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Parsha Paradise/פרשה פרדס – Mattos: What is “Profanity” & Why is it So Bad? 🗣🚫
Moshe Rabbeinu addresses the Roshei HaMatos (tribal heads) with the laws if Nedarim [Bamidbar 30:3]:
אִישׁ֩ כִּֽי־יִדֹּ֨ר נֶ֜דֶר לַֽה׳ אֽוֹ־הִשָּׁ֤בַע שְׁבֻעָה֙ לֶאְסֹ֤ר אִסָּר֙ עַל־נַפְשׁ֔וֹ לֹ֥א יַחֵ֖ל דְּבָר֑וֹ כְּכָל־הַיֹּצֵ֥א מִפִּ֖יו יַֽעֲשֶֽׂה
“A man who makes a pledge to Hashem or swears a swear to prohibit something upon himself, he shall not profane his word; like all that emerges from his mouth, he shall do.”
What exactly is the meaning of “profanity” of language? And what does it mean to “profane” your words? We commonly think of “profanity” as a not nice word. In this context, the discussion is about issuing a swear (another word that, today, also has connotations of some kind of inappropriate language). But, what does “profanity” actually mean?
Rashi explains simply that the Torah is commanding one not to be Michaleil his words, not to make his words “Chullin” or of a “Chol” nature [Sifrei, Mattos]. In other words, do not make them “mundane” by “casual,” by not following through with one’s words. Usually, when we find an Issur to make an item or concept mundane, the implication is that that the object or concept in question is holy. Shabbos is holy. To violate it by performing of Melachah to to profane it and make it mundane. Food of Hekdeish (holiness, belonging to the Temple) may not be misappropriated and eaten from; it is not “Chullin.” It should not be treated as mundane. In the same vein, one’s words are sacred. When one creates an “Issur” with his words, it is sacred. Technically, one can profane his words by speaking inappropriately, be it with a casual swear or with casual treatment of sensitive content.
Another consequence of the profaning of holiness is usually Chiyuv Misah (death sentence). Does such a phenomenon exist within Nedarim?
Ba’al HaTurim points out that “Nederarim” equals “Rotzei’ach,” murderer, in Gematria, as Chazal teaches that a consequence of not fulfilling a Neder is the death of one’s children, Rachmana L’tzlan. Similarly, the Gemara states [Shabbos 33A, Kesuvos 8B] that one who speaks inappropriately causes death to the young men of Israel. Why should that be? (Stay tuned for Sod.)
Before we answer the above question, although one may not profane his own spoken word, Chazal teach us [Chagigah 10A] that others CAN make his word Chol through the procedure of Hataras Nedarim (Release from Pledge).
Noam Elimelech understood our verse and Drashah on a more fundamental level, that certain individuals must devote their lives entirely to holiness (by learning and Davening) and not profane any of his matters. However, if others need his help he must engage he must desist and assist those who need him. They can “profane” his matters. He may not do so on his own.
Kedushas Levi and R’ Chaim Vital read the latter part of our verse on a deeper level as well. “Like all that emerges from his mouth he should do.” These words can be rendered that one who is careful not to profane his words, Hashem takes his words seriously so that whatever that emerges from the mouth of this individual (whatever the Tzaddik is Gozer, whatever he decrees), Hashem will do.
As to why speech is so sensitive, even resulting in the death of one’s children, Reishis Chochmah explains in Sha’arei Kedushah [17:109] Al Pi Kabbalah that the mouth is parallel to one’s Bris; there is a Bris with the mouth as there is one with one’s member. And just as one must not emit seed in vain, but only in the context of productive activity with one’s female spouse, so too one must not issue words in vain except for the sake of bringing oneself to a place of action in this world, which corresponds to the female. If he does not fulfill it, Chas V’Shalom, then it is like he emitted seed in vain, which is the voice and speech that comes out of the Bris of the tongue. This can also lead to violation of one’s actual Bris, since one transgression leads to a transgression. And the waste of seed represents none other than the murder of one’s own children.
I will add that in this vein, Vilna Ga’on highlights that when Eishes Potifar tried to seduce Yosef and told him to lie with her, the Pasuk uses the word “Leimor”-“saying” which connotes repetition. In other words, explains the Vilna Ga’on, Eishes Potifar was merely asking Yosef to repeat the words after her, not to do any action, but to just say the words after her, “Lie down with me.” But Yosef refused to even do that. While perhaps her tactic can be viewed as a powerful and cunning form of seduction, perhaps on a deeper level, this scheme would have created a violation of Yosef’s Bris of speech which would have enabled him to violate his actual Bris.
We should be Zocheh to uphold the Kedushah of the Bris of our mouth (and otherwise), and Hashem should fulfill the goodness of our speech by delivering the Geulah with the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a wonderful Shabbos and a Comforting Chodesh Menachem Av.
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg
Parsha Paradise/פרשה פרדס – Mas’ei: Why Were the Journeys Re-Recorded? 🗺✍️🏻
The Torah does not only go out of its way to record, for the second time, each of the journeys Klal Yisrael traveled, but it does out of its way to tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu wrote down and recorded these journeys, and that he did so “Al Pi Hashem,” according to Hashem’s word. Bear in mind that Moshe wrote everything Al Pi Hashem. The question is why that fact is emphasized here with regards to the Masa’os, the journeys of the B’nei Yisrael. What was so significant about these journeys?
Ramban records both the answers of Rashi and the Ramban. Rashi cites Rebbi Moshe HaDarshan who explains that the Masa’os demonstrate the Chasdei Hashem, that although Hashem decreed forty years of wandering following the Cheit HaMiraglim (technically thirty-eight additional years), the Masa’os demonstrate that they weren’t made to wander every day or even every year of those forty years. Over thirty-eight years, there were only twenty journeys. No, they couldn’t enter “Menuchasi” (as we say in Kabbalas Shabbos), Hashem’s place of contentment, but Hashem did allow them SOME Menuchah.
Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, explains that the record of these Masa’os attests to the incredible, real-life miracles that took place in the Midbar. Without the records, someone in the future might have suggested that B’nei Yisrael must have traveled in a way that was conducive to natural living conditions, making rest stops at the right stations to purchase food and water. The historical record of the Masa’os traces each stop and puts that notion to rest. They relied on Mann, the Be’er Shel Miriam, and were protected by the Ananei HaKavod, living under miraculous conditions. In Mas’ei, the miracles of Biblical proportions meet with “history” and the “real life experience” of the B’nei Yisrael.
We will merge Remez with Sod today and skip over to Drash for now.
Rashi provides an additional, homiletical explanation for the record of Masa’os based on the Midrash Tanchuma [Mas’ei 3:1]. He presents a Mashal of a king who traveled abroad with his ill son to find a cure. On the way back, they reflect on the journeys, reminiscing on the good times and the bad at each station, “Here is where it was cold,” Here is where you got a headache,” etc. This reading of the records, as well, brings Mas’ei down to earth, teaching us about how perhaps we should think of Klal Yisrael’s history and our own individual stories, where we succeeded, where we did not, and so forth.
Kabbalistic work, Megaleh Amukos suggests an interesting Remez pertaining to Achan, the man responsible for the B’nei Yisrael’s loss against Ai in the times of Yehoshua. His deed was that he had selfishly smuggled spoils of Yericho upon which a Cheirem [ban] had been made. However, explains Megaleh Amukos, Achan had not only taken banned spoils from Yericho, but from three other opponents of Yisrael as alluded to in the word, “Mas’ei” which stands for Midian, Sichon, Og, and finally Yericho.
Likutei Moharan [40:1:1] explains the significance of the journeys based on the opening words, “Eileh Mas’ei”-“These are the journeys,” tracing the punishment of wandering back to the Cheit HaEigel HaZhav. Because Klal Yisrael sinned with the words, “Eileh Elohecha”-“these are your gods,” they caused the exile of “Eileh Mas’ei”-“these are journeys.”
Kedushas Levi and Chida [Nachal Kedumim] explain that the journeys yet had a positive purpose pertaining to Nitzotzos, “sparks” of holiness that Hashem had embedded in the mundane world. The job of holy people is to engage in holy acts in all of these holy places and thereby send the Nitzotzos back to Hashem, creating spiritual Tikunim (rectifications).
Perhaps, along these lines, many of the Sefarim HaKedoshim, among them Nachal Kedumim, point out that the 42 journeys of Mas’ei correspond to the 42-letter Name, of Hashem, representing the larger journey in life of Galus to Geulah, returning to Hashem in His Glory.
We should be Zocheh to complete our journey toward Hashem, return to the place of His Menuchah with the coming of the Geulah in the days of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Chazak Chazak V’Nis’chazeik! Have a wonderful Shabbos and a Comforting Chodesh Menachem Av.
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg