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

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Vol. 5 No. 50

Parshas Ha'azinu

Cutting Our Noses

Most of a person's actions are motivated either by self-interest, or by altruism, though it is also possible that he acts for the benefit of others, not of his own free will, but because he is in one way or another, forced to do so. The difference between the three, manifests itself in the way one sets about performing the task in hand. When a person acts out of self-interest, his main concern is usually the objective; if the objective is worthwhile, then he will suffer whatever it takes to reach that objective. This is true to a far lesser degree by someone who is acting for the benefit of others, whereas when one is forced to do something in which one has no personal interest, he will invariably choose the easiest way, since it is not the objective with which he is concerned, but getting the job done.


If self-interest had prompted Hashem to give us the Torah and to demand our obedience, then, without doubt, we would have been obliged to grant Him the satisfaction of obeying Him. After All, He has always done, and continues to do, sufficient for us to warrant our meagre reciprocation, whether we do so as slaves dutifully serving their master, or as sons proudly and lovingly obeying their father.


In fact, Torah and mitzvos were handed to us for our own good, as Chazal have said: "The Torah was given to us solely in order to purify the people". Torah is a constitution, but Torah is also a precious and a generous gift, which benefits the beneficiary, not the benefactor. It might even be seen as the do-it-yourself book on perfection. That being the case, we should perceive the performing of mitzvos as a self-service - not as a favour to G-d, and our failure to serve Him properly must be seen as cutting our noses to spite our faces. It is we who will ultimately gain from the mitzvos, and it is we who stand to suffer for our sins. Hashem's perfection will not be altered one iota, neither for the better nor for the worse, by our performance or our non-performance of the mitzvos. 'If you are righteous, what will you give Him' and "if you sin, what will you do to Him" (Iyov 35:6-7). And it is in this light that the Kli Yokor explains the sequence of two of the opening pesukim in this week's Parshah: "Corruption is theirs, not His, it is they who are blemished, a crooked and twisted nation. Is it on Hashem's behalf that you do this?" The word 'tigmelu' - in "Ha'la'Shem tigmelu zos?" - suggests the positive performance of mitzvos, and the big Hey in 'Ha-Lashem' denotes the five books of the Torah) 'you ungrateful and unwise people?' In other words, the Torah is asking the people whether they really believe that the Torah and mitzvos which they perform are for G-d's benefit, and that they are doing Him a favour? The fact that they fail to appreciate that the Torah was given to them for their benefit and not for G-d's, is a sign of ingratitude and stupidity.

Too often unfortunately, people sin without the slightest hesitation, simply because they do not believe that their sins will affect them adversely. Clearly, it is Hashem who stands to lose, but that apparently does not concern them unduly. And in the same way, they see Him as the one who will benefit from their mitzvos, and since they themselves stand to gain nothing from their efforts, why take the trouble, and why make the effort? One of the grave dangers of such an attitude is described in our opening remarks, where we saw how it will reflect in the amount of effort we put into our performance of mitzvos. Because, whether we perform them only in order to get them over and done with, or with some limited effort, or whether we are willing to put our heart and soul into serving G-d, will depend largely upon whether we consider them a forced obligation, a favour for G-d, or something from which we alone are the ultimate beneficiaries.

Parshah Pearls
Parshas Ha'azinu
(Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim)

When There Is No Torah

"A base and unwise people" (32:6).

'If one describes Reuven as a base person, is it really necessary to add that he is also unwise?" asks the Chofetz Chayim. Surely 'base' is infinitely worse than unwise, so the one is included in the other?

However, he replies, this can be understood with the Chazal, who, commenting on a possuk in Yirmiyoh (2), quote Hashem as saying, 'If only they would have forsaken Me, but observed My Torah! Had they done that, it would have brought them back to Me' - because the light in the Torah (the text in the Yalkut reads), would have brought them back to the fold.

It is only because he is without Torah that the sinner remains distant from G-d also.

