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

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Vol. 8   No. 2

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Pashas Noach


The Gemoro in Yevomos (65b) exempts women from the mitzvah of having children, from a posuk in Bereishis. The Torah writes there (1:28) "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the land and conquer it". Chazal extrapolate from here that by juxtaposing the mitzvah of procreating to conquering the land, the Torah is indicating that whoever performs the one is obligated to perform the other; women, who tend not to fight, are therefore not commanded to procreate.


The above comparison also helps us understand (says the Torah Temimah) why, unlike all other mitzvos which begin already from the age of thirteen, this mitzvah begins only from the age of eighteen, and one transgresses only from twenty. This is because having children is compared to going to war, and the age of conscription, as the Torah states many times, is twenty. In spite of the exemption from the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying, there are those who say that women are still subject to the mitzvah mi'de'Rabbonon of 'populating the world', ("He did not create the world to remain desolate" - Yeshayah 45:18). In their opinion, it is an independent mitzvah. And there are others (above all the Ran), who explain that, even though women may not be intrinsically obligated to have children, they are however, obligated to help their husbands to perform the mitzvah, bearing in mind that without them, their husbands could not possibly fulfill it. The Torah Temimah disagrees with both of these opinions. It can hardly be denied though that, whether a woman is obligated to assist her husband in performing the mitzvah or not, when she does assist him, she will receive her due share of reward for 'mesa'yei'a li'ydei mitzvah' (assisting someone to perform a mitzvah). There can be no doubt that if a person is punished for assisting his friend in performing an aveirah ("lifnei iver ... " - do not place a stumbling-block before a blind man) then he will be amply rewarded for helping him perform a mitzvah.


As already mentioned, the Torah Temimah queries the Ran, who obligates women to perform the mitzvah of populating the world. Consequently, he also queries the Mogein Avrohom who extends the concession of selling a Seifer-Torah in order to marry off an orphan boy, to selling it in order to marry off an orphan girl.

The Gemoro in Chagigah (2b) however, ascribes the mitzvah of populating even to slaves, who are certainly not included in the mitzvah of "P'ru u'revu" any more than women are. This would seem to vindicate the opinion of the Ran that "P'ru u'revu" and the mitzvah mi'de'Rabbonon of populating, are two independent mitzvos, and that even those who are not included in the former, are included in the latter. In that case, the Mogein Avrohom's ruling is justified, too.


The Meshech Chochmah delves into the strange phenomenon of the Torah's exemption of women from a mitzvah in which they are indispensible partners.

The Torah is described as one "whose ways are pleasant", he explains by way of introduction, "and whose paths are all peace" (Mishlei 3:17).

For example, he says, there is only one day in the year on which we are obligated to fast. And to offset the pain and discomfort, the Torah ordained that we eat on the day before. Similarly, the Torah, knowing that at the time of war when a man's body is hot with tension, permits him to live with a beautiful woman whom he encounters in the vicinity of the battlefield. And there are many other examples where the Torah makes concessions or restricts its requirements because "its ways are pleasant ... ".

Based on Chazal's presumption that women in childbirth are to a certain degree, in mortal danger (perhaps more in earlier times than today), the Torah did not therefore place upon her a mitzvah to have children and to endanger her life in the process. In similar vein, Rabeinu Bachye (in this week's parshah) explains that, whereas all the non-kosher animals were commanded to come to No'ach under their own steam "to live", when it came to the kosher animals, who were saved in larger numbers to enable No'ach to slaughter them as Korbonos, they received no such command. Rather No'ach was commanded to fetch them himself; because it would not be fair to order them to present themselves to him - in order to die. And it is for the very same reason, the Meshech Chochmah adds, that Chazal in Yevomos (65b) even permit a woman, under certain circumstances, to take contraceptives in order to avoid becoming pregnant.


