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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 8   No. 31

This issue is co-sponsored by two anonymous sponsors

Parshas Naso

Yehudah First

The tribe of Yehudah took precedence in all matters, Rabeinu Bachye explains. They were the flag-leaders, they were the first to inaugurate the Mishkan here, the first to fight (during the conquest of Cana'an), and the first to inherit their portion in Eretz Yisrael.

Yehudah earned this distinction for his tribe, demonstrating the quality of leadership on no less than three occasions.

1. By the sale of Yosef, it was he who rescinded the decision to let Yosef die in the pit, and to sell him to the Yishme'eilim instead.

2. When he discovered that Tamar was pregnant with his children, he had the courage to publicly confess this, and to admit that he had erred in his initial judgement. By doing so, he saved Tamar and her two children from death, causing himself extreme embarrassment in the process.

3. When Ya'akov displayed reluctance to send Binyamin down to Egypt with the brothers, it was Yehudah who undertook to protect him and to bring him back safely to his father, accepting full responsibility should any mishap occur on the way.

In this way, Yehudah displayed his ability to make major decisions wisely, to take responsibility for his actions, and that he possessed the courage to admit to his mistakes and change the course of action when this was required. These are qualities vital to a true leader. Little wonder then, that Ya'akov appointed him king over G-d's chosen people, giving him precedence in all matters.


Indeed, the first to bring his inaugural Korbanos was Nachshon ben Aminadav (Prince of Yehudah). Yet, the Torah writes by him (7:13) "And his Korban was ... " as if someone had already preceded him and brought his Korbanos before him. Rabeinu Bachye explains that this was to prevent the unique honour granted Nachshon, from going to his head. It conveyed the impression that he was second to the one who had brought before him (even though nobody really had).


The Ba'al ha'Turim interprets the extra 'vav' quite differently. Based on the Medrash, he takes the numerical value of the 'vav', six, and connects it to six of Nachshon's descendants, each of whom was blessed with six blessings. The six are David, Mashi'ach, Daniel, Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah. In fact, this is the opinion of Targum Yonasan in Megilas Rus. The Medrash Rabah counts Chananyah, Mishael and Azaryah as one, and inserts Chizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu to make up the six.

We will cite only the six pesukim of David and of Mashi'ach.

In connection with David, the Pasuk in Shmuel 1 (16:18) writes "who knows how to play (the harp), he is a mighty warrior, a man of war, a man of understanding, a man of good looks and G-d is with him". Chazal interpret this to mean - 'who knows how to ask, and who knows how to answer, he is knowledgeable in the 'shakla ve'tarya' of halachah, who can extrapolate one thing from another, who is able to support his opinion with proofs, and the halachah is like him everywhere'.

And in connection with Mashi'ach, the pasuk writes in Yeshayah (11:2) "And there will rest on him the spirit of Hashem, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of G-d".


Alternatively, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, the 'vav' represents the six firsts that crowned that great day (the first of Nisan). It was the first time that the Shechinah appeared on a regular basis, the first time the Princes operated and the first time Birchas Kohanim took place. It was the first time that a place was designated for Machaneh Shechinah, the first time that Bamos became forbidden and the first time that fire descended from heaven to consume the Korbanos.


In a third alternative to explain the number six, the Ba'al ha'Turim lists the six things of which Adam was deprived after he sinned, and which will be returned to his descendents when Mashi'ach, the son of Nachshon finally arrives. They are his beauty, eternal life, his stature, the taste of the fruit of the ground, the taste of the fruit of the trees, and the original light (with which one could see from one end of the world to the other).


One might perhaps add that the number six (hinted here in the 'vav') represents the six directions (north, south, east and west, up and down), because 'the human king is nothing more than a reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven, which rules in all directions. Or it represents the six days of the creation. The seventh, Shabbos, represents the Kingdom of Hashem, whose Majesty the human king reflects, just like the six days reflect the blessings of the Shabbos. That is why the kingdom of David is compared to the moon, which has no light of its own, but reflects the light of the sun (see Rabeinu Bachye Vayeishev 38:30).


