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

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Vol. 6 No. 9

Parshas Va'Yeishev

The Poor Man
(based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)

"Don't steal from a poor man because he is poor, and don't oppress the poor man in the gate, because Hashem will take his part, and rob the soul of the person who robs him" (Mishlei 22:22-23).

King Shlomoh is informing us here of the punishment for stealing from a poor man.

There are four groups on whom the Torah warns us to take pity, and to do them no harm: the poor, orphans, widows and converts. And it is the same four groups that the Torah mentions in connection with Yom-tov, when it writes (in Re'ei) "And you shall rejoice on your chagim, you, and your sons, your daughters, your servants and your maidservants, the Levi, the convert, the orphan and the widow. 'My four' says Hashem, 'against your four'. 'If you will make My four happy, explain Chazal, I will make your four happy'.

The Levi referred to in the possuk there, represents the poor man, since the Levi'im were generally poor, seeing as they had no portion in the land. Their portion was at the table of Hashem; they received benefit from the Kodshei Shomayim, because they are G-d's army, as the Torah writes "Hashem will bless His army" (Devorim 33:11), and G-d is their portion, as the Torah writes "I am your portion and your inheritance" (Bamidbor 18:20).


The Torah issued two Mitzvos Asei with regard to the mitzvah of tzedokoh: "You shall surely give" etc. and "You shall surely open your hand to him" (both in Parshas Re'ei), and two lo sa'aseh (also both from Re'ei) "And your heart shall not be bad when you give him" and "Do not close your hand". The reason that the Torah does not warn specifically about robbing the poor is because, seeing as one is obligated to give a poor man tzedokoh, it is not conceivable that he would steal from him. That is why the Torah makes do with the general la'v of not stealing, which covers the rich and poor alike.


Be that as it may, the fact that the Torah did not specifically prohibit stealing from a poor man, explains why Shlomoh saw fit to specify the punishment that is due to a person who does so. Because it is not his way throughout the Book of Mishlei to repeat a mitzvah already dealt with by the Torah, without adding some explanation or insight, for who would dare to duplicate Moshe, unless it is to reinforce his words. That is why he said "Do not steal from a poor man because he is poor". And from a wealthy man one may? The reason that Shlomoh mentions a poor man is because he is the ideal target for thieves, for he has no one to protect him, and no-one to speak on his behalf like the rich man does. Everyone dislikes the poor man, even his own relatives, as Shlomoh writes in Mishlei (19:7) And that is precisely why he writes here "Do not steal from a poor man ('dal') because he is poor". The word 'dal' suggests that he is not only poor, but helpless. Do not think that, because the poor man is helpless, you can take advantage of his helplessness and rob him of his possessions. Because, as Shlomoh continues, "G-d will take his part, and will rob the soul of the person who robs him" - not just his money notice, but his very soul.


Orphans and widows: This follows what the Torah writes in Mishpotim, where it warns against afflicting them, and where it even uses the double expression "im aneh se'aneh oso" because people tend to exploit their helplessness, afflicting them over and over again. Correspondingly, the Torah goes on to speak of their cries and even of Hashem's response, using the same double expression ("ki im tzo'ak yitz'ak elai, shomo'a eshma tza'akoso").

When other people are in trouble, they find friends or relatives to assist them in their time of need, the orphan and the widow on the other hand, have no-one to turn to, other than Hashem. That is why G-d listens to their cries and takes their part - indeed, Shlomoh too, discusses orphans in a similar vein a little further on (see 23:10-11).

Converts (geirim): As the Torah writes there "Do not tease a convert and do not oppress him". 'Do not tease him with words or oppress him with money'. "Because you were strangers (geirim) in the land of Egypt" (Sh'mos 22:20). Elsewhere (23:9) the Torah explains "Because you know the soul of the convert. It does not just write 'the stranger', but "the soul of the stranger", symbolising his lowly and humiliated spirit.

And it is in connection with a convert that Chazal in Bovo Metzi'a (58b) warn against reminding him of his former deeds. If he comes to study Torah, one may not remind him that he once used the very same mouth to eat forbidden foods - "Because you were strangers in the land of Egypt" - 'Do not accuse your friend of the same blemish with which you yourself are stricken'.


