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

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Vol. 21   No. 51

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Sroel ben Yosef z"l Feivel ben Leibel z"l
and Freda bas Moshe z"l
t.n.tz.v.h.

Parshas Nitzavim/Vayeilech

Standing Before G-d
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Why all the Details?

"You are standing before Hashem your G-d, the heads of your tribes, your elders and your policemen, all the men of Yisrael, your little children, your wives and your converts who are in the midst of your camp, from your wood-choppers to your water-drawers " (29:9).

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It would have sufficed, says the Oznayim la'Torah, to write "You are standing all the men of Yisrael and your converts", as the Torah does in other places. Why did the Pasuk see fit to list all the different categories?

And he explains that a person who stands before G-d to give account for his deeds is judged according to his status. It goes without saying that an ordinary layman is not necessarily answerable for the sins of people over whom he has no influence in a way that the leader of a tribe, an elder or a policeman is. Indeed, Chazal have said that 'the guilt of the people lies with the leaders', as Rashi explains in Devarim (1:13). Hence, the Pasuk lists the various categories according to descending order of importance and responsibility, thereby determining the severity of Din that G-d will mete out to them.

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Children & Wives

In the Parshah of Hakheil (31:12), the Oznayim la'Torah comments, the Pasuk inverts the order - "the women and children"?

And he explains that here, since the people are entering a covenant with Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu, the Torah gives precedence to the children (the boys), who will eventually become men; 'Hakheil' on the other hand, is a Mitzvah in which the women participate according to their level of understanding, whereas the children are brought to the Beis-ha'Mikdash merely in order to give reward to their parents. Consequently, the Torah gives precedence to the women.

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Converts &Wood-Choppers

It may well be, the Oznayim suggests, that the phrase "who are in the midst of your camp", written in connection with the Geirim, is a praiseworthy statement, denoting that, in contrast to the wood-choppers and the water-drawers, who tricked Yisrael and converted out of fear (of the incoming Jewish army), they joined up with our ancestors when they were about to enter the desert, where they willingly suffered together with them. And that is why the Torah gives them precedence over the former,

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Wood-Choppers & Water-Drawers

Wherever these two groups appear in T'nach, they always appear in this order, giving precedence to the wood-choppers.

The Oznayim la'Torah suggests that the reason for this is simply because they are superior, inasmuch as anybody can draw water, whereas chopping wood requires a degree of expertise, if only to avoid wounding others or even oneself while in the process of cutting down the tree,

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Transcribing the Torah
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

In Par shas Ki Savo, we discussed the gentiles' transcription of the Torah into their own respective languages. Why, the Oznayim asks, was this at all necessary? It is most certainly not due to the fact that they now accepted the Torah that they had rejected at Har Siinai! So what was the point?

To answer the question, the author reminds us of the first Rashi in the Chumash, where he points out that the Torah strictly speaking, ought to have begun with "ha'Chodesh ha'zeh lochem", which discusses the Korban Pesach (the first Mitzvah), and, when all's said and done, the main objective of the Torah is the Mitzvos. And the reason that it begins with the creation, is to counter any claim the nations may have that we are thieves, who stole Eretz Yisrael from the Cana'anim.

The Torah therefore points out that it is G-d who created the world and who therefore owns it. And it is in that capacity, that He initially gave Eretz Yisrael to the Cana'anim, the sons of Cham, and, when it suited Him, He took it away from them and gave it to the B'nei Yisrael, who were sons of Sheim.

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When, at Har Sinai, G-d offered the Torah to the nations of the world, in reply to their question "What is written in it?", He replied, "Do not murder!", "Do not commit adultery!" and "Do not steal!" The various nations declined to accept it because murder, adultery and theft was part of their respective national heritage. At that stage, G-d did not tell them about the creation and its ramifications, because this was not what they wanted to hear.

When Yisrael crossed the Yarden and began to conquer Cana'an from the seven Cana'ani nations, the nations of the world began to have second thoughts about accepting the Torah. They reckoned that if Yisrael accepted the Torah under false pretenses, and were now stealing the the land of Cana'an from its rightful owners, then they too, could have accepted the Torah, and subsequently proceeded to murder, commit adultery and steal.

And it was in order to prevent the bad name that Yisrael would have earned that G-d decided to divulge the truth, and to inform the nations about the creation. Consequently, He put it into the heads of the notaries of the different nations to come and transcribe the Torah from the stones and study it. In that way, they would learn that G-d was the Master of the world, and that, if He had given Eretz Yisrael to the Cana'anim up until now, He was now handing it Yisrael, who were about to take ownership of the land that rightfully belonged to them.

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