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

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Vol. 21   No. 53

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Yitel bas Aba a"h
with love from her family

Succos

Succos & The Yamim Nora'im
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

" … On the fifteenth day of the seventh month shall be for you a holy calling, you may not perform any servile work on it; you shall celebrate a festival to Hashem for seven days" (Pinchas, 29:12).

The Oznayim la'Torah points to a discrepancy between the words in this Pasuk "the seventh month" and the Pasuk in Emor, which adds the word "this ("in this seventh month"), following the Parshiyos of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur. (Note that, in the current Parshah, the Torah omits any mention of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur).

The latter, he explains, connects Succos with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur to teach us that a person who did not succeed in performing Teshuvah during the Yamim Nora'im, still has a chance to do so whilst performing the many Mitzvos that one performs on Succos. This clarifies why the Torah refers to so many Mitzvos that one does on Succos - Succah and Lulav etc., says the author, and it explains the secret of 'the concluding seal' that takes place at the end of Succos.

*

In the current Parshah, on the other hand, the Torah discusses nothing other than the Musaf-offering and its international significance. Hence Yisrael, who, understand that the entire world is being judged for its water supply, bring Korbanos on behalf of all the seventy nations of the world, who do not. And it makes no mention of the Mitzvos of Succos, because that is not the aspect of the Yom-Tov that is being discussed here.

*

The Seven Days of Succos
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"Ibid".

There is no need to search for reasons as to why Pesach lasts seven days. The Exodus from Egypt began when they left Egypt on the fifteenth of Nisan, and it terminated on the twenty-first, with the drowning of the Egyptians in the Yam-Suf - seven days later.

But what is the significance of the seven days of Succos? It is certainly not due to the seventy bulls that Yisrael brought on behalf of the bulls, he argues, since they could have brought them all on any number of days. So why did G-d choose to have them brought specifically on seven days?

The Oznayim la'Torah answers by attributing the seven days to the seven fruits for which Eretz Yisrael is praised ("wheat, barley, grapes …"), as the Torah writes in Parshas Eikev (chapter 8), on account of which the Torah there repeats the word "Eretz" seven times (Ba'al ha'Turim), since it is the land that belonged to the seven Canaanite nations. Therefore G-d commanded us to celebrate seven days of thanks to Hashem for the land and for the fruit, one day for each fruit, since each one has a quality of its own, as Chazal indicate when discussing the order of B'rachos (See B'rachos, 41).

*

It seems to me that the author might also have attributed the seven days to the seven Ushpizin (Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, David), each of which is represented by the seven days of Succos.

Moreover, his objection to his first explanation does not take into account the lesson that we learn from the descending order of bulls day by day, from thirteen down to seven - though he himself does vaguely refer to this in the course of his explanation.

* * *

Minhagim of Succos
(Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak citing the Rokei'ach)

Seven Plus Six Equals Thirteen

The Minhag for the Chazan together with the community to walk round the Sefer-Torah with their Lulavim once each day of Succos (except for Shabbos) and to walk round seven Sifrei-Torah seven times on Hosha'ana Rabah, is to commemorate the first battle which Yisrael fought in the conquest of Cana'an. There too, they walked round Yericho once on six consecutive days, and seven times on the seventh. On that occasion, seven Kohanim followed the Aron in front of the troops blowing seven Shofros during the first six days and seven trumpets on the seventh. Yisrael's victory there was the first of the conquest of Cana'an, and that is presumably why the Tefilos that we recite on this occasion are introduced with the word 'Hasha'ana', which in turn, is why the current ceremony is called 'Hosha'anos'.

Correspondingly, seven 'Kolos' are mentioned in "Mizmor le'David Havu la'Hashem b'nei Eilim …Kol Hashem al ha'Mayim …". That explains why we pray for water on Hosha'ana Rabah, as we walk round the Bimah/Sefer-Toros during the Hosha'anos.

The thirteen times that we go round the Bimah on Succos add up to thirteen, which correspond, says the Rokei'ach, to the total of thirteen times that Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu spoke to the Avos, as well as to the thirteen Midos of Hashem ("Hashem, Hashem, Keil, Rachum, ve'Chanun … ") and the thirteen Midos by which the Torah is expounded ('Kal va'Chomer, Gezeirah-Shavah … ').

*

Rain and Nedarim

The seventh day of Succos (Hosha'ana Rabah) is the day on which we Daven for rain/water. Indeed, the Aravah grows by water. It is also the day on which more Korbanos are brought than on any other day of the year, says the Rokei'ach. This is because it is the last chance that one has to bring the Nedarim and Nedavos (voluntary sacrifices) that one undertook to bring, before transgressing the La'av of 'Bal Te'acher'.

Chazal point to a strong connection between the two issues (water/rain and Nedarim and Nedavos), when, based on a Pasuk in Mishlei (8:5) they say that it is on account of people who break their vows that G-d withholds rain from the world (Note the Gemara in Ta'anis, 19a). (Actually it refers to people who undertake to give Tzedakah and who do not adhere to their undertaking.).

And this explains the juxtaposition of the Parshah of Nedarim next to that of Succos. Moreover in Pesukim in Ha'azinu (32:2) and in Iyov (29:23), the Torah equates speech with rain. Perhaps that is why the Aravah is liturgically compared to the mouth, which it also resembles.

And that also explains why G-d's judgement concerning rain follows the termination of the Korban season, as we explained. It teaches us that if we abide by our promises to bring the Korbanos that we undertook to bring within the allotted time, G-d will send us rain.

*

Untying the Knot
(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

Citing the Zera Kodesh, the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim explains that the Minhag to untie the knot during the Hosha'anos on Hosha'ana Rabah is comparable to saying to a woman who is due to give birth 'May Hashem untie your knot' - a blessing that she should give birth successfully. So too does untying the knot symbolize a prayer that Hashem should 'untie the knot' and send the Mashi'ach (which Yeshayah describes in the words as "a son will be born to us …" [9:5]).

Alternatively, he says, the loose branches of the Lulav remind Hashem that we are scattered among the nations, and that He should gather and unite us once again.

*

Banging the Aravah on the Ground

The reason that we bang the Aravah on the ground (five times) on Hosha'anah Rabah at the conclusion of the Hosha'anos, based on the fact that the Aravos represent Midas ha'Din, is in order to vanquish the Midas ha'Din and to bring it down to the ground (like a wrestler defeats his opponent).

* * *


Vol. 21   No. 55

This issue is sponsored jointly
l'iluy Nishmas
Esther bas Yisrael Yitzchok Haleve z"l
and
Yuta Krencha bas R' Hillel Hacohen z"l
t.n.tz.v.h.
and anonymously

Parshas Ve'Zos ha'Bracha

Moshe & Bil'am
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"Never again has there arisen a prophet in Yisrael like Moshe whom G-d 'knew' face to face" (34:10).

"In Yisrael there has not arisen", says the Medrash, but among the nations there has. And who was that? Bil'am.

At first sight, says the Oznayim la'Torah, this seems impossible to comprehend! How can one compare darkness to light, Tum'ah to Taharah, the scum of the earth to the man of G-d?

*

Yet if one thinks a moment, the initially startling statement makes good sense. When G-d offered the Torah (the main objective of the creation) to each and every nation in the world, the only nation to accept it unconditionally ('Na'aseh ve'Nishma!') was K'lal Yisrael.

This would have left Hashem (Kevayachol) open to criticism as to why he provided Yisrael with a master prophet to teach them His ways and to prepare them for the giving of the Torah. Had He sent them a prophet the likes of Moshe, they could argue, they too would have accepted the Torah!

And it is in order to remove this accusation that He gave them a prophet with the powers of prophecy akin to those of Moshe Rabeinu! (Medrash Rabah and Tanchuma).

But the power of prophecy is subject to change, both with regard to the way in which the prophet himself relates to it - in the way he uses or abuses it - and with regards to the attitude of the people towards the prophet that G-d sends them. And therein lies the difference between Moshe and Bil'am.

*

Regarding the prophet himself, we see that hardly had Moshe begun to prophesy that when Yisrael worshipped the Golden Calf, G-d told him to step down ("Go and descend!") because his people had become corrupt. He had proved himself unable to train the people not to allow the Eirev Rav to make a Golden Calf, even if he did not return at the appointed time, so he was no longer worthy of the same level of prophecy. Consequently, he was demoted to the level of an ordinary prophet.

And it was only after he returned to the camp, smashed the Luchos, burned the calf and killed those who had worshipped it, and brought Yisrael back to the service of G-d that, not only did he attain his previous status, but he rose even higher - to the point that he merited the Karnei Hod (the rays of light that shone from his forehead). And he continued to rise to higher levels until, at the time of his death, the Torah refers to him as "the man of G-d". In contrast, says the author, let us see what Bil'am did with the prophecy which was bestowed upon him. Not only did he do nothing to encourage the nations to accept the Torah - which he acknowledged was given to K'lal Yisrael, when he told the people that "G-d is giving 'strength' to His people" - he did not even take the trouble to arouse the people to keep the seven Mitzvos which they were already commanded. In fact, the Medrash tells us, when the people questioned him about the thunder and the tone of the Shofar at Har Sinai, which resonated round the world, and asked him whether G-d was about to bring another flood upon the world and whether they needed to repent for their misdeeds, he merely assured them that G-d had promised not to send another flood, and that it was not therefore necessary to improve their ways.

And what use did he make of his great power of prophecy? He used it to curse nations, causing them to be destroyed, in order to make a lot of silver and gold (as he intimated to Balak). Moreover, he was the one to advise Mo'av to send their daughters en masse to cause the young men of Yisrael to commit acts of adultery and idolatry - and that at a time when the whole world had undertaken to live more moral lives.

No wonder then that the power of prophecy was taken from him, little by little. First he became lame in one foot, then blind in one eye, then he turned to black magic, and at the time of his death he is referred to as Bil'am the sorcerer (Yehoshua, 13).

*

Finally, the Oznayim la'Torah asks why, when Bil'am was killed, G-d did not appoint a prophet to replace him.

He replies by asking whether the people were interested in prophecy and what it represented. Indeed, he explains, it was the people themselves who were to blame for Bil'am's descent from prophet to wizard. The only request they ever made of him was to curse their opponents to defeat them in war. Contrast this with Yisrael, who came to Moshe with requests "to seek G-d", to explain "why they were prevented from bringing the Korban Pesach", because they had become Tamei. Moreover, they asked Moshe to "Approach G-d, and to hear what He would command" on their behalf.

Bil'am had the potential to become a prophet on a par with Moshe Rabeinu. The problem was that neither he, nor the people he represented, were prepared to rise to the occasion.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Levi & Binyamin

"To Binyamin he said … . And to Yosef he said …" (33:12/13).

The Pasuk juxtaposes Binyamin next to Levi, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, because the former served in the Beis-Hamikdash that was built in the territory of the latter.

*

Efrayim and Menasheh

" … and they are the tens of thousands of Efrayim and they are the thousands of Menasheh" (33:17).

The G'ra explains that Ya'akov blessed Efrayim on his right hand side and Menasheh, on his left. Thus he blessed the former with tens of thousands (victims in battle) and the latter, with thousands - based on the Pasuk in Tehilim (91) "A thousand will fall on your (left-hand) side, and ten thousand on your right".

*

The Blessing of Asher

"Blessed be Asher more than all the sons. He will be popular among his brothers." (33:24).

Since there is no land, the Sifri explains, that is able to sustain the people during the Sh'mitah year (this is the text of the G'ra) like that of Asher. Citing the Zayis Ra'anan, the Oznayim la'Torah explains that the territory of Asher was filled with olive-trees, unlike the rest of the country, which comprised mainly fields - which could not be sown in the Sh'mitah, and where wild -seeds were rare.

Consequently, everyone flocked to Asher to partake of the olives that were available in abundance. This made the tribe a favourite among the brothers. And this is what the current Pasuk is teaching us.

*

The Benefits of Olive-Oil

"And he dips his feet in oil" (Ibid.)

So rich in oil was Asher, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, that not only did they anoint themselves with oil, they also bathed their feet in oil. The Gemara in Chulin (Daf 24) cites Rebbi Chanina, who claimed that the hot water and olive oil with which his mother used to anoint him ensured his continued good health even after he reached old age.

And that, says the author, is what the next Pasuk means when it concludes - "And your old age will be like your youth".

*

The G-d of Yeshurun

"There is no-one like the Powerful G-d, Yeshurun, who rides in the Heaven to save you." (33:26)

Yisrael are called 'Yeshurun' says the G'ra, because of the Shirah that they sang when they left Egypt.

At that stage they asked "Who is like You among the powerful ones, Hashem". Now however, after they had received the Torah and studied it for forty years in the desert, they are expected to know the answer - "There is no-one like the Powerful G-d." Hence Rashi comments 'Know, Yeshurun, that among all the gods of the nations, there is none that can compare to the Powerful G-d'.

* * *


Vol. 21   No. 56

This issue is sponsored for the Refuah Sheleima for
Eliezer ben Rus Chrysler
author of Midei Shabbos Beshabbato.
May he continue to inspire Torah learning
for many years to come.

Parshas Bereishis

Ten Commands, Ten Commandments
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

"In the beginning, G-d created the Heaven and the earth" (1:1).

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (Perek 5, Mishnah 1) teaches us that G-d created the world with ten commands. The source for this is the ten times the word "Vayomer" appears in the Parshah of the creation. Actually, says the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (32a) "Vayomer" appears only nine times; the tenth time refers to the word "Bereishis", which is also considered a Ma'amar.

In fact, the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos explains, G-d could just as easily have created the world with one command, only in this way He boosted the world's importance, which would enable Him to punish anyone who destroys such an important world on the one hand, and to reward someone who maintains it, on the other.

