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

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Vol. 12   No. 41

This issue is sponsored
by Alan and Sandie Freishtat n.y.
l'iluy Nishmas
Yisrael ben Nata Nasan z.l.

Parshas Chukas

Ohev Shalom
ve'Rodef Shalom

Rashi teaches us that, unlike Moshe's death, when Aharon died, it was not only the men who wept, but the women too; because Aharon loved peace and pursued peace. He made peace between man and wife. He loved all his fellow creatures and brought them near to Torah.

The Chochmas Chayim portrays R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld in exactly the same light. The writer describes how he would react when he heard of a squabble between two parties, be it man and wife, or two fellow-Jews. He would make it his business to take the matter in hand, and he would not rest until peace had been restored between the two parties.

It happened, and not just on one occasion, that after he had eaten his supper, in spite of the lateness of the hour, he would don his coat and make his way to one of the disputants and knock at the door.

It did not take him long to discover the source of the dispute, at which point he would press the person concerned to give in a little here, to overlook something there. Once that had been achieved, he would waste no time in quickly making his way to the second party. Paying no intention to the lateness of the hour, he would knock at his door. Shivering with cold, barely capable of keeping his eyes open, the man would sit facing the Rav in total humility, embarrassed that the latter had gone to the trouble of visiting him at home at such a late hour. Guessing the object of the visit, he would start to excuse himself for having caused the Rav such aggravation. At the same time, he would try to belittle the friction between his friend and himself, attributing it to the Satan, who delights in on creating a rift between two Jews and disharmony in Jewish families.

Meanwhile, R. Yosef Chayim, sensing that the man had already begun to soften, would explain to him that, as Chazal have said with regard to man and wife, when two people live together without peace and harmony, they drive the Shechinah away. In that case, he suggested, would it not be worthwhile to yield a little, in order to bring the Shechinah back into one's home?

'That would certainly be in order', the man would reply, but why did the Rav have to trouble himself so late at night. Surely the matter could have waited until the morning'?

And R. Yosef Chayim would reply with the Gemara in Sanhedrin (98a), which describes the era of Mashi'ach. Mashi'ach will be sitting among the poor and the sick at the gates of Rome, who will be rearranging their bandages; only, whilst they will undo them and rearrange them all in one go, he will be doing the same thing, one bandage at a time - in order not to delay the Ge'ulah, should he be called to appear before Yisrael. Now what is the difference in time between someone who unties and ties all his bandages in one go, and someone who unties them one at a time? A few minutes, at most!

Considering that we have been in exile close to two thousand years, what is the significance of those few minutes? Yet Mashi'ach understands that, when the time arrives to go free, even one minute longer is too long. And so it is in our case, the Rav concluded. The sooner one comes to terms, the sooner the Shechinah, whom the disputants have driven away from their homes, will return. And every minute is too long.

By this time, realizing just how small and insignificant he was, compared to the spiritual giant sitting before him, all resistance had fallen overboard. In a matter of minutes the two men were on their way to the person with whom R. Yosef Chayim had spoken earlier, whether it was a man or a woman. That very same night harmony was restored to the disputants, who but a short while earlier, were willing to swear that they would never live or associate with each other again.

And when his family would ask him why the Rav of Yerushalayim willingly belittled himself by tramping off to the homes of simple folk, rather than invite the two parties to his house, he had three answers ready for them ...

Firstly', he would said, 'am I greater than Aharon ha'Kohen, who would even leave the Ohel Mo'ed in order to make peace between a man and his wife?

Secondly, I know my flock well and assure you that sending for them to come to me will cause the matter to be delayed; and machlokes, I'm afraid, is like a hole in a dam; the longer one leaves it, the wider the hole becomes.

And thirdly, if the litigants were to come to me, then backed by the Yeitzer-ha'Ra of Machlokes, which craves victory, they would have no problem in blocking all my efforts to make peace. Whereas now, by taking the trouble to go to them, I have the psychological advantage of making them feel uncomfortable in not complying with my request'.

When eventually, he arrived home late at night, he may have appeared tired, but on the other hand, his face radiated a look of happiness at having returned the Shechinah to yet another Jewish home.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the P'ninei Torah)

A Veritable Chok

"Va'yedaber Hashem el Moshe ve'el Aharon leimor" (19:1).

The word "Leimor", the Chasam Sofer suggests, is the source of the opinion cited in Shulchan Aruch, that the reciting of Parshas Parah once a year is min ha'Torah. It is totally unconnected with the Pasuk "u'neshalmah parim sefoseinu"(Hoshei'a 14:3), from which Chazal derive that when someone who is unable to bring a Korban, learns about it, it is considered as if he has actually brought it. That applies only to Korbanos that come to atone in one way or another, since learning about the Korban will achieve the atonement without having to actually bring it. But as far as the Parah Adumah (which comes to purify and not to atone) is concerned, where, at the end of the day, the person remains Tamei, what sense will it make to consider the Tamei person as if he had been purified by the Parah Adumah, when clearly he is still Tamei?

It must therefore be that "Leimor" is a Gezeiras Hakasuv (a decree [a Chukah, if you like]) which teaches us the obligation to recite the Parshah, independent of the Pasuk in Hoshei'a.

* That may well be, says R. Yosef Chayim. But why does the Torah repeat the word "leimor" a second time ("Zos Chukas ha'Torah asher tzivah Hashem leimor")?

And he answers by pointing to the unique characteristic of the Parah Adamuh, in that it is so rare and difficult to obtain. And in this regard it differs vastly from all other Korbanos, regarding which Chazal stress how G-d deliberately facilitates the observance of that Mitzvah by restricting it to tame animals, that are easily obtainable.

In stark contrast, how common is a heifer that is totally red? Yet it is absolutely vital to Yisrael's purification! Evidently, this is part of the 'Chok' aspect of the Parah Adumah. If G-d requires us to bring a red heifer, then He will ensure that when it becomes needed, it will be available (in compliance with the principle that 'Hashem does not demand from Yisrael something that is impossible to keep').

And the very fact that the first Parah Adumah ('Moshe's Parah', as it is known as) lasted almost a thousand years, right through to the time of the destruction of the first Beis-Hamikdash (the second Parah Adumah was prepared by Ezra) only adds to the aura of the supernatural that surrounded it.

And that is why the Torah writes "Leimor" a second time. The Parah Adumah tells us here, that just as the Torah is eternal ("ki Lo sishachach mi'Pi zar'o"), so too is anything that is needed for its observance. No aspect of Torah will ever become extinct, or even unavailable when it is needed. As long as it applies, it will be available. That is why the Pasuk writes "Zos chukas ha'Torah". The Torah may well be writing about the Parah Adumah, but it applies to every other aspect of Torah too.


The Satan Before and the Satan After

'Because the Satan and the nations of the world tease Yisrael, and say to them "What is this Mitzvah and what is the reason for it". That is why the Torah writes in connection with it 'Chukah' - it is a decree before Me, and you have no permission to question it' (Rashi).

If we change the translation of these words just a little, says R. Meir from Premishla'an, we will end up with the following explanation. When a person comes to perform a Mitzvah, the Satan, in an effort to foil his plan, says to him 'What is this Mitzvah?' (What is its value compared to your greatness?) And if, in spite of the Satan's efforts, one performs the Mitzvah, he tries a different approach. 'How tasteful the Mitzvah is' he says! (See what a wonderful thing it is that you did). And in reply to the Satan's arguments, Chazal continue, 'It is a decree before Me' (You must obey G-d's instructions, irrespective of how you view them) ... 'And you have no right to have thoughts after it'.


To See or to Hear

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

What were Yisrael supposed to see, whilst Moshe was speaking to the rock? Now surely, the Pasuk ought to have said "before their ears"?

By Matan Torah however, the Torah explains how Yisrael saw the voices. A miracle occurred, and they saw the words of Hashem (Kevayachol) as it emerged from the throat of Moshe.

It was G-d's intention, explains the Meshech Chochmah, that the same would happen here. Seeing the Divine Voice coming from the mouth of Moshe would have had a profound effect on them, giving the necessary boost to their weakened Emunah.

But when Moshe, in his anger, announced "Listen now you rebels!", he divested the episode of its supernatural character. He decreed that they would hear his words, and not see them. Consequently, the miracle of the rock remained a limited one, and the rock gave its water only after being struck.


Words not Strokes

"And Moshe raised his staff and he struck the rock" (20:11).

G-d had told him to speak to the rock. Yet Moshe struck it, explains the Ramban (who disagrees with Rashi's interpretation of the sin), because that is how one talks to a rock. One communicates with a person via one's mouth, but with a rock via one's hands.

But according to Rashi, says R. Reuven Margolis, that was precisely Moshe's mistake. G-d deliberately instructed him to speak to the rock (and not to strike it), to teach K'lal Yisrael the power of kind words over that of physical force. However, as Chazal have said, 'Anger leads to error'. And so, Moshe Rabeinu failed the test, and the powerful lesson was lost.


In Spite of G-d's Wishes


When, at the Akeidah, Avraham picked up the knife to Shecht Yitzchak, the Torah uses the seemingly superfluous expression "And Avraham stretched out his hand and he picked up the knife".

And ha'Rav Pristiker, based on the premise that Tzadikim of the caliber of the Avos had so accustomed themselves to doing the will of Hashem, that whenever a Mitzvah needed to be performed, they would do it automatically, without having to be directed, explains that, seeing as G-d did not intend Yitzchak to be Shechted, Avraham had to direct his hand to pick up the knife. It did not do so of its own accord, because it was not the will of Hashem.

Likewise here, says the Divrei Shaul. Moshe's hand did not automatically pick up his stick to strike the rock (in the way that it would have done to perform G-d's bidding), because what he was about to do did not conform with Hashem's wishes.


Destroying Amalek Needs No Vow

"If You will give this nation into my hands, I will ban their cities" (21:2).

When G-d did indeed deliver them into their hands, observes the Chasam Sofer, the Torah records that they destroyed the people as well, even though they had not included them in the original declaration?

And he explains that once they discovered that they were Amalekim, no declaration was necessary. The Torah has already given clear instructions to destroy Amalek, so that not only would an additional Neder have been unnecessary, it would not even have been valid (though initially uncertain that they were in fact Amalekim, that cannot have been the reason that they declined to make it [see Rashi]. The reason for that must have been because, should they turn out to be Cana'anim, they would have taken them captive, something that they could not have done once they discovered them to be Amalekim).

* * *

(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 392:
To Redeem a Firstborn Son

The Kohen then places his hands on the baby's head and blesses him in accordance with his ability to bless (such as "Hashem shall guard you ... ", "Because longevity and years of life ... ", "Hashem shall guard you from all evil ... "). The money belongs to the Kohen to do with as he pleases ... and all other details are discussed in Maseches Bechoros and in Yoreh De'ah Si'man 85.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to Yisre'eli men, but not to women. Since we have a tradition that only a man, who is obligated to be redeemed, is obligated to redeem his son, but not a woman, who is not herself subject to redemption. Neither does it apply to Kohanim and Levi'im, from a 'Kal-va'Chomer', for if in the desert, they exempted Yisrael from redemption, then they will certainly redeem themselves. Furthermore the Gemara says in Bechoros (4a) that even the son of a Yisrael, whose mother is a Kohenes or a Leviyah is exempt from Pidyon, because, as we learn from the Pasuk "Peter Rechem", the Mitzvah of Pidyon ha'Ben is determined by the mother (and not the father).

Someone who fails to redeem his firstborn son from the time he reaches the age of thirty days has negated the Mitzvah, should the baby subsequently die. Woe to him, for he bears his guilt. Although the Mitzvah has no fixed time limit (i.e. one can perform it any time after thirty days), nevertheless, "a wise man takes Mitzvos" (Mishlei 10:8), and performs them at the earliest possible opportunity. As a result, "the one who carries out G-d's will shall succeed" (Yeshayah 53:10). It would seem that the father remains obligated to perform the Mitzvah, even after the latter turns bar-Mitzvah (even though his son then becomes obligated to redeem himself), For so the Torah writes "And all your firstborn sons you shall redeem" - the Torah places the basic obligation on the father. And so it appears from the Gemara in Kidushin.


Mitzvah 393:
Not to Redeem the Firstborn of a Kasher Animal

One may not redeem the firstborn of a Kasher animal. The Torah commands us to redeem the firstborn of a donkey, and this might lead us to believe that we must do the same with the firstborn of Kasher animals. That is why the Pasuk specifically prohibits it, and what's more, even if one does redeem it, the redemption is invalid, as the Torah writes in Korach (18:17) "Only, the firstborn ox, the firstborn lamb and the firstborn goat, you shall not redeem because it is holy". The Torah mentions each of the three Kasher animals that are subject to the Din of Bechor - precluding the seven species of Kasher Chayos (undomesticated animals) from the Mitzvah, as the author explained in Parshas Bo (Mitzvah 18).

The Chinuch also gave a reason for the Mitzvah there.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Rambam writes that just as one may not redeem a Bechor that dos not have a blemish, so too, may the Kohen not sell it, since it stands to be brought as a Korban. Nowadays however, when there is no Beis-Hamikdash, and the Bechor stands to be eaten when it becomes blemished, one is permitted to sell it even without a blemish, either to a Kohen or to a Zar. In fact, the Kohen is authorized to sell a blemished Bechor at any time, both when the Beis-Hamikdash is standing and when it is not, both alive and after it has been Shechted, even to a gentile, because it is considered totally Chulin, as the Torah writes about it "a Tamei and a Tahor person may eat it together, like a deer and a gazelle" (15:22). Nevertheless, the Chachamim warned against selling it in the market-place in public (only in the house) ... and other details, are discussed in Maseches Bechoros (and in Yoreh Dei'ah Si'man 306 and 331).

This Mitzvah applies in Eretz Yisrael (like the obligation to declare it holy), according to the opinion of most commentaries, both when the Beis-Hamikdash is standing and when it is not, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (14:23) "And you shall eat before Hashem ... the Ma'aser of your corn ... and the firstborn of your cattle and your sheep"; and the Gemara in Temurah (21b) extrapolates from here, from the place that you bring Ma'aser Sheini (i.e. Eretz Yisrael) you should also bring Bechoros of sheep and cattle. In fact, if someone does bring a Bechor from Chutz la'Aretz, the Kohanim decline to accept it as it is considered proper Chulin ... Everyone is Chayav to observe this Mitzvah, Kohanim, Levi'im and Yisre'eilim, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (15:19) "Every Bechor that is born in your herd ... ". The Kohanim and Levi'im may well be exempt from the Mitzvah of Pidyon Bechor Adam and from Peter Chamor (as the author already explained in Mitzvah 22 and Mitzvah 392), but they are not exempt from this Mitzvah ... Someone who redeems a Tahor firstborn animal, even though the redemption is ineffective, and the animal remains holy, has transgressed a La'av, since when it comes to transgressing a La'av, it makes no difference whether one's actions are effective or not, as we learned in Temurah (4b), regarding the Machlokes between Abaye and Rava. He does not however, receive Malkos, since it is possible to transgress without performing an act.

* * *

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