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

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Vol. 18   No. 48

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Menachem ben Yaakov z"l

Parshas Re'ei

Getting to Yerushalayim on Time
(Adapted from the Riva)

" and you shall turn round in the morning and return to your tents" (16:7).

The question arises, says the Riva, as to why the Torah writes this specifically in connection with Pesach, and not with the other Yamim-Tovim?

Citing Rabeinu Tam from Orleans, he explains that seeing as there are only six weeks between Pesach and Shavu'os, the people who live far from Yerushalayim will have to hurry home in order to return to Yerushalayim in time for Shavu'os. And it is they whom the Torah is addressing.


To explain the distances involved, the Riva cites Chazal, who give the size of Eretz Yisrael as four hundred Parsah by four hundred Parsah (a Parsah equals four Mil [a Mil is approximately one kilometer]). Presumably, that was the size of Eretz Yisrael in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash, when it expanded according to the need. Furthermore, they describe Yerushalayim as being in the centre of the country. This means that one had to travel two hundred Parsah to get from Yerushalayim to either end of the country. Bearing in mind a third Chazal, which gives the regular distance that a person travels daily (on foot) as ten Parsah (forty Mil), this means that he would need forty days to travel back from Yerushalayim to his home on the border, and to return. This would leave him barely a week at home upon his return from Aliyas ha'Regel after Pesach, before he would have to set out again to arrive in time for Shavu'os. This is according to Rashi, who explains that the Mitzvah of remaining overnight refers to the night following the first day of Pesach.

The wording of the question that the Riva is about to ask however, suggests that he Riva conforms to the opinion ofTosfos in Succah 47a (dh 'Linah') who maintains that the Pasuk under discussion is referring not to the first morning of Chol ha'Mo'ed (like Rashi, but) to the morning of Isru Chag, the day after the termination of Yom-Tov. In that case, someone living on the northern border, upon arriving home twenty days after the termination of Pesach, would be obligated to start off on the return journey back to Yerushalayim, the very next day!

Based on what he just explained, the Riva asks how people living in Chutz la'Aretz who returned home after Pesach, could possibly then make it back to Yerushalayim in time for Shavu'os.


In answer to his question, the Riva himself explains that they travelled on straight, direct paths that enabled them to arrive at their destination quicker, and he cites Tosfos in Bava Metzi'a (28a dh 'Chamishah-Asar', who gives a similar answer to a different question, though I do not understand what either of them means).


In answer to the Riva's question, one wonders why cannot answer simply that someone who is unable to make it to Yerushalayim on Yom-Tov will be Patur, just as, based on the principle 'Oneis Rachmana Patreih' (the Torah exempts a person from punishment for doing something that is forbidden if his action is outside of his control.

Moreover, Tosfos in Pesachim (Daf 3b dh 'me'Alya ') takes for granted that someone living in Chutz la'Aretz is exempt from the Mitzvah of Aliyas ha'Regel, in which case the question does not even begin.

And thirdly, there seems to be no reason as to why one cannot travel by means of a horse or a camel, which would enable people living way beyond the borders of Eretz Yisrael to arrive in good time for Shavuos, seeing as the Mitzvah to go up on foot was confined to the last part of the journey (i.e. the ascent to the Beis-Hamikdash itself (See the Gemara at the beginning of Chagigah).

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Riva)

There Will be No Poor Among You

"Only, there will not be among you a poor man" (16:4).

To reconcile this with what the Torah writes just a few Pesukim later " for a poor man will not cease from the midst of the land", Rashi explains that one Pasuk speaks about a time when Yisrael do the will of Hashem, whilst the other Pasuk speaks where they do not.


The Riva explains that the first Pasuk is written immediately following the Pasuk that deals with the cancellation of debts at the end of the Sh'mitah. And it is in answer to the question that many people are likely to ask, 'How can I simply forego my debt? It is bound to leave me impoverished!' that the Torah answers with an assurance, that fulfilling the command of Hashem will not lead to poverty.

On the other hand, the Torah adds, "There will not cease a poor man ". This is vital, to reward the wealthy for the Mitzvah of feeding the needy.

Indeed, the Gemara in the first Perek of Bava Basra records how when Turnus Rufus asked Rebbi Akiva why, if Hashem loves the poor, He doesn't sustain them, the latter replied that this was the rich man's passport to Olam ha'Bo!


Providing an Outgoing Servant

" when you send him (your servant) away, do not send him empty-handed" (16:13).

The Pasuk instigates this obligation specifically with regard to a servant who was sold by Beis-Din. The reason for this, explains the Rosh, is because seeing as Beis-Din only sell him if he stole and is unable to repay what he stole, he must have been a poor man with nothing to his name. And the Torah clearly considers it unfair to send him away without giving him a chance to start a new life with some assets.


Shavu'os and Going Out of Egypt

"And you shall remember that you were slaves in Egypt " (16:12).

What, asks the Riva, is the connection between Shavu'os and the Exodus from Egypt?

In fact he answers, citing R. Moshe from Coucy, there is no direct connection at all. The Torah is talking to the farmers (which the vast majority of people were in biblical times), who may perhaps be concerned about leaving their fields in the middle of the harvest season to go to Yerushalayim on Shavu'os. Therefore it reminds them how they were slaves in Egypt, without a penny to their name as it were, since whatever a slave owns belongs to his master. Yet G-d graced them with immense wealth (even in the desert, with what they obtained from the Egyptians before they even left Egypt and at the Yam-Suf). In that case, they could rest assured that now too, He would protect their property, and they would lose nothing of their wealth by performing the Mitzvah of Aliyas ha'Regel and going to Yerushalayim.

Bearing in mind that they were slaves in Egypt, with no time to rest and rejoice, the Chizkuni adds, they should welcome the opportunity to do so now with open arms and 'go for it'.

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