Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Shoftim

Now that Elul has returned, R' Frand has begun giving shiurim again via TCN. The following is a brief summary of some of thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these 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 R' Frand.

R' Frand began the vort by noting that the laws of Ir Miklat (city of refuge) are mentioned in Shoftim, but were previously also mentioned in Parshas Mishpatim which states that a person who did not set a trap, but as he did kill Hashem set a location for him to go. (Shemos 21:12) The end words of the pasuk are an acronym for Elul and the Chachamim connect Elul with Ir Miklat.

What is the connection between the two? R' Frand noted that the person who killed unintentionally had to go to an Ir Miklat for what could be 70 years. But he did this unintentionally, so why is he exiled? R' Frand answered that if a person is makpid not to violate a mitzva and builds in protection from committing an act, Hashem will make sure that the person does not come into a situation where he might unintentionally violate the law. So too with the unintentional killer. A person may engage in dangerous activities, albeit without the slightest intent to kill. But by putting himself in that situation, there is a possibility that he might kill.

R' Frand linked this to the gemara in Avodah Zarah where R' Chanina Ben Tradyon was being taken out to execution. The executioner asked, if I hasten your death, will I get a place in Olam Haba? R' Chanina responded, "yes". So the executioner removed the moist materials which were meant to prolong the pain. R' Chanina died quickly and the executioner jumped into the fire and died as well. The gemara contained a statement that on this Rebbi cried, saying there are some who earn Olam Haba from a lifetime of action and others who earn it in one minute. The same statement is found in two other gemaras with similar stories.

But why did Rebbi cry? R' Frand explained that it was because he recognized what could be accomplished in a minute.

R' Frand quoted a shmooze from the Kelemer Maggid who told a parable about how the people in a graveyard were told that they would come back to life for an hour. Some people went and visited and assisted their parents because they felt that they had been lacking in this mitzva while alive. Others went and learned Torah, while still others did acts of gemilas chessed.

The Kelemer Maggid remarked that this is what can be done in an hour. But who knows if they even have an hour?

R' Frand then tied this back to the person who is exiled to Ir Miklat. He is sent away because he killed unintentionally, but it resulted from his lack of awareness of the value of human life. So he is sent to the Ir Miklat, a place where the Levites live. These are people who devote their lives to service in the Beis Hamikdash. These people re-educate the killer and show what a meaningful life is.

This is what Elul is about. The Ir Miklat is a physical place, but Chodesh Elul is a spiritual place where one can reflect on the meaning of time and take steps to make our time well spent.

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