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

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Vol. 22   No. 40

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

Parshas Devarim (Chazon)

The Book of Devarim
(Adapted from the Ramban)

In his introduction to Seifer Devarim, the Ramban explains that, although the Torah lists a number of Mitzvos for the first time - such as Yibum, Motzi-Shem-Ra, Gerushin and Eidim Zom'min, they were all included in the Mitzvos that G-d taught Moshe at Har Sinai or in the Ohel Mo'ed during the first year - prior to the episode of the spies. In the fortieth year, at the Plains of Mo'av, he explains, Moshe added nothing new; all he did was to renew the Covenant that G-d had made with them at Har Sinai and on which they had reneged when they worshipped the Golden Calf.

As proof that all the Mitzvos were revealed at Har Sinai, says the Ramban, throughout the entire Seifer of Devarim, we do not find the Pasuk "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael and command them", or "Command the B'nei Yisrael and say to them", a clear indication that all the Mitzvos contained in the Seifer were already said previously. And it is only because they were not so applicable at that time, that Moshe refrained from teaching them publicly until now, when they were about to enter Eretz Cana'an.


The author also points out that, on the one hand, Moshe repeats Mitzvos that he already taught previously, such as that of Avodah-Zarah - due to their severity, whilst on the other, he makes no mention of the Mitzvos to do with the Avodah of the Korbanos and with the Taharah of the Kohanim. He ascribes this to Chazal's description of the Kohanim as 'Zerizim' (alert/keen and do not therefore require a second warning).

R. Chaval in his commentary suggests further that, seeing as the need to repeat the Mitzvos was the result of the generation who had stood at Har Sinai having all died out, and it now became necessary to teach the Torah to the new generation who had not heard it at Har Sinai. Bearing in mind that the tribe of Levi was not included in the decree to die in the Desert (as Rashi explains in Parshas Bamidbar [1:49]), it was therefore unnecessary to repeat Toras Kohanim, which they had all already heard.


Seifer Devarim & the Korbanos

The Ramban's earlier comment on the omission of Korbanos from Seifer Devarim is not to say that Moshe makes no mention of them at all (as we intimated there). He discusses the Din of B'chor Beheimah, as well as that of the Korbanos ha'Chag that every individual had to bring on the Shalosh Regalim (the Olas Re'iyah, the Chagigah and the Shalmei Simchah), all in Parshas Re'ei, and the Shelamim that Yisrael were to bring on Har Gerizim and Har Eival, in Parshas Ki Savo.

But in none of these cases does he mention any aspect of the Avodah; regarding the former, he discusses the Dinim that pertain to the owners, whereas the latter he mentions since they were a once-only occurrence, integrally connected with the B'rochos and the K'lolos that the people heard there.


What Moshe Told Yisrael

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to the B'nei Yisrael " (1:1).


According to the Ramban, this Pasuk refers to the Mitzvos that are scattered throughout Seifer Devarim, beginning with the Aseres ha'Dibros in Va'eschanan - as opposed to Rashi, who maintains that the Pasuk is referring to the words of rebuke that make up the beginning of the Seifer. And he proves his point from Pasuk 5 - "On the other side of the Yarden Moshe began to expound this Torah (with reference to the Mitzvos [Refer to first Parshah Pearl]) saying". Only he first referred to what happened when they received the Torah at Chorev (Pasuk 6), how G-d had planned to take them to Eretz Cana'an immediately, and how they had upset His plans through a series of sins, which culminated with the wiping out of the entire generation.

Hence, before teaching them the Mitzvos - the main objective of the Seifer, Moshe warned them in no uncertain terms "And you shall observe His statutes and His commandments which I am commanding you today, in order that it shall be good for you and for your children after you, in order that you shall live long on the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you all the days" (4:40). Only in this way, would they avoid a recurrence of the events that brought about the downfall of their predecessors.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Seifer Devarim

Moshe's Initiative

"On the other side of the Yarden Moshe wanted (ho'il) to explain this Torah " (1:5)


This teaches us, says the Ramban, that Seifer Devarim was said on Moshe Rabeinu's in initiative, and not at the behest of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu.

The commentaries, commenting on the fact that the author declines to translate the word 'ho'il' as 'began', as Rashi does, to the fact that he explains the opening Pasuk with reference to the Mitzvos, which only appear in Va'eschanan, and not to Moshe's rebuke of the people (See main article).


