Re'eh 5773 – Gilayon #810
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For the pauper will not cease from the midst of the
Threfore i charge you, saying,
'You shall surely open your hand to your brother,
To your poor and to your
pauper, in your land.
taught: The pauper does more for the master of the house than the master does
for the pauper, for Ruth told Naomi (Ruth 2)
'The name of the man with whom I worked [lit. – I did with him] today is Boaz'.
It does not say 'He did with me', but 'I did with him' – she told her 'I
did many actions and kindnesses for him today for the piece [of bread] he gave
In a town
with both Jews and idol worshippers, the administrators collect from both Jews
and idol worshippers, for the sake of peace. And they support the indigent of
both idol worshippers and Jews, for the sake of peace. They eulogize and bury
the deceased of idol worshippers, for the sake of peace. They comfort the
mourners of idol worshippers, for the sake of peace.
(Tosefta, Gittin, 3)
charge you, saying: 'You shall surely open […] to
your poor and to your pauper in your land'. The word 'in your land' is, at
first glance, superfluous. This may be explained as follows. We always note
that, upon hearing of the poverty if unknown pauper from a distant land we
immediately take pity upon him and contribute. But local, recognized paupers do
not receive such compassion, because he is falsely suspected; we say that he
does not need so much and that his poverty is not so severe as claimed, and
that he brought it upon himself through laziness, etc, and we harden our hearts
and do not give him properly. The truth of the matter is that were we to know
the pauper from the distant land, we would also voice baseless complaints such
as these against him. For, in truth, the [evil] inclination everywhere finds
reasons to dupe us into hardening [our hearts] so as not to observe this major
command, i.e. you shall not harden your heart, but you shall surely give
generously to your brother, to your poor and to your pauper "in your land"
– for the distant one is no better than he, and it is bad enough that he is
poor and must receive from others.
(Chatam Sofer: Torat Moshe, ibid., ibid.)
"You are children to the lord your god" (Devarim
A holy nation – a unique nation
This 'dvar Torah' is
dedicated by Ziva and Rabbi Gil Nativ
to the elevation of the soul of Shoshana
Who died Sabbath Eve, 20 Tammuz 5773.
She was a holocaust
survivor who came to
joined pioneering settlements, and died in a ripe age.
The juxtaposition of "You are children to the Lord your God"
with the prohibitions "You shall not gash yourselves nor shall you make a
bald place on the front of your head for the dead" is explained by R.
Hayyim b. Attar, author of the "Ohr Hayyim" commentary: "Severe and painful mourning
customs do not befit the Jewish people, because in our life in this world we
are like children who have been distanced from their father, and therefore,
when we return to Him as we depart this world, we are not to express our sorrow
in such extreme fashion as is practiced by idolaters". S. Y. Agnon ['For those
Killed in Eretz Yisrael'] takes a different approach,
describing the Jewish people as soldiers in the army of the Holy One, blessed
be He; the army is small, and therefore the death of every one of His soldiers "weakens",
as it were, the strength of the Holy One in His world, and therefore we should
deeply grieve the loss of every single Jew…
There is no need to reconcile the seeming contrast between these two
descriptions. Each one describes the relationship between the Jewish people to
its God with a different midrashic image ('children' 'army;),
and it is not necessary to reconcile conflicting midrashim. Scripture itself employs
the image of 'children' without dealing with the obvious question: If we are
His children, what is God's relationship to all others created in His image who are not children of the Covenant? Are they "step-children"?
"Children of the concubines"? All concur
that the use of the "children" image as a metaphor for the relation
between the Jewish people and its God expresses connection and closeness on the
spiritual level, not in the physical-biological sphere. The idea that God's holy spirit can cause impregnation of a woman and birth of a
mortal being is diametrically opposed to the Jewish faith. The tension between
the beginning "Beloved is Man who was created in the image, additional
love is in his awareness that he was created in the image" and the ending
of the Mishneh: "Beloved are Israel were called Children of the
Omnipresent… additional love is in their awareness that they were called
children of the Omnipresent, as is written: "You are children to the Lord
your God" (Aboth
3) engaged the sages throughout the generations. This text was the basis
for the controversy between R. Yehudah and R. Meir (Kiddushin
36a): The former believed that "If you do not behave as children should
– you are not called children", whereas the latter believed the "In
any case you are called children". According to R. Yehudah, election is
not an inherent genetic factor passed on in the Jewish people; it is a
challenge and a goal, for whose realization we are to strive ceaselessly.
For you are a
holy people to the Lord your God, and you has the Lord chosen from among all
the peoples of the earth to be for him a special nation" – this is a
matter which may be learned from its context: the laws promulgated for the
Israelite people are what separate and consecrate us from all the nations:
commandments which relates to the preservation of the external wholeness of the
body: "You shall not gash nor make a bald place on the front of your head
for the dead" and the food which enters our body: the passages continue to
detail forbidden foods, beginning with the general charge: "You shall not
eat any abomination.
