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

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Vol. 17   No. 42

This issue is sponsored jointly
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l'iluy Nishmas
Tzipora bas Yaakov a"h

Parshas Eikev

The Special Qualities of Eretz Yisrael
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

"A land that you will eat bread not in poverty you will lack nothing in it" (8:9).

It may not contain silver and gold (useful commodities to be sure), says R. Bachye, but one does not need silver and gold to live. It does however, produce everything that one needs to live, even iron and copper (incorporating the high quality of its stones) for building, and what it produces, it produces in abundance. And in Parshas Behar, the Torah adds that not only is Eretz Yisrael self-sufficient, so that there is no need to import any basic commodity, but that in time of blessing, so much will grow that there will be enough to export to other countries.


On a deeper level, says R. Bachye, when the Torah speaks about "eating bread not in poverty", it is also referring to the spiritual qualities of Eretz Yisrael. And he cites the Gemara in Bava Basra (158b), which relates the story of Rebbi Zeira, a star disciple of the famous sage Rav, who, after moving to Eretz Yisrael, discovered that he had misunderstood something that he had learned in Bavel. This prompted him to proclaim that 'The air of Eretz Yisrael makes a person wise!' So he fasted forty fasts that he should forget what he had learned in Bavel (not necessarily something that one should emulate!) and went on to become one of the great sages of Eretz Yisrael.

And in the same vein, the Medrash, commenting on the Pasuk in Bereishis (2:12) "And the gold of that land was good" states that 'There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael!'

We often find that the Torah is referred to as bread (see Mishlei 9:5 [for just as bread is the staple diet of the body, so is Torah the staple diet of the Soul]). Chazal also refer to serious Torah-study as "Milchamtah shel Torah" (the battle of Torah) - Notice how the word 'Milchamtah' contains the word 'Lechem'.

Based on this concept, R. Bachye interprets the above Pasuk with regard to Torah. The Torah of Eretz Yisrael is superior to that of Chutz la'Aretz, he explains, inasmuch as the air is good and clean, and this helps a person to concentrate better. Surprisingly, he does not associate it with the Kedushah (sanctity) of the land, as we shall now explain.


At the end of the Parshah, on the Pasuk "And you shall place these words of mine and you shall bind them on your arms ", the author (following in the footsteps of Rashi) adds another dimension to the praises of Eretz Yisrael. 'Also after you go into exile', he writes, 'continue to excel in Mitzvos - put on Tefilin! Make Mezuzos! So that they shall not be new to you when you return'. What Chazal mean by this, he adds, is that whereas on the one hand, halachically, the obligation to perform the personal Mitzvos (not connected with the land) applies in Chutz la'Aretz too, on the other, Chazal have taught us that strictly speaking, the Mitzvos pertain exclusively to Eretz Yisrael, which has a special Kedushah, as the Mishnah teaches us in Keilim (1:6).

What Chazal are teaching us is that the Mitzvos were given to us with the express intention of keeping them in Eretz Yisrael, which is where we are meant to live, and nowhere else. And the only reason the Torah extends the bulk of the Mitzvos to Chutz la'Aretz, if and when, for whatever reason, we find ourselves there, is to train ourselves to keep them when we return. As the author explained in Va'eschanan (4:14), Torah is the constitution of Eretz Yisrael. It was written for Eretz Yisrael and that it where it must be kept. It has no intrinsic relevance anywhere else.

Perhaps the reason for this is because the sanctity of the Torah is ideally suited to the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. In any event, it will partially explain Moshe Rabeinu's yearning to enter Eretz Yisrael, quite apart from the numerous Mitzvos that can only be observed in Eretz Yisrael. Because, as we explained, Torah observance in Eretz Yisrael is on a higher plain than it is in Chutz la'Aretz, and it was that advanced level of Torah observance that Moshe so desperately sought.

As mentioned earlier, it is surprising that the author does not attribute the higher quality of learning that is attainable in Eretz Yisrael to its superior Kedushah.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Hornet

"And also the hornet Hashem your G-d will send against them (the seven nations of Cana'an) " (7:20).

The hornet, says the Medrash, blinded the eyes of Yisrael's adversaries (rendering them helpless against the advancing Jewish soldiers), and also castrated them, according to the Gemara.

The miracle of the hornet actually occurred twice; once when Moshe fought against Sichon and Og, before they crossed the Yarden, and once for the throughout the conquest of Cana'an, under the leadership of Yehoshua.

Chazal also point out that the hornet did not actually cross the Yarden, but shot its venom from the East-Bank to blind and castrate the enemy on the West Bank.


Two Kinds of Miracles


R. Bachye stresses that there are two kinds of miracles, Nisim Nistarim (those that are hidden), and Nisim Geluyim (those that are open). Placing the miracle of the hornet in the former category, which the man in the street would have viewed as a natural phenomenon, just as the rain, which does the job that G-d allotted to it, he explains that all the miracles listed in the previous Pasuk belong to the category of open miracles (refer to Parshah Pearls in last week's edition). Hence the use of the word "ve'gam" (and also) - as if to say, that not only was G-d about to perform open miracles with Yisrael, but He would perform hidden ones too.


And this distinction, R. Bachye points out, also explains the double expression "Hashem Elokeicho", seeing as open miracles G-d performs with the Name of 'Hashem' (see Ramban, at the beginning of "Va'eira'), and hidden ones, with the Name of 'Elokim'.

And with this explanation, he goes on to explain the following Pasuk "Do not be broken before them. for Hashem your G-d (who performs open and hidden miracles) is in your midst, a Great and Fearful G-d" - "Great" with reference to "Hashem", and Fearful (Noro), with reference to "Elokim" (just as we find the term "Noro Sehilos" in connection with Keri'as Yum-Suf). And when the Torah writes later (10:21) "These great and fearful deeds", it is referring to the same two categories of miracle.


The Purpose of the Trials and Tribulations

"And you shall remember all the journey that G-d led you these forty years in the desert, to afflict you, to test you, to know what is in your hearts, whether you will observe His commandments or not" (8:2).

R. Bachye interprets "to know", both here, and in the Pasuk in Ki Sisa (in connection with Shabbos) " to know that I am Hashem who sanctifies you", as 'to make known', to teach the nations of the world that the main objective of the Creation was to serve Hashem.


The Manna

"And He afflicted you and he starved you, and He fed you the Manna " (8:3).

What the Pasuk means is that G-d decided to feed Yisrael Manna, spiritual food, in order to fill them with the highest levels of spiritual wisdom. That would have been impossible to achieve however, as long as they were eating physical food, which would inevitably inject into them physical impurities, It was therefore necessary to first withhold from them all regular food - like we find by Moshe, about whom the Torah writes in Mishpatim (24:16) "And the cloud covered him for six days" (in order to cleanse his body from the effects of the food he had eaten, before ascending to Hashem to receive the Torah). Here too, the author concludes, it was necessary to break from the matzah cakes that they had taken out of Egypt. Then, when they would start to eat the manna, which was a derivative of spiritual light, their bodies would be rejuvenated, and they would be ready to receive the Divine wisdom and to cleave to the Shechinah.


Their Feet Didn't Swell

"And your feet did not swell" (8:4)

as opposed to travellers, whose feet generally swell when they walk long distances, says R. Bachye.

Alternatively, he explains, this refers to the Levi'im, who carried the Aron on their shoulders, and who walked bare-footed whenever they did. In reality, the author adds, the Kohanim ought to have been the ones to carry the Aron. But since they were so few of them at that time, the Levi'im took over this task from them, until their numbers had grown sufficiently large to take over from the Levi'im.


The Ten Things

"A land of wheat and barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-producing olives and (date) honey" (8:8).

In the world of Kabalah, Eretz Yisrael corresponds to Malchus, the tenth of the S'firos (Atzilus, Chochmah Binah, Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferes, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malchus). That explains, says R. Bachye, why (if we bear in mind that wheat and barley incorporate rye, oats and spelt), it is praised with ten species.

In similar fashion, he says, it is run on a combination of Rachamim (mercy) and Din (judgement), which is why the Torah calls it 'a land flowing with milk and honey' (since milk, which is white, is symbolical of Rachamim, and honey, which is reddish, to Din).


Seventy Souls

"With seventy souls your fathers went down to Egypt " (10:22).

After citing the well-known explanation of the Medrash, which attributes the deficiency of one (the Torah in Vayigash lists only sixty-nine people) to Yocheved, who was 'born between the walls', R. Bachye gives two additional answers 1) citing the Medrash - that the seventieth person was "Serach the daughter of Asher"; 2) citing the Pesikta - that it was G-d Himself, who made up the deficiency, both here (when they went down to Egypt), and in Beshalach (where the Pasuk lists six hundred thousand who left Egypt) where the number without Hashem) was 599, 999.

Interestingly, the Pesikta's proof lies in the juxtaposition of the current Pasuk to the previous one - "He is your praise, and He is your G-d", a hint that He was the One to make up the seventy Souls.


Something to be Grateful For

"With seventy souls your fathers went down to Egypt and now Hashem has made you as numerous as the stars of the Heaven And you shall love Hashem your G-d, and keep His Mitzvos" (10:22/11:1).

