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

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Vol. 13   No. 44

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Parshas Re'ei

G-d's Children

The Torah attributes the prohibition of making cuts on one's body over a deceased relative or loved one, to the fact that we are His children. This obviously applies to all Jews, and not specifically to Kohanim. There is another Pasuk in Emor which prohibits specifically Kohanim from doing so, and indeed says the Ramban, that La'av pertains exclusively to Kohanim, because it is not befitting for G-d's servants to serve Him in such a state, irrespective of whether they do so in mourning over a deceased relative or whether it is for any other reason.

Rashi extends this reason to the former Pasuk as well. Sons of G-d, he explains, should look nice. It is not proper for them to walk around with wounds.

The Ramban queries Rashi however. If that was the reason, he asks, why would the Torah restrict the La'av to cutting oneself over a dead body? It ought to have forbidden it under any circumstances (like it does with regard to a Kohen)? Initially, he therefore refers to the reason given by the Ibn Ezra, who explains that, since we are G-d's children, it is clear that He loves us far more than a human father loves his son. In that case, says the Ibn Ezra, this Mitzvah teaches us that everything that He does is ultimately for the good (just as Nachum Ish Gam Zu taught). Consequently, we ought to have faith in Him and trust in His goodness, just as small children rely on their father, even though they do not understand everything that he does. In other words, 'G-d gives and G-d takes', and just as His giving is based on His Midas ha'Chesed, so too, is His taking. And if that is the case, cutting oneself in grief is excessive and totally out of place.


The Ramban himself however, cites the continuation of the Pasuk under discussion "For you are a holy nation", which in his opinion, has connotations of eternity. Cutting oneself over a deceased relative, he therefore explains, demonstrates one belief in the finality of death, and while it might be appropriate for a gentile to do it, it is not appropriate for a Jew, whose relation is not totally destroyed, for his Soul lives on. Or as Rabeinu Bachye puts it, G-d made a clear distinction between the nations of the world and us. They inherit only this world, and that is what is important to them; whereas we inherit the World to Come, and by comparison, we consider this world insignificant.

Crying, the Ramban adds, is a natural reaction to the departure of one's beloved relative, which the Torah did not wish to stop, but cutting oneself is excessive, as we just explained, and has no place. Indeed, it is from here that Chazal derive the prohibition of excessively mourning the death of one's deceased relative.

The K'li Yakar too, learns like the Ramban, and so does the Or ha'Chayim, who draws an analogy between the death of a Jew and a man who sends his son to another town to buy merchandise, who would hardly agonize over his departure, knowing as he does, that he will soon return.


In answer to the Ramban's Kashya on Rashi, the Mizrachi explains that the Pasuk mentions a deceased relative because that is normally why a person cuts himself, not because the prohibition is conditional to it.


Finally, there is the explanation of the Seforno who takes a different approach. He explains that such an extreme reaction is indicative that the deceased person is irreplaceable. But that is not the case, as a Jew still has His Father in Heaven who can (and does) replace any human loss admirably. That is why the Torah precedes the prohibition with the words "You are children of G-d". Your relation may well have died, but He is alive and well!

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Parshah Pearls

An Awesome Responsibility

"See I have placed before you today B'rachah and K'lalah" (11:26).

All the commentaries refer to the singular form of the opening word in the Pasuk, in contrast to the word "you", which is in the plural.

The Chasam Sofer connects this discrepancy with the Gemara in Kidushin, which instructs us all how to view ourselves vis-a`-vis the rest of the world. We should assume, says the Gemara, that the whole world is half-innocent and half-guilty. Consequently, when a person performs one Mitzvah, it is said there, he tips the scales in favour of the world. Whereas one sin tips the scales against them.

That is why the Torah writes "See (singular) I am putting before you (plural) today B'rachah and K'lalah".

Each and every Jew must realize that whether K'lal Yisrael will be blessed or cursed depends on him, and as far as he is concerned, on him alone, for one Mitzvah on the one hand, and one Aveirah on the other, will decide the world's fate - an awesome responsibility indeed!


K'lal Yisrael is Different


Few nations have full jurisdiction over other nations, and few nations are constantly subjugated by others. The one exception is Yisrael, says the K'sav Sofer. Yisrael goes through an ongoing cycle of either ruling over other nations or being ruled by them.

The reason for this phenomenon, he explains, is because whereas the nations of the world are governed by the Mazalos, Yisrael is governed directly by G-d. The destiny of the former, which is not conditional to anything in particular, is therefore at the mercy of the whims and fancies of nature, which generally follow a middle course. Yisrael on the other hand, whose destiny is guided by their own behaviour, are either on a high or on a low. As Vashti told Haman, once the Jews begin to rise, they rise to the top, and once they begin to fall, they go all the way down to the bottom. Indeed, this concept is written in the Torah in Ki Savo, where the Torah repeats a number of times that when Yisrael perform Torah and Mitzvos, they will go to the very top. And as for what happens when they do not, the rest of the Parshah leaves us in no doubt what happens to them then.

Perhaps this upward and downward progression is the result of the principle 'Mitzvah Goreres Mitzvah; Aveirah Goreres Aveirah'.

In any event, the end result is that we either merit B'rachah or K'lalah. There is no middle alternative.


Don't Wait for Miracles

"And you will take possession of it and you will dwell in it" (11:31).

On the merit of taking possession of it, you will dwell in it, says the Sifri.

Do not think for one moment, the P'ninei Torah explains, that if you sit with folded arms and wait, the land will come to you all by itself. Not at all! You have to go and take possession of it. Then and only then will you be able to settle in the land.


When Laziness is a Virtue

"And you shall rejoice, you and your house(hold)" (14:26).

'I praise the lazy people', said R. Eliezer, 'who do not leave their homes on Yom-Tov. For does the Pasuk not say "And you shall rejoice, you and your house"?'

Why did R. Eliezer not simply praise those who stay at home, asks the Torah Temimah? Why does he see fit to mention the fact that they are lazy?

The fact is, he answers, that someone who regularly goes out, day in day out feels frustrated when he for once has to stay at home. It is only the lazy person, who cannot be bothered to go out, who genuinely enjoys staying at home. And that is what R. Eliezer means with his statement. Laziness is really a bad Midah, yet here we have something good about it, in that it causes a person to fulfill this particular Mitzvah with joy.


Getting the Same Treatment

"Let every creditor remit his debt ... for he has proclaimed a remission for G-d" (15:2).

Every good Midah that we employ towards our fellow-Jew, Hashem employs towards us. For so Chazal have said 'If someone has mercy on others, G-d will have mercy on him'. This is also how the Chachamim explain the Pasuk in Tehilim "G-d is your shadow" ... in that He mimics your actions towards others, repaying good for good and evil for evil.

G-d is our creditor, to whom we are all heavily indebted, as the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos 'Whoever wishes to borrow, may come and do so'. So if we fulfill the Mitzvah of forgoing our debts to others, then G-d will do likewise and forgo what we owe him.

And the Pasuk hints at this when it writes "Let every creditor remit his debt ... for he has proclaimed a remission for G-d" (R. Ya'akov mi'Lisa).


A Debtor is a Slave

"And you will lend many nations, but you will not borrow, and you will have jurisdiction over many nations, but they will have no jurisdiction over you" (15:4).

The Birchas Avraham comments that, based on the principle 'a debtor is a slave to the creditor' (Gittin 14a), the sequence of the two halves of the Pasuk is self-evident. If you do not borrow from the nations, it follows that you will not be subservient to them.


Kindness with a Vengeance

"You shall surely give him, and when you do, do not give with an evil heart" (15:6).

The Halachah states that a person who possesses one Zuz short of two hundred is permitted to accept Tzedakah, but if he possesses two hundred Zuz, he no longer classifies as an oni.

The Yerushalmi in Sotah relates the story of a Talmid of Rebbi, to whom Rebbi tended to give Ma'aser Oni. Once, when his jealous colleagues saw that he actually had a hundred and ninety-nine Zuz, they provided him with the extra Zuz, thereby depriving him of the Ma'aser Oni which his Rebbe intended to give him.

When Rebbi heard what they done, he described their deed as an evil-based Mitzvah.

That is what the Torah means when it writes "You shall surely give him, and when you do, do not give with an evil heart".


Only You Shall Rejoice

"And you shall be 'only' (ach) happy" (16:15).

Rashi explains that the word "ach" comes to include the night of Shemini Atzeres in the realm of Simchah.

But surely, the question is asked, "ach" always comes to exclude, and not to include (see Kol Eliyahu).

That may be true with regard to everything else - except for Simchah. When it comes to Simchah, then even "ach" comes to include (Sifrei Chasidim).

Others explain that the word does indeed come to exclude, in that one should take great care not to overstep the accepted boundaries of Simchah, by behaving in a manner that is forbidden or even merely unbecoming.


The Meshech Chochmah offers a totally different answer. Throughout Succos, he explains, when we offer the seventy bulls on behalf of the nations of the world, they too, have good reason to rejoice together with us. Comes Shemini Atzeres, when we bring one bull, for the 'one nation', we alone rejoice without their participation.

And that is why the Torah writes "Ach" - to preclude the gentiles from the Mitzvah of Simchah.

* * *

(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 420:
To Sacrifice All Korbanos in the Beis-Hamikdash

We are commanded to sacrifice all Korbanos in the Beis-Hamikdash and not in Chutz la'Aretz, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:14) " ... only in the location that G-d will choose there you will bring your Olos (burnt-offerings) and there you will do all that I command you". And so it says in the Sifri 'The Torah only says Olos'. What about other sacrifices? Therefore the Pasuk adds "and there you shall do all that I command you". And still I will say that Olos are subject to an Asei and a Lo Sa'aseh (an Asei, as quoted above, and a La Sa'aseh, as is recorded in the same Parshah "Beware lest you bring up your Korbanos wherever you see fit" and Olos are specifically mentioned in that Parshah). Other Korbanos perhaps, are subject only to an Asei. Therefore the Torah writes "and there you shall do ... " as the Sifri there explains. At the end of the day, all Kodshim, and not only Olos, are subject both to an Asei and a Lo Sa'aseh, should one sacrifice them outside the Beis-Hamikdash.

A reason for the Mitzvah is ... the fact that since there is a specified location where Korbanos are sacrificed and from which one regularly seeks Hashem, the place becomes sacrosanct, and not only does G-d's goodwill rest there, but He also showers His abundant blessings there too. It becomes a place where people fear Him and their hearts soften at His memory, where everybody 'does Teshuvah on their evil ways and from the robbery that is in their hands', just by seeing it. And if all locations would be eligible for sacrifices, this end may be attainable in some of the places chosen, but not in all of them, as is well known.

This reason will suffice for the children, until such time as they grow in wisdom and understand Torah at a far deeper level.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... will be discussed in Mitzvah 439 (its parallel La'av) ... and the remaining details are dealt with at the end of Maseches Zevachim, and in the Rambam, Hilchos Ma'aseh ha'Korbanos (chap. 17).

This Mitzvah applies to men and women, everywhere and at all times. In other words, someone who brings a Korban, even nowadays, outside the Beis-Hamikdash, has negated a Mitzvas Asei and contravened the La'av connected with it, as we explained earlier. The author does not of course, mean to say that there is an obligation nowadays to bring Korbanos in the B.H. whilst it is not even standing, but that the prohibition applies even though there it is not.


Mitzvah 441:
To Redeem Kodshim that have Become Blemished

It is a Mitzvah to redeem Kodshim once they become blemished (which are known as P'sulei ha'Mukdashin), and to purchase with the proceeds another animal as a Korban. The redeemed animal goes out to Chulin, and may be Shechted and eaten accordingly, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:15) "Only, according to the desire of your soul you may slaughter and eat meat ... one who is Tahor together with one who is Tamei may eat it, like the deer and the hart (which are not subject to Kedushah)".

After prohibiting the sacrifice of unblemished Korbanos anywhere other than in the B.H., the Torah teaches us that if the same Korban becomes blemished, it may be redeemed and eaten in any way that one pleases, just as one does with a deer and a hart. Although the Pasuk does not explicitly explain that it is speaking about P'sulei ha'Mukdashin, this is the way that we traditionally interpret it.

A reason for the Mitzvah ... It is a kindness on the part of Hashem to permit us to benefit from Korbanos after they have become blemished, in spite of the fact that they were already sanctified, and the 'Name of Heaven' has taken effect on them. For G-d is Righteous and He performs kindnesses with His creatures and with 'the tribe of His kingdom'. He tends to go easy with them, rather than to be strict and forbid anything that was once holy even for a moment. Moreover, He carried this kindness one stage further, by going so far as to declare the redemption of P'sulei ha'Mukdashin a Mitzvah; because He knew that if it were to remain voluntary, the people would consider it a Minhag Chasidus (an act of piety) to desist from deriving any benefit from them and act accordingly. But now that it is a Mitzvah, nobody will worry about doing something that is perhaps not quite correct.

And it is in order to stress this point that the Torah compares them to a deer and a hart, which have no Kedushah at all.

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