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

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Vol. 21   No. 43

This issue is sponsored
in honour of K'lal Yisrael.
vevaser lanu besuros tovos yeshuos v'nechamos

Parshas Mas'ei

Our Beloved Country
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Dividing the Land into Families

" You shall give the land as an inheritance by lot, to your families " (33:54).

The Oznayim la'Torah brings a further proof from here to what he explained in Pinchas (26:5), that Eretz Yisrael was divided up not only into tribes, but also into families, thereby enabling the various branches of a family to live in close proximity to one another.


No Swapping

"Wherever his lot shall be, it shall be his" (33:54).

What the Torah is telling us here, the Oznayim la'Torah suggests, is that once a person received his portion according to the lot, he was not permitted to swap with somebody else,


Exile Not death

"And it shall be, what I planned to do to them (the Cana'anim) I shall do to you" (33:56).

Just as well, the Oznayim la'Torah points out, that, in Pasuk 52, the Torah spoke about expelling the Cana'anim from the land (as a first choice, as indeed they did with the Girgashi, who were subsequently given Africa as a new homeland). It does not mention the obligation to 'not allow a single soul to remain alive' (See Parshas Shoftim, 29:16).

Had it done so, the Torah would have sentenced the people to death for not killing all the Cana'anim. Now, it 'only' sentences them to Galus - a warning that, unfortunately, was eventually fulfilled.


The Borders of Eretz Yisrael

"This is the land that will fall to you as an inheritance " (34:2).

Because many Mitzvos apply in Eretz Yisrael, and not in Chutz la'Aretz, the Pasuk needed to define the borders of Eretz Yisrael (Rashi).

This insinuates that the West Bank of Eretz Yisrael is precluded from all the Mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael - which begs clarification.

The Oznayim quotes others, who explain that they had to know the borders of Eretz Yisrael, since the tribes of Reuven and Gad (which the Torah discussed in Parshas Matos), were not permitted to return home until the remaining tribes had conquered all of their territory.

In fact, the author points out, they did return home before all of the east bank was conquered (See following Pearl). But that was because Yehoshua released them from their vow.

To support this theory, he cites Pesukim in Yehoshua, which indicate that, after the fourteen years of conquest and distribution, Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh themselves were ready to adhere to the condition and to remain longer on the east side of the Yarden. And it was Yehoshua who annulled their vow and permitted them to return home.


The Oznayim suggests further that the borders needed to be defined, because whatever they captured before the conquest of Eretz Yisrael was completed would be considered 'a personal conquest', and would not be considered part of Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, this was the case when David ha'Melech captured Syria - which was not considered part of Eretz Yisrael because part of the land still remained in the hands of the Cana'anim.


The Northern and Western Borders

" and this shall be for you the northern border " (34:9).

This phrase occurs in Pasuk 7 and is repeated here. In similar vein, the Torah repeats the words "the western border" in Pasuk 6. However, no such repetition is to be found in connection with the southern and eastern borders.

The Oznayim la'Torah, citing a Pasuk in Shoftim (3), explains that Yisrael conquered the whole of Eretz Yisrael except for the territory on the west coast belonging to the P'lishtim and the area in the north between Har Chermon and Chamos belonging to the Cana'anim. In fact, he points out, G-d did not allow them to conquer these two areas "in order to test them".

And that, he explains, is why the Torah repeats the above phrases (in the future tense, note) to remind Yisrael that, even though parts of the west and of the north were not yet in their hands, it was nevertheless their land, and it was incumbent to conquer them in the future.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Divine Retribution

"These are the journeys of the B'nei Yisrael who left the Land of Egypt "(33:1).

One of the major objectives of leading Yisrael through the desert for forty years was to teach them Hashgachah K'lalis (communal providence), says the Oznayim la'Torah. Had they not sinned ten times, perhaps, they would have learned it sooner, but sin they did. Consequently, on the one hand, they learned just how much G-d loved them and how He was willing to break the laws of nature in order to provide them with all their needs, location notwithstanding - when He provided them with the Manna, the well, the Clouds of Glory, and when He gave them His most precious creation, the Torah.

Whilst on the other hand, they learned first-hand, that it does not pay to contravene G-d's Mitzvos or to disobey His commands.

They saw this when, no sooner had they queried G-d's presence than Amalek attacked; they grumbled about travelling in the desert, they were burned by fire; they desired meat, they suffered from the plague of quails; they spoke badly of Eretz Yisrael, they died a horrendous death, and the people who believed them were denied entry into Eretz Yisrael; they challenged the Kehunah, some were burned, others swallowed up by the earth; they spoke against G-d and against Moshe, they were bitten by snakes; they worshipped Ba'al Pe'or and behaved immorally, twenty-four thousand people died.


They learned, over and over again, that it does not pay to cross swords with G-d, and this was a lesson that they would take with them across the River Yarden into Eretz Yisrael.


Two Kinds of Towns

" You shall prepare for yourselves towns, towns of refuge they shall be for you" (35:11).

Seeing that there were a total of forty-eight towns of refuge, all of which took in whoever killed somebody by mistake, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, why does the Torah here refer to only six towns of refuge?

He answers with the Gemara in Makos, which explains that whereas a refugee who took refuge in one of the forty-two towns had to pay the Levi'im (who owned them) for board and lodging, this was not the case in the six towns listed here, where the Levi'im who lived there had to provide board and lodging free of charge.

That is why the Torah writes, not once, but twice - "for you", stressing the fact that they were built for the benefit of the people, as opposed to the forty-two remaining towns, which were built for the benefit of the Levi'im, who were authorized to take rental from whoever wanted to take up residence (including people who had inadvertently killed somebody).


Numbers are Not the Issue

"The three towns you shall give on the other side of the Yarden and the three towns in Eretz Cana'an" (35:14).

Even though nine and a half tribes lived in Eretz Cana'an and only two and a half, in Eiver ha'Yarden, each had to set up three towns, Rashi explains, citing the Gemara in Makos (daf 9), because many murderers lived in Gil'ad (a major city in Eiver ha'Yarden).


What have murderers got to do with the cities of refuge, Tosfos asks there, bearing in mind that the cities of refuge only catered for people who kill be'Shogeg, not for murderers who kill with intent? Indeed the Gemara there explains that the murderers in Gil'ad would lie in ambush to murder people who were passing by.

To answer Tosfos' question, the Sifsei Chachamim explains that many murders took place in Gil'ad where there were no witnesses. This forced Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu to bring about murders be'shogeg, in order to create situations as described by Rashi in Mishpatim, where someone who killed be'Shogeg without witnesses kills the one who murdered without witnesses, in which case towns of refuge are needed for the former.


The Maharsha answers that towns of refuge are needed for murderers too, according to the opinion there that requires anybody who kills to run to a town of refuge before the Beis-Din have passed sentence on the person who murdered be'meizid.


One might also answer that a person who murders wantonly is more likely to kill inadvertently, since human life is cheap in his eyes and he sees no reason to be careful not to kill. Consequently, in a place where murder is common, killing be'shogeg is common too.


In answer to the Gemara's original question, the Oznayim la'Torah suggests that the distance between one town of refuge and another has nothing to do with numbers of people. The Torah grants someone who kills be'shogeg the opportunity to escape from the avenger (whom the Torah authorizes to kill him). Why should one think that an area that contains less residents should be given less towns of refuge, resulting in larger distances for the person who kills be'shogeg to have a larger distance to run?

One of his proofs is that, many murderers also lived in Sh'chem (a major town on the west bank of the River Yarden), as the Gemara specifically states in Makos (10).

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