Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos HaBracha 5770

שבת טעם החיים
שמיני עצרת-שמחת תורה-וזאת הברכה תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos HaBracha 5770

Sukkos and the World to Come
Sukkos is coming to an end, but just as we bid farewell to the Sukkah, we welcome in the festival known as Shemini Atzeres. What is the significance of Shemini Atzeres and who does this special day connect to Sukkos? The Gemara (Sukkah 55b; see Rashi Bamidbar 29:35 and 36) states that Shemini Atzeres is akin to a king whose servants make the king festive meals for seven days. When the festivities come to an end, the king requests from his friend to him to stay as his departure is too much to bear. The king then requests that the man should make a small feast so that the king can benefit from him. Let us understand the message contained in this Gemara. The Gemara is stating that following the seven days of Sukkos, we wish to depart and HaShem begs us to stay. Thus, HaShem gave us the day of Shemini Atzeres so that we could spend more time with Him, so to speak. How do we understand the concept that HaShem desires that we stay with Him an extra day? Why did HaShem not instruct us to celebrate the festival of Sukkos for eight days and then there would not have been a need to remain another day?
Shemini Atzeres stands on its own
It is told that the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l was experiencing pain in his feet on Sukkos. Yet, to the surprise of his followers, when Simchas Torah arrived, the Rebbe was dancing energetically. A Chasid queried the Rebbe as to this transformation, and the Rebbe replied, “Shemini Atzeres (and Simchas Torah) regel bifnei atzmo, Shemini Atzeres is a festival of its own. The Rebbe was making a play on the word regel, which literarily means foot. This incident sheds light on what is occurring on Shemini Atzeres. Sukkos is a time of joy, but after seven days of basking in HaShem’s Presence, we are eager to get back to the regular way of living. HaShem therefore requests of us that we do not depart so hastily and we spend another day with Him.
The last day of Sukkos and Shavuos are referred to as Atzeres
It is fascinating to note that the last day of Sukkos is referred to as Shemini Atzeres and the festival of Shavuos is referred to as Atzeres. What is the association between these two seemingly unrelated holidays? It is said (Devarim 33:3) af choveiv amim kol kedoshav biyadecha viheim tuku liraglecha yisa midabrosecha, indeed, You loved the tribes greatly, all its holy ones were in Your hands; for they planted themselves at Your feet, bearing [the yoke] of Your utterances. Regarding the words viheim tuku liraglecha, Rashi writes: they are pushing and gathering under Your shade. The Targum renders the translation of these words to be: and they are guided under your clouds. These explanations clearly allude to the idea that HaShem led the Jewish people in the Wilderness under the protection of the Clouds of Glory. It is precisely this miracle that we commemorate by sitting in the Sukkah for seven days. [It is noteworthy that the words viheim tuku liraglecha equal in gematria the word Atzeres (760, as Shemini Atzeres is a regel by itself]. Subsequent to receiving the Torah, it is said (Bamidbar 10:33) vayisu meihar HaShem derech sheloshes yamim, they journeyed from the Mountain of HaShem a three-day journey. Tosfos (Shabbos 16a s.v. puranus) quotes the Medrash that states that this verse teaches us that the Jewish People ran away from HaShem like a child running away from school. This, then, is the clear association between Shavuos and Shemini Atzeres. We can suggest that Shavuos is referred to as Atzeres because Atzeres means restrain. The message of Shavuos is that it is not sufficient to just receive the Torah. A Jew must remain connected to the Torah and not seek to flee from the acceptance of Torah and mitzvos. Similarly, following the seven days of Sukkos, we need to restrain ourselves from fleeing, so to speak, from HaShem’s Presence. It is for this reason that HaShem supplicates the Jewish People to remain one more day in His Presence.
Shemini Atzeres is for our benefit
We can now understand why HaShem did not merely instruct us to dwell in the Sukkah for eight days. Rather, HaShem instructed us to dwell in the Sukkah for seven days. When we begin to feel like it is too much for us, HaShem requests that we stay on another day. This extra day is for our good. In this way we will be cognizant of the fact that basking in HaShem’s Present is the will of HaShem and is for our good.
The Shabbos connection
The Gemara (Avoda Zara 3a) states that in the future the gentiles will seek to accept the Torah and HaShem will offer them to perform the mitzvah of Sukkah. The gentiles will then build their Sukkahs and HaShem will create an intense heat. This heat will cause the gentiles to kick their Sukkahs and reject the mitzvah. The Gemara finds proof for this in a verse that states (Tehillim 2:3) ninatka es mosroseimo vinashlicha mimenu avoseimo, let us cut their cords and let us cast off their ropes from ourselves. It is noteworthy that the word mosroseimo equals in gematria the word Atzeres and 8 (768), as the gentiles will demonstrate that they cannot tolerate being in HaShem’s Presence for the extra day which is reflected in Shemini Atzeres. Indeed, the Sfas Emes writs that Shemini Atzeres is akin to the World to Come. Furthermore, HaShem chose us as His beloved nation, and every Shabbos HaShem affords us a glimpse of the World to Come. HaShem should allow us to merit basking in His Presence, and we should embrace this opportunity at every possible moment.
Shabbos Stories
The lost Torah Scroll
The little kids quickly formed a train, each with his hands on the shoulders of the boy in front of him. They lurched into motion, running madly around the periphery of the shul as throngs of people danced in concentric rings around the bima. Some carried Torah scrolls, adorned in silver crowns and velvet finery. Others carried their small children on their shoulders. As one song ended, another one caught on, and no one wanted to stop.
Observing the action was a girl name Rachel, one of a group of teenage girls who were guests at the home of Rabbi Benzion Klatzko. Dressed in her fashionable best, she watched the frenetic scene with glee; this was an experience unlike any she had encountered thus far in Judaism. To Rachel, the spirit of the night was an injection of life itself, a salve for her ailing soul.
All at once, Rachel's snapped into sharp focus. Their host, Rabbi Klatzko, stood up on a chair in front of the bima, clutching a miniature Torah scroll in his hands. He had a story to tell, and the men, women and children packed into the shul were eager to hear it. Rachel strained to hear every word of the tale, for she knew that it would speak to her.
“Every week, in my home, I have the privilege of hosting about 30 to 40 people for Shabbos meals. Most of them are college students who are Jewish but have never had the chance to experience a Shabbos. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of places across the country, and they join together at my home and get a taste of what Shabbos is about.
“The only thing is, many of them are uncomfortable about going to a traditional shul. They'd rather stay at my house and wait until I come home. The drawback to that is that they never have the chance to see the beauty of a real Shabbos davening. So I decided that the best thing to do would be to buy my own Torah scroll and ark for my living room. That way, I could have the davening at home, and they could take part in it and still feel comfortable. Plus, it would give many of them a chance for an aliyah, some who haven't had one since their bar mitzvah. And there are those that didn't even have a bar mitzvah and have never been called up to the Torah in their lives.
“The question was, how would I ever find a kosher Torah scroll at a decent price? And an ark would also be a big investment. So it seemed that, short of a miracle, my idea would be impossible to pull off. However, G-d doesn't just perform miracles for you. You have to do your part and hope that He will take care of the rest.
“So I opened up the papers and looked around to see if anyone had a Torah scroll for sale. And believe it or not, someone did. I immediately called the number and on the other end of the phone was an elderly man who said he had a very small Torah scroll that he was selling. It was 11 inches tall.
The Torah scroll had been sitting in his closet unused for 50 years.
“I asked him where he got it, and he told me that his father had been a rabbi of a shul in the Catskills which eventually died out. They auctioned everything off, and the Torah scroll was the only thing they kept. It had been sitting in his closet unused for 50 years, and now he felt it was time to sell that as well.
“Although he wanted quite a bit of money for it and the price was a bit steep for me, I told him that I would like to take a look at it. He agreed to come to my home to show me the Torah.
“A few days later Mr. Foreman came. He showed me a beautiful Torah scroll - over 200 years old but in perfect condition. He asked me why I needed it, and I explained about my Shabbos guests and my idea to enable them to daven at my home, where they would be comfortable.
“He stared at me for a moment, seeming much moved by the idea that this Torah would help people come closer to Judaism. All of a sudden, he started crying -- I mean really crying with tears streaming down his face. I was trying to get him to talk, but he literally couldn't get any words out. Finally, he explained. He had drifted away from Judaism and married a Buddhist woman. This Torah scroll was his only connection, and at this point, he felt so cut off that he thought he might as well sell it. But when he found out that this Torah would help reconnect people to Judaism, he wanted to give it to me as a gift. In this way, he felt he would perhaps have the merit to be reconnected too and find his way home at last.
“I didn’t know what to say, but I certainly appreciated his incredible gift. I realized that this was a Torah that had been basically homeless for the past 50 years. There was no one to read it, hold it or keep it properly, and now G-d gave the Torah a home, and would hopefully bring this lonely Jew back in the near future as well.
“Now, what about an ark? That’s a story of its own. I found an online ad for an old Jewish artifact, a Jewish chest. The sellers weren't Jewish, but they had bought it from a priest who told them it was of Jewish origin.
On top of the ark was a large cross. I almost fainted.
“When I opened the online pictures of the chest, I saw before me what seemed to be a beautifully crafted ark. It was small, so it wouldn't be able to hold a regular sized Torah, but would be perfect for the Torah we had. But when I viewed a picture of the top of the ark, I almost fainted. There was a large cross attached to it. All of a sudden, I was not at all sure that this was an item of Jewish origin.
Suddenly I noticed a small plaque at the bottom of it. I asked the sellers to send me a photo of the plaque which appeared to have Hebrew writing on it. They sent me a picture where there was a clear inscription in Hebrew that said “Behold, the guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers” (Psalms 121), which proved that the item must be Jewish. The cross upon closer examination, they said, was a separate piece that had been attached. I realized that the priest who bought this ark must have made that addition. I was deeply moved, and was certain that the hand of G-d was clearly guiding me.
“I bought the ark and had it delivered to my home. The cross was removed and I marveled at the verse that was inscribed. I have never seen this particular verse inscribed on an ark before. And I realized that there was a message here. It was as if G-d were saying that although this ark was lost for many years, He would never forget about it. He didn't rest until it finally was brought home to Jewish hands.
“My dear friends, look at what we have here. A Torah that was neglected for so many years was finally given a home in an ark that had been used by a priest. Yet the message was clear that G-d would never give up on them. He had not forgotten about this lost ark and Torah scroll, and finally the two of them were brought together and can now be used to bring young men and woman back to their Father in Heaven as well.
“This Torah has not been danced with for over 50 years, and now we have the chance to welcome it home. Let's give it the welcome it deserves.”
As if on cue, the entire shul erupted in singing and dancing. The tiny Torah scroll was in the center of it all, soaking up the overflowing love and honor it had been missing for decades. It was no longer locked away, unused and untouched on this holiday meant for rejoicing. It was where it belonged, in the center of it all
Later that night, Rabbi Klatzko brought the Torah home and secured it inside the ark in his living room. To Rachel, it was not just the sense of tranquility and warmth that Rachel relished. It was the awesome, indescribable feeling of this unique Torah scroll.
The meal ended late, and at last, the contented but exhausted group headed to their rooms for a night's sleep. Rachel, lay in bed, eyes wide open, with the sound of her heart beating in her ears. She waited a long time, perhaps an hour or more, until she was certain that no one in the house remained awake. She slipped out of bed and tip-toed into the living room. There stood the ark, as if it had been waiting for her.
There, she spoke her heart to G-d, praying that the sweetness of this home would be hers, in her own life, some day. These were the first prayers her lips had uttered for many years. The bitterness of her own family home – the constant fighting, the blame and anger, the storm clouds that threatened to blow through the front door at any moment – had acted like a razor-sharp wire-cutter, severing her connection to G-d. Here at the Klatzko’s home, she could feel the connection being mended; the power was sputtering back into her being, and once again beginning to flow.
Recalling the Torah scrolls’ exile, she thought of herself. “My dear, holy Torah scroll, you know what it's like to be neglected. You know how it feels to live with people who don't see the beauty in you and don't understand what you are worth. I've lived that way my whole life, but you've lived like that so much longer. Fifty whole years you stood there and no one kissed you or carried you or looked inside you to see what was there. But you’ve given me hope, because even after 50 years, look what happened! Look what a night you just had! Everyone hugged you and kissed you. Everyone wanted to dance with you. You were the star of the show. The Almighty doesn’t sleep. He keeps watch over His people, and He’s keeping watch over me.
“Please, G-d, I’m begging you, may I be like this Torah scroll. I know there is still holiness in me. Please let me hold onto it, just like this Torah did. And when the time is right, bring me a husband who will honor me and love me the way a wife should be honored. Let me have a home that’s happy, and holy, and full of children and guests and kindness, just like this home. Please, G-d, find me, too, and bring me home.” [Reprinted with permission from]
False Testimony

