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

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Vol. 14   No. 46

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Parshas Ki-Savo

Orur Asher Lo Yokim

Rashi (after having described how all the curses were first said as blessings), cites R. Moshe ha'Darshen, who discusses the eleven curses issued by the Torah. He explains that they correspond to the eleven tribes, barring that of Shimon, whom Moshe did not intend to curse, seeing as (due to the prominent part which they played in the sin of Ba'al Pe'or) he had no intention of blessing them before his death.

The Torah actually lists twelve curses, only the last one "Orur asher lo yokim es Divrei ha'Torah ha'zos la'asos osoh", is a general curse, which, as Rashi explains, covers the entire Torah, unlike all the others, which are all detailed curses. It seems to me that the Torah deliberately added this last curse, so as to complement the number twelve, as nowhere else do we find the number eleven in connection with the tribes. On the contrary, the Ramban maintains that the Torah is careful to always portray twelve tribes, and it is for this reason, he says, that the Torah makes a point of listing either Levi together with Yosef, or Efrayim and Menashe but without Levi, in order to achieve this end.


In explaining the latter statement of Rashi (whom he does not refer to directly), the Or ha'Chayim comments on the fact that the Torah writes (neither "Orur asher lo yokim" nor "Orur asher lo ya'aseh", but) "Orur asher lo yokim es Divrei ha'Torah ha'zos la'asos osoh" - 'Cursed be the one who does not uphold the words of this Torah to do them'.

Nobody, he explains, can possibly fulfill all the Mitzvos ('Perhaps he does not own a field, perhaps he does not own a slave', to which some of the Mitzvos pertain). What the Torah therefore means is that a person who does not undertake to observe every Mitzvah that he is able to is cursed. In other words, every Jew is obliged to accept upon himself the fulfillment of all six hundred and thirteen Mitzvos - on principle. Or, as the Seforno puts it, anybody who refuses to observe just one of the Taryag Mitzvos is cursed.


The Ramban says virtually the same thing, only he says it with regard to someone who denies that each and every Mitzvah is Emes, and that those who perform it will receive reward, whereas those who do not will be punished .


Based on the Yerushalmi in Sotah, the Ramban presents three other interpretations of the Pasuk. There are those who say there that it pertains to the Shammes (in Shul), who places the Seifer-Torah in the Aron in a haphazard way, which may result in it falling out; Whilst according to others it refers to the person who lifts up the Seifer-Torah in Shul and fails to show the writing to all the congregants, men and women alike.

Bearing in mind that these curses (and blessings) were said at Har Gerizim and Har Eival, simultaneously with Yisrael's acceptance of Arvus (responsibility for one another), the following (third) of the Yerushalmi's explanations is perhaps the most apt. This is what the Yerushalmi says:

'Even if somebody has learned and taught, observed and performed (the Mitzvos), if he has the means to support/strengthen others, but failed to do so, he is included in "Orur asher lo yokim" '.

And the Gemara goes on to cite the pious king Yoshiyahu, who rent his clothes when they showed him this Pasuk, and proclaimed 'It is up to me to strengthen', and he proceeded to boost Torah-observance throughout the land.

The Ramban ascribes this explanation to kings and princes, who carry the influence to spread Torah to the masses. Others interpret it as financial support. Indeed, the Torah Temimah cites the Pasuk in Mishlei (3:18) "It is a tree of life for all those who support it", which Chazal ascribe to people who support Torah financially.


Both the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos and the Rosh cite the previous Yerushalmi differently. According to them, what the Gemara says is that even if somebody has learned and taught, observed and performed (the Mitzvos), if he is able to rebuke those who sin and fails to do so, he is included in the curse.

The same Yerushalmi concludes that if, on the other hand, somebody is for example, in prison, and is not able to learn and teach, observe and perform the Mitzvos, but he manages to strengthen/support (or rebuke) others, he is included in the blessing.

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Parsha Pearls

(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

"And it shall be (Vehayah) when you will come to the land" (26:1).

"Vehayah", say Chazal, is an expression of Simchah.

Indeed, says the Or ha'Chayim, it is only when we arrive in Eretz Yisrael that we are permitted to be happy, for so David Hamelech said in Tehilim (in Shir ha'Ma'alos) "When G-d returns the captivity of Tziyon .. then our mouths will be full of laughter".

Incidently, the reason that "Vehayah" is an expression of Simchah, the commentaries explain, is because it contains the letters of Hashem's Holy Name - denoting Chesed.


Pervert Accusations

"And the Egyptians did bad to us ..." (26:3).

Others translate this Pasuk as 'And the Egyptians declared us evil'. Indeed they did. Not satisfied with subjugating us and 'sucking out our blood'; they then turned round and termed us 'evil'!

Sound familiar?


The Alshich explains that as a result of our treatment at the hand of the Egyptians, we became hard and indifferent to the plight of our fellow Jews.


Yet others interpret 'va'yorei'u osonu ha'Mitzriyim' to mean that the Egyptians initially pretended to be our friends ("va'yorei'u", as in the Pasuk "ve'ohavto le'rei'achao komocho"), and only after they had tricked Yisrael into trusting them, did they display their true colours (as Chazal explain in connection with the word "be'forech" [Sh'mos 1:13]).


