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

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Vol. 7   No. 34

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Reb Yosef Boruch ben ha'Rav Pesach Wachsman z"l
whose seventeenth Yohrzeit will be on 23rd Iyar
by his children Dr. Eli and Sheryl Prenzlau and Family

Parshas Bechukosai

Learning Torah

(Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)

He May as Well Have Stayed There

If you will go in My statutes (study Torah - see Rashi) and observe My mitzvos ... " (26:3).

Chazal have said that if someone studies Torah and does not observe what he learns, it would have been better if his placenta would have been overturned and he would not have emerged from his mother's womb, as the Torah writes in Eikev, "You shall keep (i.e. study, in order) to do" (Tanchumah Eikev).

The Gro connects this Chazal with the Gemoro in Nidah (30b), which states that whilst a baby is still in his mother's womb, one teaches him the entire Torah, but that before he is born, an angel slaps him on the mouth and he forgets it all.

That is why the Medrash says that someone who studies Torah and does not observe it, would have been better off had he remained in his mother's womb. Because it is quite clear that a person did not enter this world to study Torah - that he could have continued doing in his original environment. It is in order to put what he learns into practice that he is born. Failing that, he may as well have remained where he was.


Now You Forget, Now You Remember

Now that every person is made to forget everything that he learned, ask the commentaries, what is the point of his having learnt it all in the first place?

The brother of the Gro explained it according to the Alshich, who, commenting on the phrase that we say at the conclusion of the Amidah 'and give our portion in Your Torah', explains in turn, that every Jewish Soul that stood at Har Sinai, received its own specific area of Torah, which it is charged to complete in this world. That is why the Gemoro in Megilah (6b) states that one should believe someone who says 'I toiled and I found'. The expression 'I found' implies that he is referring to something that he lost (that had previously belonged to him personally).

With this explanation, he explains, we can answer the question that we asked. A person needs to be taught his own personal portion of Torah, to enable him to recapture it after he is born - with his own hard work.


Torah Is On a Higher Plane

The Gro uses a different approach to answer the question. He explains that due to the Torah's supreme spirituality and sanctity, it would not be possible for man, with his physical limitations, to come to grips with Torah and to fully comprehend it. The only way for him to fathom its depths, he explains, is by teaching it to him once, before he has had contact with the world of impurity and sin, and by then presenting him with the now simplified task of regaining what he already learned once, of recouping his loss. The Gro, like the Alshich, draws on the expression in the Gemoro in Megilah )'I toiled and I found') to prove his point.


The Reward of Forgetting

Both the Alshich and the Gro attribute the need to forget the Torah that he already learned, and then to toil over it under his own steam, to the importance of toiling over one's Torah-studies (see opening Rashi in the parshah) and the tremendous rewards that are not due to someone who is born with the full knowledge of the entire Torah.


Learning in Order to Observe

Perhaps one can suggest a different answer to this latter question. It can be compared to Har Sinai, where, following the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe Rabeinu had to ascend the Mountain for a second set of forty days to learn the entire Torah, even though he had already learned it all during the first set of forty days.

The reason for this is because during the first forty days, he learned the Torah with the intention of teaching Klal Yisroel before they had sinned. When he ascended the mountain for the second time, on the other hand, granted it was with the intention of learning the same Torah, but it was in order to teach it to a Klal Yisroel who, in the meantime, had sinned. Now they were ba'alei Teshuvah, and the techniques that one employs to teach Torah to ba'alei teshuvah are not the same as those that one uses to teach it to people who have not sinned. Consequently, Moshe had to relearn the Torah in its entirety, so that he would be able to teach it to the people in their new status.

In similar vein, the Torah that a foetus studies is for the purpose of accumulating knowledge, to enable him to study it on his own after he is born, as we explained earlier. Such Torah-study is not suitable for a Jew after his birth, when he becomes obliged to fulfill the Torah. For that, one needs to study Torah in order to observe it (as the Tana writes in Pirkei Ovos 4:5).

Consequently, one forgets the Torah that one learned inside the mother's womb, in order to relearn it after he is born with the correct motivation - with the intention of observing it.


Parshah Pearls


(Adapted mainly from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)

Confusion and Chalah

"And I will bring upon you shock ... and you will sow your seeds in vain and your enemy will eat them" (26:16).

Because of the sin of not taking chalah, says Rebbi Elozor b'Rebbi Yehudah (in Shabbos 32b), there is no blessing in the corn in the storehouses ... and people will sow their crops but others will eat it, as it is written ... "And I will bring upon you shock (beholoh) ... and you will sow ... ". 'Don't read "beholoh" (shock) but "be'chalah" ' (because of chalah).

What do Chazal mean when they say 'Don't read "beholoh" ', asks the Gro, when the Torah specifically writes "beholoh"?

The answer, he says, lies in the words that follow - "es ha'shachefes ve'es ha'kadachas" (a swelling and fever). Grammatically, the Torah should then have preceded that with "es ha'beholoh", following the same pattern as the words that come after it. And it is due to the omission of the word "es" that Chazal saw fit to explain 'Don't read "beholoh" (shock) but "be'chalah" ', to teach us that the ensuing punishments come as a result of not taking chalah from the dough.


Fleeing Our Own Shadows

"And your enemies will rule over you, and you will flee but nobody will be chasing you " (26:17).

Why does the Torah write "and nobody will be chasing you", suggesting that this is worse than running away when one is being chased? Surely, running away from an enemy is worse than running away from one's own shadow?

The Gro explains this with a Medrash. The Medrash Vayikro Rabah, commenting on the posuk in Koheles (3:15) "And G-d seeks the one who is being chased", states that this applies even if it is a tzadik who is chasing the rosho. It is G-d's policy to help the underdog. That is why, the Chofetz Chayim points out, He sometimes sets our enemies upon us, so that, unworthy as we are, He will be forced to take our part, as Shlomoh ha'Melech said He would.

Now the posuk makes perfect sense! At times when G-d does not want us to be saved, He sees to it that we run away and nobody is chasing us, leaving Him under no obligation to take our part.


The simple explanation of this posuk is that there are times that the people will be so terror-stricken that they will even run away from imaginary pursuers, when really, there is no-one giving chase.


Double Talk

"And in spite of this, when they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them and I will not spew them out to exterminate them" (26:44).

The Gro used this posuk to explain the Gemoro in Shevu'os (36a), which states that 'no' twice or 'yes' twice constitutes an oath. This is why the posuk in Mal'achi (3:6) writes "Because I am Hashem who did not change and you B'nei Ya'akov were not exterminated". In fact, "lo shonisi" (I did not change) can also be translated as "I repeated' the word lo". What the posuk will then be saying is "Because I Hashem, repeated the word "lo" ("I will not despise them and I will not spew them out ... "), therefore you, B'nei Ya'akov were not exterminated".

G-d made an oath, and it cannot be broken.


Double Standards

The Gro also uses this d'roshoh to explain a posuk in Yeshayah (54:9), where the Novi writes that just as G-d swore never again to destroy the world with a flood, so too, did He swear not to vent His anger against Klal Yisroel or to scold them. The connection between the flood and G-d's anger against Yisroel is not at first clear. Nor is it clear why the Novi Yeshayah finds it necessary to compare them.

With the above d'roshoh however, the comparison becomes clear. Because the oath never to destroy the world with a flood, like that of never destroying Klal Yisroel, was expressed in the form of a double-loshon: "And all flesh will not be exterminated and there will not be a flood to destroy the world". In fact, it is from here that the Gemoro in Shevu'os (36a) learns the principle that two consecutive "lo" constitutes an oath. The Novi compares the two because, in both cases, G-d promises not to destroy them, and both times, He employs the method of repeating "lo" in order to convey the message. "Lo me'astim ve'lo ge'altim le'chalosom", and "Ve'lo Yikores kol bosor, ve'lo yihyeh od mabul le'shacheis ho'oretz".


"These are the Mitzvos ..." (27:34)

This teaches us, says Rebbi Iyla in the Yerushalmi (Shabbos 13:3), that a mitzvah is only valid if it is performed according to its specifications; otherwise, one has not fulfilled one's obligation. Consequently, someone who steals matzah and eats it on the first night of Pesach, or who steals a lulav on Succos and then shakes it, will not have fulfilled his obligation (see Torah Temimah, 218).

This only applies when the mitzvah could not have been fulfilled without the sin, but not if the sin was incidental (for example, if someone tore k'riy'ah for a dead relative on Shabbos, where he could just as well have torn it on Sunday). In such a case, he has indeed fulfilled the mitzvah, as the Yerushalmi explains there.


The Torah Temimah points out that this principle appears to clash with the well-established principle of 'asei docheh lo sa'aseh', where for example, the mitzvah of tzitzis overrides the la'av of kil'ayim (the wearing of sha'atnez), even though the Torah's specifications are not being followed.

His kashya however, is most surprising. It seems to me that, wherever the asei overrides the lo sa'aseh, then it is indeed considered in keeping with the specifications of the mitzvah. And it is only when for whatever reason, the asei cannot override the lo sa'aseh, that it is called 'not in accordance with its specifications'. Consequently, a widow who falls to a Kohen Godol or a divorcee to a Kohen Hedyot may not perform Yibum, either because an asei cannot override a la'av plus an asei, or because of a specific posuk, as the Gemoro writes in Yevomos 20a. And the mitzvah of matzah and that of Succoh cannot override the la'av of stealing, because nowhere (outside the realm of life-danger) do we find the Torah permitting a la'av that is between man and man. Consequently, all these cases are considered not according to the Torah's specifications.



The Amidah
(Part III)

(Adapted from the Sidur Otzar ha'Tefilos)


The b'rochoh after the Shema deals largely with the redemption from Egypt. It concludes with the great praises that Klal Yisroel sang to Hashem (following the drowning of the Egyptians) to acknowledge the greatest set of miracles that were ever performed and the most remarkable salvation that ever took place. In the final paragraph ('Tzur Yisroel), we express the hope that just as Hashem redeemed us then, so too, He will redeem us now. And that is one of the reasons that Hashem is refered to here as 'Tzur Yisroel' - because, as the Pirkei de'Rebbi Elieizer explains, each of the double letters (chaf, mem, nun, pey and tzadei) represents one of the redemptions: the 'pey' stands for the redemption from Egypt (which is why at the end of Vayechi, Yosef said to his brothers "Pokod yifkod Hashem eschem"); and the tzadei, the final redemption (which is why the posuk writes in Z'chariyah "Tzemach shemo, u'mitachtov yitzmach"). So the Name 'Tzur Yisroel' is most appropriate (Eitz Yosef).


At the same time, to evoke Hashem's mercy, we mention Yisroel five times in the final paragraph, just like we find Yisroel mentioned five times in one posuk in Beha'aloscho (Bamidbor 8:19) - to demonstrate the extent of G-d's love for Yisroel that He mentions them five times in one posuk, corresponding to the five books of the Torah, as Rashi points out there. Here too, by mentioning Yisroel five times, we evoke that love, using it as a means to beseech G-d to redeem us from this final golus.

And we also make a point of asking G-d to redeem 'Yehudah and Yisroel' (i.e. the ten tribes). In spite of Rebbi Akiva, who maintains in Sanhedrin (110b) that the ten tribes will never return, we nevertheless pray to Hashem to return the captives of Yisroel together with those of Yehudah, because we know that He will fulfill His prophecy to Yirmiyah, that He will indeed return them both and reinstate them to their former glory (Yirmiyah 30:3 and 33:7) - Achris Sholom.


The Achris Sholom also remarks that, whereas in the evening (in the equivalent b'rochoh after the Shema) we refer to 'G-d redeeming Ya'akov', in the morning we ask Him to redeem Yisroel. And he ascribes this to the fact that, when Ya'akov established tefilas Ma'ariv, he was called Ya'akov, whereas it was in the morning (at the time that one davens Shachris) that he was initially informed that his name would be changed to Yisroel, as the Torah writes in Vayishlach (22:27/29) "Send me away for the dawn has broken ... but Yisroel will be your name".

Alternatively, we might say, the name Ya'akov (denoting the heel - lowliness) represents golus, which in turn, is often compared to night-time, and Yisroel (rulership), the redemption, which is compared to daytime, as the commentaries explain in the posuk in Mizmor Shir le'Yom ha'Shabbos "To tell of Your kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness at night-time". So we refer to Ya'akov at Ma'ariv, and to Yisroel at Shachris.


Geulah and Tefillah

Having discussed the significance of the conclusion of the b'rochoh following the Shema, particularly the aspect of redemption that forms its main theme, we can better understand the mitzvah of placing ge'ulah next to tefilah, which Rashi in B'rochos (4b) describes in the following manner: ' ... the redemption from Egypt took place in the morning (which is why everyone agrees that the two should be jutxtaposed in the morning, whereas it is a matter of opinion as to whether it is necessary to do so in the evening). And the Yerushalmi in B'rochos states that someone who does not juxtapose the redemption and tefilah can be compared to the King's good friend who arrives at the palace and knocks loudly at the door. But when the King opens the door, he sees his friend receding into the distance.

What one should do is to bring Hashem close by generating His goodwill. How does one do that? By praising Him (through the mention of the miracles that He performed when He redeemed us from Egypt). And once He is close, one grasps the opportunity and asks for one's needs, for, when all's said and done, each and every Jew is the King's friend..


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