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

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Vol. 15   No. 17

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy zecher Nishmas
Yonah ben Elchonon Moshe z"l
whose Yohrzeit will be on 20 Shevat.
May he be a meilitz yosher for his family
and for all of K'lal Yisrael

Parshas Yisro

To Know G-d

The first of the Aseres ha'Dibros ("I am Hashem your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt … ") is rather strange, comments the Da'as Zekeinim M.T.

What sort of a commandment is this, they ask? What Mitzvah is inherent in it and what is it coming to warn us to do (or not to do)?

In the first of several explanations, they interpret the Pasuk like this: 'I am Hashem your G-d, who is commanding you to become thoroughly acquainted with the fact that I am the Creator (who took you out of Egypt) that I am commanding you (to perform) all the Mitzvos, and that I am faithful to reward with good and to punish with bad' (see the Ramban who elaborates still further).


The Seifer Hagadas ha'Kehilos Ya'akov cites R. Shach, who once asked R. Chayim from Brisk why the Rambam sees fit to list, as the first Mitzvah in his Seifer ha'Mitzvos, the Mitzvah to believe that Hashem creates all the creatures and that He said "I am Hashem your G-d"?

Did the Rambam himself not write in his Yad ha'Chazakah that the most important thing of all is to actually be thoroughly acquainted with Hashem, and not just to believe in Him?

In answer to the question, the Stypler first cited the Ramban, who asks to whom is the Torah speaking, when it issues the command "I am Hashem your G-d"? If it is to somebody who believes in Him, then it is unnecessary to command him; whereas if it is to somebody who does not believe in Him, then what is the point of the command, seeing as he will not accept it anyway?

To answer this question (as well as the previous one), the Stypler explains that knowledge is stored in the brain and has no intrinsic connection with one's emotions (or subsequent actions). One may well-know who Hashem is, but when it comes to the crunch, that knowledge has nothing to do with one's actions and one's behavioral patterns. The Mitzvah of Emunah is to take that knowledge and to absorb it in one's heart, to the point that it governs one's thoughts and actions. That is why the Rambam (cited in the beginning of the Shulchan Aruch) writes 'When a person takes to heart that the Great King, whose glory fills the world, stands before him and watches everything that he does, immediately, he will be filled with fear and humility based on the dread of Hashem and the shame that one constantly feels in His presence'. Note that the Rambam says 'to heart' and not 'to brain'. As we explained, there are many people who profess to know the above, but observing them in everyday life, one would never believe that they did.

(Indeed, the Torah in Va'eschanan [4:39], following the Pasuk "You have been shown today that Hashem is G-d there is none other!" writes "and you shall know today, and take to heart, that Hashem is G-d … and that there is none other" [Ibid. Pasuk 35]?

Moreover, R. Yisrael Salanter, in this very same connection, commented that the distance between one's head and one's heart is equivalent to that of the heaven to the earth. And this too, is perhaps what the Torah is coming to hint in its allusion to Heaven and earth there [in Pasuk 36].)


The Aseres ha'Dibros in the Singular

The Aseres ha'Dibros were said in the singular, explains the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, because Hashem (Kevayachol) foresaw that ten individuals would in the course of time, contravene all of the them. Michah would contravene 'Anochi' - Yeravam, 'Lo yih'yeh l'cha'; Tzlofchad - 'Zachor'; Yo'av, - 'Lo tirtzach': Amnon (son of David) - 'Lo Tin'of'; Tziv'ah (slave of Yonasan ben Sha'ul) - 'Lo sa'aneh', and Achav - 'Lo sachmod'. The Pasuk therefore teaches us here that the Aseres ha'Dibros are not merely communal commands, but that they pertain to each and every individual.

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Parsha Pearls

Officers of …

" … officers of a thousand, officers of hundreds, officers of fifties and officers of tens" (18:21).

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (18a) explains that there were six hundred officers of thousands, six thousand officers of hundreds, twelve thousand officers of fifties and sixty thousand officers of tens.

The problem with this, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. is that if one adds up the eighteen thousand six hundred officers for the thousands, the hundreds and the fifties, that leaves less than six hundred thousand people from whom to pick the sixty thousand officers of tens?


What actually happened, they reply, was that they first picked the sixty thousand officers of ten. Then out of those sixty thousand, they chose the most important twelve thousand as officers of fifty; from them, they picked the most important six thousand as officers of a hundred; and out of those, they chose the most important six hundred to serve as officers of a thousand.

Alternatively, they picked the officers of ten out of the six hundred thousand men between the ages of twenty and sixty; whereas the other officers were picked from the people who were over sixty.


The Torah's Viewpoint

"The difficult issues they shall bring to Moshe … ."

Yisro in fact, did not use the term 'difficult'. His suggestion was for the big issues to be brought before Moshe, and the small ones before the elders..

Therein, says R. Chayim Berlin, lies a major difference of opinion between the gentiles and Yisrael. In the world at large, it is the 'bigger' cases, those involving millions of dollars, that are sent to the high court. Those involving small amounts are generally handled by the small courts.

Not so when it comes to a Din Torah. Chazal have taught us that 'the Din of a P'rutah is like that of a hundred Manah (tens of thousands of P'rutos)', by which they mean that a Dayan must treat a Din involving a Perutah with no less severity than one involving a hundred Manah. The stakes are of no consequence in a Din Torah. What is of consequence is the truth. That being the case, it is the more difficult cases that are brought before the Sanhedrin, irrespective of how much they involve, and it is the cases that are cut and dry that are left to the small Beis-Din to settle, whether it involves one Shekel or ten thousand Shekalim.


The Three Months

"In the third month, from the time that Yisrael left Egypt, on this day they arrived in the Desert of Sinai" (19:1).

To explain the significance of the third month, the Rosh cites the Gemara in Yevamos (38a), which requires a convert and a slave-girl who has been set free to wait three months before getting married. And K'nesses Yisrael, he says, belonged to both these categories. To conform fully with this ruling, he points out, Hashem ought to have waited three full months before giving the Torah. Only so strong was His love for Yisrael that He gave it to them already on the sixth day of the third month (a little earlier than He should have).

See also Or ha'Chayim.


Why Moshe Repeated Himself

"And the people replied 'All that Hashem spoke we will do'; and Moshe brought back the words of the people to Hashem … and Moshe told the words of the people to Hashem" (19:8/9).

Why, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., does the Torah repeat itself when it says "and Moshe brought back the words …" and then "and Moshe told the words of the people … "?

What happened, they explain, was that Moshe brought back the people's reply. Only Hashem stopped him, because He wanted to first inform him of His intentions to come to him in a thick cloud so that the people should hear. Following that, Moshe was able to pass on to Hashem the people's message.


Hands Off! Feet Off!

"Do not lay a hand on it, for whether it is an animal or a man, he will be stoned or thrown down, he will not live … " (19:13).

Why does the Torah need to say this, asks the Da'as Zekeinim, seeing as it has just informed us that whoever touches the mountain will die?

And, quoting R. Yitzchak, they answer by reinterpreting the Pasuk to mean "Do not lay a hand (not on 'it', but) on 'him' (the person who touches the mountain)". In other words, do not follow him up the mountain to kill him, because that will entail you yourselves contravening the prohibition. But rather kill him by stoning him from a distance.


Matan Torah, the Creation & Yehei Sh'mei Rabah

"And G-d spoke all these words saying" (20:1).

The Rosh points out that this Pasuk contains seven words and twenty-eight letters (equivalent to the Gematriyah of 'Ko'ach' [strength]). This corresponds to the words and letters both in the Pasuk "Bereishis boro Elokim" and in that of 'Yehei Sh'mei Rabah … '. This is a support, he says, to what Chazal have said 'Whoever answers 'Yehei Sh'mei Rabah … ' with all his 'strength' (incorporating with full Kavanah) it is as if he became a partner of Hakadosh Baruch Hu in the work of the creation and in the giving of the Torah.


Zochor & Shomor

"Remember (zochor) the Shabbos to sanctify it" (20:8).

"Zochor" and "Shomor", says Rashi, were said simultaneously.

The Dubner Maggid explains that a poor person, who does not engage in extensive business ventures, is quite comfortable with 'Shomor' (not performing Melachah on Shabbos), but is not quite so happy with 'Zochor', as he cannot afford to purchase quality wines and good food in honour of the Shabbos.

The rich man, on the other hand, is perfectly happy with 'Zochor', purchasing only the best in honour of Shabbos, but he is disturbed by 'Shomor', which interrupts all his business-dealings, causing him a hefty financial loss (at least, so he thinks).

Therefore "Zochor" and "Shomor" were given together. They cannot be separated. On the one hand, the rich man is no less obligated to observe 'Shomor' than the poor man; whilst on the other, he is obligated to help the poor man to enjoy 'Zochor' no less than he does!


Shabbos and Weekday - Much of a Muchness

Six days you shall serve, and perform all your work. And on the seventh is Shabbos for Hashem your G-d" (20:9/10).

The difference between Shabbos and weekday, says Rabeinu Bachye, citing the Rambam, is that during the six days of the week, one serves Hashem by working, whilst on Shabbos, one serves Him by not working.

* * *


"When the first Commandment came out of the Mouth of the Holy One, may His Name be Blessed, like a comet, like a flash of lightning, like the flames of a fiery torch from His right side and like a torch of fire from His left side; it flew through the air of the sky before appearing over the Camp of Yisrael. Then it engraved itself on the Luchos which were placed in the palm of Moshe's hand, and it turned around from one side to the other (so that it could be read normally from the back as well as from the front). Then it announced and said 'My people B'nei Yisrael, I am Hashem your G-d who set you free and who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery" (20:2).


"When the second Commandment came out of the Mouth of the Holy One, may His Name be Blessed, like a comet … " (20:3).


"My people B'nei Yisrael; Do not be murderers, nor friends or partners with murderers. Nor should you be seen in the community of Yisrael together with murderers, so that your children who come after you should not learn from you to be with murderers; for due to the sin of murder, the sword comes upon the world" (20:13) …


"My people B'nei Yisrael; Do not be adulterers … for due to the sin of adultery, pestilence comes upon the world" (Ibid.) …


"My people B'nei Yisrael; Do not steal … for due to the sin of theft, famine comes upon the world" (Ibid.) …


"My people B'nei Yisrael; Do not testify falsely against your fellow-Jew … for due to the sin of false testimony, the clouds depart, there is no rain, and there is drought" (20:13).


"My people B'nei Yisrael; Do not covet the house of your friend … not his wife, not his slave of maidservant, not his ox or his donkey, nor anything else that he owns, for due to the sin of coveting, the ruling power confiscates people's property, and takes it for themselves, the wealthy become poor, and exile comes upon the world" (20:14)


"And all the people saw how the voices turned, as they heard each one, and how they came out of the fire, how the tone of the Shofar revived the dead, and how the mountain was smoking. All the people saw, and they recoiled, moving back to a distance of twelve Mil" (20:15).


"My people B'nei Yisrael; Do not make, with the intention of worshipping it, an image of the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets or the angels that serve Me. Gods of silver and of gold do not make for yourselves" (20:20).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 87:
Not to Lead People Astray after Other Gods

It is forbidden to invite people to serve idolatry, or to encourage them to do so, even assuming that the caller has no intention of worshipping them himself, or to do anything other than call others to do so. By doing so, he is called a 'Madia'ch' (one who leads astray). For as the Gemara says in Sanhedrin (63b), the Pasuk " … and the name of other gods you shall not mention it shall not be heard through you" is a warning against being a Madi'ach; and this is how the Mechilta explains it, too.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah are discussed in the tenth chapter of Sanhedrin … Someone who calls to (or encourages) only one person to serve idols is called, not a Madi'ach, but a 'Meisis' (which the author will discuss in Parshas Re'ei (Mitzvah 457-462), and it is only if one calls two or more people that the Torah calls him a 'Madi'ach' … The Torah mentions the La'av of Avodah-Zarah and the various La'avin that distance us from it, as well as the severe punishment that one is due to receive, in no less than forty-four places. Moreover, it refers to G-d Himself in this regard as a Zealous G-d. One should not for one moment think that this is anything other than out of concern for those who worship it. As far as He Himself is concerned, whether one serves Him or one serves an angel, a planet, a star or any other of His creations, neither adds to His honour nor detracts from it, for ultimately, His Honour and Glory are not subject to addition or to subtraction, for any reason whatsoever. How much more so when we remember that we are His creations, mere humans. As we just said, all of the above is for the benefit of those to whom the Torah is speaking, for when a person removes himself from belief in Hashem and allows himself in body and in mind to enter the realm of vanity, he will no longer be deserving of any Divine blessing or of His goodness, but rather of condemnation, curse, sickness and all forms of evil. He has distanced himself to the extreme from the confines of good, and as a result, he will experience nothing but evil wherever he turns. It is as if G-d Himself, Who is the Master of Good, has become his enemy, and has closed off from him all avenues of good, giving the appearance of being angry with him for having forsaken His service and serving another in His place. But this is only a Mashal (a faηade). The truth of the matter is that G-d does not implicate any creature, nor is He angry with any man, seeing as He has the ability to revert him together with the entire world to null and void, should He wish to nullify them, just as He created them, when it was His wish to create. In the final analysis, the Torah uses the title 'an angry G-d', only in the form of a metaphor, since such is the way of humans, in whose realm there is nothing that causes hatred more than jealousy or one who is angry with his wife for having committed adultery with another man. That is why the Torah uses such expressions with regard to Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu - so that it should penetrate the ears of the listeners (see Rambam, Hilchos Avodas-Kochavim, Perek 4).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to both men and women. However, the punishment of stoning that pertains to a man or woman who contravenes it, is confined to the place which is fitting for justice to be performed in it (namely Yerushalayim).

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