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

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Vol. 15   No. 46

This issue is sponsored
in honour of the occasion of the wedding of
Dovid Gavriel Groszmann
and Milcah Connors נ"י
שיזכו לבנות בית נאמן בישראל

Parshas Va'Eschanan

Don't Add, Don't Subtract
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

We can easily understand the prohibition of 'Lo Sosifu' (not to add to the Mitzvos), says the K'li Yakar, for without it, we might easily have assumed, based on the mantra 'Two Manah incorporates one' that no harm has been done if one does. For, whether one adds a detail to an existing Mitzvah (like Rashi explains) or whether one adds a new Mitzvah (like the G'ra), as long as one's Tefilin contain four Parshiyos, and as long as one fulfils all the Mitzvos, what difference does the addition make?

But why does the Torah see fit to issue the La'av of 'Lo Sigre'u' (not detracting from the Mitzvos). Why is not obvious that if one leaves out a section of a Mitzvah, the Mitzvah is incomplete and that if one negates an entire Mitzvah, one has not fulfilled the Mitzvos of the Torah?


The K'li Yakar reiterates what he has written elsewhere, that "Lo Sosifu" and "Lo Sigre'u" are not two La'avin at all, but one. To explain this, he cites the Gemara in B'rachos (29b) 'Do not become drunk and do not sin'. Why do Chazal need to tell us not to sin? Would anybody really believe that sinning is permitted? What the Gemara therefore means is that one should not get drunk in order not to sin. It is giving one piece of advice, and not two.

And it is the same in our case! When the Torah writes "Lo Sosifu" and "Lo Sigre'u", what it means to say is 'Do not add to the Mitzvos in order not to subtract from them'. As mentioned earlier, not to subtract from the Mitzvos does not require a specific warning. Only the danger exists that a person who feels free to add to the Mitzvos will be tempted to go one step further and subtract from them.

The Torah therefore warns us against adding to the Mitzvos, an indication that the Mitzvos are Divine and not to be tampered with (as we will explain later), but above all, to act as a deterrent against subtracting from them.


As we just explained, the K'li Yakar maintains that the Torah needs to insert "Lo Sosifu" in order to ensure "Lo Sigre'u". I would suggest the opposite. Let me explain how. The K'li Yakar himself began by positing that adding to the Mitzvos per se may not be such a terrible thing. But he himself, in the course of his brief explanation, cites the saying of Chazal 'Kol ha'Mosif Gorei'a' - when one adds to the Mitzvos, not only does one not gain anything; one has in fact, lost the Mitzvah. That being the case, someone who wears Tefilin comprising five Parshiyos is considered as if he had worn Tefilin comprising three, and he has not fulfilled the Mitzvah of Tefilin at all.

If so, we can now say that the Torah writes "Lo Sigre'u" to teach us the principle of 'Kol ha'Mosif Gorei'a'. And what the Torah is now saying is 'Do not add to the Mitzvos, because if you do, you will be subtracting, and you will not have fulfilled the Mitzvah at all! Whilst agreeing with the K'li Yakar that the stress is on 'Lo Sosif', we have reversed the priorities, in that the Torah inserts 'Lo Sigra' to clarify 'Lo Sosif', and not vice-versa.


Commenting on the same Pasuk, Rabeinu Bachye explains that our perfect Torah needs neither additions nor subtractions, and what's more 'Whoever adds, in fact subtracts!'

And he goes on to explain why it is that the decrees of Chazal are not considered additions. They come to safeguard, he says, citing Chazal, who have taught 'Go round the vineyard, we tell the Nazir! Do not enter it at any cost!' Indeed, the Torah itself writes "u'Shemartem es mishmarti" (And you shall safeguard My charge), which Chazal interpret to mean that the Chachamim should make a fence around the Torah by issuing decrees that prevent one from transgressing the Torah.


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Parshah Pearls

'Rav Loch'

" … And Hashem said to me 'Enough for you (rav loch), Do not speak to Me further about this matter' " (3:26).

'See how Rashi interprets "rav loch".

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. gives a number of other explanations …'At the rebellion of Korach, Moshe said to the B'nei Levi "Enough for you, B'nei Levi! (Korach 16:7)", so G-d now said to him "Enough for you!"

Alternatively, He told him that he had a Rav, Yehoshua, whose time had come to take over the leadership, so, in order not to encroach on his rights, he (Moshe) had to die.

And thirdly, the Medrash relates how G-d called the Livyasan 'an Eved' and after it pleaded with him, He made with it an everlasting covenant. Well, did G-d not likewise call him an Eved, and yet in response to his fervent prayers, he was told that he would die. Why did G-d not answer his prayers too, and make with him an everlasting covenant, just like He made with the Livyasan? And what's more, does the Torah not write that if the Eved declares that he loves his Master, he shall have his ear pierced and he shall serve Him forever. Then, in fulfillment of this Pasuk, why could he too, not live forever?? To which G-d replied that his request could not be accepted, on account of his Rebbe. Adam ha'Rishon, ('Rav lach'), whom Hashem had told that every man has to die.


Adding is Subtracting

"Do not add on to the thing that I am commanding you and do not subtract from it … " (4:2).

If you add, say Chazal, you subtract. Consequently, if someone puts Tzitzis on five corners of his garment, it is as if he had placed three, and he has not fulfilled the Mitzvah, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.

Bur that is only if he adds the extra one simultaneously with the Mitzvah. But someone who sits in the Succah on the eighth day in no way negates the Mitzvah that he already fulfilled, despite the fact that he has transgressed the La'av of 'Bal Tosif'.


Fleeing Eastwards

"Then Moshe designated three cities on the other side of the Yarden on the east" (4:41).

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. comments that it was to the east that all murderers fled. For so we find by Adam, who fled 'to the east of Gan-Eden', after bringing death upon the entire world; and so we find by Kayin, who 'dwelt in Nod on the east of Eden' after killing his brother Hevel.


The Rewards of Reciting the Sh'ma

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

When a Jew recites the Sh'ma, says the Rosh, which contains two hundred and forty-eight words, then Hakadosh Baruch Hu guards his two hundred and forty-eight limbs, as the Pasuk in Mishlei (4:4) states "Observe My Mitzvos and live!"

R. Shimon ben Chalafta compares this to two people, one of whom owned a vineyard in Yehudah but lived in the Galil, whilst the other owned a vineyard in the Galil but lived in Yehudah. Each year, when the harvesting season came round, each of them would travel to his vineyard to tend to his harvest, until one year, the two of them met. After talking it over, they agreed that it was futile to travel backwards and forwards, when it would be far cheaper and time-saving to them to remain where they were and for each one to look after his friend's vineyard.

In fact, says the Rosh, it is precisely for the above reason that we add the words "Keil Melech Ne'eman" to the Sh'ma (to complete the two hundred and forty-eight words and earn G-d's Divine protection). For when we look after G-d's interests, He looks after ours!


And so it is, he concludes, that, based on a Pasuk in Shir Hashirim, when Yisrael recite the Sh'ma in the Batei-K'nesses and the Batei-Medrash, even when they are in Galus, Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu sends angels to listen to them as they praise Him even among the nations.

This R. Yochanan compares to the servants whom the king sent to jail, and who continued to praise the king even whilst they were in prison. When the king sent people to find out what they were saying, imagine their surprise when they heard them singing the king's praises - in their prison cell, and saying that were it not for him (the King) they would no longer be alive. When they reported this back to the king, he decided that he can no longer leave them in jail.


We are the servants and G-d, the King. We sinned, so G-d sent us into exile; yet we continue to praise Him and to unify His Name each day by reciting the Sh'ma. And G-d, for His part, sends down angels to hear what we are saying and they come and hear us singing His praises, as the Pasuk writes in Shir Hashirim (8:11) " … Your friends pay attention, they listen to your voice".

And this in turn, creates the desire for G-d to take us out of Galus, bringing the Ge'ulah that much close.


Who is Allowed to Swear?

"You shall fear Hashem … and in His Name you may swear (6:17).

If you will be on the level of the three people whom Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu (or the Torah) called G-d-fearing, the Rosh explains, then, and only then, will you be permitted to swear. And who are those three people?

Avraham … "for now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man" (Vayeira 23:12).

Yosef … "I fear G-d" (Mikeitz 42:18).

Iyov … " … a straightforward and upright man, one who fears G-d" (1:8).

* * *


'And it was, when the time arrived for Ya'akov to be taken away from the world, he was afraid lest among his sons there was some who were Pasul, so he asked them whether they had any pervert thoughts in their hearts. But they all answered in unison "Sh'ma Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad".To which Ya'akov responded with "Baruch Shem K'vod Malchuso le'Olom Vo'ed" '(6:4).


'Moshe the prophet said to the people of Beis Yisrael "Follow the true worship of your fathers and love Hashem your G-d … " ' (6:5).


'And these words that I am commanding you today shall be written on the tablet of your hearts' (6:6).


' … you shall teach them to your sons, and you shall talk about them when you sit in your house and are in the process of getting married, and when you go on your way; at night-time close to your bed-time and in the morning shortly after you have got up' (6:7).


And you shall write them on your doorposts and fix them on the top third towards the inside on the threshold of your house and on your gate, on the right-hand side as you enter' (6:9).

* * *

(Adapted from Yirmiyah, chap. 42)
Part 2


At that stage, a delegation consisting of the leaders of the congregation, among them Yochanan ben Kore'ach, backed up by the entire congregation, came to see Yirmiyah, with an earnest request that he pray on behalf of the tiny remnant of those that formed the Yishuv of Eretz Yisrael, and that he ask G-d for guidance as to how to proceed. Yirmiyah, aware of their plans to move to Egypt, agreed, on the express condition that they accept his answer as final.

They replied, in no uncertain terms 'May G-d be a true witness that we accept your terms, and we accept in good faith His right to punish us should we fail to do so'. In short, they promised faithfully to act in accordance with the word of Hashem, as per Yirmiyah's instructions.


Ten days later, G-d appeared to Yirmiyah with His instructions. Without delay, the latter called for Yochanan ben Kore'ach and to all the members of the initial delegation, and told them in the Name of G-d that if they settled in the land where they currently were living (Eretz Yisrael), then He would build them up into a great nation, for He was with them in all their endeavours and relented on all the evil that He had brought on them up to this point. He assured them that they had nothing to fear from Nevuchadnetzar, from whose hand He would protect them. And what's more, He promised them, He would return the exiles from Bavel to re-join them.

If on the other hand, they insisted on fleeing to Egypt and settling there, against G-d's orders, on the assumption that there they would not see war, hear the trumpets of battle or suffer the pangs of hunger, then the very sword that they hoped to escape would catch up with them, there in the land of Egypt, and there they would be slain. In fact, each and every person who sought refuge in Egypt would die either by the sword, through famine or through pestilence. Not one would escape. In fact, just as G-d gave vent to His anger on the inhabitants of Yerushalayim at the time of the Churban, so too would He give vent to those who left the Land to go to Egypt. Once there, they would become an oath, a desolation, a curse and a disgrace, never to see Eretz Yisrael again.

Following a final caution not to go to Egypt, and to bear in mind that they had been forewarned, Yirmiyah admonished the people for first turning to him with a request to ask Hashem for guidance, and for faithfully promising to follow his instruction to the letter, but when it came to the crunch, they had not the least intention of keeping their word. The decision to flee to Egypt had been made, and, in accordance with the Divine warning that he had just passed on to them, they would die either by the sword, by famine or by pestilence.


Incredibly, Yochanan ben Kore'ach together with all his followers, turned round and accused Yirmiyah of lying. It was a fabrication of his close disciple Baruch ben Neriyah, they claimed. It was a plot on his part to deliver them into the hands of Nevuchadnetzar, who was bound to attack them, to avenge the assassination of Gedalyah. Some of the people, Baruch anticipated, would be killed by the Babylonians, and those that survived, would be taken captive to Bavel.

This is truly incredible, bearing in mind not only the Navi's righteousness, but the fact that every prophecy that he had ever made over the years (and there were many), had come true to the letter. And these prophesies came to a climax with the prediction that Tzidkiyahu ha'Melech would be captured and tortured and led blind to Bavel, and that the Beis-Hamikdash would be destroyed and the people taken captive to Bavel. The people had insisted all along that this would never happen, yet every detail occurred in accordance with Yirmiyah's prophecy They had been first-hand witnesses to all of this, yet they had the nerve to accuse the Navi of lying!


As Yirmiyah ha'Navi had foreseen, the people totally disobeyed the word of G-d. And so it was that Yochanan ben Kare'ach and the other senior officers took all the remnants of Yehudah, who had gathered to Mitzpah together with Gedalyah ben Achikam, men, women and children, including the daughters of Tzidkiyahu ha'Melech, the slaves and maidservants whom Nevuzraden had placed with them, as well as Yirmiyah ha'Navi together with his disciple Baruch ben Neriyah, and led them to Egypt. Sadly, this was the beginning of the last phase of the Churban, resulting in the annihilation of all those that survived the initial Churban, and in the snuffing out of the small by vibrant, remnant of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. For the prophesy of Yirmiyah came true, down to the last letter.

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