Friday, August 17, 2007

Parashá Shoftim

Hamaayan / The Torah Spring

Rabino Shlomo Katz
Volume 21, No. 43

4 Elul 5767
August 18, 2007

Today's Learning:
Bava Metzia 10:3-4
O.C. (Mishnah Berurah) 2:4-6
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Yevamot 107
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Yoma 9

R' Moshe Schwab z"l (1918-1979) writes: With the arrival of the month ofElul, we are faced with the question, "What is Elul?" How is this monthdifferent from every other month?
R' Yisrael Salanter z"l said, "Every month should be Elul, but Elul isElul."

R' Schwab explains: All year long, a person should act the way wetry to act during Elul. At least, when Elul arrives, one should be awarethat his life, both the material and spiritual aspects, hangs in thebalance. This is true of oneself, of one's family, and of every member ofthe Jewish People.
Elul is the time to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the days onwhich, we believe with perfect faith, we will be judged. We understandthat everything that will happen, whether on a personal or communal level,depends on those days. Yet, one cannot "leap" into Rosh Hashanah. Onemust prepare for it. To the degree that one prepares himself, to thatextent he will experience Rosh Hashanah. Conversely, to the degree thatone is lax in preparing for Rosh Hashanah, to that extent he will miss outwhen Rosh Hashanah comes.
A person who knows that he has a court date in the distant future does notlet his life be overshadowed by that upcoming event. However, as thatdate looms near, the litigant begins to fixate on it. So should we bewhen Elul approaches. All year long, we know that Rosh Hashanah is in thedistant future, and we ignore it. When Elul comes, it is time to startfocusing on our upcoming court date. Chazal say that on RoshHashanah, "Every living creature passes before Hashem." This reallymeans, "Every living creature." There are no exceptions. (Ma'archei LevVol. I, p. 57)

"The officers shall continue speaking to the people and say, `Who is theman ha'yarei / who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return tohis house, and let him not melt the heart of his fellows, like hisheart'." (20:8)
R' Meir Horowitz z"l (1819-1877; the Dzikover Rebbe) notes that theword "ha'yarei" appears twice in the Torah - here and in Shmot (9:20),regarding the plague of hailstones: "Ha'yarei / Whomever among theservants of Pharaoh feared the word of Hashem chased his servants and hislivestock to the houses." What is the significance of this pairing?
At first glance, we would assume that a person who is afraid ofeverything, even his own shadow, so-to-speak, does not fear G-d. A G-d-fearing person knows that we have nothing to fear but G-d Himself.However, our initial presumption might be wrong. A righteous person doesfear something else - his own sins and their consequences.
Our Sages say that when the officers announced that whoever is fearful andfainthearted is exempt from army service, they referred to those who werefearful of dying in battle because of their sins. [In particular, theGemara singles out the sin of talking in the middle of davening.] OurSages' interpretation is alluded to by the two appearances of theword "ha'yarei." Do not think that the fearful person in our verse is onewho does not fear G-d. He is fearful because he fears G-d. (Imrei Noam)
"They shall speak up and say, `Our hands have not spilled this blood, andour eyes did not see'." (21:7)
These words were said by the elders of a city in proximity to which acorpse was found. Our Sages ask: Would we think for a moment that theelders murdered a hapless traveler? Rather, the elders are saying: We didnot see this traveler. Had we seen him, we would have given himprovisions for the road, which might have saved his life.
R' Chaim Yosef David Azulai z"l (Chida; died 1806) quotes a certain R'Ephraim who notes that the Hebrew words "lo shafchu" are an acronymfor "Levayah / accompaniment, achilah / food, shetiyah / drink, parnassatkol ha'derech / provisions for the whole way." (Nachal Kedumim) ******** Shemittah
[This coming year - 5768 - will be a shemittah / sabbatical year, whencertain agricultural activities are prohibited in Eretz Yisrael. Inpreparation, we are devoting a portion of each issue to legal and/orphilosophical aspects of the sabbatical year. The following laws aretaken from Chapter 2 of Sefer Ha'shemittah, by R' Yechiel MichelTukochinski z"l (1872-1956), a prominent halachic authority inYerushalayim, probably best known outside of Israel for his work GesherHa'chaim on the laws of mourning.]
The shemittah includes four general commandments:
1) Letting the earth rest from agricultural work, as the Torah says(Vayikra 25:2), "The land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Hashem." TheTorah also states (Shmot 34:21), "You shall desist from plowing andharvesting," and (Vayikra 25:4-5), "Your field you shall not sow and yourvineyard you shall not prune; the aftergrowth of your harvest you shallnot reap and the grapes you had set aside for yourself you shall not pick."
2) One does not transgress the law of "You shall desist from plowing andharvesting" unless he physically works the field of a Jew, whether his ownfield or the field of another Jew. However, the owner of a fieldtransgresses the positive commandment of "The land shall observe a Sabbathrest for Hashem" if his field is worked by anyone, even a non-Jew.
3) It is a mitzvah to abandon the produce of one's fields that grows inthe seventh year and to declare it hefker / ownerless, as it is written(Shmot 23:11), "And in the seventh, you shall leave it untended andunharvested, and the destitute of your people shall eat . . ."
4) All produce that grows on its own, whether on trees or in the fields, mustbe treated as hefker. One may bring from them into his house likeanything that he acquired from hefker. However, one may not lock hisgardens. One who does lock his garden or who gathers all of his produceinto his house [at one time] transgresses this positive commandment.
5) If one did guard his produce, most poskim / halachic authorities hold thatthe produce does not thereby become prohibited [although a mitzvah wastransgressed].
6) Fields that are adjacent to non-Jewish communities, like fields on theborders of Eretz Yisrael, may be guarded so that they will not be looted.In such a case, it appears [R' Tukochinski writes] that one may bring morethan his immediate needs home at one time; however, one should harvestwith a shinui / a change from the ordinary method. Of course, even insuch a field, one must let any Jew take from the produce.
7) It is a mitzvah to treat the produce of shemittah with sanctity and notto market or waste it. This is learned from the verse (Vayikra25:6), "The Sabbath produce of the land shall be yours to eat," [i.e., toeat, but not to market or waste]. This mitzvah includes the requirementto destroy all of the remaining produce at a certain time, for the nextverse continues, "And for your animal and for the beast that is in yourland shall all its crop be to eat." [Ed. note: From here our Sages learnedthat each type of produce of the shemittah may be eaten only so long as itis found in the wild. This mitzvah, called "Biur," will be discussed in afuture issue.]
8) The fourth commandment is not dependent upon the Land. It is toforgive outstanding loans at the end of the shemittah year. [This, too,will be discussed in a future issue.] ********
More "Ma'aseh Rav" from the Diaries
In addition to the historical interest of Eleh Masei, subtitled "A Journalof the Journey of the Rabbis, Members of the Committee to Raise the Crownof Judaism in Our Holy Land, Who Toured All the Settlements of Shomron[Samaria] and Galil [Galilee] in the Winter of 5674 [1914]," the work fromwhich we have been presenting excerpts this past year is significant as asource of reliable information about the halachic practices of some of theleading Torah figures of early 20th-century Eretz Yisrael, especially R'Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z"l, later Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of theHoly Land, and R' Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, z"l, later Chief Rabbi of theEidah Ha'chareidit in Yerushalayim. Such halachic rulings, derived notfrom the express rulings of Torah scholars, but rather from their actions,are referred to as Ma'aseh Rav / action of the rabbi. We presented someexamples two weeks ago, and below are some additional ones.
In Teveryah, R' Kook, who was a kohen, did not enter the place commonlyreferred to as the grave of Rabbi Meir Ba'al Ha'nes. [Even though thereare authorities who maintain that the graves of tzaddikim do not generateritual impurity and there are others who maintain that nobody is buried inthe "grave" of Rabbi Meir Ba'al Ha'nes - at least not a Jew - R' Kookacted stringently.]
In Poriah, the rabbis praised the actions of the settlers, who caught anArab thief and turned him over to the governing [non-Jewish] authoritiesrather than taking the law into their own hands. The rabbis noted theirawe of the settlers who, because it was late at night when the thief wascaught, gave him dinner and a comfortable bed for the night.
Upon leaving the settlement of Merchaviah, the rabbis opted to travel inthe less comfortable and less dignified wagon owned by a Jew over thenicer wagon of a non-Jew. [By so doing, they fulfilled one or both of thefollowing mitzvot: (1) doing business with a Jew; and (2) giving charity,since the wagon driver likely was poor, and the highest form of charity isto give someone a job.]
[Finally, one of the participants in the rabbis' tour, R' Ben Zion Yadlerz"l, recorded in his own diary that R' Sonnenfeld would get down from thewagon from time-to-time and walk alongside because, he explained, walkingin Eretz Yisrael is itself a mitzvah.]