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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 9   No. 21

This issue is co-sponsored
L'iluy nishmas
Simchah ben Asher
Gitel bas Bentzi'on
B'rachah Miriam bas Moshe Aharon
Cha'im Zev ben Yisrael, z.l.
by an anonymous sponsor
with the fervent wish that this month be transformed
from grief to joy, from darkness to light and
from subservience to the final redemption.

Ki Sisa
(Parshas Parah)

Who Is On G-d's Side?

Both Targum Unklus and Targum Yonasan explain that, when Moshe declared 'Whoever is for G-d come to me!' he was referring to those who were imbued with the fear of G-d.

To explain the strange phenomenon that only the tribe of Levi stepped forward, the Tosfos and Rosh explain that Levi was the only complete tribe to do so, implying that perhaps there were other individuals who joined their ranks, but no complete tribe.

And going to the root of the matter, they attribute this loyalty to the fact that the tribe of Levi was closely related to Moshe, and as such, took strong objection to the suggestion that a new leader be appointed to replace him.

Tosfos, quoting the Rambam, adds that Levi was the link in the chain of Torah, which was passed from Avraham to Yitzchak to Ya'akov, and from Ya'akov to Levi. Consequently, it was they who set up Yeshivos in Egypt, and who were therefore far removed from the idolatry of which the other tribes were guilty, and which ultimately led to the sin of the Golden Calf. Incidentally, he also explains with this why Levi, unused to manual labour, were exempt from working in Egypt. In any event, the tribe of Levi was innocent of the sin of the Eigel, and that is why they were the ones to answer Moshe's call.


Elaborating further, Tosfos divides Yisrael at that time into three groups. There were those who only wanted a new leader to replace Moshe, those who actually accepted the Golden Calf as a deity, and Levi alone, who fully rejected both options. And that is why it was Levi alone who stepped forward.

It is not clear however, why, if all the first group wanted was a leader to replace Moshe, on the mistaken premise that Moshe was dead, why that should preclude them from belonging to those who were on the side of G-d. Neither does Tosfos contend with the three different deaths that Yisrael suffered in his division of Yisrael into three groups ...


The Ramban does. He divides Yisrael into three groups (not incorporating the B'nei Levi). The group that actually worshipped the Calf, he explains, were put to the sword by the B'nei Levi, those who embraced and kissed it (without worshipping it) died in the plague of pestilence. Whereas those who merely rejoiced in their hearts, but did not actively participate in any way, died when Moshe gave them to drink the water containing the ground dust of the Eigel (like Sotos). And he points out just how abhorrent idolatry must be in the eyes of G-d, if the slightest participation, even a passive one, earned the culprit the death penalty.


Yet even according to the Ramban, the vast majority of Yisrael did not die, a clear proof that only a small minority were in any way involved with the Golden Calf. That being the case, the fact that only the B'nei Levi responded to Moshe's call, is still puzzling.

The Chofetz Chayim quoting the Yalkut, poses this question 'Who would not profess to be on the side of G-d'? he asks.

The Yalkut therefore explains that when Moshe Rabeinu announced 'Whoever is for G-d come to me!', he was referring to those people who had not even donated as much as a ring towards the Eigel. It appears that there were not too many of those. Indeed, the Oznayim la'Torah comments, the Torah writes there that 'all the people took off their ear-rings'. Maybe they did teshuvah, he explains, but it was too late. They could no longer fall under the category of those who were totally dedicated to G-d.


The Ha'amek Davar goes still further. He explains that the mission that Moshe wanted these G-dly people to perform was fraught with danger. Going around the Camp of Yisrael killing those who were guilty of worshipping the Golden Calf, they could hardly expect the culprits to tamely surrender to their executioners. They were bound to defend themselves, and what's more, their families would certainly seek revenge (just as Chazal comment in connection with Pinchas, where they refer to his emerging from the ordeal of killing Zimri unscathed as a miracle - for those very reasons).

Consequently, he explains, the fact that the volunteers were Sheluchei Mitzvah would not stand them in good stead, since, in a place of danger, this will not necessarily protect them. The only assurance that Sheluchei Mitzvah have of a safe passage, is through total dedication to G-d. Someone who dedicates himself fully to G-d (who serves only G-d and not himself), does not need to be afraid of any consequences. He can rely entirely on Divine protection, the Ha'amek Davar concludes.

And that is what Moshe meant when he announced 'Who is for G-d come to me', For it was only someone who would act exclusively for G-d, completely devoid of self-interest, who would be able to complete this mission successfully - and safely.


Parshah Pearls
Ki Sisa

(adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)
Not More than a Fifth

"The rich man may not give more (he'oshir lo yarbeh)" (30:14).

The neginos on the words "he'oshir lo yarbeh" are 'munach re'vi'i', which translated, could mean 'leave over four parts'. This hints to Chazal says the G'ro, who say that someone who wants to give Tzedakah generously, should not give more than a fifth (leaving himself with four parts).


First Come the Six Days

The Gemara in Shabbos (69b) cites a dispute as to what a traveler should do if he forgets which day of the week it is as regards Shabbos. According to one opinion, he counts six days from the time he remembers, and keeps Shabbos on the seventh day (like the creation of the world); according to another, he considers the day he remembers as Friday, and observes the next day as Shabbos (like the creation of Adam).


The Torah writes here "And the B'nei Yisrael shall keep the Shabbos ... between Me and the B'nei Yisrael it is a sign forever (le'Olam), because G-d made the Heaven and earth in six days, and on the seventh day He rested ... " (31:16/17).

The word "le'Olam" is missing a 'Vav', the G'ro points out, in which case it can mean 'to hide'. The Torah seems to be hinting here that in the event that the Shabbos is hidden, one should count six days and then keep the Shabbos, to conform with the Creation. This supports the opinion of Rav Huna, the first of the two opinions cited earlier.


Shabbos enjoys the Shabbos

"u'va'Yom ha'Shevi'i shovas vayinofash" (31:17).

'G-d gives a person an extra Neshamah on Erev Shabbos, and then on Motza'ei Shabbos, He takes it away, as the Torah writes "shovas vayinofash" ' (Beitzah 16a).

The G'ro cites another Gemara in Shabbos (118a) 'whoever gives the Shabbos joy, will receive an unlimited inheritance ... '. One achieves this through food, drink and nice clothes. These should be enjoyed however, for the sake of Shabbos, and not for one's own personal pleasure (as the above words imply). And that is why we say 'Me'angehah Le'olam kovod yinchalu' (the one who gives it joy will inherit everlasting honor) ... 'it', the extra Neshamah (which is synonymous with the Shabbos).


With this we can better understand the dialogue between Rebbi Yehoshua and the Roman Emperor, cited in Shabbos (119a). When the latter asked the former for the recipe of the beautiful Shabbos food of which he had heard, he was informed that it is only someone who actually observes the Shabbos, who can provide Shabbos with the joy, by enjoying Shabbos for Shabbos sake. Someone who does not observe Shabbos, cannot possibly do this.


The Demoted Letters

"And G-d said to Moshe 'Descend (lech reid), because your people have sinned ... " (32:7).

"Lech reid" - 'Reid migduloscho!' (Descend from your greatness), Chazal explain in B'rachos (32a). I only gave you greatness for the sake of Yisrael. Now that Yisrael have sinned, I do not need you either,' said G-d.

The G'ro explains that this statement might well also refer to the 'Daled ' and the ' Reish ' in the words "(Hashem) Echod" and "(Lo Sishtachaveh le'eil) Acher" respectively. According to the Mesorah Rabasi, these letters are written in large, hinting to the Mitzvos of "Anochi" and "Lo yihyeh lecho" respectively, which, as Chazal inform us in Makos (24a), were told to us directly by G-d (and not, like the other Mitzvos, by Moshe). The large 'Daled' and 'Reish therefore, convey the importance of unifying G-d's Name, because He alone is One, and there is none other like him, and to deter us from bowing down to any other G-d.


Consequently, when Chazal interpret "Lech Reid" to mean 'Reid mi'geduloscho', they are referring also to the letters 'Reish' and 'Daled' (which form "Reid"). These two letters, like Moshe, were only given greatness because of Yisrael, and now that Yisrael had made the Golden Calf, they too, must be cut down to size.

Nothing however, stands before Teshuvah. Consequently, since Yisrael did Teshuvah, the 'Daled' and the 'Reish' retained their extra size and character.


Paying Five-fold

"And there fell from the people on that day around three thousand men" (32:28).

The Medrash connects this Pasuk with the Pasuk in Mishpatim "He shall pay five cattle instead of the ox" (Sh'mos 21:37).

This Medrash is a Pli'ah (seemingly incomprehensible), exclaims the G'ro.

To decipher it, he cites the Medrash on the Pasuk in Koheles "I found one man in a thousand, but a woman among all of these I did not find". The Medrash, connecting this Pasuk with the Golden Calf, explains that in fact, one in a thousand men sinned there, but not one woman. And this is hinted in the phrase "ve'ishah be'chol eileh lo motzosi", as "eileh Elohecha Yisrael" are the words used by the Eirev Rav after they had constructed it. Consequently, the word represents the sin of the Eigel.


