Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.               

והיו לטוטפת בין עיניכם

“And let them be an ornament between your eyes…” (6:8)

                The tefillin are placed on both the arm and the head, thereby corresponding to Israel’s double pronouncement on Har Sinai: נעשה ונשמע – we will do and we will obey (Shemot 24:7). The tefillin that are worn on the arm correspond to observance through action and the tefillin that are worn on the head correspond to observance through intellectual commitment. Israel relinquished the first part of this declaration when it participated in the Egel HaZahav. Since that time, Hashem beseeched Israel to guard at the very least the wish to hear attentively as embodied by the words of the Shema: Hear O Israel.

                Based on the above explanation, it is not surprising that the tefillin worn on the head denote a higher degree of holiness than those worn on the arm (see Orach Chaim 28:2). Nevertheless, we are advised never to wear the tefillin of the head without the tefillin of the arm. Symbolically, this teaches us that acts of devotion to Hashem must always be supported and performed through thoughts directed to Hashem.                                                                                (R’ Munk)

ואמרת בלבבך כחי ועצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה

“And you say to yourself, ‘It is my own strength and the might of my hand that have accumulated this wealth for me…’” (8:17)

                Children often surpass their parents in many ways, even though they inherited their talents and abilities from their parents. The reason that children can manifest capabilities their parents do not seem to possess is because these talents remained dormant in the parents and only became active in their children. Similarly, G-d calls the Jewish people His “children.” He has indeed left it up to us to bring the world to its completion, granting us a measure of power that He has relinquished. Thus, when we accomplish something that helps bring the world closer to its ultimate fulfillment, we might mistakenly ascribe this accomplishment to our own power.

                Therefore, the Torah reminds us that just as children owe their superior powers to their parents, form whom they inherited them, so should we recall that we owe all our power to accomplish great things in this world exclusively to G-d.                                                  (Lubavticher Rebbe)

ושני לוחת הברית על שתי ידיו…ואתפש בשני הלחת

“And the two Tablets of Covenant were in my two hands…I grasped the two Tablets…” (9:15-17)

One notes a discrepancy between these two verses. The first time it is written “the two Tablets of the Covenant,” but the second time it merely says the “two Tablets.” What explanation can be given?

The Midrash (Tanchuma, Ki Tisa, Chap. 26) informs us that when Moshe saw the golden heifer which the Jews made, the writing on the Tablets disappeared, and the Tablets became heavy, and he threw them down. This Midrash elucidates the choice of words of the verses. The first verse describes Moshe before seeing the golden heifer, thus calling the Ten Commandments “Tablets of the Covenant.” But the last verse describes the Tablets immediately after Moshe’s seeing the golden heifer, and the disappearance of the letters, thus only warranting being called merely Tablets.                                                                                                                                                                                                 (Gan Raveh)

                והיה אם שמוע תשמעו אל מצותי

“It will be that if you hearken to My commandments…” (11:13)

                In this, the second paragraph of the Shema, G-d promises that we will be blessed with prosperity beyond the bounds of natural law, if we obey His commandments. Why does the Torah use the expression shemato hearken? Should it not have said, “If you will perform My commandments”?

                Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l comments that taking action is not always in a man’s power, whereas listening sincerely, with the intention to do, certainly is. When one decides to listen to G-d’s commandments, he demonstrates his willingness and his genuine intention to perform them. It is according to the “listening,” the effort to learn, that G-d measures one’s acceptance of the Torah and therefore, provides him with innumerable blessings.                                                   (Something to Say)

ולמדתם אותם את בניכם לדבר בם בשבתך בביתך ובלכתך בדרך

“And teach them to your children to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road…” (11:19)

                The phrase to teach them to the children is in the plural, but the rest of this verse is written in the singular. This led Rabbi BenTzion Zaks to draw a powerful lesson in Jewish education. The opening phrase places an obligation upon the entire Jewish community to provide and properly fund Torah schools for all the local Jewish children. The second phrase presents a second obligation upon each parent to make sure that the teaching of the school is reinforced at home, and when the family travels to other places (“on the road”).

                By placing both ideas in one verse, the Torah emphasizes that the successful implantation of Torah values in the young generation requires complete harmony between the education received in school and the atmosphere in the home. How often children become confused and rebellious when they see that the principles they are taught in school by their teachers are mocked or trampled upon by parents at home. The greater the reinforcement in the home, and lovingly done, the more parents can feel assured that their children will grow into positive, observant members of the Jewish people.                        (Rabbi Menachem BenTzion Zaks)