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

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Vol. 9   No. 40

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Parshas Devarim
(Shabbos Chazon)

incorporating Tish'ah be'Av

Angry With Moshe, Too

After reprimanding Yisrael for the sin of the Meraglim (the Spies) and its dire consequences, Moshe adds that he too was deprived of the right to enter Eretz Yisrael, on account of their sins.

The Ramban explains that Moshe is merely listing all those who suffered this fate due to Yisrael's sins, even though the decree forbidding Moshe to enter Eretz Yisrzel had nothing to do with the Meraglim.

The Or ha'Chayim however, asks why Moshe then decided to interrupt the episode with the Meraglim, to insert that of Moshe (seeing as the Pasuk then reverts to discussing the Meraglim).


The K'li Yakar, in his second explanation, actually connects Moshe's sin with that of the Meraglim, though rather indirectly. It was only because of the decree of the Meraglim (forcing Yisrael to remain in the Desert for forty years) he explains, that Miriam's time to die fell due before they entered the Land. The result of that was of course, the water of Mei Merivah, and Moshe's sin. Conversely, if Yisrael had not sinned by the Meraglim, they would have entered Eretz Yisrael together with Miriam, with Moshe, who would not have sinned either, at their head.


His first explanation however, is more direct. He refers to Parshas Chukas, where he explained that, although Yisrael had reached an extremely high level of Emunah at the Yam-Suf, where the Torah declares "And they believed in G-d and in Moshe His servant", their Emunah dropped dramatically at the episode with the Meraglim. Indeed, the Torah writes here (Pasuk 32, quoting Moshe there) "And in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d".

Consequently, when dealing with Yisrael's complaint that they had no water, he should have acted in a way that restored their Emunah to its former level (by removing the stick and producing water by stretching out his hand, like he did by the Yam-Suf). But that was not what he did. He struck the rock with his staff, causing Yisrael to believe in the power of his stick, rather than in the power of G-d.

Now the connection is abundantly clear. Yisrael lost the right to enter Eretz Yisrael at the episode of the Meraglim, due to their weak level of Emunah. And Moshe lost the right to enter, at the episode of Mei Merivah, for not restoring their Emunah to its previous strength, as indeed the Torah writes there "because you did not cause them to have faith in Me, to sanctify Me before their eyes". And, as Chazal have said 'Someone who causes the community to sin, must take responsibility for their sin'.


But the explanation of the Or ha'Chayim (also hinted at briefly in the Seforno), is certainly the most innovative of all. He bases it on the well-known Gemara in Ta'anis (29a), where, commenting on the Pasuk in Ki Sisa "And the people wept on that night", Chazal explain how G-d fixed the night of Tish'ah-be'Av as a national night of mourning. On that night each year, we weep for the destruction of both Batei Mikdash, and for our expulsion from Eretz Yisrael.

The Gemara in Sotah asserts that had Moshe entered Eretz Yisrael and built the Beis Hamikdash, no nation would have been able to destroy it (since Moshe's Midah was Netzach - Eternity). The Medrash explains why the Pasuk in Tehilim uses the expression "Mizmor le'Asaf" (a song to Asaf) when 'Kinah le'Asaf' (a lamentation to Asaf) would have seemed far more appropriate. The fact that G-d vented His wrath on the wood and the stones of the Beis Hamikdash rather than on K'lal Yisrael was indeed something to sing about.

Had Moshe taken Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael and built the Beis Hamikdash, and Yisrael would then have sinned, G-d would have had no option other than to wipe out K'lal Yisrael.

Consequently, not only was Moshe's death connected with the sin of the Meraglim; it was also connected directly with their own punishment, inasmuch as it prevented it from going beyond its intended limits. And that also explains why the Pasuk writes not "Therefore you will not come to the Land ... ", but "you will not bring the congregation to the land which I promised to their fathers".

Perhaps it is even possible to combine the Or ha'Chayim's explanation with that of the K'li Yakar, in which case Moshe was not punished only for the good of K'lal Yisrael, but for his own participation too.


