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

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Vol. 7   No. 33

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Meir ben Benzion Sand z"l - Yohrzeit 14th Iyar
and Rashkah Zvi Levin z"l - Yohrziet 29th Iyar

Parshas Behar

The Tzadik's Humility

Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah

"The heart of a tzadik thinks to humble himself, whereas the mouth of a rosho utters evil" (Mishlei 15:28).

King Shlomoh teaches us here that the tzadik and the rosho are two total opposites. He reveals to us how the tzadik operates with humility, and the rosho with pride, in order to encourage us to distance ourselves from the latter and attach ourselves to the former. Therefore he says that the heart of a tzadik thinks continuously, all day long, thoughts of humility and lowliness. The word "la'anos" (to humble himself) stems from the same root as "lei'onos" (Sh'mos 10:3) which Unklus translates as "to make oneself humble". And since that is what is on the tzadik's mind, one can be sure that that is also what is on his tongue, seeing as man's speech reveals what is hidden in his thoughts. For so the world's great ethical sages have said 'The tongue is the pen of the heart'. That being the case, now that what is hidden turns out to be good, what is revealed is bound to be good, too.


And the rosho is the direct opposite: for it is superfluous to mention that he plans evil in his heart, and matters of pride and scorn. But he even has the audacity to utter them with his lips. They emerge from his mouth, and he then publicises them, telling everyone in the process, that he is a fool. So we see that a rosho is the complete antithesis of the tzadik, both as regards what is hidden and what is revealed.


It is known that lowliness is an outstanding quality, for so Chazal have said in Chulin (89a) 'The world only exists on the merit of those who consider themselves inferior, as the Torah writes "And below (those who are downtrodden by all - Rashi) are the strong men of the world" (Devorim 33:27).

Indeed, this is the hallmark of tzadikim, who constantly humble themselves, for so Avrohom said "And I am dust and ashes" (Bereishis 18:27); Moshe and Aharon, "And what are we?" (Sh'mos 16:8), and Dovid, "And I am a worm and not a man" (Tehilim 22:7). The Shechinah, the Medrash explains, only rests on those who are lowly of spirit, as the posuk in Yeshayah writes "I dwell on high in a holy place, (but in essence I dwell) with the oppressed and the lowly of spirit" (57:15). The Torah too, exists only with those who are lowly of spirit, for so Chazal have said (Ta'anis 7a) 'Why is the Torah compared to water? As it is written "Hoy all those who are thirsty (for knowledge) go to water" (Yeshayah 55:1). Because just as water will always leave a high spot and flow down to a low one, so too will Torah not remain with a person who is proud, but only with someone who is humble.'

And so the Medrash, commenting on the posuk in Devorim (30:12) writes "It (the Torah) is not in heaven" - 'You will not find it with those who are conceited, with those who raise themselves up to heaven; only with those who kill themselves (their ego) for its sake, as it is written "A man who dies in the tent (of Torah)" '.

And so we find with the Shechinah - whose main residence is in the heaven; yet Chazal have said that it rests mainly on earth, as the Torah writes in Bereishis (3:8) "And they heard the voice of G-d moving about in the garden in the west". The moment Odom sinned however, the Shechinah departed, but it returned to rest on Har Sinai (the lowest of the mountains). When G-d gave us the Torah, He rejected all the tall mountains, choosing only it, as it is written in Tehilim (68:17) "The mountain on which G-d desired to dwell". And this is the mountain on which G-d gave us all the mitzvos, as the Torah writes with regard to the Sh'mittah "And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai saying ...".


Parshah Pearls

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


Of Years and Sh'mitos, Days and Weeks

"And you shall count for yourselves seven Shabbosos of years, seven years seven times and the days of the seven Shabbos years shall total forty-nine years" (25:8). The wording in this posuk appears rather excessive. This is how the Gro explains the significance of each phrase.


Had the Torah written only the opening phrase ("And you shall count for yourselves seven Shabbosos of years"), it would have implied that one needs to count only each group of seven years - to say at the outset 'This is the first Sh'mitah in the Yovel', and before the eighth year begins, 'This is the second Sh'mitah of the Yovel', and so on, but there would be no obligation to count any of the individual years. So the Torah needed to write "Forty-nine years", to necessitate the counting of each of the forty-nine years as it falls due.


And had the Torah stopped there, we would have inferred that, when it comes to the eighth year, we say 'This is the eighth year which is one Sh'mitah', without the need to conclude 'which is one Sh'mitah plus one year' (' ... one Sh'mitah plus two years', when it comes to the ninth year, and so on), because, having mentioned the individual years and the Sh'mitah once, it appears unnecessary to break up the years again into Sh'mitos and years. That is why the Torah adds "seven years, seven times," to add the obligation to count the years again in this manner.


And if the Torah had not written more, we would have thought that it is not necessary to count the Sh'mitos that have passed, only to specify which year of which Sh'mitah one is counting. For example, at the beginning of the fifteenth year, one needs only to mention 'This is the fifteenth year, which is the first year of the third Sh'mitah (and perhaps even this is only necessary in the first year of each Sh'mitah-cycle). So the Torah added "and the days of the seven Shabbos years ... " to teach us to mention the full amount of Sh'mitos that have passed at the beginning of each and every year ('This is the fifteenth year, which is two Sh'mitos and one year of the Yovel').


This also explains why we count the Sefiras ho'Omer in exactly the same fashion, mentioning how many days there are in the Omer, and then how many weeks have passed and how many days into the new week it is, because, as the Gemoro explains in Menochos (66a) 'It is a mitzvah to count the days and a mitzvah to count the weeks'. The other details of exactly how we do this, we learn from a 'Gezeiroh shovoh', ("u'sefartem", from "ve'sofarto lecho") from Yovel - in the way that we just explained.


This explanation refutes three of the four opinions cited in the Tur (Si'man 489):

1. That one needs to count only each individual day, counting the weeks only when they are completed - on the last day of each week.

2. That, having counted the number of days at the outset of the mitzvah, it is not necessary to repeat them by specifying how many remain after having counted the weeks. 3. That it is not necessary to count the weeks that have passed, only 'today is the fifteenth day' (for example) which is the first day of the third week!

4. The only correct method of counting - the one that we employ - the Gro concludes, is not only a minhag, but Torah-ordained - 'Today is the fifteenth day, which is two weeks and one day of the Omer', as we just explained.


How Many Thirds in One?

"And I will command for you my blessing in the sixth year, and it will produce its crops for three years" (25:21).

Chazal derive from this posuk the measure of growth with regard to separating Ma'asros from one's crops. For so Rebbi Yonoson ben Yosef said in a B'raysa in Rosh Hashonoh (13a) "and it will produce its crops for three years". 'Do not read for three (years), but for a third'. In other words, the minimum size that crops must grow in order to be Chayav Ma'asros is one third of their full size.

But how can Chazal read 'a third', asks the Gro, when the Torah writes three (years)?


The answer, explains the Gro, is this: if the crops grew threefold in one year, then they must have grown fully in a third of the year, indicating that they had attained their full growth when they were only one-third grown.


Making Them Work

"And you shall inherit them (Cana'ani slaves) to your sons after you ... You shall make them work forever; and/but your brothers the B'nei Yisroel do not subjugate ..." (25:46).

Chazal have said that one is permitted to take people who behave in an uncivilised manner and make them work hard, even your Jewish brethren, because the Torah writes "You shall make them work forever - and your brothers". This does not apply however, to a Jew who is civilised, because the Torah writes "But your brothers ... do not subjugate" - Bovo Metzi'a 73b.

This double d'roshoh is hinted in the dual neginah on the word "u've'acheichem", a 'mapach' (connecting the word with the words that follow it - hinting to the latter part of the d'roshoh) and a 'pashto' (which the Gro refers to as a 'geiresh' - connecting it with the words that precede it, hinting at the former part).



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

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

71. That a judge may not accept bribery - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (23:8) "And do not take bribery" (even to judge the truth). A judge who did so is obligated to return the money or the object to the owner. Even bribery in the form of words is forbidden. The person who gives the bribe transgresses the la'av of placing a stumbling block before a blind man (Kedoshim 19:14). It is however, permitted for a judge to accept 's'char batoloh' (compensation for evident work losses) provided both litigants pay an equal amount.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


72. Not to fear the litigants - as the Torah writes in Devorim (1:17) "Do not be afraid of anyone". Even if one of the litigants is a particularly strong man, the judge is not permitted to be afraid that he may do him harm. He is permitted however, to withdraw from the case, provided he does not yet have any indication which way the case is going. But once he has heard both litigants' arguments and has a good idea as to who is right, he is not allowed to withdraw out of fear of one of the litigants. Included in this din is the case of a disciple of one of the judges who is sitting in court and who discerns a merit for the poor litigant or a demerit for the wealthy one, and remains silent (though it is not clear how this is connected to the la'av of not being afraid of the litigant). This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


73. Not to arrive at any decisions on the basis of one witness - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (19:15) "One witness shall not arise (to testify) against a man for any iniquity or sin" - meaning that one may not declare anyone guilty on the basis of one witness. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


74. That the Beis-din do not accept the testimony of a relative - as it is written in Ki Seitzei (24:16) "Fathers shall not die through (the testimony of) sons". And the same applies to the testimony of other relatives, nor is it confined to the death-sentence, but applies to anyone who testifies in Beis-din.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


75. That the Beis-din do not accept the testimony of a sinner - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (23:1) "Do not place your hand with a rosho, to be a sinful witness". A 'kosher' witness is forbidden to testify with another Jew whom he knows to be a rosho, even though his deeds are not known to the Beis-din, even if both of them are testifying the truth. And it goes without saying that one may not testify together with a witness who is lying (e.g. who did not witness the crime or the transaction), even if he himself did.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


About the Mitzvos

The Greatest Mitzvah of All
(Part II)

Here are four sound reasons (in addition to the two that we quoted in Part I) why Torah-study should be considered superior to every other mitzvah. 1. In the same way as a car factory is infinitely more valuable than any of the cars that it produces, so too is the study of Torah (the tool which enables us to fulfill all the other mitzvos) more valuable than any of those mitzvos. This is what Chazal meant when they said 'They took a count and concluded that Torah-study is greater, because it leads to deeds' (Kiddushin 40b).


2. It is the study of Torah, G-d's profound wisdom (which G-d Himself refers to as His daughter), that provides us with a deeper understanding of G-d, and brings us closer to Him, which is what Chazal mean when they say 'Torah, Hakodosh Boruch Hu and Yisroel are one' - in a far broader sense than any single mitzvah can possibly do.


3. It is only through Torah-study that we develop an antidote to the Yetzer ho'Ra, as Chazal have said 'I created the Yetzer ho'Ra and I created Torah as its antidote'. Without Torah-study we would not even be able to perform mitzvos properly, because we would be in the clutches of the Yetzer ho'Ra.


4. So powerful is the mitzvah of Torah-study that G-d issued the following statement with regard to it: 'I wish that after forsaking Me, they would have studied My Torah, because the light in it would have brought them back' (Yerushalmi Chagigah 1:7).


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