Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tetzaveh-Zachor 5770

שבת טעם החיים תצוה-זכור תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tetzaveh-Zachor 5770

The Jewish people and Shabbos are eternal

זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים, Remember what Amalek did to you by the way as you came out of Egypt. (Devarim 25:17)
This week, in addition to reading the Parasha of the week, which is Parasha Tetzaveh, we also read Parashas Zachor, where we are instructed to remember what the evil nation Amalek did to us on our way out from the Egyptian slavery. There are opinions (Hagahos Maimonis Hilchos Melachim 5:5; See Radvaz ad loc) that maintain that there is no mitzvah in the present to obliterate Amalek, and this mitzvah will only be relevant with the arrival of Moshiach. This being the case, one must wonder what is the significance of the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish People if it will not lead to the immediate destruction of Amalek. While the simple answer to this question is that we must remember the evil that Amalek represents in our lives, and that is constantly relevant to us, there is also a deeper answer that will shed light on this most important mitzvah.
One cannot destroy something that is spiritual
When we learn about people who committed atrocities to the Jews, we are accustomed to viewing these acts of terror as acts of cruelty and the whims of sadists and mentally deranged people. Yet, we know from Jewish history that many of the tyrants who inflicted harm on our nation were intelligent, respected, and even benevolent to their own people. While there are no rules to what constitutes a dictator or a megalomaniac, there certainly are parameters to the description of Jew-haters and what is currently known as anti-Semites. In most situations, these evil people harbor a deep resentment to the Jewish People, often referred to as the people of conscience. In essence, these Jew-haters seek to remove the conscience from the world, whether it is the existence of HaShem, the Jewish People, or both. Thus, hatred of Jews is predicated on a deep-seated resentment for anything of permanence and value. We know from the Zohar that HaShem, the Jewish People and the Torah are all one. Thus, those who seek to destroy the Jewish People are actually seeking to destroy HaShem and His Torah. Such a thought is preposterous as HaShem is not physical and the Torah is not physical. Similarly, the Jewish People are not merely a physical entity of people. Rather, we are a spiritual entity, and something that is spiritual can never be destroyed. While Hitler and all the evil people on the world attempted to “destroy the Jews,” the Jewish People remain permanency intact.
Every Jew corresponds to a letter in the Torah
It is written (Zohar Chadash on Shir HaShirim 74d), that there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah, and these letters correspond to the six hundred thousand souls that exist amongst the Jewish People. In addition to the mitzvah of remembering Amalek, it is said (Shemos 17:14) vayomer HaShem el Moshe kesov zos zikaron basefer visim bioznei Yehoshua ki macho emche es zecher Amalek mitachas hashamayim, And HaShem said to Moshe, ‘Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Yehoshua, for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens.’ Thus, we see that in addition to the mitzvah of remembering Amalek by reading about their evil needs, there was also a commandment to write down this remembrance in a book. Perhaps the idea behind writing it down in a book is to demonstrate that the gentiles seek to eradicate the remembrance of the Jewish People, and we counter this thought by writing down their deeds in a book. The book alludes to the idea that the remembrance of the Jewish People is connected to The Book, which is the Torah that consists of six hundred letters. These letters each correspond to the six hundred thousand souls of the Jewish People, and these souls can never be destroyed.
Every Jews is recorded in the Torah and exists for eternity
We can now better understand why despite the fact that there is no mitzvah to wipe out Amalek in present times, there is still a mitzvah to remember what Amalek tried to do to us. Amalek thought that they could eradicate the existence of HaShem, the Jew and the Torah, and we demonstrate that we are recorded in the Torah, and our remembrance is permanent and forever.
The Shabbos connection
In a similar vein, there is a mitzvah to remember the Holy day of Shabbos. The Gemara (Brachos 57b) states that Shabbos is a semblance of the World to Come. Thus, we are instructed in this world to remember the Shabbos, although we will only experience the true Shabbos in the next world. We are instructed to read every year on Shabbos Zachor what Amalek attempted to do to the Jewish people. It is specifically on Shabbos that we commemorate this act, as the ultimate goal of remembering what Amalek did to us is reflect on the idea that we cannot be destroyed and our remembrance will endure for eternity. The Jewish People and the Holy Shabbos are one, in that the nation and the Shabbos will not only continue to exist in this world, but in the World to Come, which will be a day that is completely a Shabbos and rest day of eternal life.
Shabbos Stories
A fire needs a spark
Rav Sholom Schwadron, the Maggid of Jerusalem, of blessed memory, once told a story about the famed Dubna Maggid, Rabbi Yaakov Kranz.
The Dubna Maggid once spoke in a town and a few maskilim (members of the enlightenment movement) attended. After the talk one of the cynics, who was totally unaffected by the warm and inspiring message, approached the famed Maggid. "The sages tell us," began the skeptic, "'that words from the heart, penetrate the heart.' Rabbi," he snickered, "I assume that you spoke from your heart. Your words, however, have had no impact on me whatsoever! How can that be? Why didn't your words penetrate my heart?"
Rabbi Kranz smiled. In his usual fashion, he began with a parable. "A simpleton once went by the workplace of a blacksmith, who was holding a large bellows. After a few squeezes, the flames of the smith's fire danced with a rage. The man, who always found it difficult to start a fire in his own fireplace, marveled at the contraption. He immediately went and purchased the amazing invention. Entering his home, he smugly announced, "I just discovered how to make a raging fire with the simple squeeze of a lever!"
He set a few logs in the cold fireplace and began to push the two ends of the bellows together. Nothing happened. The logs lay cold and lifeless. Embarrassed, the man returned to the blacksmith and explained his predicament. "I want a refund!" he shouted. This blower doesn't work!"
"You yokel," laughed the experienced blacksmith. "You were blowing on cold logs! You must start a small fire on your own! If you don't start with a spark, a fire will never erupt!"
The Maggid turned toward the maskil and sadly shook his head sadly. "If there is no spark, the largest bellows will not make a fire."
A reminder to stay on earth
"A gold bell and a pomegranate, a gold bell and a pomegranate on the hem of the robe all around. It must be on Aharon in order to minister. Its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary and when he leaves, so that he not die." (28:34-35)
The Talmud Yerushalmi relates: "The sage Shmuel used to count little chickens during prayer / davening. The sage Rabbi Bun ben Chiya used to count the beams of the house during davening." Why did they do that? Certainly they were not so distracted as to be looking at chickens or beams!
R' Yissachar Dov Rokeach zt”l (the Belzer Rebbe; died 1927) explained: It is related that the Rebbe R' Elimelech (great chassidic leader; died 1787) used to hold a watch in his hand during the Shabbat Mussaf (known as "Kedushat Ketter" in the Sephardic liturgy which chassidim follow). R' Elimelech said that he felt so uplifted during that particular prayer that he was afraid his soul would leave him. Therefore, he held a reminder of this temporal world in his hand in order to bring him back to earth.
If a relatively contemporary sage (R' Elimelech) prayed thus, certainly the sages of old did, explained the Belzer Rebbe. That is why Shmuel counted chickens in the middle of davening and Rabbi Bun counted the beams of the house. They needed to do so in order to remain attached to this world.
In this light we can understand the purpose of the bells attached to the Kohen Gadol's robe. If the sages of the Talmud could lose their connections to this world during moments of spiritual ascent, certainly Aharon was at such risk when he entered the Holy of Holies. Therefore, "Its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary and when he leaves, so that he not die." The sound of the bells brought him back to earth. (Quoted in Otzrotaihem Shel Tzaddikim)
What is he thinking?
Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman tells a childhood story that still haunts him when he thinks about it. One time on the bus ride home, the boys’ conversation wandered to a certain wealthy and prominent member of their community. As is often the case, being in the public eye sometimes means having one’s quirks and idiosyncrasies on constant display, and having to deal with the ridicule of those who make it their business to make fun of people whose success rubs them the wrong way.
The boys on the bus began discussing this man; it didn’t take long for the conversation to go awry. One of his classmates, whose skills of imitation were of some renown, regaled the assembly with his near-perfect take off of the man’s ‘penguin-like’ walk and posture, and his ‘frog-like’ voice. Others took their turns discussing critical issues such as ‘how little he gives to charity considering how rich he is,’ ‘how overdone that last chasuna he made was,’ and ‘how cool he thinks he is in his new car.’ They were having a grand-old time. Little did they realize the man’s son was sitting (cowering?) in the seat just in front of them, hearing everything they said.
When the bus stopped at the son’s stop and he got up to leave, some of the boys began to realize what had just happened. Were those tears in his eyes? As he turned to leave, he left no doubt. His face was red with crying, and he bitterly called out, “I hate you—you’re so mean,” just as the bus doors slammed behind him.
There are no words to describe the shocked silence of the boys left sitting on the bus. There was nothing to say that could right their wrong. They just sat there, each of them considering how he must have felt listening to them the whole time.
“Afterwards I thought to myself,” says Rabbi Wachsman, “what if one of us had been fast enough to jump off the bus together with the boy? What if he started chasing him down the street. The boy was in no condition to speak to anyone—he was devastated.
“‘Go away—I’m not mocheil you—ever! Don’t bother asking for mechilah (forgiveness). Just leave me alone!’
“‘Please stop—stop running, just for one minute. I want to talk to you.’
“‘Stop chasing me—I told you I’m not mocheil—go away!’
“Eventually, he manages to catch up with the boy. ‘Please, just give me one minute… I heard your father has a big factory, and that he pays well— do you think he’d give me a summer job?’”
What could possibly be more insensitive? He’s just spent his entire bus ride ridiculing his father to his son’s great shame, and now he thinks he can run down the same son in the street and ask his father to do him a favor? It’s beyond absurd.
Yet how many times do we commit the identical crime? Avinu she- ba’Shamayim, our Father in Heaven, is also the loving Father of the people we choose to slander, ridicule, and degrade with our derogatory speech. How does it feel, so to speak, for a Father to have to endure hearing His beloved son spoken of in such terms? How much pain does He feel? How great is His anger?
Hours, and sometimes minutes later, the time for tefillah (prayer) inevitably comes—it could be shacharis, mincha, or ma’ariv. And there we are, siddur in hand, supplicating our Father to grant us all our needs. “Oy Tatte—give us health, give us wealth, give us nachas!” Under such circumstances, do our prayers stand a chance of gaining favor in His eyes? (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tetzaveh-Zachor 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and don’t forget,
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Toras Purim 5770

Toras Purim Deluxe 5770

Prepared by: Rabbi Binyomin Adler, best remembered for Toras Purim which was not deluxe. Stay tuned for the difference between deluxe and non-deluxe.

Ok so here we are again, at the crossroads of history, and actually, at the crossroads of the Jewish calendar. Tu Bishvat is behind us and we are approaching Purim. Tu Bishvat is when we celebrate the renewal of the trees, and we pray for a good Esrog. Purim is when Haman gets hung on the tree, and guess what, he actually forgot about the Esrog. What does that mean, you wonder? Well, it is said (Tehillim 36:12) al tivoeini regel gaavah, do not bring me to the foot of arrogance, and the Arizal writes that the first letters of these words form an acrostic for the word Esrog. Thus, we can deduce that one who searches for a beautiful Esrog must have humility, and to say the least, that was the least character trait that Haman was endowed with. So, we must learn the lesson from the Esrog tree and not get carried away with ourselves. Actually, come to think of it, that could be the connection between the Esrog and this month of joy. The Esrog is referred to in the Torah as a pri eitz hadar, and yes, you guessed it, the word hadar is pretty similar to the word Adar. I know, I know, there’s one slight problem, and that is that the word hadar begins with a hey, whereas the word Adar begins with the letter aleph. Ok, so the easy way out of that pickle is that the letters hey and aleph are interchangeable. Ever wonder how we can just interchange letters? Well, imagine if Haman was Aman. Hmm, that wouldn’t work so well, you say. In truth, it makes perfect sense, because the Gemara (Megillah 11a) quotes the verse that states (Tehillim 124:2) lulei HaShem shehayah lanu bikum aleinu adam, had not HaShem been with us when men rose up against us. The Gemara makes the following deduction: adam vilo melech, man and not a king, and this refers to Haman, So you see that Haman and “A man” are similar. And that follows the rule of interchanging the letters hey and aleph. Well, not really interchanging them. Rather, dropping the hey from Haman. That may not sound fair, but let’s remember that the Name of HaShem is a yud a hey a vav and a hey. And what did Amalek come and do? He dropped the vav and hey from HaShem’s Name and it is our job to restore it. So it makes perfect sense that we should drop the hey from Haman’s name. It would be even better if we could drop all the letters from his name. However, it’s a good feeling when we blot out his entire name year after year, when we bang on Purim upon hearing Haman’s name. Don’t start yet. First read this entire page and then you’ll really appreciate all that banging.
Ok, so now that we have discussed a thing or two about Haman’s arrogance and his name, what is going to be this year’s Toras Purim theme? Well, I thought that we would take one of the most famous statements said regarding Purim and delve into its history a little bit. In case you were wondering what statement that is, it is the statement made by the Holy Arizal, who said that Yom Kippurim is Yom Ki-Purim. Literally translated, that means that the Day of Atonement is like Purim. Thus, Purim is even more holy and special than Yom Kippur. So let’s take a look inside the Megillah and offer some support for this profound statement. Hang on tight, don’t fall off your horse, and get off your high horse so you do not come anywhere near Haman and his gang!
Vayehi bimei Achashveirosh hu Achashveirosh hamoleich meiHodu viad Kush sheva viesrim umeiah medinah.
The word bimei means in the days of. This alludes to the Gemara (Brachos 8b) that states that that whoever eats and drinks on the ninth of Tishrei (Erev Yom Kippur) is deemed to have fasted on the ninth and tenth of Tishrei. Thus, these are the two days alluded to in the Megillah. The name Achashveirosh can be understood as follows. The aleph and the ches equal in gematria nine, alluding to one who eats and drinks on the ninth of Tishrei. The next letters are shin, vav, reish, and vav. The second vav can be interchanged with the letter fey, and those four letters read the word shofar. The Torah only mentions the word shofar regarding Yom Kippur. (Regarding Rosh Hashanah the Torah only states teruah.) Now there is still one letter remaining and that is the last shin in the name Achashveirosh. There is a rule that the letters shin and sin are interchangeable (this sounds like Purim Torah, where everything is vinahafoch hu, upside down and switched around). So the sin stands for simcha, joy. When do we blow the shofar on Yom Kippur? We blow the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur. The Medrash states that following Yom Kippur, a bas kol, a heavenly voice, proclaims the verse (Koheles 9:7) lech echol bisimcha lachmecha ushisei bilev tov yeinecho ki chevar ratzah haElokim es maasecho, go, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a glad heart, for G-d has already approved your deeds. That is why after blowing the Shofar we are told to be joyful. Now the next word in the Megillah is hu, he. The letter hey alludes to Hoshana Rabbah, which according to the Kabbalists is the final judgment from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The letters vav and aleph equal in gematria 7, and Hoshana Rabbah is the seventh day of Sukkos. We then have the name Achashveirosh again, and the letters aleph and ches equal in gematria nine, and the letter shin, which we now know is interchangeable with the letter sin, alludes to Simchas Torah, which in the Diaspora is the ninth day of Sukkos. Furthermore, the letters vav reish vav shin equal 17 in mispar katan, digit sum (ok, I’ll explain what that means. Reish normally equals 200 in gematria. In the world of mispar katan, however, we remove the zeros, and are left with 2). So 8 alludes to Simchas Torah, the eighth day in Eretz Yisroel, or to Shemini Atzeres, the eighth day of Sukkos in the Diaspora. The word meiHodu, from Hodu, alludes to our recital of Hallel on Sukkos, when we recite the words Hodu laHaShem ki tov numerous times. The words viad Kush, to Cush, allude to the Simchas Bais Hashoeiva that was performed in the Bais HaMikdash, as the Gemara (Sukkah 51b) tells us that the joy at the Simchas Bais Hashoeiva was a beautiful sight. Back to Yom Kippur now. The words sheva viesrim, twenty seven, allude to the two goats that were chosen on Yom Kippur. One goat was brought as a sacrifice and the second goat was brought to a place called Azazel, where they pushed it off the cliff as an atonement for the Jewish People. In the words sheva viesrim are contained the following words: (the letter) beis, seirim, which alludes to the two goats, and the word Esav, as the Medrash (Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer §22) states that the goat that was pushed off the cliff alludes to Esav being distanced from the Jewish People on Yom Kippur. Ok, one more for Yom Kippur before we move on to other holidays. Now this one you have to hold on to your seats for, as it’s a bit of a wild ride. The word umeiah, a hundred, forms an acrostic for the words (Tehillim 148:4) vihamayim asher meial hashamayim, and the water that are above the heavens. What, you may ask, does this verse have to do with Yom Kippur? Well, the word mayim alludes to the flood that HaShem brought upon the world in the times of Noach. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 108b) states that one of the reasons that the flood came was because people then were guilty of the sin of intentionally wasting seed. This sin is alluded to as water (In fact, the Gemara there states that the generation of the flood acted corruptly with a boiling substance (semen) by engaging in immorality, and it was therefore with boiling water that they were punished. This is derived as follows: Concerning the end of the flood it is said (Bereishis 8:1) vayashoku hamayim, the waters subsided, and it is written (Esther 7:10) vachamas hamelech shachacha, and the king’s anger cooled down. It is noteworthy that the Gemara brings support from a verse in Esther). Now, the Gemar elsewhere (Yoma 86a) states that Teshuvah, repentance, is so great that it reaches the Heavenly Throne. Thus, the meaning of the word umeiah is that one who committed this grievous sin of wasting seed on Yom Kippur can repent and be saved from a harsh judgment, which is alluded to in the next word medinah, literally translated as provinces, but homiletically interpreted to mean judgment. The connection to Yom Kippur is because the Gemara (Ibid 88a) states that one who experiences a seminal emission on Yom Kippur should wait out the year and if he lives, this is a sign that his repentance was accepted and he earns a share in the World to Come.
Bayamim haheim kisheves hamelech Achashveirosh al Kisei malchuso asher bishushan habira.
The next verse states bayamim haheim, in those days. We will now work backwards, as this alludes to the two days of Rosh HaShanah. The word haheim, those, reflects the following: hey and hey equals in gematria 10, alluding to the ten days of repentance between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The mem alludes to the forty days of favor that begin with the first day of Elul and continue through Yom Kippur. The words kisheves hamelech Achashveirosh al Kisei malchuso, when King Achashveirosh sat on his royal throne, alludes to HaShem sitting on His Throne of Justice on Rosh Hashanah. The next words asher bishushan habira, which was in Shushan the capital, allude to our acknowledgement of HaShem as the ruler of the world. This is based on the Medrash that states that Avraham was seeking to discover what controlled the world, and the Medrash states that Avraham’s search was analogous to one who passes by a birah, a castle, that is burning, and he wonders, “who is the baal Habira, the owner of the castle?” The owner, in this case, HaShem, responded, “I am the owner of the castle.” Thus, the birah here alludes to the world, which HaShem rules. The word Shushan, a rose, can allude to Avraham, as he was like shoshanah bein hacochim, a rose amongst the thorns. He was righteous in contrast to most of his generation who were wicked.
Bishnas shalosh limalcho asah mishteh lichol sarav vaavadav cheil Paras uMadai hapartimim visarei hamedinos lifanav.
The next verse states bishnas shalosh limalcho, In the third year of his reign, and this alludes to Chanukah, which occurs in the third month of the year, starting from Tishrei. Additionally, the first letters of the words bishnas shalosh limalcho equal 8 in mispar katan, digit sum (you know how that works already!), alluding to the eight days of Chanukah. Furthermore, the word limalcho in mispar katan equals 9, and this alludes to the nine candles that we light, including the shamash, “the serving candle.” If you wonder what right we have to include the shamash in the gematria, stay tuned shortly for the answer. The words asah mishteh, he made a feast, alludes to the opinions of the Rambam, the Yam Shel Shlomo, and others, that Chanukah is also a time of joy and one should celebrate with festive meals. The words lichol sarav vaavadav, for all his officials and his servants, alludes to the shamash that we mentioned above, as all the servants are invited to the king’s feast. Additionally, the word vaavadav (98) equals in gematria Chanukah (89) +9, alluding to our lighting of 9 candles on Chanukah. The next words are cheil Paras uMadai, the army of Persia and Media. The first letters of the words cheil paras (88) equal in gematria Chanukah (89). Additionally, the word paras in at bash [Time for some more education: at bash worlds like this: aleph is interchangeable with taf, bais is interchangeable with shin, etc.] (vav gimel ches) equals 17, and 1+7=8, which alludes to the eight days of Chanukah. Furthermore, the last letters of the words cheil Paras uMadai equal in gematria 100 and this equals in gematria zeh Chanukah, this is Chanukah (101). The next word is hapartimim, the nobles. The word hapartimim, when rearranging the letters, is an acrostic for the words parah tamim, a perfect cow. What does this have to do with Chanukah? The Gemara (Shabbos 21b) states that according to the opinion of Bais Shammai, one lights on the first night of Chanukah eight lights and the second night seven, until the last night he lights one. One of the reasons for this is based on the idea that on Sukkos we are instructed to bring seventy bulls (parim) corresponding to the seventy nations of the world. The first day of Sukkos thirteen bulls were brought, the second day twelve bulls were brought, until the seventh day when seven bulls were brought. This descent of offerings symbolized that the nations of the world would also eventually disappear. Similarly, Bais Shammai maintains that we light the Chanukah lights in descending order, parallel to the seventy bulls that were offered on Sukkos (This is not the place to discuss the connection between Sukkos and Chanukah, but a hint to the association could be in the fact that the word Sukkos means to see (socheh) and one of the important features of the Chanukah lights is that one should see the lights.) Finally, it is said visarei hamedinos lifanav, and officials of the provinces being present. So here’s something amazing. The words visarei hamedinos lifanav (1207) equal in gematria exactly the words shmoneh neiros Chanukah +25+36; eight candles, Chanukah, 25 is the day of Kisleiv when Chanukah begins, and 36 is the total amount of candles that we light on the eight days of Chanukah.
Now for the grand finale (for this year).
Biharoso es osher kivod malchuso vies yikar tiferes gedulaso yamim rabim shmonim umeas yom.
The word biharoso, when he displayed forms an acrostic for the following words: bikeish Haman Rasha ibud tor vigozal, Haman the wicked sought the destruction of the turtledove and a young dove (a reference to the Jewish People – see Bereishis 15:9). Es is an acrostic for the words oso timcheh, him (Haman) you should obliterate. Osher, the riches, is an acrostic for the words al sheim rishaso, meaning that he should be destroyed because of his wickedness. Kivod, [of his] glorious, is an acrostic for the words kol veiso urichusho danu, all his house and his wealth were judged, i.e. given over to Esther and Mordechai. The next word, malchuso, his kingdom, forms an acrostic for the words manos lireieihu kesef vizahav ten vitein, portions to a friend, silver and gold, give and give. This alludes to the mitzvah that every Jew has on Purim to give two friends two portions of food. Furthermore, this alludes to the mitzvah that every Jew has on Purim to give money to the poor. The next word vies forms an acrostic for the words umegillas Esther tikra, meaning that you should read the book of Esther. The next word is yikar, honor which forms an acrostic for the words yisu kolam raash, they will lift their voices, a tumult, alluding to the custom of making noise and a tumult when Haman’s name is mentioned during the reading of the Megillah. The next word is tiferes, splendorous, which forms an acrostic for the words taasu Purim Adar rishon tinyana, make Purim (in) Adar, the first (Adar Rishon) and the second (Adar Sheini). The next word is gedulaso, majesty, which forms an acrostic for the words gemol dalim vigam laevyoinm ten vitein, provide aid to the poor and destitute, give and give, alluding to the mitzvah of Matanos Laevyoinm, giving gifts to the poor on Purim. The last words allude to the festivals of Pesach and Shavuos. The word yamim, days, is an acrostic for the words yud makkos yatzu miMitzrayim, ten plagues (to the Egyptians) and they (the Jewish People) left Egypt. The next word is rabim, many, which forms an acrostic for the words rau bayam yigaleh malchuso, they saw by the sea (that) He revealed His kingship. The next word is shemonim, eighty, and forms an acrostic for the words shifcha meihem vigam Neviim yemino mauzo, (even) a maidservant from them (the Jewish People) and prophets, His right (hand) and His strength (they saw). The next word umeas, and a hundred, forms an acrostic for the words vihisiam Moshe el Torah, and from there Moshe caused the Jewish People to journey towards Torah (Sinai). The next word is yom, day, which forms an acrostic for the words Yisro ubinei Moshe, Yisro and the sons of Moshe (arrived to receive the Torah).
As you can see, the Megillah is endless with hints and allusions to major events in Jewish history. The Medrash states that the Name of HaShem is not found in the Megillah. Thus, our job is to find HaShem in the Megillah, i.e. to discover HaShem’s Presence in the darkness and concealment.
The Gemara (Chullin 139b) states, how do we know Esther from the Torah? The answer is that it is said (Devarim 31:18) vianochi hasteir panai bayom hahu, but I will surely have concealed My face on that day. Upon examination of this verse, a question arises. Prior to this verse it is said (verse 17) vicharah api vo vayom hahu vaazvtim vihistarti panai meihem vihayah leechol umitzauhu raos rabos vitzaros viamar bayom hahu halo al ki ain Elokai bikirbi mitzauni haraos haeileh, my anger will flare against it on that day and I will forsake them; and I will conceal My face from them and they will become prey, and many evils and distresses will encounter it. It will say on that day, ‘Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?’ The question here is, in verse 17 it is already stated that HaShem will conceal His face. Why, then, did the Gemara not choose the earlier verse to prove that Esther is hinted at in the Torah?
The answer to this question is very profound and in essence explains all of our encounters with a Amalek and the forces of evil. Initially when the Jewish People sin and HaShem conceals His Presence from them, it is meant to be a warning sign that HaShem is displeased with our behavior. Yet, the Jew often responds with the words ‘Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?’ We find that the Torah explicitly states this response subsequent to the liberation from Egypt. Upon arriving in Refidim and not finding water, the Jewish People complained and HaShem provided them with water. It is said (Shemos 17:7) vayikra sheim hamakom masah umerivah al riv binei Yisroel vial nasosam es HaShem leimor hayeish HaShem bikirbeinu im ayin, He called the place Masah Umerivah, because of the contention of the Children of Israel and because of their test of HaShem, saying, “Is HaShem among us or not?” Subsequent to this incident Amalek attacked the Jewish people for the first time. Thus, we see that when the Jewish People are uncertain whether HaShem is involved in their daily lives, HaShem causes Amalek to appear. The Jewish People are then scared, as they were with the decree of Haman, and then HaShem saves us. It is for this reason that the Gemara chose the second verse that mentions concealment. When the Jews fail to learn the lesson and they declare that the evil has befallen them because HaShem is not in their midst, then HaShem proclaims, ‘but I will surely have concealed My face on that day.’ When the Jewish People do not initially get the message that HaShem is sending them, HaShem conceals himself further, and it is only then that they are awakened to repentance and HaShem saves them.
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 97b) states that according to one opinion, if the Jewish People do not repent, HaShem will bring upon them a king whose decrees are as harsh as Haman’s and that will coerce us into repentance. It should be HaShem’s will that we get the message prior to a deep concealment and we repent on our own, thus heralding the much awaited redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days. Amen.
Wait! Don’t put this down yet. Here are few more interesting discoveries regarding Purim and the Megillah.
The name Amalek is the same gematria as ram, high. Thus, Amalek positioned himself as on the same level with HaShem on High. The word Amalek can be rearranged to read kam al, he rose up upon. It is said (Tehillim 124:2) lulei HaShem shehayah lanu bikum aleinu adam, had not HaShem been with us when men rose up against us. The Gemara (Megillah ) interprets this verse to be referring to Haman. Here again we see the words bikum aleinu, rose up against us, to be referring to a descendant of Amalek. Furthermore, the name Amalek is equal in gematria to the words Haman hakam, Haman, the one who rises up.
