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

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Vol. 19   No. 33

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Mordechai Meir Chaim ben Yaakov z"l
l'mishpachas Lexenburg

Parshas Bamidbar

Yisrael 1, The Angels 0

"For six days you shall eat Matzos and on the seventh shall be an assembly for Hashem your G-d; you shall not do any work" (Devarim 16:8).

"On the eighth day there shall be an assembly for you, you shall not perform any servile work" (Bamidbar 29:35).

To resolve the apparent contradiction between the above Pesukim, the Gemara in Pesachim (68b) explains that there are two Mitzvos on Yom-Tov; one to eat and drink (to enjoy Yom-Tov physically), the other, to sit in the Beis-Hamedrash (to enjoy it spiritually). And Rebbi Eliezer and Rebbi there argue over how to apply them practically. According to Rebbi Eliezer, every person has the choice of either spending the day doing the one or spending it doing the other; whereas Rebbi Yehoshua maintains that one should fulfill both Mitzvos, half day in the Beis Hamedrash and half day at the dining-room table, half for Hashem, and half for oneself!


Both Tana'im agree however, that on Shavu'os one is obligated to spend some time engaging in eating and drinking, the Gemara concludes - 'because it is the day on which the Torah was given'.

How very strange, asks the Beis Halevi. If there is any day in the year when one would be expected to spend all day studying Torah, it is Shavu'os, yet not only does even Rebbi Eliezer concede that one is obligated to spend part of the day eating, but his ruling is attributed to the fact that the Torah was given on that day!

The Gemara in Shabbos, basing itself on a Pasuk in Tehilim, cites the angels' claim that they, rather than man, who sins, ought to be the recipients of the Torah. And it was only when Moshe pointed out to them the many physical and material Mitzvos which can only be fulfilled by human-beings with bodies, and to which they, the angels, as purely spiritual entities, had no possible connection, that they were forced to withdraw their claim.

So it is precisely on account of the physical aspects of Torah that we negated the angels' claim to it, that that part of the Yom-Tov celebrations (yes, specifically on Shavu'os) must include physical pleasure - even according to Rebbi Eliezer.

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Yisrael 2, The Angels 0

"From the mouth of babes and sucklings did you establish strength (Torah) " -Tehilim 8:3.

Based on this Pasuk, the Medrash Tehilim, cited by the Beis Halevi, describes the discussion between G-d and the angels, following their claim that the Torah ought to be given to them. G-d reminded them how, when they appeared to Avraham Avinu in the guise of human-beings, they ate meat immediately after butter and milk, whereas every Jewish child, if served a dish containing meat and milk, will decline to eat it. He will inform his mother what they learned in Cheder - that eating meat together with milk is forbidden!

The Beis Halevi explains that what the angels did wrong was to eat meat immediately after milk, without making the necessary break in between, when in contrast, even a little Jewish child knows that one is obligated to eat and drink something between eating milk and meat.

From here we see, says the Beis Halevi, that it is on the basis of the care that we take not to mix meat and milk, that we wrested the Torah from the hands of the angels. Hence the custom to eat milk foods on Shavu'os, before moving on to the meat dishes that one is required to eat on Yom-Tov (as Chazal have said 'There is no joy other than through meat!'), a custom that we do not find by any other Yom-Tov.

See also Shavu'os Supplement 'Eating Milky Dishes'.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Appoint the Levi'im

"And you (Moshe), appoint (hafkeid) the Levi'im over the Mishkan of the Testimony " (1:50).

'Like Targum Unklus (Manei) translates it (ke'Targumo), comments Rashi.

It is not clear, asks the Riva, from how Rashi knows that this is what Unklus means, since the Arama'ic word 'Manei' can mean either 'to count' or to 'appoint'.

The Riva therefore suggests that instead of 'ke'Targumo manei', one should read 'Targumo manei'. In other words, rather than proving the meaning of "Hafkeid" from Unklus, Rashi is merely stating that Unklus translates the word as 'Manei'. And he continues to offer his own interpretation to Unklus' ambiguous translation.

Rashi's source for his translation is probably two-fold: 1. from the context of the continuation of the Pasuk, and 2. seeing as the previous Pasuk clearly refers to counting, it is most unlikely that the Torah would simply repeat the command a second time.


Large Size Families

The Torah records that there were over twenty-two thousand male firstborn out of a total of over six hundred thousand men. We do not know the total number of women, nor how many of the firstborn were females; but assuming that the numbers were roughly even, this means that the average family contained a staggering twenty-seven/eight children!

See Oznayim la'Torah (Parshas Sh'mos 1:7).

* * *


"The Tribe of Zevulun; and the prince of the sons of Zevulun was Eli'av ben Cheilon" (2:7).

Zevulun was the third tribe in the Camp of Yehudah. By each of the other third tribes the Pasuk begins with the prefix "And" ("And the tribe of Gad", "And the tribe of Binyamin", 'And the tribe of Naftali"). Why then, asks the Ba'al ha'Turim, does the Torah omit the word "And" with regard to the tribe of Zevulun?

And, citing the Medrash Tanchuma, he bases his answer on the well-known partnership between Yisachar (the tribe that preceded Zevulun in the Camp of Yehudah) and Zevulun, in which the latter sustained the former for half of the reward of the latter's Torah-learning. Therefore, he explains, the Torah omits the word "And", which has connotations of being secondary, when in fact, Zevulun was on a par with Yisachar.

And in support of the concept that those who support Torah are on a par with those who learn it,, the Ba'al ha'Turim quotes the Pasuk in Mishlei (3:18) "It (the Torah) is a Tree of life for those who hold on to it, and those who support it are enriched".


"And those who encamped in front of the Ohel Mo'ed on the east side were Moshe, Aharon and his sons ... " (3:38).

The 'P'sik' (the vertical line) between Moshe and Aharon, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, indicates that they did not live together, but rather that Moshe lived in one location, and Aharon and his sons, in another.

* * *

Shavu'os Supplement

All About Shavu'os

Onochi Hashem Elokecho

This is not just a statement of fact, Rabeinu Bachye explains, but a Mitzvah of the heart (i.e. connected with Emunah). It is a command to acknowledge and to believe with a perfect faith that there is a Creator who preceded the world, and that there is none other besides Him.

In fact, the word 'Echad' encapsulates Onochi, in that if one takes each letter and squared it (1x1, 8x8 and 4x4), it will add to a total pf 81, which is equivalent to the Gematriyah of "Onochi".

He also cites the Gemara in Shabbos (105a) which presents the acronym of "Onochi" as 'Ano Nafsho'I, Kesovis Yehovis' - 'I Myself wrote it and gave it' (with reference to the Torah), to stress that G-d not only wrote the Torah with His own Hands (Kevayachol), but that He also gave it to us personally and not through the hands of a Shali'ach.


Holding the Mountain over their Heads

In his weekly Parshah sheet, ha'Rav ha'Gaon R. Sternbuch Sh'lita, cites the Maharal's answer to the well-known Kashya posed by Tosfos in Shabbos, as to why G-d found it necessary to hold the mountain over the heads of Yisrael, to force them to accept the Torah, seeing as they had already declared 'Na'aseh ve'nishma!'

Based on the Chazal that someone who performs the Mitzvos because he has been commanded is on a higher level than someone who volunteers to do so, the Maharal explains that even though Yisrael had proclaimed 'Na'aseh ve'nishma', this was on a voluntary basis. If they would accept the Torah, not because they wanted to, but because the yoke of Heaven was upon them, that would place their acceptance and their subsequent performing the Mitzvos on a far higher level.

Rav Sternbuch explains that this is because the Mitzvos should be performed for the sake of G-d's Holy Name that one separates from sin and takes on the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, as Rashi explains at the end of Kedoshim.

The Medrash Tanchuma, commenting on the Pasuk "And they stood underneath the mountain", writes that G-d lifted up the mountain and Yisrael went and stood underneath it.

G-d could have brought them to the level of performing the Mitzvos as a yoke lifting the mountain over their heads, thereby forcing them to accept the Torah.

But he didn't! He let them arrive at that level of their own accord, taking upon themselves the yoke of Mitzvos of their own volition.


Eating Milky Dishes

The Torah hints at the custom of eating milky dishes on Shavu'os when it writes in Pinchas (28:26/27) in connection with Shavu'os "vehikravtem Minchah Chadoshoh LaHashem. Be'Chu'oseichem", whose first letters spell 'me'cholov' - milk products. And one of the many reasons for the Minhag is based on the Gematriyah of 'Cholov', which is forty. This in turn, is reminiscent of the forty days that it takes for a baby to form, the forty days that Moshe Rabeinu spent on Har Sinai preparing to receive the Torah and the forty years that it takes for a person to fully understand his Rebbe (See Rashi at the end of Parshas Ki Savo).

See also main article.

* * *

M e g I l a s R u s
(Straight from the Medrash)

Based on the Torah Temimah

When Bo'az Felt Good

"Bo'az ate and drank and his heart was 'good' (3:6).

This means, Rashi explains, that he studied Torah (as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "The Torah of Your Mouth is better for me that thousands of pieces of silver and gold").

The Medrash gives a number of other interpretations of the word 'good'.

1. Bo'az blessed Hashem over his food (he recited the appropriate B'rachos).

The story is told of a man who told his friend that whenever he Davened, he got a headache.

'A headache?', came the reply. 'Chazal describe Te-filah as Avodah she'ba'Leiv. So what you ought to be getting is a heartache!'

The biggest problem with our Tefilos is that we tend to Daven predominantly with our mouths instead of with our hearts, turning them into lip-service rather than heart-service.

Perhaps the Pasuk is teaching us here that Bo'az felt good after eating, and so he thanked Hashem with all the goodness of his heart, and not just with his mouth.

2. He ate sweet things (a tasty dessert) which placed him in the right frame of mind to learn Torah.

The Torah Temimah compares this to the Simanim that we eat on Rosh Hashanah, which we use as a pre-cursor of the good things that we expect to happen in the forthcoming year. So too, he says, Bo'az ate sweet things, attuning his mind to the sweetness of the Torah that he was about to learn.

What a beautiful example of serving Hashem with both Yetzarim ("be'chol levovcho") - with the Yeitzer ha'Ra as well as with the Yeitzer ha'Tov'. To use sweet foods to attain the sweetness of Torah!

3. Bo'az wanted a wife (as the Pasuk writes in Mishlei "Someone who finds a wife has found goodness"). He had barely lain down when the wife that he yearned for turned up, in a most unexpected manner. And as we say in Ashrei "Hashem does the will of those who fear him",


G-d Guards Those Who Fear Him

"And the man (Bo'az) trembled and behold there was a woman lying at his feet He asked 'Who are you?' and she replied I am Rus your maidservant And he said 'you are blessed ' " (8-10).

Citing a Pasuk in Mishlei ("The trembling of a man leads to a snare, but the one who trusts in Hashem will be strengthened"), the Medrash comments, that upon finding a woman lying at the foot of his bed, one would have expected Boaz to curse her for daring to intrude upon his privacy ("The trembling of a man leads to a snare), but not only did he not curse her, he actually blessed her, because "the one who trusts in Hashem will be strengthened" - God protects and fortifies those who place their trust in him. Here too, He protected Bo'az from causing untold harm by cursing Rus at that mo-ment. Alternatively, it refers to Rus, whom G-d protected from suffering a curse at the hand of the Gadol ha'Dor (Torah Temimah).


It Depends How You Say it

"And you shall spread the corner of your garment over your maidservant!" (3:9)

This is how Rus hinted to Bo'az to marry (perform Yibum with) her.

See, in contrast, how the wicked wife of Potifera con-fronted Yosef with a similar request - "And she seized him by has garment, saying 'Lie with me' !"


The B'rachah of a Tzadik

. "You are blessed, my daughter" (3:10)

One should not hesitate to go to a Tzadik for a B'rachah, says Resh Lakish. Rus, at forty, had not man-aged to bear children. Yet no sooner did Bo'az daven for her than she became pregnant!

* * *

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