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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to: parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


Vol. 16   No. 13

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Baila bas Avraham Nachum z"l
who was niftar
3 Teves 5769
May she be a Meilitzas Yosher
for her family
and for K'lal Yisrael
t.n.tz.v.h.

Parshas Sh'mos

From Shepherd to Prophet
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

When Moshe chose to become a shepherd for Yisro, R. Bachye explains, he was merely taking his cue from the Tzadikim that preceded him, who were shepherds, starting with Hevel ha'Tzadik, the Avos and Ya'akov's sons who were all shepherds. And they chose that profession because their work kept them far away from the cities, locations that are susceptible to sin. And what's more, it enabled Moshe to be alone with His Creator, to prepare him for the prophecy that was to be his hallmark.

*

In Parshas Vayigash, the author adds many details to highlight the advantages of the shepherding, though, as he explains there, he is referring to the sons of Ya'akov, who did not merely shepherd the sheep of others, but who, like their father Ya'akov, actually owned the vast flocks of sheep that they shepherded. That is why he also describes shepherding as a highly profitable business, inasmuch as it incorporates a trade in wool, milk and lambs. Moreover, he explains, it does not entail excessive toil on the one hand, and by virtue of the fact that one's workplace is outside the town, it enables a person to avoid many sins, such as tale-telling, Lashon ha'Ra, false oaths, adultery, theft and violence (in keeping with the clean and light profession, which the Mishnah at the end of Kidushin recommends). He also lists there many additional Tzadikim after Moshe who took up the same profession for the same reasons (and for additional ones): Shaul ha'Melech (before he became king), Shmuel ha'Navi (though his source for this is unclear), David ha'Melech in his youth, Eliyahu and Elisha (before the latter began to prophesy), and he presumes that the B'nei Nevi'im of that time, most certainly did likewise.

*

The Torah here also relates that Moshe took his flocks "behind the dessert", to teach us that, like the Avos, Moshe was concerned that the sheep might otherwise stray into other people's fields and eat their crops (see Chayei Sarah, 24:32). Although the Torah does not indicate as to how many years Moshe remained in Midyan, the Chachamim have taught that he spent forty years in Egypt, forty years in Midyan and forty years in the dessert. Likewise, R. Akiva was in business for forty years, studied Torah for forty years and then taught it for forty years. Thre stages are also attributed to Hillel ha'Zaken and R. Yochanan ben Zakai.

*

At the revelation by the Burning Bush, R. Bachye explains, Moshe first saw the fire, then the angel and finally, the Shechinah. He saw the fire that had caught hold of the burning bush, but it did not burn. Thinking that it was a regular fire, he was intrigued and moved closer to investigate, as the Pasuk describes, to discover whether it was the bush that comprised a unique type of wood, or the fire that was unique. Had he known that it was a Heavenly fire, he would not have dared approach it. And it was after seeing the fire that his Seichel was sufficiently fortified to behold an angel, as the Pasuk writes "And the Angel of Hashem appeared to him in a blaze of fire amidst the bush". And it was only after he had seen the Angel that he perceived the Glory of the Shechinah in a vision of prophecy.

And it is because this was the beginning of Moshe's ascent to prophesy that this transition needed to take place, much in the same way as a person who goes from darkness to sunlight who will not be able to bear the latter, or to see anything at all if he goes straight from one to the other. In order to see the sunlight, one needs to move gradually from total darkness to partial light, and from one stage of light to another, until eventually, he is able to step out into the sunlight and to make full use of it. And so it is with 'the light of the seichel', for in many ways, spiritual matters follow the same pattern as physical ones.

*

Indeed, R. Bachye concludes, we find the same sequence in the realm of Torah and Mitzvos, where G-d first gave some Mitzvos (to the Avos [Milah and Gid ha'Nasheh], then to Yisrael in Egypt [Rosh Chodesh and Pesach], then) to Yisrael at Marah (Shabbos and Dinim ), the Ten Commandments at Sinai and finally, the rest of the Torah in the Plains of Mo'av.

And that is how one gets to understand Hashem, little by little, allowing one's knowledge and appreciation of Him to expand and increase with each passing day, just as the morning light begins with the rays of dawn gradually increasing from moment to moment, until eventually, the sun is shining in all its glory. And when the Navi Hoshei'a writes (6:3) "And let us get to know and strive to know Hashem, like the dawn whose emergence is certain", he is coming to negate the false ideology of those who attempt to attain full knowledge of Hashem in one moment. No, says the Navi, the way to get to know Hashem is slowly but surely, one step at a time.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Dessert Achievements

"And Moshe was shepherding (u'Moshe hoyoh ro'eh) Yisro's flocks and he led the sheep far into the dessert" (3:1).

The Medrash, says R. Bachye, explains this metaphorically with regard to the B'nei Yisrael (who bear the title 'Holy Sheep', and) whom, precisely one year later, he would lead into a long forty-year stay in the Dessert.

*

And (based on the Pasuk in Shir ha'Shirim [3:6] "Who is this who is ascending from the dessert"), the Medrash explains that our Pasuk is coming to teach us the greatness of Yisrael, viewed from their achievements in the Dessert, where they received 1. the Torah; 2. the Mishkan; 3. the Kehunah; 5. Malchus; 6. Miriam's well and 7. the Clouds of Glory.

*

Moshe and Hevel

(Ibid.)

Grammatically, the Torah ought to have written 'Vayehi Moshe ro'eh as it says in connection with Hevel (Bereishis 4:2).

"u'Moshe hoyoh ro'eh" says R, Bachye, implies that he had already been a shepherd before. To be sure he had, in the form of Hevel, whose Gilgul he was, as well as being the Gilgul of Sheis (The first letters of Moshe, Sheis and Hevel spell 'Moshe').

And what's more, R. Bachye explains (with reference to chapter 2, Pasuk12), bearing in mind that the Egyptian who was beating the Jew was a Gilgul of Kayin (who had murdered Hevel), it was destined from the time of the creation for Moshe to kill the Egyptian (who had killed him in the earlier Gilgul).

*

Moreover, he says, the word "l'choh" ("ve'atoh l'choh, ve'eshlochacho el Par'oh"), whose Gematriyah is fifty-five, is significant, as Hevel was fifty days old when Kayin killed him, and it is corresponding to that that Moshe ascended Har Sinai on the fiftieth day to receive the Torah. The extra 'Hey', the author will explain later, corresponds to the five days that Yisrael camped in front of Har Sinai before the Torah was given (which also served as the introduction to Moshe's spiritual elevation, until he was worthy of ascending Har Sinai to receive the Torah).

*

One more point, regarding the 'blaze of fire' (which we will discuss in the following Pearl). The Medrash explains that Hevel had to die because, when a fire came from before Hashem and consumed his Korban, he peeped at it. Consequently, when, upon seeing the blaze of fire (which, like the fire that consumed Hevel's Korban, contained the Shechinah), he hid his face and did not look, he rectified Kayin's sin.

*

Moshe and His Sheep

(Ibid.)

The Medrash states that Moshe's sheep went for forty days in the dessert without eating (like Eliyahu ha'Navi, as recorded by the Pasuk in Melachim 1, [19:5]).

*

Getting Used to It

"And an angel of Hashem appeared to him in a blaze of fire (be'Labas Eish) from the midst (the heart) of the bush" (3:2). R. Bachye explains that this was to accustom his heart to the various fires that he would come accross when he ascended Mount Sinai, which, the Torah relates, "was burning with fire".

*

Hashem Empathizes with Yisrael

(Ibid.)

And why did Hashem appear to Moshe from a lowly bush, rather than from a date-palm (to which Yisrael is compared)?

To answer this question, R. Bachye cites Hashem Himself, who quoting the Pasuk in Tehilim (91:46)"I am with them in their troubles", explains how the choice of such a lowly location demonstrated to what extent He empathized with His people's terrible suffering in Egypt.

*

The Pasuk refers to the location of the Burning Bush as "the Mountain of G-d, at Chorev".

It is hardly surprising therefore, that the words "Sneh" and "Sinai" share the same origin.

*

Removing One's Shoes

"Remove your shoes, because the location on which you are standing is consecrated ground" (3:5).

According to the simple explanation, says R. Bachye, this was merely a mark of respect, to acknowledge the fact that Har Sinai had become consecrated with the Shechinah having alighted on it, and served as a reminder to treat it with the respect that a holy place deserves. Much in the same way as G-d warned Yisrael to respect the angel that he would send to accompany them to Eretz Yisrael.

*

Hashem's Mercy

"And Hashem said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people " (3:7).

Up until now, R. Bachye observes, when speaking about B'nei Yisrael, the Pasuk has referred to G-d as 'Elokim'. This is the first time that the Name 'Hashem' (Havayah) is used - because He was now promising Moshe that His mercy was aroused and that He was about to redeem His people with His Midas ha'Rachamim.

*

Seeing, Hearing & Knowing

(Ibid.)

The Pasuk describes how Hashem 'saw Yisrael's afflictions, heard their cries and knew their pains'. Note how the Torah lists the same three reactions a few Pesukim earlier (2:24/25). R. Bachye explains that these are three different levels of response, since to begin with, hearing is a sharper and more refined sense than that of seeing (in keeping with Chazal, who say that someone who strikes a person and blinds him pays for his eye, but his full value, should he deafen him). Whereas knowledge is more acute than both of the above since it is possible to see and to hear something without understanding what one has seen or heard, rendering what one saw or heard meaningless.

*

Alternatively, 'seeing refers to the revealed suffering, 'knowing' to the hidden suffering (see Chizkuni), whilst 'hearing' refers to Tefilah, which is the catalyst that 'reminds' Hashem of His covenant with the Avos, and explains why it is mentioned first in the earlier Pesukim.

* * *

HIGHLIGHTS FROM TARGUM YONASAN

'And G-d said to him "Who is the One who placed (the power of) speech into the mouth of Adam ha'Rishon, and who is the One that makes a person dumb " ' (4:11).

*

'And Moshe took his wife and his sons ; and Moshe took the staff that he had taken from his father-in-law's garden, that was made of sapphire from Hashem's Throne of glory. It weighed forty Sa'ah and on it was clearly engraved the Great and honoured Name. And with it G-d's miracles were performed through him' (4:20).

*

'And Tziporah took a flint-rock and she cut the foreskin of her son Gershom, which she then placed at the feet of the destructive angel, and she said "My Chasan wanted to circumcise him, but his father-in-law would not let him; so now may the blood of this MiIah atone for my Chasan' (4:25).

*

'Then the destructive Angel left him alone; so Tziporah extolled the virtues of the B'ris Milah, and she said 'How beloved is the blood of this Milah which saved my Chasan from the hand of the Destructive Angel' (4:26).

*

'And G-d ordered Aharon "Go to meet Moshe in the Dessert!"

And Aharon went and he met him by the mountain on which the glory of G-d had revealed itself and he kissed him' (4:26).

*

'And Par'oh said "The Name Hashem is not known to me that I should accept His words and let Yisrael go; nor did I find the Name 'Hashem' listed in the Book of Kings. I am not afraid of Him and I will not let Yisrael go' (5:2).

* * *

THE MITZVOS AND THEIR MEANING
(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 123:
The Korban Oleh ve'Yored (cont.)

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah Initially, each of the above sins obligates the sinner to bring a female lamb or kid-goat, just as he would for a fixed Chatas; he cannot fulfill his obligation with a bird or flour unless he is classified as a poor man. And a poor man who brings a lamb or a kid-goat has not fulfilled his obligation either. The reason for this is because, since Hashem has taken pity on him and exempted him from bringing the more expensive Korban, he has no right to exert himself and to bring more than he is able to afford. And from this we can learn that one should refrain from entering into expenses that are beyond one's means (even if it is for a D'var Mitzvah); this in turn, because doing so leads a person to steal from others when one finds strives to attain the standard of living that one is used to, but is unable to do so Chazal also teach that if someone sets aside money to purchase a lamb or a goat and then becomes poor and needs the money, he should purchase two birds, and transfer the Kedushah of all the money on to the birds, thereby permitting him to use it. And the same will apply to a poor man who designates money for two birds and then becomes poorer still and requires the money. He too, purchases a tenth of an Eifah of fine flour, on to which he transfers the entire amount, thereby taking the money out of the realm of Hekdesh. Likewise, a poor man who designates money for flour and then becomes rich, must add to the money and purchase a lamb or a goat A rich man in this regard is one who has enough money for his needs The obligation regarding these Korbanos is specifically be'Shogeg, with the sole exception of Shevu'as Eidus, which applies even be'Meizid. A Korban is not required however, of anybody who transgressed be'Oneis (i.e. if the transgression was not performed willingly), due to the principle 'Oneis Rachmana Patreih' (the Torah exempts an Oneis from punishment and from the need to atone). Sometimes, in the realm of Shevu'os it is considered an Oneis and Patur, and sometimes he is considered a Shogeg and Chayav; Sometimes he is Chayav one Korban even if he contravened many Shevu'os that he made, and sometimes he is Chayav a Korban for each and every Shevu'ah; and with regard to bringing a Korban on Tum'as Mikdash ve'Kodashav, sometimes one is Chayav and sometimes one is Patur. Regarding the latter, one is Chayav provided the sinner was aware either of the Tum'ah and that he was about to eat Kodesh or enter the Mikdash at the beginning, and that he remembered those facts at the end, but forgot in the middle that he was Tamei and that what he was eating was Kodesh or the location that he was entering was the Beis Hamikdash, as the Gemara explains in Shevu'os (2a). But if he only realizes what he has done only after entering the Mikdash or after eating Kodshim be'Tum'ah, he is Patur from bringing a Korban. This Din is peculiar to this specific case. With regard to other Chayvei K'riysus be'Shogeg, the Chiyuv Korban takes effect, even though one realized one's sin only after having transgressed. This difference is based on the fact that with regard to the Korban Oleh ve'Yored, the Torah first writes " and it is hidden from him (ve'ne'elam" [implying that initially he knew what he was doing]) and then repeats " and he knows" (implying that he must be aware of what he did at the end too); whereas regarding other Korbanos the Torah writes in Vayikra " when one performs (i.e. transgresses) one of the Mitzvos of Hashem which one should not do and he is guilty, and he knows (even at the end) that he sinned", omitting the word "ve'ne'elam".

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502


Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues


This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

http://www.shemayisrael.com
Jerusalem, Israel
732-370-3344