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

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Vol. 11   No. 42

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Tziporah bas Ya'akov z.l.

Parshas Eikev

The Tefilah Experience
(Part 1)

Most people experience the never-ending struggle of trying to Daven with Kavanah (devotion). Indeed, the Gemara in B'rachos (32a) lists Tefilah among the four things that require constant Chizuk (strengthening).

The question is what we do about it, because the very term 'constant Chizuk' suggests that one has to work on the problem incessantly. Because it is only if one does, that one stands the faintest chance of winning the battle. If one doesn't ... well, how can one expect one's Tefilos to go beyond the ceiling, let alone to reach the Heavenly Throne?


Let us begin with two major prerequisites to Tefilah (one leading to the other), which will certainly help set us on the right track.

Firstly, it is vital to know before whom we stand. To begin with, a person does not behave in the same way in the presence of a human King as he does when outside it. Gone are the frivolities and light talk that accompany a person on his travels, the moment he enters the king's palace. How much more so, when it is before the King of Kings, before whom he stands in awe.

And secondly, praying to a G-d who owns everything and who controls everything, including the key to one's own life and death, is not quite the same as praying to nobody in particular, or even as placing one's trust in a human king.


Having ascertained before whom one stands in prayer, it is equally crucial to remember that one does not Daven in order to do G-d a favour. It is we who are asking G-d for a favour, and not the other way round. It must be that way, since it is not G-d who needs us, but we who need Him. Being positively aware of this can (and will) change one's entire attitude towards Tefilah dramatically. In fact, it will add a new dimension to it. Instead of going to Daven with the aim of getting a load off one's back, and getting on with 'more important matters' that are waiting to be seen to, Tefilah becomes itself an important matter that, if anything, acts as a catalyst towards succeeding in those important matters. Because Tefilah has been described as a means of communication with G-d ('Boruch Atoh Hashem'), and having opened the channel of communication, we will find that G-d is quick to respond (no less than one person responding to the comments of another). Furthermore, one's manner of Tefilah changes too. As long as a person believes that he is doing G-d a favour, his main concern is to say what he has to say, quickly and expediently, and move on to the next phase. One's duty fulfilled, one concludes his Tefilah and removes his Tefilin with an air of satisfaction and complacency at having made G-d happy. Not so once one realizes that he prays to G-d because he needs Him. Then one's prayers begins to take on a note of urgency. One begins to Daven with Kavanah, to plead with G-d for one's every need. As Chazal have said 'like a poor man standing at the door'.


Perhaps the one thing that affects one's success in Tefilah more than anything else is hisbatlus - nullifying oneself to one's Creator when standing before Him in prayer. And the extent to which one is able to do this in turn, is in direct relationship with the two issues that we just discussed - the knowledge before whom one is standing, and the realization as to just how much one needs Him. Nor can the importance of Hisbatlus be overestimated, because it will permeate every other aspect of one's Tefilah, and will determine how one Davens, how one stands during Davening, the depth of one's concentration and the sincerity of one's prayer.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)

A Time for Everything

"And I cast them from on my two hands" (9:17).

This is what Shlomoh Hamelech meant when he said in Koheles (3:5) "There's a time to throw away stones (with reference to the first Luchos), and a time to gather them in" (with reference to the second).


Just Like the First Time

"And I threw myself to the ground before G-d, like I did the first time" (9:18).

During the second set of forty days, Moshe did exactly the same as he did during the first set, the Rosh explains. During the first forty days, after G-d had said to him (Devarim 9:14) "Leave Me alone and I will destroy them", he Davened before Hashem until He rescinded the threat of annihilation, as the Torah writes in Sh'mos (32:14) "and G-d 'changed His mind' on the evil ... ". But He did not forgive their sin!

The second time, Moshe threw himself before Hashem begging Him for forgiveness, because "I was afraid of the (angels) Af and Cheimah ... and this time too, Hashem listened to my prayers", and He swore that He would forgive them, just as He swore the first time that He would not destroy them.

See also 'Just Like the First Ones'.


The Ground Eigel-Dust

"And I ground it well, until it was as fine as dust" (9:21)

So that nobody should be able to derive any benefit from it, the Rosh explains. The Pasuk in Ki Sisa (32:20) describes how, after burning the Eigel, Moshe ground it into dust, which he scattered on the water which he gave the sinners to drink - and Rashi explains there that this was in order to examine them like Sotos.


Lest the Nations Say

"Lest the inhabitants of the land that you left will attribute it to G-d's inability to bring them to the land ... or out of His hatred towards them, that He took them out to kill them in the desert " (9:28).

Perhaps G-d never intended to give them the land in the first place (the Egyptains will say). He simply enticed them with smooth talk, to follow Him out of Egypt, with the intention of slaughtering them in the desert, because He hated them (Rosh).


Whose People Are They Anyway

"And they are Your people and Your inheritance" (9:28).

When G-d first informed Moshe about the sin of the Golden Calf, he said to him "Go down descend, because your people have sinned".

That explains, says the Rosh, why Moshe needed to say this Pasuk. In effect, what he was saying was 'Hashem, they're not my people, but Your's!'

It's all very nice for G-d to disown them at a time of anger, but now that Moshe was pleading with Him for mercy, it was important to stress that they were G-d's people and as such, He would take pity on them.


Just Like the First Ones

"At that time, G-d said to me, carve out two Luchos of stone like the first ones" (10:1).

The Rosh explains that, having forgiven Yisrael for the sin of the Golden Calf, He instructed Moshe to carve out two stone Luchos just like the first ones, so that Yisrael should not accuse him of causing them a loss by breaking the first set of Luchos. Moshe broke them - so he had to replace them.

And that is what Shlomoh meant when he said in Koheles "Everything has its time, and every object has its season ... ". There was a time for the Luchos to be broken, and there was a time to manufacture others. That is why G-d said to him "Carve for yourself".

Another explanation of "Carve for yourself" is that Moshe would benefit from the Luchos (which were made of sapphire and were extremely valuable), because the chippings belonged to him.

And from where did he carve them?

Rebbi Levi and Rav Si'mon dispute this. According to one of them, they came from underneath G-d's Kisei ha'Kavod (Throne of Glory), whilst the other one maintains that G-d actually created a sapphire mine underneath Moshe's tent, and that is where he mined it from, becoming extremely wealthy from the chippings in the process.


The Two Aronos

"At that time G-d told me to carve out two stone tablets like the first ones ... and to place them in the Aron" (10:1/2).

It was in this Aron that the broken Luchos were always placed. This is the Aron that they took with them to war, explains the Rosh. In fact this was the wooden Aron that Moshe first made to house the Luchos, before ascending Har Sinai. Initially, the second Luchos were placed inside it too, as the Torah writes here (in Pasuk 5), until such time as Betzalel constructed the Aron of gold, into which they were then transferred.

The Aron that Betzalel made did not usually go to war with the army, as the Pasuk in Shmuel 1 (4:7/8) indicates. Indeed, on the one occasion that it did, it was captured, as the Navi records there. And it is about that Aron that Chazal say in Eiruvin (63b) that as long as the Aron is not in its place, marital relations are forbidden.

And when Uriyah ha'Chiti, declined to return to his wife because the Aron was not its place, implying that he was adopting a personal Chumrah, but that there was no prohibition to do so, he was referring to the wooden Aron of Moshe, which they tended to take with them to war.

True, Betzal'el's golden Aron accompanied Yehoshua to war, but that was a hora'as sha'ah (a momentary ruling), an exception rather than the rule.

And when the Gemara in Bava Basra (14b) explicitly writes that the Luchos as well as the broken Luchos were placed inside the Aron of Betzalel, that refers to after the building of the Beis-Hamikdash, but that was not the case before that. As a matter of fact, the Rosh concludes, whether there was one Aron or two, is the basis of a dispute in the Yerushalmi.


Monday and Thursday

The Gemara concludes in Shabbos 87b that Pesach in the year that Yisrael left Egypt, fell on Thursday. In that case, according to the Si'man of 'At, Bash, Gar, Dak', the seventeenth of Tamuz, the day that the Luchos were broken (as well as Tish'ah be'Av) fell on Thursday too, says the Rosh. And a hint for this lies in the words of the Pasuk in Behe'aloscha "They shall eat it with Matzah (Pesach) and Maror (Tish'oh be'Av)".

And following the same Si'man, if Pesach fell on Thursday, then Rosh Hashanah fell on Shabbos, and Yom Kipur on Monday. It now transpires that the first Luchos were given on Thursday, and the second ones on Monday, which explains why we Lein from the Torah every Monday and Thursday. And this in turn, is hinted in the Pasuk in Yeshayah (55:6) "Dirshu Hashem be'himotz'o", which is the acronym of 'Beis, Hey' Matz'o' (Find Him on Monday and Thursday). And they are also the days on which the Beis-Din used to sit, as per the Takanah of Ezra, because he figured, when the villagers are in town anyway, to hear the Leining, they may as well be given the opportunity of having their disputes settled at the same time. And the Bechor Shor finds a hint for this in the Pasuk in Kedoshim "Judge your friend righteously" ('be'Tzedek tishpot asmisecha', but which also hints that one should judge when the mazel Tzedek rules - on Monday and Thursday.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 433:
To Worship Hashem with Prayer Each Day

We are obligated to worship G-d, as the Torah writes in Eikev (10:20) " ... and you shall worship Him". This Mitzvah is repeated in the Torah a number of times (in Mishpatim 23:25 " ... and you shall worship Hashem your G-d", in Va'eschanan 6:13 " ... and Him you shall worship" and in Eikev 11:13 " ... and to worship Him with all your heart and with all your soul").

