“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu




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בס"ד

B PARASHAT HASHAVUA B

PARASHA : Vaetchanan

Date :11 Av 5766, 5/8/2006

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)

Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori

Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l

Please respect the Holiness of these pages

These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word format. Anyone who is interested in receiving them, can subscribe via the Parasha web site: http://parasha.sde.org.il/eparasha - Arieh.

HhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhH

1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)

Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel; http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html

STARTING POINT: "... He Who Took You Out of Egypt"

- by Rabbi Amnon Bazak

Rabbi Yehuda Halevi and Avraham Ibn Ezra did not agree about the reason that the Ten Commandments begins with the phrase, "I am your G-d who took you out of Egypt, from the house of slavery" [Devarim 5:6]. Why is G-d not described as having created the world? According to Halevi, the Exodus from Egypt is mentioned because faith can best be based on things that a person sees with his own eyes, since this leads to the strongest possible belief (Kuzari, Part 1, 25). Ibn Ezra takes the opposite view (commentary on Shemot 20:1, where he writes that he was asked this question by "Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, may he rest in peace"). His approach is that faith based on knowing the ways of nature and that G-d created the world is the strongest type of belief, while faith based on witnessing historical events is most appropriate to people who are at a relatively low level. In the Ten Commandments, G-d turned to the "lowest common denominator" among Bnei Yisrael (so that both "the wise and the unwise will understand" in the words of Ibn Ezra), and this is the reason that the Exodus is mentioned.

On the other hand, it is possible that the mention of the Exodus from Egypt in the beginning of the Ten Commandments is not connected to faith but to another issue, one that is especially relevant to this week's Torah portion. Moshe begins his main lecture to Bnei Yisrael in Chapter 5 of Devarim. This is a description of the mitzvot, continuing uninterrupted until Chapter 26. It starts with an introduction, which includes various topics, such as the source of all the mitzvot – the revelation at Mount Sinai – and questions related to the essence of the mitzvot, their meaning, and their rewards. This is related to the well known question of the son: "What are the decrees and the laws that our G-d taught you?" [6:20]. Here the son asks, what is the significance of the mitzvot, why should the sons be obligated to observe the commandments that G-d gave us? The answer to the son's question appears in the Torah: "Tell your son, we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and G-d took us out of Egypt with a strong hand... And G-d commanded us to perform these laws, to fear our G-d" [6:21,24]. Thus, the obligation to perform the mitzvot stems first and foremost from the need to acknowledge the good of the Almighty in freeing us from slavery. Only after this reason does the Torah mention other reasons for observing the mitzvot, such as noting that doing the mitzvot is "good for us" and that it will bring us rewards (6:24-25).

Especially in the book of Devarim, a theme that is repeated over and over is that the most basic reason which obligates us to perform the mitzvot is the redemption from Egypt. For example: "You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall observe and perform these laws" [16:12]; "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, therefore I command you to do this thing" [24:22].

It is thus possible that the phrase in the Ten Commandments, "He who took you out of Egypt from a house of slavery," is meant not as a basis of faith but rather as a basis for the obligation to perform the mitzvot, both in the Ten Commandments and in the Torah as a whole. Since G-d took the Jews out of Egypt they are now His slaves, and this very fact obligates them to do the mitzvot.

POINT OF VIEW: One Year After the Destruction: Sharon's Eternal Disgrace

- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen

Responsibility for a National Tragedy

This week marks a full year since the destruction of the nation and the land that took place in the area of Gush Katif, in the Gaza Strip. There are not many events in the life of a nation whose consequences – natural and Divine at the same time – are immediately apparent in all their strength. In this case, the situation of the country of Israel has changed for the worse, all as a result of the purposeful "disengagement" from our deterrent power. The architect of the "disengagement," evil as he is (we will call him this unless it is proven otherwise), did not manage to remain in power for a full year, as a sign from heaven.

As written above, I see this as a tragedy for "the nation and the land," since in my opinion the national crisis in the wake of the foolish plan of disengagement is much worse than the return of the areas and the shattering of the dream of "the full land" of Eretz Yisrael. In my articles last year, before and during the destruction, I emphasized that from my point of view the treachery against the values of Zionism and the shattering of the holy (yes, holy!) nationalistic values, together with the critical gamble with the security of the citizens of this country are all much worse than the personal suffering of those who were expelled from their homes and the tragic consequences for their families. In looking back it has been become clear that the national consequences have indeed been disastrous and even worse than could have been imagined. And we are still in the midst of a war that began as a result of the frivolous disengagement. Who can tell where all this will lead?

At the beginning of this year of 5766, in the aftermath of the tragic "process," I expressed my hope that time would heal the wounds, and that we will be able to overcome the feelings of crisis and tragedy. I hoped that we would return to an agenda based on nationalism, Judaism, and social needs, and that we would begin to rebuild the nation and perhaps even the Torah, in the land that we had abandoned. To my utmost sorrow and consternation, I was wrong! Just look at the record of 5766: national leadership passed into opportunistic hands, the terrible "convergence" plan, fire and brimstone that have rained down on quiet and ostensibly safe cities, and the bloodletting by Iranian test weapons of terrorism. All of these events have shown the dark light that flashes around the evil "disengagement" process (and we will call it this unless it is proven otherwise).

Disengagement and the Murder of Rabin: Where is the Investigative Committee?

I want to clearly state: as far as I am concerned, from the national point of view, the trauma of the "disengagement" is no less than the trauma of the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin! The instigator of the disengagement, who I dare to call evil (unless it is proven otherwise), was forbidden by a government Investigative Committee from having any government responsibility in security matters because he was indirectly linked to the events in Sabra and Shatilla in 1982. This man has now been personally responsible (unless it is proven otherwise) for the dangerous adventures in Azza and the events in Lebanon. How is it that no Investigative Committee has been appointed?

Security experts who led the country's military a year ago, such as General Bugi Ya'alon, General Giora Eiland, and others, have openly discussed a suspicion that the "disengagement" was influenced (among other things) by personal motives of the darkest possible nature (what is known as "media spin"). Thus, in addition to a nation-wide deep apology, there will be no possibility of quiet or national appeasement until a committee is set up to investigate the decision making process at the time, concentrating on any possible hidden motives, and then making recommendations for the future. Unless it is proven otherwise, the one who opened the Philadelphia bypass route to free passage of weapons and explosives in spite of the advice of his military advisors can be expected to suffer Divine punishment. The same responsibility carries over into the events in Lebanon, a natural outcome of the disengagement in Azza.

There is no need to prepare a list of items to be checked by the proposed Investigative Committee. It has been lying ready in a petition to the Supreme Court ever since the summer of 5765, a year ago. The state (who constitutes the "state"?) claimed at the time that the "disengagement" is "a measured action taken for a worthy goal" since it has in it the seeds of "improved security, a decrease in the friction between the IDF and the Palestinians, a decrease in the desire to cause harm to the Israeli population, and encouragement for the Palestinian Authority to perform its duty in fighting terrorism." There is only one thing that must be checked: Could it be that advisors and decision makers wrote these messianic musings, and if so, on what were they based? At the same time, what were the hidden motives of the "state" in presenting this reasoning?

The Head of a Viper

As the fast of Tisha B'Av approaches, we will turn once again to the study of the stories related to the destruction of the Temple, and there we will find a hint of the proper way to fight terrorism which hides behind a civilian population. We are told that Aspanius, the chief of staff of the Roman army, asked Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai, "If there is a barrel of honey with a serpent wound around it, wouldn't it be right to break the barrel in order to kill the serpent?" [Gittin 56b]. And the Talmud says that at that moment Rabban Yochanan did not think clearly because of his humanitarian approach: He should have said, "One uses a vise to remove the serpent and kills it."

This story is told slightly differently in the Midrash: Rabban Yochanan does not let the serpent get away in order to save the honey, but he does not want to use the drastic weapon of a "vise". Rather, he proposes to "bring one who can communicate with snakes to remove the serpent and to save the barrel" [Eicha Rabbati 1:31]. And an unequivocal reply is given by "an Arab duke and a Palestinian duke": "If a serpent has made its home in a barrel, what should be done? The serpent is killed, and the barrel is smashed... If a serpent has made its home in a tower, the serpent is killed and the tower is burned down."

Who is right? This is left to my readers as food for thought...

GUESTS FOR SHABBAT: "And I Prayed to G-d at That Time"

– by Rabbi Benayahu Bruner, Head of Hesder Yeshiva, Tzefat

Moshe was filled with prayers and begging G-d that he should be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael (see Chizkuni). The early commentators did not agree if prayer is a Torah obligation, as the Rambam feels, or a rabbinical decree, according to the Ramban. Even the Ramban suggests that in a time of need there is a Torah obligation to pray. In any case, it is clear that the source for praying is in the Torah, even if it is not counted as a specific mitzva.

