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

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Vol. 13   No. 48

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Chayah bas Uziel Alexander Ziskin z.l.
whose Yahrzeit is 29th Ellel
and with wishes fora Refu'ah Shleimah to
Avivah bas Raizel n.y.

Parshas Nitzavim-Va'yeilech

(Part 1)

Teshuvah after Teshuvah

"And it shall be, when all these things, the blessings and the curses that I placed before you, are fulfilled, then you will take them to heart (Teshuvah), among the nations where G-d has exiled you. And you will return to Hashem your G-d and you will listen to His Voice (Teshuvah), to all which I am commanding you today, you and your children, with all your hearts and with all your souls. Then Hashem your G-d will return your captivity. He will have mercy on you and He will return and gather you from among the nations where Hashem your G-d scattered you" (Devarim 30:1-3).

The apparent repetition of the concept of Teshuvah that occurs early on in the quotation, is not a repetition at all, the Or ha'Chayim explains. The first phrase refers to Yisrael becoming conscious of the fact that they have sinned. But that alone is insufficient. It is a good start, to be sure, for as long as a person does not realize that he has sinned, there is no way that he will ever make amends for what he did wrong. On the other hand, of what value is this realization if one continues sinning in the future? If anything, it makes matters worse, for where until now, one was sinning by mistake, from now on, one is sinning on purpose.

Hence the Pasuk continues "And you will return to Hashem ... ". You will now begin to act on that realization and to actualize your Teshuvah.


The Or ha'Chayim asks further why, having given us the heartwarming news of Yisrael's Teshuvah at the end of time (which has great relevance to today), the Torah sees fit to continue (in Pasuk 6) "And Hashem your G-d will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children (Teshuvah) to love Hashem your G-d ... "? And to add to the mystery, the Pasuk, not satisfied with that, adds, two Pesukim after that "And you will return (Teshuvah) and listen to the Voice of Hashem, and you will perform His Mitzvos ... ."

The K'li Yakar partially answer to the Or ha'Chayim's latter set of questions when he explains that the earlier Pesukim were referring to Teshuvah mi'Yir'ah (Teshuvah out of fear). This Midah, he claims, is the result of the constant state of fear and anxiety which grips us due to the terrorization thrust upon us by our enemies.

What the latter Pesukim are now coming to add is that in the days of Mashi'ach, after we have set the pace by mending our ways and returning to G-d, He will remove that terror from our hearts, causing us to serve Him with joy (which, as we have often said, is synonymous with love). How will He do this? This the Torah itself explains in the following Pasuk "And Hashem your G-d will place all of these oaths on your enemies and on your haters, who pursued you". Yes, He will eliminate the threat from our enemies, thereby opening our hearts to happiness and joy, so that we will be able to serve Him with love.


The Ramban too, deals with the Or ha'Chayim's final questions. Only he differentiates between the earlier Teshuvah, that took place before the arrival of Mashi'ach, and the latter one, which will take place later. The first one, he explains, is the result of our own free-will and choice, which was handed to us from the time of the creation. We will realize that we sinned, we will do Teshuvah and we will return to G-d with all our hearts.

Not so the second one, which denotes that G-d will remove our Yeitzer ha'Ra, leaving us without the urge to sin, an urge which, until that occurs, is indispensable to our growth and development. Indeed, reward and punishment are dependant upon it. This transition may be a wonderful thing from the point of view of Hashem, of K'lal Yisrael and the world at large, for only good will permeate the entire universe, and G-d's Name will be sanctified by all its inhabitants. It will not be so wonderful for the individual however, who will lose the opportunity to grow spiritually. In terms of today's situation, when the coming of Mashi'ach seems to be imminent, it means that we must wake up and do Teshuvah now, before the opportunity to do so is taken away from us.

Interestingly, the Ramban's explanation mirrors the words of the Targum Yonasan, who also establishes the latter Pesukim in the connection with the removal of the Yeitzer ha'Ra.


According to all the above explanations, the Pasuk "And Hashem ... will circumcise your heart ... " refers to the days of Mashi'ach. And the Ba'al ha'Turim lends support to this explanation, when he points out that the words "es le'vovcho ve'es" possess the same numerical value as 'Zeh li'yemos ha'Mashi'ach' (This applies to the days of Mashi'ach).

* * *

Parshah Pearls

The Ninety-Eight Curses

"You are standing today, all of you ... " (29:9).

When Yisrael heard the hundred minus two curses (apart from the forty-nine in Parshas Bechukosai), says Rashi, their faces turned pale with fright. 'Who can survive all these curses', they asked?

The Alshich, quoting a certain Adam Gadol, with reference to the Pasuk in Ki Sisa (in connection with G-d's decision to destroy Yisrael) "And Hashem changed His mind about the evil that He said He would do to His people", equates this with a father who warns his son that he would punish him for something that he did wrong. The threat itself is a prime cause for the father's anger to abate, and he ends up not by punishing his son.

But that only applies if the father did not specify the punishment. In the event that he does, he is bound to carry out his threat to the letter.

Rashi specifically mentions the ninety-eight curses here and the forty-nine in Bechukosai, because they were the cause of Yisrael's fears. Had they not heard any specific number, they would have relied on G-d's Mercy, and assumed that He would go easy on them. But now that the number was specified, they had good reason to be afraid that He would be bound to punish them for their sins in full measure.

That is why Moshe saw fit to console them, as Rashi explains.


The K'sav Sofer asks why Rashi refers to 'a hundred minus two curses', and not simply to ninety-eight? And he cites the Pasuk later in the Parshah (68) "Also all the sicknesses and strokes that are not written in this Torah, G-d will bring on you until He destroys you", which according to Chazal, refers to the death of Tzadikim, which the Torah omits. To be sure, they were afraid of the ninety-eight curses that are written, but they were even more terrified of the one that is not.

And that is why Moshe consoled them, says the K'sav Sofer, "You are standing today ... your leaders, your elders and your policemen ... ". You see, Moshe was telling them, the Tzadikim have survived, in spite of all your many sins, a clear indication that, at the end of the day, G-d takes pity on you, and removes the Resha'im, the ones who have sinned, leaving the Tzadikim intact.


An Old Argument - that Failed

"And he 'blesses himself' saying, peace will be with me, even though I will do as my heart sees fit" (29:18).

There are those who say that there's no big deal in sitting and learning Torah all day locked in the Beis-Hamedrash, never to go out into the world and face the temptations that lurk on every street corner. Of course such a person doesn't sin. There's no reason why he should! Better by far to take the bull by the horns, go out into the world, and then to overcome the temptation to sin. Now that's genuine perfection!

This argument (which began with Adam ha'Rishon, who ate the forbidden fruit with this very thought in mind) is not intrinsically wrong. Indeed, theoretically speaking, someone who could be assured of succeeding along such a path, would indeed have reached the highest of levels.

Unfortunately however, for the most part at least, the proponents of this approach are seeking, not to attain perfection, but to escape from it. It is nothing more than an excuse to throw off the shackles of spirituality, proposed by people who are unable to withstand the test of living a spiritual life and who are looking for an excuse to live a free and easy life-style. They are out, says the Meshech Chochmah, to' purify a Sheretz with a hundred and fifty reasons'.

And if we paraphrase the current Pasuk, then that is precisely what the Torah is referring to: "And he 'blesses himself' saying, perfection (sh'leimus) will be with me when I do as my heart sees fit".

That is why the Torah warns us "G-d will not be willing to forgive him " ... See what havoc resulted when Adam ha'Rishon tried the same tactics.


Somebody once asked the G'ro the very same question. 'It is not a 'Kunst' (smart) to sit all day and learn, he mused. Why don't you go out into the world and resist the temptations that confront you there? Now that would be a Kunst'!

'I am not a Kunstler', replied the G'ro. 'G-d did not place me here to be smart. He placed me here to carry out His will!' The G'ro understood that someone who confronts temptation is likely to discover that it's not a matter of him overcoming the temptations, but the temptations overcoming him!


A Matter of Priorities;
A Matter of Application

" It is not in the Heaven ... But the thing is very close to you, with your mouth and with your heart, to do it" (30:12-14).

"The thing", Rashi explains, is Torah, which is accessible to one and all.

Tana de'Bei Eliyahu relates the story of a hunter who explained to Eliyahu ha'Navi that he did not learn Torah because he had not been blessed with the wherewithal to study something so intricate.

Whereupon Eliyahu asked him whether he had been born with the natural ability to hunt. He replied in the negative, and upon further probing, he described to Eliyahu how he had to learn the profession from scratch.

'To take flax', the Navi admonished him, 'spin it and weave it, and then to make nets and to place them in strategic positions in order to catch animals, you were given brains. And do you know why you succeeded? Only because it was vital for your Parnasah. If only you realized how vital learning Torah is to your Soul, and you subsequently pursued it with the same diligence and determination, you would certainly succeed just like you succeeded in the former. For so the Torah testifies "It is not in the Heaven (beyond your scope) ... But the thing is very close to you, with your mouth and with your heart, to do it". It is purely a matter of priorities and application.


From the Haftarah of Nitzavim

Rejoicing with the Midas ha'Din

"I will make others happy with Hashem; My soul will rejoice with My G-d (Elokai)" (Yeshayah 61:10).

The Mishnah in the last chapter of B'rachos obligates us to bless G-d for the bad just like one blesses Him for the good. This is confined however, to bad things that occur to oneself. When something bad happens to someone else, then one is obliged, not to rejoice, but to share in his pain.

And this is what the Pasuk is telling us here. "I will make others happy (or rejoice together with them) when Hashem's Midas Rachamim is manifest; but I will rejoice only personally when He demonstrates His Midas ha'Din".



Biz Hundert und Tvantzig

Today I am a hundred and twenty" (31:2).

That day, Rashi explains, was Moshe's birthday. On that day he was born and on that day he was about to die.

Our sages tell us that Haman fixed his lot for the month of Adar, because it was the month on which Moshe Rabeinu died, and which, he figured, did not therefore bode good for Yisrael. Consequently, it was the ideal month for him to defeat Yisrael. He did not realize apparently, that Moshe was also born in the same month (indeed, on the same day), and the month which gave K'lal Yisrael a hundred and twenty years of Moshe Rabeinu could not have been such a bad month for them, after all. If Haman considered Adar a bad month because Moshe died in it, a thousand years earlier, the Toras Moshe observes, then in the year when it actually took place, one can easily imagine how afraid and vulnerable Yisrael must have felt, when Moshe actually died. That is why Moshe found it necessary to inform them that he was also born then, and that they had nothing to fear.


A Time to be Strong

"And Moshe called Yehosua and said to him 'Before the eyes of Yisrael be strong!' " (31:7).

Note the punctuation!

The Meshech Chochmah points out that according to the Trop (the notes) this is the correct way to translate the Pasuk. A Jewish king, he explains, must blend the opposite characteristics of humility internally ("not to be more proud than his brothers") with a tough and domineering facade, externally ("Som tosim alecha Melech" - 'to ensure that the people are afraid of him').

As is well-known, he explains, Yehoshua was famed for his humility. (He considered himself worthy of straightening the benches in the Beis-Hamedrash. See also Targum Yonasan Sh'lach-L'cha [13:15]).

Consequently, Moshe did not find it necessary to remind Yehoshua of his internal obligation. What he did deem important was to remind him of the fa?ade that he needed to develop, one which went against Yehoshua's character, and which he might just forget to put into practice. That is why he instructed him that his behaviour in private was one thing, but that 'in the presence of Yisrael he must appear strong and courageous'.

* * *

(Part 1)

The central theme around which S'lichos revolves, is that of G-d's thirteen Qualities of Mercy (which we will be reciting repeatedly day in, day out, over the next two weeks-plus). So much so, that the outcome of G-d's final judgement will depend largely on the impact that reciting them makes on us.

Here are a selection of comments and explanations by Chazal regarding the thirteen Midos, based almost exclusively on the interpretation and the annotations of the Torah Temimah and the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos.

Hashem the Sheli'ach Tzibur

Commenting on the Pasuk "And Hashem passed before Moshe and He called out "Hashem Hashem ... " (34:6), R. Yochanan exclaims that had the Torah not specifically written this, we would not have dared say it, for it teaches us that Hashem wrapped Himself in a Tallis, like a Sh'li'ach Tzibur, and showed Moshe how to Daven (i.e. the thirteen Midos). And He told him that if, whenever Yisrael sin, they recite this, He will grant them a pardon (Rosh Hashanah 17b).

According to the Pirkei de'R. Eliezer, it was not G-d who called out "Hashem Hashem ... ", but Moshe.


And He Called Out "Hashem Hashem ... "

"Hashem Hashem", the Gemara explains are actually two Midos, one before a person has sinned (when Hashem, in His Divine Mercy, lends Divine assistance to anyone who tries to desist from sinning), and once, after he has sinned (Ibid.)

Tosfos however, cites the Megilas S'tarim of R. Nissim Gaon, who does not list the first "Hashem" among the Midos (instead, he counts 'Notzer Chesed la'Alofim' as two). This is due to the P'sik (a vertical line) that divides the two Names of Hashem. He therefore interprets the Pasuk like this: "And Hashem passed before Moshe, and Hashem called out "Hashem, Keil Rachum ve'Chanun ... ".


"Hashem Hashem Keil Rachum ... "

It is from here, says the Sifri, that we learn the well-known fact that the Name 'Hashem' represents the Midas Rachamim. And the same Sifri (in Parshas Va'eschanan) cites the Pasuk in Mishpatim (22:8) "the judgement shall come before the judges (which the Pasuk refers to as 'Elohim') as the source of "Elokim" being the Midas ha'Din.



The Supreme Judge who judges fairly and righteously. According to Rabeinu Bachye, 'Hashem' denotes 'Merciful without being asked', and 'Keil', G-d who responds to prayer mercifully.


"Rachum ve'Chanun"

Who is merciful to the poor, and gracious to the rich (as "Chanun" has connotations of 'giving free gifts' [as Rashi explains in the first Pasuk of Va'eschanan]).


"Erech Apayim"

Slow to anger. The Torah ought to have written 'Erech Af', asks the Gemara in Eruvin (22a). Why does it write "Apayim", in the plural?

To teach us, the Gemara replies, that Hashem waits for the Resha'im to do Teshuvah, no less than for the Tzadikim, as the Navi writes in Yechezkel (18:23) "Do I really want the death of the Rasha? I want him to do Teshuvah and live!"

Rashi, in Parshas Sh'lach L'cha, cites a Medrash that when Hashem first informed Moshe that "Erech Apayim" denotes Resha'im as well as Tzadikim, and Moshe retorted 'Let the Resha'im perish', Hashem assured him that one day in the not too distant future, he would come back to Him on that one.

Sure enough, when Yisrael sinned by the Meraglim and Moshe cited the Midah of Erech Apayim, Hashem reminded him that he himself had suggested that it should be confined to the Tzadikim (which would have precluded Yisrael at the time). To which Moshe replied that Hashem had overridden his suggestion, concluding that it would apply even to the Resha'im, too.


"ve'Rav Chesed"

This means that Hashem's Midah of goodness exceeds that of punishment (as the Gemara states in Sotah 11b)

(to be cont.)

* * *

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