Parshah Pearls

If That's What You Want

"va'Chatzeiros ve'Di Zohov" (1:1).

"Chatzeiros" refers to the Machlokes of Korach, "Di Zohov", to the Golden Calf. In that case, asks Rebbi Heschel, why does the Torah invert the chronological order of the two events, seeing as the Golden Calf occurred first?

And he answers with Moshe's defense of K'lal Yisrael by the Golden Calf. As Chazal explain, this was based on the fact that "Anochi" and "Lo Yih'yeh Lecho", which are written in the singular, were only said to Moshe, but not to the rest of K'lal Yisrael (or at least, so Moshe argued).

That argument might have held water up to the time of Korach. But once Korach (who had the support of the people) insisted that all the people were equal, because they all stood at Har Sinai and heard "Anochi" and "Lo Yihyeh Lecha", he was forced to withdraw his words.

That is why it was only after he had rebuked them for the episode with Korach, that he was able to rebuke them for that of the Eigel ha'Zohov.


Torah Transcends Place

"He explained the Torah" (1:5) ...

... in seventy languages, comments Rashi.

This teaches us, says the K'sav Sofer, that the Torah was not given to us to keep in the desert or even just in Eretz Yisrael. The Torah was meant to be kept wherever we are in the world.

We are not a nation like other nations, who are bound by place. We are a nation by virtue of the Torah only, irrespective of location.


Moshe's Personal Gift

"G-d will multiply you a thousand-fold" (1:11).

'That is from me', Rashi explains '(but) G-d will bless you just as He promised (without limits).

Why specifically a thousand-fold?

On two occasions, the Ba'al Hafla'ah reflects, G-d wanted to destroy Yisrael, and each time he promised Moshe that he would replace them as a nation.

Based on the rule that G-d's quality of reward exceeds His quality of punishment five hundred fold, Moshe's descendants were destined to be five hundred times more than that of K'lal Yisrael - twice, making it a thousand-fold.

And that is what Rashi means when he writes "G-d will multiply you a thousand-fold", 'that is from me' (my personal blessing, which I duly bestow upon you).


Turning the Other Way

"Do not recognise a face (favour) in judgement" (1:17).

The Shach in Choshen Mishpat (17) rules that Dayanim may not look in the face of the litigants as they present their case. Besides having its source in our Pasuk, this ruling is also based on the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos which teaches ' ...and when the litigants are standing before you, they should be in your eyes like resha'im'. And it is forbidden to look into the face of a rasha, as Chazal have taught.


In similar vein, Rav Maimon cites the Rokei'ach, who explains the Gemara in Sotah that the Mitzvah of "Do not fear anyone" ceased to function ('mi'she'robu ro'ei ponim') from the time that they began showing favoritism in judgement. In the current context it could be interpreted to mean 'from the time that they began looking into people's (the litigants) faces'.


What Should One be Afraid of?

Do not recognise a face (favour) in judgement", listen to the small just like the big, do not be afraid of any man" (ibid).

The No'am Megadim explains the sequence of the two latter statements based on the Zohar. The Zohar comments on the Pasuk in Tehilim (49:6) "Why will I be afraid in days of evil, the sins that I trod with my heel will surround me". What the Pasuk means it explains, is that what a person must fear more than anything else is those seemingly sins that people tend to tread with their heel (see opening Rashi in Eikev).

Consequently, the Pasuk writes here "Listen to the small just like the big, and you will have nothing to fear".


Levi Wasn't Present

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

This teaches us, Rashi comments, that the tribe of Levi did not participate.

What is Rashi coming to tell us, asks the Chasam Sofer? Don't we know already from the Pasuk in Sh'lach-Lecha that Levi did not send a representative to spy out the land?

And he explains Rashi according to the words of the Ramban. The Ramban attributes the total absence of any topic pertaining to Seifer Vayikra (also known as Toras Kohanim) from Seifer Devarim, to the fact that the Kohanim (as well as the Levi'im), are alert, in which case the Mitzvos that pertain to them need not be repeated.

