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

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Vol. 17   No. 41

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Pesach ben Ephraim Shimon z"l

Parshas Va'Eschanan

The Four Directions
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

"Ascend to the top of the cliff, and raise your eyes westwards, northwards, southwards and eastwards, and see (the land) with your eyes".(3:27).

The Torah does not have a set order by which it presents the four directions, says R. Bachye. Sometimes it begins with the east (such as in Iyov 23:8/9) where it lists them as east, west, north and south - which is the most logical order, as the sun rises in the east, and the sequence, east to west and north to south, follows automatically.

Sometimes it begins with the west, such as when G-d promised Ya'akov that his descendants would spread, where it lists them as "west, east, north and south", and here, in this episode (west, north, south and east). And on other occasions, the Torah begins with the north, as G-d said to Avraham, when he instructed him to "raise his eyes to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west".


When, in connection with both Ya'akov and Moshe, G-d began with the west, this is presumably on account of the Shechinah, which was going down with Ya'akov to Egypt, where Galus Mitzrayim was about to begin. And here, this was in response to Moshe's request in the opening Pasuk of the Parshah, to the Shechinah to allow him to enter Eretz Yisrael.

And the reason that G-d referred to the south as "Teimanah", rather than 'negbah' (as He did when speaking to Ya'akov), is because each of the directions contains half the Name of G-d ("Yamah" - 'Yud' 'Hey'; "ve'Tzafonoh" - 'Vav' 'Hey';

"ve'Teimanah" - 'Yud' 'Hey'; "u'Mizrachah" - 'Vav' 'Hey'), corresponding in total to the two Names of G-d with which Moshe praised Him, when he referred to Him as "Keil, the God of all spirits of all flesh" (and the word for spirits is "Ruchos", which can also mean directions).


Each of the four directions, R. Bachye explains, has four names, and he proceeds to explain them. The common name by which they are known (connected with the sun's movement in the sky) is 'Mizrach, Ma'arav, Darom and Tzafon (called after the sun which rises in the east and sets in the west) and when the sun sets, all the shadows merge into one. 'Ma'arav' therefore, is a derivative of the word 'Le'areiv', to mix). It reaches its highest point at midday when it is in the south ('Darom' is the acronym of 'Dar rum' - it dwells on high) and is totally hidden from the north (Tzofun), where it never shines, which is connected to the fact that it is the most sparsely populated.

Besides this, the author explains, the east is also called 'Kedem & Panim', the west, 'Yam & Achor,' the south, 'Negev & Yemin' (which is equivalent to Teimanah)' and the north 'Tzafon & Estan', respectively.

The east, is also called 'Kedem' - because it is from there that the sun begins its cycle each day, and Panim, because Adam was created facing the east and his back to the west. And it is for the same reason that the south is called 'Yemin' (right), and the north 'S'mol' (left), since that is how these directions were placed when Adam was created facing the east. Alternatively, he adds, the south is called 'Yemin' (from the word "Manna" - preparation), because the sun is designated to the south most of the time, and the north 'S'mol' - from the word 'Suma', a blind person, since the it never sees the sun as we explained earlier.

Finally, the south is called 'Negev' (dry) precisely because, due to fact that the sun is found primarily in the south, the south is the land that is the driest and the most arid. The west is called 'Yam' because the western border of Eretz Yisrael is the Mediterranean Sea; whereas the north is called 'Estan' from the word 'Sisva', meaning winter, which one normally associates with cold and indeed the north is both the coldest of the directions, and it is the direction from which most of the rain comes, (in stark contrast to the dry south). Alternatively, .'Estan' is a derivative of 'Asusa' - a cure, since healing comes from the north (which explains why Chazal say that Yisrael did not perform the B'ris Milah in the desert because the north-wind did not blow).

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Moshe's Bones

" because you will not cross this Yarden" (3:27).

Even his bones remained on the far side of the Yarden, says R. Bachye - there where he was buried on Har N'vo, as Moshe himself writes later (See 4:22) "For I am going to die in this land, I am not going to cross the Yarden" (even after my death). And had he not known that with certainty, he would surely have instructed Elazar and Yehoshua to make sure that his remains were transported to Eretz Yisrael and buried there, just as Ya'akov and Yosef did before him.

It transpires, R. Bachye points out, that Ya'akov, the chosen of the Avos, merited that his body was buried in Eretz Yisrael, Yosef's body was not buried in Eretz Yisrael, but his bones were; And Moshe, the greatest of them all, merited neither - both his body and his bones remained in Chutz la'Aretz. This is for one of two reasons, he explains - either in deference to the B'nei Yisrael, whose fate he shared for so many years, and who died in the desert and who were buried there. Or in honour of all those who were subsequently destined to go into Galus and to die there. They might otherwise have worried that those who died in Chutz la'Aretz would not come to life at Techi'as ha'Meisim. But now that Moshe died and was buried in Chutz la'Aretz, nobody would harbour any doubts that Moshe would not be among those who merited Techi'as ha'Meisim, and if Moshe would come to life, then so would all the other exiles who were buried in Chutz la'Aretz. Or as the author puts it - they would all come to life on his merit, and they would therefore get up together with him.


Finding G-d

"And you will seek (u'vikashtem - plural) G-d from there and you will find Him (u'matzasa - singular)" 4:29.

Having written "u'vikashtem" (in the plural), the Torah ought really to have concluded 'u'metzasem' (in the plural) too, asks R. Bachye.

And the reason that the Torah uses the singular here, he explains, is to preclude from the notion that, when Yisrael are in Galus, it is only the community who are able to find G-d, due to the merits of communal prayer, as (based on a Pasuk in Iyov) Chazal explain in B'rachos (8a) 'G-d never rejects the Tefilos of a community'.

The Pasuk therefore comes to teach us that even an individual will get through to Him - even when in Galus, provided he Davens with sincerity. Indeed, the Pasuk clearly hints that someone who seeks will find!


Miracles & Wonders and More

"Or did any god ever try to take out one nation from another with challenges, with signs, with miracles and with war, with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, with great acts of awe " (4:34).

R. Bachye explains each of the above items listed in the Pasuk

"with challenges" - refers to when Moshe challenged Par'oh to challenge him ('When shall I pray for the frogs to stop?');

"with signs" - refers to the signs connected with the stick (when it turned into a snake );

"with miracles" - refers to the Ten Plagues;

"with war" - refers either to destruction of the Egyptians at the Yam-Suf' or to the slaying of the Egyptian firstborn and the destruction of their gods;

"with a Strong Hand" - refers to the Exodus, when Yisrael left Egypt in triumph;

"with an Outstretched Arm" - refers to the Pillars of Cloud and of Fire that joined Yisrael in the desert;

"with great acts of awe" - refers to the splitting of the Reed Sea for Yisrael, and the drowning of the Egyptians in it.


By the Name Ehekeh

"Like all that Hashem did for you (Lochem [plural]) in Egypt before your eyes (le'einecho [singular])" (Ibid.)

Perhaps the Torah switches from the plural to the singular, says R. Bachye, because it is the way of the Torah to do so (as the I'bn Ezra explains).

But he prefers to attribute the change to the fact that the Pasuk now begins with an 'Alef' ("O") and ends with a 'Chaf', whose Gematriyah is twenty-one - the same as that of G-d's Name Ehekeh. This is the name with which Moshe was sent to take Yisrael out of Egypt; it denotes Midas ha'Din that is contained in Midas ha'Rachamim, the Midos that were responsible for the 'Outstretched Arm' and the 'great acts of awe' (that we discussed in the previous Pearl).


Yetzi'as Mitzrayim & Matan Torah


The fact that the objective of the Exodus from Egypt was Matan Torah explains why the following Pesukim ("Atoh Hor'eiso lo'Da'as min ha'Shamayim hishmi'acho es Kolo ") refer to Matan Torah.

Based on the same connection, the current Pasuk, as well as the Aseres ha'Dibros, both contain all the letters of the 'Alef Beis'. Moreover, the Aseres ha'Dibros, like the current Pasuk, begins with an 'Alef' ("Onochi") and ends with a 'Chaf' ("le'rei'echo").


Zochor & Shomor

"Shomor es yom ha'Shabbos lekadsho" (5:12).

R. Bachye, citing the Gemara in B'rachos (20b), explains that whereas "Shamor" refers to the prohibition of performing Melachos on Shabbos, "Zachor", written in Parshas Yisro, refers to reciting Kidush and Havdalah (like the opinion of the Rambam) when Shabbos comes in and when it goes out.

As is well-known, the two were said simultaneously. The ramifications of this comparison are that, just as women are obligated to refrain from Melachos on Shabbos, so too are they obligated to recite Kidush and Havdalah min ha'Torah.


The Creation & Matan Torah


Kabbalistically speaking, says the author, "Shamor" refers to Midas ha'Din, and "Zachor" to Midas ha'Rachamim. Consequently, when Chazal say that "Shamor" and "Zachor" were said simultaneously, they mean that G-d is the Master in whom there is Mercy. What's more, he explains, it is befitting for the Torah to mention "Shamor" in Seifer Devarim, where Moshe constantly refers to "Hashem Elokecho" or "Hashem Elokechem" and "Zachor" elsewhere in the Torah, where the Name Hashem (denoting mercy, is constantly used.

The combined Name of "Hashem Elokim" is also used in the opening Pasuk of the Aseres ha'Dibros ("Onochi Hashem Elokecho") and it is also the Name with which G-d created the world (see Rashi at the end of the first Pasuk in Bereishis), bearing in mind that the purpose of the creation was Matan Torah.

Furthermore, the Torah in Bereishis (2:4) inserts the word "be'hibor'om", which Chazal Darshen to mean 'be'Hey bor'om' - to teach us that He created this world with a 'Hey'; and likewise, He gave the Torah with five 'Voices', as the Gemara explains in B'rachos (6b).

And the same corollary between the creation and Matan Torah exists in the six days of the creation, corresponding to which, the Torah was given on the sixth of Sivan (see also Rashi, Bereishis 2:1).

Finally, says R. Bachye, the word "Elokim" appears thrity-two times in the course of the creation (see footnote).

Correspondingly, the Torah begins with a 'Beis ("Bereishis") and ends with a 'Lamed' ("Yisrael") - to teach us that the One who created the world is the One who gave us the Torah.

* * *


"It will be a merit for us for the World to Come, when we are careful to perform all these Mitzvos " (6:25).


"When their daughters lead your sons astray after their idol-worship (7:4).


"It is not because you are the proudest of all the nations that G-d wanted you, but rather because you are the most lowly in spirit and humble of them all" (7:7).


"And you should know that Hashem your G-d is a Powerful Judge " (7:9).



"An image of any picture (kol temunah)" (5:8).

On the first Luchos, comments R. Bachye, the Torah writes "ve'chol temunah" (with an extra 'Vav').

This corresponds, to the six forbidden images listed in Va'eschanan "The image of a man or a woman, the image of any animal, the image of any bird, the image of all kinds of vermin and the image of all species of fish.


"Do not swear by the Name of G-d Observe the day of Shabbos" (5:12).

The Torah juxtaposes these Mitzvos next to one another, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, because with regard to both the Torah uses an expression of 'Chilul' (desecration) - "ve'Lo sichav'u vi'Shemi la'sheker vechilalto" and "Mechalelehah mos yumas".


"Honour your father and your mother" (5:16)

And it also juxtaposes the Mitzvah of Shabbos and honouring one's father and mother, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, since it is a Mitzvah to honour them both; one honours Shabbos with extra food and nice clothes.


" Do not testify falsely against your friend Do not covet your friend's wife, and do not desire his house or his field " (5:17/18).

This hints that one should not testify falsely that a man died, in order to marry his wife.

And the Torah adds "his field" (which it omitted in the Aseres ha'Dibros in Yisro), because whereas there they were in the desert and did not own fields, here they were in the Plains of Mo'av and were poised to enter Eretz Yisrael.


"You draw near and listen to all that Hashem will say to you, and you (At - in the feminine) will convey to us " (5:24). The Torah uses the feminine form here, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, because K'lal Yisrael were asking of Moshe to speak to them softly (like a woman), because they could not take G-d's powerful voice any longer.

(See also Rashi).

Moreover, he observes, the Gematriyah of "ve'at tedaber" is the equivalent to that of 'Shemonah Dibros', corresponding to the eight commandments that they heard from Moshe, as the first two ("Anochi" and "Lo ih'yeh l'cho") they heard from G-d directly.

* * *

Yirmiyahu ha'Navi (cont.)
(Adapted from Otzar Ishei ha'T'nach)

Based on Pesukim in Yirmiyahu, Nevuchadnetzar issued Nevuzraden three commands in connection with Yirmiyahu: 1. 'Take him with you!' 2. 'Keep your eye on him (to see to all his needs), but not on his people!' 3. 'Don't do him any harm, but do with his people as you please!'

On the way down to Bavel, Yirmiyahu saw a group of youths in prisoners' collars, so he placed his head beside their's; But Nevuzraden came and took him away, and the same happened when he joined a group of old men in chains (Pesichta, Medrash Eichah).

This is the wording of a letter that Yirmiyahu sent to the elders of the exiles in Bavel 'In the event that the nations in whose midst you dwell invite you to worship their gods, this is what you shall say to them 'The gods that you worship are useless; they are unable to bring down rain from the heaven, nor are they able to make fruit grow from the ground. They together with those who worship them will be destroyed from under these heavens. And so you shall say to them 'We worship the G-d who made Heaven and earth; with His Strength He established the world, and with His Wisdom and Understanding He suspended the Heaven " (Targum Yonasan Yirmiyah 10:11/12).

* * *

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