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

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Vol. 7 No. 3

Parshas Lech Lecha

Par'oh's Sin

"And He said to Avrohom "You shall surely know that your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and afflict them for four hundred years. And also the nation whom they will serve I will punish (just like I punished them) ... " (15:13-14).

The Rambam (in answer to the question 'How could G-d punish Par'oh for having tormented Yisroel, in spite of having ordained that this is what would happen?') explains that the question would have been justified had the Torah written that Yisroel will be slaves in Egypt; but now that the Torah simply writes "in a land that is not theirs", without specifying who it would be who would subjugate them, it is the Egyptians who chose to torment Yisroel of their own volition, and for that, they deserved to be punished.


The Ramban however, takes the Rambam to task. G-d ordained that Yisroel were to be punished, and whoever carried out the task would be perfoming a mitzvah, he argues. (Conversely, imagine if nobody had stepped forward to perform the task on hand - G-d's will would not have materialised!)

In the Ramban's view, Par'oh was punished, not for carrying out the will of G-d, but for going too far, and doing what G-d had not commanded - enslaving Yisroel and even afflicting them was one thing, throwing their babies into the river was quite another. And that is why he was punished.


To suggest, as the Ramban does, that it is possible to extend G-d's decree further than He intended it to go is, in itself, an amazing contention, and certainly requires more elaboration. The Ramban's kashya on the Rambam too, is very difficult to comprehend, since the Torah did not issue a command to subjugate Yisroel, but merely prophesied that some nation would do so. (This is abundantly clear from the fact that the Torah introduced the decree with the words "You shall surely know", stressing that it was to Avrohom that G-d was speaking, and not to the nations of the world.) In that case, far from being a mitzvah, Par'oh's initiative was an act of hatred and cruelty, particularly inappropriate on account of all that Yosef had done on behalf of Egypt (Meshech Chochmoh). In fact, this would be no different than the warning that the Torah gives to each house-owner to construct a parapet on his roof, so that "the person who is due to die anyway should not fall off his roof, rendering him guilty of causing his death (see Rashi Devorim 22:8).


A third approach to the question is given by the Ohr ha'Chayim, who, we might say, compromises between the two explanations. Sure, G-d ordained that someone should punish Yisroel, and sure, Par'oh did exactly what G-d ordained. However, says the Ohr ha'Chayim, it was not for his actions that Par'oh was punished, but for his motives.

If we were to ask ourselves why G-d was punishing Yisroel, the answer would most certainly be ‘for not obeying Him and adhering to His commands’. Now, let us ask ourselves whether Par'oh would have subjugated Yisroel, had they worshipped the lamb and united with the Egyptians? The answer is, ‘certainly not’!

The reason that the Egyptians (and for that matter, all the nations of the world) subjugate us is because we are different than they are ('Sinai', says Chazal, 'was so-called, because it caused the nations of the world to hate us'). In other words, G-d punishes us because we have strayed off course, but the nations hate us and subjugate us for not having strayed still further. Consequently, there is no connection whatsoever between G-d's decree and the cruel treatment that we receive at the hands of our enemies. If anything, the two are diametrically opposed. And that is why G-d punished Par'oh!


Parsha Pearls

(Adapted from the Seifer P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)

Lech Lecha

The Merit of Avrohom

"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 Gro once heard a Rebbe learning with his pupils. 'Why does the Torah use the past tense here ("asher ovar"), as if it was referring to something that the oven had previously done, when really it was referring to something that was happening at that moment, in the present?'

'It must refer,' the Rebbe explained, 'not to the oven at all, but to Avrohom. The Torah must be hinting at which merit enabled Avrohom to experience the 'Bris bein ha'Besorim'. It was "asher ovar" - because he passed through the oven (i.e. the furnace) in the time of Nimrod, and it was that oven that now stood between the pieces.

When the Gro heard this, he declared that, although this is not the simple interpretation of the posuk, it is the absolute truth.


The Ovens

Based on the fact that Hashem was showing Avrohom the four kingdoms that would subjugate his descendants (see Ba'al ha'Turim - indeed according to the Medrash, Avrohom chose here the four kingdoms that, in the course of history, would punish his children, in preference to Gehinom), ha'Rav ha'Gaon Rav Boruch Horowitz explains that the Torah is hinting here to what is perhaps the most horrific of all the tortures that we have endured throughout the golus - the ovens of Auschwitz. Otherwise, he asked, what do ovens have to do in our parshah at all?


Ten, Seven, Six and Five

"The Keini, the K'nizi and the Kadmoni … ” (5:19-21). The Torah mentions here ten nations, corresponding to Cana'an and nine of his eleven sons listed in Parshas No'ach, though some of their names, for some reason, have been changed (perhaps because whereas in No'ach, the Torah listed the names of Cana'an's sons, here it is listing the names of their kingdoms).

Keini, K'nizi and Kadmoni here correspond to Arvodi, Tz'mori and Chamosi there; P'rizi here, to Arki there, and Refo'im here, to Chivi there. Chitti, Yevusi, Emori and Girgoshi remain unchanged.

The posuk here omits Tzidon and Sini mentioned in No'ach, because it is only the ten listed here that comprise Eretz Yisroel. Tzidon and Sini lived on the border, outside the Land - Sini in the south (as is recorded in Yeshayah [49:12] and Tzidon [Sidon] in the north - see Yehoshua 19:28). In time to come however, they too, will become part of Eretz Yisroel, as it is intimated in Yechezkel.


The B'nei Eisov received the land of K'nizi, and the B'nei Lot (Amon and Mo'ov), that of Keini and Kadmoni, respectively. In fact, these lands too, should have been given to us together with the seven nations. However, as the Sifri informs us, we forfeited our rights to them when we sinned by the Meraglim (explaining why the warning not to fight with Eisov, Amon and Mo'ov is placed next to the parshah of the Meraglim in Devorim - chapter 2). That is why the posuk in Devorim (7:1) mentioned only seven nations. This arrangement however, is only temporary. In time to come, these three lands will also be incorporated into Eretz Yisroel, as the Novi Yeshayah prophesied (14:11).


At the burning bush (Sh'mos 3:8), the Torah lists only six nations. This is because the posuk there is referring to the nations that Yisroel will fight and destroy, precluding the Girgoshi, who fled of their own volition. And it is for the same reason that the posuk in Shoftim (20:17), which orders Yisroel to totally destroy the nations of Eretz Cana'an, omits them.

And in Parshas Bo (13:5), the Torah lists only five nations, because, in addition to omitting the Girgoshi (for the reason just mentioned), the P'rizi are omitted too, because the Torah refers to a "land flowing with milk and honey", a description that did not fit the land of P'rizi (Ramban 13:5) – ha’K’sav ve’ha’Kaboloh.


About The Mitzvos

The More People, The Better

(Part II)

In part one of the article, we discussed the concept of 'The Glory of the King lies in numbers' (Mishlei 14:28), with regard to Tefilah, that it is a bigger mitzvah to daven with a larger minyan than with a smaller one. This concept however, is in no way confined to Tefilah. In fact, it pertains to all mitzvos (see Metzudas Dovid, Mishlei 14:28). The Gemoro in Megilah (3b) cites it with a reference to Torah study and to the reading of the Megilah (see Tosfos there 3a d.h. 'Mevatlin) - because presumably the concept of 'Pirsumei Nisa' (spreading the miracle), is an extension of the principle 'be'Rov Am Hadras Melech'.


The Gemoro in Rosh Hashonoh too (32b) cites this principle, with regard to blowing the Shofar, believing at first, that it even overrides that of 'Zrizin makdimin le'mitzvos' (that one should perform a mitzvah as early as possible), which is why (the Gemoro initially contends) one blows the Shofar at Musaf, when there are more people in shul, and not at Shachris.

In any event, it is clear that, when it does not clash with the principle of 'Zrizin makdimin le'mitzvos', the mitzvah of blowing the Shofar is enhanced by blowing it when there are more people.


The story is told of the man on his death-bed who gathered his sons around him and gave them each a twig to break, which they did with ease. Then he handed them a bundle of ten twigs to break - but this they were unable to do. With this simple demonstration, he reminded them that, as long as they united, nobody could break them, and it was only when they remained ten individuals that they were vulnerable.

Imagine then, the power that ten people have when they combine to perform a mitzvah, and how many times that power is magnified when the group becomes twenty and thirty ... as the glory of the King becomes magnified!



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

30. Not to swear falsely with regard to a denial of money - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:11) "And you shall not lie one man to his friend".

Someone who claims money from his fellow-Jew (as opposed to land or documents), anything from one p'rutah and upwards, money that he would be obligated to pay if he were to admit it (to preclude a fine), and the defendant denies the claim and then swears accordingly, or if the claimant swore on his behalf and he then denied the claim, the defendant is guilty, even if he did not respond 'omein' to the oath.

This is called 'Sh'vuas ha'Pikodon' (an oath pertaining to a deposit), and it obligates the defendant to pay the principle plus a fifth.

Someone who transgresses this la'av, automatically contravenes that of "Do not swear by My Name falsely", which is known as a 'sh'vu'as bituy' - see the next la'av. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


31. Not to swear a sh'vu'as bituy (an oath of utterance) falsely - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:12) "And do not swear by My Name falsely".

One contravenes this la'av by swearing about something that it is possible to achieve, irrespective of whether it concerns the past (such as 'I swear that I ate', ' ... that I threw a stone into the sea' or '... that so-and-so spoke with so-and-so'; or "I swear that I did not eat', ' ... that I did not throw a stone into the sea' or ' ... that so-and-so did not speak with so-and-so'), or the future (such as 'I swear that I will eat', ' ... that I will not eat', ' ... that I will throw a stone into the sea' or ' ... that I will not throw a stone into the sea'. If any of the above statements was untrue, he will have contravened the la'av.

Even though someone who (falsely) denies a claim of land or of documents is not chayav because of Shevu’as Bituy (refer to previous mitzvah), he is however chayav for contravening that of Shevu’as Bituy, seeing as he swore falsely.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


32. Not to murder - as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:13) "Do not kill".

Someone who deliberately murders a fellow-Jew is punishable by death by the sword. If he did not actually kill him, but only caused his death, he is not killed at the hand of Beis-din, but at the Hand of G-d. It makes no difference whether the murdered man is healthy or sick - even if he is on his death-bed. One is not however, guilty for killing someone who is classified as a 't'reifah'.

Someone who kills one Jew, is considered as if he has killed a whole world (since the world began with only one person). Touching a dying man is akin to murdering him. This mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times, to men and women alike.


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