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

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Vol. 8   No. 39

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Ita Rachel
bas Reb. Chayim Boruch Mordechai z.l.

Parshas Devarim

The Apportioning of the Land
Part II

The Ramban himself raises the problem that we discussed earlier, regarding the discrepancy between the two Gemoros in Bava Basra, but directly on the Pasuk. Seeing as there were other tribes that were larger than Menasheh, and, as we explained, each tribe received an equivalent size portion he asks, how one can justify their complaint to Yehoshua?


To solve this problem, he offers a rather novel interpretation of their complaint. It was not so much their large numbers and inadequate territory of which they were grumbling, he explains, but rather to the fact that no other tribe was landed with as much unconquerable land as they and their brothers, the B'nei Ephrayim. And this is borne out by the fact that it was immediately following their unsuccessful attempt to conquer the land, that they lodged their complaint. What, you may ask, did that have to do with Yehoshua? The lots had been drawn fairly, and if that is what they received, by what right did they blame Yehoshua for their bad Mazel? Not so, answers the Ramban! The B'nei Menasheh actually accused Yehoshua of casting the lots unfairly. And he bases his explanation on the Pasuk in Yehoshua (17:14), which records them as saying "Why did you give us one inheritance, one lot and one portion, since we are a large community ... ?"


The Ramban rejects the literal interpretation of the Pasuk (that they were complaining as to why they received only one portion, even though, in effect, they were two tribes), because they did in fact receive two portions, and not just one, as we explained above. What they must therefore have meant was that, whereas in the case of each of the tribes, Yehoshua had cast separate lots, in their case, he cast only one lot for Menasheh and Ephrayim together. Consequently, they would receive one double portion of land, which they would later have to divide into two.

Incidentally, it appears that, in doing so, Yehoshua took his cue from Moshe Rabeinu, who wrote, both in Bamidbar and in Pinchas "The sons of Yosef to their families Menasheh and Ephrayim", indicating that they were to receive their respective portions of land together.


In any case, the Ramban continues, the B'nei Menasheh contended that it is because Yehoshua cast their combined lots together, that they received land that was unconquerable. Had he drawn separate lots (like he did with the other tribes), then their Mazel would have changed, and one of them, or even both of them, might have received conquerable land.


There are however two difficulties with the Ramban's explanation:

1. The Pasuk in question concludes " ... when we are a large community, since G-d has blessed us to this extent". As we pointed out earlier, according to the Ramban's own opinion, the question of numbers is irrelevant, since the Land was divided into twelve equal portions; and in any event, what did the fact that they had increased have to do with the drawing of the lots?

2. If, as Rashi explains in Parshas Pinchas (26:54), the land was initially allocated by the word of Hashem, and the lots came only to substantiate the allocation, then the B'nei Menasheh's claim, according to the Ramban's interpretation, is meaningless.


Before attempting to resolve the discrepancy between the two Gemaras, there is one more blatant problem with those who maintain that Eretz Yisrael was divided into twelve equal portions. But how can that possibly be, when all that is needed is a glance at any map to determine that that is simply not the case? (See also Torah Temimah Ch. 26, Note 17)


It seems that we can kill two birds with one stone, by citing the explanation of the Seforno. According to the Seforno, the Land was indeed divided into twelve equal portions, equal, not in size, but in value (one Kur of poor-quality land against a Beis-Sa'ah of good land [1 Kur = thirty Sa'ah]).

When the Torah writes "To the many you shall give a large portion ... ", the Torah means that a larger tribe was to receive a larger tract of inferior-quality land, and a smaller tribe, a smaller tract of superior-quality land. In this way, each tribe would receive an equal portion, not in size, but in value. In this way, the land each tribe received would suit its needs according to its size.

Ha'Rav Mordechai Dicker Shlita, pointed out that with this explanation, we can also understand the B'nei Menasheh's complaint according to Rebbi Yoshiyah (who says that the Land was apportioned according to those who left Egypt), even assuming that Eretz Yisrael was divided into twelve equal portions. True, each tribe received an equal portion of land. Nevertheless, according to Rebbi Yoshiyah, the B'nei Menasheh will have received a small (if valuable) piece of land according to their size when they left Egypt. However, when they entered Eretz Yisrael forty years later, their numbers had increased so dramatically, that they found the land too small for their needs, and that is why they complained to Yehoshua.


Parshah Pearls Devarim
(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)
Three Times Sixteen

"Eileh ha'devorim" (1:1).

''devorim'', "ha'devorim", "Eileh ha'devorim". This is a hint to the three times the Torah was taught to K'lal Yisrael; at Sinai, in the Ohel Mo'ed and at Arvos Mo'av.


On each Mitzvah, Hashem made sixteen covenants with Yisrael; sixteen covenants at Sinai, sixteen in the Ohel Mo'ed and sixteen in Arvos Mo'av, totaling forty-eight. Correspondingly, the warning against serving idols recurs forty-eight times in the Torah, and forty-eight times we are warned about not maltreating a Ger.

Nor would be at all surprising if these forty-eight covenants served as the basis for the forty-eight things through which Torah is acquired.


The last letters of the opening words of the Five Books ("Berishis", "Eileh", "Vayikro", "Vayedaber" and "Eileh") add up to 611, the equivalent of 'Yir'as', and hints at the Pasuk in Mishlei "The beginning of wisdom is the Fear of G-d".



"Hashem ... spoke with us at Chorev ..." (1:6).

Chorev, as we know, is another name for Har Sinai. It is written missing a 'vav', in which case it can be read 'cherev' (a sword), a hint as to what will happen to Yisrael if they fail to observe the Torah.


Even Moshe, Too!

" ... and He swore saying, that none of these men will see ... the land that I swore to give to your fathers" (1:35).

The last letters of the words " ... ish bo'anoshim ho'eileh" spell 'Moshe', a clear hint that Moshe was not destined to enter Eretz Yisrael, any more than the rest of that generation.


Serving one's Rebbe

"Yehoshua bin Nun who stands before you" (1:38).

Yehoshua was chosen to succeed Moshe, not because of his great learning ability or even because of his profound knowledge. Nor is there the least indication that he was a greater talmid-chacham than the other Torah-scholars of his generation.

He was chosen as Yisrael's next leader because he served Moshe (as implied by the term "stands before you"). And that is what Chazal mean when they say 'Gedolah shimushoh shel Torah yoser mi'limudah' ('serving Torah is greater than learning it') B'rachos 7b.


Eisav Honored his Father

"Enough of going round ('sov') this mountain (the Mountain of Se'ir -Eisav's territory). Turn your face northwards" (2:3).

There are crowns on the 'samech' of "sov" ('Go round'!), because 'samech' has the numerical value of sixty, and Eisav honored his father who was sixty when he bore him. And it is for the very same reason that he merited to destroy the second Beis-Hamikdash, which was sixty amos tall.


And Look at the Benefits!

"Do not incite them (Edom), because I will not give you from their country as much as the treading of a foot, seeing as I gave Har Se'ir as an inheritance to Eisav" (2:5).

The numerical value of " ... an inheritance to Eisav" ("ki yerushah le'Eisav") is equivalent to 'bishvil mitzvas kibud' ('because of the mitzvah of honoring').

For honoring his father, he received that, too!


" ... ad midrach kaf ragel" ('as much as the treading of a foot'), can also be translated as 'until the treading of the foot', in which case the Pasuk is informing us here that G-d will not give us Eisav's land until the coming of Mashi'ach (about which the Navi Yeshayah writes "I will tread the winepress alone"). (See Rashi, Bereishis 33:13, for a similar explanation of the Pasuk there).


The Day the Sun Stood Still

"Today ('ha'Yom') I will begin ('ocheil') to place your dread and your fear on the face of the people beneath the heavens" (2:25).

The same word "ocheil" appears in Yehoshua (3:7), because here, like there, Hashem caused the sun to stand still in the sky (indeed, the sun is sometimes referred to as "yom").

And we know for sure that it is in this connection that the two Pesukim are compared, because of a third Pasuk (in Yechezkel) where the same word appears yet again. The Navi writes there (39:7) "And I will let My holy Name be known ... and I will not desecrate ('ve'lo acheil') My holy Name anymore". Now we know that this Pasuk refers to the sun standing still, because it is when the sun stood still, that Hashem's Name became known throughout the land.


Leaving the Best for Hashem

"Only (Rak) the animals we took as spoil ..." (2:35).

The word "Rak" always comes to exclude something (to minimise). In this case, it comes to teach us that the animals that Yisrael took from Sichon as booty were those that were weak. The better ones, they designated as a gift for Hashem.


From the Haftarah - The Unwanted Tefilos
(adapted from the Shulchan mi'P'ninim ha'G'ra)

"When you come to see My Face, who asked you for this, you who trample My Courtyards? Do not continue to bring your vain Minchah, it is abominable Ketores before Me" (Yeshayah 1:12/13). Based on the fact that each morning, a Jew becomes a new creation (as we recite each day in Birchas ha'Shachar 'who returns Souls to dead corpses'), we can interpret this Pasuk with regard to the three daily Tefilos.

When a person rises in the morning, and prepares to daven, it as is if he is going to daven for the first time. This is what the Navi is referring to when he writes "Who asked you for this, you who trample My Courtyards? (I did not ask you to come to Shul to Daven Shachris)?" And as the day progresses, and he fails to change his ways, Minchah time arrives and he remains the same rasha that he was in the morning. So G-d continues "Do not go on to bring your vain Minchah (because it is no more acceptable to Me than your Shachris was)".

Finally, as night approaches, and one persists in one's evil ways, G-d concludes "It is abominable Ketores before Me", referring, not to the incense, but to tefilas Ma'ariv (which corresponds to the 'hekter chalavim ve'eivarim' [the burning of the limbs ... ]). And this time G-d describes it as abominable, because (in keeping with the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos), someone who does not ascend, automatically descends. Consequently, by the time Ma'ariv arrives, and he has continued all day along the path of sin, he has been relegated to the title of 'abominable'.


Remember, Don't Forget

to stop eating at Shalosh Se'udos before sunset, because that is when the fast begins.

not to take of your shoes before 'Borchu', because that is when the mourning begins.

(adapted from the Medrash)

When the time arrived for Yehushalayim to be destroyed, Hashem lured Yirmiyah away from the city, by ordering him to go to Anasos to purchase a field from his uncle Chanamel. 'Perhaps this is a sign that Hashem has changed His mind, and is showing favor to Yerushalayim', thought Yirmiyah. 'Perhaps they will yet study Torah there! Otherwise, why would Hashem tell me to go to Anasos to purchase a field'?


But no sooner had Yirmiyah left Yerushalayim, than an angel descended from Heaven, placed his feet on the walls and breached them. He then called to the enemy to enter the House, because the Master was not there, and gave them leave to denigrate it and destroy it. 'Come into the vineyard', he called out, 'and cut the grapes, because the Guard has forsaken it and gone away. But' he added, 'you have no right to boast about how you captured it. Because you have captured a captured city, and killed a dead people!'


The enemy entered and put up a platform on the Har ha'Bayis. They ascended the platform at the very spot where King Shlomoh would sit and consult his wise men. At the very same spot where the foundation stone of the Beis Hamikdash was placed, that is where the enemy now sat, planning with their elders how to burn the very House by whose foundation Stone they now sat.

But even as they sat and planned, they looked up and beheld four angels descending from the sky, holding in their hands four fire-brands. These they placed at the four corners of the House, setting it on fire.


When the Kohen Godol saw the House burning, he took the keys and threw them heavenwards, saying 'Here, Hashem, are the keys of Your House, whose fraudulent custodian I was'. As he made to leave, the enemy seized him, and slaughtered him beside the Mizbei'ach, at the exact spot where he used to sacrifice the Korban Tamid. His daughter came out weeping bitterly. 'Woe is me', she cried, when she saw his slain body, 'My beloved father, the treasure of my eyes!' She tried to escape, but they cut her down, right there where they had just murdered her father, and her blood mingled with his.

When the Kohanim and the Levi'im saw that the Beis Hamikdash was on fire, they took the harps and the trumpets, and leapt together with them into the flames.

Next came the young maidens who were weaving the Holy Curtain. When they saw that the Beis Hamikdash was burning, they too, jumped into the flames, to prevent the enemy from defiling them.


Meanwhile, King Tzidkiyahu proceeded to flee together with his family, via an underground tunnel that led to Yericho, a distance of 40 mil. But a fleeing deer led General Nevuzraden and the troop of Babylonian soldiers who were chasing it, to the exact spot where the king emerged from the tunnel, preceded by his ten sons.

Nevuzraden took them captive and sent them to Nevuchadnetzar in Rivlah. Nevuchadnetzar immediately took him to task for breaking the oath he had made to him never to reveal that he had seen him eating a live hare.

Anticipating Nevuchadnetzar's next move, Tzidkiyahu asked for the Babylonians to kill him first, so that he would not witness his children's blood being spilled before his very eyes. But Nevuchadnetzar followed the request of Tzidkiyahu's sons, who asked that they be killed first, so as not to witness the murder of their father. And after killing all ten sons in front of their father, he poked out Tzidkiyahu's eyes and threw them into the furnace. Then he led him into exile to Bavel.

Arriving in Bavel, Tzidkiyahu cried out 'Come and see me everyone: Yirmiyah warned me that, if I did not listen to his words, I would be led into exile to Bavel, yet my eyes would not see it. I failed to listen to Yirmiyah, and now here I am in Bavel, yet my eyes do not see it, precisely as Yirmiyah predicted!'


Meanwhile, Yirmiyah left Anasos to return to Yerushalayim. From afar, he saw a pillar of smoke rising from the burning Beis Hamikdash, and he thought 'Maybe Yisrael have done teshuvah, and the smoke that I now see is the smoke of the sacrifices that they are once again bringing.' But when he came closer, he climbed on to a wall and saw that where the Beis Hamikdash had previously stood there were now piles of rubble, and that the walls of Yerushalayim were breached. And he cried out "You enticed me, Hashem (to leave Yerushalayim, to stop me from appealing to Your Divine mercy to desist from destroying it), and I allowed myself to be enticed ... ".


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