Vol 28.12 - Shlach 2 Spanish French Audio Video
(5745) The conjunction of the episode of Spies to the passages of idolatry and the wood-gatherer (mekoshesh);
Explanation of Tosfot (Bava Batra 119b "Afilu") that the mekoshesh acted for the sake of Heaven (leshem shamayim), and the Maharsha (ibid) that it was "Work not needed for it's own sake" (Malacha Shein Tzricha L'Gufo - Tal Shab.73b).
The Act (not the intent) is What is Important (HaMaaseh hu HaIkar)
Idol Worship - A Jew would rather take an one’s life to avoid the action of
Idol Worship, even though internal belief is the lacking
Wood-Gatherer - Guilty for the perceived act of violating Shabbos,
even though the intent was for the sake of Heaven
The Spies - Mistake to stress the service of the intellect and intent,
rather than go to the Land and do the practical acts of
1. At the end of our Parsha, Rashi cites R’ Moshe HaDarshan:
“Why is the chapter of the "Wood Gatherer" adjacent to the chapter of idolatry? To teach that the Shabbat desecrator is like an idolater since it (Shabbat), too, is equated with all the commandments.".
Tosfot states that the episode of the Wood Gatherer was at the beginning of the forty years immediately after the episode of the Spies where it says in the Midrash that their intentions were for the sake of Heaven (leshem shamayim):
For they were saying that since it was decreed that the Israelites not enter the land, because of the Spies, there was no longer an obligation to perform Mitzvot. Therefore he (the Wood Gatherer) stood up and desecrated the Shabbat in order that he be killed and that they would see (that the obligation remained in force).
Therefore the proximity of the Parsha of the Wood Gatherer to the entire Parsha, where it discusses the Sin of the Spies (which is the main story in our Parsha and for which the entire Parsha is named – Parshat Shlach) is understood, since the act of the Wood Gatherer came as a result of the episode of the Spies.
Since Torah places the Parsha of idolatry between the episode of the Spies and the Parsha of the Wood Gatherer, it is understood that even according to the opinion of Tosfot , the Parsha of the Wood Gatherer is relevant to the Parsha of idolatry as Rashi cites from R’ Moshe HaDarshan , and as Tosfot explains the Talmud:
“Moshe Rabbeinu knew that the Wood Gatherer must be put to death since it states: “those who desecrate it shall surely die”, but he did not know the type of death, for even though the general rule is that unspecified execution is by choking/chenek, since Shabbat desecration is compared with idolatry, the punishment is stoning, as with idolaters. For one who desecrates Shabbat is like one who denies the fundamentals of faith (kofeir ba-'ikar) who denies the Act of Creation.”
This connection (from Parsha of the Wood Gatherer to Parsha of idolatry ) is (only) in the essential sin of Shabbat and idolatry. But since the connection is not just to a general sin of desecrating Shabbat, but rather specifically to the sin of gathering wood, it is reasonable to say that the Parsha of idolatry has a connection to the manner of Shabbat desecration that occurred by the Wood Gatherer – whose “intentions were for the sake of Heaven”.
One could say that since this is all a part of Parshat Shlach , whose primary theme is the episode of the Spies, one must therefore say that even this topic has a connection to the theme of the “episode of the Spies “.
2. One can understand this by prefacing an explanation in the words of the Midrash which Tosfot cites:
“Their intentions were for the sake of Heaven. For they were saying that since it was decreed that the Israelites not enter the land, because of the Spies, there was no longer an obligation to perform Mitzvot. Therefore he (the Wood Gatherer) stood up and desecrated the Shabbat in order that he be killed and that others would see”.
If, seemingly, the purpose was in order to publicize that we are still obligated in Mitzvot – why did he have to specifically desecrate the Shabbat, especially since this brought another severe sin of causing that “he will be killed” (as explained in the commands): “the blood of your souls” and one who “spills his own blood”? He could have publicized it by transgressing another Mitzvot, even with an extremely a minor sin which entails Malkut (whipping), or money etc.?