It is unclear however, as to why the Meshech Chochmah links this issue with the likelihood of death at childbirth, and not with the inevitable pains of childbirth. These are after all, part of Chavah's curse following the sin in Gan Eden, and it would be equally unfair for G-d to force her to bring the curse upon herself by means of a mitzvah. Indeed, the Gemoro in Yevomos is speaking about Yehudis, the wife of Rebbi Chiya, who had exceptionally harsh pains at childbirth. The issue of death is not discussed there.

And the Meshech Chochmah goes on to explain with this, why Rav Yosef (in Yevomos) learns the exemption of women from the mitzvah, from the posuk (written regarding Ya'akov Ovinu - Bereishis 35:11) "Ani Keil Shakai, prei u'revei" (in the singular), rather than from "P'ru u'revu" (in the plural), written regarding Odom ho'Rishon (Bereishis 1:28). It is because the b'rochoh of "P'ru u'revu" was given to Odom and Chavah before the sin, in which case the pain of childbirth and the death that accompanies it had not yet been decreed. Consequently, both Odom and Chavah were included in the mitzvah, whereas the command to Ya'akov, which was issued after the sin, precluded his wives, for the reason that we explained.


A How about No'ach, you may well ask, where the Torah writes (Bereishis 9:1) "P'ru u'revu" (in the plural) even though the command was issued after the sin?

No problem, the Meshech Chochmah replies; because there the Torah is speaking to No'ach and his sons - hence the use of the plural form.

And what will happen, you may also ask, if women, for fear of the problems resulting from childbirth, simply desist from marrying? What will happen to the men who will want to perform the mitzvah, but who, for lack of partners, will now be unable to do so?

The answer to that too, is straightforward. G-d offset the lack of the mitzvah with an inherent desire that a woman has to marry - a desire that is stronger than that of a man, as Chazal have said (quoting the woman) 'It is better to live two together than to live alone'(Yevomos 118b).


Alternatively, the Meshech Chochmah continues, the Torah's exemption of women from the mitzvah of 'P'ru u'revu' is based on the halachoh that requires a man who has been married for ten years without having had children to take another wife.

Now that presents no problem for the man, who may retain his first wife whilst marrying the second. But what would a woman do if she was also obligated to have children? She too, would be forced to marry another husband - only she would have to demand a divorce from her first one! Hashem did not consider it proper to force a woman who loves her spouse, to be forced to demand a get to marry a man whom, in all likelihood, she will not love to the same degree. Here too, we can apply the posuk in Mishlei "Its ways are pleasant and all its paths are peace".


Parshah Pearls

Genuine or Relative

"He was a perfect tzadik in his generations" (6:9). Some sages explain this positively - that if he would haved lived in a generation of tzadikim, he would have been more righteous still. Others explain it derogatively - according to his generation, he was a tzadik, but had he lived in the generation of Avrohom, he would have been insignificant - Rashi.

The two opinions appear to be arguing over whether No'ach was a true tzadik who was not adversely influenced by his evil contemporaries, who would have grown to even greater heights had he lived in a more righteous generation, or whether he was no more than a moderate tzadik, who, on the one hand, could not lower himself to imitate the corrupt and immoral lifestyles of the society in which he lived, but who, on the other hand, would have been content to live as a decent, average citizen even in a generation of great tzadikim without the least interest in learning from their ways. And this is how the Torah Temimah interprets it.


The Chazon Ish disagrees with this explanation however. It goes without saying, he says, that a person is influenced by his environment. There is not the least doubt that Noach, whom the Torah already describes as a tzadik, would have been a greater tzadik still, had he lived in the generation of Avrohom Ovinu, for example, whom he would definitely have considered a role model and emulated his example.

The two opinions, he says, dispute No'ach's level at that moment. Whether he was a perfect tzadik, a jewel who shone in his generation, and who would have shone in whichever generation he had lived, or whether his righteousness was purely relative - by contrast to the pervert generation in which he lived, but not intrinsically so.


Light By Day, Light by Night

"A light you shall make for the boat ... " (6:16). 'Go to the River Pishon', explains the Targum Yonoson, "and fetch from there a precious stone to provide light".


Rashi comments that, according to others, it was a window that Hashem instructed No'ach to fix into the boat for light.

That's fine in the daytime, but what did they do at night-time for light, one may well ask? The Kli Yokor, later in the parshah, therefore explains that the olive leaf which the dove brought back to No'ach was for the purpose of extracting from it oil to light at night. That explains why the Torah stresses that the dove brought back the olive-leaf in the evening (which would otherwise be of no significance).

It also explains why the Chizkuni translates "tzohar" as 'oil' (like the word 'yitzhor"). It now transpires that the window lit up the boat by day and an oil-lamp by night.

And it also explains why the Torah refers once to "tzohar" and once to "chalon".


The Kli Yokor uses this Chizkuni to explains another Medrash. The Medrash, commenting on the posuk in Shir ha'Shirim "Your eyes are doves", states that just as the dove brought light to the world, so should Yisroel (who are compared to a dove) bring olive-oil and kindle lamps before Hashem in the Beis ha'Mikdosh.


Og Was Saved Too

"And only No'ach remained" (7:23). A hint, the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos quoting Rebbi Yehudah ha'Chasid explains, that Og the giant escaped the flood, because the words "Ach No'ach" are the equivalent numerical value of 'Og'.


Why Cana'an?

"And Chom the father of Cana'an saw his father's nakedness ... " (9:22).

According to Rashi, it was Cana'an who told his father Chom that his grandfather No'ach was lying drunk and exposed in his tent. That will explain both why Cana'an is mentioned here and why it was that when No'ach awoke from his stupor, it was Cana'an whom he cursed and not Chom.


The Seforno goes further. It was Cana'an he says, who castrated his grandfather (and not Chom, as Rashi cites one opinion as saying). And yet the Torah blames Chom? That is because he saw what his son did to his father, and remained silent, and then went and told his brothers outside. He was punished because he rejoiced at what his son had done.


And according to the Targum Yonoson, it was because, by castrating him, Chom prevented No'ach from fathering a fourth son, that he cursed Chom's fourth son (see also Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos).


The Theory of Relativity

Before the flood, Rebbi Meir Shapiro points out, the Torah refers to No'ach as 'tzadik tomim'. Why , he asks, does the Torah now call him just No'ach? What happened to his titles?


Before the flood, he replies, as long as he was concerned about saving others, he is referred to as 'tzadik tomim'. After the flood, when his sole preoccupation was saving himself, he is just No'ach.

According to the Toldos, it is only when he is compared to his contemporaries that he is called a tzadik. Now that there was no longer anyone to whom to compare him, he is no more than an ordinary man.


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

101-103 (cont).

There are some Rishonim who hold that the prohibition of eating Chodosh in Chutz lo'Oretz is only mi'de'Rabbonon, and the Rabbonon restricted their decree to places that are close to Eretz Yisroel. Most people living in Chutz lo'Oretz rely on this, disregarding Chodosh entirely. Although we do not have the power to change this, someone who has yir'as Shomayim should adopt the stringent opinion as far as he possibly can, bearing in mind that according to many Rishonim, Chodosh is a Torah prohibition in all circumstances.


104. Not to eat chometz on erev Pesach from midday and onwards - as the Torah writes in Re'ei (16:3) " Do not eat on it (the Korban Pesach) chometz", referring to the seventh hour and onwards, when the time to bring one's Korban Pesach commences.

Someone who eats Chometz after midday, is due to receive malkos. Chazal however, added to the prohibition, forbidding deriving benefit from it from the beginning of the sixth hour, and eating it already from the beginning of the fifth.


105. Not to eat the fruit of a tree during the first three years of its growth - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:23) "Three years it (the fruit) shall be 'closed' to you, it shall not be eaten". It is also forbidden to derive any benefit from it.

Even sofek orloh is forbidden in Eretz Yisroel, but not in Chutz lo'Oretz - halochoh le'Moshe mi'Sinai. Someone who eats orloh in Eretz Yisroel is due to receive malkos, whereas in Chutz lo'Oretz, he receives makas mardus (malkos mi'de'Rabbonon).


106. Not to eat the way a 'ben sorer u'moreh' eats - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:26) "Do not eat on the blood", meaning that one should not eat food in a gluttonous manner that leads to murder (such as the Torah describes by a ben sorer u'moreh).

This posuk also serves as a warning not to eat from an animal before it is completely dead, and not to eat in the morning before davening Shacharis.

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


107. Not to plant two different kinds of seeds in the field - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:19) "You shall not sow your field kil'ayim (a mixture of seeds)".

In chutz lo'Oretz, this is permitted, though kil'ayim of trees (grafting two trees) is forbidden there too, as is grafting a tree with a vegetable or vice-versa.

If someone transgressed the prohibition of kil'ayim of seeds or of trees, the fruit may be eaten - even by the transgressor.

Kil'ayim in a vineyard (i.e. sowing produce in a vineyard) is forbidden, and if one transgressed, it is forbidden both to eat and to derive benefit from it. In Eretz Yisroel this is a Torah prohibition, in Chutz lo'Oretz, it is mi'de'Rabbonon.


108. Not to shecht a kosher animal and its offspring on the same day - as the Torah writes in Emor (22:28) "And do not shecht an ox or a sheep and its offspring on the same day".

If one transgressed, the meat is nevertheless permitted. The day follows the night in this regard. Consequently, if one shechted the mother at the beginning of Tuesday night, one may not then shecht its offspring until the beginning of Wednesday night, whereas if he were to shecht it even on Wednesday afternoon, he would still be able to shecht its offspring already on Wednesday night.

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


109. Not to redeem a male first-born animal that is tohor - as the Torah writes in Korach (18:17) "But a first-born ox ... you shall not redeem".

When the Beis ha'Mikdosh is not standing, one may sell the first-born, and the purchaser must treat it with the Kedushah of a first-born. (He allows it to graze in the field until it obtains a blemish, whereupon he is permitted to shecht and eat it.)

A bechor which is blemished may be sold alive or shechted. It may not however, be sold in a butchery (as this is considered undignified with respect to Kodshim).

This mitzvah applies to men and women.


110. Not to have physical contact with forbidden relatives (of the opposite sex), even without being intimate - as the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (18:6) "A man is forbidden to approach his flesh and blood to commit incest".

This prohibition refers to hugging and kissing (and the like), acts that lead to intimacy, and it does not pertain to father and daughter, mother and son, and brother and sister. Someone who contravenes it, who hugs or kisses his close relatives or who practises other forms of close contact that causes pleasure, receives malkos de'Rabbonon and is suspected of having committed incest.

It is also forbidden to make (light-hearted) signs and hints to them and to joke with them, to smell the perfume that they are wearing or to derive pleasure from their beauty. Nor should one do anything that leads to lewd thoughts.

In addition to this, it is forbidden to waste seed, and this is considered a most severe sin (which, one may add, is responsible for the extension of our exile). Someone who behaves in a way that leads to this sin is considered to be in Niduy (excommunication).


It is a mitzvah de'Rabbonon to marry off one's children at a young age, to avoid immoral behaviour and lewd thoughts. It is forbidden to marry off a woman to a small child, as this is considered immoral. Nor should a young man marry an old woman, or vice-versa, since this leads to immorality.


The Torah also forbids secluding oneself in an enclosed area with a close relative, and the Rabbonon added a prohibition of doing so with any unmarried woman. This does not pertain to a father and daughter or to a mother and son, and there are also concessions regarding a brother and sister.

If someone contravenes this la'av and secludes himself with forbidden relatives, they both receive makus mardus. In addition, one publicizes their behaviour, with the exception of one who sins with a married woman (despite the fact that being secluded with her is equally prohibited) so as not to stigmatize her children.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times.


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