Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Doreish Tov Shavuos 5769

דורש טוב: שבועות תשס"ט

The holiday of plenty
The holiday we are celebrating is referred to as Shavuos, which means weeks. While in the simple sense the holiday is thus called because of the seven weeks of the counting of the Omer that precede the holiday, we must understand why the holiday itself is referred to as Shavuos. Rashi (Yechezkel 45:21) writes that Pesach is referred to as Shavuos because it is on Pesach that we begin to count the weeks towards Shavuos. Yet, we still must understand why Shavuos itself is referred to as Shavuos.
Shavuos means plenty
The word sheva, besides meaning week, also means many. It is noteworthy that the word sheva and sova are similar (the letters shin and sin are interchangeable). The word sova means plenty. The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 28:3) states that the weeks between Pesach and Shavuos are deemed to be complete when the Jewish People perform the will of HaShem. This is accomplished by the Jewish People offering the Omer sacrifice, and in this way HaShem provides them with their sustenance. Thus, our livelihood is decided during the weeks between Pesach and Shavuos (see Sefer HaTodaah § 25). Although we do not have the Bais HaMikdash currently, and we cannot offer the Omer, there is a way for us to allow HaShem to shower us with His bounty.
Measure for measure during the days of Sefiras HaOmer
The word middah, which means measurement, equals 49 in gematria. What is a middah? We refer to the middos with which HaShem conducts Himself in the world. The Gemara (Sota 8b) states bimidah sheadam modeid bah modidin lo, in the way that a person measures, i.e. conducts himself, that is the way Heaven measures, i.e. conducts with him. Our Holy Writings teach us that HaShem, Who is infinite, allowed His Presence to descend into this world through a process referred to as tzimtzum, where HaShem, so to speak, confines Himself into a limited area. The purpose of our existence is so that HaShem can shower us with His goodness. If one does not conduct himself properly, then, Heaven forbid, HaShem does not allow His Presence, so to speak, to be manifest by that person. The Gemara (Ibid 5a) states that HaShem declares that he cannot, so to speak, coexist, with one who is arrogant. When one is humble and subjugates himself to HaShem’s will, then the person can be a vehicle for HaShem’s goodness. Throughout the seven weeks of the Omer, it is incumbent upon us to be modeid, measure, i.e., conduct ourselves, in a way that will allow HaShem to shower us with His goodness. Shavuos is the culmination of that achievement, and then we can be true recipients of HaShem’s bounty. It is for this reason, then, that this holiday is called Shavuos, as this alludes to the sova, bounty, that HaShem bestows upon us.

Rus and bounty
Based on this idea we can also understand why it is specifically on Shavuos that we read the Book of Rus. The story of Rus relates that Elimelech forsook his brethren in a time of need and went to Moav. Elimelech died and his wife, Naomi, retuned to Eretz Yisroel with her daughter-in-law, Rus. It was Rus who displayed great kindness with her mother-in-law and Rus merited to be the forerunner of the Davidic dynasty, and from Dovid descends Moshiach. By conducting herself in a humble and kind manner, Rus allowed herself to be the recipient of HaShem’s goodness, and she merited to have a descendant, Dovid, who reflected similar conduct. Shlomo hamelech declares (Mishlei 16:6) bichesed viemes yichupar avon, through kindness and truth iniquity will be forgiven. In order to merit HaShem’s kindness and to have our sins forgiven, we must act kindly with others. Hashem should allow us to merit that this Shavuos we will display an outpouring of love to our fellow Jew, and in this merit we will witness the arrival of Dovid’s descendant, Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily in our days.
Shavuos Stories
Concern for his students
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, the great Rosh Yeshivah of Baranovitch in pre-War Europe, lived in abject poverty. Once, R’ Meir Shapiro, Rosh Yeshivah of the larger (and wealthier) Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, visited Baranovitch and witnessed first-hand the poverty with which R’ Elchonon lived. He promptly offered him a position in his own yeshivah, and assured R’ Elchonon that every comfort and need would be provided. R’ Elchonon did not even think before responding. “But what will be with all my children?” he asked, casting his gaze upon the hundreds of students studying in his yeshivah's study hall.
Eventually, R’ Elchonon would give up his very life for the sake of his students. When visiting the United States in 1939, R’ Elchonon was implored by his admirers to remain there, as the Nazi threat loomed ever larger. “How could he”" asked R’ Elchonon, “when his students needed him - especially at such a time?” He returned to Poland, and was a tremendous source of encouragement and radiance to his students. In 1941, he was martyred along with many of these students.
The following story [from For Love of Torah by Rabbi Shimon Finkleman, as were the previous stories] demonstrates the amazing bond between a rebbe and his talmid (student). R’ Yosef Levitan was an American-born product of the well-known Yeshivah, Mesivta Torah Vodaas. For fourteen years, until his passing in 1964 at the age of thirty-nine, he was one of the Mesivta's most beloved rebbeim, a source of inspiration to all who were privileged to meet him.
Once, as a bachur (youth), R' Yosef was experiencing great difficulty understanding a certain sugya (topic) in Masechta Kiddushin of the Talmud. He and his chavrusa (study partner) labored long and hard, but could not resolve the difficulty. R' Yosef made the rounds in the beis midrash (study hall) discussing his difficulty with other bachurim, but none were able to offer a solution to his question. That night, as they parted, R’ Yosef’s chavrusa noted the great distress upon his friend's face over his lack of complete understanding of the Gemara.
When the two met the next morning, R' Yosef's face was radiant. His joy seemed boundless. He related, “Last night, when I went to sleep, my mind was totally occupied with trying to resolve our difficulty. During the night, my revered rebbe, R’ Shlomo Heiman (Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaas until his passing in 1945), of blessed memory, appeared to me in a dream. He referred me to a comment of the Ritva (a medieval Gemara commentator) on a certain daf (page of the Talmud), which, he said, would resolve our question. When I awoke, I immediately opened the Ritva to that daf, and sure enough, there was our question, along with a beautiful explanation which shed light on the entire Gemara!”
After relating the Ritva's comment, R’ Yosef remarked, “The dream gave me pleasure on two accounts. First, it revealed that our question had already been asked by one of the great Torah commentators, who answers with an enlightening explanation. And second, I was gratified to know that my rebbe continues to be concerned with me, even in the World of Truth.”
Sacrificing for Torah
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: Rabbi Yisrael Zev Gustman used to tell the story of a young bachur (yeshiva student), Moshe, who arrived in Grodno at the famed Yeshiva of Rabbi Shimon Shkop zt”l while the Rosh Yeshiva was in the middle of delivering a complex Talmudic lecture (shiur). Moshe, although inexperienced with the complexities of such a lecture, did not hesitate to interject with questions that revealed his lack of background. After the shiur, when asked by Moshe to accept him into the yeshiva, Rav Shkop responded that while his desire to learn was obvious, it was impossible for him to join the yeshiva at this time. He then suggested some alternatives -yeshivos where the level of study was not so advanced.
But Moshe was undaunted. In his opinion, Grodno was the best yeshiva in the area, and R’ Shkop one of the most brilliant minds of the generation. It would take him some time to get up to par, but this was where he wanted to be.
“Who cares if I’m accepted?” he said to himself. “The Rosh Yeshiva won’t throw me out of the beis midrash (study hall). What don’t I have? Food and lodging? I can sleep in the beis midrash. And as for food, one way or another, I won’t starve!”
Moshe remained in Grodno. He would eat the leftovers of the “official” students, and food that some pious women would bring him from time-to- time. He slept on the floor. And he would beg the yeshiva students to study Torah with him in their spare time.
After a while, Rav Shkop approached the boy and asked his forgiveness for not having accepted him right away. “I didn’t realize how serious you were,” he said. He said he would arrange for Moshe’s lodging and other needs, but Moshe declined. He said that he was really quite comfortable sleeping in the beis midrash, and that this allowed him to maximize his learning time. All his years in Grodno, R’ Moshe slept there on the floor. R’ Moshe Zaretsky was later acknowledged as a Torah scholar of rare distinction. [ArtScroll, Shavuos, page 143-144]
[Reprinted with permission from]

Doreish Tov Shavuos 5769
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, an hour before Mincha
Have a Good Yom Tov and a wonderful and delightful Shabbos.
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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