Ok, now it’s time for some Purim maasos. Enjoy.
Becoming you
There is a well known story of a Badchan who was the PURIM RAV at the Purim tish of the Satmar Rebbe (Rav Yoel) zt”l and he started imitating the way the Rebbe davened on Yom Kippur. His voice, his niggun, copious tears etc. and suddenly the Rebbe himself started to cry. The Purim Rav became concerned and worried and frightfully asked the Rebbe what he has done wrong. The Rebbe assured him that there was nothing to be concerned about. He said, “as I was marveling over your perfect imitation of me I started to ponder whether I am really also only imitating myself.”
A Purim secret
Nissan was a wealthy man who lived in Yargin, a small town near Pressburg, the capital city of Czechoslovakia. When younger, he had been a student at the famous Pressburg Yeshiva. He and his wife were already married for many years, but still had not been blessed with children. When, finally, a son was born to him in 5583 (1823), it was no surprise, that he honored his former teacher, the world-renowned scholar known as the "Chasam Sofer" to perform the circumcision. Unfortunately, the bris had to be postponed because of the weak health of the baby. It wasn't till several weeks later that it was announced that it would take place on...Purim!
At the bris, the Chasam Sofer was glowing with "light, happiness, joy and honor." Whether it was the joy of Purim Day, happiness for his student or a combination of both, nobody knew. After completing the circumcision, when he dipped his finger in the wine to place a drop in the baby’s mouth (following custom), he raised his voice and called out very loudly the Talmudic expression, Nichnas yayin yatza sod--"When wine goes in, secrets come out."
The baby was given an appropriate name for a Purim bris, Baruch Mordechai, which means "blessed be Mordechai," from the paragraph recited after the Megillah readings.
The child grew. At an early age he was already outstanding in character and religious observance. However, much to the distress of his parents, his ability to understand Torah was not at a par. As a boy, he didn't seem any different than his age-mates, but after his bar-mitzvah, when he entered the famous Pressburg Yeshiva, it was noticeable that he was having major difficulties in his studies.
In truth, he was very diligent. He would sit absorbed in the holy books from morning to evening. But whenever he was asked to repeat or explain anything he was unable to respond, and could only sit silently.
His less sensitive classmates liked to make fun of him because of this. Once, when he left his place for a few minutes, they switched his volume of Talmud for one of another subject entirely, leaving it open to the same number page he had been on. When he resumed his seat, he didn't seem to notice the difference at all.
When he turned eighteen, The "Ksav Sofer" (who had replaced his recently departed father as the head of the yeshiva) advised his parents to send him to the Land of Israel. Perhaps there, where "the air of the Holy Land makes wise," his studies would prosper.
His parents decided to do it. They hoped it would also enable him to make a good match.
Baruch Mordechai arrived in Jerusalem with a letter of recommendation from Rabbi Shraga Feldheim, mashgiach (study-supervisor) at Pressburg, which said that he "is truly pious, prays with great devotion, and that his desire to learn Torah is sincere and enormous."
One of the scholarly leaders of the Jerusalem community then, Rabbi Yeshaya Bardaki, "adopted" Baruch Mordechai, concerning himself for all of his needs. He was impressed with the young man’s sterling character and piousness, but he could not fathom how someone who had done nothing but study Torah diligently all his life could have retained so little.
When Baruch Mordechai reached age twenty, Rabbi Bardaki found a bride for him: a simple girl from a good family in Jerusalem who wouldn't mind that her husband was an ignoramus.
Several years after the wedding, Baruch Mordechai began to work as a water carrier. He was honest to an extreme, and as a result quickly became very popular. Every Rosh Chodesh (1st of the month), he would deliver water to his regular customers for free; he worried that over the course of the previous month water may have spilled, whereas he had charged for full buckets.
For more than forty years Baruch Mordechai toiled at his chosen profession, the whole time in joyous spirit and with gratitude to G-d for his lot. He took special satisfaction from servicing the many Torah scholars within the walls of Jerusalem; he considered this a great merit and refused to accept payment from them. It anguished him that the great scholar, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Diskin, refused to take water from him. "I cannot allow myself to be served by the likes of Reb Baruch Mordechai," he would say--but refused to explain his words.
On Purim Day 5653 (1893), at the time of the festive meal, most of the chassidim and notables of Old City Jerusalem crowded, as every year, into the home of Rabbi Schneur Zalman Fradkin of Lublin, the celebrated author of the scholarly book, Toras Chesed. The atmosphere was exceptionally joyous, even for a Purim celebration. Everyone was constantly erupting into lively song and dance, and there was a complimentary flow of wine and wise words.
All of a sudden, Baruch Mordechai called out to the host in a loud voice from the midst of the swaying Chassidim, "Rebbe! Today is seventy years exactly since my bris."
Everyone smiled tolerantly, figuring such an outburst from the simple water carrier could only be a result of all the Purim wine he had imbibed.
"If so," responded Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "you deserve an extra-large measure of liChayim."
Immediately a large tumbler of a special strong wine was poured and passed to Baruch Mordechai, who speedily dispatched it as commanded.
It had an immediate effect. The elderly water-carrier began to sing and dance energetically.
The sage's reaction was surprising. He looked up at Baruch Mordechai and shouted over the crowd: "It would be nice if you would stop fooling around already and honor the holy assemblage with some strong words of Halacha and agaddah (Torah law and lore)."
Suddenly there was silence. Everyone's gaze shifted in amused anticipation to the tipsy Baruch Mordechai as he climbed up to stand on the table and began to speak.
But then, all the grins slowly gave way to wide-eyed stares of astonishment as it penetrated their ears that the water-carrier was discoursing enthusiastically on scholarly Purim topics and peppering his words with learned citations from the Talmudic tractate Megillah and a variety of Midrashim and works of Jewish Law. And he waxed on and on! Indeed, if the strong wine hadn't finally taken its toll, it seemed that he could have continued indefinitely.
Even before the holiday was over, the news of the extraordinary scholarship of the unassuming water-carrier had spread throughout Jerusalem. The community was in an uproar. How had they allowed such an accomplished scholar to be disdained in their midst, and to labor as a mere water-carrier for so many years. And how had his erudition remained hidden for so long?
A few of the elders of the community recalled hearing of the mysterious words of the Chasam Sofer seventy years before. Now, some clever minds were saying they could finally be understood.
Nichnas yayin yatza sod--"Wine enters, secrets emerge." Yayin (wine), spelled yud-yud-nun, has a numerical value of seventy, and so does samech-vov-dalet, the word for secret!
Purim of the Curtains ∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂∂
You probably think I am joking, and the relationship between Purim and curtains goes no further than a Purim joke. Well, you are wrong. There was really a Purim of the Curtains, originally called “Purim Vorhang,” and like the first Purim of Shushan and the other local Purims celebrated in different countries, it commemorates the miraculous salvation of a Jewish community from the hands of their enemies.
Purim of the Curtains used to be celebrated in the middle of the winter, on the twenty-second of Tevet, two months before our regular Purim. Its story happened more than 300 years ago in the once famous large Jewish Ghetto of Prague, in Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic). As far as we know this is how it originated:
Rudolph of Wenceslav, the governor of Bohemia, was one of those who resented the rise of Jewish fortunes during the reign of Ferdinand II. He considered it a personal affront when a man like the wealthy Jacob Schmieles of the Prague Ghetto was knighted and bore the noble title of Bassevi of Truenberg. But there was little he could do to the Jews of Prague, which in those days counted more than 1,000 people, many of them rich and influential merchants and bankers. For the memory and influence of Chief Rabbi Judah Loew, famous as the “Maharal,” was still felt among Jews and non-Jews. Thus, despite all efforts, the governor was not able to provoke any riots or pogroms of major proportion. But one day in the winter of 5383 (1623) Providence really seemed to play into his hands.
Among the treasure of his palace were heavy gold brocade curtains, artfully woven by a famous medieval master weaver from Brussels. They were considered invaluable, and the governor was responsible for them to the crown. All through the spring, summer and fall, till the middle of winter, they were stored away so that the sun and dust would not harm their precious texture. December came and Chamberlain Hradek, next to Rudolph of Wenceslav the mightiest man in all of Bohemia, gave orders to have all the velvet and brocade curtains and the Persian carpet taken out of storage to prepare the palace for the festival season. Everything proceeded in proper order, for each piece of the precious ornaments and furnishings had been carefully recorded and systematically stored away. At the bottom of the list were the famous gold brocade curtains of the stateroom. As usual they had been placed in the huge iron chest in the cellar that held the most valuable articles of the palace.
The important day came when Hradek himself went down into the cellar to make sure that the servants treated the precious materials carefully. The heavy iron lid of the chest was opened and the yellow glow of the candles showed-could it be possible? -nothing but the bare brown wood of the cedar-lined iron chest. Everyone present gasped, and a cry of horror passed from the cellar through the hundreds of halls and rooms of the palace, up to the battlements of the watchtower. Soon the governor himself heard the shocking news of the missing gold curtains. He ordered an immediate investigation. No one was permitted to leave or to enter the palace. Raging like a furious lion, Rudolph of Wenceslav questioned every one of the employees, from the chamberlain down to the lowest cleaning woman-but to no avail. They all staunchly denied any knowledge of, or connection with, the theft of the precious curtains.
“If they are not back here by tonight,” roared the governor at the frightened servants who were gathered in his office, “I’ll have all of you thrown into prison.” There was no doubt in any one’s mind that he really meant it.
After a few minutes of heavy silence-interrupted only by the furious pacing of the governor from one corner of the huge office to the other, and the violent rapping of his riding-crop against his boots-the chamberlain suggested that the governor order all of the city’s pawnshops and warehouses searched by his soldiers. “If your honor permits, I’d suggest keeping a special eye on the stores and shops of the Jewish dealers. They have a liking for stolen merchandise,” Hradek added maliciously.
Rudolph of Wenceslav was highly pleased with the advice of his chamberlain, and shortly afterwards, troops of his soldiers combed every store and shop of Prague that might possibly hide the golden curtains. They sealed off the Ghetto, and without telling anyone of the object of their search they turned every house inside out, in futile search and vengeful destruction.
One troop of soldiers came also to the large house and store of Enoch Altschul, who was one of the patrician leaders of the Prague Ghetto and a scholar as well as a wealthy merchant. Without care or consideration the rough soldiers searched every closet, chest and drawer, and threw their contents all over the floor in wild disorder. Unable to find what they were looking for, they put a pistol to the breast of Enoch Altschul and threatened to shoot him if he did not reveal where he had hidden his most precious merchandise. Rather than risk his life, Enoch Altschul opened the secret vault in the back of his store. Among other precious goods stored in the plain wooden closet behind the wall covering, soldiers came upon a pile of heavy, glittering materials. With a hoarse cry of fury and satisfaction, the soldiers pounced upon the old merchant, beat him and shackled him with heavy iron chains. The story of the theft and of the search spread like wildfire and brought out every citizen into the streets of Prague. At the point of their sabers they led Enoch Altschul through the silent and shocked crowds of the ghetto, and then through the wildly shouting crowds outside the ghetto. One glance at the open chest with the brocade curtains told the story; and before his guilt had been proven Enoch Altschul was given the vilest treatment ever accorded any common thief or criminal in public. As the procession left the ghetto, the guards immediately closed the chest, for there was no telling what the wild mob would do.
Governor Rudolph of Wenceslav was still furiously pacing the floor of his office when the soldiers brought in Enoch Altschul. The sight of the recovered curtains soothed his anger, yet he was even more pleased by the sight of the patriarchal Jew led before him in heavy chains. At once he realized that here was the opportunity for which he had been waiting ever since he had been appointed to the governorship, to humiliate the Jewish merchants and courtiers, and to do some looting among the treasure of the ghetto for his own and his people’s pockets. Outwardly, Rudolph of Wenceslav kept up his rage as he shouted all kinds of vile insults at Enoch Altschul.
The old Jew faced him quietly. His inner dignity only served to increase the governor’s rage. But neither by insults nor by vicious slaps with the riding-crop was Rudolph of Wenceslav able to make the old Jew betray how he had come into possession of the precious golden curtains from the governor’s palace.
“I gave my word of honor to a most noble member of your court. Unless he himself grants me permission, I am not able to explain the presence of these curtains in my house,” Enoch replied firmly.
“You thief! You have no honor, nor does your word hold any value. You are only trying to save your hide. But never mind! We shall see whether the whip can’t make you talk.”
Torture and flogging were not able to break the will of Enoch Altschul. Towards evening he was again brought, lying on a stretcher, before the governor. “Are you now ready to tell me who gave you the curtains?” the governor shouted at the limp figure. Too weak to answer, the old merchant merely shook his head feebly.
“You have time till tomorrow morning. If you don’t talk by nine o’clock, not only will you and your family hang from the highest tree that can be found in all of Prague but my people will be given permission to storm the ghetto.”
For the first time since being seized, Enoch Altschul lost his calm. No longer was he staking only his own life on his word of honor. The horrible meaning of the governor’s threat was obvious, and it shook his determination.
All through the night he tossed back and forth on his hard bed in the dark cell of the palace dungeon, his tortured body racked by pain. His was a terrible responsibility. Desperately, Enoch Altschul implored G-d for help and guidance. Was it more important to keep his oath to the man who had brought him the ill-fated curtains, despite the fact that he had now pretended not to notice him when he saw him carried before the governor? Or was the fate of the community too vital to be risked by his, Enoch’s, code of personal honor? Towards morning he fell into a restless sleep. Suddenly, the cell seemed illuminated. The image of his beloved teacher and friend, the sainted Rabbi Judah Loew, appeared before him and assured him that everything would turn out well in the end. Although he awoke immediately afterwards, Enoch Altschul felt deeply strengthened and encouraged by this dream. All the time until the guards came to take him before the governor, he kept on praying to G-d for His help. As he soon was to find out, though, he had not been the only one who had been unable to sleep that night, and to whom his master had also appeared in a dream.
Rudolph of Wenceslav was impatiently rapping his riding-crop on the top of his desk when Enoch was carried into the stateroom before the fully assembled court. Despite the tortures of the previous day, the old Jew looked calm and collected. Without a word the governor signaled to have Enoch carried to the large plaza crowded with hundreds of heavily armed soldiers. About them milled a large crowd of wildly shouting people, all seemingly waiting for something to happen.
“At a signal from this window they will break into every house of the ghetto,” Rudolph of Wenceslav. Yet before Enoch had a chance to speak, Hradek, the haughty chamberlain, threw himself between the governor and the Jewish merchant. His face as white as snow, he called excitedly to the astonished Rudolph:
“Mercy, your honor, mercy, I am the guilty one! Punish me, not this noble old man who thinks he is protecting your own personal honor!”
The governor and the entire court were shocked by the confession of the chamberlain. Incredulously they listened to his tale:
“Several months ago I was in urgent need of twenty five thousand ducats which I had lost in a night of heavy gambling. I could not think of any other way to pay this debt than by taking the precious gold brocade curtains from the palace chest and pawning them to the venerable Enoch Altschul, who has helped me in many a tight spot. In order to protect myself, I wrote a note in your name, signed and sealed with your seal. In it, I had you ask for the money, and promised kind treatment for the Jews of Prague if no one found out about this transaction. At the same time, the note threatened that if Enoch betrayed the secret to any person in the world, the entire ghetto would be severely punished. Not satisfied with the note, I had Enoch swear personally by his G-d and his honor to guard the secret as his life, for the sake of your reputation and political career.”
“When you questioned us, I advised you to have all Jewish stores and homes searched, because I knew your soldiers would recover the brocade curtains. I knew that you would not play long with the Jewish merchant in whose possession they were found, and that I could count on Enoch not to break his word of honor under any circumstances. Thus, both you and I would be helped. I almost succeeded. But during this past night I had a terrifying vision. After hours of trying vainly to quiet my guilty conscience, I fell asleep. In my dream the famous leader of the ghetto whom they called the Chief Rabbi Loew, who died several years ago, appeared to me. He was accompanied by that terrifying monster of clay, the Golem, feared by all the citizens of Prague. No one who dared to accuse an innocent Jew of a crime ever lived to escape the Golem’s crushing fingers. The voice of the old rabbi said quietly: “You had better tell the truth tomorrow!”
“Shaken by fever and fear I could hardly wait for the dawn of the morning, and for the hour when you had the Jew brought before you, to confess my guilt in public.”
As he spoke, the chamberlain’s hands were constantly fumbling with the collar of his coat at his throat, as if to free himself from someone’s clutches. After he had finished the tale of his shameful deceit, he fainted and slid to the ground before the governor and the members of the gathered court, terror written all over his lifeless face and figure.
Enoch Altschul was at once freed from his chains and the soldiers dispersed the waiting mob instead of leading it to attack the ghetto, as had been their original purpose.
In commemoration of this miraculous turn of events, Enoch Altschul asked his people to celebrate “Purim of the Curtains” every twenty-second day of Tevet, the date when this incident took place. For more than one hundred years the Altschul family, and with them the entire Jewish community of Prague, observed this celebration faithfully, and commemorated their salvation from the accusation of stealing the famous gold brocade curtains from the palace of the governor of Bohemia.
Purim Chevron
Among the special "Purims" which are celebrated by certain Jewish communities on certain days of the year, to commemorate some miracle, there is also a special "Purim" which the Sephardic Jews of Chevron used to celebrate on the fourteenth day of Teves. The historic details of this happening are hidden in the mists of the remote past. Our story is based on that event.
Many, many years ago the old city of Chevron was inhabited by a community of Sephardic Jews who had been driven out of Spain and other Christian lands where Jews were cruelly oppressed.
One day two venerable Jews arrived in Chevron from Jerusalem, for the purpose of collecting money for "Pidyon Shvuim" (obtaining release of Jews from Slave traders).
The two emissaries met with the heads of the community and explained their important mission, namely, to collect not less than five thousand piasters from the Chevron community, for their lifesaving endeavor.
The heads of the community knew that, with a vigorous effort, they could manage to raise the required sum, but they claimed that "Charity begins at home," and they had to meet the needs of their own poor people first. So they "bargained" with the emissaries who insisted, however, that nothing less than the five thousand piasters would be acceptable. And if the Chevron community refused, or were unable to raise the required sum, the Almighty would show them where the necessary help would be available, and the Chevron Jews would lose the great merit of "Pidyon Shvuim" saving Jewish souls.
The arguments and entreaties of the emissaries proved in vain, and they left empty-handed.
Now a new Pasha came into power as ruler over Chevron, and he was a Jew-hater. He lost no time in introducing new edicts against the Jewish community, draining them of their hard earned money. At first he began in a moderate manner, but very soon tired of this slow process, and looked for some way in which he could make a clean sweep and cash in all that the Jews possessed.
The Pasha was an educated man who mastered several languages in addition to Arabic which was his native tongue. He read in history books, accounts of how Christian rulers treated the Jews in their lands, and learned that, in some cases, they threw rabbis and Jewish leaders into prison until such time as their Jewish communities would ransom them for huge sums of money. Some Christian rulers, he found, even went to the extent of driving the Jews out of their country; robbing them of all their possessions.
This latter possibility appealed greatly to this Jew hating Pasha. He quickly issued a call to the rabbis and leaders of the Chevron Jewish community and told them that he had put a tax on them, in the sum of fifty thousand piasters which must be paid within the month. Failing which, the Jewish leaders would have to pay with their lives, and the rest of the Jews would be sold as slaves! And, to make sure that the leaders would not run away, a few of them were immediately arrested and put in chains.
The Pasha then sent the others home, warning them that they had better start at once to raise the demanded fifty thousand piasters. The entreaties of the rabbis and leaders that it was impossible for them, and in so short a time, to produce such a vast sum, fell on the deaf ears and stony heart of the cruel Pasha, and they left in great despair.
The heads of the Jewish community now realized that they were being punished by G-d for having refused to find the five thousand piasters asked of them by the emissaries from Jerusalem, to save Jews from being sold as slaves. And now they were being taxed tenfold by the cruel Pasha.
The rabbis immediately decreed that the Jewish community must fast and pray to the Almighty for salvation from their desperate situation. At the same time they decided to send a "Pidyon" (literally, "ransom," but in this case, an appeal) to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were buried in the Cave of Machpelah which is situated in Chevron, to pray to the Almighty on their behalf and intercede for their children in their desperate hour of need.
The rabbis first went to the Mikveh, and having purified and sanctified themselves, they wrote out their appeal to the Patriarchs on clean parchment, the same as is used for the holy Torah scrolls.
The problem, then, was the matter of the delivery of their appeal. How could it reach the holy Patriarchs? The Cave of Machpelah was then in Arab hands. The Moslems had built a house of worship above the cave, and Jews were not allowed to visit the holy graves. The Jews were only allowed to ascend a few steps of the building and pray to their holy ancestors from the distance. And even for this "privilege" they had to pay the guard.
The only way they could think of was to bribe the guard, that he should throw the "Pidyon" into the cave, the entrance of which was sealed, so that even he could not enter it. This, they knew. But they also knew that there was a kind of "window" there through which it would be possible to throw in the "Pidyon." For a sizeable bribe the guard agreed to do them this "favor," and swore "by the beard of his prophet," that he would attend to the matter without delay.
The night before the due date for payment, the Pasha could not sleep; his mind was full of the thought of all the money he would be getting from the Jews. The moon was full, and the following day he hoped his coffers, would be equally full. The money greedy Pasha kept his treasures in an iron safe in his bedroom. Whenever he had a sleepless night he would open this safe and take out a bag of gold coins and count them with great satisfaction. This night, too, being unable to fall asleep, he went to his iron safe and took out a large bag of money and began to count the glittering, golden coins. It totaled fifty thousand piasters exactly, and he gleefully thought that the next day he would be receiving exactly the same amount from the Jewish community.
With a happy smile he returned the bag to the safe, put the key of the safe under his pillow, and fell blissfully asleep.
Suddenly, he was startled to see three old men in his room. "Give us the bag with the fifty thousand piasters if you value your life," they demanded. In fear and trembling he got the bag of money and handed it over to them. And, as suddenly as they appeared, they vanished as if into thin air.
The Pasha awoke in a cold sweat. What a terrible nightmare! He at once put his hand under his pillow and was reassured to find the key just where he had left it, so, with a sigh of relief, he went back to sleep.
The following morning the Pasha awoke and completely forgot about his nightmare of the previous night. He did not forget, however, that this was the day when he would be receiving the fifty thousand piasters from the Chevron Jews.
The previous night had also been a sleepless night for all the Jews of Chevron. They had assembled in the Bais Hamidrash. They prayed with all their hearts that G-d would save them, as "the hour of reckoning" had come.
Early the following morning the Pasha, accompanied by his soldiers, arrived at the Beth Hamidrash. They began banging on the door, crying: "Open the door for the Pasha!"
As the Shamash walked with faltering steps towards the door and was about to open it, he gazed with unbelieving eyes at a strange bag which lay in the basin in which the congregants washed their hands on entering the Beth Hamidrash. He could hardly lift the heavy bag which he quickly handed to the head of the community. With unbelieving eyes they saw its precious contents.
The Shamash rushed back to open the door for the Pasha and his soldiers.
"I have come for the fifty thousand piasters which are due today," the Pasha demanded.
"Here is your money," said the president of the community, handing over the bag to the Pasha.
The Pasha looked at the bag of money and could hardly believe the evidence of his eyes.
"Why, this is indeed my bag of gold!" he cried out in a shaky voice, his face turning pale. "How did it get to you?" But he did not wait for a reply. He knew the answer from his dream. Slowly, he began: "I will tell you how you got the money. Your holy Fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob rose from their graves in the Cave of Machpelah and brought it to you. I saw them in my dream. The Guardian of Israel does not sleep, and I beg you now to forgive me for my evil intentions. Pray for me and I promise I will never again attempt to do you harm in any way."
So, as this particular miracle took place on the fourteenth day of Teves, when the Jews of Chevron were saved from a dreadful catastrophe, they took upon themselves to celebrate every fourteenth day of Teves as their "Purim," which came to be known as "Window Purim" in remembrance of the "window" in the Cave of Machpelah which had brought them the miraculous salvation.
(Note: Now that the Cave of Machpelah has been freed from the Arabs, and Jews can enter the building above the cave, it is possible, still, to see the "window" in the first room where the tombstone of Isaac and Rebecca are on view. The grated "window" marks the sealed entrance to the Cave, and Jews can now pray there during specific days throughout the year.).
And now for the sponsorships for Toras Purim Deluxe. Oh, I forgot to tell you why this is Toras Purim not deluxe. Truth be told, after aleh shikrus viholilus visichlus diksavis, I can’t even remember the difference between Baruch Haman and Arur Mordechai or something like that. Anyway, this year’s Toras Purim Deluxe was sponsored by the gracious and generous, humble and worthy Man of Purim (huh?) Reb Ephraim Rich from Oak Park, MI (where?) and Binei Veiso Uvnei Veiso Vichiper Baado Uviad Beiso Vichol Mishpachto Viyiraso Laasos Ritzono, Ritzon Ish Vaish, Gam Ishto Hamalka asesah kidivrei Hamelech Ephraim, Vinadvah Bikiflaim, Lanu UliYotzei Mitzrayim, VaHaShem yitein lahem ulizaram vichol zareinu vitzeetzaeinu, Ulichol Ameinu Yisroel, Asher Yeshno Poh, Nes Gadol Hayah Sham Vipoh, Vaeifen Koh Vachoh, Ten Lechacham Viyechkam Od, Vayifru Vayirbu Meod, Vayifru milashon Purim, Vayirbu milashon Arbis, vimi shemavin es zeh, ladaas mah zeh vial mah zeh, gam mizeh al tanach yadav, vihi imo Elokav, Chaim shaal, yikra el hashamayim meial, vilo yipol, vilo alav yihyeh hagoral, rak al Haman haarur, vial Amalek habur, sheyimach min haaretz, vilo yiskayeim aitzel ben Peretz.
And now for our other sponsor, Reb Chaim Tzvi Greenstein and family from Southfield, MI. Short, simple, and to the point. Thanks. Ok, a little embellishment is allowed. Todah lahem, vigam libneihem, bichag Pureinu, Vihu Yigaleinu, MaiAchmajenad biyameinu, Viyahrog es soneinu, viyapil goraleinu, al chelkas tzavareinu, halo hu Bais Mikdasheinu, Machmadeinu, (Not Machmud) viSifarteinu, Bimheira viyameinu. Amen Kein Yehi Ratzon.
And before we forget, all those who donated Biilum Sheim, from Eilam Hamedinah, you know, whoever!
So please do chazarah on The Purim Torah, and bizchusah, we will see the end of the reign of the Chazirah, viyaalu LiTziyon Moshiim, viYachzir lanu HaNeviim, vichochom odif minavi, mi yikimenu chilavi, viyisnasa chiari, yavo ish ben Partzi, simchi visisi, yimche Agagi, agil viesmach bilvavi, birosi mapalas oyvi, viyarum karni, biyavo Mishichi, bimheira yachish, al yidei aniyos Tarshish, HaShem Hu HaIsh, sheyavi ben layish, vinagil vinismach, kisheAmalek yimach, viyivneh Ariel, Yagel Yaakov Yismach Yisroel, bimheira acshav, now, yetzt, in unzere tzeit, vinomar liChayim, BiYerushalayim, yasher koach Reb Ephraim, Reb Chaim (Tzvi) and aleh Yidden A Freilechen Purim, A ganzt Yohr Purim, LiChayim, LiChayim, Lichayei Olam Hazeh uliChaye Olam Haba, Lishana Habaah, BiYerushalayim shel Matah, viYerushalayim Shel Maalah.
Limaalah Limaalah visagbiah karneinu limaalah, away we go. Bye now. Zei gezuent. Zei Mochel Zei Shiker. Shkoiach!? !? !? !? !? !? !? !? !? !? !? !?
