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 this week's Parsha Subscribe to receive your
weekly parsha paper via email.
Previous Issues

Vol. 6 No. 42

Parshas Re'ei

The Choice to be Lazy
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"Because it is winter, the indolent man does not plough; then when he asks for the harvest, there is none" (Mishlei 20:4).

Shlomoh ha'Melech attempts in Seifer Mishlei to clarify all the good characteristics, so that a person should steer clear of the bad ones and go for them instead. Among those good and bad characteristics are z'rizus (alacrity, industriousness) on the one hand, and indolence (the root of much damage and the cause of many projects not succeeding) on the other.


There are four areas of indolence: in the house, in personal matters, in character-traits and in Torah and mitzvos and good deeds.

In the house - a roof needs to be repaired for example, and, were the owner to fix it right away, it could be done with minimal expense. But he is too lazy to settle down to the job. In the end, it costs him a fortune, sometimes even resulting in poverty. About such a person Shlomoh writes in Koheles "Due to laziness the repairer becomes poor".


In personal matters - If a person makes the necessary effort regarding his personal needs and sustenance, if he is happy with his lot and makes do with what he has without seeking luxuries, he will succeed in supporting himself and his family. But if he is lazy, and gives no thought to these matters, relying on miracles alone, he will die of starvation, as Shlomoh wrote in Mishlei "The soul of the lazy man desires (everything), but he has nothing".


In character-traits - because souls can be compared to fields; there are fields that are easy to till and fields that are difficult. Yet one does not leave the difficult field to go to ruin; one works on it to the best of one's ability. And so it is with human souls: There are good souls that easily accept mussar (reproof), and by whom little effort is required to put them on the right path; and there are those souls that, due to their antagonism, are difficult to draw after the intellect. Yet if one makes the effort to rectify one's characteristics - just as one works on one's land - there is not the slightest doubt that, little by little, he will succeed in acquiring good character-traits. That is why Shlomoh, in another possuk in Mishlei, compares someone who gives reign to his desires, without bothering to control them, to someone who ignores his field, allowing it to grow wild.


In Torah and mitzvos and good deeds - If someone is too lazy to acquire knowledge and does not trouble himself to perform mitzvos and good deeds in this world, how will he earn himself a place in the World to Come?


And that is why Shlomoh writes here "Because it is winter the indolent man does not plough" ... likening every indolent man in whichever of the four areas it might be, to a farmer who works on the land, who sits idle during the winter and does not plough. He compares this world to the winter, the season in which the moon governs, and the World to Come (the more significant of the two worlds) to the summer, in which the sun rules.

It is well-known that the sun and moon in the sky are symbolical, and that the sun is the more significant. So too, in Shir Hashirim, Shlomoh compares the exile to the winter and the redemption to the summer . And so Chazal have said in Avodah Zoroh (3a). 'This world is like erev Shabbos and the World to Come, like Shabbos - someone who takes the trouble to prepare on erev Shabbos, will eat on Shabbos; if he does not prepare here, what will he eat there?'

Just as Shabbos is a day of rest, and not one of work or of effort, so too is the World to Come a world of rest and of reward, not one of work. That is why "when he asks for the harvest, there is none".


And notice that Shlomoh writes "me'choref" (out of fear of the winter) and not "be'choref" (in the winter) because it is the way of the lazy man to find excuses in order to free himself of his obligations, as the posuk writes in Mishlei "The lazy man says that there is a lion in the street". In the same way, he will tell you that he did not plough because of the cold. And the reason that Shlomoh constantly denigrates the trait of laziness is in order to make it despicable in the eyes of the people, to distance themselves from it and to rather adopt 'industriousness'. That is also why he points to the ant, advising the lazy people to learn from it, when he writes in Mishlei "Go to the ant, lazy person, study its ways and become wise". Because one can learn from the ant how to be industrious, even if it is the smallest of creatures. For the ant gathers and stores in advance what it will need at a time when it will not be able to do so. What's more, when it finds grains on which the rain fell and which will spoil in storage, it exposes them to the air to dry before finally storing them.

"The ant has no officer, policeman or ruler" Shlomoh says, meaning that its actions are prompted not by common-sense, but by pure instinct. For common-sense ('seichel') has three names: 'wisdom, understanding and knowledge', all of which are confined exclusively to the human race, and all of which belong to one group. By the same token, the three descriptions 'officer', 'policeman' and 'ruler' all symbolize the characteristic of z'rizus. With the characteristic of z'rizus one is able to procure life in the World to Come; with indolence he will lose it. With z'rizus he fulfills the mitzvos, on account of which he gains life, goodness and blessing; with indolence he brings upon himself death, evil and curse. For man has been given the choice, and everything depends upon his choice and his willingness.

All matters that concern him are handed to him, to do good or to do bad, to earn blessing if he chooses to do good, and curse if he chooses to do evil, as the Torah writes: "See I am placing before you today blessings and curses".


Parshah Pearls


Hashem Replenishes

"You shall surely smite the inhabitants of that town ... and He will give you mercy, and have mercy upon you and increase you" (13:16 and 18).

The double expression ("and He will give you mercy and have mercy upon you") appears superfluous, and begs explanation.

The Chofetz Chayim points out that something that a person does a number of times becomes second nature. For example, he says, someone who practises acts of kindness often, will become a kind-hearted person. Indeed, the Rambam, commenting on a Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos, rules that someone who has a large sum of money to donate to tzedokoh, should on principle, rather give many small donations, than one large one, because giving many times trains a person to become a giver. Consequently, when destroying the inhabitants of an entire city (numbering perhaps, a few thousand) there is a strong suspicion that nature will take its course, and the appointees of Beis-din, who are obligated to kill so many people, will end up by becoming imbued with a streak of cruelty and a lust for murder. Therefore the Torah writes "and He will give you mercy" etc. - not only will he repay you for the mitzvah you performed with mercy, but He will also give you mercy, He will replace the natural mercy that is the hallmark of a Jew and that was drained from you by virtue of your actions, with a fresh mercy of His own, so that you will remain as merciful as you were before. Because 'someone who perfoms a mitzvah will not lose out by it'.


Heads I Win, Tails I Win!

Similarly, adds the Ma'asei la'Melech, the Rambam writes in Hilchos Matnos Aniyim: 'Nobody ever became poor on account of the tzedokoh that he gave'. Just like here, Hashem replaces the mercy that one gave away in His service, so too, by tzedokoh, does He replace the money that one gives away in His service. That is why the Gemoro in Ta'anis (Daf 9a) 'Try Me out', says Hashem 'and see if I don't re-place every penny that you give for tzedokoh.


Making Up the Numbers

To complete the picture, the Or ha'Chayim (who preceded the Chofetz Chayim with regard to the above explanation) also comments on the word "and He will increase you" ("ve'hirbecho"). In fact, he explains it exactly as he did the previous phrase: Maybe you will be concerned about the breach that the extermination of a whole town will cause in your numbers. Therefore, the Torah writes "And He will increase you". You will find that your numbers too, will be replenished.

Don't Add or Subtract and Don't Add or Subtract

"The entire thing that I command you today that you shall observe - do not add to it and do not subtract from it" (13:1).

But has the Torah not already warned us about this in Parshas Vo'eschanan (4:2), asks the Gro? Why does it see fit to repeat the same la'av again?

He explains that in Vo'eschanan, the Torah is referring to adding and subtracting whole mitzvos to or from the six hundred and thirteen mitzvos (like Yerovom ben Nevot, who added a new Yom-tov), whereas here, the Torah is speaking about adding or subtracting something to or from a mitzvah, such as five or three parshiyos in the Tefillin, or five or three tzitzis (instead of four). That is why the Torah writes here "the entire thing that I command you today, that you shall observe ... " - perform the mitzvah the way I instructed you, Hashem is saying "Don't add to it and don't subtract from it."

Rashi, who comments in both places "five parshiyos in the Tefillin, five kinds in the lulav etc., will need to answer the Gro's question (why does the Torah see fit to repeat itself?).


