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

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Vol. 13   No. 2

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Le'ah Beilah bas Aryeh Leib z.l.
whose Yohrzeit is the 4th Mar-Cheshvan

Parshas No'ach

Aspects of Murder

A ben-No'ach

Parshas No'ach contains the Sheva Mitzvos B'nei No'ach (which extend to all of mankind) including the rules that govern them. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (56a) for example, learns from it that a gentile who receives the death-sentence for not performing any of these seven Mitzvos is put to death by the sword. And it also learns from there (57b) that he can be sentenced at the hand of one judge and one witness, and that he does not require warning; whereas the Yerushalmi learns from the Pasuk that a gentile can even be sentenced to death by his own admission (see Torah Temimah, Chapter 9, note 10). We discussed many aspects of the Mitzvos B'nei No'ach in volume ten. This year, we will focus on the specific Mitzvah of 'Hereg' (murder). This incorporates not murdering somebody else or oneself, some aspects of which apply to us too.


Suicide and Wounding Oneself

The Gemara in Bava Kama (91b) suggests that the word "Ach" (but) in the Pasuk "But the blood of your own souls I will seek" incorporates the prohibition of wounding oneself . But it concludes that the Pasuk is talking about commiting suicide, not wounding oneself. The Torah Temimah, however, presumes that the Gemara's rejection is not final, and that, based on the principle 'What difference does it make whether one kills a person completely or partially?', it actually accepts the initial suggestion. He also expresses surprise at the commentaries, which go to great lengths to find the source for the well-known statement that someone who commits suicide forfeits his portion in the World to Come, without referring to the Pasuk under discussion. For when the Torah writes that G-d will seek the blood of someone who commits suicide, it can only be referring to depriving him of the World to Come (though it is not clear how the Pasuk refers to losing one's portion in the World to Come, and not to simply receiving one's punishment there, such as twelve months in Gehinom).


Suicide to Avoid Torture

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, citing a Medrash, learns from the word "Ach", in the Pasuk quoted earlier, that under circumstances such as those of Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah, one is permitted to commit suicide, if it is to avoid torture that a person is afraid he will be unable to endure. Indeed, the Medrash cites King Shaul, who commanded his armour-bearer to pierce him with his sword for that very reason. And there are those who extrapolate from this Medrash that one may even kill a child in times of Sh'mad (forced conversions) to prevent him from falling into the hands of gentiles who will otherwise force him to convert.

The Da'as Zekeinim cites others, however, who disagree with this interpretation of the above Medrash. According to them, the derivation from the word "Ach" is confined to someone who, like Chananyah, Misha'el and Azaryah, has already been taken captive and who has already been sentenced to death, but not if it is to escape capture. And as for King Shaul (who had not yet been captured), his decision did not conform with the opinion of the Chachamim, who would not have sanctioned it.


And the Da'as Zekeinim goes on to relate the story that took place around that time, concerning a Rav who slaughtered a large group of children to prevent them from being taken captive and forced to convert.

A second Rav who was with him at the time protested vehemently, even going so far as to denounce him as a murderer, but to no avail. The first Rav went through with his self-appointed task. The second Rav declared that should he be right, then the first Rav would die a horrible death. And that is precisely what happened ... The gentiles seized him and tore his skin from him, placing sand between them in order to increase the pain. Immediately after that the original decree was nullified, and it therefore transpired that had the Rav not slaughtered all those children, they would not have been taken captive.


Killing a Fetus

A Yisrael, who, under normal circumstances, is not permitted to abort a baby (unless it threatens its mother's life), is nevertheless not sentenced to death unless he kills a baby that has already been born and that is not a Nefel (i.e. sufficeintly healthy to survive thirty days).

The Gemara in Sanhedrin however, learns from the Pasuk "Shofech dam ho'odom bo'odom" (someone who spills the blood of a person inside a person "domo yishofech"), that a gentile who kills an unborn fetus receives the death-sentence.

Interestingly, the Tana Kama of the B'raisa (who disagrees with Rebbi Yishmael, the author of the current opinion), attaches the word 'bo'odom' to the subsequent phrase "bo'odom domo yishofech", from which he learns that the regular death-penalty of a gentile is strangulation (where the blood remains inside the body). But, as we mentioned earlier, we rule like R. Yishmael in this regard, and he is killed by the sword.

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Parshah Pearls
Adapted mainly from the P'ninei Torah

Theft, the Last Straw

"The end of all flesh has come before Me, because the world is filled with robbery" (6:33).

Their fate was only sealed on account of robbery, says Rashi.

The Torah Temimah explains this according to the Medrash which proves the importance of peace, by citing a Pasuk in Hoshei'a, which states that, as long as peace reigns in Yisrael, G-d Himself is unable to harm them and that it is only when it is lacking that He declares them guilty. And so it was with the generation of the Flood. As long as there was no robbery among them and they lived together harmoniously, they were not punished. And it was only when the era of peace came to an end that G-d sent the Flood.

This explanation is questionable however, inasmuch as it is possible for people to live in discord without robbing one another, and the Torah does not say that the people were quarrelsome, but that they robbed from one another (even going as far as to abduct a Kallah from under the Chupah, as Chazal explain).


It therefore seems more logical to say that G-d sealed their fate on account of robbery, because of all forbidden sins, stealing is undoubtedly the most obvious. It is such a terrible thing to do, that there is not a civilized person alive who would condone it, and that is what renders the sin unpardonable (See also K'li Yakar).


Refined Speech

"And from animals that are not Tahor" (7:8)

. The Pasuk added eight letters (by writing " ...asher einenah tehorah" instead of 'Temei'ah'), to teach us to speak in a refined manner (since at a very high level, the word 'tamei' has connotations of unrefined speech [Pesachim 3a]).

The question arises, why on numerous occasions, the Torah specifically uses the word "tamei" with regard to non-Kasher animals.

The commentaries explain however, that the Torah uses the word "Tamei" in connection with Halachah. If the Torah is coming to teach us that an animal is Tamei, then that is what it will say. Our case however, does not involve Halachos, but is merely a narrative, which explains why the Pasuk is more ready to deviate from the regular wording.


Stripped of His Titles

"And only No'ach remained" (7:23).

What happened to No'ach's titles 'Tzadik' and 'Tamim'?

Since during the hundred and twenty years that he was preparing for the Great Flood, explains R. Meir Shapiro, citing the Zohar, he was concerned exclusively with his own salvation, and made no effort to save the rest of the world, he was no longer No'ach the Tzadik and No'ach the Tamim, just No'ach.

(See 'Take off your fur coat, No'ach' later).


Alternatively, according to those who ascribe the Torah's initial description of No'ach to the fact that he lived in a generation of wicked people, it stands to reason that, now that the generation no longer existed, he became simply No'ach, and nothing more (Toldos).


Take off Your Fur Coat, No'ach

"Leave the ark!" (8:16).

No'ach is popularly described as 'a Tzadik in a fur coat!' Why is that?

Because, the commentaries explain, on a cold day, there are two ways of warming oneself; one is to put on a fur coat, the other, to light a fire.

The difference between the two methods is that in the latter case, others benefit from the heat too.

Granted, G-d commanded No'ach to build himself a large boat, and subsequently, caused it to float on the water in a way that saved No'ach and his family exclusively from drowning. But that was only because No'ach himself made no effort to save others from the impending disaster. For so Chazal have taught 'G-d leads a person on the path that he chooses for himself'. That explains why G-d now ordered No'ach "to leave the ark" ... to get involved in saving others (when the world became inhabited once again) and not just himself. In other words, He told him to take off his fur coat.


Not for Women

"And Hashem blessed No'ach and his sons and he said 'Be fruitful and multiply ... " (9:1).

Why did G-d confine the Mitzvah of 'P'ru u'Revu' to men only? Seeing as it is a Mitzvah that requires the woman's participation no less than the man's, would it not have made more sense to include the women in the obligation?

To be sure it would, says the Meshech Chochmah, only G-d is sensitive to a woman's feelings (as He is sensitive to the feelings of all His creations). And G-d did not consider it a nice thing to do to obligate women to perform a Mitzvah which puts their life at risk (since every childbirth carries with it an element of life danger). And he supplanted this shortcoming with a natural desire to marry and have children that is more poweful than that of men.

In similar vein, earlier in the Parshah, G-d commanded No'ach to go and fetch seven of each of the Kasher species of animals to bring into the ark (whereas all the non-Kasher species came by themselves), because it would not have been nice to ask them to come on their own, to subsequently be slaughtered by No'ach.


A Time to Pack Your Bags

"Ashur took leave of that land" (10:11).

When Ashur saw his sons listening to Nimrod and rebelling against Hashem by building the tower, he left the country and went on to build Ninveh, the capital of Assyria (Rashi).

The Gemara in Megilah explains that a Seifer-Torah written in the original K'sav Ivri does not render one's hands Tamei (because it is not an authentic Seifer), whereas one written in K'sav Ashuris (our script, which is also called K'sav Ivri because Avraham Avinu [also known by the title 'ha'Ivri'] used it) does. This was Ashur's reward for separating from those who rebelled against Hashem.

The Chochmas Chayim observes from here the high esteem in which Hashem holds people who make a stand against those who rebel against Him. Because Ashur refused to join the ranks of the rebels, he merited the eternalization of his name by having the holiest script in the world, that which is used to write G-d's eternal Torah, called after him.

It appears that the command "Hibodlu mi'toch ho'eidoh ha'zos!" (separate from this evil congregation) that G-d issued to Moshe and Aharon during the episode of Korach, was not said to that generation alone, but to all generations.


If You Wanna Fight

"Behold they are one nation ... and now shall we not withhold from them all that they have planned to do" (11:6)?

This is how Rashi translates the Pasuk. They used their unity to turn on G-d, so G-d made sure that their plans would not succeed.

The Binah la'Itim however, explains the Pasuk without the question mark. 'Now that they have used their unity to fight against Me', said Hashem, 'I will give them what they want'. G-d took away the foundation of their unity - their common language, and this resulted in constant in-fighting; when one man asked the other for a brick, he received cement instead, and a fight ensued.

Come to think of it, G-d did both. He gave them the fight that they wanted, and simultaneously, He disrupted their plans.

* * *

Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 32:
Not To Do Melachah on Shabbos

Neither are we permitted to do Melachah, nor may we permit our children, our slaves or our animals to do work on our behalf on Shabbos, as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:10) "You shall not do any Melachah ... ". It is obvious however, that even though the Torah incorporates all of the above in one La'av, they are not all equally significant ... If someone performs a Melachah himself on Shabbos, he is subject to Miysas Beis-Din (to be put to death at the hand of the Sanhedrin) should he transgress on purpose with two witnesses, whereas in the other aforementioned cases, he will not even receive Malkos, for there is no such thing as Reuven receiving Malkos for an act that Shimon (and certainly not an act that his animal) perpetrated, even though Reuven may have sinned, by allowing him to contravene the La'av.

From the wording of the Rambam in Hilchos Shabbos it seems that the La'av vis-a`-vis one's animal refers to someone who goes behind his animal holding the ploughing implements in his hand whilst the animal ploughs, because someone who merely goes behind his animal whilst it is carrying a load transgresses only an Asei. And this explains why, according to his interpretation, the Gemara in Shabbos (154a) refers to the La'av of Mechamer as a La'av 'she'Nitan le'Azharas Miysas Beis-Din' (a La'av which is subject to the death-penalty, for which one does not receive Malkos).

The Ramban however, disagrees with the Rambam. In his opinion, the La'av of Mechamer entails walking behind one's animal as it carries a load on his behalf, whilst he does not participate in the Melachah at all. Consequently, he is subject neither to Miysah nor to Malkos (as we explained), as Chazal have taught 'There is no Malkos for contravening a La'av without performing an act'; but he does transgress a La'av. Chazal also learned from the extra word "Atah ... u've'hemt'cha" that it is for a Melachah that one performs oneself that one is Chayav Miysah, but not for a Melachah performed by one's animal. For that one is Chayav in the same way as one is Chayav for a Melachah performed by one's young child and one's Eved. As for a Melachah performed by oneself, the Pasuk explicitly sentences him to death. And according to the Ramban, when the Gemara refers to Mechamer as a La'av she'Nitan le'Azharas Miysas Beis-Din, it is referring, not to Mechamer at all, but to the La'av of "Lo Sa'aseh Kol Melachah", which incorporates doing Melachah oneself (as we explained) for which one receives Miysah, even though Mechamer (which is incorporated in the La'av) does not.

And we have a precedent for this in Eiruvin (17b), where the Gemara refers to the La'av of "Al yeitzei ish mi'mekomo" (not leaving the T'chum) as a 'La'av she'nitan le'azharas miysas Beis-Din', because it also incorporates the prohibition of carrying on Shabbos, even though there is no death-penalty for walking outside the T'chum. And the Gemara learns that just as the former is not subject to Malkos, neither is the latter.

Reasons for the Mitzvah ... in order to be free from regular activities in honor of this day, so as to fix in our minds the fact that G-d created the world, to reinforce our belief, one day each week, in the concept that G-d created the world in six days and that on the seventh nothing was created, that on each day of the first six days various things were created, according to the express will of the Creator, thereby negating the loathsome opinion of the philosophers, who believe that when Hashem came into existence, everything else came into existence simultaneously. So if somebody was to ask us why we all desist from Melachah one day each week, and the answer would be " ... because in six days G-d created heaven and earth and on the seventh, He desisted", this would strengthen our belief in the creation. And furthermore, it reminds us of the exodus from Egypt, where we, as slaves, were not given the opportunity to desist from work when we wanted to. Therefore when G-d redeemed us from there, He commanded us to 'rest' on every seventh day. That is why the Pasuk in Seifer Devarim writes in connection with Shabbos "And you shall remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt ... therefore G-d commanded you to keep the Shabbos" (Devarim 8:15).

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... such as what are the (thirty-nine) Av (chief) Melachos for which the transgressor is Chayav listed by the Mishnah and what are their Toldos (offshoots). There are also the less severe Melachos which the Rabbanan added later to safeguard the Melachos d'Oraysa, and those that are referred to as 'Sh'vus' ... Chazal learn from a Pasuk that all of the above fall away in place of life-danger, and what's more, whoever promptly does whatever needs to be done to save the life of a fellow-Jew is praiseworthy. The reason for this is that the cause of Mitzvos being performed is man, so saving man from death is like saving everything. And it is for the same reason that the Gemara in Yuma (83a) rules that a sick person is believed when he says that he needs Shabbos to be broken on account of his health. Similarly, we will break the Shabbos for anyone who is bedridden with a high fever, as this too, is considered a life-threatening situation for which one may (must) desecrate Shabbos ... and the remaining details are dealt with in Shabbos and Beitzah.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere at all times to men and women alike, and whoever transgresses be'Meizid is subject to Sekilah (death by stoning), provided there are witnesses and warning (as is the case by all punishments at the hand of Beis-Din). The warning is in order to ascertain that they did not sin be'Shogeg. This rule is of major importance, and having said it here, the author will not repeat it each time it is relevant. If however, someone transgressed be'Shogeg, he is Chayav to bring a sin-offering.

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