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Toronto Torah

Beit Midrash Zichron Dov
Parshat Yitro 22 Shevat 5773/February 2, 2013
This issue of Toronto Torah is sponsored by Esther and Craig Guttmann in memory of Esther’s mother, ‫בריינדל בת ישעיהו ז“ל‬


Vol.4 Num. 20

Two Tablets, Two Approaches
Should we punish crime harshly, expressing our disgust with the human soul which has degraded itself, or do we try for a more gentle rehabilitation, respecting the inherent value of the human soul? Each view has its merits, and each view is anchored in the story of the creation of humanity as well as the tablets upon which were inscribed the Aseret haDibrot. The view that human life possesses automatic value takes its cue from G-d's initial instruction to humanity. When G-d created Adam and Chavah, He told them, "Bear fruit and become many." There were no explicitly stated qualifications, such as, "Bear fruit if you will follow My commandments," or, "Become many in order to serve G-d." And at Sinai, the second tablet bore instructions not to murder, not to steal, not to commit sexual immorality, not to testify falsely about others, and not to covet, without explicit limitations like, "Don’t murder Torah scholars," "Don’t testify against philanthropists." The spiritual level of the victim is not a consideration. The second view, that human life is valuable only insofar as it is used in a worthy way, takes its cue from Divine creation "in His image," with an associated spiritual capacity. Sinai's first tablet explicitly declares the spiritual expectations placed upon each of us, beginning with, "I am Hashem, your G-d," and continuing to warn us about worshipping G-d, honouring the Divine and commemorating Divine Creation. The message on the first tablet is this: We have a relationship with Hashem. We may read both of these views into Yitro's visit at the beginning of our parshah, and a split between the approaches of Moshe and Yitro. As the Torah puts it, "Yitro heard all that Hashem had done for Moshe, and for the Jewish people." (Shemot 18:1) Understanding this literally, Yitro heard how Hashem had split the sea for us, and how Hashem had provided manna and water in the desert. Yitro was excited by all of the good things Hashem had done for the Jewish people; he mentioned nothing, explicitly, about the harm done to the Egyptians. On the other hand, Moshe told Yitro more about what had been happening, and with a very different focus. The Torah informs us (ibid. 18:8) that Moshe told his father-in-law everything that Hashem had done to Pharaoh and to Egypt. This was not about the salvation of the Jews, but the punishment of the Egyptians, the humiliation of Pharaoh, the plagues, the death, and the drowning in the sea. Yitro came to hear positives, but Moshe said, "I also want to tell you about how Hashem punished the Egyptians." N o o n e c an q ue s t i on M o s h e ’ s compassion or his sensitivity to suffering; from his youth to his old age, Moshe endangered himself to save others from pain. According to a classic midrash (Shemot Rabbah 2), Moshe was hired to lead the Jews because of his great compassion! Surely, Moshe agrees that we treasure human life - but he

Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
simultaneously insists upon standards more lofty than DNA and the opposable thumb. Moshe demands that our expectations be founded on the principle of merit - and so the Egyptians deserve their fate, and we must accept that. In His role as judge and executioner for all of the punishments listed in the Torah, Hashem appears to take Moshe’s side, and that of the first tablet: Humanity’s Divine protection is linked to its spiritual accomplishment, and those who fall short are unworthy of Divine favour. True, we are taught that Hashem is "pained" when He metes out a penalty, but Hashem is described in Shemot 15 as a warrior, ready and able to act with violence against those who violate His demands. Further, we will soon read about the Golden Calf, and the way Moshe instructed the family of Levi to wield their swords and attack those who had worshipped this idol, to execute without trial or hearing. Hashem honoured those same Levites with the opportunity to work in the Beit haMikdash, the ultimate place of peace. To return to our opening passage: Granted that these sources seem to militate for harsh justice, it would be absurd to present practical guidelines for criminal justice on the basis of this brief, somewhat oversimplified analysis. However, we may deduce a lesson regarding the way we deal with ourselves. When addressing other people, we might opt for the first tablet and the way of Yitro, honouring all human beings, but for ourselves we ought to choose the "image of G-d" and the tablet that says, "Your value depends on what you do with your life." May our expectation of ourselves and of our children be not the least-commondenominator "Do not murder," but "Anochi Hashem Elokecha," to develop and live in a relationship with G-d. torczyner@torontotorah.com We are grateful to Continental Press 905-660-0311

Special Mini-Series Beginning This Week!

Controversial Episodes in Tanach
with Adam Frieberg, 8:00 PM Tuesdays at Shaarei Tefillah

David and Batsheva
with Hillel Horovitz, 7:30 PM Tues. at Kehillat Shaarei Torah

Praying for Death
There is a contemporary debate about the propriety of praying for the death of a sick person. The topic originates in a gemara, is discussed by one of the rishonim, and is debated by modern poskim. The Talmud (Ketuvot 104a) says that when Rebbi was on his deathbed, the sages decreed that everyone should fast for him, and that everyone should pray for mercy for him. Rebbi’s maidservant went to the roof of the building, and prayed, “Those above want Rebbi, and those below want Rebbi. May it be Your will that those below prevail.” When she saw how difficult Rebbi’s life was, she changed her mind, and instead prayed for Rebbi’s death. She prayed, “Those above want Rebbi, and those below want Rebbi. May it be Your will that those above prevail.” When she saw that the sages continued to pray for Rebbi to live, she dropped a pot from the roof, and the sound caused the rabbis to stop praying. When they stopped praying, Rebbi died. We see in this gemara that Rebbi’s maidservant prayed for him to die. Ran (Nedarim 40a) suggests that there are times when it i s actually appropriate to pray for someone to die. For example, if a person is in great pain, and will not live for much longer, the Ran says that one “must” request mercy so that the sick person will die. He proves this from the act of Rebbi’s maidservant. But do we follow this view? Should one pray for the death of a sick person? The Aruch HaShulchan (YD 335:3) quotes Ran, indicating that he thinks that this is the halachah. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo

Yair Manas
1:91) agrees, but adds one caveat. He says that even when a person prays for the death of a sick person, he must continue to take all actions necessary to prolong the life of the person, including desecrating Shabbat to save the person. Evidently, failure to take the proper action to save a person equals actively killing him, but praying for the death of another is not active killing. Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer - Ramat Rachel 5:5) fundamentally disagrees with the above approach on two grounds. First, he notes that Ran is the only early authority who suggests to pray for someone to die, and that the Tur, the Shulchan Aruch, and all other halachic works do not quote the Ran's view as the normative halachah. Rabbi Waldenberg also attacks the proof from the story of Rebbi’s maidservant. He suggests that if we take a closer look at the story, we see that there are actually two opinions about davening for death. Rebbi’s maidservant davens for death, but the sages daven for life. The halachah should then follow the sages, and it should be forbidden to daven for someone to die! We must note that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe CM 2:73) points out that the halachah often does follow the actions of the maidservant of Rebbi, when they are recorded in the gemara. Thus, one who is unfortunately presented with such an issue should consult with their Rabbi for guidance. ymanas@torontotorah.com

Hitoriri: Jewish Spirituality

The Fleeting Moment
Rabbi Ezra Goldschmiedt
After being miraculously saved by a near-death experience, an individual approached the Chazon Ish with the following question: 'After my experience, I was inspired; I felt like my life would never be the same. Yet the next day, my tefillah was no different than before! Why hasn't this experience carried me to spiritual growth?' 'One sees and one sees and one doesn't change,' the Chazon Ish replied.'Miracles make us desire a life of perfection and greater holiness, but our baser inclinations then work even harder to bring us back to equilibrium.' No one moment, however incredible, can bring us to lead inspired lives. (C.R. Wagschal, You Can Make the Difference, page 204) The Gemara in Zevachim (116a) remarks that Yitro was moved to join the Israelites after hearing about the splitting of the sea and the war against Amalek. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (Emet VeEmunah 391) notes that among all of the miraculous events of the Exodus, these two stand out for the lesson they teach us about the psychology of inspiration. Until these events, Yitro felt that the world order would change and that he could watch it all unfold from the comfort of his home; the clear display of G-d's providence through the course of the exodus would inspire the entire world to live in service of G-d, and acknowledge the Israelites' ability to lead that charge. But then came Amalek. Despite the awe engendered by the splitting of the sea – the height of G-d expressing His might and providence to the world – a nation had the brazenness to challenge Him and His people. The lesson the world had learned was forgotten far too easily. As powerful and inspiring as a moment in time can be, it is only a moment, with an effect that over time will naturally fade away. Yitro learned from Amalek that when it comes to the hold of an inspiring moment, nothing is guaranteed. To live a life of growth, he would need more than an internal resolve to do so; Yitro learned that he needed to place himself in an environment which would actively reinforce that resolve and create new opportunities for inspiration on a regular basis. May we, too, go beyond the inspired moment, taking practical steps to ensure that we can be successful when, inevitably, that inspiration leaves us. egoldschmiedt@torontotorah.com

613 Mitzvot: #241-242

Blame G-d, Not Man
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
The Torah instructs us not to take revenge (#241) and not to bear a grudge (#242). “Revenge” is defined as acting against someone, or refusing to help him, if he has harmed me in the past. “Bearing a grudge” refers to reminding people of their past offenses. Obviously, these prohibitions are necessary for the sake of human society, but the Sefer haChinuch identified another issue involved as well. A person who takes revenge, or harbors a grudge, views his antagonist as the root of his troubles. This removes G-d from the picture, and the Jew is meant to seek messages from G-d in his suffering. [We are taught that not every form of suffering is punishment from G-d, but we are also taught to treat it as though we are meant to learn something from it.] Thus, rather than look to take revenge, we confirm our faith by placing the “blame” upon G-d and not upon Man. torczyner@torontotorah.com


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Biography: Rabbi Meir Simchah haKohen

Adam Frieberg

This Week in Israeli History

Torah in Translation

The Fall of our Foes
Rabbi Meir Simchah haKohen
Meshech Chochmah Shemot 12:16
Translated by Adam Frieberg
Shemot 12:16 says, "On the first day shall be a holy convocation and on the seventh day shall be a holy convocation." During the Pesach that was observed in Egypt, the prohibition of chametz was only for one day, and they have also written that the festival was not practiced. In my opinion, G-d taught this generation something for future generations [i.e., the full 7-day holiday] in order to teach them the perfection of G-d’s commandments. All other nations, with their rational religions, make the day of victory, the day of their enemy’s downfall, into a victory celebration. Not so in Israel; they do not rejoice at the downfall of their enemies, they do not celebrate this happily, as Proverbs 24:17-18 states, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and when he stumbles let not your heart exult, lest G-d see and it will be bad in His eyes and He will turn His wrath from upon him.” We see that a refined person should not rejoice in the downfall of his enemy, for such happiness is wrong in the eyes of G-d; one must hate that which is bad in the eyes of G-d! And therefore, Pesach is not called, “The Festival of Matzot, for then G-d brought Egypt to justice,” but rather, “for then G-d took Israel out of Egypt.” But regarding the downfall of enemies there is neither festival nor holiday for Israel. Therefore, regarding the miracle of Chanukah, the day was only established upon the lighting of the olive oil, and the rededication of the Temple and its purification, and upon the Divine providence that was shown towards the Jewish people at a time when there were no prophets or seers in Israel. Therefore the lighting was established for a matter that was not public, the kindling for eight days in the Temple, since the leaders and the other army generals were the High Priests, the Hasmoneans. G-d was concerned lest they say, "By the might my hand," that through military strategy did we succeed, and so G-d showed them a sign in the Temple, known only the kohanim, so that they should know that the hand of G-d had done this…

Rabbi Meir Simchah HaKohen was born in 1843 in a village near Vilna and lived for many years in Bialystok. In 1888 he was appointed rabbi of Dvinsk, serving alongside Rabbi Yosef Rosen (the "Rogatchover Gaon"), who led the Chassidic community. In 1906, after the passing of Rabbi Avraham David Rabinowitz (Aderet, father-in-law of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook), the rabbinate of Jerusalem was offered to Rabbi Meir Simchah. He declined, agreeing to the request of his community to remain in Dvinsk. That same year, a man claimed to have discovered two tractates of the Jerusalem Talmud, Bechorot and Chullin, which had been lost for centuries. Rabbi Meir Simchah, along with the Rogatchover Gaon, Rav Ber Rothner and the Gerrer Rebbe, proved that these "newly discovered editions" were clever forgeries. Rabbi Meir Simchah remained in Dvinsk throughout World War I, and passed away there in 1926. Rabbi Meir Simchah authored two well-known works: the "Or Sameach" commentary on Rambam's Mishneh Torah and "Meshech Chochmah", a commentary on the Torah. afrieberg@torontotorah.com

Shevat 25 1942 The Murder of Avraham Stern
Hillel Horovitz
25 Shevat is Tuesday Avraham Stern was the founder of the Lechi (Lochamei Cherut Yisrael) underground organization. Lechi activities against the British Mandate led the British to launch a broad manhunt for Stern and his colleagues; in January 1942, British police put a prize of 1000 pounds on their heads. Stern was forced to wander the streets of Tel Aviv, carrying a folding cot and a suitcase holding a Tanach and a Hebrew dictionary. In the last three weeks of his life, Stern lived in the home of Tova and Moshe Savorai, in the Florentine neighbourhood in Tel Aviv. On 25 Shevat (February 12), 1942, there was a soft knock at the door of the Savorai home. Stern hid in a closet, and Tova went to the door. At the entrance stood British officer James Wilkin, with two British detectives. The detectives found Stern. When their supervisor, Geoffrey Morton, arrived, he sent out most of the room's occupants. Then three shots were heard by those outside, and Stern was dead. Morton later claimed that Stern had been removed from the closet and had then lurched toward the window, beyond which was a flat roof. According to Morton, he had fired at Stern because he had felt threatened. Y e a r s l a t e r , Le ch i m e m b e r s publicized the words of Sergeant Daniel Day, the guard who had been with Morton and Stern: "After Morton instructed everyone to leave the apartment, taking Tovah Savorai with them, only the two of us, Morton and I, remained with Stern. Then Morton walked up behind Stern, pushed him to the window and shot him in the head. Stern fell, and Morton continued to fire at his chest. Then he turned to me and said, 'You saw that he tried to flee.'" After Stern's murder, his son, Yair, was born; Yair went on to become a journalist and director of Israeli television. Today, the apartment where Stern was killed has been converted into "The Lechi Museum" and is open to the public. hhorovitz@torontotorah.com

And here, the Egyptians drowned in the sea on the seventh day of Pesach. (Rashi to Shemot 14:8) If G-d would have told them to declare the seventh day sacred, one would have assumed that G-d had instruccted to create a holiday to rejoice at the downfall of the wicked. In truth, we have found that [the angels] did not sing in front of Him, as it says, “and one did not come near the other,” for G-d does not rejoice in the downfall of the wicked. And therefore, already in Egypt [the Jews] were taught to make the seventh day into a festival, in order to show that the festival is not because of the drowning of the Egyptians in the sea, for they had been commanded [to celebrate] before Also, for the miracle of Purim they did not the Egyptians drowned at sea. create a festival on the day Haman was hanged or the day they killed their enemies, for this would not be joy for His nation, Israel. The holiday is "on the days they rested from their foes." (Esther 9:22)…

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Our Haftorah: Yeshayah 6:1 - 7:6, 9:5-6
Who is the prophet of our haftorah? Yeshayah (Isaiah) was a prophet in the period leading up to the exile of the ten northern tribes of Yisrael by the Assyrians. He lived in the southern k i n gd om of Ye h ud a h , a n d he prophesied during the reigns of Kings Uziahu, Yotam, Achaz and Chizkiyahu. Talmud (Sotah 10a) states that he was a descendant of Yehudah and Tamar. The prophecies of Yeshayah may be classified in two categories, Rebuke and Redemption; the former dominates the early chapters of the book, while the latter occupies the latter portion. The split is not clean, though; portions of the former include redemption, and portions of the latter include rebuke. What is the message of our haftorah? Two prophets were privileged to envision the Divine throne room, and even to experience a "vision" of G-d, seated upon a throne. The first was Yeshayah, whose prophecy is presented in our haftorah; the second was Yechezkel, whose prophecy is presented in the first chapter of his book, and read publicly on Shavuot. Both of these readings are intended to correspond with the public reading of the Revelation at Sinai. One might have expected Yeshayah and Yechezkel to report similar experiences, but the two visions differ from each other in their focus. Yeshayah devotes only one sentence (Yechezkel 6:2) to a description of the angels inhabiting the Divine throne room, where Yechezkel devotes more than twenty sentences (Yechezkel 1:4-28) to that purpose. The Talmud (Chagigah 13b, as explained by Rashi) suggests that Yeshayah lived in Yehudah, and was familiar with the grandeur of kings, and so he did not spend time describing the grandeur of the Divine throne room. Yechezkel lived in Babylon, among exiles, and so he was impressed by the trappings of Divine majesty. [For other approaches to this Talmudic passage, see Tosafot and Maharsha there.] The visions of Yeshayah and Yechezkel provide us with the songs of the angels. In our haftorah (Yeshayah 6:3), Yeshayah describes the celestial song of praise to G-d, "Holy, Holy, Holy, G-d, Lord of Hosts, the entire universe is filled with His glory." Yechezkel adds the song, "Blessed be the glory of G-d, from His place." (Yechezkel 3:12) These are the central lines of our own Kedushah poem. The death of King Uziahu The message in our haftorah dates itself to "the year of the death of King Uziahu." (Yeshayah 6:1) What was the significance of the death of this king, in relation to Yeshayah's vision?

Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
Divrei haYamim II 26 describes Uziahu as a righteous king of Yehudah, the southern Jewish kingdom. He sought out G-d, battled the foes of the Jews, and built up the city of Yerushalayim. However, Divrei haYamim continues to describe him as becoming arrogant in his success, to the point that he sought to bring incense upon the altar himself, despite the fact that he was not a kohen. Tzaraat broke out upon his forehead, and he left the Beit haMikdash in shame. Amos 1:1 and Zecharyah 14:5 make reference to an earthquake which occurred in the time of King Uziahu. Bringing in midrashic passages (see Seder Olam Rabbah 20, Radak Amos 1:1 and Rashi Yeshayah 6:1, for example), the earthquake, the tzaraat, and the death of King Uziahu are all referenced at the start of our haftorah. At this time, when one of our greatest kings overreached in his arrogance, violated the sacred space of the Beit haMikdash, and was punished, Hashem showed the prophet Yeshayah a vision of His throne room. Gd then warned Yeshayah, and through him the Jewish nation, of the impending devastation at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. The link between Uziahu's death and Yeshayah's message is clear: Without proper leadership, our chances for repentance and growth are slim indeed. torczyner@torontotorah.com

Highlights for February 2 – February 8 / 22 - 28 Shevat
Shabbat, February 2 7:45 AM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Reasons for mitzvot and the parshah, Or Chaim not this week 10:20 AM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Parshah, Clanton Park 4:20 PM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Daf Yomi, BAYT After minchah R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Gemara Avodah Zarah: Heated Wine, BAYT Sunday, February 3 8:45 AM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Dental Halachah: Braces, Crowns and Mikvah (with professional credit), BAYT 9:15 AM Hillel Horovitz, Parshah Preview, Zichron Yisroel, Hebrew (Shacharit 8:30 AM) After maariv R’ Baruch Weintraub, Contemporary Halachah in Israel, Hebrew, Clanton Park, men 8:30 PM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Contemporary Halachah in Israel, Hebrew, 4 Tillingham Keep, mixed Monday, February 4 8 PM Mon. Night Beit Midrash: Clanton Park, Bnai Torah 8 PM Hillel Horovitz, Sefer Melachim, Chapters 9-11, Shlomo’s Fall?, Bnai Torah 8 PM R’ Ezra Goldschmiedt, Mesilat Yesharim, Bnai Torah, high school students 9 PM Hillel Horovitz, Rav Kook’s Ein Ayah, Bnai Torah Tuesday, February 5 1:30 PM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Daniel: The First Dream, Part 2, Shaarei Shomayim, Mekorot 7:30 PM Hillel Horovitz, David and Batsheva I of III: The Story Unfolds, KST 8 PM R’ Ezra Goldschmiedt, What would you do? The Difficult Choices of Megilat Esther, TCS 8 PM Yair Manas, Chaburah: Sanhedrin, 33 Meadowbrook 8 PM Adam Frieberg, Taking a Stand by Taking Your Life: Chananya, Mishael and Azarya, Shaarei Tefillah 8:30 PM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Rambam’s Laws of Kings: Daat Torah and Foreign Policy, Shomrai Shabbos, men Thursday, February 7 10 AM R’ Mordechai Torczyner, Jonah: Week 3, BEBY, Melton 8:00 PM Adam Frieberg, Blessings on Torah Study, Village Shul 8:30 PM R’ Baruch Weintraub, Sotah, Clanton Park not this week

Feb. 11: Medical Halachah at Shaarei Shomayim

Coming Up

Feb. 27: Prepare for Pesach! Three Nights of Interactive Learning at BAYT
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