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

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Vol. 12   No. 49

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Parshas Re'ei

Pardon Me, What's a Shesu'ah?

Seifer Devarim is known as Mishneh Torah (a repetition of the Torah), because that is largely what it is. Many Parshiyos are repeated there. Yet, as the Gemara teaches us in Chulin (63b), the Torah will never repeat an entire Parshah without adding a detail or two that we did not know before. And so it is with the Parshah of non-Kasher animals which we already learned in Shemini, and which the Torah repeats here; the animals because of the Shesu'ah, and the birds, because of the Ra'ah. Neither of these appears in Shemini. The addition of each of them here teaches us something highly fascinating and unusual. The Sugya in Chulin describes a Shesu'ah as an independent animal with two backs and two spinal cords. And in Nidah (24a), Rav further describes it as a nefel, a dead baby that is found inside the stomach of a Kasher animal after it has been Shechted. Indeed, that is how G-d demonstrated the Shesu'ah to Moshe, when He showed him all the Kasher and non-Kasher animals (as Chazal explain). And He forbade the Shesu'ah in spite of the fact that it is found inside a Kasher animal, even though any other creature that one finds in this manner is Kasher. A Shesu'ah that is born as a Nefel would be forbidden anyway, just like any other animal, and would not require a specific Pasuk to forbid it.

Shmuel disagrees with Rav. He concedes that a Shesu'ah has two backs and two spinal cords, but, he maintains, it is a completely independent species, and it can live. Consequently, one that is found inside a Kasher animal that has been Shechted is Kasher, as long as it has cloven hooves.


Whereas the Pasuk in Shemini lists the Do'oh and the Ayoh, in Re'ei, the Pasuk replaces the Do'oh with the Ro'oh, and the Ayoh with the Dayoh, according to one opinion. Both the Do'oh and the Ro'oh in fact, are the same bird (translated as a kite), as are the Ayoh and the Dayoh (a vulture). Whereas another opinion there even maintains that all four birds are one and the same. The Torah makes a point of listing it by all its names, so as to leave no doubt as to which bird it is coming to forbid. Nobody will now be able to say that the Torah forbids the Ayoh, but not the Dayoh, the Do'oh and the Ro'oh, which are all permitted.


The Gemara in Chulin that we quoted earlier makes an interesting observation. Was Moshe a hunter or an archer, it asks? How could he possibly then have known the names of each of the listed animals, and whether it has cloven hooves and chews its cud or not?

Here is the answer to those who deny the Divine character of the Torah, since it is only G-d Himself who can possibly have known them all. Neither Moshe nor anybody else could possibly have written it of his own accord, since no human being had access to all this information.


We mentioned earlier that if one Shechts a Kasher animal and finds a fetus inside, the fetus, which is known as a ben Peku'ah, is Kasher. Not only is it Kasher, but it may be eaten without Shechitah, even if it is born and lives a long life; and what's more, all its off-spring may too.

On the other hand, the Gemara in Chulin (69a) learns from the Pasuk "And every animal that has hooves ... inside an animal, it you may eat", that a pigeon that one finds inside a Shechted animal may not be eaten, even though it belongs to a species which is Kasher, because it is not of a species that has hooves.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

It's Good Enough for Us, but Not for G-d

"Destroy all the places where the nations worshipped their gods ... on the high mountains and hill-tops ... Do not do this to G-d" (12:2&4).

When the Chachamim extrapolate from "es eloheihem al he'Horim" (in Pasuk 2) that 've'Lo he'horim eloheihem' (that a mountain, or whatever is attached to the ground, that has been worshipped, does not become asur be'hano'oh [forbidden to benefit from]), they are referring specifically to private individuals making use of them. To bring them to G-d as a sacrifice is another matter. In that regard the Torah has written "Do not do this to G-d", disqualifying stones of a mountain or wood from a tree that has been worshipped, from being given to Him as a gift (Parashas Derachim).


That's Not How One Serves G-d

"Do not do this (kein) to G-d" (Ibid).

The Kotzker Rebbi, taking the Pasuk out of context, translates "kein" as 'any old how'. He therefore explains the Pasuk as a warning not to serve G-d because that is how one was taught or just in order to fulfill one's duty, devoid of feeling, and not a scrap more.

Not at all! A person must fulfill Mitzvos with a sense of mission in a meaningful way, because that is what G-d wants Him to do.


In similar vein, others explain that one does not fulfill Mitzvos simply because that's what everybody else (or even this or that great man) does. And with that they explain the Gemara in B'rachos (35b) 'Many tried to do like R. Shimon bar Yochai (who learned Torah to the exclusion of everything else) but did not succeed'.

Had they copied R. Shimon out of conviction, they might well have succeeded. The trouble was that they did it merely because R. Shimon did it, and that is a recipe for failure.

And it also sheds light on the Gemara in Chulin (105), which cites how Mar Ukva, who claimed that he, compared to his father, was like vinegar compared to wine. For his father used to wait twenty-four hours between meat and milk, whilst he would eat milk dishes already at the next meal (six hours later). Why, they ask, did he denigrate himself by calling himself vinegar, when all he needed to do was to emulate his father and wait twenty-four hours, in order to become 'wine'?

