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

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Vol. 22   No. 31

This issue is sponsored by
Shabsi and Leah Rubin
in honour of the Pidyon ha'Ben of their grandson
Aryeh Leib
son of Levi and Nechama Felsenthal

Parshas Bamidbar

The Census and the Tribe of Levi
(Adapted from the Ramban)

" the Levi'im, according to the tribe of their fathers were not counted among them. And G-d spoke to Moshe saying 'But the Tribe of Levi you shall not count, nor shall you take a census of them among the B'nei Yisrael" (1:47-49).


Commenting on the earlier (seemingly superfluous) Pasuk, the Or ha'Chayim explains that, based on the Mishnah in Shekalim (1:3), according to which the Kohanim too, were obligated to participate in the Mitzvah of giving a half-Shekel, they too were included in the census that is mentioned in Parshas Pikudei. With that, he answers the famous question that Rashi and the commentaries pose - how it is possible for the census there and the census here to be exactly the same 603, 550, although they took place half a year apart?

The answer, the Or ha'Chayim concludes, is that they were not the same. In fact, he points out, the second census exceeded the first by twenty-two thousand, three hundred - the number of Levi'im who were included in the first census but not in the second. And that is precisely what the 'superfluous' Pasuk is coming to tell us. After concluding (in Pasuk 46) that the total number of men above the age of twenty was six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty - in anticipation of the above-mentioned question, it informs us that the Levi'im were not counted together with them (even though in the earlier census they were) , which explains how the two censuses tallied.


The Ramban however, explains the insertion of Pasuk forty-seven differently. According to him, the Torah is telling us that Moshe already knew not to include the Levi'im in the initial census, from the fact that the Prince of Levi (Aharon) was not listed together with the princes of the twelve tribes at the beginning of the Parshah. Consequently, not knowing exactly what to do with them (the Levi'im), he simply left them out of the census. And that is why G-d put him in the picture by commanding him to count them separately. He was not ordered to have Aharon present, though he chose to do so, so as not to differentiate between Levi and the other tribes in this point.


There are a few reasons as to why the Tribe of Levi had to be counted independently, and not together with the rest of Yisrael. To begin with, whenever the tribes of Yisrael are listed, there are always twelve, as we have mentioned a number of times. Consequently, whenever Levi is counted, Yosef is counted as one tribe; conversely, whenever Efrayim and Menashe are mentioned separately, Levi is omitted Secondly, whereas the other tribes were being counted according to their eligibility to serve in the army, the Tribe of Levi was counted in preparation to serve in the Mishkan - which incidentally, explains the different age groupings of the two censuses. These two explanations might also explain how Moshe knew to omit Levi from the initial census.

The third and fourth reasons are presented by Rashi, who explains firstly that it is befitting for the King's personal legion to be counted separately, and secondly, that Levi could not be counted together with the other tribes due to the fact that they were counted from the age of twenty, the age from which the decree would be issued that they would all die in the desert. And since G-d knew that Levi would not participate in the sin that would lead to this decree, they had to be counted from a different age - thirty to fifty, the ages between which they served in the Mishkan.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Midbar Sinai & the Ohel Mo'ed

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


Commenting on the (unusual) dual location mentioned by the Pasuk, the Ramban explains that, in fact, from the time the Mishkan (alias the Ohel Mo'ed) was erected, all the Mitzvos - starting from Parshas Vayikra, were given to Moshe in the Ohel Mo'ed. And it is only because of Sh'mitah and Yovel, which the Torah presents in Parshas B'har (and indirectly in Bechukosai) which, as it specifically states, were said earlier on Har Sinai, that it sees fit to mention the Ohel Mo'ed here, to inform us that it has now reverted to the latter era.

On the other hand, it mentions Midbar Sinai, to teach us that although the 'communications-centre' between G-d and Moshe has moved from Har Sinai to the Ohel Mo'ed, they did not leave the area of Sinai before they had been counted. Because the second census (in Parshas Pinchas) took place in the 'Plains of Mo'av'.


Moshe's Disdain of Beaurocracy

"And he gathered the entire congregation on the first day of the second month (the day on which he was commanded) " (1:18).


This teaches us, says the Ramban, Moshe's alacrity in the performance of Mitzvos. On the very same day that G-d issued the command to count the people, he carried it out. Not that he finished the enormous task in one day - which is why the Torah - in the following Pasuk - sees fit to repeat "and he counted them in Midbar Sinai". But when G-d's will was at stake, he went into action at a moment's notice.

What happened to the proverbial beaurocracy?


Did they Really Bring their Birth-Certificates?

' they brought their certificates attesting to their lineage and witnesses of birth to prove to which tribe they belonged'. (Ibid.).

This is how Rashi translates "va'yisyaldu al mishpechosom le'veis avosam".

That each grown-up member of Yisrael possessed such a certificate is of itself, truly remarkable, taking into account the conditions under which they lived in Egypt and the fact that all the women bore sextuplets. And even more mind-boggling is their ability to bring two witnesses of birth (particularly bearing in mind that eighty per cent of the nation had died in Egypt.


The Raman however, maintains that all this was unnecessary. According to him, all of Yisrael turned up, half-Shekel in hand, to be counted according to their family, according to their tribe - with the exception of the Eirev Rav, who were not considered part of B'nei Yisrael. They presented themselves to Moshe and the princes and declared 'I, so-and-so, was born to so-and-so, from such-and-such a family of the tribe of Reuven/ Shimon '. Moshe would then place the half-Shekel of each tribe in a separate location. In this way, he knew both the numbers of each tribe and the total number of K'lal Yisrael. In contrast, the author explains, when the second census takes place (in Parshas Pinchas), most of the above details were already well-known, and all that was needed was to count the number of families in each tribe. Subsequently, each family would split up the portion of land that they received among its members. And that explains why the Torah there omits some of the terms that it uses here - ('and they established their genealogy', 'according to their number of names' 'according to their head-count'). And for the same reason, the princes of the tribes did not need to be present during the census.


Efrayim and Menasheh

"For the sons of Yosef, for the sons of Efrayim" (1:32).

The Pasuk gives precedence to Efrayim, as well as attaching his Yichus (and not that of Menasheh) to Yosef`, the Ramban explains, because a). He was the flag-leader, b). In compliance with the B'rachah of Ya'akov, who gave Efrayim the birthright, although he was younger than Menasheh and c). He was the larger of the two tribes.

In contrast, when Yisrael are counted again later at the Plains of Mo'av (in chapter 26), it gives precedence to Menasheh, who were then the more numerous of the two (and possibly, bearing in mind that he was born before Efrayim, and that he had done nothing to lose the birthright). And by the same token, Yehoshua distributed Menasheh's portion in Eretz Yisrael before Efrayim. Also in the Parshah of the princes (chapter 34: 23/24), it places Menasheh first, and attaches his Yichus to Yosef - and not that of Efrayim.


In the Parshah of the Meraglim, the Ramban points out, the Torah gives precedence to Efrayim on the one hand, whose representative was Yehoshua bin Nun, whilst on the other, it attaches the Yichus of Menasheh to Yosef.

The reason for the latter, the author explains, is because their representative, one of the ten evil spies, spoke Lashon ha'Ra, thereby following in the footsteps of Yosef, who spoke evil of his brothers.

Or perhaps, he adds, it is because the Torah divided the honours - giving precedence to the one, and Yichus to the other.

* * *

Vol. 22   No. 31

This issue is sponsored
with wishes for a Refu'ah Shleimah for
Chayim Shalom ben Shulamit

Shavu'os Suppleme

Shavu'os - Atzeres
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Chazal always refer to Shavu'os as 'Atzeres'. This, the Ram-ban explains, is due to its similarity to Shemini Atzeres, which epitomizes the unique relationship that exists between Yisrael and their Father in Heaven, which is portrayed in the well-known parable of the king who asked his sons to remain behind after the party.

Shavu'os too, the day on which we received the Torah, the day on which Hashem descended upon Har Sinai 'in view' of the whole of Yisrael - the only time in history that He revealed Himself 'in person' to an entire nation, epitomizes that unique relationship.


Furthermore, writes the Ramban, just as Shemini Atzeres is the culmination of Succos, following the seven days that pre-cede it, so too is Shavu'os the culmination of Pesach, follow-ing the seven weeks of the Omer that precede it. And just as the days in between Succos and Shemini Atzeres are called Chol ha'Mo'ed, so too the period between the beginning of Pesach and Shavu'os should be considered like Chol ha'Mo'ed - that is why some commentaries maintain that one should reduce one's work load during this period, and spend more time learning Torah.


Elaborating on the last point, it seems to me that the period of the Omer was originally meant to be treated as a semi Yom-Tov, in anticipation of the major Yom-Tov towards which we are counting. And it is unfortunate that in the days of Rebbi Akiva, we squandered the opportunity to celebrate by a blatant lack of bein adam la'chaveiro, thus turning the Yom-Tov days into days of mourning.

* * *

Shavu'os - in all your Dwelling-Places
(Adapted from the Ramban)

" an eternal decree in your dwelling-places for your gen-erations" (23:21).


As is well-known, Mitzvos that are not connected with the land apply in Chutz la'Aretz too. In that case, we need to un-derstand why the Torah sees fit to insert the words "in all your dwelling-places" with regard to resting on Shavu'os, as well as with regard to the Isur of Chodosh and the Mitzvos of Shabbos and Yom Kipur (all in the current Parshah)? And the question becomes even more blatant when we consider these words are not mentioned in connection with Pesach, Sefiras ha'Omer, Rosh ha'Shanah or Succos!


In answer to the question, the Ramban explains that, in each of the above cases, there is good reason to believe that the respective Mitzvah is confined to Eretz Yisrael and to the time when the Beis-Hamikdash was standing.

The basic Mitzvos of Shavu'os and Chodosh are both con-nected with the waving of the Omer, and so we would have thought that where there is no Omer, those two Mitzvos do not apply either.

The Torah writes "in all your dwelling-places" by Shabbos to teach us, not that it applies in Chutz la'Aretz, but that the prohibition of lighting a fire only applies in private homes, but not in the Beis-Hamkidash, where it is obligatory (Mechilta).

And it writes it by Yom Kipur, since we might otherwise have thought that, since the main Kaparah is achieved through the Korbanos, when there are no Korbanos, Yom Kipur does not apply either.


Interestingly, although the words "in all your dwell-ing-places" do not appear with regard to Pesach in this Par-shah, they do appear in Parshas Bo. The reason for that, says the Ramban, is because there the Torah mentions Matzah and Moror together with the Korban Pesach. Consequently, we might well have thought that where/when there is no Pe-sach, Matzah is not eaten either. Therefore the Torah writes "in all your dwelling-places".


The only other place where the Torah mentions the words in ques-tion is in Vayikra (3:17), in connection with Cheilev and blood. There too, says the Gemara in Kidushin (Daf 37b), the fact that these two Isurim appear in the Parshah of Korbanos prompts us to think that the Isur is confined to the era of Korbanos (i.e. the sole reason for the two prohibitions is because Cheilev and Dam are brought on the Mizbe'ach).


Finally, the Ramban cites the one remaining reference to 'dwelling-places' in this context - when the Torah writes in connection with the Two Loaves on Shavu'os "From your dwelling-places you shall bring the bread of our wave-offering ". That, he explains, has nothing to do with the current discussion, as the prefix "from" indicates (as opposed to that of "in all"). In fact, he says, it comes to teach us that, even though all other Korbanos can be brought from Chutz la'Aretz (with the possible exception of the Omer) the Two Loaves on Shavu'os must be brought from wheat that grew in Eretz Yis-rael, where Yisrael lived in the times when the Loaves were brought, and not from Chutz la'Aretz.

* * *

Medrashei Chazal
(on the Last Chapter of Megilas Rus)

"P'loni Almoni" (Pasuk 1). Tov (his real name, was so-called because he was dumb regarding Divrei Torah) and "Almoni (contains the word 'Ileim' - dumb). He declined to take Rus as a wife, because, he claimed, the first ones (Machlon & Chilyon) died because they married Moabite women, so 'how can I now marry Rus?'

He was unaware of the Halachah that had been announced the day before - "Moavi", 've'Lo Mo'avis' (Yalkut Shim'oni).


"And he took ten men" (Pasuk 2). Chazal learn from here that Birchas Chasanim requires a Minyan. According to others, it was in order to publicize the recent Halachah "Amoni", 've'Lo Amonis'; "Mo'avi", 've'Lo Mo'avis' (Kesub os, 7a & 7b).


" from the elders of the city" (Ibid.) We see from here that they would appoint elders (to keep promiscuous behavior in check) at their banquets (Ibid.).


" 'Sit here!' and they sat' (Ibid.). From here we learn that a minor should not sit down until his superior permits him to do so . (Yalkut Shimoni)


Some details about Kinyan Chalipin

"This was formerly what was done in Yisrael concerning redemption and exchange, to validate a matter, one man would take off his shoe (or glove) and give it to his friend " (Pasuk 7). "Redemption" refers to a sale, "exchange", to a swap (Gemara, Bava Metzi'a, Daf 47a). This is the source of the much used Kinyan Chalipin - where Reuven gives Shimon an article (not necessarily to keep) in exchange for a specified article of Shimon's, which now becomes his wherever it may be.

Moreover, the Gemara there (on Daf 7) learns that by merely holding three finger-breadths of the article (i.e. a shirt, even whilst the owner is wearing it), the transaction takes place.

From the fact that he gave him a shoe/glove, that this kinyan can only be performed with an object (a k'li), but not with food or money Yalkut Shim'oni). Although it is unclear as to who gave his shoe to whom, we assume that it was Bo'az (the purchaser) who gave his shoe to P'loni Almoni (hence it is a swap), and not the other way round.


" like Rachel and like Le'ah" (Pasuk 11). The Pasuk should have mentioned Le'ah first - particularly as Bo'az and all the members of the Sanhedrin who were descendants of Le'ah! This teaches us that even Leah's children acknowledged Rachel's seniority over their mother , knowing as they did that Ya'akov initially worked for Lavan in order to marry Rachel (Ibid.).


"And G-d gave her pregnancy " (Pasuk 13). Rus was physically incapable of having children, and G-d performed a miracle, and enabled her to do so. (Ibid.).


"And the women said to Naomi "Blessed be Hashem, who did not leave you without a redeemer this day " (Pasuk 14). Thanks to the blessing of the women the entire family of David was not totally destroyed by the wicked Queen Asalyah (See Melachim 2, chapter 11).


Ibid. All (but eight of) the Pesukim in the Megilah begin with a 'Vav', which stands for "Vay" (woe). Woe to the generation, the Medrash explains, that takes its judges to task (as the Gemara in Bava Basra interprets the opening words of the Megilah), and whose leaders are degenerate (by fleeing Eretz Yisrael when the going is hard).

Why the eight exceptions? The Yalkut explains that this was because Rus cleaved to the 'B'ris' that was given in eight days.


" a son has been born to Naomi" (Pasuk 17). Was it Naomi who gave birth? Surely it was Rus? To be sure, it was Rus who gave birth to Oveid, yet he is named after Naomi, since she was the one to bring him up. From here Chazal learn that whoever brings up an orphan in his house, it is as if he bore him (Sanhedrin, 19b).

* * *

A Double Take

The five Commandments on the second Lu'ach (between man and man) are equivalent to the five Commandments on the first one (between man and G-d).

How is that?

Someone who

murders has detracted from the image of G-d in which man is made - "Onochi Hashem Elokecho".

commits adultery with another man's wife - "Lo yih'yeh l'cho Elohim acherim ".

steals will ultimately deny and swear falsely - "Lo sisso ".

gives false testimony - "Zochor es yom ha'Shabbos lekad-sho" (because Shabbos attests that G-d created the world).

covets what somebody else owns, will ultimately commit adultery with another man's wife. She is likely to bear him a child who does not know him and who will therefore fail to honour him - "Kabeid es ovicho ". (Medrash Lekach Tov).


From here we can learn that the Mitzvos between man and G-d and those between man and man are of equal im-portance.

* * *

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