Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Re’eh 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Re’eh 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this weeks parashah it is said (Devarim 7:12) Reeh anochi nosein lifneichem hayom birachah ukelalah, see, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The Sfas Emes (Re’eh 5631) cites his grandfather, the Chiddushei HaRim, who said that this verse teaches us that it was instilled in every single Jew that he could choose the blessing. It is for this reason that we recite every day the blessing baruch atah HaShem Elokeinu melech haolam asher nasan lasechvi vinah lihavchin bein yom uvein laylah, blessed are You, HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who gave the heart understanding to distinguish between day and night. Furthermore, the Medrash states that HaShem teaches us to choose life, and every utterance of HaShem functioned in this manner, instructing the Jewish People to choose life. In order to understand this concept better, it is worth examining the words of the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 5:5) who addresses a well-known philosophical question. The question that the Rambam presents is how HaShem can give a person free choice if HaShem knows what will occur in the future. The Rambam posits that HaShem’s knowledge does not contradict the concept of free choice. This position of the Rambam has been debated throughout the centuries, but I would like to focus on a practical aspect of this matter. We would refer to an individual or the Jewish People who is in tune with HaShem’s will as recognizing HaShem’s Presence in this world. The reason for this is because when one does not perform HaShem’s will, it is referred to as the concealment of HaShem’s Presence in this world. It is obvious that these are all man’s perspectives, because it is impossible for HaShem to forget about the world even for a moment. Thus, one who exercises his free choice correctly is reveling in the Presence of HaShem, whereas one who does not make correct choices is deemed to be hidden from HaShem’s Presence. Proof of this idea that our actions are what is responsible for HaShem’s Presence in our lives is from a Medrash (Devarim Rabbah ), that states: HaShem said “Reeh anochi nosein lifneichem hayom birachah ukelalah, see, I present before you today a blessing and a curse,” and from that time onward, (Eichah 3:38) mipi elyon lo seitzei haraos vihatov, is it not from the mouth of the Most High that evil and good emanate? The simple translation of this verse is that the prophet is asking, do you think that evil and good do not emanate from HaShem? The Medrash, however, interprets this verse in a matter of fact form, i.e. that evil and good do no emanate from HaShem. How is it possible to even speculate that evil and good do not emanate from HaShem? The truth is, however, that we must realize that we are responsible for our actions and for the way that we perceive HaShem in our lives. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (Shemos 6:2) goes so far as to say that the interpretation of the above-mentioned verse is that evil does not emanate from HaShem. Only good emanates from HaShem. The evil that is manifest in the world is a result of the actions of the wicked. We may struggle with the apparently contradictory ideas that HaShem knows what will occur in the future yet we are still given free choice in our actions. Nonetheless, we must be cognizant of the fact that HaShem has given us that free choice so that we can merit having a recognition of His Presence. There are area various levels of knowing HaShem, and on the Holy Shabbos HaShem bestows us with the level of daas, literally translated as knowledge. It is said (Shemos 31:13) viatah dabeir el bnei Yisroel leimor ach es Shabsosai tishmoru ki os hi beini uveineichem ledorseichem ladaas ki ani mikadishchem, now you speak to the Children of Israel, saying: ‘However, you must observe my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I am HaShem, Who makes you holy.’ Hashem gives us a day of the week that is a semblance of the World to Come, when we will truly know HaShem. This day is Shabbos, and we must do everything possible to come to an awareness of HaShem’s Presence in our lives. We are now beginning the month of Elul, which is an acrostic for the words (Shir HaShirim 6:3) ani lidodi vidodi li, I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me. This is the month when we can come close to HaShem and feel His Presence in our midst. With the observance of the Holy Shabbos and all of HaShem’s beloved mitzvos, HaShem should grant us a month of inspiration and repentance, culminating in the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Askinu Seudasa

