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

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Vol. 21   No. 50

This issue is sponsored in honour of
the marriage of
Aharon Mehsulam Leib to Shelly Malka n"y
shyizku lvnos bayis ne'eaman b'yisrael

Parshas Ki Savo

The Writing on the Wall
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"And it shall be that, on the day that you cross the Yarden to the land that Hashem your G-d is giving to you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with lime (ba'sid). And you shall write on them all the words of this Torah when you cross, in order that you will come to the land that Hashem your G-d is giving to you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as Hashem the G-d of your fathers promised you" (27:2/3).


The commentaries query Rashi, who comments that Yisrael set up three sets of stones, twelve in the Yarden, twelve in Gilgal and twelve on Har Eival from the Gemara in Sotah (Daf 35). According to the Gemara, after the ceremony at Har Eival, they took down the Mizbei'ach and rebuilt it in Gilgal that very same day. As for the third set of stones, it was set up earlier in the land of Mo'av by Moshe Rabeinu (See main article in vol. 17). In any event, we will concern ourselves mainly with the stones that they set up on Har Eival.

Although some commentaries maintain that "all the words of this Torah" refers to the Taryag Mitzvos, which is what was written on the stones, the Ramban explains the Pasuk literally. He maintains that they wrote the entire Torah on the stones. According to the Medrash that they actually wrote it in all seventy languages (besides Lashon ha'Kodesh), this can only have been achieved with the help of a miracle. In addition, it may well have been due to a miracle that the people of that generation spoke and were even able to write all seventy languages!

The Oznayim la'Torah, citing the above Machlokes, initially suggests that the Torah's spelling of the word "ba'sid" with a 'Siyn' and not with the usual 'Samech', is because it is referring to a stronger quality lime/plaster. But he then quotes the Alshich, who points out that "sid" spelt with a Siyn possesses the same letters as the word 'Shakai', the Name of G-d that denotes 'tzimtzun' (contraction), as Chazal said with regard to the creation - the world continued to expand until G-d said 'dai' (enough). And he explains that this hints at the miraculous aspect of the stones to contain the entire Torah in seventy languages.


The author cites the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah in Sotah (35b), who maintains that they wrote the Torah on the stones, and then covered them with lime, and not in the reverse order (the lime on the stones and the writing on the lime). This does not constitute a problem with erasing the words of Torah, since the lime could easily be removed, leaving the letters intact. He then queries the commentaries who attribute the covering of the letters to the need to protect them from the rain, on the grounds that lime melts in the rain, in which case it would not serve as a good protector. Besides, they set up the stones in Nisan, and there would therefore be no rain for another six months.

To answer the question that, if the purpose of translating the Torah into seventy languages was so that each gentile nation should copy it in his own language, how they would be able to do this now that the script was covered with lime, Rebbi Yehudah replied that G-d put it into the heads of the gentile notaries to peel the lime of the script in order to copy it. And the author attributes the need to cover it in the first place to the prohibition of teaching Torah to gentiles. He explains that transcribing it on stones in a way that they could copy it directly would have been akin to teaching them Torah, and that they avoided the problem by forcing them to first perform an act that rendered the script visible.

Why it was necessary for the gentile nations to transcribe the Torah, (see foot of page 4).


Finally the Oznayim la'Torah discusses Yisrael's strange itinerary following the crossing of the River Yarden. They travelled all the way (sixty mil) to Har Eival (through enemy territory), where they built the Mizbe'ach and pronounced the blessings and the curses. Then they travelled back to Gilgal, where they spent their first night in Eretz Cana'an, and where, according to the Gemara that we cited earlier, they set up the stones a second time!


Bearing in mind that the Mizbei'ach with the Torah inscribed on it was also for the benefit of Yisrael, the author refers to what he wrote in Parshas Re'ei (See Parshah Pearls, DH Sh'chem & Avraham). There he explained that Avraham Avinu's first stop in Eretz Yisrael was in Sh'chem, where he built a Mizbei'ach and where G-d promised to give his descendants Eretz Yisrael. It therefore makes good sense for Yisrael to have implemented that promise by following in his footsteps by also setting up their first Mizbei'ach in Sh'chem. Moreover, by writing the entire Torah on the stones of that Mizbei'ach, prior to the conquest of the land, they were confirming their belief in what the Torah reiterates many times, that Torah and Mitzvos was a precondition of inheriting Eretz Cana'an.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Bikurim & Amalek

"And it shall be when you come to the land which Hashem your G-d gives you as an inheritance, and you will inherit it and dwell in it. Then you shall take from the first of all the fruits of the ground " (26:1/2).

What, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, is the connection between the Parshah of Bikurim, with which the current Sedra opens, and that of Amalek, with which the previous one concludes?

To answer the question, the author refers to the battle with Amalek described in the Torah in Parshas Beshalach. Amalek attacked Yisrael in Refidim, he explains. This was not a lone battle, but an ongoing one, as Amalek's life's ambition is to stop Yisrael from living a life based on the Torah. And it was with that in mind that they chose to attack immediately prior to their receiving the Torah on Har Sinai. Ever since, they have done everything in their power to stop Yisrael from studying Torah and from observing it.

The battle between Yisrael and Amalek/Eisav actually began many years earlier, when, in Parshas Vayishlach, the angel Sama'el, (Eisav's guardian angel), struck the thigh of Ya'akov, with whom he was wrestling. As is well-known, Ya'akov is synonymous with Torah (as is clear from the title that the Torah confers upon him "the one who dwelt in tents" with reference to the Yeshivah of Shem and Eiver), and when Sama'el saw that he could not stop Ya'akov from studying Torah altogether, he struck his thigh, which, in its capacity as the support of the body, represents the supporters of Torah, for, as the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos "If there is no 'flour' (i.e. food), there can be no Torah!"


When we bear in mind that Bikurim, the first of the Matnos Kehunah, is given to the Kohanim, who have been charged to teach Yisrael Torah, and whom one therefore expects to be the outstanding Torah-scholars in Yisrael, the connection between the two Parshiyos becomes clear. Providing the Kohanim with their basic needs is the perfect antidote to Amalek, inasmuch as it ensures that he will fail in his mission.


I Did Not Forget

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

Commenting on the latter statement, Rashi explains that 'I did not forget to recite a B'rachah over the fruit'.

The Oznayim la'Torah points out however, that a B'rachah over fruit is only mi'de'Rabbanan, in which case the reference is merely an Asmachta (a hint).


Consequently, he explains, what the Pasuk is really coming to teach us is merely the conclusion of what we wrote in the previous piece.

By giving Bikurim to the Kohen, and separating one's Matnos Kehunah and Leviyah, he explains, one strengthens the hand of the Torah teachers, thereby weakening the power of Amalek in this world. And in so doing, one can honestly say that he has fulfilled the Mitzvah of "Do not forget", which the Torah commanded at the end of 'Ki Seitzei'.


Hashem Your G-d

"Then you shall come to the Kohen and you shall say to him 'I have related today to Hashem your G-d '" (26:3).

Bearing in mind the second son in the Hagadah, who is branded a 'Rasha' for excluding himself when he says 'What is this Avodah for you?" asks the Oznayim la'Torah, why does the owner of the Bikurim refer to "your G-d" (the G-d of the Kohen), and not to 'our G-d'?

The difference, he explains, lies in the fact that, whereas the Rasha is speaking to his siblings and to the participants of the Seider (he is addressing his father), the person bringing the Bikurim is speaking to a Kohen who is performing the Avodah in the Beis-ha'Mikdash (according to the Targum Yonasan he is even speaking to the Kohen Gadol). It therefore behoves the latter to speak with respect and with humility to the servant of G-d in the House of G-d, and to say to him that he has come to the Beis-ha'Mikdash to learn from him how to serve Hashem and to thank Him for His kindness.


Perhaps one can add, that whereas it is perfectly in order for the owner of the Bikurim to speak in this manner to the Kohen, as we just explained, there is no justification for the son to exclude himself from an Avodah (i.e. that of the Korban Pesach) that he is no less obligated to observe than the people he is addressing.


The Heaven Called Ma'on

"Look down from Your holy Ma'on from the heaven, and bless Your people Yisrael" (26:15).

The Gemara in Chagigah (Daf 12), defines 'Ma'on' as one of the seven heavens, where angels sing Shirah to Hashem at night, and are silent during the day, in honour of Yisrael. The Oznayim la'Torah adds that when Yisrael sing Shirah in the day, this enables the angels to take over in the night.

That being the case, he explains, the Torah specifically refers to Ma'on here, because, not only will the angels not prosecute us upon hearing this B'rachah, but they will add their blessings. Why is that?

Because, based on the comment of the Sifri on the words "and bless your people" .. - 'with children,' the angels will add their blessings too, since the more children Yisrael have (who will sing Shirah to G-d in the day) the more chances they (the angels) will have of singing Shirah to Him by night.


What's more, he adds, it is for exactly the same reason that, during Birchas ha'Mazon at a wedding, we say 'she'Simchah bi'Me'ono' - so that the angels, who are happy when a Jewish couple get married, as we just explained, will add their blessings to the young couple.

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