Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayishlach 5770

שבת טעם החיים וישלח תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayishlach 5770

Wisdom is creation

ויענו בני יעקב את שכם ואת חמור אביו במרמה וידברו אשר טמא את דינה אחתם, Yaakov’s sons answered Schechem and his father cleverly and they spoke (because he had defiled their sister Dinah). (Bereishis 34: 13)
In this week’s parasha the Torah records how Shechem, the son of Chamor the Chivite, kidnapped Dena, the daughter of Yaakov, and violated her. The sons of Yaakov heard about this violation and they were incensed. The Torah then records how Shimon and Levi, the two sons of Yaakov, slaughtered the entire city of Shechem and released Dena from captivity. It is noteworthy that in the response to Shechem and his father, the Torah states that the sons of Yaakov answered “cleverly.” Rashi cites the Targum who renders the word bimirmah, normally translated as deceitfully, to mean bichochma, with wisdom. One must wonder why the Torah did not merely use the word bichochma if the meaning of bimirmah is with wisdom. This question is also relevant regarding the episode where Yaakov received the blessings from Yitzchak, and Esav felt like he was cheated. It is said (Bereishis 27:35) vayomer ba achicha bimirmah vayikach birchasecha, but he said, “Your brother came with cleverness and took your blessing.” Rashi there also cites the Targum who renders the word bimirmah as bichochma, with wisdom. As we mentioned previously, it needs to be understood why the Torah did not merely use the word bichochma.
Different names for a midwife
To understand why the Torah uses the word bimirmah, literally translated as deceitfully, when it means bichochma, with wisdom, we must analyze what chochma means and how the word is used in other contexts. We find that the Torah refers to a midwife as a miyaledes, i.e. one who helps a woman give birth, or a chayah, literally translated as a wild animal. The Gemara, however, refers to a midwife as a chachama, a wise woman. What is the meaning of this? In order to understand this, let us examine other instances where the word chochma is used. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 29b) states that the blowing of a shofar on Rosh Hashanah is not a melachah, an act of labor. Rather, shofar blowing is a chochma, an act of wisdom. What is the explanation of this Gemara?
Shofar blowing is a declaration that we are a part of HaShem’s essence
It is said (Shemos 1:15) vayomer melech Mitzrayim lamiyaldos haivrios asher sheim haachas Shifra visheim hasheinis Puah, the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the first was Shifrah and the name of the second was Puah. The Baal HaTurim writes that the word shifra appears twice in Scripture. One instance is in this verse, and the second is a verse that states (Iyov 26:13) birucho shamayim shifrah, by His breath the heavens were spread. The Baal HaTurim writes that if a child is born and appears lifeless, the midwife will take a cylinder and place it on the child’s stomach and blow into the cylinder and this will restore life into the child. It would appear from the Baal HaTurim that this would also be the definition for the word Shofar. The Zohar states that man dinafach midilei nafach, one who breathes is breathing from Him, i.e. HaShem,. Similarly, when we blow Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, we are, so to speak, blowing from HaShem Himself. This premise can help us answer a difficulty that is raised regarding the Gemara that explains the function of the Shofar. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 16a) states that on Rosh Hashanah we recite verses of malchuyos, kingship, zichronos, remembrances, and Shofros, the blowing of a Shofar. We recite verses of malchuyos so that we should proclaim HaShem as our king. We recite verses of zichronos so that HaShem will remember us for the good. This is performed with the Shofar. The difficulty with this Gemara is that the Medrash (Mechilta Yisro) states that when the Jewish People requested from HaShem that He give them mitzvos to perform, HaShem responded that first they must accept HaShem’s kingship. How, then, can the Gemara state that we accept HaShem’s kingship by blowing Shofar, if Shofar itself is a mitzvah? Would it not be proper to first accept HaShem as king and then perform His mitzvah of blowing Shofar? The answer to this question is that the essence of blowing Shofar is a declaration of HaShem’s kingship, as our blowing Shofar is a declaration that we are a part of HaShem. This is the greatest reflection of our declaration of HaShem’s kingship.
Shofar blowing is the creation of life
We can now understand why the Gemara states that Shofar blowing is not a melachah, an act of labor. Rather, Shofar blowing is a chochma, a wisdom. This is because essentially the blowing of Shofar is symbolic of birth itself, when HaShem, Who is the Source of all wisdom, breathes life into us. In a similar vein, the function of the midwife is to revive the lifeless child. It is for this reason that the midwife is referred to in the Gemara as a chachama, a wise woman. (A midwife is also called a chachama, a wise woman, because she has the ability to foretell what will happen in the future, and the Gemara (Tamid 32a) states eizehu chacham haroeh es hanolad, who is wise? One who can see what will happen in the future.)
