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

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Vol. 11   No. 22

This issue is sponsored by Sarah Feige Grossman/Salomon
in loving memory of her husband
Avraham Refael ben Betzalel z.l.
May he be a Meilitz Yosher for his family in Israel,
his relatives abroad and for the whole of K'lal Yisrael.


The Oral Torah
Part 2

Last week, we discussed the Torah Temimah, who ascribes the Torah's precedence of Torah she'be'al Peh over Torah she'bi'K'sav to the fact that it comprises the majority of the Torah.

Perhaps we can also understand it with what Chazal say often, when searching for a reason why a Mishnah gives precedence to something that is learned from a D'rashah over the source - 'since it is learned from a D'rashah, it is more precious to the Tana'. By the same token then, what the Chachamim learn from a D'rashah (Torah she'be'al Peh) is dearer to Hashem than the Torah she'bi'K'sav that He Himself wrote.

In addition, my grandson Menachem suggests, that the importance of Torah she'be'al Peh may well be due to the fact that Torah she'bi'K'sav on its own is incomplete. It does not teach us the last word in Halachah, and it is only after we have explained its teachings by means of the Torah she'be'al Peh (which G-d gave us for that purpose) that its words can be translated into Halachah. This concept too, is based on Chazal, who have said in B'rachos (8a) 'G-d loves the gates that excel in Halachah more than all the Shuls and the Batei Medrash'.

A further reason for G-d's preference of the oral Torah is stated clearly in the Medrash Tanchuma. The Tanchuma, in Parshas No'ach, interprets our Pasuk as we explained, but goes on to elaborate on the reason in great detail. Interestingly, he cites the same reason as the Torah Temimah in the name of the Gemara in Gitin, only he gives us a new insight into the Gemara. The length of the one and the brevity of the other, according to the Medrash, is not the real criterion. The Torah she'bi'K'sav, he writes, is short and requires little toil and pain to study; whereas the Torah she'be'al Peh is long and difficult, requiring much effort and pain to master. Clearly, the real criterion to explain the importance of Torah she'be'al Peh is the sweat and toil that is required to master it. We have learned in Pirkei Avos that the reward is commensurate with the pain. That is the prime reason that Yisrael had to be coerced to accept it at Har Sinai, and that is the reason that G-d made a covenant with us over Torah she'be'al Peh.

Finally, I would suggest that, based on the Gemara in Kidushin, which places someone who performs Mitzvos when he has been commanded to do so, on a higher plane that someone who performs them when he is not ('Godol metzuveh ve'oseh mi'mi she'eino metzuveh ve'oseh'), the same principle applies here. Yisrael after all, only accepted the oral Torah because they were forced to. If so, it possesses an element of Metzuveh ve'oseh, placing it on a higher plane than the written one, which they accepted voluntarily.

* * *

The Mishkan
and the Golden Calf
(Part 2)

The Ramban in Parshas Terumah, explains that the Mishkan was a replica of Har Sinai. The Shechinah that rested openly on Har Sinai, went on to rest discreetly within the walls of the Mishkan. Rabeinu Bachye elaborates on this, comparing various details that the Torah records regarding the latter, to similar details that it records regarding the former. Just as by Har Sinai, he explains, the Torah referred to Hashem's Glory and greatness (Devarim 5:21), so too, by the Mishkan, it writes twice "And the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan" (Sh'mos 40:34 &35). Just as by Har Sinai, the Torah wrote about His voice and His great fire (Devarim 4:36), so by the Mishkan, did the Voice speak with Moshe from between the two Keruvim (which were gold like fire [Bamidbar 7:89]). And just as by Har Sinai the Torah describes how they saw 'the G-d of Yisrael' (Sh'mos 24:10), so too by the Mishkan, did they witness the One who dwells on the Keruvim (in the same way as the Navi Yechezkel testified that *he* did [10:19/20]).

