Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Acharei Mos-Shabbos HaGadol-Pesach 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Acharei Mos-Shabbos HaGadol-Pesach 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this week’s parashah, Acharei Mos, we read about the passing of Nadav and Avihu, the two elder sons of Aharon HaKohen. The Mishna Berura (O. C. 621:2 quotes the Zohar that states that one who cries upon hearing this passage in the Torah describing the deaths of Nadav and Avihu will be granted atonement for his sins and his children will not die in his lifetime. One must wonder what is so significant about the deaths of Nadav and Avihu that if one were to cry over their deaths thousands of years later, he will merit a reward. In order to glean a proper understanding into this matter, let us take a closer look at the festival that is approaching, the festival of Pesach. On Pesach we commemorate our freedom from the Egyptian slavery. Yet, we do more than commemorate our liberation from servitude. We are instructed to relate to our children the entire story of our slavery to Pharaoh and the Egyptians and to relate the wondrous miracles that HaShem performed for us upon redeeming us from slavery and regarding the splitting of the Red Sea. Why is it incumbent upon us to relate this period in our history to our children more than any other period of our history? The answer to this question can surprisingly be found in the idea of Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Shabbos that precedes Pesach. The Tur (O. C. 430) and other Rishonim write that the reason that the Shabbos that precedes Pesach is referred to as Shabbos Hagadol is because the Jewish People took the sheep, which were worshipped by the Egyptians, and they tied the sheep to the foot of their beds. This act was a demonstration by the Jewish People that they no longer feared the Egyptians and this act also expressed the Jewish People’s rejection of the Egyptians idols. This explanation, however, requires understanding. What significance does this incident with the sheep have to us today? We do not reside in an idolatrous society, and even ideologies that can be associated with idolatry certainly do not resemble the worship of sheep. Why, then, do we commemorate this seemingly isolated event that occurred prior to the Exodus? To gain a better understanding of our activities in Pesach, it is worthwhile to reflect on the Seder night, when we are engaged in stimulating the children to ask questions and be inspired by this awesome night. There are many approaches to piquing the children’s curiosity, and the common them is that the children should be excited and remain awake for a good portion of the Seder. Perhaps herein lays the solution to the puzzle. Prior to being redeemed from Egypt, HaShem instructed the Jewish People to take a sheep, the Egyptian idol, and slaughter it. This instruction certainly must have piqued the curiosity of the Jewish People, as this command placed the Jewish People’s lives in danger. Nonetheless, the Jewish People willingly took the sheep and subsequently slaughtered the sheep before the Egyptian’s eyes. Can we even imagine performing such an act? This would be equivalent to burning one’s native country’s flag before its citizens. Are we prepared to act in such a manner if we were given this instruction from HaShem? In truth, however, twice daily we recite Shema where we accept upon ourselves to sacrifice our very lives for HaShem. Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, said that the entire theme of the Pesach Seder is Shema Yisroel, i.e. sanctifying HaShem’s Name. Thus, we are not merely relating to our children that we were enslaved to Pharaoh and HaShem liberated us from a bitter oppression. In essence, we are relating to our children that we must sacrifice our lives to serve HaShem, as this is what the Korban Pesach represents. We can now understand why this festival is referred to as Pesach. Rashi writes that Pesach means compassion or alternately, skipping over, a reference to HaShem skipping over the homes of the Jewish People and smiting the firstborn of the Egyptians. Yet, the sacrifice that the Jewish People offered prior to the Exodus is referred to as Pesach. Based on the premise that on this festival we are demonstrating our sacrificing of our lives to HaShem, we refer to the festival as Pesach reflects the Jewish People sacrificing their very lives to reject idolatry and embrace HaShem’s commandments. This idea is embodied in Shabbos HaGadol, the precursor to the festival of Pesach. We can now better understand why one who feels distressed over the deaths of Nadav and Avihu will merit atonement for his sins and that his children will not die in his lifetime. Despite the impropriety of entering the Holy of Holies without permission, Nadav and Avihu demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice their lives for what they perceived was HaShem’s will. When one cries over their deaths, he is relating to the concept of sacrificing one’s life for HaShem. This year Pesach, in addition to commemorating the miracles of the Exodus, HaShem should allow us to reflect on sacrificing our lives for His Great Name, and in that merit we should witness the Ultimate Redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Ana melch malchei hamelachim tzavei limalochecho malachei hashareis misharsei elyon, please, O king, Who reigns over kings, instruct Your angels, the ministering angels. One must wonder why we beseech HaShem to engage the ministering angels with the onset of Shabbos. Would we not prefer that HaShem Himself bless us at all times, and particularly on this holy day that He has bestowed upon His beloved nation? The concept of praying to angels and acknowledging their presence in our lives is one of great debate, but we will suffice with an explanation related to Pesach. It is said regarding the night prior the Exodus when HaShem slew the Egyptian firstborns (Shemos 12:23) viavar HaShem lingof es Mitzrayim viraah es hadam al hamshkof vial shtei hamezuzos upasach HaShem al hapesach vilo yitein hamashchis lavo el bateichem lingof, HaShem will pass through to smite Egypt, and He will see the blood that is on the lintel and the two doorposts; and HaShem will pass over the entrance and He will not permit the destroyer to enter your homes to smite. This verse is astounding. Hashem Himself, in all His glory, is going out in Egypt to slay all the firstborns, and nonetheless there is a concern that the destroyer, i.e. the angels of destruction, will harm the Jewish People. We see from this that we are always in need of HaShem’s protection from evil influences. Thus, it is appropriate that even with the onset of Shabbos, we beseech HaShem to instruct the angels to be compassionate with us and to bless us.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Viain zulasecho malkeinu lichayei haolam haba, and there will be nothing except for You, our King, in the life of the World to Come. The Gemara (Brachos 57b) states that Shabbos is a semblance of the World to Come. In the World to Come there will be nothing except HaShem, so it follows that we should approach Shabbos as a day when we are with HaShem alone, and we bask in His Presence.

