Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Devarim 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת דברים תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Devarim 5769

Becoming one with the Torah
It is said (Devarim 1:1) eileh hadevarim asher diber Moshe el kol Yisroel, these are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel. The Medrash (Devarim Rabbah 1:1) comments that prior to receiving the Torah, it is said regarding Moshe (Shemos 4:10) lo ish devarim anochi, I am not a man of words. Once he merited the Torah, his tongue was healed, and he began to recite devarim, words, as it is said eileh hadevarim asher diber Moshe.
One must wonder why the Medrash chose to mention here the idea of Moshe’s speech being healed, when in reality Moshe’s speech was healed at the giving of the Torah, forty years earlier. Furthermore, what is the connection between Mishneh Torah and Moshe’s speech being healed?
The King and Mishneh Torah
In order to understand this Medrash, we must first understand the significance of Mishneh Torah. It would seem that Mishneh Torah is merely a review of the first four books of the Torah. Yet, Mishneh Torah has the same significance as the rest of the Torah, and we must understand its significance. The words Mishneh Torah are found in the verse regarding a Jewish king that states (Devarim 17:18) vihayah chishivto al kisei mamlachto vichasuv lo es mishnei HaTorah hazos al sefer mililfnei hakohanim halviim, it shall be that when he sits on throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah in a book, from before the Kohanim, the Levites. There is a direct connection between the king and Mishneh Torah. The Medrash (Yalkut Shimon Bereishis 1:11) states that when Hashem first appeared to Yehoshua, He found him studying Mishneh Torah. Hashem then declared to Yehoshua (Yehoshua 1:8) lo yamush sefer haTorah hazeh mipicha vihagisa bo yomam valaylah, this Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; rather you should contemplate it day and night. What was the significance of Mishneh Torah that Yehoshua felt compelled to be engaged in its study? The Gerrer Rebbe, the Bais Yisroel, writes that the words Mishneh Torah are similar to the words Mishneh Limelech, the second to the king. Perhaps the idea is that it is not sufficient for one to study Torah and perform the mitzvos. Rather, one must be attached to the Torah, similar to the king who was required to keep the Torah with him at all times.
Yehoshua was completely connected to the Torah
It is appropriate that Yehoshua reflected this idea, as regarding Yehoshua it is said (Shemos 33:11) umisharso Yehoshua bin Nun naar lo yamish mitoch haohel, his servant, Yehoshua son of Nun, a lad, would not depart from within the Tent. Thus, Yehoshua was part and parcel with the Torah, and therefore he merited to become the leader and the king of the Jewish People. The Jewish king reflected the ideal of being one with the Torah. In truth, the Gemara (Gittin 60b) states that all Torah scholars are deemed to be kings as they are one with the Torah.
Moshe sacrificed his life for the Torah
We can now understand why the Medrash chose to mention the healing of Moshe’s speech at the onset of Mishneh Torah. Moshe was the quintessential embodiment of the ideal that one has to be one with the Torah. The Medrash (Tanchumah Beshalach § 10) states that because Moshe sacrificed his life, so to speak, on behalf of the Torah, he merited that the Torah was written on his name. Moshe was the first Jewish king, and the quality of Moshe has been transmitted throughout every generation.
Bar Mitzvah boy becomes one with the Torah
When a child becomes Bar Mitzvah, he is taking on the responsibilities of Torah study and mitzvah observance. Even more, however, he now has the opportunity to become one with the Torah. It is said (Tehillim 2:12) nashku var pen yeenaf, yearn for purity, lest he become wrathful. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 92a) interprets the word bar to be referring to Torah. Thus, a Bar Mitzvah boy is now becoming one with the Torah. This is also reflected in the word mitzvah that is interpreted to mean connection.
The Shabbos connection

The Medrash (Tana Divei Eliyahu § 1) states that one should make Shabbos entirely Torah. Shabbos is referred to as raza diechod, the secret of oneness, so it follows that on Shabbos one should make himself one with the Torah. Hashem should allow us to recognize that He is One and His Name is One, and we should merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
How can I even thinking of leaving this city?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: It is told that the holy Rema, Rav Moshe Isserles zt”l, Rav of Cracow and author of the famous Ashkenazi commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, in his elder, decided to retire from Rabbinical leadership. Leading the Rabbinate of such a large city, one can imagine, would be a daunting task even for a young man. One might also surmise that the elderly sage would have enjoyed spending his ‘golden years’ studying the Torah with the undisturbed peace and serenity that is not the lot of the Rabbinate, who must constantly deal with arguments and monetary disagreements between one Jew and another. Despite the community’s uproar, he was firm about his decision, and would not allow himself to be swayed. It seemed nothing could change his mind, not even the promise of money—a rare commodity for a community Rabbi. It was thus with great surprise that, just weeks before the scheduled date of retirement, the Rabbinical lay-committee, whose job it had been to find a replacement for the irreplaceable R’ Moshe, now found themselves sitting across the table from him, listening to him say that he had changed his mind, and wished to remain Rabbi of Cracow—assuming they would still have him.
“You may be wondering,” he told them, “what brought about my sudden, complete, and inexplicable change-of-heart (they were!)? It was due to a case that came before me this morning, the details of which I will now tell you.
“There is a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) in our community, R’ Ephraim Mendel, who for many years earned an honest yet meager living selling bagels in the marketplace. Unbeknownst to me, R’ Ephraim Mendel entered into a Yissachar-Zevulun agreement with another gentleman, R’ Yitzchok, whereby R’ Yitzchok would support R’ Ephraim Mendel in full, and R’ Ephraim Mendel in turn would dedicate himself completely to Torah study, without having to worry about selling his bagels. R’ Ephraim Mendel, it seems, has now decided the agreement is no longer to his liking, and wants to be released from the deal. R’ Yitzchok refuses to release him. He produced a signed document that entitles him to continue supporting R’ Ephraim Mendel, in exchange for which he would be entitled to his portion of the reward for R’ Ephraim Mendel’s Torah study. ‘We have an agreement,’ he said adamantly, ‘and I have no intention of terminating it!’
“I needed some background. Turning to R’ Ephraim Mendel, I asked him how this agreement came about, especially since I knew R’ Ephraim Mendel was exceptionally humble, and very few people knew of his vast knowledge of Torah and amazing diligence, let alone an outsider.”
“‘The Rav knows that every morning my wife and I would get up at four o’clock to begin making our bagels. After davening kevasikin (with sunrise), I would take a sefer Tehillim (Book of Psalms) in my hand, and pray as my Rebbetzin began measuring the flour to mix with the water. As she kneaded the dough, I prayed to Hashem that the dough be a consistent one. When she put the bagels in the oven, I would continue to pray that they would bake evenly, and would be tasty. Finally, after the bagels were ready, I would pray to Hashem as I walked to the market that I would quickly and easily find buyers for my wares, so that I could be finished with my work for the day, and be off to the beis ha-midrash to begin my day of Torah study. It was hard work, true, but every step of the way I would pray with all my heart, and baruch Hashem, people liked our bagels, and we made a fine living.
“‘One morning I was standing in the market peddling my wares as always when this guest, R’ Yitzchok, happened to stop buy. He wanted to buy some bagels. He started talking to himself about whether the correct beracha (blessing) on the bagels would be Hamotzi or mezonos. I offered him my opinion, and when he disagreed, I proceeded to prove to him from Shas (the Talmud) and Poskim (halachic authorities) that I was indeed correct.’
“‘Frankly, I was flabbergasted,’ R’ Yitzchok continued. ‘Who ever heard of a bagel salesman who knew Shas and Poskim with such clarity?! On the spot, I made him an impulsive yet serious offer. He had no business selling bagels like a commoner. I would support him comfortably from now on, in exchange for the honor of backing such an erudite scholar, and having some small share in his learning. We drew up a contract with the terms,’ he once again showed me the shtar, ‘and I immediately began sending him a monthly stipend. And now, I cannot fathom why, he wants out. Have I not given him generously enough?’
“‘Of course not!’ said R’ Ephraim Moshe. ‘And that is exactly my problem. I feel like I no longer need Hashem. I don’t worry about the dough, or the flour, or the customers. No more heart-felt Tehillim for an easy day. It’s all so cozy and comfortable—but where’s my relationship with Hashem!? That’s why I want out. I’m not willing to give up those heart-felt prayers— and our need to ask Hashem to give us sustenance every day—for any money in the world!’
“And I say,” concluded the Rema, “that in a city in which such a din-Torah (case) can take place… why, I’d be a fool to leave such a holy city!”
It doesn’t have to be perfect
Rabbi Hoffman writes further: This week marked the fourth yahrtzeit of the Bobover Rebbe zt”l. Those who had the privilege of having been in the Rebbe’s company will not soon forget the beauty of the Rebbe's every movement. Were it not for having known the Rebbe, it might be difficult to believe what one reads about past Torah giants - that they never moved their bodies in any way without thinking of Hashem. The Rebbe was recognized not only for his great sanctity and tremendous love for mitzvos and Torah, but also for his unequalled mentschlichkeit - he was a person that even gentiles who came in contact with him loved.
At the Rebbe’s shiva, a woman came to visit. From her appearance, it was obvious she was not an observant Jew. The Rebbe’s daughters wondered what her relationship with their father possibly could have been. “I lived in the West Side of Manhattan,” she began, “when your father came to live there in the early 1950’s. To tell you the truth,” she said, “I’m no great maven on Rebbes, so I’m not going to tell you about how holy your father was, though no doubt he was a holy man. But do you know why I came to the shiva? Because in my whole life, I’ve never met more of a mentsch than your father. Even though I wasn’t religious, he always treated me with tremendous respect, and never made me feel like less of a Jew. I used to look forward to seeing your father just walking in the street - he had such a way about him. I may not be a maven on a Rebbe - but I'm a maven on a mentsch.”
A Bobover Hasid from Brooklyn once hired a black painter to paint his house. Noticing a picture of the Rebbe in the Hasid’s breakfront, he remarked, “You know – that’s my Rabbi.” The Hasid was intrigued; it wasn’t every day that a man like this had a Rabbi - never mind a Hasidic Rebbe.
“Do you want to know why? I’ll tell you. That Rabbi - Rabbi Halberstam - once hired me to paint his dining room. When I arrived in the morning, he greeted me with a warm ‘Good morning!’ Then he asked me if I had eaten breakfast. Actually, I hadn’t, and I told him that I didn’t have time.’ You can’t work all morning without eating something - let me fetch you something to eat.’ Can you believe it - the Rebbe made me breakfast!
“Once I had eaten, I began plastering the walls. At some point, the Rebbe came over to inspect my work. ‘Your work is excellent,’ he said, ‘almost too perfect. Please, don’t work too hard to make it perfect – there’s nothing wrong with a few small rough spots here and there. Now, thousands of years ago, we had a temple - the Holy Temple (Bais Ha-mikdash). There everything had to be totally perfect - it was G-d’s house on earth. But for my house here - pretty good is good enough. Thank you for your hard work.’
“Now another time,” he continued, “I was hired to do some work by another Rabbi. He didn't bother asking me if I had breakfast. When he came to inspect my work, he found a spot that had been plastered, but was not perfectly smooth. He began ranting and raving, ‘Is this what I pay you for? It's not smooth! Do you call this plastering?’ I promised him I would smooth it out, but that wasn’t enough. He made me do the whole room over from scratch, and stood over me as I did it. ‘You may be a Rabbi, but you’re not at all like my Rabbi,’ I told him when I left. I don’t know if he understood what I meant, but he sure was shocked.” (Reprinted with permission from
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Devarim 5769
Is sponsored in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of our dear son, Yisroel Meir
I will not be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon until after Tisha Baav.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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