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

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Vol. 20   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

Receiving the Torah by Force

"And Moshe took out the people from the camp towards G-d, and they stood at the foot of the mountain" (19:17).

Commenting on the words "be'tachtis ha'Har", the Gemara in Shabbos (88a) learns from here that G-d actually lifted the mountain over their heads and said to them 'If you will accept the Torah, all will be well and good, but if you don't , you will be buried where you are!'

This goes well with the statement of Resh Lakish, cited by the Gemara almost immediately afterwards, which, commenting on the 'Hey' in "yom ha'shishi" (of the creation), cites G-d's stipulation with the creation, that the world's continued existence would depend upon Yisrael's accepting the Torah on the sixth of Sivan. And if they would refuse, it would revert to null and void. The world after all, was created solely because of Yisrael (as Chazal extrapolate from the word "Bereishis"). Consequently, if Yisrael were destined to be buried underneath Har Sinai, the world would have no raison d'etre.


The question arises, asks Da'as Zekeinim, that Yisrael responded to the offer of the Torah with the famous "Na'aseh ve'nishma!", so how can the Gemara claim that they were forced to accept the Torah?

And he answers that their "Na'aseh ve'nishma" was said exclusively with regard to the written Torah (which was authored by G-d Himself); as for the oral Torah (which would be compiled by human scholars), they specifically declined to accept, until G-d, knowing that the former cannot be fully understood without the latter, forced them to accept it. And so, it is connection with the oral Torah (which G-d alone knew was an integral part of the written one) that He needed to force them to accept.


The Gemara there in Shabbos, follows the first of its previous statements with the well-known comment 'mi'Ka'an moda'a raba d'Oraysa!' ('From here we learn that Yisrael were considered Anusim [forced to accept the Torah ])'. That being the case, they were not punishable for transgressing it! That is up until the days of Achashverosh, when they accepted it willingly, as the Gemara concludes.

According to the previous explanation, it emerges that it was on the oral Torah (which encompasses the bulk of the practical day to day halochos) that they were not punishable, since the written Torah they had gladly accepted of their own freewill.


Tosfos in Shabbos asks the same question as the Da'as Zekeinim, but answers that although Yisrael had declared 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma', G-d was 'afraid' that, due to the awesome sight of the 'great fire' that accompanied the giving of the Torah, that even caused their souls to depart and they had to be revived with the dew of Techi'as ha'Meisim, they would retract. In that case, holding the mountain over their heads did not force them to accept the Torah; it deterred them from retracting. If, as would appear from the words of Tosfos, this took place after they declared 'Na'aseh ve'nishma!', it is difficult to understand what the Gemara means when it goes on to say 'mi'Ka'an moda'a raba d'Oraysa!', since they were not really forced into accepting it at all.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the
Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

Who was Called Ish?

" Moshe went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed before him and he kissed him, and one man (ish) greeted the other" (18:7).

It is not at first clear, comments Rashi, who bowed before whom. But when the Torah then goes on to use the word "ish", it becomes clear that it was Moshe who bowed before Yisro, since Moshe is the one who is called a man "(Ish) ho'Elokim" (at the beginning of ve'Zos ha'B'rachah).

But if we look in Parshas Sh'mos (2:21), comments the Riva, we will find that Yisro too, is referred to as "ho'ish" - and he gives three answers:

1. Bearing in mind that the Torah here uses the word "Ish", conforming with Mosheh's title. Yisro is called not "ish", but "ho'ish".

2. Moshe's title "Ish" appears right next to his name (See Bamidbar 12:3), Yisro's does not.

3. Rashi's explanation follows the opinion that Re'uel (the "Ish" referred to in Sh'mos, was not Yisro, but Yisro's father; and when the Torah informs us that he gave his daughter Tziporah to Moshe as a wife, it really means his granddaughter (based on the principle that 'One's grandchildren are like one's children').


When Did Yisro Come?

Rashi (18:13) is uncertain as to whether Yisro came before Matan Torah, following the chronological order of the Pesukim, or whether he came afterwards. We have, of course, the principle that 'The Torah does not necessarily follow the chronological order'.

Either way, he maintains, he did not leave to return to Midyan until after Matan Torah.

The Da'as Zekeinim, however, quoting the Mechilta, which, based on a Pasuk in Mishlei, maintains that it would not have been fair for Yisro, who did not experience the slavery in Egypt, to now rejoice together with Yisrael at Har Sinai.

Consequently, he says, Yisro must have arrived only after the Torah was given.

The Rosh however, explains that Yisro arrived before Matan Torah, and what's more, in keeping with the reasoning of the Mechilta, Moshe also sent him home before Matan Torah, all following the chronological order of the Torah.

And as for Rashi's problem with this explanation (what was there to keep Moshe busy from morning to night judging, when the Torah had not yet been given?), he explains that this refers to the Dinim that were commanded at Marah, before the Torah was actually given.


Being Stoned to Death

"Do not touch it (Har Sinai) with your hand, for whoever does he shall be stoned or (O) thrown down, whether animal or man " (19:13).

In fact, says the Da'as Zekeinim, the word "O" means not 'or', but 'if'.

This is because whoever received the death-sentence of s'kilah (stoning), was first pushed down from a height and only then was he actually stoned (See Rashi, who cites this Pasuk as the source for this ruling). What the Pasuk is therefore saying is that he shall be stoned if (provided) he was first pushed down.

Alternatively, he continues, "O" can even be translated as 'or', and what the Pasuk means is that he shall be stoned (with a boulder), in the event that he does not die after falling from the cliff, and pushed down (without stoning) if he does.

* * *


"On this day they came to Har Sinai" (18:1).

On the same day, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that Moshe was told (at the burning bush one year earlier) "You (plural) will worship G-d at this mountain!"


" I am Hashem, who took you out of Egypt " (20:2).

The same word (indeed, the same phrase) appears in Lech-L'cho (15:7), where G-d told Avraham "I am Hashem who took you out of Ur Kasdim to give you this land ".

Because, he explains, He only saved Avraham from the furnace of Kasdim in order to give his children the Torah.

* * *

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