"את הברכה אשר תשמעו"
“The blessing: That you hearken.” (11:27)

QUESTION: Rashi writes “Al menat asher tishme’u” — “on condition that you shall hearken.” What insight does Rashi add with this comment?

ANSWER: Before entering Eretz Yisrael, the tribes of Reuven and Gad asked for the land on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Moshe made their request conditional on their participation in the war to conquer the land of CanaanEretz Yisrael. In theGemara (Gittin 75a) our sages established guidelines regarding the making of a “tenai” — condition — based on Moshe’s negotiation with the tribes of Reuven and Gad.

One of the rules of a “tenai” is that “tenai kodem lema’aseh" — “the terms of the condition precede the action to be accomplished.” Thus, if one wants to marry a woman on a condition, he should say, “If you give me x amount of money, you are married to me with this coin I am giving you now.” (In order for the marriage to become effective the woman must fulfill the condition, namely to give the man x amount of money.) However if he says, “You are married to me with this coin if you give me x amount of money,” she becomes married and the condition is ineffective (see Rambam, Ishut 6:2-4).

In the dialogue between Hashem and the Jewish people, the berachah — blessing — is the ma’aseh — action to be fulfilled — and the hearkening is the condition. If so, should not Hashem have said the reverse, “If you shall hearken, you will receive the blessing”? The statement would then be similar to statements in other parts of the Torah such as, “If you will observe My decrees (condition), I will provide your rains in their time (action)” (Vayikra 26:3-4). Or, “If you are willing and obey (condition), you will eat the goodness of the land (action)” (Isaiah 1:19).

An exception to the rule (of tenai kodem lema’aseh) occurs if the man says, “You are married to me mei’achshav — from now — with this coin, if you will give me x amount of money.” Or, if instead of saying “mei’achshav” — “from now” — he says “al menat” — “on the condition” — when she gives him the specified amount of money, they are married retroactively (Rambam Ishut 6:16-17).

Hence, in order to remove the superficial difficulty in Hashem’s dialogue, Rashi adds the words “al menat” — on the condition” — so that the “tenai” — condition — is effective even though it was not mentioned before the ma’aseh — action.

(משנת ר' אליעזר)

"אבד תאבדון את כל המקמות אשר עבדו שם הגוים אשר אתם ירשים אתם את אלהיהם על ההרים הרמים ועל הגבעות...לא תעשון כן לה' אלקיכם"
“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations that you will drive away worshipped their gods. On the high mountains and on the hills...You shall not do this to G‑d, your G‑d.” (12:2-4)

QUESTION: Who would dare think that we should destroy Hashem’s property just as we destroy property associated with idol worship?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 45b) says that the halachah which forbids a Jew from deriving any benefit from an idol refers to one placed on top of a mountain and worshipped, but not a mountain or hill which was itself worshipped as an idol. This is derived by joining the end of one pasuk to the beginning of the next and reading the words “eloheihem al heharim” as one phrase, meaning“their gods on the mountains” and not “the mountains [worshipped as] their gods.”

However, even though it is permissible to have personal pleasure from the mountain, nevertheless, “You shall not do this to G‑d your G‑d” — for Hashem’s purposes, such as the construction of an altar, it is forbidden to use stones chiseled out of such a mountain (see Rambam Isurei Mizbei’ach 4:7).

(פרשת דרכים דרוש י"ד)

"ואבדתם את שמם מן המקום ההוא. לא תעשון כן לה' אלקיכם. כי אם אל המקום אשר יבחר ה' אלקיכם"
“And you shall obliterate their names from that place. You shall not do this to G‑d, your G‑d. Rather, only at the place that G‑d, your G‑d, will choose.” (12:3-5)

QUESTION: What is the connection between the Beit Hamikdash and the prohibition of erasing Hashem’s name?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Succah 53b) relates that when King David excavated the shitim — foundations — for the Beit Hamikdash, waters rose from the abyss and threatened to flood the entire world. Achitofel advised him that if he would write Hashem’s name on a piece of earthenware and throw it into the water, it would cease to rise. He was not concerned that it would cause the holy name to be erased because the Torah had said that it is permissible to erase Hashem’s Name in the case of a suspected woman in order to make peace between husband and wife. How much more so, then, must it be permissible to make peace between the people of the world and their Father in Heaven.

The Gemara (Makkot 22a) derives the prohibition of erasing Hashem’s name from the pasuk “You shall not do this to G‑d, your G‑d.” From the fact that the succeeding pasuk is, “Rather, only at the place that G‑d, your G‑d, will choose,” it can be derived that for the building of the Beit Hamikdash this prohibition does not apply.


"ואכלתם שם לפני ה' אלקיכם ושמחתם בכל משלח ידכם אתם ובתיכם אשר ברכך ה' אלקיך"
“You and your families shall eat there before G‑d, your G‑d, and you shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, as G‑d, your G‑d has blessed you.” (12:7)

QUESTION: Why, when eating of the sacrifices, should a person also rejoice in “bechol mishlach yedechem” — “all that you put your hand to”?

ANSWER: The Rambam (Yom Tov 6:17) writes that on Yom Tov there is an obligation to rejoice, but Hashem is not content with one who celebrates privately with his family. We must invite the needy to our festive meals and make sure that they also rejoice. Consequently, one must “send for the poor” — either invite them to rejoice together with him, or send food to them so that they may rejoice in their own homes.

