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

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Vol. 16   No. 32

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Parshas Noso

The Day After Shabbos
(Adapted from 'ha'Mo'adim ba'Halachah')

The Gemara has very little to say about Shavu'os per se, the ha'Mo'adim ba'Halachah' observes. Besides Hilchos Yom-Tov, which the Chag shares with Pesach and Succos, it has no Halachos of its own. Likewise, the author of the Shulchan Aruch designates only one short Si'man to Hilchos Shavu'os, and even that, he places at the end of, and as part of, Hilchos Pesach.

On the other hand, he points out, there is one fundamental detail in Hilchos Shavu'os, concerning the very essence of the Chag, that the Gemara in Menachos (98b) and the commentaries deal with at unusually great length. And that is the date on which Shavu'os falls.

Unlike every other Yom-Tov, the Torah does not specify exactly on which day of which month Shavu'os occurs. As a matter of fact, the Torah gives the date as the fiftieth day after we start counting the Omer.

As a result, not only is there a Machlokes Tana'im (R. Yossi and the Chachamim) as to whether Shavu'os falls on the sixth or the seventh of Sivan; but the Torah's vague description of the day on which Shavu'os falls, coupled with the definition of the date on which we begin to count the Omer as 'the day after Shabbos' gave rise to the Tzedokim's theory that the counting of the Omer must begin on a Sunday. As the Gemara in Menachos points out, the theory, based on the literal interpretation of "Shabbos" (according to Chazal, "Shabbos" here really means Yom-Tov) is inherently absurd, as there is no indication as to which Shabbos the Torah is referring to. In any event, it means that Shavu'os falls on the Sunday after the termination of Sefiras ha'Omer seven week's later, adding a few possible dates in Sivan on which Shavu'os might fall. Ironically, according to our calendar, Pesach can never fall on Friday, in which case Shavu'os cannot fall on Sunday!

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The above Gemara in Menachos, as well as the Sifra, offer a variety of counter-arguments to the Tzedokim's theory, a theory which incidentally, was taken up once again in the days of the Ge'onim by the Kara'ites.

Interestingly, Rishonim and Acharonim join the foray and offer proofs of their own to refute it.

The author cites the following three refutations; one from the Tana'im, one from the Rishonim and one from the Acharonim.

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The first counter-proof cited in the Gemara is that of R. Yochanan ben Zakai, who based his harsh refutation ('Idiot', he told the Tzedoki leader, 'how can you compare our perfect Torah to your idle chatter!') on the fact that the Torah presents two Pesukim - "You shall count fifty days" (implying days and not complete weeks) and "They shall be seven complete weeks" (implying from Sunday to Sunday).

To reconcile these two seemingly contradictory statements, the Tana told the Tzedoki elder, we are forced to say that the former Pasuk refers to Yom-Tov (Pesach) that falls on Shabbos, in which case the counting of the Omer begins on Sunday; whereas the latter Pasuk speaks when Yom-Tov falls on a weekday, so that the counting of the Omer begins on any other day (but not on Sunday).

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The Rambam discredits the Tzedoki theory by ascribing the Chachamim's opinion (that "the day after Shabbos" refers to the first day of Pesach) to tradition, adding that the prophets and the Sanhedrin throughout the ages waved the Omer on the sixteenth of Nisan, irrespective of whether it was a Shabbos or a weekday. And he proves the point further with the Pasuk in Yehoshua, which records how, after crossing the River Yarden on the tenth of Nisan, Yisrael ate from the (new) produce of the land on the day after (the first day of) Pesach. Had Pesach of that year fallen on Shabbos, and they were permitted to eat the new crops on the Sunday, the day on which they brought the Omer, the Rambam postulates, then the Pasuk ought to have said so (rather than attributing the concession to eat it to "the day after Pesach", a date which has no relevance, according to the Tzedokim).

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The Panim Yafos bases his proof on the Pasuk which writes that the days of the Omer should be "seven complete weeks", concluding with the phrase "until the day after the end of the seventh week". Now if one always began counting on a Sunday, as the Tzedokim contended, then it would be obvious that the seven weeks are complete, and the phrase would be totally superfluous. But now that one begins counting on the day after Pesach, the Torah needs to teach us that, in the event that we begin counting in the middle of the week, we do not apply the principle 'that part of a week is like a full week', in which case we would terminate counting on the Shabbos of the last week, even though a full week had not elapsed.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

The Avodah of Shir

" whoever comes to perform the work of service " (4:47).

This refers to the Shir (the singing performed by the Levi'im) with cymbals and harps, says Rashi, which accompanied another service (the Korbanos).

R. Bachye connects this with the Pasuk in Tehilim (100:2) "Serve Hashem with joy", and citing a Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim (2, 35:15), he explains that, notwithstanding the Pasuk here, Shir is an Avodah in its own right. The Levi'im are commanded, he explains in the introduction to the Parshah, to sing, to arouse joy on the Mitzvah of the Korban, in order that the act of the Mitzvah should be performed with Simchah.

The author also cites the Gemara in Erchin, which, based on Pesukim in Tehilim, explains that the harp in this world (i.e. in the first two Batei-Mikdash) comprised seven strings, the harp that will be played in the era of Mashi'ach will comprise eight strings, whereas the harps that will be played in Olam ha'Ba will comprise ten strings.

This is merely a reflection of our Divine comprehension, which will increase with the advent of each era. In this world, it is possible to attain knowledge of the seven Sefiros (from Malchus through to Chesed); in the days of Mashi'ach, our understanding will increase and we will be able to fathom one additional Sefirah (Chochmah or Binah), whilst in Olam ha'Ba, we will be able to master all ten Sefiros (including Da'as/Atzilus).

The first person to explain the issue of Shir was David ha'Melech, who divided it into eight groups, led by Asaf, Heiman, Yedusun, Eisan ha'Ezrachi, Ben (see footnote 28), Gitis (or Hagitis, alias Oved Edom ha'Giti), the sons of Korach, and the sons of Moshe.

And they played on eight instruments, which are listed in Tehilim in various places, and which the author names.

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Water & Dust

"And the Kohen shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and from the dust that will be on the floor of the Mishkan " (5:17).

Why water and dust, R. Bachye quotes the Gemara in Sotah (17a)?

Because water comes from Heaven and dust from the earth, and it is between the two that the Sotah is examined and pronounced guilty, as the Pasuk states "I testify against you the Heaven and the Earth" (Devarim 30:19).

Furthermore, says the Gemara, the Torah prescribes dust for the ceremony of the Sotah to hint to her that in the event that she is innocent, she will bear a son like Avraham Avinu, who declared "and I am dust and ashes", whereas if she is guilty, she will return to dust!

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The Midas ha'Din

"Minchas keno'os Hi, U'be'yad Ha'kohen Yih'yu mei ha'morim ha'me'orerin " (And in the hands of the Kohen shall be the bitter cursing water [5:18]).

Wherever one finds the Name of Hashem ('Havayah') spelt backwards, it signifies the Midas ha'Din, as Rabeinu Bachye has pointed out many times (see for example Bereishis 11:9). Here too, the Midas ha'Din confronted the Sotah, as she drank the water containing the dust and the parchment containing the Name of Hashem. That is why the first letters of " Hi U'be'yad Ha'kohen Yih'yu" backwards spell the Name of Hashem.

*

In another manifestation of the same concept, the author explains, the Parshah of Sotah that the Kohen wrote on the parchment to be erased in the water comprised fifty-four letters - 'Don' (judgement), the middle letters of the Name of the Name of G-d denoting 'Adnus', depicting the Midas ha'Din with which she now had to contend.

Note that there are fifty-four Parshiyos in the Torah, and that in describing how the water of the Yam-Suf that was piled high waiting to drown the Egyptians, the Torah writes "nitz'vu k'mo neid (the same two letters - 'Nun' 'Daled')".

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Birchas Kohanim

"So you shall bless (Koh sevorchu) the B'nei Yisrael" (6:23).

G-d gave the Kohanim twenty-four gifts of Kehunah, says R. Bachye. Together with Birchas Kohanim, a total of twenty-five (the Gematriyah of "Koh"). Hence the Torah begins Birchas Kohanim with the words "koh sevorchu" (see also Ba'al ha'Turim). The first Pasuk of Birchas Kohanim contains fifteen letters, the second, twenty, and the third, twenty-five - 'Koh' (present), 'hoyoh' (past) and 'yehi' (future), respectively.

This teaches us that the great G-d, whose Name is mentioned in each of the three Pesukim rules over all three time periods; the present, the past and the future, says R. Bachye. He also points out that the hint begins with the present, because, he explains, G-d exists in the present, as if none of His years have passed, as the Pasuk says in Tehilim (120:28) "But You are the same, and Your years never end."

And this is what we have in mind when we say each day "Hashem Melech (present), Hashem Malach (past), Hashem Yimloch " (which is not one Pasuk, but three parts of three Pesukim in Tehilim).

Birchas Kohanim comprises a total of sixty letters, hinting at the Pasuk in Shir ha'Shirim (3:7) " sixty mighty men from the mighty men of Yisrael, all of them wielding their swords, trained in warfare".

The three Pesukim contain three words, five words and seven words, respectively. This hints at the love with which G-d blesses us, and to which the Kohanim refer in the B'rachah - by dividing the letters of 'be'Ahavah' as follows - 'Beis Alef' (three) 'Hey' (five) and 'Beis Hey' (seven)

* * *

Megilas Rus

What the Medrash Says
(Based on the Torah Temimah)

Chapter 2:

Pasuk 23 - "And she kept with the girls of Bo'az up until the barley and the wheat harvests had terminated ". A three month period, the Medrash comments - the three-month waiting period that is required by a convert to wait before getting married (so that, in case she is pregnant, they will know that the baby's father is not the man whom she subsequently marries).

Chapter 3:

Pasuk 2 - "And now, is Bo'az, with whose girls you were, not our relative; behold he will winnow tonight on the threshing-floor".

The Medrash derives from here that a Talmid-Chacham is forbidden to travel alone at night (since the Pasuk goes on to say that he slept over in the barn, and did not return home immediately after winnowing).

Pasuk 5 - "And she said to her "Whatever you will say to me I will do".

The word "to me (eilai)" is a 'K'ri K'siv' (said but not written). This, says the Gemara in Nedarim (37b), is 'Halachah le'Moshe mi'Sinai' - despite the fact that Megilas Rus had not yet even occurred, let alone been written! (See Torah Temimah).

Ibid. The Medrash attributes the reason for the 'k'ri k'siv' to the fact that Rus did not quite stick to Naomi's instructions.

Naomi instructed her change into her Shabbos clothes before going down to the barn; whereas she switched the order. Why did she do that?

In case, says the Medrash, she would attract some man with loose morals on the way down to the barn. (See also Rashi). Still, it was only a detail that she changed; otherwise, she made a point of doing everything exactly as her mother-in-law had instructed her.

The Gemara in Shabbos (113b) connects this Pasuk to the Pasuk in Mishlei (9) "Give to a wise person and he will become wiser still." In other words, one needs to keep one's wits about one, and it is sometimes necessary to adapt to the circumstances.

Ibid. "and she did all that her mother-in-law commanded her".

The Medrash quotes a B'raysa - 'The initial pregnancy of Mo'av came about through z'nus (an immoral act), but the end was purely for the sake of Hashem, as the Pasuk writes "and she did "!

Chapter 3

Pasuk 3 - " You shall bathe and anoint yourself". Bathe, says the Medrash - means 'Remove the filth of Avodah-Zarah'; "and anoint yourself" - 'with Mitzvos and with charitable acts'.

Ibid. - " and put on your clothes". Surely, asks the Yerushalmi, she was fully clothed already?

What the Pasuk therefore means is that she should change into her Shabbos clothes. From here we learn, says the Yerushalmi, that a Jewish person must have two sets of clothes, one for the week and one for Shabbos.

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All About Shavu'os 1
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Putting the Comma in the Right Place!

At first glance, when the Torah writes "until the day after the seventh week you shall count, fifty days", it looks as if the Torah requires us to count fifty days of Sefiras ha'Omer.

To reconcile this with the fact that we count only forty-nine, Rabeinu Bachye (and other commentaries) point to the punctuation (i.e. based on the 'Neginah' on the word "tisperu" [you shall count]) and read the Pasuk like this - "until the day after the seventh week (exclusively) you shall count; fifty days, you shall bring a new Minchah to Hashem".

*

Not an Independent Yom-Tov

One would have expected the Torah to introduce the Parshah of Shavu'us with "On the third month on the sixth of the month is the festival of Shavu'os", similarly to the way it introduces Pesach and Succos, comments R. Bachye. Yet that is not what it does. It adds Shavu'os to Pesach as if they were one Yom-tov.

And the reason for this , he says, is because in effect, it is merely the culmination of the Mitzvah of the Korban Omer, which began on he second day of Pesach. (Indeed, Pesach symbolizes physical freedom, which is hinted in the Korban Omer, and Shavu'os, spiritual freedom, which is hinted in the Sh'tei ha'Lechem - see 'The Sh'tei ha'Lechem 2.').

It can be compared to Shemini Atzeres, which is the culmination of Succos. As a matter of fact, the Ramban, on whom this concept is based, adds that this explains why Chazal refer to Shavu'os as 'Atzeres'.

And the forty-nine days in between, says R. Bachye, should be considered like Chol ha'Mo'ed (to cut down on one's mundane affairs to a bare minimum, and to increase one's involvement in Torah and Mitzvos).

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All About Shavu'os 2
(Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak)

The Sh'tei ha'Lechem (1)

This Korban comprises two tenths of an Eifah, says the Tzeidah la'Derech, because on this day we received from G-d the written Torah and the oral Torah, which purifies the sins that result from the yeast (Se'or, a play on the word 'Se'orim' - barley, the Korban Omer which they brought on Pesach), which 'turns their dough sour'. The Sh'tei ha'Lechem now beautifies them like new-fruit before G-d.

*

The seven lambs that accompany the Loaves correspond to the seven Books of the Torah, whereas the bull and the two rams of the Burnt-Offering correspond to the three components of Torah - T'nach, Mishnah and Gemara, or alternatively, to Torah, Nevi'im and Kesuvim. As for the goat of the Sin-Offering, it teaches us that G-d forgave Yisrael for the sin of selling Yosef (on which occasion they Shechted a goat and brought it to their father).

And the two lambs in their first year that they brought as a Peace-Offering merely indicated that when they accepted the Torah, G-d pardoned them for all their sins, and that they were now as innocent and pure as babies in their first year. Consequently, peace reigned between them and their Father in Heaven. And these were Holy to Hashem and given to the Kohen, just as Yisrael were all holy to Hashem.

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The Sh'tei ha'Lechem (2)

The Tzeidah la'Derech explains that the two loaves represent the 'Na'aseh ve'Nishma' of Kabolas ha'Torah, which he therefore terms 'the Bread of the Soul', as opposed to the barley of the Omer that they brought on Pesach, which represented the bodies (alone) that went from slavery to freedom. Hence, the Korban on Pesach consisted of animal food, whilst the equivalent Korban on Shavu'os, when, with the receiving of the Torah, they attained the freedom of their Souls, comprised the food of human-beings.

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Waving the Sh'tei ha'Lechem

The reason for the Mitzvah of waving the Sh'tei ha'Lechem in all four directions, the Gemara explains, is to stop harmful winds, and one waves them up and down, it says, to eliminate harmful dews.

And this explains, says R. Menachem ha'Bavli, why the Chachamim call Shevu'os 'Atzeres' (which means to halt or prevent), to indicate that on the day that the Torah was given, all harmful elements were halted. And he supports this with Unklus, who generally translates "Shavu'os" as weeks, but in Pinchas (28:26) he translates "be'Shavu'oseichem" as 'ba'Atzroseichon'!

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The Measurements of the Sh'tei ha'Lechem

The Sh'tei ha'Lechem were seven Tefachim long, four Tefachim wide and four finger-breadths thick, the Toras ha'Olah observes. All these measurements, he explains, represent the Torah, which comprises seven Sefarim; is divided into four components of Torah study - Mishnah, Talmud, Halachos and Agodoh; and which possesses four levels of understanding - P'shat, Remez, D'rush and Sod (otherwise known as 'Pardes' for short).

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