Monday, October 20, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos Habrachah-Bereishis 5769

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim

Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos Habrachah-Bereishis 5769

Shabbos in the Parashah

This week we complete the reading of the Torah and celebrate Simchas Torah. We finish the Torah with the reading of Parashas Vizos Habrachah and we commence the new Torah cycle reading with the reading of Parashas Bereishis. The commentators go to great lengths to explain the connection between the last verse in the Torah and the first verse in the Torah. The last verses in the Torah state (Devarim 34:10-12) velo kam navi od biYisroel kiMoshe asher yidao HaShem panim el panim lechol haosos vihamofsim asher shilacho HaShem lassos bieretz Mitzrayim liPharaoh ulechol avadav ulechol artzo ulechol hayad hachazakah ulechol hamora hagadol asher asah Moshe lieieni kol Yisroel, never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe, whom HaShem had known face to face, as evidenced by all the signs and wonders that HaShem sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his courtiers and all his land, and by all the strong hand and awesome power that Moshe performed before the eyes of all Israel. Rashi explains that these verses refer to Moshe accepting the Luchos from HaShem and subsequently breaking them upon witnessing the Golden Calf that the Jewish People had created. One must wonder why the Torah lauds Moshe for breaking the Luchos. Moshe was justified in breaking the Luchos, as he expounded a kal vachomer as follows: if the Torah states that one who is an idolater cannot participate in the Korban Pesach, then certainly where the Jewish People worshipped an idol, they cannot accept the entire Torah (Rashi Shemos 32:19). Nonetheless, why is this act deemed to be so praiseworthy? Prior to answering this question, let us examine the first verse in the Torah and Rashi’s comments there. It is said (Bereishis 1:1) Bereishis bara Elokim es hashamayim vieis haaretz, in the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and the earth. Rashi poses a famous question. Why did the Torah commence with the story of creation and not with the first mitzvah that the Jewish people received, which was the commandment to sanctify the New Moon? Rashi answers that HaShem wished to demonstrate His power to the nations of the world. Were the nations to claim that the Jewish People stole the Land of Israel, we would be able to respond that HaShem created the world and He gave the Land to those that He felt deserving. The Pinei Menachem, the Gerrer Rebbe, wonders about Rashi’s question. How could Rashi state that the Torah should have commenced with the mitzvah of sanctifying the New Moon, if there were other mitzvos that preceded this mitzvah, such as the mitzvah of procreation, circumcision and Gid Hanasheh. Furthermore, it was necessary to first write about creation so that we could have a basis for matters of faith such as the mitzvah of Shabbos. The Pinei Menachem answers that the world was created according to the plan contained within the Torah. HaShem gave the Jewish people the power to manipulate nature and to demonstrate how HaShem is contained within nature. The essence of the mitzvah of sanctifying the New Moon is that the Jew can take something mundane and declare it holy. Similarly, although Shabbos is a fixed time every week, the Jewish People were given the opportunity to add on to Shabbos with what is known as Tosefes Shabbos, adding on to the Shabbos. In summary, the mitzvah of sanctifying the New Moon reflects the idea that the Jewish People have the power to direct nature and to transform mundane masters into holiness. It was for this reason that Rashi suggested that the Torah should have commenced with this mitzvah. Based on this premise we can better understand why the Torah praises the fact that Moshe broke the Luchos. One explanation of Moshe’s act was that bitulah zehu kiyumah, annulling the Torah, so to speak, is in essence the Torah’s survival. There is, however, a deeper dimension to the act that Moshe performed. Moshe broke the Luchos to demonstrate to future generations that although the Torah is the blueprint of the world, without the Jewish People the Torah does not have a means with which to be sustained. It is for this reason that the last words of the Torah state lieieni kol Yisroel, before the eyes of all Israel. Moshe specifically broke the Luchos before the eyes of the people so that they should know that the Torah was given specifically to the Jewish People, and without the Jewish People observing the Torah, the Torah cannot survive. The power of Torah is so great, and in a sense, the power of the Jewish People is greater. As we begin once again to commence the cycle of the Torah reading, let us bear in mind the great power that HaShem has vested in us. We have the ability to observe the Torah and we are given the opportunity every week to sanctify the Shabbos. We can sanctify the Shabbos on Shabbos, and we also have the ability to add to the Shabbos by sanctifying it during the week. The role of a Jew is to elevate the mundane to become holy. HaShem should allow us to observe His Torah faithfully, and in the merit of observing the Torah and the great mitzvah of Shabbos, we should merit the Ultimate Redemption, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Askinu Seudasa

Composed by the Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria

Bichamra go chasa umaadanei asa liarus vaarusa lihitakafa chalashin, with a wine-filled cup and branches of myrtle as for groom and bride, to strengthen those weak in faith. How do wine and myrtle branches strength those who are weak in faith? Perhaps the idea is that the Gemara (Sanhedrin 70a) states that wine was only created to punish the wicked and comfort the mourners. Thus, when one drinks wine his faith is strengthened when he sees that HaShem allowed wine to bring comfort to one in distress and to punish the wicked. Reward and punishment is one of the fundamentals of the Jewish faith. The Gemara (Megillah 13a) states that the righteous are compared to myrtle branches. The Minchas Yaakov writes that by taking myrtle branches, the strength of the Evil Inclination is weakened.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Viyom hashevii mishabeiach viomer Mizmor shir liyom haShabbos tov lehodos laHaShem, and the Seventh Day gives praise saying: A psalm, a song for the Shabbos Day. It is good to thank HaShem… We find that the root amar also means praise (See Rashi Devarim 26:17). The word viomer, saying, can also be interpreted as an expression of praise. The word shevah, translated as seven, can also be read as shevach, praise (the letters ayin and ches are interchangeable). Thus, the essence of Shabbos is a day of praise to HaShem, and even our mere utterances on Shabbos constitute praise to HaShem.

Shabbos Story

Reb Yaakov Yosef Katz zt”l (late 1800s; known as the “Toldos”), one of the leading disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, was visiting a certain town when he was approached by an inhabitant of a neighboring village and asked to attend the circumcision of the man’s son on that day. “I will even honor you to be the sandak (godfather),” the villager said. The Toldos agreed, but only on the condition that he could sit in another room and study Torah until all of the preparations had been completed and he would not have to wait idly for the ceremony to begin. The villager agreed. When everything had been prepared and the baby had arrived, the villager went to call Reb Yaakov Yosef. However, when they returned to the place where the bris milah was to be held, the villager was chagrined to discover that one guest had left and there was no longer a minyan. He quickly ran outside and pleaded with the first Jew he saw: “Please come to my son’s bris milah.” The man responded, “Zohl zein azoi,” so be it! “Can I offer you an honor?” the villager inquired. “So be it!” the tenth man responded. To every question he was asked, he answered: “so be it!” After the circumcision, the Toldos asked that this man be brought to him, but the man had vanished. So the Toldos asked in heaven who the man was, and he was told that it was Eliyahu HaNavi, who had been sent to teach the assembled the importance of accepting G-d’s judgment in all circumstances. “So be it!” should be a Jew’s response to everything that he experiences in life. As the Toldos was preparing to leave town, a stranger approached him and asked if he could share the sage’s carriage. “Who are you?” the Toldos asked. “So be it!” the stranger responded (apparently rebuking the sage for not agreeing immediately to share his ride). When the tzaddik Reb Yitzchak Matisyahu Luria zt”l heard this story, he commented: “On each day of Creation, the Torah says, ‘And it was so!’ But why does the Torah say, ‘And it was so!’ at the very end of creation when nothing new had been created?” “That,” answered Rav Luria, was Adam’s statement, accepting that G-d in His Wisdom had created the world exactly as He saw fit. “So be it!” (Quoted in Otzros Tzaddikei Ugeonei Hadoros) [Reprinted with permission from]

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Rabbi Sholom Schwadron had noticed that one of the students at the yeshiva was missing on Sunday and Monday. Tuesday morning he approached him, inquiring to the reason he missed those two days. “I know you for two years. You never missed a day of yeshiva. I am sure that something important is happening. Please tell me what is going on.” The boy did not want to say, but after prodding, the boy finally blurted out. “I would tell, but, Rebbe, you just would not understand.” “Try me,” begged Reb Sholom, “I promise I will try my hardest to appreciate what you tell me.” “Here goes,” responded the student, conceding to himself that whatever explanation he would give would surely be incomprehensible to the Rabbi, who had probably had never seen a soccer ball in his life. “I missed yeshiva because I was at the Maccabi Tel Aviv football (soccer) finals. In fact,” the boy added in embarrassment, “I probably won’t be in yeshiva tomorrow as well. It’s the final day of the championship.” Rabbi Schwadron was not at all condescending. Instead, he furred his brow in interest. “I am sure that this game of football must be quite exciting. Tell me,” he asked, “How do you play this game of football? What is the object? How do you win?” “Well,” began the student filled with enthusiasm, “there are eleven players, and the object is to kick a ball into the large goal. No one but the goalkeeper can move the ball with his hands or arms!” Rabbi Schwadron’s face brightened! He knew this young boy was a good student and wanted to accommodate him. “Oh! Is that all? So just go there, kick the ball in the goal, and come back to yeshiva!” The boy laughed. “Rebbe, you don’t understand! The opposing team also has eleven men and a goalkeeper, and their job is to stop our team from getting the ball into their goal!” “Tell me,” Rabbi Schwadron whispered. “These other men on the other team. Are they there all day and night?” “Of course not!” laughed the student. “They go home at night!” What was the Rabbi driving at? He wondered. Rabbi Schwadron huddled close and in all earnest continued with his brilliant plan. “Why don’t you sneak into the stadium in the evening and kick the ball into the goal when they are not looking? Then you can win and return to yeshiva!” The boy threw his hands up in frustration. “Oy! Rebbe! You don’t understand. You don’t score if the other team is not trying to stop you! It is no kuntz to kick a ball into an empty net if there is no one trying to stop you!” “Ah!” cried Reb Sholom in absolute victory. Now think a moment! Listen to what you just said! It is no kuntz to come to the yeshiva when nothing is trying to hold you back! It is when the urge to skip class is there, when the Yetzer Hara is crouching in the goal, that it is most difficult to score. That is when you really score points. Come tomorrow, and you can’t imagine how much that is worth in Hashem’s scorecard!” Needless to say, the boy understood the message and was there the next day the first in class!

Shabbos in Navi

Shmuel I Chapter 13

In this chapter we learn how Shmuel had instructed Shaul to wait for him for seven days (10:8) and Shaul felt pressured from the nation so he offered sacrifices. Shmuel arrived and chastised Shaul for having transgressed HaShem’s command, and Shmuel informed Shaul that now his kingdom would not endure. the Arizal writes that had Adam waited for Shabbos, he could have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad and then the world would have been rectified. It is unfortunate that many major sins throughout our history, such as Adam’s sins and the sin of the Golden Calf came about because of acts of impulsivity. We should act cautiously before we perform any action, and we should rush to perform HaShem’s commandments.

Shabbos in Agadah

The Medrash states that Adam mete Kayin and inquired as to what the result was of his judgment for killing his brother Hevel. Kayin responded that he had repented and received a compromised judgment. The Pinei Menachem cites the Imrei Emes who explained that after HaShem forgave Kayin for the will and thoughts of committing the sin, all that was left was the act without the will, and the act was thus deemed to be unintentional. The Medrash states further that repentance causes the decree to be cut in half, as initially HaShem told Kayin (Bereishis 4:12) na vanad tihyeh baaretz, you shall become a vagrant and a wanderer on earth, but later it is said (verse 16) Vayeishev bieretz nod kidmas Eden, and he settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Reb Bunim from Parshischa said that the reason for the mitigation of Kayin’s judgment was because Shabbos had arrived, and on Shabbos every Jew acquires residence in his area of four amos. (Thus, Kayin was only punished with nod and not with na.)

Shabbos in Halacha

If one removed from the blech a pot of warm, completely cooked food prior to Shabbos with the intent of returning it, and then he set it down and forgot to return it prior to Shabbos, he would be allowed in a case of necessity to return it to the blech on Shabbos (provided it is still warm). An example of this rule is when arranging the blech prior to Shabbos one removed a pot from the blech and forgot to return it. One can return the pot to the blech on Shabbos as long as it is completely cooked, still warm and his original intention was to return it. If one’s original intention was not to replace the pot on the blech, he would be forbidden to return it on Shabbos.

Shabbos Challenge Question

Last week we posed the question: on Shabbos we wish each other Good Shabbos or Shabbat Shalom. What is the significance of declaring that Shabbos is good or that Shabbos is peaceful? Perhaps the idea of wishing each other Good Shabbos or Shabbat Shalom is that it is said (Bereishis 21:31) vayar Elokim es kol asher asah vihinei tov meod vayehi erev vayehi voker yom hashishi, and G-d saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 9:10) states that the words vihinei tov meod allude to death. For this reason we wish each other a good and peaceful Shabbos, to demonstrate that death only has dominion during the week and not on Shabbos.

This week’s question is, what is the significance of Shabbos Chol HaMoed? If you have a possible answer, please email me at and your answer will be posted in next week’s edition of Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim

Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos Habrachah-Bereishis 5769

is sponsored in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of Yosef Adler of Cleveland, Ohio

Mazel Tov to Yosef and his parents, Reb Avrohom and Mrs. Tzippy Adler, and to the grandparents, Rabbi and Mrs. Shmuel Adler of Chicago and to Mr. and Mrs. Simcha Schuck of Monsey. May they all share much nachas from Yosef and from all their children and grandchildren.

I will be giving a class in Navi on Shemini Atzeres afternoon

at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, a half an hour before Minchah.

I will not be giving a class on Shabbos Bereishis.

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Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and a Good Yom Tov

and may we merit this year the speedy arrival of

Moshiach Tzidkienu bimheira viyameinu amen.

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

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