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

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Vol. 15   No. 18

This issue is jointly sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Moshe Yaakov ben Mordechai Shlomo z"l
for a Refu'ah Sheleimah to
Rivka bas Chana
And Yaakov ben Vita

Parshas Mishpatim

Unklus ha'Ger

One of the most famous converts of all times is Unklus ha'Ger, son of the Roman Emperor Hadrian's sister. He is best-known as the author of Targum Unklus, the authentic (Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai) translation of the Chumash, that he learned from his Rebbes R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua, and transcribed it for posterity. This translation, the Gemara informs us, had been forgotten, and it was Unklus, together with his illustrious Rebbes, who revived it, and passed it on to us.


Here is the story of his conversion, as related by the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos.

Unklus, wanted to convert, but he was afraid of his uncle, a well-known Jew-hater.

So what did he do? He paid him a visit and asked him for advice with regard to starting a new business venture. When the Emperor asked why he needed it, seeing as the silver and gold in the royal treasury was available to him at all times, he replied that he wanted to have business dealings with people, and wondered which commodity to sell. To which Hadrian replied that he should look for one that had hit rock-bottom prices, and whose value was bound to rise, assuring him of a handsome profit.

Following that conversation, Unklus traveled to Eretz Yisrael, and asked the Chachamim there to teach him Torah. However, the Chachamim explained to him that the words of Torah only took effect on someone who has had B'ris Milah (by which they meant someone who had converted). He took them up on that, and after immediately circumcising, he went to learn Torah on a large scale.

Some time later, R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua met him and noticed how his face had changed, ascribing it to the fact that he had studied Torah. Unklus took the opportunity of that meeting, and, in his thirst for knowledge, he plied them with questions.


Returning to Rome, he went to visit his uncle Hadrian, who queried him about his changed appearance. He replied that it was because he had studied Torah, and that moreover, he had circumcised (converted). When the stunned Emperor asked him who put that into his head, he replied that it was Hadrian himself, who had advised him to purchase a commodity which had hit rock-bottom prices, and which was bound to go up. And after careful scrutiny, he had arrived at the conclusion that there was no nation in the world that was as cheap as that of the Jewish people, and so he had joined their ranks, in the knowledge that they could only go up in the world, and he quoted the Pasuk in Yeshayah (49:7) "So says Hashem, the Redeemer of Yisrael and their Holy One, 'To the despised soul, to the one loathed by the nations, to the servants of rulers, kings will see you and arise ".

The furious Hadrian's reaction was to slap Unklus' cheek, and to ask him why he had taken such a radical step. To which Unklus replied simply that he wanted to study Torah. And when the Emperor suggested that he ought to have studied Torah without converting, he replied that this was not possible, as the Pasuk says in Tehilim (147:18/19) "He relates his words to Ya'akov, His statutes and His judgements to Yisrael (to someone who is circumcised, like Ya'akov, who was born circumcised). He did not do so to any other nation, and His judgements He did not let them know, Praised be Hashem". And the word "bal" (in "bal yedo'um", He did not let them know) refers to the Torah, which begins with a 'Beis' and ends with a 'Lamed'.


The Seider ha'Doros cites a conflicting opinion, which maintains that the Unklus who translated the Torah was not the nephew of Hadrian. Indeed, he says, the Zohar refers to an incident where Hillel and Shamai (who lived a hundred years before the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash, which took place at the hands of Titus, before he became Emperor), informed Unklus that they could not teach him Torah before he circumcised. Interestingly, that Unklus actually met Yonasan ben Uziel, who translated Nevi'im. According to this, there were two Unklus' ha'Ger.

* * *

Parsha Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh & the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)


" if he is married, then his wife goes out with him" (21:3).

See Rashi.

The Rosh refers to the Pasuk in Behar (25:41), which teaches us that his children go out too.

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. queries this explanation in that our Pasuk is speaking about an Eved Ivri whom Beis-Din sold (for stealing, as Rashi explains), whereas the Pasuk in Behar is speaking about one who sells himself due to poverty.

And he answers that Chazal learn one from the other (in other regards) via a 'Gezeirah-Shavah "Sachir" "Sachir"; and those who don't hold of the "Gezeirah-Shavah', consider the Pasuk in Behar a 'Giluy Milsa' (i.e. a revelation - what holds for one presumably holds for the other).


Undesirable Attraction

" if he is married, then his wife goes out with him. If his master gives him a wife, the wife and her children belong to the master " (21:3/4).

The second "wife" refers to a slave-girl whom his master may give him to live with, in order to breed slaves for himself, and we learn from juxtaposition of the two Pesukim that he may only do so if the Eved Ivri is already married.

The reason for this, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T is because if he isn't, we are afraid that he will become deeply attached to the slave-girl, something which the Torah does not want, and which he is less likely to do if he already has a Jewish wife.


"And if the servant says I love my master then his master shall pierce his ear with an awl (Martzei'a) and he shall serve him (va'avodo) forever. (21:5)".

The Gematriyah of "Martzei'a", says the Rosh, is four hundred, the number of years that Yisrael were enslaved in Egypt. As if to say, explains his son the Ba'al ha'Turim, that G-d took us out of Egypt to become free men, and this man willfully extended his period of servitude. Let him be pierced with an awl.

And this time, the Ba'al ha'Turim adds, his children do not 'join there father' in servitude to begin with, as the Gematriyah of "va'avodo" is equivalent to that of 've'lo ha'ben', and in the Gematriyah of 'At-Bash' (where 'Alef' = 'Tav', 'Beis' = 'Shin', ' Gimel' = 'Reish' etc.) to that of 'lo ha'ben ve'lo ha'bas'.


The Warning against Striking One's Parents

"And someone who strikes his father or mother shall surely be sentenced to death" (21:15).

This Pasuk teaches us here the punishment for wounding one's parents. As is well-known however, every punishment requires an independent Pasuk of warning. Where, asks the Rosh, is that Pasuk with regard to this specific La'av?

There is no problem, he explains, regarding the La'av of cursing his parents (two Pesukim later), where the warning is learned from the combination of the two Pesukim "Do not curse the judges" (later in this Parshah 22:27) and "Do not curse a deaf-mute" (Kedoshim 19:14), incorporating all levels of people in between these two extremes.

But where is the warning against *striking* them?

And he points to the Pasuk in Emor "And one who strikes an animal must pay, whereas one who strikes a person shall die" (24:21).

The Pasuk is clearly speaking about a strike that does not kill, seeing as the obligation of paying for an animal that one kills has already been mentioned (just three Pesukim earlier). And the only person for whom one receives the death-sentence for having struck is one's parents. Consequently, the latter half of the Pasuk is a warning against striking one's parents without killing them.


The Results of Kidnapping

"And someone who kidnaps a man and sells him, shall surely be sentenced to death". And someone who curses his father or mother shall surely be sentenced to death" (21:16/17).

Why, asks the Rosh, does the Torah place the Din of someone who kidnaps in between that of striking one's parents and cursing them (see Rashi)?

Because a young child who is kidnapped from home does not recognize his parents, and will later come to strike and to curse them without realizing who they are.


It is difficult to understand however, why the Torah then talks about kidnapping a man. According to the Rosh, it should rather have referred to kidnapping a child!


Punishment Unclear

"If you will torment him (a widow or an orphan), for if he cries out, I will surely listen to his cries" (22:22).

Rashi explains that the beginning of the Pasuk is incomplete, as it does not specify what will happen to the person who torments him.

But what does Rashi mean, asks the Rosh? Does the Pasuk not continue "And I will be angry, and I will kill you by the sword; then your wives will be widows and your sons, orphans? What bigger (and more appropriate) punishment can there be than that?


Not at all, answers the Rosh! The Pasuk is speaking about where the widow or the orphan cries out; whereas Rashi is referring to a case where they do not.


Alternatively, he explains, Rashi is not talking about the person who tormented them, but about the widow and the orphan who cried out to Hashem to help them, when they could have gone to Beis-Din and settled their claim there. Such a person, Chazal explain, is duly punished for calling upon Hashem to punish someone, unnecessarily.


Lending Money is Sometimes Voluntary

"If you lend My people money " (22:24).

R. Yishmael says "if" in the Torah has connotations of being voluntary, with only three exceptions, which are obligatory. This is one of them.

If lending money is obligatory asks the Rosh, then why does the Torah say 'if'?

Even though lending money is an obligation, he explains, there are cases where it is not - for example, there where the potential borrower is known not to repay debts. And it is with cases such as these in mind that the Torah writes "if".

* * *


"And the seventh year you shall leave (the fields) from working them, and render Hefker its fruit; the poor of the land shall eat it, and what remains the wild animals shall eat " (23:11).


"My people the B'nei Yisrael and do not leave overnight off the Mizbe'ach, the fat pieces of the Korban Pesach, nor (may you leave [uneaten] overnight) from the (leftover) flesh that you ate in the evening " (23:18).


"The first of the ripened fruit of your land you shall bring to the Beis-Hamikdash of Hashem your G-d. My people, the B'nei Yisrael, you are not permitted to cook or to eat meat and milk mixed together, so that My anger will not be aroused, to ripen your produce, the corn and the stubble together" (23:19).


" Nadav and Avihu raised their eyes and they saw the Glory of the G-d of Yisrael, and underneath the footstool that is placed beneath His Throne there was a form of sapphire brick reminiscent of the slavery that the Egyptians enforced upon them with cement and bricks, where the women 'trod the cement' together with their husbands. Among those women there was a frail pregnant young girl, who miscarried her baby, which became mixed with the cement. (The Angel) Gavriel came down, fashioned it into a brick and took it up to Heaven. There, he placed it as a footstool underneath the Throne of the Master of the World. It shone like a precious stone, and like the brilliance of the sky when it is clear of clouds" (24:10).


"And to Nadav and Avihu, the beautiful young men He did not send a plague on that day. He waited however, for the eighth day of the Milu'im (the consecration of the Mishkan) to storm them, for they saw the Shechinah of Hashem and they rejoiced with their Korban which was accepted with goodwill, as if they had eaten and drunk" (24:11).


"And Hashem said to Moshe Come up to Me to the Mountain, and I will stay there, and I will give you the Luchos of stone on which there are hinted the other words of the Torah and the six hundred and thirteen Mitzvos which I have written to teach them" (24:12).


" they saw the splendor of the Glory of Hashem that resembled a burning fire, and flashes of fire that consumes fire. And B'nei Yisrael saw and were mesmerized" (24:17).

* * *

(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 93
Not to Seal a Covenant with the Seven Nations or with Any Other Idolatrous Nation

It is forbidden to seal a covenant (i.e. to make promises of friendship) with the evil nations who deny G-d. This refers to the seven nations listed in the Torah who had possession of our land before we entered it (the Chiti, the Emori ), as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:32) "Do not seal a covenant with them or their gods", meaning that one may not make peace with them and allow them to worship idols.

A reason for this Mitzvah is in order to destroy idolatry and all its adherents from the world. These seven nations were the major idolaters in the world, and its initial cornerstone, which is why they were destroyed from their land. And we were commanded to root out all remains of idolatry and to destroy their memory from the world, as the Torah writes about them in Va'eschanan (7:2) " you shall utterly destroy them". This is a Mitzvas Asei, and the author will discuss it there (in Mitzvah 425), as well as why G-d created such evil nations in the world, and how the Mitzvah is relevant even today. From the warning regarding the seven nations we learn the prohibition of sealing a covenant with all idolatrous nations, though there is difference between the seven nations and other nations, in that there is no Mitzvah to kill the latter as long as they do not threaten us, only to expel them from our land if they refuse to relinquish their idolatrous practices, whereas we are obligated to kill the seven nations whenever we have the power to do so - unless that is, they cease worshipping idols. The reason for this is because these nations were the major idolaters in the world, and its initial cornerstone, as we explained earlier In fact, anybody who has the opportunity to kill a Cana'ani without endangering himself and fails to do so, has contravened a La'av. And what we said that there is no Mitzvah to kill other idol-worshipping nations as long as they do not threaten us pertains to gentiles exclusively. But as for Jewish idolaters (such as the Minim [heretics], the Meshumadim [apostates] and the Apikorsim) is concerned, we are obligated to kill them, since they only cause trouble to their fellow-Jews, and it is better that a thousand such people be destroyed than one Kasher Yisrael.

One of the Dinim of the Mitzvah is that to accept any of them who do Teshuvah (and stop serving idols) and other details are discussed in Sanhedrin (and in Yoreh De'ah Si'man 195).


Mitzvah 94
Not to Allow Idolaters to Live in Eretz Yisrael

It is forbidden to allow idolaters to live in our land, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:33) "They shall not dwell in your land, lest they cause you to sin against Me".

The reason for this Mitzvah, as is evident from the Pasuk, is to avoid our learning from their apostasy.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara says in Avodah-Zarah (64b) that if they are willing to relinquish their idolatrous practices, then they are permitted to live in Eretz Yisrael, even though they were idolaters until the present moment. In fact, they are the ones referred to by the Torah as 'Ger Toshav', meaning that they may dwell in our land, as Chazal have said 'What is a Ger Toshav? This is someone who undertakes not to serve idols. If, on the other hand, they refuse to relinquish the practice of idolatry, then not only may one not sell them land in Eretz Yisrael, but it is even forbidden to rent him an apartment if it is for habitation, since he will bring his idols into it. For business purposes, however, it is permitted, provided one does hire it out to three people, for this is considered permanent, and it is not fitting to encourage them to remain permanently in our land and the various Halachic differences that exist between houses and fields and vineyards in these regards, and the differences between Syria and Eretz Yisrael, as well as the remaining details are discussed in Sanhedrin and in Avodah-Zarah (Ibid.).

*This Mitzvah applies to both men and women* in Eretz Yisrael. And whoever contravenes it by selling or renting land in a way that the Torah prohibits has transgressed the Command of the King. He does not however, receive Malkos, seeing as it possible to sell or to rent them land without performing an act.

* * *

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