Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Geder of Mitzvas Charoses

The Geder of Mitzvas Charoses

The Mishnah (Pesachim 114a) records a dispute between Chachamim and R’ Eliezer B”R Tzadok. Chachamim assert that charoses is not a mitzvah, while REBRT posits that it is a mitzvah.

The Gemara (ibid. 116a) cites an apparent dispute between R’ Levi and R’ Yochanan. R’ Levi states that charoses is zecher la’tapuach (the unique relationship between Hashem and Am Yisroel signified by tachas ha’tapuach orratich in Shir HaShirim, and the miraculous and painless births of the nashim tzidkaniyos in Egypt under apple trees [see Rashi and Tos. ad loc.]). R’ Yochanan, however, states that charoses comes zecher la’tit (the mortar used in the construction in Egypt; see Tos. ad loc. for a third zecher). Abaye then explains how the making of the charoses should reflect both the aspect of the tapuach and the aspect of the tit.

In the Peirush HaMishnayos the Rambam states that according to REBRT one makes a berachah on the eating of charoses, but that the halachah does not follow REBRT.

In Hil. Chametz U’Matzah 7:11, however, the Rambam writes that charoses is a mitzvah Me’Divrei Sofrim, that it is zecher la’tit, that therefore it is made is a manner that reflects the process by which tit is produced, and that therefore it is brought on the table on Pesach eve. The Lechem Mishneh asks the obvious question, that it would seem that the Rambam here rules according to REBRT, contradicting his ruling in the Peirush HaMishnayos. Moreover, the Rambam does not mention any berachah here, and thus seems to contradict his other assertion in the Peirush HaMishnayos - that if charoses is a mitzvah, it is associated with a berachah (see Rabbeinu Manoach to Hil. CuM 7:11 and the Tur, OC #475 for the reason there is no berachah on charoses).

The question is, obviously, what happened between the Rambam’s perspective in the Peirush HaMishnayos and his ruling in the Yad.

The Harerei Kedem (RYBS) 2:94, on the basis of a girsa in the Mordechai, Hil. Seder Shel Pesach and the Bigdei Yesha (loc. cit. #19) posits that according to REBRT’s understanding, one would have to eat a kezayis of charoses, because it is a mitzvah of achilah, while according to the Rambam’s definition of the mitzvah is only that one needs to place charoses on the table, not to eat it. It is only since the charoses is already on the table that the Rambam rules in Hil. CuM 8:2,6,8 that the karpas, matzah and morror are all dipped in charoses, so that “she’lo tihyeh biaso biah reikanis.”

Hence, continues the Harerei Kedem, according to the Rambam’s new definition in the Yad of the mitzvah of charoses, there is no berachah because it is not a mitzvas achilah.

However, according to the Harerei Kedem, the Rambam in the Yad rules in accordance with REBRT, and thus reneges on his ruling in the Peirush HaMishnayos. Originally the fact that we do not eat a kezayis nor make a berachah on the charoses led him to believe that halachah must be in accordance with Chachamim, but when he “realized” that one could define the mitzvah as one of placing the charoses on the table, he decided to rule in accordance with REBRT, as the Gemara cites Amoraim who argue concerning his position, thus indicating that they held that the halachah followed REBRT’s position.

It is obvious how difficult it is to accept that the Rambam completely reversed his position from the Peirush HaMishnayos to the Yad. It is also very difficult to accept that the Rambam would actually rule in accordance with REBRT over Chachamim.

V’asher al kein yeira’eh lomar that the Rambam does rule, in fact, in accordance with Chachamim. The Rambam - both in the Peirush HaMishnayos and the Yad - is consistent in this respect. His position is that this, in and of itself, was the machlokes between REBRT and the Chachamim - whether the mitzvah of charoses is a mitzvas achilah or a mitzvas hava’ah. The nafka mina is, of course, whether there is a berachah on the charoses or not: If the mitzvah is one of achilah, then of course it follows that it should have its own berachah. But if it is a mitzvah of hava’ah, it is no different than the other mitzvos hava’ah of the Seder - viz., the zero’a and beitzah - upon which no berachah is made.

But why, then, does the Rambam require all these dippings in charoses? Let the charoses just sit on the ke’arah like the zero’a and beitzah?

As far as this point is concerned, we must preface an answer with another question: Why does the Rambam only cite the tit aspect of the charoses, and not its tapuach aspect?

It seems that the omission may best be explained if we understand the Rambam to hold that the zecher aspect of the charoses is actually the subject of a dispute between R’ Levi and R’ Yochanan. Evidently, since the halachah normally follows the views of R’ Yochanan, here too the Rambam ruled in accordance with R’ Yochanan.

And, indeed, the difference of opinion between R’ Levi and R’ Yochanan is substantial: According to R’ Levi the zecher is of the yeshuah - the Chasdei Hashem already manifest in the unique tapuach relationship of Hashem and the Bnei Yisrael while the latter were yet enslaved in Egypt. According to R’ Yochanan, OTOH, the zecher is of the avdus - the sufferings of the slavery itself.

With this premise in mind, we may readily understand all the tibbulim in the charoses very well. To begin with, the Rambam has the karpas dipped in charoses. Our minhag, OTOH, is to dip the karpas in salt-water. Indeed, Hagahos Maimonios, Hil. CuM 8:3 cites several Rishonim who forbade dipping the karpas in charoses. What is the nekudas ha’machlokes?

One of the cited Rishonim who forbade dipping karpas into charoses is Rabbeinu Yechiel (he calls such conduct a minhag shtus!). The same Rabbeinu Yechiel, cited in the Hagahos Maimonios, Hil. CuM 7:9 emphasizes that the recipe of the charoses must reflect the reason given by the Yerushalmi - that it is zecher l’dam - the first makkah, also a zecher of yeshuah.

It is evidently for this reason that RY forbids the dipping of the karpas in charoses: The karpas’s dipping is meant to be zecher l’avdus. It is therefore our minhag to use salt-water, zecher to the tears of Bnei Yisrael while they worked as slaves. The zecher l’yeshuah aspect of charoses runs directly counter to that symbolism, and therefore charoses cannot be used.

However, according to the Rambam, charoses is only zecher l’avdus. It is therefore, in fact, appropriate to dip the karpas in the charoses. It is much for the same reason that the marror is dipped in charoses.

It remains, however, to understand why the Rambam has the matzah dipped in charoses. The question is compounded by the further question posed by the Hararei Kedem 2:95: Why does the Rambam not have the Korban Pesach (Hil. CuM 8:7) or Afikoman (ibid. 8:9) dipped in charoses? (His answer is that both the Korban Pesach, and the Afikoman, as a zecher l’KP, must be eaten “l’mashchah v’l’gedulah - in a princely manner, and thus by themselves, without any condiments.)

But according to our explanation, the distinction is simple and self evident: Korban Pesach is a zecher l’yeshuah. Hence, it would be inappropriate to dip it in charoses, which is zecher l’avdus. As far as the matzah is concerned, however, it inherently commemorates both the avdus, as lechem oni; and the yeshuah, as the food made in haste as the Bnei Yisrael sped from Egypt.

The two times we eat the matzah represent, respectively, the two aspects of its zecher. As the Rambam writes explicity (Hil. CuM 8:6), the Motzi Matzah is zecher l’avdus - and that is why we use a broken piece of matzah, because a poor person is accustomed to a broken piece of bread. It is therefore appropriate to dip the Motzi Matzah in charoses.

But the Afikoman, just like the KP it represents, is zecher l’yeshuah (which is doubtless why its taste is supposed to linger...). It is obvious, then, that according to the Rambam, it cannot be dipped in charoses.

Tein l’Chacham v’yechkam od...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Gan Eden as Allegory

An old posting on a recurring topic:

I certainly do not claim to have done exhaustive research, but I would
like to present what I have found concerning Gan Eden account as

In the first place, there is no source that I could find that holds that
the whole of the Gan Eden account is allegory. Such as opinions
concerning an allegorical interpretation exist, they pertain only to the
nature of the "Nachash", the serpent in the story. The opinion that the
serpent was not a real live creature, while distinctly a minority view,
is the view of the Sfornu on the episode (Bereishis 3:1) with the
serpent and the "Efodi" Commentary on the Moreh Nevuchim (Ibn Tibbon
edition, II:30, pp. 51-52).

In my opinion, this is clearly not the Rambam himself's position, and I
invite readers to peruse the Moreh themselves (p. 356 in the Pines
English translation).

I note that the Abarbanel mentions that the Rambam himself holds the
episode allegorical, but he clearly was influenced by the Rambam's
commentators, whom he calls the Rambam's "friends."

The Abarbanel himself, however, is critical of the Rambam (according to
his understanding of him). The Abarbanel, in fact, uses reasoning that I
used in my previous postings: It is incorrect to take texts that the
Torah conveys as actual factual description and interpret them
allegorically! He does give some novel interpretations of the events in
Gan Eden, but all true to a factual perspective.

The Sfornu's view does have legitimacy, however, because it has a source
in Chazal:

"And the serpent: Rabbi Yitzchak said, this is the yetzer hara [evil
inclination]. R. Yehuda said, the serpent was an actual serpent. They
came befor Rabbi Shimon [b. Yochai]. He told them, certainly both
opinions are one. The serpent was Samael and he appeared on [in?] the
serpent, and the visage of the serpent is that of the Satan and all is

(Zohar Chadash 35b; Torah Sheleima vol. 2 p. 252) (readers not familiar
with that work should understand that it is an exhaustive, comprehensive
and encyclopediac compilation of all Chazals and most Rishonim and many
Acharonim on Torah she'bi'ktav)

(We see, BTW, from the Zohar Chadash that those that equate the serpent
with the evil inclination thus need not dismiss its actual existence,
but rather see it as "evil incarnate" (see the Nefesh HaChaim 1:6 in the
note there).

Now, to me it seems quite clear that R. Shimon b. Yochai rejected R.
Yitzchak premise that it was only the yetzer hara and R. Yehuda's
premise that it was only an actual serpent, but rather explained to them
that it was both. Nevetheless, the Sfornu is perhaps entitled to adopt
the opinion of R. Yitzchak.

I could not find any Chazal or Rishon that takes the rest of the account
of Gan Eden as allegorical. Indeed, the Ramban in his commentary 3:22
and in the "Toras HaAdam" (Kisvei Ramban vol. 2 p. 295 in the Mossad
HaRav Kook edition) takes great pains to stress that Gan Eden and all
the events that occured therein actually existed in this world, and that
references to a spiritual Gan Eden in Chazal, refer to a parallel
spiritual realm that also really exists, and that the events that
transpired in Gan Eden below also transpired in that Gan Eden on high.

Again, I only checked Rishonim at my ready disposal, but these seem
pretty clear. Rabbinu Bechayei takes the view of the Ramban, of
course.The Ibn Ezra as well is adamantly opposed to allegorical
interpretation (See Nechama Leibowitz's "Iyunim" p. 14 as well). So is
R. Sa'adia Gaon.

So far the Sfornu is all I found. Bear in mind: a) that he too takes
the rest of the Gan Eden account as literal; b) that he was not adverse
to the surreal (see his link of "Tumah" and demons in his "Kavanos
HaTorah"; c) the Sfornu himself weaves in and out of the allegory in
3:14. The last point causes me to wonder if the Sfornu is actually
engaging here in exegesis - perhaps this is actually homiletics?

Yet, be that as it may, the Sfornu only makes this jump here where he
can cite verses from Nach (and where we find basis in Chazal) in which
the tern "Nachash" is used as an express allegory for the Evil
Inclination and the Power of Fantasy. The Sfornu certainly did not take
the Flood as allegorical - there is no basis for that, even according to
the Sfornu's non-mainstream approach here. Thus, although according to
Tradition, as previously mentioned by other MJ posters, there is
precedent - albeit slim - for an "allegorical" interpretation of a
highly specific aspect of the Gan Eden account, there is no such
tradition in the case of the Flood.

Monday, April 18, 2005

B'trei zuzei

Not great, but neverhteless, al derech ha'tzachus v'ha'daf:

Why does the Ba'al Haggadah state that the chad gadya was purchased b'trei zuzei?

Because in Berachos 44b we see that even though a gadya bar zuza that is shamen v'tov may still be considered small enough to be b'geder kol kattan maktin.

Erev Pesach she'chal b'Shabbos

A relatively new sefer, Shalmei Moed, a collection of RSZA's writings and statements on the various Yomim Tovim cites RSZA from Sefer Erev Pesach she'chal b'Shabbos 21:5:

And in terms of seudah shelishis on Erev Pesach when it occurs on Shabbos, since it is permitted to eat crushed matzo [meal] that has been cooked or fried, it is also permitted to eat cake baked from crushed mazto meal that does not have tzuras ha'pas [the form of bread]. I believe it must be stressed that baked cake, even if it is mostly oil, eggs and sugar and only partly flour, is nevertheless not the same as cooked crushed matzo [kneidlach], for the cake has the definition of pas ha'ba'ah b'kisanin, so that if one is koveia seudah upon it, washing, HaMotzi and Birkas HaMazon are required.

In the Yalkut Yosef, I do not have it here now to cite chapter and verse, ROY notes that even those who have the minhag not to eat gebrokts on Pesach may eat gebrokts on Erev Pesach.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Setting the Table for the Seder

The Shulchan Aruch writes that one’s table should be set from before nightfall so as to begin immediately [not this year! – since that would be hachanah on Shabbos for after Shabbos], and the Maharam Chagiz cites a tradition to set the table for the Seder three days ahead of time (in commemoration of the korban pesach, which was set aside and checked for three days prior to its sacrifice – including the day of the sacrifice, four days altogether). The Shulchan Aruch also writes that one should put his best and most ornate vessels on the table for the Seder. And, although the Shulchan Aruch would seem to indicate that it is the vessels needed for the Seder that should be the best and most ornate, the Maharil states that one who has nice vessels received from a non-Jew as collateral on loan should place them on the table – from which it may be deduced that even vessels that are not necessary for the meal should be placed on it if they are particularly nice.

R’ Hillel of Kalamai would adorn the Seder table with all the manuscripts he had written, saying that King David has taught us that Torah is more precious than thousands of gold and silver coins, and that, therefore, in putting his seforim on the table, he performed the act of adorning the Seder table in an even more effective way!

(Minhag Yisroel Torah 472:2)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Mentioning Chametz on Pesach

Although normally one best fulfills a negative commandments by saying: "It is certainly tempting to do [or enjoy] this bad thing, but what can I do, Hashem forbade me to do [or enjoy] it" [see Rambam, Shemoneh Perakim], this is not the case in regard to chametz on Pesach. Thus, during Pesach a person should not say: "I am certainly tempted to eat and drink chametz, but cannot do so because of Hashem's command." This is because chametz on Pesach is akin to avodah zarah [Zohar 2:182a; see also Pesachim 28a and Shelah, Pesachim, Perek Torah Ohr #13], and concerning avodah zarah the Torah states: V'lo yishama al picha - "It [the name of an idolatry] should not be heard upon your lips." Hence just as it is forbidden to mention, and even think of, an idolatry, so too on Pesach one should avoid mentioning, and even thinking about chametz. Rather, before Pesacha person should say: "How much would I like to eat chametz on Pesach, for it is good and tasty, but what can I do, Hashem forbade me etc."

(Heichal Berachah (Kumarana), Parashas Re'eh on the pasuk: "Ki yirchak mimcha hamakom," cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah, Orach Chaim 469:2)

Rabbinic Authority

An old exchange. I remember neither who the questioner was nor the context in which it was asked:

1)People have "world views" which distort, or at least direct their
thought, so that people tend to be either more often lenient, or more
often stringent. As an example, a Rav who was very quick to dismiss
someone from some halachic duty when the slightest possibility of
Pikuach nefesh was involved. One man asked him why he is so lenient
about these laws in the face of pikuach nefesh, and he replied, that
it is not that he is lenient in those, but rather that he is very
strict in the halacha of Pikuach Nefesh. So even the people in the
"center" have general attitudes which make them lean in one direction
or another, even in terms of looking for the truth.

2) What if the two sides are really equal in your estimation of their
reasonableness. In that case would a posek be permitted to side with
the more lenient opinion for the sake of convenience? as an example,
the community of Flatbush wanted to erect an eruv, because there were
many women who wanted to go to shul, but had to push baby carriages.
Also, apparent;y some did push the carriages even though there was no
eruv. The problem was with the big highway which was close to the
city. I don't know what the issues were, but there was a discrepancy
of opinion about whether or not a kosher eruv could be put there. The
va'ad Harabanim apparently decided that it was too close to call, and
that both opinions were equally logical. Had they not had a good
reason for putting up an eruv, they probably would have not bothered
and told people it was asur, because why cause trouble when there is
no need? But since they felt the need for an eruv was very great, they
decided to side with the more lenient view, and built the eruv,. The
story is, that thereafter, Rav Moshe called the head of the Va'ad and
told him that in his opinion, the eruv could not be built there, and
was going to write a teshuva which stated that people should not hold
by it. The people who took him as their rav would not be able to use
the eruv. however, he told him, the va'ad of Flatbush has every right
to make decisions on their own,of course, and therefore, the people
who take the va'ad as their posek are permitted to use the eruv. Thus
he legitimized their right to make that decision. Is it true, then
that if the scale is even, it would be permissible for a posek to
adopt the less stringent view because it will be helpful to do so? The
issue with Pruzbul also seems to illustrate this point.

3) What is the deal with the idea that some rabbis are fit to be
poskim and some are not? Clearly if one is aware that a rabbi is unfit
to make good decisions because he lacks knowledge and understanding,
it would be inappropriate to take him as a posek, but many, probably
most "Orthodox" Jews don't think about this too much. Most rabbis, it
is true, don't take the job of paskening halacha on themselves, but
still, many who do offer piskei halacha are probably not really
qualified to do so. In the case of a Jew who follows such a rabbi
because it has never occurred to him or her that a "Rabbi" might be
unqualified in this task, is the Jew actually faulted? What does
"smicha" mean other than that that man's Rav, the one who gives him
the smicha, has decided that that person IS well-enough equipt to psak
halacha. There may be a great many errors here, and perhaps most
Rabbis are not qualified, but a Jew has a right to rely on the
judgment of the one who has given the smicha that this person is
qualified, so if that person gives poor advice to someone, the Rav
might be at fault, or the one who made him a Rav may be at fault, but
the person who does the act is not at fault for listening to him,
since it never occurred to him that a rabbi should be carefully
checked out before his psak is accepted.

4) Is a person who is very learned and erudite and knowledgeable
allowed to make his own piskei halacha even if he was not given
smicha? He may be much more qualified that MOST rabbis at determining
halacha, but he has not gotten smicha. Is he still allowed to paskin
halacha for himself whenever he is very confident that he knows how to
do so? If not, it would seem a bit ridiculous that he should have to
waste a rabbis time in getting an answer which he already knows, and
then what if he disagrees with the Rav's answer. If I learn all of the
halachot about X, for example, like kashrut, then do i still have to
call a rav every time i accidentally use a meat knife to stir cottage
cheese? What is the status of these home-remedy situations?


These are very good questions, and one try at a response will probably
not suffice, but we must get started somewhere, and then we can take
it all further:

1)This is indeed true, and that is why there is flexibility in
Halacha and even argumentation - in which both sides may be correct
under the operant principle of "Eilu va'Eilu Divrei Elokim Chayim" -
there are various different legitimate Halachic perspectives. The
essential precondition here is that the perspective be a Halachic one
and not one conjured up from the individual Rabbi's personal bias or,
more subtly, his subconscious concern with his own image or standing
in his society.

In addition, some Rabbis have agendas such as social welfare
which are non-Halachic but impinge on their objectivity. Care must
always be taken that Halacha precede and inform the formulation of
one's agenda, and not vice versa.

2) No, convenience in and of itself cannot determine one's
outlook or approach. It is sometimes hard to know what motivated one
in one's activities, but to the extent that one can one must attempt
to overcome one's subjectivity and remain objective.

Yet, it is impossible for Man to achieve complete objectivity,
and there is therefore perforce always human input in the process -
this is good, and the way God intended the process to be - but there
is a distinction between the impact of innate qualities (such as an
empathetic and warm person's approach versus that of a cold and
analytic person) on one's psak and the influence of one's Created
trends and tendencies on the psak.

Thus, in terms of eruv, say, one may be lenient ot please one's
constituents, which is an improper reason, or one may be lenient
because one's system of thinking and analysis leads one to concur with
the thinking and arguments of those sources that would permit an eruv,
which is proper (the same constructs can be inverted to clarify
legitimate and illegitimate approaches to a chumra as well).
Now, within Halacha there are also legitimate indicators of an
Halachic permissibility to seek leniency and even devise loopholes,
i.e., b'di'eved, she'as hadechak and hefsed merubeh, etc. Pruzbul was
such a case. No Halacha was directly abrogated or transgressed, rather
a legal circumvention (kind of like selling your Chametz to a Goy) was
officially sanctioned despite the fact that it was clearly against the
Purpose of Shmitta as intended, because the Nature of Jews no longer
allowed them to function at an optimum level.

In the case of Pruzbul, however, no argument existed as to
whether the principle of giving over your loan to Beis Din to collect
was a legitimate circumvention of the Shmitta annulment. It was just
something regarded as distasteful on a mass scale. Eruv, for instance,
however, often entails the introduction of leniencies that are the
subject of Halachic controversy, so the reliance on the lenient
decisors is immediately more problematic. Nonetheless, guiding
principles do exist, such as the possibility to be lenient in
d'rabbanans and stringent in d'orysas. But what is a d'orysa and what
is a d'rabbanan is often unclear, as is what is a she'as hadechak - is
it really, for example, that important to get to shul?

These are judgment calls. Optimally they too should be made as
impartially as possible based on careful analysis. Yet not all Rabbis
are capable of such thorough analysis (most aren't) and rely on their
intuition in following greater Rabbis opinions either l'chumra or
l'kulla. Here the educated Halachic consumer must be wary, and
question whether the gut feeling of his Rabbi is what he really wants
to follow (see below)

3) The modern Rabbinate is just as free market and capitalistic
as any other profession. There is no truly objective standard of
knowledge and expertise for acquiring semicha, and therefore no
inherent validity in the title Rabbi. Indeed, until relatively
recently Sefardim did not give semicha at all, afraid of its pitfalls
in glorifying the title over actual greatness. They had a point.
Therefore, the possession of semicha by an individual is presently
meaningless, and cannot be construed as to give that individual any
Halachic legitimacy, much less any expertise in psak. A Rabbi should
therefore be viewed now as a consultant. If your consultant gives you
improper advice, you may be penalized to a far lesser extent than if
you willfully transgressed a law, but you had better choose the best
consultant you can: a) because you will be likelier to get more
accurate advice; b) because the greater the expert, the less you are
responsible for the the wrongdoing, since your innocence is greater.

4) Since modern semicha is indeed essentially meaningless, the
converse is true as well. Yes, something or issue on which you have
acquired knowledge or expertise you may legitimately paskin for
yourself (even for others) without consulting a Rabbi.
It all boils down, in psak halacha, to a combination (not
necessarily in the following order) of analytic skill, basic
knowledge, or at least the knowledge of where to look, sincerity and
the quest to determine what is reasonably the Ratzon Hashem in the
case in question, and the self critique of honest objectivity in
approach. Titles and positions are meaningless.
As I said, this probably is not yet sufficient, but I hope it's a
useful beginning, and we can continue to build further.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Extraordinary Number of Stars

The Gemara in Berachos 32b (a recent Daf Yomi ) states that there exist what amount to billions, perhaps trillions or quadrillions, of stars. I think this Gemara is best understood in the context of the last mishnah (technically, the baraisa tack-on to the last mishnah) that asserts that in the eventual future every tzaddik will be granted 310 olamos. I always used to understand that mishnah metaphorically, but it occurred to me recently that it may well be meant k'peshuto: The greatest amount of dveykus in Hashem - the ultimate reward of Olam HaBa - is accomplished by halichah b'derachav. It therefore stands to reason that each and every tzaddik should be holeich b'darchei Hashem in the ultimate sense - as a Creator. Hence, each and every Tzaddik is given 310 olamos to form and shape and develop. Thus the need for myriad stars, so as to have the myriad planets l'hanchil l'ohavei Hashem.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

My Daughter's Midrash Report


מלפנו מבהמות ארץ ומעוף השמים יחכמנו

(איוב לה:יא)

Table of Contents

מלפנו מבהמות ארץ ומעוף השמים יחכמנו 5

חתול 6

נמלה 7

מעשים טובים 10

מדות 13

חכמה 15

יונה 16

צפרדע 18

הוי עז... 21

חכמה בגוים תאמין... 22

Bibliography 24


  1. Introduction (עירובין ק:)

    1. We must learn חכמה from animals

    2. Why animals have חכמה

      1. It is really their טבע

      2. To teach us חכמה

      3. To teach us how to act

  2. חתול

    1. Her מעלה is צניעות

      1. How this is manifest in her

      2. רחל  שאול

      3. אסתר

      4. Lack of צניעות causes a fall from גדלות

  3. נמלה

    1. לך אל נמלה עצל... (משלי ו:ו)

    2. Why שלמה taught the עצל from the ant

    3. 3 major מעלות needed in עבודת ד'

      1. מעשים טובים

        1. Collects so much even though she only lives for 6 months

        2. How much she collects

        3. Her שר is waiting for משיח

        4. She has no עצלות

        5. We have to collect מצוות ומעשים טובים for עולם הבא

      2. מדות

        1. She does not steal (מדרש רבה שופטים ה:ב)

        2. לחמה...מאכלהit is hers, not stolen

        3. She does all this even though she has no leader (חולין נז:)

        4. פרנסה is from ד'

        5. We must obey our שופטים

      3. חכמה

        1. She has 3 houses, yet only stores her food in the middle one

        2. דרך האמצעי (נתיבות עולם נתיב הזריזות)

        3. She does not steal – waste of time

  4. יונה

    1. No עריות

    2. Only one mate for life (נצח ישראל כב:13)

      1. Never drops her mate – like ד' and כלל ישראל

    3. Her wings are a משל to מצוות (ברכות נג:)

      1. She never fully stops flying

        1. עבודת ד'

        2. מצוות protect from צרות

    4. יונה coos

      1. ד' and בני ישראל mourn the חורבן בהמ"ק (ברכות ג.)

    5. בני ישראל in גלות vs. גאולה (תהלים סח:יד)

  5. צפרדע

    1. חנניה מישאל ועזריה take קו"ח from frogs at the כבשן האש (פסחים נג:)

    2. מחלוקת whether they had to be מוסר נפש

    3. נסים that ד' did for them

    4. They learned from the נסים that ד' did for the frogs (וארא ח:ט, חכמת המצפון וארא ח:ט)

    5. Didn’t leave without רשות because would be a breach of דרך ארץ (שיחות מוסר תשל"ב:יח)

    6. מסירות נפש of frogs

  6. הוי עז כנמר... (פרקי אבות ה:כ)

    1. עובדי ד' do not lose their strength

    2. כבוד שבת (לקט שיחות מוסר קצ"ד)

  7. Geese

    1. 5 basic truths

מלפנו מבהמות ארץ ומעוף השמים יחכמנו

אמר רב חייא מאי דכתיב מלפנו מבהמות ארץ ומעוף השמים יחכמנו1... אמר רבי יוחנן אלמלי לא ניתנה תורה לישראל למדנו צניעות מחתול וגזל מנמלה ועריות מיונה ודרך ארץ מתרנגול2

Had we not received the תורה we would have been able to learn different מדות from other sources. This גמרא gives four examples of animals whose traits and actions we could have learned just by observing them.

ד' put מדות into animals so that we would be able to learn from them.3 All מדות that we find in animals we can find in ourselves, as well. ד' put these מדות into them so that we should learn to utilize them properly.4 The מהר''ל explains that animals do not actually act with דעת, these מדות are part of their nature. Animals act a certain way, but not because they understand what they are doing; their nature is to act this way. The ant does not have זריזות or the מדה of keeping away from גזל because she has חכמה or יראת שמים; rather, this is her nature.

What exactly is the purpose of this engrained טבע?

The purpose is to teach us דרך ארץ – how we should act.5 ד' teaches us דרך ארץ through the animals and birds. This is one of the reasons why they were created.6 The ant does not distance herself from גזל because it is אסור, and the same is true with the יונה. Rather, they do so in order for us to learn to act like them.


אלמלי לא ניתנה תורה לישראל למדנו צניעות מחתול7

Had the תורה not been given to כלל ישראל we would have been able to learn צניעות from the cat – just by observing it. The cat does not attend to its private needs in public, and she covers her wastes.8 We find an example of such צניעות with שאול. דוד told שאול, “According to the תורה I was allowed to kill you. You are chasing me in order to kill me, and the תורה says – "בא להרגך השכם להרגו". But you were צנוע, and that saved you.”

What צניעות did שאול have?

The פסוק says: 9ויבא אל גדרות הצאן על הדרך ושם מערה”. חז''ל explain to us that it was a fence inside another fence and a cave inside another cave. שאול was going to attend to his private needs, so he went into this cave to hide himself – to be hidden from other people. Just as he acted בצניעות, when דוד came to kill him, he was hidden from him – so דוד was unable to kill him.

The גמרא says:" בשכר צניעות שהיתה ברחל זכתה ויצא ממנה שאול ובשכר צניעות שהיה בשאול זכה ויצאה ממנו אסתר"10. On the day that רחל was supposed to marry יעקב, she knew that her father was going to give לאה to יעקב in her place. She had רחמנות on her, and she gave her over the סימנים. יעקב did not discover לאה until the next morning. רחלwas so צנועה, and therefore she was זוכה to שאול.

שאול, in turn, was זוכה to אסתר – who is also known for her צניעות. When אסתר was taken to the palace, מרדכי asked her not to reveal who she was and which nation she was from. She did not reveal her lineage – that she was descended from שאול, from מלכות. The פסוק says about her: "אין אסתר מגדת מולדתה ואת עמה"11

The שירה of the cat is: 12אם תגביה כנשר אם בין כוכבים תשים קנך משם אורידך...” This is talking about someone who is in a position of power and greatness. Such a person might think that through a lack of צניעות he can attain even more power and glory, but this is not so. If there is a lack of צניעות, ד' will cause him to fall – even from an extremely high position. We find an example of this with אסתר – she had such an innate צניעות, yet she rose to such a high position.


לך אל נמלה עצל ראה דרכיה וחכם אשר אין לה קצין שטר ומושל תכין בקיץ לחמה אגרה בקציר מאכלה13

זה שאמר הכתוב 'לך אל נמלה עצל ראה דרכיה וחכם אשר אין לה קצין שטר ומושל תכין בקיץ לחמה אגרה בקציר מאכלה' מה ראה שלמה ללמד לעצל מן הנמלה רבנן אמרי הנמלה הזו שלשה בתים יש לה ואינה כונסת בעליון מפני הדלף ולא בתחתון מפני הטינה אלא באמצעי ואינה חייה אלא ששה חדשים... וכל מאכלה אינה אלא חטה ומחצה והיא הולכת ומכנסת בקיץ כל מה שמוצאה חטין ושעורין ועדשים אמר ר' תנחומא וכל חייה אינה אלא חטה ומחצה והיא כונסת את אלו ולמה היא עושה כן שאמרה שמא יגזר עלי הקדש ברוך הוא חיים ויהיה לי מוכן לאכל אמר ר' שמעון בן יוחאי מעשה היה ומצאו בבור שלה שלש מאות כר מה שמכנסת מן הקיץ לחרף לפיכך אמר שלמה 'לך אל נמלה עצל ראה דרכיה וחכם' אף אתם התקינו לכם מצות מן העולם הזה לעולם הבא ומהו 'ראה דרכיה וחכם' רבנן אמרי ראה דרך ארץ שיש בה שבורחת מן הגזל אמר ר' שמעון בן חלפתא מעשה בנמלה אחת שהפילה חטה אחת והיו כלן באות ומריחות בה ולא היתה אחת מהן נוטלת אותה באה אותה שהיתה שלה ונטלה אותה ראה חכמה שיש בה וכל השבח הזה שיש בה שלא למדה מבריה ולא שופט ולא שוטר יש לה שנאמר ' אשר אין לה קצין שטר ומושל' אתם שמניתי לכם שופטים ושוטרים על אחת כמה וכמה שתשמעו להן הוי 'שפטים ושטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך'14

שלמה המלך tells the עצל – go observe the ant and learn from her חכמה.15 She has no officer to teach her how to act, no policeman to supervise her deeds, and no ruler to punish her for any wrongdoings. Still, she prepares her food during the summer, and at the time of harvesting she gathers it into her house.

Why did שלמה המלך teach דרך ארץ from the ant?

The ant digs three holes in the ground in which she can theoretically store her food. She does not store her grain in the upper hole – for fear of a leak from the rain, and she does not store her grain in the lowest hole – for fear that the water absorbed by the earth will ruin it. She stores her food in the middle hole so that it will remain dry.

The ant only consumes about one and a half grains of wheat her whole life,16 yet she collects so much, so early. This teaches us the trait of זריזות.

Why did ד' create this nature in her – of working so hard for nothing?

We must learn from her to act with זריזות. רשב"י explains that זריזות means gathering or doing more than necessary.

The מעשה where they found 300 כר of grain in an anthill shows us just how hard the ant works – for a life which she is not even assured of. How much more so must we work to prepare for עוה''ב, which we will surely have!

Why does the פסוק say "דרכיה" – which is רבים?

To teach us to look for another מדה in the ant – her דרך ארץ that she does not steal from any other ant. The גמרא in עירובין ק: says, "למדנו גזל מנמלה" and רש"י explains: "שאין אחת גוזלת מחברתה". This is proven in the מעשה with the נמלה who dropped a grain of wheat and no other ant took it – because that would be גזל.17

These מדות that the ant has are not crucial for her survival. When ד' puts such מדות into animals, He does so for us to learn from them. Some animals teach us to emulate their מדה, while others teach us to distance ourselves from their מדה.18

How did שלמה המלך know that ד' wanted us to learn to act like the נמלה? It seems to be that the ant works so hard for something that has no שייכות to her. Shouldn’t the lesson we learn be not to be so busy with הבלים in עוה"ז such as money?

חז"ל answer this question with the fact that the ant has three houses, yet stores her food in the middle one. This is an act of שכל and דעת,19 which proves that ד' wants us to follow her ways. All מדות that are in animals which ד' wants us to distance ourselves from are done with foolishness, so that everyone who observes them understands that they are bad. ד' is not teaching us to spend our lives running after money, rather, we must collect מעשים טובים to live off of in עוה"ב.20

The מהרש"א explains the פסוק differently. "לך אל נמלה עצל" – learn from the lazy ant. Even a lazy ant has זריזות and does not rely upon her friends in order not to do גזל. This is a lesson to the עצל who relies upon his friends heavily, and even if they do not want to provide for him, he takes by force what he wants.

Theגר"א21 explains that a person needs three things in order to serve ד' properly: מעשים טובים, מדות, חכמה. The ant has all three. Let us look at how these מעלות are manifest in her and what we can learn from them.

מעשים טובים

"לך אל נמלה עצל"– one who is lazy and does not feel motivated to do מעשים טובים should learn from the נמלה. She collects so much, although she consumes so little.

There is a מעשה that happened with שלמה המלך: One time he thought to himself - There is no king in the world as wealthy as I am. ד' sent a small ant to him, and she told him, “Come and eat with me. Bring all your soldiers and I will prepare a feast for you.” שלמה המלך laughed and called her a fool, “You cannot possibly feed all of us!”

The ant answered him, “I will feed all of you for seven days and seven nights. You just have to lend me one of your servants to help me prepare the food כהלכה.” He sent one of his servants. The servant dug and found vast storehouses of wheat, barley, wood, and straw, and he prepared a feast for the king.

שלמה המלך came with all of his soldiers and servants, and they feasted for seven days and nights. When שלמה המלך was ready to leave the ant turned to him and said, “Know that you had גאוה on that day when you said ‘מי מלך כמוני בכל הארצות’, and therefore ד' sent me to you show you that there are some very great kings in the world. Know that all of these treasures that I gave to you belong to one king who captured them in war from the king of this city.”22

From this מעשה we see just how much food the ant collects and stores. Why does she do this? The מדרש answers: "שאמרה שמא יגזור הקדוש ברוך הוא עלי חיים ויהיה לי מוכן לאכול".

If not for the חטא of אדם הראשון even the animals would have lived forever.23 When the חטא will be fixed מיתה will stop – even for them. Therefore, they all wait for life without מות after it.

Animals, however, do not have שכל like we do to be able to wait for something like this. So what does this mean?

Every object on this earth has a שר above it in שמים; the שר controls its actions. The reasoning behind the ant’s actions is her שר. Everything she does – by collecting and storing so much food – is because her שר is anxiously awaiting and looking forward to life without מות, which will come in the time of משיח. All of her זריזות is for life after this world, therefore she rushes to collect as much as possible.

We, too, must collect as many מצוות as we possibly can in this world. The זריזות that we have to be especially careful with is זריזות אחר התחלת המעשה. חז"ל teach us that: "אין המצוה נקראת אלא על שם גומרה".24 In order for us to get full שכר for our מצוות, we must be the ones to finish them.25

It is man’s nature to be lazy. Man has בחירה and can spend his time as he wishes. His נפש, however, feels a lacking, and therefore he works to acquire what he feels he needs. The ant, on the other hand, has no בחירה. Her nature is to work continuously, and that is how she lives her life. Even in her “free time” she is busy collecting and preparing food for herself. This is not food that she needs, she will never eat it, yet she has this innate זריזות.

שלמה המלך tells the עצל: Even if you have money, work and prepare for old age, sickness, צער גידול בנים… Watch over what you collect and do not waste it on trivialities. Do not leave your work to other people to do. Do not sit around until you become desperate and resort to stealing or cheating other people!

We have בחירה, we control our actions. We can choose to act in a good or bad way.

What do we gain by having זריזות?

With זריזות we can acquire עוה"ז and עוה"ב. We will also fulfill more מצוות, thereby earning a life of טוב וברכה.

What can we gain by having עצלות?

Nothing. One could ח"ו lose their עוה"ז and עוה"ב and live a life of רע וקללה.26

The ant lives for six months, and spends most of her life collecting for after her death. We, too, must collect מצוות and מעשים טובים for עוה"ב.27

There is another aspect of עצלות that שלמה המלך is addressing, and that is someone who is an עצל בתורה.28 The man is in his home, and hisרבי is in the city. The townspeople urge him to go learn from the רבי, but he replies that he is scared of meeting a lion on the way. The רבי comes to his neighborhood, and he is once again urged to go learn from him. Once again he refuses for fear of running into a lion on the street. The רבי moves in next door, but the עצל refuses to go because maybe the door will be locked. The people tell him it is not, but the עצל wants to sleep… שלמה המלך says about this person: "מחורף עצל לא יחרוש ושאל בקציר ואין".29 רשב"י explains that this is describing someone who did not learn תורה when he was young and had the strength, memory, and time to do so. Once he is older, he tries to learn, but he is unable to do so for he has no strength, time, or memory.

משה רבינו added that with תורה there is another level of עצלות: not translating what one learns into practicality. One cannot just learn for the sake of learning, he must learn על מנת לעשות – only then will his learning have קיום. This is represented by the ant’s three houses. Some people learn without doing; this is like the upper house. Some people act without knowledge; this is like the lower house. These two have no קיום. Why?

A person is comprised of a mind and a body. Our deeds correspond to the body, and how we do them corresponds to our minds. We need to utilize both. The ant stores her food in the middle house so that it should not be ruined by the rain. We, too, must learn תורה with practical application. We should not waste our minds on genres of knowledge that have no practical aspect. We should not just learn, nor should we learn ספרים that only teach us how to act. We must learn and act with שכל – which creates a partnership between the mind and the body. This has קיום.30


Another מעלה the ant has which is crucial in עבודת ד' are her מדות. The פסוק says, “ראה דרכיה”, and the גר"א explains that this is talking about her מדות. The ant is constantly busy trying to collect more food, yet she will not touch anything that does not belong to her. 31 The מדרש 32 brings a מעשה of an ant who dropped a grain and all the other ants came to smell it, thinking it was theirs. None of them took it until the one to whom it belonged came back, smelled it, and carried it off.

Another ראי' that the ant does not steal can be found in the פסוק -"תכין בקיץ לחמה אגרה בקציר מאכלה". These are possessive nouns; the food is hers, not stolen. She acts this way even though she has no ruler: "אשר אין לה קצין שטר ומושל"33. A מושל is in charge of watching to make sure there is no stealing in his city. She has no מושל, yet she still does not steal – this is her nature.34

How do we know that the ants have no leader(s)?

לך אל נמלה עצל ראה דרכיה וחכם אשר אין לה קצין שוער ומושל תכין בקיץ לחמה אמר איזיל אחזי אי וראי הוא דלית להו מלכא אזל בתקופת תמוז פרסי' לגלימא אקינא דשומשמני נפק אתא חד מינייהו אתנח ביה סימנא על אמר להו נפל טולא נפקו ואתו דלייה לגלימא נפל שמשא נפלו עליה וקטליה אמר ש''מ לית להו מלכא דאי אית להו הרמנא דמלכא לא ליבעי א''ל רב אחא בריה דרבא לרב אשי ודלמא מלכא הוה בהדייהו אי נמי הרמנא דמלכא הוו נקיטי א''נ בין מלכא למלכא הוה דכתיב בימים ההם אין מלך בישראל איש הישר בעיניו יעשה35 אלא סמוך אהימנותיה דשלמה36

The תנא did not want to rely on what שלמה said, so he went to check this out by himself. He spread a shirt over the ant hill, because ants love shade. One ant came out and saw the shade, and the תנא made a סימן on the ant in order to be able to recognize him and see what the other ants will do to him. The ant went inside to tell the others, and they all came out. The תנא removed the shirt, and the sun shone on them. The ants all turned to the first ant and killed him. The תנא explains a few possible options:

  1. They have no king. If they had one, they would have been required to get permission from him before killing the ant.

  2. Maybe they do have a king, and the king was there with them.

  3. They do have a king, but they did not need his permission to do this because there was a law that anyone who lies can be killed on the spot.

  4. Maybe they were between kings – so everyone did what they wanted.

The תנא concludes that there is no way to know for sure, therefore he must rely on what שלמה המלך said – the ants have no leaders.37

The ant believes that everything is from ד' – including פרנסה, therefore she does not steal. It is as if she does not want to get הנאה from that which ד' gave to her friend.38 The ant runs away from stealing, therefore ד' gives her strength to collect more and more. This is the opposite of what we think, which is that if someone steals he will get more פרנסה. If we would run away from גזל, ד' would give us more opportunities for פרנסה. The reason that ד' allows the ant to collect so much is because she does not steal.39

When ד' created אדם, ד' created him with leaders to keep him on the right path. The proof of this is that ד' showed אדם the leaders in every generation. ד' also created us with the desire to listen to our leaders so that we would appoint them to rule over us. Ants do not have this nature, yet they act as if they do. We were created with it, and therefore we must act accordingly.


The third מעלה of the ant is her חכמה. She has three houses, yet she does not store her grain in the top or bottom ones for fear of rain on top and mud on bottom. She stores in the middle one – she takes the דרך האמצעי. We must learn from her to also act בדרך האמצעי in everything we do, as well as with our מדות.40

The אלשיך adds another aspect of חכמה that we learn from the fact that she does not steal. If she did, she would have to spend a lot of time returning what she stole or working to pay it back. Therefore, she does not steal – which shows חכמה on her part.41


The גמרא says, "למדנו...ועריות מיונה".42 The יונה only has one mate during his entire life – she never drops him for another יונה. Even after one of the זיווג dies, the other one will never find a new mate. Their זיווג is total and everlasting. The same is with ד' and כלל ישראל – once we were מכיר הקב"ה, we can never drop Him.43 Our relationship with הקב"ה is total and everlasting.44

דאמתלא כנסת ישראל כיונה שנאמר כנפי יונה נחפה בכסף.45 מה יונה אינה נצולת אלא בכנפיה אף ישראל אינן ניצולין אלא במצות...מה יונה זו כנפיה מגינות עליה אף ישראל מצות מגינות עליהם46

דאתמיל כנסת ישראל ליונה שנאמר כנפי יונה נחפה בכסף47 וגו' מה יונה כנפיה מגינות עליה אף ישראל מצות מגינות עליהן48

The wings of a יונה are a protection for her when she is fleeing from other birds and man. So, too, are the מצוות a protection for בני ישראל.49

When all other birds are tired, they rest on a rock or a tree until their strength is restored. The יונה, however, is different. When the יונה gets tired, she rests one wing and flies with the other. She alternates between resting one and the other until she gets her strength back.50 We can learn two major lessons from this:

This shows us a way of עבודת ד' which we must learn. Some people grow and rise until they reach שמי מרום, but then they fall all the way back down. They live like that – constantly rising and falling. The יונה is different – even when she has no strength to rise, she is very careful not to fall. She is constantly flying with at least one wing. We must do the same - even when we must be busy with גשמיות we must be careful not to totally let go of ד'; we must be constantly connected to הקב"ה.51

The יונה never has complete rest, because she is always flying with at least one wing. It is the same way with כלל ישראל – we are never free from צרות. However, our מצוות protect us from these צרות.52

ר' יוסי was once traveling and he stopped and walked into a חורבה. He was in a rush, so he did not daven inside. אליהו הנביא came to reprimand him for this and he said:

בני מה קול שמעת בחורבה זו ואמרתי לו שמעתי בת קול שמנהמת כיונה ואומרת אוי לבנים שבעונותיהם החרבתי את ביתי ושרפתי את היכלי והגליתי את בני לבין העובדי כוכבים. אמר לי בני חייך וחיי ראשך לא שעה זו בלבד אומרת כך אלא בכל יום ויום ג"פ אומרת כך. ולא זו בלבד אלא בשעה שישראל נכנסין לבתי כנסיות ולבתי מדרשות ועונין יהא שמיה הגדול מבורך הקב"ה מנענע ראשו ואומר אשרי המלך שמקלסין אותו בביתו כך. ומה לו לאב שהגלה את בניו לבין העובדי כוכבים. ואוי להם לבנים שגלו מעל שלחן אביהם53

Just like the יונה coos, so do בני ישראל groan about the חורבן, and so does ד' mourn the חורבן. ד' does not literally droop His head, but this shows that ד' has pain over the fact that בני ישראל caused such a חורבן with their חטאים.54 ד' says," אשרי המלך שמקלסין אותו בביתו כך". ד' yearns for the days when the בית המקדש was still standing – when כ"י would praise ד' in the בית המקדש like this.55 When the בית המקדש was in existence, בני ישראל were זוכין משלחן אביהם, and they called ד' – מלך.56 Now, we are in גלות, and we call ד' – אב, because ד' is כביכול not a king when His כסא is not complete.57

"אם תשכבון בין שפתים כנפי יונה נחפה בכסף ואברותיה בירקרק חרוץ"58

When כלל ישראל are in גלות we look and feel so disgusting – like someone who lives among pots – from the צרות in גלות. When the גאולה comes we will look and feel nice again – like "כנפי יונה נחפה בכסף".


עוד זו דרש תודוס איש רומי מה ארו חנניה מישאל ועזריה שמסרו עצמן על קדושת השם לתוך כבשן האש נשאו קל וחומר בעצמם מצפרדעים ומה צפרדעים שאינן מצווין על קדושת השם כתיב בהו ועלו ובאו בביתך ובחדר משכבך ועל מטתך ובתנוריך ובמשארותיך59 אימתי נשארת מצויה אצל התנור בשעה שהוא חם אנו שמצווין על קדושת השם על אחת כמה וכמה60

Why were חנניה מישאל ועזריה - מוסר נפש into the כבשן by נבוכדנצר? Why didn’t they darshen: וחי בהם ולא שימות בהן?

This all happened in public, so they had to give up their lives for this – even for a מצוה קלה; it was יהרג ואל יעבור.61 The problem is that the הלכה states that if a non-Jew wants a Jew to bow down in order to give him pleasure, it is forbidden for the Jew to bow; it becomes a יעבור ואל יהרג, and someone who does bow down is מבחייב בנפשו.62 This was not a problem here, because this was not עבודה זרה, it was a statue of נבוכדנצר – which he made for his honor. חנניה מישאל ועזריה saw, though, that נבוכדנצר made this statue to increase his honor and glory, but to decrease that of ד', and therefore they were חייב in this case to be מוסר נפש for כבוד ד'.

Why didn’t they just run away when they had a chance? The frogs were commanded to give up their lives: "ועלו ובאו בבתיך...ובתנוריך", but חנניה מישאל ועזריה were not! They did not want נבוכדנצר to claim that all the nations had bowed to the statue – including בני ישראל, therefore they בדוקא stood and did not bow.

The פסוקים inשמות seem out of order: first they say "בתנוריך" and then "במשארותיך". It should have been the other way around – first they went into the משארות and then into the תנורים. This is a רמז that those in the תנורים remained alive. משארותיך is from the word שארית.

ויעש ד' כדבר משה וימתו הצפרדעים מן הבתים מן החצרות ומן השדות63

The פסוק here does not specify that the frogs in the תנורים died. They were willing to be מוסר נפש for ד', therefore He did not kill them. This is a נס גדול וגילוי. נסים that ד' performs through שליחים are not only for the generation in which they happened; all the following generations must learn from the נסים that happened in previous generations. This is why such נסים are written in the תורה. Someone who is a real מאמין can look into the תורה, read and learn about these נסים, and feel as if he himself witnessed them.

The צפרדעים were מוסר נפש for ד', and therefore they were not burnt.64 They had no בחירה whether or not to do רצון ד', but this was going against their nature, which is to flee from danger. חנניה מישאל ועזריה took a קל וחומר from them, and they went willingly into the כבשן האש.65 The frogs had no צווי and they were saved, so חנניה מישאל ועזריה were sure they would be saved because they had a צווי.66

There are so many people who are willing to give up their lives for small, stupid causes; this is not real מסירות נפש. מסירות נפש for ד' is so great and is a נס! Our purpose in this world is to change our nature to match רצון ד'. The greatness in their מסירות נפש was that it was for ד' only! This is a level that we have to strive for – to make our רצון match רצון ד'.67

ד' sent מלאך גבריאל to save them. This was even more פרסומי ניסא because גבריאל is the מלאך of fire, yet he saved them from the fire. This is the reason that he went behind them in the תנור. If he would have gone in front, he would have stopped the power of the fire, and they would have walked behind him in the cold. Therefore he went in back of them to show that he was strengthening the power of the fire, yet they were not harmed because their צדקות cooled down the fire.

נבוכדנצר was amazed by a few נסים here:

  1. They were walking around unharmed in a blazing fire!

  2. He had thrown in three men, yet there were four walking around inside the fire!

  3. He recognized that the fourth “man” was a מלאך של אש – from מלחמת סנחריב – and how could a מלאך של אש be saving them from fire?! If it was a מלאך of snow or hail it would not be as miraculous… But a מלאך של אש – that was a פלא!68

The שיחות מוסר69 brings down another reason why חנניה מישאל ועזריה did not run away from the כבשן instead of being מוסר נפש; they did not want to leave without נבוכדנצר’s permission. They were thrown in by his command, and they refused to leave without it. The same thing happened with נח. He did not want to leave the תיבה without ד'’s permission – because he had entered with it.

We see from here how binding דרך ארץ truly is. נח had major יסורים in the תיבה. The פסוק says, "וישאר אך נח"70 – he was bleeding from the hard work of watching the animals. רש"י over there explains that for those twelve months נח and his sons did not sleep! Still, when the water dried and they had the ability to leave, נח did not want to leave without ד'’s רשות.

What happened with חנניה מישאל ועזריה is even more wondrous than that! By נח, ד' sent him into the תיבה in order to save him from the מבול. With חנניה מישאל ועזריה, נבוכדנצר wanted to kill them. They did not leave because it would have been a פגם in דרך ארץ for them to do so without his permission. They learned this from the צפרדעים.

Every minute that they remained alive was a נס! This proves that ד' agreed with what they did – therefore He lengthened their נס until נבוכדנצר commanded to take them out of the כבשן.

The frog’s purpose in the world is to be מוסר נפש for רצון ד'. She says in her שירה: "מין אחד יש...ונוטלני ואוכלני כי לכך נוצרתי מתחלת הבריאה"71. We must strive to also reach this level of being willing to bend our רצון for ד'’s.

הוי עז...

הוי עז כנמר וקל כנשר ורץ כצבי וגבור כארי לעשות רצון אביך שבשמים72

רבינו יונה explains when it is that we must use these מדות in עבודת ד'. One must have עזות to reprimand people who are sinning. רבינו יונה then discusses the whole משנה at once in terms of being עוסק בתורה ובמצוות. He brings the פסוק: "וקוי ד' יחליפו כח"73. One who has עזות to learn and do מצוות and who hopes in ד' – when he becomes tired, ד' increases his strength so he can use it for מלאכת ד'.

He continues with "וקל כנשר" – those who serve ד' without laziness 74 – "יעלו אבר כנשרים". "רץ כצבי" – other people, when they run and go they become tired. Those people who run to serve ד' with all of their strength, "ילכו ולא ייעפו ירוצו ולא ייגעו".

"וגבור כארי" - we must direct all of our כחות into עבודת ד';75 this includes our actions, intentions, and thoughts.76 "לעשות רצון אביך שבשמים" – our רצון should be to do ד'’s רצון.

רש"י explains this משנה in a different way. He says that one must utilize all of these מדות to bring honor to שבת קודש. Why specifically this מצוה?

ד'wants us to recognize and know Him. If we do this we will have pleasure all the time. That is why ד' gave us שבת and a רוח ממרום - "נשמה יתירה ורוחב לב למנוחה ושמחה"77. שבת is brings down light and pleasure on the other six days of the week. We must cling to ד' and have pleasure from Him throughout our lives. We have so many disturbances in our lives which hold us back from focusing on ד'. ר' יהודה בן תימא warns us to stand strong against the נסיונות of this world with עזות like a leopard, מהירות like a deer. We have to rise above like an eagle to have pleasure from the שכינה. We have to overcome these נסיונות with strength like a lion in order to get the רוממות הנפש that one has the potential to achieve on שבת. This will enable us to come to the level of דביקות בד' throughout our lives.78

חכמה בגוים תאמין...

This fall when you see geese heading back south for the winter, flying along in a “V” formation, you might be interested in knowing what has been discovered about why they fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if every bird flew on its own.

Basic Truth #1:

People who share a common direction and sense of common purpose can get there quicker.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to do it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.

Basic Truth #2:

It’s harder to do something alone than together.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing formation and another goose flies point.

Basic Truth #3:

Shared leadership and interdependence gives each of us a chance to lead as well as an opportunity to rest.

The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Basic Truth #4:

We need to make sure our honking is encouraging and not discouraging.

Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow it down to provide help and protection. They stay with it until it is either able to fly or until it dies, and they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their own group.

Basic Truth #5:

We need to stand by each other in good and tough times.79


עין יעקב

עירובין ק: - רש"י, עץ יוסף, עיון יעקב, באר הגולה ד: יא: 1017

חולין נז: - רש"י, מהרש"א

ברכות נג: - מהרש"א

סנהדרין צה.מהרש"א

שבת מט.רש"י, תוספות

ברכות ג.עץ יוסף

פסחים נג: - רש"י, רי"ף, עץ יוסף


מדרש רבה שופטים ה:ב – תפארת ציון, מהרז"ו, המבואר

בראשית רבה לט:ח – דברי שמואל, דברי שאול

ילקוט שמעוני וארא ז: כו-כט: סה,סו

פרקי אבות: ה: כ – רש"י, רבינו יונה, לקט שיחות מוסר


נתיבות עולם: נתיב הצניעות פרק א

נתיבות עולם: נתיב הזריזות פרק א

נצח ישראל ה:76

נצח ישראל כב: 13


משלי ו:ו – גר"א, ילוט מעם לועז, אלשי"ך, מלבי"ם

תהלים סח: יד – מצודת דוד

וארא ח:ט – חכמת המצפון וארא: ח: ט


מסילת ישרים פ"ז

שיחות מוסר תשלב: יח

המביט על פרק שירה

1 איוב לה:יא

2ערובין ק:

3 ערובין ק: רש''י

4 משלי ו:ו מוסר חכמה

5 ערובין ק: רש''י

6 ערובין ק: עץ יוסף

7 ערובין ק:

8 ערובין ק: רש''י

9 שמואל א כד:ג

10 מגילה יג:

11 מגילת אסתר ב:כ

12 עובדיה א:ד

13 משלי ו:ו-ח

14 מדרש רבה שופטים ה:ב

15אבן עזרא משלי ו:ו

16 תפארת ציון שופטים ה:ב

17 המבואר-מדרש רבה שופטים ה:ב ; חולין נז: מהרש"א

18 For example, the אנפה – heron – is always angry and spends her days in grief and sorrow. She teaches man to distance himself from כעס. The sloth – called עצל in the מפרשים - is known for its עצלות – which makes it east to trap. From him man learns to distance himself from עצלות.

19 The פסוק says תכין = what can be seen by the eye. She cuts every grain into very small pieces so it shouldn’t grow if rain falls on it. This is a הנהגה of חכמה יתירה. אלשיך משלי ו:ו

20 תפארת ציון שופטים ה:ב

21 משלי ו:ו,ז

22 ילקוט מעם לועזמשלי ו:ו-ח

23 ב"ר יט:סט

24 ב"ר פה:ג

25 מסילת ישרים פרק ז ביאור חלקי הזריזות

26 אלשיך משלי ו:ו

27 פירוש מהרז"ו מדרש רבה שופטים ה:ב

28 נתיבות עולם: נתיב הזריזות פרק א

29 משלי כ:ד

30 נתיבות עולם: נתיב הזריזות פרק א

31 גר"א משלי ו:ו, עירובין ק: רש"י

32 שופטים ה:ב

33 משלי ו:ו

34 אלשיך משלי ו:ו

35 שופטים יז

36 חולין נז:

37 רש"י

38 עירובין ק: עיון יעקב

39 נתיבות עולם: נתיב הזריזות פרק א

40 משלי ו:ו גר"א, נתיבות עולם: נתיב הזריזות פרק א

41 אלשיך משלי ו:ו

42 עירובין ק:

43 נצח ישראל פרק כב:13

44 ברכות נג: מהרש"א

45 תהלים סח:יד

46 ברכות ג:

47 תהלים סח:יד

48 שבת מט.

49 שבת מט. רש"י

50 בראשית רבה לט:ח

51בראשית רבה לט:ח-דברי שמואל

52בארשית רבה לט:ח-דברי שאול

53 ברכות ג.

54 ברכות ג.-עץ יוסף

55 ברכות ג.- ש"י

56 ברכות ג.- מהרש"א

57 ברכות ג. – עץ יוסף

58 תהלים סח:יד

59 וארא ז:כו-כט

60 פסחים נג:

61 פסחים נג: תוספות

62 ב"ח

63 וארא ח:ט


65 חכמת המצפון וארא ח:ט

66 פסחים נג: רי"ף

67 חכמת המצפון וארא ח:ט

68 פסחים נג: רי"ף

69 מאמר יח תשל"ב

70 נח ז:כג

71 המביט על פרק שירה- I couldn’t find a real מקור for this anywhere.

72 פרקי אבות ה:כ

73 ישעי' מ:לא

74 רש"י

75 רש"י

76 רבינו יונה

77 רש"י ביצה טז.

78 לקט שיחות מוסר קצ"ד

79 The Wisdom of the Geese – Angeles Arien