Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeishev 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeishev 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this week’s parashah it is said (Bereishis 37:1) vayeishev Yaakov bieretz migurei aviv bieretz Canaan, Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojourning, in the land of Canaan. Rashi quotes the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 84:3) that states that the verse teaches us that Yaakov sought to dwell in tranquility and the ordeal of Yosef sprung upon him. Hashem said, “it is insufficient for the righteous that what is prepared for them in the World to Come, and they seek to dwell in tranquility in this world as well?” The question on this Medrash should be obvious. Where does the Medrash derive from the verse the idea that Yaakov sought to dwell in tranquility? The Torah uses the word vayeishev, and he dwelled, but there does not appear to be any inference from this word alone that Yaakov sought to dwell in tranquility. In fact, the opposite is true, as from the fact that the Torah states that Yaakov dwelled, it is implicit that Yaakov actually dwelled. The commentators (Sifsei Chachamim 9 quoting Nachalas Yaakov and Kli Yakar) offer various explanations to answer this difficulty, but upon a closer examination of the words in the Medrash one will see that there is a profound lesson that we can derive from the words of the Medrash. The Medrash states: Rabbi Acha said: “at the time that the righteous are dwelling in tranquility and they seek to dwell in tranquility in this world, the Satan comes forward and prosecutes by claiming, ‘is it not enough that that the righteous have a reward prepared for them in the World to Come, that they seek to dwell in tranquility in this world.’” The Medrash then proceeds to provide proof to this idea from Yaakov. The Medrash clearly understands that the word vayeishev means that Yaakov dwelled, i.e. in the present state. Yet, the Medrash notes that Yaakov sought to dwell in continued tranquility. What forced the Medrash to understand this verse in such a manner? It is said (Mishlei 15:23) orach chaim limaalah limaskil limaan sur misheol matah, a path of life waits above for the intelligent one, so that his soul will turn away from the grave below. The Vilna Gaon (Ibid) explains this verse to mean that the purpose of life is to constantly be ascending the spiritual ladder, because if one is not ascending, he is descending. The Gemara (Brachos 64a) states that the righteous do not have rest in this world or in the next world. How are we to understand this enigmatic statement? Is it possible that after all the toil that a righteous person undergoes in this world, he will not merit an eternal rest in the next world. The Gemara itself provides the answer to this question, as the Gemara provides proof that the righteous have no rest from the verse that states (Tehillim 84:8) yeilchu michayil el chayil yeiraeh el Elokim biTziyon, they advance from strength to strength; each one will appear before G-d in Tziyon. The Shelah (Toldos Adam-Bais Chachma Tinyana 19) writes that the explanation of this Gemara is that the reward from performance of mitzvos, which is described as rest, is infinite. Thus, one who wishes to journey from one resting place to the next is subjecting himself to have his deeds examined. If he is found worthy, he ascends to the next resting place, and then his deeds are further examined. Thus, one who constantly seeks to attain a higher level of holiness in this world will merit that in the World to Come he will constantly be journeying from one resting place to the next. Based on this premise, we can better understand Yaakov’s intentions. Yaakov was already dwelling in tranquility in this world, as he had accomplished much in the realm of spirituality. Yet, Yaakov sought to dwell in more tranquility in this world, i.e. to acquire higher levels of spirituality while sojourning in this world. HaShem, or according to the Medrash, the Satan, declared, “do the righteous not suffice with what is prepared for them in the World to Come?” According to the Medrash that the Satan posed this question, we can easily understand why the Satan wished to thwart Yaakov’s attempts to ascend the spiritual ladder. For this reason HaShem subjected Yaakov to the ordeal of Yosef. This is not to be interpreted as a punishment for Yaakov, but rather the ordeal of Yosef was a vehicle for Yaakov to soar to new spiritual heights. With this we can understand the verse that the Gemara quotes regarding the righteous who will not have a resting in this world or in the next world. It is said: they advance from strength to strength; each one will appear before G-d in Tziyon. The word Tziyon is the same numerical value as Yosef (156). We can suggest that this alludes to the idea that Yosef represents the struggles that we undergo in this world. Tziyon, which witnessed destruction and exile will ultimately be rewarded with the redemption. Similarly, one who aspires to lead a life of sanctity will be rewarded with a resting place in this world and will continue on to a resting place in the next world, and this will continue for eternity. This is a powerful lesson for us in our daily lives. Every day of the week should be viewed as a resting place, i.e. a base where we earn rewards for our good deeds, and then we continue on into the next world, Shabbos, which is a semblance of the World to Come. We will then merit the day which will be completely Shabbos and rest day for eternal life, when we will join the righteous and journey from one resting place to the next, for eternity.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Melech kadosh, King Who is holy. The word kadosh, normally defined as holiness, literally means separated. The fact that HaShem is totally removed from the physicality of this world is why He is referred to as holy. Similarly, the Jewish People are referred to as a Holy Nation because our essence is entirely removed from the physical world.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Motzi chamah mimikomah ulevanah mimchon shivtah, Who removes the sun from its place and the moon from the site of its dwelling. HaShem allows the sun to shine and this is an act of kindness, so that the world will be warmed and all of vegetation will grow. We find that after Avraham was circumcised, HaShem removed the sheath covering the sun so that it would be too hot for any people to visit Avraham (Bava Metzia 86b). This was an act of kindness that HaShem sought to perform for Avraham. The Gemara (Bava Basra 16b) states that a precious stone was suspended from the neck of Avraham Avinu and anyone who was ill would gaze at the stone and would be healed. Upon the death of Avraham Avinu, HaShem suspended the stone in the sun. Perhaps the explanation of this Gemara is that Avraham Avinu was the paradigm of chesed, kindness, and HaShem thus granted him the power to heal people from their illnesses. When Avraham Avinu died, HaShem placed the stone in the sun, and now the sun carries on the tradition of Avraham by healing with kindness.

Shabbos Story

On Friday, the 17th of Av, 5689 (1929), the Arabs in Israel began the infamous “riots of 1929,” which culminated the next day, Shabbos, with the murder of 59 Jews - including 29 yeshivah students - in Hebron. After the Friday prayers at the A1-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount ended, thousands of frenzied Moslems - incited by the Mufti’s inflammatory sermon - marched through the Old City, exiting through Shaar Shechem (Damascus Gate), heading towards the Meah Shearim and Beis Yisrael quarters, and chanting “Itbah al-Yahud” (“Kill the Jews!”). Fright, bordering on hysteria, seized the women and children of these neighborhoods, as word was received of the approaching mob. The Jewish men grabbed whatever instruments they could get their hands on - poles, axes, pipes, etc. - to defend themselves and their homes. The few Haganah men posted at the entrance of the neighborhood were at a loss as to how to deal with the huge mob, which was making its way down St. George Street (now named Shivtei Yisrael), headed by a sword-wielding sheikh who egged them on with shouts of “Jihad!” and “No mercy on women and children! Kill all the Jews!” Suddenly a young religious fellow emerged from the flour mill at the entrance of Meah Shearim (which served as the Haganah’s guard station) and, accompanied by just one other man, confronted the approaching mass of rioters. He took out a pistol, aimed it at the sheikh, and fired one shot at his head, killing him instantly. The mob was suddenly seized with panic when they saw that their leader had been slain, and turned on their heels, running back toward Shaar Shechem. Several of them were trampled to death in the ensuing stampede. The next day, Shabbos, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, [the revered Sage who lived in the Old City of Jerusalem,] had been scheduled to perform a circumcision in the Meah Shearim neighborhood. Everyone, including the rabbi’s family, took it for granted that he would not dare to undertake the perilous walk from the Old City to Meah Shearim; it was so obvious that no one even discussed it. How surprised they were, then, when Rav Yosef Chaim put on his coat after Kiddush on Shabbos morning and announced that he was going to the bris! They shouted and protested, but to no avail. Rav Yosef Chaim had made up his mind. The mitzvah of circumcision would protect him from harm for, as the Sages taught, “Those who travel on a mission to do a mitzvah will experience no harm, neither on their way there nor on their way back” (Talmud Pesachim 8b). Since the rabbi was already 80 years old, some of his acquaintances decided to accompany him. When they arrived at “Street of the Jews,” at the end of the Jewish Quarter, Rav Yosef Chaim turned to them and told them to go back, for he saw that they were gripped with terror. As they turned to walk back home, they were shocked to see Rav Yosef Chaim head down the street leading to Shaar Shechem - which was considered “treacherous terrain” even in the best of days - rather than the safer “Bazaar Street” route, which led to Shaar Yafo (Jaffa Gate). And so, following the very same path that the rioters had trodden less than 24 hours previously, the rabbi made his way toward Meah Shearim, confidently and proudly, buoyed by the happy thought that he would soon be bringing “another Jew into G-d’s legion,” as he liked to put it. The first residents of Meah Shearim who noticed the distant black-clad figure walking down St. George Street stared in amazement and fear as the old Jew confidently strode along. As soon as they realized who it was that was coming, they burst out in shouts of joy. Within minutes, hundreds of residents assembled to greet Rav Yosef Chaim as he safely entered the neighborhood. Among them were his grandchildren, who promptly invited him to spend the rest of Shabbos with them, so that he would not have to retrace his steps through “enemy territory.” After the bris, Rav Yosef Chaim stopped by his grandchild’s house to visit for a while, and then bid farewell, as he put on his hat and prepared to head home. The scene of the early morning replayed itself. The family members vehemently protested, arguing that coming to the bris was bad enough, but now there was certainly no longer any reason to undertake such a perilous journey. Once again, however, Rav Yosef Chaim’s persistence won out in the end. “Those who travel on a mission to do a mitzvah experience no harm, even on their way back,” he reminded them. As he began walking down the street toward the edge of Meah Shearim, thousands of residents poured out of their houses to accompany him to the “border.” When they reached the Italian hospital (now the Education Ministry, on the corner of Shivtei Yisrael and Neviim Streets), the crowd took their leave of the beloved rabbi and watched him as he began to walk, briskly and proudly toward Shaar Yafo! Why did he insist on going to the bris through Shaar Shechem? he was later asked. “So that the Arabs should not think that they succeeded in driving out Jewish passersby from even one corner or street of Jerusalem!” he explained. And why did he return through Shaar Yafo? “This has always been my custom, to leave the Old City through Shaar Shechem and to return through Shaar Yafo, to fulfill the verse, ‘Walk about Zion and encircle it’ (Psalms 48:13)!” Rav Yosef Chaim once wrote, “I have no Torah or wisdom to my credit. The only distinction I can apply to myself is that I had the merit, by G-d’s grace, of living my life in the Holy City of Jerusalem.” In his will, he left instructions that no one should eulogize him, and that no one should say anything more than, “Pity the loss of an old Land of Israel Jew.” For Rav Yosef Chaim, that was the ultimate praise!

