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

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Vol. 4 No. 24

Parshas Va'Yikra (Parshas Zochor)

A Fistful of Flour

When Homon came to dress Mordechai in the royal robes and to lead him around the town on the king's horse, he found him learning the laws of "Kemitzah" (the taking of a fistful of flour to burn on the Mizbei'ach) with the Rabbonon. "What are you studying?" Homon asked him.

"When the Beis Ha'mikdosh stood," replied Mordechai, "someone who donated a flour-offering brought a fistful of flour (via the Cohen - onto the Mizbei'ach), and he was atoned for".

"In that case," said Homon, "Your fistful of flour has pushed away my 10,000 silver 'kikar'."

The Chofetz Chayim wonders that Mordechai, at a time such as this, when the wicked Homon was after his blood, could find nothing better to do than to study Korbonos?

It is not at first clear what the Chofetz Chayim asks, in view of the Gemoro in Makos 10a, where it states that on the merit of the sacrifices, we defeat our enemies.

In fact, he quotes the Zohar, which explains that when one studies the Korbonos, even the Heavenly prosecuting counsel is unable to prosecute. All he can do is to state his merits. Exactly as Homon remarked: "Your fistful of flour came and pushed away my 10,000 silver kikar!"

Homon was referring, explains the Chofetz Chayim, to the study of the laws of "Kemitzah" which stands in place of the actual Korban, to teach us that one should not exempt oneself from learning about the Korbonos, every day, for then one will be spared from all troubles, as the Zohar has said.

The Chofetz Chayim has explained why Mordechai was studying the Korbonos, but what we still need to understand is why he chose, of all things, to study the "Kemitzah"?

Rashi explains that the "Kemitzah" was topical, in as much as it was part of the "Korban Omer", which was brought in the form of a measure of barley-flour on the 16th Nissan (the second day of Pesach), when the above episode took place. Consequently, Mordechai's choice of topic would be in keeping with the possuk in Mishlei "How good is a thing in its right time!"

This might well fit into the Medrash Yalkut's wording, points out the Maharsho, but it hardly conforms with the Gemoro in Megillah, which speaks of a man donating a flour-offering (and the Korban Omer was neither an individual offering, nor was it donated, nor did it consist of the "fine [wheat] flour" referred to by the Gemoro), but rather of barley.

It seems likely therefore, that Mordechai chose the "Kemitzah" as his subject for discussion, based on the Chazal (based in turn, on the possuk written with reference to the Minchah offering), "And a soul who brings a Minchah to Hashem". (Vayikro 2:1) It is not important whether one gives a lot or one gives a little, they say, as long as one's motivation is for the sake of G-d.

The small insignificant fistful is brought to Hashem with all the "heart" that the poor man, who can ill-afford an animal or even a bird, offers to Hashem. He has given Hashem his very Soul, giving Him much "nachas" in the process. How different was the 10,000 kikar of Homon's gift. Here was a "generous" gift offered by a heartless man in order to arrange the annihilation of an entire nation, a nation who had done nobody any harm and posed a threat to no-one.

Mordrechai was teaching Homon and the world a lesson in love, both of one's G-d and of one's fellow man, and a lesson in dedication and motivation. It is not so much how much you give (as Homon clearly believed), but what you give for, and how much devotion you put into the giving. The poor man's humble gift to Hashem is considered as if he had offered up his Soul, whereas Homon's offer to Achashveirosh was despicable in the eyes of G-d. Even Homon realised that, when he exclaimed: "Your fistful of flour has pushed away my 10,000 silver kikar!"

How much "nachas" the poor man's humble fistful gives to the Creator - and how much "nachas" is created by the Jews who, unable to practise this mitzvah, nevertheless display their love of the mitzvah by studying it and teaching it further. And how much loathing is caused by wicked men like Homon from whom hatred and enmity flow like water!

How apt is the possuk quoted by the Maharsho, to put the above Gemoro in its right perpective: "A mere spoonful of "nachas" is better than a houseful of sacrifices based on dispute and dissent!"

With deep sorrow we mourn the passing of our Rabbi, Teacher and Friend Rabbi Asher Margaliot z"l from Sol and Miriam Small


La'Yehudim Hoyso

The Gemoro in Shabbos (88a) explains that, to a certain extent, Yisroel were not willing partners at Mattan Torah.

"Va'yisyatzvu be'sachtis ho'hor," the Torah writes, "and they stood underneath the mountain" - not "be'regel ho'hor" ("at the foot of the mountain"), but "be'sachtis ho'hor!" And it is from here that Chazal derive that G-d held the mountain over their heads, as a warning that, if they did not accept the Torah, then the world would cease to exist.

