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

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Vol. 8   No. 21

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
R' Amram Hillel ben Menachem Feldman
by his wife, children, parents and family.

Parshas Ki Sisso

The Ketores
(Part I)


Rashi in Parshas Korach (16:6), describes the Ketores as the most beloved of all the korbonos. Certainly, it was unique, inasmuch as it was the only korban that was burnt on the Golden Mizbei'ach, and the only Korban to be brought in the Heichal (the Kodesh), rather than in the Courtyard. What's more, it was the only Korban ever to be taken inside the Kodesh Kodshim - once a year on Yom Kipur.

As the commentaries point out, the numerical value of 'Ketores' (allowing the 'kuf' to be replaced by a 'daled' [following the gematriyah of 'Atbash']), equals 'Taryag', and this explains why the commentaries interpret the Ketores as a symbolism of Torah, as we shall see later. (See also "The Golden Mizbei'ach" Parshas Tetzaveh, where we discussed some of the special properties of the Ketores.)


In Parshas Korach (17:11), Rashi informs us that the Ketores had the power to halt plagues in their tracks (and the Zohar too, elaborates on this at great length). And this is the secret that the Angel of Death taught Moshe when he ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. In addition, the Mishnah in Yuma teaches us that any Kohen who brought the Ketores was bound to become rich, and that is why they would announce each morning 'Chadoshim la'Ketores'. Only those Kohanim who had never brought the Ketores before were permitted to participate in the 'lottery' that would determine who would bring it, to give others the chance to become wealthy too.


Nowadays, reciting the Parshah of Korbanos and learning about it, can bring about the same results, provided of course, one says them with understanding and with devotion. Who knows how many disasters have been averted on account of having recited the Parshah of Ketores? And who knows how many disasters would have been averted if only it had been? As far as the future is concerned, every Jew has the power to improve his own lot and that of the rest of k'lal Yisroel by reciting the Ketores properly every day.


Here is a brief summary of the Avodah of the Ketores, adapted from the Seifer No'am ha'Mitzvos. It is a mitzvas asei to burn the Ketores each day, both in the morning and in the early evening on the Golden Mizbei'ach in the Heichal.

The Ketores comprised eleven spices and in total, it weighed three hundred and sixty eight manim (a maneh = a hundred dinrim= five pounds), one maneh per day (half of which was brought in the morning and half in the evening). The three extra manim were brought on Yom Kipur (refer to 'Pitum ha'Ketores').


The Kohen brought nine kabin of Boris Karshinah (a herb used as a bleach) with which he rubbed the chelbenoh (a spice called galbanum), before soaking it in twenty-one kabin of caper-wine (or a strong, old, white wine). Then he would finely grind each spice independently, saying as he ground it 'Hodeik heitev, heitev hodeik' (since the voice enhances the quality of the spices). Finally he would mix it all, to burn half of it in the morning and half in the evening.

During the mixing, the Kohen would add to it a quarter kav (one kav = 24 egg-volumes) of Sedomis salt, and of Kipas ha'Yarden (a spice that grew by the River Yarden, or others say the dung of a certain fish that lived there). He also added a little Ma'aleh Oshon (a herb that caused the smoke to rise vertically).


The following is a list of the eleven spices of the Ketores, taken directly from 'The Living Torah':

Balsam, Onycha, Galbanum and Frankincense (each consisting of 70 Maneh). Myrrh, Cassia, Spikanard and Saffron (each consisting of 16 Manah); Costus (12 Maneh); cinnamon (9 Maneh) and cinnamon bark (3 Maneh). This constituted one year's supply of Ketores.


And this is how the Ketores was brought:

The Kohen on whom the lot fell would pile coals on the inner Mizbei'ach, which he would flatten with the base of the fire-pan, before gently throwing the Ketores on to the fire like one sifts flour, until it was spread out over the entire area of the fire.

This mitzvah applies only in the times of the Beis-Hamikdash, and pertains to male kohanim only.

The reason for the mitzvah is to increase the prestige of the House, so that its eminence and fear should be manifest on the face of all people. (to be cont.


Parshah Pearls

Ki Sisso

(Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro)
The Table Atones

The Gemoro in B'rochos (55a) comments that, as long as the Beis Hamikdosh stood, it was the Mizbei'ach that atoned for Yisroel. Now that the Beis Hamikdosh no longer stands, it is a person's table that atones for him (due to the acts of kindness that one performs there in the form of hachnosas orchim).

This is hinted in the four (of the eleven) spices which the Torah mentions specifically (as opposed to the other seven, which are derived by way of extrapolation), Sh'cheiles, Levonoh, Chelb'noh, Notof. The first letters of these four spices spells 'Shulchon', a hint that a person's shulchan atones like the Ketores.


Of Sinners and Crowns

"And the people heard this terrible thing and they were sad, and each one of them did not deign to place his crown on his head. And Hashem said to Moshe, say to the B'nei Yisroel 'You are a stubborn people. And now, remove your crowns from on you and I will know what to do with you" (33:4-5).

The crowns referred to here are the spiritual crowns that they received at Har Sinai, when they proclaimed "Na'aseh ve'nishna", injecting them with the power of invincibility and eternity. The G'ro asks that, seeing as Yisroel did not deign to place those crowns on their heads, why did G-d then need to order them to remove them?


To answer this question, he refers to the posuk in Vo'eiro (7:23), where, following Moshe's turning the water into blood, the Torah writes "ve'lo shos libo gam lo'zos", meaning that Par'oh took no notice of the miracle and persisted in his refusal to let the people go. And that is the meaning of the words "ve'lo shosu" in our posuk - "and they took no notice of Hashem's strong reaction to the sin of the Golden Calf, and "ish edyo olov" - each man continued to wear his crown.

The G'ro goes on to prove his interpretation of the posuk from the neginah under the words "ve'lo shosu", a 't'vir', a dividing neginah, indicating that it is not connected with "ish edyo olov" ,as it would have been had it meant to be translated in the way that we translated it in the opening paragraph.


Amazingly, exactly the same explanation is given by Tosfos on the Chumash, almost word for word like the G'ro (apart from his proof from vo'Eiro), even as far as citing the proof from the neginah.


The Chizkuni explains the discrepancy between the two pesukim based on a Gemoro in Ta'anis (15b). The Gemoro explains that, when on a fast-day for rain, ashes needed to be placed on the head of the Prince, it was the people who did so rather than the Prince himself, because there is no comparison between shaming oneself and being shamed by others.

Here too, Yisroel may well have removed the crowns of their own volition, but so great was their sin, that Hashem added to their shame by ordering them to remain without the crowns. In this way, their self-imposed shame was heightened by the Divine command.


Ornaments and Crowns

Tosfos cites Rav Yosef Ka'ro, who does not discuss the apparent discrepancy between the two pesukim currently being discussed, but he does point out that the 'edyom' which Hashem ordered them to remove refers, not to the crowns that they received at Har Sinai, but to the special ornaments and Yom-tov clothes that the people wore in honour of Matan-Torah.

And it is in the following posuk (6), that the Torah refers to the crowns, when it writes "And Yisroel were stripped of their crowns ('edyom') from Har Chorev". This is in keeping with the Gemoro in Shabbos (87a), which describes how one million, two hundred thousand destructive angels descended and forcibly removed them.


Kindness and Truth

"Hashem, Hashem and extremely kind and true" (34:6). The definition of kindness, the G'ro explains, is something that one does for someone else without the least obligation. Whereas truth (in this context) is either when one repays one's friend for a kindness that he had previously performed with him, or the fulfillment of a promise that one made, even if it is to perform a kindness.

That is why the Medrash says that one should not repay someone who fed him lentils with lentils, but with legumes. Because to repay kindness with kindness, one must give more than what one received. Otherwise, his act is one of truth, not of kindness.

And this explains the posuk in Michah (7:20) "You gave truth to Ya'akov, kindness to Avrohom". Because G-d promised to give Avrohom Eretz Yisroel as an act of chesed, but having promised it to Avrohom and his children, fulfilling that promise and giving it to Ya'akov, would be an act of emes.


