Friday, May 8, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Emor 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת אמור תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Emor 5769

Sticking together
In this week’s parasha, the Torah informs us of the man who was a son of an Egyptian man and a Jewish woman, who blasphemed using the Name of HaShem. This man was sentenced to death by stoning. The Medrash (Toras Kohanim) states that the background of this incident was that this man sought to pitch his tent in the encampment of the tribe of Dan, and he was informed that the encampment was determined by the lineage of one’s father. In this man’s case, he was out of the pale, as his father was an Egyptian. The man then went to Moshe to adjudicate his case and he was found guilty, so he blasphemed by using HaShem’s Name.
The mekallel and the mekosheish were at the same time
What is the lesson that is contained in this incident? There is an interesting statement in the Medrash that at first glance does not appear to have any connection with the incident. The Medrash (Toras Kohanim Vayikra 24:10) states that the incident with the mekallel, i.e. the blasphemer, and the incident regarding the mekosheish, the one who gathered wood on Shabbos, were at the same time. The Baal HaTurim (Ibid) writes that this teaches us that one who desecrates the Shabbos is akin to one who denies the existence of HaShem. It would seem that there is another lesson that can be derived from the fact that incidents regarding the mekallel and the mekosheish occurred at the same time.
The encampment of the Jewish People in the Wilderness was one of unity
The encampment in the Wilderness was not merely a practical method of settling the Jewish People while they sojourned in the Wilderness. Rather, the Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:3) teaches us at the Giving of the Torah, that the Jewish People witnessed the encampment of the angels in heaven and they desired that encampment. Thus, the encampment of the Jewish People in the Wilderness was a matter of holiness and endearment. This was the encampment that the son of the Egyptian wished to become a part of. Ina addition to the fact that the encampment was determined by the paternal lineage, there was another element to this encampment. The aspect of this encampment that this man failed to appreciate was the fact that the encampment was to be akin to the encampment at Sinai, where the Jewish People encamped as one man with one heart, in unity. The son of the Egyptian, however, demonstrated with his behavior the antithesis of this ideal, and he stirred up controversy in the Wilderness. It was his contentiousness that ultimately led to his punishment by stoning.
The Shabbos connection
Shabbos is a time when the Jewish People, are all united, despite the struggles that we encounter during the week. It is noteworthy that it is said (Shemos 31:16) vishamru vinei Yisroel es haShabbos laasos es haShabbos ledorosam bris olam, the Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations. The Zohar states that the word ledorosam can be read lidirosam, to dwell amongst them. This idea can be interpreted to mean that on Shabbos, we are all required to dwell together in unity. It is for this reason that the incident of the mekallel and the incident of the mekosheish are juxtaposed, to teach us how much one should distance himself from strife and quarrel, and instead to seek peace. Shabbos is referred to as shalom, and we should all merit observing Shabbos in unity and tranquility.
Shabbos Stories
Mitzvah Vigilante
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: This past Thursday evening I went to be Menachem Avel (in the vernacular pay a shiva call) a friend, Rabbi Zissel Zelman, who was sitting shiva for his father. He is a Chicago native whose father, Rabbi Zelman, grew up in Chicago way before Torah Judaism had flourished there. Reb Zissel related that as a young man, his father would pass the newsstand every Saturday night after shul to pick up a paper. As he did not carry money with him, he had made an arrangement with the vendors to return on Sunday morning to pay the vendor.
Rabbi Zelman was not interested in the sports pages nor was he interested in the headlines. In fact he was not interested in the paper altogether. Rabbi Zelman bought the paper for his mother. She also was not interested in the sports or the news. She was interested in the dead. Every Saturday night she would comb the paper looking for announcements of tombstone unveilings that were to take place on Sunday at the Jewish Cemeteries. An unveiling is a time when people are charitable, and the elderly Mrs. Zelman would go to the cemeteries and raise funds from the gathered for Yeshivos in Europe in Israel. She would eventually turn the coins into bills and send the money overseas. A plaque hangs today in the Slobodka Yeshiva in Israel commemorating her efforts.
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: My grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, told me the story of how, as the Rav of Toronto, he was quickly introduced to a new world, far different than the world he was accustomed to as the Rav of the tiny Lithuanian shtetl of Tzitivyan, which he left in 1937. One of his congregants had invited him to a pidyon haben, a special ceremony and feast made when a first-born child reaches thirty days old and his father redeems him from the kohen for five silver shekels (dollars).
Entering the hall, Rav Yaakov was impressed by the beautiful meal prepared in honor of the event. He was reviewing the procedure, and the interaction with the Kohen that would frame the event, when the father of the child introduced Rav Yaakov to his father-in-law, a Mr. Segal. Suddenly, Rav Yaakov realized that there was trouble. If Mr. Segal was a Levite, as the name Segal traditionally denotes (Segan Likohen, an assistant to the Kohen), than there would be no need for a Pidyon Haben. For, if the mother of the child is the daughter of either a Kohen or Levi, then no redemption is necessary.
“Mr. Segal,” asked Rav Yaakov, “are you by any chance a Levi?” “Of course!” beamed the elderly Segal.
Rav Yaakov tried to explain to the father of the child that a pidyon haben was unnecessary, but the father was adamant. He had prepared a great spread, appointed a kohen, and even had the traditional silver tray sprinkled with garlic and sugar cubes, awaiting the baby. He wanted to carry out the ceremony!
It took quite a while for Rav Yaakov to dissuade the man that this was no mitzvah, and to perform the ceremony with a blessing would be not only superfluous, but also irreverent and a transgression.
(In fact, one apocryphal ending has the father complaining, “What do you mean, I don't have to make a pidyon haben? I made one for my first son and I'm going to make one for this son!”)
Ultimately, Rav Yaakov, convinced the man to transform the celebration into a party commemorating, his child’s 30th day entered in good health, an important milestone with many halachic ramifications.
[Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Emor 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 wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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