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

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Vol. 18   No. 21

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Parshas Ki Sissa

The Two Censuses
(Adapted from the Riva)

"And you shall take the money of atonement and give it for the service of the Ohel Mo'ed " (30:16).

Rashi explains that there were actually two donations which came in the form of a half-Shekel per person; the one here, that was donated after Yom Kipur (immediately after Moshe descended the mountain for the last time), and which was used to fashion the silver sockets of the Mishkan; the other, mentioned at the beginning of Bamidbar, which took place on the following Nisan, and which was used to purchase the communal Korbanos. The latter, as we know, later became an annual obligation.

Rashi expresses surprise that, despite the fact that they took place in two different years (one before Nisan of the second year; the other, after it), both censuses resulted in the same total (603, 550), How is it possible, he asks, that there was no nineteen-year old who turned twenty after Nisan?

To resolve this strange phenomenon, he explains that even though, with regard to national events, the Torah reckons the years from Nisan (to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt), when it comes to the individual, birthdays take place in Tishri. Consequently, whoever was still nineteen during the first census was still nineteen when the second one took place.


Citing Rabeinu Tam from Orleans, the Riva begins by elaborating on Rashi's initial question. It is not only from nineteen-year olds that one needs to ask, he explains, but also from fifty-nine year olds during the first census, who would have turned sixty before the second one (and who were therefore no longer included in the count). So what Rashi means to query is the feasibility of the number of nineteen-year olds who had turned twenty (and who had therefore become eligible to be counted) tallying exactly with the fifty-nine year olds who had turned sixty (and who had therefore become ineligible). Still citing Rabeinu Tam, the Riva goes on to query Rashi on two points, both based on the Gemara in Erchin. The Gemara there (18a), extrapolates from the Pasuk in Bechukosai "From sixty years and upwards" that, regarding erchin, a sixty-year old is like a fifty-nine year old (so it is only a man who has turned sixty-one whose 'value' is reduced to the lower rate, and that the term 'year' means a full year (from day to day), as from the date of birth.

Based on this Gemara, he points out that in our Parshah too, the Torah uses the term "from twenty years and upwards". That being the case, a twenty-year old fell under the same category as a nineteen-year old. Consequently, it was not a nineteen-year old who came of age when he turned twenty, as Rashi assumes, but a twenty year old who came of age when he turned twenty-one? Moreover, the ages of those who were counted were not determined by the month of the year, but by their date of birth?


The Riva himself queries Rashi further in that his explanation seems to follow the opinion of Rebbi Eliezer, who maintains that the world was created in Nisan. This will explain why, according to Rashi, the people's ages went up by one each Nisan. But according to the opinion of Rebbi Yehoshua, who holds that the world was created in Tishri, the nineteen-year olds and the fifty-nine year olds would have remained nineteen and fifty-nine when the second census took place. In that case, what was the point of counting them a second time in Iyar, seeing as all those who were counted remained in the same category as they were when the first census took place?

The Riva therefore concludes that according to Rebbi Yehoshua, there was indeed only one census - the one that took place in Iyar of the second year (as recorded in Bamidbar), and the census here and the one there are, in fact, one and the same.


Interestingly the above commentaries make no mention of the probability of people dying between the first and second census. Presumably, they assume that nobody did in fact die, despite the fact that half a year elapsed between the two countings, and there were well over half a million people. If this is indeed the case, it is safe to assume that this was on the merit of the great Mitzvah of building the Mishkan, which they performed during that period.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

What Made the Tribe of Levi Unique

" and he said 'Whoever is for G-d come to me! And all the B'nei Levi came to him" (32:26).

Citing a tradition cited by the Rambam, the Riva explains that Avraham handed the Torah down to Yitzchak, Yitzchak to Ya'akov, and Ya'akov to Levi. Levi's children set-up Yeshivos in Egypt, and Torah never left their mouths. This explains why, when it came to the crunch, they were the only tribe that was totally loyal to their Creator.


Removing the Ornaments

"And now, remove your ornaments from on you" (33:5).

The ornaments, the Ram from Coucy explains, comprised the blood of the covenant that was sprinkled on the people before Matan Torah (See end of Mishpatim).

The elders had removed them following the sin of the Golden Calf, as the Torah testified earlier "And no man wore his ornament". G-d was now instructing the rest of the people to take their cue from the elders and to do likewise.

Alternatively, says the Riva, it was the B'nei Yisrael, all of whom removed their precious ornaments of their own accord; and it was Moshe whom G-d was now instructing to follow their example, so as not to intimidate Yisrael.


Getting the Date Right

"And G-d spoke to Moshe face to face and he (Moshe) returned to the camp" (33:11).

Rashi explains that Moshe broke the Luchos on the seventeenth of Tamuz, burned the calf and punished the sinners on the eighteenth and ascended Har Sinai (the second time) on the nineteenth.

The Chizkuni comments that in Parshas Yisro, Rashi himself explained that Moshe descended on the seventeenth and broke the Luchos on the same day, and that in the early morning of the eighteenth, he ascended Har Sinai, where he remained for eighty days until Yom Kipur, when he finally descended with the second Luchos. And he repeats this explanation in Parshas Eikev, only there he adds that Moshe descended forty days later on the twenty-ninth of Av.


Hashem Hashem

"Hashem, Hashem, Keil, Rachum ve'Chanun " (34:6).

Rashi explains that Hashem denotes Midas Rachamim, and that one "Hashem" refers to before the sin, and the other, after the sin.

Why, asks the Riva, does one need Rachamim if one has not sinned?

The answer he explains, lies in the fact that the current sin was that of Avodah-Zarah, which Chazal explain, is punishable even for one's thoughts, (as the Navi writes in Yechezkel [14:5]) "In order to seize Beis Yisrael in their hearts".

And that explains why in Parshas Sh'lach-L'cha (14:18), by the sin of the spies, which was not connected to idolatry, the Torah writes "Hashem" only once.


Ploughing and Reaping

"From ploughing and reaping you shall rest" (34:21).

Quoting Rashi, the Riva cites one opinion that attributes this to ploughing in the sixth year and harvesting in the eighth, And quoting Rashi in the first Perek of Rosh Hashanah, he explains that this refers to ploughing a cornfield in the sixth year, as this benefits the produce of the Sh'mitah, and harvesting wheat that has grown one third of its full growth in the Sh'mitah, in the eighth year. It cannot be referring to the Sh'mitah year itself, since we know that already from Pesukim in B'har. Nor can we interpret it in connection with Shabbos (which the first half of the Pasuk is talking about), because why would the Torah then pick out specifically ploughing and harvesting, as this would imply that all the other Melachos are permitted.

Perhaps, the Riva asks, the Pasuk is indeed written with reference to Shabbos, and it comes to teach us that someone who ploughs or harvests on Shabbos has transgressed an Asei, and is not Chayav Miysah (death at the hand of Beis-Din), as all other Melachos are, much in the same way as, according to Rebbi Nasan, the Torah does regarding someone who lights a fire on Shabbos, where it subjects him to a plain La'av, and absolves him from Miysah?

And he answers that Rebbi Nasan's inference is based on the fact that "Lo se'va'aru eish" (the La'av written by lighting a fire, follows the Pasuk "Kol ha'oseh melochioh yumas" (so that the La'av comes to preclude lighting a fire from it); whereas "be'charosh u'va'kotzir tishbos" does not.


The Shine of Moshe's Face

"And Moshe did not know that his face shone (ki Koran or ponov) " (34:29).

The Riva quoting Rashi, explains that the word "Koran" derives from the word 'keren' (a horn). Consequently, he defines it as a bright light that protruded from Moshe's head in the form of a horn.

And he then informs us that Moshe merited the 'Karnei Hod' (the Horns of Glory) from when he wrote the Seifer Torah, and cleaned the pen on his hair. Hence the Minhag among Sofrim, he concludes, to do the same thing (though this is not the Minhag of Sofrim nowadays).

(See also 'Highlights from Targum Yonasan').

* * *


'The first of the first-fruits of your land you shall bring to the Beis-Hamikdash. You are not permitted to cook or to eat meat and milk mixed together, so that I will not give vent to My anger against you, to destroy the fruit of your tress, together with the ripening fruit, their buds and their leaves' (34:26).


' and Moshe did not know that his face was shining brightly, from the Glory of the Shechinah of G-d when He spoke with him' (34:29).



"And you shall make a copper basin to wash (lerochtzoh)" (30:18).

The Torah juxtaposes the Parshah of the water basin beside that of giving one's half-Shekalim, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, a hint at the connection between giving (Tzedakah) and rain. When the people stop giving Tzedakah, the rain ceases to fall. The word "lerochtzoh", he points out further, appears four times in T'nach, because a Kiyor (basin) must hold sufficient water for at least four Kohanim to wash from it simultaneously (See Torah Temimah: Pikudei, 40:31).


"And the Ketores which you shall make " (30:37).

This Pasuk, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, contains eleven words, hinting at the eleven major ingredients that comprised the Ketores.


"Only (ach) My Shabbosos you shall observe " (31:13).

The word "Ach" (which always comes to qualify) precludes life-preservation, communal Korbanos and in time of battle, all of which override the Shabbos.


"And He gave to Moshe (Vayitein el Moshe) when He finished (ke'chaloso) speaking with him, the two Luchos " (31:18).

The Gematriyah of "Vayitein el Moshe", the Ba'al ha'Turim observes, is equivalent to that of 'Zeh ha'Talnud'.

"ke'chaloso", he adds (which is written without the 'Vav' between the 'Chaf' and the 'Lamed', can also mean like one's Kalah. Bearing in mind that a Kalah used to wear twenty-four different ornaments (which she would spend a year preparing), the Torah is teaching us here, that just as a bride adorns herself with twenty-four ornaments, so too, should a Talmid-Chacham adorn himself with the twenty-four Books of T'nach.


"Luchos" (which is also spelt minus a 'Vav'), in the Gematriyah of 'At Bash', is equivalent to 'Kisei" - since the two Luchos were taken from G-d's Kisei ha'Kovod (Throne of Glory).

* * *

(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 482
To Provide for a Jewish Servant When he Goes Free

It is a Mitzvah to give provisions to a servant when he leaves our service, and not to send him away empty-handed; as the Torah writes in Re'ei (15:14) "You shall surely provide for him from your sheep, your granary and your wine-press; from whatever Hashem your G-d blessed you, give him".

A reason for the Mitzvah in order to acquire superior, precious character-traits. Then, with our precious superior Souls we will merit good; and G-d who is good wants to do good to His people. It is our splendour and our glory to show mercy on the person who served us, and to give him from what we own as an act of kindness, over and above what we agreed to pay him in the form of wages for his work. This is something that is self-understood and requires no elaboration.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah Chazal have said that when a Jewish servant leaves, at the end of six years, with the advent of the Yovel, or when his master dies, and a maidservant who leaves with any of the above or when she turns twelve, one is obligated to fulfill the Mitzvah. One is not however, obligated to do so there where they go free before their time, when they redeem themselves by means of paying the master for the remaining years' work. For so the Pasuk says "And when you send him to freedom ", implying "when you send him to freedom", 'but not when the servant buys it Our sages also extrapolate from 'sheep, the granary and the wine-press' that the obligation to provide the outgoing servant is confined to things that generate a natural B'rachah, but not things such as money, and clothes and that the minimum Ha'anakah must be at least thirty Sela (the equivalent of sixty Shekel or a hundred and twenty Dinrim), irrespective of whether the owner's house was blessed on account of him or not The Ha'anakah that the servant takes with him is his exclusively; his creditors are not permitted to claim it (as they are all his other property) and all other details are discussed in the first Perek of Kidushin and in Yoreh De'ah (Si'man 261).

This Mitzvah apples to both men and women in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash, since the Din of Eved Ivri only applies when Yovel applies, as the author has already explained. Nevertheless, even nowadays, a wise man will take his cue from this Halachah, in that, when sending away a Jewish laborer who has worked for him a long time, and even for a short time, he should give him provisions when he leaves, from whatever G-d has blessed one with.

* * *

(Part 1)

(Adapted from R. Bachye)

To explain why Yisrael had to give half a Shekel (the amount is not relevant to this explanation), R. Bachye cites the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (42a). Based on the Pasuk in Ki Savo (28:8) "G-d will command with you the B'rachah in your storehouses ('ba'asomecho', which also has connotations of 'hidden')" the Gemara there, advises a person who enters his granary to count his crops, to pray for a Divine blessing before measuring them. If he reverses the order, the Gemara explains, his Tefilah will be in vain because a B'rachah only takes effect on something that is hidden from the eye, but not on something that has already been measured, counted or weighed.

Once something has been measured , he says, a B'rachah will take the form of an open miracle - and not everyone merits open miracles. Hidden miracles, R. Bachye concludes, occur every day; open ones are rare.

Moreover, he says, Ayin ha'Ra (the evil eye) rules over something that is numbered.


The Torah therefore warns against counting Yisrael directly (only by means of Shekalim), a) to enable a B'rachah to take effect, to increase their numbers through a hidden miracle; and b) to avoid the Ayin ha'Ra by each person giving 'an atonement-offering for his Soul' via the Mitzvah of half a Shekel.


These difference between these two explanations lies in whether any form of counting places those being counted into the category of 'something that is counted' (as the latter explanation assumes), only the danger involved is offset by 'the atonement-offering'; or whether as long as the people are not counted directly, they are not considered 'something that is counted' (as the former explanation takes on) - and 'the atonement-offering' mentioned by the Torah refers, not to the counting itself, but to the purpose of the donation (i.e. to purchase Korbonos) as Rashi explains. And they differ practically, as to whether people need to give something (to offset the Ayin ha'Ra) or whether, as long as they are not counted directly, there is no problem.

(to be cont.)

* * *

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