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

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Vol. 6 No. 39

Parshas Devorim-Chazon

A Stern Rebuke
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"The one who rebukes man after me, will find favour, more so than someone with a smooth tongue" (Mishlei 28:23).

Shlomoh ha'Melech would rebuke whoever sinned, and he is advising here anyone who is able to rebuke, to follow his example and rebuke others. They should learn from him and do likewise. And because the person who sinned and who needs to be rebuked has degenerated to the level of earth (as opposed to the more spiritual heaven), he refers to him as 'odom' (rather than 'ish', which has the connotation of someone more spiritual).


It is well-known that, in most cases, one needs to rebuke the masses, and the masses incorporate many opinions, which is why they are called masses ("hamon am"), and not individuals (yechidim) which is what they would be called if they were of one accord.

And it is because they incorporate so many diverse opinions that they do not accept rebuke, because what the one likes, the other hates, and what is good for one is harmful for the other. For so Chazal said in Erchin (16b) quoting Rebbi Tarfon 'I would be surprised to find someone in this generation who is able to take rebuke. If one says to a person "Return the price of the wood that you stole," he replies "Not before you have returned the beam that you stole"!' And everyone turns around and says to the person who is rebuking him 'My cloak is more pure than yours'.


The reason that the rebuker is not accepted by the masses is because they hate him for telling them the truth about their own deeds.

And it is the one who speaks to them with a smooth tongue who is accepted by all of them. He is the one who finds favour in their eyes, as Chazal said in Kesubos (105b) 'If a talmid-chochom is popular, it is because he does not rebuke the people'. That is why Shlomoh writes "The one who rebukes after me ... ". He means that whoever follows in his footsteps, to rebuke the sinners with stern words, may well not be too popular with those at the receiving end of his rebukes, but he will find favour in the eyes of G-d, especially when his words produce positive results, because it is the stern words of rebuke that lead to spiritual perfection.


If, on the other hand, the rebuker speaks to the person he is (supposedly) rebuking, with a smooth tongue, conceding to his excuses and accepting his account of his evil deeds, he only encourages him to sin further; nor will his friend find favour with G-d through his support, because ultimately he is destroying his soul.

So we find that Yisroel, whom Moshe rebuked, found favour in the eyes of G-d, due to the fact that he constantly rebuked them and took them to task mercilessly. He did so for example, at the Water of Merivoh, where he called them 'rebels', and by the episode of the Mon.


Indeed, the Medrash explicitly connects our possuk to Moshe: "The one (Moshe) who rebukes man (Yisroel, who is called 'Odom' - see Yechezkel 34:31) (to go) after me (to follow him), will find favour (as the Torah writes (Sh'mos 33:17) "Because you [Moshe] found favour in My eyes), more than someone with a smooth tongue" (Bil'om, who flattered Yisroel with his many blessings, boosting their ego until they became conceited, causing twenty-four thousand to fall at Shittim).

And it is in this connection that Shlomoh wrote in Mishlei (27:6) "The wounds of the good friend are faithful, but the kisses of the hater increase," because the more Yisroel continued to sin, the more Moshe continued to rebuke them and to pray on their behalf until they were reconciled with G-d, to find favour in His eyes once again.

And we find too, that Moshe rebuked Yisroel at the plains of Mo'ov and spoke tough words to them, incorporating some of the sins that they had transgressed in the desert. He also mentioned in his rebuke, the place-names where they had sinned to G-d: in the plains of Mo'ov, at Shittim, at the Yam-Suf, at Midbar Poron, the sin of the Golden Calf, and so on.



Chart II

(From the 2nd to the 40th Year)

Year 2449 (cont.) (1309 BCE)

Nisan 1

The Mishkon is finally erected and Aharon and his sons serve as Kohanim. This day 'takes ten crowns' and its supremacy and joy are marred only by the death of Nodov and Avihu - The twelve princes, starting with Nachshon ben Aminodov, begin the inauguration of the Mizbei'ach, one each day. Eight Parshiyos were said on this day: 1. The Parshah of 'Emor el ha'Kohanim'.
2. The Parshah of the Levi'im (Beha'aloscho 8:5-26)..
3. The Parshah of the Temei'im (Emor 22:1-16, according to Tosfos).
4. The obligation of sending away the temei'im from the camp (Noso 5:2-4).
5. The Parshah of 'Acharei Mos'.
6. The prohibition of drinking wine before serving in the Beis ha'Mikdosh or before issuing a ruling (Shemini 10:8-11).
7. The Menorah (Beha'aloscho 8:1-4).
8. The Poroh Adumoh (Chukas 19:1-22).

Nisan 2

Elozor prepares the first Poroh Adumoh.

Nisan 13

Hashem commands Moshe about the Korban Pesach to be brought on the following day.
A group of people who are tomei meis complain that they are unable to bring it - The mitzvah of Pesach Sheini.

Nisan 14

Yisroel bring the only Korban Pesach that will be sacrificed in the desert.

Iyar 1

Moshe counts the people (the parshiyos of Ba'midbar and Noso are taught).

Iyar 14

Pesach Sheini - The parshah of travelling and that of the trumpets (Beha'aloscho 9:14-10:10) are taught.

Iyar 20 Har Sinai -

They depart from Har Sinai (with too much joy and relief) - Moshe convinces Yisro to travel with them to Eretz Yisroel.

Kivros ha'Ta'avoh (Tav'eiroh)
They grumble about the journey - A fire consumes them - They grumble about the prohibition of incest and about the meat. The quails - The appointment of a new Sanhedrin - Eldod and Meidod.

Sivan 20 - Chatzeros

Miriam and Aharon speak Loshon ho'ra about Moshe. Miriam is stricken with tzora'as and is sent outside the camp for seven days.

Sivan 28 - Midbar Poron

They arrive in Midbar Poron.

Sivan 29 - Rismoh (Kadesh Barnei'a)
They send the Spies.

Av 9

The Spies return. Yisroel cry that night. G-d decrees that they are to remain in the desert for another 38 years.

Ellul 17

The Spies die a horrific death.
The Rebellion of Korach.
Yisroel remain in Kadeish Barnei'a for nineteen years - Chanan ben Achhor (King of Edom) dies.

Year 2453 (1305 BCE)

Tzefo, son of Elifaz, son of Eisov ascends the throne of France.

Year 2467 (1291 BCE)

Yisroel leave Kadesh Barnei'a.

Year 2473 (1285 BCE) - ... Rimon Peretz ... Livnoh ... Risoh ... Keheilosoh ... Har-Shofar ... Charodoh ... Makheilos ... Tachas ... Torach ... Miskoh ... Chashmonah ... Moseiros ... B'nei Ya'akon ... Chor ha'Gidgod ... Yotvosoh ... Avronah ... Etzi'on Gever
The Yevusi, descendants of Avimelech, build the walls of Yerusholayim, and an almost impregnable fortress which is later called Tzi'on, because they are terrified of Yisroel.

Year 2484 (1274 BCE)

Sichon attacks Mo'ov. He asks Be'or, grandson of Bil'om, advisor to Par'oh, and his son Bil'om, to curse Mo'ov. They comply and Mo'ov falls to Sichon.


The Shema
Part xxviii

And You Shall See Them

"And you shall see them, and you will remember all the mitzvos of Hashem and fulfill them;"

Clearly, the Tzitzis must be visible, in order that one should see them, and then they will remind the wearer of all the mitzvos - and help to hold him back from sinning (both in thought and in deed) - as the Gemoro in Menochos (44a) relates, regarding the man who was on the verge of sinning with a prostitute, but was saved from carrying the deed through his Tzitzis.

Chazal explain this in two says:

1. Through the numerical value of tzitzis, which is six hundred (either because the second 'yud' is pronounced although it is not written, or because of the 'Lamed' [the numerical value thirty] in 'le'Tzitzis' which, when divided by three, gives a 'yud' - ten - to each 'tzitzis'), because "tzitzis", with only one 'yud' (the way it is written in the Torah) is equivalent to only 590 plus the eight threads and five knots.

2. Through the association of the dark blue of the Techeiles thread, which, via the sea and the sky, remind one of G-d's Heavenly Throne. (Perhaps the first reason is necessary for the times when Techeiles is not available.)

All this does not necessarily mean that one needs to positively have these thoughts in mind. Indeed, if one did, then why would one require the mitzvah of Tzitzis? What it means is that these ideas are inherent in the Tzitzis themselves, so that when one wears them, one is led to bring all the Mitzvos to the forefront of one's mind, and to imagine oneself to be standing in front of G-d's Throne, much in the same way as a car engine springs to life when one switches on the engine, whether one thinks about how the motor works or not. It is a segulah inherent in the Mitzvah of Tzitzis.


Our sages have said (in Menochos 43b) that tzitzis brings us close to G-d though the chain process. The t'cheiles (the deep-blue thread) is reminiscent of the sea, which is reminiscent of the sky, which reminds us of G-d's Throne.

The question is asked as to why one needs all these stages to arrive at G-d's Throne? However, it is not possible to reach such levels in one leap, as it were. Rome was not built in a day, and ascending the spiritual ladder must be performed one rung at a time. To try and make it in one leap is dangerous, because it is so easy to fall short and crash.

The Kli Yokor puts it like this. The first stage in serving G-d, is to fear Him, as the Gemoro explains in Shabbos (31b), and fear is what we learn from the sea (see Yirmiyah 5:22). From fear we move on to love, which we learn from the sky, where heavenly bodies serves G-d with joy (as we say in 'Keil Odon' on Shabbos morning).

And it is from love that one comes close to the Throne of G-d to cleave to Him, because as long as one is afraid, one tends to keep one's distance; it is only someone who loves who strives to come close.


And You Will Perform All My Mitzvos ...

Tzitzis ultimately leads a Jew to high levels of sanctity, but sanctity can only be attained through the observance of all the mitzvos. This is logical, because it is only through observing the Torah in its entirety, that one can reach perfection as Dovid ha'Melech wrote "The Torah of Hashem is perfect, it revives the soul" (Tehillim 19), and how can sanctity and imperfection possibly corrolate? The connection between the Mitzvos and sanctity is also evident in the text of the Birchos ha'Mitzvos, where we say " ... who sanctified us with His mitzvos ... "

"Who sanctified us with His mitzvos", note, in the same way as the possuk here speaks about "performing My mitzvos", because the mitzvos are the source of sanctity only because they are mitzvos of G-d. He is holy, and He instills some of His holiness into His mitzvos. That is why, when we perform those holy mitzvos for the sake of the Holy G-d who sanctified them, we too, become holy.


Special Tish'oh be'Av Supplement

Troublesome, Burdensome, Quarrelsome

"The parshah of Devorim always precedes Tish'oh be'Av, and aptly so, as in it, Moshe Rabeinu begins to rebuke Klal Yisroel, and this rebuking continues sporadically throughout Seifer Devorim. The first posuk alone is devastating, referring as it does, in one sweep, to their grumblings in the desert, their immorality at Ba'al Pe'or, their lack of faith at the Yam-Suf, their ingratitude regarding the mon, and concluding with the episodes of the spies, of Korach and of the Golden Calf.


Moshe Rabeinu, the most capable and outstanding leader that we ever had, certainly did not find B'nei Yisroel easy to handle, and he said so in no uncertain terms, referring to them as troublesome, burdensome and quarrelsome.

"How can I carry alone your troublesomeness?" complains Moshe Rabeinu. This refers, explains Rashi, to the litigants in a court case, who would irresponsibly aim at throwing the wheels of justice out of gear. No sooner would one of the litigants perceive that the case was going against him, than he would stall for time, claiming that he had new witnesses or fresh evidence of his righteousness.

"Your burdensomeness" - they were rebellious and would always have something to say about Moshe Rabeinu. If he left early, they would suspect trouble at home, whereas if he left late, they would accuse him of scheming against them.

"Your quarrelsomeness" - they were constantly arguing and grumbling.


R. Bachye, in his explanation of the Chumash, echoes the interpretation of the Ibn Ezra, who explains "troublesome" as "difficult to instruct". "How can I possibly teach mitzvahs to fools?" "Burdensome" he says, refers to their daily routine, which they themselves transformed into major crises, as when, in rebellious undertones and without the slightest justification or necessity, they begged for meat and for water, though Hashem's policy was clearly to deny them nothing throughout their sojourn in the desert.

Lack of faith, both in Hashem and in Moshe, which often resulted in discontent, seems to have been the common cause in most of their straying, and as a result of it they gave a rough time to all with whom they had contact, with Hashem, with Moshe Rabeinu and with their own friends.


We do not need to look too hard to perceive the same faults in our generation as those that Moshe Rabeinu beheld in Klal Yisroel in his time. We constantly procrastinate and stall for time, using any argument that presents itself to evade our duties and responsibilities. We have much to say about our Rabbis and leaders, and that of course gives us "full authority" to ignore their instructions and teachings. No wonder we're difficult to instruct! We most certainly create our own problems, and then we go on to use them as an excuse to rebel against G-d. And as for being argumentative and troublesome, we seem to develop a voracious appetite for these two traits, almost, it seems, as if life would not be quite the same without them.

Perhaps if we realised the futility of our stubborn ways and lent an ear to the wise, if harsh criticism of Moshe Rabeinu, we might improve the spiritual (and material) quality of our lives.

Perhaps if we acknowledged Hashem as our undisputed Master, attributed our Sages with the wisdom and saintliness that is their due, and saw in our fellow-Jew an image of G-d (no less than we ourselves are), we might be cured of some of the above spiritual diseases, to discard such titles as "troublesome, burdensome and quarrelsome" in favour of "am seguloh" - "the treasured nation of G-d" which we earned at Har Sinai.



Adapted from the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch
with notes from the M.H. (Misgeres ha'Shulchon) and the M.B. (Mishnah B'rurah)

1. Greeting

Greeting, even just to say 'hello' is forbidden. Should someone who is unaware of this halochoh greet, one should reply in an undertone, so as not to upset him or hurt his feelings. Sending a gift is considered a greeting in this regard and is forbidden.


2. Going for a Walk - Smoking

One may not go for a stroll on Tish'oh be'Av, as this generally leads to the sort of light-heartedness that is not conducive with the spirit of Tish'oh be'Av, and detracts from the mourning. (As for those people who sit in Shul and make jokes, about them it is said 'Anyone who fails to mourn for Yerusholayim will not live to see its rebuilding' - M.H.)

Regarding smoking, there are some who forbid it altogether. The M.B. however, subscribes to the opinion that permits a heavy smoker to smoke discreetly (at home) after mid-day.


3. Working

Our minhag is to forbid any work that takes time, even if it is an unprofessional job, from Tish'oh be'Av night until mid-day. Tasks that do not take up much time, such as tying a knot or switching on a light, are permitted.

After mid-day, all tasks are permitted (provided one does not settle down to a fixed job that will distract one from the mitzvah of mourning for the Churban - M.H.) Anyone who does fixed work on Tish'o0h be'Av, will not see any blessing from it (i.e. he will not derive benefit from the proceeds - M.H.).

A G-d-fearing person however, should be strict and not perform any work or business all day, in order not to be distracted from the mourning. All forms of work are permitted through a gentile (though not business, which entails a certain amount of publicity), unless it is the time of the sales, when to miss the opportunity would involve a loss - M.H.).


4. Sitting Low

It is customary to sit on the floor, or on any low surface less than 30 cm. high. This minhag is only practised until mid-day (because it has no source in the Gemoro). All other prohibitions however, remain in full force until night-fall (even if one davened Ma'ariv early - M.H.).


5. Preparing Food for After the Fast

It is customary not to prepare for the meal to break the fast until after mid-day, unless it is for a se'udas mitzvah, in which case it is permitted in the morning too.


6. A Bris Milah

If a Bris falls due on Tish'ah be'Av it should be performed at the conclusion of Kinos. The parents, the Sandek (who holds he baby during the ceremony) and the Mohel may all wear Shabbos clothes. The 'gefater' however (the man who carries the baby to the Mohel, may not wear Shabbos clothes, though his wife (who brings the baby from the mother to him) may (since this is her entire mitzvah).

None of the above may have a hair-cut.

Immediately after the conclusion of the Bris, they must all change back out of their Shabbos clothes. One kindles lights in honour of the mitzvah. A child under bar-mitzxvah (who has reached the age of education with regard to b'rochos - M.H.) may drink the cup of wine. If the mother of the baby is not fasting, then she may drink it (M.B.).


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