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

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Vol. 14   No. 31


This issue is sponsored by
Rabbi and Mrs. Chaim Wilschanski shlita
in honour of the special birthday
of their dear daughter Rachelle n"y

Parshas Bamidbar

Techi'as ha'Meisim:
The Am ha'Aretz & the Talmid-Chacham

Based on the Pasuk in Yeshayah 26:19) "Ki tal oros talecho", the Gemara in Kesubos (111b) understands that it is only the light of Torah-study that will enable K'lal Yisrael to arise at Techi'as ha'Meisim (the Resurrection of the Dead). Initially, Chazal assume that this totally precludes the Amei-ha'Aretz from Techi'as ha'Meisim, and that the entire event will be confined to Talmidei-Chachamim, to those people who have studied Torah during their life-time.

They conclude however, that there is hope for the Amei ha'Aretz after all, inasmuch as those who cleave to Talmidei-Chachamim will be resurrected together with them. The Gemara defines 'cleaving to Hashem' as a. marrying off one's daughter to a Talmid-Chacham; b. doing business with a Talmid-Chacham and c. benefiting a Talmid-Chacham from one's own property.

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The Beis ha'Levi explains Chazal's two stages of thinking like this. At first, he points out, they thought that Talmidei-Chachamim fall into the category of Tashmishei Kedushah (something that serves a holy object [such as an Aron ha'Kodesh serves a Seifer-Torah] but that is not in itself intrinsically holy); and that an Am-ha'Aretz who serves them is considered Tashmish de'Tashmish, which has a Din of Chulin (something mundane) which may be thrown away.

But they conclude that Talmidei-Chachamim are intrinsically Kadosh. In that case, he explains, the Am-ha'Aretz who serves them, has a Din of Tashmush Kedushah, which is holy too, and which may therefore not be thrown away.

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I would suggest another approach, based on the Ba'al ha'Turim in this week's Parshah. The Ba'al ha'Turim, bearing in mind that when referring to the third tribe in each camp, the Pasuk (2:14, 22& 29) adds a 'Vav' ("u'Mateh Gad", "u'Mateh Binyamin" and "u'Mateh Naftali"), comments on the fact that in Pasuk 2:7, it writes (in connection with third tribe in the group of Machaneh Yehudah) "Mateh Zevulun ", minus a 'Vav'.

And he explains that, due to the fact that Zevulun sustained Yisachar, the Torah made a point of not mentioning Zevulun in a secondary light, preferring to present him as an equal. And it achieves this by omitting the 'Vav', placing him on a par with Yisachar, who precedes him. This suggests, he says, that Zevulun's reward is equal to that of Yisachar, and he backs this with the Pasuk in Tehilim (110:2) "Because in the shadow of wisdom (Yisachar) is the shadow of silver (Zevulun)". More than that, he concludes, the Torah is hinting that Yisachar and Zevulun are , to an extent, considered one and the same tribe, as if it had said "Yisachar, the tribe of Zevulun".

Applying the Ba'al ha'Turim here, we can place Talmidei-Chachamim in the category of Tashmishei-Kedushah, like the Beis-ha'Levi thought at first. And as for the two stages of Chazal, they initially considered Amei-ha'Aretz as Tashmish de'Tashmish (like the Beis-ha'Levi initially thought). They concluded however, that since the Talmid-Chacham's level is due to the support of the Am-ha'Aretz, he is elevated to the level of a Tashmish-di'Kedushah, like the Talmid-Chacham himself.

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What emerges from the Gemara in Kesubos however (irrespective of how we interpret it), is that Amei ha'Aretz have no portion in Techi'as ha'Meisim, which according to most commentaries, is synonymous with Olam ha'Bo. The world of the Neshamos (Gan Eden after death) is one thing. That the pious among the gentiles is able to attain; but Olom ha'Bo, that is something else. It is only those who learn Torah, or at least who cleave to Talmidei-Chachamim, in the way that we an explained, who can look forward to eternal life. And it goes without saying that gentiles, for whom Torah-study is not even an option, will not receive a portion there either.

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Parshah Pearls
(based on the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Fire, Water & Desert

"And G-d spoke to Moshe in the Desert of Sinai " (1:1).

The Torah was given with three things, says the Medrash; with fire, with water and in the desert.

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This refers, say the commentaries, to the three basic characteristics that Torah-study requires:

'Fire' refers to the fire of Yir'as Shamayim, or as others explain, to Mesirus Nefesh (self-sacrifice), with connotations of Avraham Avinu's very first act of Mesirus Nefesh, in the furnace of Ur Kasdim.

'Water' refers to the Midah of humility, for so Chazal have said; Torah, like water, always flows down from a high location to a low one.

Whereas 'Desert' refers to the Midah of being Hefker like a desert, meaning that one is willing to give up everything in order to learn Torah.

With these three Midos, it is possible to acquire Torah; without them, it is not!

*

On the Merit of the Princes

"For (the tribe of) Reuven, Elitzur ben Shedei'ur For Naftali, Achira ben Einan" (1:5-15).

The names of the first and last princes (Elitzur and Achira), the Ba'al ha'Turim observes, are broadly hinted in the Pasuk in Ha'azinu (32:10) "Yitzrenhu ke'Ishon Eino" (He guards them like the pupil of His eye).

To teach us, he says, that it is on the merit of the princes (and leaders) of Yisrael, that G-d guards over them.

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What's the Point of the Bechorah?

"And as for Me, I have taken the 'Levi'im from among the B'nei Yisrael, instead of all the firstborn . Because all the firstborn are mine they shall be for Me; I am Hashem" (3:12/13).

I only chose the Bechorim to perform the Avodah, G-d said, on condition that they should be 'for Me' (that they should believe in My Divinity, even more than everybody else). But now that they prostrated themselves before the Golden Calf (just like the rest of the people), thereby denying that Divinty, they are no longer Mine. That is why I have chosen the Levi'im to replace them (Meshech Chochmah).

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From the Haftarah
The Rish'us of Tzadikim

"And it shall be in the place where it will be said to them 'You are not My people', it will be said to them 'the sons of the Living G-d' " (Hoshei'a 2:1).

From derogatory statements made about a person, it is sometimes possible to discern his greatness, says the Shir Ma'on; and from the praise said about others, one can perceive his worthlessness. When someone speaks about Dr. So and So, for example, describing him as a Tzadik and a G-d-fearing man, who observes the Shabbos and who does not eat Neveilos and T'reifos, the listener understands that this person's level of observance is not very high; whilst on the other hand, if one hears someone berate a certain Talmid-Chacham, because his Davenning is not at the highest level, or because he does not eat Glatt kasher meat, it is clear that the person under discussion is a Ba'al Madreigah.

If the only Mitzvos one can find to describe the achievements of a 'Tzadik' are basic ones, then the description 'Tzadik' must be understood in a relative sense. Likewise, if the only sins one can find to describe a 'Rasha' are relatively trivial, or a matter of Chumra or Minhag, then one needs to accept the label 'Rasha' with a pinch of salt.

And the same is true of K'lal Yisrael and the nations of the world. By merely examining the different yard-sticks used by the world in describing the evil Jews and the righteous gentiles, it soon becomes clear as to who are truly righteous, and who, truly wicked. A gentile is considered a fine and upright man as long as he is not guilty of murder, theft and rape (and often even when he is), whereas a Jew who contravenes local custom, who does business without a license, who keeps his shop open during hours that it ought to be closed, or whose courtyard is not scrupulously clean, is labeled 'wicked'. The contrast is blatant; the conclusions obvious!

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And this is what the Navi Hoshei'a is telling us in the above Pasuk, the Shir Ma'on concludes. When the world announces that we are not G-d's people (and cites reasons such as those mentioned above to support their claim), that itself is the greatest proof that we are the sons of the Living G-d.

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Highlights from Targum Yonasan

" when the Mishkan travels, the Levi'im shall dismantle it, and when the Mishkan encamps, the Levi'im shall erect it ; and a stranger (non-Levi) who approaches it will be killed with a burning fire from before Hashem" (1:51).

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"The camp of Yisrael was twelve Mil long and twelve Mil wide, and the one that encamped in front in the east was the group of the camp of Yehudah, according to their hosts. His camp measured four Mil square, and his flag, made of fine wool (or silk), consisted of three colours, corresponding to the three precious stones in the Choshen, red, green and white; On it were clearly 'engraved' the names of the three tribes Yehudah, Yisachar and Zevulun, and in the middle was written (the Pasuk) "Arise Hashem and let Your enemies be scattered, and let your foes flee from before You"; and on it was 'engraved' the picture of a young lion. And the Prince who was appointed over the hosts of the tribe of Yehudah was Nachshon ben Aminadav" (2:3).

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"The group of the tribe of Reuven shall encamp in the south, according to their hosts. His camp measured four Mil square, and his flag, made of fine wool (or silk), consisted of three colours, corresponding to the three precious stones in the Choshen 'carbuncle, sapphire and diamond'. On it were clearly 'engraved' the names of the three tribes Reuven, Shimon and Gad, and in the middle was written (the Pasuk) "Sh'ma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad" and on it was 'engraved' the picture of a young hind. It ought to have been that of a young ox, only Moshe the Navi changed it so as not to recall the sin of the Golden Calf. And the Prince of the tribe of Reuven was Elitzur ben Shedei'ur" (2:10).

*

"And the Ohel Mo'ed, the Camp of the Levi'im, shall travel among the camps. Their camp measured four Mil square, and they traveled in the middle; like they camped so they traveled, each tribe in its place according to its group" (2:17).

*

"The group of the tribe of Efrayim shall encamp in the west, according to their hosts. His camp measured four Mil square, and his flag consisted of three colours, corresponding to the three precious stones 'jacynth, agate and amethist'. On it were clearly 'engraved' the names of the three tribes Efrayim, Menasheh and Binyamin, and in the middle was written (the Pasuk) "And the Cloud of Hashem was over them by day when they traveled from the camp" and on it the picture of a boy. And the Prince of the tribe of Efrayim was Elishama ben Amihud" (2:18).

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"The group of the tribe of Dan shall encamp in the north, according to their hosts. His camp measured four Mil square, and his flag consisted of three colours, corresponding to the three precious stones 'chrysolite, onyx and jasper'. On it was clearly 'engraved' the names of the three tribes Dan, Naftali and Asher, and in the middle was written (the Pasuk) "Encamp in your glory in the midst of the tens of thousands of thousands of Yisrael" and on it the picture of a (certain type of) snake. And the Prince of Dan was Achiezer ben Amishaday" (2:25).

*

"And the Prince who was appointed overseer of the princes of the Levi'im was Elazar the son of Aharon the Kohen; he is the one who asked the Urim ve'Tumim. He was responsible for appointing the guards of the holy charge" (3:32).

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"And this Takanah you shall do for them, in order that they shall live the lives of Tzadikim (in Gan Eden) and not die by means of a burning fire, by allowing their eyes to benefit from the area of the Kodesh Kodshim. When the time arrives for them to enter, Aharon and his sons shall precede them and appoint them, each man to his task and to his burden" (4:19).

* * *

CORRECTION

In the main article in Parshas Emor, at the beginning of the second column, we inadvertently used the word 'Resha'im' in connection with the Talmidim of R. Akiva, who died during the Omer period.

This was a slip of the pen. It goes without saying that the Talmidim of R. Akiva, whatever error they were guilty of, were great sages, and such a title is totally inappropriate.

We duly apologize.

* * *

MEGILAS RUS
What the Medrash Says

(Based on the Torah Temimah)

I'm Here to Stay!

"Do not plead with me to leave you, to go back " (1:16).

'In any event', she (Rus) told her (Naomi), 'I intend to convert. It is better that I do so through you (than through somebody else)'.

*

Starting with the Conversion

When Naomi heard her decision to convert, she began to arrange on her behalf the laws of conversion. 'My daughter', she said to her, 'it is not customary for Jewish women to attend the theatres and circuses of gentiles'. Back came the reply; "Wherever you go I will go" (Ibid.)

*

The Isur of Yichud

'Seclusion with a man is forbidden!'

To which Rus replied "Wherever you stay I will stay" (Ibid.).

*

Accepting the Yoke of Mitzvos

Accepting the Divine Yoke

"Your people is my people; your G-d is my G-d".

This was Rus' response to Naomi's statement that Jews have been commanded to keep six hundred and thirteen Mitzvos and that idolatry is forbidden too (Yevamos 47b).

Alternatively, what Naomi had said was that contravening the Torah results in severe punishments, and that there are many Mitzvos to observe (Medrash).

The Medrash also reinterprets Rus' response, to mean that Naomi's people would cause her to give up her own gods, and that G-d would reward her for her good deeds.

*

Perform Mitzvos Here

And when Naomi told Rus that she would have to perform as many Mitzvos as she could here in this world, because in the World to Come, this was not possible, she replied "because (only) death will divide between us" (1:17).

*

Knowing Where to Draw the Line

"And she stopped talking to her" (1:18).

When a Ger comes nowadays to convert, Chazal derive from here, one asks him why he is doing this, and is he not aware that Yisrael are oppressed and downtrodden, and that they suffer continually? And one tells him about the punishments for contravening the Torah. Having done this however, one stops. One goes no further to try to coerce him into changing his mind.

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How G-d Loves Converts!

"And the two of them walked together" (1:19).

See, says the Medrash, how much G-d loves Geirim! No sooner had Rus undertaken to convert, than the Pasuk puts her on a par with Naomi, as it says "And the two of them walked together".

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Leaving Eretz Yisrael

"And it was, when they arrived in Beis-Lechem that the entire city was amazed at them, and they said 'Is this Naomi?' " R. Shimon bar Yochai said in a B'raysa: Elimelech, Machlon and Chilyon were leaders of their generation. So why were they punished? Because they left Eretz Yisrael, as the Pasuk says "Is this Naomi?" 'Have you seen what happened to Naomi, for having left Eretz Yisrael to go to Chutz la'Aretz!' (Bava Basra 91a).

*

Elsewhere, Chazal explains 'Is this the same Naomi whose deeds are so nice and so pleasant?'

*

How is it possible for the entire town to have been present when this wretched woman arrived, asks the Yerushalmi? It just so happened, it explains, that as Rus arrived with Naomi in Beis-Lechem, the entire town was paying their last respects to Boaz's wife, who had just died, and whom they were in the process of burying.

'When one Tzadik leaves this earth', say Chazal 'another Tzadik arrives to replace him!'

* * *

Shavu'os Supplement

Transcending Logic

The Torah says "And you will be for Me 'a Segulah' from all the nations" (19:5).

Rashi explains 'Segulah' to mean a precious treasure, and the majority of commentaries interpret it along similar lines. The Or ha'Chayim however, presents an original insight to explain this word, based on the colloquial meaning of the word, with its mystical connotations of something that contains supernatural qualities. He points out that on the one hand, there are herbs that are cold by nature and that cure ailments that stem from coldness, whilst on the other, there are herbs that are hot by nature and that cure ailments that are based on heat. This is not a natural phenomenon, but a supernatural one, and is known as a Segulah. In the same way, he says, Hashem is informing us here that there are many aspects of the triple relationship between Him, Torah and us that cannot be understand naturally. And he gives two examples to illustrate this. Chazal have said that a Jew who intends to perform a Mitzvah and is prevented from doing so, is rewarded as if he would have fulfilled it; in spite of the fact that if he intended to sin, but was prevented from carrying it out, he would not be punished. Now either one considers intentions as if one had carried them or one doesn't. Yet the Torah does so with regard to reward but not with regard to punishment. That is why the Torah writes "and you will be for Me a Segulah".

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If a gentile studies Torah or keeps the Shabbos he is Chayav Misah, say Chazal; nor is it considered a good thing for him to observe other Mitzvos.

Now if a. Mitzvos are an asset for a Jew, earning him a place in the World to Come, and good for the world at large, and b. learning Torah and keeping Shabbos are among the most precious of those Mitzvos, then why should a gentile not observe them and benefit from them too? Surely, what's good for the goose is good for the gander?

But no, says the Torah. Torah and all its branches, are good for Yisrael (and good for the world when they are performed by a Jew), but not for the nations of the world (and not for the world, when they are performed by a gentile). That is why the Torah writes "and you will be for Me a Segulah from all the nations".

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Shavu'os Sapphires

(Adapted mainly from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

Eating Milky Foods on Shavu'os

Among the reasons for eating milchigs on Shavu'os is the introduction at Har Sinai, of the laws of Kashrus, including the laws of Shechitah (previously, they had been allowed to tear the animal open and eat it) and the prohibition of mixing meat and milk. As a result, all their cooking utensils became forbidden and they had no option other than to eat milky foods. R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld raises the question that, seeing as at that time, they already had their daily quota of Mon, which milky foods are the commentaries referring to?

And he answers that, even though the Mon did serve as their staple diet, they nevertheless supplemented it with other dishes, and as we learn from the Parshah of the quails and from other episodes cited in the Chumash, this supplementary diet included the sheep and cattle that they took with them out of Egypt.

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To explain why they did not simply Kasher their cooking implements, R. Yosef Chayim reminds us of the Gemara in Shabbos (86b), which states that, even though there are two opinions as to which date on which the Torah was given, it is unanimously accepted that it was given on Shabbos. And on Shabbos, of course, it was not possible to heat up the water that would have been necessary for Kashering (the same point is made by the Ge'ulas Yisrael, in the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim).

*

In typical fashion, R. Yosef Chayim finds a hint for this in the Pasuk in Shir ha'Shirim (4:11) "D'vash ve'cholov tachas le'shonech", which refers to Matan Torah, and whose last letters ('Shiyn', Beis', Saf') spell 'Shabbos', a hint that they switched to milk and honey on that day, because it fell on Shabbos, and they were unable to Kasher their vessels for use with meaty foods.

*

Another reason is given by R. Shimshon me'Ostropolya, who cities the Medrash that lists one of the names of Har Sinai as 'Har Gavnunim'. And it is the similarity of 'Gavnunim' to the word 'Gevinah' (cheese) that gave rise to this Minhag. Indeed, it is universally accepted to eat cheese dishes, and not just milk ones.

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Why We Read Megilas Rus on Shavu'os

One of the best-known reasons for reading Megilas Rus on Shavu'os is that of the Teshu'os Chein, who explains that it is in memory of Har Sinai, where, over and above the seven Mitzvos, which, as B'nei No'ach, they were already obliged to keep, Yisrael received six hundred and six Mitzvos, making up a total of six hundred and thirteen. And six hundred and six is the same numerical value as 'Rus'.

*

And another three reasons are a. to remind us that the Torah was given amidst hardship and suffering (and that a Ger or a Ba'al Teshuvah, should not expect his life to become a bed of roses once he adopts a Torah life-style). Magein Avraham b. & c. because the main part of the story begins at the beginning of the barley harvest, and Shavu'os is called 'Chag ha'Katzir' (albeit the wheat harvest); and to remind us that G-d entered into a covenant with us only following Milah, Tevilah and the blood of a Korban (the three requirements of conversion); And likewise, Rus converted before entering the covenant (the Avudraham).

As the Pasuk (which we quote each morning in Pesukei de'Zimrah) writes "He did not do this to any other nation, and He did not inform them of His judgements".

*

Baking Two Long Loaves on Shavu'os

The Kolbo cites a Minhag (though I do know how widespread that it is) of baking two long Challes for Shavu'os. This is to commemorate either the 'Sh'tei ha'Lechem' that were brought on Shavu'os in the Beis-Hamikdash, or the fact that the Mazel for the month of Sivan is 'Te'omim' (twins [a symbol of the close relationship that we enjoy with Hashem]).

The Leiv David cites this Minhag too, adding that the two Challes have four ends. The reason that he gives for this is because the Torah is referred to as "bread", and the Pasuk writes in Iyov (11:9) "Aruchah me'Eretz Midah" (Its measurement is longer than the earth). Hence the Minhag to bake specifically long loaves.

As for the four ends, they represent the four basic levels into which Torah is divided 'P'shat, Remez, D'rush & Sod' (better-known as 'Pardes').

*

The Ten Loaves = The Ten Commandments

The Two Loaves, says the Menoras ha'Ma'or, represent the two parts of Torah, the written and the oral.

Together with the Two Loaves, he explains, they brought ten animals representing the Ten Commandments. The seven lambs represented the seven Lo Sa'asehs therein ('Lo yih'yeh', 'Lo Siso', 'Lo Tirtzach', 'Lo Tin'af', 'Lo Tignov', 'Lo Sa'aneh' & 'Lo Sachmod'); the bull, 'Onochi' and the two rams, the two Aseis (Shabbos and Kibud Av va'Eim).

*

Not to Work on Shavu'os

The reason that working is forbidden on Shavu'os, says the Yalkut Yitzchak, is because it is the day on which the Torah was given, and we need to take time off to reflect on the trembling, the thunder and the lightning that took place at Har Sinai. That in turn, is to instill in ourselves the aura of Yir'as Shamayim that we experienced there, so that we become more keen and alert in the fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvos. That is something that cannot be achieved if one goes about one's regular occupations in the usual manner.

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