Thursday, June 4, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Naso 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת נשא תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Naso 5769

It will be good in the end
In this week’s parasha we learn about two seemingly unrelated ideas. One idea is that of the Sota, the adulteress woman who is warned by her husband not to have any contact with another man. The woman is subject to a humiliating process, where, if convicted, her stomach swells and her thigh falls, and she dies because of her deviancy., If she is found innocent, however she merits much blessing. The Torah also discusses at length the sacrifices that were offered by the Nesiim, the leaders of each tribe, upon the dedication of the Mishkan. One must wonder why the Torah elaborates on the offerings of the Nesiim. It is said (Shemos 35:27) vihanisiim heiviu eis avnei hashoham vieis Avnei hamiluim laeifod vilachoshen, the leaders brought the shoham stones and the stones for the settings for the Ephod and the Breastplate. Rashi cites the Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 12:16) that states that the Nesiim chose to be the first to bring offerings for the dedication of the Mishkan, whereas for the donations towards the construction of the Mishkan, the Nesiim brought their donations after everyone else. Their rationale was that the people should bring all the donations and whatever would be lacking, they, the Nesiim, would make up for. Once the Nesiim, saw, however, that the people had donated everything, they were left to bring the Shoham stones, and it was for this reason that the Nesiim chose to be the first to bring offerings for the dedication of the Mishkan. This act of laziness caused that the letter yud was left out of their name, and it is written in the Torah vihanisiim without a letter yud. This Medrash implies that the Nesiim were being chastised for their laziness. Why, then, does the Torah here elaborate on the offerings of the Nesiim, reporting the exact same details of each of the twelve Nesiiim’s offerings?
There is always hope
It would seem that the message that is gleaned from the discussion of the Sota applies equally to the episode regarding the Nesiim. While the Nesiim were reprimanded for their laziness with regard to their bringing donations for the construction of the Mishkan, they remained true to their title of Nasi, which means to elevate. The Nesiim elevated themselves by not despairing because of their previous delinquency. Rather, they hastened to be the first to offer sacrifices for the Mishkan dedication, and in fact, the Nesiim were ultimately the only ones who offered sacrifices in this regard. In a similar vein, the Sota is suspected of being unfaithful to her husband. She undergoes a debasing experience, but there is the possibility that she will be vindicated. The Gemara (Sota 26a) states that if she is vindicated then she will be rewarded. If until now she had given birth in pain, she will now give birth with ease. If until now she had given birth to girls, she will now give birth to boys. Furthermore, she will give birth to taller and whiter skinned children. Thus, we see that even a woman who is accused of infidelity has hope that her honor will be restored. This is the lesson of this week‘s parasha. One who has sinned and has despaired of ever repenting and being accepted by HaShem should study the portion regarding the Sota and the portion regarding the Nesiim, and he will realize that there is hope for everyone.
The Shabbos connection
This idea certainly reflects our weekly struggles, as every week we face challenges of earning a livelihood and succumbing to the forces that wish to distance us, Heaven forbid, from HaShem and His Torah. We must realize that despite our struggles during the week, Shabbos is a time of repentance and an opportunity where we can serve HaShem with true joy. It is said (Yeshaya 55:12) ki visimcha seitzeiu, for in gladness shall you go out. The Gerrer Rebbes write that this verse can be interpreted to mean that with joy, one can exit any situation. Hashem should allow us to serve Him with joy and to observe His Shabbos properly.
Shabbos Stories
Keeping what is yours
Rabbi Shlomo Katz writes: The Chofetz Chaim (died 1933) once visited the town of Slonim, and a certain wealthy resident, R' Yosef, asked the sage to review his (R' Yosef's) will. R’ Yosef want the Chofetz Chaim's opinion of whether he had divided his assets properly. The Chofetz Chaim looked at the will and saw that R' Yosef had divided his money into four equal shares - 10,000 rubles for each of his three sons and 10,000 rubles for his wife. In addition, R’ Yosef had willed all of his Sefarim to various yeshivos. The Chofetz Chaim returned the will to R’ Yosef and said, “You find the errors.”
R' Yosef reviewed his will and replied, “I do not see any errors. It looks to me like it is all in order.”
“No!” said the Chofetz Chaim. “Firstly, I am amazed that you left all your money to your family and your Sefarim to yeshivos. Your children, too, will need Sefarim, while yeshivos lack money for food more than they lack Sefarim.
“Secondly, you have transgressed the verse (Yeshaya 58:7), ‘From your own flesh do not turn away.’ True, ‘your flesh’ refers to your relatives, but you are your own closest relative, and you have made no provision for yourself. You worked hard for this money, and you should give yourself an equal share. Create another share of your assets,” the Chofetz Chaim said, “and then divide it again - one-half for Torah scholars and one-half to chesed organizations, for example, for bikkur cholim, for poor people, and so on. The portion that is for Torah scholars also will help feed and clothe poor people such that you will have a share not only in their Torah study but in their very livelihoods.”
R’ Yosef agreed and promised that he would change his will forthwith.