The concept of the election of
levels. First, on the theoretical/faith level, – how to reconcile the belief in
a single God, master of the heaven and earth and who created all men in his
image, with belief in the God of Israel, a singular God for a singular people
among all the nations, and on the level of actual/historical experience; there
did exist among the Jews murderers and rapists, and there were righteous
gentiles who evinced in practice the preservation of God's image in themselves.
Yet more. Conversion on the one hand and apostasy on
the other led to admixture of Jewish seed in the nations and the seed of the
No genetic examination can prove that
has retained its "purity" and no intelligent person accepts the claim
that the Shekhina – the Holy Presence – rests only
upon "pedigreed families" in
The prophet Malachi (
between His children, even though they be brothers
from the womb and from birth: "Behold, Esav is a
brother to Jacob … and I love Jacob, but Esav I hate…" Is this
discrimination inherent "in the genes" of Jacob and Esav (twin
brothers, but not 'identical twins') or is it a consequence of the differences
in character and behavior; differences which are liable to change dramatically
from generation to generation?
God's partiality for
is the subject of a sermon given by Rav Avira in the name of his mentors, R.
Ami and R. Assi (Berahot 20b):
R. 'Awira discoursed – sometimes in the name of R. Ammi, and
sometimes in the name of R.Assi – as follows: The ministering angels said before
the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, it is written in Your
law, "Who shows no favor… yet you show favor to Israel, as it is written,
"The Lord lift up His countenance upon you"? He replied to them: And
shall I not lift up My countenance for
seeing that I commanded them in the Torah, "And thou shall eat and be
satisfied and bless the Lord thy God", and they are careful [to say the
grace even] if the quantity is but an olive or an egg.
God's favoritism is due neither to the merit of the fathers of
nor to the covenant which He cut with them, but rather to the fact the Jewish
people is careful to recite the blessing even over a miniscule amount of food.
This practice indicates that we are not exacting in our relationship with God,
even if has not fed us to satiety, we still thank him very much; this practice encourages
the master of the Universe to favor
I have no problem reciting, in the Kiddush, "For you have chosen
us and you have consecrated us from among all the nations", nor do I
hesitate to say, upon going up for the Torah reading, "who chose use from
among all the nations and gave us His Torah", because on these occasions I
give thanks for the special mitzvoth which distinguish Israel from the
other nations. But I do have a problem with our lording it over the nations of
the world in the "Aleinu L'shabeach"
prayer; the words: "Who has not made us like the nations of other lands
and not made us like the families of the earth, etc." and I have no doubt
that the offensive custom of expectoration while reciting these words should be
eradicated (spitting is an expression of scorn intended solely for use in the halitzah procedure). The words of this prayer
(originally this text was intended for the "Malchuyot"
section of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf prayer) can be explained in historical
context; the exiled Jew, pursued and humiliated, had an existential need to
repeat daily "Who did not make us like the nations of the lands… who did
not make our portion as theirs nor our lot like their masses" as a
necessary antidote to the feelings of inferiority to his neighbors, the powerful
gentiles living securely in their lands. For the Israeli Jew who has been privileged
to see the Israeli Defense Forces triumph over our attackers on the
battlefield, this remedy is not only superfluous, it may cause damage, just
like any medicine which a healthy person swallows needlessly. Therefore in our
day we should slur over this sentence in the first part of the "Aleinu" and recite loudly and emphatically the second
part which expresses hope "to repair the world through the
and for the day in which all inhabitants of the world will recognize that God
is one and His name is one.
Elder said: When the scholars keep [the teaching of] the Torah among themselves,
you disseminate it, and when they disseminate it – keep it [yours] to
yourselves" (Berachot 63b). We are in a state of transition between
periods: the period of exile and enslavement is passing from the world, the
period of Israel, free in its land, is fashioning a new Jew… to see the
nations of the world not through the eyes of those despised and pursued for
about two thousand years, but to see them foremost as beings created in His
image, this is the most salient evidence that we have been cured of our exile
illnesses. We must do both: try to be "a unique people among all the
nations on the face of the earth" at the same time deepen the awareness
that all inhabitants of the world, Jews and gentiles, were created with the
stamp of the first human, and therefore no Jew has the right to say to a
gentile: "My father is greater than your father…"
Rabbi Gil Nativ serves as
the Rabbi of Beit Warszawa Congregation in
"You shall eat no abomination": Who
that He shall do good to you and to your children
after you': From here our
Sages expounded [the basis for the concept of] reward for observance of mitzvoth.
