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

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Vol. 16   No. 40

This issue is sponsored
I'iluy Nishmas
Pesach ben Ephraim Shimon z"l

Parshas Devarim

The Five Books of the Torah
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Rabeinu Bachye explains that, although the Torah is divided into five Books, each with its own character, each with its own specific contents, nevertheless those Five Books follow a specific order, and in fact, merge into one Book.

Here then, is the logic behind the chronological order of the Five Books of the Chumash, as seen through the eyes of Rabeinu Bachye.


The Torah begins with Seifer Bereishis, he explains, because the Creation of the World is the root of our faith, which leads directly to Divine Supervision (Hashgachah) over man. And this manifested itself when G-d presented Adam ha'Rishon with a Mitzvas Lo Sa'aseh and a Mitzvas Asei. And following Divine Supervision there is the fundamental belief in reward (when G-d first placed Adam in the Garden of Eden) and punishment (when he subsequently banished him from there when he sinned).

This sequence is repeated in the episode of the Great Flood, which served as a testimonial of the Creation and of Divine Supervision (when G-d took note of man's perversions and warned him to mend his ways), and of reward and punishment (when on the one hand, the sinning generation perished on account of their sins, whilst on the other, No'ach the Tzadik and his family were saved due to their righteousness).


There follows Seifer Sh'mos, which contains the story of the Avos (this is obviously a printing error, as the story of the Avos is contained in Seifer Bereishis), Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, whose perfect Emunah led to Yichud (the unification of G-d's Name), which explains why the Torah juxtaposes Sh'mos next to Bereishis. The author is presumably referring to the exodus from Egypt, which led to Yisrael's proclamation of 'Na'she ve'Nishma', their receiving the Torah at Har Sinai (where they became G-d's chosen nation), and the building of the Mishkan.


And that is followed by Seifer Vayikra, the Book of the Korbanos, and, as is well-known, the basic 'Yichud' is achieved through the Korbanos, which (as their name suggests) 'unite the Divine powers '.


Then comes Seifer Bamidbar, which discusses Eretz Yisrael, and the preparations to enter it that took place prior to its actual conquest. And the two are juxtaposed to teach us that, once the people entered Eretz Yisrael, Korbanos could not be brought anywhere else. Indeed, having received the Torah at Har Sinai, they ought to have entered Eretz Yisrael immediately, and so they would, had they not sent the Spies, which delayed their entry by forty years.


The Torah concludes with Seifer Eilu Devarim, because Yisrael's existence in Eretz Yisrael depends not so much on the two (temporary) Batei-Mikdash that have already been built (and destroyed), but on the third one, which following the final redemption, will be permanent. That explains why the Torah concludes with Devarim, which speaks about the final redemption towards the end, when, in Parshas Nitzavim (30:1-10), it describes what will happen in that period (as the author discusses there in Pasuk 3). Indeed, that era will be a renewal (a new beginning), so that the Torah actually connects the end to the beginning - (i.e. Creation). Bereishis represents the Creation, Devarim, the re-Creation, which is the ultimate purpose of the original.

In a nutshell then - 'Chidush' (Bereishis) leads to Yichud (Sh'mos); 'Yichud' is achieved through the 'Korbanos' (Vayikra); The chief location of the Korbanos is 'Eretz Yisrael' (Bamidbar), and Yisrael only attain perfection with the advent of the 'final Ge'ulah' (Devarim).

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

A Seifer Apart

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

Bearing in mind the fact that the entire Torah is really one book (see main article), R. Bachye observes, the Torah ought to have added a 'Vav' and written 'And these are the words that Moshe spoke ' (just like it did regarding Sh'mos, Vayikra and Bamidbar), in order to link Seifer Devarim to the other Sefarim?

(See Or ha'Chayim).

The answer, he explains, lies in the fact that despite its connection to the rest of the Torah, it is a separate entity, as we will explain. It can be compared to the Esrog, which, although it is an integral part of the four species, may not be tied together with it. The Esrog in turn, is compared to the second 'Hey' in the great Name of Hashem; and that 'Hey' denotes the Midas ha'Din, which chastises Yisrael for seven sins, as we shall now see.