One of the most incredible Chasadim that G-d did for us was to miraculously increase our numbers from seventy to millions, in such a short space of time. And that explains the juxtaposition of these two Pesukim, since that remarkable act of Divine Providence ought to suffice to evoke in us the love of Hashem and our eternal gratitude.

* * *



'And you shall teach them to your sons to study them when you sit at home, when you get married and when you go on the way, in the evening before going to bed and in the morning just after you get up' (11:19).


'Wherever the soles of your feet tread will belong to you; from the desert and Mount Levanon, alias the mountains of the Beis ha'Mikdash ' 11:24).



"And you shall eat (ve'ochalto) and be satisfied and bless Hashem " (8:10).

The Gematriyah of "ve'ochalto" is equivalent to that of 'zehu bi'Kezayis', says the Ba'al ha'Turim, a hint at what Chazal have said, that although min ha'Torah the measure for Birchas ha'Mazon is when one is satisfied, the Chachamim issued an obligation to recite it after eating just a k'Zayis (and there is nothing that is not hinted in the Torah).



"And I will give the rain of your land in its time, the early rain and the late rain" (11:14).

The early rain, that falls in Mar-Cheshvan, is called 'Yoreh' because it shoots from the sky like an arrow (as is well known).

The later rain, the Rosh explains, falls in Nisan. It is called 'Malkosh', he says, because it enables the produce to grow large and to fill the husks, as is hinted in the acronym - 'Malkosh - 'Mal Kosh' (it fills the husks).

Alternatively, it is so-called because it is 'Mal Koshi Leiv' - it cuts away the hardness of the heart, inasmuch as, when the intended date arrives and the rain does not come, it causes the people to do Teshuvah.


"In order that your days will increase on the land that G-d swore to give to your fathers, like the days of Heaven here on earth".

Chazal explain that the walking distance between Heaven and earth is five hundred years, Now the Avos (who are mentioned in the current Pasuk) lived a total of five hundred and two years (Avraham 175, Yitzchak 180, and Ya'akov 147). And this is what the Torah is hunting here ' like He swore to our fathers (who lived five hundred and two years, which is the traveling-time between Heaven and earth)'.

(I do not know why the author ignores the issue of the extra two years).

* * *

The Goat of the Korban Musaf

Every Musaf-offering, with the exception of that of Shabbos, incorporates 'a goat for a sin-offering'. As the opening Mishnah in Shevu'os explains, each one comes to atone for something different.

Interestingly, the spectrum of Halachos is based on the Korban Oleh ve'Yored cited at the end of Parshas Vayikra.

What all of the above have in common is that they all atone for Tum'as Mikdash ve'Kodashav (someone who enters the Beis-ha'Mikdash or who eats Kodshim when he is Tamei), only each one atones for a different aspect of Shogeg, as we will now explain.

Here is what the Rambam writes regarding this matter (incorporating the various other special Yom Kipur Korbanos) in the first and last Mishnah's of the first chapter of Hilchos Shegagos

Mishnah 1: There is a difference between the Shogeg of Tum'as Mikdash ve'Kodashav and all other cases of K'risus. By all other cases of K'risus (with the sole exception of Pesach, Milah and murder), someone who sinned be'Shogeg and who became aware that he sinned, is obligated to bring a Korban Chatas, even though he had no knowledge of the sin or its implication prior to his sinning.

Not so regarding Tum'as Mikdash ve'Kodashav in that a. he brings a Korban Oleh ve'Yored (depending on his financial status) and b. he only brings it if he had knowledge of his state of Tum'ah as well as that he is entering the Mikdash or eating Kodesh, both prior to the actual sin and after it. The Rambam elaborates, but we will now go on to the last Mishnah.


Mishnah 9: Tum'as Mikdash ve'Kodashav about which he was

1. aware before he sinned but not afterwards - the goat of Yom Kipur, whose blood was brought inside (the Sa'ir la'Hashem) atones and Yom Kipur itself tides over the sinner until he discovers that he has sinned and brings his Korban Oleh ve'Yored; 2. he was not aware before he sinned, but became aware afterwards - the goat of Yom Kipur whose blood is brought outside (in the Azarah - i.e. the regular Musaf-offering) in conjunction with Yom Kipur itself, atones for him;

3. not aware at all (neither before nor after the sin) the goats of the Musaf of Yom-Tov (incorporating Pesach, Shevu'os, Rosh Hashanah, Succos and Shemini Atzeres) and of Rosh Chodesh atone;

4. aware even as he sinned (i.e. where he sinned be'Meizid), the bull that the Kohen Gadol brings on Yom Kipur atones, if the sinner was a Kohen, and if he was a Yisrael, the blood of the bull in conjunction with Yom Kipur itself, as the Torah writes "And he shall atone for the Kodesh, from the Tum'os of the B'nei Yisrael".

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