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

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Vol. 18   No. 8

This issue is sponsored anonymously
with wishes for a Refuah Sh'leimah for
Crystal Rose bas Shirah nY'

Parshas Vayishlach

And Yaakov Was Afraid
(Adapted from the Beis Halevi)

Rashi explains that in spite of G-d's promise to protect him, Ya'akov was afraid of Eisav because 'Perhaps sin caused him to lose that protection'. In other words, G-d's promises to Tzadikim are on condition that the Tzadik does not sin (and as the Pasuk states in Koheles [7:20] " ... there is no man who is wholly righteous and who does not sin').

If that is so, asks the Beis Halevi, why did Ya'akov invoke the promise in the first place? Furthermore, one may ask, what is the point of the promise in the first place? But we are currently concerned with the first (Beis Halevi's) question exclusively.


The answer, he explains, lies in the fact that Ya'akov's statement "And You said that You will do good with me " refers directly to his earlier statement "because I am afraid of him!" Ya'akov was not afraid of what Eisav might do to him personally or even to his family. He was afraid for Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu's Honour. Perhaps he had sinned, and his sins would cause Eisav to kill him, thereby negating G-d's express wish to do good to him. He was now afraid that if Eisav would kill him, G-d's intention to do good to him would not materialize (and what's more, he would be the cause of this great Chilul Hashem). And that is what worried him, not the threat to his life.

Perhaps this also explains why Ya'akov used the term "And You said (omarto) 'I will do good with you' '' - "said" rather than 'promised' (hivtachto); for as we explained, it was not G-d's promise that bothered him, but His words that in turn, conveyed His intention.


This is also what the Torah means when it describes in Vayeira (18:19) how G-d loved Avraham because he would instruct his children after him to guard the way of Hashem to do righteousness and justice "so that Hashem will bring on Avraham that which he said he would". Indeed, it was not personal benefit (even spiritual benefit) that prompted Avraham to teach his children to go in the ways of G-d, but to enable G-d to carry out His will in doing good to them as He had promised.


With this explanation, the Beis Halevi continues, we can easily understand the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (4:2) which states that 'The payment for a sin is a sin'. What the Tana now means is that when a person is punished for sinning, that in itself earns him another punishment, since he causes G-d to punish him instead of rewarding him for doing good, in accordance with the Divine Will.

And this is also what the Pasuk in Yirmiyah (31:18) means when it states "You chastised me and I will be chastised ", and the Pasuk in Yeshayah (40:2) " because she (Yerushalayim) has received from the Hand of Hashem double for all her sins". And the same applies to the continuation of the Mishnah 'the reward for a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah'. A person who is rewarded for performing a Mitzvah, will be rewarded again for granting G-d the opportunity of fulfilling His will to reward him.


I would suggest another way of explaining Ya'akov Avinu's words that will answer the two questions which we asked at the outset. To be sure, Ya'akov was afraid that his sins were responsible for the current threat to his and his family's life. According to one explanation in the Ha'amek Davar, the sin of which he was afraid was his unwarranted fear, and that is why the Torah adds "and he was troubled" - The fact that he was afraid, in spite of G-d's promise, troubled him, and he knew that this was why Eisav was now attacking him with four hundred men, placing him and his family in mortal danger. He knew that G-d's promise alone would no longer assure his deliverance, so he reverted to Tefilah, in the hope that, if the former alone would not protect him, then combined with the latter, it would save him from the clutches of Lavan, which indeed it did.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

When Fear is a Sin

"And the spoon of Ya'akov's thigh became dislocated " (32:26).

What happened to G-d's promise to Ya'akov that he would protect him (see Vayeitzei 28:15), asks the Riva?

The answer, he says, lies in Pasuk eight, where the Torah tells us that Ya'akov was afraid. Had his trust in G-d's promise been absolute, no power on earth would have been able to cause him harm!

And we find the same thing with Moshe Rabeinu, he points out. Moshe was attacked by an angel who would have killed him had his wife Tziporah not taken the initiative, as the Torah records in Parshas Sh'mos (4:24-26). There too, G-d had promised that He would protect him (3:12), yet that promise did not stand him in good stead - because, like Ya'akov, he was afraid of Par'oh, as we see from his initial refusal to take Yisrael out of Egypt ("Send whoever you want to send!").


One can explain this phenomenon with a Rashi in Horayos (12a). Rashi explains there that fear can be self-generating, in that something of which a person is afraid, often turns into a reality (like a person who looks down from a tremendous height, who is liable to fall precisely because he is afraid).


The Gid ha'Nasheh

"Therefore the B'nei Yisrael will not eat the Gid ha'Nasheh" (32:33).

This was in order to commemorate the miracle of Ya'akov's escape from the attack of Eisav's Angel, the Riva explains. Alternatively, because Ya'akov was wounded on the spoon of his thigh, his descendants undertook not to eat that same limb of an animal. This can be compared to someone who suffered from headaches, and who therefore took upon himself not to eat the head of animals any more, in order to become cured from his pains.

In yet another explanation, he explains that his children were wrong in allowing him to go out alone without accompanying him, which resulted in the wound that he now suffered. So he ordered them not to eat the offensive limb, in order to teach them the Mitzvah of Levayah (accompanying).

Unklus translates the Pasuk as "Therefore the B'nei Yisrael do not eat the Gid ha'Nasheh" ('Ochlin' in the present). This conforms to the Gemara in Chulin, which states that this Pasuk was really said at Har Sinai (and it is only placed here on account of its context). Otherwise, Unklus ought to have said 'Yichlun' (in the future).


Bowing Down to Eisav

"Also Le'ah approached and her sons, and they bowed down (vayishtachavu [actually, "vayishtachavu" means 'and they prostrated themselves'])' 33:7.

The fact that the Torah uses a masculine term "vayishtachavu" says the Riva, is not a problem, since the Torah tends to use the masculine form whenever it refers to both men and women.

The question arises however, why, in the previous Pasuk, after informing us that the maidservants approached together with their sons, the Torah then concludes "vatishtachavenah"(in the feminine)?

Initially, he answers that, in fact, the sons of the maidservants (Dan, Naftali, Gad and Asher) argued that although it was appropriate for their mothers to bow down to Eisav, since they were maidservants, as far as they were convcerned, they were sons of Ya'akov, for whom bowing down in this manner was inappropriate. What the Pasuk therefore means is that they approached Eisav together with their respective mothers, but that the mothers alone actually bowed down before him. The author discards this explanation however, on the grounds that if Ya'akov, Rachel and Le'ah and their children saw fit to bow down, then they should certainly have followed suit!

He therefore concludes that the sons did indeed bow down together with their mother, and the reason that the Torah writes "vatishtachavenah" here is because there were two women who did so, so the feminine plural is appropriate; whereas in the case of Le'ah and her sons, there was only one woman, and it would have been inappropriate to use the plural form.

Alternatively, he explains, there is no hard and fast rule; whenever the Torah refers to men and women together, sometimes it follows the gender of the one that is mentioned last, and sometimes that of the one that is mentioned first.


Safe and Secure

" and they came upon the city in safety (betach)" 34:25.

Rashi explains that Shimon and Levi felt secure, because the people of Sh'chem were in pain (and would therefore have great difficulty in defending themselves), or because they trusted in the enormous strength of their father.

The Riva points out that according to Unklus, the word "betach" pertains to the men of Sh'chem, who felt safe and secure. They never dreamt what was about to hit them.


The Milah Hurt - Retroactively

"And they killed Chamor and Sh'chem his son by the sword " (34:26).

How could they kill them once they had performed the B'ris Milah, asks the Riva?

And he answers that it was because they were sorry that they had; and that is what the Pasuk means when it writes "And it was on the third day when they were in pain" - They were in mental pain for having made the rash move of circumcising themselves.


No More Reason to be Afraid

"You have blackened me " (34:30).

'The barrel was clear, and you stirred it and turned it black', Rashi explains, citing a Medrash. The Cana'anim had a tradition, the Medrash continues, that they would fall into the hands of the B'nei Ya'akov, only they thought that this would take place at a later stage after they increased and were ready to inherit the land (which is indeed what happened). The Cana'anim left the B'nei Ya'akov in peace, the Riva elaborates, in order not to stir up trouble and bring about the fulfilment of the above-mentioned tradition prematurely. But now that Sh'chem had fallen into the hands of the B'nei Ya'akov, he explains, Ya'akov was worried that, on the assumption that the tradition had already been fulfilled, they would no longer be afraid to attack them.

Indeed, the Medrash describes a number of fierce battles that they now had to fight, as the Cana'anim attacked them in force.

* * *


" because I saw your face like the face of an angel (kir'os p'nei Elohim) " (33:10).

The Gematriyah of "kir'os p'nei Elohim", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, is equivalent to that of 'ke'Sar she'l'cho' (like your angel).

Ya'akov was hinting to Eisav, as Rashi explains, that he had met his angel (Sama'el) and came away unscathed.


"And he (Eisav) said and I will go together with you (lenegdecho)".

The same word appears in Tehilim (00:8) "You placed our sins before you (lenegdecho)".

As long as Eisav and Ya'akov were traveling together, Ya'akov figured, Eisav would see his brother and remember the sins that (he thought) he had committed against him. He therefore declined Eisav's offer, in the hope that he would forget.


"And Dinah went out to see the daughters of (bi'v'nos) the land" (34:1).

The same word appears in Shoftim (14:3) "Is there not a wife to be found among the daughters (bi'v'nos) of our own brothers?"

This hints at the Medrash that because Ya'akov hid Dinah in a box he was punished, in that, she was abducted by Sh'chem and raped.


"And Adah bore to Eisav, Elifaz " (36:4).

The Ba'al ha'Turim observes that when the Torah deals with the Yichus of the sons of Ya'akov, it uses the expression "b'nei Le'ah" and "b'nei Rachel" , because they were the 'buildings of the world' ('ben' from the word 'boneh', to build).

Whilst the sons of Eisav are not referred to as 'banim' but 'v'lodos' (babies), the same term that is used with regard to animals.


"And Oholivomoh bore Y'ush " (36:5).

Y'ush is a K'ri K'siv (although it is pronounced with a 'Vav' [the way we wrote it], it is actually spelt with a 'Yud, to read 'Y'ish').

'Yud', which represents the number ten, hints at the ten nations that Y'ush gathered to come and participate in the destruction of the second Beis-Hamikdash (see Tehilim 83:7-9)). Moreover, Yisrael suffered ten exiles at his hand.


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

See Rashi.

The Gematriyah of "yoshvei ho'oretz ", says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is equivalent to that of 'hoyu merichim es ho'oretz' (They would smell the land). Note that 'Chori' is a derivative of the word 'rei'ach (smell).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 464:
To Burn an Ir ha'Nidachas and to Kill its Inhabitants

It is a Mitzvah to burn an Ir ha'Nidachas and all that is in it.

This refers to a city in Yisrael whose residents have been induced by irresponsible men to go astray from under the wings of the Shechinah, and who subsequently followed their own evil inclinations to worship Avodah-Zarah. And it is about them that the Torah writes in Re'ei (13:17) " and you shall burn in fire the city and all its booty ".

A reason for the Mitzvah ... is well-known, in that if wicked and sinful men arrived at such an evil despicable decision as this they deserve their names and their memories to be erased from the world, so that nothing remains in this world to commemorate them. And there is no better method of permanently obliterating them than burning.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah Chazal have said that a city does not become an Ir ha'Nidachas (with regard to its residents being put to death by the sword and their money' burned together with the city) unless its enticers number two or more, as the Torah writes (Re'ei 13:14) "Men went out and they enticed the men of their city ". Moreover, they need to be men of the same tribe and residents of the same city, as the Torah adds there "from your midst". They also need to entice the majority of the city, and that those that they succeed in enticing number not less than a hundred and not more than the majority of the tribe. Otherwise, they do not have the Din of an Ir ha'Nidachas, but rather of individuals, who are sentenced to death by stoning and whose property goes to their heirs, as the Torah states "the inhabitants of the city", and not a small village or a large metropolis - and less than a hundred inhabitants is considered a village, whereas more than the majority of the tribe is considered a large city Neither an Ir Miklat (City of Refuge) nor Yerushalayim can be branded as an Ir ha'Nidachas, nor can a border-town The Din of how it becomes an Ir ha'Nidachas the warnings that Beis-Din send it via two Talmidei-Chachamim what the Chachamim say with regard to its main street and with regard to the property of Tzadikim who live there but who did not participate in the sin the Din of various types of Hekdesh that are to be found there and of the fruits of date-palms and the Din of the inhabitants' property and of the property belonging to the inhabitants of another Ir ha'Nidachas that happen to be in the city as well as all other details pertaining to it, are all discussed in Maseches Sanhedrin (and in the Rambam, in the fourth Perek Hilchos Avodah-Zarah).

This Mitzvah applies to men, since they are the ones who are responsible to carry out justice, and as long as Yisrael are settled in their land, since Ir ha'Nidachas only applies in Beis-Din ha'Gadol. This falls under the category of a communal Mitzvah, and above all, to the Sanhedrin. Should they contravene it, inasmuch as they are aware of the fact that a certain city in Eretz Yisrael deserved to be branded as an Ir ha'Nidachas, and failed to take the necessary action, they have negated this Asei, and are subject to a great punishment, due to the likelihood of the evil spreading to other cities.

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