Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Vaeschanan

After a week off from blogging due to various work and religious obligations, Kosher Beers returns with Thursday's Parsha Tidbits on Parshas Vaeschanan.

As mentioned in prior summer posts, since there are no Rabbi Frand shiurim until Chodesh Elul, I would like to substitute a vort from other Rabbanim each week, rather than leaving the blog without a vort for shabbos. This week, I am attempting to repeat a vort heard from R' Eli Mansour as recorded on, Same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce the vorts 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 the maggidei shiur.

In Parshas Vaeschanan (Devarim 4:2) Moshe instructs that laws cannot be added or taken away from the Torah. If a person rejects a mitzva because he does not think it is logical or is no longer practical, he is taking away a mitzva from the Torah. Similarly, if a person decides that he wants to add another mitzva to the Torah, he is violating this principle. The Torah has 613 mitzvos and those are the mitzvos which has commanded.

R' Mansour quoted the Ben Ish Chai who explained that the reason that people cannot add or subtract a mitzva is that the Torah is not created by man, it was created by Hashem. If a person has created a set of rules, another person can question or change the rule. (We see this in our government as the Constitution can be amended based on an act of Congress). But the Torah is divine and cannot be amended by man.

R' Mansour noted that the number of mitzvos (613) is represented as Taryag. If a mitzva is removed from the Torah it is 612 which is represented by Tarib - there will be a dispute. Each person will claim that he knows which mitzvos are relevant and should be kept and there will be fights galore.

R' Mansour also talked about adding mitzvos and made reference to a 16 year old boy who came to his Rosh Yeshiva and said that he wanted to wear tefillin all day. The Rav asked the boy why, and the boy explained that the sages of prior centuries wore tefillin all day and he wanted to emulate them. The Rav responded - better that you wear it properly during davening - I am more concerned that you will stop wearing tefillin altogether.

This afternoon, I heard an interesting story from R' Teitelman of the Young Israel of New Hyde Park which ties into R' Mansour's tefillin story/not adding to the Torah. The Vilna Gaon was seen walking in his city by non Jews who wanted to do him harm. When they came upon him face to face, they looked at him and ran away. One of his students came over and asked him what happened. The Vilna Gaon answered that he was wearing tefillin when he was walking and that when they saw the tefillin they ran away - fulfilling the pasuk in Devarim  28:10 - V'rau kol amei ha'aretz ki shem Hashem nikra alecha v'yaru mimeka.

The student decided that he too would wear his tefillin out in public and that they would protect him from the gangs. However the aggressors did not run away from the student when they saw his tefillin and he fell victim to their attacks. 

The student returned to the Vilna Gaon and asked  - why did this not work for me? The Gaon responded - the pasuk states that the the outsiders will see the name of Hashem upon you and fear. You did not reach that level, so the tefillin you wore in the street had no impact on them.

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