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

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Vol. 11   No. 45

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Menuchah bas Boruch Zvi Mordechai a.h.
whose eighth Yohrzeit is on the
13th of Elul

Parshas Ki Seitzei

Why Amalek Attacked

"He came upon you on the way ... and you were tired and weary ... and did not fear G-d" (25:18).

The last phrase, says Rashi, refers to Amalek (who is the epitome of one who does not fear G-d) and not to Yisrael.

Alternatively, the Rosh explains, it pertains to Yisrael, who dealt dishonestly in weights and measures and did not fear G-d. And this explains why the Torah juxtaposes Amalek to the Parshah of false weights and measures (which the Torah forbids even to own, let alone to use).

Indeed, the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a specifically connects the lack of fear of G-d mentioned here with the Parshah of weights of measures, with reference to people who dip their weights in salt, with the intention of adding to their weight, thinking that nobody will see.

And it was because of this trait that Amalek attacked Yisrael, as the Pasuk hints in Mishlei (11:1/2).

At first glance, the Pasuk in Beshalach (17:7/8), juxtaposing the Parshah of Amalek to "Is Hashem in our midst or not ... " (a lack of Emunah [see Rashi there]) appears to clash with the juxtaposition here. And what's more, Rashi, who agrees with the juxtaposition here (even though he does not connect it with "ve'lo yarei Elokim") seems to contradict himself, too. But that is not the case, for false weights and measures is really synonymous with a lack of Emunah (or at least it is a branch of it). A person whose Emunah is strong has no need to steal or cheat, for he knows that whatever is destined to be his, he will receive in an honest way, and if he does not, then he knows that he is not destined to receive it.


The Ha'amek Davar asks how, in the desert, it was possible to attribute the attack of Amalek to faulty weights and measures. What sort of business did they indulge in at that time that might justify the extensive use of scales? It seems to me however, that in spite of the wording "Remember what Amalek did ... ", the juxtaposition of the two Parshiyos is concerned, not with the reason for Amalek's attack after they left Egypt, but with what will happen when they enter Eretz Yisrael. It comes as a warning to what Yisrael can expect once they live there if their scales are not in order. And this is in keeping with the rest of the Parshah, which sets out to prepare Yisrael for their entry into Eretz Yisrael (rather than to rebuke them on their misdeeds in the desert, which it did in the opening Parshiyos of Devarim). Indeed, the very Rashi that the Ha'amek Davar quotes, writes 'If you cheated with measures and weights, start worrying about being attacked by the enemy' (a clear reference to the future, and not to the past).

The Pasuk in Beshalach, on the other hand, which does refer to the particulars of Amalek's attack, cites the cause as their lack of faith (of which they were guilty at the time) and not as false weights and measures (of which they were not). The two causes go hand in hand, as we explained, but they are not to be confused, as each one is mentioned in its own specific context.


Here's what the Ha'amek Davar writes to answer this question and why the Torah singles out false weights and measures. What is it that makes this branch of theft worse than regular geneivah?

Firstly, he cites the Gemara in Bava Basra (at the end of Perek 'ha'Mocher es ha'Sefinah') which stresses the severity of the sin of weights and measures, placing it in a category lower than that of adultery. The question is why it does this, seeing that adultery is one of the three cardinal sins, whereas false weights and measures is not. And he explains it with the three cardinal sins listed by Chazal, 'idolatry, adultery and murder' for which one is obligated to sacrifice one's life. It is not the punishment that determines the severity of these three sins, since Chilul Shabbos receives a heavier punishment than adultery, yet Chilul Shabbos is not included in that list. It is what they symbolize.

For there are three root causes that cause a man to sin - a lack of faith in G-d and in his Torah; falling prey to one's desires and being overcome with anger (or other aspects of 'Bein Adam la'Chaveiro'), and the key sins to these three root causes are the three sins under discussion - idolatry, adultery and murder respectively. In fact, all sins are based on one or the other of the three root causes. Consequently, if someone transgresses Shabbos for reasons of Parnasah, his sin is rooted in a lack of faith and contains a touch of idolatry; whereas if he does so in pursuit of pleasure, then it is rooted in desire and contains a smack of adultery.

Now the most serious of the three cardinal sins is undoubtedly idolatry, inasmuch as it constitutes a lack of faith, and because of its magnetism, making it all but impossible to repent (as the Pasuk writes in Mishlei [2:19] "and all who come to it will not return").

Having said this, we can easily understand what makes this branch of theft worse than any other. Someone who steals a silver cup, say, does so because he desires it. But this is certainly not the case regarding someone who purchases or sells using false weights. He does this because he lacks faith in the One who feeds and sustains all according to their deeds, an act which is closely related to idolatry, as we explained.

No wonder then that it is also more stringent than adultery, which is second to idolatry, according to what we just said. Now let us go back to Amalek, who according to the Pasuk in Beshalach, attacked because Yisrael queried whether Hashem was in their midst or not. Following all the miracles that they had witnessed and the fact that earlier in the same Parshah the Torah testifies "And they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant", such doubts are nothing short of inconceivable. It must therefore be that although they acknowledged Hashem's presence in its current situation of miracles. What they were not sure was whether He only dwelt among them in His capacity as a Supernatural being, and only as long as Moshe was with them. What they doubted was whether, once Moshe departed, and the era of miracles would come to an end, He would continue to look after them within nature. This constituted a lack of faith which our Parshah refers to as 'false weights and measures'.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)

The Special Dispensation

"And you shall bring her (the beautiful woman captured in war) into your 'house' " (21:12).

This teaches us, says the Gemara in Kidushin (22a), that the captor is not permitted to oppress her and to have relations with her on the battle-field, apart from the one occasion that the Torah permits it. Beyond that, he must take her to his 'house'.

Others maintain that he is forbidden to have relations with her even the first time, on the battle-field, only in his house. And this, observes the Rosh, is the opinion of the Yerushalmi.

Yet a third opinion connects the oppression, not to being intimate with the captive, but with changing her clothes, which he may not force her to do before taking her into his house. And this is implied by the following Pasuk - "And he shall bring her into his house, and she shall remove the clothes in which she was captured" (see Chizkuni).


The Portion of the Firstborn

"He is not permitted to transfer the Bechorah (the birthright) to the son of his beloved wife ... " (21:16).

But is that not what Ya'akov did, asks the Rosh, when he took the Bechorah away from Reuven and gave it to Yosef?

Indeed he did, he answers, but that was due to Reuven's sin. And what's more, Yosef had earned it for sustaining his father for the years that he sojourned in Egypt.

Yet, even under such circumstances, it would not be permitted to follow Ya'akov Avinu's example. If a firstborn son sins against his father, the latter may take him to Beis-Din, as we learn from the following Parshah, but he may not take the law into his hands (by depriving him of the Bechorah).


No Plowing with an Ox and a Donkey

"Do not plough with an ox and a donkey" (22:11).

The reason for this, explains the Rosh, is because the ox chews its cud whereas the donkey does not. Consequently, the donkey will hear the ox chewing its cud, and will become agitated - and the Torah is sensitive towards the pain of animals.

See also Rabeinu Bachye.


Why No Sha'atnez

"Do not wear Sha'atnez, wool and linen together" (22:11).

This is because the holy Paroches comprised wool and linen, explains the Rosh, and G-d did not want us to make any sort of replica of it, much in the same way as we are forbidden to make a replica of the Ketores, or of the various sections of the Beis-Hamikdash and its holy vessels.

Alternatively, it is because Kayin brought linen and Hevel, wool, and look what happened as a result of the combination!


A New Tallis for a Chasan

"You shall make fringes in the four corners of your garment ... " ... "When a man betrothes a woman" (22:12/13).

The Torah's juxtaposition of these two Parshiyos, says the Rosh, is the source of the Minhag for the Kalah to buy her Chasan a new Tallis.

The Ta'amei ha'Minhagim (Si'man 947) connects this Minhag with the fact that Tzitzis protects a man against immoral behaviour (Arizal), and the Talis that she sends him is a reminder that he now has a wife to whom he should direct his interest and that he should rejoice with 'the portion that G-d granted him'. That is why the Pasuk says in Mishlei (6:32) "No'ef ishah chasar leiv", which can be translated as 'If a man commits adultery, it is because he is lacking thirty-two (the total number of Tzitzis-threads).

And this also explains the Minhag to fold the Talis on Motza'ei Shabbos, to show his appreciation of the wife who gave him the Talis. Therefore, doing so is a Segulah for his wife to live long.


Don't Blame the Women

"An Amoni and a Mo'avi may not marry into the community of Hashem" (23:4).

Chazal extrapolate from here "Amoni", 've'lo Amonis', "Mo'avi", 've'lo Mo'avis', precluding Amonite and Mo'abite women from the prohibition (which explains why David Hamelech, who descended from Rus the Moabite, was not disqualified from becoming King of Yisrael).

The reason for this is based on the following Pasuk " ... because they failed to offer you bread and water on the way when you left Egypt", and it is the way of men to go out to offer food, not women.

The Gemara in Yevamos (76b) overrides the suggestion that the men ought to have gone out to offer the men, and the women, the women, on the grounds that it is simply not the done thing for women to go out of town, and it cites the Pasuk in Tehilim (45:14) "All the glory of a woman is in the home".

Quoting the Pasuk in Devarim "like the B'nei Eisav did for me, and the B'nei Mo'av" (which Rashi ascribes to selling them food and drink), the Rosh asks how it is therefore possible to accuse the Mo'avim of failing to do just that?

And he answers that sure enough, it is only the Amonim who are accused of not offering food and drink to Yisrael in the desert. The Mo'avim were guilty of hiring Bil'am to make them sin (an act in which the Amonim were not involved).

And to explain why the Mo'avi women were not punished, the Gemara explains that there too, it is the way of men to hire, and not of women.


Exempt from Conscription

"He shall be exempt, in order to remain at home, and he shall make the wife that he took happy" (24:5).

This includes both his (new) house and his (new) vineyard, says Rashi.

Presumably, says the Rosh, Rashi is referring to the Mishnah in Sotah (43a). Listing those who do not even leave their houses in the first place, the Tana includes 'someone who ... built a house and consecrated it, planted a vineyard and redeemed its fruit, and married either his betrothed or his yevamah'. And all this is learned from the current Pasuk "noki (yih'yeh) le'veiso shonoh" - refers to his house; "yih'yeh" - comes to include his vineyard; "ve'simach es ishto" - refers to his wife, and "asher lokach", to his yevamah (after the Yibum).

All of these, the Mishnah concludes, do not even leave their homes (as opposed to the three mentioned in the Pasuk, who did not yet consecrate their house, redeem their fruit or marry their betrothed, and who do not go to the battlefront, but who are nevertheless conscripted to supply the soldiers with food and drink, and to repair the roads).


A Shame and a Disgrace

"Beware of the plague of Tzara'as (not to remove it) to observe it very carefully" (24:8).

The Rosh attributes the double warning ("Hishamer" and "Sh'mor nafsh'cha" are both Lo Sa'aseh) to the fact that anybody, even a king, is subject to tzara'as (like we find with Uziyah Hamelech), and needless to say, the higher the status of the person who is stricken, the more embarrassing Tzara'as is. Therefore the Torah finds it necessary to warn whoever it may concern, irrespective of his status, not to tamper with the plague, and to bear the disgrace (which is no doubt, part of the Kaparah) in silence. And this explains why the Torah refers to Miriam here. After all, she was the sister of both the King and the Kohen Gadol (as well as being a prophetess in her own right), yet she was stricken with Tzara'as and sent out of the camp, in full view of the entire nation, a most terrible disgrace for someone of such high standing.

