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

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Vol. 15   No. 53

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmos

Parshas Vayeilech
Shabbos Shuvah

The Ambiguous Word

"Hin'cho shochev im avosecho ve'kom ha'om hazeh ve'zanah acharei neichar ho'oretz" (31:16).

The Gemara in Yuma (52b) cites five cases of words whose juxtaposition between two phrases renders them ambiguous. One of these is the word "ve'kom" in the above Pasuk. The Gemara is not sure whether to translate it as "Behold you will lie with your fathers and arise ", or "Behold you will lie with your fathers, and this people will arise and go astray after other gods".

According to the first explanation, the Pasuk is a direct hint at Techi'as ha'Meisim (the revival of the dead). The problem with this explanation however, is how to translate the second phrase in the Pasuk, since the words "this people and will go astray after other gods" without "ve'kam" is meaningless, as the Ib'n Ezra points out.

The Torah Temimah tries to answer this question by interpreting the first explanation as if the word "ve'kom" was written twice, in which case it is taking the second explanation for granted, and merely incorporates the first explanation too. And he cites a number of examples where Chazal do indeed interpret Pesukim in this way. One of these is the Pasuk in Behar "es kasp'cho lo siten lo be'neshech u've'marbis lo siten ochlecho", which the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (61a) translates as 'your money you shall not give to him as neshech and tarbis, and for neshech and tarbis (two different kinds of interest) you shall not give your food'.


The Torah Temimah himself however, comments that this explanation appears unacceptable, in light of another Gemara in Sanhedrin (90b).

The Gemara there cites the Romans, who asked R. Yehoshua ben Chananya two questions; 1. A source for Techi'as ha'Meisim, and 2. from where we know that G-d knows the future.

Both questions, he answered, are contained in the above Pasuk, which hints a. that Moshe will arise at Techi'as ha'Meisim, and b. that G-d knew what Yisrael would do many years later.

When the Romans queried his first proof, in that the simple explanation of the Pasuk is that "ve'kom" pertains to the latter half of the Pasuk, as we explained above, he replied that at least their second question is answered.

Evidently, the Gemara does not accept the possibility of the duality of "ve'kom". If it did, why did R. Yehoshua not refute their final question by applying it?

One could possibly answer that, to the contrary, the fact that R. Yehoshua initially answered their two queries by quoting this Pasuk proves that he did in fact, accept the duality of "ve'kom"; and it is only because he knew that the Romans would not accept it that he declined to point it out to them (an approach that is often employed in the world of Aggadah).


Be that as it may, Tosfos in Yuma also suggests that perhaps one could interpret both ways, as we explained above. But (as the Torah Temimah himself states) they reject the suggestion, on the grounds that the word "kom" has a different meaning in each of the two possible interpretations, rendering them non-compatible. Chazal are therefore forced to choose between one and the other.


Techi'as ha'Meisim

The Rosh cites the following Medrashim, all connected with Techi'as ha'Meisim, based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin.

A Miyn (a heretic) asked R. Meir whether, according to our tradition, when the dead will be resurrected, will they arise clothed or naked? To which the latter replied that if a wheat kernel, which is buried 'naked', grows with layers of clothing, how much more so Tzadikim, who are buried with their clothes, will come up with their clothes.


And when the Emperor asked Raban Gamliel how it is possible for dust to come to life, it was his own daughter who requested permission to reply. 'There are two potters living in our town', she said, 'one of them manufactures pots out of dust, the other, out of water. Which do you think is the greater expert?'

'What a question!', answered her father. 'It is obviously the latter!'

'But father,' she pointed out to him, 'you have just answered your own question. If G-d was able to create the world out of water, then He can surely create a person out of dust!'

de'Bei R. Yishmael maintains that one can learn Techi'as ha'Meisim from the creation of glass, which is created out of wind. Because if G-d created glass out of wind, He can certainly (re)create man with His own Breath!


A certain Miyn asked Gevihah ben Pesisa (a well-known hunchback) that if all living things are destined to die, how can the dead possibly come to life?

'Woe to you guilty ones (believers in evolution),' he replied! 'Now that those who had not previously existed came into existence (by the word of G-d); How much more so those who had!'

'How dare you call me 'a guilty one!', the Miyn retorted. 'I will give you such a kick that your hunchback will become straight!'

'If you do that', Gevihah ben Pesisa exclaimed, 'you will truly have proved yourself to be a master physician, and I will pay you handsomely!'

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh)

More about Techi'as ha'Meisim

"Behold you will lie with your fathers and get up" (31:16).