Shabbos Story

No one could get Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev angry. No matter what anyone did, he would always find something nice to say. He believed in treating all Jews kindly, no matter how much his patience was tested. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s neighbor had a son who did not want to keep any of the mitzvos. One year, during the Seder, the family was about to make a sandwich of matzah and maror for koreich. To everyone's surprise, the boy pulled from his pocket two slices of bread and some meat, and made himself a sandwich. His father started to cry: “How dare you bring bread to my Seder?” “But father,” the boy answered, “I’m hungry after reading the Hagadah. What difference does it make if I eat bread or matzah? I’m sure Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wouldn’t mind. The father jumped up from the table and grabbed his son. “Oh, wouldn’t he? Let’s go ask him.” The whole family marched next door, the father leading the boy by the ear. “Rabbi,” the man said, “even you would not tolerate what my son just did. He ate bread at our Seder. I have four sons, rabbi, and I don’t have to tell you which one he is.” Everyone in the room was shocked; everyone, that is, except for Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. He smiled at the boy and asked if it was true. “Certainly, Rabbi,” the boy said. “I was hungry so I made myself a sandwich.” “Don’t you know that on Pesach Jews don’t eat bread?” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak continued. “Well, Rabbi,” the boy answered, “to be totally honest, I don’t really believe in all this. What difference could it possibly make if I eat bread or matzah?”
The entire room was silent. Only the boy’s mother could be heard sobbing in the doorway. “Please come here,” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak called to the boy. The boy walked slowly, afraid that this time he had gone too far. As he approached the table, the rabbi hugged him. “Such a fine boy,” he said to the father, “and so honest too,” he added to the mother. “He’s ready to admit what he did and he’s acting according to his beliefs. Such a fine, honest boy must sit with me at my Seder. I have so much to learn from him! Just one thing though.” The rabbi turned to the boy and said, “There’ll be no sandwiches at the Seder table - unless you make them with matzah.”

[This story was related by Rabbi Label Lam, reprinted with permission from] A few years back, my wife and I had the pleasure to spend Shabbos at a hotel with Rabbi Pesach Krohn. He told over the following story. A young man from Mid-West was married for a good number of years without the blessing of children. One year his wife was expecting and she gave birth prematurely. The child weighed only a few pounds and remained hospitalized in Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit. After a period of time the child was strong and healthy enough to be sent home. They made a Bris and named the boy Yaakov. Now with his son at home, the father of the boy didn’t forget the tireless effort of the nurses that cared day and night for his child. He wanted to express his gratitude somehow. He did something seemingly unusual. He called his Rosh HaYeshiva – his spiritual mentor Rabbi Elya Svei in Philadelphia and asked him what he thought would be appropriate as a thank you gift. Should he get flowers, candy, or balloons etc.? The Rabbi’s answer was at first surprising. He told him to get them nothing. Misunderstanding, the young man reiterated his reason. He only wished to express his gratitude to those who had benefited his child so much. The Rosh HaYeshiva had, of course, understood that. He asked, “What reward did HaShem give to the Hebrew midwives, Shifra and Puah (Alias Yocheved and Miriam) for risking their lives to care for the Jewish infants in defiance of Pharaoh? Everyone thinks, “That He made for them houses”, that is, family dynasties, but that’s not what the verse says. It states, “G-d benefited the midwives- and the people increased and became very strong.” This was their benefit that they saw the work of their hands prosper before them. Rabbi Svei advised that he should rather bring the child back to visit the hospital staff each year on his birthday and offer personal thanks. That’s what he did. Year after year he paraded little Yaakov before the nurses and to thank them again and again. Before his 13th birthday and for the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah young Yaakov and his father delivered a Bar Mitzvah invitation personally to the hospital. Soon afterward, they received a reply. The head of nursing writes, and I paraphrase what Rabbi Krohn read verbatim from the text of the letter. “Congratulations on your family milestone. We wanted to let you know how much your visits have meant to us over the years. We work in a high risk setting never knowing if things will turn out alright. Even after a child leaves our care we have little or no idea what ever became of our efforts. I was not even at the hospital when your Yaakov was treated here but you should know that when we train for this difficult and often thankless task your son has become the poster child of what’s possible. We mention again and again that the infant that you are currently caring for may turn out like “Yaakov”. Then she adds as a postscript, “Many people send us flowers, balloons, and candies. The flowers eventually wilt, the balloons deflate, and the candies are eaten up but the gift that you have given us has been proven valuable beyond comparison.” Take note how a Gadol- a Great Torah Scholar learns Chumash with such depth and practicality. How wise it is to follow their priceless advice.

Shabbos in Navi

Shoftim Chapter 8

In this chapter the Navi records how after Gideon died, the Jewish People once again went astray after the idols. When Shabbos departs, it is easy for one to become lax in his pursuit of becoming close to HaShem. We must praise HaShem that He grants us His precious gift of Shabbos every week, so that we can constantly bond with HaShem and His Holy Shabbos.

Shabbos in Agadah

Pesach is referred to in the Torah as Shabbos. Both Pesach and Shabbos are times when we unite with our families to serve HaShem. Shabbos is referred to by the Zohar as the Secret of Unity, and the Maharal writes that that the theme of Pesach is unity.

Shabbos in Halacha

There are instances where if one lifts a pot, he can no longer return the pot to its original position, i.e. the pot was left on an uncovered flame. In such situations one would be allowed to scoop food from the pot without lifting it from the flame. However, one should be careful not to stir the food when inserting the spoon. The same rule will apply to a pot that si too heavy to be lifted. [This ruling applies only to cooked food. If the food is not completely cooked, then it is absolutely forbidden to remove food from the pot in any manner, as this will cause the remaining contents of the pot to cook quicker.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

The Torah refers to Pesach as a chok, a statute (Shemos 13:9). It is noteworthy that the word chok in mispar katan, digit sum, equals 9 (ches is 8, and kuf is 100, which is 1, and 8+1=9). Pesach is referred to in the Torah as Shabbos (Vayikra 23:15) and the word Shabbos in mispar katan also equals 9 (shin is 300, which is 3, bais is 2, and saf is 400, which is 4, and 3+2+4=9).

Insights into the Hagadah

It is said (Shemos 17:16) vayomer ki yad al keis kah milchama laHaShem baAmalek midor dor, and he said, “For the hand is on the throne of G-d: Hashem maintains a war against Amalek, from generation to generation.” The Medrash (Tanchumah Ki Seitzei 11) states that HaShem said that His Name and His Throne will not be complete until the eradication of Amalek occurs. It is fascinating to note that the Gemara (Taanis 29a) states that mishenichnas Adar marbim bisimcha, when the month of Adar begins, we increase our joy. Rashi writes regarding this: yimey nissim hayu liYisroel Purim uPesach, days of miracles for the Jewish People, Purim and Pesach. The simple explanation of Rashi’s commentary is that we begin our joy in Adar with the festival of Purim and that joy continues into the Month of Nissan with the celebration of Pesach. Perhaps we can suggest an alternative interpretation to the words of Rashi based on the above-mentioned Medrash. We commence the Hagadah shel Pesach with Kadesh urchatz, and we enumerate the fifteen steps that will be performed throughout the Seder. The Medrash (See Gemara Megillah 15a and Rashi Ibid s.v. Yom Tov Rishon shel Pesach; Esther Rabbah 8:7, Magen Avraham Orach Chaim 490) states that Haman was hung on the first days of Pesach. The Medrash mentioned previously states that HaShem’s Name and Throne will not be complete until the nation of Amalek is obliterated. Although it would appear that this will not occur until the time of the ultimate Redemption, the month of Nissan and the festival of Pesach certainly qualify as a propitious time for our redemption. This idea is based on the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 11a) that states: biNissan nigalu biNissan asidin ligaeil, in the month of Nissan we were redeemed and in the month of the Nissan we will be redeemed in the future. Thus, according to Rashi, the redemption commenced with the hanging of Haman, which we celebrate on Purim in Adar, and the joy continues into Nissan as the actual hanging of Haman occurred on Pesach. Haman was a direct descendant of Amalek, so it is fitting that we commence the Seder with the fifteen steps. The Name of HaShem, kah, is in gematria, numerical value, 15. When we celebrate Pesach and Haman’s downfall, we are striving to perfect HaShem’s Name and Throne by adding 15 to HaShem’s Name of kah. It is further noteworthy that the Mishna (Avos 6:6) states that kingship is acquired with thirty attributes. Thus, the Name kah and the fifteen steps of the Pesach Seder combine to the number 30, a sign that in the month of Nissan we will merit the ultimate redemption and the fulfillment of the verse that states (Ovadiah 1:21) Vialu moshiim bihar Tziyon lishpot es har Esav vihaysah LaHaShem hamelucha, and saviors will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esav, and the kingdom will be HaShem’s.

The first and second nights of Pesach are referred to as the Seder nights. It is noteworthy that the word Seder in mispar katan equals 12 (samach is 60, which is 6, dalet is 4, and reish is 200, which is 2, and 6+4+2=12). This can allude to the idea that there were twelve loaves on the Shulchan, the table in the Bais HaMikdash, and at the Seder it is like we are reenacting the service of the Bais HaMikdash. The number 12 also alludes to the idea that Pesach occurs in the month of Nissan, which is the first of the twelve months of the year.

We recite in the Hadagah the words mitchilah ovdei avodah zara hayu avoseinu, in the beginning our fathers were worshippers of idols. The words “our fathers” can either refer to Terach, father of Avraham, or Avraham himself, as the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 39:8) states that Avraham also served idols in his early years. It is noteworthy that the word mitchilah is an acrostic for Terach (taf) mechilah, Terach gained atonement for his sins, as the Medrash (Tanchumah Shemos 18) states that although Terach worshipped idols throughout his lifetime, he repented prior to his death.

Vihi sheamdah laavoseinu, and it is this that has stood by our forefathers and us. There are various interpretations as to what the word vihi¸ and this, refers to. Perhaps we can suggest that the word vihi in gematria equals 22, and there are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:19) states that the Jewish People were worthy of redemption from Egypt because they did not change their language, their clothing and their names. Thus, we say that it is this, i.e. the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet that we did not deviate from in our speech that has stood by our fathers and us and has allowed us to merit redemption.

It is said (Shemos 15:9) amar oyev erdof asig achaleik shalal timlaeimo nafshi arik charbi torisheimo yadi, the enemy declared, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide plunder; I will satisfy my lust with them. I will unsheathe my sword, my hand will impoverish them.” It is written that the word shalal is an abbreviation for the words shemam, lishonam, and levusham, their names, their language and their clothing. This alludes to the Medrash mentioned above that states that the Jewish People merited redemption from Egypt because they did not change their names, language and clothing. It is noteworthy that Dovid HaMelech said regarding bris milah, circumcision (Tehillim 119:162) sas anochi al imrasecho kimotzei shalal rav, I rejoice over Your word, like one who finds abundant spoils. Here too we find an allusion to name, language and clothing. A Jewish child is named when he is circumcised. It is written that the covenant of speech corresponds to the covenant of circumcision. Furthermore, circumcision is referred to as a levush, clothing, as it is said (Bereishis 30:11) vatomer Leah bagad vatikra es shemo gad, and Leah declared, “ good luck has come!” So she called his name Gad. Rashi (Ibid) writes that the word gad can also mean cut away, a reference to circumcision. The word bagad can also spell the word beged, clothing, and it is written that circumcision is referred to as a covering for the person. Thus, the mitzvah of circumcision alludes to the three virtues with which the Jewish People merited to be redeemed from Egypt. It is further noteworthy that the Medrash (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer §28) states that the Jewish People were redeemed in the merit of being circumcised prior to the exodus.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Acharei Mos-Shabbos HaGadol-Pesach 5768

Is sponsored by Dr. Mark Schare in loving memory of his father, Mordechai Ben Menachem Mannes ob”m, niftar 12 Nissan.

And is also sponsored lizeicher nishmas Rav Ezriel Yehuda ben Rav Moshe ZY"A,

niftar 16 Nissan

I will be giving a class in Navi Shabbos afternoon

at Congregation Dovid Ben Nuchim-Aish Kodesh

14800 West Lincoln, in Oak Park, ½ an hour before Minchah.

Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and a Chag Kosher V’sameach

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

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