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

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Vol. 8   No. 42

This issue is sponsored by Eliezer and Rachelle Chrysler
in honour of the birth of Miriam Yeres n.y.
May she be a constant source of nachas
to her parents and to all of K'lal Yisrael

Parshas Re'ei

To Be Poor Or Not To Be Poor

Rashi raises the question that the Pasuk "But there shall not be any poor among you" (15:4), seems to contradict the Pasuk later (15:11) "Because poor men will not cease from the midst of the land". To resolve the problem, he connects the former Pasuk to the Pasuk that follows ("Only when you will obey the voice of Hashem"), intimating that it is when Yisrael adhere to the Mitzvos that they will all be wealthy. Until that time, there will always be poor people in Yisrael.

The Seforno suggests that the generation that entered the land with Yehoshua witnessed the fulfillment of the first Pasuk, and the blessing extended into the days of the elders who succeeded him. Whereas the latter Pasuk was destined to come true after the death of those elders, when their adherence to Torah and Mitzvos would deteriorate, as Moshe had predicted (see Rashi, Devarim 31:29).


The Gemara in Shabbos (151b) maintains that the Utopia inherent in our interpretation of the first Pasuk will never materialize. Shmuel there extrapolates from the second Pasuk that, materially speaking, the era of Mashi'ach will not differ from the preceding eras, and that it is only with regard to the attitude of the Goyim and their jurisdiction over us that a drastic change for the better will take place.

Perhaps that is what prompts the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (33a) to interpret the first Pasuk in a different light, too. Rav there, commenting on the Pasuk "But there shall not be any poor among you", states that one's own situation takes priority over someone else's. Among other things, this grants a person the right to search for his own lost article before someone else's (even if that someone else happens to be his father or his Rebbe). Rav clearly, views the Pasuk, not as a B'rachah, but as a Mitzvah (or at least, a concession).

And it is in this light that Rebbi Yochanan (in Ta'anis 21a) cites both Pesukim. He cites the former Pasuk, when he and his colleague Ilfa decide to leave Yeshivah 'to seek their fortune', and the latter Pasuk, when, after hearing the Heavenly voice proclaim that one of them is destined for greatness, he opts to return and continue with his studies.


Rebbi Yochanan and Ilfa must have weighed up their situation before making their initial decision to leave the four walls of the Yeshivah and to enter the world of business. They clearly viewed not being poor (with all the trials that poverty brings in its wake) as an obligation. And they probably based their decision on the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (2:2) 'Any Torah that is not accompanied by work, will eventually be rendered valueless'. And it was only after Rebbi Yochanan became aware of his potential contribution to K'lal Yisrael, that he accepted the lot of being one of those who are destined to be poor.

Incidentally, Rebbi Yochanan's fortunes changed upon his appointment as Rosh Yeshivah (see Rashi in Ta'anis) This is hardly surprising, in view of the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (4:9 ) 'Whoever studies Torah in poverty, will eventually study it in wealth'.


The Chofetz Chayim explains our opening Pasuk in the context of the Parshiyos that precede it, as well as the Parshah that follows (differently than Rashi). He points out how the Torah just issued the Parshiyos of Ma'aser Rishon, Ma'aser Sheini and Ani, and is about to present the Parshah of Sh'mitah. In effect, this means that every landowner has to give away close to a third of his crops each year. Now bearing in mind that regular land- profits total only one fifth (as is evident from the Pesukim at the end of Vayigash), this doesn't leave much leeway for profit. The obvious conclusion would therefore be to concentrate on business, in order to make one's money. But there again, the Torah orders us, on the one hand to lend money to those who need it, and on the other, to forego all debts at the end of the Sh'mitah.


And this is where the Torah warns us "But there shall not be any poor among you", implying that we should take care not to cause our own material decline, because it is our own sins that lead to poverty. And when the Torah continues "because I will bless you in all your endeavors ... ", it implies that it is not from Hashem that poverty will come, because He will bless all our undertakings, irrespective of how much we give away in His Name (or perhaps commensurate with it).


The important thing, the Chofetz Chayim concludes, is to bear in mind, that nobody becomes poor through the fulfillment of Mitzvos, and that if it strikes a person that a certain Mitzvah caused him a loss, he should know that G-d will inevitably supplement that loss from another source. Because that is how Chazal in Sanhedrin (99b) explain the Pasuk in Mishlei (16:26) 'When you work in Torah in one place, the Torah works for you somewhere else!'


