Rav Moshe Twersky Hy”d On the Parsha

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By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

בארצם לא תנחל וחלק לא יהיה לך בתוכם    יח:כ         The Rambam counts two separate lavin (based on the Sifri): that Shevet Levi is not allowed to take a nachalah (portion of the land), and that Shevet Levi is not allowed to take from the bizah (spoils) as the land is being conquered (Sefer Ha’Mitzvos, Lav 169-170). If a Levi does take from the bizah, the Rambam says that he gets malkos (lashes). However, if a Levi takes a nachalah, all the Rambam says is that he is removed from it (Hilchos Shemitah v’Yovel 13:10). Clearly, the Rambam holds that when it comes to a Levi violating the prohibition against taking a nachalah, he does not get malkos. This differs from the Sefer Ha’Chinuch who says that even when it comes to a Levi violating the prohibition against taking bizah he does not get malkos, one of the reasons being that it is nitan l’hishavon, he can just return what he took.

The Minchas Chinuch asks on the Rambam, why should there be a difference between a Levi taking bizah or taking a nachalah, since in both cases he can just return it? Rav Shach answered that, according to the Rambam, if a Levi took bizah – even though he violated a lav by doing so – it is classified as eeh avid mahanei, and he in fact does not have to return what he took, whereas when it comes to not taking a nachalah, there actually is no lav on the Levi to not take a nachalah, it’s just that the Torah established that he has no legal rights to a nachalah.

But if that was the case, the Rambam should have made that point clear. What we can suggest – along the lines of Rav Shach’s explanation – is that, according to the Rambam, there are two facets to the lav which prohibits a Levi from taking a nachalah. There is the lav component – meaning, that to do so is a violation of a negative commandment – and, in addition to that, there is an added dimension that a Levi has no legal rights to a nachalah. And it is this added dimension – that a Levi has no legal rights to a nachalah – that makes it that his act is classified as eeh avid lo mahanei, and he therefore has to return what he took and thus is not liable for malkos.

A further difficulty regarding this lav of a Levi not taking a nachalah is the fact that taking Eretz Yisrael as a nachalah was a “one-time event” only in the generation of Yehoshua when they conquered and took over Eretz Yisrael, and once that era came to a close, it is not possible for someone to come along and make a new taking of a nachalah. So how are we to understand this? The Sifri Zuta makes a derasha to derive that it is permissible for a Levi to purchase a house outside of Eretz Yisrael, and the Zeis Raanan explains this to mean that during the time period that Klal Yisrael were settled in Eretz Yisrael it was assur for a Levi to purchase a house in Eretz Yisrael.

Another difficulty regarding the fact that the Rambam counts the lav of a Levi not being allowed to take a nachalah in his minyan ha’mitzvos stems from the fact that he does not count the mitzvah of zechiras yetzias Mitzrayim. There is a machlokes between Ben Zoma and the Chachamim regarding how to understand the pasuk that says l’maan tizkor es yom tzeischa mei’eretz Mitzrayim kol yemei chaeycha. According to the Chachamimyemei chayecha refers to nowadays, and the word kol indicates that even during the time ofMashiach this mitzvah of zechiras yetzias Mitzrayim will apply. Ben Zoma, though, says that yemei chayecha indicates that it is a mitzvah to recall yetzias Mitzrayim every day, and the word kol indicates that this mitzvah also applies every night. Rav Chaim Soloveitchik explained, based on this, why it is that the Rambam did not count the mitzvah ofzechiras yetzias Mitzrayim. Since the Rambam paskens like Ben Zoma, that zechiras yetzias Mitzrayim applies both by day and by night, it follows that it will not apply during the time of Mashiach. That is why the Rambam does not include it in the minyan ha’mitzvos.

That being the case, this leaves us with an unresolved question because from Sefer Yechezkel it seems pretty clear that in the time of MashiachShevet Levi will in fact get anachalah just like all the other Shevatim. So, why, then, does the Rambam include this lav in his minyan ha’mitzvos?

(From the notes of Reb Daniel Fast)

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Quotables       “When you realize that you’ve come across someone great, seize the opportunity to build a kesher with him right away. Don’t wait until he gets so big that it is too difficult to become close to him.”
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Vignettes          For the last few years before his passing, two of my sons and I shared a room with Rav Twersky in the yeshivah on Yom Kippur. Because of this, whenever he would see one of my sons, he would endearingly exclaim, “My roommate!” Each Erev Yom Kippur, he would ask us if his alarm clock would bother us. After the last Yom Kippur that we merited to share a room with him (5775/2014), Rav Twersky said to me, “Next year, hopefully we will not be here, because we will be in the Beis Ha’Mikdash. But if not, im yirtzeh Hashem we will be roommates again!”

My oldest son celebrated his bar mitzvah on motzaei Shabbos of parshas Chayei Sarah of that same year, what turned out to be the last of Rav Twersky’s life. When I brought Rav Twersky an invitation, he showed interest and read the whole thing carefully, afterward wishing me a hearty “Mazel Tov!” Giving him the invitation was mostly a formality of demonstrating respect and just a convenient way of sharing the good news. That is, as far as I was concerned. I didn’t really expect him to come to the bar mitzvah. It was held in Neve Yaakov, on the opposite side of Yerushalayim from Har Nof.

Rav Twersky, though, apparently did not share that sentiment. On the last motzaei Shabbos of his life, he came to our bar mitzvah. He arrived right after my son finished delivering his derashah. I suggested to Rav Twersky that he sit next to the bar mitzvah boy and discuss the derashah with him. He declined the offer, though, explaining, “What, and put him through double jeopardy?!”

So he sat next to me instead. He then offered to read the derashah. After reading the entire thing, he turned to us and said, “It looks like you are right!”

As a bar mitzvah gift, Rav Twersky presented my son with a set of Shiurim L’Zecher Abba Mari, along with a long, handwritten letter full of brachos appropriate for the occasion.

When I was at the shivah in the Twersky home, his youngest son, Reb Avrohom, told me that he noticed his father leaving to go somewhere that motzaei Shabbos. Reb Avrohom asked his father where he was going. “To a bar mitzvah.” Seeing that his father was taking with him a set of Shiurim L’Zecher Abba Mari as a gift, Reb Avrohom asked further, “Do you give such a nice gift to the son of every talmid?” To this, Rav Twersky answered, “The bachur is my roommate!” (Reb Avi Lowenstein, excerpt from A Malach in Our Midst)

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