"כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו ה' אלקיך בידך"
“When you will go out to war against your enemies, and G‑d, your G‑d, will deliver them into your hand.” (21:10)

QUESTION: Instead of “ki teitzei lamilchamah” — “when you will go out to war” — it should have said “ki tilcham im oyevecha” — “when you will be at war with your enemy”?

ANSWER: This parshah is read during the month of Elul, the optimal time for doing teshuvah; it is not only discussing a physical war, but is also alluding to man’s spiritual battle. Man has a yeitzer tov — good inclination — and a yeitzer hara — evil inclination. Each one fights to control man’s direction, and it is extremely difficult for man to overcome his powerful yeitzer hara. However, our sages (Shabbat 104a) have declared that “haba letaheir mesai’im oto” — “the one who wants to purify himself (improve his ways) is assisted from Heaven.” Similarly the Midrash Rabbah (Song of Songs 5:2) states that Hashem says to the Jewish people, “Make a small opening (of teshuvah) like the opening of a needle, and I will open for you entrances through which caravans can pass.”

In encouraging man to do teshuvah, the Torah is assuring us that “ki teitzei lamilchamah” — if you will only resolve to go out and wage war “al oyevecha” — “against the enemy” — i.e. the yeitzer hara — you will surely be victorious because Hashem will hand him over to you.

(תורת משה)

Alternatively, the Zohar (Bamidbar 243:a), compares the inner struggle in man during prayer to a time of war. “Your enemy,” the yeitzer hara tries in every way to distract the person and disturb his kavanah, and man endeavors very hard to overcome him.

Therefore, Torah advises: The ideal solution is “ki teitzei” — to “go out” — i.e. one should leave his home and go to shul to daven with a minyan. There, one will eliminate many distractions one encounters while praying at home, and the battle with the yeitzer hara will be won easily.

(עי' לקוטי תורה - פ' תצא)


"כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו ה' אלקיך בידך ושבית שביו"
“When you will go out to war against your enemies, and G‑d, your G‑d, will deliver them into your hand and you will capture its captivity.” (21:10)

QUESTION: The word “shivyo” — “its captivity” — literally means “his captive.” Should not the pasuk have said, “shivyecha” — “your captive” — or “shevi” — “a captive”?

ANSWER: In wartime generals try to determine the strategy of the enemy and plan their defense accordingly. Similarly, in the battle with the yeitzer hara — the evil inclination — a person should pay careful attention to how he becomes “shivyo” — “his captive.” One should thus place great emphasis on capturing and taking control, i.e. eliminating the weaknesses upon which the yeitzer hara preys.

* * *

Alternatively, the yeitzer hara works with excitement and alacrity, never tiring or giving up. The moment a person is off guard, the “yeitzer” captures him and he falls into his net and becomes “shivyo” — “his captive.” The way to counter his attack is by using his methods (namely excitement and alacrity) in the performance of mitzvot, fulfilling Hashem’s will with dedication and zeal. Thus, “by capturing” — i.e. using for Hashem — the methods through which the yeitzer hara makes you “shivyo” — “his captive” — you will ultimately capture him and rule over him.

(בעל שם טוב)


"וראיתי בשביה אשת יפת תאר וחשקת בה ולקחת לך לאשה"
“And you will see among its captivity a woman who is of beautiful form, and you will desire her and you may take her for yourself for a wife.” (21:11)

QUESTION: Rashi writes, “lo dibrah Torah ela keneged yeitzer hara” — “The Torah spoke only in response to the evil inclination.” What does Rashi want to exclude, by using the word “ela” — “only”?

ANSWER: TheGemara (Yevamot 63a) states that although Rabbi Chiya’s wife mistreated him, he would bring her presents. In puzzlement, Rav asked, “But she causes agony to our teacher?” To which Rabbi Chiya replied, “It is sufficient that she raises our children and she saves us from sin” (“thoughts of immorality” — Rashi).

Regarding the “yefat to’ar” — “woman of beautiful form” — the Torah predicts that ultimately the child born from this marriage will end up being a ben sorer umoreh” — “a wayward and rebellious son.” Thus, while all wives provide at least two benefits to their husbands (raising the children and saving him from sin), in this case, however, the husband may be spared improper thoughts caused by the evil inclination, but he will not derive through her the benefit of having his children raised properly.

Hence, Rashi writes that the Torah permitted marrying herela keneged yeitzer hara”only for the assistance she can offer in one’s battle with the yeitzer hara. The other benefit, however, which man expects to receive from a marriage, raising good children, does not apply in this case.

(חנוכת התורה)


"והיה אם לא חפצת בה ושלחתה לנפשה"
“But it shall be that if you do not desire her, then you shall send her on her own.” (21:14)

QUESTION: Rashi writes, “Scripture informs you that eventually you will hate her.” Where is the evidence for this in the parshah?

ANSWER: When a man marries a woman, he gives her a ketubah — a marriage contract. If he develops a hatred for her, he gives her a get — a divorce. In each document the date is essential. In a ketubah the wording is; “so many days lechodesh — to the month of....” In a get the wording is; “so many days leyerach — to the month of....” The reason for the different names for “month” is as follows: The word “chodesh” (חֹדֶשׁ) is related to the word chadash (חָדָשׁ) “new,” and since when speaking of marriage the Torah says “ki yikach ish ishah chadashah” — “when a man marries a new wife” (23:5) Hence, in the marriage contract for his new wife, the month is called “chodesh.”

The process of releasing one’s self and his wife from their covenant of marriage is known as “geirushin” (גירושין). Since in the Torah there is the expression “geresh yerachim” (גרש ירחם) — which means “the yield of the moons” (Devarim 33:14), we assume that this is a hint that when one is preparing a document of “geirushin” (גרש) — “divorce” — the term used for month is “yerech” (ירח).

Although the Torah permits bringing home a captive woman, it is not happy about it and hopes that the captor’s desire will ultimately evaporate and he will send her away. Hence, the Torah prescribes that when he brings home his captive woman, she must make herself unattractive and sit in mourning for “yerech yamim” — a full month. The term “yerech,” which is commonly used in a divorce document, is used here as an indication that ultimately he will divorce himself from her and send her away.

(אמרי בנימין)


"כי תהיין לאיש שתי נשים האחת אהובה והאחת שנואה וילדו לו בנים האהובה והשנואה והיה הבן הבכר לשניאה. לא יוכל לבכר את בן האהובה על פני בן השנואה הבכור"
“If a man will have two wives, one beloved and one hated, and they bear him sons, the beloved one and the hated one, and the firstborn son is the hated one’s — he cannot give the right of the firstborn to the son of the beloved one ahead of the son of the hated one, the firstborn.” (21:15, 16)

QUESTION: The word “penei” — “ahead of” (literally “the face of”) — seems superfluous. Could not the pasuk have said, “al ben hasenuah habechor” — “over the firstborn son of the hated one”?

ANSWER: The Rambam (Nachalot 2:2) rules that if one has two wives who are giving birth at the same time, and the forehead of one baby emerges but delays in coming out, and in the interim the second woman’s baby emerges entirely, the first one (whose forehead only emerged) is considered to be the firstborn and receives a double portion of inheritance.

It may be that the pesukim about the “beloved” and “hated” wives are alluding to this halachah. Thus, if one has two wives, a beloved one and a hated one, and the forehead of the child of the hated one emerges first and afterwards the other child is fully born, the father cannot give the right of the firstborn to the son of the beloved “al penei” — “over the face of” — the hated one. Since the forehead (which is the part of the face above the eyes) of the son of the hated one emerged first, he is lawfully the firstborn and entitled to a double portion.

(חומת אנך)


"והיה ביום הנחילו את בניו את אשר יהיה לו"
“Then it shall be that on the day that he causes his sons to inherit that which he possesses.” (21:16)

QUESTION: 1) The word “vehayah” indicates a simchah — joy (Vayikra Rabbah 11:7); what joy is the Torah alluding to? 2) The words “et asher yiheyeh lo” — “that which he possesses”— seem extra; obviously his children can inherit only that which he has?

ANSWER: There are many parents who pride themselves for having given their children much more than they had. They reminisce about their arrival in America, when they struggled to make a living, and they congratulate themselves for providing their children with a comfortable lifestyle and the higher education that they lacked.

While it is good to give our children things we did not have, it is crucial not to forget to give our children what we did have. Just as our parents inculcated in us a love for Torah and mitzvot, and inspired us to be shomrei Torah u’mitzvot, it is incumbent upon us to instill in our children the same dedication and devotion. Even when a parent helps his child to become a professional, he should impress upon him to be a Torah-observing professional.

The Torah therefore says “vehayah” — it is worthy to rejoice if one leaves as an inheritance to his children not only that which he never had in his youth, but also “eit asher yihyeh lo” — “that which he possesses” — i.e. the Torah upbringing which he received and the Torah lifestyle which he practices.


"והיה ביום הנחילו את בניו את אשר יהיה לו...לתת לו פי שנים בכל אשר ימצא לו"
“Then it shall be that on the day that he causes his sons to inherit whatever will be his...To give him the double portion in all that is found with him.” (21:16, 17)

QUESTION: In the first pasuk is says, “yiheyeh lo” — “will be his” — and in the second pasuk it says “yimatzei lo” — “that is found with him.” Why is there an inconsistency?

ANSWER: According to halachah, a firstborn receives one portion more than his brothers. However, this applies only to what belonged to the father at the time of death and not to property acquired posthumously, such as lottery winnings. The first pasuk, which uses the term “yiheyeh lo” — “will be his” (in the future tense) — is referring to assets acquired posthumously, in which all brothers share equally. The second pasuk is discussing the law of giving a firstborn a double portion, and this applies only to that which is “yimatze lo” — “found with him” — at the time of his death.

(הגר"א)


"כי את הבכר...יכיר לתת לו פי שנים בכל אשר ימצא לו"
“He must recognize the firstborn...to give him the double portion in all that is found with him.” (21:17)

QUESTION: Why is a firstborn called a “bechor” in Hebrew?

ANSWER: According to the Torah, when a person dies his estate is divided into equal parts with the firstborn son receiving two parts while each of the other sons receive one. For example, if a man has three sons, the eldest receives half and the other two each receive a fourth. The halachah of a firstborn receiving an additional portion applies only to “muchzak” — an estate that is present at the time of the father’s death. If the father had bought a lottery ticket and after his death his ticket wins, the entire prize is divided equally among the three brothers.

This is all alluded to in the word “bechor” (בכר):

1) The letter "ב" is numerically equivalent to two times the "א" that precedes it, the letter "כ" is double the letter "י" preceding it, and the letter "ר", which has the numerical value of 200, is double that of "ק" which precedes it. These are the only letters in the alef-beit whose numerical values are double the letters they follow. Thus, the title of the firstborn is composed of these three letters, hinting to the fact that he receives a double portion.

2) The "ב", "כ", and "ר" are double the numbered value of the letter which precedes it. This is a hint that the bechor only receives a double portion of that which is already “before” the sons when the inheritance takes place, but not of that which only becomes available afterwards.

(פתגמין קדישין בשם הגר"א)


"כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה איננו שמע בקול אביו ובקול אמו"
“If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother.” (21:18)

QUESTION: Why is the word “bekol” — “to the voice” — repeated? It could have simply said, “He does not hearken to the voice of his father and mother”?

ANSWER: When a man and woman enter into marriage, it is extremely important that they have similar views and mutual goals for the family they hope to raise. Unfortunately, the husband and wife sometimes do not see eye to eye in their aspirations for their children. The Torah is telling us that when a child is exposed to a “kol aviv” — “a father’s voice” — and a “kol imo” — “a mother’s voice” — each one telling the child different things, it is possible that the child, receiving mixed signals, may end up being wayward and rebellious.

* * *

When the parents bring their child to the elders of the city, they say to them, “This son of ours is wayward and rebellious ‘einenu shomei’a bekoleinu’ — ‘he does not hearken to our voice.’ ” Since in the household the mother’s opinion and the father’s opinion were two separate voices, the father should have complained to the elders, “He does not hearken to my voice,” and the mother should have said, “He does not hearken to my voice.” Why do they say “einenu shomei’a bekoleinu” — “he does not hearken to our voice” —which suggests that there was one unified voice in the home?

Often parents attempt to deny the lack of absolute domestic unity between them and blame their problems on someone else. They are actually saying to the elders, “We cannot comprehend why in our home where there exists ‘koleinu’ — ‘a unified voice between us’ — our son turned out stubborn and rebellious.”

Undoubtedly, after careful analysis, the elders will reprove the parents and tell them, “While you may have deceived us for a short while, you cannot fool your child who lives with you in your home. He detected the lack of unity between you, and this brought him to his current situation.”


"כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה"
“If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son.” (21:18)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) mentions an opinion that there never was a “ben sorer umoreh” nor will there ever be one. The Gemara asks, “If so, why was this portion written in the Torah?” and answers, “derosh vekabeil sechar” — “study it and receive the reward for studying Torah.”

One is rewarded for studying any part of the Torah. Why did the Torah include a totally hypothetical subject for the purpose of reward?

ANSWER: Regarding the “ben sorer umoreh” referred to in the Torah, there are many conditions to be met which make it virtually impossible for one to fall into that category. Nevertheless, in our society there are, unfortunately, many children who in a sense are wayward and rebellious. The Gemara is telling us that by carefully studying the portion of “ben sorer umoreh” and learning its lessons, one will acquire valuable insights into raising children. This will, in turn, lead to a “great reward,” namely children who will grow up in the proper way and bring nachas to their parents.


"ורגמהו כל אנשי עירו באבנים ומת ובערת הרע מקרבך"
“All the men of his city shall pelt him with stones and he shall die and you shall remove the evil from your midst.” (21:21)

QUESTION: Rashi writes that the “ben sorer umoreh” — “wayward and rebellious son” — is put to death “al sheim sofo” — “because of his end.” The Torah has determined his final intentions: Eventually he will consume his father’s wealth, and when he cannot maintain his extravagant habits, he will rob people. Consequently, the Torah said, ‘Let him die innocent and not die guilty.’ ”

The matriarch Sarah was displeased with Yishmael’s behavior and demanded that Avraham chase him out together with his mother, Hagar. While she was wandering in the wilderness of Beer-Sheva, an angel appeared and told her, “Fear not, for G‑d has heeded the cry of the youth ‘ba’asher hu sham’in his present state” (Bereishit 21:17). Rashi explains, “Though the angels pleaded with Hashem not to perform a miracle for Yishmael because his descendants would persecute and murder Jews, Hashem refused to listen and judged Yishmael ‘according to his present state (deeds)’ — and not according to what he would do in the future.”

Why is the ben sorer umoreh treated harsher than Yishmael?

ANSWER: In general, Hashem judges a person in accordance with his present state and thus spared Yishmael’s life. An exception to the rule is the case of the wayward and rebellious child, to whom Torah gives two descriptions “sorrer” and“moreh.” The word “moreh” (מורה) can also mean “a teacher.” Not only does he conduct himself badly, but he is also teaching and influencing others to follow suit. If he kept his actions to himself, the Torah would not take such a harsh stance toward him. However, he is being judged “al sheim sofo” — “by the end part of his name.” Since, in addition to being a “sorer” — one who turns away from Hashem — he is also a “moreh” — teaching others and having a bad influence — and so he must be stopped immediately.

(ר' מנחם מענדל זצ"ל מקוצק)


"וכי יהיה באיש חטא משפט מות והומת ותלית אתו על עץ"
“If a man shall have committed a sin whose judgment is death, and he be put to death, and you shall hang him on a gallows.” (21:22)

QUESTION: The words “cheit” — “sin” — and “vehumat” — “and he be put to death” — are superfluous. It could have said, “If a man shall have a judgment of death, and you shall hang him on a gallows”?

ANSWER: When the great Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordevero passed away, the Arizal delivered a eulogy based on this pasuk. He explained that the word “cheit” does not only mean “sin” but also means “lack, miss” as in the pasuk, “Men, all of whom could sling a stone at a hair ‘velo yachti’ — and not miss” (Judges 20:16). Another example is Batsheva’s statement to King David,“Vehayiti ani ubeni Shlomo chata’im” — “I and my son Shlomo will be lacking (denied any prominence)” (I Kings 1:21, Rashi).

Man was originally created immortal. But when the serpent persuaded Chavah to eat the fruit of the forbidden Eitz Hada’at — Tree of Knowledge — she brought death to the world; man would die for his sins. The Gemara (Bava Batra 17a), however, says that there were four tzaddikim who never committed any sins, and who only died because of “itiyo shel nachash” —the advice of the serpent to Chavah, which is the source of death for humans.

The Arizal explained the pasuk to mean, “If there will be ‘ish’ — a prominent person who is ‘cheit mishpat mavet’‘lacking any reason to deserve the judgment of death’ — i.e. totally innocent of any sins, and yet ‘vehumat’ — he was put to death by the Angel of Death, ‘vetalita oto al eitz’ — you should hang i.e. attribute his passing on the ‘eitz’ — the serpent’s advice to Chavah to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree.”

(נחל קדומים, ועי' לקוטי שיחות חכ"ד)


"כי תבנה בית חדש ועשית מעקה לגגך ולא תשים דמים בביתך כי יפל הנפל ממנו"
“If you build a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof, so that you will not place blood in your house if a faller falls from it.” (22:8)

QUESTION: The word “mimenu” — “from it” — is superfluous?

ANSWER: The word “bayit” (בית) — “house” — has the numerical value of four hundred and twelve. The words “ma’akeh gagecha” (מעקה גגך) — “fence of your roof” — have the numerical value of two hundred and forty-one. By subtracting the numerical value of “ma’akeh gagecha” (two hundred and forty-one) from the word“bayit” (four hundred and twelve) one hundred and seventy-one remains, which is the numerical value of the word “hanofeil” (הנופל) — “a faller.”

The Torah is cautioning us that one who builds a new house should put a fence on the roof; otherwise, if he subtracts it from the house, i.e. does not put a fence on the roof, there will, G‑d forbid, be “hanofeil” a “faller,” and this is evident “mimenu” — “from it” — from the numerical value of the word “bayit” less “ma’akeh gagecha.”

(בן איש חי)


"ולקח אבי הנער ואמה והוציאו את בתולי הנער...ואמר אבי הנער...וענשו אתו מאה כסף ונתנו לאבי הנערה"
“Then the father of the girl and her mother should take and bring proofs of the girl’s virginity...The father of the girl should say...And they shall fine him one hundred silver [shekels] and give them to the father of the girl.” (22:15-19)

QUESTION: The word “na’arah” is usually written with a "ה". Why is it written here three times without a "ה" and the fourth time with a hey?

ANSWER: Jewish men and women are sons and daughters of a king (Shabbat 67a). Regarding the daughter of a king, King David says, “Kol kevudah bat melech penimah” — “The complete glory of the princess is within” (Psalms 45:14), which means that Jewish girls should not be out in public, but primarily at home conducting themselves modestly (see Rambam Ishut 13:11).

The man who slanders his wife that she is lacking virginity is in effect accusing her of being out on the streets like a“na’ar” (נער) — “a young lad” — and not a “na’arah” (נערה) — “a young Jewish lady” whose place is inside. Since, he is in effect, accusing her father of not giving her a proper upbringing and supervision. The father plays an active role in her defense. When it is established however, that the husband made a false accusation, he is fined one hundred silver shekels which he must give “la’avi hana’arah — with a "ה" — to the father who indeed raised his daughter to behave exactly as is proper for a Jewish young lady.

(בעל הטורים, שפתי כהן)


"והנה הוא שם עלילת דברים"
“Now, behold, he made a wanton accusation.” (22:17)

QUESTION: Four pesukim earlier, the Torah states, “vesam lah alilat devarim” — “he makes a wanton accusation against her.” Why, now while filing a complaint, does the father leave out the word “lah” — “against her”?

ANSWER: The husband makes a wanton accusation because he hates her and is seeking to get out of the marriage without paying her ketubah. He therefore comes to the Beit-Din with his two witnesses anticipating that she will be put to death for being unfaithful to him.

However, the father complains to the Beit-Din, “Not only did he hurt her — my daughter — but even more so, he hurt me — that is my reputation. With this libel he is insinuating that the education and upbringing I gave her was defective, and therefore she could commit an act unbecoming of a Jewish daughter.”

Though the husband’s intent may have been “lah” — directed “against her,” out of hatred, the father omits this detail when he brings his complaint against his son-in-law to the Beit-Din, since he regards the shame caused to him as greater than his daughter’s.

* * *

According to halachah (Ketubot 23a), one does not receive two punishments for one act. If so, why does this man receive a double punishment; paying one hundred shekels to the father and lashings?

It is considered a double punishment only if the crime was perpetrated against one person. In view of the above, that the son-in-law perpetrated a crime against two people, his wife and also his father-in-law, it is understood why he receives a double punishment. He pays one hundred silver shekels to the father for attempting to defame him and he receives a lashing for attempting to have his wife put to death.

(משך חכמה)


"לא יבא ממזר בקהל ה' גם דור עשירי לא יבא לו בקהל ה'"
“A mamzer (bastard) shall not enter the congregation of G‑d, even his tenth generation shall not enter the congregation of G‑d.” (23:3)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah emphasize even the tenth generation?

ANSWER: A child born from a union in which only one parent is a mamzer, is only a “half mamzer.” Thus, the second generation of descendants is only one-quarter and the third generation is one-eighth mamzer. The fourth is one-sixteenth, and the fifth is one-thirty-second. The sixth is one sixty-fourth, and the seventh has in it one hundred and twenty-eighth of a mamzer. The eighth is one two hundred and fifty-sixth, and the ninth is one five hundred and twelfth of a mamzer. The tenth generation is only one thousand and twenty-fourth of a mamzer.

Therefore, the Torah emphasizes the tenth generation, to teach us that even the tenth generation, which contains less than one thousandth mamzer, still may not enter into the fold, because there is a rule in halachah (see Chulin 100a, Tosafot) that a creature does not become nullified even if it is one part in a thousand.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר - ר' ליבוש ז"ל חריף)


"לא יבא עמוני ומואבי בקהל ה'...על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים"
“An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of G‑d...Because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt.” (23:4-5)

QUESTION: Hashem’s punishments are midah keneged midah — measure for measure. Why is the punishment for not offering bread and water perpetual exclusion from the Jewish people?

ANSWER: Hashem forbade harming the Amonites and the Moabites because of two women who would ultimately come from them, Ruth the Moabite who is the ancestor of Mashiach, and Na’amah the Amonite who would become the wife of King Shlomo (see Bava Kamma 38b).

The Rabbis forbade eating bread baked by gentiles out of concern that sharing food can bring about a closeness which may lead to intermarriage (see Shabbat 17b). Similarly, the people of Amon and Moab did not offer bread so that their people would not marry Jews. Moreover, they hoped that by training their people to distance themselves from the Jews they would prevent Ruth and Na’amah from becoming part of the Jewish people.

Since their intent was to prevent intermarriage between their people and the Jewish people, their punishment was permanent exclusion from joining the Jewish people in marriage.

The Gemara (Yevamot 76b) declares that the prohibition applies only to the males and not to the females because it was the role of the men not the women to go out on the dangerous paths of the wilderness to bring food and drink to their Jewish cousins. Thus, while men can convert, but not marry Jewish women, Moabite and Amonite women may convert to Judaism and marry Jewish men.

(ילקוט האורים)

* * *

King David said, “Sarim redafuni chinam umidevarecha pachad libi. Sas anochi al imratecha kemotzei shalal rav” — “Princes pursued me without cause, but my heart feared Your utterance. I rejoiced over Your word, like one who finds abundant spoils” (Psalms 119:161 — 162). This may be explained as a reference to the difficulties David encountered from Doeg, the head of the Sanhedrin in the days of King Shaul, and others who sought to discredit him by disparaging his ancestress Ruth the Moabite, based on the pasuk, “An Amonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of Hashem” (see Yevamot 76b).

Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemot 13a) writes in the name of the Kabbalists that the term “davar” — “word” — refers to the Written Torah, and “amar” — “say” — refers to the Oral Torah. Thus, David was saying, “Princes pursued me without cause” — charging that I was unfit to enter into Klal Yisrael. “But my heart feared devarecha — Your utterance” — the Written Torah which appeared to disqualify me. However, “sas anochi al imratecha” — “I rejoiced over Your word” — i.e. the Oral Torah which explains the Written Torah included an extra yud (Moavi — מואבי) to teach that only Moabite men are precluded, but Moabite woman may join Klal Yisrael in marriage, “like one who finds abundant spoils.”

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי בשם ברוך טעם)


"על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים ואשר שכר עליך את בלעם...לקללך"
“Because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt, and because he hired against you Bilaam...to curse you.” (23:5)

QUESTION: The hiring of Bilaam to curse the Jews was a far greater crime than not offering bread and water to the Jews, why is it listed as the second reason to not accept an Amonite and Moabite into the Jewish community?

ANSWER: Their failure to offer bread and water to the Jews can be justified by arguing that perhaps they were a poor nation with barely enough for their own people. However, since they hired Bilaam to curse the Jews, they must have had an ample supply of money. Consequently, there is no justification for their failure to offer the bare necessities of bread and water, and thus, they do not deserve to marry into the Jewish community.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי בשם המגיד מדובנא)


"ואשר שכר עליך את בלעם"
“And because he hired against you Bilaam” (23:5)

QUESTION: Why the emphasis on the hiring of Bilaam? The pasuk could have simply said, he asked Bilaam to curse the Jewish people?

ANSWER: There is a rule that “ein sheliach ledevar aveirah (Kiddushin 42b). If A asks B to commit a sin, B is responsible for his actions and cannot exempt himself by claiming that he was only an emissary of A. If so, why should the Moabite people be punished for Bilaam’s attempts to curse the Jewish people?

The Gemara (Bava Kamma 55b) states that there are certain things for which one is exempt in earthly courts, but liable to punishment by the Heavenly tribunal, giving the example of hiring someone to offer false testimony. Though the hirer is not personally giving any testimony, he will have to account to the Heavenly courts for hiring the witness.

Tosafot (ibid. 56a) explains that this applies only in the case where he hires the witness, but not when he merely asks him to offer false testimony without compensating him. The reason for this is, that he does not definitely anticipate that he will listen to him and testify. Since the Moabites hired Bilaam to harm the Jewish people, they are liable in the Heavenly court. Therefore, the Torah declares that they must be excluded from the Jewish community.

(מטעמים)


"ויהפך ה' אלקיך לך את הקללה לברכה"
“And G‑d, your G‑d, transformed for you the curse to a blessing.” (23:6)

QUESTION: The word “lecha” — “for you” — seems to be superfluous. Could not the pasuk have just said, “G‑d transformed the curse to a blessing?”

ANSWER: Hashem promised our patriarch Avraham that, “I will bless those who bless you” (Bereishit 12:3). If so, Bilaam should have been blessed by Heaven for blessing the Jewish people?

With the extra word “lecha” — “for you” — the Torah is emphasizing that in reality Bilaam intended to curse you, but“lecha” — “for you” — Hashem converted it into a blessing. Thus, Bilaam is not among the people who blessed the Jews, but among those who did the opposite, and he deserves punishment, rather than reward.

(דגל מחנה אפרים)

"ולא יראה בך ערות דבר ושב מאחריך"
“So that He will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from you.” (23:15)

QUESTION: Instead of “mei’acharecha” which literally means “from behind you,” it should have said “veshav mimecha” — “He will turn away from you”?

ANSWER: When prominent guests or dignitaries are led into a ballroom, it is customary that the host walk in front of them escorting them to their designated seats. On the other hand, when a prisoner is led to a trial or to his cell, the guards walk behind him. Analogously, when the Jewish people conduct themselves properly, Hashem treats them royally and His glory goes before them leading the way. However, when they misbehave, G‑d forbid, He goes behind them.

The Torah is warning us to be careful and make sure that there not be a shameful thing seen among us, which will, G‑d forbid, cause that “veshav” — “He will turn” — from his position in front, and go “mei’acharecha” — “from behind you.”

(ר' יוסף שאול ז"ל נתנזון)


"לנכרי תשיך ולאחיך לא תשיך"
“To a gentile you may lend upon interest, but to your brother you may not lend upon interest.” (23:21)

QUESTION: A priest once asked a Rabbi, “Doesn’t this Biblical statement justify the gentile world’s hatred for the Jews?

ANSWER: The Rabbi responded, “On the contrary. The Torah is fair in all its rulings. According to halachah it is forbidden for a Jewish borrower to pay interest, and it is forbidden for the lender to collect interest. However the Torah never prohibited a gentile from charging interest to a Jewish borrower, and thus it is only fair that a Jew can charge interest when he lends money to a gentile.”

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)


"כי יקח איש אשה"
“If a man marries a woman.” (24:1)

QUESTION: Regarding the appropriate marriage our sages (Pesachim 49a) comment, “Invei hagefen be’invei hagefen davar na’ah umitkabeil” — “The mingling of the grapes of the vine with the grapes of the vine is beautiful and acceptable.”

Why the analogy to grapes and not another fruit?

ANSWER: Before eating a fruit that grows on a tree, one must recite the berachah, “Borei peri ha’eitz.” On the juice of the fruit one recites the berachah, “Shehakol niheyah bidevaro,” which is lower in the ranking of berachot. The only exception to this rule is in the case of grapes. While the fruit itself has the berachah, “Borei peri ha’eitz,” the juice is kovei’a berachah le’atzmo — acquires a berachah for itself — “Borei peri hagafen” — which is considered higher in the hierarchy of berachot than “Borei peri ha’eitz.”

The originators of a family are the parents, who are compared to the vine, and the offspring are compared to the grapes. Our sages are telling us that a marriage in which there is a “mingling of grapes” and which produces wine, i.e. children accomplishing even more than their parents— is “davar na’ah umitkabeil” — something beautiful and acceptable.


"כי יקח איש אשה"
“If a man marries a woman.” (24:1)

QUESTION: What is the meaning of the first blessing recited under the chuppah, “Mekadeish amo Yisrael al yedei chuppah vekiddushin” — “He sanctified His people Israel through chuppah and kiddushin”?

ANSWER: On the pasuk, “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morashah kehilat Yaakov — “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob” — our sages (Pesachim 49b) say, “Read not ‘morashah’ — ‘inheritance’ — but ‘me’orasah’ — ‘betrothed.’ ” Through the Torah, the Jewish people became betrothed in marriage to Hashem.

Our sages (Shabbat 88a) explain the pasuk “They stood under the mountain” (Shemot 19:17) to mean that at the time of the giving of the Torah, Hashem lifted the mountain over the Jewish people. According to the Targum Yonatan ben Uziel, the suspended mountain was clear as glass. Thus, the mountain served as a beautifully ornamented chuppah.

Just as under the chuppah the chatan gives the kallah a ring by means of which he acquires her and makes her his “arusah” — “betrothed” — similarly, Hashem acquired the Jewish people through the Luchot — Tablets — which He gave them.

The act of acquiring the woman is called “kiddushin” — “sanctification” — and therefore the chatan says to the kallah, “Harei at mekudeshet li” — “You are sanctified to me.” The reason is; just as when one sanctifies something to Hashem he separates it from everything else and designates it specifically to Hashem, similarly, the woman is now separated from the entire world and belongs only to her husband (see Kiddushin 2b).

Thus, in the blessing we state that we are emulating Hashem who, at the giving of the Torah, sanctified the Jewish people — separated them from the rest of the world and designated them for Himself as His people — through chuppah — the suspended mountain over them — and kiddushin — the giving of the Tablets.

(כסא דוד להחיד"א)

* * *

It is possible that the suspended transparent mountain is a source for the custom of having a chuppah under the open sky. Hashem’s enabling the Jews to see the stars was a blessing that they multiply as the stars in the heavens.


"כי יקח איש אשה"
“If a man marries a woman.” (24:1)

QUESTION: According to the Gemara (Kiddushin 2a) “A woman may be acquired through money or an item worth money or through a document [of betrothal].” Why are all our kiddushin — betrothals — always done with a ring?

ANSWER: The round ring customarily used has the appearance of the Hebrew letter samech. When the letter is written out in full it is spelled ס-מ-ך and has the numerical value of 120.

Originally, man was to live forever. After Adam sinned Hashem said, “His days shall be a hundred and twenty years” (Bereishit 6:3). By putting the round ring which looks like the samech on the finger of the Kallah, the Chatan is alluding that he wants her to be his wife for 120 years, please G‑d.

(שמעתי מאחי הרב שמואל פסח שי' באגאמילסקי)

Alternatively, by putting the round ring around her finger he is expressing the wish that she will always be “around” him as a true ezer kenegdo — support and companion — in all material and spiritual matters.

* * *

Alternatively, there are two parts to the wedding ceremony. The first is Eirusin — betrothal — and the second is Nisu’in — marriage. The giving of the ring is for the purpose of Eirusin. The Nisu’in is achieved by their living together as husband and wife.

Thus, the love between them at Eirusin is only b’makif — an external encompassing love. The love they reach with the Nisu’in is b’penimiyut — a permeating inward love. Hence, to emphasize that the level of love achieved through Eirusin is only b’makif, the Chatan is makkif — encompasses (externally) the Kallah’s finger with a ring.

(תורה אור ע' מ"ד, ד)


"כי יקח איש אשה"
“If a man marries a woman.” (24:1)

QUESTION: King Shlomo makes two statements regarding marriage, Matza isha matza tov” — “One who has found a wife has found goodness” (Proverbs 18:22), and “Umotze ani mar mimavet et ha’ishah” — “And I have discovered something more bitter than death, the woman” (Ecclesiastes 7:26). The Gemara (Berachot 8a) says that in Eretz Yisrael when one would marry, the people would ask him “matza” or “motze?” In other words, is she good or bitter?

1) How can the two statements be reconciled?

2) How can the chatan be expected to know at the time of the wedding if his bride is good or bitter?

ANSWER: When seeking a wife, some men place an emphasis on extraneous matters such as money and yichus — pedigree — while others put the entire emphasis on the character of the woman herself. The Gemara (Kiddushin 70a) speaks very disparagingly about marrying for money and stresses the undesirable consequences that such marriages produce. Likewise, to put the emphasis onyichus is also not very wise. One should look for a woman who is G‑d fearing and possesses qualities which are the products of her achievement.

In general the word “et” is considered superfluous, and the Gemara (Pesachim 22b) relates that Shimon Ha’imsuni would always analyze the purpose of this word assuming that it conveyed additional meaning. In King Shlomo’s two diametrically opposite statements regarding women, the word “ishah” appears once with the word “et” and once by itself.

With his profound wisdom King Shlomo is teaching us the following lesson: When “matza ishah” — one found the woman — i.e. one is simply attracted to the woman for her intrinsic qualities, without seeking any extraneous matters, such a marriage is “matza tov” — “a good find” — and will be a pleasant one all the years of the couple. However, “Umotze ani mar mimavet et ha’ishah” — when the man did not choose the woman for her own achievements but “et haishah” — her extraneous possessions, such as money or pedigree, such a marriage may be more bitter than death.

Even at the time of the marriage, the chatan is already in a position to answer: What did he find in his wife that made him decide on the marriage? Was it ‘ishah’ — simply the woman’s own qualities — or et ha’ishah’ — the added benefits which he hopes to gain through her?

(פרח לבנון)

* * *

QUESTION: Why is it customary for wedding guests to eat from the challah over which thechatan makes the blessing Hamotzi?

ANSWER: TheGemara (Berachot 8a) says that in Eretz Yisrael when a man got married, people would ask him “matza or motze” — i.e. “is she a good woman or a bitter one?” In order to wish the chatan well, the participants eat up the “motze,” leaving the chatan only “matza” — “a good wife.”

(אמרי צדיקים בשם ר' עקיבא ז"ל איגר)


"כי יקח איש אשה"
“If a man marries a woman.” (24:1)

QUESTION: In theSheva Berachot recited at a wedding, we ask Hashem, “Grant abundant joy to these loving friends as You bestowed gladness upon Your created being in the Garden of Eden of old.” What was the unique happiness Adam experienced that we wish it upon every new couple?

ANSWER: When Adam was first introduced to his wife, he exclaimed that she was “etzem mei’atzamai ubasar mibesari” — “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” What did he imply by citing these two qualities?

“Etzem” — “bone” — and “basar” — “flesh” — are both integral parts of the human body, but have opposite qualities: Bone is hard and inflexible, and flesh is soft and yielding. Man and woman need to have two things in common for a successful marriage, etzem and basar. Etzem signifies that which is firm and unyielding, and basar stands for that which is flexible and elastic.

Adam’s message was that when it comes to matters of Olam haba — spirituality — i.e. the relationship between man and Hashem — a couple must be grounded in the eternal principles of Yiddishkeit. They must be firm in their convictions and not bend or deviate one iota. However, when it comes to a matter of Olam hazeh — material values and inter-human relations, particularly among themselves — it is imperative that they have the quality of “basar” — “flesh” — the capacity for adjusting to one another and to the ups and downs of life.

Adam and Chavah were a very happy couple since they had the same philosophy and priorities. Any couple emulating them will also have a happy marriage and merit that the Shechinah — the Divine Presence — will abide with them.


"כי יקח איש אשה ובעלה והיה אם לא תמצא חן בעיניו כי מצא בא ערות דבר וכתב לה ספר כריתת ונתן בידה ושלחה מביתו"
“If a man marries a woman and lives with her, and it will be that she will not find favor in his eyes, for he found in her a matter of immorality, and he wrote her a bill of divorce and presented it into her hand, and sent her from his house.” (24:1)

QUESTION: In theGemara (Gittin 90a), Beit Shammai says that a man may divorce his wife only if she behaves immorally. Beit Hillel says he may divorce her even if “hikdichah tavshilo” — “she spoiled his food.”

Unlike Beit Shammai, Beit Hillel was known for their moderation and patience (see Shabbat 31a). Why do they not advocate tolerating such a seemingly trivial fault in a wife?

ANSWER: The word “tavshilo” literally means “his cooking,” which would seem to imply that she spoiled the food he was cooking. This however sounds strange because cooking is usually her domain and not his?

The words “hikdichah tavshilo” may be interpreted as follows; they do not mean simply lack of attention to food being cooked, but to what he is “producing” — i.e. his offspring from the marriage.

The mother, as the akerethabayit — foundation of the home — is more actively involved in raising the children on a day-to-day basis. Beit Hillel advises that when the husband observes that the mother is spoiling his “cooking” — children — by instilling in them erroneous thoughts and perverted values, this is even worse than immoral conduct and valid grounds for divorce.

(עיטורי תורה בשם ר' ברוך ז"ל עפשטיין ועי' תורה תמימה)

Alternatively, the lady in question knows very well how to cook. However, when it comes to “tavshilo — “his food” — she burns it or spoils it intentionally. A woman who is spiteful to her husband and seeks to make him uncomfortable is not a good wife and may be divorced.

(תורה תמימה)


"וכתב לה ספר כריתת"
“And he wrote her a bill of divorce.” (24:1)

QUESTION: Why is the divorce document called a “get”?

ANSWER: The word get (גט) has the numerical value of twelve. It is called get to allude to the fact that it should be written in no more or less than twelve lines.

(גיטין דף ב' ע"א, תוד"ה המביא)

* * *

Although the number twelve can be reached by many other combinations of Hebrew letters, e.g. ב"י or ד"ח etc., the combination of ג"ט was selected because throughout the entire Torah, there is no word in which the letters gimmel (ג) and tet (ט) are together. Since this document is the Torah-prescribed method of separation, it is appropriately called a “get” because these two letters are always separated from one another in the Torah and thus represent the opposite of unity and peace.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי בשם אגרת הטיול)


"וכתב לה ספר כריתת"
“And he wrote her a bill of divorce.” (24:1)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Gittin 90b) says that when a man divorces the wife of his first marriage, even the altar sheds tears. What is the significance of the symbolism?

ANSWER: Inherent in man are humane instincts and feelings which cause him to cry when he sees suffering. Many people become emotionally overwhelmed and may even faint when they see blood. However, a surgeon must be unemotional and continue operating while blood is flowing profusely. Unlike man, stone has no feeling, so such a person might be described as “Cold as stone.” On the altar, blood was continuously poured, and the cold stone altar did not express any sympathy or emotion.

Our sages are thus telling us that a divorce between a husband and wife is such a traumatic experience that even the altar, which is made of unfeeling stone and which sees blood continuously, sheds tears.

(שמעתי בשם הרב מאיר ז"ל אשכנזי)

* * *

Alternatively, the Torah section concerningkarban tamid — the daily continual-offering (Bamidbar 25:1-8) contains all the letters of the alef-beit except the "ג" and the "ט". This is an indication that the altar, too, feels uncomfortable with these two letters.

(עולת אלעזר)


"והפילו השפט והכהו לפניו כדי רשעתו במספר"
“The judge shall cast him down and strike him, before him, according to his wickedness, by a count.” (25:2)

QUESTION: According to the Gemara (Makkot 22b) the number of lashes that one could safely tolerate were inflicted one-third (of the lashes) on his front and two-thirds (of the lashes) on his back. Why were the lashes given in this way?

ANSWER: Akavia ben Mehallalleil says, “Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin. Know from where you came, and to where you are going, and before Whom you are destined to give an accounting” (Pirkei Avot 3:1). From these three things, one (“from where you came”) preceded man’s coming to this world, and the other two (“to where you are going, and before Whom you are destined to give an accounting”) take place after man leaves this world.

One who sins, obviously fails to reflect upon the three things. Therefore, to remind him to reflect upon the thing which took place before his coming to the world and the two things which will take place after his leaving the world, he receives one-third of the lashes on the front (part of the body) and two-thirds on the back.

(כלי יקר)


"ארבעים יכנו לא יסיף פן יסיף להכתו על אלה מכה רבה ונקלה אחיך לעיניך"
“Forty shall he strike him, he shall not add; lest he strike him an additional blow beyond these, and your brother will be degraded in your eyes.” (25:3)

QUESTION: In the Gemara (Makkot 22b) there is a dispute concerning how many lashes one actually receives. The sages say “arba’im yakenu” means up to forty, and thus one receives a maximum of thirty-nine, and Rabbi Yehudah holds that one may actually receive forty lashes.

How is it possible that according to everyone, one should receive the same amount of lashes?

ANSWER: According to halachah, (Rambam, Sanhedrin 16:12) if the agent of the court gives the transgressor an additional blow, i.e. forty instead of thirty-nine, he violates the negative Torah command of “lo yosif” — “he shall not add” — and receives lashes himself.

If, for instance, the agent of the court himself is to receive lashes for committing thirty-nine separate transgressions and afterwards gives a person forty lashes instead of thirty-nine, according to the sages, he receives forty sets of thirty-nine lashes for each transgression, a total of one thousand, five hundred and sixty lashes. However, according to Rabbi Yehudah, he does nothing wrong when he gives the violator forty lashes, and therefore will only receive the original thirty-nine sets of forty lashes for his transgressions, a total of one thousand, five hundred and sixty lashes.

(פרדס יוסף בשם חידושי הרי"ם בילדותו)

The halachah is according to the sages that one receives a maximum of thirty-nine lashes for a transgression. This is alluded to in the verse “veniklah achicha le’einecha” — “and your brother will be degraded in your eyes.” The superfluous word “achicha” (אחיך) has the numerical value of thirty-nine. The Torah is teaching us that once the sinner was niklah — degraded — by receiving his punishment of achicha — thirty-nine lashes — then, achichah le’einecha — he should be a brother in your eyes, i.e. do not treat him as a sinner anymore, but as “achicha” — “your brother.”

(נחל קדומים)


"וחלצה נעלו מעל רגלו"
“And she shall remove his shoe from his foot.” (25:9)

QUESTION: What is the significance of removing the man’s shoe in the chalitzah procedure?

ANSWER: When a married man passes away leaving a widow but no children, his oldest brother has the first obligation to perform the commandment of yibum — marrying the widow. In the event the brothers refuse to marry their sister-in-law, the oldest brother must carry out the alternative commandment of chalitzah, which releases her to marry whomever she desires (Rambam, Yibum 2,6-7).

In the former instance (Yibum), the first-born child of the marriage is usually named after the dead brother, and thus his memory is perpetuated. Even if he does not acquire his name, the newborn is a successor to the dead man’s soul, granting him spiritual perpetuation.

Had the brother fulfilled the commandment of yibum, he would have caused his brother to live on spiritually, and since he refused to do so, his brother is now utterly dead. When a man loses his brother, he is obligated to observe a period of mourning during which he must remove his leather shoes. The widow, by removing his shoe, is proclaiming that symbolically his brother is no longer alive and he must begin the mourning process.

(רבינו בחיי)


"איפה שלמה וצדק יהיה לך למען יאריכו ימיך"
“A perfect and honest measure shall you have, so that your days shall be lengthened.” (25:15)

QUESTION: What is the connection between longevity and perfect weights and measures?

ANSWER: Hashem’s way with man is midah keneged midah — measure for measure. When a person transgresses, he waits patiently until the person has filled his “measure” of transgression and then He punishes him (Sotah 9a). Thus, when a cheater gives less than the full weight or less than the correct measure, Hashem too deals with him with a measure similar to his and does not wait with punishment until his measure of sin is filled.

Hence, the Torah is telling us that a person should be meticulous with weights and measures and be careful to give the full amount due, so that Hashem will patiently wait with him to reach his full measure. Consequently, the person will merit the blessing of long life.

(פנינים יקרים)


"זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק"
“Remember what Amalek did to you.” (25:17)

QUESTION: Why is the command of remembering the viciousness of Amalek written in the singular, and not “Zichru...lachem” etc., in the plural?

ANSWER: Amalek attacked the Jews when they encamped in Refidim. The word “refidim” (רפידים) is related to the root word of “pirud” (פירוד) — “disunity and separation” (see K’li Yakar, Shemot 17:8). When the Jewish people are divided, it is possible for Amalek to creep in.

Therefore, the Torah says in the singular, Zachor — remember — what Amalek did lecha — to you — to stress that Amalek attacked when there was division and when everyone was concerned only about himself. By remembering this, we will all live in harmony and thus prevent a renewed attack by Amalek.

(ר' שמחה בונים זצ"ל מפשיסחא)


"זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק"
“Remember what Amalek did to you.” (25:17)

QUESTION: What is the significance of the name “Amalek?”

ANSWER: The name Amalek (עמלק) is an acronym for the tzaddikim עמרם, משה, לוי, קהת. Amalek thought that since all negative powers (kelipot and sitra achara) have some form of attachment to holiness, with the strength he derived from these great tzaddikim, he would destroy the Jewish people. Little did he realize, however, that these four actually counteracted his strength and applied their merit in favor of the Jewish people and not to him.

Before Bilaam parted with Balak, he prophetically saw the punishment of Amalek and declaimed, “Reishit goyim Amalek ve’acharito adei oveid — “Amalek is the first among nations, but its end will be eternal destruction” (Bamidbar 24:20). In light of the above, it can be explained that with this Bilaam meant that Amalek attacked the Jewish people relying on “reishit” — the first — that is, the fact that his name was the acronym for the first letters of the names of four great people. He failed to realize however, that “acharito adei oveid” — his end will be total destruction, since “achrito” — the last (final) letters of the names עמרם, משה, לוי, קהת spell the word “mitah” (מיתה) — “death” — which is an allusion to the total annihilation that he will ultimately suffer.

(מגלה עמוקות ס"פ ויחי, ועי' רשימות כ"ק אדמו"ר חוברת ז', ועי' תורת משה להח"ס)


"תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים"
“You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven.” (25:19)

QUESTION: According to Rashi, this includes men and women regardless of age, and even sheep and oxen, “So that the name of Amalek shall not be mentioned even with reference to an animal, by saying, ‘This animal belonged to Amalek.’ ” The Rambam (Melachim 5:4) rules that it is a positive commandment to utterly wipe out the seven nations that lived in Israel, as it is written, “You shall utterly destroy them” (20:17) and “You shall not allow any person to live” (20:16), and he concludes, “Ukevar avad zichram” — “Their memory no longer exists” (because Sancherev the King of Assyria inter-mixed all the nations of the world).

The Rambam (5:5) continues, “It is also a positive command to destroy the memory of Amalek, as it says, “Timcheh et zeicher Amalek mitachat hashamayim” — “You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven.”

1) In the second halachah, why doesn’t the Rambam also add “Ukevar avad zichram” — “Their memory no longer exists” — as he did in regard to the seven nations?

2) Why doesn’t the Rambam mention that there is also a mitzvah to utterly destroy the possessions of Amalek?

ANSWER: The seven nations were those who occupied Eretz Yisrael before the Jewish conquest. Amalek was not one of the seven nations, but he was the arch enemy of the Jewish people. Out of pure hatred, he fought the Jewish people and sought to annihilate them, G‑d forbid.

Throughout the millennia there have been “Amalekites” of various kinds, anti-Semites who regardless of their genealogy, have had a deep-rooted hatred for the Jewish people and who have seized every opportunity to harm them. The mitzvah of wiping out the memory of Amalek does not only apply to the nation of Amalek, but also to all those who have inherited their vicious obsession with harming the Jews.

Thus, in regard to the seven nations whose existence is no longer known, the Rambam says “Ukevar avad zichram” — “Their memory no longer exists” — and therefore presently the mitzvah of destroying them is not applicable. He does not add these words in regard to Amalek, since the mitzvah applies not only to the nation of Amalek, but to all those who follow the Amalekite philosophy of harming Jews.

The difference between dealing with the nation of Amalek or those who follow the Amalekite philosophy is as follows: Wiping out the memory of the nation of Amalek also includes utterly destroying their possessions so that the name of Amalek shall not be mentioned, “Even with reference to an animal, by saying, ‘This belonged to Amalek.’ ” However, in the case of the non-Amalek nations who follow in their steps, the vicious people must be destroyed, but not their possessions.

* * *

According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Yevamot 2:6), Haman was not an actual descendant of Agag the king of Amalek. He was called Haman the son of Hamdata the Agagi to designate him as “kotzeitz ben kotzeitz” — “a murderer and son of a murderer.” Since he followed in the footsteps of Amalek and pursued their philosophy of harming the Jewish people, it was incumbent upon Mordechai to do everything possible to destroy him, but it was permissible for Mordechai to take his house.

(ר' חיים הלוי ז"ל סאלאווייטשיק, ועי' קול צופיך ע' תל"ג)


"תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים"
“You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven.” (25:19)

QUESTION: Instead of “mitachat hashamayim” — “from under the heaven” — should the pasuk not have said “mei’al ha’aretz” — “from above the earth”?

ANSWER: Shamayim and aretz — heaven and earth — represent the spiritual and material. Amalek, the arch enemy of the Jewish people declared war with the endeavor to detach the Jewish people from Hashem. The word Amalek (עמלק) has the numerical value of two hundred and forty, which is the same numerical value as the word “safeik” (ספק) — “doubt.” When the Jews came out of Egypt permeated with awe and amazement of the miracles Hashem performed, Amalek attempted to instill a doubt in them that perhaps it was not so miraculous.

The Torah describes the effort of Amalek “Asher karecha baderech” — “How he met you on the way.” The word “karecha” (קרך) — “met you" — comes from the same root as the word “kerirut” (קרירות) — “chill” — meaning, that Amalek endeavored to chill your excitement and enthusiasm about Hashem.

Throughout the generations whenever someone begins to have doubts about G‑dliness or suddenly feels a “chilling” in his dedication to Hashem, this is the work of Amalek. Hence, Amalek represents a blockage between Heaven — spirituality — and the Jew in the mundane world. Therefore, the Torah commanded us to never forget “to wipe out the memory of Amalek mitachat hashamayim” — “under the heaven” — i.e. to remove any obstruction blocking your access to spirituality.

(עיטורי תורה)

* * *

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once related that for many years the Jews of Russia wore a “kasket” — a cap with a very small brim. One time the government issued a decree that the brim on the caps be extended. Chassidim interpreted this as an attempt by the government to make it difficult for Jews to fulfill the words of the prophet, “Raise your eyes on High and see Who created these [things]!” (Isaiah 40:26). The Chassidim were clever, so they decided to follow the government directive to make the caps with longer brims, but they turned the caps around so that they could still continuously look up to heaven.

(רשימות כ"ק אדמו"ר, חוברת ז')


"תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים לא תשכח"
“You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven, you shall not forget.” (25:19)

QUESTION: Why only in connection with the mitzvah to wipe out the memory of Amalek is it necessary for the Torah to also instruct, “You shall not forget”?

ANSWER: After witnessing the miracles Hashem performed in Egypt, the Jews left Egypt permeated with excitement and awe of Hashem. Amalek intended to chill their enthusiasm and ultimately cause them to forget Hashem. Throughout history such attempts have been repeated by enemies of the Jewish people. In addition, there is an Amalek within us — our yeitzer hara — who is constantly trying to “chill” us and detach us from Hashem.

The words “lo tishkach” — “you shall not forget” — are not a command, but a promise. The Torah is advising us that when you will make every effort to wipe out the memory of Amalek, both the one who wants to destroy the Jewish people as a whole physically, and the Amalek within every one of us who wants to do spiritual harm, then you will always remain attached to Hashem and “lo tishkach” — you will not forget His greatness for one moment.

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