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

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Vol. 23   No. 45

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

Parshas Devarim

Seifer Devarim
(Based on the G'ro)

No less than three times in the first five Pesukim of Devarim, the Torah informs us that Moshe spoke to the B'nei Yisrael:

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

2). "And it was in the fortieth year… that Moshe spoke to the B'nei Yisrael" (1:3);

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


The reason for this, the Ma'ayanah shel Torah citing the G'ro explains, is because the current Pesukim serve as an introduction to the whole of Seifer Devarim, which in turn, is divided into three sections. And these three sections in turn, correspond to the three Sefarim Sh'mos, Vayikro and Bamidbar (though we will not elaborate on this point in this article) - which is why Seifer Devarim is also known as 'Mishneh Torah' (a repetition of the Torah). The first part of Seifer Devarim runs from the beginning of the Seifer until the end of chapter 4, and it comprises words of Musar and rebuke; the second, from chapter 5 until chapter 27 Pasuk 9 in Ki Sovo comprises Mitzvos, many of which are not mentioned earlier in the Torah. Whilst the third section, which covers the rest of the Seifer, is made up of a series of B'rochos and K'lolos.


Looking carefully at the three afore-mentioned Pesukim, we will see how each one introduces one of these three sections. "These are the words that Moshe spoke …" refers to the Musar and rebuke which Moshe levelled at the people, as Rashi explains adequately in the course of the first two Pesukim.

"Moshe spoke … all that G-d had commanded him to (pass on to) them" is a neat reference to the Mitzvos, which, as the word 'Torah' suggests, is the main objective of the Torah.

Whereas "Moshe began (Be'er) to explain this Torah" is a reference to the B'rachos and the K'lolos that follow. And this is borne out by the fact that the Torah uses the very same word in the Pasuk preceding the B'rachos and the K'lolos ("And you shall write the words of this Torah well-explained - ba'er heitev").


The first two sections that we discussed are synonymous with the two issues mentioned in the opening Pasuk of Mishlei "To know wisdom (Torah) and Musar …". The combination of these two, incorporating the instruction of the brain and the submission of the heart, create perfection. The order of the sections here, however, does not follow the same order as the Pasuk in Mishlei. It inverts Torah and Musar (which is synonymous with Teshuvah), because it follows the sin of the Golden Calf, as a result of which the initial covenant between G-d and Yisrael was broken. Consequently, the new covenant, the re-giving of the Torah that takes place in Parshas Va'eschanan, could only take effect after Yisrael had done Teshuvah. Interestingly, the beginning of Parshas Va'eschanan includes Tefilah in the section of Musar/Teshuvah, since Tefilah (which Chazal describe as the Avodah of the heart) and Teshuvah go hand-in-hand.

And commensurate with Yisrael's level of Teshuvah and their commitment to Torah, they earn themselves either blessings or curses. This, in a nutshell, explains the three sections of Devarim and the order in which they are portrayed.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

What happened in Chatzeros?

" … between Poron, between Tofel and Lovon and Chatzeros and Di Zahav" (1:1).

According to the Rashbam, all of these are place names. But even Rashi, who objects, on the grounds that he has never heard of places called Lovon and Tofel (and presumably not Di Zihov either), agrees that Chatzeros is the name of a place. Nevertheless, like the other 'places' mentioned in the Pasuk, it refers to an event that called for a rebuke - and that event, Rashi explains, is that of the Machlokes of Korach.

To be sure, it would be rather strange for this Pasuk to omit the sin of the spies from its list (though it does discuss it at length later in the Parshah). Yet considering that the Pasuk at the end of Beha'aloscho, following the episode with Miriam, which also took place in Chatzeros, relates how they moved from Chatzeros to Midbar Poron, from where they sent the spies, it is even stranger to say that the machlokes of Korach - which is recorded only two Parshiyos later, occurred there!

Left with no choice, we are forced to apply the principle 'Ein mukdam u'me'uchar ba'Torah' - and that the Torah recorded it only after Parshas Sh'lach-L'cho, in order to juxtapose it to the Parshah of Tzitzis (to conform to the Medrash cited by Rashi at the beginning of Korach).


Both Targum Unklus and Targum Yonasan explain that 'Chatzeros' refers to Yisrael's complaining about the lack of meat. This too is difficult to understand, the Pirush Yonasan points out, since the episode of the meat took place in Kivros ha'Ta'avah, the stop before Chatzeros, as the Torah specifically states in Beha'aloscho (11:35).

Incidentally, 'Chatzeros' cannot be referring to the episode with Miriam, in the form of a rebuke for having spoken Lashon ha'Ra, because that was a private sin on the part of Aharon and Miriam, whereas Moshe was rebuking Yisrael for the sins that they committed communally.


The Ramban strongly disagrees with the I'bn Ezra, who, like Rashi, maintains that Korach rebelled earlier (after the Levi'im were appointed to replace the Bechorim). He prefers to leave Parshas Korach where it is located - in Midbar Poron after the Parshah of the Spies, when Yisrael were not on good terms with Moshe, the atmosphere was conducive with rebellion, and Korach would therefore have had no problem gathering recruits. Targum Yonasan too, takes on that it took place in Keheilosoh a few stops after Chatzeros, appropriately called because of the congregation that gathered against Moshe (See Mas'ei, 33:22).


Harassing Mo'av

"And do not wage war with them (Mo'av)" (2:9).

