Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg
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(The Rosh's interpretation of the four opening Pesukim of Ha'azinu)
"Ya'arof ka'motor likchi, tizal, ka'tal imrosi, ki'se'irim alei deshe, ve'chi'revivim alei eisev" ('My teaching will drop like rain, My words will flow like dew, like storm-winds on vegetation and like raindrops on blades of grass') (32:2).
All four winds are mentioned in this Pasuk, explains the Rosh - "Ya'arof ... " refers to the west-wind, which comes from the back ('Oref' = the back of the neck) of the world (seeing as the sun rises in the east), and which tends to bring rain in its wake; "Tizal ka'tal ..." (it will flow like dew), to the north-wind, which is pleasant like dew (as Chazal have said 'Torah-study requires a clear mind, like a day on which the north-wind blows); "ki'Se'irim ... " (like storm-winds) refers to the south-wind, which breaks the barley ('se'orim'); and "ki'revivim ... ", to the east-wind, which causes the seeds to grow in abundance (from the word 'Marbeh' - to increase).
"When I call the name of Hashem, ascribe greatness to our G-d" (Pasuk 3).
With those four winds I will tell His praise, and they together with the Heaven and earth, shall ascribe greatness to our G-d.
And so should you (K'lal Yisrael) give praise and thanks to Hashem for the words of the Torah (which is "His teaching"), to which you owe your existence. As the Navi Yirmiyah wrote (33:25) "Were it not for My covenant, I would not have put the laws (of nature) of Heaven and Earth in place. And just as they (the winds) are effective, so too, do My teachings and My words give healing and life to the world.
From "Ha'azinu" up to "Ki Shem Hashem ekra" (incorporating the first two Pesukim) there are twenty-one words (the numerical value of the Name of G-d "Eh'keh"). Consequently, says the Rosh, in Kedushah, one should omit the word 'es' in 'Nekadesh es Shimcha ... ' (the opening words of the daily Kedushah - Nusach Ashkenaz) and various other words that will add up to more than twenty-one words before reciting "Hashem".
In fact, he concludes, the correct version is 'Nakdishach ve'na'aritzach be'sod seichel Sarfei Kodesh, ha'makdishin Shimcha ba'kodesh, ka'kosuv al yad Nevi'echo, ve'koro zeh el zeh ve'omar "Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh" ', a total of exactly twenty-one words before reciting "Hashem". (Note how the Rosh gives precedence to Nusach S'fard over Nusach Ashkenaz, on the basis of the significance of the twenty-one words!)
Perhaps one will query this from 'Keser yitnu Lecho ... ' (in Musaf), where we recite the Name of Hashem after only three words, comments the Rosh? No problem, he replies, because once we have been permitted to mention Hashem's Holy Name, the permission remains intact, and it is unnecessary to make a second request that day (by waiting another twenty-one words). As a matter of fact, the Gemara itself (in its second answer) gives exactly the same reply, to explain why we recite Hashem's Holy name after only two words, when we say 'Baruch K'vod Hashem mi'Mekomo'.
In its first answer, the Gemara explains that whereas 'Kadosh ... ' is recited by the Chayos ha'Kodesh, 'Baruch ... ' is said by the Ofanim (who are not on the same level as the Chayos, and who merely take their cue from them).
"The Rock, whose work is perfect ..." (Pasuk 4).
And it is correct for you to ascribe greatness to our G-d, who, on the one hand, is firm as a rock and powerful, yet on the other, He performs His work in an uncomplicated way, without displaying anger against those who antagonize Him.
"He is Righteous, and He displays integrity" (ibid.) towards those who do His will, in that He does not deprive them of (even one iota) of their due reward.
And because it was Moshe's intention to relate how G-d avenged the evil deeds of Yisrael when they angered Him, and how He would eventually take revenge against those who took it upon themselves to enslave them in the course of history, he first justified G-d's Midas ha'Din ('Tziduk ha'Din', which this Pasuk comprises).
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)
Signing One's Name
"Ha'azinu ha'Shamayim ..." (32:1).
Why, asks the Rosh, is this Shirah different from all other Shiros? By all other Shiros, the name of the author is mentioned at the beginning of the song ("Then Moshe sang" - Sh'mos 16:1, "Then Yisrael sang" - Bamidbar 21:17, "And Devorah sang" - Shoftim 5:1.) So why is Moshe's name not mentioned at the beginning of Ha'azinu?
And he answers that even if it is not mentioned explicitly, it is hinted in the opening words of the first six Pesukim. Take the first letters of the first four Pesukim - the 'Hey' of "Ha'azinu", the 'Yud' of "Ya'arof", the 'Kaf' of "Ki" and the 'Hey' of "ha'Tzur", which together add up to forty 'Mem', and you have the first letter of Moshe's name. Take the first letter of both of the next two Pesukim, the 'Shin' of "Shiches" and the 'Hey' of "Ha (la'Hashem)", and together they spell 'Moshe'. In fact, the Rosh adds, the big 'Hey' in "Ha la'Hashem" signifies that that is where the author's name ends. The question remains however, why by all the other Shiros, the author's name is clearly spelt out, whilst here it is only hinted.
It seems to me that this is another manifestation of Moshe's incredible humility. Each of the other places that we quoted were words of prophecy that were dictated to the Navi by G-d (including "Oz yoshir Moshe" in Sh'mos). The sole exception is here, as Seifer Devarim comprises Moshe's own words (as implied by the very Rosh currently under discussion). On the one hand, Moshe did not want to take credit for his work, whereas on the other, he did want to break with accepted etiquette and not sign his name, so he made a compromise (not unlike the little 'Alef' in Vayikra) and signed his name by way of hint.
"Shiches lo lo bonov mumom" (32:5).
Simply translated, this appears to mean "Their corruption is not theirs but their children's (with the comma after the second "lo"). And that is indeed how Unklus translates it, with Rashi following in his wake.
But Rebbi Moshe from Puntaiza queries this interpretation. If that was so, then the Torah ought to have inverted the two "lo's". It should have spelt the first one with an 'Alef' and the second one with a 'Vav', and not the other way round. Consequently, he translates it as "When they are corrupt, the blemish is their own, G-d's non-sons" ("lo bonov" [which is how He describes Yisrael when they sin]). According to this interpretation, the comma, if at all, is placed between the two "lo's".
"He placed the borders of the nations like the number of B'nei Yisrael" (32:8).
According to Rashi, this refers to the seventy nations, which is equivalent to the seventy family members of Yisrael who went down to Egypt.
The Rosh however, equates the "borders of the nations" with the twelve sons of Cana'an, eleven that are listed in Parshas No'ach (see 10:15), plus the P'rizi that was later split into two, and the "number of B'nei Yisrael", with reference to the twelve tribes.
"He guards them like the pupil of His eye" (32:10).
This is how Rashi translates it, with reference to the black of the eye, which is the source of vision. The Sifsei Chachamim, citing Rabeinu Bachye, adds that it is called 'Ishon' because a microscopic image of a man can be seen in it. In fact, the word also means 'a liliputian'.
The Rosh however, translates "Ishon" as eye-lid (the skin that protects the eye from the entry of foreign elements, and that keeps out the light whilst one sleeps, for "Ishon" means 'pitch black', too).
"They will sacrifice to demons who are non-gods" (32:17) ...
... which the Rosh translates as 'they have no power and no strength'. But Unklus he says, translates "lo elo'ah" as 'useless'. If they served some purpose, he explains, Hashem's 'kin'ah' would not burn in the way it will now.
And he cites the Medrash which in turn cites the heretic who asked Rebbi Shimon to explain to him the Pasuk in Yisro (20:5) describing G-d as "Keil Kana". One understands, he said, when a mighty warrior is jealous of a mighty warrior like himself, but since when is a mighty warrior jealous of a weakling - and the Torah writes here (Pasuk 21) "They made Me jealous with non-gods ... "? If they are non-gods, they why is G-d jealous of them?
Rebbi Shimon replied with the parable of a king who was married to a beautiful woman. When he took himself another wife who was particularly ugly, his first wife became angry. 'Had you married a woman more beautiful than myself, I would have understood why. But now that you married a woman whose beauty does not even begin to match my own, I am furious!'
'Keil Kana' does not mean a jealous G-d, Rebbi Shimon corrected the heretic, but a zealous one. And the two are markedly different.
Jealousy describes the feelings of one person towards someone who possesses something that he does not. It is not a direct result of something the second person did or did not do, so it is not rooted in anger on the part of the first person. Moreover, somebody who has everything cannot become jealous.
Jealousy on the other hand, has nothing to do with what the other person does or does not have. It is a feeling of anger that someone who cannot tolerate evil displays towards a person who has perpetrated an act that is blatantly evil, in particular one which denigrates the honour and dignity of G-d.
Consequently, Hashem can be described as a zealous G-d, but not as a jealous one.
(translated from the P'ninei Torah)
" ... because they are a 'pervert' generation" (32:20).
The Pasuk writes in Mishlei (22:5) "Cold and heat in the path of the perverse, someone who guards his Soul will distance himself from them".
A person contains within him the ability to turn (mentally) cold or hot, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes a person becomes excited when performing an act, and sometimes he performs it with indifference, and it is important to know which Midah to use when performing different acts. When one is confronted with a Miztvah, the Midah to apply is that of warmth and enthusiasm, whereas for an Aveirah, a cold indifference is the order of the day. In any event, the choice lies with us, and we must develop the ability to use the right Midah at the right time. Hence the Pasuk says "Cold and heat in the path of the perverse" - if one uses these two Midos in a pervert way, indifferent to Mitzvos, and enthusiastic about Aveiros, the Pasuk advises us "someone who guards his Soul will distance himself from them" - he is on the wrong track and had best change his tactics.
In this way, says the Binah la'Itim, one can answer a Kashya posed by Tosfos, who point out a discrepancy between two Chazal. In one place they describe the only exception to the rule 'everything is in the hands of G-d' as being cold and heat, and in another, they describe it as the fear of G-d.
But according to the above explanation, this is not a discrepancy, since whether a person becomes excited over performing Mitzvos and indifferent toward Aveiros or vice-versa, is indeed synonymous with the fear of G-d or the absence of it.
The Yismach Moshe explains our Pasuk in the same way - " ... because they are a 'pervert' generation". They do things the wrong way round; they get excited about sinning, but remain indifferent when performing Mitzvos.
" ... he and Hoshe'a bin Nun" (32:44).
The Torah calls him Yehoshua, the Rosh explains, because as long as he was Moshe's servant it was correct to call him by the name that Moshe had given him, and what's more, the Torah calls him by the name that he had become used to. But now that he was about to take over the reigns of leadership from Moshe, the Torah calls him Hoshe'a because that was his real name.
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
It is a Mitzvah for every man in Yisrael to write his own Seifer-Torah. If he actually does so in his own hand-writing, this is all the more praiseworthy, for so Chazal have said in Menachos (30a) 'If he writes it, the Torah considers him as having received it from Har Sinai'. Someone however, who is unable to write it himself, may hire a Sofer to write it on his behalf. As the Torah writes in Vayeilech (31:19) "And now write for yourselves this 'Song' and teach it to the B'nei Yisrael" (meaning write ... the Torah, which contains the Song of Ha'azinu).
A reason for this Mitzvah - It is well-known that people generally act in accordance with the preparations that they have made. Therefore the Torah commanded every Jew to possess a Seifer-Torah ready to read at all times, without needing to borrow one from his neighbour, in order to learn to fear G-d and to know and become conversant with His precious Mitzvos, Mitzvos that are more desirable than the best quality treasure-trove of gold. And we have been commanded to work on it ourselves, even if we already own a Seifer-Torah that we inherited from our fathers, in order to increase the number of Seforim, so as to be able to lend those who cannot afford to purchase their own, and to learn in a new Seifer, as it is depressing and off-putting to learn from an old, worn Seifer that has been handed down from one's ancestors. It is also important to know that although the main obligation is to write a Seifer-Torah, it extends to other Torah works, too, and one should make the utmost effort to copy as many Sefarim as one can, due to the reasons that we gave, even assuming that one's father bequeathed him many such Sefarim. For it was always the way of men of high standing who lived in previous generations to engage Sofrim (scribes) to work in their homes to publish as many Sefarim as they could depending on their means.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Chazal explain that when writing a Seifer-Torah, the script should be accurate, good and beautiful, with a space to write a small letter between each word, and space to write a line-full of writing between each line. Each line should be long enough to contain thirty letters (three times the word "le'mishpechoseihem"). And this should constitute the width of each and every column. No line should be shorter than this, to avoid the column resembling a letter; neither should it be longer, so that one's eyes should not skip the lines ... If one needs to write a word comprising five letters, one should not write two letters inside the column and three outside it, but the reverse, three inside the column, and two outside it. If it is not possible to fit three letters inside the column, then one should leave the end of that line blank and write the word at the beginning of the next one . . . Whereas if one needs to write a two-letter word, one should not write it between the columns, but at the beginning of the next line. And if one needs to write a word of ten letters or so, and it is not possible to fit the entire word inside the column, it is permitted to squeeze it on to the line provided one can fit at least half the letters inside the column. Otherwise, one must leave a gap in the line and begin the word on the next one ... Between one Chumash and the next (e.g. between Bereishis and Sh'mos) one leaves four blank lines, no more, no less, beginning the new Chumash on the fifth line. And one concludes the Torah at the end of the column in the middle of the line. If one sees that one is nearing the end of the Torah, and there are still many lines to complete, then one begins to write shorter lines, starting at the beginning of the line and ending in the middle, until one reaches the last line in the column, making a point of concluding "le'einei kol Yisrael" in the middle of the line at the foot of the page ... One must take great care with regard to the large and small letters, to the letters with dots and those with diverse shapes, such as 'Peys' which are bent, or other bent letters, as the Sofrim have handed down traditionally ... One should also watch the 'Tagin' (the crowns on some of the letters) and their numbers, because some letters require one Tag (and some three), and there are others that require seven. They must be shaped like a 'Zayin' and written as fine as a hair-breadth. All these things however, constitute the ideal situation. In the event that one erred in this arrangement, if one was not particular about the Tagin, wrote the lines too close together or too far apart, wrote the lines too long or too short, as long as two letters are not touching, one did not omit or add any letters, all the letters are correctly formed, and as long as one did not err in P'suchos (open paragraphs) and S'tumos (closed ones), the Seifer Torah is Kasher ... The remaining details of the Mitzvah are to be found in the third Perek of Menachos, the first Perek of Bava Basra and in Maseches Shabbos.
This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men, who, since they are obliged to study Torah, are also obligated to transcribe it, but not to women. Someone who contravenes it, and fails to write a Seifer-Torah when he is able to do so, has negated a Mitzvas Asei, and his punishment will be severe, because writing a Seifer-Torah is conducive to learning its Mitzvos, as we explained. On the other hand, someone who fulfills it, will be blessed, and is assured of wisdom, he together with his children, as the Torah writes "And now, write for yourselves this Torah, and teach it to the B'nei Yisrael".
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