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

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Vol. 4 No. 49

Parshas Ki Teitze

We Must Make the First Step

It is a mitzvah to help to load and to unload the animal of a fellow-Jew, should the owner of the animal require assistance. But that is only, the Torah adds, if the owner does his share. There where the owner sits down by the roadside and remarks, "Since it is your mitzvah, go ahead and load", the obligation to assist falls away.

The Chofetz Chaim compares this to Divine Assistance. G-d will only help us to overcome our Yeitzer Ho'ra and to serve Him, if we take the first step and make the necessary effort to help ourselves. If a man sanctifies himself from below, then Hashem will sanctify him from above; but not if he merely asks Hashem to sanctify him without doing anything about it himself. The concluding section of the Shemoneh-esrei begins with the words, "My G-d, guard my tongue from evil". What can one really expect Hashem to do if, the moment we leave Shul (or perhaps even earlier), our tongues are already wagging, and we are discussing other people's faults and weaknesses?

This concept is also hinted in the opening words of the Parshah: "When you go to war with your enemy (the Yeitzer Ho'ra), then Hashem your G-d will deliver him to you". Sure, Hashem will deliver him to you, but only if you set out to fight him. And it applies to all areas of spiritual development (no less than to one's material growth). What is the use, asks the Chofetz Chaim, of imploring Hashem daily, "Enlighten us in your Torah!", and then progressing through the entire day without so much as opening a seifer? Can one really expect to become a Torah-educated person without ever glancing at a Mishnah or a Gemoro?

Surely the thing to do is to take a seifer, immediately after davening, and to sit down for a while and study it. For then Hashem is bound to respond favourably. You see, Hashem always means business. He is forever prepared to assist those who need assistance. This must surely be one of His preferred occupations, considering that the purpose of the Creation was so that man should strive towards spiritual perfection? All Hashem wants to see from us is that we mean business too! So the moment He perceives that we are making the minimal effort to implement our requests, He will glady comply and assist us in those areas where we need Divine Assistance.

On the other hand, we must not for one moment believe that everything depends on our efforts, for Chazal have taught that "were it not for G-d's help, it would be impossible to overcome him" (the Yeitzer ho'Ra). What we must impress upon ourselves is that, without our effort, Hashem will not help us, and without His assistance, we cannot possibly overcome him.

There are many examples of this idea. To quote two: Tefillin consists of "Tefillin shel Rosh" and" Tefillin shel Yad". Between them, they are placed on the head (the location of the mouth - denoting prayer), and next to the heart, signifying devotion. But above all, they are placed on the arm, the symbol of action, as what is the use of praying with devotion, if one subsequently fails to take the necessary action - and note that we first put on the Tefillin shel Yad!

The second example is a possuk in Nitzovim (Devorim 30:14): "Because the thing (Teshuvah or Torah) is very close to you, with your mouth (Tefillah) and with your heart (devotion) - to carry it out." Again, our genuine prayers for Divine Assistance will be speedily answered, provided we take the first step towards their implementation. The Yomim Noro'im are already in sight, and we hope no doubt, that Hashem will deal with us favourably and grant us a good year. Those hopes are justified, but on the condition that when we pray over the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah and ask Him for forgiveness, we not only instill our prayers with fervour, but we also put all our own words into practice - then, Hashem will for sure help load together with us and when He does, we will be the winners.

(Ki Seitzei) Adapted from the Gro

The Birthright

"When a man has two wives... and the loved one and the hated one both bear him children, and the first-born son belongs to the wife that is hated. Then it shall be, on the day that he bequeaths to his sons that what he will have, he will not be allowed to declare the son of the loved wife his first-born, in face of the first-born son of the hated one. But the first-born , the son of the wife who is disliked shall he acknowledge, to give him double of all that he has in his possession; because he is the first of his power, and to him belongs the birthright." (Devorim 21:15-17)

These pesukim present many problems:
1) The Torah first writes that his beloved wife and the wife whom he hates both bear him children, suggesting that it is the wife that he loves who gave birth first - then it goes on to say that the first-born belongs to the wife that he hates.
2) Why on earth would we have thought that one is permitted to switch the birthright from one son to the other, that the Torah deems it necessary to tell us that he may not?
3) Why does the Torah speak about a woman who is hated, when the Torah has expressly forbidden one Jew to hate another. (Since when do we deal - halachically - with wicked people?)

4) Why does the Torah need to add "because he is the first of his strength"? Since when does the Torah give reasons for the mitzvos?

It seems to the Gro therefore, that the Torah is speaking in a case where Reuven, shall we say, married a woman, whom he straight away hated, and divorced within weeks of the marriage. He immediately married again, and his second wife bore him a son after seven months - the first wife gave birth to a boy two months later. Now we would have thought that it is the child who was born first - the seven-month baby of his second wife - who receives the birthright, therefore the Torah needs to teach us that it is the nine-month baby of his first wife, the hated (divorced) one, who is considered the first-born. Why? Because he is the first of his strength - he was conceived first!

A Bird in the Hand

..."to give him double of all that he has in his possession".

Rashi explains how Chazal derived from here that a first-born receives double only of the property that is actually in his father's possession at the time of his death - not of property to which his father merely has a claim.

This explains, writes the Gro, why the Torah first says "And it shall be on the day when the father bequeaths to his sons that what he will have" (the property that the father will have, once they lay claim to it, is shared by all the brothers equally) and then it goes on to write that the first-born only inherits a double portion of what the father actually has at the time of his death.

Teshuva doesn't save from death.......

"And if there will be a sin (chet) which carries with it the death-sentence, then he shall die" (21:22).

The question is asked, writes the Gro, why the Torah uses here the expression "chet", which is generally reserved for sins performed by mistake. Now surely, someone who sins by mistake, is not guilty of the death-sentence?

The Torah is speaking, he replies, of someone who sinned on purpose, and is sentenced to death. However, after the sentence has been pronounced, he expresses regret for having sinned and does teshuvah - out of fear. And Chazal have said that when someone sins and does teshuvah out of fear, then his sin is reduced to the level of a sin performed by mistake.

The Torah is teaching us that, in spite of this, he does not obtain a reprieve at the hand of Beis-din, as the Gemoro, in Makos states.

The Gemoro in Makos (13) cites the ruling of R. Akiva, in whose opinion, a person can obtain reprieve from Koreis (death at the Hand of Hashem) through teshuvah, but not from the Beis-din for having committed a sin which carries with it the death-sentence. (On the contrary, teshuvah before the death-sentence is actually carried out is mandatory.) And that explains, the Gro concludes, why the Torah writes "And when there will be on a man a chet" (rather than "And when a man performs"), suggesting that "chet" (a sin performed by mistake) is what still remains on him from the far more serious sin that he originally performed. If Teshuvah doesn't save from death, then what, one may ask, is the point of doing Teshuvah? The answer is that Teshuvah may not save from death, it does, however, save from Gehinom after death!

(Ki Seitzei) (Yeshayah 54:1-10)

"Roni Akoroh lo yolodoh." "Is the fact that a woman has no children, cause for rejoicing?" asks the Gemoro in B'rochos (11a). What Yeshayoh ha'Novi means, answers B'ruryah, is that Yisroel should rejoice, because she did not bear children - like the heretic who posed the question - who were fit to go to Gehinom. Now why did the Gemoro only ask from "lo yolodoh", rather than from "akoroh" which came first in the possuk?

The Ma'ayonoh shel Torah, quoting the Mahari ha'Cohen explains with a Gemoro in Yevomos (64a). The Gemoro writes there that the reason that the Mothers Soroh, Rifkah, Rochel and Le'ah, were barren was to prompt the forefathers to pray, because G-d loves the tefillos of tzadikim.

Needless to say, that applies only on the condition that the Tefillos are indeed answered - when they are not, then the reason for the woman's barrenness must be a negative one - a form of punishment.

"Roni Akoroh" - it would be fine for a barren woman to jubilate and to praise Hashem, if her barrenness would change on account of the tefillah. It is when the barren woman still does not have children, even after the prayers, that the question "why should a woman who has no children praise Hashem?" needs to be asked.

As long as Yerusholayim's children are in exile, she is compared to an "akoroh", to a woman who cannot bear children. Therefore the Novi Yeshayoh comforts her, there will come a time, he assures her, that she will once again rejoice in childbirth. She will praise G-d, when she again gives birth - when her children return to her. Her children will even outnumber those of the numerous nations, who did not experience exile.

Yerusholayim, as well as the other cities of Eretz Yisroel, will need to expand, in order to contain the vast number of exiles that will return. The promise that G-d made to the Ovos will come true; Eretz Yisroel will expand in all directions and will overrun other nations. Nor will she need to fear a recurrence of her troubles, because this ge'ulah, unlike the previous ge'ulos, will be permanent. Yisroel will be able to go out of the golus with their heads high, with the firm knowledge that they will never have to suffer exile again. The good times that await them will erase all memories of their past sufferings. During the Golus you were governed by many masters, the Novi tells Yisroel, but in the days of Moshiach, G-d alone will be your Master, and He will be Master of all the nations too, because they will all acknowledge His Mastery over the whole world.

Yisroel is compared to a woman who has angered her husband and has temporarily lost favour with him. She is downcast and miserable in his absence. But she remains the beloved wife of his youth. That is why he is bound to come back to her. And in the same way, no break between Hashem and His beloved people can ever be permanent. Although the length of the golus may have seemed immeasurably long, yet it will be considered like a brief moment compared to the great mercy with which G-d will shower us, when the vast ingathering of the exiles takes place; because that will last forever! That is an oath that G-d took, and it is irreversable. For just like the irreversible oath that He took after the flood in the days of No'ach - that there would never be another flood - so too did He swear irreversibly that He would never again give vent to His anger against the Jewish people.

"Because the mountains will move, and the hills will bend, but My lovingkindness will not move from you, and the covenant of My peace will not bend, says the G-d who has mercy on you."

Rashi interprets this last possuk as referring to the Ovos and the Imohos, as the mountains and the hills do in other places. In other words, even if the merits of the Fathers and the Mothers will terminate, nevertheless My kindness and My covenant of peace will not.

The Ma'ayonoh shel Torah, quoting the Tzavrey Shollol, points out that on two occasions in the whole of T'nach do we find the terms "Lo yomush" - here and in Yehoshua, where Hashem told Yehoshua, "Lo yomush Seifer-ha'Torah mi'piycho". This comes to hint, he explains, that it is because the Seifer-Torah never moved from the mouths of Klal Yisroel even during the long days of golus, that Hashem's kindness will not move away from Yisroel, a fitting manifestation of Chazal's statement "The world was created with chessed".

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