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

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Vol. 14   No. 42

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l'iluy Nishmas
Tzipora bas Yaakov a"h

Parshas Eikev

The Source of B'rochos
(Adapted from the Meshech Chochmah)

The Gemara in B'rochos (48b), cites as the source for Birchas ha'Mozon, the Pasuk in this Parshah (8:8) "and you will eat and be satisfied and bless Hashem your G-d ". It learns Birchas ha'Torah before learning Torah from a 'Kal-va'Chomer' (perpetual life from temporary life). On 21a, the Gemara learns the B'rachah before Torah-study from the Pasuk in Ha'azinu "When I call out the Name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our G-s". Initially, it tries to learn the B'rachah after learning Torah from a Kal-va'Chomer from Birchas ha'Mazon, and the B'rachah before eating from a Kal-va'Chomer from Birchas ha'Torah. It rejects the Kal va'Chomer however, concluding that they are both mi'de'Rabbanan.


The Meshech Chochmah explains why, at the end of the day, the B'rachah after eating and the B'rachah before learning Torah are min ha'Torah, whereas the two reverse cases are not.

If the purpose of the B'rachos was to thank Hashem for His goodness, then we would be perfectly justified in applying the Kal-va'Chomers initially cited by the Gemara (to obligate reciting a B'rachah before eating and after learning). But from the sequence of the Pesukim, it would appear that the B'rachos are based on an entirely different criterion.

The Pesukim that follow the Mitzvah of Birchas ha'Mazon warn against forgetting Hashem. The Torah first attributes this negative trait to failing to observe the Mitzvos, but it continues "Lest you eat and are satiated, and you build fine houses and reside in them. And you increase your cattle and sheep your silver and gold". This makes it abundantly clear that eating to the point of satiation is a major cause that leads to forgetting Hashem. The juxtaposition of the two issues, says the Meshech Chochmah, suggests that the criterion for the reciting Birchas ha'Mazon is in order not to forget Hashem. The Torah obliges someone who eats and is satisfied to recite Birchas ha'Mazon precisely in order not to forget the Source of his blessings. Mentioning Hashem's Name in thanks and blessing Him fills in the void and reminds a person Who it is that supplies him with the means and the ability to succeed in his business endeavours, and not "his own ability and the might of his hands". And all this applies specifically when he is satisfied, not when he is hungry.


And it is in the same vein, the Meshech Chochmah adds, that the Torah commands us to recite a B'rachah before we study Torah. When a person learns Torah, there is a strong possibility that he will do so in the form of a Chochmah. He will study it because, knowing that Torah is our life and the length of our days, he will learn with the intention of utilizing its Divine wisdom in order to succeed in all his endeavours, he will use Torah 'as a spade to dig with', something the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (4:5) has specifically warned us against doing. Chazal have also said that Torah is poison for those who learn it with impure motives, and that it will kill those who abuse it (Ta'anis 7a).

The Torah therefore commands us to recite a B'rachah before learning it, in order to connect us with the Divine character of its teachings (in keeping with the famous Zohar 'Yisrael, Torah and Hashem are one'). On the one hand, connecting Torah with Hashem via a B'rachah encourages a person to learn Torah for the right motives, the advantages of which are many (among them, 'it prepares one to become a Tzadik and a Chasid'), as listed in Pirkei Avos (6:1). On the other hand, the Gemara in Nedarim (81a) teaches us that failure to recite a B'rachah over Torah-learning is indicative of learning Torah for the wrong motives (as the Ran there explains), which in turn, is the principle cause of the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash.

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Parsha Pearls

The Great Consolation

"Beware not to forget Hashem your G-d" (8:11).

R. Bunim from P'shischa once entered the Lubliner Rebbe's room and found him agitated.

The latter explained that he had just momentarily taken his mind off Hashem, thereby transgressing the above La'av of not forgetting Him

R. Bunim put his mind at ease however, by reminding him of the Din that if the owner of a field forgets a large sheaf measuring two Sa'ah, it is not considered Shikchah. This is because its size renders it valuable, in which case the owner is bound to remember it shortly. And something that one is bound to remember eventually, does not fall under the category of 'being forgotten'.

That being the case, he told the Lubliner Rav, since there was no doubt that his having forgotten Hashem was only momentary, and that he was bound to remember Him immediately, this was not called forgetting, and he had therefore not transgressed.

The Lubliner Rav thanked R. Bunim profusely.


Remember to be Happy

"And it shall be (Vehayah) if you will forget Hashem your G-d I testify that you will be destroyed" (8:15).

The word "Vehayah" generally has connotations of Simchah, and it is not at first clear how Simchah fits into the picture here.

The Lubliner Rebbe explains that if one not only forgets Hashem, but is happy to do so, then there is no hope left, and he will perish.

This is reminiscent of the Pasuk in Ki Savo, which ascribes the curses in the Tochachah to the fact that "you failed to serve Hashem with Simchah", and which the Ma'ayanah shel Torah citing Sifrei Chasidim explains as "because when you failed to serve Hashem, you did so with Simchah".


Shabbos Remained

" and I smashed them before your eyes" (9:17).

The Medrash relates how, although the letters flew out of the Luchos when Moshe smashed them, the fourth Commandment ("Zochor es yom ha'Shabbos Lekadsho") remained intact.

That explains, says the Kedushas Aharon, why we say in the Amidah at Shachris on Shabbos morning and two stone tablets he (Moshe) brought down and there was written on them the keeping of Shabbos. Indeed he did, it was the only remaining commandment on the Luchos.


The Avos Atone for K'lal Yisrael

"Remember your servants, Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov; Don't turn to the stubbornness ('K'shi') of this people, its wickedness ('Rish'o') and its sins ('Chet'o') 9:27.

The G'ro points out that the third letters of the names of the Avos correspond to the first letters of the three evil characteristics mentioned in the Pasuk ('Resh', Ches' & 'Kuf'), a hint that each of the Avos atone for one of them: Avraham, whose Midah is Chesed, atones for 'Rish'o', Yitzchak, whose Midah is Din, for 'Chet' (which denotes inadvertent sin), and Ya'akov, whose Midah is Rachamim, atones for 'K'shi'.


On the four flags, he continues, were emblazoned four sets of letters: 'Alef', 'Yud' , 'Yud' (the first letters of the names of the Avos); 'Beis', 'Tzadik' 'Ayin (the second letters ); 'Resh', Ches', 'Kuf' (the third letters ) and 'Mem', 'Kuf', 'Beis' (the fourth letters ).

The first set of letters are equivalent to the first letters of the three Names of Hashem in the first Pasuk of Sh'ma ('Hashem Elokeinu Hashem'). They therefore correspond to K'ri'as Sh'ma.

The second set of letters are equivalent to the first leters of the three Tefilos 'Boker', 'Tzohrayim', 'Erev'. They correspond to Tefilah.

The third set are equivalent to the three evil characteristics (as we explained), for which they come to atone.

The fourth set are equivalent to the first letters of 'Kadosh', 'Baruch' 'Yimloch', which are incorporated in the Avos and with which they achieve the atonement (P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro).


Removing the Barrier

"And you shall cut away the Orlah (the barrier) of your heart, and your stiffneck you shall not harden any more" (10:16).

By moving the comma and re-interpreting the word "lo Takshu" ('you shall not harden'), the Degel Machaneh Efrayim translates the Pasuk like this: "And when you cut away the Orlah (the barrier) of your heart and of your stubbornness, you will not ask any more (faith-related) questions.

The Chafetz Chayim used to say that with a person who believes in Hashem, there are no questions, whereas with a person who doesn't, there are no answers.

It is important to add that, in today's world, where the questions are based, not so much on a lack of faith, but on a lack of knowledge (Tinok she'Nishba), the answers are vital!

A person once approached R. Chayim mi'Brisk with a question regarding Tefilin. R. Chayim asked him whether he still wore Tefilin. When the man replied in the negative, R. Chayim informed him that, that being the case, he was unable to answer him, because he said, his question was not a question at all, but an answer, and on an answer, there are no answers.


Milah Overrides Shabbos


On one Shabbos morning the Chidushei ha'Rim opened the door of the Beis-Hamedrash, and discovered a large number of Chasidim sitting and learning Torah before Davenning.

In actual fact, he declared, on Shabbos morning one ought to Daven Shachris early, and go and eat the Shabbos Se'udah, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos. However, when one learns Torah li'Sh'mah and intends to cut away the Orlah (the barrier) of one's heart (which the Torah presents as "u'maltem es Orlas Levavchem"), one can apply the principle that 'Milah overrides Shabbos'.

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"You will be blessed more than all the nations; there will not be among you men or women who are barren, nor animals that cannot produce wool, milk or babies" (7:14).


"A land that grows wheat and barley and that has vines which produce sweet and strong wine, and that grows figs and pomegranates; a land that from its olives one can manufacture oil and from its dates, honey" (8:8).


"A land whose bread you will eat without shortage, you will lack Nothing in it; a land whose sages issue decrees that are hard as iron and whose students ask questions that are strong as copper" (8:9).


"And you shall take care, that when you eat and are satisfied, you thank and bless Hashem your G-d for all the fruit of the praiseworthy land that He has given to you" (8:10).


" And you will become proud and forget the fear of Hashem your G-d " (8:14).


" I seized the two Luchos and I threw them from my two hands, and I smashed them, and you saw how the Luchos broke and the letters flew away" (9:17).


"At that time Hashem sent destructive angels to cause havoc in Yisrael; 'Af', 'Cheimah', 'Ketzef', 'Mashchis' & 'Charon'. When Moshe, leader of Yisrael, heard that, he went and mentioned the great and honoured Name of Hashem and aroused Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov from their graves. They stood in prayer before Hashem, and immediately eliminated the latter three, leaving only 'Af'' and 'Cheimah'. Moshe then prayed and Af and Cheimah were destroyed too. He dug a pit there in the land of Mo'av' and secluded them in it by means of an oath with Hashem's great name; for so it is written "because I was afraid of the anger ('Af') and the fury ('Cheimah') that G-d unleashed against you to destroy ('Mashchis') you. And Hashem accepted my prayer at that time" (9:19).


And the B'nei Yisrael traveled from the villages of Be'eiros B'nei Ya'akon to Moseirah, where Amalek attacked them from Arad where he ruled, when he heard that Aharon had died and that the Clouds of Glory had departed. And because, on account of that battle, Yisrael were distressed and wanting to return to Egypt, they moved back six camps, and the Tribe of Levi pursued them and (in the ensuing battle, they) wiped out eight families and moved Yisrael back to their original position. They too, lost four families. They discussed the matter and came to the conclusion that all this came about because they had been lax in eulogizing the pious Aharon; so they eulogized him there and then, as if he had died and been buried there' (10:6).

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(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 420:
Reciting the Sh'ma Twice Each Day (cont.)

Some Dinim of the Mitzvah Chazal have said that the obligation to recite the first verse is min ha'Torah, as we have already stated. The Chachamim however obligated the recital of all three Parshiyos; "Sh'ma", "ve'Hayah" and "Vayomer". We begin with "Sh'ma" because it contains the command to unify the Name of G-d, His love and the Mitzvah of Torah-study, the basis on which everything else depends Next, comes "ve'Hayah-im-Shomo'a", which contains a command to observe all the other Mitzvos; and finally, the Parshah of Tzitzis, which also has a command to remember all the Mitzvos. There is no doubt that a person with a modicum of intelligence who mentions all of these each morning and each evening with Kavanah, will be saved from sinning Part of the Mitzvah is the obligation to recite the prescribed B'rachos before and after the Sh'ma, in the morning two B'rachos before the Sh'ma ('Yotzer Or' & 'Ahavas Olom') and one after it ('Emes ve'Yatziv'); and in the evening two before the Sh'ma ('Ma'ariv Aravim' & 'Ahavas olom') and two after it ('Emes ve'Emunah' & 'Hashkiveinu'). All this is well-known and it is not therefore necessary to elaborate on the details. It was Ezra and his Beis-Din who initiated all of these together with all the other B'rachos with which Yisrael is well-acquainted And so they said that one needs to hear what one is saying (and not to recite it in one's mind without verbalizing it). If however, one actually mouthed the worlds with one's lips, without actually hearing what one said, one is Yotzei one's obligation. Similarly, Chazal said that one should read the letters of the Sh'ma with care, but that if one failed to do so, one is nevertheless Yotzei. Some commentaries explains that this does not refer to someone who did not recite all the words and letters, since it is obvious that in such a case, he would not be Yotzei. What Chazal mean is that one was not careful to separate similar letters (such as "be'chol-levovcho", "Eisev-be'sodcho", be'chol levavchem" and "ha'konof p'sil"; or he did not take care to stress the 'Zayin' in Tizk'ru", and to prolong the 'Daled' in "Echad", as we explained . Chazal also permitted greeting someone whom one is obligated to honour, and reciprocate a greeting to anyone who greets one first - in between chapters, whereas in the middle of a chapter, one may greet a person whom one fears (such as gentile kings or great princes), and reciprocate the greeting of someone whom one honours. However, the Chinuch concludes, since people tend not to take offence at someone who is reciting the Sh'ma not stopping to greet them, one should not do so, even in between chapters all the many other details of this Mitzvah, and all the things for which one is permitted to annul reciting the Sh'ma, are discussed in the opening chapters of B'rachos and in Orach Chayim (Si'man 61).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men, but not to women, seeing as it is a Mitzvas Asei that is time-related. Someone who transgresses it and does not recite the Sh'ma every day and every night in the time fixed by Chazal, has contravened this Mitzvah.

The Ramban lists the Mitzvah to recite the Sh'ma by day and the Mitzvah to recite it by night as two Mitzvos, seeing as the time to recite the one is not the time to recite the other, and what's more, the recital of one is not crucial to the recital of the other.


Mitzvah 435:
To Swear Truthfully by the Name of Hashem

It is a Mitzvah to swear by the Name of Hashem when one needs to strengthen a certain matter, to implement it or to distance oneself from it, since this enhances G-d's greatness, His might and His esteem, and on this the Torah writes (10:19) "and you shall swear by His Name". The Gemara in Shevu'os (35b) explains 'One Pasuk says "Swear by His Name", and one Pasuk writes "Do not swear by His Name", to teach us that just as one should one refrain from swearing by His name unnecessarily, so, when the need arises, is it obligatory to do so; in fact, it is a Mitzvas Asei.

A reason for the Mitzvah is that using G-d's Name in order to fulfill our undertakings strengthens our faith in Him and in His Providence over us and over all that concerns us; that is clear.

The author has dealt with the Dinim in great length in Parshas Yisro (Mitzvah 30). See also Yoreh De'ah, Si'man 237.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to both men and women. According to the Rambam, someone who contravenes it by declining to take an oath by the Name of Hashem at a time of need has negated this Asei. The Ramban however, is of the opinion that swearing by Hashem's Name, even in time of trouble, is not a Mitzvah at all, and is entirely voluntary, depending on one's whim. What's more, he says, there is a general Mitzvah to decline from taking an oath. Indeed, the Medrash Tanchuma specifically warns against swearing by Hashem's Name, even truthfully, unless one possesses the Midos specified by the Torah (Ibid.), "You shall fear G-d, serve Him and cleave to him and (only then may you) swear by His Name" The author has already discussed taking an oath in order to fulfill a Mitzvah, which he learns from the Pasuk "and you shall cleave to Hashem" (Mitzvah 434).

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