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

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Vol. 11   No. 41

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Pesach ben Shimon Efrayim a.h.

Parshas Va'eschanan

A Gentile in Eretz Yisrael

Both Targum Unklus and Targum Yonasan interpret "Lo sechonem" in the context of the rest of the Pasuk. According to their translation, the Pasuk has one sequence. With reference to the seven nations of Cana'an, the Torah commands "Wipe them out, do not make a covenant with them and do not have mercy on them" (see 'No Mercy for Idolaters', Parshah Pearls).

Rashi, quoting the Gemara in Avodah-Zarah (20a) interprets "Lo sechonem" in two ways - as a prohibition against ascribing Chein to a gentile, to say what a nice fellow that Cana'ani is; and as a prohibition against allowing him to reside in Eretz Yisrael (i.e. not to sell him property). It is not clear why Rashi omits the Gemara's third interpretation of the Pasuk - as a prohibition against giving them gifts.


Rabeinu Bachye makes an interesting observation, based on the fact that the punctuation of each of the three meanings differs (since they stem from the three words 'Chein', 'Chanayah' and 'Chinam' respectively).

He compares the letters of the Torah to a body, and the vowels, to the Soul, for just as the body without the Soul is lifeless, so too, the letters of the Torah cannot be read without the vowels. And what's more he says, the reason that the Torah was given without vowels is in order to leave it open to many different interpretations.

Rabeinu Bachye also comments that the three aforementioned explanations of "Lo sechonem" do not include the simple explanation, which, rooted in the word 'chaninah', means do not treat them favourably, which is similar to that of the two Targums that we cited earlier.


The Torah Temimah cites Tosfos, who maintain that although the preceding phrase "Do not make a covenant with them" refers specifically to the seven nations (listed in the previous Pasuk), "ve'Lo Sechonem" extends to all gentiles. The Ha'amek Davar goes one step further. He interprets the two current phrases like Tosfos does, but he adds that whereas the former phrase refers to the Cana'anim who would opt not to fight (since one is not obliged to destroy them all immediately), the phrase that precedes it "hacharem tacharim osam" (the obligation to wipe them out) applies to those of the seven nations who would decide to fight Yisrael.

The Torah Temimah takes the Tosfos that we just cited to task. On what basis, he asks, does Tosfos, with nothing to go by other than logic, change the context of the Pasuk from the seven nations to other gentiles?

Rashi, who specifically writes 'How nice is that Cana'ani' (and not just 'that gentile') certainly seems to support his explanation. And for that matter, so do Unklus and Yonasan. Only their translation of the Pasuk does not lend itself to any other interpretation.


The Rambam in the tenth chapter of Avodah-Zarah, presents all the connotations of "Lo Sechonem" that we discussed above. He too, begins the chapter with reference to the seven nations. However, in the course of the chapter, he conveys the impression that the criterion is not so much that they are the seven nations as the fact that they are idolaters, and that the Torah mentions the seven nations only because they happened to be the ones that had lived in Eretz Yisrael, and whose idolatrous practices presented the greatest threat to K'lal Yisrael. Indeed, he specifically permits giving a 'Ger Toshav' (a gentile who undertakes to observe the seven Mitzvos B'nei No'ach diligently), a free gift.


With reference to giving a gentile a free gift, the Torah Temimah refers to many instances in Shas where the Gemara talks about giving benefit to a gentile. And as he explains, Tosfos will establish them where ultimately, the gift is to the benefit of the Jew (in which case it is no longer 'free'). According to his interpretation however, that is not necessary, because since the cases there deal with nations other than the Cana'anim, there is no problem to start with.

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Parshah Pearls

A Free Gift

"Va'eschanan el Hashem" (3:23). There are eight expressions that denote Tefilah, explains the Rosh, 'Tefilah, Techinah, Tze'akah, Shav'ah, Nefilah, Pegi'ah, Rinah and Sichah'. Why did Moshe pick the Lashon of Techinah ("va'eschanan el Hashem")?

Because, he replies, when Moshe stood on Har Sinai and asked Hashem to show him His ways, He replied "ve'Chanosi es asher ochon ... ", meaning that whatever kindness He does with K'lal Yisrael, He does in the form of a free gift.

This in turn, has two connotations; One - that G-d never owes anybody anything; it is always they who owe Him. This in turn, is because however many Mitzvos we perform, or Tefilos we offer up, we cannot even begin to thank Him, let alone repay Him, for even a fraction of the good turns that He does for us, morning, afternoon and evening.

Two - it is in keeping with Rebbi Ya'akov (in the first Perek of Kiddushin), who holds that there is no reward for the Mitzvos in this world, only in the Next. Whatever Hashem does for us in this world comes free, it is not deducted from the reward that He has in store for us in the World to Come.

That is why Moshe chose the Lashon "Va'eschanan".


You Have a Rav

"And G-d said to me 'Rav lach' ... " (3:26).

Moshe asked Hashem that if it was a matter of the vow that He had made that he (Moshe) would not enter Eretz Yisrael, then He could surely annul it, just as Moshe had annulled the Neder that he had made to Yisro not to leave Midyan.

To which G-d replied "Rav lach" - 'You had a Rav (G-d Himself) who was able to annul your Neder; I don't!'

Alternatively, He said to him ' "Rav lach", You have a Rav, Yehoshua, whose turn has arrived to take over the leadership, and the sovereignty of one person may not encroach on that of another by as much as a hairsbreadth'.

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos adds yet a third explanation "Rav lach", he explains, Moshe rebuked Korach with the expression "Rav lachem B'nei Levi", so G-d rebuked him using the same expression.


Whoever Adds, Subtracts

"Do not add on to the thing that I am commanding you today and do not subtract from it" (3:2).

If you add, the Rosh explains, you are subtracting. Presumably he says this, because otherwise, having forbidden adding to the Mitzvos, it seems obvious that one is forbidden to subtract from them, and mentioning it would be redundant.

If we are told to tie four Tzitzis to the corners of our four-cornered garments, and we tie five, the Torah is teaching us here, that we have not attached four Tzitzis, plus an extra one. We have not attached four Tzitzis. Period!

And the same applies to someone who puts five Parshiyos in his Tefilin or who takes five species on Succos. That is known as the principle of 'Kol ha'Mosif, Gorei'a' - whoever adds, has subtracted, and it applies to wherever one adds to the Mitzvah at one and the same time. It does not apply however, to someone who eats in the Succah on Shemini Atzeres. To be sure, he has contravened the La'av of 'bal Tosif' (which is written a number of times in Seifer Devarim), but there is no way that sitting in the Succah on Shemini Atzeres can detract from the Mitzvah of Succah that he already fulfilled on the first seven days of Succos.


Sh'ma Yisrael ...

"Sh'ma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad" (6:4).

All three Names of G-d are needed here, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explains. Had the Torah just written 'Sh'ma Yisrael ... Hashem Echad', each nation would have claimed that the Pasuk is referring to their god, calling him 'one'.

"Elokeinu" makes it clear that the Pasuk is talking about our G-d, and not (Lehavdil) theirs.

" ... Hashem Elokeinu Echad" on the other hand, would have conveyed the impression that our G-d is one of the gods (Kevayachol), and that would certainly be the case if it had just written 'Elokeinu Echad'.

"Sh'ma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad" implies that Hashem who is our G-d (Master) is One (and there is none besides Him).


When davening on one's own, one needs to add the words "Keil Melech Ne'eman", which, together with "Baruch Sheim ... " make up two hundred and forty-eight words, corresponding to the number of limbs in a man's body. Consequently, whoever recites the Sh'ma properly, is assured that G-d will guard all his limbs, as the Pasuk says in Mishlei (4:4) "Guard My Mitzvos and live". 'You guard Mine and I will guard yours', G-d announces.

The Medrash compares this to Reuven who owned a vineyard in Yehudah, but he lived in the Galil, whilst Shimon owned a vineyard in the Galil, but he lived in Yehudah. Year in year out, Reuven would travel to Yehudah to tend to his vines, whilst Shimon would travel to the Galil to tend to his. Until one year they met mid-way. It did not take long for them to enter into an agreement, whereby Reuven would look after Shimon's vineyard, whilst Shimon would look after Reuven's. And that is the agreement that G-d and K'lal Yisrael entered into. We say the Sh'ma, G-d guards our bodies.

See also Rashi Shoftim (20:3).


Praise Him from Jail

The Rosh cites another Medrash, based on the Pasuk in Shir ha'Shirim (8:11) " ... who sits in the gardens, friends, listen to your voice, let Me hear it". This refers to Yisrael, who sit in the Shuls and in the Batei Medrash and recite the Sh'ma. What does G-d do? He sends the angels to listen carefully to Yisrael, who praise Him among the nations.

Rebbi Yochanan gave a parable to a king who was angry with his servants and sent them to prison. In jail, the servants continued to praise him as they had before. And when the king sent someone to check what they were saying about him, he reported back that he had heard them announcing 'If not for our master the king, we would no longer be alive!'

'In that case', said the King, 'I cannot possibly leave them in prison for long'.

The King is G-d, the servants are Yisrael and the prison is Galus. If we cannot desist from praising Hashem even when we are in Galus, and call out "Sh'ma Yisrael ... Hashem Echad", even from the darkest dungeons, He is bound to answer our voices and take us out soon.


The Wise Son

"When your son will ask you saying, 'what are the testimonies ... which Hashem your G-d commanded you ... " (6:20).

This Parshah refers to the Chacham, our sages have taught. That is why he talks of 'Eidos, chukim and mishpatim', displaying a detailed knowledge and an interest in exactly the same Mitzvah which the Rasha refers to contemptuously as 'this service'.

The popular question is asked: If we brand one son a Rasha merely on the basis of the word 'for you' (implying that he precludes himself from the Avodah at hand), then on what grounds do we praise the other son as a Chacham, when he too, uses the word 'eschem', from which we can make exactly the same inference?

No problem, answers the Rosh, because this son has already clarified his position with his words 'Hashem our G-d'.

The question remains however, why did he then go on to say "which Hashem ... commanded you"?

Again no problem, the Rosh explains. The wise son says "you" because he was not born at the time of the command, so it would be inappropriate for him to say "which Hashem ... commanded us".


No Mercy for Idolaters

"... ve'lo sechonem" (7:2).

In the main article, we cited earlier Targum Unklus and Targum Yonasan, who translate these words as 'Do not have mercy on them'. What exactly does this mean?

The Rambam, in Chapter 10 of Hilchos Avodah-Zarah, writes - 'and it is forbidden to have mercy on them (i.e. on the seven idolatrous nations of Cana'an, who were idolaters).

Therefore if one comes across one of them perishing or drowning in a river, one should not take him out. If he is about to die, one is not allowed to save him. One may not however, actually kill him or push him into a pit, because he is not waging war with us'.

Note that He is not so gracious with sneaks and Apikorsim, who oppress their fellow-Jews and lead them astray from the path of Torah.

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(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

To Unify G-d's Name

We are commanded to believe that G-d maintains the entire universe, and that He is the Master of everything that exists - He alone, without any partner, as the Torah writes in Va'eschanan (6:4) "Sh'ma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echod". This is a Mitzvas Asei, not just a statement, because "Sh'ma ... " means 'Accept from Me, know and believe, that Hashem who is our G-d, is One'. And a proof that this is so, lies in what Chazal say often - 'in order to unify His Name, so that one accepts upon oneself the Kingdom of Heaven', meaning to acknowledge G-d's uniqueness and to have faith in Him.

The reason for this Miztvah is known. It is the basis of our faith. It is the strong pillar upon which every intelligent person leans.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... as Chazal said in B'rachos (61b), every member of Yisrael is obligated to give up his life for the Mitzvah of unifying G-d's Holy Name, because if one fails to acknowledge His Oneness, it is as if he denied G-d's existence. And that in turn, is because the totality of G-d's Sovereignty is based on the fact that He rules alone without a partner. That being the case, the Mitzvah is a branch of the prohibition of Avodah-Zarah, for which we are duty-bound to give up our lives, in every place and at all times. The remaining details of the Mitzvah are scattered around the Medrash and Shas. Many stories are told there of great people and of simple ones who died upholding this Mitzvah.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men and women alike. Anyone who contravenes it and fails to believe in the unity of G-d, blessed be His Name, has nullified not only it, but all the Mitzvos of the Torah, since they are all based on our belief that He is G-d and that He is One. Consequently, that person is called a Kofer ba'Ikar (one who denies G-d), and is not part of the Jewish people. He is considered a heretic, and G-d will set him aside for evil. Someone on the other hand, who believes in G-d and who places his trust in Him, will be strengthened.

This is one of the Mitzvos that the author listed in his introduction, which apply constantly, day and night. The obligation to fulfill them never ceases, even for one brief moment.


Mitzvah 418:
To Love Hashem

We are commanded to love Hashem, as the Torah writes in Va'eschanan (6:5) "And you shall love Hashem your G-d". The Mitzvah entails reflecting about His commands and His deeds until we get to understand Him to the best of our ability, and derive extreme pleasure from the knowledge that He supervises us. 'Because the Torah says "And you shall love Hashem ... ", says the Sifri, and I do not know how a human being can possibly love G-d, therefore the Pasuk continues "And these words that I am commanding you today shall be on your heart" '. In other words, it is the study of Torah that leads to a deeper understanding of Hashem, and a deeper understanding of Hashem inevitably develops His love in our hearts. And our Sages have said that such a love obligates a person to arouse others too, to love G-d and to serve Him, like we find by Avraham Avinu.

The reason for this Miztvah too, is known - because it is not really possible to fulfill the Mitzvos of Hashem properly, unless one loves Him.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... that it is befitting to direct all one's thoughts and efforts towards loving G-d ... and one should realize constantly that all other assets that exist - wealth, children, authority and honour, are insignificant compared to loving Hashem. One should therefore toil ceaselessly to increase one's knowledge of Torah, in order to get to know Him better. At the end of the day, a person should do everything in his power to think all day long about Hiashem's reliability and His Oneness, until there is not a second in the day or night during his waking hours that he does not remember his love for G-d with all his heart.

This can be compared to a young man, who thinks about his betrothed ceaselessly and longs for the day when he will be able to take her to his house and live with her as his wife ... and all the remaining details are scattered around Shas and the Medrashim.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women. Anyone who contravenes it, and fills his mind with physical pleasures and mundane matters, not for the sake of Heaven, but purely for the enjoyment that he derives from them, or for the sake of the honour or the prestige that he gains from them in this false world, not in order to do kindness with people or to encourage those who are upright, has nullified the Mitzvah and his punishment is great. This too, is one of the Mitzvos that apply constantly, that one is liable to fulfill at all times.

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