If, from refraining from the consumption of blood, which men usually loath,
one merits [reward], then all the more so for refraining from plunder and
sexual impropriety, which man desires and lusts after. For Torah prohibitions
may be divided into three categories. The first applies to behavior which is
natural to man's instinct, such as theft and sexual impropriety. The second
applies to things which man naturally abhors, such as the eating of blood and
crawling things. The third applies to acts which by nature man neither desires
nor abhors, such as the sowing of mixed crops and the wearing of shaatnez
(cloth made of wool and linen) etc. Therefore man, who is warned to refrain
from all three, must distance himself from – and train his nature to – abominate
the desired thing just as he distances himself from and abhors that which is
loathsome. And because of the Master's warning, if for the [refraining from the]
abominable reward is given, then all the more so is there reward for[refraining from] the desired. Therefore our Sages of the midrash
said 'Let not a person say I cannot eat pig [i.e., because it is abominable to
me], but rather he should say I can eat [and enjoy] it, but what can I do, my
Father in Heaven ordered me [not to].
(Rabeinu Behayey, Devarim
Limits Upon the Place [of sacrifice] and Precise
Rules were Intended to Minimize the Sacrificial Cult
For one kind
of worship – I mean the offering of sacrifices – even though it was done in His
name, may He be exalted, was not prescribed to us in the way it existed at
first; I mean to say in such a way that sacrifices could be offered in every
place and at every time. Nor could a temple be set up in any fortuitous place,
nor could any fortuitous man offer a sacrifice…On he contrary, He forbade all
this and established one single house [as the temple]…so that sacrifices
should not be offered elsewhere…Also only the offspring of one particular
family can be priests. All this was intended to restrict this kind of worship,
so that only the portion of it should subsist whose
abolition is not required by His wisdom.
(RaMBaM, Guide for the Perplexed III:32, Pines translation)
the Torah Not Specify the Holy Site?
…In my opinion, there is also no doubt that the place singled out by
Avraham in virtue of prophetic inspiration was known to Moses our Master and to many others. For Avraham had recommended to them that
that place should be a house of worship, just as the translator [Onquelos] sets
forth when he says: Avraham worshipped and prayed in that place and said before
the Lord: Here the generations will worship, etc. The fact that this place is
not stated explicitly when mentioned in the Torah, but only hinted at by means
of the words "Which the Lord shall choose…" is due in
my opinion to three wise considerations. The first- lest nations hold fast to
the place and fight for it with great violence, knowing as they do that this
place is the final purpose of the Law on earth. The second-
lest those who then owned the place ravage and devastate it to the limit of
their power. The third, and the strongest,-
lest every tribe demand that this place be within its allotted portion and seek
to conquer it, which would lead to conflict and sedition, as happened with
regard to the priesthood. Therefore the command was given that the
will be built only after the elevation of a King, so that only one would be
qualified to give commands and quarrels would cease…
(Rambam, Guide for the
Perplexed, III, 45)
…It is true that only after the establishment of the monarchy in
from the Jebusites, did he decide, on the basis of his considerations to
establish it as the chosen place, to order that the Bet Hamikdash be erected
The deciding factor in this case was the royal command. Had the Torah
decreed at the outset that the temple was to be built in the portion of a
specific tribe, it might have led to quarrels and bloodshed because of tribal
envy. Therefore the Torah refrained from setting aside and specifying which
would be the tribe in whose portion the Bet Hamikdash was to be constructed.
(Y. Leibowitz, Seven
Years of Discussions on the Weekly Parasha, pp. 828-829)
as Servants – Human Obligation to Social Justice and the Improvement of the
And this is
the question which the wicked Tornosrofus asked Rabbi Akiva: If your
God is a lover of the poor, why does He not support them?
him: To save us from punishment in Gehinnom.
him: On the contrary, it makes you liable to punishment in Gehinnom! I
will offer you a parable: What is this like? A mortal king became angry with
his servant and locked him up in prison, ordering that he should not be fed nor
given drink. One man went and fed him and gave him drink. When the king heard,
was he not angry with him? You are called servants, for it is said the
Israelites are servants to Me (Vayikra
answered him: I will offer you a parable: What is this like? A mortal king
became angry with his son and locked him up in prison, ordering that he should
not be fed nor given drink. One man went and fed and gave him drink. When the
king heard, did he not send him a gift? We are called sons, for it is
written: You are sons to the Lord your God (Devarim 14:1).
You are called sons and are called servants. When you do God's will you are
called sons, and when you do not do God's will you are called servants. Now you
are not doing God's will!
Behold, he said: It [the fast sought by God] is to share your bread
with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your homes (Isaiah 58:7). When should you take the wretched
poor home? Now, and as it says, share your bread with the hungry.
(Bava Batra 10a)
shall grant you mercy (Devarim 13:18) –
The Psychological Consequences of the Punishment of the Inhabitants of
the Ir Ha-Nidahat
of ir ha-nidahat [a town subverted by idolatry] causes three
a) The act of
killing a person makes one cruel. When an individual is killed by a court, an
emissary of the court is chosen [to execute the sentence]. However, when an
entire town [is sentenced to death], we are forced to accustom a number of
people to killing and to cruelty.
increases hatred within
because there cannot be even one person in the town who does not have relatives
in other towns.
c) It leaves
an empty spot and diminishes
sure that you would engage in this without benefiting from the booty in
any way, so that God might turn back from His anger.
me-Volozhin, Ha-Amek Davar on Devarim 13:18)
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