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. 11   No. 47

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Parshas Nitzavim-Vayelech

The Ultimate Choice

In the Pasuk that presents us with life and good on the one hand, and death and bad on the other, Targum Yonasan, interprets "life" as the way of life (by which he means Torah), and death as the way that leads to death (meaning a life devoid of Torah). Accordingly, he translates the Pasuk like this "See, I have placed before you today, a way of life which leads to great reward for the Tzadikim, and a way of death which leads to severe punishments for the Resha'im".

Rashi, who interprets "life" literally and "good" as 'doing good', translates the Pasuk to mean that if you do good, you will merit life, whereas if you do evil you will earn death, prompting the K'li Yakar to ask why the Torah seemingly inverts the Pasuk. Surely, he asks, from a grammatical, as well as from a chronological point of view, it would have been more correct to begin with 'good' and write 'See I have placed before you good and life ...', since 'good' is the means and 'life', the end.

His answer is a classic. The Torah is teaching us he says, that we should not choose to do good in order to live, but rather to live in order to do good. And it is in the same vein that the Chafetz Chayim, commenting on the first of the four insertions in the Amidah that we recite during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, explains 'And write us in the Book of Life (a life) for Your sake, G-d of life'. We are not beseeching our Creator for a life of physical pleasure, but for a life with which we can serve Him.

Rabeinu Bachye's first explanation is a compromise between that of Targum Yonason and that of Rashi. According to him, life and good are what G-d promises for those who make the right choice (which is not mentioned in the Pasuk) and death and evil for those who do not.


Rabeinu Bachye's third explanation differs radically from the previous ones. Following the Parshah of the Redemption, he explains, the Torah refers to Techi'as ha'Meisim, which is what the Torah means when it speaks of "life", and what's more, because we have a tradition that this will take place two hundred and six years after the arrival of Mashi'ach, the Parshah opens with the word "re'ei" (which has a numerical value of two hundred and six). In fact, the previous Parshah terminated with the word "la'asoso", similar to the creation, which preceded Shabbos with the word "la'asos". In this way, the Torah places on a par the end of time with the beginning. Nor is this a problem, as Chazal have said that the only difference between this world and the days of Mashi'ach is the yoke of the nations (which will be removed then once and for all). Otherwise then, as in this world, will be a time of doing, a time of action.

And "good" now refers to the hidden good that will follow Techi'as ha'Meisim - Olam ha'Ba.


Techi'as ha'Meisim and Olom ha'Bo

The Rambam and the Ramban dispute the format that Techi'as ha'Meisim and Olam ha'Ba will take. Here is that Machlokes seen through the eyes of Rabeinu Bachye, who concurs with the Ramban.

The Rambam maintains that those who arise at Techi'as ha'Meisim will eat and drink as they did before they died. This state of affairs will last a long time, but eventually, they will die once again and their Souls will arrive in Olom ha'Bo. And it is with reference to this period that Chazal declare 'So-and-so is ready for Olom ha'Bo'. It is also with reference to this period that Chazal say in B'rachos (17a) that there is no eating and no drinking and no proliferation, just Souls without bodies drawing benefit from the Glory of the Shechinah. For what would be the point of including the bodies, the Rambam argues, if they served no purpose?

Granted, he says, Moshe and Eliyahu did not eat for a while, despite the fact that their bodies were intact. But that was only for a short period, after which their bodies regained their natural functions. But to live to eternity with non-functioning bodies would be an exercise in futility that is inconceivable for the Creator of the world.

This is the opinion of the Rambam, says Rabeinu Bachye, but not of Chazal, who interpret the Pasuk in Yeshayah (25:8) "He will destroy death forever" with regard to Techi'as ha'Meisim. For so they say in Sanhedrin (92a) 'The dead that G-d is going to revive will not return to dust'. All of this negates the Rambam's contention that there will be death after Techi'as ha'Meisim. And as for the Gemara in B'rachos cited by the Rambam, that is a sound proof that even as they sit benefiting from the Shechinah, they will do so with their bodies. If they did not, then it would be unnecessary to add that there is no eating and no drinking, since everybody knows that Souls do not eat and drink (and certainly do not proliferate)!