Tzadikim too, are referred to as geirim, because 'ger' stems from the word 'gargir' - which means a single berry or grain that is detached from its source. A tzadik too, sees himself as single and alone, because he dwells in the world only temporarily. Dovid ha'Melech wrote about himself: "I am a ger in the land, do not hide your mitzvos from me". He compared himself to a ger who is ready to travel but does not know when. And because he does not know when he is due to travel, he needs to have stocks of provisions constantly at the ready, to take with him when he goes. What provisions are we talking about? Mitzvos, which is why Dovid added "Do not hide your mitzvos from me!" The Ovos too, were called geirim: Avrohom, as the Torah writes: "Ger ve'soshov onochi imochem" (23:4); Yitzchok: "Gur bo'Oretz ha'zos"; and Ya'akov, in the opening possuk of the parsah "Va'Yeishev Ya'akov be'Eretz me'gurei oviv, be'Eretz Cana'an".

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Chofetz Chayim)

Yosef , Symbol of Jewish History

"These are the generations of Ya'akov, Yosef" (37:2). In this parshah is hinted the history of Klal Yisroel in a nutshell, writes the Chofetz Chayim. Yosef, Ya'akov's favourite son, is forced to leave his father and his homeland at a tender age. He is cast into a foreign land, where they use every means at their disposal to destroy him. But what happens? They fail miserably. He not only survives, but every attempt to destroy him, becomes another rung in his ladder of success, until eventually he is the one to feed the entire world during the years of famine, and everybody bows down to him.

And so it is with Klal Yisroel over the long years of Golus. After being prematurely thrown out of our land, and subjected to every trick in the book (and those not in the book) to get rid of us, we not only survive and outlive our oppressors, but we thrive and eventually become the source of their success.

If we do not go on to enjoy the same climatic successes as Yosef ultimately did, that is because here in this world, before the coming of Moshi'ach, the time is not yet ripe. When Moshi'ach comes however, Hashem will reveal how every ounce of suffering was necessary for our growth and advancement, as the Novi writes in Yeshayah (12:1) "And you will say on that day, 'I thank You Hashem for being angry with me!' ". (For the sake of clarity, I elaborated slightly on the Chofetz Chayim's words.)


Fighting the Soton

"And he (Yehudah) turned to her (Tamar) by the wayside, and said 'Get ready, let me come to you!' " (38:16). 'Against his will, not with his consent', says the Medrash Rabah. This is the beginning of the dynasty of Malchus Beis Dovid, and of King Moshi'ach (whom we hope will come soon).

The purpose of this episode is to demonstrate how the more important the issue, the more the Soton makes every effort to prevent it from taking place. Consequently, the only way to ensure that it does, is by going through the back door - by appeasing him (i.e. by making an ugly scene). Because if one were to go directly, the Sotton would intervene and stop it from happening (i.e. had Yehudah attempted to marry Tomor or make Yibum with her conventionally, the Sotton would have found a way of prosecuting them and putting a spoke in the wheel).

And exactly the same reasoning can be applied to the episode of Bo'az and Rus, to explain Rus' strange behaviour (at Naomi's instigation) the night before Bo'az made Yibum with her.


G-d can Manage on His Own

"And G-d was with Yosef, and he was a successful man" (39:2). G-d dealt with Yosef in a way that was completely supernatural, explains the Chofetz Chayim. That is why no effort on his part was needed. He was 'a successful man' without his own participation.

He dealt with Ya'akov on the other hand, in a perfectly natural way, which is why Ya'akov had to actively participate in all the miracles that G-d performed with him. (And this will explain why Yosef was punished for placing his trust in the butler (see the last Rashi in Va'yeishev) by having to remain two years longer in prison. Yosef, and particularly Yosef, should have allowed G-d to deal with his release from prison - without his participation, just as He had acted without Yosef's participation until now.


He Meant to Sin

"And he arrived at the house to do his work, and there was no other member of the household at home" (39:11).

According to one opinion in Sotah (37b), Yosef actually returned to the house to sin, knowing that he would find the wife of Potifera there.

Now how can Chazal possibly say such a thing about Yosef, when they could just as well interpret the possuk in the simple sense (like the other opinion) - that he returned to do his work?

The Chofetz Chayim answers this with another question: since Potifera's wife was the only other person in the house, how could Yosef even enter the house, seeing as being alone in a house with a married woman constitutes 'Yichud'? Unless we say that he entered the house in the first place in order to sin!


History of the World

( Part 47)

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)


Darius (who will later become the first king of Persia) is born. Nevuchadnetzar places the twenty-one year old Matanyoh, Yehoyochin's uncle, on the throne of Yehudah, and changes his name to Tzidkiyohu. He is also calld Shalum. Yehotzodok (Ezra's brother) is the Cohen Godol and Yirmiyah and Yechezkel the prophets. Boruch ben Neriyah (Ezra's predecessor and teacher) remains in Bovel. Tzidkiyoh is also called Kushi because, like a Kushi is extreme in his colours, so too is Tzidkiyoh extreme in his rightousness. He saves Yirmiyoh from the pit.

Tzidkiyoh swears that he will not divulge how he caught Nevuchadnetzar eating a rabbit alive. However, he has his vow released, and then tells what he saw. For doing this, Nevuchadnetzar punishes the Sanhedrin for releasing his vow, by having them dragged along the ground by horses from Lud to Yerusholayim. He also sentences Tzidkiyoh to have his eyes poked out. Tzidkiyoh however, rebels, and the sentence will only be carried out later (in 3338).



Yirmiyah prophesies about the destruction of the Beis ha'Mikdosh.



Yechezkel prophesies in the fifth year of golus Yehoyochin. It is the thirtieth year of the last Yovel. Boruch ben Neriyoh received the Torah from Yirmiyoh, and Ezra ben Soroyoh from Boruch.



Yechezkel prophesies about Yerusholayim. Yerusholayim comes under siege.



Yechezkel prophesies about Egypt. Chanam'el ben Shalum (Yirmiyoh's uncle) approaches Yirmiyoh with the request that he buys his field, which he does. Eighteen Cohanim Gedolim served in the first Beis ha'Mikdosh. (According to Rabeinu Tam, there were eight, and according to the Ri, twelve.)



The destruction of the first Beis ha'Mikdosh - in the eleventh year of the reign of Tzidkiyoh, and the nineteenth year of Nevuchadnetzar's reign.

On the ninth of Tamuz the walls of Yerusholayim are breached, and Tzidkiyohu and his family are seized as they emerge from the secret tunnel via which they fled from Yerusholayim. They are taken to Nevuchadnetzar in Rivloh, where Tzidkiyohu's children are killed before his very eyes before he is blinded. They also kill the princes of Yehudah there in Rivloh.

It is on the tenth of Av (it is actually the afternoon of the ninth), that Nevuzraden sets fire to the House of G-d and to the king's palace. He exiles Yehudah from their land. It is the year 338 - 'Shelach', and he does indeed send them away. This takes place 133 years after the exile of the ten tribes.

Nevuzraden ‘butcher of Bovel’, is filled with remorse for what he did. He converts to Judaism. One of his descendants will be the famous Tana, Rebbi Meir.


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Chanukah Supplement

The Body and the Soul

Chanukah, as we know, is a very spiritual Yom-tov, which we celebrate by lighting the Menorah, and by reciting Hallel and offering thanks to Hashem, whereas Purim is basically a physical one, which we celebrate by eating, drinking and merrymaking.

In the Chanukah edition of volume 2, we discussed this point, explaining how it followed a sequence of events - beginning with the sin, continuing with the threat and the style of response that followed.


The Chanukah story began with a laxness in the avodah in the Beis ha'Mikdosh (and probably in their hearts), so G-d sent the Greeks to shake the foundations of avodah (their souls, and not their bodies, which were not threatened). Consequently, they retaliated by defending the Torah which was given to us, the Jewish people, victory culminated in the miracle of the lights - "because mitzvah is a lamp and Torah, light" (Mishlei 6:23).

