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

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Vol. 14   No. 41

This issue is sponsored
in honour of the third beis hamikdash
she'yibaneh bimheira viyameinu amen

Va'Eschanan (Nachamu)

Nachamu Nachamu Ami

How is it possible to comfort Yisrael on the destruction of the Beis-Hamikdash? It is one thing to comfort a mourner on the loss of his beloved relative, whom he will now have to learn to live without. But what sense is there in comforting a nation on the loss of its spiritual center, for the rebuilding of which it is eagerly waiting, whilst it is still in a state of destruction.


The answer lies in the very fact that we still mourn the Beis-Hamikdash's destruction, almost two thousand after it took place. Chazal have said that the decree to forget a person for whom one is mourning, was only said with regard to one who is deceased, but not to someone who is still alive (which is why Ya'akov refused to be comforted for Yosef. Yosef may not have been living with Ya'akov, but he was alive!).

There is no clearer sign that the Beis-Hamikdash is alive and its rebuilding is merely a matter of time, than the fact that K'lal Yisrael still holds an annual mourning period over its destruction, and yearns for its rebuilding. And that is the deeper meaning of the Ma'amar Chazal 'Whoever mourns over Yerushalayim merits to see its rebuilding', as the latter is inherent in the former.

And we can go even further. For not only do we mourn for its rebuilding, but we continue to feel its presence, albeit not in its full glory inasmuch as the Kosel ha'Ma'aravi, a symbol of the Shechinah, is still miraculously standing. A symbol, did I say? What I ought to have said is that the Shechinah is still there, for so Chazal have said 'The Shechinah has never moved away from the Kosel ha'Ma'aravi'. That explains why we Daven daily facing towards it, and as tradition teaches us, it is from that spot that our prayers ascend to the Heaven, and it is from that spot that all of Hashem's goodness descends and spreads out to the entire world. Yes, the consolation is not only for the future; it is for the present, too, which perhaps explains why the Navi repeats the word "Nachamu" (once for the future and once for the present). Perhaps it also explains why Chazal spoke in the present, when they said 'Whoever mourns over Yerushalayim merits to see its rejoicing' (not 'will merit', note, but 'merits', already now!

* * *

The Secret Meeting

(Adapted from Yirmiyah, Chap. 38)

It was while Yirmiyah was in jail in the Chatzar ha'Matarah that Tzidkiyah Hamelech called for him to be brought to an area somewhere between the royal palace and the Beis-Hamikdah (i.e. the entrance to the Ezras Yisrael), where he asked the Navi to repeat to him his latest prophesy. The Navi's replied that if he gave him the required information, a. Tzidkiyahu would kill him, and b. he would not obey its message anyway. And it was only when the King swore to him that neither would he kill him nor would he deliver him into the hands of those who sought his blood, that Yirmiyah told him in the name of G-d that if he would surrender to the King of Bavel, then he and his family would be safe, and the city of Yerushalayim would not be burned. But if he did not, then the city would fall into the hands of the King of Bavel and he would not escape capture.


The King's response was that he was afraid that if he surrendered to the Babylonians, he would be handed over to the Jews who had surrendered before him, and they would torture him for not having been the first to surrender.

After assuring him that this would not happen and that he had nothing to fear, Yirmiyah repeated the two options and their results, adding that Tzidkiyahu's problem lay with the wives of his predecessor Yehoyachin (his nephew), who had not gone into captivity together with the King and his mother, but who were about to be taken now, and who would inform Nevuchadnetzar that he (Tzidkiyahu) had been incited by the false prophets not to submit to him, placing him in a bad light with the King of Bavel. He also warned him that his own wives and children would be handed over to the Babylonians, and that he too would be seized by them, and that he would be held responsible for Yerushalayim being set on fire (by virtue of his refusal to hand himself in, as indeed Yehoyachin had done).


The meeting had been held clandestinely, and before sending Yirmiyahu back to the Chatzar ha'Matarah, Tzidkiyahu asked him to tell no-one about what had been discussed, if he valued his life. Should they question him about it, he was to tell them that he had merely pleaded with him not to be returned to 'Beis Yehonasan', the jail where he had originally been incarcerated. The leaders did indeed query him, as the King had suspected they would, but Yirmiyah merely repeated to them what the King had instructed him to say.


Unfortunately, Tzidkiyahu did not heed Yirmiyahu's warning. He, together with his entirely family, was captured, his entire family was tortured and killed before his eyes, and Yerushalayim was burned and razed to the ground, a tragedy that we suffer and mourn to this day.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Ma'yanah shel Torah)

Don't Say that Again!

" and Hashem said to me enough for you (Rav loch); Do not continue to say any more on this topic" (3:26).

According to the Yalkut, Moshe had requested the Din of a Jewish servant, who, after six years service, can claim that he loves his master and that he does not want to go free. He too, loved Hashem and wanted to remain in Hashem's service, in this world.

And the current Pasuk was Hashem's reply to Moshe's request.

The Asifas ha'Kohen explains G-d's answer with the Gemara in Kidushin, which requires the servant to repeat his statement before it can become valid.

What Hashem was therefore saying to Moshe was (not "Do not continue", but) "Do not repeat your statement", thereby invalidating his claim altogether.


Moshe's Look

"Ascend to the top of the cliff , and raise your eyes " (3:27).

It is well-known, that had Moshe entered Eretz Yisrael, Yisrael would never have been able to leave it.

Now that he was at least able to look at it, that too, had a permanent affect on the land, in that its Kedushah is permanent. In addition, the Gemara in Bava Basra (158) states that the very air of Eretz Yisrael makes a person wise. All because Moshe looked at it!


Two Daven, One's Prayers are Answered

"And you (plural) will seek Hashem your G-d, and you (singular) will find Him, because you will seek him with all your heart (4:29).


Why, asks the Gan Raveh in the name of the Ohel Mo'ed, does the Pasuk switch from the plural to the singular?

And he answers with the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah, which explains how it is possible for two people to Daven exactly the same prayer, yet the prayers of one of them are answered, whilst the prayers of the other one are not.

It is, the Gemara explains, because the former Davened a wholesome prayer, with great devotion, whilst the other one Davened by rote, without concentration.

Hence the Pasuk is saying that it is possible for two people to have prayed to Hashem, yet only one of them is answered. This is because, as the Pasuk indicates, he sought Hashem with all his heart. The other one didn't; that's why his prayers went unanswered.


Knowledge & Conviction

"And you shall know today, and take to heart that Hashem is G-d in the Heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other" (4:39).

It is not enough, R. Yisrael Salanter explains, to know that Hashem is G-d. One also needs to internalize it until it becomes part and parcel of oneself, to the point that one is convinced that Hashem (Who was, Who is and Who will be) is indeed the one who runs the world (which is one of the connotations of the Name 'Elokim'), and that there is none other (not even the sun, the moon the other constellations or the angels)!

And he added that the same distance that exists between not knowing and knowing, exists between knowing and absorbing it in one's heart.

R. Yisrael Salanter also said that the distance between the head and the heart is equivalent to the distance between the Heaven and the earth.


If, says the Chidushei ha'Rim, the crux is not the knowledge, but taking the knowledge to heart, as we explained, then one must see to it that, before one begins to absorb that knowledge, one's heart is pure, so that it should be a receptacle that is worthy of imbibing the Torah that one learns.


The Root of All Knowledge

"Ein Od" (Ibid).

Although above we translated it "There is none other", it can also mean 'There is nothing else'.

The commentaries explain this to mean that the knowledge that Hashem is G-d in Heaven and on earth is the key knowledge that encapsulates all other knowledge.


If You Want to Talk

" and you shall speak about them" (6:7).

'About them' (words of Torah)', says the Gemara in Yuma (19b), 'and not idle chatter'. Yes, inherent in this Pasuk there lies an Asei not to speak idle chatter.

The G'ro makes the hint event more meaningful by pointing out that the 'Beis' and the 'Mem' that form the word 'Bom' (in "ve'dibarto bom"), also coincide with the first letters of the written and the oral Toros ("Bereishis" and 'Me'eimosai') respectively.

And a similar hint appears in Tehilim (68:18), where the Pasuk writes (in connection with the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai) "G-d's entourage is twenty-two thousand angels, Hashem is among them, at Sinai in holiness". The word for 'among them' is "Bom" (spelt 'Beis' 'Mem'), hinting at the two Toros as we explained.

* * *


"Let me cross now, and see the good land on the other side of the Yarden, this good mountain on which the city of Yerushalayim will be built, and the Mountain of Levanon on which the Shechinah is going to rest" (3:25).


"And we dwelt in the valley, where we wept for our sins, for attaching ourselves to the idol of Pe'or" (3:29).


"But you who cleaved to the fear of G-d are all alive today" (4:4).


"Because who is the great nation which has a G-d that is close to it, by the name of Hashem; for it is the way of the nations to carry their god on their shoulders, thinking that it is close to them, when really it is far, since it cannot hear with its ears; the word of Hashem on the other hand, sits on a high and elevated Throne, and He hears our prayers whenever we Daven to Him, and He fulfils our request " (4:7).


"And G-d was angry with me because of your words, because you grumbled about the water, and He swore that I would not cross the Yarden " (4:21).


"And because He loved your fathers Avraham and Yitzchak, and He chose the sons of Ya'akov after him " (4:37).


"My people B'nei Yisrael, do not be murderers, not friends and not partners with murderers, and murderers shall not be seen in the communities of Yisrael, so that your children after you shall not arise and teach them to be with murderers; because as a result of the sin of murder the sword comes upon the world " (5:17).

Targum Yonasan repeats the same concepts with regard to the prohibition of adultery, theft (he does not interpret "Lo Tignov" as kidnapping), false testimony and coveting. And he concludes each one appropriately

" because as a result of the sin of adultery pestilence comes upon the world".

" because as a result of the sin of theft hunger comes upon the world".

" because as a result of the sin of false testimony the sky becomes overcast but no rain falls and draught comes upon the world".

" because as a result of the sin of coveting the ruling power confiscates the people's property and Galus comes upon the world" (5:17/18).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 420:
To Recite the Sh'ma Twice Daily

It is a Mitzvah to recite each evening and each morning the Pasuk "Sh'ma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad". It is in connection with this Pasuk that the Torah writes " and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house when you lie down and when you get up", which the Mishnah in B'rachos interprets as 'at the time that people tend to lie down at night and the time that they rise in the morning'. The Gemara there (10b) explains that 'when people tend to lie down' incorporates all night until dawn-break, as the Pasuk writes in Bechukosai (26:6) "And you will lie down and nobody will frighten you", and in Balak (23:24) "They do not lie down before they have eaten their prey", implying the entire sleeping period. This interpretation is due to the fact that the sleeping habits of people vary from one person to another; There are those who do not go to bed before midnight, there are others, who retire only in the wee hours of the morning, and others again, as soon as night sets in. That is why Chazal at the beginning of B'rochos, define the time to recite the Sh'ma at Ma'ariv is 'from when the Kohanim enter to eat their Terumah', which is the equivalent of nightfall, up until dawn-break. Whereas 'when people rise in the morning' Chazal interpret to mean from the beginning of the day, when it starts to get light, which they equate with the time that a person can recognize his friend at a distance of four Amos. And the final time for reciting the Sh'ma is until the end of three complete hours after day-break.

The Chachamim do not interpret 'when people rise' as for the entire period that people are up and about (i.e. throughout the day [in the way that they interpreted 'lying down' to mean throughout the night]). This is because (as opposed to what we just wrote with regard to the time that people retire) no normal person rises at the end of the day or even at midday. Chazal have said furthermore that someone who recites the Sh'ma after three hours, has not lost (i.e. he may still do so), only he is no longer able to recite it with the B'rachos.

A reason for the Mitzvah G-d wanted to bestow upon His people the merit of accepting upon themselves His Kingdom and His oneness every day and night of their lives. Because seeing as he is human, he is easily enticed after the vanities of this world and drawn after its pleasures. He therefore requires a constant reminder of the Kingdom of Heaven to guard him against sinning. It is therefore an act of kindness on Hashem's part to grant us this merit, in commanding us to remember Him regularly, on these two occasions with great devotion; once in the day, to affect all that we do during the day (for remembering the Oneness of G-d and His Sovereignty in the morning, that His supervision and ability are absolute, who takes to heart that Hashem sees and keeps track of all that he does and counts his steps, that not a single word that he utters escapes His notice and from whom he cannot hide any of his thoughts, combined with the verbal admission of these facts, will guard a person for the entire day), and repeating the Sh'ma at night will likewise guard for the duration of the night. And precisely because the basis of the Mitzvah is as we just explained it, the Chachamim demand that the Mitzvah be performed with Kavanah (devotion); otherwise, they say. One has not fulfilled one's obligation. For nothing will serve to remind a person of anything unless he puts his mind to it. Hence the Gemara in B'rachos (13b) states that the first Pasuk of the Sh'ma requires Kavanah of the heart.

The Chachamim required prolonging the word 'Echad', as the Gemara says in B'rachos 'Whoever prolongs the word 'Echad' will have his days and years lengthened', and as the Gemara explains there, this pertains specifically to the 'Daled', though, as the Gemara points out, this should not be done at the expense of the 'Ches' (which one should not curtail). Furthermore, the Gemara explains that the duration of the extension of the 'Daled' should be as long as it takes to crown G-d (in one's mind) in Heaven and on earth, and in all four directions of the world. In other words, one should have in mind that Hashem's sovereignty extends over the entire universe, that nothing is hidden from Him, and that by His grace, all the above exists.

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