An Afterthought on 'The Tefilah Experience'

Based on Pesukim in Tehilim (17:15 & 84:8, respectively), Chazal have taught us that one should give Tzedakah before Davenning, and that one should learn Torah after Davenning (even if it is only a little), before leaving the Beis-Hamedrash to go to work.

What incredible advice!

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (1:2) lists Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim as the three things on which the world stands. In that case, somebody who complies with these teachings, giving Tzadakah, Davenning and learning Torah can truly claim that he is keeping the world going - a great merit indeed!

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(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 571:
Not to Bring the Exchange of a Prostitute or the Payment for a Dog on the Mizbei'ach

We are forbidden to sacrifice on the Mizbei'ach, an animal that a prostitute received as payment for her services, or that one received in exchange for a dog, as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (23:19) "Do not bring the exchange of a prostitute or the payment for a dog to the house of Hashem ... ".

A reason for this Mitzvah is based on the fact that a Korban comes to purify a person's thoughts and to influence his deeds, by virtue of his actions in connection with the Korban (as the author explained in Parshas Terumah - Mitzvah 95). Consequently, we are afraid that a Korban that is brought in exchange for prostitution, which is a 'dirty' sin, will cause the bringer to think about what took place, having the exact opposite affect, thereby rendering the Korban ineffective.

And the payment of a dog is rejected for similar reasons. As we have already explained, the purpose of a Korban is to bring a person to thoughts of Teshuvah. For when the animal has been Shechted and cut into pieces, the owner is expected to think that what is happening to his animal ought to be happening to him, and that it is only on account of G-d's kindheartedness that He accepts a ransom in the form of some of his money, with which he has purchased this Korban that is being brought instead of himself. In this way, his heart softens, and he is filled with remorse for the sins that he performed and decides not to repeat them (all as we explained in Parshas Terumah). Dogs, on the other hand, are arrogant, and merely thinking about the dog which he exchanged for the animal that he is now bringing on the Mizbei'ach, will have the exact opposite effect. It will fill his mind with the very arrogance that the Korban is coming to negate, causing him to stubbornly refuse to retract from his sinful ways.

Do not think my son, writes the Chinuch, that these are childish ideas. Listen to the words of those who are older and more experienced than you.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Chazal have defined an 'Esnan Zonah' as when a man says to a prostitute 'Here is this animal in exchange for your services'. Her Esnan is forbidden, irrespective of whether she is a gentile, a slave or a Jewess who is forbidden to him (either via the laws of incest, or because she is a Chayvei La'avin) ... The Esnan of a male (homosexual) is included in the prohibition, but that of a woman who is permitted to him, or of his wife who is a Nidah is not ... If someone promises a prostitute one lamb, and subsequently pays her as many as a thousand, they are all forbidden ... It is only the actual exchange for the prostitution or for the dog that is prohibited. Should he pay her with something that is not fit to go on the Mizbe'ach, it is permitted to swap it for an animal and to bring it is as a Korban ... In the event that he gives her an animal that has already been designated as a Korban, the Isur of Esnan does not take effect on it, and it remains permitted ... In much the same manner, a 'Mechir Kelev' is where a man says 'Here is a lamb as payment for your dog'. Even if he subsequently gave him many lambs, they are all forbidden as 'Mechir Kelev'. On the other hand, it does not pertain to an animal purchased with the money which the seller received for the sale of his dog.

This Isur applies both to men and to women in the time that the Beis-Hamikdash is standing. Someone who contravenes this La'av and brings an Esnan Zonah or a Mechir Kelev on the Mizbe'ach, has brought a Korban that is disqualified, and it is as if he had offered up a blemished animal (as we explained in Parshas Emor), and he receives Malkos.The Ramban z.l. lists Esnan Zonah and Mechir Kelev as two independent La'avin (not as one, like the Rambam does).

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