Rav Moshe Twersky zt”l Hy”d on the Parsha


moshe-twerski1By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

Ki Seitzei


1) Carefulness from lashon hara

2) Paying wages on time

3) Learning a lesson from Amaleik

4) The auspicious nature of Rosh Ha’Shana

5) Are malchuyos, zichronos, and shofaros d’Oraysah or d’Rabbanan?

1) Carefulness from lashon hara

“זכור את אשר עשה ה’ אלקיך למרים” (כד:ט)

One of Rav Twersky’s roommates from about forty years ago, wrote the following: “He was a very serious and intense young man.  Literally, he was always with a book.  While his roommates would go out and have fun, he would stay home and study…When he was not studying for his classes, he was studying Gemara.  He would wake up by 6 a.m. to daven, then study before class.  Life was deadly serious for him, and life was all about devotion to studying the word of G-d…He would never criticize his roommates for their lifestyles.  But he was unstinting in his own morality, to the point that he refused to take telephone messages for his roommates other than the name and phone number of the caller.  He didn’t want to hear anything he might have regretted hearing.”


2) Paying wages on time

“ביומו תתן שכרו” (כד:טו)

“One time, my father and I went together to get haircuts.  My father went first.  I was expecting that I would sit down to get my hair cut and that we would pay afterwards.  But that is not what happened.  As soon as my father’s haircut was finished, he immediately jumped up, whipped out his wallet, took out a fifty shekel note, and quickly placed it in the barber’s hand, saying, ‘One minute before sunset.  B’yomo sitein scharo.’  It is not just that my father knew all of these halachos so fluently.  It became his basic instinct to keep them.  Without any compromise whatsoever.”

(Reb Avraham Twersky)


3) Learning a lesson from Amaleik

“זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק” (כה:יז)

We find the word machar mentioned numerous times in Megillas Esther when it comes to the point of Haman’s downfall coming about.  Esther starts off by saying yavoh ha’melech v’Haman el ha’mishteh asher eh’eseh lahem u’machar eh’eseh k’dvar ha’melech.  She had already made one mishteh, but apparently she needed a mishteh that would be machar in order to clinch Haman’s downfall.

Even when Haman tells his family about the party that was and the one that would be, the way he says it is, af lo heiviah Esther ha’malka im ha’melech el ha’mishteh asher asasah ki im osi, v’gam l’machar ani karu lah im ha’melech.

Also, when it came to the final completion of the defeat of Amaleik in the neis of Purim, the word machar appears.  Achashveirosh asks Esther what has been done so far and if she has any further request, and she answers with the words, im al ha’melech tov yinasein gam machar la’Yehudim asher b’Shushan la’asos k’das ha’yom v’es aseres bnei Haman yislu al ha’eitz.  Even though the Yidden everywhere had wrought a massive destruction over Amaleik on the 13th of Adar, Esther determined that for the nitzachon to be complete, they needed a machar.

Similarly, by the very first milchemes Amaleik in parshas Beshalach (17:9) we find that Moshe says to Yehoshua, v’tzei hilacheim ba’Amaleik machar anochi nitzav al rosh ha’givah.  (Also, in parshas Shelach (14:25) it says v’ha’Amaleiki v’ha’Knaani yosheiv ba’eimek machar pnu u’seu lachem.)

The concept of machar stands at the yesod of the koach of leitzanus of Amaleik.  When there is a hisorerus to do something good or make some type of improvement, this negative koach comes along and pulls out the rug from the whole momentum by saying, “Ah, you’ll do it tomorrow.”

What we can do is learn from Amaleik about the amazing power of this koach so that we can apply it to the tzad ha’tov.  For example, if you are learning and something comes along that you feel like doing that would pull you away from the Gemara, you say to yourself, “Ah, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

This is the secret of the emphasis on machar in the milchama of Amaleik by Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua, and by the defeat of Amaleik in the neis of Purim.  Klal Yisrael seizes this koach of machar from Amaleik and davka uses it against them to clinch their downfall by applying it for the tzad ha’tov.


4) The auspicious nature of Rosh Ha’Shana

In the Beis Ha’Mikdash, on Rosh Ha’Shana, the Mishna says that the chatzotzros finished first, and the shofaros kept blowing, because mitzvas ha’yom is with the shofar.  Really, this is pashut pshat in the pasuk that says, “yom teruah yihiyeh lachem”.  Of course, this is a mitzvah that one must do with the physical actions of his body; chovos ha’eivarim.  Together with this, though, is an avodas ha’nefesh which apparently is more than with any other mitzvah.  The first aspect is the arousal to do teshuva as the Rambam writes.  There is another amazing component to it, which is teffilah.  Chazal call Rosh Ha’Shana a yoma d’tzlosah, a day of teffilah.  Likewise, the Yerushalmi says on the pasuk, “v’Osi yom yom yidroshun” that the two days are referring to Rosh Ha’Shana and Hoshana Rabbah.  The essential nature of these two days is teffilah and seeking out Hashem.  Similarly, on the pasuk that says “panah el teffilas ha’ar’ar” (ar’ar means something which is all alone), the Maharsha says that it is referring to Rosh Ha’Shana and Yom Kippur.

