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

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Vol. 6 No. 25

Parshas Shemini

The Wisdom of the Torah
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"The wise woman built her house, she carved its seven pillars. She slaughtered the animals, poured out the wine, and (even) laid the table" (Mishlei 9:1-2). Shlomoh is speaking here about our faith, on the one hand, and the faith of the gentiles, on the other. He compares our faith to a wise woman and (later in possuk 13) he compares the faith of the gentiles to a foolish woman. That is why he says "The wise woman built her house" - he calls our Torah 'a wise woman', because it incorporates all the branches of wisdom. So he compares the wisdom of Torah to a woman who builds her house on many pillars (supports) so that it should be strong and permanently immovable. The number seven is arbitrary (and has no real significance - it is not clear why Rabeinu Bachye does not connect it to the seven basic chochmas), just as it is in the possuk (Mishlei 24:16) "For a tzadik falls seven times and rises again".


The wise woman slaughters the animals, pours the wine and lays the table - personally; she does not ask others to do it for her, hence the expression "and (even) lays the table". Then she invites her friends, some of whom are perhaps foolish women, not wise like she is. All of this is a parable, referring to the wisdom of Torah which is perfect in all its ways, as it is written "nothing is lacking in it" (though in reality, this possuk [Devorim 8:9] is speaking about Eretz Yisroel. And it is the Torah that teaches us the oneness of G-d. When a person reflects carefully, he will find in it the answer to all those who disagree with it, such as those who believe in idolatry or in the Trinity - to the point that the Torah is arranged in orderly fashion for everyone to understand, much like a table that is laid, ready for the hungry to eat. It is this Torah that gives wisdom to the fools, as Dovid wrote in Tehillim "The testimonies of G-d are faithful, they make the foolish wise"; and it warns the people to study it and to forsake their foolishness.


On the other hand, it compares the faith of the gentiles to a woman who speaks foolish words, who offers advice that causes many to stumble; a woman who supports those who sin. She has words of praise for stupidity and for evil deeds. That is why Shlomoh says "a foolish woman who speaks foolishness, and does not know anything. And she sits at the entrance of her house on a chair in the high part of the town" (9:13-14). It is clear that this woman is the antithesis of the first one; the first woman builds, slaughters, pours out and lays, and because she is busy, she is silent. The second woman does not know how to do all this - nor she does not want to know - so she sits outside the house (what does she have to do inside, when nothing is prepared?) and chatters. So too, the idolaters do not want the protection of G-d's shade, preferring instead to leave His jurisdiction and to remain outside of it.

This is what Rebbi Yehoshua told the Emperor: "If you wish to continue serving the gods that you have been serving until now, serve them outside the world that G-d created, in a world that you create for yourselves, for it is not befitting for you to serve them in His domain".


And the possuk teaches us how, in spite of the idolaters' many imperfections, they are proud of their evil deeds, when it writes (in connection with the foolish woman) " ... on a chair in the high parts of the town, to call the passers-by whose ways are straight - 'whoever is foolish, come over here, anyone who is lacking heart', and she will tell him 'Stolen water tastes sweet and hidden bread tastes nice' ". Because, in the same way as the wise woman rebukes the foolish people, pleading with them to leave their foolish ways, so does the foolish woman teach them to stick to their guns and to continue with their stupidity. That is why the possuk concludes there "And they are not aware that the strong ones fall there, that her guests land in the depths of Hell" - quite the reverse from the guests of the wise woman, whose clients merit the World to Come.


The Medrash however, explains that the 'wise woman who builds her house' refers to the Torah which built all the worlds, and the 'seven pillars' to the seven heavens from which it was carved. If a man merits to study it, he inherits the seven lands (i.e. this world which is divided into seven zones), and if he does not, then he loses his portion in the seven zones of the World to Come.

According to this Medrash, the number 'seven' referred to by Shlomoh here, is indeed literal; because seven is a number which incorporates both spiritual bodies and physical ones. It is the number that is connected to many of the mitzvos - such as Shabbos, Sh'mittah and Yovel, since the seventh day is sanctified (the Shabbos), so is the seventh year (the Sh'mittah), and so is the seventh cycle (the Yovel). Pesach too, and Succos, consist of seven days, and even the four species comprise seven pieces (1 lulav, one esrog, two arovos and three hadassim). Also the days of rejoicing (the sheva b'rochos) and the days of mourning, number seven. Even Bil'om sacrificed on seven altars and said "I arranged the seven altars", and the inauguration of the Mizbei'ach too, lasted seven days, as the Torah writes in Tzav "for seven days he will inaugurate you" (8:33).

All of these are really one and the same concept. They all hint to the seven days of the creation. And the reason that Aharon was initiated as Kohen Godol on the eighth day and not on the seventh, is because the Kohen Godol is unique in the Beis ha'Mikdosh, where they served the One G-d, and the number eight, which follows seven, is like a repetition of the first number of the next cycle of seven, and therefore has the same significance as the number one.

Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim


A Gift for the Sotton

"Take for yourself a calf from the herd, a sin-offering" (9:2). Moshe told Aharon that, despite the fact that G-d had agreed to forgive him for his sins, he nevertheless needed to put something in the mouth of the Sotton. He should therefore send a gift (a calf!) before entering the Mishkon, to prevent the Sotton from hating him (and interfering in his avodah) when he entered. This is similar to the Ramban's interpretation of the So'ir la'Azoz'el on Yom Kippur, says the Chofetz Chayim. In fact, the Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer explains that they were giving Samo'el (another name for the Sotton, the Mal'och of Eisov) a bribe on Yom Kippur, to stop him from negating their sacrifice (the So'ir la'Hashem). So G-d commanded us to send a goat into the desert to the Angel who rules over the desolate areas (as befits him, since destruction and desolation stem from him). His lot among the nations is Eisov, the nation that inherited the sword and warfare, and his lot among the animals is the goat (a destructive animal who shares his name - So'ir - Se'ir).


It All Began with Ya'akov

And who instigated this concept? Ya'akov Ovinu, who made a point of sending a gift to Eisov before meeting him after he left Lovon's house. It was exactly the same idea: to bribe him to keep on the right side of him. Chazal have a tradition that that parshah is the Parshah of Golus, and they would make a point of studying it before going to Rome. Then they would take their cue from Ya'akov, and avert the evil decrees of the Romans by bribing them rather than by fighting them. That is the one sure way of improving the lot of Yisroel, the lamb surrounded by seventy wolves.


The Case of the Frozen Ears

The Ma'asei la'Melech tells the story of one of the Gedolim of the previous generation, who with the help of a wealthy Jew, succeeded in nullifying certain harsh decrees against the Jews. It so happened that this rich man tended to unashamedly and publicly desecrate Shabbos. However, when the Godol admonished him, not only did his words fall on deaf ears, but the sinner even had the audacity to turn on the Rov, reminding him how he had gone to great pains to have the harsh decrees nullified. The Godol answered him with a pa: A traveller was sitting in a coach one freezing winter's day, when his ears froze from the cold. But the wagon-driver came to his rescue. He gave him the idea to rub his ears well with snow until they became warm and returned to normal. And that is precisely what the traveller proceeded to do. He rubbed his ears well and, lo and behold, in no time at all, his ears became warm. The miracle, explained the Godol with a smile, was that this took place in the middle of winter, at a time when there was plenty of snow available outside. Now imagine what would have happened, had the traveller's ears frozen in the middle of summer, when there was no snow to rub on his ears. They would have remained frozen throughout the summer. "And so it is my friend," the Godol concluded. "When the gentiles issue decrees agains us, it is because there are among us people who desecrate Shabbos and who eat treifos - they are the cold that freezes and causes anguish (without them, there would be no decrees, just as in summer there is no cold). No wonder then, that they are duty-bound to make every effort to have the decrees nullified - just like the snow (which causes the cold) that removes the freeze.


Once You Start ...

"Do not abominate yourselves (by eating insects, neveilos and tereifos) and do not make yourselves impure, for you will be impure by them" (11:43). Not only does this appear repetitive, but the word "ve'nitmeisem bom" in the final phrase, is missing an aleph. Chazal therefore explain in Yuma (39a) that "ve'nitmeisem bom" is from the root 'Timtum' (a blckage), because eating these things will result in a person's heart being stopped up, until he will not realise that he is doing anything wrong.


The Chofetz Chayim draws an analogy to a tanner who once entered a spice-shop. The owner of the spice-shop, who was not used to such a putrid smell, ran out of the shop. In due course, the spice business collapsed, and the owner was forced to change his trade, and he became a tanner. It did not take long before he became quite used to the very same smell that had sent him running out of his shop. Now he thought nothing of standing all day in his tannery, without being the least put off by the foul smell.


And so it is, points out the Chofetz Chayim, with someone who eats, just once, insects, neveilos and tereifos. Before that first time, he may well have considered these things utterly loathsome. But once he eats them, he finds them quite pleasant, all the loathing disappears. Eventually, his heart becomes stopped up. He sees nothing wrong with it, and even finds it difficult to give them up.


It seems to me that this is a possible source for the adage 'One sin leads to another' (Pirkei Ovos 4:2) - for we see here that each time one performs the sin, it becomes more attractive.

History of the World

( Part 51)

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)


They bring with them from Bovel the names of the angels (such as Micho'el and Gavriel), and the names of the months (which, until then, had been referred to as 'the first month', 'the second month' etc.). Zerubovel, the great grandson of Yechonyoh, King of Yehudah, also known as Nechemyah ben Chachalyah, is the leader of the Jews upon their return from Bovel. He is also one of the hundred and twenty members of the Anshei Kenesses ha'Gedolah. However, he returns to Bovel and dies there.

Some say that many Jews who were exiled to Egypt at the time of the first Churban remain there until Alexander the Great builds Alexandria. They then move there and the community flourishes. They do not want to return to Yerusholayim, even after the second Beis ha'Mikdosh is built, because, they say, the move to Yerusholayim is no more than a "pekidah', a temporary phase, but not a redemption - and the same is true of the Jews who were exiled to Amon and Mo'ov, Greece and Spain.


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