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

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Vol. 14   No. 3

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Zevulun Doron ben Shimshon z.l.'b'h'
'To avoid the fire of Gehinom,' says Hashem,
'distance yourself from Lashon ha'Ra,
and you will merit both this world and the World to Come'
(Medrash Tanchumah, Parshas Metzora)

Parshas Lech-Lecha

Whose land, Did You Say?

In the B'ris bein ha'Besarim, G-d promised Avraham that He would give his descendents the entire land from the River of Egypt (which no longer exists, says the Ha'amek Davar) in the south to the River P'ras (the Euphrates) in the north. And He proceeds to list ten nations 'the Keini, K'nizi and Kadmoni, the Chiti, the P'rizi and the Refa'im, the Emori, the Cana'ani, the Girgashi and the Yevusi'.


The cut-up pieces of animal that constituted the covenant, explains Rabeinu Bachye, symbolize the permanence of the promise, which would last forever and would never be broken, just as the pieces of an animal can be put together again. And based on the Ramban, he also explains that, right from the start, Eretz Yisrael was destined to enter the possession of Yisrael; only in the interim, until they were ready to inherit it, G-d gave it to the Cana'anim for safekeeping, because any other nation might have usurped Yisrael's rights and taken possession of it. Not so the Cana'anim, who had the status of slaves, and whatever a slave acquires belongs to his master.


There are a number of difficulties with the Pesukim that comprise the B'ris Bein ha'Besarim (15:18-21).

Firstly, although the River P'ras (mentioned here) is listed among the borders of Eretz Yisrael both at the beginning of Devarim and at the end of Eikev, it does not appear in Parshas Masei, which lists the northern border as from the Mediterranean Sea to Hor ha'Har to Chamas to Tzedadah, which is many hundreds of miles south-west of the River P'ras (the Euphrates).

Secondly, the ten nations that the Torah lists here do not tally with the sons of Cana'an, neither in name nor in number. The Pasuk there gives Tzidon as Cana'an's firstborn, lists Cheis, Yevusi, Emori, Girgasgi and Chivi, but neither Cana'ani nor P'rizi. And then adds 'Arki, Sini, Arvodi, Tzamasi and Chamasi' (eleven sons, all in all).

And thirdly, they do not tally with the seven Cana'ani nations that G-d promised to give (and subsequently gave) to Yisrael after they crossed the Yardein with Yehoshua.

Let us deal with the questions in the reverse order. Six of the seven nations are clearly mentioned here, the Refa'im, explains the Chizkuni, is synonymous with the Chivi (though his ancestor Rashi does not learn like that), whereas the Keini, the Kadmoni and the K'nizi are synonymous with Amon, Mo'av and Edom, who earned them temporarily on account of various merits that were accredited to Eisav and Lot respectively, and it is in the days of Mashi'ach that we will inherit all ten lands (as Rashi explains).


The Ramban and Rabeinu Bachye deal with the second question. They explain that the names listed in No'ach are those by which their father Cana'an called them. The last five, it seems, later became known by different names, possibly on account of the areas that they inhabited. Three of them were synonymous with the Keini, the K'nizi and the Kadmoni, and one of them, with the P'rizi. Whereas Tzidon the firstborn, together with the remaining brother, joined together and became known as Cana'an.


As for the first question, one might at first glance feel inclined to answer it in the same way as we answered the second question. Perhaps the extended borders that will reach as far as the River P'ras refer to the times of Mashi'ach, but that in the meantime, Yisrael only inherited the land as prescribed in Parshas Masei.

But if that is so, we will still need to explain why the Pesukim in Devarim refer to the extended borders, seeing as they were not yet relevant?

Moreover, in Pasuk 15 in this Parshah, G-d specifically informed Avraham that after being in exile in a strange land, the fourth generation would return to Eretz Yisrael, and this is followed by the wider borders of Eretz Yisrael as we explained.

In fact, the same problem will now pertain to the answer that we gave to the last question, seeing as the same promise seems to relate to the ten nations, and not just to the seven?


It therefore seems to me that had Yisrael not sinned by the Meraglim, they would indeed have captured all ten lands, without even having to fight, as Rashi explains in Devarim (1:8). And by the same token, the northern border would have extended as far as the River P'ras. And it is because the Pesukim in Devarim pertain to the period prior to the sin of the Meraglim, that they include the wider borders of the land. The Parshah of Masei on the other hand, was written after the episode of the Meraglim, when Yisrael had forfeited their full rights to Eretz Yisrael. At that stage, they were only due to receive the lands of the seven nations, and their northern borders would end on the strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea in the west to Tzedadah in the east, until the coming of Mashi'ach, may it happen soon. When he arrives, we will receive all ten lands, and our borders will expand right up to the River P'ras. Meanwhile, the entire land, minus the extension, is called Eretz Yisrael, not Palestine.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro)

Blessed by the Blessed ...

