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

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Vol. 7   No. 47

This issue is co-sponsored l'iluy Nishmas Aharon ben Ya'akov z"l
whose Yohrzeit is on24th of Av, by his son
and l'iluy Nishmas Zipporah bas R' Moshe z"l
whose Yohrzeit is on Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, by her son

Parshas Re'ei

The Mitzvah of Tzedokoh

(adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak)
(Part I)

It is difficult to overlook the obvious connection between 'tzedokoh' and 'tzadik'. There is little, if anything at all, that gives Hashem greater pleasure than one Jew helping another Jew in need. It is one of the three pillars on which the world stands. In addition, the entire world was created on the basis of kindness, as Dovid wrote in Tehilim (89:3). Besides fulfilling the mitzvah of going in the ways of Hashem however, someone who gives tzedokoh is acting as His emissary, and will be rewarded accordingly.


Every mitzvah is beyond our scope of comprehension, and its reward in the World to Come, beyond human description. But over and above that, Shlomoh wrote in Mishlei (10:2) that charity saves from death, and the Gemoro at the end of Shabbos illustrates this with a number of stories from real life. In addition, Chazal have taught that, together with teshuvah and tefilah, tzedokoh has the power to revoke the evil decree. And what's more, it brings about the final redemption, for so the Novi Yeshayah wrote (1:27) "Tzi'on will be redeemed through justice and its returnees through tzedokoh". It goes without saying that the main reward in the World to Come remains intact.

The unique character of tzedokoh can be attributed to two factors: 1. To the nachas that any father gets when he sees his children kindly disposed one towards the other - and our Father in Heaven is no exception, (because it is in this very parshah that the Torah refers to us as "children of Hashem" (14:1); 2. To the obvious satisfaction that He must gain when He sees a Jew going against the grain (of constantly taking) by constantly giving and giving and giving, displaying a nobility of character that renders man superior to animals, who are incapable of parting with what is theirs.


There are two reasons why Hashem dispenses poverty, the Seifer ha'Chinuch explains (notwithstanding the possibility that it comes as a trial or to deprive him of his reward in the World to Come, as the Chovas ha'Levovos writes): 1. to atone for one's sins; 2. to grant the rich man an opportunity to gain entry to the World to Come.

Let us explain the rich man's role in both cases. Needless to say, the poor man suffers from his poverty per se. But he also suffers from the humiliation of having to approach the rich man and ask him for help. By helping him out, not only does the rich man alleviate his suffering (sometimes in conjunction with many other people), but by giving him with concern and sensitivity, he also minimises his humiliation. But more than that, he prevents the poor man from falling into despair, saving him from the temptation of turning to dishonest means to feed his hungry family - and perhaps from even more extreme reactions to his dire situation. And when Chazal say that Hashem renders a man poor, so that the rich man should gain entry to the World to Come, it implies that the poor man does not need that. This is because he has earned his place there by virtue of his suffering. It is the rich man who has already been rewarded in this world, who needs the merits to gain entry there too. It is a sobering thought that when the rich man contemplates giving the poor man tzedokoh, he is dealing with someone who has more merits than he does, and that, pending his current decision, he stands a chance of pulling level with him.


If, in exchange for the tzedokoh that he gives, the rich man earns himself a place in the World to Come, it means that he gets a better bargain than the poor man, who receives only a few p'rutos. That explains why Chazal, based on a posuk in Megilas Rus, declare that the poor man gives the rich man more than the rich man gives him. They might also however, be referring to the d'roshoh that they make with reference to the posuk in this parshah "Aser te'aser" (14:22) 'Give ma'aser (incorporating ma'aser kesofim - tzedokoh) in order to become rich'. In other words 'Give a little and receive a lot!' These are all fine reasons to give tzedokoh, and would serve as a marvelous incentive, even if it were not for the endless reward that awaits the ba'al tzedokoh in the World to Come.


The mitzvah of tzedokoh of course, is by no means confined to the rich. Indeed, Chazal have said that even a person who receives tzedokoh is obligated to give tzedokoh. However, the obligation of a rich man differs vastly from that of the poor man, who fulfils the mitzvah by giving only a few p'rutos. See what the Gemoro in Kesubos (66b) says about Nakdimon ben Gurion, one of the three wealthiest men in Yerusholayim at the time of the Churban Bayis Sheini. Chazal relate that in fact, he was a tremendous philanthropist, who did not hesitate to donate vast sums of money to tzedokoh, yet in the course of time he lost all his wealth. And as his daughter explained to Raban Yochonon ben Zakai, that was because he did not give in accordance with his means. For example, take a man who has earned a hundred million dollars profit. He must give at least ten million of that in order to fulfill obligation. Should he give eight million, he will have fallen short of his duty.

Alternatively, Nakdimon ben Gurion's daughter told Raban Yochonon ben Zakai that her father did indeed give tzedokoh according to his means, but that he gave it for his own glorification, rather than for the sake of the mitzvah - another test with which the poor man is not faced.


Nobody can be certain that the wealth he owns today will be his tomorrow. Indeed Chazal, commenting on the posuk "ki bi'glal ha'dovor ha'zeh" (also in this parshah - 15:10), expklain that wealth is like a galgal (a wheel) inasmuch as it rolls from one person to another. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that as long as a person gives tzedokoh generously and sincerely, he is unlikely to lose his wealth, as this very posuk implies, and as we quoted earlier 'Give ma'aser in order to become rich!'


Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro

"See I am placing before you today, blessings and curses" (11:26). The reason that the Torah writes "I am placing" (in the present), and not "I have placed" (in the past), says the Gro, is to avoid creating the impression that the choice to do right or wrong is confined to the initial choice that one makes. Having chosen to do wrong, we would then have thought that the original choice is irreversible. By using the present tense, the Torah makes it clear that the choice to do what is right remains with a person at all times, right up to the day of his death. He can reverse his initial decision! And he can do teshuvah!


'But what shall I do,' a person might well ask himself, 'if I have been wicked up to now? What will happen to all the sins that I performed until now?' That is why the Torah adds the word 'today', to teach us that a ba'al teshuvah is like a new-born baby (of one day), because as long as he genuinely repents and turns over a new leaf, all his sins are forgiven.


And should one persist and ask 'But what can I do to overcome my overpowering Yeitzer ho'ra?', the Torah writes "I have given before you," implying that G-d is available and will assist him in overcoming him. For so Chazal have said in Sucah (52b) 'The Yeitzer ho'ra of each person tries to overpower him and kill him ... and, were it not for G-d's help, it would be impossible to defeat him' (excerpt from the Gro).


Growing Tall

"You shall surely give Ma'aser (Aser te'aser) from all the produce of your seeds ... " (14:24). The Gemoro in Shabbos (119a) commenting on the double expression, explains 'Aser bi'shevil she'tisasher' (give ma'aser in order to become rich), a hint that giving one's tithes when they fall due leads to wealth.

That explains, says the Gro, why the neginah on the word "te'aser" is a 'zokeif koton', meaning 'raising from small to big'.


They Come in Different Sizes

When there is in your midst a poor man ... do not harden your heart and do not close your hand ... But rather, you should open your hand to him" (15:7-8).


Should a person look at his fingers when his hand is clenched, they all appear to be very much the same size. Whereas if he looks at them again when his hand is open, he will see that each finger is a different size.

Chazal have taught us (in connection with the posuk in Re'ei to give a poor man "whatever he is lacking") that one is obligated to provide a poor man with his personal needs, even if that includes a horse to ride on or a servant to run before him. In short, one should not give a standard amount to each poor man who comes to his door for help. One must assess the needs of each one individually, and give accordingly.

And that is hinted in the posuk here " ... do not close your hand" (causing all the fingers to look the same, and then do likewise with all the poor people who come to you for help). Rather you should "Open your hand ... " (taking note how each finger is different, and then go on to treat the poor who turn to you for help in the same manner).


Poor Bread

"You shall not eat on it (on the Korban Pesach) chometz, seven days you shall eat on it matzos, poor bread" (16:3).


Chazal have said in Pesochim (36 a-b) "Poor" - to preclude matzah made from a dough that was kneaded with wine and oil (from being used for the mitzvah of matzah).

Another explanation is that one is obligated to eat a broken piece of matzah (as opposed to a whole one), just as it is the way of a poor person to eat a broken piece of bread (and not a whole loaf). And by the same token, not to use matzah that was made in boiling water or an exceptionally large matzah ('cholut va'ashishoh').

A third explanation is that the matzah should be prepared like a poor man's bread, because (as was customary in those days) the poor man would tend to heat the oven whilst his wife baked the bread.

And a fourth explanation interprets 'lechem oni' to mean "bread over which one raises one's voice' (as in the Pasuk "ve'Anisa ve'Amarta", in Devorim 26:5) - meaning matzah, over which one has a lot to say (the Hagodoh).


Everything that is made or manufactured comprises: 1) the materials or ingredients; 2) the finished product; 3) the manufacturer; and 4) the purpose or objective of the article. Take for example, a table. The material is the wood, the finished product, the table, the carpenter is the manufacturer and the objective, to eat on it.


And it is corresponding to these four aspects that Chazal gave the four explanations of 'Lechem Oni'.

Without wine or oil - corresponding to the ingredients.

A broken piece, neither boiled in water nor exceptionally large - corresponding to the finished product.

The poor man heats the oven, whilst his wife bakes the matzah - corresponding to the manufacturer.

The bread over which one says a lot - corresponding to the objective.



(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

94. Not to eat the meat of 't'reifah' birds- as the Torah writes in Shemini (11:13) "And these you shall abhor from the birds, they shall not be eaten ... ". Any bird that parts its claws when perching on a thin cord (two on one side, and two on the other) falls under the category of 'doreis' (bird of prey) and is 't'reifah', and so is one that catches its food in the air and eats it.

A bird that nests with 't'reifah' birds and resembles them is 't'reifah' too. Someone who eats a kezayis of a 't'reifah' bird is due to receive malkos. The eggs of a 't'reifah' bird are 't'reifah', just like the mother.

Any bird that has an extra claw (not level with the other three claws), has a crop (to store its food during eating), and its stomach can be peeled by hand, is kosher. This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


95. Not to eat t'reifah fish - as the Torah writes in Shemini (11:11) "And it shall be abhorent to you; from their flesh you shall not eat". Whatever has no fins or scales is 't'reifah'. Someone who eats a kezayis of 't'reifah' fish is due to receive malkos.

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


96. Not to eat flying insects - as the Torah writes there (14:19) "And all flying insects are 't'reifah' for you, they shall not be eaten". This includes (non-kosher) locusts, flies, gnats, bees, hornets etc.

Someone who eats a kezayis of them is due to receive malkos, and the same applies to someone who eats an entire insect, irrespective of its size. The one exception is the various species of kosher locust, which has four signs of kashrus: it must be called a 'chogov', have four legs, four wings that cover the majority of both its length and its circumference, and it must have two extra jumping legs.

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


97. Not to eat land insects - as the Torah writes there (11:41) "And all 'insects' that crawl on the ground are abominable, they shall not be eaten". This includes snakes, scorpions, beetles and worms. Someone who eats one whole, or who eats a kezayis of them is due to receive malkos. All insects (even if they belong to a variety of different species) combine to make up a kezayis.


Strictly speaking, 'worms' that grew inside a fruit only after it has been picked are permitted. They only become forbidden after they emerge from it and reach the ground, and possibly even if they did not. One tends to avoid eating any of them them however, because of the la'av of 'bal teshaktzu' (not eating or doing something that is abhorent).

Worms that one finds in the stomach of fish are prohibited, but not those in between the skin and the flesh or inside the flesh itself. All worms that one finds inside the meat of an animal however, are forbidden, because whatever is found inside an animal requires shechitah, and shechitah regarding worms is ineffective (besides the specific posuk "and their carcasses you shall abhor" [11:11] which comes to prohibit them). The one exception to this rule is a fetus, which the Torah specifically permits.

Chazal also permitted worms that are found in water gathered inside a pit or inside a container, even if they crawled onto the sides of the pit and fell back into the water. A whole insect does not become 'boteil' (nullified) even if it falls into a mixture a thousand times its own volume. - Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch.


This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


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