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

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Vol. 15   No. 54

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Parshas Ha'azinu

Defining Teshuvah

In Parshas Vayeilech, the Torah relates how, after Yisrael will attribute their suffering in Galus (an expression of Teshuvah) to the fact that G-d is not in their midst, He will respond by removing His Shechinah and letting them suffer more. Why, the commentaries ask, will their Teshuvah not bear fruits? Surely, G-d ought to have responded by easing their suffering, not by increasing it?

See last week's Parshah Pearls 'G-d Cannot Bear to Watch'.


Before setting out to answer the question, the Meshech Chochmah first makes a point of defining what Teshuvah is. In fact, he queries the entire concept of Teshuvah. Surely, he asks, a person who has sinned is obligated to stop sinning forthwith, by virtue of the fact that the Mitzvah (Asei or Lo Sa'aseh) still applies in full force, and the fact that he sinned once does surely not permit him to sin again? So what purpose does the Mitzvah of Teshuvah serve?


Indeed, he replies, Teshuvah per se is not a Mitzvah. But Viduy, acknowledging one's sins and confessing having committed them, is. And that is precisely what the Rambam means when he opens Hilchos Teshuvah with the words 'When a person does Teshuvah and repents from his sins, he is obligated to confess before Hashem Yisbarach . Yes, he must go back on his ways, and whatever he does to achieve that is part of his obligation. But in doing so he is fulfilling (not the Mitzvah of Teshuvah, but) whatever Mitzvah he is coming to rectify. The Mitzvah of Teshuvah consists of confessing his sins (which incorporates the decision not to return to his previous sin and the other thoughts that must accompany it). Note that the Seifer ha'Chinuch echoes the Rambam in this regard.


It seems to me that the above explanation makes it easier to understand Rebbi, who holds in the Mishnah in Yuma, that Yom Kipur atones even without Teshuvah. If 'without Teshuvah' were to mean that one continues sinning, then his words would defy logic. How can a person attain pardon for his sins whilst still continuing to sin. Whereas according to Meshech Chochmah's explanation, what Rebbi means is that Yom Kipur will atone for the sins of a sinner who has ceased to sin, even though he has not fulfilled the Mitzvah of Viduy.


There is however, one area of Teshuvah that is an independent Mitzvah - based on the Rambam in Shemonah Perakim, who gives a Mashal of a doctor who will prescribe for a patient a bitter medicine, even though this goes contrary to his metabolism, in order to counter the bad effects of whatever it is that has affected him adversely, and to create the correct balance. In the same way, he explains, it is necessary for a sinner, who has gone to one extreme, to go to the other extreme in order to bring him to what he calls the 'golden (middle) path'. For example, he says, a person who sins by giving vent to his desires, must rectify this by abstaining even from things that the Torah permits, until he learns to exercise control over the Midah of lust, at which point he may return to the middle path. That too, is an intrinsic part of Teshuvah. Now Teshuvah, says the author quoting the Rambam, enables a person, whose sins hitherto distanced him from G-d, to now cleave to Him (D'veikus), as the Pasuk writes in Hoshei'a "Return Yisrael, right to Hashem your G-d".

And one achieves this through both of the above accessories of Teshuvah, going to the opposite extreme and confessing one's sin before G-d. In fact, he maintains, either of the two will achieve this goal, at least, to a certain extent.


However, he stresses, there are some sins to which the second form of Teshuvah is simply not applicable. Take for example, Avodah-Zarah and pride, both of which are forbidden even in the smallest measure, and which are therefore not subject to 'going to the other extreme in order to gain the middle path' (seeing as there is no middle path).

It therefore goes without saying that someone who has strayed in these areas will not achieve anything by simply distancing himself from his sins. For him, the only recourse to achieve D'veikus is through Viduy.


Going back to our opening question, the Pasuk has clearly mentioned the sin of Avodah-Zarah among the sins of Yisrael. Consequently, even though Yisrael will acknowledge that their troubles are due to the fact that G-d is not in their midst, implying that they would work towards remedying their faults and doing Teshuvah. Anything short of an authentic will simply not suffice, and that is why G-d's responds in a negative way.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Specifically Ya'akov

"For Hashem's portion is His people; Ya'akov is the lot of His inheritance" (32:9).

Why specifically Ya'akov, the commentaries ask? Why not Avraham and Yitzchak?

See Rashi.


Another popular explanation is based on the fact that Ya'akov is known as the 'the Choice of the Avos'; that in turn, on account of his Midah (Emes), which is a blend of that of Avraham (Chesed), and that of Yitzchak (Gevurah). And it is because Avraham's Chesed was not sufficiently tempered by Gevurah and Yitzchak's Gevurah, with Chesed, that they fathered Yishmael and Eisav respectively. And it is because Ya'akov (by virtue of his having inherited the Midos of his righteous fathers), embodied the perfect blend of both Midos (which is synonymous with Emes), that all of his children were righteous. Hence it is Ya'akov who is the lot of Hashem's inheritance, and not Avraham or Yitzchak.


