Atem Netzavim Hayom Kulchem Lifney Hashem-You are standing here today, all of you, before Hashem” The purpose for this assembly was to have the Benei Yisroel enter into a Bris with Hashem. But they had already done this at Har Sinai? Why was there a need to have them do it again? The reason is because the first time by Har Sinai they had asked Moshe to be an intermediary for them. Now with the passing of Moshe Rabeinu they would be standing before Hashem themselves without any intermediary. This is the meaning of the words “Atem Netzavim Hayom Kulchem Lifney Hashem-Today you are all standing before Hashem.” The Maharal says that it was necessary now because they were on the threshold of entering into Eretz Yisroel. Until now they were being totally supported by Hashem for their every need. The Bris made at Har Sinai didn't have the same impact. Now that they were entering into Eretz Yisroel where they would need to live in the real world and have to support themselves, they needed to reestablish their tie with Hashem. Therefore the Bris was really for the generation that was about to enter Eretz Yisroel. This could explain why the posuk mentions the children before the women and Gairim. (29:10).

   (29:9) “Atem Netzavim Hayom-You are standing here today” The emphasis is on the word “Today”. The nation was in the very near future, about to enter into the land. No longer would such a gathering be possible. Each tribe would be involved in settling in their portion.

   This parsha is always read before Rosh Hashana. One of the reasons is because on Rosh Hashana we are all standing before Hashem. The Gemara in Rosh Hashana talks about how we know that a Ram's horn is used for a Shofar. The Gemara says that a horn of a calf can't be used because it is reminiscent of the Chet of the Eigel and the prosecutor can't be the defender. The same is said by gold being used on Yom Kippur. The Kohen Gadol was not allowed to wear any gold when entering into the Kadshe Kadshim for the same reason. The Gemara asks but the Shofar is not blown in the Kadshe Kadshim? They answer that since the blowing is for remembrance it’s as if we are standing before Hashem. What does the Gemara mean? When we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana we are recalling the Akeida when a ram was sacrificed in place of Yitzchok. This act reached such a tremendous level of Kiddusha that it was likened to being before Hashem in the Kadshe Kadshim. In fact it says regarding the Kohen Gadol that when he went into the Kadshe Kadshim no one was allowed to be in the courtyard at the same time, not even Malachim. However by the Akeida it says that a Malach called to Avraham from heaven to tell him not to lay a hand on Yitzchok. Why from heaven did he call to him as opposed to just saying he called? The answer is that at that moment, Yitzchok was like the Kohen Gadol going into the Kadshe Kadshim and no one, not even an angel could be there.

      (29:14) “Ki es Asher Yeshno Poh Imanu Omade Hayom...Ves Asher Ainenu Poh Imanu Hayom-Hashem is making his covenant with those standing with us today...and with those who are not here today.” According to those who say this refers to the ones from the past, what purpose would an oath serve? Rabeinu Bachya writes that the past Neshamas are the roots of the future branches. They can therefore make the descendants liable to an oath. Perhaps this is meant to include the Neshamas that will return in the form of a Gilgul. The word Yeshno comes from the root word Yishan-sleeping. In addition the word "Omade" used here could hint to those who have left this world. We know that Neshamas are referred to as being Omade since they can no longer move up in the spiritual realm on their own.(Sifsei Kohen)

   (29:27) “V'yahlichaim el Eretz Acheres-Hashem will cast them to another land.” The word “V'yashlichaim is spelled with a large “Lamed” to indicate that this will occur in the 30th generation from the time of Avraham. Also since Israel is compared to the moon, the cycle of thirty days points to the waxing and waning of the monthly cycle.

(29:28) “Hanistoros L'Hashem Elokainu V'haniglos Lanu Ulivaneinu Ad Olam-The hidden things are for Hashem, our G-d but the revealed things are for us and our children forever.” The Torah in general does not reveal the reward for each particular mitzvah. For if one would know the exact reward for each Mitzvah then a person would opt to do those Mitzvos that have greater rewards in place of those that have lesser rewards. There are however two mitzvos that the Torah reveals the reward: Kibud Av honoring one's parents and Sheluach Hakahn sending away the mother bird before taking the babies. For both the reward is long life. It would appear that Sheluach Hakahn is a mitzvah that is of lesser importance than honoring one's parents. Yet the Torah states that they both have the same reward of long life. So we see that the reward for Mitzvos is not dependent on their importance.

   Going back to our posuk: The hidden one's are for Hashem ie: the Torah in general hide's the rewards for Mitzvos but the Niglos lanu Ulivaneinu ie: the two Mitzvos that the rewards are delineated in the Torah one is “Lanu” the mitzvah of Sheluach Hakahn which is incumbent on each of us. The second is “Livaneinu” this is the mitzvah of Kibud Av V'aim- which is incumbent on the children.

We don't know the exact reward for each mitzvah. Therefore if any Mitzvah comes to you “Al Tachmitzena” (don't delay it) just do it. For even a supposed “lesser” Mitzvah like Sheluach Hakahn, the reward is great just like the law of Kibud Av V'aim.

     (29:28) “Hanistoros L'Hashem Elokainu V'haniglos Lanu Ulivaneinu Ad Olam- The hidden things are for Hashem, our G-d but the revealed things are for us and our children forever.” There are two possible moments in time for the future redemption. One is hidden and is known by Hashem alone. That is a predetermined set time. The second is a revealed moment in time which is the time when Yisrael returns to Hashem in total repentance. As it says in the Posuk “Hayom Im B’kolo Tishmu-Today if you hear my voice.” Meaning it is even possible to bring the Moshiach today, if we hearken to His voice. This moment in time is dependent on our actions. This is the meaning of this posuk “The hidden things are for Hashem, this refers to the set moment in time known only by Hashem. But the revealed things are for us and our children forever meaning that we know that through our efforts the redemption can come even today. The Zohar says that the arrival of the Moshiach parallels the original redemption which is compared to the birth of a child. The birth of a child is one of the three keys held only by Hashem. Just as every pregnancy has a due date but the actual birth of the child varies, so too the arrival of the final redemption may be due but the exact date remains known only to Hashem.

   (29:28) “Hanistoros L'Hashem Elokainu V'haniglos Lanu Ulivaneinu Ad Olam- The hidden things are for Hashem, our G-d but the revealed things are for us and our children forever. The Rambam writes that this refers to the study of Kabbalah.

   (30:2) “V'shavta ad Hashem Elokecha... Atoh U'vanecha-You will return unto Hashem...You and your children.”The final generations will see the parents on the verge of assimilation. It will be the children who will fight with their non-religious parents to bring them back.

   (30:3) “V’shov Hashem Elokecha es Shvuscha V’Rachamecha V’Shav V’kibetzcha M’kol Ho’Amim.-Then Hashem your G-d will bring back your captives and have mercy on you, and He will gather you in from all the nations.” The word “Shuv” is repeated Rabeinu Bachya writes that there are two returns. One will be the Ten Tribes who will begin the rebuilding of the land, and then the remaining two tribes will return.

   The Meshech Chochma writes that that the double Loshon goes first on the living and then on the resurrected.

   How can a nation that fell so far, rise to such tremendous heights? The Chofetz Chaim writes that this has always been the way of Yisroel. From Avraham, who could not father children, to Klal Yisroel who went from the lowest slaves to standing on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. Plus countless examples of low and difficult beginnings that resulted in triumph. We must learn from this past how history will be repeated. So too in our time we will rise from ashes to the greatest heights.

   (30:4) “Im Yihiyeh Nidchecha Biketzei Hashomayim Mishom Yikabetzcha Hashem-If you’re dispersed will be at the ends of heaven from there Hashem will gather you.” What does it mean when it says “the ends of heaven.” Man does not live in heaven? It should have said from the ends of the earth? Shomayim denotes spiritual matters, while Eretz refers to the material. Biketzei comes from the word “Ketzat” a little bit. Since every Jew has done at least a little bit of good and has some merit in heaven, Moshe told the nation: “Im Yihiyeh Nidchecha-If your dispersed.” You need not worry as long as you have ketzei Hashomayim a little bit of spirituality then Hashem will bring you back to him.  

   (30:5) “V’Heviecha Hashem Elokeinu el H’Aretz Asher Yorshu Avosecha V’yarishta-I will bring you to the land of which your forefathers took possession and you shall take possession of it.” This verse, recorded 3370 years ago, speaks of the eventual return of Klal Yisroel to the land promised to our forefathers, According to the Bible Scholar, this verse is the 5708th verse in the Torah. According to the Gra’ each verse in the Torah corresponds to a year of world history. So if we were to look at events of that year and how they relate to Klal Yisroel, we would find that the events not only relate to the verse, but often are defined by it. As we know the year 5708/1948 is the year Israel became recognized as the Jewish state.

   (30:7) “ V’nosan Hashem Elokecha es-Kol H’Olos H’Ayleh al-Oyvecha V’al Sonecha- Hashem will place all these imprecations upon your enemies and those who hate you.” On your enemies refers to Yishmael, on those who hate you refers to Essav. In Messianic times both of these nations will convert to Judaism.

(30:12) “Mi Yaleh Lanu Hashmayma- Who will ascend to the heavens.” Even if the Torah were in heaven we would be required to fetch it. How? By enlisting a Navi. We see that prior to receiving the Torah it was in heaven!

   (30:12) “Mi Yaleh Lanu Hashmayma- Who will ascend to the heavens.” The first letters spell the word Milah. The last letters of each word spell YKVK. This indicates that Milah is not just a ritual that elevates a person to holiness. Rather it is an essential condition that must be fulfilled in order for a person to be able to properly submerge himself in Torah study. The last letters which spell Hashem, show that if you have Milah you can have the seal of Hashem.

   (30:15) “Reaye Nosaty Lifanecha Hayom es-H’chaim V’es Hatov Ves Hamoves V’es Horah-See I have placed before you today life and the good, and the death and the evil.” Why is the subject reversed? It should read “Good and Life” not life and then good? The good should lead to life? The Kli Yakar answers that we should live to do good.

   The Meshech Chochma comments that we have encountered this phrase earlier in Parshas Reaye. However there, it only mentions blessings and curse not life and death? This is meant to teach us that here we were given the Mitzvah of Teshuva. This teaches us that we have a tremendous responsibility to do Teshuva. Not using the opportunity to correct sin, to have a way out, is worse than the sin itself.

   (30:19) Ha’Idosy Bochem Hayom es H’Shomayim V’es Hoaretz , H’Chaim V’Hamoves Nosaty Lifonecha H’Bracha V’Haklolah Ubocharta B’chaim L’maan Tichyeh Atoh V’zaracha- I call heaven and earth today to bear witness against you. I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse, and you shall choose life in order that you shall live you and your offspring..” R.Moshe Feinstein Z’tl wrote that we should choose life means we should place life into our service to Hashem. We should perform the Mitzvos with life. If we convey Mitzvos as difficult our children will not keep the Mitzvos on their own.




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KISAVO el Haaretz

At the end of last weeks parsha we had the mitzvah to remember Amalek. This week we begin with the command of Bikurim the first fruits. What is the connection? In an agricultural society, working the land causes man to rely more on Hashem. He sees how his livelihood is dependent on Hashem. Amalek were opposed to man's connection with anything spiritual. They preached man's independence from G-D. The Torah is highlighting here the greatness of Yisrael who are called Reishis.

   (26:1) “ Vhayo Ki Savo-It wil be when you come.” The word “ Vhayo” is always a term of joy. The Ohr Hachayim writes that real joy is only when you acquire Eretz Yisroel.

   (26:5) “Arami Oved Avi- An Armenian destroyed our forefather.” What does it mean “destroyed” our forefathers did survive? Hashem equates the intent of a gentile as if it was done. Also because Lavan switched the daughters he gave to Yakov, thus Yosef was not the first child born to Yakov which caused the jealousy and subsequent sale of Yosef and descent of Yakov to Mitzrayim.

   (26:11) “V’Hagair Asher Bekirbecha-And the stranger in your midst.” We find this statement many times through out the Torah. Usually the Torah is listing a Mitzvah and then goes on to state that this particular Mitzvah also applies to the convert who is in your midst. The question is if this person has converted why shouldn't he be included in the Mitzvah? The Ohr Hachaim states that when a person has an opportunity to perform one of the Mitzvos which are not usually capable of being performed, Hashem enables the Neshamas of those who have already departed from this world without having had the opportunity to perform this Mitzvah, to join a Neshama in the body of that Jew who is about to perform this Mitzvah. In this way these Neshamas can claim their share in the performance of that Mitzvah. This is what is meant by the words “Ve Hagair Asher Bekirbecha.” The stranger in your midst literally.

   This Parsha also deals with the curses that were originally said in Vayikra. Ezra made an edict that both times these curses are read should be before the New Year. This is in order that they should be out of the way before we begin the New Year. We see in the curses a gradual increase in the severity of the curses until we reach the final curse of eating ones children. This is the worst one because it is saying that a person is no longer a person but even lower than an animal. For this reason we have the curse out of the way before the New Year since the Yom Tov of Rosh Hashana is the holiday of the creation of man. We go from being non-human to the beginning of humanity. (Chazon Eish)

   (26:13) “Lo Ovarti M’Mitzvosecha V’lo Shochachty-I have not transgressed any of your commandments and I have not forgotten.” Why mention not forgetting? When bringing the first fruits one must make this declaration before Hashem. Chazal teach us that if one does not tithe his produce, mice will eat his grain. If one eats food that has been touch by a mouse it causes him to forget all of his Torah. By saying “I did not forget” the Torah wants to come full circle. I have made the proper tithes, no mice have touched my grain and I did not forget my Torah.

   The Sefas Emes writes that sometimes people get so bogged down with the details of the Mitzvos that they lose sight of their connection to Hashem, the one who commanded the Mitzvah in the first place. The person who brings his first ripened fruit offering states that he has not forgotten Hashem Who commanded that we do this mitzvah.

   (26:15) Hashkifu M’Mone Kodshecha Min H’shomayim-Look down from your Holy abode from heaven.” Why did Moshe repeat his reference to heaven by calling it both “Holy Abode” as well as “Heaven”? The Ohr H’chaim writes that the Torah wants to make us privy to a secret. Hashem has prepared two distinct sources in the celestial spheres from which to send down his benevolent influence on mankind. One source is the spiritual input He places into man, the source from which the holy souls are dispatched to inhabit our bodies. The other reservoir is that which provides us with physical goodness, sustenance enabling His creatures to stay alive by means of food and life’s basic needs. According to the Zohar the combination of these two are called Zivugim, coupling, pairing as in marriage.

   According to Kabbalah the input of holy souls which used to originate from the celestial spheres has been interrupted ever since the Temple was destroyed, so that nowadays we receive input only from the source which provides the material goodness Hashem has to offer. Moshe prayed that Hashem should provide the spiritual input from the highest celestial regions called M’Mone Kodshecha. In addition to our basic needs from Shomayim.

   The Sifrei explains that the blessing is that of having children. The angels cannot sing in the heavenly Mo’one until the Jews first sing to Him on earth. Therefore the angels want the Jews to multiply, so that there will always be people to sing on earth enabling the angels to fulfill the purpose of their own creation by singing to Hashem.

   (27:1) “Vayitzav Moshe V’ziknei Yisroel es-Ha’am-Moshe and the elders of Yisroel commanded the nation.” Why does Moshe include the elders in this directive to the people? According to the Ramban after Moshe completed his words, he commanded the elders to address the nation with him. Since the posuk continues by saying “Shomor es Kol Hamitzvos-Guard all of the Mitzvos.” And since the people follow the advice of the elders they were included. According to the Seforno this is referring to the specific mitzvah of writing the Torah on the stones. And since Moshe was not going to enter into Eretz Yisroel, the elders were included.

   (27:2) “V’Hoyah Bayom Asher Tavru es-H’Yardain el H’Oretz-And it shall be on the day that you cross the Jordan to the Land.” The day that Klal Yisroel entered the land of Israel was the 10th of Nissan. They miraculously wrote the entire Torah on 12 stones in 70 languages. This miracle was to announce to the entire world that they were coming to the land not as conquerors by force but by the command of Him who created all lands. This was all done before they unsheathed a single sword.

   (27:8) “V’Kosavtah al Ho’avanim es Kol Divrei HaTorah Hazos Baer Heitiv-And you shall inscribe on the stones all the words of this Torah. Very clearly.” Rashi explains these words to mean in all 70 languages. This presents a problem. In the time of the Greek King Poltemy the elders of that time were asked to translate the entire Torah into Greek. He placed them each in their own cubical to see if they were translating the Torah faithfully. Miraculously they all translated the Torah the same way including some changes they each made so that the Torah not be misconstrued. On this the Gemarrah says that for three days there was an incredible darkness over creation. The fact that Torah had been translated into a language other than the original Loshon Kodesh brought this tremendous darkness.