Moshe's main mission on the earth was the giving of the Torah, but there were many times when he prayed. Examples are his prayers to save the nation after the sin of the Golden Calf and his 515 prayers (the numerical value of the word "Va'etchanan") to be permitted to enter Eretz Yisrael. In his commentary Haamek Davar, the Natziv explains that the sin of Moshe and Aharon when Moshe struck the rock at Mei Meriva was that they did not teach the people to pray. "If Moshe and Aharon had started to pray, this would have been considered sanctifying G-d within Bnei Yisrael, by reciting something holy in public... And then Yisrael would have believed in the value of prayer, and I would have been sanctified. But you did not show Yisrael the way of faith in this way, therefore you will not bring them into the land... This is a punishment of measure for measure: since they did not show Yisrael how to behave in Eretz Yisrael when confronted with such troubles as a lack of rain, they would not bring the nation into the land."

Prayer has a unique power in Eretz Yisrael, the place where "the eyes of your G-d are on it" [Devarim 11:12]. In addition, one who prays from outside of Eretz Yisrael turns towards the land, and the Temple is a "place of worship for all the nations" [Yeshayahu 56:7]. Upon entering the land, it is necessary for the people to believe in the power of prayer and to understand how to take advantage of it. However, as we noted, Moshe's special traits were related to the Torah. It was left to King David, the psalmist, to complete the picture by writing Tehillim, which is divided into five books, corresponding to the five books of the Torah. And Chapter 90 of Tehillim is a prayer dedicated to Moshe.

The Torah portion of Vaetchanan, in the book of Devarim – the book uniquely related to Moshe – opens with a prayer and continues with the Torah, the events at Mount Sinai, and the Ten Commandments. Moshe was not granted the privilege of leading Bnei Yisrael inside the land, because he did not teach the people the benefits of prayer. But he did tell in his parting message about the many times that he prayed, thus showing them how important it would be to pray in Eretz Yisrael. The sages derived from this Torah portion the principle that "a person should always begin with the praises of G-d and then follow with prayer." Perhaps Moshe wanted to indicate to Bnei Yisrael that even though his prayers were not answered, they would help the nation in its conquest of the land and in maintaining possession throughout the succeeding generations.

The Institution: Hesder Yeshiva in Tzefat

The yeshiva was established eight years ago, sponsored by the national Torah center in Tzefat, which was founded eighteen years ago. In the yeshiva there are about 100 students from all over the country. The yeshiva is situated in the old city of Tzefat, in the same charmed atmosphere where both the holy ARI and Rabbi Yosef Karo lived. Many books were written at this site in the last 500 years: books on the Kaballa are based on the writings of the ARI, and books on halacha are based on the writings of Rabbi Karo.

The educational program in the yeshiva is based on a combination of two main themes. In the Beit Midrash, the students diligently apply themselves to all the major subjects of Torah study: Talmud, halacha, Tanach, Jewish thought, and Chassidut. The second theme is to encourage the service of G-d through deep prayer, especially on Shabbat and the holidays. The program includes meetings, personal discussions about how to worship G-d, a general lecture series on "Torah Hamidot," and more. Above it all, the yeshiva has developed an atmosphere of idealistic education which is well suited for the times in which we live, the era of rejuvenation of the life of Bnei Yisrael in its land. Many of the single and young married students are active in social projects in the city and the surrounding areas.

The yeshiva holds lectures based on the writings of Rabbi A.Y. Kook. In addition, the Rosh Yeshiva presents a general series on the subject of "The Past of Yisrael" – an in-depth study of the history of the Jews during past generations, with an attempt to learn the relevant lessons for our times.

The Hesder Yeshiva in Tzefat is the only yeshiva that has continued to operate in this city during these dangerous times, when it has suffered from hundreds of Katyusha attacks. The organized study and prayers in the yeshiva have continued on schedule, and the students have added kindness and charity to the existing elements of Torah and prayers. They have taken it upon themselves to distribute food every day in the air raid shelters and to help elderly people, and they have established musical groups to enliven the mood of the people in the shelters. One night a bar mitzva was even celebrated in a shelter.

The head of the yeshiva is Rabbi Benayahu Bruner, a graduate of Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, who is certified as a rabbinical court judge. He is also the head of the marriage project of the Zohar organization of rabbis and a judge in the Haifa conversion court. The teachers in the school have broad experience in the field of education.

Additional details are available by phone from Rabbi Yuval, 050-4009197, and by e-mail at: karo_center@canaan.co.il. Website: hesder-tzfat.co.il

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