Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bo 5770

שבת טעם החיים בא תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bo 5770

The Great Redemption and Renewal

החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה, this month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year. (Shemos 12:2)
This week’s parasha is famous for the recording of the redemption of the Jewish People from Egypt. What passes under the radar is the mention of the first mitzvah that was given to the Jewish People as a whole, the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh, sanctifying the New Moon. This mitzvah does not necessarily garner much attention for the casual reader of this week’s parasha. Nonetheless, this mitzvah features prominently in the first Rashi of Bereishis. Rashi raises the question of why the Torah commences with the story of creation and does not instead begin with the first mitzvah, which is the mitzvah of Kiddush HaChodesh. The premise for this question is that the Torah is not a history book. Rather, the word Torah means teaching or instruction, and given that function, the Torah should immediately set that tone with the teaching of the mitzvos. Let us understand what is so unique about this mitzvah that it would have been justified to begin the Holy Torah with this commandment.
The uniqueness of the New Moon
Sanctifying the New Moon is a practice that is no longer performed, as we now have a set calendar to inform us of when the Jewish festivals occur. Yet, we know from the Chanukah story that one of the three mitzvos that the Greeks sought to eradicate was Rosh Chodesh, the sanctification. It would appear that the sanctification of the New Moon plays a significant role in the lives of the Jewish People. What is the uniqueness of this mitzvah and the deeper concept that is contained within this mitzvah?
Torah study in contingent on renewal
The Gemara (Shabbos 147b) records a peculiar story with the Tanna, Rabbi Elazar ben Arach. R' Elazar ben Arach came to that region (where there was exotic wine and and delightful baths), he became attracted to their worldly delights and he forgot his Torah knowledge. When Rabbi Elazar returned he got up to read from the Torah scroll and he wanted to read ‘hachodesh hazeh lachem - this month shall be for you.’ Instead, he said ‘hacheresh haya libam - was their heart silent?’ (in the word hachodesh he substituted a resh for the daled, and in the word hazeh he substituted a yud for the zayin and in the word lachem he substituted a hey for the chaf). The sages beseeched HaShem to have mercy upon him and his Torah knowledge returned. While this Gemara requires a dissertation of its own, it is noteworthy that Rabbi Elazar ben Arach erred in the reading of the words hachodesh hazeh lachem, this month shall be for you. The Bais Yisroel writes in the name of the Imrei Emes that although the Jewish people studied Torah while in Egypt, HaShem told Moshe that the Jewish People would receive the Torah anew at Sinai. The Bais Yisroel suggests that this may be the interpretation of the incident with Rabbi Elazar ben Arach. Although Rabbi Elazar was known as a mayan hamisgabeir, an overflowing fountain, he forgot his Torah knowledge because Torah requires constant renewal.

