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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 15   No. 47

This issue is sponsored
with sincere wishes
for a Refu'ah Sh'leimah for
Kaila bas Rivka Udel n"y
Avraham Shmuel Zev ben Kaila n"y

Parshas Eikev

Don't Add, Don't Subtract
Part 2

Last week, we cited Rabeinu Bachye's comment on the Mitzvos of not adding and not subtracting, where he writes that 'our perfect Torah needs neither additions nor subtractions, and what's more "Whoever adds, in fact subtracts!" '. And furthermore, he writes that the decrees of Chazal are not considered additions. Citing Chazal, he explains how they come to safeguard the Mitzvos. For so they have taught 'Go round the vineyard, we tell the Nazir! Do not enter it at any cost!'.


We can draw an analogy between Rabeinu Bachye's explanation and a beautiful painting by Rembrandt, a true masterpiece with every detail true to life, and in breathtaking colours. Every wisp of cloud is just as it should be! Not a line is out of place!

Until along comes an amateur, and decides that a bird is missing and needs to be added in the top left-hand corner. No sooner said than done. And he paints a bird on the top left-hand corner of the painting. Needless to say, the masterpiece will have lost much of its beauty and perfection. It is a masterpiece no longer! And so it would be had the same 'expert' decided that a cloud needs to be removed from the top right-hand corner.

Because whether Rembrandt left out a bird or added a cloud, one can be rest-assured that, on the one hand, an extra bird would have been redundant, whilst on the other, that one cloud placed exactly where it was, enhanced the picture immensely, turning it from a painting into a work of art.

And what's more, even assuming that the little bird did indeed need to be added or the wisp of cloud erased, then nobody but the maestro himself should attempt to make the adjustment.

On the other hand, one could hardly fault the same amateur were he to frame the picture and hang it on the wall, or to carefully cover it and store it away in a place where it was safe from human hands and from the elements. These are external acts and not only do they not detract from the value of the painting, but they actually enhance its status and protect it from harm.


And so it is with the Mitzvos. Each and every Mitzvah is there because it needs to be there, and likewise, each and every detail of each Mitzvah is of major significance. And by the same token, no Mitzvah can be added, and no detail of any Mitzvah, that could possibly improve the Torah one iota. If G-d did not insert it, then that is an indication that it does not belong there, and that both the Torah and the Mitzvah are better off without it.

G-d is perfect, and therefore His Torah is perfect too. To suggest that one might add a Mitzvah or part of a Mitzvah or subtract a Mitzvah or part of a Mitzvah is to suggest otherwise, and is nothing short of blasphemy.

When Chazal issue decrees on the other hand, they do so, not because they consider it flawed and in need of improvement, but to protect it against abuse. That does not detract from the Torah's perfection, it safeguards it!


The Chizkuni too cites the 'Miynei Yisrael' (the Jewish heretics) who query the Chachamim's authority to issue their numerous decrees, accusing them of contravening the La'av of 'Lo Sosifu'. And he explains that on the two occasions that the Torah presents the Mitzvos of bal tosif and bal tigra (in Parshas Va'eschanan and in Parshas Eikev), it is speaking about the essence of G-d and the Mitzvah of fearing Him. This implies that they are restricted to adding the fear of any other creature to that of G-d and to detracting from fearing Him, and this even the Chachamim are forbidden to do. But there is no prohibition against the Chachamim adding other Mitzvos or subtracting them (under the correct conditions).

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Leaving a Mitzvah Unfinished

"The entire commandment that I have commanded you today you shall observe " (8:1).

Whoever begins to perform a Mitzvah and does not finish it, says R. Yanai, stands to bury his wife and sons. And he learns this from Yehudah, who said (in Parshas Vayeishev) "What will we gain by killing our brother?" The brothers then sat down to eat bread. When they came to recite a Motzi, he stopped them. 'What', he said, 'Shall we kill our brother and recite a B'rachah? "Will the robber who has angered G-d recite a B'rachah? (Tehilim 10:3)" Come, let us rather sell him to the Yishme'elim!'

And his brothers listened. Had he said 'Return him to his father!' they would have listened too; But he didn't!

He failed to finish the Mitzvah (of saving Yosef) that he began. That is why the Torah informs us a little later that his wife bas-Shua and his sons Er and Onan, died (Da'as Zekeinim M.T.).


No Need for Silver and Gold

"And you shall remember all the way .. " (8:2).

This refers to the preceding Pesukim, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. If you feel the desire to obtain silver and gold, remember how G-d led you through the desert, where you did not need silver and gold, and how you got by just fine without it.


Affliction & Starvation

"And he afflicted you and starved you " (8:3).

'Affliction', says the Da'as Zekeinim, refers to their travels (see Tehilim 102:24); and 'starvation' to never having food for the next day, as Chazal have said 'A person who has bread in his basket cannot be compared to one who does not'.

Why did G-d do that?

To teach us, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explains, to place our trust, not in our food, but in our performance of the Mitzvos that come from G-d's Mouth. For it is they that will provide you with life in both this world and the next.


The Seven Nations

"A land of rivers of water a land of wheat and barley a land of oil-producing olives a land whose stones are iron and you will bless Hashem your G-d for the good land that He has given to you" (8:7-9).

Seven times, observes the Da'as Zekeinim, the word "Land" appears in these three Pesukim, corresponding to the seven nations.


So What Does G-d Want from Us?

"And now Yisrael, what does Hashem your G-d ask from you only to fear Hashem to do good to you" (10:12).

Is fearing G-d such a trivial thing, Chazal ask?

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explains that what the Pasuk means is that G-d is asking us to fear Him (not because He needs or wants our prestige, but, as the Pasuk concludes), 'in order to do good to us'. And when something needs to be done to improve one's own lot, everything is trivial; nothing is too much.


Eretz Yisrael is Different than Egypt

"Because the land that you are coming to possess is not like the land of Egypt which you left " (11:10).

Indeed it is not, as the Pasuk goes on to elaborate, unlike Egypt, which is watered manually, Eretz Yisrael is watered by rain that falls from the sky. And the reason for this, the Rosh explains, is due to the difference in terrain. Because unlike Egypt, which is flat, Eretz Yisrael is a mountainous country, making it very difficult to water by hand. Therefore one constantly needs to come on to G-d, who watches over it "from the beginning of the year till the end".

And as the Gemara says in Ta'anis (9b) 'The clouds drink from the water that is in the Heaven'. Furthermore, the Gemara says there that whereas Eretz Yisrael receives its water supply from the Heaven, the rest of the world receives its water supply from the water under the ground; Eretz Yisrael is watered by G-d directly, the rest of the world, by a shali'ach, as the Pasuk writes in Iyov (5:10) "The One who gives rain on the surface of the land, and the One who sends water on to the streets".


The Two Luchos

"And it was at the end of forty days Hashem gave me the two stone Tablets" (9:11).

The two Tablets correspond to Chasan and Kalah, their two friends, Heaven & Earth, the written and the oral Toros and the two worlds (this world and the world to Come).


Forgiveness in Two Stages

"And I fell before G-d like (I did) the first time" (9:18).

During the first forty days, said Moshe, he succeeded in 'convincing' (ke'Vayachol) G-d not to destroy K'lal Yisrael. He did not however, obtain a pardon from Him. That he set out to achieve this (third time) and succeeded, for so Chazal say, that it was on Yom-Kipur, the day that he descended Har Sinai the third and last time, that Hashem said to him "Solachti ki'devorecho" (I have forgiven like your words).


Grinding up the Golden Calf

"And I ground it very fine until it was fine like dust."

So that nobody should derive any benefit from it, explains the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.


Keeping an Eye on Eretz Yisrael

"A land which Hashem your G-d seeks, the Eyes of Hashem are always on it " (11:12).

Hashem watches them, the Rosh explains, to examine the deeds of its inhabitants and judging the land according to the majority of their deeds, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (17b) elaborates, based on the fact that G-d never changes a basic decree. And he basically explains,' sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad' in the following manner: Imagine that Yisrael were complete Resha'im on Rosh Hashanah, and G-d allotted them little rain. However before the rain-season arrives, they perform Teshuvah; to add to their quota is impossible, seeing as He has already issued His ruling. So what does He do?

He sends the little bit of rain that there is in its right times and in those locations where it is most needed.

Whereas in the reverse case, where Yisrael were complete Tzadikim, but where they switched to the way of sin before Rosh Hashanah came round.

As in the previous Sugya, G-d does not change His decrees. So what does He do? He sends the abundant rain that he already decreed to locations where they are not needed, and at times when they are superfluous.


Doing the Will of Hashem

"And I will give the rain of your land in its right time and you will gather your corn " (11:14).

The Gemara in B'rachos, commenting on this Pasuk, cites another Pasuk in Yeshayah (61:5), which talks about foreigners and strangers doing their work. To resolve this discrepancy, R. Akiva establishes the Pasuk in Yeshayah when Yisrael are performing the will of Hashem, and our Pasuk at a time when they are not.


But how can that be, asks the Da'as Zekeinim? When our Pasuk begins with the words "And it shall be if you will surely listen to all My Mitzvos"?


Tosfos in B'rachos answers that there are two levels of Tzadik. The Pasuk here is talking about a regular Tzadik, who keeps all the Mitzvos of the Torah, including setting aside time to learn Torah each day; whereas the Pasuk in Yeshayah is referring to a complete Tzadik, who dedicates himself to Torah-study exclusively. Compared to the second level of Tzadik, the first one is lapelled as one who does not fulfill the will of Hashem.