Parshah Pearls

(adapted mainly from the Ba'al ha'Turim) Remembering the First Sin

" ... and they shall send out from the camp all metzora'im, all zavin and all who are tamei meis. From male to female you shall send out ... " (5:2/3).

Much in the same way as Adam and Chavah were sent out of Gan Eden, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out. That is why the parshah of Sotah follows almost immediately, he says; because the snake was subsequently intimate with Chavah. That in turn, explains why his thighs fell like a Sotah ... , as G-d specifically informed him "You will walk on your belly"!

This is followed by the parshah of Nazir, to hint that the fruit from which Adam ate was grapes, which he squeezed into wine.


And Being Punished For It

"A man or a woman who perform any of the sins of man ... " (5:6).

The Torah juxtaposes the parshah of the sins of man to that of sending those who are tamei out of the camp, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, because it was through the sins of Adam ha'Rishon that all three participants were punished.

Adam ate from the tree; the snake tricked Chavah, and Chavah spread a bad name about Adam. As a result, all three were stricken - the snake with tzara'as (leprosy), the woman with Zivus and the man with death. And the order in which they are hinted here follows the same order in which they were cursed after the sin. The Torah writes "all metzora'im" (corresponding to the snake), all zavim (corresponding to the woman) and all who are tamei meis (corresponding to the man)".


(adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gra)

"G-d will lift His face to you and will grant you peace" (6:26).

The Gemara in B'rachos (20b) relates how the angels queried Hashem 'Master of the World, You wrote in Your Torah "Because Hashem your G-d ... neither favours nor takes bribes" (Devarim 10:17). In that case, how can You favour Yisrael'?

' How can I not favour Yisrael', Hashem replied, 'when in spite of what I wrote in the Torah "and you shall eat, drink and be satisfied, and bless Hashem your G-d", they are strict with themselves (and bless Me) when they have only eaten a k'zayis, a k'beitzah'!

They favoured Hashem (by going beyond the letter of the law), so Hashem repays them measure for measure. He too, goes beyond the letter of the law and favours them.


The G'ro poses three Kashyos on this Gemoro. Firstly, why did Chazal first say 'a k'zayis' and then 'a k'beitzah'? Seeing as a k'zayis is less than a k'beitzah, it seems obvious that if they bless Hashem after having eaten a k'zayis, they will certainly bless Him after having eaten a k'beitzah? Secondly, since these are the words of G-d, how can He be quoted as saying 'a k'zayis, a k'beitzah'? These two measurements are based on a difference of opinion between Rebbi Meir and Rebbi Yehudah as to whether mi'de'Rabbanan, we are obliged to 'bensch' after a k'zayis or after a k'beitzah. Is Hashem (kevayachol) in doubt as to the halachah, that he expresses both opinions? And thirdly, why did Hashem choose this chumra over and above all the many chumros that Yisrael have taken upon themselves to observe?


And he explains this based on the Rif, who gives the shiur of two meals as eighteen g'rogros (dried figs), the equivalent of six eggs, and on the Zohar, who says that three eggs equal ten olives, and also of nine g'rogros. According to the Zohar then, an olive is one tenth less that a g'rogeres.

With this information we can answer all the above questions. Because when someone eats three egg-volumes (or ten olive-volumes), he becomes obligated to bensch min ha'Torah (as we just explained), as the Torah writes "and you (written in the singular) shall eat, drink and be satisfied".

But Yisrael are a holy people, and do not want to bensch without a minyan in order to increase the praise of Hashem. So what do they do? They search for another nine people with whom to share their ten olive-volumes. Should they succeed in their quest, then each participant receives a k'zayis. Failing that, they try and find at least two others to join them, so that they can at least bensch with a mezuman, in which case each participant will receive a k'beitzah.

And this explains G-d's reply to the angels. 'Shall I not favour Yisrael who are strict with themselves when they have only eaten a k'zayis, a k'beitzah' - first a k'zayis (should they succeed in finding a minyan) and then a k'beitzah (should they at least end up with a mezuman).


As a matter of fact, it is in connection with the dinim of mezuman that the dispute between Rebbi Meir and Rebbi Yehudah is quoted in the Mishnah in B'rachos, lending weight to the G'ro's explanation.


Remember from Where You Came ...

"And the Kohen shall take holy water ... and from the dust which will be on the floor of the Mishkan ... and he shall write these curses" (5:17/23).

The Ba'al ha'Turim cites the Yerushalmi, which bases the three items listed here on the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos. The Tana there writes 'Know where you came from - a smelly drop (the water); your destination - a place of dust and worms (the dust); and before whom you are going to have to give an account for all your deeds - the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed Be He (the parchment)'.


Thirty Times, Thirty Days

Neder and Nezirus appear in the parshah of Nazir thirty times, observes the Ba'al ha'Turim, corresponding to the thirty days of 's'tam nezirus' (an unspecified term of nezirus).

Chazal's source for this is the word "Kodosh yihyeh" (6:5), giving authenticity to the world of gematriyos (numerical values).


Don't Drink and Pasken

"This is the law of the Nazir ... so he shall do regarding the law of his nezirus" (6:21). The Torah is hinting here to the halachah that someone who has drunk wine should not pasken (issue halachic rulings).

And it continues with the parshah of Birkas Kohanim, a hint to the halachah that, if he is a Kohen, he is not permitted to duchen either (bless the people,) since this is a form of avodah.


(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

167. ... not to divine - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (18:7) "There shall not be found among you ... someone who divines". This entails beating many times with one's stick on the ground, emitting loud, strange sounds and allowing one's mind to wander. One stares for a long time at the ground, falls into a trance and begins to foretell the future. Others do this in sand or stones, and others still, throw a leather belt on the ground or hold a stick in their hand and ask whether they should 'go or not'. All this is included in divining. Someone who performs any of them has transgressed this la'av, though if one were to ask a diviner to divine on his behalf he would only transgress an isur de'Rabbanan.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


168. ... not to perform witchcraft - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (Devorim 18:10) "There shall not be found among you ... or a magician".

Witchcraft is performed using various kinds of herbs, stones and glue, and similar groups of commodities, things that people tend to use one with the other. Someone who performs witchcraft is subject to stoning, whereas someone who asks a magician to perform it on his behalf has transgressed an isur de'Rabbanan.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


169. ... not to recite incantations (chover chaver) - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (18:10/11) "There shall not be found among you ... or someone who recites incantations". This entails whispering incomprehensible sayings to prevent a snake from biting or a scorpion from stinging. Some people hold in their hand a key, a piece of rock or something similar during the recitation.

Someone who makes the incantation whilst either holding an object in his hand or whilst performing an appropriate action, even if he only pointed with his finger, or moved something in the process, is subject to receive malkos. If he made the incantation without performing any action, or if he merely asked others to do it on his behalf, he has transgressed an isur de'Rabbanan.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


170. ... not to turn to mediums - as the Torah writes "Do not turn to the Ovos" (Kedoshim 19:31).

An Ov is someone who makes certain preparations until it appears to the person who asked for it as if someone is speaking to him from under the ground. Similarly, one who takes a skull of a dead person and uses it to declare omens, until a voice is heard from under his armpit in reply to his request. In this case, both the one who is being asked and the one who asks, actually transgress.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


171. ... not to turn to the oracles - as the Torah writes there "Do not turn ... or to the Yid'onim".

This entails taking the bone of a bird known as Yadu'a in his mouth, and sacrificing incense to it. He then performs other acts until its plumage falls out, and he begins to foretell the future.

Like by the mitzvah of Ovos, both the person who is being asked and the one who asks, actually transgress.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


172/3. ... not to ask an Ov to perform, or a Yid'oni - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (18:10/11) "There shall not be found among you ... or someone who asks an Ov or a Yid'oni". Someone who transgresses and who does this receives makas mardus (malkos mi'de Rabbanan), but not malkos, because he did not perform an act. If he did, then he will receive malkos. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel