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

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Vol. 16   No. 33

This issue is sponsored jointly
with wishes for a Refu'ah Sh'leimah
for all those who need it
by Family Saperstein n"y
li"n Yuta Mirtza bas Dovid z"l (11 Sivan)
Yehuda Zev ben Yisrael z"l (25 Sivan)

Parshas Beha'aloscha

The Seventy-one Elders
(Ada'pted from Rabeinu Bachye)

"Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Yisrael " (11:16).

The significance of the number seventy, says the Chizkuni, is that it corresponds to the seventy souls that accompanied Ya'akov Avinu down to Egypt, to the seventy elders who stood at Har Sinai and whom they were now coming to re-place (as we shall see shortly) and to the seventy families listed in Parshas Pinchas. And, as the Ba'al ha'Turim adds - the seventy nations, and the seventy Names of Hashem and of Yisrael (both of which he lists in full).


Rabeinu Bachye comments that although the expression "Gather for Me " conveys the impression that choosing seventy elders was a new phenomenon that was taking place here for the first time, nothing could be further from the truth! From the very moment that the seventy members of Ya'akov's family entered Egypt together with Ya'akov, and their offspring began to multiply, they appointed seventy elders to lead them and to teach them statutes and righteous judgements (see also Rashi). For among the descendants of Ya'akov, were great sages who had received their tradition from the Avos and who understood the significance of the seventy souls that came down to Egypt. And when, in Parshas Sh'mos, G-d told Moshe to gather the elders of Yisrael, He was referring to those seventy elders.

Indeed, it was the seventy elders who willingly suffered at the hands of the task-masters to save the people under their jurisdiction from being whipped, as Rashi explains. And they were the ones who accompanied Moshe, Aharon, Nadav and Avihu on Har Sinai, as the Torah records in Yisro (24:9).

But those elders had died at Tav'eirah, and it was they whom Moshe was now about to replace. And when G-d told Moshe "whom you know that they were the elders of the people and its officers", He meant that they too, like their predecessors, should be chosen from among the officers who had been beaten in Egypt, to protect the people.


From the day that Yisrael arrived in Egypt, R. Bachye stresses, there was never a time that they did not have a Beis-Din ha'Gadol consisting of seventy judges, not in Egypt, not in the desert, not during the era of the first Beis-Hamikdash and not during the era of the second. In fact, he adds, the Beis-Din ha'Gadol numbered, not seventy, but, with Moshe as their head, seventy-one, in the same way as the seventy angels that represent the seventy nations, are led by Hashem. Indeed, the seventy people that came down to Egypt too, with Ya'akov at their head, numbered seventy-one. And the Beis-Din that sat in the Beis-Hamikdash too (otherwise known as the Sanhedrin), comprised seventy elders, plus the Nasi, making a total of seventy-one elders.


The Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer, commenting on the Pasuk in connection with the Generation of the Tower, describes how, already then, G-d mobilized the seventy angels that surrounded His Throne of Glory and said to them "Come let us confuse their language". This refers, says the Medrash, to Hakadosh Baruch Hu's Beis-Din. And it adds that whenever the Torah uses the word "va'Hashem" (with a 'Vav') it is always with reference to Hashem and His Beis-Din. R. Bachye adds that when the Torah writes in connection with Yisrael's arrival in Egypt, "a man and his family came", "the man" pertains to Ya'akov, and it corresponds to 'He and His Beis-Din'.


And to highlight the significance of the number seventy-one, he points out that, not only is the Gematriyah of the Name of Hashem (26), plus the Name written out in full 'Yud (Yud Vav Daled), Hey (Hey Alef), Vav (Vav Alef Vav), Hey' (Hey Alef) - (forty-five) add up to seventy-one, but so is the Gematriyah of the Name of Adnus (with a 'Vav' in the middle, denoting Hashem's Beis-Din). And this is the way the Name of Adnus is spelt in Amos 7:7). Interestingly, in the Pasuk there "And behold Hashem is standing on a wall that is built with a plumb-line ", the word 'onoch' (plumb-line), denoting Midas ha'Din, also equals seventy-one (see foot-notes).

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Lighting Up for Hashem

"When you kindle the lamps " (8:2).

R. Bachye, citing the Medrash, points out that G-d does not really need our light. After all, He created light out of darkness, so darkness is not a deterrent to Him. What's more, says the Medrash, man's eyes contain white and they contain black, yet it is not with the white that he sees, but with the black. And where does lightning come from - if not from the celestial fire from which the Holy Chayos are formed, that comes down and illuminates the entire sky!

And see what David ha'Melech writes about G-d in Tehilim (139:12). "Also darkness does not obscure from You; night shines like day, and darkness is the same as light".

Then why did He command us to kindle the Menorah, asks the Medrash? It is in order to raise our esteem in the eyes of the nations of the world, by the fact that we light up Hashem's House in His honour, just as He lit up for us in the Desert with the Pillar of Fire.

In the introduction, R. Bachye cites the reason given by the Rambam - that even though G-d is all light and does not need us to illuminate for Him, the Menorah was in honour of the Mishkan and the Mikdash in which G-d rested His Shechinah.


Kohen Levi Yisrael

"Take the Levi'im from the midst of the B'nei Yisrael" (8:6).

Why does the Torah juxtapose the Parshah of the Levi'im next to that of the Menorah, asks R. Bachye?

Simple, he answers. The Menorah was a Mitzvah incumbent upon the Kohanim, as we saw earlier; So it follows with the Mitzvah of inaugurating the Levi'im into the Avodah.

And that in turn, is followed by the Mitzvah of the Korban Pesach, a Mitzvah that was incumbent upon Yisrael (all three one may add, in connection with the Avodah in the Mishkan, which is the central theme of the current Parshiyos). So we see how carefully the Torah arranges its Parshiyos - Kohen, followed by Levi, followed by Yisrael.


Land, Sea & Desert

"And it was when the Aron traveled " (10:11\12).

The Gemara in Shabbos (115b-116a) points out that the two Pesukim of "Vayehi bi'neso'a Moshe" (10:35/36, which some consider a Seifer in its own right) do not really belong there. Not only are they intrinsically out of place (their rightful location is fifty paragraphs earlier), but they also interrupt the narrative, a strange thing to do in itself. And the Gemara gives a number of homiletical explanations to solve the problem.

R. Bachye offers the following explanation. He explains how Yisrael had just left Har Sinai, which was still close to inhabited territory, and had already traveled for three days into the large and frightening Desert of Sinai. Petrified of what life in such an arid, unfriendly terrain had in store for them, they began to grumble about their situation.


Before proceeding to answer the above question, he explains how the world is divided into three major sections, 'sea, desert and land'. And he goes on to point out how Yisrael experienced miracles in all three areas. They had just witnessed the miracles at the Yam-Suf; they were now about to enter the Sinai Desert, where they would miraculously survive for thirty -eight years (and which he goes on to discuss), and following that, they were destined to live through the numerous miracles that occurred during the conquest of Cana'an.


A person who traverses the desert sees awe-inspiring views incorporating tall mountains and hard rocks that give the impression that they have grown from the ground, and have been part of the awesome terrain forever. This reinforces the theory of evolution, and explains the Torah's decision to insert the Parshah of the Aron of Testimony here, and to add the words "Arise Hashem, and let Your enemies scatter from before you". Yes, the very mention of the Aron that attested to miracles of its own, plus the routing of Yisrael's enemies for which it was responsible, would serve as a reminder that G-d not only created the world, but also supervises it. It would drive out any notion that the world evolved and ran itself that the mighty Desert might otherwise convey.


And the Mishnah in B'rachos teaches us that Chazal instituted the B'rachah 'Oseh Ma'aseh Bereishis' over seeing mountains, hills and deserts, says the author, to impress upon us that even though one gathers the impression that their existence is eternal and that they were there since time immemorial, the truth is that they were created out of nothing together with every other creation that came into being when G-d created the world. Consequently, anybody who recites this B'rachah is in fact giving testimony that Hashem created the world, and that it did not simply evolve.


Chovav ben Re'uel

"And Moshe said to Chovav the son of Re'uel " (10:29).

Citing the Ramban, R. Bachye explains that Chovav was the new name that they gave Yisro when he converted. Re'uel, he explains, was his father. It transpires that Chovav was Tziporah (Moshe's wife)'s father, whereas Re'uel was her grandfather. Like Rashi here, he explains that when the Pasuk in Sh'mos refers to the daughters of Yisro coming to Re'uel their father, it really means 'their grandfather' and it is the way of people to refer to their grandfather as father, as we find by Ya'akov (who spoke about to "the G-d of my father Avraham" (Bereishis 32:10) and by others.

Rashi too, writes this here, and he cites this as an alternative at the beginning of Parshas Yisro. The question is how Rashi will reconcile his basic explanation there (that Yisro had seven names [including Re'uel) with the Pasuk here, which specifically lists Re'uel as the father of Chovav - alias Yisro). And the Kashya is perhaps even more blatant on R. Bachye, who cites the same Medrash here?

In one of his explanations, the Riva in Parshas Yisro finds no problem with Rashi however. According to him, Re'uel named his son after himself, in which case, Reu'el was at one and the same time, Yisro's father and Yisro.


Why Yisro Changed his Mind

"And he said to him 'I will not go! Only to my land and to my family shall I go" (10:30).

If this was Yisro's reaction to Moshe's request to accompany them on their journey to Eretz Yisrael, it is not at first clear why Moshe repeated the request, nor why Yisro accepted, as the Ramban extrapolates from the fact that it was Moshe who had the last word.

R. Bachye quoting the Ramban, explains that Yisro initially understood that Moshe's incentive to do good to him comprised a share in the booty of the spoils that they would take over from the Cana'anim - silver, gold, sheep and cattle. But this did not interest him at all. At home in Midyan, he told Moshe, he owned property and was greatly honoured; something which additional wealth could not compensate.

So Moshe added that not only would he receive a share in the spoil, to pay for his services as guide to help them conquer Cana'an, but that they would give him a share in "all the good that G-d would bestow upon them", including a portion of land, to compensate him for the trouble of leaving his homeland and in payment for his assistance. That was when he acquiesced to Moshe's request.

* * *


"And a storm-wind went out and blew with anger from before G-d; It would have destroyed the world, had it not been for the merit of Moshe and Aharon; (Instead) it 'went' to the great sea (the Mediterranean?) and blew from there quails and deposited them near the camp, one day to the north and one day to the south, they hovered at a height of two Amos from the ground. And the people walked among them up to their navels, so that they should not become tired as they gathered them' (11:31).


'And those among the people who were lacking in Emunah arose the whole of that day, the following night and the following day and they gathered the quails; the blind and the lame gathered ten piles, which they proceeded to spread around the camp' (11:32).


'The Resha'im were eating the meat, without having made a B'rachah to the One who gave it to them. The meat was still between their teeth, they had not yet finished eating it, when G-d's anger came down strongly against the people, and He killed many of them' (11:33).


'And Miriam and Aharon spoke about Moshe words that were not appropriate, concerning the black woman that he had married, whom the people of Kush had given him when he fled from Par'oh; but he was not intimate with her' (12:1).


'And they said "Did G-d speak with Moshe, telling him to desist from intimacy? Did he not speak also with us? ' (12:2).


'And the man Moshe was more humble in spirit than all other human-beings , so he took no notice ' (12:3).


'I beseech you, Don't let Miriam our sister be a Tamei Metzora in the tent like a corpse, compared to a fetus that remains for nine months in its mother's womb, and then, when the time arrives for it to go out into the world, half of its flesh gets eaten up, even as its mother sits on the birth-stool, and it dies, and the midwife extracts it cut in pieces. So too, when we were in the Land of Egypt, Miriam our sister saw us in exile, wandering around and enslaved; and now, when the time arrives for to go and inherit the Eretz Yisrael, she is suddenly taken away from us! Please my master, pray now for her, and let us not remove the merit from the congregation' (12:12).


'And Hashem said to Moshe "However, it will suffice for her to be expelled from the Camp for seven days; And I will hold back My Clouds of Glory, the Mishkan, the Aron and all of Yisrael until she is healed " (12:14).

'Even though Miriam deserved to be stricken with Tzara'as in this world, there is a great reward in the World to Come for Tzadikim and those who observe the laws of the Torah. For, because Miriam waited for only a short while to discover what would ultimately happen to Moshe - on that merit all of Yisrael, six hundred thousand people (the equivalent of eighty legions), plus the Clouds of Glory, as well as the Mishkan and the Well (of Miriam) did not move and did not travel until Miriam ha'Nevi'ah was healed.

* * *

(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 411:
A Witness who Testifies in Matters Involving the Death-Sentence May not then Judge Them

Someone who is a witness in an issue involving the death-penalty is not permitted to play any role in its ruling other than the testimony that he presents, irrespective of how wise or learned he is. This is because a witness cannot become a judge in these matters, as the Torah writes in Mas'ei (35:30) "and one witness shall not testify against a person in matters of death". The Rambam z.l. writes 'This La'av is repeated, as it is written in Shoftim (17:6) "He shall not die through one witness", meaning that he may not be sentenced to death through the ruling of the erstwhile witness. The Gemara says in Sanhedrin (33b) that a witness shall not judge against a person to die, irrespective of whether it is to judge him innocent or to judge him guilty; and the Chachamim explain that this is because it looks as if he (the witness) is biased by his testimony, It is only in matters concerning the death-penalty that this Halachah (forbidding the witness to make a statement in his favour or that implicates him), applies, just as the author explained.

The reason for this Mitzvah the author already discussed in the previous Mitzvah (That Beis-Din should send a person guilty of manslaughter to a city of refuge).

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah If a witness who has testified in Dinei Nefashos, then claims that he has something to say in the defendant's favour, we silence him. As we explained, we do not accept from him any statement concerning the ruling of the case, seeing as he is a witness. But with regard to money matters, a witness is permitted to make a statement either in the defendant's favour or that implicates him, though he is not permitted to be appointed among the judges, because 'a witness cannot become a judge', even in money-matters. That prohibition however, is confined to cases that require witnesses min ha'Torah, but not if it is only mi'de'Rabbanan. And this explains why a witness on a document is eligible to substantiate it, seeing as we rule that 'Kiyum Sh'taros (the substantiation of documents) is only mi'de'Rabbanan', and that min ha'Torah 'Once witnesses have signed a document, it is as if their testimony has been examined in Beis-Din' and the remaining details are discussed in Sanhedrin and in Makos (and in the Rambam, Hilchos Eidus, Perek 5).

This Mitzvah applies exclusively to men in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash, when the Sanhedrin sat in its place (in the Lishkas ha'Gozis), because that is when they have the authority to practice the death-sentence, and that is when witnesses are required for that purpose. A witness who testifies and then makes a comment regarding the Din of the defendant, either in his favour or to incriminate him, has contravened this Halachah. He does not however, receive Malkos, since he did not perform an act (it is a La'av she'ein bo ma'aseh). The Ramban interprets the Pasuk "he shall not die through the testimony of one witness (that we cited earlier) as a separate La'av, against accepting single witnesses in cases involving the death-sentence, such as where two witnesses saw the act from two different windows that were placed sufficiently far apart that the witnesses could not see each other, though they were able to see the defendant, as is explained in the first Perek of Makos).

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