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

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Vol. 16   No. 29

This issue is sponsored jointly
l'iluy Nishmas
MOrdechai ben Yitzchak z"l
l'iluy Nishmas
HaRav HaGaon HaAdmor MiRozhin
R' Yaakov ben Yosef Leiner z"l

Parshas Emor

Placing the Ox First

With an obvious reference to the principle that 'a prosecutor cannot become a defense counsel', R. Bachye citing the Medrash, wonders at the fact that the Torah opens its list of animals that can be brought on the Mizbei'ach, with the ox, the very animal that reminds G-d of the Golden Calf. Likewise, at the beginning of Parshas Terumah, the Torah opens the list of materials that could be donated for the construction of the Mishkan with gold, the very material that was used in the construction of the Golden Calf.

And he answers by citing a Medrash which presents the parable of an important minister who was accused of having had relations with a one of the leading ladies of the realm. When the king looked into the matter and discovered that the minister was innocent, he immediately arranged a banquet, inviting him as the guest of honour, to convince his subjects of the minister's innocence.

Likewise here, Yisrael stood accused of serving the Golden Calf. The moment it became known that the real perpetrators were the Eirev Rav and not the natives of Yisrael, G-d ordered Yisrael to take gold and to build Him a Mishkan where He could dwell in their midst, and sacrifice in it bulls, thereby publicizing the fact that they were not the real culprits in worshipping the Golden Calf. Those who were responsible for that sin were the Eirev-Rav, who converted prior to Yisrael's departure from Egypt. They were the ones responsible for its construction! They were the ones to announce 'This is your god Yisrael!'


Quoting the Pasuk in Hoshei'a "And they, like Adam, transgressed the covenant, R. Bachye goes on to compare Yisrael's sin in the Desert to that of Adam ha'Rishon. The latter, he states, sinned in both thought and in deed. Indeed, he ate the fruit of the Eitz ha'Da'as, which he takes on to be the Esrog. That explains, he says, why on Succos, the Esrog heads the list of four species in the Torah. The object with which the sin was performed has become the key object with which we return to G-d and declare his Omnipotence (though this seems to be taking a different approach than the Medrash with which the author began). Whilst Adam's sin in thought was similar to that of his descendents in the Desert (which, as the Ramban explains, was connected to the Ox that supported G-d's Holy Throne). Hence the Gemara in Chulin (9a) informs us that Adam brought an ox to atone for his sin, an ox that had one horn protruding from its forehead.

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To Be Holy (cont.)

Although the Chasam Sofer on the Chumash (19:2) interprets "Kedoshim tih'yu" like the Ramban, the 'Hagadas ha'Chasam Sofer' cites another explanation in his name which bears repeating. In connection with the text of the B'rachah 'asher kidshonu be'Mitzvosov ve'tzivonu ', he comments that, the purpose of the Mitzvah is not for every individual to invent methods of holiness and abstention as he sees fit, in the way that the gentiles do, when they divest themselves of worldliness and live alone in the mountains like hermits. Not at all! After all, it is G-d who sanctifies us, and He has taught us that the road to holiness is paved with Mitzvos (for so the Pasuk say in Parshas Tzitzis "In order that you shall remember and do all His Mitzvos, and you shall be holy to your G-d"). What we have to do is to keep His Mitzvos in order to become sanctified and attain perfection.

That is why the Torah writes there "And you shall sanctify yourselves and you will become holy (Why is that?), because I am Hashem your G-d (and I will help you to achieve that goal)".

(And how does one achieve this?) "And you shall keep My statutes and do them (Why?) because I am Hashem who sanctifies you (and I know what is good for you and what it is that makes you holy)".

Most of the explanations that we cited last week, explain the connection between the current Mitzvah and the Parshah of Arayos that precedes it. The current explanation presents "Kedoshim tih'yu" as an introduction to the many Mitzvos contained in the Parshah of Kedoshim, putting in the correct perspective, the connection between the concept of Kedushah and the performing of the Mitzvah, since it maintains that the two are inextricably interwoven.


In Parshas Shemini (11:44), Rabeinu Bachye (not withstanding his various explanations in Parshas Kedoshim), presents two interpretations of the Mitzvah of being holy. In his second explanation, citing the Toras Kohanim, he follows in the footsteps of the Ramban. Whilst in the first explanation, like the Chasam Sofer, he equates Kedushah with the performing of Mitzvos. He describes there man's ongoing battle between his Seichel (intelligence) and his desires (i.e. the mind and the heart), and he explains how the latter has two distinct advantages over the former: 1. that he is born with it, for in his formative years, he knows nothing other than the physical and material pleasures that form the life of a young child; and 2. all the tools that are handed to him - food, toys and the other pleasures of life that help him develop, pull him in that direction.

On the other hand, the Seichel, in its capacity as a spiritual entity that is hewn from the upper world, is alien to the unrefined, physical world, and as such, it finds everything there hostile towards it. That being the case, it is only natural for the Seichel to be weak, and for man's desires to have no trouble in overpowering it at all times.

That, says R. Bachye, is why the Torah gives us the Mitzvos concerning forbidden food, Arayos, and the Mitzvos of Tefilah, fasting, Tzedakah and Gemilus-Chasadim (and the like) all of which help us to weaken the power of desire and to reinforce that of the Seichel. And he cites the Sifri, which comments on the Pasuk there "vehiskadishtem", this refers to the Kedushah of Mitzvos, and then "vi'heyisem Kedoshim" (you will indeed become sanctified). What the Sifri means, the author explains, is that it is the performance of Mitzvos that weakens one's desires and renders one's Seichel predominant. And that is the purpose for which a person is created - that is the meaning of being holy!

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Parshah Pearls

Mother & Son

" Do not Shecht an ox or a sheep and its son on the same day" (22:28).

Citing the Ramban, R. Bachye points out that this Din pertains to the mother, and that, strictly speaking, the Torah ought to have referred to 'a cow or a ewe and its son', since we rule like the opinion that does not contend with an animal's father.

And the reason that the Torah mentions father is only as a follow-on from the previous Pasuk, where it was appropriate to mention the male (see previous Pearl).


The Kind and the Cruel


Quoting the Pasuk in Mishlei (12:10) "The Tzadik knows the soul of His animal, whilst the mercy of the wicked is cruelty", R. Bachye, quoting the Medrash attributes the first half of the Pasuk to the current ruling; whereas the second half, it ascribes to Haman, who set out to kill the Jewish men, women and children, and to Sancheriv, about whom the Navi Hoshei'a writes " tear asunder mother and children".


Chilul Hashem

"And do not desecrate My Holy Name, and I will be sanctified in the midst of B'nei Yisrael" 22:32).

Based on the Pasuk in Yechezkel (20:39), Chazal stress the severity of Chilul Hashem, and teach us that G-d will sometimes overlook the sin of Avodah-Zarah, but never that of Chilul Hashem.


Cursing Hashem & Blessing Him

"And the son of the Jewish woman pronounced the Name of Hashem and he cursed it " (24:11).

It might have been better, R. Bachye suggests, had the Torah not recorded the episode of the person who cursed Hashem, to hide the terrible Chilul Hashem that took place here. And it would have sufficed to confine the Parshah to the prohibition of cursing G-d, without any mention of the Mekalel and what he did.

And he gives two reasons for the Torah's decision to nevertheless do so.

Firstly, he explains, it teaches us that among the vast community of Yisrael, there was not one fully-fledged Jew who would dare commit such a sin. And the only person to do so was one whose genealogy was flawed.

And secondly, it teaches how to recite a B'rachah. For now that we see how the son of Sh'lomis bas Divri was put to death, because he first pronounced the Name of Hashem before actually cursing it; We can learn that when blessing Hashem too, although one is not permitted to add anything to the actual text of the B'rachah, one should first allow Hashem's Name to pass through one's mind before actually reciting it.

And that is what the Pasuk in Tehilim (145:1) means when it says "I will elevate You, My G-d the King". First, said David ha'Melech, I will elevate You in my mind, and then I will bless you".


The Isur of Chadash

"Do not eat bread, toasted kernels or fresh kernels until this very day, until you bring the Korban of your G-d, an everlasting statute for all generations in all your dwelling-places" (23:14).

This teaches us that the Din of Chadash applies everywhere, even in Chutz la'Aretz, even in the time of Galus. For so Chazal have said - 'Three things depend on the land, on the one hand, yet they apply even in Chutz la'Aretz, on the other Chadash, Orlah and Kil'ayim. Chadash - min ha'Torah, Orlah - Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai, and Kil'ayim - mi'de'Rabbanan.


One Law

" Someone who kills an animal shall pay; whereas someone who kills a person shall die. " (24:21).

The Pasuk continues "One law shall be for you ", to teach us, says R. Bachye, that Dinei Nefashos and Dinei Mamonos are equal as regards cross-examining the litigants.

"One law" he adds, can also be translated as 'the law of the One' - the law of the One G-d, with reference to the law (the Torah) that He gave us on Har Sinai, and not the laws of the gentile nations.


" because I am Hashem your G-d " (24:22).

'If you act according to those laws, says G-d, ' I am your G-d', implying that anyone who does not, it is as if he has removed himself from G-d's domain, and denied His existence (see footnote in R. Bachye)). The Mishpatim are a major section of the Torah, he explains, and when we do not practice them, it is a desecration of G-d's Name. Moreover, those who are able to protest and fail to do so create a Chilul Hashem, give honour to the idol-worshippers, disgrace the Torah of Moshe and destroy Jewish money; for the entire world depends on Mishpatim (the dispensation of civil laws), and G-d gave justice exclusively to Yisrael, as it is written "He tells His words to Ya'akov, His statutes and judgements to Yisrael. He did not do this to any other nation, and His judgements He did not tell them; Praise be Hashem" (Tehilim 147:19\20).

See also main article, Parshas Mishpatim.

* * *


'Command the B'nei Yisrael, and they shall take from what belongs to you, pure olive oil that has been pounded for lighting, to kindle the everlasting Menorah (both on Shabbos and on weekdays)' (24:2).


'This is one of the four judgements that came before Moshe the Navi, and he judged them according to the word of the One on High; Some of them were issues regarding money, and others, matters concerning life and death. With regard to the former, Moshe acted with Zerizus (alacrity), whilst with regard to the latter he was cautious; and in both cases Moshe said that he had not been taught the Halachah, in order to teach the heads of the Sanhedrin of Yisrael who were destined to arise after him to act with Zerizus in money-matters and cautiously in matters of life and death, and that they should not be ashamed to ask the advice of others concerning a Din that is beyond their comprehension. For even Moshe, the Rebbe of Yisrael saw fit to say that he did not know the Halachah. That is why they put him (the son of Sh'lomis bas Divri) in jail until such time as the word of Hashem would explain to them what to do with him' (24:12).


'And a man who murders somebody from the B'nei Yisrael shall be put to death by the sword (24:17).

* * *


" Aharon shall arrange it (the Menorah) from evening to morning " (24:3).

In Parshas Tetzaveh the Torah writes "Aharon and/or his sons"?

The reason for this, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is because after the death of his sons Nadav and Avihu, Aharon did not allow his two remaining sons (Elazar and Isamar) to enter the Heichal without him. Once one of them began to kindle the lights however, he discreetly took his leave.


"And you shall take flour and you shall bake it (ve'ofiso osoh), twelve Challos" (24:5).

There are two opinions as to whether the Lechem ha'Panim were shaped like 'an open box' ('ke'teivah perutzah'), with two sides removed, or like 'a dancing ship' ('ki'sefinah rokedes' [i.e. in the form of a triangle]).

The words "ve'ofiso osoh" (believe it or not) share the same Gematriyah as a. 'ke'miyn teivah perutzah', and b. 'sefinah rokedes'.

The twelve Lechem ha'Panim comprised twenty-four tenths of an Eifah. This, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, represents the twelve Mazalos (signs of the Zodiac) that revolve during the twenty-four hours of the day. And they are arranged in two rows of six loaves each, corresponding to the six days of the creation (perhaps one row, the days, the other, the nights), a reminder that the world only exists on the merits of Yisrael.

* * *

(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)

The Need to Count the Omer

As we know, the Exodus from Egypt was the first stage of preparation for Matan Torah (as G-d told Moshe at the Burning Bush). This in turn, began on the first day of Pesach. However, the Torah describes the actual Exodus using the word "be'chipazon" (in haste), implying that it was entirely the work of G-d (it'arusa di'le'Eila), in which Yisrael played no active role. Such a preparation cannot have any lasting impact.

That is why G-d saw fit to give us the Mitzvah of Sefiras ha'Omer on the very next day, enabling us to participate in the preparations (It'arusa di'le Tata), thereby eternalizing Matan Torah. As we count the Omer, working on ourselves day in day out, for forty-nine days, we kindle the spiritual lights that are needed to receive the Torah on Shavu'os.


Forty-Nine Days

The Forty-nine days of the Omer are equivalent to 'Leiv tov' (a good heart), whose Gematriyah is equal to forty-nine. Whilst 'leiv' represents the thirty-two paths of Chochmah (Targum Yonasan translates "Bereishis" as 'with Chochmah', whilst the last and first letters of the Torah equal thirty-two), 'Tov' represents Torah, as the Pasuk writes in Mishlei (4:2) "Ki lekach tov nosati lochem, Torosi "; and it is called 'Tov' on account of the light of Torah, with which it was possible to see from one end of the world to the other, and which G-d hid in the Torah immediately after its Creation on the first day. Note that the first time the word "Tov" and the letter 'Tes' appear in the Torah, are in the fourth Pasuk "va'Yar Elokim es ho'or ki tov" - after thirty-two words.

This is a hint that after thirty-two days, the light that is hidden in the Torah is revealed, and this explains why the thirty-third day of the Omer has powerful connotations of light and is a day of rejoicing for Tzadikim (since light and joy are synonymous, as we learn from the Pasuk in Tehilim [97:11] "Light is sown for Tzadikim, and for the righteous, Simchah").


And this also explains why it was specifically on the thirty-third day of the Omer (the day after 'Leiv', the first day of 'Tov') that R. Shimon bar Yochai revealed the Zohar (the hidden mystics of Torah), and the light and Simchah that accompanied its revelation. Notwithstanding the fact that this was the day on which R. Shimon bar Yochai (presumably) was born, and the day for which he yearned all his life - the day on which his pure Neshamah was destined to ascend to Heaven. And that is why R. Shimon instructed his Talmid, R. Aba, to transcribe the hidden treasures, so that some of the blessing contained in the hidden light should remain with us until the light of Mashi'ach Tzidkeinu is revealed to us, on the merit of studying the hidden light contained in the Kabalah.

Bearing in mind the above, the Minhag to kindle many lights and to light bonfires on Lag bo'Omer is hardly surprising.


Bows and Arrows

It is also customary for Cheider children to shoot with bows and arrows on Lag ba'Omer. The B'nei Yisaschar, citing R. Mendel mi'Riminov, ascribes this Minhag to the fact that, during the lifetime of R. Shimon bar Yochai, no rainbow was ever seen - an indication that he and his generation were true Tzadikim. And shooting arrows on the day that R. Shimon departed this world, is a sign that reminds us of this.

Furthermore, R. Shimon is recorded as having said to his son, R. Elazar 'My son, do not expect the coming of Mashi'ach, until you see a bow with shining colours!'.

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