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

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Vol. 12   No. 51

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

Parshas Ki Seitzei

Shilu'ach ha'Kein
(Part 1)

Rashi (22:8) ascribes the sequence of the current Parshiyos to the principle of 'Mitzvah Goreres Mitzvah' (one Mitzvah leads to another). Consequently, if one observes the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Kein, one will eventually merit a new house ... a vineyard ... a field and a garment, which will lead to the Mitzvah of Ma'akeh (a parapet) ... not planting Kil'ayim ... not plowing with Kil'ayim ... and Tzitzis.

The Torah itself prescribes long life for the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Kein. Only as R. Ya'akov teaches us in Kidushin (39b), this can only be referring to life in Olam ha'Ba. There is no remuneration for Mitzvos in this world, he maintains. That being the case, the 'reward' to which Rashi refers is not a payment for the good deed that we performed, but because, as Chazal have said 'The reward for a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah'. When G-d sees that we are trustworthy ambassadors of His, and that we perform His Mitzvos faithfully, He gives us more Mitzvos to perform, enabling us to spread His Name still further afield.

This is surely a manifestation of G-d's extreme Chesed. So great is His desire to give, that He has devised a method of rewarding us in this world without detracting one iota from what is in store for us in the World to Come.


The first of four reasons (excluding one that is based on Kabalah) for the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Kein (and its prescribed reward) offered by Rabeinu Bachye, is the Chesed in not destroying the species. By sending the mother bird away even as one takes the fledgelings or the eggs for oneself, one ensures the continuation of the species. The Ramban and other Rishonim also say this, though it is extremely difficult to understand, because if that is so, what is the significance of sending the mother away, which the Torah clearly considers an integral part of the Mitzvah. Why will it not suffice just to make a point of not taking the mother together with the babies (like the Torah indeed writes regarding the Mitzvah of not Shechting a mother and baby animal on the same day, which the Rambam compares to this Mitzvah, as we shall see shortly)? And besides, this reason assumes that the person taking the babies or the eggs intends to take the mother as well, and desists from doing so only because the Torah has instructed him to send the mother away. Yet there is nothing in the Pasuk to suggest that this is what he intended to do. In fact, one is obligated to send the mother away, whether one means to take her or not (implying that there must be other reasons for the Mitzvah).


The second reason for the Mitzvah cited by R. Bachye is that of the Rambam, who explains in Moreh Nevuchim that it is to alleviate the intense pain that the mother would feel if her baby was taken away from her in front of her eyes, and he compares it to the prohibition of Shechting a mother animal on the same day as her child, which he seems to interpret as not Shechting the child in front of its mother (though it is not clear why he does). To do so, would be an act of wanton cruelty, he therefore explains, and from there we can learn, he adds, how careful we have to be in our dealings with others. For if the Torah is sensitive towards the feelings of animals, how much more so is it sensitive towards the feelings of human beings. We must therefore take our cue from here to deal with others with kindness and compassion, and to take great care to avoid causing them, not only physical pain, but mental anguish too.


Rabeinu Bachye's third reason is based on the Medrash, which refers to Shilu'ach ha'Kein as the easiest of Mitzvos (that doesn't cost any money either), and look at the reward that the Torah prescribes - ... "so that it will be good for and that you will live long!"

The Medrash illustrates this with the parable of a king who hired labourers to plant trees in his field, without telling them what remuneration they would receive for their work. At the end of the day He called all the labourers who had planted one tree and paid them a gold Dinar. The other labourers were amazed. If those who had planted only one tree were paid one gold Dinar, they figured, imagine how much they, who had planted far in excess of that, would receive!

And so it is with the Mitzvos. If for a Mitzvah that is so easy to perform and costs nothing, the Torah promises so much, imagine the reward that is due for Mitzvos that result in a loss of pocket, that involve time and effort and that save lives! That is why G-d declined to define the reward for the performance of all the other Mitzvos. For the value of Mitzvos, like the value of trees, differs from one Mitzvah to another. Like trees, where one produces a more valuable fruit than the other, so too, there are some Mitzvos that are more precious than others.


The fourth reason cited by R. Bachye is based on a Zohar, which refers to the tremendous spirit of mercy that this Mitzvah evokes, and which subsequently floods the world. For when the mother bird is forced to fly away, it frets and worries over the impending destruction of its nest to such a degree, that it wants to destroy itself. This in turn, results in the angel in charge of birds pleading with G-d for mercy.

And G-d, about whom the Pasuk writes " ... and His mercy extends to all His creatures" responds by showering all those who are suffering and in need of mercy, with an abundance of goodwill. When the Torah therefore writes " ... so that it will be good for you ... ", this is merely the perpetrator's share in the goodness that he has brought about.

The footnote in R. Bachye cites the Chavas Ya'ir, who points to the Zohar, which obligates a person to fulfill this Mitzvah irrespective of whether he wants the eggs and the fledgelings or not. On the contrary, he is not allowed to pass a bird's nest without sending the mother away and taking the eggs. This is not at all surprising he says, seeing as it is the Zohar who gives the above reason for the Mitzvah. Consequently, if the Mitzvah results in such an abundance of mercy, how can one walk past a bird's nest and not perform the Mitzvah in the hope that G-d will take pity on K'lal Yisrael who are languishing in Galus, and set the Ge'ulah in motion.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Getting Rid of the Yeitzer ha'Ra

"And you shall take her for yourself as a wife" (21:11).

'The Torah is only speaking against the Yeitzer-ha'Ra', says Rashi.

Man has a natural tendency to want what is forbidden, as Shlomoh ha'Melech writes in Mishlei (9:17) "Stolen waters taste sweet".

The Torah, which clearly frowns on a union between a Jewish man and an Eishes Y'fas To'ar, therefore permits her to her captor, in the hope that his lust for her will dissipate, and he will give her up (Tiferes Yonasan).


Rav Heshel, on the other hand, explains the above Rashi with the statement of Rav, who told his Talmidim that he declined to divorce his wife (who constantly caused him anguish), because a. she reared his children, and b. because she shielded him from the Yeitzer ha'Ra.

The son of an Eishes Y'fas To'ar will be a ben Sorer u'Moreh (as Chazal have taught). Consequently, the only justification to marry her is to shield him from the Yeitzer ha'Ra - and that is what Rashi means when he says 'The Torah is only speaking against the Yeitzer-ha'Ra'. The other reason that might have justified it, does not exist here.


G-d will Take her Part

"And the first baby will be born to the hated one" (21:15).

Why does the Torah say this with such certainty, asks the Or ha'Chayim?

And he replies with the Pasuk in 'Ashrei' "G-d is close to those who are broken-hearted". In that case, He is bound to sympathize with the hated woman and to take her part.

And it is for the same reason that the Torah writes in Vayeitzei (29:31) "When Hashem saw that Le'ah was hated, He opened her womb".


A Beating Won't Help!

" ... he obeys neither his father nor his mother ... and they (the Beis-Din) give him Malkos and he (still) fails to obey them" (21:18).

When someone does not obey his parents, says the Ram Cheifetz, the chances that he will listen any more after receiving a beating are slim.


Helping Those Who Help Themselves

"You shall help load together with him" (22:4).

... 'together with the owner', say Chazal. But if the owner sits himself down on the pavement and expects others to load his wagon for him, there is no Mitzvah to assist him.

And the same applies, says the Chafetz Chayim, in matters of Ruchniyus (spirituality). Hashem is always ready to offer a helping hand to those who want to come closer to Him, to perform Mitzvos and to learn Torah (as Chazal have said 'Someone who comes to purify himself receives Divine Assistance'). But what can someone expect if he Davens each morning and pleads 'Please make pleasant the words of Your Torah ... ' and 'enlighten our eyes in Your Torah', and then, the moment Davening is over, he goes home to have breakfast and rushes off to work? How can G-d possibly make his learning pleasant and enlighten him in His Torah, when he hasn't even opened a Seifer?


Don't Exploit a Mother's Compassion

"Do not take the mother together with the babies. Send away the mother and then take the eggs, in order that it will be good for you ... " (22:6).

R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld gives a beautiful reason for this Mitzvah.

