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

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Vol. 8   No. 4

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Chayim Mordechai ben ha'Rav Yisroel Ezriel Feldman a.h.
(Yohrzeit on the 19th of Cheshvan) by his Family

Pashas Vayeiro

How The Wicked Stumble

The B'raisa in Nazir (23a) equates a woman who deliberately contravened her nazarite vow, unaware of the fact that her husband had already annulled it, with someone who picked up a piece of chazir and ate it, believing it to be a piece of lamb. In other words, someone who goes through the motions of sinning and then discovers that what he did was not a sin at all, and someone who does not intend to sin but does, are considered equal. Both require atonement. If the Torah had not made a point of hinting at them both, we would not know one from the other (as the Gemoro specifically explains).

It must be made clear that the above is not comparable to someone who intended to sin but was prevented from doing so (who is exonerated for the first two times that this occurs).


Rebbi Yochonon then cites the posuk in Hoshei'a "Because the ways of Hashem are straight, the righteous will go on them, whereas the wicked will stumble on them" (14:10). He extrapolates from there that it is possible for two people to perform the same act, yet one of them is branded 'righteous', the other 'a sinner'.

We know of course, that whenever two people perform any act, their respective levels of performance differ. We know that, depending on the degree of love, alacrity, fear of G-d and devotion that go into it, no two people will ever receive the same reward for the same mitzvah. Likewise, we know that they will not receive the same punishment for an aveirah, depending on the degree that those four components are lacking (or to be more precise, depending on the degree of hatred, laziness, brazenness and indifference that accompany the sin).


But that one act can be at one and the same time both a mitzvah and an aveirah! That is truly a chidush, and that is what Rebbi Yochonon is coming to teach us.

The Gemoro rejects the suggestion that the two people referred to by Rebbi Yochonon both ate the Korban Pesach, one with a hearty appetite, the other, on a full stomach. It rejects it on the grounds that one would not be justified in referring to someone who ate the Korban Pesach without an appetite as a sinner, seeing as he had fulfilled the mitzvah. What we actually have here is two people performing a mitzvah at different levels, which we discussed earlier. But that is not the distinction that we are currently seeking to clarify.


Nor could we establish the case when the second person ate the Korban when he was fully bloated (to the point that any further eating sickened him), because that would be considered an act of destruction rather than of eating. In that case, the two people will not have performed the same act; the one will have eaten, the other, destroyed, whereas we are referring to two people who perform the same act.


The Gemoro finally establishes Rebbi Yochonon's case by Lot, whose daughters made him drunk before having relations with him. They, who (believing that the world was destroyed and that they were the last survivors) acted in order to save the world, are considered righteous, whilst Lot, whose motives were immoral, is considered a sinner. And Rebbi Yochonon goes on to substantiate this by proving Lot's powerful lust for adultery. He connects every phrase in parshas Lech Lecho (13:10) to his motivation to live in S'dom, which was based solely on the immoral life-style that was practised there.

As long as Lot's thought-patterns had not been revealed, we applied the principle of judging a person to the scale of merit. We assumed that Lot was probably inspired to join his daughters in saving the world. (Incidentlally, it appears that they took their cue from Kayin and Hevel, who were permitted to marry their sisters because there was nobody else for them to marry, and is why Chazal considered them praiseworthy. Otherwise, their actions would not have been permitted - even to save the world. This I heard from ho'Rav Mordechai Kornfeld Sh'lita). Once however, it is proven that Lot was indeed a highly adulterous man, then we are bound to consider his actions to be governed by his evil tendencies, and the obligation to judge him to the scale of merit no longer applies.


Chazal pose one final question. When all's said and done they ask, Lot's drunkenness was not of his own doing. He was brought into a state of drunkenness by his daughters, and whatever he subsequently did was genuinely beyond his control.

They conclude however, that he was not entirely blameless at all. Because we learn from the dot on the 'vov' of "u've'kumoh" (19:33) that although Lot was unaware of the initial stages of his relations with his oldest daughter, he was aware of what was happening as she arose. Yet he allowed them to make him drunk once again on the following night. That can only be attributed to his adulterous tendencies, which led him to S'dom in the first place. And that is why he is referred to as 'a sinner'.


From this we can learn the awesome responsibility that one has to control one's tendencies (not an easy task by any means). Moreover, if one fails to do so, he will be held responsible for all eventualities that those tendencies may lead to, even if the final stages of sin turn out to be beyond one's control.



In these troubled times, everyone wants to know how they can help alleviate the situation. Chazal have taught us that 'teshuvah, tefilah and tzedokoh tear up the evil decree'.

Some gedolim have suggested strengthening one's level of tz'niyus (the dinim of modest dress etc.), others have advocated taking more care not to contravene the dinim of loshon ho'ra. Who can deny the advantages to be gained from each of these?


However, an additional thought occurred to me. The Shulchan Oruch in Siman 295 rules that one should recite 've'Yiten Lecho' on Motzo'ei Shabbos.

This has largely fallen by the wayside here in Eretz Yisroel, possibly due to the minhag of the Arizal and others to recite it at home after Havdoloh. What seems to have happened is that the community stopped reciting it in shul, and the individuals 'forgot' to say it at home, to the point that its recital has become all but obsolete.


'Ve'Yiten lecho' contains pesukim of blessing, of liberation, of salvation, of knowledge of Hashem, of redemption, of the negation of troubles, and of peace (Sidur ha'Mefurash).

What could be more appropriate in these troubled times than re-introducing the recital of 've'Yiten Lecho' (which incidentally, is mentioned in the introduction to the Zohar) every Motzo'ei Shabbos?

There is a good chance that Hashem will indeed turn our troubles into blessings and grant us peace.


Parshah Pearls
Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro

Greater Than An Angel

"And an angel of Hashem called to him from the heaven ... for I know that you fear G-d, and you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me (mimeni)" (22:11-12).


Considering that the angel did not quote Hashem, it seems as if he was praising Avrohom for not withholding his son from him (the angel), comments the Gro.

The Gro therefore explains the posuk based on the concept that with every mitzvah that one performs, one creates an angel, and that the level of that angel depends entirely on the degree of love. alacrity, fear of G-d, and devotion that go into the mitzvah.

It is fair to assume that the angel addressing Avrohom was the angel that was created from the mitzvah of the Akeidah, explains the Gro. In that case, what he was saying was that he now knew Avrohom's true level of Yir'as Shomayim 'from me' - from his own extremely high level, because he was created to match one of the greatest deeds ever performed - if not the greatest.


In similar vein, the Gro explains the posuk in Ki Sovo "And all the people of the land will see that the Name of Hashem is called upon you and they will be afraid from you" (28:10). The Jews will tremble at the word of G-d to such an extent, G-d testifies, that all those who see you will learn "to fear G-d from you".

The Seforno too (probably bothered by the same problem that faced the Gro), declines to explain the word "mimeni" in the way that one normally would. Linking it to the previous phrase, he explains the posuk like this: "Because now I know that you are more G-d-fearing than I am (even though I am an angel), because you did not withhold your only son". And with that the angel understood why G-d had elevated Avrohom to a level above that of the angels.


Now I Know

""Because now I know that you fear G-d ... " (22:12).

The posuk suggests that Avrohom only reached high levels of Yir'as Shomayim at the Akeidoh, and not before. But of course, we know that this is not the case, points out the Gro.

Rashi explains the word "yoda'ti" to mean (not "I know", but) "I will make known to the Sotton and to the nations of the world why I favour you" (as if the word was punctuated "yida'ti"). The Gro explains the issue like this: Perfection is only discernible in a person when he is able to present two extremes (in the service of G-d). As long as he knows only how to be kind but not cruel (when the situation demands it), he remains imperfect, because his kindness can be attributed to his natural inclinations and not to any high level of avodas Hashem that he may have attained.


It is only someone who is able to do whatever is asked of him, however diverse, who has attained true perfection. That is why the Torah prescribes two mitzvos - honoring one's parents on the one hand and sending away the mother bird on the other - the former based on mercy, the latter, on cruelty The Torah rewards both with long life, because it is only through such a combination that man truly reaches the highest levels of goodness.


With this we can understand what the angel meant when he said to Avrohom "Now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man ... ". Until now, Avrohom was known as the paragon of kindness - he was merciful, hospitable and kind - but his ability to be harsh had not yet been tried (though this is difficult to understand bearing in mind the episode where he drove his son Yishmoel from his parental home). It was therefore still possible to refer to Avrohom as a tzadik who had not yet attained perfection. After the Akeidoh however, where Avrohom displayed the ability even to resort to the utmost cruelty in the service of G-d, it became clear to all that he was genuinely a G-d-fearing man, perfect in his fear of G-d.


Adapted from 'Mitvos ha'T'luyos bo'Oretz',
based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish by R' Kalman Kahana z.l.)

Sowing and Planting (cont.)

17. It is forbidden to sow during the Sh'mitah year, even if one's intention is only to learn the halachos of Sh'mitah or to examine the seeds that will subsequently grow.


18. Besides the prohibitions mentioned above (in 14), it is also forbidden to graft in the Sh'mitah year, or to transplant one end of a branch of a tree whose other end is still attached to the mother-tree, or other forms of plants,


19. Even though the din of adding to the Sh'mitah year does not apply nowadays, and working the ground is therefore permitted right up to Rosh Hashonoh of Sh'mitah, sowing or planting fruit-trees is forbidden already from the seventeenth of Av (as we already discussed in detail - see 3 and 4).


20. One is also permitted to plant produce, legumes and flowers right up to Rosh Hashonoh, even though this will entail picking them during the Sh'mitah. Some seeds however, are forbidden because of s'fichim, which will be discussed later.


21. If someone transgressed and planted, grafted or transplanted a branch that is still attached, he is obligated to uproot it, and the same will apply if he did any of these on erev Sh'mitah in a manner that is forbidden. Should he die without having done so, then his heirs are obligated to uproot it.



22. Chazal refer to a field that is watered regularly, and whose produce or fruit will spoil if it is not, as a 'beis ha'shalochin', which may be watered in the Sh'mitah in the manner that we will describe shortly. Esrog orchards are considered to be beis ha'shalochin. One may not however water a 'beis ha'ba'al' (a field which relies on rain and does not normally require irrigation). Should such a field desperately require irrigation, one may water it sparsely (using watering- cans). In the time of Chazal, they would sprinkle it using holed baskets.


23. When we speak of watering a beis ha'shalochin, we are referring to a field of produce or vegetables. One may not however, water an entire beis ha'shalochin of non fruit-bearing trees, unless the trees are very close together (ten trees per beis so'oh - 50 x 50 amos) or unless one finds the complicated method permitted by Chazal too difficult.


24. Whenever Chazal permit watering trees or plants, it is only if all the fruit in the field stand to be spoilt in a way that is clearly noticeable, both as regards the quantity of the fruit and as regards its quality. Alternatively, if there is a strong suspicion that the field will become dry, the tree will die, or if the field needs watering to enable it to produce vegetables the following year, it is permitted too.

One may only water the field however, to the extent that is absolutely necessary, and no more (as we explained above - see 13).

Watering the field is permitted even if one only suspects that the field will spoil, but is not certain that it will. This is due to the fact that the Torah takes pity on the money of Yisroel.


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