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

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Vol. 10   No. 9

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
R. Yosef b'R. Shmuel z.l.
whose Yohrzeit is on the 3rd day of Chanukah

Parshas Va'Yeishev
(Shabbos Chanukah)

They Defiled Our Sister
(Part 2)

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (59a) refers to Dinim as an Asei and a Lo Sa'aseh, and Rashi interprets the Lo Sa'aseh as that of "Lo Sa'asu Ovel" ('Do not perform injustice'). Perhaps, according to the Rambam, the La'av will be synonymous with that which the perpetrator transgressed (seeing as judges who do not punish the evildoers become accessories, as we wrote last week in the name of the Torah Temimah).

The problem with this explanation is the Ramban's third question (which we did not cite last week). The Ramban quotes a Yerushalmi, which permits a gentile judge to withdraw, even from a case which is at an advanced stage. This is because he is not subject to the La'av of "Lo soguru mipnei ish" ('Do not be afraid of the litigants'), in the way that Jewish judges are. In that case, how can one possibly ascribe the death-penalty of the townspeople of Sh'chem to their failure to judge their prince (of whom, it is safe to assume, they were afraid, as the Or ha'Chayim explains)?


The Oznayim la'Torah suggests that Shimon and Levi would perhaps, not have punished the inhabitants of Sh'chem had the sin been perpetrated by an individual against an individual. Their decision to take such extreme action was based on the fact that this was a crime perpetrated by one nation against another. It was an act of war, which warranted a counter attack and annihilation, even if it was not perhaps, absolutely obligatory.

And he bases this on the Torah's own words, when, describing the B'nei Ya'akov's initial reaction, it writes "because he performed an abomination against Yisrael ... ". This was not a private sin, it was a national one, and it explains adequately why Shimon and Levi took extreme measures.

Perhaps one can elaborate still further and add this was not just an attack against any nation, but an attack against Yisrael, as the Torah stresses, and as the Pasuk continues "to commit adultery with a daughter of Ya'akov, is something that is simply not done".

This explanation also makes it easier to understand the bone of contention between them and their father Ya'akov. He maintained that, under the circumstances, they ought not to have taken such drastic measures, since this was not an obligatory ruling on their part, as we explained.

They certainly would not have done so had it been a private sin of which someone was guilty. They probably would not even have done so had it been another nation whose honor they had defiled. But now that Kavod Yisrael was at stake, they insisted that justice must be done, obligatory or not.


It is also possible that Shimon and Levi made use of the Halachic ruling permitting the Sanhedrin to take the law into their own hands and punish evildoers as they see fit, should the need arise. This concession allows Beis-Din to administer lashes even where lashes are not due, and even to serve the death-sentence to someone who does not deserve it. It is certainly feasible to say that in view of the severity of the crime, this is what prompted Shimon and Levi to take such drastic action.

Here too, the bone of contention between Ya'akov and his sons is easy to comprehend. It is not so clear according to the Ramban, who attributes the actions of Shimon and Levi to the fact that the inhabitants of Sh'chem were guilty of many sins, for which they anyway deserved the death penalty. So either Ya'akov's attitude is incomprehensible (on the basis of his first question, as we explained last week) or that of Shimon and Levi was (on the basis of his last question).


In addition to the questions that we have discussed until now, many Rishonim ask how the sons of Ya'akov could abrogate the treaty that they had made with the B'nei Sh'chem in good faith. They had agreed that, on condition that they circumcised, the two nations would join forces and work together as one unit. Yet no sooner had the latter kept their part of the deal, than they attacked and killed them, in a manner than can only be described as underhand. At best, what they did was a breach of faith.

And they answer that after performing the B'ris Milah, the B'nei Sh'chem were full of remorse for having done so. Had they not been, the brothers would perhaps, have taken Dinah and left, and this was the "cunning trick" described by the Torah (as the commentaries explain). But because they were sorry for the Mitzvah that they had performed, Shimon and Levi had no qualms about punishing them in full. In addition, says the Chizkuni, they overheard Sh'chem and Chamor telling the people that the treaty was in their honor, which was not what the brothers had stipulated. And thirdly, they heard them say that the B'nei Ya'akov's property and cattle now belonged to them, something which was certainly not part of the deal. Consequently, seeing as they had twisted the conditions of the treaty to suit their own ends, the treaty was null and void.


A final question that needs to be answered is how the B'nei Ya'akov could plunder the city, thereby casting suspicion on their motives.

The Or ha'Chayim explains that the Torah inserts the phrase "because he defiled Dinah their sister" for this very reason. They plundered the city in payment of 'Boshes' (the embarrassment, as well as other costs that a rapist is obligated to pay). Indeed, he points out, the Boshes, as the Mishnah teaches, depends on the status of the parties involved.The costs in this case, where it was the lowly Chamor who had embarrassed a daughter of Ya'akov, would have been way beyond anything that the B'nei Sh'chem possessed. Consequently, there can be no question, that the B'nei Ya'akov were perfectly justified in ransacking the town to receive part of the payment owed to them.


Parshah Pearls

(Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

Kibud Av va'Eim

"va'Yeishev Ya'akov be'eretz megurei oviv" (37:1).

The 'Yud' in "va'Yeishev" is bent and it resmbles a 'Chaf', says the Ba'al ha'Turim (though our Sefarim are not written in this way).

Eisav was blessed with all the Kavod listed at the end of va'Yishlach, only on the merit of the honour that he showed his father. Ya'akov noted that, in spite of the ten B'rachos that he had received from his father, he had to send his brother ten gifts (she-goats and he-goats, sheep and rams ... ) in order to placate him. And this, he figured, must be due to the fact that he had been unable to honour his parents in the way that Eisav had.

So he decided to bend himself and go and join his father in Chevron, in order to honour him (hence the bent 'Yud', and the 'Kaf', which represents Kovod).

As one of the Avos, Ya'akov had a large family to rear and an important destiny to pursue. Yet, in spite of his advanced years (he had almost reached the age of a hundred), he learned from his brother Eisav, the real importance of the Mitzvah of Kibud Av. Hence his decision to temporarily set aside family and destiny, and to concentrate on the Mitzvah in which he had been lax. That is probably what the Ba'al Ha'Turim means when he refers to Ya'akov bending himself.

And to cap it all, the numerical value of "va'Yeishev Ya'akov be'eretz megurei oviv", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is equivalent to that of 'Yoshav le'kayem Mitzvas Kibud Av'.


A Fool

"ve'Hu na'ar (and he was a lad)" 37:2.

The word "na'ar" has the same numerical value as 'shoteh' (a fool). Interestingly, a na'ar in Yiddish, means a fool.


Bearing in mind that all the initial Tzaros of Yosef were the result of the Lashon-ha'Ra that he spoke about his brothers, the above 'Gematriyah' fits with the Pasuk in Mishlei "u'Motzi dibah hu k'sil" (and someone who speaks Lashon ha'Ra is a fool).


Ya'akov's Wise Son

"ki ben zekunim hu lo' (37:3).

Unklus translates this as 'because he (Yosef) was his wise son' (based no doubt, on Chazal who describe 'Zakein', as 'Zeh she'konoh chochmah').


In the same vein, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the numerical value of "zekunim" (written as it is, without a 'Vav') is 'Raz' (meaning secrets), because Ya'akov taught Yosef the secrets of Torah.

And in addition, the word is also the acronym of 'Zera'im, Kodshim, Nashim, Yeshu'os ( another name for Nezikin) and Mo'ed'. It is not however clear, what happened to the sixth Seder of Taharos (unless of course, that is synonymous with the 'secrets of Torah', which are contained in the above-mentioned 'Gematriyah').

It is interesting how a wise man can become a fool (see previous piece) overnight.


The Shirt of Many Meanings

"ve'osoh lo kesones pasim" (ibid.)

Rashi translates "Pasim" as a fine woolen shirt.

However, the word has many other translations and many deeper meanings.

Rashi already cites the acronym 'Potifar, Sochrim, Yishme'eilim, Midyanim', hinting at the various phases from the time that Yosef's brothers sold him until he arrived in Egypt.

The Ba'al ha'Turim adds a few more. The numerical value of the word, he points out, is 190, the equivalent of 'Ketz'. This hints at the 190 years that Hashem would deduct from the initial 400 years' Galus. The remaining 210 years would only begin later, but were sparked off by this episode here.

In addition, he writes, G-d told Yosef about the 'end' (the date that Mashi'ach will come, just as He would later tell Ya'akov). And it is also a hint that Yosef would rule 80 years (corresponding to the 'Pey' in "Pasim"), out of the 110 years of his life (corresponding to the remaining letters 'Samech, Yud, Mem').

And finally, it is an acronym of 'Pasu Tamu' (a double Lashon of coming to an end), a hint that, because of the Shirt, Yosef would ultimately die before his brothers.


On the Merit of Ya'akov

"And his father scolded him" (37:10).

The same word appears in Tehilim (106:9) "And he scolded the Sea and it dried up".

This teaches us, says the Ba'al Ha'Turim, that just as here, the Torah is talking about Ya'akov, so too there, did the Sea split on the merit of Ya'akov. Indeed, when the Pasuk writes just before the Shirah "And Yisrael saw the Great Hand ... ", it is referring to 'Yisrael Saba' (Ya'akov our Grandfather), as the Medrashim explain.


Remember Me

"va'Yishlocheihu me'Emek Chevron ... " (37:14).

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the numerical value of the word "Eimek" is 210 (the number of years that Yisrael lived in Egypt [see also Rashi]).

Yosef politely suggested to his father to turn back, but Ya'akov declined, quoting the Pasuk (in Shoftim, by the Eglah Aruvah). The Torah writes there "Our hands did not spill this blood", and the sages explain this to mean that they did not send him away without accompanying him).

And on that note they parted.


And that is why the Torah will write in Vayigash "va'yar es ho'agolos" ('And he saw the wagons', though the word also means the calves, a hint to the Eglah Arufah) which Yosef had sent. In keeping with Chazal, who have taught that two friends should part through words of Torah, because in that way, they will remember each other, Yosef remembered the last Shiur that his father taught him, as they were taking leave of each other. In fact, that Shiur set the reunion in motion.



In the Va'Yeitzei issue, in 'The Dinim of Eretz Yisrael' 16:2, we wrote in connection with the Leining - 'On Rosh Chodesh, (when "u've'Roshei Chodsheichem" is read, after the regular Parshah (as Maftir)'.

What we ought to have written was 'On Rosh Chodesh, the first three Aliyos read the regular Rosh Chodesh Leining in Pinchas (instead of four), and the fourth Aliyah, the current day of Chanukah, in Naso'.

We apologize for the error.



Hey, When Did they Light?

Here's a teaser to ponder over.

The commentaries explain that Chanukah is the acronym of 'Chanu Kah' (they rested [from their enemies] on the twenty-fifth [of Kislev]). Even assuming that that very same night, the Kohanim found the jar of tahor oil, and they lit the Menorah sparking off the rededication of the Beis ha'Mikdash, that can only have taken place on the eve of the twenty-sixth. In that case, why, the following year, did they fix Chanukah, including kindling the Chanukah-Lights, a day earlier on the twenty-fifth?


Some Aspects of Chanukah
(adapted from the Avudraham)

S'feika de'Yoma

On all the major Yamim-tovim, Chazal fixed two days Yom-tov, due to S'feika de'Yoma (the uncertainty as to the day on which Yom-tov fell). Why, the popular Kashya goes, did they not do likewise on Chanukah.

The Ba'al ha'Itim explains that they confined the second day to a Yom-tov which is basically d'Oraysa, and which was initially determined through witnesses, but no longer. Chanukah on the other hand, is purely de'Rabbanan, fixed at a time when determining Rosh Chodesh by witnesses was no longer functional. So there never was a S'feika de'Yoma to begin with. The same Kashya is asked with regard to Sefiras ha'Omer (see Rishonim at the end of Pesachim). One of the answers given by the Rishonim is that since Sefiras ha'Omer nowadays is de'Rabbanan, the Rabbanan did not necessitate two days (something in the way of 'S'feika d'Oraysa le'Chumra, S'feika de'Rabbanan, le'Kula'). Now that answer would adequately explain the absence of S'feika de'Yoma by Chanukah and Purim, too.

The original Kashya puzzles me, however. Considering that Chanukah falls on the twenty-fifth of the month, there seems to be no reason why the witnesses should not have had ample time to inform the people in Galus as to when Rosh Chodesh had taken place, and there would never have been a Safek in the first place.


Low Profile

A Chanukah Menorah which is placed higher than twenty Amos is Pasul (as far as spreading the miracle to passers-by in the street is concerned).

And the same applies to a Sukah and to a cross-beam at the entrance of a blind-alley that permits one to carry in the blind-alley).


All three, says the Avudraham, are hinted in the Torah (bearing in mind that twenty Amos is equivalent to a hundred and twenty Tefachim [at six Tefachim to an Amah]).

1. "Zos Chanukas ha'Mizbei'ach be'yom ... ", where the numerical value of "ha'Mizbei'ach be'yom" is a hundred and twenty.

2. "ve'Sukah tiheyeh le'tzeil yomom" (Yeshayah 4:6), where the numerical value of 'tzeil' is a hundred and twenty.

3. "Ki al-kein bo'u be'tzeil korosi" (Bereishis 19:8), where again the same word ('tzeil') appears.


The Excess Oil

One may add a oil to the left-over oil from the previous night, and use it together with the left-over wicks, on the following night (even though this is not ideal). But if oil and wicks are left over at the end of Chanukah, one makes a little bonfire and burns them. They may not be used.

Why does the Din here differ from that of other 'Tashmishei Mitzvah', such as a Shofar and a Lulav, which can be thrown out and used, the commentaries ask?

The Avudraham cites Rebbi Gershom b'Rebbi Shlomoh, who gives two reasons for this:

1) That whereas with regard to other Tashmishei Mitzvah, one anticipates their remaining after the Mitzvah is completed, and has in mind to use them, this is not the case with the oil of used for the Chanukah-lights, which one expects to burn out completely, and does not therefore have in mind to use.

2) Chazal declared the Chanukah-lights holy, like the lights of the Menorah which they are meant to commemorate.

This will also explain why we are not even allowed to benefit from the Chanukah-lights whilst they are burning, and is borne out by the words in 'ha'Neiros ha'Lolu' -('And throughout these eight days of Chanukah these lights are holy, and we are not permitted to use them').

Incidentally, one may not even use the Chanukah-lights for Havdalah (in spite of the principle 'Mitzvos La'av Lehonos Nitnu' [Mitzvos are not meant for one's personal benefit]), because the Havdalah candle must be fit to benefit from.


Rebbi Gershom also explains the difference between the Chanukah-lights, which one may not use, and the Shabbos-lights, which one may (and should). The former, he says, were instituted purely to publicize the miracle of the oil that took place then, and to use them for one's personal benefit would detract from that purpose. The institution of the latter on the other hand, was specifically for the purpose of enjoying Shabbos, to see the food that one eats and not to stumble in the darkness.

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