"If a man will have a sin worthy of death and he will be put
to death, You shall hang him on a tree" (Deut. 21:22)
In the eulogy which the Holy Ari delivered on the passing of Rabbi Moshe
Kordevero he translated this verse slightly differently. The word for
"sin" can also be properly translated as "lacking."
So, he said, "When you see a person who is lacking any reason that
he should have been put to death and nevertheless he dies, hang it (attribute
his death) on the tree," - on the decree following the sin of the
tree of knowledge that even the most righteous will not live forever.
"When you go forth to war against your enemies...and you shall
take him captive." (Deut. 21:10)
In the war against the Evil Inclination, it is insufficient to merely
conquer and subdue it; one must also "take him captive" and
utilize one's negative impulses to serve G-d. In truth, there is much
to learn from the Evil Inclination, whose G-d-given role is to constantly
attempt to cause man to sin. We would be well advised to emulate its dedication
in fulfilling G-d's will.
(The Baal Shem Tov)
"When you go forth to war against (literally "above")
your enemies." (21:10)
When you go forth into battle with complete trust in the G-d of Israel,
secure in the knowledge that G-d stands by your side to assist, you are
automatically "above" your enemies as soon as you embark on
"You shall return his captives." [21:10]
The inner meaning of this verse is that we are obligated to liberate from
the dominion of evil its captives-that which it captured for itself from
the Side of Holiness. Thus it is explained in Tanya (ch. 7), "who
ever eats meat gluttonously and drinks wine excessively (see verse 21:20)
to fulfill his bodily desires,
the life-force of the meat and wine
inside him is dragged under the control of absolute evil, albeit temporarily,
until that person repents and returns to serving G-d.
(Likutei Sichos) [translated from Sichat HaShavuah #347]
"But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated woman as the first
born, and give him a double portion." (Deut. 21:17)
The "son of the beloved" refers to the first Tablets, given when the Jews
were righteous. The "son of the hated woman" alludes to the second Tablets,
which were given after the Jews sinned but returned to G-d. As we see
here, the penitent receives "a double portion" of reward. Indeed, the
first Tablets contained only the Ten Commandments, whereas the second
set were accompanied by Jewish laws and the Torah's allegorical portions.
(Ohr HaTorah) (from L'chaim #533)
"If you see your brother's ox or sheep going astray, you must
not ignore them. You must return them to your brother." (Deut.
Here the Torah commands us the mitzvah of "hashevat avedah",
returning a lost object. Seeing how the Torah wants us to be careful to
guard our brother from a financial loss, how much more so when it comes
to a spiritual loss. Every one of us has a double and triple duty not
to ignore a Jewish soul that has lost its way and to help him or her return
to their source.
(from HaShaloh HaKadosh) (translated from Sichat HaShavuah 38)
"Similarly you shall do with all of your brother's lost things."
When one helps his fellow man by returning a lost object (either in the
material or spiritual sense), he merits spiritual benefit for himself
and an elevation of his own soul. As our Sages declared, "The poor
[recipient of charity] does more for the master than the master does for
the poor man."
(Sefat Emet) (from L'chaim #533)
"You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen down
by the way and hide yourself from them; you shall surely lift them up
again." (Deut. 22:4)
G-d has implanted within us a wonderful character trait: a willingness
and urge to be kind to another Jew that is even stronger than the desire
to be kind to ourselves. We can always find reasons why we deserve our
own suffering, G-d orbid, but when it comes to another's distress, it
is absolutely impossible. (Hayom Yom)
It is forbidden to make believe one cannot recognize his fellow Jew's
material needs, symbolized by the "donkey" and the "ox."
For when you help another, you too will surely be "lifted up"
and elevated spiritually.
(Tiferet Shlomo) (from L'chaim #582)
"If you will chance upon a bird's nest...send away the mother
The explanation in the Tikunei Zohar is that in order to awaken mercy
we must beseech the Holy One, blessed be He: "Just as all birds have
mercy on their offspring, shouldn't You have mercy on Your children?"
At that time the Holy One says 'For My sake I will do it.' "
(Kesser Shem Tov)
"When you build a new house you shall make a parapet for your
roof... if anyone fall from it." (22:8)
When a couple marries and makes the transition from their parents' homes
to their own, the need to earn a livelihood brings them into contact with
many new things. They must therefore make a "parapet" beforehand,
setting the proper limits and spiritual standards, to ensure that no harm
comes from their involvement in worldly matters.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
"You shall not wear a garment of different sorts (sha'atnez),
wool and linen together." (22:11)
According to Chasidut, wool and linen are symbolic of chesed and gevura,
the opposite attributes of loving-kindness and severity. When a Jew observes
a positive mitzva, a "do," he draws nearer to him the object
or thing with which he performs the mitzva. When he observes one of the
Torah's prohibitions, a "don't," he avoids something that is
forbidden and pushes it away. The mitzva of sha'atnez reminds us that
the two opposing thrusts mustn't be confused or combined: that which is
forbidden should be shunned, and that which is holy and positive should
(The Rebbe, Elul 5744) (from L'chaim #684)
"He may write her a bill of divorcement." (24:1)
Why is the Biblical "bill of divorcement" ("sefer ke'ritut"
called a "get"? Because the letters of the word "get,"
gimel and tet, are never found next to each other in any
word of the entire Torah--the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, or the
"When a man takes a bride...he shall be free (lit.: clean) in
his house for one year to rejoice his bride." [24:5]
If you wish to be free and pure in matters of home and marriage, the key
is the pattern you establish in the pivotal first year.
