a href=””>Logo for Chadash NewspaperThis week's Torah reading has one of the most disturbing, and tragic, events
which occurred in the Midbar, on par with the episode of the spies (which resulted
in the 40-year stay in the Midbar). This is the event of Mei Merivah, the
waters of Merivah, where it was decreed that Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen would
not be leading the Jews into Eretz Yisrael, but would pass away before entering
there. Besides the personal tragedy for them, it was a tragedy on a national scale,
for, as the Meforshim teach us, this changed the very nature of the Jews' entry,
making their capture of the Land occur through a more "natural " process, and ultimately
made possible the destruction of the Holy Temple.

Moshe (and Aharon) sinned, we are told; but amazingly, their sin is not explicitely
stated, nor clarified, by the Torah. A most cryptic possuk says: "You failed to
believe in me and to sanctify my name in the eyes of B'nei Yisrael–you will therefore
not lead the Jews into Eretz Yisrael (but rather you will die in the Midbar). "

What exactly did Moshe Rabbeinu do? Sefer Sha'arei Aharon, a contemporary sefer
which clarifies and explains basic peshat in the Chumash, Targum, Rashi, and the
major commentators, counts out no less than 23 (!) opinions from classic Meforshim
on exactly what that sin was.

We will iy"h clarify Rashi's approach, as explained and elucidated by the Maharal
in his sefer on Rashi, Gur Aryeh, and add some analysis.

Rashi famously says that HaShem told Moshe Rabbeinu to speak to the rock ; Moshe
became angry at B'nei Yisrael when they questioned if what he was going to do with
the rock was actually a miraculous intervention by HKBH, and he then hit the rock
instead (see Rashis on pessukim 10-12 and Gur Aryeh on possuk 12 ; this is the Maharal's
interpretation of Rashi))

This is all very cryptic and just about incomprehensible. What is actually the
difference between hitting and speaking to a rock to have water flow forth? Aren't
they both equally miraculous? And what in the world does this have to do with believing
in HaShem (possuk 12) ?And which sin caused it–the getting angry, or the ' hitting
– instead- of- speaking' ?

And isn't this whole incident being blown out of proportion? One small mistake,
and –!!??

Here is the Maharal's take on this (that is, my understanding of what the Maharal
is teaching) :

HaShem gave Moshe Rabbeinu a mission—to perform this miracle in front of the
entire nation of Israel (see Rashi posuk 10, who says that the entire nation was
miraculously gathered together in a way that they would all see the miracle).We
will see in a moment why speaking was crucial here(as opposed to the end of parshas
Beshalach where Moshe Rabbeinu was told to hit the rock)

Moshe Rabbeinu, having been charged with this assignment, should have reached
a peak of emunah. RamBan writes that the fruit of the tree of emunah
is bitachon, our obligation to rely on HaShem, and nothing else, in
every single thing that we do. As the Chovohs HaLevavohs writes in his introduction
to Sha'ar HaBitachon, having bitachon, truly relying on haShem that He
will be the One enabling you, is powerfully liberating! It enables one to be optimistic,
to relax, to be b'simchah, as one does what he/she does with the knowledge and realization
that one is relying on HaShem to succeed..And if I am comfortable that I am doing
the ratzon HaShem in what I am doing, I can be relaxed and serene.

On the verge of entering Eretz Yisrael, there was a requirement to break free,
as it were, from the effects of the spies' sin—-I.e, instead of crying and bemoaning
and wailing about what the future holds (as in Bamidbar 14:1), Moshe Rabbeinu would
speak to a rock, the waters would flow, and B'nei Yisrael would see that doing the
will of HaShem is as natural and successful and stress-free as any natural order
(see Rashi to possuk 12).

But B'nei Yisrael tested and taunted Moshe Rabbeinu–why this rock, why not that
rock, you know where there's a spring, what miracle, when miracle–And Moshe Rabbeinu
was angered.

BUT, says the Maharal, there is NO PLACE for anger, for stress, for anxiety,
for anything but total simchah and optimism and joy as I go to do what I feel I
am charged with–my task, my mission, whether it be in life, or at that moment!
Says the Maharal–if Moshe Rabbeinu would have ignored this 'obstacle' of the scoffers,
and just gone ahead serenely, confidentally, and joyously, and spoken to
the rock, and would have had the total emunah and bitachon and joy in HaShem
that his mission would succeed–the Kiddush HaShem of the joy and optimism with
which one performs one's mission would have once-and-for-all eradicated the meraglim's
pernicious effects.K'llal Yisrael would have entered Eretz Yisrael with Moshe Rabbeinu
at their helm, conquered the Land with their emunah, and a never-to-be-destroyed
Beis HaMikdash would have been built.

But Moshe Rabbeinu was angered.He somehow got rattled by the nation, and was
no longer joyously confident that he would successfully complete his mission.And,
in his anger, he felt he had to force the rock into submission, that his
mission had been altered, been made more difficult, now there are obstacles, we
have to beat the rock…not simchah, but anger. Not serenity, but anxiety.
Not the natural tendency for fulfillment of ratzon HaShem but browbeating into submission.

This flaw in emunah/bitachon, the loss of joy, leaving a vacuum where there could
be anger, allowed a hitting instead of a speaking.And thus Moshe was told "You,
too, cannot enter Eretz Yisrael" and, as is strongly implied in Devarim 1:37, Moshe
now becomes enmeshed in a spy-like flaw, having missed an opportunity to be mekadesh
shem Shamayim through joy and confidence in his mission and eradicate completely
the spies' pessimism and angst. He is therefore told that he, too, would not be
entering Eretz Yisrael.

The lesson, the message? Rather obvious, I would think: Serve HaShem with
The personality of an oved HaShem should not be one of a dour face, anxious,
nervous, even angry at times–but rather one radiating joy, optimism, serenity,
and good cheer.

May any zechus accruing from anyone taking this lesson of the iniquitous
effects of anger to heart, be utilized for the zechus of a refu'ah shelaymoh for
Yeshaya Shalom ben Malka Gittel

Purim and Bitachon

Rav Yonoson Eibeshitz asks the following question: In the story of Purim, there is an entire mini-story within the story, involving Mordechai; Bigsan and Seresh; the king not sleeping, having the royal diaries read to him, and rewarding Mordechai with him behing led through the city streets on the royal horse; with someone (Haman, as it turned out) leading him and calling out before him. Rav Yonoson asks, what is the point of this part of the story? The essence of the Purim story could very well have occurred without this angle: the queen invites the king and Haman to her party, and when the King asks her for her request, she says, ”Nafshi b’she’ilasi ve’ami b’vakashasi” and proceeds to accuse Haman of all that he was plotting to do. Then the King goes out to his garden. Why did that first part even happen? What was its purpose, its point?

Chazal say in Medrash Shochar Tov (a Medrash on Tehillim), quoting and explaining a posuk in chapter 22, the chapter that Esther is said to have recited upon entering Achashveirosh’s chambers, “Our forefathers have trusted in you” – this is a reference to Esther and Mordechai. “They have trusted and relied on you” – this is a reference to Esther approaching the King. In other words, Esther had to exhibit supreme bitachon in HaShem, relying on Him, as she made her way towards the King unbidden, risking her life. “They trusted and were not embarrased,” as it states, “laYehudim haysah orah v’simchah.”

Thus we see the middah of bitachon, faith and reliance on HaShem, as the catalyst of the yeshu’ah.

The Nefesh Hachaim (sha’ar 1, perek 9) writes the same about the salvation at the Yam Suf. When HaShem says to Moshe Rabbeinu, “Why are you screaming out to me? Speak to B’nei Yisroel and let them travel [into the sea],” what HaShem was saying, in effect, was that what was to happen at that point was totally dependent on their own actions. If they would travel faithfully forward, with emunah and bitachon, that in itself would cause the Yam Suf to split!

This is in consonance with what Chovos Halevavos writes at the beginning of Sha’ar Habitachon. Bitachon, besides being the obligation of a Jew, besides being an outgrowth of emunah – works! We say to HaShem, “And let us not be embarrassed, for we have relied upon you…” The degree to which a Jew truly relies upon the Ribbono shel Olam is the degree to which HaShem perfoms salvations.

Rav Avrohom, the son of the Gra, delves into the brachah of mish’an u’mivtach l’tzadikim in shemonah esrei. What is a mish’an, and what is a mivtach? These are synonyms for trust, or reliance.

He says that the modus operandi of HaShem’s salvation is to first bring a small taste of the impending yeshu’ah to the person. This is mechazek the person in his bitachon in HaShem – mish’an – and in that z’chus, the fuller yeshu’ah then comes about. This is what occurred in Mitzrayim. The miracles in Egypt allowed Bnei Yisroel to exhibit their bitachon and follow Moshe Rabbeinu into the desert, with precious few provisions, and then to actually travel towards the Egyptians when directed to by Moshe Rabbeinu. This z’chus led to the ultimate yeshu’ah at Yam Suf. So too, at the time of the Purim miracle, before Haman was hung and the Jews battled and defeated their enemies, HaShem showed them a glimmer of the yeshu’ah through Haman parading Mordechai through the streets of Shushan. This strengthened them in midas habitachon, and thus they were zocheh to the complete yeshu’ah.

And so we have our answer to the original question. The yeshu’ah on Purim coming in the merit of bitachon (as per perek 22 in Tehillim and the Medrash there) and the mahalach of that yeshu’ah being HaShem’s granting a glimpse of salvation, provide the opening for mish’an, and the ultimate salvation coming in the wake of a full-blown mivtach.

This gives new meaning to the phrases that we say and sing on Purim, as we celebrate the yeshu’as HaShem. “Lehodi’a – this (the Purim story) – shekol kovecha – all who trust in You – lo yeivhoshu – shall not be ashamed – v’lo yikalmu lanetzach – and forever shall not feel embarrassed – kol hachosim bach – all those who rely on and have bitachon in You.

Let us listen carefully to the message we are conveying as we revel in the simchah of Purim – the story, the yeshu’ah, this miracle we are celebrating, and drinking to invite complete simchah. The story of Purim teaches this lesson to all generations – lehodi’a! – that we shall extrapolate to our personal lives, to our personal needs and issues, and develop faith and reliance in HaShem, and through that be zocheh to a complete yeshu’ah!

Let us internalize this message as we make merry and revel in yeshu’as HaShem.

Ah freilichen Purim!

Mishkan – Meaning of a Bayis LaShem

In parshas Terumah, we are introduced for the first time to the idea of a bayis for Hashem
– an actual “dwelling place” (mishkan) for the Shechina down in this world. Eventually, this evolves from a temporary dwelling place, the mishkan, into a more permanent one, a house
– the Beis Hamikdash. The very concept of a “house for Hashem” is, of course, a strange, almost sacrilegious, one. Can Hashem be “found” in a particular place?

The pasuk says, “Hinei hashamayim u’shmei hashamayim lo y’chalkelucha af habayis hazeh…”
– “The heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, and surely not this temple…” (Melochim I, 8:27). And “I zeh bayis asher tivnu li…”
– Where is this house that you will build for Me?” (Yeshaya 66:1)

Of course, to fully understand this is to plumb esoteric secrets of G-dliness, the universe and Hashem’s creation, far beyond human comprehension (and certainly beyond the scope of this column). On the other hand, there must be something that we can relate to, even on our level. The Torah, being infinite and eternal, always has something to say to each generation, and to each and every Jew, on whatever level he or she may be.

If we study the famous Tefillas Shlomo, the prayer that Shlomo Hamelech recited at the inauguration of the Bais Hamikdash, we can surmise that the main function of the Beis Hamikdash was to serve not so much as a place of korbanos, but as a place of tefillah. Shlomo Hamelech pleads, “Pray in this place,” “Spread your hands to this house,” and “Pray and supplicate to You in this house.” (Melochim I, ch. 8) These are just three of the many pesukim there which clarify that the Beis Hamikdash is the quintessential makom tefillah. (Incidentally, if you have never studied
– or heard of – this tefillah, you are welcome to join us at Beis Tefillah Yonah Avraham every Shabbos morning at 7:25 a.m. for our Nach shiur!) This means that our tefillos are more effective there and are more likely to be responded to by Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That is why Tefillas Shlomo is centered around Shlomo Hamelech’s plea that the tefillos of Klal Yisroel
– indeed, the tefillah of every individual in the Beis Hamikdash (including a sincere non-Jew)
– be accepted. In fact, this is actually codified in hilchos tefilloh in the Shulchan Aruch (siman 94), with the din that everyone in the world, no matter from where he or she is davening, has to be facing, concentrating on, and focusing on the Beis Hamikdash.

Shlomo Hamelech expresses this in an interesting way: “May Your eyes be open to Your servant’s supplication, and to the supplication of Klal Yisroel, to listen to them whenever they call You… And let my words be… close to Hashem Elokeinu, at all times.”

Hashem is close to us; near to us; and he thus responds to our pleas.

Even more fascinating is that the Torah expresses this very idea in this same way when it says, “Ki mi goy gadol asher lo Elokim k’rovim eilav kaHashem Elokeinu b’chol kareinu eilav.” (Devorim 4:7) Who is like Klal Yisrael in the universe, who has a G-d Who is close to them, as Hashem is when His Nation davens to Him. Hashem’s closeness to Klal Yisroel, then, is primarily manifested by Hashem listening to our tefillos! This is stated in Ashrei, as it says, “Karov Hashem l’chol korav”
– Hashem is close to us when we call Him. And it is inherent in the posuk quoted in Tefillas Shlomo, and in hilchos tefillah.

Thus, one can understand the “house for Hashem” concept as a manifestation of Hashem’s closeness to us: He is here, amongst us; He listens to and responds to our tefillos.

At the end of his introduction to the Yad Hachazaka, Rambam gives a short version of his counting of the mitzvos. Upon their conclusion he writes, “There are the 613 mitzvos…. There are also the mitzvos that the Rabbonon have instituted, that one has to obey… but he must realize that they are derabbonon, that they were not commanded by Hashem Himself at Har Sinai.”

Rambam continues, “For example, when reading the Megillah, we recognize that it is the Rabbis who told us to do so
– so that we remember the miracles that Hashem performed for us [on Purim], and how He was close then to our pleas and prayers [and saved us through them] … and we can say, Yes! It is true, that which it says in the Torah! “Ki mi goy gadol asher lo Elokim k’rovim eilav kaHashem Elokeinu b’chol kareinu eilav!”

That is the message of Purim. Yes! Hashem is close to us and listens to our tefillos!

Halevai, the Beis Hamikdosh should be rebuilt soon.

Bein Odom Lachaveiro Mitzvohs

Parshas Mishpatim is a compendium of laws and rules, mostly consisting of mitzvos that are bein odom lachaveiro. We know that the mitzvos of the Torah are generally categorized under various groupings:

  • עשה ,לא תעשה
  • זמן גרמא, לא הזמן גרמא
  • מצוות התלויות בארץ, מצוות שאינן תלויות בארץ

But besides assei and lo sa’aseh, the classification of bein odom lachaveiro and bein odom laMakom is the most all-encompassing and basic. And indeed, a counting and studying of the mitzvos (a most worthwhile pursuit, by the way- – my father, alav hashalom, insisted I learn them and memorize them for my bar mitzvah; this was a logical thing to do, he said, and thus I inflicted this logic upon my children as well) would probably surprise us with its emphasis on bein odom lachaveiro. Certainly Parshas Mishpatim does, or at least should.

Do we ever stop to wonder, though, about the very category? What does it mean to say bein odom lachaveiro? Aren’t all mitzvos ultimately bein odom laMakom? Surely we should not follow these mitzvos because they are ethical and logical! (If you are surprised by that last sentence, please don’t be. An axiomatic truth of Yiddishkeit and Torah is that we do things because it is the ratzon HaShem, and only because it is the ratzon HaShem (this is discussed at length and elaborated on in Sha’ar Yichud Hama’aseh of the Chovos Halevavohs.)

And so why are they categorized as being bein odom lachaveiro? On Sukkos,do we perform a mitzvah bein odom lelulav,or bein odom lasukkah? Every day,do men perform bein odom latefillin, latzitzis? Do women perform bein odom lechallah? Apparently, calling something bein odom lachaveiro is no mere pointing out with whom the mitzvah is performed. It seems to be in counterpoint to bein odom laMakom….can that be so? And what does that teach us?

The Rambam in Shemonah Perakim (the RamBam’s hakdamah to Pirkei Avos) asks about an apparent philosophical contradiction. Sometimes Chazal express the idea that aveiros should not be naturally repugnant to us. They should be desirable, yes, but we should feel that we are servants of HaShem,and we bow to His will in refusing to succumb to our desires. Yet sometimes we are told that a person’s heart and soul should be in consonance with the values of the Torah.

The Rambam goes on to explain that when there are so-called “logical” mitzvos (and here the Rambam enumerates bein odom lachaveiro mitzvos), HaShem wants us to mold our mind to reflect Torah values. We should feel sorry for the poor person, we should detest lying, cheating, stealing, we should feel it impossible to murder. For the more ritualistic mitzvos, it is a higher form of avodas HaShem to bend and submit our will to HaShem’s will.

This means that bein odom lachaveiro mitzvos should become our inherent values! We should, the mitzvah teaches us, be sympathetic to a poor person; we should care about our fellow-man’s issues; we should empathize with someone going through rough times; we should be eager to lend a helping hand; we should be repelled by the thought of cheating someone; it should be distateful to harm someone’s property, loathsome to fool someone, and revolting to talk loshon hora. That is the Torah’s goal, indeed, the raison d’être of these mitzvos – to transform our naturally selfish natures into selfless ones.

And that is the true meaning of something being bein odom lachaveiro –  HaShem wants us to actually care about our fellow man! To feel for him, to be a concerned and caring individual. A fellow-Jew is not your lulav! A person in trouble, who needs help, is not your mezuzah! The mitzvos are actually, really, bein odom lachaveiro – literally, to worry, to care, to accomodate, and to look after, your fellow-Jew. To take his losses to heart, to want to spare him embarrassment, and to enjoy and “fargin” his successes.

Indeed, they are, in the most basic and fundamental sense, bein odom lachaveiro. As surely as bein odom laMakom is bein odom laMakom.

Think about that, the next time you are tempted to take advantage of someone. The next time you consider lending someone money. The next time someone needs a favor.

Gut Shabbos.