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

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Vol. 6 No. 33

Parshas Sh'lach Lecho

To Do Or Not To Do
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"A horse is ready for the day of battle, but salvation belongs to G-d" (Mishlei 21:31). Shlomoh ha'Melech is warning us here that a person is obliged to do whatever he can by natural means, and allow G-d do the rest; because miracles only tend to supplement what nature cannot achieve. The reason for this is, because man was created in an environment of nature, and it is nature therefore that must serve as the predominant functionary in his life.

When man wants something, he must not expect G-d to do it for him; he must make the necessary preparations to achieve his goals. For example, if he wants to go to war, he must prepare in advance his weapons and suitable horses and chariots. Should he fail to do this, and march out to battle expecting G-d to make his preparations for him, he will suffer defeat. Similarly, if a member of his household falls ill, he must obtain the right medicines, and serve him only foods that are good for his condition, as well as taking care not to serve him dishes that might aggravate his illness. Otherwise, he will most likely die.


Nevertheless, after making the necessary preparations, he should not for one moment believe that it is he who will achieve success through his efforts. He should know that this is the method that G-d chose for him to achieve the desired results; because, when all's said and done, many a man fell in battle in spite of extensive preparations, and many a man was victorious without them; many a man succumbed to his illness in spite of the foods and medicines administered to him, and many a man survived without them. Clearly then, it is not the effort that achieves the result but G-d, for so the possuk writes (Tehillim 147:10) "It is not the strength of the horse or the calves of the (strong) man that He wants ... Hashem wants those who fear Him", and "The horse is false for salvation" (ibid. 33:17).


This is what the Torah expects of us, and there are many pesukim which bear this out. That is why the Torah orders Yisroel to make these efforts - to arm themselves when going to fight the enemy, to place an ambush behind the city, and to send spies to their towns. The Torah's intentions are always the same: that we do all in our power to achieve our goal in a natural way, and Hashem will add the finishing touches, so to speak, to conclude in a miraculous way what we cannot achieve using natural means.


The truth of the matter is that, strictly speaking, Yisroel's efforts are not essential, since their victory is not dependent on the natural running of things, only on merit and guilt, so that, when they are deserving, few of them will defeat many of the enemy, whereas when they are guilty, few of the enemy will defeat them. Nevertheless, G-d demands of Yisroel first to do their utmost, and then to rely on Him finishing the job. And it is for the same reason that G-d commanded No'ach to build a boat. It is obvious that, had He so wished, He could have saved No'ach by enabling him and his sons to walk on water, without troubling him to construct a boat from a specific type of wood with its specified measurements. But again, G-d wants us to do whatever we can, down to the last detail, and, after all the effort that we put into our preparations, to believe in our hearts that the real salvation lies not in those efforts, but with Him.


That is why Shlomoh wrote here "A horse is ready for the day of battle, but salvation belongs to G-d". So we find too, that when Dovid ha'Melech asked the Urim ve'Tumim whether to attack the P'lishtim, he was told not to attack them outright, but to go round to their rear and to wait for a signal. Similarly, at the battle against Eye, Yehoshua was instructed to set up an ambush behind the city. And that is exactly why G-d told Moshe to send spies to spy out the Land of Cana'an.

Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim

Sh'lach Lecho

Who's Afraid of a Loaf?

When the spies said to Yisroel "But the people who inhabit the land are strong" (13:28) (Using the word "efes"), they were implying that it was impossible to defeat them, explains the Ramban, since that is the implication of the word "efes" (impossible). To counter that, the Chofetz Chayim points out, Yehoshua and Coleiv referred to the Cana'anim as "our bread" (14:9) - who's ever heard of someone being afraid of a large loaf of bread? On the contrary, the larger the loaf, the bigger the portion everyone receives.


To Denigrate Oneself - To Honour Hashem

"Because he despised the word of G-d ... " The man who cursed G-d is sentenced to koreis (excision) - and even worse, if there are witnesses and a warning - because he despised the word of G-d.

We have been commanded to honour G-d and His ways, explains the Chofetz Chayim, to sanctify His Name in public. To this end, we are even permitted to denigrate ourselves (even though this is otherwise forbidden, since we are created in the image of G-d). To curse Him therefore, is the antithesis of the very purpose of our creation.

And so Chazal said in Medrash Rabah, where they ask why Yechezkel was called 'Yechezkel ben Buzi', seeing as his father's name was Barechyah? And they answer, because he used to denigrate himself in order to enhance the honour of Hashem (and 'Buzi' is a derivative of 'Bizoyon' - a disgrace). Dovid ha'Melech too, did this, when he danced wildly in front of the Oron, much to the disgust of his wife, Michal.


The Great Reminder

"And you will see them (the tzitzis) and you will remember all the mitzvos of Hashem ... in order that you will remember and perform all My mitzvos ..." (15:39-40).

Chazal in Menochos (43b) derive from this possuk that seeing leads to remembering the mitzvos, and remembering them leads to their fulfillment.

That's all very well, remarks the Chofetz Chayim, if one has studied all the mitzvos beforehand. Otherwise, what can one expect to remember by looking at one's tzitzis? It is evident then that, first and foremost, a person needs to learn Torah and master the mitzvos. Then, and only then, will seeing one's tzitzis serve to remind him to put the mitzvos into practice.


The Shulchon Oruch (Orach Chayim 8) rules that according to the holochoh, the tallis kotton should be worn on top of one's clothes, so that one should see it constantly and remember the mitzvos (see Mishnah B'rurah there 8:25).

As for those people who wear their tzitzis inside their trousers, not only are they ignoring the Torah's command "And you shall see them", but they are also guilty of despising Hashem's mitzvos, a sin for which they will one day have to pay dearly ... They should consider if, were they to receive a medal from the King, they would stick it inside their clothes!

How much more so should tzitzis, which hints at the Name of Hashem, be seen as a badge of distinction, to be worn with pride, in a dignified manner.


From Idolatry to Sanctity

"And you shall not go astray after your hearts and after your eyes ... and you will be holy to your G-d" (ibid.).

In spite of the fact that the Torah is addressing people who are prone to serve idols and to commit adultery, the possuk nevertheless concludes with an injunction to be holy. It appears, remarked the Chofetz Chayim, that no matter how low a Jew sinks, the Torah not only considers him capable of pulling himself out of the mire and of becoming a holy person, but that it actually expects him to do just that.

But one could also explain the possuk, not so much to stress the potential of a Jew, but to stress the power of mitzvos in general, and the mitzvah of Tzitzis in particular. Man's body comprises the same components as an animal - to whose level he can sink without much effort. His soul has the make-up of an angel - to whose level he can rise, but only through hard work. To achieve this, G-d gave us the medium of mitzvos. What the Torah is teaching us here is that the mitzvos in general, and above all, the mitzvah of Tzitzis, will not only prevent us from sinking to the level of an animal (which instinctively follows its heart and eyes), but even have the power to raise us to the greatest heights, to make us holy like the angels.


The Reward of Tzitzis

Chazal have said that someone who is careful to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis (in spite of the fact that he can avoid it - quite legally - by not wearing a garment of four corners), will merit to see the face of the Shechinah.


It also appears from the possuk in Zecharyah (8:23) that at that time, Yisroel will be distinguished by the mitzvah of tzitzis, when the Novi describes how 'ten men from each of the seventy nations will grab on to one of the four corners of a Jew's tzitzis ...'. And the Gemoro in Shabbos (32b) derives from there that each Jew will have two thousand eight hundred servants in the days of Moshi'ach.



The Shema
(Part XXVII)

And You Shall Teach Them to Your Sons

... but not to your daughters, Chazal derive from here. Although a woman is obliged to learn the mitzvos that she needs to fulfill, there is no mitzvah to teach her Torah as an independent mitzvah, nor is she duty-bound to study Torah herself or to teach it to her sons (Kidushin 29b).


The mitzvah of teaching Torah to one's son is the only mitzvah that the Torah imposes on the father to educate his son - since all other mitzvos are only mi'de'Rabbonon. In fact, Chazal derive from the words "to speak about them", that the moment a child starts to speak, the father begins to learn Torah with him and to teach him to say the first possuk of the Shema as well as that of "Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe ... " etc.


We also learn from this possuk that women are exempt from Tefillin and from reciting the Shema; because she is exempt from Torah study, she is also exempt from them (since the Torah compares them). On the other hand, she is not exempt from Mezuzah. This is because the Torah prescribes long life for the mitzvah of Mezuzah, and women want long life no less than men do (Kidushin 31a).


And You Shall Teach Them to Your Sons ... (cont.)

At first, the fathers would learn with their children - someone who had no father, did not learn Torah - because people would read "ve'limadtem atem" (instead of "osom"), implying that it is only the father who is obligated to learn with his son, to the exclusion of anyone else. Until Yehoshua ben Gamla (a Kohen Godol in the time of the second Beis ha'Mikdosh) introduced the concept of Rebbes who would learn with the children (and the system of chadorim was born).


And You Shall Bind Them ... Between The Eyes
... And Teach Them

Binding the Tefillin on the arm is a symbol of action, placing them between the eyes in the location of the brain is a symbol of thought, and teaching them to your sons, of speech - symbolising the three areas of Judaism: action, thought and speech (much in the same way as the Torah writes in Devorim - 30:14 - when it describes the basic components of Torah and Teshuvah) - Likutey Anshei Sheim.


In Order that You Will Live Long ...

The Gemoro in B'rochos relates how Rebbi Yochonon expressed surprise when he heard that there were old men in Bovel. For does the Torah not write "In order that you and your children shall live a long time in the land" etc. - in Eretz Yisroel, but not in Chutz lo'Oretz.

But when he heard that they went to shul early each morning and late each evening for Shachris and Ma'ariv, he understood why. Because the sanctity of the shul is compared to that of Eretz Yisroel. This explains why Chazal said that the Shuls and the Botei Medrash (whose sanctity exceeds that of the shuls) of Chutz lo'Oretz will eventually be moved to Eretz Yisroel (Megillah 29a).

The simple explanation of the possuk however, refers to Mezuzah. It teaches us that the mitzvah of Mezuzah leads to long life; and not only long life, but a heavenly life, free of all the troubles that normally beset man in this world - "kiymei ha'Shomayim al ho'Oretz" - like the days of the heaven here on earth. Little wonder that the first thing a Jew does when things start to go wrong, is to check his Mezuzah.


Which G-d Swore to Your Forefathers ...
to Give to Them

"To give to them," the Torah writes, and not "to give to you", implying that it is our forefathers themselves who will receive the land, providing us with one of many hints at Techi'as ha'Meisim (the revival of the dead) in the Torah.


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