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

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Vol. 10   No. 45

This issue is sponsored by an anonymous donor
for the aliyas Neshomoh of his father
Pesach ben Shimon Efrayim

Parshas Eikev

The Three Mitzvos
(Part II)

The Ha'amek Davar cites a Tikunei Zohar, which divides the second paragraph of Sh'ma ("ve'Hoyoh im shomo'a") into two. The first half, the Tikunei Zohar explains, discusses what will happen if Yisrael serve G-d via the second pillar on which the world stands - Tefilah, making that their pivotal merit, for which they are granted life and Parnasah. As we explained in the previous issue, Chazal therefore refer to them as 'not having fulfilled the will of Hashem', because they did not maintain the first pillar - they did not study Torah. That is what causes them to go astray after other gods, as we explained quoting the Meshech Chochmah (based on the Ramban), and that is why ultimately, they will be expelled from the Land.

The second half of the Parshah, beginning with "ve'Samtem es devarai eileh", deals with the antidote to the calamitous situation presented in the first half, describing what will happen if Yisrael serve Hashem through Torah study. In fact, according to the Tikunei Zohar (in contrast to Rashi and the Ramban), "ve'Samtem ... " refers, not to our reflections in Galus, but to the Mitzvah of Talmud-Torah. If you will study Torah 'heart and soul', the Torah is assuring us, bind the (key) words of Torah as a sign on your arm ... , teach them to your sons and write them up on your door-posts, then you will remain permanently in Eretz Yisrael. For the words of Torah will prevent you from straying after other gods, obviating the need to send you into exile.

According to this explanation, "in order that you will earn longevity ... ", is not just an individual reward for those who observe the Mitzvah of Mezuzah or of Talmud Torah (see Shabbos 32b). It is an assurance on a national level, that if Yisrael will observe the three Mitzvos of Torah-study, Tefilin and Mezuzah, they will not suffer Galus.


What we still need to discuss however, is the significance of these three Mitzvos (perhaps according to the Tikunei Zohar, who includes teaching Torah to our children [or pupils, as Rashi explains] independently, we ought to refer to them as four).

According to the Tikunei Zohar, which differentiates between serving G-d through Avodah and serving Him through Torah, it appears that the three Mitzvos (comprising the latter) are basically a triumvirate of Mitzvos. Tefilin and Mezuzah are really branches of Torah-study, as is indeed implied by the wording of the Pasuk - "and you shall place these words on your heart ... and you shall bind them ... and you shall write them ... ".

Why specifically these Parshiyos? Maybe it is because they serve as a Segulah (have a magical affect) or as a result of the potency of their message. Either way, it is the words of Torah that one learns, together with the relevant Parshiyos contained in one's Tefilin and Mezuzos, that ensure longevity in Eretz Yisrael.


According to Rashi and the Ramban, who interpret the latter half of the Parshah as Yisrael's reflections in Galus and their subsequent Teshuvah, however, these three Mitzvos have different connotations. Perhaps, after having gone into Galus as a result of straying from Hashem, the way to return to Him is by strengthening one's ties with Him, and by deepening one's awareness of His presence. And what could be more appropriate then, than laying Tefilin (reminding us of our special relationship with Him, as described in the paragraph that we recite before putting them on), studying His Torah, and reminding ourselves that the Shechinah rests in our homes, by putting a Mezuzah on the doors of our houses?

It is these Mitzvos that will repair the breach that broke our bonds with Hashem. If we observe them in Galus, they will enable us to return to Eretz Yisrael, and to remain there permanently.


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Let 'em Have it

"And He will not put (Lo yesimam) all the bad sicknesses of Egypt on you, but He will place them (u'nesanam) on all your enemies" (7:15).

The Gemara explains that generally, 'Nesinah' implies a specific measure, whereas 'Siymah' refers even to the smallest amount. If we apply that principle here, it will imply that although G-d will not inflict you with even the smallest measure of plague, when He strikes your enemies, He will plague them in full measure.


Give 'em Double

In the Hagadah, the Tana'im vie with each other, to see who can provide the biggest list of plagues with which G-d smote the Egyptians at the Yam-Suf. One says fifty, the other two hundred, and the third two hundred and fifty.

What difference does it make to us, asks the G'ro, what happened at the Yam Suf well over three thousand years ago, so what is the point of such a discussion?

