Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg
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Gifts for the Poor
In the parshah of the Mo'adim (Emor 23:22), the Torah issues a command to leave the last corner of one's field standing for the poor to take (Pei'oh), as well as the loose grains of corn that fall during the harvesting (Leket - as long as it is less than three grains that fall together). These two mitzvos per se may well be major mitzvos, typical of the Torah's humane character and unique sensitivity towards the needs of the poor. But why, asks Rashi, does it choose to place them here, in the middle of the Parshah of the Yomim-tovim, with Pesach and Shevu'os on the one side and Rosh ha'Shonoh, Yom Kippur and Succos on the other?
Rashi answers that the Torah, setting out to stress the importance of Matnos Aniyim (gifts for the poor), considers the fulfillment of this mitzvah as if one had built the Beis ha'Mikdosh and brought Korbonos there (bearing in mind, that the Torah is discussing here the special Korbonos brought on the various Yomim Tovim. Rashi's answer however, is seemingly inadequate, since neither does the Torah make any reference to the Beis ha'Mikdosh in this parshah, nor is it clear as to why the Torah inserts Matnos Aniyim here in the Parshah of Yom-tov. It might just as well have juxtaposed them to the Parshah of Korbonos in Vayikro, where the message would have been more precise.
The Ohr ha'Chayim therefore offers a different approach. He explains that the Torah is coming to negate the contention that the field which produced the barley for the Omer on Pesach and the wheat for the Shtei ha'Lechem on Shevu'os (both mentioned just a few pesukim earlier) are Hekdesh and are therefore exempt from Leket, Shikchoh and Pei'oh. Mentioning them here teaches us clearly that one is obliged to fulfill these mitzvos even in those fields from which the Omer and the Shtei Ha'lechem were picked.
The Seforno links Matnos Aniyim to our parshah in the following way. The Torah has just discussed the Omer and the Shtei ha'Lechem, he points out, two mitzvos which result in a blessing of one's corn and fruit harvests, respectively, as the Gemoro explains in Rosh ha'Shonoh (16a). It therefore saw fit to insert the mitzvos concerning gifts to the poor here, because, through their performance, one ensures that, once the crops have grown, they do not rot or get stolen, ensuring the continuity of the Divine blessing. The one results in a blessing that ensures their growth, the other in a blessing that ensures a successful harvest.
The Meshech Chochmah presents a most original idea to resolve Rashi's problem. One may well have thought, he explains, that the giving of the Torah was only necessary for the Chukim, the group of mitzvos that defy human logic. Mitzvos which are easily understood, and which the human mind could have worked out on its own, would not perhaps, have required "Kabolas ha'Torah", since they are self-understood. The Torah therefore follows Shevu'os with a set of mitzvos which is self-understood, to teach us that they too, are included in the Divine command.
The reason for this, he explains, is because, if their fulfillment were left to human logic, there would be not the slightest guarantee that we would perform even the most primitive humane acts. There is no guarantee that a human being, left to his own devices, will perform any good deeds, and there is not even any guarantee that, without the Torah's backing, he will not sink to the lowest levels of barbarity - theft, rape and murder. This is because, without Torah, human beings are nothing more than sophisticated animals, who are quite capable of perpetrating acts of cruelty, which no animal would conceive of doing. Without Torah, man is a scheming animal; with it, he can rise to the level of an angel.
And besides, even mitzvos that are self-evident would remain no more than good deeds, and it is the fact that they are ordained by G-d that transforms them into sacred acts - mitzvos - as the text of the birchos ha'mitzvos clearly indicates.
Why did the Torah then pick specifically this set of mitzvos to teach us this lesson? Because the performance of Matnos Aniyim coincides with Shevu'os, making it the obvious choice. (Come to think of it, this connection between Shevu'os and Matnos Aniyim might even serve as an independent answer to Rashi's question.)
And finally, here is an answer of our own. Chazal have taught us that the entire world was built on Chesed, and it continues to exist on Chesed. Indeed, this is the key reason that the commentaries give for the reading of Megilas Rus on Shevu'os. Because all of Rus' incredible achievements were based on the outstanding acts of Chesed which she performed with her husband (both during his lifetime and after his death), and with her mother-in-law.
So the Torah saw fit to place the mitzvos of Matnos Aniyim together with Matan Torah, to demonstrate that Kabbolas ha'Torah goes hand in hand with chesed.
The Torah - Our Strength
The expression "be'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh" (on this very day) is mentioned twice in the Parshah of Yomim-tovim (in Emor), in connection with Shevu'os, and in connection with Yom Kipur (in Vayikro 23:21 and 28 respectively).
The first Luchos were given on Shevu'os, and the second, on Yom Kipur, representing the day that we accepted the Torah before we sinned, and the day that we accepted it after we sinned, as ba'alei teshuvah.
The strength of the Jewish people lies in the Torah, and their power of eternity was born on the day that they accepted the Torah at Har Sinai, and on the day when, after sinning, they did teshuvah and reaccepted it on Yom Kipur.
Perhaps that is why the Torah uses the term "be'etzem ha'yom ha'zeh" on both of these days, since it can also mean 'on the strength of this day' The strength of Yisroel lies in their ability to accept, on the one hand, and to come back after they have sinned, on the other.
Why do we study Torah all night on Shevu'os?
Because, according to the Medrash Tanchuma, G-d held the mountain over our heads to force us to accept the oral Torah (due to its limitless content or to its human composition, unlike the written Torah, which is both Divinely composed and limited).
It is well-known that the time to learn the written Torah is by day and the time to learn the oral Torah is by night (as the Medrash derives from Moshe on Har Sinai).
So we stay up all night to make up for our initial hesitation in accepting the oral Torah. Perhaps the term 'Tikun Leil Shevu'os' is a subtle hint that by learning Torah all night, we are achieving a Tikun (a rectification for that sin) on this Shevu'os night.
The better-known reason is based on the Medrash that Yisroel overslept on Shevu'os morning, so we rectify that sin by staying awake all night and studying Torah.
By all the Yom-tov Korbonos, the Torah (in Parshas Pinchos) writes "chatos", with the sole exception of Shevu'os. The commentaries attribute this to Hashem saying to Yisroel 'From the time that you received the Torah, it is as if you had never sinned in your lives'.
Perhaps this is because Torah is the antidote to the Yeitzer ho'Ra, and consequently, having undertaken to study Torah and observe it, the Torah considers it as if we had already attained the ultimate objective of overcoming the temptation to sin.
Mother of Royalty
"And your reward will be complete from Hashem the G-d of Yisroel, because you came to take shelter under His wings" (2:12).
By just changing the vowels in the word "sh'leimoh" (complete) to "shlomoh", the phrase can now be read to mean "and your reward will be (King) Shlomoh" (Medrash Rabah). Indeed, King Shlomoh would later build his great-great grandmother a throne, which he placed beside his own.
Rus, who had given up all the splendours of royal life in Mo'av, to live a life of abject poverty in Eretz Yisroel, received her just reward. For not only did she merit to become the mother of royalty, not only did she see her descendants sitting on the royal throne of Malchus Beis Dovid, but she was able to savour the glory and the splendour of the magnificent court of Shlomoh ha'Melech, as she sat next to him on her own throne.
Regarding the posuk in Tehilim "Tov lachsos ba'Hashem mi'veto'ach bi'nedivim" (18:8), the Gro explains that there are two kinds of faith: There is faith in someone who has promised one something, and there is faith in someone who has not (but in whom one trusts because of his trustworthiness). The word for the former is 'li'vto'ach', and for the latter, 'lachsos'. What the posuk now means is that it is better to trust in Hashem (even if He has promised nothing) than to trust in a human-being (even if he has promised one the earth).
With regard to Rus, the posuk writes "ki bos lachsos tachas kenofov" (because you came to take shelter under His wings) - Rus was promised nothing, nor did she have much to look forward to, considering that she came from the royal house of Mo'av to live the life of a lonely beggar in Eretz Yisroel. She had no family, no money, no friends and no status - but she had faith, and as Dovid ha'Melech wrote, "it is better to trust in Hashem ... ". To be sure, Hashem repaid her faith, and granted her all of them - family, money, friends and status!
