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

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Vol. 5 No. 40

Parshas Mattos-Massei

For G-d's Sake

And the sons of Re'uven and Gad said to Moshe saying, "Your servants will do just as our master has commanded."(32:25)

There doesn't appear to be any basic difference between the B'nei Re'uven and Gad's previous suggestion and Moshe Rabeinu's decision - indeed, Moshe Rabeinu himself had even told them, "And you shall fulfill that which you said you will do". In that case, why did they promise to do what Moshe commanded ("just as our master has commanded"), rather than what they themselves had undertaken?

The Amshinover Rebbe replies that the difference lies in their suggestion "to go armed before the B'nei Yisroel", whereas Moshe stressed again and again, that they were to go "before G-d". That is why they agreed to do as Moshe had commanded; they would go and fight before G-d, not before the B'nei Yisroel.

When the nations of the world go to war, it is considered a noble deed to fight for "king and country" - that is the highest motivation imaginable and nothing could be more honourable. Not so with Klal Yisroel: from Torah-study to the fulfillment of mitzvos, any motive that is personal, whether it is individual or communal, or even if it is for national glory, cannot be considered to be an ideal one. Depending on the circumstances and the motivation, it may be totally wrong or it may be acceptable, but never ideal. By us, the only ideal motive is lishmoh - for the sake of fulfilling G-d's command. And that is one of the major areas which sets us aside from the gentiles. Even when we go to war, we go ‘before G-d’!

A similar idea is expressed by the K'sav Sofer on the possuk "Mobilise troops for the army, to avenge Hashem against Midyon" (B'amidbor 31:3) - where the Torah uses the word 'anoshim' (tzadikim - see Rashi B'amidbor 13:3). Moshe insisted on sending tzadikim who would go to war to avenge G-d's honour (as the Torah goes on to write) and not for any personal motive, he explains - even to avenge the honour of Klal Yisroel (although that may have been G-d's motive for sending them - ibid. 31:2).

This concept would appear to be another branch of the mitzvah to "know Hashem in all that we do" - in eating, in sleeping, in talking and even in doing battle with the enemy - to perform our mundane activities for the sake of Hashem, because that is the highest possible motivation.

Another answer to our original question is offered by the Gan Roveh (also quoted in the Ma'yonoh Shel Torah), who points out that Moshe Rabeinu omitted the fortifications of the cities referred to by the sons of Gad and Re'uven (see possuk 17 and 24). Fortifications are merely a sign of lack of faith in Hashem. Consequently, what the sons of Gad and Re'uven meant when they agreed to do what Moshe Rabeinu had commanded them, was to build cities without fortifications, thereby placing their trust fully in Hashem and not in their own might. The force of such faith is amplified when one considers that they would leave their wives and children, unprotected in those cities for fourteen years until their return.

Indeed one may well combine the two above ideas: It would after all, stand to reason that, should the B'nei Gad and Re'uven come to realise that they were fighting solely for the sake of G-d and not with any other motivation, their link with G-d would thereby be strengthened, their faith would increase and they would no longer feel the need to fortify their cities. After all, it is fair to assume that, if they would fight for the sake of Hashem, He would, in return, protect their interests.

Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim

Swapping Tactics

"And Bil'om, the son of Be'or they killed by the sword" (31:8). Bil'om, in setting out to curse Yisroel, aimed at destroying them with his mouth, points out Rashi, usurping the attribute with which Yisroel was blessed ("and the voice is the voice of Ya'akov" Bereishis 27:22), so Yisroel usurped the attribute with which Eisov was blessed ("the hands are the hands of Eisov") and killed him by the sword.

It is clear from here, writes the Chofetz Chayim, that our chief weapon and tool is our mouth. When one's tools are in good shape, it is possible to manufacture top-quality objects, he says, and so it is of utmost importance that a Jew keeps his speech in good condition (clean, and free of numerous evils that can interfere with its productivity) by using it for Torah, Tefillah and kind words. In that way, he will be able to create myriads of worlds and holy angels, as the Novi Yishayah writes (51:16) "And I will put my words into your mouth - to plant the Heaven and to establish the earth".

And that is what the Gemoro in Chullin (58b) means when it says 'What is a person's task in this world? To make himself as if he were dumb. Perhaps this applies even to words of Torah, asks the Gemoro further? Therefore the Torah writes "speak righteous things" '.

Kashering Vessels - and People

How does one kasher vessels? First one removes the rust and dirt, as we learn from the word "Ach" - inferring that nothing but the vessel remains, with no additions. Then one kashers them in the same way as they were used; if they were used in fire, then they should be kashered in fire; if they were used in boiling water, they should be kashered in boiling water - Rashi (31:21-22).

And that, adds the Chofetz Chayim, is precisely how a person should kasher himself from his sins. Firstly, he must remove the rust and the dirt that have accumulated on account of his sins - through teshuvah, remorse on the past and a firm undertaking on the future. The next stage is to ensure that one's practical teshuvah should follow the same pattern as the sin - if the sin was performed with fire, with enthusiasm, then that is how one's teshuvah should be performed too. And the rectification of the sin too, should resemble the sin - if one sinned with loshon ho'ra, he should repair the damage with the same tongue with which he sinned, by studying Torah.

For so Chazal have said 'The tzadikim appease Hashem in the same way as they transgressed. And if one performed many, many sins, then one should correspondingly perform many, many mitzvos'. The main remedy however, for all sins, is through Torah-study, since it is Torah that rectifies and purifies a person. (Indeed, Torah is compared to water - which purifies, but it is also compared to fire, and there is no type of usage, from which a vessel will not be kashered if it is placed in fire.)


It is not generally known that flattery is a sin at all, let alone the fact that it is a serious one. In fact, writes the Chofetz Chayim, flattery belongs to one of the four groups that will not receive the Shechinah, it desecrates the land and results in exile. One must be wary of flattery, and the Chofetz Chayim gives a typical example of how this sin works and how easy it is to transgress. How often it happens, he says, that Reuven is speaking derogatively about Shimon (already forbidden because it is loshon ho'ra), and Levi, whose objective is to flatter Reuven, nods his head in agreement, or even adds a few words - to let him know that he agrees with him. For doing this, apart from having transgressed the la'av of having accepted loshon ho'ra and that of 'lifnei iver' (causing another Jew to sin), one is also guilty of flattery.

Our sages have taught us that, the moment the people who took pity on the weeping King Agripas, flattered him and proclaimed 'You are our brother' (despite the fact that he was not eligible to rule), they were sentenced to destruction (the Churban Beis ha'Mikdosh followed shortly afterwards) - Sotah (41b).

(The Mitzvos Asei)

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

45. To marry the wife of one's brother who died without children - As the Torah writes (in Ki Seitzei) "When brothers live together, and one of them dies - her yovom shall come on her and take her to him as a wife ".

Nowadays, when most people do not perform this mitzvah for the sake of establishing the name of his deceased brother (but for one's own personal advantage), the din of Yibum (as this mitzvah is known as) no longer applies, only chalitzah.

46. For the Yevomoh to remove the shoe of the Yovom, should he not wish to make yibum with her - as the Torah writes "And if the man does not want to take his yevomoh. . . then she shall remove the shoe from his foot" etc.

The order of chalitzah may only be performed by expert Rabbonim who are conversant with these matters.

Anyone who does not make chalitzah with his yeomoh has nullified this mitzvah. There are some people who refrain from making chalitzah with their yevomos on the grounds that it is dangerous. However, this is a big mistake: the ways of Hashem are straight and no harm will befall anyone who fulfills them. On the contrary, it is those who do not wish to fulfill the positive mitzvos whose sin is great (they are the ones who are treading on dangerous ground).

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.

47. To circumcise every male son at eight days - as the Torah writes in Lech Lecho (Bereishis 17:12) "And at eight days you shall circumcise all males".

This mitzvah should be performed specifically by day, as it is written "and on the eighth day he shall circumcise the flesh of his foreskin" (Vayikro 12:3). The mitzvah falls due after sunrise, though if one performed it after dawn-break, he will have fulfilled it. Provided the milah is a definite obligation and it is definitely the eighth day, it overrides Shabbos. Milah is a mitzvas-asei which carries with it Kores (excision), as it is written (Bereishis 17:14) "And a male orel who did not circumcise the flesh of his foreskin, will be cut off".

It is the father who is primarily obliged to circumcise his son (where there is no father, the onus of the mitzvah falls upon the Beis-din, as agents of the whole of Yisroel). Should the father fail to perform the milah, he has nullified the mitzvah, though he is not chayav kores, since the penalty of kores is confined to the orel himself, should he grow up and die without having been circumcised (others say that he is chayav Kores as soon as he reaches the age of bar-mitzvah and fails to perform the mitzvah.) In any event, once he turns thirteen, each day that he fails to fulfill the mitzvah, he is guilty of negating it. Anyone who negates the bris milah, even if he has studied much Torah and performed many mitzvos, has no portion in the World to Come. Eretz Yisroel was only given to Avrohom Ovinu on the merit of the mitzvah of Bris Milah.

This mitzvah applies in all places and at all times.

About the Mitzvos

To Perform Mitzvos with Simchah (Part II)

When the Torah writes in Ki Sovo that serving Hashem without joy leads to the fulfillment of all the curses in the Tochochoh, it could mean one of two things: The Torah could mean that serving Hashem without joy is, in itself, such an evil thing to do - since it demonstrates the extent of unwillingness to be His servant - that it is deserving of all the punishments described in the Tochochoh; or it could mean that someone who serves Hashem unwillingly is bound to subsequently become remiss in fulfilling his obligations, and as one sin leads to another, he will eventually earn all the curses listed there - the catalyst is the fact that one served Hashem without joy. That is what set the chain of calamities into motion. Taking into account the maxim that the good always outweighs the bad, it goes without saying therefore, that it is the joy with which one serves Hashem that will inevitably serve as the catalyst to lead a person from one mitzvah to another and to reach the greatest spiritual heights, until he earns G-d's finest blessings.

Let us draw an analogy between the way we serve Hashem (with simchah or without it) and our own personal relationship with our children; every parent knows that there is simply no comparison between a child who gladly carries out his parents' instructions - even to the point of anticipating their wishes and putting them into practice before having been asked - and one who has to be told two or three times before reluctantly complying.

A child who obeys with a smile is a far cry from the one who obeys with a moan. One could even go so far as to say that parents' success in education can be gauged largely by the size of the smile or the groan displayed by the child when it knows that they want something done.

Well, Hashem is our Father too, and the true extent of our relationship between Him and ourselves can be gauged, to a large extent, by the size of the smile or the groan that we display when performing a mitzvah.

Much in the same way as the performing of a mitzvah with joy increases the value of the mitzvah manifold, so too will the performing of an averah with joy exacerbate the sin. Consequently, as careful and as wary as one needs to be of sins of any nature, one must be particularly careful when it comes to those sins that give one pleasure, because they are the ones that cause the most damage.

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