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

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Vol. 10   No. 32

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

Parshas Behar

Shabbos for Hashem

The Torah describes the Sh'mitah-year as "Shabbos la'Hashem", and Rashi, quoting a Toras Kohanim, comments that this is the same expression as the Torah uses in connection with Shabbos. Just as keeping Shabbos bears witness that G-d rested on the Shabbos (and that He therefore created the world), the Torah Temimah explains, so too, does keeping the Sh'mitah bear witness that He owns the land.

Before making this comparison however, Rashi first wrote 'for the sake of Hashem'. This means, says the Chizkuni, that one should not leave the land fallow because it will result in a bigger and better harvest during the other six years. This may well be the result of leaving the land fallow, and what's more, it may even be the reason, or one of the reasons, that G-d commanded us to do so. Perhaps that is why the Torah finds it necessary to warn us here, that it should not be the reason that we perform the Mitzvah. We perform the Mitzvah because G-d commanded us to, and because it attests that He is Master over the land.

And that is precisely the message in the Torah's words "Shabbos la'Hashem" in connection with Shabbos. One may be tempted to view Shabbos as a well-earned day of rest, after the toil and frustrations of the six days leading up to it. Maybe it is. Maybe it is even one of the reasons that G-d gave us the Shabbos. But it should under no circumstances, be the reason that we observe it. We keep Shabbos because Hashem commanded us to, and because it attests that He created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh.


The Ramban disagrees with Rashi. He equates the Toras Kohanim with the Zohar's interpretation of the words "Shabbos la'Hashem". According to him, G-d sanctified the seventh day and He sanctified the seventh year. He sanctified the seventh day after the sixth, because the six days of the creation represent the six thousand years of this world, and Shabbos, the one thousand years that will follow, when the world will be in a state of destruction (prior to Olam ha'Ba). That is why (in the Shir shel Yom of Shabbos) we speak about 'a day that is all Shabbos and respite for everlasting life', referring to the world that follows Techi'as ha'Meisim. All this comes to stress the deep significance of the Shabbos.

And He sanctified the seventh year, symbolizing Olam ha'Ba (that same seventh year), by the fact that the land ceases to function and is left desolate for one year. And this explains why the Torah is more stringent with regard to the Mitzvah of Sh'mitah than with any other La'av, meting out the same punishment (Galus) as for adultery and incest (which are Chayvei Kareis). Because those who deny the Mitzvah of Sh'mitah, deny both the creation and Olam ha'Ba. The difference between Shabbos and Sh'mitah is that, whereas Shabbos reflects Olam ha'Ba as the culmination of this world, Sh'mitah presents it as a separate entity in its own right.


The Meshech Chochmah offers a third interpretation of the Toras Kohanim, which even has Halachic ramifications. And he bases it on the distinction that the Torah draws between Shabbos (by which the Torah writes "Shabbos la'Hashem") and which is fixed by Hashem as every seventh day from the Creation, and Yom-Tov (by which the Torah writes "Mikro Kodesh yih'yeh lochem") and whose ultimate date is determined by Beis-Din (depending upon when they fix Rosh Chodesh).

Likewise here, the Torah describes Sh'mitah as "Shabbos la'Hashem", but refers to Yovel as "Yovel hi lochem". In other words, the Sh'mitah, like Shabbos, is fixed by G-d and is irrevocable. It may be a Mitzvah to count the years, yet the seventh year will be declared Sh'mitah, whether one did so or not, whether the fields were left open, as the Torah prescribes, or whether they were fenced in. Yovel, on the other hand, depends on Beis-Din and on Yisrael. If Beis-Din count the intervening years, it will be Yovel; if they don't, it won't. If they blow the Shofar at the beginning of the Yovel year, and the people set free their Jewish servants and return purchased fields to their original owners, Kedushas Yovel will take effect; if they don't, it won't!

Because, whereas Sh'mitah signifies the renewal of the world (like Shabbos) Yovel, signifies freedom, and commemorates the exodus from Egypt, in the same way as Yom-tov does.

And this also explains, the Meshech Chochmah adds, why the Torah uses the expression "Do not harvest its wild seeds and its grapes" in connection with the Yovel (depending on the sanctity of the land), but "Do not cut your harvest and your grapes (in any event) in connection with the Sh'mitah (which is holy, irrespective of whether the land is being sanctified or not).


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

The Connection between Sh'mitah and Har Sinai

"And Hashem spoke to Moshe at Har Sinai saying" (25:1).

What, asks Rashi, is the connection between Sh'mitah and Har Sinai?

The Chasam Sofer explains that there is no stronger proof that the Torah was given by G-d at Har Sinai than Sh'mitah. For who other than G-d, would have dared to promise three years' produce in one year, should Yisrael observe the laws of Sh'mitah (as the Torah writes in Pasuk 21)?


Pure Integrity

"And do not cheat each other (by overcharging in business)" 28:17.

The Gemara in Bava Kama (117) relates how Shmuel once purchased a golden jug from a gentile, as a metal one. Then, when he paid for the jug, he absorbed the fifth golden coin into the four that he actually paid him.

At first glance, Shmuel double-cheated the gentile, once with regard to the jar, and once with regard to the payment.

Firstly, Rebbi Nasan Adler asks, we need to understand why he behaved dishonestly, even assuming that it was halachically justifiable. And secondly, what is the Gemara trying to tell us with this piece of information?


In actual fact, he explains, the Gemara is teaching the exact opposite of what we initially understood. Shmuel saw that the gentile sold him a most valuable golden jug for a mere four gold pieces (which was evidently way below the real price of the article). And this placed him in a quandary. Was the gentile really not aware of the article's real value, as we understood until now? Or did he really know its worth, only the jar was stolen, and he was selling it cheap in order to get rid of it as quickly as possible? In the former eventuality, Shmuel figured, he was obligated to return the jug to the seller and to inform him of his mistake; whereas in the latter case, he would need to hold on to it, to search for the owner and return it to him.

So he decided to put him to the test. What did he do? He did not absorb the fifth coin in the four that he paid, as we at first thought, but he actually slipped a fifth coin into the four that he gave him (indeed, this is the correct interpretation of 'Mavli'a', as we find in other places).

And he waited to see what the gentile would do. Whether he would return the fifth gold coin, in which case, he would prove himself to be an honest man, and he would inform him of his mistake. Or whether he would keep the extra gold coin, a sign that he was a thief, in which case, he would make efforts to restore the jug to its rightful owner.

What the Gemara is therefore teaching us is a. the pure integrity of our sages, even in their dealings with gentiles (irrespective of the fact that halachically, Shmuel may well have been justified in doing what we at first believed he did, as we explained earlier). And b. the profound wisdom that they applied in their daily dealings with others.


Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

"And one man shall not cheat his friend, and fear your G-d, because I am Hashem your G-d" (ibid.)

But did the Torah not already write "And one man shall not cheat his brother", asks the Binah la'Itim? (See also Rashi). Only the first time, the Torah is talking about cheating a decent person; whereas here it is talking about cheating 'his friend', a cheat like himself. Perhaps there, one might be permitted to cheat his friend in the same way as his friend cheated him. Therefore, the Torah adds "And fear your G-d, because I am Hashem . . . the G-d of both of you". And I say that two wrongs don't make a right!


Better Not to Ask

"And if you will say 'What will we eat in the seventh year? Behold, we cannot sow and cannot gather our produce! Then I will command My blessing, and the land will yield enough produce to last three years" (25:20/21).


The question arises - if this is what will happen when we ask what we will have to eat, what is supposed to happen if we don't?

The No'am Elimelech quoting his brother Reb Zushe, answered that if we had full faith in G-d and asked no questions, but relied on Him entirely (on the basis of 'the one who gives life, provides sustenance'), no specific B'rachah would be required. Our sustenance would come automatically.


Reb Leibele Charif explains that if someone places his trust in Hashem, without asking questions, he doesn't require any special bounty. He does not need his field to produce excessive amounts, which in turn, requires extra hard work, to reap more, to thresh more and to grind more. That is good for people who harbor doubts and need to be shown what G-d can do. So their B'rachah is less substantial, more show. They need to eat a lot to be satisfied, because there is no B'rachah in what they eat.

On the other hand, someone whose faith is strong, doesn't need that. He will experience what the Torah writes in Bechukosai "And you will eat your bread to satisfaction", as Rashi explains 'He will eat little and be satisfied'. His blessing will be absolute, more substantial, less show, inasmuch as it will require less effort on his part and less expense. And when he eats, there is Brachah in every bite that he takes.

Perhaps that is what Reb Zushe meant, too.


A Revolving Relationship

"Because you are sojourners and residents with Me" (25:23).

Our relationship with G-d is one of sojourners and residents, the Ohel Ya'akov explains, depending upon our own outlook on this world. As long as we adopt the status of sojourners, by viewing this world as an ante-chamber (as the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos puts it), giving precedence to our spiritual needs, then G-d responds by seeing Himself as a resident, whose Shechinah rests permanently among us. But when we think that we are residents in this world, treating it as if it was a banqueting-hall, giving prominence to our material requirements, then G-d becomes a sojourner, and moves His Shechinah away from us.

In any case, we are sojourners and residents: either we are the sojourners and He, the resident, or we are the residents, and He, the sojourner. The choice is ours. (See also Rashi Chayei-Sarah (3:4]).


The Wisdom of Giving to the Poor

"And if your brother becomes poor and his hand slips with you, you shall support him" (25:35).

This is what is written (Tehilim 41:2) "How fortunate is the one who deals wisely with the poor (Ashrei Maskil el Dol . . .) G-d will save him on the day of evil" (Medrash).

On Rosh Hashanah, explains the Ohel Ya'akov, G-d fixes man's destiny for the forthcoming year, and this includes the losses and the damage that he is due to sustain. Now someone who is clever will give away a lot of Tzedakah, so that he sustains his due losses in a way that he can control, and for which he earns himself Mitzvos at the same time. Failing that, G-d will force those losses on him in a much more painful way.

In similar vein, Chazal said 'If you are meritorious, then you will share your bread with the hungry. But if not, you will bring rebellious poor to your house'.

And this is what the Medrash means when it writes that someone who is wise enough to give to the poor, will be spared from having to lose his money on the day when the evil decree falls due.


Joining the Reform

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah follows the Mitzvah of Sh'mitah. To teach us that the vital Midah of Bitachon that stems from the Sh'mitah is confined to our personal lives. When a poor man comes to us for Tzedakah, then we cannot respond with a Mussar-Shmuez on Bitachon. When it comes to giving the poor, we must apply the Midah of Apikorsus, to believe that 'if I do not give the poor man, he will die of starvation'.

Hence the Pasuk that we quoted earlier, says the Kehilas Yitzchak "Ashrei Maskil el Dol . . . ". When it comes to the poor, one has to be a 'Maskil', a reformer, a free-thinker whose faith in G-d is scant.


Borrowing on Faith

And talking of faith in G-d and Tzdakah, they once asked a Chacham whether a poor man is permitted to borrow money, in the knowledge that, short of a miracle, he will be unable to pay back. In other words, may one borrow money on faith rather than on funds.

To which he replied in the affirmative, on the sole condition that he (the would-be borrower) would lend someone who came to borrow from him under the same circumstances (assuming he had the money).



The Amidah
(based mainly on the Siddur " Otzar ha'Tefillos")

The B'rachah of Modim

Chazal fixed 'Modim' after 'Retzei', the Levush explains, because together with Avodah comes thanks, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "Zevach Todah yechabdan'ni" (meaning that after having Shechted the Korban, one should give thanks to G-d).


When the Shatz reaches 'Modim' anachnu Lach', says the Besamim Rosh quoting the Avudraham, it is only right that everyone bows down and says 'Modim ... ', too. It is not becoming, he explains, to subjugate oneself before the king via a Sheli'ach. Consequently, notwithstanding the fact that the Shatz repeats the entire Amidah on behalf of the community, 'Modim' is the one thing that everyone must recite himself, as he bows down before G-d.


Modim Anachnu Lach

Based on Targum Yonasan in Shmuel 2 (16:4) the Avudraham translates this as 'we prostrate ourselves before You'. It is a nice hint, explains the Iyun Tefilah, to our custom to bow down whilst reciting these words. The simple meaning of 'Modim', though, according to the Iyun Tefilah, is confirmation. We are attesting to G-d' s rulership and that He is the Master of the world.

The numerical value of 'Modim' is a hundred, hinting at the hundred B'rachos that we recite each day, says the Eitz Yosef, who interprets 'Modim anachnu Lach' to mean 'we thank You (for being our G-d ...', and for promising never to exchange us for any other nation).


Tzur Chayeinu Mogein Yish'einu

The Avos are referred to as 'the rock' from which we have been carved '("Habitu el Tzur Chutzavtem" ), the Eitz Yosef explains, because they are our physical forbears. Hashem too, is referred to as 'the Rock of Yisrael', because He is our Spiritual forebear, since our Neshamos are breathed into us by Him.

The Iyun Tefilah however, explains 'Tzur' simply as a fortress. Sometimes G-d acts as a fortress, renderring us inaccessible to our enemies. There are times however, when He allows our enemies access to us. Even then, He is the shield of our Salvation. He protects us from their vicious onslought, and we survive, even after they have disappeared.


Atoh Hu le'Dor vo'Dor

This is the final section pertaining to the opening phrase, says the Iyun Tefilah. From now we will elaborate on the many things for which we need to thank and praise G-d.


Al Chayeinu ha'Mesurim be'Yodecho
ve'Al Nishmoseinu ha'Pekudos Lach

We thank Hashem for safeguarding us whilst we are awake, and for safeguarding our Neshamos, which are deposited with Him whilst we are asleep. And what's more, for returning them to us each morning. The Zohar explains that if a debtor were to refuse to pay his debt, the creditor would retain the security given him by the debtor, in lieu of his debt. We too, are constantly in debt to Hashem, yet He remains steadfast in His reliability, returning the deposit of our Neshamos each morning, (as indeed, we explain the moment we open our eyes and recite 'Modeh Ani') - Eitz Yosef..


ve'Al Nisecho . . . ve'Al Nifle'osecho

'The daily Nisim', explains the Eitz Yosef, refers to Hashem's miracles of which we are aware; whereas 'His wonders that occur incessantly' refers to the miracles of which we are not, as Chazal have said 'A person is not aware of the miracles that G-d performs with him'. Indeed he adds, were it not for Hashem's constant miracles, we would have perished long ago. For even the Heavenly angels are all pitted against us (as the Pasuk indicates in Tehilim 26:3). Little wonder that the nations of the world are too.


Erev, vo'Voker ve'Tzohoroyim

These words break from 'she'be'chol eis' that precedes them. They refer, not to 've'al nifle'osecha she'be'Chol yom imonu', but to 'nodeh lecho, unesaper tehilosecho'. What we are therefore saying is 'We will thank You and tell your prai ehase, evening, morning and afternoon, for the miracles that You perform with us each day, and the wonders and good deeds that You perform with us at all times'.


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