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

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Vol. 10   No. 49

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Parshas Ki Sovo

(Part 2)

(Adapted mainly from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Torah writes "be'mispar arbo'im" (the number leading to forty), and it is from there that Chazal learn that there are thirty-nine strokes, and not forty.

Rabeinu Bachye cites a Medrash, explaining why a sinner deserves forty lashes. This Medrash evidently assumes that that is what he really ought to receive, only G-d in His mercy, detracts one stroke, as the Pasuk in Tehilim (78:38) writes "And He is is merciful, He atones for our sins ... and He does not arouse all His wrath."

A person is formed in forty days, says the Medrash, and when he sins, he transgresses the Torah that was given in forty days. Let him receive forty lashes as his punishment - like Adam ha'Rishon, who sinned and whose punishment comprised forty, since Adam, Chavah, the snake and the earth, each received ten punishments (a total of forty).

In similar vein, following the sin of the Meraglim, Yisrael had to remain in the desert for forty years.

Or perhaps it was necessary to detract one stroke from the forty, so that the sinner receives a total number of the lashes that is divisible by three, as we discussed in the previous issue, and we shall elaborate on shortly.


In any event, the culprit receives thirty-nine lashes (not forty), and that is what we will now discuss.

Someone who contravenes the word of G-d, explains Rabeinu Bachye, deserves to die. Our sages have taught that in time to come, G-d will revive the dead with 'Tal shel Techiy'ah (the dew of life)'. The numerical value of 'tal' is thirty-nine, and that explains the thirty-nine Malkos that save a sinner from death.

Furthermore, he says, a boy is subject to Malkos at the age of thirteen, and since the lashes come in groups of three, he receives thirty-nine strokes (13x3). Perhaps the concept of groups of three is also based on man's three Souls (Nefesh, Ru'ach and Neshamah, which are all partners in the sin), though we will present other interpretations shortly.


Rabeinu Bachye attributes the reason for the Tefach (hand-breadth) width of the handle (and the initial strap) to the fact that one Tefach is the equivalent of four etzbo'os (finger-breadths), which, when it is doubled and doubled again (as the strap actually is), make a total width of sixteen etzbo'os. And, as the Gemara in Sotah (37b) explains, there is no Mitzvah on which G-d did not enter into sixteen covenants with Yisrael.

The Gemara actually says that He entered into three sets of sixteen covenants at Sinai, sixteen in the Ohel Mo'ed and sixteen at the Plains of Mo'av (forty-eight in all). Perhaps this explains the significance of the batches of three lashes that the culprit received.

Chazal also speak of the sixteen-bladed sword that comprises G-d's Midas ha'Din, and the Angel in charge of Midas ha'Din, who is called 'Yohach' (which is the acronym of 'Yud' 'Vav' hach [sixteen strike!]), as the commentaries explain in connection with the sixteen times that we spill wine from the cup on Seder-night.

Furthermore, the two donkey straps, running alongside the thongs of ox leather, represent 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma' which the culprit contravened. And the Pasuk refers three times to striking (when it writes "ve'hikohu lefonov", "arbo'im yakenu" and "pen yosif lehakoso") to hint at the groups of three lashes that the culprit receives, one in front and two at the back, as we have already explained.


Although we have presented various reasons for the groups of three, none of them explains the significance of one-third in front and two-thirds at the back. The K'li Yakar (in his second explanation) explains it with the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, which advises us to remember where we come from, where we are going to and before whom we will eventually have to give accountability, in order to avoid sinning. When someone does sin, he says, it is clear that he failed to follow the Mishnah's instructions. Consequently, he receives Malkos, one third in front (corresponding to 'where he came from'), and two at the back (corresponding to 'where he is going to and before whom he will have to give accountability').


Perhaps the most important lesson of all to be learned from Malkos is what we learn from the Pasuk in this week's Parshah (29:58), which the Beis-Din would read out whilst the lashes were being delivered "If you will not observe to fulfill all the words of this Torah ... to fear this revered and fearful Name ... and G-d will make wondrous your Makos"). Rabeinu Bachye comments on these words - This Pasuk demonstrates that the prime objective of all Mitzvos is Yir'ah (the fear of G-d). Indeed, Moshe made this point at Har Sinai, when he said "for G-d came in order to put you to the test, and in order that His fear shall be on your faces". Shlomoh Hamelech too, took his cue from there and concluded both Mishlei and Koheles on that note. And, commenting on the Pasuk in Yeshayah, "The fear of Hashem is His treasure" (33:6), Chazal explain that someone who has Yir'as Shamayim, has everything; without it, he has nothing. The simple explanation of this Pasuk is that it is Yir'as Hashem that G-d stores in His treasury as a sample of what is precious to Him. Indeed, it is for our Yir'as Shamayim, over and above everything else, that He will reward us.

Alternatively, it is the Yir'as Shamayim of those who fear Him that He places in His treasury, because it is precious to Him. Why is that? It is because of the principle that 'Everything is in the Hands of G-d, with the exception of Yir'as Shamayim'. Besides the conventional meaning of this Ma'amar Chazal, it can also mean that fear is the one commodity that G-d Himself does not possess. That is why our fear is so precious to Him. When we display it, He immediately takes it and places it in His treasury. It is the one commodity for which He relies entirely on us.

And the reason that Yir'ah is so vital, Rabeinu Bachye concludes, is because, unlike other Mitzvos (e.g. Tefilin and Tzitzis, which have a specific time slot to perform [i.e. once the time is up, the Mitzvah is over]), it applies at all times, as the Pasuk in Tehilim teaches us "The fear of G-d is pure, it lasts forever".

Yir'as Shamayim is only complete when it results in the performance of Mitzvos, for so the Pasuk writes "If you will not observe (i.e. Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh) to fulfill (i.e. Mitzvos Asei) ... ".


Parshah Pearls
(Based on †the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Advance Merit

"And it will be when you come into the land ... you shall take from the first fruits" (26:1-2).

'Perform this Mitzvah, says the Sifri, 'because on its merit you will enter the land'.

In fact, comments the Malbim, the Mitzvah of Bikurim only came into effect after Yisrael had captured Eretz Yisrael and distributed it (fourteen years later).

However, the very undertaking to observe it served as an advance merit, enabling them to enter the land and take possession of it. At the same time it also teaches us that the essence of living in Eretz Yisrael is to acknowledge that it is a Divine gift, and to express our gratitude for everything that we receive from Him.


Bikurim one Sixtieth

"And the Kohen shall take the basket from your hand" (26:4).

The Rambam, based on a Yerushalmi, rules that, even though the Torah indicates no specific amount, the Chachamim fixed Bikurim as a sixtieth.

The Aliyos Eliyahu, citing Chazal, who say that everything is hinted in the Torah, finds a hint for this in 'Tene' (the basket) referred to by the Torah here.

A 'tene', according to the Mishnah in Keilim, was a basket that contained half a Sa'ah; and the Gemara in Kesubos (111) relates that, in a time of blessing, there wasn't a non fruit-producing tree that did not produce two donkey-loads. One donkey-load, the Chachamim say, is equivalent to fifteen Sa'ah. It therefore transpires that one such tree produced thirty Sa'ah.

Since even one tree is subject to Bikurim, the Torah is clearly speaking about the Bikurim from the produce of one non-fruit-producing tree (thirty Sa'ah). Seeing as a tene is required to carry it, it means that the Bikurim of thirty Sa'ah is half a Sa'ah - one sixtieth. Refer also to Ba'al ha'Turim.


How to Speak before G-d

"And you shall raise your voice and say before Hashem" (26:5).

The word "ve'oniso" (and you shall raise your voice), can also be translated as 'and you shall be humble ... ', a sound piece of advice as to how one speaks when in the presence of G-d.


Evil Neighbours

"And the Egyptians did bad to us" (26:6).

If that is what the Pasuk is really trying to say, then it ought to have written "va'yo'rei'u osonu ha'Mitzrim". "va'yorei'u lonu ... " implies that they made us bad. So evil were the Egyptians in their ways, that their evil deeds rubbed off on us and turned us away from serving G-d.

This answers the Kashya that the commentaries ask on the Chazal, which cites Uza, the Angel of Egypt, as claiming that Yisrael served idols no less than the Egyptians did, and did not therefore, deserve to be saved. The question is, that Uza's argument seems to be a sound one. In that case, why did G-d then save Yisrael, even as He drowned the Egyptians?

However, since the Egyptians were directly responsible for the decline of our ancestors, Uza's claim falls away.


How to Perform a Mitzvah

"And now behold I have brought ... " (26:10).

"And now" - immediately; "behold" - an expression of joy; "I have brought" - of my own (Medrash).

Performing a Mitzvah requires three conditions: that one performs it without delay, gladly (not with reluctance) and to be willing to pay for it with what one owns (not to wait until he has excess funds). All three are hinted here, says the Divrei Sha'arei Chayim.


It's Who Gave it to You that's Important

"And you shall rejoice with all the good that Hashem your G-d gave to you" (26:11).

When someone receives a gift from the king, it's not so much the value of the gift that excites the recipient, but the fact that it is the king who gave it to him. Very often, the identity of the donor is as meaningful to the recipient as the gift itself.

That explains why, after "and you shall rejoice with all the good", the Torah adds "which Hashem your G-d gave to you" (Tif'eres Shlomoh).

And that is also why we say on Shabbos "Make us happy with Your salvation, says the Avnei Azel, not just with our salvation, but with the fact that You, Hashem, are the one Who effects it. That in itself is a singular honour for which we must be especially grateful.


By the same token, it would appear, the Ba'al Hagadah stresses so forcefully that it was Hashem, and no mal'ach, saraf or sheli'ach, who avenged our treatment at the hand of the Egyptians and killed the firstborn.


The Amidah

(based mainly on the Sidur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")


Oseh Sholom bi'Meromav

The Angel Micha'el comprises water (symbolizing Midas Rachamim), whereas Gavriel comprises fire (symbolizing Midas ha'Din), yet G-d makes peace between them, ensuring that they dwell together and interact among themselves in perfect harmony. How much more so we, who are by nature quarrelsome, need to pray to G-d to guide us along the path of peace and harmony. For without Divine Assistance, there is little chance that we will achieve this on our own.

The importance of Sholom is already evident in the B'rachos in Bechukosai, where the opening set of B'rachos end with 'Sholom' (26:6). Rashi explains there, that without sholom, the other B'rachos are worthless. In fact, he adds, we say 'Oseh sholom u'vorei es ha'kol' precisely because Sholom equals everything.

That explains why we conclude the Amidah with Sholom, like we conclude Birchas ha'Mazon and Birchas Kohanim with Sholom. It is particularly apt to mention Sholom here, before taking three steps back and praying for the rebuilding of the Beis-Hamikdash, since the order of the Tefilos is basically meant to replace the order of the Avodah, and when listing the Korbanos in Parshas Tzav (7:37), the Torah concludes with the Korban Shelamim. So, as we take leave of Hashem, before whom we have been standing in prayer, we ask Him to reinstitute the real order of the Avodah, and to bless us with peace, just as He did when the Beis-Hamikdash stood.


Oleinu ve'al Kol Yisrael

This text, says the Iyun Tefilah, was composed by Rebbi Meir b'Rebbi Yitzchak (the Chazan, of Worms), the composer of 'Akdamos' that we recite on Shavu'os, to whom Rashi refers as 'ha'Tzadik'.

The insertion of the word 'kol' is vital, because without it, we would be asking G-d to grant 'us peace as well as to Yisrael', implying that we are not part of Yisrael. Besides being self degrading, this would contravene Chazal, who have instructed us that whenever we pray on behalf of ourselves or of someone else, we must incorporate the person for whom we are Davening in the community (and it goes without saying that we should not preclude him from it).

Inserting the word 'kol'' however, implies that G-d should grant us peace together with the rest of Yisrael (which does indeed incorporate us into the community).

And we add 'kol' here and in numerous other places (twice in Kadish, in Birchas ha'Chodesh and at the end of 'Hashkiveinu' on Shabbos and Yom-Tov, to mention but a few), for precisely the same reason.

In light of all this, the Iyun Tefilah expresses surprise at those occasions where the word 'Kol' is omitted (twice in the first B'rachah of Birchos ha'Torah, in the conclusion of the middle B'rachah of the Yom Kipur Amidah and in the B'rachah of 'Racheim' in Birchas ha'Mozon, to mention some of them).


ve'Imru Amen

It is not at first clear to whom one is saying this in the silent Amidah, and particularly, when one Davens on one's own. Therefore the Iyun Tefilah initially suggests that it is better to omit these words from the silent Amidah. The Eitz Yosef however, explains that we are actually addressing the two angels who accompany us constantly. And this is indeed, how the Iyun Tefilah concludes, citing the Magen Avraham. In fact, he adds, it is a request that the angels should act as agents to help carry our Tefilos to heaven, rather than hinder their ascent, by acting as prosecutors.


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