Composed by the Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria

Chadu sagi yeisei vial chada tartei nihorah lah yimtei uvirchaan dinfishin, abundant joy arrives, in place of one, a double measure. Brilliance will envelop the soul, and manifold blessings. This passage refers to the neshama yeseira, the extra soul that a Jew receives with the onset of Shabbos. On Shabbos we are blessed with an extra soul and extra joy. Hashem should allow us to experience the extra soul and to be truly joyous for the entire Shabbos.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Raah vihiskin tzuras halevanah, He saw and fashioned the form of the moon. What is the significance of this passage? We declare that HaShem fashioned the form of the moon, but what was the purpose in HaShem fashioning the moon? It is said (see Bach Ohr HaChaim 282, Tiferes Shlomo Vayishlach) that Yaakov Avinu is associated with the moon. Perhaps based on this kabalistic idea we can suggest that we are declaring that HaShem called to the sun, which represents Esav, as the gentile world is reflected by the solar calendar. To negate Esav’s influence in the world, HaShem fashioned the form of the moon, i.e. HaShem Himself watches over Yaakov to save him from the clutches of Esav. With this explanation we can understand why we say that HaShem saw. It is said (Bereishis 1:4-5) vayar Elokim es haor ki tov vayavdeil Elokim bain haor uvein hachoshech vayikra Elokim laor yom vilachosech kara laylah vayehi erev vayehi voker yom echod, G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d separated between the light and the darkness. G-d called to the light: “Day,” and to the darkness He called: “ Night.” And there was evening and there was morning, one day. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 2:3) states that when it states that HaShem called the light “Day,” this refers to Yaakov, and when it states that HaShem called darkness “Night,” this refers to Esav. Following in the line of the Medrash, we can suggest that when we say that HaShem “saw” and fashioned the form of the moon, it is parallel to HaShem calling the original light “Day,” a reference to Yaakov. Although the Medrash interprets “Day” to be referring to Yaakov, and here we allude to Yaakov as the moon, the idea is that Esav represents darkness to the Jewish People. It is for this reason that we say that HaShem fashioned the form of the moon, i.e. despite the fact that Esav dominates in this world, in the future the light of Yaakov will shine when the entire world recognizes Hashem as the One G-d.

Shabbos Story

Another mosquito to swat at! Would he have any ears left a month from now? Wondered Robert Burns. He never had enjoyed hot weather, even in Bayside, New York. And, he had to admit, his hometown couldn't compete in this league. In all his young years he had never felt sweat and humidity like what he was currently feeling. From where he was squatting he was able to see only the thicket of trees and a glimpse of the sky. The clouds were sweeping in front of the full moon, temporarily blocking its beams. It didn’t matter; Viet Nam’s jungle wasn’t much to look at anyway, and you couldn’t spot the enemy by day or night until they opened fire. The real question just now was, should he do the traditional Jewish hand-washing or not? There was a stream about 800 feet away; he could get water there. Then again, the Vietcong weren't far away either. Crawling even that far could cost him his life. As Robert weighed the options, he swatted another mosquito from his ear and wondered how he had ended up in such a bizarre situation. Until shortly before being drafted he had heard neither of Viet Nam nor of “netilat yadayim,” the traditional Jewish hand-washing. He thought back to Bayside and childhood. He had attended public school, and three times a week went for “Hebrew instruction.” The main purpose was simply to learn enough Hebrew to read his “half-Torah,” which he eventually learned from a venerable and rather friendly tape recorder... Graduation from Hebrew School followed his Bar Mitzvah and marked his abandonment of what little Judaism he had ever known. He never set foot in a synagogue again until his grandfather passed away. Then his father, by no means a religious man, suddenly started going to minyan every day. When Robby questioned his father about his sudden resurgence of interest in religion, his father replied, “I’m saying Kaddish for my father. His soul won’t get rest unless I say Kaddish every day for him.” Robert figured that his father would abandon this ritual after a week or two. To his astonishment he was mistaken. His father took the responsibility quite seriously, and made sure to go to synagogue every day, even if it conflicted with a football game on TV. A few times Robert accompanied his father; he sometimes slept late, and he was impressed that his father took on such consistency for 11 months. In the fall of 1965 Robert left for college in Oneonta, New York. The student protests against American involvement in Viet Nam drew little interest from him. The summer following his graduation Robert was hit with another misfortune: his father’s sudden heart attack. Robert rushed from his job in the rope factory to the hospital. He could barely recognize his father with the tubes and wires all around him -- he felt as though he was gazing at an octopus ensnared in a fisherman’s net. Looking down at his father, Robert knew the condition was serious. Resolutely he took a seat at his father’s right. “Dad. I’m here. Can you hear me?” Mustering the little strength left in his body, Mr. Burns responded in barely audible tones, “Bobby. Thank G-d you’re here.” The strain of talking seemed too much for him. Yet like so many times before, he persevered: “I want you to make one promise to me. You’re my only son. Say Kaddish for me if I don’t make it this time.” Through his tears, Robert said he hoped the occasion wouldn’t arise for many years to come. But he knew he could not refuse the request, and finally choked out, “I promise.” His father seemed suddenly at peace, and closed his eyes in easy sleep. Robert sat at his father’s bedside for about half an hour, watching the heartbeat on the monitors. The nurse entered: “I’m sorry, but visitor’s hours are over now.” Robert left Pine Meadow Hospital and returned to the rope factory. Unfortunately, his Kaddish duty took effect only a few days later. Robert felt the loss, and also remembered the promise he had made. Just as his father had, following the seven-day mourning period (shiva) he went to synagogue to say Kaddish. He found that the only synagogue in his neighborhood which had daily services was the local Orthodox synagogue, Ahavas Torah. Robert’s Hebrew was like the buried vessels of the Holy Temple: existing somewhere, but not visible. Rabbi Jacobs immediately took a liking to the young man who struggled so hard with his Kaddish, and seemed so intent on keeping his father’s last wishes. During services the young man seemed lost, only catching himself when it came time for Kaddish. He even needed signals from Rabbi Jacobs to know when to start; the rabbi willingly gave them. “I hope it all went smoothly today,” said the rabbi. He was in his early forties, with streaks of gray in his light brown beard, which reached below his neck collar. It occurred to Robert that he didn’t even know what the Kaddish meant. Looking his elder companion in the eye, he asked what would be the first of many inquiries. “Can I ask you something?” “Certainly,” replied the Rabbi. “What does this prayer mean? I mean, why do we say anything for the dead?” “You asked a very good question. Kaddish represents your commitment to Judaism. By saying the Kaddish you connect with the Jewish people, and announce publicly your commitment to keep the 613 mitzvot. For the recently departed there can be no greater merit in Heaven.” “613 mitzvot? I didn’t know they had a number. Uh, I also didn’t realize there are so many.” “There are many more than just 613, the number only represents the main ones. You know, we could talk more later. Why don’t you come to the class that I’m giving tonight in Chumash?” “Chumash? What’s that?” asked Robert. “Bible.” Robert froze. He was starting to get interested, but that term, “Bible,” brought images to his mind of a televangelist begging his audience to send him money and repent their sins, in that order. He shrugged his shoulders, and mumbled “I’ll try to make it.” Tuesday night came and went, but Robert never showed up for the class. Eventually Robert got to know Rabbi Jacobs well enough to know that he wasn’t a fanatic. It helped him get over his apprehension to discover that the term “Bible” is hardly ever used among Jews. He first attended a few of the rabbi’s classes, then began accepting Shabbat invitations. This was the year Uncle Sam began drafting by birth date, and Robert’s date, May 7th, was number 35. The top 196 birth dates meant almost guaranteed conscription. The expected notice arrived shortly thereafter, ordering him to report for a physical. Far from wanting to flee the inevitable, Robert was proud to serve the USA. He felt that the country could use a dose of patriotism. Shortly following his 11 months of Kaddish, Robert knocked on Rabbi Jacobs’ door. “Rabbi, I just came to say goodbye. It looks like they’ll be shipping me to South Carolina soon for basic training. It’s going to be real hard for me to keep any of the 613 mitzvot. So tell me, Rabbi -- pick one for me. Which one of the mitzvot should I keep no matter what?” The rabbi thought for a while. Who could answer such a question? Too difficult an assignment would end in failure. Shabbat? Kashrut? Tefillin? Robert clearly wasn’t ready to tackle these. Suddenly the Rabbi’s face lit up. “Robert, I have just the right one. Make sure you do “netilat yadayim,” the traditional hand-washing every time you eat bread -- even if you don’t say the blessings over the food, even if you don’t say the Grace after Meals, and even if the bread is not kosher.” “Netilat yadayim?” “Yes. It’s a mitzvah that won’t put undue pressure on you, since nobody will think twice about your washing your hands before eating. Keep that one mitzvah as well as you can, and remember, any mitzvah will protect you even in the direst circumstances. Best of luck to you, and write me when you get the chance.” During basic training, and even when he was shipped out to the base in Viet Nam, Robert had little difficulty in performing this mitzvah. Nobody noticed anything strange about his desire to wash his hands before eating bread. But finally, about six months after being stationed in the jungles of Southeast Asia, the first real difficulty developed. The platoon was sent for a late-night raid on the fringes of the enemy lines. It wasn’t long before the shooting began, and it soon developed into a full-scale battle. A few of his comrades had dropped and the remainder of the unit was trapped behind enemy lines. After a few hours’ lapse in the fighting, some of the soldiers recalled their hunger. In fact, they hadn’t eaten for the major part of the day. They began to take out their combat rations of oranges, sardines, and bread. Robby was about to join a few of his colleagues when he remembered “netilat yadayim.” He quickly and quietly broke from the camp, his destination a small stream he had seen about 800 feet away. It didn’t matter that this excursion was insanely dangerous; no argument could convince Robert to abandon it. He had promised the rabbi, and it was in memory of his father, too. That was that. He slipped, silent and alone, toward the stream. Traversing the ground like a snake slithering through the forest, Robert quickly reached his destination. He poured water over his hands, delighted that even in this combat situation he was able to keep his mitzvah. It was just after he finished pouring the cup of water over his other hand when he heard the gunfire. Rapid-fire machine guns, piercing the stillness of the jungle in a long barrage of thunderous noise. For what seemed to him hours, Robert remained hidden in the grass, long after the last sounds of the bullets had faded. Mustering up his strength, he slowly slithered back to his unit to find not one of them alive.

Shabbos in Navi

Shmuel I Chapter 6

In this chapter we learn how the Plishtim decided to send the Aron, the Holy Ark, back to its place amongst the Jewish People. They sent the Aron back along with five golden images of hemorrhoids and five golden mice. The Radak writes that they did this because when the people would relieve themselves, the mice would attack the bleeding hemorrhoids. They sent the Aron and the golden images on a new wagon that was drawn by two nursing cows. They then sent the calves of the cows back home, and if the nursing cows would forsake their calves and follow the Aron, it would be a clear sign that HaShem wanted the Aron back. The Plishtim then sent the Aron on the wagon drawn by the nursing cows on the direct road, on the road to Beit Shemesh, and the cows drew the Aron to Beit Shemesh. The people of Beit Shemesh saw the Aron coming, and because they gazed disrespectfully at the Aron, thousands of people died. The people of Beit Shemesh were distressed by the deaths of their citizens, so they sent a message to the inhabitants of Kiryas Yearim to take the Aron to their city. In describing the journey of the cows, it is said (Shmuel I 6:12) vayisharnah haparos baderech, the cows set out on the direct road. The Gemara (Avodah Zara 24b) interprets the word vayisharnah as a term of song, meaning that the cows turned towards the Aron and sang praises to HaShem. This was truly an incredible event. The people of Beit Shemesh, because of their disrespect that they displayed towards the Aron, were killed, whereas the cows sang HaShem’s praises because they intrinsically recognized the sanctity of the Aron. Regarding Shabbos we know that one who properly observes the Shabbos will be greatly rewarded. The converse, however, is also true. One who disrespects the Shabbos will be severely punished. It behooves us to learn from the cows who, upon recognizing HaShem’s Presence near them, sang HaShem’s praises. We too should recognize the holiness of Shabbos and engage in prayer, Torah study, and praising HaShem.

Shabbos in Agadah

The Imrei Emes, the Gerrer Rebbe, writes (Bashalach 5693) that 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 Imrei Emes questions this, because Rashi writes that the reason that Amalek attacked the Jewish People is because the Jewish People displayed a lack of faith in HaShem, when they said (Shemos 17:7) hayeish HaShem bikirbeinu im ayin, “is HaShem among us or not?” The Imrei Emes resolves this discrepancy by answering that it is said regarding the giving of the manna (Ibid 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 Zohar states the word mimekomo refers to the Shechinah, the Divine Presence. Thus, we see that Shabbos reflects the idea that HaShem is in our midst.

Shabbos in Halacha

Any appliance that one normally uses for cooking requires a blech i.e. a covering to allow returning. Thus, ovens require an insert and one must line crockpots and adjustable hotplates with aluminum foil. [It is preferable that the knobs be covered]. A non-adjustable hot-plate that cannot be used for cooking and is only used to keep food warm does not require a blech. A non-adjustable crockpot, however, does require a blech, as this is generally used for cooking.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

In the zemer of Askinu Seudasa on Friday night we recite the words chadu sagi yeisei vial chada tartei nihorah lah yimtei uvirchaan dinfishin, abundant joy arrives, in place of one, a double measure. Brilliance will envelop the soul, and manifold blessings. The Imrei Emes (Bashalach 5693) writes that this means that through the joy the light is doubled, as in Kisvei Arizal it is brought that the word sichok, laughter (414), is in gematria double the word ohr, light (207).

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Re’eh 5768

Is sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Irwin Cohen in loving memory of Mrs. Davida Cohen’s father, Meir Nassan Ben Dovid, Niftar 28 Menachem Av

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 and may we merit this year the speedy arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu bimheira viyameinu amen.

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

For sponsorships please call 248-506-0363.

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