Rav Moshe Twersky Hy”d On the Parsha

Rav Moshe Twersky zt"l, Hy"d
Rav Moshe Twersky zt”l, Hy”d

Compiled by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman


1) Why does parah adumah come up here?

2) Sof tumah latzeis

3) Why Miryam?

4) Relevance of Shiras Ha’Yam, Haazinu, and Shiras Ha’b’eir to Shabbos

5) Two stories about Rebbi’s approach to limud ha’Torah on Shabbos


1 – Why does parah adumah come up here?

“זאת חקת התורה…ויקחו אליך פרה אדמה” (יט:א)

Why is parah adumah brought it in precisely here?  Already from the beginning of Nisan they made a parah adumah, and according to one shitah, parah adumah was from the mitzvos that they were already given in Marah.  So why here, and why now?

My grandfather said a teriutz which is clearly emes and pashut pshat.  When did the maaseh of Korach in last week’s parsha take place?  In the second year from Yetzias Mitzrayim.  When did Miryam die (the topic that comes right after parah adumah in this week’s parsha)?  In the 40th year.  So there’s a gap of 38 years.  What was happening during those 38 years?  Nothing really, other than the fact that about 50,000 Yidden died every year.  What that means, then, is that the sugyah that they were dealing with on a very practical level for those 38 years was the sugyah of tumas meis.  It is the mitzvah of parah adumah, then, that bridges this 38 year gap!


2 – Sof tumah latzeis

“כל הבא אל האהל וכל אשר באהל יטמא שבעת ימים” (יט:יד)

There’s a halacha l’maaseh which relates to the dinim of tumas kohanim – halevai that we should be zocheh to techiyas ha’meisim very soon and these halachos should no longer be something that we encounter – regarding that which a meis is metamei ba’ohel.  If a Yid is niftar inside a building, the knee-jerk reaction may be to tell a Kohein to make a bee-line for the door and get out of the building as quickly as possible.  However, if it is a building with multiple rooms – as in an apartment building – that is not at all necessarily the case.  The halacha is – and I am not paskening, but just telling you what it says in Shulchan Aruch – that as long as the meis is in a different room and there is a closed door separating between the two rooms, the tumah doesn’t travel from one to the next.  That is the din of ohel chotzeitz bifnei ha’tumah, it is mafsik and prevents the tumah from going into the next room.  So, if a Kohein is in his apartment, and he finds out that there is a meis in his building, he should just make sure to keep the door to his apartment closed.

However, it goes even further.  There is a din called sof ha’tumah latzeis.  If there is an ohel where the meis currently is not located, but he will be brought through there on his way to the beis ha’kevaros – as in a bridge that overpasses the main road that leads from the town to the beis ha’kevaros – then the halacha is that already now that ohel is metamei and a Kohein is not allowed to go there (until the meis has already passed through that point and is already further along the way).  B’pashtus this halacha is m’d’Rabanan.

The lobby or stairwell of an apartment building is a classic example of sof tumah latzeis.  If someone is niftar in his apartment, the lobby immediately becomes tamei m’d’Rabanan because the meis is eventually going to be carried through there.  Therefore, in such a situation, telling a Kohein who is in his own, separate apartment to run out of the building is not only incorrect, it’s being machshil him in an issur d’Rabanan!


3 – Why Miryam?

“ותמת שם מרים” (כ:א)…”יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל לכן לא תביאו את העם הזה אל הארץ אשר נתתי להם” (כ:יב)

There’s a big question over here.  Why was Miryam prevented from going into Eretz Yisrael?  The truth is, though, that this question has already been asked.  In parshas V’zos Ha’bracha, on the pasuk t’riveihu al mei merivah, Rashi writes, “nistakafta lavoh ba’alilah, im Moshe amar shimu nah ha’morim, Aharon u’Miryam mah asu?!”


4 – Relevance of Shiras Ha’Yam, Shiras ha’b’eir, and Haazinu to Shabbos

“אז ישיר ישראל את השירה הזאת עלי באר ענו לה” (כא:יז)

The Mishna in Tamid delineates the shir shel yom that was said each day of the week.  Every day of chol, the shir of that day was said both by the tamid shel shachar and by the tamid shel bein ha’arbayim.  However, Shabbos was an exception, as the Gemara says that on Shabbos, the shir shel yom by the tamid shel shachar is Mizmor shir l’yom ha’Shabbos, by Musaf it’s the shir of parshas Haazinu – broken up into six portions such that each week there would be a rotation which portion to say – and for the tamid shel bein ha’arbayim there was a three week rotation comprised of the two halves of shiras ha’yam and shiras ha’b’eir as the third portion.

Now, why Mizmor shir l’yom Ha’Shabbos is relevant to Shabbos we readily understand.  It says l’yom ha’Shabbos!  But what about Haazinu, Shiras Ha’Yam, and Shiras Ha’b’eir.  What do those have to do with Shabbos?  Of course, each person can think for himself, but the following is what would appear to be what one can say about the matter.

Chazal say that even a shifcha by Krias Yam Suf experienced a revelation greater than that of Yechezkel ben Buzi.  It was a huge experience of ruach ha’kodesh, similar to that of Maamad Har Sinai, just that whereas Maamad Har Sinai was of a permanent nature, the revelation of Krias Yam Suf was temporary.  But temporary is also something!  That is a parallel to Shabbos.  On Shabbos we are given a neshama yeseirah that enables us to reach greater heights of understanding and wisdom.  It is an opportunity – whether one feels it or not – to lift oneself up from the realm of mundane and occupy a completely different realm, a totally different reality.  A reality that is mei’ein Olah Ha’Bah; literally.  It is mei’ein, like echad mi’shishim, but it is not batel.  It is a once-a-week, temporary uplift.

The Gemara in Nedarim darshens the Shiras Ha’b’eir as referring to Torah sheh’b’al peh.  The whole shira is all about Torah.  Shabbos, as well, is a day which is kulo Torah, as the Medrash says in Tana d’vei Eliyahu.

The shir of parshas Haazinu is all about the acharis ha’yamim.  It describes, poetically and prophetically, how Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu is going to bring about the tachlis and end after the long, difficult, winding history of Klal Yisrael.  The Ramban says that all of the events of world history are hinted at in sheishes yemei Breishis.  Shabbos represents the tachlis when, as Rav Shimshon Pinkus brings in his seifer Shabbos Malkesah, everything will revert back to the beginning.  It is tachlis Maaseh Breishis, and that is why the shir of parshas Haazinu, which describes how Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu is going to bring about that tachlis, is appropriate as a shir to be said on Shabbos.

(Audio Recording [1-4], available here: http://nermichoel.org/index/shiur/category/sefer-bamidbar/subcategory/chukas/speaker/rabbi-twersky)


5 – Two stories of Rebbi’s approach to limud ha’Torah on Shabbos

One time I woke up in the middle of the night on leil Shabbos.  I noticed that my father had fallen asleep over his Gemara, so I made sure to tiptoe around so as not to awaken him.  It didn’t work.  My father raised his head and said, “Please wake me up!  Do you think you are doing me a chesed?  It’s not a chesed!  The time on Shabbos is way too precious to use for sleep!

(Reb Avrohom Twersky, hesped at the levaya, available here:  http://nermichoel.org/index/shiur/category/hespedim-of-harav-moshe-twersky-zt-l/speaker/other)

A number of talmidim recalled how Rav Twersky would occasionally mention at the Shabbos table a thought about the lofty avodah that great tzaddikim would engage in vis a vis food consumption.  They would entertain extremely elevated thoughts.  However, he would continue, such towering madreigos are beyond most people.

His “coup de grace”, though, was the Kotzker.  The Kotzker Rebbeh said that everyone can work on the avodah of pertaining to eating at least for the first k’zayis of challah of the Shabbos seudos.  It’s the time when you can experience the taste of the mahn.  “What does the Kotzker mean, though,” asked Rav Twersky with a rhetorical smile, “when he says that we should have special thoughts while eating the first k’zayis of challah?”

Broadening his smile, he said, “It simply means to review some of your learning that you did during the past week while you eat the challah on Shabbos!”  Another time, he said that if one had a difficult kashya at some point during the week, then that’s a good time to think about it.  One talmid even concludes his memory of this that “Rebbi used the opportunity to remind us, ‘We had a complex Milchamos and Baal Ha’Maor this week!”

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