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

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Vol. 6 No. 43

Parshas Shoftim

The Peace Prospectus
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"Its ways are sweet ways, and all its paths are peace" (Mishlei 3:17). Shlomoh ha'Melech teaches us here that the foundation of Torah and its main feature is peace. Indeed, the entire creation is based on peace, for so Chazal have taught in Chullin "The whole of creation was created fully- grown physically, fully-developed mentally and according to their own choice of image. As is well known, the heaven was created first, and it is called 'Shomayim', because it consists of fire and water, two opposing components which could not possibly co-exist if Hashem had not created them with peace. That is what Iyov meant when he said "He makes peace in His heights".


G-d Himself is called 'Peace', as the Novi writes in Shoftim (6:24), and it is also written "The Song of Songs that is to Shlomoh" - 'to the King to whom peace belongs'. He chose Yisroel from among the seventy nations and called them 'Shulamis' (a derivative of sholom) as Shlomoh wrote in Shir ha'Shirim, and about which Chazal commented 'the nation among whom the One who is called 'the Peace of the Worlds' dwells. And He gave them a Torah which is completely peace, as it is written "... and all its paths, peace". Indeed, all the mitzvos of the Torah are peace, both for the body and for the soul. Peace for the body, as the Torah writes in Beshalach (15:26) " ... If you will listen to the voice of Hashem ... all the illnesses ... I will not put on you". Peace for the soul, because on account of having fulfilled the mitzvos, the soul returns to its roots in a state of purity, as it is written in Tehillim "The Torah of Hashem is perfect, it returns the soul". With this, we can understand the Gemoro in Kesubos which says that when the wicked leave this world, destructive angels go out to meet them, and say to them "There is no peace", says Hashem, "for the wicked" (Yeshayoh).


Great is the quality of peace, because all the midos end with peace - peace is the seal of everything. That is why the Amidah ends with the brochoh of peace. And so the Gemoro in Megilah (18a) writes 'The blessing of Hashem is peace, as it is written in Tehillim "Hashem will bless His people with peace" '. It appears that Chazal learned the idea of concluding the Amidah with peace from the sacrifices, since they instituted the Tefilos corresponding to the Korban Tamid, and when the Torah lists the various parshiyos of Korbonos, it concludes with that of the Korban Sh'lomim. The Torah writes in Tzav "This is the law of the burnt-offering, of the flour-offering, of the sin-offering, and of the guilt-offering; of the inaugural sacrifice and of the peace-offering".


And our sages said furthermore 'Why are they called 'peace-offerings'? Because they create peace in the world'. Shlomoh too, concluded Shir ha'Shirim with 'peace', when he wrote "Then I was in His eyes like one who found peace". And in Koheles too, he concluded his list of times with peace: "a time for battle and a time for peace", and our sages explained that even at the time of battle, peace is necessary, as the Torah writes "When you approach a city to wage war with it, then you shall (first) call to it in peace" (20;10).

Even the heavenly creations need peace, as Iyov said: "Rulership and fear are with Him, He makes peace in His heights". As Chazal explained: Rulership pertains to the angel Michoel (who is made of water), because he is the great ruler whose job it is to intercede on behalf of Yisroel; and fear, to Gavriel (who is made of fire), yet Hashem makes peace between them. Now if in a realm where there is no enmity and no competition, peace is required for them to co-exist, then how much more so in a realm where there is enmity and competition!


Nor is it only the living who need peace - the dead have need of it too, as G-d said to Avrohom "And as for you, you will come to your fathers in peace".

The quality of peace was given to Aharon, and with it he merited life and peace, and for his children everlasting Kehunah to bless Yisroel, as it is written "And He will give you peace". So we see that peace is what keeps the world intact. And just as peace preserves the world, so too does justice; because, were it not for a system of justice, people would steal and rob and even kill each other, and the world could no longer exist. For so Chazal have said (in Pirkei Ovos) 'The world exists on three things; on justice, on truth and on peace', as it is written in Zecharyah "Truth and justice of peace you shall judge within your gates", because the judges establish, throughout the world, the peace upon which everything else depends. That is why the Torah commands us to appoint a Beis-din in every town.


Parshah Pearls


Truth, Justice and Peace

The Gemoro in Shabbos (10a) writes that when a judge adjudicates the absolute truth ('emes la'amito') it is considered as if he had become a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world.

The Gro (presumably to explain the double expression 'emes la'amito') explains that, when it comes to money matters, a judge needs to fulfill two conditions before arriving at a decision: He must of course, be fully conversant with all the intricacies of the halochoh at hand, but he must in addition possess the ability of sensing which of the litigants is telling the truth and which is lying. After all, the halachos are there in black and white in the Shulchan Oruch, and each of the litigants is able to use the arguments there to present his case, correctly or falsely, and it is therefore up to the judge to perceive when one of them is lying.


Indeed, if one of the litigants does lie, and the judge rules in his favour solely on the basis of his arguments (all based on the Shulchan Oruch and the Poskim), the second litigant, who knows in his heart that the other man lied, will not be satisfied with the judge's ruling, and it will not result in peace, But if the judge is perceptive enough to spot the litigant's lies, and to issue his ruling accordingly, then both litigants will leave the court at peace with each other and at peace with the judge, the one because he knows that justice has been done, the other because he knows that the fault lies with him, and not with the judge.

That is why the Novi Zecharyah writes "Truth and justice" (when the judgement is also the truth) then "you will have litigated peace within your gates" (Zecharyah 8:16).

And that is what Chazal mean when they say that 'he becomes a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world, for, as the Tana teaches us (see end of the first chapter of Pirkei Ovos) 'the world exists on truth, on justice and on peace'. If so, a competent judge holds up half the world.


Never Mind Why!

"And he shall not have too many wives, so that he does not turn his heart away" (17:17). In the Gemoro in Sanhedrin (21b), Rav Yitzchok explains that the Torah has good reason for not revealing the reason for the mitzvos. Because you see, the Torah did reveal the rationale behind two of the mitzvos: 1. The mitzvah of a king not having too many wives; and 2. that of his not having too many horses; and this caused one of the greatest men, Shlomoh ha'Melech, to sin. In each case, Shlomoh claimed that this was not applicable to him, so he transgressed the mitzvos - and stumbled in both cases.


With this, explains the Gro, we can better understand a Gemoro in Shabbos. In a B'raisa there, the Tana explains that it is forbidden to read by the light of a lamp on Shabbos, in case one inadvertently turns up the wick. It goes on to quote Rebbi Yishmoel ben Elisha, who said that he would read and not turn up the wick, and concludes, in the opinion of Rebbi Noson there, that he went on to read - and that he did in fact, inadvertently do so.

'How wise were the Chachomim', Rebbi Yishmoel subsequently exclaimed, 'who said: "Do not read by the light of a lamp!" '. He was referring to the Chachomim in the Mishnah there, who stated the prohibition of reading by the light of a lamp, without offering any reason for it - unlike the B'raisa, which did give a reason, causing him to sin. Undoubtedly, the most effective reason for a mitzvah is because that is what the Torah or what the Chachomim said, never mind why!



"Som tosim olecho (melech)" ("You shall surely appoint yourselves a king") - 17:15. "Som tosim olecho" has the equivalent numerical value of 'sh'loshim ma'alos' (thirty levels), points out the B'al ha'Turim.

"Levilti rum levovo ... " ("so that his yeart shall not be proud" - 17:20).

The posuk begins with a 'lamed' and ends with one, he points out further, a hint that sovereignty would emerge from Yehudah, whose name has the numerical value of thirty. Dovid ha'Melech was also thirty when he was crowned king and he sang a Shiroh that begins with 'lamed' (thirty).

"In order that he shall live a long time" - the king who will be crowned at thirty will live on the throne, but not Shaul. That is why this parshah is followed by the parshah of the Kohanim and that of Ov (a type of witchcraft) - because it is on account of his killing of Nov, the city of Kohanim, and because he consulted the Ov of Ein Dor, that he lost his kingdom.


History of the World

Part 54

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)

Alexander Mokdon (known as 'the Great') establishes a peace-treaty with Shimon ha'Tzadik, who brings him to Yerusholayim and shows him the Beis ha'Mikdosh. He blesses it and requests that they place his image between the Ulam and the Mizbei'ach. Shimon ha'Tzadik points out however, that this is forbidden, but he promises instead, that all babies that are born to the Kohanim in the course of the coming year will be called Alexander in his honour (an idea which appealed to him immensely). Others maintain that the Kohen Godol promises him that, from now on, they will date their documents by the day that Alexander Mokdon visited Yerusholayim. And indeed from then on, they actually began dating their documents from Tishri (which coincides with October) for non-Jewish kings. Alexander also grants Shimon ha'Tzadik permission to destroy the Temple of the Kuttim (alias the Samaritans) on Har Gerizim, and to kill the Kuttim who were there (because they had plotted to destroy the Beis ha'Mikdosh).

At this time, Alexander convenes an international court. The Cana'anim now take the opportunity to reclaim Eretz Cana'an from Yisroel; the Yishme'eilim claim the birthrite and the Egyptians all the silver and gold that Yisroel 'borrowed' and took with them out of Egypt. In each case, it is a hunch-back by the name of Gevihah ben Pesisa who champions the Jewish cause, and causes the claimants to leave empty-handed and red-faced.


Chonyo, son of Shimon ha'Tzadik builds a temple in Alexandria (some say that he did it for the sake of G-d, others, that it was for idolatry - though in the time of the Beis ha'Mikdosh, even the former is forbidden).

This temple is later moved to Har Gerizim with the help of the the Kuttim, and Tzodok and Baytus (disciples of Antignos Ish Socho, who is a disciple of Shimon ha'Tzadik, go astray and open new cults, known as the Tzedokim and the Baytusim, who accept the written Torah but reject the oral teachings). This temple, which is built following a dispute over the Kehunah Gedolah between Chonyo and his brother Shim'i, will stand for two hundred years, until it is destroyed by Yochonon the son of Shimon, Yehudah ha'Maccabi's brother (also known as Hurkanus).

At that time, Alexandria of Egypt is flourishing as a Jewish centre, with one million two hundred thousand Jews living there. The Shul contains seventy golden thrones for the members of the Sanhedrin.

Some say Yehoshua ben S'rak (better known as Ben Sira) a grandson of Yehoshua son of Yehotzodok, Kohen Godol, lives in this generation (though according to others, he was the son of Yirmiyohu ha'Novi - refer to year 3298).


Ptolemy 2nd rules over Egypt.


Alexander Mokdon is poisoned by his butler at the age of thirty-two. Realising that h is about to die, he divides his kingdom (comprising most of the then-known world, among his twelve generals, to ensure that the world will not have a ruler as great as he). But after his death, his kingdom is in fact, divided into four (as was already hinted by Doniel). Ptolemy rules over Egypt and the surrounding region; Antigon (who has only one eye), over Asia and India; Seleikus, over Assyria and the surrounding region; and Philip over the remainder of his kingdom. (Some say that Antigon was his half-brother and Philip, the son that Birashnah, daughter of Daryovesh King of Persia, bore him.)

In the year 3730, all four will come under the dominion of Rome.
Alexander remained a good friend of the Jews until his death.
Ptolemy orders the Torah to be translated, but this is not completed. Subsequently, he oppresses the Jews, sending more than one hundred thousand to Egypt into exile. His reign lasts thirty years.

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