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

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Vol. 7   No. 38

This issue is sponsored in honour of
Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld shlita

Parshas Sh'lach Lecho

That's Not Teshuvah!

'Here we are. Let us go up to the place that Hashem has said, for we have sinned!' (14:40).

If Yisroel proclaimed 'We have sinned!', ask the commentaries, then surely that is a proclamation of teshuvah. Then why was their teshuvah not accepted? Why did Hashem still refuse them permission to go to Eretz Yisroel? And why, when some of them persisted in marching to Eretz Yisroel (as they had previously been told to do), were they annihilated?

Quoting the Ba'al Shem Tov, they explain that Yisroel did not really confess to having sinned at all. By changing the comma and the meaning of the Hebrew word 'ki', they rephrase part of the original quotation to read 'Hashem said that we have sinned' (but we don't agree).


In fact, it is quite feasible to read the initial quotation in its original form, and yet it is easy to see that their words do not constitute teshuvah at all. The Rambam begins Hilchos Teshuvah by stating that someone who wishes to do teshuvah must first confess. Clearly then, confession does not constitute teshuvah, but is merely one stage of - or the prerequisite to - teshuvah. A person must first confess that he has sinned, if he is to repent in any form or fashion. Confession alone, if it is not followed by remorse, taking leave of the sin and a firm undertaking not to repeat it, is futile and cannot be termed teshuvah. In addition, it must be stressed that, in the opinion of the Ba'alei Mussar, a ba'al teshuvah must be humble, an obvious development of the embarrassment that a person must experience, after having defied his Creator and King.

There was certainly nothing humble about the attitude adopted by Klal Yisroel after their sin. They insolently informed Moshe Rabeinu that they were going to Eretz Yisroel - insisting on going ahead with their plans, even after Moshe Rabeinu forbade them to do so. In fact, Rashi clearly states that the term 'va'ya'apilu' used by the Torah here, is an expression of arrogance. Surely, humility entails behaving with reserve and deferring to the wishes of others, certainly of one's superiors.

Not only that, but the fact that they insisted on going up to Eretz Yisroel indicated that they considered themselves still worthy of going there. It did not occur to them that their situation had now changed, that their rejection of Eretz Yisroel had deprived them of the right to go there. A genuine ba'al teshuvah, on the other hand, realises that his sins have brought him down to a lower level, and have rendered him unworthy of the privileges that he might otherwise have anticipated.


Nor can one perceive the other conditions of teshuvah in their actions, for surely, where before, they had disobeyed the command of G-d, they should now in its place, have demonstrated their remorse by accepting His orders. Indeed, the essence of their sin was not their refusal to go to Eretz Yisroel, but their refusal to obey Hashem's instructions. Teshuvah therefore, would need to take the form of now obeying His current wishes, whatever they may be. To express their willingness to go to Eretz Yisroel, if this contravened G-d's wishes and command, merely constituted a repitition of the very sin for which they were ostensibly supposed to have been doing teshuvah. Their confession in fact, was worthless, since it was based on the mistaken assumption that they had sinned by refusing to go to Eretz Yisroel (see Rashi 14:40), whereas in reality, their sin comprised disobeying Hashem's orders.


In our daily lives too, it is important that we understand the true meaning of mitzvah and aveirah, of good and bad. It is not so much the intrinsic act, be it an act of charity or of keeping Shabbos, that renders it the right thing to do, but rather the fact that it has been ordained by G-d, that demands its observance. In the b'rochoh that we recite before performing a mitzvah, we say " ... who sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us ..." The very word mitzvos means 'commands'. And, it is the fact that it is the will of G-d that supplies the current to the mitzvos and gives them life and meaning, filling us with sanctity and eternity whenever we perform them.

Consequently, when we have contravened those mitzvos, it is not so much for not giving tzedokoh or for not keeping Shabbos that we need to do teshuvah, but because we have disobeyed Hashem. Being sorry for having disobeyed G-d and remedying that fault constitutes teshuvah.

Indeed, Chazal have taught that a person should not say 'Ugh, I cannot possibly eat pig's meat!' What he should say is 'I could eat it, but what shall I do? Hashem has forbidden me to eat it'.


Parshah Pearls

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

Sh'lach Lecho

From Tip To Tip

"And they went up and spied out the land from the Desert of Tzin till Rechov, to come to Chamos" (13:21).

The Gro explains why the Torah needs to mention Chamos here, even though it was not even in Eretz Yisroel.

There were two towns called Rechov, he explains, as we see in Yehoshua (19:28-30). That is why the Torah had to explain that the Rechov that is mentioned here is the one on the north-west tip of Eretz Yisroel, on the way to Chamos. Considering that they travelled the entire length and breadth of the land, this makes good sense, since they began their journey at Midbar Tzin, in the south-east, and ended it in Chamos, in the north-west, where their return journey now commenced.

