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17th Day Of Tammuz, 5746

Shabbos Parshas Mattos-Massai

Shabbos Parshas Devorim

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15th Day Of Menachem Av, 5746

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Chof Menachem Av, 5746

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Sichos In English
Volume 32

Shabbos Parshas Devorim
4th Day Of Menachem Av, 5746
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  26th Day Of Tammuz, 5746Provide Yourself A Teacher  

1

In the last farbrengen we discussed the reasons which led Rashi to mention the names of certain Talmudic authors in various commentaries. It is surprising, therefore, to see that no one has raised a similar question regarding a commentary of Rashi in this week's portion.

On the verse:

Designate for yourselves men who are wise and under-standing.... (Devorim 1:13)

Rashi comments:

And understanding: -- who understand one thing from another. This is what Arius asked of Rabbi Yose: What is the difference between wise men and understanding men? A wise man resembles a wealthy money-changer: When people bring him "dinars" to examine [and exchange] he examines them, but when they do not bring them to him he (merely) sits and does nothing. An understanding man resembles a merchant money-changer, when people bring him money to examine, he examines them and when they do not bring it to him, he seeks about and brings money of his own [he goes out and drums up business]. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

(This same simile may be applied to those who are involved in communal activities. The true, dedicated communal worker does not sit back like a wealthy money-changer who acts only when someone comes and "makes him crazy" to do something. Rather he is an "activist" who goes out and gets things done for the good of the community.)

Careful attention to this Rashi will raise the following questions:

  1. The five-year-old Chumash student has already learned the distinction between a "wise man" and an "understanding man." In the portion of Ki Sissa the Torah related:

    I have selected Betzalel son of Uri.... I have filled him with a Divine spirit, with wisdom, understanding and knowledge.... (Shemos 31:2-3)

    Rashi had explained there, that men of wisdom are men who amass wisdom by learning from others, while understanding men are those who understand one thing from another, if so, why does Rashi find it necessary to explain the term "understanding" once again here.

  2. Why does Rashi go on to ask, "What is the difference between wise men and understanding men?" The difference should be obvious: understanding men deduce one thing from another, while wise men do not have this capacity and only know what they have learned from others.

  3. Does the parable of the wealthy money-changer and the merchant money-changer really add to our understanding of the two qualities of wise and understanding men?

  4. If this parable is truly necessary to appreciate the distinction between wise and understanding men, then Rashi should have taught us this parable the first time the distinction is made, in the portion of Ki Sissa. Why wait for Devorim?

  5. What is Rashi's purpose in mentioning the name of the questioner -- Arius -- or, for that matter, the sage to whom the question was directed, Rabbi Yose? What would these facts add to our comprehension of the plain meaning of the verse?

  6. In the preceding segment (same verse) Rashi cites the word "wise men" and translates "charismatic" or "desirable." If Rashi begins by translating the word "wise men" as "charismatic," why does he then go on to differentiate between "wise" and "understanding" by saying that wise know what they learned while understanding deduce new knowledge?

As Rashi fails to make mention of any of these points it seems obvious that the five-year-old Chumash student must be able to find the answer to these problems within the context of Rashi's words.

When the five-year-old Chumash student studies this verse and the following verses:

Designate for yourselves men who are wise, understanding and known to your tribes...I selected wise and well-known men..., (Devorim 1:15)

he will find a further comment of Rashi:

But understanding men I did not find!! (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Reading this, the five-year-old Chumash student will be greatly surprised, because he remembers that for the architects of the Mishkan Moshe had found "men of wisdom and understanding." Why could he not find "understanding men" to be appointed as judges?

The obvious answer is that that there are different attributes and levels of "understanding." The quality of understanding necessary for judges is over and above the level of understanding needed to build the Tabernacle. To help us appreciate this fine point, Rashi deems it necessary to tell us the parable of the two money changers and indicate that the men of understanding needed for judges are similar to the "merchant money-changers."

Let us understand this point.

  1. The average person may understand something on his own from the information he has learned. When he learns something new he also deduces additional details not specifically mentioned. However he is not really innovative.

  2. Some people, however, have the ability to understand something so profoundly, that they can evolve and elicit some completely new idea based on the initial thought or fact. Here is the simile to the merchant money-changer who goes out and drums up business by himself.

When the Tabernacle had to be built, Moshe looked for wise and understanding men -- but they did not have to be innovative, they had only to carry the instructions far enough to build everything properly; for everything had to be made according to the original instructions:

You must make the Tabernacle and all its furnishings following the plan that I am showing you. (Shemos 25:9)

Judges, however, must possess deep insight and profound understanding to seek out new interpretations and applications of law. The five-year-old Chumash student has also learned:

The Israelites were troublesome; if one of them saw his opponent winning in court he would say: I have (additional) witnesses to bring, I have proof to bring....

(Rashi, Devorim 1:12)

Here we are made aware of the problems involved in judging the Jewish people, which warranted that the judges had to be of the highest calibre of understanding -- to the point of revealing novel interpretations. Only then could they deal with troublesome litigants.

This superb and unique quality eluded Moshe in his search, and he had to settle for the lesser qualities of wise and well-known men. If it sounds strange that Moshe could not find such sagacious jurists see what Moshe himself remarked:

But how can I myself alone bear the burden, responsibility and conflict that you present?

(Devorim 1:12)

What about the question why Rashi translates "wise" as "charismatic"? Here we have a case of different versions in Rashi, and when we seek out the original manuscripts and critical editions of Rashi we find that Rashi actually used the word "charismatic" in explaining the term "righteous" (not "wise"). They must be righteous and then obviously they will attract many to follow them and emulate their ways and benefit from their holiness.

The correct citation at the beginning of this Rashi is also "wise and understanding" (not only "and understanding").

Now the sharp student will ask, if it was so rare to find a sage whose understanding was so profound as to enable him to deduce novel ideas and interpretations, why then was it necessary for Moshe even to try to find such men.

For this reason Rashi informs us of the author of this lesson -- "Rabbi Yose."

What was special about Rabbi Yose? The Gemara (Gittin 67a) tells us that Rabbi Yose always pursued the logical explanations for his opinions. Throughout Torah his system of study emphasized the need for clear logic and reason. Other Tannaim also pursued the logic of their teachings, but often when the ultimate intellectual explanation of a particular halachic ruling eluded them, they would rely on the principle that "if it is the halachah we accept it" (without understanding).

Rabbi Yose was not satisfied with that approach, and always demanded complete intellectual understanding, therefore, when it is Rabbi Yose who tells us that Moshe had to seek out truly understanding judges, we can understand his particular emphasis on this quality. [And since Rashi quotes the Sifri, it is clear that Rashi is in fact referring to Rabbi Yose the Tanna.]

So, when the sharp student asks why it is necessary to put so much effort into finding truly understanding judges, Rashi responds: First of all take note that this question was raised by a gentile, "Arius asked Rabbi Yose," for after all, when the Torah says you must find men of understanding how can a Jew possibly think, "Why bother"?! The Jew must seek intellectual justification and rationalization but not harbor the opposite assumption?! This can only stem from "the goy that is within you."

Nevertheless, since the Sifri considers the question and responds -- it legitimatizes even this question. By mentioning the name of the questioner, Arius, Rashi stresses this point. The name Arius includes the letters of the word Or -- light -- symbolizing wisdom. For wisdom allows an honest question in understanding and being that Rabbi Yose responded and explained the need for understanding men, we realize that his answer is very specific and significant, for Rabbi Yose always sought understanding.

Another point:

Arius was an early christian bishop who established a new denomination in christianity which emphasized unity in G-d, as opposed to the standard christian belief in the trinity. As a result of his "heresy," he was denounced, disrobed and exiled, but was later reappointed to his station.

The difference between unity and trinity in Arius's philosophy may be analogous to the difference between secular wisdom and understanding. Unity symbolizes the unitary spark of wisdom, while trinity alludes to the three stages of understanding.

Therefore, Arius who represented unity (wisdom) questioned and challenged the "understanding" of trinity.

Chassidic philosophy also explains that this incident represents the conversion of the profane to the holy -- darkness to light, which portends the future conquest of the additional three Canaanite nations, and which also symbolizes the conquest of the power of "wisdom of the profane."

Although in the times of the golus this is normally not accomplished, however, just prior to Moshiach's coming -- and after the dissemination of the wellsprings of Chassidus, this can be accomplished.


2

In the second chapter of Avos we are told of the five most prominent disciples of R. Yochanan B. Zakkai and the Mishnah describes their qualities:

Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had five [outstanding] disciples.... He used to enumerate their praiseworthy qualities: Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenus -- a cemented cistern which does not lose a drop; ...Rabbi Elazar ben Arach -- like a fountain which flows with everincreasing strength. (Avos 2:7)

In one sense, the difference between a plastered cistern and a spring which flows with ever-increasing strength, is analogous to the difference between a wise man (who knows what he has learned from his masters) and the understanding man (who deduces new rules and applications from accepted precedent).

These divergent qualities of Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkenus and R. Elazar ben Arach expressed themselves, as well, in their names and their different approaches to Torah and life.

Chassidus explains that the difference between "Rav" and "Rabbi" is the letter "Yud." Rav represents the power of Binah -- understanding -- and when the Yud is included -- Rabbi -- it adds the aspect of Chochmah -- wisdom. Similarly, R. Eliezer, whose name includes the "yud" represents wisdom, while R. Elazar, whose name lacks the "yud," represents the power of understanding.

Now let us see their teachings:

...Which is the good way to which a man should cleave? Rabbi Eliezer said: A good eye,... Rabbi Elazar said: A good heart. (Ibid.:10)

Here, too, the good eye indicates the attribute of wisdom, while the good heart refers to the power of understanding: "The heart understands."

The first of R. Yochanan ben Zakkai's most prominent students, to whom he transmitted the chain of tradition, was R. Eliezer ben Horkenus -- the plastered cistern who lost not a drop -- the power of wisdom [the source and foundation of all knowledge]. The last of the five disciples represented Binah -- understanding -- which must be built on the foundation of wisdom. (That is why R. Eliezer ben Horkenus was first -- the foundation -- and the others came later.) The everincreasing fountain must start with a flowing spring, wisdom must irradiate the understanding at all times.

This theme comes through further in the teaching of R. Elazar ben Arach:

Be diligent in the study of Torah.... (Ibid.:14)

For even when one is involved in the heated debates and legal argumentation of Talmudic exegetics and pilpul, to the point of an everincreasing fountain, he must still take care not to forget what he has learned from his teachers. So, be diligent to review your previous studies -- just as understanding must always have the focal point of wisdom at its core.

This teaching is especially powerful coming from Rabbi Elazar ben Arach, for the Gemara relates about R. Elazar ben Arach that:

R. Elazar ben Arach...his learning vanished...he arose to read in the Torah "Hachodesh Hazeh Lochem" instead of which he read "Hacheresh Hayah Libbam."

(Shabbos 147b)

Later the sages prayed for him and his learning returned. As a result of this experience he certainly felt the need for diligence in study and review, and so he taught: "Be diligent in the study of Torah."


3

Today's section of Rambam deals with the laws of Kohanic sanctification (ritual washing) of the hands and feet prior to engaging in any Temple service.

The question comes to mind: Why were the Kohanim commanded to ritually wash only their hands and feet, why not their faces?

In the laws of Shabbos we find:

In order to honor the Shabbos one should, as a matter of religious duty, wash his face, hands and feet with hot water on Friday. (Rambam, Laws of Shabbos 30:2)

When we consider that the essence of the Kohanic service was that it be done quietly, with intense inner feeling, it would seem a more appropriate preparation to cleanse the face, which symbolizes the inner qualities and attributes of a person, rather than the hands and feet, which are external organs. However, in a deeper, moral sense we may find the explanation for this rule.

Certain actions may be done before entering the Temple, in which case one may not wait until entering to fulfill them. On the other hand, that which may be done inside the Temple may not be done outside, before entering.

Washing the hands and feet symbolizes plain action, as such, it may, and must, be done outside the Temple; you may only enter the Temple after your hands and feet (actions) have been ritually sanctified.

When, however, we speak of the inner sanctification -- represented by the face, this can be done inside the Temple, if so it would not be appropriate to do it before entering the Sanctuary.

Sanctification of the hands and feet can be connected to the Haftorah of Shabbos Chazon. The Prophet Yeshayahu tells us:

Who has required this of your hand to trample My courts.... (Yeshayahu 1:12)

This is a clear reference to those who enter the Temple without the ritual sanctification of hands and feet.

What are we really referring to? Action! The hands carry out the thoughts of the mind, e.g. writing, art, so that intellect and feelings are expressed by the hands. The feet carry out more external actions such as kicking, etc. Feelings may also be expressed by the hands even without action. The arms extend out of the body from the torso near the heart. When we put tefillin on the arm we must align the tefillin to be leaning towards the heart. The actions of the hands must be permeated with the feelings of the heart.

Consequently, now, when we have no Temple the modern act of purification of the hands and feet comprise all areas of Divine service in contemporary times.

May G-d grant that by studying about the Kohanic washing of the hands we will merit to actually see the Kohanim purify their hands and feet in the Bais Hamikdosh:

The Kohanim officiating, the Levi'im chanting and the Israelites attending the service, (Siddur)

when the Bais Hamikdosh will be built speedily in our days. Our good actions and positive resolutions will speed up that day with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach, who will come and redeem us and lead us walking, with our heads held high, to our Holy Land, speedily and truly in our days.


  26th Day Of Tammuz, 5746Provide Yourself A Teacher  
  
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