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

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Vol. 7   No. 48

This issue is sponsored
in honour of the bar-mitzvah of Aryeh Fuchs n.y. by his family
and l'iluy Nishmas Sh'raga ben Yehudah z.l. and Leah bas Shimon z.l.
by their grandsons Menachem and Mordechai Schwob n.y.
l'iluy Nishmos their grandparents

Parshas Shoftim

The Mitzvah of Tzedokoh
(Part 2)
(based mainly on the Seifer Yalkut Yitzchok)
(Part I)

Someone who has less than two hundred zuz in liquid assets is entitled to take ma'aser oni (in the third and sixth-years of the six year cycle). This is hinted in the very word 'tzedokoh', whose numerical value is 199, to say that if one owns 199 zuz one may still accept tzedokoh. And a fascinating acronym, based on the fact that lending a needy person money is better than giving it to him, occurs in Pinchos (28:23) "Mil'vad olas ha'boker ...". "Mil'vad" is the acronym of 'malveh le'oni be'sha'as dochko', someone who lends a poor man when he is hard-pressed - "olas ha'boker" it is as if he has brought the morning oloh (of the Korban Tomid).


The Torah writes in Mishpotim (22:24) "If you lend My people money, the poor man ... ". Do not read "talveh" (lend) the commentaries say, but "tilveh" (borrow). Someone who lends a poor man money will find that Hashem lends him. Nobody loses out by performing the mitzvah of tzedokoh. Note that Hashem refers to the poor as "My people". They are known as the vessels of Hashem. Most people use only whole vessels; they throw away broken ones. Not so Hashem! He uses 'broken' ones, as the posuk writes "And to this I will look (says Hashem), to someone who is poor and lame in spirit" (Yeshayoh 66:2).

This concept adds another dimension to that of treating a poor person who needs help with no less love and respect than any other object of mitzvah (with the additional consideration that a human being possesses a sensitivity that an object of mitzvah does not) - Chosen Words. How much more should his level of esteem rise in our eyes now that we know that he is also a member of Hashem's elite troop.


The Gemoro in Shabbos (104a) relates how the children expounded the 'aleph-beis':

'aleph-beis - aleif binah (learn knowledge - Torah);

'gimel-daled' - g'mol dalim (perform tzedokoh with the poor). Why does the foot of the 'gimel' face the 'daled', they asked? Because it is the way of the rich man to run towards the poor. Why does the face of the 'daled' turn away from the 'gimel'? To teach the rich man to give discreetly, to prevent the poor man from embarrassment.

'Hey-vov' - this is the (latter half of the) Name of Hashem.

'Zayin', 'ches', 'tes' 'yud' 'chof' 'lamed' - if you will give tzedokoh, Hashem will feed you (zon), favour you (chon) and do good to you (meitiv). He will give you an inheritance (yerushah) and tie for you a crown (keser) in the World to Come (le'Olom ha'Bo).

Among the many lessons we can learn from these children is the correct order of priorities. They knew that tzedokoh is second only to Torah-study.

Rabeinu Bachye writes that the poor man is a recipient of Hashem's Midas ha'Din and the rich man, of His Midas ha'Rachamim. Consequently, when a rich man gives tzedokoh, the two Midos combine, and it is this combination that keeps the world running.


Someone who gives tzedokoh to those who study Torah and performs tzedokoh with them, will merit to be taught Torah in the World to Come, even if he is ignorant in this world - Me'il Tzedokoh. In any event, the only assurance that someone who does not learn Torah in this world has of ever entering the World to Come (when the dead come back to life) is through one's close association with talmidei chachomim and the acts of kindness that he performs with them. For so Rebbi Yochonon said: 'All the prophesies were only said for the benefit of someone who marries off his daughter to a talmid-chochom, who serves talmidei-chachomim with his property and who does business with them. As for the talmid-chachom himself 'no eye other than that of G-d Himself, has ever seen what is in store for him' (B'rochos 34b).


"How praiseworthy is someone who acts wisely with a poor man. On the day of evil, Hashem will save him."

If a creditor knows (or suspects) that the debtor is unable to repay the loan, and he knows the debtor to be a decent man who would gladly pay if he had the money, then when he meets him in the street, he should cross over to the other side, to spare him the worry that maybe the creditor is about to ask him for his money. And besides, he is likely to presume that the creditor will suspect him of not wanting to pay his debt. By crossing the street, he spares him that embarrassment too.


From the same posuk, the Medrash extrapolates that one should give tzedokoh carefully, planning in advance how to give it in a way that is the most beneficial and the least embarrassing for the poor man.


"Someone who favours a poor man becomes the creditor of G-d, who will repay him his favour." The Tanchuma explains that, in return for saving the poor man's soul (as it was about to leave his body), G-d will give him a soul in return. Tomorrow his son or his daughter will become guilty of punishment or of death, but Hashem will remember the kindness that his father performed, and he will be spared.


Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro

Wise and Astute

"And do not take bribery, because bribery blinds the eyes of the wise (chachomim)" (16:19) In Mishpotim (23:8) the Torah writes " ... because bribery blinds the astute (pikchim)".


The Gro explains that a judge needs to be knowledgeable, not only in matters of halochoh, but also in matters concerning human nature. He must be able to reach halachic rulings based on the arguments presented by the litigants and the witnesses, but he must also be able to discern when the litigants and the witnesses are lying.

And this is what Chazal mean when they say in Shevu'os (30b) that, upon sensing that a certain lawsuit has been dishonestly presented, a judge is not permitted to continue with the case on the basis of the witnesses' testimony. Rather, on the basis of his intuition, he becomes obliged to close the case, and to expose the lying witnesses.


The word "chachomim" in the posuk refers to those who are wise in Torah-law, and "pikchim", to those who are astute in worldly matters. Consequently, when the Torah refers once to blinding the eyes of the 'chachomim', and another time, to the 'pikchim', it is warning the judge who takes bribes that he will not only be unable to reach an unprejudiced, halachic decision, but that he will be equally unable to discern any lack of integrity on the part of the testifying parties.


And this also explains another Gemoro in Sanhedrin (7b), where one opinion derives from one posuk that only if the ruling is as clear to the judge as the morning, should he issue it, whilst another derives from another posuk that he should only issue a ruling if it is as clear to him as (it is that he is forbidden to marry) his sister.

The difference between the two opinions is not at first comprehensible, remarks the Gro. However, according to the above explanation, it becomes crystal clear that the former is speaking about worldly matters, the latter, about halachic issues. Until a judge is absolutely certain that all the facts presented to him are true (like the morning), and that the decision that he has reached leaves no room for doubt (like his sister), he should refrain from passing judgement.


Too Good To Be True!

"Through the mouth of two or three witnesses, the guilty man shall die" (17:6)


The Gro once happened to be in the Beis-din in Vilna, when he heard two witnesses testifying. The moment they concluded, he declared their testimony to be false. To explain why, he cited the Mishnah in Rosh Hashonoh (23b) which states that if the witnesses' words are found to coincide, their testimony stands. Now why does the Tana add the word 'found'? Why did he not just say that if their words coincide, their testimony stands?

It must be, the Gro concluded, because it is only if, after careful cross-examination, the judges discover the witnesses' testimonies to be identical that they are accepted, but not if, already at the time of the testimony, the one witness simply mimics the other. That is a clear indication that they are working in collusion, and that they are lying.


Don't Ask Me Why!

"Only, he shall not have too many horses, in order not to return the people to Egypt ... (the centre of horse-trafficking in those days). And he shall not have too many wives, so that his heart shall not turn away" (17:16-17).


Rebbi said: Why does the Torah not reveal the reasons for the mitzvos?

He answers that twice the Torah does give the reason, once by the prohibition of a king to marry too many wives and once by the prohibition of his not having too many horses. And with regard to both Shlomoh ha'Melech said 'I will marry more wives, and I will purchase more horses, and I will not sin'. Yet, as the Torah itself affirms, he did in fact go on to sin.

The Torah, in its wisdom, refrained from giving reasons for all the other mitzvos, so that a person who is not acquainted with the Torah's reason, will not be so easily tempted to follow in the footsteps of Shlomoh ha'Melech.


With this we can also understand the Gemoro in Shabbos (12b). The Gemoro relates how, when Rebbi Yishmoel learned the B'raysa, which forbids reading by the light of a lamp on Shabbos because one may come to turn the wick higher, he declared 'I will read and I will not turn the wick higher'.

Once, when he was reading and he almost turned the wick higher, he announced 'How great are the words of the Chachomim, who said 'Do not read by the light of a lamp'.

He was referring to the Mishnah, which prohibits reading by the light of a lamp, but without giving a reason for the prohibition. And he was praising the author of the Mishnah, who declined to give a reason for the prohibition, as opposed to the author of the B'raysa, who did, and who, in so doing, almost caused him to sin.


The Five-Star Mitzvah

"And the Cohanim ... shall approach, because it is they whom Hashem ... chose to serve Him, and to bless by His Name, and it is through their mouths (i.e. command) that all quarrels and all plagues (of tzora'as) shall be decided" (21:5).

There are five things that G-d placed under the jurisdiction of the Cohanim exclusively. All five are hinted in this posuk.

1. " ... whom Hashem chose to serve Him" - the sacrifices.

2. "and to bless by His Name" - birchas Cohanim.

3. "and it is through their mouths - breaking the neck of the Egloh Arufoh (when they also had to declare their innocence ... see posuk 7).

4. "that all quarrels (shall be decided)" - making a sotah drink the water.

5. "and all plagues shall be decided" - the purification of a metzora.



The Amidah
(Part VI)

Who Needs Tzoros?

Chazal have said that the Ovos were childless, to induce them to daven for children, because Hashem longs for their tefilos. Presumably, this is true of all of Yisroel to a certain extent. Hashem presents us with tzoros, because He wants us to connect with Him, through the medium of tefilah.

That being the case, who knows whether, if we would train ourselves to daven with sincerity and with devotion before the tzoros come upon us (no easy task, as we explained earlier), we would not dispense with the need for tzoros altogether. Because, by making the right connection with Hashem without tzoros, then the need for them becomes redundant.


Shalom Aleichem -
Where Have You Been?

When we spoke previously about davening with kavonoh and in a meaningful way, we naturally presumed that all foreign thoughts that might disturb one's kavonoh have already been eliminated. It goes without saying that one cannot daven with positive thoughts as long as one's mind is filled with negative ones. So it is imperative that one makes a concentrated effort to eliminate all other thoughts from one's mind before one commences davening, as Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (34:15) "Depart from evil and do good". Certainly, one way of doing this is by filling one's mind with the Majesty and the Omnipotence of G-d before whom one is about to stand. In any event, this is a good idea inasmuch as it puts a person in the right frame of mind for davening.

The story is told of the Rov who would sometimes greet members of his community with a hearty 'Sholom aleichem' after they had concluded the Amidah. In answer to their startled protests that they hadn't been away, he would remind them of the journeys that they had made, to the annual fair, holidaying, or visiting, from which they had just returned. The onus lies with each of us to work on himself, to ensure that he does not belong to this category of person.


The Three Steps

When we daven the Amidah, we are actually standing before G-d, as is evident from the actual text of the tefilah, and it is in order to enter His presence, as it were, that we first take three steps back, before taking three steps forward and starting to daven (why specifically three steps will be discussed at the end of the Amidah I.Y.H.). This in itself should help to turn the idea of standing before G-d from a mere theory into a reality, and this is further reinforced by the fact that we bow down to Him before beginning the actual Amidah. This is something that we will only do three more times during the recital of the Amidah (at the end of this b'rochoh and at the beginning and end of the b'rochoh of Modim, when we thank G-d for all His kindnesses). And we will do it one final time as we take leave of Him whilst taking three steps back at the end of the Amidah.


Standing Before Hashem

It is not difficult to visualise the enormous hurdles that someone who seeks an audience with a human King is bound to encounter. The King after all, is concerned with the welfare of the state, whose security and economy lie under his control, and he has neither the time nor the inclination to deal with the individual needs of his citizens - even if their requests are of national concern.

Bearing that in mind, rather than viewing tefilah as a burden, we should consider our personal audience with the King of Kings (three times a day!) as an honoured privilege. In addition, the fact that we are assured that our tefilos will be well-received (provided they are sincere, and certainly when they are davened communally), should render davening a pleasure (even a thrill), rather than the chore that it all too often appears in our eyes.


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