Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shabbos: Ta'am HaChaim Vayigash 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayigash 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this week’s parashah it is said (Bereishis 47:8-9) vayomer Pharaoh el Yaakov kamah yemei shenei chayecho vayomer Yaakov el Pharaoh yemei shenei migurei sheloshim umeas shanah miat viraim hayu yemei shenei chayai vilo hisigu es yemei shenei chayei avosai bimei migureihem, Pharaoh said to Yaakov, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” Yaakov answered Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years. Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not reached the life spans of my forefathers in the days of their sojourns. The dialogue here is troubling, as it is difficult to understand why Yaakov would complain to Pharaoh about his hard life. The Medrash (see Daas Zekanim MiBaalei HaTosafos and Chizkuni to Bereishis 47:8) states that Yaakov was punished for his complaint, and he forfeited thirty-years of his life. Yet, the Heilegeh Ishbitzer writes in Parashas Mikeitz that the only words that Yaakov ever uttered in vain were when he said to his sons (Bereishis 43:6) lamah hareiosem li lihagid laish hayeish lachem av oh ach, “why did you treat me so ill by telling the man that you had another brother?” Other than these words, every word Yaakov uttered had profound meaning. What was Yaakov implying in his apparent complaint to Pharaoh? To answer this question, we must understand why it was necessary for Yaakov and his sons to descend to Egypt. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh writes (Bereishis 46:3) that HaShem deemed it necessary for the Jewish People to descend to Egypt so that they would bring out the Holy Sparks that existed in Egypt. Essentially, writes the Ohr HaChaim, this is the function of all the exiles. Thus, we can now understand Yaakov’s complaint to Pharaoh. Yaakov was intimating that he had yet to fulfill the purpose of the exiles, as the majority of his years were few and bad, i.e. unfulfilled regarding the redemption. The Gemara (Pesachim 56a) states that Yaakov desired to reveal the end of days to his children, but HaShem prevented him from doing so. It is evident that Yaakov’s ambition in life was to witness the Ultimate Redemption or at least to make his children aware of the time when the Ultimate Redemption would occur. When Yaakov arrived in Egypt, he knew that that the exile would soon commence. Thus, Yaakov informed Pharaoh that as long as the Ultimate Redemption had not arrived, his days were few and bad. We may not always be aware of the circumstances in our daily lives, but it is incumbent upon us to realize that we are in exile. Shabbos, writes the Shem Mishmuel, is a form of redemption. In the Kabbalas Shabbos prayers that we recite Friday night, we invoke the passionate supplication of karvah el nafshi gealah, draw near to my soul-redeem it! We beseech HaShem to redeem us from our long and bitter exile. Although we are at times led to believe that we have everything we need, our souls are aware that we are still in mourning for the Bais HaMikdash, the lack of the Divine Presence in our midst, and all good that we truly seek. Yaakov, who reflects Shabbos, understood that exile is exile. Despite the fact that the Baal HaTurim (Bereishis 47:28) writes that Yaakov’s best years were the seventeen years that he dwelled in Egypt, they were still years of exile. HaShem should give us the strength to observe His Holy Shabbos properly and faithfully, and then He will surely bring us the Ultimate Redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Melech shomeia Tefillah, King Who harkens to prayer. What is the association between HaShem being King and the fact that He hears our prayers? We are familiar with the idea that HaShem is both our father and our king. It would seem more appropriate to refer to HaShem as our father who listens to our prayers. Why do we refer to HaShem here as King Who harkens to prayer? The answer to this question is that the Medrash (Mechilta Yisro Bachodesh) states that upon the Exodus from Egypt, HaShem caused the Egyptians to pursue the Jewish People so that the Jewish People would raise their voices in prayer to HaShem. While it is the aspect of fatherly love that prompts HaShem to seek our prayers, the Maharal (Nesiv HaAvodah) writes that the ultimate goal of prayer is for us to be cognizant of the fact that we are dependant on HaShem. This dependence is referred to as malchus, kingship. Thus, we refer to HaShem as our king who listens to our prayers.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Hameir laaretz viladarim aleha birachamim, He Who illuminates the earth and those who dwell upon it, with compassion. There is an apparent redundancy in this passage, as we just declared that HaShem illuminates the entire world and its inhabitants, which He created with the attribute of mercy. The Otzar HaTefillos notes that at this juncture we commence the same prayer that is recited during the week. This would be the simple explanation for the repetition. Alternatively, we can suggest that the first passage refers to the fact that HaShem created the world with the attribute of mercy. The second passage, however, refers to the fact that HaShem illuminates the world with compassion. Thus, it is insufficient that HaShem created the world with mercy. Rather, HaShem created the world with mercy and as we will see next, that mercy is perpetuated daily.

