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

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Vol. 4 No. 46

Parshas Eikev

The Power of Genuine Prayer

"And to worship Him with all your heart" - Rashi writes that "worship with the heart" refers to Tefillah (Prayer), and he proves this with a possuk in Doniel (6), where Doniel says: "The G-d whom I worshipped regularly". Since when, asks Rashi, was there worship in Bovel? Surely worship (a term usually confined to the realm of sacrifices) ceased with the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh and, in any event, there were no sacrifices anywhere other than in Yerushalayim. We clearly see from here that the term "avodah" can also apply to Tefillah. In fact, "avodah in the heart" applies exclusively to Tefillah. R. Bachya, in praise of Tefillah, asserts that Tefillah has the power to change nature, to relieve from danger and to nullify decrees. Each of these he proves with a possuk: To change nature: from Yitzchok Ovinu, whose wife Rivka (who was barren) conceived a child as a result of their joint prayers; To relieve from danger: as Dovid Ha'melech writes in Tehillim (107), with regard to sailors in a storm, "And they cry out to Hashem in their troubles and the storm abates"; To nullify decrees: from King Chizkiyohu, who was granted an additional fifteen years life after Yesha'yoh the Prophet had prophesied that he would die - because "he turned to the wall and prayed" (Melochim II 20:2). Evidently, prayer supercedes prophesy.

But if prayers are so powerful, what happens to our prayers? Why is it that, so often, we pray and pray and pray, yet nothing seems to change? We remain with our suffering and with our problems, which tenaciously seem to linger on, in spite of all our prayers. It is clear that not all prayers tear the Heavens asunder. Like with every mitzvah, the mitzvah of Tefillah has regulations, and those regulations must be met, before a prayer can even begin to be effective. One must, of course, daven at the right time and in the right place, and in addition the Tefillah must be voiced (not just thought) before it is even called a Tefillah, as Chazal have taught us "Words in the heart are not considered words". (Kidushin 49b)

Yes, indeed, the words must be clearly spoken, but that does not mean that Tefillah is now confined to the mouth. After all, we have referred to Tefillah as "avodah she'baleiv" (the worship of the heart), implying that, even if Tefillah must come out of the mouth, it must still come from the heart too. It has been said that "a Tefillah without kavonoh is like a body without a soul". If it comes from the mouth and not from the heart, it is not an avodah, and if it comes from the heart and not from the mouth, it is not a Tefillah.

So Tefillah requires a measured combination of words and thought, together with its other halachic requirements, before it can even begin to be effective, and that is if it is to implement the laws of nature; that we should enjoy life, regular health and sustenance, when there is no natural reason that we should not.

If prayer is to have a supernatural effect on our lives, then it stands to reason that it requires more than just the basic minimum requirements of Tefillah. It also requires a stronger devotion and a deeper sense of conviction than just an ordinary Tefillah. It needs to come from the very inner chambers of one's soul, and it needs to stem from a total conviction of G-d's Omnipotence and Mastery over the laws of nature. It needs to stem from a sound knowledge that G-d rules over everything, nature and all, and that inevitably, conception, relief from danger and extension of life lie in His Hands, and in His Hands alone. When Tefillah flows from such a heart, then there are no limits to its potential powers. Presumably, that is what Dovid ha'Melech meant when he wrote in Tehillim (145), "Hashem is close to all His callers, to all who call Him in truth."

" Hashem is close" implies that He answers easily and totally, but that is only on the condition that the prayer is sincere and genuine, not if the prayer comes from a false heart.


A Land of Wheat and Barley

The Da'as Zekeinim points out that the word "eretz" appears seven times in the Parshah - corresponding, he explains, to the seven nations, whose land they would take over. Rabeinu Bachye explains that the seven times "eretz" represents the seven lattitudes from the North Pole to the equator, of which Eretz Yisroel is the major one - which explains, he says, why the other six are termed "eretz", whilst Eretz Yisroel is termed "ho'Oretz Ha'tovoh".

10 = Holiness

The Ba'al ha'Turim writes that there are ten words in the possuk "Eretz chittah" etc. (8:8), and that that is why one should place one's ten fingers on the bread when reciting the b'rochoh. And also, to correspond to the ten mitzvos that are performed with the grain until it becomes bread:
1) Not to plough with an ox and a donkey;
2) Not to sow Kil'ayim;
3) Leket;
4) Shikchah;
5) Pei'ah;
6) Not to muzzle an ox while it is threshing;
7) T'rumah;
8) Ma'aser Rishon;
9) Ma'aser Sheini;
10) Challah.

The Meforshim also write that there are ten words in the wording of the b'rochoh. And Rabeinu Bachye adds that Eretz Yisroel is praised here for ten fruits (not just seven) since wheat and barley incorporate rye, oats and spelt. The number ten represents kedushah, for so the Torah writes "ve'ho'asiri yihye kodesh", and as the halochoh states - that every dovor she'b'kdushah requires ten people.


The Gemoro in B'rochos (41a) rules that of the seven fruits for which Eretz Yisroel is praised, the order of priorities (b'rochoh-wise) is determined by the fruit's proximity to the word "eretz".

This does not mean that one is obligated to eat any fruit that one does not fancy in order to make a b'rochoh over it. What it does mean is that, if one does intend to eat certain fruits, including some of those mentioned in the possuk, then the one that one holds in the hand during the recital of the b'rochoh, should be the one that is closest to "eretz". This statement conveys the impression that the seven fruits follow the order in which they are written. But that is a fallacy, because the word "eretz" is written twice, since the Torah writes "A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates, a land of oil producing olive and (date) honey".

Before we even begin to discuss the "fruits", we must bear in mind that if wheat and barley (which are not fruits in the conventional sense) are eaten in the various forms that require the b'rochoh of "mezonos", then that overrides the b'rochoh of "ho'eitz" of the other fruits, so that barley (mentioned second, next to the first "eretz") will nevertheless take precedence over olives (the first next to the second "eretz").

As far as the conventional fruits go therefore, the order of priorities will be:
1) olives; 2) dates; 3) grapes; 4) figs; 5) pomegranates.


The Gemoro in B'rochos (ibid.) also writes that this entire possuk is written for the measurements that are hinted in it (in fact, the Gemoro concludes that the measurements are all "halochoh le'Moshe mi'Sinai" - and that this possuk is no more than an Asmachta - a hint).

Wheat: Someone who enters a house stricken with tzora'as is tomei at once, but the clothes he is wearing only become tomei if he remains in the house for the time it takes to eat a wheat loaf consisting of a p'ras (three or four egg volumes) - wheat bread is eaten faster than other kinds of bread.

Barley: A bone from a corpse the size of a barley, renders tomei through touching or carrying it.

Wine: The amount of a revi'is (one and a half egg-volumes) of wine which a nozir is punishable for drinking.

A Fig: The measurement of food for which one is chayav for carrying on Shabbos is that of a dried fig (a ki'grogres).

A Pomegranate: Whatever size a receptacle is, once it has a hole in it the size of a pomegranate, it loses its status and is no longer subject to tum'oh.

A Land of Olives: The majority of measurements are a kezayis (tum'as meis - regarding the dinim of Ohel, touching neveiloh, eating cheilev, blood, pigul nosor, tomei and Gid ha'nosheh - Torah Temimah).

and Honey: Someone who eats the volume of a large date on Yom Kippur is Chayav Koreis.

(Parshas Eikev) (Yeshayoh 49:14-51:3)

"And Tziyon said, 'Hashem (the Midas ho'Rachamim) has forsaken me, and G-d (the Midas ha'Din) has even forgotten me (completely)'." Tziyon actually believed that G-d had forsaken and forgotten her, explains Rashi. But Tziyon was guilty of the mistake that many had made before and that many have made since. They attributed G-d with human traits, and therefore with the possible lack of compassion with which a kind person is possessed. One of the first people to fall into this trap was none other than Moshe Rabeinu when, at the end of Parshas Sh'mos, he intimated that G-d was maltreating Yisroel. He simply could not understand how the suffering which they had to endure, could possibly increase, after he had been led to believe that it was about to end. So he put the blame on G-d.

On that occasion, G-d informed Moshe that he lacked emunah (Rashi, Sh'mos 6:9). He told him that he should have taken his cue from the Ovos, who never questioned Him, even when G-d's actions were not comprehensible to them, and even when they appeared to be self-contradictory. Perhaps He would also have pointed to Avrohom Ovinu, who took his son to the slaughter, because he thought that that was what G-d wanted him to do - even though that made absolutely no sense to Avrohom's perfectly-balanced logic, and even though that went against every Torah-concept that Avrohom had developed.

The truth of the matter is, that G-d is perfect, and it makes no difference as to which midah one applies to that perfection. He is perfect in His ability to make war, He is perfect in His wisdom, and He is perfect in His kindness and compassion. There are simply no flaws in anything that G-d does, and it is therefore not possible to find even the slightest shortcoming in His deeds. So if something goes wrong, no matter how serious, and no matter how large a segment of the community suffers, it is not at G-d that one must point a finger, but at oneself.

G-d will do everything in His power to deflect, to alleviate or to delay the suffering, which should not be seen as an intrinsic punishment, but as a cleansing process in a better situation, or as a serious operation if that is what is required. He will spread the "punishment" over many generations (as He did after the Chet ho'Eigel), in order to save Klal Yisroel from extinction, or He will postpone the death sentence, so that it is carried out over many years (as He did after the Chet ha'Meraglim), in order to enable the new generation to emerge and survive. And sometimes, He will simply "pour out His wrath over the wood and stones," (as He did at the time of the Churban), rather than allow Yisroel to be exterminated or He will bring the punishment forward (as He did then), so that they should not sink to the level that would demand their extermination. And on other occasions, He will even take away the most outstanding tzadikim (as He has done throughout this long and bitter golus) to prevent the total decimation of Klal Yisroel, because He alone knows how many thousands of ordinary people each of these giant neshomos is worth.

We can rest assured that, so intense is G-d's love for His people Yisroel - even when they sin - that, if there is any possible way to "punish" them mercifully, in a way that hurts less, G-d will do just that. And if we, with our human eyes and limited vision, fail to see that, then it is for one of two reasons: 1) Because we cannot possibly see what was destined to happen to us had G-d not applied His Mi'das ho'rachamim. 2) Because we are not aware of the devastating consequences of sin - or perhaps we do not realise just how badly we have sinned.

Some of these ideas are actually expressed by Yeshayoh Ha'novi in the next three pesukim of the Haftorah: "Would a woman forget her baby, would she not have compassion on the one that came out of her womb? And even assuming that she would (says Hashem), I will not forget you. Behold I have carved you onto the palms of My Hands (the symbol of action - so that I cannot help but see you constantly - Rashi), your (destroyed) walls (Tziyon) are opposite Me always. If your children would only do Teshuvah (Malbim) then your demolishers and your destroyers (the evil-doers among you) who were the cause of the demolishing and the destruction - not G-d - (Redak) would soon themselves be destroyed. And it is precisely because of G-d's unbounded love for us that we are able to take courage in the fact that, whatever disasters befall us, we will always survive. All of G-d's "punishments" lead towards the final redemption. It is only a matter of how long it will take for the "cleansing process" to be completed. That is why (after G-d has told Yisroel just how special they are to Him - Rashi) the Haftorah ends with the possuk "Because G-d is going to console Tziyon, He will console all of its ruins, He will turn its desert-land to resemble (Gan) Eden and its plains to resemble the Garden of Hashem - joy and happiness will exist there, thanksgiving and the voice of song."

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