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

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Vol. 12   No. 39

This issue is sponsored by
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le'iluy Nishmas
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Parshas Sh'lach Lecha

The Great Teshuvah

In volume seven ('That's not Teshuvah') we discussed the behaviour of the Ma'pilim, who, following the debacle of the Meraglim, insisted on marching up the hill to begin the conquest of Cana'an, even though Moshe warned them that they would not succeed. We also cited there the Ba'al Shem Tov, who punctuates the Pasuk in such a way as to read "Because Hashem said that we sinned", though they themselves did not admit that they had.

Certainly, Targum Unklus, who translates both the word "Vaya'apilu" in our Parshah, and "Va'tazidu" in Devarim (which the Torah uses to describe their ascent) as 'and you were wicked', hardly suggests Teshuvah. Rashi too, in Chavakuk, translates "Vaya'pilu" as an expression of Chutzpah.


According to the Or ha'Chayim here (in Devarim, he paints a slightly different picture), the Ma'pilim did Teshuvah, inasmuch as they repaired their initial lack of Bitachon. After having rebelled against Hashem by claiming that He was unable to deliver the strong nations of Cana'an into their hands, they now reaffirmed their faith in Him, ascribing to Him the ability to do anything that He wished - not merely with words, but with actions.

So where did they go wrong? Why did Moshe warn them that a. G-d was not in their midst and b. they would fall before their enemies?

It was because Teshuvah is effective only before the Divine decree, but in this case, their sin was still fresh and the decree had already been issued.

And because the decree which (no doubt, due to the terrible Chillul Hashem caused by the Meraglim) had already been issued and which is irreversible, Moshe warned them that having just publicly announced "the Amaleki dwell in the south", and "the Cana'ani beside the River Yarden", they could hardly expect G-d to perform miracles in the very location of the sin. And that is why the Amaleki and the Cana'ani swooped down on them and decimated them.

In any event, the Ma'pilim genuinely believed that their Teshuvah was complete, only they erred by taking for granted that G-d must have accepted it, when in fact, He had not.


The Chasam Sofer agrees with the Or ha'Chayim's initial statement. He too, explains that the Ma'pilim did Teshuvah, only he goes further than him. He maintains that not only did they do Teshuvah, but that G-d accept it too, as we shall now explain. Discussing the initial sin of the Meraglim, he points out how Moshe's instructions to the spies did not follow the regular pattern of spying at all. He did not tell them to look for the strong and the weak points of the Cana'anim, so as to know where to attack and where not to attack, as one would have expected. Rather, he seems to have sent them on a fact finding mission, to assess their personal strength and details of their fortified cities. What Moshe wanted, he explains, was for Yisrael to know the extent of the miracle that would surround the conquest of Cana'an. As long as they had not seen the giants in Eretz Cana'an, says the Chasam Sofer, and as long as they were unaware of the immense strength of the Cana'anim, and the impregnability of their fortifications, they would attribute their victory, when it occurred, to natural causes, without appreciating the enormity of the miracle that comprised the conquest. Therefore, he wanted them to receive a firsthand report of whom they were about to defeat, and he wanted them to see with their own eyes that, at this point in time, the fruit of Eretz Cana'an did not differ much from the fruit of other countries. Then later, when they would witness the increase in the size and quality of the fruit from the time that they entered Eretz Yisrael, which would become a land flowing with milk and honey in front to their very eyes, they would have all the more reason to sing G-d's praises, and to thank Him for all His goodness with all their hearts. This explains why both Moshe and the spies themselves attached such great importance to the fruit in their respective statements.

So what went wrong?

The problem was that Moshe sent the Meraglim on the understanding that both the people's and the spies' faith was sound, and that the report and its acceptance would be positive. But he seemed to have overestimated the depth of their faith in Hashem, and his plan backfired. The Meraglim's lack of faith led them to believe that what they had seen would remain unchanged. Consequently, they complained bitterly that the Cana'anim were mighty and their cities impregnable, and that the fruit was really much the same as fruit everywhere else, in which case Eretz Yisrael was no different than any other country, and failed to match their expectations.

With that, he explains, we can understand the Ma'pilim, who not only realized that they had sinned, but were able to accurately pinpoint it, ascribing it to a total lack of faith in G-d's supremacy over His creations. That is why they immediately repaired it by acknowledging G-d's Divinity, as well as the Divine character of Eretz Yisrael, and expressed their readiness to fulfill the instructions that they had previously shunned, having totally eliminated the fear that formed its root.


As for G-d's command not to ascend the mountain and not to engage the Cana'anim in battle, he continues, this was no different than the Heavenly Voice which announced 'Return naughty children - with the exception of Acher (Elisha ben Avuyah)' a thousand years later, (causing Acher to leave the fold altogether, and) about which the Sh'loh writes that had he nevertheless persisted, his Teshuvah would have been accepted. For this is similar to the ruling of Chazal, who have said that a guest must obey the Balabos' every request - except the order to leave.

And the fact that many of the Ma'pilim were killed by the Cana'anim, merely places them on the level of someone whose death is brought about by his Teshuvah, which is in itself, the greatest level of Teshuvah.

With this explanation, says the Chasam Sofer, we can understand Rebbi Akiva, who accused Rebbi Yehudah ben Beseira of libel, when he presented Tz'lofchad as being the one who gathered wood on Shabbos. He therefore prefers to describe him as being one of the Ma'pilim. It is not at first clear why the Ma'pilim were any better than the Mekoshesh Eitzim on Shabbos. But according to the above explanation, not only did he die a Ba'al Teshuvah, he also reached the highest levels by dying through his Teshuvah !

The Chasam Sofer's explanation (as opposed to that of the Or ha'Chayim) is extremely difficult to understand however; firstly because it is one thing for Acher, bearing in mind the principle 'The Torah is not in heaven', to have defied the Heavenly Voice and performed Teshuvah in spite of it, and quite another to overrule a command issued any Gadol ha'Dor, let alone by the Adon ha'Nevi'im, Moshe Rabeinu, a sin which is punishable by death (at the hand of Hashem). And besides, who said that G-d ordering them to turn back was a sign that He did not accept their Teshuvah. Why can we not say that He did, only certain sins require punishments together with Teshuvah, and when Chilul Hashem is involved, even death. This was Moshe's message, and who gave them the right to overrule it?

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Parshah Pearls

The Spies' Good Intentions

"Send for yourselves spies ... " (13:2).

How is it possible, asked R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, that Tzadikim of the caliber of the spies (and in the generation known as the 'Dor Dei'ah' to boot) should speak ill of the land that G-d promised to give to Yisrael, and then go to such lengths to persuade Yisrael not to enter it?

We have to say, he explains, that when the spies entered Eretz Cana'an, they saw with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, the future generations that would live in the land, including the many generations that would sin, among them our generation, whose leaders, the secular Zionists, have entirely forsaken Torah and Mitzvos. This left them utterly confused, and they concluded that it was preferable by far to remain in the Desert and not to enter Eretz Yisrael, than to enter it and to desecrate its holiness. Indeed, when they referred to the land as "a land that consumes its inhabitants", they meant that it does not tolerate inhabitants who desecrate its sanctity, and which ejects people who do not conform with the code of conduct that it demands - just as the Pasuk writes at the end of Acharei-Mos (18:28) "And the land will not vomit you, just like it vomited the nation that preceded you". And when they reported how they had seen the "Nefilim", they were referring to men who had 'fallen' from the basic level of humanity (see Ramban, Devarim 32:6), and who had defiled themselves with sin.

What did Yehoshua and Kalev answer them? "The land is extremely good ...Let us go and capture it". In spite of all that we saw, our job is to fulfill G-d's command, and to withstand all Nisyonos (trials); not to pry into G-d's private affairs. For the Meraglim's sin was a. to pit their own Seichel against the word of G-d, who commanded Yisrael to go into Eretz Yisrael regardless, and b. to question His promise (that we would enter Eretz Yisrael and capture it).

R. Yosef Chayim therefore concludes that even though the Meraglim sinned and were punished, Chazal nevertheless fixed a (minor) fast-day on their Yohrtzeit (see Orach Chayim 580:2). Perhaps, R. Yosef Chayim suggests, this is because their intentions were le'Shem Shamayim, as we just explained (see also Mishnah Berurah there).


Guarding One's Eyes

"Do not go astray after your hearts and after your eyes ..." (15:39).

Commenting on these words, the Yerushalmi explains the heart and the eyes are the two agents of sin (the eye sees, and the heart desires) ... . G-d therefore says 'My son, give Me your heart and your eyes. If you do, I will know that you belong to Me'.

R. Yosef Chayim never looked outside his four Amos; and this was clear from the fact that whoever approached him, even if it was a grandchild, he would only acknowledge his presence once he entered his four Amos, at which point he would greet him warmly, a clear indication that prior to that, he had simply not seen him. And he would constantly encourage his offspring and his Talmidim to take special steps not to sin in areas of Halachah such as these, where most people stumble ...


Sometimes It's Not Enough to Shut Them

... and he cited the Gemara in Bava Basra (57b), which establishes the Pasuk in Yeshayah (32:15) "And he shuts his eyes not to look at evil" in connection with someone who declines to look at women whilst they are washing clothes (by the river). The Gemara concludes there that it must be speaking about a case where there is no alternative route, because if there is, then he is a Rasha! Rashi explains that he is a Rasha, even if keeps his eyes shut, because choosing to go along a path in the knowledge that opening them will invite temptation, is in itself, an act of evil. Rather, one must take the route that eliminates the possibility altogether.


Impaired Eyes ...

The Gemara in Gittin (51a) in the story of Kamtza and bar Kamtza, tells how bar Kamtza elicited an animal from the Roman Emperor, which he volunteered to take to Yerushalayim, to prove that the Jews had rebelled against him. On the way, he made a cut above the eye, a blemish according to Jewish law, but not in the eyes of the gentiles.

R. Yosef Chayim explained that symbolically, this hints at a major difference between Yisrael and the nations of the world. We Jews, he says, are careful to guard our eyes against seeing evil, for seeing what one ought not to see is in itself, a major sin, as the Torah writes in the Parshah of Tzitzis "And do not go astray after your hearts and after your eyes ... ". For, as the Pasuk implies, the purity of the eyes and the purity of the heart go hand in hand. The nations of the world, on the other hand, think nothing of seeing evil. In their eyes, seeing evil is not sinful (see previous Pearl) as long as it nobody else comes to grief in the process.


... and Impaired Lips

Some say that the blemish that bar Kamtza effected on the Korban was a split lip (and not a cut eye). For this too, is considered a blemish by Jewish law, but not by the gentiles. Again metaphorically speaking, we consider someone whose lips are split, who does not know how to keep them sealed, a sinner, as the Pasuk says in Mishlei "He who guards his mouth and his tongue, spares himself Tzaros". For we consider a person who speaks forbidden things and unclean speech to be blemished. Not so the nations of the world, whose speech is uncontrolled. See how, at the Se'udah of Achashverosh, at which kings and princes from all hundred and twenty-seven provinces participated, the central theme of conversation was a discussion as to who were the most beautiful women in the world - the Medes, the Persians ... .

It is important to remember that for a Jew, a split lip is a blemish, for so Chazal have said, 'When someone indulges in indecent speech, in Heaven they tear up his document containing seventy good years, whilst he who guards his mouth against speaking evil, will merit all sorts of good things in this world and the next.

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(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 385:
To Separate Challah

It is a Mitzvah to separate Challah from every dough, and to give it to a Kohen, as the Torah writes in Sh'lach-L'cha (15:20) "The first of your doughs you shall separate Challah". From "your doughs" we learn that the minimum size Challah-dough is the equivalent of the daily individual portion of Manna in the Desert; and this was one tenth of an Eifah, as the Torah writes in Beshalach (16:36). One Eifah = three Sa'ah, One Sa'ah = six Kabin, one Kav = four Lugin and one Lug = six beitzim. It comes out that an Eifah is equivalent to four hundred and thirty-two egg-volumes, one tenth of which is forty-two and a fifth egg-volumes, and this is the Shi'ur Challah.

A reason for the Mitzvah is because man's existence depends on food, and since most people's staple diet consists of bread, G-d has given us an ongoing merit pertaining to it, to enable His Divine blessing to rest on it as a result of the Mitzvah. In this way, dough sustains both our bodies and our souls. In addition, it also serves as a source of livelihood for G-d's servants, the Kohanim, who serve Him constantly, without having to toil; because whereas by Terumah, they have to work hard to sift the produce and to grind it, before they can benefit from it, Challah is virtually ready to be eaten, with little effort on their part.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Chazal have said that the Chiyuv Challah does not begin with the pouring of the water on to the flour, but from the time the dough has been kneaded ... Five species of grain are Chayav Challah - wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye, as the Torah writes (15:19) "And it shall be when you eat from the bread of the earth ... ", and it is only bread that is made from these species of grain that is technically called 'bread'. All five species combine to make up the Shi'ur Challah, if necessary ... Someone who forgets to separate Challah from the dough, must subsequently take Challah from the bread , as the Torah writes (ibid., Pasuk 19) " ... when you eat from the bread of the land", to teach us that the obligation extends to bread as well ... If one kneads less than the Shi'ur Challah, but subsequently prepares a second dough which makes up the Shi'ur, one will become Chayav to take Challah, should all the loaves be placed into one receptacle, because the receptacle combines them. But if one places them on a board or on the floor after baking, or on any surface which has no inside, he remains Patur - even if he then puts them in the same basket (since the original placing rendered them exempt, and once they are exempt from Challah, they cannot become obligated). And this is what Chazal meant when they said in Challah (2:7) 'If one removes them and places them into a basket'. It is only if they are placed in a basket immediately after being removed from the oven that they become Chayav Challah, since the oven certainly did not combine them ... The bran combines with the flour to make up the Shi'ur as long as it has not yet been sifted, but if one sifts the flour and then replaces the bran, it does not combine ... The Torah does not give a Shi'ur for the Chalah itself, and even the volume of one barley grain will suffice; for the Torah merely writes "The first of your doughs" (irrespective of how little one separates). The Chachamim however, prescribed a minimum of one twenty-fourth, supporting this with the Pasuk (in connection with Chalah) "you shall give to Hashem", which implies a respectable gift, which they then assessed as one twenty-fourth. For a baker however, who prepares large quantities of dough for sale, and who also needs to earn a livelihood from his sales, they prescribed only one forty-eighth. These Shi'urim apply, even to a private individual who kneads vast quantities of dough, and to a baker who prepares very little, respectively ... A dough which is divided into two, neither of which contains the Shi'ur, and each section is then kneaded on either side of a dish, is Patur from Challah, unless the two sections of dough are joined at least at one point, and provided they both belong to the same person ... A dough is Chayav Challah, whether it has been kneaded with water or with other liquids. Nor does it make any difference whether it is baked in the oven, on the ground, in a frying pan or in a pot; and it is Chayav Challah, irrespective of whether one sticks the dough to them before they have been heated them or afterwards. In all of the above cases, the dough is Chayav Challah, because they are all called 'bread' (and we do not follow the ruling of those who say that is only called bread if it has been baked in an oven).

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