The world was created with wisdom
We see that chochma reflects the idea of creation itself. It is no wonder, then, that when the Torah states (Bereishis 1:1) Bereishis bara Elokim, in the beginning of G-d’s creating, the Targum Yerushalmi translates these words as bichochma bara HaShem, with wisdom HaShem created. This idea is also reflected in the verse that states (Mishlei 3:19) HaShem bichochma yasad aretz, HaShem founded the earth with wisdom. With this understanding of the concept of chochma we can now gain insight into why the Torah states that Yaakov came with mirmah to receive the blessings from Yitzchak and why Yaakov’s sons spoke with mirmah to Shechem and his father. However, one more introduction is necessary to explain this word usage.
The Binding of Yitzchak was in a sense an act of creation
HaShem instructed Avraham to bring his son Yitzchak up as an offering. Subsequent to HaShem’s command to Avraham not to slaughter his son, Avraham discovered a ram in the thicket and he offered the ram in place of Yitzchak. The commentators write that had Avraham slaughtered Yitzchak, he would have essentially destroyed the Jewish People. With this thought in mind, we can now understand why Avraham chose to slaughter a ram and it is specifically the Shofar of the ram that we blow on Rosh Hashanah. Avraham was demonstrating that had he slaughtered Yitzchak, the world would have come to an end. Now that Yitzchak was saved, the world, in a sense, was recreated. It is noteworthy that according to most opinions, the Akeidah, the Binding of Yitzchak, occurred on Rosh Hashanah. Thus, on Rosh Hashanah we blow the Shofar, which is an extension of HaShem Himself, and in the words of the Medrash, we become like new people on this day.
The blessings that Yaakov received and the punishment meted out to the city of Shechem were acts of wisdom, i.e. creation of the Jewish People
This idea of creation is also reflected in the blessings that Yitzchak conferred upon Yaakov. Yitzchak was initially prepared to confer the blessings on Esav. Through the tactics of Rivka, Yaakov was able to receive the blessings. It is not always apparent from world events that Yaakov received the blessings, as the gentiles seem to be well endowed. Can we imagine what would have happened had Esav actually received all the blessings? To state it succinctly, this would have been the end of the Jewish People. Thus, Yaakov was forced to come with mirmah, which is translated as bichochma, with cleverness, to ensure the continuity of the Jewish People. Similarly, after Shechem kidnapped and violated Dena, it is said (Bereishis 34:7) uvinei Yaakov bau min hasadeh kishamam vayisyatzevu haanashim vayichar lahem meod ki nevalah asah viYisroel lishkav es bas Yaakov vichein lo yeiaseh, Yaakov’s sons arrived from the field, when they heard; the men were distressed, and were fired deeply with indignation, for he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with a daughter of Yaakov – such a thing may not be done. In the eyes of Yaakov’s sons, the violation of their sister was more than just an immoral act. By its very nature it was an outrage and an abomination for the Jewish People. In other words, the Jewish People could not continue in this manner, and something had to happen to rectify this situation. Yaakov’s sons therefore spoke bimirmah, cleverly, to Shechem and his father, as they were set on recreating the Jewish People by meting out justice to the perpetrator and those who supported him.
To summarize, the concept of chochma is to go beyond a mere physical act. The definition of chochma by the Kabbalists is koach mah, a power from unknown. Chochma transcends this physical world, and that is the reason that the word chochma takes on the very essence of creation.
The Shabbos connection
Continuing the theme that Shofar blowing is not a melachah but a chochma, we can better understand why the Torah instructs us not to perform any melachah, an act of labor, on the Holy Shabbos. The Shabbos transcends all physicality, as the Zohar refers to Shabbos as yoma dinishmasa, the Day of the Soul. Thus, we should approach the Holy Shabbos with an understanding that there is much wisdom contained in this day. HaShem should allow us to ascend the spiritual ladder on Shabbos and “create” worlds and perpetuate the existence of His Chosen Nation.
Shabbos Stories
So be it!
Shlomo Katz writes: Reb Yaakov Yosef Katz zt”l (late 1800s; known as the “Toldos”), one of the leading disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, was visited a certain town when he was approached by an inhabitant of a neighboring village and asked to attend the circumcision of the man’s son on that day. “I will even honor you to be the sandak / godfather,” the villager said.
The Toldos agreed, but only on the condition that he could sit in another room and study Torah until all of the preparations had been completed and he would not have to wait idly for the ceremony to begin. The villager agreed.
When everything had been prepared and the baby had arrived, the villager went to call Reb Yaakov Yosef. However, when they returned to the place where the bris milah was to be held, the villager was chagrined to discover that one guest had left and there was no longer a minyan. He quickly ran outside and pleaded with the first Jew he saw: “Please come to my son’s bris milah.”
The man responded, “Zohl zein azoi” / “So be it!” “Can I offer you an honor?” the villager inquired. “So be it!” the tenth man responded. To every question he was asked, he answered: “So be it!”
After the circumcision, the Toldos asked that this man be brought to him, but the man had vanished. So the Toldos asked in heaven who the man was, and he was told that it was Eliyahu Hanavi, who had been sent to teach the assembled the importance of accepting G-d’s judgment in all circumstances. “So be it!” should be a Jew’s response to everything that he experiences in life.
As the Toldos was preparing to leave town, a stranger approached him and asked if he could share the sage’s carriage. “Who are you?” the Toldos asked. “So be it!” the stranger responded (apparently rebuking the sage for not agreeing immediately to share his ride).
When the tzaddik Reb Yitzchak Matisyahu Luria zt”l heard this story, he commented: On each day of Creation, the Torah says, “And it was so!” But why does the Torah say, “And it was so!” at the very end of creation when nothing new had been created? That, answered Reb Luria, was Adam’s statement, accepting that G-d in His Wisdom had created the world exactly as He saw fit. “So be it!” (Quoted in Otzros Tzaddikei Ugeonei Hadoros)
What about a back-up plan?
Rabbi Yissachar Frand writes: At approximately the turn of the century, the Russian government wanted to impose a rule that Russian subjects would have to be taught in the Volozhiner Yeshiva. The alternative was that the Yeshiva would be shut down.
[I am not trying to draw any parallels to today. We are not talking about the pros or cons of secular education; I am merely trying to bring out a point. We cannot compare Russia circa 1900 to the United States circa 2000.]
The Netziv was faced with the question: “Do I permit Russian subjects to be taught in the Volozhiner Yeshiva, or do I close the Yeshiva?” In order to understand the significance of that decision, we must remember that there were no other Yeshivos. Closing the Volozhiner Yeshiva did not mean that the students would switch to others. Volozhin, with its 400 students, was the only Yeshiva in Russia.
The Netziv’s dilemma was: should he allow Russian subjects to be taught for a couple of hours a day, or should he close the Yeshiva. What did the Netziv do? The Netziv closed the Yeshiva! But – “what’s going to be?” The Netziv responded, “That is G-d’s issue. It is His Torah. He knows He wants it learned. It is His problem.” The Netziv had to do what was right, despite the ramifications.
So the Netziv closed the Yeshiva. At the time when the Netziv made his decision, he did not know what the result would be. In actuality, as a result of closing Volozhin, many other Yeshivos were started across Russia, Poland and beyond. Closing the Yeshiva in Volozhin caused Torah to be spread. The entire Yeshiva movement today can be traced back to that one Yeshiva in Volozhin! But the Netziv did not know what the outcome would be. He did not know “what’s going to be,” and he did not care. He only knew what was right. This was the approach of Avraham Avinu, and this was the approach of Gedolei Yisroel.
I would like to tell over an incident which I recently heard from Rav Pam, shlita (and again I am not trying to bring any parallels to today). Reb Chaim Soloveitchik had a son named Rav Velvel Soloveitchik, who later became the famous Brisker Rav in Eretz Yisroel.
A relative of Reb Chaim once came to him and suggested that Rav Velvel learn the Russian language. The relative said, “Today, to be a Rabbi, one has to know how to speak Russian. It is time for Rav Velvel to learn Russian.” To which Reb Chaim responded “So, he won’t be a Rabbi.”
The man persisted, “Well, to be a businessman, it is certainly necessary to know Russian.” Reb Chaim responded, “So, he won’t be a businessman.”
So the man said, “Even to be a Rosh Yeshiva today, one must know Russian - to speak to the students and to the parents.” Reb Chaim responded, “So, he won’t be a Rosh Yeshiva.”
Finally the man inquired “If he won’t be a Rav and he won’t be a businessman and he won’t be a Rosh Yeshiva, what will be with him?” Reb Chaim answered, “He will be a poor man who knows Shas by heart!”
In other words, “What is going to be? I don’t know what is going to be. But I know that I do not want my son Velvel learning Russian.”
Again, no parallels to today. But the lesson to be learned is that one must do what he feels is right, is in accordance with the Torah, and “let the chips fall where they may.” The consequences are G-d’s business.
Are we “on the list?”
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: The holy Rebbe, Reb Ber of Radoshitz zt”l was one of the great disciples of the Maggid of Koznitz zt”l. He later became a leader in his own right. During his years in Koznitz, there was a friend, R’ Hersh, with whom he was especially close. It was thus with great pleasure that many years later, R’ Hersh suddenly arrived in Radoshitz for an unexpected visit. After catching up on times passed, R’ Hersh got to the point: “Baruch HaShem, my oldest daughter is engaged to be married. However, I have not the means to pay for her wedding, let alone cover her dowry. The holy Rebbe, the Maggid, has given me a letter; he asks anyone who can to help me.”
R’ Ber couldn’t help noticing the tear glistening in his friend’s eye. It saddened him to see R’ Hersh, a man of great distinction, brought to wandering from town to town asking for handouts. Yet what was he to do? R’ Ber himself subsisted on a minimal budget.
“My dear friend, were it that I had any spare money, I would not withhold from you my last coin. Alas, I have not even one coin to give you. Furthermore, everyone here knows me and my situation—I deserve no great honor, and am not given any. If I were to go around collecting for you, they would give me small change at best. I feel it is best that you collect yourself; your manner bears witness to your great stature. There is a wealthy man in Radoshitz, and I pray he will give you generously…”
R’ Hersh hid his disappointment. “Okay, thanks all the same. I guess your name doesn’t appear on the list! Peace to you.” And with that he left.
“My name doesn’t appear on the list?” R’ Ber wondered. “What list? What did he mean?” He tried to get his friend’s comment out of his mind, but his thoughts kept returning to it. He put on his coat, and started running after R’ Hersh. He caught up with him a few minutes later.
“R’ Hersh - stop! I must ask you: What list were you talking about?”
“Oh,” he said, “when I approached the holy Maggid, and he gave me my letter, I said, ‘Rebbe, I’ve never done this before - I don’t know how to ask people for money!’ The Rebbe told me, ‘R’ Hersh, don’t worry. Each town you arrive in, someone will approach you and help you collect. You will not have to beg for yourself.’ ‘But why would someone want to suffer the shame of begging on my behalf - who am I to deserve such treatment?’ I asked. ‘Don’t worry,’ the Maggid told me. ‘HaShem has a list. On His list it’s already written down exactly who will help you in each town. All you have to do is go…’
“When I came to Radoshitz, I thought to myself, ‘Whose name could be on HaShem’s list?’ I could think of no-one here more worthy than you, so I was sure you were on the list. That’s why I came to you. When you weren’t able to help me, I figured you weren’t on HaShem’s list. Perhaps that wealthy man you told me about, maybe he’s the one…”
R’ Ber was obviously affected by his words. “Tell me - how much do you need?”
“Four hundred gulden.”
“Come, let’s see what happens.” R’ Ber took his letter and began walking through the marketplace. Seeing a familiar face, he approached a merchant and, showing him the letter, he asked if he could help his friend. “R’ Ber, you’ve arrived at a most opportune moment. I just completed a very profitable deal - today I made 4,000 gulden. Take 400 gulden - it’s my tithe!”
R’ Ber was taken aback. After thanking the merchant, he sat down on a bench with his friend. His eyes filled with tears. “I guess I was on HaShem’s list after all - but I almost lost my chance!”
Setting things in motion
Rabbi Hoffman writes further: The holy Bais Yosef, Rabbi Yosef Cairo of Tzefas, author of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), once invested many hours in order to understand an extremely difficult Mishnah he was studying. A certain question plagued him, and try as he might, he could not come up with an answer. It was only after working for an extended period of time that an answer was revealed to him, and he came to understand the Mishnah’s true peshat. His joy knew no bounds. I rejoice with Your words like one who has come across a great treasure! (Tehillim/Psalms 119:162)
Later that day, he went to Bais Medrash to learn. To his amusement, a pair of young boys sitting at his table just happened to be studying the same Mishnah. “I don’t understand,” said one bachur to the other, and proceeded to pose the exact question that had bothered Rabbi Cairo. After giving it but a moment's thought, his friend said he thought he understood, and went on to explain the Mishnah using the same logic the Bais Yosef had toiled so long to grasp.
Rabbi Yosef was crestfallen. Was he so distant from the light of the Torah that he had to extend great effort to figure out what a young boy had come up with in a matter of minutes? It is known that the Bais Yosef had a maggid (an angel) that, on occasion, would teach him Torah (indeed, he even wrote a sefer, Maggid Meisharim, chronicling his conversations with his maggid). “Do not let this bother you,” the maggid told him. “Let me explain what happened. The light of the Torah is very great and ethereal. To bring such great light down to the realm of the physical is no mean feat. Thus, for you to grasp the true understanding of the Mishnah required tremendous effort. Once, however, you succeeded in explaining the Mishnah, you infused the world with a new and holy light, which was subsequently ‘available’ for others to perceive with far greater ease. This is why what came so difficultly for you, was a matter of relative ease for those boys.” [Reprinted with permission from]
Rav Yehonasan Eibshitz - Violating A DiRabbanan Means Death: The penalty for violating any Mitzvah DiRabbanan is death.
Yet by Mitzvos min HaTorah few and far between carry the death penalty. How could it be that a decree made by mere flesh and blood be punished more severely than then going against the will of the Melech Malchei HaMilachim? This is the question that a ruler in Vienna asked Rav Yehonasan Eibshitz.

He answered with a Mashal. He said to the ruler as follows: You are an important minister and very close to the king. If you were to tell me now to get out of here and I didn't listen, you would have the right to beat me and even imprison me. But if you were to take a spear and kill me on the spot, you would need to answer to a very angry King because my infraction is not so severe that I warrant death. On the other hand if I walk outside and one of the soldiers on guard were to scream for me to get away thinking I was a threat, if I would not listen he would kill me with a single bullet and be correct in doing so. He would even be honored for his deed.
The reason for this is that because he is so low, he needs the authority and backing to be able to do his job. If every drunkard were to disobey him and laugh in his face, his job would be worthless. However an important minister needs no such backing and any punishment he gives out must be in line with the severity of the crime.

The Medrash says that HaShem asked Chochma what to do with a sinner and it said Reshaim must be treated badly. The Neviim said kill him. The Torah said let him bring a Korban, and HaShem said let him do teshuvah.
The Chachomim make rules to safeguard the Torah. If they are violated, even though they are manmade and don't go against the Torah itself, the violator must be killed. Only HaShem can pardon because it does not detract from His Kavod or His power, the slightest bit.
The Kotzker Rebbe Was In No Rush To Send Reb Leibele Eiger Back Home

Rav Leibele Eiger the grandson of Rabbi Akiva Eiger married and lived by his father-in-law’s home learning day and night. He became part of the Shul of the Chozeh of Lublin, where he became friendly with a group of young men who traveled to Kotzk and persuaded Rav Leibele to join them. The Kotzker Rebbe was very happy with this cherished new talmid and told the Chidushei HaRim that he would walk 400 parsa to find a talmid like this.
When his father-in-law found out that his new son-in-law was in Kotzk, he came to retrieve him but Rav Leibele didn't want to go, instead he wanted to stay and bask in the Kedusha of Kotzk. His father-in-law went to the Rebbe to complain. He asked the Rebbe, “is this right? The passuk says in Ki Seitzei (24:5), “naki yihiyeh libaischa shana achas,” a newlywed should be free for his home one year.”
The Rebbe replied, “had I believed that he is so free in your house like he is here in Kotzk, I would have commanded him to go back home!” (Iturei Torah)
The Alter Of Novhardok - A Good Steak Changes Everything"
“Ki hashochad yiaver einei chachomim,” because bribery blinds the eyes of the wise (Shoftim 16:19). Chazal warn us that the smallest favor can blind the smartest and greatest tzaddik in his judgment of a fellow Jew even if he is in no way corrupt.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch brings the following story with the Alter of Novhardok whose deep understanding of the human psyche unmasked a person slandering his friend. A person once came to the Alter of Novhardok and told him that the Shochet in town is not a Yiras Shamayim and his Shechita should be pasul. The Alter explained to him that since his testimony does not reach the bar to remove the Shochet from his position, the Shochet can remain. However there is a rule of “shavya anafshei kichaticha diisura,” meaning that since in the witnesses own words the Shochet is pasul, he may not eat from his shechita, although the general public may continue to do so. Suddenly the person started backtracking saying that he never meant to say that he was pasul, only to check into his behavior and/or to search for a better shochet etc., etc.
From here said the Alter we learn that when a person wants to be a Kanai he is prepared to destroy another Jew, but not his next meal. When his food is at stake the truth suddenly appears otherwise. [Reprinted with permission from]
It is almost one!

Countless times, Rebbe Moshe Mordechai Biderman of Lelov-Jerusalem was seen to look at his watch close to one o’clock and exclaim, “It’s almost one!” No one knew what this was about.

But finally they discovered its meaning. Once, the Rebbe looked at his watch and cried out, “Oy! In a little while it’ll be one!” Then suddenly he trembled and called out, “In a little while God will be king over all the earth; in that day God will be one and His name will be one!” (Moshe Ish HaElokim, vol.1, p.153) [Daily Maggid from Rabbi Yitzchak Buxbaum]

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayishlach 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
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