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Terumah 5770

שבת טעם החיים תרומה תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Terumah 5770

The Aron carries us

ועשית את הבדים עצי שטים וצפית אתם זהב ונשא בם את השלחן, you shall make the staves of acacia wood and cover them with gold, and the Table shall be carried through them. (Exodus 25:28)
In this week’s parasha we learn about the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The focus of the Tabernacle was the Aron, the Ark which contained the two tablets that Moshe brought down with him from Sinai. The Sages teach us that the Aron had a miraculous characteristic in that it carried those who carried it. This idea is derived from a subtle discrepancy between the Torah’s description of the staves that were placed in the Aron and the staves that were placed in the Shulchan, the Table.
Concerning the Aron it is said (Shemos 25:13-14) you shall make staves of acacia wood and cover them with gold; and insert the staves in the rings on the sides of the Ark, with which to carry the Ark. Regarding the Shulchan, however, it is said (Ibid verse 28) you shall make the staves of acacia wood and cover them with gold, and the Table shall be carried through them. Why does the Torah write that the staves of the Aron are “with which to carry it,” implying that the Aron would not necessarily be carried, whereas regarding the Shulchan the Torah states “and the Table shall be carried through them,” indicating that the Shulchan would be carried?
Cast upon HaShem your burden and He will sustain you!
Rabbi Yaakov Kranz (1740-1804), the famed itinerant lecturer known as the Maggid of Dubna, derives a valuable lesson from this unique feature of the Aron. He presented the following parable during one of his inspirational talks at a community synagogue. A man was once walking along a dirt road, practically dragging his feet while carrying a heavy load on his shoulder. To his great fortune, a wealthy Jew passed by in a wagon and was kind enough to offer him a ride. The exhausted hiker graciously accepted, climbed aboard, and quickly sat down, bringing much needed rest to his weary feet. Surprisingly, he kept the heavy sack he was carrying perched upon his shoulders. “Reb Yid,” said the wagon owner, “why do you not put down your load?”
“I would not want to be even more trouble to you,” the man responded. “You were kind enough to have taken me aboard! I wouldn’t want to burden your horses with the additional weight of my sack?”
The wealthy man was bewildered by the man’s response. “Even if you carry the load, my horses are still carrying you and your packages! You are not accomplishing anything by carrying the load on your shoulders. Throw them down and let my horses do the work!”
The audience, which was laughing at the traveler’s, quickly quieted down as the Dubner Maggid looked at them sternly, and asked, “Are we really so different than this traveler? Dovid HaMelech says ‘Throw your load onto HaShem and He will take care of you.’ (Tehillim 55:23) We need to realize that HaShem carries us – and doesn’t need our help. We need to be more aware of how much He does to provide for us.
The Aron carried those who carried it
Regarding the Aron it is said “with which to carry it.” There are instances in the Torah when the Hebrew letter lamed at the beginning of a word is interpreted to mean that the action was attempted but was not accomplished. It is said (Shemos 7:24) vayachpiru chol Mitzrayim sevivos hayeor mayim lishtos ki lo yachlu lishtos mimei hayeor, all of the Egyptians dug roundabout the River for water to drink, for they could not drink from the waters of the River. There is a disagreement in the Midrash as to which waters were plagued. Rabbi Yehudah maintains that only the water that was above the surface was plagued, whereas the waters that were below the surface were not affected. Rabbi Nechemia, however, maintains that the waters below the surface were also plagued. The Malbim writes that their dispute is based on a similar dispute regarding the use of the letter lamed. Rabbi Yehudah would hold that the lamed of the word lishtos, to drink, means that they actually were able to discover water as the waters below the surface were not plagued. Rabbi Nechemia, however, maintains that the Egyptians only attempted to drink, but they were not able to, as the waters below the surface were also plagued. In a similar vein we can explain that the staves were placed on the side of the Aron to carry it but they did not actually function in that capacity. Rather, the Aron carried and sustained the people. Those who acknowledge HaShem as their sole provider reflect the Talmudic dictum that the Aron carried those that carried it (Sota 35a). The Shulchan, however, represents people who feel the need to constantly carry their loads with them. Thus, regarding the Shulchan it is said “and the Table shall be carried through them,” implying that that people actually carried the Shulchan.
Our responsibility and HaShem provides for us
In our lives, we are faced with finding the right balance between working to earn a livelihood and recognizing that it is HaShem Who is really carrying our burden. At times we mistakenly believe that we are the ones who must carry the burden. The message of the Aron carrying itself reminds us that, while we have the responsibility of carrying the burden, it is ultimately HaShem Who provides for our welfare.
The Shabbos connection
The entire week we are primarily focused on the Shulchan dimension of our lives, i.e. earning a livelihood. Regarding Shabbos, however, the Medrash (Tanna Divie Eliyahu) states that one should make Shabbos entirely Torah. Thus, with the onset of Shabbos, one should cast his burden upon HaShem. Regarding Shabbos expenditures the Gemara (Beitzah 15b) states livu alay vaani poreia. The literal translation of this statement is that HaShem exhorts us to borrow against Him and He will pay back. Based on the idea that on Shabbos one should be totally preoccupied with spiritual pursuits, we can interpret the statement of the Gemara to mean livu alay, attach yourself to Me, vaani poreia, and I will reveal Myself to you (the word paruah means to reveal). HaShem should allow us to place our trust in Him alone and we can then be certain that He will provide for us.
Shabbos Stories
Biscuits from Gan Eden
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Reb Dovid of Lelov, a student of the Seer of Lublin, once came to Zelin to visit his friend Rabbi Dovid of Zelin. Hearing that the rabbi of Lelov was visiting him, the Zeliner Rebbe beseeched his wife to bake something special. Alas, the poverty of the couple was dire, and the poor Rebbitzen only had some flour and oil, which she made into biscuits.
Upon his first bite, the Rebbe exclaimed in earnest, "These cakes are truly exceptional!"
Knowing the source, the Rebbitzen dismissed the compliments of the bland and meager cakes as an appreciation of the effort. Weeks later, the Rebbitzen of Lelov met the Rebbitzen of Zelin. "You must tell me how you made those biscuits that you served my husband. I have never heard him get excited about food before, yet he did not stop praising the biscuits he ate in your home!"
The Zelin Rebbitzen answered meekly. "There was no recipe. When I heard that the Tzaddik of Lelov was coming I realized that I had nothing to serve. HaShem knows that had I the means I would have made him a feast. But, alas, I could not. So I asked him to bestow His great goodness and the flavor of Gan Eden in the biscuits!" "Your prayers were answered," said the Rebbitzen of Lelov. "He said that they had the taste of Gan Eden!"
“These are our children!”
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: During World War II many young Jewish children were harbored by a myriad of monasteries throughout Europe. At the end of the war, the Vaad Hatzalah sent representatives to the monasteries to try and reclaim the orphaned children to their heritage. Many of the children who found refuge did so at a young age and they had but a few recollections of their birthright.
When Rabbi Eliezer Silver, who was the Rabbi of Cincinnati, Ohio and a very influential member of the Vaad, came to a particular hermitage in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, he was met with hostility. "You can be sure, Rabbi, if we had Jews here we would surely hand them back to you immediately!" exclaimed the monk in charge. "However, unfortunately for you, we have no Jewish children here."
Rabbi Silver was given a list of refugees and was told that they were all Germans. The monk continued, "the Schwartzs are German Schwartzs, the Schindler's are German Schindlers and the Schwimmers are German Schwimmers."
Rabbi Silver had been told that there were definitely close to ten Jewish children in that hermitage and was not convinced. He asked if he could say a few words to the children as they went to sleep. The monk agreed. Rabbi Silver returned later that evening with two aides, and as the children were lying in their beds about to go to sleep, they entered the large dorm room.
He walked into the room and in the sing-song that is so familiar to hundreds of thousands of Jewish children across the globe he began to sing "Shema Yisrael Ado..." unexpectedly -- in mid sentence -- he stopped. Suddenly from six beds in the room the ending to that most powerful verse resounded almost in unison. "HaShem Echad!"
He turned to the priest. "These are our children. We will take them now!"
The children were redeemed, placed in Jewish homes, and raised as leaders of our community.
A letter of admission is always here for you
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: On a visit to Congregation Toras Chaim of Hewlett, NY, Rabbi Paysach Krohn told a wonderful story. Ponovez Yeshiva in Bnai Berak is one of the most distinguished Yeshivos in the world. A number of years ago, at the beginning of a semester, a young boy from Switzerland who applied there was denied entry. The Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) told him to come back in a few years, his level of study was not advanced enough for the Yeshiva, and he also was a bit too young.
The boy said he understood, but he wanted to speak to the Rebbitzen, the widow of the founder and late Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovez, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahanamen, of blessed memory. The Yeshiva administration was a bit surprised: Rav Kahanamen had passed away a number of years prior, and the young man did not claim to know the Rebbitzen. More important, she had no role in the admission process. Nevertheless, the young man was shown the Rebbitzen's apartment.
After a few moments, the boy emerged, and the Rebbitzen asked to speak with the Rosh Yeshiva. It took less than a few minutes, for the Rosh Yeshiva to emerge and motion the young student waiting outside of the Rebbitzen's apartment.
"Welcome to Ponevezer Yeshiva," the Rosh Yeshiva heartily declared. "We have decided to accept you wholeheartedly."
The boy smiled while many of the students and others who gathered outside the apartment were baffled. "What could have influenced the decision?" they wondered.
The young man solved the mystery for the students who had gathered near the Rebbitzen's apartment.
"When I was seven years old, one summer my mother and I vacationed at a Swiss mountain resort."
Coincidentally, the Ponovezer Rav zt”l was in Switzerland for the summer and checked in to the only kosher hotel in the area - the one we were at! The problem was, the only available room was on the upper floor, and it was hard for the Rav to walk up and down. My mother heard about the problem and immediately offered to switch our room on the first floor, with his.
After thanking her profusely, the Rav called my mother and me into his new room. "I want to thank you, Mrs. Schwartz," he said. "I understand that when on vacation it is hard to move rooms, but more so I also want to express appreciation to your son. I'd like to buy him a toy in a gift shop. What would he like?"
"I told the Rav that I did not want a toy, I did not want any prize. I did not even want a few coins. All I wanted is to become a student one day in the Ponovez Yeshiva. The Rav smiled and said that he would accept me whenever I felt I was ready. Immediately, the Rav took out a pen and paper and wrote the note that I handed to the Rebbitzen today. Frankly, I never even read it. All I know is that the vision of my youth was fulfilled today." (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Terumah 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Mishpatim 5770

שבת טעם החיים משפטים תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Mishpatim 5770

Shabbos and any form of Idolatry

ששת ימים תעשה מעשיך וביום השביעי תשבות למען ינוח שורך וחמרך וינפש בן אמתך והגר, six days shall you accomplish your activities, and on the seventh day you shall desist, so that your ox and donkey may be content and your maidservant’s son and the sojourner may be refreshed. (Shemos 23:12)
What comes to mind when one thinks of idolatry? Ancient rites, paganism, and the like. In this week’s parasha it is said (Shemos 23:12-13) sheishes yamim taaseh maasecho uvayom hashevii tishbos limaan yanuach shorecho vachamorecho viyanafeish ben amasecho vihageir uvichol asher amarti aleichem tishameiru visheim elohim acheirim lo sazkiru lo yishama al picho, six days shall you accomplish your activities, and on the seventh day you shall desist, so that your ox and donkey may be content and your maidservant’s son and the sojourner may be refreshed. Be carefully regarding everything I have said to you. The name of strange gods you shall not mention, nor shall your mouth cause it to be heard. Why does the Torah juxtapose the commandment of resting on Shabbos to the exhortation of not mentioning the name of strange gods? Furthermore, how are we in modern times supposed to relate to the Torah’s numerous warnings against idolatry, when the Gemara (Yoma 69b) states explicitly that the members of the Anshei Kenesses HaGedolah, the Great Assembly, nullified the desire for idolatry?
The force of estrangement
While we are certainly not witnesses to actual idolatry in our surroundings, there is a form of idolatry that constantly permeates every person’s life. It is said (Vayikra ) 19:4) al tifnu el haelilim veilohei maseicha lo saasu lachem ani HaShem Elokeichem, do not turn to the idols, and molten gods shall you not make for yourselves – I am HaShem your G-d. The Gemara (Shabbos 149a and see Rashi ad loc) interprets the words al tifnu el to mean al tifnu Keil midatchem, do not turn G-d from your consciousness. This means that one must always be contemplating the existence of HaShem in His life. One who deliberately removes his focus from HaShem has in a sense committed idolatry.
Shabbos and idolatry are paradoxical
Despite all the excuses that some people may have for following in the ways of the gentiles, it would seem that one who purposely attends sporting events and the parties that accompany these events are capitulating to the el zar, force of estrangement, that exist in the world. While it is not our position to rebuke or chastise, it is worth noting that our observance of Shabbos is commensurate with our separation from the gentiles. The words from the Shabbos Shacharis prayer bear out this message. We recite the words vilo nisato HaShem Elokeinu ligoyei haaratzos vilo hinchalto malkeinu liovdei fisilim vigam bimnuchaso lo yishkenu areilim ki liYisroel amchah nisato beahavah lizera Yaakov asher bam bacharta, You did not give it, HaShem, our G-d, to the nations of the lands, nor did you make it the inheritance, our King, of the worshippers of graven idols. And in its contentment the uncircumcised shall not abide. For to Israel, Your people, have you given it in love, to the seed of Yaakov, whom You have chosen. The words vilo hinchalto malkeinu liovdei fisilim, [You did not give it, HaShem, our G-d, to the nations of the lands,] nor did you make it the inheritance, our King, of the worshippers of graven idols, is a clear indication that Shabbos and idolatry are paradoxical ideas. One who wishes to observe Shabbos properly must distance himself from any form of idolatry. This applies even in modern times, as following ones desires which are contradictory to HaShem and His Torah constitutes a form of idolatry. We can now better understand why the Torah juxtaposes the commandment to observe the Shabbos next to the exhortation of not mentioning the name of strange gods. The mere mention of foreign entities is considered to be a form of idolatry. It is for this reason that the Torah constantly exhorts us to distance ourselves from any form of idolatry.
The Shabbos connection
The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states that even one who worshipped idols like the generation of Enosh, if he observes the Shabbos properly, he will be granted atonement for his sins. Here too we see the direct correlation to the observance of Shabbos and the gravity of idol worship. Thus, we must remove any trace of idolatry from our midst, and this includes any unnecessary contact with the outside world for the purpose of materialistic pleasure. Additionally, one who heaven forbid stumbled and was caught in the net of the Evil Inclination, succumbing to mingling with the gentiles, can redeem himself by properly observing the Holy Shabbos. HaShem should grant us the will in our hearts to repent from any actions that we may have inadvertently committed. In the merit of the Holy Shabbos, HaShem should grant us atonement and bring us the long waited redemption, with the arrival of Mashiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
Defying nature
When the cemetery in Kovno was emptied, the Chevra Kadisha found two bodies that were untouched by time; the bodies of the Kovno Rav, zt”l; and that of a Jewish soldier upon whose tombstone was engraved, "Here lies the kosher/proper Jewish soldier." These were the two bodies that had defied the natural process of decomposition. What merit catalyzed this miracle? It is told that this soldier, who was conscripted into the Polish army, absolutely refused to eat non-kosher food. He would not eat the army's rations, sustaining himself on vegetables alone. One day a group of anti-Semitic soldiers decided to force the Jewish soldier to eat non-kosher food. They grabbed him and poured hot soup down his throat. The Jewish soldier absolutely refused to swallow the soup and choked. This exceptional act of self-sacrifice for kashrus, to maintain the purity of his soul, earned him that his body, his soul's earthly receptacle, was not affected by nature.

Tears for the candlesticks
Nachlas Tzvi cites a number of "Tzedakah stories," episodes in the lives of great people, in which their devotion to share their own material possessions with others less fortunate than they, earned them remarkable reward from the Almighty. Horav Moshe Ravkash, zt”l, the author of the Beer HaGolah would weep when he would see his wife's candlesticks. A very poignant story informs us of the reason for this expression of emotion. It was during the fury of the Cossacks that the Jews of Vilna were bracing themselves for the vicious onslaught of these sub-humans. Whoever could gather his few possessions loaded them on a wagon and ran. The majority of the community, regrettably, did not believe that the danger was imminent, so they did not escape. A few of the great Torah scholars of that generation did, in fact, escape to freedom. Among them were the Shach, the Shaar Ephraim and the Beer HaGolah. Rav Moshe Ravkash, being an extremely wealthy man, tarried as long as he could, to enable himself to bury his money and gold and silver utensils. Luckily, he succeeded in hiding his material possessions and his wife's jewelry. A displaced person, Rav Ravkash trekked from community to community in search of a place where he could go on with his life. His wandering led him to Amsterdam. At that time, the city of Amsterdam had a thriving Sephardic Jewish community. These Jews of Middle-Eastern descent embraced the Ashkenazi gaon, scholar, with open arms. This wealthy community saw to it that he was financially remunerated in accordance with his distinguished scholarship. He remained there until the Cossacks were driven back, and it was safe to return home.
He located his hidden treasures, but he was unable to make personal use of them, since the community was in dire need. The Jews who had survived, and those who had returned, were left virtually penniless. Rav Moshe disbursed all of his money and even sold his jewelry to sustain the Jewish community. His wife, observing that he was selling all of their material possessions, even her jewelry, hid her silver candlesticks out of concern for their own financial predicament, so that her "giving" husband would not also give these away. After awhile, when the financial situation seemed to improve, she divulged to her husband that she had hidden their candlesticks. When Rav Moshe saw the candlesticks, understanding that his wife had concealed them so that they would have some funds with which to sustain themselves, he sighed heavily. He exclaimed, "How many poor people could have been supported by these candlesticks!" This is why he cried. Indeed, it is tears such as those that HaShem scoops up and saves.
Torah or charity?
When a poor man comes to the door requesting assistance, he certainly needs a comforting word, some sound advice, even a nice Torah thought. We often forget, however, that he is there for one purpose: to raise sorely needed funds for himself and his family. His time is limited, and his needs are great. The Dubna Maggid once went on a fundraising mission. He came to the home of a distinguished scholar who was also quite wealthy. The wealthy man was honored to have someone of the Maggid's stature visit him, and he reciprocated this honor. Prior to asking for a contribution, the Maggid began with a scholarly discourse on the laws of Tzedakah, charity. The man was reasonably impressed, adding his own erudite exegesis. This went on for awhile. Every time the Maggid gave a Torah thought, the man reciprocated. The Maggid noted that while they were having a lively scholarly discussion, the purpose of his visit had not been fulfilled. He still had no money.
The Maggid looked at his wealthy host and said, " Let me share a story with you. In one of the far-off countries, there is a community where the people had never seen an onion. One day a traveler came to this community and brought with him an onion. The people were very excited with this wonderful find and thanked him profusely. They showered him with gifts and money when he left to continue his travels. They took the onion and planted it. Soon, they were able to harvest many onions. