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מי האיש הירא ורך הלבב ילך וישב לביתו

Who is the man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house. (20:8)

Torah is our source of life. The individual who commits himself to a life of Torah is assured that his observance of Torah and mitzvos will never be the cause of anything negative happening to him. On the contrary, his observance of Torah and mitzvos will protect him. This is why Rabbi Yossi HaGalili contends that one who fears that he might have sinned does not go to war. Without the spiritual fortitude engendered by mitzvah observance, one does not feel secure. While this does not mean that one who is observant should stand in harm’s way, it does posit…

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והוא ינוס אל אחת הערים האלה וחי

He shall flee to one of these cities and live. (19:5)

The law providing the rotzeach b’shogeg, unintentional murderer, with a city of refuge to protect his life both physically and emotionally is a lesson for us regarding the Torah’s sensitivity to a person’s emotional well-being. Someone who causes the death of a fellow Jew is laden with awful guilt. Veritably, it was not premeditated, but, at the end of the day, a life was taken; a family was left bereft of an important member. This tragic episode affected many lives. The unintentional murderer cannot change what happened; he cannot make it right. He is down, depressed, disgraced. Now he has…

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ולא ירבה לו נשים

And he shall not have too many wives. (17:17)

Shlomo Hamelech thought that his superior wisdom would protect him from the pitfalls which the Torah specifies await the king who transgresses its limitations on horses, wives and wealth. Chazal (Midrash Rabbah Shemos 6:1) teach that when Shlomo violated the mitzvah of Lo yarbeh lo nashim, “He shall not have too many wives,” the letter yud of the word yarbeh (too many) came before the Almighty, bowed and said, “Ribon HaOlomim, Master of the Universe, Did You not say that no letter of the Torah will ever be abrogated? Yet Shlomo stands here and has nullified me. Perhaps today he…

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לא תזבח לד' אלקיך שור ושה אשר יהיה בו מום

You shall not slaughter for Hashem, your G-d, an ox or a lamb or kid in which there will be a blemish. (17:1)

The animal that is brought up as an offering to Hashem must be without blemish. Chazal (Sifri) detail a variety of disqualifications which invalidate a sacrifice. The shoresh, root, of this mitzvah is quite understandable. A person who brings a korban, sacrifice, is to focus his thoughts towards Hashem. A human being is affected by the strength of his actions. Hence, it is only proper that the sacrifice he offers be without blemish. This reflects the idea that the intentions of a man neither rest – nor become focused – upon a lesser sacrifice as they would upon a more…

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כפר לעמך ישראל אשר פדית

Atone for Your People Yisrael that You have redeemed. (21:8)

The Midrash Tanchuma (Haazinu) quotes the Toras Kohanim concerning the above pasuk: Kapeir l’amcha Yisrael, “Atone for Your People Yisrael.” This applies to the living; asher padisa; “that You have redeemed,” refers to the departed. This teaches that the living redeem the deceased. Therefore, it is our custom to memorialize the memory of the departed on Yom Kippur by praying for them, setting aside tzedakah, charity, in their behalf. I might think that tzedakah has no effect once a person passes on from this world. Thus, we learn from asher padisa, through the medium of tzedakah. The Midrash continues describing…

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תמים תהיה עם ד' אלקיך

You shall be whole hearted with Hashem, your G-d. (18:13)

Rashi explains this to mean that one should follow Hashem with perfect faith, not being concerned about what will occur in the future (as was the custom in those days to seek out the counsel of diviners and astrologers). This means accepting whatever befalls a person with wholeheartedness and absolute conviction, recognizing it as the will of Hashem. Once, during the Middle Ages (as quoted by Horav Eli Munk, zl, in The Call of the Torah), a holy man gave a kemeiah, amulet, to someone who was anxious about the future. He warned him not to open it for an…

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לבלתו רום לבבו מאחיו ולבלתי סור מן המצוה ימין ושמאל

So that his heart not become haughty over his brethren. And not turn from the commandment right or left. (17:20)

The Torah demands that the Jewish king maintain a sense of humility, shying away from anything that might present him as pretentious and vain. The fact that he is king neither gives him license to act haughty, nor does it allow him to feel that he is better than anyone. With his position comes enormous responsibilities, as well as temptation to accede to a yetzer hora, evil inclination, that will play with his subconscious, encouraging him to act pompously and to use his office for personal gain. Monarchy, as with all leadership positions, is not a free pass. It creates…

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צדק צדק תרדף

Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue. (16:20)

If we know of one imperative that hardly requires an injunction concerning its primacy, it is the pursuit of righteousness. Nonetheless, the Torah not only feels the need to mention it, but to mention it twice; tzedek, tzedek, “righteousness, righteousness.” Everyone is involved in mitzvah performance (or so they claim), but even the execution of the most significant mitzvah must be carried with spiritual and moral integrity. A mitzvah should not be carried out at the expense of others. To appropriate funds for the needy – funds that have been “earned” in a less than reputable manner – is not…

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על פי שנים עדים או שלשה עדים יומת המת

By the testimony or two of three witnesses shall the condemned person be put to death. (17:6)

The word shnayim connotes two. Yet, later in this parsha (19:15), the Torah uses the word shnei (eidim) to specify two witnesses. Why does the text change from one pasuk to the other? Horav David Cohen, Shlita, quotes the Gaon, zl, m’Vilna, who distinguishes between shnayim and shnei (although both words mean “two”). Shnayim refers to two people (or objects) which come together or meld together as one unit, while shnei refers to two individuals, separate and/or disparate, who just happen to be together. In other words, shnayim is a “two” which maintains a stronger sense of unity. With the…

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תמים תהיה עם ד' אלקיך

You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Your G-d. (18:13)

Temimus, simple faith, is not so simple. It takes a special person, whose faith in Hashem is unequivocal, to achieve temimus. It requires one: to live a life of acquiescence; to ask no questions; to believe that everything is for the good; to maintain wholesome belief in Hashem that everything that occurs in one’s life is Divinely orchestrated. The tamim lives only in the moment. The future is completely in the hands of Hashem. Horav Pinchas Koritzer, zl, teaches that only two mitzvos or observances are to be carried out with Hashem: temimus, wholehearted faith; and tznius, modesty. (Hatznea leches im…

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