Sharing the Honours

"Six days you shall eat matzos and on the seventh is a Yom-tov for Hashem ... " (16:8) The Gemoro in Pesochim (68b) points to a discrepancy between our posuk and the posuk in Pinchos which writes " ... it shall be a Yom-tov for you". Rebbi Yehoshua (disagreeing with R. Eliezer, who offers one the possible choice of either physically enjoying Yom-tov all day or of studying Torah all day - spending the entire day directly in G-d's service) rules that one is obliged to divide the day, half for Hashem and half for oneself.

The Gro explains that in Rebbi Yehoshua's opinion, it is impossible to give one the option of physically enjoying the whole day, because the Torah has already written "for Hashem"(and vice versa). Therefore Rebbi Yehoshua concludes 'Divide it into two - dividing the word "la'Hashem" into two and dividing "lochem" into two as well. Half of "la'Hashem" (56) = 28 and half of "lochem" (90) = 45. 28 + 45, concludes the Gro, = 73, the numerical value of Yom-tov.


The Shema
(Part XXIX)
And You Shall See It (Oso)

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that anyone who keenly observes the mitzvah of tzitzis will merit to greet the Shechinah; it is written here "And you will see it" (Oso) and it is written in Vo'eschanan "Hashem your G-d you shall fear, and Him (Oso) you shall serve" (Menochos 43b). The Yerushalmi derives this from the fact that the Torah uses the singular ("u're'isem oso") and not "osom", in spite of the fact that it refers to the eight threads of the tzitzis. Whatever the case, it is hardly surprising that a mitzvah that causes a person to remember and keep all the mitzvos, that reminds him that he is standing before Hashem's Throne, and that is equal to all the mitzvos, should provide him with the opportunity of greeting the Shechinah.

I Am Hashem your G-d

"I am Hashem", explains Rashi - who can be relied upon to reward (those who observe the mitzvos); "your G-d" - who can be relied upon to punish (those who do not); "who took you out from the land of Egypt to be for you a G-d" -( in order that you undertake to keep My decrees!). It is a fallacy to believe that Hashem took us out of Egypt to set us free from Par'oh's cruel yoke of bondage. The Korban Pesach and the multiple avodah that accompanied it, Sefiras ho'Omer and Mattan Torah are all clear evidence that, as much as Hashem was concerned for our liberty and our rights to live as free men, His chief concern was the mental and spiritual slavery to which we were subjected, that we were forced to remain under the jurisdiction of Par'oh and not under His. And that is why the Torah writes here: "I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt to be for you a G-d", not so that you may enjoy your own freedom, but so that you should serve Me because, as Chazal have taught us, a free man who does not serve G-d is a slave to his own desires, and that can hardly be termed genuine 'freedom'.

There is Only One Path

The very same words with which the posuk began! The Torah sees fit to repeat them, explains Rashi, to add a whole new dimension to the fulfillment of mitzvos, so that Yisroel should not say that, when all's said and done, the Torah was given to us for our benefit, not for Hashem's. It is we who will receive reward for the mitzvos that we perform, sometimes in this world, sometimes in the World to Come. O.K. then, we will forego the reward and be free to go our own way. Therefore the Torah adds "I am Hashem your G-d" - I am your King whether you like it or not, and you will have to do as I say or pay for it.

There are many Jews who believe that they are free to adopt Judaism, and free to drop it in favour of the life-style of their choice. There are others who know full-well that they are Jews and would not dream of exchanging Judaism for any other way of life. Yet they are equally convinced that within the framework of Judaism, the mitzvos they choose to keep or to discard, or the extent to which they will observe each mitzvah, is their own business. G-d has given them the freedom of choice, and it is up to them to accept or to reject it, as they see fit.

It is these two groups of people whom the Torah is addressing. We were given the freedom of choice at Har Sinai, but once we proclaimed 'Na'aseh ve'nishma' we undertook to observe each and every mitzvah to its fullest extent.

Not so, you may well ask. The Torah in Nitzovim (30:15) clearly presents us with two paths, leaving us to choose which one we decide to tread?

The answer lies in the very same posuk which offers us the free choice - "See I have given before you life and good, death and evil", as Rashi explains there, the two are interdependent: if you do good, you will earn life and if you do evil you will earn death. Clearly then, the choice is a factual one only, not a moral one. For a Jew there is really only one path!

For sponsorships and adverts call 6519 502

Back to this week's Parsha | 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
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel