Posts Tagged: Kli Yakar

Toldos

The Kli Yakar discusses the three wells that Yitzchak excavates, and which the Torah details at length, in this week’s parsha. (Breishis 26:14-33)
The the three wells, says the Kli Yakar, are veiled references to the three Batei Mikdash.

#1
וַיָּרִיבוּ רֹעֵי גְרָר עִם רֹעֵי יִצְחָק לֵאמֹר לָנוּ הַמָּיִם וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַבְּאֵר עֵשֶׂק כִּי הִתְעַשְּׂקוּ עִמּוֹ
And the shepherds of Gerar quarreled with Yitzchak’s shepherds, saying, “The water is ours”; so he named the well Esek, because they had contended with him.

This is the first Beis HaMikdash. Two factions argued. The era of the first Beis HaMikdash was defined by two factions, Malchei Yisrael against the Malchei Yehudam, arguing over who deserved to be king.#2
וַיַּחְפְּרוּ בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וַיָּרִיבוּ גַּם עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ שִׂטְנָה 
And they dug another well, and they fought about it too; so he named it Sitnah.
 

This is the second Beis HaMikdash, which was defined by hatred between everyone – an even worse set of circumstances than the first. The Torah emphasizes that the first conflict over the wells was fought by the shepherds; a metaphor for the leaders, similar to the struggle for leadership by the destruction of the First Temple. The second quarrel “they” just fought; it was baseless hatred. Furthermore, they failed to heed the lesson of the first well (and Temple):  וַיָּרִיבוּ גַּם עָלֶיהָ  = “they fought about this one too”.

#3
The third excavation, however, had no such strife:

וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם וַיַּחְפֹּר בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וְלֹא רָבוּ עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ רְחֹבוֹת וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי עַתָּה הִרְחִיב ה’ לָנוּ וּפָרִינוּ בָאָרֶץ

And he moved away from there, and he dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rechovot, and he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”

The third well is defined by peace. The word for peace is שלום, from the root שלם = whole. With peace, there is wholeness, harmony and room for expansion.

 
Interestingly, immediately after the episodes of the wells, the last 2 verses in the chapter deal with Eisav and the fact that he caused much bitterness for Yitzchak and Rivkah. What is the connection, if any?

Chazal teach us that Eisav’s offspring can only be defeated by Rachel’s offspring (Bava Basra 123b).

After Eisav learns that Yaakov has received the bracha which had been intended for him, the Torah writes (27:41):
וַיִּשְׂטֹם עֵשָׂו אֶת יַעֲקֹב עַל-הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר בֵּרְכוֹ אָבִיו
 
Eisav has hatred for Yaakov, and would always bear a grudge against Yaakov. 
See also Amos 1:11
וְעֶבְרָתוֹ שְׁמָרָה נֶצַח
He [Edom/Eisav] kept his wrath forever.
 

By contrast, Yosef takes an entirely different approach following Yaakov’s passing in dealing with his brothers who wronged him. Following Yaakov’s passing, the brothers say (Breishis 50:15):

וַיִּרְאוּ אֲחֵי יוֹסֵף כִּי מֵת אֲבִיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוּ יִשְׂטְמֵנוּ יוֹסֵף
It may be that Yoseph will hate us
 

The brothers were afraid that Yosef would take revenge on them for selling him, and now that Yaakov has passed away, it would be time for reckoning. Yosef, however, forgives them unconditionally, bearing no grudge, understanding it was all Hashem’s plan (50:21):

וְעַתָּה אַל תִּירָאוּ אָנֹכִי אֲכַלְכֵּל אֶתְכֶם וְאֶת טַפְּכֶם וַיְנַחֵם אוֹתָם וַיְדַבֵּר עַל-לִבָּם

Also interesting to contrast language when Eisav decides to kill Yaakov, versus when Yosef eases his brothers’ fears.
 

27:42 (Eisav in Toldos)
הִנֵּה עֵשָׂו אָחִיךָ מִתְנַחֵם לְךָ לְהָרְגֶךָ
 
50:21 (Yosef in Vayechi)
וְעַתָּה אַל תִּירָאוּ אָנֹכִי אֲכַלְכֵּל אֶתְכֶם וְאֶת טַפְּכֶם וַיְנַחֵם אוֹתָם וַיְדַבֵּר עַל-לִבָּם
 
We associate nechama with consolation after a death or hardship, G-d forbid; not with planning a killing.
 
 

As offspring of Rachel we have this middah of being able to let go of hatred, correcting the sin’at chinam which destroyed Bayis Sheini, so that we may usher in Bayis Shlishi.

 

Vayeira

Vayeira opens with Avraham being visited by three men/angels, bearing wonderful news of Sarah’s impending pregnancy.

After Avraham feeds them, the visitors ask (18:9):
וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו אַיֵּה שָׂרָה אִשְׁתֶּךָ

As written in the Torah, there are three nekudos on top of the word אֵלָיו ; one on the Alef, the Yud and the Vav.

Inline image 1

These three dotted letters together spell Ayo, meaning, “Where is he?” Rashi explains that the angels asked two questions; one to Avraham asking the whereabouts of Sarah, and one to Sarah asking the whereabouts of Avraham. (Rashi quotes Breishis Rabba, which says that these questions teach us the trait of inquiring about one’s hosts. To a man one should ask, “How is your wife?” and to a woman, “How is your husband?”)

The Kli Yakar, however, asked a fairly obvious question – why did the angels have to inquire about Avraham and Sarah’s locations? (A) The angles knew each of Avraham and Sarah’s locations (seeing as how they were messengers of Hashem), and (B) the text even tells us in the immediately preceding passuk, that Avraham was standing over them!

וְהוּא עֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם תַּחַת הָעֵץ
The Kli Yakar explains that the angels were not asking about the physical whereabouts of Sarah or Avraham. They were asking where Avraham and Sarah were “holding,” so to speak; what madreigah were they on and for what reason did they merit to have the miracle of bearing a child at such a old age?

Avraham answers – בָאֹהֶל - allegorically speaking, ‘we are the recipients of this miracle on the merit of the tent.’

What was special about their tent?
Chazal explain that Sarah always maintained the highest level of modesty, even in their tent. So Avraham answers, ‘we merited this miracle because of the modest way in which Sarah conducts herself in the tent.’ As Gemara Megilla 10b says:
כי הא דא”ר שמואל בר נחמני אמר רבי יונתן:כל כלה שהיא צנועה בבית חמיה זוכה ויוצאין ממנה מלכים ונביאים

On the other side of the same coin, Avraham kept their tent open to guests, travelers, and those wanting to learn more about Hashem. So Sarah, answers, ‘we merited this miracle because of the chessed and the kindness with which Avraham conducts himself in the tent.’

A few lessons highlighted here, is that a couple can be so successful when each spouse recognizes the other’s strengths, attributing the blessings in their lives to the greatness of the other; and, that the home (ohel) and the manner in which it functions, sets the tone for the family living in it.

One final point I would like to make is to stress not only Sarah’s modesty, but also Avraham’s: In the first five verses of Vayeira, there is no reference to Avraham’s name, only being referred to in the anonymous 3rd person:

וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה’ בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם
וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו  וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אָרְצָה

The text uses Avraham’s name for the first time to tell us that “Avraham hurried to the tent to Sarah…and to the cattle ran Avraham” (18:6-7).

…וַיְמַהֵר אַבְרָהָם הָאֹהֱלָה אֶל שָׂרָה
וְאֶל-הַבָּקָר רָץ אַבְרָהָם

When Avraham comes back to serve his guests and stand by them, the text reverts to the 3rd person:

וְהוּא עֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם תַּחַת הָעֵץ

Avraham just received this new name in Parshas Lech Lecha, as the Av Hamon Goyim – a tremendous honor. Yet the Torah spares us the usage of the name when angels are visiting him, but includes it to talk about Avraham running to the cattle?!

Perhaps an explanation (based in part on an idea from Rav Nison Alpert ztl) is that Avraham did not think the angels were visiting him because he was anyone so special. He was sitting outside in the heat, welcoming any traveler who might be passing by. But when it came time to make a kiddush Hashem and prepare for his guests, as an agent of Hashem, then he did so with the zeal and responsibility as Avraham – Av Hamon Goyim. Avraham could not control who came to the opening of his tent. Whoever came – perhaps he thought – did so because Hashem sent them, having nothing to do with Avraham’s greatness; but what he could control, is how he acted as their humble, and privileged host. If Hashem was calling upon him to serve and enlighten others, then Avraham’s actions had to be taken as the agent of Hashem.

Perhaps we can also say that Avraham’s excitement and haste to serve his guests, is somehow connected to the signs given to Eliezer in the next parsha, upon finding Rivka as a wife for Yitzchak. There is a parallel that seems to exist between the two stories – both involve hurrying to serve foreigners, and the language employed in both is virtually identical:

Avraham, in 18:6-7:
וַיְמַהֵר אַבְרָהָם הָאֹהֱלָה אֶל שָׂרָה
וְאֶל-הַבָּקָר רָץ אַבְרָהָם

Rivkah in 24:20:
וַתְּמַהֵר וַתְּעַר כַּדָּהּ אֶל-הַשֹּׁקֶת וַתָּרָץ עוֹד אֶל הַבְּאֵר לִשְׁאֹב וַתִּשְׁאַב לְכָל גְּמַלָּיו

Together, on account of their collective middot, Avraham and Sarah merited a miraculous birth, a tzaddik of a son, and a tzaddeikes of a daughter-in-law.

 

Re’eh

After Bnei Yisrael are commanded (reminded) not to consume the blood of an animal, Moshe provides a strong incentive to listen:

‘לֹא תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי ה
Do not eat it [blood] so that it may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do that which is right in the eyes of Hashem. (Devarim 12:25)
The Kli Yakar picks up on the specific inclusion of it being good for “your children after you”, by avoiding consumption of blood. He explains that the many commentators learn that consuming blood causes cruelty to develop within the person who consumed it. [One possible source I found for this is the Ohr HaChaim in Vayikra 17:10-11. There, the Torah tell us not to eat the blood of animal because the blood is the soul of the animal. The Ohr HaChaim says that when we eat the soul of animal, so to speak, we become more animalistic, taking on the traits of the animal’s soul. We lose parts of our humanity. The punishment is kareit because we are “cutting off” the human spark and cheilek elokah mi’maal and replacing it with the nefesh ha’behamis.]

The nature of a father (parent), flows into and can get passed down to children. Therefore, the Torah says that avoiding blood will be “good for you and for your children after you” so that the terrible trait of cruelty does not flow from you into future generations.

There only 2 other times in the Torah that the exact language is used of  יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ 
One is in Devarim Perek 4:40 after summing up all the goodness and miracles Hashem performed on behalf of Bnei Yisrael, and the importance to love Hashem and follow His mitzvot. The other, is just 3 psukim after the passuk quoted above in this week’s parsha; immediately after prohibiting the consumption of blood, we are instructed about the correct way to bring sacrifices i.e. bring the sacrifices and sprinke the blood on the alter (instead of consuming it). The summary of the section is, again, לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ

The full section inside:

‘כה לֹא תֹּאכְלֶנּוּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי ה
‘כו רַק קָדָשֶׁיךָ אֲשֶׁר יִהְיוּ לְךָ וּנְדָרֶיךָ תִּשָּׂא וּבָאתָ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה 
כז וְעָשִׂיתָ עֹלֹתֶיךָ הַבָּשָׂר וְהַדָּם עַל מִזְבַּח ה אֱ-לֹ-הֶיךָ וְדַם זְבָחֶיךָ יִשָּׁפֵךְ עַל מִזְבַּח ה’ אֱ-לֹ-הֶיךָ, וְהַבָּשָׂר תֹּאכֵל
כח שְׁמֹר וְשָׁמַעְתָּ אֵת כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּךָּ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ עַד עוֹלָם כִּי תַעֲשֶׂה הַטּוֹב וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינֵי ה’ אֱ-לֹ-הֶיךָ 

Perhaps somewhat allegorically, the Torah is highlighting the importance of the examples that parents set for their children. A parent’s tremendous influence can either have incredibly positive or disastrously negative outcomes. If a parent has cruel traits – whether it be from literally consuming blood (unlikely these days) or simply not keeping his/her anger and emotions in check – then, as the Kli Yakar notes, that can easily, and tragically, be passed down to a child, whether intentionally or not. Assuring that we don’t have such traits will be good for us and for our children

On the flip side, if a parent has the traits of loving Hashem and demonstrating thanks to Hashem for all the good He has provided, then that example will hopefully be seen and emulated by that parent’s children. The root of the Hebrew word for sacrifice – korban – is ק.ר.ב. , which means ‘close/near’. The closeness that a parent strives to achieve with Hashem and cherishes with Hashem, will hopefully be a path adopted by the child, bringing richness and goodness to the parent, child and future generations to come.

Shmini

Vayikra 11:43-44
אל תשקצו את נפשתיכם בכל השרץ השרץ ולא תטמאו בהם ונטמתם בם
כי אני ה’ אלקיכם והתקדשתם והייתם קדשים כי קדוש אני
The Kli Yakar points out the difference in the wording used to describe the consequences/outcome of eating forbidden foods versus avoiding forbidden foods.
If we avoid the foods that Hashem has told us not to eat then there is a two-step process for ‘becoming holy’…
V’hitkadashtem refers to the actions we, on earth, take by avoiding such foods.The seemingly redundant v’heyitem kedoshim indicates that Hashem adds an extra level of help from above. He helps us further achieve the status of kadosh, to be more like Him, and we are specifically called kadosh. It becomes our essence.
There is a slight nuance in the language for when we do, chas v’shalom, eat non-kosher animals – the Torah does not say v’heyitem t’mei’im (that you, yourself become impure), rather it says “v’nitmeitem bam” – you are [i.e. your status is] rendered impure because of them.
The Kli Yakar provides an explanation for the difference, based on a saying of Chazal in Gemara Shabbos 104b: When we set out to do the proper thing, Hashem specifically helps us achieve it; but when we set out to do the wrong thing, the door is simply ‘left open,’ i.e. Hashem neither helps nor prevents the improper action from occurring. To quote the Gemara:
הבא לטהר מסיעין לו, הבא לטמא פותחין לו
Two lessons from this that stuck out in my mind were the following:
1. The Gemara’s saying seems to be a warning, not to actively (or even passively) put ourselves in a situation where we are likely to sin. Don’t assume you will come through clean on the other side. The door is left open for anything to play out, and it’s generally not a good idea to play with fire. Mind your surroundings; the places you find yourself; the company you keep.
2. Second, perhaps the fact that when we sin we are not labeled as “sinners” or “impure”, means that another door is “patuach” — the door of teshuva. We are not labeled as impure at our core – our halachic status has been rendered temporarily impure (which is an oversimplified term, but I think adequate for these purposes) on account of the impure food we have eaten, but it is not irreversible, and does not define who we are.
When we act improperly, we get away from ourselves and our status in the eyes of Halacha is (temporarily) altered, but our core (our cheilek Elokah mi’maalis intact. Teshuva is always an option.
When we do the correct thing, we are helped along by Hashem and we are elevated and labeled by our innermost quality and essence: Kadosh.
An additional thought offered by the Kli Yakar:
After commanding us not to eat animals and bugs that crawl on the earth, the Torah offers a seemingly overly aggressive and punctuated reasoning:
כי אני ה׳ המעלה אתכם מארץ מצרים להית לכם לאלקים והייתם קדשים כי קדוש אני
Why of all commandments – just to not eat certain animals – does Hashem reference the fact that He miraculously brought us out of Mitzrayim as the reasoning? What is the connection, and the significance of such a strong reference and reasoning?
The Kli Yakar answers that creatures that crawl on the ground, represent extreme closeness with the physical earth. Their entire body is pinned to the dust of the earth.
Humans (past the age of crawling) don’t walk on all fours; our lower body touches the ground, but our upper body, which houses our eyes, brain and heart, are separated from direct contact with the earth.
Hashem brought us out of a low place (Egypt) to the highest place (Eretz Yisrael), so that we could be different from animals, and even to live a more elevated existence than other human inhabitants of the Earth.
Food (second maybe to oxygen) is the most basic requirement for survival. Everyone must eat to survive. By setting special parameters for something so essential as food, we become separated and kadosh. No doubt that at times these rules can certainly feel cumbersome and limiting (finding kosher food dictates so much of how and where we travel), but I think the goal is to make us feel that we aren’t animals that can eat whatever and whenever they please.
Tehillim 81:11 (which we say every Thursday) says:

אָנֹכִי ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ הַמַּעַלְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם הַרְחֶב פִּיךָ וַאֲמַלְאֵהוּ I am the Lord your G-d, who brought  you out of the land of Egypt, open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, and charged us with the task of constantly trying to elevate ourselves, and perhaps the most basic way of achieving that is through our sustenance. We are to recognize and thank Hashem for taking us out of slavery and turning us into a nation, and part of how we accomplish this task, is by being mindful of what we eat. The reward is opening our “mouths wide” and Hashem “fill[ing] it”. We are especially mindful not to ingest those creatures that literally crawl on the ground, to remind us to avoid such items that can figuratively drag us down to the likes of Mitzrayim, and away from our ultimate destination as ovdei Hashem in Eretz Yisrael.

Vayikra

Vayikra 2:11-12:

יא  כָּל-הַמִּנְחָה אֲשֶׁר תַּקְרִיבוּ לַה’ לֹא תֵעָשֶׂה, חָמֵץ כִּי כָל שְׂאֹר וְכָל דְּבַשׁ, לֹא תַקְטִירוּ מִמֶּנּוּ אִשֶּׁה לַי-ה-וָ-ה 11 No meal-offering, which you shall bring to the Lord, shall be made with leaven; for you shall make no leaven nor any honey, smoke as an offering made by fire unto the Lord.
יב  קָרְבַּן רֵאשִׁית תַּקְרִיבוּ אֹתָם לַה’ וְאֶל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא יַעֲלוּ לְרֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ 12 As an offering of first-fruits you may bring them unto the Lord; but they shall not come up for a sweet savor on the altar.
The Torah tells us that the Mincha offerings may not be made from leaven or from honey. The Kli Yakar, quoting Rashi, explains that the bread referred to in the above psukim is the Two Bread offering of Shavuot (found in Parshat Emor), and the honey refers to the first-fruits / Bikkurim (– anything sweet which comes from fruit is referred to as “honey”. This is not bee’s honey). What offering is permitted to be brought with bread and honey? Only the offering of Bikkurim (which utilize the flour from the new crop and first fruits of figs and dates, from which honey can be derived).
The Kli Yakar explains a deeper message contained within these psukim. He writes that we all desire foods that are sweet. Chocolate tastes good. A little bit is good, but too much can be damaging. He analogizes this to the pleasures of this world, which we are supposed to use and enjoy to en extent.
The bread referred to is analogized to the Yetzer Hara (see Gemara Brachos 17a – teffila of Rebbe Alexsandery: “retzoneinu la’asos retzoncha, elah se’or sheh’be’isah me’akeiv”). Desires are not bad; they are a necessary and result-producing force in life. Without “honey”, he says, we would wither away; without food, our bodies wouldn’t be strong and healthy to be able to perform mitzvot. And without a Yetzer Hara and passion, humans would have no desire to get married, have children, build houses and cities; the world would be a desolate wasteland. Man’s desire to create, innovate and conquer are essential for survival and advancement.
The Kli Yakar goes on to say that these forces even need to precede deep involvement in Torah and mitzvot – im ein kemach, ein torah. Kemach must come first. The key, however, is that Torah is first in our minds and priorities. The leaven and the honey are a means, not an ends. They need to exist and be utilized within a framework. They have no proper function standing alone. Hence, the passuk says that they cannot be sacrificed alone as a רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ to Hashem. The leaven and honey are a vehicle to attain shleimut, only when they are properly paired with Torah, and only then can they be brought as a korban.
And so, the Torah says ‘קָרְבַּן רֵאשִׁית תַּקְרִיבוּ אֹתָם לַה — they should be brought as a first-fruit offering; to show that the leaven and honey are the necessary beginnings of how we attain shleimut. But this offering is specifically brought on Shavuot – Zman Matan Torateinu, which couples these foods with the Torah and the celebration of the gift we received on Har Sinai.
We see, therefore, how the Yetzer Hara and earthy desires are properly channeled:
With regard to the Yetzer Hara, the Gemara in Kiddushin 30b says “Barasi Yetzer Hara, barasi Torah tavlin” = I created the Yetzer Hara and I created the Torah as a remedy to it”. The Torah guides us for where we should be directing our desires and how to properly use and curb them.
And with regard to the pleasures derived from the honey of the fruits, when we give our first fruits of the harvest to Hashem and make them hekdeish – postponing our own desire to eat from the first harvest – then we are able to enjoy all the subsequent fruit as a product of having made the first fruits kodesh. We sanctify the first honey for Hashem, which allows us to partake in the honey (in moderation) for the rest of the year (“chulin sheh’naasu al taharas kodesh”). By putting aside our first fruits, we demonstrate that we had this pursuit of shleimus in mind from the beginning.