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

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Vol. 12   No. 37

This issue is sponsored
in honour of the 70th birthday of
Ralph Berman n.y.
by his children.
May he enjoy many more years
of good health.

Parshas Naso
Incorporating Shavu'os Supplement

So You Shall Bless (2)

Chazal learn many things from the words "Koh sevorchu ..." ("so you shall bless ..." [6:23]) that the Torah uses in connection with Birchas Kohanim:

They learn ...

... that the Kohanim must 'Duchen' standing (which they derive from a 'Gezeirah-Shavah' from Har Gerizim and Har Eival, where the Torah specifically writes "And these shall stand to bless the people ...");

... that both a Yisrael who Duchens and a Kohen who does not transgress an Asei (the latter, in addition to that of "Amor lahem" and "ve'Somu es Sh'mi ... ");

... that a Kohen is obligated to raise his hands whilst he Duchens (as the Torah specifically writes in Shemini, in connection with Aharon);

... that, not only must Birchas Kohanim consist of the fixed text as prescribed by the Torah, but ...

... that it must be said in Lashon ha'Kodesh, and what's more ...

... that it may not be accompanied by a translation (see Torah Temimah with regard to all the above rulings).


Why, asks the K'sav Sofer, does the Torah insist that the Kohanim follow a given text? Why not allow them to bless Yisrael as they see fit?

He replies (and here I will elaborate) that it is not possible for one human being to sufficiently understand the needs of another, in order to bless him in a way that is necessarily good for him. And besides, how does he know that the blessing that he does proffer will turn out for his benefit? And even if he were able to guarantee one person that it will, how could he possibly bless an entire community in a way that each person will benefit to the full from his communal B'rachah? For so the old saying goes 'One man's meat is another man's poison'.

A B'rachah that covers a person's needs, that is guaranteed to end up as a blessing and that holds good for every member of the community, can only be one that is composed word for word, by G-d Himself, and in Lashon ha'Kodesh, with all its manifold implications.


Commenting on the Pasuk in Devarim (1:11) "Hashem ... will add to you a thousand-fold, and He will bless you like He said He would", Rashi explains that K'lal Yisrael queried Moshe's initial statement. 'Why do you limit our B'rachah to a thousand fold, when G-d already promised Avraham that his children will be as numberless as the stars?' Moshe replied that this was indeed his personal B'rachah, but that G-d would bless them as He had promised Avraham.

The question arises, why Moshe did that? Why did he place limits on his B'rachah, knowing that G-d had already blessed them without limits?

It appears that only G-d, who is Himself infinite, is able to give a B'rachah without restrictions. A human being, who is finite and therefore bound by restrictions, is only capable of giving a B'rachah which is likewise restricted.

And this too, explains why G-d dictated to the Kohanim the exact wording of the B'rachah. He knew that any B'rachah composed by the Kohanim, who are themselves finite, would be bound by human limitations, whilst His B'rachos like He Himself, are timeless and unlimited.


And a third problem with leaving Yisrael's B'rachah in the hands of the Kohanim is based on the Kohanim's personal prejudices. After all, their own income depends on the success of Yisrael's crops. The more bountiful Yisrael's harvest, the more Bikurim, T'rumos and Chalah the Kohanim are set to receive. The strong likelihood therefore exists that his motivation to bless Yisrael will stem not out of love for his Yisrael brothers, but for his own well-being - hardly in keeping with the 'be'Ahavah' that Chazal inserted in the text of the B'rachah over Birchas Kohanim, which clearly expects them to bless Yisrael with full sincerity. Moreover, they are charged to bless Yisrael, not themselves.

(This point too, is raised by the K'sav Sofer, but his approach is a little different to the one that I have chosen). Therefore the Torah writes "Koh sevorchu", using the text supplied by the Torah and ascribing the B'rachah directly to Hashem, who retains control of the B'rachah, and merely appoints them as his emissaries to bless Yisrael.

As for the Kohanim themselves, the Torah assures them, when it adds "va'Ani avorchem", that when they bless Yisrael they too, will receive a blessing, either together with Yisrael, or independently, directly from Hashem, as Rashi points out. Either way, there is nothing left to discourage them from proffering on their Yisrael brothers G-d's Divine blessing, without reservation, and with a full heart.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Peninei Torah)

Do Not Place a Stumbling-Block Before a Blind Man

" ... and that Soul is guilty ... And they shall confess their sin" (5:6/7).

The Pasuk is speaking about someone who stole from a Ger and swore that he did not.

The question arises why, if one person is guilty of swearing falsely, "they" (plural) have to confess? And anyway, to whom does "they" refer?

The Ramal from Pressburg explains that it is not only wrong to swear falsely, but also to demand from someone an oath, in the knowledge that the defendant will react by swearing falsely, since the claimant transgresses the La'av of 'Lifnei Iver'. And that is what the Pasuk is hinting here. The thief will have to repent for having stolen and sworn falsely, whereas the Ger will have to repent for having demanded an oath from the thief.


What You Give, You Get

"And a man's Kodshim will be his. What one gives to the Kohen will be his" (5:10).

Of what real value is a man's riches, asks the Chafetz Chayim, when he knows that upon his death, he will be forced to leave it behind for others to use?

It is only what one gives to Hekdesh and for Tzedakah that are truly his (because they will remain with him even after his death, earning for him a reward in the World to Come).



As long as one has not yet given one's Hekdesh to a Kohen, one is still permitted to redeem it, but not once the Kohen has received it.

And these two dual rulings are what the Pasuk is teaching us here. "A man's Kodshim belongs to him (if he chooses to redeem it); but once he gives it to the Kohen, it belongs to the Kohen (and can no longer be redeemed).

Notice the different connotations of the word "his" (with reference to what one gives to a Kohen) between the two above explanations.


Tit for Tat

"A man whose wife goes astray ... " (5:12).

Rashi, commenting on the juxtaposition of this Pasuk and the previous one, which speaks about giving the Kohen his dues, explains that someone who withholds his dues from the Kohen, will eventually be forced to pay him a visit (with his wife in tow)!

It is not at first clear what a Sotah has to do with not giving a Kohen Terumah. The Ramal from Pressburg however, cites a Gemara in Sotah (3a), which compares an adulterous relationship to a worm which slowly but surely, devours the sesame-seeds until nothing is left. Each time the woman's lover appears in the house, she feeds him something acquired with her husband's money, until eventually, nothing remains. That is when her husband will discover what she is doing, and becomes obligated to take her to a Kohen.


Pride Comes Before Adultery

If Chazal derive the previous D'rashah (cited by Rashi) from the Torah's expression "A man, whose wife goes astray ... " (when it ought simply to have said "When a woman goes astray ... "), hinting that the man is partially to blame for his wife's infidelity, then how will we explain the double expression "Ish Ish"?

The Ramal from Pressburg explains that this is based on the Gemara in Bava Basra (98a), which states that a conceited man is held in contempt ('not accepted') even by his own wife. What the Torah is hinting here is that a man who keeps on ramming his personality down everybody's throat is likely to discover that his wife takes more than a passing fancy to a man who is less vain than he is.


Do it with Love

The Torah precedes Birchas Kohanim with the words "Omor lahem (say to them)" 6:23.

The Chozeh mi'Lublin reminds us that "Amor" also has connotations of love and praise (See Pasuk in Ki Savo 26:17 "es Hashem he'emarto ha'yom ... ").

It is important that, when blessing Yisrael (no less than when giving Tzedakah), the Kohanim should do so with feelings of generosity and love, not begrudgingly, like Bil'am, who even as he blessed Yisrael, thought simultaneously of cursing them. That is why, he says, the Kohanim end the B'rachah over Birchas Kohanim with the word 'be'ahavah'.


A Sober Blessing

"So you shall bless the B'nei Yisrael" (6:23).

Bearing in mind that the previous Parshah deals with the Dinim of Nazir, what the Torah means, says the K'li Yakar, is that just as a Nazir is forbidden to drink wine, so too, is a Kohen who blesses Yisrael.

The Gemara in Ta'anis (26b) learns the same ruling from the mere juxtaposition of the two Parshiyos.


The Cost of a B'rachah

"Kaf achas asoroh zohov ... " (7:14).

Chazal have taught that if Reuven Bensches Mezuman in place of Shimon, who was honoured with the Mitzvah, then he is obligated to pay him forty gold coins, ten for each B'rachah that comprise Birchas ha'Mazon.

And this is hinted in the current Pasuk, says the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, in the following manner - bearing in mind that the numerical value of "Kaf" is a hundred, this can mean that one out of a hundred ('achas mi'Kaf') is worth ten gold pieces, with reference to the hundred B'rachos that one is obligated to recite each day. And if one B'rachah is worth ten gold pieces, then four B'rachos are worth forty.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 308:
To Desist from Work on Shavu'os

It is a Mitzvah to desist from Melachah except for what has to do with the preparation of food, on the sixth of Sivan (Shavu'os) as the Torah says in Emor (23:21) "And you shall announce on this very day a mikro kodesh (a calling of holiness)". The author already wrote with regard to the Mitzvah of desisting from work on the first day of Pesach (Mitzvah 297) that wherever the Torah uses the term 'Mikro Kodesh' it means that one should sanctify it by not working on it. And he also cited there a hint for this explanation.

The reason for the Mitzvah is very much the same by all the Yamim-Tovim (see Mitzvah 298, the seventh day of Pesach). And some of its Dinim the author will list in the following Yom-Tov (Rosh Hashanah [Mitzvah 311]).


Mitzvah 309:
Not to Perform Melachah on Shavu'os

It is forbidden to do Melachah on Shavu'os, which is the sixth of Sivan, as the Torah says in Emor (23:15/16) "And you shall count for yourselves from the day after 'Shabbos' ... you shall count fifty days, and bring a new Minchah to Hashem". The day after Shabbos really means the day after the (first day of) Yom-Tov, about which the Torah spoke earlier. Had it meant literally the day after Shabbos, then we would not know which Shabbos it is referring to. Consequently, the fiftieth day will fall on the sixth of Sivan. How is that? Because 15 days still remain in Nisan (which is always full [a month of thirty days]), 29 days in Iyar, which is always short, plus 6 days in Sivan - a total of 50 days. And it is on that fiftieth day, the day on which the Torah was given, that is Chag ha'Atzeres, also known as Chag Shavu'os. And at the end of the Parshah, in connection with this distinguished day, the Torah writes "all servile work you shall not do", and as the author has already explained, this expression comes to exclude work that has to do with the preparation of food, which is permitted on Yom-Tov.


Mitzvah 306:
The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer
(cont. from Kedoshim)

The reason that the Chachamim connected the counting to the bringing of the Omer, and not to the second day of Pesach is because it would sound odd indeed to say 'Today is the first day of the second day of Pesach'. So they preferred to attach it to the important event that took place on that day, namely, the Korban Omer, a significant Korban that reminds us of the belief in G-d supervision over mankind, inasmuch as He wants us to survive and therefore renews each year the seeds of the produce for our sustenance.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara in Menachos teaches us that the Mitzvah is to count at nighttime in order that the counting should be complete, and the Chachamim explain the Pasuk "they shall be complete", to mean that a day is only complete when it begins in the evening. Nevertheless, the commentaries rule that someone who failed to count at night may still count in the day. There are those who rule that someone who omitted an entire day has lost the counting for that year, because all forty-nine days are considered one Mitzvah, in which case, having omitted one day, the counting is incomplete. The Chinuch's Rebbe's did not agree with this ruling however. They ruled that someone who omitted one day supplements it on the next by saying 'Yesterday was such and such' (though without a B'rachah), and continues to count the subsequent days together with everybody else ... Ideally, the counting should be done standing and requires a B'rachah. Someone who counted (sitting or who counted) without a B'rachah has nevertheless fulfilled the Mitzvah, and is not permitted to count again with a B'rachah ... All other details are discussed in Menachos and in Orach Chayim (Si'man 479). The Mitzvah of Sefiras ha'Omer applies min ha'Torah everywhere to men only, and a man who contravenes it and fails to count has negated a Mitzvas Asei.

* * *

Shavu'os Supplement

sponsored with gratitude to Hashem
to celebrate the Diamond Wedding of
Rabbi Chaim and Mrs. Eva Wilschanski n.y.

(Adapted from the Gemara in Shabbos)

Midbar Sinai has five names, says the Gemara in Shabbos (89a&b), all after of the mountain that it contains, the mountain on which the Torah was given.

It is called 'Midbar Tzin' (Chukas 20:1 [from the word 'Tzav']) ... because Yisrael were commanded on it;

'Midbar Kadesh' (Tehilim 29: 8) ...because Yisrael were sanctified on it;

'Midbar Kedeimos' (Devarim 2:26) ... because the 'thing' that preceded the world (by two thousand years) was given on it;

'Midbar Paran' (Sh'lach-L'cha (13:3)... because Yisrael were fruitful on it;

'Midbar Sinai' (Yisro 19:1) ... because hatred (on the part of the nations of the world) descended on it.


The Torah Temimah asks what 'Tzin' has to do with command (seeing as it does not contain a 'Vav'). He therefore suggests that 'nitztavu' ought to be amended to read 'nitztaynu' (which is similar to "Tzin", and which means 'excelled'), for indeed, the fact that Yisrael not only accepted the Torah, whilst all the other nations rejected it, but they also proclaimed "Na'aseh ve'Nishma"places them a cut above the rest of the world (if not two).


To explain the Gemara's interpretation of "Midbar Paran", the Torah Temimah cites the Medrash that at Har Sinai, every woman who stood there became pregnant with a baby boy, following the command "Return to your tents", which was a green light permitting marital relations which had been prohibited during Matan Torah.


The above is the opinion of Rebbi Yossi b'Rebbi Chanina, who maintains that its real name is 'Har Chorev' (the first name to appear in the Torah [Sh'mos 3:1] - Maharsha). According to Rebbi Avahu, its real name is 'Har Sinai' (the name by which it is most commonly called [ibid.]), and it is called 'Har Chorev' (from the word Churban - destruction), because it caused the ultimate downfall of the nations of the world for declining to accept the Torah when it was offered to them. The Torah Temimah connects this with the opening Sugya in Avodah-Zarah, which describes how the nations of the world will be denied reward in the World to Come, precisely because they refused to accept the Torah at Har Sinai, and who, despite their claim to the contrary, went on to constantly subjugate Yisrael, who did accept it.


The above explanation of 'Midbar Sinai' is not taken for granted by the sages. In fact, discussing the name of the mountain, the Gemara first proposes that it was called by that name because of the miracles that took place there (rejecting this proposal on the grounds that it should then have been called 'Har Nisa'i'). Then it suggests that it was a good omen for Yisrael (but that too it rejects because the correct name would then have been 'Har Simna'i'). And only then does it arrive at the conclusion that it is called 'Har Sinai' because it caused hatred to descend on the nations of the world.

Initially, one tends to explain this to mean that the gentiles hate us because they are jealous of the Torah that we received at Sinai, which transforms us into a superior nation. If that is so, one might attribute their feelings towards us to a guilt-complex, because we have accepted to live the very elevated sort of lifestyle that they rejected. But the Pasuk in Va'eschanan seems to suggest otherwise. The Pasuk there (4:6-8) describes how the nations of the world will actually stand in awe of our wondrous 'statutes and judgements'. The commentaries also explain, with reference to the Pasuk at the end of Kedoshim ("and I will divide you from the other nations") that it is only if we go in their ways, that G-d will be forced to draw a distinction between us and them, and that, when this distinction comes from G-d and not from our own free will, it tends to be rather painful.

It therefore seems to me that Chazal mean the very opposite of what we suggested.

What they are saying is that since we now have the Torah, and are bound by it, we will evoke the gentile's respect if we are loyal to it, and their hatred if we are not. This is the essence of Kabalas ha'Torah at Har Sinai. By Divine decree, the nations of the world respect us when we live our lives as Jews, but deeply resent the efforts on our part to behave like them - the root of antisemitism throughout our history.


When the Medrash refers to the small size of Har Sinai, in that it was the smallest mountain in the area, it is not merely stressing the importance of the most outstanding of all the Midos (the supreme Midah of Moshe Rabeinu). It is placing its finger on the essence of Kabalas ha'Torah. For what is Kabalas ha'Torah if not our total subjugation before G-d?

* * *

Shavu'os Sapphires

Eat, Drink, and ...

The Gemara in Pesachim (68b) concludes that even those who permit one to fast on other Yamim-Tovim, should one so choose, concede that on Shavu'os, one is obligated to celebrate for part of the day with food and drink.

R. Yisrael Miller Sh'lita connects this with the Gemara in Shabbos (88b), which describes how Moshe convinced the Angels to relinquish the Torah largely because they were spiritual beings who did not need it to overcome their worldly inclinations, in the way that we do. And this is synonymous with the Gemara's statement in Kidushin (30b) 'I created the Yeitzer ha'Ra; I created Torah as its antidote'.

Since we only received the Torah on the merit of the fact that we are human, with bodily needs and human shortcomings, it is only right that our bodies participate in the celebrations.


The Great Gift

When Yisrael arrived in Yerushalayim each Yom-Tov, every man brought with him his personal set of Korbanos, comprising the Olas Re'iyah, the Shalmei Chagigah and the Shalmei Simchah, whereas K'lal Yisrael as a whole, offered Hashem the special Korban Musaf required on each day of Yom-Tov.

Over and above that however, the Torah prescribes a special offering for the community at large - barley-flour (the Omer) on Pesach, two wheat-loaves (the Sh'tei ha'Lechem) on Shavu'os and a jug of water (the Nisuch ha'Mayim) on Succos.

Considering that this was offered communally, it seems rather a paltry gift before the King of Kings, doesn't it? True, the Omer and the Sh'tei ha'Lechem were accompanied by a collection of animal sacrifices, amounting to far in excess of the value of the flour and the loaves, yet they were subordinate to the flour and the loaves, which comprised the essence of the gift.


Ya'akov's gift to appease Eisav needed to be a large one, says the Seforno, because it had to satisfy his greedy heart (see also Rashi Vayishlach 32:17). Yet the gift that he sent to 'the man' (Yosef) was small but tasteful, because a gift that one sends to an aristocrat needs to be qualitative, rather than quantitative.

When we, as a nation, appear before "the Master Hashem" on Yom-Tov, it is not the size of the gift that will impress G-d; it is the quality of the gift. It is the fact that Yisrael acknowledges Him as the One who provides them with all their needs, rather than ascribe it to their own prowess. It is the heart that, for all its smallness, is the gift that G-d appreciates most.

And what is G-d's reaction? A human king considers such a gift from his subjects as something to which he is entitled. Not so the King of Kings. He reacts as if we are the ones to have done Him a favour, and He duly responds by blessing the entire year's crops on Pesach, fruit on Shavu'os and water-supply on Succos.


Megilas Rus

Four Chapters, Four Locations

Remarkably, each of the four chapters in Megilas Rus takes place in a different location - Chapter one, in the Fields of Mo'av; Chapter two, in the field of Bo'az; Chapter three, in Bo'az' granary; Chapter four, in the Beis-Din of Bo'az.


Strange Goings On

The third Perek of Megilas Rus appears odd, to say the least. One might refer to Naomi's instructions to Rus as 'unconventional' (for lack of a better word). Nor is it at first clear why Naomi waited until Shavu'os time to send Rus to Bo'az for instructions.

To answer the second question first, it may well be that the three-month waiting period from the time that Rus' husband Machlon died came to an then. It had been seven weeks since they arrived in Eretz Yisrael on the second day of Pesach as the barley for the Omer was being cut. And it is feasible for five weeks to have elapsed from the time of Machlon's death, incorporating one week of mourning, the decision to leave together with the ensuing preparations, and the time it took to travel from Mo'av to Beis Lechem.


Alternatively, the three month period had terminated earlier, and Naomi waited until the harvest had been gathered, because until that time, Bo'az would have been too busy to see to the matter.

It seems to me that when Naomi sent Rus down to the granary with the set of instructions that the Pasuk describes, she was actually hinting to Bo'az in a modest way, to perform Yibum with Rus there and then. "And he will tell you what to do" was either a refined way of referring to the Yibum, or, as the Malbim explains, it was referring to what she should do in the event that he declined to perform the Yibum there and then, as turned out to be the case.

* * *

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