Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg
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Vol. 6 No. 4
Our readers will probably have noticed that the main article is currently based on the introduction to the Parshah by Rabeinu Bachye, which he tends to base on a posuk in Mishlei. We intend to continue with this practice throughout volume six.
"By the light of the king's face is life, and his will is like a thick cloud that brings the latter rain to the stalks and to the kernels" (Mishlei 16:15).
Sh'lomoh ha'Melech is demonstrating here, writes R. Bachye, the benefit that man receives from the goodwill of the king and his communication, comparing it to the rain contained in a thick rain-cloud, something that everybody wants and that everybody needs.
Elsewhere (19:20), Shlomoh compares that goodwill to dew. Why is that? Because, whereas the advantages of dew are immediate, those of rain take time to materialise, since one does not reap their full benefits until the time of harvest. And so it is with the goodwill of the king, sometimes it is immediately beneficial, sometimes only after a while. (In Ha'azinu, R. Bachye cites a Medrash that presents the advantages of rain in so far as it gives life to the world, in spite of the fact that not everyone rejoices with it; and of dew, in so far as everybody rejoices with it, in spite of the fact that it does not give life to the world. See also Rashi there, 32:2).
And in the latter posuk (19:20), Shlomoh also points out the disadvantages that one suffers when one incurs the king's wrath, comparing it to the roaring of a lion - even when it is not his intention to punish the sinner, even when his anger is intended to remain latent, let alone when it is the king's intention to translate his anger into retribution. In the former case, the king's anger results in fear, in the latter in death. And when one speaks of goodwill, it works conversely: it is a great advantage to earn the king's goodwill, even if the king does not plan to reciprocate positively; how much more so when he does!
And if all this is true of a human king, R. Bachye continues, then how much more so is it true of the King of Kings, of whom Dovid ha'Melech writes in Tehilim (30) "for His anger lasts only one moment, but in His goodwill lies long life".
And that is what Shlomoh means, when he writes "By the light of the King's face is life", to teach us that the revelation of the Divine Presence brings with it life.
Indeed, we find the revelation of the Divine Presence in three different areas: 1. When G-d wishes to instruct one of his prophets; 2. To protect His servants, the tzadikim (like the Torah writes in Korach "And all the congregation attempted to stone them, and the Glory of G-d appeared in the Tent of Meeting"); 3. As a sign of goodwill and communication (like we find by the Mishkon, where Yisroel merited G-d's revelation due to the amount of effort they put into its building). And it is in this latter context that the Shechinah revealed itself to Avrohom Ovinu, on account of the mitzvah of Milah that Avrohom had just performed. Only the word 'life' (in our original posuk), means, in this context, not so much life as healing, since it was not from death that he was being saved, as from the pains of the Bris Milah. But then, we do find life and death referring to an improved quality of life and the reverse, as the Ra'avad explains with regard to the three books that lie open before Hasem on Rosh Hashanah (in which life and death for the forthcoming year are inscribed).
Adapted from the Chofetz Chaim
That's Why the Angels Came
"Because that is why you passed by your servant ... " (8:8).
Avrohom had good reason to insist that the angels come in and enjoy his hospitality. After all, he argued, why did G-d send them in the first place? Was it not because, due to the excessive heat, no travellers could walk the streets, so, in order to satisfy Avrohom's lust for visitors, G-d sent angels.
Which is precisely what Avrohom was telling them - 'you are obligated to accept my offer to come in and partake of my hospitality, because 'that is why you passed by your servant' in the first place!
How to Treat Guests
The Ma'asei la'Melech, quoting the Ahavas Chesed, describes Avrohom's strategy in the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim, and explains how we can emulate his example - at least, at our level.
1. First of all, he waited outside to see if he could find any potential guests upon whom he might prevail to partake of his hospitality. (This may be a little beyond our level, but at least we can learn to receive guests willingly and warmly.)
2. He gave them water and facilities to have a wash, after travelling on the dusty and dirty roads.
3. Whilst they were waiting for the meal that he was already preparing, he offered them facilities to recline under a tree. (We too, should show our guests where they can sleep if they are tired, or at least offer them a settee where they can relax, already before the meal, so that they will be fresh when it is served).
4. Taking note that they were in a hurry to leave, he told them already in advance that, after the meal, they would be able to leave immediately, and that he would not detain them.
5. He spoke of a little bread, but went on to serve them a sumptuous meal, with nothing short of the best that he had to offer ('speak little, do a lot!').
6. Not only did he serve them personally, tending to all their needs, but he did everything on the run, telling his family members to do likewise.
7. True to his word, after they had eaten, he did nothing to delay their departure, allowing them to go on their way.
8. He accompanied them on their way to S'dom (a vital part of the mitzvah of receiving guests - see Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, Shoftim 21:7).
Now that's Hachnosas Orchim at its best!
Moshi'ach, Moshi'ach, Moshi'ach
"And Soroh laughed inside her saying, 'After I have become withered, will I regain my youth?' " (18:12).
The episode is strange in itself, but what is even more strange is the fact that the Torah records what is, for Soroh, a sequence of events that is degrading, to say the least.
The Chofetz Chayim explains that the entire story is one of 'ma'aseh ovos si'man le'bonim' (what happened to the fathers is a sign of what will happen to us - their descendants).
Like Soroh despaired of having children in her old age, and then went on to deny it, so too there will be those who, due to the length of the golus, will despair of the redemption (just as happened in Egypt, where the Torah writes "but they did not listen to Moshe out of shortness of spirit and hard work"). And not only that, but they will then deny their own denial; they will argue that they were not really sceptical of the coming of Moshi'ach, but only in the timing of his arrival. Hashem, however, will tell them 'No, but you were sceptical!' in the same way as he corrected Soroh.
Otherwise, they would have taken his coming seriously, in keeping with the Gemoro in Eiruvin (43), which rules that someone who takes the Nazarite vow on the day that ben Dovid comes, is forbidden to drink wine every single day, in case Moshi'ach comes on that day.
So how can those who do nothing at all in preparation for the coming of Moshi'ach, claim that they believe in his arrival?
Perhaps the most powerful message inherent in this possuk lies in the triple usage of the word 'be'chol'. Every practising Jew loves Hashem on certain occasions. Of course, he feels closer to Him in varying degrees on Shabbos, Yom-tov, Chanukah and Purim, and of course he experiences that surge of gratitude when his wife gives birth, or at his daughter's wedding. Without doubt, a person is able to muster the courage, and even the genuine sincerity, to willingly give up his life for Hashem when he is suffering pain or going through hard times.
But the Torah expects more than the above; it asks that every Jew love Hashem with all his heart, with all his soul and with all that he has - without reservation. The Torah expects a Jew to allow the love of Hashem to guide a person alw, in all circumstances, to feel just as close to Hashem on Tish'oh be'Av, when choliloh there is a tragedy in the family or when things are not going well - and to be equally willing to give up his life, should the need arise, when his expensive, luxurious and long-awaited holiday is imminent. That is why the Torah writes "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all that you have".
The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the letters of "ve'ohavto" spell 'ho'ovos' (the forefathers), and then continues "be'chol levovcho" - like Avrohom, by whom it is written "and You found his heart faithful before You"; "u've'chol nafshecho" - like Yitzchok, who sacrificed his life for G-d; "u'vechol me'odecho" - like Ya'akov, by whom it is written "and whatever You give to me, I will give one tenth to You".
He might perhaps have added that the Ovos tasted the fruits of their love, when Hashem blessed Avrohom 'with everything' ("ba'kol" - Bereishis 24:1), Yitzchok 'from everything' ("mi'kol" - ibid. 27:33), and Ya'akov who had everything ("yesh li kol" - ibi. 33:11), as indeed, we quote in Benching, where we say 'like our fathers were blessed ba'kol, mi'kol, kol'.
And These Words Shall be
What is the love that the Torah referred to above, and how does one achieve it? The love of G-d is the culmination of getting to know Hashem and cleaving to his ways, and the only way of achieving this is through the study of Torah. It is impossible to love G-d through ignorance, only through knowledge of Him; and the Torah itself indicates this when it continues "And these words (the words of Torah) that I am commanding you today shall be on your heart" - Sifri.
That I am Commanding you Today
But the Torah was not given today, it was given well over three thousand years ago - yet we are told that it was given today? Indeed, explains Rashi, Torah should not be viewed as an old edict, given long, long ago. Old edicts tend to become outdated and outmoded. From time to time, they need to be reviewed, and sometimes discarded. But our Torah is different, it was written by the one who created time and who transcends it, and so it too, transcends time. It is man, who is himself subject to change, who needs, and must then make, the necessary changes to suit the Torah, and not the other way round.
And it is with the same sense of novelty in mind that Shlomoh ha'Melech compares Torah to milk. It is because, as Chazal explain, a Jew should drink Torah with the thirst of a baby drinking milk - the baby does not imbibe a variety of foods, only milk, yet each time he feeds, he feeds with such relish, that one might be led to believe that it is the first time he is drinking; and it is with the same relish that we should 'drink' the words of Torah.
Perhaps the analogy to a baby's milk runs deeper than meets the eye. Perhaps Torah, like a baby's milk, has the desired effect of imbibing its students with the love of G-d, only if, like the baby's milk, it is the only spiritual food that one imbibes; if one nourishes one's soul with the knowledge of other cultures, then Torah will not have the desired effect. It will not result in the love of G-d.
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