Everybody knows that when one approaches a bird to catch it, it flies away before one has a chance to get anywhere near it. That being the case, why does the Torah assume that it will be necessary to chase the mother away when one comes to take its eggs or its babies? Why can we not assume that it will fly away?

The answer lies in the natural instinct inherent in every mother to protect its young, an instinct, it appears, that is more powerful than the instinct to save itself. The mother bird remains close to its nest in order to protect its young, overcoming its natural fear of human-beings. And the Torah is teaching us here not to exploit a mother's mercy on its children.

It is clear that, were it not for the mother's maternal instinct, we would not be able to catch it. The Torah therefore warns us not to exploit that mercy by catching the bird as a result of it. No, says the Torah, let the bird go (even help it escape) ... "in order that you will live a long time", because when someone takes pity on G-d's creatures, then G-d will take pity on him.

Proof for this explanation lies in the Rambam in Hilchos Shechitah (13:7), who rules that if one did send the mother away and it later returns and one catches it, one is permitted to Shecht it, because the Torah only forbids taking the mother when it is unable to fly away, due to the babies over which it is hovering, as the Torah writes "and the mother is crouching on the babies". Once the babies are no longer there, there is no reason why not to.


Don't Exploit G-d's Kindness

Using a similar thought process, R. Yosef Chayim explained the Ran's interpretation of the Mishnah in Yuma 'If someone says I will sin and Yom Kipur will atone for my sin, Yom Kipur will not atone'. And the Ran explains that this is because he is using Yom Kipur as an excuse to sin.

To explain this, R. Yosef Chayim cites a Yerushalmi in Makos, which describes how, when they asked Chochmah what should happen to a sinner, it replied that evil should chase him (and Torah and Nevu'ah were hardly more positive). But when they posed the same question to Hashem, His reply was 'Let him do Teshuvah, and his sin will be atoned'.

Clearly then, Teshuvah is not a natural phenomenon (since nobody but Hashem can fathom it), but an act of chesed on the part of G-d.

To rely on Yom Kipur therefore, in order to sin, is exploiting His Midas Chesed to perpetrate evil, and that is not acceptable.


Being Ashamed of Oneself

"And it shall be when you wish to relieve yourself outside (the camp), then you shall dig a hole and when you have finished, you shall cover your excrement" (23:14).

The Torah actually writes "ve'Hoyoh be'shivt'cho chutz, ve'chofarto boh, ve'shavto ve'chisiso es tzei'o'secho", and, R. Baruch from Mezibuz, taking the Pasuk out of context, explains it in connection with the Chazal, who say that the genuine shame that a person feels at having sinned causes the sin to be forgiven. Accordingly, he translates the Pasuk to mean ...'And it shall be when you go and sit outside (the Torah way) and you are ashamed of it and do Teshuvah, you will have covered over (your sin)'.

The interpretation of the Pasuk may well be out of context, but the comparison of sin to excrement is highly appropriate.


Jewish Soldiers

"Because Hashem your G-d walks in the midst of your camp" (23:15).

When other armies go to war, they feel free to do as they please and to give vent to every whim that takes their fancy. As a result they indulge in every abomination that they can lay their hands on, whilst their captains (if they are not themselves busy with similar activities) simply turn the other way, presumably, in anticipation of the great heroic deeds that their brave warriors are about to perform.

But Yisrael are different, says R. Yosef Shaul Natanson. A Jewish soldier knows that the Divine King is present in his camp, and he knows that He will fight Yisrael's battles and defeat the enemy on their behalf, provided they behave in a manner that pleases Him. And so he will do nothing that he would not do in time of peace. If anything, he will make every effore to improve his standard of observance, in order to achieve victory.

See Rashi Matos (31:11).

* * *

(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 491:
To Appoint Judges and Law-enforcement Officers (cont.)

... A very old man, a saris (who could not father children) or someone who was blind (even in one eye) are disqualified from sitting on the Sanhedrin ... Kings of Yehudah are eligible to judge and to be judged, but not Kings of Yisrael, since they do not possess a chezkas kashrus like the former ... The above plus the Din of up to what time of the day the Sanhedrin must sit, as regards the Sanhedrin Gedolah, the Sanhedrin Ketanah and the Beis-Din of three, and other details are all discussed in Sanhedrin (and in Choshen Mishpat Si'man 11).

This Mitzvah applies in Eretz Yisrael, but not in Chutz la'Aretz (where Semichah does not apply). But anyone who has received Semichah in Eretz Yisrael, is eligible to judge even in Chutz la'Aretz, as we learnt in Makos (7a) 'The Sanhedrin (Ketanah) applies both in Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz la'Aretz' ... Beis-Din do not have the authority to pass the death-sentence, even in Eretz Yisrael, unless the Sanhedrin Gedolah is sitting in Yerushalayim.

This Mitzvah extends to the entire community, who are obligated to fix a Beis-Din in their respective towns, as the Gemara explains in Sanhedrin. Should they fail to do so, they negate a Mitzvas Asei. They will be severely punished, because this Mitzvah is so fundamental to the fulfillment of our religion. And we can learn from here, that even though, due to our sins, there is no Semichah nowadays, each and every community should appoint a few of their elite and invest them with the power to enforce Torah and Mitzvah observance, and to put a stop to anything that is despicable or unbecoming, by means of monetary fines or even through corporal punishment if need be. These officers should see to it that they themselves are upright, righteous citizens, examples of what they demand of others, so that the people should not be able to point a finger at them and demand that they practice what they preach. They should also involve themselves constantly with the people under their charge, to teach them the correct path upon which to proceed and to make peace between warring factions. All this entails giving up all their own personal pleasures and ambitions, in order to concentrate on their communal duties. If they do this, they will merit the fulfillment of the Pasuk in Daniel (12:3) "And those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who teach righteousness to the masses, like the stars forever".


Mitzvah 602:
Not to Retain False Weights and Scales

We are commanded to refrain from retaining in our domain weights and scales that are lacking. Even if we do not intend to actually use them, the Torah suspects that they may 'trap' us into sinning, as the Pasuk writes in Ki-Seitzei (25:13) "Do not have in your pocket two different weights, one larger one (with which to purchase) and one smaller one (with which to sell)", and "Do not keep in your house two measures, a larger one and a smaller one". And so the Gemara says in Bava Basra (89b) 'It is forbidden to keep a short measure or an excess one in one's house - even if one uses it as a potty'. 'Do not think,' comments the Rambam, 'that the Torah presents this as two La'avin because they are two independent Mitzvos. Rather it is in order to convey the La'av in its totality, to incorporate the two aspects of the Mitzvah, with regard to both weights and measures.' It is as if the Torah had said 'Do not have in your possession two different measurements, not in weights and not in measures. And this can be compared to what the Torah writes regarding the La'av of Ribis (taking interest) "Do not lend your brother interest of money, interest of food or interest of anything else" (Ki-Seitzei 23:20), which is all one La'av, even though it gives the impression of being three (the comparison is unclear however, since in our case, the Torah specifically writes the word "Lo [Do not]" twice, which it does not do in the case of Ribis). And the same applies to the Pasuk in Bo (13:7) "And Chametz shall not be seen, nor shall yeast be seen" (The previous problem does not apply here, though it is noteworthy that even there, the two La'avin appear in the same Pasuk, whereas in our case, the Torah presents them in two independent Pesukim.)

In all of the above cases, the Chinuch concludes, the double expression does not come to add a La'av (since the different segments of the Mitzvah obviously belong to the same Mitzvah), and the Torah only comes to convey the different aspects of the La'av.

The author has already taught us reasons for the Mitzvah and some of its Dinim in Parshas Kedoshim, in the Mitzvah of Righteous Scales and in the La'av of not using them to cheat (Mitzvah 258 & 259).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere to men and women alike. Someone who retains a false weight or false scales in his house, even if he has no intention of using it, has contravened it, though he will not receive Malkos, seeing as he has not performed an act. Even if he does transgress and weigh with them however, he will not receive Malkus, since he is obligated to return what he stole, rendering it a 'La'av ha'Nitak la'Asei', which is not subject to Malkos.

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