Likewise, in our posuk, if Yisroel were wise and learned, they would soon learn the true meaning of gratitude and they would no longer be base. The only reason that they remain base is because they are unwise - because they decline to study Torah.


Keep Him In Your Sights

"Is He not your Father, who established your nest?" (among the rocks - Rashi).

Shlomoh ha'Melech compared Yisroel to a dove, and it is about a dove, that the Gemoro writes in Bovo Basro (24a) that a young baby that cannot fly will never leave its nest and go beyond the point where it can turn around and still see it. It will always remain within sight of its nest. Maybe, writes the Chofetz Chayim, that is what the Torah means here. G-d placed us in a nest, and emulating the dove who represents us, we should make sure that we never stray beyond the point where we lose sight of our nest, thus enabling us to return to our Father in Heaven, even when we have gone astray.


To Cut their Nose...

"He set up the borders of the nations according to the numbers of B'nei Yisroel" (32:8).

The Torah is promising the nations of the world that the borders of their respective countries will expand according to the numbers of Jews who live there, explains the Chofetz Chayim.

One would have thought, he adds, that the gentile nations would follow the example set by Par'oh, when he initially invited Ya'akov and his family to be his guests in Egypt (for which he was richly rewarded). After all, which nation doesn't want large and secure borders? Isn't that what most wars are all about?

Yet not only do the gentiles not welcome the Jews who come to live within their borders, he points out, but they even set out to expel them from their countries and to kill them, causing their borders to become smaller (and even to disintegrate altogether). They cut their noses to spite their faces!


... To Spite Their Face

In similar vein, Chazal have said that it is not only the Jews who benefit from Hashem's close links with them via the Beis ha'Mikdosh - the pipeline of blessing for the whole world, but the gentile nations too.

In that case, one would have thought that they would place guards around it - to protect this unique source of prosperity from coming to harm. Yet not only do they fail to do that, but they even send armies to destroy it. They cut their noses to spite their faces - and then go on to pride themselves at what they have achieved.


SOME OF THE HILCHOS YOM KIPPUR (Adapted from the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Si'mon 133)

M.H. = Mishnah B'rurah M.H. = Misgeres ha'Shulchan

1. Pregnant and Feeding Women

Pregnant and feeding women must fast all day just like everybody else. A feeding mother whose baby is sick may not fast if her fasting will endanger the baby, and provided that her baby refuses to feed from anyone else or cannot be fed in any other way.

2. A Pregnant Woman who Needs to Eat

Regarding a pregnant woman who smelled a certain food (it appears that nowadays, many women have this urge even without smelling the food) and now feels an urge to eat it: it is well-known that unless one gives her what she wants, she and her baby are in mortal danger. Therefore, if she says: "I must eat", even if there is no change in her facial colour, or we see a change in her facial colour, even though she does not say: "I must eat", we whisper in her ear that today is Yom Kippur (adding, according to the Me'iri, an assurance that if she desists, her child will become a G-d fearing Jew - M.B.), since that might possibly put her mind at rest. If that does not help, we feed her in the following manner: we first give her just a little, by dipping a finger into the gravy (or juice) and putting it into her mouth, because sometimes she feels better with just with one drop. Should that not help, one feeds her less than the 'shi'ur' (see paragraph 4) (initially of gravy and, if that does not help, of the food itself - M.B.). If she is still not satisfied, then one may give her whatever she needs. Anyone, in fact, who smells a food and his face subsequently changes colour, is in danger, and should be dealt with in the same manner. But this does not apply to anyone else (other than a pregnant woman) whose face did not change colour, but who said: "I must eat" (unless he is dangerously ill - see following paragraph). (Some poskim doubt this stringency. The Chasam Sofer writes that, in the latter case, the sick person should feed himself, since he feels that his life may well be in danger - M.B.)

3. A Woman who has Just Given Birth and a Person who is Dangerously Ill

The din of a woman who has just given birth and a person who is dangerously ill is equivalent to that of violating the Shabbos on their behalf. (Refer to Si'mon 92 and 93) with regard to eating and drinking; even if many doctors insist that he does not need to eat, and even if they maintain that eating or drinking will harm him, if the sick person himself claims that he must eat, and even if he agrees that his life is not currently in danger, but that if he does not eat now, his condition will worsen and that then he will be in mortal danger, we accept his opinion and feed him. This is because, when it comes to eating and drinking, he is more aware of his own condition than others, and 'the heart knows its own troubles best'.

4. A Woman who is Pregnant or Feeding (incorporating the measurements)

When feeding a pregnant or a feeding woman, or a very sick person, one places the food in front of them and says: 'Today is Yom Kippur. If you know that you might endanger yourself by not eating what you require, then eat until you know that you are no longer in danger. But if you can manage by eating less than the full measure, then do so.' The patient then proceeds to eat up to two-thirds of an egg volume (because the strict volume for which one is "chayov koreis" [excision] is a large dried date, which is equivalent to a little less than a medium-size egg without its shell). Then he should wait a little (a 'kedei achilas p'ras' - approximately 9 minutes) before eating another two-thirds of an egg volume, and continue with this procedure until he is sure that there is no longer any danger. (This is because if one eats twice without waiting a kedei achilas p'ras, the two eatings combine and are considered as one.) As regards drinking, he should drink, where necessary (as above) less than one cheek-full, then wait as above, before drinking again - at least the time it takes to drink a re'vi'is (2 egg volumes of liquid). One should, if possible, measure these amounts before Yom Kippur. (A woman who gave birth within three days should eat as usual, unless she emphatically states that she does not need to - M.B. [or that she can manage on smaller amounts as above].)

5. If One is Seized by a Fit of Starvation

Someone who is seized by a fit of starvation, marked by deteriorating vision, should be fed until his sight returns.

6. To Eat Non-Kosher Food

In cases where one may feed a sick person, then, if kosher food is not available, one feeds him non-kosher food. (If there is a choice of non-kosher foods, one should choose the smaller prohibition which, in turn, can be judged by the punishment. One should however, rather shecht a kosher animal than feed the sick person treifah [although shechting on Shabbos or Yom Kippur is more severe] because the sick person may, out of disgust, refuse to eat treifah, and thereby endanger himself - Shulchan Oruch 618:9 and 328:14).

7. Making the B'rochos on Food

If his mind is lucid, the sick person must recite the appropriate b'rochoh before and after eating, although he does not make kiddush. In benching, he adds "'Ya'aleh ve'yovo", and if Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, also 'Retzei'. If he forgot either of these, he does not repeat the benching, since there is no obligation to eat bread today (which is the normal criterion for repeating the benching). 8. Children - Regarding Fasting Young children under the age of nine may not fast at all, even if they want to. But from nine years and onwards, provided they are healthy, they should be educated to fast a little, not to eat until an hour or two beyond their normal meal time. (The Shulchan Oruch only requires a postponement of one hour, but one should increase the hours according to the child's strength - M.H.) (If they are weak, then one only begins to educate them from the age of ten - M.H.) (From eleven and onwards, both boys and girls must fast all day mi'de'Rabbonon to educate them in mitzvos. But others say a child is not obliged to fast all day until the age of bar- or bat-mitzvah, and one can rely on this opinion if the child is weak - Remo and Chayei Odom. Nowadays, when a general weakness has descended upon the world, etc., children of eleven are not automatically considered to be strong in this regard, unless we specifically know this to be the case - M.H. The M.B. quotes the Eliyoh Rabbo that even a boy of twelve need not fast all day. However, there is a widespread minhag that both boys and girls fast all day the last three fasts before their bar- or bat-mitzvah respectively.)

9. Children - Regarding Wearing Shoes and Fasting

Regarding the wearing of shoes, washing and anointing, one should educate children of even less than nine years old. (The M.B. however, agrees with the Remo, who quotes the Tur that the mitzvah of educating the children about shoes and washing, etc. starts from the same age as eating. The concept of educating them in these issues, for part of the day, does not apply - M.B.)

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