Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 15   No. 41

This issue is sponsored jointly
by Marilyn and Elliot Rosenberg
in honour of the marriage
of their daughter
Rachel to Binny Freedman n"y

by an anonymous donor

Parshas Balak

King Mashi'ach
(Adapted from the Rambam)

The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (11:1), discussing Mashi'ach and his times, writes

King Mashi'ach will arise and return the Kingdom of David to its former status. He will build the Beis-Hamikdash and gather the scattered ones of Yisrael, and all the judgements (civil laws) will revert to what they were in days of old. They will bring Korbanos, and keep the laws of Sh'mitah and Yovel like the rest of the Torah. Anybody who does not believe in him or who does await his coming, denies not only the prophets, but the Torah and Moshe Rabeinu. This is because it specifically refers to him, when it writes in Nitzavim (30:3-5) "Then Hashem your G-d will return your captivity, and He will have mercy on you if your scattered ones will be at the edge of the heaven from there He will gather you And Hashem will bring you to the land ". All the items mentioned in the Torah incorporate everything that was said by the prophets. Also Bil'am (in this week's Parshah) talks about it. In fact, he discusses two Mashichim, the first Mashi'ach, David (Hamelech), who saved Yisrael from all their enemies; and the last Mashi'ach who will arise from David's descendants, who will save Yisrael at the end of days. It says there (24:17/18):

"I see him, but not now (with reference to David), I shall look at him, but not soon (with reference to King Mashi'ach); A star will tread from Ya'akov (David), and a staff will arise from Yisrael (Yisrael), and he will pierce the nobles of Mo'av (this is David, for so it is written 'and he smote Mo'av, and he measured them with a rope') and crack open all the sons of Sheis (this is Mashi'ach, about whom it is written 'and they will rule from sea to sea')."

"And Edom will be an inheritance (this is David, about whom it is written 'and Edom became David's slaves'), and Se'ir their enemy will be their inheritance (this is King Mashi'ach about whom it is written 'and and they will go up saved, to judge Mount Se'ir')".


Do not for one moment think, the Rambam writes in Halachah 3, that King Mashi'ach will need to perform signs or wonders, or to bring about novelties in the world, to revive the dead or anything along those lines. Not at all! We find that R. Akiva, a great Chacham, one of the sages of the Mishnah, who was an armour-bearer of King Kuziba (bar-Kochba), whom he labeled 'Mashi'ach', and whom both he and his contemporaries truly thought was the Mashi'ach, until his sins brought about his death, at which point they realized that he had not been the Mashi'ach after all (a lesson from which others would do well to learn).

At no point however, did the Chachamim ask him to perform signs or wonders. The Ra'avad queries the Rambam on this point. He cites a Gemara in Sanhedrin (93b) which relates how, based on a Pasuk in Yeshayah (11:3) the Chachamim sent a delegation to see whether King Kuziba could tell people's Yir'as Shamayim using the sense of smell. And when they discovered that he could not, they put him to death. The Kesef Mishnah however, point to other Medrashim, which maintain that King Kuziba was killed in battle, and not by the Chachamim (see also Radvaz and Lechem Mishnah).


The Rambam continues 'Should a king arise from Beis David who studies Torah and observes Mitzvos, in keeping with both the written and the oral Torah like his father David, and who in addition, is able to coerce the people to go in its ways and to strengthen its breaches and fight the battles of Hashem, then he will have established himself as the Mashi'ach. And if he then succeeds in building the Beis-Hamikdash in its correct location and gathers the scattered ones of Yisrael, he is most certainly the Mashi'ach, who will go on to rectify the entire world to serve G-d in unison, as the Navi says in Tzefanyah (3:9) "Then I will change the nations, to speak with a pure tongue, so that they will all proclaim in the Name of Hashem and to serve Him with a united resolve".

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.)

It's My Land

" and I will drive him from the land" (29:6).

'From my land', the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explains, the land that Yisrael took from Sichon, and which Sichon in turn, captured from Mo'av, as Rashi explained earlier (21:25).


Paying for the Goods

"And the elders of Midyan .. went, with sorcery in their hands" (22:7).

What the Pasuk means, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., is that they brought with them money to pay for Bil'am's sorcery. See also Rashi.


The Wrong Response

"Balak ben Tzipor sent to me " (22:10)

This was Bil'am's response to G-d's question "Who are these men with you?"

Bil'am, says the Medrash, was one of three men who responded incorrectly - Kayin, Bil'am and Chizkiyah.

When G-d asked Kayin where his brother Hevel was, he answered 'Am I my brother's keeper'. What he should of course, have answered was that G-d knows everything and that everything is revealed before him.

Bil'am too, ought to have given the same answer.

And finally, when Yeshayah asked Chizkiyah who his visitors were, Instead of answering that he was a Navi, and that he no doubt, knew exactly who they were, replied "They came from a distant land, from Bavel, to see me".

Interestingly, each of the three answers had negative connotations, in and of themselves. Kayin and Bil'am both thought to themselves that Hashem does not know everything after all; whereas Chizkiyah was projecting his own importance, by pointing out to the Navi that important people came from far and wide to see him.


The Da'as Zekeinim asks why the Medrash omits Adam, who was wise enough to give each and every animal a name, yet, when, after his sin, G-d asked him where he was, he replied that having heard His Voice, he had gone into hiding, instead of replying that G-d surely knew where he was, and did not need his answer.

They therefore arrive at the conclusion that the third person was not Chizkiyah, but Adam. And they support this theory with the fact that, like Kayin and Bil'am, Adam was responding directly to Hashem, whereas Chizkiyahu was addressing a Navi.


People Change Their Minds G-d doesn't

"And G-d was angry that he went!" (22:22).

But had G-d not given him the green light to go, asks the Da'as Zekeinim? So why was He angry?

The first time, they explain, G-d said 'No', whereas this time, He said 'Yes'. The message that He meant to convey was that if Bil'am wants to make some money, that He would not stand in his way, but not that he was allowed to curse K'lal Yisrael. Bil'am however, understood that G-d must have changed His mind and so he went with the express intention of cursing Yisrael.

And G-d was angry with him because he should have known (indeed he did know - see later 23:19) that G-d does not change His mind.


What Would the Angel Have Done?

" had it not turned away from before me, also you I would have killed and it I would have let live?" (22:23).

This Pasuk is inverted, says Rashi. It is as if it had written 'I would also have killed you'.

The Da'as Zekeinim explains Rashi like this: The way the Pasuk stands, implies that if the ass had not turned away, the angel would have killed Bilam together with the ass. But that cannot be what he meant, bearing in mind his next words "and it I would have let live".

Afteer inverting the words however, what he was saying was that not only would the angel have delayed Bil'am, he would have killed him too, in which case there would have been no reason to kill the ass. But now that the ass turned aside, sparing Bil'am's life, it had to be killed, since keeping it alive, would have caused Bil'am's embarrassment, as Rashi explains.


What Happened to the Servants

" and it I would have kept alive" (Ibid.)

No mention is made of the servants, the Da'as Zekeinim observes, suggesting that the angel killed them too.


On the Merit of Avraham

"Return to Balak and speak thus" (23:5).

"ve'Koh sedaber" A reference to the promise that G-d made to Avraham "Koh yi'hyeh zar'echo", a promise that his offspring would become as numerous as the stars, says the Da'as Zekeinim.

With these words, Bil'am was to inform Balak that since G-d had sworn to increase Avraham's offspring, any attempt at trying to destroy them was bound to fail.


Mashi'ach is Coming

"I see him but not now, I spot him, but not close a star has come out from Ya'akov " (24:17).

He said this with reference to the Mashi'ach. Note, how, when Moshe spoke of the era of Mashi'ach, he said 'because the day of their downfall is close, and future events are rushing at them" (Devarim 32:35).

This can be compared, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., to a king who went on a journey accompanied by two ministers, one who loved him and one who hated him. When, at one point, he became extremely thirsty, the latter, who wanted to see him squirm, remarked that it was a long way to the next well. The former on the other hand, who wished to console the king and alleviate his pain, told him they would soon reach water.


And so it is here. Bil'am, who hated Yisrael, and who wanted only to cause them anguish, spoke of Mashi'ach in terms of the distant future, in order to remove any hope of his coming soon. Moshe on the other hand, who loved Yisrael with all his heart, spoke of Mashi'ach coming soon, to keep their spirit alive and their faith in him strong.

* * *


"And Bil'am went with Balak, and they came to a city whose streets were surrounded by walls, a great city, the city of Sichon " (22:39).


"And it was in the morning, that Balak led Bil'am, and he took him up to the Heights of the god Pe'or, from where he saw the tribe of Dan, who traveled at the edge of the people, since they had been expelled from underneath the Clouds of Glory" (22:41).


" when Bil'am saw that they had Avodah-Zarah in their midst, he rejoiced in his heart " (23:1).


"And Bil'am said to Balak and he went, bent over like a snake" (23:3).


"Why am I cursing, when Hashem has blessed them; and why am I trying to diminish them, when Hashem has increased them" (23:8).


"And the wicked Bil'am said 'I see that this nation is being led on the merits of their righteous forefathers (who are compared to mountains) and their foremothers (who are compared to hills); they are a nation who will inherit the World to Come on their own, because they do not go in the ways of the other nations" (23:9).


"And it was when the evil Bil'am saw that Beis Yisrael performed the B'ris Milah and hid the Orlah in the dust, he declared 'Who can count the powerful merits of these people, and the number of good deeds of one of the four camps of Yisrael.' Bil'am the Rasha said 'If Beis Yisrael kill me by the sword, I have already been told that I will receive no portion in the World to Come; But if I die a regular death, would that my end will be like the least of them" (23:10).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 400:
The Dinim of Inheritance

Furthermore, the Gemara writes there (in Bava Basra 130a) that if someone who is dividing his property among his sons, gives one son more and one son less, or even if he gives the firstborn the same as his brothers, hisactions are valid. But if he specifically states that he is distributing his inheritance, then they are null and void. On the other hand, should he mention the word 'gift', at any stage, they are valid, irrespective of whether he did so at the beginning, in the middle or at the end. In spite of what we just said (that someone who negates the portion of the firstborn using the term 'inheritance' has said nothing), as we have learned in a Mishnah, nevertheless, if he does so, he has negated this Mitzvah, in view of the fact that 'he has transgressed the command of the King'. Likewise, if after his death, the Beis-Din enforce his words, they too, have transgressed this Mitzvah, as well as the La'av of 'not perverting justice'. Indeed, according to the Rambam, it is only the Beis-Din (and not the father) who contravenes this Mitzvah, for so he writes 'It is a Mitzvah to judge the Din of inheritances', as he explains in more detail in the Mitzvah of Nedarim.

A reason for the Mitzvah is to drive home the message that the world is in the Hands of the Master who supervises all His creatures; to realize that as a result of His goodwill and by His grace that each and every person in the world owns his own portion of property that he attains in this world, and that this Divine gift is blessed by Him in that, were it not for the first sin, that brought death upon the world, it would be eternally his, to retain or to give away as he pleases. And now that his body expires, it would not be correct for that Divine blessing to come to an abrupt end. Consequently, it automatically passes on to his offspring, his sons or daughters, who effect his continuity in the world. In the event that a person, in his sins, dies without leaving any children, then it is befitting for G-d's blessing to pass on to his closest relative. The reason for this is because the deceased merited his property, either on his own merits, or on the merits of his ancestors or with the help of the merit of his closest of kin. It is therefore they who deserve to inherit his property after his death.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Mishnah in Bava Basra (8:2) listing the order of inheritance as follows: 1. sons; 2. daughters; 3. brothers; 4. sisters; 5. father's brothers; 6. father's sisters. The rule is that the offspring of an heir always precedes the next in line, and the father precedes all his offspring (Hence, the deceased father has precedence over his [the deceased's] brother). In this way, the rights to inherit will go back if necessary, from generation to generation (i.e. from father and his offspring, to grandfather and his offspring, and from grandfather to great-grandfather), with the result, that there is no native Jew who does not have relatives Chazal also said there (101a), that, traditionally, a mother does not inherit her sons, nor do maternal brothers inherit each other, due to the principle that 'the family of a mother is not (as far as inheritance is concerned) considered family' A son or a brother who is a mamzer (a child born from an incestual relationship or one of whose parents is a mamzer) inherits just like one who is not a mamzer, even if he converted out; whereas the son of a slave-girl or of a gentile mother neither inherits, nor is he considered a son in any regard the Chachamim instituted that a man should inherit his married wife (but not one to whom he was only betrothed), a ruling which they supported with a Pasuk. The Rambam writes that the giving a firstborn a double portion (an extra third of the inheritance if there are two brothers, an extra quarter if there are three and a fifth if there are four) belongs to the Dinim of inheritance. The firstborn only receives an extra portion of property that the father actually possesses when he dies, not money that he is owed, which the brothers (including the firstborn) share equally, as Chazal learn from the Pasuk "in all that is found with him" (Devarim 21:17). How is that? If, after Reuven's father died, someone of whom the latter is next of kin dies, assuming Reuven is the firstborn, he does not receive double of what his deceased father has just inherited. And the same will apply to a debt that was owed to his deceased father, even if he produces a document to that effect, or if his father owned a ship at sea, that only arrived in port after his father's death. In all of these cases, Reuven does not receive a double, since it does not fall under the category of "found with him" required by the Torah. And it is for the same reason that he does not receive double of any improvements that are made to his deceased father's property after his death, such as stubble that ripened into corn, or trees that produced fruit, since all of these were not there at the time of his father's death. He does however, receive a double portion with regard to a small tree that automatically grew into a large one after his father's death, seeing as the tree was intrinsically there before.

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