"And I will bless those who (will) bless you, and those who will curse you I will curse" (12:3).

Why, asks the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro, does the Pasuk switch the order, blessing the blessers before they bless Avraham and his descendents, but cursing those who curse them only afterwards?

It is well-known that the blessings of a wealthy man are more profuse than those of a poor one; whilst the curses of a poor man far exceed those of a wealthy one.

Consequently, G-d blesses those whom He knows intend to bless His people, in order to prompt them to maximize their blessings; whereas he minimizes the curses of Yisrael's cursers, by postponing their curses until after they have pronounced their curses.


(In actual fact, the Pasuk says nothing about money, riches or poverty. Rashi however, comments on the Pasuk "And I will bless you" (with money). Similarly, on the opening word of Birchas Kohanim "Yevorech'cho [He will bless you]" ..., Rashi comments 'Your property will be blessed'.

Money may not be the ultimate blessing in this world, but it certainly plays a major role in attaining most things that one needs to live). To a certain degree, it is perhaps the blessing of blessings.


The Oven that Was

"And the sun set, and it became dark, and behold an oven of smoke and a torch of fire that passed between these pieces" (15:17).

The G'ro once overheard how a Rebbe, teaching a class of children this Pasuk, commented on the strange expression "that passed" ('asher ovar'), which implies that it had happened previously, when the Pasuk, which is referring to something that was taking place at that time, ought to have said 'o'ver' (is passing).

What the Pasuk is coming to teach us, replied the Rebbe, is that it was on the merit of the fiery furnace of Ur Kasdim (into which Nimrod had cast Avraham many years earlier), that the B'ris bein ha'Besarim was now taking place.

When the G'ro heard this explanation, he admitted that it did not fit the simple explanation of the Pasuk, yet he described it as 'la'amitah shel Torah' (the absolute truth).


Why the Name Ya'akov Remained (1)

"And your name will no longer be called 'Avram', but your name will be 'Avraham' (17:5).

Anyone who refers to Avraham as Avram, says the Gemara in B'rachos (13a) citing this Pasuk, transgresses an Asei.

That being the case the Gemara asks, why do we not say the same with regard to someone who refers to Ya'akov as Yisrael? Ya'akov is different, answers the Gemara, seeing as G-d Himself continues to refer to Ya'akov by his original name (as we find later in Vayechi 46:2).

But that itself is difficult, asks the G'ro? Having informed Ya'akov that from now on his name would be Yisrael, why did G-d contravene His own words (as it were)?

Moreover, now that G-d's change of name need not be taken too seriously, why can we not likewise take Avram's name-change with a pinch of salt?

We can answer these questions, says the G'ro, with a Sifri. The Sifri differentiates between the words "ve'Hoyoh" and "Yih'yeh" in that the former takes immediate effect, whereas the latter refers to some time in the future.

Consequently, bearing in mind that the Torah uses the word "ve'Hoyoh" with regard to Avraham's change of name, and "Yih'yeh" with regard to that of Ya'akov, the above question is answered. 'Avram' was to become 'Avraham' immediately, which is why G-d never again referred to him as Avram. Ya'akov, on the other hand, would only change to Yisrael some time in the future; therefore, in the interim, G-d still refers to him as Ya'akov.

True, the G'ro concludes, the Gemara might just as well have given this answer; it preferred to answer that G-d Himself still called him Ya'akov (which itself is based on the first answer, as we explained).


What remains unclear however, is from when Y'a'akov's name is irrevocably changed to Yisrael. Perhaps from the time Mashi'ach arrives.


Why Ya'akov's Name Remained (2)


The G'ro gives another fascinating reason as to why G-d did not to delete Ya'akov's original name completely.

He decided to leave it intact because of the significance of its second letter. For you see, the second letters of the names of the Avos hint at the Tefilos that each one introduced. The 'Beis' of AVraham = 'Boker (Shachris); the 'Tzadei' of YiTZchak = 'Tzohorayim' (Minchah), and the 'Ayin' of Ya'Akov = 'Arvis' (Ma'ariv).

In this way, we are constantly reminded that it was Ya'akov who instigated Tefilas Ma'ariv.


Interestingly, David ha'Melech in Tehilim (55:18) uses these very same three words with regard to Tefilah "Erev, vo'voker ve'Tzohorayim osichoh ve'ehemeh".


B'ris Milah = Torah

"This is my covenant that you shall observe, between Me and between you and between your children after you, circumcise all your males" (17:10).

The reason that the Mitzvah of Milah is called 'B'ris' (covenant), is because it has the numerical value 613 (including the mitzvah itself).

It incorporates the entire Torah, says the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro, inasmuch as without it, one does not enter the realm of Jewish law.

* * *


"And I will bless the Kohanim who spread out their hands in prayer and bless your (Avraham's) children; whereas I will curse Bil'am who will curse them, and he will be killed by the sword ... " (12:3).


"And the men of S'dom were wicked towards one another (monetarily), and evil (bodily [see also Rashi]), with regard to adultery. murder and idolatry, and they rebelled against Hashem" (13:13).


"And Og came and told Avram the Ivri ... Og who had escaped the flood in which all of mankind died, straddled the Teivah and slept on top of it, and ate from No'ach's food supply. It was not on his own merit that he was saved, only for future inhabitants of the world to see the might of G-d, so that they should realize the strength of those who rebelled against Him and whom He subsequently destroyed' (see also Chizkuni) ... He arrived on Erev Pesach and found Avram preparing Matzah cakes'.


"And when Avram heard that his 'brother' had been captured, he mobilized the young men that he had trained to fight ... but they refused to go; so he chose from among them Eliezer, son of Nimrod (and brother of Paroh, Hagar's father - see 16:5), whose strength matched the combined strengths of all of the other three hundred and eighteen men ... (14:13).


"And the nations, which are compared to a Tamei bird, swooped down to take Yisrael's booty, but the merit of Avraham protected them" (15:11).


"And the sun set, a deep sleep fell upon Avraham, and four kings arose to subjugate his children. Dread - this is Bavel; Darkness - this is Medes; Great - this is Greece; Fell upon him - this is Persia, which is going to fall and not arise again. And from there the nation of Yisrael will go free" (15:12).

* * *

(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 60:
A Mitzvah for Beis-Din to Judge the Din of a Borrower (cont.)

In the case of She'eilah be'ba'alim (borrowing from the owner whilst the latter is simultaneously working for him), the Torah exempts the borrower from all liability. Perhaps this is due to the fact that, since the owner is on the spot, he will keep an eye on the object or the animal himself. True, the owner remains Patur from paying even if something happens to it after the owner has gone (as long as the owner was working for him at the time of borrowing); it seems however, that the Torah did not want to create diverse situations whereby the borrower would be Patur if the owner remains in his employ for a long period, but Chayav if he leaves after a short time. So it issued a general ruling exempting the borrower, provided the owner was working for him at the time that the borrowing took place. That is why Chazal say that if the owner was working for him at the time of the borrowing, he is Patur, even though he was not working for him when the animal broke a leg or died. In the reverse case however, he will be Chayav, since everything depends upon the beginning of the transaction. And exactly the same set of rulings governs a hirer.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (96b) exempts the borrower from paying in a case where a borrowed animal dies of work, or if a borrowed article breaks (or wears out) from use, provided that is, the borrower did not do with it anything detrimental that one would not normally do. And he will also be Chayav if something happens to the article after having deviated from whatever the owner stipulated, even if it concerns the regular use of the borrowed object ... If the borrower worked with a borrowed animal in an area where there were many people present, then he is obligated to bring witnesses to uphold his claim that the animal died from regular work (and not from other circumstances) ... In the event that a borrower is Chayav to pay, he pays, like a damager, from the best of his property ... The borrower is obliged to feed the animal from the moment he acquires it until the termination of the term of borrowing ... The Din of children whose father died, leaving them a borrowed cow which subsequently dies ... If Reuven asks Shimon to lend him something, using the expression 'be'tovoscho', then he is permitted to use it permanently until it breaks or gets used up, having to return only the broken pieces ... If someone borrows S'tam (without specifying a time limit) for how long he is permitted to retain the borrowed article (a complex matter with many different Halachos) ... The prohibition of a borrower lending the borrowed article to a third person ... and the remaining details, are all discussed in the eighth chapters of Bava Metzi'a and Shevu'os (See also Choshen Mishpat Si'man 340 - 346).

This Mitzvah applies to men, upon whom the onus of judging lies. If a Beis-Din contravenes it and fails to arbitrate in a dispute between the owner and the borrower it has nullified a Mitzvas Asei.


Mitzvah 61:
A Mitzvah for Beis-Din to Judge the Din of an Enticer

It is a Mitzvah for Beis-Din to arbitrate in the Din of an enticer, a man who entices a young girl to have relations with him. They must judge him according to the law that is stated in Mishpatim (22:15) "And when a man entices a young girl (a virgin) who is not betrothed, and is intimate with her ... ". 'Enticing' means that he tells her falsehoods or even things that are true, until she succumbs.

The reason for this Mitzvah is obvious. Do not be surprised at a modest girl ("whose dignity lies in the home" - Tehilim 45:14) who is effectually sold to the man who spoils her - for a mere fifty silver Shekalim (irrespective of whether she is from a rich family or a poor one). For this K'nas (penalty) pays only for the pleasure that he derived from his act. In addition to that, he remains obligated to pay her for the shame and the depreciation of her value that he caused, all of which Beis-Din assess in accordance with her Yichus and her importance. (cont.)

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