The Rambam writes that even though the Mitzvah is a general one, incorporating all the Mitzvos in the Torah, as is implied by 'worhipping G-d', it also includes the independent Mitzvah of prayer, making it incumbent upon us to Daven to Him, as the Sifri explains (in connection with the third Pasuk that we just quoted) 'When the Torah speaks about 'Avodah she'ba'Lev', it is referring to Tefilah'.

One of the reasons for this Mitzvah is the lesson that the author has repeated many times in the past - that all the good and the B'rachos that G-d has promised, take effect according to man's deeds, the goodness of his heart and the purity of his thoughts. Now the G-d who created Him, wants his good, so He has guided him and granted the opportunity to achieve it through the merit of fulfilling His precious Mitzvos. At the same time, He opened another door by which he can have all his requests granted for the good, and that is by turning to Him in prayer, by acknowledging that He has both the means and the ability to supply all his needs. And He in turn, will answer from the Heaven to all who call Him with sincerity.

And apart from the actual request and its advantages, a person earns for himself a great merit when he arrives at the firm realization that G-d is the Master who is good and who does good to us, and that He constantly watches us vigilantly in all our ways, that at all times and at every moment He listens attentively to our cries. For the Guardian of Yisrael neither sleeps not slumbers - ever! And He placed in our hearts the faith in His absolute Sovereignty and ability, without the least shadow of doubt.

Although the Torah does not state a fixed time for Tefilah, the Rambam writes that it is a Torah Mitzvah to Daven once a day. The Ramban disagrees. He maintains that since the Torah issued no time for Tefilah, neither once a day nor once a week, and what's more, Chazal repeatedly say that Tefilah is only mi'de'Rabbanan, it seems that the Torah requires us to Daven to Hashem in time of trouble, whereas the times of Tefilah are only mi'de'Rabbanan.

In fact, the Rambam himself concedes that the number of Tefilos (three times a day) as well as the text of the Tefilos, are only mi'de'Rabbanan. Nevertheless, he maintains that Davenning to Hashem and acknowledging His Omnipotence once a day is a Torah obligation.

It would appear that, precisely because the Torah does not demand more than this, the Gemara in B'rachos (29b) prescribed a brief prayer ('The needs of your people are many ... ') for someone who finds himself in a location of danger, and is unable to recite the Tefilah with due concentration, in order to at least fulfill his minimum Torah obligation.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara in B'rachos (31a) rules that every Jew is obligated to Daven three times a day - morning, afternoon and night. In fact, Chazal instituted these Tefilos to correspond with the Korban Tamid (which is no longer functional, and) which they brought in the Beis-Hamikdash each morning and afternoon (Shachris and Minchah respectively). Whereas Ma'ariv corresponds to the limbs of the afternoon Tamid, which continued to burn all night on the Mizbei'ach. And because this last process (although a Mitzvah) was not obligatory (since the limbs may well have burned out before nightfall), they declared that Ma'ariv is not obligatory either. If a person has time and feels up to it then he should Daven, and if not, he does not need to. Nevertheless, now that it has become the accepted custom to Daven Ma'ariv in a fixed manner (like Shachris and Minchah), Ma'ariv is obligatory ... In addition, the Chachamim also fixed a fourth Tefilah , Tefilas Musaf, to be Davened after Shachris, corresponding to the Korban Musaf that was brought on Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and Yom-Tov. And they also fixed a fifth Tefilah, which they called 'Ne'ilah', on Yom Kipur, to accentuate the sanctity of the day, and because it is a day of forgiveness.

The texts of all the Tefilos were compiled by Ezra and his Beis-Din (upon their return from Galus Bavel). And this incorporates the eighteen B'rachos of the weekday Amidah which are well-known throughout the world, apart from 'Birkas ha'Minim, which Shmuel ha'Katan composed with the backing of Raban Gamliel and his Beis-Din, as the Gemara relates in Megilah (17b).

To be continued

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