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

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Vol. 7   No. 43

May the Torah learned from this issue be l'iluy Nishmas
Ha'Rav Reb Nasan ben haRav Rebbi Meir Liman z.l.
Niftar 27 Tamuz 5755

Parshas Mattos-Masei

Fear The King
Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah

"Fear Hashem, my son, and the king, and do not associate with those who change" (Mishlei (24:21).

Shlomoh warns us here to fear, first and foremost, the Heavenly King, and then, the king on earth. He places the two on a par with each other. In the same way as we are afraid of G-d, whose presence is everywhere, causing us to refrain from sinning, so too, should we be afraid of a human king, to refrain from doing anything that would carry the death-sentence if we were in his presence. Our fear and respect of him should prevent us from sinning to him, whether we are in his presence or not. After all, it is impossible for him to be everywhere at the same time. It is therefore essential to develop a fear of him, until his image is engraved on our hearts, even when he is not actually there and we cannot see him. This is what we should learn from our fear of the Heavenly King, whom, in contrast, one has never actually seen.


"And do not associate with those who change" is a warning not to change the order of priorities, because there are some people who transgress the will of G-d out of fear of the king. These people place the fear of man first, giving it precedence over the fear of G-d. But this is not correct. The correct thing to do is to place the fear of G-d first, in all one's thoughts and actions.


However, because G-d is the King of all Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, the first of all firsts, the One who is responsible for the sovereignty of all kings, whose own sovereignty lasts forever, one cannot really compare the sovereignty of a king to that of G-d. That is why Shlomoh divided between the two words ("Hashem" and "the King") with "my son". Otherwise, the posuk should have begun with "My son", like we find in the case of many other pesukim which begin in this way. Only, as we just explained, the word "my son" is deliberately placed where it is, to interrupt between the two words, to say that although, on the one hand, the posuk compares the sovereignty of a king to that of G-d, in the way that we explained earlier, they are not really comparable; they are in fact, as different as light is from darkness.


The posuk is telling us that fear of the king establishes the land and is for the benefit of the people, as Chazal have said in Ovos (3:2) "Pray for the peace of the realm", because, were it not for that fear, one man would swallow the other alive. Most important of all however, is that one gives precedence to the fear of the King in Heaven, who controls the lives of all other kings together with their kingdoms. That explains why Shlomoh wrote in Koheles (5:20) "I will observe the commands of the King, and the words of the oath of G-d". He is instructing us here to observe the commands of the king and to do whatever he orders us to do. But first and foremost, we must adhere steadfastly to the oath that we made at Har Sinai, which takes precedence even over the command of the king, should he attempt to overrule any of the mitzvos that we were commanded at Sinai. One's first priority must be the fear of G-d.

And this is precisely what the Medrash, commenting on the posuk in Koheles (8:2) explains: "I will observe the commands of the king" - 'I am prepared to obey the command of a gentile king who orders us to pay taxes of every variety. But when his commands clash with "the words of G-d's oath", I will not obey him'.

And so we find with Chananyoh, Misho'el and Azaryah, who told Nevuchadnetzar that he was only their king with regard to taxes. But when it came to bowing down to his idol, they informed him, he was simply Nevuchadnetzar, and not a king at all, because the oath that they took at Har Sinai took priority.


It is well-known that an oath is closely associated with the fear of G-d. That is why one should avoid swearing by the Name of G-d, even truthfully, and certainly not falsely. Indeed, the story is told of King Yanai who owned ten thousand towns on Har ha'Melech, all of which were destroyed because they got into the habit of swearing - albeit truthfully. A person from there would say to his friend 'I swear that I am going to such and such a place and that I will drink such and such', and he would keep his word. This was common practice, yet, despite the fact that they kept their word, they were all destroyed. And if swearing truthfully is so severely punished, imagine the heavy punishment that is in store for those who swear falsely.

How is it possible for a person to be imbued with the fear of G-d, if he swears by G-d falsely, or even truthfully, but in vain? There is none among all the (regular) sins, there is none as severe as that of violating an oath. For that reason, and because a person tends to become angry easily, causing him to swear at the slightest provocation, the Torah found it necessary to place 'the cure before the stroke', and to command the releasing of vows, either through an individual who is an expert, or through three ordinary judges.


Parshah Pearls


The Parshah of Nedorim

"And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes ... saying, this is the thing that G-d commanded" (30:2). "The thing that G-d commanded" refers indirectly to the nedorim and nedovos mentioned in the parshah of Korbonos at the end of the previous parshah (Parshas Pinchos - 29:39), which began (28:1) with G-d's command to Moshe (see Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos).


Hatoras Nedorim and Sh'chutei Chutz

Rashi explains that, in addition to teaching us that Moshe honoured the princes by teaching them what he had learned from Hashem before teaching the rest of Klal Yisroel, the above posuk also teaches us an important halochoh concerning the nullification of vows - that an individual expert is authorised to nullify vows on his own, and does not require a Beis-din of three.

And he goes on to cite the Gemoro in Bovo Basra (120b), which learns from the Torah's comparison to 'Sh'chutei Chutz' (with a g'zeiroh-shovoh of "zeh ha'dovor" "zeh ha'dovor") that, where one individual expert is not available, a Beis-din of three ordinary dayanim can perform the task of annulling vows.


Considering that the words "zeh ha'dovor" appear on a number of other occasions in the Torah (by the Omer of the mon in Beshalach and by the Milu'im in Tetzaveh, to quote two examples), why did Chazal pick specifically 'Sh'chutei chutz' from which to learn Nedorim, asks the Torah Temimah, in preference to the other sources? He explains that what Shchutei chutz and Nedorim have in common is that they are ongoing mitzvos, as opposed to all the other sources, which were unique occasions confined to the one time on which they occurred.

Indeed, he concludes, that explains why Rovo Zuti asked Rav Ashi there how we know that the din of 'the heads of the tribes nullifying vows' was not confined to that generation only. And Rav Ashi replied that we learn from 'sh'chutei chutz', which is an ongoing halochoh.


Making Nedorim - Like Building Altars

The Kli Yokor connects Shchutei chutz and Nedorim differently. Hw bases the connection on the Gemoro in Nedorim (22a), where Chazal, speaking derogatively about people who make nedorim, describe someone who does, as if he had built a bomoh (an altar), and someone who then goes on to fulfill it (rather than to nullify it), as if he had sacrificed on it.

It is fair to assume, the Kli Yokor is intimating, that Chazal derive this comparison from the Torah's 'G'zeiroh-shovoh'.


The Ornaments and the Little Finger

"And we have brought a sacrifice for G-d ... anklets, bracelets, rings, ear-rings and a body ornament (in the shape of a womb) to atone for ourselves before Hashem " (31:50).

The Gemoro asks in Shabbos (64b) why the Torah lists the interior ornaments (the body ornament that was hidden from view) together with the exterior ones (that were openly visible)? To teach us, the Gemoro answers, that someone who looks at a woman's little finger for personal pleasure is as immoral as gazing at parts of her body that are normally covered.


The Gemoro's kashya is not clear, asks the Gro, seeing as the Torah had to list the body ornament, because it was among the articles that the captains brought.


He answers that the Gemoro's kashya is based on the neginos (the notes used in leining). By virtue of the neginos, he points out, the Torah separates the rings, the ear-rings and the body ornaments from the anklets and the bracelets. Now, the anklets and the bracelets were worn on parts of the body that were sometimes covered, whereas the rings and the nose-rings were worn on parts of the body that were generally revealed. Surely then, the body ornaments belong in the first group. Yet the Torah deliberately places them in the second group - to teach us the prohibition of abusing one's eyes in the manner prescribed by the Gemoro.


Parshas Masei

To Live in Eretz Yisroel

"And you shall drive out the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it."

According to Rashi, the mitzvah is to drive out the Cana'anim from Eretz Yisroel, explains the Or ha'Chayim. "And you will dwell in it" is a promise, not a mitzvah. The Rambam, who does not list living in Eretz Yisroel as a mitzvah d'Oraysa, seems to concur with Rashi.

But according to the Ramban, the mitzvah is to conquer Eretz Yisroel and to dwell there, and the phrase should read "and you shall dwell in it". And this is the source of the Mishnah in K'subos (110a), he says, which authorises the one spouse to prevail upon the other to move to Eretz Yisroel from anywhere else in the world. It also explains the prohibition of leaving Eretz Yisroel, unless under special circumstances.


The Or ha'Chayim however, agrees with Rashi, based on the words of the Torah (in posuk 53) " ... because to you I have given the land to possess it". According to the Ramban, he argues, the Torah should have concluded "because to you I have given the land to dwell in it". This way, it seems that the mitzvah is to conquer the land, but that there is no mitzvah per se to live there.

The Or ha'Chayim's kashya on the Ramban however, is extremely difficult to understand. He appears to interpret the end of the posuk "because I have given you the land to possess it" as the conclusion of the first phrase ("and you shall drive out the inhabitants of the land" - because of the similarity between the words "ve'horashtem" and "lo'reshes"). But this is not the way the Ramban seems to interpret it. According to him, possessing the land mentioned at the end of the posuk, incorporates both the conquering and the inhabiting that are mentioned at the beginning.


What is however a kashya on the Ramban, is that the same Mishnah in K'subos also authorises the one spouse to force the other to move to Yerusholayim. Now even though there is a mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisroel, as the Ramban maintains, there is no mitzvah to live in Yerusholayim. So what is the source for that halochoh, according to him?


History of the World

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)

(Part 64)


In the seventh year of Herod's reign, a terrible earthquake occurs, in which ten thousand people, in Yerusholayim alone, die.



The land is hit by a famine. Herod provides for the whole of Yehudah. He performs outstanding acts of kindness for the poor, and the people love him for it.



Acting on the advice of Bovo ben Buto, he makes good his murder of the Sanhedrin by undertaking to rebuild the Beis ha'Mikdosh, which has become dilapidated. Knowing that the Romans will not grant him permission, he begins to build first and obtains a grudging permission (for it to remain standing), later. He himself participates in the work, and so do the princes, the elders and the sages, who are all employed as day-workers.

G-d 'plays His part' too, because throughout the eight years of construction, the seasonal rain only falls at the night, never during the day, so that the work should continue uninterrupted and without hindrance.



The Beis ha'Mikdosh is completed.



Yosifun ben Gurion (known as Josephus), brother of the famous philanthropist Nakdimon ben Gurion, is born.



Rebbi Akiva ben Yosef is born.



Herod dies in the thirty-seventh year of his reign. His reign began as one of terror, intrigue and bloodshed, but later he transformed to become a man of good character traits, performing numerous good deeds on behalf of the people. This does not mean however, that he was not constantly surrounded by intrigue right up to his dying day. He loved the sages and honoured them, providing them with all their needs, and he also set up the family of Hillel, who descended from Malchus Beis Dovid, as princes (of the Beis-din). Yisroel lived in peace and tranquility in his days and his descendants will continue to rule over Yisroel until the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh sixty-seven years later.

Five days before his death, he ordered the execution of his son Antipater, because of his evil deeds and because he caused the death of his sons. And he appoints his son Archileus as his successor.


Augustus, Emperor of Rome, coroborates Herod's appointment and crowns Archileus King of Yisroel. But Archileus is a wicked man. He begins his reign by killing nine thousand people in the courtyard of the Beis ha'Mikdosh, for which he is subsequently taken prisoner by the Romans. They take him to Rome in chains, and he dies there eight years later. In his place, Augustus crowns Antipater, another brother (or half-brother of Archileus) King, changing his name to Herod, after his grandfather.

(According to some, Yeshu is born at this time in Beis Lechem, during the princehood of Rebbi Shimon the son of Hillel and in the lifetime of Rabbon Yochonon ben Zakai - and this is the opinion accepted by the gentiles). Rabbon Yochonon ben Zakai receives the chain of tradition from Hillel and Shamai. Rebbi Chanino ben Dosa studies under him. Chananel ha'Mitzri and the pious Yishmoel ben Fiabi, both Cohanim Gedolim, live at this time. Rabbon Gamliel the Elder receives the princehood from his father, Rabbon Shimon the son of Hillel. He is the ninth generation of Tano'im, and the thirty-fifth in the chain of tradition from Sinai. Shmuel ha'Kotton and Nochum the Sofer live at this time, too.


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