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

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Vol. 15   No. 40

This issue is sponsored by
Shimshon and Lorraine Krell
in honour of the marriage of their daughter
Matzeela Simcha '
to Avraham Gershon Portnoy n"y

Parshas Chukas

Thoughts on the Parah Adumah
(Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak)

The Parah Adumah and
the Eigel ha'Zahav

The Yalkut Yitzchak quotes Rabeinu Bachya, who in the name of Rashi, cites R. Moshe ha'Darshan's beautiful interpretation of the Mitzvah of Parah Adumah, each and every detail of which he presents as a Kaparah for the sin of the Eigel. To understand the significance of the connection between the two, one first needs to realize that, if not for this terrible sin, Yisrael would have been free from the Angel of Death's clutches, and the Tum'ah that he brings in his wake. Already at the Creation, when Adam sinned, we see how sin and death (and the Tum'ah that accompanies it) go hand in hand. Conversely, where there is no sin there is life, and where there is life there is Taharah. Indeed, the commentaries explain that when Yisrael accepted the Torah at Har Sinai, they attained the level of Adam ha'Rishon before the sin.

It is hardly surprising therefore, to learn that had they merited receiving the Luchos intact, they would have been free from adversaries, free from forgetting the Torah and free from the Mal'ach ha'Maves (as the Medrash explains). It was the sin of the Golden Calf that changed all that. And it was the building of the Mishkan and the Mitzvah of Parah Adumah, which purifies Yisrael from Tum'as Meis, that largely atone for that sin.


Seven x Seven x Seven

Based on the Pasuk in Tehilim (12:7) "The words of Hashem are pure, like purified silver, clear to the world, refined sevenfold", the Rokei'ach explains how the Parah Adumah is based entirely on the number seven - Parshas Parah, he points out, contains seven cows, seven Hazoyos, seven Kohanim, and seven times Tahor. The Kohen who burned it had to separate for seven days, and it was sprinkled seven times from the seven cows that were prepared there, a total of seven times seven.


The Parah Paradox

Chazal ascribe the paradox of the Parah Adumah to the fact that whereas, on the one hand, it renders Tahor those who are Tamei, on the other, it render those who deal with it, Tamei!

The Sifsei Kohen first points out that all types of Tum'ah are a sure sign of sin, which is detestable in the eyes of G-d. And he then goes on to compare it to somebody who is clearing out a house full of trash and dung, who may well not actually touch it, yet his clothes will inevitably become dirty from the smell and the dust. And so it is with sin, which is so despicable before G-d, that whoever is connected to it, irrespective of the capacity in which he does, will inevitably be affected by it and becomes Tamei.


Opposites Influence

The K'li Yakar gives a rather unusual explanation, which he bases on the theory that everything is most affected by its opposite. For example, he says, food does not become eligible to receive Tum'ah until it has had contact with water. Strange is it not, that the Torah chooses something whose very source is Taharah, to be the catalyst that causes Tum'ah? Not at all, he explains. For it is not by something similar that a person or an object is influenced, but by something that is of the opposite nature. Consequently, Tum'ah is only attracted to something that has had contact with water, the source of Taharah.

In similar vein, Chazal tell us, the Yeitzer ha'Ra is attracted to Yisrael more than to the nations of the world, and to Talmidei-Chachamim more than to Amei-ha'Aretz. And it is for the same reason that darkness intensifies when dawn is about to break.

It is not surprising therefore, that Tum'ah wants to assert itself after food has made contact with water, which is the personification of Taharah.


And so it is with the Parah Adumah, which comprises a combination of the ashes of the Parah Adumah (the epitome of Tum'ah) and water (the personification of Taharah), which are sprinkled together on the person or the object that is Tamei.

Consequently, when they are sprinkled on a Tamei person, then it is the water that affects him, and he becomes Tahor; on the other hand, the Tahor person who carries them is affected by the ashes, which make him Tamei.


In that case, you may well ask, why add the ashes of the Parah Adumah at all. Why not sprinkle the Tamei Meis with the water alone, thereby sparing the person who carries it from becoming Tamei?

No, says the k'li Yakar! It is only possible to become purified if one first clarifies the cause of the sin. It is therefore necessary to add the ashes, to represent the cause of the Tum'ah, and the water, which then overpowers and negates it.


An un-Sealed Lid

When the Torah writes "And every open vessel whose lid is not sealed shut is Tamei", says the Tiferes Uziel, it is referring to someone who does not cleave to Hashem, as anything outside the sphere of G-d's direct influence has connotations of Tum'ah.

Alternatively, he explains, it is referring to somebody whose mouth is not sealed. Indeed, anybody who gives free reign to his mouth is Tamei.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

With What He Strikes, He Heals

"Make for yourself a snake " (21:8).

G-d told Moshe to make specifically a snake, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., in order to magnify the miracle, to demonstrate that 'just as He strikes with a knife, so too, does He heal with a knife!'

So too here, He struck with snakes and He healed with a snake.


Change of Name

"They traveled from there (i.e. Iyei ha'Avarim) and they encamped by the River of Zared" (21:12).

In Parshas Mas'ei, the Pasuk records that they traveled from Iyei ha'Avarim to Divon Gad, because there the Torah is listing the place-names. Here on the other hand, it specifically refers to the name of the River, because it is about to discuss the well.


Change of Territory

" and they encamped on the other side of Arnon because Arnon was the border of Mo'av, between Mo'av and the Emori" (21:13).

Arnon is the name of the river, on the side that belonged to Sichon, after circumventing the Land of Mo'av, because Yisrael were not permitted to pass through their land without permission (only along its borders) and they crossed from Mo'av in the east to the Sichon's territory on the west of the River Arnon.

Initially, the entire area had belonged to the King of Mo'av, until Sichon, King of the Emori (aided by Bil'am's curse of Mo'av), captured it from him. From that time on, the River Arnon became the border between Mo'av and Sichon. This is what the Gemara in Chulin is referring to when is states that 'Amon (part of whose land Sichon also captured) and Moav became permitted to Yisrael through Sichon'.

And that is the land that Amon claimed from Yisrael in the Haftarah.


The 'Gift' of Defeat

"What He gave to them at the Yam-Suf" (21:14).

That is how Rashi translates the Pasuk "es vohev be'Sufah ".

According to the Daa's Zekeinim M.T., however, "es vohev" is really one word (like 'esyohev') similar grammatically to "be'hisvada Yosef" (when Yosef made himself known - Vayigash 45:1). What the Pasuk is therefore saying here is "It was given to the King of Mo'av with a storm and a tempest", with reference to their defeat, when his land was taken away from him up to the River Arnon.


The Joy of Being Bitten by a Snake

" and it shall be (ve'Hayah) that when a snake will bite a man, he will look at the copper snake and live" (21:9).

Chazal have taught that whenever the Torah uses the word 've'Hayah', it is always a sign of joy. It is not at first clear, what is joyous about being bitten by a poisonous snake?

However, if we read the Pasuk carefully, we will see that the question is answered automatically, says the Meshech Chochmah. The Torah has just promised that anybody who is bitten by a snake and who looks up at the copper snake will be cured. So what did the people do? Somebody who was very ill would get himself bitten by one of the snakes and then look up at the copper Snake. After all, had G-d not promised to cure him. And so it was. No wonder then, that many people were only too happy to become bitten by a copper snake.


The Mark of Responsibility

"Therefore the 'Moshlim' (the parable-sayers) announced 'Come to Cheshbon (the capitol of Mo'av)' " (21:27).

The Gemara in Bava Basra (78b), taking the Pasuk out of context, explains it with reference to Tzadikim who exercise full control over their Yeitzer ha'Ra, and who say 'Come, let us make a universal reckoning - the rewards of a sin against its losses, and the losses of a Mitzvah against its rewards!'.

If, comments the P'ninei Torah, the Torah is talking about individuals who are making a reckoning, then surely the Chazal ought to have said 'Come, let us make a personal reckoning', (rather than a universal one)?

And he quotes the well-known Gemara in Kidushin (40b), which advises each and every person to consider himself not only an individual, but also a vital member of his town and even of the world community. What's more, the Gemara advises him to consider not only himself, a Beinoni, with an equal number of merits and sins, but that also his town and indeed, the world, are Beinonim, too.

Consequently, each time he performs a Mitzvah, he weighs his own scales, together with those of his town and those of the world, to the scale of merit and reward; whereas whenever he has in mind to sin, he desists, because he knows that not only is he about to tip his own scales to the side of guilt, but also the scales of his town and of the whole world, turning them all into Resha'im.

That is truly the mark of responsibility.

* * *


'And Elazar, wearing the Bigdei Kehunah, shall take from the blood with the forefinger of his right hand (not from a bowl), and he shall sprinkle towards the Ohel Mo'ed seven times from the one dipping' (19:4).


'This is the law of the Torah, anyone who dies underneath a cover that has been spread, if it (the corpse) enters the dwelling via the door (and not from the side), when the door is open, - even its floor, its stones, its wood and its vessels, becomes Tamei for seven days' (19:14).


"And whatever touches on the surface of the field (but not a dead baby inside its mother's womb), one that was killed by the sword or the sword that killed him, a dead person or a bone the size of a barley, or the bone of a live person that has been severed from him, or a grave, or a stone that covers a grave or a head-stone, shall be Tamei for seven days' (19:16).


'And he shall take three hyssop-twigs tied together, and a Tahor Kohen shall dip them in the water ' (19:18).


'And whoever the Tamei person touches shall become Tamei, but not by moving him (without actually touching him)' 19:22.


'And all the congregation of B'nei Yisrael came to Midbar Tzin, on the tenth of Nisan. And Miriam died there and was buried'. (19:23).


'Take the staff of miracles and gather all the congregation, you and Aharon, and in their presence, make the rock swear by Hashem's Great Explicit Name that it will bring forth water; should it refuse to do so, you alone shall strike it with the staff that is in your hand ' (20:8).


'And Moshe and Aharon gathered the congregation in front of the rock, and Moshe said to them " Is it possible for us to produce water from this rock"? ' (20:10).


'And Moshe raised his hand and he struck the rock with his staff - twice. The first time blood dripped from it; the second time an abundance of water flowed from it ' (20:11).

* * *

(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 400:
The Dinim of Inheritance

We are commanded to carry out the Dinim of inheritances, to conform with the Torah's instructions regarding them, as the Torah writes in Pinchas (27:8) "If a man dies and leaves no sons, then you shall pass on his inheritance to his daughter ". And the Parshah concludes (Pasuk 9) "And it shall be for the B'nei Yisrael an everlasting judgement, just as Hashem commanded Moshe". Do not for one moment think that the Mitzvah is to fulfill all that the Torah writes in this Parshah, in other words, to bequeath at all costs, all that one owns, to one's sons, having in mind that the Torah does not want a person to spend all that he earns, but rather to pass it on to his heirs, like many gentiles think.

What the Torah is however informing us is that the rights of one's heirs are bound with those of the 'morish' (the deceased ancestor from whom they inherits), and that the moment the latter dies, the former take over ownership of his property, in an unbroken lineage that goes from generation to generation, in the manner that Hashem wants. Chazal refer to the rights of the next of kin to adopt ownership as 'Mishmush', as we find in many places (see for example Bava Basra 115b), which has connotations of attachment, as if the body of the morish and that of the heir are interconnected and that whatever comes from the one goes to the other. That explains why the Gemara (Ibid. 146b) declares invalid a statement that one's son should not inherit him, that he should not inherit together with his brothers or that one's daughter should inherit him (even though he has sons), or any similar statement; since one does not have the authority to negate the words of the Torah, which has said that the next of kin inherits his deceased relative.

Despite the fact that a person's property is entirely his, with regard to giving it to whoever he pleases, or to do with as he sees fit, even to the point of destroying it in any way (and irrespective of the wording he uses), that does not include an inheritance, for, as we explained, using any of the above declarations goes contrary to the word of G-d and His decree, that the heir should inherit it. Hence the Mishnah there (8:5) states that if someone says that so-and-so (i.e. his son) shall not inherit with his brothers, he has said nothing, for he has issued a stipulation that clashes with the Torah's specifications. And the same will apply to someone who has a daughter, and who declares that so-and-so shall inherit him, has said nothing, for the same reason. According to R. Yochanan ben Berokah however, his words are valid as long as the person to whom he is bequeathing his property is fit to inherit him, but not if he is not. Consequently, if a man bequeaths his property to one of a number of sons, or one of a number of daughters (to the exclusion of the others), his words are valid . And the Gemara learns this from the Pasuk in Ki Seitzei "And it shall be on the day that he distributes his inheritance to his sons ", which implies that a father has the right to bequeath his inheritance to whichever of his heirs he sees fit. And the Halachah is like R. Yochanan ben Berokah. This ruling however, does not extend to the extra portion that is due to the firstborn, which the father has no right to deprive him of.

* * *

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