Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this week’s parashah the Torah records the rebellion that Korach staged against Moshe. Every year we are confounded by the audacity of Korach and his entourage as they attempt to persuade the Jewish People that Korach is the correct person for the job, i.e. leading the Jewish People and Moshe and Aharon should step down. One may be led to draw a parallel of this scenario to the current Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, where there have been suggestions in the past that the Arab people could actually govern themselves without requiring any assistance from the Israeli government. Anyone who is logical would realize that this situation would be untenable and the civilized land would instantly be transformed to chaos and anarchy. Similarly, had Korach assumed the leadership position, it is possible that he would have undermined the basic tenets of the Torah and lead the entire nation towards apostasy. How, then, can we understand what Korach had intended and what the Jewish People were hoping to gain from this revolt? It is well-known that any person who is mentioned in Scripture was of a high spiritual level. This is despite the appearance of an apparently glaring deficiency that this person may have had in his character. Regarding Korach Rashi quotes the Medrash that states that Korach was a piekeiach, literally translated as a smart person. The word piekeiach, however, has another meaning, as we recite in the morning blessings that HaShem is pokeiach ivrim, He opens the eyes of those who cannot see. Thus, Korach had far-reaching vision, to the point where he saw in a vision that the great prophet Shmuel would be one of his descendants, and this led Korach to believe that this greatness should descend from him. It is noteworthy that at Sinai, it is said (Shemos 20:15) vichol haam roim es hakolos vies halapidim vies hahar ashein vayar haam vayanuu vayaamdu meirachok, the entire people saw the thunder and the flames, the sound of the shofar and the smoking mountain; the people saw and trembled and stood from afar. The Jewish People all saw sounds, which is ordinarily impossible for a human being to perceive. Korach claimed that the entire nation is holy, and as Rashi comments, Korach declared that the entire Jewish People had heard the commandments at Sinai. Yet, Korach, by pursuing his dreams of grandeur, demonstrated that his perception of holy matters had become distorted. At the end of last week’s parashah, Shelach, it is said (Bamidbar 15:39) vihayah lachem litzitzis urisem oso uzchartem es kol mitzvos HaShem vaasisem osam vilo sasuru acharei livavchem viacharei eineichem asher atem zonim achareihem, it shall constitute tzitzis for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of HaShem and perform them; and not explore after your heart and after your eyes which you stray. The Medrash states that the color of techeiles, blue-dyed wool that is used on the tzitzis, is similar in color to the sea. The Sea is akin to the firmament, and the firmament is similar to the Heavenly Throne. Thus, by gazing at the tzitzis, or more specifically, at the significance of the mitzvah of tzitzis, one can reach a level where he is aware of HaShem’s Presence in his life. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:3) states that the juxtaposition of the parashah of tzitzis to the parashah of Korach is that Korach scorned the mitzvah of tzitzis. Korach accomplished this when he and two hundred and fifty men from his entourage donned clothing that was comprised completely of techeiles and approached Moshe. They asked Moshe, “do these garments require that tzitzis be hung on them?” Moshe responded in the affirmative, whereby Korach mockingly declared, “if a garment that is completely comprised of techeiles is required to have tzitzis, can four strings absolve one's obligation of tzitzis?’ Here again is an example of how Korach’s perception was distorted. Instead of utilizing techeiles as an opportunity to be cognizant of HaShem’s Presence in his life, Korach chose to scorn HaShem and His Torah. Thus, Korach wished to prove to the Jewish People that everything was a matter of perspective. This is similar to the claims that we hear in our times that the Torah is Heaven forbid, open to interpretation. Nothing could be further from the truth. HaShem gave us the Torah and the mitzvos contained within as a vehicle to come closer to Him and not as a pretense to scorn Him and the Torah. Similarly, HaShem bestowed upon His Chosen Nation His Holy Shabbos, a day when we can perceive far more than we are capable of perceiving during the week. It is said (Shemos 16:29) riu ki HaShem nasan lachem haShabbos al kein hu nosein lachem bayom hashishi lechem yomayim shevu ish tachtav al yeitzei ish mimekomo bayom hashevii, see that HaShem has given you the Shabbos; that is why He gives you on the sixth day a two-day portion of bread. Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day. The Medrash (Medrash Tehillim §92) states that Shlomo HaMelech contemplated all seven days of the week and he was able to find fault with the creation of six days but he could not find fault with the Shabbos, as it is a day of complete holiness and rest. Nonetheless, one who violates the Shabbos is punished with death, so even regarding Shabbos, Shlomo HaMelech declared that it is haveil havalim, futility of futilities (Koheles 1:2). This teaches us that we must have the correct perspective of everything holy, and when we observe the Shabbos properly, HaShem will reward us beyond our expectations.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Malachei hashalom boachem lishalom barchuni lishalom viimru baruch lishulchnai hearuch vitzeischem lishalom meiatah viad olam amen selah, O, Angels of peace, come in peace. Bless us in peace. Pronounce ‘Blessed’ upon my prepared table. Take leave in peace, now and forever. Amen. Selah. This passage appears to be an elaborated version of shalom aleichem, where we greet the ministering angels, request their blessing and then bid them farewell. The Gemara (Brachos 64a) states that when one departs from his friend, he should not use the words leich bishalom, go in peace. Rather, one should bid his friend farewell with the words leich lishalom, go to peace. One must wonder, however, why we greet the angels with the word lishalom and we bid them farewell with the word lishalom, to peace. Perhaps the answer to this question is that the Mishna (Avos 4:11) states that when one performs a mitzvah, he creates an angel who is an advocate on his behalf. We therefore address the angels with the words leich lishalom, go to peace, as these words imply that one is ascending higher, and it is our hope that the angels that we have created through our mitzvos will advocate on our behalf and allow us to ascend the spiritual ladder.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Chesed virachamaim malei chevodo, kindness and mercy fill His glory. The glory of HaShem, according to our perception, is when we emulate His ways. Thus, when we act with kindness and mercy to others, we are, so to speak, filling HaShem’s glory.

Shabbos Story

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: In the mid 1800’s, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel of Aishishok served as the Rav of the town of Rassein, a small village near Kownus, Lithuania. A brilliant scholar and the author of the Amudei Aish, the community revered him and afforded him the utmost respect. Unfortunately, the Czar government of that era had different visions for a rabbi and appointed their own lackey, a puppet of the state known as a Rav Mitaam. The Rav Mitaam served as the official liaison to the Russian Government and any official dictate or transaction, having to do with Judaism, went only through the Rav Mitaam. Unfortunately for that Rabbi, the townsfolk knew of his very limited capabilities, and relegated him to a seat in the middle of the congregation near the Bimah as opposed to the traditional place up front near the Holy Ark. But one week the young designate decided that he had enough. He wanted to be afforded the same dignity as Rabbi Avraham Shmuel. He woke up early that Shabbos and came to shul before anyone arrived. He sat himself down in the seat designated for Rabbi Avraham Shmuel next to the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark). No one had the nerve to say anything to him for fear of government reprisal. During that era, immediately before Musaf, all congregations throughout Russia said a special prayer on behalf of the Government and Czar Nikolai. That week the chazzan, it is not known whether it was an orchestrated ploy or a lapse in memory, forgot to say the prayer. He was about to continue with the Musaf service when suddenly an elderly Jew, a former cantonist soldier who was captured as a youngster and forced to serve in the Czar's army for many years, jumped up from his seat and charged toward the front of the synagogue. He began raining blows on the official designated rabbi, the Rav Mitaam. “What kind of Rabbi are you!” he shouted. “How dare you allow the chazzan to forget the prayer on behalf of our benevolent leader? I served the Czar faithfully for twenty years and you forget to bless him?!” The congregants joined the fray, some trying to separate the older soldier from the bedazzled rabbi, others getting in the blows they always longed to afford the government appointed rabbi. It was not long before the police arrived, and arrested the soldier, who was dragged out of the synagogue, yelling and hollering about the lack of honor afforded his Majesty. “After all the years I worked for the czar, I will not allow this poor excuse for a rabbi, to belittle the dignity of His Majesty!” The local policeman could not decide the fate of the soldier who struck a government official, to defend the honor of the Czar. Finally the case was brought to the Governor General of the region who asked the “rabbi” to defend his inaction. “You see,” stammered the Rabbi, “I was sitting very far from the Bimah and I truly did not hear the chazzan skip, the prayer. After all, I was sitting next to the Holy Ark all the way up front!” The decision came down from the governor’s office. No more would the official Rabbi be allowed to sit up front. From now on, he must sit amongst the people to make sure that all the prayers are said correctly. [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos in Navi

