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

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Vol. 20   No. 50

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmos
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Parshas Ha'azinu (Shuvah)

Chilul Hashem
(Adapted from the Meshech Chochmah)

"Repent O Yisrael, unto Hashem your G-d, for you have stumbled in your sin" (Hoshe'a 14:2).

The Chilul Hashem that ensues from a sin that is performed in public (i.e. ten people), is infinitely worse than the sin itself. As proof, the Meshech Chochmah cites a Gemara in Chagigah (16a), which instructs someone who cannot control his urge to sin, to go to a location where he is unknown and sin there (though this is not to be taken as a mandate to sin in private - see Tosfos there).

Bearing in mind the Gemara in Bava Kama, which considers a Ganav, who steals on the quiet, worse than a Gazlan who steals openly, inasmuch as, unlike the latter, he shames G-d by displaying more fear of people than of Him - one would think that it would be preferable for him to sin in his home town where he is known (better to be a Gazlan than to be a Ganav). Yet the Gemara prefers the option of sinning where he is not known, to eliminate the Chilul Hashem. Generally, a sin is judged in accordance with the effort that the perpetrator puts into it and to the extent of the benefits that he gains from it. Not so Chilul Hashem, which has no atonement apart from death, irrespective of whether he sinned on purpose or inadvertently (Kidushin 60a). This is because unlike other sins, the sin is not the result of what it does to the sinner, but rather the harm that it causes to G-d's honour, which is magnified manifold when it is perpetrated in front of others.

This can be compared to someone who murders be'shogeg. In spite of the fact that he meant no harm, the Torah obligates him to flee to a city of refuge, to escape the vengeance of the next of kin, who is duty-bound to avenge his murdered relative. Because, the author explains, when all's said and done, the victim is dead. The circumstances are therefore of no consequence. Likewise, he says, Chilul Hashem can have no atonement other than death - because G-d's Holy Name has been denigrated in the eyes of those who witness it, irrespective of the severity of the sin, and notwithstanding the fact that the perpetrator sinned unintentionally.


And he explains the Gemara in Yuma (22b) in the same manner. The Gemara there comments how King Shaul lost the throne after committing only one sin (keeping Agag alive), whilst King David retained his, in spite of having committed two (organizing the death of Uriyah ha'Chiti and arranging the census of Yisrael). There too, he attributes the distinction there to the fact that whereas David's two sins were performed away from the public eye, that of Shaul was done publicly. And where there is Chilul Hashem, there can be no reprieve, and the punishment follows swiftly.


Finally, when a person has sinned, the case involves prosecutors and a defence counsel, who fight out the issues, and the defendant's innocence or guilt depends on the outcome of their battle. Not so when the honour of the king is at stake. There the matter is placed before the king and he alone decides whether or not to pardon the defendant.

And so it is with the Heavenly Court, which works along the same principle as the one on earth. When a person appears before the Beis Din shel Ma'alah, his innocence or guilt is determined by prosecuting and defending angels, who will, among other things, examine his Teshuvah, and thereby decide his fate. Not so when the defendant has committed Chilul Hashem. Then his fate lies in the hands of G-d alone. Consequently his Teshuvah must be so strong that it can pierce the heavens and sway the heart of the King of Kings.

Hence the Navi writes "Repent O Yisrael, unto Hashem your G-d, for you have stumbled in your sin". When you do Teshuvah, he is telling Yisrael, make sure that it is deep and sincere so that it pierces the heavens and reaches G-d's throne, because not only did you sin, but you sinned publicly, thereby creating a Chilul Hashem. And if your Teshuvah does not reach G-d's throne, no celestial defence counsel will be able to help you.

Indeed, the people in the era of the first Churban, to whom the current prophecy is addressed, were guilty of performing abominations unabashedly, in large groups and in the presence of one another, as described by the Navi Yechezkel.

* * *


"Pay attention (Ha'azinu) O Heaven, and I will speak, and let the earth hear (ve'sishma) the words of my mouth" (32:1)

Moshe used the expression of 'ha'azanah' regarding the heaven, and 'shemi'ah' regarding the earth, whereas Yeshayah (in the opening paragraph of his Seifer) reverses them, when he writes "Listen, Oh heaven and pay attention, earth!"

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos explains that this is because one tends to use the term 'Ha'azanah' when speaking to someone who is geographically close to you, and 'Shemi'ah' to someone who is further away. Hence Moshe, who was closer to the heaven than he was to the earth, addressed the heaven with the word "Ha'azinu", and the earth, with the word "ve'sishma", whereas Yeshayah, who, notwithstanding his greatness, was closer to the earth than he was to the heaven, addressed the heaven with the word "Shim'u, and the earth with "Ha'azini".

Rashi in Yeshayah however, attributes the change to the rules of eidus (testimony, the role that heaven and earth were being called upon to fulfil), as the Pasuk wrote earlier (30:19), with relation to the current Parshah "I have called as witnesses today the heaven and earth". By the rules of eidus, the testimony of the two witnesses must match. Consequently, following Moshe's invitation to testify, it would have transpired that the heaven had been called to 'pay attention', and the earth to 'listen', and their testimony would have been disqualified. That is why Yeshayah called upon the heaven to 'listen', and the earth to 'pay attention', thereby placing the two testimonies on a par with one another.

The author then cites the Medrash, which extrapolated from the words of both Moshe and Yeshayah that the hosts of heaven exceed those of the earth, since both addressed the earth in the singular ("ve'sishma" & "Ha'azini"), and the heaven in the plural ("Ha'azinu" & "Shim'u").

Perhaps, he finally suggests, that is why the heaven is called "Shamayim", in the plural.

Interestingly, both Moshe and Yeshayah addressed the heaven first, following in the footsteps of their Creator, who created "the heaven (first) and (then) the earth". Presumably, this is in deference to G-d's throne, which is situated in the heaven, or/and to the superior spiritual nature of the celestial beings.


Rashi already points out that Moshe deliberately called the heaven and the earth as witnesses that G-d had warned Yisrael of the consequences of their actions (for better or for worse), because they were guaranteed to be available to testify when the time came to reward or punish Yisrael (something that he could not say about himself).

And what's more, he explains, if Yisrael are worthy, they (heaven and earth) will be able to reward them, and to punish them in the event of their guilt. For so the Torah writes (in Zecharyah) "The vine will give its fruit, the land, its produce and the heaven, its dew" (should they prove worthy), and, in the second paragraph of the Sh'ma " He will close the heaven and there will be no rain, and the land will not yield its produce" (and only then "You will perish quickly at the hand of the enemy, [Sifri] - in keeping with the Pasuk in Shoftim [17:7] "The hand of the witnesses shall strike them first "). The Rosh in the name of the Medrash adds that Yisrael also sinned by the heaven and the earth, as the Pasuk states in Yirmiyah "And the women knead dough to make pastries in honour of the Queen of Heaven" & in Hoshe'a "their altars are like heaps upon the furrows of the field". And moreover, they are destined to be comforted by the heaven and the earth, as the Navi writes in Yeshayah "Because, just as the new heaven and the new earth that I will make will endure before Me, says Hashem, so too, will your offspring and your name endure!"

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Masters of Our Own Destiny

"The Rock whose work is perfect " (32:4).

Sh'lomoh ha'Melech wrote in Koheles (7:29) "G-d made man straight, and it is they who seek many calculations". What he meant was that one should not for one moment think, that G-d made him crooked, of a devious nature and that he cannot therefore help sinning as that is the way G-d created him. So the Pasuk informs us in no uncertain terms that G-d created us straight, and that we are responsible for all our devious calculations. We sin of our own choosing, and let no-one say that he is the victim of his preconceived personality.


To Render Obscene

" and they angered the Rock of their Salvation by performing obscene acts" (32:15).

See Targum and Rashi.

The Meshech Chochmah however, translates the Pasuk as " they rendered the Rock of their Salvation obscene".

The people who went astray after idolatry, he explains, would justify their disgusting deeds by attributing them to the Torah's command (in an attempt to cover up their sins by turning them into Mitzvos). In effect, of course, they were merely adding the desecration of G-d's Name to their list of sins. In any event, whoever would heard their words would accuse the writer of such a book of being obscene (ke'Vayachol), and that is what the Pasuk is referring to.

And he concludes that this was the modus operandi of the Tzedokim, the Miynim and other similar groups.

* * *


"My words will flow like dew (ka'tal)" (32:2).

The word ka'Tal also appears in Hoshe'a (14:6) "I will be like dew to Yisrael".

The Torah is like dew (a symbol of life) for Yisrael only, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains. But for the nations of the world it has the opposite effect. Chazal explain that not only did the nations of the world decline to receive the six hundred and thirteen Mitzvos at Har Sinai, they were even incapable of keeping the seven basic Mitzvos that they already had.

Hence Yisrael's declaration of "Na'aseh ve'Nishma" served to highlight the gentile deficiency of the gentile nations. That is why, as the author concludes, 'from Sinai G-d declared the money of the nations Hefker (regarding certain monetary issues, as the Gemara explains in Bava Kama 35a).

The Gemara there, based on the Pasuk in Chavakuk (3:6) "He saw (how the nations were unable to keep their seven Mitzvos) and declared the property of the nations Hefker", explains the Pasuk with reference to two specific halachos: 1. If the ox of a Jew gores the ox of a gentile, he is exempt from paying; 2. If the ox of a gentile (even a shor tam, that did not previously gore three times) gores the ox of a Jew, he is obligated to pay in full (even though a fellow Jew would only have to pay for half the damage).

* * *

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