The Kosher Bookworm Machat Shel Yad: Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel


Once again a South Shore rabbi has written a quality commentary on one of the most complicated books of The Chumash, Vayikrah, whose annual weekly reading is about to commence next week.

Following in the footsteps of Rabbi Yitzchok Goodman and Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel, the rav of Agudath Israel of the Five Towns has put together an essay styled commentary on the Book of Leviticus entitled, “Machat Shel Yad” [Nehorah Public-

ations, 2012].

This work, the third volume in the series, focuses upon some of the most intriguing questions which are answered in turn with compelling insights based upon many classical sources.

Inasmuch as the first reading of Vayikrah is next week, I chose a brief segment from this work on this parsha as a literary sample of Rabbi Frankel’s method and style.

“The Stolen Philosophy” is the title of this segment citing the second verse of this Torah reading as its base:

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: A man, when he offers from among you a sacrifice to G-d….”

Rabbi Frankel then references the Rashi Commentary as follows:

“A man – Why does the verse say this? Just as the first man, Adam did not offer stolen items as a korban, a sacrifice, as everything was his, so you may not offer stolen items as a korban.”

From these citations Rabbi Frankel develops an entire segment highlighting an important moral aspect to the development and practice of the sacrificial rites of our faith for all time.

Continues Rabbi Frankel:

“We have a special warning not to use a stolen animal as a korban. Rashi points this out with the comparison to Adam Harishon….While the Torah also gives such a warning regarding other mitzvoth, there are mitzvoth that are derived from here. Why do we need to be warned about the unacceptability of using a stolen item specifically in the section of korbanot, sacrifices? Is it any more likely that stolen goods will be used for a korban?”

Rabbi Frankel goes on to cite passages from the Talmud in Masechet Sukkah to reinforce his thesis concluding with the

final passage based upon a quote from Isaiah: “For I am G-d Who hates a stolen item as

a burnt offering.”

“It is true,” states the rabbi, “that everything belongs to G-d…..Nevertheless, G-d will not accept a korban if it does not rightfully belong to the person offering it.

“The verse here comes to teach us this. True, everything is G-d’s, but G-d wants to teach us how important it is to stay away from stolen property. If it is unacc-

eptable here, it is certainly unacceptable every-

where else.”

Further on in this work there is a Pesach based discussion on why on Pesach Shabbat Chol Hamoed’s haftarah blessing we do not mention the holiday, whereas on Succos Shabbat Chol Hamoed we do. Sources from the Rema, the Mishnah Berurah, the Vilna Gaon, Bereishis Rabbah, Pesachim and Beitzah, as well as Rambam’s Mishnah Torah are all brought into the fray.

Rabbi Frankel very effectively brings all these sources together and comes up with an interesting conclusion primarily based upon the teachings of the Rambam.

“The Rambam connects the mitzvah of telling about Yetzias Mitzrayim to the mitzvah of Kiddush on Shabbos. They are compared to one another. This is understood by the fact that the Aseres HaDibros do not open with: I am G-d Who created heavens and earth. They rather open with, ‘I am G-d your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt.’ Why is this so?

“Without Pesach…..Shabbos loses its full significance. While it is axiomatic that instead of believing in the ancient Greek theory that the world always was, or believing in some modern scientific theory, we believe that G-d created the world, nevertheless, for Shabbos to have real significance in our lives, it needs Pesach.

“Similarly, Pesach needs Shabbos. We see that Pesach itself is actually called ‘Shabbos.’ This is the name the Torah gives it in connection with the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer” [memachras HaShabbos].

Rabbi Frankel concludes thus:

“All this is reflected in the brachah following the haftarah on the Shabbos of Chol Hamoed Pesach. This is the day when Shabbos and Pesach intersect one another and form one grand partnership to testify to the greatness of G-d….

“Pesach and Shabbos blend into one harmonious union to express our everlasting faith in G-d. He created us, He took us out of Egypt and He will be with us always.”

Just one point of timely irony. Please note that this year Pesach has two Shabbosim, both of which are yom tov, the first day, and in galut, the last, the eighth day.

For futher study

With Pesach coming soon may I bring to your attention two beautiful haggadot for your reading and learning pleasure, “The Koren Ethiopian Haggadah: Journey to Freedom” that brings together in both pictures and text the history, traditions and customs of this unique and, until now, little known segment of our people, and “The Aleppo Haggadah” that includes an introduction to the Aleppo Syrian community and its rabbis, as well as a selection of their interpretations and teachings on Pesach from their traditions.