   Why is this a problem? If the Torah had already been translated into all 70 languages in Moshe’s time, why here should there be darkness? The answer is that it wasn’t dark because they translated the Torah. It was dark because they could not translate it properly. They felt that the changes were necessary so that the Torah not be misconstrued. This is what caused this intense darkness.

   According to the “Noam Elimelech” the words of the Torah should be written in a manner that allows the righteous people of each generation to interpret them in a positive way. Baer Hativ meaning explained for the good.

   (27:9) “Hayom Hazeh Nihiyesah L'Am L'Hashem Elokecha-This day you have become a nation to Hashem your G-D.” Rashi writes further on in 29:3 that when Moshe heard all of Israel complain about the fact that Moshe gave the Sefer Torah he wrote to Shevet Levi alone, he was pleased saying “Today you have become a nation.” For at this point they showed their strong desire for the Torah.

   (27:12) “Ayleh Yamdu L’vorech es-Ho’Am-These shall stand to bless the people.” Moshe commands six tribes to stand on Har Grezim to bless the people and six tribes to on Har Eivel to curse those who don’t follow the Torah. A question arises as to what criteria were used to choose which tribes would be on which mountain? A novel approach to resolve this is a mathematical one. If you tally the last census taken of the population of each tribe you find that the only combination that evenly divides the 12 tribes is the one set forth in the Torah. No other combination of tribes could produce an equal number on each mountain.

   (27:15) Arur Ho’ish Asher Yaseh Pesel Umaseicha-Cursed is the one who makes a graven or molten image.” There were to be 12 tribes divided on the two mountains. Six would utter the blessings for those who heed the Torah and six would utter the curses for those who do not heed the Torah. The Torah however only lists the curses? Why is no mention made of the blessings for those who observe? The Shelah writes that our mission in this world is to find the blessings hidden inside the curses. In everything we encounter in life, good can be found. Although at the time it may not seem that way. Nowadays we say “Boruch Dayan Emes” when someone passes away but in the future when Moishiach will have come we will say “Boruch Hatov V’hamativ.” But if the Moshiach did come why would there be a need to say either one? Evil will have been removed from the world? Rather after the coming of Moshiach will understand and bless those things we thought were bad but now realize that it was Hashem acting in our best interest all along. Hashem commanded us to perform Mitzvos. The word Mitzvah ends with the same two letters of the name of Hashem, “Vav Hey” but the first two letters of the word Mitzvah begin with the letter “Mem and Tzaddik” Using the ATBASH formula of Gematria where the last and first letters of the aleph beis are interchangeable, we come out with the first two letter of the name of Hashem.

   Good may even be found in what would seem to be the worst places. The letters of the name Amalek stand for Amram, Moshe, Levi, Kahas. The leaders of Klal Yisroel. However the last letters of that name spell the word Misah-death. This coincides with the blessings given by Billem against Klal Yisroel. (Bamidbar 24:20) “Reshis Goyim Amalek Vachriso Adei Ovaid-Amalek is the first of the nations and their end will be eternal destruction.” They may have an illustrious beginning but their end (the last letters) spells death.

   (28:2) "U'Vah Alecha Kol Habrochos H'AylehV'Hisigucha-All of these blessings will come upon you and overtake you." The word Hisigucha seems redundant? From the end of the verse we can glean an understanding. The posuk continues "Ki Sishmah L'kol Hashem Elokecha-If you listen to the voice of Hashem your G-d." The Soforno learns that the blessing is that the reward for the listening, meaning learning Torah, is that it will come even without making effort. Because of your learning Torah no effort will be needed for your physical needs.

   The Netziv has a different take on this. He writes that even when a person who is listening to the voice of Hashem, meaning he is no longer that interested in the physical world. He is on a much higher level now. The blessing is that the blessing will still affect you, you will still be able to appreciate the things you no longer find as important.

   (28:6) “ Boruch Atoh B'Voecha Boruch Atoh B'Tzeisecha- Blessed shall you be in your coming blessed shall you be in your going.” Rashi writes that it means you should be as free of sin when you leave this world as when you entered it. The Sifsei Kohen says if a person leaves behind a son who follows in his Torah path, it's as if he did not die. The Torah here is saying that when you leave this world you should be blessed with that type of son.

   (28:23) “V’hoyoh Shemecha Asher al-Roshecha Barzel-Your heavens over your head will be copper.” Why mention the words “over your head” merely stating the heavens will be like copper would suffice? However it means to teach us that only those who do not adhere to the words of Torah will have copper heavens above them. But those who do will receive their proper rainfall.

   (28:47) “Tachas Asher Lo-Ovaditah es-Hashem Elokecha B’simcha-Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-D with gladness.” The Midrash says that all of the curses came upon Klal Yisroel for not observing Shabbos. The question is how is this indicated in the posuk? The word Tachas literally means under. If we write out the aleph-Beis with each letter under the next we would have the letters of Shabbos spelled out under the letters of Asher.

(28:47) “Tachas Asher Lo-Ovaditah es-Hashem Elokecha B’simcha-Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-D with gladness.” R Shlomo Freifeld zt’l. once explained this posuk the following way. We are programmed with an instinctive need to enjoy ourselves. R. Moshe Chaim Lazzato in the introduction to The Path of the Just clearly states that Hashem created us with the sole intention to give us pleasure. We must have pleasure. Our challenge is to choose pleasures that are long lasting and sublime over superficial and empty thrills. Yet ultimately, if we do not derive joy from the holy and profound, we will be compelled to search elsewhere. If we do not fill our service of Hashem with a gshmack, we will invariably look to other venues to get that good feeling. We cannot help ourselves. We need to feel good. If we practice our Judaism by rote, we will begin to veer off the Torah’s path and our children will look to the secular culture around them to fill the void.

   This fundamental concept is pointed out in the end of the curses brought at the end of the parsha. The Torah does not identify which specific mistakes will trigger the terrible tragedies delineated therein. It merely states: “Because you did not serve Hashem with joyfulness and a gladness of heart . . . (28:47).” Could it be that just because we did not have a smile on our faces while doing mitzvos, we will be judged so harshly? Various commentators’ remark that the inability to enjoy one’s observance of Torah and Mitzvos is the root of one’s slacking off in his observance. It is in this lack of gshmak that causes one to stray from the Torah’s path. People are always in search of pleasure. If they are unable to find that pleasure in the ways of the Torah they will eventually seek out those pleasures that the world has to offer from places that are contrary to the will of Hashem. This straying leads us to all types of places that quite often distance us from Hashem. This is what the posuk is telling us. All of these curses will befall you because you did not find the pleasure (ie. simcha) in serving Hashem.

   The mechanics are as follows: Without the joy, we instinctively wander around to find something pleasurable. . It is this ultimate estrangement that is the provocation for the curses to descend upon our nation.

     (28:47) “Tachas Asher Lo-Ovaditah es-Hashem Elokecha B’simcha U’vtuv Leivav Meyrov Kol-Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-D with gladness of heart of the abundance of all things.” If you don't listen to Hashem all of these things will befall you.

Generally this is interpreted to mean because (Tachas) you didn't serve Hashem with a glad heart. It seems that this is the main reason for the curses? Why should that be so?

   The word Tachas has two meanings. It could mean because or in place of. R. Miller once said that a person is sent to this world to recognize Hashem. All of his merit is based on how he relates to Hashem. If he can't relate then all of his merit is wasted. One of the things that Hashem does for us is to give us things to make us happy. So when the word Tachas is used here it means in place of. If we don't appreciate everything done for us then the curses come in place of the gladness given to us. Often we don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. This is what that posuk means. Since the good way was left unrecognized we must come on to the second way, which is the pain after the good is gone.

   The Baal Hatanya writes that unhappiness indicates a total disintegration of personality. A Jew who has faith in the Divine source of his blessings cannot possibly be sad.

There are 676 words in the Tochacha and the name of Hashem (YKVK-26) appears 26 times equalling 676 (26X26). This teaches us that Hashem is with us even at the time of punishment. Hashem is our loving father. When a father punishes a child it is out of love. It is to raise the child in the proper path. The number 676 in Gematria equals “Yoridah Tzorech Aliyah He-The Descent is for the purpose of Ascent.”

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