With this, we can also understand why Rochov ha'zonah said to the spies (Kolev and Pinchos) "And now, swear to me by Hashem that, because I performed with you kindness, you too, will perform with my father's house kindness, and give me a sign of truth" (Yehoshua 2:12). Because to save Rochov was nothing more than truth, because they owed it to her in repayment for the kindness that she had performed with them. But if they would undertake to save the family of her father (to whom they owed nothing), that to be sure, would be repaying kindness for kindness.


And this is also the explanation of the posuk in Mishlei (3:3) "Kindness and truth should not leave you". The sequence of kindness and then truth implies that someone who goes out of his way to perform acts of kindness to people to whom he owes nothing, will certainly make a point of performing truth, to repay the acts of kindness that they performed with him.


And It Was at Minchah-Time! (from the Haftarah)

"And it was when Minchah arrived, that Eliyohu approached and said: Hashem G-d of Avrohom ... " (1:18).

'One should take special care when davening Minchah, for Eliyohu was only answered during Tefilas Minchah', says the Gemoro in B'rochos (8a).

How does the Gemoro know that Eliyohu was answered because he davened at Minchah-time, asks the Gro? Perhaps Hashem would have answered whenever he davened, but it so happened that he davened then?


The G'ro first points out that witchcraft takes effect at Minchah-time, and that is why Eliyohu needed to pray for a double salvation, when he beseeched Hashem "Aneini Hashem Aneini". which Chazal explain to mean 'Answer me, that fire should descend from heaven and consume the saturated bull (that he had cut up and placed upon the Mizbei'ach)! Answer me, and prevent the people from saying that it was witchcraft!' (B'rochos 6b).

The Gemoro in Ta'anis 8b, expressly forbids davening to Hashem for two things at the same time (e.g. to save from famine and pestilence).

That makes it difficult to understand why Eliyohu did just that, when he said "Aneini Hashem Aneini". True, says the G'ro, the one prayer was dependent upon the other (in which case, it was really like one tefilah and not two), because if the people would attribute Eliyohu's success to witchcraft, all his efforts to bring them close to Hashem would come to nought. Nevertheless, Eliyohu could have avoided davening at Minchah time, He could have chosen to daven in the morning, for example, when no-one would have accused him of witchcraft. Then it would have been unnecessary to repeat the word 'Aneini'. So why did he pick specifically Minchah-time? It must have been due to the importance of Minchah. At any other time, Eliyohu felt, his special request was in jeopardy of remaining unanswered.


It seems to me that there is another way to explain what prompted Chazal to derive the importance of Minchah from this posuk.

If Minchah-time was not significant they figured, then why did the Novi mention it in the first place? The Torah informs us that Avrohom arose early, for us to learn from Avrohom's alacrity when it came to the performance of mitzvos. Likewise, the Navi informs us that Eliyohu was answered at Minchah-time to teach us just how important Minchah is.



(Adapted from 'Mitvos ha'T'luyos bo'Oretz'
by R' Kalman Kahana z.l.,
based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish)

The Dinim of Bi'ur

(Clearing Away) cont. 75. The time of bi'ur is not fixed by the time of picking, as we explained earlier, but by the time that any particular species is no longer to be found in the fields, because that is when it withers and goes rotten. Based on this fact, the Chachamim fixed specific times for the bi'ur of specific fruits.

Figs - Chanukah of Shevi'is;

Dates - Purim of the eighth year;

Grapes and wine - Pesach of the eighth year;

Olives and olive-oil - Shevu'os of the eighth year.

These dates, which are based on the time of year when these particular species normally cease to be available, only apply there where one does not know whether the fruit have or have not terminated. In the event that one does, then the facts override these dates, which are only arbitrary.


76. The time of bi'ur for produce which is not subject to s'fichim is the beginning of the eighth year.

With regard to other fruit, one needs to clarify when the time of bi'ur arrives and to clear it out in its time. In the event that one is uncertain as to when the time of bi'ur falls due, one must clear out that particular species the moment the doubt enters one's mind.

There are however, certain species of vegetables and legumes whose bi'ur takes place already in the seventh year itself - and these are the species which only grow in their fixed seasons.


77. Fruit belonging to a gentile is subject to bi'ur too, because it is also subject to kedushas Shevi'is, as will be explained later (though this is the object of a major dispute. In fact, this is the opinion of the Chazon Ish and is practised in B'nei B'rak. Yerusholayim follows the ruling of those who hold that fruit that grew in the field of a gentile is not subject to Sh'mitah. According to the latter opinion, somebody who buys fruit from a gentile after the time of bi'ur has already past, must clear it out at once (in the manner that we described above (para. 74).


78. Fruit that is still attached to the tree or to the ground is not subject to bi'ur; neither is fruit that is being kept in 'Otzar Beis-din' (see para. 44), which, by virtue of their being in the 'Otzar,' are considered cleared away.


79. If the time of bi'ur passed and one failed to perform bi'ur, the fruit becomes forbidden to eat. Performing bi'ur then will not help to reverse the prohibition. Therefore, once the time of bi'ur has arrived, it is forbidden to purchase fruit from someone who is suspect on Sh'mitah, though one may purchase from a gentile, who is not obliged to keep the dinim of Sh'mitah, and whose produce is therefore not prohibited (see paragraph 76). The purchaser is however, duty-bound to perform bi'ur on the day that he purchases the fruit, failing which, the fruit becomes forbidden.


80. We explained above (para. 75) that 'the time of bi'ur is not fixed by the time of picking, but by the time that any particular species is no longer to be found in the fields ...'. Nor do we contend with the fact that there is some of that species still growing in fields that have been guarded (kept locked), even if they were only guarded against animals, but people have access to it. And certainly we do not contend with it if they were guarded against people too, or if detached fruit that was guarded lawfully still remains, since a guarded field cannot be classified as 'not finished from the field for the wild beasts'.

Even if, when the time of bi'ur arrived, the guards broke down the fence, one is not able to rely on this, to continue eating sh'mitah-produce. Because if one guarded detached fruit and broke down the fence only in order to fulfill the mitzvah of bi'ur, one is certainly not permitted to extend the time of bi'ur on account of it to consider it 'not finished for the wild animals'. Seeing as the new situation was created through the mitzvah of bi'ur, the fruit does not become permitted without bi'ur being performed.



(Parshas Poroh)
The commentaries explain that it is from the Chukim in the Torah that we learn just how little we really understand the mitzvos and their reasons. Practically, this means that we should view all the mitzvos as statutes, to understand that they are Divinely inspired and way beyond our comprehension. In that case, they cannot be altered or tampered with, to suit the times perhaps, or because their reasons are no longer applicable. For so the Novi Yeshayah taught us "Because My thoughts are not your thoughts says Hashem."

And the Chok of all Chukim is the Poroh Adumoh. As the posuk says in Koheles quoting Shlomoh Hamelech (7:23) "I said I was wise, but it is distant from me". From there, Chazal extrapolate that although Shlomoh fathomed the reasons for all the mitzvos, including the Chukim, he was unable to fathom the reason of the Poroh Adumoh.

That is why the Torah writes "Zos Chukas ha'Torah" - 'This is the statute which teaches us that all the mitzvos are Chukim'.


The Or ha'Chayim however, has a different interpretation for the expression "Zos Chukas ha'Torah", when, as he explains, the Torah could have written "Zos Chukas ha'tum'oh" or 'Zos Chukas ha'taharah".

He begins by first citing the Mishnah in Nozir which teaches us that a gentile is not subject to tum'as meis. He can touch a corpse all day long, but he remains tohor. In this regard, he is just like an animal, which cannot become tomei as long as it is alive.


And the source of this tum'ah is kabolas ha'Torah. It is because Yisroel received the Torah at Har Sinai that they are subject to tum'ah, because Torah leads to taharah, and G-d created the one to balance the other ("Zeh le'Umas Zeh Bero'o Elokim" - Koheles 7:14). Consequently, there where there is taharah, there will also be tum'ah. By the same token, history has proved that it is the Jew who has the capability of reaching the greatest heights, but it is the Jew who is equally capable of plunging to the lowest depths. (Although the basic explanation is that of the Ohr ha'Chayim, I have deviated from his reasoning.)

When the Torah writes "This is the Chok of the Torah", it means to say that the statute of tum'as meis that the Poroh Adumah symbolizes, is the result of the Torah that we accepted at Har Sinai.


And with this, the Or ha'Chayim explains what appears to be a strange omission from the parshah of the Korban Pesach in Bo.

In the parshah of "Mishchu u'kechu lochem tzon" (12:21), the Torah is concerned that neither an oreil (someone who is uncircumcised) nor a ben neichor (an idolater) may participate in the Korban Pesach. But no mention is made of the prohibition of bringing or eating the Pesach in a state of tum'ah, even though, as we are taught later (in parshas Beha'aloscho), this is punishable by koreis.


The reason for this is that before receiving the Torah at Sinai, Yisroel were not subject to tum'ah. Consequently, in Egypt, there was no prohibition against bringing the Korban Pesach in a state of tum'ah . This prohibition came into being only after the Torah was given, when they left the realm of B'nei No'ach and became the B'nei Yisroel. It is because, as he explained earlier, the Torah raised them to a potential level of purity that it introduced the potential of tum'ah simultaneously.


Would You Believe it?

"And you shall make the Poroches (the Holy Curtain)" (26:31).

The Mishnah in Shekolim gives the measurements of the Poroches as one Tefach thick, and forty amos by twenty. It was made of eight hundred and twenty thousand threads, and three hundred kohanim would tovel it.


The G'ro points out that the circumference of the Poroches was one hundred and twenty amos. Bearing in mind that each amoh of the Holy vessels comprized five tefochim, making a circumference of six hundred tefochim. This explains the three hundred kohanim who would tovel it. All the kohanim were eager to participate in the mitzvah, he explains. Consequently, as many of them as possible would hold on to it with their two hands. In this way, the six hundred tefochim would allow exactly three hundred kohanim to participate.


Three Worlds

The Mishkon and all its vessels are merely physical images, reflections of celestial bodies to which they bear a resemblance, explains Rabeinu Bachye. In this light, the Mishkon was divided into three sections, corresponding to the universe: the Kodesh Kodshim (corresponding to the world of the angels), the Kodesh (to the world of the constelations), and the Courtyard (corresponding to Earth).

In similar fashion, he continues, man, the most prominent of all creations, (who like the Mishkon, is also known as 'a miniature world') comprises three parts, corresponding to the world of speech (his head), the world of life (his heart) and the world of nature (the lower part of his body). In fact, these three are similar to the three worlds of which the Mishkon is a reflection.


The first section of the Mishkon is within the Holy Curtain, which houses the Aron, the Luchos and the Keruvim, all of which are inner vessels, hidden from view because they represent the Merkovoh (the Chariot which, in turn, supports G-d's Throne), as the prophet Yechezkel described. The human manifestation of that is the part of man that comprises speech, man's head, the dwelling of wisdom, symbolising the tzadik (who is governed by his brain and) who serves as a Merkovoh to the Shechinah. Indeed, the Ovos (whose sum numerical value is equivalent to that of "Sh'nei K'ruvim"), are described as the 'Merkovoh' of the Shechinah. And the Shechinah rests on him by means of the Tefilin that he wears on his head and on his arm, which in turn, corresponds to the two Keruvim.


The second section is the one outside the Holy Curtain, known as the Ohel Mo'ed, which housed the Table, the Menorah and the Golden Mizbei'ach, the Mizbei'ach ha'Ketores. These too, are distinguished, inner vessels, though on a lower level than the previous ones. They correspond to the world of the constellations, which tell of Hashem's glory, and through whose movements the world continues to exist. Correspondingly in man, it is the heart, one of the inner limbs, which keeps him alive through its constant movement.


The third section is that of the Chatzer ha'Mishkon, the Courtyard, which housed the copper Mizbei'ach, the Mizbei'ach ho'Olah, on which they brought sacrifices. These were in the form of animals, which deteriorate, corresponding to this lowly world Earth, which is physical and therefore destructible. Correspondingly in man, this represents the world of nature, downwards from the navel (which is the source of his existence).

And it is about these three worlds that Shlomoh ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (103:20) "Bless Hashem, His mighty angels; Bless Hashem, all His Hosts: Bless Hashem all His works". And his son Shlomoh, referred to the same three worlds, when he wrote in Shir ha'Shirim "His cheeks are like a row of spices; His arms are like golden pillars; His thighs are marble pillars".


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