Purim, on the other hand, began with the Jews' participation in Acheshveirosh's feast. They indulged their bodies, so their bodies were threatened - when Achashveirosh and Homon planned to kill all the Jews. When the Jews are threatened, it is G-d who "does not slumber or sleep, the Guardian of Yisroel" (Tehilim 121:4) - but only after Yisroel had repented on their sin by fasting for three days. Yisroel did not attack (though they did defend themselves when attacked).

Following such a sequence of events, it becomes clear as to why the celebrations on Chanukah are of a spiritual nature, allowing the Soul to express its gratitude to Hashem for its salvation, whilst on Purim, it is the body which rejoices over its deliverance.


We might perhaps, add another reason as to why the Chashmono'im chose primarily to attack the Greeks, whereas Mordechai and Esther preferred to fast.

A Jew faces many challenges in life. However, he must know, that first and foremost, he is obligated to fight his Yeitzer ho'Ra. In effect, this means that, whenever the Yeitzer ho'Ra orders him to turn right, then he must turn left and when he tells him to walk, he must run. True, it is not always easy to tell whether it is the Yeitzer-tov or the Yeitzer ho'Ra who is issuing the instructions, but that in itself, is part of the challenge, to get to recognise who the silent voice is.

Now someone whose life is threatened, tends naturally to want to defend himself - as a matter of self-esteem and pride, to demonstrate that he is capable of looking after himself. This is not however, the case, when his enemies attack his religion. There, he feels that G-d can (and will) defend it Himself, even going so far as to justify himself for succumbing to the threat, by quoting the principle that life-danger takes precedence over everything else.

It is hardly surprising therefore, that the Chashmono'im opted to work on their midos and to overcome the natural tendency of non-retaliation by attacking the Greeks, whilst Mordechai and Esther surpressed the urge to go out and fight by remaining in Shushan, doing teshuvah and allowing G-d to take over.



Over the years, we have discussed the famous Beis-Yosef's kashya (since there was sufficient oil in the found jar to last for one night, it transpires that the actual miracle only lasted seven days, so why do we celebrate eight?), and we have answered the question from many different angles. Here is the answer of the Cheishek Shlomoh (Shabbos 21b).

In typical 'Lomdishe' fashion, he first poses another well-known kashya - why was the miracle necessary at all, seeing as the kindling of the Menorah, like all Korbenos Tzibur (and all facets of communal service in the Beis ha'Mikdosh), overrides Tum'ah, whenever it is not possible to perform it be'Taharah (as Chazal derive from the word 'tomid') - and, as is well-known, G-d does not perform miracles when it is not absolutely necessary to do so?

In addition, he asks, what happened to the obligatory 'chavitei Cohen Godol' (the bi-daily Minchah brought by the Cohen Godol) which required a large amount of oil? With which oil did the Cohen Godol fulfill his obligation?


To answer all the above kashyos, he cites the opinion of the Rambam in Hilchos Temidin (3:11), who holds that, whenever the Cohanim found the lamps of the Menorah extinguished in the morning, they were obligated to rekindle them (unlike the other commentaries, in whose opinion the mitzvah of "Hatovas Neiros' comprised no more than preparing the lamps for kindling the following evening). That kindling, claims the Cheishek Shlomoh (though he himself goes on to query the veracity of this contention) did not override Tum'ah: firstly, because the Torah does not write 'tomid' in connection with it; and secondly, because the mitzvah itself was not absolutely necessary (i.e. it was not applicable if the lights were still burning in the morning).

True, he concludes, there was sufficient oil - tomei oil - to burn through the nights (just as there was for the Chavitei Cohen Godol). It was for the day kindling (which could not be performed be'Tum'ah) that the miracle was necessary, and it was there that the small jar, which did not even contain sufficient oil to burn for one day, lasted eight.


With this, the Cheishek Shlomoh also reconciles a discrepancy in the She'iltos, who first writes that the jar that they found contained sufficient oil to burn for one day, but then he adds that there was not even enough oil to burn for one day.

However, according to the above, it is feasible to say that the She'iltos' former statement refers to the night lighting (a period of twelve hours, for which there was enough oil), and his latter statement to that of the day as well (a total of twenty-four hours, for which there was not).


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