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

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Vol. 9   No. 49

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Chayim Ezriel ben Yosef ha'Levi z.l

Ha'azinu - Shuvah

G-d's Work is Perfect

Some years ago, we discussed the Ran in Rosh Hashanah, who presents a rather striking discrepancy. The second Mishnah there describes how the world is judged on Pesach for produce, on Shevu'os, for fruit and on Succos, for water, whilst the very same Mishnah states that everyone in the world is judged on Rosh Hashanah. Now since man is judged on Rosh Hashanah, presumably that judgement incorporates everything that concerns him too, parnasah included. Then what is the significance of the judgement on Pesach, Shevu'os and Succos, he asks?


To resolve the problem, the Ran differentiates between the communal judgement, that takes place on Pesach, Shevu'os and Succos, and judgement of the individual, that takes place on Rosh Hashanah. In fact, this tallies with the Lashon of the Tana, who uses the plural with regard to the former ('the world is judged'), but implies the singular ('all the members of the world'), with regard to the latter.

Practically speaking, this means that two different judgements take place. G-d judges the world using a scale of communal merit (z'chus ha'rabim), and to determine the crop and fruit harvest, and the rainfall for the forthcoming year, each one in its respective time. And then when Rosh Hashanah arrives, irrespective of the world's merits or demerits, He judges each individual, and decides what he deserves.


To begin with, the latter judgement incorporates many things that are not taken into account in the former, such as health, wealth and freedom. But besides that, it also means that each person's destiny, though linked to that of the community (compare the standard of living of most people who lived seventy-eighty years ago to that of today), is not determined by it.

For example, G-d might have granted the world at large a bountiful harvest, yet the person who has a negative judgement, will not benefit from that bounty. He might experience a poor harvest, perhaps because his crops are stricken with disease, or maybe because he has fallen ill, and is prevented from tending to them, or because he is sick and unable to eat or to enjoy his food.

And the opposite is equally possible. The world might be sentenced to a bad year, yet the individual whom G-d blesses with a good harvest will thrive. He will reap a far higher percentage of the total harvest than his peers who belong to the majority of people who earned a bad year, or perhaps by virtue of his wealth, he will be in a position to purchase what others cannot.


The Medrash Tanchuma however, answers the Ran's Kashya somewhat differently.

Discussing the Pasuk in this Parshah (32:4) "The Rock whose deeds are perfect", the Medrash explains this to mean that G-d is not one tracked (ke'va'Yachol). There are times when He is available, and times when He is not. And it goes on to describe how sometimes He can be seen, sometimes He cannot. Sometimes He answers, sometimes He can be sought, sometimes He is to be found, sometimes He is available - but sometimes He is not. And there follows a list of examples and reasons. Most significantly, that if we do His will, or if we do Teshuvah, we will elicit a positive response from Him, but not if we don't.


Citing the Pasuk in Yeshayah (55:6) "Seek Hashem when He is to be found, call him when He is close", (the Pasuk with which it began) the Medrash compares this to a king who invited his subjects to be judged in money-matters, where the judgement is light, before he settled down to judge them regarding matters of life and death.

And that is what G-d does each year, the Medrash explains, accepting the very supposition suggested by the Ran. He judges the world regarding money-matters on Pesach, Shevu'os and Succos - whether a person will be rich or poor, whether he will have much or little. But on Rosh Hashanah He judges them in respect of life and death.

And he proves his point from 'Teki'asa de'Bei Rav' (what Rav used to say in the Musaf Amidah on Rosh Hashanah, and which we emulate) 'And about the countries it is said which one for life, and which one for death'. One might perhaps add that this prayer does not conform with the opinion of the Ran, since it is speaking about the community being judged on Rosh Hashanah, whilst, according to the Ran, they are judged on the Shalosh Regalim.


'If you do Teshuvah before Me with a full heart' the Medrash quotes Hashem as saying, 'I will accept you and judge you to the scale of merit, for the gates are open. And I will listen to your prayers, for I watch you from the windows, peep through the cracks, provided you do what is necessary before I sign your decree on Yom Kipur. That is why the Pasuk says 'Seek Hashem when He is to be found!'

And the Medrash concludes with another parable of a king whose subjects angered him, causing him to leave the city. A man who saw him stop ten Mil from the city, warned the people of the king's intentions to send a legion of troops into the city to destroy it, and urged them to come out to meet him, to pacify him before it was too late. And a wise man who witnessed the scene had even tougher words for them 'You fools!' he told them, 'As long as the king was in your midst, you made no effort to appease him. Now at least, before he is out of sight, go quickly and speak to him; perhaps he will receive you favorably'. That is why the Navi writes "Seek Hashem whilst He is to be found!". This refers to the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, when G-d dwells among us, for so Yechezkel said "And there is a wall between Me and you." Therefore it says "Call Him when He is near ... Let the Rasha relinquish his way and the sinful man, his thoughts, and let him return to Hashem, who will have mercy on him ... ".


G-d (ke'va'Yachol) would not be described as perfect, if he could always be seen, would always answer, could always be sought and found, and was always available. That is because, not only would it not induce us to improve, but it would also us people into a false sense of security and complacency, causing us to deteriorate and leading us to the brink of ruin. It is only because G-d makes a point of not responding unless we make a positive effort to improve, thereby encouraging us to take steps towards perfecting ourselves, that He earns the title 'perfect'. Because part of being perfect is leading others on the road to perfection.


Parsha Pearls

(Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

Nothing Like Tzedakah

"Hashem bodod yanchenu (G-d will lead them on their own)" 32:12.

The word 'yanchenu' occurs in one other place, in Mishlei (18:16) "Matan odom yarchiv lo, ve'lifnei gedolim yanchenu (A man's gift [to the poor] will give him wide borders, and will lead him before great men)".

This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that G-d will take the Ba'al Tzedakah and will lead him on his own (because nobody can approach his greatness).


Six Nations

"He will ride them on the highest places ('Vayarkiveihu al bomosei oretz)" 32:13.

The word "bomosei'' contains an extra 'Vav'. The Ba'al ha'Turim, basing his explanation no doubt, on Unklus, who translates the Pasuk in connection with the defeat of the Cana'ani nations and the capture of their lands, explains that this hints at the six nations that they were destined to defeat. Six, not seven, because the Girgashi fled.


Small Yuds, Big Yuds

"Tzur yelodcho teshi (you forgot the Rock who bore you)" 32:18.

Why does the Torah write the word "Teshi" with a small 'Yud'?

The Ba'al ha'Turim attributes it to the fact that, despite the ten commandments that G-d gave our fathers, they tried Him ten times, as the Tana in Pirkei Avos (5:6) lists.

And do you know why the 'Yud' in "Yigdal no ko'ach Hashem" (Bamidbar 14:17) is big?

It is because Moshe was hinting to G-d that even if Yisrael had tested Him ten times, He should remember the ten tests that Avraham passed with flying colours, and forgive them for the Sin of the Spies (or for the ten times that they tried Him).


A Non-Nation, a Base People

"And I will provoke them with a nation that is not a nation (be'lo am), and anger them with a base people (be'goy novol)" 32:21.

The Ba'al ha'Turim, elaborating it seems, on Rashi's explanation, points out that the numerical value of "lo am" is equivalent to that of 'eilu ha'Bavliyim' ('eilu' with a 'Yud' ['these are the Babylonians']), and that that of the first letters of 'be'goy novol ach'isem', to that of 'be'Edom', the destroyers of the first and second Bet Hamikdosh respectively.


The Four Destroyers

"For fire burnt in My nostrils, and it kindled down to the lowest depths, and it consumed the land and its produce, and it destroyed the foundations of the mountains" (32:22).

These four expressions of destruction refer to the four nations, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, Bavel, Madai, Yavan and Edom.


Five Horrors

"Swollen from famine, attacked by Reshef, cut off by Meriri (the names of two demons), and I will dispatch against them the teeth of animals, together with the venom of those that creep along the ground" (32:24).

The Torah lists five punishments here, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, corresponding to the five Books of the Torah that they would contravene, the five adulterous acts mentioned in Hoshei's, the five abominations that Yechezkel witnessed and the five deities to whom they would later bow down - "Ba'al, the sun, the moon, the Mazalos and all the other hosts of the Heaven".


Moshe to the Rescue

"Ashbisoh me'enosh zichrom (I will destroy their memory from mankind)" 32:26.

Indeed, if not for Moshe's timely intervention, it seems, Hashem would have carried out this threat, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "were it not for the fact that Moshe stood in the breach ... ". And that, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, explains why the last letters of the three words ('Hey', 'Shin' and 'Mem') spell 'Moshe' backwards.


G-d is With Us

"Ani Ani Hu ... Ani omis va'achayeh ... mochatzti va'Ani erpo" (32:39).

The Torah writes three times "Ani" corresponding to the three exiles (Bavel, Madai and Yavan), and once "va'Ani", with a 'Vav', corresponding to the fourth exile of Rome, by which it is written 'va'Ani be'soch ha'Golah" (Yechezkel 1:1). This hints, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, to the teaching of Chazal that Hashem is with us in our exiles, to save us from extinction.


Interesting, because Galus Edom corresponds to Ya'akov, by whom the Torah writes an extra 'Vav' (on five occasions - see Rashi Bechukosai 26:42).

The commentaries write that we refer to 'Elokei Avraham' and 'Elokei Yitzchak' in the Amidah, but 've'Elokei Ya'akov (with an extra 'Vav') when it comes to Ya'akov. This is because the 'Vav' is described as the letter of Emes, and Ya'akov's Midah is Emes.

And this explanation certainly sheds light on the above Rashi, as well as on our Ba'al ha'Turim.


No Escape

"Ve'ein mi'Yodi matzil (And no-one can save from My Hand)" (32:39).

The numerical value of "mi'Yodi" is equivalent to 'Din', because there is no escape from G-d's Midas ha'Din - except of course through Teshuvah, Tefilah and Tzedakah, as prescribed by Chazal.


The Sixteen-bladed Sword

"Ve'charbi tochal bosor (And My sword will consume flesh)" 32:42).

The letters of "ve'charbi" spell 'cherev Yud-Vav', meaning a sword of sixteen sides, because that is the number of sides that G-d's sword has, according to the Medrash Shochar-Tov.

... "nokemes ne'kam b'ris" (that avenges the vengeance of the covenant" (ibid) ...

To avenge each Mitzvah on which sixteen covenants were entered into. And that explains the sixteen times that the word 'cherev' appears in the Parshah of 'Yordei Bor' (Ba'al ha'Turim).

We also spill wine sixteen times on Seder-night - one for each of the ten plagues, another three for 'D'tzach, Adash, be'Achav, and three more for 'Dam, ve'Eish ve'Simros Oshon' - when the Midas ha'Din turned against our enemies.


Interestingly, the Gemara in Sotah (37b), based on Pesukim in Ki Savo, tells us that Hashem made sixteen covenants with Yisrael at Har Sinai, sixteen covenants in Arvos Mo'av and sixteen covenants at Har Gerizim and Har Eival.

Might perhaps the sixteen-bladed sword have anything to do with the triple-sixteen covenants? Perhaps it strikes the enemy when we adhere to the sixteen covenants, and strikes us when we don't?


All the Pesukim in Ha'azinu

There are fifty-two Pesukim in Ha'azinu. And it is because Yisrael transgressed them all, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that there was no human presence in Eretz Yisrael for fifty-two years.


(adapted from the Rambam, Hilchos Avodas Yom ha'Kipurim Perek 1 and 3)

Among the fifteen animal Korbanos that the community brought on Yom Kipur were goats (besides that of the Musaf sin-offering, which was eaten the following night). Of these, one was brought as a Chatas and was burned, the other, was the Sa'ir Ha'mishtalei'ach, which, as its name suggested, was sent out of the camp, before being pushed off the cliff (Chapter 1:1).


(Chapter 3:1-8)

1. The reason that the special goat was burned was because, unlike the goat for the Musaf, whose blood was sprinkled outside the Kodesh (which was therefore eaten by the Kohanim), its blood was sprinkled inside the Kodesh.

2. On one of the two lots was written 'la'Hashem', and on the other, 'la'Azazel'. The lots could have consisted of any material, of wood, of stone or of metal. One was not permitted to be larger than the other, and one could not be made of silver and the other, of gold; they had to be the same. In fact, in the first Beis-Hamikdash they were made of wood, and in the second, of gold. They would place them inside a vessel that was large enough for the Kohen Gadol to place both hands inside simultaneously ... The vessel, which was made of wood and was called a 'Kalpi', was not sanctified.

3. The drawing of the lots took place on the east side of the Azarah, north of the Mizbe'ach. There they would place the Kalpi and the goats, the latter facing the west with their backs towards the east. The Kohen Godol would make his way there (after the two confessions on his bull) accompanied by the S'gan (the Deputy Kohen Gadol) on his right, and the Head of Beis-Din on his left, until the two goats were in front of him, one on his right and the other, on his left.

4. He would then mix the two lots and take them out simultaneously, one in each hand ... and he would open his hands. If the lot for Hashem appeared in his right hand, the S'gan would announce 'My master the Kohen Gadol, raise your right hand!'; whereas if it appeared in his left, the head of Beis-din would announce 'My master the Kohen Gadol, raise your left hand!'

5. He then placed the two lots on the heads of the two goats, the right lot on the head of the goat on the right, and the left lot on the head of goat on the left. If he failed to do so, it did not impede the Avodah, though he would have lost a Mitzvah ... . The lots however, were crucial and did impede the Avodah (even though it was not an Avodah per se). And that is why a Zar (a non-Kohen) was eligible to place the lots on the heads of the goats, but not to draw them from the Kalpi.

6. He would then tie the one length of crimson thread (weighing two selo'im) on to the head of the Sa'ir Ha'Mishtalei'ach, which he placed beside the doorway through which it would later to be sent away. And the other piece of crimson wool, he placed on the neck of the goat for Hashem (Yisrael's Chatas) that was due to be Shechted, before Shechting his Chatas bull and the goat for Hashem.

7. After the dual Shechitah, he brought the blood of both animals into the Heichal (the Kodesh). Altogether, he sprinkled 43 times from the two bloods. He began by sprinkling 8 times from the blood of the bull in the Kodesh Kodshim, between the poles of the Aron, close to the lid ... one above, and seven below (meaning that, starting from the top, each subsequent sprinkling was aimed a little lower than the previous one) ... Then he did the same with the blood of the goat (another 8). After that, he sprinkled 8 times in the Heichal, in similar fashion, towards the Paroches, first with the blood of the bull, then (8 times) with the blood of the goat. Finally, after mixing the two bloods, he sprinkled them 4 times, one on each corner of the Golden Mizbei'ach, and 7 times in the middle of the Mizbei'ach on top.

Each sprinkling required dipping his finger into the bowl of blood. The remainder of the blood had to be poured onto the western Yesod (foundation) of the outer (copper) Mizbei'ach.

After this, he sent the live goat to the desert with a man specially designated for that purpose. Actually, anyone was eligible to perform this task, but the Kohanim made it a fixture, and would not allow Yisre'eilim to take it. They built a series of huts from Yerushalayim to the beginning of the desert, in each of which at least one man was waiting, to accompany the Kohen to the next hut. As he arrived at each Succah, they would announce 'Food and water are available!', so that should he feel too weak to continue, he would be able to eat, though no-one ever needed to.

The men in the last hut stood at the edge of the (Shabbos) border and watched the Sheli'ach from a distance. Arriving at his destination, he divided the piece of red wool that was tied between the goat's horns into two, half of which he tied on the rock, and half of which he retied between the goat's horns. Then he pushed the goat backwards, and it rolled down (the deep slope). Before it even reached halfway, its limbs had been torn apart.

He returned to the last hut, where he waited until nightfall.

Men were placed at intervals from Yerushalayim till the desert with flags, which they would wave as soon as the Sheli'ach arrived in the desert. This served as a signal for the Kohen Gadol, who had meanwhile completed the Avodah of the two bloods, to proceed to the Ezras Nashim to read the Torah.


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