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

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Vol. 7   No. 31

This issue is sponsored by Dr. Reuven Brunner who will be running from Yaffo to Yerusholayim to celebrate his 10th year of Aliya, and his birthday.

All are invited to Gan Sacher at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, 29th Nisan for prizes/free gifts/workouts

Parshas Kedoshim

The Art of Being Holy

The Ramban interprets the mitzvah of being holy to mean that one should perform one's mundane tasks modestly, regulating the pleasures that one derives from this world to conform with one's needs, but no more. By doing so, one is in fact, dividing all one's physical activities into three groups: That which is a mitzvah, which one should obviously maximise; that which is sinful, from which one is obligated to desist altogether; and that which is voluntary (but basically necessary) which should be cut down to its barest minimum.


The Rambam, commenting on the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos (1:16) 'Say little and do a lot,' finally divides speech into five categories, the fifth of which he describes as 'permitted'. This category is necessary, he explains, inasmuch as it involves one's business dealings and sustenance, one's food, one's drink and one's clothes, and other necessities of day to day living. Speaking about these things, he says, is neither laudable, nor is it objectionable, leaving a person with the option of speaking about them or of desisting. He concludes however, that this area of speech should be minimised, because the Ba'alei Musar have warned against using it excessively. Interestingly, the Rambam and the Ramban both echo the same thought, one with regard to deeds, and the other, with regard to speech.


As far as the two extreme areas of deeds (discussed by the Ramban) are concerned, we know that the one is forbidden, and the other desirable, and one could, in both places, apply the borrowed principle 'kol ha'marbeh, harei zeh meshuboch' (the more, the better). Though attaining such a level is not necessarily easy (since the Yeitzer ho'Ra does not always allow a person to put his convictions into practice), one's goals are nevertheless clear-cut, due to one's perameters being well-defined and absolute. It is in the middle, grey area where a person must work the hardest. That is where he must strive to increase more and more of his actions and words (which the Torah deliberately leaves to each individual to develop, according to his level of understanding and according to the level of the fear of G-d at which he stands). That is where he can develop most, and that is where he can guage his own growth in his avodas Hashem (the service of G-d, to which goal every Jew has been placed on this earth). And growth means to constantly transform what was before permitted (in his eyes) into forbidden territory.

After all, the parshah begins with "Kedoshim tihyu" and ends with "vi'h'yisem li kedoshim, ki Kodosh Ani Hashem", declaring the pursuit of holiness, to aim at becoming like G-d Himself, a major objective in a Jew's life. And, as Rashi comments at the beginning of the parshah, Kedoshim was said in a gathering - men, women and children - because of the major issues that it contains. It is almost like a 'Klal, u'Prat u'klal' - where the Torah presents the major principle at the beginning and at the end, placing the details, the areas that it encompasses, in between them.


It is also interesting to note the other categories of speech discussed by the Rambam. At one end of the scale, he puts Torah-study, an obligatory mitzvas-asei, which is equal to all the other mitzvos. At the other end, is forbidden speech - false testimony, gossip, cursing, unclean speech and loshon ho'ra. Second to Torah study, is speech 'that is loved': to speak about good hashkofos (outlook) and good midos (characteristics); the study of Musar in its various forms. And second to forbidden speech is what the Rambam calls 'despicable speech'. He is referring to idle chatter that, on the one hand is intrinsically harmless, but on the other, it serves no purpose, such as discussing events that took place, what king so-and-so does in his palace, what caused Reuven's death, or how Shimon became rich. Pious people make every effort to eliminate this category of speech altogether, says the Rambam.


No doubt these are the expectations that G-d had of us when, at Har Sinai, He referred to us as "a Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation"!


Parshah Pearls


Don't Gossip

"Do not go around gossiping among your people" (19:16) - in other words, refrain from 'rechilus'!

In the story of Yonoson and Dovid (that we read in the Haftorah of 'Mochor Chodesh') the Novi describes how Yonoson went to the designated field at the appointed time, accompanied by a young boy. There, he informed Dovid of his father (King Shaul)'s determination to kill him, by shooting three arrows and sending the boy after them, telling him that the arrows were beyond him. This served as a sign for Dovid that Shaul meant him harm and that he should flee the country.

The question is, why did Yonoson need to use signs to inform Dovid? Why could he not inform him directly?

To teach us, says the Gro, that, so severe does the Torah consider the sin of rechilus, that even when it is permitted, as it certainly is to save someone's life, it should be minimised, and even avoided altogether, if it is possible to achieve the same result by means of signs (P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro).


Sowing Kil'ayim
(a Mixture of Seeds)

The Gemoro explains in Mo'ed Kotton (2b) that, not only is sowing kil'ayim forbidden, but so is retaining it, because the Torah concludes one phrase with the word "kil'ayim" and continues "sod'cho lo (sizra kil'ayim)" (19:9). So we read it "kil'ayim sod'cho lo" - Do not retain kil'ayim in your field.


The obvious difficulty with this is, what causes Chazal to read the words in this inverted (and strange) way? Why not leave the posuk as it stands and desist from the d'roshoh?

The Gro explains it like this: Firstly, he says, why does the Torah write "sod'cho" (your field), considering that the prohibition of kil'ayim is not confined to one's own field but applies equally to somebody else's? And secondly, the Torah ought to have written "Lo sizra so'dcho kil'ayim".

In other words, why did the Torah write "sod'cho", and why did it place the entire word at the beginning of the phrase?


The answer to both questions is, to connect it to the previous posuk, to darshen from "kil'ayim sod'cho lo", the prohibition of retaining kil'ayim, which pertains specifically to one's own field, and not to somebody else's (P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro).


Stand Up For An Old Man

"Stand up for a seivoh and honour a zoken" the Torah ordains (19:32).

The Gemoro in Kidushin (32b) interprets "zoken" to mean 'a wise man' - because it is the acronym of "zeh (she) konoh (chochmoh)". And the question arises what did Chazal see to take the word out of context and to change its simple meaning?

The Kli Yokor explains that if "zoken" meant simply an old man, we would have a problem in understanding the posuk. That is because, on the one hand "hidur" (honouring) is clearly more significant than "kimah" (standing up) whereas, on the other, a "seivoh" is older than a "zoken" (since the former is seventy and the latter sixty - as the Mishnah teaches us in Pirkei Ovos 5:21). Consequently, the Torah should have written "Stand up for a zoken and honour a seivoh".


What the Torah is now telling us is that we should rise for an old man (even of he is an am ho'oretz), but give due honour to a chochom, even if he is young. For whilst age is a gift from G-d that comes automatically, chochmah is something for which one must strive diligently.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to add to the notices 'Stand up for an old man', often seen in buses, the second part of the posuk 'And honour a talmid-chochom' - implying that one should stand up when an old man (or woman) enters the bus, but give one's seat to a talmid-chochom.


Correct Scales

"Correct scales, correct weights, correct solid measures and correct liquid measures you shall have" (19:36).

This, in itself, is a remarkable mitzvah. The prohibition of even possessing implements that might lead to dishonest dealings, is one of the many mitzvos that demonstrate in no uncertain manner, that "the Torah of Hashem is perfect". Indeed, Beis-din would send inspectors to the shops to examine the weights and measures and would punish those who had transgressed.


Chazal however, go even further, when they extrapolate from the terminology used by the Torah for liquid measures "hin tzedek" that not only should our measures be flawless, but so should our speech - 'to teach you,' they say 'that your "yes!" ('hein') and your "no!" should be flawless too' (Bovo Metzi'a 49b). And this incorporates the prohibition of being two-faced - one should not say one thing, with the intention of disregarding one's words and acting differently, as the Rambam writes in Hilchos Dei'os (2:6).


The Torah Temimah also quotes Rashi in Kesubos (86a) who cites this posuk as the source for the mitzvah of repaying a loan, because when someone borrows money, it is self-understood that he will repay it, no less than if he had actually said it.


About the Mitzvos

The Greatest Mitzvah of All (Part I)

The Gemoro in Kidushim (40b) cites a dispute between Rebbi Tarfon, who holds that deeds (mitzvos) are more important than Torah-study, for when all's said and done, the main purpose of learning is in order to put one's learning into practice, and Rebbi Akiva, in whose opinion Torah-study is more important, because, as Chazal explain elsewhere, Torah-study is more significant since it leads to deeds. And this is how the Gemoro concludes: they took a count and, following the majority opinion, they ruled that Torah-study is greater, because it leads to deeds. Rashi explains that someone who learns Torah, eventually puts what he learns into practice, leaving him with two mitzvos, whereas someone who performs mitzvos without studying them only has the mitzvah to his credit, but not the study.


The Tosfos Ri ha'Zoken however, explains it differently. According to him, the difference between performing mitzvos, having learned about them, or performing them without having learned, is not just quantitative, but also qualitative. First of all, he says, someone who does not study Torah is not afraid of sinning, as Chazal have said in Pirkei Ovos (2:5) 'An empty person does not fear sin'. And secondly, there is no way that an unlearned man can possibly fulfill the mitzvos to perfection, as the Tana concludes there 'nor does an ignoramous attain piety'.

In other words, one's level of performance of mitzvos grows together with one's understanding of the mitzvos, which in turn, can only develop with regular Torah-study.



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

64. Not to appoint a dayan (judge) who is unworthy - as the Torah writes in Devorim (1:17) "Do not favour in judgement", which, according to the Sifri refers to those who are responsible for appointing them. They should not appoint them by virtue of their strength, their looks or their worldly knowledge, or for any other advantages not connected with Torah or with the fear of G-d, because a judge needs to be wise in Torah and a G-d-fearing man. He must detest unjust gain, have full control over his evil inclination and possess a strong determination to save the robbed from the robber. Those who appoint judges for reasons other than these, transgress this la'av.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


65. That the judge may not hear the arguments of one of the litigants before the other one arrives - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (23:1) "Do not listen to a false report". By the same token, the litigant himself is not permitted to present his case before the other litigant arrives, since we also read the posuk as if it had written "Do not cause others to listen to a false report".

This la'av incorporates that of not speaking loshon ho'ra and of not giving false testimony (i.e. it serves also as an additional la'av to each of them). This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to judges and to male and female litigants.


66. Not to take pity on a poor man in court - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (23:3) "Do not honour a poor man in his litigation", and in Kedoshim (19:15) "Do not favour a poor man". The judge is not allowed to say "He is a poor man and we are obligated to sustain him. I will rule in his favour so that he is sustained in a respectable manner". This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


67. Not to pervert the judgement of a sinner on account of his wickedness - as the Torah writes in Mishpotim (23:6) "Do not pervert the judgement of a poor man in his litigation", "poor" meaning someone who is poor in mitzvos. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


68. Not to pervert the judgement of a convert or of an orphan - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:17) "Do not pervert the judgement of a convert or of an orphan". A judge who does so, contravenes two la'avin: that of "Do not perform injustice in judgement" (see following la'av), and this one. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


69. Not to perform an injustice in judgement - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:15) "Do not perform an injustice in judgement" - meaning neither to proclaim someone who is innocent, guilty, nor someone who is guilty, innocent. Neither may the judge protract the final judgement, to deliberately delay conveying the court's decision, in order to cause pain to one of the litigants. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


70. Not to honour a great man in court - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:15) "And do not honour a great man", meaning that if one of the litigants is a great man and the other is not, the judge may not honour him, treat him with respect or greet him any more than his opponent.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


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