To reconcile this with the Gemara on Bava Basra (Daf 15a), which clearly assumes that Seifer Devarim, like the rest of the Torah, is written word for word, by G-d, the K'li Chemdah explains that after Moshe transmitted Devarim to K'lal Yisrael, on his own initiative, and in his own words, G-d dictated it (perhaps with a few changes) to Moshe. In this way, the oral transmission of Seifer Devarim was Moshe's own, whereas the written version was that of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu.


Moshe Rabeinu's Three Tasks

"How can I carry alone your troubles, your burdens and your quarrels?" (1:12).


These three things, the Ramban explains, refer to Moshe's three main responsibilities, as laid out in Parshas Yisro (18:15/16):

1. "And I will inform them the statutes of G-d and His laws - teaching Torah (your troubles - 'since it was extremely troublesome for Moshe to teach Yisrael the Torah at all its levels of understanding')

2. "to seek G-d" - Tefilah ("your burdens", as in Yirmiyah, 7:16)

3. " I judge between one man and his friend - (litigation) .





Commenting on the word 'Your troubles", Rashi explains that Yisrael were troublesome, inasmuch as when a litigant saw that he was losing his case, he would postpone the verdict by claiming that he had more witnesses or additional proof, or by demanding that they add more judges to the Beis-Din.

The Ramban however, queries Rashi's source with regard to the last point. A Beis-Din to litigate money-matters comprises three Dayanim, who have the power to force the litigants to comply with their ruling, and there is no such thing as adding Dayanim on the whim of either litigant.


What we can learn from here however, is that the two litigants can, at the outset, agree to each one appointing two Dayanim, and a fifth one between them). In fact, he explains, not only is this permitted, it is preferable, as this conforms with the 'pursuit of justice' mentioned in the Pasuk "Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue" (Parshas Shoftim, 16:20).

The author also cites the Din which allows the two litigants to pick even one judge who is a relative or who is not eligible to litigate (by force), In the event that they do, he points out, either litigant can retract at any point during the process of litigation.

* * *

Vol. 22   No. 40

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Zelig Asher ben Shmuel Ber and Chana z"l

Tish'ah be'Av Supplement

Chananyah ben Eizor
& Yirmiyah ha'Navi

(Adapted from Kol Agados Yisrael)

The following incident took place during Nevuchadnetzar's final siege of Yerushalayim, when it was clear to all that YIrmiyahu's prophecy regarding the fall of Yerushalayim was about to come true.


Chananyah ben Eizor the Giv'oni stood before the Kohanim and the people and prophesied that G-d was about to break the yoke of the king of Bavel. He told them too, that all the vessels of the Beis-ha'Mikdash that the Babylo-nians had already captured and taken to Bavel would be returned, as well as Yechonyah, king of Yehudah and the captives who had been taken in chains to Bavel.

'Omein!', answered Yirmiyahu, 'I would be thrilled if your words came true and all the negative prophesies that I prophesied about this place in G-d's Name would fail to materialize!'

When Chananyah expressed surprise at the Navi's words, pointing out that he never had a good word to say about Yisrael, the latter retorted, that, in his (Yirmiyah's) capacity as Kohen, he would be the one to benefit were the Beis-ha'Mikdash to remain standing, and that Chananyah, who was a Giv'oni, would continue to serve as a wood-chopper and a water-drawer.

Reiterating his full blessing that Chananyah's words should come true, he added that this was most unlikely, bearing in mind the people's wayward ways and that, much to his chagrin, the fall of Yerushalayim was imminent. Moreover, he said, not only would the Holy Vessels that were already in Bavel not be returned, but those that were still intact would be taken there as well.


In reply to Chnananyah's demand that Yirmiyah give a sign of assurance that this is what would happen, Yirmiyah replied that this was not possible, as a negative prophecy can always be rescinded, pending Yisrael's mending their ways.

When Chananyah insisted, Yirmiyah responded with the words 'This is the sign for you - that you will die on Erev Rosh Hashanah of this year!'


Chananyah's Revenge

Chananyah fell ill. When he saw that his end was approaching, he called Shelemyah, his son, and asked him to avenge his death at the hand of Yirmi-yah, by burying him a day after his death (on Rosh Hashanah), to trick the people into believing that he had not died on the previous day, and that Yirmiyah's words had not come true.

Shelemyah carried out his father's instructions. However, although he sought an opportunity to torment him further, no such opportunity availed itself. Consequently, when a short while later, he himself fell ill and was lying on his death-bed, he called his son, Yir'iyah, and extracted from him an oath that he would avenge his father's death from Yirmiyah.

