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

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Vol. 21   No. 44

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Pesach ben Ephraim Shimon z"l
t.n.tz.v.h.

Parshas Devarim
(Shabbos Chazon)

When to Rebuke & When Not to Rebuke
(Based on the Oznayim la'Torah)

"And it was in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moshe spoke to the B'nei Yisrael, like all that G-d commanded him about them" (1:3).

One of the reasons Rashi gives to explain why Moshe deliberately waited until close to his death before rebuking K'lal Yisrael was to avoid having to rebuke them again and again. Ya'akov did the same when he rebuked his sons whilst on his deathbed, and Yehoshua, Shmuel and David followed suit.

The Oznayim la'Torah queries Rashi from the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (31), which, commenting on the Pasuk in Kedoshim "Ho'chi'ach tochi'ach es misecha", explains that one must, if necessary, rebuke a sinner again and again - even a hundred times!

In his answer, he draws a distinction between two friends or acquaintances, who are not obligated to honour one another and who are not therefore seriously affected by the need to repeat the rebuke a second or even a third time, and a father who rebukes his son, or a Rebbe his Talmid. In the latter case, failure to accept the rebuke the first time constitutes a breach of the respect that the latter needs to display towards the former. Consequently, it is preferable to postpone the rebuke and to issue it when it will be fully taken to heart the first time.

*

I would suggest a different approach altogether. To be sure, someone who is about to sin needs to be rebuked immediately, since the objective of the rebuke is to stop the sinner in his tracks. Our case, however, is speaking not about a person who is about to sin and who must be prevented from carrying out the sin he is about to perform. It is talking about someone who performed sins in the past, and who needs to be shown the evil of his ways, to prevent him sinning again. What he needs is a 'Mussar Shmuez', and as such, it must be presented at a time when it will be most effective. And the most effective time is shortly prior to one's death, when the recipient will be most likely to take it to heart - particularly if it comes from his father or his Rebbe.

*

A Time for Compassion
(Based on the Oznayim la'Torah)

Ibid.

If, as the Pasuk implies, Moshe was transmitting G-d's words to the people, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, how could G-d have possibly instructed him to say "You have rebelled against G-d since the day I knew you" (chapter 9, Pasuk 7). We have but to go a few chapters back (Chukas, 20:10) to see how, according to the Rambam, for referring to Yisrael as 'rebels', he forfeited the right to enter Eretz Yisrael?

It seems to me that the question is even more striking if Moshe said this in his own name (as the Pasuk implies there), since he ought to have learned from his earlier mistake.

*

In one of his answers, he points out that as the leader of K'lal Yisrael, Moshe was acting within his rights when he scolded them and told them what they were. He sinned, not by calling them by a name that he considered appropriate. He sinned by scolding them when they were thirsty and needed water. That, the author explains, was not the time to call them names. That was the time to quench their thirst by providing them with water, not for a tongue-lashing. And he cites another example of this when Ya'akov Avinu, in reply to Rachel's request to give her children, replied "Am I instead of G-d who has withheld from you fruit of the womb" (Vayeitzei 30:2).

He may well have been correct in principle; but a woman who cries out in despair for children requires compassion. The Musar could have waited until later.

*

One could also perhaps answer with the Medrash that Moshe's sin in Parshas Chukas was based on the fact that he got angry, something which it appears, a leader should never do - at least , he should never allow his anger to govern his decisions.

Interestingly, by Ya'akov too, the Pasuk specifically attributes his response to Rachel to his anger, in which case, he too, was taken to task on account of his anger, and not for what he said per se.

*

The Mashgi'ach of Gateshead Yeshivah, R. Moshe Schwab ztl. related how his Rebbe, R. Baruch Ber, would on occasions, want to rebuke a bachur. But because he was angry with him (and one could see him biting his lips in frustration), he would desist, and speak to him only the following day, after his anger had abated.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

No Through Road

" because I will not allow you even one footstep of their (Eisav's) land" (2:5).

The Oznayim la'Torah observes that with regard to Amon & Mo'av G-d told Moshe that He would not give them any part of their land, making no mention of footsteps.

He therefore explains that whereas Eisav, who, as a son of Yitzchak, was entitled to Eretz Yisrael no less than Ya'akov (only he chose Har Se'ir, another area that was promised to Yitzchak's children, instead, to avoid going into exile to Egypt), Amon and Mo'av (sons of Lot), were given their lands as independent possessions, not in lieu of Eretz Yisrael.

That being the case, Ya'akov and Eisav had the Din of partners who split their property into two. Yisrael now claimed that, partners who divide their property retain a right of way through the land that they had once owned jointly to enable them to get to their half of the property.

Therefore the Torah writes that G-d would not allow them right of way ('footsteps through Eisav's land'), in line with the opinion of Rava in Bava Basra (7), who rules like Shmuel, that when partners divide their property, they relinquish any rights of way through the other's property.

*

Food to Eat & Water to Drink

"Buy food from them (Eisav) and eat, and water and drink" (2:6).

"Because," the Pasuk adds, "G-d blessed you throughout the forty years in the desert and you lacked nothing."

To explain why the Torah sees fit to add the words "and eat" & "and drink", the Oznayim la'Torah gives three explanations:

1. That of the M'lo ha'Omer, who explains that Yisrael should purchase food and drink from Edom, which they could safely eat and drink without worrying that Edom may have poisoned the the food and drink that they sold them. This is something that they would not dare do, as they were afraid of Yisrael and knew the consequences of doing so.

2. That of others, who explain that He advised them to buy food and drink from Edom to eat and drink immediately, but not to take with them on the journey, "because for the last forty years you traveled in the desert and were short of nothing". (Note: this also explains the sequence of the two statements, as does the following answer).

3; The author himself explains that looking at the various issues about which the people complained, it is fair to assume that they also suspected G-d of giving them inferior-quality food (in the form of the Manna) and water (from the well).

Hence, He now instructed them to purchase food and water and to eat and drink. Then they would see for themselves that throughout the forty years in the desert, they lacked nothing, in quality as well as in quantity, when they discovered that the food and water that they now procured from Edom was incomparable to the food and water that they had partaken of until now (free of charge).

* * *

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Tish'ah be'Av Supplement

The Death of Rebbi Akiva
(Adapted from Kinos ha'Mevu'aros)

They (the Romans) brought Rebbi Akiva and incarcerated him. Each day, Rebbi Yehoshua ha'Garsi, who served him, would bring him a measured amount of water. On one occasion, the guard stopped him, and deciding that the water was far more than he needed ('Perhaps today you plan to break through the wall and escape!'), he poured half of it out.

Rebbi Akiva was left with enough water either to drink or to wash his hands. In spite of Yehoshua ha'Garsi's pleading, he opted for the latter, because Chazal have said that someone who abuses the Mitzvah of washing one's hands will be uprooted from the world. Consequently, he insisted, "It is better that I die once at my own hand than die twice!' And so, he drank nothing that entire day.

It was on erev Yom Kipur that Rebbi Akiva granted Yehoshua ha'Garsi permission to go home, and it was then that his captors decided to torture Rebbi Akiva to death. As is well-known, they tore off his flesh with metal combs, and he began to recite the Sh'ma. When his Talmidim asked him how this was possible, he explained to them that his whole life he was troubled by the Pasuk to love G-d with all one's Soul - even as He takes away one's Soul. Now that the possibility to fulfill it had arrived, how could he not grasp it?

His Soul left his body as he slowly uttered the word "echad", and a Heavenly Voice was heard to announce 'How fortunate are you, Rebbi Akiva, whose body is pure, and whose Soul departed with the word "echad" on your lips!'

Meanwhile Eliyahu ha'Navi knocked at Yehoshua ha'Garsi's door to break the news of his Rebbe's death. Together they travelled through the night. When they reached the prison, they found it open and everybody in the vicinity, including the guard, was fast asleep. Without delay, Eliyahu took Rebbi Akiva on his shoulders and proceeded to carry him, explaining to his startled companion, that, although he was a Kohen, Tzadikim of the caliber of Rebbi Akiva do not render Tamei via physical contact.

As they left the prison, there were groups of angels eulogizing Rebbi Akiva, based on the Pasuk " he did what is just in the eyes of G-d, and performing His judgements with Yisrael".

The way shone like the brightness of the sky, and when they reached Papliyon (an area?) of Caesarea, and they made their way to a certain cave, they found a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp, and that is where they placed his body. Yehoshua ha'Garsi refused to leave the cave however, until Eliyahu told him who the other bed was for - to which he replied 'the (ex) wife of the wicked Turnusrufus (who was Rebbi Akiva's second wife).

After they left the cave, it sealed itself shut. They then praised and thanked the One who created the world, and proclaimed the good fortune of the Tzadikim, and how much goodness lies in store for them in the World to Come.

* * *

Commentary on Eichah & Kinos
(Adapted from Kinos ha'Mevu'aros)

"Who said that this (terrible decree) would happen if G-d did not command it? Because from whom, if not from the Elevated One, do good and bad emanate?" (2:34-35).

Targum translates the Pesukim differently: "Who said that this (terrible decree) would happen? G-d did not command it. Because it is not from G-d that good and bad emanate" - but from our actions.

*

"Because you scorned us, you were very angry with us" (4:22).

The Medrash explains that if G-d held us in contempt, then there is no hope of reconciliation, but if He was angry with us, then there is hope, because anger can be appeased.

*

'They (the Babylonians) hanged the princes with their hands (Kinah 1).

Others explain that the princes hanged themselves rather than live a life of shame and disgrace.

*

' Because we chose death over life' (Kinah 5)

They saw the way that the corpses were strewn around in a most undignified manner, yet they chose death over life, because the Tzaros of life were more unbearable than those of death (Rashi, Yirmiyah 8:3).

*

'My people cried out in the days of ben Dinai' (Kinah 6).

Eliezer ben Dinai, who lived some twenty years before the destruction of the second Beis-Hamikdash, was the leader of one of a number of groups of rebels who terrorized the Romans (contrary to the instructions of the Chachamim), with the result that the Roman oppression became even more intensified. It is about instances such as this that the Gemara in Gitin (55b) cites the Pasuk " but he who is stubborn (refusing to listen to the Chaxhamim) will suffer calamity".

*

'How you took the trouble to hand over Your lambs (K'lal Yisrael) into the hands of those who are impure' (Kinah 7).

The Medrash describes the trouble G-d took to convince Nevuchadnetzar (who understood well G-d's love of His people, and how dear the Beis-Hamikdash was to His Heart) to come and destroy Yerushalayim. Eighteen years, the Medrash tells us, a Heavenly Voice was heard in Nevuchadnetzar's palace, which announced 'Naughty servant! Go and destroy your Master's House!'

Others explains that G-d considered the many sins of Yisrael burdensome.

*

'I will distinguish the weeping of the desert, I will distinguish night from night and desert from desert' (Kinah 8).

Distinction 1: On the night of the first Tish'ah be'Av Yisrael wept without reason; on the night of the second Tish-ba'Av, they had good reason to weep. Distinction 2: On the night of the first Tish'ah-be'Av (in the Desert of Sinai, they cried on a full stomach; On the night of the second Tish'ah- be'Av (in the desert leading to Bavel, were they were being taken captive), they were starving and their throats were parched from thirst.

* * *

On These I Weep

The wife of the wicked Emperor T'rachyanus gave birth to a baby boy on Tish'ah be'Av, the night on which the Jewish captives were bound to mourn for the Churban Beis-Hamikdash. When the baby died on Chanukah, the same captives, who, for obvious reasons, were initially in a quandary whether to celebrate the Yom-Tov in the customary manner, decided to perform the Mitzvah, come what may - and whatever would happen, would happen.

Sure enough, people immediately informed the empress that the Jews had mourned the birth of her son and were celebrating his death. The latter immediately sent her husband a letter, urging him to scrap the campaign to attack the city of Barbaria, on which he was about to embark, in favour of to attacking the Jews, who had rebelled against him.

T'rachniyus followed his wife's suggestion, and he immediately set sail for Rome, a journey which, he reckoned, would take him ten days, bur which, in fact, he accomplished in five.

*

When he arrived in the Jewish area of Rome, he found them reading the Pasuk in Ki Savo (28) "G-d will bring upon you a nation from afar from the edge of the earth, like an eagle swoops". 'I am the eagle!' he informed them (indeed, the Roman emblem is an eagle). 'I planned to return in ten days, and lo and behold, the wind brought me here in five!' With that, he ordered his soldiers to surround all the Jewish men and to slaughter them - to the last man.

He then attempted to talk the Jewish women into sinning, warning them that, unless they acquiesced to his overtures he would deal with them as he had dealt with the men. But the women refused to transgress the commands of their G-d, inviting him to kill them as he had killed the men.

Happy to comply, he immediately ordered his soldiers to surround the woman and to slaughter them too.

And the blood of the women mixed with that of the men and flowed to the River Kiprus.

*

And a Heavenly Voice announced "On These I Weep!"

* * *

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