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

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Vol. 3 No. 41

Parshas Vo'Eschanan

To Unify G-d's Name

No less than four times in this Parshah the Torah speaks of Unifying G-d's Name: 1. "I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt" etc. (the first of the 10 commandments); 2. "Listen Yisroel, Hashem who is your G-d, Hashem is One."; 3. "You were shown to know that Hashem, He is G-d, there is none other besides Him." ; 4. "And you shall know today, and take it to heart, that Hashem, He is G-d, there is none other".

The true meaning of unifying G-d's Name is contained in the first paragraph of the Shema. Here then, is a brief account of that paragraph. After the possuk of Shema, the Torah continues "And you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart" i.e. your will - like Avrohom Ovinu; "with all your Soul" i.e. your life - like Yitzchok Ovinu; "and with all your might" i.e. your money - like Ya'akov Ovinu (Ba'al Ha'turim). (The letters "ve'ohavto" - "and you shall love" - are equivalent to those of ho'ovos" - "the fathers" - the Ba'al Ha'turim points out.) And once you have, out of love, given G-d your will, your life and your money, what do you have left that you have not given Him?

But how can one possibly attain such a level that renders one capable of giving everything to G-d? The answer lies in the next possuk: "And these words of Mine (Torah) which I am commanding you today". It is only through one's knowledge of Torah that one can possibly get to know and then to appreciate G-d's greatness, and thereby to develop a love for Him - and not only to do this, but to do it today - now. Never leave for tomorrow what you can do today!

"Should be on your heart"; The Torah that you study with your head must be allowed to penetrate the heart; it dare not remain pure intellectualism, but must also govern your emotions.

"And you shall teach them to your sons"; "Moshe commanded us Torah, a legacy for the community of Ya'akov" (that should be passed to their children) (Devorim 33:4). Torah is both beneficial and vital to our systems as spiritual fuel, and the means to achieve perfection in this world, not to mention ultimate bliss in the World to Come. It is therefore essential for our children to study it, no less than it is for ourselves, and we must therefore teach it to them. We must take our cue from the wicked King Ach'ov who said, "If there are no kids, there will be no goats" (Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 10).

And the best method of teaching is by personal example, which is why the Torah writes: "And you shall teach them to your sons" - How? "And you shall speak about them" - Then your children will feel inclined to follow suit. Someone who reads the newspapers or plays with his computer, instead of opening a Gemoro or going to a shiur, can hardly expect his children to take him seriously when he tells them they must learn Torah.

"When you sit in your house and when you go on a journey" - Wherever you are, the obligation to study Torah (and obviously to practise it) applies; Judaism is not confined to boundaries, in spite of the philosophy of the cursed Mendelsohn: "Be a good Jew in the home and a good citizen outside". Utter nonsense! Be a good Jew everywhere! - the Torah is telling us.

Nor is Torah-study and Judaism confined to specific times, for the Torah continues: "And when you lie down and when you get up" - the Torah must be studied by night and by day, as G-d told Yehoshua: "And you shall study them by day and by night".

But human beings are frail and forgetful. They therefore need to fortify this belief with actions, by performing acts that will constantly remind them to establish the Unity of G-d and His love through Torah-study. With this in mind the Torah writes: "And you shall bind them as a sign on your arm and they shall be frontlets between your eyes" - The Tefillin on our arm next to the heart and on our head, remind us constantly that our faculties (i.e. our actions, our emotions and our thoughts respectively) are bound in the service of our Creator.

And for the Jew who would believe that his home is his castle and who consequently confines his Yiddishkeit to the Shul on the assumption that G-d may well be Master in Shul, but at home he is king and may do as he pleases, the Torah concludes: "And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house", etc. One's home, too, must be dedicated to the very same ideals that govern the Jew outside the home. G-d rules supreme in the home no less than in Shul.

That then, in a nutshell, is the meaning of Unifying G-d's Name, and it is no mere coincidence that we always read this Parshah together with the Aseres Ha'dibros, the Shabbos after Tish'oh Be'Av. It is evident at a glance that a laxness in these very ideas was the underlying cause of the destruction of the Beis Ha'mikdosh (the focal point of G-d's unity) and it is a re-affirmation of these ideas that will ultimately lead to its rebuilding - may this take place speedily in our days.


"At that time" - after I had conquered the land of Sichon and Og (the topic that concludes last week's Parshah), explains Rashi, I thought that perhaps the "neder" (that prevented me from entering Eretz Yisroel) had been released. That was the time to daven for permission to enter Eretz Yisroel, as the success of a prayer then was assured.

Moshe's mistake appears to lie in the status of Eiver ha'Yarden. True, Eiver ha'Yarden is considered to be part of Eretz Yisroel as regards inheritance etc. Its sanctity however, is not on the same level as that of Eretz Yisroel proper. This is borne out by the Medrash, which illustrates the point in question with a moshol to a prince whose father had banished him from the palace. Time passed until one day, the prince took a stroll into the outer palace courtyards. Nobody stopped him.

"That's wonderful!" he thought. "It seems my father's decree has been repealed." He arrived at the gates of the inner courtyard, and again the guards let him through. By this time, he was convinced that the King's decree no longer held effect, and so it was with great confidence that he approached the actual palace gates. This time however, the guards barred his way.

"Thus far and no further!" was their curt command.

It may well be that Moshe Rabeinu, in fact, was aware of the distinction between Eretz Yisroel and Eiver ha'Yarden. But he could not imagine that G-d would simply allow him to enter into the inner courtyard, given the strong possibility that he would find travelling the final stage into Eretz Yisroel irresistible. Indeed, the opening Mishnah in Pirkei Ovos teaches us "Make a fence around the Torah".

