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

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Vol. 7   No. 45

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Reb Pesach ben Shimon Efrayim z.l.
whose 20th Yohrzeit is on the 12th Av
by his son

Parshas Vo'Eschanan

Your Money or Your Life!

The Gemoro in B'rochos (61b) cites a B'raysa, where Rebbi defines the Torah's need to write both "with all your soul" and "with all your money" in the first parshah of the Sh'ma. The Torah writes "with all your soul" (in spite of having already written "with all your money") for the benefit of those whose bodies are more precious to them than their money. And it writes "with all your money" (in spite of having already written "with all your soul") for the benefit of those people whose money is more precious to them than their bodies. Rebbi Akiva adds that "with all your soul" means - even if Hashem takes your soul (you must still love Him and give it up gladly).


The Maharsho explains that Rebbi Akiva does not come to dispute Rebbi Eliezer's words, but rather to illuminate them. That being the case, in Rebbi Eliezer's opinion, the Torah is actually equating giving up one's life for Hashem's sake (where necessary) on the one hand, and giving up one's money for His sake on the other. The Torah Temimah (note 24) clearly understands the Gemoro like the Maharsho. Quoting Rebbi Eliezer, he equates his opinion with Chazal elsewhere. Chazal confine the posuk "with all your soul" to idolatry, in favour of which one should rather give up one's life (and we derive the obligation to give up one's life for the two other cardinal sins - adultery and murder - from another source). Based on this premise, the Torah Temimah then queries the ruling of the Remo (Orach Chayim 66b), who obligates a Jew to give away all his money rather than transgress any lo sa'aseh. How can that be, he asks, when from Rebbi Eliezer's d'roshoh it is clear that the Torah compares giving up one's money to giving up one's life. Consequently, just as one is only obligated to give one's life in face of idolatry, so too, should one only be obligated to give away one's money in face of idolatry, and not for any other lo sa'aseh (though the obligation might possibly extend to adultery and murder, which is compared to idolatry)?


The Gro however, disagrees with the Maharsho. From the wording of Rebbi Akiva it appears that he is coming to dispute Rebbi Eliezer, and not just to illuminate his statement. In addition, he asks, who has ever heard of anyone whose money is more precious than his life?


So he explains that Rebbi Akiva actually disagrees with Rebbi Eliezer. Rebbi Akiva in fact, is the author of the Mishnah on 54a which interprets "with all your soul" to mean 'even if He takes your soul'. But according to Rebbi Eliezer, a Jew is never obligated to give up his life for the sake of Hashem, as Chazal extrapolate from the posuk in Acharei Mos "And you shall live by them" (and not die by them). According to the Gro, Rebbi Eliezer interprets "with all your soul" to mean that a Jew must serve Hashem with all his strength, using his body in His service. What he is now saying is that the Torah writes "with all your soul" for the benefit of those people who are prepared to spend money for Hashem's sake but not to exert themselves physically on His behalf; and it writes "with all your money" for the benefit of those who are willing to exert themselves physically for Hashem's sake, but not to give away their money for Him. Needless to say, this interpretation of Rebbi Eliezer dispenses with the Torah Temimah's kashya on the Remo. According to the Gro, Rebbi Eliezer is not equating giving away one's money for Hashem with giving away one's life, as the Torah Temimah understands.


The Gro queries the Maharsho, partially on the basis of the hypothesis that there is no such person whose money is more precious to him than life, as we explained. It is difficult to question the Gro, yet it seems feasible that a multi-millionaire will baulk at having to give away every cent that he owns, in order to avoid transgressing a lo sa'aseh (as we quoted earlier from the Remo), whereas the very same man would gladly jump into the fire to avoid worshipping idols. Nor is the rationale behind this phenomenon difficult to explain, when we bear in mind that the latter knows full well that his suffering will be short-lived, because within minutes he will be dead, and he will have sanctified G-d's Name in the process. The former on the other hand, is aware - painfully aware - of the sudden plunge from the pinacle of wealth into the abyss of poverty, and of the prospect of a lifetime of suffering that will follow. That could well prove a more difficult test than a quick death.


In addition, according to the Gro, Rebbi Akiva, who disagrees with Rebbi Eliezer, fails to address the problem that Rebbi Eliezer resolves: namely, why the Torah needs to mention both "with all your soul" and "with all your money"? In fact, the problem is even more acute according to Rebbi Akiva, who establishes "with all your soul" to mean even with your life. As the Gro maintains, once the Torah has instructed us to give up our lives for His sake, it becomes totally unnecessary to add that one must also give away one's money for him. So, having said "with all your soul", why does it need to add "with all your money"? Perhaps that explains why the above-mentioned Mishnah, whose author, as we explained above, is Rebbi Akiva, gives a second interpretation of "u've'chol me'odecho" (with all your money). Precisely because the first interpretation is superfluous, the Tana adds 'Alternatively, for whatever measure Hashem metes out to you (be grateful and) thank Him very, very much!'


Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro


Many Pray - Few are Answered

"And you will seek Hashem your G-d from there and you will find Him" (4:29). The Gro, commenting on the change from the plural ("And you will seeek Hashem") to the singular ("and you will find Him"), cites a Gemoro in Rosh Hashonoh (18a). The Gemoro explains that two people can enter a shul together to daven; the one's prayers are answered, the other's are not. This is because the one davened sincerely, whereas the other one did not. And that is what the Torah is hinting at here: Many people will daven to Hashem in golus, but it is only the few who will be answered, because, as the posuk concludes "you (singular) will seek Him with all your heart ... ".


Sh'ma Yisroel

The first parshah of Sh'ma, the Gro points out, contains all the Ten Commandments. "Hashem is our G-d" - corresponds to "Onochi"; "Hashem is One" - to "Lo yihyeh lecho"; "Blessed be the Name ... " - corresponds to "Lo siso" (which explains why Chazal instituted the recital of this posuk whenever someone mentions the Name of G-d in vain); "And you shall love Hashem ... " - to "Zochor es Yom ha'Shabbos" (since the weekdays are based on 'yiroh', and Shabbos on 'ahavah' - which is why we say 'You inherited to us with love ... ' in the Shabbos Amidah); "And these words (of Torah) shall be" - corresponds to "Kabeid es ovicho" (for so Chazal have said 'How does one honour them? With words of Torah!'); "And teach them to your sons" - to "Lo tirtzach" (as Chazal have taught 'Not teaching one's son Torah is tantamount to murdering him'); "And you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go on the way" - corresponds to "Lo tin'of" (like the posuk writes in Mishlei (2:11) "It [Torah] will protect you from adultery ... "); "And you shall bind them on your hand" - to "Lo tignov"; "And they shall be 'totofos' between your eyes" - corresponds to "Lo sa'aneh" (like Chazal have said 'The din of eidem zomemin [false witnesses] is connected with sight'); "And you shall transcribe them on to the doorposts of your house" - to "Lo sachmod beis rei'echo ... ".


Bitul Torah

"And you shall speak about them" (6:7). 'About them', the Gemoro in Yumo extrapolates, and not about d'vorim beteilim (irrelevant matters).' In addition, there is a posuk in Koheles "All de'vorim beteilim a man is not permitted to speak".


That being the case, what does the Gemoro in B'rochos (5a) mean when it states that if a person has found nothing in his actions that might account for his current suffering, he should ascribe it to bitul Torah. But did we not just prove that someone who speaks d'vorim beteilim transgresses both an asei and a lo sa'aseh. So to suggest that a person cannot find any fault in his deeds and yet find him guilty of bitul Torah, appears nothing short of a paradox? The Gro however explains that, seeing as Shlomoh ha'Melech wrote in Koheles (7:20), "Because there is no such thing as a righteous man who does only good and does not sin", someone who examines his deeds and finds nothing wrong is in itself sinful. It can only be the result of not having studied Torah properly, which is why he does not have a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. And the Tana writes in Pirkei Ovos (4:12) that 'a mistake in halochoh caused by an error in one's learning is considered a sin performed on purpose'. That is why, the Gemoro says, if someone examines his deeds and discovers where he went wrong, he should immediately make good the deficiency. If however, he cannot find any fault with himself, he should ascribe his inability to do so to bitul Torah, because had he learned diligently, he would have known exactly what is sinful, and he would most certainly have found something to rectify.


Two Ways to Serve Hashem

"And Hashem commanded us to do all these statutes ... to do good to us all the days to give us life ... And it will be an act of righteousness on our part if we will keep all these mitzvos before Hashem our G-d like He commanded us" (6:24:25).


The second posuk ("And it will be an act of righteousness) initially appears to be superfluous, the Gro observes. But it is not, he explains, because the first posuk is a continuation of the previous pesukim, where the father is explaining to his son how we were slaves to Par'oh in Egypt. And it is because He performed miracles with us and took us out from there that we are obliged to serve Him - though at the end of the day, it is all for our own good, because as a result of our Torah and mitzvos, Hashem performs good with us.


That is what the father tells his son, who, for all his wisdom, does not yet understand the significance of serving G-d for its own sake. But the father must know that he must perform the mitzvos because Hashem commanded him to, and not for the reward. That is why the Torah continues "And it will be ... if we will keep all these mitzvos before Hashem our G-d like He commanded us" (and not for any other reason).




There were no Yomim-tovim that could compare with the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kipur, says Rabbon Shimon ben Gamliel in the last Mishnah in Ta'anis. Their uniqueness, he goes on to explain, lay (not in the measure of joy that normally accompanies each Yom-tov but) in a strange ritual that took place each year on these two occasions. The unmarried maidens of Yerusholayim would go out to the vineyards to dance and in the process, they would invite the eligible young men to choose themselves wives from among them.


Mechilah and Torah

And what was it that made these two days so auspicious? Yom Kipur was the day on which Moshe descended with the second Luchos, a clear sign that G-d had forgiven Yisroel for the sin of the Golden Calf. It was the day on which the giving of the Torah, interrupted by the sin of the Golden Calf, was finalised.


Why is Nobody Dying?

Many things happened on the fifteenth of Av, explains the Gemoro. To begin with, it was the day on which they discovered that the decree that all the generation that left Egypt would die in the desert had come to an end. From the ninth of Av (when those destined to die each year, had died in previous years) until the fifteenth, nobody died, leading them to believe that they must have erred regarding the date. And it was only on the fifteenth that they arrived at the conclusion that they could not possibly have made a mistake and that the decree must have ended - the previous year. The Tosfos Yom-tov explains why they were initially convinced that they had erred. It is because G-d had originally decreed that they would spend forty years in the desert and that they would all die out during those forty years. They naturally believed then that the forty years began immediately following the decree (which was issued on the tenth of Av), in which case only thirty-nine years (i.e. thirty-nine Tish'oh be'Avs) had passed, and this was to be the fortieth year. What they did not realise however, was that G-d in His mercy, had counted the first year (i.e. the day when the spies returned) in the forty, and the decree had already ended the year before.


Many Reasons to Rejoice

The other events that this Yom-tov commemorate are: 1) The lifting of the ban forbidding the tribes (that entered Eretz Yisroel) to intermarry (to ensure that each tribe retained its own inheritance of land); 2) The lifting of the ban forbidding the tribes to marry the women of Binyomin (and vice-versa, following the episode of Pilegesh be'Giv'oh); 3) Hoshei'a ben Eiloh (the last King of the ten tribes)'s removal of the border-guards posted by Yerov'om ben Nevot to prevent the ten tribes from going to Yerusholayim on Yom-tov; 4) The Romans finally granting permission for the burial of the numerous corpses that had lain in the open for seven years since the massacre of Beitar, to be buried; 5) The cutting off date for chopping the wood for the Mizbei'ach (because the fifteenth of Av is mid-summer, and from then on the heat of the sun begins to decline, and the wood becomes more wormy). So they would make a feast on completing the mitzvah, like they did upon the completion of the Beis ha'Mikdosh (the commentaries in the Mishnah).


From Sadness to Joy

What all the reasons have in common is the fact that they all commemorate bans that were lifted or decrees that came to an end. They were all situations where an extended negative situation was reversed and became positive. They went from darkness to light, from sadness to joy - and this is similar to the event that took place on Yom Kipur. The one exception is the last case, regarding the cutting off date for chopping wood for the Mizbei'ach. Perhaps that is why the Gemoro goes on to say that from the fifteenth of Av onwards, when the nights begin to extend, there is more time to learn. The chopping of the wood is merely symbolical of the shorter days and the longer nights. Throughout the summer, up to that time, people were engaged in their activities during the day, and had no time to learn during the short nights, but now that the nights were growing longer, there was time to learn - they too, went from darkness to light, from sadness to joy.


From Destruction to Rebuilding

It is certainly no coincidence that the fifteenth of Av follows so closely after Tish'oh be'Av. Maybe it is symbolical of the reversal from a bad situation to a good one, as we just explained. It is a sign that just as G-d transformed the one from sadness to joy, so too, will He rebuild the Beis ha'Mikdosh, transforming Tish'oh B'Av from a day of mourning to a Yom-tov. May it happen soon, speedily in our days.


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