Tosfos poses the question why Hashem needed to threaten them, since they had already shown their willingness to accept the Torah, when they proclaimed "Na'aseh ve'nishma". And he answers that Hashem contended with the possibility that they might retract, on account of the immense fire, an experience so frightening that it caused their Souls to leave their bodies and they needed to be revived. Who knows whether they would not be too frightened to continue?

Therefore, He gave them to understand that, however frightening Mattan Torah was, the prospect of not receiving the Torah was even more terrible, since it would lead to the destruction of the entire world.

The more popular answer to the question however, is that of the Medrash Tanchuma (in Parshas No'ach), which writes that, whereas Klal Yisroel had announced "Na'aseh ve'nishma" on Torah she'biksav, it was on account of Torah she'be'al Peh, which is an integral part of the Torah (even though Yisroel at Har Sinai, failed to realise this), that Hashem saw the need to force them to accept.

Whatever the case, the Gemoro continues that, for close to a thousand years, Yisroel had a sort of excuse - to say that, since they had received the Torah by force as it were, G-d could not really take them to task for relinquishing a Torah which they had not willfully accepted in the first place. And it was only in Shushan, at the end of the Megillah, where it writes "Kiymu ve'kiblu ha'Yehudim", which Chazal interpret to mean "kiymu mah she'kiblu k'var", that Yisroel established freely what they had previously accepted by force, that the fault was finally remedied.

Orah Ve'simcha

The connection between Purim and Mattan Torah can be explained in the following way: Purim, as we know, is exceptionally conducive to Simchah. In fact, one could say that, certainly from an external point of view, the atmosphere on Purim is more simchahdick than even that of the Yomim-tovim, where the Torah expressly writes "ve'somachto be'chagecho".

Why is that?

It could be for the very reason that we wrote above. The original Kabbolas ha'Torah was performed reluctantly - and to the degree that something is done with reluctance, and without enthusiasm, there lacks simchah. Consequently, Yisroel's willing acceptance of the Torah in Shushan was synonymous with simchah - the Kabboloh had occurred at Sinai; what was lacking there was the simchah. It follows therefore, that when the tikun took place, its very essence had to be simchah, to make up for the simchah that was lacking when they first received the Torah.

Now we can also understand two other things: firstly, the custom brought in halochoh to study Torah before the Purim Seudah. Considering that Purim was a Kabbolas ha'Torah, a Kabbolas ha'Torah be'simchah, the minhag becomes both appropriate and meaningful.

The above custom in turn, is based on the Chazal, who explain the posuk "la'Yehudim hoyso oroh ve'simchoh" etc. "Oroh" - that is Torah. "Ve'simchah" - that is Yom-tov (the Purim se'udah).

Although all four expressions (the above two, plus "sosson" which refers to bris Milah, and "Yekor" - Tefillin) beg an explanation (why these four, and why just then?), the first two "oroh" (Torah) and "Simchah" (Yom-tov) fit beautifully with what we wrote earlier. It was now, for the first time, that they realised the indispensibility of the oral Torah (according to Tosfos - the entire Torah) - it became a part of "Na'ase ve'nishma", it became part of themselves. They now accepted it willingly, and therefore there was simchah. Kabbolas ha'Torah was now complete! La'Yehudim hoyso orah ve'simchah!

The Day the King Forgot

It is inconceivable that the king should forget to reward someone who saves his life. Don't you agree?

Well, Achashveirosh did! Not even a half a shekel did he deem fit to deplete the royal coffers, in order to thank the man who had taken the trouble to save him from being poisoned! How odd, for a man who had not so long ago squandered countless millions of dollars (?!) for his lavish 180 and 7 day parties. (But perhaps that's why. Perhaps he was now so stoney broke that he just couldn't afford this sudden unplanned bill. His budget simply couldn't take it!)

That may or may not be true, but as for me, I prefer to accept the theory that sometimes Hashem takes the initiative - particularly when it comes to kings who, after all, are his agents (like we find by Par'oh, whose heart Hashem hardened when it suited Him). Here too, Hashem was preparing - during the quiet before the tornado (Homon) - the refu'ah before the makah.

The refu'ah, which is really the main theme of the first two chapters, was two-fold. 1. To place Esther on the throne of Persia. 2. To place Mordechai in a position where Achashveirosh was indebted to him. (And if one is at all familiar with the story, it is not difficult to see how these two facts would later combine to bring about the salvation for Klal Yisroel.)

In any event, if Achashveirosh was to be indebted to Mordechai, it was essential that the impossible should take place - that the mighty and wealthy king forget to reward Mordechai for his supreme act of kindness - and that is precisely what he did!

Two Parties - Better than One

Why did Esther make two parties? Why did she not make her request during the first one? The Ibn Ezra writes that it is because at the time of the first party, she had not seen any sign of success. Nothing unusual had happened to convey G-d's intention to intervene. So she called another party.

We can explain the Ibn Ezra's answer from both the natural point of view and from the supernatural one. From the natural point of view, it might be likened to someone who sows seeds. At first, nothing is visible. It is only later that the shoots begin to sprout and he knows that his efforts have been successful.

Esther had sown seeds, but as yet, she saw no signs that her efforts had taken root. So she waited till she saw the shoots.

And from a supernatural point of view, nobody knows just how much teshuvah is required in order to achieve a kapporoh - whether it is not that extra bit of tzedokoh or that additional tefillah which is the final straw.

Esther too, had no way of knowing whether Yisroel had already attained the level of teshuvah that was expected of them at the time of the first party.

So, when she saw no signs from Heaven that anything had changed, she organised a second party - maybe by then Hashem would have taken mercy on her people.

And how right she was. As some Meforshim explain - when Hashem saw how low this tzadekes had to stoop, to flatter the arch-rosho Homon, that Kevayochol, He could no longer contain Himself - on that night, the King (Hashem)'s sleep was disturbed. Esther's apathy was more than He could bear.

Between the first party and the second, much had transpired: the indications for a Divine salvation were there for all to see; the seeds had sprouted and were ready for harvesting!

Two Explanations - Better than One!

The question of the two parties can also be resolved by taking into account Esther's multiple reasons for inviting Homon to the party. The Gemoro gives numerous reasons, among them to cause Homon to become proud, Achashveirosh to become jealous and the Jews to give up their faith in her and to place their faith instead, in the King of Kings.

Presumably, she achieved that end to some degree by the time the first party arrived. But presumably the necessary extent of these results had not yet been reached. That is why she made the second party - to raise the level of Homon's conceit, to make the King even more jealous and to force her co-religionists to greater levels of faith in Hashem - and in that vein, she succeeded admirably. By the time the second party commenced, Homon's vanity had reached its peak - (although he had also begun to fall - the thrust of the previous answer) Achashveirosh was seething with anger and jealousy, and presumbaly, Yisroel's faith in her had waned even further, and their trust in Hashem had intensified.

What Was Esther Up To?

The Gemoro in Megillah 16a, writes that Esther, in reply to Achashveirosh's question "Who is the man who dares to do this?" actually made out to point a finger at Achashveirosh. And the truth of the matter was that that was the truth of the matter. For, when all's said and done, Achashveirosh was no less guilty that Homon of betraying the Jews. Indeed, the ultimate authority was his, not Homon's, and the signet-ring that sealed the decree to kill all the Jews, was his, not Homon's!

According to the Torah Temimah, she was simply giving vent to the anger that she felt with the king for having collaborated with Homon in signing the death warrant of all her people - men, women and children. She intended to say, "The oppressor and enemy" and to stop there, with an accusing finger pointing at the king. But when an Angel came and pushed her finger in the direction of Homon, she realized that what she was doing was foolish, and she added "This evil Homon".

Yet it is hardly conceivable that this brilliant strategist, who had just displayed so much wisdom and foresight in laying her plans, should jeopardize everything in one thoughtless moment. Nor could one conceive of a more foolhardy thing to do to implicate Achashveirosh! If there was ever a way of sabotaging all that she had so cleverly achieved up to that moment - then that was it.

Nor is it conceivable to explain that Esther allowed her emotions to run away with her (as the Torah Temimah seems to understabd), for Chazal have taught us that Tzadikim control their hearts (emotions) and not the reverse.

Perhaps we can explain it like this:

From the moment that Esther went in to the King's chamber, uninvited remember, she knew that any salvation that would result from her efforts, would be totally unnatural. As far as one could humanly see, she stood not the slightest chance of enlisting the King's sympathy, let alone his assistance, just as she had told Mordechai at the outset. That is why she "dressed in Ru'ach Ha'kodesh" (Rashi), before entering his presence - she shed her outer facade of mortality and entered the King's presence as a spiritual being, who had meanwhile enlisted G-d's sympathy, and she hoped, His assistance too. It was G-d, and G-d alone, in whom she now placed her trust, and it was to Him that she addressed herself before entering. (see Targum 5:21)

What she subsequently did, was to prepare for a showdown with the principal players in the act, by playing on their human weaknesses, and by drawing on the strength of Klal Yisroel, in making them fast and by inducing them to pray. But the final hand would be dealt by Hashem - she knew not how.

That explains why, at the first party, she said nothing, as the Ibn Ezra explains, because she saw no signs from Hashem. She saw no signs that Hashem was ready to respond - and He was the final player!

Consequently, when in the course of the second party, after Hashem had signalled that He was ready to proceed, the king asked her who was responsible, she pointed at Achashveirosh. He was the guilty party, so let Hashem deal with him as He saw fit.

And Hashem did respond! He sent an Angel to push Esther's hand in the direction of Homon. For reasons that are known to Him alone, He decided that His Hand would remain hidden throughout the story of the Megillah, and for reasons that are known to Him alone, it would be Homon who would bear the brunt of His wrath. So the story would take a strange twist, leaving Achashveirosh to deal with Homon. He would "forget" how swiftly he had handed over his signet-ring to Homon; he would forget that he hated the Jews more than Homon did.

Because Hashem controls the hearts of kings, and that is precisely what He did at that moment, in order to get rid of Homon without His own Name becoming directly involved. Esther could hardly have imagined that Achashveirosh would change his spots so completely, but that is the methodology that Hashem decided to use; He turned Achashveirosh against his erstwhile favourite with the same callousness as he had used to kill his wife Vashti, and with the same treachery as he had employed in signing the death-warrant of an entire innocent nation - men, women and children.


(Va'Yikro) (Yeshayoh 43:21- 44:23)

Among the most momentous events in the history of the world was the completion of the Mishkon, the house that was built to bring G-d's Shechinah down into this world. Its importance is emphasised by the amount of space that the Torah alots to describe its construction.

And the fact that the main function of the Mishkon (and subsequently of the Beis Ha'mikdosh) was the bringing of sacrifices, only lends support to Chazal, who say that were it not for the Korbonos, the world would not exist. Indeed, the connection between the Korbonos and the Mishkon is highlighted by the juxtaposition of Parshas Vayikro to that of Pikudei.

The world was created for the sake of Yisroel, so one might expect one of the main functional duties of Yisroel to be that of bringing the sacrifices; and that is precisely how the Novi opens the Haftorah of Va'yikro, according to Targum Yonoson, who translates the first posuk like this "This nation I established to worship Me (by bringing Korbonos) and to tell My praises."

It is unfortunate that the Novi begins with this theme only in order to lament the failure of Klal Yisroel to succeed in this mission, for he goes on to remind them how they failed to call out to Hashem, preferring instead to turn to idols, and how they soon tired of serving Him. And there follows a brief description of their rejection of the various aspects of the Korbonos.The Redak explains that, in the opening pesukim, the Novi is referring to the period of Ochoz, father of Chizkiyohu, who shut down the avodah in the Beis Ha'mikdosh. He locked the doors of the Beis Ha'mikdosh, and set up altars throughout Yerusholayim, whilst in the other towns of Eretz Yisroel, he built houses of idol-worship. That is why the Novi continues "You failed to bring the lambs of your burnt-offerings to Me - but rather to other gods - nor did you honour Me with your peace-offerings." And that, despite the fact that G-d had made no heavy demands on the people, to bring large flour-offerings (only one fistful of the flour-offerings was given to Hashem, and, in any case, the flour-offerings were voluntary) or frankincense.

The Novi continues to complain how Yisroel refused to take the trouble to buy the K'nei-Bosem for the incense, since it had to be bought from a distant land (Redak - see also Rashi 43:24), nor did they satisfy G-d with the fat of their sacrifices. Instead, they forced Him to bear their sins, tired Him out with the iniquities (Redak).

Quoting a Gemoro in Chagigah, Rashi explains that G-d was forced to serve idolaters and to help them achieve their goals. Yeshayoh saw a storm-wind coming from the North, from Bovel, riding on the Shechinah, on its way to conquer the world, to place it under the jurisdiction of Nevuchadnetzar. This was necessary for the dignity of Klal Yisroel, so that people should not say that G-d handed over His children to a lowly nation. And indeed, this is G-d's policy, as the Gemoro writes in Gittin (56b) to explain the posuk in Eichoh (1:5) "Its oppressors became leaders".

We can learn from here two important lessons: We can learn just how profound is G-d's love towards Klal Yisroel, from the fact that He is willing to lower His own prestige, as it were, in order to protect our's - even at a time when we have lost favour with Him and deserve to go into golus. And we can learn the awesome after-effects of sin, when we see how we are taken to task not only for the sin itself, but even for the indirect results of the sin. We are held responsible for the indignities that we force upon G-d as He strives to maintain our dignity.

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