Shoftim Chapter 18

In this chapter we learn how the tribe of Dan conquered the city of Layish and they also took the ephod, the icons and the carved image from the house of Michah. The children of Dan then set up for themselves the carved image and Yehonasan the son of Gershom the son of Menasheh – he and his children – were priests for the tribe of Dan until the land was exiled. The Gemara (Bava Basra 109b) states that Yehonasan was really a descendant of Moshe, but because he acted like Menasheh who worshipped idols, Scripture refers to him as the son of Menasheh. The Gemara derives from here that one should always attach himself to good people, as Moshe married the daughter of Yisro and Yehonasan was his descendant. This Gemara is mind-boggling, as Moshe was the greatest prophet whoever lived. Nonetheless, because he attached himself to Yisro, who had worshipped all the idols in the world, he was punished, so to speak, with having Yehonasan as his descendant. In a similar vein, we can suggest that one not underestimate the holiness of Shabbos. One must realize that Shabbos is not merely a day of rest. Rather, HaShem drew a clear distinction between Shabbos and the rest of the week, and this should encourage us to prepare for Shabbos throughout the week. When Shabbos arrives, we should view ourselves as if we are in a completely different world. In this manner, HaShem will allow us to reach unprecedented levels of holiness and purity.

Shabbos in Agadah

It is said regarding the mitzvah of tzitzis (Bamidbar 15:40) limaan tizkiru vaasisem es kol mitzvosai vihiyisem kedoshim lElokeichem, so that you may remember and perform all My commandments and be holy to your G-d. The Gerrer Rebbe, the Pinei Menachem (Parashas Shelach page 95) cites Targum Yonasan who renders the words ‘and be holy’ to mean that one should be akin to the ministering angels who serve HaShem upon high. The Pinei Menachem cites his holy brother, the Lev Simcha, who quotes Rashi who writes that the ministering angels also wear tzitzis. The Pinei Menachem suggests that this can mean that the righteous who wear tzitzis are spiritually elevated, as we find regarding Rabbi Yehudah bar Illai, of whom the Gemara (Shabbos 25b) states that prior to the onset of Shabbos, he would wash himself and then he would warp himself and wear garments of linen with tzitzis attached. He would then take on the appearance of a ministering angel. This was specifically on Erev Shabbos, a time of holiness for Torah scholars. Furthermore, Rabbi Yehudah bar Illai accepted upon himself the holiness of Shabbos. and one is also required to wear tzitzis on Shabbos.

Shabbos in Halacha

We have previously mentioned that there is a question regarding the definition of ‘the food of Ben Drusoai.’ Some Poskim rule that food is deemed to be edible when it is one-third cooked. Accordingly, food that is one third cooked prior to the onset of Shabbos (i.e. it has been heated past yad soledes bo for one-third of it usual cooking time) can be maintained on a flame without a blech. Other Poskim, however, maintain that only half-cooked food is deemed to be edible and a blech is required unless the food had been half-cooked prior to the onset of Shabbos (i.e. heated for half its cooking time). Following the more stringent opinion, one must use a blech unless the food is half-cooked prior to onset of Shabbos. In a case of necessity, such as if no blech is available, one can maintain the food on a flame if the food is at least one-third cooked prior to the onset of Shabbos. This is the basic requirement of the Halacha. Nonetheless, it is proper to always use a belch and to ensure that all food is completely cooked prior to the onset of Shabbos.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

The Zohar (Korach) states that Korach disputed the concept of Shabbos. It is noteworthy that Korach said (Bamidbar 16:3) ki chol haeidah kulam kedoshim, for the entire assembly – all of them – are holy. The words ki chol haeidah kulam kedoshim equal in gematria the word HaShabbos.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5767

Is sponsored by Marc and Sheila Meissner and family in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of their dear son Binyomin Yitzchok. May they see much nachas from Binyomin Yitzchok and from all their children.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5767

is sponsored by Dr. Jeffrey Eisman, Yonah Lev ben Dovid in loving memory of his mother Chava bat Yonah Lev ob”m niftarah June 7, 1983, 26 Sivan 5743. Mrs. Eisman instilled the fundamental tenets of Jewish faith in her children, allowing them to continue in the paths of their illustrious forebears and fulfilling the will of HaShem. May her memory be a blessing for her family and for all of the Jewish People.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5767

is sponsored by Jerry and Claire Cohen in loving memory of their dear son Joshua (Josh) Yehoshua Yitzchok ben Yaakov Zelig HaKohen ob”m.

I will be giving a class in Navi Shabbos afternoon

at Congregation Dovid Ben Nuchim-Aish Kodesh,

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

Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

For sponsorships please call 248-506-0363.

To subscribe weekly by email, please send email to

View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim and other Divrei Torah on

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear R'Adler,

I very much enjoy your dvrei Torah, including and especially your efforts relate the beauty and importance of Shabbat Kodesh. This has had a very positive affect on me and by extension my children and even my parents as I try to imbue the same message over our Shabat meals.

Shabbat Shalom,