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

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Vol. 12   No. 19

This issue is co-sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Tzvi Meir ben R. Shimon Baruch z.l.
and wishing a refu'ah she'lelimah to
Refael Avraham ben Orah Yutel n.y.

Parshas Terumah

Performing Mitzvos Li'Shmah
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

"Speak to B'nei Yisrael, and they shall take for me a separation" (25:2).

Rashi comments briefly on this Pasuk "for Me" - 'for My sake'.


A number of public figures once came to R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld with a freshly devised project to spread Torah and Midos, requesting his participation in the project. They tried to convince him that their aim was purely le'Shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven), but he sensed that their efforts were not devoid of personal interest. So he answered them like this ...

'Chazal have said (Pesachim 52b) that one should always perform Torah and Mitzvos she'lo li'Shmah, because she'lo li'Shmah leads to li'Shmah'. This is because, if one's goal is to attain a level of li'Shmah, then G-d will help him to achieve it. 'But you', he said to them 'have told me that you are working li'Shmah, and I suspect that, in your case, your li'Shmah will lead to she'lo li'Shmah, the exact opposite of what Chazal said'.

And he declined to accede to their request.


The Chochmas Chayim questions the above Chazal that one should always perform Torah ... she'lo li'Shmah. Surely it would have been more appropriate to have said that she'lo li'Shmah is also acceptable (Bedieved); but to begin with she'lo li'Shmah (Lechatchilah)! Is that not a strange statement to make, he asks?

He answers that it is not. Because there is no way that one can expect a person to begin with li'Shmah. With all the good intentions in the world, a person who has not learned Chumash, Mishnah and Gemara, and who has not yet attained a level of genuine spirituality, cannot possibly perform Torah and Mitzvos li'Sh'mah. That is something which only comes with a deep understanding of Torah, and experience in the performance of Mitzvos. Therefore the only way to proceed is to begin with she'lo li'Sh'mah. Then, as one begins to appreciate the beauty and sweetness of Torah, the joy of learning Torah and performing Mitzvos will serve as the catalyst to continuing doing so.

This explanation seems to interpret 'li'Sh'mah (vis-a-vis learning Torah at least) as learning for the sake of attaining a deeper understanding of Torah.


R. Yosef Chayim himself, presents a different interpretation of li'Sh'mah. In a letter to R. Yisachar Shlomoh Teichtal (in connection with his introduction to his Seifer 'Mishnah Sachir', the major part of which he devotes to explaining Rebbi Meir's statement in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos [6:2] 'Whoever learns Torah li'Sh'mah will merit many words, and what's more, the entire world was created for his benefit', R. Yosef Chayim writes the following ...

'In my humble opinion, the word Torah stems from 'horo'ah' (meaning P'sak Halochah).

For the Torah teaches a person the path on which he should walk and the deeds that he should perform.

Consequently, when someone studies Torah in order to obtain a clear understanding of how to behave according to the Halachah, that is called 'Torah li'Sh'mah', because the Torah will teach him how to fulfill the Mitzvos properly. Every letter in the Torah is written solely for the purpose of guiding us along the path which we should walk, and anyone who studies the words of Chazal and their Medrashim, will see how from each and every letter he learns Halachos and the way that he should conduct his life.

It is also clear that the sole purpose of relating the deeds of the Avos and all the stories that surround them and their children is to teach us the deeds that we should do and to encourage us to cling to their ways'.

In view of this interpretation of li'Sh'mah, it seems to me that when Chazal said that one should always study Torah and perform Mitzvos she'lo li'Sh'mah, they are neither obligating us to do so Lechatchilah, nor are they precluding the possibility of performing them li'Sh'mah at the outset. They are merely coming to dismiss the notion that it is wrong to do so, and that it is perhaps even better not to perform a Mitzvah at all, than to perform it she'lo li'Shmah. That is why they stressed that, even if someone is not yet on the level of performing Mitzvos li'Sh'mah, he should go ahead and perform them she'lo li'Sh'mah, if necessary.


Regarding the death of Moshe Rabeinu, the Gemara in Sotah (13b) describes how 'Moshe was lying on the wings of the Shechinah'. The angels were saying how "he performed the righteousness of Hashem and His judgements with Yisrael", whilst G-d lamented "Who will rise up for Me against the evildoers ... ".

What was Hashem's problem, asks R. Yosef Chayim? What was wrong with Yehoshua, to whom Moshe bequeathed some of his own greatness, and the seventy-one elders who succeeded him, together with that knowledgeable generation that was poised to enter into Eretz Yisrael?

The answer, he explains, lies in the word "for me". What would have been lacking had the Pasuk just written "Who will rise up against the evildoers ... "?

That is why Rashi comments there 'to rebuke them for My sake', the identical comment that he makes in our opening Pasuk. Because that was the thrust of G-d's Hesped (eulogy) for the master of prophets. Moshe after all, was the one who spoke with the Shechinah "face to face, directly and not in riddles", and it was as a result of that, that he attained levels of Lishmah with which no other human being could compete, not even his faithful disciple and successor, Yehoshua. That is why Chazal said 'The face of Moshe was like the sun, and the face of Yehoshua, like the moon.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

The 'Smart' Thief

"And they shall take for Me a separation" (25:2).

The Torah uses the expression "take", rather than 'give', because it is an illusion to think that one gives G-d (who owns everything anyway). When one thinks one is giving Him something, one is really receiving far in excess of the amount that he gives.

There are some fools who actually believe that they really are giving G-d something, and who therefore do so reluctantly, or who even withhold their dues from Him. And it is about such people that the Chafetz Chayim gives the following parable ...

A farmer once came to town to sell his produce. To ensure that he was not cheated (at least, that was what he said), he insisted that the purchasers measured the corn sa'ah by Sa'ah. The arrangement was that for each Sa'ah that they measured, they would place one G'rush in the farmer's hat. Since the corn was priced at one Lirah (a hundred G'rush) per Sa'ah, for every G'rush in the hat, they would ultimately have to pay the farmer a Lirah (ten sa'ah - ten G'rush - ten Lirah). From time to time, whilst the purchaser was busy measuring the corn, the (smart) farmer would snatch a few g'rush from the hat, thinking that he was pulling a fast one on the purchaser. What he failed to realize was that he was stealing the G'rushim not from the purchaser, but from himself, because for every G'rush that he stole, he lost one Lirah.

And that's exactly what happens when one tries to be smart and withold one's dues from Hashem - and that includes Tzadakah. The positive side of it is - the more you give, the more you get!


Three Kinds of Tzedakah

" ... gold, silver and copper" (25:3).

Correspondingly, says the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, there are three levels of Tzedakah. Tzedakah that someone gives when he is healthy is compared to gold; what he gives when he is sick is compared to silver, whereas the Tzedakah that he bequeaths after his death is compared to copper.


Everything is Hinted in the Torah

"Zohov, vo'chesef u'nechoshes" (ibid).

In the letters of these three words (not counting the 'Vavin'), the Chasam Sofer points out, lie hinted all the days of the year on which one reads in the Torah ...

'Zayin' - Shabbos; 'Hey' - Thursday; 'Beis' - Monday; 'Kaf' - Yom Kipur; 'Samech' - Succos; 'Pey' - Pesach and Purim; 'Nun' - Neiros (Chanukah); 'Ches' - Chodesh (incorporating Rosh Hashanah); 'Shin' - Shavu'os, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas-Torah; 'Tav' - Ta'anis.


Making One's Own Mishkan

"And they shall make for Me a Mishkan, and I will dwell in their midst" (25:8).

Grammatically speaking, asks the Alshich, the Torah ought to have written 'and I will dwell in its midst ("be'socho", rather than "be'socham").

When one busies oneself with building a sanctuary for G-d, one may well think that one is working with wood and bricks. But at the end of the day, G-d responds by dwelling not only in the sanctuary, but in the hearts of the builders. Because the builders become sanctified together with the building.


A Time to look Up and
A Time to look Down

"And they shall make an Aron of acacia wood, two and a half Amos its length ... " (25:10).

"And you shall make a Shulchan, two Amos its length ... " (25:23).

The K'li Yakar observes that, on the one hand, the measurements of the Aron all comprised half-Amos, whilst on the other, some of those of the Shulchan comprised full Amos.

And he explains that the Torah here is dropping a hint that when it comes to Torah and Chochmah (symbolized by the Aron) one should always consider oneself lacking (half-knowledgeable, so to speak). In this area one should accustom oneself to always look upwards at people who know more than oneself and aspire to attain their level of knowledge.

On the other hand, when it comes to material things (symbolized by the Shulchan), one always consider that one has everything (like Ya'akov Avinu, who declared "I have everything"). There, one should look down at the many people who are less fortunate than oneself, and be happy with one's lot.

And the fact that some of the measurements of the Shulchan were half measures (it was one and a half Amos tall) reminds a person not to fulfill all his desires (and perhaps to eat a little less than his fill, as the Rambam advises).

In similar vein, says the P'ninei Torah, the Torah writes (in Va'eschanan, 4:39) "ba'Shomayim mi'ma'al, ve'al ha'aretz mi'tachas" - intimating that one should look upwards in matters of spirituality, but downwards when it comes to physicality.


Another way of understanding the measurements of the Shulchan is to always consider that one has everything when it comes to quantity (the area of the Shulchan), but to go for the best (health-wise) concerning the quality (the height).

* * *

Going to a Doctor
(continued from last week)

If, as appears from the Gemara and from the Rambam (as we discussed in the previous issue), going to a doctor is permitted, then a sick person who fails to do so will presumably be guilty of transgressing the La'av of "ve'nishmartem me'od le'nafshoseichem" (Devarim 4:15), from which Chazal derive the obligation to look after one's health.

Great Tzadikim, who follow in the footsteps of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai, who was fed directly from Hashem, without raising a finger to sustain himself, are on a level of their own, and have their own personal relationship with Hashem. But as far as the regular Jew is concerned, he remains obligated to look after his health, using whatever means necessary, including a visit to the doctor should the need arise.

It goes without saying that one must at the same time, realize that the real doctor is the Rofei chol bosor, and that the doctor is merely His agent, and it is perhaps worthwhile repeating this to oneself whenever one does so. But go to the doctor one must; otherwise one will be taken to task for neglecting one's own health.

* * *


The Mishnah in Megilah (1:4) rules that the only difference between the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar Rishon and of Adar Sheini is Mikra Megilah and Matonos lo'Evyonim (and this, the Tif'eres Yisrael explains, incorporates Sh'lach Manos [See also Tosfos Yom-Tov]). But as far as delivering a Hesped and fasting is concerned, these are forbidden on the fourteenth and fifteenth of Adar Rishon too.

The Gemara (7b) cites the dilemma that confronted Chazal regarding the fixing of Purim in a leap year; whether to initiate it in Adar Rishon, seeing as it comes first, and we have a principle (based on the Pasuk in Vayeira "And Avraham arose early in the morning") to perform a Mitzvah at the earliest possible moment ('Z'rizin Makdimin le'Mitzvos') - or whether to initiate it in Adar Sheini, in order to juxtapose the redemption from Haman (Purim) to the redemption from Paroh (Pesach). The Gemara concludes like the second side of the She'eilah, and the T'rumas ha'Deshen learns from there that whenever the principle of 'Z'rizin Makdimin le'Mitzvos' clashes with that of performing a Mitzvah beautifully ('Hidur Mitzvah'), the latter takes precedence over the former. A good example of this will be regarding the She'eilah of whether to perform the mitzvah of Kidush Levanah on one's own as early as possible, or to wait for a Minyan and recite it then.

The Chasam Sofer queried this from a Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (32b), which rules that Chazal fixed the reciting of Hallel on Yom-Tov during Shachris (rather than during Musaf, when there are more people in Shul, and the principle of 'be'Rov Am hadras Melech' would apply), due to 'Z'rizin Makdimin le'Mitzvos'. From there it seems that 'Z'rizin Makdimin le'Mitzvos' takes precedence over 'Hidur Mitzvah', and not vice-versa.

And he answers (though he admits that his answer is pushed) that the Terumas ha'Deshen's ruling is confined to where the Hidur is an intrinsic part of the Mitzvah (such as in the case of Purim), but where the Hidur is external, and does not improve the actual Mitzvah (such as in the case of Hallel), he will concede that 'Z'rizin Makdimin' takes precedence.


It seems to me however, that one can differentiate between the Gemara in Megilah and the clash between the two principles under discussion. Juxtaposing one redemption to another, after all, is not an existing principle that one can weigh against another principle (such as 'Z'rizin Makdimin le'Mitzvos'), but rather a fundamental reason to fix Purim in Adar Sheini. And the Gemara's dilemma is whether it is a powerful enough reason to negate the principle of 'Z'rizin Makdimin ... '. The conclusion is that it is, but this surely does not mean that any existing principle will override that of 'Z'rizin Makdimin le'Mitzvos, which after all, is Torah-based.

Either way, when it comes to reciting Kidush Levanah, the principle of 'Z'rizin Makdimin ... ' will take precedence over that of 'be'Rov am hadras Melech', and one will be obligated to recite it earlier on one's own, rather than later with a Minyan. According to the Chasam Sofer, it is because the principle of 'be'Rov am ... ' is not intrinsic to the Mitzvah, whereas according to the way we explained it, 'Z'rizin makdimin ... ' overrides any principle that will cause the Mitzvah to be postponed, because it came first.

* * *

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