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the Peninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro)
Don't Add and Don't Subtract

"You shall observe to do each and every thing that I am commanding you today, do not add to it and do not subtract from it" (13:1).

But has the Torah not already issued the same command earlier in Va'eschanan (4:2 see Rashi in both places)? Why does it need to repeat it here?


In fact, the two Pesukim are referring to two different things. The Pasuk in Va'eschanan is speaking about adding or subtracting a Mitzvah to or from the Taryag Mitzvos, whereas here it is referring to adding or subtracting to or from one of the Mitzvos (three Tzitiyos, two pairs of Tefilin, two Lulavim or adding or detracting a Pasuk to or from Birchas Kohanim).

And this is borne out by the expression used by the Torah here "Each thing (Mitzvah) that I command you today, do not add to it and do not subtract from it", whereas the earlier pasuk speaks about adding to the Torah's commandments generally, or subtracting from them.


Give and Give Again

"Give a tenth (Aser te'aser) of all the produce of your seeds" (14:22).

Usually, when the Torah uses a double expression, such as "Shalei'ach teshalach es ha'eim ... " ('Send the mother bird away ... '), we extrapolate that one is obligated to do it again and again (even a hundred times. And this is how the Gemara explains "Hasheiv Teshiveim", "Hochi'ach tochi'ach" and "Noson titein").


Here however, it is not possible to explain "Aser te'aser" in quite the same way because, assuming that these words allude to the Mitzvah of Ma'ser Kesofim (giving one tenth of one's money to charity, though this is not the simple explanation of the Pasuk), Chazal have taught that one may not give more than a fifth of one's income. In that case, it would be forbidden to give a hundred times.

And that explains why Chazal explain this double expression to mean 'Aser bishvil she'tisasher' ('Give a tenth in order to becomes rich). In that way, someone who gives Ma'aser, is assured of wealth, and the more he gives, the wealthier he becomes. In this way, one is able to give many times (so that the double expression here matches the double expression everywhere else), but without clashing with either of the two above-mentioned Chazal.


The Seventeen B'rachos

"Ki bi'glal ha'dovor ha'zeh (for, because of this thing - of your having given tzedokoh) Hashem will bless you" (15:10).

The numerical value of the word "ha'zeh" is seventeen (which is the equivalent of 'tov' [good, with its own independent connotations]).

This hints to Chazal, who say in Bava Basra (9b), that someone who gives Tzedokoh is blessed with six b'rochos, whereas someone who appeases him, is blessed with eleven b'rochos, making a total of seventeen b'rochos for giving him a donation and speaking kind words to him as well.


There's No Need to Rush

"Because you went out of Egypt in a hurry" (16:3).

With regard to the redemption from the current Galus, Yeshayah writes "Because you will not go out in a hurry, and you will not flee (52:12)".

There are two reasons as to why a person runs; either in order to escape from the place that he is leaving, or to arrive quicker at his destination.

One 'flees' in order to escape from one's current location and 'hurries' towards one's destination.


Both of these, says the G'ro, applied to the Exodus from Egypt. On the one hand, Yisrael were fleeing from the Egyptians, and on the other, they were hurrying towards Har Sinai, in order to receive the Torah (though it is not then clear why the Pasuk there does not once mention the word 'flee').

Yeshayah is teaching us that at the time of the third redemption, neither will be necessary. There will be nobody chasing us, so we will not need to flee, nor will we be in a hurry to arrive at our destination, because Hashem (our ultimate objective) will be accompanying us along the way. He will be right there, all the time.


All the Days of Your Life

"In order that you remember the day that you left Egypt all the days of your life" (16:3).

The Gemara in B'rachos (12b) cites two opinions as to why the Torah writes here "all the days of your life". ben Zoma explains that "the days of your life" refers to the days; whilst the word "all" comes to include the nights (to teach us the obligation to mention the Exodus from Egypt by night as well as by day). Whereas according to the Rabbanan, "the days of your life" refers to the days of this world, whilst "all" comes to include the era of Olam ha'Bo, when the obligation will be extended.


The basis of this dispute lies in the two implications of the word "Kol". 'The whole of' or 'all', and that will determine whether "Kol ha'Yomim" means the whole of each day (including nights, like ben Azai), or all the days, including days beyond this world (like the Rabbanan). See above 'Don't Add and Don't Subtract' for a similar distinction.


Sharing the Honours

"Six days you shall eat Matzah and on the seventh day is a Yom-tov for Hashem ... " (16:8).

The Gemara in Pesachim (68b) cites the opinion of Rebbi Yehoshua, who, commenting on the apparent discrepancy between the two Pesukim "Atzeres la'Hashem Elokecho" and "Atzeres tih'yeh lochem", says 'Divide the day, half for Hashem and half for you.'

The G'ro explains the seemingly strange expression 'Divide the day' in the following way. The numerical value of 'la'Hashem' he points out is 56, and that of "Lachem" is 90. Now if one divides each one into two (28 and 45) and add them together, one arrives at 73, the equivalent of 'the numerical value of 'Yom-tov', because Yom-tov comprises half for Hashem and half for you.



We are living in times when ignorant, wicked people, absurd as it may sound, eradicate history as if it never existed. They would deny our historic rights to Eretz Yisrael with a mere wave of the hand.

They ignore the fact that, as Rashi writes in Bereishis in his opening comment, G-d created the world, and He gave Eretz Yisrael to K'lal Yisrael.

They ignore the fact that our ties to the land go back more than three and a half thousand millenia, when G-d told Avraham Avinu to go to Eretz Yisrael, and then promised him at the B'ris Bein ha'Besorim that He would give it to his children, a promise that He reiterated to Yizchak and to Ya'akov.

They ignore the fact that our father Avraham purchased the Me'aras ha'Machpeilah from the B'nei Cheis, Ya'akov, part of Sh'chem, and David, the Mokom ha'Mikdash.

They ignore the fact that we captured Eretz Yisrael in the time of Yehoshua, and built a Beis-Hamikdash in Yerushalayim that stood for over four hundred years.

They ignore the fact that we returned there in the time of Ezra, and rebuilt the Beis Hamikdash for a second period of over four hundred years.

They ignore the fact that our eternal rights to the Land are recorded repeatedly in the eternal Torah (G-d's own book).

And they ignore the fact that, since the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash, the land for the most part, lay in ruins, that no other nation ever felt at home there, or succeeded in building up the land on any large scale, and that it was only with the recent return of K'lal Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael that the land sprang back to life.

But above all, they ignore the fact that for close to thousand years (in abstentia) we have been yearning, praying and weeping for Eretz Yisrael, for Yerushalayim and for the Beis Hamikdash. Their history books on the other hand, are devoid of a single mention of Yerushalayim.Yet they have the audacity to claim that the Makom ha'Mikdash is holy to them, even as they pray in another direction with their backs towards it.


It is therefore more vital than ever that we demonstrate our attachment to the land by learning and fulfilling the Mitzvos that pertain to it. Indeed, Chazal have taught us that Moshe Rabeinu's longing to enter it was not based on a desire to taste its fruit, but in order to fulfil those Mitzvos that could not be fulfilled anywhere else.

The Torah repeats over and over again, the concept that Eretz Yisrael was given to us in order to fulfil the Mitzvos, and moreover, that Yerushalayim was the place where direct communication between G-d and His chosen people was possible. And there are few Parshiyos where this idea comes across as forcefully as it does in this week's Parshah, Re'ei.


What could be more appropriate then, than to continue our series of 'The Mitzvos of Today', with the Mitzvos that are relevant to Eretz Yisrael?



(Adapted from 'Mitzvos ha'T'luyos ba'Aretz, by R' Kalman Kahana z.l.,
based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish)

The Sanctity of the Land and Its Mitzvos

1. The Land of Yisrael with its borders as described in the Torah, was sanctified from the moment of its establishment. Our sages have said that the sins of whoever lives in Eretz Yisrael are forgiven, and that even someone who merely walks four amos in it merits Olam ha'Ba. Someone who is buried there too, merits an atonement for all his sins as if the location of his burial was an altar of atonement.

There is however, no comparison between someone who arrives in Eretz Yisrael alive, and someone who arrives there after his death.

Because living in Eretz Yisrael is compared to all the Mitzvos in the Torah.


2. Some of the Mitzvos that are connected with the land or with its crops are confined to Eretz Yisrael, such as T'rumos, Ma'asros, Sh'mitah and K'lai Zero'im. Others however, apply in Chutz la'Aretz, too. Of these, some aren even min ha'Torah, such as (Harkovoh, the prohibition of grafting trees), some, Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai, (such as Orlah), and yet others, only mi'de'Rabbanan (such as Chalah and K'lai ha'Kerem), as will be explained later.


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