Sunday, February 25, 2007
Here is a real Derush. Chur karpas usecheiles achuz bechavlei vutz veargaman al gelilei chesef veamudei sheish mitos zahav vachesef al ritzfas vahat vasheish vedar vesocheres. The word chur alluded to cheirus, freedom, i.e. the Exodus from Egypt. The liberation was from karpas, as the commentators writes that the word karpas is an acrostic for the words perech shishim, back-breaking labor of six hundred thousand Jews. Techeiles alludes to the death of the first-born, as Rashi at the end of Parashas Shelach writes that the word techeiles is derived from the word shikul (Taf in Aramaic and Shin in Hebrew are interchangeable) which means bereavement. Achuz is spelled aleph ches vav zayin. The ches alludes to the eight day of milah, as the Jewish People were circumcised upon their exodus from Egypt. The aleph and zayin spell the word az, which alludes to the Az Yashir that the Jewish People sang by the Sea. The words bechavlei vutz allude to the Medrash that states that what a maidservant witnessed by the Sea, even the great prophet Yechezkel Ben Buzi did not witness. The letters tzadi and zayin are interchangeable. Rashi quotes the Medrash that a maidservant witnessed what the prophets did not witness. The word bechavlei alludes to a group of prophets, as it is said (Shmuel I 10:5) vihi chevoacha sham hair ufagata chevel haneviim, it shall be that when you encounter a band of prophets descending from the High Place. The word veargaman can be scrambled to read ogeir man, they stored the manna, an allusion to the manna that the Jewish People received in the Wilderness. The words al gelilei chesef alludes to the giving of the Torah. The Gemara in Shabbos states that a certain Galilean expounded upon the receiving of the Torah. The word gelilei thus alludes to that Galilean. The word chesef alludes to the desire that HaShem had in giving the Jewish People the Torah. The words veamudei sheish allude to the Gemara in Shabbos 88a that states that it is said (Bereishis 1:31) vayehi erev vayehi voker yom hashishi, and there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Why does it say hashishi, the sixth day, whereas regarding all the other days of creation it is said echod, one, sheini, two? This teaches us that the whole world was suspended until the Jewish People accepted the Torah on the sixth day of Sivan. Thus, the word amudei, pillars, alludes to the idea that the foundations of the world were suspended, until sheish, the sixth day of Sivan, when the Jewish People accepted the Torah. The words mitos zahav vachesef, couches of gold and sliver, allude to the sin of the Golden Calf. The word mitah, translated as bed, can be read motah, which means falter, as it is said (Tehillim 94:18) im amarti matah ragli, if I said, “My foot falters.” This alludes to the sin of the Golden Calf, when the Jewish People faltered in their trust in Hashem, and they fashioned an idol of gold and silver. The next words al ritzfas bahat vasheish allude to the atonement for the Golden Calf. The word ritzfas is similar to ratzon, appeasement, as HaShem was appeared on Yom Kippur and He forgave the Jewish People for their sin. Furthermore, it is said (Yeshaya 6:6) vayaf eilay echod min haserafim uveyado ritzpah, one of the Seraphim flew to me and in his hand was a coal. Thus, the word ritzfas can allude to the idea that the path to repentance is by one having a fiery enthusiasm for mitzvos. The word bahat has the word hat, which means incline (see Tehillim 119:36) and this alludes to the idea that the Jewish People turned to HaShem with repentance. Then their sins became sheish, translated as linen, as it is said (Yeshaya 1:18) im yihyu chateiechem kashanim yalbinu, if your sins are like scarlet they will become white as snow. The word vedar is similar to the word deror, which means freedom. On Yom Kippur HaShem forgave the Jewish People and they were so to speak free again, as the one who studies Torah is truly a free man. The word vesocheres can allude to Sukkos, which is referred to in the Torah (Shemos 34:22) as the tekufas hashanah, the changing of the year. The sefarim write that the word tekufah alludes to the hakafos, circles that we perform at Simchas Bais Hashoeva and on Simchas Torah. The word vesocheres contains the root word sochar, which in Aramaic means circle. According to the Vilna Gaon, HaShem restored the Clouds of Glory on Sukkos, and this was another sign that the Jewish People had gained atonement. The word for atonement is mechilah, and another word for circle dances is machol (see Gemara end of Taanis). Thus, this entire verse alludes to the time period beginning with the Exodus from Egypt through Yom Kippur when the Jewish People gained atonement for their sin with the Golden Calf. I would just like to add that I saw in the Maggid Meisharim, where the malach spoke to the Bais Yosef, a different approach in derush regarding this verse.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
This one is sure to have everyone thinking. The Gemara refers to Purim as Puraya, which also means a bed in Aramaic. What does Purim have to do with a bed? Towards the end of the Megillah it is said (Esther 7:8) veHaman nofeil al hamitah asher Esther aleha, Haman had fallen onto the couch upon which Esther was. Essentially, this was the downfall of Haman, because when Achashveirosh saw Haman fallen on the couch, he accused Haman of assaulting the queen while he, the king, was in the house. When the king uttered this, they covered Haman’s face and he was subsequently hanged. Thus, it is fitting that the festival is called Purim, or Puraya, because Haman had intended to hang Mordechai and instead, because he fell on the bed, he was hanged. Furthermore, the Seder HaYom writes that one should become intoxicated to the point that he falls to the ground, as Haman sought to spill Jewish blood to the ground. This interpretation would also be in line with the idea that Haman fell on the Puraya, the bed, and since our potential downfall was transformed to Haman’s downfall, i.e. when he fell on the bed, we refer to the festival as Puraya. An alternative interpretation of Puraya is that it is said (Tehillim 128:3) eshtecho kigefen poriyah, your wife will be like a fruitful vine. Thus, Puraya also connotes wine, and the mitzvah on Purim is to drink wine. For this reason the festival is referred to as Puraya.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The Gemara in Taanis 29a states: Mishenichnas Adar marbim bisimcha, when Adar arrives, one should increase in joy. The question is asked, what does marbim mean? I heard a vort from Rabbi Ari Kostelitz, Shlita, Rav of Congregation Dovid Ben Nuchim-Aish Kodesh in Oak Park, MI. The month of Adar is symbolized by the mazal of Dagim. The mazal of most months are referred to in the singular. For example, the month of Nissan is symbolized by the mazal of teleh, sheep. Why is the mazal of Adar referred to in the plural, dagim, and not dag? The answer is that Adar is a time when one should increase in simcha in all areas. I would like to suggest an alterative approach based on the same premise. In the Megillah it is said al kein karu layamim haeilu Purim al sheim hapur al kein al kol divrei haigeres hazos, therefore, they called these days “Purim” for the word “pur.” Therefore, because of all that was written in this letter. One must wonder why the Megillah keeps on using the words al kein. Perhaps the answer is that Rashi writes regarding the birth of the shevatim that any shevet of whom it is aid al kein denotes that they were merubah beuchlusin, many in population. Thus, the Megillah is alluding to the idea that the reason this festival is called Purim is because it is a time when we are supposed to increase our joy, our giving to one another, and most importantly, our praise to HaShem. It is noteworthy that the commentators state that Purim is also a day for Torah study. In the Maariv prayers we recite the words Ahavas olam bais Yisroel amcha ahavta Torah umitzvos chukim umishpatim osanu limadeta, al kein HaShem Elokeinu bishachveinu uvkumaeinu nasiach bechukecha, with an eternal love have You loved the House of Israel, Your nation. Torah and commandments, decrees and ordinances have You taught us. Therefore, Hashem, our G-d, upon our retiring and arising, we will discuss Your decrees etc. What is the meaning of the words al kein? It is said (Vayikra 26:8) veradfu mikem chamisha meah umeah mikem revavah yirdofu, five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand. Rashi (Ibid) writes, is this the calculation? Five chasing a hundred is a proportion of one to twenty, whereas one hundred chasing ten thousand is a proportion of one to one hundred. This comes to teach us that it is not the same when a few people study Torah as when many study the Torah. Thus, we can suggest that we are declaring that since HaShem loves us and gave us the Torah to study, we will now study Torah in the best way possible, as the Mishnah in Avos states that one of the forty-eight ways that Torah is acquired is through group study. Purim is also a day when one should increase his Torah study, as the Gemara in Shabbos 88a states that the Jewish People were coerced to accept the Torah at Sinai. Yet, when they recognized the great miracle that HaShem wrought for them upon being saved from Haman’s schemes, they reaccepted the Torah out of love. Thus, the day of Purim is a time when one should increase his acceptance of the Torah and he should also increase his commitment towards Torah study. When Adar arrives, one increases his joy, his performance of mitzvos and his studying of Torah.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
The Torah commands us to contribute a Machatzis HaShekel, a half shekel, towards the construction of the Mishkan. The Gemara in Kiddushin 40b states that one should always view the world as if it is hanging in the balance, with half the world innocent and half the world guilty. If one performs a mitzvah, he tips the scales towards the side of merit, and if heaven forbid he commits a transgression, then the scales are tipped towards the side of liability. This idea is alluded to in the words Machatzis HaShekel, as the word Machatzis means half, and the word shekel is similar to the word mishkal, which means weights, i.e. scales of judgment. One should always view the world as if it is hanging in the balance, i.e. half meritorious and half liable, and his actions can determine which way the scales of judgment will tip. On a different note, the Torah states esrim gerah HaShekel, the shekel is twenty geras. This can be interpreted in the following manner. Regarding the verse that states aser teaser, you shall tithe, the Gemara in Taanis 9a states that the verse can be interpreted to mean aser, give tithes, bishvil shetisaser, in order that you become wealthy. Similarly, we can suggest that the verse in Ki Sisa means esrim, give Maaser, tithes; gerah, which is from the root word of gorer, to be drawn after. Give Maaser so that gerah HaShekel, your act of giving Maaser will lead to shekel, becoming wealthy.
Monday, February 12, 2007
I mentioned that I would continue with the theme of mikreh, so here it is. Amalek reflects mikreh, happenstance. It is said (Esther 4:7) vayegeid lo Mordechai eis kol asher karahu, and Mordechai told him (Hasach) of all that had happened. The Medrash in Esther Rabbah 8:6 states that Mordechai informed Hasach that Haman was a descendant of Amalek of whom it is said asher korcha baderech, that he happened upon you on the way. Thus, Mordechai and the Jewish People are battling a war against Amalek who reflects mikreh, happenstance. When do we know that Mordechai and the Jewish People will be victorious? This occurs when Haman is forced to lead Mordechai through the streets, declaring, (Esther 6:11) kacha yaiaseh laish asher hamelech chafeitz bikaro, “this is what shall be done for the man whom the king desires to honor.” The word for honor here is yekar, which is also an allusion to Tefillin, as the Gemara later on (16b) expounds on the verse that states: (Esther 8:16) layehudim haysa orah visimcha visasson vikar, the Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor, and yekar, glory, is Tefillin. Thus, Amalek and Haman are employing mikreh in their battle against the Jewish People and they are vanquished by yekar. We find that the word yekar can denote mikreh, as is evidenced when HaShem appears to Balaam. It is said (Bamidbar 23:16) vayikar Elokim el Balaam, and HaShem happened upon Balaam, and Rashi writes that the word vikar means temporary, degrading, defiled. Yet, yekar is also reflected in holiness regarding Tefillin, which demonstrate the emunah, faith, that the Jewish People have in HaShem. This is evidenced from the passage in Hoshanos that states yekarcha imam maavirim, they crossed over with Your glory, and the Otzar HaTefillos quotes the Maharil Diskin who quotes a Medrash that states that the Jewish People crossed the Sea wearing Tefillin. (This is despite the fact that the day they crossed the Sea was Shevii Shel Pesach, and normally it is forbidden to wear Tefillin on Yom Tov). The explanation of this Medrash is that Tefillin reflect emunah, and this is the glory of the Jewish People. Furthermore, when Moshe requests that HaShem show him all His glory, it is said (Shemos 33:23) that HaShem only allows Moshe to view His back, and the Gemara (Brachos 7a) states that HaShem showed Moshe the back of His Tefillin. This is explained to mean that HaShem was showing Moshe that man cannot see the future. Rather, he can only understand events in hindsight. Thus, one must have emunah, faith, that everything that HaShem does is for our good. It is specifically for this reason that Moshe kept his hands raised against Amalek, as it said, (Shemos 17:12) vayehi yadav emunah ad bo hashemesh, and he remained with his hands in faithful prayer until sunset. When we are strong in emunah, revealing the glory of the Jewish People, we will succeed in vanquishing the mikreh of Amalek and his cohorts.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
The Mishnah commences with the words Megillah nikraas, the Megillah is read. There is an amazing allusion in these words to the entire story of Purim and the battle that the Jewish People fight with Amalek through history. Regarding Amalek it is said (Devarim 25:18), asher korcha baderech, that he happened upon you on the way. Rashi offers various interpretations for the word korcha, and one of the interpretations is that korcha means happenstance. This is meant to be understood that Amalek conducts themselves according to the laws of nature. Miracles do not exist in the lexicon of the Amalekites. Thus, although all the nations of the world were in awe after witnessing the splitting of the Sea, Amalek had no compunctions about attacking the Jewish People. Our Mishnah uses the word nikraas, which is similar to the mikreh. We read the Megillah, which according to the Medrash, does not contain the Name of HaShem, so that we can avoid the pitfalls of Amalek’s behavior. We do not believe in coincidence, chance and happenstance. When the Name of HaShem is not visible, we must be megaleh, i.e. delve further, so that we can reaffirm our belief that everything is Divine providence. Our Sages alluded to this idea by using the word nikraas, as we find many times that a word can have a definition and the same word will also contain the exact opposite of the definition. This is known as davar vihipucho. Thus, although the simple definition of the word nikraas is to read, we have delved further and revealed that this word also alludes to the essence of Amalek, which is happenstance, and this is the antithesis of our belief that everything that occurs in life is Divine Providence. This idea will be elaborated on later, regarding the honor that Haman accorded to Mordechai. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
The Gemara states that when the month of Av arrives, one should diminish his joy. In contrast, when the month of Adar arrives, one should increase his joy. It is said that although one must diminish his level of joy in the month of Av, one must still remain in some state of joy. Regarding Adar it is said that one is already in a state of joy and one should increase his level of joy. What does the Gemara mean when it refers to joy? There is a distinction between simcha, translated as joy or happiness, and Sasson, which is also translated as joy and happiness. A perusal through Scripture reveals that simcha usually connotes physical happiness, whereas Sasson denotes spiritual joy. This is definitely more than an exercise in semantics. When one rejoices at a wedding, it can be said that he is bisimcha, because he is joyful, although he may not be able to identify his feelings of joy. When one is bissason, an expression that is not commonly used, he is in touch with his inner self. When the Jewish People constructed the Mishkan, they used the skin of the tachash as a covering for the mishkan. The Targum translated tachash as sasgona, and Rashi writes that it was thus called because it was sas bigivunin shelo, it rejoiced in its colors. Based on a Gemara in Chullin 60a, we can understand this statement to mean that every creation is content with the way it was created. The tachash, however, was only created to be used as a covering in the Mishkan, thus it had no function from the onset of creation until the Mishkan was built. When the skin of the tachash was employed in the Mishkan, the tachash felt content with its purpose in creation. This was an internal joy, as the tachash understood its purpose in this world. Relating this idea to the month of Av, we can suggest that when the month of Av arrives, one diminishes his level of joy, but not because one is supposed to be sad for the whole month of Av. Rather, one is supposed to diminish his simcha, i.e. joy, in order to strip away the physicality of this world and reach the level of Sasson, where one can attain a level of inner joy. This is akin to what the Gemara states that on the outside, so to speak, HaShem is joyful, whereas on the inside, HaShem is sad because of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. This does not mean that HaShem is despondent. Rather, HaShem reflects our mood, where we may exhibit external joy, but we cannot be in tune with our inner joy. This is the explanation for the statement in the Gemara (Taanis 5a) that HaShem swore that He will not enter into Jerusalem above until He enters into Jerusalem below. This means that HaShem cannot, so to speak, reach the stage of Sasson, inner joy, until there is external joy. It is said vahaviosim el har kodshi visamachtim beveis tefilosi, I will bring them to My Holy Mountain, and I will gladden them in My House of Prayer. The Bais HaMikdash is a location of simcha, i.e. external joy. Yet, the Yerushalmi in Sukkah states that the Simchas Bais Hashoeva was thus called because they drew from there Ruach HaKodesh. Yonah Ben Amitai was the famous prophet who forewarned the city of Nineveh that if they do not repent, the city of Nineveh would be destroyed. When Yonah attended the Simchas Bais Hashoeva on Sukkos, the Divine Presence rested upon him. Thus, the Bais HaMikdash reflects simcha, external joy, but one who is in tune with his inner feelings will experience Sasson, internal joy. When the month of Adar arrives, we are anticipating redemption, as Rashi writes that the statement regarding increasing ones joy in the month of Adar refers to the miracles that occurred in the times of Purim and Pesach. Thus, we increase our physical joy by eating a festive Purim meal, exchanging gifts and giving charity. This increase in simcha, i.e. physical joy, enables us to enter the world of Sasson, internal joy. It is specifically for this reason that one is required to becomes so intoxicated on Purim until one cannot discern between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai. One experiences so much physical joy that he reaches the level of Sasson, where there is no distinction between destruction and rebuilding. May we all merit this Purim to experience the greatest simcha and Sasson, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu bimeheira viyameinu amen.
Monday, February 5, 2007
The Gemara states that the Meraglim returned from spying out Eretz Yisroel on Tisha B’Av, and they caused the Jewish People to cry bitterly about their future life in Eretz Yisroel. HaShem declared, “You cried tears for nothing! I will institute for you tears for generations.” What does it mean to cry tears for nothing? Are not all tears shed for a reason? Similarly, the Gemara in Yoma states that the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, baseless hatred. How can one hate something without cause? Let us understand what it means to have a cause. Regarding a disagreement, the Mishna in Avos states that there is a machlokes lesheim shamayim, a debate that is for the sake of heaven, and a machlokes shelo lesheim shamayim, a debate that is not for the sake of heaven. How are we to understand this dictum? If one is debating a Torah topic, he most likely is debating the topic for the sake of heaven, because what personal gain can one achieve in debating a Torah topic? At best, one can debate a point in Halacha and then he can enjoy the good feeling that he has vindicated himself. Yet, it would seem that any debate in Torah is considered lesheim shamayim, and the epitome of such a debate is the debates of Hillel and Shammai. A debate that is not lesheim shamayim is one where the disputants are not debating for the sake of heaven. Rather, they are debating for their own personal honor. The epitome of such a debate is the dispute that Korach and his congregation had with Moshe and Aharon. Yet, even the dispute that Korach had with Moshe could be interpreted as a machlokes lesheim shamayim. Certainly Korach was seeking glory, but if he were to have been declared the victor, he would have been the leader of HaShem’s people. Perhaps Korach was seeking to worship idols or the like, but this is not evident from the dispute that he had with Moshe and Aharon. We must therefore conclude that at the heart of all controversy, hatred, and complaints is a force within a person that proclaims, “If I Win this dispute, or if I succeed in truly hating this person, then I will have accomplished something in this world.” Accomplishment is extremely important, as one who cannot accomplish in this world feels like a failure. Why, then, were the Jewish People punished so harshly when they cried upon hearing the slanderous report of the spies? After all, should one enter a situation of danger unnecessarily? The answer to this question is that although the Jewish People may have had a good reason to be afraid of fighting the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel at that time, they did not cry out to HaShem. Their cries were an expression of fear, but they were not cries to HaShem. When one debates someone else, he must invoke HaShem’s Name in the debate. Otherwise, he is not debating for the sake of heaven. When one hates another Jew, he must fulfill the verse in Tehillim that states, behold I despise those who hate You, HaShem. When one hates someone else without invoking the Name of HaShem, he is demonstrating that his hatred is baseless. Similarly, when the Jewish People reminisced about the fish that they had consumed in Egypt, they used the word chinam, which the Gemara interprets to mean free from mitzvos. They certainly had eaten fish in Egypt, but their recollections were baseless, because they did not invoke the Name of HaShem, his Torah and His mitzvos. In a similar vein, the Jewish People cried needless tears on Tisha B’Av, because their tears did not lead them to repentance, which is the highest level of closeness to HaShem. HaShem therefore admonished the Jewish People by telling them that they will now have to suffer crying for generations. Although in a simple sense this was a punishment, in reality this rebuke was a blessing, because when we cry for the loss of the Bais HaMikdash and the exile, we are led to repentance, and our tears and our remorse are a vehicle to lead us closer to HaShem.