According to what we lust explained, the above Medrash had difficulty in understanding why three thousand men fell at the Eigel, when only six hundred (one in a thousand) sinned.

That is why it answers with the Pasuk "He shall pay five cattle instead of the ox" (a metaphorical reference to the sin of the Eigel, where five times as many people died as sinned). In other words, they paid five-fold for their sin.


Good for Them, Bad for Us

"And you shall smash their monuments (matzeivosam)" (34:13).

The word "matzeivosam" also has connotations 'of their established customs'. In that case, it also implies that we should abolish our own customs (not chas ve'shalom, any Mitzvos) once the gentiles establish similar ones.

This is why the G'ro abolished the ancient Medrash-based Minhag of placing trees in the Shuls on Shavu'os, to commemorate Har Sinai.


The Amidah

(based largely on the Siddur Otzar ha'Tefillos)
(Part XIXI)
... Lefonecho

The Dover Shalom explains this based on Chazal, who describe how chochmah, prophecy and Torah decline to accept the concept of Teshuvah, and how G-d, of his own accord, accepts and forgive those who avail themselves of the opportunity He affords them to wipe their slate clean.

Teshuvah then, is not something logical that can be readily understood. On the contrary, it is a magnanimous act of Chesed that defies logic, and that is entirely dependent on the Divine Will. And it also explains the conclusion of the B'rachah 'Blessed Are You Hashem, who wants Teshuvah', implying that it is effective, because Hashem wants it, and for no other reason.


Ho'Rotzeh bi'Seshuvah

The Eitz Yosef cites the Navi Yechezkel who writes that it is not the death of the Rasha that G-d wants, but rather that he performs Teshuvah and lives, because He is a merciful G-d who wants Teshuvah.


Interestingly, this is the only B'rachah which describes G-d as the recipient, and us as the donors, In all the other B'rachos, He is the Giver and we, the recipients. This is because ultimately, we are the ones who must do Teshuvah and not Hashem. True, without G-d's assistance, we would be unable to achieve it, as we explained earlier. Nonetheless, the last phase has to be performed by us, and the ultimate magnanimity is His acceptance of the Teshuvah that we do.


S'lach Lonu Avinu ...

This B'rachah corresponds to the angels, who proclaimed 'Baruch Atoh Hashem, chanun ha'marbeh li's'lo'ach', after Yehudah confessed to his sin with Tamar and announced "Tzodkoh mimeni ('She is more righteous than I')".

The Levush writes that the B'rachah of 'S'lach lonu' follows that of 'Hashiveinu', because that is the sequence, we perform Teshuvah and G-d forgives. And if we see these two B'rachos as two halves of a whole in this way, it will clarify further why, as we just wrote, the B'rachah of Hashiveinu portrays us as the givers and G-d as the receiver.

According to the G'ro, 'Hashiveinu' pertains to Mitzvos Asei, and 'S'lach lonu', to Mitzvos Lo sa'aseh.


The Kolbo explains that the B'rachah begins with a 'Samech' and ends with a 'Ches', whose combined numerical value is equivalent to that of 'Chayim' (life). This corresponds to those who are forgiven for their sins through the merit of Torah, which is called 'Chayim'. Alternatively, just as sin is synonymous with death, so is forgiveness of sin synonymous with life.


S'lach Lonu Avinu ...
Mechal Lonu Malkeinu ...

The Iyun Tefilah cites the Avudraham, who explains the wording of this B'rachah like this: 'It places 'forgiveness' and 'Chet' (unintentional sin) next to 'our Father', and 'pardon' and 'pesha' (rebellious sin), next to 'our King'. This is because the deliberate sins of a son against his father, are perceived by him lightly, and he is quickly willing to forgive them, treating the sins that he performed on purpose as if he had performed them unintentionally. A king, on the other hand, takes a dim view of even the unintentional sins of his subjects, and treats them as if they had been committed on purpose. For so the Pasuk writes in Mishlei "A king establishes the land with justice".

Therefore we say to Hashem 'If we sinned like sons, then forgive us like a father, and if we sinned like subjects, then pardon us like a king'.

And he explains the difference between 'selichah' (forgiveness" and 'mechilah' (pardon) in this light. Selichah, he says, is the complete removal of the sin from its inception (as if the person had never sinned), whereas 'mechilah' is the removal of the effects of the sin and the waiving of any punishment, even though the stain remains. And he compares this contrast to the 'hatarah' of a neder, where the Rav annuls the vow from its inception, as if it had never been declared, as opposed to the 'hafarah' of a husband, who can only annul his wife's nedarim from now on, but not retroactively.


For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel