Illuminations #42, Elul 5775, Parshat Shoftim

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Illuminations #42, Elul 5775, Shoftim

Torah Gems

The pasuk of the Arei Miklat, cities of refuge, commands that there should be signs which show exactly where they are located in order for it to be easy for one to find. However, when the Jewish people are being Oleh Regel (Pilgrimage), there were no signs with directions to the Beit Hamikdash. Why was it that by the Arei Miklat there were exact directions and none at all for Klal Yisrael to get to the Beit Hamikdash?

The Chofetz Chaim answers that the Arei Miklat were the intended destinations for a murderer. The Torah did not want a murderer to converse with people and get directions from them. Hashem did not want him to talk to people: not for a drink, not for a ride and not even for directions. There should be no reason at all for him to talk to anyone. We make it so simple for him so he should not need to ask anyone where to go, what to do, or even to utter a single word. On the reverse side, by oleh regel, it is the exact opposite. We want him to converse and ask people for directions and to meet people in order to make an impression on others to also go to the Beit Hamikdash. When others around him find out that he is going to such a special place, they will want to join him. In order for this to occur, there are no signs posted with directions to the Har Habayit.

There is a valuable lesson we learn from here. We have to realize how much our everyday actions can impact people around us. We have the power to change someone’s life. As humans, all of our actions are being watched, for good or unfortunately for bad.


Parsha Pearls

The pasuk (17:18) states that there is a mitzvah for a Jewish king to write a sefer Torah before the Kohanim and Levi’im. Why does it need to be done in front of the Kohanim and Levi’im? The Netziv answers that the purpose of the mitzvah is for the king to read it to the people and try to influence them. In order for the words of Torah to penetrate, it has to come from kedusha, otherwise it will not last.

The Gemara (Bava Metziah) illustrates this point beautifully. The great Amorah Rav Chiya told Rav Chanina that he can make so the Torah will never be forgotten from Klal Yisrael. He continued to say that he would go and sow flax. From the grown flax he would weave nets, and with those nets he would trap deer. He would then take the deer meat and feed orphans with it. After that he would use the deer skin to prepare parchment in order to write the five parshiyot of the Torah. Next, he would go to a poor village where there are no teachers and select five boys. To each boy, he would teach a sefer of Chumash. Then he would select another group of six boys and teach them a sefer of Mishnayot. He would tell all eleven boys that each of them should teach their neighbor what they have learnt and acquired and ultimately they would all teach each other the entire Chumash and Mishnayot. Rav Chiya goes on to explain that this way Torah would never be forgotten from Klal Yisrael. Clearly, in order for the words of Torah to penetrate, the entire process beginning from planting the flax seeds needs to be done with kedusha.


Glimpses of Greatness

The Chofetz Chaim once walked out of a shul and he saw a Jew being mechalel Shabbos (desecrating Shabbos). He sat there and cried for a full hour. The next Shabbos, he walked out of the same shul and saw another man being mechalel Shabbos. This time, he cried for an hour and a half. His talmidim asked, “Rebbe, why did you cry longer than you did last week?” The Chofetz Chaim responded that when he saw this Jew being mechalel Shabbos, he cried for 45 minutes and he felt like that was enough time. Later he realized that he had cried shorter than last time and it must be that he lost his sensitivity to chilul Shabbos. He therefore made up for that loss and cried for an additional 45 minutes the second time.


Halacha Weekly

Q: If one made dairy bread by mistake does one have to throw it away because of the prohibition of baking dairy or meat bread?
A: Let’s review the laws of the prohibition: one is in general prohibited to bake dairy or meat bread. However, if the bread is in a different shape, or is sufficient for only one meal, then it is permitted for use.  Therefore, if one by mistake baked dairy bread (in the normal shape), one is not allowed to mix it with other dairy foods and then use it later. There must be none left over for another meal.
Likewise, if one by mistake spilled milk over bread, one could use the bread with a dairy meal. However, it should be used right away and not be kept for a period of time because one may forget and eat it with a meat meal.
Also, one is not allowed to make dairy bread or rolls with the intent to divide them among different families, even if it is enough to be used for only one day.
Using a sign or sticker saying that the bread is dairy or meat does not help to remove the prohibition of not baking dairy or meat bread.