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

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Vol. 8   No. 40

This issue is sponsored
Le'iluy Nishmas
Reb Pesach ben Shimon Ephrayim,
whose 21st Yohrzeit is on the 12th Av
by his son

Parshas Va'Eschanan

Like A Poor Man Standing at the Door

There are ten expressions of prayer, Rashi comments, and of these, Moshe chose 'techinah' (supplication), to pour out his heart to his Creator, and to plead with Him to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael.

Clearly, had Hashem not cut Moshe short (see Pasuk 26), his prayers would have been answered. Such is the power of true supplication that, had Moshe completed his prayer, Hashem (Kevayachol) would have been forced to accept it. And this is evident from the fact that, much as He is loathe to interfere with man's freewill, and certainly with his Tefilos, Hashem found it necessary to stop Moshe in the middle of his Tefilah, rather than allow him to complete it and simply decline to respond.


Rashi interprets 'Techinah' as 'Matnas Chinom' (a free gift), from the word 'chinom', which means 'free of charge'. Tzadikim, he explains, have an abundance of good deeds to their credit, which it would be only natural for them to exploit by using them as a basis for their prayers. It would certainly seem perfectly justifiable to request from Hashem that He takes their good deeds into considerations when dealing with their needs. Yet they choose not to do so. They prefer to supplicate before Hashem, to fall at His feet as it were, and beg Him for a free, undeserved gift.

Because Tzadikim understand that the true essence of prayer is self-nullification, to humble oneself before their Supreme Master when asking and praying for their needs, not as one giver to another, but as a taker to a giver (to the Giver). And this can only be achieved by placing one's good deeds to the side, and standing before G-d like a nonentity standing before the Almighty. And this is what Chazal mean when, describing how to pray, they use the parable 'like a poor man begging for alms'.

Conversely, as long as one davens to Hashem in the belief that Hashem owes him anything, then one's communication takes the form of a demand, rather than a prayer, and the whole essence of prayer is lost. Indeed, it is comparable to a poor man who tries to elicit a potential donor's assistance by presenting him with an inventory of all the favors that he (the poor man) did for him, for which he now expects payment.


In order to supplicate before Hashem, one has to pour out one's heart, as the Navi writes in Eichah (2:19). This is something that one can only achieve if it is accompanied by the firm knowledge that Hashem is the absolute Master and we are His humble servants. Consequently we, together with all that we own, belong to Him and, for that alone, we are eternally indebted to Him. There is no such thing as Hashem owing us anything, since whatever one is ever capable of giving Him is nothing more than a pittance of the debt that one owes Him. As long as we breathe, our debt of gratitude steadily mounts, for life itself is a kindness which we can never repay. And each time we fail to serve Him the way we should, we are guilty of withholding from Hashem part of the existing debt, as well as adding an additional installment to the debt.


Tzadikim understand this, and it is only fitting that we (whose debt to Hashem is infinitely greater than theirs, both in terms of the material benefits that we have received and in terms of having fallen further behind in our repayments) take our cue from them. In any event, if Tzadikim view themselves as unworthy when they stand before Hashem, how can we, who are that much smaller than they, possibly view ourselves differently?


Parshah Pearls

Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro Loving Talmidei-Chachamim

"ve'Ohavto es Hashem Elokecho ('And You shall Love Hashem ... )" (6:5).

The Gemara in Pesachim (22:2) and in other places, commenting on the Pasuk "es Hashem Elokecho Tiyro" ('And you shall fear Hashem' Va'eschanan 6:13), explains that "es" comes to include talmidei-chachamim. In that case, the G'ro points out, we can assume that in our Pasuk too, "es" comes to teach us that, just one is obligated to love G-d, so too, is one obligated to love talmidei-chachamim.

In that case, the Torah is hinting here what the Gemara teaches us in Shabbos (23:2, according to the G'ro's version of the text) that someone who loves talmidei-chachamim will merit to have children who are themselves talmidei-chachamim. Because the Pasuk goes on to say "And you will teach them to your sons ... ". This is not a command (according to this interpretation), but a promise, that if you love talmidei-chachamim, you will merit to have children whom you will teach Torah until they too, become talmidei-chachamim, exactly as the Gemara teaches.


The above Gemara continues that someone who fears (respects) talmidei-chachamim will have sons-in-law who are talmidei-chachamim'. And that too, is hinted in the Pasuk which we quoted earlier ("es Hashem Elokecho Tiyro"), which conludes "u'Vo sidbak (and you shall cleave to Him)". How is it possible to cleave to G-d, asks the Gemara in Kesubos (111b)? And it replies that someone who marries off his daughter to a talmid-chacham ... and benefits him with his money, is considered as if he was indeed cleaving to the Shechinah.

In that case, the Pasuk in Va'eschanan too, is coming to teach us that someone who fears talmidei-chachamim will merit to have sons-in-law who are talmidei-chachamim (as well as the means to provide for their well-being).


Incidentally, the Gemara in Shabbos concludes that someone who honors talmidei-chachamim, will himself merit to become a talmid-chacham.


The Difference between Forgetting and Remembering

"And you shall teach them to your sons (until they know them well - 've'shinantam le'vonecho'), and speak about them ... (6:7).

The Gemara says in Chagigah (9b) that there is no comparison between someone who learns his piece (shoneh pirko) a hundred times, to someone who learns it a hundred and one times. It is said that someone who learns something a hundred and one times will never forget it. And this is hinted in the difference between the numerical value of 'shochach' (to forget) - 328, and 'zochar' (to remember) 227 - a hundred and one.


The Yeitzer ha'Tov and the Yeitzer he'Ra

The Mishnah in B'rochos (9:5) interprets "be'chol levov'cho" to mean that one should love Hashem with both the Yeitzer ha'Tov and the Yeitzer ha'Ra. This means, says the G'ro, that when one eats and performs other mundane activities, and one has no option other than to use the Yeitzer ha'Ra (without which one would automatically abstain from all physical pleasures of this world), he needs to train the Yeitzer ha'Ra to function in the service of Hashem, and not in the pursuit of material pleasure.


And this, he explains, is what the Gemara in B'rachos (61b) implies when it says that Tzadikim are governed by the Yeitzer ha'Tov, and Resha'im, by the Yeitzer ha'Ra. This now means that even as the Tzadikim use their Yeitzer ha'Ra to perform their mundane activities, they do so under the full control of the Yeitzer ha'Tov (who ensures that he works in the service of Hashem).

And by the same token, when the Gemara adds that Resha'im are governed by the Yeitzer-ha'Ra, and Beinonim by both, it means that, even when Resha'im learn Torah and perform Mitzvos, they do so for ulterior motives (for honor, for fun or to criticize), not in the service of Hashem. Whereas, Beinonim are governed sometimes by the one and sometimes by the other. Because there are times when they are controlled by their Yeitzer ha'Tov, and others, when they are controlled by their Yeitzer ha'Ra.


Twenty-four Hours a Day

'And you shall teach them to your children ... when you sit in your house and when you go on the way, and when you lie down and when get up" (6:7).

The G'ro explains how the four times mentioned here actually comprise the four periods that make up the day;

1. "when you sit in your house" - the second half of the night (when a Jew needs to sit up in bed and begin studying Torah);

2. "and when you go on a journey" - the second half of the day, when one sets out to earn a living;

3. "and when you lie down" - the first half of the night, which is designated for sleeping;

4. "and when you get up" - the first half of the morning, when one rises from one's bed.

And these four periods correspond to the three Avos and David Hamelech (who is sometimes referred to as the fourth leg). David Hamelech (who used to arise at midnight to daven and to learn) corresponds to the second half of the night; Yitzchak, to the second half of the day (since it was he who instituted Minchah); Ya'akov, to the first half of the night (since he instituted Ma'ariv) and Avraham, to the first half of the morning (since he was the one to institute Shachris).


At Two Different Levels

"And Hashem commanded us to perform these statutes, to fear Hashem our G-d, to do good to us all the days, to keep us alive like we are today. And it will be for us charity when we observe and perform all these Mitzvos before Hashem our G-d, like He commanded us" (6:24:25).

The G'ro explains that in fact, the first Pasuk and the second are being said to different people. In the first Pasuk, it is the father who is speaking to his son, as the Torah explicitly writes in Pasuk 21 "And you shall say to your son, 'We were slaves to Par'oh ... ." We are telling our sons that we are obligated to serve G-d because He took us out of Egypt, and that it is worth our while to serve Him because He repays us with a good life. Now this entails performing Mitzvos for ulterior motives. It is not really the way to serve Hashem at all, but we are addressing our children, who do not yet understand Him.

Regarding ourselves, the Pasuk continues - "And it shall be for us charity when we observe and perform all these Mitzvos before Hashem like He commanded us". We perform the Mitzvos 'because He commanded us', without any thought of reward. Because even if our children do not understand the intrinsic obligation of serving G-d simply because He is our Master, we do!



Chazal declared the fifteenth of Av a Yom-tov. On it, the girls would go and dance in the vineyards, and that is where the young men would go to pick themselves a bride.

The question arises, says the B'nei Yisoschor, why Chazal chose particularly that day for this sort of celebration? Why did they not pick another existing Yom-tov for the joyous occasion?


And he replies that this day was designated because it was destined for shiduchim from early times. It is based on the fact that two of the sources for Chamishah-Osor be'Av being chosen as a Yom-tov are connected with shiduchim. On it, the tribes were permitted to intermarry (after entering Eretz Yisrael), and on it, the ban on marrying women from Binyamin (following the episode of the Pilegesh be'Giv'ah) was lifted.


That's fine, he continues, but the question remains, why was specifically the fifteenth of Av designated in Heaven as a day for shiduchim?

And he answers this with a combination of three factors: 1. that the world was created on the twenty-fifth of Tishri; 2. that forty days prior to the birth of a baby, a Heavenly voice announces that 'so and so's daughter will marry so-and-so!'; 3. that Hashem created the world to rule over it, and 'there is no King without a people'. Consequently, the true purpose of the creation was for the sake of Yisrael's marriage to Hashem, to declare His rulership to the world.

Now if one works forty days backwards from the Creation on the twenty-fifth of Tishri, one arrives at Chamishah-Asar be'Av.


That is the day on which Hashem announced that Yisrael would 'marry' Him, and that is why, since that fifteenth of Av prior to the Creation, Tu be'Av has been 'mesugal' (particularly apt) for shiduchim.


(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

192. .. not to live in Egypt - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (17:16) "Do not continue to go along this way again".

One may live in Egypt purely for business purposes, because the prohibition is confined to taking up permanent residence there.

It is also forbidden categorically to leave Eretz Yisrael unless it is either to study Torah, to get married, to save a person or his property from gentiles or in order to earn a livelihood. But to leave Eretz Yisrael to reside in Chutz la'Aretz is prohibited, unless it is to escape the ravages of a heavy famine.

Whoever lives in Eretz Yisrael merits forgiveness from all his sins. Even if he merely walks four amos there, he has earned himself a portion in the World to Come. Similarly, someone who is buried in Eretz Yisrael, attains pardon for all his sins.

It is preferable to live in Eretz Yisrael, even in a town which has a majority of gentile residents, rather than going to live in Chutz la'Aretz, in a town most of whose residents are Jews. Because leaving Eretz Yisrael is akin to worshiping idols.

And leaving Bavel for other lands is prohibited in the same way as leaving Eretz Yisrael for other lands.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


193. ... for a tamei Keri (who had an emission) not to enter the Machaneh Leviyah, alias the Har ha'Bayis - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (23:11) "When there is among you a man who will not be pure ... he shall not enter the camp", which we know traditionally to mean the Machaneh Leviyah.

Although this La'av pertains exclusively to tum'ah that comes about through an emission, Chazal extended it even to a tamei meis.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


194. ... not to forget the act that Amalek perpetrated - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (25:17-19) "Remember what Amalek did to you ... Don't forget!"

"Don't forget!" means in your hearts, which practically, means that we are charged never to allow ourselves to forget his enmity and his hatred.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


About the Mitzvos
The Sanctity of the Mitzvos

The text of the B'rachah that we recite over mitzvos is ' ... who sanctified us with His Mitzvos', a clear indication as to what it is that renders a Jew holy. And it is not because they are inherently good that the Mitzvos sanctify us, but because they are 'His Mitzvos'. It is the Divine spark in the Mitzvah that imbues it with its spiritual character, which in turn, provides it with its source of sanctity.

And that also explains the importance of performing a Mitzvah having in mind the specific kavanah to perform it for the sake of Hashem. After all, it is His command that essentially forms the essence of the Mitzvah's sanctity, so it stands to reason that one can only imbibe some of the sanctity by associating with that source, by having it in mind when performing the Mitzvah.


The Torah writes in the Parshah of Tzitzis " ... and you shall perform all My Mitzvos, and you will be holy to Hashem your G-d". The Torah adds here the word "all", to teach us that it is only through the performance of all the Mitzvos that one becomes a holy person. And this goes back to Har Sinai, when Hashem referred to K'lal Yisrael as a holy nation when they proclaimed 'Na'aseh ve'nishma!'. It was because their acceptance of the Torah was total and unconditional, that He conferred this title upon them. And it is clear that that was the only way to accept the Torah, so much so, that even the nations of the world understood it. For they refused to accept the Torah simply because it contains the commands "Do not murder!" or "Do not commit adultery!" It never entered their minds to accept the rest, and to relinquish the one Mitzvah that offended their sensitivities. Even they realized that, either one accepts the Torah or one doesn't. But there is no such thing as a partial acceptance.

But we accepted it!


To observe some of the Mitzvos, and to relinquish others (even just one) can be compared to a crown beset with jewels, but which is missing just one jewel. The crown is imperfect, no matter how valuable it is. Likewise, a Jew who is missing just one Mitzvah, is imperfect. How can an imperfect be holy, any more than a blemished sacrifice?


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