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

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Vol. 6 No. 32

Parshas Beha'aloscho

(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"The light of the tzadikim will rejoice, and the lamp of the resho'im will flicker" (Mishlei 13:9). Shlomoh ha'Melech compares the soul of a tzadik to a light, because the soul is indeed a spiritual light that is taken from the Throne of Glory. That light is self-generating, it does not come from an external source and does not depend on anything else for its existence. Whereas the soul of the rosho, he compares to a lamp, whose light is not intrinsic, but which depends on other forces fot its continuity - on the oil and on the wick, for no sooner do they terminate than the lamp begins to flicker. So too, does the soul of the rosho depend on the existence of his body for its continued existence, for the joy of his soul is not really its own, but is linked to that of the body; consequently, it is destroyed when the body is destroyed. By destruction, we mean that the soul will not shine with the light of the living, because the soul as such, does not die, yet it suffers a punishment that is more bitter than death. Because it made no effort to traverse the path of light, only that of darkness, therefore it must endure the experience of darkness, a terrible destruction for the soul, a punishment that has no end, suffering that does not terminate. That is why Shlomoh wrote earlier (11:7) "When a wicked man (odom rosho) dies, hope is lost". He did not write "when a rosho dies", but "odom rosho", because he is referring to someone who is drawn after earthly things, someone who is steeped is materialism. When he dies, all that he hoped for ceases, because all his hopes in this world were physical. Consequently, when he dies, his expectations come to an end; the future holds nothing for him.

And that also explains the expression "will flicker" (in our opening possuk), implying a negation of light, which is the apt punishment for the soul of the rosho. In fact, it would appear that "yid'ach' does not imply complete darkness, but that the soul will not shine and merit the sweetness that befits it.


But when he speaks about the soul of the tzadik, Shlomoh uses the expression "will rejoice" ("yismach"), which is its reward, because "simchah" is an expression of a deeper comprehension and a holy spirit, as the possuk writes "I will rejoice ("esmach") with Hashem". And it is because tzadikim serve Hashem with simchah that they will merit the status of simchah in the World to Come, because the trait of simchah rests upon them, draws their soul and establishes them forever.


Another reason why Shlomoh compares the soul of a tzadik to light is because it was created on the first day, together with the creation of the original light. And the possuk in Divrei ha'Yomim I (4:23) which describes how G-d consulted the souls of tzadikim before creating the world, bears out this contention. In addition, the soul stands to receive that light that was created on the first day.

Remarkably, the word 'light' appears in Bereishis five times, like the soul which has five names ('Nefesh, Ru'ach, Neshomoh, Chayoh, Yechidoh'). This light was the first of all the creations, as Dovid ha'Melech wrote (with regard to it) "Your opening words will shine, it makes (even) the fools understand" (Tehillim 119:130), which the Medrash explains to mean 'We received light from the opening words of Your mouth ...'.

Hashem produced this light from darkness, not like a human king, who can only produce light from light, for so the Torah writes in Bereishis (1:2) "And there was darkness on the face of the deep" and it continues " ... Let there be light, and there was light".


Now that Hashem produced light from darkness, He would be unlikely to need the light of humans, and so Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehillim (139:12) "Also darkness is not too dark for You, and night shines like day, darkness (to You) is the same as light". Having written that light and darkness are the same to Hashem, when Dovid writes there (18:12) "He places darkness His secret", he is referring to our perception of Hashem, to teach us that He is concealed from us, as if He was enveloped in darkness. This is a result of our physicality, which acts like a partition between us and Hashem, preventing us from seeing Him and even from comprehending Him. And that is presumably what the possuk in Shir ha'Shirim (2:9) means when it writes "Behold this one (Hashem) stands behind our wall".

Consequently, "He places darkness His secret" refers not to Hashem, who due to His glory, is all light, but to our perception of Him.

Yet, in spite of the fact that He is all light and has no need for our light, we were nevertheless commanded, in both the Mishkon and the Beis ha'Mikdosh, to kindle the lamps of the Menorah, in honour of the House in which Hashem rests ...

