Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash
Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash INN:TM

Words of eulogy for hai gavra yakira (a very dear man) the honorary chairman of the board of Eretz Hemdah, Mr. Kurt Gershon Rothschild, z”l

Rav Yosef Carmel, Dean of Eretz Hemdah Rabbinic Institute:


During the week of Parashat Matot (in Israel), we accompanied our long-time friend, the honorary chairman of the board of Eretz Hemdah, to his eternal resting place. He went up before the divine throne pure and clean, so that he can continue, without the impediments of body and the material world, his roles on behalf of Klal Yisrael.

Many years ago, when Mr. Rothschild asked me to learn with him once a week, I thanked Hashem for the great privilege to learn from him. Already then he was famous as one who dedicated his life to strengthening the Torah of Israel, the Nation of Israel, and the Land of Israel. From then, every week, he would come to Eretz Hemdah (together with his long-time friend, Mr. Phil Schwartz, may he continue to have a long and good life), and when it became even harder for him to move around, we would come to learn together in his house or his office. These last three years we, of course, learned through Zoom.

His dedication to the study of Torah was an example and an inspiration to our young rabbis.

In order to understand “who the man was,” we will look at the p’sukim of the parasha and compare them, as we often to, to another pasuk that deals with the same issue.

The opening section of Parashat Matot is written, at first, in an absolute manner: “This is the matter that Hashem commanded.” However, right thereafter the language changes into a conditional manner: “Should it be that one made a neder oath or a sh’vua oath …” This case ends with a double prohibition: “He must not profane (lo yachel) what he said, but he shall do everything that came out of his mouth” (Bamidbar 30:2-3). The heading of “This is the matter (devaro),” of course, stresses that we are discussing speech. At the end, the strong expression of lo yachel appears.

Both of these concepts are central to the Torah account of creation. Speech is the physical element that makes man unique among the living things and it is also connected to the “soul of life,” which is the part of us that comes from the divine, as the pasuk spells out, “He blew into [Adam’s] nostrils the soul of life and man became a living spirit.” Onkelos translates this as “man became a speaking spirit” (see Bereishit 2:7 and Rashi ad loc.). The story of creation concludes with the harsh words “then it became desecrated (huchal) to call out in the name of Hashem” (ibid. 4:26).

In contrast, in the beginning of Sefer Devarim, the Torah declares: You shall fear Hashem, your God, you shall serve Him and cling to him and swear in His Name (10:20). The language is absolute – the recommendation is to make oaths. The concern that one might slip in his language, or fail to live up to what his lips spoke does not arise at all in this context.

What is the difference?

The midrash on the spot answers. Before we get to the recommendation to swear in His Name, we must fulfill the conditions that appear in the beginning of the pasuk. Hashem said to Bnei Yisrael: “Do not think that it is permitted to swear in My Name even for truthful matters unless you will have all of these attributes:

A. You will fear Hashem like those who were called fearers of Hashem – Avraham, Iyov, and Yosef ...;

B. You will serve Him – you will free up your time for Torah study and the fulfillment of mitzvot, and you have no other work …;

C. You will cling to Him – can a person cling to the Divine Presence? Rather he must respect Torah scholars and bring benefit to them from his property.

If one has all of these traits, he may swear in Hashem’s Name (Bamidbar Rabba 22:1).

Mr. Kurt Gershon Rothschild was a man who feared Hashem, fulfilling the aforementioned pasuk. I focus not on the meaning of fear in the “lower sense” (trepidation), but on the awe of contemplating His exaltedness. He recognized the lofty value of serving Hashem. Such a true fearer of Hashem is one who during every moment of his life tries to answer the question: “What does Hashem want of me,” not “What can Hashem do for me?”

Mr. Gershon, Kurt, was on the highest level of G-d fearing. He never asked for anything for himself. He fulfilled the mandate to serve Hashem, according to the midrash, that he found time for Torah and mitzvot and not for anything else. He served Hashem during every moment of his life, with all his heart, his soul, and his resources. By every moment, I mean around the clock, 365 days a year, without giving the matter thought. Exhaustion was not a factor, even at a very advanced age. If you need to do something, you do it! Everyone knew that he did not dedicate any activity to himself.

Many years ago, he sold all of his businesses and since then had only one business: Klal Yisrael, and especially those who live in Eretz Yisrael.

Reb Gershon fulfilled in the most preferred way the command of clinging to Hashem. His life was dedicated in a full and complete manner, as the midrash defines it, to the honor of the Torah and talmidei chachamim, always striving to benefit them from his resources and those of others. Such clinging one can find only once in 101 years.

Reb Gershon, by his own choice, lived a life that gave full expression to the divine soul that Hashem blew into him. He demonstrated how his spirit of speech was of a divine origin. There was never a concern that he might promise something and defile his commitment. Whatever he said he would do, he did! We can summarize, just part of his greatness, by saying that he was the type who is encouraged to swear in Hashem’s Name.

We pray that many will learn from his actions. We bless all of his descendants and all those who benefited from him, that they should follow his ways and thereby ensure that even in his grave, “his lips will continue to be moving in speech.” At Eretz Hemdah, we pray to Hashem that his merit will help us continue doing everything that was dear to him.

Matot / Masei: 'When Hashem Expands your Boundaries'

Eli Lipschitz is former shaliach in Washington (2003-05), currently Israel MFA diplomat, spokesperson; Embassy of Israel in Canada

In this week's Parsha, Moshe is quite disturbed as he recalls the sin of the spies and the tragic punishment that came in its wake. It seems to Moshe, and to us, the readers, that the tribes of Reuven and Gad are repeating the same mantra that we've heard so many times in the past by Bnei Yisrael since leaving Egypt – We do not wish to enter the Land of Israel, 'Allow us to not cross over the Jordan River.'

This idea, of not wanting to enter the land, is a recurring event that has been with us from the moment Bnei Yisrael left Egypt and stood before Yam Suf, and up to this point in our Parasha when the nations is on the threshold of the promised land. Time and again, albeit in different wording and different circumstances, the people complain about leaving Egypt, and voice their feelings against entrance into the Land of Israel.

What is interesting about the case of our Parasha is how it differs in outcome from all the other cases. In previous instances, where the people complained to Moshe, to Aaron or to Hashem and requested to return to Egypt or not enter the land there was always a severe punishment followed by Moshe praying for the people to be forgiven and then a return to the original course on the way to the land. In our case, the case of Reuven and Gad it seems that Moshe gives in. Moshe is at first upset, they then negotiate and at the end Reuven and Gad's request is fulfilled and their 'Nachala' remains outside the Land of Israel.

What happened? What was different about this request that made it less resentful than other similar statements? And finally- why, after all the years in the desert and the promises of a land flowing with milk and honey which was the purpose of the redemption, do Hashem and Moshe allow them to get what they want and not enter the promised land?

In Hassidic teachings the Land of Egypt symbolizes boundaries, restrictions, tight spaces, bondage and slavery. In many texts the word Mitzraim (Egypt) is interchanged with Maitzarim (bounderies), that we need to escape from or break out of into an open a free space. This teaching does not relate only to physical boundaries or restrictions but also or primarily to our consciousness.

In relation to the boundaries or borders of the Land of Israel we can also find many instances in the words of Midrashim and our sages that discuss future expansions of the land. An example of this can be found in Yalkut Shimoni that discusses a verse in the book of Zecharia that mentions the city of Damascus. The Midrash explains the passuk to mean that in the future the 'Land of Israel will expand its breadth and width to all sides… and the gates of Jerusalem will reach Damascus'.

With this we may be able to understand that Reuven and Gad didn't want to give up their right and their privilege to enter the Holy Land but rather to facilitate the expansion of its boundaries beyond the original physical borders. How is this possible? How does the land or the holiness of the land expand?

Reuven and Gad, with their sheep and cattle, had the ability to provide sustenance and livelihood for Am Yisrael. Their suggestion to Moshe, in their eyes, was for the betterment and welfare of the Jewish people. Moshe, at first, was taken aback and disappointed by the mere suggestion of not going into the land and assisting their brethren.

Following the discussion, the commitment and the binding promise that Gad and Reuven would be there to help Am Yisrael it became clear that the request was not a narrow interest but rather an act of Ahavat Yisrael. This Ahavat Yisrael, responsibility and care for one another has the potential to expand the holiness of Eretz Yisrael beyond its initial boundaries.

In the midst of mourning the Churban and the Galut, we can learn that Ahavat Yisrael the love for all Jews, mutual responsibility and caring has the potential to expand the Kedusha to the entire world.

Dedicated in memory of Yaakov ben Avraham and Sarah Aharonov z"l

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