Consequently, when the Torah writes at the beginning of the Parshah "These are the words that Moshe spoke to the whole of Yisrael", this does not include the tribe of Levi, since they did not sin by the Spies.

When Rashi says that the tribe of Levi was not present, he is referring to the current gathering of Yisrael, not to the sending of the spies.


It All Depends on the Intonation

"And G-d heard the 'voice' of your words" (1:34).

The Spies too, said that the land was good. When they added "But the people are strong" (see Ramban) however, it became clear that their initial statement, as well as those that followed, was one of sarcasm, and was not genuine at all.

That explains why the Torah writes "And G-d heard (not just "your words" [they were innocent enough], but) "the tone of your words" (the Ri Lando - though I changed his source).


And on the Heart

"And you raised your voices and said to me 'We sinned to Hashem' " (1:41).

Confession is only meaningful, Rebbi Shlomoh Kluger explains, to the extent that it comes from the heart. If it only from the mouth and outwards, then one merely adds another sin to one's existing ones.

That is why we find among the 'Al chet's' that we say on Yom Kipur 'On the sins that we sinned before You with our confessions'.

'You confessed to me, Moshe complained. "To me", and not to G-d, he meant to say. Had your Teshuvah been sincere, then it is to Him that you would have directed your confessions, not to me'.

That is why G-d informed them (in the following Pasuk) "Don't go up and don't fight, because I am not in your midst". This was not a punishment! It was a statement of fact - 'I am not in your midst', because you did not put Me there.


(Part 2)

adapted from the seifer Ishei ha'T'nach

Tzidkiyahu, who was the son of Yoshiyahu, was Yehoyachin's uncle. He had a number of nicknames, including Shalum, Yochanan, Yeho'ochaz. His real name however, was Matanyah, and he was called Tzidkiyahu because he proclaimed G-d right (tzidak olov es ha'Din) for ultimately punishing him for his sins.

Nevuchadnetzar crowned him in place of Yehoyachin in the year 3327.

There seems to be a difference of opinion whether he was a righteous king or a wicked one. The Gemara in Mo'ed Katan (16b) explains that he was called Eved Melech Kushi, because he was unique in good deeds like a black man is unique in the colour of his skin. In Sanhedrin (103a), the Gemara interprets the Pasuk "And he did evil in the eyes of G-d" to mean that he was able to stop the people from sinning, but didn't, implying that he himself was not guilty of sinning. Chazal there explain that G-d wanted to destroy the world, and was only consoled when he saw Tzidkiyahu, and Mishnayos Rav Pe'alim even lists him together with Chizkiyahu ha'Melech, and the prophets Chagai and Zecharyah ben Ido under the titles 'Tzadikim who compiled various Mishnayos'.

Yet the Gemara in Mo'ed Katan (28a) describes the sole Mitzvah that he performed as drawing Yirmiyah from the deep pit into which he had been cast. Certainly, the picture that the T'nach paints of him is that of one who consistently rebelled against the Navi Yirmiyah. However, let the last word go to the Gemara in Shabbos (149b), which describes how Nevuchadnetzar would abuse the kings under his jurisdiction, and would perform immoral acts with them. To this end, he would draw lots to determine the rota. When Tzidkiyahu's turn arrived, the Gemara explains, Nevuchadnetzar was simply unable to perform his evil practice 'on that Tzadik'.


Nevuchadnetzar made Tzidkiyahu swear that he would not rebel against him. Yet Nevuchadnetzar had barely arrived back in Bavel, and he had already negated the oath that he had sworn over a Seifer-Torah. According to others, the oath that he violated was that he would never divulge having seen Nevuchadnetzar eat a live hare.

Nevuchadnetzar had placed the Kings of Edom, Mo'av, Amon, Tzur and Tzidon in his charge. It was to them that he divulged what he had seen, and it was they who repeated to Nevuchadnetzar what Tzidkiyahu had told them.


In the year 3338, eleven years after Tzidkiyahu had ascended the throne, Nevuchadnetzar destroyed the Beis Hamikdash. When he saw that all was lost, Tzidkiyahu fled with his family via an underground tunnel that led to the plains of Yericho, some forty kilometers away. Babylonian soldiers however, spotted a (Divine-sent) deer following the direction of the tunnel above ground level, and gave chase. They arrived at the tunnel's exit just as Tzidkiyahu and his family emerged.

Nevuzraden seized him together with his ten sons and sent him to Rivlah to Nevuchadnetzar, who sentenced them to death. Tzidkiyahu asked that he should be put to death first, so that he should not see his sons being slaughtered before his eyes. But Nevuchadnetzar acceded to the request of his sons, who asked to be put to death first. Then he gouged out his eyes and led him to Bavel. The blind king lamented how he had not believed Yirmiyahu when he told him that he would go to Bavel and die there without ever seeing it. But he now had to admit how right Yirmiyahu had been.


During his twenty-six years of captivity, Nevuchadnetzar would feed him hot barley-bread and wine straight from the vat, to make him ill.

Yet he outlived Nevuchadnetzar, but only just. The day Nevuchadnetzar died, Evyl Merodach, his son and successor, freed him from jail, the following day he died.


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Yirmiyah and the Galus
(cont. from last year)

When Yirmiyah returned from Anasos and discovered that, in his absence, the Beis Hamikdash had been destroyed and Yisrael sent into Galus, he was devastated. He immediately began to search for the route that they had taken, wishing that he had gone with them into Galus. He soon found the path along which they had been led, strewn with blood, the bodies of the dead piled up at the side. He placed his face close to the ground, and when he saw the footsteps of the toddlers and the little children on their way down to Bavel, he bent down and kissed them.

He then followed them into Galus. When he caught up with them, he embraced them and kissed them, and wept together with them. 'My brothers, my people', he exclaimed, 'look what happened to you because you ignored my prophesies'.


Nevuchadnetzar ordered Nevuzraden, his general, to see to it that no harm befalls Yirmiyahu, and that his every personal need should be met. As far as his people (Yisrael) was concerned however, he was to treat them as he saw fit, and to ignore all Yirmiyahu's pleas for mercy.


When the enemy entered the Beis Hamikdash, they seized the boys and tied their hands behind their backs, before marching them to Bavel into exile, naked like animals and in chains. As they marched in the heat of summer, their tears rolled down their faces, and, unable to dry them away, their wet faces became burned by the sun.

Yirmiyah saw a group of boys with chains around their necks. When he placed his head with theirs as a sign of sympathy, Nevuzraden led him away. And when he saw a group of old men chained together, the incident repeated itself.


At first, Yirmiyahu refused Nevuzraden's offer to go to Bavel under his protection, or even to return to Eretz Yisrael. He insisted on accompanying the exiles and sharing in their grief, until G-d came to him with an ultimatum. Either he (Yirmiyahu) would return to Eretz Yisrael, to comfort the remnant that was left there, and G-d would accompany the exiles to Bavel; or he would accompany the exiles, and G-d would remain with the remnant in Eretz Yisrael.

'And if I go down to Bavel with the exiles', replied Yirmiyahu, 'how will I be able to help them?

Far better that You, their King and Creator, accompanies them, for there is much that You can do to alleviate their suffering'.

The exiles looked up and saw Yirmiyahu departing, and they burst into tears once again. That is what the Pasuk means when it says "By the Rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept" (Tehilim 137:1).


'The G-d of these people', Nevuchadnetzar told Nevuzraden, 'accepts Teshuvah'. Consequently, he commanded him that, under no circumstances, was he to allow the captives to pray, and arouse the Divine mercy. Therefore, he was to show them no quarter despite their suffering. Otherwise, all his efforts would have been in vain, to return to Bavel in disgrace.

