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

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Vol. 15   No. 49

This issue is sponsored by
Rabbi and Mrs. Menachem Gopin ",
their children and grandchildren,
in memory of

Parshas Shoftim

How Great is Peace!
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Before embarking on the conquest of Eretz Cana'an, G-d ordered Moshe to send each of the thirty-one kings peace-terms, leaving him the option of remaining in Eretz Yisrael, on Yisrael's terms, which meant, among other things, totally relinquishing the worship of idols.

When we remember that Eretz Cana'an comprised seven wicked nations, who, according to the Torah's testimony, were so pervert that they needed to be totally destroyed, as it writes in this Parshah (20:16) "Do not leave a single person alive", this offer is truly an incredible act of compassion. No wonder Chazal declare in connection with it 'How great is peace!'


The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. cite a variety of sources where the importance of peace is stressed.

The Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (87a) points out for example, how G-d Himself deviated from the truth in order to enhance Shalom Bayis, when he told Avraham that Sarah had doubted that she would have children, because 'she was old, when really what she had said was that 'Avraham was old' and G-d's seal is 'Emes!'


Then we have the Parshah following Ya'akov's death (where Yosef's brothers informed him of their father's command to forgive them for what they had done to him, even though he had said no such thing! And this for the sake of peace.

Birchas Kohanim ends with Sholom, and so does the Amidah. Furthermore, the Gemara in Gitin (61a) also instructs us to greet a gentile, in order to promote peace, and also that someone who has been greeted to respond with a double greeting (such as 'Sholom Alecha u'Brachah Tovah').

Indeed, the great R. Yochanan claimed in B'rachos (17a) that nobody ever greeted him first. Even a gentile in the market-place, whom most people were not in such a hurry to greet, he added, he made a point of getting in the first word. Though that was to avoid having to greet him twice, should the gentile greet him first (as we just learned), and as the Gemara teaches us in Gitin (62a), one is forbidden to issue a double greeting to a gentile.


Our sages in Gitin (59b) have also issued a prohibition to take away the findings of a 'Chashu' (a Cheresh, Shotah ve'Katan'), even though, by Torah law they are not capable of acquiring anything on their own. And in similar vein, they introduced a law there (61a) obligating poor gentiles to be sustained alongside poor Jews, all with aim of promoting peace.


Rabeinu Bachye, in Parshas Tzav (7:37), comments that when discussing the various Korbanos, the Torah leaves the Shelamim until last, and so it does there when it writes "This the law of the Olah, the Minchah and the Shelamim". The Torah concludes with the Shelamim, he points out, and so it should, because it is befitting to conclude with the Midah of Sholom, which is the pillar on which the world rests. Indeed, he explains, the reason that this Korban is called 'Selamim' is because it creates peace in the world, and if one wants to gauge the importance of peace, he adds, one needs only to remember that G-d allows His Name to be erased in order to create peace between one man and his wife!

Finally, Rabeinu Bachye adds, Shlomoh Hamelech concluded Shir ha'Shirim with the word "Sholom", and what's more, he adds, even the angels in Heaven need peace, as the Pasuk writes in Iyov (25:2) "Dominion and dread are with Him, He makes peace in His heights".


Based on the last two Pesukim of Tehilim, Kapitel 29, the Medrash informs us that when the terrified nations of the world heard the thunder and the tone of the Shofar at Har Sinai, they approached Bil'am and asked him whether 'Hashem was sending another major flood on the world', to which the latter replied 'Not at all! "G-d is giving 'strength' (the Torah) to His people". At which point they all called out "May G-d bless His people with peace!"


Today, we pray and long for peace. Reminiscent of the little boy who was searching for his lost penny next to the lamp-post, not because he lost it there, but because it was light, even though that was not where he lost it, our so called 'leaders' search for peace wherever it most serves their purpose, even though there is not the least reason to believe that they will find it there. If we have enemies, it is because we have strayed from the path of the Torah. In that case, to achieve peace, we need to listen to our arch-enemy Bil'am and the nations of the world, who taught us that peace goes hand in hand with Torah. There is no doubt therefore, that if we reinforce our ties with the Torah and stop aping everything that the gentiles do, we will soon merit genuine, permanent peace.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Da'as Zekeinim M.T)

Zero'a, Lechayayim & Keivah

" from those who perform a slaughter (me'eis zovchei ha'Zevach), and he shall give to the Kohen the (right) foreleg, the jaw and the stomach" 18:3.

Although the word "Zevach" generally refers to a Korban (as in 'Maseches Zevachim') says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., here it must be translated as 'slaughter' (which is its literal meaning), since the Din of Zero'a, Lechyayim & Keivah is restricted to Chulin.

And the reason that the Torah uses the plural ("zovchei") is because the Mitzvah applies to an animal belonging to partners, too.



"The first of your corn " (18:4).

The Torah does not give Terumah a Shi'ur, except that that what is left must be discernable (i.e. one is not permitted to declare one's entire field, Terumah).

Consequently, one is permitted to give as little as one grain, as far as Torah-law is concerned.

However, the Chachamim gave their own Shi'ur; a miser, one sixtieth, a generous person, a fortieth, and a regular person, a fiftieth.

These Shi'urim are mi'de'Rabbanan, though the Chachamim supported each one with a Pasuk.

1. The Pasuk in Yechezkel (45:13) writes "And this is the Terumah you shall separate; a sixth of an Eifah (an Eifah = three Sa'ah) from a Chomer (thirty Sa'ah) of wheat". And half a Sa'ah per thirty Sa'ah is one sixtieth.

2. The same Pasuk continues "ve'shishisam (implying two sixths) of an Eifah of barley", added to the half Sa'ah above, making one and a half Sa'ah, a fortieth of the Chomer of wheat plus the chomer of barley (a total of sixty Sa'ah).

3. The Pasuk in Matos (31:30) "And you shall take one fiftieth and give them to the Levi'im" - a gift that the Torah refers to as "Terumah".


And Reishis ha'Gez

"And the first of the shearings you shall give to him (Titen lo)".

The Gemara in Chulin (136a) extrapolates from the word "Titen", that one must give the Kohen an amount of wool that is useful - sufficient to manufacture with it a belt.


The Cities of Refuge

"And you shall divide the borders of your land" (19:3).

After reminding us the Eretz Yisrael measures four hundred Parshahby four hundred Parsah, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. citing the Gemara in Makos (9b) explains how the three cities of refuge in Eretz Yisrael are equidistant from one another; that there are a hundred Parsah from the southern border to Chevron, a hundred Parsah from Chevron to Sh'chem., a hundred Parsah from Sh'chem to Kodesh, and a hundred Parsah from Kadesh until the northern border.

The Gemara there queries this however, as to why should someone who kills in the north or in the south of the country have to run considerably further that someone who lives anywhere in the middle?

The answer the Gemara gives, based on a Pasuk in Hoshei'a, is that Sh'chem was teeming with murderers (See following Pearl). The Da'as Zekeinim M.T explains that it was therefore necessary for Sh'chem to be located close to the towns that lay between it and Chevron in the south and between it and Kedesh in the north, so that those who had killed inadvertently and who had found refuge in those cities, would be able to locate those who had murdered on purpose and who had taken refuge there.


Two Murderous Towns

(Ibid.) The Gemara in Makos (9b) points out that Sh'chem was teeming with murderers (see previous Pearl, and it cites the Pasuk in Hoshei'a (6:9)

" ... a band of Kohanim murders on the road to Sh'chem." The Gemara explains that the Pasuk is in fact, comparing the murderous gangs of murderers in the area of Sh'chem to the groups of Kohanim who would gather in the granaries to collect Terumah.

It is nevertheless clear, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., from the Pasuk before (which refers to Gil'ad as "a city of evildoers, who waylay for blood") that there were even more murderers in Gil'ad (the middle city of the three cities of refuge on the East-Bank of the Yarden, than there were in Sh'chem. Indeed, that is what the Gemara in Makos means, when it explains that the East-Bank of the Yarden required as many cities of refuge as the West-Bank (in spite of the fact that it was far more sparsely populated), because in Gil'ad there was an abundance of murderers; and it quotes the latter Pasuk in Hoshei'a as its source.


Returning from the Battle-Front

" Who is the man who built a new house but did not inaugurate it who planted a vineyard but did not redeem its fruit and who betrothed a woman but did not yet marry her shall go back home (20:5-7).

The Gemara in Sotah (42a) explains for which kind of building he goes back, for which kind of trees (e.g. a vineyard is not exclusive), and which kind of betrothal.

In any event, he reminds, all those mentioned here are only sent back from the front. They are still obliged to provide water to the combatants and to repair the roads on which they will march.


Destroying the Trees of the Forest

" for is the tree of the field a man that it should come under siege before you?" (20:19).

This is how the Pasuk is commonly translated.

The Da'as Zekeinim however, translates it like this: "only a forest containing fruit- trees into which a man might enter to hide and to lie in wait for you, on account of the siege, it you may destroy".

Alternatively, they say, one needs to invert the phrases in the Pasuk and to read "It (the fruit-tree) you shall not cut-down, to lay siege to the town in order to capture it. For the trees of the field are for man to eat, and not to be destroyed.


To Save an Agunah

"And your elders and judges shall go out and measure to the cities that are in the vicinity of the corpse" (21:3).

The objective of the exercise, the Da'as Zekeinim explains, is to create a rumpus, which hopefully, will highlight the murder, and attract witnesses who will recognize the victim, even from far away, who will subsequently be able to testify that he is dead, thus enabling his wife to remarry.

They also explain that when Chazal confine the identification of a dead man to the nose and the shape of face, that is only if they are testifying from the description that they heard from a third person. However, if they saw the dead man with their own eyes, then it will suffice to testify to the affect that they recognize him, in which case they are believed.

* * *


'A prophet from among you who like me, possesses Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, Hashem your G-d will establish for you ' (18:15).


'When you besiege a city all seven days to wage war against it, with a view of capturing it on Shabbos, do not destroy its trees because the trees of the field are not people to hide before you in a siege' (20:19).


'When you discover a dead man who has fallen to the ground, (but not hidden in a pile of stones) "fallen" (but not hanging on a tree); "in the field" (but not floating on water) " (21:1).


'And two sages and three judges from the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol shall go there and measure in al four directions ' (21:2).


'And it shall be, the town nearest to the victim (that is suspected of having committed the crime) shall take (that is to say, the members of the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol shall leave, and the wise elders of that city shall then take) a calf, the daughter of a bull that is not Kil'ayim ' (21:3).


'The Kohanim shall say "Atone for Your people Yisrael and immediately, a group of worms will emerge from the dung of the calf and will proceed to wherever the murderer is and crawl on him. The Beis-Din will then arrest him and judge him' (21:8).

* * *

(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 476:
Not to Claim from a Debt after the Sh'mitah

One is obliged to release all outstanding debts in the Sh'mitah year. It is with regard to this that the Torah writes in Re'ei (15:3) "and whatever you have belonging to your brother you shall release". And the warning for this Mitzvah is repeated when the Torah writes (in the previous Pasuk) "And this is the word of the Sh'mitah, every creditor shall release his debt". The Tosefta writes that the Torah refers to two Sh'mitos, one of land and one of money.

The author already discussed the reason for the Mitzvah in Parshas Mishpatim (Mitzvah 84) regarding the Sh'mitah of land; and the same reason applies to the Sh'mitah of money - to teach us the Midah of generosity and of having 'a good eye', in addition to increasing in our hearts the Midah of Bitachon in Hashem. In doing so, we will prepare ourselves to receive goodness from the Master of the World, incorporating blessing and mercy. Furthermore, it builds a strong wall and an iron partition to distance ourselves from theft and from coveting that what belongs to our fellow-Jew. Because we will make a 'Kal-va-Chomer' and say that even when it concerns my own money, which I lent him, yet when the Sh'mitah-year arrives, the Torah orders the creditor not to rob or exhort his money, how much more so should I go to the other extreme (and not steal or rob money that belongs to him to begin with)!

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara in Erchin (21b) teaches us that it is at the end of the Sh'mitah year that debts are released, when the sun sets on Erev Rosh-Hashanah of the eighth year, as the Torah writes (in Pasuk 1) "At the end of seven years you shall make the Sh'mitah" and it releases even documented debts which have Achrayus Nechasim (where the land of the debtor is mortgaged to the creditor). The Rambam rules that in the event that the debtor designates a specific piece of land for the creditor to claim, then the debt is not released. The Seifer ha'Chinuch however, wonders at this, since the Gemara in Gitin (37a) refutes that ruling Credit in a shop and the wages of a hired labourer are not subject to 'Hashmotas Kesafim' in the Sh'mitah (unless they are transformed into a regular loan), and the same applies to fines and penalties imposed by the Beis-Din. If a man divorces his wife before the Sh'mitah, her Kesubah is not subject to Hashmotas Kesafim' either, unless she has already received part of her Kesubah or transferred the debt into a regular loan The Rambam writes that if one borrows money against a security, the loan is not released at the end of Sh'mitah, provided the value of the debt is equivalent to that of the security.

The Gemara in Bava Metzi'a however, clearly states that the ruling applies even if the security is worth only half the debt, though this is confined to a security of Metaltelin (movables); if the security is Karka (land), then there where it is customary to redeem them for cash, the Din of Hashmatas Kesafim still applies.

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