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

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Vol. 5 No. 41

Parshas Devorim

A Friend's Curses

If Moshe Rabeinu began his rebuking of the B'nei Yisroel through brief hints, this was certainly not the style that he ultimately adopted, for as the Parshoh progresses, no punches are pulled, as he passes from one sin to another in open rebuke. He denounces them for demanding judges, which he ascribes to their rejection of his own incorruptibility, and reprimands them sharply on the sin of the spies, and on the part that they played in bringing him to the point of frustration, which in turn led him to err and subsequently to lose his right to enter Eretz Yisroel. The most fateful sin of all, the sin of the golden-calf - it would seem, Moshe Rabeinu found extreme difficulty to specifically recall - but eventually that comes too, in Parshas Eikev (9:12-21). Nor does he mince his words when he refers to their constant rebelliousness, their lack of faith, or when he bluntly calls them 'rebels from the time he first made contact with them'.

Had we not known better, we might even have suspected that Moshe Rabeinu had it in for us and bore us some grudge or other - perhaps he even hated us (chas ve'sholom). After all, nobody likes to hear such harsh criticism. We prefer a little praise now and again, and feel much more at ease with people who refer to us as 'tzadikim' than with those who intimate that we may have faults. But then unfortunately, that is perhaps typical of thr general attitude adopted by many people, which leans more towards finding faults in others, preferring to view themselves as perfect individuals.

In fact, there is probably no-one in our history who loved the Jewish people, both individually and collectively, as intensely as Moshe Rabeinu. Nor is there anyone in our history, who did so much for Am Yisroel, leading them and feeding them, carrying their burdens, rejoicing over their victories and mourning over their defeats, teaching them and defending them, selflessly devoting every fibre of his being to their every need, be it physical or spiritual. Yet before his death, Moshe Rabeinu saw fit to reprimand them mercilessly, for the relatively few sins of which the nation (more often not even themselves, but their fathers) had been guilty over the years. He did so because he knew that this is what was needed to help them see their mistakes and reach perfection. Moshe Rabienu was a true friend, and his mission was one of peace, because he knew that if his rebukes succeeded in bringing home the lesson that their behaviour until then had not been up to scratch, and would result in them mending their ways, then there would be peace between them and their Father in Heaven.

See what the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos quotes the posuk in Mishlei (28:23): "Someone who rebukes a man after me (Moshe Rabeinu) will find favour more than someone who has a smooth tongue (Bil'om)". Moshe, explains the Medrash Rabah, rebuked Yisroel; he warned them about the bitter fruits of sin, whereas Bil'om told them how good they were. See the result of his flattery. They believed that G-d loved them so much that He would turn a blind eye to all their misdeeds. That is why they sinned at Ba'al Pe'or - and twenty-four thousand Jews died.

Similarly, the Gemoro in Sanhedrin (105b) explains another possuk in Mishlei (27:6) "The wounds inflicted by one's good friend are faithful, while the kisses of one's enemy pile up". The curse of Achiyah ha'Shiloni (who cursed Yisroel that 'G-d would smite Yisroel like one moves a cane around in the water') is more beneficial to Yisroel than the blessings of Bil'om (who compared them to a cedar-tree). The former grows firm in a place of water, will re-grow if one cuts it down, has many roots and can withstand the buffeting of all the winds in the world, bowing to each wind that threatens to uproot it, with the result that, when the winds are spent, the cane is still there. Bi'lom however, compared them to a cedar-tree which does not grow in a location of water, has few roots, its trunk will not re-grow when it is cut down, and, although it can withstand most winds, the south-wind uproots it from its place and knocks it down.

Not only that, but the cane, by which Achiyoh cursed Yisroel, has the distinction that one uses it to make a quill, with which to write Sifrei Torah, Nevi'im and Kesuvim.

See what Rashi writes at the beginning of Nitzovim: 'Why does the Torah place the Parshah of Nitzovim next to that of the curses (in Ki Sovo)? Like this day which exists and is first dark and then light. So too, G-d made it light for you, and so He will continue to do. And it is the curses and the suffering which are the cause of your existence (because they prevent you from sinning and atone for you - respectively). And it is they which enable you to stand before Me.

Parshah Pearls
Parshas Devorim

Adapted from the Chofetz Chaim

Fighting as a Last Resort

The Medrash explains the posuk "You have spent enough time going round this mountain (Edom) turn northwards. Don't wage war with them", allegorically. When you see that Eisov wants to fight with you, don't stand up to them, hide before them! Where should we run? - To the Torah, because 'tzofonoh' means Torah etc.

This teaches us, explains the Chofetz Chayim, that we are not to challenge the nations or to stand up to them when they challenge us. What the Torah expects of us is to emulate the example set by Ya'akov Ovinu, as the Ramban explains in Parshas Vayishlach. He writes there that whatever happened to Ya'akov with Eisov his brother, is what will happen to us (because 'the deeds of the Ovos are a sign for the children'). So what we must do when threatened by the nations is to prepare for three things, and in this order: 1) Prayer; 2) Gifts; 3) (as a last resort, when all else fails) War - and that incorporates running away, should that become necessary.

Whenever we took this path, says the Chofetz Chayim, we succeeded. Hashem was on our side; the moment we began to employ the tactics of our enemies and to attack (as a first resort), we failed and were forced to suffer the consequences (as was blatantly proven at the time of the destruction of the second Beis ha'Mikdosh, which was the direct result of the zealots' revolt against the Romans).

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

The Ma'asei la'Melech elaborates still further. He quotes a Medrash Yalkut which points to Moshe, who ran away from Par'oh. Sometimes, explains the Medrash, one needs to bend before the will of G-d. When is that? That is when one sees the moment is turning against him. Why, even Hashem knew to withdraw His Hand (kevayachol), when things were not going His way. When Yisroel were sinning, says the possuk in Eichoh "He turned His right Hand back".

When Ach'ov demanded Novos' vineyard, instead of bending to the situation and acquiescing, Novos stood up for his rights. In the end, he was murdered. Yitzchok, on the other hand, withdrew and left G'ror when he saw King Avimelech and his men's jealousy, and went to live in Be'er Sheva. What happened in the end? Avimelech himself came to see him, and offered to make a peace treaty.

And it was because Moshe ran away from Par’oh, when he saw that the tide was turning against him, that he eventually became great in the eyes of Jews and Egyptians alike.

Everyone has his moments of glory, and his moments of shame. When he is faced with the latter, he must give in to G-d’s wishes, and graciously accept His indicated will. For one cannot fight with G-d, and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em!

    (adapted from the Derech ha’Chayim)

  1. Washing on Rosh Chodesh Av

    When Rosh Chodesh Av falls on Friday, it is permitted to wash, or to bathe, in warm water, as usual.


  2. Av ho’Rachamim and Hazkoras Neshamos

    At Shacharis, one says Av ho’Rachamim and Hazkoras Neshamos

  3. Learning Torah

    Before midday, Torah study is permitted. After midday, however, one should avoid learning those things that one may not learn on Tish’oh Be’av itself (topics which have nothing to do with Tish’oh Be’av, or which are not sad)

  4. Meat and Wine

    One may eat meat and drink wine - even at Shalosh Se’udos - nor is one permitted to deliberately refrain from doing so. One eats Shalosh Se’udos as usual, except that one should eat it in a restrained atmosphere, without one’s friends, though to eat it with one’s immediate family is permitted, and even to ‘bensh Mezuman’ if necessary. One must finish eating before sh’kiyah (sunset). There is no Se’udah Ha’Mafsekes.

  5. Preparing for Tish’oh Be’av

    Preparing one’s Kinos or one’s Tish’oh Be’av shoes on Shabbos for Tish’oh Be’av is prohibited.

  6. Removing one’s shoes

    Unlike other years one removes one’s shoes after ‘Borchu’ (apart from the Chazen, who has already removed them before ‘Borchu’. Before removing them one says ‘Hamavdil’ (or ‘Boruch Hamavdil’) Bein Kodesh Le’chol."

  7. Havdoloh on Motzei Shabbos

    One recites Havdoloh in the Amidah as usual. It is not necessary, however, to repeat the Amidah if one forgot it, since one will recite Havdoloh over wine, on Motsoe Tish’oh Be’av. Havdoloh over wine is not recited, nor the brochoh over Besomim - though the brochoh over Ner (which is not for pleasure) is. It should be recited before Kinos (Mishnah B’rurah).

  8. The Discreet Halochos of Mourning

    The Dinom of Tish’oh be’Av which are not public, such as marital relations and washing in warm water, apply even on Shabbos. However, the former is waived on her ‘Leil Tevilah’, and the latter is permitted if it necessary to remove dirt.

  9. Havdoloh on Motz’ei Tish’oh be’Av.

    On Motz’ei Tish’oh be’Av, one recites Havdoloh over wine (which one may drink oneself - Mishnah B’rurah), but without ‘Besomim’ and without ‘Ner’, both of which are only applicable on motz’ei Shabbos.

  10. Meat and Wine after the Fast.

    Meat and wine are forbidden after the fast (apart from Havdoloh as mentioned earlier). In the morning however, they are permitted, and the same applies to the other things that are prohibited during the nine days e.g. washing in warm water and washing one’s clothes.

(adapted from the Rambam, Hilchos Temidin u’usofin 1:7-12)

4. Shabbos and Tum’ah

The limbs of the Tomid over-ride Tum’ah but not Shabbos. So all the limbs of the Friday Tomid had to be burnt on Friday. The beginning of the Tomid only (.e. the initial mitzvah of Sh’chitah etc.) took precedence over Shabbos, but not the end (the burning of the day’s Koran).

5. Preparing the Lambs in Advance.

There were never less than six lambs already inspected in the ‘Room of the Lambs’ in the Beis ha’Mikdash. They had to be prepared four days before they were due to be sacrificed. Despite this, they would make a point of inspecting them again by the light of torches prior to the Shechitah. Before the Shechitah, they would water the lamb in order to facilitate the stripping process.

6. The Afternoon Tomid: The way the Tomid was Held.

The afternoon Tomid was brought in exactly the same way as that of the morning. They did not tie the lamb (during the Shechitah) in order not to copy the heretics (see Ra’avad). They used to actually hold its forelegs and hind-legs whilst it was being Shechted, The lamb would stand facing southwards with its head turned westwards.

7. Where it was Shechted.

The morning Tomid was Shechted on the north-western side of the slaughter-house, by the second ring; and the afternoon Tomid on the north-eastern side, by the second ring. The reason for this was so that it should be Shechted facing the sun (because the Torah writes "Sh’nayim la’yom’, which Chazal interprete to mean ‘facing the sun’).

8. Two Separate Mitzvos.

If they made a mistake, or if they deliberately failed to bring the morning Tomid, they nevertheless brought the afternoon Tomid. But this only if the Mizbei’ach had been inaugurated. If the Mizbei’ach was new however, it could not be initiated with the afternoon Tomid, only with the morning one.

9. The Flour and the Drink-offering.

Together with each Korban Tomid, they brought flour and drink-offerings, comprising one tenth of an Eifoh (43.2 egg-volumes) of flour, one lug of oil to go with the flour-offering (one lug =six egg-volumes) and one lug of wine as the drink offering. The flour-offering was burnt on the Mizbei’ach and the drink-offering was poured into one of the bowls next to the south-western corner of the Mizbei’ach.

10. The Psalm of the Day.

It was when the wine was being poured into the bowl that the Levi’im’s choir, together with the musicians, struck up the ‘Shir shel Yom’.

These are just a few of the Dinim of the Korban Tomid, adapted mainly from the Rambam. May Hashem send the Moshi’ach soon, followed by the building of the Beis ha’Mikdosh, that we may be able to bring the Korbonos once more.

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