That is why this Seifer is called 'Mishneh Torah', and it also explains why Moshe begins the Seifer with harsh words of rebuke, in which he refers to seven sins - 1. the grumblings in the Desert; 2. the sin of Pe'or; 3. Yisrael's rebellion at the Yam-Suf; 4. the sin of the Spies; 5. speaking evil of the Manna; 6. the rebellion of Korach; 7. the sin of the Eigel ha'Zahav.

And we find the significance of 'seven sins' already expressed in Parshas Bechukosai, where the Torah repeats over and over again " and I will continue to chastise you seven (punishments) for your (seven) sins!" (see Rashi there).

And it further explains as to why Moshe Rabeinu switches from the Name 'Hashem' that he constantly employs throughout the Torah, to 'Hashem Elokim' (incorporating Midas ha'Din), which he uses in Seifer Devarim, exclusively.


It Didn't Last Long

"Eleven days from Chorev" (1:2).

Commenting on the sin of the Golden Calf, committed even as Yisrael were standing at Har Sinai, awaiting the arrival of the two Luchos, the Gemara in Shabbos (88b) remarks as to how shameful it is for a Kalah (Yisrael) to be disloyal to her Chasan (Hashem) whilst they are still standing under the Chupah!

How long did Yisrael actually remain faithful to Him?

R. Bachye citing a Medrash based on this Pasuk, and presumably on the words "ve'di zahav" (an allusion to the Golden Calf) that precede it, writes that Yisrael's loyalty lasted eleven days out of the forty that Moshe was on Har Sinai. In other words, it was around the seventeenth of Sivan that they initially formulated the plan to make the Eigel ha'Zahav.

According to others, it lasted only two days, and they quote the Pasuk in Yeshayah (55:2) "And Me they seek for a day and a day".

A third opinion, based on another Pasuk in Va'eschanan (4:10) " the day that you stood before Hashem at Chorev", grants Yisrael only one day's grace, whilst a fourth opinion, citing a Pasuk in Yeshayah (17:11), maintains that on the very day that the Torah was given (on the sixth of Sivan), Yisrael already strayed from the path.



"And Og, King of Bashan, who dwelt in Asht'ros " (1:4).

Three things, says R. Bachye, the Torah refers to as 'Asht'ros' - mountains, sheep and idolatry.

Here it means mountains, and the Torah is coming to teach us that just as Og, King of Bashan himself, was incredibly strong - "as mighty as oak-trees" - so too, was the town in which he resided strongly built in the tall mountains. This is synonymous with 'Asht'ros Karnayim', mentioned in the Torah in connection with the 'Refa'im' (the giants) in Vayeira (14:8). And the reason that the Torah calls those mountains 'Asht'ros Karnayim' is because horned sheep and mountain-goats used to ascend them.

The Torah later in Parshas Eikev (7:13) speaks about "Asht'ros Tzonecho"(your strong sheep) because, as Chazal teach us, flocks of sheep tend to make their masters wealthy - with wool, milk and lambs. Indeed, the Gemara in Chulin (84a) advises that one sells one's fields in order to purchase the more lucrative sheep (basing its statement on Pesukim in Mishlei). And Asht'ros also means idolatry, as the Navi writes in Shoftim (12:10) " and they served the Be'alim and the Ashtoros" - an idol that was built in the shape of a sheep.


Hearing it from the Source

"In the land of Mo'av Moshe began to explain this Torah " (1:5).

According to the simple P'shat, Moshe wanted to explain all the Mitzvos and above all, the Ten Commandments, to the new generation, who had not heard it from him directly. True, they heard it from their fathers, only he figured that the impact would be that much greater if they heard it from him directly. This was because Moshe's prophecy was firmly established in their eyes, and whatever they would hear from his mouth was as if they heard it from the Mouth of G-d Himself.


The Forty-Nine 'Faces'


The author citing a Medrash, derives a hint from this Pasuk for the forty-nine ways in which every facet of Torah can be expounded. Bearing in mind that the Gematriyah of the word "Mo'av" is forty-nine, it is as if the Torah had written 'in forty-nine ways Moshe expounded this Torah, saying' - in forty-nine ways of Taharah and in forty-nine ways of Tum'ah. And the Pasuk in Shir-Hashirim (5:10) "Dodi tzach ve'odom", he explains, contains the same message. Based on the fact that the Gematriyah of "Dodi"is twenty-four and that of "tzach", ninety-eight, Shlomoh is coming to teach us that the twenty-four Sefarim of T'nach (Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu and His Torah are one) can be explained in forty-nine ways 'to the right' and forty-nine ways 'to the left'.