Shabbos Story

Of the countless Jewish women who have immersed themselves in Torah, Bruriah is the most famous. She lived during the wisdom-rich Talmudic era, surrounded by the influences of her father- the great sage Rabbi Chanina ben Tradion, and by her husband-the great sage Rabbi Meir. Torah was her first love and its words guided every facet of her life. The following true story is frightening and deeply moving. Bruriah stretched her arms and raised her head from the Torah portion she was studying. As usual on Shabbos afternoons, her husband Rabbi Meir was at the study hall giving his regular lesson, and their two sons were up in their room challenging each other with a knotty Talmudic problem. Bruriah smiled as she listened to her children. She was glad to see her sons’ love of Torah and passion for truth, which had been kindled early on by their parents. She thought back to the previous evening and her husband and children singing “A Woman of Valor” as they did every Friday night. The same verses always made her stop and think: “Her husband’s heart trusts in her... She opens her mouth with wisdom, and a lesson of kindness is on her tongue. Her sons arise and laud her, and her husband praises her.” (Mishlei 31) She often asked herself how well she embodied these words. Surely she had occasionally opened her mouth with wisdom, but had she done so with kindness and compassion? And could her husband truly put his trust in her? Did she think solely of his welfare in his time of need? Was she truly “a woman of valor,” worthy of her family’s praise? Bruriah shivered and returned to her reading. Yet something was wrong. The letters blurred before her eyes and refused to make sense. Lifting her head from the book, she noticed that her sons had suddenly become still. That stillness was more disturbing than any noise could have been. She jumped up and ran to the stairs. The silence pressed in upon her and she could barely breathe. Pulling herself up by the railing, she burst into the upper room. There, she saw her sons still at the table, still clutching their books, their heads dropped lifelessly before them. As she stood in shock, the years seemed to fall away. She was [in flashback], once again a young girl, watching the flames leap before her eyes... Standing near the pit, she could see the kindling quickly catching fire, and there, in the center of the blaze... “Father! Father!” she cried. “What are they doing to you?” She screamed in horror, but her voice was swallowed up by the roar of the Roman crowds surging forward to view the execution. The firewood crackled and tongues of flame licked at her father’s flesh. Bruriah could feel the heat singeing her hair. She gazed at her father’s tortured face. Just a few hours earlier, he had been teaching his disciples from the precious Torah scroll he always kept at his side. It was one of the few that the Romans had not yet confiscated. But suddenly the soldiers had rushed in and seized him, calling the public to witness another execution. In death as in life, Rabbi Chanina ben Tradion was not parted from his beloved Torah, for they had wrapped the scroll around his body. The parchment rapidly caught flame, but his own end was not as quick. To prolong his agony, the executioner had placed wet cloths over his heart. Bruriah gasped for air. “Father!” she cried. “How can I see you like this? Is this the reward for a life of Torah?” Out of the flames, Rabbi Chanina managed to reply: “If I were being burned alone, it would be difficult for me to bear. But now that I am being burned together with the Torah, I am confident that the One Who avenges the disgrace of the Torah will avenge my disgrace as well.” Suddenly a great, thunderous roar was heard overhead. Rabbi Chanina’s eyes grew wide, yet even as his disciples craned their necks skyward, they saw nothing. “Rabbi! What do you see?” they asked. “I see only the parchment consumed; the letters fly up into the air! The flesh is scorched, but the spirit returns home...” Slowly the flames began to recede, and there before Bruriah were her sons, slumped over their books. The same words resounded in her mind: “Is this the reward for a life of Torah?” But the same comfort mingled with her grief. In death as in life, they were not parted from the holy Torah. They had been learning up to the very last moment, and had died amid their books. Their souls had accomplished their mission in this world and had now returned home with all the holiness they had gleaned here. “How foolish we are to rejoice over birth and weep over death,” she remembered learning. “When a child is born, we should weep over the perilous voyage ahead of him. What dangers lurk out there? Will he ever reach safe shores? But when a person dies after a life of righteousness, it is cause for joy. He has ventured down to the depths and escaped with precious spoils.” Bruriah knew that she could only grieve for herself, not for her sons, for they had successfully completed their journey. She gathered up her eldest son and cradled his body in her arms. Gently, she laid him on the bed. Then she lifted up her younger son and placed him beside his brother. She gave each one a parting kiss and spread a sheet over them, securely tucking in the covers as she had so often done on cold, windy nights. Passing by their table, she closed their books. “The letters fly up,” she reminded herself. “Only the parchment is consumed...” Stars were already making their way across the horizon. The Shabbos had ended, and Bruriah knew her husband would be home shortly. Her eyes burned with the sting of unshed tears, but this was not the time to let them flow. Rabbi Meir took his coat off slowly as he entered the room. “Where are the boys?” he asked, looking around. “They have gone to study,” replied Bruriah. “But I just came from the study hall and did not see them.” Bruriah responded by handing him a cup of Havdalah wine. Yet the service did not distract Rabbi Meir from his unanswered question. “Where are the boys?” he repeated. Bruriah seemed unconcerned.
“They went somewhere. They may be back any moment,” she said as she poured him a bowl of hot soup. When he had finished, Bruriah sat beside him. “Before the Shabbos, a man left some valuables in my trust,” she said. “He asked me to guard them until he returned. He has now come back and asked for his belongings. Must I return them?” Rabbi Meir stared at her in astonishment. This was not the kind of question he expected to hear from his scholarly wife. “My dear,” he replied at once, “when one guards a deposit, [of course he is] obliged to return it to its rightful owner!” Bruriah nodded silently and led her husband upstairs. She brought him near the bed and lifted the sheet. There lay their two sons, without a breath of life. “My sons! My sons!” Rabbi Meir cried out. Falling into a chair, he sobbed until it seemed his frail body would burst. “My teachers! My teachers!” he wept. “You were my sons in the eyes of the world, but in my eyes you were also my teachers, enlightening me with your Torah!” “Rabbi,” Bruriah whispered, “did you not say that we are obliged to return valuables whenever the rightful owner claims them? Our children were never our own possessions. They were only left with us for safekeeping. G-d gave them, and now G-d has taken them back.” Rabbi Meir’s sobs began to subside. He looked over at his wife and understood that they had been chosen as the guardians of two precious souls during their short stay on earth. And he knew that they had been proper caretakers, for not only had their sons departed without blemish, they had even attained their unique portions of truth. Surely their souls had returned with the fire of Torah burning brightly within them. Bruriah had comforted her husband. She had not indulged in her own sorrow until she had prepared him for his loss. In her great wisdom, she had helped him let go of the precious sons who were no longer in his possession. Rabbi Meir knew that he could always trust in Bruriah. In his grief, he praised her. And he was certain that in the world of truth, their sons were rising up to laud her as well.

Shabbos in Navi

Yehoshua Chapter 15

In this chapter the Navi delineates the inheritance of the tribe of Yehudah. It is said (Yehoshua 15:51) vigoshen vicholon vigiloh, Goshen, Cholon, Giloh. The Daas Zekanim MiBaalei HaTosafos (Bereishis 46:29) write that since Yehudah was sent by Yaakov to Yosef, to prepare ahead of him in Goshen, Yehudah merited the city of Goshen in Eretz Yisroel. It is noteworthy that Rashi cites the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 95:3) that states that Yehudah went ahead to establish for him a house of study from which instruction shall go forth. The Zohar states that a Torah scholar is in the category of Shabbos. Thus, Yehudah established a house of Torah study and was in the category of Shabbos. He then merited inheriting the city of Goshen, which represents Torah and Shabbos. It is fascinating that the words shalach lifanav el Yosef, sent ahead to Yosef (701), equal in gematria Shabbos (702).

Shabbos in Agadah

The Gemara (Shabbos 119a; Avodah Zara 3a) extols the virtue of one who prepares well for Shabbos. Why is it so important to prepare for Shabbos when Shabbos is sanctified from the time of creation? One would think that even if he is unprepared he can still observe Shabbos and delight in this Holy Day. Perhaps the idea is similar to what the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 39:9) states regarding Avraham, when HaShem instructed him to leave his homeland, and also when HaShem instructed Avraham to refer Yitzchak as a sacrifice. HaShem elaborated on the instruction so that Avraham would receive reward for each and every statement. The Maharal (Gur Aryeh Bereishis 12:1) explains that the righteous look forward with longing to hear more details of the instruction for HaShem, and every statement thus evokes a love for HaShem. This results in HaShem bestowing more reward upon them. Ina similar vein, when we prepare for Shabbos, we come to anticipate the Shabbos even more, and this allows HaShem to bestow us with an even greater reward.

Shabbos in Halacha

One should prepare coffee and tea in the following manner: One should pour hot water from the kettle or urn (kli rishon) into a dry cup (kli sheini). One can then add instant coffee, sugar and milk. One can also add cold water to coffee in the kli sheini. One should follow the same procedure when preparing a cup of instant tea. There are those who adopt a more stringent practice, and they transfer the hot water to a kli shelishi before adding the other ingredients.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

It is said regarding Shabbos (Shemos 31:16) laasos es haShabbos ledorosam bris olam, to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations. The first letters of the words laasos es HaShabbos equal in mispar katan, digit sum, 9, and the word Shabbos in mispar katan also equals 9.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayigash 5768

is sponsored by Mr & Mrs. Moshe Greenberger sheyichyu

in loving memory of his father Reb Ezrie-l Yehuda Ben Rav Moshe o”h and
in loving memory of his mother Esther Neecha b"r Menashe o”h,

vizichronom livracha.

I will be delivering a class in Navi this Friday night

at my home 26100 Marlowe Place in Oak Park.

The class will be 8:30-9:15

We will be studying Sefer Shmuel Perek 1 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: