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

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Vol. 19   No. 49

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yerachmiel ben Yitzchak Dovid HaLevi
v'Yitzchak Dovid ben Yerachmiel HaLevi
l'mishpachat Wallace z"l
t.n.tz.v.h.

Parshas Nitzavim

Where Torah is to be Found
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

"Because this Mitzvah (with reference to Torah) that I am commanding you today is not hidden from you nor is it distant. It is not in the Heaven, that one needs to say 'Who will ascend to the Heaven on our behalf and fetch it for us, and let us hear it so that we should observe it? Neither is it overseas, that one needs to say 'Who will cross the sea on our behalf " (30:11/13).

R. Bachye, citing the Gemara in Eruvin (55a), interprets "the Heaven" and "across the sea" as an analogy - the former with regard to conceited people, the latter, to businessmen and merchants. What the Pasuk therefore means to say is that Torah is to be found neither among people who are conceited nor among businessmen and merchants. Furthermore, Sh'muel adds, one will not find it among astrologers or astronomers, as the Torah writes "It is not in the Heaven!"

And he concludes that Torah is to be found among those who busy themselves with Heavenly work. When they queried his own expertise in astronomy, he replied that the only time that he ever studied astronomy was in the bathroom, at a time and in a place where studying Torah is prohibited.

The author then cites a Pasuk where Yeshayah warns Yisrael against spending money indulging in foreign studies, which he refers to as 'bread that does not satisfy the soul', and that one should rather eat 'bread that is good' (as the Pasuk writes in Mishlei "For I gave you a good acquisition, do not forsake it!").

And in similar vein, the Gemara in Menachos (99b), commenting on the Pasuk "and you shall study in it day and night" - says 'Go and find a time that is neither day nor night, and then you may study Greek culture!'

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To explain why this is so, Rabeinu Bachye reminds us that whereas other areas of Chochmah are compared to silver, the Torah is compared to purified silver. This is because, just as silver contains a certain amount of dross, so does every area of Chochmah contain falsehoods that lead a person away from Torah. Torah however, which is called Toras Emes, contains no impurities.

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The footnote there, citing Rav Hai Ga'on, writes that the study of other Chochmos removes from the student the yoke of Heaven and the fear of G-d; it twists his mind to the point that missing a Tefilah does not bother him. Fear of sin, he adds, z'risus (eagerness) in the service of Hashem, humility, purity, and sanctity exist only in people who study Mishnah and Gemara!

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Parshah Pearls

The Big 'Lamed'

" and he cast them (vayashlichem) to another land until this day (ka'yom ha'zeh)" (29:27).

The big 'Lamed' in "Vayashlichem" , says the K'li Yakar, hints at the thirty generations had elapsed from Avraham Avinu till Tzidkiyahu ha'Melech, fifteen generations from Avraham until Sh'lomoh ha'Melech, when Yisrael reached the height of power, and fifteen, from Sh'lomoh until Tzidkayahu ha'Melech, when they went into exile.

The kingdom of Yisrael, he explains, is compared to the moon, whose cycle lasts thirty days, fifteen until the full moon (hence Sh'lomoh built the Beis-Hamikdash, which illuminated the whole of Yisrael), when it begins to wane until its light is extinguished fifteen days later.

And just as the moon reappears, so too, can Yisrael rest assured that their exile will come to an end, and the Beis-Hamikdash will be rebuilt. Hence the Pasuk says "ka'yom ha'zeh", which really means 'like this day'. This constitutes an assurance that they will continue to exist in the future just as they were in the desert. It is a promise that Yisrael will never ever be destroyed!

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One Person's Sins

"The hidden sins belong to Hashem our G-d, and the revealed ones to us and our children " (29:28).

The K'li Yakar explains that If we interpret "the hidden things" as sins performed by an individual, about which nobody but G-d is aware, and "the revealed ones" as sins performed by a number of people, which are inevitably known to others, then the Pasuk is actually coming to explain an apparent discrepancy that appears a few Pesukim earlier.

At first (in Pesukim 17-28), the Torah speaks of G-d's wrath falling upon the man who has ignored His warning and gone his own way, until He "blots out his name from under the Heavens and sets him aside to receive all the curses that are written in this Seifer Torah". Whilst in the Pesukim that follow, the Torah gives a detailed description of the terrible destruction that the entire land will suffer, ending with the exile of all its inhabitants!

The key to answer this discrepancy is to be found in Pasuk 17, which refers to a man or a woman, a family or a tribe who goes astray to worship idols. The earlier Pesukim pertain to the man or woman who sinned, whose sins are unknown to the public who are therefore helpless to stop him from sinning further.

The later Pesukim, on the other hand, pertain to a family or a tribe that worshipped idols, where inevitably, their sins become known to others. Consequently, the obligation falls upon their shoulders to destroy the idols. If they don't, they become accomplices in the crime and are deserving of punishment that is due to the sinners themselves.

Hence the Torah writes here that "The hidden sins belong to Hashem". He alone knows about them, and He will punish the evildoer. Whereas "The revealed sins are to us and our children", we know about them and we will all have to suffer the consequences if we do nothing to stop them.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BA'AL HA'TURIM

"And you shall choose life (ba'chayim)" (30:19).

The Gematriyah of "ba'chayim" is seventy, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, as is that of the "sod" (secrets) in the Pasuk in Tehilim "Sod Hashem li'yere'av". Moreover, he says, there are 'seventy explanations to the Torah'.

The Torah is giving us a broad hint here on how to acquire life.

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