Chamos itself, as we mentioned earlier, was not part of Eretz Yisroel at that time. It will be though, in the days of Moshi'ach (perhaps by virtue of the fact that it is mentioned here together with the land that they spied), as it is written 'from Damascus (in the north-east) till Chamos (in the north-west)' - (though this is not a posuk in T'nach).



"And they arrived at Nachal Eshkol (the Valley of Eshkol). They called the name of that place Nachal Eshkol (the cluster), because of the cluster of grapes that B'nei Yisroel cut from there" (11:23-24).

If they only called the place-name Nachal Eshkol, because of the cluster of grapes which they subsequently cut from there, asks the Gro, then how can the Torah write "And they arrived at Nachal Eshkol" (before they had cut the cluster and named it accordingly)? Chazal have taught us that when a word is written with a 'vov', it implies the plural, whereas when the 'vov' is missing, it implies the singular. Hence, the Gemoro in Sucah (6b) learns from "ba'Succos ba'Succos" (without a 'vov') and "ba'Succos" with a 'vov' - implying the number four, and goes on to derive from there the minimum number of walls that a Sucah requires.

Here too, when the Torah informs us that they arrived at Nachal Eshkol, it spells the word "Eshkol" without a 'vov'. Yet when, in the second posuk, it goes on to tell us that they called it 'Nachal Eshkol' "because of the cluster ...", it spells the same word with a 'vov'.

The significance of this is that the place was originally named 'Nachal Eshkol' (without a 'vov'), after Eshkol, the colleague of Avrohom. However, after they picked the cluster of grapes from there, it became known as 'Nachal Eshkol' (with a 'vov') since there were now two reasons to call it by that name.

Refer also to the Or ha'Chayim.


Who Is A Strong Man?

"He forgives iniquity and rebellious sins" (14:18). The Gemoro in Rosh Hashonoh (17a) explains this posuk to mean that G-d is willing to forgive the sins of someone who exercises control over his inclinations.

A person cannot break his tendencies, seeing as they are moulded by the Mazel under which he is born. As the Gemoro explains in Shabbos (156a): 'Someone who is born under the Mazel 'Ma'adim' (Mars) will shed blood. The choice however, whether to be a blood-letter (an average person), a mohel (a tzadik), or a highway robber (a rosho) lies with him'. He cannot break his tendencies, explains the Gro, but he can direct them.


With this, we can understand the Gemoro in Yuma. The Gemoro (22b) states that Shaul sinned on only one occasion (in the episode with Agog), and did not get away with it (he lost his kingdom), whereas Dovid sinned twice (in the episode with Uri'ah ha'Chitti and when he counted Yisroel), yet he did.

The reason for this is because, as the Novi himself testifies, Dovid was 'Admoni' - red (like Eisov), born under the Mazel Ma'adim. This explains why Shmuel erred when he first saw Dovid's face (because it never occurred to him that, with such an 'uncontrolable' Yeitzer ho'ra, he had the potential to reach the supreme levels worthy of the King of Yisroel).

Yet Dovid overcame all his tendencies, time and time again. That is why Hashem was willing to forgive him for the only two times that he failed to do so (as we explained earlier).

Shaul on the other hand, was born with a refined personality. He had no inclination to sin, as the posuk writes in Shmuel "Shaul was one year old when he became king", which Chazal explain to mean that, like a one- year-old baby, he had never sinned (because of his placid nature). All that was needed was one lapse of his normally controlled personality for him to lose everything. So when he failed to exercise the necessary control to refrain from sinning, just once - G-d did not see fit to forgive him.


Olom ha'Bo

"Because he despised the word of G-d, and annulled his covenant, that soul will be cut off (hikores tikores) with its sin intact" (15:31).

'With this (posuk)', said Rebbi Eliezer b'Rebbi Yossi, 'I proved the Kuttim wrong. They claim that Techi'as ha'Meisim does not appear in the Torah. But the Torah writes "hikores tikores" - from this world, "avonoh boh" - in the World to Come. Here we have a clear indication that Techi'as ha'Meisim will take place (Sanhedrin 90b).


The Rishonim dispute Olom ha'Bo. According to the Rambam, Olom ha'Bo is the world that souls of the tzadikim inherit after death, which presumably, they will continue ro inherit until the end of time; whereas, according to the Ramban, it refers to the world after the revival of the dead (when body and soul combine). The Ramban bases his explanation on the above Gemoro in Sanhedrin.


The Gro however, brings a clear proof for the Rambam from the section prior to 'Keil Odon' that we recite every Shabbos morning. There we say "There is none who can compare with You Hashem ... in this world, and there is no-one besides You our King, for life in Olom ha'Bo. There is none other than You, our Redeemer, for the days of Moshi'ach, and there is nobody similar to You for Techi'as ha'Meisim'. Clearly then, Olom ha'Bo is not synonymous with Techi'as ha'Meisim. So it must be the world of the souls, like the Rambam maintains.

See also Eitz Yosef on 'li'shnei Yemos ha'Moshi'ach u'le'chayei ho'Olom ha'Bo' in 'u'Vo le'Tziyon Goel'.



(Based partially on the Sidur Otzar ha'Tefilos)

The Amidah (Part IV)


When a Rov or a parent enters the room one stands up, for a great Rov one remains standing until he has sat down or is out of sight. It is also inconceivable to sit in front of a king, unless one is instructed to do so. Clearly, standing is a sign of respect, and sometimes even of humility. That is why Klal Yisroel "stood at the foot of the Mountain" when the Torah was given. Indeed, Chazal have taught that, until the death of Raban Gamliel (when a weakness descended upon the world), talmidim would learn Torah standing, out of Kovod ha'Torah. The angels are referred to as "omdim" because, as opposed to people, they never progress spiritually, but remain static in their (albeit supreme) level of avodas Hashem, but also because they never sit down. As permanent servants of Hashem, it would be both disrespectful and conceited for them to do so. That is why the Amidah must be recited standing - that is why it is called 'the Amidah'.


Bound Hand and Foot

Rabeinu Bachye adds that we daven the Amidah with our feet together and our hands tightly clasped, because that symbolises our utter helplessness. It is a demonstration that we are utterly helpless, and that without G-d's assistance, we would be unable to move our hands or our feet (as if we were bound hand and foot). That also explains, he says, why the Christians place their hands together whilst praying, though they themselves do not know why they do it.


In Lieu of Sacrifices

We begin the Amidah with the words 'My Master, open my lips and my mouth will tell Your praise".

The commentaries (see Eitz Yosef and Iyun Tefilah) refer to the source of this posuk in Tehilim (51:17), pointing out that in the posuk that follows, Dovid refers to Hashem's unwillingness to accept sacrifices. Consequently, this posuk is a prayer to Hashem to accept our prayers, there where sacrifices are ineffective. That is why we insert it at the beginning of the Amidah, beseeching Hashem, that, although we have no Beis Hamikdosh and no sacrifices nowadays, He should open our lips and accept our prayers in lieu of sacrifices.

Perhaps that is why we conclude the Amidah entreating Hashem to rebuild the Beis ha'Mikdosh, in the form of a prayer that we should be able to bring sacrifices again, as it used to be and as it should be. (This is similar to what the commentaries say to explain a similar reference to the rebuilding of the Beis ha'Mikdosh that we make after the counting of the Omer each night. They explain there, that since Sefiras ha'Omer is only mi'de'Rabbanan nowadays, so we ask Hashem to rebuild the Beis ha'Mikdosh, that it should once again become a mitzvah d'Oraysa).



Following our opening comments however, we might explain our request that Hashem open our lips, along the same lines as why we stand and why we place our hands and feet together. It too, is an expression of utter helplessness and humility, a demonstration that without Hashem's aid, we are not even capable of opening our mouths. Even praying to Him is beyond our capabilities. That may also explain why, unless one reads in a Sidur, one's eyes should be shut, one should look down and, according to some opinions, one should daven in total silence and without moving.

The essence of prayer is total submisiveness, and everything that we do during the Amidah conveys that message. Not only that, but doing all these things helps a person to develop that feeling, as the Seforim write 'External acts arouse devotion'.


The Prince and the Slave

The Gemoro in B'rochos (34b) relates how, when his son fell ill, Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai asked his disciple, Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa to pray for him. The latter placed his head between his knees and prayed, and Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai's son recovered. 'Had ben Zakai placed his head between his knees all day long,' remarked Rabban Yochanon ben Zakai, 'no-one would have taken any notice!'

'Does that mean that Chanina is greater than you?' his wife asked him in surprise. 'No,' he replieds, only he is like a servant before the king, whereas I am like a prince before the king.'

A servant, Rashi explains, has access to the king at all times, but a prince needs an appointment.

But what is the significance of the title 'servant'? And besides, what did Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai mean when he said 'No ... but'! Either he is greater or he is not! Based on what we wrote earlier however, this is easily understood. A servant (in the sense of slave) by definition, is someone who has no self-identity. His identity in fact, is nothing more than an extension of his master's.

Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa was a servant to the King by virtue of his self- nullification (hisbatlus), a characteristic which Rabban Yochonan ben Zakai, due to his status and his position as leader of the people, was not capable of attaining.

As we explained, the essense of tefilah is self-nullification, and that is what Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai meant when he said that Rebbi Chanina's tefilah was more effective because he was like a servant before the king. He was not greater than the illustrious Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai, but when it came to tefilah, he had that distinct advantage.


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