Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bamidbar 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bamidbar 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this weeks parashah the Torah discusses the encampment of the Jewish People in the desert. The Sfas Emes (Bashalach 5645) writes something extraordinary regarding the generation that sojourned in the desert. The manna is referred to in the Torah as lechem min hashamayim, bread from heaven (Shemos 16:4). Based on a Medrash, the Sfas Emes posits that that the manna that the Jewish People ate in the desert was from the Torah itself. This bread was in a sense a preparation, akin to Adam who was placed in Gan Eden as a test. Had Adam resisted the temptation of the Serpent and not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, he would have been allowed to eat from the Tree of Life. Similarly, upon the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish People were worthy of the Tree of Life, and thus they were given manna which the Gemara (Yoma 75b) describes as bread that the angels eat. 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. This is derived from the fact that it is said (Shemos 16:27) vayehi bayom hashevii yatzu min ham lilkot vilo matzau, it happened on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, and they did not find. Further on it is said (Ibid 17:8) vayavo Amalek vayilachem im Yisroel biRefidim, Amalek came and battled Israel in Rephidim. The Sfas Emes explains that when the Gemara refers to the first Shabbos, it alludes to the true first Shabbos, i.e. the first Shabbos in history. Hashem placed Adam HaRishon in Gan Eden with the intention of allowing man complete rest in this world. In truth, every Shabbos contains the light from that first Shabbos, and it is for this reason that the neshama yeseira, the extra soul that one receives with the onset of Shabbos, descends from Gan Eden, and this is referred to as menuchah, rest. In the Wilderness this first Shabbos would have been rectified completely had Amalek not interfered. It is for this reason that we must always remember what Amalek did to us. The Sfas Emes interprets the above mentioned verse homiletically. It is said (Shemos 16:27) yatzu min ham lilkot, some of the people went out to gather. The Sfas Emes explains that prior to this incident we do not find that the Jewish People violated the Shabbos. Rather, when the Jewish People went out to gather the manna every day, it was performed with tremendous diveikus, cleaving to HaShem. The weekday of the Jewish People in the desert was loftier than the observance of Shabbos in future generations. It was for this reason that when they went out to gather on Shabbos, they did not perceive this as a violation of Shabbos, as their observance of Shabbos was on a very high level. The words of the Sfas Emes should serve as a penetrating lesson for us. Our weekday is certainly not on the level of the weekday that the Jewish People experienced in the desert. We should at least receive the Shabbos in a state of holiness and purity, and then we will merit the Ultimate Redemption and the Resurrection of the Dead, when the Jewish People will be reunited for eternity.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Ulihisaneig biyeser nishmasi asher nasata bi, and to take pleasure in the additional soul which You have emplaced within me. This passage is very enlightening. We may all be cognizant of the fact that on Shabbos HaShem grants us a neshama yeseira, an extra soul, but we tend to forget that it is a mitzvah to take pleasure in that soul. Rashi (Beitzah 16a s.v. neshama yeseira) explains that the extra soul is provided for an expansion of rest and joy, and that one can eat and drink without becoming disgusted. The purpose of this extra physical capability, however, is certainly not an end in itself. Rather, the physical indulgences are to be used as a vehicle to attain spiritual heights. Hashem should allow us to recognize the great gift of Shabbos with its built-in device of the neshama yeseira that allows us to ascend high on the spiritual ladder.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Daas usevunah sovivim hodo, wisdom and insight surround His glory. This passage appears to be kabalistic in nature, but I would like to suggest a simple explanation. Daas, knowledge, is the synthesis of chochmah, wisdom, and binah, intellect. We declare that wisdom and insight surround HaShem’s glory. HaShem’s glory is the Jewish People and the prayers that we offer to HaShem. We laud HaShem in that He has accepted our prayers in that He has, so to speak, internalized our prayers, similar to our perception of daas, knowledge. Furthermore, we praise HaShem that He allows us to continue to pray to Him, and this is symbolized with tevunah, insight, as one who prays and has his prayers accepted will surely seek out new approaches to have his prayers accepted in the future.

Shabbos Story

Rabbi Abraham Twerski writes: The Yiddish word for a good deed is mitzvah, as in, “Harry takes Mrs. Solomon every day to the park. This is some mitzvah!” The denotation is good deed, but the connotation is much larger; it is the milieu and the spirit accompanying the performance of the deed... The second meaning of mitzvah is connection. That stands to reason. When we show kindness to another, a bridge is built between us and them. Follow the Golden Rule to its logical conclusion and you will have formed relations with the many people for whom you harbor good feelings. The selfish life is one that pampers only the body; the spiritual life emphasizes expression of the soul. When we do for others we are setting aside ourselves, which is a spiritual deed. Good deeds therefore help dissolve the barrier between one person and another and allow us to briefly become one. Some people seek ways in which to become one with the universe, which can be achieved through meditation or, if one wishes to be delusional, through the ingestion of chemicals. A far greater achievement is to become one with others. The optimal way to accomplish this is through mitzvah. The following story is true, for I witnessed it with my own eyes. It forever convinced me how important it is for human beings to connect, no matter how “far gone” we might think they are. Humans need to reach each other. Early in my career I served as a psychiatrist in a large state hospital where there were hundreds of mentally ill patients, some of whom had been there for many years. Medical students would visit the hospital periodically and I would tour the facility with them, pointing out “museum pieces,” i.e., cases that are described in psychiatric literature but rarely encountered outside of an institution. On touring a chronic care building, I pointed out a man who was the most "senior" patient in the hospital. He had been admitted 52 years earlier at the age of 17 with the diagnosis “dementia praecox,” because the term schizophrenia had not yet been coined. This man was mute, his records showing that he had not spoken a single word in 52 years. The patient had a routine whereby following breakfast he would go to a corner of the community room and assume an absurd contorted position with his hands directed upward, and he would maintain this position for hours until he was called to lunch. Following lunch he would return to this position until supper, and thereafter until bedtime. Neither talk therapy nor medications nor electroshock treatment had served to alter this behavior, which he had maintained all these years. No amount of urging could get him to sit down except at mealtime, and he often developed edema of his feet as a result of his immobility and his posture. On one of the medical students' visits one young man asked if he could talk to the patient. “Certainly,” I said, wondering what impact he thought he could make on this patient when decades of psychiatric efforts had failed. The student approached the patient and said, “You must be tired. Go sit down.” The man gave him a blank stare and did not move. The student then assumed the contorted position of the patient, equaling his posture with great precision, and then said, “I’ll stand here like this. You can go sit down.” Without a word, the patient sat down on a bench for the first time in 52 years! While it is impossible to know what was going on in this man's mind, it is likely that his delusion may have been that by assuming this particular position, he was holding up the universe, and he clearly could not submit to all entreaties to leave that position, lest the world collapse. (You may ask, as we all did, why did he leave to eat and sleep? But there was no rationale to this behavior.) For all those years no one had understood this person until this ingenious medical student solved the mystery. But why? Granted this was irrational behavior, but what we suddenly understood was that this unusual behavior had great meaning to the patient, but no one had tried to understand it. The strange behavior was just dismissed as “crazy” and no more consideration was given it or him. But by showing this patient compassion and understanding, the medical student gained a mitzvah; he showed kindness and allowed the patient to feel some relief. Further, a connection was formed between the irrational mind and the rational. Who knows how far such an understanding might have gone if it had happened many years before. Understanding another, no matter how far apart our beliefs might be is a mitzvah in both senses of the word -- a kindness and a connection. If more often more of us tried to build this bridge there's no telling where such kindness might take us. Think about it the next time someone around you acts in a way you can’t immediately understand. Reprinted with permission from [Reprinted with permission]

Shabbos in Navi

Shoftim Chapter 14

In this chapter the Navi begins to record Shimshon’s escapades against the Plishtim. The first episode was when Shimshon posed a riddle to the Plishtim, wagering them that if they could solver the riddle, he would provide them with thirty sheets and thirty changes of clothing. If they could not solve the riddle, then they would provide him with thirty sheets and thirty changes of clothing. They could not solve the riddle but they threatened Shimshon’s wife to reveal the solution to the riddle or they would burn her and her father’s house with fire. Shimshon thus lost the wager but he was so incensed at the Plishtim’s treachery that he killed thirty men in Ashkelon and he took their garments and changes of clothing and gave them to the men who had solved the riddle. One lesson that we can learn from this incident is that we must be careful in our relationships with the gentile world. Too often we believe they are on our side, when in reality, they may act with treachery, as they did with Shimshon. In the Shacharis prayers of Shabbos we recite the words vilo nisato HaShem Elokeinu ligoyei haaratzos vilo hinchalto malkeinu liovdei fisilim vigam bimnuchaso lo yishkenu areilim ki liYisroel amchah nisato beahavah lizera Yaakov asher bam bacharta, You did not give it, Hashem, our G-d, to the nations of the lands, nor did you make it the inheritance, our King, of the worshippers of graven idols. And in its contentment the uncircumcised shall not abide. For to Israel, Your people, have you given it in love, to the seed of Yaakov, whom You have chosen. HaShem should allow us to appreciate the gift that He has bestowed upon us, His Chosen Nation, and we should bask in the elevated spirituality of the Holy Shabbos.

Shabbos in Agadah

Rabbi Menachem Mendel from Rimanov writes (Menachem Tziyon Parashas HaMan page 47) that there is a custom that a parent blesses his children on Friday night. The idea behind this blessing is that HaShem in His glory blesses us and acquiesces to the blessing. This is the meaning of idea that the Torah states that HaShem rested on the seventh day. Shabbos is in the category of a man (See Brachos 47b) and HaShem, so to speak, rests in the seventh category, which is the mouth that speaks (see there for further explanation).

Shabbos in Halacha

Hot plates, urns and all appliances that operate at a single temperature, and cannot be adjusted, may be used without a blech. Adjustable hot plates should be covered with a sheet of aluminum foil. Similar to stove tops, it is proper to also cover the temperature-control knob. Regarding urns, there is no way to cover the heating element. Thus, one cannot use an adjustable urn unless the water has been boiled, and is above 160º F at the onset of Shabbos.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

It is said (Shemos 16) that the measurement of the manna in the desert for each person was an omer, which was a tenth of an ephah. It is also said (Ibid) that the manna did not fall on Shabbos, and the Jewish People gathered a double portion on Friday, which was also used for Shabbos. It is noteworthy that the word omer, in mispar katan, digit sum, equals 13, and the word echod, one, equals 13. Shabbos is referred to in the Zohar (Prayer of kegavna, recited by Nusach Sefard on Friday night) as the raza diechod, the Secret of Oneness.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bamidbar 5768

Is sponsored by the Meissner family

In loving memory of Avraham Ben Tzvi Baruch ob”m

Niftar 3 Sivan 5758

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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