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

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Vol. 23   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

Remembering the Shabbos

"Zochor es Yom ha'Shabbos le'kadsho" (20:8).


This Mitzvah has three ramifications. Besides the Mitzvah of Kiddush and Havdalah to welcome the Shabbos-Queen when it comes in and to accompany her when it goes out, it also instructs us on two aspects of Shabbos that apply during the week, firstly by reserving the best of our food purchases for our Shabbos meals (Beitzah, 16a), and secondly by connecting the days of the week to the Shabbos. We call Sunday 'yom rishon', and Monday 'yom sheini'. Ramban observes that, consequently, the Mitzvah of "Zochor" applies throughout the week.

In applying the latter ramification, Shabbos becomes the center-piece of the week, the focal point that renders all the other days secondary to it, much in the same way as Olam ha'Bo is the focal point of our lives, as the Mishnah says in Pirkei Ovos (4:16) 'This world is but the ante-chamber to the throne-room'. That is why Shabbos is called 'Me'ein Olom ha'Bo' (a taste of the World to Come). It transpires that the main objective of the six days of the week is to prepare for the advent of the Shabbos, much in the same way as the Mishnah continues 'Prepare yourself in the ante-chamber in order that you enter the throne-room!'

And this last implication has Halachic ramifications, in that there are occasions when Wednesday is considered attached to the Shabbos ahead and Tuesday, to the previous one.



The Mitzvah of Kiddush serves to remind us that G-d took us out of Egypt, which in turn, teaches us that He created the world - an event that nobody witnessed (Ramban, end of Parshas Bo), as we specifically mentioned in the night-Kiddush and the day-Kiddush, respectively.

This means that once a person believes in the miracles of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, he must also believe in the Creation (and deny evolution), since it is only Someone who created nature, who is able to bend and twist its laws at will, as Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu did in Egypt. And at the same time, Shabbos becomes a testimony that, not only did G-d create the world, but that He also controls it (Divine Providence - Hashgachah K'lalis).


Kiddush over Wine

Although Kiddush over wine is only mi'de'Rabanan, wine (or Challos) is nevertheless an intrinsic part of the Mitzvah, to the extent that, as long as it is available, one may not make Kiddush without them.

A number of reasons are given for the inclusion of wine to the Kiddush …

Shabbos is compared to the whole Torah, and someone who keeps it will merit the World to Come. Indeed, Shabbos itself is compared to the World to Come (as we wrote above), and the World to Come is also referred to as wine (that has been preserved in its grapes from the six days of the Creation) Yalkut Yitzchak.

The fruit from which Adam and Chavah partook was grapes 'Chavah pressed grapes and handed the juice to Adam'. And since it was wine that brought disaster upon the world, Chazal declared that wine should always be used to sanctify the Mitzvos. As a result, Kiddush and Havdalah, weddings and Birchas ha'Mazon are solemnized over a cup of wine. In this way, it atones for the harm that it caused at the time of the creation.

* * *

Yisro's Advice

" You shall instruct them the way on which they shall go and the deeds that they shall do".

The Gemara in Bava Kama (99a) explains the Pasuk like this:

"You shall inform them" - refers to their livelihood (Parnasah) or to Torah-study ...

"the way" - refers to the performing of acts of lovingkindness …

"they shall go" - to visiting the sick…`

"on it (boh)" - refers to burying the dead …

"And the deeds" - to carrying out the letter of the law …

"which they shall do" - to going beyond the letter of the law (lifnim mi'shuras ha'din).


The last D'rashah begs an explanation. Having instructed us to act in a certain way, why should we go further than that? And if the Torah wants us to, then why did it not tell us how far to go?


The Mitzvos of the Torah are the minimum that G-d expects of every Jew. Through them, the ordinary man in the street is able to attain the basic level of Yir'as Shamayim towards which he must strive.

It is possible however, to attain higher levels of Yir'as Shamayim by going beyond the minimum, each person according to the extent of his Ahavas Hashem - much as parents will act infinitely more than what is necessary when dealing with their children, and spouses with one another.

Indeed, the Torah cannot possibly specify how far it wants us to go, because it depends entirely on the level of each person and the extent of his love of Hashem. For example, the Torah requires one to give ten percent of one's earnings to Tz'dakah. One person will opt to give fifteen percent; another, twenty percent - each according to his level of Ahavas Hashem.


The question remains if going Lifnim mi'Shuras ha'Din is a sign of Ahavas Hashem, why does the Torah make a Mitzvah out of it? Why not leave it to the individual to express his love of Hashem by doing more than the minimum requirement of his own accord?

The answer lies in the principle cited in Gemara in Kiddushin (31a) 'Someone who performs a Mitzvah when he is commanded is on a higher level than one who perfoms a Mitzvah voluntarily'. So G-d turned 'lifnim m I'Shuras ha'Din' into a Mitzvah in order to increase the reward of those who keep it!

* * *

The Twin Luchos

In Ki Sissa (33:18) where the Pasuk spells 'Luchos' without a 'Vav', Rashi's comment that the two Luchos were equal has three connotations: 1). That they were the same size (6x6x3 Tefachim); 2). That their contents were of equal importance. 3). That the five Mitzvos written on the second Lu'ach matched the five Mitzvos written on the first one.


As a result of the first connotation, the combined Luchos measured 216 cubic Tefachim (6x6x3), the Gematriyah of 'Yir'ah', the basis of Matan Torah (see Pasuk 17 at the end of the Parshah).

Regarding the third connotation, here is how the Medrash Lekach Tov matches the Mitzvos on the two Luchos:

"I am Hashem your G-d" "Do not murder Someone who murders, diminishes the Image of G-d, since Adam was created in His image
"Do not have other gods" "Do not commit adultery" Worshipping other gods is, in effect, an act infidelity vis-?-vis the One and only G-d.
"Do not take the name of Hashem your G-d in vain" "Don't kidnap (steal people)" Someone who steals is one step away from taking a false oath.
"Remember the Shabbos day" "Do not testify falsely against your friend" Shabbos is a testimony that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Someone who breaks Shabbos is therefore guilty of denying that testimony.
"Honour your father and mother" Do not covet your friend's … wife" If someone acts on the desire to take another man's wife and she bears him a son, that son, who does not recognize his father, is likely to curse or strike him.

The Medrash also point out that the two Luchos combined contained 'Taryag' (six hundred and thirteen) letters, corresponding to the 'Taryag' Mitzvos.

* * *

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