Parshat HaShavua KI-TEITZE
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
"Ki sivneh bayis chadash ve'asisa maakeh le'gagecha, ve'lo sasim damim be'baisecha ki yipol hanofel mimenu."
"When you build a new house, create a fence around its roof, for blood may befall on your house lest someone falls from your roof." Deuteronomy 22:8
The Jew is referred to as "Adam" or man in the Torah. When he sins, he splits this word "adam" into aleph and "dam," blood. Chazal teach that Adam brought blood and death into the world because by sinning, he shore off the aleph from his name, leaving blood in its wake. The shape of the letter aleph is that of the Hebrew letters vav with two attached yudim; therefore the aleph shares the same gematria as the word "gagecha," your roof (26). When one repents properly it is very similar to him building a new house because his body and soul are considered newly formed. And much as a roof protects a physical house, one's mind protects his "spiritual house." To summarize, the knowledge of one's sins and awareness of Hashem are excellent deterrents to sinning. Both the aleph and the word gagecha share the same gematria as the four letter name for Hashem, the tetragrammaton. Man must therefore strive not to sin because sinning separates the aleph from adam which brings death (sin) into the world and removes himself from his Maker.
Furthermore, there are four traits that are termed "mayim" (water) that a baal teshuvah must keep himself distant from. These traits are arrogance, anger, argumentativeness and lust. Arrogance is called water because the verse states the waters on high which separate. Argumentation stands for the waters of argument. The third, anger, is represented in the Book of Nahum as waters of anger and lust is symbolized by water as Proverbs teaches that stolen waters are sweet. When we return to Hashem properly, we recreate ourselves. To armor ourselves, we are enjoined not to place "damim" in our house. "Damim" is the combination of dalet and the word mayim, "four waters." This verse subtly teaches us to avoid those four character traits which may distance ourselves from Hashem.
A man marries a woman and lives with her. If she does not please him, or he has evidence of sexual misconduct on her part, then he shall write her a bill of divorce… (24:1, translation follows Gittin 90a).
Abarbanel considers the fundamental matter: why does a man marry at all? No divorce can take place without marriage.
He explains that a man needs a successful and productive marital relationship for flourishing in livelihood, social status, physical fulfillment, spiritual development, and children. All that is without, of course, negating her position and feelings or the importance of his contributing to the relationship.
Abarbanel proposes that the ideal reality forms part of the very opening of the Torah:
Adam said: “[She is] a bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh” (Gen. 2:23).
In other words, man and woman are one; they are part of each other. Not two grown-ups of opposite gender staying under the same roof. In sharp contrast to the Gentile practice in his day that condemned the mismatched couple to live in perpetual misery, Abarbanel explains that the Torah presents the opportunity to end the marriage in the spirit of: “It is better to live on the corner of a roof, than with a wife who is a source of discord” (Proverbs 25:24). The husband would have to go through the painstaking procedure of “writing a bill of divorce” (24:1) which would give him plenty of time to reflect on whether he was doing the right thing before deciding on the finality of “placing it into her hand” (ibid), thereby severing the relationship.
Like the merging of two similar plants or the transplant of an organ from one human to another, the couple have to be potentially compatible or the marriage will just not “take”. The year between engagement and marriage, explains Abarbanel following the custom of his day, is a window for exploring whether there is enough common ground for each to grow into the other when eventually united as a couple. This reduces, but does not eliminate uncertainties that may make the relationship non-functional.
Thus Abarbanel explains that “if she does not please him”, he will not flourish spiritually, economically, and in his role in the family. He will come to hate his wife: not because she is a bad person, but because she turned out to be unsuitable for him. His life cannot progress and develop; no “flesh from my flesh” merger is possible. The marriage did not “take”. Divorce is the best course in such a situation.
The idea can be extended. Deciding not to divorce when it is best to do so and persisting in a dysfunctional marriage can create the situation at the beginning of the parasha where a man’s marital situation includes a “hated woman” (21:15). The text follows that with the ben soreh u-moreh, the wayward and rebellious son. Rashi’s explains the ordering to imply that it is through hatred between the parents that a child may behave in such a way...
“An Amonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of Hashem…Because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water…and because they hired Bilaam …to curse you.”
The Torah clearly presents two reasons for banning an Amonite or a Moabite from marrying a Jew. Rashi, however, cites only their procuring Bilaam to effect our spiritual destruction as grounds for their exclusion. Why does Rashi omit their lack of character refinement as motive for barring them from Klal Yisrael? Rav Elyakim Schlesinger responds to this question by first addressing a similar question regarding the death of Lot’s wife.
When Lot and his family were escaping the inferno which destroyed Sedom, his wife disobeyed the command not to look back. Consequently, she was turned into a pillar of salt. Rashi explains that her punishment was specific; it was a direct result of her refusal to serve salt, a simple condiment, to her guests. Such a punishment seems overly harsh and inconsistent with the transgression. Rav Schlesinger suggests that her insensitive treatment of her guests was not the reason for her death. Every transgression has a specific retribution consistent to the degree of its gravity.
The performance of certain mitzvot and various good deeds serve as a safeguard against punishment. Thus, retribution can be averted through the earned merit of mitzvot. Lot’s wife was destined to perish and be transformed into a pillar of salt because of her violation of the angel’s command. Had she had the merit of treating her guests decently by serving them properly, being sensitive to their simple needs, she would have been spared punishment. Her lack of sensitivity to others sealed her fate, but was not the actual rationale for her punishment.
Similarly, the Amonite and Moabite people deserved severe sanctions as a result of their attempts to catalyze the spiritual downfall of our people. Had they shown some human decency when we were in need, they might have been spared. Their continued lack of character refinement sealed their ultimate doom.
We may derive from here that one should be meticulous in observing all mitzvot regardless of their apparent level of significance. We do not know by virtue of which mitzva or good deed our deserved punishment has been mitigated or even reprieved. (Peninim on the Torah)
Pearls of Life
The Nesivos Shalom lights the Pearls of Life with the words of the Kubriner Rav, zy’a, who tells us that the time of self-examination is in the JEWISH MONTH OF ELUL. Now is the time to fix things up and do Teshuva [repent], not Rosh Hashana. Rosh Hashana is for the purpose of coronating and proclaiming the kingship of Hashem on every part of us and on everything in the world. The time of teshuva is before that, during the next few weeks, where we can prepare ourselves to be able to come to Hashem and proclaim Him the King over us and King over the whole world. In this month of Elul, we have to think if we acted according to Torah Law, have we followed what Hashem wants us to do. All this has to be thought about now. When it comes to Rosh Hashana, if we didn’t prepare during Elul it is certainly a bit late. As long as we continue to act like a non-Jew, we are not able to properly have deveikus haShem [attaching to HaShem], to connect to Hakadosh Baruch Hu like we should. If we complete ourselves, if we work on our hearts, our minds and our physical actions and we concentrate on the things that we are supposed to be doing during Elul, then we will be with Hashem. Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim adapting the words of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Shapiro.