Targum Yonatan also states the general theme that the Wood Gatherer did not mean to desecrate (Shabbat) intentionally (b’Mazid) but rather that he did it for the sake of Heaven. However Targum Yonatan explains why he specifically desecrated the Shabbat that:
Since the people only knew that “Shabbat was decreed/Gezeirat Shabata “ but they did not know the punishment for the desecration of Shabbat - “kansa d’shabbata). Therefore, the intention of the Wood Gatherer was that through his deeds, the punishment for the desecration of Shabbat - “kansa d’shabbata) would be publicized to all Beit Yisroel.
However, according to the Midrash (cited in Tosfot), that he did this in order to publicize that we are obligated in Mitzvot, it is not understood why he chose the desecration of Shabbat (as an example) , as aforementioned.
The explanation in this is:
Concerning the question of how he could have desecrated the Shabbat in order to publicize the form of death that is due for a Shabbat desecrator, the Maharsha answers that:
Since he did not need this work and only utilized it in order to “publicize the form of death etc., the work fell into the category of "Work not needed for its own sake" (Malacha Shein Tzricha L'Gufo - Tal Shab.73b), like for example, digging a furrow where he just wants the dirt (and not the furrow itself) which according to R’ Shimon is exempt/patur (from punishment)”. And he continues: “And one could say according to the Midrash that Tosfot cites etc. that it also was ‘Work not needed for its own sake’ “.
Accordingly, it is understood according to the Midrash which is cited in Tosfot why he publicized this specifically through Shabbat Work (Melechet Shabbat) because he did not want to commit a sin, yet at the same time (he wanted to) explain the aforementioned view. This can specifically be explained by Shabbat where “work not needed for its own sake” is exempt/patur (according to R’ Shimon). So much so that it is as the Kedushat Levi (R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev) states that: “If so, he did not desecrate the Shabbat at all”.
3. Notwithstanding this, G-d said: “That man shall be put to death, the entire congregation shall stone him etc.”, namely, that he incurred the penalty of death – even though that in Heaven it was revealed that it was “work not needed for its own sake”, and that his intention was for the sake of Heaven, so much so that “he did not desecrate the Shabbat at all”,
(And even more so, this was a deed for the sake of Shabbat – (since) his intent was to strengthen Jewish Shabbat observance (and, in general – Torah and Mitzvot).
The Maharsha explains (that G-d’s verdict) was because:
“The witnesses who warned him were not aware of his intentions and thought that it was just a desire of his heart. Therefore they convicted him of death according to the witnesses.”
The point of this is not that they stoned him by mistake (due to the witness’ lack of knowledge),
for Torah is the Torah of truth/Torat Emet, and if, according to truth, according to his intent “he did not desecrate the Shabbat at all”, then G-d would not have pronounced that “the man shall be put to death” –
But rather, the verdict of stoning, in “earthly courts (dinei adam)”, according to Torat Emet, is according to the deed and act. Therefore since his deed was an act of desecrating the Shabbat, this constitutes an act which, according to the law of the Earthly court, carries the penalty of stoning, and his intentions do not matter at all.
4. Accordingly one can understand the connection of the Parsha of the Wood Gatherer to the Parsha of idolatry.
Concerning Idolatry we find a special aspect that is not found with other Mitzvot of the Torah. Every Yid, even the simplest, will sacrifice his life/moser nefesh when it comes to a test of Idolatry, even if entails just one solitary deed against faith in the One G-d. For example, even if it is just bowing to an Idol, even if he does not believe in it at all in his heart.
This requires explanation:
The primary sin of idolatry is the faith in one’s heart, that, besides G-d, he considers one of the created beings an entity (for example an angel, or planet/galgal or star, and he accepts (the idols/Avodat Kochavim) as G-d. And when “he does not believe in it at all” it is not the sin of idolatry for he has not torn himself away from G-d.
On the other hand, even when he does not give over his soul for G-d (Moser Nefesh), he does not incur punishment since it was a unintentional deed/Ma’ash b’onais.
However, since this is a deed involving idolatry, even though this is not the essential sin of idolatry, it is considered here in this world, a prohibition of idolatry, and for this he should be Moser Nefesh.
And this is the connection between the Parsha of the Wood Gatherer on Shabbat to the Parsha of idolatry.
The definition of a Melacha/work on Shabbat is connected to one’s thoughts and intentions – “melechet mach’shevet amra Torah”.
(Editor’s note: The work of the Mishkan is called by the Torah melechet mach’shevet – literally,‘thoughtful work’. (Here, we mean ‘thoughtful’ in the sense of ‘being done with forethought’). And since the labors we avoid on Shabbat are derived from the labors done in the Mishkan, this notion of ‘thoughtfulness’ applies to Shabbat as well.
For any action to be ‘thoughtful work’, the following must be true:
Therefore one is not liable for “work that is not needed for its own sake” and specifically in our case where he did this for “the sake of heaven”, there was no deed of desecrating Shabbat at all) -
Nevertheless, since the deed, in and of itself, the way it looks in this world is a deed of desecrating Shabbat (for one could mot discern in the work that it was “work not needed for its own sake”). Therefore according to the Torah of truth, he incurred stoning for the deed.
5. According to all of the above one can also understand the connection in the theme between the episode of the Wood Gatherer to the “episode of the Spies”:
It is explained in many places that the reason the Spies wanted to remain in the desert and not enter Eretz Yisroel is because the main occupation of Yidden in the desert (where they did not have to occupy themselves with earning a livelihood etc.) was Torah study (as the sages state: “The Torah was not given to expound upon save to those who ate the manna” ("Lo nitna Torah lidrrosh ela l'ochlei HaMon"). For the study of Torah is primarily with – understanding and comprehension with reasoning and thought (and also bringing it into speech). However, in Eretz Yisroel there is (physical labor as it states): “For six years you shall plant your field etc. and prune your vineyard “.
In Pnimiyut – the main Avodah there (in Eretz Yisroel) is deed/ma’aseh, physical Mitzvot (and especially the Mitzvot that are connected with Eretz Yisroel) including good deeds (ma’asim tovim/uvdin tavim).
With this one can understand the words of the aforementioned Midrash (which are cited in Tosfot):
“They were saying that since it was decreed that the Israelites not enter the land, because of the Spies, there was no longer an obligation to perform Mitzvot”.
From the plain wording of the Midrash is appears that they did not want to rebel against G-d, G-d forbid, by not performing Mitzvot, but rather (to emphasize) that they were not obligated/mechayavin in Mitzvot.
However, it is puzzling: What was their premise?
If they would have said: “since death was decreed upon them” etc., one could have explained (albeit - with great difficulty) that their reasoning was that since the verdict of death was handed to them, they are already considered dead (Gavra katila) and they no longer have any obligations. However, how does their premise “since it was decreed that the Israelites not enter the land” relate to “there was no longer an obligation to perform Mitzvot”?
However, according to the aforementioned, one could say that – this itself was their reasoning:
Since the aspect of entering the Land is (mainly) for the sake of fulfilling Mitzvot with deed, they reasoned that “since it was decreed that the Israelites not enter the land, because of the deed of the Spies, there was no longer an obligation to perform Mitzvot.
The Avodah of fulfilling Mitzvot with deed was not applicable to them.
(even those Mitzvot that they were obligated in, until now, and especially since many of the commands were given as a preparation to entering the Land (namely, that in the merit of those Mitzvot, they would enter Eretz Yisroel).
Their entire Avodah just entailed Torah study (with thought and speech) - “we are not obligated in Mitzvot”.
To contest this, the Torah continues with the episode of the Wood Gatherer – “He stood up and desecrated the Shabbat in order that he be killed and that they would see”.
This emphasized that even in those aspects where their entire theme is melechet mach’shevet/‘thoughtful work’ and even when it is done “for the sake of Heaven”, not to transgress G-d’s Will – nevertheless, even in this - the primary aspect is the - actual deed. Therefore Torat Emet says that the legal ruling/’psak Halacha’ in this world is that it is considered desecration of Shabbat and it incurs the penalty of stoning.
And this lesson was learnt by the Yidden who then remained in the desert, that even though “it was decreed that the Israelites not enter the land”, this only meant that they would not achieve the primary aspect of fulfilling of Mitzvot in deed. However, even they, while remaining in the desert, realized that the Avodah pertains primarily to the way it comes down into actual deed (however, it is applicable in the desert).
For the primary aspect of the Mitzvah – the connection “(Tzavta V'chibur/cleaving and attachment") with G-d is through the deed of the Mitzvah.
m’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Shlach 5719
Motzai Shabbat Re’eh 5739
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