Following his father's death, Yir'iyah stalked Yirmiyah, searching for an excuse to harm him. Eventually, he met him on his way to Anasos (his home-town). He confronted him and, labelling him a traitor, he accused him of making his way to surrender to the besieging Babylonians, an accusation that he repeated to the leaders, to whom he took Yirmiyahu.

The leaders' angry reaction was to beat Yirmiyah and to imprison him, be-fore having him, casting him into a deep water-pit, and leaving him to drown. G-d however, having promised Yirmiyah that He would always protect him against those who would do him harm, performed a miracle, by raising the level of mud above the water level.


Saved by a Slave

The first person to pay Yirmiyah a visit was Yehonosan ha'Sofer, one of his adversaries, who proceeded to mock him. He advised him to use the water as a cushion and to enjoy a good rest.


When 'the slave of King Kushi' discovered Yirmiyah's predicament, he be-came deeply distressed and lost no time in making his way to Tzidkiyahu ha'Melech. In fact, 'King Kushi' was none other than Tzidkiyahu ha'Melech, so-called because he was unusually full of good deeds, like a black man's un-usual skin colour (See Rashi in Beha'aloscha 12:1).

As a matter of fact, 'Eved Melech Kushi' is also a pseudo-name for Baruch ben Neri'ah - Yirmiyah ha'Navi's disciple and successor - who was given that name for the same reason.

Confronting the King, Baruch asked him why he added fuel onto the flames of G-d's anger, by allowing the granting of permission to Yirmiyahu's enemies to do what they had done. He warned him that, if Yirmiyah would die in the pit, Yerushalayim would fall that very same day. Tzidkiyahu promptly gave him authorisation to collect as many men as he needed, and to lift Yirmiyahu out of the pit. Taking into account, the weak state of the starving people, he gathered thirty men and stood next to the pit. He called to his master Yirmi-yah, who did not respond, because he thought that Yonasan ha'Sofer had re-turned to taunt him further. Believing Yirmiyah to have died, Baruch cried out in distress. He rent his clothes and began to weep uncontrollably. When Yirmiyah heard his cries, he asked who it was. Overjoyed at hearing his Reb-be's voice, Baruch informed him that he had come to take him out of the pit. Yirmiyah suggested that he lower a ladder for him to climb up, but Hashem appeared to him and told him that, since his ancestor Rachav ha'Zonah had lowered the spies (Calev and Pinchas) by means of a rope, that is how he was to be lifted out of the pit. And that is precisely what Baruch did.

* * *

Snippets from Kinos
(Adapted from Kinos ha'Mevu'aros)

Kinah 4

refers to 'Oholoh' and 'Oholivoh'. These refer to Shomron (the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes) and Yerushalayim, respectively.

Rashi explains that the former is so-called because it became the tent (dwelling) of Yerav'am's calves and later Achav's House of Ba'al; whereas Yerushalayim is called 'Oholivoh' because 'My tent (the Beis ha'Mikdash) is in it - Oholi voh'.


The same Kinah refers to the fact that the Kingdom of Yerushaim outlasted that of Shomron - which it did by a hundred and thirty years.


Kinah 9

mentions the death of the Kohanim in the Valley of Chamas (on the north-ern border of Eretz Yisrael), This refers to the episode mentioned in Melachim (2 25:18 - 21) where, following the fall of Yerushalayim, Nevazraden took Serayah, the Kohen Gadol and his deputy Tzefanyahus, together with the three Kohanim who stood guard in the Beis ha'Mikdash, plus a number of other important dignitaries, up to Rivlah (in the land of Chamas), where King Nevuchadnetzar, who was afraid to approach Yerushalayim, was stationed. The latter slaughtered them.


Kinah 11

talks about Yoshiyahu ha'Melech, who died when he tried to prevent the Egyptian army from passing through his land to fight with the King of Ashur, and when they riddled him with three hundred arrows.

Basing his actions on the Pasuk in Bechokosai, which states that, when Yisrael are worthy, no sword will pass through the land - even if it is not to fight with them - he assumed that Yisrael were indeed worthy. This he based, in turn, on the fact that he had officially abolished idolatry from the land. What he did not know was that they still worshipped idols secretly - tricking the inspectors that he sent regularly into believing that he had succeeded.

His sin lay in the fact that he did not consult Yirmiyahu ha'Navi, who would have stopped him.

* * *

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