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

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Vol. 6 No. 8

Parshas Va'Yishlach

A Muddy Spring


"A muddy spring, a dirtied source, is a tzadik who breaks down before the rosho" (Mishlei 25:26).

Shlomoh ha'Melech is informing us here of the qualities of a tzadik, for when a tzadik falls into the hands of a rosho and breaks down before him, his defeat is only temporary; in a short while he will be delivered from his hands, as the possuk writes (ibid. 24:16) "Because the tzadik falls seven times, but he rises again". In the end, he will return to his superior position and regain his prestige. To what can he be compared? To a spring which one tramples underfoot, causing it to become muddied, but that muddiness is only temporary - it will not last, because in no time at all, the water will become clear once more.

The rosho is unable to undermine the tzadik's dignity, nor to extinguish the light of his superiority, to deter him from retaining his righteousness to exactly the same degree as it was - just as it is impossible to dirty the water of a spring to the extent that it cannot be restored to its former state of cleanliness and purity.




Why does the possuk compare the tzadik both to a spring and to a source? Because, as we know, a river flows from a spring, and a spring from a source. That is why a spring is called 'ma'yon' or 'ein ha'mayim' - because it is like the human eye, which received its tears from the brain, which explains why excessive crying causes the brain to dry up. A source, on the other hand, does not rely on any external source for its supply. It is self-generating and permanent. That is why G-d bears the title 'Mekor' (the Source), because His strength too, is self-generating and permanent, as the Novi says (Yirmiyoh 17:13) "The Source of spring-water is G-d", and Dovid ha'Melech writes in Tehilim (17:13) "because with You is the Source of life".




And having informed us that, like the water of a source and a spring, it is impossible to destroy the tzadik or to damage his prestige permanently, Shlomoh ha'Melech continues "Eating too much honey is unhealthy; to investigate their (the tzadikim's) honour, on the other hand, is reputable". Here, he is informing us that one is obliged to research the tzadikim, and to tell the world of their greatness, and that this is better than eating honey, because whereas too much honey is unhealthy, excessive research into the good deeds of tzadikim is a good and respectable pursuit. For there can be no doubt that to constantly praise tzadikim is the result of a good personality, which causes him to find speaking good of the righteous, sweeter than honey.

On the other hand, to praise the resho'im stems from a wicked personality, and is due to the fact that one is attracted to one (or more) of their evil character-traits. For when all's said and done, people do tend to praise those with whom they empathise, so it is natural for a good person to feel inclined to praise tzadikim, whilst a bad person will derive much satisfaction in praising resho'im, as it is written: "Those who forsake Torah will praise a rosho" (Mishlei 25:8).

That is why Shlomoh ha'Melech considers it creditable to investigate the qualities of a tzadik and to speak about them, and that someone who does this diligently is praiseworthy, and that to do so excessively is better than eating honey. And Dovid ha'Melech too, wrote in Tehilim (15:4) (when listing the eleven qualities that earn a person the right to dwell with G-d) "and he honours those who fear G-d". Indeed, Chazal connected this possuk with Yehoshofot , King of Yehudah, who would get up from his throne whenever he saw a talmid-chochom, and embrace him and kiss him and call him 'My Rebbe, my teacher!'

It is not at first clear why Chazal find this so praiseworthy in Yehoshofot, considering that every Jew is obligated to honour talmidei-chachomim, as we have seen.

However, answers Rabeinu Bachye, Yehoshofot was a king, and a king is due to receive honour, not to give it, as the Torah writes in Shoftim "You shall surely place a king over you" (that his fear shall be upon you' [Kesubos 17a] - and not that your fear shall be upon him). Yet so great was Yehoshofot's love of talmidei-chachomim, that he went beyond the letter of the law to honour them.




The Medrash Tanchuma however, explains that the possuk in Mishlei "A muddy spring a dirtied source, is a tzadik who breaks down before the rosho" refers to Ya'akov Ovinu, who called Eisov 'My master' a number of times. In the end, he was saved from the clutches of his brother, and returned to his former glory, but in the interim, he was deeply broken and humiliated before him, to the extent that he had to send him gifts and the angels, as the Torah writes "And Ya'akov sent angels" etc.




Parshah Pearls





The Sheep and the Goats


"And I had oxen and donkeys, sheep, slaves and maidservants ... " (32:6). It is common to place flocks of sheep at the head of the list of domesticated animals, points out Rabeinu Bachye. The reason that Ya'akov changed the order here, to put oxen and donkeys first, was because he wanted to play down the flocks of sheep, to give them a low profile, so to speak. Why is that? Because it was because of the two goats from the flock (in loshon ha'Torah the word 'tzon' - flock - is shared by sheep and goats) that he obtained the b'rochos, and he was currently playing diplomat, doing everything in his power to win Eisov's favour.

It is not at first clear however why, upon the return of the messengers, he did place the sheep first, as the Torah writes "And he divided the people who were with him, and the sheep and the cattle" (32:8), and then again later (in possuk 15), where the first animals that he sent Eisov were the goats.

R. Bachye therefore explains that before he had davened to Hashem, he was indeed afraid to give prominence to the flocks, in order to avoid arousing his brother's ire. But once he had davened, it was different. Once he had poured out his heart to G-d, he no longer felt afraid of Eisov.

Not only that, but now, he deliberately made a point of mentioning the goats first, to remind Eisov how he had received the b'rochos through the two kid-goats, and that Eisov was powerless to do anything about it.




Rabeinu Bachye also quotes the Medrash, which resolves the discrepancy in quite a different way. The Medrash Tanchuma explains that initially, Ya'akov deliberately mentioned oxen first, because Yosef is compared to an ox. He wanted to point out that Yosef (Eisov's Sotton - see Rashi 30:25), was born. This was a broad hint that Eisov should beware, because with Yosef at his side, he was ready to stand up to him, and, what's more, he would defeat him.




The Slaves Stay Put


When Ya'akov sent his messengers with gifts of animals for his brother Eisov, he anticipated Eisov's questions "To whom do you belong ... and whose (animals) are these before you?". The Torah records both these questions and how he repeated them to each of the five messengers, together with the appropriate response (32:18-20).

We need to understand, asks the Chofetz Chayim, as to why the Torah finds it necessary to inform us of all these details, which appear to be trivial and of no consequence?

The Torah is telling us here about Ya'akov Ovinu's greatness, he explains. For we know that the Ovos kept the entire Torah. On the presumption that he perhaps gave Eisov the slaves together with the animals, one might wonder how Ya'akov could possibly have done this, seeing as Chazal have said in Bechoros (3a) that someone who sells his slave to a non-Jew is penalised for having removed him from the realm of mitzvos.

That is why the Torah stresses Eisov's queries: "To whom do you belong ... and whose are these" - he will want to know whether the slaves are included in the gift. But Ya'akov pre-empted him, leaving no room for doubt that he would not relinquish ownership of the slaves, for Eisov to acquire ownership of them and to release them from the yoke of Torah. His reply was crystal clear, for each slave was to reply "We belong to your servant Ya'akov; the animals though, are a gift to my master Eisov".



About the Mitzvos

Meaning to Do Good or Bad - Part II


The fact that a Jew really wants to perform a mitzvah (and therefore receives reward for the intention alone) and does not want to perpetrate a sin (and will therefore not be punished for the intention) is not absolute. In fact, there are two reservations, one, regarding the extent of application of the first principle, and the other, regarding the actual latter statement. Here are the two exceptions:




1. Granted that a person receives reward for his genuine intention to perform a mitzvah, but that does not necessarily mean that the effects of those intentions are as profound as if he would have actually performed it. For example, a person who wants to learn a blatt Gemoro and is prevented from putting his plans into practice, will receive reward as if he had learnt it - but how about the knowledge? It is inconceivable that, with all the good intentions in the world, a Jew can become a talmid-chochom without opening a Seifer and studying it.




2. Rav Huna points out that when a person sins once, and then repeats that same sin, it becomes permitted in his eyes (i.e. he actually believes that he is permitted to do it), and this is known as 'the concession of Rav Huna'. That being so, it is obvious that when it comes to 'the concession of Rav Huna', we will not say that in that case, he will not get punished when he is prevented from sinning. No, not at all! Once a person has already sinned twice, we can no longer say that he does not really want to sin, because it is simply not true. He thinks it is really permitted and does indeed want to. Therefore he will be punished for his intentions.


(The Mitzvos Asei)

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim)


64. To release debts in the Sh'mitah-year - as the Torah writes in Re'ei (15:2) "All creditors shall withdraw their claims". Should the debtor offer to repay the loan after the Sh'mitah-year has passed, the creditor is obliged to decline. He must say 'I release the debt!', as the Torah writes "and this is the word of the Sh'mitah" (ibid.). Should the debtor still insist on paying, he is permitted to accept the money.

By Torah law, the releasing of debts only applies when the Yovel applies. Mi'de'Rabbonon however, it applies nowadays too, in order that the institution of Sh'mitah should not be forgotten. It is customary nowadays, to write a "Pruzbul', a specially formulated document which places the debt under the jurisdiction of the Beis-din, thereby enabling the creditor to claim it on their behalf even after the termination of the Shmitah.

This mitzvah applies to men and women alike.



65. To allow one's employee to eat from the food with which he is working - by food that grows from the ground (exclusively) - as the Torah writes "When you come into your neighbour's vineyard, then you will be allowed to eat your fill of grapes", and "When you come to your neighbour's standing corn, then you will be allowed to pick ears of corn" (Ki Seitzei 23:25-26). And our sages learned traditionally that the Torah is referring specifically to an employee.

One is permitted to eat both food that is detached and food that is attached, provided it has not reached the final stage of Ma'asros, and the work that is now being performed brings it to that stage (of Ma'aser or Chalah, whichever is appropriate) - not before that stage and not after it.

To save the owner money, Chazal authorised the workers to eat from the fruit as they walk from one row to another, and when they return from the wine-press, in order to prevent them from stopping work in order to sit down and eat. In this way, they will rather eat as they walk from row to row, and get on with their work.

Someone who guards growing food is not permitted to eat, due to the fact that a guard does not perform a positive act. And someone who guards food that is detached is not permitted to eat by Torah law, only mi'de'Rabbonon.

The mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.



66. To pay a hired worker on the same day - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:15) "On the same day you should pay him his wages. The mitzvah extends to a non-Jewish settler (a ger toshav) who undertakes to keep the seven mitzvos of B'nei No'ach. He has the Din of a Jewish employee in this regard.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike. (Refer also to the section of La'vin, lo sa'aseh 38).




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