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

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Vol. 10   No. 37

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Parshas Sh'lach-Lecha

So That's What Moshe Meant!
(Based on the Torah Temimah)

If G-d were to kill Yisrael 'like one man', Moshe argued, the nations of the world would attribute this to His inability to overcome the thirty-one kings of Cana'an.

What did Moshe mean to say with the expression ''like one man'', asks the Torah Temimah? At first glance, it seems to imply that killing a single person is nothing in the eyes of Hashem (as Rashi explains in Beshalach 14:23). But that is inconceivable, he argues, considering how precious each and every Jew is in His eyes.

The Torah Temimah therefore comes up with a novel explanation, based on the Rif's version of a Gemara in Yuma (86b). If someone sins once, the Gemara quotes a B'raysa as saying, G-d forgives him; and so He does if he sins a second time, but not if he sins a third time. To reconcile this with another B'raysa, which says that He forgives them the first three times, but not the fourth, the Gemara establishes the first B'raysa by a yachid (an individual) who sins, and the second B'raysa, by a Tzibur (a community). This is the Rif's version of the Gemara (though our text reads differently).

At the beginning of Korach, Rashi explains that the sin of the Spies was the third sin (following that of the Golden Calf and of the Mis'onenim [those who grumbled on account of the constant traveling]). That being the case, what Moshe was saying was that if G-d would refuse to forego their sin and kill them all, He would be giving them the same treatment as a Yachid, when really, they were a Tzibur, who were entitled to one more chance.

This certainly appears to be a strong argument, according to the Rif, and it would have made good sense for Moshe to have used it as a plea to spare Yisrael. Yet if that was what Moshe meant, the continuation of Moshe's argument makes no sense. For what has this to do with what the other nations will say? If this was the only objection, we might answer that Moshe used the stronger of two arguments (that of Chillul Hashem, as we shall see). Or perhaps the Torah is presenting one of Moshe's arguments specifically, and hinting at the other.

However, it also appears that the Gemara in Yuma is not talking about a person, or a nation, who commits a variety of sins, but about one who commits the same sin a number of times. And indeed, that is how the Maharsha interprets the Gemara (though admittedly, one might infer from his words that the Rif disagrees).


Rashi's explanation therefore appears more feasible. Rashi explains 'like one man' to mean in one fell swoop. And what Moshe meant was, that if G-d were to kill all of Yisrael in one go, the nations would not blame this on Yisrael's having sinned (which was in fact, the reason that G-d had intended to do just that). Because, being neither particularly attuned to the Midah of 'Dan le'kaf z'chus' (judging even one's fellow-man favourably, let alone G-d), nor well acquainted with G-d's relationship with Yisrael, they would have ascribed G-d's harsh reaction to His limited strength, Moshe argued.

Whereas, if He were to kill them over a period of forty years, whilst the next generation came of age, to take over the land in their stead, the nations would interpret the chain of events for what they really - Divine retribution for the sin of the Eigel.

And we see from here, remarks the Or ha'Chayim, that Moshe's sole concern was G-d's honour, the Chillul Hashem that would have resulted if He had done what was really the right thing to do. That explains why Moshe did not ask Hashem for a total pardon on behalf of Yisrael, but for a time extention to mitigate the Chilul Hashem involved.


The Torah Temimah cites another Rif, who explains the Pasuk in Ha'azinu "Tzur yelodcho teshi" to mean that that when Yisrael fail to fulfill G-d's will, they weaken Him like a woman (from the term 'tash kocho'). Chazal in B'rachos (32a) use the same expression here with regard to the Pasuk "'mi'Bilti yecholes Hashem" (due to G-d's inability ... "). Here too, based on the fact that 'Yecholes' is a feminine term, the Gemara explains that the nations will attribute to Hashem the weakness of a woman.

There is no doubt that, even after Moshe had mitigated the punishment, G-d (kevayachol) was weak like a woman (For when all's said and done, Yisrael had failed to do His will, and He would anyway have opted to punish them, to conform with the Pasuk in Ha'azinu.) The difference is however, that now, He was acting like a woman because He chose to (as that is the way He deals with Yisrael). On the other hand, had He carried out His original plan, the nations of the world would have accused Him of being intrinsically weak like a woman (because He had no choice) - that would have been a Chilul Hashem! And that was Moshe's argument!


Parshah Pearls (Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)


There are crowns on the 'Hey' of the word "Chalah" (15:20), the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, because five species are Chayav Chalah: wheat, barley, rye oats and spelt. And because five quarter-Kabin of flour are subject to the Mitzvah of Chalah.


And Terumah

"From the first of your doughs ... " (15:21).

Although the Pasuk is talking about Chalah, it refers to it as Terumah, which explains the comment of the Ba'al ha'Turim', that the Pasuk begins with a 'Mem' and ends with a 'Mem' (numerical value 40), because a fortieth is the Shiur Terumah that a good-hearted person gives to the Kohen.


When You're in Rome

"Hikareis tikareis" (15:31).

A saying that appears quite a number of times in Shas is 'Dibrah Torah ki'Leshon b'nei odom' (in spite of a meticulous choice of words, the Torah does sometimes repeat words in the way that people do).

Believe it or not, but the numerical value of "hikareis tikareis" is equivalent to that of 'she'dibrah Torah ki'l'shon b'nei adam'.


All in the Same Boat

The Torah juxtaposes the incident concerning the man who gathered wood on Shabbos next to the subject of someone who insults G-d, to teach us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that the man who desecrated the Shabbos occurred at the same time as the man who cursed G-d.

And also because someone who desecrates Shabbos (in public) is considered as if he had served idols. And that in turn is placed beside the Parshah of Tzitzis, because these three Mitzvos are compared to the entire Torah. Tzitzis, as the Torah writes here, "and you shall se them, and you will remember all the Mitzvos of Hashem".


Dressed Like Angels

"And they shall make for themselves Tzitzis" (15:35).

"I want you to be draped like the angels who wear linen, and like you saw Me draped (at Har Sinai)". That is why the Torah commands us to wear Techeiles (dark blue wool that is prepared from a special dye), which is similar to the sky at dusk and to G-d's Throne of glory. As a matter of fact, in the Gematriyah known as 'At Bash' (where 'Alef' = 'Taf', 'Beis', 'Shin' and 'Gimel, Resh'), "Tzitzis" = 'Kis'i' - My Throne.


More About Tzitzis

"Tzitzis" is the equivalent of 'Tzedokos' and 'Neshorim', because someone who is careful to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, will merit to see the Shechinah (about which the Pasuk writes "And I will see Your Face with Tzedek". And he will also merit what the Pasuk writes "vo'eso eschem al kanfei neshorim" (and I will carry you on eagle's wings).


And You Shall See Them


This has the equivalent numerical value as 'Tzitzis ba'yom' (Tzitzis only applies in the day).


Remembering the Mitzvos

"And you shall remember all the Mitzvos of Hashem" (ibid.)

It is in order to remember the Mitzvos in whichever direction one turns, that the Torah commanded us to place Tzitzis on all four corners of the garment. The five knots are reminiscent of the Chamishah Chumshei Torah and the eight threads (on each of the four corners) remind us not to sin with any of the eight limbs that are generally prone to sin - the ears, the eyes, the mouth, the nose, the hands, the feet, the B'ris Milah and the heart.

On the one hand, someone who abstains from sinning with these limbs, merits to rise above the eight Heavens; whereas someone who succumbs and sins, will have to suffer the eight levels of punishment after death (being beaten in the grave, and the seven levels of Gehinom).


The Korban Chatas for Avodah-Zarah

The Korban Chatas (the sin-offering) for Avodah-Zarah, like a regular Chatas (that comes for a sin for which one would be Chayav Kareis [excision] on purpose), is brought for having transgressed be'Shogeg (having forgotten that Avodah-Zarah, or one particular aspect of Avodah-Zarah, is forbidden). And like a regular Chatas, the Korban was divided into two branches - one that is brought by an individual who sinned, and one that is brought by the community, following an erroneous ruling by the Sanhedrin.

The Korban for Avodah-Zarah however, differed from a regular Korban Chatas in a number of ways. For one, an individual had to bring a she-goat (as opposed to the choice between a she-goat or a she-lamb in the case of a regular Chatas). In addition, every individual, without exception, had to bring this Korban (as opposed to a regular Chatas, where the Kohen Gadol brought a bull and the king, a he-goat).

The communal Chatas too, differed from its regular counterpart. Whereas by a regular sin, the Sanhedrin bring a bull (known as the 'Par He'elam Davar'), by Avodah-Zarah they bring a bull as an Olah (a burnt-offering) and a she-goat as a Chatas. Another irregularity (pertaining to the latter Halachah) is the fact that, in spite of the principle that on the odd occasion that a Chatas and an Olah are required, the Chatas precedes the Olah, here, the Olah precedes the Chatas.


Part 1
((based on the morning Korbanos, with the commentaries of Rashi on the Chumash and of the Sidur Iyun Tefilah))

The Kiyor

Both the Parshah of the Kiyor (the Copper Basin) and that of the Terumas ha'Deshen that follows may be said before daybreak, because both deal with issues that can be performed before daybreak.


The Kiyor and its stand were placed between the Ohel Mo'ed (the Ulam in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash) and the Mizbei'ach ho'Olah (situated in the Azarah). Although the Kiyor stood on the west side of the Mizbei'ach, it was drawn slightly towards the south, so as not to interrupt between the Mizbei'ach and the Ohel Mo'ed.

Before entering the Heichal (to burn the Ketores or to sprinkle the blood of the bull of the Kohen Gadol or the goats of avodah-zarah) or before ascending the Mizbei'ach to do the Avodah, the Kohen washes both hands and feet simultaneously from the Kiyor. This he does by, bending down and placing his right hand on his right foot and his left hand on his left foot, before another Kohen turns on the tap (ben Katin had twelve taps fitted to the Kiyor to enable the twelve Kohanim who performed the morning Tamid to all wash simultaneously) or by turning on the taps himself before bending down). Either way, he then rubs his feet with his hands to complete the ritual.

A Kohen who enters the Heichal or who ascends the Mizbei'ach without having washed his hands and feet, is Chayav Misah bi'Yedei Shamayim (a premature death at the hand of G-d).


The Terumas ha'Deshen

Basically, this Parshah describes the daily Mitzvah of carrying one shovel-full of ashes from the Mizbei'ach, and depositing it beside the ramp. However, the Torah teaches us a number of side issues en passant.

For example, it teaches us that the fat-pieces and the limbs of yesterday's Korbanos continue to burn on the Mizbei'ach all night. In fact, as long as they are burning on the Mizbei'ach, they do not become Nosar (leftover and therefore Pasul) come morning. That is why during the course of the night, the Kohanim who are on duty, see to it that any piece that has fallen off the 'Ma'arachah' (where the Korbanos were burned) is returned.

Pieces of a Korban that are Kasher when they are brought into the Azarah, but then become Pasul, would remain on the Mizbei'ach, once they have been placed there, but not pieces that were already Pasul before they entered.

We also learn from this Parshah that not only do the Kohanim have to wear the four Bigdei Kehunah (priestly garments) when performing the Avodah (even the Terumas ha'Deshen), but that they have to be the right size. In addition, there could be no Chatzitzah (something that interrupts) between the clothes and their skin.

As for the actual Mitzvah, before dawnbreak, the Kohen takes a shovel-full of spent ashes from the middle of the Ma'arachah, and deposits it on the east side of the ramp, about a third of the way along, where it will miraculously sink into the ground and disappear.


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