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

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Vol. 10   No. 2

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Parshas Noach

The Seven Mitzvos
(adapted from the Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 9:1/14 and 10:1/2)

Adam ha'Rishon was commanded six things, the Rambam writes in Hilchos Melachim (9:1): the prohibition of idolatry, cursing G-d, murder, adultery (incorporating incest) theft and the implementation of Dinim (the only positive Mitzvah among them), which he explains as the setting up of law-courts and the punishing of evil-doers. Even though these were all traditionally handed down to us from Moshe Rabeinu, he adds, they are also implied in the Torah (see Sanhedrin 56a).

No'ach (the first person to be permitted to eat meat) was given the seventh Mitzvah of not eating the limb of a live animal, as the Torah there explicitly writes "Only do not eat flesh with its soul its blood". And these make up the seven Mitzvos of the B'nei No'ach (incorporating the whole of mankind, with the sole exception of K'lal Yisrael).


And so it was, the Rambam continues, until the time of Avraham, who was commanded the added Mitzvah of B'ris Milah. In addition, he introduced Tefilas Shachris. Yitzchak introduced the separation of Ma'aser (from crops that grow from the ground, Radvaz), and Tefilas Minchah. Whereas Ya'akov was commanded the Mitzvah of Gid ha'Nasheh, in addition to which he was the one to introduce Ma'ariv.

In Egypt, Amram was commanded additional Mitzvos (the commentaries are at a loss to know what the Rambam is referring to) ... until the arrival of Moshe, through whom the Torah was finalized. Even before the Torah was given, Moshe was commanded the Mitzvos of Shabbos, Kibud Av va'Eim and Dinim at Marah, as the Gemara informs us in Sanhedrin. Then we have the Mitzvos of Korban Pesach and and Rosh Chodesh, which were commanded still in Egypt (in Parshas Bo, as well that of Bechor and of Tefilin, which the Torah lists there too, and the Korban Tamid, which was brought at Har Sinai, according to some opinions.


A ben No'ach who transgresses any of the seven Mitzvos, is put to death by the sword. He is not subject to any other form of punishment, for so Chazal have taught 'Their warning is their death- warrant' and 'their death is by the sword'.

And that explains why the people of Sh'chem all deserved to die by the sword. They witnessed how Sh'chem had stolen Dinah, but did nothing about it (if they were unable to mete out to their powerful prince the sentence he deserved, they should at least have reprimanded him - Divrei Shaul).

(It is safe to assume that the terrible lawlessness that prevails today is the result of the abolition of the death-penalty [a blatant contravention of Torah-law of which the vast majority of civilized nations is guilty]).

And a ben No'ach is put to death (without prior warning) even on the testimony of one witness, with one judge, and even if that witness or judge happens to be his relation. He cannot however, be sentenced to death through a female witness or by a female judge. Nor is he Chayav for transgressing be'shogeg (inadvertently), though that does not include ignorance of the law (since the onus is on him to study and discover his obligations).


Among the other stringencies of a ben No'ach is the fact that he does not require a Shiur (a minimum measurement) in order to earn the death-penalty. Consequently, he is sentenced to death for stealing something that is worth even less than a P'rutah or for eating less than a ke'zayis of a live animal.

There are also many Chumros (stringencies) pertaining to the seven Mitzvos. Two well-known examples of these Chumros are the death-sentence that faces a gentile a. for killing a fetus, and b. for eating a piece of an animal which has been Shechted but is still moving (which is called a mefarcheses).Neither of these pertains to a ben Yisrael.


A major bone of contention between the Rambam and the Ramban lies in the Rambam's interpretation of Dinim, which we explained earlier.

The Ramban concedes that setting up law-courts and judging the evil-doers comes under the heading of Dinim, but he disagrees with the Rambam's view that this is all it comprises, and that it is therefore subject to the death-penalty.

In his opinion, Dinim consists primarily of a system of civil laws (similar to many of those mentioned in Mishpatim), and he lists the prohibition of stealing, overcharging, withholding a worker's wages, raping and seducing, damaging, wounding, and laws pertaining to loans and business transactions. These are La'avin, and therefore conform with the principle 'Their warning is their death-warrant', since the word "warning" ('azharah'), generally refers to La'avin, and not to positive Mitzvos (such as the setting-up of law-courts).

We already discussed the difference of opinion between the Rambam and the Ramban regarding the sin of the B'nei Sh'chem, in Parshas Va'yishlach, Volume 8 (see main article there). A very strong kashya on the Ramban is posed by the Torah Temimah. He asks that if, as the Ramban suggests, Dinim incorporates the prohibition of stealing, then why is theft included as an independent Mitzvah?

