Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Vaera 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת וארא תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Vaera 5769
Completely separate from the nations of the world
In this week’s parasha the Torah records how after Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to allow the Jewish People to leave Egypt, HaShem sent Moshe and Aharon to be the instruments that would afflict Pharaoh and the Egyptians with the ten plagues. It is noteworthy that each of the plagues had a specific lesson to teach the Egyptians and simultaneously, the Jewish People were able to glean insight into their own misdeeds. An example of this is that the Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:8) states that at the onset of the Egyptian exile, the Jewish People nullified the mitzvah of Bris Milah, circumcision. Thus, to demonstrate to the Jewish People that they had sinned in this area, HaShem sent the plague of dam, blood, upon the Egyptians, and this served as a reminder to the Jewish People that they were required to circumcise themselves and their children, which requires a spilling of blood. It is noteworthy that the word dam in mispar katan, digit sum, equals 8, alluding to the eighth day of a child’s life when he is circumcised. In a similar vein all the plagues had a certain effect on the Jewish People.
The plague of Arov is akin to the onset of Shabbos during the week
The fourth plague is referred to in the Torah as arov, which means a mixture of wild animals descend upon Egypt. What was the lesson inherent in this plague for the Jewish People? It would appear that the idea of Arov being the fourth plague is parallel to the idea expressed in the Gemara (see Shabbos 19a) that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are referred to as the three days “prior to Shabbos,” whereas Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are referred to as the three days that “follow Shabbos.” Thus, the plague of Arov symbolized that the Jewish people were now being distinguished from the Egyptians. Indeed, there are some commentators (Ibn Ezra to Shemos 7:24; see Avi Ezer Ibid who refutes this commentary being attributed to Ibn Ezra; see also Rambam’s commentary to Avos 5:4 and Rabbeinu Yonah Ibid) who posit that the first three plagues affected Egyptians and Jews alike. Thus, the plague of Arov was the harbinger for the Jewish People that they would now recognize their distinction from the Egyptians. It is for this reason that the Torah states (Ibid 8:18) vihfleisi vayom hahu es eretz Goshen asher ami omeid aleha livilti heyos sham arov limaan teida ki ani HaShem bikerev haaretz, and on that day I shall set apart the land of Goshen upon which My people stands, that there shall be no swarm there; so that you will know that I am HaShem in the midst of the land. In addition to the lesson contained within this plague for the Egyptians, there was an evident lesson for the Jewish People also, and that was that the Jewish People are different than the nations of the world.
The fifth plague teaches us that as we come closer to Shabbos we become more alive
It is interesting to note that the fifth plague was dever, an epidemic in the livestock of the Egyptians. Here too it is said (Ibid 9:4) vihiflah HaShem bein miknei Yisroel uvein miknei Mitzrayim vilo yamus mikol livnei Yisroel davar, HaShem shall distinguish between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, and not a thing that belongs to the Children of Israel will die. This idea is parallel to the idea that as we come closer to Shabbos, we leave behind the “dead” of the gentiles and we arrive closer to the Source of Life, which are HaShem and His Holy Shabbos. It is noteworthy that the words (Ibid verse 3) hinei yad HaShem hoyah bamiknicho asher basadeh, behold, the hand of HaShem is on your livestock that are in the field, (1157, when adding the words themselves) equal in gematria the words yom chamishi liShabbos, the fifth day towards Shabbos (1156).
The sixth plague alludes to an aura of spirituality
The sixth plagues was shechin, boils, and regarding this plague it is said (Ibid verse 11) vilo yachlu hachartumim laamod lifnei Moshe mipnei hashechin ki hayah hashechin bachartumim uvichol Mitzrayim, the necromancers could not stand before Moshe because of the boils, because the boils were on the necromancers and on all of Egypt. This verse alludes to the idea that with the onset of Shabbos, the gentiles cannot approach the Jewish People, as HaShem envelopes us in a cloud of holiness.
The seventh plague alludes to the synthesis of physicality and spirituality
The seventh plague was barad, hail, which was a combination of water and fire. The fire and hail went from heaven towards earth. Similarly, the Holy Day of Shabbos reflects the idea that we are engaged in physical acts of eating, drinking and sleeping. Yet, all of our actions on Shabbos are infused with an overwhelming spiritual force that dominates the physical aspect of our actions.
The Shabbos connection
We have seen how in a deeper sense the plagues certainly had an effect on the Jewish People, and it was through the plagues that the Jewish People were allowed to taste salvation and victory over the Egyptians, who were the forces of evil at that time. Similarly, throughout the week we are faced with trials and tribulations, and we also witness the suffering that the nations of the world undergo. We must be cognizant of the fact that HaShem seeks to awaken us to the idea that everything that occurs in the world is ultimately for our benefit. It is with the onset of Shabbos, when all harsh judgments depart, that we recognize the greatness of HaShem and the beauty of the gift of Shabbos that He bestows upon His beloved nation every week. Hashem should allow us to merit an end to the suffering of the Jewish People and to witness the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
Menuchah Visimchah
Composed by an unknown author named Moshe
Lechem Mishneh specifically on Friday night
Bimishneh lechem vikiddush rabbah, with double loaves and the Great Kiddush. Two of the most prominent acts that we perform on Shabbos are reciting Kiddush over wine and reciting the blessing of hamotzi over two loaves of bread. While we understand that reciting Kiddush is a fulfillment of the Biblical commandment of zachor es yom haShabbos, to remember the Shabbos day, the blessing of hamotzi over two loaves of bread is of a different nature. The reason why we recite hamotzi over two loaves of bread is to commemorate the double portion of manna which fell for the Jewish people in the Wilderness. One must wonder, then, why we commemorate this fact on Shabbos and not on Erev Shabbos, when the manna actually fell. The answer to this question can be found in the words of the Sfas Emes (Bereishis 5657) who writes that that everything that HaShem created in this world has its counterpart in the World to Come. Thus, when this world is connected to its roots, then blessing is drawn into this world. This, writes the Sfas Emes, is the blessing of Shabbos, because on Shabbos everything is elevated to their roots. It is for this reason that we eat lechem mishneh, two loaves of bread, as this alludes to the idea that the two worlds are connected and Shabbos is the vessel that contains the blessing. Based on the words of the Sfas Emes we can suggest that while two portions of manna fell on Friday, it was not until Shabbos that the weekday was connected to Shabbos, so we commemorate this idea by eating two loaves specifically on Shabbos.
Shabbos in Tefillah
Through the Patriarchs we glean an understanding of HaShem’s greatness
Es sheim hamelech hagadol hagibor vihanora kadosh hu, the Name of G-d, the great, mighty and awesome King; holy is He. Why is it that after we declare that HaShem is great, mighty and awesome, we then state that HaShem is holy? Perhaps we can suggest the following idea. Ultimately it is impossible to comprehend who HaShem is, despite all of the appellations that we prescribe to Him. The Gemara and Medrash therefore offered us a manner in which to understand who HaShem is, and that is by giving us a glimpse into the character of the righteous. Regarding Yaakov the Gemara (Megillah 18a) states that HaShem called Yaakov Keil, G-d. We also find that when Yaakov experience his dream upon his journey to return to Eretz Yisroel, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 68:12) states that the angels ascended on high and saw the image of Yaakov engraved on the Heavenly Throne and they descended to earth and found Yaakov sleeping. Thus, we see that Yaakov was deemed to be godly, and this is what puzzled the angels when they saw this godly being sleeping. Regarding Yaakov it is said (Bereishis 28:17) nora, awesome, and Yaakov is also reflected in the third blessing of Shemone Esrei, which describes how the holy ones praise HaShem. Thus, in this passage here we declare that Yaakov is nora, awesome, and kadosh, he is holy. By describing Yaakov in this manner we attempt to glean an understanding of HaShem’s awesomeness and holiness. This idea is in line with the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 47:6) that states: haavos hen merkavah (lashechinah), the Patriarchs were the chariot (for the Divine Presence). This means that through the Patriarchs we get a glimpse of who HaShem is.

Shabbos Story
The smell of Gan Eden
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Rabbi Chaim of Sanz was once walking in a small shtetl with his shammas (sexton). Suddenly he stopped in front of the home of a simple Jew. “There is a certain spirituality that I sense here. I'd like to stop by this man's home.”
His shammas knocked on the door, and as it opened the holy Rebbe exclaimed, “There is a smell in this home that must be from the Garden of Eden. It is sweet and pure. Pray tell me, where does it come from?”
The simple Jew did not know what to answer, but allowed the Rebbe to roam freely through his humble abode and open any door he chose. Suddenly the Rebbe pointed to a closet. “What is in that closet? The holiness comes from within.” The man was reluctant to open the door, but the Rebbe urged him. The man opened the door and in the closet hung the vestments of a priest! The Rebbe turned to the man once again and asked. “Please tell me. What is a holy Jew doing with those clothing?”
The poor Jew told his tale: “Years ago, I was asked to help raise money for a family thrown into jail by a poritz (landowner) to whom they owed rent. My Rebbe asked me to raise the funds, and I immediately agreed. After all, I thought, with the Rebbe's wishes it would be an easy task. Everyone would give to save a Jewish family! I was wrong. Everyone in town had an excuse not to give. There was a deadline approaching, and I had no choice but to approach the wealthiest Jew in town who was known for his malevolence toward Chassidim. "The man told me he would give me the entire sum that day on one condition. I must parade through the town, dressed as a priest singing psalms in Hebrew and asking for tzedakah (charity) in Yiddish. At the end of the day, he would pay the ransom.
“I did what I had to do, while a group of his friends followed me around, laughing and mocking me wherever I walked. I got the money and I never returned the vestments he gave me.”
The Rebbe turned and said, “Yes. These clothing are truly holy. They are the source of the spirituality I sense.” Legend has it that the Rebbe told the man to be buried in those clothes.
[Reprinted with permission from]
Shabbos in Navi
Shmuel I Chapter 26

On Shabbos Hashem’s Name is known throughout the world

In this chapter we learn how Shaul again pursued Dovid and Dovid and Avishai went to Shaul’s camp and found Shaul and his men asleep. Avishai wished to kill Shaul but Dovid did not allow him to do so. Rather, Dovid took the spear and the flask of water that was next to Shaul’s head. Dovid then woke up Avner and Shaul, and Shaul again declared that he would not harm Dovid anymore. It is fascinating that despite the fact that Shaul was seeking to murder Dovid, Dovid himself refused to kill Shaul, claiming that he was anointed by HaShem. This sign of respect should be not lost on us. Shabbos is the day that HaShem anointed for His beloved nation, so how could one even contemplate any form of desecration on this Holy Day? Hashem should allow us to observe the Holy Shabbos properly and we should witness the arrival of His anointed one, Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in Agadah

No time for Eliyahu on Erev Shabbos

The Gemara (Eiruvin 43a) states that Eliyahu will not arrive on Erev Shabbos or Erev Yom Tov because the Jewish People will be preoccupied with their preparations for Shabbos or Yom Tov. The Pinei Menachem wonders what the Gemara means by this, as it is possible for one to have a meager meal and still greet Eliyahu and subsequently Moshiach. Furthermore, even if the Jewish People would have to fast because of the redemption, once Moshiach arrives it will be a day that is completely Shabbos. The Pinei Menachem answers that that the Gemara (Avodah Zara 3a) states that one who toils on Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos. Thus, HaShem seeks to bestow merit to his creations so that no one should be lost. This then is the meaning of the Gemara that it will be too difficult for the Jewish People if Eliyahu arrives on Erev Shabbos or Erev Yom Tov. The Gemara (Kesubos 2a) states that a person does not trouble himself to prepare a feast and allow it to go to waste. Similarly, HaShem created man and prepared, so to speak, a feast for man. Thus, man is required to prepare himself to eat at this feast, and it is for this reason that we have Erev Shabbos, so one can prepare himself properly for Shabbos.

Shabbos in Halacha

Limitation of Hatmanah, Insulating

The prohibition to insulate food applies only to wrapping or enclosing a container entirely, i.e. on top and on all sides. If a substantial portion of the container is left exposed it is not deemed to be insulated. We will elaborate later on this rule.

Shabbos Challenge Question

Last week we posed the question: why was it necessary to have two commandments regarding Shabbos, one of zachor, to remember Shabbos, and one of shamor, to safeguard the Shabbos? The Dubno Maggid explains that that the two commandments have equal importance because each commandment applies to different people. The commandment to remember Shabbos refers to the requirement that one honor the Shabbos with food and drink and fine clothing. The commandment to safeguard Shabbos was said regarding the prohibition not to work or discuss business matters. A poor person can easily safeguard the day as he has no financial interests. To remember the day, however, may prove difficult as he must be frugal with his resources. A wealthy person, however, has it easy regarding the commandment of remembering Shabbos, as he can readily provide his family with delicacies and fine clothing in honor of Shabbos. Regarding they commandment of safeguarding Shabbos, however, the wealthy man will find it difficult to observe, as he is always focused on his financial interests. Hashem therefore uttered the mitzvah of zachor and shamor simultaneously to demonstrate that the requirements of the day apply equally to the poor man and to the wealthy man.

This week’s question is, why do we not recite the verses that are said regarding the Shabbos Mussaf offering for the haftorah on Shabbos? 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
Parashas Vaera 5769
is sponsored in honor of the birth
of a boy to Yossi and Rivky Adler of Southfield, MI. Hashem should give them much nachas from all their children and they should be zoche lihachniso bivriso shel Avraham Avinu biito uvizmano.

I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, a half an hour before Minchah.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos.
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
For sponsorships please call

To subscribe weekly by email
please send email to
View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
and other Divrei Torah on

No comments: