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

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Vol. 16   No. 41

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Shmuel Dov ben BenZion z"l
whose Yohrzeit is 10 Av
by the Myers family

Parshas Va'eschanan
(Shabbos Nachamu)

Sh'ma Yisrael
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Rokei'ach, commenting on the three Names of G-d mentioned in the first Pasuk ("Hashem Elokeinu and Hashem"), explains that the first "Hashem" pertains to the time prior to the creation of the world, "Elokeinu", to the time that the world exists, and the second "Hashem", to the era that follows the termination of the world (Olam ha'Ba). And the Pasuk concludes with the word "Echad", to teach us that G-d is One in all the worlds - He has not changed from the era before the Creation and He will not change during the era that follows the termination.


It is because when a person speaks, sometimes he thinks about what he says, and sometimes he doesn't, that the Torah uses the word "Sh'ma", which includes hearing with the ear and understanding with the heart. This teaches us that when reciting the 'Sh'ma', one should take pains to recite it carefully with one's lips and to understand it to the best of his ability with one's heart. And because it is impossible to know whether the 'heart and the lips of the person reciting the Sh'ma are of one accord', the 'Ayin' of "Sh'ma" and the 'Daled' of "Echad" are large, a reminder that if nobody else knows what is in his heart, G-d does!

That is why it is so important to clear one's mind of all distractions and to muster one's total Kavanah when declaring G-d's Oneness (whilst reciting the first two Pesukim of the Sh'ma). As the Gemara in B'rachos (34a) says in virtual disbelief (with regard to someone who recites the Sh'ma without Kavanah) 'One strikes him with a blacksmith's hammer until he learns to say it with Kavanah!'


One should also know, the author continues, that Gan Eden with all its levels was created specifically for those who Unify G-d's Name with Kavanah, for whoever believes in G-d's Unity denies Avodah-Zarah . Correspondingly therefore, Gehinom and its seven levels was created exclusively for those who believe in Avodah-Zarah.

And this explains why both the word "Gan" and that of "Eish" appears thirteen times in the Parshah of Bereishis to teach us that a person who says "Echad" (Gematriyah thirteen) with Kavanah is saved from the fire of Gehinom and merits the levels of Gan Eden, of which there are thirteen, as hinted in the Gemara in Kesubos. The Gemara there (77b) relates how R. Yehoshua ben Levi came upon R. Shimon in Gan Eden sitting on thirteen golden thrones (representing the thirteen levels of Gan Eden).


R. Bachye citing the Medrash, ascribes the juxtaposition of the Pasuk of "Sh'ma" to the Ten Commandments to the fact that the Mitzvah of "Anochi" is synonymous with the unification of G-d's Name (i.e. Emunah).

(The footnote explains that this is the opinion of the Ramban. According to the Rambam however, "Sh'ma" is synonymous with "Onochi", and "Hashem Echad" with "Lo Yih'yeh l'cho". And this in turn, conforms with our text in the Yerushalmi in B'rachos. He does add however, that R. Bachye himself, in 'Kad ha'Kemach' has a different text in the Yersushalmi which conforms with the Ramban).


And it is because "Sh'ma" expresses the unification of G-d's Name that Moshe Rabeinu uses it a number of times throughout Seifer Devarim (see for example [9:1, 20:3 & 27:9]).

Commenting on the Pasuk of "Anochi", R. Nasan exclaimed 'From here there is an answer to those heretics who maintain that there are two gods. For, when Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu stood at Har Sinai and announced "I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt", who stood up to protest?'


To further stress the importance and the uniqueness of the Sh'ma, R. Bachye cites a Medrash which, quoting Moshe Rabeinu, says 'When you stood at Sinai, you declared 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma!' But then you served the Eigel and destroyed the 'Na'aseh'. Now that you have destroyed the 'Na'aseh', make sure that you retain the 'Nishma' - Say 'Sh'ma Yisrael !' .

And the Medrash compares it to a king who betrothed an aristocratic woman with two precious jewels. After she lost one of them, he said to her 'Take care to look after the other one, that it should not get lost!'

So you see how the Medrash considers the Mitzvah of reciting the 'Sh'ma' as the embodiment of the 'Nishma' that remained after Yisrael had broken the 'Na'aseh'.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Children of the Avos

"And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose his offspring " (4:37).

See Ba'al ha'Turim.

R. Bachye asks why the Pasuk switches from the plural ("your fathers") to the singular ("his offspring")?

Had the Torah written 'their offspring, he explains, it would have included Yishma'el and Eisav, the children of Avraham and Yitzchak. So it wrote "his offspring", with reference to Ya'akov, the last (and greatest) of the Avos.

And it is because the Torah writes in Eikev (with reference to the Avos) "and He chose their offspring" (using the plural term, which, by the same token, might be construed to include Yishmael and Eisav), that it found it necessary to add the word "bochem" (in you) - in order to restrict the statement to Yisrael.


