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

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Vol. 20   No. 42

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

Parshas Devarim

These Are the Words that Moshe Spoke

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael on the other side of the (River) Yarden in the desert, in the plains, opposite the (Yam)-Suf, between (the desert of) Paran and Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeiros and Di-Zahav" (1:1).

Seifer Sh'mos, Seifer Vayikra and Seifer Bamidbar, points out the Oznayim la'Torah, are all connected with the Seifer that precedes, by virtue of the 'Vav' ("ve'Eileh Sh'mos", "Vayikra" and "Vayedaber") with which each of them begins.

The one exception is Devarim, which begins "Eileh ha'Devarim", without a 'Vav'.

In volume 12, we cited the Or ha'Chayim, who, taking the Gemara in Megilah (31b) 'The curses in Seifer Devarim were said by Moshe' literally, explains that, as opposed to the other four Sefarim, not even one letter of which was not dictated by G-d, the curses in Ki Savo, as well as all the Musar contained in the Seifer, were written by Moshe. Rashi, both in this Parshah and in Ki Savo seems to support this. (Refer to note, two paragraphs hence). Yet, as we explained there, most commentaries insist that the entire Torah, with the possible exception of the last eight Pesukim (discussed by the Gemara in Bava Basra, 15a) was said by Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu.

The Oznayim la'Torah too, agrees with the G'ro and the other commentaries that we cited there, and he cites this very Parshah, which only two Pesukim later, specifically states that Moshe here was merely transmitting to Yisrael "like all that Hashem had commanded him".


(Note: In Pasuk 11, commenting on the B'rachah "Hashem will add to you a thousand-fold", Rashi cites Moshe as having said, 'This is my B'rachah; Hashem will increase you as He said He would!' And in Ki Savo (28:23), he resolves a discrepancy between the Pasuk there and a similar Pasuk in the curses in Bechukosai, by pointing out that the former was said by Moshe, whereas the latter was said by G-d. Both Rashis certainly seem to support the Or ha'Chayim. In volume 12, however, we cited a K'li Chemdah, which refutes the Or ha'Chayim's proof from the Gemara in Megilah (that we cited earlier). And according to that interpretation, the proofs from Rashi will fall away, too.)


The Oznayim la'Torah himself explains that Seifer Devarim is presented as an independent Seifer a. because it is full of Musar, as opposed to the previous Sefarim, which contain many Mitzvos. (Indeed, he says, the juxtaposition of Devarim to Mas'ei is based on the fact that the latter concludes "These are the Mitzvos and the judgements ", and now the Torah begins with Musar [a dual concept with which Seifer Mishlei begins - "To know Chochmah and Musar "]). And b. because Moshe then proceeds to repeat many Mitzvos that he has already taught, which is why Devarim is called 'Mishneh Torah', a Copy of the Torah. In similar vein, the Or ha'Chayim, in his second explanation, attributes the omission of the 'Vav' at the beginning of Devarim to the fact that during the forty years that Moshe led Yisrael through the desert, this was the sole occasion that he spoke to the whole nation harshly. For elaborating this point, it is interesting to see Rashi in Pasuk 3, who cites four reasons as to why one only rebukes close to one's death.


In an alternative explanation of the opening words of Devarim, the Or ha'Chayim connects them with the Gemara in Yuma (19b). Commenting on the Pasuk in the first paragraph of the Sh'ma "and you shall speak about them (words of Torah)", the Gemara extrapolates that one is only permitted to speak "about them" (words of Torah and Yir'as Shamayim) and not about other (mundane) matters.

The opening words of Devarim "These are the words that Moshe spoke " teach us that this is precisely what Moshe Rabeinu did. If Moshe was not teaching Yisrael what G-d told him to tell them (Pasuk 3), he was speaking words such as these. His whole life, all that ever came out of his mouth were either words of Torah or words of Musar and Yir'as Shamayim.


And a final thought from the Or ha'Chayim concerns the Gematriyah of the first word in the Seifer "Eileh" - thirty-six. This corresponds to the number of days that Moshe taught Seifer Devarim - from Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat, as is stated in Pasuk 3, until the day he died, the seventh of Adar, as the Gemara in Kidushin 38a teaches us.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Mo'av Amon and Se'ir

"Do not attack Mo'av (Amon and Se'ir)" 1:9.

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos explains that G-d found it necessary to warn Yisrael not to attack the above three nations, since all three nations are sometimes referred to as "Chivi" (or 'Chori') - one of the seven nations of Cana'an that Yisrael were about to capture.

He therefore forbade Yisrael to attack any of them. And the reason that they were called 'Chivi" and 'Chori' was due, not to the fact that they belonged to the nation of that name, but on account of their amazing ability to tell the nature of any land by its smell ('Chori', from the word Rei'ach [snake] like a snake ('Chivya').

See also main article, Matos ('The Gemara in Bava Kama').


Moshe Blames the Spies

"Also with me G-d was angry because of you saying 'Also you will not come there (to Eretz Yisrael)" (1:37).

What, asks the K'li Yakar, has the sin of the spies, to which Moshe referred in the previous Pasuk, got to do with his own punishment of not entering Eretz Yisrael?

And he answers that it is only because Yisrael sinned by the Meraglim and had to remain in the desert for forty years that Miriam died in the desert and the well ceased to function. That was why they were short of water and the incident with the rock took place.

Had they not sent the spies, they would have entered the Land immediately after leaving Sinai, together with Miriam. Moshe would not have struck the rock and he too, would have entered Eretz Yisrael.

And that is what Moshe meant when he stated the above Pasuk - it was only because Yisrael sinned when they sent the spies that he was not permitted to enter Eretz Yisrael.

* * *


" Moshe began (ho'il Moshe) to explain this Torah" (1:5).

The word "Ho'il" appears in Shmuel 1 (12:22) "because G-d began to make you into a nation", and in Hoshe'a (5:11) " for they began to follow their bidding (to worship idols)."

This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that G-d wants us as a nation, - even if we indulge in idolatry. He has sworn (ho'il" can also mean to swear) that we will be His nation, and He will never go back on that, irrespective of our deeds.


"And behold (ve'hinchem) you are today as abundant as the stars of the Heaven" (1:10).

The word "ve'hinchem" appears in Yirmiyahu (16:12) "And behold you are going (ve'hinchem) each man after his heart's desires".

'Despite the fact that you tend to follow your heart's desires,' the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, 'you are as abundant as the stars of the Heaven'. Even when Yisrael sins, G-d still loves them.


"Do not favour (one litigant above the other) in judgement" (1:17).

There are crowns on the 'Pey', the Ba'al ha'Turim points out. This hints at the ruling 'P'sach picho le'Ileim - Open your mouth to assist the dumb person'. If for some reason a litigant is unable to present his case, e.g. because he does not have access to all the facts, then Beis-Din are obligated to help him state his case.


"Small and big alike you shall hear" (Ibid.).

See Rashi and Targum. Simply speaking, this could also refer to the two litigants mentioned in the previous Pasuk.

The Ba'al ha'Turim however, connects this Pasuk with the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos which teaches that as long as the litigants are standing in Beis-Din, one should treat them as Resha'im, i.e. suspect all their statements, but, the moment they leave Beis-Din, provided they accept the final ruling, they are to be treated like Tzadikim.

Hence, he explains, what the Pasuk means is that the litigants should be small in the eyes of Beis-Din whilst they are in court, but big, once they have left.



'The Tzidonim called it (Mount Chermon) 'the Mountain that Sheds its Fruit', due to their abundance, whereas the Emorites referred to it as 'the Mountain of Snow' from which snow never ceased, neither in summer nor in winter' (3:9).

* * *

Vol. 20   No. 43

This issue sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Yochanan Yitzchak ben Nachum z"l

Tish'ah Be'Av Supplement

Nevuzraden Butcher-in-Chief
(Adapted from 'Otzar Ishei ha'T'nach')

How many people survived from the camp of Ashur (Assyria)? Five - Sancheriv and his two sons, Nevuchadnetzar and Nevuzraden (Sanhedrin, 95b).


When Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu ordered Nevuchad-netzar to go and destroy the Beis-Hamikdash, he (Nevuchadnetzar) figured that He planned to do the same to him as He did to his grandfather Sancheriv (whose entire army He killed overnight). So he went to stay in Dafni of Antuchya and sent Nevuzraden to destroy Yerushalayim (Eichah Rabah).


Inside Nevuzraden's chariot, he had carved an image of Nevuchadnetzar of whom he was terrified. Whenever he looked at it, he imagined that he was standing in front of him (Sanhedrin 96b).


'The G-d of these people', Nevuchadnetzar told Nevuzraden (in connection with the Jews against whom he was fighting) 'accepts Ba'alei-Teshuvah. Therefore when you capture them, don't allow them to pray, so that they will not be able to repent. Because if they do, He will have mercy on them and I will return home in disgrace.'

When Nevuzraden did indeed capture them, and marched them into exile, whenever a Jew stopped to Daven, he would hack him to pieces, and toss them in front of the exiles (Eichah Rabah).


'The G-d of this people', Nevuzradan told his troops, 'hates adultery. So take care not to lay a hand on any married woman!'


Nevuzraden was alias Aryoch (from the word 'Ari' - a lion). And he was called by that name because he roared at his Jewish captives like a lion. Once they reached the River P'ras (the Euphrates) he ordered his soldiers allow them to rest, since their G-d was not likely to interfere any more (Eichah Rabasi).


Every day, Nevuzraden would walk round the walls of Yerushalayim, but he could see no way of capturing it. He was on the verge of giving up and returning, when G-d put into his head to begin measuring the walls, and he noticed that their height decreased each day by two and half tefachim (hand-breadths). So he waited until they had sunk completely into the ground, and entered the city with ease (Eichah Rabasi).


In one valley alone, Nevezraden murdered two million, a hundred and ten thousand Jews (Gitin 57b).


The Gemara in Sanhedrin (96b) relates how, after entering Yerushalayim, slaughtering its inhabitants and setting fire to the Beis-Hamikdash, he felt an upsurge of pride, until G-d told him that he had slain a slain people and set fire to a burned Temple.

In the Heichal he saw a pool of blood bubbling. When the people told him that it was the blood of sacrifices that had spilt, he brought various animals to the scene and Shechted them, but none of them matched it. 'If you refuse to tell me what it is', he warned them, 'I will tear off your flesh with metal combs!'.

So they told him truthfully that It was the blood of a Kohen (Gadol) and a prophet (Zecharyah) whom they murdered (many years earlier) because he prophesied about the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash (according to the Gemara in Gitin [57b] they killed him because he rebuked them. See Rashi Eichah 2:20).

In an attempt to appease him, he brought Chachamim and slaughtered them there, but the blood continued to bubble. He brought babies he brought Cheder-children and he brought young Kohanim, all of whom he slaughtered, a total of close to a million people, but the blood continued to bubble.

'Zecharyah Zecharyah', he cried out. 'I have killed the best of them. Do you want me to kill them all?'

A that moment it flashed through his mind that if this is what happened on account of one man that the people murdered, what must lay in store for him, who had killed so many innocent people? He promptly fled, sent a will to his family and converted.

* * *

Fifty-Two Years

The Gemara in Yuma (54a) discussing the Pasuk in Yirmi-yah (9:9) which describes how there would be a period of time after Yisrael went into Galus when not a soul would pass through Eretz Yisrael - neither a human-being nor a bird or an animal. And based on the Gematriyah of the word "Be-heimah" it learns that that period lasted fifty-two years.

Rashi explains that those fifty-two years began with the ex-ile of Tzidkiyahu ha'Melech until Koresh, King of Medes, or-dered the rebuilding of the Beis-ha'Mikdash seventy years af-ter Nevuchadnetzar, King of Bavel, captured King Yehoyakim (as the Gemara explains in Megilah).

The Or Yeshu'ah gives the following run-down of the eight-een years between the capture of Yehoyakim until the exile of Tzidkiyahu :

Nevuchadnetzar captured Yehoyakim in the second year of his (Nevuchadnetzar's) reign. Yehoyakim had already sat on the throne for four years (though that is not relevant to the issue under discussion). After suffering three years of subju-gation under Nevuchadnetzar, Yehoyakim rebelled. After his death seven years later, Yehoyachin (also known as Yechon-yah) ruled for three months, before Nevuchadnetzar exiled him to Bavel, and in his stead, Nevuchadnetzar appointed his uncle (Yehoyakim's brother) to the throne. Tzidkiyahu reigned for eleven years, before Nevuchadnetzar destroyed the Beis-Hamikdash and exiled him, together with the rest of K'lal Yisrael, to Bavel. That took place in the eighteenth year of Nevuchadnetzar's capture of Yerushalayim, which was equiv-alent to the nineteenth year of his reign.


Where is the Aron?

Incidentally, the same Sugya in Yuma discusses the location of the Aron ha'Kodesh. It cites Rebbi Eliezer in a B'raysa, who holds that the Aron was exiled by Nevuchadnetzar to Bavel (which it equates with the Mishnah on Daf 53b), and that of Rebbi Yehudah (or Rebbi Yehudah ben Lakish) who maintains that it was hidden underneath the Lishkas ha'Eitzim in the Beis-Hamikdash (which is also the opinion of the Mishnah in Shekalim 6:2).

* * *

(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

" the city that was so full of people has become like a widow" (1:1).

The Pasuk does not say that it became 'a widow', Rashi ex-plains, but that it became 'like a widow'.

The Torah Temimah, interpreting a Medrash explains that whenever Yisrael sin, they always hold themselves back a lit-tle. Consequently, in keeping with the principle of 'measure for measure', G-d does likewise and does not punish them to the fullest extent.

Hence on the following three occasions the Torah uses the prefix 'Kaf' when describing Yisrael's rebelliousness. It writes in Beha'aloscha (chapter 11) "And the people were like grum-blers", in Hoshei'a (chapter 5) "The princes of Yehudah sort of encroached on land belonging to others", and in the same Seifer (chapter 4) "My people were like a rebellious cow".

And twice in Megilas Eichah, when it discusses G-d's reac-tion to their sins, the Pasuk, taking its cue from Yisrael, does the same thing. In the current Pasuk it describes Yisrael as being 'like a widow' (as Rashi explains), and later, in chapter 4, it writes that He drew his bow "like an enemy", intimating that He behaves like an enemy, but is not really an enemy at all.

This Medrash is reminiscent of the Pasuk in Shir ha'Shirim (1:5), where, describing K'lal Yisrael the Pasuk writes 'Alt-hough she is black (with sin), she is nevertheless beautiful'. Even when Yisrael sin, there is always a little good in them that lightens the sin, and leaves room for G-d to pardon them or at least to detract from the punishment.


"He drew his bow like an enemy (See previous Snippet). He placed His right hand like an oppressor and He killed all who were dear to the eye" (2:4).

The Medrash explains that "like an enemy" - refers to Par'oh (or perhaps to Eisav) and "like an oppressor" - to Haman.

"Who were dear to the eye." Rebbi Tanchum explains that this refers to the children, who are dear to their parents like the pupil of their eye. According to the Rabbanan, it pertains to the Sanhedrin (whom the Torah calls 'the eyes of the con-gregation' [Torah Temimah]), who are dear to Yisrael like the pupil of their eye".


" and in his fierce anger He spurned king and Kohen" (2:6).

"King" - this is Tzidkiyahu (the last king).

"Kohen" - is Serayah (the last Kohen Gadol, who was also a Navi).


"They raised a clamour in the House of G-d as if it was a Yom-Tov" (2:7).

What sort of clamour did they raise, asks the Medrash?

The sound of curses and insults that the enemy hurled at G-d (Kevayachol)!

* * *

Why We Fast

What's the point of fasting ? The Churban happened long, long ago, so what's to be gained by fasting now?

The reason we fast is to bear in mind that we are guilty of the same sins as our ancestors at the tIme of the destruction. otherwise, the Beis-Hamikdash would have been rebuilt.

So we fast in order that we should not suffer the same fate as they did (Y'sod ve'Shoresh ha'Avodah quoting the Ram-bam).

* * *

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