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

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Vol. 18   No. 40

This issue is sponsored jointly
l'iluy Nishmos
Michoel ben Avraham Nassan Halevi z"l
Sara bas Avraham z"l
by their loving family

Parshas Chukas

The Death of The Three Leaders
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Here are some comments taken from the Oznayim la'Torah regarding the death and burial of the three great leaders, Moshe, Aharon and Miriam.


When, in connection with the death of Miriam, the Torah writes (20:1) that "the entire congregation arrived in the Desert of Tzin", Rashi comments that all those who were destined to die on account of the sin of the spies had died, and that the decree was over. Consequently, the congregation that arrived at Midbar Tzin comprised a new generation that would enter Eretz Yisrael.

The Oznayim la'Torah points out that the Torah repeats the phrase with regard to the death of Aharon, where it writes "And the entire congregation arrived at Hor ha'Har". There too, Rashi makes the same comment that he makes here.

To explain the seemingly unnecessary repetition, he explains that the Torah wants to stress the fact that although both Miriam and Aharon died in the desert, neither of them died as a result of the decree of the Meraglim, but because their allotted time had arrived to leave this world (Aharon, according to the Torah's own words, because of the sin of striking the rock).


The Torah describes how, following Miriam's death, the well disappeared and the people gathered on Moshe and Aharon, clamouring for water. The end result of this episode says the Oznayim la'Torah, was the decree that Moshe and Aharon would not enter Eretz Yisrael, but would die in the desert that very same year. Here we have a classical case of what Chazal say 'When one of the brothers dies, all the brothers should worry' (because the Midas ha'Din is leveled at them). Miriam died, and the death sentence of Moshe and Aharon followed swiftly. Indeed, it is about them that the Navi writes in Zecharyah (11:8) "And I destroyed the three shepherds in the same month!" - for, although they did not all die in the same month, the decree against Moshe and Aharon took place in the same year as the death of their sister Miriam.


"And Miriam died there, and there she was buried". The Torah stresses this, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, to reiterate the difference between Miriam and the others who died in the desert (to which we alluded earlier), in that the 'Meisei Midbar' were not buried in the conventional manner. They lay in their self-dug graves, as Chazal explain, and simply did not get up in the morning, uncovered - in the way that a deceased person ought to be, and that is the way Rabah bar bar Chanah found them, as the Gemara in Bava Basra relates.


The Torah specifically records the date of Miriam's death (in the first month [Nisan]) and so it will later state that Aharon died in the fifth month (Av). It does not record the date that Moshe died. Perhaps, the Oznayim la'Torah suggests, the Torah deliberately fails to reveal the day on which Moshe died, just as it hides the location of his burial. What's more, the author adds, whereas the Torah merely mentions the month in which Miriam died, it gives the full date of Aharon's death (the first day of the fifth month). He explains this based on the fact that the Dor ha'Midbar all died each year on Tish'ah be'Av (as Chazal explain. Consequently, once the Torah informs us that Miriam died in the month of Nisan, we know that she was not part of the Meisei Midbar. Aharon on the other hand, died in Av. Had the Pasuk just recorded that he died in the fifth month, we might still have thought that he belonged to the Meisei Midbar. That is why the Torah found it necessary to record that he died, not on the ninth of Av, but on the first.


Why, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, does the Torah see fit to write that Miriam died there (in Kadeish) and was buried there? The Torah might just as well have omitted the two 'there's' and written that when they arrived in Kadeish, 'Miriam died and was buried'?

To answer the question, he reminds us that on the one hand Aharon's death was strange, in that nobody saw him die and they got to know about it only through the testimony of Moshe and Elazar, when they came down Hor ha'Har without Aharon, whilst on the other hand, Moshe's burial was strange in that nobody knew exactly where he was buried. And that, he says, explains why the Torah finds it necessary to inform us that "Miriam died there and was buried there" - to teach us that, unlike her two illustrious brothers, everybody was aware of her death and everybody knew where she was buried.

Based on that explanation, the Oznayim la'Torah answers another well-known question, Why, it is asked, is no mention made of the people crying when Miriam died? The Torah describes how they wept for Aharon and wept for Moshe; why did they not also weep for Miriam - on whose merit they had water for forty years in the desert, and who saved the new-born babies from death in Egypt?

Considering that a person's life-span in those days was seventy (as Moshe Rabeinu testified when he wrote "The years of our lives in them are seventy, and if we are 'lucky', eighty", 'the three shepherds' (who lived until a hundred and twenty (Moshe), a hundred and twenty three (Aharon) and a hundred and twenty six (Miriam) can really be said to have lived to a ripe old age, and as is well-known, when a person dies at a very old age, one does not tend to weep that much (as the commentaries explain with regard to Sarah's death) - unless the circumstances of their death, shall we say, are unusual. Aharon's death was peculiar, in that nobody saw him dying and it was only due to the testimony of Moshe and Elazar, substantiated by the vision of angels carrying Aharon's coffin through the sky, that the people became convinced that he had died. Moshe's burial was unusual in that nobody knew where he was buried. That is what prompted the people to weep for their beloved leaders, despite the advanced age of their passing.

Miriam, was different. The Torah clearly states that she both died in Kadeish and was buried in Kadeish, in full view of the people. That is why, bearing in mind the age at which she died, the people did not weep extensively when she died.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

Two Black Hairs

" and they shall take to you a cow that is entirely red" (19:2).

This teaches us, says Rashi, that if the cow has two black (or any other colour) hairs (other than red) it is disqualified. Citing Rabeinu Tam from Orleans, the Riva asks why we need this D'rashah, seeing as the Din that two black hairs render the cow invalid is Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai.


A Dead Man - Not a Dead Animal

"Whoever touches a corpse, the soul of a man " (19:13).

Rashi explains that this comes to preclude the soul of an animal, whose Tum'ah does not require sprinkling with the ashes of the Parah Adumah.

Why, asks the Riva, does Rashi find it necessary to say this? The Tum'ah of a dead animal, he claims, is no different than any other form of Tum'ah apart from that of a deceased person, and it is the Tum'ah of a deceased person exclusively that is subject to the sprinkling of the ashes of a Parah Adumah?

He answers by establishing the case specifically by a dead human fetus inside an animal, which, like a regular dead fetus inside its (human) mother renders Tamei for seven days any person who touches it. The Torah is teaching us here that the same person does not need sprinkling with the ashes of the Parah Adumah.


The Kohen who Sprinkles

" the one who sprinkles the purifying water shall wash his clothes (in a Mikvah) " (19:21).

Citing the Chachamim, Rashi comments that, in actual fact, the one who sprinkles the ashes of the Parah Adumah is Tahor, and it is the one who carries them who becomes Tamei (see following Pearl). The Torah mentions "the one who sprinkles" to teach us that the one who carries them only becomes Tamei if he carries the amount of ashes that is needed to sprinkle a Tamei person.


Why, asks the Riva, do Chazal take the Pasuk completely out of context, to explain it in connection with 'someone who carries ', when the Torah specifically mentions 'someone who sprinkles'?

To answer the question, he cites Pasuk 19 - "And the Tahor person shall sprinkle on the one who is Tamei" - implying that he remains Tahor after the sprinkling. Granted, Chazal learn from the same word that he must have been Tamei (i.e., he is a T'vul-Yom), to teach us that a T'vul-Yom is eligible to sprinkle the ashes of the Parah Adumah, that is no contradiction to the current D'rashah, and in fact, we learn both D'rashos.

Alternatively, he answers, it is logical to say that, since the sprinkler is performing a Mitzvah, he remains Tahor whilst touching the ashes (See following Pearl).


The Paradox!

" whoever touches the purifying water will become Tamei until the evening" (Ibid.).

That the ashes of the Parah Adumah render Tamei whoever touches or carries them is only if one does so without any specific reason. But someone who does so with the intention of sprinkling them on a Tahor person remains Tahor. That, R. Eliezer from Tuch explains, is the great paradox of the Parah Adumah!

Perhaps you will ask how it is possible for the ashes to render what is Tamei, Tahor and what is Tahor, Tamei?

That, he explains, is not surprising at all. Consider, he quotes R. Sa'adyah Ga'on as saying, how fire causes milk to curdle yet it causes tin to melt; water makes cedar trees wet, yet it dries fig-trees(?), there are foods that satisfy a hungry person, yet they create an appetite in someone who is satiated, and there are ointments that heal a sick person but that make a healthy person sick!


Tamei for Seven Days,
Tamei for One Day

" whatever the Tamei touches will be Tamei " (19:22).

Rashi explains that the Pasuk is talking about a person who touches someone who became Tamei through touching a corpse. Furthermore, Rashi assumes, says the Riva, that when the Torah writes "he will become Tamei" S'tam (without qualifying it), it refers to a seven-day Tum'ah.

That being the case, asks the Riva, what is the Torah coming to teach us? It cannot be that Reuven who touches Shimon, who touched a corpse becomes Tamei for seven days, since the Pasuk continues " and the person who touches (him) will be Tamei until the evening"?

Citing the Gemara in the first Perek of Avodah-Zarah, the Riva explains that the current Pasuk is speaking about a case where Reuven touches Shimon whilst he is still touching the corpse, and the Torah is coming to teach us that he becomes Tamei for seven days, whereas the following phrase, which renders him Tamei for only one day, is speaking where Reuven touches him after he has separated from the corpse.

* * *


'Let us pass through your land. We will not rape betrothed women, we will not seduce virgins and we will not 'molest' married women. We will go along the path of the King of Heaven until we have crossed your borders' (21:21).


'And Yisrael smote them (Sichon) with the Name of G-d, which kills like the edge of the sword'.


'Therefore the parable-sayers will announce: 'The Tzadikim, who control their evil inclination, declare "Come, let us weigh up the loss of a good deed against the reward, and the benefit of an evil deed against the punishment; Those who arouse themselves to speak words of Torah will be built up and established!" ' (21:27).


'For words strong as fire will come out of the mouths of the Tzadikim, those men who measure their deeds, and merits as powerful as flames from those who read and speak Torah. Their fire will consume the haters and the enemy, who are considered before them as those who worship idols on the altars of the Rivers of Arnon' (21:28)..


'Woe to you - those who hate the Tzadikim! You have perished, people of K'mish, because you hated the words of the Torah - They will have no remedy until they are exiled to a place where they learn Torah, and their sons and daughters will be sent far away with the captivity of the sword, up until such time as they seek the advice of the Torah, of those whose speech consists of words of Torah' (21:29).


'The words of Resha'im are not elevated and uplifted; see how you made all these reckonings until you will perish like a Zav, and the Master of the World will destroy you, until you breath your last, then you will be destroyed like the cities of the Emori'im were destroyed - from the great gates of the royal palace till the blacksmith's market which is situated beside Meidva' (21:30).

* * *

(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 227:
Not to Swear Falsely

It is forbidden to swear falsely, as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:12) " and do not swear by My Name falsely". The Chachamim establish this Pasuk with regard to a 'Shevu'os Bituy' - about which the Torah writes in Vayikra (5:4) "Or a person who swears with an utterance of the lips (levatei bi's'fosayim) to do something good or something bad". This oath is divided into four parts: two in the future and two in the past. The latter for example, where one swears that something happened or didn't happen, and the former, where he swears that he is going to perform a certain act or isn't. A Shevu'as Bituy, whether it is in the past or in the future, only applies to something that is possible for a person to do. For example, in the past - where he swears that he did or did not eat a certain food; that he did or did not throw a specific object into the sea. And in the future, where he swears that he will or will not eat a certain food, or that he will or will not throw a specific object into the sea. But if he swears to do something that the Torah forbids, Shevu'as Bituy does not apply, since it is confined to something that is permissible - where he has the option of doing it or of refraining from doing it, for so the Torah writes there "to do bad or to do good". Likewise, regarding swearing to do a Mitzvah, which he is obligated to do anyway, the concept of Shevu'as Bituy does not apply either, irrespective of whether it is in the future (where he swears that he will fulfill a Mitzvah and doesn't) or (even) in the past (that he fulfilled it, but didn't), as the Gemara explains in Shevu'os (27a). And it is for the same reason that the Chachamim precluded a Shevu'ah to do harm to one's fellow Jew, from the Din of Shevu'as Bituy, since it is 'a Mitzvah' not to carry it out The Rambam nevertheless rules that one receives Malkos for negating it (not because of Shevu'as Bituy, but) because of 'Shevu'as Shav' (an oath made in vain). Someone who swears to do something harmful to himself is subject to Malkos because of Shevu'as Bituy should he contravene it, even though he is not permitted to do so. And so is someone who swears to do good to a fellow Jew, and who then fails to fulfill his oath, provided it was something that lies within his power to carry out. The remaining details of Shevu'os and how to annul them are discussed in Maseches Shevu'os. The author has also written more about this Mitzvah in the Mitzvah of not swearing in vain (Mitzvah 30) in the Aseres ha'Dibros in Parshas Yisro. This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to both men and women. Someone who contravenes it be'Meizid is due to receive Malkos, provided there are witnesses and that he was warned, as is the Din by other Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh. If he transgressed be'Shogeg, then he is obligated to bring a Korban Olah ve'Yoreid, as the Mishnah states in Shavu'os (Perek 3, Mishnah 7).

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