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

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Vol. 3 No. 32

Parshas Nosso

A Sotoh's Curse

"Anyone who sees a "sotoh" in her curse, should avow himself from wine", say Chazal. "But why only if he sees a sotoh?" one might well ask. Surely adultery is an evil thing and is to be avoided, whether one has seen a sotoh or not; in which case, wine ought to be avoided per se. One could answer simply, by saying that as long as people are good and there is no indication of adultery, then not only need one not avoid wine, but one should not avoid wine. G-d created wine, and it is up to us to make good and proper use of it. Indeed, it is for this very reason that a Nozir must bring a sin-offering at the termination of his nezirus - because he forbade upon himself something which the Torah basically permitted. It is considered a slight sin that requires atonement, even though the overall mitzvah of nezirus overrides it. It is only when the inherent evil in wine has become a reality, that one needs to take precautionary steps to prevent that evil from affecting oneself, by avowing oneself from wine. There is however, another approach to this Chazal and, whereas the previous explanation might frown upon one's abstaining from wine under circumstances other than those of a Nozir, the second approach would consider it praiseworthy.

Chazal differentiate between someone who, in his ignorance, does not know of G-d and sins, and someone who knows Him:- who is aware of Him, but chooses to disobey Him. The former is a "shogeg" (one who sins in error) or at worst a "mummar le'tei'ovon" (an apostate who sins out of pleasure) whereas the latter is a "mummar le'hach'is" (an apostate who sins to anger G-d - a rebel). Chazal most categorically reject the maxim "When ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise", but they do agree that sinning in wisdom is infinitely worse than sinning in ignorance - which is of course the reason why "G-d is particular with tzadikim to a hairsbreadth" (Yevomos 121b).

The Gemoro in Bovo Metziya (33b) explains a possuk in Yeshayoh: "Tell the people their transgressions". This refers to the talmidei chachomim, whose errors are counted as purposeful sins. "And to the house of Ya'akov their sins by mistake" - this refers to the unlearned, whose purposeful sins are counted as mistakes.

The Anaf Yosef in Parshas Bechukosai (37:1) connects this Chazal to another of their statements (in Shabbos 55a): "There is no death without chet (sin by mistake) and there is no suffering without iniquity (a sin performed for pleasure). But surely, he asks, iniquity is worse than chet, so the Chazal ought to have read: "There is no death without iniquity and no suffering without chet"?

The Anaf Yosef resolves this by connecting this latter Chazal to the former one - "There is no death without chet" refers to the unlearned. We are speaking here of sins performed on purpose, but we are also referring to unlearned people whose purposeful sins are counted as errors. "And there is no suffering without iniquity". Iniquity here refers to sins performed in error, but because we are speaking of talmidei-chachomim, the Novi refers to their sins as iniquities. What Chazal are therefore saying is: "No unlearned man dies unless he has sinned (and all his sins are termed "chet"), and no talmid-chochom suffers unless he is guilty of iniquity" (referring even to a sin performed by mistake).

In any event, the talmid chochom knows what is right and what is wrong and, because he knows, he is expected to be more careful, and G-d takes a stricter line with him than with the unlearned.

Someone who has not seen a Sotoh in her curse is not fully aware of the evils of adultery and is not expected to take the necessary steps to safeguard his own chastity. He is like the unlearned man. He is to a certain extent, unaware of the evils of immorality and their consequences. He will not be so harshly criticised. Therefore he does not bear the onus of taking steps to avoid it in such a drastic way. It is only when a person has actually seen the drastic results of unchaste behaviour, that he is expected to realise the need to avow himself from wine, to ensure that the same should not happen to him. He is compared to the learned man, as he is aware of the evils of which he has just seen the result - not even a mistake in this area will be tolerated, and so he must take the necessary steps to prevent himself from sinning.

In today's society one would have to be incredibly naive not to be painfully aware of the ills that surround immorality in all its ugly forms. It is therefore our duty to protect our own moral standards by taking every step possible to prevent the filth in the streets from infiltrating our homes, and to take even more care to be on our guard when we go into the street.


The first Rashi in the Parshah explains why the Torah needs to write "Count the sons of Gershon, also them", etc.

"Just as I command you regarding Kehos", he writes, to see how many have reached the age of "avodah" (25 for training, 30 for actual service in the Mishkon).

It is not at all clear however, as to why the Torah fails to use any such similar experession with regards to Merrori. There (4:29), it simply writes "You shall count the sons of Merrori".

And the same question remains on the explanation of the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos. He writes as follows: "It is because in the previous census, from the age of one month and onwards (Ba'midbor 3:14-39), the sons of Gershon, the oldest son of Levi, were counted first. Whereas in this census, from 30 years and onwards, it was the sons of Kehos, responsible for the main "avodoh", the carrying of the Oron and the Mizbechos etc., who were counted first. Therefore the Torah saw fit to write about the sons of Gershon "also they", as if to say, "Don't think that I forgot the sons of Gershon. They too should be included in the census".

But the difficulty that we posed earlier remains. Why did the Torah not find it necessary to add the word "also" with regard to the sons of Merrori?

Perhaps it is simply not necessary to do so. Once the Torah has re-included the sons of Gershon into the census, we can take it for granted that the sons of Merrori will be included too.

The Ohr Ha'chayim however, explains the whole issue in a way that leaves no room for further questions. The expression "Nosso es rosh b'nei Gershon", is not merely an expression of counting, but rather one of elevating, to a level of importance (see Midei Shabbos Parshas Ba'midbor of last year).

Having raised Kehos to its prime position of seniority of the tribe of Levi (as we wrote earlier in the name of the Da'as Zekeinim), it now became necessary to raise Gershon to second position. That is why the Torah uses the expression "Nosso es rosh b'nei Gershon gam hem" - Raise the status of the sons of Gershon too, so that they have a senior status vis a vis Merrori. And that explains too, writes the Ohr Ha'chayim, as to why the Parshah opens with the words "And G-d spoke to Moshe saying", although it has already introduced the census with these words (4:1).

With Merrori, the Torah does not use the expression "Nosso es rosh", nor does it open with the possuk "And G-d spoke to Moshe saying". That is because the sons of Merrori were not elevated over and above the rest of the sons of Levi. In fact, they were not raised in status above anybody.

The importance of the "Sh'tei Ha'lechem" lies perhaps in the fact that, apart from the mitzvos that all Yomim-tovim have in common, it is the only mitzvah that is unique to Shevu'os.

Staying up to learn all night, and eating milky foods are no more than minhogim, so that, in stark contrast with Pesach and Succos, we do not have even one special mitzvah, neither min Ha'Torah, nor mi'de'Rabbonon, to observe on Shevu'os. The sole speciality of Shevu'os (mitzvah-wise) is the mitzvah of "Shtei-Ha'lechem", which is not even an individual mitzvah, but a communal one. The Cohanim brought the two loaves with the accompanying Korbonos, purchased out of public funds, on behalf of the whole of Klal Yisroel. This would seem to highlight the importance of serving Hashem together "like one man, with one heart" (see Rashi Sh'mos 19:2), a level of unity that they attained at Har Sinai, and which we should try to emulate - especially on Shevu'os.

Another aspect of this mitzvah that stresses its importance and unique character is the Torah's introduction as the fiftieth day of the Sefiras Ho'omer. Shevu'os may only last for one day, but it must be of deep spiritual significance to require seven weeks' preparation - something that we do not find with Pesach or Succos, in spite of their longer duration and extended activity.

The actual mitzvah of "Shtei Ha'lechem" is no longer with us - even that privilege has been taken away from us. However, since it belongs to the realm of Korbonos, we are still able to fulfil the mitzvah indirectly, by learning about it. Here then, is a brief summary of the Halochos of the Shtei Ha'lechem, taken from the Seifer Ha'chinuch (Mitzvah 307) and the Rambam.

It is a mitzvah to bring chometz-bread from the new wheat crop on Shevu'os. The Torah calls it "a new Minchah", and it consists of two loaves. The Torah writes (Vayikro 23:17) "From your dwelling places you shall bring a wave-offering of bread, two loaves made out of two 'esronim' ". "Esronim" are tenths of an "eifoh" - one eifoh equals 432 egg volumes.

This is how it used to be done: the Cohanim would bring three so'oh of new Eretz-Yisroel wheat, which they would rub and beat in the same way as they did with all the flour-offerings. Afterwards, they would grind it and sift it twelve times, using twelve sieves, to obtain from it the required two "esronim". This sifted flour was then baked into 2 challos (each challoh was kneaded and baked individually), with the yeast being added to make it rise.

Each challoh was 7 tefochim long (6 tefochim are equivalent to 1 amoh), 4 tefochim wide and 4 finger-breadths high. They were square-shaped and had to be baked on erev Yom-tov, since their preparation did not override Yom-tov. Then, on Yom-tov itself, they were eaten by the Cohanim during the day through till the following midnight. This Minchah was the first to be brought from the new wheat-crop.

Together with the bread, they brought 7 perfect lambs, one bull and 2 rams for a burnt-offering, one she-goat for a sin-offering, and 2 sheep for a peace-offering. This set of offerings, taken from Parshas Emor, should not be confused with the Mussaf-offering mentioned in "Pinchos". The latter consisted of 2 bulls, one ram and 7 sheep for a burnt-offering, and a she-goat for a sin-offering (equivalent to the Rosh Chodesh Mussaf offering).

The waving of the challos with the two lambs of the peace-offering was done in the following manner: the Cohanim brought the two live lambs and waved them together in all directions (like a lulov). If the Cohen waved them separately he was still yotze. They then shechted and skinned them. They took the breast and the right calf from each lamb and put them beside the two loaves. Then, placing his hands beneath them, the Cohen waved them all together on the East side of the Court-yard, where all the waving took place. He waved them in all directions, each time away from the body and back, then up and down. If he waved them individually, he was yotze. Finally, he burnt the fat-pieces of the two lambs on the Mizbei'ach; the remainder of the meat was eaten by male Cohanim.

As for the two challos, the Cohen Godol took one, whilst the second challoh was distributed among all the twenty-four groups of Cohanim. Both of them had to be eaten on that day through to the following midnight, like the meat of all "Kodshei Kodshim", and the same applied to the meat of the peace-offering mentioned earlier. (Rambam Hilchos Temidim U'mussofim 8:11).

May we be zocheh to witness this ceremony in our days.

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)

One of the reasons for leining Megillas Rus on Shevu'os is to give the yichus of Dovid Ha'melech, whose birthday and yohrzeit is on Shevu'os. Here are some interesting facts about the years of Malchus Beis Dovid before and up until the time that Dovid Ha'melech became King.

Chetzron, Yehuda's grandson, was already born when Ya'akov and his sons went down to Egypt, and Nachshon, his great-grandson, the famous Prince, was already an old man at that time.

The story of Megillas Rus took place in the days of Ivtzon (alias Bo'az), the 11th "Shofet". Now Ivtzon already had 30 sons and 30 daughters, all of whom had died before this story took place. When the famine struck Eretz Yisroel, Elimelech - Sal'mon's brother - left Eretz Yisroel for better pastures, and went to live in Mo'ov. Bo'az, as he later become known, must have been a very old man at that time, considering that his grandfather, Nachshon, was already old when they left Egypt, 340 years earlier.

Gideon was a "Judge" many generations before Bo'az - from 2676 to 2716 - yet there are indications that Bo'az had been influential, to the point of instituting the Rabbinical ruling that one may greet a fellow-Jew using G-d's Holy Name, in Gideon's time, if not earlier.

Rus was 40 when Bo'az married her, in which case she cannot possibly have been the actual daughter of Eglon, King of Mo'ov, who lived more than 200 years earlier.

Rus was zocheh to live very long, long enough to sit on the throne that her great-great grandson, the teenage Shlomoh Ha'melech specially had made for her, right next to his own magnificent throne - almost 150 years later.

Bo'az died the same night that he "married" Rus. He was over 300 years old. Oved, the son of Rus and Bo'az, lived for 400 years, and so did his son Yishai, Dovid Ha'melech's father.

Although the setting of Megillas Rus, as well as the time of year in which it took place, are abundantly clear, the exact time-period in which it occurred remains vague. Nothing is specifically mentioned which would indicate as to which period in history it occurred. The first Rashi in the Megillah quotes the Chazal that Bo'az was alias Ivtzon, and that is the opinion that we adopted above. It places the Megillah in the year 2793, the year Ivtzon died.

But there are also other opinions, and they too, are quoted by the Seider Ha'doros. One such opinion maintains that the famine in Elimelech's time occurred immediately following the death of the Shofet Ehud (who killed Eglon) in the year 2635. In that case, the latter half of the Megillah will have taken place some ten years later in 2645, during the years that Borok and Devorah were the "Shoftim:". And in that case, Bo'az can hardly have been alias Ivtzon, whom the story preceded by almost 160 years.

It would then also mean that Bo'az was not quite the three or even four hundred years old that the first opinion makes him out to be. (Yet other Medroshim claim that he was 80.) On the other hand, Rus would then have been Eglon's daughter, not the grand or great grand-daughter, as Tosfos claims. And it would also mean that she would have been close to 300 years old when she sat on her throne beside Shlomoh.

In addition, it would mean that Bo'az was not a "Shofet" - a leader, yes, but not the "Shofet" of the generation. In any case, no such Shofet is listed in Seifer Shoftim.

"Shofet" in the above sense, was someone who led the people to victory over their oppressors - "an avenger" rather than a judge. To be sure, some of the Shoftim were spiritual giants, capable of leading the people in the battles of Torah, as well as on the battlefield - Yehoshua, Devorah and Sh'muel Ha'novi, to mention a few. There were however, others who were not so well-learned, and whose prowess was therefore confined to the battlefield.

Bo'az undoubtedly belonged to the former category. He was a great tzadik, compared to Yosef in the area of controlling his Yeitzer Ho'ra, as we learn from his behaviour on the night before he "married" Rus. Presumably, that is why he was called "Bo'az" - meaning "in him there is strength". And he was, at the same time, an outstanding ba'al middos, evident from the way in which he dealt with Rus when she came to collect corn in his field. He was a talmid-chochom who studied Torah at every opportunity and who was great enough to make "takonos" in Yisroel. It was he who introduced the takonoh of greeting with G-d's Name, and it was he who established that Rus's conversion was perfectly kosher, despite her descent from the disqualified nation of Mo'ov. There are few like him among the Shoftim. Malchus Beis Dovid
Yehuda born 2195
Peretz born 2228
Chetzron born 2236
Rom born
Aminodov born
Nachshon born 2448 became Prince of Yehuda
These three born in Egypt 2258-2448
Salmoh alias Sal'mon
Bo'az judged 2787-2793
Oved born 2794
Yishai born
Dovid Ha'Melech: born 2854, crowned 2884, died 2924

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