Rebbi Ami told that Miyn who was skeptical about Techi'as ha'Meisim (i.e. people being formed from dust) to go down to the valley and see a mouse that is half dust and half flesh (in the process of being formed), and just in case he assumed that this was part of a long evolutionary process, he could ascend the mountain where the Chilazon is found, where he would find that, whereas before it rains there is not a single Chilazon to be found, after it has rained, the entire mountainside is teeming with them.


G-d Cannot Bear to Watch

" and I will forsake them and hide My Face from them " (31:17).

Presumably in answer to the question raised by the commentaries, that seeing as they have just acknowledged that Hashem has punished them by removing His presence from their midst (a form of Teshuvah) why does Hashem respond by hiding His Face from them? The Rosh explains that this is not a punishment. It is manifestation of Hashem's sympathy; He hides His Face because He cannot bear to see their suffering.


Alternatively, one might explains that since, instead of turning inwards and blaming their sinful behaviour for their woes, they place the blame on Hashem. So Hashem responds by justifying their complaint, as it were, and removing His Shechinah from them.

See Targum Yonasan.


Conflicting Punishments

"And many terrible conflicting evils will befall them" (Ibid.)

The Rosh cites the Gemara in Chagigah (5a) which, to explain the word "conflicting", gives the following example. The antidote to a hornet-sting is cold water; whereas the antidote to the sting of a scorpion is hot water. The other way round, says the Gemara, is dangerous. What G-d is therefore saying here is that He will cause them to be both stung by a hornet and bitten by a scorpion at one and the same time, leaving them in an insoluble quandary as to what to do. He will be afraid to bathe in hot water because of the hornet-sting, and in cold water because of the scorpion-sting.

Likewise, in Galus, when a gentile starts up with us, we do not know whether to cry out for help, which only increases his hatred, or whether to remain silent, which merely encourages him to increase the pressure, unmolested.


Believe it Or Not

"And he commanded the Levi'im saying ... Take this Seifer-Torah and place it beside the Aron " (31:25/26).

This command was issued on the seventh of Adar, the day on which Moshe died. On that day he wrote thirteen Sifrei-Torah, one for each of the twelve tribes, each of whom he rebuked and warned about keeping Torah and Mitzvos (men independently and women independently), before handing it to them; and one which he placed beside the Aron, as the above Pasuk teaches us.


Others however, maintain that the Angel Gavriel came down, took the thirteenth Seifer-Torah from the hand of Moshe, and returned with it to the Beis-Din ha'Gadol in Heaven, in order to inform the Celestial family of Moshe's righteousness, as the Pasuk says in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah "He performed the righteousness of G-d ". Moreover, the Souls of the Tzadikim read in it every Monday and Thursday, and on Shabbos, Yom-Tov and Rosh Chodesh.


Where was the Thirteenth Seifer-Torah Placed

" and place it beside the Aron " Ibid.

Whether the Seifer-Torah was actually placed inside the Aron or on the side or on a ledge attached to the side of the Aron is subject to a dispute between R. Meir and R. Yehudah in Bava Basra (14a), depending on whether an Amah comprises five Tefachim (R. Yehudah), or six (R. Meir), as cited in full detail in the Ramban.

* * *


" Moshe went to the Beis-Hamedrash, and he spoke all these words with all B'nei Yisrael' (31:1).


'And the Word of Hashem will deliver them before you and you shall destroy them ' (31:5).


'In connection with three Tzadikim, the Torah mentions 'approaching' in connection with their death, because they did not reach the age of their respective fathers; Ya'akov Avinu, David Hamelech and Moshe ha'Navi, each of whom was appointed a leader in his time, for so it is written "And your day of death is approaching ' (31:14).


'And G-d said to Moshe "Behold you will lie in the dust with your fathers, and your Soul will be concealed for life in the World to Come with your fathers, and the wicked ones of this people will arise and will go astray after the idols of these nations " ' (31:16).


'My anger will burn against them on that day, and I will distance Myself from them and remove My Shechinah from them and they will say with an oath that it because the Shechinah of My G-d is not in my midst that all these troubles have befallen me' (31:17).


'And I will remove My Shechinah from them at that time until they rot, and until they duly receive the retribution for their sins' (31:18).


'And now, write for you this praise and teach it to B'nei Yisrael ' (31:19).


'And it came to pass when Moshe finished writing the words of this Torah on parchment ' (31:24).


'Take this Seifer Torah and place it in a box on the right-hand side of the Aron of the covenant of Hashem ' (31:26).

* * *

(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

The B'rachos

The Mateh Efrayim rules that if someone says S'lichos before Amud ha'Shachar, he must wash 'Neigel-Vasser' (with the B'rachah 'al Netilas Yadayim') and recite Birchas ha'Torah. Then after the conclusion of S'lichos, he needs to wash again (without a B'rachah this time, to accommodate the opinion of those that it is night-time that causes the hands to become Tamei).


The Thirteen Midos

The reason for the prohibition of reciting the Thirteen Midos on one's own, says the Eishel Avraham, is because of the Medrash, which describes how G-d put on a Talis like a Shali'ach Tzibur and taught Moshe the Thirteen Midos.


Wearing a Talis

And that also explains as to why the Shali'ach Tzibur wears a Talis, even at night-time, even though night-time is not the time to wear Tzitzis. (Bear in mind that the Arizal strongly opposes this Minhag.)

We also learn from the above Medrash, says the Magein Avraham, that a Shali'ach-Tzibur should wear a Talis, and the Lechem Chamudos adds that so should someone who recites Kadish Yasom, due to Kavod ha'Tzibur.

The Taz explain that the Minhag to wear a borrowed Talis for S'lichos is in order to avoid having to recite a B'rachah over the Talis at night-time, and according to the Rosh, a day garment worn at night requires a B'rachah. As a matter of fact, even those who maintain that a borrowed Talis requires a B'rachah, that is only if one borrowed it in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, but not in this case.

* * *

(Based on the explanation of Rabeinu Bachye)

All of these Midos, Rabeinu Bachye explains, are really contained in the two Midos of Chesed and Emes. On the one hand he explains, a king needs to lead his servants and his subjects with 'kindness', to have mercy on them and, when necessary, to go beyond the letter of the law; whilst on the other, he must dispense justice, which sometimes demands that he carries out Din strictly according to the letter of the law, as Shlomoh writes in Mishlei "Kindness and truth protect a king ". Anyone who understands the thirteen Midos with their explanations and who recites them with Kavanah, will never be turned away empty-handed, unless that is, he is guilty of having performed sins that prevent it.

Nowadays, he adds, when we are in Galus, and when there is no Kohen Gadol to atone for our sins, no Mizbei'ach on which to bring Korbanos, and no Beis-Hamikdash in which to Daven, all that is left to us are Tefilah and the Thirteen Midos.


The first 'Hashem', says Rabeinu Bachye, is merely the Name of Hashem whom we are addressing, and not a Midah at all. 'Hashem' is the Midah of mercy without Teshuvah and without even being called. Hashem is our merciful Father, who knows what we need and provides them without our having to ask for them. He has compassion on the Resha'im, even though they have not repented, as the Pasuk says "and His mercy covers all His works", and he even has compassion on the animals, as the Pasuk writes "Man and animal You will save, Hashem".

"Keil" is the Midah of mercy following a request, as the Pasuk writes "Keil, You forgave them".

"Rachum ve'Chanun" are Midos denoting forgiveness, provided one has done Teshuvah, and accompanied by suffering, for so we find them a number of times mentioned in connection with destruction and suffering.

"Erech Apayim" is a Midah that pertains both to Tzadikim and Resha'im, for so Moshe said to Hashem 'You must forgive them for the sake of this Midah, since You are slow to anger as regards everyone (for the Resha'im as well as for the Tzadikim). "Rav-Chesed" this Midah is for those Resha'im who have sunk to such depths that they are no longer deserving of 'Erech-Apayim'. It is for them that the Midah of 'Rav-Chesed' exists , just as it served during the first twenty-six generations, which had not yet received Torah and Mitzvos, and whom G-d nevertheless sustained on His abundant Chesed. And in case you will say that the twenty-six generations merited survival because, not having received the Torah, they had not transgressed it either, that is why the Midah of

"Emes" is necessary, 'Chesed shel Emes' which demands nothing in return, to cater even for those Resha'im who received the Torah and who contravened it; and if, for whatever reason, Hashem declines to forgive them, there is the Midah of "Notzer Chesed la'Alafim" where G-d re-plants the many merits and acts of loving-kindness performed by the Avos, which he adds to the credit of their descendants, to forgive their sins however unworthy they may be. And when the merits of the fathers terminate, He applies the Midos of

"Nosei Ovon" who bears iniquitous sins (performed out of pleasure)

"vo'Fesha" rebellious sins

"ve'Chata'ah" sins performed without intent, and

"ve'Nakei" sins of which the sinner himself is unaware.


In fact, say Chazal, 'Chata'ah' ought to precede 'Ovon'. If G-d forgives sins that are performed willfully, then it is no longer necessary to mention those that are not. The Torah inverts them however, placing it after "Pesha", in the form of a hint that if we do Teshuvah, then Hashem will reckon the Avonos and the Pesha'im as if they were Chata'os.

* * *

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