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

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Vol. 7   No. 36

This issue is sponsored in memory of
Zevulun ben Shimshon z"l

When speaking loshon ho'ra, one may violate one or more of 17 negative commandments.
(Introduction to Sefer Chofetz Chayim)

Parshas Nosso

(Incorporating Shevu'os)

The Sin-Offering of the Nozir

The commentaries question the sin-offering brought by the nozir on the day that his nezirus terminated. What had the nozir done wrong to warrant a sin-offering? In fact, a nozir had reached the highest level of prishus (abstention) and he is termed 'a holy man' - in which case the sin-offering of a nozir appears to be a contradiction in terms!


The Meshech Chochmah suggests that a nozir, by virtue of his nazarite vow, has in fact denied himself a number of mitzvos, such as burying his relatives (should the need arise), a mitzvah forbidden to a nozir since, like a Cohen Godol, he is not permitted to touch a dead body - even if it is one of the seven relatives whom it would normally be a mitzvah to bury. He also denies himself the mitzvah of Kidush and Havdoloh (since he is forbidden to drink wine, though these are really Rabbinical obligations, not Torah laws). For depriving himself of these mitzvos, he is obliged to atone by bringing a sin-offering, notwithstanding the fact that overall he has performed a mitzvah and reached the highest levels. This is similar to Rabeinu Tam's explanation as to why someone who fasts a Ta'anis-chalom (a fast to dispel a bad dream) on Shabbos or Yom Tov must fast on another day to compensate for having fasted on a day when fasting is normally prohibited. Certainly, one should fast a Ta'anis-chalom - even on a Shabbos or Yom Tov; certainly his lossws are cancelled by his gains and he will be amply rewarded for having fasted. Yet he did fast on Shabbos or Yom Tov and that 'sin' requires an atonement. A nozir, too, performed a great mitzvah in undertaking the nezirus. Yet he did, after all, deny himself certain mitzvos and for that he required an atonement - hence the sin-offering.


The Ramban adopts a totally different approach. According to him, it is not for starting his nezirus that he brings a sin-offering, but for terminating it. He maintains that a nozir, having once experienced such high levels of sanctity, should never terminate his nezirus - he should remain a nozir forever. It is the coming down to earth that is considered sinful and which therefore requires a sin-offering. The Ramban's explanation, however, is extremely difficult to understand. At which stage is he considered as having sinned? It cannot be for terminating his nezirus now that he brings his sin-offering, seeing as, once his term of nezirus ends, he no longer has the option of extending it, even if he wishes to do so. All he can possibly at that stage, is to undertake a fresh term of nezirus - and clearly, even if he did, he would still be obliged to bring his sin-offering!

If, on the other hand, one ascribes his sin to his initial nazarite vow, as if to say: 'Why undertake a short-term nezirus and not a permanent one?', how could he possibly have known then, that nezirus would be such an uplifting experience? That he can only know after he has experienced the nezirus for some time! And besides, if he is considered to have sinned when he took the nazarite vow, then he should have brought the sin-offering then. Why did he have to wait until the termination of his nezirus to bring it?


One can perhaps interpret the Ramban's explanation in two ways, though admittedly neither of them fits exactly into his words.

1. The Ramban is not saying that the nozir actually sins by terminating his nezirus. That, as we explained earlier, is out of his hands by the time his term of nezirus ends and he is bound by his initial oath to conclude his nezirus. However, the fact is that when his nezirus terminates, he ceases to be a holy man and, consequently, his high level of abstention and sanctity drops. It is the ensuing vacuum that requires an atonement, irrespective of the fact that at that moment there is nothing that he can do about it.

2. Indeed, he 'sinned' by the temporary nature of his nezirus (again, it must be stressed that overall he has performed a mitzvah for which he will be amply rewarded - the sin-offering comes only to atone for the one aspect of his mitzvah which is incomplete). A man (or a woman for that matter) is not obliged to become a nozir - yet once his heart elevates him to strive towards higher goals, then why does he do it half-heartedly? Our sages instruct us to strive constantly to raise our standards in matters of holiness and never to lower them. Temporary nezirus by definition negates this policy, and for that the nozir needs to bring a sin-offering. (Imagine if the same man were to be offered permanent management of his company, would he also accept it for only thirty days?)


Why, we asked, must the nozir wait for the termination of his term of nezirus to bring the sin-offering, rather than bring it immediately? Maybe that is because the Torah wants him to atone for his sin when he fully realises what he has done wrong and he is struck by remorse. When he initially took the nazarite vow, he would not have realised the seriousness of his error. That is something which would only become apparent upon the termination of his vow, when he would doubtlessly wish that he had made his vow permanent, but is then unable to rectify his mistake. It is then that he is filled with genuine remorse, and it is then that he brings his sin-offering.


Parshah Pearls


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

By Hook or By Crook

"A man whose wife goes astray ... " (5:12). In the previous posuk, the Torah writes "And a man's Kodshim will belong to him". This teaches us, says the Medrash, that someone who holds back the Kohen's gifts when he comes to the granary to receive them, will ultimately have to go to the Kohen with his wife.


The Gro explains this with the Gemoro in B'rochos (63a) which, commenting on the very same posuk, explains that someone who holds back his t'rumos and Ma'asros, will eventually become the recipient of the t'rumos and ma'asros that he failed to give. In other words, his field will produce only one tenth of its regular yield (as if he had become the Levi, and Hashem the owner).


When the man's income begins to dwindle, his wife will suspect him of squandering it on prostitutes (see Mishlei 29:3), and perhaps to get her own back, will begin having an affair of her own. She will do this without fear of the consequences, should her husband accuse her of being a Sotah and take her to the Kohen to drink the water of Mei Sotah, because, as Chazal have said, the water that the Sotah is made to drink will be ineffective if the husband is not free of sin.

And it is because, due to his sin, his wife, at one and the same time, is encouraged to commit adultery, and lacks the deterring factor of the Mei Sotah, that the Torah predicts that he will eventually have to take her to the Kohen.


And His Parents Didn't Know

"All the days of his Nezirus, whatever is manufactured from the vine of the wine, from the pips or the skin, he shall not eat" (6:4). The Novi relates in Shoftim (14:5-6) how Shimshon went with his parents to Timnah and how, when they arrived at the vineyards of Timnah, a young lion charged at him, and he killed it with his bare hands, without telling his parents what he had done.

How strange, asks the Gro. If Shimshon was accompanying his parents, why did he need to tell them of what he had done? Did they not witness it with their own eyes? And besides, why does the posuk relate that the lion "charged at him" and not "at them"?


The answer, explains the Gro, is based on a Gemoro in Shabbos (13a), which cites the principle that we instruct a nozir to circumvent the vineyard, and not to go through it - in case he is tempted to partake of its fruit.

Shimshon was of course, a nozir, in which case, even though his parents may well have taken the shortest and more pleasant route to Timnah, the path that passed through the vineyards, he would have had to take the longer route to circumvent them. This explains both why the lion-whelp attacked him alone, and why his parents did not witness the scene.


Hashem's Name and the Way It is Mentioned

"And they shall place My Name on the B'nei Yisroel and I will bless them" (6:27). The Sifri (in Re'ei) gives this posuk as the source of the Kohanim's obligation to bless the people in the Beis ha'Mikdosh. The source of their obligation to bless them outside the Beis ha'Mikdosh is the posuk in Yisro (20:24) "Wherever My Name is mentioned, I will come to you and bless you".


The Gro explains the Torah's choice of words in these two pesukim with another posuk in Sh'mos "This is My Name ... and this is the way it is mentioned". Chazal explain that to mean 'This is My real Name (to be read the way it is written) which should be hidden (outside the Beis ha'Mikdosh), and this is the way it should be mentioned for all generations'.

So we see that the Name of Hashem refers to the way that Hashem's Name is written, and that is the way it is read inside the Beis ha'Mikdosh, whereas 'the way it is mentioned' refers to the way we read it outside the Beis ha'Mikdosh. In this way, the two pesukim quoted by the Sifri are perfectly appropriate.


Through Thick and Thin

"His Korban was one silver dish which weighed one hundred and thirty shekolim, and one silver bowl which weighed seventy shekolim by the holy shekel, both of them filled with fine flour" (7:79).


Targum Yonoson explains that the walls of the silver dish were thick, whereas those of the bowl were thin.

From where does he take this information, asks the Gro?

In fact he answers, the Targum Yonoson learned it from the wording of the posuk. The Gemoro in Yuma (62b), commenting on the 'two goats' on Yom Kipur (one for Hashem and one for Azozel) explains that the word "sh'nei" (two) means that they were exactly similar. Hence, because the Torah writes the word 'sh'nei' three times, the two goats had to be similar in three regards, in appearance, in height and in value.

That being so, when the Torah writes here "sh'neihem meleihem sol'es" (both of them full of fine flour), it is indicating that the dish and the bowl should be equal. But if one of them was a hundred and thirty shekolim and the other, seventy, in which way were they equal?

The Targum Yonoson answers this question by explaining that the dish was thick and the bowl, thin, in which case they could both contain exactly the same amount of flour. In that regard, the two were exactly similar, as the Torah writes "sh'neihem meleihem so'les", both equally full of fine flour".


History of the World

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)

(Part 62)


In spite of the pact that Aristobulus and Hurkenus made between themselves, the hostility towards each other grows. Each one sends bribes to the Roman general Pompei, and even visits him personally, to prevail upon him to intercede on their respective behalves. Pompei marches on Yerusholayim, and much Jewish blood is spilt. He captures Yerusholayim and enters the Beis ha'Mikdosh, but he is afraid to stretch out a hand against it. The following day, he reinstates Hurkenus as Kohen Godol and places him on the throne, killing all of Aristobulus' friends and taking Aristobulus himself in chains to Rome. Aristobulus' reign lasts three and a half years. (According to the Gemoro in Avodoh Zoroh however, the Kings of the Chashmono'im reigned for a total of a hundred and three years - Yochonon ben Shimon - 37 years, Yanai - 27 years, Aristobulus - 13 years, Antignus - 26 years).


It is the brothers Hurkenus and Aristobulus who bring the Romans to Yerusholayim. From that day on, Yerusholayim and Yehudah are vassals of Rome, who will not leave before they have destroyed the Beis ha'Mikdosh and exiled the Jews.

Aristobulus escapes from Rome with his son Antignus. He gathers an army and attacks the Romans. He is initially victorious, killing many of the enemy, but eventually the Romans defeat him. They sentence him to be hanged, but the executioner takes pity on him and hangs someone else in his place.

Later, when Aristobulus, at the behest of Julius Caesar, goes out to greet Pompei, the men of Yerusholayim, fed up with all the intrigue that surrounds him, poison him to death. (According to Josephus, it is Pompei himself who poisons Aristobulus.)


Choni ha'Me'agel is killed outside Yerusholayim during one of the battles that mark the struggle for power between Hurkenus and Aristobulus. Hurkenus the third is the tenth king of the Chasmono'im. He is a righteous and G-d-fearing man. His viceroy is Antipater, a pious man who lends Hurkanus his full support.



Yehoshua ben P'rachyoh arrives in Yerusholayim from Alexandria.



Yeshu the Notzri is thirty-six when he rebels against the faith.



Julius Caesar is crowned Emperor of Rome (according to some opinions) (see year 3662). He is extremely good to Hurkanus and honours him greatly, returning to him all the lands of Yehudah that Pompei captured. He also orders an annual tax to be paid to the Beis ha'Mikdosh.



Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakai is born. He will live until the age of a hundred and twenty, five years after the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh.



Julius Caesar is murdered. Augustus Octobinus, his brother's son, is nineteen years old when he is crowned Emperor of Rome. He is exceptionally humble and a man of great wisdom, far surpassing all the other emperors of Rome in perfection of character.


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