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

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Vol. 17   No. 21

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmos
Meir ben Aharon z"l
whose Yohrzeit will be on 22 Adar
and Aharon ben Meir z"l
whose Yohrzeit will be on 28 Adar

Parshas Ki-sissa

Half a Holy Shekel
(Thoughts about the half-Shekel adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Following in the footsteps of the Ramban, Rabeinu Bachye explains that in Moshe Rabeinu's capacity as King of Yisrael (as the Pasuk indicates in Ve'zos Habrachah [33:5]), he introduced a new Shekel coin (presumably, the first coin to be minted in Yisrael). He called it a 'Shekel' (from the word 'Mishkal' - weight), the author explains, because the coin's weight was complete, inasmuch as the silver from which it was minted was specially purified, to ensure that it contained no dross, and was worth its full value.

Furthermore, he called it 'a Shekel ha'Kodesh' because the Mitzvos are the major source of Kedushah (sanctity) as indicated in Parshas Tzitzis (Bamidbar 16:9). For, as the author explains, there are a number of Mitzvos that are connected with the Shekel, such as Pidyon ha'Ben (five Shekalim) and Erchin (whose scale of values ranges between three and fifty Shekalim). And it is for the same reason that the language of our Torah is called 'Lashon ha'Kodesh', because it is the language that is connected to a variety of sacred issues; for example, it is the language which G-d employed to transmit the Ten Commandments, and with which he speaks with the prophets and the angels. Moreover, not only does He possess seventy Names, all of them in Lashon ha'Kodesh, but all the names of the angels too are in Lashon ha'Kodesh - Gavriel (on account of his strength), Rafael (because his task is to heal); indeed, many of them (like the above two) end with the Name of G-d (Keil) because His Name is attached to them.

In fact, Lashon ha'Kodesh is the language with which G-d created the world, as the Torah indicates when it ascribes the reason for calling Chavah 'woman' ("Ishah") to the fact that she was taken from man ("Ish"), a fact that is unique to Lashon ha'Kodesh. And one can go one step further and bring a proof from all the names, such as Adam, Chavah, Kayin and Hevel, all of whose names depict their characteristics - in Lashon ha'Kodesh. And just as Lashon ha'Kodesh was the language that was spoken when the world was created, so too is it the language that will eventually be spoken by all the nations of the world, as the Navi Tz'fanyah (3:40) writes "For then I will change the nations to speak a pure language".


The author further attributes the concept of the half-Shekel (which is the equivalent of ten Geirah) to the fact that it was used for building the foundations of the Mishkan, which in turn, served as an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. The sin itself was a contravention of the Ten Commandments that they had just received at Har Sinai, and the Torah informs us that "twenty Geirah equals one Shekel", in which case half a Shekel equals ten Geirah. Consequently, every member of K'lal Yisrael above the age of twenty had to atone for his sin by donating ten Geirah towards the construction of the Mishkan; Ten Commandments - Ten Geirah! Why 'above the age of twenty' (despite the fact that even the children participated in the sin)? Because although thirteen is the age at which Beis-Din on earth punish, the Heavenly Beis-Din only punish from the age of twenty.

Moreover, half a Shekel (ten Geirah) is equivalent to one tenth of the five Shekalim that one is obligated to give to the Kohen to redeem one's firstborn. G-d refers to Yisrael as His firstborn, so it is appropriate for them to atone for the sin by which they severed their relationship with Him by giving half a Shekel (to redeem themselves), to reinstate that close relationship by building the House in which He would dwell.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Kiyor and the Shekalim

"And you shall make a copper basin " (30:16).

Commenting on the juxtaposition of this Parshah to that of the Shekalim, R. Bachye explains that just as the water of the Kiyor brought an abundance of rain, so too did the donation of the half-Shekalim. This is because the donation of the half-Shekalim is a form of Tzedakah (giving one's money to G-d, so to speak), and as the Gemara says in Ta'anis (based on the Pasuk in Mishlei [28:14]) 'The rain is only withheld on account of people who promise to give Tzedakah, and fail to keep their promise.'


The Kiyor

"And you shall make a copper basin and you shall place it between the Ohel Mo'ed and the Mizbei'ach" (30:18).

Rashi, citing the Gemara in Zevachim (59a), comments that it was drawn a little towards the south.

Elaborating on this, R. Bachye attributes it to the fact that it was the Mizbei'ach that had to be directly facing the Ohel Mo'ed, and not the Kiyor.

The Kiyor, he explains, was a large basin containing twelve taps, enabling the twelve Kohanim who brought the Korban Tamid to all wash simultaneously. But the Mishnah lists thirteen Kohanim, you may well ask?

That may well be; but the Tana includes the Kohen who performed the Shechitah, and the Shechitah was not an Avodah; as a matter of fact, even a Zar (a non-Kohen) was eligible to perform it. Consequently, it did not require washing from the Kiyor.


The Amazing Anointing-Oil

" .. holy anointing-oil this (zeh) shall be for Me for their generations" (30:31).

R. Bachye, cites the Gemara in K'risus (5b) 'The oil that Moshe made in the desert was subject to numerous miracles from beginning to end. To begin with, it consisted of a mere twelve Lugin (seventy-two egg-volumes), as the Torah specifically writes (in Pasuk 24) "and olive-oil one Hin". Now this did not even suffice to soak the spices, even if the fire would not have absorbed some of it and the boiling pot some more.

Yet that flask of oil was sufficient to anoint the Mishkan with all its vessels; all the vessels of the Mizbei'ach, the Basin and its stand. The same flask of oil was used to anoint Aharon and his sons throughout the seven days of inauguration, and to anoint all the Kohanim Gedolim and some of the kings up until the end of the first Beis-Hamikdash. And the same flask is still full for use in the future, as the Pasuk writes "Holy anointing-oil this (zeh) shall be for Me for their generations", a hint that the twelve Lugin of oil will remain intact in the future, to anoint the Keilim in the third Beis-Hamikdash when it will be built.


Tzadikim After their Death

"Remember Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov" (32:13).

The Medrash notes that Moshe's prayer was not answered until he mentioned the Avos - who were already dead. And this explains why the Pasuk in Tehilim (80:9) compares Yisrael to a vine. Just like a vine, which itself is alive, but which leans on dead wood (pieces of wood which raise the vine from the ground), so too, are Yisrael alive, yet their continued existence depends on their dead ancestors.

Similarly, says R. Bachye, you will find that Eliyahu on Mount Carmel pleaded with Hashem "Answer me Hashem; Answer me!", and many other prayers, for fire to descend from Heaven, but his prayers remained unanswered until he mentioned the dead - "Hashem, the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov; today let it be known that there is a G-d in Yisrael!" Immediately, fire fell from Heaven and consumed the sacrifice. So too, Moshe stood on the mountain for forty days begging for mercy on behalf of Yisrael following the sin of the Golden Calf, but nothing happened, until he said "Remember Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov ". That is when the Torah writes "And Hashem relented "!

And this, says the author, is what Sh'lomoh means when he writes in Koheles (4:2) "And I praise the dead who have already died" - over and above the Tzadikim who are still alive, for as Chazal have said "Tzadikim are greater after their death than they are during their lifetime'.


The Remarkable Betzalel

"See, I have called by Name Betzalel " (31:2).

Similarly, Moshe told Yisrael "See, Hashem has called by name Betzalel ... ". This is because, by all the laws of nature, it was simply impossible for there to exist in Yisrael a person who was the ultimate expert in even one area of craftsmanship. This is because Yisrael had just been enslaved by the Egyptians, who had forced them to perform back-breaking construction work, and they were accustomed to working with cement and bricks. Consequently, one would not have expected there to be anybody who was conversant in the more refined type of expertise that was required for constructing a Mishkan, as this was something that they had never seen, and had certainly never been trained to do. And even if there were some people who had somehow had the ability to learn one or the other of the various professions in question, but that one person should master all that there was to know in working in silver, gold, copper, precious stones, wood, embroidery and weaving was truly amazing. Moreover, the fact he was in addition, the ultimate master in wisdom, understanding and intelligence, all of which were to be found in Betzalel was nothing short of a miracle! Indeed, Chazal extrapolate from the fact the Torah writes here (in Pasuk 3) "And I filled him with the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, understanding and intelligence", using the same expression that it uses in Mishlei (3, 19:20) in connection with the creation, that 'Betzalel possessed the knowledge to combine the letters that G-d used to create Heaven and Earth'.

Hence, G-d said to Moshe, and Moshe to K'lal Yisrael, 'See this phenomenon, how G-d called the generations in advance, preparing Betzalel to understand the inner secrets of the Mishkan and its Vessels, and to involve himself in its work'.


Shabbos in Perspective

"But (Ach) My Shabbos you shall keep" (31:13).

The Medrash learns from this Pasuk that as great a Mitzvah as building the Mishkan is, it does not push away the Shabbos. On Shabbos, all construction work must stop!

According to this, says R. Bachye, the word "Ach" is short for 'ochein' (but).

However, he adds, as is well-known, 'ach' also has connotations of excluding something. That is also correct, he explains. It comes to preclude Shabbos from the communal sacrifices, which must be brought, even on Shabbos.

It transpires that whereas Shabbos takes precedence over building the Mishkan, sacrificing in the Mishkan takes precedence over Shabbos.

Now refer to Rashi and the Ramban on this Pasuk.

* * *


'Why should those Egyptians that remained say "He took them out with evil intent, to kill them among the Mountains Tavor, Chermon, Siryon and Sinai, to destroy them ?" ' (32:12).


"And now, if it pleases You, let me find mercy before You, show me Your ways - as to how You interact with mankind - inasmuch as righteous people receive the treatment of wicked ones and wicked people, like righteous ones; whereas sometimes the righteous receive the reward according to their merits, and the wicked, the punishment that they deserve ' (33:13).


'And He (G-d) said "I will wait until My anger dissipates, then I will be gentle with you" ' (33:14).


'And he (Moshe) said "If your anger does not depart from us, don't take us away from here with an angry countenance" ' (33:15).


'And I will let the group of angels that stand and serve before Me pass before you, and you will see the knot of the shel Yad (See Pirush Yonasan) of My Tefilin representing the Glory of My Shechinah, but the front of the Face of the Shechinah it is impossible for you to see" ' (33:23).


'He transplants the kindness and the good up to thousands of generations; He pardons the sins, overlooks the rebellious sins and atones for the inadvertent sins - he forgives those who return to the Torah, but to those who do not repent He will not merit on the Day of the Great judgement ' (34:7).


'And he (Moshe) said "If I have found mercy before You Hashem, let the Glory of G-d's Shechinah go among us and give us as an inheritance the land that You promised to our fathers - that You will never exchange us for another nation' (34:9).


' And He (G-d) said "Behold I am about to make a covenant never to exchange this nation for any other nation. It is from you however, that there will descend large multitudes of Tzadikim. (Furthermore) in front of all your people I will perform miracles, when they are led into captivity on the rivers of Bavel, from where I will take them and settle them beyond the River of Sambatyon. Miracles such as those have never been witnessed by any of the earth's inhabitants or by any of the nations of the world; and the entire nation among whom you (Moshe) dwell will see on that day the (wondrous) works of G-d, for what I will do with you is awesome" ' (34:10).

* * *

Some of the Dinim of the Parah Adumah
(Part 1)

(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

1. Although the Parah Adumah has to be perfect in its redness, there is no such law regarding its size - a dwarf is permitted, just like it is with regard to other Korbanos.

2. The Rambam writes in Hilchos Parah that an old cow is Kasher, but that initially, it should be four or at least three years old.

3. One may not purchase a calf and rear it until it becomes a cow. Rather one fixes a price with the owner, who continues to look after it until it becomes a cow; for so the Torah writes "and they shall take to you a Red Heifer".

4. One may purchase a Parah Adumah from a gentile, without being concerned that he may have raped it (which would invalidate it), since a person would not cause himself such a large financial loss.

5. All the blemishes that invalidate other Kodshim also invalidate the Parah Adumah, as the Torah specifically writes.

Granted, the Cow does not go on the Mizbei'ach, nevertheless, the Torah calls it a 'Chatos'.

6. The Parah Adumah is even more stringent than other Kodshim, inasmuch as work (which does not disqualify a Korban) does disqualify it, as the Torah writes "which did not carry a yoke". And Chazal learn from a Gezeirah-Shavah "Ol" "Ol" from Eglah Arufah, that all forms of work (such as threshing corn) disqualify the Parah Adumah just as carrying a yoke does; except that a yoke disqualifies it, even if it is not actually working. If it is taken into the granary to thresh it does not become Pasul until it actually threshes.

7. The moment somebody rides on a Parah Adumah, leans against it, hangs on to its tail or holds on to it whilst crossing a river, it becomes Pasul. And the same applies if one folds its reins and places them on its back, or places a Talis or any other garment or object on it. If however, one ties reins on to a rebellious cow to keep it in check, it remains Kasher. Whatever is not needed to guard it is considered a burden, and invalidates it.

8. If one ties a shoe on to its foot to prevent it from slipping or a cloth on its back to protect it from the flies, it remains Kasher. The rule is that whatever is for the benefit of the cow does not render it Pasul; whatever is for the benefit of the owner of or anybody else does.

9. If inadvertently, work is done with the Parah Adumah or a yoke is placed on its neck, it becomes Pasul only if it is to the owner's advantage. Consequently, if a bird alighted on it, it remains Kasher, whereas if a male came on it, it becomes Pasul. We learn this from the Torah's use of the expression "Lo ubad bah", which means 'which was not worked with', but which is written without a 'Vav', which then means 'which he did not work with'. From these two seemingly contradictory statements we learn that if work that is done by itself is to the owner's advantage, it is considered as if he did the work himself, rendering it Pasul; whereas if it is not, then it is Kasher (see also 11).

10. If a male came on it, it is Pasul, and it goes without saying that if it is pregnant it is Pasul too.

11. If one brought a Parah Adumah into the stable to eat corn it order to fatten it, and it threshed by itself, it remains Kasher; If however, he intended it to both feed and to thresh, it is Pasul.

12. A Parah Adumah that became Pasul must be redeemed, and the same applies to one that dies and one wants to use its skin (see footnote in R. Bachye). One may not however, feed a Parah Adumah to the dogs - even after it has been redeemed.

13. If one Shechts a Parah Adumah thinking that one is Shechting Chulin, it does not atone (and another Parah Adumah must be Shechted).

14. If after designating a Parah Adumah, one finds a better one, then one is permitted to redeem the first one (even though it is not blemished) and replace it with the second.


* * *

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