* * *


"Ve'hayah eikev tishme'un u'sh'martem, va'asisem osom" (7:12).

These three expressions (listening, guarding and observing), says the Ba'al ha'Turim, represent Mikra (T'nach), Mishnah and Gemara.


"Va'ahevcha, u'verach'cha, ve'hirbecha" (7:13).

"Va'ahevcha" - corresponds to Avraham (about whom the Pasuk writes "Zera Avraham Ohavi")

"u'verach'cha" - to Yitzchak (about whom it writes "Va'yevorech Elokim es Yitzchak") and

"ve'hirbecha" - to Ya'akov (about whom it writes ""P'rei u'Revei").


"U'veirach P'ri Vitn'cha " (Ibid).

This Pasuk, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, begins with a 'Vav' and ends with a 'Chaf', as does the Pasuk in Toldos "Ve'yiten l'cho ho'Elokim" (the B'rachos which Yitzchak blessed Ya'akov). This teaches us that all those B'rachos too, will come true, if we obey G-d's Mitzvos.


"And Hashem will remove from you all illnesses (kol choli)" (7:15).

"The Gematriyah of "kol choli", the Ba'al ha'Turim observes is ninety-eight, the number of curses contained in the Tochachah in Ki Savo, a hint that at the time under discussion, all of them will be removed.


"Do not be broken before them, for Hashem is in your midst, a great and fearful G-d" (7:21).

The Pasuk uses the two adjectives "great and fearful" (gadol and noro), omitting gibor (mighty).

This is easily understood, when we remember that the three Midos under discussion, are also said in connection to the Avos, Avraham (Godol), Yitzchak (Gibor) and Ya'akov (Noro).

That being the case, it is only natural that when, referring to Hashem helping us in battle, the Torah omits 'Gibor', seeing as Avraham fought against the four kings and Ya'akov, against Lavan and Eisav, whereas Yitzchak never fought any battles.


"The images of their gods you shall burn in fire" (7:24)

and this is followed, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, by the words "ki Cheirem hu". This explains, he concludes, why Yehoshua sentenced Achan to being burned in fire for contravening the Cheirem that He had placed on Yisrael.

* * *


(Adapted mainly from the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.)

The Gemara in Menachos (43b) learns from here the concept of a hundred B'rachos per day; 'Don't read "Mah" (What does Hashem ask from you) they said, but 'Me'ah' (Hashem asks you for a hundred).

I think that what they mean is that, based on the principle that one can always add the word (known as the Kolel) to the total, there is no problem with adding an 'Alef' to "Mah", turning it into 'Me'ah'.

In similar vein, the Torah Temimah points out that there are ninety-nine letters in the Pasuk, and reading "Mah" as 'Me'ah' leaves us with a round hundred.

(The direct link between Yir'as Shamayim and the B'rachos surely indicates that the key to acquiring the fear of G-d lies in the recitation of the hundred B'rachos that we make each day.)

A support for the Gemara's D'rashah, the Da'as Zekeinim points out, lies in the fact that, in the Gematriyah of 'At Bash' ('Alef' = 'Tav', 'Beis' = 'Shin' ) "Mah" now becomes 'Yatz' ('Yud' 'Tzadik'), which equals a hundred too.


Others ascribe the hundred daily B'rachos to David ha'Melech, who instituted them to counter the plague that was killing a hundred people each day.

And this is hinted in the word "ol" (in the Pasuk in Shmuel 2 [23:1] 'Ne'um ha'Gever Hukam ol' [So says the man who established the yoke]). which adds up to a hundred.

The plague ceased immediately!


And David ha'Melech hinted further at this institution when he wrote in Tehilim (128:4) "Hinei chi-chein yevorach gaver" (Behold for so is blessed the man who fears G-d); "Yevorach is written without a 'Vav', which can therefore be read "yevarech gaver", meaning "Behold for so the man who fears G-d will bless Hashem) - and the Gematriyah of "Chi-chein" is a hundred. (Note the connection once again, between the hundred B'rachos and Yir'as Shamayim!)


And finally, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., during the Amidah, we say 'Modim Anachnu lach ". In fact, what we really mean is that we bow down to Hashem (as the Targum translation of bowing down is 'Modim' [see Shmuel 1, 15:30]); and sure enough, we do bow low upon reciting these words. And the reason that we say the word 'Modim' rather than 'Mishtachavim', is because the Gematriyah of 'Modim' is - a hundred!, an indication, he adds, that whoever recites 'Modim' properly, it is as if he would have recited a hundred B'rachos.

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel