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

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Vol. 6 No. 30

Parshas Bamidbor

Scales of Justice
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"Righteousness (Pe'les) and the scales of justice belong to G-d, His deeds (in administering retribution) are like all the weights of the bag" (Mishlei 16:11). In this possuk, Shlomoh ha'Melech is saying that all the deeds of man are weighed, and that G-d has at his disposal, all the weights with which to weigh them, from the biggest single weight, known as 'pe'les' down to the smallest weights, which usually come in pairs (which is why he refers to them as 'scales' - in the plural). G-d weighs up all of our deeds, using the entire range of weights from the kikar, the largest weight, to the unki, and the half, third and quarter of an unki, which is the smallest unit of measurements. All this is a parable, to convey to us how He weighs each and every sin that we transgress, big and small alike. But if Hashem takes all levels of sin into consideration, He certainly does not administer retribution on an equal basis, nor even on an haphazard one. But each and every sin He punishes exactly according to its size, a more stringent punishment for a larger sin and a lighter punishment for a smaller one. Nothing is forgotten! Nothing is overlooked!


The proof that, after having punished for the larger sins, He returns to punish for the smaller ones, lies in words of the prophet Yirmiyah, who wrote "Behold I will send many fishermen, says Hashem, and they will catch them (those who sinned). And after that, I will send many hunters and they will trap them". He mentions the hunters after the fishermen, like someone who clears out the vessels from his house, and who then goes to check that he has left nothing inside.


The various weights that Shlomoh speaks of in the possuk, all represent true justice. The reason that he mentions the bag is because it was customary to keep one's weights in a bag, so that they should remain perfectly clean, and, as a result, retain their authenticity and accuracy. Otherwise, they would become dirty and worn from constant use, and cease to reflect their true weight.


Alternatively, the bag kept the weights hidden and out of sight, so that nobody would know which weights the bag contained. So too is Divine justice delivered by the Hand of G-d, using His scale of weights that is hidden from man. Nobody can understand how it works, for the human mind is too weak to fathom how G-d weighs the deeds of the righteous on the one hand, and of the wicked, on the other.

And that is what Dovid ha'Melech meant when he said in Tehilim "Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your judgement is like the great Deep". He meant that although G-d's righteousness, the kindnesses and the great acts of mercy that He performs are like the mighty mountains, that are revealed and well-known to all, His judgements are like the great depths that are hidden and concealed from the eyes of man - so that nobody can fathom their profundity.


This is evident by the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh. Yerusholayim was destroyed on the ninth of Av. Yet when G-d showed Yechezkel about the destruction, He showed it to him on the fifth of the tenth month (as if the destruction had taken place on the fifth of Teives).

But when He comes to elevate Yisroel, he publicizes the location - "in the Desert of Sinai"; the day - "on the first of the month"; which month - "on the second month"; which year - "in the second year"; and to which event - "of their going out from the land of Egypt".


Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the Ba'al Haturim


Counting With Aharon, Counting Without Him

"From twenty years and upwards ... you shall count them to their hosts, you and Aharon" (1:3).
In this count, Aharon assisted Moshe in the counting, whereas in Ki Sisso, Moshe alone counted the people, comments the Ba'al Haturim. This is because the count in Ki Sisso was as a result of the Golden Calf (see Rashi there 30:16), to discover how many were left after the plague. And since Aharon was held responsible for the Golden Calf, he was not chosen to assist Moshe on that occasion.


The 'Vov', A Righteous Letter

"These are the officers (who were called to meet to discuss for all important communal issues)" (1:16). The Torah writes "K'ru'ei ho'eidoh" but it is read "K'ri'ei ho'eidoh"; the 'vov' is cut, to read like a 'yud'. This is because of Shlumiel ben Tzurishadoy, the Prince of Shim'on, who was alias Zimri ben Solu, the adulterer, explains the Ba'al Haturim.
By the congregation of Korach too, "K'ru'ei ho'eidoh" is written without a 'vov'; only there, it is missing completely, because they were all resho'im.


"To The Sons of Shim'on ... "

The second lamed in "le'gulgelosom" is bent downwards, because the Prince of this tribe, Zimri ben Solu (see previous piece) sinned and many from his tribe fell (this is also hinted in the word "pekudov" which means "lacking", and which does not appear by any of the other tribes).
The 'lamed' is (normally) the tallest of all the letters, and the fact that it is minimised here hints that the tribe of Shim'on produced no king and no judge.


It's A Girl

By all of the tribes, the Torah writes "li'vnei" (li'vnei Shimon, li'vnei Gad, li'vnei Yehudah, etc.), with the exception of Naftoli, where the Torah writes "B'nei Naftoli". The reason for this, writes the Ba'al Haturim, is because they had more daughters than sons (the word 'ishah' also appears in the first letters of the three words of "Naftoli ayoloh shluchoh, ha'nosen").
That is why, in Parshas Pinchos, the Torah writes "B'nei" by all the tribes, because all the men of that generation had died, and it was mainly women who remained.


Direct Talk

"Each one by his flag, according to his signs" (2:2). To the signs handed to them by Ya'akov, explains the Ba'al Haturim. Because Ya'akov hinted to his sons, who would be the four flag-leaders - it was the four whom he addressed in the second person when he blessed them in Parshas Vayechi: "Reuven, you are my first-born", "Yehudah, your brothers will thank you", (Yosef) "From the G-d of your father, who will help you" and (Dan) "I hope for your salvation from Hashem" (although this is not the simple meaning of the phrase).
All the other sons, he addressed in the third person.


The Supporters of Torah

The Torah portrays each of the four camps in the same pattern, the leading tribe, the tribe next to it and the third tribe independently, which it always connects with a 'vav' ("And the tribe of Gad", "And the tribe of Binyomin," "And the tribe of Naftoli". The sole exception is the tribe of Zevulun, where the Torah writes (2:7) "The tribe of Zevulun", giving it the connotation of total independence, as if it was not connected with that of Yisochor, which preceded it.

This is because Zevulun, the wealthy merchants, undertook to sustain Yisochor, the Torah scholars, explains the Ba'al Haturim, quoting the Medrash Tanchuma, and the Torah wants to avoid conveying the impression that they were therefore secondary to them. On the contrary, "the Torah is a tree of life to those who hold on to it and its supporters are praiseworthy" - someone who supports Torah is in the same league as those whom he is supporting.


Coming First Four Times

"The flag of the Camp of Ephrayim" (2:18). The possuk begins and ends with a 'daled', because in four places Ya'akov placed Ephrayim before Menasheh. Correspondingly, Moshe put Ephrayim first four times, by the flags, by the princes, by the sacrifices and by the tribes.


Why we count the Omer

Many commentaries (among them the Sefer ha'Chinuch) explain how the main reason that we count the Omer is in preparation and eager anticipation of Mattan Torah. Indeed the Medrash tells us that in Egypt, when they heard that the Torah would be given fifty days after they left Egypt, they counted the days in between the two great events.

That being so, it is at first difficult to comprehend why we count the Omer, the Korban that was brought at the beginning of the counting period, instead of counting the Minchah Chadoshoh, the Korban that they brought on Shevu'os, which symbolises the purpose of our counting. This conveys the rather odd impression that the Torah attaches more importance to where we are coming from than where we are going to.


Ha'Gaon Rav Boruch Horwitz shli'ta, explains that it is only possible to receive Torah with humility, and that includes realising how distant one is from Torah to begin with. The moment one believes that one is close to Torah, he ceases to strive towards spiritual growth. That is why we count the 'Omer' - which consisted of barley (considered animal food in former times), that reminds us of the low level on which we are before receiving the Torah. Only then will we accept the Torah with a full heart, and work with it to transform ourselves from animals into human-beings.


What Made Them Do It?

When they asked the famous Ger Tzedek Count Pototzki what made him give up his life of comfort and luxury, and convert, he replied that it is safe to assume that when Yisroel proclaimed "Na'aseh ve'nishma" at Har Sinai, not every Jew really accepted the Torah in his heart. There were probably some dissenters (perhaps the Eirev Rav). Likewise, when Hashem offered the Torah to all the nations of the world, and they declined the offer, it was not every gentile who refused. There were probably some who really wanted to accept it.

It was those Jews who rejected the Torah in their hearts who, in the course of history, converted out of the Jewish faith, and it was those gentiles who really accepted the Torah at Har Sinai, who converted to Judaism - and Count Pototzki was one of those.


History of the World

( Part 52)

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)

Alexander Mokdon (the Great) is born on the 4th Iyar. He will die exactly thirty-two years later to the day. He is born on the same day as the Palace of Diana (one of the seven Wonders of the World) is burnt to the ground. Some say he is a descendant of Hercules from his father's side, and of Achiles from his mother's. Alexander builds Alexandria of Egypt, he is master of all seven branches of knowledge. He loves the wise and honours them, is a just king and a close friend of the Jews. His wife Rosane is the daughter of King Daryovesh (presumably, the second, son of Esther). She bears him a son after his death, and calls him Alexander, in his memory.


The walls of Yerusholayim are built, in the twentieth year of Artachshasta (Daryovesh the second).


Elyashev the Kohen builds a room for Tuvyah, a relative of Sanbalat, leader of the Samaritans, whose sworn-ambition was initially to stop the building of the Beis ha'Mikdosh and now, to destroy it. Tuvyah places his private belongings there, but Nechemyah throws everything out, and reinstates the location as part of the area of the Beis ha'Mikdosh, to be used for the holy vessels exclusively. This takes place in the thirty-second year of King Artachshasta.


Alexander Mokdon is crowned King of Greece at the age of nineteen. He captures Eilom, the capital of Persia, and destroys most of the Kings of the Persian Empire, though he will not defeat King Daryovesh for another six years (see year 3448). The Persian Empire has stood for fifty-two years. Chagai, Zecharyah and Mal'ochi all die and the era of prophecy comes to an end. (Some say that they only die in the year 3448.) In each generation there were many thousands of prophets, the generation of Eliyohu saw 120,000, but they are not mentioned because their prophecies were only temporary. There were all in all seven prophetesses: the four mothers (Soroh, Rifkah, Rochel and Le'ah - all prophesied with one spirit, and are therefore considered one), Miriam, Devorah, Chanah, Avigayil, Chuldah and Esther.


The forty-eight prophets, according to the Behag, were: Avrohom, Yitzchok, Ya'akov, Moshe, Aharon, Yehoshua, Pinchos, Elkonoh, Eli, Shmuel, Gad, Noson, Dovid, Shlomoh, Ido, Michoyhu ben Yimloh, Ovadyah, Achyah ha'Shiloni, Yeihu ben Chanoni, Azaryohu ben Oded, Yachziel (from the sons of Matanyah), Elozor ben Dodo from Morishah, Hoshei'a, Amos, Michah, Omotz, Eliyohu, Elisha, Yonah, Yeshayah, Yo'el, Nachum, Chavakuk, Tzefanyah, Yirmiyah, Ury'ah (from Kiryas Ye'orim), Yechezkel, Doniel, Boruch, Neriyah, Soroyoh, Machseyosh, Chagai, Zecharyah, Mal'ochi and Mordechai. The missing two are perhaps Chananiel and Shalum. (See also Rashi, Megilah 14a, and Hagahos ha'Gro there.)


Ezra dies on the ninth or the tenth of Teives (according to some Nechemyah dies then too). At the end of Ezra's life, the Persians defeat Bovel. In one night, they miraculously destroy it to the point that nothing remains except for a small part of the wall of king's palace. The Bovel that we know of was actually built sixty mil (approximately 60 km) from the old one, because the original one was left completely in ruins and became the breeding-ground of snakes and scorpions.


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