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

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Vol. 4

Parshas Ve'Zos Ha'brochoh

Dead Men Tell No Tales

"How is it possible for Moshe to be still alive and to write 'And Moshe etc. died there'? We are forced to say," R. Yehudah concludes in a B'raisa "that it was Yehoshua who wrote the last eight pesukim."

R. Shimon said to him "How can it be that the Seifer Torah should be missing even one letter - when the Torah writes 'Take this Seifer Torah'? So what we must say is that, up to this point, Hashem dictated and Moshe wrote, whereas from here on, Hashem dictated and Moshe wrote - with tears." "But this is incomprehensible?" asks the Gro. "How does R. Shimon dispense with R. Yehudah's difficulty? How can Moshe be alive and write 'And Moshe etc. died'? What does R. Shimon achieve by saying that Moshe wrote the last pesukim in tears? At the end of the day, he wrote them.

Rashi makes an attempt to answer this, writes the Gro, by explaining that, whereas by the rest of the Torah, Hashem dictated word for word to Moshe, who repeated each word in order to avoid making any mistakes, by the last eight pesukim this was not the case. There, Moshe did not repeat the words, because that would be false, to actually verbalise the words 'And Moshe died there' whilst he was still alive.

Rashi's answer is inadequate, the Gro maintains, because R. Yehudah's difficulty remains; even if there had been no speech at all, how could Moshe record a lie? And what does it help to say that Moshe wrote it in tears?

In addition, we need to understand how R. Yehudah can totally ignore R. Shimon's difficulty? How is it indeed possible, for even one letter to have been written by anyone other than Moshe Rabeinu, when the possuk in Malachi explicitly writes, "Remember the Torah of Moshe, My servant"?

Before he even begins to answer the kashya, the Gro first poses another one: why does the Gemoro ask only on the last eight pesukim in the Torah, as to how Moshe could possibly write them, etc.? Why does it not ask the same question on the whole Torah, which, according to Chazal, was written two thousand years before the world was created? But how does one explain all the events recorded in the Torah before they actually took place? Surely, this is a more serious case of lying even than the last eight pesukim in the Torah?

Incidentally, according to the Rashi quoted earlier, this is not a kashya to begin with, since it is only by the spoken word that we are concerned about lying, not about the written one.(See also final three paragraphs)

We can answer this with the Chazal that the whole Torah consists of Names of Hashem, Names made up of the same letters as the Torah is now, but put together differently (as the Ramban explains in Bereishis). It was only after He created the world and gave the Torah to Yisroel, that Hashem needed to restructure the same Torah, but in a rearranged order; so He gave it to us in its current format.

With that, we can also explain the above Gemoro - what R. Shimon means is, in order to write the Torah in its totality, and at the same time, to ensure that it should be integrally honest, G-d dictated and Moshe repeated and, up to this point, wrote, meaning that he read each word in the way that we have it today.

It was not possible however, for Moshe to write the last eight pesukim in the same 'modern' format, because that would appear to be false, nor could Yehoshua write them, because then the entire Torah would not have been written by Moshe. Consequently, Moshe must have written them "bi'dima", which means, not "in tears" like we thought, but its letters mixed up - in the same way as they were written before the world was created, with its combinations of letters making up Names of Hashem. In this way, the words "And Moshe the servant of Hashem died there", did not appear in those pesukim at all, but other words based on the secrets of Torah.

However, after Moshe's death, Yehoshua, who was given permisssion to reveal the meaning of those pesukim, "translated" those pesukim into current terminology, like the rest of the Torah.

In this way, R. Yehudah and R. Shimon are not really arguing at all, because at first Moshe wrote those last eight pesukim in the original format, as it was written before the world was created, and after Moshe's death, it was Yehoshua who rewrote it from its nistar format to the niglah in which we know it.

The Ibn Ezra takes Rebbi Yehudah's opinion for granted, and writes that Yehoshua must have written the final chapter (not just the last eight pesukim, like R. Yehudah holds), since how could Moshe possibly have recorded his own death and burial? (R. Bachye)

R. Bachye however, disagrees with him. He specifically writes that he does not find it hard to understand how Moshe could record his own death and burial, even though he was still alive. Because it is not uncommon for the Torah or the Nevi'im to record things in the past as if they had already happened, even before they have actually materialised, such as the possuk in Ha'azinu "And Hashem saw and He was angry, from the evil deeds of His sons and daughters".

In fact, Rabeinu Bachye's explanation concurs with that of Rashi, cited earlier by the Gro. It is only by the spoken word, which is only stated in the present, and cannot (at least it could not, before the advent of modern technology) be recorded for the future. Consequently, to state one's own death and burial, appears to be false.

Writing, on the other hand, is meant to record for the future. It is therefore feasible to write today what will happen tomorrow, even when we are dealing with the Divine word, for it does not look like a lie if one writes something that has not yet taken place, as long as one does not verbalise it.

(Ve'zos Ha'brochoh) Adapted from the Gro

A Thousand on the Left

"... and they are the tens of thousands of (killed by) Ephrayim, and they are the thousands of (killed by) Menasheh" (33:17)

"Why did Moshe ascribe tens of thousands to Ephrayim, and only thousands to Menasheh?" asks the Gro.

When Ya'akov blessed the two sons of Yosef, he switched around his hands, placing his right hand on the head of Ephrayim, who stood on his left, and vice versa vis a vis Menasheh.

Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehillim "One thousand will fall on your (left) side, and ten thousand on your right". It therefore stands to reason that, for every thousand that were killed by Menasheh, who was blessed with the left hand, ten thousand were killed by Ephrayim, who was blessed with the right.

An Arm and a Head

"And to Gad he said... who destroys the arm together with the skull." Rashi explains how the soldiers of Gad were so strong that they were able to sever the head and one arm with one stroke of the sword.

The Gro explains this with a Gemoro in Menochos, which points out that an interruption between the laying of the Tefillin shel Yad and the Tefillin shel Rosh would be a sufficiently serious sin for a soldier to be sent home from the battle-front.

The Torah is therefore informing us that this was a sin of which the B'nei Gad were not guilty, and therefore, because they were flawless in unifying head and arm through the mitzvah of Tefillin, they were rewarded with the strength to sever the head together with the arm of their enemies, measure for measure.

And that also explains why Ya'akov blessed Gad with the b'rochoh "Gad's troops will go out in large numbers and they will come back without losing a man" (Bereishis 49:19 - Rashi). They did not break the unification of G-d's Name, which is created by laying the Tefillin shel Yad and the shel Rosh without talking in between - therefore Ya'akov blessed them that *their* unity would remain intact.

(Parshas Ve'zos ha'Brochoh) (Yehoshua I: 1-18)

We read the first chapter of Yehoshua on Sh'mini Atzeres, as we finish the Torah, because Yehoshua, Moshe's faithful disciple, the first of the prophets (after Moshe), was the link between Moshe and all the other prophets. It is about him that Moshe said in Devorim (18:15) "Hashem will set up a prophet etc. like me - to him you shall listen" (see also possuk 18 there). In addition, he was the first link in the chain of Torah-sages, through whom Torah passed.

And it was also Yehoshua who would be the one to fulfill Moshe Rabeinu's dream of entering Eretz Yisroel and distributing the land to the B'nei Yisroel. All of these themes - Torah, Eretz Yisroel, and that Yehoshua was to be Moshe's successor - are stressed in this Chapter, on occasions even using the same wording as was used in the Torah with Moshe Rabeinu.

The Haftorah opens with Yehoshua's yichus and the reason as to why he was chosen to succeed Moshe - because he was the one who had faithfully attended him in his youth.

Moshe himself enjoys the title "eved Hashem", a title which is bestowed upon those like Avrohom and Dovid, whose lives - even that which was mundane - were totally dedicated to G-d, to the point that everything that they did was for His benefit - there was nothing in it for themselves, just as a slave serves his master; he belongs to his master, and all that he does is for his master.

The Novi uses the expression "va'Yomer Hashem el Yehoshua". The Gemoro in Ta'anis points out that for the thirty-eight years from the episode of the Meraglim until Tu be'Av in the fortieth year, G-d did not speak to Moshe with fondness and love - only casually. The casual speech is expressed by the word "va'Yomer", the expression of love by the word "va'Yedaber" (see Kli Yokor Devorim 2:17). We see from here that "va'Yedaber is a more loving and intimate form of speech than "va'Yomer". Yet it is only by Moshe "Rabeinu that the term "va'Yedaber" is used regularly. This in itself, demonstrates a striking contrast between the prophecy of Yehoshua and the other prophets on the one hand, and Moshe on the other.

"Moshe, My servant has died" etc. If Moshe was alive, I would want him, explains Rashi. He also quotes the Chazal, who explain this as a lament on the part of Hashem at the three thousand Halochos which were forgotten during the mourning period following Moshe's death. (These halachos were later revived through the pilpul of Osniel ben K'naz.)

The Metzudas Dovid however, explains that the possuk is merely giving us the sequence of events, to tell us that since Moshe died, it was now permitted to enter Eretz Yisroel, something which was not possible as long as Moshe was alive. The Malbim agrees with this interpretation, but he adds that, in addition to this, the Novi is also pointing out how, with Moshe's death, it also became possible for Yehoshua, the destined leader, to distribute Eretz Yisroel, to take over the reigns of leadership.

"Wherever the soles of your feet tread, I shall give to you." The borders of Eretz Yisroel are clearly defined in the next possuk (from the desert in the south to the Lebanon in the north, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west until the River Euphrates to the East, including the Jordan and beyond); so what the previous possuk must be referring to, is the conquest of other lands outside the borders of Eretz Yisroel, which Hashem promises will be successfully achieved, provided they capture Eretz Yisroel first. And Hashem then promises Yehoshua that He will be with him like He was with Moshe.

Three times Hashem tells Yehoshua "Chazak ve'emotz!", once regarding his mundane activities, in his capacity as leader of the people (such as the distribution of the land); once concerning Torah, to study Torah diligently and to keep it to the letter, in his capacity as Torah-sage and spiritual prince; and the third time in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Israeli forces, to be strong and courageous in battle.

It was on the seventh of Nissan, thirty days after Moshe's death, that Yehoshua ordered his officers to prepare the people for war. The provisions referred to by Yehoshua here cannot relate to food, since the last fall of Mon which fell up to the day that Moshe died, lasted for forty days until the seventeenth of Nissan. Consequently, it must have related to weapons - in fact, Yehoshua was mobilising the troops for battle.

Finally, Yehoshua reminds the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh of the promise they had made to Moshe to enter Eretz Yisroel at the head of the troops, before being allowed to retain their portion of land in Eiver ha'Yarden.

They respond by declaring that they will listen to Yehoshua and obey him, just as they listened to Moshe - provided G-d would be with him as He had been with Moshe. And they concluded that anyone who would disobey his orders would die. "Only" they said "be strong and courageous" to punish those who rebel against you and not to forego your honor (like a king), explains the Metzudas Dovid. The Redak, quoting a Chazal, explains that the word "Rak" (forever an exclusion) comes to qualify the word "Yumos" written just before it, to teach us that one is only chayav misah for disobeying the command of a king as long as it does not contravene the halochoh. But if it does, one is exonerated. They were respectfully dropping Yehoshua a hint here. They would obey him to the letter, just as they had done with Moshe - provided he did not command them anything that was not in harmony with the Torah's teachings.

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