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

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Vol. 8   No. 14

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Parshas Vo'Eiro

The Three Principles
(adapted from the explanation of the K'li Yokor)

By the first plague in 'Detzach' (the acronym of the first group of three makos - dam, tzefardei'a, kinim), the Torah writes "So says Hashem, with this you will know that I am Hashem"! (7:17)

By the first plague in 'Adash' (the acronym of the second group, orov, dever, sh'chin), it writes "in order that you will know that I am Hashem in the midst of the land"! (8:18). Whereas by the first plague in 'Be'achav' (the acronym of the third group, borod arbeh choshech, makas bechoros), it writes "so that you will know that there is nobody like Me in the entire world!" (9:14).

The K'li Yokor, quoting the Mahari Avuhav, explains that Par'oh doubted three basic principles. He doubted whether Hashem existed, and even if He did, he doubted whether He supervised the world. And he also doubted Hashem's ability to change nature or the natural process of events. That is why Hashem told him clearly: 1. that I am Hashem (and I do exist); 2. that I am Hashem in the midst of the land"! (and I do supervise); 3. that there is nobody like Me in the entire world!" (and I am capable of effecting any changes that I wish).


The K'li Yokor explains how each of the three plagues in each group contained an object-lesson for Par'oh and the Egyptians based on the principle that Hashem had presented them with, prior to the first plague in that group.

Par'oh doubted Hashem's existence, placing his belief instead in other deities, so the first thing Hashem did when warning him was to smite his god, the Nile. Indeed, the Medrash, stating its source as Par'oh, who dreamt that he was standing "on the Nile", explains that the resho'im place themselves above their gods. In this way, Par'oh would know that "there is no other god but Hashem".

The frogs, say Chazal, publicly sanctified Hashem's Name by jumping into the Egyptians' heated ovens. Par'oh had desecrated Hashem's holy Name by declaring "I don't know who Hashem is!" The frogs sanctified it, by demonstrating that they knew who Hashem was, and what's more, He was worth dying for (though in fact, says the Medrash, the frogs that jumped into the ovens were the ones who actually survived).

And it is in connection with the lice that Par'oh's magicians exclaimed "It is the finger of G-d!" admitting, against their will, that He existed. Therefore, Hashem preceded this group of plagues with the words "so that you will know that I am Hashem!"


In the group of 'Adash', Hashem proceeded to demonstrate that not only did He exist, but that He also supervised the world. And He supervised not only the world at large (with Hashgochoh K'lolis), but a detailed supervision, with an eye on each person and each nation individually, making a clear distinction between those who served Him and those who didn't.

And this became evident when He sent a plague of wild animals, which spread out throughout the land of Egypt, attacking all Egyptian areas, but avoiding areas where Jews lived (even though that is where most of the animals were). As the Torah writes "And I will make a distinction on that day, between (the land of Egypt and) the land of Goshen, where My people reside, and where there will be no wild animals" (8:18). This can only have been because Hashem not only exists, but He also supervises over the world, rewarding those who serve Him, and punishing those who do not.

Similarly, regarding the plague of pestilence, the Torah writes "And Hashem will divide between the cattle belonging to Yisroel and the cattle belonging to the Egyptians!" (9:4). There too, there was no logical reason for the one to survive and the other to perish, other than Hashem's distinction between those who served Him and those who did not.

And the same applies to the plague of boils, which began when Moshe threw two handfuls of soot into the air, which spread over the entire land and descended upon the Egyptians in the form of boils. There too, the fact that the soot fell upon every Egyptian and avoided every Jew defied all human logic, and could only be attributed to Hashem's Hashgochoh. Moreover, by the plague of boils "the magicians were unable to stand before Moshe" (9:11). The K'li Yokor points out that G-d to smite the magicians first by this plague, the last plague of the group that demonstrated His Hashgochoh, because they were the ones who encouraged Par'oh to stand firm against Moshe. That is why Hashem began this group of plagues with the words "so that you will know that I am Hashem in the midst of the land!" (8:18).


By not believing in Hashem's omnipotence, explains the K'li Yokor, the Mahari Avuhav means that he believed in dual deities. Presumably, Par'oh placed the sun and Mazel T'leh (the constellation Aires [Lamb]) on a par with Hashem. And that explains why Hashem smote them with hail, locusts and darkness, because all of these blocked the sunlight (causing a distinct division between the earth and the sky [the domain of the sun and the Mazolos]). The Torah specifically records this with regard to the locusts (10:15), and it hardly requires mentioning regarding the hail and the darkness. The smiting of the firstborn too, took place at midnight, when the sun and Mazel T'leh had no jurisdiction over them. In all four cases, Hashem demonstrated his supremacy over all the earthly powers, and His ability to subdue them at will. That is why the Torah precedes this group with the words "so that you will know that there is nobody like Me in the entire world!" (9:14)


Parshah Pearls

The Double Inheritance

"And I will bring them to the land ... and I will give it to them as an inheritance ... " (6:8).

The word for inheritance is "moroshoh", a word that the Torah uses in only one other place, in ve'Zos ha'B'rochoh, where it writes "Moshe commanded us Torah, an inheritance (moroshoh) for the community of Ya'akov".

This comes to teach us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that (on the one hand, Torah was really given to us to observe in Eretz Yisroel, for as we see, it is only in Eretz Yisroel that all the mitzvos apply, and on the other hand that) we were only given Eretz Yisroel on the merit of Torah and mitzvos. Dovid ha'Melech indicated this, when he wrote in Tehilim "and He gave them the lands of the nations order to keep his statutes and to observe his mitzvos". The bond between Eretz Yisroel and mitzvos is always evident in the second parshah of the Sh'ma, where the Torah makes our existence in Eretz Yisroel subject to our adherence to Torah and mitzvos.



The word "moroshoh' (rather than the more common 'yerushah') is also a hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that the generation to whom Hashem is currently speaking, would not merit to inherit Eretz Yisroel themselves. They were destined to die in the desert, and it is their children who would inherit it, as 'moroshoh' implies.


Now we Believe, Now we Don't

"And Moshe told this to the B'nei Yisroel, but they did not listen to Moshe, from shortness of breath and from hard work" (6:9).

But how can that be, asks the Rashbam, when the Torah has already related in Sh'mos that they believed Moshe, when he appeared for the first time (4:31)? And what's more, prior to that, Hashem had emphatically declared there (3:18) that they would believe Moshe, so how can it possibly be that their faith had declined so drastically in so short a time?

They believed at first, the Rashbam replies, on the understanding that Par'oh would respond positively (after all, they figured, G-d is stronger than Par'oh, so Par'oh will have to accede to His demands). However, when they saw that instead of improving, the situation deteriorated, and that instead of acquiescing to Hashem's demands, Par'oh made things even harder for them to bear, whilst seemingly retaining the upper-hand, their faith was badly shaken, and they no longer believed in Hashem's Divine power.


Alternatively, the Torah did not say that they did not believe Moshe, but that they did not listen to him. And the Torah ascribes the reason for this to their shortness of breath and hard work, which the Ramban interprets to mean the fear of being killed by Par'oh and the relentless pressure of the policemen. All this of course, has nothing to do with a lack of faith. See also Rashi on this posuk.


They Didn't Listen

"But they did not listen to Moshe, because they were short of breath and because of hard work" (6:9). Hardly their fault, it would seem. One cannot really blame people who are overworked and on the verge of collapse, for being close to despair and failing to accept the news that their salvation is imminent. And indeed, that is how most commentaries explain it.

But the Targum Yonoson has a different approach. He interprets "mi'kotzer ru'ach u'me'avodah koshoh" to mean that they did not listen to Moshe because they were stubborn and because of the idolatry that they were accustomed to worship. The Targum Yonoson's explanation brings us back to the kashya posed by the Rashbam in 'Now we believe, now we don't'.


Let it become a Snake

"When Par'oh will speak with you ... 'Give a sign' ... take your stick, throw it down before Par'oh and it will become a serpent (some say a crocodile, with which the Nile is infested)". The reason that the sign used by Hashem took place with a serpent, is because Par'oh boasted, calling himself 'the great serpent', says the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos. It was also indicative of Par'oh himself, who twisted and turned like a snake The Ba'al ha'Turim explains that Moshe was demonstrating to Par'oh that just as this live serpent would turn into an inanimate stick, so too, would he (the great serpent) turn into (inanimate) dust.


Early in the Morning

"And Hashem said to Moshe 'Get up early in the morning and stand before Par'oh' " (8:16). The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos asks why it is that on some occasions the Torah writes 'Get up early', and on others 'Go (or Come) before Par'oh'.

He cites Rav Yitzchok, that 'Come before Par'oh' implies that Hashem accompanied Moshe (presumably to the royal palace, as the Chizkuni explains). Consequently, whenever the Posuk mentions that Par'oh was going to the water (to relieve himself), it would have been undignified for Hashem to have gone with Moshe, and Moshe went on his own. And that is where the Torah writes "Get up early and stand before Par'oh''.

Tosfos rejects this contention however, for one, because the Torah writes "Get up early" by the plague of locusts, despite the fact that the Torah does not mention there that he went to the water.

Tosfos himself explains that the Torah makes a point of using the expression "Get up early and stand before Par'oh" by each plague which began a new cycle with a new warning. Consequently, we find this expression by the plagues of 'blood', 'wild beasts' and 'hail', the first plague in 'Detzach', the first in 'Adash' and the first in 'Be'achav' respectively.


Paroh's Communal Confession

"Hashem is righteous, and I and my people are wicked!" (9:27).

It took a long time for Par'oh to confess. But when at last he did, why did he share the blame with his subjects? He was the king and he was the one who should have accepted the full blame for his stubborn refusal to accept Hashem's dominion, so why implicate the people?

It must have been difficult for Par'oh to confess his guilt, however short-lived that confession was. Perhaps it was too much to expect of him to make a clean breast of his sin and just say 'Yes, Hashem is right and I am wrong!' The best he was capable of doing was to share the blame with everyone else. Chazal, in their wisdom, have taught that troubles shared by many are in themselves a consolation. Presumably, the same is true of confession. It is infinitely easier to apologize for having sinned communally than it is on one's own.

And that's precisely what Par'oh did.


(Adapted from 'Mitvos ha'T'luyos bo'Oretz',
based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish
by R' Kalman Kahana z.l.)

The Fruit of the Vineyard, Orchard and Field
are all Hefker,
and the Din of a Field that was Worked

48. It is forbidden to bring home from the field, even from what is hefker, more than what is necessary for one's current household needs. When one runs out of stock, one may fetch more from the field. Should one bring home more than one's needs, Chazal did not forbid partaking of it, nor is it necessary to remove it from his house, though it is forbidden to keep it in storage for a long period of time (because this is considered like doing business with Sh'mitah-produce, which is prohibited).


49. If someone guarded his field, the fruit does not become forbidden. Chazal did however, penalize the owner. Consequently, in addition to the prohibition of giving him money of shevi'is (in the same way as one not does give money of shevi'is to anyone who is suspected of contravening the laws of Sh'mitah), Chazal also forbade purchasing Sh'mitah-fruit from him even on credit (see paragraph 56). It is however, permitted to accept it from him free of charge. In the event that one did purchase the fruit, it does not become forbidden.


50. A field that has been worked in the Sh'mitah, such as the fruit of a tree which is not subject to the Isur of S'fichim, but with which a forbidden task was performed, the fruit does not become forbidden, and one is permitted to eat it. However, the penalties of which we spoke in the previous paragraph apply here too.


Trading with Sh'mitah-Fruit

51. It is forbidden to trade with Sh'mitah-fruit, though one may sell small quantities, sufficient to provide the needs of a regular household. And one is even permitted to pick that amount from the vineyard, the orchard or the field.


52. Sh'mitah-fruit may not be sold by measure, weight or number, only by assessment. Should one make up bundles containing a standard number of items, or bundles of vegetables by weight, one is prohibited from selling them even by estimating the number of bundles that he sells, since making bundles in this way is the manner that one normally trades.


53. Produce that one tends to carry into the house in bundles, may be sold in bundles too. However, should there be any difference between the way they are made up for selling and the way they are taken home, he should take care not to arrange them in the manner that one does for selling, in order not to convey the impression that he intends to trade with them.


54. One may not purchase Sh'mitah-fruit (even in small quantities) in order to re-sell it. The concession to purchase Sh'mitah-fruit is confined to buying it from the person who picked it from a Hefker field, in the manner that we described at the beginning of the chapter. There are some however, who permit re-selling it in small quantities.


55. If someone sells Sh'mitah-fruit, irrespective of whether he does so in a way that is permitted or in a way that is prohibited, the money adopts the sanctity of Shevi'is, and must be treated in the same way as the fruit. One should however, bear in mind that the fruit retains its sanctity, too.


56. One is well-advised therefore, when selling Sh'mitah-fruit, not to accept payment for it immediately, but to arrange for the purchaser to pay later. The advantage of such a transaction is that, although the fruit retains its sanctity, the money, when it is paid, will not adopt the sanctity of Sh'mitah. Similarly, it is permitted to swap Sh'mitah-fruit in exchange for fruit of the eighth year, where the same distinction will apply.


57. But if he sells the fruit by means of meshichah (drawing the fruit into his domain in order to acquire it), on the understanding that the purchaser pays immediately, the money will indeed adopt the sanctity of Sh'mitah when it is paid.


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