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

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Vol. 8   No. 43

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Avraham Chayim ben Ya'akov Yehudah z.l.

Parshas Shoftim

'Lo Sosur'
(based on the Torah Temimah
and the Meshech Chochmah)

Although the Mitzvah of 'Lo sosur ... ' is really referring to the obligation to obey the rulings of the Sanhedrin, who sat in the Lishkas ha'Gozis in the Beis Hamikdash, Chazal use this Pasuk as a support for all Rabbinical injunctions (B'rachos 19b). They also base the text of birchos ha'Mitzvos 'Blessed are You Hashem, who sanctified us with His Mitzvos ... ', on this Pasuk because it is true to say that every Mitzvah de'Rabbanan is a Mitzvah d'Oraysa too (Shabbos 23a).

And they have said that so great is human dignity, that it overrides a Lo Sa'aseh min ha'Torah, namely, that of 'Lo Sosur' (B'rachos ibid.). Kavod ha'b'riyos takes precedence over no other Lo sa'aseh min ha'Torah (apart from La'avin connected with money matters, such as returning a lost article. Mitzvos Asei, which one contravenes negatively, are in any event overridden by human dignity, even Mitzvos such as Pesach and Milah, even though they are subject to Ka'res (excission).


The Meshech Chochmah cites the Ramban, who takes the Rambam to task for assuming that each time one transgresses a La'av de'Rabbanan, one automatically contravenes 'Lo Sosur'. Among the questions that he poses is, if that is the case, why are the Mitzvos de'Rabbanan not included in the Taryag Mitzvos?


And he answers the Ramban's queries by defining the Mitzvah as obeying the Chachamim, rather than the fulfillment of what they commanded. For instance, when the Chachamim instituted the kindling of Shabbos or Chanukah lights, the Torah did not second that command, turning the kindling into a Mitzvah min ha'Torah, but simply instructed us to obey the Chachamim. In that case, the command itself may well be considered a Mitzvah mi'de'Rabbanan, and it is obeying it that becomes a Torah law. In other words, Hashem wishes to enhance the honour of the Chachamim, without being concerned about the nature of the decree (with which He might conceivably not even agree, says the Meshech Chochmah).

And this emerges clearly from the Yerushalmi in Sucah, which rules that on the first day of Sukos, we recite ' ... al netilas Lulav', and on subsequent days, ' ... al Mitzvas Zekeinim'.


We can also now understand why Chazal rule more leniently with a Safek de'Rabbanan than they do with a Safek min ha'Torah. In the latter case, where the Torah forbade eating what is not Kosher for example, one dare not eat a Safek either (even though the Torah did not specifically forbid it) for fear that if the meat is not Kosher, one is eating something that the Torah forbade. By a Mitzvah de'Rabbanan, on the other hand, a Safek is permitted, because as we just explained, it is not the object that is forbidden, but the command of the Chachamim, and if their command did not incorporate a Safek, then the Torah did not forbid it either. And at the same time, one is not contravening their command either, since they did not issue it in the case of a Safek.

And in similar vein, the Meshech Chochmah explains how it is possible for a later (and greater) Beis-Din to rescind the decrees of an earlier one (because here again, the Torah ordered us to obey whatever the Chachamim command; the command itself depends entirely on the conditions that they set).


The Ramban himself maintains that 'Lo Sosur' is not really a La'av at all, but an Asmachta (a Rabbinical injunction that is supported by a Pasuk), and this interpretation is implied by the Gemara in B'rochos that we quoted earlier.

See also the Torah Temimah (paragraph 7), who not only brings a proof that 'Lo Sosur' is no more that an Asmachta, but he also queries whether the Rambam said otherwise. The Rambam, he argues is not referring to all Rabbinical commands, as the commentaries assume, but to the status of the Sanhedrin in the Lishkas ha'Gazis, where their authority is questioned).

On the other hand, the Meshech Chochmah proves his point from the Rambam in Hilchos B'rochos (11:3), which seems to bear out His interpretation.


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim and
the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro)


The previous Parshah ends with "Three times a year ... " and Shoftim begins with "Judges ... ", hinting at the three locations where they placed a Sanhedrin - on the Har ha'Bayis, in the Azoroh and in the Lishkas ha'Gozis (where the Sanhedrin ha'Godol sat).

And it also hints at the three rows of Talmidim who sat in front of the Sanhedrin (Ba'al ha'Turim).


The Seventy Members

The numerical value of "Shoftim" is equivalent to that of 'Ayin Sanhedrin' (seventy members of the Sanhedrin). And it also has the equivalent numerical value as that of 'mechashef' (wizard), because every member of Sanhedrin had to be conversant with witchcraft, in order to be able to judge any wizards or witches who were brought before them (Ba'al ha'Turim).


Not for the Gentiles

"Judges ... you shall appoint for you". For you, the Ba'al ha'Turim infers, but not for the gentiles. Because, as David Hamelech writes in Tehilim " and He did not inform them of His judgements".

Today more than ever, we need to stress home the fact that the unique Torah was given to us and to us alone. The gentiles have no part in it, and we certainly have no part in their judicial system (see the opening Rashi in Mishpatim).


Each Tribe Had its Own

" ... to your tribes, and they shall judge". A clear hint that it was a Mitzvah for each tribe to judge its own members. This meant that each tribe had its own Sanhedrin Ketanah (Ba'al ha'Turim).


Those Important Small Matters

"ve'Shoftu (es ho'om)" contains the same letters as 'u'poshut' (meaning 'and simple' a hint at the Beis-Din's obligation to treat a case involving one P'rutah with the same meticulousness as one involving a hundred Manah (almost twenty thousand P'rutos) . Ba'al ha'Turim.


Three Judges for Money-Matters

Three derivatives of 'shofet' appear in the opening Pasuk, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, because money-matters require three people, meaning that three judges are required to enforce monetary rulings, even against the will of one of the litigants - though one monetary expert is eligible to do so on his own.

And when it comes to arbitration, anyone is eligible to act as an arbitrator (provided he is appointed by both parties).


Denigrating what is Holy

"Do not plant ... an idol-tree beside the Mizbei'ach" (16:21).

The numerical value of 'Asheirah' (idol-tree) is equivalent to that of 'Dayan she'eino hagun' (an unworthy judge), because, as Chazal have said, appointing judges who are unfit to judge, is akin to planting an Asheirah beside the Mizbei'ach. In effect, it is making a mockery out of something which is sacrosanct.


What G-d Detests

" ... which Hashem your G-d hates ... Do not sacrifice to Hashem ... an ox ... which is blemished" (16:22/23).

"which Hashem your G-d hates" comes to include other categories of animals which Hashem detests, incorporating an animal that raped a human or that was raped by a human, and one that was designated to be worshipped or one that was actually worshipped (Ba'al ha'Turim).


Keeping One's Speech Clean

The juxtapositioning (in 17:1) of "Kol dovor ra" (anything that is evil - which can also be translated as 'any evil words') "ki so'avas Hashem ... " ('because it is the abomination of Hashem') hints in what sort of regard G-d holds someone who speaks unclean language (Ba'al ha'Turim).


The Unique Sin

The only sin where G-d considers one's thoughts and words like the sin itself is that of idolatry. And that explains, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, why the Parshah of Avodah-Zarah follows immediately after the Pasuk of "Kol Davar Ra" which we just explained.


Not Just One Reason, but Two

"And he (the king) shall not increase wives and he shall not turn his heart away ... " (17:17). Every Mitzvah has two reasons, the G'ro explains, one the simple one, as revealed by the Torah, the other, its deeper meaning, which the Torah hides from us.

It is therefore important to remember that, even when the revealed reason no longer applies, the hidden reason does.

And this pertains not only to Torah-based Mitzvos, but also to Rabbinical ones. Take for example, the prohibition of drinking gentile milk that has not been shomered (one of the eighteen decrees mentioned in the first chapter of Shabbos), which the Chachamim forbade out of fear that they may have added or substituted non-kosher milk. This decree remains in force today no less than when it was first instituted (even though non-kosher milk is not commonly used), and the chances of its inclusion or substitution are slim. The reason for this is because any hidden reasons that Chazal might have had for issuing this decree still apply.

And for the same reason, it is said that the G'ro refused to drink any beverages that had been left uncovered, and which Chazal forbade for fear that a snake may have drunk from them and poisoned them (despite the opinion of Tosfos, who permit it on the grounds that snakes are extremely uncommon nowadays).


And this is what caused Shlomoh Hamelech, the wisest of all men, to err when he said 'I will take and not go astray!' allowing himself way above the Torah's quota of eighteen wives (for kings). So they taught him from Heaven that it was not his job to make such 'Cheshbonos', because for every reason that the Torah does reveal, there is one that it does not.

Consequently, not only did he err vis-a-vis the reason that is hidden, but his error caused him to stumble even vis-a-vis the revealed reason too!


And this is also the basis of the mistake of Rebbi Yishmael, who almost turned up the wick one Shabbos, when, contrary to the Takanas Chachamim not to read by the light of an oil-lamp in case one turns up the wick. Rebbi Yishmael procceeded to do so, claiming (like Sh'lomoh Hamelech before him) that he would read and not turn up the wick. But he 'forgot', it seems, that even if the Chachamim revealed one reason for their decree, there is another reason that they did not.


Clearly though, the above reasoning does not conform with the opinion of Rebbi Shimon, who expounds the Torah's reasons, and draws conclusions accordingly. Perhaps what we have just discussed forms the basis of the Tana'im's dispute. Rebbi Shimon holds that when the Torah (or the Chachamim) gives a reason, then one does not need to contend with the possibility that perhaps there are other reasons which the Torah kept hidden (and this was the stance adopted by Sh'lomoh Hamelech and of Rebbi Yishmael). Whereas the Chachamim maintain that one does (as we explained).


The Amidah

(based largely on the Sidur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
(Part XI)
Who Performs Good Acts of Kindness

In keeping with the fact that this B'rochoh is dedicated chiefly to Avraham Avinu (as Chazal have said 'they will conclude with you!' see Rashi at the beginning of Lech-Lecho), we stress the Midah of chesed here. We refer to the kind deeds of the Avos as well as to to 'the One who performs good acts of kindness'.

And perhaps when Chazal coupled the mention of the chesed of the Avos here together with that of the redemption, they had in mind the Medrash which attributes the redemption from Egypt to K'lal Yisrael's decision to perform acts of kindness to one another. After all, 'the world was created with chesed', so it stands to reason that the Ge'ulah should come about through the merit of chesed, too.


And He brings the Redeemer ...
for the Sake of His Name

Even though when the time for the Ge'ulah arrives, we will not be worthy of redemption, the Iyun Tefilah explains, Hashem will nevertheless redeem us, if not for our sake, then for His, in order to make known His might and His great Name.


King, Helper, Saviour and Shield

Interestingly, the title 'King', absent from the opening of the B'rachah, is mentioned here. 'Helper, Saviour and Shield' appear in a different order at the beginning of 'Ezras Avoseinu' (where Saviour and Shield are reversed), remarks the Iyun Tefilah, as is the case with 've'ya'azor ve'yogen ve'yoshi'a (when calling up to the Torah on Shabbos and Yom-tov).

It seems to me that 'Helper' has connotations of saving from current troubles, 'Saviour', of delivering from troubles that have already occurred, and 'Shield', of protecting from impending troubles. That being the case, the natural order would indeed be 'Helper, Shield and Saviour'. One always begins with the present (as we find by 'Hashem Melech, Hashem Malach, Hashem Yimloch ... '), because it is in the present that we view the world. And that explains why 'Helper' always appears first, Next one would expect to find the future 'Shield' (where one is spared contact with the enemy) and then 'Saviour' the past (where one is delivered from his hands). And the reason that in this B'rochoh, we invert the order and mention 'Shield' last, is in order to place it next to 'the Shield of Avraham', at the conclusion of the B'rachah.

Assuming too, that these three titles reflect the Midos of the Avos ('Helper' - Yitzchak, 'Saviour' - Ya'akov and 'Shield' - Avraham), it is interesting to note that 'King' occurs together with them, an obvious allusion to the Midah of David, a rare reference to 'the four legs' (Chesed, Gevurah, Tif'eres and Malchus).


The Shield of Avraham

For so G-d said to Avraham "I will shield you", and indeed He did, when He saved him from the furnace of Ur Kasdim, and from the battle with the four kings. And the term "Shield" is appropriate, for, as we just explained, Avraham was never harmed by his enemies, because Hashem spared him at the outset of every threat.


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