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

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Vol. 12   No. 55

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Liora Livnah bas Ya'akov z.l.
whose Yahrzeit is on 13th Tishri

Parshas Ha'azinu

The Children Will Come Back

"And Hashem saw and was provoked by the anger of His sons and daughter. And He said 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be. For they are a generation of reversals, children who have no faith" (32:19/20).


R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld was once walking along one of the streets of the old city, when suddenly he spotted, walking towards him, Mordechai ben Hillel ha'Kohen, a man who had learned Torah in his youth but who had later gone astray, and who was now one of the leaders of the Zionist camp in Yerushalayim, and head of the international commission. As he entered the four Amos of the Rav, he greeted him, and raising himself to his full height, he turned to him and said provocatively, 'Reb Chayim, you are known to be a wise man and a smart Jew who is blessed with great foresight. Do you not see in your deep wisdom that the future belongs to the new generation, which has turned its back on the past, relinquishing the Torah and traditions of old, whose time has past?

Is it not evident that this is the new order which no power on earth can prevent from taking over? Why, give it another twenty years from now, thirty years at the very most, and the old order will no longer exist. Do you honestly believe then, that it is worth your while waging endless battles, creating strife between brothers, when in twenty years you will have lost the war anyway?'

Having said that, he brazenly added 'And do you really think that your offspring will continue to walk in your ways? Don't you realize that those very offspring will have no choice but to send their children to regular state schools, if they do not want to remain ostracized by the community?'


The Rav, as always, was ready with his reply; 'And do you honestly believe that your offspring will follow in your footsteps? I am absolutely convinced that they will yet land up in Yeshivos, and will totally reject the false philosophies, devoid of content, that their fathers are trying to instill in them. Mark my words, your grandchildren will open their eyes and question the emptiness of the new Toros which you have concocted, and they will announce, loud and clear "Only falsehood our fathers inherited, futility that serves no purpose" (Yirmiyah 16:19).

'What makes you so sure of that?', asked the mechutzaf.

'Because the Torah explicitly says so!' answered R. Yosef Chayim, and after quoting the above Pasuk, he proceeded to explain ...

'Why' he asked, 'does the Torah use the Name 'Hashem' here, which is the Name of G-d denoting mercy, when it is speaking of punishment, in which case 'Elokim' would have been more appropriate?'

'The answer must be', he explained, 'that "and G-d saw ... " is indeed being said by the Midas Rachamim. In fact, it is referring to the pervert Chinuch that the parents will give their children and which evokes G-d's wrath. The Midas Rachamim is pleading with Hashem not to employ the Midas ha'Din. And Hashem responds with a promise "to hide His face from them" (i.e. to turn a blind eye to their evil deeds), "because He sees what will happen in the end" (either as Unklus translates it 'because their end is revealed to Me' or 'He will wait and see what happens in the end') ... "for they are a generation of reversals" - things will change, when their sons do Teshuvah and return to their source. Yes, the children will query their father's teachings, "they will have no more faith (in their fathers)", and they will reject the baseless ideology which they have been fed. They will see all that for what it is - empty and meaningless, and they will adopt instead the eternal ideologies which stem from the Mitzvos of the Torah, which enable a person to cleave to his Creator, and to attain the objectives for which he was born to strive.


The powerful words of the Rav, accompanied with a flaming Emunah and carved out from a pure and aching heart, confused the arrogant Apikores, and he remained silent. He had nothing to say, and quickly slunk off into one of the alleyways.

Reb Yosef Chayim's grandson, who was accompanying him at the time, plucked up courage and asked his grandfather whether, in view of the growing influence day by day, of the secular Zionists that was gaining momentum in leaps and bounds, he really believed that Mordechai ben Hillel ha'Kohen's grandchildren would go to Yeshivah.

His illustrious grandfather looked him in the eye, and announced resolutely 'Und du verst dos noch zocheh zein dos tzu zein (And you will still merit to see it)!'

This was nothing short of a prophecy, for there was no way that anyone could have foreseen the wave of Teshuvah that would sweep the country, beginning less than fifty years after the above incident took place?

But R. Yosef Chayim knew.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

Taking One's Cue

"Pay attention Heavens and I will speak, and the earth will hear the words of My Mouth" (32:1).

The Toras Moshe explains that if "the Heavens" symbolize the leaders and "the earth" the masses, then the Pasuk is commanding the leaders to pay attention to G-d's words, because once they do, the people will automatically follow suite. No doubt he derives this from the grammatical format of the Pasuk, where "Pay attention" ('Ha'azinu') is written in the command form, whereas "will listen" ('ve'sishma') is not.



"My Torah will fall like rain" (32:2).

The word the Torah uses for 'will fall' is "ya'arof", which has two connotations, as the Ba'al ha'Turim explains. It can mean either 'sweet' (see Unklus) or 'break' (like we find by the Eglah Arufah), conforming with the Gemara in Ta'anis (7a) 'If one merits it, then the Torah is a balm of life; if he does not, then it turns into poison.'


Like Rain Indeed!

The Torah works like rain, say the commentaries; no matter how much rain falls, the crops will only grow in a field which was ploughed and in which seeds have been planted. If either of these prerequisites is missing, then not only will nothing grow in the field, but it will become a swamp, making life miserable for the owner. And so it is with Torah. Torah has the power to transform a Rasha into a Tzadik, but only if he first prepares his heart to receive it, with Tefilah and Musar. Otherwise, not only will it not affect him in a positive way, it will develop his evil heart, to turn him into an even bigger Rasha than he was before.


Thank You ...Thank You

"When I call the Name of Hashem, ascribe thanks to our G-d" (32:3).

Chazal learn from here the obligation to recite a B'achah before learning Torah (which, at a deeper level, consists of Names of Hashem).

What we are in fact doing, says the Be'er Mayim Chayim, is praising Hashem for the privilege of praising Him.

It is like thanking Him for the privilege of thanking Him. And indeed, we say every day in Modim de'Rabbanan ' ... because we thank You ...Blessed is the G-d of thanks' (thanking Him for allowing us to thank Him).


Perverse & Crooked
(see also 'Twisted Priorities' later)

"They harmed only themselves ... a peverse and crooked generation" (32:5).

One Friday night, when R. Bunim from P'shischa was in Danzig, he overheard a Jewish innkeeper planning to go down to the seller with his gentile assistant to fetch some wine for the Friday night meal; he would hold the lamp, and his assistant would carry the wine.

That is precisely what the Pasuk in Ha'azinu is referring to, the Tzadik commented, when it speaks about "a perverse and crooked generation". Had the assistant held the lamp and the owner carried the wine, there would have been no problem. But the other way round - that's what you call 'perverse and crooked'!


To See, But Not be Seen

"I will hide My face from them, I will see what will be their end" (32:20).

Even when Hashem hides His Face from us, leaving us at the mercy of our enemies, He still keeps an eye on us, to ensure that they do not destroy us completely, says the Shinover Rav.


Perhaps we can also explain the Pasuk to mean that Hashem may well hide His Face from us, in that we cannot see Him, but this does not mean that He cannot see us. Not at all; He can see us and He does see us. Not for one moment does He leave us out of His sight. It is like we say in Kidush Levanah "He watches over us from the windows, He peeps through the cracks". This refers to two different eras. There are times when G-d's Hashgochoh is open, when He watches us from the windows, when He can see us and we can see Him. And there are times of Hester Panim, when G-d watches over us by peeping through the cracks, even though we cannot see Him.


Twisted Priorities

" ... because they are a generation of reversals" (32:20).

The Pasuk writes in Tehilim "And they were jealous of Moshe in the camp". Yisrael were jealous of Moshe's status in Machaneh Yisrael, where everybody gave him Kavod, explains the Satmer Rebbe; they were not jealous of him when he sat at home studying Torah, even though that is the most important achievement of all.

That is a generation of reversals, where they have twisted priorities.


Chazal, commenting on the Pasuk at the end of Megilas Esther (in connection with Mordechai) " ... and accepted by the majority of his brethren", explain that most of the Sanhedrin accepted him for his tremendous achievements, but some did not, because he left the Beis-Hamedrash and became involved in communal affairs.


Din ve'Cheshbon

"And die on the mountain ... because you sinned against Me ... because you did not sanctify Me" (32:51).

The G'ro explains the concept of 'Din ve'Cheshbon' the 'judgement and reckoning' that every person will have to give before G-d when the time arrives, for every sin that he committed, as 'Din' for the sin itself, and 'Cheshbon' for what he could have achieved during the time that he was sinning.

And that, explains the Meshech Chochmah, is what the Pasuk means here. G-d was taking Moshe to task a. for having sinned, and b. for not having performed Mitzvos during that time.

Perhaps this idea is also included in the Pasuk in Tehilim (34:15) "Depart from sin and do good (instead)".

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 324:
To Take the Lulav on the First Day of Sukos

It is a Mitzvah to take a Lulav in one's hand on the first day of Sukos, as the Torah writes in Emor (23:40) "And you shall take ... on the first day, the fruit of a Hadar-tree, branches of date-palms, twigs of a plaited-tree and twigs from willows of a brook". By tradition, the Gemara in Sukah (35a) explains, the "fruit of a Hadar-tree" refers to an Esrog, "branches of date-palms" (spelt without a 'Vav', to denote singular) to a Lulav (one and not two or three, or even more), "twigs of a plaited-tree", refers to twigs of a myrtle-tree and "twigs from willows of a brook", to twigs from a willow-tree.

A reason for the Mitzvah is ... as we have written often, because a person is influenced by the actions that he performs constantly. In fact, all his thoughts and all his plans follow his actions, whether those actions are good or bad. And it is because G-d wants to merit His chosen people Yisrael that He gave them many Mitzvos, continually the whole day long, so that their Souls should be influenced by them for the better.

One of the Mitzvos that He gave us is the Mitzvah of Tefilin, which are placed close to those limbs of man that house his Seichel (common sense) - the heart and the brain - to induce him to direct all his thoughts towards doing good, to remind him constantly to channel his deeds throughout the day in an honest and righteous manner. And the Mitzvah of Lulav, together with the three species that accompany it, serve the same purpose. This is because, due to the fact that this is the time of year when one gathers one's produce of the field and the fruit of the tree into one's house (which is why the Torah calls the Yom-Tov 'Chag ha'Asif'), Sukos is a time of great rejoicing. So G-d issued His people a Chag during this period, to allow them to give vent to their Simchah in His Name. Because Simchah has a tendency to hypnotize physical man and to turn his mind away from the fear of G-d, G-d commanded us to take in our hand things that remind us of the Simchah that we are currently experiencing, to prompt us to enjoy it solely in His Name and in His honour. And He chose to do this using a species which is itself, a source of Simchah; for as is well known, it is inherent in the nature of these four species to bring joy to those who behold them ... And what's more, the Arba'ah Miynim have another hidden quality, in that they resemble the four major limbs of a person's body - The Esrog resembles the heart (which houses the Seichel), a hint that he should serve G-d with his Seichel; The Lulav resembles his spinal cord, the mainstay of his body, to remind him to straighten his entire body (i.e. to behave righteously) in G-d's service; The Hadas resembles his eyes, a hint that he should not stray after his eyes, on the day that his heart rejoices. And finally, the Aravah resembles man's (closed) lips, which he uses to express his thoughts, to remind him to seal them shut, to control what he says and to fear G-d even during his time of rejoicing. And the reason that outside the Beis-Hamikdash, the Mitzvah is restricted to the first day, is because as is well-known, the real Simchah only lasts one day. Why, you may ask, is the Lulav not taken on Shemini Atzeres, which is a day of great rejoicing for Yisrael? The answer is that Shemini Atzeres is dedicated entirely to G-d, like Chazal's famous parable to a king who made a party ... as cited by the Medrash, which concludes with the king saying to his son 'Remain with me one more day, because it is hard for me to part from you'. And this is why the Yom-Tov is called 'Atzeres' (which means 'staying back'). Consequently, it does not require any other remembrance. Neither do Pesach and Shavu'os require a Lulav, for Pesach has Matzah, Maror and the Korban Pesach to back it up; and besides, it is not a time of Simchah like Sukos is; whereas Shavu'os has no need for another reminder, since it is the day on which the Torah was given, which is in itself, the great reminder to straighten our ways.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara in Menachos (Perek 3, Mishnah 6 and 27a) teaches that the four species are one Mitzvah, so that each of them is crucial to the Mitzvah. However, someone who has all four species is Yotzei even if he takes them one by one, seeing as the Lulav does not have to be tied (even though it is a Hidur Mitzvah to do so) ... One takes one Lulav, one Esrog, two willow twigs and three Kasher myrtle twigs (whose leaves grow in threes - all three from the same point on the stem), as the Gemara explains in Sukah (32b). Indeed, the Torah actually hints this in the word "Ovos" (Plaited) ... The Lulav must be at least four Tefachim long, the Hadas and Aravah, three (which are equivalent to ten finger-breadths); whereas the Esrog must be at least the size of a k'Beitzah ... What exactly renders the four species Pasul ... If partners acquire the four species jointly, or brothers who acquired them with money that they inherited from their deceased father, then each one will indeed be Yotzei when he takes it on Yom-Tov, provided they acquired them with the express intention of fulfilling the Mitzvah. And it will not be necessary to acquire the portions of his partners in order to be Yotzei ... The Mitzvah of 'Ni'nu'im' (shaking the Lulav) is to shake it in all four directions, up and down, first away from the body and then back. This is to remind us at our time of rejoicing that everything belongs to G-d, from the Heaven to the earth and in all four directions ... and all the other details are explained in Maseches Sukah.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times to men but not to women. Someone who contravened this Mitzvah, who fails to take the four species in his hand on the first day of Sukos that does not fall on Shabbos, anywhere in the world, has negated it, and the same applies all seven days in the Beis Hamikdash, where the Lulav is taken even on Shabbos.

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