Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Matos-Masei 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת מטות-מסעי תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Matos-Masei 5769

Making a vow removes jealousy and hatred
In this week’s parasha, Matos, it is said (Bamidbar 30:3) ish ki yidor neder laHaShem, if a man takes a vow to HaShem. The Imrei Emes writes that the word neder, a vow, is similar to the word dirah¸ a dwelling. This reflects the idea that one’s word has to be as solid as a wall. It is noteworthy that regarding Shabbos 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 as lidirosam, to dwell amongst them. What is the connection between vows and Shabbos observance?

Understanding the cause of baseless hatred

In order to understand the association of vows and Shabbos observance, it is worthwhile to examine one of the fundamental causes of our current exile. While it is well known that we are still in exile because of the sin of baseless hatred, it is incumbent upon us to understand the root of this sin. Why is it that people dislike each other? Are we not all different in our mannerisms and in our preferences, both with regard to spiritual pursuits and material pursuits? How could someone think that another individual should think and should act exactly like himself? The Gemara (Brachos 58a) tells us that just as people’s faces are different from each other, so too their perspectives are different from each other. Thus, it is virtually impossible for two individuals to be the same. What, then, is the underlying motive for someone to bear hatred towards another person?

Jealousy leads to hatred

The answer to this question is well known and is obvious, but unfortunately, like many well know concepts, this idea is overlooked in our daily lives. The Torah (Shemos 20:14) instructs us that we should not covet items that belong to others. Here again we must wonder why one would desire something that does not belong to him. Had HaShem wished that one should have this item, He would have decreed that this person should have it. Nonetheless, people covet items that belong to others, with the thought that this item may actually belong to him one day. This desire for other people’s articles is referred to as jealousy. It is the nature of man to be jealous of other peoples’ articles and even of other peoples’ accomplishments, both in the realm of spirituality and in the area of materialism. One who envies someone else’s articles and accomplishments will not tolerate the other person until he attains what that person has. Given the fact that it is impossible to accomplish exactly what someone else has accomplished, the result will be that the person will hate his fellow man for what he owns and for what he has accomplished. The question then is what can be done so that a person will avoid such jealousy which culminates in hatred?

Making vows minimizes ones desires for physical objects
The antidote to jealousy is obviously to always be a giver instead of being a taker. One who performs acts of kindness will subvert his natural tendencies to covet and to be jealous, and he will end up loving his fellow man. The Imrei Emes writes further that one who makes a vow is essentially sanctifying that which is permitted. In a similar vein, we can suggest that one who makes a vow is demonstrating that he no longer desires what belongs to others. The Torah juxtaposes the laws of vows between the incident where the Jewish People sinned with the Moabite women and the battle against Midian. The Pinei Menachem writes that the reason for this is because Moav and Midian made peace with each other so that together they could defeat the Jewish People, and they attempted to accomplish this by hiring Balaam who would curse the Jewish People. It is for this reason that the Torah mentions here the laws of vows, to teach us that our strength is with our mouths, and one should not make his words profane and thus desecrate his power of speech. Perhaps there is another idea reflected in the juxtaposition of the laws of vows and the incidents of sinning with the Moabite women and the battle with Midian. When the Jewish People sinned with the Moabite women, they had succumbed to their physical desires. Similarly, when the Jewish People battled the Midianites, they were guilty of immoral thoughts (Shabbos 64a). The Torah, therefore, specifically placed the laws of vows in between these two incidents to teach us that when one makes a vow for holy matters, he is restricting his ability to covet and to be jealous of others.

Minimizing ones speech on Shabbos allows one to engage in spiritual pursuits
There is a Halacha that states that one should minimize his speech on Shabbos. What is the reason for this Halacha? Perhaps we can suggest that given the fact that Shabbos is a day of holiness, one should increase the level of holiness by minimizing his speech. During the week, when one is tempted by materialism and physical desires, one is encouraged to make vows so that he will limit his feelings of jealousy and coveting items that belong to others. Shabbos, however, is referred to by the Zohar as yoma dinishmasa, the Day of the Soul, and on Shabbos one is less connected to materialism. Given the fact that on Shabbos one is more involved in spiritual pursuits, one should minimize his speech and remain focused on delighting in HaShem’s Presence. A vow is appropriate for the weekday, when one sanctifies the reshus, i.e. the mundane. On Shabbos, however, one distances himself from the physical and focuses on the spiritual. This is the association between a neder, which is associated with the word dirah, a fortified dwelling, and Shabbos, which is ledorosam, and according to the Zohar is interpreted as lidirosam, for their dwellings. A neder fortifies a person’s resolve to sanctify the mundane, and minimizing ones speech on Shabbos fortifies a person’s resolve to become even more holy.

The Shabbos connection

The Gemara (Shabbos 119b) states that one of the reasons that Yerushalayim was destroyed was because Jews desecrated the Shabbos. One can rectify this sin by engaging in spiritual pursuits on Shabbos, and this will certainly minimize ones jealousy of others, thus allowing one to see others in a better light. As we approach the month of Av, we should bear in mind the importance of sanctifying the mundane, and certainly we should retain the sanctity of Shabbos by focusing on its great spiritual effects. In this manner, HaShem will allow us to see our fellow Jews in a positive light, and we will merit the Ultimate Redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
We’ll settle for the egg salad
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Henry Hirsch, the president of the Welbilt Co., one of America’s leading oven and major appliance manufacturers, had another labor of love. He was the president of one of America’s premier Torah institutions, Yeshiva Torah Voda’ath. At a board meeting, at which many of the yeshiva’s prominent lay leaders were present, the school’s cook prepared a beautiful supper in honor of the eminent supporters. As one of the students was serving the executives, Mr. Hirsch looked at the delicious meal. “Excuse me,” he asked the young scholar. “What are they serving you in the main dining hall?” The boy looked sheepishly at Mr. Hirsch and stammered, “I think we’re having egg salad sandwiches.”
The renowned philanthropist turned to the executive board and the representatives of the Yeshiva administration. “We are all here for the sake of the Yeshiva boys; I think it is they who should be eating this chicken dinner. Let’s send it to them and we’ll have the egg salad instead.”

Concern for everyone, anytime
Rabbi Chaim Kanievski, of Binei Brak, Israel, the son of the Steipler Gaon of blessed memory, is known for his amazing breadth of Torah Knowledge which is only paralleled by his great diligence in Torah study. With the passing of his father more than a decade ago, people from all walks of life line up in front of his home seeking answers to complex Torah and personal questions.
But his greatness and wisdom were known to hundreds in the yeshiva world for many years.
Many years ago, as a student in the Ponovez Yeshiva, I heard an amazing story. A young man came to Reb Chaim with a long list of questions. Reb Chaim seemed a bit preoccupied but the visitor insisted on asking the questions, to which Reb Chaim responded, one by one.
Suddenly Reb Chaim began tidying himself up and put on a recently pressed kapote and new hat, and asked the young man's indulgence. He had to go somewhere but he allowed the visitor to accompany him. The younger man did, peppering him with questions the entire way.
They walked a few blocks until they reached a wedding hall. Upon entering, Reb Chaim embraced the groom with a warm hug and kiss and apologized for the delay. Reb Chaim sat himself among the prestigious Rabbonim who graced the dais as they prepared the marriage documents. The persistent questioner was almost oblivious to the scene and continued to ask as more questions and eliciting responses. Reb Chaim tried to juggle the needs of the groom while trying to accommodate the visitor who had besieged him with problems.
But the persistent questioner received the shock of his life when, as the music began, heralding the march to the badekin, where the groom, flanked by his father and father-in-law, met the bride and covered her face with the veil. The groom rose from his seat and immediately his future father-in-law took hold of his arm. The groom's father took hold of the other arm. But before he did so, the groom's father turned around and apologized to the stranger who he had been talking to for the last hour or so. He said that would be unable to help him until after the ceremony. And then Rabbi Kanievski nodded Mazel Tov to the hundreds of well-wishers and began the procession to his own son's wedding!
Everything is fine in Heaven
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: It is told that before the holy rebbe R' Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l passed away, he promised his disciples that when he was brought before the Heavenly tribunal, he would refuse to take his place in Gan Eden until they agreed to bring an end to the suffering of the Jewish Children. Days after his passing, he appeared to a disciple in a dream in the white tallis of those already in Gan Eden. “But Rebbe,” he protested, “you promised you wouldn’t enter Gan Eden until you brought an end to our tzures!”
“My child,” he said, “what should I do? When I was alive there was good and there was bad, and I could pray to annul an evil decree. Now that I’m here, I see that everything is Hashem’s will, and everything is for our good, even when we don't understand how. It is impossible for me to pray.” (Reprinted with permission from
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Matos-Masei 5769
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.
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: