Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Behar 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Behar 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this week’s parashah the Torah discusses the laws of Shemittah, where every seventh year we are obligated to let the land in Eretz Yisroel lie fallow. The standard explanation for the rationale behind this mitzvah is that by allowing the land to rest, we are demonstrating our subservience to HaShem. It takes a quite a bit of faith for a farmer to refrain from working his field for an entire year, and the Torah states that HaShem will provide blessings for the sixth, seventh and eighth years when the land is allowed to rest. The Zohar, however, as a dimension to resting during the Shemittah year. The Zohar (beginning of Behar) states that Rabbi Elazar said that every Jew that is circumcised and has the holy impression on him has within him the rest of Shemittah. This is because the Shemittah belongs to the one who is circumcised, and this is referred to as Shabbos haaretz, the resting of the land. There is certainly freedom and rest within. Just like Shabbos is the resting of all, so too Shemittah is the resting of all. What is the association between circumcision and Shemittah? How can it be that one who is circumcised is deemed to be at rest? It is well-known (see Moreh Nevuchim 3:49) that one of the reasons for the mitzvah of circumcision is to weaken ones physical desires. When one weakens his physical desires, he is demonstrating an increase in his trust in HaShem, Who is his true source of strength. In a similar vein, one works the land for six straight years and then on the seventh year he allows the land to rest. This rest essentially gives strength to the land, and additionally, it strengthens the faith of the Jew who allows the land to rest. It is said in the name of the Maharal that circumcision is deemed to be sustaining and it is for this reason that during the time of famine, Yosef instructed the Egyptians to circumcise themselves. When the Egyptians would be circumcised, they would demonstrate a restraint of their physical desires, and this would reflect their faith in a Supreme Being. Yosef certainly wished that the Egyptians should acknowledge the existence of One G-d, and not be subservient to their various gods and idols. Thus, we see that circumcision and allowing the land to rest are connected, as both these acts demonstrate an increase in ones faith in HaShem as the Source of his strength and success. Similarly, as the Zohar explicitly states, Shabbos is the one day of the week when one abandons all physical pursuits and engages in spiritual activities. There can be no clearer demonstration of forsaking ones physical desires and abilities and relying on HaShem as His source of strength than one who observes Shabbos. HaShem should, allow us to rest on Shabbos and for those who live in Eretz Yisroel to observe the Shemittah properly, and then we will merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Vaaid asher barasa bishisha yamim kol hayetzur, I bore witness that in six days You created the entire universe. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states that one whoever prays on Friday night and recites vayechulu is akin to being a partner with HaShem in creation. The Maharshah explains that by reciting vayechulu one is testifying that HaShem is the creator and is deemed to be a partner in creation. It is noteworthy that the word for a witness is aid, and it is said (Yeshaya 26:4) bitchu vaHaShem adei ad ki bikah HaShem tzur HaOlamim, trust in HaShem, forever, for in G-d, HaShem, is the strength of the worlds. It is said that the word ad, translated as forever, is one of the Names of HaShem. Thus, we are instructed to trust in HaShem until His Name. This is in line with the idea that we testify to HaShem being the Creator, as our testimony unites us with HaShem.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Baruch umevorach bifi kol haneshomah, the Blessed One and He is blessed by the mouth of every soul. If HaShem is the Blessed One, is it not obvious that He is blessed because every soul blesses Him? The Gemara (Yevamos 63a) states that the word baruch, translated as blessed, is associated with the word mavrich, which means to graft. Essentially, when one is “blessing” HaShem, he is connecting himself to HaShem. Thus, it is understandable why we declare that HaShem is blessed and He is blessed by the mouth of every soul. When we bless HaShem, we are demonstrating that we are “grafted” to HaShem.

Shabbos Story

In the first volume of his prolific Maggid series Rabbi Paysach Krohn relates the following story. It was a cold and blustery day and Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, the dean of the Eitz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem, was returning home from a long day in the Yeshiva. Accompanied by his nephew, Reb Dovid Finkel, who normally walked him home, Rabbi Meltzer began to ascend the steps to his Jerusalem apartment. Suddenly, Reb Isser Zalman stopped and retreated down the old staircase as if he had forgotten something. As he reached the street, he began to wander aimlessly back and forth, in thought. His nephew began to question the strange actions of the Torah sage. “Did Reb Isser Zalman forget something?” “Why didn’t he enter the home?” The winds began to blow, and despite the chill Reb Isser Zalman walked back and forth outside his home. About 15 minutes passed and once again, Rabbi Meltzer walked slowly up the stairs, waited, and then headed back down. His nephew could not contain himself. “Please, Rebbe,” he pleaded. “What’s the matter?” Reb Isser Zalman just shrugged and said, “just wait a few more moments. Please.” “But, uncle, it’s getting cold. Please answer me. What are you waiting for?” Rabbi Meltzer realized that he could no longer keep his motivations to himself. “I’ll explain. As I walked up the steps I heard the young woman who comes once a week to help with the housework in the kitchen. She was mopping the floor and singing while she mopped. I knew that if I were to walk in she would have become embarrassed and stopped her singing. The singing helps her through her work, and I did not want to make her work any bit harder, let alone deny her the joy of her singing. Despite the cold, I decided to wait outside until she finishes her work and her song. Then I’ll go in.”

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein of Binei Brak tells the story of Rav Eliezer Shach, the Ponovezer Rosh Yeshiva, of blessed memory. Rav Shach once entered a shul and sat down in a seat towards the back, and, while waiting for the minyan to begin, Rav Shach began to study Torah. Suddenly a man approached him, hands on his hips, and began shouting at him. “Don’t you know that you are sitting in my seat?” the irate man yelled. “Who are you to come here and just sit down, without asking anyone permission?” Rav Shach quickly stood up and embraced the man. He hugged him lovingly as he begged the man for forgiveness. He agreed to the irate man’s every point. “I am so sorry for taking your seat even if it was for a few moments,” he pleaded. Please forgive me. I must have absent-mindedly sat down there. Please forgive me. The man was taken aback at the Rosh Yeshiva’s humility, and immediately apologized for his rude behavior. “After the davening, students of Rav Shach approached him and asked why he so readily accepted blame and begged forgiveness for what surely was not a misdeed. After all, why should he not be able to sit down in the seat. Rav Shach explained, “If Torah is all that one aspires to have, then everything else in this world, all the items one would normally squabble about has no significance. When one is immersed in Torah, a seat is meaningless, a place is meaningless. Surely a material object is not worth getting upset over, surely no less are they worth fighting over. Why shouldn’t I apologize?” [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos in Navi

Shoftim Chapter 12

In this chapter the Navi records the civil war that occurred between Yiftach along with Gilead and the tribe of Ephraim. It is said that Ephraim lost forty-two thousand people in this battle. The Navi then records that following Yiftach, Ivtzan from Bais Lechem judged the Jewish People. The Gemara (Bava Basra 91a) states that Ivtzan was Boaz, who married Rus and Dovid HaMelech was a descendant from that union. It is noteworthy that that it is said (Shoftim 12:8) vayishpot acharav es Yisroel Ivtzan mibeis lachem, after him, Ivtzan of Bais Lechem judged Israel. The first letters of the words vayishpot acharav es Yisroel equal in mispar katan, digit sum, 9 and the word Shabbos in mispar katan equals 9. Additionally, the first letters of the words Yisroel Ivtzan mibeis lachem in mispar katan equal 9. We can suggest that this verse alludes to Shabbos, as the Gemara states that if the Jewish People were to observe two Shabbosos properly, we would be redeemed. The words Ivtzan mibeis lachem can be read as botzeia (to cut) mibeis, (two, as the letter beis stands for the number 2) and lechem is bread, thus alluding to the mitzvah of reciting hamotzi on lechem mishneh two loaves of bread, on Shabbos. Were all of the Jewish People to observe and honor the Shabbos properly, then Dovid the son of Yishai whose origins are from Beis Lechem, will arrive, speedily in our days.

Shabbos in Agadah

The Gerrer Rebbe, the Lev Simcha (Emor page 51) writes that Pesach is referred to as Shabbos, and regarding the counting of the Omer the Torah states (Vayikra 23:15) sheva Shabbosos and not sheva Shavuos, two weeks, despite the fact that the word Shabbosos in this case means weeks. Nonetheless, this alludes to the idea that everything, including the festivals, draw their source from Shabbos. It is said further (Ibid verse 16) ad mimacharas haShabbos hasheviis , until the morrow of the seventh week, and this Shabbos alludes to the Shabbos of the future, when the entire Jewish People will observe two Shabbosos and we will merit the Ultimate Redemption.

Shabbos in Halacha

In our times it is prevalent to maintain food on the stove top by covering the flame with a sheet of metal known as a blech. This is akin to ketimah, covering the ashes, as one is not likely to adjust a flame that is thus covered. Some halachic authorities rule that as an added stringency, one should also cover the knobs that control the flame. It is appropriate to follow this ruling. One should not concoct an original method for avoiding the concern of adjusting the flame. One can only cover the flame with a blech. Merely covering the knobs alone or any similar idea would not allow one to maintain food on an open flame.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

The word used for the Sabbatical year is Shemittah. It is noteworthy that the word shamot in mispar katan, digit sum, equals 16 (shin is 300 which is 3, mem is 40 which is 4 and tes is 9, 3+4+9=16 and 1+6=7, which is Shabbos, the seventh day of the week. Shemittah is very similar to Shabbos in that Shabbos is the seventh day of the week and Shemittah is the seventh year of the cycle, and just like one cannot work on Shabbos, one cannot work the field during the Shemittah year.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Behar 5768

Is sponsored in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of Akiva Benjamin of Southfield, Michigan

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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