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

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Vol. 21   No. 47

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Dovid Betzalel ben Lipa Hacohen z"l
by the Braverman and Shapiro Families
of Givat Ze'ev, Woodland Hills, Encino and California

Parshas Re'ei

The B'rachos & the K'lalos
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

The Weight of Responsibility

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

The Pasuk begins in the singular ("Re'ei") and ends in the plural ("lifneichem"), observes the Oznayim la'Torah.

The Gemara in Kidushin teaches us that every Jew must constantly see himself as half meritorious and half guilty, and his town, and even the entire world, as half righteous and half wicked. In that way, he will, on the one hand, avoid sinning at all costs, so as not to tip the scales in favour of guilt (not his own, not those of his town and not those of the world), whilst on the other, he will run to perform a Mitzvah, so as to tip the scales to the side of merit, thereby benefiting himself, his town and the world.


Nor is this just a matter of thought-process. Commenting on the Pasuk in Bechukosai (26:37) "And one man will stumble over his fellow man", Chazal have also taught that when one Jew stumbles and sins, everybody else falls with him.


Who is 'I'


It is quite conceivable, says the Oznayim la'Torah, that the word "I" (in the opening phrase in the Pasuk) to which the humble Moshe was referring, was not himself but G-d, who described Himself in the Aseres ha'Dibros as "Onochi Hashem Elokecho".


Blessings & Curses x 3


Rashi explains that the B'rachos and the K'lalos mentioned here are the B'rachos that would later be given on Har G'rizim and Har Eival, B'rachos and K'lalos which Yisrael took upon themselves by answering 'Amen', which the Torah will describe in Ki Savo.


The Oznayim la'Torah points out that this is apart from the B'rachos and K'lalos that were issued by G-d at Har Sanai, and the B'rachos and K'lalos issued by Moshe at Arvos Mo'av.

To explain the need for the three sets of B'rachos and K'lalos, he explains that there are three groups of people in Yisrael; there are those who will only take seriously the words of G-d, particularly when they are conveyed by Moshe, the master prophet, but not to the words of the Chachamim, even of Moshe Rabeinu himself. Then there are those people whose awe of Moshe overrides even that of G-d. Whereas the third group will only take seriously what they themselves have undertaken, but not what is imposed on them.

That is why one set of B'rachos was imposed by G-d, one by Moshe (notwithstanding the comment in the previous Pearl) and one which they themselves undertook.


The Absolute Blessing

The Conditional Curse

"the B'rachah, that you shall listen …The k'lalah, if you do not listen …" (11:27/28).

Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu, in His boundless love for K'lal Yisrael, wants to give them the B'rachos. By the same token, the last thing He wants is for the K'lalos to take effect.

That, says the Oznayim la'Torah, explains why the Torah speaks of observing the Mitzvos and meriting the B'rachos as if it was conclusive. But when it comes to not observing the Mitzvos and earning the K'lalos, it refers to it conditionally - "if".


G-d in His Mercy


The promise of B'rachos, comments the Oznayim la'Torah, ends with the proviso that one listens to the Mitzvos of Hashem. This is because once Yisrael undertakes to perform the Mitzvos, they are already subject to reward - even if they are later unable to perform them (and this is borne out by Unklus, who translates the Pasuk "If you will undertake to perform the Mitzvos of Hashem … "). This conforms with Chazal, who say that someone who intends to perform a Mitzvah and is prevented from doing so, receives reward as if he would have performed it.

The Pasuk regarding the curses, on the other hand, adds " … and you stray from the path that I command you today". One is only punished after one has actually sinned, not for intending to sin.

The one exception to this rule is Avodah-Zarah, which G-d punishes even for the thought of sinning. And that is why the Pasuk adds "to go after other gods", which is punishable even when no action has been performed.


Sh'chem & Avraham

"And it shall be when Hashem your G-d will bring you to the land … then you shall bestow the B'rachos on Har G'rizim and the K'lalos on Har Eival … right next to Eilonei Moreh" (11:29/30).

Eilonei Moreh, Rashi explains, is another name for Sh'chem.

Interestingly, comments the Oznayim la'Torah, Sh'chem was also the very first place that Avraham Avinu built a Mizbei'ach and called out in the name of Hashem for the people to relinquish their idols and embrace the worship of the one and only G-d. That is why, the moment they crossed the Yarden and entered Eretz Yisrael, G-d commanded them to follow in their founding father's footsteps, to build a Mizbei'ach in the same location, and to accept upon themselves B'rachos if they adhere to the Mitzvos of Hashem, and K'lalos should they go astray after foreign gods.


Sh'chem & Ya'akov

" … are they not on the other side of the Yarden, far (acharei), in the direction (derech) of the sun-set, in the land of the Cana'anim …?" (Ibid.)


The Oznayim la'Torah quoting Rashi, explains that, by virtue of the neginos that go with the words "acharei" and "derecho", the two words are not directly connected and that "acharei" is an independent word, as we translated it.

Accordingly, "in the direction of the sun-set" means simply 'towards the west'.

The question therefore arises, why the Torah did not simply say "yomoh" or "ma'arovoh", as it generally does when it wants to say 'to the west'?

He explains that the Pasuk here is hinting at Ya'akov Avinu, who is called 'sun' (See for example Parshas Vayeishev 37:9). Like Avraham (See previous Pearl), Ya'akov, upon arriving in Eretz Yisrael from Padan Aram, made his first stop Sh'chem, And he too, built a Mizbe'ach there, which he called "Keil Elokei Yisrael" (Parshas Vayishlach [33]). And as we explained in the previous Pearl, this too, was a sign for his children, that when they would eventually return from Galus Mitzrayim, they should follow in his footsteps and take upon themselves the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and of Mitzvos. And just as Ya'akov on that occasion ordered his children to remove the foreign gods from their midst, so too, were Yisrael commanded when they arrived in Eretz Yisrael to "utterly destroy all the gods on the mountains".

And finally, just as Ya'akov went on to build another Mizbe'ach in Beis-Eil, so too, did Yisrael later build another Mizbe'ach in Shiloh, "which is north of Beis-El" (Shoftim 21).

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