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

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Parshas V'zos Habracha | Parshas Bereishis

Vol. 11   No. 51

This issue is sponsored by
the Glassman Family
Jerusalem - Efrat - Johannesburg - Edenvale
in loving memory of their grandmother
Zahavah bas Chayim Yosef Luria z"l


The Ushpizin

Avraham bears the distinguished title "Avraham My beloved one" (Yeshayah 41:8). Presumably this is due predominantly to the love that he displayed towards his fellow-man, as characterized by his tent with its four entrances, and by his efforts to find guests on the third day after his Milah, as he sat at the entrance of his tent, in the scorching heat of the sun. For the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah teaches us that Hashem's relationship with us is determined by our relationship with our fellow man. And it is also due presumably, to the fact that Avraham, more than anybody else, went out of his way to teach the world monotheism (see for example, Rashi Lech-Lecha 12:5). This eagerness to bring people to closer to G-d can only have been the result of the profound love that he had developed towards G-d.

And yet a third reason for this auspicious title, is the fact that unlike the other Avos, who had a shining example to follow, Avraham attained the level that he did in spite of a father like Terach and mentors like Par'oh, Avimelech and Nimrod. From the age of three, he began swimming against the tide, and that is what he did for the rest of his life. If anybody deserved the title "My beloved one", then it was surely Avraham.


Yitzchak was of course, the epitome of Avodah, the ultimate Ba'al Musar. He is the prime example of someone who sacrificed his life (quite literally). True, his father had already done so before him (at the episode of Ur Kasdim), but whereas his father had done it in defense of his beliefs, Yitzchak did not set out to prove anything by allowing himself to be bound and placed on the Mizbei'ach, He did it purely because his father told him that G-d had commanded him to. It was a blind act of faith which did not have the backing of personal motivation. In that, Yitzchak was unique.

In addition, it is noteworthy, that in contrast to Avraham, Yitzchak's speech was sparse. In every recorded dialogue of his, it is clear that each word was carefully chosen before he said it. He serves as the perfect example for Shemiras ha'Lashon.


Ya'akov more than all the Avos, experienced emotional pain. He suffered at the hands of Eisav and of Lavan, and he experienced constantly the suffering of 'Tzar gidul banim' (the pain of rearing children) in the most extreme way - as we find with regard to Dinah and Shimon and Levi, and with regard to Yosef, Shimon and Binyamin. Yet the unceasing anguish did not stand in the way of his becoming the b'chir she'be'Avos (the chosen of the Avos). Furthermore, after running away from Eisav, he studied for fourteen years as a pauper (for Elifaz had deprived him of everything he owned), and Chazal in Sanhedrin (20a) describe the generation of Rebbi Yehudah b'Rebbi Ila'i as being greater than that of Moshe, Yehoshua and Chizkiyahu because six people would study Torah huddled under one Talis, because they studied under conditions of extreme poverty.


Yosef's superlative Midos are perhaps best demonstrated by his treatment of his brothers when their paths crossed in Egypt. Not only did he refuse to seek revenge for the shameful and humiliating way in which they had treated him, not only did he not bear them the slightest grudge, but he went out of his way to treat them with respect and to do what he could to help them settle in a strange land. Perhaps more than anything else, the tears that he shed when his brothers briefly suspected him of plotting revenge, genuine tears of shame in that they could think such things of him, emphasizes this. And what added to Yosef's already vast bag of merits was the fact that, after helping his entire family to settle down with dignity, he sustained them for many, many years, as the Torah records, and which Chazal count among the greatest acts of Chesed.


Moshe is known both as the most humble man of all times and as the greatest prophet, two seemingly contradictory attributes. For when a man has nothing to boast about, humility seems within easy reach. But for a man with so many attributes and so many major achievements to his credit (due mainly to his uniqueness as a prophet), it is nothing short of amazing.

Maybe the one is the result of the other. Maybe Moshe bears the title of the most humble man, precisely because he was the greatest prophet. There are many humble men, but to be so great and so humble at one and the same time, that is indeed an unparalleled achievement.


Aharon is compared to Moshe because, as Rashi explains, he was equal to Moshe, which speaks for itself. In fact, Chazal describe him together with Moshe, as more humble than Avraham, because they said "And what are we", as opposed to Avraham's "and I am dust and ashes."

Aharon's uniqueness lies in his Midah of 'Ohev Shalom ve'Rodef Shalom'. The extent of Aharon's Midas ha'Shalom can be best understood by the Kalah Rabasi, who relates that eighty thousand young men, all called Aharon, followed Aharon's coffin (see Rashi Chukas 20:29). Who were these young men? They were all born of parents between whom Aharon had made peace, and all of whom had named their sons that were subsequently born, Aharon!

Eighty thousand cases of Shalom Bayis in almost forty years means that Aharon visited more than two thousand homes annually. Considering that Aharon was Kohen Gadol who served all day, every day in the Mishkan (and in any event there were only two other Kohanim besides him), that is a staggering feat indeed.


David composed Tehilim, which is why he is called 'Ne'im Zemiros Yisrael'. If that had been his only achievement, it would have placed him high up among the greats. But he was also a king, the leader of the dynasty of Mashi'ach, and as the Navi attests many times in Seifer Melachim, he was the epitome of a righteous king, whose life was totally dedicated to the service of Hashem. He was also one of Yisrael's finest warriors, whose absolute faith in G-d was the hallmark of his numerous successes on the battlefield. And it is that dedication and faith that he expresses in Tehilim, a dedication and a faith that are so deep that they spill over on to anyone who recites them with the due Kavanah.

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Davar be'Ito -

All About the Succah
(Adapted from the Ta'amei Haminhagim)

The Holy Succah

The reason that the Succah and its ornaments are Asur be'Hana'ah, the Gemara in Succah explains, is because the Torah writes "Chag ha'Succos ta'aseh lecho shiv'as yomim la'Hashem". Bearing in mind that the true meaning of 'Chag' is a day on which the Korban Chagigah is brought, we learn from this Pasuk that the Succah, like the Chagigah, is holy - inasmuch as one is forbidden to put its components to one's own personal use.



The Shulchan Aruch permits the removal of edible decorations, provided one specifies before dusk of Erev Succos that one is not detaching oneself from them the entire Bein-ha'Shemashos (dusk) period.

This is not necessary however, regarding the decorations that hang on the wall, the Taz explains, since it is customary to remove them either because of thieves or because of rain. Consequently, when hanging precious hangings and suchlike on the walls, most people automatically have in mind to follow the Minhag, and take them down if necessary, thereby eliminating the need for a specific condition to do so. In Eretz Yisrael, where neither of the two above reasons apply, the Taz's Heter may well not apply.


Eating in the Rain

The Mateh Efrayim rejects the notion that someone who wants to eat in the Succah in spite of the rain, is performing a Mitzvah. Firstly, he argues, he is negating the mitzvah of Simchas Yom-Tov. Secondly, Chazal after all, have compared it to a servant who pours out a cup of wine for his master, who throws it back at him. Imagine the master's anger if the servant pours him out another cup!

And thirdly, they refer to someone who does so as a Hedyot (which sounds very much like 'idiot').

Nevertheless, the Seifer Minchah Chadashah rules that someone who does sit in the Succah in the rain, is permitted to recite the B'rachah 'Leishev ba'Succah'.

Both the Machtzis ha'Shekel and the Levush rule that someone who has a wooden roof should rather eat and sleep in the Succah with the roof shut, than eat in the house. This is because, even though we disqualify a Succah with a closed roof either because it is no longer 'Arai' (casual), or because a Succah that does not let the rain in is Pasul, there are Poskim who render such a Succah Kasher, provided the roof is put in place for the sake of shade (and that is what one should have in mind when closing it). It goes without saying however, that if the roof is made of anything other than wood (such as metal or plastic), it is Pasul.

There seems no reason however, why one should not fulfill the Mitzvah of sleeping under the table in the Succah even when it is raining, or of eating or sleeping even under a plastic cover that stretches across the Succah underneath the S'chach (if it is beautifully decorated, so that this is its main function), and on Chol ha'Mo'ed, even under an umbrella.


Why Women Are Exempt

The Avudraham explains that women are exempt from Mitzvos Asei that are time-related, because of their obligations toward their husband. It may just be that the timing of the Mitzvah clashes with these obligations, causing friction between husband and wife.

More than this we find, that the Torah even permits G-d's Holy Name to be erased in order to make peace between a man and his wife.


Why No Commemoration of the Manna and the Well

Chazal inform us that in the desert, Yisrael were provided with Manna (on the merit of Moshe), Clouds of Glory (on the merit of Aharon) and the Roving Well (on the merit of Miriam). In that case, the commentaries ask, just as the Torah instituted the mitzvah of Succah to commemorate the Clouds of Glory, why did it not also institute something to commemorate the Manna and the well?

(See also main article Vol. 9)

The B'nei Yisaschar answers this question with the Chida, who citing the Tzemach David, explains that the water of the well, like the Manna, tasted like any beverage that the person drinking it had in mind. That being the case, he says, the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom-Tov (comprising eating meat, drinking wine and other fine foods, does indeed commemorate them).

The question remains however, why the Torah does not write so explicitly, like it writes in connection with the Mitzvah of Succah "In order that your generations will know ... "? And in any event, Simchas Yom-Tov is only mi'de'Rabbanan.

Interestingly, the Seifer Devarim Nechmadim writes exactly the opposite. Seeing, he says, as the Manna and the Well tasted like anything that one desired, how would it be possible to commemorate them, short of eating all kinds of foods, and drinking all kinds of beverages?

The Ta'amei ha'Minhagim cites an alternative explanation. The Clouds of Glory, he says, were confined to Yisrael only. The Eirev Rav remained outside of it. The Manna and the Well, on the other hand, were shared by everybody, the Eirev Rav and all.

It seems to me however, that to commemorate the miracles of the bread and the water would have looked odd, to say the least. Having taken us out of Egypt into the Desert, it is obvious that G-d would have to feed us too. The Clouds of Glory were different, in that this was not something that He was obliged to provide us with. It was a Divine act of lovingkindness towards His people Yisrael (which also explains incidentally, why the Eirev Rav were precluded). And that is why it is befitting for us to acknowledge this special favour via the Mitzvah of Succah.

Moreover, the Manna and the Well were part of the miracle of the Exodus (which we acknowledge at the Seder table), as well as an extension of G-d's Chesed in sustaining us, each and every day of our lives, (which we acknowledge with Benching after we have eaten).


Mentioning Rain on Shemini Atzeres

The Kolbo comments on the fact that we begin mentioning rain at Musaf on Shemini Atzeres ('Mashiv ha'Ru'ach'), even though we only pray for it ('ve'sein tal u'matar ... ') on the seventh of Mar-Cheshvan in Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz la'Aretz, on the sixtieth day of the winter season (on the 4th or 5th of December).

And he attributes this to the fact that whereas on the one hand, the rain season begins immediately after Succos (when winter has set in), on the other, the real need for rain only falls due on the day that Chazal fixed the request for rain.

* * *

(Adapted from the Kitzur Shulchan AruchSi'man 134, with notes fromthe Mishnah B'rurah [M.B.])
(cont. from vol. 10)

10. A Borrowed Succah

One is Yotzei with with a borrowed Succah, but not with a stolen one. Consequently, it is forbidden to build a Succah in the public street. In time of an emergency, however, where there is no other Succah available, one is permitted to sit in such a Succah and even to recite a B'rachah over it. See Biy'ur Halachah, who permits it even Lechatchilah, since nowadays the authorities do not object to one's building it there).


11. Cutting the S'chach

One should take care not to cut the S'chach for one's Sucah oneself (assuming that he is cutting it from the domain of a gentile). It is best to purchase it from the person who actually cut it (or to cut it via a Gentile). However, in case of emergency, it is permitted, provided one obtains permission from the owner (see Si'man 136:7 where the author appears to contradict himself).


12. Building a Sucah on Chol ha'Mo'ed

One may repair a Sucah, or even build a new one, on Chol ha'Mo'ed.


13. A Succah is Asur be'Hana'ah.

One may not derive any benefit from the wood of the Succah (both of the walls and of the S'chach), until after Simchas Torah, since it has been designated for a Mitzvah. Even taking merely a tooth-pick for one's teeth is forbidden. In fact even if the wood fell down by itself, it is forbidden, and no condition will alter this ruling, though a condition to take them on Simchas Torah (in Chutz la'Aretz) should they fall, is effective (M.B.).

Merely leaning against the Succah walls, and the likes, without actually removing anything from them, is permitted (M.B). Consequently, anything that does fall from the Succah is Muktzah on Shabbos and Yom-Tov. One is however, permitted to smell an Esrog that is hanging in the Succah because people are not Maktzeh it from smelling.


14. Making Preconditions

Decorations that are hanging from the S'chach are not subject to any preconditions (permitting them - since we are not conversant with the wording of such a condition, but those hanging from the walls are. (Some Poskim disagree with this stringency however, and permit both M.B.).

It is customary to take down ornamental hangings that adorn the walls, to prevent them from getting spoilt in the rain, even if one failed to make such a precondition. Lechatchilah however, it is preferable to make a condition, by specifically declaring before dusk (preceding the advent of the Chag) that he will be permitted to eat or to use the ornaments at any time starting from then. One needs to take care however, to attach any ornaments that one intends to take down on Yom-Tov in a way that it is permitted to untie on Shabbos and Yom-Tov (see Si'man 80:45/46).


15. The Accessories of the Succah

Even after Succos, after dismantling one's Succah, one should not trample on the wood or use it for anything that is degrading, because the wood of a Succah, like Tzitzis, have the Din of 'Tashmishei Mitzvah' (and should be treated with due respect (see Si'man 9:19).


16. Not to Write or Carve a Pasuk into the Succah.

One may not carve the Pasuk "ba'Succos teishvu shiv'as yomim" and the likes on the walls of the Succah or on a pumpkin for ornamental purposes, because it it will later come to abuse, and besides, it is forbidden to write a Pasuk unnecessarily.


17. Not to Eat Bread on Erev Succos afternoon

It is forbidden to eat bread on Erev Succos after midday (according to the M.B. the prohibition only applies from the tenth hour and onwards) in order to eat in the Sucah with an appetite. One should also give a lot of Tzedakah on Erev Succos.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 318:
To Desist from Work on the First Day of Succos

It is a Mitzvah to desist from servile work (that is not connected with the preparation of food) on the first day of Succos), as the Torah writes in Emor (23:35) "On the first day shall be for you a holy calling".

A reason for the Mitzvah of resting from work on Shabbos and Yom-Tov, the author has already presented according to his way of thinking, on the first day of Pesach, because all the Yamim-Tovim share the same reason.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere at all time to men and women alike. Someone who contravenes it has nullified a Mitzvas Asei, in addition to the La'av that follows.


Mitzvah 319:
Not to Do Melachah on the First Day of Succos

It is prohibited to do any servile work (work that is not connected with the preparation of food) on the first day of Succos, as the Torah writes in Emor (23:34) "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael ... on the fifteenth day of the seventh month ... ". The author has already explained the Mitzvah with regard to the first day of Pesach (Mitzvah 298), which is the same regarding all the Yamim Tovim.


Mitzvah 320:
To Bring the Korban Musaf on each of the Seven Days of Succos

It is a Mitzvah to bring the Korban Musaf throughout the seven days of Succos, as the Torah writes in Emor (23:36) "Seven days you shall bring a fire-offering to Hashem". And this refers to the Korban Musaf. In Pinchas the Torah will elaborate on this Mitzvah, and will inform us how many bulls are brought each day (the two rams and fourteen lambs of the Olah, as well as the one goat each day are fixed, the bulls begin at thirteen on the first day, and diminish progressively down to seven on the seventh day.

Chazal explain in Succah (55:b) that on the merit of the bulls of Succos, the enemies of K'lal Yisrael will diminish. The author has already explained a good reason for the Korban Musaf, by the Musaf of Pesach (Mitzvah 299). The Rambam lists this Mitzvah in Parshas Pinchas, whereas the Seifer ha'Chinuch prefers to list it in the Parshah where it is first mentioned.


Mitzvah 322:
To Bring the Korban Musaf on Shemini Atzeres

It is a Mitzvah to bring the Korban Musaf on the eighth day of Succos (otherwise known as Shemini Atzeres, as the Torah writes in Emor (23:36) " ... on the eighth day you shall bring a fire-offering to Hashem". In Parshas Pinchas the Torah will elaborate on this Mitzvah.

The Chachamim have explicitly said that this is an independent Yom-tov, which requires its own Korban. Therefore it needs to be listed as an independent Mitzvah.

The author has already explained by the Musaf of Pesach a reason for the Mitzvah and more details concerning it.

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