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

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Vol. 23   No. 29

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
R' Yitzchok ben Leib ZAlman and Sima z"l
and Miriam bas Tzvi Hirsch and Esther Perl z"l


From Tum'ah to Kedushah

To have left Egypt without a specific destiny would have been as futile as a criminal being discharged from prison with no money, no home and no job. The chances of a person who is given his freedom under such circumstances resisting the temptation and not returning to his former lifestyle are slim. Much in the same way, if Yisrael would have left Egypt without a new destiny, they would most certainly have returned to the idolatrous lifestyle that they had lived there.

All the miracles that Yisrael witnessed and experienced as Galus Mitzrayim came to an end would have been forgotten in a flash had Hashem not provided them with money, a new lifestyle and a homeland. And so He did - He provided them with money ("And they emptied Egypt" - Bo, 12:36); He presented them with a new lifestyle - by giving them the Torah at Har Sinai; and He gave them a new homeland - Eretz Yisrael, which they would have entered immediately, had they not sinned.


Looking at the same concept from a different angle - a person cannot live in a vacuum - just as he cannot stand still on a steep slope. To avoid slipping and descending back to where he came from, he must continue climbing - as the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos 'If you don't keep on going, you will end up going down'. And it is also what the Chovas ha'Levovos means when he says 'Woe to me from my Yeitzer (ha'Ra), woe to me from my Yotzer (my Creator) - Whether I like it or not, I am under the influence of either one or the other. It is impossible to remain independent of both, at any given time.

This very same lesson we expressed at the Seider table, when we discussed how we left the servitude of Par'oh (symbol of the Yeitzer-ha'Ra) to become servants of Hashem. Indeed, G-d made this clear to Moshe at the burning bush when, before the Exodus had even begun, He told him that "When you leave Egypt, you will serve Me on this mountain (Har Sinai)". And it is further enhanced by the four expressions of redemption, which begin with "I will take you out" (from the slavery) and end with "I will take you to Me as a nation". Initially, it is difficult to understand what the latter expression has to do with redemption. But the connection becomes clear when, as we explained, redemption, on principle, is futile, unless it is replaced with a positive lifestyle. Perhaps the redemption per se, needed to take place in three stages - because 'All beginnings are difficult'; but once those three stages have been achieved, the final stage requires no more than one leap.


Finally, the close inseparable link between leaving the domain of Par'oh and entering that of G-d is evident in Pesach (Yetzi'as Mitzrayim) and Shevu'os (Matan Torah), by the fact that the two are joined by the Sefiras ha'Omer, which actually begins on Pesach itself (not after Pesach). This again, demonstrates that Matan Torah is an integral part of the Ge'ulah, that the Ge'ulah was not complete until the Torah was given on Har Sinai, when the reign of Par'oh was replaced by that of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu. See also following article.

* * *

The Two Bloods

Quoting Rebbi Masya ben Charash, Rashi (in chapter 12, Pasuk 6) comments that when the time arrived to keep the promise that G-d had made to the Ovos - to take Yisrael out of Egypt, and He saw that they had no Mitzvos to their credit, He gave them two Mitzvos with which to occupy themselves, the blood of Pesach and the blood of Milah'.


The significance of these two Mitzvos can be best explained by referring to what we wrote in the previous article. The blood of Milah signifies one's being a servant of G-d, whilst the blood of Pesach represents relinquishing the idolatry of Egypt ('Take for yourself a lamb for the Pesach and withdraw from the idolatry of Egypt!').

Moreover, they represent the first two of the Aseres ha'Dibros - accepting Hashem as our Master, and not accepting any other master. These two in turn, represent all the Mitzvos, the former, all Mitzvos Asei, the latter, all Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh. Effectively, when Yisrael performed the B'ris MIlah and brought the Korban Pesach, they were undertaking to observe the whole Torah.

* * *

The Four Groups

(Adapted from the Yerushalmi)

When reading the Pesukim leading up to the Shirah, one gets the impression of conflicting reactions from various sections of the B'nei Yisrael. This impression is perfectly justifiable. To begin with, the Yerushalmi in Ta'anis (2:5) explains that there some who believed, some who denied and some who despaired. And the Gemara cites a B'raysa which describes four groups at the Yam-Suf


The first group said "Let's jump into the Sea!"

The second group said "Let's return to Egypt!"

The third group said "Let's go and fight them!"

The fourth group said "Let's make a noise and scare the Egyptians!"

Moshe gave each group the appropriate answer, all of which are contained in one Pasuk (14:13)

To the first group he said "Stand still and witness the salvation of Hashem!".

To the second group he said " for as you see the Egyptians today you will never see them again!"

To the third group he said "Hashem will fight for you!"

To the fourth group he said "You remain silent!"


This Medrash also appears in Targum Yonasan.

* * *

The King, the Generals & the Army

(Adapted from the Seforno)

The Seforno explains that G-d divided the battle against the Egyptians in three parts He fought against Par'oh, against his captains and against the army in general.

The first Pasuk, which speaks about a horse and its rider (in the singular), refers to Par'oh and his horse (two vain entities) - since a horse is naturally vain, and Par'oh's first statement to Moshe was "Who is Hashem, that I should obey His commands?' Consequently, this Pasuk together with the next two Pesukim sing a song of praise to the One who is 'Proud over the proud ones'.

Pasuk 4 specifically refers to Par'oh's generals -and the next two Pesukim come to acknowledge G-d's victory over them.

Whereas from Pasuk 8 and onwards, the author concludes, the Pasuk is dedaling with G-d's destruction of the Egyptian army, and describes some of the strategies that He employed in this unique one-sided battle.

* * *

Table of Events covering the Exodus


10th Shabbos ha'Godol - Yisrael tie a lamb (or kid-goat) to their bed-posts. The Egyptians fume but can do nothing about it - Egyptian firstborn demand that Par'oh free the Jews. He refuses. A short civil war ensues.


14th Yisrael Shecht the Korban Pesach.


15th (night) They celebrate the first Seider, with Pesach, Matzah & Morror - The slaying of the Egyptian firstborn - Moshe refuses Par'oh's request to lead Yisrael out of Egypt.


15th (day) Yisrael request clothes and household goods from thei Egyptian neighbours. The Egyptians comply - They assemble from Mitzrayim & Goshen to Ra'amses, whilst Egypt mourns its dead - Moshe collects Yisef's coffin, and each tribe, the coffin of the father of the tribe. They travel to Succos.


16th - 20th They travel to Eisam and then to Pi ha'Chiros (camping by the Yam-Suf in front of the idol Ba'al Tz'fon.


19th After a three-day mourning period, Par'oh sends a large force to recapture his 'escaped slaves', but they are repulsed.


20th He leads his army to fight with Yisrael.


21st (night) The Egyptian army catches up with Yisrael.


21st (day) K'ri'as Yam-Suf - The army drowns, whilst, in Egypt, their countrymen are stricken with plagues - Yisrael sing Shirah, They strip the Egyptians of all their jewelry.

* * *

Vol. 23   No. 30

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
Zehava Lurie a"h , Boris Glassmanz"l, Shimmy Schwartz ,z"l
Doreen Schwartz a"h, Pauline & Issy Chernick z"l
from the Glassman, Schwartz, Chernick Families
of Jerusalem, Efrat, Netanya, Johannesburg, Toronto, Perth, New York, Harare

Parshas Acharei-Mos

The Source of Life

"You shall observe My statutes (chukim) and My judgements (mishpotim) that man shall do them and live by them" (18:5).


In the previous Pasuk, Rashi defined 'chukim' as Mitzvos that are not based on logic, but are Divine decrees, which the Yeitzer ha'Ra and the nations of the world query. 'Mishpotim' on the other hand, are logic-based Mitzvos, which we would have observed even if the Torah had not commanded them. And it is in connection with both of these categories that the Torah commands man to "live by them", because they are the source of life.


The Ramban interprets the equation of Torah with life in three different ways, pertaining to physical and spiritual life in this world, and everlasting life in the World to Come, respectively:

1. G-d gave us the Torah to teach us how to live together civilly and harmoniously. It is a code of conduct that educates people how to respect one another and how to live together without killing and robbing. That is why the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:18) "You shall love your friend like yourself" - which Targum Yonasan interprets as 'What you do want done to yourself, don't do to others', And as Hillel told the gentile 'That is the basis of Torah Torah - the rest is all explanation.


2. According to Chazal, who extrapolate from the Pasuk "Live by the Mitzvos and don't die by them!" This teaches us that however important the Mitzvos are, human life is more important still. Like we find by Hillel, whom the B'nei Beseira discovered one Shabbos, lying on the skylight almost frozen to death, and who subsequently lit a fire to revive him, proclaiming 'It is worthwhile desecrating one Shabbos, to enable him to observe many Shabbasos. They taught us not only that the life of a Jew overrides Mitzvos, but they went further by ascribed it to his powerful potential.


3. As Rashi comments - 'And you shall live by them - in Olom ha'Bo - since in this world, everyone is destined to die'. This is easily understood with Zohar quoted by the Or ha'Chayim in the previous Pasuk. The Zohar explains that each of the two hundred and forty-eight limbs attains perfection by performing the corresponding Mitzvah to (perfection) and earns it eternal life in the World to Come. And this idea, says the Ramban, is contained in the B'rachah that we recite after being called up to the Torah - " ,,, who gave us a Torah of truth and implanted in our midst everlasting life'.


The author goes on to describe the three levels of reward in in this world and in the World to Come.

Someone who performs Mitzvos with the sole intention of receiving reward, as if he was striking a deal with Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu will receive achieve what he set out to do. He will merit an enjoyable life in this world, but not in the next. This is because he has stripped the Mitzvos of their Divine essence, and therefore of their eternal character.

If on the other hand, he performs Mitzvos in order to merit reward in the World to Come, that is what he will achieve. However, he will have to suffer in this world, to atone for his sins and render him worthy of that reward.

Receiving reward in this world as well as the next is something that is reserved for those who serve G-d out of love. They will enjoy a good life in both worlds. And it is about them that the Torah speaks at the beginning of Bechukosai, where the Torah describes a utopian existence in this world.


The Ramban goes on to list a fourth group, a small elite group of people. This group comprises a mere handful of Tzadikim of the caliber of Chanoch and Eliyahu ha'Navi, who disassociated themselves from every vestige of worldliness. They lived a totally spiritual existence, as if they had no bodies - like angels. These people he explains, do not die. When their time comes to leave this world, they continue to live on in the next.

* * *

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