Parashat Shoftim, September 3rd, 2011, 4 Elul, 5771
Dear Talmidot, Parents and Friends –
1) This week at Midreshet Moriah
2) Faculty Devar Torah – Mrs. Neima Novetsky
3) Mazel Tovs
4) Mi She-Berach List
This Week at Midreshet
There's only one more week to go till we greet you, our new Midreshet 5772 students, at the airport! Orientation week schedule is ready and waiting for you and it's packed with outings, icebreaker activities, and Torah learning with rakazot and teachers.
Can't wait to see you!
Getting to the Root of It
Mrs. Neima Novetzky
In the midst of the laws related to war, the Torah tells us that when laying a siege on another city it is forbidden to cut down a fruit bearing tree. The reason given is: "for from it you will eat… for man is a tree of the field to come before you in siege." The meaning behind this last clause is ambiguous; in what ways is man is like a tree? How does that similarity explain why it is forbidden to cut the tree down?
To explain the difficulties, Rashi rereads our clause as a question: Is a tree like a man who comes before you in a siege that you should cut him down? According to Rashi, then, the verse is not comparing man and tree but contrasting the two. Rashi recognizes that in war time, people get hurt and killed. Unfortunately that it is to be expected when a soldier is in combat. But, a tree is different. The tree is an innocent bystander; he isn't the enemy and so the Torah warns that there is no reason to harm him.
Rashi's grandson, Rashbam, takes issue with his grandfather's approach. He says that the verse is warning us not to cut down a fruit tree (for practical reasons - we will need to eat from it), but it is allowing one to "cut down a tree which allows a man to come before you in a siege." (According to him, the word "ki" in the verse is not explanatory; instead it means "but rather…"). Rashbam points out that sometimes the enemy uses "innocent bystanders," to hide behind. In that case, one is allowed to cut down the tree, for it is no longer "innocent."
Others learn an important lesson about gratitude from our verse. Ibn Ezra points out that the phrase "man is a tree of the field" is not a comparative sentence but rather a statement that man's life is dependent on the tree, for it is our sustenance. Shadal explains that since man benefits from the fruit tree, he can't simply cut it down. The Torah warns us to recognize our benefactors and not to be ungrateful, even to a tree.
All of the above commentators explain our verse in context. The phrase "ki ha'adam ez hasadeh," though, has become so well known that it is often taken out of context and used as the basis for drashot and mussar. One beautiful explanation I once read, speaks about the uniqueness of the tree and man's likeness towards it: A tree is special in that it grows in two directions. Its roots grow downward in search of water while its branches yearn upwards in search of light. Man's job, too, is to stay rooted to his tradition and all that came before him; only with that connection to the past, will he be able to flourish. And then he has obligation to take those roots and use them in order to grow upwards and out, to create new paths and strive for more light.
Rachel Berg ('06-'07) and Joshua Teitcher
Yael Refah ('06-'07) and Ephie Mandel
Yhi ratzon shetivnu bayit ne'eman bYisrael
Rabbi Meyer and Vicky Berglas on the birth of a granddaughter
Yhi ratzon shetizku lgadla lTorah lChupa ulMa'asim tovim.
Rabbi Chanoch and Aidel Teller (Faculty) on the birth of two grandsons
Yhi ratzon shetizku lgadlo lTorah lChupa ulMa'asim tovim. Kshem shenichnas lBrit kein yikanes lTorah lChupah ulMa'asim tovim.
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Aron ben Reizal (7/14/11)
Tzuriya Kochevet bat Sara - diagnosed with stomach cancer.(7/3/11)
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