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

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Vol. 15   No. 34

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Parshas Bechukosai

A Human Cherem
(Adapted from the Ramban)

The meaning of the Pasuk "Every Cherem that one declares from man, shall surely die" is vague, and the commentaries offer various interpretations (see that of the Seifer ha'Chinuch, in 'the Mitzvos', on page 4).


Rashi explains that if Reuven obligates himself to pay the Erech of Shimon, who has been sentenced to death and who is being led out to his execution, he is exempt from paying anything, because "he shall surely die" (and a man who has to die has no value whatsoever).


The Ramban cites the Gemara in Erchin, which explains that someone who has been sentenced to death must die, and cannot pay his way out (a concept which is found in certain cases of Chayvei Miysah bi'Yedei Shamayim). And one can assume that the Torah mentions it here, to teach us that (although he falls under the heading of 'Cherem' [incorporating both a person who has to die and an oath]), he cannot give money to Hashem in the way that one does with other charamim.

However, says the Ramban, the simple explanation is that if someone declares Cherem a person, an animal or a field that belongs to him, then it becomes Kodesh to Hashem and must be given to the Kohanim, and is not redeemable; if, on the other hand, he declares Cherem an independent person who does not belong to him, in the manner that Yisrael did, when they fought with the Cana'anim, as the Pasuk in Chukas (21:2) describes "If you will give this people into my hands, then I will destroy their cities", then they are obligated to kill every resident of the city in question. This is because it is obvious that the intention of the Noder is to destroy the enemy, and not merely to deprive himself of personal benefit from them.


We also find that when the men of Yavesh Gil'ad failed to follow the communal oath and gather together with the other tribes in Mitzpeh (to put into effect the Cherem to punish Binyamin, following the episode of Pilegesh ba'Giv'ah), they sent twenty-two thousand men to kill the men of Yavesh Gil'ad. And it is from our current Pasuk that Chazal derive the right of the King of Yisrael and of the Sanhedrin in the presence of the whole of Yisrael, to initiate such oaths, obligating the people to carry them out, and that whoever transgresses will himself be put to death.

Indeed this is the source of the punishment of the men of Yavesh Gil'ad, and of Yonasan, whom, at a later stage, Shaul sentenced to death for inadvertently eating on the day of the battle with the P'lishtim, for having contravened the Cherem that he had issued. And there is no other source for these harsh sentences other than the current Pasuk.


Unfortunately, says the Ramban, this same Pasuk was also the source of the terrible mistake made by one of the Shoftim. When, after defeating Midyan, following a Cherem that he had placed on the first one to leave his house, Yiftach returned home, his daughter was the first to emerge from the house to greet him. And he subsequently sacrificed her to Hashem. He did not realize that such a Cherem is confined to the enemies of Yisrael, or to those in Yisrael who have rebelled or who have transgressed the Charamim instituted by Beis-Din, as we explained, but not to innocent people who have done nothing wrong.


The Ramban cites the explanation of the I'bn Ezra, who claims that Yiftach did not err at all. In his opinion, Yiftach's vow was two-fold, depending on who would be the one to emerge first; If it was an animal, he would bring it on the Mizbei'ach as an Olah; but if it would be a person, then he/she would have to live a life of seclusion, to spend his days in prayer and thanksgiving to Hashem. And that is precisely what happened to his daughter, who lived the rest of her life in the mountains in solitude. A virgin until her death, she spent her days in prayer and thanksgiving. He categorically disagrees with the I'bn Ezra however, and for three reasons: 1. in that there is no such concept as 'living in solitude' in the Torah. If anything, a life of sanctity would have entailed serving in the House of Hashem (in the way that Shmuel would later do); 2. No person has any legal right to sentence another to a life of solitude, any more than he has to sacrifice him on the Mizbei'ach and 3. Yiftach's daughter and her friends who wept on her virginity (the latter, four times every year), would have done so without the least justification, seeing as she was serving Hashem in purity, which is a great thing to do (particularly bearing in mind that a woman has no obligation to get married and have children).

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

The Greatest Blessing

"And I will give your rains in their right time" (26:4).

The Torah makes a point of beginning the B'rachos with rain, says the Ramban, and for good reason.

When rain comes in the right time, he explains, it clears and cleans the air, fills the fountains and rivers, which, in turn, are a source of good health. It also causes the fruit to grow successfully, as the Pasuk continues "and the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will give their fruit". As a result, he explains, people will not become sick, and neither they nor their animals will lose their babies; moreover, they will live long lives, since a healthy body is a recipe for long life.

So you see how rain in its time is the greatest blessing!


Eating to Satisfaction - in Eretz Yisrael

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

The Gemara in Gitin (77) teaches that one should always eat one third less than one's capacity, so that, should one become angry, the anger will fill the rest of the space.

Another Gemara in Nedarim (22), commenting on the Pasuk in Ki-Savo "And Hashem will give you there 'an angry heart' ", explains that this is confined to Chutz la'Aretz when we are in Galus. In Eretz Yisrael during the era of the Beis-Hamikdash, one can safely eat one's fill without qualms.

Which is what the above Pasuk is hinting, says the Ma'ayanah shel Torah, citing the Ba'al Hafla'ah - "And you shall eat your bread to satisfaction, because you will dwell in safety in your land" (and there will be nothing to arouse your anger).


Let Them Eat Grass

"And I will remove wild beasts from the land" (26:6).

R. Yehudah & R. Shimon in the Medrash dispute the meaning of this Pasuk. According to the former, it means literally that G-d will prevent wild animals from entering inhabited areas, as is generally the case when there is plenty to eat and the cities are inhabited, which will be the case when Yisrael keep Torah and Mitzvos.

Whereas according to the latter, what the Pasuk means is that the situation in the time of Mashi'ach (about which the current Parshah is speaking) will revert to what it was in Gan Eden before Adam sinned, where the entire animal world lived at peace with man, as Chazal have said 'It is not the wild donkey that kills, but sin'. For so the Navi says (in Yeshayah 11:6/7) " a lion-whelp and a fat sheep will walk together, and a young child will lead them. A suckling will play by a viper's hole and a newly-weaned child will stretch his hand towards an adder's lair".

It was only following the sin of Adam ha'Rishon that wild animals turned into beasts of prey. Prior to that, they were destined to eat vegetation, as is evident from the Pasuk in Bereishis (1:30).

Once Mashi'ach arrives, peace will reign in the entire world, and the animals will regain the natural tendency to eat vegetation as they did when they were created. And this is the explanation that the Ramban prefers.


Either Or

" O oz yikana levovom he'oreil " (26:41).

Commenting on the word "o", Rashi explains the Pasuk in one of two ways; either "because then their uncircumcised heart will be humbled" or as 'perhaps then their uncircumcised heart will be humbled".

The Ramban however, disagrees. He prefers to translate the word "o" as 'either', in its usual sense. And what the Pasuk is therefore saying is that Yisrael will be in exile either until they become humble and do Teshuvah, or until their sins have become appeased in the course of the lengthy Galus.


This explanation conforms with the Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a), who, commenting on the Pasuk in Yeshayah (60:22) "I am Hashem, in its time I will hasten it", explain that should Yisrael merit it (by doing Teshuvah) Hashem will hasten the coming of Mashi'ach; but if not, then He will bring it in its time.

Indeed, the commentaries apply this distinction to resolve a contradiction in the Rambam, who cites both of the two conflicting opinions cited in Shabbos 63a. In Hilchos Teshuvah, he rules like R. Chiya bar Aba, who holds that all the good promised to Yisrael by the prophets refers to the days of Mashi'ach, whereas in Hilchos Melachim, he cites the opinion of Shmuel, who maintains that, when Mashi'ach comes, apart from Yisrael's freedom, life will continue unchanged from what it is was before (see Kesef Mishnah, Hilchos Teshuvah 8:7), and that 'all the good ' refers to the period following Techi'as ha'Meisim.

In answer to the question, they therefore explain that the Rambam, not knowing whether Mashi'ach will come on account of our Teshuvah or because the time will have expired, takes both possibilities into consideration. He adopts the former in Hilchos Teshuvah, and the latter, in Hilchos Melachim.


The Galus Continues

"And the land will be bereft of them, and it will be appeased for its Sh'mitah-years" (26:47).

The fact that the Torah reverts to an era of Galus after having begun to speak about the redemption, is a hint, says the Ramban, to the historical fact, that after the initial return to Eretz Yisrael at the hand of the Persian king, Koresh, all work on the construction of the Beis-Hamikdash was stopped for another nineteen years, until the completion of the seventy-year period, until the seventy Sh'mitos that they had desecrated up to the time of the destruction of the first Beis-Hamikdash had been atoned, and they sanctified Yerushalayim with two thanks-offerings. Only then did the Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael return.


The Parshah of Nodrei Hekdesh

"And Hashem spoke to Moshe A man who expresses a vow regarding the evaluation of people to G-d" (27:1/2).

This Parshah, says the Ramban, really belongs to that of Behar, seeing as it too, connected with the laws of the Yovel, as we shall see with regard to somebody who declares Hekdesh a field that he purchases and one that he inherits. Only the Torah chose to place all the Dinim to do with Nodrei Hekdesh together in one Parshah (though it is not clear then, as to why the it divided in between with the Tochachah).

And this also explains why the Parshah concludes "These are the Mitzvos which G-d commanded Moshe at Har Sinai, pertaining to all that was written until this stage; because from now on, the Torah will record the Mitzvos that were said in the Ohel Mo'ed.

* * *


"And I will give peace in the land of Yisrael and I will withdraw permission from the wild animals to cause harm, and swordsmen will not pass through your land" (26:6).


" I will remember with mercy the covenant that I made with Ya'akov in Beis-Eil, and also the covenant that I made with Yitzchak on Har Hamoriyah, and also the covenant that I made with Avraham between the pieces I will remember, and the land of Yisrael I will remember with mercy" (26:42).


"And the land will be forsaken and abandoned from them, and it will be appeased for all the Sh'mitos, for the duration of all the days that it will be empty from them, and they will be cleansed for their sins, curses instead of blessings will fall on them, measure for measure, for having rejected the laws of My judgements and for distancing themselves from the precepts of My Torah" (26:43).


"Yet in spite of all this, I will have mercy on them with My word, when they are exiled to the lands of their enemies; I will not reject them in the Kingdom of Bavel, My word will not distance them in the Kingdom of Medes, to destroy them in the Kingdom of Greece, to break My covenant with them in the Kingdom of Edom, because I will be Hashem their G-d in the days of Gog" (26:44).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 357:
Chermei Kohanim

It is a Mitzvah to judge the Dinim of Charamim; In other words, to ensure that any object that somebody has declared 'Cherem' is given to a Kohen, as the Torah writes in Bechukosai (27:28) "But any Cherem that a man declares to Hashem shall not be sold or redeemed ", and as the Gemara in Erchin (28b) explains, it is only if the owner specifically states that the Cherem should go to Hashem that it is given to Bedek ha'Bayis (the Temple treasury); 'Stam (unspecified) Charamim' go to the Kohanim, as the Pasuk says there (Pasuk 21) " like a field of Cherem, his ancestral heritage shall become the Kohen's".

A reason for the Mitzvah is because Yisrael is the nation that Hashem chose from all the nations to serve Him and to acknowledge His Name. To that end they are not placed under the jurisdiction of the constellations, which G-d gave to the portion of all the other nations. But they are directly under the jurisdiction of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu without an intermediary in the form of an angel or a constellation. As the Pasuk writes in Ha'azinu (32:9) "For Hashem's portion is His people, Ya'akov is the lot of His inheritance". And like we find at the Exodus from Egypt, which was a miracle that encompassed the entire nation, where G-d in His Glory personally took them out from there; for so Chazal extrapolate from the Pasuk "And I will pass in the land of Egypt" - "I", and not an angel, "and I will smite all the firstborn", "I", and not a fiery angel (as we recite in the Haggadah). And this is why whenever Yisrael observe the laws of His Torah and serve Him faithfully, only good rests with them and an abundance of blessing, and they are supported by a spirit of goodwill and purity; whereas one of curse and destruction will afflict their enemies and those who hate them. And that explains why, when in the event that in his frustration, a Yisrael utters a curse or a ban on his money or his property, which rest under the aegis of blessing, the Pasuk teaches us that it is impossible to remove it from the realm of blessing to another domain. This is because, based on the principle that whatever belongs to a slave belongs to his master, anything that belongs to Yisrael, who are the lot of Hashem, belongs automatically to Hashem. Nevertheless, when we see that it is the intention of the machrim (the owner who declared the Cherem) to take his property out of his domain, it is befitting to fulfill his wish and to return it to the domain of his Master in the form of Hekdesh.

And when the Torah writes (in Pasuk 28) "Any Cherem that is banned from a man shall not be redeemed, he shall surely die", what it means is that if a Yisrael declares Cherem a person, who is not his personal property, such as in case of war, when Yisrael declares that "if Hashem delivers the enemy into their hands, they will destroy their cities" (Chukas 21:2), then they must die. This is because since the other nations are not part of the fountain of blessing of which we spoke earlier, the expression of Cherem takes effect on them and must be put into practice. The Rambam too explains the Pasuk in this way, and even though the Medrash offers many interpretations, there are seventy ways of explaining the Torah, and each one is correct. And it is on account of the above explanation that the Gemara in Erchin (28a) precludes both the land and movable objects belonging to the Levi'im from the Din of Cherem. So even if a Kohen or a Levi declares his field a Cherem, his declaration is ineffective, since he already resides in the house of his Master, a place of blessing , kindness and good, and whatever he owns belongs to Hashem, and in the location of B'rachah, there is no place for a Cherem.

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