War was forbidden, Rashi explains, but harassing them was permitted. Indeed, he adds, that is precisely what they did when they first approached their borders. 'They scared them by appearing to them fully armed'. This explains Mo'av's fear of Yisrael, which caused Balak to send for Bilam to curse them. This is also how the Seforno explains it there.

It will also explain, Rashi adds, why Amon (generally linked with their cousins Mo'av, in their negative relationship with Yisrael), were not afraid of Yisrael, since Yisrael were not permitted to harass them at all (as Chazal extrapolate from Pasuk 19).


In any event, Rashi implies that although this Mitzvah is mentioned only here, it was already given to Yisrael at Har Sinai or in the era of the Mishkan, and that they put it into practice already in Parshas Bolok.


What about Menasheh?

Commenting on the Pasuk (3:18) "And I commanded you", in connection with the pact that Moshe made with the B'nei Gad and the B'nei Menasheh, Rashi interprets "you" as the B'nei Reuven and Gad. In other words, Moshe is reminding these two tribes to carry out the agreement that he made with them to cross over the Yarden and to lead the troops into battle throughout the conquest of Cana'an.


The question that springs up is why Rashi omits the half-tribe of Menashah that joined Reuven and Gad only after the initial agreement was entered into! (See Matos, chapter 32, from Pasuk 20- 32, where the agreement is spelt out, between Yisrael and Reuven & Gad,) whereas Menasheh enters the scene only in Pasuk 33. This conveys the impression that Menasheh was not included in the agreement, and will explain Rashi here.

However a glance at Seifer Yehoshua (1:12-15) will prove this contention a fallacy. From there it is clear that Menasheh was indeed included in the agreement - despite the fact that the Chumash does not record it.

And as for Rashi's omission, we will have to say that he omitted Menasheh because they were not included in the original agreement, and joined only later.

* * *

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Tish'ah B'Av Supplement

The Beis-ha'Mikdash is 'Alive'

The Emperor Napoleon was once riding through the streets of Paris when, to his dismay, the sound of people weeping reached his ears. His curiosity aroused, he dismounted, and made his way to the source of the of the weeping - a Shul. It happened to be the night of Tish'ah be'Av and in those days, it seems, people were more moved by the tragedy of the Churban, and freely gave vent to their emotions.

In response to his queries, the people explained that they were bemoaning the loss of their Temple. To which he exclaimed in surprise that he had known nothing about it.

They pointed out that it had not happened recently; that they were crying over the Holy Temple that was destroyed some seventeen hundred years earlier. The Emperor thought for a moment and exclaimed in surprise 'You mean to tell me that you are able to cry now over a calamity that took place so many generations ago! Then it cannot possibly be permanently destroyed. Rest assured that it will be rebuilt!'


This is truly a remarkable perception coming, as it did, from a gentile. In fact it conforms to Chazal, who say that it is only a dead person that is ultimately forgotten; as long as a person is alive, he is not forgotten - which explains why Ya'akov Ovinu could not be consoled after being informed that his son Yosef, was dead (See Rashi in Vay'chi, 37:35).

And it will also explain the mantra 'Whoever mourns for Yerushalayim will merit seeing its rejoicing (when it is rebuilt)'.

If a person is able to mourn for Yerushalayim so long after its destruction, it means that in his heart, Yerushalyim and the Beis-ha'Mikdash are still alive, that his connection with them has not been severed, as opposed to someone who fails to mourn for them. As far as the latter is concerned, the connection has been broken, and when they are rebuilt, he will be unable to participate in the celebrations.

See following Pearl.


No Thumbs

When, after the exiles had returned from Bavel, Ezra ha'Sofer arrived in Eretz Yisrael, he found that the majority of Levi'im had remained behind in Bavel. Moreover, the only ones to have returned were Levi'im who had no thumbs. They had bitten them off, in order to avoid playing songs of Tziyon on their harps at the behest of Nevuchadnetzar - as David ha'Melech hinted prophetically in Tehilim (Kapitel 137) - Rashi Kidushin, (69a).

The Levi'im, who remained in Bavel - thumbs intact - had presumably complied with Nevuchadnetzar's orders, with a concert of songs of Tziyon that rejoiced his heart. Here we have a case in point of people who could not bring themselves to display mourning over the fall of Yerushalayim, and who ended up displaying no interest in rejoicing with it when it was ul-timately rebuilt.


Chasdei Hashem

The Gemara in Kidushin, commenting on the opening words of Kapitel 79 in Tehilim "Miz-mor le'Asaf", explains that Asaf calls it a song, despite the fact that he goes on to discuss the de-struction of the Beis-ha'Mikdash, because G-d, in His Mercy, took away the Beis-ha'Mikdash as a security, when really, he should have taken us.


In similar vein, Rashi in Devarim (4:25) citing Chazal, explains that the word "ve'noshantem" (and you will live a long time in the land), whose Gematriyah is 852, hints to the number of years Yisrael were destined to live in Eretz Yisrael before going down to Galus Bavel. Yet the ex-ile took place two years earlier, after 850 years. This too, is due to G-d's Mercy. How is that?

Because at the time of the exile Yisrael had reached such a low point, that two years later, they would have deserved to be wiped out. So sending them into Galus just two years prema-turely, saved them from extinction.

Construction & Destruction

Exile and Return

* * *

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