Parshah Pearls


Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim

Caught by Surprise

"And Hashem said suddenly to Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, 'Go all three of you to the tent' ... '" (12:4). Rashi explains how Aharon and Miriam, caught by surprise, cried 'Water, where is water to tovel?' That is why the Torah stresses that Hashem appeared to them suddenly, so that they should realize Moshe's motives for separating from his wife and how right he was in doing so. After all, he never knew at which time of day or night Hashem would speak with him; so he had to be ready, in a state of purity, at all times.


And so it is in our days, said the Chofetz Chayim, as the time of the coming of Moshi'ach draws closer and closer, we must take great care not to be caught by surprise when he arrives. We must prepare ourselves to greet him, by learning all about the Korbonos and the avodoh - an undertaking that takes many years to accomplish (see how the Levi'im had to study for five years before they were eligible to serve). Particularly the Kohanim need to make sure that they are conversant with those halochos that they will have to practise when the Beis ha'Mikdosh is rebuilt.

(Indeed, it was due to the influence of the Chofetz Chayim, more than anyone else, that the study of Kodshim became widely accepted in today's Torah learning world. In fact, he himself founded a special Kollel in Radun to study Kodshim).


A further proof that one should always be prepared for all eventualities, remarks the Chofetz Chayim, is to be found in the Gemoro in Sanhedrin 22b, where, according to the Rabbonon, Kohanim who live in Eretz Yisroel are forbidden to drink wine at any time, just in case the Beis ha'Mikdosh is rebuilt unexpectedly, and they will be called upon to serve, but will be unable to, since a Kohen who has drunk wine is forbidden to serve in the Beis ha'Mikdosh.


Moshe - The Servant of G-d

"And why were you not afraid to speak about My servant, about Moshe?" (12:8). TheTorah does not write " ... about My servant, Moshe", but "about My servant, about Moshe". 'About my servant, even if he were not Moshe, and about Moshe, even if he were not My servant,' explains Rashi, 'you should have been afraid to speak about him - how much more so now that he is both Moshe and My servant. And the servant of the King is like the King himself! It should have occurred to you that the King (Hashem) does not love him for no reason!'

But what does this Medrash mean? asks the Chofetz Chayim. Surely, Moshe's greatness lay in the fact that he was the servant of Hashem? Otherwise, what does the greatness of Moshe comprise?


To understand Rashi, he explains, we will have to take a look at the Gemoro in B'rochos (34b), which tells how Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa went to study Torah under Rabbon Yochonon ben Zakai. When his son fell ill, Rabbon Yochonon asked Rebbi Chanina to pray for him. Rebbi Chanina placed his head between his knees and prayed, and Rabbon Yochonon ben Zakai's son recovered.

Rabbon Yochonon then commented that were he to have placed his head between his knees all day long, nobody would have taken any notice. Not because Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa was greater than him, he explained to his surprised wife, but because he (Rabbon Yochonon), was like a minister before the King, whereas Rebbi Chanina was like a servant.


From this Gemoro we see, says the Chofetz Chayim, that a minister and a servant are two very different levels: to be sure, a minister enjoys a superior status to that of a servant (just as Rabbon Yochonon ben Zakai was undoubtedly greater than his disciple, Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa). Yet, in spite of that, Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa, the servant, was like a member of the King's household who was able to come and go as he pleased, a privilege that the minister, the Prince of Torah, Rabbon Yochonon ben Zakai, did not enjoy (Rashi).


And this is what Rashi means in the possuk here ... 'My servant (about whom the Torah writes "in all My house he is faithful"), even if he were not Moshe, the minister, the Prince of Torah; and Moshe, the Prince of Torah, even if he were not My servant.'


Loshon ho'Ra

From the episode with Miriam, we can learn, comments the Ma'asei la'Melech, that loshon ho'ra is forbidden, even if the person about whom one is speaking takes no offence at what is being said. For, when all's said and done, Moshe was not offended at Miriam's talk. Otherwise, why does the Torah find it necessary to describe Moshe's humility here, as the Sifri explains? And yet, look how severely Miriam was punished! If one speaks ill of a talmid-chochom, Hashem will intervene, because kovod ha'Torah is at stake, and perhaps even if he is not a talmid-chochom, because every Jew is a 'tzelem Elokim' (an image of G-d), and one denigrates a 'tzelem Elokim' at one’s own risk.


About the Mitzvos

Reward and Punishment

Part I

It is importance to know the category of the mitzvos, both with regard to fulfilling them, since, as a rule, a more stringent mitzvah (e.g. Pesach and Miloh, which are punishable by koreis) take precedence over other mitzvos when it is a question of which mitzvah to perform, and with regard to transgressing them, since, when faced with a choice, one should as a rule, transgress the less stringent sin.


Another reason why it is important to know the category of mitzvos, is in order to understand how to approach teshuvah: because it stands to reason that the more serious the sin, the more teshuvah it requires. And besides, Chazal have taught us (in Yuma 86a) that for transgressing a mitzvas asei, teshuvah is the only requisite; for an ordinary lo sa'asei, teshuvah requires Yom Kippur to complete the atonement. For a sin that carries with it a chiyuv koreis or death at the hand of Beis-Din, one must also suffer in any way that G-d decides, whereas for the sin of Chillul Hashem, the ultimate atonement is only achieved when suffering is followed by death.


In addition, the Gemoro in Sotah (8b) informs us that from the time of the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh, although the Sanhedrin no longer functions, the 'din' of the four kinds of death still applies: someone who ought to be stoned will fall from the roof or be killed by a wild beast; someone who ought to be burned either falls into a fire or gets bitten by a snake; someone who ought to be killed by the sword is captured by the ruling power or attacked by armed bandits; and someone who ought to be choked to death either drowns in a river or dies of asphyxiation. A clear appreciation of the sin then, will help to avoid sinning in the first place, and possibly, even to soften the consequences after having sinned.

(to be continued)



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

4. Not to eat chometz on Pesach - as the Torah writes in Bo "And chometz shall not be eaten" - nor may one derive any benefit from it.

Someone who eats a ke'zayis of chometz on purpose on Pesach is chayav koreis (excision); by mistake he is chayav to bring a sin-offering. The transgression is the same whether he eats the chometz or whether he melts it and drinks it. Someone who eats less than a ke'zayis receives makas mardus (Rabbinical lashes).

This prohibiton applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


5. Not to eat a mixture of chometz - as the Torah writes in Bo (12:20) "Do not eat any mixture of chometz". It makes no difference whether the chometz is mixed together with the same species (e.g. in a dish of matzah-flour) or with a different species, if the mixture contains a kezayis per every four eggs (approx. one in eight), then the person who eats it is chayav malkos (thirty-nine lashes), but not koreis. If it contains less than that, he receives makas mardus.

This prohibition applies everywhere, and at all times, to men and women alike.


6. Not to do any work on Shabbos - as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:10) "Do not do any work ...".

Chazal listed thirty-nine main categories of work in Perek Klal Godol (Shabbos 73a) - each of these has many secondary categories. Someone who performs either a main category of work or a secondary one is due to be stoned to death (the most severe of all the punishments) provided he transgressed in front of two witnesses, who also warned him. If he transgressed on purpose, but without witnesses or even with witnesses, but without warning, he is chayav koreis; whereas someone who transgresses by mistake, is obliged to bring a sin-offering.

The difference between a main category of work and a secondary one is confined to the sin-offering (as to how many sin-offerings he has to bring if he transgresses a main category of work plus one of its secondary categories etc.).

Someone who transgresses 'Melochos de'Rabbonon', which Chazal decreed to protect melochos d'Oraysa, receives makas mardus.

Any of the melochos that are forbidden, may not be performed on behalf of a Jew, even by an animal - by Torah law - whereas it is the Rabbonon who prohibited asking a non-Jew to perform such a melochoh on our behalf (though there are exceptional cases where this is permitted). Like most Rabbinical prohibitions on Shabbos, this is known as a 'sh'vus'.

On the one hand, life-danger overrides Shabbos, on the other, Shabbos is weighed against all the other mitzvos, because it is the sign that stands between G-d and the B'nei Yisroel. Someone who desecrates Shabbos on purpose in public (in front of ten Jews) is like a gentile in all matters The prophet Yeshayah praises those who observe the Shabbos when he writes (56:2) "Praiseworthy is the man who does this ... who observes the Shabbos, and does not desecrate it".

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


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