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

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Vol. 10   No. 8

This issue is co-sponsored
in honour of the Bar Mitzvah of
Yedidyah Refoel Chrysler n.y.
May he grow up to be a Godol b'Yisrael
in Torah and Yiras Shamayim
and give nachas to his parents, grandparents and Klal Yisrael.


in honour of the engagement of
Jeremy Segal to Miriam Lipsey n.y.
May they be zochech to build a Bayis Ne'emon b'Yisrael.

Parshas Va'Yishlach

They Defiled Our Sister
(Part 1)

The Torah describes how Shimon and Levi attacked Sh'chem, and ransacked it, adding that it was "because they defiled their sister". Who is "they", asks the Torah Temimah? It was Sh'chem the Prince who had abducted Dinah, so why implicate an entirely innocent community? To quote the Gemara in Pesochim 'Tuvya sinned, and Zigud receives lashes?'

The Torah Temimah cites the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim, who rules that all gentiles are obligated to establish law-courts to judge matters pertaining to their seven Mitzvos. And he goes on to explain how all the people of Sh'chem deserved the death-sentence, because they saw what Sh'chem did and were fully aware of it, yet they did not judge him (or even rebuke him - Or ha'Chayim).

And he connects the Rambam with Chazal, who say in Shabbos, that someone who is able to rebuke the people of his town, but fails to do so, is taken to task as an accessory to the crime. And since Sh'chem's sin resulted in his death-sentence, it therefore follows that the entire town, which should have stopped him from sinning by rebuking him, was now guilty of the same sin as he was, and deserved the same punishment.


The Ramban however, takes the Rambam to task. First of all he argues, if the inhabitants of Sh'chem were guilty of abducting Dinah, why was Ya'akov angry with Shimon and Levi? If for whatever reason, he was afraid to carry out the law, he should if anything, have been pleased that his sons fearlessly pursued the course of justice?

In addition, he argues, the Mitzvah of Dinim (incumbent on all B'nei-No'ach), entails basically the establishing of civil laws, based mainly on the ideas set down in Parshas Mishpatim, not to steal, not to murder, not to cheat or to withhold workers' wages, and so on. And that was something which the people of Sh'chem had not transgressed.

He concedes that the Mitzvah incorporates the setting up of law-courts, only that in itself, he explains, does not carry with it the death-sentence, Why not? Because it is an Asei (a positive Mitzvah), and it is specifically the contravention of Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh (negative Mitzvos) that carry the death-penalty, as Chazal have said (of the seven Mitzvos B'nei No'ach) 'Their warning is their death-warrant'. And the word 'warning' (azharah) implies strictly a 'Lo Sa'aseh'. The logic behind this is, of course, that the Torah only punishes for sins that require an action, but not for desisting and doing nothing. To be sure, every sinner is subject to punishment, but not all sins are punishable at the hand of man. And the Torah makes a clear distinction between the two, as we see from the fact that Beis-Din may give lashes only for the contravention of Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh, but not for Mitzvos Asei.

One might argue that this principle is confined to B'nei Yisrael, and not to B'nei No'ach (like we find that G-d punishes B'nei No'ach for merely intending to sin, whereas 'Thoughts do not constitute sin' with regard to B'nei Yisrael). However that would not be correct. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 56b, states explicitly that even though resting on Shabbos is forbidden to B'nei No'ach, it is not included in the seven Mitzvos, because it is a Mitzvas Asei, and not a Lo Sa'aseh.


In any event, the Ramban rejects the Rambam's interpretation of the events that took place in Sh'chem. He therefore contends that Shimon and Levi killed the inhabitants of Sh'chem, not because of the abduction of Dinah, but because they were guilty of idolatry, adultery and many other sins, which earned them the death-penalty.


According to the Torah Temimah that we quoted earlier, the Torah itself indicates that Shimon and Levi killed the B'nei Sh'chem for the sin of the abduction (like the Rambam), and not for other unspecified sins, as the Ramban suggests. Indeed, Shimon and Levi's reply - "Will he make our sister a prostitute?" implies this too.

And what's more, his explanation also answers the Ramban's second question. Because failure to prosecute the evil-doers renders the people accessories to the crime, they had also committed a "Lo Sa'aseh".


As for the Ramban's first question, Ya'akov's bone of contention may well have been the fact that, even if the people of Sh'chem were accessories to the crime, the B'nei Ya'akov were not obligated to judge them. Why, even when judging fellow Jews, a Dayan who is afraid of one of the litigants, is permitted to withdraw at the beginning of the case. So it would make sense here to say that Ya'akov considered it more prudent to abstain. In any event, it is not clear why the Ramban's Kashya on the Rambam does not boomerang on himself, because what difference does it make whether Shimon and Levi were punishing them for abducting their sister or for worshipping idols? Either way, Shimon and Levi were justified in killing the inhabitants of Sh'chem. So why was Ya'akov angry with them?
(to be cont).

* * *

Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

At Opposite Ends

"And the land of their sojournings could not bear them" (36:7).


The only other place the word "could not" (ve'lo yochlah) appears is in Sh'mos (2:3), where the Torah writes (in connection with Tziporah hiding little Moshe) "And she could not hide him any longer".

The Shechinah rested with Ya'akov, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim. Consequently, the disparity between him and Eisav, who served idols, became so great that the land could no longer bear both of them. And so it was with Moshe, he says, the Shechinah rested on him, and the land of Egypt, where they all served idols, could not bear the contrast. That is why it became necessary to hide him.



"These are the sons of Se'ir ha'Chori, the inhabitants of the land (yoshvei ho'Oretz)" 36:20.


Rashi cites Chazal, who explain that the Chori were experts in land assessment, which land was good for olives, and which was good for vines ... . And the commentaries explain that they would actually achieve this by smelling the earth. In fact, that is probably why they were called 'Chori' (which contains the word 'rei'ach' - smell [no matter that the letters are inverted]). Otherwise they were known as Chivi (both words by the way, mean snake, which, as we know, is sort of an expert in earth flavours).

In any event, we can now better understand the Ba'al ha'Turim, who points out that "yoshvei ho'oretz" has the same numerical value as 'Hoyu merichim ho'Oretz (they would smell the earth)'.


The Eight Kings

"And these are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before a king ruled over the B'nei Yisrael" (36:31).


Rashi informs us that to compensate Eisav's head-start in monarchy, Ya'akov's descendants placed on the throne eight kings who would negate the monarchy in Edom: Shaul, Ishboshes, David, Shlomoh, Rechavam, Aviyah, Asa and Yehoshafat. And it was in the days of Yehoshafat's son, Yehoram, that they reinstated rulership.

And this balance, it seems, was part of the prophecy that was told to Rifkah at their birth (see 'Dividing the Honours', a little further).


The Ba'al Ha'Turim citing Chazal, attributes Eisav's head-start to the fact that Ya'akov referred to him eight times as "Adoni" (in spite of G-d's promise "ve'rav ya'avod tza'ir" - a promise that he would be given jurisdiction over his brother).

It just goes to show how careful one must be in choosing the words that come out of one's mouth.


It All Depends Whose Side You're On

" ... and Yovav from Batzrah ruled in his stead" (36:33). This word also occurs in Yeshayah "Mi zeh bo me'Edom chamutz begodim mi'Batzrah" (with reference to the ultimate downfall of Edom).


In time to come, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, when G-d destroys Edom, He will punish Batzrah together with them, because they provided Edom with a king (Yovav mi'Batzrah).


In Chayei-Sarah, the Ba'al ha'Turim pointed out that the words "B'nei-Ches" are mentioned ten times, because they helped Avraham to pick a grave for the Tzadekes, Sarah. So their name appears ten times, corresponding to the Aseres ha'Dibros, where the letter 'Ches' appears ten times.

See how important it is to be on the right side.


It Pays to be Popular

"And Ba'al-Chanan ben Achbor ruled in his stead" (36:37).


Why, asks the Ba'al ha'Turim, does the Torah write each of the eight king's place of birth, except for Ba'al-Chanan ben Achbor?

And he explains that he was extremely unpopular, and had many enemies, from whom he constantly had to hide. As a result, he did not have a fixed place of residence, only one day here and one day there.



"And Hadar ruled in his stead ... and the name of his wife was Meheitavel ... " (36:39).


Why the need to mention his wife, asks the Ba'al Ha'Turim, something that the Torah does not do by any of the other kings?

The Ba'al ha'Turim answers simply that Hadar only got to the throne due to his wife, who was wealthy and from aristocratic stock.


Dividing the Honors

The Torah lists here eight kings and eleven tribal chiefs. As against that, Yisrael had eleven 'Shoftim' (from Yehoshua until Shmuel), and eight kings (from Shaul until Yehoram, as we explained earlier).

And this is what Eisav meant (albeit unwittingly), when he said to Ya'akov ("And I will go corresponding to you").

* * *

Zol Zein a Kaporoh

In last week's Parshah Pearls - 'Nice All Round', we suggested that when the Medrash says 'nice for your children', it is referring to the Korban Pesach and Chagigah that Yisrael would later bring (just as it does when it says 'nice for you').

In fact, the Medrash specifically refers to the two goats that Yisrael would bring on Yom Kipur, one for Hashem and one for Azazel, and which would atone for their sins.

What the Medrash means, explains Rabeinu Bachye, is that just as the two goats would save Ya'akov from Eisav here, so too, would they save his children from Eisav's Angel (the Satan), every Yom Kipur. For when he came to accuse Yisrael for having sinned, they would send him the Sa'ir la'Azazel to keep him quiet (so to speak), allowing the goat for Hashem to do its job unmolested.

* * *


In last week's issue, we wrote (in the Dinim of Eretz Yisrael ... para. 13) 'One does not however, Duchen at Musaf on Yom Kipur ... ', and in the next sentence, 'The Kohanim do not Duchen at Musaf on Tish'ah be'Av'.

This is meant to have read 'One does not however, Duchen at Minchah on Yom Kipur ... ', and 'The Kohanim do not Duchen at Shachris on Tish'ah be'Av'. We apologize for the errors.

* * *


The Amidah
(based mainly on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
(Part XXIX)

Boneh Yerushalayim

This B'rachah is based on the Pasuk in Tehilim, says the Eitz Yosef, "Bonei Yerushalayim Hashem, nidchei Yisrael yechanes" (which we read each morning in P'sukei de'Zimrah). Interestingly, the order of the Pasuk suggests that the building of Yerushalayim will precede the ingathering of the exiles (as we see taking place today). Yet judging by the order of the B'rachos of the Amidah, which places 'Mekabetz nidchei amo Yisrael' before 'Bonei Yerushalayim', the two events should occur in the reverse order.


The Dover Shalom points out that all the B'rachos end in the present tense, even though most of them apply to the future. Starting with 'Mechayeh ha'Meisim', he goes through the B'rachos explaining how appropriate that is. 'Mechayeh ha'Meisim', he points out, deals with the four categories of people who are considered dead, a person who is poverty-sricken, a person with Tzara'as, someone who is blind and someone who has no children. And indeed, does Hashem not constantly 'bring the dead back to life' when he enriches the poor, heals the sick, grant vision to the blind and bless the childless with children?

And so it is with 'Go'el Yisrael'. We as Jews, suffer like no other nation. Chazal's comparison to our nation like a sheep surrounded by seventy wolves is as apt today as it always was, and our survival is due only to the Shepherd, who keeps the wolves at bay.

Even the B'rachah of 'Mekabetz nidchei amo Yisrael' is an ongoing process, for Chazal have said that Hashem scattered us across the face of the earth, in order to draw the holy sparks from among the gentiles, to bring back the lost Neshamos to their source. And besides, the very Galus itself serves as a cleansing process, that leads towards the ultimate redemption. Today, of course, the words of the B'rachah are being fulfilled slowly but surely, even in the literal sense.

Then there is the B'rachah of 'Shover oyvim ... ', which, (besides the literal interpretation) can be explained according to the Pasuk in Tehilim "When the Resha'im flourish like grass ... it is to destroy them forever".

The current B'rachah 'Boneh Yerushalayim' can be understood with the Chazal, that the wall of fire that Hashem will bring down to surround Yerushalayim will comprise 'the fiery sparks of fear' that Tzadikim emit with their Torah-study and fulfillment of Mitzvos. Added to that, the Gemara in B'rachos says that whoever makes a Chasan and Kalah happy, builds one of the ruins of Yerushalayim.

The Gemara also describes how angels were seen sawing precious stones for the gates of Yerushalayim.

And finally, we have the B'rachah of 'ha'Machzir Shechinaso le'Tzion'. This can be understood literally with the Medrash that every night, Hashem comes to the site of the destroyed Beis-Hamikdash and bemoans the destruction, in which case He really does return His Shechinah there on an ongoing basis.


The B'rachah of Matzmi'ach Keren Yeshu'ah

The Brachah of Matzmi'ach Keren Yeshu'ah is the fifteenth B'rachah, says the Levush, which Chazal instituted corresponding to the angels, who recited it when Yisrael crossed the Yam-Suf and sang Shirah. They fixed it after 'Boneh Yerushalayim', because when the people return to Yerushalayim, David will arrive, as the Navi writes in Hoshei'a (3:5). In any event, having specifically mentioned David already in the previous B'rachah, it is only natural to follow with 'es Tzemach David'.

The Rokei'ach writes that this B'rachah contains twenty words, correponding to the Pasuk in Yeshayah (40:9) "Ascend a high mountain, herald of Tziyon ... ".


es Tzemach David ... Meheirah ...

This B'rachah begins with the word Tzemach, because, Tzemach will be the name of Mashi'ach, and this is how the Navi Zecharyah (6:12) refers to him. And they inserted the word 'speedily', to counter the Medrash, which describes the process of the Ge'ulah as a slow one, that will not take place in one go. So we pray that it will nevertheless occur quickly.

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