The word “mishlach” comes from the root word of “shalach,” which means “sending.” The pasuk is teaching us that when one sits down to a festive meal together with his family, his major joy should be “bechol mishlach yedechem” — all the poor that he “sent for” to be at his table and all the poor to whom he “sent” provisions and made happy.

(כלי חמדה)

"לא תאכלנו למען ייטב לך ולבניך אחריך כי תעשה הישר בעיני ה'"
“You shall not eat it, in order that it be well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the eyes of G‑d.” (12:25)

QUESTION: How do the children benefit when the parents avoid eating blood?

ANSWER: There is a popular adage, “Man is what he eats.” The character of a person is affected and ultimately molded by his diet. For instance, eating spicy foods makes one excitable and temperamental while bland foods are calming and relaxing. Eating blood makes a person insensitive and even cruel.

Children inherit the character traits of their parents, so avoiding certain foods not only benefits the parents, but also prevents the children from inheriting undesirable character traits.

(ר' יהונתן ז"ל אייבישיץ)

"כי יקום בקרבך נביא...והנביא ההוא...יומת"
“If there should stand up in your midst a prophet...and that prophet...shall be put to death.” (13:2-6)

QUESTION: The Ba’al Haturim, in old editions of the Chumash, writes: “bekirbecha (בקרבך) — “in your midst” — has the numerical value of 324, which is also the numerical value of ‘zu ha’ishah’ (זו האשה) — ‘this is the woman.’ ”

To which woman is the Ba’al Haturim referring?

ANSWER: Many years ago in Europe all books on Torah subjects were carefully scrutinized by a censor. He was a representative of the church who would delete or make changes if the content of the sefer was derogatory to Christianity.

Originally, the Ba’al Haturim wrote: “bekirbecha navi — zu ha’ishah ubenah” — The words “bekirbecha navi (בקרבך נביא) have the numerical value of 387, the same as the numerical value of the words “zu ha’ishah ubnah” (זו האשה ובנה) — this is the woman and her son — referring to the infamous mother who brought to the world a son (“oto ha’ish”“Yeshu hanotzri”) who became founder of Christianity. He tried to impress upon the world that he was a prophet sent by G‑d as Mashiach. Ultimately, he was put to death.

The censor was unhappy with the Ba’al Haturim’s comment that there is a hint in the Torah that Yeshu was a false prophet and should be put to death. Thus, he deleted the words “navi” — “prophet” and “ubenah” — “her son.” Hence, the censor’s amended version seems difficult to comprehend.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)

"והראה ואת האיה והדיה למינה"
“And the ra’ah and the ayah, and the dayah according to its kind.” (14:13)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that these are not three different birds, but one bird with three different names. What is the significance of these three names?

ANSWER: The word “ra’ah” connotes eyesight. We are told that the ra’ah “can stand in Babylon (which is a valley) and see a carcass in the Land of Israel” (Chulin 63b). This bird is unclean because it uses its excellent vision to view things negatively and find deficiencies.

Many people have keen vision in detecting the faults of others, but fail to see their own shortcomings. A housewife once complained to her maid that the house was not cleaned and dusted properly. The maid blushed in astonishment, for all looked immaculate. Finally, she turned to the housewife and said, “Madam, I think the dust you see is on your own glasses.” The woman removed her glasses and, sure enough, the lenses were covered with dust.

The second name of the bird is “ayah,” which means “where.” This bird is very clever in its ability to evade capture, jumping from one hideout to another. The hunter finds himself muttering, “ayah — where is it, and how can it be taken?”

There are people adept at this game of escape. When their help is urgently needed in a worthwhile community project, they cannot be located. This slippery “bird” refuses to join a communal endeavor lest his whereabouts become known to other institutions. Even when they express interest in helping the minyan or participating in a shiur, they do not appear and people wonder “ayah — where are they?” The Torah condemns the policy of evasion and escape and calls it “unclean.”

“Dayah” is the third name. Its croak sounds like the word “dayah” — “enough,” the cry of those who feel they have given more than necessary. They cry, “dayah! There are far too many appeals, functions, and campaigns these days. Enough!”

“Purity” for a Jew lies in 1) seeing things with a “good eye,” 2) being involved in communal Torah endeavors and activities, and 3) always giving with a grateful and generous heart.

(הרב דוב ארי' ז"ל בערזאן)

"והחסידה והאנפה למינה"
“The chasidah, and the anafah according to its kind.” (14:18)

QUESTION: The bird is called “chasidah” because it does chesed — kindness — and shares its food with its friends. The Jerusalem Talmud(Bava Metzia 3:5) states that a mouse is wicked because when it sees a pile of grain it calls its friends to eat from it.

Why is the bird’s act considered chesed — kindness — and the mouse’s considered rishut — wickedness?

ANSWER: The chasidah shares the food it gathered for herself, with friends. To share one’s own property with others is praiseworthy. The mouse, however, calls its friends to enjoy someone else’s pile of grain. Being generous with what belongs to someone else is not kindness at all, but the reverse.

(מעינה של תורה)

"עשר תעשר את כל תבואת זרעך"
“You shall tithe the entire crop of your planting.” (14:22)

QUESTION: There is a Midrash peliah — wondrous Midrash — which links this pasuk to the pasuk, “Im hasemol ve’eiminah ve’im hayamin ve’asme’ilah — “If you go left then I will go right, and if you go right then I will go left” (Bereishit 13:8).

What is the connection between these twopesukim?

ANSWER: In the alef-beit, the shin (שׁ) and the sin (שׂ) are identical except for the position of the dot on the top. If the dot is placed on the right side, it is read as a “shin” and if the dot is placed on the left it is read as a “sin.” Thus, when the letter "ש" is placed between the letters "ע" and ",ר" if the dot on top is on the right, it spells the word "עַשֵׁר" (asheir) “rich” and if the dot is placed above on the left, it spells the word "עַשֵׂר" (aseir) “a tithe.”

In a play on the words “aseir te’aseir” (עשר תעשר) — “you shall tithe” — the Gemara (Ta’anit 9a) says, “Aseir bishevil shetitasheir” (עשר בשביל שתתעשר) — “Give ‘ma’aseir’ — ‘a tithe’ and Hashem will reciprocate by making you ‘asheir’ — ‘rich.’ ”

The wondrous Midrash, in quoting the pasuk “Im hasemol ve’eiminah ve’im hayamin ve’asme’ilah,” is alluding to this thought. It is telling us that, “im hasemol” — if a person will read the word with the dot on the left side — “asseir” — “give a tithe” — then “ve’eiminah” — Hashem will put the dot on the right side and the person will merit“te’asheir” — “to become rich.” However, “ve’im hayamin” — if one puts the dot on the right side and thinks that “asheir” — one becomes richer by keeping it all for one’s self and not giving tzedakah to the needy, then, G‑d forbid, “ve’asme’ilah” — Hashem will put the dot on the left side and decree that “te’aseir” — the formerly rich person will remain with only a tithe of his wealth.

(בינת נבונים)

* * *

An allusion to the concept of “Asseir bishevil shetitasheir” — “by giving a tithe one will be showered with riches” — is also found in the pasuk, kaf achat asarah zahav melei’ah” — “one gold ladle of ten shekels filled” (Bamidbar 7:14). The word “kaf” (כף) in Hebrew also means “palm [of the hand].” The Torah is teaching us that “kaf” — the palm of the hand — “achat asarah” — which gives away one of ten — will merit in return, “zahav melei’ah” — to be filled with gold.

(בוצינא דנהורא)

"וכי ירבה ממך הדרך כי לא תוכל שאתו כי ירחק ממך המקום אשר יבחר ה' אלקיך לשום שמו שם כי יברכך ה' אלקיך"
“If the road will be too long for you, so that you cannot carry it, because the place that G‑d, your G‑d, will choose to place His name there is far from you, for G‑d, your G‑d, will have blessed you.” (14:24)

QUESTION: Since it says, “Ki yirbeh mimcha haderech” — “If the road will be too long for you,” the words, “ki yirchak mimcha hamakom” — “because the place...is far from you” are a redundancy?

ANSWER: The Dubner Maggid explains the pasuk, “But you did not call out to Me, O Yaakov, for you grew weary of Me, O Israel” (Isaiah 43:22) with the following parable: Someone once sent a messenger to pick up a package. Afterwards, the messenger refused the payment offered, claiming that it was not sufficient for carrying the heavy bundle. In amazement the sender said, “If the package tired you, obviously you were not carrying my package. My package was very small and contained valuable gems.” Similarly, the prophet is saying to the Jewish people, “If you grew weary and became tired doing My mitzvot obviously you did not call out to Me, O Yaakov, i.e. they were not done for My sake — the sake of Heaven — because My mitzvot are a delight and not a burden.”

Our pasuk, too, is telling the Jews that, “ki yirbeh mimcha haderech ki lo tuchal se’eito” — if one considers a Jew’s life of Torah and Mitzvot an arduous journey and a burden difficult to carry —the problem is “ki yirchak mimcha hamakom” — there is a great distance between you and “Hamakom” — Hashem (Who is considered “mekomo shel olam — “the place of the world” — i.e. He contains the world, rather than the world containing Him, see Bereishit Rabbah 68:9). Those who realize that Torah and mitzvot are valuable gems, find it delightful to live according to Hashem’s Will.


"כי יהיה בך אביון...לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפץ את ידך מאחיך האביון"
“If there shall be a destitute person among you...you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother.” (15:7)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Bava Batra 9b) relates that the prophet Yirmiyahu was having problems with the people of Anatot and he cursed them that when they have a desire to give tzedakah, the recipients should be non-deserving people so that they would not receive any reward.

Why did Yirmiyahu wish this on them?

ANSWER: The prophet loved his people, and their behavior pained him very much. Out of concern that Hashem, G‑d forbid, would punish them, he prayed that they give tzedakah to undeserving people. Thus, the good angels in Heaven would be able to say to Hashem in their defense, “They are not selective about whom they help, and give even to the undeserving. Similarly, You too should not scrutinize them so meticulously; lift Your countenance to them regardless of their merits.”

(ר' זושא זצ"ל מאניפאלי)

"כי יהיה בך אביון מאחד אחיך...לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפץ את ידך מאחיך האביון"
“If there shall be a destitute person among you, one of your brethren... you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother.” (15:7)

QUESTION: Why in the beginning of the pasuk does it say, “mei’achad achecha” — “one of your brethren” — while in the end it merely says, “mei’achicha ha’evyon” — “your destitute brother” — without the word “mei’achad”?

