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

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to ParshaHomepage Previous Issues

Vol. 5 No. 8

Parshas Va'yishlach

The Rewards of a Mitzvah -
Just One Mitzvah!

"And Ya'akov was very afraid and he was distressed" (32:5).

He was afraid, explains the Medrash, because he had lived all those years outside of Eretz Yisroel, whilst his brother Eisov had had the merit of living in Eretz Yisroel. He was afraid, explains the Medrash, because he had been away from his parents all those years, whilst his brother Eisov had had the merit of honouring his parents.

Nor were those fears unjustified for, as Chazal have explained, he was indeed punished for the 22 years that he failed to honour his parents, due to his decision to remain with Lovon longer than necessary. (However, we are not concerned with the demerits of not performing a mitzvah, but rather the merits of performing one.)

It is typical of tzadikim to realise so vividly the merits of a mitzvah, no matter by whom it is performed; and we find this too, with Moshe Rabeinu, who feared Og, King of Boshon, because he brought the news of Lot's capture to Avrohom Ovinu's notice. He was thus indicrectly linked to Lot's salvation - and thereby to Avrohom's happiness. No matter that his intentions could hardly have been less noble. He had anticipated (accurately, as it turned out) that Avrohom in his bravery, would not hesitate to attack the four mighty kings in an attempt to recapture Lot. He would be no match for such a mighty army, and he would be killed. Once Avrohom was dead, Og would be able to marry the beautiful Soroh (with or without her consent). That was Ogís plan! But of course, his plan misfired. Avrohom's mission was a total success, and Lot was saved. Consequently, Og, Moshe figured, would be considered to be an ally, and that merit would stand Og in good stead - in spite of his evil motives.

That is why Moshe Rabeinu was afraid.

And, in similar vein, Ya'akov Ovinu was afraid, because he realised that Eisov, throughout the 36 years that he had been away, had merited 1) to live in Eretz Yisroel, and 2) to honour his parents. As in the case of Og, King of Boshon, Eisov's motives were highly suspect. His living in Eretz Yisroel could hardly be attributed to a love for its sanctity, for, since when did Eisov have respect, let alone love, for sanctity in any form? There is every indication that he honoured his father (we do not find that he honoured his mother - on the contrary, he deliberately rendered her childless even as he was being born) only for what he could gain from him. He wanted his fatherís precious blessings, he wanted the birthright and he wanted the inheritance - a double portion to boot; and he was willing to go to any lengths to obtain them - even to honour his father, if need be! Nonetheless, Ya'akov was afraid of Eisov's merits on both scores - because, motives apart, he had the double merit of living in Eretz Yisroel and of honouring his father.

If a mitzvah performed with such egoistical motives carries with it the potential of victory over one's enemies - even enemies of the calibre of Klal Yisroel and Ya'akov Ovinu - imagine the power of a mitzvah performed with the correct motivation, or even without motivation - but in innocence. If the dividends of a mitzvah performed in the way that evil men like Og Melech ha'Boshon and Eisov ho'rosho performed it can be so rewarding, imagine what is in store for a good Jew who performs the mitzvos carefully with the right kavonoh! Surely the reward due to them both in this world and in the next is incalculable - for just one mitzvah!

Parshah Pearls
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Ya'akov Ovinu, on his way back from Lovon to his father, who lived in Be'er Sheva in the south of Eretz Yisroel, knew that he had to pass close to Edom, the land of Eisov. So it was natural that he should be concerned about Eisov, whom he had left in a foul mood - ready to kill him over the blessings. So writes the Ramban, but he then quotes the Medrash Rabbah, which places the blame for all his subsequent fears, and the precautions that he was then forced to make for his own safety, on himself. Someone who grabs a sleeping dog by his ears has only himself to blame, when the dog then snaps at him. The Medrash implies that, had Ya'akov ignored Eisov, Eisov would not have given his passing brother a second thought, and he would have been spared all the anguish that the ensuing encounter caused him.

What the fathers did is a forerunner of what their children would do - years and even centuries later. That explains - concludes the Ramban - why it was the Jews themselves, (Yehudah ha'Maccabi) who first approached the Romans to form a peace treaty. The Romans kept the treaty for twenty-six years, then they turned from friend into foe. If only they hadn't called them! If only they hadn't grabbed the dog by its ears!

Women First - Sometimes

"And he arose that night, and he took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons, and he crossed the crossing of Yabok." (32:23)

In Parshas Va'yeitzei (31:17) Rashi pointed out how, whereas the Torah writes by Eisov that he took first his wives and then his sons, by Ya'akov it mentions them in the reverse order, to stress Ya'akov's high moral standard - as opposed to Eisov's love for women.

So what do we do with the posuk here, asks the Torah Temimah, where the Torah tells us that, not only did Ya'akov pass his wives first across the brook, but he even put his maidservants before his sons, too?

The Gemoro in Ta'anis cites the story of Aba Chilkiyoh, Choni ha'Me'agel's grandson, who, in a string of curious actions, followed his wife into the house, in spite of Chazal, who describe a man who walks behind his wife, as an am ho'oretz. When they queried him about this, he explained to the two talmidei-chachomim (who had come to ask him to pray for rain) that he did this because he was not acquainted with them, so how could he possibly enter the house first, leaving his wife outside with two total strangers?

The Torah Temimah answers the above question in similar fashion. Of course, Ya'akov Ovinu, who was not a womaniser like his brother Eisov, placed things in their right perspective, and made a regular practice of putting his children before his wives. But this time it was different. Why? Because had he taken his sons across first, it would have meant leaving his wives and maidservants on the other side of the stream, together with all his slaves and all his camp - a risk that he was simply not willing to take.

Singing in Defeat

When the Angel (of Eisov) pleaded with Ya'akov to let him go, because dawn had broken, Ya'akov asked him whether he was perhaps a thief or a gambler who owed someone a lot of money - and was afraid that he may be recognised. "No", he replied "I am an angel, and since the day I was created, my time to sing shiroh to Hashem has not fallen due - until now." (Chullin 91a)

Before letting him go, Ya'akov extracted a blessing from him, and he confirmed that Ya'akov would be Eisov's master and that to mark this, his name would be changed to Yisroel.

If the angel's time to sing shiroh had not yet arrived, then why was he created seemingly prematurely? And besides, why did his time to sing shiroh to Hashem fall due only after he had been overpowered by Ya'akov?

It seems that Eisov is G-d's stick to punish Ya'akov and to keep him in check. But that is only when Ya'akov does not perform the will of Hashem. Ultimately, Ya'akov will perform the will of Hashem, and then the prophecy of "the older one will serve the younger one" (25:23) will come true. And that will presage the prophecy in Ovadyah "And they will come up delivered to the Mountain of Tziyon to judge (punish) the Mountain of Eisov" etc.

As long as Eisov rules, the world has not reached its goal. It is when Yisroel rule, that the world reaches its zenith, and when Yisroel rise, Eisov falls (see Rashi, ibid.). The purpose of Eisov (and Eisov's angel) in this world is to keep Ya'akov in check, but ultimately to be defeated by him. Then the world will have reached its goal and his angel will sing shiroh to Hashem.

"Ma'aseh ovos si'man le'bonim". What happened to Ya'akov was a forerunner of what will happen in time to come! When Yisroel will emerge victorious, the angels who are faithful servants of Hashem - among them, the angel of Eisov - will sing to Hashem, because on that day, Hashem will be One and His Name, One!

The Shema and its B'rochos (Part V)

Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh

The triple Kedushah could be attributed to the three key Midos, Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferes, which are the embodiment of the Ovos, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Ya'akov, who are also known as the Merkovoh, the chariot which supports Hashem's Throne. In other words, it is through them and what they represent, that G-d's glory is manifest in this world. In that case, it would appear that 'Boruch Kevod Hashem mi'mekomo' stands for the fourth leg of the Throne - Dovid ha'Melech. This explanation also conforms with 'ha'Melech ha'Godol ha'Gibor ve'ha'Noro', (which is mentioned a few lines earlier, and) which also corresponds to Dovid ha'Melech and the three Ovos. However, most Meforshim explain that the three times 'Kodosh' refers to the three worlds: namely, this world, the world of the stars and the planets, and the world of the angels, and what the angels are saying is that G-d's sanctity (meaning that He is divested of physicality) supercedes all the worlds.

Melo Chol ho'Oretz Kevodo

This refers either to Hashem's praises or to His Kingdom, because the universe is not only a reflection of G-d's greatness - as we quote every Shabbos morning: "The Heavens tell the glory of Hashem, and the sky the work of His Hands" (Tehillim 19), but it is also a reflection of His Majesty, before whom all the hosts of the Heaven pay homage - as we have just said 'Hashem Tzevokos' - He is the Lord of the Hosts. The Iyun Tefillah cites various ways in which Chazal have interpreted this posuk, each with its halachic ramifications. Chazal have said (B'rochos 43b) that someone who walks upright (without displaying the due humility before the presence of G-d), even if it is only four amos, it is considered as if he was 'pushing away the legs of the Shechinah', as it is written "His glory fills the world".

And in Kidushin, the Gemoro cites Rav Huna b'rei d'Rav Yehoshua, who would not walk four amos with his head uncovered - again on account of this posuk.

And he then quotes a Medrash which strikes a contrast between a human being, who might build a courtyard, but he does not fill it, and G-d, who created Heaven and earth, and He also fills them.

That is why Chazal have said "There is no place where G-d is not present".

The story is told of one great Rabbi, who promised his precotious son one coin if he could tell him where G-d is - to which the child replied that he would give his father two if he could tell him where He is not!

The Targum Yonoson, quoted in 'U'vo le'Tziyon Go'eil', explains the triple Kedushah differently. According to him, the angels declare Ha'shem holy in the place of the Shechinah on high, holy on the land that He created (location), and holy forever (time). In other words, Hashem's holiness transcends Heaven and earth. He is far removed from them in His spiritual superiority and He transcends time.

Boruch Kevod Hashem mi'Mekomo

Even though Yisroel, by placing an image in the Beis ha'Mikdosh, forced the Shechinah to abandon its place in between the Keruvim on top of the Oron in the Kodosh Kodoshim, one should not for one moment think that the honour of the Shechinah was affected. Not at all! The Glory of Hashem is self-generating, it is blessed (increases) from its own source (mi'Mekomo - from the place where the Shechinah dwells in Heaven - Targum Yonoson).

It is Yisroel who are the losers, for they no longer have the Shechinah with them (like a stove which someone carries away on a cold winter night - the stove has lost none of its heat, but the people who were enjoying its warmth will now freeze - Redak and Metzudas Dovid).

Perhaps, from the Moshol - that Hashem moved away from His permanent home (kevayochol) we might have thought that it is His Glory that has been impaired, and from the fact that we recite in our b'rochos "Boruch Ato Hashem", maybe His blessings are the direct result of our efforts - when we fail, Hashem (kevayochol) is no longer blessed. Therefore, the Novi writes "Boruch Kevod Hashem mi'Mekomo".

Hashem does not need us for His b'rochos, He is self-sufficient, and self-generating. It is we who need Him! Hashem is blessed, whether we bless Him or not. When we fail to bless Him, or when we cause him to move away from us, then it is only ourselves who suffer, because we have cut ourselves off, or distanced ourselves, from our own source of blessing.

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to ParshaHomepage | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel