Monthly Archives: March 2014

Parshat תזריע Leviticus 12:3 – One Possible Reason

Leviticus 12:3 – And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

Gemora Niddah 31b: And why did the Torah ordain circumcision on the eighth day? In order that the guests  shall not enjoy themselves while his father and mother are not in the mood for festivities [Lit., ‘sad’, on account of the prohibition of intercourse which remains in force until the conclusion of the seventh day.]

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #22:

Rashi explains that everyone would be eating and drinking at the meal, but the father and mother would be sad on account of the prohibition of intercourse. The explanation of this matter is according what we explain shortly that all the blood that a woman sees [soon after] the seventh day would be pure blood and she would be permitted to her husband [from the seventh day on].

It is already well knows the [famous] statement of the Vilna Gaon who uses this point to demonstrate that any [rabbinic] decree that has been made for a particular reason will continue to remain in force even if the reason is no longer in force. In this example here, where it gives one of the reasons for having the circumcision on the eighth day be related to the prohibition on intercourse. However, in our day this reason is no longer applicable [because of the rabbinic degree of waiting an additional 7 days after clean blood]. This being the case, the reason for have the circumcision on the eighth day no longer applies, but nevertheless the law still stands.

Perhaps one can say that this general principle is alluded to in the Tanchuma at the beginning of Parshat Tetzaveh. There, the rabbis ask why the circumcision is on the eighth day. The answer given in the Tanchuma is that the circumcision is on the eighth day because that is when Yitzchak was circumcised. Apparently, neither the question nor the response in the Tanchuma makes sense. Behold, the commandment to do the circumcision on the eighth day is a well known, explicit commandment clearly stated in the Torah itself. Additionally, the time for Yitzchak’s circumcision is also well known and clearly stated. [So, how does the question and the answer of the Tanchuma actually teach us anything that we didn’t already know?]

But according to the Aggadic text of the Gemora Niddah quoted above, [perhaps] we can understand better the text of the Tanchuma and why it is asking about at what age a child should be circumcised in our day. Since the Tanchuma was aware that the reason given for waiting for the eighth day no longer applies, it instead responds that another reason exists that in still in force, namely basing it on when Yitzchak was circumcised. This is especially true since in the time of Yitzchak, prior to the giving of the Torah, there were no laws of Niddah. Therefore, it wasn’t even applicable to wait till the eighth day for the reason given in our Gemora. Nevertheless, they waited till the eighth day anyway for Yitzchak’s circumcision and that is why we also wait till the eighth day.

We should also be aware that the Rambam in his book, Guide for the Perplexed (Chapter 49, Section 2), writes that the reason why the circumcision is done on the eighth day is in order to give the baby’s strength time to grow after the birth. It is an amazing question for the Rambam why he left out mentioning what is written in the Gemora and instead wrote something based on his own logic. [However, we need to keep in mind], that actually the Rambam did not actually originate this idea. Look in the Midrash Rabbah at the beginning of the Parshat Ki Tetzei where it says as follows: “Why is the baby circumcised on the eighth day? Because God had mercy on him and gave time for his strength to grow [after the birth.]” Now you might ask why the Rambam chose this reason to record rather than the reason given in the Gemora, the answer is probably [exactly] because the reason given in the Gemora Niddah cited above is because that reason is no longer applicable due to our observance of the extra stringency of “clean blood”.

Even the reason of the Tanchuma requires further thought. Who set the timeframe of eight days as being sufficient for the baby to gather enough strength for the circumcision? Don’t we find that for an animal we wait seven days to declare him to be in a presumed state of good health while for a person we wait thirty days? This is explained explicitly in the Gemora Shabbos 131b. Perhaps in an aggadic manner one can say that the answer is because in waiting eight days, one is assured that at least one day of Shabbos will occur. Further, as is explained in [various] aggadas, Shabbos has the ability to increase a person’s strength and fortify his nature. This is also explained in other aggadas that before Shabbos was created the world was weak and shuddering, but when Shabbos came the world became strong.

[Parenthetically] keep in mind that we see from the fact that Rashi comments on our Gemora that everyone will be eating and drinking, we see a bit of a source for the obligation to have a festive meal to celebrate the circumcision. This is also alluded to in the Torah itself. The Gemora notes this when it uses the phrase “why does the Torah command the circumcision on the eighth day”. We also have further comments on this issue in Parshat Vaera on the posuk “on the day that Yitzchak was weaned”. Check out my note there.

 Editor’s note: I think it is wonderful that the rabbis in the Gemora ask why the Torah commands that a circumcision be done on the eighth day rather than just saying we have to do it because “it says so”. I believe the Torah Temimah is authentically continuing the wonderful Jewish tradition of questioning and challenging everything, even great previous authorities such as the Rambam.


Parshat שמיני Vayikrah 7:11 – Calling a pig a pig

Parashat שמיני Leviticus 11:7 – Calling a swine a swine

Leviticus 11:7 ” And the swine, because he parteth the hoof, and is cloven-footed, but cheweth not the cud, he is unclean unto you. ”

Hullin 59b: “It was taught in the beth midrash of Rabbi Ishmael: The One who rules over His world knows that the only animal that has split hooves and is impure is the swine.  This is why the verse says he (is unclean to you)”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #21:

See what was said in note 17 regarding a similar midrash referring to the camel and apply it to here.  See also the Aramaic translation of Yonatan Ben Uziel: “… and the swine .. there is none like it.  The midrash cited here explains the intention of Yonatan Ben Uziel when he says there is none like it.  This midrash is key.

Refer to the commentary of the Or HaChaim on this verse in the Torah:

And the swine .. but cheweth not the cud ..  There is a condition so long as the swine does not chew its cud, it is impure, however, in the future it will chew its cud and return[1] to be kosher.  It will not remain forever an animal that does not chew its cud and become kosher because the Torah does not change[2].

All these words are strange and wondrous.  From where did he find a source for this novel idea?  We do not see anywhere that the nature of animals will change in the future.  Why, out of all of the impure animals, will the swine be permitted?  Albeit true that I heard of a midrash explaining why its name is Hebrew is חזזיר: because it will return to its original permission.  It appears that the Or HaChaim understands this midrash literally.

In truth, no midrash with this language or intent has been found.  There is one midrash in Midrash Rabbah (Parashat Shemini end of section 12) and Kohelet Rabbah (on the verse That which hath been is that which shall be[3]) that refers to a different idea.

The swine refers to the nation of Edom.  Why is it called חזזיר? Because it returns the crown to its owner as the verse says (Obadiah 1:21) And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S

In other words, through the nation of Edom, the crown will return to Israel.  It is clear that this midrash is primarily allegorical with a different intent.  It is a grave mistake to connect this midrash with permitting the swine in the future as explained.  Refer to Midrash Socher Tov section 146 and the insights of the Rashab thereon[4]

Shocher Tov 146 note 5: The Hebrew, מתיר אסורים, can also mean permitting what was forbidden.  The Midrash says: “Some say that, in the future,  the Holy One Blessed is He will purify all the animals that are impure in this world.  Similarly the verse says (Ecclesiastes 1:9): That which hath been is that which shall be for they were pure before the time of Noah.  Upon leaving the ark, Hashem tells Noah “like vegetation I have given everything to you (Genesis 9:3)”  Just as I gave vegetation to all so to wild and domesticated animals to all.  Hashem forbade them to know who would listen to Him and who would not.  In the future He will permit all He forbade.  Others say He will not permit them in the future as the verse says (Isaiah 66:17): “They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves to go unto the gardens, behind one in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the detestable thing, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.”  If Hashem will destroy those that eat these, he certainly will not permit them in the future…

Editor note: The Torah Temimah does not shy away from controversial topics.  Descended from a family of Torah scholars[5], he shows his halachic side in this comment defending the mitzvoth of the Torah.  He vehemently opposes the idea of nature changing in the time of mashiach, specifically, the swine becoming a kosher animal, yet he respectfully disagrees with the commentary of the Or HaChaim.  Instead of outwardly rejecting the Or HaChaim, he acknowledges hearing about a midrash, on which the Or HaChaim is based, however, he concurs with the printed sources that explain the matter differently.  This should be a model how to approach disagreements in matters of halacha and exegesis.


[1] חוזר – to return an play on the Hebrew word for swine, חזזיר

[2] Even in the time of mashiach, kosher animals must still exhibit all the signs of a kosher animal.

[3] Ecclesiastes 1:9

[4] Note 5 on Psalms 146:7

[5] His father was the author of the Aruch Ha Shulhan, a commentary on the Shulhan Aruch.  His uncle was the Netziv of Volozhyn, in whose yeshiva, he studied for many years.

Parshat שמיני Leviticus 10:4 – Aaron Was Silent

Leviticus 10:3 – Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ “And Aaron was silent.

Gemora Zevachim 115b: And Aaron was silent: Moshe said to Aaron – Aaron, my brother, the only reason your sons died was to sanctify God’s name. Since Aaron knew that his sons were amongst those who knew God, he was quiet and he was rewarded for his silence, as we see from the posuk, “And Aaron was silent.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #3:

It is explained in the Gemora that Moshe knew beforehand that when the Devine Presence would rest on the tabernacle, that it would be sanctified in this manner. This teaching of the Gemora relies on the posuk in Parshat Ki Tetzei when it is telling about the building of the tabernacle, it says “’and I will be sanctified through my honored ones’. Don’t read the word ‘my honored ones’ but rather read it as though it stated ‘those who were honored through Me’”. [Validate this translation!} And it was not conveyed to Moshe the identity of those who “would be honored through Me” until Nadav and Avihu died. This is what is meant by the phrase here “the only reason your sons died was to sanctify God’s name”. Furthermore, it is clear from the phrase in our posuk “This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me” that we don’t find this exact phrase in the Chumash because it is referencing the above mentioned posuk in Parshat Ki Tetzei. ודו״ק

 However, [even so] this whole teaching needs to be explored further. [What does it mean that Aaron’s sons died to sanctify God’s name?] Doesn’t in say in the previous drasha that they died because they committed the sin of [having the audacity] to teach [others] right in front of Moshe? Note also that in the Gemora and Midrashim other possible reasons are given for their death and all of them attribute their death to some sin that they did. If this is the case, then how can one possibly say that they died for the [holy] purpose of sanctifying God’s name? [Perhaps] the answer that one needs to give is that if it had not been for the purpose of sanctifying God’s name, they would not have died during these days of dedication of the Temple, which were [supposed to be] days of joy. They would not have died during this time, so as not to interrupt the joyous celebration. Additionally, they would not have died precisely inside of the tabernacle, as is shown by the posuk “and they died before HaShem”. Rather, it was precisely to sanctify God’s name that they died during this time and in this exact place [inside the tabernacle.]

Still, though, this issue is still very amazing [hard to understand]. What could have been God’s intent and purpose in dedicating the tabernacle through the death of holy individuals? This question is made stronger by the statement from the Gemora that Moshe knew ahead of time this event would occur. Further, what could it mean that [Moshe] said to Aaron that your sons did not die except to sanctify God’s name? What is the [meaning or] benefit of a sanctification of His name in this manner?

It appears appropriate to attribute a midrashic explanation for this as follows: Everybody knows from Scripture and from Talmud that the purpose of the tabernacle and the dwelling of God’s presence in it, and the bringing of [animal] sacrifices, was to atone for the sins of the Jewish people. Therefore, in order to prevent common people from thinking that since there is a temple [and all the atonement processes] we don’t have to worry anymore about being careful not to transgress and commit sins. [Behold we can  attain atonement in the temple/tabernacle!]  

Therefore, HaShem pro-ordained the event with Nadav and Avihu in order to prevent the common people from thinking this [and acting this way] that there is no longer a need to be careful about one’s behavior. The death of Nadav and Avihu teaches that the tabernacle does not atone for people who transgress on purpose. [The atonement of the tablernacle] only applies if one transgresses accidently or incidently or in a way that could not be prevented, etc.

Even though Nadav and Avihu were righteous and beloved before HaShem, nevertheless when they transgressed a commandment on purpose (and taught halacha right in front of Moshe, their teacher) the holiness of the tabernacle was not there for the purposes of protecting them. Furthermore, they were inside the tabernacle itself for the purposes of establishing the Awe of God in the tabernacle; and Moshe who knew all of the secrets of the ways of the Holy One, did know ahead of time what God would do to teach all inhabitants of the world that they should be careful and avoid transgressions. Moshe only did not know with which individual(s) this event would occur. Then, retroactively, with the death of Nadav and Avihu he saw how what God had planned had, indeed, come about.

With this explanation, all of the aggadas [midrashim] become clearly explained. Also, even though I already explained this in Parshat Ki Tetzei, due to the importance [נחיצת] of this topic in our way of thinking, I did not hesitate to mention it again here.

Note further that what we have explained here that a mourner who silently accepts, in love, what has occurred and does not publicly criticize the ways of HaShem receives a reward. This can explain what is mentioned in Gemora Berachos 6b: “R. Papa says: The merit of attending a house of mourning lies in the silence observed.” Many commentaries here explain that the meaning of this statement is that those who come to comfort the mourner will receive a reward [if they don’t talk too much] and allow for silence. That explanation is not clear, though. What reward should be due to the comforters if they keep silent? Rather, according to our midrash above, we should explain the Gemora Berachos 6b as referring to the one who is in mourning. [Thus the meaning would be:] when the comforters gather together to comfort the mourner and he does not complain about the circumstances and the events that have happened to him, but rather he just sits quietly and accepts freely God’s decree, he will receive a reward for this.

Editor’s note: I appreciated the Torah Temimah’s constant questioning here of the classic explanations for some midrashim and statements in the Gemora. He keeps inquiring and applying his knowledge to derive new explanations that are based on is broad knowledge of other texts.

Parshat שמיני Leviticus 11:4 – More Unusual Exclusions

Leviticus 11:4 – But these you shall not eat among those that bring up the cud and those that have a cloven hoof: the camel, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you.

Gemora Ketubot 60a: Why does it use the phrase “it is unclean”, “it” is unclean; human milk and blood, however, is not unclean but clean.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #18:

The phrase “those who walk on two feet” refers to humans. As for why it didn’t explicitly say “humans”, look at what I have written on note # 9.

It is probable that the comment on our posuk is made regarding the word “hu” [it]. In the adjacent sentences discussing forbidden items, it just says “tamei l’chem” [forbidden to you] which refers to what came before it, including the camel in our posuk. Additionally it does not say “it is forbidden to you”. Since it uses the word “it” here, we can learn that something else is excluded from being forbidden. Truthfully, also in Parshat Re’eh it also lists all the unclean animals together and says “forbidden to you”.

For all these reasons, the lesson is derived from here that milk and blood of humans is permitted. (And as our Sages mention, blood of a person is only permitted where it didn’t separate completely from the person, such as blood between one’s teeth. However, if it did separate [and one were to collect it] into a vessel, it would be forbidden because of “maarat ayin” [permitting something that could be easily misinterpreted] lest people might think that it is the blood of an animal.

Now, see that from this drasha that is permitting the milk and blood of a person to eat, we see a proof to the opinion of the Rambam that we mentioned above in note #9 that eating flesh of a person is a violation of a positive commandment [the commandment that stated explicitly what you should eat. Also, recall that the Ramban and Rashba said that there is no prohibition against eating people.]

Note that there is a general principle that something which derives from a forbidden thing is also forbidden. If eating people were permitted, why would there be a need for a posuk to tell you that it is permitted??!! Of course milk and blood of a person are permitted, behold, even eating people is permitted!

However, from the fact that there is a posuk teaching us that milk and blood are permitted, we can see that obviously it must be that eating people is prohibited. Thus the opinion of the Rambam is supported by our Gemora above.  

Further, the fact that eating human flesh is only forbidden as transgressing a positive commandment [less severe than transgressing a negative commandment], it makes sense that the prohibition would not be strong enough to include what derives from a person [such as a the milk and blood.]

Editor’s note: This note is basically a continuation of note #9. In our note here, the Torah Temimah again applies his creative deductive and rock solid reasoning to show that the Rambam’s opinion is correct.

Parshat שמיני Leviticus 11:4 – Limitations of the word “but”

Leviticus 11:4 – But these you shall not eat among those that bring up the cud and those that have a cloven hoof: the camel, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you.

Torat Cohanim: [Why does it use the limiting word “but”?] I might think that the meat of those who walk on two feet is forbidden, the [limiting word]“but” is used to teach otherwise [that it is permitted]

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #9:

The phrase “those who walk on two feet” refers to humans. It is not clear why it didn’t explicitly say that the “meat of humans” [is permitted]. Rather it chose a flowery phrase of “the meat of those who walk on two feet”. Maybe it is because with this phraseology it is coming also to include flesh of wild savages who lived in previous generations in countries far away, whose human [dignity] had so diminished from them that Yechezkel says (23, 20) “And she lusted for their concubinage, those whose flesh is the flesh of donkeys, and whose issue is the issue of horses.” Look also in Gemora Berachos 25b.

Also look at what the Rambam says in Chapter 2:3 of Forbidden Foods, where he writes that even though there is no prohibition against eating human flesh nevertheless eating people would be a transgression of a positive commandment [since the Torah describes what we are allowed to eat, as we see when the Torah describes the seven types of animals that we are allowed to eat. Then it adds the phrase “of these you should eat”. This shows that eating people is, according to the Rambam in the category of a transgression of a positive commandment since people are not including in the list of animals that one may eat. Thus such a transgression is a positive commandment transgression.

Note that the Ramban and the Rashba disagree with the Rambam. Their opinion is that there is no prohibition at all regarding eating people. Their view is that the Torat Cohanim quoted above is a “general hook” [asmakhta b’alma] rather than an actual source for this prohibition. Also, please look at what I [the Torah Temimah] write in footnote 18 of this chapter regarding a convincing proof that the Rambam is actually correct.

[Lastly] it is obvious that there is a universal ruling that there is a prohibition of deriving any benefit at all from the body of a dead person [so you couldn’t eat it!]. This law is learned from a textual parallelism from the laws of the decapitated calf (Deuteronomy 21:1-9. Also, look in the Gemora Sanhedrin 47b.

Editor’s note: The Torah Temimah emphasizes the importance of using the rules of Talmudic logic in a consistent fashion. He is not advocating eating people nor is his saying that any rabbi advocated such a thing. Rather, the Torah Temimah is explaining the legal reasoning behind the prohibition and various rabbis’ opinions. The Torah Temimah’s point of view derives directly from the Torat Cohanim.

[The Torat Cohanim is a midrash written down around the time of the Mishnah.]

Parshat צו Leviticus 7:34 – What’s in a gift?

Leviticus 7:34 “For the breast of waving and the thigh of heaving have I taken of the children of Israel out of their sacrifices of peace-offerings, and have given them unto Aaron the priest and unto his sons as a due for ever from the children of Israel.”

Jerusalem Talmud Tractate Yevamoth Chapter 8 Halachah 1: and have given them… These priestly gifts (the breast and thigh) never return (to those that gave them) as the verse says “and have given them …”.  Just as a gift never returns to the giver, so too these priestly gifts do not return.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #139:

The Jerusalem Talmud explains that the breast and the thigh differ from other priestly gifts such as terumah and the like because there is no food from which terumah is not given to a Cohen[1], unlike the breast and the thigh, that only apply to edible sacrifices offered in the Temple[2], but do not apply to non-sacrificial meat as explained in the previous commentary[3].  The Jerusalem Talmud explicitly states that, were the Israelites (i.e. not Cohanim) worthy, they would take the breast and thigh for themselves from their sacrifices.  Since the Israelites were not worthy[4], the breast and the thigh were taken from them and given to the Cohanim.  Based on this, the Jerusalem Talmud states: “Just as a gift never returns, so too these priestly gifts do not return.”  One might think since, the main reason the Cohanim merited the breast and the thigh was because the Israelites were not worthy, should the Israelites become worthy, the breast and the thigh should be taken from the Cohanim and given back to the Israelites.  Therefore, the Jerusalem Talmud teaches us that they never return from the Cohanim.[5]

Nonetheless, one must explain the necessity of this nuance in that verse explicitly states “as a due forever” which implies an everlasting right.  Furthermore, the comparison from a gift is not completely accurate because a gift returns in the Jubilee year as explained in Tractate Bechorot 52b[6].

It is possible to say that this nuance of the Jerusalem Talmud teaches us that a gift from G-d is not like a gift from one person to another.  Regarding a gift between people, if there is an estimation that shows that the gift was given on condition, the gift can be returned when the reason or condition, upon which, the gift was given becomes void.  One example of this is how we rule based on the Talmud (Ketuvoth 54a) [7].

For a widow, we deduct the value of her clothing from the value of her ketuvah because we assume that he gave them to her to appear before him.

Tosafot on 54b, proposes a similar idea.

The inheritors of a betrothed woman who died do not inherit from money that the husband added to the minimum value of the ketuvah because we say that he only included the increase in order to marry her.[8]

And in Bava Basra 146b

If a person, upon hearing that his son died, gifted his money to someone else, the gift is returned should the son arrive, for the only reason he gifted the money was because he thought that his son was deceased.

There are many similar ideas in the Talmud.

Yet, things do not work this way with respect to the Holy One Blessed is He.  Even if one could determine the reason why G-d made a person worthy, we could not take away what He gave the person should the reason become void.  Perhaps the reason for what is as stated in Makkot 11a “Everything that the Holy One Blessed is He states for the good, even conditionally stated, never changes for the worse.” [Unless there is an explicitly stated condition, such as, “ If ye walk in My statutes…[9]

From this was can learn the basis for ruling on the basis of estimation.  When a person gives a gift based on a certain condition, one need not explain the condition.  Rather we rule on estimation alone.  See further what is written about this in Leviticus 5:1[10]

Editor’s note: This note also shows his incredible knowledge of the rabbinic sources.  At first glance, one could wonder what the priestly portions have to do with Jewish monetary laws, yet the Torah Temimah clearly shows, based on a difference between gifts from G-d to people and gifts between people that there is a connection.  He brings proof from various monetary cases that show, whenever the court can estimate the intention of the person giving the gift, it is possible to revoke the gift if the intention is no longer valid.  This is not the case by G-d, even if we could possibly determine His intention.  All this from a breast and a thigh!


[1] Except salt and water which are not considered significant.  Tithes: terumah and maaser must be taken from all produce grown in Israel.  This applies to grains, fruits, vegetables, and anything produced from them.  Terumah is given to a Cohen and maaser (a tenth) to a Levite.  The Levite is required to give a tenth of his portion to a Cohen.  Challah, a potion of baked dough given to a Cohen, is also referred to as terumah.  The Torah Temimah may also be including challah when he refers to Terumah.

[2] As opposed to an Olah offering, which was completely burnt on the altar.

[3] In the previous note he shows why different parts of the animal are given to the Cohanim from sacrificial meat and non sacrificial meat.

[4] The firstborn males were originally designated to serve Hashem .  After the sin of the golden calf, this role was taken from the firstborn and given to the Cohen.

[5] There are opinions that when the 3rd Temple is rebuilt (may it be soon and in our lifetime), the firstborn will serve together with the Cohanim.  One could infer that Torah Temimah concurs with the opinion that the firstborn will not serve at all in the 3rd temple or, if they do serve, they will not receive the breast and thigh from the edible sacrifices.

[6] Bechorot chapter 8 mishna 11.  Rabbi Meir says that a gift does not return in the Jubilee year.  The Rabbis that a gift is comparable to sale thus it returns in the Jubilee year.

[7] The halacha is accordance with Rav who hold that the value of her clothes are subtracted from the value of her ketuvah.  Now that that they are no longer married, the value of the clothing given to her by her husband returns to the estate of the husband and is this subtracted from the value of her ketuvah.

[8] The money added to value of the ketuvah is seen as a gift from the husband to the wife in order to marry her.  Since she was only betrothed, this gift returns to the husband.  Thus her inheritors cannot claim it.

[9] Leviticus 26:3.  Good things will happen as the verses state.  Followed by Leviticus 26:14 ” But if ye will not hearken unto Me …”

[10] Note 17

Parshat Ki Tisah Shmos 34:6 – Hashem’s relationship to sinners

Parshat כי תישא  Exodus 34:6 – Hashem’s relationship to sinners

Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth;

Exodus 34:7 keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and unto the fourth generation.

Rosh Hashanah (17b): [Why does the verse say “The LORD the LORD”?].  I am The LORD before a person sins.  I am The LORD after a person sins.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #5:

At first glance this requires further investigation.  Why does a person need divine mercy before sinning?  Perhaps to help the person so as not to sin.  As the verse states [7:20]: For there is not a righteous man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.   Therefore every person needs some help.

Tosafot, on this passage of the Talmud writes[1], ” Megilat Setarim[2] of Rabeinu Nissim does not include the first occurrence of ‘The LORD’ when citing this passage of Talmud because there is a separation between the two instances of The LORD.  The verse means that the Holy One Blessed is He, whose name is The LORD, called out, ‘The LORD , merciful and gracious …’.  Because of this, Megilat Setarim counts keeping mercy for thousands of generations as two attributes”  A proof for this is what is written in Parshat Shelach [Numbers 14: 17-18]: Moses says “And now, I pray Thee, let the power of the LORD be great, according as Thou hast spoken, saying: The LORD is slow to anger, and plenteous in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.”  This fits well with what Megilat Setarim says.  Since the first The LORD refers to Hashem speaking, it makes sense that when Moses repeats what Hashem said, he only mentioned The LORD once [take note].

Know that in Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer, end of chapter 46, it says: “Moses started crying out The LORD, the LORD, God, merciful and gracious … please forgive the iniquity of the Children of Israel regarding the golden calf.”  This midrash holds that Moses said all 13 attributes not Hashem.  Thus the verb he called refers to Moses.  This needs further analysis based on the verse in Numbers, cited above, that explicitly states that the Hashem said them as Moses utters after the incident with the spies “As You spoke saying: The LORD merciful and gracious …”  Furthermore, the language in Exodus [34:8]: “And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” implies that what transpired above was not referring to Moses.  Rabeinu David Luzato, in his commentary to Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer, brings proof for the midrash from the Talmud Yoma (36b) stating that Moses said “forgiving iniquity and transgression”.  There is no proof from here because elsewhere in the Talmud we see statements attributed to Moses, which he clearly did not utter, such as, (Yevamoth 49b): “Moses said ‘no mortal shall see Me and live’ (Exodus 33:20)”  The Talmud attributes the statement to Moses because he wrote it in the Torah.  Similarly here (Yoma 36b).  Perhaps the intent of the Talmud (Yoma 36b) referring to Moses saying “forgiving iniquity and transgression” is, as we shall see, that Moses asks Hashem, when the Children if Israel sin, He should treat intentional sins as unintentional sins, provided that they repent.  Thus Moses actually said “forgiving iniquity and transgression.”

It appears that the Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer refers to Moses beseeching Hashem after the incident with the spies.  This is supported by the verse sited at the end of the midrash “The LORD said ‘I have forgiven as you requested.'”, which is also written by the incident with the spies.  There is no contradiction when the midrash refers to Moses crying out about the iniquity of the golden calf because Moses addresses the root of Hashem’s anger, the iniquity of the golden calf, as the verse says (Exodus 32:34): “nevertheless in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

Still it is not clear how the midrash infers that Moses cried out in a loud voice?  Perhaps Rabbi Eliezer (the author of Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer and the great sage Rabbi Eliezer are the one and the same) is consistent with his opinion in the Talmud [Berachot 32a]: When the verse (Exodus 32:11) says: “And Moses besought the LORD …” it teaches Moses stood in prayer until he was overcome by shuddering[3].  The Talmud says that אחילו literally means fire of the bones, which Tosafot explains means a great fervor.  It is well known that one who speaks with such great excitement, such as this, is not aware of oneself and often begins shouting in a loud voice. [This may be the reason for the custom of saying the 13 attributes aloud when praying as a congregation.]

Editor’s Note: This note shows his incredible knowledge of the rabbinic sources (Talmud and midrash).  He could have ended the commentary after the citing the passage from Tosafot, yet he felt compelled to mention the apparently contradictory midrash from Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer so that he could reconcile this midrash with the Talmud Yoma and the commentary of Tosafot.  While many people will ignore such contradictions, noting that many midrashim appear to be contradictory, the Torah Temimah cited the midrash in order to reconcile what appears to be contradictory statements of the Rabbis of blessed memory.  In reconciling the two sources, he infers a reason why, when praying as a congregation, we say the 13 attributes aloud.


[1] Rosh Hashanah 17b o.v. 13 Attributes: Rabeinu Tam says the first Two names of Hashem are two attributes (out of the 13) as the Talmud says here: “I am Hashem before a person sins to have mercy on the person and I have mercy after the person sins provided the person repents.  Hashem is the attribute of mercy unlike Elokim, which is the attribute of judgment. [Thus there are two different attributes of mercy].  Iniquity (עון), transgression (פשע), sin (חטא) and cleansing (נקה) are counted as another 4 attributes as the Talmud in Yoma 36b expounds: Iniquity refers to intentional sins.  Transgression refers to rebellious acts.  Sin refers to unintentional sins.  However, Megilat Setarim of Rabeinu Nissim does not count the first Hashem because there is a separation between the two names of Hashem, that is, the Holy One blessed is He, whose name is Hashem called, “Hashem is merciful and gracious ”  Keeping mercy unto thousands of generation is then counted as two attributes.  Keeping mercy is one.  For thousands of generations is another 500 times greater that the attribute retribution.  Retribution to 4 generations.  Keeping mercy for 200 generations (five times greater than 4)

[2] A book written by Rav Nissim Gaon, parts of which have been discovered from the Cairo Geniza .  The book includes 250 symbols representing all the questions asked.  Also includes a commentary of halakhic questions in the Talmud.  This book has been translated and published by Rabbi Yosef Kapach .

[3] Hebrew: אחילו from the same root as ויחל

Parshat ויקרא Leviticus 5:1 – Don’t Stand Idly By

Leviticus 5:1 And if a person sins and hears the demand for an oath, and he is [a] witness – has either seen or known of it – so that if he does not speak out, he shall bear his sin.

Gemora Baba Kama 56a: He shall bear his sin – vis-à-vis heavenly justice [he is guilty] but in terms of human courts he is not liable.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #27:

The reason why he is not liable in human courts is because [the witness who does not testify] is not directly causing the loss to the victim [by his not testifying]. The Gemora’s conclusion is that even a single witness is indeed still obligated to come forward and testify about what he knows. The commentaries explain that even though a single witness who does not come forward is exempt from the punishment of bringing a sacrifice [korban shavua] since, by himself, his testimony would not have been enough to convict the perpetrator; nevertheless he is still obligated to come forward and give testimony anyway. This is because his single testimony would be enough to cause the suspected perpetrator to have to undergo a biblical oath to protest his innocence. Sometimes, the suspected perpetrator would prefer to pay [the amount that the single witness claims is owed] rather than undergo such an oath. Therefore, we see that even a single witness could provide relief to the victim, even though failure to testify would not make him culpable for any punishment.

Nevertheless, this issue is still difficult to understand. The reason why this explanation above is difficult to understand is because the Gemora understands this posuk to refer to a case of two witnesses. This would include the whole posuk, even the second part that says “and he shall bear his sin”. (This is explained in the previous commentary that the whole posuk is dealing with a case of two witnesses.) If this is the case, then how could one possibly deduce from some type of forced logic that a single witness also has to testify since the perpetrator might not want to swear, etc. The commentaries have, in fact, toiled hard to explain this. See the notes of the Choshen Mishpat, Section 28.

[Consequently], it seems to me that the true obligation of a single witness to testify is not because of the section in our posuk where it says “he will bear his sin”. Rather the source of the requirement for a single witness to testify is actually from a different lesson in Torat Cohanim on Parshat Kedoshim on the posuk “do not stand idly by while your brother’s blood is spilt”. There the Torat Cohanim comments “from where do we know that if you have knowledge, that it is not appropriate for you to keep silent? [The source] is from this posuk: don’t stand idly by while your brother’s blood is spilt”.

The issue is that everyone is obligated to save his friend from any trouble that he may be in. This applies whether the trouble is physical danger or monetary trouble. Therefore, since even a single witness can bring some [relief] to the victim. As we explained above this would be through requiring the suspected perpetrator to take a biblical oath, and perhaps the person would rather pay than swear. It is therefore clear that even a single witness has some ability to assist a victim. Due to this fact, he is, [of course] required to testify.

Additionally, it is clear in my eyes that even though the Gemora doesn’t mention this posuk in Parshat Kedoshim, nevertheless I am practically positive that the main source for the single witness to testify is from the posuk in Parshat Kedoshim [about not standing idly by] and from the lesson learned from that posuk by Torat Cohanim. We already know about similar lessons derived from this same posuk in Parshat Kedoshim. For example, in Gemora Sanhedrin 73a where it asks “from where do we know that a person who sees his friend drowning in the sea or he sees that thieves are about to come upon his friend, that one is obligated to save him? The answer is: Don’t stand idly by while your brother’s blood is spilt.”

[Keep in mind] that the word “blood” also can mean “money”. This is how we know that our posuk of not standing idly by is also the source of the law requiring one to help if one sees someone attempting to steal from one’s friend through false statements.

Editor’s Note: The Torah Temimah takes this opportunity to bring a lesson from another parsha to remind us that the commandment to “not stand idly by” applies to every possible difficulty and issue in which you can perhaps assist your friend. You are guilty in the eyes of heaven if you could have assisted and you didn’t.


Parshat ויקרא Leviticus 1:2 – A Man


Leviticus 1:2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When a man [adam] from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.

Yerushalmi Shekalim, Chapter 1, Halacha 4:  The word “Man” [adam]is used to include converts

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #6:

This same drasha is mentioned in the Toras Cohanim on this posuk. The commentaries worked hard to explain in what way the word “man” comes to include converts. The common [thought] in all their comments is an effort to find a differentiation between the uses of the word “person” [ish] with the use of the word “man” [adam]. [It could be thought] that the word “person” [ish] implies someone of a higher level while the use of the word “man” [adam] implies just any man. Therefore, [one might say] that from the fact that it uses the word “man” [adam] here and not “person” [ish], that is how we can conclude that it implies converts. Look in the book “HaTorah v’haMitzvah” to see the examples that he brings and the great length to which he discusses this.

However, note that there are proofs to the opposite that are contained in the words of our sages. For example, when Scripture says “And you are called ‘man’” [adam] [referring to the Jewish people] [VALIDATE WHERE THIS IS FROM] In the Zohar on Parshas Tazriah it mentions various levels of people, “bar nash”, “adam”, “gever”, “enosh”, “ish” and it says there that the highest level is “man” [adam]. This is alluded to in the posuk (Genesis 5:2) where it says, “He called their name “Man” [adam] on the day He created them”. Similarly the Zohar comments in Deuteronomy [VALIDATE WHERE THIS IS FROM] that a wise scholar is called “man” [adam] while an ignorant person is not called “man” [adam]. ThIt also seems logical that the term “man” [adam] is more honorific [than the term “ish”] since “man” [adam] alludes to the higher similarity [with God] as it says in the posuk “let us make “man”[adam]  in Our image”. Further we find that non-Jews are labeled with the term “person” [ish] as it says in Parshas Emor “a person” [ish] who makes a vow; and this is taken to include non-Jews. And so too with many further examples [showing “ish” referring to non-Jews].

But were it not for the words of these [previous] commentaries, I would perhaps say that the drasha to include converts from the wording in our posuk is not exclusively from the use of the word “adam” but actually more from the entire phrase of the posuk. [Our posuk is actually an example of a misplaced modifier.] Instead of saying [as it actually does in Hebrew] “a man who sacrifices from amongst you”, it should have actually said “”a man from amongst you who sacrifices…” If it had used this later phrase, I would be able to understand the posuk to only refer to Jewish people. However, since the words “from you” come to be not in their proper place we then know that the posuk [even] refers to people who are converts.

However, apparently, the whole drash needs further investigating. The fact that converts can bring sacrifices should be obvious from the fact that non-Jews can also bring sacrifices. If a non-Jew can bring sacrifices, then certainly a convert can. Perhaps the answer to this question is that non-Jews are only allowed to bring “Olot” sacrifices [burnt offerings where the whole sacrifice is burned on the altar], as is explained in Parshas Emor (22:18). From converts, on the other hand, we accept any type of sacrificial offering [because they are treated fully as Jews]

Editor’s Note: Read this one carefully between the lines. The Torah Temimah is defending non-Jews and converts. Further, he is defending the Torah itself from the idea that it refers to non-Jews or converts as being in a lower level than Jews.

Again, it is always fantastic to hear the Torah Temimah say “were it not for the previous scholars, I would say as follows…” and then we listen as he proceeds to give his opinion.


Parshat ויקרא Leviticus 1:1 – Knock, Knock

Leviticus 1:1 And He called to Moses, and God spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting saying

Gemora Yoma 4b:  And He called to Moses, and God spoke to him; why does Scripture mention the call before the speech? — The Torah teaches us good manners: a man should not address his neighbor without having first called him.

 Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #1:

In other words, one should not begin to speak [to one’s friend] suddenly. The reason for this is to allow the listener [some time] to prepare himself to listen. This is similar to what it writes in Gemora Nidda 16b that God hates one who enters the house of his friend suddenly. Further, in Meseket Derek Eretz, Chapter 5, it says that one should learn proper behavior from God. God stood outside the Garden of Eden and He called to Adam, as the posuk says (Genesis 3:9) “And God called to the man [Adam] and He said, Where are you”.

The reason why our Gemora quotes our posuk here [in Leviticus] instead of the posuk in Genesis, is perhaps because the Gemora wanted to learn the greatest lesson. Even with someone who God recognized and brought close to Himself with the greatest love and affection [such as Moses], God nevertheless [displays good manners and proper behavior] by not suddenly beginning to speak with him. It is about Moses that God testifies and says “in all My house he is faithful” and “plainly and not in riddles do I speak to him.” Even here He prepared him [Moses] to speak before He spoke with him.

Editor’s Note: The Torah Temimah wants to emphasize, I think, that even God displays proper manners and proper behavior. Further, this proper behavior should be towards everyone, even someone whom you love dearly and with whom you are very familiar