Shabbos in Navi

Yehoshua Chapter 13

In this chapter the Navi describes all the land that was not conquered by Yehoshua, and all the land that Moshe bequeathed to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh on the other side of the Jordan River. It is said that the tribe of Levi did not receive a share in the land. It is worth noting that the Zohar states that a Torah scholar is in the category of Shabbos. Shabbos is referred to as a boundless heritage. Thus, the tribe of Levi , who were distinguished throughout history as eminent Torah scholars, did not receive a portion in the land. This is because the tribe of Levi was in the category of Shabbos, and Shabbos is in a sense beyond borders. It is noteworthy that regarding the tribe of Levi it is said (Bamidbar 35:2; Yehoshua 14:4) that they received arim lasheves, cities for dwelling. These words can also be read as arim liShabbos, cities for Shabbos, as the tribe of Levi reflected the Shabbos, and Shabbos is an unlimited inheritance.

Shabbos in Agadah

The Gemara (Shabbos 113b) states that on Shabbos one should walk differently than during the week, and one is thus forbidden to take long strides on Shabbos. One must wonder why this is forbidden, especially if it is permitted when going to do a mitzvah. My friend Reb Yosef suggested to me that we stand in Shemone Esrei with our feet together to resemble the angels, of whom it is said (Yechezkel 1:7) viragleihem regel yeshara, their legs were a straight leg. Similarly, on Shabbos we aspire to emulate the angels, and for this reason we keep our feet as close together as possible. Perhaps an alternative explanation is that the Sfas Emes explains in many instances that the word regel connotes hergel, which is what one is accustomed to. On Shabbos we are required to change our mannerisms from during the week, so we specifically take small steps to demonstrate that we are making small but significant strides in changing our habits and our character (see a similar idea in Likutei Moharan Mahadura Kama 277).

Shabbos in Halacha

When one serves soup from a pot (kli rishon) and uses a ladle, he should not allow the ladle to cool between servings. If some time passed and the ladle cooled off, it is preferable that one should shake any excess liquid from the ladle prior to inserting it in the pot. In this manner he will avoid re-cooking the droplets of cold soup remaining in the ladle.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 10:9) states that Hashem rested on the seventh day, and so to speak, the rest commenced at the culmination of the sixth day. The words sheish manoach, six rest, equal in numerical value to the word biShabbos, on Shabbos

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeishev 5768

is sponsored in loving memory of Menachem Mendel Ben Moshe Pinchas o”h,

Max Bednarsh ob”m

I will iy”h deliver a class in Navi this Friday night at my home

at 26100 Marlowe Place in Oak Park.

We will be studying Sefer Shmuel, the first Perek.

The class will be 8:30-9:15 and there will be Oneg Shabbos

Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

For sponsorships please call 248-506-0363.

To subscribe weekly by email, please send email to

View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim and other Divrei Torah on

No comments: