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

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Vol. 18   No. 17

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

Parshas Yisro

What Yisrael Heard
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

R. Bachye cites a dispute between the Rambam and the Ramban as to what exactly K'lal Yisrael heard at Har Sinai. Both commentators agree that they heard from G-d something that was incomprehensible to them; the question is what that something was, and what it was that they subsequently heard from Moshe.

The Rambam maintains that they heard the first two of the Aseres ha'Dibros, "Onochi" and "Lo Yih'yeh l'cho" (the essence of Emunah), from G-d, but that G-d said it all in one go (in a way that no human being is capable of doing), and not word for word. Moshe heard it too, with the difference that he heard it clearly and distinctly. That is why the Torah describes Yisrael as having heard "the Voice of the words" (4:12), whereas with regard to Moshe, the Torah writes " so that the people will hear when I speak with you") - Moshe heard the actual words, clearly and distinctly, and he then taught it to Yisrael

This is what occurred regarding the first two Commandments. As for the remaining eight commandments, says the Rambam, Yisrael did not hear them directly from G-d at all. Moshe heard them and taught them to Yisrael, like he did the rest of the Torah. And this is in fact, what the Medrash means when, commenting on the Pasuk in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah "Torah tzivah lonu Moshe ", it says that 'Moshe taught us six hundred and eleven (the Gematriyah of Torah) Mitzvos, whereas "Onochi" and "Lo yih'yeh l'cho" (exclusively) we heard directly from the Almighty'. And it also explains the Pasuk in Tehilim (62:12) "G-d spoke one, but I heard two!" (i.e. I heard the two Mitzvos that G-d spoke in one go).


The Ramban however, cites the opening Pasuk to the Aseres ha'Dibros "And G-d spoke all these words" (which follow the Pasuk "And Moshe spoke to them"), implying that G-d taught all of the Ten Commandments to K'lal Yisrael, and not just to Moshe. And this is also inherent in the Pasuk in Va'eschanan, where, following the Ten Commandments, the Torah writes "These words G-d spoke to your entire congregation", and this, after stating "And He wrote them on two stone tablets". This too, implies that what was written on the Luchos was synonymous with what He spoke to the congregation (i.e. the Ten Commandments). And to counter the Rambam's proof from the Medrash which states that "Onochi" and "Lo yih'yeh l'cho" we heard (shoma'anu) directly from the Almighty, he explains that the word "shoma'anu" can just as well mean 'we understood' (like in the expression in Melachim 1, 3:9 "Leiv shomei'a" [which means 'an understanding heart]'). Consequently, what the Pasuk means is that in fact, Yisrael heard all Ten Commandments from G-d, but it was only "Onochi" and "Lo yih'yeh l'cho" that they understood.

The Ramban concludes that Yisrael heard the first two Commandments from G-d, clearly and distinctly, whereas it was the remaining eight that G-d said all in one go, and not word for word. It was those eight Commandments that Moshe needed to transmit to them in a clear manner, and it was about them that the Pasuk writes in Va'eschanan "I stood between you and G-d at that time to tell you the word of G-d", and in the current Parshah "Moshe spoke and G-d helped him with a Voice" (meaning that what G-d first said with a Voice, Moshe repeated to Yisrael).


The commentary on R. Bachye expresses surprise over the above Machlokes between the Rambam and the Ramban, seeing as the two opinions have already been expressed by R. Yehoshua ben Levi and the Rabbanan in Medrash Shir ha'Shirim!

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

Choice of Words

"The name of the one of whom was Gershom . And the name of the one was Eliezer " (18:3/4).

Why, asks the Riva, does the Torah write "the one" (regarding Eliezer) and not 'the second one'?

In one of his two answers, he ascribes it to the fact that there was a time lag between the birth of Gershom and that of Eliezer. And to have written 'the first one' and 'the second one' would have given the false impression that they were born in close succession.


Safe at Last

"And the name of the one was Eliezer , because the G-d of my father helped me and He saved me from the sword of Par'oh" (18:4).

Surely, asks the Riva, Moshe ought to have called his first son Eliezer, since it was when Eliezer was born that he (Moshe) was saved from the sword of Par'oh, as is evident from the Pesukim?

That is correct, he answers. At that stage however, Moshe did not yet feel secure. He was afraid that Par'oh would send men to capture him, and it was only when G-d informed him that he was safe (because the men who were after his blood had died) that he could breathe safely - and that was after the birth of Eliezer, whom he named accordingly.


Having introduced Moshe's reason for naming his son Gershom with the words "because he said", why does the Torah decline to do the same prior to giving the reason for naming Eliezer, asks the Riva?

Bearing in mind that 'Moshe wrote his Seifer' (the entire Torah or Seifer Sh'mos), he explains, citing R. Yechiel, he is teaching us that the statement "G-d saved me from the sword of Par'oh" was something that he (Moshe) repeated constantly (as a sign of acknowledgement and thanks). Had he added the words 'because he said', it would have conveyed the false impression that it was merely the reason for naming his second son Eliezer, and no more.


Dead Men Don't Judge

"You will wither away, both (gam) you and the people " (18:18).

The word "gam", Rashi explains, comes to include Aharon, Chur and the seventy elders.

But how can that be, asks the Riva, when this Parshah took place only after Yom Kipur (as Rashi explains) whereas it was in Parshas Ki Sisa (Rashi himself informs us) that the people murdered Chur, when he tried to stop them from making the Eigel, an event that occurred in Tamuz (three months earlier)?

What Rashi therefore means is that, even if Chur had been alive and part of the judiciary, it would not have made any difference; they together with the whole of K'lal Yisrael, would have withered away under the current judicial system. And as a precedent for this explanation, the Riva cites a Pasuk in Yirmiyah, where the Navi said "If Moshe and Shmuel would stand before me", even though Moshe and Shmuel were long dead.

Just a few Pesukim later (in Pasuk 23), when the Torah writes "If you will do this then all this nation will arrive at its destination in peace", Rashi comments 'Aharon, Nadav and Avihu and the seventy elders". There, the Riva points out, Rashi omits Chur, since there would have been no justification in mentioning him.


Pushed Down & Stoned

"He (whoever ascends Har Sinai or even touches the mountain) shall be stoned (sokol yisakel) or pushed down (from a high place)" (19:13).

(See Rashi & 'Highlights ').

According to this translation, asks the Riva, the Torah ought to have written 'ki sokol yisakel ve'yoroh yiyorei' (rather than "o yoreh yiyorei"), seeing as it was not either or, but both, that were actually performed?

Quoting a Targum Yerushalmi in Mishpatim as a precedent, he translates the Pasuk as "but he shall be stoned the one who was pushed down".

He queries this however, from the Gemara in Sanhedrin, which rules that the principle 'The Torah does not (necessarily) follow a chronological order' does not apply to one Pasuk - yet here (seeing as according to the Halachah, the animal is first pushed down and then stoned) it does?

And, citing Tosfos in Pesachim, he answers that the aforementioned principle only applies where there is no proof to the contrary. Whereas here the Torah writes elsewhere "and you shall stone them with stones and they shall die", a clear indication that it is the stoning that immediately precedes death (and not the pushing down). Consequently, we have no choice other than to invert the order in our Pasuk, despite the principle to the contrary.

He then cites R. Meir Kochavi, who solves the problem with another Gemara in Sanhedrin. The Gemara learns that if the sinner dies after being pushed down, Beis-Din have fulfilled their duty (and it is not necessary to then stone him as well), this from the fact that the Torah concludes "or he shall be pushed down" (without being stoned). Clearly, we would not have known this had the Torah written 'pushing' before 'stoning'.

Consequently, since the Torah had to invert the order to issue this teaching, the question falls away.


Why Didn't You Hold the Mountain
Over Our Heads Too?

"And they stood at the foot of/underneath the Mountain" (19:17).

Rashi explains that G-d uprooted the mountain from its place and held it over Yisrael's heads like a barrel.

In answer to the well-known question, that they had already announced "Na'aseh ve'Nishma", why did they need to be coerced in this way? The Riva presents the two answers given by Tosfos in Shabbos; 1. That they had only said "Na'aseh ve'Nishma"over the written Torah, but not over the oral one, which is that much more intricate and 2. on account of the great fire with which the Torah was given, a fire so powerful, that their Souls (momentarily) left them.

Rabeinu Tam from Orleans however, queries the former explanation from the Gemara at the beginning of Avodah-Zarah. The Gemara there describes how, in time to come, the nations of the world will ask G-d as to why He did not force them to accept the Torah, by holding the mountain over their heads, like He did with K'lal Yisrael.

Now, if He did that exclusively with regard to the oral Torah, then their claim is meaningless, since the question remains, why did they not at least accept the written Torah, like K'lal Yisrael did? (Moreover, perhaps if they had, G-d would have held the mountain over their heads too?)

It seems to me that one can ask virtually the same question according to Tosfos' second explanation. It would seem from the sequence of events that G-d only held the mountain over K'lal Yisrael's heads once they had already accepted the Torah, and He was 'afraid' that they might retract due to the fear of the great fire.

The nations of the world, on the other hand, had declined to accept it in the first place. How will they be able to hold it against G-d for not holding the mountain over their heads, when there was no reason why He should?

I would therefore suggest that their argument was indeed totally unjustifiable (just like the argument of the Romans - that everything that they had ever built was for the sake of K'lal Yisrael - as indeed, G-d pointed out to them). And the reason that He took them seriously and 'gave them another chance' (as the Gemara there relates) was only to demonstrate once and for all, the difference between them and K'lal Yisrael, when it came to the crunch.

* * *


"And Yisro came to Moshe to the Desert where he was encamped (choneh) " (18:5).

The word "choneh" also appears in Tehilim "The angels of G-d encamp (choneh) around those who fear Him ".

This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that when Yisro arrived in the camp of Yisrael, he did not need to ask for directions to Moshe's tent, since he saw a (Divine) Cloud hovering over it.


" And Yisro rejoiced (Vayichad Yisro) on (hearing) all the good that G-d had done on behalf of Yisrael" (18:9).

"Vayichad Yisro" can also mean "And Yisro unified (declared One)", the Ba'al ha'Turim points out. In other words, Yisro unified G-d and converted.


"In the third month on this day they arrived at Har Sinai" (19:1).

Chazal have said that a (female) convert, captive and slave who have been set-free, may not get married until three months have passed.

Here too, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, Yisrael were set free from their captivity in Egypt. So G-d waited until three months (even though they were not complete ones) before 'marrying them' at Har Sinai, when He gave them the Torah.


" ,,, and also in you (Moshe) they will believe forever (le'olam)."

In only two places is the word "le'olom" spelt out in full (with a 'vav' after the 'Ayin'). Here and in Ki Seitzei, where the Torah forbids us to seek the peace and the good of an Amoni or Mo'avi ever (le'olam).

The Medrash informs us that in the days of Mashi'ach, Moshe Rabeinu will come to Eretz Yisrael at the head of the generation that he led in the desert. And by the same token, the prohibition regarding Amon and Mo'av extends to that era too.


"He (whoever ascends Har Sinai or even touches the mountain) shall be stoned (sokol yisakel) or pushed down (from a high place), whether it is an animal or a man, he shall not live ... " (19:13).

The same words appear in Mishpatim regarding an ox that killed a person "the ox shall be stoned (sokol yisakel)".

The Pasuk there, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, does not add "or pushed down", and it is from the Pasuk here that Chazal learn that the animal must first be pushed down from a high place before being stoned.

See Parshah Pearls.


"And the sound of the Shofar was becoming stronger (holech ve'chozek)" (19:19).

The same words appear in Shmuel (regarding David ha'Melech's 'battle' with Shaul).

The Ba'al ha'Turim cites Chazal in this regard, who explain that David was becoming stronger because he 'revealed the Masechta' (he taught Torah), whereas Shaul was getting weaker because he failed to do so.

* * *

(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 472:
Not to Eat Neveilah (cont.)

Why, one may ask, did the Torah permit the vessels that Yisrael captured from Midyan through Hag'oloh (Kashering)? Bearing in mind that the prohibition (and the need to Kasher them) was confined to pots that had been used that same day, in which case the taste that they exuded was not spoilt and ought to have remained forbidden. The answer, says the Seifer Chinuch, must be that they Kashered them with a large amount of water, which measured sixty times as much as the pot in which they Kashered it. We can also deduce from the above (initial) ruling that in the event that a Sheretz falls into a pot, even assuming that the contents of the pot do not equal sixty times the Sheretz, one simply removes it, and the contents of the pot are permitted. The fact that what the Sheretz exudes is not Bateil in the pot is of no consequence, since it is disgusting and merely serves to spoil the food (like a smelly Neveilah, as we explained). It is however, necessary, for the contents of the pot to measure at least twice the amount of the Sheretz for the Sheretz to become Bateil be'Rov. Otherwise, the food will adopt the status of the Sheretz, which, despicable as it may well be, does not become permitted The remaining Dinim are discussed in Maseches Chulin and its commentaries. What the author dealt with here is only a fraction of the many Dinim that are associated with this Mitzvah, For, as he himself admits, he wrote this Seifer to acquaint his son with the issues that he deals with, and not as a comprehensive Halachah Seifer.

This Isur applies everywhere and at all times, to both men and women. Whoever contravenes it and eats a k'Zayis of Neveilah, is subject to Malkos.


Mitzvah 473:
To Designate Ma'aser Sheini

It is a Mitzvah to separate Ma'aser Sheini from the produce during the four years of Sh'mitah (the first, second, fourth and fifth). This means that, after separating Ma'aser Rishon (which is given to the Levi) we are obligated to separate another tenth (which is why it is called 'Ma'aser Sheini'), which must be eaten in Yerushalayim. It is in this regard that the Torah writes in Parshas Re'ei (14:22) "You shall surely Ma'aser (Aser te'aser) all the produce of your seeds". And the Pasuk goes on to state that if the location is too far, and one is unable to carry it there except for with great difficulty or at great expense, then one has the option of redeeming it, taking the money to Yerushalayim and spending it there on food and drink exclusively. The Torah also states that someone who redeems his Ma'aser Sheini is obligated to add a fifth of its value. This means that, if the Ma'aser is worth four Dinrim, then he must take it to Yerushalayim where he buys with it food to the value of five Dinrim; and in this regard, the Torah writes (in Bechukosai 27:31) " if a man redeems his (own) Ma'aser, he shall add a fifth". The Gemara extrapolates from there "from his Ma'aser", 'but not from that of his friend' (i.e. somebody who redeems somebody else's Ma'aser is not obligated to add a fifth); "from his Ma'aser", 'but not a woman' (who is also not obligated to do so).
(to be cont.)

* * *

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