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

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Vol. 16   No. 36

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yisrael ben Binyomin z"l

Parshas Chukas

G-d's Judgements
(This article is a reprint from Vol. 7.
This is due to an aveilus in the family.)

Rashi (20:23), quoting Chazal, ascribes Aharon ha'Cohen's death to the fact that K'lal Yisrael came too close to Edom - "Because they came in the vicinity of Eisov ho'rosho, their deeds were breached and they lost this tzadik".

No doubt, Chazal derive this reason from the juxtaposition of the two episodes since, immediately after their encounter with Edom, the Torah tells us how K'lal Yisrael arrived at Hor ho'Hor and that Aharon died there.

Why do Chazal find it necessary, asks the S'fas Emes, to search for reasons for Aharon's death that are not specifically written in the Torah, when the Torah has already written (in Pasuk 24) that Aharon died because, together with Moshe Rabeinu, he rebelled against Hashem, when they struck the rock at the waters of Merivoh?


True, answers the S'fas Emes, Aharon had to die for that reason, but that does not explain why K'lal Yisrael deserved to lose Aharon prematurely. Unlike human judges who cannot possibly concern themselves with the moral justification of causing anguish to the family and the acquaintances of the accused, Hashem can, and He does. As our sages derive from the Pasuk in Tehilim (19:10), "The judgements of Hashem are true, they are righteous all together". Anybody, they explain, who is adversely affected by G-d's punishment, even of a third person, must deserve that suffering - otherwise Hashem would not punish the sinner, or He would punish him differently, in a way which would affect only those who deserve to suffer. Consequently, whereas Aharon died because of his sin, the people lost Aharon because coming too close to wicked people is bound to leave its mark. In fact, the answer of the S'fas Emes fits beautifully into Rashi's carefully chosen words. "Because they came too close to Eisov ho'rosho," writes Rashi, "they lost this tzadik". It is the reason that K'lal Yisrael lost Aharon, not the reason that Aharon died.


"The Torah of Hashem is perfect" (Tehilim 19:2), so it goes without saying that the G-d from whom Torah emanates, is perfect too. Yisrael, who form the third party of the triumvirate, are obliged to strive towards that perfection, as the Torah writes, "And you shall go in His ways" (28:9). However, human limitations render this goal unattainable. There are bound to be certain areas which simply remain beyond the scope of human endeavour. Consequently, man is able to judge the deeds of his fellow man at only one level, whereas Hashem is able to judge him and then to reward him or to mete out retribution at every level - and that is what the Navi means when he writes, "Because My thoughts are not (like) your thoughts, and your ways are not (like) My ways" (Yeshayah 55). Indeed not, for the ways of G-d are perfect and flawless!


Another example of G-d's flawless execution of judgement concerns the exile down to Egypt which the commentaries attribute to the brothers' sale of Yosef. It had already been decreed that Avraham Avinu's descendants would go down to serve in a foreign land, due to the doubt expressed in Avraham's words "How do I know that I will possess it?" (Four hundred years for the four Hebrew words.) So why do we require the additional reason of the sale of Yosef? Unless it is to tell us that, to be sure, the golus was attributed to Avraham's 'lack of faith', but why did it specifically have to begin with Yosef's brothers? What did they do to set the wheels of golus in motion? The answer lies in the sale of Yosef - that was the catalyst that caused the exile of Egypt to take place then. "The judgements of Hashem are true, they are righteous all together". And that is also what the Torah means when it writes in Devarim (32:4): "A faithful G0d (in whom there is no injustice" - "He is faithful", and ultimately, every good deed is rewarded and "there is no injustice," since nobody suffers without justification.


There is nothing new in the concept of having righteous neighbours and righteous friends (see Pirkei Ovos 2:9), both because there is much that one can learn from them and because one has the advantage of sharing in their blessings (much in the same way as Lot shared in the blessings of Avraham). What we do now have though, is an additional reason to do so. It is now possible that one will be spared all forms of anguish and suffering that may be one's lot, but, because that will cause pain to these friends and neighbours who do not deserve it, one will, at best, be spared from them altogether or, at worst, will be made to suffer them in a milder form.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Parah Adumah & Matnos Kehunah

"This is the statute of the Torah " (19:2).

The Torah juxtaposes the Parshah of Parah Adumah next to that of the Matnos Kehunah, says R. Bachye, to teach us that the purification of Yisrael is performed exclusively by the Kohanim.


Chukas ha'Torah


R. Bachye defines a Chok (or a Chukah, even though he later differentiates between them)?

Citing the Pasuk in Yirmiyah (5:22) " that I placed the sand as a boundary against the sea, an everlasting statute that cannot be broken", he explains that the word has connotations of a boundary. Consequently, a Chok is a boundary that one may not cross; it is a Mitzvah that one must stop oneself from thinking about, since it is too profound to comprehend.

See also Rashi.


Mikdash & Mishkan

"Whoever touches a dead person and has not been purified, renders Tamei the Mishkan of Hashem, and he shall be cut-off " (19:13).

"And a man who is Tamei and who does not purify himself, that soul shall be cut-off, for he has rendered impure the Mikdash of Hashem !" (19:20).

Citing the Gemara in Shevu'os (16b), R. Bachye explains that the Torah finds it fit to mention the Chiyuv Kareis here, bearing in mind that one of the Pesukim is talking about Mikdash, and the other, MIshkan. We would otherwise not be able to learn Mishkan from Mikdash - whose Kedushah is permanent, nor Mikdash from Mishkan - which was anointed.


Later, the author suggests that since, in the Desert, they had only a Mishkan and not a Mikdash, 'Mikdash' in the Pasuk must refer to the Beis-Hamikdash shel Ma'alah (the celestial Beis-Hamikdash), which, traditionally, is exactly opposite the Beis-Hamikdash (and the Mishkan) shel Matah (see also Rashi Beshalach 15:17).

In fact, says R. Bachye, this is clearly hinted in Tehilim (122:2) "The built-up Yerushalayim, which is like a city that is united".

And this also explains why Yerushalayim is written in the plural - since, like 'yadayim' and 'raglayim', it implies a pair - a pair of Yerushalayims so to speak, one in Heaven and one on earth.

Finally, he points out, that the 'Yud' that is generally missing in the word (with the exception of five times) represents the Yerushalayim shel Ma'alah, which is synonymous with the second 'Hey' in Hashem's Holy Name. And the five times that Yerushalayim is written with a 'Yud' corresponds to that 'Hey' which joins them together at the time of perfection.


Tents & Houses

"When a man dies in a tent " (19:14).

The reason that the Torah refers to a residence as a tent, rather than a house, R. Bachye explains, is because in the desert, they lived in tents and not in houses. And presumably, it is for the same reason that the Torah does the same thing on a number of other occasions, the best-known of which is probably the Pasuk in Balak (24:5) "Mah tovu oholecho Ya'akov ".


The Sword & Tum'as Meis

"And whoever touches one who has been slain by a sword or a corpse " (19:16).

The Torah ought simply to have written " one who is slain or a corpse ", the author observes, since basically, there is no difference as to whether the corpse was slain by a sword or by a stone or a piece of wood; and the reason that it adds "by the sword" is because that was the most common way of slaying people in those days.

Yet Chazal did Darshen from the phrase "be'chalal-cherev" - 'Cherev, harei hu ke'Chalal' (a sword has the power of a corpse - to render whatever it touches an Av ha'Tum'ah, rather than just a Rishon). And this is neither confined to the sword with which the corpse was slain, nor is it even confined to a sword at all. This ruling actually extends to all metal, which takes on the same level as whichever Tum'as Meis it touches (rather than one level less, as is the case with all other areas of Tum'ah).

This stringency however, is restricted to touching. Ohel is different, says R. Bachye, and he bases his statement on the Pasuk "Adam ki yamus be'ohel", on which he cites a D'rashah "Adam" is metamei be'ohel, but not 'cherev'.

If not for this D'rashah, all the Kohanim would be permanently forbidden to enter any house, seeing as there is no house where nobody died, and which does not contain a sword (or as others say, even one metal nail) - a ridiculous situation to which there would be no solution!


The Six Levels of Tum'ah

R. Bachye discusses the six levels of Tum'ah

A corpse is an Avi Avos ha'Tum'ah (as is any metal that touches it).

All other sources (such as a dead sheretz) or whatever else touches a corpse, are an Av ha'Tum'ah.

Whatever touches an Av ha'Tum'ah becomes a Rishon, and whatever touches a Rishon, a Sheini. This is the lowest level of Tum'ah that Chulin can attain.

Terumah that touches a Sheini becomes a Shelishi, and Kodshim that touches a Shelishi becomes a Revi'i.

There is no such thing as Chamishi le'Tum'ah (other than in the realm of Parah Adumah).

* * *


' the people quarreled with Moshe and they said, "If only we had died when our brothers died before Hashem" ' (20:3).


'Take the staff of miracles and gather the congregation, you and Aharon your brother and make the rock swear, using the great and explicit Name of Hashem, whilst they (the congregation) are watching, and it will give its water; Should it refuse to do so, then you alone shall strike it with the staff that is in your hands ' (20:8).


'And we prayed before G-d and He accepted our prayers, and He sent an angel who took us out of Egypt' ' (20:16).


' Let us pass through your land; We will not molest the virgins, rape the betrothed girls, or commit adultery with the married women; We will only follow the path of our Father in Heaven. We will not turn to the right or to the left to cause damage ' (20:17).


'But Edom refused to let Yisrael pass through their borders, and Yisrael turned away from them, because they were warned by means of a Divine message not to wage war with them. This was because the time had not yet arrived to take the revenge of Edom into their hands' (20:21).


' When Aharon died, the Clouds of Glory departed - on Rosh Chodesh Av, the entire congregation saw how Moshe descended the mountain with rent clothes weeping, as he cried out "Woe unto you Aharon my brother, the pillar of prayer ' (20:29).


'And Amalek who dwelt in the land of the south heard and he came and changed (his identity) and ruled in Arad that Aharon had died, that the Pillar of Cloud, which led the nation of Yisrael on his merit, had departed, and that Yisrael were coming along the route of the Spies, the place where they had rebelled against the Master of the World, and when the Spies returned, the B'nei Yisrael were camped in R'kam (Kadesh) from where they moved back six stations to Moseiros. They then spent forty years traveling from Moseros, returning to R'kam by way of the route of the Spies, until they arrived at Hor ha'Har, where Aharon died; at which point they attacked Yisrael, from whom they took many captives' (21:1).

* * *

(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 415:
That a Dayan Shall Not be Afraid When Judging

A Dayan is obligated to refrain from being afraid of anybody in a way that it deters him from judging truthfully. Even if the litigant is a troublemaker, impudent and thick-headed, he (the Dayan) must issue his ruling unequivocally, oblivious to what the above might do on account of it. And about this, the Torah writes in Devarim (1:17) "Do not be afraid of any man!" The Sifri commenting on this Pasuk, writes 'Perhaps you will say 'I am frightened of so-and-so; he is likely to kill me or a member of my family!' or 'perhaps he will burn my hay-stack or cut down my plants!' Therefore the Torah writes "Do not be afraid !"

The reason for this Mitzvah is obvious.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah what Chazal have said that if the two litigants appear in Beis-Din, one is soft-spoken and the other, a hard man - Then as long as you have not heard their arguments, and even if you have, but you have no idea which way the case is going, then you have the right to refuse to judge their case, due to the danger THAT AFTER LOSING HIS CASE, THE TROUBLEMAKER will THEN GO ON TO hound you in order to kill you. Once however, you have heard what the litigants have to say, and you know in whose favour the case is heading, then you are not permitted to withdraw from the case, as the Pasuk says - "Do not be afraid of any man!" And in the same way, if a Talmid is sitting before his Rebbes, and he thinks of a merit on behalf of a poor litigant or a demerit against a wealthy litigant, he is not allowed to remain silent, as the Pasuk writes "Do not be afraid ".

This Mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men, since they are the ones who carry out the Din. Someone who contravenes this, and declines to continue with the judgement after he has heard both litigants and he knows which way the case is going, as we explained, has transgressed this La'av; And if, in addition, out of fear of one of the litigants, he twists the Din, then, besides having transgressed the La'av of "Lo Sateh Mishpat", he has also transgressed the current La'av as well.

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