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

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Vol. 19   No. 31

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Yehuda ben Aharon
Rivka bas Yaakov z"l

Parshas B'har

Making a Kidush Hashem
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

"He shall make a reckoning with his purchaser from the year he was sold to him until the Yovel year; the money of his purchase shall be divided by the number of years, he shall be regarded with him as like the years of a labourer" (26:50). The Torah is issuing a warning here that when one redeems a Jewish servant from his gentile master, one is obligated to make an exact Cheshbon (reckoning) with him, in order to pay him the exact amount owing. One is not allowed to make any attempt to mislead him, and to trick him into accepting less.

The basis for this ruling, R. Bachye explains, is the prohibition against stealing from a non-Jew, due to the Chilul Hashem that it causes, as the Gemara specifically states in Bava Metzi'a (70b). As a matter of fact, he points out, stealing from a non-Jew is worse than stealing from a Jew, because whereas the latter will not lose faith in Hashem on account of it, the former will. For the same reason, Sh'lomoh Hamelech prayed that G-d should accept the prayers of any gentile who prays in the Beis-Hamikdash, whereas the prayers of a Jew should only be accepted if he is worthy.


Lending to a non-Jew on interest is permitted, he explains, as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (23:20) "Do not lend your brother on interest" - "your brother!" Chazal extrapolate, but not a non-Jew (to whom one may). Indeed, the Pasuk there continues "To a gentile you may lend on interest". Yes, lending a non-Jew on interest is permitted, but stealing from him and tricking him is forbidden - because it creates a Chilul Hashem; and the punishment for Chilul Hashem is death!

Strictly speaking, one is permitted to take advantage of a monetary error made by a non-Jew, and to benefit from his mistake. In fact the Gemara relates various cases of people who did so. However, says the author, it is correct to return the difference in order to create a Kidush Hashem. And so we find with Ya'akov Avinu (the man of truth), who ordered his sons to return the money they found in their sacks to the Egyptian ruler, even though, as far as they knew, he was an idolater - in order to make a Kidush Hashem. And if this is the case before the Torah was given, how much more so afterwards.


The question arises as to why the Torah forbids stealing from a non-Jew, but permits taking interest from him? R. Bachya himself answers the question, when he attributes the prohibition of stealing from a non-Jew to the Chilul Hashem that it causes. Receiving interest, on the other hand, which follows an agreement reached by both parties, is not subject to Chilul Hashem, and is therefore permitted.


Alternatively, the Torah in this very Parshah (25:36) writes in connection with the prohibition of taking interest from a Jew as "and your brother shall live with you". He is your brother, and one does not charge a brother interest! Lending a Jew who needs money is Chesed, and 'Charity begins at home!'

Clearly, this concept is confined to a fellow-Jew. It does not apply to a gentile. On the contrary, as the Gemara in Bava Kama (38b) points out, it is because the gentiles are not your brothers (they are not even able to observe their seven Mitzvos properly), that G-d, under certain circumstances, declared their property Hefker (ownerless). This is one of those circumstances.

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Parshas Bechukosai

Reward in this World

If you will follow My decrees, observe My Mitzvos and perform them. Then I will provide your rains in their times, the land will give its produce and the trees of the field will yield their fruit … " (26:3/4)

One wonders how this Parshah ties up with the Gemara at the end of the first Perek of Kidushin, which cites R, Ya'akov. R. Ya'akov maintains that 'There is no reward for Mitzvos in this world!' Remuneration for carrying out G-d's Will is confined to the World to Come. And he says this even with regard to Mitzvos such as honouring one's parents, performing Chesed, and so on, in full disagreement of the B'raisa (which we recite every morning), which specifically states that the Mitzvos listed there do earn reward in this world. Moreover, the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah (9:1) rules like R. Ya'akov!


To answer the question, one needs to differentiate between the concepts of individual reward and communal reward. Because whereas, the individual receives reward for his good deeds in the World to Come, there is no such thing as Olom ha'Bo for a community, in which case the only way of rewarding K'lal Yisrael when they fulfill Torah and Mitzvos is in this world. Consequently, R. Ya'akov's statement has no bearing on this Parshah, the Parshah in Ki Savo or the second Parshah of the Sh'ma. And this explains why whereas the second Parshah of the Sh'ma (which discusses reward and punishment) refers to K'lal Yisrael, the first Parshah, which makes no mention of reward, refers to each individual.

To better understand the distinction between each individual and the world at large, imagine a king who planted a beautiful garden - with fruit-trees, vegetables, flowers, lakes etc. The king hired many gardeners and horticultural experts to look after the garden and make it bloom. As long as they worked hard and the garden thrived, the king provided them with all the tools that they needed, and paid them well for their work. When they were lax, and the garden began to degenerate, he deducted from their remuneration and made them repair the tools that they had broken.

When the contract ended, however, he called each worker to the palace, offering a bonus to those who had worked well and punishing those who had been lax.

The world is the garden, the people the gardeners… .

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Someone who Declares the Erech

of a Person Must Give The Amount Fixed by the Torah
(Translated from Seifer ha'Chinuch)

It is a Mitzvah to fulfill the Din of Erchin. In other words, someone who declared 'I am obligated to give my own Erech' or 'the Erech of somebody else!', must give to the Kohen the amount fixed by the Torah (not a P'rutah less) depending upon the gender and age-bracket of the person concerned … as the Torah writes in Bechukosai (27:2) " … a man who expresses a Neder regarding Souls to Hashem". Erchin fall under the caregory of Nidrei Hekdesh. Consequently, somebody who transgresses is subject o the La'av of "Lo yachel devoro" (Matos 30:3), the La'av of "Lo ye'acher leshalmo" (Ki Seitzei 23:22) and the Asei of " … ke'chol ha'yotzei mi'piv ya'aseh" (Matos 30:3).

A reason for the Mitzvah is based on the fact that a person's only connection with the heavenly beings lies in the power of speech, which is the most sublime part of him, which the Torah refers to as "the living Soul", which in turn, Unklus translates as "(and it became within Adam) a speaking spirit'. For all the other parts of man are dead, so that someone who loses this good part remains in effect, a dead body - like a vessel that is not wanted. That is why one should take care to keep his word whenever he uses it in connection with spiritual matters, such as with regard to Hekdesh and Tzedakah. And in other (mundane) matters, even though the Torah does not issue a La'av or an Asei, nevertheless, the Chachamim did issue a number of warnings against breaking one's word. They even went as far as issuing a curse on anyone who does so when it involves an act - in the form of a 'Mi she'pora', mentioned in many places, in connection with withdrawing from a transaction, even where words and even money to not comprise the kinyan, as the Gemara explains in Bava Metzi'a (44a). The author has already dealt at length, with the reasons behind Shevu'os and Nedarim, in the Mitzvah of "Lo Sisa" (Mitzvah 30) in Parshas Yisro.

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"All in all, the Parshah of Erchin presents four pairs of figures (the first for men, the second, for women) in the Parshah of Erchin - fifty and thirty Shekalim (between the ages of twenty and sixty); twenty and ten Shekalim (between five and twenty); five and three Shekalim (from one month till twenty years), and fifteen and ten Shekalim (from sixty and upwards). The Ba'al ha'Turim comments that 50 + 30 + 20 + 10 + 5 + 3 + 15 + 10 equals 143, the equivalent of the 45 curses in Bechukosai + the 98, in Ki Savo.

This is because the Mitzvah of Erchin (a form of donation towards Hekdesh) comes to atone for those curses. And that he explains, is why the Parshah of Erchin immefiately follows that of the curses.

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