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

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Vol. 20   No. 52

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmos
Chaim Ezriel ben Yosef Halevi z"l
and Yisrael ben Aharon z"l

Parshas Vezos Ha'Brachah

Yisrael are Blessed

" this is the B'rachah with which Moshe, the man of G-d, blessed the B'nei Yisrael before his death. And he said 'Hashem came from Sinai, having shone forth to them from Seir, having revealed Himself from Mount Paran from His right-hand, He presented them with a Torah of fire' " (33:1).

The Ba'al ha'Turim captures the essence of Moshe's final B'rachah when he points out that the Gematriyah of "ve'Zos ha'Torah" is equivalent to that of 'Zu hi ha'Torah'.

Indeed, the Torah uses a parallel expression with regard to Torah in Devarim (4:44) "And this is the Torah (ve'Zos ha'Torah) that Moshe placed before the B'nei Yisrael ".

For the Torah is the source of B'rachah, and if Moshe blessed Yisrael, it was only because they received the Torah at Har Sinai. The Torah itself says as much in many places, perhaps most prominently at the beginning of Parshas Re'ei, where it clearly connects B'rachah with the performance of Mitzvos and K'lalah with failure to do so.


The diversity of K'lal Yisrael emerges from the twelve-part B'rachah with which Moshe blessed Yisrael, a diversity that Ya'akov Avinu already referred to when he blessed his sons before his death. Yet at Matan Torah they demonstrated a unique harmony, when they announced "Na'aseh ve'Nishma", accepting the Torah as one man (See Rashi, Yisro 19:2). It was Torah that united us then and it is Torah that has united us ever since. And it is that unity under the banner of Torah that brings upon us G-d's Divine blessing (See also the first Parshah Pearl),

And it is by the same token that Moshe blessed Yisrael exclusively, and no other nation, because no other nation was willing to accept the Torah when it was offered to them.


All the above issues are clearly spelled out in the opening Pesukim of the Parshah. Perhaps we can add two more, both hinted in Rashi.

In Pasuk 3, Rashi comments that Yisrael deserve G-d's special attention a. because 'they cast themselves at His feet' (with reference to G-d holding the mountain over their heads) and in Pasuk 4, he explains that Torah is not just an inheritance, but a legacy that we will never forsake. No doubt, Rashi is hinting at the fact that not only do we study ourselves but we pass it on to our children.

And it is these two characteristics that complete the picture. Not only did we accept the Torah at a time when everybody else rejected it, not only did we accept it as a national legacy for ourselves and for our children, we also accepted it with tremendous Mesiras Nefesh (self-sacrifice). And it is this Mesiras Nefesh that became so ingrained in our psyche that it deterred our cruelest tormentors from stopping us from learning Torah and keeping the Mitzvos, even under the most adverse conditions. Thereby earning for ourselves G-d's eternal blessings!

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Parshah Pearls

When We are United

" He (Hakadosh-Baruch Hu) became King in Yeshurun, when the heads of the people gathered, together the tribes of Yisrael" (33:5)

It is only when we are united, as brothers and friends, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explains, that Hakadosh-Baruch Hu is our King. Because when there is strife (Kevayachol) they behave as if He was not their King (causing G-d to do likewise).


Reuven Will Live

"Reuven will live and not die, and his men will be counted in the number (of tribes)" 33:6.

See also Rashi on this Pasuk and on Pasuk 7.

This is how Unklus translates the Pasuk - "Reuven will live in the World to Come and will not die a second death, and their sons will receive a portion of land in accordance with their numbers.

The Da'as Zekeinim however, explains it in connection with Reuven crossing at the head of the troops (together with Gad and half of Menasheh). Hence the Pasuk is saying that when Reuven crosses the Yarden to help lead the troops in the conquest of Cana'an, not one soldier will die in battle, And that consequently, the same number of troops that cross into Eretz Yisrael, will cross the Yarden back to Eiver ha'Yarden (fourteen years later).

When the same author then translates the latter phrase as "and his men will not be numbered" - because they will become so numerous, this appears to be a second explanation not connected with the previous one.


The Tribe of Levi

"He (the Levi) said to his fathers and mothers 'I did not see you!' His brothers he did not recognize and his sons he did not know!' (33:9).

The Rosh explains that when the Levi'im searched out those who worshipped the Golden Calf to kill them, they did not find even one of their fathers or mothers, brothers or sons among them. This was because not one Levi participated in the sin of the Golden Calf.

See also Rashi.


Sharing the Burden

"And to Zevulun he said 'Rejoice Zevulun when you go out, and Yisachar in your tents' " (33:18).

Unklus translates the Pasuk as "Rejoice Zevulun when you go to war, and Yisachar, when you go to reckon the dates of the Yamim Tovim in Yerushalayim".

See also Rashi.


Connecting the End with the Beginning

" before the eyes of all Yisrael" (34:12).

This is how the Torah ends, and it opens with the words "In the beginning G-d created Heaven and earth".

A Jew has only to open his eyes and see the Heaven and its hosts (which the word "es" comes to include), and the earth and its hosts, to arrive at the conclusion that G-d must have created all of these. As the perfection of the creations together with their symmetry and beauty leaves no room for doubt as to Who its Creator was, and it certainly precludes any possibility of the world having created itself.

And so the Pasuk in Yeshayah (40:26) announces "Raise your eyes heavenwards and see who created these".

* * *


"And for all the power of his mighty deeds, how he carried the staff that weighed forty Sa'ah. How he split the Sea and struck the rock, and for all the great deeds of strength that Moshe performed, when he received the two stone tablets of sapphire that also weighed forty Sa'ah and carried them before the eyes of all Yisrael.

* * *

Thoughts on Shemini Atzeres
(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)


The title 'Atzeres' that the 'eighth day' bears, says the Kad ha'Kemach, is because the Shechinah holds Yisrael back one day in order to bring one bull (See Rashi, Pinchas, 29:36).

The Chahamim also refer to Shavu'os as Atzeres, to teach us that Shemini Atzeres is compared to the day on which we received the Torah at Har Sinai. Presumably, that is why we celebrate with the Torah the way that we do.


The Ushpizin

The Zohar writes that the head of the Rejoicing on Shemini Atzeres is Ya'akov Avinu, and that all the other Ushpizin join him. And it is in this connection that the Torah writes in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah "How praiseworthy are you Yisrael, who is like you!" And the Pasuk in Ye-shayah "And He said to me 'You are My servant, Yisrael, in whom I will be glorified' " (Yalkut Yitzchak).


Calling up a Kohen or a Levi as Chasan Torah

On Simchas Torah one is permitted to call up a Ko-hen or a Levi as Chasan Torah (or as Chasan Bereishis). The reason for this, says the L'vush, is because the five people that one needs to call up on Yom Tov-Tov have already been called up.


No Lulav on Shemini Atzeres

The reason that in Chutz la'Aretz, although one sits in the Succah on Shemini, one does not take Lulav, says the Avudraham, is because min ha'Torah, outside the Beis ha'Mikdash, the Mitzvah of Lulav lasts only one day (as the Torah writes "And you shall take for yourselves on the first day), and we only take it for seven days to commemorate the Mitzvah in the Beis ha'Mikdash, which lasted seven days. Consequently, since the eighth day is only a Safek seventh, the Rabbanan did not obligate it.

They did however obligate taking the Lulav, because the Mitzvah of Succah all seven days is min ha'Torah.


Furthermore, he explains, taking the Lulav (as opposed to sitting in a Succah) involves the Isur of Muktzah.

And yet a third reason he gives is because we have designated the day as Shemini Atzeres, and taking the Lulav on that day demonstrates that it is a weekday and desecrates the sanctity of Yom-Tov.

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