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

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Vol. 19   No. 43

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yochanan Yitchak ben Nachum z"l

Parshas Va'Eschanan
(Shabbos Nachamu)

Relying on One's Good Deeds.
Which Good Deeds?

"And I beseeched Hashem at that time, saying Let me cross over now and see the good land " (3:23 & 25).

Wherever the term 'Chanun' appears, Rashi explains, it is an expression of 'a free gift'. Tzadikim could well rely on their good deeds; yet they ask G-d for free gifts, based on the Pasuk "And I will grace those whom I wish to grace!"


But how can one even suggest that anyone could rely on his good deeds, even if he wanted to? asks the K'li Yakar. Since when does even a Tzadik have a store of good deeds that enable him to claim reward from G-d? As is well-known, all the Mitzvos that a person per-forms will not suffice to repay even a fraction of the goodness that G-d performs with him. As Chazal, com-menting on the Pasuk in Tehilim (116:12) "Moh Oshiv", explain - 'However much I (try to) repay Hashem, all His goodness is on me (my debt remains as it was, for the numerous acts of kindness that He has performed with me since the day I was born, ensure that the bal-ance remains intact!)'

Besides, whenever a person performs a Mitzvah, G-d has already pre-empted him by providing him the tools with which to perform it (Refer to Midei Shabbos Parshas Sh'lach - 'Mitzvos, Mitzvos, Mitzvos') . The author himself refers to this Chazal in Pasuk 24).

Indeed, the Gemara in B'rachos (10b) points out that, when Chizkiyahu ha'Melech (one of the greatest Tzadikim of all time) was praying for the deliverance of Yerushalayim, he implored G-d to remember how he had walked in His ways with integrity. G-d's response was "And I will shield over this city on the merits of My ser-vant David". Despite his numerous merits, he was shown in no uncertain terms, that, as Ya'akov Avinu said 'he was still unworthy of all the kindnesses that G-d had per-formed with him'.

Moreover, says the K'li Yakar, Moshe, who was being punished for his sin of striking the rock, was even less deserving than someone who simply had no merits. So the Pasuk that Rashi cites " and I will grace those whom I will grace" is not appropriate here either!


To answer these questions, the author goes on to ex-plain that when Chazal say that 'Tzadikim can rely on their good deeds', they are referring, not to the good deeds that the Tzadikim have already performed, but rather, to the good deeds that an extension of life will enable them to perform. Presumably, he explains, when a Tzadik asks for life, it is not personal pleasure that concerns him, but for the chance to perform more Mitz-vos and to learn more Torah. That is why the Gemara in Sotah (14.) writes 'Do you think that Moshe had in mind to eat the fruits of Eretz Yisrael? Of course not! What he wanted was to perform the many Mitzvos that one can only perform there'.

What Rashi is therefore saying is that Moshe could well have beseeched G-d, to allow him to enter the land in order to perform many good deeds there. And this perfectly legitimate request stood a good chance of be-ing accepted, in spite of his transgression, since what does G-d want of us other to than to fulfill His expecta-tions of us? And the fact that a person has sinned in the past is no reason to deprive him of fulfilling Mitzvos in the future.

Only Moshe, the 'Anav mi'kol odom' declined to do even that. After all, he figured, who's to guarantee that he would in fact, achieve his goal of performing more Mitzvos if he was allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael? So he preferred instead, to rely on G-d's Goodness to let him enter.


It seems to me however, that Rashi is indeed referring to the Mitzvos that the Tzadik has performed. And as for the K'li Yakar's Kashya, it is true that from our vantage point, the constant stream of kindnesses that G-d per-forms with him outstrips his good deeds. But for His part G-d, in his infinite kindness, focuses on our good deeds, and rewards us for what they are worth, turning a blind eye to His own kindnesses (as if they did not ex-ist). And that is what Rashi means when he says that Tzadikim could well rely on their good deeds.

Moshe could have Davened to Hashem S'tam, in the knowledge that Hashem would answer his prayers, based on his numerous merits (indeed, if not for the oath that accompanied the decree, He probably would have done so), only he chose not to (presumably because, in his deep humility, he considered them insufficient). It is essential however, that the Tzadik does not mention his merits when praying, but Davens S'tam, as we ex-plained; knowing that G-d will take his merits into ac-count. Indeed, that is inherent in the expression 'Tzadikim could well rely on their good deeds' that Rashi uses (as opposed to ' ask G-d to save them on account of their good deeds').

And it is because Chizkiyahu specifically mentioned his merits in his prayer, that he was taken to task and his prayers were answered on the merits of his great-grandfather David ha'Melech.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

A Day of Rest for the Slaves

" and the seventh day is Shabbos for Hashem your G-d; do not do any work, you, your sons or your slaves in order that your slaves should rest like you" (5:14).

The Torah is not saying that G-d gave us the Shabbos so that the slaves should be able to rest. What it is saying is that He commanded us not to work even via our slaves, so that the slaves should be able to rest too.

And why is it so important for the slaves to rest on Shabbos?


We were Once Slaves, Too

"And you shall remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt, and G-d took you out from there " (5:15).

Allowing our slaves not to work on Shabbos reminds us how G-d took us out of Egypt, to relieve us from slavery.

Moreover, the Pasuk continues "with a strong hand and an outstretched arm" - a reference to the open miracles that we witnessed prior to the exodus. And those miracles in turn, are proof that G-d created the world - since, as the Ramban explains in Parshas Bo, it is only the Creator of nature, who could possibly override its laws.

And it is above all, to remind us that G-d created the world, that He commanded us to keep the Shabbos.


Ve'Lo Sis'aveh

"Do not covet the wife of your friend, and do not desire your friend's house " (5:18).

R, Bachye gives two reasons to explain why the Torah sees fit to add the La'av of "Lo sis'aveh" here (which it omitted from the first Luchos): One, which is Kabalistic based, has to do with the fact that on the one hand, the Torah wanted to insert here five Mitzvos with the prefix 'Vav', corresponding to the second 'Hey' in Hashem's Name (which it also did not do in the first Luchos), whereas on the other, it could not insert it with the words "Lo Tirtzach" (something to do with the fact that it is Midas ha'Din, whereas the 'Vav' is a letter that denotes Rachamim). So it had to add the additional La'av "ve'Lo sis'aveh" (with the 'Vav') to make up for the omission.

The other reason for the insertion is because, whereas "Lo sachmod" refers to trying to obtain what somebody else has for money, "Lo sis'veh" refers to merely desiring what he has (without making any move to obtain it). This because, R. Bachye explains, merely wanting what somebody else has leads to attempting to obtain it.

* * *


"Beware lest you forget your G-d and make for yourselves a carved image (Pesel) . When (Ki) you bear children and have been a long time in the land " (4:23 & 25)

This hints, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, to the fact that a mere thirty years (the Gematriyah of the word "ki") after entering Eretz Yisrael, they would already begin serving idols - in the form of the image (Pesel) of Michah.


With reference to all the miracles that Yisrael had witnessed, the Torah writes "Like all that Hashem your G-d did for you in Egypt before your eyes," and it continues "It was demonstrated (hor'eiso) to you that you should know that Hashem is G-d (who rules the world), and there is none besides him!"

When G-d performed all the judgements against the Egyptians and their gods, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, that is when Yisrael got to know that He is Hashem. Based on the Ramban at the beginning of Vaeira, this means that, via the miracles that He performed in Egypt, He taught Yisrael that not only does He control nature, but He also rules over it - even to the point of breaking its laws - by performing supernatural miracles.


(Ibid.) The word "hor'eiso" also appears in T'rumah "asher hor'eiso bo'hor" with reference to the details of the Mishkan, which Moshe was shown on Har Sinai.

It was at Har Sinai, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, when G-d split the Heavens, that Yisrael saw first-hand, that among all the angels, He reigns supreme (and that none of the other celestial powers have any say in the running of the world).


"And it is because (ve'sachas) He loved your forefathers that He chose their children after them " (3:37).

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the word "ve'sachas" also appears in Mishpatim (24:10) "ve'sachas raglav (and under His feet)", with reference to the Throne of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu (also known as 'the Chariot').

This teaches us, he explains, that the Avos are synonymous with the Chariot - inasmuch as they uphold G-d's Glory in the world, even today, by virtue of the legacy that they left behind.

* * *

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