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

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Vol. 9   No. 43

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Tziporah bas Ya'akov z.l.
whose Yohrzeit was the 19th of Av

Parshas Re'ei

A Passing World for an Eternal One

One Pasuk writes "Efes ki lo yih'yeh be'cho evyon" ('only there will be no poor among you [15:4]), another, "Ki lo yechdal evyon mi'kerev ho'oretz" ('because poor people will not cease from the midst of the land' [15:11']). To resolve this apparent discrepancy, Rashi establishes the former Pasuk when Yisrael fulfil G-d's will, and the latter Pasuk, when they don't. Rashi's explanation echoes that of Targum Yonasan, who specifically interprets the two Pesukim that way, and who might even be Rashi's source.


The Or ha'Chayim elaborates. Based on the juxtaposition of the first of the two Pesukim and the Pasuk that follows, he explains that generally speaking, financial success or failure are not dependant on merits, but on Mazel (as Chazal have taught in Mo'ed Katan 28a). Yet here, the Torah continues "If you will listen (a reference to Torah-study), to keep (the Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh), and to do (the Mitzvos Asei) all these Mitzvos (that your observance in all of the above areas is flawless)". That is when the Torah promises to abolish poverty. The fact that they have fulfilled more Mitzvos than Aveiros is not sufficient to overrule the Mazel, the Or ha'Chayim explains, but once Yisrael attain a level of total perfection (all Mitzvos and no Aveiros), Yisrael's merits do indeed dictate a utopian-like destiny, in spite of the Mazel.

Tosfos in Shabbos (156a), in light of the above-mentioned Gemara in Mo'ed Katan, explains the Gemara's statement there (in Shabbos) 'Ein Mazel le'Yisrael', to mean that although basically, the Mazel determines one's fate (and not one's deeds), with great merit, it can be overcome. Clearly then, the Or ha'Chayim is merely defining the extent of that merit.


Chazal however, seem to interpret the two Pesukim under discussion differently. The Gemara in Ta'anis (21a) tells the story of Rebbi Yochanan and Ilfa, who studied Torah together in Yeshivah. Both were extremely poor, and so they decided to fulfil the Pasuk "Only there shall be no poor among you". They left the Yeshivah and set out for home with the intention of entering into a joint business venture. On the way, they stopped to eat by the shade of a wall, which, unbeknown to them, was rickety. Suddenly, Rebbi Yochanan overheard a conversation between two angels. He heard one of them suggest that perhaps they should push the wall on top of the two men who had given up an eternal world for a passing one. But the second angel replied in the negative, since one of them was destined for greatness.


When Ilfa, in reply to Rebbi Yochanan's question, told him that he had heard nothing, the latter concluded that since he was the one to have heard the conversation, he must be the one to whom the angels were referring. This, despite the fact that Ilfa was his equal in knowledge, as the Sugya there concludes.

So, quoting the Pasuk "Because poor men will not cease from the land", he turned back and continued to learn. Sure enough, he went on to become the great Rosh Yeshivah, the Gadol ha'Dor and the author of the Talmud Yerushalmi.


From this Gemara it appears that the two Pesukim are referring to two different fates, rather than to two different eras. The latter Pasuk teaches us that inevitably, there will always be poor people in Yisrael, whereas the former is a concession to do whatever is necessary to avoid belonging to that category. And this is borne out by another Gemara. The Gemara in Bava Metzi'a derives from this Pasuk that one's own's needs take priority over those of others (to the extent that one is permitted to look for one's own article before even that of one's father or Rebbe).


The story of Rebbi Yochanan and Ilfa contains a powerful lesson from which we can all learn. The lure of material wealth is strong, and many are those who succumb to the temptation of leaving the realms of the everlasting world for the benefits of the passing one. They even base their decision on the Torah - "Efes ki lo yih'yeh be'cho evyon", forgetting perhaps, how easy it is to become what the Ramban refers to as a 'menuval bi'reshus ha'torah' (a despicable person with the Torah's permission). Perhaps they are unaware of the second Pasuk "Ki lo yechdal evyon mi'kerev ho'oretz", offering the obvious alternative.


Admittedly, not everyone is meant to remain in Yeshivah or in Kollel. True, Chazal have said that G-d detests someone who is 'not able to learn' and insists on doing so, no less than someone who does not learn when he is able. Nevertheless, the decision to leave the four Amos of Halachah is one that should not be taken lightly, and certainly not without realizing fully the status of the world he will be leaving and that of the one he will be entering. For it is only when one believes with all one's heart that the Torah together with whatever is associated with it is eternal, and that all material things are only temporary, that one becomes qualified to make such a momentous decision.


Parshah Pearls
(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

G-d Prefers the Blessings

"See I am placing before you today, blessings and curses" (11:26).

What is G-d showing us that we are supposed to see?

Someone who draws lots with his friend, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, will do whatever he can to ensure that his friend does not draw the bigger lot. When, on the other hand, G-d draws lots with us, he places our hand on the best lot and advises us to take it.

For this Pasuk works in conjunction with the Pasuk in Nitzavim (30:15) "See I have placed before you today, life and death ". And the Pasuk (19) there concludes " life and death I have placed before you, the blessing and the curse - and you should choose the blessing".

G-d advises us in no uncertain terms, to choose the blessing, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (16:5) "You placed my hand on my lot".

That is what He wants us to see.


The Torah continues "es ha'B'rachah asher tishme'u ve'ha'keloloh, im lo sishmesh'u" (27:28).

The word "es" (which usually comes to include) says the Ba'al ha'Turim, indicates that every single detail of every single B'rochoh will materialize. By K'loloh on the other hand, where the word "es" does not appear, it seems that G-d will scrimp as it were, on the curses, to minimize them wherever possible, and perhaps even to dispense with this one here, and that one there.

In similar vein, he explains, "Asher tishme'u" has connotations of "Ashrei" meaning "praiseworthy or fortunate is the person who listens to the words of Hashem". "Im lo sishme'u", on the other hand, is a regular expression of doubt, with no such connotations.

The last letters of "es ha'B'rochoh asher tishme'u" spell Torah, which is ultimately the source of all B'rochoh.


Here and There

" the Place that Hashem will choose to rest His Name there, there you shall bring all that I command you" (12:11).

Why does the Torah repeat the word "there" ("shom" and "shomoh"), asks the Ba'al ha'Turim?

And he answers that it is because of the two sanctified areas in Yerushalayim, one to eat Kodshei Kodshim (such as sin-offerings, which were eaten in the precincts of the Azarah), the other Kodshim Kalim (such as peace-offerings, which were eaten anywhere within the walls of Yerushalayim).


Eliyahu on Mount Carmel

"Beware not to bring your burnt-offerings wherever you see fit" (12:13).

One famous exception to this rule, was Eliyahu, who offered a sacrifice on Mount Carmel, even though the Beis Hamikdash had already been built.

And that, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is hinted in this Pasuk, in the last letters of "Olosecho be'chol mokom asher tir'eh", which spell 'ha'Carmel', and in the word "be'chol", whose numerical value is Eliyahu (who did offer sacrifices 'be'chol' - wherever).


That Special Place

"Only in the Place that Hashem will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt-offerings " (12:14).

The numerical value of "your tribes" ('shevotecha') is equivalent to 'shevet Yehudah' (the tribe of Yehudah, in whose portion the majority of the Beis Hamikdash stood - see also Rashi).

And the first letters of "shom ta'aleh olosecha" ('there you shall offer your burnt-offerings') spell 'tesha' (nine), because nine offerings were brought on it - burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, guilt-offerings, peace-offerings, flour-offerings, oil, frankincense, wine and water.


A Kosher Shechitah

"And you shall Shecht from your cattle and from your sheep like I commanded you (ka'asher tzivisicho)" (12:21).

The dinim of Shechitah are basically 'Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai', yet, as Chazal have said, there is nothing that is not hinted in the Torah

The numerical value of "ka'asher tzivisicho" is equivalent to that of 'Rov echad be'of, ve'rov sh'nayim bi'veheimah' ('the majority of one pipe of a bird and the majority of two, of an animal'). We are referring of course, to the windpipe and the esophagus.

In addition, the word "ka'asher" - with the letters spelt backwards - is the acronym of 'Rubo shel echad ke'kulo' (the majority of a pipe is like the whole pipe').


Wild Animals Are Different

"But (ach) like one eats the deer and the gazelle, so you shall eat it " (12:22).

The word "ach" always comes to exclude. Here too, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, it precludes wild (undomesticated) animals from being subject to the Mitzvah of Matanos (having to give the right foreleg, the cheeks and the stomach to the Kohen).


This Blood is Different

"Only be strong, not to eat the blood Do not eat it, pour it on the floor like water" (12:23/24).

All of the current Pesukim (22-24) refer to Pesulei ha'Mukdashin (Kodshim animals that became blemished and were subsequently redeemed). And the Torah is teaching us here that their blood is forbidden too.

The word "tishpechenu" ('pour it'), the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, has the equivalent numerical value to that of 'patur mi'lechasoso', meaning that their blood does not need to be covered.

Now why might we have thought that it does, any more than the blood of any other domesticated animal, that is not subject to the Mitzvah of 'Kisuy ha'Dam'?

The answer lies in the previous comparison of Pesulei ha'Mukdashin to wild animals (to permit eating them - even be'tum'ah). We would have thought that, having made this comparison, the Torah requires their blood to be covered, like that of wild animals. Therefore the Torah concludes 'Pour it on the floor' (exempting it from Kisuy ha'Dam).


The Amidah

(based largely on the Siddur Otzar ha'Tefillos)
(Part XXIV)

The B'rachah of 'Hoshivoh Shofteinu' (cont.)
Hoshivoh Shofteinu

The Eitz Yosef explains the juxtaposition of this B'rachah to that of 'T'ka', on the basis of the Pasuk in Yeshayah ("Tzi'on ba'mishpot tipodeh"), which teaches us that the redemption will come about on the merit of justice. Indeed, the termination of the B'rachah clearly echoes this Pasuk, which concludes "ve'shovehoh bi'tz'dakah". And the opening section of the B'rachah in turn, echoes the previous Pasuk (to which we referred a fortnight ago) "And I will bring back your judges like at first, and your advisors like in the beginning", as the Eitz Yosef adds.

We already explained how, many troubles that beset the world (and particularly K'lal Yisrael) are the result of evil judges. This in turn, can be easily understood with the dictum 'When Din is dispensed below (here on earth), then G-d will not dispense it above'. When it is not, then G-d takes over.

The commentary on the Machzor explains the sequence of the phrases in this B'rachah like this: 'Bring back our judges ' - like Moshe and Aharon; 'and our advisors ' - like David and Shlomoh; 'and remove from us grief ' - galus; 'and rule over us, You G-d alone ' - as the Navi writes "on that day, G-d will be One and His Name will be One".


u'M'loch Oleinu be'Chesed u've'Rachamim

Elsewhere, the Navi writes to occasions when G-d will rule over us with 'a pouring wrath' (Yechezkel 20:34). We therefore pray here, says the Eitz Yosef, that He should rather rule over us with kindness and mercy.


ve'Tzadkeinu ba'Mishpot

Even though most commentaries interpret the word 'tzedokoh' at the end of the B'rachah literally, if it has the same meaning as the word ve'Tzadkeinu' here, then it will have connotations of righteousness, rather than of charity. For that is the meaning of the word 'Tzedek' (as opposed to 'Tzedakah'). And here too, this phrase means 'Make us righteous in judgement'. Against this explanation, we have the first time in the Torah that "tz'dakah u'mishpat" are mentioned together (in Vayeira 18:19), where "tzedakah" certainly means charity, and not justice. And that is what the word would then mean here.

Interestingly, the four words 'be'Chesed u've'Rachamim ve'Tzadkeinu ba'Mishpot' are too similar to the quote from Hoshei'a (2:21) "ve'Eirastich li be'tzedek u've'mishpot u've'chesed u'verachamim" (that we recite when putting on our Tefilin shel Yad) to be a coincidence. There however, the Pasuk means that G-d will betrothe us with righteousness (truth - Targum Yonasan; charity according to Rashi) and with justice, with kindness and mercy. This in turn means that when Yisrael enact righteous judgement (or kindness and judgement), G-d on His part will enact kindness and mercy.


Melech Ohev Tz'dakah u'Mishpat

The Dover Shalom quotes the Paytan, who points out that Tz'dakah and Mishpat are generally a contradiction in terms; where there is the one, you cannot have the other (as Chazal have said 'There is no mercy in judgement'). That might be true of a human court. But G-d is different. He loves (and dispenses) charity and justice at one and the same time.

And this incorporates G-d's method of making allowances for human shortcomings and giving them a chance before passing sentence, says the Iyun Tefilah. A human king on the other hand, insists on justice being done, as the Pasuk writes "A king establishes the land through justice" (Mishlei 29:4).

And the combination of 'Tz'dakah and Mishpat also has connotations of compromise, as the Gemara explains in Sanhedrin (6b).


The extent that G-d loves these two Midos (over and above all others) can be gauged by the Pasuk in Vayeira (that we quoted earlier). Hashem declares there that He chose Avraham Avinu only because he would teach his children after him to observe His ways, to perform Tz'dakah and Mishpat. And if that is how meaningful they are in the eyes of G-d, they can hardly be overestimated.


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