Halacha for Friday 24 Sivan 5781 June 4 2021

Parashat Shelach Lecha - The Heart Determines Our Perspective on Life - Is the Cup Half Full or Half Empty? – A Powerful Holocaust Story About Self-Sacrifice in Order to Observe Mitzvot

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

At the end of the Parasha we read the about the mitzvah of tzitzit, “Hashem spoke to Moshe, telling him to speak to the Bnei Yisrael and have them make tzitzit on the corners of their garments for all generations. They shall include a twist of sky-blue wool in the corner tzitzit. These shall be your tzitzit, and when you see them, you shall remember all of Hashem’s commandments so as to keep them. You will then not stray after your heart and eyes. Which [in the past] have led you to immorality.” (Bamidbar 15:37-9).

Why does the passuk first state “your hearts” and only afterwards “your eyes”. Since first the eyes see and only afterwards the heart desires. Therefore, the Torah should have written “do not stray after your eyes and heart”?

To answer this, we shall preface a story that happened in America about a Holocaust survivor who stopped observing Torah and mitzvot. After some time, the Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk met him and asked him, “You grew up as someone observant of the Torah and mitzvot, why did you stop observing?” The man cried and said, Because of something that he saw in the camp during the Holocaust he stopped observing Torah and mitzvot. He told the rav that “In the camp there were thousands of people who lived in great starvation and were forced to do back breaking work from dawn until night. After some time, a new Jewish person arrived at the camp, and he had a small siddur. Immediately there formed a huge que from all of those in the camp to see the siddur and read some prayers from it. However, to my surprise he requested from each of them that they give him half of their meagre daily bread rations. And so, each person that came to pray gave half of his daily bread rations and only afterwards was he allowed to pray from the siddur. I saw this and shuddered.”

This man told the Brisker Rav, “From that day onwards I decided to cease observing the mitzvot, for how could a person take advantage of impoverished people lacking all hope of being saved and take from them from the little bread that they had so that they may pray from a siddur? And then I told myself, if this is the religion, I have no interest in it!”

The Brisker Rav heard this and said to the man, “Why do you only see with your eyes that individual who behaved in this appalling way and from him you made long term decisions, and you don’t see in that very same event the hundreds of people who stood in line and were prepared to give from their meagre bread to pray from that old siddur? You should have seen this, and from here you should deduced the self-sacrifice they had for Torah and prayer in every situation and all ages acting so!”

The man heard this and burst into tears and made teshuva.

From this story we may learn how two people may witness the same event, but each has a different perspective based on how his heart leads him. As the well known saying of people, it is possible that there is water filling only half of the cup, one will see it half full and another half empty. It all depends on his character and the way his heart is inclined.

Considering this we may now understand the passuk, “You will then not stray after your heart” and only afterwards “after your eyes”, for as we have explained, the way the heart is inclined influences a person to decide how he views things, whether in a good or bad light. About this the Torah cautions us, don’t be inclined to bad, since then whatever you see you will view in a negative light. Rather learn mussar, work on your character, distance yourself from bad friends, be the tail of lions and not the head of foxes (Avot 4:15), fix time for Torah-study, fulfil the mitzvot of Hashem. Then we will merit to the passuk, “So you will remember and observe all My mitzvot, and be holy to your G-d” (Bamidbar 15:40). And so, with every visual perspective, may we will merit to a mandatory perspective of holiness and good deeds. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom.

Ask the Rabbi


ספר אביר הרועים - בית מידות
ספר אביר הרועים
לפרטים לחץ כאן

הלכה יומית מפי הראש"ל הגאון רבי יצחק יוסף שליט"א

דין ברכת שפטרנו מעונשו של זה
לחץ כאן לצפייה בשיעורים נוספים

Recent Halachot

"תנא דבי אליהו כל השונה הלכות בכל יום מובטח לו שהוא בן העולם הבא"

נדה ע"ג א'

8 Halachot Most Popular

Eating and Washing One’s Self Yom Kippur

Some Laws of Yom Kippur All are obligated to fast on Yom Kippur, including pregnant and nursing women. Any woman whose health is at risk due to the fast should consult a prominent Torah scholar who is well-versed in these laws and he should render his ruling whether or not she must fast. One whose ......

Read Halacha

Motza’ei Yom Kippur

Adding From the Mundane Onto the Holiness One must add some of the mundane weekday onto the holiness of Yom Kippur upon its exit, i.e. one should not end this holy day immediately with nightfall; rather, one should wait another few minutes. Thus, it is prohibited to eat or perform work on Motza&rsq......

Read Halacha

The Obligation to Eat in the Sukkah

Since there is not so much time left to discuss the laws of Sukkot, let us now spend the next few Halachot discussing some pertinent Halachot for the upcoming Sukkot holiday. A Meal of an Established Character Throughout the entire Sukkot holiday, both during the night and day, it is prohibited ......

Read Halacha

Reciting Selichot Alone, Without a Minyan

Question: If one is unable to recite Selichot with a Minyan (quorum of at least ten Jewish men) for whatever reason or if a woman wishes to recite Selichot and she cannot do so with a Minyan, may one recite the Selichot texts alone or should one abstain from doing so? Answer: If one wishes to rec......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Eating a Kezayit of Bread in the Sukkah on the First Night of Sukkot and One who is Uncomfortable in the Sukkah

In the previous Halacha we have discussed that one may not eat an established meal outside of the Sukkah anytime during the Sukkot holiday. One must be aware that the reward for the Mitzvah of Sukkah is that it protects one during turbulent times (see Zohar, Parashat Tetzaveh). The Mitzvah of......

Read Halacha

The Custom of “Tashlich”

Following Mincha services of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to go to a seashore, river, well, or pit in order to recite the order of “Tashlich.” If there is no river, lake, or pond in close proximity of one’s vicinity, it is likewise perfectly acceptable to recite ......

Read Halacha

The Proper Behavior for the Days of Rosh Hashanah-The Custom of Maran zt”l

It is customary to eat red meat and sweet foods on the days of Rosh Hashanah, as the verse in Nechemia states, “Go eat fatty foods and drink sweet beverages and sent gifts of food to those who do not have, for the day is sanctified to our Lord.” One may not fast at all on Rosh Hashana......

Read Halacha

Blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah

It is a positive Torah commandment to hear the Shofar blasts on the day of Rosh Hashanah, as the verse states, “It shall be a day of [Shofar] blasts for you.” One may not speak between the various sets of Shofar blasts and certainly not during the blasts themselves. The Poskim disagree r......

Read Halacha