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

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Vol. 5 No. 24

Parshas Tzav (Hagodol)

The Eighteen Miracles

Rashi, in ve'Zos ba'B'rochoh (33:19), quotes a Sifri which, commenting on the possuk there, which writes "Nations (of the world) are called to the mountain (of Yerusholayim)", explains how, many gentiles, having arrived in Eretz Yisroel on business, would pay a visit to Yerusholayim, just to see what sort of G-d the Jews worshipped. So struck were they when they saw that all the Jews served the same G-d, eating the same food (in the form of sacrifices) - a concept which was totally alien to them - that they converted on the spot.

Although no mention is made there about the numerous miracles seen daily in the Beis ha'Mikdosh, there can be no doubt that this too, must have been a tremendous bonus for anyone visiting the Beis ha'Mikdosh. (In modern times, there can be no doubt at all that, were those miracles to occur anywhere other than in the Beis ha'Mikdosh, someone would make an awful lot of money out of the constant stream of curious visitors, who would come to gaze at the wonders). In fact, it does credit to the people of those times, inasmuch as they were moved to convert by the unique spiritual aspect of unity, for which the Beis ha'Mikdosh was famed, and not by the miracles.

Although the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos (5:7) lists only ten miracles that occurred in the Beis ha'Mikdosh, Rabeinu Bachye, in this week's parshah (6:21), lists eighteen. Here is how he lists them:

1. No pregnant woman ever had a miscarriage - on account of the ever-present powerful smell of roasting sacrifices;

2. The Holy meat never went bad;

3. The Cohen Godol, in spite of his high tension, never had an emission (that would render him tamei) on Yom Kippur;

4. A fly was never seen in the Beis ha'Mikdosh's slaughter-house (in spite of the large amounts of raw meat and blood that were constantly in evidence there);

5. The Omer, the two chometz-loaves on Shevu'os and the twelve show-breads, never became disqualified (through inadvertently coming into contact with tum'ah);

6. The rain never extinguished the fire on the altar (even though the Mizbei'ach was in the open courtyard);

7. The wind never interfered with the smoke of the Mizbei'ach - to prevent it from rising vertically;

8. Although on Yom Kippur, the people would stand so squashed in the courtyard that it would appear that they were standing on air, they would bow down with room to spare on either side (so that no-one should overhear the confessions of his fellow Jew);

9. No snake or scorpion ever harmed anyone in Yerusholayim;

10. No-one ever complained that there was not sufficient room to stay overnight in Yerusholayim. These ten are the ones mentioned in the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos. Rabeinu Bachye adds another eight (all from Chazal in Shas and other places).

11. The earthenware vessels in which the sin-offering was cooked contained Nosar after the next morning, and had to be smashed to pieces. Now the pieces could not betaken out of the courtyard, since they were holy. So what happened to them? A miracle occurred and, on a regular basis, the pieces of earthenware would simply disappear, swallowed up by the ground of the courtyard.

12. The copper altar on which a fire burnt constantly and which was no thicker than the thickness of a dinar-coin, remained intact; neither did the copper melt, nor did the wood (of which the Mizbei'ach was basically made) burn.

13. The seven lamps of the Menorah burnt throughout the night, irrespective of the length of the night; not one lamp was ever extinguished in the course of the night, nor did any oil ever remain in the lamps. The first lamp to be lit every evening was the middle lamp (assuming that the Menorah was placed North to South), yet it was always the last to go out.

14. Every Yom Kippur, they would hang a red 'tongue of wool' by the entrance of the Heychal. As soon as the goat (of Az'ozel) reached the desert, the wool turned white.

15. When the goat (of Az'ozel) was pushed off the cliff, it barely reached half-way down, before every bone in its body was broken.

16. Every courtyard in Yerusholayim lit up from the light of the Menorah.

17. When Shlomoh built the Beis ha'Mikdosh, he planted golden fruit-trees, which grew and produced seasonal fruit, year by year.

18. The show-breads were removed from the table each Shabbos (eight days after they had been baked), as steaming hot as when they were baked.

Two more miracles occurred constantly. However, Chazal do not include them in the above list, because they were not seen by anybody. Why not? Because they occurred in the Kodesh Kodshim: The Oron took up no space (i.e. the sum total of the two spaces between the North and South walls, up to the walls of the Oron, equalled the width of the Holy of Holies as if the Oron was not there. And exactly the same is said about the bodies of the two Cherubs (i.e. the combined wing-spans of the two cherubs added up to the width of the Holy of Holies, as if their bodies did not exist.

Rabeinu Bachye might have added a third: The miracle of the 'Mem' and the 'Samech', which were carved out of the Luchos, but which, although now totally separated from the point of the Luchos from which they were carved, did not fall, but remained miraculously suspended in mid-air.


The eating of the Pascal lamb differed from that of other sacrifices in four respects:

1. It could only be eaten by night (i.e. despite the fact that it was shechted on the day of the fourteenth, it could not be eaten before nightfall).
2. It had to be eaten before midnight (by Torah law) according to Rebbi Elozor ben Azaryoh - according to Rebbi Akiva, before dawn-break (all other sacrifices could be eaten at least until the end of the day);
3. It could only be eaten by those who were designated (before it was shechted) to eat it.
4. It had to be eaten after it had been roasted directly over the fire. (These four are contained in the last Mishnah in Eizehu Mekomon).

