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

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Vol. 16   No. 21

This issue is sponsored jointly
l'iluy Nishmos
Frank and Frieda Kaplan z"l
And Yosef Loescher z"l
l'iluy Nishmos
HaRav Simchah ben ha'Rav Asher
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& Chayim Ze'ev ben Yisrael
and B'rachah Miriam bas Moshe Aharon z.l.

Parshas Ki Sissa
(Parshas Parah)

Purchasing a Red Heifer
from a Gentile

(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)

The Medrash, quoting the Pasuk in Chukas "This is the statute of the Torah and they shall take for you a red heifer, which has no blemish and upon which no yoke has come", asks whether one may purchase a Parah Adumah from a gentile. And it goes on to cite a dispute between R. Eliezer, who forbids purchasing a Parah Adumah from a gentile, and the Chachamim, who permit it.

R. Eliezer forbids it, because, he claims, the gentiles are suspect on sinning and of causing the Jews to sin (as we shall explain shortly); whereas this does not bother the Chachamim, as we see from the following story.

It happened once that the Chachamim had difficulty in finding a Parah Adumah, until they came across one that was owned by a gentile. Initially, this gentile was willing to sell his cow for three or four gold pieces. But as they went to fetch the money, it dawned on him that he could make a tremendous profit by increasing the price. And so, when the Chachamim returned with the money, he raised the price, first to five gold pieces, then to twenty, to thirty and eventually, to a thousand gold coins. The sages accepted his price, and once again, they went to fetch the required sum. Whilst they were gone however, he gleefully informed one of his friends that he would play a trick on the sages; The latter correctly assumed that the cow had never carried a yoke. But whilst the delegation was gone, he would place a yoke around its neck, before taking their money for the sale of the cow. No sooner said than done!


What the gentile did not know was that traditionally (Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai), the Chachamim had two ways of determining that a yoke had been placed on the neck of a Parah Adumah: a. by means of two hairs on the cow's neck which stood erect as long as it had not had a yoke placed on it, but which lay flat the moment it did; b. by means of its eyes, which were level up to the time that a yoke was placed around its neck, from which time on they became uneven. When the sages returned, they handed him the money and he handed them the cow. The moment they spotted the negative signs on the cow however, they declared the sale void. They returned the cow and demanded their money back. Seeing as he had no choice, the evil gentile complied with their request and after announcing 'Blessed be the One who chose this people', he locked himself in his room and strangled himself.

In any case, the Medrash concludes, we see that one is permitted to purchase a Parah Adumah from a gentile. And it cites as the source for this concession, the Pasuk that is in the Parshah of the Parah Adumah " and they shall take to you a red heifer".


We need to understand a number of things concerning the above Medrash. Firstly, what prompted the Chachamim to query the Pasuk in Chukas? And secondly, having proved categorically by virtue of the story that the Parah Adumah may be purchased from a gentile, why does the Medrash see fit to cite the source from the above Pasuk? And thirdly, how does the Pasuk in any way indicate that one is permitted to purchase a Parah Adumah from a gentile?


The above Medrash, says the B'nei Yisaschar, takes its cue from the opening words "This is the statute of the Torah" and from the two times that the word "leimor" appears in this Pasuk (which will become apparent in the course of the author's explanation). It begins by asking whether one is permitted to purchase a Parah Adumah from a gentile, in spite of the suspicion that he may have invalidated it by placing a yoke on it, a P'sul which appears to be indiscernible.

In answer to the basic question, the Medrash cites the story with the gentile, an irrefutable proof that purchasing a Parah Adumah is indeed permitted. And to counter the possibility that he may have placed a yoke around its neck, the story itself demonstrates that the Chachamim were well aware of this suspicion, and that they were equipped with signs to deal with the problem, 'Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai'. Indeed, there is no Chochmah in any area of nature or otherwise that is not hinted in the Torah, as we find in Bechoros (8b). The Gemara there cites the elders of Athens, who invested much time and effort to discover the time-span of a snake's pregnancy, then along came the famous Tana R. Yehoshua and enlightened them by quoting a Pasuk in the Torah; And so it is with regard to all information concerning the laws of nature and of all living creatures. Everything is hinted in the Torah by way of hint and handed down by tradition via the oral Torah.

In our case too, the Torah writes "And they shall take to you a red heifer ", which hints that one is permitted to purchase a Parah Adumah from a gentile (as we shall see shortly).

And it is to counter the problem that the owner may have placed a yoke on its neck, that the Torah first writes "This is the statute of the Torah", to teach us that the Torah supercedes human knowledge, in that it contains the antidote to that concern, in the form of a means to check the cow for that very P'sul. And what's more, this knowledge has been handed down to the Chachamim in the form of the oral Torah. "Chukas ha'Torah", the author explains, stems from the word "Chakak" - to engrave, because 'everything that takes place under the sun is clearly engraved in it', including all information concerning the laws of nature and of all living creatures, as we explained.

And the Torah writes "which G-d commanded saying (leimor), to teach the future generations that it is unnecessary to indulge in the study of any Chochmah other than Torah, seeing as it incorporates all other Chochmos, rendering them all superfluous.


To understand the proof from the Pasuk "Speak to B'nei Yisrael and they shall take (veyikchu) to you a red heifer" that one is permitted to purchase it from a gentile, we first need to examine the Pasuk in Parshas Bo (12:21), "Draw and take (Mishchu u'k'chu) for yourselves a lamb ". The Chida (based on the ruling of the Machaneh Efrayim) learns from here that for a Mitzvah min ha'Torah (the Korban Pesach) one requires a Kinyan min ha'Torah - i.e. Kinyan Kesef (acquiring with money, as implied by the word "k'chu", as the Gemara explains at the beginning of Kidushin), and the Kinyan 'meshichah' (causing the animal to move), which is a Kinyan mi'de'Rabanan, will not suffice. Moreover, says the Chida, money alone will not suffice either, now that the Rabbanan have instituted meshichah. And this is hinted in the Torah "Draw (Meshichah) and take for yourselves (Kesef) a lamb". In fact, the Mateh Efrayim contends with this opinion, with regard to the purchase of the four species on Succos.

This is the Din with regard to purchasing from a fellow-Jew. When it comes to purchasing from a gentile however, Kinyan Kesef will suffice (see Avodah-Zarah 71a where Rashi and Tosfos argue over whether it is Kesef or Meshichah).

Now we can understand the opening Medrash, when it extrapolates from the Pasuk "And they shall take for you a red heifer" that one is permitted to purchase a Parah Adumah from a gentile. On the one hand, the Torah writes "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael and they shall take for you", implying that one may purchase it from a Yisrael; whilst on the other, it specifically says "and they shall take", without mentioning 'draw', intimating that one is also permitted to buy it from a gentile (where Meshichah is not required). And the reason for this is based on the Pasuk "Chukas ha'Torah", as we explained earlier.


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Isur of Counting Yisrael

"When you count the B'nei Yisrael, each man shall give " (30:12).

R. Bachye observes that the Torah did not present this Mitzvah by way of a command, and he attributes it to the fact that the thrust of the Mitzvah, the prohibition of counting Yisrael directly, was not confined to that particular occasion, but applied to the future as well; whenever Yisrael would be counted, it would be forbidden to take a head-count directly.

And he goes on to explain that it is because, on the other hand, there is no clear indication that the prohibition was an ongoing one (only by way of hint), that David, who clearly missed the author's opening remark, on the understanding that it applied only on the one occasion in the desert, erred. And so, he counted Yisrael without Shekalim.

Yo'av did indeed object to the census, but David insisted that he go ahead with it nonetheless. The moment the census was taken, he was sorry and begged G-d for forgiveness, but it was too late. The damage had been done!


The Mitzvah of Giving


The Medrash relates how G-d informed Moshe that Yisrael are elevated via the Mitzvah of "ki Sissa" (the half-Shekel), which is symbolical of giving. It quotes the Pasuk in Mishlei (14:34) "Charity elevates a nation ('goy'), but the kindness of the regimes ('le'umim) is sinful". R. Yehoshua explains that "goy" refers to Yisrael (as in Shmuel 2, 7:23), and "le'umim", to the gentile nations, who only perform kindness for their own personal benefit, as we find with Nevuchadnetzar (see Daniel 10:24).


Adding to the Shabbos

"And you shall observe (tishmoru) the Shabbos" (31:14).

After having written (in the previous Pasuk) "But My Shabbosos you shall observe", the Torah switches the order and writes "And you shall observe the Shabbos". R. Bachye comments that one 'shemirah' refers to before Shabbos and one shemirah to after Shabbos. This is a hint that one brings in the Shabbos a little before it is due to arrive, and takes it out a little after it is due to terminate. In other words, there is a Mitzvah to add to the Shabbos (Tosfos Shabbos) at both ends.


The Sifra learns this from the Pasuk in connection with Yom Kipur "from evening until evening ("me'erev ad erev") you shall keep your Shabbasos (tishb'su Shabatchem)". 'I only know (that Tosfos Shabbos applies on) Yom Kipur,' the Sifra continues; 'From where will we learn Yom-Tov? Therefore the Torah writes "tishb'su". And from where do we know Shabbos? Therefore the Torah writes "Shabatchem" ' the Sifra concludes.


The Two Luchos

"And He gave to Moshe the two Stone Luchos " (31:18).

The word "sh'nei" (as opposed to "shenayim") always implies that they are equal, like we find with regard to "sh'nei kevosim" (for the Korban Tamid) and "sh'nei se'irim" (on Yom Kipur).

Nevertheless, says R. Bachye, although they were equal in size, as we will see, they were far from equal with regard to content. The first Lu'ach contained the Name of Hashem (Havayah) in each of the five Commandments, whereas it does not appear at all on the second Lu'ach, though the total number of words on it numbers twenty-six (the Gematriyah of the very Name that it omits).

In fact, the wording on the first Lu'ach is far in excess of the wording on the second. And so it should be, he explains, bearing in mind that the first Lu'ach symbolized Shamayim - (Midas Rachamim), whilst the second symbolized the earth - (Midas ha'Din); and it is befitting for Midas ha'Din to receive its inspiration from Midas ha'Rachamim.


The Luchos were square, six Tefachim (one Amah) by six Tefachim, and three Tefachim thick (six x six x six when combined). In this way, they bore the stamp of Hashem (Ten commandments = 'Yud'; Five commandments on each Lu'ach = two times 'Hey', and six Tefachim in measurement = 'Vav') - Yud, Hey, Vav.

Each Lu'ach, measured a hundred and eight cubic Tefachim (hinted in the Pasuk "Shom som lo chok [Gematriyah a hundred and eight]). Together they totaled two hundred and sixteen cubic Tefachim, corresponding to the total number of letters in the three Pesukim in Yisro, each containing seventy-two letters, comprising the seventy-two three-letter Names of Hashem. And this in turn, is hinted in the Pasuk "Va'ya'avor Hashem al ponov " (the letters of Va'ya'avor spell 'Ayin Beis (seventy-two), Reish Yud Vav' (two hundred and sixteen), since everything was revealed to Moshe on Har Sinai. And it is clear that when the Luchos were lying in the Aron, the Name of Hashem with all its possible combinations was there too.


The Luchos, which were made of sapphire, were taken from G-d's Throne of Glory, which, according to the Pasuk in Yechezkel, was also made of sapphire. And it is because they were taken from the Throne of Glory that the Pasuk in Mishlei (3:35) refers to the Torah as 'Kavod'. The Neshamah too is called 'Kavod' (see Tehilim 30:13). Consequently, the Neshamah of someone who studies Torah will merit to return to its source, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (19:8) "The Torah of Hashem is perfect, it brings back the Soul".


The Two-Sided Luchos

" Luchos written on two sides, on this side and on that side they were written" (32:15).

Rashi explains that the Luchos could be read in exactly the same way from both sides (and not backwards from one side, as one would have expected).

R. Bachye adds that it might also mean that there were two ways of understanding the words of the Torah; Besides the straightforward explanation, there was also the hidden meaning (the revealed Torah and the hidden Torah), as is hinted a number of times in T'nach.

And this is what David Hamelech means when he writes in Tehilim (62:12) "G-d said one thing, but I heard two".


Carve for Yourself

"Carve for yourself (l'cho) two stone Luchos like the first" (34:1).

When Shlomoh Hamelech writes in Koheles (3:8) "A time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones" he is referring to Moshe's breaking of the Luchos and his carving out the second ones respectively, says R. Bachye, citing the Medrash Tanchuma.


Commenting on the word "l'cho", Rashi explains that Moshe discovered a sapphire mine in his tent, and that he became wealthy from the shavings of sapphire that he was permitted to keep after carving out the Luchos.

The same Medrash adds that it was that wealth that made him a king. And what's more, says the Ba'al ha'Medrash, it is in connection with this episode that the Pasuk writes in Mishlei (10:22) "The blessing of Hashem enriches".

The Medrash goes on to learn from this episode that whoever studies Torah will find that his source of Parnasah comes from the Torah itself, and what's more, it will come to him without effort, inasmuch as it will come to him and he will not need to go to look for it.

* * *


' the B'nei Levi did like the words of Moshe, and there fell by the sword from the people who had a mark on their face, about three thousand men' (32:28).


'And Moshe said "Bring your Korbanos (to atone) for the 'murder' that you just performed, and it will atone for you before G-d, for each of you killed this day his 'son' and his 'brother', and to bring upon yourselves a blessing" ' (32:29).


'And now, if You will pardon their sin, then that's fine, but if not, erase me from the Book of Tzadikim in which You inscribed my name' (32:32).


' G-d spoke to Moshe, I will go and remove Myself from here, in case My anger will burn against the people, and I will destroy them. Therefore travel, you and the people whom I took out of the Land of Egypt to the land ' (33:1).


'To a land flowing with milk and honey; because it is impossible to remove My Shechinah from your midst. However, My Glory will not dwell in the residence of your camp, because you are a stubborn people and I might destroy you' (33:3).


'When the people heard this bad news they mourned, and they did not wear the special ornaments (the Holy Crowns) that they were given at Sinai, on which the Great and Holy Name of G-d was explicitly engraved' (33:4).


'And Moshe took them and hid them in his Mishkan of Torah-instruction. However, he moved the Mishkan from the camp of the people, since they were in a state of Cherem (in coventry) and set it up outside the camp, and he called it 'the Mishkan of instruction'. And whoever did Teshuvah with total sincerity before G-d, would go to 'the Mishkan of instruction', which was outside the camp; there he would confess his sin and pray, and he was forgiven' (33:7).


'And whenever Moshe left the camp to go to the 'Mishkan', all the wicked people would arise and stand, each man at the entrance of his tent, and would stare with an evil eye after Moshe ' (33:8).

* * *

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