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

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Vol. 20   No. 47

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Menuchah bas Boruch Zvi Mordecha a"h μιαδ"μ,
On her eighteenth Yohrzeit (13th Elul)

Parshas Ki Seitzei

Sending Away the Mother Bird
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

"Send away the mother (bird), and take the babies for yourself, so that it will be good for you and you will merit long life!" (22:7).

The following five reasons for the prohibition of sending away the mother bird before taking the babies are cited by Rabeinu Bachye. Some of them are also discussed in the Ramban.

Because …

1. … taking a mother bird and its baby and Shechting them is symbolical of destroying the species.

2. … it is cruel to the mother to take its babies in front of its eyes (Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim). In fact, the Rambam explains, the same reason applies to the prohibition against Shechting an animal and its child on the same day.

3. … it is easy to perform, and costs nothing. The Torah gave us such a Mitzvah, promising a reward of long life for those who observe it, to teach us the incredible reward that is due for keeping the Mitzvos (Medrash). And the Medrash illustrates this with the parable of a king who hired workers to plant trees in his field, without telling them what remuneration they would receive. After a day's work, some of the workers had planted one tree, some two and some three and even more. In the evening, the king first gave each of the workers who had planted one tree a gold coin. Imagine the excitement of those workers who had planted many trees, when they anticipated the number of gold coins they would receive.

And so it is here. If the reward for such a simple Mitzvah that costs nothing is long life (in the World to Come, according to the Gemara in Kidushin 39), imagine the reward that is forthcoming for Mitzvos that take time and cost money and effort. Refer also to end of article.

4. … Similar to reason #2, the Torah wants to teach us the Midah of mercy, not because He is merciful - although of course He is, and to distance ourselves from cruelty, in keeping with the principle that the Torah forbids causing pain to animals (Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim), And once again, the Rambam equates the reason for this Mitzvah with that of not Shechting an animal and its baby on the same day.

5. … on a more esoteric note, it is an act of mercy that affects the entire world. Why is that? Because afraid that its nest is about to be destroyed, the bird wants to kill itself. This arouses the angel that is in charge of birds to plead with Hashem for mercy. And Hashem, about whom it is written "And His mercy extends to all His creatures", responds by opening the gates of mercy and sending a shower of mercy upon the world, benefitting all those who need help. And it is as a reward for bringing so much good to the world that the Torah writes "In order that it will be good for you and you will merit long life!" (Zohar Chadash).


A similar reason to reason no. 3 appears in various Medrashim, but with a slightly different twist. The Medrash comments that the Torah, which generally refrains from giving reasons for Mitzvos, presents the reason - the same reason - for two diverse Mitzvos - 1. Shilu'ach ha'Kein, one of the easiest Mitzvos; 2. Kibud Av va'Eim, acknowledged to be one of the most difficult Mitzvos. And the Medrash points out that in this world, in spite of the vast difference between them, the Torah promises long life for both Mitzvos.

What the Medrash is apparently coming to teach us is that, if in this world, the reward for two such diverse Mitzvos is the same, we can assume that the real reward is reserved for the World to Come. Evidently, so great is the reward there that the Torah withholds it from us, because it is beyond human comprehension. And there, we can be sure, each Mitzvah will be rewarded in accordance with its merit.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Lesson of a Ben Sorer u'Moreh

"When a man has a son who has gone astray and rebelled … " (21:21).

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (71a) informs us that both 'ben Sorer u'Moreh' and 'Ir ha'Nichachas' never actually took place and never will (since the details of the Halachos are too intricate to be fulfilled), And the reason that the Torah inserts them is 'in order to learn them thoroughly and receive reward'. Presumably, what the Gemara means is that the Torah presents us with these two Parshiyos so that we should study them and learn from them the lessons that they contain. In that case, the question remains what major lesson can we learn from them?

Regarding the Parshah of ben Sorer u'Moreh' R. Bachye explains that it comes to teach us the extent of Ahavas Hashem. There is no love greater than that of a father and mother towards their son; yet the Torah teaches us here that when he rebels against G-d in the manner described in the Pasuk, they are duty-bound to take him to Beis-Din to be stoned. Indeed, he adds, we have a precedent for this Midah in the Akeidah, where Avraham demonstrated how a person's love of Hashem can override that of his beloved son; and that was his only son who was born to him in his old age after he had all but despaired of having children from Sarah. Moreover, Yitzchak had not sinned!

(In fact, he had demonstrated the same Midah, albeit to a lesser degree, when he banished his son Yishmael from the house, when ordered to do so, without a moment's hesitation. Though that son had sinned.)

In any event, R. Bachye concludes, the Akeidah earned Avraham the title "Avraham my beloved one!" (Yeshayah 41:8). And the Parshah of ben Sorer u'Moreh teaches us that loving G-d more than our children is not confined to Avraham Avinu, it pertains to us too!


Making Allowances for the Yeitzer-ha'Ra

"When you come to your friends vineyard (to work for him), you may eat grapes to your heart's desire, but do not place any into your basket" (23:28).

Rabeinu Bachye explains that whilst working with his boss' luscious fruit, the worker will be strongly tempted to help himself to some of them. That is why, to counter the forbidden urge, the Torah decided that it is preferable for him to take with permission than to take without. It is not a blanket Heter to help himself to his boss's fruit. Consequently, to place fruit in his basket to take home would be an act of wanton theft.

This Din is reminiscent of the Din of an Eishes Y'fas To'ar, discussed at the beginning of the Parshah, where the Torah permits a soldier to be intimate with a captive woman - once only - in order to pacify his Yeitzer ha'Ra.


The Leather Strap

"He shall give him forty lashes" (25:3).

The strap with which the sinner is lashed, the Mishnah in Makos (23a) explains, is made predominantly of ox-leather (which, a Tefach wide, is doubled and doubled again). There were however two thin straps made of donkey leather running alongside it.

Rabeinu Bachye explains that we learn the idea of the ox-strap from the juxtaposition of this Pasuk next to the Pasuk of not muzzling an ox when it threshes the corn, as the Gemara there explains. Whereas the straps of donkey we learn from the Pasuk in Yeshayah (1:3) "The ox recognizes the one who acquires it, and the donkey, the feeding-trough of its master ... !".

The idea of the Tefach strap doubled and doubled again, the author explains, is based on the fact that a Tefach comprises four Etzbo'os (thumb-breadths), which doubled and doubled again totals sixteen. And as we learned in Sotah (37b), every Mitzvah in the Torah G-d is made with sixteen covenants.

Consequently, the sinner, having contravened sixteen covenants, is reminded of this by the size of the strap that is used to strike him.

Presumably, this is closely connected to the angel of the Midas ha'Din, whose name is 'Yo'hach' ('Yud' 'Vav' [sixteen] hach strike!), who in turn, is hinted in the Hagadah, when we spill a total of sixteen drops of wine corresponding to the Midas ha'Din that struck the Egyptians.

As for the two straps that went alongside the main strap, he explains, they represent the 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma', which Yisrael declared at Har Sinai, and which the sinner seems to have momentarily forgotten.

R. Bachye also explains that the three derivatives of 'smiting' ("ve'Hikohu", "Yakenu" and "lehakoso") in Pasuk 2 & 3 hint to the division of the Malkos into three, one third in front, and two at the back (one across each shoulder-blade).


Striking a Fellow-Jew

" … he may not add (to them), lest (pen) he adds … " Ibid.

R. Bachye, citing R. Yonah (in Sha'arei Teshuvah), learns from here that someone who strikes a fellow-Jew, is subject to, not just one La'av, but two - since whenever the Torah uses the word 'Hishamer" "Pen" or "Al" it refers to a La'av, which is subject to Malkos.

Rabeinu Yonah stresses there that this includes one's wife, which is no different than striking anybody else.

In addition, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (58b) learns from the Pasuk in Sh'mos (2:13) where Moshe addressed Dasan, who was about to strike Aviram, as 'Rasha' that a Jew who raises a hand against another Jew bears the title 'Rasha'.

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