VOLUME 68 NUMBER 2
October 11, 2013
CHESHVAN 7, 5774
Candle-lighting time 6:07 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah, and the first semester of The Jewish University classes on Wednesday nights, are dedicated in memory of Adele Bas Zalman Peritzman by her son Seth and Lauren, yblc”t.
That’s My Seat
By Rabbi Raphael Leban
There’s nothing worse than going to a ball game, and getting stuck sitting next to a few foul-mouthed, intoxicated, half-dressed fans. For the other team. Unless it’s taking a long airline flight stuck sitting between an overactive, runny-nosed three year-old and his mother who specifically requested NOT to be seated next to him. And I am not even going to discuss the people sitting next to you in shul.
Let’s face it, the people we’re in close proximity to have a very real affect on us.
Like in this week’s parsha. The Torah tells us that Avraham and his nephew Lot decided to part ways after their shepherds couldn’t get along. Subsequent to that, G-d promises Avraham that his descendants would inherit the Land of Canaan. Oddly, the verse interjects that it was after Avraham and Lot parted ways that G-d made his promise to Avraham. Why did the verse need to point that out? We were all awake for the preceding few verses and know what just transpired between Avraham and Lot.
Rashi quotes the Medrish Tanchuma who explains that the Torah is emphasizing that only at that point did G-d speak to Avraham. As long as Lot was with Avraham, G-d didn’t speak to him. The presence of Lot in Avraham’s life had the unfortunate affect of preventing Avraham from experiencing communication with the Divine.
I am certainly not telling you to get up in a huff this second, tell your neighbor off for barring you from receiving prophecy and find a new seat. Just to be aware, the spiritual influences of the company we keep may mean more than a crummy flight or a sour afternoon at the ballpark.
THE ULTIMATE CONNECTION
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
When Avraham reached the age of 99 Hashem commanded him to circumcise himself. In doing so, he would become complete. Furthermore, Hashem guaranteed that he would eventually make a covenant between Himself and Avraham. Rashi explains that through the mitzvah of circumcision a covenant of love was established and through the merit of this mitzvah we would ultimately receive the Land of Israel as an everlasting testimony to our connection with Hashem. Rashi indicates that the mitzvah of circumcision established a new dimension in our relationship with Hashem. What is so unique about this mitzvah?
Beis Halevi explains that there are two aspects to this mitzvah, signifying two things. First the foreskin is cut off. Secondly, the thin layer of skin that remains is rolled back. The removal of the foreskin represents our separation and distinction from the rest of the nations of the world. The additional exposure of the person’s flesh signifies the special level of sanctification that a person can attain as he elevates himself and endeavors to become closer to Hashem.
Based on this we can understand the language employed. Avraham was commanded to complete himself with this mitzvah. The Talmud explains that Avraham was not commanded to do both parts of the mitzvah. He was only commanded to remove the foreskin; the second part of the mitzvah was given to Moshe. Only after we became the Jewish people, distinct from the rest of humanity, could we perform the second part of the mitzvah which corresponds to an extra level of sanctity and purity.
Now we can appreciate why Rashi states that this was a covenant of love between Hashem and the Jewish nation. The unique connection between us and Hashem is only realized when we show that we intend to utilize that connection to reach new levels of purity and sanctity. This mitzvah shows how much we truly love Hashem when we expend effort to become as close to Him as possible.
Additionally, now we can understand the link between this mitzvah and receiving our portion in Israel. The Land of Israel is considered the primary place where Hashem’s presence is perceived. It is only there that a person can reach the highest levels of closeness to Hashem by fulfilling the mitzvos. Therefore, it is befitting that we were assured that we would be given the Land of Israel because that was the ultimate objective of this covenant.
With new appreciation for this mitzvah, we can now also explain how this mitzvah gives one the ability to merit studying Torah in purity that will enable him to understand the deepest thoughts and insights mentioned in the Torah. This is true since, as the Zohar states, we, the Torah and the Land of Israel are inextricably connected.
A Question for the Rabbis
The question of disinterring a body buried in the Diaspora for burial in the Land of Israel is one which has been discussed extensively from Talmudic times until the present day. One of the central sources of the discussion appears in our parsha. The verse states, “[A]nd His land will atone for His people” (Deuteronomy 32:43). The Code of Jewish Law allows the body to be disinterred in order to bury it in Israel (Yoreh Deah 363:1), and the commentaries cite as the reason that the “very earth of the Land of Israel atones” (Siftei Cohen ad loc.). This verse is also the source of the custom mentioned in theCode of Jewish Law (ibid.) to place earth from the Land of Israel in the coffin when someone is buried outside of Israel.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
Although Avraham recognized that there was a Creator when he was very young, this is not mentioned in the Torah. It says only that he believed in G-d. Clearly belief in G-d is the main tenet of our relationship with Him that we want to excel in.
Joke of the Week
Jay Leno was doing his monologue Monday night after Yom Kippur. He ran into dead silence after delivering a series of lame jokes. In an aside, Jay said “It’s tough to get good jokes written during a Jewish holiday.”