*

The number ten also symbolizes the Ten Commandments. The Torah Temimah points out that, whereas the former (based on the word "Vayomer" used in connection with the creation as we explained) are known as 'Asarah Ma'amaros', the latter, (based on the word "Vayedaber Elokim"which introduces them in Parshas Yisro) are called 'Asares ha'Devarim'. And he bases this distinction on the difference between Rachamim\Chesed and Din, which form the basis of these two great events and which are inherent in the two words under discussion ('Amirah' = Rachamim, 'Dibur' = Din).

Our sages inform us that the world was created with Chesed ('Olom chesed yiboneh'), as G-d's basic purpose in creating it was to do kindness to His creations, in that man, the crux of that creation, would earn everlasting life by performing His will. And it is in that vein that, as the Gemara says in Rosh Hashanah (Daf 11a), He created him only with his (Neshamah's) consent, says the Torah Temimah. The Torah, on the other hand, was given with Midas ha'Din (See Rashi, Yisro 20:1), which in contrast was given to Yisrael with 'a mountain held over their heads'.

*

The Ten Commands in Halachah
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

Ibid.

Discussing the Halachic ramifications of the statement that the world was created with Ten Commands, the author cites Gemoros in Rosh Hashanah and Megilah respectively. Chazal teach us there that 1). during Musaf of Rosh Hashanah, one recites a minimum of ten Pesukim for Malchiyos, Zichronos and Shofros, and 2) one does not call up less than ten people to the Torah,

The connection between the two Mitzvos and the ten Ma'amarim, he explains, is easily understood, when we bear in mind that regarding the former, the world (i.e. Adam ha'Rishon) was created on Rosh Hashanah, and the latter, based on Chazal, who teach us that, were it not for the Torah, the world would not be able to exist.

This last statement is based on Pasuk 31, which ends "And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day". The extra 'Hey' in the word "ha'Shishi", hints at the famous sixth of Sivan, the day on which the Torah was given, as if to say that the creation was only clinched on the sixth of Sivan, when Yisrael accepted the Torah.

Hence Rashi explains that the Torah begins with the word "Bereishis", which tells us that the world was created on account of the Torah, which in Mishlei (8) is referred to as "Reishis Darko".

* * *

Parshah Points to Ponder
An Object-Lesson in Humility

The Gemara in Chagigah (Daf 12b), commenting on Chapter 1, Pasuk 2, of this week's Parshah, explains that on the first day of the Creation, G-d created 'null' and 'void' (which the Gemara in Chagigah defines), wind and darkness. From the following Pasuk, it emerges that He also created light on the first day.

The question arises that if G-d created both light and darkness on the first day, what was there beforehand? Indeed, how does one describe the void that existed prior to the creation?

Before G-d created the world, we do not - we cannot - understand what existence looked like. Hence the Mishnah in Chagigah (2:1) states that if anybody delves into what is above the universe or what is below it, what is to its east and to its west (or, as others explain, what was before its creation or what was after it), it would have been better had he not been born.

*

The same Mishnah in Chagigah, on which the aforementioned Gemara is based, limits greatly who is permitted to study 'Ma'aseh ha'Merkavah' (the chapter in Yechezkel which discusses G-d's Throne and the 'creatures' that support it) and 'Ma'aseh Bereishis' (details concerning the creation not mentioned in the Torah).

*

There are entire areas of knowledge of which we know little or nothing, and others, which we not even given the option to study.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, among the seven qualities of a wise man, lists one who admits to what he doesn't know.

And this is the first thing that the Torah teaches us - before we even begin to learn Torah.

The Torah begins with a 'Beis', the Medrash points out, because it stands for 'B'rachah' (blessing). The commentaries also point out that the 'Beis' resembles brackets (parentheses), shutting out what happened before the world was created. A person who knows that his knowledge is limited is indeed blessed.

*

The Fruits of Jealousy

The Torah records how Kayin was angry because Hevel's Korban was accepted, whilst his was not. That anger was really based on jealousy, a Midah, which in itself is not a bad thing. On the contrary, Chazal say that ''Jealousy of Talmidei-Chachamim leads to increased wisdom," provided one looks inwards - to raise oneself to the standard of the person of whom one is jealous.

Had Kayin applied a little introspection, he would have realized that his Korban consisting of flax was inferior to that of the good-quality sheep that Hevel had brought. He would then have repaired the fault, as G-d advised him to do, and emulated his brother. Then his Korban, too, would have been accepted.

Jealousy is a bad Midah when it directed at the person who achieves what he has not - that is when it leads to anger and even at times, to murder!

*

The story is told of R. Yisrael Salanter, who once observed two young boys playing, and he saw how one of them pushed his friend into a pit and declare himself king. At which he remarked that the boy who pushed will turn out to be a Rasha - because already at that tender age, he had displayed the extreme Midah of boosting himself at the expense of his fellow-man's downfall.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be king, but it should be achieved by 'climbing on to a rock', not by pushing one's friend into a pit!

* * *

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