“Wait,” said the Chofetz Chaim. “My advice to you is that you take your 8,000 ruble share and distribute it to appropriate institutions in your lifetime. You know how it is; when children see that their father has left a large portion of his estate to charity, they hire a lawyer to prove that their father was insane. Imagine the reaction in the Heavenly Court if you come there and they hear that, not only were your pledges to charity not fulfilled, but you were insane to boot!
“This,” concluded the Chofetz Chaim, “is the lesson of the verse in Parashas Naso (5:10), ‘A man’s holies shall be his.’ Only what a person sets aside for holy uses will ultimately remain his.”
(Quoted in Otzrosaihem Shel Tzaddikim)
Observing Shabbos even in hard times
A Jewish peasant once came to ask for a blessing from Rabbi Chaim of Chernowitz. The rabbi was about to give his blessing, but paused and asked the man, "Tell me, do you keep Shabbos?"
The farmer averted his eyes and did not reply, but the rabbi continued speaking. “Perhaps you don’t understand the true sanctity of Shabbos. Let me explain: All week you toil with farm animals and till the earth. You work until you’re so exhausted that you fall into your bed. What connection do you have with the spiritual? On the Shabbos, every Jew receives an additional soul, one which is completely pure and refined. He rests his weary body, forgets his struggle of the preceding week and devotes his thoughts to G-d. A person who lives without the Shabbos has a life of work which never ends.”
The peasant listened to the rabbi’s words and they struck a deep chord within his heart. He burst into tears at the thought of all he was missing in life. “Rabbi, I see now how right you are. But perhaps I haven't explained the whole reason why I don't observe Shabbos completely as I should. You see, I rent my farm from a poritz (landlord) who requires me to produce enough food for his family as well as my own. Now that you have explained the importance of Shabbos, I will try my best to keep it completely. Just during the harvest I won't be able to.”
Rabbi Chaim gently asked the farmer why he was so certain that he would not be able to keep Shabbos during the harvest.
“Rabbi, during the harvest I don't have even one minute to spare, and I can't take such a long break.”
Rabbi Chaim smiled and said, “Let me tell you a story: A long time ago, a local landowner invited his friends to a celebration. When they were all seated around the table, and had all drunk much too much, they began to brag about their Jewish employees. ‘My Jewish tenant is unique. He’s as loyal as a good hunting dog,’ said one. Another countered, ‘He can’t be as loyal as my Jewish tenant. He's absolutely the best!’
“Then the host spoke up. ‘You may all have very remarkable tenants, but my Jew is unquestionably the most loyal. Why, he would do anything I asked without hesitation. You know, if I asked him to just convert to our religion, he would do it in a minute.’
“The others began to speak at once. ‘That would never happen. A Jew, no matter how loyal, would never convert because he was asked to do so by his employer!’ they all contended.
“'I see you don’t believe me. I will prove it to you! Send for Moshke!’ the poritz barked to his servant.
“The Jewish tenant was soon standing in front of his landlord and all the drunken guests. ‘Moshke,’ began the poritz, ‘would you do anything I requested of you?’
“The frightened Jew didn’t know what was about to happen. He just hoped to avoid trouble, and so he nodded his head and replied, ‘Yes, sir, I certainly would obey you.’
“'Moshke, I want you to become a Christian right now!’
"The Jew was shocked at the request, but he was too frightened to refuse. He needed a livelihood and his family needed a roof over their heads. As soon as he nodded his head a servant was dispatched to bring the priest. Before he could think about what he was doing, the Jew was baptized.
“When the poritz came out of his drunken haze, he remembered what he had done to his Jewish tenant and he regretted it very much. He apologized, ‘Moshke, I was drunk and I didn’t mean to offend you. Of course, you may become a Jew once again!’
“The poritz was shocked at Moshke’s reaction to his words. He didn’t express his relief or gratitude. In fact, he was none too anxious to resume his former religion.”
‘Thank you for your offer, but soon the Jewish holiday of Passover will be celebrated. It is a very costly holiday. So, I was wondering, would you mind if I put off changing back until after the holiday?’ “
Rabbi Chaim looked penetratingly at the farmer and asked, “Do you know that the Torah states, ‘Six days shall you work and on the seventh you shall rest. At the time of plowing and harvesting you shall rest.’ Doesn’t it seem strange that the Torah adds the words ‘at plowing and harvesting’ when it says that Shabbos must be observed on a weekly basis? Why is it necessary to mention plowing and harvesting in particular?
“The reason is to teach us that even at the most demanding times of the year, when it seems impossible to keep Shabbos, even then, we are commanded to observe the holy Shabbos.”
Rabbi Chaim continued. “Our Sages explain that the laws of Shabbos were taught when the Jews camped near the waters of Mara. Mara means bitter. From this we learn that even when life appears to be especially hard-bitter - and keeping Shabbos seems to be impossible, a Jew must have faith and must keep it despite the hardship. When he expends all the energy he needs to observe Shabbos, G-d will come to his aid, and he will surely succeed.”
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Naso 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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