Rav Moshe Twersky zt”l On the Parsha


By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

והשבתי חיה רעה מן הארץ” – כו:ו

From this pasuk, the Raavad contests the Rambam’s statement that the world will continue to function according to natural law even once Mashiach comes, and the nevuos that describe miraculous things like wolves living with lambs, etc. is metaphorical expression (Hilchos Melachim 12:1).  The Rambamexplains that the idea of this allegory is that the Goyim, who are likened to wolves and leopards, will no longer pose a threat to Klal Yisrael.  Rather, everyone will embrace the truth, and not steal, but eat only that which is permissible in a pleasant manner with Klal Yisrael.  All the miraculous depictions, concludes the Rambam, are to be understood in this manner; and during the time of Melech Ha’Mashiach it will become known exactly what each mashalmeant.  The obvious question, which is pointed out by the Radvaz, is what exactly is the Raavad’s challenge?!  What is it about this pasuk that poses any more of a difficulty on the Rambam than any other pasuk?  It can also be understood as a mashal!

I heard the following explanation from my uncle, Rav Aharon Soloveitchik z”l.  In the back of Maseches Brachos is brought the “32 methods of darsheningthe Torah” of Rabi Eliezer bno shel Rabi Yosi Ha’Glili.  Number 26 is that, unlike Nach where many things are a mashal – a mashal means that there is no literal interpretation; rather, the straightforward understanding is the message being conveyed by the mashal –  in Torah there are only three meshalim: 1) al mishanto, 2) v’zarcha ha’shemesh alav, 3) u’farsu ha’simlah.  So, the Raavad’s kashya on the Rambam is that v’hishbati chayah raah min ha’aretz is not one of those three!

Regarding what it will be like during the time of Mashiach, it’s an explicit Gemara in Brachos (34b) that this is a machlokes whether the miraculous prophecies are referring to Olam Ha’Bah – and as far as the time of Mashiach is concerned, “ein bein yemos ha’Moshiach l’olam ha’zeh elah shibud malchiyos bilvad, the only difference will be the lack of being subjugated to the Goyim”, or if those prophecies are talking about the time of Mashiach and it will be totally different from the way the world functions now (and Olam Ha’Bah is “ayin lo raasah Elokim zulascha”).  The Rambam paskens like Shmuelwho holds that there won’t be any changes in the natural order of the world. There is a Gemara in Shabbos (30b) that says that Rabban Gamliel darshenedthat in the future women will give birth every day.  By any standard, that would require a massive innovation for this world.  According to the Rambam, it must be that Rabban Gamliel holds like the other opinion that the time of Mashiach will be totally different.

The Gra holds that often, when there seems to be a machlokes, it is not really a machlokes; and that is how he explains this matter as well.  He says – based on the Gemara that says the existence of the world is broken up into three groups of 2,000 years, and the last two thousand are called the era ofMashiach – that really Mashiach could have come in the year 4,000.  From the year 4,000 until the year 6,000 is part of the basic, assigned existence of the world as we know it.  Therefore, had Mashiach come in the year 4,000, the remaining 2,000 years would have continued in the state of the world as it is – “ein bein yemos ha’Mashiach l’olam ha’zeh elah shibud malchiyos bilvad”.  And that is what the shitah of Shmuel is referring to.  However, if Mashiach winds up coming at the end of the 6,000, then the time of Olam Ha’zeh is up and the nature of the world will completely change.  And that is what the other shitahis referring to (Safra D’Tzniusa, pirkah kamah).

(Audio Recording, available here)


ואם לא תשמעו לי” (כו:יד) להיות עמלים בתורהומה תלמוד לומר לי אין לי אלא זה המכיר את רבונו ומתכוין למרוד בו (רשי)

This time of year leading up to the chag of Matan Torah is the time for engaging in a self-appraisal of where one is holding regarding limud ha’TorahMatan Torah was not just a one-time event.  Every year we have another Matan Torah wherein the Ribbono shel Olam endows us with an outpouring, a surge of Torah.  Because it’s a leap year, we get an extra week to engage in this introspection of where are we holding in terms of our preparation forShavuos, and to look over the 48 kinyanei ha’Torah at the end of Pirkei Avos and do the best we can to improve in them.

At first glance, it can sound like the Rashi on this pasuk is saying that if someone does not toil sufficiently in learning Torah, he is like Nimrod and the people of Sedom who purposely rebelled against Hashem.  It is important to understand, though, what Rashi is really saying here.  The fact that a person always finds room for improvement in his ameilus ba’Torah, both in quantity and quality, doesn’t chas v’shalom mean that he is a rebel just because he is not currently doing his utmost.  The essential point is where the lack of toil is coming from.

A person can stumble in the aveirah of bitul Torah.  That is what we are all always doing our best to work on, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute – and we need strategies to do this; to maximize our time, enhance our concentration, and so on – and we hope that each year we are doing better than last year.  But being less-than-perfect in this regard is not a rebellion against Hashem.  However, someone who excuses himself from assiduous application to learning Torah because he views it as “just one more mitzvah amongst so many” – and all the more so if he totally dismisses Torah study – that is whatRashi is referring to.

Every year we need to re-attune our ears to hearing this point well: ameilus ba’Torah is not some type of voluntary middas chasidus.  It is the alef, the very first and most important thing.  It’s the alef and the tav of the brachos and klalos.

The most basic awareness to embed into our minds and hearts is that our essential duty as Jews is that when one has time – meaning there is no peturtaking him away from learning – one learns Torah.  Of course, it’s easier said than done, and it’s something that needs constant chizuk and that we struggle with.  But that is the point: even when it happens that one is perhaps not doing at the particular moment what he essentially could and should be doing, he must at least be aware of what the mitzvah of learning Torah is all about.  Talmud Torah k’neged kulam.  And that mandates an ongoing attitude and endeavor of ameilus ba’Torah.

Baruch Hashem, Bnei Torah and hopefully most of Klal Yisrael have this correct outlook.  Unfortunately, though, there are some who look askance at those who devote themselves to Torah study and consider the lomdei Torah to be like parasites that drain society of its material resources and do not make any meaningful contribution.  The Torah perspective is the exact opposite.  Im lo brisi yomam va’laylah chukos shamayim va’aretz lo samti (Yirmiyahu 33:25) – it is only in the merit of Torah study that Hashem keeps the world going.  Literally, the whole world is held up by the lomdei Torah. The most productive members of society, by far, are the lomdei Torah; and those that are involved primarily with material pursuit are being carried on their shoulders.

It is crucial – no matter what station of life one finds oneself in – to not “turn the bowl on its face” and think that worldly endeavor comprises true productivity and thus spurn the lomdei Torah who are removed therefrom; for to do so would be to assume a stance of outright rebellion against Hashem, chalila.

Practically speaking, when it comes to working on improving one’s ameilus ba’Torah, there are multiple facets.  Vitality in learning is one area to work on – to increase the sense of excitement and joy in learning Torah.  Immersion in Torah study as well, an expression of which is keeping your mind occupied with Torah even when you are not with a seferBein gavra l’gavra, if you will.  Depending on what time of year, place, and period of life, this can sometimes be a few minutes, sometimes a few hours.  And each person and situation can call for a different approach.  For some, delving into an involved sugya or sevarais the most effective approach, while other times reviewing Mishnayos and the like will work better.  It is told about Rav Hirsch Michel Shapira zt”l – a greattzaddik of the yishuv yashan who was a talmid of Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin – that he would visit kever Rachel once a month.  Back then, transportation was a donkey ride.  Someone once saw him get thrown off his donkey at some point along the way, and heard Rav Hirsch Michel mutter to himself, “Ok, no more iyun for the moment; now it’s time for bekius.”

The main thing, though, is understanding Torah.  To always strive for a better understanding of what one is learning.  Many people have a mistaken notion of what iyun and bekius mean.  Iyun means understanding and bekius means knowing.  Whatever you’re learning – whether it’s a piece of Gemara, aRashba, or Chumash with Rashi – you learn it b’iyun; meaning with an aim and effort to understand it to the best of your ability.  And having a seder inbekius means to engage in studying what you already have learned and grasped in order to make sure that you’ll remember it and have it stored in your knowledge bank.

Inextricably bound up in our efforts to improve our ameilus ba’Torah is to daven.  It is no small endeavor and we can and need to ask for help.  The Anshei Knesses Ha’Gedolah instituted teffilos of this nature, but we can and should also say our own personalized teffilos, as the Mishna Brurah (122:8) brings from the Chayei Adam.  It’s important to realize that it’s not only when you have children that you start davening.  Before you have children, you daven for yourself.  And after you have children, you continue to daven for your own success in learning Torah along with theirs.  In fact, Rabbeinu Yonah says that you can daven for your future children even before you are a father!  On the pasuk, eitz chaim taavah baah (Mishlei 13:12), the Gra explains that when one expresses a desire for worldly things by davening for it, there is no guarantee that he will be answered affirmatively.  There is no question that it is the best way to try to bring about the desired outcome, but still, there is no guarantee.  However, when one expresses a desire for eitz chaim – for Torah – that comes.  When you daven for ruchniyus, you see results.

(2 audio recordings available here and here)


וכל מעשר הארץ מזרע הארץ מפרי העץ לה׳ הוא קדש לה׳    כז:ל

Most Rishonim hold that the only things from which one is obligated min ha’Torah to separate terumos and maasros are dagan tirosh v’yitzhar – grain, wine, and oil.  Accordingly, Rashi here explains that zera ha’aretz means grain and mi’pri ha’etz means wine and oil.

According to the Raavad, though, there is an opinion in Toras Kohanim that holds pri ha’etz of this pasuk means all fruits, but that is only regarding the tithe that the pasuk is talking about, namely maaser sheini.  What emerges, then, according to the Raavad, is that the d’Oraysa obligation to tithe all terumosand maasros applies only to grain, wine, and oil; and maaser sheini alone is d’Oraysa by all fruits.  It’s a fascinating shitah.

Now, there is an order to how one separates terumos and maasrosTerumah comes first, then maaser rishon, and maaser sheini comes last.  If, for example, one has 100 bottles of wine, he separates 2 for terumah (assuming midah beinonis), 9.8 for maaser rishon, and 8.82 for maaser sheini.  The 2 bottles separated for terumah do not need to have maaser rishon or sheini separated from them, and the 9.8 bottles separated for maaser rishon does not need to have maaser sheini separated from them.  That is abundantly clear from many places.

When it comes to all other fruits, though – according to the Raavad – there is only one d’Oraysa tithing obligation: maaser sheini.  As such, if he has 100 oranges he should need to tithe 10 full oranges for maaser sheini.  However, we have never heard nor seen such an opinion anywhere!  There is ad’Rabbanan obligation to separate all terumos and maasros from all types of produce, and nowhere is there the slightest indication that the amount ofmaaser sheini needed to be tithed will be different by those fruits whose terumah and maaser rishon obligation is only d’Rabbanan from those whose obligation is d’Oraysa.  But, according to the Raavad, how can that be?!  If on the d’Oraysa level there is an obligation to separate a full 10 oranges formaaser sheini, how can a d’Rabbanan obligation to separate terumah and maaser rishon beforehand change that?!

The answer to this question is found in the Kaftor V’Ferach.  He brings that the Raavad holds that, no matter what, the terumos and maasros that are separated have a full-fledged d’Oraysa status of terumah and maaser, despite the lack of a d’Oraysa obligation to tithe.  Even before there was anytakanah d’Rabbanan to separate terumah and maaser rishon from oranges (for example), if someone voluntarily did so, the terumah and maaser status of those fruits is min ha’Torah!  In other words, the Raavad holds that one’s ability to effect a full-fledged chalos-sheim of terumah and maaser is not at all dependent on an obligation to do so.

Now there is no kashya at all.  Even though the obligation to separate terumah and maaser from all other fruits is only d’Rabbanan, the resultant terumahand maaser status thereof – once separated – is d’Oraysa.  That is why it suffices even in those scenarios to separate 8.82 oranges (from what was originally 100) after separating the 2 for terumah and the 9.8 for maaser rishon.  Although the obligation to separate those 2 and 9.8 was onlyd’Rabbanan, the chalos sheim thereof is d’Oraysa and that neutralizes any obligation to separate maaser sheini from them.

(Audio recording available here)


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“If you should, then you can.”


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There was a famous din Torah in which Reb Chaim and the Rogatchover both served as dayanim.  The din Torah took a long time, and brought about many spirited debates between these two giants of Torah.  On one particular occasion, the Rogatchover arrived to the Beis Din and said, “I have eight sources from the Yerushalmi that prove my opinion in this matter!”  The Rogatchover was known far and wide for his phenomenal bekius, his absolute fluency in every corner of Torah writings.  Reb Chaim, on the other hand, was known primarily for his piercing insight and power of analysis.  Nevertheless,Reb Chaim immediately responded by addressing each one of the Rogatchover’s sources from the Yerushalmi; and how, according to his understanding, those Yerushalmis did not carry relevance to this case.

In reminiscing about this din Torah, Rav Chaim Ozer once said to my grandfather, “It is true that the Rogatchover’s mastery and fluency is simply untouchable.  However, Reb Chaim’s analytical powers are such that he is able to deduce many fundamental conclusions from the words of the Rishonimthat emerge because of the sheer depth and clarity of his iyun.”

(Related by Rav Twersky as heard from his grandfather, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik)

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For more Divrei Torah and stories of Rav Twersky zt”l Hy”d, visit VayigdalMoshe.com!



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