Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Shoftim

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

This week's parsha contains the mitzva of Eglah Arufah. Simply stated, Eglah Arufah is triggered by the finding of a dead body between two cities. The elders then measure the distance between the body and the cities and the city which is closest must take a calf which has never worked and kill it by breaking its neck in a valley where the land had never been toiled. While doing so, the elders of the city state that they had not intentionally neglected this person and had not purposely failed to safely escort him out of their city.

R' Frand mentioned the mitzva of Eglah Arufah as a jumping off point to discuss a gemara in Yoma 23a which told a story about two kohanim who were running to do a kibud in the Beis Hamikdash. The kohain who was falling behind in the race took a knife and stabbed the other kohain in the heart. Immediately thereafter, R' Tzadok stood up and cried out - the Torah states that if a body is found outside a city the elders of the city must go out and perform Eglah Arufah [the link to this parsha in the vort]. Who is responsible for the Eglah Arufah here, the elders of the city or the Beis Hamikdash? The people who were assembled all began to cry until the father of the stabbed kohain stood up and said - he should be a kappara for the Jews. But the father then added thereafter - he is not dead yet, so the knife is not tamei. The gemara concludes the story by stating that this teaches that they considered the taharah of the vessels of the Beis Hamikdash more seriously than murder.

R' Frand offered an initial interpretation of this gemara as teaching that the father did a great thing, because he was more concerned about the purity of the vessels of the Beis Hamikdash than the impending death of his child.

R' Frand next told a story to illustrate a point. He quoted R' Ruderman ztl who said that the Alter of Slobodka had a child of his pass away on Sukkos. [R' Frand was unsure whether it was on yom tov or chol hamoed]. Since aveilos is not observed on yom tov, the Alter was seen singing and dancing on Simchas Torah as if nothing had ever happened. However, as soon as yom tov ended and he had made havdalah, the Alter fainted from the loss of his son. R' Ruderman explained that this demonstrated how much control the Alter had over his emotions that he could keep the pain and grief in check during a time that it was asur to grieve, but as soon as that period ended, he showed true loss.

R' Frand then returned to discuss the gemara. On Yoma 23b, the gemara asks - was the people's attitude toward murder less stringent and their valuation of taharah of keilim remained the same? Or was the attitude towards murder the same and the valuation of taharah of keilim became more stringent?

R' Frand then asked - why does the gemara even ask this question? Why do we care how things had changed?

R' Frand answered the question by quoting R' Chaim Shmulevitz who says that the gemara is teaching that a person must think when he takes an outwardly noble act, am I doing this for the right reason? Am I taking this action because I want to do the right thing, or am I being controlled by ulterior motives?

R' Frand closed with a note on the first pasuk of the parsha which states that there should be Judges and Officers on all your gates. He offered a take on this pasuk that a person should be like one of these officials and make sure that every act that he takes within his own gates is for the right reason.

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