And now that he was permitted to enter the "inner courtyard", it could only be that the ban had been lifted. Therefore the Torah tells us how G-d rejected Moshe's tefillah, concluding with the words "because you will not cross this Yarden". I have allowed you into the "inner courtyard" in order that you should see Eretz Yisroel and grace it with your blessings. You will derive endless pleasure when you see the beautiful land that I have given to Yisroel, and the land too will derive benefit from your blessing. But there you must stop! My decree remains intact! You may not enter the Palace gates!


The Ba'al Ha'turim connects the opening possuk of Vo'eschanan with the closing possuk of Devorim. Yisroel had just experienced a fresh taste of G-d's fighting prowess and tactics. The mighty Sichon and Og, with their impregnable cities and invincible armies, had been utterly and totally destroyed, and all Yisroel now beheld the emptiness and futility of the spies' fears. It is, no doubt, to prevent any possible repetition of the debacle of the spies, that Moshe ended last week's parshah with the words, "Do not be afraid of them because it is Hashem your G-d who is fighting on your behalf."

Moshe Rabeinu thought to himself, "I strengthened Yisroel's morale (giving them the fortitude that will enable them to enter Eretz Yisroel and capture it). Maybe G-d will have mercy on me too. Maybe He will allow me to enter the land!"


The Parshah of Devorim finds Moshe Rabeinu instructing minority groups, outside of the mainstream community. He issues instructions to the two and a half tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh, and the Parshah concludes with his command to his disciple and successor Yehoshua, not to fear the Cana'anim when he leads Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel. Maybe that is why he saw this as the opportune moment to pray to G-d for his own interests - hence his request to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisroel.


The Ramban explains that Moshe alluded to his unsuccessful prayer, in order to explain to the people his reason for instructing Yehoshua about matters of leadership. "After all," he was telling them, "I prayed 515 tefillos to be permitted to enter Eretz Yisroel. But they were not accepted. That is why G-d told me to hand over the reigns of leadership to my successor Yehoshua bin Nun and to instruct him how to lead.

(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

A Woman is Chayeves Bi'mezuzah
The Gemoro in Yumo (11:6) quotes a Brayso in the name of R. Meir. The Brayso writes that a shul, a house or a room belonging to a woman, or one which is shared by a number of residents, all require a mezuzah. But of course, asks the Gemoro, why should they not require a mezuzah? Why on earth do we require a Brayso to give us this information?

In reply, the Gemoro cites the possuk "And you shall write them on the door-posts of your house" - where the word "your" is written in the singular, masculine form. It is from this word that Chazal thought that one might have inferred "your house" but not a communal one - a Shul; "your house" but not that of a woman; "your house" but not one shared by partners.

So why then, does the Torah write "your house", if not to preclude the above from the obligation of mezuzah? The Torah uses the word "your house" (beisecho) to teach us something quite different, replies the Gemoro. It comes to teach us that the mezuzah must be fixed on the right door-post, and not on the left. How so? We find sometimes that Chazal interpret a word that does not contain an "aleph" as if an aleph had been inserted - as in the possuk "And now what does Hashem your G-d ask from you other than to fear Him?" etc. (Devorim 10:12). Chazal, commenting on the word "what" (moh), say "Don't read 'moh' but 'mei'oh' " (Menochos 43b). They derive from here that it is a mitzvah to recite 100 brochos each day, a most definite expression of Yir'as Shomayim.

In similar vein, they explain the word "beisecho", as if the Torah had written "bi'oscho" meaning "the way you come (in)". And, given perhaps the orientation that a Jew receives to being right-minded - "Every turning that you make, always turn to the right" (Zevochim 62b) - a person will normally place his right foot forward first. It is with his right foot that he makes his entry, and so it is on the right door-post that he must place his mezuzah. (The Torah's instructions of course, are general, and include even someone who might perhaps tend to move off with his left foot - though that is not the case with Tefillin).

Mezuzah - Source of Long Life (cont.)
And what is it that induces R. Meir to prefer this latter extrapolation to the former, considering that the former "limud" is that much more simple and to the point? "No," says R. Meir, "the Torah would never exempt women or partners from putting up a mezuzah. Why not? Because following the Parshah of mezuzah, the Torah writes "In order that you and your children live long" etc. Mezuzah then, is a source of life, and surely, women and partners require long life no less than individual men do. Therefore the obligation to fix a mezuzah on one's door-post must apply to all alike.

Tefillah - Source of Mercy

The Gemoro in B'rochos (20b) expresses a similar idea, when it explains why women are obliged to daven no less than men, despite the fact that tefillah is a positive, time-related mitzvah, a category of mitzvah from which women are normally exempt.

But that is impossible, says the Gemoro! The Torah cannot possibly exempt women from tefillah, since Tefillah is synonymous with Divine mercy, and women need Divine mercy just as much as men do. Mezuzah = Divine Protection

Unklus Ha'ger's conversion to Judaism so infuriated his uncle, the Emperor Hadrian, that he sent a troop of soldiers to recall him to Rome. But it was Unklus who convinced them to remain. So he sent a second troop with instructions to sieze Unklus, but on no account, to engage him in conversation.

Without saying a word, the soldiers took Unklus and began their homeward journey to Rome. However, as they passed a mezuzah, Unklus stretched out his hand and kissed it. "Do you know what this is?" he asked them.

"You tell us," the soldiers replied.

The soldiers could hardly have been guilty of engaging Unklus in conversation, yet those few words proved to be their undoing.

"The difference between your emperor and our (Divine) King is this," he replied. Your emperor sits in his palace, while his subjects stand outside and guard him. With us, it is quite the reverse. We sit inside our homes, while our 'King' stands outside and guards us!"
They too converted! Hadrian gave up!

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