ANSWER: When Yitzchak lived in Gerar, Avimelech the king of the Philistines took Rivkah for himself as a wife, thinking that she was Yitzchak’s sister. When he learned that she was married, he reproved Yitzchak, “What is this that you have done to us? Kime’at shachav achad ha’am et ishtecha” — “One of the people has nearly lain with your wife.” Rashi explains that the term “achad ha’am” — “one of the people” — means “hameyuchad ba’am” — “the most distinguished one of the people” — the king himself (see Bereishit 26:10).

The wheel of fortune does not discriminate between prominent people and ordinary people. While people are usually more inclined to help a prominent person who is in need, the Torah has concern for all Jews alike. Therefore, when this pasuk discusses offering aid, it talks of both “evyon” — a destitute person who is “mei’achad achecha”— among the most distinguished of all your people — and also “achicha ha’evyon” — the poor man who does not possess any specific qualities besides the fact that he is “achicha” — “your brother.” To both of them you should give generously.

(אמרי שפר)

"לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפץ את ידך מאחיך האביון"
“You shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother.” (15:7)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 29b) equates a miser to a mouse lying on a pile of coins. What is the meaning of this comparison?

ANSWER: When a mouse lies upon flour it feels comfortable and has food to nibble on. When it lies on loaves of bread or stalks of wheat, although it is not comfortable, at least it enjoys eating. A mouse lying upon coins is both uncomfortable and hungry. Thus, our sages are telling us that a miser, like a mouse lying on a pile of coins, renders his wealth useless since it benefits neither himself nor anyone else.

(וידבר משה)

"והעבט תעביטנו די מחסרו אשר יחסר לו"
“You shall lend him his requirement, whatever is lacking to him.” (15:8)

QUESTION: Rashi comments that if the poor man was accustomed to riding a chariot and having servants, it is your duty to help him maintain this lifestyle.

How does Rashi reach this conclusion?

ANSWER: In Hebrew the word for “rich man” is “ashir” (עשיר) and the word for “poor man” is “ani” (עני). If the letters of the word "עשיר" are spelled out fully — עי"ן שי"ן יו"ד רי"ש — the middle letters of each word together add up to 36. If the letters of the word "עני" are spelled out fully — עי"ן נו"ן יו"ד — the middle letters of each word together add up to 22. Consequently, the difference between “ashir” and “ani” amounts to 14, which is the numerical value of the word “dei” (די) — “enough.”

The Torah instructs us to give the poor dei machsoro” — “whatever is lacking” — i.e. the equivalent of 14 — “asher yechsar” — which he is currently missing due to his decline from “ashir” — “rich” — to the status of “ani” — “poor” — so that he may be able to return to the level of “lo” (לו) — “him” [self] — which is equal to 36, i.e., live according to his accustomed standard of affluence.

(בית יעקב ר' יעקב הכהן ז"ל טראב – מסלתון ראב"ד ביירות)

"ורעה עינך באחיך האביון ולא תתן לו וקרא עליך אל ה' והיה בך חטא"
“And your eye will be evil against your destitute brother and refuse to give him; then he may appeal against you to G‑d, and it will be a sin upon you.” (15:9)

QUESTION: Why the emphasis on “achicha ha’evyon” — “your destitute brother.” It could have just said “beha’evyon”?

ANSWER: A story is told about a wealthy man who was once approached for a charitable contribution. He listened attentively and then said with a sigh, “Unfortunately, I have a very poor brother who needs much help.” The charity collectors took this to mean that he was helping his brother, and was therefore unable to extend himself for any other charitable cause. Some time afterwards, the poor brother approached these people for help, and they were shocked to find out that his wealthy brother did not help him in any way.

This pasuk is discussing a situation in which “vera’ah eincha” —a person will have a “bad eye” — about givingtzedakah in general — and he tells the tzedakah collector about, “achicha ha’evyon” — his destitute brother — as a way to avoid giving, while in reality, “velo titein lo” — he does not give to him either. The Torah warns us that ultimately the poor brother will complain to Hashem because the rich brother is not only failing to help him, but also making it difficult for him to receive other help. Thus, there will be a sin in him which may, G‑d forbid, have severe consequences.

(לחמי תודה)

"נתון תתן לו"
“You shall surely give him.” (15:10)

QUESTION: Why is the money given to the poor called “tzedakah” (צדקה)?

ANSWER:Tzedakah is one of the noblest mitzvot of our Torah, and everyone should make an effort to set aside at least ten percent of his earnings for charitable causes. The Gemara (Ketubot 67b) says that even one who wants to be extravagant in his giving, however, should still not give away more than one-fifth (twenty percent).

This is hinted to in the word “tzedakah” (צדקה): The numerical value of "ק" is one hundred, and "צ" is ninety. The numerical value of "ה" is five, and "ד" is four. If one has "ק" — one hundred — one should give away ten percent of it, leaving for himself "צ" — ninety. One who wants to be extravagant may give one portion from each "ה" — five — with "ד" — four — remaining, which amounts to giving twenty percent.


The allusion to the giving of ten percent and twenty percent involves reading the letters out of order and is thus, hard to detect. Perhaps, this alludes to the teaching of our sages that tzedakah should be given discreetly.

In the 1930’s, along with the rest of the population, many religious families were affected by the depression. The Young Israel of Brooklyn, on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, gave out Pesach packages for needy families, and anyone who came and stood in line would receive one. My grandfather, Rabbi Tzvi HaKohen z”l Kaplan, was raising money to help a prominent needy family. Knowing that they would not stand in line, he sent his oldest son, Shimon, to stand in line in order to get a package which he would then give to the needy family. The line was very long, and after Shimon had stood there for a long time, he felt very uncomfortable and went home.

When my grandfather asked, “Where is the package?” he responded, “The line was very long and I felt embarrassed, so I left.” My grandfather said to him, “I do not understand you. You are a yeshiva bachur and you have already learned about a ‘kal vechomer’ (a conclusion inferred from a lenient law to a strict one). If you, are embarrassed, knowing it is not for you, how much more embarrassment would it be for them to stand in line for their own need. Go back and bring home a package so that we can help them for Yom Tov.”

* * *

Alternatively, the Mishnah (Pei’ah 8:8) says that one who has two hundred zuz (Talmudiccurrency) should not take any charity. However, one with only one hundred and ninety-ninezuz who is given one thousand zuz at one time may take it.

The word “tzedakah” (צדקה) has the numerical value of one hundred and ninety-nine, which teaches us that as long as one has no more than one hundred and ninety-nine, one may be a recipient.


"נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו"
“You shall surely give to him, and let your heart not feel bad when you to give him.” (15:10)

QUESTION: Why does the pasuk repeat “naton titein lo” — which literally means, “give, you shall give to him”? The pasuk could have just said, “tein lo” — “give to him.”

ANSWER: Some people experience a deep inner struggle when it comes to giving tzedakah. In their hearts they rationalize, “I worked very hard to earn this money; why should I give it away?”

The way to overcome this hesitancy is through “naton titein” — “continuous giving.” Thus, besides instructing us to give tzedakah, the Torah is also suggesting a method to facilitate our fulfilling the mitzvah. By continually practicing tzedakah, one will become accustomed to it and not only will the heart not grieve when he gives, but he will enjoy giving and be pleased to put his resources to good use.

(כלי חמדה)

"נתון תתן לו ולא ירע לבבך בתתך לו כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך ה' אלקיך"
“You shall surely give to him, and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for in return for this matter, G‑d, your G‑d, will bless you.” (15:10)

QUESTION: The words “velo yeira levavecha betitecha lo” — “and let your heart not feel bad when you give to him” — appear unnecessary. It could have said, “give to him, for in return for this matter G‑d will bless you”?

ANSWER: The wheel of fortune once took a turn on an affluent person. Poverty and illness struck him and his family. When he visited a wealthy man in the community and poured out his bitter heart, the wealthy man was greatly moved by his situation and gave him a generous donation. After the poor man left his home, the wealthy man ran after him, and gave him an additional amount. In amazement, the unfortunate person asked, “You have just given me your generous support; why are you now giving me another donation?”

The wealthy man responded “one should give tzedakah, happily and benevolently. After all, the money a person gives is not his own, but something which Hashem entrusted with him. The first time I helped you because your plight affected me emotionally and I felt very bad for you. Thus, in reality the tzedakah was not entirely for the sake of the mitzvah, but to alleviate my pain. Now I am giving you a second gift simply for the mitzvah of giving tzedakah.”

The Torah is commending this approach to tzedakah by declaring, “Velo yeira levavecha betitecha lo” — “Your giving should not be because of the pangs in your heart aroused by the poor man’s story. If this is what provoked your giving, then ‘naton titein’ — give a second time — and indeed the second gift will be purely for the sake of the mitzvah and not because your heart grieved. For this exalted way of giving tzedakah, Hashem will bless you in all your work.”

(פנינים יקרים)

"נתון תתן לו...כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך ה' אלקיך"
“You shall surely give him...for in return for this matter, G‑d, your G‑d, will bless you.” (15:10)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Bava Batra 11a) tells us a story about Binyamin HaTzaddik, who was a supervisor of the charity fund. One day a woman came to him in a year of scarcity, and said to him: ‘Rabbi, assist me.’

He replied, “I swear, there is not a penny in the charity fund.’

She said, ‘Rabbi, if you do not assist me, a woman and her seven children will perish.’ He then assisted her out of his own pocket. Some time afterwards he became dangerously ill. The angels addressed Hashem saying: “Sovereign of the Universe, You had said that he who preserves one soul of Israel is considered as if he had preserved the whole world; shall then Binyamin HaTzaddik who had preserved a woman and her seven children die at so early an age? Immediately his sentence was torn up. It has been taught that twenty-two years were added to his life.

Why was he granted twenty-two additional years of life?

ANSWER: TheGemara (ibid. 9b) says that for giving tzedakah to a poor man one receives six blessings and for saying a comforting word which helps him endure his unfortunate situation, one receives an additional five blessings (see Tosafot ibid.). A blessing from Heaven is a zechut — a source of merit — which is chalked up on ones account.

Consequently, Binyamin HaTzaddik, who helped the unfortunate woman and her seven children financially, and undoubtedly offered words of encouragement, earned eighty eight berachot, which is eighty eight zechutim — merits.