On the Merit of the Avos

"And He took you out before Him (be'fonov) with His great strength (be'chocho ha'godol) from Egypt" (Ibid).

"be'fonov" hints at Ya'akov, says R. Bachye - as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (24:6) "Those who seek your face Ya'akov forever", "be'chocho" at Yitzchak - whose Midah was 'might'; whereas "godol" hints at Avraham - whose Midah is often described as 'godol' (which in turn, hints at the attribute of Chesed, which it often accompanies).

And the Torah begins with Ya'akov, the author explains, because as the 'third thread', he was the greatest of the Avos (as well as for Kabalistic reasons). Indeed, we also find Ya'akov mentioned first in the Pasuk in Bechukosai "And I will remember My covenant with Ya'akov " (26:42).

In any event, we see that Yisrael left Egypt on the merit of the three Avos.


Tradition v Knowledge

"And you shall know today and take to heart, that Hashem He is G-d in the Heaven above " (5:39).

This incorporates two Mitzvos; One, to know about G-d through tradition; the other, which is the one that the author is discussing at this point, is to get to know Him through one's own understanding. It is not enough to know G-d by means of what one has been taught; one also needs to work out with his own Seichel as to who He is by drawing from one's own source of knowledge and by reflecting about what one sees and hears, says R. Bachye. And he cites the example of Eliyahu ha'Navi, who, when at first a fierce wind passed in front of him, then an earthquake and then fire, he worked out with his own understanding that G-d was 'not in the wind, not in the earthquake and not in the fire', and concluded that He was in fact, in the faint, quiet Voice that followed them.

(We hope to write more about this point in Parshas Re'ei).


Hashem is Our G-d

"Listen Yisrael, Hashem is our G-d " (6:4).

Throughout Seifer Devarim, R. Bachye observes, Moshe refers to G-d as "Hashem Elokecho" (in the second person singular). And the reason that he switches here to the first person plural ("Hashem Elokeinu"), he explains, is in order to include himself in this fundamental Mitzvah of 'Kabalas Ol Malchus Shamayim'.

Targum Yonasan however, attributes the change to the fact that this Pasuk was originally said by the sons of Ya'akov, who said it in unison when Ya'akov voiced a suspicion that they were guilty of Avodah-Zarah. And they of course, said "Hashem Elokeinu".


Why the Rasha Survives

"And He repays His enemies in their lifetime to make them perish" (9:10).

Unklus explains the Pasuk to mean that G-d rewards the Resha'im for the few good deeds that they performed in this world, in order to punish them in the world to come for the numerous evil that they perpetrated during their lifetime.

Because they fall under the category of Resha'im, R. Bachye explains, G-d rewards their bodies (which are less significant), in this temporary world, to ensure that they receive their just deserts with their Souls (which are more significant) in the everlasting world to come.

In fact, he points out, David ha'Melech taught us this very same lesson, when he wrote in Tehilim (92:7) "When the Resha'im flourish like grass, and all the doers of sin sprout forth, it is to destroy them forever and ever". And he compares them to grass and shoots, he explains, to stress that although they survive and even flourish, their successes are only short-term, and that like grass, they will soon whither and die.

As for the Tzadikim, he concludes, it is the exact opposite. G-d cleanses them by punishing them for their few sins in this world, to ensure that they arrive in the world to come totally purified, ready to receive their full reward for their many good deeds.


Citing the Medrash, the author gives three additional reasons as to why G-d allows Resha'im to survive: 1. To give them a chance to do Teshuvah; 2. Because they did a Mitzvah for which they deserve to be rewarded in this world; 3. Because Tzadikim are destined to come out from them (sometimes many generations later). For so we find with the wicked King Achaz, whom G-d allowed to live, because he would give birth to the righteous Chizkiyahu ... Omon, who would father the great Ba'al-Teshuvah king, Yoshiyahu ha'Melech; and Shim'i ben Geira (whom David refused to punish for cursing him), because Mordechai was destined to descend from him.


A Time to Do

"And you shall observe the Mitzvos which I command you today to do them" (7:11).

Commenting on the word "today", the Gemara in Eruvin (22a) explains "Today" to do them, but not "today" to receive the reward'; "Today" to do them and not tomorrow to do them'.

R. Bachye explains that G-d created two worlds, this world and the world to come. He created this world for the performance of Mitzvos, and not for the reward, and the world to come for the reward and not to perform the Mitzvos.

And that is what Sh'lomoh Hamelech hinted at when he wrote in Koheles (9:10) "For there are no deeds nor reckoning not knowledge not wisdom in the grave where you are going". In other words, if after death, a person wants to do a Mitzvah or to complete something that he did not manage to complete here, or to busy himself with any mundane matter that he left unfinished, he will not be able to do so, for 'on that day his plans all perish '.

That being the case one should make sure to do all the good that one possibly can in this world, whilst one still has the means to accomplish it. And that is what the same Pasuk in Koheles means when it begins with the words "Whatever you have the strength to achieve, do it", before the time arrives that the ability to perform it is taken away from you.

It is as the Gemara Darshens in Avodah-Zarah 3a, 'Whoever prepares on Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos. What will he eat on Shabbos if he did not'. Or as the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (4:21) puts it 'This world is like an anteroom before the world to come. Prepare yourself in the anteroom so that you will be able to enter the reception-hall'.

* * *


'But G-d said to me "rav loch " (3:26).

See Rashi.

Here are some of the Ba'al ha'Turim's many explanations on these words.

1. "Rav loch" - 'Many times you quarreled with Me. When you said

'Send whoever you want to send!' 'Why did you do bad to this people?' 'Even if sheep and cattle will be Shechted for them would it suffice?' And you struck the rock.

I cannot bear you any more!'

2. 'Even the smallest thing that you do wrong is a lot as far as you are concerned, because of your great wisdom'.

3. 'With this it will become known that you have a master over you - and that Master is I. Many times you overrode Me; but not this time!'

4. 'Perhaps you have a master over you to annul your vows, But I do not have a master to annul mine! And I have sworn that you will not bring the people into their land'.

5. 'The time has arrived for your master to take over, since Yehoshua's time has come, and his leadership will not be noticed as long as you are alive'.


In the Pasuk "ve'lo sigre'u mimenu lishmor es Mitzvos Hashem" (and do not subtract from the Mitzvos of Hashem), the last letters of the words "ve'lO sigre'U mimenU lishmoR eS" add up to 'Taryag'. This conforms with the explanation of the G'ra, who explains that the Pasuk is speaking about adding to and subtracting from the Taryag Mitzvos. According to Rashi, it refers to adding and subtracting to or from individual Mitzvos.


"And because He loved your fathers" (ve'Sachas asher ohav es avosecho) 4:37.

The same word ("ve'sachas") appears in Mishpatim (24:10 [in connection with G-d's Throne at Matan Torah]) "ve'sachas raglov ke'ma'aseh livnas ha'sapir".

This confirms what Chazal say, says the Ba'al ha'Turim - 'that the Avos are G-d's Chariot (i.e. they are the ones who support His Throne).

* * *

(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 421:
Donning the Tefilin Shel Yad (cont.)

When removing the Tefilin one removes first the Teflin shel Rosh The Chachamim say that the time to don Tefilin is by day, (i.e. from the time that a person is able to recognize his friend in the early morning) up until sunset, as the Torah writes in Parshas Bo (13:10) "And you shall observe this law in its time, from day to day" - and "chukah" refers to the Mitzvah of Tefilin. Shabbos and Yom-Tov (incorporating Chol ha'Mo'ed), are not included in the times that one wears Tefilin. This is because the Torah writes in connection with the Tefilin shel Yad "and it shall be a sign" , and Shabbos and Yom-Tov are themselves signs and do not require another sign The Gemara says in Shabbos (49a) that Tefilin require a clean body, which the Gemara explains to mean that one is not permitted to emit a smell whilst one is wearing Tefilin. It does not mean that one's body should be clean from Tum'ah or from sin, since everybody is Chayav to keep the Mitzvah of Tefilin, even a sinner and someone who is Tamei, provided he knows how to retain a clean body whilst he is wearing them. And besides, perhaps through constantly observing the Mitzvah of Tefilin, which constitute an efficient reminder to serve one's Creator, the sinner will repent from his sins and purify himself from all his idol-worship And the Chachamim obligated us to educate even young boys to perform this Mitzvah, provided they have reached the age where they know how to keep their bodies clean whilst wearing them. And from this, one must understand how particular they were that every Jew should steadfastly observe this Mitzvah, for it is a major Mitzvah which has the power to keep a person from sinning. It is a firm ladder via which one gains access to the service of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu. There are those who are stringent regarding the sanctity of the Tefilin, and who, as a result, convince others not to wear them. Maybe they may mean well; All they achieve however, is to prevent them from observing many Mitzvos , rendering them guilty of perpetrating great evil. Granted, they rely on the Yerushalmi, which tells the story of Shimon who denied having received a silver goblet from Reuven to look after, and even swore to that effect. At which Reuven remarked that it was not Shimon whom he had trusted, but the Tefilin that he wore on his head - a hint at the Chilul Hashem that someone causes when he performs some Mitzvos meticulously and transgresses others. But this is not the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch. He acknowledges that there is no Tzadik who does not sin, yet he maintains that one should not hold a person back from performing a Mitzvah when he is imbued with the Spirit of G-dliness; for who can say that he will not continue along that path until the day he dies (and death comes suddenly), seeing as Chazal have taught us in Pirkei Avos (4:2) that 'One Mitzvah leads to another'.

* * *

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