Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shelach 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shelach 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this week’s parashah the Torah records the incident of the meraglim, the spies who Moshe sent to Eretz Yisroel to report regarding the virtues of the Land. They returned with a slanderous report and this was the catalyst for the Jewish People wandering in the Wilderness for forty years, and this also was the cause of the future destruction of the first and second Bais HaMikdash. We struggle to understand the actions of the meraglim and the magnitude of their sin. While it is clear from the Torah that they spread a libel about Eretz Yisroel and they attempted to dissuade the people from ascending to Eretz Yisroel, it is not clear why they chose to act in such a manner. The Baal HaTurim sheds light on this matter with a number of fascinating statements. Regarding the command that HaShem gave to Moshe to send the spies, it is said (Bamidbar 13:2) shelach lecho anashim, send forth men, if you please. The Baal HaTurim notes that the first letters of these words spell the word chacham, wise man, which teaches us that the spies were wise and righteous. Further on Moshe instructs the spies (Ibid verse 17) vayishlach osam Moshe lasur es Eretz Canaan vayomer aleihem alu zeh banegev vaalisem es hahar, Moshe sent them to spy out the Land of Canaan, and he said to them, "Ascend here in the south and climb the mountain." The Baal HaTurim writes that the words es hahar equal in gematria Torah (611). What is the Baal HaTurim teaching us with these insights? Perhaps the idea is that when Moshe repeats the incident regarding the spies in Mishneh Torah, it is said (Devarim 1:22) vatikrivun eilay kulchem vatomru nishlachah anashim lifaneinu viyachperu lanu es haaretz viyashivu osanu davar es haderech asher naaleh vah vieis hearim asher navo aleihem, all of you approached me and said, “Let us send men ahead of us and let them spy out the Land, and bring word back to us: the road on which we should ascend and the cities to which we should come.” It is known that many words in the Hebrew language are davar vihipucho, i.e. the word means one thing and it also can be interpreted to have the exact opposite meaning. In this instance, we can suggest that the word viyachperu, literally translated as “to spy out the land,” can also mean to remove the darkness from the land, as the word cheifer means darkness (see Yeshaya 24:23). Thus, the spies were seeking to reveal the light from the darkness that was inherent in the land. Hashem had promised the Jewish People that they would be brought to a good and spacious land (Shemos 3:8). However, the inheritance of the land is predicated on the Jewish People studying Torah and performing the mitzvos. The focus of the spies was to be wise and virtuous and see the mountain, i.e. the Torah. The question is, then, where did they go wrong? The words of the spies when they returned from the Land do not seem to indicate nay malicious intent. Yet, from the fact that they described the large cities and the size of the giants, we can infer that they were clearly overwhelmed by the strength of the inhabitants of the Land. This sign of weakness was the catalyst for their capitulation to slander the Land. When one approaches Torah study, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the vastness and the difficulty that is inherent in studying the Torah. It is said (Eichah 3:6) bimachashakim hoshivani kimeisei olam, he has placed me in darkness like the eternally dead. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 27a) states that this refers to the Babylonian Talmud, which is deemed to be dark and difficult. Nonetheless, one must overcome the great challenges and immerse himself in the depths of Torah study, and only then will he be able to see the light of Torah. Dovid HaMelech prayed for this very matter, as he says (Tehillim 119:18) gal einai viabitah niflaos mitorasecho, unveil my eyes that I may perceive wonders from Your Torah. Thus, the spies were charged with a mission to reveal the light of the Torah which is manifest in Eretz Yisroel, as the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 16:4) states that there is no Torah like the Torah that is studied in Eretz Yisroel and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisroel. Furthermore, the Gemara (Bava Basra 158b) states that the air of Eretz Yisroel itself makes one wise. Moshe instructed the spies, who were wise, to climb the mountain. The mountain can symbolize the Evil Inclination (See Gemara Sukkah 52a). The mission of the spies was to overcome the obstacles that when one faces when approaching Torah study and to succeed in bringing out the light of Torah. By failing to accomplish this feat, the spies caused that the Jewish People continued to wander in the Wilderness, absorbing the Torah within them, until they were worthy of entering into Eretz Yisroel. Perhaps this is also the reason why the actions of the meraglim were the catalyst for the future destructions of the Bais HaMikdash. The existence of the Bais HaMikdash and a high level of Torah study and mitzvah observance are correlated, and by failing to bring about the revelation of the light that is contained in the Torah, the spies caused that the light of the Bais HaMikdash would be extinguished. In a similar vein, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 11:2) states that the light that is reflected on ones face on Shabbos is not the same as it is during the weekday. Furthermore, the Medrash states that on Shabbos one should be totally immersed in Torah study. HaShem should allow us to merit overcoming the obstacles that we face during the weekday and that we should be led with the light of Shabbos and the light of Torah.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Viaz eshmor pikudecha vichukecha bli etzev vaespaleil kadas karauy uchinachon, then I shall observe Your laws and decrees without suffering and I shall pray correctly as is fitting and right. The Gemara (Brachos 17a) states that it is our will to perform the will of HaShem, and all that is preventing us from doing so is the yeast in the dough, i.e. the Evil Inclination, and the rule of the nations. Here we declare that once HaShem redeems us, we will be able to serve Him without suffering and we will be able to pray properly. Shabbos is also a semblance of redemption, and we thus supplicate HaShem that we be allowed a respite from the Evil Inclination and the trials and tribulations of the weekday so that we can pray to Him and study His Torah and perform His mitzvos properly on the Holy Day of Shabbos.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Zechus umishor lifnei chiso, merit and fairness are before His throne. Why do we associate merit and fairness with HaShem’s Throne? Perhaps the idea is that when one contemplates, Heaven forbid, being dishonest and acting without integrity, he should remind himself that HaShem Himself, in His infinite Glory, is observing all his actions, and this will cause the person to act in an honest and upright manner.

Shabbos Story

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: A young American who was engaged to an Israeli girl entered the study of the Gerrer Rebbe in Jerusalem. “I am soon to be married and have no friends or relatives in Israel. I was told that the Rebbe has insight in these matters. Perhaps the Rebbe can guide me in my decision.” The young man laid some architectural plans on the table and the Rebbe peered over them intently. After a few moments, the Rebbe suggested a few changes that the soon-to-be-married fellow understood, but was not sure if he would be able to convey them to the Israeli builder. The young man returned to his Yeshiva that afternoon elated. A few of his friends were astonished, not only that he gathered up the courage to discuss a mundane apartment with a great tzaddik, but that the Rebbe gave him time and advice in the matter. The young man searched the Yeshiva for someone who was fluent in Ivrit to accompany him to discuss the changes with the architect. A few days later, he went to the building site accompanied by an Israeli friend who began to explain the Rebbe’s suggestions to him. The builder’s face turned white. “How do you know about these suggestions? The Rebbe of Ger was here just a few days ago and made the same suggestions. He said it would improve every house in the development. How do you know about these suggestions?”

Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: As a youngster, I heard the following story about the great mussar luminary, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. Rabbi Salanter was traveling by train from Salant to Vilna and was sitting in a smoking car holding a lit cigar. A young man accosted him by yelling about the putrid odor of the smoke. Other passengers were appalled. After all, they were in the smoking car. Despite that, Rabbi Salanter extinguished the cigar and opened the train's window to dissipate the fumes. It was only a few seconds before the young man slammed the window down, while screaming at the elderly sage for opening it. Rabbi Salanter apologized profusely to the man young enough to be his child, and buried himself in a Jewish book of law. Upon arriving in Vilna, the young man was horrified to see throngs of people gathered to receive one of Europe’s most prominent Rabbis. The man immediately ran to the home where Rabbi Salanter was staying. He began to beg forgiveness. “Don’t worry,” explained Reb Yisrael, “a trip can make one edgy. I bear no ill will. Tell me,” continued the mussar master, “why did you come to Vilna?” The young man explained that he was looking to become an ordained shochet, (slaughterer), and an approbation from a Vilna rabbi would be universally accepted. Rabbi Salanter smiled. “My own son-in-law, Reb Elya Lazer, can ordain you. He is a Rav in Vilna. Rest up and tomorrow you can take the test.” The next day, it was apparent that the man needed more than rest, for he failed miserably. However, that did not deter Rabbi Salanter. He encouraged the man to try again. For the next several weeks, Rabbi Yisrael arranged for tutors and prepared the young man well enough to pass Reb Elya Lazer’s make-up exam along with the tests of a host of other well-known Vilna rabbis. He even arranged for the man to get a job. Before leaving Vilna, the man appeared before Reb Yisrael with tears in his eyes. “Tell me, Rebbe,” he cried. “I was able to understand that you could forgive me for my terrible arrogance on the train. But why did you help me so much? That, I can never understand.” “Reb Yisrael sat him down, held his hand and explained. “It is easy to say ‘I forgive you’. But deep down, how does one really know if he still bears a grudge? Way down in my heart I actually was not sure. The only way to remove a grudge is to take action. One who helps another develops a love for the one he aided. By helping you, I created a true love which is overwhelmingly more powerful than the words, ‘I forgive you’.” [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos in Navi

