This week's issue has been dedicated to the memory of Chaim Yissachar (ben
Yaakov) Smulewitz by his two daughters, Jeri Turkel and Marsha Weinblatt,
and by his son, Moshe Smulewitz.
I am proud to announce the opening of my new, exciting Website: the Dafyomi
Advancement Forum (D.A.F.) -- an all-new Internet center for learners of
dafyomi (a daily page of Talmud study), brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf
of Har Nof, Jerusalem. I founded Kollel Iyun Hadaf with the encouragement
of Gedolei Torah in order to help people in the study of dafyomi through
the medium of the Internet. At our Website you may:
-ask the Kollel any questions you have on the Daf,
-download the Kollel's short & pertinent insights into the daily Daf,
-view our Question of the Day,
-find brief introductions to unfamiliar subjects mentioned in the Daf,
-and much, much more!
Our grand opening coincides with dafyomi's start of Masseches Chullin. You
can find us from the Shemayisrael homepage- http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/dafyomi2/index.htm
(I would really appreciate it if you could clip this announcement and email
copies of it to anyone you know who may possibly be interested -- or have
friends that are interested -- in learning the dafyomi.)
*** Please contact me if you would like to dedicate a future issue.
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SIDDUROLOGY, or MYSTERIES OF THE SIDDUR
"To serve Hashem with all your heart" (Devarim 11:13) -- What
service is done with the heart? Prayer!
(Sifri, Devarim #41)
Parashat Ki-Tetze 5756
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
When you encamp against your enemies, be careful to refrain from
any wrong-doings.... You should set aside a place outside of the
encampment and you should go there [to relieve yourselves]. You
should have a shovel ("Yated") in addition to the rest of your
equipment ("Azenecha"). When you go out [to "relieve yourselves,]
you should dig with it and cover up your excrement. [Do all this,]
because Hashem goes in the midst of your encampment to save you
and to place your enemies in your power. Your camp must remain
holy, lest He see in you a repugnant doing and He will cease
(Devarim 23:10, 13-14)
Bar Kapara said: What does it mean "You shall have a "Yated"
(shovel or peg) in addition to "Azenecha" (your equipment)? Don't
read the word, "Azenecha" but rather "Aznecha" (your ear). If a
person hears something improper being discussed (e.g., Lashon Hara
-- slander or gossip), he should place his fingers in his ears.
[That is, the verse is hinting that one should use the handy
"pegs" Hashem gave him to stop his "ears" from hearing what they
Bar Kapara's interpretation of the verse at hand certainly seems
bizarre. The end of the verse clearly states that the Yated of the verse is
to be used to dig and cover excrement. How can Bar Kapara interpret this
verse as referring to fingers, ears and Lashon Hara? Secondly, why did Bar
Kapara read the word as "Aznecha" against the Massoretic "Azenecha?" True,
the Torah scroll itself is not punctuated, which allows for such a
misreading of the verse. Nevertheless, if we may punctuate the Torah at
will ignoring the Mesorah, every person would create a new Torah with a
different set of Mitzvot. This would clearly defeat the perpetuation of the
Torah and its religion!
Rambam (Maimonides) in "Moreh Nevuchim" (3:43) contends, based on
Bar Kapara's teaching, that wherever Chazal (our Rabbis) say "Don't read
the word such, but rather such," they are simply expressing their teachings
in prosaic manner. The verse itself does not hint at the thought they are
discussing in the least. (See also Sh'lah -- section on Torah Shebe'al Peh,
end of letter "Aleph" -- and Torah Temimah -- Bamidbar 19:21 -- who follow
the Rambam's approach to a limited extent. In his "Introduction to the
Mishnah," the Ramban uses a similar approach to explain the significance of
the rabbinic "Asmachta.")
However, numerous Rishonim and Acharonim reject the Rambam's
approach as an oversimplification. Although it is obvious that Chazal are
not trying to change the Massoretic pronunciation of the verse, it is still
possible that the ideas they express with their prosaic "Don't read the
word such..." are indeed based on a lesson learned from the verse in its
literal sense. (Ritva to Rosh Hashana 16b differs with the Rambam's
understanding of "Asmachta" based on a similar argument.)
A number of works have been published in defense of this more
textual understanding of the "Don't read it such ..." phraseology (c.f.
Shivrei Luchot, Rav Yechiel of Nemerov, d. 1648; Korei B'emet, Rav Yitzchak
Bamberger of Wurtzberg, 1871 -- see also Parasha Page Chukat 5754, part
II). I would like to suggest a new understanding of Bar Kapara's words that
conforms to this latter approach. (See also Koreh B'emet p. 39, Kli Yakar
ad. loc., for other explanations.)
The Vilna Gaon (Mishlei 24:31, Imrei Noam to Berachot 8a) shows
that when Chazal offer advice regarding relieving one's self, their words
carry an added dimension. Aside from the simple meaning of their words,
they are also alluding to relieving one's self of the mental spoilage and
rot that brings one to adopt unacceptable behavior. If relieving one's self
of excrement means abandoning unacceptable motivations, then the excrement
one is commanded to cover in the verse from our Parasha may allude to
hiding one's sacrilegious acts. Such a concept is in fact discussed in a
number of sources:
Rebbi Avahu said in the name of Rebbi Chanina: It is better for a
person to do a wrongdoing in secret, that he should not desecrate
the Holy Name publicly. The elder Rebbi Ela'i said: If a person
feels an uncontrollable urge to sin, let him go to a place where
he is not known, wear black clothing and do there what he desires,
rather than desecrate the Holy Name publicly.
Chazal certainly do not sanction sinning in secret. Rather, they
are addressing an extreme case, where someone feels compelled
uncontrollably to sin. Under such circumstances, he is advised to at least
"cover up" his unworthy act. The best course of action, though, is to
control his impulses and refrain from the act. No matter how compelling it
seems to him at the time, in the final analysis, it is *he* who retains
control over his desires and not vice versa. (See esp. Rif Moed Kattan
There is, however, an instance where even the Torah itself takes
into account an uncontrollable desire and relaxes its rules accordingly
--the case of a warring army camp. The Torah permits the warriors caught up
in the fervor of war to take women from the defeated nation as they see fit
("Eshet Yefat To'ar").
Because the beauty of the enemy women is liable to invoke so
strongly the desires of the Jewish warriors (-the enemy women used
to dress up and apply their finest perfumes in order to seduce
their captors, Rashi to Devarim 21:13), the Torah reluctantly
permitted them to the warriors. Better to permit the warriors to
do something morally improper, than to prohibit the act and cause
them to desecrate the Torah outright.
Similarly, the Torah permits warriors, when hungry, to eat all the
prohibited foods during a war (Rambam Hilchot Melachim 8:1 -- see however
Ramban to Devarim 6:10 who differs with the Rambam on this point).
(Rashi, Kiddushin end of 21b).
Our verse, although ostensibly discussing the treatment of
excrement in the army camp, may now be said to allude to the unpleasant
situation that arises during war time. It may be warning us that when
warriors "leave" the normally accepted Jewish behavior, they should at
least not do so publicly. They should "cover up" their actions so that they
will not be seen by their fellow Jews.
Rabbenu Bachye does, in fact, tells us that the Talmud warns to
take the Yefat To'ar in as covert a manner as possible. He then quotes the
end of our verse to support this teaching! (Rabbenu Bachye, Devarim 21:10,
The concealment of sin serves a dual purpose. First, if others
would hear of the transgression, it would weaken their own resolve ("If
so-and-so did this act, why shouldn't I...?"). Second, those who witnessed
the transgression would find it hard to resist the temptation to say Lashon
Hara and pass on the information ("Do you know what so-and-so did...?").
This would cause resentment, denial and internal quarreling among the
troops. This was, in fact, a major issue during wartime, as pointed out by
the Ramban (Devarim 23:10, see also Vayikra Rabba 26:2).
We can now understand the lesson learned from our verse. The Torah
warns the warriors to conceal the occasional sin that they sin under duress
because it may have a detrimental effect on the moral standards of others
who hear of their plight. Similarly, it is incumbent that we avoid
*listening* when someone is telling of the moral decline of a fellow Jew,
that we may not learn from his bad example or provoke his animosity.
We can now understand why Bar Kapara said that our verse may be
read as, "You shall use a finger to stop up your ear from hearing of
another Jew's misdeeds." Although this reading is not the literal
translation of the verse, it is a lesson that may certainly be *learned*
from the literal meaning of the verse!
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