How to Remember the Mitzvos

"I did not transgress your Mitzvos and I did not forget" (26:13).

Chazal say that when somebody fails to Ma'aser properly, the mice eat his crops. They also say that eating produce from which mice have eaten is 'Kashah le'Shikchah' (prone to be forgotten).

That explains, says the Shemen Sason, why the Torah says "I did not transgress your Mitzvos (by not Ma'asering the crops properly), and (therefore) I did not forget (as a result of the ensuing punishment)".


Carved out - Raised -
Exchanged -Designated & -

These are some of the meanings of the Pasuk "es Hashem he'emarto ha'yom ... va'Hashem he'emircho ha'yom ..". (26:17/18).

The Birchas Avraham cites the word 'Ma'amar', used in the Gemara in Yevamos to describe the Kidushin (the Rabbinical betrothal) of a Yavam to a Yevamah. In that case, what the Pasuk means is that "You became betrothed to G-d ... and He became betrothed to you".


The B'rachos will Come to Us

"And all these B'rachos will come upon you and catch up with you".

Generally speaking, says the K'sav Sofer, acquiring riches entails traveling from one place to another.

Not so the B'rochos of Hashem. When Hashem promises wealth and success, then wealth and success will come straight to the recipient, without his having to leave his house, as the Torah writes here.


It often happens, says the Degel Machaneh Efrayim, that a person does not know what is good for him, and in his ignorance he begins to run away from the B'rachah that Hashem has sent him. That is why David ha'Melech Davened to Hashem "Only let goodness and kindness pursue me" (when in my ignorance, I start running away from it).

And that is precisely what the Torah is saying here. When Hashem sends His B'rachos to a person who deserves them, then even if he mistakenly tries to run away from them, they will nevertheless catch up with him.


No B'rachah for the Lazy Man

"And G-d will command with you the B'rachah in your storehouses?

What does the word 'with you' mean, asks the P'ninei Torah?


It is well-known, he replies, that G-d only helps those who help themselves. If somebody sits himself down with his arms folded and waits for Divine salvation, then he is in for a long wait. Therefore the Torah inserts the word 'with you'. G-d will command His B'rachah, as long as we do our part.


Learning from You

"And all the nations of the world will see that the Name of Hashem is proclaimed over you, and they will fear you" (28:10)

or, as the Besht puts it ' they will learn to fear (Hashem) from you'.


To No Avail

"And you will worship there other gods made of wood and stone (yet) you will be become a source of wonder, a parable and a conversation piece among all the nations that G-d will lead you" (28:36/37).


You will do everything to find favour in the eyes of your captors, the Ibn Ezra explains, even to the point of worshipping their gods (even if you do not actually believe in them). You will bend over backwards to find favour in their eyes. But all this will be in vain. They will continue to mock you and deride you!


Abusing Simchah

" because you did not serve Hashem joyfully" (28:47).

What, asks R. Bunim from P'shischa! Is that sufficient reason to let loose all the horrors mentioned in the Parshah!? Yes, he replies, it is indeed, if you translate the Pasuk like this: " because, whenever you did not serve Hashem, you did so joyfully".


Alternatively, one might say, it is indeed, if we realize that the lack of joy was the cause, not only of the punishment, but also of our sins. For, once one begins to serve Hashem without Simchah, the Mitzvos become a burden, and throwing off their yoke is but a short step away.

* * *


"And you shall adorn (your first-fruits) in various baskets, and cover it with an expensive cloth. Then you shall take it to the Kohen who has been appointed Kohen Gadol at that time, and say to him " (26:3).


"The Kohen shall then take the basket of first-fruit from your hand, wave it in all four directions, upwards and downwards, after which he places it beside the Mizbei'ach" (26:45).


"And you shall announce and say before Hashem your G-d "Our father Ya'akov initially arrived in Aram Naharayim, and they (Lavan & co.) wanted to kill him, but Hashem saved him from their hand; then he went down to Egypt " (26:5).


"On this day, you carved out Hashem (a carving) in the world, for so it is written "Listen Yisrael, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One (unique)" (26:17).


"And today, Hashem for His part, carved you out (a carving) in the world, for so it is written 'And who is like you Yisrael, a unique nation in the land; in order to be for Him a beloved nation, as He told you He would, and to observe His Mitzvos" (26:18).


"Six tribes stood on Mount Gerizim, and six on Mount Eival, whilst the Aron together with the Kohanim and the Levi'im, stood in the middle. Those who blessed then turned their faces towards Mount Gerizim and declared 'Blessed is the man who does not make a picture, image or shape, of anything that G-d has abominated, the work of the hands of a craftsman, and does not place it in a secret location'. Then those who cursed turned their faces towards Mount Eival and declared 'Cursed be the man who makes ', and everyone answered 'Amein!' (27:15).


" These things were said at Sinai, repeated a second time in the Ohel Mo'ed and a third time in the Plains of Mo'av, twelve things, one for each tribe, and on each command, G-d initiated thirty-six covenants (twelve at each of the three locations).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 598:
The Mitzvah of Yibum (cont.)

Some Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara in Yevamos (13b) teaches us that the brother of the deceased is obligated to perform the Mitzvah, irrespective of whether the Yevamah was married to his brother or merely betrothed They also said that with regard to Yibum, Chalitzah (the releasing ceremony of a Yevamah) and inheritance, it is only paternal brothers who are considered brothers, whereas the Dinim of mourning and testifying, apply even to maternal brothers If a man dies, leaving behind a number of wives, but no children, it requires only one of the brothers (preferably, the oldest) to perform Yibum or Chalitzah on one of the wives, and all of them become permitted to remarry. In fact, neither the brother who performed Yibum nor any of the other brothers is even allowed to perform Yibum with any of the other wives. And we learn this from the Pasuk " who will not build his brother's house", which the Gemara there (44a) interprets to mean that one may only build one house and not two. What's more, one who does, also transgresses the Asei of "her Yavam shall be intimate with her", from which Chazal extrapolate "with her", 'and not with her and her rival Similarly, one may only perform Chalitzah with one of the wives; once this has been done, she and all the other wives become forbidden to both the brother who performed Chalitzah and to all the other brothers - mi'de'Rabbanan (similar to Sheniyos [relations that the Torah permits, but whom the Rabbanan forbade]). There is certainly no Torah prohibition in this case, because, since the brother died without children, the Torah prohibition falls away. Consequently, should any of the brothers betroth one of the other wives of their deceased brother, the betrothal is valid (as is the Din by Sheniyos) Once a brother performs Chalitzah with his Yevamah, just as she becomes forbidden to him, so do her relatives (those that the author listed in Acharei-Mos); and by the same token, she is forbidden to marry his son or his brother. In fact, she adopts the Dinim of a divorced wife Similarly, if the Yevamah dies before Yibum or Chalitzah has been performed, she has the same Din as a man whose wife died, and whose relatives remain forbidden to him. All these Dinim however, are only mi'de'Rabbanan, as we explained Chazal have also said (Ibid. 48a) that the Yavam may not perform Yibum or Chalitzah until ninety days have elapsed from the death of her husband, not counting the day on which he died and the day on which the Yibum or the Chalitzah take place. And the reason for this is in order to pinpoint the father of the baby to which she subsequently gives birth. As for the prohibition of performing Chalitzah within this period, the Gemara learns it from a Pasuk. In this connection, the Gemara (on 35b) rules that if the deceased brother leaves his wife pregnant, and she has a miscarriage, the Yavam is permitted to perform either Yibum or Chalitzah with her; whereas in the event that the baby is born alive, she is Patur from Yibum altogether, even if the baby died immediately afterwards. This is the Torah law. The Chachamim however, issued a decree confining this ruling to where it is known for sure that baby was born in the ninth month. Otherwise, they are obligated to perform Chalitzah (but not Yibum) The Chachamim also say that, provided the Yavam had the intention of being intimate with the Yevamah, it doesn't matter what else either the Yavam or the Yevamah did, or did not, intend; the Yibum is effective, and to all intents and purposes, they are now husband and wife. Chazal instituted however, that before performing Yibum, the Yavam should betroth the Yevamah; and they referred to this betrothal as 'Ma'amar'. However, seeing as the Pasuk writes "Yevomoh yovo olehoh", they made it clear, that, unlike a regular Kidushin (betrothal), Ma'amar does not acquire the Yevamah.

Chazal exempt the following women from both Yibum and Chalitzah: the wife of 1. a Saris from birth and 2. an Androginus (a 'man' who is bi'sexual); the wife of 3. a Shoteh and of 4. a Katan, 5. an Aylonis (a barren woman) and 6. one who is a forbidden relation of the Yavam. And we learn these from the following Pesukim: "And his name shall not be erased from Yisrael" (to preclude 1 & 2), whose names are already erased (seeing as they were unable to bear children from birth); "and it shall be that the firstborn to whom she gives birth" (to preclude 3, who was born barren); "the wife of the deceased man may not marry" (anyone other than the Yavam [to preclude 4 & 5, who were never really married to him in the first place]); "and he shall take her to him as a wife" (to preclude 6, who is forbidden to him anyway) ... Chazal also list fifteen women whom the Yavam could not under normal circumstances betroth, and who are therefore themselves exempt, as well as exempting their Tzarah (rival wife) from Chalitzah and from Yibum. They said too, that there are some women who must perform Yibum and not Chalitzah, and others who must perform Chalitzah and not Yibum. Likewise there are brothers who are eligible to perform Yibum, others Chalitzah, and yet others who are exempt from both, in that there is not Zikah (bond with the Yevamah) at all ... The remaining details are all discussed in Yevamos.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere to men and women alike. Someone who contravenes it and fails to perform Yibum with his Yevamah, which entails being intimate with her just once (as that is the main Mitzvah), or who did not release her via Chalitzah, has nullified this Asei.

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