Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"The Eternal would not 'destroy' you" [10:10]

The meaning thereof is that He did not want to prevent you from entering and possessing the Land, similar in meaning to the verse, He will yet again leave them in the wilderness, and so ye will 'destroy' all this people. [Numbers 32:15] Here, too, the term 'destruction' is not to be understood in its usual sense, but only as a people who are 'prevented' from entering the Land. Thus Moses said to the tribes of Gad and Reuven that by their decision to settle on the east bank of the Jordan, they may cause the whole people to be left in the wilderness, and so you will 'destroy' all this people - i.e., by causing them not to enter the Land, which is synonymous with their 'destruction'. And by the way of the Truth, [the mystic teachings of the Kabbalah], he is stating that He [the 'Eternal] did not want the destruction to be from Him, so that His Great Name no [longer] be with you. I have already alluded to this subject in the section of Ki Thisa. [Exodus 32:10] Having promised Moses that His Great Name, which signifies the attribute of mercy, will always be with Israel, He did not want the destruction to be from Him, so that His Great Name would no longer be with them.


Rabbeinu Bachya

"…not on bread alone…" [8:3]

The principal message Moses teaches us here is that contrary to appearances, the power to keep us alive does not reside in the purely physical properties of bread, or any other food for that matter, but in the potential G-d has placed within that physical food to sustain and make grow the people who consume it. Bread was chosen as the example seeing that in order for man to even produce it so many steps are necessary that one could have thought that the finished product reflects man's accomplishment more than it does G-d's.

The closer we are to direct divine input and reduced reliance on intermediaries such as the eleven stages needed to convert a kernel of wheat into bread, the closer we are to the true life-giving forces of heaven. This is the meaning of Exodus 24:11: "they 'saw' G-d and they ate and drank." The ability of the nobles of Israel described in that verse to have a vision of G-d is what gave them the energy they normally thought they derived by eating and drinking physical, conventional food.



"I took the calf, the sinful thing you made, and I burned it in fire." [9:21]

The reason Moses had destroyed the golden calf by fire was, that since its creation had been out of fire, and the people could have thought that it had demonstrated power over fire, it had become necessary to debunk such ideas by demonstrating the power of fire to destroy the golden calf. This was especially urgent, since the fire associated with the mountain had naturally been understood to be heavenly fire, holy fire. Moses had to show the people that there was nothing remotely deity like about the golden calf. He stressed that it was the chatat, i.e. the emanations which their sin had created, call it the evil angel if you will, that he had to destroy, before forgiveness could ensue. The process is similar to the sin offering, to which the sin of the owner has been transferred, being burned up on the altar, including its fat parts. Moses was able to do this to the gold, i.e. to destroy its molecular adhesion, and thus show that it had lost whatever natural attributes it had once possessed.



Appreciation of G-d's greatness is a result of one's immersion in Torah on all levels. There is no target, no ultimate goal for this reverence. When a person believes that, relative to others, he has attained great insights of the physical as well as that of the celestial aspects of the universe, these insights are as nothing - compared to the grandeur of G-d Himself. The ultimate source of all wisdom is G-d Himself.

This is the reason Solomon taught us in Proverbs: (22:4) "The result of humility is fear of the Lord". What Solomon means is that the more fear of G-d one acquires, the more humble one becomes. The more understanding one gains of the greatness of G-d the more one becomes aware of one's own insignificance. What does man have to offer that he should consider himself significant, important?


Ohr HaChayim

"All the commandment which I command you this day, etc." [Deut. 8:1]

Moses was familiar with the workings of the human mind and psyche. He realized that there is a built-in tendency in us to become progressively more lax in our observance, especially if we have performed a number of commandments meticulously and have chosen to perform one or two commandments with special attention to all its details. Once one had done this, one is apt to look upon oneself as a pretty good Jew and one tends to be less punctilious with the performance of other commandments. Also, people who are preoccupied with Torah study have a tendency to pat themselves on the back and to disregard some of the commandments which they view as being of minor significance. Moses therefore admonishes each and everyone of us not to forget to perform the whole (range) of G-d's commandments.

The only effective way Moses found to bring this point across to us was by describing all of the 613 commandments as one single Commandment, i.e. "All the commandment."

He resorted to a way of illustrating his point which is incontrovertible, based on the Zohar volume one page 170. According to the Zohar man has 248 bones and 365 sinews. G-d commanded us 365 negative commandments and 248 positive commandments, one each to correspond to each of these parts of our body.
If one suffers a pain or hurt in one of his bones or sinews he should examine which one of the commandments he had neglected so that the pain in question might be due to such neglect. A man will not be satisfied if in response to his cries of pain caused by the afflicted bone he is told by his doctor that seeing that 247 of his bones do not hurt him he should not really be complaining but count his blessings.

Similarly, we must relate to each one of the 613 commandments. We cannot pride ourselves merely on the commandments we do observe but must be keenly aware of the damaging effect on our spiritual health of any commandment which we fail to observe when we have the opportunity.

All of these considerations are included in Moses' reference to the need for us to observe the whole commandment, both the negative part and the positive part. The reason for this is "so that you will live and multiply and come and inherit the land." Inheritance of the land of Israel is conditional on mitzvah observance, which in turn is the guarantee of our spiritual and physical wellbeing.

You may query that the in parable we presented the example does not match the subject matter of the Torah. In the parable we described the hurt experienced by a single organ upsets the entire body's balance, something that is not the case when applied to mitzvah-performance.

This is why Moses had to describe the commandments in the singular. He wanted to make it easy for us to appreciate that when the 613 commandments are viewed as a single unit hat the non-observance of even a single one of them can destroy the entire balance of the fabric and throw everything out of kilter.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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