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זאת חקת התורה

This is the decree of the Torah. (19:2)

Rashi explains the concept of chok, a mitzvah whose Divine rationale eludes us. While Hashem certainly has a reason for every one of the Taryag, 613 mitzvos, the reason behind every mitzvah is beyond our grasp. Understandably, one might say that not all mitzvos are beyond our ken. Ostensibly, specific mitzvos – such as Kibbud Av v’Eim, Honoring father and mother – are rationally based. The Rambam (Shemoneh Perakim) distinguishes between mitzvos sichlios, rational mitzvos (which supposedly anyone who possesses a modicum of intelligence can understand on his own), and mitzvos shlmiyos, mitzvos we accept and perform purely because we…

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זאת התורה אדם כי ימות באהל

This is the teaching regarding a man who would die in his tent. (19:14)

Chazal (Berachos 63b) render the above pasuk homiletically, “This is the Torah – a man who dies in a tent. The Torah is not acquired only (unless) a person kills himself over it.” Obviously, such a compelling statement warrants considerable commentary. Simply, it teaches that in order for one to succeed in Torah study, he must view it as the essence of his life – without which he cannot survive. One must be prepared to devote himself totally to Torah study. The Torah is the life source of the Jew. The Vishnitzer Rebbe, Horav Moshe Hager, zl, offers a profound,…

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וירם משה את ידו ויך את הסלע במטהו פעמים

Then Moshe raised his arm and struck the rock with his staff twice. (20:11)

When Moshe Rabbeinu struck the stone, instead of speaking to it, as per his instructions from Hashem, his actions were considered to be sinful. As a result, he was not permitted to enter into Eretz Yisrael. The commentators offer a number of different explanations to shed light on Moshe’s error. Rashi says that altering Hashem’s command from “speaking” to “striking” was wrong. Other commentators attribute the error to his reaction, the derogatory manner in which he spoke to the people: Shimu na hamorim, “Listen, you rebellious ones/fools.” Whether the issue was becoming angry or referring to descendants of the Avos,…

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יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל... המה מי מריבה אשר רבו בני ישראל את ד' ויקדש בם

Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael…They are the waters of strife where Bnei Yisrael contended with Hashem, and He was sanctified through them. (20:12,13)

Had Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen demonstrated greater faith in Hashem by speaking to the rock, rather than striking it, Hashem’s Name would have been sanctified. The Nation would have derived the message: If an inanimate rock – which does not hear, speak, or require sustenance – carries out Hashem’s command (when spoken to), surely we (humans) should do so Ramban explains that Moshe and Aharon certainly were not lacking in faith; rather the phrase should be understood, “Because you did not cause them (the people) to believe in Me;” for if Moshe would have followed Hashem’s directive as commanded,…

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זאת חקת התורה

This is the statute of the Torah. (19:2)

The parsha begins with the words, chukas haTorah, statute of the Torah, when, in fact, it is addressing the laws of Parah Adumah, Red Cow, which is a chok, statute whose rationale defies human logic. In other words, the parsha should have begun with the words, “This is the statute of the Red Cow.” Horav Yaakov Galinsky, zl, takes a practical approach towards explaining this, saying that a corollary exists between Torah and Parah, in that the anomaly which distinguishes Parah Adumah as a chok likewise applies to the Torah. The primary chok of Parah Adumah (exclusive of the entire…

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ותמת שם מרים ותקבר שם

Miriam died there and was buried there. (20:1)

Though widely separated chronologically, the passing of Miriam HaNeviah is juxtaposed upon the laws of the Parah Adumah, Red Cow. This teaches us that, just as the offerings effect atonement for the nation, so does the death of a tzaddik, righteous person. This is an important lesson which should have been taught in parshas ha’korbanos at the beginning of Sefer Vayikra. Why of all the forms of sacrificial atonement is the Parah Adumah singled out to be the standard bearer of atonement and the lesson most closely identified with the death of tzaddikim? The Panim Yafos (Horav Pinchas Horowitz, zl,…

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לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל יען

Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of Bnei Yisrael. (20:12)

To use the word “sin” with regard to Moshe Rabbeinu is misleading and a distortion of our quintessential leader. Even the word “err” is deceiving, since Moshe neither sinned nor erred – on our relative level. On his supreme level of closeness to the Almighty, his action – or inaction – concerning the rock which brought forth water for the nation, is considered erroneous or, possibly, even sinful. This goes with the territory of leadership. So much more is expected of a person when he achieves such spiritual distinction; the exactitude that is demanded of him can be his undoing….

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ויבכו את אהרן שלשים יום כל בית ישראל

And they wept for Aharon thirty days, the entire Bais Yisrael. (20:29)

Rashi teaches that both the men and the women wept and grieved over the passing of Aharon Hakohen. This was because Aharon was the consummate rodeif shalom, pursuer of peace. He would instill peace and love between parties in a quarrel and between man and his wife. When Moshe Rabbeinu died, the Torah writes, “And Bnei Yisrael wept” (Devarim 34:8), implying that it was limited to the men. Are we to think that Klal Yisrael’s outpouring of grief over the loss of their quintessential Rebbe and leader was limited, because he was less of a “people person” than Aharon? The…

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זאת התורה אדם כי ימות באהל

This is the teaching regarding a man who will die in a tent. (19:14)

Chazal interpret this pasuk as setting the standard for how a person should learn Torah: Ein divrei Torah miskaymin ela b’mi she’meimis atzmo alehah; “Torah is preserved/will endure only by he who kills himself over it”. In other words, one must expend utter dedication to Torah study. He must literally give himself totally to the Torah. His physical dimension should take a back seat to his devotion to Torah. His very life should be meaningless without the Torah. Without Torah, he is as if deceased. These are strong words to anyone who does not understand the meaning of Torah to…

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זאת התורה אדם כי יומת באהל

This is the teaching regarding a man who will die in a tent. (19:14)

There is a well-known statement made by Chazal (Shabbos 83b) that the Torah endures only at the hands of one who is prepared to give up his life for it. This concept is derived from the above pasuk, with the ohel/tent serving as a reference to the ohaloh shel Torah, the tent of Torah, the bais ha’medrash. Chazal (Berachos 61B) relate that the wicked Roman government decreed that people should not engage in Torah study. This did not stop Rabbi Akiva, who continued his regular schedule of learning and teaching Torah. When questioned by Pappus ben Yehudah, “Are you not…

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