With regard to preparing it, the Korban Pesach (the Pascal lamb) also differed from most other Kodshim Kallim (Kodshim of a slightly lesser sanctity) in the way its blood was sprinkled. Other Kodshim Kallim were sprinkled on two diagonally opposite corners of the Altar - the North-Eastern and South-Western corners. The blood of the Korban Pesach on the other hand, like that of the first-born animal and the Ma'aser Beheimah sacrifices, was sprinkled only once, anywhere on the Altar, except for those parts of the Eastern and Southern sides on which there was no Yesod (base). (ibid.)

In addition, the Korban Pesach did not require s'michah (leaning one's hands on it), in the way that most other Kodshim Kallim did.

And the Korban Pesach was also unique inasmuch as it was the only Korban ever that was brought - initially - *after* the Tomid shel bein ho'Arbayim (the afternoon Tomid). All other sacrifices were brought *before* it.


Bal Tochal Chometz (Not to eat leaven)

1. The Torah prohibits the eating of chometz from mid-day of erev Pesach (the 14th Nissan), and this incorporates the prohibition of deriving any benefit whatsoever from it.

2. There are many prohibitions regarding food, but chometz is among the most stringent, since the Torah punishes those who eat chometz with kores (excision - death before 50), though this stringency only applies from the beginning of Pesach, not to erev Pesach. On account of it, a person should, if faced with the choice (e.g. if one is dangerously ill) rather eat treifah foods (which only carry an ordinary la'av - negative command - and not kores) than eat chometz on Pesach.

Bal Yero'ei U'bal Yimotzei (Not to have chometz in one's possession)

3. It is forbidden to have any chometz in one's possession over Pesach, and anyone who does, trangresses the two 'la'vin' (negative commands) of 'bal yero'ei' and 'bal yimotzei'. The prohibition of possessing chometz begins already from mid-day of erev Pesach.

4. Any chometz that one nullified before mid-day (mi'de'Rabbonon from one hour earlier) is not subject to the above 'la'avin', nor is chometz that was inadvertently brought into one's possession (for example, by a non-Jew), though one is nevertheless forbidden to retain it, because one might come to eat it. Should one therefore, discover chometz in one's possession on Pesach, one must dispose of it, strictly in the prescribed manner.

The Mitzvah of Tashbisu (To destroy the chometz)

5. One of the ways of disposing of one's chometz (before it becomes forbidden) is by declaring it null and void. Such a declaration renders it worthless, and as long as it is done with sincerity, it takes the chometz out of one's possession, thus removing the transgressions of 'bal yero'ei' and 'bal yimotzei'. According to other opinions however, the chometz must be physically destroyed in one of two ways: (a) by fire, and (b) by other means of destruction (such as breaking up the chometz and throwing the crumbs into the wind or throwing it into a river).

6. Strictly speaking, either of the two above methods will suffice - i.e. declaring the chometz null and void or physically disposing of it.

7. However, the halochoh requires us to do both, i.e. 1) to destroy all our chometz (even going as far as searching for unknown chometz) and the minhag is to follow the stricter opinion of actually burning it; 2) to nullify all chometz and in particular chometz that for some reason or other, did not find its way into the fire. The reason for this is because, in this way, we eliminate any possibility of transgressing the various prohibitions pertaining to chometz, i.e. (a) of possibly eating it. Because one handles and eats chometz all the year round and, unlike most other issurim which are perpetually forbidden, it is easy to forget and eat some chometz inadvertently (which is probably also the reason why the Torah introduced the unusual prohibitions of 'bal yero'ei' and 'bal yimotzei'; (b) because it is difficult to declare a delicious cake or biscuits to be null and void with real sincerity; and (c) because it is so easy to overlook some article of chometz when searching for all the chometz in one's entire household. The combination of searching and destroying all chometz and of nullifying the remainder, minimises the possibility of any of the above suspicions from materialising.

Looking after Chometz

8. For a Jew to look after the chometz of a non-Jew or for a non-Jew to look after the chometz of a Jew might be permitted only if to begin with, two basic conditions are met: (1) that the chometz should be in a location which belongs to the non-Jew; and (2) that the non-Jew accepts full responsibility for the chometz, as if it were his own.

Mechiras Chometz (The selling of chometz)

9. It is perfectly legitimate to sell one's chometz to a non-Jew, provided the sale conforms precisely with the legal as well as the halachic requirements of a sale. In effect, the sale must result in the chometz belonging unconditionally to the gentile who bought it. Under no circumstances may the chometz remain in the possession of the Jewish seller. In addition, the purchaser must have full unconditional access to the chometz whenever he wants. However, it goes without saying that one does not perform the mitzvah of 'tashbisu' by selling it to a gentile, as none of the necessary requirements of the mitzvah of 'tashbisu' are met by such a sale. The purpose of such a sale is to circumvent the issur of 'bal yero'ei' and 'bal yimotzei', but no positive mitzvah is performed in the process. Many have the custom not to sell pure chometz such as bread, cake and whisky.

Chometz after Pesach

10. The chometz of a non-Jew is permitted after Pesach, but the chometz of a Jew is prohibited (due to a Rabbinical fine - for having kept chometz in one's possession over Pesach). It may therefore not be bought from a Jewish owner, though the prohibition is confined to eating, not to deriving benefit from the chometz, which is permitted.

What is chometz?

11. Basically, chometz comprises any of the five types of grain, e.g. wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt, or any derivatives thereof, which have been allowed to rise after having had contact with water or one of the other kinds of liquids, i.e. wine, honey (in liquid form), (edible) oil, milk, dew (or blood).

12. As long as dough is being worked with (i.e. kneaded), it cannot possibly become chometz. Nevertheless, we are strict and disallow any chometz that has not entered the oven until 18 minutes from the time water was added to the flour.

13. Once the matzos have been baked, they can never become chometz.

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