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

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Vol. 19   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 meilitz yosher
for his family and for all of K'lal Yisrael.

Parshas Yisro

Lo Sachmod
(Adapted from the Beis Halevi)

"Do not covet your friend's house; do not covet your friend's wife, his servant, or his maidservant, his ox, his donkey or anything else that belongs to your friend" (20:14).

The Ib'n Ezra asks how the Torah can possibly issue the command not to covet. A man sees the magnificent mansion belonging to his friend or his beautiful wife, and the thought enters his mind how nice it would be to own it. A command not to try and obtain it would be feasible, but how can a person be expected to banish the desire to own it?

And he answers that the fact that the article in question belongs to somebody else should render it so distant from him that the thought of owning does not enter his mind. In other words, it should be obvious to him at the outset that what G-d gives to somebody else is not meant for him.

And he gives the Mashal of a simple villager, who would never have thoughts of marrying the beautiful princess. The chances of the king choosing him for his daughter are so slim that no such thoughts would ever enter his mind.


After praising the Ib'n Ezra's explanation, the Beis Halevi goes on to offer his own, which, like the Ibn Ezra, he introduces with a Mashal. Imagine, he says, that a person is pursuing a specific desire, which he is about to attain, at which point his Yeitzer ha'Ra starts to rage within him like a fire. At that moment however, he slips on a patch of ice and begins to fall. In a flash, his desire is forgotten, because it has been replaced by fear. Such is human nature that fear overcomes all other emotions. One moment a person is excited about a desire that he is about to fulfill; the next, if he is overcome with fear, his desires are forgotten.

Consequently, now that the Torah forbids coveting that which others have, all one needs to avoid sinning is a minimal amount of fear of G-d - not necessarily more than the fear of falling down and hurting oneself - in order to prevent sinning. People often claim that they cannot help sinning because they are helpless against the advances of the powerful Yeitzer ha'Ra (who is after all, an angel), and they use this argument to perpetuate their sins day in day out.

But this is a grave mistake, says the Beis Halevi. The onus lies on them to develop a modicum of Yir'as Shamayim in order to combat the Yeitzer ha'Ra. Once they do that, they will find that it is perfectly controllable. The excuse that they cannot help sinning is simply not acceptable before G-d, and when the time comes they will be made to pay in full for their sins. That is what the Torah means when it says in Parshas Eikev "What does the Torah ask from you other than to fear Him … and to go in His ways". Indeed, says the author, only a few Pesukim after the Mitzvah of 'Lo sachmod', the Torah writes " … and in order that His fear will be on your faces so that you will not sin".

See also Parshah Pearls 'The prohibition of Coveting'.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

Claiming Money from a Dayan

"And now select from the people …men of truth who hate gain" (18:21).

Quoting Chazal, Rashi explains that anyone from whom one extracts money in judgement, is not fit to be a Dayan.

The Riva explains this in one of two ways:.

1.Where a Dayan obligates a poor litigant to pay out of fear of the rich litigant. Were the poor man to take the Dayan to court, the latter would have to remunerate him. And this is what Chazal mean when they describe a Dayan who hates his money in Din - that even if one litigant threatens to burn his haystack, if he declines to rule like him, he will not deviate from the truth.

2. Where, as a private individual, he denies owing someone money, and his creditor is forced to extract it from him via two witnesses.


Who Were the Officers?

"Officers of thousands, officers of hundreds, officers of fifties and officers of tens: (Ibid.)

Rashi explains that there were six hundred officers of thousands, six thousand officers of hundreds, twelve thousand officers of fifty, and sixty thousand officers of ten.

But how can that be, asks the Riva, if one deducts the six hundred officers of thousands from the six hundred thousand, the officers of hundreds will total less than six thousand (and so with all of them)?

And he answers that all the officers wee over sixty, and were therefore not included in the numbers of those who were counted.

Alternatively, it is the number of officers that are being counted here. First, Moshe designated sixty thousand officers of ten, from whom he picked the best twelve thousand as officers of fifty, and so he did with each group of minor officers. He picked the most suited ones as officers of the more senior ones, as Rabeinu Tam explains in the first Perek of Sanhedrin.


Downs & Ups

"In the third month … on this day, they came to Har Sinai. And they traveled from Refidim" (19:1/2).

Why asks Rashi, does the Torah find it necessary to repeat from where they traveled (See Beshalach 17:8) after they had already arrived at Har Sinai?

To teach us, he answers, that they left Refidim, just as they arrived at Har Sinai, in a state of Teshuvah.

R. Tam from Orleans queries this from Chazal, who comment that "Refidim" is the acronym of 'Rafu Yadayim', which teaches us that they were lax in Torah and Mitzvos (which explains in turn, why Amalek attacked them there).

And he answers that it precisely because of that laxness that the Torah needs to inform us that the moment they left Refidim (before they even reached Har Sinai), they had done Teshuvah. Bitten by Amalak, they left Refidim with a firm resolve to mend their ways and to accept the Torah at Har Sinai with all their hearts.


The Prohibition of Coveting

"Do not covet!"

The prohibition of coveting what somebody else owns incorporates making an effort to obtain it (even if one is willing to pay for it), as Chazal explain (See Seifer ha'Chinuch, Mitzvah 38).

The MItzvah of 'Lo sis'aveh' however (in the second set of Aseres ha'Dibros in Va'eschanan) is not to desire what others possess, even in the heart. And it is to the latter Mitzvah that the problem how the Torah can command such a Mitzvah (See main article), pertains.

See also the Torah Temimah, who citing the Mechilta, concludes that someone who transgresses the La'av of Lo sis'aveh will eventually transgress the La'av of Lo sachmod, and having transgressed the L'av of 'Lo sachmod', he will eventually transgress the La'av of 'Lo sigzol'!.

* * *


" … the people saw and they trembled (vayonu'u)" (20:15).

The Gematriyah of "vayonu'u" says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is equivalent to that of 'Yud-Beis Milim' (twelve Mil), which constituted the entire length of the camp of Yisrael, and was the distance that they moved in fright, when they heard and saw the thunder and the lightning flashes.



The same word "Vayonu'u" appears in Yechezkel, where the Navi writes "And the doorposts moved ("Vayonu'u") many Amos at the sound of the calling (of the angels)". Just as there, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, the movement was caused by angels, so too here, Yisrael moved back helped by the angels, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim "Angels of Hosts moved them, moved them" (68:13).


"And Moshe approached (nigash) the dark cloud where G-d was situated" (20:18).

The Torah ought to have used the word 'gash'. "Nigash" means that he was taken there. That is why Pirkei de'R. Eliezer informs us that Moshe was taken against his will to that very holy location by the arch-angels MIcha'el and Gavriel.


" … wherever My Name is mentioned I will come (ovo) to you and bless you" (20:21).

The Gematriyah of "ovo" is ten, says the Ba'al ha'Turim. A hint that when G-d finds ten people in Shul, He will come and bless them.

Interestingly, the Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos (3:6) learns from this Pasuk (which is written in the singular) that even if one person is sitting and studying, he will merit a Divine blessing.

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