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

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Vol. 8   No. 33

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Moras Chanah bas Reb Asher Zeilig z.l.

Parshas Sh'lach


The well-known maxim 'seeing is believing', may well be true up to a point, but it has serious drawbacks. All too often, it depends not so much as to what one sees, but rather as to how one sees it.

Two people witness the same event take place, yet the two stories that they relate are so different that the listener has difficulty in believing that they are describing the same incident. In fact, what they see (or what they think they see), can depend on a number of factors, not least of these being a preconceived attitude of the person or persons concerned, an attitude that is all too often slanted by bias.

A man may have murdered for example, yet two eyewitnesses, who had both previously known the murderer, come away with two different versions of what took place. The one, who had taken an intense dislike to the murderer from way before the murder occurred, sees him as a heartless fiend, whose callous act deserves the death sentence. The second witness, a friend who knew him as an upright, decent individual who wouldn't hurt a fly, presumes that it must have been the murdered man who dealt the first blow and that the murderer was merely acting in self defense.


The Torah records in Parshas Beha'aloscha, that when Yisrael left Har Sinai, they traveled for three consecutive days, and describes how Yisrael began to grumble at the inconvenience. The urgency in moving them quickly was based on G-d's desire to lead Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael as quickly as possible, and his motives were dictated by the boundless love that he bore His chosen people, whom He wanted to see settled in the chosen land without delay. Yet that is not what they perceived. They grumbled because of the travails of the journey. Doubtlessly, they ascribed to Hashem an indifference to their well being and comfort, as indeed we find on other occasions, when they accused Him of taking them out of Egypt without caring as to what happened to them (and worse). And the same is probably true of the complaint that follows their immediately, when they grumbled that they were sick of the Mon.


In this week's Parshah too, the spies discovered that wherever they went, a plague struck down the Cana'anim and they were dying in large numbers. They concluded that the air of Eretz Yisrael was unhealthy and prone to breeding plagues. They failed to see (or perhaps they did not want to see), that the Divine Hand was at work, protecting them, preventing their discovery by keeping the Cana'anim too busy to notice them, or at least, to be concerned with their presence. In this way, Hashem reckoned, they would be able to go about spying the land without hindrance. Yet they misconstrued Hashem's chesed, mistaking His loving care for hatred. How is it possible, one may ask, to misconstrue an act of Divine chesed to such an extent?


The pasuk in Devarim (1:20) describes how Yisrael grumbled that night in their tents, how they declared that it was due to G-d's hatred of Yisrael that He took them out of Egypt, to deliver them into the hands of the Emori to destroy them.

In fact, Rashi comments, He loved them, and it was they who hated Him! And he goes on to quote a famous folk-saying 'What a person thinks about his friend, he believes that his friend thinks about him'. Presumably, this saying is based on the pasuk in "ke'Mayim ha'ponim le'ponim" (Mishlei 27:19).

The Zohar attributes the spies' prejudice to the fear that, once they entered Eretz Yisrael, the old constitution would end, and a new era would begin, incorporating new leaders, who would replace them. Presumably, that is also what prompted them to renounce Hashem as a hater.


In order to misconstrue Hashem's motives in His interrelationship with us, it is not necessary to be guided by personal prejudices (though it does help). All that is needed is a lack of appreciation a. of Hashem's extreme goodness; b. of the fact that He loves K'lal Yisrael and c. the extent of that love. A more thorough understanding of these three facts would certainly help us to interpret His plans for us objectively, and to arrive at the conclusion that whatever Hashem devises for us, it is always for the good - for our good!


Parshah Pearls

Look Who Went With!

"And the days were the days when the grapes ripened" (13:20).

Of what significance is it to write this, asks the G'ra, seeing as the pasuk will anyway inform us that the spies brought back a cluster of grapes?

The Torah wants to hint, he explains, that the Satan (known as the Sitra Achra, or the S.M. (Sam) for short) accompanied them on their outward journey, for the last letters of "ve'ha'Yamim Yemei Bikurei Anavim" total a hundred (the equivalent of S.M.). See also Sifsei Chachamim and Targum Yonasan.


The G'ro's explanation matches that of Rashi, who, with regard to the strange statement "And they went and they came" (13:26) comments that just as they came back with an evil plan, so too, did they leave with an evil plan.


Who's Afraid of Funny-looking Grasshoppers?

"And we were in our own eyes like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes" (13:33).

They did not resemble midgets who were as small as grasshoppers, explains the G'ro, but grasshoppers in the shape of men.

Proof of this he says, lies in Rashi, who, commenting on the spies' remark, writes 'We heard them saying "There are ants (grasshoppers) in the vineyards like people". Now had they assumed them to be midgets the size of grasshoppers, then they would have reversed the order and said "There are people in the vineyards like grasshoppers".

So what they were really saying was that in their own eyes, they felt like grasshoppers, but that, in the eyes of the Cana'anim, that was what they really were.


It seems to me that the Torah is recording here a miracle (one of a number that the spies experienced). If the Cana'anim had suspected that they were humans, they would have immediately realized who they were and what they were doing there. And they would have gone on to take appropriate action to protect themselves. Hashem however, took away their common-sense (like Chazal say with regard to the Egyptians, before he drowned them at the Yam Suf). Instead of jumping to the correct conclusion, and setting about eliminating the spies, they jumped to the wrong one, thereby allowing the spies to continue their task unmolested, for who is afraid of funny-looking grasshoppers?


Yochol and Yecholes

"From not being able to bring this people to the land ... " (14:16) "mi'Bilti Yecholes".

The Gemara in B'rachos (32a.) comments as to why the Torah uses the word "yecholes" rather than "yochol". It quotes Rebbi Eliezer who said 'Ribono shel Olam, now the nations of the world will say that Hashem's strength became weak like a woman (since "yecholes" has connotations of the feminine gender), and is unable to save them. '

'But they have already seen the great miracles and feats of strength that I performed at the Yam-suf', Hashem replied!

'Ribono shel Olam', Moshe persisted, 'they can still to say that You may well be capable of standing up to one king, but when it comes to the thirty-one kings of Cana'an, that is a different story!' And that was when Hashem (Kevayachol) relented, and said "Solachti ki'dvorecha".

Clearly, Rebbi Eliezer differentiates between the word 'yochol' and 'yecholes', despite the fact that they are both nouns. What exactly is the difference between them, asks the G'ro?


The G'ro explains that sometimes there are two versions of the same word, the one, absolute, the other, a watered down version of the first, with more temporary connotations. For example, he says, the word 'kodosh' describes something or someone whose kedushah is absolute and permanent ("Kodosh ... Hashem Tzevo'os"); whereas 'kodesh' describes something or someone whose kedushah is temporary (like hekdesh, which can be redeemed).

Similarly, here, the word 'yochol' implies total ability without reservation, whereas 'yecholes' implies an ability that is restricted.

That is why Rebbi Eliezer asks that, seeing as we are referring to G-d, the pasuk ought to have used the word 'Yochol' rather than "Yecholes".

And he finally explains that the nations would ascribe to Hashem limited power, sufficient to fight against Paroh, but not against the thirty-one kings (which is why he used the expression "yecholes").


And it was this argument that Kavod Shamayim would be limited in the eyes of the nations of the world, that succeeded in winning the day, and causing Hashem to declare "I have forgiven you like your words".


Shabbos and Tzitis

"And the B'nei Yisrael were in the desert when they discovered a man collecting wood on Shabbos ... and they shall make themselves Tzitzis" (15:32-38).

Rashi explains how the current parshiyos of Avodah-Zoroh and the man who gathered wood on Shabbos are juxtaposed because both someone who serves idols and someone who breaks Shabbos are considered as if they had contravened the entire Torah. And it is for the same reason, he explains, that the parshah of Tzitzis follows.


This comparison between Shabbos and Tzitzis, says the G'ro, is hinted in a Mishnah in Shabbos (73a). The Tana there enumerates the thirty-nine melochos that are prohibited on Shabbos, dividing them into four sections (the thirteen melochos of sowing, the eleven, of weaving, the eight connected with woodwork and the remaining seven melochos). And it is no mere coincidence that this is precisely how we divide the four knots of the Tzitzis on each corner of the garment - seven rings, eight, eleven and thirteen.


About the Mitzvos
Reward for the Mitzvos

The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah (9:1) rules like Rebbi Ya'akov in Kidushin (39b), who maintains that there is no reward for the mitzvos in this world, and that the full reward is payable only in Olam ha'Ba. This is similar to the ruling that the wages of a hired worker are payable only upon the completion of the work. Indeed, Chazal refer to Talmidei-Chachamim as 'day workers'.


Practically, this means, first of all, that a Jew can perform many mitzvos and see no dividends during his life time. But it also means that he can perform a mitzvah and die in the process, without the mitzvah shielding him even from the Angel of death, as the Gemara explains there. One should always bear in mind however, that each and every mitzvah that he performs will be amply rewarded, when the time arrives. Because it is not a question of whether the reward is forthcoming, but when. And if Hashem made the decision to pay it later, that is no doubt because payment there is that much more valuable. In short, it is to our advantage that Chazal issued this ruling, and not to inconvenience us.


The Rambam nevertheless qualifies the above ruling. He adds that although the reward for the mitzvah itself is only due in the World to Come, the reward for performing it with joy is due in this world. This is not in the form of payment, he explains, but in order to remove all obstacles from the path of the person who really wants to fulfil the mitzvos (as joy is indicative of good will). If we genuinely want to fulfil the mitzvos, he is saying, then Hashem will give us the tools to go about this. He will provide us with good health, food, financial security and peace, so that we should be able to serve Him without hindrance. And he bases this on the many parshiyos in the Torah, which promise reward in this world for the performance of mitzvos. Evidently, this reward is not for the mitzvos themselves, but for the joy with which they are observed (see Devorim 28:47).


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

174. ... not to communicate with the dead - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (18:10/11) "There shall not be found among you ... someone who communicates with the dead".

This entails fasting to the point of starvation and sleeping overnight in a graveyard, so that a dead spirit visits him in a dream, and answers his questions. Someone who does this, or any other act that attracts the spirits, is subject to receive malkos.

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


175. ... not to prophesy falsely in the Name of Hashem - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (18:20) "But the prophet who deliberately conveys in My Name, something that I did not command him to say".

Someone who transgresses, and prophesies falsely, is subject to death by strangulation (chenek). This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


176. ... not to shave the corners of one's head - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (19:27) "Do not round the corner of your head".

The La'av applies to each of the two corners independently. Consequently, someone who shaves of both 'peyos' even in one sitting, is due to receive two sets of malkos, irrespectively of whether he shaved the peyos only, or whether he shaved off all the hair of his head. It is only the person who does the shaving who is punishable however, not the person who is being shaved, since one is not punishable at the hand of Beis-din for passive participation. If however, he helps the shaver by moving his head, for example, then he too, is subject to Malkos.

The prohibition of shaving applies even if one uses a pair of scissors. A woman is permitted to shave her peyos. She may not however, shave the peyos of a man or of a boy.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men only.


177. ... not to destroy the corners of the beard - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (19:27) " ... and do not destroy the corners of your beard".

There are five corners on the beard, and one is chayav for each corner that one destroys. Consequently, should he destroy them, even in one sitting, he is subject to five sets of malkos. One is only chayav however, if one uses a razor, since the Torah only forbids a form of shaving, which at the same time, destroys the hair down to the roots, but not if he uses scissors. As we learned in the previous la'av, it is only the person who does the shaving who is punishable, but not the person who is being shaved.

A woman who grows a beard is permitted to shave it off with a razor, nor does she contravene a Torah-law should she do so to a man, though the Rabbanan forbade it.

The Seifer ha'Chinuch writes that, in addition to the five la'avin that one contravenes for destroying one's beard with a razor, one also contravenes the la'av of "u've'chukoseihem lo seleichu" (Acharei-mos 18:3) and that of "Lo yilbash gever ... " (Ki Seitzei "22:5).

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men only.


178. ... that a woman should not wear a man's clothes - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (22:5) "a man's clothes shall not be on a woman". This incorporates a woman wearing clothes and ornaments that are known in that particular place to be worn specifically by men. Neither is she permitted to have a man's style of haircut.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to women only.


179. ... that a man should not wear a woman's clothing - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (22:5) "a woman's clothing shall not be on a man". This incorporates clothes and ornaments that are known in that particular place to be worn specifically by women. Neither may he remove even one white hair from his head or beard, or dye it black, since it is the way of women to do that. All of these are subject to receive malkos.

Added to this, Chazal forbade removing the hair from under the arm-pits or from one's private parts. A man who does this is due to receive makas mardus (mi'de'Rabbanan).

One may remove any other body hair using scissors.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men only.


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