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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 13   No. 41

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Shmuel ben Benzion Myers z"l
whose Yohrzeit will be on 7th Av,
by his son n"y

Parshas Devarim (Chazon)
Incorporating Tish'ah-be'Av Supplement

Who Wants Your Korbanos?
From the Haftarah

After comparing the people of his time to the inhabitants of S'dom and Amora, the Navi Yeshayah, citing Hashem, informs Yisrael that He has no need of their Korbanos, that He is sick of their burnt-offerings, their rams and the fat of their specially fattened sheep, and that He does not want the blood of their bulls, their sheep or their goats (Yeshayah 1:11). But why is that, one may well ask? Surely it is preferable for a sinner, however bad, to retain some connection with G-d, by appearing in the Beis-Hamikdash with his sacrifices, than to sever relations with Him completely? Surely another Mitzvah, particularly one as important as Korbanos, can only work to one's advantage, in that it at least adds to one's list of credits?


This commonly-asked question is a fallacy. Firstly, because even assuming that the argument is valid with regard to other Mitzvos, it is irrelevant with regard to Avodah (i.e. Korbanos and prayer). Bear in mind that, by and large, the purpose of Korbanos is in order to obtain pardon from G-d for one's sins. That explains why those Korbanos that come to atone, require Viduy (confession) and Teshuvah, as the Metzudas David explains. And the Navi is teaching us here that without Viduy, the Korban is no more than an empty gesture, devoid of any real meaning.

Secondly, appearing in the Beis Hamikdosh under the current circumstances was meaningless., for as Rashi explains in the following Pasuk, the people were bringing Korbanos with their hands, but without their hearts. Chazal have explicitly taught that 'G-d wants the heart!' Consequently, however noble an act may appear on the surface, what is it worth if one's heart is elsewhere? What does a father think when his son says 'Sorry', when it is obvious that he is only repeating what he has been instructed to say, and that he has not the least intention of mending his ways, not now, and not any time soon?


It is clear from the Pasuk that, not only does G-d reject Korbanos that are brought in this way, but that they arouse His ire. Indeed, He would have been much less angry had Yisrael stopped their pretences, and understandably so. To begin with, this is because insincerity, a branch of Sheker (falsehood) is in itself a bad Midah. But worse than that, it minimizes (perhaps even negates) the severity of the sin in the sinner's eyes. Whenever pangs of guilt well in his heart, he brings a Korban, he says 'I'm sorry', and his conscience is appeased. Next day, he is quite happy to revert to his old ways - accompanied by pious feelings of self-righteousness.

That is why Eliyahu ha'Navi told the people on Har ha'Karmel to make up their minds as to whether they wanted to worship G-d or Ba'al; but one today, and the other tomorrow, was unacceptable. And that is why Yanai ha'Melech on his deathbed, warned his wife and his successor, the righteous Queen Alexandra Salomi, to beware, not of the Perushim and not even of the Tzedokim, but of the Tzevu'im, those who behaved like Perushim externally, but who, in their hearts, sided with the Tzedokim.


Shachris, Minchah and Ma'ariv
(Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro)

With the above explanation, we will be better equipped to understand what the G'ro writes with regard to the next Pasuk in the Haftarah (Yeshayah 1:12/13):

"When you come to see My Face, who asked this from you, who trample My Courtyards? Do not continue to bring meaningless gifts (Minchah); it is abominable incense (Ketores) to Me".

Chazal refer to a person who gets up each morning as 'a new creature' (as we say in the B'rachah of Elokai 'Who returns Souls to dead corpses'). In light of that, remarks the G'ro, when a person goes to Shul to Daven Shachris, it is as if he was going to the House of Hashem for the very first time. And it is in this context that the Navi writes "Who asked this from you, who trample My Courtyards". Hashem did not want such people to appear before Him with their sins intact.

And when, without making the least effort to change their ways, they continued to perpetrate their evil deeds, and then came before Him to Daven Minchah, Hashem added "Do not continue to bring a meaningless Minchah". Until finally, when they appeared once more to Daven Ma'ariv, unchanged and unrepentant, He declared "It is abominable Ketores to Me" - also a reference to the burning of the limbs and the fat-pieces that took place each evening, to which Ma'ariv corresponds. For as man continues to sink lower and lower in his level of observance, so does his Tefilah become more and more abominable in the eyes of Hashem.

Prayer, the G'ro is saying, like sacrifices, must be sincere. One's actions must be conducive with the words that one offers to Hashem. To pray to Hashem one moment, and then to behave in a manner that flaunts His authority the next, renders the prayer void. Remember that Chazal described Tefilah as Avodah she'ba'Leiv. Consequently, a Tefilah that comes from the mouth and not from the heart, is not only meaningless; it is both deceitful and harmful, as we explained.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)
Relishing Our Sins

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

Because they are words of rebuke, Rashi explains, Moshe insinuated them by way of hint, in order not to embarrass Yisrael. But what's the point, the commentaries ask, when in the Pesukim that follow, all their sins are enumerated in all their gory detail?

The Imrei Elimelech answers with a Medrash, which explains that, no sooner did Yisrael hear Moshe's rebuke, than they did Teshuvah with all their hearts. This is synonymous with Teshuvah out of love, and when a Jew performs Teshuvah out of love, say Chazal, all his sins turn into Mitzvos. It's hardly surprising therefore, that the Torah goes on to list all their sins in detail - in order to reward them for what had now retroactively turned into Mitzvos.


A similar answer is given by the Kedushas Levi to explain the Medrash, which, commenting on the Pasuk (in connection with the four species) "And on the first day you shall take for yourselves the Esrog ..." - says 'the first of the reckoning of sins', a Medrash which initially seems to make no sense.

What the Medrash means however, is that the Teshuvah that one performed during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah is one of fear (Teshuvah mi'yir'ah). Not so, on Succos, when everybody comes close to Hashem out of Simchah. That is synonymous with Teshuvah me'Ahavah, and Teshuvah me'Ahavah as we just explained, turns one's sins into Mitzvos. Hence the Medrash says that Succos is the first of the reckoning of one's sins. Hashem now reckons our sins, - turned - Mitzvos in order to pay us our newly earned reward.


First Get Rid of the Bad Influence

"After he smote Sichon, King of the Emori, who dwells in Cheshbon, and Og, King of the Bashan, who dwells in Ashtoros in Edre'i" (1:4).

The Chidushei ha'Rim observes that these two kings ruled in Edre'i and in Cheshbon. When we recall that 'Edre'i' is the Arama'ic translation of 'arm' (the symbol of action), and Cheshbon literally means 'reckoning' or 'account', the message is clear.

As long as these two powerful kings were still alive, Moshe considered it not worthwhile to rebuke Yisrael due to their evil deeds and thought-processes, which would continue to have an adverse effect on them. It was only after they had been killed and Yisrael would no longer be influenced by them, that he began to admonish them.


Teshuvah First

"On the other side of the Yarden, in the Land of Mo'av, Moshe began to explain this Torah ... " (1:5).

The Mitzvos of the Torah begin only later in Parshas Va'eschanan. So why does the Torah write this here, in Parshas Devarim?

However, says the Ma'or va'Shemesh, the commentaries say that one of the most fundamental teachings in Avodas Hashem is to do Teshuvah before one begins to learn Torah. The Rebbe from Lublin said that it is precisely in connection with someone who did not do so, that David Hamelech writes in Tehilim (50:16) "And to the Rasha he said 'Who gives you the right to relate to My Torah (Chukai)' "?

That is why, before deigning to present the Mitzvos, Moshe Rabeinu began with words of Musar, in order to bring the people to Teshuvah before they began to learn about the Mitzvos. And it is no doubt in keeping with this principle, that the Chasam Sofer would always learn Chovas Halevovos with his Talmidim before proceeding with his shiur.

What the Pasuk therefore means is that Moshe listed all the places that they sinned (to open their hearts to Teshuvah), because he was about to elaborate the Mitzvos of the Torah.


Moshe's B'rachah

"Hashem will increase you a thousand fold, and He will bless you, like He spoke to you" (1:11).

After Moshe issued the first statement, Rashi explains, the people asked him why he limited their blessings. To which he replied that this was his own blessing, but that G-d would bless them with an unlimited B'rachah, like He had promised them.

The question then arises that if G-d had blessed them with an infinite B'rachah, why would they have any need of his finite one?

The Panim Yafos explains Moshe's words with the fact that Moshe was personally blessed by G-d on two separate occasions ... once after the sin of the Golden Calf, and once after that of the Spies. On both occasions, G-d used the words 'I will make you into a great nation'. Now Chazal have taught us that a reward for something good is worth five hundred times more than the punishment for something bad of equivalent proportions.

That being the case, if Yisrael were threatened with annihilation when they numbered six hundred thousand, then as the result of the equivalent B'rachah, they would increase five-hundred fold. But since Moshe was blessed twice, then they would increase a thousand fold. And it was this gift of a thousand fold that he had received from Hashem, that he was now generously passing on to them. Hence the words 'This is mine!'


From One End ... to the Other


Moshe's B'rachah, says the Medrash, stretched from one end of the world to the other.

It is not at first clear what the Medrash means.

The Yedei Moshe explains it in the following way.

The Camp of Yisrael, as is well-known, measured three Parsah (twelve Mil) from end to end. If we now interpret "elef pe'omim' (not as a thousand-fold, but) as two thousand-fold (as if it was punctuated 'elef pa'amayim'), then, the Camp of Yisrael will end up being six thousand Parsah (2,000x3), which, according to the Gemara in Pesachim (92a) is the length of the earth from one end to the other.


Affecting their Leaders

"And the thing was good in my eyes, and I took from you twelve men, one from each tribe" (1:23).

If the request to send spies was good in Moshe's eyes, asks the S'fas Emes, then why was it considered a sin on the part of K'lal Yisrael (see also Rashi)?

Yet that is precisely the point Moshe was making, he answers. He was in fact showing them the extent of their sin. So infectious was their enthusiasm, that it even affected him too, to the point that even he became convinced that sending the spies, evil as the end result proved to be, was actually a good thing.

* * *

(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

Kidush Levanah

One does not recite Kidush Levanah on Motza'ei Shabbos Chazon, says the Maharil, because Kidush Levanah is synonymous with receiving the Shechinah (as we recite in the text), and that is something that one may only do in a state of Simchah (and the Minhag not to recite it before Yom-Kipur is based on the same rationale).

Moreover, says the Arizal, there is good reason to recite it specifically on Motzo'ei Tish'ah be'Av, since traditionally, Mashi'ach ben David is destined to be born then (i.e. after midday on Tish'ah be'Av). So we inform the moon and at the same time, Yisrael, that they can both look forward to a major renewal (see Ba'er Heitev, Si'man 551:25), with the birth and coming of Mashi'ach.

One should first change into one's regular shoes (as it is not proper to recite Kidush Levanah 'barefoot'. It is also preferable, says the Eliyahu Rabah, to eat something prior to Kidush Levanah (though this is less crucial on Motza'ei Yom Kipur, when we are happy anyway, whether we have eaten or not).


The Eirev Rav

Based on the Ra'aya Mehemna (Parshas Pinchas), the Hagahos Mahartza tells us that the nations of the world are termed 'stubble', whereas the Eirev Rav (the scum of K'lal Yisrael themselves) are known as the 'Se'or she'be'Iysah' (the yeast in the dough). And just as Chazal have said 'The yeast in the dough is the one that holds back', it is the Eirev Rav in our midst that prevents Mashi'ach from coming, more so even than the nations of the world.

To put it more bluntly still, if the nations have the ability to prevent Mashi'ach from coming, even as one of the dates hinted by Chazal comes and goes, the Eirev Rav, and the fact that we intermarry with them, prevent him from coming, even when the due date ultimately arrives.

And who are the Eirev Rav?

The original Eirev Rav, says the Likutei Torah, were those Egyptians who complained to Paroh that Yosef had instructed them to circumcise, and whom the king subsequently ordered to obey Yosef's instructions. They did in fact, circumcise, and they continued to follow the customs of Yisrael, until eventually, they converted and became known as the Eirev Rav.


Suffering with Hashem

The Korban Oni quotes the Maggid mi'Koznitz as having said, in connection with the words (that we say in the Piyut 'Om Ani Chomah' on Succos) 'Soveles Sivloch' (we bear your suffering'), that he knew full well exactly what to say to force Hashem to send Mashi'ach. Yet he declined to do so, because 'Soveles sivlach' ... if Hashem bears the suffering of K'lal Yisrael, then he (the Koznitzer Maggid) is duty bound to bear with Him.


Reciting Korbanos

The Avudraham cites the Ramban, who in turn, cites a custom not to say Korbanos, 'Eizehu Mekoman' and 'R. Yishmael Omer' on Tish'ah be'Av, seeing as one is forbidden to study Torah on that day.

He rejects the Ramban's opinion, however, on the grounds that we recite them regularly each day, in which case they are considered part of the daily ritual. It is no different, he says, than reciting the Sh'ma with its B'rachos, or than reading in the Torah and in the Navi, which we do without second thoughts. The Parshah of the Korbanos and 'Eizehu Mekoman' were instituted to replace the Korban Tamid, he says further, and he therefore concludes that we recite them as usual, without reservations.


Learning Musar

The S'dei Chemed writes that although a mourner is forbidden to study Torah, he is nevertheless permitted to learn Musar Sefarim, since they arouse a person to do Teshuvah, and, seeing as the Midas ha'Din looms over him, this is something that one needs to do. It will bring a spiritual healing to him and to the whole world; it will remove G-d's anger from him, and he will no longer need to feel frustrated on account of his sins.

* * *

Tish'ah be'Av Supplement

The Writing on the Wall

In both the first and the second Beis-Hamikdash, the prediction that they would be destroyed was made long before the Churban actually took place. The people may have refused to read the writing on the wall, but it was there for all to see. G-d's decision to destroy the first Beis-Hamikdash was made when King Menasheh (one of the worst kings in Jewish history) placed an image in the Heichal, not long after his ascent to the throne in 3240 (almost a hundred years before the Churban actually took place). According to the Seider ha'Doros, this image was none other than Pesel Michah, which had already been around when Yisrael crossed the Yam-Suf, and had lasted right until now.

Yoshiyah ben Omon (whose father was Menasheh [one of the greatest kings ever]), was crowned king in 3285 (fifty-three years prior to the Churban). Acting on the advice of Yirmiyah ha'Navi, he took the Aron ha'Kodesh of Moshe, and hid it in a cave, in one of the many caves underneath the Beis-Hamikdash (underneath the Lishkas ha'Eitzim in the Ezras Nashim). This is the opinion of the Mishnah in Shekalim. According to others, he hid it directly underneath its official location in the Kodesh Kodshim, whilst yet others maintain that it was taken into captivity, to Bavel.

Together with the Aron, he hid the Luchos, the jar of Manna, Aharon's staff and many holy ornaments from the treasury of the Beis-Hamidkash.


Regarding the Second Beis Hamikdash, the Gemara in Yuma (38b) relates that in 3298 (forty years before the destruction of the second B.H.), six things occurred that ought to have served as a warning light for the people to do Teshuvah: 1. The lot (that determined which goat was to be sacrificed for Hashem, and which for Azazel) came up in the left hand, year in, year out, until the destruction of the B.H. This was an ominous sign, indicating that from now on the Midas ha'Din would prevail - constantly.

2. The 'tongue' of red wool which was tied around the Sa'ir la'Azazel's horns as it was pushed off the cliff, no longer turned white (with similar connotations to the previous item).

3. The 'western lamp' (i.e either the second lamp from the left of the Menorah or the middle one, depending on whether the Menorah faced from east to west, or from north to south, respectively) was the first to go out every day.

Regarding these three, it should be noted, that during the forty years that Shimon ha'Tzadik served as Kohen Gadol, the lot *always* came up in the right hand, the 'tongue' of red wool *always* turned white and the western lamp *always* burned longer than all the others. Whereas from the death of Shimon ha'Tzadik and onwards up until the last forty years, the Gemara there (39a) informs us, the situation fluctuated; sometimes this way, ans sometimes that way.

4. The doors of the Azarah began to open by themselves - as if inviting the enemy to enter and do as they pleased until Raban Yochanan ben Zakai, who was Nasi of the Beis-Din at the time, admonished - 'Heichal, Heichal, why do you frighten yourself? I know that eventually you are going to be destroyed, since the Navi Zecharya ben Ido already prophesied "Open Levanon, your gates, and let the fire burn your cedars".'


And the Gemara there (39a) lists two additional miracles that ceased to operate at that time

1. That whereas, with the exception of the Mitzvah of placing two blocks of wood on the Mizbei'ach (each morning and afternoon), they never needed to replenish the stock of wood on the Mizbei'ach from the time it was lit, this sometimes now became necessary, with the result that the Kohanim had to spend much of the day lugging wooden blocks on to the Ma'arachah. 2. That the two-fold B'rachah pertaining to the Lechem ha'Panim (the loaves that were placed on the Shulchan every Shabbos), the Omer (the barley-offering that was brought on Pesach) and the Sh'tei ha'Lechem (the two wheat loaves brought on Shavu'os), ceased to operate. The B'rachah comprised a. irrespective of how many Kohanim were serving on any particular day, each and every one not only received a k'Zayis, but was satisfied when he ate it, too.


