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

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Vol. 11   No. 4

This issue is co-sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Chayim Mordechai
ben ha'Rav Yisrael Ezriel Feldman z.l.
by his Family


in honour of
Refael Alexander ben Shaindel, Sh'lita
May Hashem grant him a Refu'ah Sheleimah
and many more years of good health
in which to continue his wonderful†work
in the field of Harbotzas ha'Torah

Parshas Vayeira

The B'ris Milah
(Part 2)

As we already explained, one of the three gifts that Yisrael merit on account of the Mitzvah of Milah is the 'resting of the Shechinah'. It is hardly surprising therefore, that following his B'ris, Avraham merited a visit from the Shechinah. Indeed, Rabeinu Bachye explains, when the Shechinah came to visit him, It came in the company of the leaders of three of the four camps that comprise Machaneh Shechinah, Micha'el (Chesed), Gavriel (Din) and Refa'el (Rachamim), to perform the specific tasks of giving the good news to Avraham and Sarah, to destroy S'dom and to cure Avraham, respectively. G-d Himself however, came with the sole purpose of visiting Avraham, as a reward for the great Mitzvah that he had just performed (see Parshah Pearls 'G-d Performs Mitzvos, too).

Nuriel (or Uriel [Malchus]), the leader of the fourth camp, had already appeared to him at the B'ris bein ha'Besarim, says R. Bachye, and had no further role to play here.


The Seifer ha'Chinuch, adding a fourth reason for the Mitzvah (to the three that we already cited), explains how G-d decided to place a mark of distinction on His chosen people, to distinguish them from the nations of the world physically, just as they are different spiritually (a. through their acceptance of the Torah, and b. through their possessing a Nishmas Yisrael).

He chose to do this via the Milah, not only because it is the limb that completes man's physical shape, but also because it is the cause of his continuity.

And He entrusted its performance to man himself (rather than creating him already circumcised) in order to convey to him the message that just as his physical perfection lies with him, so too, does his spiritual perfection.

Interestingly, Eisav was born physically mature, and therefore considered himself spiritually perfect, too. Indeed, that is why people called him 'Eisav', like 'Osuy' - made - which explains why he never took the trouble to work on himself (to try and improve).


The Nachalas Binyamin elaborates on the above idea. When G-d created the world, he explains, He distinguished the various animals from one another, to mark those that are Kasher and those that are not (cloven hooves and chewing the cud with regard to the animals, fins and scales with regard to the birds, and so on). The one exception was man, whom He did not mark, to avoid the misconception that they were created by different gods, and marked by their respective creators. So He created them all equal, and left the marking to the chosen people themselves…


The Korban Eliyahu gives yet another reason for the Mitzvah of Milah. He explains that, if G-d had created Yisrael circumcised, the Geirim (converts) would have been embarrassed to convert. They were expected to bring about their own perfection through a human hand, they would point out, whereas that of a born Jew was the work of the Creator Himself. It seems to me that in any event, the suggestion that Jews should be born circumcised, and gentiles, not, would be in direct conflict with the laws of nature that generally govern the running of the world. It would mean for example, that the children born to a Jewish woman would be born circumcised (even though their father was a gentile), whereas those born to a gentile woman would be born uncircumcised (even if their father was Jewish). A most unnatural phenomenon! The only solution therefore, was to allow those who needed to be circumcised to do the job themselves.


One final reason for the Mitzvah is connected to the fact that the numerical value of 'Milah' is the equivalent of 'Elokim', representing Midas ha'Din. It can be best described by citing Chazal with regard to Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, where Yisrael were given the blood of Pesach and the blood of Milah to earn the right to survive Makas Bechoros. And then, to incorporate it with another saying of Chazal, that whenever Yisrael enact Din on earth, there is no need for G-d to enact it in Heaven. The ultimate Din is Mesiras Nefesh (self-sacrifice), of which B'ris Milah is a supreme example (did we not cite earlier the Medrash which compares the B'ris Milah to a Korban?). Indeed, that explains why, in Egypt, G-d chose specifically the two Mitzvos of which we just spoke.

The B'ris Milah therefore, besides itself opening the gates of Divine mercy, also serves as a reminder to each Jew to be prepared to perform acts of Mesiras Nefesh on behalf of his G-d, just as he did when he was initiated.

Perhaps this is not another reason for the Mitzvah of Milah at all, but an extension of Rabeinu Bachye's first one (that a man is a servant of G-d), since self-sacrifice is the ultimate mark of servitude.


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh's commentary on the Chumash)

G-d Performs Mitzvos Too

"And G-d appeared to Avram ... " (18:1).

To visit the sick, Rashi remarks. It was the third day after his B'ris Milah, and Hashem came to see how he was getting on. Rashi extrapolates this, says the Rosh, from the fact that the Pasuk does not follow its opening phrase with the usual expression of 'amirah' or 'dibur' (" ...and He said to him ...", or " ...and he spoke to him... "). Evidently, Hashem came purely for the sake of visiting the sick (see also Ramban).

We can learn from here, he adds, that one performs the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim even without saying anything to the sick man. The mere fact that someone came to see him will give him a feeling of satisfaction, and that will help him recover. The Rosh actually uses the words 'when they tell the sick person that so and so came to see him ... '. This implies that the visit will have a good effect on him, even if he only heard of the visit from a third person. In that case, it is worth visiting a sick person even when he is asleep, as long as one makes sure that he is made aware of his call.


Of Years and Midwives

" ... I will return at this time next year and Sarah will have a son" (18:10).

It was Pesach, and on Pesach (the following year) Yitzchak was born, explains Rashi, adding that the Torah writes "ko'eis chayoh", which, loosely translated, means, 'when this time comes round next year and finds you all alive'. And he bases it on the fact that the word "ko'eis" is written with a 'Kamatz'.

If it had been written with a 'Sh'va' (ke'eis), the Rosh explains, then "chayah" would have meant midwife, and the Pasuk would have then been saying that by the time the midwife would normally come (nine months later), Sarah will have a child. In that case, Yitzchak would have been born in Teives.


Unnatural Changes

" Sarah had ceased to experience the way of women" (18:10).

But did Rashi not say earlier that Sarah did not bring bread, as Avraham had instructed her, because she had a period (see Pasuk 8)?

The Rosh therefore cites those who explain the Pasuk to mean that although it is the way of old women to no longer have periods, Sarah broke with the norm. She did!

And with that, we will better understand Rashi's words a little later ...


A Slight Deviation from the Truth

"Is it really true that I am going to give birth, and I am old?" (18:13).

The Torah changed what she said, says Rashi, because of Shalom Bayis. She had really said 'and my master (Avraham) is old', Actually, she also said "after I have withered, will I regain my youth?" as Unklus explains. So where is the change, asks the Rosh?

Perhaps, he initially suggests, Chazal do not mean that the Torah actually changed the truth, but that it withheld some of it.

However, according to what we just said, Chazal meant exactly what they said. What Sarah meant when she said "Acharei belosi hoysoh li ednah', was not "after I have withered, will I regain my youth" (in question form), but "after I have withered, I regained my youth" (which is actually written in the past tense). By this she meant that, as far as her situation was concerned, she was not surprised at the news of her impending pregnancy. After all, she had already showed signs of regaining her youth, and she saw no reason why this phenomenon should not go one stage further. What surprised her however, was the news that Avraham, who was already old, and who had shown no signs of regaining his youth, would father a child.

In that case, when the Pasuk records her as having said "and I am old", it really does deviate from what she actually said.


Blind as a Donkey

"Remain here with the donkey" (2:5) (Avraham said to his two servants, Yishmael and Eliezer).

From here, says the Rosh, the Gemara in Yevamos (62a) derives that the nations are compared to a donkey.

Now that is fine as far as Eliezer is concerned, since he was a Cana'ani. But how can one say such a thing about Yishmael, who was a son of Avraham?

And he answers with the Medrash, which relates that when Avraham spied 'the place' (Har ha'Mori'ah) in the distance, he asked his servants whether they saw it too. They replied that they saw nothing, to which he responded 'Remain here with the donkey.' Since they could see no more than the donkey, they may as well remain with it, whilst he went on with Yitzchak.

The point the Rosh is making is that although both Yishmael and Eliezer were comparable to the donkey as far as their 'short vision' was concerned, that is where the similarity ended. The one was a descendant of Avraham, the other, his slave.

The Rosh does not appear to have answered the question, however. When the Gemara refers to Avraham's servants as 'a nation that is compared to a donkey', it does so in the context of the Halachah that an eved has no more yichus (pedigree) than a donkey, and that any children that he fathers whilst he is an eved, are not considered his children, in which case they will not help him to fulfill the Mitzvah of 'P'ru u'Revu' if he is set free. For some reason, the Rosh ignores that context.

The question remains, that this is fine with regard to Eliezer, who was a Cana'ani. But how can it possibly pertain to Yishmael, son of Avraham?


Incidentally, the Torah Temimah attributes the source of the D'rashah to the Torah's use of the word "im (ha'chamor)". Based on the G'ro's distinction between "im" (which compares the subject and the object) and "es" (which does not), "im ha'chamor" has the connotations of comparing Eliezer's servants to the donkey, as we explained.


Yerushalayim's Three Names

"And Avraham called the name of the place 'Hashem yir'eh' (22:14) ...

... Malki-Tzedek called it 'Shalem', whereas David called it 'Yerushalayim', says the Rosh.

Why, he asks, did David not retain the name given by Avraham or Malki-Tzedek? What made him abandon the names that these great men gave the city, and create one of his own?

He didn't, answers the Rosh. What he did was to combine the two names, by first combining the 'Alef' and 'Hey' of "Yir'eh" into a 'Vav'. 'Yeru' is in fact, the name given it by Avraham, and 'Shalem', by Malki-Tzedek.

'Yerushalayim' therefore means 'a perfect vision'. A most apt name, because that is where we go to 'see' Hashem, and to be seen by Him three times a year.


A Belated Condition

"I have sworn by Myself, says G-d, that I will surely bless you" (22:16).

The Medrash relates that following the binding of Yitzchak, Avraham pleaded with G-d that, whenever Yisrael mention the Akeidas Yitzchak, it should serve as an atonement for them, as if Yitzchak had actually been sacrificed.

Strictly speaking, G-d replied, He ought to refuse. Avraham should have made this request before binding Yitzchak, not afterwards. What was done, was done, and was no longer subject to conditions.

Nevertheless, He concluded, He would perform Chesed with him, and accede to his request. No sooner said than done, and He swore that, whenever Avraham and Yitzchak's children pray and cry out to Him, He will remember this episode. What's more, He would hand Yitzchak's son, Ya'akov, His seal (Emes), as a sign that this oath would remain in effect forever.

That is why the Navi Michah writes "You gave (Your seal) Emes to Ya'akov (regarding the) Chesed (that You did) to Avraham, when You swore to our fathers (Avraham and Yitzchak, to fulfill what You undertook to do to their children after them)".


(Part 8)
(based on the morning Korbanos)

Eizehu Mekoman

The Bull and the Goat of Yom Kipur

The bull and the goat of Yom Kipur (constituting the Chatas of the Kohen Gadol and of the community, respectively) are Shechted on the north side of the Azarah, and their blood is received (in a k'li shareis [a holy administering vessel]) on the north side of the Azarah, like all Kodshei Kodshim (Chata'os, Ashamos, Olos and Zivchei Shalmei Tzibur [that are brought on Shavu'os]).

Their blood requires sprinkling (with the finger) between the poles of the Aron ha'Kodesh, towards the Paroches (from the Heichal), and on the Golden Mizbei'ach. Even one of the many Matanos (sprinklings) is crucial to the Avodah.

The remainder of the blood is poured on to the western Yesod (the foundation, comprising the bottom Amah of the Mizbei'ach that surrounded most of the Mizbei'ach, and protruded one Amah from it) of the outer Mizbei'ach, though this is not crucial.


The Burned Bulls and Goats

The burned bulls and goats (comprising the Par He'elam Davar shel Tzibur and the bull of the Kohen Gadol who sinned on the one hand, and the goats of Avodah-Zarah of the community on the other) are Shechted on the north side of the Azarah, too, and their blood is received there in a K'li Shareis. The reason they are called 'burned' is because their bodies are burned outside Yerushalayim, rather than on the Ma'arachah on the Mizbei'ach (like most Korbanos are).

The many details of these Korbonos are basically identical with those of the bull and the goat of Yom Kipur, except that their blood is not taken into the Kodesh Kodshim.


Additional Information
(adapted from the Eitz Yosef)

Kodshei Kodshim that have been Shechted - become Pasul through 'Yotzei' (if they are taken out of the Azarah) or if they are touched by a T'vul-yom or a Mechusar Kipurim (a Tamei who has toveled and is waiting for nightfall, or who still needs to bring a Korban the following day, such as a Zav). They are also subject to Me'ilah (misappropriation), and someone who derives personal benefit from them inadvertently must bring a Korban Asham Me'ilos; on purpose, he must pay Hekdesh the specified fine.


The Shechitah - is performed with a knife that belongs to Hekdesh, though Bedi'eved, even a sharp piece of cane will do.


The bull of the Kohen Gadol (both of Yom Kipur, and of the Par Kohen Mashi'ach mentioned in the next Mishnah) differs from other Kodshim, in that it has to be Shechted and sacrificed by the Kohen Gadol himself (other Kodshim may even be Shechted by Zarim, and even by women and by Temei'im [under specific circumstances], though initially, meyuchasim [men of good pedigree] perform the Shechitah).


The Shechitah and the Hakravah (the sacrificing) can only be performed by day, after the doors of the Heichal have been opened.


The North Side of the Azarah - constitutes anywhere in the Azarah north of the Mizbei'ach, from the Ulam in the west to the wall of the Azarah in the east.


The Bull of Aharon - in its second year, has to be without blemish (as is the case with all Kodshim). The Kohen Gadol is required to perform the Semichah (leaning both hands with force) between its horns, as the animal stands facing south, with its head turned towards the west. Simultaneously, he confesses his sins and those of his family. Immediately after that, he Shechts the bull.


The Goat (for Hashem) - is in its first year. The Kohen Gadol does not perform Semichah on this goat, though he does on the Sa'ir la'Azazel.


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