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

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Vol. 5 No. 21

Parshas Ki Sisso

Moshe, Shabbos and the Mishkon

"Why does the Torah introduce the Parshah of Shabbos with the word 've'Attoh' (and you - Moshe)?" asks the Oznayim la'Torah.

He points out how, although Yisroel left Egypt under the guidance of three leaders - Moshe, Aharon and Miriam - it was Miriam's great-grandson, Betzalel, who was the prime builder and architect of the Mishkon, and Aharon, in his capacity as Cohen Godol, who led the avodah. What role then, did Moshe play in the sanctification of Yisroel?

Therefore the Torah writes 've'Attoh daber' - Moshe's function was to sanctify Yisroel through the Shabbos, representing the sanctity of time, as opposed to the Mishkon, which represents the sanctity of location.

Indeed, explains the Oznayim la'Torah, Moshe had put a lot of effort into the Shabbos - at Moroh, where he displayed anger at their blatant chillul Shabbos, and where, through the Mon, he taught them about the sanctity of the Shabbos. And he had taught them about the Shabbos in a number of other places. Therefore in this parshah, he is further charged with teaching Yisroel the rewards of Shabbos and its punishment, that it is the eternal sign between Hashem and His people, and to sanctify Yisroel through it.

Moshe's special connection with the Shabbos is stressed in the Shemoneh-esrei of Shabbos morning. There it speaks about Moshe rejoicing over 'the gift of his portion' - the Torah, which Moshe, as the intermediary between Hashem and the people gave to Klal Yisroel - and concludes with the words 'and the two stone-tablets he brought down in his hands, and on them were written the mitzvah to observe Shabbos'. The Oznayim la'Torah might also have added that it was Moshe Rabeinu who introduced the very concept of Shabbos to Par'oh in Egypt, when he advised him of the folly of making slaves work seven days a week without a break. Miraculously, Par'oh accepted Moshe's advice and Shabbos was chosen as the day of rest. In fact, that is how others explain the phrase in the Shabbos Shemoneh-esrei (that we quoted above) - 'Let Moshe rejoice in the gift of his portion' - the Shabbos, which was Moshe's chosen portion, and which was given to Yisroel as a gift (Anaf Yosef).

The Oznayim la'Torah made a point that Moshe had no hand in the building of the Mishkon or in its functional role. In fact, Moshe played major roles in both of these areas.

To begin with, the Torah writes "And you shall make" - by every facet of the Cohen's clothes, with the sole exception of the Eifod, where the Torah writes "And they shall make". During the seven days of inauguration, it was Moshe who dressed Aharon and his sons, and prepared them for the Kehunah (comprising virtually the entire Parshah of Tetzaveh).

In addition to this, it was Moshe who made the golden Mizbei'ach, and who was in charge of the half-shekolim that were donated for the silver-sockets. He also made the copper basin and its stand, the anointing oil and the spices for the Ketores.

And it was Moshe who erected the entire Mishkon single-handedly and dismantled it daily throughout the seven days of Aharon's and his sons' inauguration (as well as putting it up finally on the eighth). In addition to this, he was the first Cohen Godol, as it was he who served for those seven days, performing the avodah in the Mishkon, at the same time acting the role of mentor and role-model to Aharon and his sons. In fact, the bulk of the parshiyos of Tetzaveh and Pikudei refer to the role that Moshe played in the construction of the Mishkon and its avodah.

Nor should we forget that, when it came to the crunch and everything had been done to bring the Shechinah down into the Mishkon, it was only when Moshe prayed together with Aharon that the Shechinah actually appeared (see Rashi, Va'yikro 9:23). Aharon may well have been the chosen Cohen Godol, but it is difficult to imagine the Shechinah descending without the numerous roles that Moshe played in bringing it down.

Purim Hangover

Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim

The Three Days

Esther commanded the people to fast for three days, because Hashem does not normally leave tzadikim in their suffering for more than three days - like we find by the spies with Rochov ha'zonah, and by Yonah inside the whale (Kad ha'Kemach).

The Seventy-two Hours

The B'nei Yisoschor explains that there are seventy-two hours in three days - and it was Esther's intention to evoke the Divine Mercy (the numerical value of 'chesed' = 72).

Fast For Me

Why did Esther use the strange expression "vetzumu olai" (and fast for me)?

The Chido connects this with Rifkah's statement to Ya'akov - "Olai kileloscho, be'ni" (your curse is on me, my son), and which Unklus translates as "It was told to me with the Divine Spirit that you will not be cursed, my son".

Here too, he explains, Esther was asking the people to fast on Pesach (which, in itself, is forbidden), as well as to negate the mitzvos of the Seder - Matzoh, Morror and the four cups of wine.

To justify such a request, she added the word, 'olai', pointing out that, like Rifkah, she had been told, by means of a Divine revelation (indeed, Esther is listed as one of the seven prophetesses), that no harm would befall them for fasting on Pesach. That is why the possuk continues "And Mordechai transgressed, like all that Esther had commanded him". Since Esther was a proven prophetess, Mordechai was obliged to listen to whatever she had to say - as long as it was only a one-time sin, (but not if she had attempted to uproot a mitzvah permanently).

Moch and Rosh

A Medrash P'liy'ah writes that when Esther asked Hashem why Yisroel merited destruction, He replied that it was because Yisroel had become "Moch' and "Rosh' (two terms meaning poor). Esther immediately responded with 'Keili Keili lomoh azavtoni' etc. (Tehilim, Chapter 22).

"Now what does this strange Medrash mean?" asks Rebbi Shimshon from Astropolia. He explains that each and every angel contains in his name one of the Names of Hashem. Should, chas ve'sholom, those letters be removed from his Name, then he would remain lifeless.