"And your reward will be complete" (ibid.).
But is that not obvious? Who would think for one moment that Hashem would fail to fully reward a person for his good deeds?
The Medrash explains how we can infer from this posuk that other proselytes who convert cannot expect full reward from G-d, and that Rus was an exception. Why is that?
Because other proselytes delay their decision to convert. For that, they will be taken to task, and something is deducted from their reward. Rus was an exception, because until the time that she decided to convert, it was believed that Mo'ovi women, like Mo'ovi men, were not permitted to join the Jewish community. As soon as this prohibition was rescinded ('Mo'ovi ve'lo Mo'ovis') she converted, at the first possible moment (see Torah Temimah 22. This is unclear, however, seeing as the official proclamation permitting Mo'ovi women was only declared at the end of the Megilah, after Rus had already converted).
The Ma'aseh la'Melech (at the beginning of Parshas Vayeishev) quoting the Chofetz Chayim, explains how the entire lineage of Malchus Beis Dovid depended upon the z'rizus (the alacrity) of Bo'az.
The moment Naomi and Rus indicated that the time was ripe to take action, he took matters in hand, organized the meeting in Beis-din with P'loni Almoni, completed the sale of Naomi's property and went on to perform Yibum with Rus - all within twenty-four hours (as Naomi had predicted he would).
Chazal inform us that Bo'az died on that same night, but not before he had fathered Oved, Dovid's grandfather.
Now imagine what would have happened had Bo'az delayed by as much as a day - or even a few hours. There would have been no Malchus Beis Dovid!
Who would have thought that 'Z'rizim makdimin le'mitzvos' (the principle of performing a mitzvah as soon as possible) could be as crucial as that?
RUTH AND ORPOH
"And Orpoh kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth cleaved to her." (Ruth 1:14)
The initial difference between Orpoh and Ruth was very slight, barely discernible. Both women accompanied Naomi at the outset of her journey home, both were keen to remain with her and both of them withstood her first attempt to persuade them to return. They both stated categorically, "But we will return with you to your people". (1:10)
Naomi, complying with the laws of conversion, which demand two further attempts to dissuade the prospective ger from going through with the conversion, made a second attempt. At first, the reaction of Ruth and Orpoh was again the same. They both broke into sobs, and it is then that the possuk writes "And Orpoh kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth cleaved to her". The difference between them seems barely discernible, yet it conveys two vastly contrasting characters. The deep contrast between them only emerges in the following pesukim.
Orpoh kissed her mother-in-law, a sign of fondness, a sign of love, a sign that she felt a close affinity to Naomi and that she was perfectly willing to accompany her. "But Ruth cleaved to her." Orpoh was not averse to returning to her land - Ruth was determined to go all the way. She had made her decision and there was no going back.
It was that unwavering determination that underlined Ruth's character, and turned her into one of the greatest women in Jewish history, the greatest of all geyrim, who had the z'chus not only to become the Mother of the royal family of Dovid ha'Melech, but to sit next to her great- great-grandson Sh'lomoh ha'Melech on a throne that he specially had made for her. Orpoh was lacking neither in goodwill nor in keenness. What she did lack however, was Ruth's determination. That is why she was able to turn her back on Naomi and all that she represented. She returned "to her people and to her god" (1:15). "If she is able to leave me and go back to Mo'ov," Naomi predicted, "she will have no qualms about returning to her gods - she will revert to her idolatrous way of life." And indeed, Chazal inform us that that very same night, she reverted to her former immoral ways. Ruth and Orpoh were at one stage on a very similar level of righteousness. But Ruth's determination led her to go from strength to strength, to rise in sanctity, while Orpoh's lack of determination allowed her to drop from one level of tum'ah to another. Like two paths that begin at the same point and move apart at a very slight angle, the two women began with a comparable potential for greatness, but ended up a "million miles" apart. No wonder Ruth became the mother of the Jewish Royal Family, whereas Orpoh became the mother of Goliath and his three brothers. And that is what prompted R. Yitzchak (Sotoh 42b) to write: 'Let the children of the one who kissed come and fall into the hands of the one who cleaved' (Goliath into the hands of Dovid).'
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