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Yud-Aleph Nissan, 5745

Yud-Gimmel Nissan, 5745

Tzivos Hashem

Acharon Shel Pesach

Yechidus: 25th Day Of Nissan, 5745

Parshas Shemini

Pirkei Avos: Chapter 1

Acharei-Kedoshim

Pirkei Avos: Chapter 3

Lag B'omer

Behar-Bechukosai

   27th Day Of Iyar, 5745

Pride And Humility

Convention of N'shei uBnos Chabad

Tzivos Hashem

Erev Shavuos

Bemidbar

Shavuos, 5745

Yechidus-Shavuos

Parshas Nasso

Prison And Reform -- A Torah View

Graduates Of Bais Rivkah

Shabbos Parshas Shelach

Sichos In English
Volume 26

Behar-Bechukosai
27th Day Of Iyar, 5745
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  18th Day Of Iyar, 5745Pride And Humility  

1

In every Shabbos Mevorchim there are two aspects: (A) The general theme of the Shabbos which blesses the upcoming new month. This theme is common to every Shabbos Mevorchim of the year. (B) The unique, individual theme of this particular Shabbos Mevorchim as it relates to the special theme of the coming month that is blessed.

Which gets precedence?

One line of thought would say that the general should precede the individual for it includes the particular and is all-encompassing as well. It also has the quality of the many which are included. It should be followed by the individual theme, which would then stress a distinct, singular detail.

On the other hand, there is a certain special preciousness in something new. Thus the theme of this Shabbos Mevorchim is new relative to the general theme that came before and included many weeks. It would therefore follow that we should give precedence to the specific theme of this Shabbos and speak about it first. Being new it has a certain preciousness which would claim first position.

In any discussion of new versus old, the old has an advantage in that it is tried and true while the effectiveness of the new is still doubtful as the verse says:

Let not him that girds on his harness boast himself as he that takes it off. (Melachim I 20:11)

Nevertheless the new still carries with it some special charm and interest to which human nature gives precedence.

This same quality expresses itself in supernal attitudes as well. In its spiritual state the world stands in a state of potential [relative to physical (actual) existence]. As such, it has all the attributes of full existence and "The potential does not lack the kinetic." (Pardes, Gate 11) Albeit spiritual [potential], in a sense it is the tried and true old existence.

Despite this, the Holy One, Blessed be He willed that creation should take place and that a new physical world should come into being in which G-dliness should be revealed as a new phenomenon:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, desired to have an abode in the lower words." (Tanya 36)

True, a desire is not to be questioned. Yet it is clear that G-d "longed" for something new.

Does this penchant for newness have a basis in Torah? On the one hand "Study is greater because it leads to action," (Kiddushin 40b) which means that study is real when it is actualized and that which has already come into reality has the quality of old reality. The untried is still unknown -- it does not have the quality of "study is greater," for it has not come into action. Nevertheless, Torah does accentuate the quality of newness as our sages tell us about Torah: "Every day they should seem new in your eyes." (Rashi, Devorim 26:16)

The chapter of Shema is of course the first step in a person's Divine service. In the reading of Shema we stress certain basic principles of Divine service: "Hear, O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One." (Devorim 6:4) Every Jew is commanded and empowered to hear and know that G-d our L-rd is the One G-d. Then the details follow:

And you shall love the L-rd your G-d ... and you shall speak of them [Torah study] ... you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand [the mitzvah of Tefillin]. (Ibid)

All this leads to the permeation of your house and gates with the actuality of Torah. It is here that we learn of the importance of "newness" over "oldness." In the first paragraph of Shema the Torah says: "And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart." (Ibid 6:6) Rashi comments:

They should not be in their eyes as an antiquated royal command, which no one minds, but as one newly given, which everyone gladly welcomes.

(Rashi, loc. cit)

Similarly in the second paragraph of the Shema, we find the verse:

... which I enjoin upon you this day ...

(Ibid 11:13)

which our sages interpret:

This suggests that they should be to you as new commandments, as though you heard them for the first time on that day." (Sifrei on vs. 32)

So we come to the conclusion that on this Shabbos Mevorchim we will discuss first the aspect which carries the newness -- i.e. the special quality of this Shabbos Mevorchim, Sivan. To learn what that quality is we must look to the simple interpretation of Torah, which applies to all levels of Jews from the greatest sage to the five-year-old Chumash student.

Actually the Alter Rebbe writes in Laws of Torah Study that:

The Torah places a positive commandment on every father to teach his small child ... when does this obligation apply? When the child starts to speak, his father should teach him, "The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage ..." and the first verse of the chapter of "Shema Yisroel" (Hear O' Israel). Afterwards he teaches him, little by little, some verses by heart, until he reaches the age of five.

(Laws of Torah Study, chap. 1)

In other words, several years before the age of five the father must already teach the child several verses of Torah according to the child's ability to understand.

So let us approach the simple meaning of Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan. In general, the whole month is blessed by the Shabbos Mevorchim but there is a special blessing for the day of Rosh Chodesh itself as the text of the blessing for the new month indicates.

What happened on Rosh Chodesh Sivan?:

In the third month [Sivan] ... on the first of the month, they came to the desert of Sinai ... Israel camped opposite the mountain. (Shemos 19:2)

On Rosh Chodesh the preparation for Mattan Torah (the giving of the Torah at Sinai) began. Therefore on Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan the blessing for such activity was generated and we must emphasize this special directive and be involved in the Divine service of preparing for Mattan Torah.

The third month also has a special lesson for us. When we have two possibilities there is room for choice. As the Torah puts it:

See! Today I have set before you [a free choice] between life and good [on one side], and death and evil [on the other]. (Devorim 30:15)

Because there is a choice, the Torah can tell you "you must choose life," (Ibid:19) because you have the ability and choice to choose otherwise.

There is a dilemma here because both the life and the opposite are given by G-d as equal choices. How do we know which to choose? Here, the power of the third comes to play; it leans more to one side and indicates for us that there really are two against one and we should follow the majority.

Since free choice is so basic a principle of our faith, as the Rambam puts it:

This doctrine (of free will) is an important principle, the pillar of the law and the commandment.... If G-d had decreed that a person should be either righteous or wicked,... what room would there be for the whole of the Torah? By what right or justice could G-d punish the wicked or reward the righteous?

(Laws of Repentance 5:3-4)

therefore Scripture stresses that Mattan Torah was in the third month indicating the rule of choice. And this must be taught even to small children as part of their training, to choose the right path between the two possibilities. The third month gives the Jew the ability to choose between life and good, and death and evil, G-dliness and worldliness, spiritual and physical, soul and body -- all with the power of Torah. As our Sages say: "A three-fold Torah in the third month."

Now, although the ordinal number third indicates the ability to make a right decision and choose the right path between the two possibilities, it does not effect any improvement or purification in the first two stages; they remain antagonistic to each other and one of them remains a negative choice.

The term "three-fold," however, indicates a certain unity superimposed by the third facet. The first two stages are still there, but they are subjugated by the third and there is a unity attained by the theme of them altogether.

The name "Sivan," (rather than third month) given to the third month indicates the emergence of a new entity, (made up of the first two, plus one) which entirely eliminates the differences which existed before, and comes forth as a new unity composed of three building blocks.

Our sages taught that the names of the months of the year came back with the Jews from Babylonian exile. "Babylon" connotes confusion:

He named it Bavel, because this was the place where G-d confused the world's language.

(Bereishis 10:9)

Babylon and golus have a common theme: confusion, distortion and unclearness. Now why should G-d have caused this confusion? You might answer that this was a punishment for the Tower of Bavel. But this only complicates the problem! A punishment is supposed to bring order and correction for the sin. What correction was effected by the confusion of Bavel? Did it not cause a greater descent?!

The answer is that the descent was for the purpose of ascending. The golus provides an opportunity to rise higher than previously possible, as the quality of "light out of the darkness."

When our sages told us that the names of the months (Nissan, Iyar, Sivan etc.) came back with the Jews from Babylon, they used the term "Alu B'yadam M'Bavel" -- the names "rose" up with them. The names were not created in Babylon, rather, because of the descent of the exile, the names of the months (which existed previously) subsequently ascended.

In the case of Sivan, the month was previously called the third month which acknowledged the presence of two opposing factors plus the third deciding factor. By going into golus it descended and then received a new name with the power to ascend. All previous aspects were permeated and converted with the new power of this third month, so that the previous opposition was no longer there.

It is customary that when we recite the blessing for the new month and announce the coming Rosh Chodesh, we mention the names of the month as we know them -- the names which came from Babylon. Although it is known that these names do have meaning and interpretation, why not use the names which the Torah explicitly uses: First month, second month, third month and so forth?

Actually the blessing of the new month is closely related to the period of exile. In the days when the new months were announced by the Sanhedrin, based upon the sighting of the new moon by witnesses, there was no possibility for blessing and announcing the month on the previous Shabbos. They did not know when Rosh Chodesh would occur until the witnesses came to the Sanhedrin and announced their observations.

When did the blessing of the new month begin? -- after the destruction of the Bais Hamikdosh and the resultant exile and the loss of the power of the Sanhedrin; when they began establishing the months on the basis of the calendar. At that time it was established that on Shabbos before the Rosh Chodesh, when the people gather in the synagogues, they should announce the day of the forthcoming Rosh Chodesh so that everyone would know.

During the difficult times of golus it was impossible to gather the Jews on a Rosh Chodesh in the middle of the week, so they had to bless the month on a Shabbos, when the Jews had gathered anyway. For in the golus the Jews lack the bonding unity which they had during the Temple times.

So the blessing of the new month came as a result of the severity of the golus and, at the same time, the descent of the diaspora effected an ascent in Rosh Chodesh. Today we don't have to wait for the visible new moon for on the preceding Shabbos we can already announce that Rosh Chodesh will occur on such a day and the new month is blessed. The descent of the golus gave the Shabbos the power to bless the new month. And although in ancient times the announcement of Rosh Chodesh was made on Rosh Chodesh itself, in modern times the announcement on Shabbos Mevorchim suffices, and all the necessary blessings are bestowed on the month from the Shabbos.

The theme of Rosh Chodesh is the renewal of the moon, which is symbolic of the redemption. As we say in the Sanctification of the Moon: "... who likewise are destined to be renewed." (Siddur) The days before the new moon is "born," are a period of darkness symbolic of golus.

When we announce the new moon on Shabbos Mevorchim we are admitting that we are still in golus and we lack the power to leave the exile. At the same time, on the Shabbos Mevorchim we predict proclaim and establish the Rosh Chodesh -- the birth of the new moon and the hope for redemption. While we are still deep in golus we effect the aspect of redemption.

Combining these two aspects, the blessing of the new month on the preceding Shabbos and using the names which returned from Babylon, we emphasize the potential for lofty ascent that was reached by the descent into diaspora. Geulah is here while still in golus; the ascent was attained through the names that "rose" from exile.

There is a lesson here for everyone. When the average person hears the announcement on Shabbos that Rosh Chodesh will be Tuesday, he knows how to conduct himself -- what prayers to say, etc. He then learns that the theme of Rosh Chodesh Sivan is the preparation for Mattan Torah. He realizes that there must be new efforts and activities to bring about a new revelation in all aspects of Torah and mitzvos, meaning that the effort must begin now. He further learns of the aspect of the third month, that it effects a power of choice between the physicality of this world and the spiritual holiness. And clearly all this must be started on this Shabbos.

May the discussion of this matter bring to practice, for Torah controls the existence of the world. As the Talmud Yerushalmi explains on the verse:

"To the Al-mighty One that decrees my fate," (Tehillim 57:3) the proclamation of the Bais Din actually controls the natural phenomenon.

(Kesubos 1:2)

And the ruling of the Bais Din (Sanhedrin) in the case of the sighting of the New Moon will effect a change in the nature of the world. In our case, by speaking about Rosh Chodesh, and even more so by acting, we will merit, "... who are likewise destined to be renewed" -- even before Rosh Chodesh -- on Shabbos! Our righteous Moshiach has to come right now! In the reality of the world, even now on Shabbos.

And we will merit the true and complete redemption which will include the complete people, the complete Torah and the complete land -- all these with comfort and abundance, including also all halachic converts and even the nations of the world:

For then I will turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the Name of the L-rd to serve Him with one consent (Tzephaniah 3:9) He will prepare the whole world to serve the L-rd with one accord,

(Rambam, Laws of Kings 11:4)

until the fulfillment of the promise: "and the earth will be filled with knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea," (Yeshayah 11:9) through our actions and work in spreading Torah and mitzvos to the outside, with happiness and gladness of heart.

2

Having discussed the topic of Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan and its specific "newness," let us also talk about the more general theme of Shabbos Mevorchim and the fact that it occurs several times a year -- which gives it the quality of being frequent.

We use the term Shabbos Kodesh Mevorchim Hachodesh -- which indicates that we have three subjects: (A) Shabbos Kodesh -- the Holy Shabbos, (B) Chodesh -- the month (C) Mevorchim Hachodesh -- the connecting factor, that Shabbos blesses the month.

The day of Shabbos is part of the natural time cycle. Non-Jewish society also follows a weekly cycle and divides the week into seven days of which the seventh is called Shabbos (or some related term). The structure of the months, however, is superimposed on the natural sequence of time. So only the Jewish people have the special aspects of the months. And only the Jewish people celebrate the first days of the month in a special way -- Rosh Chodesh. For the gentiles there is nothing unique about the beginning of the month. In the week however, they also observe the end of the week in a special manner.

Well now, if the month has some special importance, why not mention the word month before the word Shabbos in the idiom, and say: "Mevorchim Hachodesh B'Shabbos Kodesh"?

The explanation is that we follow the general order of Divine service. By first mentioning the natural "Shabbos" we recognize that there is a world and it has significance. A Jew must then reveal G-dliness and make the Shabbos holy, Shabbos Kodesh. We can then reach a level of being higher than the worldly realm -- "the month." And in addition we have a special quality that we effect in the higher realm by virtue of the descent into the concealment of the world!

As we just said, the first step of Divine service is "Shabbos Kodesh." The existence of the world (Shabbos) is real and we must reveal the G-dliness in the world (Kodesh). Now, this world that we see really conceals its essence. The G-dliness is hidden, and at first glance we see only corporeal physicality (materialism).

Chassidus therefore interprets the term "teva" (nature) from the root: "drowned in the sea." The lifeforce which originates from G-d and enlivens the world is sunk in the materialism and you can't see it; the waters cover it.

The Jew's Divine service is to reveal the G-dliness of the world, as the Rambam relates of the first Jew, Avraham, our father:

After he was weaned, while still an infant, his mind began to reflect. By day and by night he was thinking and wondering: "How is it possible that this celestial sphere should continually be guiding the world and have no one to guide it and cause it to turn round, for it cannot be that it turns round itself." He had no teacher ... till he had attained the way of truth, apprehended the correct line of thought and knew that there is one G-d, that He guides the celestial sphere and created everything ... and commenced to instruct the people that it was not right to serve anyone but the G-d of the universe, etc.

What did Avraham do? He revealed G-dliness in the world -- he made Shabbos Kodesh.

Now, this involvement includes the materialism of the world. Avraham reached his conclusions based on the logic that there is a "ruler to the world." So there is a holiness, but it is relative to the Shabbos-worldliness.

This same version of G-dly service is apparent in the daily activities of a Jew. Upon awaking from his sleep he deals with physical phenomenon. He opens his eyes and senses, first of all, his own existence. So the first thing to do is to "... offer thanks to the living and eternal King." This expression of thanks is motivated by a recognition and appreciation of the good he received -- something which is normal and expected in worldly matters by nature and he must show appreciation to a benefactor.

So the first step of Divine service depends on worldly matters -- first he senses his existence and then offers thanks for being alive. This is the idea of Shabbos Kodesh -- holiness associated with the realm of materialism.

A higher form of G-dly service revolves around G-dliness, aloof from the worldly matters. This is the "month" which is higher than Shabbos Kodesh. G-d said "This month is for you," meaning, above nature, reserved and ensconced only for the Jewish people:

When He chose Ya'akov and his sons, He appointed for them a New Moon (month) of Redemption. (Shemos Rabbah 15:11)

The Akeida explains that both from natural law and supernatural occurrence we learn of the greatness of G-d. Although the conduct of nature shows us the continuous Providence of G-d, "I, G-d, have not changed," (Malachi 3:6) the power to supersede nature gives us a better idea of G-d's greatness.

Hence "Shabbos" projects the power of control of the natural world while "Chodesh" refers to the supernatural, the idea of a "month" of redemption -- exodus from the confines of worldliness; the power of a miracle.

The analogy in our personal service may be drawn from this. Just as Avraham reached the level of faith above intellect and he became the "first of the believers," similarly, each person, everyday, can rise to this level. After reciting

I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul, (Siddur)

which we explained to be related to the realization and presence of our individual materialism, after this general recognition he moves on to a higher level, the minute and detailed meditation of prayer, the verses of praise, the blessings of Shema, which rise above the worldly framework.

[So we have the level of Shabbos -- nature -- and Chodesh -- miracle, or, orderly progression and super-leaping.]

Our sages taught:

G-d created the world for the sake of Torah and for the sake of Israel. (Rashi, Bereishis 1:1)

This needs some clarification, for Torah and the Jewish people preceded the creation. The Midrash says:

The Torah preceded the creation of the world by two thousand years. (Bereishis Rabbah 8:2)

and:

These are the souls of the righteous with whom the Holy One, Blessed be He, decided to create the world. (Rus Rabbah 2:3)

Now why would there be a need to actually create a world for Torah and Israel if they were there all along?

The answer is that creation effected an ascent in Torah and Israel. Since the corporeality of the world is the lowest form of existence, for it hides and conceals G-dliness, nevertheless, only by descending to the physicality can the higher levels and loftier qualities be attained. It could not have been without the descent.

This is analogous to the quality of the baal teshuvah state vis a vis the tzaddik. The Divine service of the righteous is orderly, and measured, while the Baal Teshuvah, coming from the depths of darkness, has the extra leap of "light from darkness" -- not measured or orderly.

Similarly, we find this concept in the words of Tehillim: "Like one who finds great spoil" (Tehillim 119:162) Spoil can be had only after a war. One must fall to the condition of fighting against enemy and foe to reach the great and precious spoils of war. And it then comes as a "find" beyond his efforts.

Now we can understand that creation was for the sake of Torah and Israel. Without the temporal, real world Torah and Israel would be metered and measured, but through descending into creation they attain a state of ascension.

Read the words again: Shabbos Kodesh Mevorchim Hachodesh. Do they ring clearer now? Are they not more meaningful? Clearly, the holy Shabbos -- the aspect of worldliness -- effects the improvement and positive change in Torah and Israel (the Chodesh) -- even beyond all projection.

The individual Jew must also apply this idea to himself, for the Talmud declares:

Therefore every single person is obliged to say: "The world was created for my sake."

(Sanhedrin 37a)

And the soul of every Jew "... is truly a part of G-d." Every Jew knows this and feels it unless he directs his interest to other matters. If he directs his mind to his soul he will feel and know that it is truly a part of G-d.

There are, however, genuine factors which may block or conceal the soul. Therefore a Jew must do his service without being intimidated by the restrictions or blockages -- to the point that he will correct them to his side. Then the soul also rises higher than before. The opposition of the materialistic "worldliness" gives him the opportunity to rise higher by overcoming them. How do we apply this thought?

In order to be involved in spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit one must walk out into the thoroughfares of the world, among the gentiles. He will come face to face with the reality of worldliness. Knowing that this also stems from G-dliness he is not "phased," but goes on to disseminate Torah in the "outside," in the normal orderly manner, as well as the supernatural way.

Sometimes even on tried and true paths there are obstacles, and great efforts must be exerted just to keep pace with previous levels of accomplishment. As with Shabbos, we must draw out the holiness so that the Divine service of the new path will reach higher; by overcoming the obstacles of the old order we reach a higher level in the new order.

The Rambam connects the redemption to the diaspora, that in order to have the power to do mitzvos in the future world we must have mitzvos now, for they serve as a matrix for the future actions. So "golah" and "geulah" are opposites yet they are interdependent -- and by introducing the "Aleph" -- the Ruler of the world -- we change "Golah" to "Geulah." Without Golah there can be no redemption.

May the redemption come speedily as we say in our daily prayers: "May our eyes behold Your return to Tzion in mercy," (Siddur, Amidah) speedily and truly, in our time.

3

Since the land is Mine, no land shall be sold permanently. For you are foreigners and residents as far as I am concerned (lit. with me).

(Vayikra 25:23)

Rashi carefully analyzes and comments on this verse:

No land shall be sold -- [This is intended] to charge with the transgression of a negative command [the neglect of] returning the fields to their owners in the Jubilee year (it commands) that the purchaser must not detain it.

Permanently -- (means) for severance; (the meaning is: it shall not be sold) as a sale that severs in perpetuity.

Since the land is Mine -- your eye shall not be evil towards it (you shall not begrudge this, for it is not yours).

The question is, how can Rashi be satisfied by interpreting these words only, while ignoring the latter half of the sentence?

  1. The term "Kee" -- For (you are foreigners...)" clearly indicates the introduction of a reason or cause, but the verse already gave as a reason: "Since the land is Mine ..."! Why is there a second reason?

  2. If we analyze the contents of the phrase "foreigners and residents" we find a paradox -- if they are "foreigners" (gerim) they are not "residents" (toshavim) and vice versa. And if they are residents then why can't they sell the land? They should have full ownership of the land and be capable of selling it.

The five-year-old Chumash student also remembers that back in the portion of Chaye Sarah, when Avraham used the same terms in speaking to the residents of Chevron, Rashi did mention the paradox and did take the time to clarify Avraham's proclamation. There Rashi concluded "And if I am a resident I will take it by power of law!" This reiterates the point that a resident does have the full power of ownership of the land.

Another point needs clarification. Rashi brings the commentary from Toras Kohanim. But in the Toras Kohanim it does go on to explain the latter half of the verse. On the words "For you are foreigners and residents ..." the Toras Kohanim (Sifrei) says:

Do not make yourselves important as it is said: "For we are strangers before You and sojourners, as were all our fathers." (Divrei Hayomim I 29:15)

and similarly Dovid said:

For I am a stranger here with You, a sojourner as all my fathers were. (Tehillim 39:13)

These verses would indicate a negation of real ownership and that the residency is in a manner of foreigners or alien residency. Thus the Toras Kohanim shows that we truly cannot sell the land permanently. This being the case why did not Rashi go on to quote the rest of the Sifrei (Toras Kohanim)?

The explanation is as follows. When we learn the verse: "No land shall be sold permanently, since the land is Mine," we are puzzled. What difference does it make to G-d, the true owner of the land, if Reuven (the buyer) continues to own the land after the Jubilee or if the land reverts to the ownership of Shimon (the seller); it does not affect the ultimate ownership of the Holy One, Blessed be He?

Rashi considered this question. He comments on the words "For the land is Mine" that "your eyes shall not be evil towards it for it is not yours." In other words, "For the land is Mine" is not the reason for the prohibition to sell the land it is a form of consolation to bring solace to the mind of the buyer -- "Don't feel bad that you have to return the land to the seller -- it really was not yours (or his)! It belongs to the Holy One, Blessed be He."

We may still question the meaning of the words, "it is not yours." Did not G-d give the Holy Land to the Jewish people? As Avraham was told in the "covenant between the halves": "... to your offspring I have given this land," on which Rashi points out: "The word of G-d is as if it were done" (Bereishis 15:18). During the years that the Jews spent in the desert there were certain mitzvos in whose merit they were to inherit the land. These mitzvos were fulfilled by now and the inheritance of the land should have been effected. Now, does not the land belong to those who earned it? When that owner sells it -- legal and proper -- Torah law would dictate that the buyer gains the title to the land. So how can Rashi say "It is not yours"?

For this reason Scripture must go on to say: "For you are foreigners and residents as far as I am concerned (with Me)." Until you actually settle the land you are foreigners -- even now as we stand at Mount Sinai and speak of the promise it is still not yours. And later, when you will enter and settle the land, your ownership will still be a partnership with Me. Do not feel bad that you cannot sell the land, we are partners.

Rashi had no reason to quote the Sifrei because now the meaning is simple and clear. There is no need to introduce additional points of "fathers, etc."


  18th Day Of Iyar, 5745Pride And Humility  
  
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