When it comes to the rest of the year, halevai that we could say that after putting in tremendous exertion we manage to have kavanah in davening.  Halevai.  But these days, teffilah comes much easier.  It goes.

These days are extremely auspicious for being able to have kavanah, perhaps in particular when it comes to musaf of Rosh Ha’Shana.

However, you can’t just fall into it.  It needs preparation.  The best way to prepare – and this is agreed upon by all Batei Medrash – is by learning the sugyos.  With the Tur and Beis Yosef, and eventually getting to the Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Brurah.  Another aspect to this preparation is to look over the contents of the machzor.  Chazal tell us that without review, divrei Torah can get dusty and rusty.  So you take out the machzor ahead of time – it is not too early – to get off all the dust and rust.  Aleinu, in particular, needs this rejuvenation, since we say it three times a day, every day.


5) Are malchuyos, zichronos, and shofaros d’Oraysah or d’Rabbanan?

The Mishna and Gemara in Rosh Ha’Shana 32a tells us about the chiyuv to have malchiyos, zichronos, and shofaros.  The Gemara darshens it on the pasuk, “shabbason zichron teruah”.  Rashi al ha’Torah brings this derasha.  The implication is that Rashi holds that it is a derasha gmurah m’d’Oraysoh.  The Ramban al ha’Torah and in seifer ha’mitzvos takes issue with this.  He points out the Gemara on 34b.  There the Gemara asks, what is the chiddush that a person should opt to go to a city where there will only be tekias shofar over going to a city where there will be only davening – since, after all, tekias shofar is d’Oraysoh and davening is d’Rabbanan?!  (The Gemara answers there that the chiddush is that even if one city will for sure have davening, and the other city you’re not sure if they’ll have shofar, the safeik for the kiyum of a d’Oraysah takes precedence over a vadai kiyum of a d’Rabbanan).  So, you see mefurash, says the Ramban, that the seider ha’brachos of malchiyos, zichronos, and shofaros is mi’d’Rabbanan, not like Rashi.  Even though the Gemara (on 32a and 16a) employs expressions such as “Rachmana amar” and “amar Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, imru l’fanai malchiyos”, it is just a manner of expression, but does not mean that it is d’Oraysah.  Rather, it is like what Chazal say by hadlakas neiros Chanukah that we can say v’tzivanu since there is a mitzvah of “zekeinecha v’yomru lach”.

The teirutz for Rashi, I heard from my grandfather and saw in other Achronim as well, is that malchiyos, zichronos, and shofaros is d’Oraysah when it is together with tekias shofar.  Rashi is in fact mashma like this in numerous places.  Throughout Shas (for example, here in Rosh Ha’Shana on 33b and in Arachin 10a), whenever the topic comes up, Rashi always goes out of his way emphasize that one set of tekios is for malchiyos, one for zichronos, and one for shofaros.  Similarly, in explaining the shitah on 34a that holds only one set of tekios is d’Oraysah and the other two are d’Rabbanan, Rashi says that the reason they made the takanah to blow the other two sets is in order to make malchiyos, zichronos, and shofaros all be the same.  What you see from this Rashi is that, according to this shitah, even before the takanah d’Rabbanan the blowing of the shofar was in the middle of musaf, and that the takanah was to make all the three brachos be the same.  The clear implication from all these Rashi’s, then, is that the brachos and the tekios are one combined kiyum m’d’Oraysah, that each enhances the other (just that shofar is d’Oraysah even by itself, whereas the brachos are only d’Oraysah when together with the tekios – compiler’s elaboration -).

This explanation of Rashi fits very nicely with the Ritva’s explanation of “ba’meh? Ba’shofar” on 16a.  He says that what that means is that the tekias shofar is together with each bracha.  This echoes the statement of Rav Saadyah Gaon that each set of tekios is defined by the bracha that it accompanies.  The tekios following malchiyos are an expression of being mamlich Hashem.  The tekios following zichronos serve as the vehicle to bring our zikaron l’tovah before Hashem, and the bracha of shofaros is that since we blow shofar, we have a bracha going directly on that.

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