Sunday, August 30, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Ki Savo 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת כי תבוא תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Ki Savo 5769

Hear the “words”
Parashas Ki Savo is always deemed to be a frightening parashah. Despite its benign beginning, the majority of the parasha discusses the devastating punishment that HaShem will bring upon the Jewish People if they do not observe HaShem’s will. There is even a custom in most synagogues to read the portion of the Tochacha, the Rebuke, in an undertone, and this demonstrates our discomfort with reading this portion of the Torah in public. One must wonder, however, what lesson can be derived by shying away from rebuke. Is being chastised for our misdeeds such a terrible thing? Although we should not be proud of our sins, it would certainly behoove us to listen carefully as the litany of sins is read from the Torah. This will then allow us to examine our ways and repent from those sins that we have committed. What, then, is the meaning of reciting these verses of rebuke in a hushed tone?
Focus on the message, not the medium
Perhaps the answer to this question can be found in a story where a rabbi was delivering a lecture on Pirkei Avos, Ethics of the Fathers. In his introduction, the rabbi said, “During the course of our weekly classes I will teach you many important things. You may not like me, you may not like the way I speak, and you may not even like my examples or the words of Torah that I use to deliver my message. Nonetheless, do your best to put all that aside and pay attention to the underlying message. Hear the message and digest it, and if you so desire, embellish it to your own liking. I wish to convey a lesson with my words, so there is no reason for you to get caught up in all the window dressing. We often miss too many important messages because of trivialities.”
All is not lost
Upon hearing the curses that are contained in this week’s parasha, it is certainly easy for one to despair of repenting. We find that the Jewish People themselves despaired of repairing their relationship with HaShem, as they cried out to Moshe, “who can withstand all of these curses?” Moshe hastened to appease them by reassuring them that, despite their repeated sins, HaShem had not annihilated them and He allowed them to continue to exist (Rashi Devarim 29:12).
Blessings and curses are for us to make the right choice
The Medrash (Devarim Rabbah 4:1) states that HaShem declared, “My children! I have not proffered upon you the blessings and curses for your detriment. Rather, I have given you blessings and curses so that you will be able to choose the correct path in life. Once you set forth on the road of good deeds, you will receive the appropriate reward.
This, then, can also be the lesson in reading the Tochacha in an undertone. It is incumbent upon us to hear the “words” of the Tochacha, independent of any fanfare and sensationalism. When we hear the words of the Tochacha and their underlying message, it will be easier for us to understand that HaShem is not seeking to castigate us. In fact, as the Medrash states, the exact opposite is true. HaShem is looking for our betterment, and when we hearken to the words of the Torah, HaShem will allow us to merit repenting from our misdeeds and receive our great reward.
The Shabbos connection
The Holy Shabbos contains one idea that the entire Jewish People can agree upon. Shabbos is a day of rest, when we can distance ourselves from the “noise” that surrounds us the entire week. On Shabbos, we are engaged in prayer, Torah study, and indulging in the delectable Shabbos food. It is important, however, to bear in mind the underlying message of Shabbos, and that is that HaShem wishes that we forge a meaningful and lasting relationship with Him. We can accomplish this by taking a break from the distractions of the weekday and focusing on serving HaShem with an outpouring of love and great joy.
Shabbos Stories
Reb Dovid of Lelov - Is It A Crime To Favor Your Own Child?
Reb Dovid was born in 1746 and was a talmid of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and later of the Chozeh of Lublin. He introduced the Yehudi HaKadosh of Peshischa to the Chozeh. Reb Dovid was the epitome of Ahavas Yisroel in the same way as Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.
Even as a child his Ahavas Yisroel knew no humanly bounds. One day his father bought for him an expensive warm winter coat that he so desperately needed. The next day he found another young boy trembling from the cold. When he returned home without the coat his mother asked him what happened. He saw that had no choice but to tell her the truth. She told him he better go get the coat back before his father comes home or else he will get a serious smacking from his father. Little Dovid answered that not only is he prepared to receive smacks from his father but in order to be Mikayem Kibud Av Vaeim he will prepare the rod so his father does not need to go look for it. In this way his father can take out his frustration because he has absolutely no intention of asking for the coat back.
