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

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Vol. 13   No. 30

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Avraham Yitzchak ben Yerachamiel Leib z.l.
& Ella le'ah bas Dov Ber z.l.

Parshas Behar-Bechukosai

Keeping the World Going
(Based on the explanation of the Ha'amek Davar)

Rashi interprets the opening phrase of the Parshah "Im be'Chukosai teleichu" as 'If you study Torah hard'. In that case, "Chukosai" refers to the thirteen principles from which the Torah is 'engraved' (she'ha'Torah nechkekes bohem), the Ha'amek Davar explains.

The Medrash he says, interprets it as 'the laws of nature upon which G-d engraved Heaven and earth' (as opposed to 'Chukim', which means statutes [see also Ha'amek Davar, Parshah Kedoshim 19:19]). In fact, he explains, this Pasuk is (not just a condition, but) a request that K'lal Yisrael observe Torah and Mitzvos, in order to keep the world running smoothly.

To understand this, the Ha'amek Davar cites the Gemara in Bava Kama which, based on a Pasuk in Chavakuk (3:6) "Ro'oh Va'yater Goyim ... ", explains that due to the gentiles' failure to observe their seven Mitzvos, G-d stopped rewarding those that do observe them for keeping Mitzvos that they have been commanded ('Metzuveh ve'Oseh'), but as if they had not been commanded ('Eino Metzuveh ve'Oseh'), which, as Chazal have taught, earns a lesser reward than 'Metzuveh ve'Oseh'.

On this, the Ha'amek Davar asks two questions. Firstly, how does the Pasuk imply this explanation? And secondly, if a gentile performs a Mitzvah because he was commanded to do so, why should he not receive a reward accordingly? It seems unfair to deprive him of his rightful reward on account of the sins of his ancestors?


To answer these questions, we need first to realize that the basic reward and punishment of Mitzvos is not a Divine acknowledgement or a Divine retribution. Not at all! G-d gave the world Mitzvos in the way that a doctor advises his patient what to eat and what not to eat, because the one kind of food is good for him, and the other one, bad. Consequently, when a person performs a Mitzvah, he automatically earns a reward, just as eating the right food makes him healthy. And in the same way, he will automatically suffer the consequences if he performs a sin.

For so the Medrash says regarding the opening Pasuk in Re'ei ... - 'From the moment that G-d said to Yisrael "See I have placed before you blessing and curse", He no longer participated in the reward and the punishment, because from then on, the Mitzvos proceeded to reward and the Aveiros to punish, all on their own. And this is what the Pasuk in Eichah (3:38) means, when it says "From the mouth of the High One evil and good do not go out". All of this classifies as 'Eino metzuveh ve'Oseh'.

It is like a doctor who prescribes medicine. The patient whose condition deteriorates after failing to take the medicine cannot claim to have been punished by the doctor any more that the patient who does take it and who is cured can claim to have been rewarded by him.

And when a sinner does Teshuvah and is forgiven, that too, is an automatic cure that is effected by the Mitzvah of Teshuvah, and not a Divine pardon, as the Navi writes in Yeshayah (6:10) "And he will do Teshuvah and he will be healed".


There is however, another dimension that we need to consider. What we have said until now is true in the case of a regular doctor.

A regular doctor writes a prescription and leaves. What the patient does with the prescription is his business, and concerns the doctor not one iota. But when the patient happens to be his own son, then not only does he write out a prescription; he also promises him toys or sweets (candies) if he takes his medicine. Why? Because his son is part of his own very personal world, and every person is keen to perpetuate his world.

If a regular patient follows the doctor's instructions he ends up with good health (the natural result of the medicine that he took), and no more. If the doctor's son does the same thing, then not only does he end up cured, but into the bargain, he also ends up with a toy or sweets, for keeping the doctor's world going.

G-d too, has a vested interest in 'His children' (the people that He created) performing the Mitzvos that He commanded them. This is because, as we explained earlier, He linked the continued existence of the world to the performance of Torah and Mitzvos. Consequently, when the people perform Mitzvos, they perpetuate G-d's world, the world that He created. As an additional incentive, He promised a second reward, a bonus as it were, for maintaining the world. And that falls under the category of 'Metzuveh ve'oseh'.


Initially, G-d did not differentiate between one nation and another. The entire world was given seven Mitzvos, through which they were able to uphold the world, and for which they would receive the reward inherent in the Mitzvah itself and the additional bonus for perpetuating the world, granting them the opportunity to receive reward as 'Metzuveh ve'oseh', in addition to that of 'Eino Metzuveh ve'oseh'.

But when He saw that the gentiles on principle, rejected the concept of Mitzvos (as we explained earlier), He withdrew the bonus. What remains therefore, is the reward that lies inherent in the Mitzvos, like the cure administered by a doctor who is curing not his own son, but somebody else's. And that is what the Gemara means when it concludes that a gentile receives reward like one who is 'Eino metzuveh ve'oseh'. When G-d saw that if He were to rely on the nations of the world to maintain the world, then it would have no continuity, He withdrew that responsibility from their shoulders, and placed it on the shoulders of K'lal Yisrael.

Consequently, like the doctor who cures his own son, a Yisrael who performs Mitzvos receives reward like a 'Metzuveh ve'oseh', whereas a gentile who performs the seven Mitzvos receives reward like 'Eino metzuveh ve'oseh'.


The Ha'amek Davar's explanation helps us understand why Yisrael are called 'the Children of G-d' (see Re'ei 14:1), whereas the nations of the world are not.

And what's more, it also sheds light on the Tefilah that we say after learning each night 'We toil and they toil. We toil and receive reward, whilst they toil and do not receive reward'. The Chafetz Chayim explains this to mean that whereas we receive reward for the toil, gentiles receive reward only for the results. The question remains however, why that is? On what basis does G-d distinguish between a Jew and a gentile in this way, seeing as both have performed a Mitzvah?

The answer lies in what we just wrote. A person who takes a medicine will be cured as long as he follows the doctor's orders. No amount of effort on his part will help him to get better unless he actually takes it.

We on the other hand, receive the additional bonus for having fulfilled the will of G-d, and He pays not so much for the result as for the effort. And it is that bonus which the gentiles forfeited early in the creation.

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Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the P'ninei Torah


The Shabbos Years

"Six years you shall sow your field ... and in the seventh year it is Shabbas Shabbason for Hashem" (25:3/4).

The cycle of seven years, explains the Meshech Chochmah, is like the cycle of the seven days of the creation, inasmuch as the Torah refers to the seventh year as 'the Shabbos of Hashem', just as it refers to the seventh day.

Perhaps we may add, he says, that, just as the Torah blessed the third and the sixth days with a double portion of 'Ki Tov', so too, did He do so with the third and sixth years, one for the owners and one for the poor. That is why the Ma'aser Sheini that we are obligated to take to Yerushalayim and eat there in the other four years of the cycle, becomes Ma'aser Ani, which we are obligated to give to the poor.


A Sale and a Purchase

"And when you sell 'a sale' to your friend or purchase 'a purchase' from your friend, do not cheat one another" (25:14).

Cheating (or over or under-charging) can occur in one of two ways. It is either the seller who is forced to sell the article, and the purchaser, who is buying of his own choice, who is exploiting him; or it is the purchaser who is forced to purchase the article, and the seller, who is choosing to sell it, is exploiting him. "Selling a sale" and "Purchasing a purchase" simply refers to these two cases.


G-d Won't Let Us Down

"And if a man does not have a redeemer (to redeem his sold fields), but he finds the means himself ... Then he shall reckon the years of his sale ... " (25:26/7).

If a man does not have a rich uncle to redeem the field that he sold, he should not give up hope, for the Torah assures him that if he has no redeemer, then he will find the means to redeem it himself.

Hashem has plenty of funds available, and He is quite capable of availing some of those funds to the seller himself, to enable him to redeem his field (Chasam Sofer).


From the Haftarah of Behar

Yirmiyah's Purchase

"Behold the ramps have arrived at the city (walls) to capture it, and the city is about to be given into the hands of the Kasdim (the Babylonians) and You (Hashem) told me to acquire the field with money and to sign witnesses ... " (Yirmiyah 32:24/25).

Although purchasing a field requires both money and a document, the acquisition of a field that the owner is selling on account of its poor quality is complete even without money (which may be paid later).

And this is what the Navi meant by his query here. Considering that the Babylonians were about to capture the city, the price of property had dropped and whoever was selling was doing so because the property was worth next to nothing (which is much the same as selling a field on account of its poor quality). Why in that case, was he required to pay up front?

G-d's reply appears later (in Pasuk 44), says the Tzavrei Shallal. "They will acquire fields with money", He replied, "because I will return their captivity". The prices of property may have fallen, but not to the extent that they could be termed 'selling on account of poor quality', since the exile was destined to be relatively short. It would come to an end still in their lifetime, and they would yet return to their property.

* * *

Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro

Don't Read "Beholoh"!
Read 'be'Chalah'

"And I will visit upon you confusion (beholoh), swelling and fever ... and you will sow your seeds in vain, because the enemy will eat them " (26:16).

The Gemara in Shabbos learns from here that it is due to the sin of not taking Chalah that there is no blessing on one's crops, and that the seeds that one sows are eaten by others. And it learns it from the word ""beholoh", which it reads as 'be'Chalah'.

What on earth prompts the Gemara to make such a change, asks the G'ro?

Simple, he replies. Had the Pasuk meant exactly what it says, it ought to have written, not "beholoh", but 'ha'beholoh' (like it does with the following words "es ha'shachafas ve'es ha'kadachas, each of which begins with the definite article).

It makes good sense therefore, to interpret "be'holoh" as 'on account of Chalah', rather than as 'confusion'.


Keri or be'Keri; That is the Question

"And if you will go with Me by chance (ve'Im teilchu imi keri) and you do not want to listen to Me ... " (26:21).

There is a Mesorah that states 'The first and second time, it says "keri", the third and fourth "be'keri"; the fifth time, it says "keri", and the sixth and seventh times "be'keri.

And this is how it works: Whenever it says "es", one reads "keri", and whenever it says "ve'es" it says "be'keri".

At first sight, this Mesorah is meaningless. The G'ro however, explained it in connection with a Pasuk in Melachim 1 (8:64), which contains the word "es" seven times, three times without a 'Vav', and four times with a 'Vav'. And the sequence is exactly the same as "Keri" and "be'Keri" here (the first, second and fifth times it appears as "es", whereas the third and fourth, sixth and seventh times, it appears as "ve'es"). Now the Mesorah fits beautifully, if one remembers the sequence of the one, one automatically knows the sequence of the other.


Two 'No's Make an Oath

"And in spite of that whilst they are in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them and I will not reject them, to finish them off" (26:44).

The G'ro explains this Pasuk in light of the Gemara in Shevu'os (36a), which states that 'No ... No' ... or 'Yes ... Yes' is considered an oath. And that is what the Navi meant when, quoting G-d, he said in Malachi (3:6) "Ani Hashem lo shinisi, ve'atem B'nei Ya'akov lo chilisem".

Simply translated, this means "I Hashem, will not change, and you children of Ya'akov will not come to an end", but for our purposes, it can be translated as "I Hashem, repeated the word "lo", and (therefore) you children of Ya'akov will not come to an end". And He said this with reference to our Pasuk, where He repeated "lo" twice (I will not despise you and I will not reject you), turning the statement into a Shevu'ah which can never be abrogated.


To carry this idea further, says the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro, we can use it to explain the Pasuk in Yeshayah (54:9) " ... because this is the water of No'ach to Me, because just as I swore not to bring the water of No'ach to the world again, so do I swear not to be angry with you and to scold you".

The connection between the two issues is not at first clear. However, the G'ro, in his inimitable way, found the connection, based on what we just explained. As we just said, G-d's promise not to destroy His people Yisrael, is based on the double expression "Lo", turning his statement into a promise. In exactly the same way, the Gemara in Shevu'os cites the Pasuk in No'ach, which states "And all flesh will never again be cut off, and there will never again be a flood to destroy the land". There too, the Torah uses the word "ve'lo" twice, turning the statement into an oath. How apt then to compare the destruction of K'lal Yisrael to the destruction of the world, seeing as in both cases, G-d's oath to desist from doing so is based on the repetition of the word "lo".

* * *

The Mitzvos and their Meaning
(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 339:
Not to Sell a Field in Eretz Yisrael Permanently

Selling a field permanently in Eretz Yisrael is prohibited, as the Torah writes in Behar (25:23) "And the land shall not be sold permanently", meaning that the seller and the purchaser are not permitted to initiate a permanent sale, notwithstanding the fact that Yovel will negate the sale anyway (whether they agree or not). In other words, it is Halachically impossible to effect such an agreement, since it goes against the law of the Torah. Nevertheless, one has transgressed for having entered into such an agreement. This is the opinion of the Rambam.

The Ramban writes that the Rambam's explanation follows the opinion of Rava in Temurah (4b). Abaye there, holds that the sale is valid. He therefore explains that the prohibition against selling a field in Eretz Yisrael permanently, pertains to selling it to a gentile, who on principle, will refuse to return the field. One is not however, Chayav, for selling it to a Yisrael, since he will agree to return the field, in compliance with the Torah's wishes. In any event, the Torah only prohibits the sale of a field on the express condition that it shall be permanent. Whereas in the event that one stipulates that the field must be returned after a certain period of time, then one may even sell the field to a gentile.

The author already presented reasons for this Mitzvah in Mitzvah 330 (the Mitzvah of Yovel).

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara rules in Bava Metzi'a (79a) that if someone sells his field for sixty years or more (incorporating anyone who sells a field in such a way that it will not be returned in the Yovel [since only property that is sold without a specified time-period or that is sold forever, must be returned in the Yovel, as we explained above]). And it is only in the latter case that both parties contravene the La'av. The sale is not effective however (like the opinion of Rava that we cited earlier), since one cannot issue conditions that contradict the Torah's command, and the Torah has specifically written here "And the land shall not be sold permanently". But as long as the two parties mention a specific number of years, the sale is not permanent, and is therefore valid. Perhaps they learned this from the fact that the Torah writes "And the land shall not be sold permanently, rather than " ... until the Yovel". Thus implying that as long as the land is not sold specifically on a permanent basis, it need not be returned when the Yovel arrives.

The Ramban writes in his Chidushim on Makos (3b) that the sale of a field which includes the condition that it will not be returned to the seller in the Yovel, the condition is invalid, and the field does indeed go back to the owner in the Yovel. Even though with regard to Sh'mitah, if somebody lends money on condition that the Shemitah-year will not cancel the debt, his condition stands and the debt is not cancelled, since all monetary conditions are valid. And he ascribes this apparent contradiction to the fact that by a loan, the prohibition is confined to the creditor (i.e. the creditor may well be prohibited from claiming the debt after the Sh'mitah-year, but there is nothing to stop the debtor from paying back the loan), whereas in the case of the sale, the prohibition applies equally to both.

The reason for this distinction is in turn, based on the fact that the Isur in the Yovel is based on the land, which may not be sold, because it belongs to G-d, as the Torah writes "For the land shall not be sold permanently, because the land belongs to Me". Consequently, neither party has the right to override this prohibition, and even a thousand conditions will not prevent the land from returning to its original owner when the Yovel arrives.

Whereas in the case of the Sh'mitah, the cancellation of the debt is meant purely to safeguard the debtor, in which case he is permitted to forego his rights should he so wish.

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