The Firm Rope

"Ya'akov is the lot of His inheritance (chevel nachaloso)" Ibid.

The Torah's use of the word "chevel" here is particularly fascinating. For 'chevel' can also mean a rope, in which case the Pasuk in Koheles (4:12) "And the third strand will not snap easily", will apply to Ya'akov Avinu, the third strand in the rope, that renders it unsnapable. For a rope of two strands snaps easily, and untwines effortlessly. It is when the third strand is added that it becomes firm. Thus, Yisrael are called after Ya'akov by virtue of the fact that he was the third of the Avos, completing the trio on whose merits K'lal Yisrael are built.

I once read that bridges are generally built in blocks of triangles, which, as opposed to four-sided sections, do not bend or warp easily.

It is also interesting that the Torah refers to mighty warriors as 'sholishim' (see Beshalach 15:4 & Targum Unklus).



"And they ate the produce of the fields " (32:13).

When they arrived in Eretz Yisrael, the Rosh explains, the Manna ceased, as the Pasuk in Yehoshua writes " the Manna ceased on the following day and they ate the produce of the land" (as the Gemara in Kidushin explains, they crossed the Jordan River on the tenth of Nisan, they brought the Omer on the sixteenth, and on the very next day their stock of Manna ran out and they ate from the local produce). This was Hashem's strategy, says the Rosh, to encourage them to conquer the land.


Why, asks the Rosh, did they need to wait until the sixteenth? Based on the principle that an Asei overrides a Lo Sa'aseh, why could they not eat Matzah from the local produce, in the same way as the Asei of Milah overrides the Lo Sa'aseh of Tzara'as?

And he answers that min ha'Torah, they would indeed have been able to eat a k'Zayis of Matzah from the new crops. However, the Rabbanan decreed the first k'zayis (which is obligatory) on account of the second one (which is not). And he cites a precedence for this from the Gemara in Yevamos, which ascribes the fact that a Kohen Gadol cannot perform Yibum with a widow (due to the above principle) because Chazal decree the first Bi'ah (the first act of intimacy, which constitutes the Mitzvah of Yibum) on account of the second (which does not, and which therefore remains forbidden in any case).


The Rosh's question is difficult to understand however, in light of the fact that they still had Manna (which is what they in fact, used for the k'Zayis of Matzah). And we have a rule that an Asei only overrides a Lo Sa'aseh there where it is impossible to fulfill both (see the first Maharsha in Kidushin, Daf 38a. [See also Tosfos there]).


Bees, Dates & Honey

"And he suckled them honey from a rock" (Ibid.)

There would be bees producing honey in the clefts of rocks and palm-trees growing on rocks, from which emerged date-honey, says the Rosh.


Olives on the Rocks

" and olives from the flint-rocks" (Ibid.)

Because the olive-trees that would grow in rocky country produced better oil than those that grew in the valley, the Rosh explains. This is because, due to the high ground, the sun would shine on them constantly, as the Pasuk in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah testifies "with the bounty of the sun's crops".


Wheat Kernels like Kidneys
Kidneys like Wheat Kernels?

" and rams of Bashan and he-goats, with wheat as fat as kidneys (im cheilev kilyos chitah) " (32:14).

This is how Rashi translates it.

The Rosh translates the final words as 'with the fat of kidneys like wheat'. And he explains that the Torah inserts the word 'wheat' here because a kidney contains a groove, just like a wheat-kernel does.


On the one hand, the juxtaposition of the words in question next to "rams of Bashan and he-goats" lends credence to the Rosh's explanation. On the other, the Gemara in Ta'anis (23a) bears out the explanation of Rashi. The Gemara there relates how in the days of Shimon ben Shetach the rain would fall on Tuesday night and Friday night, as a result of which the wheat grew to the size of kidneys, barley like olive-stones and lentils like golden Dinrim.

* * *


'When the One on High divided the world among the nations that came out from the sons of No'ach, when he disseminated the scripts and languages to the sons of man - in the 'Generation of the Division' (i.e. Tower of Bavel), at that time He cast lots together with the seventy angels, the spiritual rulers of the nations, with whim He appeared to view the city (that they were building); it was then that He established the borders of the nations, corresponding to the seventy souls of Yisrael who subsequently went down to Egypt' (32:8).


'There will be given to them butter from fat oxen from the spoil of the kings and milk from the choice of the sheep, from the rulers with the best of the fattened calves and fat rams from the Bashan and kid-goats. Moshe the Navi said "If the people of Beis Yisrael adhere to the Mitzvos of the Torah, I have been told by prophecy that the kernels of wheat will grow to the size of the kidney of a bull" ' (32:14).


'And when they are sent to Bavel, they worship their gods ' (32:23).

'I will exile them from the captivity of Bavel to Madai and Eilam; I will make them suffer at the hand of the descendants of Agag, who are compared to demons bloated from hunger, to mazikin who eat birds, to B'nei Tahariri, evil spirits and Lilin (female Sheidim) and sheep which bite with their teeth like wild beasts, and I will hand them over to the Romans who are filled with venom like snakes that crawl in the dust' (32:24).


'The people who were exiled from their land will be destroyed by the stroke of the sword, whilst those that remained in the Land of Yisrael even in their bedrooms I will incite the fear of death ' (32:25).

* * *

(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

Hashem Hu ha'Elokim

The reason that we announce 'Hashem Hu ho'Elokim' in a loud voice, says the Mateh Moshe, is because we need to Daven that both Hashem and His Throne, which are both lacking in this world (as we will now explain), should become complete (with the coming of Mashi'ach).

In this world, Hashem's Name is missing the 'Hey' and the 'Vav', and his Throne, the 'Alef', as is hinted in the Pasuk in Beshalach "Ki yad al Keis Kah ", when really it ought to have written "Kisei Hashem". So we express our hope that the above three letters will be supplemented by announcing Hashem Hu ('Hey', 'Vav' 'Alef) ha'Elokim".

The Seifer Oneg Chayim quoting the Sadagurer Rebbe, points out that this is also hinted in the words in Birchas K'ri'as Sh'ma 'Hu Kayam, u'Shemo Kayam, ve'Chis'o Nochon ' - If the word 'Hu' ('Hey', 'Vav' 'Alef') is established, then Hashem's Name and His Throne are established too, and once that happens 'His Kingdom and His faithfulness will be established forever'.

And the reason that we announce it seven times is in order to accompany the Shechinah as it returns to its abode above the Seven Heavens, says the Ba'er Heitev; whereas others explain that it is to dispel the nine hundred and fifty illnesses that exist (equivalent to the Gematriyah of seven x 'Hashem Hu ha'Elokim').


Three Times 'Baruch Shem '

And we recite the Pasuk "Baruch Shem " three times, corresponding to :Hashem Melech, Hashem Malach, Hashem Yimloch le'Olom Va'ed" (which we recite independently immediately afterwards), which in turn, corresponds to past, present and future.


Teki'as Shofar

Here are five good reasons as to why we blow the Shofar on Motza'ei Yom Kipur:

1. It is a sign that the Shechinah is departing, as the Pasuk in Tehilim writes "Oloh Elokim bi'Seru'ah" (G-d ascends with the blowing of the Shofar) Taz.

2. To publicize the fact that it is night, so that they should immediately proceed to feed the children who have been fasting, and to prepare a Se'udas Yom-Tov (in keeping with the status of Motza'ei Yom Kipur).

3. To remind us of the Teki'ah which they blew on Yom Kipur of Yovel (which signified the release of all servants from their period of service, and the return of all purchased fields to their original owners [Kol Bo]).

4. To confuse the Satan, who, following a day on which (by virtue of the fact that Yisrael all resembled angels) his mandate to accuse Yisrael was withdrawn, has now reverted to his former role. So we begin by confusing him (presumably by leading him to believe that Mashi'ach has arrived, as we explained on Rosh Hashanah [Ibid].)

5. As we all know, our great advocate is the Shofar. For, as David Hamelech taught us in Tehilim, when we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem moves from the Throne of Din to the Throne of Mercy, and inscribes us in the Book of Life. And so, says the Ba'al ha'Tanya, on Motza'ei Yom Kipur, when we emerge from the Heavenly Court innocent, with the final decree sealed in our favour, our defense counsel comes out with us and lets his voice be heard in an expression of Simchah. This is in keeping with the custom for the litigant who wins his case, to praise his defense counsel and to rejoice together with him.


Blowing Early

The Rokei'ach explains the reason that we blow the Shofar before 'Borchu' and before Havdalah is due to the fact that blowing a Shofar is 'not considered a Melachah (indeed, min ha'Torah, there is no prohibition against playing any instrument), but a Chochmah'. Indeed, the Chachamim only forbade it out of concern that one may carry the Shofar through the streets to ask a Chacham how to blow, a concern that is hardly applicable on Motza'ei Yom Kipur, when one only blows the one note (or as is customary in Eretz Yisrael, one set of notes).

Perhaps one might add that it is also not applicable on Motza'ei Yom Kipur, since whoever blows, will be well conversant with how to blow after blowing a hundred notes on the two days of Rosh Hashanah.


A Yom-Tov

Indeed, it is customary to wish everybody 'Good Yom-Tov' on this auspicious evening. And the source for this, says the Yosef Ometz, is the Se'udas Yom-Tov that the Kohen Gadol arranged on Motza'ei Yom Kipur, after having successfully completed the Avodah on Yom Kipur.

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