He answers this with the above Pasuk. It is of great importance to us to know how many plagues the Egyptians suffered, indeed, the more they suffered, the more it is to our advantage, for the Torah assures us here that we will not be made to suffer any of the plagues with which they were smitten.


Knowing Who's Doing the Fighting

"When you will say in your heart, these nations are more numerous than me, how can I drive them out? Do not be afraid of them!" (7:17/18).

It is only when you are convinced that your strength is inadequate to take on the enemy, and it is only with the help of Hashem that you can defeat your enemies, that you need not fear your enemies. As long as you think that you can go it alone, you have every reason to be afraid.


Silver and Gold and Idolatry

"Do not covet the silver and gold that is on them and take it for yourself, lest you are ensnared by it" (7:28).

The Seforno explains the Pasuk like this. You may well take the silver and gold that adorns the idols (which in itself is not considered Avodah-Zarah). Yet what will happen is that directly or indirectly, that silver and gold will cause you to become wealthy. And before you realize it, you will find yourself attributing your success to the idol from which they were taken, and offering it your thanks.

That is why the Torah warns us against taking the valuable ornaments from off the idols, because they will ensnare you.


What the Eye Doesn't See

"In order to afflict you ... and He afflicted you and made you hungry and fed you the Mon" (8:2/3).

We learn from here, says the Medrash, that one kindles lights on Shabbos.

The Chida explains the connections in the following way.

In spite of the fact that the Mon tasted like any food that one wanted it to, Yisrael complained that 'our souls are dry, there is nothing. All our eyes see is the Mon'. Our sages explain that in the same way as a blind man does not appreciate the goodness of the food that he eats, so too, were Yisrael in the desert, unable to appreciate the Mon, whatever its taste, because all they saw was Mon (which is precisely what they were complaining about).

That is why the Medrash learns from the Mon the Mitzvah of kindling the Shabbos lights. After all, part of the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos is to enjoy the food. And as we just learned from the Mon, that is only really possible if one has light with which to see the food that one is eating. Hence the Mitzvah..


Nourishing Body and Soul

"Because, it is not through bread alone that a person is sustained. But through all of G-d's words ... " (8:3).

The Arizal asks how it is possible for the Neshamah to be sustained through the food that a person eats, seeing as the Neshamah is totally spiritual, whereas the food that one eats is physical?

And he explains that when Hashem created the world, He created it together with all the physical objects that it comprises. However, their ability to exist is the result of the words Hashem uttered when creating them, as David wrote in Tehilim "With the word of Hashem the Heaven was made". And this is borne out by the Tana, who specifically states in Pirkei Avos that the world was created with ten commands.

Consequently, the B'rachah that a person recites over his food, arouses the spirituality contained in the food, and enables it to sustain the Neshamah of the one who eats it, even as the physical content of the food nourishes his body.

And that is what the Pasuk says here "it is not through bread alone that a person is sustained, but through all G-d's words ...” , which is needed too, to sustain his Neshamah.


When the Writing Flew Away

"And I took hold of the two Luchos and I cast them down ... " (9:17).

Two Pesukim earlier, Moshe describes how he held the two Luchos of the Covenant. Why did he omit that clause here, asks the Bikurei Aviv?

And he answers with the Chazal, that as soon as Moshe entered the camp of Yisrael and saw the people dancing round the Golden Calf, the letters flew away.

As long as the Ten Commandments were engraved on the Luchos, they were indeed Luchos of the Covenant. That title however, became irrelevant the moment the Luchos were empty. After all, it was not the stones that created the covenant with Hashem, but the words that were engraved on them.

By the same token, he comments, when Moshe began his descent from Har Sinai, the Torah refers to Moshe coming down the mountain with the two Luchos of testimony in his hand. But the moment he saw the Golden Calf, the Torah records, he threw down the Luchos, making no mention of the fact that they were Luchos of testimony. That is because the testimony lay in the various miracles that were linked with the letters, as Chazal have explained. Once the letters were no longer there, there was no reason to refer to them by that name.


Changing the Order

Carve yourself two stone tablets ... and make for yourself a wooden Aron" (10:1).

Why did Moshe invert the order, making the Aron first, and carving the Luchos afterwards?

The Brisker Rav explains that before Moshe had received instructions to carve the Luchos, the Aron would have had no meaning, and there would have been no point in telling him to build it. Once however, Moshe knew that he would be given the Luchos and that they required an Aron to house them, it was obvious that the Aron had to be constructed first.


Who knows Four?

"Moh Hashem Elokecho sho'el me'imach (What does Hashem ... ask from you)" 10:12.

The Sadigurer Rebbi once explained to his Chasidim that the word "Moh" appears four times in T'nach -

1. "Moh Adir Shimcho ve'chol ho'oretz" (How great is Your Name in the land).

2. "Moh enosh ki sizkerenu" (What is man that he deserves to be mentioned?)

3. "Moh rav tuvcha asher tzofanto li'yere'echo" (How great is the reward that You have hidden for those who fear You!)

4. "Moh Hashem Elokecho sho'el me'imoch" (What does Hashem ... ask from you?)


The Rebbe gave a Mashal to a king who was out hunting in the forest, when he needed a match. But when he turned to one miserly man in his retinue and asked him for a match, promising him a hefty reward for his services, the man flatly refused. What a senseless thing to do, when one considers who was asking, who was being asked, what he was being asked for and the reward he was promised for complying.

And that is precisely what is hinted in the four Pesukim that we are discussing.

1. The greatness of the One who is asking.

2. The insignificance of those who are being asked.

3. The relatively simple thing that has been asked of us, and ...

4. ... the unlimited reward that we have been promised if we only comply.


The Amidah

(based mainly on the Siddur “Otzar ha’Tefillos”)


Elokai Netzor Leshoni me'Ro ...

The choice of whether to do good or bad is not governed by G-d, explains the Eitz Yosef. The decision on how we behave and what we do, say and think lies entirely with us, which is why we receive reward and punishment for those decisions. Yet He is willing to give Siya'ata di'Sh'maya (Divine Assistance) to whoever asks for it, says the Iyun Tefilah. 'G-d wants our hearts', our sages have taught us. Once we really want to do good, He will help us attain it.

Tefilah comprises two parts, speech and thoughts, involving the mouth and the heart. That is why we begin 'Elokai', indeed, we end the Amidah, with the Pasuk "Yih'yu le'rotzon imrei fi ve'hegyon libi". And it also explains why 'Elokai' deals predominantly with our speech and with our thoughts, with no more than one obvious allusion to our deeds.

Furthermore, one can assume that the rest of the paragraph, which consists of paired phrases, takes its cue from this key Pasuk.


ve'Limkalelai Nafshi Sidom

Having asked G-d to help us control our tongues from speaking evil about others, the Eitz Yosef explains, we ask Him for inspiration to bear in silence, the evil that others speak about us. In the same way as Ya'akov Avinu was afraid that Eisav might kill him on the one hand, and lest he kill Eisav on the other.


Ve'Nafshi ke'Ofor ...

It is the nature of dust that although everyone tramples on it, it outlives them all. That is one of the popular reasons given as to why G-d compares Yisrael to dust. Many nations have tried to destroy us. All nations trample on us. Yet we will continue to outlive those who do so, just as we have done until now. And that is one of the connotations of the Tefilah here. We ask G-d for the strength to remain silent to the insults of our enemies, in the knowledge that in the end, we will outlive them all.


P'sach Libi be'Sorosecha ...

Once we have adhered to the first half of the Pasuk "Flee from evil", we can move on to the second half "and do good". Once we have ensured that we will not speak evil, we ask G-d to assist us to study Torah and to fulfill it. As long as our mouth is unclean, the Torah that we learn will be tainted, and therefore, unacceptable. But having undertaken to keep it clean, we can safely implore Hashem to help us achieve our life's ambition - to study Torah and to fulfill it. Notice that it is our hearts that we are asking Him to open, not our mouths or our brains. But then, is that not what we say in the first Parshah of the Sh'ma "And these words ... shall be on your heart"? The purpose of Torah-study, say Chazal, is primarily to purify us. Torah study is not a mental exercise which teaches us how to think logically (even though it may well incorporate that, too). It is, as its name suggests, a guide to life. As such its main function is to channel heart in the right direction, to want and strive to carry out its instructions. Hence the expression "and let my soul pursue Your Mitzvos”. The word "pursue" has connotations of a strong desire to perform Mitzvos, and so too, for that matter, does the word "Nafshi", which is often translated as 'will or desire'.

The Iyun Tefilah explains the sequence of 've'Nafshi ke'ofor la'kol tih'yeh' and 'P'sach libi be'sorosecha' with the Gemara in Eiruvin (54a). The Gemara there states that Torah only lasts by a person who makes himself like a desert, upon whom everybody treads. Otherwise it will not endure.


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