The answer, as we explained, is that a Chumra must be a personal decision, with the firm knowledge that one holds by it and that one is on the level to abide by it. Not just because somebody else does it.


Testing Testing

" ... because Hashem your G-d is testing you to know whether you love Hashem your G-d with all your heart ... " (13:4).

R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld never demanded of others that they adhere to his own stringent level of Torah observance, except when it came to matters concerning Bitachon. That was the one area where he expected all and sundry to reach for the highest levels. Nor did he hesitate to rebuke those who were lax in any issue connected with Bitachon. He did however, take great care to express his view in a soft-spoken manner, in a way that it would be perceived as 'words that came from the heart' and that would therefore 'penetrate the heart'.

The following two stories illustrate this.

A certain farmer who lived in Petach Tikvah once asked him how to proceed in the forthcoming Sh'mitah year, how he would be able to refrain from working his land, at a time when the economic situation was so bad.

The Rav took out Seifer Yirmiyahu, and showed the farmer the Pasuk "Cursed is the man who places his trust in man" on which Rashi comments 'in his plowing and reaping', to say that he will sow in the Sh'mitah year and eat the produce that grows. And on the continuation of the Pasuk "and he turns his heart away from G-d", he adds 'who promised him "and I will command My blessing to them (to those who observe the Mitzvos)" '.

The farmer said nothing. From that year on however, he observed Sh'mitah meticulously, without relying on any leniencies.


The second story concerns a creditor who claimed his debt in a non-Jewish court. The debtor complained to R. Yosef Chayim, who summoned the creditor, and asked him why he had done that. The latter replied that the sum involved was five hundred pounds, a large sum in those times, and that he had no option, seeing as the Beis-Din did not have the authority to exact such large amounts. So even if he won his case in Beis-Din, there was no way that he would receive all his money, or even the majority of it.

Here too, R. Yosef Chayim responded by taking out a Chumash and showing the creditor the opening Pasuk in Mishpatim, on which Rashi comments "Before them (expert Dayanim)", 'and not before gentile judges. Do not present your case to them, because anybody who does, desecrates G-d's Name, and endears the name of other gods, causing people to praise them'. 'And as you surely know,' the Rav told him, 'Chilul Hashem is not subject to atonement, not through Teshuvah, not through Yom-Kipur and not through suffering - only through death!'

Following the meeting with R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, the creditor cancelled his claim in the gentile court and filed a new one with the Beis-Din.

'Even today', R. Yosef Chayim commented, 'there are people out there who fulfill, literally, the Mitzvah of "be'chol me'o'decho" (Loving G-d with all their money). And I firmly believe, he added, that they did not lose one P'rutah as a result!'


Not to Curse a Jew!

"And that (false) prophet or dreamer shall die, because he spoke false words against Hashem ... and you shall destroy the evil from your midst" (13:6).

During a discussion that R. No'ach Gad Weintraub once had with R. Yosef Chayim concerning the new generation, whose upbringing was devoid of Torah and Mitzvos, the former referred to one of the secular leaders, adding the words 'Yimach sh'mo (may his name be blotted out)'.

R, Yosef Chayim however, did not approve of this, and commented that this was not the way to speak about a fellow- Jew.

R. Weintraub was stunned. R. Yosef Chayim fought the secular establishment tooth and nail without respite. He did everything in his power to negate their authority, and the Rav's comment caught him completely by surprise. And he put the question to him.

R. Yosef Chayim replied that on the on hand, we are obligated to do whatever we can to stem the influence of those who attack our religion, no matter who they are, as David Hamelech writes in Tehilim (139:21) "How I hate Your enemies Hashem, and I will fight those who arise against You". But who gives us the right to pray for their name to be blotted out? Surely it makes more sense to pray for them to do Teshuvah than to curse them (as B'ruryah taught her husband [Rebbi Meir] in B'rachos 10a)!

On the one hand, we are commanded 'to destroy the evil from our midst', and this obligates us to do battle with those who attempt to lead us astray. On the other, when confronted with matters that are beyond our comprehension, we are forbidden to relate to them in a negative way. David Hamelech saw with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh that a great luminary (Mordechai) was destined to descend from Shim'i ben Geira, and it was because of it that he forewent his Kavod (Kavod Malchus no less), despite the fact that Shim'i was guilty of a sin as grievous as treason, declining to sentence him to death during his lifetime. How much more careful must we be, we, who know nothing of G-d's plans, not to curse others, no matter what they have done. We dare not curse the Resha'im. What we have to do is to pray fervently that G-d showers them with a spirit of purity and puts into their hearts the will to do Teshuvah.

It is only with regard to Amalek, he concluded, that theTorah writes "Blot out the memory of Amalek" (and this incorporates all enemies of Yisrael and their oppressors, who stem from the root of Amalek), and it is they whom we hope and pray may be blotted out from the Book of life.

* * *

(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 436:
To Destroy Avodah-Zarah

It is a Mitzvah to destroy all places of idol-worship in any way possible, by breaking, burning, demolishing or cutting down, whichever method is the most destructive and the most expedient. The idea is not to leave the least trace of idolatry, and it is with that in mind that the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:2) "Destroy all the locations ... ", and in Va'eschanan "For so you shall do to them, smash their altars", And there is proof that this is a Mitzvas Asei from the Gemara in Sanhedrin (90a) which, after querying which Mitzvas Asei there is pertinent to Avodah-Zarah, concludes that it must be referring to its destruction, and Rav Chisda then quotes the Pasuk "And you shall ... smash all their altars". The Sifri too, searching for a source for the mitzvah of destroying idol trees that the gentiles have replanted after the original ones were destroyed, cites the Pasuk "Abeid te'abdun ... (You shall surely destroy ... )". And the Torah also writes there "and you shall destroy their name from that place" - i.e. Eretz Yisrael; (in Chutz la'Aretz one is not obligated to search for them in order to destroy them).

A reason for this Mitzvah is to erase the name of Avodah-Zarah and its memory from the world.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah are included in the explanation of the Pasuk.

This Mitzvah applies to men and women, everywhere at all times. We are duty-bound to destroy the name of idols whenever we have the power to do so. We are not however, obligated to search for them to destroy them in Chutz la'Aretz, only in Eretz Yisrael, provided we have the authority to do so. Someone who has the authority to destroy an image but fails to, has negated this Mitzvah.


Mitzvah 437:
Not To Destroy Things With Which G-d's Name Is Connected

We are forbidden to destroy or to erase anything with which G-d's holy Name is connected, such as (any part of) the Beis-Hamikdash, Sifrei Kodesh and any one of G-d's precious Names, as the Pasuk writes in Re'ei (12:4) "Do not do this to Hashem your G-d". The Gemara in Makos (22a) states that someone who burns wood belonging to Hekdesh receives Malkos, and it quotes the above Pasuk. And, citing the same Pasuk, it says the same about someone who erases one of G-d's holy Names.

The reason for the Mitzvah is self evident, as when Yisrael approach what is holy with 'dread, trembling and sweat', then automatically, there enters into their heart the fear and dread of Hashem.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Chazal list the seven holy Names of Hashem which this La'av incorporates - the name 'Havayah' (which Chazal refer to as the Shem ha'Meforash); the Name that is spelt 'Alef- Daled-Nun-Yud; Keil; Elokah; Shakai and Tzevo'kos ... They also say that any prefix of the Name of Hashem (such as the 'Lamed' in 'la'Hashem' or the 'Beis' in "ba'Hashem") may be erased, whereas a suffix (such as the 'Chaf' in 'Elokecho', or the 'Mem' in 'Elokeichem') may not (mi'de'Rabbanan), because the Name itself sanctifies them ... If someone writes 'Keil' of 'Elokim' or 'Koh' of 'Havayah', it may not be erased, since what he wrote is in itself, a Name of Hashem. This is not the case however, if one writes 'Shad' of 'Shakai' or 'Tzev' of Tzvo'kos, which are not. Other titles of Hashem, such as 'Rachum', Chanun', 'Godol', 'Gibor' and 'Noro', are not intrinsic Names of G-d, and may therefore be erased just like any other holy words in the Torah, if necessary. If not, then one is prohibited from destroying or burning them. All this however, refers to a Seifer that is written by a Kasher Yisrael. One that is written by a Jewish Miyn (a heretic) must be burned in its entirety, Names of Hashem included, in order to prevent the Miynim and their works from being perpetuated. If, on the other hand, a gentile writes one of the Names of G-d, it must go into Sheimos (Genizah, but need not be burned) ... The Chachamim have said, in connection with the opening chapters of Vayeira, that all the names mentioned by Avraham are Kodesh, whereas those mentioned by Lot are chol, with the exception of "Al na A-d-o-n-a-i" (19:18), which is Kodesh. Similarly, they said, all the names that appear with regard to Giv'as Binyomin (Shoftim 19) are Kodesh, whereas of those mentioned there (chap. 17) in connection with Michah (the idolater) the Name "Koh" is Kodesh whilst that of "Keil" is Chol, with the sole exception of the one in Pasuk 31. All the Names mentioned in Melachim 1 (chap. 21) in connection with Novos are Kodesh, and so is every "Shlomoh" in Shir Hashirim (like the seven Names of Hashem that we discussed earlier) except for the Pasuk "ha'Elef lecho Sh'lomoh" (8:12). Every "Malchaya" in Daniel is chol, with the sole exception of "Ant Malka Melech Malchaya" (2:37), which has the same Din as the seven names of Hashem.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women. Anyone who erases even just one letter of the seven above-mentioned Names of Hashem is Chayav Malkos, and if he erases one letter from a suffix, he receives Makas Mardus (mi'de'Rabbanan). Similarly, someone who removes even one stone from the Mizbei'ach, the Heichal or the Azarah, if it is by way of destruction (i.e. not in order to repair it), he is Chayav Malkos.

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