(Sichat HaShavuah # 192)
"And it will be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten...he
may be given forty stripes, but not more; lest, if he is beaten with many
more stripes, then your brother will be dishonored in your eyes."
These verses discuss a person who has done a sin whose punishment is lashes.
Since this person has sinned, he is called a "wicked man." However,
as soon as he has been punished, he is once again called "your brother."
"Remember what Amalek did to you." (25:17)
Why does the Torah use the singular form of the word "you" instead
of the plural? The early Chasidim explained: Amalek, or the Evil Inclination,
gains a stronghold only in an individual who is stand-offish and reclusive
from the rest of the Jewish People. He who considers himself part of the
larger whole and stands in unity with his brethren cannot be harmed by
"If you see your brother's ox or sheep going astray, you must
not ignore them. Return them to your brother." (Deut. 22:1)
It is a mitzva to return something you found to the person who lost it.
G- d gave us this commandment so that we would accustom ourselves to help
others through kindness and good deeds. By virtue of this mitzva, G-d
will resurrect the dead in the times of Moshiach. G-d repays in kind:
He will "return" the souls to the bodies.
(Tzena U'rena) (from L'chaim #834)
"When you go out to battle against your enemies." (Deut.
It is possible that the task of refining the world will require actual
conflict, that Mashiach must "fill the world with justice" by
"destroying the power of the wicked and waging the wars of G-d."
This, however, is merely a temporary stage.
Ultimately, Mashiach will "vanquish all the nations surrounding him...
and perfect the entire world, [motivating all the nations] to serve G-d
together," initiating the era when "there will be neither famine
nor war, neither envy nor competition... the occupation of the entire
world will be solely to know G-d."
"When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the L-rd
your G-d will deliver him into your hand, and you have taken them captive"
These words refer to the descent of the soul, "a veritable part of
G-d Above," into the physical world. Its mission, enclothed within
a physical body, is to wage war and conquer the material world by infusing
it with holiness, learning Torah and observing its commandments. This
conflict will reach its successful conclusion with the coming of Moshiach,
when G-dliness will reign triumphant.
(Peninei Hageula - Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim
"G-d, your G-d, would not listen to Bilam, but
the curse into a blessing for you, because G-D, your G-d, loves you."
The essential prophecy of Bilam, the prophet of the nations of the world,
deals with the ultimate downfall of the nations and Israel's victory over
them (see Balak 24:17ff., and the commentaries there.) Just as Bilam ended
up using all of his prophetic power to bless Israel, so, in the future
the nations of the world will use their energy to help Israel. Thus it
is written: "Kings will be your foster-fathers and their queens your
nursing mothers" (Isaiah 49:23). In this verse therefore, there is
an allusion to the change from golah (exile) to ge'ulah
(redemption), the transformation of the solemn days of fasting and mourning
into days of "joy and gladness and cheerful festivals" (Zechariah
(From 'Living with Moshiach' by Rabi J. Immanuel Schochet)
He shall write her a document of divorce and place it
in her hand, thus releasing her from his household." (Deut. 24:1)
It states in Gemara Shabbos (56a), "He who goes out to the war of
the House of David gives a divorce to his wife" (to avoid possible
"aguna complications if he should be "missing in action").
'Wife' can also represent all material matters. The purpose is to create
"soldiers of the House of David" who will go out to "the
war of the House of David." That is, when speaking about yeshiva
students, the students ("the soldiers") will be "candles
to illuminate" throughout the entire world - revealing and spreading
the inner teachings of Torah, and strengthening the faith in the true
and complete Redemption through righteous King Mashiach in the time of
"the heels of Mashiach," when there will be those "who
Your enemies have disgraced, G-d, that they have disgraced the footsteps
of Your Mashiach" (Psalms).
[Rebbe Shalom Ber of Lubavitch - about the founding of Tomchei T'mimim
In our times, these matters have relevance to every single Jew, and the
mission of the war of the House of David applies to them as well.
erase any reminder of Amalek from beneath the skies.."
The eradication of Amalek in the physical sense is not possible today.
Some Authorities hold that this mitzvah is binding only upon the Jewish
King and that he must enlist the Jewish people to wipe out Amalek's kin.
However, today we do not have a Jewish King.
Only when Mashiach comes, at which time Jews will have full power and
autonomy and it will be clearly defined who descends from Amalek's kin,
Mashiach will then eradicate all aspects of Amalek en toto.
( Adapted from www.sichosinenglish.org)
"For a short moment I have forsaken you,' says G-d to the Jewish
nation, "but with great loving-kindness I will gather you in eternally."
(Isaiah 45:7 - this week's Haftorah)
When G-d says that He has momentarily "forsaken " us, He means
that His providence for us is not readily apparent, for He allows evil
to befall us.
Actually, our exile is far longer than 'a short moment." Since the
destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash we have spent almost two thousand
years among the nations. Still, at the Redemption our exile will seem
as short as a single moment.
(Metzudat David) (Adapted from "The Midrash Says")