Sure enough, once they fell into Nevuzraden's hands, that's what he did. He forced them to march without a rest, and when he saw a man stop to pray, he would cut him to pieces, which he would toss in front of his fellow captives. And so they marched to Bavel without a break. Nevuzraden was known as 'Aryoch' (meaning a lion), because as he would roar at the captives like a lion to keep them on the march, until they reached the River P'ras (the Euphrates).

Once they reached the Euphrates, he figured, their G-d was unlikely to take them back, and so he ordered his troops to let them rest. That is why the Pasuk writes "there (by the Rivers of Babylon) we sat", but until there, we were not allowed to sit from the time that we left Yerushalayim.


Why did the exiles cry when they reached the Rivers of Babylon?

Rebbi Yochanan explains that the water of the River P'ras killed off more of them than Nevuchadnetzar. In Eretz Yisrael, they were used to drinking pure rainwater and water that flowed from the springs. So when in Bavel, they were forced to drink heavy water from the river, their stomachs could not take it, and many died.


When they were still in Eretz Yisrael, Yirmiyahu warned the people to prepare themselves drinking utensils and kneading troughs to take with them into exile. But they only laughed at him.

Later, when they were kneading dough, they had no utensils in which to work. So what did they do? They kneaded it in pits that they dug in the ground. And when they came to eat their bread, it was full of little stones. That is why Yirmiyahu lamented "And He ground my teeth in grit" (Eichah 3:16).


(adapted from the Torah Temimah)

Eichah- Ayeka

Rebbi Avahu would begin Megilas Eichah with the following thought "And they, like Adam, transgressed the covenant" (Hoshei'a 6).

Like Adam ha'Rishon. I placed Adam ha'Rishon in Gan Eden, G-d said, he transgressed My command and I expelled him and lamented on him "Ayeka" ('where are you'?). And the same happened with his children. I took them into Eretz Yisrael, and they too, transgressed My commands. So, like Adam, I expelled them from the land and lamented on them "Eichah".

The Torah Temimah elaborates on the comparison between Gan Eden and Eretz Yisrael, both of which signify the epitome of goodness. Both Adam and Yisrael experienced the ultimate goodness of Hashem, both received instruction from G-d on how they must respond to that goodness (how to behave in His palace), and both contravened those instructions. Consequently, both needed to suffer the consequences, and so, both were banished from the royal palace (from the source of goodness).


What Might Have Been

Rebbi Yitzchak would begin Eichah with the Pasuk "Because you did not serve Hashem your G-d with joy and with a good heart, you will serve your enemy (Ki Sovo)". Had you merited, you would have read in the Torah "Eichah eso levadi ... "; but now that you didn't, you will have to read "Eichah yoshvoh bodod".

What's so wonderful about the Pasuk "Eichah eso levadi ", asks the Torah Temimah? After all, we even read it to the Eichah tune, due to its sad connotations?

When Yisrael do not behave as they should, they earn the reprimand of their leaders, and they revert to the right path once more.

But when they find serving G-d a bore, and cease to find serving Him a pleasure, a reprimand will not suffice to achieve that, and they need to go into Galus to serve their enemies. Only then, when they are faced with the contrast between the two masters, do they finally realize how foolhardy they were in their failure to serve G-d with joy.


Seven for Seven

The Torah writes in Bechukosai "And I will continue to chastise you seven times for your sins". 'For the seven sins that you transgressed', G-d told Yisrael, 'Yirmiyah will come and chant lamentations consisting of seven times 'Aleph, Beis'.

The seven sins, explains the Torah Temimah, are those listed by Rashi in Bechokasai: 'They did not learn, they did not keep, they despised those who did, they hated the Chachamim, they stopped others from observing, they denied the Divine source of the Mitzvos, they denied G-d Himself. And the seven times 'Aleph, Beis' refers to the first and second chapters of Eichah, the three times 'Aleph, Beis' in the third chapter, the fourth chapter and the fifth chapter, which does not follow the 'Aleph, Beis' like the others do, yet it does comprise twenty-two Pesukim, as if it did.


The Hand of G-d

Rebbi Aba bar Kahana would begin Megilas Eichah with the Pasuk in Yirmiyah (15) "From before Your Hand I sat in solitude!" K'nesses Yisrael says to G-d 'Ribono shel Olam, when the hand of Par'oh struck me, I did not sit in solitude; when the hand of Sancheriv struck me, I did not sit in solitude. But now that Your Hand struck me, I sit in solitude'.

What does this mean, asks the Torah Temimah? Was it not Nevuchadnetzar who destroyed the Beis-Hamikdash? Why is Nevuchadnetzar considered G-d's Hand more than Par'oh and Sancheriv?

Perhaps, he answers, this Medrash refers to the Pasuk later "From on high He sent fire ... ". And do we not say in Nachem "Because You set it on fire and You are going to rebuild it"? Indeed, the Medrash describes how the Babylonian leaders were sitting in the Beis-Hamikdash discussing how to destroy it, when they saw four angels descend from Heaven and proceed to set fire to the four corners of the Beis Hamikdash.

And besides, he adds, Nevuchadnetzar is described as "Avdi" ('My slave'), and have Chazal not stated that the hand of a slave is like the hand of his master?


We recite in Musaf of the Yom-Tov Amidah "And we are not able to ... and prostrate ourselves before You in the great and holy house ... due to the hand that is stretched out against Your Mikdash'.

In explaining 'hand', the Ya'avetz refers to the Gemara in Ta'anis. The Gemara describes how, when the young Kohanim saw the burning Beis Hamikdash, they gathered together holding the keys of the Heichal. Then, after declaring their untrustworthiness in their capacity as custodians of the Beis Hamikdash, they threw them in the air, and a Hand came down and caught them. (See 'A Tale of Two Kings', part 1, for a slightly different version of this Medrash).

Perhaps that is the Hand to which we refer in the Amidah. Perhaps that is the Hand to which Rebbi Aba bar Kahana was referring, too.


Lament or Rebuke - That is the Question

When Rebbi Yehudah explained that Megilas Kinos (Eichah) was said in the days of Yeyoyakim (many years before the Churban), Rebbi Nechemyah queried his statement 'Since when does one mourn a person's death whilst he is still alive?' So Yirmiyah must have said it after the Churban, he concluded.

The Torah Temimah connects the dispute between the two Tana'im here to another Medrash, where they argue over the connotation of the word "Eichah".

Rebbi Yehudah interprets it as 'Tochachah' (a rebuke), whereas Rebbi Nechemyah interprets it as 'Kin'ah' (a lamentation). With this as an introduction we can easily understand their dispute here. Because if, as Rebbi Yehudah maintains, "Eichah" is a rebuke, then it was appropriate to have said it before the Churban. But according to Rebbi Nechemyah, it is a lament. Consequently, he is perfectly justified in asking 'Since when does one mourn a person's death whilst he is still alive'?


Eminent Exiles

The Pasuk in Eichah describes Yisrael as 'a princess among the Nations'. Although the Pasuk appears to refer to Yisrael before the exile, the Medrash interprets it differently. The Medrash comments that even in exile among the nations, Yisrael retains its dominance. Wherever they go they are princes to their masters. Avraham in Cana'an, Yitzchak in P'lishtim, and Yosef in Egypt, gained tremendous prestige even when they were in exile. And taking our cue from them ('the deeds of the Avos are a sign for the children'), Jews have always been lords and leaders in the societies in which they set themselves up.



"She became subservient", the Pasuk concludes. Yisrael transgressed their undertaking at Har Sinai to be subservient to G-d (to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, and to keep Torah and Mitzvos, as the Torah reiterates on numerous occasions). And they also served other gods (Eichah was written at the end of the first Beis-Hamikdash, where the predominant sin was Avodah-zarah).

That is why they had to become subservient to others. Nor is this punishment coincidental to the sin, for the numerical value of Sinai and of Semel (image, which they placed in the Heichal, and which led to the Churban) happens to be 130, the equivalent of that of 'lo'mas' (subservient).

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