Once when Reb Dovid’s son fell gravely ill, his chasidim spared nothing in their effort to help him live. They paid for the most expensive doctors and poured their hearts out in tehilim. When the boy recovered they saw Reb Dovid crying and they didn't understand why. He explained that they turned heaven and earth over for his son, but what about any other Yiddishe child who becomes sick, are they less worthy? He once said that he cannot be considered a true Oheiv Yisroel because he loves his children more than other Yidden.
Rav Dovid was able to hide his torah abilities and was thought not to be a great Lamdan. The Chiddushei HaRim once said that the greatness Reb Dovid’s Ahavas Yisroel gave him cover for his incredible prowess in torah. He said that Reb Dovid would sit in the attic learning day and night. By time he was twenty years old he finished Shas 14 times. The Avnei Nezer of Sochatchov similarly echoed these sentiments and said that his mind was from generations long gone by. Furthermore while it is possible to speak of his greatness in revealed torah, it is impossible to describe his greatness in hidden torah.
Rav Dovid started the Lelover dynasty which was one of the first to transplant itself in Eretz Yisroel, as Reb Dovid’s son and successor moved to Eretz Yisroel in the last year of his life. His most famous talmid was Rav Yitzchok Kalish of Vorki the founder of the Amshinover dynasty and a close friend of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. He also made a great impression on Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. Reb Dovid was niftar at the age of 68 on 7 Shevat 5574/1814 the same year as the Magid of Kozhnitz and the Yehudi HaKadosh MiPeshischa. The next year witnessed the Petira of the Chozeh of Lublin and Rav Mendel of Rimanov. Yehi Zichro Boruch! [Reprinted with permission from]
“I am Chani!”
Rabbi Label Lam writes: A woman entered a grocery store and promptly strapped her little daughter into a wagon seat. In the cookie isle the child started to cry out for cookies. The mother looked down at the piece of paper with her shopping list and then calmly declared, “Chani, we just came here for these few items and its home we go, for dinner!” When they went passed the drink department the child ranted and reached for soda while her mother glided by while studying her shopping list and saying again ever so firmly and calmly, “Chani, we already have plenty to drink at home! We’ll be home soon enough.” When they entered the candy department the poor little girl was attempting to climb out of the wagon and would have had it not been for the restraining belt. The mother once again referred to her shopping list and repeated her mantra, “Chani, another few minutes. We have a few items yet to get and then we can go home and make a delicious dinner for Abba.”
When they were already checking out of the grocery store and there within reach was the that maddening impulse buying section with candy bars, magazines and eye glass fixers, the biggest outburst and display of desperation was ready to erupt and it did. Her mom calm and cool now folded her little shopping list and placed it into her pocket book and took out the money to pay for the few chosen items she came into the store to get. She spoke out loud again and clearly stated, “Chani, we’ll be home soon and a healthy, tasty dinner will be served.”
Outside the store, in the parking lot, the mother was putting the grocery bags into the trunk and her daughter was being strapped into her car seat when a man approached her. He said admiringly, “I must tell you how impressed I am. From the moment you came into the store I noticed how badly your daughter wanted this and that and I was amazed how you handled yourself with such composure. It was really something educational to witness how calmly and sweetly you spoke to your little daughter Chani!” The young woman glared at him with a wrinkled brow and a look of incredulity and said, “My daughter Chani? I’m Chani!”
First we visit the Rav
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: As a student in the Ponovez Yeshiva, I would spend some summer days in the resort town of Netanya. One day, I spotted what, to an American seemed like an anomaly: a small Yemenite man, long curly peyos dangling from his darkly tanned olive-skinned face, bouncing up and down as he, dressed in a policeman's uniform, was directing traffic. I had never seen an orthodox policeman, let alone one who had dangling side curls. My propensity to talk to fellow Jews and my inherent fascination with curiosities, spurred me to engage him in conversation.
As we talked, he told me about lineage. I mentioned that my name was Kamenetzky, and he froze in disbelief.
“Are you, by any chance, related to the famous Rabbi Kamenetzky of America who recently visited Israel?”
“Do you mean Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky?” I inquired. When he nodded, in excited corroboration, I added, “He is my grandfather.” It was as if I had sent a charge of electricity through his body!
He beamed at me. “Do you know that your grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky attended my son’s bris, right here in Netanya?”
I did a double take and thought, “Yeah Right! Sure. My 89-year-old grandfather came to Netanya for a Yemenite police officer’s son’s bris.” The man registered my apparent skepticism, and proceeded with the following story. At the time, Kiryat Zanz, the community built by the Klausenberg Rebbe, in Netanya, had recently expanded its medical center. The administrators wanted Rabbi Kamenetzky to see the beautiful facility first hand. The revered sage’s endorsement would surely boost their fundraising efforts. They picked Rav Yaakov up from his accommodations in Jerusalem, and drove him to Netanya. Entering the city limits, Rav Yaakov asked, “Are we going to the hospital?”
When the administrators and the driver, affirmed that destination, Rav Yaakov said, “No, we are going to the Rav. When one comes to a town, his first stop is to see the Rav. After we greet the Rav, we will see the hospital.”
They went to the home of Rabbi Lau, (Israel's current Chief Rabbi) Rav of Netanya, but he was not there.
At that point in the story, the policeman became excited. “Do you know where Rabbi Lau was?” he beamed.
He did not wait for an answer. “Rabbi Lau was at my son’s bris! And a few minutes later, your grandfather arrived as well!”
Read louder
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: After World War II, the Klausenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Halberstam, of blessed memory, a survivor of the concentration camps held a minyan in the Beth Moses Hospital in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Parashas Ki Savo arrived and with it, the section known as the Tochacha (admonishment), which is filled with foreboding warnings of doom and destruction, lest the Jewish nation stray from the will of G-d.
The verses warn of unimaginable horrors: exile, starvation, rape, robbery, and torture -- to name just a few.
The custom of Jews world-over is to read the verses of Tochacha quietly, so as not to rile up enemies, celestial and otherwise, who may think those calamities a good idea to cast upon the Jewish Nation.
So it was the portion of Ki Savo, and the Klausenberger Rebbe and his minyan of ravaged survivors were about to read the Tochacha and re-live horrors of their recent history through the words of the ancient prophecies.
The Torah-reader started the verses of doom in a hushed tone. He began reading them quietly and quickly. Suddenly the Rebbe banged on his lectern. “Hecher!” he shouted. (Yiddish for louder.)
The reader looked up from the Torah with a puzzled look on his face. Perhaps he was reading the Torah a bit too low. He raised his voice a notch, and continued in a louder undertone. But the Rebbe was not satisfied. “Louder!” he exclaimed.
By now the reader was reading as loudly as his normal recitation, and yet the Rebbe continued to bang on the lectern and exclaim, “HECHER!” The reader could not contain his puzzlement and instead of shouting the portion he stopped and looked to the Rebbe for an explanation.
“We no longer have to read these miserable curses quietly,” the Rebbe exclaimed. “There is no curse we have not experienced. There is no affliction we have not suffered! We saw it all. We lived it all. Let us shout with pride to our Father in Heaven that we have already received all the curses! We have survived these curses, and now it is His turn to bring us the blessings and the redemption!” And with that the reader continued reading the Tochacha loud and clear as if singing an anthem to his nation's tenacity. [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Ki Savo 5769

Is sponsored Lilluy Nishmas
Aryeh Leib ben Dovid
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Yahrtzeit: 18 Elul
Dedicated by Moshe and Betty Gasner & Family
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Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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