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

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Vol. 9   No. 36

This issue is sponsored
with Mazel Tov wishes to
Shirah Kaplan n.y.
on the occasion of her 4th birthday

Parshat Chukas

The Statute of the Torah

The Parshah begins with the Pasuk "And Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon saying". Why, asks the K'li Yakar, does the Torah then need to repeat the word "saying" in the following Pasuk ("This is the statute of the Torah which Hashem commanded saying")?

He answers this with Rashi, who explains how the Satan and the nations of the world mock us on the basis of this Mitzvah, which seems to have no logical reason. And our reply to the Satan is clear 'It is a decree of the King, and we have no right to query it'.

The first reference to "saying", he explains, pertains to Moshe's obligation to teach us the Parshah of Parah Adumah, the second, to our obligation to respond to the Satan's attack.

Our response too, is contained in the phrase "This is the statute of the Torah", which is akin to saying 'This is the statute of the King (since G-d and Torah are one). And besides, the Satan and his followers maintain that such a Mitzvah cannot be part of Torah. So we announce "This is the statute of the Torah"!


And this also explains why the Pasuk writes "This is the statute of the Torah (of the King)", and not ' ... the statute of the cow (of Tum'ah or of Taharah)'.

Furthermore, the K'li Yakar explains, the Torah and the Parah Adumah have much in common. Firstly, both are ascribed to Moshe, for by one the Torah writes "Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant" (Mal'achi 3:22), and by the other, " ... and they shall take to you a red heifer" (from which Chazal extrapolate that the Parah Adumah is named after Moshe). And secondly, G-d handed forty-nine out of the fifty levels of understanding that He created to Moshe. And it was these levels of understanding that enabled him to fathom the Torah in forty-nine facets of Taharah and forty-nine facets of Tum'ah. Similarly, the deeper meaning of the Parah Adumah is hidden from all (even from Sh'lomoh Hamelech) with the exception of Moshe Rabeinu. And here too, it was through the same forty-nine levels that Moshe was able to fathom the secrets of the Parah Adumah.

Connecting the Pasuk in Tehilim "Kesef tzoruf ba'alil lo'oretz mezukak shiv'asayim" with the Parah Adumah, the Medrash explains how the Parah Adumah comprises seven times seven. There were seven cows (until the end of the second Beis-Hamikdash), seven sprinklings, seven burnings, seven washings of clothes, seven Temei'im, seven Tehorim and seven Kohanim (including Moshe and Aharon).


To answer the Kashya why the Torah refers to the Parah Adumah as 'Chukas ha'Torah' (and not 'Chukas ha'Parah, Tum'ah or Taharah), the Or ha'Chayim cites the Rambam. The Rambam, in the last chapter of Nazir, rules that as long as a gentile lives, he is not subject to Tum'ah (any more than a live animal is). What distinguishes a Jew from a gentile in this regard, the Or ha'Chayim explains, is the Torah, which elevates us from the level of Nochrim, enabling us to reach the highest levels of Taharah and Kedushah, but which balances this with the possibility of becoming Tamei. And besides, the powers of Tum'ah are attracted to Kedushah (much in the same way as flies and worms are attracted to honey).

Be that as it may, it is the Torah that makes us susceptible to Tum'ah, which explains why the Torah refers to the Parah Adumah specifically as the statute of the Torah.


We can also answer this Kashya with the K'li Yakar, who asks from the Pasuk in Va'eschanan, which describes how the nations of the world consider us wise and understanding through the statutes that G-d commanded us, on the Rashi that he cited earlier. How is it possible, he asks, that at one and the same time the nations of the world admire us for the statutes that we keep, and then tease us for complying with them?

The answer, he explains, lies in the uniqueness of the Parah. Every other statute, Chazal have taught us, can with great effort and hard work, be fathomed. The sole exception is that of the Parah Adumah, which proved beyond even the profound reasoning ability of Shlomoh Hamelech. Consequently, whereas on the one hand, it is possible for the gentiles to appreciate the statutes, and to admire us for our strong adherence to them, they are unable to do so when it comes to the Parah Adumah, which they consider ludicrous and redundant.

When compared to all the other statutes in the Torah, this is the only true statute, which by definition means unfathomable. And that too explains why the Torah writes 'This is the statute of the Torah'.


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

The Distant Cow

"I said I was wise, but it is distant from me" (Koheles 6:23).

Shlomoh Hamelech said this in connection with the Parah Adumah.

Generally, when we do not understand certain aspects of Torah, it is not because Torah is distant from us, but because we are distant from it, as Chazal derive from the Pasuk in Ha'azinu "Ki lo dovor reik he mikem" (Devarim 32:47).

The one Mitzvah that no-one, not even Shlomoh Hamelech can fathom, is that of the Poroh Adumah, because G-d hid its true meaning from everyone except for Moshe. So Shlomoh was perfectly justified in saying "but it is distant from me" (Rebbi Yosef Shaul Natanson).


Before and After

The Satan and the nations of the world tease Yisrael 'What is this Mitzvah and what is the reason behind it'? That is why the Torah calls it a 'Chok' (a statute) as if to say 'It is a decree from Me, and you have no right to question after it' (Rashi).

Before one performs a Mitzvah, says Rebbi Meir from Premishlan, the Satan tries to prevent him from doing it. 'What is this Mitzvah?', he asks (what is it worth?). After one has performed it however, he changes his tune. Then he declares 'Mah ta'am yesh bah', meaning not 'What is the reason behind it' (as we explained earlier), but 'How wonderful it is!' Such is the way of the Satan and his hordes. They use the tactic of laziness to prevent one from doing the Mitzvah, and attempts to turn defeat into victory by using the tactic of pride once the Mitzvah has been performed.


What is the antidote to the Satan's tactics?

To remember, before performing the Mitzvah , that 'It is a decree from Me' (in which case it must be important). And 'you have no right to (question it) to think after it' (as 'le'harher acharehah' might well be translated). Having performed the Mitzvah, one should stop thinking about it.


Another antidote is hinted in 'Hashkiveinu' that we recite in Ma'ariv - 'And remove the Satan from in front of us and from behind us'. 'From in front of us', I once heard it said, refers to the Satan's efforts before we perform the Mitzvah; 'and from behind us' to his efforts after we have performed it. And the antidote is prayer. To ask Hashem to remove the Satan before we perform the Mitzvah and afterwards.


Talk, Don't Hit!

"And speak to the rock before their eyes" (20:8).

At Matan Torah, Yisrael "saw the voices ... ", as the Torah records there. That is to say, they actually saw things that one normally hears.

In similar vein, the Meshech Chochmah explains, G-d wanted Moshe to speak to the rock, and Yisrael would see with their eyes that the rock would obey Moshe's verbal instructions. Here, like at Har Sinai, the people would see how the speech that came from Moshe's mouth was intertwined with the Shechinah. This would fortify their Emunah, and enable them to witness the unbelievable miracle of water gushing out of the rock of its own volition.

But Moshe in his anger, scolded them and said "Listen now, you rebels". He ordered them to listen to his words (rather than to see them), thereby minimizing the miracle. That is why the water only emerged from the rock after Moshe had struck the rock - twice, depriving Yisrael of the even greater miracle that was originally in store for them.


Moshe suffered much at the hands of Yisrael, and it is perhaps understandable that he became angry over Yisrael's ongoing rebellions. G-d instructed him to speak to the rock, to teach him that, in order to influence others, even if those others are rebels, one must prevail upon them to make good through the power of speech. Yet Moshe failed to do this. He insisted on using physical force, and that was his sin (Rav Reuven Margolis).


Raising One's Hands

"And Moshe raised his hands and he struck the rock" (20:11).v Rav Yosef Shaul Natanson refers to the Pasuk in Vayeira "And Avraham stretched out his hand to take the knife ... ".

Chazal have taught that every one of a man's two-hundred and forty-eight limbs corresponds to a specific Mitzvah. Avraham and the Avos, he explains, were so steeped in Mitzvos that whenever there was a Mitzvah to perform, the limb involved would move by itself to perform it. But when he was faced with the Akeidah, Avraham's hand did not move of its own accord, since ultimately, as we know, Yitzchak was not destined to die. Consequently, Avraham had to actually raise his hand, physically, in order to perform the Mitzvah.

Here too, he says, it was not G-d's will that Moshe (who, we can safely assume, was no different from the Avos in this regard) should strike the rock, only to speak to it. That is why the Torah writes "And Moshe raised his hand (physically). It did not raise itself as it usually did, because it was not in accordance with G-d's wishes.



"Do not pass through me, lest I come out to meet you with the sword" (20:18).

If Edom wanted to threaten Yisrael with war, why did they use the word 'lest' ("pen")? Why didn't they say 'because I will come out to meet you ... ", asks Rebbi Shlomoh Kluger?

Edom was fully aware, he replies, that an attack against Yisrael on their part, would end in defeat, because G-d had promised them (Yisrael) that all their enemies would fall before them. They also knew however, that G-d had commanded Yisrael not to wage war on them.

So they warned Yisrael not to pass through their land, because they might not be able to control the urge to attack, even in the knowledge that they stood to be defeated. Following such a warning, Yisrael's very entry into Edom's territory would constitute an act of aggression, and so ''Yisrael turned away from them."


Thinking Ahead

... The S'fas Emes has a different approach to Reb Shlomoh Kluger's problem.

'It is not our intention', Edom was saying, 'to attack you now. It is however, likely that at some time in the future we will decide to do so. Consequently, we don't want you to pass through our land, as this will present you with the opportunity to learn the layout of the land and discover all its secrets', to put to good use when that occasion arrives.


Who Needs a Neder?

"If You will deliver this nation into our hands, we will ban their cities" (21:2).

Seeing as they only undertook to ban their cities, why did they then go on to ban the people as well?

The answer, explains the Chasam Sofer, lies in the fact that the people concerned were Amaleikim (which Yisrael may not have known initially, but which presumably they did discover later). In that case, no Neder was necessary to ban them, since the Torah already commanded us to "destroy the memory of Amalek".

And besides (even if they had known with whom they were dealing), a Neder would not have had any validity, since one cannot make a Neder to corroborate what the Torah has already commanded. The question that remains however, is why they killed only the males?



The Required Distance between Two Species that Create Kil'ayim
(Chapter 14 cont).

9. If there are two fields, one that is planted wheat, and the other, barley, with the required space of ten and a fifth Amos separating them all the way, then one may sow vegetables in that space, provided one leaves a distance of six Tefachim between either field and the vegetables. In this way, the space in between the two species, need not necessarily go entirely to waste.

One may not however, plant vegetable in the six Tefachim space between two vegetable fields.


10. In the case of a square, a row and a strip, it makes no difference whether the two species that create Kil'ayim are growing in ground that belongs to one person or whether one is growing in Reuven's land, and the other, in Shimon's. Either way, it is considered Kil'ayim unless they leave the necessary space between them.

When it comes to two fields however, the Rambam maintains that the fact that the two fields are owned by different owners is sufficient recognition to remove the problem of Kil'ayim, and no separation is needed.

The Ra'avad and the Rosh however, disagree. According to them, the prescribed distance is nevertheless required. And since this is the majority opinion, we take on the strict ruling.


11. Wherever a distance is required between two species, one always has the option of dividing between them with a ten-Tefachim high wall or even with a mere 'Tzuras ha'Pesach', which consists of two upright posts and a cross-bar. And a wall need comprise no more than a series of at least four pieces of string with a space of less than three Tefachim between each string.


12. If the two posts of a Tzuras ha'Pesach forming the third wall (by joining two existing parallel walls) are three Tefachim away from those walls, this reders the Tzuras ha'Pesach ineffective with regard to a movuy (a blind alley). It might well render it ineffective with regard to Kil'ayim, too. Consequently, one should ensure that the two posts are placed within three Tefachim of the walls. If this is not possible, then one should erect a wall of four Amos adjacent to one side of the Tzuras ha'Pesach, or put up four Tzuros ha'Pesach surrounding one of the sown species.


13. Even though a Tzuras ha'Pesach whose cross-bar is not on top of the side-posts (but at the side) is invalid with regard to a movuy, it is valid with regard to Kil'ayim.


14. The Tzuras ha'Pesach should ten Tefachim (not just from the ground, but) from the top of the vegetable leaves, or of the corn. However, if one distanced the Tzuras ha'Pesach four Tefachim from whichever species it is, this is not necessary.


15. Upon making a Tzuras ha'Pesach, one should, in addition, leave the distance required by the Torah (i.e. six Tefachim or one Tefach, as we explained above para. 3) between one species and another.


16. If a path four Amos wide runs between the two fields, (even if it is only a private path), one is permitted to plant two different species on either side of the path.

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