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

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Vol. 4 No. 21

Parshas Ki Sisso

Don't Remain Silent!

"Moshe stood at the gate of the camp and announced: 'Whoever is on G-d's side, come to me!' And the whole tribe of Levi gathered to him." The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfo writes that there were three groups by the "Eigel": one which only requested a leader ("... who will go before us"); one which accepted the "Eigel" as a god (they were the 3,000 who were judged by the sword); and the tribe of Levi who all remained loyal to Hashem.

The Chofetz Chayim, quoting the Medrash Yalkut, adds: "Who would not profess to be on G-d's side?" But what Moshe Rabeinu really meant was 'Who did not even donate one golden ring for the "Eigel" '. In other words, "Who sides with G-d exclusively? Who did not play any role whatsoever in promoting the 'Eigel ha'zohov'?" The Ramban, commenting on the three groups referred to by Chazal, explains that those who sacrificed to it were killed by the sword, those who embraced and kissed it died by pestilence, and those who only rejoiced over its creation died after drinking the water which contained the gold dust of the "Eigel". We see from here, he adds, just how abhorrent idolatry is in the eyes of G-d, until even the slightest participation - even if it is just with our hearts, is considered a serious offence.

It is interesting to note that outside of the tribe of Levi, there wasn't a single Jew who is mentioned as having been exclusively loyal to Hashem. Everyone was guilty of at least minimal participation in serving the Eigel and, if not of participation, then at least he was guilty of silence.

The only people not branded as collaborators by the Torah are the Levi'im. It is well-known how three advisers were present when Par'oh presented his plan to use the Jews for forced labour - Yisro, Bil'om and Iyov. Yisro objected, Bil'om condoned the plan, whereas Iyov was silent - he abstained. Yisro merited to "enter the protection of the Shechinah" - he converted to Judaism; Bil'om was killed by the sword - by the very people whose slavery he advocated. Iyov was stricken with suffering.

The question is asked as to why Iyov was punished. He probably felt the futility of protesting against the mighty Par'oh. Surely Par'oh, a man with an iron will, would not relinquish such a plan on his advice? Surely the consultation with his advisers was a mere formality? He wanted - and expected - their assent, and anything else would probably anger him - who knows with what result.

But, explains the Brisker Rov, when people are being hurt, badly hurt, one has no right to remain silent. So Hashem put Iyov to the test: how silent would he remain when he was made to suffer?

One cannot remain impartial when others are suffering. Even if there is nothing that one can really do, then at least a sign of sympathy is forthcoming, for to remain silent is a sign that one does not care - and total insensitivity to another's suffering is a sin. No less with G-d. If we love Him and care about Him, then we cannot just watch as others simply reject Him and trample His Name underfoot. One must protest in the most vehement terms, doing what one can to rectify the situation and to put an end to the desecration of G-d's name. And if one is convinced there is nothing one can do, then at least a verbal protest is due - a sigh of pain. Otherwise one must be branded as a collaborator, for silence encourages the perpetrators to pursue their course; and besides, total insensivity to Chillul Hashem too, is considered a grave sin.


Adapted from the Gro

Not More Than A Fifth

The Neginos on the words "he'oshir lo yarbeh" are "Munach Revi'i". This is a hint, explains the Gro, to the Gemoro in Kesubos (50a). The Gemoro rules that one should not give more than a fifth of one's money for Tzedokoh. That is why the Torah writes "the rich shall not give more (than a fifth)" with the neginos "Munach Revi'i" (four parts shall remain).

Shabbos Comes Last

"Veshomru b'nei Yisroel ... le'dorosom b'ris olom. Beini u'vein B'nei Yisroel os hi le'olom" (31:16-17). The Gro points out that, whereas the first "olom" is written with a "vov", the second is written without one. Why is that?

He answers the question with a Gemoro in Shabbos (69b), which brings two opinions regarding someone who is walking in a desert and forgets which day is Shabbos. According to Rav Huna, he must count six days, and then keep Shabbos - like the creation of the world, where the six days preceded Shabbos.

But R. Chiya bar Abba explains that we follow in the footsteps of Odom ho'Rishon, who first celebrated the Shabbos, and only then the six days of the week. Likewise, in our case, the person who forgets when Shabbos is, must first keep Shabbos, and then count six days.

In fact, we pasken like Rav Huna, whose opinion finds support in the possuk we are discussing, since "le'olom" without a "vov" means "hidden". It is as if the Torah was instructing us that if the Shabbos is ever hidden from us, then we are to remember that in six days, Hashem created Heaven and earth, and on the seventh day, He rested - just like Rav Huna said.

They Paid Five-fold

"And there fell from the people on that day three thousand men" (32:28). That is what is written (Sh'mos 21:37) - "He shall pay five bulls instead of the ox" - Medrash Pliyah. The Gro explains this Medrash with another Medrash. Interpreting the possuk in Kohelles, "I found a man from a thousand but one woman among these (Eileh) I did not find." (7:28)

This possuk refers to the "Eileh Elohecho Yisroel" of the golden calf, explains the Medrash, whereas one in a thousand men sinned, the women had no hand in the sin at all.

But that is seemingly incorrect, for if only one in a thousand men sinned, that means only six hundred Jews were implicated (since one thousandth of 600,000 = 600). Why then, did 3000 men die?

And it is that question which our Medrash comes to answer, when it writes that the three thousand men who died by the golden calf were really five times the amount that sinned, because that is what the Torah writes, "He shall pay five bulls for the one ox".


(Ki Sisso) (Melochim I, 8:1-39)

The legacy of idolatry left by the golden calf was to have its repercussions throughout our history, particularly during the period of the first Beis-Ha'mikdosh. And it reached its peak in the days of Achov, with his many hundreds of priests of Ba'al. The link with the Parshah is reinforced through Eliyohu's rebuking of the people for idolatrous practices and his slaying of the prophets of Ba'al by the sword, much in the same way as Moshe commanded the B'nei Levi to kill by the sword, those who were guilty of sacrificing to the Eigel.

When Eliyohu instructed Ach'ov to gather all of Yisroel for the public trial of Divine Power that he was about to initiate, the Novi records that he did not in fact, do this. He only gathered the 450 prophets of Ba'al; the people, the Redak explains, came of their own accord. They were eager to discover for themselves who the true G-d was. It was the prophets of Ba'al who had to be forced to attend. Indeed, the Redak, at the very beginning of the Haftorah, writes how Hashem promised Eliyohu that He would send rain, because there were many people in Yisroel who had done teshuvah, apart from the seven thousand who had not bowed down to Ba'al in the first place. Nor did Ach'ov fulfill the command to gather the 400 prophets of the Asheiroh, because these were men who ate at his wife Iyzevel's table, and who did only her bidding - and she did certainly not want such a confrontation. So they did not go. It is perhaps to Ach'ov's credit that he forced the prophets of Ba'al to go.

Eliyohu rebuked the people, not for worshipping other gods, but for their uncertainty in whom to serve; for one day they would worship Hashem and the next day, Ba'al. In that way, they truly served nobody, for there is no loyalty in such a service. Indeed, the only one to derive satisfaction from such a form of worship is one's conscience, who will find no trouble in convincing him that there is no need to have the least qualms over such behaviour, since to be sure, one can always satisfy oneself that at least one is serving Hashem every second day.

The Redak is uncertain as to whether Eliyohu initiated this trial, or whether he was simply following instructions. Indeed, the Medrash bears out the first suggestion, when it writes that Eliyohu put his reputation on the line by challenging Hashem to respond. The Redak attempts to prove this approach from the fact that Eliyohu needed to daven. However, he concludes, tefillah would anyway have been necessary, if only to demonstrate to the people that Eliyohu was a true prophet of Hashem and that Hashem listened to his prayers. Otherwise, they might have thought that what happened was just by chance or through witchcraft.

When the prophets of Ba'al chose the one bull, it refused to follow them, on the grounds that it was unjust that its twin should go to Hashem as it were (to be brought as a sacrifice to Hashem), whilst he was going la'Azozel (to be brought as a sacrifice for Avodah zoroh). Despite Eliyohu's assurance that Hashem's Name would be sanctified no less through him than through his twin, he nevertheless stayed his ground and had to be forcibly handed over to the prophets of Ba'al - Redak.

The prophets of Ba'al finally abandoned their vain efforts to attract Ba'al's attention, and Eliyohu took over. In fact, the prophets of Ba'al had really anticipated Ba'al's inability to respond. They had actually placed someone insde the hollow Mizbe'ach, with the means to light a fire - and the instructions to do so at a given signal. Their man was none other than Chi'el ho'Eli, the very same man who had built up Yericho and lost all his children in the process. But their plan to fool Eliyohu failed, when a snake bit Chi'el and he died.

Eliyohu took over from the prophets of Ba'al, built the Mizbei'ach and in order to increase the impact of the miracle, he soaked the Mizbei'ach with water, using his disciple Elisha, whose fingers became like two fountains, as water spurted from them to saturate the bull and the wood, the Mizbei'ach and the ditch around it. He did this three times, to evoke the merits of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Ya'akov - Redak. It was at Minchah-time that all this took place, and it was at Minchah-time that Eliyohu's prayer to Hashem to respond with a miracle, was answered - to teach us, say Chazal, how careful one should be to daven Minchah. We also learn from Eliyohu that if a Novi issues a command to break the Torah, to transgress a section of Torah - once (but not on a permanent basis), then one is obligated to obey, because Eliyohu built a Bomoh (an altar) at a time when the Beis Ha'mikdosh stood and Bomos were prohibited.

"Answer me, Hashem, answer me!" The Gemoro in B'rochos (9b) explains the double expression: Eliyohu realised that he would have trouble in convincing the people that what they were about to see was not witchcraft, so he asked Hashem to answer his prayer for fire to descend and consume the bull, and also that Hashem should remove such blasphemous thoughts from their hearts.

No sooner had Eliyohu finished his prayer, than fire descended from Heaven and consumed the bull, the wood, the stones, and even the water in the ditch. The people knew then that, not only was Hashem their G-d, but that Ba'al was not a god at all. So they called out in unison, "Hashem is G-d, Hashem is G-d".


In the main article of last week's edition, we wrote how the Gro proved to his disciple Shevno, that his name was hinted in the book of Devorim.

We sincerely apologise for confusing two separate stories.

The Gro did indeed maintain that all names are hinted in Seifer Devorim, and he did find his own name in Parshas Ki Seitzei, as we pointed out.

However, it was a disciple of the Ramban, by the name of Avner, who renounced his Yiddishkeit, because his Rebbe had said that the name of every Jew is hinted in Parshas Ha'azinu, and he considered this to be totally ridiculous -

Until the Ramban pointed out to him where his own name - Avner - was to be found in the words" "Omarti Af'eihem Ashb'so mei'Enosh Zichrom" , the third letters of which spell Avner, and which means "I said that I will cast them away, I will destroy their memory from mankind".

Avner was shocked to hear this, and did Teshuvah on the spot.

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