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

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Vol. 12   No. 35

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Parshas Bechukosai

(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

Rashi interprets the Pasuk (26:12) "And I will walk among you" with reference, not to this world, but to the reward in Gan Eden. The K'li Yakar explains that Rashi is answering the Kashya that is asked by many commentaries - why the Torah confines the reward for Mitzvos to this world, to the exclusion of any mention of reward in the World to Come. It seems, they say, that for some reason, the performing of Mitzvos does not have the power to grant reward in Olam ha'Ba, and that the ultimate reward is a blissful life in Olam ha'Zeh. Rashi, beset with the same problem, solves it by interpreting the Pasuk under discussion with regard to Olam ha'Ba. Exactly what the Pasuk means may not be clear, but nobody can say that the Torah fails to mention Olam ha'Ba, because it does!


The K'li Yakar goes on to list the seven answers given by the other commentaries.

1. ... All the things mentioned in this Parshah, both good and bad, are not intrinsic rewards and punishments. They are simply barriers that prevent a person from serving G-d in the latter case, or the removal of those barriers, that enable him to serve Him without hindrance, in the former. In other words, if someone (or a community) performs Torah and Mitzvos in an exemplary manner, then G-d for His part, will remove all obstacles - wars, ailments, hunger and grief, to enable him to progress spiritually, unimpeded.

The ultimate reward however, is reserved for Olam ha'Ba, which the Torah deliberately omits to mention, says the Rambam, to encourage us to serve G-d le'Shem Shamayim, and not for the sake of the reward or out of fear of the punishment (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 32:39).

2. ... The Torah was given, after all, not just to an elite few, but to all Jews. That being the case, it must be given in a way that everyone can comprehend. Now Olam ha'Ba is a concept that is so spiritually profound, that not one in a thousand can understand it. In other words, there would have been little point in trying to convey a spiritual reward to physical people. So the Torah opted to refer instead, to the reward in this world, which may be no more than a small fraction of the true reward that awaits us, but at least it is something we can relate to (I'bn Ezra, Parshas Ha'azinu).

3. ... The Torah always chooses to convey the supernatural phenomena, those that are not obvious. For example, it is not natural for rain to fall when we perform our good deeds, or for it to be withheld when we do not. So the Torah records this unnatural phenomenon. It is however, natural for a Neshamah to return to its celestial 'birthplace' after death, so the Torah prefers to inform us that it will be cut-off, should it forfeit its right to do so. It is self-understood that, in the event that it does not sin, it will return to the place from which it originally came, and it would be superfluous to mention it. It is not necessary to mention it (Chovas ha'Levavos cited by the I'bn Ezra and with whom the Ramban concurs).

4. ... In biblical times, the entire world denied the concept of Divine Supervision, claiming that everything that occurred in this world was preordained, and could not be changed. And it was in order to counter this theory that G-d promised visible and tangible rewards for those who fulfill His wishes, in order to consolidate His position as Master of the world. He would not have achieved this purpose had He spoken of reward in Olam ha'Ba, as this would not have proved anything (Kuzari, Ma'amar one 104-105).

5. ... Before the Torah was given, the people worshipped idols, indulging in specific methods of worship in order to draw a blessing on the produce and to bring rain in the right season, as well as success in other areas of material well-being. When G-d gave them the Torah, forbidding them to continue these practices, He found it necessary to balance this by assuring them that they could achieve the same results if they worshipped Him faithfully. The same need did not exist to promise them reward in Olam ha'Ba, since that is not something which the idols promised them, and it did not therefore need to be balanced (Rav Sa'adya Gaon in Seifer ha'Emunos and Moreh Nevuchim).

6. ... If the Torah promises that G-d will walk in our midst and place His Shechinah among us even in this world whilst the Neshamah is still bound with the physical body, then how much more so will this be the case in Olam ha'Ba, after it has separated from the body. We see that what all the false religions promise after death, the Torah promises already in our lifetime. And the best proof for this lies in prophesy (The Chaver to the Kuzari, at the end of Ma'amar 1, supported by Rabeinu Nisim).

7. ... All the rewards mentioned in the Torah pertain to the community at large (and not to the individual), for the world is judged after the majority. Consequently, the rain, the produce and peace of which the Torah speaks here, as well as the other rewards mentioned here and elsewhere, are said with reference to K'lal Yisrael as a whole. Olam ha'Ba on the other hand, applies to the individual exclusively (because there is no such thing as a community going to Olam ha'Ba), who is judged according to his own merit. And that too, is hinted in the promise of long life that the Torah prescribes by the Mitzvos of Kibud Av va'Eim and Shilu'ach ha'Kein, as the Gemara explains in Kidushin (39b [Seifer ha'Ikrim and Ramban, Devarim 11:13]).


The first and the seventh explanations, incidentally, also conform with the opinion of Rebbi Ya'akov (like whom the Rambam specifically rules), who holds that 'there is no reward for Mitzvos in this world, only in the World to Come'.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

To Keep Growing

"If you will go in My statutes (or ways of life) ... " (26:3).

The stress here, says the Chidushei ha'Rim, is on the word 'go'. It is well-known that the difference between a Jew and an angel lies in the fact that whereas the latter is referred to as an 'Omed' (one who is static in his Avodah), the former is called a 'Holech', one who constantly moves forward in his Avodah. The secret of success lies in constant growth. As long as we keep growing, the entire world will work on our behalf, as the Chizkuni (who does not explain the opening Pasuk like the Chidushei ha'Rim), writes ...

... 'If you will do what I have ordered you to do, then the clouds, the land and the trees, which were created to serve you, will do what I have ordered them to do.'


Toiling in Torah


If you will toil in Torah, the Sifra explains.

This is not necessarily confined to the actual study of Torah, but extends to conducting one's life (in whichever area of endeavor one is busy) according to the Torah's teachings, the Rashbaz explains. When you indulge in business, then do it in a way that does not involve stealing from your friend or cheating him. When you are busy plowing and reaping your harvest, steer clear of Kil'ayim and make sure to leave Pe'ah. That is what the Sifra means when it says 'Ameilim ba'Torah'.


Going in the Wrong Direction

"And I will send your rains in their right time" (ibid).

Why does the Torah speak about the reward in this world, and not in the World to Come (see main article)?

Once on a bitterly cold night, a merchant entered the room of the Rebbi Michel mi'Zlotchov. The merchant, who was shivering from cold, found the Rebbi sitting in a warm room learning Zohar. 'Will the Rebbi inherit Olam ha'Ba?', he asked him. 'Most certainly!' came the reply. 'If Olam ha'Zeh, which I have not worked for, I nevertheless receive, then how much more so Olam ha'Ba, for which I have.'

'But as for you', he continued, 'the reverse seems to be true'. If even this world, which you work so hard to obtain, you do not have, then how much more Olam ha'Ba, for which you do not!'

And that is the answer to the question that we asked, explains the R'vid ha'Zahav. If we toil in Torah, yet we receive such a great material reward, (which we did not work for), then we can be certain that we will be rewarded in Olam ha'Ba, (which we did).


Staying Put

" ... you will eat your bread to satisfaction, and you will dwell safely in your land" (26:5).

There will be sufficient food in your land, the K'sav ve'Hakabalah explains, so that you will not need to travel overseas searching for a livelihood.


Peace at Home

"And I will give peace in the land" (26:6).

The commentaries explain that, having already written " ... and you will dwell safely in your land", what the Torah must mean here is that you will enjoy peace among yourselves.


On Their Own Merit

" .... And I will establish My covenant with you" (26:9).

'Up to now', says Hashem, 'I was good to you for the sake of the covenant that I made with your fathers. Now that you have undertaken to observe Torah and Mitzvos, this will no longer be necessary, because I will establish My covenant with you - for your own sakes'.


Why is No-one Chasing Us?

"And you will flee, but nobody will be chasing you" (26:17).

What sort of a curse is this, asks Rebbi Heschel? Would it be better if there was someone chasing us?

The answer is that it would. Because of the Pasuk in Koheles " ... G-d seeks (to assist) the one who is being chased".

Being chased, it appears, evokes the Divine mercy. But not when one is running away from one's own shadow.

The simple explanation is of course, that Yisrael will be so paranoid, that they will run away even when there is nothing to run away from. And that is a curse in itself!


The Covenant of the Fathers

"And I will remember My covenant with Ya'akov ... " (26:42)

The Meshech Chochmah explains B'ris Avos in the following way. A person who does good with someone else, has in mind that whatever he does should be permanent. He wants those favours to be lasting, so that his kindness should not be in vain. By the same token, it is natural for someone who is kind to the fathers to be kind to the children, because he wants the bond that he created to last; he wants to see his efforts bear fruit.

G-d too, remembers the covenant that he made with the Avos, and in order that this bond should not be in vain, He will extend the covenant to their children.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 337:
Not to Cheat in Business (cont.)

When we said that the difference of more than a sixth invalidates the sale, that is specifically if the one who has been cheated comes to retract. But if the cheat now wants to retract because the price of the goods that he sold has risen and he hopes to obtain a better price for them, we ignore his request, and the other man may counter that, since, had he not cheated, he would not have had the right to retract, why should he be rewarded for having cheated?

For this is the opinion of Rav Chisda in Bava Basra (83a), and this is how the Rif rules, adding that the person who has been cheated can argue that if it was because of the discrepancy in price that the cheat now wishes to retract, he is 'Mochel' (foregoes) the difference, since it is after all, he who stands to lose on account of it. And this is what the Mishnah there (5:6) means when it says 'If they were sold as good, and are found to be bad, then the purchaser (exclusively) may retract, whereas if they were sold as bad and turn out to be good, then it is the seller who may retract ... They also said that the right to retract or to negate the sale, is not permanent. It has a time limit, based on the time that similar transactions are normally concluded. Consequently, neither is the time uniform in all cases, nor is it the same for the seller as it is for the purchaser. If the discrepancy involves coins, then, in town, the one who has been cheated has the time it would take a banker to check them; whereas in a village (where there are no bankers), then he has until market-day, when the villagers tend to go to market (to have the coins checked there). Should the discrepancy concern other goods, then he has the time it would take him to show the goods to an expert or to a knowledgeable relative, to have their true value assessed. In any event, the time in question is determined by the Dayanim, for it is impossible to quote a fixed time limit in these matters. To explain the above distinction between coins and other goods, Rava explains in Bava Metzi'a (52b) that everyone knows how to assess a cloak, but to assess a Sela requires a banker. Once the time limit elapses and the purchaser has not yet retracted, even if the discrepancy totals more than a sixth, he is no longer able to retract. Nevertheless, Chazal have said that it is Midas Chasidus (morally correct) to accept his retraction even after that.

These time-limits however, are restricted to the purchaser, who is holding the object that he now wants to return. The seller, on the other hand, can always retract, since he does not have the object, and is therefore unable to have it assessed.

The Din of Ona'ah is confined to someone who buys from a merchant. If he buys from a private person, neither the Din of Ona'ah (regarding a sixth) nor that of negating the sale (regarding more than a sixth) apply, not within the time limit and not beyond it. The entire Parshah is only said in respect of merchants, for the good of the general public and development of the land, whereas it is natural for Ba'alei-Batim to sell their personal articles at more than cost price, and the buyers accept this.

The following are not subject to the Din of Ona'ah (even though the prohibition pertains to them too), irrespective of who is involved, and even if the seller charges double the market price - land and slaves, documents and Hekdesh. For so we learned in a B'raisa "And when you sell ... or purchase from the hand of your friend" - something that one acquires from hand to hand (to preclude land), slaves (which are compared to land), documents (which are not included in 'sale', as they do not have an intrinsic value [since their value is purely testimonial]. However, documents that one sells to a perfumer, who buys them for the paper, are subject to Ona'ah, even though they are only worth a few P'rutos). And it comes to preclude Hekdesh, which does not fall under the title of 'your friend'.

You should know, says the Chinuch, that all matters regarding Ona'ah concern the value of the object, if for example, it was worth six and the purchaser is offering five, or it is worth five, and the seller is selling it for six. But if someone is cheated regarding its measurements (the length, the breadth or the thickness of the article), the weight or the number, then the sale is invalid, irrespective of how little is involved, as Rava says in Kidushin (42b).

To avoid any dilemma, the seller can simply inform the purchaser at the time of the sale, that he is aware of the possibility of there being Ona'ah, and that if he wants to purchase it, he must forego any Ona'ah that there might be (since, unlike Ribis, one can forego Ona'ah). Otherwise, he will have to buy the object elsewhere. Should the article then turn out be worth less than he paid for it, the seller will have no monetary claim and not even any verbal complaints against him. The other details are to be found in Choshen Mishpat (Si'man 227). (cont.)

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