Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Zachor
To dedicate this lesson

The Four Parshiot and their Significance

The parallel and connection between the four Parshiot, the four cups of the Seder, and the four expressions of redemption.


Rabbi David Dov Levanon

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 3:5) tells us, "We do not interrupt between Parah and HaHodesh (we must read these, the third and fourth of the four Parshiot, on consecutive Shabbatot). Raish Lakish said, a sign for these Parshiot is: Between these cups (of the Seder), if one wants to drink, he may; between the third and the fourth he may not." We see from this that there is a connection between the four Parshiot and the four cups, which are compared to the four expressions for redemption that were said in Egypt, "and I will remove you, and I will save you, and I will redeem you and I will take you." Rabbi Tzadok HaCohen from Lublin explains (Pri Tzaddik 2, Parshat Parah 5) that the (first) three expressions of redemption hint at the departure from the impurity of Egypt, that is, the three shells of impurity which are "jealousy, lust and arrogance, which take a man out of the world." The fourth expression indicates the redemption itself. And our sages came and taught us that after removing ourselves from the impurity of Egypt, we must immediately and without interruption enter into the holiness of the Torah which is implied by the Parsha (which begins with) "HaHodesh ha-zeh lachem" (this month, Nisan is to you).
And we may add that the three aforementioned characteristics show us (by contrast) the proper attitude toward wealth, valor and wisdom: True wealth is being happy with one's portion and not envying the wealth of others. True valor is conquering one's evil inclination. And true wisdom is the willingness to learn from every person, without worrying about compromising one's pride. And wisdom leads to humility, as "the ultimate knowledge is that we will not know."
And in this spirit, the prophet Jeremiah (9:22) warns us: "Thus says G-d: let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the valiant man glory in his strength and let not the rich man glory in his wealth. For only in this may one glory: in knowing and understanding Me, etc."
And this is the substance of the four Parshiot: Parshat Shequalim relates to wealth, with regard to which one understands that he must give to others. It is written, "The poor man who is with you" and the Ohr HaHaiim HaKadosh explains that G-d gave the money of the poor man to the rich man in order that he should return his deposit to him. And the half-shequel comes to remedy the envy of Joseph's brothers toward him: "You sold the son of Rachel for twenty pieces of silver, therefore each and every one of you will be obligated a bequa a head, (that is) half a shequel" (Midrash Tanhuma Ki - Tisa).
Parshat Zachor relates to valor, to overcome Amalek who is the "ferment in the dough." Our sages ask: Who is valorous? They provide the answer: he who conquers his evil inclination. When the children of Israel were in Refidim, their hands became limp regarding the Torah. Immediately, "And Amalek came" to attack them, and the remedy to that was to look at the hands of Moshe who brought the Torah, about which is said, "From His (G-d's) right hand, He gave them His fiery law," and then they prevailed over Amalek.
Parshat Parah relates to wisdom, as is said, "This is the decree of the Torah" and its secret was divulged only to Moshe Rabbenu, who had complete humility. The purification process which requires the red heifer hints at this, "and the Cohen shall take cedar wood and hyssop," if one raises himself like a cedar (out of arrogance) and as a result became impure, then he has to lower himself like a hyssop (a small plant).
As a cure to these three shells of impurity, comes the remedy of "For only in this may one glory: in knowing and understanding Me," that is, cleaving to the Torah and to the Giver of the Torah. By virtue of the half - shequel, one understands that he is only "half" and G-d completes him, and he realizes that his wealth was given him for the purpose of doing G-d's Mitzvot. Similarly, the Torah is the antidote for the evil inclination: if it is a stone, it melts; if it is metal it explodes as a result of the fiery power of the Torah. And when one nullifies himself to the Torah, he merits revealing new insights in Torah, in the spirit of "this month is to you," a mitzvah that teaches us about the power of Torah scholars to learn new things in the Torah, and all this is given to their discretion, as our sages explain regarding the new month, "to you, even if you are mistaken; to you even if you were wrong willfully."
The fourth expression of the redemption is the positive redemption, as is written, "and I will take you to be my nation," and this is implied by the verse, "in knowing and understanding Me...for these things I desire, says G-d." And by virtue of this, we will merit the complete redemption.
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