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

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Vol. 6 No. 41

Parshas Eikev

Live Now, Get Paid Later
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"My son, listen to my words, pay attention to my sayings, turn your ear. Do not let them go from before your eyes, guard them in your heart. Because they constitute life for the one who finds them, and a cure for all his flesh" (Mishlei 4:20-22).

Shlomoh ha'Melech is instructing us here to pay careful attention to the words of Torah and to avoid hearing other things besides them, in the same way as elsewhere, he warns us to turn our hearts away from other matters in order to concentrate on the understanding of Torah.


"Do not let them depart from before your eyes" - that we should not allow any circumstances to remove the mitzvos from before our eyes, that we should remember them always. And "guard them in your heart" - that they become so deeply ingrained in our hearts that we can never forget them, that it never reaches a stage that we view the mitzvos as if they had never been given to us.


And he goes on to give a reason for this: "Because they constitute life for the one who finds them" (i.e. for the soul) and a cure for all his flesh (for the body). Earlier on, Shlomoh also wrote "And they will be life for your soul and find favour for your throat", meaning that if you practise the words that you preach, then you will find favour with the people whom you reprimand (and they will accept your rebuke), as Chazal say in Chagigah (14b) 'It is fine to preach, but it is nice to practise what one preaches!'


And because our Torah is the fruit of the Divine wisdom, about which Koheles writes "The wisdom gives life to those who have it", he writes here "because they constitute life for the one who finds them" - the branch draws its power from the root, and the fountain from its source, which is called 'the source of living water'. And it is written in Yirmiyah "He is the G-d of life", and those who cleave to Him are called alive, as the Torah writes in Vo'eschanan "And you who cleave to Hashem your G-d are all alive today".

The posuk adds "to those who find them" because it is only for those who find them (and not for everybody), that the words of Torah constitute life. Shlomoh wants to infer from his words that those who fail to find Torah are precluded from this assurance. The only reason that they do not find it however, is because they have not searched. For whoever seeks, finds, as the posuk in Mishlei writes (2:4-5) "If you will seek it like silver, and search for it like hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of G-d".


Furthermore, Chazal explain the word "le'motz'eihem" (for the one who finds them) as if it was spelt with a 'yud' - to read "le'motzi'eihem" (for the one who produces them from his mouth), because in addition to the obligation of knowing the words of Torah in one's heart, one is also obligated to ensure that they are fluent on one's tongue; and this is why Shlomoh also wrote "For it is nice that you guard them in your stomach, that they are established together on your lips".


"And a cure for all his flesh". Cures are generally not absolute. It is normal for a medicine that the doctor prescribes to cure one limb, to produce side-effects which cause much harm to another. Therefore, Shlomoh ha'Melech teaches us that by Torah, this is not the case. Torah has the distinct advantage of being healthy for the entire body without any harmful side effects.

Shlomoh teaches us in this posuk that the performance of mitzvos is beneficial to the body, and beneficial to the soul. in the same way as Moshe Rabeinu taught in Vo'eschanan "to do good to us (in the World to Come) to give us life like this day (in this world)". And that is why there are two kinds of mitzvos: those that are traditional - for the benefit of the soul, and those that are logical - for the benefit of the body.


Because the reward for observing the mitzvos is paid only at the end, as Dovid ha'Melech writes in Tehillim "Also Your servant took care to observe them, for the great reward that comes in the end" (for the posuk uses the word 'eikev' - a heel - and just as the heel is at the end of the body, so too, is the main reward for the mitzvos only paid in the end. Indeed, the Torah uses the expression 'eikev' with regard to both the traditional mitzvos (known as 'chukim') and the logical ones ('mishpotim') - the former in Tehillim: "I turned my heart to perform your 'chukim' forever for the reward at the end (eikev)", the latter in the opening posuk of this week's parshah: "And there will be reward at the end, if you will listen to these mishpotim ... ". And the reward of which we are speaking is the abundant goodness that is stored away for those who have earned it.


Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the Gro


On the Merits of the Ovos

"Remember your servants Avrohom, Yitzchok and Ya'akov. Do not turn to the stubbornness of this people, to their wickedness and to their errors" - ("El k'shi ho'om ha'zeh, el rish'o ve'el chatoso").

One can explain, says the Gro, that the merits of the three fathers will atone for those three levels of sin (whose first letters are equivalent to the third letters of the names of the Ovos - 'Reish', 'Ches' and Kuf' respectively). In other words, the merit of Avrohom, whose quality of kindness will atone even for wickedness ('resha'), that of Yitzchok for errors ('chet'), and that of Ya'akov, whose quality is mercy, for the stubbornness (k'sh'i).


On the four flags were written four groups of letters: aleph, yud, yud; beis, tzadik, ayin; reish, ches, kuf; mem, kuf, beis. The first group represents the three names of Hashem contained in the first posuk of the Shema (seeing as they are equivalent to the first letters of those names - "Hashem Elokeinu Hashem" - as well as to the first letters of the Ovos).

The second group represents the three tefillos (boker, tzohorayim, erev - and is equivalent to the second letters of the names of the Ovos). The third group is equivalent the third letters of the names of the Ovos, as we discussed earlier.

And the fourth group represents the three kedushos (Melech, Kodosh, Boruch) - which are equivalent to the last letters of the names of the Ovos.

In fact, all of these concepts are intrinsically connected to the three Ovos: because, apart from atoning for the three levels of sin (as we just explained), it was the Ovos who introduced the three tefilos; and it was Avrohom who made known G-d's kingship to the world, Yitzchok with whom blessing is associated, and Ya'akov, sanctity.


Flying Shuls

"In order that your days will be long ... on the ground that Hashem swore to your fathers to give to them" (11:21).

When they told Rebbi Yochonon that there were old men in Bovel, he was surprised, seeing as from the above posuk, it is clear that longevity is restricted to Eretz Yisroel. But when they informed him that these old men would arrive in shul early each morning and late in the evening, he understood that it was through their attachment to the shul that they merited old age.

But how does that answer the question, for when all's said and done, the Torah writes "on the ground" etc., (referring to Eretz Yisroel) and the shuls of Bovel were not situated in Eretz Yisroel .


The Gro answers this question with a Gemoro in Megilah (29a), where a B'raisa quoting R. Eliezer, says that the shuls in Bovel will one day, be relocated in Eretz Yisroel. In that case, he concludes, it is correct to refer to them as part of Eretz Yisroel, and to people who live in the shul, so to speak, and who grow old, as people who are growing old in Eretz Yisroel.


About The Mitzvos

Past, Present, Future

In our ongoing battle with the Yeitzer ho'ra, he often employs the strategy of making a person feel complacent. 'It's O.K. to sin' he says, 'because if this time, I win, the next time, you will win and then you'll be quits. And what's more,' he will add, 'the time after that, you will beat him again, and then you will be ahead on points.' Any argument to get a Jew to sin this time!


What is vital to remember is that the past is no longer there and the future has not yet arrived. The only thing that matters is the present. It is the bird in the hand that counts, and to overcome the Yeitzer ho'ra now, just this time, is worth more than countless victories in the future. Looking at it from the perspective of our daily lives, the current battle is the one which will determine the outcome of the war.

It might be a good idea to beat the Yeitzer ho'ra at his own game, to tell him the same story: 'I will not submit this time. Next time you will win and then we will be quits, and perhaps the time after that too - but this time it is I who will take the initiative!'

But of course, next time you'll tell him the same story.


That is what the Torah means in the second paragraph of the Shema, when it speaks of the mitzvos "which I command you today". And perhaps that is what the Torah means when it writes in Devorim (4:1) "And now Yisroel, listen to the statutes etc.". It is the present that counts, never mind the past and never mind the future.

The moral of the story is twofold: Never leave for tomorrow a mitzvah that can be observed today, and always abstain today from a sin that can be transgressed tomorrow!


Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

13. Not to swear by the name of an idol - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim "And you shall not mention the name of other gods" (Sh'mos 23:13).

One is not permitted to make a vow in his name either.

Included in this la'av is not to make a gentile swear by his god. Even just to mention the name of an idol is forbidden - even if it is not in the context of an oath. For example, one Jew should not say to another (or to a gentile) 'Wait for me beside such and such an idol'.

One is permitted to mention the names of gods mentioned in the Torah (such as Ba'al Pe'or and Ne'vo, seeing as they are no longer worshipped).

One may also not cause others to make vows or to swear in the name of other gods. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


14. Not to cause a town in Yisroel to go astray - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (Sh'mos 23:13) "It shall not be heard by your mouth. "

Someone who entices an individual to serve idols is called 'meisis', and someone who entices a town is called 'madi'ach'. He is put to death by stoning, even if he himself did not serve idols, as long as the people that he enticed did.

This mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men and women alike.


15. Not to eat or drink from a sacrifice that is offered to an idol - as the Torah writes in Ki Siso "Beware lest you make a treaty with the inhabitants of the lands ... and he calls to you and you eat from his sacrifice" (Sh'mos 34: 12-15).

Included in this la'av is not to drink wine that was poured out to an idol. One may derive no benefit from sacrifices of idolatry or from wine that was poured out ('yayin nesech'). Someone who eats or drinks either of them receives malkos.

Drinking any wine belonging to a non-Jew is a Rabbinical prohibition. Someone who drinks a revi'is (one and a half egg-volumes) receives makas mardus (malkos de'Rabbonon).

It is forbidden to benefit from Jewish wine that was deliberately touched by a non-Jew. It is also prohibited to eat at the party that a non-Jew made for his son or daughter's wedding - even if one eats one's own food and one's own waiter is serving. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


16. Not to turn to an idol - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim "Do not turn to gods" (19: 4).

It is forbidden to turn to them both verbally and in thought, and even just to look at them. Nor is one permitted to read books that pertain to them or to enquire how one worships them, because through that he will switch his mind to them and think about them. Anyone who turns to an idol in a way that involves performing an act receives Malkos. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


17. Not to derive any benefit from ornaments that adorn an idol - as the Torah writes in Vo'Eschanan (7:25) "Do not covet the silver and gold that is on them and take them for yourself".

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


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