Shoftim Chapter 17

In this chapter the Navi records how Michah’s mother fashioned a carved image and a molten image of silver. Although from Scripture it does not appear that Michah sinned, our Sages teach us that the image of Michah was deemed to be idolatry. Although we no longer have a desire to worship idols, there are many influences from our surroundings that are akin to idols, such as greed and perhaps even the over-involvement in sports. Shabbos is a time when one can abstain from anything that even smacks of idolatry, and the Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states that when one observes Shabbos properly, even if he worshipped idols like the generation of Enosh, he will have his sins forgiven.

Shabbos in Agadah

After Adam sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, it is said (Bereishis 3:23) vayishalcheihu HaShem Elokim miGan Eden laavod es haadamah asher lukach misham, so HaShem G-d banished him from the Garden of Eden, to work the soil from which he was taken. Had Adam refrained from sinning, he would have entered into Shabbos and the entire world would have been rectified. It is said (Ibid 2:15) vayikach HaShem Elokim es haadam vayanicheihu viGan Eden liavdah ulishamrah, HaShem G-d took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and to guard it. The Torah states that Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, and the word for placed is vayanicheihu, which is associated with the word menuchah, rest. We can suggest that HaShem initially placed Adam in the Garden of Eden with the intention that Adam would merit the eternal rest that is manifest in Shabbos. Tragically, Adam did not live up to this expectation and he was banished from that location of eternal rest. Nonetheless, the Gemara (Brachos 57b) states that Shabbos is a semblance of the World to Come, so by observing Shabbos properly, we are in some fashion rectifying the sin that Adam committed. We should merit the day that will be completely a Shabbos and rest day for eternal life.

Shabbos in Halacha

One cannot leave on a flame uncooked food that is not edible at the onset of Shabbos unless a blech is used. If the food has been partially cooked and has reached a minimal degree of edibility (known as the food of Ben Drusoai) prior to Shabbos, one is not required to use a blech.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

Calev, one of the two spies who did not slander the Land, spoke the truth in defense of the Land. It is noteworthy that the name Calev, in mispar katan, digit sum (kof is 20 which is 2, lamed is 30 which is 3, and bais is 2, and 2+3+2=7) equals 7. This alludes to the idea that is represented by Shabbos, which in mispar katan equals 9, and emes, truth, in mispar katan, equals 9. Thus, Calev, who spoke the truth, reflected Shabbos.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shelach 5768

Is sponsored as a zechus lirifuah shileima Ilana Leah bas Sheindel Rochel

bisoch shaar cholei Yisroel.

Shabbos hi milizok urefuah kirovah 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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