Finally he says, when the Pasuk in Mishlei (2:4) writes "u'che'matmonim techapsenoh" (and like treasures you shal seek it) it is as if it had written 'Mat (forty-nine) Monim' - forty-nine times!

* * *


'Do not wage war with them because I have given Har Se'ir to Eisav as an inheritance, as a reward for honouring his father' (2:5).


'Produce you shall buy from them raw (un-cooked) in exchange for money' (2:6).


'They too are considered mighty men, those who reside in the valley of the mighty men, like the mighty men who were blotted out by the Flood (2:11).


'And now, rise up and cross the brook of Zared (sorb-bushes [see T.Y. Bamidbar 2:12]).


'And you shall approach (a point) opposite the children of Amon; Do not besiege them for I have given it as an inheritance to the sons of Lot on the merit of Avraham' (2:19).


'And as for the remaining refugees of the Cana'anim who dwelt in open villages up to Aza, the Keputka'i who came from Keputka'a destroyed them and took over their lands' (2:23).


'This day I will begin to place your dread and your fear on the face of all the nations under the Heaven, who will hear how, on your merit, the sun and the moon will stand still and cease to sing Shirah; for one and a half days, they will stand still in their respective domains ' (2:25).


'Let me pass through your land , I will not turn right or left to do you harm ' (2:27).


'And G-d said to me "Look at the arrangement of the sun and the moon, and see that I have begun to deliver into your hands Sichon and his entire country ' (2:31).

* * *

Tish'ah be'Av

Shabbos Chazon
(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)

"The Haftarah begins with the opening Pasuk in Yeshayah - "The vision of Yeshayahu ben Amotz, which he saw regarding Yehudah and Yerurashalayim".

The words "which he saw" appear superfluous, asks the B'nei Yisaschar, as the Pasuk would have made perfect sense without them?


To answer the question, he refers to the well-known principle (based on a Mishnah in Pirkei Avos) that G-d's knowledge of the future does not interfere with our choice of action. However says the Alshich, that only holds true as long as His knowledge has not been translated into speech. Once G-d has ordained something verbally, it can no longer be repealed or changed. And he bases this on the Pasuk in Yeshayah (55:11) "So will be My word that emanates from My Mouth; It will not return to Me unfulfilled, until it has accomplished that which I desire ".


Two of the various levels of prophesy are 'Nevu'ah' and 'Chezoyon'. See for example, how in the time of David Hamelech there lived two prophets, Nasan ha'Navi and Gad ha'Chozeh. The difference between the two types of prophecy, the author suggests, is that the former reaches the prophet through the medium of speech (from the Lashon of "Borei niv sefasayim" [ibid. 57:19]), the latter, through vision. He sees the letters that form the prophecy, but he hears nothing.

And it stands to reason, he says, that the greater of these two prophets is the one who hears the prophecy (indeed, the Gemara in Bava Kama specifically states that the sense of hearing is more significant than that of vision).

That being the case, it is at first difficult to understand why the prophecy of Yeshayah begins with the word "Chazon", a word which, as we just explained, is better suited to a minor prophet. Yeshayah, on the other hand, was not only acknowledged as one of the greatest prophets, he was also the son of Omotz, who was a member of the royal family of David, as Chazal have taught? So the use of the word "Chazon" to describe his prophecy is truly puzzling.

The answer however, lies in the superfluous words "that he saw" which we noted earlier. The Pasuk is in fact saying that 'Yirmiyah had a vision' (G-d showed him this prophecy visually, but without words) because "what He showed him was about Yehudah and Yerushalayim" - i.e. their imminent downfall. Now had G-d appeared to him in the form of a Nevu'ah, by way of speech, then the prophecy would have been final, with no possibility of averting it by means of Teshuvah. And it was in order to give Yisrael the opportunity of negating the evil decree by doing Teshuvah that G-d lowered Yeshayah's level from Navi to Chozeh!


Based on this concept, the B'nei Yisaschar explains a Pasuk in Yisro (in connection with Matan Torah) "And all the people saw the Voices ", on which Chazal comment 'They saw what is normally heard'. What, asks the author, was the purpose of this strange, seemingly unnecessary miracle? When G-d performs miracles that interfere with the laws of nature, it is generally because that miracle is required for our salvation or the likes. But to make seen what is normally heard! That seems totally unnecessary?

Not at all, he answers! G-d was teaching us that there are times when it is of supreme importance to make visible what is normally heard - in the case of a negative prophecy, which can only be changed through Teshuvah, Tefilah and Tzedakah when it is conveyed by means of vision, but not by means of hearing.

* * *

(Adapted from the Or la'Yesharim
& the Otzar Ishei ha'T'nach)

In the fourth year of the reign of Yehoyakim, King of Yehudah, Ashur (Assyria) fell to the Babylonian army led by Nevuchadnetzar.

Not only did G-d grant him dominion over man, but he also granted him dominion over beast. Thus it transpired that Nevuchdnetzar was able to ride on a lion's back, and the crown on his head comprised a live snake.

Many years before Nevuchadnetzar was crowned King of Bavel, Yirmiyahu ha'Navi already prophesied that he was destined to rise to power, and that he would rule over a vast and mighty empire - incorporating Edom. Mo'av, Amon, Tzur and Tzidon, as well as over the wild beasts of the field, and that his son (Evyl Merodach) and grandson (Beltshatzar) would succeed him.


Who was Nevuchadnetzar?

"And king Sh'lomoh gave the Queen of Sheba all her desires" (Melachim1. 10:13). Indeed he did, says the Medrash. He was intimate with her, and the daughter that she bore him would later become the mother (or ancestor) of Nevuchadnetzar. Incidentally he was destined to have a granddaughter by the name of (Queen) Vashti.


Nevuchadnetzar, who was a dwarf, barked like a dog, was squat like a jar and chirped like a cricket (the acronym of his name - 'N'vu', 'Kad', 'Netzer (Tzirtzur').


When Yirmiyah was still a boy, he was once walking with the poverty-stricken Nevuchadnetzar, who was not yet king. 'If only I would rule the world,' the latter declared, 'I would attack Yerushalayim and set fire to the Beis-Hamikdash!' When Yirmiyah (who must have somehow sensed that this was no vain statement), asked him to spare Yerushalayim, he replied that he would give him 'whatever he would be able to rescue from the city from midday until the evening'. Unfortunately, when it came to the crunch, Yirmiyahu was not in Yerushalayim, so he was unable to take up Nevuchadnetzar's offer.


When, prior to Bavel's rise to power, the Angel smote the Camp of Ashur destroying the entire army comprising hundreds of thousands of soldiers, five men were spared - Sancheriv and his two sons, Nevuchadnetzar and Nevuzraden.

And what did Nevuchadnetzar do to deserve so much Kavod? In his youth, he was the court scribe of Merodach B'ladan, King of Bavel. When Chizkiyah ha'Melech became ill, on the day that the sun moved back, prolonging the day by ten hours, the King was so impressed by the miracle, that he dictated a letter to him which began with the words 'Peace be upon you, King Chizkiyahu; Peace be upon Yerushalayim; Peace be upon the G-d of Israel'. And he sent the letter by messenger to the King of Yehudah.

Meanwhile, Nevuchadnetzar, who for some reason had been absent from the royal court when the letter was written, entered. When he heard about the letter, he was curious to find out its contents. And when he discovered the letter's opening words, he commented that if the G-d of Israel was so great, then surely, he ought to have been mentioned first, before Chizkiyahu and Yerushalayim. Having said that, he proceded to run after the messenger, in order to return with the letter and amend its wording.

He ran three or four steps, stopped and returned.

And it was due to those steps that he ran after the messenger in honour of G-d that he merited to become such a mighty ruler and to destroy the Beis-Hamikdash.

And what made him suddenly turn round and retrieve his steps?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (96a) explains that it was the Angel Gavriel who stopped him and who forced him to return to the palace empty-handed. Because had he been allowed to complete his errand, the accrued merits that he would have earned for so many steps would have enabled him to destroy Yisrael completely!

Another Medrash citing the same episode describes how it was B'rodach B'ladan who realized his error and who began to chase after the Shali'ach.

And the Medrash concludes that it was as a result of his final display of Kavod Shamayim that he merited a grandson by the name of Nevuchadnetzar.

* * *

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