Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pekudei-Shekalim 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pekudei-Shekalim 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

This week’s parashah discusses the actual construction of the Mishkan and its completion. Additionally, this week is Parashas Shekalim and Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheinei. There is a very interesting association between all these dates and events. The Gemara (Megillah 13b) states that since HaShem knew that Haman would offer Achashveirosh ten thousand talents of silver as a price to be allowed to annihilate world Jewry, HaShem had the Jewish People preempt Haman with their contribution of Shekalim. This is what is learned in a Mishnah (Ibid 29a) that on the first of Adar the court announces regarding the contribution of Shekalim to the Bais HaMikdash and regarding the necessity to uproot the grains that have potential to be Kelayim, forbidden mixtures of grain. How are we to understand this Gemara? We are familiar with the statement in the Gemara (Ibid 13b) that HaShem prepares the antidote before the plague, but it would seem that this Gemara is teaching us something more. First we will explain the purpose of Parashas Shekalim, especially since we no longer have the Bais HaMikdash and the reading of this portion in the Torah appears to serve as a mere commemoration of the Shekalim that were contributed in the Bais HaMikdash. The essential function of the Shekalim, or what is commonly referred to as the contribution of the Machatzis HaShekel, was to count the Jewish People. The Gemara (Taanis 8b) states that blessing is only found by matters that are concealed from the eye. Nonetheless, HaShem found it necessary that the Jewish People should be counted. Rashi (Bamidbar 1:1) writes that the reason HaShem wanted to count the Jewish People was to demonstrate the love that HaShem has for us. A word in the Torah for love and affection is daas, literally translated as knowledge. Daas is something that only the Jewish People can experience. When we are cognizant of HaShem’s Presence in our lives, this is referred to as daas. Haman, a descendant of Amalek, sought to sever this connection that the Jewish People had with HaShem. In order for one to attain the level of daas, he must have chochmah, wisdom, which is followed by binah, understanding. Rashi (Shemos 31:3) interprets daas to mean Ruach HaKodesh, the Divine Spirit. When one is connected to HaShem, the Divine Presence rests upon him. It is said that the word chochmah is an acrostic for the words koach mah, a power that is “unknown.” It is obvious that one’s wisdom emanates from HaShem, as it is said (Daniel 2:21) yehav chachmasa lachakimin, He gives wisdom to the wise. Yet, we refer to this wisdom as something whose source is unknown. The reason for this is because the ancient Greeks and other atheists posited that anything that was beyond their understanding did not exist (see Ramban Vayikra 16:18). The lifestyle presented by Amalek was that of mikreh, happenstance. In the worldview of Amalek, anything that could only be attributed to a supreme source was irrelevant. Thus, in a sense, Amalek adopted a philosophy that is the antithesis of chochmah, by declaring everything to be mikreh, which forms the acrostic kar mah, literally translated as “cold something,” This means that in a sense, Amalek poured “cold water” on anything whose source was from Above. Amalek, and their infamous descendant Haman, sought to undermine our relationship with HaShem, which is manifested through daas. It is noteworthy that the heroes of the Megillah, Mordechai and Esther, were both bestowed with Ruach HaKodesh, Divine Spirit, which, as we mentioned previously, is referred to as daas. Thus, the very connection that Amalek and Haman sought to sever was forged even greater by Mordechai and Esther. Now we can understand better the association of the Shekalim and the month of Adar. HaShem wished that we should take Shekalim as a reminder of our connection to Him, and the affection that HaShem has for the Jewish People is manifested through counting us. This affection would serve to preempt Haman’s ten thousand talents of silver. It is said that the word kesef, literally translated as silver, also means desire (See Bereishis 31:30, Tehillim 84:3). Haman sought through his kesef to mitigate the desire that HaShem had for the Jewish People, whereas HaShem preceded Haman’s diabolical intentions by instructing the Jewish People to take silver coins which reflect the love that HaShem has for us. This interpretation can also help us understand the Torah’s description upon the completion of the Mishkan. It is said (Shemos 39:32) vateichel kol avodas mishkan ohel moed vayasu binei Yisroel kichol asher tzivah HaShem es Moshe kein asu binei Yisroel, all the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed, and the Children of Israel had done everything that HaShem commanded Moshe, so did they do. Regarding the completion of creation, it is said (Bereishis 2:1) vayechulu hashamayim vihaaretz vechol tzivaam, thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array. The Baal HaTurim (Ibid verse 2) quotes the Targum Yerushalmi who interprets the word vayechal to mean desire (This is derived from the verse that states (Tehillim 84:3) nichsifah vigam kalsah nafshi, my soul yearns, indeed it pines.) Thus, we see that just like regarding creation there was a desire, so too by the completion of the Mishkan there was a great desire (see Bamidbar Rabbah 12:13 where the Medrash associates the word vateichel written regarding the Mishkan and the word vayechulu that is said regarding creation). This desire is the daas, i.e. the affection that HaShem has for the Jewish People, in whose merit the world was created. Regarding Shabbos it is said (Shemos 31:13) viatah dabeir el bnei Yisroel leimor ach es Shabbsosai tishmoru ki os hi beini uveineichem ledorseichem ladaas ki ani mikadishchem, now you speak to the Children of Israel, saying: ‘However, you must observe my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I am HaShem, Who makes you holy.’ Rashi writes that the word ladaas, to know, refers to the nations of the world. Perhaps the idea is that when the Jewish People desire to be close to HaShem and observe His Holy Shabbos, even the gentiles understand and recognize the affection that HaShem has for His people. By commemorating the contribution of the Machatzis HaShekel and in the merit of our Shabbos observance, we should merit once again witnessing the downfall of our enemies, as it is said (Tehillim 83:18-19) yevoshu viyabahalu adei ad viyachpiru viyoveidu viyeidu ki atah shimcha HaShem livadecho elyon al kol haaretz, let them be shamed and terrified forever, then they will be disgraced and they will perish. Then they will know that You – Whose Name is HaShem – are alone, Most High over all the earth.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Umitcoh miut avonos, amid fewness of sins. One must wonder why we beseech HaShem to privilege us to receive the Shabbos with fewness of sins. Would it not be preferable to receive the Shabbos without any sins? Perhaps we can suggest that the reason we do not ask HaShem that we be entirely sin free is not because we, Heaven forbid, desire to have sins. Rather, it is because the word miut implies humility, as it is said (Devarim 7:7) lo meirubchem mikol haamim chashak HaShem bachem vayivchar bachem ki atem hameat mikol haamim, not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did HaShem desire you and chose you, for you are the fewest of all the peoples. Rashi (Ibid) quotes the Gemara (Chullin 89a) that states that the word hameat, the fewest, can be interpreted to mean that the Jewish People are more humble than the other nations. In a similar vein we can suggest that in this supplication we are indicating that we are not arrogant to demand that we be entirely sin free. Rather, we choose to demonstrate that we are not conceited and we wish that HaShem grant us at least minimal atonement from the lowly state that we were in during the week. Once we have been granted a certain degree of atonement we can enter the Shabbos in a state of joy.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Ain aroch lecho, there is no comparison to you. One must wonder why we always praise HaShem with words like there is no comparison to You and similar accolades. Is it not obvious that if one acknowledges HaShem as the Creator of the world that He has no comparison? To answer this question, let us examine our appreciation of HaShem. More often than not we pray to HaShem and praise His greatness when we are in need of him. How often do we thank HaShem when everything is supposedly going well for us and there are no looming crises on the horizon? For this fact alone we should acknowledge HaShem as the Only One Who can cause anything to occur. HaShem breathes life into the entire universe and into every single person every second of the day. It is for this reason alone that we can declare that no one can compare to HaShem.

Shabbos Story

A couple that had been married for fifteen years without being blessed by children decided to divorce, despite their harmonious marriage. Shortly after the get was completed, the woman discovered that she was pregnant. The joyous news had a very sad side, as the husband was a Kohen and was forbidden to remarry his former wife. Their pain and heartbreak knew no bounds. The husband poured out his pain to Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita , who told the man that he could not see any way that he could remarry his former wife, but he suggested that he should consult with his father in-law, Hagaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv Shlita. The man went to Rav Elyashiv and repeated his tale of woe. Rav Elyashiv told him with great pain that it is definitely forbidden for a Kohen to remarry his former wife. “The only thing I can tell you is that you should go to the Kosel Hamaravi, and daven to Hashem that he should save you.” The Kohen regarded Rav Elyashiv’s words as a direct instruction, and immediately upon leaving Rav Elyashiv’s house, he went straight to the Kosel. When he reached the Kosel, he approached the stones and poured out his heart without restraint. After davening for a lengthy period of time, the Kohen felt a hand on his back. He turned around and saw an avreich Talmid Chacham, who inquired what had happened to him. The Kohen repeated his painful story, and the stranger asked him, “Do you have a father?” The Kohen did not understand the point of the question, but he answered that of course he had a father. His father was very old and was living in a nursing home in America, and barely communicated with those around him. “In my opinion, you should fly to America, and tell your father what happened to you,” said the man and he turned to leave. The Kohen tried again to explain to him that his father’s condition made it almost impossible to communicate with him at all. There was no reason that he should make such a great effort to fly to the States to tell his elderly father the story. The stranger, however, brushed off his words and turned to go. The Kohen eventually decided to heed this man’s words. He reasoned that if Rav Elyashiv told him to go to the Kosel to daven, and if this stranger approached him while he was davening and advised him to fly to America, maybe it was worthwhile for him to go. He arranged a flight, and a day and half later, he was already at his father’s side, in the nursing home. The medical staff had informed the son when he first arrived that his father had not uttered a word for many months, and that he should not expect his father to speak to him. The Kohen began his story, and his father did not respond, but he seemed to be listening to what his son was saying. As the son continued his story, he began crying, and could not stop. The unbelievable then occurred; his father began speaking and said clearly that he was not his biological son, but was adopted after the Holocaust; he did not have the status of a Kohen, and there was no reason that he couldn't remarry his former wife. (Barchi Nafshi) (Reprinted and edited with permission from Revach.net)

Shabbos in Navi

Shoftim Chapter 3

In this chapter the Navi records the incident where Ehud the Shofeit (judge) brought a gift to Eglon king of Moav and then killed him. This episode reflects a pattern in Jewish history, where the Jewish People are oppressed for many years and then HaShem sends them a savior. Although we no longer merit Divine intervention on the scale that the Jewish People merited in ancient times, we will always have the Holy Shabbos that protects us from our enemies. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states that had the Jewish People only observed the first Shabbos in the Wilderness, no race or nation could have assailed them. It was only because a few Jews violated the first Shabbos in the Wilderness that Amalek was allowed to attack the Jewish People. With Purim almost upon us, we should increase our level of Shabbos observance and then HaShem will surely allow us to merit the downfall of Amalek and all of our enemies. We will then merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in Agadah

The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states if the Jewish People would only observe two Shabbosos properly they would be redeemed. What is the association between Shabbos and redemption? The answer to this question is that when one observes Shabbos, he is demonstrating that he is not under anyone else’s influence, such as a boss at work or even under the influence of society. On Shabbos the Jewish People rest from all mundane activities and we are preoccupied in serving HaShem. Ultimate Redemption means that we will no longer be subjugated to the whims and influences of the nations. By observing Shabbos, we are already experiencing a semblance of redemption. It is incumbent upon ourselves to “grab the bull by the horns” and observe Shabbos properly, so that we merit a complete redemption.

Shabbos in Halacha

One who left cooked food directly above the flame or in the yad soledes bo area prior to Shabbos, and the food was moved on Shabbos to the non-yad soledes bo area, can return the food to its initial position. This is only permitted if the food is still warm. (We will discuss later returning a pot to the blech after it was removed.]

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

On Friday evening we recite in Shemone Esrei the words viyanuchu vah kol Yisroel mekadshei shimecho, may all of Israel, the sanctifiers of Your Name, rest on it. On Shabbos morning we recite the words viyanuchu vo kol Yisroel mekadshei shimecho. By Shabbos Mincha we recite the words viyanuchu vam kol Yisroel mekadshei shimecho. Various explanations are offered for this discrepancy. It is noteworthy that the last letters of the words vah, vo, and vam are hey, vav, and mem. These letters equal in mispar katan, digit sum, 15 (hey is 5, vav is 6, and mem is 40, which in mispar katan is 4). 15 is 1+5=6, and this alludes to the fact that on Shabbos we all rest from the work of the 6 days of the week. Furthermore, in at bash (where aleph is taf, bais is shin etc.) and in mispar katan, these letters equal 18 (hey in at bash is tzadi, which in mispar katan is tes, 9; vav in at bash is pey which is 8, and mem in at bash is yud which in mispar katan is 1) and 1+8=9, and Shabbos in mispar katan equals 9.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pekudei-Shekalim 5768

is sponsored in honor of Marjorie Burstyn’s birthday

The class in Navi will resume IY”H on Shabbos afternoons

beginning next week, Parashas Vayikra.

The class will be held at Congregation Dovid Ben Nuchim-Aish Kodesh 14800 West Lincoln, in Oak Park, ½ an hour before Minchah.

Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos

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