Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeitzei 5770

שבת טעם החיים ויצא תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeitzei 5770

A Dream of Ascent

ויחלם והנה סלם מצב ארצה וראשו מגיע השמימה והנה מלאכי אלקים עלים וירדים בו
And he dreamt, and behold! A ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward; and behold! Angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it. (Bereishis 28: 12)
The Torah records how Yaakov was headed to his uncle Lavan in Aram (modern day Iraq) and he stopped off at the site of the Holy Temple. The sun set early and Yaakov dreamt that there was a ladder extending from the earth towards the heaven, and angels of HaShem were ascending and descending on it. The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 29:2) relates an intriguing dialogue between HaShem and Yaakov. Yaakov witnesses the ascendancy of various angels of the gentile world, and he sees them all ascending and then descending. When he witnesses the angel of Esau ascending higher and higher, Yaakov asks HaShem if this angel will ever descend. HaShem responds with a verse that states (Ovadiah 1:4) even if you raise your nest like an eagle or if you place your nest amongst the stars, I will bring you down from there – the word of HaShem. This verse alludes to Esav, who throughout history will ascend like an eagle and at the End of Days he will experience his downfall. Subsequently, HaShem instructs Yaakov to ascend the ladder. Yaakov questions HaShem if perhaps he too would ultimately have to descend, and HaShem assured Yaakov that he would not descend. The Midrash concludes that Yaakov did not believe and he did not ascend. This lack of faith is reflected in the verse that states (Tehillim 78:32) nevertheless, they sinned further and did not believe in His wonders. HaShem informed Yaakov that due to his lack of faith, his descendants would be subjugated to the nations of the world in four exiles. Yaakov then became fearful that the exile would last forever. HaShem reassured Yaakov that the gentiles would eventually be decimated but the Jewish People would suffer in this world so that they would be cleansed from their sins for the World to Come.
Yaakov was always ascending, refusing to be complacent
This Midrash is puzzling, as we are not told why Yaakov did not trust in HaShem that his ascension would be for eternity. The simple interpretation of the Midrash is that Yaakov was lacking in faith and was punished that his descendants would suffer in exile. However, we can interpret this Midrash in a positive manner that will explain why Yaakov did not ascend. The Torah records the years of Yaakov in ascending order, i.e. seven years, and one hundred and forty years. The commentators (see Otzar Chaim Parsahas Chaye Sara) write that this variation demonstrates to us that Yaakov led a life of ascendancy. Yaakov was constantly striving for higher spiritual levels and was never complacent with his current situation.
The Vilna Gaon rejects the offer of the angels
It is said that the great Gaon of Vilna (Rabbi Elijah 1720-1797) was approached by angels from on high who offered to study Torah with him. Surprisingly, the Gaon rejected their offer, as he explained that he wished to toil in Torah study and not receive it as a gift.
Yaakov wished to ascend with his own effort
We can understand the above-cited Midrash in a similar vein. The Gemara (Brachos 55b) teaches us that a person’s dreams reflect the thoughts that he has during the day. Given the fact that Yaakov was constantly preoccupied with thoughts so spiritual growth, even in his dreams he was contemplating spiritual ascent. Thus, when HaShem offered him to ascend, he refused. The expression “he did not believe and he did not descend” alludes to the idea that he did not believe in himself, as he was never complacent. Yaakov chose not to ascend, as this would have been tantamount to receiving spirituality on a silver platter. Such a gift was the antithesis of Yaakov’s motif of struggling in this world to achieve the reward.
No pain no gain
We are often presented with situations where we can take the easy route to greatness. Yet, the Mishnah (Avos 5:21) instructs us that commensurate with the struggle is the reward. As the expression goes, “no pain no gain.” One should always embrace the struggle and then he can be certain of the reward that is awaiting him at the end.
The Shabbos connection
The Gemara teaches us that Yaakov reflects Shabbos, which is deemed to be a reward without parameters. During the week one may feel that he is not ascending the spiritual ladder at a quick enough pace. On the Holy Shabbos, however, one should be assured that HaShem affords His Beloved nation with the opportunity to scale the heights of spirituality. HaShem should allow us to realize that despite all our struggles, if we put in the proper effort, we can ascend to the Heavenly Throne and maintain a close relationship with HaShem.
Shabbos Stories
Preparing for the Satmar Rebbe
We are all familiar with the kedusha of the first Satmar Rebbe and we are still in awe of his saintliness. The following two stories illustrate the level of esteem held by other gedolim of him in his generation.
In the Skulener Rebbe’s later years he was very sick. At one point he was advised to see a doctor not far from Kiryas Yoel, the Satmar village in upstate New York, which was home to the Satmar Rebbe. The Skulener Rebbe asked that on the trip upstate he stop by the Satmar Rebbe before the doctor’s appointment for a bracha (blessing) for good health. The meeting between the gabbaim was arranged. The Skulener Rebbe fell asleep in the car ride up to Kiryas Yoel, and when he was awoken by his gabbai he found himself already in Kiryas Yoel. The Rebbe's gabbai had gone in to the Satmar Rebbe, letting the Skulener get his rest, and when he finally woke up the Rebbe he told him that the Satmar Rebbe was waiting for him, “now,” at that exact moment. The Skulener Rebbe, incredulous, said, “vos??” The gabbai repeated, “the Rebbe is waiting for you. I just went in to him a minute ago, and he’s waiting for you right now. We have to go in right now!” The Skulener Rebbe again said, “vos??” The gabbai said, “but you said that you wanted to get the Rebbe’s bracha before you went to the doctor...because you’ve been sick...” The Skulener Rebbe responded with a look of astonishment on his face, “you expect me to go in to see the Satmar Rebbe without preparation? To just start talking to him?” The gabbai pleaded with him. “This is your one chance as we have to get to the doctor’s office, and you can still meet with the Rebbe for a few minutes. You said that you needed his bracha!” The Rebbe told his gabbai that it was out of the question. They turned the car around, and went straight to the doctor’s office. The Skulener Rebbe never met with the Satmar Rebbe again, and never got his bracha. It just wasn’t possible to speak with, and be in the presence of the Satmar Rebbe without lengthy preparations in ruchnius (spirituality).

Rav Segal, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva was planning a trip to America. One of the fellows from the kollel came up to him, and asked for a favor: “I know that the Rosh Yeshiva is planning on meeting with the Satmar Rebbe during his trip to the States. My wife and I have been trying for years to have a child, but with no success. Would the Rosh Yeshiva be so kind as to get a bracha from the Satmar Rebbe during his meeting?” The Rosh Yeshiva assured him that he would.

Pr4ior to meeting the Rebbe, Rav Segal prepared by engaging in a SIX HOUR MUSSAR SEDER. He cried, and he beseeched, with his head toward shamayim (heaven). Subsequent to his preparations the meeting took place. As Rav Segal was walking back to the car his gabbai said, “oy!! You forgot to ask for the bracha for the avreich at the yeshiva! OK, let’s run back in quickly.” The Rosh Yeshiva said, “vos??” He said, “it’ll take a second, let’s just run back in, as the door is probably still open!” The Rosh Yeshiva said, incredulously, “vos?? You expect me to go in to see the Satmar Rebbe without preparation?” The gabbai pleaded, “but you just came out. You were just in a very lofty state. You prepared for six hours beforehand. And you promised this avreich a bracha from the Satmar Rebbe.” The Rosh Yeshiva said “It’s completely out of the question. I will not walk in to see the Satmar Rebbe without preparing myself properly.” “What do we do??” questioned the Gabbai. “I’ll give him the bracha myself. There’s just no other way.” And so they left, and later flew back to England. The Rosh Yeshiva did give the avreich a bracha, and less than a year later on Rosh Hashanah it was whispered into the Rosh Yeshiva’s ear before tekias shofar that the bracha had come to fruition.
Rizhiner and the Tzemach Tzaddik
The Tzemach Tzaddik was the son-in-law of the holy Rizhiner Rebbe. The Rizhiner was known for his riches and malchus (royalty), but for all of his material wealth, he was on a very high, exalted level. When it came to physical matters such as eating he took after the tradition of his grandfather, Reb Avrohom the Malach (the angel), who was given this title for his reluctance to partake in earthly delights such as food.
One day when the Tzemach Tzaddik and the Rizhiner were engaged in a meal, the Rizhiner put his fork down after he was only half way through with his meal. When the Tzemach Tzaddik questioned him the Rizhiner said that before he was born, he had made a deal with his neshama (soul), only to eat enough to get by, and not a morsel more. The Tzemach Tzaddik then commented that he just realized something. “All my life there was something that bothered me, and I just figured out the answer,” he said. “On Friday night we sing shalom aleichem, welcoming the angels that accompany us home from shul into our homes. But then, just a short while later, we sing tzeischem lishalom, bidding them farewell. Why do we send them away so soon? Now I realize why. It’s because angels can’t partake in earthly pleasures. They can't taste food. We don’t want to show them disrespect by eating in front of them, so we say goodbye before we begin our meal,” at which point the Tzemach Tzaddik put down his fork, indicating that he was in the presence of a malach at that moment, the Rizhiner himself.
Imrei Yosef of Spinka
The residents of the city of Marmarosh, Romania, suffered from terrible poverty. The Imrei Yosef, Rabbi Yosef Meir Weiss, first Spinka Rebbe, was no exception. He lived in Marmarosh just before moving to Spinka, where he established his dynasty. In Marmarosh he didn’t even have enough money to buy wood to heat his home in the winter. One wealthy follower of the Rebbe owned several forests, and he would send wood to the Rebbe at the beginning of each winter. It was stored in a shed in the Rebbe’s courtyard.

One bitterly cold night a desperate villager stole into the Rebbe’s shed to take some wood. In the pitch dark he felt around for a few loose logs. As he was pulling out a piece of wood, a pile of logs collapsed on him, and he was badly injured. But bleeding and writhing in pain, he was able to suppress his screams of agony lest someone catch him in the act of stealing, and from the Rebbe, no less.
The next day the Rebbe found out about the incident. Word spread around town, and the thief locked himself up in his house. But just what did the Rebbe have to say about the theft? “I am ashamed to open my mouth if a poor, brokenhearted Yid risked such danger in my house because of his terrible poverty.” The Rebbe, in need of that wood to fight off the bitter winter in Marmarosh, didn’t rebuke the man. He didn’t even put a lock on the shed. Instead he put in a request to have lighting installed in the shed, just in case anyone else needed to “borrow” some wood. “If not I would not be able to call this a Jewish home,” said the Spinka Rebbe. And a lantern was lit each night in the courtyard from then on outside the Rebbe’s shed.
Reb Arele Roth and a disenchanted man
Reb Arele Roth, founder of chassidus Shomrei Emunim came to Jerusalem in 1925. He was known for his fervent and emotional style of prayer and worship. In Satu Mare (Satmar), Hungary, at the time, he was viewed as being inordinately intense, and became somewhat of a curiosity. Such was his manner of conducting himself that the students from the Satmar yeshiva were banned from visiting or even laying eyes on him. It is said that he often had to change his shirt up to two times during Shabbos morning prayers. He often stretched out the davening to four or five hours. Such was his intensity. When he moved to Jerusalem in 1925 he had decided to become a sofer (a scribe), but his teacher quickly realized that this was no ordinary human being and, soon after, Reb Arele Roth founded Shomrei Emunim.
On one occasion at a simcha the Rebbe was dancing fervently in the middle of a circle. Amidst his ecstasy he opened his eyes, and noticed a man with a disturbed face, perhaps a misnagid (opponent of chassidim) looking on with contempt. Reb Arele broke the circle, took the man by the hand, and led him into the middle of the circle. He began to dance with him, and looked into his eyes. The man was transformed. Never before had he seen such an expression and, amidst the dancing, never before had he conceived of such ecstasy. The man never looked back. He became a devoted chassid of the Rebbe. Such was Reb Arele’s intensity and influence. (Adapted from
A surgical procedure
In 1854, Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach, the Belzer Rebbe, suffered from a succession of mysterious ailments. Although he was in much pain, he maintained a cheerful countenance on the outside. His chassidim, however, were greatly worried-not just because of the illnesses themselves, for they were all curable, but because of certain disturbing hints from the Rebbe that his end was near.
The next time the Rebbe’s condition worsened, they decided to spare no expense and bring him to Vienna. There, in the finest medical facility in Europe, they took him to be examined by top specialists. The doctors announced their diagnosis: an immediate and risky operation was urgently necessary.
The Belzer made his preparations. He immersed in the mikveh; he wrote his will; he recited with great emotion the words of the Final Confession. Only then, in an exalted spirit of awe and love of G-d, did he allow himself to be placed on the operating table.
The surgical team assembled around the Rebbe. All awaited the chief surgeon’s signal to the anesthetist to begin his procedure.
Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, the Rebbe called out to one of the surgeons. After confirming his first name, he said: “Moses? You’re a Jew, aren’t you?” The doctor quietly nodded his head.
Moses, whose given name was actually Moshe Yitzchak, was from a small town called Linden. There he had grown up in a traditional Jewish home. His father had tried his best to provide him a strong Jewish education, but alas, the boy’s heart was drawn in a completely different direction. As his head filled with visions of more cosmopolitan, attracting vistas, he grew further and further from the values of his nurturing home. As soon as he was of age, he left Linden and his distraught parents, and headed for the great metropolis of Vienna.
The first step he took in his new life was to change his name to Moses. Next, he enrolled in a secular school, where thanks to his brilliant mind and determined diligence, he caught up to and surpassed his age-mates by absorbing an extraordinary large amount of material in a relatively short period of time.
Armed with his decree, he was accepted to the medical school of the university, and there too he was highly successful. Soon after, he became established as a first-class physician and surgeon.
Unfortunately, the more he succeeded, the further he drifted from his Jewish roots. No longer could anyone recognize the sophisticated Dr. Moses as the small-town Moshe Yitzchak of Linden.
Although Moses’ nod of affirmation of his Jewish identity was small and unobtrusive, it was noticed by everyone in the room. There was absolute silence when the Rebbe continued: “Moses, do you believe that G-d Al-mighty created the world and conducts it?” After a short hesitation the perplexed Moses answered, “Yes, Rabbi, I do.”
The medical staff looked on in astonishment, but the Rebbe seemed oblivious to their stares as all his attention was focused on the doctor. “And what about Moshiach the righteous one who any moment will come and redeem our people from the exile? Do you believe that, Moses?”
This time Moses was silent longer. He selected his words carefully. “Uh, I believe that there will come a certain time when there will be a redemption, but I don't believe that it will come about through a Messiah, a single person, who will rule over the whole world and everyone will be in awe and fear of him. Such a thing is not within the realm of rational possibility; so I can’t accept it.”
The Belzer Rebbe lifted his head and turned to face Moses directly. He opened wide his powerful eyes, two bright shining orbs radiating kindness and goodness, but also power and authority.
The Rebbe’s penetrating gaze fastened on Moses. He felt it burning into him. He tried to avert his own eyes but was unable. It was as if they were magnetically attached to those of the Rebbe.
The stunned members of the medical team saw their comrade's face turn deathly pale, then blush bright as a beet. Then again white, again red. His whole body was trembling and his hands had begun to shake. They had no idea what to think of this unexpected bizarre interaction, but they realized Moses must be undergoing some sort of spiritual or emotional trauma.
The tension was palpable. Moses was panting and breathing with difficulty as if he had just completed a long-distance run. He tried his best to calm himself and relax, but found himself unable to. The simple fact that someone had asserted control over him with just a glance kept him in internal turmoil.
Finally, the Rebbe averted his eyes from Moses. The surgeon felt his composure return. Then the Rebbe looked at him again, and studied his face, but this time his gaze was caressing. “Nu, Moses, now do you believe that an individual is capable of arousing fear in all those around him with just a glance of the eyes?”
Moses nodded in silent admission.
“Well, Moses, that is exactly how it will be when Moshiach arrives. G-d’s chosen one will rule over the entire world, and everyone will abandon their evil ways and turn towards G-d.”
“The Rebbe is right; I was mistaken,” muttered the abashed physician.
The drama over, the operation was able to take place. Afterwards, it was pronounced a great success, and thousands of chassidim breathed sighs of relief.
Fifteen days later the Belzer was discharged. He boarded the train to return to Belz from Vienna. To the deep sorrow of his followers, however, he never arrived, but went to his eternal reward on 23 Shevat, at age 59, during the course of the journey. Among those that merited to be in the small group of disciples present at the moment that the Rebbe passed on was his devoted chassid, Moshe Yitzchak of Linden. [Translated and freely adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles]
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeitzei 5770
Is sponsored liRefuah Shleima Refoel Chaim Simcha ben Devorah Aliza bisoch shaar cholei Yisroel
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Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Toldos 5770

שבת טעם החיים תולדות תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Toldos 5770

Blessings unlimited
So he drew close and kissed him; he smelled the fragrance of his garments and blessed him; he said, “See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field which HaShem had blessed.” (Bereishis 27:27)
In this week’s parasha the Torah records the blessings that Yitzchak conferred on his son Yaakov. The Torah states that when Esav returned from his hunt and discovered that Yaakov had received the blessings, he cried out to Yitzchak in distress. It is said (Bereishis 27:34-36) kishmoa Esav es divrei aviv vayitzak tzeakah gedolah umarah ad meod vayomer liaviv barcheini gam ani avi vayomer ba achicha bimirmah vayikach birchasecha vayomer hachi kara shemo Yaakov vayaakveini zeh paamaim es bechorasi lakach vihinei atah lakach birchasi vayomar halo atzalta li beracha, when Esav heard his father’s words, he cried out an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me too, Father!” But he said, “Your brother came with cleverness and took your blessing.” He said, “Is it because his name was called Yaakov that he outwitted me these two times? – He took away my birthright and see, now he took away my blessing!” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” It is noteworthy that Esav felt that because Yaakov had received the blessings, there was no blessing remaining for him. Indeed, Yitzchak ultimately blessed him that the fatness of the earth shall be his dwelling and with the dew of the heavens. Additionally, Yitzchak informed Esav that he would live by the sword. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that Yitzchak told Esav that if Yaakov would falter in Torah study, Esav would be victorious over Yaakov. Yet, the fact remains that Esav did not receive a true blessing, as Yitzchak had bestowed all the blessings upon Yaakov. Let us understand how it was possible for Yaakov to receive all the blessings and Esav was left with nothing.
Blessing means that HaShem, the Source of all blessing, is unlimited
The definition of bracha is that HaShem is the Source of all blessings. This means that blessing is unlimited, as HaShem is unlimited in His powers. Esav was the firstborn and was deserving of receive the blessings from Yitzchak. However, Esav scorned the birthright when he sold it to Yaakov for a bowl of lentils. When Esav complained to Yitzchak that “He took away my birthright and see, now he took away my blessing!” he was actually stating the truth of the situation that he himself had created. By allowing Yaakov to receive the birthright, Esav was declaring that he was no longer worthy of HaShem’s unlimited blessings. Thus, Esav understood that there was no room for him to receive any blessing. The only opportunity for Esav to enter the realm of blessing, i.e. unlimited abundance, is when Yaakov falters.
Esav is limited and Yaakov is unlimited
The Pinei Menachem notes that the Gemara (Taanis 5b) states that Yaakov never died. Thus, Yaakov lives for eternity. Esav, on the other hand, declared (Bereishis 25:32) “look, I am going to die, so of what use to me is a birthright?” Esav sealed his own fate by declaring that his life was limited, essentially cutting himself off from all blessing.
The Shabbos connection
It is said (Shir HaShirim7:12) licho dodi neitzei hasadeh, come, my Beloved, let us go to the fields. The Pinei Menachem cites the Arizal who interpreted this to mean that on Shabbos the wilderness is transformed into a field. A wilderness is an ownerless area, and similarly, Esav conducted himself in a lawless manner. The Zohar states that there are various types of fields. The fields of Shabbos and the Bais HaMikdash are fields where holiness and blessings are found. When Yaakov kissed Yitzchak, it is said (Bereishis 27:27) vayigash vayishak lo vayarach es reiach bigadav vayivarcheihu vayomer rieh reiach bini kireiach sadeh asher beiracho HaShem, so he drew close and kissed him; he smelled the fragrance of his garments and blessed him; he said, “See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field which HaShem had blessed.” Yitzchak blessed Yaakov with the blessing of Shabbos and the Bais HaMikdash. Shabbos is unlimited in time and the Bais HaMikdash is unlimited in space. When we prepare for Shabbos properly, we are demonstrating that we are worthy of receiving HaShem’s unlimited bounty. Rivka ensured that her son Yaakov would receive the unlimited blessing of HaShem, and every week we can afford ourselves of the opportunity to receive those blessings.

Shabbos Stories

Rav Shlomo Zalman of Vilna ZT”L--Brother of Rav Chaim of Volozhin
by David Hoffman
This article originally appeared in Yated Neeman, Monsey NY. and is posted here with their permission

Rav Zalman was born in Volozhin in 5516/1756, the son of Rav Yitzchak; this was seven years after the birth of his elder brother, Rav Chaim of Volozhin. There is little doubt that had he not tragically passed away at the age of 32 he would have been no less well-known than his illustrious brother.
Rav Zalman was an early starter – at the age of one his mother taught him to say shehakol before drinking milk. After his father sent him to cheder at two and a half years, he developed such an overwhelming love for the alef-beis that he carried a sefer with him everywhere, reading all its alefs from cover to cover, and then all its beises and so on.
Rav Chaim of Volozhin related how his four year old brother once saw his parents preparing a siyum for his older brother, Rav Simcha, who had learned the entire Mishnayos by heart.
“My brother Rav Simcha may know this small sefer by heart,” he announced, “pointing to a miniature Mishnayos on the table, “but I will one day know every sefer by heart whether small or large.” Noticing that his parents were surprised at this outburst, Rav Zalman continued, “Why are you surprised? Didn’t I learn the entire Torah and engrave it on my heart before the angel forced me to forget it? Similarly, I can be confident in my ability to remember and am certain that if I learn and review the Torah sufficiently it will be embedded in me my whole life.”
At eight years old it seemed his premonition was correct when his cheder rebbe tested him on Maseches Sukkah and discovered that he knew every masechta being learnt in the cheder.
Far from being a mere intellectual, the youngster utilized his lomdus to enhance the avodas HaShem of himself and other people. One Erev Yom Kippur he noticed that someone was refusing to forgive someone who was asking his mechillah.

Striding over to the offended party Rav Zalman said to him, “You know Chazal’s statement that Yerushalayim was only destroyed because people insisted on doing their affairs strictly according to din Torah (and would not compromise)? This is puzzling as sefer Yechezkel lists far more serious transgressions. How can Chazal blame the Churban on people refusing to compromise?
“The answer is that had people been willing to compromise HaShem would have passed over their sins because Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 17) say, ‘Whoever passes over his character traits (and doesn’t insist on having things his way), they pass over his sins, etc.’ However, because the people insisted on going according to the letter of the law, HaShem, too, went according to the letter of the law and punished them immediately.” Catching the hint, the offended person immediately forgave the other person with all his heart.
Rav Zalman always learned with immense concentration. Years later he went to a wedding of one of Rav Chaim of Volozhin’s children and Rav Chaim told him he would send some musicians to his room to play for him. The musicians arrived and began playing before Rav Zalman as he sat and murmured in learning. Later, when Rav Chaim came to the room after the musicians had left, Rav Zalman asked him, “You said you would send musicians to my room. Why haven’t you sent them?” At weddings he would dance with great simcha with the chosson and he would dance a “mitzvah tantz” with the kallah, (something only chassidim do today).

At the age of about fourteen, Rav Zalman knew the major sefarim by heart including the Chumash and Tanach with their various Targumim, the Bavli and Yerushalmi, various Medrashim, the Rambam, the Turim, the Zohar and the Tikunim. His mind was like a computer from which he could extract abstruse information at a moment’s notice.
For example, when someone mentioned that there is a certain mitzvah that a person will never achieve if he pursues it, but only if he removes it from his mind, Rav Zalman told him that this was the mitzvah of not going back for forgotten sheaves. Because the Tosefta (Peiah chapter 2) talks about a chassid who forgot a sheaf in his field and said to his son, ‘Go and offer a bull as a burnt offering for me and a bull as a peace offering.’ His son said to him, ‘Why are you happier with this mitzvah than all the mitzvos in the Torah?’
The Tosefta explains that the chassid was joyful because this mitzvah can never be performed deliberately, but only if one forgets a sheaf in one’s field as it says, “When you forget a sheaf in a field.”
On another occasion, someone wanted to know the location of the only two places where the Rambam mentions a Tanna or Amora in his Yad Hachazaka. Rav Zalman promptly informed him that the Rambam mentions the Tanna Hillel in Hilchos Tefillin (2:11), and the Amora Rava in Hilchos Toein Venitan (8:4,10).
Despite his fluency in the entire Torah, Rav Zalman placed special importance on the careful study of Tanach because it encapsulates everything.
“When I was still only learning Torah and Nach,” he said, “I knew that their light is limitless but they were basically closed books because their statements are brief and their keys are given to the baalei kabalah (of the Oral Torah). But when I learnt the Bavli, Yerushalmi and suchlike…, the works of Chazal were like open windows that illuminated the light of the Torah… Because the verses are brief and contain piles and piles of halachos, when I reviewed a short parsha of the Torah, it would sometimes help me remember hundreds of halachos and more.”
As an example, someone once asked him, “Where does the Torah hint at the Halacha (Demai chapter 5) that even though we do not trust an ignoramus who said that he tithed his produce, on Shabbos we believe him because the awe of Shabbos is upon him?”

“This law is hinted in the first word of the Torah,” Rav Zalman answered. “The Tikunei Zohar (tikun teshi’i) writes that the letters of Bereishis can be rearranged to read yarei Shabbos (awe of Shabbos).”
Rav Zalman utilized his immense knowledge to ensure that everything he did was in accordance with Chazal.
For example, he once rebuked someone for speaking divrei chullin on Shabbos and the person explained that he had actually been discussing a certain mitzvah. After asking his forgiveness, Rav Zalman blessed the man with the text of Birkas Kohanim. Noticing that the people around were surprised at this, he explained that the Gemara (Brachos 31) explicitly says that someone who suspects his fellow unfoundedly must not only appease him but also bless him.
Once when he was sitting before the Vilna Gaon, the Gaon said that according to his opinion, pidyon bechor should be done with five thalers of the kind used in Lithuania because we go after the coin used during one’s time. Immediately, Rav Zalman removed a coin from his upper garment, handed it to a kohen, and stated, “I am giving this to you for the redemption of my first born son who passed away a few years ago!”
Although one might think that Rav Zalman had little knowledge of the goings on of this world as he was always totally immersed in Torah, Rav Chaim of Volozhin explained that this was not so. True, Rav Zalman was initially unsure how to interpret the Gemara’s statement (Yuma 19), “The rabbis taught, And you shall talk in them, etc. (Devarim 6:7), and not in other things.” Does this mean that one is never allowed speak other things at all, or does it only mean that one should not speak other things when one has the opportunity to speak in Torah? Rav Chaim answers that in a place where one is not permitted to speak in Torah one may speak other things.
Rav Zalman eventually decided leniently, and thus when he was in the bathhouse where he could not learn in any case, he would discuss world events and trade on a high intellectual level. He explained that there is no learned or ethical idea that is not mentioned in our holy Torah.
For example, some merchants were once discussing how a Jewish merchant on a journey suspected that his wagon driver wanted to murder him in order to steal his securities. What did he do? He took his flint box and burnt the documents to ashes.
“A similar episode is mentioned in the Rivash,” said Rav Zalman, and he proceeded to relate the relevant Rivash by heart.
A merchant once went on a voyage, placing a box (full of money and jewels) in his cabin. Suddenly he heard sailors whispering to each other, ‘When we reach the high seas we will throw the merchant into the sea and take his box!’ What did the merchant do? He pretended to quarrel with his companions on the boat regarding who owned the valuables inside the chest and in the middle of the fight he took the box and tossed it into the sea declaring, “Now neither you nor I will possess them!”
Back on dry land the merchant summoned the sailors to a trial complaining that he had been forced to throw his possessions into the sea because of their plot to kill him. After ruling that they must recompense his loss, the judge asked the merchant, “Tell me, where did you get the wonderful idea of throwing your chest into the sea?”
“I learnt it from King Shlomo,” the merchant replied. “He writes (Koheles 3:6), A time to seek and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to throw away. When I heard the sailors plotting to murder me for my property I thought that this was an opportune time to throw it away.”

After citing similar examples Rav Zalman concluded that there is no wisdom not included in our holy Torah.
Rav Zalman was involved in Torah to such an extent that he never asked for things explicitly but hinted at what he wanted through a verse or statement of Chazal. Thus when he wanted to eat he might cite R. Yossi (Taanis 22) who says, “And man became living soul (Bereishis 20:7) – keep the soul I gave you alive!” When he mentioned the derush of Chazal, “And behold it was very good (ibid 1:31) – this is sleep,” his attendant understood that it was time to prepare his bed. Incidentally, he always slept with gloves so that he could learn the moment he awoke before washing his hands.
On one occasion it seemed that Rav Zalman had broken this rule when he handed someone two coins and asked him to buy him some honey cakes. However, Rav Zalman explained that his mother had ordered him to eat honey cakes two hours before lunch every day (in order to strengthen his health). Therefore sending someone to buy the cakes was an act of kibud av that he could mention explicitly.
Despite his phenomenal memory and vast knowledge, Rav Zalman never ceased reviewing his learning. Someone once witnessed him striding back and forth reviewing with such enthusiasm that merely hearing him inflamed people with love of Torah.
“How many times have you reviewed this topic?” he asked Rav Zalman.
“About two hundred and fifty times,” he answered
When the Vilna Gaon once explained one of the replies of Iyov’s friends, Rav Zalman rejoiced over the shiur as if he had received all the pleasures of the world. The following day however, when the Gaon began to explain a second reply, he noticed that Rav Zalman seemed upset about something.
“What are you bothered about?” he asked him. “Do you find some fault in what I am saying?”

“I haven’t reviewed the answer you said yesterday a hundred and one times,” replied Rav Zalman. “So how can I be sitting here listening to your explanation of the other answers?”

Someone once noticed Rav Zalman reviewing something about three hundred times and then reviewing it even more times a short time afterward.
“Why is this necessary?” he asked him.
“Chazal describe someone learning something four times and feeling that it was lying in his pocket,” he replied. “Why do they specifically describe it as lying in one’s pocket and not use the more common expression of lying in a box? This hints at Chazal’s rule that a person is predisposed to feel in his pocket all the time (to make sure he has not lost what is inside). Chazal are saying that even when a person has learnt four or five times, his learning is lying in his pocket and he must still ‘feel’ it all the time to ensure that it is not lost through forgetfulness. (This idea was probably from the Gaon)
Despite his immense Torah wisdom Rav Zalman renounced every form of honor. One Seder night he asked a guest why he was not reclining for the wine and matzah.

“You are a rav like an angel of HaShem, and I am not worthy to collect dry bones from beneath your table of wisdom, so how can I recline without your permission?” replied the guest.

“Oy, how you have upset me by raising me from my lowly status and placing my nest among the stars,” complained Rav Zalman, and striding back and forth he repeated a number of statements of Chazal that denigrate pride.
“A rav he calls me?” he laughed afterwards. “I am not a rav and not a teacher… If I compare what I know to what I do not know, I know nothing!”
On one occasion Rav Zalman regarded his immense reputation as a liability. Rav Chaim related that this happened after someone told Rav Zalman a ridiculous chiddush to which he expressed his displeasure in no uncertain terms.
Immediately, he regretted having spoken so bluntly and shed bitter tears, but it was too late, the stranger had disappeared. Rav Zalman spent days searching for him in shuls and market places but to no avail. By now he was almost sick with concern. In order to alleviate his pain, his father-in-law asked someone to go to Rav Zalman under the pretense of being the humiliated stranger and forgive him. Although momentarily overjoyed, Rav Zalman immediately saw through the hoax and forced the man to admit that he was an imposter. Now matters were worse than ever.
“What hope is there for me?” Rav Zalman moaned, shedding a flood of tears. “Even Yom Kippur cannot atone for a sin like this until I appease the offended person.”

When the Gaon heard what was happening he sent for Rav Zalman and cited the Gemara (Sukkah 52) where R. Yehoshua ben Levi says that man’s evil inclination rises up against him every day and seeks to kill him as it says (Tehillim 36:32), “The wicked one waits for the tzaddik and seeks to kill him, and if the Holy One did not help him it would not conquer him as it says, HaShem will not leave him in his hands.”
“The last part of this statement is telling us more than HaShem’s chesed at saving us from the yetzer hara. It is also telling us that man’s duty is only to do all he can to fight the evil inclination; but once he has done his utmost HaShem will grant him heavenly assistance.
“HaShem knows that you have done everything possible,” the Gaon concluded. “Now He will send His help, and he has several ways of returning people to the truth and good they are seeking.”
Then, opening the Chovos Halevavos, the Gaon showed him what is written there in shaar hateshuvah (chapter 10):
“If a person did evil to his fellow, to his body or his property, the Creator will introduce will and love into his heart so that he forgives that which he sinned against him as it says (Mishlei 16:7), When a man’s ways please HaShem, even his enemies will make peace with him.”

Because Rav Zalman regarded every word the Gaon said as ruach hakodesh, he took comfort from his words and his cloud of misery dispelled.
While still a young man, Rav Zalman became critically ill and passed away at the age of 32 in 5548/1782. During his last hours he lay in bed reading Tehillim despite his exhaustion.

“Isn’t this an explicit Gemara?” he explained. “Citing the verse, This is the Torah when a man dies in a tent (Bamidbar 19), R. Yonasan (Shabbos 83) explains, ‘A person should not hold back from Divrei Torah even at the time of death.”
During his last minutes, he painfully hauled himself out of bed stood in one place for a short while and then walked four amos with the help of a cane (after carefully ascertaining that the owner of the cane had given him permission). This was in order to fulfill for the last time Chazal’s injunction (Kesuvos 111) that a person should spend “a third (of the time) sitting, a third standing and a third walking.”
Thousands of Jews mourned the tragedy of his passing. Rav Zalman, who could have helped direct the spiritual future of Klal Yisroel, had been cut off in his prime.
May his memory be a blessing.
Source: *Feivel, Rav Yechezkel. Toldos Adam. *a nephew of Rav Chaim of Volozhin.)

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Toldos 5770
Is sponsored liRefuah Shleima Refoel Chaim Simcha ben Devorah Aliza bisoch shaar cholei Yisroel
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Bais Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, half an hour before Mincha.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Chaye Sara 5770

שבת טעם החיים חיי שרה תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Chaye Sara 5770

Everything can be perceived as good
Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life. (Bereishis 23:1)
Rashi writes that the words the years of Sarah’s life teach us that all of Sarah’s years were deemed to be good. The Medrash cites the verse that states (Tehillim 37:18) yodeia HaShem yimei temimim vinachalasam liolam tihiyeh, HaShem knows the days of the perfect, their inheritance will be forever. This is interpreted to mean that the days of Sarah were complete. Rashi adds that when Sarah was one hundred years old it was as if she was twenty years old. When she was twenty years old, she was free of sin, and when she was hundred she was also free of sin. These statements imply that Sarah led a life of perfection. Further evidence of this idea is expressed in the Medrash Tanchumah where the Medrash expounds on the last chapter of Mishlei. In this chapter Shlomo HaMelech extols the virtues of the woman of valor. The Medrash cites the verse that states (Mishlei 31:12) gimalashu tov vilo ra, she bestows goodness upon him, never evil, The Medrash expounds on the other verses and how they allude to the noble acts of Sarah. Yet, regarding this verse the Medrash does not offer any interpretation regarding Sarah. One must wonder why the Medrash quotes this verse without expounding on it. Furthermore, all the statements of the Medrash and Rashi appear to contradict a different Medrash cited by Rashi. The Torah juxtaposes the binding of Yitzchak at the Akeidah where Avraham nearly slaughtered Yitzchak and the death of Sarah. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that the catalyst of Sarah’s death was that Sara heard that Yitzchak was almost slaughtered and this caused her soul to leave her. One must wonder how it is possible that Sarah is considered to have lived a good life and without sin if her demise was brought about in such an apparently tragic manner.
On the last day of the year we can perceive the entire year as a good year
In order to reconcile these seemingly contradictory Medrashim, it is worth gaining an insight into what it means that all of Sarah’s years were equally good. How can this be possible when we know that for most of her life Sarah was barren, and she underwent many of the tests that Avraham himself had experienced? Perhaps we can suggest an answer to this question based on an idea that Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, shlita, said in the name of Reb Shlomo Kluger. What should one think when reciting the Mincha Shemone Esrei on Erev Rosh Hashanah and he recites the words bareich aleinu es hashanah hazos vies kol minei sivuasah litovah, bless on our behalf this year and all of its types of produce, for goodness. We are almost at Rosh Hashanah, and we are still requesting that HaShem provide us with a year of bounty. What is the meaning of this request? (Incidentally, the Belzer Rebbe answered that yeshuas HaShem kiheref ayin, salvation from HaShem can arrive in the blink of an eye.) Reb Shlomo Kluger explains that although the year is almost completed, we ask HaShem that we should be able to perceive the year as a blessed one. Thus, we are requesting from HaShem that we be allowed to appreciate that He has given us a year of blessing. Perhaps the same idea can be used to explain the life of Sarah. While Sarah certainly endured many hardships in her life, all her years were deemed to be equally good because she was able to appreciate the good that HaShem had bestowed upon her. It is for this reason, then, that the Medrash Tanchumah does not expound on the verse that states that she bestows goodness upon him, never evil. The reason that there is nothing to add to this verse is because Sarah personified the ideal that everything that happens to a person in their lifetime can be perceived as good.
Sarah perceived the near death of Yitzchak as being good
Similarly, we can now better understand the juxtaposition of the Akeidah and Sarah’s death. The revelation that Yitzchak had almost been slaughtered would certainly seem to be tragic to most people. Yet, for Sarah, even this near calamity was perceived as good, and she died in the same manner that she had lived, always appreciating the good HaShem had performed for her.
The Shabbos connection
It is noteworthy that the words sabeinu mituvecha, satiate us from Your goodness, equal in gematria the name Sarah (505). Thus, Sarah reflects the idea that everything HaShem does for us is ultimately for the good and we request from HaShem to satiate us from His goodness. Throughout the week we are sometimes led to believe that things are not going our way and people will often say that they had a bad day or a rough week. When Shabbos arrives, however, all of the difficulties of the week dissipate and we greet the Holy Shabbos with optimism and enthusiasm. HaShem should allow us to lead the life that Sarah lived, which was a life that all her years were good, i.e. perceived as good.
Shabbos Stories
Concern for a widow
This story was originally told by Horav Shalom Schwadron, zt”l, and later related by Rabbi Paysach Krohn in “Around the Maggid’s Table.” It was the early twentieth century and a certain Reb Nachum was the baal tefillah, leader of the services, for the Mussaf prayer on the High Holy Days in the shul where Horav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, was the rav. Obviously a shul which had such a venerable rav was filled to capacity during these special days when prayer is so important and effective. The baal tefillah has an awesome function, one that goes beyond the mere ability to chant the service in a melodious voice. He must inspire the congregation with impassioned service. Needless to say, Reb Nachum lived up to his position.
One year, shortly before Rosh Hashanah, Reb Nachum took ill and suddenly passed away. After mourning a dear friend, the shul’s leadership prepared for the task of filling the void and finding a baal tefillah for the upcoming holidays. When they approached Rav Yosef Chaim, he told them not to be concerned. He would see to it that a worthy replacement would be present in time. The weeks went by quickly, and soon it was a few days before Rosh Hashanah. There was still no baal tefillah in sight. When the members again approached the rav, the answer was the same: Do not worry.
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the members were beginning to become nervous, since there still was no baal tefillah. When they once again turned to Rav Yosef Chaim, he assured them that he had the situation in hand and there would be a baal tefillah at the podium for Mussaf.
The next day, there was a sense of anxious expectation in the air. The Shacharis service was completed. The Shofar was blown. It was now “crunch” time. Where was the baal mussaf? All eyes were on Rav Yosef Chaim, as he arose from his seat, walked over to Reb Nachum’s son, and said, “You are to be the baal mussaf. Go up and pray just as your late father did.”
The young man was taken aback. He never imagined himself as the one to fill his father’s shoes. He began to protest, “I cannot. I am not prepared. I did not look over the prayers before Yom Tov.”
Rav Yosef Chaim was not taking no for an answer. In his calm voice, he assured the young man that he could and would be successful in leading the prayers, “Go up there and do your best. You will be fine.”
Understandably, one does not argue with Rav Yosef Chaim. The young man acquiesced and led the service. After Mussaf, a group of the members respectfully approached the rav and questioned his choice for baal tefillah. “After all,” they reminded him, “the Halacha clearly states that a mourner may not lead the congregation in prayer during the High Holy Days.”
Rav Yosef Chaim looked at the group with loving eyes and responded softly, “Do you know who was sitting and praying in the women’s section of the shul? Reb Nochum’s widow. Surely you can imagine the grief and sorrow that she is feeling, especially on the very day that she would have listened to her husband leading the service. Now, imagine the pain she would have felt if just anybody had ascended the podium to lead the service. She would have surely broken apart, and her sorrowful weeping would have been heard and felt by us all.
“In order to minimize her pain, I sent her son up there. The Torah admonishes us a number of times to be sensitive to the needs of a widow. Halacha dictates that if there is no one else available, a mourner may lead the services. I felt that in this case, for the sake of the widow, there was no one else.”
This was the benchmark of a gadol biYisroel, Torah leader. He carried the pain and concerns of all Klal Yisrael - both collectively and individually - on his shoulders.
Anyone can repent
Horav Eliyahu Lopian, zt”l, related the story of a certain rasha, wicked person, a kofer, agnostic, who did everything to denigrate the religion in which he was raised. He became seriously ill to the point that, after consultation with the most distinguished physicians in Koenigsburg, it was determined that his only chance for survival was surgery. Veritably, surgery was not the cure all, nor was it guaranteed, but, without it, the patient had no chance whatsoever.
The problem was that, as aggressive and loud as the person was when it came to demeaning his religion, he was a total opposite concerning himself. He was a coward, meek and insecure. Thus, he refused to have the surgery. If so, the doctors demanded that he leave the hospital. His behavior bordered on suicidal and they were not interested in taking responsibility for his imminent death. Finally, the man relented and agreed to have the surgery.
One can imagine the shock of all those present when the patient, as he was being wheeled into surgery, amidst trembling and trepidation, shrieked, biyadcha afkid ruchi padisa osi HaShem Keil emes, in Your hands I place my spirit, You have redeemed me, HaShem, G-d of truth.
This was followed with a resounding Shema Yisrael. The doctors and family members who observed this sudden changing of heart could not believe what they heard and saw. The emotion, coupled with these verses emanating from the mouth of a hardened agnostic, jarred their senses. Indeed, everybody present was so captivated by the sudden expression of faith that they also were disquieted and filled with a sense of awe and trepidation. The pain and anxiety that this man was undergoing awakened his inner emotions and the Pintele Yid, spark of Jewish faith, within the hidden recesses of his soul burst forth. Rav Elya concluded, “Do not think that any man is lost forever. There is hope for everyone, regardless of his miscreant past. There is a path of teshuvah, return, which anyone can follow. It just depends on what motivates him to begin the journey back home.”
The four questions of the Mah Nishtanah take on new meaning
Nachlas Tzvi cites an incredible story related by the Bendiner Rav zt”l, in his sefer Yechahein Peer. In the city of Nickolsburg, a group of laymen came to the rav, the famous Rav Shmuel Shmelke of Nickolsburg, to tell him that there is a butcher/shochet in the city who constantly slaughters glatt kosher. This was considered to be unusual, given that some animals are naturally prone to have some physical blemishes that would render them not glatt. Rav Shmelke decided that he would go to observe the shochet during one of his sessions and see for himself if the animals were really glatt kosher. After spending a day with the shochet, he was amazed that, indeed, every animal was glatt kosher.
Rav Shmelke summoned the shochet to his home and asked him how it came to be that he had such remarkable good fortune. The shochet responded that every time he went to the market to purchase animals, he would meet a Jew who would point out to him which animals to purchase. “If this is the case, then I must go with you to the market to meet this person,” said Rav Shmelke. They agreed to go a few days before Pesach, since the shochet would be filling a large order for Yom Tov. They met at the market on the appointed day. After being introduced to the man in question, he asked him, "How do you know which animals are glatt kosher?” “Rebbe,” responded the man, “I do not know on my own. Before I go to the market, Eliyahu HaNavi appears to me and points out which animals to use. It seems that those animals are the gilgulim, reincarnated souls, of animals that were destined to be korbanos, sacrifices, in the Bais HaMikdash. These animals must be eaten by Jews on Shabbos and Yom Tov in order for them to achieve their tikun, spiritual correction, and enter the Eternal World.” Obviously, Rav Shmelke was taken aback with the man’s response, particularly his “familiarity” with Eliyahu HaNavi. He turned to the man and asked, “If Eliyahu HaNavi is so close to you, why do you not ask him why Mashiach has not yet come to redeem us from this galus, exile?” “Rebbe,” the man responded, “in just a few days it will be Pesach. I am sure that Eliyahu HaNavi will grace my home during the Seder. I will ask him this question and relay to you his response to you.”
During Chol HaMoed, the Intermediate Days of the Pesach festival, Rav Shmelke traveled to this person to find out what Eliyahu HaNavi had revealed to him. When he came into the man’s home, the person said, “Rebbe, I asked Eliyahu HaNavi your question, and he told me that an illusion to the answer is found in the Mah Nishtanah.” The Four Questions are actually four queries and requests of HaShem regarding the exiles to which we have been subjected. "Why is this night different from all other nights,” means “why is this exile different from the other exiles?” Night has often been used as a metaphor for the darkness of galus. Each question concentrates upon a different exile. The last question centers on the present galus. The answer to why this galus is different, why each of the previous exiles had an end while this one does not seem to have an end in sight, is that during the other nights, exiles, we either sat or reclined, but on this night we only recline. This means that during the other exiles there were people who made Torah study their primary vocation. They studied, relegating their mundane labor to secondary focus. Basically, they would sit and study Torah. During our exile, our attitude towards avodas HaShem, serving the Almighty, is “kulanu mesubim,” totally from “subim.” Subim is the bran of the wheat, the inferior, hard portion of the wheat. This means, that we serve HaShem without our heart and soul. We are cold and distant in our avodas HaShem. Is there any wonder that the galus continues? (reprinted with permission from Shema Yisrael Torah Network. For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisrael Classes, send mail to )
The wine must have spilled for a reason

When Rebbe Shmuel of Dorag was young and lived in the town of Komoda, it happened once on Shabbos night that he was standing holding a cup of wine about to recite Kiddush, when the cup fell from his hand and the wine spilled. He poured another cup of wine, and again it fell from his hand. This happened, a third time too.

Seeing this, he said to the Rebbitzen that certainly something must have happened in the town, some unfortunate incident, and they should investigate to see what is going on.

The two of them went outside onto the street and began walking until they reached the end of the town, where they heard loud crying and moaning from one of the houses.

When they entered the house they found the father, who was ill with a high fever, lying in bed, utterly exhausted and weak. His son too was in the same condition, and the mother was lying in an adjacent room, undergoing birth pangs, but with no one to help her.

Immediately, the Rabbi and Rebbitzen went to bring firewood to heat the house [although it was Shabbos, this was a matter of saving life and allowed]. They gave the family a little bit to eat, then returned home and brought back all the Sabbath foods they had prepared for themselves. And they fed and took care of the family until they were able to stand and take care of themselves.

Only then did they return home to make Kiddush on the wine. (MiBeer HaTzaddikim, Chodshei Tishrei - Teves, p. 182)

Like Speaking to a Friend

The Rizhiner Rebbe said that he had never encountered another book like the Beer Mayim Chaim [The Well of Living Waters] that is written in the style of a person talking to his friend.

The reason was that Rebbe Chaim of Chernovitz used to go to the synagogue every Thursday night, open the Holy Ark, and speak words of inspiration and mussar. And there would be no one there except the scribe who recorded everything he heard. (MiBeer HaTzaddikim, vol. 2)

Boy Prodigy
When he was a boy of seven, Rebbe Shalom of Kaminka traveled to Lublin. Being a child prodigy in Torah, he visited the great misnagid gaon called the Iron Head, and spent three hours with him in Talmudic discourse. (For a seven year old boy to spend three hours discussing Torah with a great gaon is remarkable!)

Afterward, he visited the great Chasidic master, the holy Seer of Lublin. The Seer said to him, “Little boy, do you study Chumash? What is the parasha this week?”

He answered, “Parsahas Kedoshim.”

The rebbe said, “It says: ‘Be holy, for I the Lord your G-d am holy!’”

The boy’s face paled and he became weak. They had to take him to the inn where he was staying and put him to bed. He fell asleep and woke up many hours later.

In his old age, he said to his friend, the Imrei Noam, “Meirl, how can I explain what happened to me? When he spoke to me, my kishkes turned over and my bones began to shake!” (Adapted from MiBeer HaTzaddikim, vol. 2, p. 202)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Chaye Sara 5770
Is sponsored liRefuah Shleima Refoel Chaim Simcha ben Devorah Aliza bisoch shaar cholei Yisroel
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Bais Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, half an hour before Mincha.
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
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeira 5770

שבת טעם החיים וירא תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeira 5770

King Dovid can be found in Sodom
I have found my servant, David. And where did I find him? In Sodom (Bereishis Rabbah 44:1)
In this week’s parasha we learn how HaShem was prepared to destroy the ancient city of Sodom and its surroundings on account of the decadence of the inhabitants. Avraham prayed on behalf of the people of Sodom, hoping that HaShem would acknowledge that there were some righteous people in the city, in whose merit the city would be saved. HaShem rejected Avraham’s prayers and destroyed the city of Sodom and its surrounding cities. Avraham’s nephew Lot and his two daughters who all resided in Sodom were spared of Sodom’s fate and left the area. Concerned about their potential lack of progeny, Lot’s daughters surreptitiously intoxicated him, causing him to father a child for each of them. The nations of Ammon and Moav were the result of their act.
King Dovid is found in Sodom
Sodom was notorious for its decadence and lack of hospitality though little is known about the one redeeming aspect of this city. Commenting on the verse in Tehillim (Psalms, 89:21) “I have found my servant, David”, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 44:1) comments “where did I find Dovid? In Sodom.” This enigmatic comment is hard to fathom. Could the righteous King Dovid possibly have been discovered in this nefarious city of sin?
Avraham’s prayers on behalf of Sodom were for his own spiritual perfection
To understand this better, it is worth noting how the Torah describes the fate of Sodom. HaShem was prepared to destroy Sodom, but He first offered Avraham a chance to pray on their behalf. Rabbi Yissachar Frand wonders about the efficacy of such a prayer. HaShem knew that there were insufficient righteous people in Sodom that would justify the city being saved. What, then, was the purpose in Avraham praying on Sodom’s behalf? Rabbi Frand explains that although the prayers on behalf of Sodom were ineffective as far as Sodom was concerned, nevertheless the prayers helped Avraham himself. Avraham was to become known as the Pillar of Kindness, and his prayers would assist him in perfecting his attribute of kindness.
After Moshiach comes prayer
King Dovid referred to himself with the words (Psalms 109:4) vaani tefillah, but I was prayer. The Gemara (Megillah 18a) teaches us that after Dovid, i.e. after Moshiach arrives, comes prayer. Thus, the ultimate goal of the Messianic Era is that we will live in a world of prayer. Prayer means that we are in essence connected to HaShem. While on the surface we pray for our needs, we are ultimately seeking to connect to HaShem, Who is our king and our father. Thus, when Mashiach arrives and our troubles disappear, we will retain the inner quality of prayer, i.e. connecting to HaShem. In a similar vein we can suggest that although Sodom was destroyed, the inner quality of prayer, connecting to HaShem and improvement of character were retained.
Dovid found in Sodom reflects prayer
This now sheds light on the Medrash that states that Dovid is found in Sodom. The physical city of Sodom was destroyed, but the prayers that Avraham offered on its behalf remained for eternity. The result of these prayers was that King Dovid came into existence from the union of Lot and his daughters. Thus, it can be said that Dovid, who is the epitome of prayer, was found in Sodom.
Our prayers for Moshiach are cumulative
This insight into the Medrash teaches us the value of our prayers. As a community that has prayed for over 1900 years for Moshiach and for the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash, it can be disheartening that our prayers have yet to be answered. After all, if the prayers of generations that were spiritually greater than ours were not answered, how can we expect that our prayers will be positively answered? The residual effect of Avraham’s prayer on behalf of Sodom However teaches us that no genuine prayer is for naught. As Rabbi Moshe Mitrani, commonly referred to as the Mabit, writes in his classic Bais Elokim, one should never despair from praying for the redemption. The prayers of the Jewish people, he explains, are cumulative. All of our prayers together will result in the arrival of Mashiach. When one prays for personal or communal needs he should be cognizant of the fact that every prayer serves a valuable purpose.
The Shabbos connection
Reb Tzadok HaKohen from Lublin writes that he heard that the word Sodom forms an acrostic for the words Seudas Dovid Malka, a feast for King Dovid. This alludes to the festive meal that many Jews eat following Shabbos. In line with the above mentioned Medrash that Dovid is found in Sodom, perhaps Reb Tzadok is teaching us that a Jew can find spirituality even when the holiness of Shabbos has departed. HaShem should allow us to seek out spirituality in our daily encounters, and we should merit witnessing the arrival of Moshiach, son of Dovid, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
Bleak Shabbos
That Shabbos, the first thing Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Lerner saw when he returned from the Kosel was the crowd. “I wonder why there are so many people around my apartment?” he thought. When he came closer, he gasped. There was his little son Menachem covered with blood.
Panicked, he asked a neighbor breathlessly, “What happened?”
“Uh, your son tried to ride down a flight of stairs on his tricycle.”
Rabbi Lerner took a moment or two to absorb this shock. Then he remembered: He just hit his head on a bed a few days ago and had a gash on his head. The stitches must have opened. While saying this, he was moving forward to pick up his little son. Bracing himself, he gave him as good a head examination as he could. Oh, boy, stitches open all right, plus it looks like he could use a few more stitches now. A few quick moments of thought, and he had decided. The injuries were potentially life-threatening; they must go to the hospital immediately.
Rabbi Lerner’s heart was racing after the dash over to the next building. He banged urgently on Mr. Glick’s door. His neighbor had just come home from shul and was standing in his living room with his tallis still on when Rabbi Lerner burst in. “Baruch, I need a favor. I have to get my son Menachem to Shaarei Zedek. Can I borrow your car?”
Baruch Glick bobbled for a moment, then rallied. “Sure, take the keys, they’re on a hook in the kitchen.”
Rabbi Lerner took them off the hook, said, “Tizkeh limitzvos,” and ran back to his apartment.
Recently there had been quite a few car thefts in Jerusalem. Baruch couldn’t afford a car alarm, so he had done the next best thing to “burglar-proof” his car. Each time before he turned off the ignition, he turned his car radio on full blast and tuned it to the loudest and most obnoxious rock station he knew of. That way, if anyone tried to steal his car, he would make an unholy racket the moment the engine was started.
Unfortunately, Baruch was so flustered by Rabbi Lerner’s sudden arrival that he forgot to tell him about his little invention.
The rabbi opened the car’s back door, and his wife put Menachem in the back seat. He quickly settled into the driver’s seat, put the keys in the ignition with his right hand, and turned the key.
His jaw dropped when he heard “music,” so to speak, coming out of the speakers. The car’s engine was actually drowned out by the raucous blare. For a second he put his hands over his ears, until he realized that he had to get his son to the hospital as soon as possible.
His hand went out instinctively to turn off the radio, but then he stopped himself. It was Shabbos today; nothing was permitted except what would keep his son out of danger of his life. Frantically he rolled up the windows as he guided the car out into the street. But even with the windows closed, Shabbos in Ezras Torah was now interrupted by a blaring serenade from the rock group Black Sabbath.
Baruch was just about to sit down at his Shabbos table when he heard the uproar outside. His wife said to him in shock, “Do you hear that? Who has the chutzpah to play that awful music on Shabbos?”
Baruch felt his heart sink to his stomach. He slapped his forehead as he collapsed in his dining room chair. “Oh, no! I forgot to tell him about the radio!”
Rebbitzen Lerner turned away from Menachem for a second, the shock evident on her face. Loudly she ordered, “Turn that noise off!”
“What?” He couldn’t hear a word.
This time she yelled at the top of her lungs. “I said, turn the radio off. I can’t take it!”
“What?” he shouted, then went back to repeating silently, Have to concentrate on driving, ignore that awful noise...
“Turn off the radio!” his wife screamed in desperation.
Oh, that was what she wanted.
“I can’t!”
“Why not?”
He gathered a big lungful of air in order to shout good and loud, “I can only do melachah to get Menachem to the hospital. There’s no heter to touch the radio.”
“Then turn it down,” his wife screamed. “It’s a chillul HaShem!”
“No!” he roared back. “Kiddush HaShem! There’s no heter to touch it!”
“What are you talking about?” screamed Mrs. Lerner.
Even louder, “I said, what are you talking about? It’s a chillul HaShem!”
“No, it’s a Kiddush HaShem. We’re willing to put up with it for the sake of Shabbos kodesh. Very few people get such a test. We absolutely cannot turn off the radio. Look, I gotta watch where I’m going now.”
Fortunately, there were hardly any other cars on the road. Denmark Square was the last traffic light before the hospital, and they had to stop for a red light. Rabbi Lerner was still wearing his satin Shabbos bekeshe. A group of teenagers on their way to the beach pulled up alongside and looked to see who was playing that cool music. The sight of a long-bearded rabbi with peyos driving a car on Shabbos and blasting rock music caused shock, not laughter. The kids seemed frozen in place, speechless.
Rabbi Lerner rolled down his window. He knew he had to talk, and fast. Sure enough, one kid recovered enough to shout, “Hey, dati (religious man), why are you breaking the Shabbos?”
He pointed to his bleeding son in the back seat. “It’s pikuach nefesh!”
“Maybe, but why do you have to play rock and roll?”
Rabbi Lerner wanted to explain, but before he had a chance, the light turned green and the other car sped away.
The emergency staff took Menachem quickly into the emergency room, where they put in some more stitches. He was all right by the end of Shabbos; the only lasting effect was a ringing in his parents’ ears that took until Monday morning to go away.
In later years Rabbi Lerner used this experience to teach his students at Yeshivas Aish HaTorah. “What would all of you think if you saw me driving a car on Shabbos with loud music playing? You’d say, ‘Maybe I can justify the car for an emergency, but why is he playing the radio?’
“But what looks like wrong is sometimes right, and what looks like right is sometimes wrong.
“In my case, what I was doing looked like a serious aveirah to people who glanced at it - driving a car on Shabbos with the radio blasting! But now that you know the facts you see it was the right thing to do. In emergencies you just have to ignore what people will think and do your duty.
“Often, too, things look like great ideas or important causes, but if they go against the Halacha they’re wrong, no matter how attractive they are.
“A Jew has to find out what the Halacha is and then just go and do it, without worrying about what anyone else might think. This is the fundamental principle of Torah-true living, which is why the Rema writes it at the very beginning of the Shulchan Aruch, ‘Don’t ever be embarrassed when people laugh at you for serving HaShem.’ That Shabbos I got some really good practice in doing that Rema.”
Walking Home

The following story is true. Only the names have been changed.
When Larry and Ann’s only son, Mark, was accepted to Harvard, their pride knew no bounds. Even Larry, generally the more reticent of the two, could not restrain himself from sharing the good news with friends. By the end of the week, just about everyone on the block had heard that Mark Newton was going to Harvard in the fall.
The Newtons were well-known in their community, having lived in the same white-and-blue colonial house for almost twenty years. They had worked hard to raise their son, sending him to the best private schools in the Chicago area. So when the news arrived of Mark’s acceptance to Harvard, they rejoiced, feeling that they were reaping the fruits of their labor, and their friends rejoiced along with them.
The long-awaited day of Mark’s departure for Harvard finally arrived. That crisp September morning, the whole family piled into their gray Lincoln for the one-hour drive to O’Hare International Airport. Larry and Ann were both choked with emotion, and the car ride was unusually quiet.
At the boarding gate, Ann reached up to give her son a tearful hug and kiss, from which Mark made a half-hearted attempt to escape. Ann kissed him anyway, quickly wiping away the tear that revealed her intense pain at the separation, and Larry shook his hand.
When Mark boarded that plane to Boston, he was carrying much more than his Walkman and knapsack; he was carrying 18 years of his parents’ aspirations and dreams.
During his last two years of high school, he had become somewhat rebellious. Although he maintained a straight-A average, his relationship with both parents, especially with his mother, had become strained. Now that he was off to college, Mark looked forward to the independence of dorm life, while his parents clutched at their silent hopes that time and a new maturity would improve his relationship with them.
At Harvard, Mark distinguished himself as a campus radical, supporting and at times even leading some of the more militant, left-wing student organizations. In spite of these extracurricular activities, he maintained an excellent academic record. His major was history, with a minor in Near Eastern studies. After four years, he graduated magna cum laude. Larry and Ann, however, could not fully celebrate Mark's achievements because he refused to attend his own graduation. Spurning the ceremony as a “yuppie parade,” Mark told his parents it would make him sick if he were forced to participate.
Disappointment filled Larry and Ann’s hearts. They had really looked forward to celebrating Mark’s graduation, but now they resignedly had no choice but to accept their son's decision. Still, they tried to show him how proud they felt. “How about a small graduation party at home?” Ann ventured.
“Gimme a break, will you?” was Mark’s dismissive response, as he hung up the phone.
There had been no improvement in Mark’s relationship with his parents during his four years in college. In fact, it seemed that it had only deteriorated. He came home for fewer and fewer vacations and holidays, often preferring to stay with friends instead...
When she found herself alone one morning with Mark, she gingerly invited him to join her in the kitchen for a cup of coffee. To her surprise, Mark accepted.
“The contractor promised that our pool will be completed by the end of the month,” Ann began, thinking that a harm less chat would be the best beginning. “Dad’s really looking forward to being able to swim in his own backyard. But I told him not to count on it so fast – I’ve never yet met a contractor who kept his word about a completion date.”
But Mark appeared not to hear her... “I was thinking of taking the year off and going to work on a kibbutz in Israel. Jane, Phil, and some other kids are going, so I thought I might join them. It sounds like fun...”
Although the Newtons had bought their share of Israel bonds over the years, and were vaguely interested in Israel, they had never taken a trip there. They had been to Europe often, and once traveled to Greece on a Mediterranean cruise, but had never really thought about visiting Israel. Nevertheless, the thought of Mark working on a kibbutz in Israel did not really bother Larry and Ann. What concerned them was his decision not to continue his education. By now, though, Mark’s parents had learned that when his mind was made up, nothing could change it. In the weeks that followed, Larry and Ann made last-ditch, but unsuccessful efforts to get him to reconsider his plan.
In August, the Newtons once again drove Mark to O'Hare International Airport. This time he was leaving for Israel. The tense parting at the airport was mercifully brief. Mark once again boarded the plane carrying his Walkman and knapsack. But his parents carried home hearts heavy with disappointment.
After three months on the kibbutz, Mark had sent only two postcards and one letter. The Newtons had learned that he studied Hebrew for two hours every afternoon, that he was assigned to work exclusively with sheep, and that he had no plans to come home for Thanksgiving.
Late one evening Ann burst into tears. “Larry, we're losing our son!... Let’s visit Mark in Israel.”
Larry looked at his wife. “Visit Mark in Israel?!” he echoed. He was swamped with work at the office and could not imagine how he would get away. But one look at Ann told him he'd simply have to find the time.
Ann wrote to Mark and explained that his father needed a vacation. Since they had never been to Israel and wanted to visit Mark, they had decided to spend a week in Jerusalem. She concluded the letter by asking when, during that week, would be a convenient time for them to visit the kibbutz.
By the end of the month, Ann was losing hope of receiving a reply. Finally, a week before they were scheduled to leave for Israel, a letter from Mark arrived.
“Hi,” he wrote. “I’m really pretty busy here all day so I don't know what to tell you. I have the number of your hotel. I’ll try to call after you arrive. Mark...”
The Newtons arrived in Jerusalem on a Wednesday morning. By Friday afternoon, they had still not heard from Mark. They couldn't contain themselves any longer, and called the kibbutz. After a few failed attempts, they finally got through to Mark on the phone.
The conversation was brief and abrupt. “I won’t have time to see you on the kibbutz, but I may be in Jerusalem on Monday evening. If I am, I’ll drop by your hotel. Please don’t come up here.”
“But Mark, honey, wouldn’t you like us to come and see...”
“Mom, gimme a break, will you?” With that, the conversation ended.
Ann was crushed. She felt devastated and frightened. Even Larry could not hide his pain. For the next hour or so, he just stared out the window while Ann cried on her bed. This is it, she thought. We’ve lost him! He’s breaking away from us for good. We're never going to get him back. Oh, where did we go wrong? Why is he rejecting us this way?
Finally, Larry suggested they go out for the evening. “I don’t feel like going anywhere,” she wept. “Neither do I” Larry said softly, “but we can’t sit around here crying all night. We didn’t come 7,000 miles to sit around in a hotel room feeling miserable. We’re here already; let’s try to make the best of it... Let’s go downstairs and ask for a suggestion at the desk.”
When Larry and Ann pulled themselves together and came to the desk, they were surprised to learn how little was open on Friday night in Jerusalem. “Well, what do all the other tourists do here on Friday night?” Larry asked the attendant.
“Many of them like to go to the Kotel, the Western Wall,” he replied.
“But we saw it yesterday,” Ann countered.
The attendant smiled. “On Friday night it’s something special. A lot of people go to pray, the yeshiva boys sing and dance, the chassidim wear their fur hats and caftans, and well, it is really something special.”
Larry and Ann were not too impressed with the attendant’s description. But Ann did recall friends speaking about “the Wall on Friday night,” when they returned from trips to Israel. They agreed to give it a chance.
They took a taxi from their hotel and arrived at the Wall just before Shabbos. As the crowd gathered, Larry and Ann were intrigued by the special atmosphere and sense of excitement. They watched as groups were formed and services conducted, and they listened to the chanting and the singing. After a while, they hardly felt the damp, cold wind of the Jerusalem winter night. Larry and Ann barely spoke during the hour and a half that they spent at the Wall. But they both felt touched somehow by the experience. “I’m sorry it’s over,” Ann said, as they turned to leave with the crowd.
“Shabbat Shalom! Yeah, you! Would you like to try a Shabbat meal with an Orthodox family?” came a voice from behind them. Suddenly Larry and Ann found themselves face-to-face with a black-hatted, black-suited man with a broad, friendly smile.
“What do you mean?” was all Ann could come up with for a reply.
“Would you like to experience a traditional Shabbat meal with an Orthodox family here in Jerusalem, tonight?”
“How much does it cost?” Larry asked.
“Only about an hour or so of your time! No, seriously, it’s free. You see, I have a list of hosts here who invite people to their homes for the Friday night meal each week. I just find the guests. Have you ever had a Shabbat meal with an Orthodox family before?”
“Well, I mean, I do light candles at home... sometimes, that is, and my husband knows how to read the Kiddush, but we really don't have...”
[After a short walk, Larry and Ann arrived at the home of Rabbi and Mrs. Singer - and their seven children.] The Newtons were not the only guests at the Singers’ home that rainy Friday night. Cindy, a student at the Hebrew University, was there together with her boyfriend, Al. Rabbi Singer made the introductions and showed everyone where to sit. The Singer family sang Shalom Aleichem while Cindy, Al, Larry, and Ann watched.
By the time the fish was being served, Larry and Ann were too engrossed to feel uncomfortable. And when the conversation really got rolling, they were put totally at ease by Cindy's spontaneous, quick-witted humor. In no time at all, she had everyone, including Rabbi Singer, doubled over with laughter... And then the singing began.
By the end of the meal, Larry and Ann were relaxed and happy. They were both surprised at how good they felt and were reluctant to leave. But not wanting to overstay their welcome, they got up right after the Grace after Meals.
“We don’t know how to thank you, Rabbi Singer.” Ann’s voice was filled with emotion. “You’ll never know how much we needed this pleasant evening.” Larry agreed.
“Our pleasure. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to speak with you more at the table,” Rabbi Singer commented. “I would have liked to get to know you a little bit.”
“Oh, Rabbi Singer, Larry and I both got much more than we ever expected. You gave us plenty of attention. I’m only sorry that whatever attention you gave us took you away from your own family.”
“Which hotel are you staying at?” Rabbi Singer asked, changing the subject.
“We’re at Lev Yerushalayim. Could you tell us how to get back there from here?”
“Of course. And let me walk a ways with you. I like a little stroll after Friday night dinner.”
As they started walking, Rabbi Singer asked the Newtons all the questions he regretted not asking during the meal: how long they were staying in Israel, where they had been, etc. On the way, Ann opened up about their problems with Mark. Rabbi Singer listened sympathetically. Before anyone realized it, they had walked all the way to the Newton's hotel.
“I can’t believe you walked us back all the way,” Ann exclaimed. “You’re unbelievable!”
Rabbi Singer blushed and shyly examined his shoes.
“Now, I suppose, you can understand what I meant before when I told you how much Larry and I needed the lift you and your lovely family gave us tonight.”
Rabbi Singer looked down at his shoes again. “Look, I really do have to go now. By the way, I never asked you ― where are you from?”
Larry named their suburb and then added that it was about an hour’s drive from Chicago. Rabbi Singer's face lit up. He was scheduled to speak in Chicago the following month. The Newtons asked for all the particulars and promised to make every effort to attend the speech.
The following Monday, Mark did come into Jerusalem to meet his parents at their hotel. The visit was short, cool, tense and extremely disappointing for Ann and Larry. No one lost his temper, but it was hardly the reunion the Newtons had been looking forward to. The next day, Larry and Ann left Jerusalem for a short stay in Tel Aviv, and then returned home.
Once back home, Larry managed to locate some of Rabbi Singer's books. He and Ann read them all from cover to cover. Ann looked into Rabbi Singer’s Chicago speaking engagement and made plans to attend with Larry.
Six weeks after returning from Israel, the Newtons drove into Chicago for the lecture. Rabbi Singer addressed an overflowing crowd of approximately 300 people. After his speech, people from the audience lined up to ask questions. Larry and Ann cautiously made their way to the end of the line. When they finally caught Rabbi Singer’s eye, he greeted them warmly and enthusiastically.
“Ah, the Newtons! How are you? I’m so glad you could be here tonight. Thank you so much for coming. By the way, did your son ever come to the hotel?”
The Newtons were able to sit down with Rabbi Singer for a long conversation in the lobby. They felt as if they had met an old friend.
“You know, Rabbi Singer, the Shabbos we spent with you has changed our lives. I've been lighting candles every Friday night and Larry's been making Kiddush. We even enrolled in a Torah-study class at the local synagogue.”
“I’m really glad to hear that.”
“We saw the warmth of your home, the atmosphere of closeness, and I told Larry that I want that in our home, too.”
Rabbi Singer sheepishly examined his shoes again.
The Newtons then gave Rabbi Singer an update on Mark. He was still at the kibbutz, still not planning to continue his education, and still very estranged from his parents.
“Do you think, possibly, you could speak with him?” Larry asked.
“I’ll be glad to help if I can, but frankly, I don’t really know if he would want to hear anything from me.” There was a long silence, and Ann and Larry looked so dejected that the rabbi could not keep silent.
“Look, I’ll tell you what. Next time you write to Mark, tell him to feel free to call if he needs a place to stay in Jerusalem. I’ll try to arrange something for him. And, who knows?”
That night Ann wrote to Mark and gave him Rabbi Singer’s address and phone number. “I know it’s a long shot,” she confided to Larry. “But it’s worth a try. And what have we got to lose?
Some of Mark’s friends were organizing an American-style rock music concert on the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University. On a last-minute impulse, Mark hitched a ride to Jerusalem with a member of the kibbutz in order to attend the concert. Now he needed a place to stay. Thumbing through his address book, Mark came across Rabbi Singer’s name. After a few unsuccessful calls to others, and very much as a last resort, Mark thought, “Oh, well, why not,” and called Rabbi Singer. The rabbi recognized Mark's name immediately and eagerly invited him.
When Mark arrived at the Singers’ apartment, the rabbi gave him a bed, a towel and a set of keys. No questions asked. No strings attached. Mark was surprised and even suspicious of Rabbi Singer’s nonjudgmental attitude. But Rabbi Singer brushed away the young man's defensiveness and skepticism with a gentle smile. “I know your parents very well, Mark. Any son of theirs is a friend of mine.”
Mark was very much taken by this man’s relaxed and accepting attitude. He was also struck by Rabbi Singer’s full and open trust. In fact, during the one day and two nights Mark spent there, he became very curious about this mild-mannered man, who responded to compliments by staring at his shoes. When Mark said goodbye, Rabbi Singer extended an open invitation to return for a Shabbos. When Mark replied that he'd think about it, the rabbi assumed this was his polite way of turning down the offer.
Three weeks later, much to Rabbi Singer’s surprise, Mark did call and ask to come for Shabbos. That Friday night, Mark kept Rabbi Singer up quite late, firing one philosophical question after another. The full and challenging answers, Rabbi Singer’s personality, the pervasive Shabbos atmosphere, made Mark's shell of cynicism crack.
During that year, Mark returned to the Singer home for Shabbos three more times. Each time he arrived with a heavy load of questions. And after each visit, Mark left with pleasant memories, a lot of answers, and another open invitation.
In the middle of the third Shabbos, Mark hesitatingly asked his most difficult question. It was easy for Mark to ask about the Holocaust, or proofs of God's existence. But, because he knew there would be an answer, one question terrified him: “Where can I learn more about Judaism?”
Rabbi Singer directed Mark to Aish HaTorah’s highly successful three-day Discovery Seminar. Mark credits the seminar for pushing him “over the hill." But in truth, by the time Mark signed up for Discovery, he was already receptive to the credibility of Judaism.
After the seminar, Mark’s appetite was fully whetted. He decided to remain at the yeshiva for a week... then another... and finally for a year-and-a-half of intense Torah study.
At the same time that Mark began to explore Judaism and its meaning for his life, he began to think about his relationship with his parents. By the time he returned home, they were closer than they had been for years, and Ann and Larry became baalei teshuvah as well. Before leaving Israel, Mark was also personally responsible for bringing another Harvard graduate ― who was engaged to marry a non-Jew ― over to Rabbi Singer's home and eventually back to [Judaism]. But that's another story...
Truth always wins
The religious Jews of Slutzk once complained to their rabbi, the gaon Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik that the atheists had the upper hand in the town.

“That’s not surprising,” said Rabbi Yosef Dov. “Truth always wins out.”

Astonished, they asked, “Rabbi, what do you mean? Is there, G-d forbid, any truth in atheism?”

“What I said was correct,” answered the Rabbi. “The atheists really believe in their truth. Therefore, they’re victorious. The believers don't believe in their truth with the same intensity. Therefore, they lose out!” (Haggadah shel Pesach Ayelet HaShachar, p. 222)

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeira 5770
Is sponsored liRefuah Shleima Refoel Chaim Simcha ben Devorah Aliza bisoch shaar cholei Yisroel
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Bais Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, half an hour before Mincha.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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