* * *

Parshah Pearls


(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

Each According to Its Needs

"Ve'hoyoh lecho ve'lohem le'ochloh (and it shall be for you and for them to eat)" - 6:21. The word "ve'lohem" appears on two other occasions in T'nach; once in Miketz (43:32 [in connection with Yosef]) "Va'yosimu lo levado ve'lohem levadom (and they laid the table for him alone and for them alone) ... ". And in Shoftim (6:5) "ve'lohem ve'li'g'maleihem ein mispor (and they and their camels were without number)". This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that just as Yosef ate alone and the Egyptians ate alone, so too did No'ach and his sons, the wild beasts and the animals, each eat alone, each one according to his or its needs. And it is the latter Pasuk which teaches us that No'ach took upon himself the mamoth task of feeding each animal according to its needs, foliage for the elephants, (glass for the ostrich) and so for each and every species.


A Torn Leaf

"And the dove came (back) to him in the evening, and behold a torn olive-leaf in its beak (ve'Hinei alei zayis torof be'fiyhu), and No'ach knew that the water had subsided from the face of the earth".

How did the torn leaf prove that the water had subsided, asks the Ba'al ha'Turim? Perhaps the dove had found the leaf floating on the surface of the water?

He answers that the word "torof" occurs twice in T'nach, here and in Hoshei'a (6:1) "ki hu torof ve'yirpo'enu". Just as there, the Pasuk is referring to breaking up, so too, here, does it mean that the dove actually tore the leaf off the tree. Consequently, the water must have subsided.

It is still not quite clear however, how No'ach knew this! Unless it is from the fact that the Torah refers to the leaf as a 'torn leaf'. If not to teach us that it was the dove who tore it from the tree, what is the point of mentioning it, since every leaf is torn from a tree at some point.

However, if that is correct, then the Mesorah is superfluous.


The Pleasant Aroma of Sinners

"And G-d smelt the pleasant aroma (va'yorach es rei'ach ha'nicho'ach) of the sacrifices that No'ach brought .. " (8:21).

The same words appear later in Toldos (when Ya'akov entered Yitzchak's presence for his father's blessings) "va'yorach es rei'ach begodov" (27:27). Chazal, basing their observation on the Pasuk here, interpret that as if the Torah had written "va'yorach es rei'ach bogdav (and he smelt the pleasant smell of the treacherous ones)". Because, as Chazal have said, even the worst sinners in Yisrael are full of Mitzvos, which exude a pleasant aroma. And that is the aroma that Yitzchak smelt when Ya'akov came in for the B'rachos, the aroma of his descendants, even the worst of them.


Off to a Fighting Start

"Because the inclination of a person is evil from his youth (mi'ne'urov)" (ibid.).

"And he was a man of war from his youth (mi'ne'urov)" (Shmuel 1, 17:35).

"Mo'av is tranquil from their youth (mi'ne'urov)" Yirmiyah (48:11).

These three Pesukim (each containing the word "mi'ne'urov") comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, teach us the importance of tackling the Yeitzer Hara from one's youth, because then, one overcomes him easily, and one's life is less tempestuous.


A Covenant with the Dead

"Behold I will set up My covenant with you (with No'ach and his sons)" 9:9.

The last letters of the words "set up My covenant with you (Meikim es b'risi itchem)" spell 'meisim'.

A hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that Techiyas ha'Meisim is destined to take place. And what's more, we have a clear proof from here (one of a number) that even gentiles will arise when the dead come back to life.

* The Dangers of Drink
"And he drank from the wine and he became drunk, and he was revealed in his tent (va'yeisht min ha'yayin va'yisgal be'soch oholoh)" (9:21).

The word "va'yisgal" contains the same letters as 'Galuyos', observes the Ba'al ha'Turim. This hints to the ten tribes, who went into Galus, Chazal explain, because they drank too much wine (i.e. due to their over-indulgence in the material and physical pleasures of life).

It is worth bearing in mind, he concludes, that the numerical value of "ha'yayin" is equivalent to that of 'yeloloh' (wailing).


The Value of a Slave

The value of an eved Cana'ani is thirty Shekalim, for that is what the Torah orders the owner of an ox that killed a slave to pay his master.

And this is hinted in the word "eved avadim yih'yeh le'echav (he will be a slave of slaves to his brothers)", since the numerical value of "yih'yeh" is thirty.

Interestingly, this D'rashah has a precedent, for Chazal derive the principle 'S'tam Nezirus she'loshim yom' (an unspecified Nezirus lasts for thirty days) from the Pasuk "kodosh yih'yeh", whose numerical value is thirty, too.


One Language, Lots of Nonsense

"Vayehi chol ho'oretz sofoh echos u'devorim achodim (And the whole world had one language and few words)" (11:1).

"Sofoh echos", points out the Ba'al ha'Turim, has the same numerical value as 'Lashon ha'Kodesh'.

And the word "u'devorim" occurs one other time in T'nach - "va'ha'volim u'devorim harbeh (and nonsense and many words)" (Koheles 5:6). This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that although they spoke only one language, they used it to speak a lot of nonsense.


No End to their Suffering

"Vayachd'lu li'v'nos ho'ir ... va'yoled es Arpachshad shenosayim achar ha'Mabul (and they stopped building the city ... and he bore Arpachshad, two years after the flood)" (11:8/10).

"Vayachd'lu" appears in Parshas Bo "va'Yachd'lu ha'kolos ve'haborod", and "shenosayim" in the Pasuk in Amos (1:1) "shenosayim lifnei ho'ra'ash (two years before the earthquake)".

The generation of the Flood seems to have gone through quite a rough time, according to the Ba'al ha'Turim, who extrapolates from the above, that besides the flood itself, they also had to endure thunderclaps and lightning (like the Egyptians), as well as earthquakes.

* * *


The Amidah
(based mainly on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")

(Part XXVI)

The B'rachah of 'al ha'Tzadikim'

The Levush writes that this is the thirteenth B'rachah, which Chazal instituted corresponding to the angels, who recited 'Baruch Atoh Hashem, mish'an u'mivtach la'Tzadikim', when G-d kept His promise to Ya'akov that Yosef would sustain him in Egypt. And they fixed it after the B'rachah of 've'Lamalshinim', because it is following the disappearance of the Resha'im that the horns of the Tzadikim are raised, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim 'And I will cut down all the horns of the Resha'im, and the horns of the Tzadikim will be raised!".

The Ya'aros D'vash writes that one should place much emphasis on this B'rachah, because when G-d blesses the Tzadikim, we all share in the good that they receive. And as long as there are Tzadikim in the world, there is blessing and goodness in the world, too.

Al ha'Tzadikim, ve'al ha'Chasidim ...

The 'Tzadikim', says the Eitz Yosef citing the Pirush ha'Machzor, represents those who perform Mitzvos; the 'Chasidim', men of good deeds; 'the elders of the people', the Talmidei-Chachamim and the 'Sofrim', the authors of Sefarim.

Whereas according to the Avudraham, the 'Tzadikim' refers to those who did not sin and the 'Chasidim', to those who sinned and did Teshuvah. Actually, the word 'Chasid' has connotations of something extra, and this is because the Ba'al Teshuvah is obligated to go beyond the letter of the law, as a form of penance to atone for his sins, and to prevent him from repeating them. This is why David, the epitome of a Ba'al Teshuvah, said ''Guard my soul, because I am a Chasid". And it is a fact that a healthy person does not require guarding (looking after) like a sick person who has recovered.

As we know, the term also extends to a total Chasid, who never sinned and who chose from the very outset, to go beyond the letter of the law.


Some commentaries, says the Eitz Yosef, connect 'Ziknei amcho Beis-Yisrael' to the elders and leaders of the generation, who lead the community for the sake of Heaven. And they explain 'P'leitas Beis Sofreihem' to mean the scribes and the children's Rebbes, about whom the Pasuk writes "and those who teach righteousness to the multitudes are like stars forever".

According to the Iyun Tefilah however, this refers to the Chachamim of the oral Torah, whom Chazal describe as 'Sofrim' because they count the letters, the words and the Pesukim of the Torah (the oral as well as the written ... 'Five may not take Terumah', 'fifteen women exempt their tzoros from Yibum' ... ).


ve'al Geirei ha'Tzedek

We place the Geirim together with the Tzadikim, taking our cue from the Pasuk in Kedoshim (19:32-33), comments the Levush. The Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer writes that 'the righteous Geirim' refers to the gentiles who travelled on the boat together with Yonah, all of whom converted and became sincere G-d-worshippers when they witnessed the miracle that happened to Yonah. They were the cream of righteous converts. The Medrash does not refer to them exclusively, explains the Iyun Tefilah, but to righteous converts of their caliber.


ve'Oleinu Yehemu (na) Rachamecha

The Anaf Yosef cites the Tur and the Kolbo, both of whom maintain that this B'rachah contains forty-two words. According to this opinion, the word 'na' should be omitted from the text.


The gist of these words is that although we are only ordinary people, who do not belong to any of the above categories, still we beseech G-d to bestow His mercy upon us, together with the Tzadikim. Indeed, it is G-d's praise that He is merciful even to those who do not perhaps deserve it, as the Pasuk writes in Ki Sisa "And I will have mercy upon those whom I will have mercy", which Chazal explain, refers to those who are undeserving.

And this is especially true in connection with those who join in the prayers of the community, whose members include Tzadikim (as the current text implies). They will experience the Divine mercy in a way that they would never do if they prayed under their own steam.

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