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

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Vol. 18   No. 46

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Parshas Va'Eschanan

Sh'ma Yisrael
The Centrality of the Avos

(Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

The following Ba'al ha'Turim demonstrates how both the Sh'ma and the Korban Tamid - two of the most important institutions in the Torah - are built around the Midos of the Avos, which goes to highlight the centrality of the Avos in our lives.

And his explanation is enhanced by the words of the Meshech Chochmah. Citing the Medrash, the Meshech Chochmah explains that all three Avos are referred to as 'Yisrael', in which case "Sh'ma Yisrael" represents all three Avos, who were the first to teach the world about G-d's Omnipotence.


Based on the juxtaposition of the Pasuk "Sh'ma Yisrael " to the Pasuk " like Hashem, the G-d of your fathers swore to you", the Ba'al ha'Turim presents the two opening P'sukim of the Sh'ma in the following light:

The three Names of Hashem in the Pasuk of "Sh'ma" represent the three Avos;

"Hashem" (Midas ha Chesed) represents Avraham (for so G-d said to him - "I am Hashem who took you out of Ur Kasdim ").

"Elokeinu" (Midas ha'Din) corresponds to Yitzchak (as G-d said to him "I am the G-d of Avraham your father).

"Hashem Echad" (Midas Rachamim) corresponds to Ya'akov, to whom G-d said "I am Hashem".


"ve'Ohavto" possesses the same letters as 'ho'ovos', who loved G-d

"be'Chol le'vov'cho" - like Avraham, about whom the Pasuk writes "And You found his heart faithful before You"

"u've'chol nafsh'cho" - like Yitzchak, who was moser nefesh (sacrificed his life) for G-d

"u'vechol me'odecho" (which Chazal explain to mean with all one's money) - like Ya'akov, who said, "And all that You give me I will give one tenth to You".


The Big 'Ayin' & the Big 'Daled'
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

To explain the big 'Ayin' in "Sh'ma' and the big 'Daled' in "Echad", the K'li Yakar initially cites the Medrash (cited in turn, by Tosfos in Chagigah, Daf 3b), which explains how G-d and Yisrael (in conjunction with Shabbos) testify on one another's uniqueness. And he backs this up with the Gemara in B'rachos (6a), which informs us that G-d wears Tefilin, and that, just as our Tefilin contain the Pasuk "Sh'ma Yisrael Hashem Echod!", so too, do His Tefilin contain the Pasuk "u'Mi ke'amcho Yisrael goy echad bo'oretz!"


Following that, the K'li Yakar presents a deeper explanation, connected to Moshe's request "Show me Your Glory!" The Medrash interprets this as a request to see the gamut of reward that is in store for the Tzadikim, both in this world and in the next, to which G-d replied " you will see My back, but my front will not be seen!" And it is in connection with this latter reply, which Chazal interpret with reference to the knot of G-d's Tefilin shel Rosh, that the author explains the big 'Ayin' and the big 'Daled'


Based on the fact that the knot at the back of the Tefilin shel Rosh is in the form of a 'Daled', and the remaining two knots in the front of the Tefilin (that spell out the Name Shakai) form a 'Shiyn' (on the shel Rosh) and a 'Yud' (on the shel Yad), he explains as follows:

Firstly, he points out, the 'Daled' representing the reward in this world (i.e. the four corners of the world - as G-d told Avraham " and you will spread out westwards, eastwards "); whereas the 'Shiyn' and the 'Yud' ('Yesh') represent the three hundred and ten worlds of the world to come (as explained in the last Mishnah in Uktzin). 'Yesh', he explains, also denotes infinite reality, as opposed to the reward in this world, which is finite. He also notes that the first letters of "Sh'ma Yisrael" are 'Shiyn' and 'Yud'.

And he adds that this idea fits nicely with the general concept that the connotation of 'back' is something that is secondary, whereas 'front' denotes something major and important.

Consequently, when G-d told Moshe that he would see His back, what He meant was that he would merit to see the reward of Tzadikim in this world (inherent in the 'Daled'). Indeed, G-d subsequently instructed Moshe to climb Har N'vo and to raise his eyes and look in all four directions.

But he would not be able to see G-d's front, their reward in the world to come (inherent in the 'Shiyn' and the 'Yud'), because this was something that "no eye other than that of G-d Himself has ever seen!" (Yeshayah 64:3).

And this is further hinted in the large 'Ayin' and 'Daled', he explains - which hints that the eye is only able to see the reward in this world, but not the reward in the world to come.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Riva)

Gods Don't Eat!

"And you will worship their man-made gods who neither see nor hear, eat or smell" (4:29).

Since when, asks the Riva, do deities eat or smell?

The Pasuk must therefore say this with reference to consuming the sacrifices of their adherents (as the Torah writes "And a fire went out from before Hashem and it consumed on the MIzbei'ach the burnt-offerings "), and to accepting them with goodwill (which the Torah often describes as "a pleasant smell to Hashem").

"In the same vein, it is easy to explain "who neither see nor hear" with regard to 'seeing' the needs of their adherents and 'hearing' (accepting) their prayers.

But how will the Riva explain the Pasuk in Hallel (that we often recite) "Their idols are made of silver and gold They have mouths but cannot speak hands but cannot feel, feet but cannot "?

What the Pasuk seems to be saying is that not only do they possess no supernatural powers, but they are inferior even to those who made them.

In that case, it is also possible to explain the current Pasuk in the same way.


A Reason to Sing
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

"Then (Oz) Moshe designated three towns on the east-bank of the Jordan River for someone who murdered; to flee there" (4:34).

The word "oz", says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. denotes 'song', as we find regarding the Song of the Yam-Suf (and the Song of the Well).

Because when the B'nei Yisrael (and Moshe) heard that "the land will not have atonement other than with the blood of the one who spilt it", they thought that this also refers to a case of manslaughter. But when Moshe informed them that someone who kills unintentionally, they breathed a sigh of relief, and Moshe sang Shirah.

As the old mantra goes 'He who has eaten a cooked dish knows its taste' - Who better than Moshe, knew what it was like to be a hunted fugitive for having killed a person?


Lengthening Your Days

"Honour Your Father and mother .. in order that they will lengthen your days: (lema'am ya'arichun yomecho)" 5:16.

In Ki Seitzei (22:7), in connection with the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Kein, the Torah writes "so that you will live long (ve'ha'archato yomim)".

Why asks the Riva, does the Torah use a different expression there than it uses here?

To answer the question, he points out that the word "ya'arichun" is 'Hif'il' (the causative form). In other words, that Pasuk here is not saying that if you honour your parents, you will live long but that if they respond to your actions by Davenning to Hashem, then they will cause you to live long.

On the other hand, long life for performing the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Kein is automatically assured.


How many 'Vavin' Mezuzos

"And you shall write them on the doorposts (Mezuzos) of your house" (6:9).

Rashi writes that due to the fact that the word "Mezuzos" is written without a 'Vav' between the 'Zayin' and the 'Tav', one only needs to affix a Mezuzah to one of the doorposts (to the right one, as Chazal learn from the word "beischo").

Our Sifrei Torah conform with Rashi's statement. The Riva however, queries it based on the 'Mesores', which does have a 'Vav' between the 'Zayin' and the 'Tav'.

And he explains that we do sometimes find that the Talmud disagrees with the Mesores.

According to the Mesores it seems, one is obligated to fix Mezuzos to both doorposts - unless there is an alternative source that confines the obligation to one side only.


Why Bother to Keep Mitzvos?
(Adapted from the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

"Not because you are more numerous than the other nations did G-d desire and choose you but because of His love for you and because he observes the oath that He made to your fathers " (7:7/8).

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. citing the Rashbam, explains the current Pesukim in conjunction with the first Pasuk in Eikev like this: If G-d's choice of us as a nation is based solely on the promise that He made to the Avos, then what incentive do we have to keep all the Mitzvos?

That is why the Torah (in Pasuk 9) continues "Therefore you should know that Hashem your G-d waits to fulfill the covenant and the kindness up to a thousand generations" (until He finds a worthy generation) "that love and fear Him".

The Pasuk continues (Pasuk 10-12) "But someone whom He hates He pays (for his good deeds) immediately in order to destroy him, He does not delay payment . Therefore you shall keep His Mitzvos and His statutes ,,, to do them today . And it will be, if you will listen and keep and observe them, then Hashem your G-d will keep and guard the covenant " (now; He will not wait for the thousand generations, because the first generation to merit its fulfillment will experience it).

* * *


" and Golan in Bashan" (the last of the cities of refuge for someone who murdered be'Shogeg) and this is the Torah " 4:42/43).

The juxtaposition of these two Pesukim, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, hints at the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (4:14) - which teaches us that someone who needs to move, should move to a town where there is Torah. In similar vein, the Mishnah at the end of Pirkei Avos tells how Rebbi Yossi ben Kisma declined an offer worth a veritable fortune, to move to a town where he would teach Torah, because he said, he would only live in a town where Torah already existed).


"Honor your father and mother, like Hashem your G-d commanded you (ka'asher tzivcho Hashem Elokecho) in order that they will lengthen your days and in order that He will do good to you" (5:16).

The Second Set of Ten Commandments, the Ba'al ha'Turim notes, contains seventeen letters (the Gematriyah of Tov [good]) more than the first. That explains why the Torah adds here "in order that He will do good to you" (which it does not add in the first).

The first letters of "ka'asher tzivcho Hashem Elokecho" add to the four hundred and forty-four - Moroh, which is where Yisrael received the Mitzvah of Kibud Av va'Eim.


" on the land that Hashem your G-d is giving to you Don't murder!' (5:16/17).

The juxtaposition of the two phrases reinforces what the Torah writes in Parshas Mas'ei (35:33) " the land will not have atonement other than with the blood of the one who spilt it".


"Don't murder and don't commit adultery! and don't steal! and don't give false testimony! and don't covet your fellow-Jew's wife!"

The Ba'al ha'Turim explains the sequence of these five commandments:

Murder is followed by adultery. The two merge when someone commits the grave sin that commits Yisrael to remain in Galus. Adultery is followed by stealing - based on the Pasuk in Mishlei "Stolen waters taste sweet".

False testimony follows theft, because someone who steals, causing himself to be sold as an Eved Ivri, denying the testimony that he himself cites each day, declaring that G-d is his master, and not man.

And after false testimony the Torah mentions coveting another man's wife - a warning not to testify that a certain man has died in order to marry his wife.

* * *

(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 230:
Not to Delay Paying an Employee

It is forbidden to delay paying the wages of an employee, as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:13) "Do not allow the wages of a worker to remain with you overnight until the morning". Chazal explain that this Pasuk is written in connection with a day-worker, whose time limit for getting paid the Torah fixes here as overnight. As far as a night-worker is concerned, the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:15) "On that day shall you pay him his wages before sunset". Indeed, the Mishnah writes in Bava Metzi'a 'A day-worker may claim all night, whereas a night-worker may claim all day'. Even though the Torah presents this Mitzvah through two Pesukim, nevertheless it is really only one Mitzvah, because the second Pasuk comes to complement the first one, and whatever comes to complement, is not considered an independent Mitzvah. In any event, the gist of the Mitzvah is to pay one's employees within the time limit set by the Torah.

A reason for the Mitzvah is based on the fact that G-d wants the continuity of the people that He created, and as is well-known, a person who does not receive his sustenance on time is doomed to destruction. Therefore He commanded us to pay our workers on time, since "his life depends on it", as the Pasuk testifies in Ki Seitzei (24:15). And it seems that the Torah gives the employer one day to pay his worker, because one does sometimes fast for a day (but not for longer). In fact, the Torah explicitly gives the reason for the Mitzvah, when it writes "his life depends on it". Granted, the Chachamim do interpret the Pasuk differently. Nevertheless, this is the simple explanation of the Pasuk.

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