Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg
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Vol. 6 No. 50
A Woman of Valour
"Give her from the fruit of her hands, and praise her deeds within the gates" (Mishlei 31:31). Shlomoh ha'Melech began the parshah that ends with this posuk "Who will find a woman of valour". In its plain context, the parshah refers to a wise woman, industrious in the affairs of her home, who is busy day and night with her work. That is why he said (in posuk 18) "She took advice, because her wares are good, her light is not extinguished at night".
She is well-known for the wonderful way in which she deals with the poor, supporting and sustaining them from the toil of her hands, as he writes (in posuk 20) "She spread out her palm to the poor man and her hand she stretched to the needy".
We learn from this parshah ethics and morals, that a man should make every effort to marry a good woman, because she is the foundation of the house and its mainstay, and it is with her that the house will be built and established.
And Shlomoh made a point of describing a woman's major characteristics by means of the 'aleph-beis' (which appears in the first letters of each posuk), in order to demonstrate that a good woman who has good character-traits, incapsulates the entire Torah, because she prepares her husband to attain success in Torah and mitzvos, in the same way as the body prepares the soul to attain perfection in its quest for spirituality - as Chazal have explained 'If he is worthy, then his wife will be a help-mate'. And it is in this regard that Shlomoh also wrote "Someone who found a woman, found goodness and he will elicit goodwill from G-d".
And because the Torah wrote, concerning a man who is alone "It is not good to be alone", Shlomoh, when speaking about marriage, writes "found goodness".
And because a woman is not deserving of praise for her charm or her beauty unless she fears G-d, Shlomoh wrote "Charm is false, and beauty worthless, a woman who fears G-d, she is praiseworthy". Therefore he concluded with the words "Give her from the fruit of her hands and praise her deeds within the gates" - meaning that people should honour her for the work of her hands, for what she stored away and for the profits that she made; and that they should praise her in the gates for the beauty of her deeds, and the skill of her actions, like we find by Avigayil who, with her alertness and wisdom, saved her husband and his entire household from the sword of Dovid and his men - as Dovid said to her "Blessed be your common sense and blessed are you who prevented me from bloodshed today".
According to the Medrash, "Give her from the fruit of her hands" refers to "Who will find a woman of valour" which in turn, is an allegory pertaining to the Torah and the wisdom that not everyone is capable of attaining. Shlomoh then goes on to relate its virtues: "The heart of her husband trusts her", refers to the chochom who studies it, which is why he continues "and he will not lack booty", for it is well-known that those who study the wisdom of Torah never fail to find something new in what they learn. And as for the "poor and needy" that he mentions, that refers to the disciples whose knowledge is still limited, until they work hard and acquire it. And he writes "Give her from the fruit of her hands", because it is befitting that people ascribe to the Torah the honour that she deserves on account of the sweet and pleasant fruit that come out from her. This in turn refers to the wonderful deeds through which a person merits eternal life, like the posuk writes about the wise man "The fruit of a tzadik is the tree of life", because the fruit of a tzadik, the Torah, is called the tree of life, since that is what causes a person to merit life, "and he will eat and live forever".
In terms of Kaboloh, "Give her from the fruit of her hands" refers to the blessing, which is synonymous with the last of the ten Midos, which is known as Atoroh (crown), because it is from there that Yisroel received the Torah, as the Torah writes "from the midst of the fire", and the Novi Chavakuk said "He gave His voice in the depth".
That is why Shlomoh presented her praises using the twenty-two letters of the Torah. By "Give her from the fruit of her hands" he means 'Give her a blessing'. "From the fruit of her hands", like Chazal said 'Give Him what is His, because you, together with what you own, belong to Him' "and praise her deeds within the gates". Dovid ha'Melech too, placed blessing and praise together in the same posuk when he wrote "Let my soul bless Hashem - Praise Hashem".
Despite the fact that all blessings emanate from Hashem, we nevertheless find that He wants our blessings, for so He commanded us in the Torah "and bless Hashem your G-d". For Hashem is the One who blesses, and the one who is blessed in the land, is blessed by the G-d of truth. Take special note of what Chazal have said 'Whoever blesses is blessed, for it is an absolute principle'.
It is well-known that blessing is the foundation of the world, which is why the Torah begins with the letter 'beis'. G-d blessed Odom, as the Torah explicitly writes "and He blessed No'ach and his sons". But when Avrohom (the first true believer) came upon the scene, He handed the power of blessing to him, when He said to him "And be a blessing". He did not say to him "And be blessed", but "And be a blessing", appointing him as the source of blessing, to bless whoever he wished. From Avrohom and onwards the blessings were placed in the hands of the tzadikim, for so it is written in connection with Yitzchok, who said to Ya'akov "And I will bless you in front of G-d before my death". So too, Ya'akov blessed his sons before his death, and so we find by Moshe Rabeinu, who blessed the tribes close to his death. He began his blessing with the word "zos" (this is), from the same point where Ya'akov left off, for so the Torah writes there "And this is what their father said to them ... "
And Moshe Died There
The Gemoro in Bovo Basro (15a) quotes a B'raysa, where Rebbi Yehudah, commenting on the posuk "And Moshe died there" (34:5), explains that Moshe only wrote up to that point, and that it was Yehoshua who wrote the last eight pesukim. Rebbi Shimon disagrees. In his opinion, it is simply not feasible that Moshe should not have completed the Torah. He therefore maintains that up to that point Hashem dictated and Moshe repeated and wrote; but from there until the end, Hashem dictated, and Moshe wrote 'bi'd'ma' (with tears).
Keep Far Away from Lies
How strange, asks the Gro, that R. Shimon should make no effort to resolve R. Yehudah's difficulty (i.e. How could Moshe write "And Moshe died" - an apparent falsehood?). How does the fact that Moshe wrote with tears resolve this difficulty? Rashi clearly tries to answer this kashya by stressing that Moshe did not repeat the last eight pesukim verbally (as is implied by the B'raisa), so as not to give the appearance of lying. But that does not really solve the problem, asks the Gro, because the Kashya remains: How could Moshe even write something that appears to be false (see footnote in Kol Eliyohu)?
Furthermore, the Gro points out, we need to understand how Rebbi Yehudah can possibly ascribe part of the written Torah to Yehoshua, ignoring R. Shimon's blatant kashya?
Rearranging the Torah
We can answer both these difficulties if we assume that R. Yehudah and R. Shimon are not actually arguing. How is this possible?
To begin with, we need to understand why the Gemoro concerns itself with the last eight pesukim in the Torah, when Chazal tell us that the entire Torah was written two thousand years before the creation of the world, before the generation of the flood, and before the Exodus from Egypt. In that case, the whole Torah appears to be false?
The truth of the matter is, explains the Gro, that before the world was created, the letters of the Torah were arranged in such a way so as to comprise Names of Hashem (as the Ramban writes in his introduction to the Torah) and it was only after the creation that Hashem rearranged them, to accommodate the mitzvos and the other lessons that He wished to convey to Klal Yisroel. The secrets of Torah that were originally revealed in the open Names of Hashem, became available to those who were worthy, by means of combinations of letters, which are by and large, beyond the scope of most people.
That explains why R. Shimon, in answer to R. Yehudah's question 'How could Moshe write something that appears to be an untruth?' answers that up to here Hashem dictated and Moshe repeated and wrote - everything the way we have it. But the last eight pesukim he wrote 'bi'd'ma', meaning not with tears, but by mixing the letters (like the posuk in Mishpotim "melei'oscho ve'Dim'acho" - a mixture), to read the Names of Hashem, as they had been written up to the time of the creation. In that way, it was not Yehoshua who wrote the last pesukim, but Moshe, ensuring that the Torah was entirely Toras Moshe, and at the same time avoiding writing something that appears false.
