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

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Vol. 18   No. 6

This issue is sponsored
by an anonymous donor
in honour of his Chavrusa
Michael Cohen n"y

Parshas Toldos

Galus Bavel & Galus P'lishtim
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Based on a statement of the Ramban, R. Bachye explains that when the Torah writes (in connection with the famine that forced Yitzchak to go to the P'lishtim) "besides the first famine that occurred in the time of Avraham" it means (not the first famine in history, but) the earlier famine in the time of Avraham. The people remembered that famine, he explains, because it forced Avraham (who was a well-known celebrity in his time) to leave Eretz Yisrael and travel to Egypt. Indeed, Yitzchak now wanted to emulate his father and do likewise, but G-d ordered him to desist and not to leave Eretz Yisrael. So what did he do? He went to the land of P'lishtim instead, which was part of Eretz Yisrael (as we explained in 'Parshah Pearls' DH 'The Land of the P'lishtim').


Elaborating further, R. Bachye, still citing the Ramban (and based on the maxim 'The deeds of the fathers serve as a Si'man [a prediction] of what would happen to the children), explains that Avraham's exile to Egypt predicted Galus Mitzrayim, whereas Yitzchak's exile to P'lishtim predicted Galus Bavel. (By the same token, Ya'akov's exile to Charan predicted Galus Edom, but it is premature to discuss it here.)

He raises the question that Avraham too, went to Avimelech, king of the P'lishtim, as if to ask which Galus did that 'exile' predict? And he explains that Avraham went there of his own freewill, as the Pasuk itself indicates, in which case it cannot be considered an exile.

In that case, we need to understand, why was his trip to P'lishtim necessary? That question we will answer shortly. Unlike his father Avraham, Yitzchak, as already stated, did go to P'lishtim on account of the famine, and so his exile predicted Galus Bavel. But P'lishtim was not Bavel, so what is the connection between Galus Bavel and the P'lishtim? The answer lies in R. Bachye, who states that Yitzchak went to the P'lishtim (which the Pasuk describes as) 'the land where his father sojourned'. In reality, Yitzchak ought to have gone to Bavel in preparation for Galus Bavel. But he couldn't, as we explained. So he went to P'lishtim, the land where his fathers sojourned, instead.

In this way, P'lishtim vis-a-vis Yitzchak, was equivalent to Bavel vis-a-vis Yisrael, who went to Bavel, which was 'the land where their fathers sojourned'. And that answers the Kashya that we asked earlier. Avraham needed to go to P'lishtim of his own volition, so that, when the famine would later occur in Eretz Yisrael, Yitzchak would be able to follow in his footsteps and go to 'the land where his father had sojourned'. And this in turn, justified Yisrael going down to Galus Bavel, as we explained.


Focusing on Yitzchak and Galus Bavel, the author describes the many similarities that connect them. Although Yitzchak went to P'lishtim on account of a famine, once he arrived, he observes, they did not abduct Yitzchak's wife (like they did Avraham's); they only threatened to do so. At first, Avimelech said "Whoever touches this man will die!"; then he said "Go from us!" Later still, he went to Yitzchak and made a peace-treaty with him. Similarly, Yisrael went down to Bavel due to pangs of hunger. Once they arrived however, the Babylonians did not enslave them or torment them. On the contrary, they appointed some of them as courtiers and high officials. Later they announced that whoever wished to return to his land may do so. After allowing them to start rebuilding the Beis-Hamikdash, they stopped it and then they rescinded the prohibition and allowed them to continue, provided they pray to the G-d of the Heaven for the well-being of the king and his family. The similarity between the sequence of events is striking!

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rivo)

How Old Was Eisav?

"And the lads grew up; Eisav was a hunter " (25:27).

Rashi comments that when they turned thirteen, the one went to the Beis-ha'Medrash (of Shem ve'Eiver), the other, went to worship idols. This implies that Eisav became a sinner two years before Avraham's death.

The question arises, asks the Riva citing Rabeinu Tam, that Rashi himself in the very next Pasuk writes that Avraham died five years before his time in order not to see his grandson Eisav going out to evil ways, the path that he began following on that very same day, when he committed five major sins. This was the day that he turned fifteen. We are now faced with a discrepancy of two years between Rashi's two statements.

In fact, says the Riva, the Yerushalmi asks the question, and answers that for two years, Eisav's sins were performed with a certain amount of discretion, and it was only on that fateful day, when he turned fifteen, that he began to sin openly. He then cites a rather strange Medrash, which explains that following the Akeidah, Yitzchak hid in Gan Eden, until he recovered from the cut that his father made in his neck before the angel stopped him. In that case, he was actually sixty-two when Eisav was born, and the Torah does not count those two years when stating his age.


Rivkah Was Barren, Yitzchak Wasn't

"And Yitzchak Davened to Hashem on behalf of his wife, for she was barren" (25:21).

How did Yitzchak know that it was Rivkah who was barren and not himself?

Yitzchak cannot have been barren, answers the Riva, since G-d had told Avraham (in Vayeira 21:12) that his genealogy would pass through Yitzchak, clearly indicating that he was able to father children.


A Weary Eisav

"And Eisav said to Ya'akov 'Feed me some of this red stuff, for I am weary" (25:30).

The Riva explains that it was common for hunters to wander round the forest in search of prey for as much as four days at a time. As a result, they would often arrive home in a state of total exhaustion, literally dying of hunger and thirst. When Eisav arrived home, the Riva concludes, he was so weak that he was simply unable to place the food in his mouth by himself. Hence the request that Ya'akov pour the food down his throat (as Rashi explains).

According to others however, Eisav arrived home after having killed Nimrod for his special hunting-clothes, and he had had to shake off Nimrod's men, who had given chase in their efforts to avenge their master's death by killing him. He had managed to outstrip them, but it had left him utterly spent.


Selling the Bechorah

"Sell me the Bechorah 'like the day (ka'yom)' "(25:31).

Ya'akov was asking for a sale that was as clear and non-retractable as the day, Rashi explains.

The Riva, quoting R. Aharon ha'Kohen however, translates "ka'yom" as 'today'. What Ya'akov therefore meant was that there would come a time when the Avodah in the Beis-ha'Mikdash would be performed by the firstborn (which they would have done had they not sinned by the Eigel), at which stage the Bechorah would not be negotiable. Now however, since the Bechorim did not yet enjoy those privileges, it was still possible to sell it.


The Land of the P'lishtim

"And Yitzchak planted in that land and he found (that there had grown) that year a hundred-fold " (26:12).

Despite the fact, Rashi explains, that 'that land was not as important as Eretz Yisrael itself and not like the land of the seven nations'.

Rashi does not mean to say that the land of the P'lishtim was not part of Eretz Yisrael, the Rive explains, because if that was the case, how could Yitzchak (who was a 'perfect Olah') have gone to sojourn there?

What he therefore means is that it was not a major part of Eretz Yisrael like the land of the seven nations. Presumably this means that although it did have the Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael, it did not belong to the section of the land that was promised to Avraham Avinu. Interesting, to talk about territory that is part of Eretz Yisrael, but that was not given to Yisrael, particularly as the Pasuk in Pinchas delineates the western border of Eretz Yisrael as the Mediterranean Sea, incorporating the west coast, which included the P'lishtim's territory!


Measuring for Ma'asros


Rashi explains that Yitzchak assessed how much the land ought to have produced and found that it had yielded a hundred times more than expected - despite the fact that, as Chazal state, it was a year of drought. And he then comments that, according to our Rebbes, Yitzchak's assessment was for Ma'asros.


According to some commentaries, says the Riva, what this means is that the assessment of a hundredfold applied to the Ma'asros alone, and that in fact, the land had actually yielded a thousand- fold.

He refutes this explanation however, based on a B'raisa, which asks why Yitzchak would have made such an assessment in the first place, seeing as Chazal have said that there is no B'rachah to be found in anything that is counted, weighed or measured!

To which it replies that the crops needed to be accurately assessed in order to separate Ma'asros correctly.

What Rashi therefore means is that, seeing as it was a year of famine, Yitzchak assessed how much the land would normally have produced, in order to give Ma'aser accordingly (even though he expected much less than that to grow). Much to his amazement, he discovered that not only did it not grow less than expected, but it grew a hundred times more!


It's Yitzchak - Stupid!

"Leave us, for you are very much more powerful than us" (26:16).

Thinking that the source of B'rachah was Yitzchak's lands, the Riva explains, Avimelech ordered Yitzchak to leave, and promptly took them for himself, expecting the land to yield the same bountiful harvest as it had for Yitzchak. Imagine his surprise when he discovered that those very same fields yielded no more than any other fields. He then realized that it wasn't the land that merited Hashem's B'rachah, but Yitzchak!

That explains why he then said to Yitzchak "We have seen that G-d was with you!" - "with you!", not with the land as he had initially thought.

* * *


"Feed me now some of (Hal'iteini No Min) this very red stuff!" (25:30).

The first letters of "Hal'iteini No Min" spell 'Haman', says the Ba'al ha'Turim, a hint that just as Ya'akov acquired the birthright from Eisav with bread and lentils, so too did Mordechai (Ya'akov's descendent) acquire Haman (Eisav's descendent) with a loaf of bread, as the Medrash teaches us.


"And Eisav despised (vayivez) the birthright" (25:34).

The Pasuk in Megilas Esther uses the very same word, when describing Haman's disdain (and consequent refusal to kill Mordechai alone) "Vayivez be'einav". Yes, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, Haman was a Bozeh ben Bozeh (a despiser, the son [descendent] of a despiser).


" for to you and your descendents I have given these lands (ha'arotzos ho'eil)" 26:3.

The word "ha'eil" could be read as 'ha Lamed-Alef' (the thirty-one), hinting at the thirty-one kings who all ruled in Eretz Yisrael when Yisrael captured it.


"Because (Eikev) Avraham listened to My Voice " (26:5).

This Pasuk contains ten words, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, hinting at the Ten Commandments. Moreover, the Ten Commandments contain a hundred and seventy-two letters, which in turn, is equivalent to the Gematriyah of "Eikev").


"Eikev asher shoma Avraham" (Ibid.)

The Gematriyah of these four words is equivalent to that of 'Kiyem af eiruvei tavshilin' (he even kept Eiruv Tavshilin' [which is only mi'de'Rabbanan], as Chazal point out, based on this very Pasuk).


Moreover, the 'Hey' that was added to his name (from 'Avram' to 'Avraham') represents the five things that rendered Avram unique - 'be'Koli, Mishmarti, Mitzvosai, Chukosai ve'Sorosai" (Hashem's Voice, His Charge [Mitzvos de'Rabbanan], His Mitzvos, His Statutes and His Laws [all listed in this very Pasuk]).


"And all the wells the P'ishtim stopped them up and filled them (vayemal'um)" 26:5.

The same word appears in Shmuel 1, 18:27, where, in connection with David ha'Melech's promise to bring King Shaul a hundred Orlos (foreskins) of the P'lishtim, the Pasuk writes "vayemal'um la'melech" (and he fulfilled his quota). This hints, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, at the Minhag of placing the Orlah in earth after a B'ris.

And what's more, he adds, because Avimelech contravened his oath that he made with Yitzchak and filled in his pits with earth, David did not abide by the promise he made to Shaul either, since in the end, he brought Shaul, not one hundred Orlos of the P'lishtim, but two.

* * *

(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 463:
To Cross-Examine the Witness

It is a Mitzvah to give the witnesses a thorough cross-examination, and to question them well, to the best of our ability, in order to arrive at the root of the matter and to establish the facts exactly as they occurred. And it is on this basis that Chazal said in the opening Mishnah of Pirkei Avos 'Be patient in judgement!' This is in order to reflect on the matter, to arrive at the truth in an unhurried way, to ensure that one does not sentence an innocent man to death or cause him a financial loss due to the absence of the truth. On this the Torah writes in Re'ei 13:15 " you shall enquire, investigate and question carefully, and behold it is true, the thing is correct ". Anyone with a little common sense can see that the many warnings and repetitive style using different words is meant to issue us with a strict warning to seek the truth; for this is an important matter and a firm pillar that affects human life. It is not necessary to elaborate further on the reason of the Mitzvah, since it is so obvious.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara in Sanhedrin (40a) has taught us that each witness must be cross-examined (independently) with seven 'Chakiros': Which Sh'mitah cycle (of the seven Sh'mitah cycles comprising each Yovel), which year of the Sh'mitah, which month of the year, which day of the month, which day of the week, which hour of the day and which location. Even if the witness declared that the murder took place today or yesterday, the Beis-Din is nevertheless obligated to ask each of the above questions Besides these seven questions, which apply to all testimonies, one also asks the witnesses (assuming they are testifying on someone who worshipped Avodah-Zarah) which form of idolatry he worshipped and which method of worship he used; whereas if he transgressed Shabbos, we ask them which Melachah he contravened, and how he performed it; and if he ate on Yom Kipur, we ask them which food he ate and how much, and so on, all depending upon which sin the defendant transgressed. And in addition to the above (Chakiros and D'rishos respectively), which constitute the basic cross-examination, which in turn, render the defendant either guilty or innocent, and provide the opportunity to render the witnesses 'Eidim Zomemin', Beis-Din also question the witnesses with Bedikos (regarding minor points not basic to the testimony). This is known as 'Bedikos' , about which the Gemara in Sanhedrin (Perek 5, Mishnah 2) says 'The more one increases Bedikos, the more praiseworthy!' Examples of Bedikos are 'What was the victim (or the murderer) wearing?', 'What colour was the earth in the vicinity, white or red?', and similar questions. The difference between Bedikos on the one hand and Chakiros and D'rishos on the other is, that whereas by the latter, even if one of them claims that he does not know, the testimony is negated, which it is not in the case of the former, which stands even if both witnesses claim that they don't know. This is only the case however, as long as they do not contradict each other. Once they do, then even by Bedikos, the testimony is invalid Min ha'Torah, this Mitzvah incorporates both Dinei Nefashos (issues that involve the death-sentence) and Dinei Mamonos (money-matters), and both will therefore require D'rishah & Chakirah , since the Torah writes in Emor "Mishpat echad yih'yeh lochem" (implying one uniform law across the board). The Chachamim however removed the need for D'rishah va'Kakirah from Dinei Mamonos, so as not to 'close the door on debtors' (by virtue of the fact that the law makes it difficult for the creditors to retrieve their money when the time of payment arrives). The Chachamim therefore instituted that If the witnesses testify that Reuven lent Shimon a Manah in such-and-such a year, their testimony is upheld, even though they failed to specify the specific date or the location where the loan took place, or the denomination in which the debtor received the money - provided of course, their respective testimonies tally as to the amount involved. And this concession in turn, is restricted to admissions and loans, gifts and sales and the likes; but monetary fines require D'rishah and Chakirah, and it goes without saying, that the Dinim of Malkos and Galus do too. (cont.)

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