Now Michoel is the angel who represents and defends Klal Yisroel in Heaven. Michoel's ability to function in this role is drawn from the Name of G-d 'Keili', which is contained in his name - without which Michoel spells 'Moch'. In similar vein, it is the letters of Hashem's holy Name 'Keili', which gives Yisroel the strength of angels and places them on the highest level. But when their sins drive out the Shechinah (Keili) from their midst, then those letters depart from Yisrael's name - leaving only the 'Resh' and the 'Yud' - which spell 'Resh', meaning impoverished. And that is what Hashem meant when He answered Esther "because Yisroel became 'Moch' and 'Resh' - due to their laxness, the word 'Keili' had been taken away from Michoel and from Yisroel, leaving 'Moch' and 'Resh'.

And that is why Esther responded by saying 'Keili, Keili'. Through her prayers, the letters 'aleph', 'lamed' and 'yud' - Keili - were returned both to Michoel and Yisroel. The Divine character of Yisroel and of their guardian angel was restored, and they were no longer poor.

What Did I Do Wrong?

A few pesukim later, Esther again mentions the Name 'Keili' - for the third time ('mi'betten imi Keili Atta' - possuk 11).

'You commanded us three mitzvos - Nidah, Challah and Hadlokas ha'Ner' she pleaded with Hashem. 'Was I ever guilty of transgressing any of them?' Hashem responded and answered her prayers.

Shoshanas Ya'akov

Why do we say specifically 'Shoshanas Ya'akov' after reciting the Megilah, and not 'Shoshanas Avrohom' or 'Yitzchok'?

The Korban Oni explains that it was Ya'akov who davened for the downfall of Eisov, when he said to Hashem "Hatzileini No Mi'yad ochi mi'yad Eisov" (the first letters of the first three words spell 'Homon'). Also, he adds, when the Torah writes about Ya'akov that he commanded his messengers "gam es ha'sheini, gam es ha'sh'lishi, gam es kol ha'holchim acharov", the three times gam ('gimel', 'mem') stand for the three saviours - Go'el Moshe, Go'el Mordechai, and Go'el Moshi'ach.


In last week's edition, No. 3 of 'Someone who Travels from an Ir to a Krach', (on page 4) should have read: If a ben Krach travels to an ir with the initial intention of returning before the early morning of the fourteenth, he must read on the fifteenth (and not on the fourteenth as appeared mistakenly in print). We apologise for this slip of the pen and sincerely hope that no Yerushalmi reads the Megilah in B'nei Brak on Thursday because of it.

(Parshas Ki Sisso)
(Melochim I 18:1-39)

When Eliyohu ha'Novi tells the people "Till when will you hop on two thresholds? If Hashem is G-d, then follow Him! And if Ba'al is G-d, then follow Him!", he is clearly re-iterating the message that emerges from the Chet ho'Eigel; namely, that when one serves Hashem, it must be absolute, without reservation, just as we recite each day in the Shema: "Hashem echod" - and that there may be no other ("Lo yihye lecho Elohim acheirim al Ponai" - Yisro 20:3) - see Chofetz Chayim on the Torah 32:22.

By not replying (because, as Rashi explains, they did not know which to choose), they were only giving credence to the Novi's rebuke.

To hop from one threshold to another, to serve G-d today and Ba'al tomorrow, is either grossly exaggerating the powers of Ba'al, or grossly underestimating the powers of G-d - or both! In any case, it certainly displays a glaring ignorance of G-d's uniqueness, of His omnipotence and His immortality, by placing Him on a par with gods of wood and stone.

The Novi Yirmiyoh sums it up beautifully when he writes (2:11): "They have forsaken Me, the source of spring-water, to dig themselves pits, broken pits which cannot contain water." Nobody in his right mind would exchange a spring of water for a waterless pit, and, by the same token, nobody in his right mind would exchange a living G-d for a worthless idol - unless there was something seriously lacking in his appreciation of G-d in the first place.

If G-d is indeed the G-d described by the Rambam in the first four of his thirteen principles of faith, then one's belief in Him must be unreserved, timeless and absolute.

Unreserved: because not only is He fully aware of all our problems, not only is He fully capable of resolving them, but He also loves us and wants nothing more than to do just that. If He does not do so, it is only because it would not be in our interest if he did. Timeless: because even though our abilities fluctuate, G-d's do not. He neither ages, nor do His strength or His loving-kindness fade. So there is neither reason nor logic for one's faith in Him to decline - ever. Absolute: because He is absolute. Not only is there no other G-d - period, but neither does He delegate His Divine powers to any other being. Everything was created by Him and is controlled by Him, and there is not the least justification in ascribing Divinity to any of His creations.

"If Ba'al is G-d, follow him!" What sort of option is that? Surely it is better to serve Hashem at least some of the time, than not at all?

Not so! And for a number of reasons.

Firstly, someone who believes that the Divine Throne can be shared by any other deity deludes himself, if he thinks that he is serving G-d at any time. What he is serving is his conscience.

Secondly, someone who serves Ba'al loyally today, stands a good chance of serving G-d loyally tomorrow - when he ultimately realises the folly of his choice. This is less likely to happen with someone who serves G-d and Ba'al concurrently - for two reasons:

1) because his conscience will be easily appeased. Each time he feels guilt-pangs for serving idols, he will console himself when, on the following day, he serves G-d. He will never feel the deep remorse that is one of the most vital ingredients of genuine teshuvah;

2) because he will become accustomed to serving dual deities, making it more difficult for himself to switch over to monotheism, even when he does eventually realise the seriousness of his sin.

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