The fact that both the Ramban and Rabeinu Bachye write this in Parshas Terumah, before the sin of the Eigel indicates that this comparison is an intrinsic one, and that the Mitzvah of building the Mishkan has nothing to do with the sin. G-d wanted His Shechinah to rest with Yisrael permanently. He revealed Himself at Har Sinai, and then transferred the Shechinah to the Mishkan.

It would be feasible to explain that had Yisrael not committed the sin of the Golden Calf, the Shechinah would have continued to dwell with them in the open (as Rashi explains in Bechukosai 26:12, and) like it did at Har Sinai, and it was only because they did, that it became necessary to confine it to the enclosed space of the Mishkan.

The Ramban in Tetzaveh however, belies this suggestion. The Ramban there (30:46), explaining the Pasuk "And they will know that I am Hashem their G-d who took them out of Egypt to dwell in their midst" (30:46), agrees with the I'bn Ezra, who explains that G-d took Yisrael out of Egypt only in order to dwell in their midst, a clear reference to the Mishkan (as ha'Rav Chavel explains in his commentary). Indeed, the Ramban adds, that is what G-d meant when He told Moshe at the Burning Bush that, after leaving Egypt, they would serve Him on that very mountain.

And this explanation is borne out by the Medrash, which explains the purpose of the Mishkan with the parable of a king who married off his only daughter. So attached to her was he, that he asked his future son-in-law to build him an apartment nearby, so that he could be close to her. If the daughter is the Torah, the father, Hashem and the apartment, the Mishkan, then it seems that the Mishkan was an integral part of Matan Torah, and not merely an atonement for the Mishkan.

And this approach is reinforced by a second Medrash, which relates how, during Matan Torah, Yisrael had seen the four Camps of Angels that surrounded G-d's Throne, and had expressed the wish to do likewise - a wish that G-d granted, presumably as a reward for having accepted the Torah.


It is still possible however, for the Mishkan to be considered an atonement for the Eigel, even in essence, it was part of G-d's initial plan, as we currently assume. Indeed, the Medrash with reference to the opening Pasuk in Pikudei, explains that the Mishkan was a testimony that G-d forgave Yisrael for the sin of the Eigel. This is because, if He had not, then, irrespective of G-d's original plan, they were no longer worthy of having G-d's Shechinah in their midst, and one would have expected G-d to rescind His plan to live among them. If, in spite of that, He ordered Yisrael to put up the Mishkan, then it can only be because He had forgiven them for the sin.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)

Parshas Vayakhel

Taken at Gun-point

"And the men came (to take what was ) on the women ... bracelets and nose-rings" (35:22). The men actually took the women's jewelry by force, the Rosh explains, because the women were simply not interested in donating towards the Golden Calf. And this is reinforced by the Pasuk in Ki Sisa, which writes (32:3) "And the nose rings were taken off them".

Nor should one for one moment think that their refusal to part with their jewelry was based on a woman's instinctive love of jewelery, because when it came to donating for the Mishkan, the women (in spite of that love) gave generously and gladly (despite the fact that the Mishkan was, according to some, an atonement for the Eigel, in which they did not take part)..


Waving the Gold

"and every man who waved a golden wave-offering to Hashem" (ibid.)

This seemingly strange term merely indicates the value of the donation, explains the Rosh. Due to the preciousness of the gift, the officers waved it around in honour of the donor.

Interestingly, the Pasuk in Pikudei (38:29) speaks about "the copper of the wave-offering". The Ramban explains that there too, this reflected the high quality of copper that the people donated, which it appears, was more valuable than the silver. It is not however, clear, why the Torah mentions that there (over and above "the gold of the wave-offering"), but not here.


The Bottom Curtains

"pictures of cherubs you shall make on them (the bottom set of curtains), work of a craftsman" (36:8).

This set of curtains were woven in this way, the goats-hair curtains that covered them were not, comments the Rosh. This is because whereas the lower curtains were meant to be seen from the inside of the Mishkan, the goat's hair curtains were covered from the inside by the bottom curtains; neither could they be seen from the outside, because of the two sets of curtains that covered them.

So what was the point of so much work beautifying the curtains, if nobody could see them anyway?


All in Honour of the Aron!

"And all the wise-hearted men ... made the 'Mishkan' (i.e. the bottom set of curtains) of twined linen ... . And he made the curtains of goat-skin ... . And he made the planks for the 'Mishkan' ... " (36:8, 14, 23).

The Torah's order, says the Rosh, is very specific. It was essential for the planks to be erected immediately, so that the Aron could be put in its place in the Kodesh Kodshim at the first possible moment. For that to happen, they had to make the curtains first, in order to cover the planks as soon as they were erected.

Consequently, the Torah begins with the curtains, so that, once the planks were set up, the curtains should be put in place without a moment's delay, and the Aron brought in.


Parshas Pikudei

Fifteen Thousand Missing ...

"These are the accounts of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of testimony" (37:21)

The Mishkan was a testimony, Rashi explains, to Moshe's integrity. When they took account of what all the donations had been used for, they could not at first recall what had happened to the one thousand, seven hundred and seventy-five Shekalim of silver (in excess of the hundred Kikar) that had been donated. Immediately, the suspicion fell on Moshe (who, together with all those who had received the donations, had done their work without supervision, to demonstrate G-d's faith in them).

And it was not until Moshe prayed that the Mishkan should testify on his behalf, that they discovered the silver hooks (on which to hang the curtains) for the five pillars at the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed (as well as the silver caps that covered them and the silver strips that adorned them). The Ba'al ha'Turim adds that the extra 'Vav' (which translates as 'hook') hints at this.

The Rosh speaks of fifteen thousand Shekalim missing (but there were only one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, as we explained), Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos speaks of fifteen hooks (but there were only five pillars, as we explained), perhaps the significance of the number fifteen lies in the five pillars times three (corresponding to the hook, the cap and the strip) or perhaps each pillar contained three hooks. In any event, the number fifteen is hinted in the first letters of the words "Ve'ha'melochoh Hoysoh Dayom", which adds up to fifteen.

Immediately, Moshe responded by reciting the fifteen praises of Hashem that are to be found in 'Yishtabach', corresponding to which there are fifteen praises in 'Baruch she'Omar' and fifteen 'Vavin' in ' Emes ve'Yatziv'.


The Mishkan and the Creation

Come and see, says the Medrash, how beloved the Mishkan is in the eyes of G- for it corresponds to the Creation of the world. How is that?

On the first day of the creation the Torah writes "In the beginning G-d created the Heaven", and the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "He stretches the Heaven like a curtain" - and about the Mishkan the Torah writes "and he made curtains of goats hair".

On the second day, the Torah writes "Let there be a sky ... and it shall divide between one water and the other" - and about the Mishkan the Torah writes "and the Curtain shall divide for you between the Kodesh and the Kodesh Kodshim". On the third day the Torah writes "Let the water gather ... to one place" - and about the Mishkan the Torah writes "and you shall make a copper basin ... and place in it water".

On the fourth day the Torah writes "Let there be luminaries in the sky" - and about the Mishkan the Torah writes "and you shall make a Menorah of pure gold". On the fifth day, the Torah writes "Let the water swarm with living creatures and birds flying ... " - and about the Mishkan the Torah writes "and the Keruvim shall spread their wings upwards .. ".

On the sixth day the Torah writes Adam was created - and about the Mishkan the Torah writes "And you bring near Aharon your brother".

On Shabbos the Torah writes "And the Heaven and the earth were completed ... and G-d blessed them ... and He sanctified it" - and about the Mishkan the Torah writes "and all the work was completed ... and Moshe blessed them... and he anointed it and he sanctified it".


At the creation, G-d created Heaven and earth - and in connection with the Mishkan, they built the Kodesh Kodshim and the Azarah (the Courtyard). There, G-d created the fruit of the ground, here they built the Shulchan with its two rows of Lechem ha'Panim. The six Loaves in each row corresponds to the six seasons 'sowing, reaping, cold, hot, summer and winter' (as described in No'ach). The moon corresponds to the Kiyor (the Basin) and the stars to the Menorah.

Shlomoh Hamelech constructed ten Menoros corresponding to the ten commands with which G-d created the world, and correspondingly, there were Ten Commandments, G-d blessed Adam with ten Blessings (Bereishis 1:28-30), Avraham Avinu was tried with ten trials and Yitzchak blessed Ya'akov with ten Blessings (Bereishis 27:28/29).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 398:
The Mitzvah of Tum'as Meis

We are commanded to practice the laws of Tum'as Meis in the way that the Torah instructs us, as the Pasuk writes in Chukas (19:14) "This is the law of a man who dies in the tent; whoever enters the tent and whoever is in the tent shall be Tamei for seven days".

The Seifer ha'Chinuch dealt with the reason for the Mitzvah of Tum'as ha'guf in Mitzvah 263 (the mitzvah of Tum'as Kohanim). There he explained how Tum'ah is disgusting and loathsome, above all Tum'as Meis, which Chazal refer to as 'Avi Avos ha'Tum'ah', indicating that it is the most powerful form of Tum'ah that exists.

When the Neshamah (the Tzuras ha'Seichel) departs from a person, it leaves his physical, inferior body on its own, the body which desired everything that is evil, and which, in its supreme wickedness, caused the precious Soul to sin during the time that they dwelt together. It is therefore to be expected that, once all its beauty (the Neshamah) is stripped from it, and all that is left is the evil physical component of the person, it contaminates all its surroundings.

In reality, it is befitting for a Kohen, a servant of G-d, to distance himself from a corpse. The Torah however, releases him from this prohibition when that corpse is his own relation, seeing as it is after all, his own flesh and blood. The Torah, whose "ways are pleasant and whose paths are peace", did not want to cause a person pain, by preventing him from giving vent to his emotions, to approach the deceased in the tent where he is lying, to pour out his heart and give vent to his emotions and weep over the dead body of the one to whom he feels close.

The Seifer ha'Chinuch supports this explanation with a Chazal, who say that great Tzadikim who die do not render others Tamei Meis. Surely this is because their bodies are pure. Not only did they not cause their Souls to sin, but they even helped them to earn merits. Consequently, their Souls depart with a Divine kiss, and a shining light rests on their bodies forever.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah: Chazal have said that a dead person renders Tamei through touching, through carrying, and through being under the same roof (Tum'as Ohel).

Touching incorporates with the hands, with the feet or with any other part of the body (even with one's tongue, and according to the Rambam, even with one's teeth or finger-nails). Carrying incorporates even when there is no direct physical contact with the article that one is carrying, and even if there are many vessels that divide between the Tamei person and the object in question. And it also includes moving something indirectly, but through his force, such as by pushing down one end of a see-saw, causing the other end containing the Tamei object in question, to rise. This is known as 'Tum'as Heset', and it renders the person, Tamei. Only a person can become Tamei through carrying, but not vessels. Carrying is also unique, inasmuch as it renders a person Tamei even though he is holding it with a part of the body that is normally hidden (such as in one's mouth or under one's armpit).

Tum'as Ohel, on the other hand, renders Tamei a person, food or vessels the moment they come under the same roof as a Meis or part of one. Even if one only partially enters the Ohel in which it is lying (i.e. one's hands, fingers or nose), the entire person becomes Tamei.

A still-born baby (even one whose limbs have not yet been properly formed) is metamei Tum'as Ohel, no less than a grown-up who died,.

Tum'as Ohel is unique to Tum'as Meis, even though Tzara'as has certain Dinim that are similar.

In Parshas Shemini, in connection with the Mitzvah of Tum'as Sheratzim, the author already cited the Ramban, who disagrees with the Rambam, in that he does not list all the individual areas of Tum'ah as independent Mitzvos.

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