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

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Vol. 14   No. 1

This issue is sponsored
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le'iluy nishmos ha'nispim ba'sho'ah

Parshas Bereishis

The Molad

Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim
& the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro

The Molad (the birth of the new moon) of Mar-Cheshvan will take place on Sunday morning, at 8 hours, 21 minutes and 7 Chalokim - that is how it will be announced from the Bimah on Shabbos morning in Shul, as is customary in communities throughout the world.

People who are not acquainted with the workings of Kidush ha'Chodesh do not understand exactly what this means.

Particularly baffling is the use of 'Chalokim' (literally 'parts'), in place of 'seconds'.

What precisely are 'Chalakim', and why are they used in this particular context?


The Chochmas Chayim explains it, concluding with an apt Gematriyah of R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, which puts it all in a nutshell.

As everybody knows, aside from the Moslem calendar, there are two basic calendars in use thoughout the world; the Jewish calendar, which is referred to as the 'lunar year', and the Gregorian calendar, which is called the 'sun-year'. The latter is so-called because in the course of the twelve-month period comprising 365 days, the sun completes its cycle of circling the earth 365 times, in a circle that grows for half a year progressively wider (so that the days become longer), and for the other half, progressively smaller (when the days grow shorter).

The lunar year on the other hand, is based on the twelve-month cycle of the moon, which appears at the beginning of each month, and grows first progressively larger and then from mid-month, progressively smaller, until at the end of the month it disappears from sight until its re-birth a few hours later.


These facts form the basis of the difference between the two calendars, says the Chochmas Chayim, and will also help to define the 'Chalakim'.

According to the sun-year calendar, there are twelve months, each comprising 30 or 31 days (with the sole exception of February, which comprises 28 days); whereas the twelve months of the lunar year each consist of 29 or 30 days, an average of 29 days, 12 hours and 793 Chalokim, a total of fifty weeks plus four days, or 354 or 355 days (the Gematriyah of 'Shonoh'). This constitutes a difference of 11 days. In order to make up the discrepancy, one needs to add an extra month (Adar Sheini) every three year and occasionally, after two (seven times every nineteen years). The reason that this is necessary is in order to prevent Pesach (which, based on the Pasuk in Re'ei [16:1] "Guard the month of spring", must always fall in the spring) from sliding back into the winter.

As we saw earlier, a major integral part of the system is the 793 Chalakim added to the 29 days and 12 hours that divide one Molad from the next. When making their calculations, the sages realized that, in order to arrive at this figure, the hour had to be divided into 1080 parts (of which 793 is a fraction 793/1080 [slightly less than three quarters of an hour]). Any other division (such as that of 3600 seconds) would simply be inaccurate, and would still leave us with a slight discrepancy.

In typical fashion, R. Yosef Chayim found a suitable Gematriyah. The numerical value of the Pasuk in Tehilim (in 'Borchi Nafshi') "Ososh yo'rei'ach le'mo'adim" ('He made the moon for its fixed seasons') is 793!


Kidush Levanah

R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld would make a point of waiting seven full days from the time of the Molad before reciting Kidush Levanah. When asked whether, bearing in mind what the Sefarim write that someone who recites Kidush Levanah will come to no harm for the rest of the month, it was not advisable to recite it earlier, he replied that he did not observe Mitzvos for their inherent Segulos.

The exception to this was those times when he came upon a Minyan reciting Kidush Levanah earlier. Then, due to the principle 'Ein Ma'avirin al ha'Mitzvos' (one does not pass by a Mitzvah), he would join them.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

True Strife v False Peace

When G-d asked the angels whether He should create man, says the Medrash, there were those that said 'Yes', and those that said 'No'.

Based on the Pasuk in Tehilim (85:11) "Chesed ve'Emes Nifgashu (met), Tzedek ve'Shalom Noshoku (kissed)", it seems that Chesed answered in the affirmative, because 'man will perform loving-kindness', truth in the negative, 'for he is all Sheker'; Tzedek answered in the affirmative, because 'man will give Tzedakah', and Shalom in the negative, 'because he is all strife'.

So what did G-d do? He took Emes, and cast it down to earth , as the Pasuk writes in Daniel (8:12) "And you cast Emes down to earth".

Why, asks the Chochmas Chayim, did G-d throw Emes down to earth, to give those who answered 'Yes' the majority vote? Why not Shalom (which would have achieved the same result)?

The answer, he says, is that had He thrown down Shalom, we would have been left with the combination of Shalom and Sheker. Now however, that He threw down Emes, what we have is a combination of Machlokes and Emes. Better a true Machlokes, says R. Yosef Chayim, than a false Shalom.


A True Help-Mate

"And Hashem ... said 'It is not good for man to be alone. Let Me create a helpmate (Eizer ke'Negdo) for him" (2:18).

The Gemara in Yevamos (63a), commenting on the self-contradicting expression "Eizer ke'Negdo", explains that if a man deserves it, his wife will be an Eizer (a help-mate), if not, she will be ke'Negdo (a hindrance). The Gemara also defines a worthy wife as one who does the will of her husband ('ho'osah retzon ba'alah').

R. Yosef Chayim Sonenfeld used to explain the Gemara's latter statement a little differently. He translated it (not as 'one who does the will of her husband', but) as 'one who shapes the will of her husband'. She is a woman who, by virtue of her good deeds and depth of understanding, gently steers him along the path of Torah and Mitzvos. She creates an atmosphere of Yir'as Shamayim in her home, that affects her husband and elevates him to the point where he aims at attaining greater spiritual heights.

It seems to me that both interpretations are correct, depending on the level of the husband; whether it is he who needs her guidance, or she who will perhaps benefit more from his.


The Best Antidote to All Evil!


In a conversation between R. Menachem Shainin, who learned in Chevron in his youth, and R. Yosef Chayim, in whose house he was a 'ben bayis', the latter expressed surprise at the tendency of the Bochrim in Yeshivas Chevron to marry late. Meila, he said, their modern garb was something that he could understand, as that must have been the way they were brought up in Europe and in America. But marrying late was something which Chazal were very much against, and they said so in no uncertain terms.

In defense of the Bochrim, R. Shainin explained that they were enamoured by Torah (as the Gemara says in connection with ben Azai, who, according to some, never married at all). And as for the bad thoughts that concerned Chazal, which by marrying at an early age would dispel, he argued, they got round that problem by learning Musar on a daily basis.

R. Yosef countered that he had an idea which would accomplish both with one stroke. R. Shanin asked him what it was, and he replied with a smile 'A wife!' because the numerical value of 'Ishah' is equivalent to that of 'Musar'.


Keeping the Door Shut

"And Hashem said to Kayin ... 'If you make good, you will be forgiven, and if you don't, then sin (the Yeitzer ha'Ra) will crouch at your door. He longs for you (to open it) but you can control him' " (4:6/7).

Based on this Pasuk, the G'ro stated the powerful principle that the Yeitzer ha'Ra does not have the power to make a person sin 'unless the door is open' (there is already a breach in the person's mind). And this conforms perfectly with Chazal, who say in Sukah (26a) 'It is the breach that beckons to the thief'. What they mean is that the Yeitzer ha'Ra only has access to a person there where the person himself is in doubt whether to sin or not, or as long as he is in a quandary whether to perform a Mitzvah or not. That is the door that invites the Yeitzer ha'Ra in.

Should he gain entry however, the only antidote against the Yeritzer ha'Ra is to dismiss him firmly (as Chazal have said in B'rachos (5a) 'One should always incite the Yeitzer Tov against the Yeitzer ha'Ra').

On the other hand, someone who is strong in his convictions, and whose mind is complete with Hashem (presumably, this is how the G'ro explains the Pasuk in Shoftim "Tomim tih'yeh im Hashem Elokecho" [18:13]) will never be troubled by the Yeitzer ha'Ra.

And this explains why both David and Bo'az swore to their respective Yeitzer ha'Ras, in brief moments of uncertainty, as the Medrash relates. They were merely reinforcing their own conviction that what they were being tempted to do was sinful, and therefore out of bounds.

In similar vein, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (103a), commenting on the Pasuk in Tehilim (91:10) "And there will not be a plague in your tent", explains that a person will not arrive home after a journey and find that his wife is a Safek Nidah. Rashi explains that a Safek is worse than a Vaday, because in the case of a Vaday, he knows that his wife is forbidden, a Halachah that he has no problem in handling. Not so when she is a Safek Nidah, where the Yeitzer ha'Ra sets out to convince him that she is really Tahor, and that he is holding himself back for no good reason.

And this also explains, the G'ro adds, why G-d said to Kayin "Why are you angry?" Kayin believed that having sinned, there was nothing he could do to keep the Yeitzer ha'Ra out. So G-d explained to him that just as it is initially possible to hold him at bay by keeping the door shut, so too, it is possible to prevent him from exploiting the situation, at this late stage, by expelling him firmly and by shutting the door before he enters has a chance to enter a second time. It may well be a more difficult task to accomplish, but it lies within one's power to do so. In other words, Kayin needed to strengthen his own convictions, dispelling all doubts from his mind, and the Yeitzer ha'Ra would be powerless to start with him again. "The Yeitzer ha'Ra crouches at your door," G-d told Kayin, "and longs for you". There is nothing he can do but long for a person to open the door. In the end, the Pasuk concludes, '"you can control him". Just keep the door shut (strengthen your own conviction of what is right), and he will remain outside, longing to gain antry, but incapable of doing so.


Kayin's Tactics

"And Kayin said to Hevel his brother, and it was whilst they were in the field, Kayin arose against Hevel his brother and murdered him" (4:8).

The Pasuk tells us that Kayin said something to Hevel, but does not say what it was?

The G'ro therefore cites a Medrash which explains that Hevel was considerably stronger than Kayin. In that case, he would have been naturally afraid to attack him. So what did he do?

He decided that in order to catch him by surprise, he would speak to him nicely and constantly call him 'brother'. As a result, Hevel felt safe in his presence, and saw no reason to suspect that his brother harboured ill-feeling towards him. And that is what the Pasuk means when it writes "And Kayin said to Hevel his brother". He kept on calling him 'brother', with the result that, once, when they were in the field, far from their mother and father, he caught him off guard and killed him, as the Pasuk says in Tehilim (28:3) "They speak words of peace to their friends, but there is evil in their heart".

And this also explains the Torah's insertion of the word "his brother" in the next Pasuk (4:9) "And Hashem said to Kayin, 'Where is Hevel your brother?' ". How many Hevels were there in the world, that might leave us in doubt as to which Hevel G-d was referring to? So why did it need to add it? Clearly, G-d was being sarcastic (Kevayachol). What He meant to ask Kayin was where was the brotherly love that he constantly spoke of with regard to Hevel?

* * *


Gentle Persuasion

" ... she gave me from the Tree and I ate"(3:13).

What Adam was really saying, says the B.H., was that Chavah 'gave him what for', using a stick to boot, until he was forced to acquiesce to her request and eat from the forbidden fruit.


A Talkative Creature

"And Adam named his wife 'Chavah'"(3:20)

The word "Chavah" can be translated as a talker (as we finds in Tehilim "ve'laylah le'laylah yechaveh da'as". For did Chazal not say that 'of the ten measures of speech that came down to the world, women took nine' (a statement incidentally, which should not be taken derogatively).


Gruesome Guards

"And He set up the Keruvim on the east side of Gan Eden and the blade of the turning sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life." (3:24).

In case one is uncertain exactly how to define 'the blade of the turning sword', see what the Ba'al ha'Turim has to say about the matter.

"Lish'mor" (to guard) he points out, is the acronym of 'Lilin, Sheidin, Mazikin and Ruchin' - four kinds of (not too friendly) spirits.

* * *

(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 611:
To Go in the Way of Hashem and Emulate His Example (cont.)

And it is in this vein that the prophets often refer to Hashem by His Midos (e.g. 'Tzadik, Yashar, Tamim, Gibor, Chazak, Rav Chesed and Erech Apayim'). One cannot extrapolate from this last Midah Chalilah, that there comes a time when He loses his patience and becomes angry. For what sense does it make to ascribe anger to one who has the power to kill and to bring to life at will, to exterminate the world and to create it, and to whom nobody can say 'What are you doing?' ? Why on earth should He get angry? And in any case, anger signifies a lack of perfection, and Hashem is perfect. Only it is as we explained. The Torah is merely publicizing the superlative Midos that He employs in His relationship with the world, so that we can take our cue from them. Do not query me my son, from the Pasuk in Tehilim "G-d who is angry every day", on which the Gemara in B'rachos (7a) comments: 'And how long does His anger last? A moment.' Do not for one second believe that G-d, who is the epitome of perfection, is capable of something so wicked. For the anger of which we are guilty is due to our inferior, physical makeup. Whereas the anger which the Pasuk ascribes to G-d is a borrowed term, used to describe a situation where the majority of the world follow the dictates of their heart, and many of whom worship the sun and the moon, the Mazalos, and even wood and stones. This leaves the world (which is judged according to the majority of its inhabitants) perpetually worthy of destruction. So it seems that Chazal compared the moment each day when the world's sins weigh down the scales to anger, as if to say the anger that fills the world makes them worthy of destruction, with reference to the Midas ha'Din and in fact, they are referring to G-d's Midas ha'Din, which they equate with anger. Only what happens is that the Midas ha'Rachamim balances the scales and saves the world from destruction.

Accept this explanation my son, which will do until such time as you hear a better one.

The reason for this Mitzvah is obvious, for it and its reason are one and the same.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah too, are few. Inherently, it directs a person to avoid the extreme, and to always choose the middle way, in all matters - in eating and drinking, in business, in Torah-study, in Tefilah, in one's mundane speech and in all other matters. And it is in this connection that the Chachamim instruct us (in Mo'ed Katan 5a) to assess all issues that concern us, by which they mean that one should weigh one's actions on the scales of compromise and integrity. And they support this theory with the Pasuk in Tehilim (50:23) "ve'Som Derech ar'enu be'yeisha Elokim", which (if one changes "ve'Som" to "ve'Shom" - assess [Rambam, Chap. 6, Hilchos Dei'os]) translates as "And someone who assesses his ways will be shown the salvation of G-d".

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike. Someone who contravenes it by not making the necessary effort to straighten his ways, to conquer his Yeitzer-ha'Ra and to rectify his thoughts and his deeds out of love of G-d, and in order to fulfill this Mitzvah, has nullified it.


Mitzvah 581:
The Prohibition of a Chasan Leaving Home for the First Year

A Chasan is obligated to refrain from leaving home on long trips for the entire first year of marriage. Likewise, the captain of the army is prohibited from calling him up for army service, either for combat duty or even for other tasks, such as supplying food or water to the combatants or guard-duty and the likes. That is why the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:5) "When a man 'marries' a new wife, he shall not go out to the army, nor shall it obligate him in any other matter". The Gemara in Sotah [44a] explains with regard to the former phrase 'I might have thought that he does not go out to fight, but he does prepare weapons and provide the soldiers with water and food.' Therefore the Torah adds "..nor shall it obligate him in any other matter" ... Furthermore, the Chachamim extrapolate from the Pasuk that he may not be obligated to perform non-combat tasks, but others may (with reference to those whom the Torah obligates to return from the battle-front, i.e. those who are soft-hearted and those who need to marry their betrothed, consecrate their house or redeem their vineyard ... Having said " ... nor shall it obligate him in any other matter", why does the Torah then see fit to insert "he shall not go out to the army", which is seemingly obvious? The answer is that the Torah places upon him two La'avin, which in turn, render him subject to two sets of Malkos.

The author will write other details that are relevant to this Mitzvah in the parallel Mitzvas Asei (Mitzvah 582), which follows.

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