Illuminations #41, Tammuz 5775, Parshat Devarim

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Illuminations #41, Tammuz 5775, Devarim

Torah Gems

Yaakov Avinu had twelve sons. Each son was given one portion except Yosef, who was given two portions, which were assigned to his two sons, Efraim and Manasheh. Since he received a double portion, there was no tribe called Yosef. Hence, there were actually thirteen tribes. Yet, in  reference to the ill-fated spies, Moshe said, “I took from you twelve men, one man for each tribe” (Devarim 1:23). there were thirteen tribes, and yet only twelve spies were sent. Rashi explains that the tribe of Levi did not participate in the incident of the spies.

The Torah (Shelach 13:9-15) lists all the tribes who sent a spy. Since the tribe of Levi is not mentioned in this list, the Torah thereby informs us that Levi did not send a representative. If so, why does the Torah repeat the fact that Levi did not engage in the tragic incident of the spies in Devarim?

Not only did Levi not send a representative to physically go with the other spies (as taught in Shelach), but they totally disassociated themselves from the spies (as taught in Devarim). The Torah considers it commendable that the tribe of Levi rejected the lashon hara spoken by the other tribes. They separated themselves from physical involvement, and, just as importantly, they separated themselves ideologically from the corrupt counsel of the spies. Throughout the entire incident, they remained faithful to Hashem and Moshe.

One of the positive spiritual traits is nekiyus, cleanliness, as explained by Ramchal in his work Mesilas Yesharim. Nekiyus means not only refraining from inappropriate conduct, but even more, removing oneself from every trace of such conduct. For instance, Hillel was totally clean from anger. Not only did he withhold himself from expressing anger, but he never felt a trace of anger in his heart. He was absolutely “clean” from anger.

If we remember the example of the tribe of Levi, to separate ourselves externally and internally from corruption, we will protect our spirituality and grow to great spiritual heights. (Based on Da’as Torah of Rav Yerucham Levovitz)


Parsha Pearls

It says in the Parsha איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם “How can I carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarells?” The Ramban teaches: we see from here that the Jewish leaders have three obligations.   טרחכם-This refers to the exertion required in teaching the people Torah.

ומשאכם- This refers to the obligation of the leader to carry the burden of the nation on his shoulders, and to pray for any individual who is in distress. A true leader pours out his heart and soul in prayer on behalf of those who are suffering , begging Hashem to grant them recovery and salvation.

וריבכם-  This refers to the leader’s obligation to mediate conflict and to render a judgment to people who are fighting.

A certain Rosh Yeshivah came to the Chazon Ish and told him that one of his young students was plagued by doubts in emunah, especially during prayer. The Chazon Ish was deeply pained by this story, and took pity on the student. For a while, he sat in his place, his eyes radiating sorrow over the boy’s predicament.

He did not know this boy at all,  but he asked for his name and his mother’s name, and prayed fervently that he merit a spiritual recovery. He did not content himself only with prayer, however: he also gave the Rosh Yeshiva advice on what subjects to learn with this bachur in order to help him emerge from his doubtful state.


Glimpses of Greatness

We are all brothers!

The following story took place at the wedding of Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz and the daughter of the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel. Reb Chaim was a talmid of Novordhok Yeshiva, which was famous for its strict mussar. At the meal following the chuppah, one of the Mirrer talmidim stood up and started saying grammen (semi-humurous rhymes), as was customary at weddings. For the Novordhok bachurim, however, the grammen were considered excessive levity. Matters became tense, and an argument between the two yeshivos broke out right in the middle of the chasunah. Finally, Rabbi Yerucham Levovits, the great Mirrer Mashgiach, was forced to climb onto a chair and start yelling at all those present, “We’re all brothers! This is crazy, Mirrers and Novordhokers fighting, We’re all brothers!”

Our differences today are often much greater than those between Mir and Novorhok, but we would do well to keep in mind Reb Yerucham’s words: “We are all brothers!”


Halacha Weekly

Q. During the Nine Days, since we do not eat meat, can one bake dairy bread?
A. One is not permitted to bake dairy or meat bread. If one did so by mistake, it is prohibited to eat it, and it should be thrown away.
Baking a dairy or meat bread  is permissible under these conditions only:
a) if one makes the loaf in a different shape than is normally sold in the market (e.g. like English muffins)
b) if one makes enough only for only one meal (i.e. there is none left over for another meal), even if it is not in a different shape, then this is allowed.
However, during the Nine Days when one does not eat meat, one is still forbidden to make dairy bread in the normal shape of bread.
The reason for these laws is that bread is very accessible to everyone, and it is used at all meals. Therefore, it could be that someone by mistake may bring it to a meal where it is not fitting for it to be there (for example dairy bread at a meat meal).


In honor of Yehonasan Naftali ben Chaya Sarah, Jonathan Klein.

Thank you for all that you have done for our kollel and Refuah shalaima!

Dovid and Devorah Kapenstein