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

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Vol. 22   No. 42

This issue is sponsored by
the Braverman and Shapiro Families
l'iluy Nishmas Sima bas R' Yitzchak Halevi a"h

Parshas Eikev

The Greatest Reward

"And it will be (vehayah) in return (eikev) for obeying these judgements and guarding them and carrying them out, G-d will safeguard the covenant and the lovingkindness that He swore to your forefathers" (7:12).


This is how Unklus interprets the word "eikev". Based on the Medrash Tanchuma, he translates "eikev" as 'a heel', and he therefore explains the Pasuk with reference to the Mitzvos that people tend to tread upon with their heel (i.e. to treat disrespectfully), which grant the person who treats them with respect a special reward.


R. Bachye too, cites the Tanchuma and elaborates on it. However he presents another explanation which also translates "Eikev" as 'heel', but in connection with the reward for performing the Mitzvos rather than with the Mitzvos themselves. According to him, it refers to the reward for keeping the Mitzvos, as spelt out in the forthcoming Pesukim. That reward, which comprises material benefits, is minor, he explains, like a heel, which is a relatively lowly and insignificant part of the human body.

The main reward, he explains, is hinted in the previous word - "ve'hayah" (which contains the four letters of G-d's Name - 'Havayah'), and which hints at the Shechinah that will dwell in Yisrael's midst, should they observe Torah and Mitzvos. (This is reminiscent of the final B'rachah in the B'rachos of Bechukosai 26:32, See Rashi there.)

And this refers to the great reward that will come at the end (indeed, other commentaries translate "eikev" as 'at the end', just as the heel is at the end of the body).

This concept, R. Bachye adds, is inherent in the final words of Parshas Va'eschanan - "today to do them" -'but tomorrow to receive the reward', as the Gemara Darshens in Eiruvin (22a).


Explaining the above sequence, the author explains that the Torah prefers to elaborate on things that a human-being can conceive, and to present things that are beyond his comprehension (such as the joy of being with the Shechinah, which cannot be understood in this world) by way of hint - as it generally tends to do.


R. Bachye's explanation fits nicely with Chazal, who, in respect of our relationship with Hashem, describe us as 'day labourers', and day labourers' wages only fall due when they finish their work at the end of the day.


The Ramban, who cites most of the points that we discussed above, concurs with Unklus' interpretation of "Eikev". He explains the root of the word to mean 'to bring about', which is also expressed in Lashon ha'Kodesh as 'lesavev' (to bring round). And it is this context that he quotes the Pasuk in Yeshayah (40:4) "ve'hoyoh he'okov le'miyshor" - 'And the circular route will become straight'. Indeed, he explains, the word for heel is 'Eikev' precisely because it is round.

He also points out that the Torah specifically refers to the 'judgements' - Mishpatim, because Mishpatim comprise an area of Torah that a). leads to the strengthening of Torah as a whole and b). because, due to the complexities of the legal system as well as human weakness, needs constant vigilance.

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Parshah Pearls
Protecting the Judges

"Then He will love you, bless you and increase you " (7:13).


With reference to the final paragraph in "The Greatest Reward", the Ramban writes: "When you carry out the Mishpatim out of love for Hashem, He on His part, will love you".

But perhaps the Pasuk means, not just that He will love you, but that He will cause you to be loved. Because when a judge litigates, he is prone to be hated by the losing party. So the Torah says that G-d will ensure that a) he is loved by both parties, b) no harm will result from the litigation, only blessing, and c) that even where a judge sentences many people to death (such as in the case of a city that worships idols), K'lal Yisrael will increase - in spite of that.


Not only has a Dayan nothing to fear when he carries out Din Torah, because, as the Pasuk says in Tehilim (82:1) - "G-d stands in the congregation of judges", but all his rulings will be Divinely blessed with success.


The Wooden Aron (1)

"Then I made an Aron out of wood, and I carved out the two stone Luchos " (10:3).


Rashi explains that this cannot be referring to the Aron that Betzalel made, bearing in mind that this took place before Moshe ascended Har Sinai for the third time on Rosh Chodesh Ellul, and they only began working on the construction of the Mishkan after Moshe descended on Yom Kipur. It must therefore refer to a wooden Aron that Moshe made, which would temporarily house the Luchos until the Mishkan was completed, and they would be placed in the official Aron ha'Kodesh.

Moreover, Rashi adds, this was the Aron which regularly accompanied them to the battlefront. In fact, on the sole occasion that they took the Aron ha'Kodesh with them - in the time of Eli the Kohen Gadol, it was captured by the P'lishtim.


This is indeed the opinion of the Medrash Tanchuma, the Ramban agrees. But it is an individual opinion, to which Chazal do not subscribe. And he cites many sources, among them the Gemara in Bava Basra (14b), which maintain that both the Luchos and the broken Luchos were placed in the Aron ha'Kodesh. And if that is so, what would have been the point of taking the empty wooden Aron to war with them?

It is also not clear, he comments further, where exactly the wooden Aron would have been located, as there is certainly no record of either Moshe or Shlomoh taking it into the Kodesh Kodshim together with the Aron ha'Kodesh.

Consequently, he maintains, that, assuming the other Aron existed, it was placed into Genizah the moment the Aron ha'Kodesh was completed.


The Wooden Aron (2)


In the previous Pearl, we discussed the Ramban's explanation of the wooden Aron, based on Chazal.

However, in keeping with his style of presenting his alternative interpretation of Pesukim, according to their simple meaning (in spite of Chazal), he ascribes the wooden Aron to the Aron ha'Kodesh that Betzalel made - bear in mind that it was basically made of wood and only overlaid with gold, as Rashi explains in Parshas Terumah.

There was in fact, no second Aron - had there been, the Torah ought to have mentioned it in Parshas Ki Sissa, when Moshe was instructed to carve out the second set of Luchos.


The Mishkan, the Ramban explains with all its components - above all, the Aron, which would house the Shechinah - the Mishkan's chief function, had already been told to Moshe at Har Sinai - before the episode of the Eigel ha'Zahav, and there was no need to repeat it here. Only, as a result of the Eigel, it was not at all certain that G-d would still agree to rest the Shechinah among Yisrael. All it needed was a hint to Moshe to inform him that it was still an option. And that hint lay in the words "Make for yourself a wooden Aron" (to house the second Luchos).

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