We must therefore accept that those who sit in Olom ha'Bo (which is an extension of Techi'as ha'Meisim) will do so with their bodies, which will be stripped of all their bodily functions, like those of Moshe and Eliyahu.

Yet in spite of that, there will be nothing futile about their non-functioning bodies, because they will sit together with the Souls with which they combined to serve G-d in partnership in this world, and derive pleasure from gazing at the Shechinah. G-d, in fact, is paying the person measure for measure, by rewarding him in the same way as he performed Mitzvos, body and Soul together. And so says the Gemara in Bava Basra (10a).

The Ramban too, is of this opinion, which he supports with the Sifri, which says that Hashem stored away Moshe ('s body) for life in Olom ha'Bo. The Gemara in B'rochos (61b) makes a similar statement with regard to Rebbi Akiva, and the same Gemara (58b) cites the wording of the B'rachah that one recites upon seeing graves ' ... who put you to death justly, and who will bring you back to life in Olom ha'Ba'.

It is abundantly clear from all of the above that the bodies will participate in Olom ha'Ba, and not just the Souls.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)

Making Hay

"To pass you into the covenant of Hashem your G-d" (29:11).

This was the last opportunity of incorporating the whole of Yisrael in a covenant with G-d, the Rosh explains, in a way that nobody could say that he wasn't there.

Once they crossed over the Yarden, and each man went to his own inheritance, there was no way that they would be able to achieve this. Moshe realized that once that happened, there would always be some who were too old, too sick, too blind or too lame, who would be unable to participate, should an attempt be made to bring the entire nation together. So he made hay while the sun was still shining and gathered them together now for the great event.


No Leg to Stand On

"Because (He is entering into the covenant) with those who are standing here with us today, and with those who are not with us here today" (29:14).

The Rosh observes that the Torah omits the word "standing" from the latter phrase. The reason for this he explains, is because the Pasuk is referring to those Souls whose bodies had not yet been created, and Souls without bodies simply do not stand!


The Satisfied Soul and the Thirsty One

" ... so that the satisfied Soul should add to the thirsty one" (29:18).

In one of the three interpretations offered by the Rosh citing the Ramban, he explains the Rasha's philosophy (which the covenant is setting out to counter) in the following manner.

Not satisfied with attaining his life's desires and indulging in sins such as theft and adultery (sins for which his Soul craves), his ambition is to sin even in areas where he feels not the least urge, such as wearing Sha'atnez and the like (sins from which his Soul is satiated). In other words, he has developed a powerful urge to become a 'mumar le'hach'is' (someone who sins, not for pleasure, but purely in order to anger Hashem).

See also Rashi, whose explanation is technically similar, though very different.


What Makes Yisrael Different

"And all the nations of the world will say 'Why did G-d do that to this land' " (23:24).

It cannot be on account of the sin of murder and adultery, comments the Rosh, because there are many nations who are guilty of the same sins, yet their lands were not devastated like Eretz Yisrael was?


"And they will say 'it is because they forsook the covenant of the G-d of their fathers ... " (29:24).

Yes, that's the answer! They entered into a covenant with their G-d of their own volition, which they then proceeded to abrogate. That is one sin for which the nations of the world cannot be taken to task.


When One Man Sins

"The hidden things belong to Hashem our G-d, whereas what is revealed we accept upon ourselves ... " (29:28).

The Torah first wrote "And G-d will set him aside for evil" (Pasuk 20), implying that the sinner alone will be made to suffer for his sins. And then it says (in Pasuk 21/22) "And the later generation will say ... sulphur and salt burned the entire land" - implying that the entire land will be punished for the sins of one man or one family.

And it is to explain this apparent discrepancy, says the Rosh, that the Torah concludes "the hidden things belong to Hashem ... ". He is a Judge and He will ensure that the sinner receives his desserts, and that others will not suffer for the sin of one man. But "the revealed sins", the Pasuk continues, "we take upon ourselves and our children ... " should we fail to take action and destroy the evil from our midst. That is what appears at first glance.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin however, answers differently, Explaining the dots on "lonu u'levoneinu" and on the 'Ayin of "ad", the Gemara writes that it was only after they had crossed the Yarden and accepted Arvus (guarantor-ship for one another) on themselves (at Har Gerizim and Har Eival), that they became punishable for one another's deeds. Up until that time, each person was responsible for his own behaviour, and not for anybody else's. So the earlier Pasuk is speaking before they crossed the River Yarden and the second Pasuk, after they crossed it.

But isn't that strange, asks the Rosh, if the dots are coming to preclude the hidden things from being confined to Hashem (once they crossed the Yarden), then why are the dots on the words "lonu u'levoneinu" rather that on "la'Hashem Elokeinu", which is where they really belong?

And he replies that the Chachamim switched the dots from "la'Hashem Elokeinu" to "Lonu u'le'vaneinu", because it is not respectful to put dots (which symbolize being erased) on the name of Hashem. And, he adds, because "Lonu u'le'vaneinu" has one letter less than "la'Hashem Elokeinu", they added the letter 'Ayin' (of "ad") to the ten letters of "lonu u'levaneinu", so that there should still be eleven letters with dots, just as there would have been if they had been placed on "la'Hashem Elokeinu".


Teshuvah Hastens the Redemption

"And you will return to Hashem your G-d ... And Hashem will return your captivity" (30:2).

The juxtaposition of Teshuvah to Ge'ulah, says the Rosh, bears out what Rebbi Yochanan said in Yuma (86b) 'How great is Teshuvah, that it hastens the Ge'ulah, as the Pasuk writes in Yeshayah (59:20) "And the redeemer will arrive in Tziyon, and to those who repent from their sins in Ya'akov, says G-d".


Parshas Vayeilech

A Difference of Opinion

"And Moshe called to Yehoshua and said to him be strong and courageous, because you will come together with this people to the land" (31:7).

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (8a) explains that Moshe instructed Yehoshua not to go it on his own, but to consult with the elders, and to follow their advice; whereas Hashem (in Pasuk 23) ordered him to be strong and courageous, because he would "lead the B'nei Yisrael into the land".

Presumably, Moshe had not erred, and his advice was meant to complement G-d's orders. In spite of the fact that Torah leadership is not based on democracy, a good leader will always consult with his officers, to help him formulate his plans (just as Moshe advised Yehoshua). But at the end of the day, the final decision lies with the leader. That decision is his, and his alone, as G-d clearly instructed Yehoshua.

The Rosh proves that "because you will bring the B'nei Yisrael ... " must have been said by Hashem, because this paragraph (Pasuk 14) began with the words "And Hashem said to Moshe ... call Yehoshua ... and I will command him", and, although the Torah repeated "And Hashem said to Moshe" only two Pesukim later, nothing has been said to Yehoshua up until this Pasuk (see Rashi there and Sifsei Chachamim). Therefore, when the current Pasuk begins with "And he commanded Yehoshua ... ", it must be referring to Hashem, who is now implementing what He said He would do at the beginning of the paragraph. And beside, says the Rosh, the Pasuk concludes " ... to the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you", words which can only have been spoken by G-d.


Who is Like Moshe?

"Behold ('Hein') your days are fast approaching to die" (31:14).

'I praised You using the word "Hein", Moshe complained,'when I said "Hein (behold) the Heaven and the Heaven of the Heaven ... " (Eikev 10:14) and now You come to take my life using the same word!'

'Indeed you did', G-d replied,' but you also grumbled with that same word, when you said "Hein (behold), the B'nei Yisrael did not listen to me, so how do You expect Paroh to listen!" '


Alternatively, says the Rosh, when Moshe asked Hashem why He was meting out a bad measure in exchange for his own good one, G-d replied that this too is a good measure, as the Pasuk writes in Mishlei (11:31) "Behold (hein) a Tzadik receives his payment in the Land" (with reference to Olom ha'Bo). It is not because Moshe had never been there, that it was bad. The indications are that if we could only envisage what the World to Come had in store for us, we would all clamour to go there - now!

And not only that, G-d continued, but in the World to Come, He would place Moshe in great pomp and splendor on a throne made of pearls, at the head of five hundred and fifty thousand Tzadikim (like the numerical value of "Hein"). And what's more, He would give him rivers of oil.

Alternatively, the Rosh points out, the letters 'Hey' and 'Nun', are the only letters that do not have partners (five does not add up with any other number to make ten, and fifty does not add up with any other number to make a hundred).

So too, Moshe, about whom the Torah writes "and there did not arise (ever) a Navi like Moshe" (ve'Zos ha'B'rochoh 34:10), did not have an equal to serve as a partner in the World to Come - So Hashem hastened His death, so as to take Him as a partner for Himself.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 612:
To Gather All of Yisrael on Succos

It is a Mitzvah to gather the whole of Yisrael, men, women and children, on Motza'ei Sh'mitah on the second day of Succos, and to read to them a part of Mishneh Torah (i.e. Seifer Devarim), as the Torah writes in Vayeilech (31:12) "Gather the people, the men, the women and the children ... ". And this is the Mitzvah of Hakheil, of which the Gemara in Kidushin (34a) writes 'How about Hakheil, which is a Mitzvas Asei connected with time, yet women are Chayav!' And the Gemara concludes there that one cannot learn from a principle (i.e. 'Every rule has exceptions').

A reason for the Mitzvah ... is based on the fact that the lynchpin of Am Yisrael is the Torah, for it is the Torah that makes us different than all nations and tongues in that we merit eternal life, an everlasting thrilling sensation that has no equal among all the creations. Consequently, it is apt for the whole nation to come together on a given date to hear its words. So that when the question is asked 'What is all this fuss about?', the answer will be forthcoming 'To hear the words of the Torah, which is our mainstay, our splendour and our glory'. And as a result, people will begin to discuss the extent of its praiseworthiness and the beauty of its worth. This in turn, will lead to a sweeping desire to become more conversant with it, with the result that the people will increase their knowledge of G-d, meriting His goodness and enabling Him to rejoice with His creatures, as the Torah specifically writes in this Parshash (Pasuk 12) "in order that they will listen, and in order that they will learn to fear Hashem ... ".

Some of the Dinim of this Mitzvah ... That the King is the one to read the prescribed Parshah, in the women's courtyard, seated, if he wished, though it is preferable to do it standing ... He reads from "Eileh ha'Devarim" until "Sh'ma Yisrael" (in Va'eschanan). Then he jumps to "Vehoyoh im shomo'a" (in Eikev) until the end of the Parshah, and from there to "Aser te'aser" in Re'ei, from where he reads until the end of the Tochachah in Ki Sovo ... The procedure is as follows - After blowing the trumpets throughout Yerushalayim, they bring a wooden platform which they place in the middle of the Ezras Nashim. The King then ascends the platform, so that everybody will be able to hear him, and takes his seat there. Meanwhile all the people who have arrived in Yerushalayim for Yom-Tov enter the Courtyard and surround the platform. The Gabai then takes the Seifer-Torah and hands it to the head of the K'neses, who hands it to the deputy Kohen Gadol. He hands it to the Kohen Gadol who hands it to the king. This is a way of honouring the Torah through the many people who handle it. The King, who has received it sitting (should he so wish) then opens the Seifer Torah and recites a B'rachah (in the way that we do in Shul) before proceeding to read the prescribed sections. When he has concluded, he recites the B'rachah (as we do in Shul), adding the following seven B'rachos: "Retzei ... ", Modim ... ", "Atoh bechartonu ... " (concluding "Mekadesh Yisrael ve'ha'Zemanim", like we do in Amidah), and another four B'rachos, one on the Beis ha'Mikdash (which concludes 'ha'Shochen be'Tzi'on'), one on Malchus Yisrael (which concludes 'ha'Bocher be'Yisrael'), one asking that G-d accepts the Avodah of the Kohanim (which concludes 'Mekadesh ha'Kohanim') and one where he prays to Hashem according to his ability, adding that Hashem should save His people Yisrael, because they need His salvation (concluding 'Shomei'a Tefilah') - Rambam, Chapter 3 of Hilchos Chagigah.

This Mitzvah applies when Yisrael are living in their land. A man or woman who contravenes it, and fails to arrive in Yerushalayim to hear the words of Torah, or the King, should he refuse to read the Parshah, has negated it, His punishment will be great, because this Mitzvah is a strong pillar and a great honour.

* * *

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