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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to ParshaHomepage Previous Issues

Vol. 5 No. 25


What Does the Chochom Say?

The first of the four sons is the 'wise son'. The question is often asked: why does the Ba'al Hagodoh refer to him as the wise son? Why not the righteous son, since, when all's said and done, the opposite of 'wicked' (the title conferred on the second son) is 'righteous', not 'wise'?

Rabeinu Yonah, in Mishlei (23:24) commenting on the possuk "The father of a righteous man will be happy with him (yagil), and the one who bore a wise man will rejoice (yismach) with him," explains that just as 'simchah' is greater than 'gilah', so is a chochom greater than a tzadik - for two reasons: firstly, if the chochom would not be a tzadik too, then why would Shlomoh praise him (in other words, for a chochom to be praiseworthy, he must also be a tzadik). Secondly, someone who has knowledge, but fails to put it to good use, is no more a chochom than a liar who has studied the theory of honesty, but does not practise it. (In similar vein, the Chofetz Chayim described a 'lamdan', not just as someone who is able to learn, but as someone who learns too.)

In our case too, there are many righteous sons who practise good deeds, but who do not lay stress on Torah-study - the greatest mitzvah of all ('An unlearned person cannot be pious', the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos teaches us - but who says that he cannot be righteous!). The chochom discussed by the Torah in Parshas vo'Eschanan is not only a righteous son, but he is also wise. He is a son who wants to understand all of the Torah's teachings, but he wants to put them into practice too - otherwise, he would not be a chochom. Perhaps the Tom is the righteous son, the antithesis of the Rosho, as some commentaries explain - but he is not a chochom.

The chochom asks about the testimonies, the statutes and the judgements that Hashem has commanded. By testimonies, he means those mitzvos that were given to us as a reminder of the miracles that Hashem performed with us when He took us out of Egypt, such as Matzah, Succah, Pesach, Shabbos, Tefillin and Mezuzah; by statutes, he means the mitzvos whose reasons Hashem has hidden from us; and by judgements, he means the punishments that are due for those who transgress - stoning for someone who breaks Shabbos, burning for certain branches of incest, lashes for someone who sows kil'ayim, as well as the civil laws, which are also included in judgements - Ramban.

The Avudraham explaining these terms in the context of the Korban Pesach, describes testimonies as Matzah and Morror (which serve as a reminder of the poor bread and the bitter times respectively); the statutes as the laws pertaining to the Korban Pesach which do not appear to have any logical reason - such as not breaking any bones of the lamb (whilst eating it); and the judgements refer to the group of laws such as the prohibition of someone who is not circumcised eating the Korban Pesach, and similar laws regarding the Pesach, Matzah and Morror.

Many commentaries ask what it is that distinguishes the question of the chochom from that of the rosho, whom we castigate for using the term 'lochem' - to you, thereby precluding himself from G-d's service - when the chochom too, says 'eschem' - you, suggesting that, like the rosho, he precludes himself? However, if we examine the phraseology of the two sons, we will understand why this is not difficult. The rosho asks 'What is this service to you?' Considering that (a) he is referring to service - the performance of mitzvos and (b) he says 'this service', which implies that the mitzvah is being performed in front of him, there seems to be no reason as to why he should say 'you' and not 'us', since doing a mitzvah is within the scope of every Jew - unless he does not want to perform it.

The chochom on the other hand, speaks, not about the practice of mitzvos that he sees being performed, but of the deeper meaning of various aspects of mitzvos that he does not understand, but wants to. He says 'that Hashem commanded you' - because he does not understand them. He is looking up to the mitzvos and those who perform them - the rosho is looking down!

We, for our part, tell him everything, right down to the last detail 'Ein maftirin achar ha'Pesach Afikomon'.

The Gemoro gives two basic interpretations of this phrase: 1. 'Afiku monin' (take out your vessels); 2. 'Afiku minin' (take out other kinds of foods). This is what they mean:

1. We do not take leave of the Pesach by taking our vessels elsewhere to carry on eating there (a rabbinical decree, because one may then come to eat the Korban Pesach in two places, which is forbidden.) According to this interpretation, there is nothing wrong with eating after the Korban Pesach, provided one eats in the same location.

2. We do not take leave of the Pesach by taking out other kinds of food - i.e. it is forbidden to eat after the Pesach anything at all - in order that the taste of the Pesach remains in our mouths. Both of the above interpretations will apply nowadays, to the last piece of matzah that we eat in place of the Korban Pesach, which we call 'Afikomon' (a term borrowed from the Mishnah that we are discussing). Interestingly, Rebbi Akiva Eiger in his commentary on the Mishnah, quotes the Sefer Tishbi, who wonders why the early sages failed to note that the word 'Afikomon' is actually the ancient Greek word for dessert. This would seem to conform with the second explanation of the word that we quoted above - not to eat anything after the Pesach (or after the Afikomon) - and this is the halochoh.



When the Beis ha'Mikdosh stood, they would shecht the Pesach on the 14th Nissan after the daily afternoon Korban, the Tomid shel bein ha'arbayim. (Incidentally, it was the only korban that could be brought after the Korban tomid shel bein ha'arbayim.) Now that we no longer have the Beis ha'Mikdosh, we must 'pay the bulls with our lips'. It is therefore the duty of every Jew to study the laws of Korban Pesach on erev Pesach after Minchah ('How good is a thing in its right time!' - Mishlei 15:23). One first says the following:

'Master of the world, You commanded us to bring the Korban Pesach in its time, on the 14th of this month - that the Cohanim should perform the avodah, the Levi'im should sing and the Yisroelim who stood by the ma'mad, should recite Hallel. But now, on account of our sins, the Beis ha'Mikdosh is destroyed and the Korban Pesach is nullified. Now we have no Cohanim performing the avodah, no Levi'im singing and no Yisre'elim standing by the ma'amad. But didn't You say 'And let us pay the bulls with our lips!' Therefore, may it be Your will Hashem our G-d and the G-d of our fathers, that the speech of our lips should be considered before You as acceptable, as if we had brought the Pesach in its time, that we had stood by its ma'amad and the Levi'im had sung the shir and had praised Hashem.

Won't You establish Your Beis ha'Mikdosh on its base, so that we may bring before You the Pesach in its right time, just as You wrote about us in Your Torah, at the hands of Moshe Your servant, and it is written there: (One should then read the pesukim from Sh'mos 12:1-13).'

The following is the text of the Ya'avatz, who queried the standard version written by the Seder ha'Yom. This is the way the avodah of the Korban-Pesach was performed on the 14th Nissan:

Part I - The Sacrificing of the Pascal Lamb said on erev Pesach after Minchah
When was the Pesach brought

On erev Pesach, whether it fell on a weekday or on Shabbos, the Korban Tomid was shechted at seven and a half hours (approximately 1:30 p.m.) and the Korban- Pesach after it.

Who had to bring the Pesach

Each and every Jew, man or woman, and every member of one's household over bar or bas-mitzvah who was not impure was obliged to participate, except for a male who did not have bris milah (just as one's own milah prevented one from bringing or eating the Pesach, so too, did the milah of one's young children [provided it had fallen due], and the milah of one's male slaves of any age - and the tevilah of one's male or female slaves). Anyone who was able to reach Yerusholayim at the time of the shechitah was obliged to bring the Pesach.

What did the Pesach comprise

The Pesach consisted of a male lamb or goat in its first year. It did not require s'michah (leaning one's hands on it), as did a regular peace-offering.

The Shechitah

The Pesach was shechted anywhere in the Azoroh after the conclusion of the Tomid shel bein ho'arbayim and the arranging of the Menorah. It could not be shechted or its blood sprinkled, neither could its fat-pieces be burned, as long as one had chometz in one's possession. If any member of the group had one ke'zayis of chometz in his possession whilst any of the avodos of the Pesach were being performed, the performer received malkos (39 lashes), though the Korban was kosher.

Someone (even a non-Cohen) shechted the Pesach and the Cohen who was standing at the end of one of the rows of Cohanim leading from the Mizbei'ach, would receive the blood in a kli shoreis (a holy serving-vessel). He would pass it on to the next Cohen, who passed it on to the next one, and so on. The Cohen who was standing next to the Mizbei'ach would sprinkle it once on to the yesod (base), and would pass the bowl back to the next Cohen. Each Cohen would first receive the full bowl before passing the empty one back. All the Cohanim stood in rows holding bowls. Each row consisted of either golden bowls or silver ones, but not mixed. The bowls had no bases, so that the Cohahim should not put them down, thus causing the blood to congeal.

One would then suspend the Pesach on hooks attached to pillars in the slaughter-house (or on thin sticks that he would place on the shoulders of himself and a fellow Jew), and he proceeded to skin it entirely (on Shabbos only as far as the chest - beyond which one would scrape off with a metal implement). He tore open the stomach and removed the eimurin (the suet on the stomach, the lobe of the liver, the two kidneys, together with the suet that was on them and the fat-tail [of the lamb]). He then put all of these into a kli shoreis and salted them, after which the Cohen would burn them on the ma'arochoh (on the Mizbei'ach) - the fat pieces of each Pesach separately.

The eimurim had to be burnt by day - not by night, when it was already Yom-tov. However, if erev Pesach fell on Shabbos they could still be burnt all night (since it was permitted to burn the eimurim of Shabbos on Yom-tov). He removed the innards and washed them, until all traces of dung had been removed - so that they should be clean when he later roasted them together with the rest of the animal.

The shechitah and the sprinkling of the blood, washing the innards and burning the eimurim all overruled the prohibitions of Shabbos - other preparations did not.

To Shecht in 3 groups

The Pesach was shechted in three groups - each group consisting of no less than thirty people. The first group entered; the moment the Azoroh was full, the Levi'im closed the gates. Whilst the Pesach was being shechted and sacrificed, the Levi'im sang Hallel. If they finished Hallel before all the Pesochim had been sacrificed, then they began a second time and even a third time, if necessary. With each reading of Hallel they blew a teki'ah, teru'ah and teki'ah.

As soon as the first group had finished, they opened the gates. The first group then left the Azoroh and the second group entered. Once again, they closed the gates and the same procedure was followed, and the same with the third group.

Washing out the Azoroh
After the third group had left, they washed out the Azoroh to remove the blood - even on Shabbos. This is how it was done:

A stream of water passed through the Azoroh. Whenever they decided to wash the floor, they simply stopped up the outlet in the wall, from which the stream left the Azoroh, and the water automatically collected and filled the Azoroh, gathering in the process, all the loose blood and dirt from the floor. They then removed the stopper from the wall, and the water would flow out, taking with it all the dirt. The Azoroh was now clean - and that was kovod ha'Bayis.

Part II - Preparing the Lamb for Eating

The Roasting

Everyone then left with his Pesach (and with the skin), which they proceeded to roast (anywhere in Yerusholayim). How did they roast it? They brought a spit-rod of pomegranate wood (which does not exude much water) and stuck it through its mouth until its tail. They suspended it into the oven (from the top), while the fire burnt below. Its legs and its innards were hung outside it. They did not pierce the meat of the Pesach as one does with other meat for roasting. On Shabbos, they did not take the Pesach home (since they were not permitted to carry). Instead, the first group went with their Pesach and sat on the Har ha'Bayis (the outer precincts of the Beis ha'Mikdosh). The second group took their Pesach to the Chil (an area in the Beis ha'Mikdosh within the Har ha'Bayis), whereas the third group remained where it was (in the Courtyard). As soon as it became dark, they took their Pesochim 'home' and roasted them.

The Korban Chagigah

When they brought the Korban Pesach on the 14th Nissan, they brought with it a Peace-offering from the herd or from the flock. Unlike the Pesach, it could be any age, male or female, and it was called 'the Chagigah of the 14th' (as opposed to the regular Chagigah, brought on the first day of each of the Sholosh regolim). It is regarding this Korban that the Torah writes "And you shall shecht a Pesach to Hashem your G-d, sheep or cattle" (Devorim 16:2). This Chagigah is not obligatory by Torah law, only voluntary. Nevertheless, the Rabbonon obliged one to bring it (under the conditions discussed in the following paragraph) in order that the Pesach should be eaten in a state of satisfaction (i.e. that it was the eating of the Pesach that, like a dessert, left them satisfied).

When does one bring a Chagigah together with the Pesach?
(1) When erev Pesach falls on a weekday (but not on Shabbos);
(2) When the Pesach is brought in a state of purity (i.e. if most of the community are tomei, one brings the Pesach, but not the Chagigah);
(3) When the Pesach is too small to satisfy all the participants.

Other Details of the Chagigah

The Chagigah may be eaten for two days and one night (i.e. till the end of the first day of Pesach), and it has all the other dinim of a Peace-offering: it requires semichah (that the owner leans his hands heavily on the animal's head), a drink offering (flour, oil and wine, as specified in Bamidbor 15:4-10), sprinkling the blood on two diagonally opposite corners of the Mizbei'ach (i.e. the N.E. and the S.W.) and pouring the remains of the blood onto its base. This is the arrangement of the avodah of the Korban Pesach and the Chagigah that came with it in the House of our G-d, may it be built speedily in our days. Omen.

Seder Pearls
(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhogim)

Can't Wait

'Someone who eats Matzoh on the fourteenth of Nissan, it is as if he had lain with his betrothed in the house of his father-in-law to be' (Yerushalmi). The Levush explains the connection with the Chazal 'A bride, without the sheva b'rochos, is forbidden to her husband like a nidah'.

In similar vein, it is forbidden to eat the matzoh before reciting seven b'rochos: the three b'rochos of Kiddush (Yayin, Kiddush and Shehechiyonu), Netilas yodayim, Borei pri ho'adomah (over the vegetables - karpas), ha'motzi and al achilas matzoh. (It is not however clear, what happened to the b'rochoh of 'asher ge'olonu' which would make a total of eight b'rochos instead of seven?)

Doing It Oneself

The Maharil writes that it is a mitzvah to work on one's matzos personally. Indeed, he writes, this is what the Rosh used to do - based on the possuk in Bo, which describes how Yisroel left Egypt with the remains of their doughs "wrapped in their cloths on their shoulders". Now why did they do that, considering that they had plenty of animals, who could easily have carried their doughs for them?

It is to demonstrate their love for an object of mitzvah, and because it is a mitzvah to busy oneself with the mitzvos, as the Gemoro says in Perek Kol Kisvei - citing many Amora'im, who, despite their servants, would each perform a special task in honour of the Shabbos.

And yet a third reason is because matzoh is called 'lechem oni' (bread of the poor), and it is the way of a poor man to personally light the fire, and then his wife begins to knead.

The Three Matzos

The reason that we take three matzos at the Seder is because Avrohom told Soroh to take three sa'ah of flour - on Pesach, the Chag that symbolises Hashem's chesed (and Pesach corresponds to Avrohom Ovinu [the symbol of chesed]. The mitzvah to break the middle matzoh corresponds to the splitting of the Reed Sea and the River Yarden, both of which took place on Pesach).

Pour Your Wrath

As we pour out the fourth cup of wine, we say 'Sh'foch chamoscho' - pour out Your wrath against the nations. Why is that?

Rabeinu Bachye explains that, in the same way as the four cups represent the four expressions of redemption for the Jews, so too, do they represent the four cups of punishment for the wicked nations of the world. What he probably means is this: Besides referring to the four expressions of redemption that Hashem used in Egypt, the four cups also refer to the four nations who subsequently subjugated us (the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans, as hinted in the four kings in Lech Lecho).

In fact, those four 'exiles' were an extention of the exile in Egypt, to make up for the 190 years that we left Egypt prematurely.

So, when we pour out the fourth and final cup of wine, symbolising the final redemption from the exile known as 'the Roman exile', we ask that, just as Hashem is about to fulfill the four cups of redemption with Klal Yisroel, so too, may He fulfill the four cups of punishment with those evil nations, who, over the centuries, caused his children such untold suffering.

Part III

PART 111 Eating the Lamb

The Mitzvah of Eating the Korban Pesach

It is a positive mitzvah to eat the meat of the Korban Pesach on the night of the 15th of Nissan, as the Torah writes: "And they shall eat the meat on this night, roasted in fire, and matzos, with the morror they shall eat it" (Sh'mos 12:8).

To Eat to Satisfaction - the Chagigah - the B'rochoh - Hallel

The ideal mitzvah is to eat the meat of the Pesach to satisfaction. Therefore, if one brought a Shalmei Chagigah on the 14th, one would eat that first, and afterwards the Pesach, in order to reach the stage of satisfaction with it. However, even if one only ate a kezayis, one would have fulfilled one's obligation. Both of them (the Chagigah and the Pesach) must be eaten roasted in fire (not pot-roasted), and each of them requires a b'rochoh: over the Pesach one recites - "...who sanctified us and commanded us to eat the Pesach" whereas over the Chagigah he concludes ... "to eat the Zevach" (i.e. the Shlomim). The Pesach requires Hallel to be said whilst it is being eaten (but not the Chagigah). Rav said in the name of R. Chiyah: "only one kezayis of Pesach, and their Hallel split the roof" (Pesochim 85b).

Roasting the Pesach

One may not roast the Pesach on stone or metal vessels, or using a spit-rod of metal. How does one roast it? On a spit-rod of pomegranate wood, which one sticks through the mouth until its tail. And one impales its legs and its innards onto the spit-rod above the mouth of the lamb, which is then suspended in the oven with the fire below.

How it Should or Should Not be Eaten

The Pesach is not eaten raw or cooked, nor can it be eaten in two groups (i.e. half the lamb in one group and the other half in another), neither may one take one's portion from one group to another, nor may one person eat from two Pesochim - since one cannot be designated on two Pesochim, and the Korban Pesach required designation prior to the Shechitah. Only a tohor Jew who had had bris milah could be designated. Just as someone who had sons or non-Jewish slaves who were uncircumcised, could not shecht the Pesach, so too could he not eat it.

Someone who broke a bone of a tohor Pesach received malkos (30 lashes). Since this applied even not on Pesach night, one burnt the bones of the Pesach, together with the leftover meat (on Chol ha'Mo'ed), in order to avoid sinning (by breaking the bones).

Which Parts of the Pesach to Eat

One may only eat of a tender kid, those parts of meat that were fit to be eaten on a fully-grown ox.

To Eat it before Midnight

The Pesach could only be eaten on the night of the 15th Nissan till midnight. The meat of the Chagigah that was served at the table with the Korban Pesach and was left over, was burnt with the Pesach, as were all the dishes that were served with it, since they could all only be eaten until midnight.

The Differences Between the Pesach of Egypt and of Subsequent Generations The Pesach of Egypt differed from the Pesach of future generations in three wasy: 1) It had to be taken on the tenth; 2) One placed blood on the lintel and doorposts (inside) with a hyssop-twig; 3) It was eaten 'in haste' (loins girded, wearing shoes and with stick in hand).

That is the mitzvah of eating the Pesach. May the Merciful G-d grant us the merit to eat it in our holy city Yerusholayim, speedily in our days. And may the possuk which writes "because not in haste will you go out, and you will not flee as you walk, because Hashem is going before you and the G-d of Yisroel is gathering you," come true. "Like the days that we left the land of Egypt, He will show us wonders." And the words of our G-d will stand forever. His uplifted right-hand will perform fearful deeds."

(The Mitzvos Asei)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

24. To speak about the Exodus from Egypt on the fifteenth of Nissan - as the Torah writes in Parshas Bo (13:8) "And you shall tell your sons on that day". It is a mitzvah to inform each son according to his level of understanding. Someone who has no son is nevertheless obliged to relate the Exodus. And the more one relates about the Exodus, the more praiseworthy it is. Our Sages divided the Haggodoh into four major sections (Kiddush, Haggodoh, the Se'udah cum Birchas ha'Mazon and Hallel) - each one to be recited over a cup of wine.

They also stressed the importance of discussing the three key issues, Pesach, Matzoh and Morror. Failing this, one has not properly fulfilled one's obligation. This mitzvah applies everywhere, at all times, to men and women alike.

25. To desist from work on the first day of Pesach - as the Torah writes in Emor (Vayikro 23:7) "On the first day is a holy calling". Work that entails preparing food is permitted on behalf of a Jew, but not for a gentile (or for an animal), as the Torah writes in Bo (Sh'mos 12:16) "Only what is eaten by all Souls, that alone shall be done for you" (but neither for gentiles, nor for animals).

Someone who performs work other than preparation of food, has nullified this positive mitzvah, besides having transgressed a negative one (as will be explained in mitzvah 147 of the mitzvos lo sa'aseh). Lighting a fire and carrying are permitted, even if they are not performed for the preparation of food, provided they are needed for Yom-tov. It is a rabbinical obligation to keep two days Yom-tov in Chutz lo'Oretz, though in Eretz Yisroel, one keeps only one. Rosh Hashonoh however, consists of two days even in Eretz Yisroel.

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

26. To count seven complete weeks from the day that the Omer is brought in the Beis ha'Mikdosh - as the Torah writes in Emor (Vayikro 23:15) "And you shall count for yourselves . . . seven complete weeks". It is a mitzvah to count the days together with the weeks, as the Torah writes (ibid. 16) "You shall count fifty days".

One begins to count from the beginning of the sixteenth night of Nissan. This counting requires a b'rochoh, though someone who counted without one has nevertheless fulfilled the mitzvah.

One should count standing, though one has fulfilled the mitzvah even if he counted sitting. Nowadays, most commentaries agree that, since we have no Beis ha'Mikdosh, Sefiras ho'Omer is only a mitzvah mi'de'Rabbonon, in memory of the Beis ha'Mikdosh. The mitzvah applies everywhere, and at all times (according to those who hold that counting is a mitzvah even nowadays, but according to most commentaries, it only applies at the time when the Beis ha'Mikdosh stands). It applies to men but not to women.

27. To desist from work on the seventh day of Pesach - as the Torah writes in Parshas Emor "On the seventh day is a holy calling". Its Din is exactly the same as that of desisting from work on the first day of Pesach (mitzvah 25). This mitzvah applies everywhere, at all times, to men and women alike.

About The Mitzvos

The word 'Torah' by definition, means guide, and although it serves as a guide for every facet of life and human endeavour, it is primarily, a handbook of mitzvos, as this is its most important function. This is why Rashi opens his commentary on the Chumash by informing us that in reality, the Torah should have begun with 'ha'Chodesh ha'zeh lochem', which deals with the first mitzvah given to Klal Yisroel as a nation (that of Rosh Chodesh combined with the mitzvah of Pesach).

This clearly indicates the importance of mitzvos, whose performance forms the basis of Judaism. A good heart is important, indeed it is the ultimate that G-d expects of us, but that is in conjunction with observing the mitzvos, not without it. Imagine a person walking in Olom ha'Bo with a large, healthy heart, and a deformed body! And have Chazal not said that our bodies in the World to Come will be reconstructed in accordance with the mitzvos (both positive and negative) that we perform here in this world.

This also explains the final possuk of the Creation, where, speaking of the six days that G-d created the world (and the six thousand years that constitute the duration of this world) it concludes "... because on it (the Shabbos) He rested from all His work, which G-d created to do". He created the world for us to do, to be active in the sphere of mitzvos. With mitzvos, a Jew can develop his character in other areas of spiritual growth; without them, he has not even reached the starting line, and this is where the many sects that branched from Judaism (among them the Christians at the time of the Second Beis ha'Mikdosh, and the Reform today) went wrong - badly wrong. They tried to replace practical Judaism with various philosophies, but, as we have explained, that is alien to Torah Judaism. It is doomed to failure.

Chazal have said in Sotoh (21a) that Torah, whilst one studies it, both shields from punishment and prevents a person from sinning; at the time when he is not studying it, it shields from punishment but does not prevent him from sinning. Mitzvos, both when they are being performed and when they are not, have the power to shield from punishment, but do not prevent one from sinning. For sponsorships and adverts call 02 6519 502
Please book your sponsorship or ad well in advance, wherever possible.

Back to ParshaHomepage | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel