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

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Vol. 23   No. 26

This issue is sponsored by Eliezer and Rachelle Chrysler
in honour of the Bar Mitzvah of their grandson
ישראל נחום ירס נ"י
May he grow up to תורה, חופה ומעשים טובים
Mazal Tov to his parents and family.

Parshas Shemini

An Auspicious Day

The Ten Crowns

"And it was on the eighth day (of the inauguration) that Moshe called Aharon and his sons and the elders of Yisrael" (9:1).


This day was a particularly auspicious one, in that it hosted ten major firsts, or as Chazal put it, it 'took ten crowns'.

It was …

The first of the months - a distinction which, up to the time they left Egypt, belonged to Tishri (when the world was created, according to Rebbi Eliezer) …

The first day of the creation (according to the opinion of Rebbi Yehoshua) …

The first day of the Kehunah (during the first seven days of inauguration, Moshe performed the entire Avodah) …

The first day of the service in the Mishkan (performed in the way that it would be performed in future) …

The first time that a Divine Fire consumed the Korbanos …

The first day of the official order of the sacrifices …

The first day that Bamos (private and public altars other than the copper altar) became forbidden …

The first day that the Shechinah came to rest in the Mishkan … The first time that the Kohanim blessed the people.


The Day of Creation


Based on the expression "And it was" (vay'hi), which appears both in the current Pasuk and in Bereishis ("vay'hi erev, vay'hi voker …"), the Gemara in Megilah (19b) comments that on the day that the Mishkan was erected, G-d was as happy as on the day that He created heaven and earth.

The Torah Temimah connects this Gemara with a Medrash Rabbah, which states that, in G-d's eyes, the construction of the Mishkan was like the day He created the world. And it explains that from day one, He had longed for the day when His Name and His Sanctity would be unified in this world - a wish which came to fruition with the building of the Mishkan.

He also refers to another Gemara in Megilah (Daf 31b), which says that the world exists solely on the merit of the Ma'amodos - a rotating cross-section of Kohanim, Levi'im and Yisra'elim, representing the entire nation, stood by the Korban Tamid as it was brought each day.

In view of these statements, it is reasonable to suggest that the ten crowns discussed earlier correspond to the ten commands with which G-d created the world.

* * *

Parshas Zochor
From the Ba'al ha'Turim

"Approach the Mizbe'ach and bring your Chatas & your Olah, and atone (ve'chaper) for them …" (9:7).

We find the word "ve'chaper" in two other places -

1). In Parshas Korach (17:1), when, following the onset of a plague, Moshe told Aharon to take the pan containing Ketores and atone for the people by sprinkling it between the living and the dead.

2) In Tehilim (79:9), where it writes " … save us and atone on our sins for the sake of Your Name".


The combination of these three Pesukim teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that the Ketores, which is initially not brought as an atonement, nevertheless has the power to atone, like the Chatos and the Olah.

Indeed, a well-known Segulah to counter major disasters is the recital of Parshas Ketores.

* * *

Parshas Parah

To Die for Torah

"This is the law regarding a man who dies in the tent - whoever enters the tent and whoever is in the tent shall be Tamei for seven days" (19:14).


In the Gemara in B'rachos (Daf 63b) Resh Lakish, presumably bothered by the strange phrase "This is the Torah", explains the Pasuk completely out of context. Interpreting "the Tent" with reference to 'the tent of Torah', he comments that Torah can only have a lasting effect on someone who kills himself for Torah.

Needless to say, Resh Lakish's statement cannot be taken literally - particularly in view of Chazal, who, commenting on the Pasuk in Emor "and live by them" explain that one should live by the Torah and not die by it.


The Chofetz Chayim therefore, explains the Gemara with a parable. He tells the story of a wealthy businessman, who became so involved in his prospering business that eventually, he had no time to Daven regularly in Shul. Years went by and he decided that the time had come to prepare for his departure from this world; so he began going to Shul regularly, and to spend time learning Torah after Davening. Meanwhile, clients arrived at the store to purchase from him, and his wife began to wonder where he was. At first, he told her that he had been delayed. After a few days however, he was forced to tell her that he had been learning Torah. When she berated him that when clients were waiting, it was not the time for Torah-study, he replied: 'What would you expect me to answer if the Angel of Death comes to take my Soul? Should I ask him to wait until after I have seen my clients?

Imagine then that, every morning, the Angel of Death did indeed pay me a visit and that I became temporarily unavailable. If I happen to return in a couple of hours, nu, thank Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu that I merited Techi'as ha'Meisim!'

And that, the Chafetz Chayim concluded, is what Resh Lakish meant when he talked about killing oneself for Torah. When studying Torah, one must consider oneself dead to the world, to the point that nothing else matters.


In the above Gemara in B'rachos, Resh Lakish actually made his statement in support of another statement there - 'Cut yourselves up for the words of Torah', which Rashi interprets to mean that one should be prepared to endure hardships in order to study Torah. This in turn, reflects the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos which writes (in connection with Torah-study [6:4]) 'Eat bread with salt, drink water in small quantities, sleep on the floor … . If you do this, you will be praiseworthy in this world and it will be good for you in the world to come'.


To understand Resh Lakish in this context, we must interpret all forms of deprivation and hardship as a partial death, a concept that we find in the Gemara in Bava Kama, which compares a wound inflicted by an animal to death, when it comments 'What difference does it make whether it (the animal) killed him completely or only partially?' And what he is therefore coming to teach us is that one should be prepared to abstain from the pleasures of life and should the need arise, to suffer deprivation in order to learn Torah. This lesson also emerges from the sixth Perek of Pirkei Avos, which describes how one acquires Torah.

* * *

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