Forty years before the Churban was also the year when the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol moved from the Lishkas ha'Gazis (which was situated in the Azarah) to an area on the Har ha'Bayis known as 'Chanuyos' (because shops were actually stationed there). This was the first of ten exiles, which began primarily, to signify that from now on, Beis-Din (incorporating the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol and the Sanhedrin ha'Katan (any Beis-Din consisting of twenty-three Dayanim) would no longer judge matters of life and death (something they were only authorized to do as long as the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol sat in the Beis-Hamikdash).


And here's one final miracle listed in the same Gemara, which continued beyond the fateful year currently under discussion, right up to the actual Churban

When Sh'lomoh built the Beis-Ha'mikdash, he planted a variety of golden fruit-trees, which actually bore golden fruit, which, in turn, would fall from the tree in season. This provided the Kohanim with a valuable source of income, as they were able to distribute the 'produce' and sell it.

That miracle continued to function right up to the moment the Romans entered the Azarah.


When the third Beis-Hamikdash is rebuilt, this miracle will be reinstated. The Gemara does not say this about the other miracles. Presumably, that is because, unlike this miracle, they are merely facets of the existing Avodah. Consequently, if this independent miracle will be reinstated, it goes without saying that they will too.

* * *

(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

What Caused the Galus

"Yehudah went into exile on me'oni" (1:3). The Medrash begins by giving four interpretations of the word 'me'oni'.

1. ... because they ate Chometz (which the Torah calls "Lechem oni") on Pesach ...

2. ... because they retained the security of the poor (to whom they had lent money) in their houses, without returning it when the owner needed it.

3. ... because they robbed the poor labourers (i.e. they withheld their wages).

4. ... because they robbed the poor of Ma'aser Oni (every third and sixth year).

5. ... because they worshipped idols (based on the Pasuk in Ki Sissa, in connection with the Eigel ha'Zahav "Kol anos onochi shomei'a" [which has connotations of insulting Hashem rather than of poverty]).


"and from a Lot of Work"


This, says the Medrash, refers to holding on to their Jewish servants after the six years had terminated, and not setting them free ... another reason why they went into Galus.


No Rest for the Wicked

"They did not find rest" (Ibid.).

This implies, says the Medrash, that if they had found rest in Galus, none of the exiles would have returned. As it was, only a small minority went back to rebuild the Beis Hamidkash and reconquer the land.

It Could Have been Different

1. "The paths of Tziyon are in mourning (with no pilgrims travelling to Yerushalayim [1:4]).

Had you merited it, we might have read instead the Pasuk "Three times a year your males shall appear before Hashem ... ".


2. "Her enemies became their leaders" (1:5).

Had you merited it, we might have read instead "And G-d will place you on top and you will not be under-dogs".


The Children

"Her children went into captivity before the enemy" (Ibid.)

Come and see, says the Medrash, how beloved are the little children in the eyes of Hashem!' When the Sanhedrin went into exile, the Shechinah did not go with them. When the Mishmaros of Kohanim went into exile, the Shechinah did not go with them. But the moment the children went into exile, the Pasuk continues "And there went from the daughter of Tziyon all its Glory (which the Medrash interprets to mean that the Shechinah itself went out with them).

Other Medrashim interpret 'the Daughter of Tziyon' as ...

1. ... the Aron (which was taken to Bavel, as opposed to the opinion that Yoshiyah ha'Melech hid it somewhere underneath the Beis-Hamikdash).
2. ... the Sanhedrin.
3. ... the Talmidei-Chachamim.
4. ... the singers (the Levi'im).
5. ... the children.


They Failed to Admonish

"Its princes were like rams" (1:6).

R. Chanina said that Yisrael went into Galus for their failure to admonish one another. Just as a ram tends to press its head between the legs of the ram in front of it, so too, did Yisrael of that generation press their heads in the ground, and fail to rebuke one another for their sins.


No Strength

"And they went without strength before the pursuer" (Ibid.)

When Yisrael do G-d's will, they add strength to Hashem (empowering Him to shower them with kindness), like Moshe in Ki Sissa "And now let the strength of Hashem increase". But when they do not perform G-d's will, Kevayachol, they cause His strength to decrease, so G-d sent them into Galus "without strength before the enemy", measure for measure.

Before the Churban, the Medrash informs us, when a person would ask someone in Yerushalayim to teach him a Daf of Gemara, the standard reply was that he did not have the strength to. G-d responded measure for measure "And they went without strength before the enemy".

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel