Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Metzora 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Metzora 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this week’s parashah the Torah continues to discuss the laws of one who is afflicted with tzaraas, the biblical version of leprosy. Yet, this affliction defies our imagination, as we are not witnesses to such an affliction in our times. The Ramban (Vayikra 13:47) writes that tzaraas was only prevalent when the Jewish People were on the level that even a slight sin would be borne out by a manifestation of tzaraas on either their clothing, their homes, or on their bodies. In our times, unfortunately, our sins do not make that sort of impression on us, and we are usually left to our own devices to determine what the reason is for our severed connection from HaShem. Thus, although one can study the laws of tzaraas in detail, it is practically impossible to comprehend how this spiritual malady occurred. As we approach Pesach, however, one must begin to contemplate how we can even begin to experience spiritual reward, and regarding Pesach, we were surely the recipients of one of the greatest benefit that mankind ever received, and that was liberation from our oppressors. With the onset of the month of Nissan we begin our physical and spiritual preparations for the festival of Pesach, yet on the surface, freedom and liberation appear to be far from our everyday reality. As a nation we still suffer at the hands of our oppressors, we are degraded, injured and even, Heaven forbid, killed, and all because we are Jews, HaShem’s Chosen People. Where, then, is the freedom that the Torah and our Sages referred to over and over again in Scripture, Gemara, Medrash and in our prayers? Have we not suffered enough that we should finally be able to declare that we are truly free people? The Gemara (Megillah 14a) states that we can recite Hallel on the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos because we are servants of HaShem and not servants of Pharaoh. Yet, subsequent to the Exodus from Egypt, we have been servants of many nations, and until today, we are still subjugated to the whims of various rulers throughout the world. The subject of freedom is a lengthy one, but in this essay we will attempt to briefly provide a solution to the enigma of freedom in relationship to our current situation. The Gemara (Shabbos 87b) states that in the second year in the Wilderness, the first day of Nissan was a day when the Jewish People took ten crowns. The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 52:5) states that the inauguration of the Mishkan was a day when Hashem was very joyous. Yet, despite all this great joy and pomp, Aharon HaKohen’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, died a tragic death on this day. How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction, where this day was one of great ecstasy but was instantly transformed into a day of mourning and sadness? Perhaps the solution to this paradox can be found in a different Medrash. The Medrash (Magen Avraham in the beginning of Hilchos Pesach) states that although the construction of the Mishkan was completed in the month of Kisleiv, HaShem chose to postpone the inauguration to the month of Nissan. The reason for this delay was because HaShem desired that the inauguration of the Mishkan should be in Nissan, the month when Yitzchak was born. What is the association between Yitzchak and the month of Nissan? We normally view freedom as liberation and release from powers that until now have been dominating us. On a deeper level, however, the Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 41:7) teaches us that when the Jewish People received the Torah, they merited being free from the angel of death. We find elsewhere in the Gemara (Bava Basra 16a) that the angel of death and the Evil Inclination are one and the same. Regarding the inauguration of the Mishkan, it is said (Vayikra 9:6) vayomer Moshe zeh hadavar asher tzivah HaShem taasu viyeira aleichem kevod HaShem, Moshe said: this is the thing that HaShem has commanded you to do; then the glory of HaShem will appear to you. In a surprising interpretation of this verse, the Toras Kohanim (Ibid) states: Moshe informed the Jewish People that if you remove that Evil Inclination (of idolatry - commentary of Chafetz Chaim Ibid) from your midst, then you will merit the revelation of HaShem’s glory. Thus, the removal of the Evil Inclination and the revelation of HaShem’s Presence are directly connected. The Medrash (Rashi Bereishis 28:13 quoting Tanchumah) states that the Evil Inclination of Yitzchak was removed from him. Furthermore, Reb Tzadok HaKohen from Lublin writes that when the Gemara states that this matter was heard mipi haGevurah, from the Almighty, it alludes to the idea of Yitzchak. We can now begin to understand why HaShem chose to have the dedication of the Mishkan occur in the month of Nissan. Nissan was the month that Yitzchak was born, and Yitzchak merited completely subduing his Evil Inclination. When the Jewish People received the Torah, they merited having their Evil Inclination removed from them, and this was also HaShem’s desire regarding the inauguration of the Mishkan. Sadly, Nadav and Avihu did not live up to this task on their level, and they perished inside the Holy of Holies. Nonetheless, HaShem’s will was accomplished, and Moshe informed Aharon that Nadav and Avihu were greater than Moshe and Aharon. There is no question that Nadav and Avihu attempted to completely subdue their Evil Inclination and transform themselves to the state of Adam HaRishon before the sin of eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. In a similar vein, when we enter the month of Nissan, it is incumbent upon us to attempt the complete subjugation of our Evil Inclination. This is the meaning of true freedom. If we wonder why we are still subjugated to other powers, it is because we have not yet succeeded in overcoming our Evil Inclination. The Gemara (Brachos 17a) clearly links the Evil Inclination and the subjugation of the nations together. In this month of redemption, Nissan, we must attempt to emulate our forefather Yitzchak, who subdued his Evil Inclination, and then we will merit true freedom from the angel of death and from the nations who subjugate us. It should be Hashem’s Will that this Pesach we merit the true redemption with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Vinihyeh michubadim bieinecha uvienei chol roeinu ki atah hu Melech HaKovod ki lecho naeh ki lecho yaeh, may we be honored in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us, for You are the King of Glory-for to You it is seemly, for to You it is fitting! We have previously requested from HaShem that we find favor and good understanding in His eyes and in the eyes of all of mankind. Here we beseech HaShem that we be honored in his eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. Perhaps we can interpret this request homiletically to mean that we wish to be akin to the Jewish People in the Wilderness, who were surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, and thus they could not be seen (Baal HaTurim Bamidbar 22:5). We therefore request that we should be worthy in HaShem’s eyes that he protect us from the evil eyes of the nations, and those who merit to see us should see us as honorable. This is similar to the Gemara (Brachos 6a) that states regarding the verse (Devarim 28:10) virau kol amei haaretz ki sheim HaShem nikra alecho veyaru mimeka, then all the peoples of the earth will see that the Name of HaShem is proclaimed over you, and they will revere you. The Gemara interprets this verse to be referring to a Jew who wears Tefillin on his head. When a Jew is meritorious, he will be deemed so distinguished by the nations of the world that they will fear him.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Ain aroch lecho HaShem Elokeinu baolam hazeh, there is no comparison to You, HaShem, our G-d, in this world. We are wont to express our admiration of great people as godly or angelic. Yet, in this passage we declare that there is no comparison to HaShem in this world. Why, then, do we compare the righteous and the learned to HaShem? Perhaps it is precisely for this reason that we must liken them to HaShem. HaShem has no comparison in this world, so how can we serve Him if we cannot relate to Him? Hashem therefore chose to grant us Torah scholars and righteous people who we can admire, and then we can truly acknowledge that if these people are so great and righteous, then how much more so must we be cognizant of the idea that no one can compare to HaShem.

Shabbos Story

In the years before the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the Tzaddik of Jerusalem, would visit the inmates of the British-controlled Jerusalem prison on every Shabbos. Though most of the Jewish prisoners were not observant, they would quickly don kippot before the revered Rabbi would greet them. Then they would join in the Shabbos Morning Prayer service that Reb Aryeh organized and they would read along with the rabbi, as if they were observant Jews. The entire scene agitated one particularly nasty fellow named Yaakov. He would try in every way to irritate the gentle Rabbi. Each Shabbos, he would purposely light up a cigarette in Reb Aryeh's face in order to disturb him. Reb Aryeh was never fazed. One Shabbos, Yaakov stormed into the makeshift synagogue and snapped at the aged Rabbi. “Why do you waste your time with these liars and fakes? They are no more observant than I am. They only put the kippah on their heads when you come here. Furthermore, they only pray and open their lips to G-d when you are here. Otherwise they have no feeling in their hearts!” Reb Aryeh turned to Yaakov and rebuked him with a firm but gentle voice. “Why do you slander these souls? They come to pray every single week. I do not look at their heads but rather in their hearts. And when I hear the prayers coming from their lips, I know that their hearts are following as well.” It was not long before Yaakov became a steady member of the prayer group.

Shabbos in Navi

Shoftim Chapter 7

In this chapter the Navi records the amazing victory that Gideon achieved with three hundred men over Midian. The reason that only these three hundred men were chosen to wage battle was because they were not idolaters. The Gemara (Eiruvin 69b) states that one who desecrates the Shabbos is akin to one who worships idols. We must strengthen our Shabbos observance and then we will merit the fulfillment of the Gemara (Shabbos 118b) that states that had the Jewish People only observed the first Shabbos in the Wilderness, no race or nation could have assailed them.

Shabbos in Agadah

This week is the Shabbos before Pesach. Although there are no special readings this Shabbos, we must realize that every day in the month of Nissan, and Shabbos in particular, is an opportunity for repentance. The Sar Shalom from Belz writes that the custom of drawing water from the river for the baking of matzos is based on the idea that on Rosh HaShanah, we cast our sins in to the river. On Rosh HaShanah, however, our intentional sins are transformed into unintentional sins, as Rosh HaShanah is a time for repentance out of fear of HaShem. Pesach, however, is a time when we repent out of love for HaShem. Thus, we go to the river and draw out, so to speak, our sins from Rosh HaShanah that have been cast into the water, and we repent out of love.

Shabbos in Halacha

When a pot is over the flame it is forbidden to scoop out any food, even if the food has been cooked. The reason for this prohibition is because scooping food from a pot is akin to stirring, as it is inevitable that the food will be somewhat stirred every time the spoon is inserted. In order to avoid the prohibition of stirring, one should lift up the pot or move it to an area on the blech that is not directly over the flame while scooping out the food. An example of this is when serving cholent on Friday night, one must lift the pot or move the pot off the flame while doling out the cholent.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

The Shabbos prior to Pesach is referred to as Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Shabbos. Perhaps a reason why it is referred to as Shabbos HaGadol is because the word HaGadol (hey is 5, gimmel is 3, dalet is 4, vav is 6 and lamed is 30) in gematria is 48 and Torah is acquired with the 48 attributes mentioned in Pirkei Avos (6:6). The Zohar states that a Torah scholar is in the category of Shabbos. Prior to the Exodus from Egypt it is said (Shemos 11:3) vayitein HaShem es chein haam bieinei Mitzrayim gam haish Moshe gadol meod bieretz Mitzrayim bieinei avdei Pharaoh uvienei haam, HaShem granted the people favor in the eyes of Egypt; moreover, the man Moshe was very great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of the servants of Pharaoh and in the eyes of the people. Thus, Moshe, who was in the category of Shabbos, was gadol¸ great, in the eyes of all. To allude to this idea we refer to this Shabbos as Shabbos HaGadol, i.e. the Shabbos of the great one, Moshe.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Metzora 5768

is sponsored lizchus all the cholim in Klal Yisroel.

May HaShem send them all a Refuah Sheleima.

Shabbos hi milizok urefuah kerovah lavo.

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

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

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