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Derash Av: Bo

The 4th of Shevat is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Avraham Aharon Yudelevitch (1850-1930). Born in Novardok, White Russia, his mother was a sister of Rav Meir Marim Saphit (d. 1873), Rav of Kobrin, White Russia, and author of “Nir,” a famous commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi. Beginning in 1874, he served as Rav in several Russian towns before moving to Manchester, England, and from there to Boston and finally New York. He was a prolific author. His works include the multi-volume Darash Av, on Chumash and the festivals, and the multi-volume halachic responsa, Beis Av. In Av Be’chochmah, he defends what was probably his best-known and most controversial ruling, that the chalitzah act could be performed al yedei shli’ach. Among those who opposed his ruling were Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer and the Rogatchover.

The Shemot Rabbah begins this portion by quoting the verse in Proverbs that describes Israel as a heavy stone that is still not as heavy as dealing with a fool. How is Israel like a heavy stone?

The Talmud teaches that God held Sinai over Israel like an inverted wine cask and told them, “If you accept the Torah, all will be fine. If you do not; I will bury you here.” It is interesting that God did not use the wine cask to give everyone the “Four Cups” of wine, and then ask them to accept the Torah.

The obvious explanation would be that the wine’s effect would wear off and the people would, in their hangovers, reject whatever they accepted having drunk the wine.

However, why would the same issue not be true with the “I’ll bury you here” approach? How has their acceptance of Torah been maintained through all the ages and all of Israel’s terrible suffering?

This is why the verse compares Israel to a heavy stone. Their faith has substance and strength and it began in this Parsha as they begin to teach their children and speak of all they experienced and witnessed.

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