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

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Vol. 13   No. 37

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yisrael ben Binyamin z.l.
whose Yohrzeit is on 27th Sivan.

Parshas Chukas

Moshe's Staff
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

If, as Rashi explains, Moshe sinned by striking the rock instead of talking to it, the commentaries ask, why did G-d instruct him to take his staff. After referring to the Torah's terminology "the staff", suggesting that G-d wanted a special staff to be used, the K'li Yakar asks two additional questions: 1. Why does the Torah add "from before Hashem"? Since when was Moshe's staff hidden away in the Ohel Mo'ed? 2. Why did Moshe refer to the people as 'rebels' specifically here (as opposed to the many other occasions when they grumbled).


The K'li Yakar therefore cites the Chizkuni, who explains that the staff was not Moshe's, but Aharon's, which was placed in the Ohel Mo'ed, as we learned in last week's Parshah. And G-d chose Aharon's staff, he explains, to teach Yisrael an important lesson (not in order to strike the rock with it).

We will recall from the incident in last week's Parshah that Aharon's staff sprouted blossoms and almonds, in spite of the fact that it was detached and totally dry. Yet Hashem performed a miracle and produced water from within the staff itself, which enabled it to sprout.

G-d therefore wanted Moshe to show Yisrael the staff to demonstrate to them that, just as He had extracted water from a dry stick, so too, was He able to (and was about to) extract water from a dry rock. What Moshe was then supposed to have done is to speak to the rock, to instruct it to follow the example of the staff and to produce water from within itself. For its part, the rock, which was not initially created to do that, was to take its cue from Aharon's staff and to do likewise. Moshe did indeed "take the staff (Aharon's staff) from before Hashem as Hashem had commanded him", only his next action did not conform with G-d's command, for, in his anger, he struck the rock - with his own staff.


At K'riyas Yam-Suf (in Parshas Beshalach), Moshe was told 'Raise ('Hareim') your staff and stretch out your arm', which, according to the K'li Yakar, means that Moshe was to remove his staff and split the Sea by stretching out his arm without it. The reason for this, he explains, is because, up to that time, verything he did was done by means of the staff. This led the people to believe that it had magical powers, detracting greatly from the Divine element of all Moshe's achievements.

And that is why the Torah writes "And Yisrael saw the Great Hand ... and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant". Prior to that, they had not believed, because they were able to attribute all the miracles to Moshe's 'magic' staff. But that was fine as far as the previous generation was concerned. The current episode took place forty years later, to a new generation who would not have remembered how Moshe split the Sea. As far as they were concerned, Moshe split the Sea with the same staff that he had performed all the miracles in Egypt.

By striking the rock instead of speaking to it, he undid all that he had achieved at the Yam-Suf - by hiding the staff. There, the Torah used the expression of 'removing' with regard to the staff (as we explained) and 'stretching' out with regard to Moshe's arm, with the result that "they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant". Whereas here, the Torah states that he removed his arm (meaning that he did not use it for any specific purpose) and struck (the rock) with his staff, causing a decline in the people's Emunah, in that they once again attributed the miracle to the magical powers of Moshe's staff, just like they did prior to K'riy'as Yam-Suf. That is why the Torah writes "Because you did not make the people believe in Me ... ".

Had Moshe and Aharon spoken to the rock, and referred it to Aharon's staff, as we explained earlier, the rock would have taken its cue from Aharon's staff and produced water by Moshe's command alone, causing an incalculable Kidush Hashem. And that is something that Aharon was commanded to do no less than Moshe, and explains why Aharon was punished together with Moshe. And it was when Moshe went on to strike the rock that he became guilty of the additional sin of causing Yisrael to drop their level of Emunah from what it was, a sin in which Aharon played no role.

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Parshah Pearls
Who is Far from Whom?

"This is the statute of the Torah which G-d commanded saying," (19:2).

Chazal connect the Pasuk in Koheles (7:23) "I thought I was wise, but it is far from me" with the Parah Adumah.

With regard to any other area of Torah, they have said that if someone fails to understand it, it is because he is far from it (and not because it is far from him). It is due to a lack of effort, not to the profundity of the contents. The one exception is the Parah Adumah, where even Shlomoh, the wisest of men, had to admit that it was not he who was far from understanding it, but it that was far from him; because G-d had withheld its reason from the whole of mankind (R. Yosef Shaul Natanson).


Atoning for the Original Sin

"He will be purified with it on the third day ... " (19:12).

The Parah Adumah is used strictly to purify a person who is Tamei Meis, as the Pasuk clearly states. Now Tum'as Meis, the S'fas Emes explains, is the result of death. And death came into the world as a result of the sin of Adam and Chavah in Gan Eden. And the initial sinner, as we all know, was the snake, who said to Chavah "And you will be like G-d, in that you will know the difference between good and evil".

Adam and Chavah sinned, it turns out, because they wanted to know something that they shouldn't have. That explains why the Kaparah for their sin lies in the Parah Adumah, which is beyond human comprehension. In that way, Adam and Chavah's children will learn to submit their knowledge to the will of G-d, thereby rectifying the original sin.


Two Kinds of B'rachah

"And a lot of water emerged and the congregation and their cattle drank (va'teisht ho'eidah u've'irom)" (20:11).

Rashi, commenting on the Pasuk in Bechukosai "And you shall eat to your satisfaction" (26:5), explains that 'you will eat little, and the bread will be blessed in your stomach'. There are two kinds of B'rachah, the Meshech Chochmah explains, the one quantitative, the other, qualitative. The latter, referred to by this Rashi, has spiritual connotations, whilst the former, is purely physical.

Here too, had Moshe followed instructions and spoken to the rock, it would have produced a regular supply of water. The people would have drank little, but would have been satiated. And it was only because he struck it that a lot of water had to emerge from the rock, depriving them of the spiritual aspect of the miracle.

This also explains, he adds, why the Torah switches to an expression that precludes the word "es" in the ("va'teisht ho'eidah u've'irom"), a word which did appear earlier in G-d's words to Moshe ("ve'hishkiso es ho'eidoh ve'es be'irom"). The word "es", he says, comes to distinguish between the purely physical act of drinking performed by the animals, and that of the people, which would have been elevated, had Moshe obeyed instructions. But now that he did not, the drinking of the people was no less mundane than that of the animals. Consequently, the Torah omits the "ve'es" that would otherwise have marked the difference between the two.


The King's Highway

"We will go via the king's highway ... we will go via the pathways" (20:17/19).

Since Edom already refused Yisrael permission to pass through their land via the highways, why did Moshe think that using the pathways might elicit a more favourable response?

According to the Seforno, it appears that whereas the former incorporates passing through the towns, which could easily spark off a negative reaction from the Edumians, the latter implies bypassing the towns altogether, to which the people might have been more amenable.


R. Yosef Shaul Natanson answers the question with the Gemara in Bava Basra, which grants a travelling king permission to break fences should they impede his progress.

By the same token, Moshe thought that perhaps Edom's initial objection was based on his having mentioned the king's highway, implying a request for a carte blache to break through people's private property, should this be necessary. That is why Moshe hastened to assure the King of Edom that they would only traverse trodden paths, and they had no intention of passing through anybody's private property.


Perhaps They Will Attack

"Do not pass through my land, lest I attack you with the sword" (20:18).

If Edom wanted to scare Yisrael away, why did they not say with certainty that if Yisrael attempts to enter their land, they will attack them? Why did they need to add the word "lest"?

Edom knew, R. Shlomoh Kluger explains, that if they attacked Yisrael, Yisrael would fight back, and G-d had already promised them that all their enemies would fall before them. They also knew however, that G-d had commanded Yisrael not to start up with them, and this was what the king of Edom was referring to here. He was afraid that if the people saw Yisrael walking through their land, they might just not be able to control themselves from attacking. That being the case, entering Edom was considered an act of aggression on the part of Yisrael, and that was something that G-d had forbidden ...

So you see, Edom was not threatening Yisrael. They were merely pointing out that, under the circumstances, entering their land was an act of aggression that was forbidden to them.


Long Term Planning

... (Ibid.)

The S'fas Emes explains it differently. According to him, what the King was saying was that even though now they had no plans to fight with Yisrael, who could know that fighting would not break out between them in the future? Consequently, it would not do at all for Yisrael to pass through their land now and learn the layout of the terrain and other useful information that would serve their interests in time of war "lest I (decide one day to) attack you with the sword".


The Well that the Princes Dug

"A well that the princes dug, the nobles of the people excavated, through a law-giver with their staffs. From the desert it was a gift; the gift went to the valley and from the valley, it went to the heights (21:18/19).

The Gemara in Nedarim (58a) interprets the latter half of the Pasuk like this 'When a person makes himself like a desert (which is Hefker to all), Torah is given to him as a gift, and once Torah is given to him as a gift, G-d inherits him, and once G-d inherits him, he rises to greatness'.

A Talmid once asked the G'ro how it is possible to explain the latter half of the Pasuk like this, when the beginning of the Pasuk is talking about the Well, which has no apparent connection with Torah?

Not so, replied the G'ro. Based on the Pasuk in Mishlei (5:15), 'the Well that the princes dug' also refers to Torah. And with reference to Chazal, who derive from Pesukim in Koheles and Mishlei that when Zevulun donates money to Yisachar, enabling him to study Torah, he becomes an equal partner with him in the reward that he is due to receive, he explains the Pasuk like this ... "The Torah (the Well) which the princes of Torah dug (with their in-depth learning), and which the philanthropists acquired (with their generous donations); These with their Torah-laws, and these with their support of Torah (their staffs)" - P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro.


Getting to the Root of the Problem

"Pray to Hashem to remove from them the snakes. And Moshe prayed for the people" (21:7).

If the people asked Moshe to pray for the removal of the snakes, asks R. Shlomoh Kluger, then that is what he should have prayed for. Why did he pray on behalf of the people?

The people asked Moshe to pray for the snakes' removal, he replies, because they believed the snakes to be the root of the problem.

But Moshe knew better. He knew that a wild beast only attacks people if, on account of their sins, it perceives them as wild beasts.

Therefore, grasping the problem by its real roots, Moshe prayed to G-d on behalf of the people - that they should do Teshuvah, in the knowledge that the snakes would then go away by themselves.

* * *

(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 386:
Tzitzis (cont.)

According to Beis Hillel, like whom we rule, a garment of linen is Chayav Tzitzis. One fixes on it linen Tzitzis, without T'cheiles, since T'cheiles comprises wool, and this would entail wearing Sha'atnez, which is forbidden mi'de'Rabbanan, because of Kala Ilan, meaning that one may come to dye it with another (fake) dye which is not T'cheiles, in which case one would contravene the La'av of Sha'atnez without fulfilling the Mitzvah of Tzitzis. The Gemara in Menachos (40a) however, queries this. So what if one uses Kala Ilan, the Gemara asks? According to Beis Hillel, who learn Semuchin, it ought still to be permitted to wear a linen garment, since, Kil'ayim is completely permitted with regard to Tzitzis, irrespective of whether the threads are white or blue. And the Gemara answers that Beis Hillel only permit Tzitzis with Kil'ayim there where it is impossible to wear the Tzitzis in a way that is permitted, such as a Talis that is made of linen to which one wishes to attach T'cheiles, which in turn, can only be wool. And it is in such a case that Beis Hillel relies on the D'rashah of Semuchin, permitting Sha'tnez in order to perform the Mitzvah. But where it is possible to perform the Mitzvah without transgressing the Isur, such as where one does not possess T'cheiles, in which case one is able to fulfill the Mitzvah with linen threads, the concession to wear Sha'atnez does not apply. And this conforms with a statement by Resh Lakish, who specifically restricts the principle that 'an Asei overrides a Lo Sa'aseh' to where it is impossible to fulfill the one without contravening the other, but there where it is possible to fulfill both, one is obligated to do so (without transgressing the La'av). The author attributes his lengthy explanation to the fact that there are a variety of explanations regarding this issue, so he made a point of clarifying it in accordance with his view. On the other hand, he leaves his son (on whose behalf he wrote the Seifer) the right to interpret it differently, should he see fit, adding that in the event that he disagrees with him, here or anywhere else, he should not concede to him merely because he was his father and his Rebbe, but should feel free to present his own interpretation of the issue at stake, and what's more, he concludes, 'I hereby refer to your demolishing as building' ... One should take note that although, min ha'Torah, the Mitzvah of Tzitzis is confined to somebody who is wearing a four-cornered garment (just as that of Ma'akeh [constructing a a parapet] is confined to a person who has a roof over his house), Chazal warned us in no uncertain terms, to go to great lengths to fulfill it. They said in Shabbos (32b) that someone who observes it will merit many slaves in the days of Mashi'ach. And the reason for this is because the Torah connects all the Mitzvos to it, when it writes "And you will see it and you will remember all the Mitzvos of Hashem ... ". Furthermore, R. Elazar said, someone who is careful to keep the triumvirate of Tzitzis, Tefilin and Mezuzah is assured that he will never sin, as the Pasuk in Koheles (4:12) writes "And the triple thread will not quickly be broken".

The Dinim of the Mitzvah are to be found in the fourth Perek of Maseches Menachos (and in the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim, Siman 8-22).

This Mitzvah applies to men everywhere, but not to women. A woman who wishes to perform it, may do so, but without reciting a B'rachah, according to some commentaries, though others maintain that she may recite the B'rachah too, should she so wish. Someone who contravenes and wears a four-cornered garment of wool or linen which conforms to the required size and which belongs to him without attaching Tzitzis, has negated the Mitzvah. If the garment consists of other materials, he has negated a Mitzvah mi'de'Rabbanan. And if the garment is borrowed, then up to thirty days from the time of borrowing, the garment does not require Tzitzis; whereas from then on, it does.

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