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

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Vol. 13   No. 21

This issue is sponsored
L'Iluy Nishmas
Tzvi Hirsch ben R. Mordechai z.l.

Parshas Ki Sissa
(Parshas Parah)

The Luchos and Freedom

The Pasuk preceding the incident of the Eigel ha'Zahav informs us that no sooner did G-d finish speaking with Moshe on Har Sinai, than He gave him "the two Luchos of Testimony, Luchos made of stone, on which the Divine Finger had written".


The Ramban asks why the Torah waits until after the Parshah of the Eigel to complete the description. There the Torah adds that they were "written (miraculously) on both sides, that they were manufactured by G-d Himself and that the writing was the writing of G-d, which was engraved on them".

He answers that the latter Pasuk is coming to demonstrate Moshe's greatness, in that, having made his decision that the Luchos had to be broken, he went ahead and broke them, in spite of their Divine origin. The Chizkuni explains that he broke them in order to prompt Yisrael to appreciate the extent of their loss. And this is particularly pertinent according to the commentaries who explain that Moshe deliberately brought the Luchos down from Har Sinai to break them in front of the people, to encourage them to do Teshuvah. And it will also resolve the problem posed by R. Bachye, who queries the 'audacity' of Moshe Rabeinu, to take the Divine Luchos, and break them, instead of rather returning them to 'their Manufacturer'.


To answer this last question more fully, let us first pose the Ramban's Kashya in the reverse - why the Torah does not wait until after the Chet ha'Eigel to inform us that G-d handed Moshe the Luchos and to describe them simultaneously? The answer is that the Pasuk deliberately divides the Parshah of the Luchos into two; first it teaches us that, in spite of His knowledge that Yisrael were already worshiping the Eigel, G-d gave Moshe the Luchos to do with as he saw fit. Moshe understood that, had G-d felt that they now ought to remain in Heaven, He would not have given them to him in the first place. And it reserves its more detailed description of the Luchos for the moment that Moshe entered the vicinity of the Camp of Yisrael, so that the people should realize Moshe's greatness or the extent of their loss (as we explained).


R. Bachye himself answers that Moshe realized that it was unnecessary to return the Luchos, when he saw the letters departing from them. More than that, he actually felt that they had gone, since comparing the Luchos to a body and the letters to the Soul, R. Bachye applies the principle that a living person bears part of his own weight. Consequently, as long as the writing was on the Luchos, they largely carried their own weight, and Moshe had no trouble carrying them down Har Sinai in one hand. And it was when they reached the vicinity of the Eigel ha'Zahav, that the letters, affected detrimentally by the Tum'ah of the idol, flew out, with the result that (like a body who's Soul has departed) they suddenly became too heavy for him to carry, even with two hands. That was when he dropped them.


The K'li Yakar echoes R. Bachye's explanation, only he elaborates on the letters which formed the Ten Commandments. Dwelling on the Torah's expression "Charus al ha'Luchos", he cites the Medrash, which, based on the fact that the Torah uses the word "Charus" (engraved [and not 'Chakuk' or 'Kasuv']), gives three interpretations of the word - which also has connotations of freedom ('Cheirus'): 1. free from subservience to the nations of the world; 2. free from the Angel of death; and 3. free from physical suffering, a level which Yisrael would have attained when they studied Torah, had they not forfeited their right to the first Luchos by worshipping the Eigel ha'Zahav. In fact, the K'li Yakar adds, when G-d uttered the Aseres ha'Dibros, the words flew from His mouth. They were tangible; they were visible; they were real, and everybody saw how they formed themselves into letters and engraved themselves on to the Luchos. Note that the Torah writes not 'into the Luchos' ('ba'Luchos'), but "on to the Luchos" ('al ha'Luchos'). This is because they joined themselves to the stone superficially. In self-fulfillment, they too, were not subservient to the Luchos, so to speak, and thus they were able to fly away when they entered the vicinity of the Eigel ha'Zahav, causing them to become too heavy for Moshe to carry, as we explained.


It transpires that Moshe broke the Luchos, because they lost their Kedushah, thereby becoming too heavy to carry. And like a body, R. Bachye adds, when its Soul departs, they required burial, which explains why Moshe "broke them at the foot of the mountain".

According to others, says the K'li Yakar, Moshe broke them like one tears up a document of debt, so that the creditor should no longer be able to claim from it. Likewise, had Yisrael received the Luchos, which contain the prohibition of worshipping other gods, this would have served as an awesome prosecution.

Yet others he says, add that Moshe broke the Luchos in order to become a partner in crime with the people whom he loved so dearly. Yisrael caused the letters to fly away, he reckoned, so he would break the Luchos themselves. G-d would no longer be able to offer to replace Yisrael with him, as He later did by the Meraglim. And that is what he meant when he said later "And now (that I have sinned too) if You will forgive them that is fine, but if not, erase me from the Book that you wrote" (seeing as he was no less guilty than they were).

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Parsha Pearls

Shekalim & Kil'ayim

'This they shall give ... half a Shekel ... " (30:13).

On the first of Adar, says the Mishnah in Shekalim, one announces the obligation to give Shekalim and the prohibition regarding Kil'ayim.

The commentaries ascribe the idea of the half-Shekel to the fact that until such time as a person joins the community, he is only a half a person, so to speak, and it is only when all the people have given their half-Shekel that the community merges into one complete entity.

The Chochmas Chayim uses this concept to explain the connection between the half-Shekel and Kil'ayim.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos cites R. Yehoshua, who presents a good friend as his most important asset, and a bad friend as his worst. In other words, as important as it is to have a good friend, one must take great pains to avoid a bad one.

So if on the one hand, the half-Shekel teaches us the need to combine with a friend to attain one's potential as a complete person, Kil'ayim reminds us that not all combinations are advisable, and that it is no less important to avoid bad friends than to acquire good ones.


The 'Reish' and the 'Daled'

"And G-d said to Moshe "Go and descend ('Lech reid') because your people ... have sinned" (32:7).

'Go and descend' from your greatness, Rashi explains. Moshe's greatness was due to Yisrael. Now that Yisrael had dropped from their level, Moshe would have to drop from his.

The G'ro however, offers a different explanation.

The 'Reish' and the 'Daled' are the two large letters in the word "AcheR" (in the Pasuk "ki lo sishtachaveh le'Eil Acher") and in "EchoD" (in the Sh'ma) respectively, corresponding to "Anochi" and "Lo Yih'yeh lecho" (the first two commandments). Yisrael had just contravened these two commandments and G-d was hinting to Moshe that the two corresponding letters would have to be reduced.

Yisrael did Teshuvah, however, and nothing stands before Teshuvah. So the 'Reish' and the 'Daled' remained large.


The 'Mem' and the 'Samech'

"Written on both sides" (32:15).

The final 'Mem' and the 'Samech' says the Gemara in Shabbos (113), stood in the Luchos miraculously.

'Mem' and 'Samech', says R. Meir Shapiro, spell Mas (tax), representing the amounts of money that are claimed for Devorim she'bi'Kedushah (holy purposes such as Tzadakah). People seem to have money for every luxury under the sun, yet when it comes to Devorim she'bi'Kedushah, everyone finds all sorts of excuses not to give, and it is only due to great miracles, that the money that is needed somehow gets collected.


I would further suggest that 'Mem' and 'Samech' also spell 'Sam', which has connotations of 'Sam ha'Chayim' and 'Sam ha'Maves', for, as Chazal have explained, Torah is either a balm of life or a poison which causes death., depending on one's attitude towards Torah. Either way, as the Ramban explains, it is not a natural phenomenon for the rain to fall when K'lal Yisrael observe the Mitzvos, or for the rain to cease when they sin. It is nothing short of a miracle. Hence Chazal say the 'Mem' and the 'Samech' stood miraculously.


Princes Don't Want Wooden Spoons

"Let Hashem go in our midst, because they are a stubborn nation. And You will forgive our sins ... " (34:9).

Surely, one would have thought, Yisrael's stubbornness would be a reason for G-d not to go in their midst?

That is why Rashi changes the translation to "even though they are a stubborn nation" (instead of 'because they are ... ').

The Dubner Maggid leaves our initial translation intact, and he explains it with the following Mashal:

A peddler once arrived in a city, where he set up a stall in an affluent neighborhood. There, he tried selling his wooden spoons and forks to the wealthy residents, but needless to say, came evening and he had failed to sell a single spoon.

Feeling dejected, he poured out his heart to a friend, who told him that he was a fool to think that the residents of that neighborhood, who were accustomed to use silver and golden utensils, would be interested in purchasing his wooden spoons. 'If you want to sell', he told him, 'you must go and peddle your goods in the street of the cobblers. That is where you will find many customers'.

And that is what Moshe was saying to G-d here. G-d had just been enumerated His Midos. 'Merciful, slow to Anger ... who carries sin ... '.

With Midos like those, Moshe said in his response, what is G-d doing in Heaven? Surely the Angels, who do not sin, are not in need of the Divine mercy. It is we humans who sin, and who stand to benefit most from Hashem's superlative Midos, not the Angels.

"Let Hashem go in our midst", he was saying, "because Yisrael are a stubborn nation, who need You to forgive them. So forgive our sins, rather than allow those wonderful Midos to go to waste in Heaven, where the Angels do not sin anyway, and have no need of Midas ha'Rachamim.


The Less Said on Shabbos, the Better

"And on the seventh day, you shall desist from ploughing and from reaping (be'chorish u'va'kotzir Tishbos)" 34:21.

That is the straightforward translation of the Pasuk. The No'am Megadim, based on the Halachah which forbids excessive speech on Shabbos, even with regard to matters of which one may speak, and connecting 'chorish' and 'kotzir' with 'Cheresh' (deaf-mute) and 'le'katzer'(to cut short), translates it like this: "And on the seventh day you shall act dumb and cut your words short".


After the Sin of the Golden Calf

"And no man will covet your land when you go up to be seen before Hashem your G-d three times a year" (34:24).

The Pasuk already pesented the Mitzvah of appearing in the Beis-Hamikdash thrice annually, in Parshas Mishpatim, the Meshech Chochmah observes, only there, it makes no mention of anybody coveting their land?

To answer this question, he cites the Gemara in Eiruvin, which states that had the first Luchos not been broken (due to the sin of the Golden Calf), no nation would have had jurisdiction over us. That being the case, bearing in mind that Parshas Mishpatim was said before the sin of the Golden Calf, when Yisrael had no reason to be afraid of any other nation, no assurance was necessary. The end of Ki Sissa, on the other hand, was said after the Luchos had been broken, where the fear of others taking over their land whenever they went to Yerushalayim, was very real, and they needed to be assured that a miracle would occur, and that their land would remain in their possession.


Hiding His Humility

"And he (Moshe) placed a mask on his face. But when he came before G-d to speak with Him, he would remove the mask" (34:33/34).

Moshe Rabeinu, R. Akiva Eiger explains, was the humblest of all men. But the Halachah demands that a king must demand the Kavod that is due to him, and is not permitted to forego it. When the Torah writes that Moshe placed a mask on his face when he spoke to the people, it is another way of saying that he covered over his humility whenever he spoke to them. But not when he spoke with G-d, in whose presence one has nothing to hide.

* * *


(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 106:
Washing One's Hands and Feet for the Avodah

A Kohen is obligated to wash his hands and feet whenever he enters the Heichal and prior to performing the Avodah. This is the Mitzvah of Kidush Yodayim ve'Raglayim, as the Torah writes in ki Sissa (30:19/20) "And Aharon and his sons shall wash their hands and feet from it. When they come to the Ohel Mo'ed ... or when they approach the Mizbei'ach to serve".

A reason for the Mitzvah is the principle that the author has already discussed before - to magnify the esteem of the Beis-Hamikdash and all the work that is performed in it. It is therefore befitting for a Kohen who enters in order to perform an Avodah, to clean the hands (and the feet) with which he is about to do the holy service. And it is for this reason that the Gemara in Zevachim (19b) states that a Kohen does not need to wash his hands (or feet) between one Avodah and the next, only once each morning, and on the basis of that washing, he is permitted to continue to serve for the remainder of the day and the following night, provided he did not sleep, urinate or divert his attention from the Avodah in between. Clearly then, washing before the Avodah is purely for the esteem of the House, as we explained, which explains why washing is mandatory, even if his hands are clean to begin with. The sole exception to the above rule is that of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kipur, who, due to the additional awe of Yom-Kipur, must wash his hands constantly, to ensure that whatever takes place in the Beis Hamikdash is pure, clean and holy.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara in Zevachim (20b) requires a Kohen who leaves the walls of the Azarah to wash his hands (and feet [upon his return]), and one who washed today to wash again tomorrow, even if he did not sleep all night. This is because hands (and feet) become Pasul overnight ... Lechatchilah the Kohen needs to wash his face too ... The washing is performed from the Kiyor (the basin), but if the Kohen washed from another K'li Shareis, he is Yotzei Bedi'eved, but not if he washed from a K'li Chol (a vessel that has not been sanctified to be used for the Avodah) ...The Kohen washes, not by dipping his hands (and feet) into the vessel, but by pouring the water from the vessel on to his hands (and feet), as this is a more respectable way of washing. This is not the case with regard to Netilas Yadayim for Chulin, for which one is also required to use a vessel, yet one is permitted to dip one's hands into it (Note that this does not conform with the accepted Halachah). Granted, washing the hands for Chulin was initiated in order to strengthen the Din of washing them by Terumah and Kodshim (as the Gemara teaches in Chulin 106a). The fact remains however, that Chazal learn the Din by Kodshim from the Pasuk "Mimenu", from which they extrapolate "from it", 'and not in it', whilst there is no such source forbidding washing for Chulin in this way. Consequently, we do not compare them in every regard, and it will suffice to learn the actual washing and the necessity of using a K'li from Kodshim, but not the detail of pouring from the K'li. As a matter of fact, even washing the hands for eating Terumah is only mi'de'Rabbanan, since we do not find Taharah (a means of purifying oneself), other than by Toveling one's entire body in a Mikvah. And when Chazal learn from the Pasuk in Metzora (15:11) "And he did not wash his hands in water" the Din of washing one's hands before eating Terumah, they did so in the form of an Asmachta (a Rabbinical law that is supported by a Pasuk). The Rambam too, supports this explanation in his Seifer ha'Mitzvos ... The Gemara in Zevachim extrapolates from the current Pasuk "And Aharon and his sons shall wash from the Kiyor" that the Kiyor must contain sufficient water for five Kohanim to wash, since "Aharon's sons" incorporated Elazar, Iysamar and Pinchas (Elazar's son) all of whom would be the ones to wash from it once the Mishkan was completed ... All water is eligible for washing the hands (and feet), whether it is from a spring or from a Mikveh ... The water in the Kiyor becomes Pasul at daybreak, as we explained earlier ... The Mitzvah of Kidush Yadayim is performed by the Kohen placing his right hand on his right foot and his left hand on his left foot, and washing, first the right hand and foot, and then the left one. He performs the washing standing, since washing is an integral part of the Avodah, and we have a principle that all Avodos must be performed standing, as the Pasuk writes in Shoftim (18:5) "to stand to serve". In any event, all this is due to the honour of the Beis-Hamikdash ... and all the remaining details, which are discussed in the second chapter of Zevachim.

This Mitzvah applies in the time that the Beis-Hamikdash is standing to male Kohanim only. A Kohen who contravenes it and fails to wash his hands and feet in the morning, or who leaves the precincts of the Beis-Hamikdash, thereby diverting his attention from the Avodah, and then returns to perform the Avodah without first washing, is Chayav Miysah bi'Yedei Shamayim and his Avodah is Pasul, irrespective of whether he is the Kohen Gadol or a Kohen Hedyot.

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