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

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Vol. 12   No. 32

This issue is sponsored
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Parshas Kedoshim

The Seifer ha'Chinuch, Mitzvah 242, writes that it is a Mitzvah to love every Jew just as one loves oneself, as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:18) "And you shall love (for) your friend like (you love for) yourself", which Targum Yonasan translates as 'Do not do to your fellow-Jew what you dislike being done to you'. What the Torah means, he explains, is that one should treat every Jew with the same sympathy as one treats oneself, and afford the same care and respect to his money as one does to one's own.

And when Rebbi Akiva comments on that 'This is a great principle in the Torah', he means that many Mitzvos in the Torah depend on it; for someone who loves his friend like himself will not steal his money, nor will he commit adultery with his wife. He will not cheat him financially, neither will he hurt him verbally, nor will he encroach on what is his or hurt him in any conceivable way. And there are many other Mitzvos connected with this one, as any knowledgeable person knows. A reason for the Mitzvah is ... that the manner in which one treats one's friend, so his friend treats him - a sure way of promoting peace, if ever there was one.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... that one should behave towards one's friend in the same way as one behaves towards oneself, to look after his property and see that no damage befalls it, just like he does to his own. And when he speaks about him, he should say only things that are positive and that safeguard his dignity, and not boost one's own ego by denigrating him, as we learned in the Yerushalmi in Chagigah 'Someone who boosts his own ego by denigrating his friend, forfeits his portion in the World to Come'. And it is about a person who deals with his friend in a manner of love, peace and friendship that the Pasuk writes in Yeshayah (49:3) "Yisrael in whom I will be glorified".

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times. Anybody who contravenes it and is not careful to look after his friend's money, and certainly if he actually destroys it with his hands, or who deliberately causes his friend distress, has annulled a Mitzvas Asei, quite apart from any financial obligation that he may have, to compensate for loss or damage to his friend's property (as will be explained in the appropriate place).


The question is asked, in view of the current Mitzvah, why Rebbi Akiva rules in the Gemara in Bava Metzia that, based on the Pasuk in Behar (25:36) "ve'Chei ochicho imoch", a person who has sufficient water to save only one person from dying of thirst, may drink it, and is not obligated to give it to his friend, whilst he dies of thirst. Why is that not considered a contravention of "Ve'ohavto le'rei'acho komocho"?

The Chasam Sofer explains that the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a is talking about mundane things, whereas the Pasuk here, is referring to Torah learning, and implies that one is obligated to learn with someone else who needs assistance, even if this means forfeiting one's own learning. And when Rebbi Akiva adds "Zeh k'lal godol ba'Torah", he means that this principle applies to Torah issues, but not to material ones, where one's own needs take precedence.

The Chasam Sofer's explanation is extremely difficult to understand however, particularly as the Pasuk in question follows the La'avin prohibiting taking revenge and bearing a grudge, which are more applicable to a material context than to a spiritual one.

As a matter of fact, the Chinuch's explanation which we cited earlier, apart from interpreting Rebbi Akiva's statement 'Zeh K'lal godol ba'Torah' differently than the Chasam Sofer, also solves his problem. As we saw, taking his cue from Targum Yonasan, the Chinuch interprets the Mitzvah under discussion as a negative one (not to do anything harmful to one's fellow-Jew). Presumably, this is either because of its juxtaposition to the La'avin of 'Lo sikom ve'lo sitor', as we just explained, or because it would simply be impractical to interpret it positively, since it would then mean that, placing one's fellow-Jew on a par with oneself, one would be obligated to give him half of what one owned.

In any event, now that it does refer to negative issues, the two Pesukim in question do not clash at all. "ve'Ohavto le'rei'acho komocho" refers to avoiding causing one's friend harm, whereas "ve'Chei ochicho imoch" gives a person the right for his own life to take priority over that of his fellow-Jew.

The truth of the matter is though, that we could have given the same answer even if our Pasuk had had positive connotations, since the Torah here only writes "komocho" (like yourself, but not more than yourself), whereas the Pasuk in Behar teaches that even in life and death situations, one's fellow-Jew does not take precedence over oneself.


Incidentally, the Torah Temimah cites an apparent contradiction between the above Gemara in Bava Metzi'a and the Gemara in Kidushin, which obligates the master of a Jewish servant, who has only one cushion, to give it to the servant. And the basis of this ruling is the Pasuk in Re'ei (15:16) "Ki Tov Lo Imach". Why, he asks, do we not explain "Imach", to preclude the master from giving away his only cushion (just like the above Gemara Darshens from the very same word, that the owner has no obligation to give away his last drop of water and die)?

It seems to me however, that each Pasuk needs to be seen in its own context. The Pasuk in Re'ei comes to obligate the master to treat his servant as an equal. Therefore, to take the cushion for himself would constitute a contravention of "Ki tov lo imach". The Pasuk of "ve'Chei ochicho imoch" on the other hand, which appears after the La'av of Ribis, is not a command to give the poor man anything, but to refrain from taking from him anything in excess of the loan. Consequently, giving him one's last drop would in no way constitute a breach of "Ki tov lo Imoch".

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Parshah Pearls

Being Holy

"Speak to all the congregation of Yisrael and say to them 'You shall be holy' " (19:1).

This teaches us, Rashi explains, that the Parshah was said when the people were gathered together, because most of the Torah's major issues are discussed in it.

The Torah is hinting here, says the Chasam Sofer, that it does not expect us to live like hermits, away from society, in order to live holy lives. On the contrary, it wants us to live as part of the community, to perform Mitzvos even as we interact socially with other people. If anything, this raises our level of holiness, not lowers it.

Perhaps the Torah is also coming to teach us that holiness does not require the pursuit of elevated thoughts and lofty ideals. Not at all! Holiness is attained by the way we treat very mundane 'objects' - parents, fellow-Jews, animals, clothes and trees ... . The way we treat them reflects our level of holiness. More than that, it creates it - by sanctifying the mundane.


G-d of Them All

"You shall be holy, because I Hashem your G-d am Holy. Each man shall respect his father and mother and you shall observe My Shabbosos, I am Hashem your G-d. Do not turn to other gods ... I am Hashem your G-d" (ibid.).

The Torah refers here to three levels of Jews, says the Sadegurer Rebbe (others cite the T'chortkover Rebbe). There are holy Jews, who behave like angels (who go way beyond the minimum requirements of the Torah), there are those who keep all the details that the Torah demands of them. And there are those who would at least, not dream of worshipping idols. To each of these Hashem announces that He is their G-d, as they are all still considered within the fold.

Perhaps one can add that just as we say in the Amidah 'the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak and the G-d of Ya'akov', and the commentaries explain that, based on the three different approaches of the Avos, the G-d of the one is not quite the same as the G-d of the other, so too, the G-d of the Holy Jew is not quite the same as the G-d of the observant Jew who performs Mitzvos, and the G-d of the latter is not the same as the one who merely desists from worshipping Avodah-Zarah. For G-d treats everyone person exactly the way the person treats Him ("ke'Mayim Panim le'Panim").


Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

"Do not steal (lo signovu) " (19:11).

The question arises as to why this Pasuk is written in the plural, whereas the La'avin listed in both the previous Pesukim ("Lo sechaleh", "lo selakeit", "lo se'olel" ...) and in those that follow ("Lo sa'ashok" ... "lo sigzol" "lo solin" ...) all appear in the singular?

The Ba'al Hafla'ah suggests that the Pasuk is coming to teach us that if two people steal together, they are both guilty of theft. This fits nicely with the Pasuk "Lo tignov" in the Aseres ha'Dibros, which refers, not to stealing, but to kidnapping, and two people who kidnap are indeed Patur from the death-penalty.

The Sha'ar bas Rabim explains that what the Torah implies is that Reuven should not think that because Shimon stole from him, he is permitted to steal from Shimon. Therefore the Torah writes "Lo tignovu", to teach us that one theft does not justify another. Because two wrongs don't make a right!

Alternatively, he says, the Torah is hinting here that someone who assists a thief by acting as a fence (who purchases stolen goods), or perhaps who helps him in other ways (as a lookout or a driver etc.) is considered an accessory to the crime, since he encourages the thief to continue in his ways.


Whereas according to the Or Olam, the Pasuk is speaking to business in general, where today the seller overcharges the buyer, and tomorrow, it is the buyer who cheats the seller.

Therefore the Torah warns us "Lo Tignovu", wholesale stealing is not permitted either.


One Hand Dirties the Other

"Do not withhold your friend's wages and do not steal; do not let your employees' wages remain with you overnight. Do not curse a deaf person and do not place a stumbling block before a blind man ... " (19:13).

All these La'avin are interconnected, explains the Tiferes Yehonasan. The Torah warns the employer not to hold back a worker's wages (even for a short time), because this will lead to stealing, when he keeps it overnight, and when on the following morning, due to the fact that he has many workers to pay, he honestly believes that he paid. The employee for his part, will think that the employer is deliberately stealing from him and will curse him, leaving the employer with the sin of "Lifnei iver lo sitein michshol (causing others to sin)" to add to his list .


Alef, Beis, Gimel, Daled

"Do not rob your friend" (19:13).

Two friends once came to their Rebbe for a B'rachah, following a business partnership into which they had just entered. The Rebbe asked them for the Sh'tar Shutfus (the contract of partnership). When they replied that they had not written one, he took out a pen and wrote on a piece of paper 'Alef, Beis, Gimel, Daled'. In response to their surprised look, he explained that these were the first letters of the words - 'Emunah, Brachah; Geneivah, Dalus', meaning that if they work together with honesty, all their endeavours will be blessed from Above, but if they behave dishonestly towards one another, they will lose everything.


The Mitzvah of Lashon ha'Ra

"Do not go tale-bearing among your people; do not stand on the blood of your friend" (19:16).

The connection between these two La'avin is not at first clear. The Chizkuni and the Or ha'Chayim however, explain that there are occasions that it is not only permitted to speak Lashon ha'Ra, but that it is a Mitzvah to do so. And one of those occasions is when Reuven knows that Shimon is lying in ambush, waiting to kill Levi when he passes. Without the least shadow of doubt, Reuven is obliged to inform Levi of Shimon's intentions. Indeed, we know the terrible consequences that resulted from Gedalyah's refusal to consider the information that his cousin Yishmael ben Nesanyah was planning to kill him.

That is what the juxtaposition of the two La'avin is coming to teach us.


All in the Same Boat

"Be sure to rebuke your fellow-Jew, and do not bear a sin on his account" (19:17).

Rashi explains that one should take care when rebuking, not to embarrass the sinner, because if he does, he will get punished for doing so (and that is how Targum Yonasan explains it).

It is not clear though, why the Torah then adds the words 'on his account' ("alav").

The P'ninei Torah therefore explains the Pasuk to mean that since the Mitzvah of Tochachah (rebuking) is based on the principle that all Yisrael are responsible for one another, it is essential to rebuke, not only for the sake of the sinner, but also for one's own benefit, because failure to do so, renders whoever witnesses the sin, himself guilty of sinning, and liable to punishment - which is precisely what the Pasuk means when it says "and do not bear a sin on his account"

He may have performed the sin, but you will get punished.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 306:
The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

It is a Mitzvah to count the forty-nine days from the time that the Omer is brought on the sixteenth of Nisan, as the Torah writes in Emor (23:15) "And you shall count for yourselves from the day after Yom-Tov, from the day that you bring the Omer of the wave-offering". This counting is an obligation that must be performed day by day. It is also a Mitzvah to count the weeks, since the Torah writes both "You shall count fifty days" as well as "You shall count seven weeks" (Re'ei 16:9). And indeed, Abaye does say in Menachos (66a) that 'It is a Mitzvah to count the days and it is a Mitzvah to count the nights'. Some commentaries confine the Mitzvah of counting the weeks as well, to the last day of each week; whereas according to others, the Mitzvah pertains to each and every day from the seventh day and onwards. That is what a G-d-fearing person should do, in order to dispel all doubts, and this is the generally accepted custom.

The Rambam warns not to be misled by Chazal's Lashon that 'It is a Mitzvah to count the day and a Mitzvah to count the weeks', into believing that they are two Mitzvos (which would be the case if they had said 'Counting the days is a Mitzvah and counting the weeks is a Mitzvah'.) What they in fact, mean is that both are an integral part of the Mitzvah. Proof for this lies in the fact that we say each night that tonight is so many weeks and so many days of the Omer. Now if counting the weeks was an independent Mitzvah, we would only mention the weeks on the night of the completion of each week. And on that night we would recite two B'rachos, ' ... on counting the days of the Omer' for the days and 'on counting the weeks' for the weeks. But we do not do this, because there is only one Mitzvah, and that is to count the days and the weeks of the Omer.

A reason for the Mitzvah is because the mainstay of Yisrael is the Torah. It is because of the Torah that the world was created, as the Pasuk writes (Yirmiyah 33:25) "Were it not for My covenant ... I would not have set up the laws of heaven and earth". Yisrael were redeemed and taken out of Egypt in order to receive the Torah and to keep it, like G-d said to Moshe "And this is the sign that I sent you; when you take the people out of Egypt, you (plural) will serve G-d on this mountain". In other words, the Exodus was secondary to, and was geared to, the receiving of the Torah, which was clearly more important than the freedom from slavery. That is why G-d made the Exodus a sign for Kabalas ha'Torah (as one normally makes the smaller thing a sign for the bigger one), and not vice-versa.

And that is why we have been commanded to count the days, starting from the day after the first day of Pesach, until the day on which the Torah was given, to give vent to our deep yearning for that great day, like a slave awaits the day on which he has been promised his freedom, whose every thought is longingly directed towards its arrival. Because counting days demonstrates a longing for the occasion towards which one is counting.

And the reason that we begin counting from the first day of the Omer ('Today is the first day of the Omer'), rather than specifying our goal ('In forty-nine days will be Shavu'os') is because the large number of days still ahead would dampen our enthusiasm, and would therefore be self-defeating. So we begin with the first day, without specifically stating how many days still remain. You may well ask why, in that case, we do not change once we pass the half-way mark, and say 'Today there are twenty-five days left until Shavu'os'? The answer is that it would look odd indeed if we were to change the method of counting in the middle.

And if you will ask further why we only begin counting on the second day of Pesach? Why not on the first? The answer to that question is because the first day of Pesach has been completely designated to commemorating the wondrous miracle of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, the great sign that proved the creation and Divine Providence regarding mankind. And it would not be befitting to disturb that Simchah with other ideas, however important and relevant they may be. Consequently, they fixed the counting of the Omer to start on the following day.

(to be cont.)

* * *

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