Illuminations #213, Tammuz, 5779, Parshat Chukat

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Illuminations #213, Tammuz, 5779, Parshat Chukat

Torah Gems

We read that the Israelites in the Wilderness complained to Moshe that they were tired of eating the Manna. Hashem punished them for their complaint by sending serpents among the people and many died. Moshe prayed to have this plague stopped and was told to make a copper serpent and place it on a pole and anyone who was bitten will look at this and live.

Moshe did so and the people stopped dying from the plague. The copper image of the snake lasted until the days of King Chezkiya. The king then destroyed it since the people worshipped this image as a god. The Talmud asks (Hul.6b) why the other kings before him, Assa and Yehoshofat, who also got rid of idolatrous practices in Israel during their reigns, did not destroy the copper serpent as well?

The answer given, though strange, tells us that sometimes things are left for later times to be corrected. The Talmud then says that this implies that when a scholar offers a suggestion that sounds strange, it should not be rejected out of hand. Because no one came up with this idea previously does not mean it is not worth considering.

We often hear people come up with strange ideas that we feel at first glance seem untenable. We should not be in too much of a hurry to reject them.

Parsha Pearls

The Halacha states that one is prohibited to sit down to eat before he feeds his animals. This is derived from the Pasuk we recite twice daily in the second paragraph of the Shema. Hashem promises He will provide grass in the fields for the animals and you will eat and be satisfied. Since Hashem first mentions He will feed the animals and then man, hence we should follow the same practice.

With regard to drink this rule does not apply. Man should drink first and then give the animals to drink. This we can see in our Torah Portion of the week. When Moshe is instructed to extract water from the rock, Hashem says to Moshe – “You will give drink to the assembly and to their animals”(20:8). Here we see that when it comes to drink, people come before animals.

This is also seen even more forcefully from Rivka. When Avraham’s servant asked her for water she first gave it to him and then offered to give water to his camels.

Perhaps the reason for the difference between food and water is that a person can go without food a longer period of time than he can without water.


Glimpses of Greatness

Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk said, “I am confident of being admitted to Gan Eden. The Heavenly Court will ask me, Melech, did you study adequately? and I will say, “No. They will say, Did you daven properly? and I will say, No. They will say, Did you give adequate tzedakah? and I will say, No.” They will say, He is truthful, Let him into Gan Eden.


Halacha Weekly

Q. Is it permitted to mention the names of  non-Jewish Holidays?​[I-YD 9-243]

A. Is one required to say X-Mas in reference to the Christian Holiday? Shulchan Aruch (YD 147-1-2) writes that it is prohibited to mention Avodah Zarah (Idolatrous worship) by their accustomed name(s) whether or not it is for a specific need.  Names of their festivals which are similar to names of people one need not be concerned about mentioning, however, also if one does not refer to them in the accustomed manner.

Haghaot Maimoniyot (Avodah Zarah 5-3, R. Meir Hakohen of Rottenberg Z”L) writes in the name of Yireim (75, R. Eliezerben Shmuel of Metz Z”L)  that there is no prohibition to mention Avodah Zarah except if one mentions the name that is given for the sake of G-dliness which they call him by, when they  use that name as a reference to G-d. However, the common name, for example names which are used to refer to the Avodah Zarah, are not prohibited to mention since in these names there is no reference to G-dliness or Lordship. ….This is the case because the Torah is concerned with the Name of G-d, as it  says (Shemot 23-13), ‘And the name of the other gods you should not mention.’   There we learn according to Yireim that all cases which do not mention the name that is given in reference to G-d, and which use instead the simple name, do not involve a prohibition of v’shem eloKim acherim lo tizkeru (mentioning the name of other deities).