Thursday, March 13, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayikra-Zachor 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayikra-Zachor 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

This week is Parashas Zachor, when we read aloud how Amalek, the archenemy of the Jewish People, sought to infiltrate the Jewish camp and they were defeated by Yehoshua and the Jewish army. We read Parashas Zachor prior to Purim as Haman, the enemy of the Jewish People in Persia, was a descendant of Agag, the Amalekite king. The commentators point out that for all practical purposes, the true Amalekite does not exist amongst us anymore. Yet, we are still biblically commanded to remember the evil that Amalek sought to perpetrate towards the Jewish People and how HaShem has promised us that the memory of Amalek will eventually be obliterated. One must wonder how we can be required to remember the evil wrought by Amalek and how we can be instructed to obliterate the memory of Amalek, when Amalek does not exist in the physical form. In order to gain a better understanding of this obligation, we must first examine the festival of Purim and how we relate to this holiday in a practical manner. We celebrate Purim by reading Megillas Esther, making a feast, giving presents of food to our friends and by proffering charity to the indigent. What is the significance in these four rabbinically ordained mitzvos? I recently saw a fascinating explanation from one of the Gerrer Rebbes regarding Mordechai’s exhortation to Esther. It is said (Esther 4:13-14) vayomer Mordechai lihashiv el Esther al tidami vinafsheich lihamaleit bais hamelech mikol haYehudim ki im hachareish tacharishi baeis hazos revach vihatzalah yaamod layehudim mimakom acher viat uveis avich toveidu umi yodeia im laeis kazoos higaat lamalchus, then Mordechai said to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine in your soul that you will be able to escape in the king’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish.” The conventional understanding of these verses is that Mordechai was warning Esther that if she did not act, then HaShem would save the Jewish People through other means, but Esther and her family would not survive. The Gerrer Rebbe, however, understands that Mordechai was informing Esther that the way to accomplish the salvation was by viat uveis avich toveidu. The Gerrer Rebbe renders the word toveidu, normally translated to mean perish, as to forfeit your life. Thus, Mordechai was instructing Esther that the vehicle to salvation was by forfeiting her life for the Jewish People. Based on this premise, we can begin to understand the particular manner in which we can approach our requirement to remember what Amalek sought to do the Jewish People and how we are required to obliterate the memory of Amalek. Amalek was willing to forfeit their lives in order to destroy the Jewish People, so we must act in the same manner and sacrifice our lives for HaShem and His Torah. The Gemara (Megillah 7b) states that one is obligated to become intoxicated on Purim until he cannot distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai. The Seder Hayom writes that one is required to become so intoxicated that he falls to the ground. The reason for this, writes the Seder Hayom, is because Haman sought to spill our blood to the ground, so we must act in a manner that counters Haman’s desires. Based on the interpretation of the Gerrer Rebbe, we can place this ruling in perspective and also understand an incident recorded in the Gemara. We become intoxicated to the point that we are willing to forfeit our lives for HaShem, and the Gemara demonstrates this with an incident where Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira celebrated the Purim feast together. Rabbah killed Rabbi Zeira and then brought him back to life. This Gemara clearly is telling us that on Purim one must attain a level where he is willing to forfeit his life for HaShem. Now we can understand the function of the four mitzvos that we perform on Purim. We feast and drink and become intoxicated, and we thus demonstrate that we are willing to forfeit our lives for HaShem. Furthermore, we give each other food gifts. Unlike the rest of the festivals where we essentially conduct private feasts, on Purim we are required to give of our food to others. This also reflects on our sacrifice for HaShem and His people. Additionally, we are obligated to give alms to the poor, to the extent that we must fulfill the rabbinic dictum that kol haposehit yad nosnim lo, anyone who extends his hand on Purim receives charity. This certainly is a sacrifice on our parts. Lastly, we are required to read the Megillah, and we must even forgo Torah study to fulfill this mitzvah. For a Jew, studying Torah is akin to a fish swimming in water, and we are still required to interrupt our Torah study for the reading of the Megillah. There can be no greater sacrifice than forgoing Torah study. Thus, the four mitzvos that we perform on Purim all reflect a degree of sacrifice, which counters the sacrifice that Amalek and their descendant Haman demonstrated in threatening the Jewish People. 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. Proof of this is because some of the Jewish People violated the first Shabbos and this violation was followed by the arrival of Amalek. We are required to sacrifice everything except our lives to observe Shabbos. The Medrash (Esther Rabbah 1:9) states that the reason Achashveirosh was able to conduct his parties is because the Jewish People had desecrated the Shabbos. It is well known that when we slack off in our sacrifice for mitzvah performance, the gentiles are allowed to dominate us. Its should be HaShem’s will that we observe the Shabbos and the festivals properly, and then we will merit the fulfillment of the verse that the Jewish children quoted to Haman (Yeshaya 8:10) utzu eitzah visufar daberu davar vilo yakum ki imanu kel, plan a conspiracy and it shall be annulled; speak your piece and it shall not stand, for G-d is with us.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Vihaseir mimeni umikol bnei veisi umikol amcha bais Yisroel kol minei choli vechol minei madveh, remove from me, from all my household, and from Your entire nation Israel, every manner of illness, every manner of pain. One of the primary reasons that we beseech HaShem to remove from us all illnesses and pain is so that we can serve Him properly. The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 9:1) maintains that the rewards that re mentioned in the Torah serve the purpose of allowing us to lead healthy and fruitful lives in the service of HaShem. Thus, all our prayers should be focused on requesting from HaShem that He provide us with the necessary tools to serve Him properly.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Viain zulasecho, there is nothing except for you. Can we imagine a world that only contains HaShem and nothing else? As strange as this may seem, the truth is that our current existence is based on this truism. We all exit in HaShem’s world. Reb Yeruchem Levovitz compares our existence in this world to a guest who is invited to a wedding. Can the guest complain about the choice of food, music or flowers? Similarly, we are guests in HaShem’s world and we must conduct ourselves in a proper manner. The Kozhnitzer Maggid writes that although we have been given free choice, it is very limited. We should use this limited free choice wisely to make the correct decisions in serving HaShem.

Shabbos Story

During World War I, many of the Jews of war-torn Poland fled to take refuge in Austria. One year on Shabbos Chanukah, Rav Moses Flesch, the Rav of a shul in Vienna, gave a speech about the strength and determination of Yehudis in standing up for what she knew was right at the time of the Chanukah story. He continued by noting that while Yeshivos had spread throughout Europe and a proper Jewish education was available to boys, there was unfortunately no similar option for girls, who were forced to attend public school and received only a rudimentary religious education at Sunday schools. Lacking a solid background, the girls were all too often swept up in the anti-religious movements of the time, often corrupting other family members with them. Rav Flesch stressed the need for a modern-day Yehudis to step forward and establish a suitable system of formal education for Jewish girls so that they would remain religious and so that the yeshiva students would be able to marry G-d-fearing girls. While everybody in the packed shul heard his inspiring words on that fateful day, only one girl up in the crowded Ezras Nashim truly “heard” the message – her name was Sarah Schneirer, who was inspired by his address to establish the modern Beis Yaakov movement to give Jewish girls an opportunity to receive a proper Jewish education!

The Imrei Emes was once present at a Rabbinical conference in Warsaw called to discuss the burning issues of the day and to brainstorm possible solutions. However, there was one man present who seemed to take great pleasure in finding problems and poking holes in every single proposal which was mentioned. Eventually, the astute Imrei Emes approached the critic and said that because he seemed to be so good with questions, he would like to pose to him one of his own. In the beginning of Parshas Yisro, Rashi writes that Yisro was known by seven different names. One of the names was Yeser, which refers to the fact that a portion of the Torah was added based on his suggestion to Moshe to establish a system of courts and judges. However, in naming the section which was added based on his proposal, Rashi quotes the verse (18:21) in which Yisro delineated his plan and enumerated the requirements for proper judges, but a cursory perusal of the parashah reveals that Yisro’s exchange with Moshe began several verses earlier (21:17) when he advised Moshe that his current arrangement was flawed and unsatisfactory. The Imrei Emes turned to the cynic and asked him why Rashi seems to misquote the beginning of the portion of judges added by Yisro, to which the man had no answer. The sagacious Rebbe proceeded to cleverly answer his own question by telling the detractor that without much effort, virtually anybody can find problems with the status quo or tear apart a new proposal, but rare is the individual who constructively offers an alternative plan of action. The cynic had taken pride in his ability to find flaws in every suggestion placed on the table, but Rashi teaches that had Yisro only approached Moshe to criticize the current system as flawed without offering a viable alternative, he wouldn’t have merited the additional section of the Torah. It was only because his critique was a constructive introduction to a superior alternative did the Torah find it worthy of recording! [Reprinted with permission from Parashah Potpourri by Oizer Alport].

Shabbos in Navi

Shoftim Chapter 4

In this chapter the Navi records the famous episode of Devorah and Barak defeating Sisra, the general of Yavin’s army. It is said (Shoftim 4:4) uDevorah isha neviah eishes Lapidos hi shoftah es Yisroel bais hahi, Devorah was a prophetess, the wife of Lapidos, she judged israel at that time. The Medrash (Tanna D’bei Eliyahu §9) states that the husband of Devorah was ignorant, and Devorah encouraged him to gain merit by fashioning wicks so that he could bring them to the Mishkan in Shiloh. Devorah’s husband proceeded to make thick wicks, thus earning himself the name Lapidos, which means wicks. It is brought in halacha that a man should prepare the Shabbos candles for his wife so that he also has a share in the mitzvah. The Sanzer Rav would singe the wicks of the Shabbos candles. The Sanzer Rav told a man to prepare the Shabbos candles so that in this manner the man could rectify grievous sins that he had committed. The Eishel Avraham writes that men prepare the candles so that they have a share in the mitzvah, and lighting the Shabbos candles outweighs the mitzvah of reciting Kiddush on Shabbos. The Shinaver Rav said that one should ensure that the Shabbos candles are secured in their holders. This demonstrates that the kindling is done for the sake of the mitzvah, similar to the lighting of the Chanukah candles [excerpted from Shabbos Secrets by Rabbi Dovid Meisels].

Shabbos in Agadah

It is written that one should sing zemiros on Shabbos. The Medrash states that the angels on high have six wings, and every day of the week they use a different wing to praise HaShem. Upon the arrival of Shabbos, the angels pleaded with HaShem to grant them a seventh wing with which they can praise Him. Hashem responds that He has one wing in the world that sings to Him on this day, and this is the Jewish People. We should use the Shabbos for singing and praising HaShem, as on this day HaShem prefers our singing to the angels singing.

Shabbos in Halacha

In summary, the hot area on the blech (i.e. yad soledes bo) is suitable for cooking but cooked foods cannot be warmed on this spot. The edge of the blech (i.e. not yad soledes bo) is not suitable for cooking and can be used to warm up cooked foods. One is prohibited from moving food from the edge of the blech (not yad soledes bo) to the interior (yad soledes bo) of the blech. One is permitted to move cooked food within the yad soledes bo area (160°), even directly over the flame. Food that was moved from the yad soledes bo area to the permitted area of the blech on Shabbos can be returned to its original position.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

In Megillas Esther it is said (Esther 1:10) bayom hashevii kitov leiv hamelech bayayin, on the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine. The Gemara (Megillah 12b) states that the seventh day was Shabbos. It is noteworthy that the last letters of the words bayom hashevii kitov leiv in mispar katan, digit sum, equals 9, and the word Shabbos equals 9.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayikra-Zachor 5768

is sponsored in loving memory of Shemariah Ben Ezriel ob”m

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

beginning this week

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

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

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