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

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Vol. 6 No. 14

Parshas Vo'eiro

(based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)

"Hashem acquired me (chochmah - knowledge) the first of His ways (before He created the world), before any of His other works, long ago" (Mishlei 8:22).

Shlomoh ha'Melech is speaking here in the name of wisdom, a wisdom which is hidden even from the angels; it is the wisdom that preceded the creation of the world, as the possuk writes in Mishlei (3:19) "Hashem founded the earth with knowledge, established the heaven with understanding"; and the following possuk continues "With His knowledge, the depths split open". From here we see that the heaven, the earth and the depths (comprising the entire creation), both above and below, were created with knowledge. And that knowledge is called 'first', not only because it preceded the creation in time, but also because it preceded them qualitatively, since it rises above them in importance. That is why the Novi compares it to oil, which always rises to the top (Amos 6:7).


Our holy Torah emanates from that knowledge, and because it derives from it, it is called 'a good acquisition'. In fact, the angels were jealous of us because we received it; the Medrash describes how they queried G-d for giving such a precious object to human beings, who were subject to both tum'oh and to the Yeitzer ho'Ra.

Hashem replied by pointing out to them that, unlike humans, they neither work, nor do they have parents or a Yeitzer ho'Ra, nor do they eat or drink. The Torah, which contains the mitzvos of Shabbos, of honouring parents, of not murdering, committing adultery or stealing, and of not eating forbidden food, was clearly beneficial to human beings who had a Yeitzer ho'Ra, but not to them - precisely because they did not!


What does the Medrash mean when it writes that the angels are jealous of Yisroel? Jealousy is an evil character-trait, a tactic of the very Yeitzer ho'Ra that the angels do not possess. Indeed, Chazal have said that in the realm of the angels, there is no sitting and no standing, no jealousy and no competition. Because their common desire is the knowledge of G-d, and that is their food and the cause of their very existence. Consequently, just as people are drawn after their food, because it keeps them alive, so too are the angels drawn after their constant quest to know G-d, for that is what keeps them alive. And since that is their sole interest, there is no room for jealousy in their domain.


In addition to that, it is well-known that even among humans, a person is only jealous of someone who is on the same social standing as oneself - the king is not jealous of a villager, and a villager is not jealous of the king (see Ibn Ezra, on the mitzvah of 'lo sachmod' - Sh'mos 20:14). And so our sages have said 'A wise man is jealous of a wise man, a strong man of a strong man and a rich man of a rich man' (Avodah Zoroh 55a). A wise man will not be jealous of a fool, because he has no need of the fool's stupidity; nor is a fool jealous of the wise man, because he does not have the perception to acknowledge the gap that separates them. That being the case, how is it possible for a heavenly being to be jealous of an earthly one?


It can only be that the jealousy mentioned with regard to angels is a borrowed term. They cannot conceive how it is possible that Hashem should take that wisdom (which, because they have no Yeitzer ho'Ra, lies beyond their comprehension), and give it to humans who, inasmuch as they possess a Yeitzer ho'Ra, are inferior to themselves. The angels were most certainly aware of the fact that the physical contents of the Torah were not for spiritual creatures like themselves, yet they could not come to terms with the fact that physical creatures such as human beings, should possess an area of knowledge that was not available to them.

And they were particularly jealous of Moshe Rabeinu when he ascended to the heaven to receive the Torah, because of his superior knowledge.


There was never a person who understood this elevated wisdom, which is called 'first', like Moshe Rabeinu, and that is why the Torah testifies about him "and he saw the first for himself, because there is the portion of the law-giver hidden" (Devorim 33:21). And it was from that level that he received the Torah. It is a level that he did not attain through prophecy, but through looking at that wisdom. He did however, acquire the 'Ispaklarya ha'Me'iroh' through prophecy, which came to him in turn, through the unique Name of Hashem, that of Havayah. It was a level of prophecy that enabled him to perform wondrous open miracles, whereas the level of prophecy with which the Ovos prophesied was known as 'Ispaklarya she'einoh Me'iroh' (a vision which did not shine), which came to them through the Name of Keil Shakai, enabling them to prophesy, but restricting them to hidden miracles.

The word 'Ispaklarya' is the acronym of 'sipek k'larya' - meaning an abundance of light. It is like a piece of shining glass, through which one can clearly see what is on the other side. When Chazal describe the prophecy of the Ovos with the words 'Ispaklarya she'einoh Me'iroh', they do not mean that the vision of the Ovos was unclear (since the very word 'Ispaklarya', as we just explained, means an abundance of light). What they do mean is that their prophecy, for all its clarity of vision, did not reach the level of Moshe. (I have heard 'Ispaklarya she'einoh Me'iroh' described as a clear view, but as seen reflected through a mirror, and not direct.) This explains why the skin of Moshe's face shone (34:30).


Now we can understand why it is that the Torah never mentions the Name Havayah in connection with Avrohom Ovinu, only together with the Name of Adnus, or the Name of Adnus by itself; and by Moshe, on the other hand, the Torah never uses the Name of Keil Shakai - only the Name of Havayah ... and this is why the Torah writes, at the beginning of the parshah, "and I appeared to Avrohom, Yitzchok and Ya'akov with Keil Shakai, but My Name Hashem, I did not make known to them"

Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim
Closing the Doors

"And I will harden Par'oh's heart" (7:3). How is it possible, asks the Chofetz Chayim, that G-d would close the doors of teshuvah on Par'oh, when we know that the doors of teshuvah are never closed - even on the biggest sinner? The truth of the matter is, he explains, that generally speaking, G-d helps people who have sinned, to return, as we say every day in the Amidah 'Return us with a complete teshuvah before you'. But sometimes, people sink so low that He no longer offers them His assistance, and they must go it on their own.

And that is what happened here, says the Chofetz Chayim. G-d instructed Moshe to inform Par'oh that his wickedness had reached such a level that He refused to asist him to do teshuvah. He did not say that the choice to do teshuvah was withdrawn from him.


And this also explains Elisha ben Avuya's mistake, when he heard the Heavenly voice proclaim 'Return errant children - all except for Acher (Elisha ben Avuya)'. He thought that G-d had closed the doors of teshuvah. But that was not the case. G-d was merely withdrawing His assistance, but that did not preclude Elisha ben Avuya from doing teshuvah under his own steam.


Par'oh's Teshuvah

The Ramban (7:3) poses another question, to which he gives two answers. 'How could G-d force Par'oh's hand to refuse and then punish him for refusing?' he asks.

And he answers: Because he had sinned so badly by refusing the first five times o of his own accord, that, even though he now genuinely wished to relent, G-d hardened his heart. He stopped him from doing teshuvah., in order to punish him, not for his subsequent refusals, but for the first five times, when he willfully spurned G-d's instructions. This answer is in fact, that of the Rambam, whom the Chofetz Chayim (whom we quoted earlier) clearly had in mind (to answer the question that he asked).

According to the Ramban's second answer, G-d did not really force Par'oh to refuse at all. It was Par'oh who wanted to refuse (because he did not acknowledge G-d's sovereignty even after having experienced the five plagues); the only reason that he now agreed to let them go was because he could not take any more punishment - so G-d hardened his heart. According to this answer, Par'oh would be punished not only for his initial refusals, but also for the subsequent ones - until such time as he would acknowledge G-d's sovereignty). - to be continued . . .


Frogs and Snakes

Why is it, asks the Chofetz Chayim, that no sooner had Moshe prayed for the snakes to be removed, than they all died; whereas later, in the desert, when Yisrael were struck by a plague of snakes, his prayers did not take immediate - not until he had erected a copper snake on to a pole, and those who had been bitten looked up at it, as the mishnah in Rosh Hashonoh (29a) explains. Everything, he replies, can be immediately remedied - with the sole exception of Loshon ha’Ra - the sin which resulted in the plague of snakes.

The prosecuting angel that is created from evil speech is not easily removed, simply because, like his source of creation, he speaks, and he cannot be silenced until the fault has been rectified. Consequently, since the people had spoken against both Hashem and Moshe, Moshe's prayer was not sufficient, until the people redressed the wrong by looking upwards and reconnecting their ties with Hashem.


History of the World

( Part 48)
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)


Although this is the year of the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh, only 832 Jews are exiled to Bovel at the time, though over 1,000,000 people are killed during the fall of Yerusholayim. Eleven years earlier, during golus Yechonyah, he exiled 3,023 from Yehudah and more than seven thousand from the other tribes.

According to the Shalsheshes ha'Kaboloh, the king of Spain had already exiled most of the Jews to Spain to the town Parzilay, whose name the exiles changed to Toletula because of all their wanderings ('tiltul' means moving around).

Having destroyed the Beis ha'Mikdosh and killed most of the inhabitants of Yerusholayim, Nevuzraden leaves a remnant of six thousand Jews behind under the leadership of the tzadik Gedalyah ben Achikom.

He does however, exile more than 600,000 descendents of Moshe, among them the children of the righteous Yonodov ben Reichov. No sooner do they reach the River Gozen however, than G-d carries them away to the other side of the River Sambatyon.



Gedalyah ben Achikom is murdered in Mitzpeh by Yishmoel ben Nesanyah on the third of Tishri, fifty-two days after the Churban (like the numerical value of his name - others say that the murder took place one day earlier - on the second day of Rosh Hashonoh. The remaining Jews flee to Egypt, together with Yirmiyahu ha'Novi, where they are pursued and killed by Nevuchadnetzar's soldiers. This is the end of the Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel until the return from golus over fifty years later. Gedalyah's yohrzeit becomes a national fast-day.



Nevuchadnetzar dreams about the four nations that conquer the Jews, but forgets the dream. He demands that his wise men repeat his dream and interpret it. They argue that it is only the Kohen Godol in the Beis ha'Mikdosh who, through the medium of the Urim ve'Tumim, could possibly relate to him what he dreamt. He responds by having them all killed, since they were the ones who had advised him to destroy the Beis ha'Mikdosh in the first place.

Daniel, who was exiled with Yehoyokim in 3027 at the age of thirteen, and who became a royal courtier (together with his friends Chanayah, Misho'el and Azaryah), one year later, repeats his dream and interprets it. The king is overawed, and places him in charge of the Kingdom of Bovel. Daniel is also known as Sheshbatzar (because he witnessed six tzoras - calamities).



Nevuzraden exiles 745 Jews (according to the Seder Olom, they were living in Amon and Mo'av and in other areas around Yisroel) and he exiles them after he captures Tzur. (According to the Gemoro in Gittin, which relates how Nevuzraden converted to Judaism in 3338, this appears to be a different Nevuzraden. Perhaps every commander-in-chief of the Babylonian army is called by that name, as was common with regard to kings of that time.)



Nevuchadnetzar captures Egypt. He exiles its people and takes a lot of booty, in accordance with the prophesy of Yechezkel. He also sends Yirmiyah and Boruch ben Neriyoh to Bovel into exile - others say that he exiles them to Alexandria in Egypt, together with the other Jews who were living in Amon, Mo'av and in other countries that surround Eretz Yisroel (see year 3342). They flourish there, both in numbers and in wealth, and go on to build a magnificent community. Their gigantic Shul is described as a small Beis ha'Mikdosh.


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