The Gemara (Sotah 20b) says that azechut can extend a person’s life for three months. Thus, for the eighty-eight merits he acquired by helping this unfortunate family, he gained two hundred and sixty-four months of life, which add up to exactly twenty-two years.

(קול אליהו)

* * *

Tosafot holds that giving tzedakah earns one six blessings and a comforting word earns one an additional eleven, for a total of seventeen. When the woman first approached Binyamin HaTzaddik for tzedakah, he said to her, “I promise, there is absolutely nothing available in the charity fund.” Afterwards, when she said to him, “Rabbi if you do not support me, a woman and her seven children will expire,” he helped her with his personal money [which he really needed for himself — Maharsha]. Undoubtedly, when he told her that the charity fund was depleted, he consoled her with soothing words.

The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 16b) says that tzedakah is one of the things which can cancel a harsh decree against a person. Hence, in merit of tzedakah he so generously gave, which saved an entire family, the decree that he die at a young age was removed, and for his kind and comforting words, he received eleven more blessings, which gained him twenty-two years of additional life.

(מנחת חנוך - הערות על ספר קול אליהו)

Alternatively, the seventeen berachot for financial and moral support one merits for helping the poor are based on the seventeen berachot which the prophet Isaiah says one will receive when, “Haloh feros lara’eiv lachmecha” — “Surely you will break your bread for the hungry” and “Vetafeik lara’eiv nafshecha” — “Offer your soul to the hungry” (see Isaiah 58:7-12).

In a twenty-two year period, there are two hundred and sixty-four months plus an average of eight leap months (a second month of Adar to even out the solar and lunar systems), a total of two hundred and seventy-two months.

The word “ra’eiv” (רעב) — “hungry” — has the numerical value of two hundred and seventy-two. For BinyaminHaTzaddik’s exceptional giving of tzedakah to the ra’eiv — hungry — and his genuine interest in their plight, he was rewarded with “ra’eiv” (רעב) — an additional two hundred and seventy-two months of life — a total of twenty-two years.

(עיון יעקב)

"נתון תתן לו...כי בגלל הדבר הזה יברכך ה' אלקיך"
“You shall surely give him...for in return for this matter, G‑d, your G‑d, will bless you.” (15:10)

QUESTION: What is “hadavar” — “the thing” — for which Hashem will bless you?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Bava Batra 9b) says that for giving tzedakah to the poor one receives six blessings, and for also saying comforting and encouraging words to the poor, one receives an additional eleven blessings. Unfortunately, many people give tzedakah grudgingly, and instead of saying comforting things to the poor, they make snide remarks which cause pain to the needy or they merely give without saying anything.

The Torah, therefore, instructs us that in addition to “naton titein” — “giving generously” — “lo yeira levavecha” — “let your heart not feel bad” — and cause you to say insensitive things or refrain from speaking at all when giving, “ki biglal” — “for in return for” — “hadaver hazeh” — “this [good] word” — which you will say to the poor, while giving them tzedakah — “yevarechecha Hashem” — Hashem will bless you with even more blessings than you receive for the actual giving. (See Bereishit 44:18, “yedaber na avdecha — may your servant speak — davar — a word.”)

* * *

King Shlomo says, “Tovim hashenayim min ha’echad asher yeish lahem sachar tov ba’amalam” — “Two are better than one, for they get a greater return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). This statement can be explained as follows: There are some people who give charity without saying encouraging words to the poor. On the other hand, there are those who verbally comfort the poor, but do not extend any financial assistance. King Shlomo in his wisdom is alluding that, “Tovim hashenayim” — “Two” — i.e. doing both — giving and saying comforting words — “is better,” “min ha’echad” — than one — i.e. only giving or only saying words of comfort, for there is “sachar tov” — a reward of seventeen berachot (“tov” [טוב] has the numerical value of seventeen) “ba’amalam” — “for laboring both together.”

(בית יעקב ר' יעקב הכהן ז"ל טראב – מסלתון ראב"ד ביירות, בשם מהר"י ז"ל סוזין)

"כי לא יחדל אביון מקרב הארץ על כן אנכי מצוך לאמר פתח תפתח את ידך"
“For destitute people will not cease to exist within the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall surely open your hand.’ ” (15:11)

QUESTION: The words “leimor” — “saying” — and “pato’ach tiftach” — “you shall surely open” — seem to be superfluous? The pasuk could have just said, “Therefore, I command you ‘petach et yadecha’ — ‘open your hand’ ”?

ANSWER: According to Rabbi Yitzchak in Bava Batra (9b), one who gives money to the poor receives six blessings. One who comforts the poor by saying a word of encouragement receives eleven blessings.

The Torah is alluding here to the importance of speaking words of moral support and comfort to the poor. It is conveying the message that Hashem instructs us that in addition to extending financial assistance: “I command you ‘leimor’ — to say to the poor — ‘pato’ach tiftach et yadecha’ — ‘G‑d will help you and you will speedily be wealthy and you will generously open your hand to help the poor and needy.’”

(ר' ישראל זצ"ל מריזין)

Alternatively, the act of giving charity is noble. To persuade others to give is even more noble, as the Gemara (Bava Batra 9a) says, “Gadol hama’aseh yoteir min ha’oseh” — “The one who persuades others to give charity is greater than the one who gives alone.” The Torah is alluding to this by telling us, “Therefore, I command you leimor — to say, i.e. persuade others — that ‘pato’ach tiftach et yadecha’ — ‘you shall surely open your hand to the poor.’”

(בעל סדר הדורות)

"פתח תפתח את ידך לאחיך לעניך ולאבינך בארצך"
“You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor, and to your destitute in your land.” (15:11)

QUESTION: When one opens his hand, there is usually nothing in it; should not the pasuk have stated, “You shall surely open your treasures”?

ANSWER: When the fingers of the hand are closed against the palm, it appears as though all four fingers are the same size. In a fully opened hand, however, it is obvious that there are larger and smaller fingers.

Unfortunately, among the people who givetzedakah, there are those who give every institution or needy cause an equal amount, without making a distinction between larger and smaller institutions, or between more and less worthy causes.

With the words, “You shall surely open your hand,” the Torah is conveying an important lesson on how tzedakah should be given. Learn from the fingers of the “opened hand” that all charitable causes are not necessarily alike. Measure and evaluate the importance and worthiness of each cause and institution and support them accordingly.

(עשר בת רבים, בית יעקב ר' יעקב הכהן ז"ל טראב – מסלתון ראב"ד ביירות)

"שמור את חדש האביב ועשית פסח לה' אלקיך כי בחדש האביב הוציאך ה' אלקיך ממצרים לילה. וזבחת פסח לה'..."
“You shall observe the month of springtime and perform the Pesach-offering for G‑d, your G‑d, for in the month of springtime G‑d, your G‑d, took you out of Egypt, at night. And you shall sacrifice the Pesach-offering” (16:1-2)

QUESTION: Not only is the word “lailah” — “at night” — superfluous, but in fact, the Jews did not leave Egypt at night but the following morning (see Shemot 12:41)?

ANSWER: On the pasuk, “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to me” (ibid. 19:4), the Targum Yonatan ben Uziel writes that on the night of the fifteenth of Nissan, when the Jews were to eat the Pesach-offering, Hashem carried them on clouds to the place where the Beit Hamikdash would be built to make the Pesach-offering, returning them immediately afterwards to Egypt.

Hence, the Torah instructs us, “You shall observe the month of springtime and perform the Pesach-offering...” to commemorate that in this month Hashem took you out of Egypt — “lailah” — “at night” — and “vezavachta — you slaughtered [in the past tense] a Pesach-offering to Hashem...in the place where Hashem will choose to cause His name to rest.”

(בית יעקב ר' יעקב הכהן ז"ל טראב – מסלתון ראב"ד ביירות בשם חזון עובדיה)

"ושמחת בחגך אתה ובנך ובתך ועבדך ואמתך והלוי והגר והיתום והאלמנה אשר בשעריך"
“You shall rejoice before Hashem your G‑d, you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maidservant, the Levite in your cities, the proselyte, the orphan and the widow who are among you.” (16:10, 14)

QUESTION: Why is this instruction mentioned for the festivals of Shavuot and Sukkot, and not for Pesach?

ANSWER: One Pesach Reb Chaim Avraham (son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi) went to his brother (Rabbi Dober, the Mitteler Rebbe) to wish him a Gut Yom Tov. Reb Chaim Avraham related on that occasion that the Alter Rebbe had said, “On Pesach one does not offer a guest food or drink, but the guest may help himself” (HaYom Yom, 20 Nissan).

Since many people have personal stringencies on Pesach, they decline to eat outside their own homes. Thus, offering food might prove awkward or embarrassing.

Perhaps, the Torah’s omitting of gladdening the unfortunate and indignant on Pesach by inviting them to share with us in our festivity is a remez — hint — to the abovementioned custom.

"שלוש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך את פני ה' אלקיך במקום אשר יבחר"
“Three times a year all your males should appear before G‑d, your G‑d, in the place that He will choose.” (16:16)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Pesachim 3b) relates that a gentile once boasted to Rabbi Yehudah ben Beteira that he would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and partake of the Pesach-offering. Wanting to send a message to the people in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yehudah ben Beteira told him that in the future he should ask to be served the fatty, delicious tail of the animal. Since the lamb is the most commonly used animal for the Pesach-offering and its tail is burned on the altar (and not eaten), he hoped that the Jews would be suspicious of this man. Indeed, the next year when the gentile requested the fatty tail, they investigated him and realized that he was a non-Jew.

Tosafot questions why Rabbi Yehudah ben Beteira himself did not make the pilgrimage, and gives as one reason that only those who owned land in Eretz Yisrael were required to make the pilgrimage (see Pesachim 8b).

Why did Rabbi Yehudah ben Beteira not have a plot of land in Israel?

ANSWER: The prophet Yechezkeil once came across a valley filled with dry bones, which he resurrected at Hashem’s behest. In the Gemara (Sanhedrin 92b), there is a dispute if this was a real event or merely a parable in which Yechezkeil was shown a vision of the dried bones and their resurrection, symbolizing that the Jews will be resurrected from the “grave” of their exile and returned to Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yosi Hagelili said that the dead Yechezkeil resurrected went up to Eretz Yisrael, married, and fathered sons and daughters. In support of this opinion, Rabbi Yehudah ben Beteira stood up and declared, “I am one of their descendants and these are the tefillin my ancestors handed down to me.”

“Who were these dead that have been resurrected?” the Gemara asks. Rav said, “These were the people of the tribe of Ephraim who calculated the end [of the Egyptian exile] and erred.” Rav was referring to their unsuccessful attempt to leave Egypt before the actual exodus. All the would-be escapees were killed by the people of Gath (Philistines—see I Chronicles 7:21).

According to the Gemara (Bava Batra 117a), the land of Eretz Yisrael, which became the inheritance of the Jews, was divided and apportioned either to those who came out of Egypt or to those who entered into Eretz Yisrael. Since Rabbi Yehudah ben Beteira drew his genealogy to members of the tribe of Ephraim, who were not among the Jews who left Egypt, and who did not come to Eretz Yisrael together with the Jewish people, he did not have his own share in the land.

(קול אליהו)

"שלוש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך את פני ה' אלקיך"
“Three times a year all your males should appear before G‑d, your G‑d.” (16:16)

QUESTION: Is not the word “et” superfluous?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Pesachim 22b) says that Shimon Ha’imsuni held that the word “et” is a superfluous expression and that it is always written to teach something additional. He would thus analyze every occurrence in the Torah of the word “et” and explain its significance. When he reached the pasuk, “Et Hashem Elokecha tirah” — “You should fear G‑d, your G‑d” (Devarim 10:20) he stopped his practice. Rabbi Akiva explained that the word “et” refers to talmidei chachamim — Torah scholars — and that the pasuk is instructing us that one should fear them.

On Yom Tov a person is obligated to visit his Rebbe — teacher — (Rosh Hashanah 16b). The extra word “et” may be a source to this Rabbinic dictum, namely, “Three times a year all your males should appear before” — “et” — your Rebbe — who is equated to, “penei Hashem Elokecha” — “[appearing before] G‑d, your G‑d.”

* * *

Why didn’t Shimon Ha’imsuni offer an explanation similar to Rabbi Akiva’s?

King Shlomo says, “Kabeid et Hashem meihonecha” — “Honor G‑d with your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9). If the word “et” means to include talmidei chachamim, then the words of King Shlomo indicate that one should honor ettalmidei chachamim — with one’s wealth, i.e. give them money. Therefore, though Shimon Ha’imsuni agreed with Rabbi Akiva, he did not want to say it to avoid suspicion of self-interest.

However, the Gemara (Ketubot 63a) relates that Rabbi Akiva was the son-in-law of Kalba Savu’a, one of the wealthiest people at that time, who shared his wealth with him. Thus, Rabbi Akiva was also very wealthy. Since he wasn’t dependent on anyone for support, he was confident that no one would suspect him of self-interest, and therefore he declared that the word “et” is to include talmidei chachamim, that they, too, should be feared.

(פרדס יוסף)

"שלוש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך את פני ה' אלקיך במקום אשר יבחר"
“Three times a year all your males should appear before G‑d, your G‑d, in the place that He will choose.” (16:16)

QUESTION: TheGemara (Rosh Hashanah 16b) says that one is required to visit hisRebbe on Yom Tov. Does this mitzvah apply in contemporary times?

ANSWER: Rabbi Yechezkeil z”l Landau (Noda B’Yehudah, vol. 2, Orach Chaim 94) asserts that it does not, for the following reason: The Gemara (Kiddushin 33b) says, “A talmid — student — may rise before his Rebbe only morning and evening, so that the honor given to the teacher not exceed the honor of Hashem, to Whom prayers are recited only in the morning and in the evening. Since, in our days, the Beit Hamikdash is destroyed and one cannot properly fulfill the mitzvah of making a pilgrimage and offering sacrifices, if a talmid visits hisRebbe on Yom Tov, it appears that he is giving more honor to his Rebbe than to Hashem.

On the other hand, Rabbi Yehonatan z”l Eibeshitz (Ya’arot D’vash, vol. 1, 12) is of the opinion that the obligation of visiting one’sRebbe applies only when there is no Beit Hamikdash. He reasons that when the Beit Hamikdash is standing, one must go to the Beit Hamikdash and cannot fulfill his obligation by visiting one’sRebbe. However, when the Beit Hamikdash is in ruins, one is obligated to visit hisRebbe as a remembrance of the pilgrimage which was normally made to Hashem, since a talmid chacham is in some measure equated to Hashem.

(עי' ברכת אהרן על מסכת ברכות מאמר קס"ז)

"איש כמתנת ידו כברכת ה' אלקיך אשר נתן לך"
“Every man according to what he can give according to the blessing which G‑d your G‑d gives you.” (16:17)

QUESTION: The words “ish kematenat yado” — “every man according to what he can give” — appear to be extra. Could not the pasuk have said “tein kevirkat Hashem Elokecha” — “give in accordance with what Hashem blessed you”?

ANSWER: According to our sages (Eiruvin 65b) the character of a man is evident in three things: kiso — his purse, koso — his cup (drinking), and ka’aso — his anger. Thus, one of the ways to recognize a man’s true character is to observe the way he conducts himself with his money. Does he give graciously and with a genial disposition, or does he make the receiver feel unworthy and uncomfortable?

This pasuk alludes to this by telling us “ish” — [you can tell the character of the] man — “kematenat yado” — by the way he conducts himself when he gives, and particularly, if the amount he gives is commensurate with “kevirkat Hashem Elokecha” — the blessing that Hashem has bestowed upon him.

(ר' שמשון רפאל ז"ל הירש)