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

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Vol. 16   No. 42

TThis issue is sponsored
in loving memory of
Feige Samber
Feige Sheva bas Yisrael Dovid z"l
on her first Yohrzeit
8th August, 18 Menachem Av
by her children
Rabbi and Mrs. Emanuel Feldman, Jerusalem
Mr. & Mrs. Moshe Samber, Los Angeles n"y

Parshas Eikev

The Power of Tefilah
(Adapted form Rabeinu Bachye)

Commenting on the Pasuk in 'Ve'hoyoh im shomo'a' "u'le'ovdo be'chol levavchem" (and to worship Him with all your heart), Rashi cites the Gemara in Ta'anis (2a), which explains that the Avodah that one performs with one's heart is Tefilah! R. Bachye cites the Yerushalmi, which queries the Pasuk in Daniel (6:17) "Elokoch di ant p'lach kodo leih" (Your G-d, before whom you worship). Now "p'lach", asks the Yerushalmi, is the Arama'ic translation of 'Avodah', and Avodah is a term that is generally confined to Korbanos? And since when was one permitted to bring Korbanos in Bavel - where Daniel lived? (The Yerushalmi might also have asked that the Beis-Hamikdash was destroyed at that time, and when there is no Beis-Hamikdash, there are no Korbanos?)

To be sure, answers the Yerushalmi. Daniel did not bring Korbanos; but he did Daven, and Avodah is synonymous with Tefilah. And it quotes the Pasuk in Tehilim (141:2), where David requested from G-d "Establish my Tefilah (like) incense before You". Incense, take note, is not just a form of Korban; it is the most precious of all the Korbanos (as Rashi explains in Parshas Korach [16:6]). That is the significance that David ha'Melech attached to Tefilah!

All of this is encapsulated in Chazal, who say in B'rachos (26b) "Chazal arranged the Tefilos corresponding to the Korb'nos Tamid (the bi-daily communal sacrifice), whose fat-pieces were burned at night-time."


Elaborating on the power of Tefilah, R. Bachye explains how it is so potent that it is able to change nature, to save from a life-threatening situation and to negate a Divine decree. And he goes on to elaborate, citing an example of each one We can learn that Tefilah is able to change nature, he says, from Yitzchak Avinu, who Davened to G-d that his wife Rivkah should become pregnant and give birth to a child, even though she was barren and was incapable of bearing children. No sooner had he (together with Rivkah herself) terminated his Tefilah, than G-d responded and his wife subsequently gave birth, not to one baby, but two. Indeed, the Chachamim inform us that the reason that G-d created the Imahos barren was precisely because He knew that this would cause the Avos to Daven on their behalf, the author explains, and G-d longs for the Tefilos of Tzadikim. And they derive it, the author adds, from this very Pasuk, which first describes how Yitzchak Davened and only then explains that Rivkah was barren (instead of the other way round).

Interestingly, the power of Tefilah to change nature has its limitations; for, as the Mishnah in the last Perek in B'rachos teaches us, somebody who Davens retroactively (i.e. if he hears a scream coming from the direction of his house, and prays that it should not be a member of his family), his prayer is futile! But that does not detract from the far-reaching powers of Tefilah, which in the vast majority of cases does work, provided the necessary specifications are met, as we shall explain shortly.

We can learn that Tefilah is able to save a person from a life-threatening situation, from the Pasuk in Tehilim, which describes how sailors, who find themselves in the middle of a raging storm, cry out to G-d. Even as the churning sea causes their ship to toss and turn like a piece of straw, their prayers pierce the Heavens, the storm abates and the sea becomes calm once more.

And we can learn how Tefilah is able to avert a Divine decree from the episode involving Chizkiyahu ha'Melech and Yeshayah ben Amotz ha'Navi. When Yeshayah approached Chizkiyahu, informing him that, because, knowing that his son would be a Rasha, he refused to marry, he was destined to die, the latter responded sharply 'Take your prophesy and go! I have a tradition from my great-grandfather (David ha'Melech) that even if a sword is being held to one's neck, one should never despair from Davenning!', as it is written "Even if He will kill me, I will still yearn for Him!" (Iyov 13:15).

Having said that, Chizkiyahu turned to the wall and proceeded to Daven. As a result, he was granted another fifteen years lease of life! R. Bachye extrapolates from this incident that prayer is on a higher plane than prophesy.

It goes without saying that extreme circumstances require extreme measures, and that in all of the above cases, it was not a regular Tefilah that achieved the stunning results that they did. That is why in each case, the Pasuk does not make do with the regular word for prayer 'Tefilah'. By Yitzchak, the Torah uses the word "Vaye'tar" - an expression of 'entreating' (see Rashi in Toldos, 25:21); The Pasuk in Tehilim uses the word "Va'yitz'aku" (and they cried out); whilst in the case of Chizkiyahu, G-d Himself told Chizkiyahu "I have heard your prayers, and seen your tears " (Yeshayah 35:5). But is that not how G-d always operates - His response towards us is a mirror-image of our own actions, either towards Him or, as the Gemara explains in Rosh Hashanah, towards our fellow-man.

Yes, Tefilah is the manner in which we communicate with G-d, and the sincerity and intensity of our Tefilos will inevitably evoke the appropriate response from Him!

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Mitzvos of the Heel

"Ve'hoyoh eikev tishme'un" (7:12).

R. Bachye cites Rashi's explanation on the word 'eikev' (Mitzvos which one treads underfoot).

Based on the same literal interpretation of the word 'eikev' (heel), he suggests that the Pasuk is hinting at the large cross-section of Mitzvos that one observes with one's feet - going to Shul, and to the Beis-Hamedrash, visiting the sick, accompanying the dead and comforting the mourners. All of these are Mitzvos about which the Navi Hoshei'a writes (11:10) "After Hashem they will go, like a roaring lion". And to demonstrate the significance of the actual walking aspect of the Mitzvah, the author cites Chazal, who even permit running on Shabbos when going to Shul (despite the general prohibition of running on Shabbos).

Conversely, he explains, somebody who fails to perform the Mitzvos that entail walking, will have to give a reckoning before the heavenly Court, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (49:6) "The sin of my heels will surround me". And so he will if he sins with his feet, as we find with the daughter of R. Chanina ben T'radyon, on whom it was decreed to spend her days in a brothel, for having made a conscious effort to look attractive as she walked past a group of Roman dignitaries. Indeed, she herself proclaimed that the Divine Judgement was fair and deserved, when she quoted the Pasuk in Yirmiyah (32:19) "Great is the counsel and mighty is the deed; Your eyes are cognizant of all the ways of man " (i.e. even of the steps that he takes), as the Gemara in Avodah-Zarah (18a) teaches us.


The Nations will Bless You

"You will be more blessed than all the nations" (7:14).

This is in keeping with what the Torah writes in Ki Savo (25:1) "And Hashem your G-d will elevate you above all the nations ", says R. Bachye.

Alternatively, he adds, the Pasuk can be translated as "And you will be blessed by all the nations", when they realize that you are superior to them - which will come to pass when we go in the ways of the Torah.


Removing All the Illnesses

"And G-d will remove from you every illness (kol choli) and all the bad maladies (kol madvei) of Egypt (7:15).

To resolve the double expression used here, R. Bachye explains either that every illness refers to natural sicknesses, and all maladies, to supernatural ones (such as the ten plagues), or that the former refers to external sicknesses, and the latter, to internal ones.


Stealing from a Gentile is Prohibited

"And you shall consume all the nations which G-d is giving to you" (7:16).

Chazal learn from here that it is only once the gentile nations (with specific reference to the seven nations of Cana'an) have been delivered into your hands that you are permitted to confiscate their property; otherwise not!

From here, says R. Bachye, the Chachamim extrapolate that Gezel Akum (stealing from a gentile) is forbidden.

And what's more, they say, it is even worse, when it comes to redeeming a Jewish servant from a non-Jewish master, without paying for him in full (and the likes) which also involves Chilul Hashem.


Burning their Idols
Taking their Idols

"The images of their idols (Pesilei eloheihem) you shall burn in fire. Do not covet the silver and gold that is on them and take it for yourself" (7:25).

'If, say Chazal (in Avodah-Zarah 52a), the gentile carved it out ('pislo l'elohah') - then do not covet ; whereas if he negated it from being a god ('paslo me'elo'ah') then you may take it for yourself'.

The basis of this explanation lies in the double meaning of the word "Pesilei", which has dual connotation of 'Pesel' (an image), and 'Pasul' (invalidate). Hence, it can combine with the words "Lo sachmod " (forbidden to use), and it can also combine with "ve'lokachto lach" (permiting taking them for oneself, should the owner declare them void).


Blessing Hashem

"And you shall eat and be satisfied and bless Hashem for the good land that He gave to you" (8:10).

The simple explanation, says R. Bachye, is that when you arrive in Eretz Yisrael and are satiated with its fruit and all its goodness, when you then recall your exile in Egypt in all its bitterness, and remember also the afflictions of your travels in the Desert, you will bless the Name of Hashem your G-d.


Chazal however learn from here a Mitzvas Asei to recite a B'rachah after eating bread - like when the Torah writes "and you shall make a parapet around your roof" and "and you shall make a (Korban) Pesach for Hashem " (i.e. the word "ve'osiso" there and "u'verachto" here, both denote a Mitzvah).


Keeping our Homes Idol-Free

"And do not bring an abomination into your homes" (8:26).

Based on this Pasuk, Chazal issued a prohibition on renting out one's house to a gentile, who is likely to bring his various forms of idolatry into it. If he does, R. Bachye explains, bearing in mind that a hirer does not acquire the property that he is hiring, the owner will have transgressed the above La'av by availing his house to the gentile for this purpose. Interestingly, the author refers to this La'av as an Asmachta (support from a Pasuk for a Mitzvah which is only mi'de'Rabbanan).


He also points out that, according to a number of Ge'onim, among them, R. Chananel, this La'av is confined to Eretz Yisrael (see footnote there), and this appears to conform with the opinion of the Yerushalmi; and he concedes that is the opinion that is customarily accepted. He does however, quote the Ramban, who writes that 'a Ba'al-Nefesh' should refrain from renting out an apartment to a gentile even in Chutz la'Aretz.

* * *


"The images of their gods you shall burn in fire Do not bring an abomination into your home abhor it for it is banned (cherem)" 7:25/26).

It is from the Torah's juxtaposition of 'burning in fire' to 'Cherem', says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that Yehoshua took his cue to (partially) punish Achan (for taking from the Cherem) with fire.


"A land of wheat and barley " (8:8).

This Pasuk, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, contains ten words, which explains why we place all ten fingers on the bread when reciting the B'rachah of ha'Motzi. Furthermore, he explains, it corresponds to the ten Mitzvos that are performed with the bread, starting from its earliest stages: Not to plow with an ox and a donkey; Not to plant Kil'ayim; To leave Leket, Shikchah and Pe'ah; Not to muzzle an ox whilst it is threshing; To give Terumah, Ma'aser Rishon, Ma'aser Sheini and Chalah to the appropriate recipients.


"Who led you in this great and terrifying desert, where there are snakes, serpents, scorpions and thirst (Nachash, Saraf, ve'Akrav ve'Tzimo'on)" 8:15.

The phrase "Nachash, Saraf, ve'Akrav ve'Tzimo'on" shares the same Gematriyah as 'be'Kasdim, bi'P'ras, be'Makedon u've'Se'ir' (incorporating the four nations to whom we have been subservient during our history as a nation).


The word "va'ashlichem" is missing a 'Yud', a hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that the Ten Commandments had flown away before Moshe threw the Luchos down and smashed them.


"Hashem Elokim, do not destroy your people " (9:26).

From the beginning of this Pasuk until "and Your outstretched arm" at the end of Pasuk 29 (comprising the entire text of Moshe's current Tefilah) there are fifty-eight ('Chein') words, since Moshe found favour 'Chein' in G-d's eyes, and He answered his prayer.

And fifty-eight is also the Gematriyah of "Niv" in the phrase "He creates the speech (Niv) of the lips" (Yeshayah 57:19) if we bear in mind that "Niv" is written there with a 'Vav' instead of a 'Yud'.

* * *

(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 421:
To Don the Tefilin shel Yad (cont.)

''The Chachamim have taught us that the order of the Parshiyos written on the parchment of the Tefilin is 'first "Kadeish ", then "Vehoyoh ki yevi'acha", "Sh'ma" and "Vehoyah im shomo'a"; And those who hold that one writes the Havoyos in the middle, meaning that "Vehoyoh ki yevi'acha" and "Vehoyah im shomo'a" should be written in the middle and flanked by "Kadeish"(at the beginning) and "Sh'ma" (at the end), did not get it right. For Rashi, the Ramban and Rabeinu Hai Ga'on all maintain that the Havayos are not written in the middle, but rather in the order in which they appear in the Torah, as we explained. And the proof lies in the Gemara in Perek ha'Kometz, (Menachos, 34b), which states 'And the reader reads', implying that the Parshiyos of the Tefilin are written in the same order as they are read. Clearly, those who hold that the Havayos should be placed in the middle did not have that text in the Gemara in Menachos How to write the Tefilin the Din of the 'Tagin' (the Crowns on some of the letters) The Din of what happens if someone wrote the Name of G-d or one of its letters between the lines the Din of tanning the skin the Din concerning on which side of the skin one writes the Din if the Parshiyos are written by a miyn (a heretic) or by a gentile that Tefilin do not require examination (even after a hundred years) like Mezuzos do the Din of Tefilin that one purchases from someone who is not an expert the Din of the stitches using the sinews of a Kasher animal or Chayah the Din of the stitches or the straps that tear the Din if someone who is wearing Tefilin wishes to eat to enter a permanent or a makeshift bathroom, or if he forgot and actually entered one wearing his Tefilin and the remaining details of the Mitzvah are explained in the fourth Perek of Menachos (see also Orach Chayim, Si'man 25).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men, but not to women, seeing as it is a Mitzvas Asei that is time-bound. Nevertheless, if they wish to don Tefilin, one is not obligated to stop them from doing so. In fact, they will receive reward for having performed the Mitzvah, though not to the same extent as a man, since 'the reward for performing a Mitzvah that one is not commanded is not comparable to that of one that one is commanded'. The Gemara in Eiruvin (96a) relates how Michal the daughter of King Shaul, used to wear Tefilin, and how the Chachamim did not raise an objection to her doing so. Somebody who transgresses this Mitzvah and who fails to don the Tefilin shel Yad and/or the Tefilin shel Rosh, has negated a Mitzvas Asei, for the Torah commands us to wear four Parshiyos both in the Tefilin shel Yad and in the Tefilin shel Rosh.

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