Illuminations #43, Elul 5775, Parshat Ki Tetzei

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Illuminations #43, Elul 5775, Parshat Ki Tetzei

Torah Gems

“You shall not bring a harlot’s hire or the exchange of a dog to the House of Hashem [for a korban].” (Devarim 23:19)

The commentators explain that an animal used for either of these two activities would be degrading to Hashem. It is quite obvious in the case of the harlot’s hire, the introduction of anything representing that lowly act would be of paramount disgrace to Hashem. However, the exchange of a dog doesn’t seem to be so terrible. Why is it equated to a harlot’s hire? Is man’s best friend really such a despicable thing in G-d’s eyes? Why is the exchange of a dog barred from becoming a sacrifice?

Hachaver Julius Klugmann zt”l was fond of quoting this novel approach to our question. The classic scenario where a person domesticates a dog is for some kind of service: for some it may be to aid the visually impaired, for others it may be for protection. Either way the dog, by his very nature, will be obedient and diligently attempt to please his owner. It will serve the master with devotion drawing instinctive satisfaction from performing the unique instructions of his particular master.

Therefore when a person exchanges a dog for another animal, the result in the eyes of the dog is utter dejection. Furthermore, he is now forced to begin the long hard task of perceiving the nuances of the new owner. By his nature he will be forced to do this. The thoughtless cruel act of exchanging a dog for another animal is equal to the lowest acts of humanity. Hashem does not want the product of this exchange as a sacrifice, it is an abomination.

“The Torah’s ways are just and her pathways lead to peace.”


Parsha Pearls

רבי חנניה בן עקשיה אומר רצה הקב”ה לזכות את ישראל לפיכך הרבה תורה ומצוות

In this week’s Parsha we read the passage concerning a wayward son. The Gemara derives many laws that are virtually impossible to fulfill, thus negating the practical application of this law. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) is well aware of this and asks, “If the punishment of a wayward son was never meted out nor will it ever be, why was the Mitzva given in the first place?” The Gemara answers, “Seek it and receive reward,” meaning in order to learn it and receive reward for the learning.

The Gemara was only echoing the Mishna. Hashem wants to give us abundant opportunities to deserve his sublime reward. This month, Elul, is auspicious for taking advantage of a unique closeness with our Beloved Father. He wants us to succeed in his service. Seek Him, and receive reward.


Glimpses of Greatness

The Meshuga (crazy one) of Radin was on his soapbox. He was preaching to any and all that might lend him half an ear. He hoarsely proclaimed over and over, “The tabak (snuff) of Shnifshuk (a neighboring town) is the only tabak worth sniffing!” Someone finally challenged him, “If it’s true as you say, then why don’t you go and bring us some of that tabak? After all, it’s the only tabak worth sniffing.” The Meshuga immediately set off on the half day’s journey to Shnifshuk to obtain some of the coveted tabak.

When he finally returned to Radin with the tabak, the whole town was assembled in the shul for Minchah and Arvit. The Meshuga bounded into the shul and raised his hand to show his thumb tightly pressed against his pointer finger. He shouted with triumph, “I got it, I brought back some tabak from Shnifshuk!” The assembled townsfolk looked at him with pity. What a fool to travel a whole day to and fro for a pinch of tabak.

The Chofetz Chaim heard the commotion and asked to speak. The small man of big words said simply, “Our neshamos travel from their place in Heaven down to the earth, and after a few short years return to Heaven. The distance is much further than from Radin to Shnifshuk. If only we would return to our posts in Heaven with ‘a pinch of tabak’-some noteworthy deeds.

Now, the townsfolk turned to pity themselves.


Halacha Weekly

Q: Inducing Labor, Part 1: Is one permitted to induce labor?
A: Many people want to induce labor for reasons of convenience versus real necessity. For instance, it is common that people decide to induce in order to have their baby on a certain day of the week, or if it is a boy, to have the brit milah take place on a weekend so that guests can come in.  According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, one is not allowed to induce labor prematurely for 2 reasons: 1) it is healthy for the baby to stay in the mother’s womb until natural birth takes place, and 2) one is not allowed to put themselves into a situation in which they will endanger themselves.
If one plans to have their baby on Shabbat, they are violating the above prohibition of endangering themselves as well as violating Shabbat for no good reason.
The proper time when natural labor occurs is not considered as intentionally endangering oneself, since G-d planned that time for labor to begin and for the baby to be born.  Therefore, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, says that it is prohibited to induce labor earlier than the time it is meant to happen, unless for medical necessity.