Renewal in Torah study is like the renewal of creation

We can now better understand why the Torah should have commenced with this mitzvah. The entire Torah is based specifically on this idea of renewal. Regarding Torah it is said (Yirmiah 33:25) koh amar HaShem im lo brisi yomam valaylah chukos shamayim vaaretz lo samti, thus said HaShem: If My covenant with the night and with the day would not be; had I not set up the laws of heaven and earth. The Gemara (Pesachim 68b) understands that this verse means that if not for the Jewish People engaging in Torah study, the world would not have reason to be in existence. Thus, just like the world is constantly being recreated, so too our commitment to Torah must be constantly renewed. Furthermore, the merit that the Jewish People had to be redeemed from Egypt was based on the fact that they would accept the Torah at Sinai with a freshness and a renewal. Torah study, unlike all other academic pursuits, is not stagnant. Rather, one must constantly immerse himself in the wellsprings of Torah, as this task of renewal predicates our very existence and the existence of the entire world.
The Shabbos connection
In a similar vein, Shabbos is a time when we renew our commitment to HaShem and His Torah. The Gemara (Shabbos 86b) states that all opinions concur with the fact that the torah was given on Shabbos. This statement reflects the idea that Shabbos is a time of renewal and that renewal is best reflected through Torah study. HaShem should allow us to observe His Holy Shabbos and engage in renewed Torah study.
Shabbos Stories
Rav Shlomo Zalman Stays Around To See The Presents
The Rav of Ramat Chen, Rav Y. Auerbach, the nephew of Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l was orphaned from his mother and father, and Rav Shlomo Zalman took care of all his needs. When he married, Rav Shlomo Zalman took the place of his father at the wedding. The wedding took place in Tel Aviv, and the chassan and kallah were planning on living in Tel Aviv after the wedding.
After the wedding, Rav Shlomo Zalman informed the family that he wished to spend the night in Tel Aviv. All the relatives were shocked since they were sure that Rav Shlomo Zalman would return directly to his house in Yerushalayim after the wedding. Whoever was familiar with Reb Shlomo Zalman's tight schedule of learning and davening, knew that it was very rare that he spent a night away from his home, if at all.
For many years, Rav Shlomo Zalman's nephew was unaware of the reason his uncle decided to stay the night in Tel Aviv. He eventually discovered the reason when he merited to also tend to the needs of an orphan, including accompanying him to the chupah. Rav Shlomo Zalman called him before the wedding and said, "I hope that you do for the orphaned chassan what I did for you." His nephew didn't understand what Rav Shlomo Zalman was referring to, until he reminded him about the night after his wedding when he stayed the night in Tel Aviv.
Rav Shlomo Zalman explained, "Every chassan and kallah receives many gifts on the day of their wedding. One of the happiest moments after the chasunah is when the young couple opens their presents, and afterwards they show them off to their parents. You had no parents, and I knew you wouldn't be able to enjoy these happy moments. Therefore, despite the difficulties it involved for me, I stayed in Tel Aviv the night after the wedding so that you could show me your presents the next day." (Aleinu Lishabeiach)
The Sfas Emes Refuses To Be Sent Out
The Sfas Emes rarely took any trips as he was a great masmid and preferred to stay put and learn. Any small trip he took was a great occasion to his Chasidim. One time he traveled to nearby Warsaw which was not far from his hometown Gur. When he arrived, a large gathering was waiting for him and his host prepared a lavish Kiddush for the occasion.
The Sfas Emes said that he does not want to attend such a reception. The host argued that Chazal tell us "Kol SheOmer Licha Baal HaBayis Aseh Chutz MiTzei", whatever the host instructs you to do you must do except if he asks you to leave. Therefore, said the host, the Rebbe is halachicly bound to attend.

The Sfas Emes replied that the word "Tzei" has another connotation beyond leaving the immediate premises. The Misha in Pirkei Avos (4:28) says that three things take a person out of the world, Kinah, Taava, Kavod. Since honor will take a person out of the world and anything that will cause a person to "go out" he need not listen to the Baal HaBayis, therefore the Sfas Emes need not listen to the host and indulge in this honor. (Chaim SheYesh Bahem - Aish Tamid)
Rav Chaim Soloveitchik's Brisker Door
Rav Chaim Brisker was an incredible Baal Chesed. His home was totally hefker to all those who wanted to enter. People ate his food, took away his sefarim, and even slept in his bed leaving him nowhere to sleep some nights. His concern for other was so great that it didn't dawn on anyone that they were inconveniencing him, and they probably weren't. His house was the local hangout for anyone who had nowhere to go.

Someone once asked why he had a door on his house if it performed no function whatsoever. The answer was obvious. According to one Deia, in order to put a Mezuzah in a doorway it needs a to have a door on it. The door is there just to make sure that the Mezuzah is 100% Lichatchila. Why else would someone have a door?
Rav Mendele MiRimanov Saves The Shul
A contingent of government officials came to Rimanov to search the city for a suitable storage warehouse for the army's food and supplies. After combing the city, the only place they came up with was the local Shul. When the heads of the Kehila heard, they ran to Rav Mendele of Rimanov to ask him what to do.
One person jumped up and said that as soon as the officials find out that the roof leaks and all their supplies will be ruined, they will not use our Shul as a storehouse. Everyone agreed and seemed satisfied with the plan. However Rav Mendele, with his great Yiras Shamayim, heard this and said that they are sorely mistaken. In fact it is because of the leaky roof that this Gezeira befell them. If we don't take care of our Shul and are Mizalzel in its honor allowing the roof to leak, what do you expect of the non-Jews? Go fix the roof right away and everything will be okay.
They did as they were commanded and never heard from the officials again. (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Bo 5770
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
and other Divrei Torah on

No comments: