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

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Vol. 7   No. 44

This issue is sponsored by an anonymous donor

Parshas Devorim

(Incorporating Tish'oh Be'Av)

All Because of You

"G-d was also angry with me because of you, saying 'Also you will not come there!' " (1:37). It is not at first clear what connection exists between the sin of the spies (which precedes this posuk), and the decree that Moshe would not enter the promised land?


The Ramban explains that indeed there is none, only the Torah is listing here all those who did not enter Eretz Yisroel - and that all of them had to suffer this fate because of B'nei Yisroel's sins.

Both the Kli Yokor and the Or ha' Chayim do not however, find the Ramban's explanation satisfactory. The Or ha' Chayim dismisses it because, seeing as the Torah continues to discuss the episode of the spies two pesukim later, it is evident that there is a direct connection between it and Moshe's punishment.


The Kli Yokor explains the connection based on his own interpretation of Moshe's sin in hitting the rock. According to him, Moshe was punished for not instilling into Yisroel more emunah. They actually believed, he explains, that all the miracles that Moshe performed were based on black-magic, which, in their eyes, explained why he always used his stick. That is why Hashem said to him "Kach es ha'mateh" (Remove the stick) - and "speak to the rock". By striking it, Moshe failed to raise their level of emunah, and that is why he was punished (For so the Torah writes in Chukas [20:12] "Ya'an lo he'emantem bi ..." - because you did not make Yisroel believe in Me).

Bearing in mind the high level of emunah that they attained at the Yam-Suf, where the Torah writes "And they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant", at which stage did that level drop? At the sin of the spies, explains the Kli Yokor, when Yisroel failed to believe that Hashem could or would destroy the Cana'anim before them.

It therefore transpires that the sin of the spies resulted in a lack of emunah. And it is for not restoring Yisroel to their former level of emunah that Moshe was punished. If not for the sin of the spies, Moshe would not have been required to perform that task, and he would not have been punished.

Alternatively, he explains, it is because Yisroel sinned by the spies that they had to remain in the desert for forty years. Had they not done so, they would have entered Eretz Yisroel immediately, and the episode with the rock would not have occurred in the first place.


The Or ha' Chayim explains it in the following manner (see also Seforno). It was as a direct result of the sin of the spies, when Yisroel wept in vain, that G-d fixed that night (Tish'oh be'Av night) as a night of mourning throughout the ages. For so Chazal say: 'You wept in vain, Hashem told them. I will fix for you something to weep about throughout the generations'. In other words, the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh which we lament to this day, is the bitter fruit of the sin of the spies. Chazal (commenting on the expression in Tehillim "A song of Osof", rather than "A lamentation of Osof", since he is referring to the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh), also said that we need to sing to Hashem, who poured out His wrath on the wood and stones of the Beis ha'Mikdosh, allowing us to go into exile and survive.

Now, had Moshe entered Eretz Yisroel and built the Beis ha'Mikdosh, it would never have been destroyed (seeing as Moshe's characteristic was Netzach [eternity], and all his deeds were therefore eternal) as the Gemoro writes in Sotah. And that, the Or ha' Chayim concludes, explains why, already from the sin of the spies, it was decreed that Moshe could not possibly enter Eretz Yisroel, as is hinted here. It was to to enable the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh and the exile to take place, signifying the survival of the Jewish people.

But how can that be, the Or ha' Chayim queries his own explanation. Does the Torah not specifically write that Moshe's punishment was due to his own sin by the rock, implying that had he not sinned, he would have entered Eretz Yisroel?

Indeed he would, answers the Or ha' Chayim. But that is because of the great Kidush Hashem that would have ensued. Had Moshe have spoken to the rock, he would have reinstated Yisroel's emunah to the level that it was before the sin of the spies. At that level of emunah, they would have not been prone to sin later. Moshe could then have entered Eretz Yisrael and built the Beis Hamikdosh, which would never have needed to be destroyed.


Parshah Pearls


(Adapted mainly from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)

Who Said It?

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisroel" (1:1).


The Dubner Maggid once asked his Rebbe, the Gro, to define the difference between the rest of the Torah and Devorim.

He replied that the people heard the first four S'forim directly from G-d, who spoke via Moshe's throat. Not so Seifer Devorim, which in similar fashion to other prophesies, G-d first told Moshe, who subsequently conveyed the message to Yisroel, either immediately, or at a later stage.

This explains why the posuk refers here to "the words that Moshe spoke", and it also explains why, contrary to the rest of the Torah, which records G-d's words in the first person, in Seifer Devorim, they invariably appear in the third person.


Not the Tribe of Levi

"And I took from you twelve men, one from each tribe" (1:23).

This teaches us, explains Rashi, that the tribe of Levi was not with them.

But why on earth, asks the Chasam Sofer, do we need a posuk to teach us that, when in Parshas Chukas, the Torah has already listed the tribes that the spies represented - and Levi is clearly omitted?


To understand Rashi, he replies, we need to cite the Ramban, who points out that in the entire Seifer Devorim, the Torah never repeats anything from Seifer Vayikro (Toras Cohanim). The reason for this, he explains, is because, bearing in mind that Devorim is a repetition of the Torah, the Cohanim and the Levi'im are alert and do not therefore need to be reminded to perform mitzvos. By the same token, they did not participate in Yisroel's sins and did not therefore need to be rebuked.

What Rashi therefore means, the Chasam Sofer concludes, is that the tribe of Levi was not present when the rest of Klal Yisroel were being rebuked.

And Rashi extrapolates it from this posuk. "And I took from you twelve men ...". Had the tribe of Levi been present at the rebuking, then Moshe could not have said this, seeing as he did not send a representative from the tribe of Levi.


Hard of Spirit, Tough of Heart

"But Sichon the King of Cheshbon was not willing to allow us through his land, because Hashem hardened his spirit and toughened his heart, in order to deliver him into your hands this day" (2:30).


The Torah speaks of "hardening Sichon's spirit" and of "toughening his heart", points out the Gro.

The basis for this distinction, he explains, lies in the posuk in Tehillim (51:12) "Create for me a pure heart, oh G-d, and renew within me a correct spirit" - "a pure heart", implying that there is such a thing as an impure one!


The point is that there are two types of sin: the one where the person knows exactly who G-d is. However, guided by the desires of his heart (which hold him in their spell), he rebels against Him; The other, where his Yeitzer ho'ra creates concessions, leading him to believe that what he is doing is the right thing. That being the case, his Yeitzer, in the form of crooked hashkofos (outlook) does not guide him, but misguides him, along the wrong path, until he can no longer discern the difference between good and bad. Consequently, when he sins the sin is not an act of rebellion, but rather of a misunderstanding.


This is what Yeshayah meant when he wrote (49:9) "To say to those held captive (under the jurisdiction of their Yeitzer) go out (of exile), and to those who were in (the) darkness (of a false spirit), reveal yourselves!" And this is also what we mean when we say in davening every Shabbos 'and purify our hearts to serve You in truth': and purify our hearts (from desire) to serve You in truth (free of the false spirit that leads us astray).


Now we can understand the two expressions used in connection with Sichon. "Hashem hardened his spirit" (to make him believe that he was doing the right thing in attacking Yisroel) "and toughened his heart" (to reinforce his desire to rebel against Him). Otherwise, he would not have been inclined to do so of his own accord, seeing as that course of action was nothing short of folly (as Rashi explains).

These two concepts are also inherent in the words "chazak ve'emotz" that appear often in T'nach: "chazak" - be strong of spirit, to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong; "ve'emotz" - be tough in overcoming your desires, to avoid becoming tomei by giving in to them.


Not Shachris, Not Minchah and Not Ma'ariv

"When you come to appear before Me, who asked you for this, you who trampled in My courtyard. Do not continue to bring Me vain gifts, abominable spices (burnt-sacrifices) they are before Me" (Yeshayah 1:12-13).

Each morning, it is as if each person becomes reborn, as if he was a new creature, like we say in davening, 'who returns the Neshomos to dead corpses'. Each morning when one davens Shachris, it is as if he was davening his first tefilah before Hashem. Based on that premise, explains the Gro, we can understand this posuk from this week's Haftorah.

When you come to appear before Me (for the first time) says Hashem, I do not ask you to trample My courtyard, because you are not worthy in My eyes - do not bother to daven Shachris.

And when, between Shachris and Minchah, you persist in your evil ways, Hashem continues "Do not continue to bring Me vain gifts (Minchas shov)". You need not daven Minchah either.

And when Minchah-time passes, and you have not made good your ways, then "It is an abominable Ketores before Me". This refers to Ma'ariv, which corresponds to the Hektor chalovim ve'eivorim (the burning of the fat-pieces and the limbs). It is even more of an abomination than Minchah, because as a person sinks from one level to another in his wickedness, so do his prayers become more and more objectionable.



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

86. Not to eat neveilah (meat of an animal that died without shechitah) - as the Torah writes in Re'ei (14:21) "Do not eat any neveilah," incorporating any kosher species of animal, wild animal or bird that died by itself or that was not shechted properly.

Someone who eats a kezayis (an olive-volume) of neveilah is due to receive malkos, and that includes a kezayis from an animal that is still-born. This explains the prohibition to eat a new-born animal until the eighth night, because it is only then that it leaves the realm of sofek nefel (a doubtful still-born). If however, one is certain that the animal was not born prematurely, then it is permitted from the moment of birth. A neveilah is tomei and renders all who touch it tomei too.

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


87. Not to eat a t'reifah (an animal that was mauled by a wild animal) - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (22:30) "And flesh in the field that was mauled you shall not eat".

The t'reifah about which the Torah speaks is one that was mauled by a wild beast or a bird that was 'attacked' by a bird of prey, such as a hawk, provided they were mauled so badly that they cannot possibly survive. Should the animal subsequently die, it becomes a neveilah. But in the event that one shechts it before it dies, it is forbidden to eat it, though the shechitah prevents it from becoming a neveilah, and it is not tomei.

Besides the above-mentioned kind of t'reifah (known as 'd'rusah') there are seven other kinds of t'reifah, all of which are halochoh le'Moshe mi'Sinai: 1. An animal with a hole; 2. An animal with one of its limbs removed; 3. One which fell; 4. One with a missing limb; 5. One which has a limb that is split; 6. One that has a torn limb; 7. One that has a broken limb. 'Limb' in each of the above cases refers to a key limb, and each of the seven cases has its own individual specifications.

Any wound that an animal sustains as a result of which it is unable to survive twelve months, renders it a t'reifah, irrespective of whether the wound was caused by a wild beast, by a human-being or naturally, or if it fell from the roof. In all these cases, the animal is forbidden.

Flesh that comes from a live animal is called 't'reifah' too (even after the animal has subsequently been shechted), and someone who eats a kezayis from it is due to receive malkos.

Should an unborn fetus stick out its foot from its mother's womb, the limb is forbidden because it is labelled 'flesh that left its boundary' (which is a branch of t'reifah).

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


88. Not to eat cheilev (non-kosher fat) - as the Torah writes in Tzav (7:23) "All cheilev of an ox, a lamb and a goat you shall not eat".

Someone who eats the cheilev of any of these three animals on purpose is chayav koreis (excision), and if he does so by mistake (i.e. not realising that it is punishable by koreis) he must bring a sin-offering. The cheilev of the fat-tail is permitted, because the term 'cheilev' (which the Torah forbids) is confined to those sections of the animal that are called 'cheilev' in connection with the sacrifices, such as the cheilev that is on the stomach called 'kerev', on the kidneys and on the flanks. The sinews that are in the cheilev are forbidden too.

The cheilev of the kosher species of wild animals is permitted.

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


89. Not to 'eat' any blood - as the Torah writes in Tzav (7:26) "And do not eat any blood - of birds or of animals". 'Animals' incorporates wild (undomesticated species of) animals. Someone who eats a kezayis of blood on purpose is chayav koreis, and by mistake, a sin-offering. Human blood is forbidden mi'de'Rabbonon, provided it has emerged from the person (e.g. one is permitted to swallow the blood from a bleeding tooth, provided the blood has not yet left one's mouth). The blood of kosher fish and locusts is permitted.

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


This section is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas Reb Yehudah Zev ben Yisrael Saperstein z.l.


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