There were once three men, and their names were Reb Ezriel, Reb Anshel, and Reb Eliezer. The three were partners in a business. Reb Ezriel bought feathers and hides from Russia and Reb Anshel bought similar merchandise from Galicia. The third partner, Reb Eliezer, who was the son of the Belzer Rebbe, Reb Sholom, arranged financing for their ventures and kept the books, auditing all the expenses and income of their various transactions.

For some time, all was well. Then, for some unknown reason, Reb Ezriel and Reb Anshel asked Reb Eliezer if they could see the books.

“We would like to know where we stand,” they said. Reb Eliezer, however, refused to show them the ledgers, so the two decided to go to his father, the Belzer Rebbe, with their complaint and to see if he could adjudicate the matter.

“I cannot be a judge in this matter,” the Rebbe told the men. “I am the father of the accused and I am therefore invalid to judge.”

“Even so,” the two partners assured him, “we trust your decision even though you have an interest in the matter.”

“Very well,” said the Rebbe. “But it is late, just before Minchah and there is no time to hear all the details. For now, let me quickly tell you a story that relates to this situation.

The Rebbe began, “There were once two brothers, one rich and one poor. The rich brother had a daughter who was of marriageable age, and the poor brother had a son who was a fine Talmud Chacham of the same age. It seemed natural, therefore, that when the rich brother had rejected the many offers of marriage for his daughter, the shadchan (marriage broker) urged him to take his nephew, (the poor brother’s son) as a son-in-law. The rich brother agreed and the two were married.

The young man, Yisroel, soon found life under his father-in-law’s roof very uncomfortable. Neither his wife nor father-in-law appreciated his occupation with Torah study and would have preferred that he involve himself in business. The situation became tense, so Yisroel decided to leave and become a melamed (teacher), for the sake of peace for all involved.

Yisroel traveled far, to an isolated village and there became the melamed for the children of a chassid of the Baal Shem Tov. In time, the chassid took a trip to visit his Rebbe.

Just as he was about to depart with a group of other chassidim, Yisroel asked: “Can you kindly mention me to your Rebbe? I have a difficult personal matter that is a great burden. Perhaps the Baal Shem Tov will have some advice for me.”

Yisroel’s employer did indeed mention his name to the Baal Shem, and returned home with an urgent message. "As soon as we mentioned your name to the Rebbe, he became quite upset. He told us to advise you to immediately return to your home. The Rebbe’s words were, ‘Reb Yisroel's return involves a serious matter regarding his wife.’' We didn’t even know you were married?”

“It is a painful story so I did not share it with you,” he answered.

Yisroel was skeptical. He questioned the Chassidim, “How would the Rebbe know of me? How does he even know I’m married?” “Never mind,” they insisted. “If the Baal Shem Tov was so adamant about your returning home, you must do as he says. He told us that he looked at the root of your soul and found a danger present. You must not delay. You should leave immediately.”

“How can I go home?” Reb Yisroel answered. “My belongings are here and besides, I don’t have any money for the journey.” The chassidim wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. They all quickly contributed funds to hire a wagon and driver to take Yisroel home and helped Reb Yisroel gather his few belongings and load the wagon.

“What am I doing?” he thought to himself as the wagon bumped along the dirt road. “I wonder if the Chassidim were just trying to get rid of me. I wonder if they even mentioned my named to the Baal Shem Tov. How could he know about me?” Such thoughts filled his mind as he traveled. He had thoughts of stopping the wagon and turning around, but the urgent words of the Baal Shem Tov disturbed him greatly. Finally he arrived at his hometown. As the wagon came to a stop in front of his house, he hesitated. He finally summoned the courage to knock on the door. A strange man answered the door. “What do you want?” the man asked. “Is Reb Yisroel’s wife at home?”

“She is no longer Reb Yisroel’s wife, and she doesn’t live here. In fact, she is planning to get married in two days.”

Reb Yisroel was shocked. He had never divorced his wife. How could she get married again? He now understood the urgency of the Baal Shem Tov's words. The first thing he must do was to prevent his wife from marrying another man. But how? Reb Yisroel went to the Beis Medrash and sat down to think. As he sat, he overheard several of the local beggars talking about the impending wedding. “I can’t wait for the feast. It will no doubt be lavish because the bride’s father is certainly rich.”

Yisroel then knew what he had to do. He went immediately to the town Rabbi's home. He related his story, insisting that he had never sent his wife a divorce.

The town Rabbi did indeed remember and he believed Yisroel. “Please stay here while I go to your father-in- law and discuss this matter.”

Reb Yisroel’s father-in-law had been deceived by an unscrupulous, traveling darshan (speaker). The darshan had come to town and realized the rich man's great despair because his daughter had been deserted by her husband. So he approached the girl’s father and said, “In my travels, I’ve met your son- in-law and we became friends. I’m quite sure that I can get him to divorce your daughter. Just give me power of attorney to act on your behalf and I will take care of everything.”

“That would be wonderful! And you can be sure that I will pay you well for your kindness,” the rich man told the darshan.

The darshan quickly traveled to another small town some distance away, where he was not known. There he found three men of questionable character and honesty who were willing go along with his ruse for a profit. The darshan then went to a Bais Din (Jewish court), claiming that he had recognized a man at the local inn who was sought for abandoning his wife. “His name is Yisroel and he refuses to give his wife a divorce. Her father has asked me to force him to give a divorce at any cost.”

The Bais Din was convinced by the darshan’s story. They had the man in the inn (one of the three conspirators) apprehended and brought before them. After some “coaxing,” the man admitted that he was the husband that had deserted his wife. Then, the two false witnesses (the other two conspirators) were brought to testify that they also knew the man to be the alleged Yisroel, the runaway husband of the rich man's daughter. The Bais Din managed to extract a divorce, which they gave to the darshan, having the power of attorney of the rich man.

The darshan returned to the rich man with the prized bill of divorce.

“How can I repay you for all your efforts?” the rich man asked.

“I do not want any money,” said the darshan. “I was just doing a kindness. However, I would appreciate the opportunity to introduce an eligible young man to your daughter. That is all I ask.”

The eligible young man just happened to be the darshan’s son, and he made a favorable impression on the family. The wedding date was set and plans were made.

Once the real Yisroel spoke to the town Rabbi, the Rabbi accompanied by the local police, marched to the rich man's home. The Rabbi explained Yisroel's story and accused the darshan and his son of fraud. The police promptly took the two scoundrels to jail. The rich man realized that he had been deceived but was very happy that the plot has been foiled in time. Yisroel found that his wife had meanwhile deeply regretted her unloving behavior towards her husband, and she begged Yisroel remain as her husband.

“And,” concluded the Belzer Rebbe, “they did live happily thereafter. Do you know why I told you this story?” he asked the two men before him. “You, Reb Anshel, and you, Reb Ezriel, were the two brothers and my son Eliezer was Reb Yisroel in a former life. You two owe him a great deal for the shame and discomfort he suffered. I suggest that you increase his share of the earnings and I am sure he will show you the books.”

The People Of Brisk Wait For The Rav To Start Kol Nidrei
One Yom Kippur as the people of Brisk waited to start the Holy Tefillah of Kol Nidrei, the Rav, Rav Binyomin Diskin the father of Reb Yehoshua Leib Diskin, was still not in Shul. This was very strange considering Rav Binyomin’s timeliness and his deep consideration for not causing Tircha DiTzibura.

The Gabbai was quickly dispatched to the Rav’s house to see what was causing the delay. Upon entering the house, the Gabbai was astonished to find Rav Binyomin sitting over a Mishnayos learning with his young son. “Moreinu ViRabbeinu,” said the Gabbai, “The whole tzibbur is waiting for the Rav to start Kol Nidrei and he is sitting and learning Mishnayos with his little child?!”
Rav Binyomin burst our crying and he said, “I made a Cheshbon HaNefesh for the Yom HaDin and realized that I need many zechusim to be acquitted in my Din. I searched for a great mitzvah powerful enough to tip the scales all by itself and I could not find a better mitzvah that sitting and learning with my young child.”
Parshas Beshalach: Rav Asher’le MiRiminov - How A Man Supports His Wife
One time a Chasid and his despondent wife came to Rav Asher’le MiRiminov. The wife claimed that her husband did not make a decent living because he was so worried about onaah, accurate scales, and every other minute halacha. The wife complained that he had no right to be such a big tzaddik while his wife and children were starving.
Rav Asher’le MiRiminov answered that the obligation of supporting one’s wife is derived from the passuk (Beshalach 16:16), “Ish laasher biohalo tikachu,” each man should take Man back to his home. The Man in the midbar, said Rav Asher’le was acquired with pure righteousness without the slightest trace of impropriety. Similarly in a Kesuba it is written, “Viafarnes yaschi bikushta,” I will support you honestly. A man is not responsible to break or even slightly bend the laws of honesty and business ethics as the torah prescribes it, to support his wife. The extent of his effort and obligation is where the legal bounds are drawn. The rest is up to HaShem. (Iturei Torah) [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Vizos HaBracha 5770
Is sponsored in honor of the Abraham family and Zeman’s Bakery of Oak Park, MI for all that they do for the community
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 and a Good Yom Tov
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: