Illuminations #40, Tammuz 5775, Parshat Matot-Masei

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Illuminations #40, Tammuz 5775, Matot-Masei

Torah Gems

The Pasuk says איש כי ידור נדר לה’ או השבע שבועה לאסור איסר על נפשו לא יחל דברו ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה The words לא יחל דברו mean he shall not break his word, and the words ככול היוצא מפיו יעשה mean that all that comes out of his mouth he shall do.

One might ask, why does the Torah repeat itself, לא יחל דברו is enough–why do I need also ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה? The answer is that the Torah is teaching us that even if it is not breaking a promise, a vow, or an oath, rather it is something you said you would do without any commitment, still you must do so.

When רבי יהושע בן לוי’s time to pass from the world the מלאך המותcame to him and revealed himself to רבי יהושע בן לוי.רבי יהושע בן לוי asked can you show me my place in גן עדן ,the מלאך agreed, רבי יהושע continued can I have your knife so that you don’t scare me and take my soul before I see my place, and the מלאך agreed. When they arrived at the doorway of  גן עדן the מלאך lifted רבי יהושע off the ground to see his place inside and רבי יהושע jumped out of his hands and onto the other side which was גן עדן. The מלאך grabbed his clothes and tried to pull him back out to the world, but immediately רבי יהושע swore he would not return to the world, and Hashem said, “Let us see if רבי יהושע ever swore and was מתיר the oath by going to another Rav and asking to remove the oath, for if he has he shall leave גן עדן and return to the world, and if he has not ever asked to remove the oath, then he can stay inside גן עדן.” Behold רבי יהושע remained in גן עדן; he went in alive.

We learn a great lesson from this story about the importance of keeping one’s word: even when it may be allowed to break that commitment, or if it wasn’t  a commitment which is allowed to be broken, still one should not.

Parsha Pearls

Parashat Masei recaps the journeys of the Jewish people in the desert, and רש”י says the following משל: A king took his very ill son on a long journey to the only doctor who may be able to cure him. He overcame many obstacles and challenges along the way, but finally reached the doctor who was able to cure his son. Since the son had been delirious during the trip to the doctor, the king returned the same way that he had come, and at each point stopped to tell his son what had happened there.

So, too, in this week’s Parasha, Hashem is reminiscing, so to speak, with the Jewish people about the past forty years in the desert. Just as each aspect of the king’s journey was necessary to get the son to the doctor and bring about a healing,  whatever happened in the desert, for better or for worse, had molded the Jewish people into a nation that was ready to enter the Land of Israel and fulfill their destiny of becoming a light to all nations.

We can learn from this that life is a journey. We will all face challenges in good measure. And when we are going through those difficult times, it can be hard to appreciate their importance and their value. We become caught up in the frustration of the moment and don’t understand why the hardship is necessary. But with hindsight, everything always looks very different. While in the moment, it may be hard to see why something is necessary, looking back always brings great perspective. It’s never easy to understand why we need to go through certain experiences while we are going through them. But almost every time, when we look back after enough time, we can gain an understanding of their place and purpose. Every now and then, it is worthwhile to think back at the journeys of our past few years and appreciate how everything has led us to where we have needed to go. Hashem always has plans, and those plans are always good.

Glimpses of Greatness

Someone once came over to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, שליט”א, and asked him, “How many times does the word משה show up in the Torah?” Rav Chaim answered without hesitation, “614 times.” The man said that he had checked on his computer and he had found 616 times. Rav Chaim insisted that the computer was wrong and the word משה was only written 614 times. The man wondered out loud how it could be that the computer is wrong. Rav Chaim answered that the man had probably entered the letters מ.ש.ה. without any vowels looking for the name of משה רבינו. What he hadn’t realized was that there were two other words in the Torah with the same letters: מִשֶה and מַשֶה. The computer had given him the results for the letters but not for the name משה. When this story was told over to רב אריה לייב שטיינמאן שליט”א he asked them why they were so surprised? “The Torah is like a supermarket owned by the חכמים. Just like the owner knows on what isle and on which shelf every item is found, the חכמים know every part of the Torah and everything it contains.”

Halacha Weekly

Q: Can one cut through a synagogue for the sake of a mitzvah?
A: One should not use a synagogue as a shortcut or hallway to go through. However, if one comes through one door to pray or learn, and would like to hang his coat outside the synagogue, he is allowed to go through the synagogue to do that.
It is prohibited to cut through a synagogue even for the sake of a mitzvah. One is permitted to cut through, however, if one learns, or sits in a synagogue for a short amount of time in between.
One should not enter the synagogue without learning or sitting down for a short amount of time.  Even if someone forgot something inside the synagogue and is going in just to pick it up, one should still read or learn something before he leaves the synagogue. However, if someone is entering the synagogue for the sake of performing a certain mitzvah (in the synagogue) or to take his/her siddur or sefer, then they are not obligated to learn or sit.

In memory of Mafrat bat Bulor by Borris Bababekov