Afterwards, Yehoshua received permission to rewrite the last eight pesukim in the format that we have today, to conform with the rest of the Torah, and that is what R. Yehudah meant when he said that Yehoshua wrote the last eight pesukim.
An Independent Yom-tov
The Gemoro in Sukoh (47a) bases its decision that Sh'mini Atzeres is an independent Yom-tov on three sources: 1. whereas with regard to Sukos, the Torah writes "porim" (bulls), by Sh'mini Atzeres it writes "par" (a bull); 2. whereas with regard to Sukos, the Torah writes "u'va'yom ha'sheini, u'va'yom ha'shlishi" etc., by Sh'mini Atzeres it writes "ba'yom ha'sh'mini"; 3. whereas with regard to Sukos, the Torah writes "ka'mishpot", by Sh'mini Atzeres, it writes "ke'mishpotom".
The independence of Sh'mini Atzeres is manifest in six separate areas, known as 'Pezer Keshev' (the first letters of the six - Payos (lots); Z'man (Shehechiyonu); Regel (not to sit in a Sukoh, staying overnight, or the cancellation of seven of the days of the sh'loshim); Korban (different Korbanos); Shir (a different pattern of song sung by the Levi'im); and B'rochoh (the textural change in the benching and in the Amidah) - all of which we discussed in detail in Volume 2.
Dancing With The Torah
In Eretz Yisroel, Sh'mini Atzeres is indeed, a totally independent Yom-tov, which follows immediately after Sukos, but has very little in common with the way in which it is celebrated. In fact, it is reminiscent of Shevu'os, which serves as the culmination of Pesach, though there too, in the manner in which they are celebrated, the two are quite different. Indeed, both Shevu'os and Sh'mini Atzeres are referred to as 'Atzeres'. In addition, besides the fact that both conclude the Yom-tov that precedes them, not only do neither have any mark of distinction, in the way that Pesach has matzah, and Sukos the four species and Sukah, but more than that: on Shevu'os the minhag has evolved to celebrate the giving of the Torah by staying up all night and studying it, and on Sh'mini Atzeres, by completing it and dancing ecstatically with it.
Time to Appreciate
The Dubno Maggid likens this to a man who married a princess, a girl who was known for her wisdom, beauty and good qualities. Months later, he threw a big party for all his friends to celebrate his marriage. When his friends asked him why he did not arrange the party when he married her, he replied that, although he had known then what sort of a wife he was marrying, his joy then could not match his happiness now that he was able to appreciate first-hand the extent of her beauty and her charm.
When we received the Torah on Shevu'os, we too, knew what a beautiful Torah we were receiving, explains the Dubno Magid; but it is only on Sh'mini Atzeres, that we can truly celebrate, for it is only then, when we finish learning it, that we can really appreciate its intrinsic value.
To Rejoice with One's Own
Alternatively, Chazal explain that a Talmid-chochom acquires the Torah only after he has studied it. In which case, we can say that on Shevu'os, when we have received the Torah but have not yet studied it, we cannot genuinely celebrate, for it is not yet ours. It is only on Sh'mini Atzeres, when the Torah truly becomes ours, that we are able to celebrate ecstatically with it and to dance with our newly-acquired bride.
Water and Torah
Another aspect of Sh'mini Atzeres is the fact that we pray for rain because the seal is placed on the judgement for rain then. It is surely no coincidence that this takes place on the day that we celebrate our completion of the Torah, for so Chazal have said 'Ein mayim elo Torah' ('Water is synonymous with Torah'). How appropriate that on the day that we complete the one, we are judged on the other.
Incidentally, the numerical value of 'mayim' (water) is the equivalent of 'Sukah' (90) which is equal to that of the two names of G-d 'Adnus' and 'Hashem', signifying a combination of Din and Rachamim.
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