Parashat Ekev - Kol HaMitzvah

Thursday, August 25, 2016 · Posted in , ,

[Dead Sea Sunrise]

Devarim 8:1 You shall faithfully observe all the Instructions that I enjoin upon you today, that you may thrive and increase and be able to occupy the land which Hashem promised on oath to your fathers.

This verse follows immediately after the discussion of idolatry in order to teach us that whoever denies pagan worship is regarded as having upheld the whole Torah.

The verse uses the words Kol haMitzvah (כל המצוה - all the Instruction) instead of the plural form Kol haMitzvot (כל המצות - all the Instructions). A number of possible explanations are offered. The first reason is to signify that the entire body of laws in the Torah constitutes a single entity. One is not permitted to state that since he observes most of the, he can afford to omit others. One is not permitted to pick and choose among the Mitzvot since they all represent one unit.

Another reason offered is that the singular terminology does not refer to the mitzvah itself but to the performer of the mitzvah. That is to say, if one person begins a mitzvah but for some reason is unable to complete it, the mitzvah accrues only to the account of the person completing it. It is not considered a joint venture but is exclusively to the credit of the latter.

The singular use can also be understood as signaling that if any mitzvah is performed, it is to be observed with the totality and devotion as if it were the only mitzvah in the Torah. This is why pious people prepare themselves intently before performing a mitzvah - meditating upon the mitzvah and reciting the biblical texts which refer to the mitzvah they are embarking upon.

Finally, a singular usage signals that all mitzvot of the Torah constitute a single organic whole. Therefore, one who is unable to perform various mitzvot because of circumstances (such as an ordinary Jew who is unable to perform the mitzvot that involve only Kohanim), but nevertheless performs all the mitzvot that are required of him faithfully, and studies those mitzvot which are not applicable to him, receives the reward for even those mitzvot which he cannot perform.

Support for this last interpretation is found in the usage of the word Hayom (היום - this day) in the verse. Since it is evident that in the desert there were many mitzvot which the Benei Yisrael were not able to perform, particularly those dealing with the Land of Yisrael, nonetheless, they were adjured to heed all the mitzvot, even those which fell into this category.

- Me'am Lo'ez, Devarim, Parashat Ekev

17th of Tammuz: The Burning of the Torah Scroll by Apustamus & The Placing of an Idol in the Sanctuary

Sunday, July 24, 2016 · Posted in , , ,

The Burning of the Torah Scroll by Apustamus

The Gemara tells us that we know this event happened on the seventeenth of Tamuz as a tradition from our forefathers. The Gemara does not tell us who Apustamus was, or what the significance of the Torah scroll was.

The R"av writes that Apustamus was a Greek officer at the time of the second Temple. The Tiferet Yisroel offers two possible explanations as to the significance of the scroll. One is that this scroll was the one written by Ezra HaSofer, Ezra the Scribe. The text was the most authoritative, and all other Torah scrolls that were written were checked against this one for accuracy and errors. Another understanding is that he burnt every Torah scroll he could find.

No matter the explanation, the intent behind Apostamus’ actions remain the same: to eradicate Torah from the nation of Yisrael.

The Placing of an Idol in the Sanctuary 

The Gemara tells us that we know from the verse in Daniel 12:11 that this event occurred on the 17th of Tamuz, as the verse says that "on the day the Tamid offering ceased to be brought, an idolatrous image was placed in the Temple."  Although the Gemara here does not mention who placed the idol in the Temple, the Gemara in the Talmud Yerushalmi mentions that there is debate as to who did it. Some say that Apustamus placed the idol in the Temple as well as burning the Torah scroll. Others say it was placed by Menashe, an evil Jewish king, in the time of the first Temple. (

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]

17th of Tammuz: Breaking of the Luchot

17th of Tammuz: The Discontinuance of the Tamid

17th of Tammuz: The Breaching of the Wall Around Yerushalayim

17th of Tammuz: The Breaching of the Wall Around Yerushalayim

The Gemara then discusses the tragedy of the wall of Jerusalem being breached, the event which led to the overrunning of Jerusalem by our oppressors and the eventual destruction of the Temples.

The Gemara notes that there is an inconsistency between our Mishnah and the verse in Yermiyahu 52:6, which implies that the wall was breached on the ninth of Tammuz, not the seventeenth as the Mishnah says.

The Gemara resolves this inconsistency by explaining that the verse in Yirmiyahu is referring to the time of the first Temple, while our Mishnah is referring to the time of the second Temple. If that is the case, why do we fast only on the 17th of Tammuz, and not on the ninth as well?

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud) explains that in reality, the breach of the walls occurred on the 17th during both eras. However, in the time of the first Temple, because of the stress and upheaval of the time, the people became confused and miscalculated the days in the calendar. Therefore, they thought the breach occurred on the ninth. Yirmiyahu, when recording the event, wrote it down according to the erroneous calculation of the people, which was the prevalent belief as to the date of occurrence.

The Tur in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 549 writes that the breaches did occur on different dates. However, because having two fasts in such close proximity would be a burden on the community, only one fast day was established. The fast day was established on the day the wall was breached at the time of the second Temple because the tragedy was greater regarding its impact on us: the exile that began at that time is the exile we currently live in. (

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]

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