Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Vaeschanan 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת ואתחנן תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Vaeschanan 5769

Less joy leads to the ultimate joy
In this week’s parasha we learn of how Moshe requested from HaShem that he be granted entry into Eretz Yisroel. After entreating HaShem with numerous supplications, it is said (Devarim 3:26) vayisabeir HaShem bi limaanchem vilo shama eilay vayomer HaShem eilay rav lach al tosef dabeir eilay od badavar hazeh, but HaShem became angry with me because of you and He did not listen to me; HaShem said to me, “It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that HaShem was telling Moshe with the words rav lach, that there is much more awaiting you in the World to Come. How are we to understand this consolation to Moshe? If Moshe wished to enter Eretz Yisroel, of what benefit was there to him to know that he would earn a great share in the World to Come?
The difference between Adar and Av
In order to understand this Medrash, we first need to understand the significance of the word rav, much. The Gemara (Taanis 29a) states that kisheim shemishenichnas Av mimaatin bisimcha kach mishenichnas Adar marbim bisimcha, just like when the month of Av commences we decrease our joy, so too when the month of Adar commences we increase our joy. I heard from Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita of Monsey who quoted the Ben Yehoyada (Taanis Ibid) who writes that the difference in gematria between the words Av and Adar is 202, and the word rav equals 202. This alludes to the idea that in Av we decrease our joy and in Adar we increase our joy. Perhaps we can suggest that there is another meaning to this gematria. Let us understand the meaning of joy. When someone is anticipating something, this means that he is looking to increase upon what he currently has. A person who is going to get married or will be having a child will be increasing what he or she has at present. Conversely, one who is not anticipating something is concerned that he is going to decrease what he currently has. In the month of Av, we are not anticipating an increase, as we know that the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed on the ninth of Av, so we decrease our level of joy. In the month of Adar, however, we are anticipating the holiday of Purim, so we increase our level of joy.
The similarity between Adar and Av
The difficulty with this explanation is that while it is true that in the month of Av we are required to decrease our level of joy, it is not correct that we have nothing to look forward to. The purpose of mourning on Tisha Baav is not so that we remain in this state of mourning. The reason we mourn is so that we will be inspired to better our ways and when HaShem sees that we are truly repentant, He will have compassion on us and bring the Final Redemption. This being the case, we should really anticipate Tisha Baav, as this day is an opportunity for us to become inspired and hopefully witness the Ultimate Redemption. I would therefore like to suggest that the difference in gematria between the word Adar and the word av reflects this idea that in both months we are seeking to increase our joy. However, in the month of Adar we commence the month with joy and continue to increase our level of joy, whereas in the month of Av, we must first diminish our level of joy and only then will we see an increase our joy. It is for this reason that the Mishna states that the same way that with the commencement of Av we diminish our level of joy, so too with the commencement of Adar we increase our level of joy. The word kisheim, just like, hints to the idea that in both months we are ultimately looking to increase our level of joy.
Hashem consoled Moshe with an even greater reward
Based on this explanation of the Gemara in Taanis, we can now better understand what HaShem was telling Moshe when Moshe sought to gain entry into Eretz Yisroel. Moshe wished to be rewarded now and he wished to increase his level of joy by being able to perform the unique mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel. HaShem, however, informed Moshe that there is much reward awaiting him in the World to Come, and although for Moshe this was a decrease in his level of joy, ultimately it would lead to an increase in joy, as the reward of the World to Come is infinitely greater than the reward of entering into Eretz Yisroel. Thus, although we may feel that our current situation will cause us distress, we must know that our sadness will soon be replaced with great joy. This is the lesson of Tisha Baav, and even if we did not yet merit the Ultimate Redemption, HaShem desires that we decrease our joy temporarily, and then we will merit the great joy with the Ultimate Redemption.

The Shabbos connection

Similarly, throughout the week we cannot experience true joy, as we are saddled with the burden of earning a livelihood and we are faced with challenges and struggles in the world of materialism. On the Holy Shabbos, however, we experience true joy in this world, and we even taste a semblance of the World to Come. It is for this reason that we are instructed to prepare during the week for Shabbos, as we anticipate the true joy that we will experience when Shabbos arrives. Hashem should allow us to prepare properly for the Holy Shabbos, and in the merit of our preparations for Shabbos we should witness the Ultimate Redemption with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
Studying Torah and reviewing ones studies
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: In his preface to Peas Shulchan, R’ Yisrael Shklover writes of his master and teacher, the Gaon of Vilna, “He reviewed all of Talmud Bavli every month. His toil in the study of the holy Torah defies description. He would review each chapter and masechta (tractate) hundreds, and even thousands of times. Out of immense love for the holy Torah, he once spent a long winter night reviewing over and over a single Mishna in Seder Taharos.” (Quoted in For Love of Torah p. 76)
Sefer Toldos HaAdam (by R’ Yechezkel Feivel of Vilna, Dyhrenfurth 1801) writes: R’ Leib, son of R’ Ber of Vilna, related to me: Once his father R’ Ber watched as the tzaddik R’ Zalman (of Volozhin, brother of R’ Chaim) paced back and forth in a room, as was his way, studying and reviewing a Torah thought with wondrous desire and powerful love, in a clear sweet voice that was music to one's ear. The soul of the listener was aroused to love of Hashem and a desire for wisdom and spiritual guidance. He reviewed the thought once, twice, three times, fifty times, one hundred times... until one lost count! All this was with a joyous heart and boundless love, which mere words cannot describe.
R’ Ber observed in silent wonder. In his heart, he thought, “Torah, Torah, how great is the love in ‘' Zalman’s heart for you! It is a consuming fire!” He then grabbed hold of R’ Zalman and said, “My brother, whose soul and flesh is part of me, by the love that exists between us, I demand you tell me how many times you reviewed this matter!”
When R’ Zalman saw the way that R’ Ber was imploring him to reveal the absolute truth, he told him, “In truth, I have reviewed the matter two-hundred and fifty times.” [Ibid]
It was not a light matter, as far as R’ Zalman was concerned, to review his studies four or five hundred times. He would remind himself of Chazal’s allegory (Eiruvin 54b), “Just as a hunter who captures birds, if he breaks their wings [so that they will not fly away], then they are secure with him. If not, they will fly away from him... [so too a student must review his studies as soon as he learns them, or else he will forget them].” He used to say that this allegory can arouse one's soul from its laziness in reviewing one's studies. [Ibid]
Sefer Menuchah U-Kedushah writes: “I have heard that the Gaon of Vilna would submit a prospective disciple to the following test (to determine if his soul had been sufficiently purified to taste the sweetness of the Torah): He would instruct him to review a given matter many times. If the more he reviewed, the more its love grew in his heart, inspiring him to continue to review without interruption - with this he found favor in the Gaon’s eyes to be accepted as his disciple.” [Ibid]
This Friday is the fifteenth of Av. Chazal say (Taanis 31a), “From now on (from the 15th of Av through the winter) he who increases (his hours of Torah study as the nights grow longer) adds (days to his life). But he who does not increase (the hours of his Torah study) decreases (the days of his life).” As our hours for Torah study increase, we must be sure to set aside ample time for proper chazarah/review.
Meriting giving charity
Rabbi Hoffman writes further: The holy Rebbe, R’ Zisha of Anipoli zt”l would, as a young man, study Torah for hours and days on end without ever breaking for a meal. Only when he felt so weakened by his fasting that he could no longer learn, would he allow himself to ask one of the local baalei batim to be so gracious as to give him a meal. At some stage, R’ Zisha came to feel that asking someone for a meal was in some small way a breech in his faith, and that if he truly believed Hashem takes care of all his needs, then Hashem knows when he needs to eat, and could take care of him without his needing to ask for it. He decided that he would no longer ask anyone for a meal, but would rely that when the need arose, someone surely would offer him on their own accord. For a time this is exactly what transpired: Whenever R’ Zisha felt extreme pangs of hunger, someone would inevitably offer him a meal.
After a few months, however, a problem arose. There was no one around that in the Almighty's eyes deserved to perform such a holy and exceptional mitzvah as to sustain the very life of a great and holy tzaddik! You don't just give away such mitzvos for nothing. Lacking the right “agent,” Hashem implanted two spigots within the tzaddik’s mouth; from one he would suckle milk, and from the other honey. Thus he was sustained for three full months, until someone (evidently a very worthy individual) came up to him, threw him a few coins, and said, “Zisha, take these - you look like you need a good meal!" This unbelievable story was related by R’ Zisha himself to R’ Avraham Mordechai of Pintshov zt”l, and recorded by his son-in-law R' Yitzchak Isaac of Kamarna zt”l in his Heichal Beracha.
Equally fascinating is the lesson R’ Yitzchak Isaac derives from the story. Imagine, he says, that given the choice, Hashem would “rather” perform an extraordinary miracle, than to allow someone the merit of performing an exceptional mitzvah he doesn't deserve! Although there were many Jews through whom the Almighty could easily have sustained R’ Zisha, He chose to take care of the matters Himself, until such a time as someone truly worthy of this great mitzvah arose.
Having made this point, R’ Yitzchak Isaac beseeches the wealthy and magnanimous Jews of his time to realize that simply having money - and even giving generously to charity - is not enough. He encourages them to “get up early in the mornings, say Tehillim, examine their deeds, and implore the Almighty” to lead them on a path of charity and righteousness, that they may indeed merit giving generously and wholeheartedly, and that their money find its way to worthy and virtuous recipients. (Reprinted with permission from
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Vaeschanan 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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