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Parshat בשלח Shmos 17: 9 – The Nations of the World

Exodus 17:9 – And Moshe said to Yehoshua, select for us men and go out and fight against Amalek tomorrow; I will stand on the top of the hill with the Staff of God in my hand.

Mechilta: Moshe did not say “select for me” but rather “select for us”. From here we see that a student is as dear to a teacher as himself.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #5:

In Pirkei Avot (2:10) the phraseology is:” the honor of your friend should be as precious to you as your own”. Others have the text saying “the honor of your student should be as precious to you as your own”. From the Mechilta quoted above, it seems to be that the appropriate text in Pirkei Avot is: “the honor of your student”. Besides, it also says in Pirkei Avot (4:12) “the honor of your friend should be as precious to you as the honor of your teacher.” And also in the Mechilta here it separately and specifically addresses the issue of the “honor” of your friend. Additionally, please reference the Tosfot Yom Tov there and note that he, apparently, had not seen this Mechilta.

Note that the reason why Moshe assigned the task of fighting against Amalek to Yehoshua is mentioned is Pesikta Rabati and in the Midrash Raba here as follows: Why did Moshe assign this task to Yehoshua? Moshe said to him, “Your ancestor (Yosef) said “I fear God” (in parshat MiKetz). About Amalek on the other hand it is written (in parshat Ki Tetzei) “he does not fear God”. Let the descendent of the one who said “I fear God” fight against the descendent of the one who said “he doesn’t fear God”.

This aggada needs explaining. Do we not already know that Yosef feared God from other places besides where he makes the statement about himself? Are weren’t his brothers, who did not make this statement about themselves, also people who feared God? In what way exactly was Yosef’s level of fear of God higher than his brothers, [if any]?

Another amazing point about this midrash is that it is attributing Amalek’s principle sin to the fact that he was not a tribe that feared God!? Where do we find the phrase “feared God” as a description of other  non-Jews? In particular, we do find this phrase used for exceptional, special people such as Abraham (“Now I know that you fear God”) and Ovadiyahu (Kings I, Chapter 11) and Job (Chapter 1).

Therefore, it appears appropriate to conclude that this is exactly what the Mechilta is coming to teach; that non-Jews should also be people who fear God. It is incumbent upon them also and if they do not they are also liable for punishment. The proof of this is exactly from the story of Yosef when he says to his brother “I fear God”. Yosef says this while he was pretending to be an Egyptian. If it were not true that non-Jews also fear God, how could Yosef have said such a thing without giving away that he was of the tribe of Israel?

What we learn from Yosef’s saying this about himself is that it is expected that non-Jews also be people who fear God. Also we see that Amalek is liable for punishment since he says of himself that he does not fear God.

So from here we can conclude that it is perfectly appropriate for the descendent of one who said “I fear God” to be the one who fights against Amalek. It was exactly because without Yosef’s having said this, I would not have known a source for this principle that the nations of the world are [equally] liable and responsible for fulfilling the commandment to fear God.

DBS Note: I think the Torah Temimah chose this Mechilta because it points out that Jews and non-Jews are both obligated to fear God and equally capable in this regard. This viewpoint is not commonly expressed. Also, notice that the Mechilta that was selected really has nothing to do with explaining the posuk. Again, the Torah Temimah is going out of his way to teach us something from Jewish tradition vis-a-vis non-Jews that is not commonly taught.

Parshat מסעי Bamidbar 35:12 – The Rule of Law

Numbers 35:12 – These cities shall serve you as a refuge from an avenger, so that the murderer shall not die until he stands in judgment before the congregation.

Gemora Makot 8b – We learn in a beraitha that Rabbi Akiva said, “From which verse do we know that if judges in a court should see a person kill another person, they must hand the accused over to a different court for judgement? The answer is from the verse that states “until he stands in judgement”. This verse implies ‘until he stands in judgement before a different court’”.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #17:

It is possible to say that this beraitha is the same beraitha that is mentioned with slightly different phraseology in a variety of places in the Gemora. That beraitha reads as follows: “[if] a court sees a person kill aonther person, all of the judges become [instead] witnesses…and a witness is not able to be a judge [in a given court case.]

So according to our beraitha, this ruling is a “decree from above” and is dictated in writing by the verse above. If this is so, then the logical explanation that ‘a witness cannot be a judge in the same case’ is merely stated as giving a logical reason for the heavenly decree.

Note that in Gemora Rosh HaShannah 27a, the reason is given for Rabbi Akiva’s opinion from another set of verses in Numbers 35 (24-25) where it states “…and they will judge the one who smote…and they will save him from the avenger…”. From the juxtaposition of those verses, the Gemora concludes that it is the obligation of the judges to seek ways to find a person innocent. However, in the case where the judges actually saw the person commit the murder, they would be incapable of seeing any reason to find him innocent.

Thus, it would result from this discussion that there are two reasons why a court that witnesses a murder must turn the accused over to a different court. 1. Witnesses cannot also be judges 2.  If they were judges they would not be in a position to find or seek any reason to find the person innocent. However, since a law cannot have two sources, the principle source for this law is from our verse which states that it is a “decree from above”. The reason for this decree would then be that a witness cannot also be a judge. The reason for this would be the verse ahead (35:24) alluding to the idea that the judges must seek reasons for finding the person innocent. The Tosafot in Rosh Hashanah on this section of Gemora strive to reconcile these various, different sources. However, according to the way we explain it above, the answers to these questions are clear.

Look also in the Rambam in Chapter 1, Halacha 5 regarding the laws of a murderer. There he writes that a murderer may not be executed by the witnesses until he is brought before a court [and they try him according to the rule of law].  The Rambam then cites our verse above as support. The Kesef Mishah (a famous commentary on the Rambam) then brings support for the Rambam’s position. We, however, mention in our previous note, that the Kesef Mishna’s opinions are difficult to defend.

It is more appropriate to state that the Rambam was focusing on the our beraitha. It is somewhat difficult to understand why the Rambam did not precisely quote the law as stated in the beraitha that we have quoted per the Gemora in Sanhedrin that the witnesses/judges will need to bring him before a different court. Perhaps one can say that the Rambam was focusing on the idea mentioned by Rabbi Akiva that a witness cannot become a judge. This concept, however, is mentioned by the Rambam in the laws of witnesses in Chapter 5, Halacha 8.

Notice also that the point that the Rambam makes that our verse is the source for the law that it is forbidden for the witnesses to execute the murderer before he is tried [according to the rule of law] in a court can be explained. Behold, even though this case is only discussed in Gemora Sanhedrim [which does not quote our verse], however, it is obvious the logic applied here is a fortiori . [If judges who see a murder are not allowed to take the law into their own hands, how much more so would this be true of two ordinary individuals who see a murder committed.) The Rambam often relies on a particular verse to support a clear, simple law even though the Gemora does not explain that verse in exactly the same way. We have explained this several times in our commentary. See in particular, the note in Parshat Shmini, Chapter 10, verse 6.

Editor’s Note: The idea that religious judges who, themselves, witness a murder cannot be judges in that particular case is, I think, an important idea for our times. Religious judges who have no limit to their power is extremely ill-advised.

Parshat וישלח – Genesis 35:22 – Regarding Reuben’s Possible Sin and Question and Answer on a Gemora

Genesis:  35:22 – And it came to pass when Israel sojourned in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Israel heard [of it], and so, the sons of Jacob were twelve.

Gemora Shabbat – 55b – Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Anyone who says that Reuven sinned is completed in totally mistaken. This is shown in the verse itself when it states that the sons of Jacob were twelve. This phrase means that the brothers were all equal to each other.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #16:

Regarding the apparent contradiction of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani statement and the plain meaning of the verse, I already commented in the previous note.

Further, the phrase “is completely mistaken” informs us that one who says that Reuben sinned makes an error. However, there is no prohibition or punishment for making such a statement.

Even though we have a general principle that “one who tells over the very intimate matters of a scholar will suffer purgatory”, one must say that this does not apply to Reuben since the Torah itself does not cover up it up. Rather the Torah describes the event in a manner that would indicate a sin. Also, there is an opinion that there was an actual sin. Therefore, Rabbi Shmuel says only that one is mistaken in explaining this matter, but nothing more than that.

[On a separate matter], it is appropriate to comment on verse 20 where it states that Jacob built a monument to mark Rachel’s grave. Yet in the Gemora, in Moed Katan 5a, there is an extensive discussion regarding whether marking graves is a rabbinic decree or whether its source is from the Torah. It is astounding that in the discussion this verse is not mentioned showing that in the Torah, Jacob built a monument at Rachel’s grave. Further, in Midrash Rabba, this monument is explicitly described as a marker.

Nor would it be accurate to say that we do not learn halachos from the Torah prior to the Giving at Mount Sinai. We already know that we derive many matters from the conduct of our forefathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob]. For example, we derive the times for prayer, the seven days of mourning and various other matters. The difficulty is further emphasized by the fact that in Gemora Nidda 57a, the conclusion is reached that marking graves is actually a rabbinic law. There also it does not mention our verse.

A possible answer is that in these sections of the Gemora, the sages are trying to find the source of marking graves not only in the case where there is a burial of a complete, known person, but also even where there is just a limb or a single bone.  This would include a situation where it is not known who the dead person was. Even in such a case, the law is that a marker should be put up in order to mark the place and for people to avoid ritual impurity. The source for this law is not from our verse. [The rabbis concluded that this law is a rabbinic decree.] Indeed we find that this whole section of the Gemora deals with ritual impurity.]  Consequently, it makes sense that the rabbis found a source for this law from the verse in Ezekiel 39:15: “And when they that pass through shall pass and see a human bone, they shall build a sign next to it until the buriers bury it in the Valley of Hamon Gog.“ This verse would apply even to a single bone. See also what is explained in the verse in Exodus 18:20 “…and you shall make known to them the way they shall go…”

See also what it says in Jerusalem Talmud Tractate Shekalim 2:5 where is states as follows: “Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel said ‘one does not build a monuments for righteous people because their deeds are their remembrance.’”  Apparently this contradicts the verse where Jacob built a monument for Rachel. Further we find that, in fact, we do build monuments for righteous people who have died. See also Midrash Rabba where this same general principle of not building monuments for the righteous is mentioned. Also there it does not address this apparent contradiction. Some have written that this general principle was only the opinion of an individual person and we do not follow this ruling.

In my opinion, however, we don’t need to state that perhaps it is only a single person’s opinion. Rather, it is possible that the intent of this general principle is to state that if the intent of the monument is so that people will remember the name of the righteous person and his greatness, then truly there is not need for such a monument. It is the righteous person’s words and deeds that are their memorial. If, however, the intent of the memorial is for those who are still alive so that they will know the place of his[/her] physical burial so that they may go there to says prayers at a propitious time or so that they may go there to ask for forgiveness from him/her for any wrong that they may have done to him/her. This would be similar to what is written in Tractate Chagiga 22b: “Rabbi Yehoshua went and prostrated himself at the graves of the House of Shammai and said, I crave your pardon, bones of Beth Shammai. If your unexplained teachings are so [excellent], how much more so the explained teachings.’”  In the intent of marking the grave is for these types of purposes, certainly this is done. Thus, we can understand why Jacob built a monument for Rachel. Jacob saw through the divine spirit that in the future travelers on the way to exile would pass through the place where she was buried so Jacob built a memorial there so that they would see it and pray there.

 The important distinction is whether the memorial is being built for the deceased person or for the living.  Therefore, one can say that one who commands [in his will, etc.] that no monument be erected for him, then this distinction would be pertinent. If the monument is, essentially, for the deceased person then one would have to comply with his command that no monument be built.

This is similar to the teaching in Tractate Sanhedrin 46b where it discusses the situation of one who has commanded that there be no eulogy. There, in the discussion, it mentions that if the purpose of the eulogy is for the deceased person, then one must comply with his command.  If, on the other hand, the eulogy is for the sake of the living, then then there is no obligation to comply.

So too we find a case where the inheritors would be called upon to pay for something for the honor of the deceased.  Let us say, for example, the deceased was not so profoundly righteous that his deeds by themselves would be ample honor for him. This person set forth in his will that the family should erect some monument in his memory.  If this monument is for his personal honor, his benefit,  the inheritors must pay for it, as they must give honor to their father.  If, however, the deceased’s request was for the family’s benefit–so that they would easily recognize his burial place–they may counter that they do not need a monument.  Perhaps they can easily find the spot, or perhaps they do not intend to visit the burial place.  In any event since the expense would be for their own benefit, they may refuse to build a monument.

Translator’s  Note: In this long note, I appreciated the observation in the beginning taking a lenient view of one who says that Reuben did, in fact, sin. The second part of this note reflects the Torah Temimah’s determination to understand and clearly explain questions that he has faced on sections in the Gemora. Thank you to Rabbi Chanoch Slatin for helping me on the part I was stuck on!

Parshat וישב – Genesis 37:2 What Goes Around, Comes Around

Genesis:  37:2 – These are the generations of Jacob: when Joseph was seventeen years old, being a shepherd, he was with his brothers with the flocks, and he was a lad, [and was] with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought evil tales about them to their father.

Jerusalem Talmud: Peah Chapter 1, Section 1 – What evil tales did Yosef bring? Rabbi Yosi said that Yosef suspected them of eating the limb that was detached from a living animal. Rabbi Yehudah said that Yosef suspected them of belittling the sons of the secondary wives [by calling them servants] Rabbi Shimon said that Yosef suspected them of casting their eyes (lustfully) on the daughters of the Land. Rabbi Yehudah the son of Pazi observed from the verse in Proverbs (16:11) The balance and scales of justice are the Lord’s, that Yosef was punished in a precise way for each sin that he accused his brothers of committing as follows:

  • For accusing them of eating the limb of a living animal (without slaughtering the animal)
    • The verse states (Genesis 37:31) “and they slaughtered the goat and they dipped the coat in its blood”.
  • For accusing them of belittling the sons of the secondary wives and calling them ‘servants’
    • The verse states (Psalms 105: 17) – “Yosef was sold as a slave”
  • For accusing them of casting their eyes on the daughters of the Land
    • The verse states (Genesis 39:7) “Now it came to pass after these events that his master’s wife lifted up her eyes to Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’”

 

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #9:

In the Midrash Rabba, the phrasing of this midrash is slightly different, but the meaning is the same; namely that Yosef was punished exactly according to what he had said about his brothers. In the Sifri it explains that Yosef had seen his brothers acting in ways that made him suspect them of these sins. [Thus Yosef’s mistake was in not judging his brother’s favorably.] This explains the use of the verb  “bring” a report to his father than the verb “bring out” which is more commonly used for “tale-bearing” false, evil speech. The reason for the use of the verb “bring out” for false evil speech is because the person saying the negative things is creating the falsehood and bringing it out from his own heart. On the other hand, to just “bring” an evil report implies that, essentially, there is some truth to the matter. That is why, in our verse, the verb “bring” is used; to indicate that there was some element of truth to the matter. However, Yosef had not investigated the issues fully and he merely suspected that they were acting improperly. Check the Nemukei Ramban where he discusses the use of these two verbs – what I have said above will cast light on his comments.

In general though, this midrash requires further clarification. In what way did the sages detect in the wording of the verse that it was these exact issues that Yosef suspected his brothers of transgressing? Perhaps one can say that the hint lies in the phraseology of verse (37:14) “go please, see to your brothers’ welfare and the welfare of the flocks, and bring me back word”. Also the meaning of the phrase (37:13) “aren’t your brothers pasturing the flocks on Shechem?” is not clear. The lack of clarity is from the phrase “aren’t” which would normally reference a previous verse stating a given fact. Here, however, the phase does not reference any previous mention of the brothers being in Shechem. It should have just said “Behold, your brothers are pasturing their sheep in Shechem, please go and see after their welfare.” Additionally, if it was merely the welfare of the brothers that Jacob wanted to find out, he could have just sent anyone. [Why did he send Yosef for this?] Furthermore, this verse makes no sense according to the midrashim that mention that every day one of the brother would come from the field to be a servant to Jacob. If this is the case, then Jacob already knew the welfare of the brothers.

For all the above reasons, the rabbis deduced that the verse alludes, in effect, to a report that Yosef has already brought to Jacob. Now, at this point, Jacob is saying to Yosef, “you said to me this and that about your brothers, aren’t they at this moment pasturing their sheep in Shechem? Go now to them and report to me. Think about what you said and how they are conducting themselves.” The verb that Jacob uses here of “seeing” is similarly used in Ecclesiastes 1:16 “my heart saw much wisdom and knowledge.”

Thus Jacob is asking Yosef [in the phrase in the verse to see the welfare of his brothers] to understand [on a more than superficial level] the relationship between the brothers amongst themselves. (This would correspond to the accusation of brothers making fun of the sons of the ‘secondary wives’.)  

Then, in the phrase to see the welfare of the sheep, Jacob is asking Yosef seek the welfare [literally ‘whole-ness’} of the sheep if they are complete whole in their body or are missing limbs. This would correspond to the accusation of eating a limb that was detached from a living animal.

Lastly in the verse in 37:14, Jacob asks Yosef to bring him back “a word” [דבר]. This alludes to the word “word” often being used as an oblique reference to sexual immorality. This can be seen from the verses Deuteronomy 22:17 “And behold he made libelous charges” as well as the verse in Deuteronomy 23:15: “So that He should not see anything unseemly amongst you.”   Thus this last phrase in 37:14 is a request from Jacob to Yosef to inquire as to the truthfulness of his accusation against the brothers regarding sexual immorality.

Translator’s  Note: I chose to translate this note because of its reference to the false accusations that Yosef made against his brothers. Further, Yosef is punished in a subtly precise way for each false accusation. God does not like spreading false accusations against people.

 

Parshat תולדת – Bereishis 25:21 – Whose Prayers Does God Listen To?

Bereishis 25:21 – And Isaac prayed to the Lord opposite his wife because she was barren, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and Rebecca his wife conceived.

Gemora Yevamos 64a: It should have said that the Lord accepted “their” prayer. Why does it say that the Lord accepted “his” prayer? To teach that the prayer of a “righteous person” who is the child of a “righteous person” is more listened to than the prayer of a “righteous person” who is the child of an “evil person”.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #14

See what is written in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Hayim Section 53 and also in the Taz sub-section 3 in the name of the Bach; and in the Maharshal who deduced from this teaching that it is better to look for a prayer leader who is the son of a righteous person. Note that the Taz disagrees with this because of the general principle that “God desires the heart.” It is amazing that the Taz does not reply at all to the above teaching from the Gemora that [indeed] the prayer of a righteous person, the son of a righteous person is preferable.

Rather, it seems to me, that a person who has better personal qualities is more preferable even if he may be the son of an evil person. Therefore, it is better to give such a person preference [in choosing a prayer leader] over a “righteous person the son of a righteous person” who doesn’t have as many good personal qualities.

It appears that a proof to this opinion can be brought from the Gemora Taanis 25b where it relates a story about Rabbi Eliezer who led the congregation is prayers, but nevertheless rain did not fall. Rabbi Akiva then led the prayers and subsequently it rained. The [other] rabbis were murmuring concerning the slight that had occurred to the honor of Rabbi Eliezer since his prayers were not answered. Suddenly a voice rang out from heaven and stated: “It was not because this person (Rabbi Akiva) is greater than this person (Rabbi Eliezer) but rather it is due to the fact that Rabbi Akiva has conquered his natural tendencies while Rabbi Eliezer has not needed to conquer his natural tendencies.”

Behold, it is well known that Rabbi Akiva is the son of converts. Thus, in relation to him, Rabbi Eliezer is a “righteous person, the son of righteous people”. Nevertheless, it was Rabbi Akiva’s prayer that was answered because of the personal characteristic that he had which Rabbi Eliezer did not have.   

Editor’s Note: I think many people instinctively respond the same way as the Torah Temimah to the idea that “the prayer of a righteous person the child of a righteous person is more listened to than the prayer of a righteous person the child of an evil person”. Our instinctive response is that “God desires the heart” and it should not matter who a person’s parents were. The Torah Temimah then goes on to prove that this is a view supported by our tradition by citing the Gemora Taanis 25b.

 

Parshat חיי שרה Genesis 24:1 The Lord blessed Abraham with Everything

Genesis 24:1 – And Abraham was old, advanced in days, and the Lord blessed Abraham with everything.

Gemora: Baba Basra 16b – Rabbi Meir explained the meaning of “everything” as meaning that he did not have a daughter. Rabbi Yehudah explained it as meaning that he did have a daughter. Others explain that her name was “Everything”.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #6:

It appears that the disagreement between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehudah is the same as the disagreement between Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish that appears in this section of the gemora. Rabbi Yochanan states that when a daughter is born, abundance [רביה] is multiplied in the world. Resh Lakish states that when a daughter is born strife [מריבה] is multiplied in the world. (Note a relevant explanation in Bereshis Chapter 6, Verse 1.) Thus, Rabbi Meir would be of the same opinion as Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yehudah would be of the same opinion as Rabbi Yochanan.

There is an opportunity to explain more fully this aggadah. Actually, the commentators have already written much on this issue. Further, the purpose of this book is not to explain at length aggadah.

Also, there is to note that Rabbi Meir is being internally consistent with his other stated opinions. Rabbi Meir established the daily prayer [said by men each morning] “Blessed are You, God, Lord of the Universe, who has not made me a woman”. This is as explained in Gemora Menachos 42b. It is possible to say that Rabbi Meir had this opinion because he did not hold women to be of high value because of the dictum that their thinking was “light”. This is as explained in Gemora Avodah Zarah 18b [where it recounts the fact that Rabbi Meir fled to Babylonia due to his shame regarding the incident with Beruria, his wife.] Additionally, [Rabbi Meir’s low opinion of women] was due to the fact that he, himself, stumbled through a particular woman as is explained in the book “Seder haDorot”

For this reason, [I] relied on the accurate text reading in Menachos stating the opinion of Rabbi Meir and not Rabbi Yehudah as is shown by the commentary Mesoras HaShas.

Editor’s Note: In this note it seems amazing that the Torah Temimah attributes Rabbi Meir’s low estimation of women as stemming from the fact that Rabbi Meir himself stumbled in a sin relating to women.

Parshat לך לך Genesis 14:23 – Sanctifying God’s Name

Genesis 14:23 – Neither from a thread to a shoe strap, nor will I take from whatever is yours, that you should not say, ‘I have made Abram wealthy.’

Gemora Sotah 4b: Rava derived from this verse that as a reward for not taking neither a thread nor a shoe strap Abraham children merited two mitzvot as rewards. For not taking a thread, they merited the blue thread of the tzitzit. For not taking a shoe strap, they merited the straps of tefillin.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #19:

Rashi explains that the reward was due to the fact that Abraham totally avoided [even a hint of] theft. At first glance, this explanation does not seem to make sense.  How can this be called a great act by Abraham in just avoiding theft? Also, it is difficult to understand what type of theft is involved here. Lawfully, Avraham was entitled to the spoils of the war. This is in accordance with the general principal that ‘he who saves something from an idol worshipper or from robbers, it is his to keep’. Therefore, it seems that one must say that Abraham refused to take any spoils of the war in order to sanctify God’s name. That being the case, then it would be necessary to return all property, no matter what the circumstances. This is also in accordance with Choshen Mishpat Section 267 – ‘in a place where there is an opportunity to sanctify God’s name, one must return lost property to an idol worshipper even if he has already despaired of ever finding the lost object’. Since Abraham, in this situation, wanted to sanctify God’s name, he was obligated by law to return the spoils of war. This was the action that deserved the reward: since he wanted to sanctify God’s name, he caused an obligation upon himself that could have been avoided.

[The above explanation satisfies and fulfills the comments of Rashi.]

Were it not for Rashi’s comments, it would be possible to explain the merit of Abraham in a different manner, as follows. Abraham won this war in a supernatural means with only 318 soldiers, or as some say with only one soldier – Eliezer.  Additionally, as is explained on verse 15, an angel and the stars of the night fought on his behalf. All these point to the fact that Abraham’s victory was a miraculous one. As it notes in Gemora Taanit 24a, it is forbidden to materially benefit from miracles. This then would explain why Abraham merited a reward. From the fact that Abraham refused to benefit from the spoils of the war shows that he attributed the victory not to his own strength and power of his hand, but rather he attributed the victory as a miracle of God. That was why he declined to benefit from the spoils of the war, because one is forbidden to benefit materially from a miracle.

[By the way], note that Rashi and the Rambam disagree on one particular in the law of tzitzit. Rashi’s opinion is that two of the four threads should be blue. The Rambam’s opinion is that only one of the four threads should be blue. Behold, even though one can’t bring clear halachic proofs from aggadic stories, nevertheless, the simple meaning of the phrase ‘Abraham merited the thread of blue’ shines forth supporting the view of the Rambam. This supports the view that, by law, there should only be one thread of blue in the tzitzit.

Regarding Rashi’s view that there are two threads of blue, perhaps Rashi also realized the implication of the phrasing in the verse and the midrash. That would explain why Rashi noted that he thread in the verse alluded, in general, to the commandment of tzitzit. For the Rambam, however, the phraseology is more forcefully specific.

Note also that in the Yalkut and in the Tanchuma this braita is phrased slightly differently: the shoe strap is associated with the shoe of the halitzah ceremony rather than with the strap of tefillin. Perhaps this version of the braita is this way because the author did not feel that a ‘shoe strap’ in the verse aligned well with the ‘strap of tefillin’. (Their only common feature is that they are both made of leather.) On the other hand, the author of our version quoted above did not feel it appropriate to associate the reward with the shoe of halitzah since the shoe of halitzah is essentially used as a punishment. That being the case, it would be unusual to associate that with the idea of something that was given as a reward.

Editor’s Note: I chose this note because of the idea mentioned in the initial section. Since Abraham wanted to sanctify God’s name, he did not accepted even lawful gains from the war. The Torah Temimah notes that we too, if we want to sanctify God’s name, should not act in the strict accordance with the law but rather go beyond the letter of the law.

Parshat האזינו Deuteronomy 32:47 – Why Does It Feel Empty to You?  

Deuteronomy 32:46 – For it is not an empty thing for you, for it is your life, and through this thing, you will lengthen your days upon the land to which you are crossing over the Jordan, to possess it.

Gemora Yerushalmi Peah – 1:1 – Rabbi Mana said: “It is not an empty thing, and if it is empty, from you it is empty”. Why is this so? Because if you had worked hard in it [you would have understood it.] This teaches that any issue that a Court works hard at to understand, [the issue] will ultimately be fulfilled through them.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #91:

The reason for this interpretation of the verse is clearly the extra word “from you”, this word seems to be superfluous. It could have simply said “For it is not an empty thing.” That is the reason why the rabbis deduced this additional teaching from the verse. That is, if you find that an issue cannot be understood, know that it is just ‘empty’ [not understood] from you; you have not toiled sufficiently to delve into the matter to find the explanation. However, if you do toil [put forth the effort], you will find [the explanation.] answer. This is according to the expression [in Chapters of the Fathers]: “if one says he has toiled but not found, don’t believe him.”.

Therefore, it is clear from this that any issue that the Court exerts much effort [puts their soul into] in clarifying and searching for the truth, that issue will ultimately be clarified and fulfilled through that Court. That is to say, according to their intent will it be understood. In the Jerusalem Talmud it uses the phrase “as though it had been given on Mount Sinai”. That phrase though is an exaggeration just meant to emphasize their intent to arrive at the true truth of the matter.

The specific phrase used “puts their soul into” finding out the truth of the matter, is used because all Courts desire to delve into the source and central issue for any given topic and they metaphorically give over their souls through their effort and toil. This fulfills the well-known expression: Torah cannot be  [totally] fulfilled except by someone who [metaphorically] kills himself over it. Look over at my note in the beginning of Parshat Pekudei for a similar observation on the verse “As God had commanded Moshe”.

Editor’s Note: It seems to me that the central lesson of this note is: “no pain, no gain”. If something in the Torah is inexplicable to you, spend significant effort seeking to understand it. The rabbis are teaching that if you put in the effort, you will learn the wisdom that you need to know.

Parshat כי תבא Deuteronomy 26:3 – More about the Invalid Cohen  

Deuteronomy 26:3 – And you shall come to the Cohen who will be [serving] in those days, and say to him, “I declare this day to the Lord, your God, that I have come to the land which the Lord swore to our forefathers to give us.”

Gemora Kiddushin (66b) [The verse does not make sense to say “come to the Cohen in your day…”] is it possible to go to a Cohen from a different era? Rather, this verse is hinting at the law regarding a Cohen who was kosher and then invalidated. Thus we learn that a Cohen who is the son of a divorcee or a chalutzah and performed the service in the temple, the service is still valid.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #16:

Even if before he performed the service it was known that he was a son of a divorcee or a chalutzah, his service is still valid. See a similar comment in Parshat Shoftim [about going to a judge who will be ‘in your days’.]

Also see the comment in Parshat וזאת הברכה on a further explanation of the Cohen who is the son of a divorcee.

Editor’s Note: this short note serves only to point out another source for the ruling regarding the Cohen who is the son of a divorces. One extra detail that the Torah Temimah adds here is “even though it was known ahead of time, that he was the son of a divorcee”, nevertheless his service [if already done] is still valid. See this further note: http://temimahblog.com/2016/09/29/parshat-%D7%95%D7%96%D7%90%D7%AA-%D7%94%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%9B%D7%94-devarim-3311-in-what-way-is-the-cohen-invalid/

Parshat וזאת הברכה Devarim 33:11 – In What Way is the Cohen Invalid?   

Deuteronomy 33:11 –May the Lord bless His army (chelo) and favorably accept the work of his hands;

Gemora Kiddushin (66b) A Cohen who is the son of a divorcee or a chalutzah (root = ch’l’tz) who performed the [temple] service anyway, the service is still valid. From whence do we know this? Abuha d’Shmuel says it is understood from the verse “May the Lord bless His army”….even the profane (root = ch’l) amongst them will be accepted.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #35:

It is not clear how a connection can be made between the word “profane” (root=ch’l) and the word “his army” (chelo). It apparently seems astonishing. It appears perhaps that our sages were carefully analyzing the word “army” as indicating strength and force, specifically relating to human strength. This is shown in Proverbs 31:3, “do not give your strength to women”.

Yet here in this verse, Moshe is blessing his descendants saying that God should accept the work of their hands. The word “accept” implies some prior imperfection or blemish perhaps because of some sin. A Cohen who is the son of a divorcee or a chalutzah, even though he was born [conceived] through sin, the linkage to his forefathers is not lost because of this sin. He is still the son of a Cohen, and the sin that happened is in the past.

Therefore, for these reasons, it is apparent that even the work [offering] of this invalidated Cohen, the son of a divorcee or a chalutzah is still accepted. It is clear that such a Cohen who performed the service in the temple, the service is kosher. Even though from a personal point of view, he is invalid; nevertheless he is still a Cohen and a descendant of Cohanim. This shows that the phraseology in our verse is exactly perfect. “God should bless His ‘chelo’”, even the imperfect ones.

It is also certainly clear that this law applies only after the fact. For example, in the middle of his performing the service, it becomes known that he is a son of a divorcee or a chalutzah. However, if it were known ahead of time, it would not be appropriate to have such a Cohen perform the service because it would not be appropriate for the honor of the temple.

Editor’s Note: it is amazing that the rabbis derive the meaning of this verse to be “God should bless is ritually invalid ones” rather than the simple meaning of “God should bless his army”. The Torah Temimah is merely explaining this gemora in more detail.