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

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Vol. 8   No. 17

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Pesel Feiga bas Reb Chayim Elisha z.l., whose Yohrzeit was on the 14th of Shevat
Reb Moshe Ya'akov b'Reb Mordechai Sh'lomoh z.l.,
whose Yohrzeit will be on the 25th of Shevat

Parshas Yisro

'Onochi' and 'Lo Yihyeh Lecho'

"Onochi Hashem Elokecho" is not just a statement, explains the Ramban. It is a Mitzvah! This is the opinion of the Zohar, and is also borne out by the Gemoro in Makos (24a). The Gemoro there explains how the posuk "Torah (whose numerical value is 611) tzivoh lonu Moshe", refers to the mitzvos we heard from Moshe. When we add "Onochi" and "Lo Yihyeh Lecho", which we heard directly from Hashem, we have a total of 613, a hint to the Taryag mitzvos.

In fact, 'Onochi' together with 'Lo yiheyeh lecho' comprise the mitzvah of 'Kabolas Ol Malchus Shomayim'. This is confirmed by the Yerushalmi in Sucah, which, in the process of explaining how each of the ten commandments is hinted in the Parshah of Shema, connects "Onochi Hashem Elokecho" with "Shema Yisroel", and "Lo yihyeh lecho" with "Hashem echod". Rabeinu Bachye points out further that the numerical value of "Echod" (using the square of each later - 1x1, 8x8 and 4x4) = 81, which is the numerical value of "Onochi".


Rabeinu Bachye (following in the footsteps of the Ramban), explains that "Onochi" is a mitzvah of the heart. It obligates us to concede and to believe with a perfect faith in the existence of a Creator ("Hashem"). And, by virtue of what we witnessed during the Exodus from Egypt, it also obligates us to accept His sovereignty upon ourselves (for "Elokecho", in this context, means 'your King').


And the reason that the posuk refers to "the G-d who took you out of Egypt" rather than "the G-d who created Heaven and earth", is because we were not witnesses to the latter, though we were to the former.

In addition, writes Rabeinu Bachye, the Exodus, incorporating the miracles of the Yam-Suf, the falling of the Mon and all that occurred until they received the Torah at Har Sinai, points to the Creation. The stunning miracles that occurred there, he says, serve as an irrefutable proof that G-d created the world, inasmuch as something that evolves on its own cannot be altered by as much a hairsbreadth. Consequently, the numerous changes in nature that G-d wrought at that time prove beyond doubt, that He must have created the world, and that it could not possibly have evolved on its own.

At the same time, these same miracles also demonstrated G-d's Hashgochoh (supervision) and His Omnipotence. These three form the triumvirate of principles of faith which Par'oh denied (G-d's existence, His supervision over the world and His ability to do as He pleases).

The posuk concludes "from the house of slaves", because when G-d took us out of Egypt, we became obligated to accept His Divine yoke in place of the yoke of slavery that we bore in Egypt.


The mitzvah of Onochi also forms the basis of all mitzvos Asei (which are rooted in the love of Hashem), and that of Lo yihyeh lecho, of all mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh (which are rooted in the fear of Him). Being as they are, mitzvos of the heart, as we explained earlier, we might perhaps go further, and describe them as the fundamental emunah (faith) on which the performance of all the other mitzvos hinges. That is what the Gemoro in Makos (24a) means when it says that Chavakuk based all the mitzvos on that of emunah, the Mitzvos Asei on "Onochi", the Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh on Lo yihyeh lecho" (as the Maharsho explains).

And it seems to me that that is why Hashem found it necessary to convey to us specifically these two mitzvos personally. It is because He wanted to impregnate us with emunah in Him forever, which He would not have achieved by conveying it to us through Moshe, like all the other mitzvos. And it is this Divinely-inspired emunah in Him that has given us the strength and the impetus to survive all attempts to destroy us, and that gives people who have strayed far from the path, the ability to find their way back, 'out of the blue' as it were.


And the Mitzvah of "Lo yihyeh lecho Elohim Acheirim" is the prohibition not to accept or worship any other gods in partnership with Hashem. In other words, that our belief in the One G-d must be absolute. The Torah refers to them as "other gods", Rabeinu Bachye explains, either because they are strangers to those who pray to them, or because they are constantly changing; one day they are made of gold, then of silver, then of wood. But above all, they are called "other gods" because they receive their powers from others. Because Hashem alone is self-generating (which is one way of interpreting "Hashem Echod").


These two mitzvos form the basis of emunah, says the Seifer ha'Chinuch. They apply at all times, both by day and by night, and one is obligated to forfeit one's life rather than transgress either of them.


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro)
Greater than Angels

"Boruch Hashem asher hitzil eschem" (18:10).

Chazal have taught that Yisroel are greater than angels, since they are permitted to mention Hashem's Name after two words (Sh'ma Yisroel, Hashem"), whereas angels may only mention it after three 'Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh Hashem'.

In that case, says one of the G'ro's Talmidim, it can be proven from our posuk, where Yisro mentioned Hashem's Name after one word, that converts are even greater than native Jews.


This proof however, is difficult to comprehend, to say the least, in view of Eliezer, who exclaimed "Boruch Hashem asher lo ozav chasdo". Do we have a proof from there too, that a slave is greater than a native Jew, because Eliezer mentioned Hashem's Name after one word?

And what will we say with regard to Lovon, who said to Eliezer "Bo b'ruch Hashem"? Does this really mean that Lovon was greater than an angel? (Perhaps this is not so difficult, since the word "Hashem" here is secondary to "B'ruch".)


Clearly then, Chazal were referring, not to individual statements, or even prayers (such as that of Eliezer), where a person can say whatever he wants (and which will therefore hardly determine the level on which the Torah places him). They were referring to the official tefilah texts, such as Kedushah and the Shema, whose texts are determined by the Torah. Consequently, both the case cited by the G'ro's talmid and the two cases that we cited, do not prove anything.


The Three Acceptances

Yisroel accepted the Torah three times, says the G'ro. 1.When Hashem said "and you shall be for Me a treasured nation" (following Yisroel's undertaking to keep the mitzvos 2. At Ma'amad Har Sinai. 3. When, a little later, Moshe made a covenant with them (in Mishpotim) incorporating the oral Torah that they would receive from him.

And all three are hinted in birchas ha'Torah. 'who chose us from among all the nations' hints at "and you will be for Me a treasured nation"; 'and gave us His Torah', at Ma'amad Har Sinai; and ('Boruch Atoh Hashem,) nosein ha'Torah' hints at the covenant that Moshe made with them.

And this explains, says the G'ro, why 'nosein ha'Torah' occurs in the present tense (in contrast to the rest of the b'rochoh, which is in the past). Because the oral Torah is constantly being developed (unlike the written Torah of Hashem, which was given to us in itw complete form).


Before and After

Since we are discussing Birchas ha'Torah, a simple observation is appropriate here.

Before reading the Torah we recite the b'rochoh ' who chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah'; whereas after we have read, we conclude 'who gave us a Torah of truth and planted everlasting life in our midst'. It is only after we have read the Torah that we can appreciate the truth of its contents, and it is only then that the eternal quality of life that Torah provides becomes a reality.


The Happy Seller

Rebbi Zeira states in B'rochos (5a): 'Come and see the difference between G-d and human-beings. When a human-being sells a personal item, he is generally sad (and the buyer is happy). Not so G-d! He gave away the Torah to Yisroel, yet He is happy, for so Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim "Because I gave you a good acquisition, My Torah, don't forsake it".

But it is only a private person selling his personal belongings who is sad, the G'ro points out. It is not true of a salesman, who trades in the articles that he is selling. He is perfectly happy to sell his goods; and Hashem can be compared to a tradesman (Kevayochol), presumably because from the very outset, He intended to pass the Torah on to Yisroel.


To answer this Kashya, the G'ro cites a Gemoro in Kidushin (59a.), which advises strongly against selling one's first acquisition, referring to such a sale as a bad sign. And the Torah was Hashem's first acquisition, as the Posuk states in Mishlei. (8:22) In such a case, even the seller is normally sad. Yet Hashem was happy.

Perhaps Hashem's happiness can be atributed to the adage 'Olom chesed yiboneh'. Hashem created the world in order to perform kindness with others, and the greatest kindness that he ever performed with the world was to give its inhabitants His most treasured possession - the Torah. What greater cause for happiness can there be than that?


Remembering the Shabbos

"Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it. Six days you shall serve and perform all your work, and the seventh day is Shabbos for Hashem your G-d, do not do any work" (20:8-10).

Why does the Torah need to insert the words "six days you shall work", asks the G'ro? Since when is it a mitzvah to work during the week?

And besides, the words 'all (your work)' and 'any (work)', seem to be redundant. What are they coming to teach us, particularly when we bear in mind that whenever the word "Kol" appears in the Torah, it always comes to include something?


The G'ro therefore explains that the Torah is hinting here at the Gemoro in Shabbos. Rav Huna there (69b) obligates someone who is traveling on a journey and forgets what day of the week it is, to count six days and then observe Shabbos (to recite Kidush on that day and mention it in his prayers). Nevertheless, Rava adds, he may continue to perform whatever work is required to remain alive, but no more, and the same applies during the other six days. The concession to work on his Shabbos is due to the element of danger involved, and the restriction during the other six days, to the possibility that that day is really Shabbos.

When the Torah warns us here to remember the Shabbos day, it does so with that particular Gemoro in mind, because in doing so, one gains two advantages (one physical, and one spiritual). First of all, "six days (and not seven) you will (not 'shall') serve and perform all your work" (and not only what you need in order to remain alive).

And second of all, "on the seventh day is Shabbos - do not do any work" (you will be able to rest completely, without having to do what is necessary to remain alive. Whereas in the event that you forget when it is Shabbos, you will neither be able to perform all your work during the six days, nor will you be able to rest completely on your Shabbos.v


That's Called Murder

"Do not murder!"

In the lower neginos (the way we lein the Chumash during the year [according to minhag Eretz Yisroel]) the words "Lo tirtzach" are written with a 'patach' (and are pronounced "Lo sirtzach"), whereas in the upper neginos (the way we lein it on Shevu'os), it is written with a 'komatz' (and is pronounced ) "Lo tirtzoch" (the Ashkenazi way).

To explain this, the G'ro cites a Gemoro in Avodoh-Zoroh, which brands both a talmid-chochom who issues rulings when he is not fit to do so, as well as one who does not when he is, a murderer. And that is hinted in the two sets of neginos under "Lo Tirtzach". The first is hinted in the 'patach' (which means 'open'), since he opens his mouth when really he ought to keep it shut; the second, in the 'komatz (which means 'shut'), because he keeps his mouth shut when really he ought to open it.


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

133. Not to have relations with a prostitute - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (23:18) "There shall not be a Kedeishah in Yisroel". 'Kedeishah' is a regular prostitute or a girl whose father handed her over (even just once) for prostitution. Should someone have relations with a kedeishah without betrothal, both parties will have transgressed this la'av.

This mitzvah applies everywhere at all times.


134. Not to remarry one's divorced wife, once she has been married to another man - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:4) "Her first husband who divorced her may not take her back, now that she has defiled herself (made herself forbidden to him)".

Should he take her back with kidushin and intimacy, he will transgress this la'av, and Beis-din will force him to divorce her. Even if the second man only betrothed her (without subsequently marrying her), she is forbidden to return to her first husband. In the event that she had relations with another man without becoming betrothed to him, she is permitted to return to her husband.

This la'av incorporates a married woman who commits adultery. She too, is forbidden to her husband (and we learn this from the posuk "now that she has defiled herself"), and requires a 'get' from him. This is not the case however, if she was raped, unless she is the wife of a Cohen.

This mitzvah applies everywhere at all times.


135. A woman whose husband died leaving her childless is forbidden to marry (anyone except her deceased husband's brother) - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (24:5) "The wife of the deceased may not marry out to a strange man".

In the event that the deceased leaves behind a paternal brother, and his wife marries another man and is intimate with him, without having performed 'chalitzah' (the releasing ceremony of a yevomoh), they will have both transgressed this la'av, and her husband will then be obligated to divorce her.

This mitzvah applies everywhere at all times.


136. A 'petzu'a daka' (a man who has crushed testicles) or a 'k'rus shafchah' (one who has a broken member) may not marry a bas Yisroel - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (23:2) "A 'petzu'a daka' and a 'k'rus shafchah' may not enter the congregation of Hashem" (i.e. to marry a kosher bas Yisroel)

Should they transgress and get married, they are both subject to malkos (thirty-nine lashes). He is however, permitted to marry a convert or a woman who is herself forbidden to enter the congregation of Hashem (and this will apply even if he is a Kohen).

A 'petzu'a daka' is a man whose testicles (even just one of them) or their sinews are cracked, severed or crushed by means of an accident. If he was born with this deformity, he is permitted to marry a bas Yisroel.

A 'k'rus shafchah' is someone whose member has been cracked, severed or crushed. This will apply even if just the crown is severed or if the member has been severed up to any point beyond the crown. All of this, like by a 'p'tzu'a daka', is confined to a case when the deformity came about through an accident, but not to someone who was born with it.

This mitzvah applies everywhere at all times.


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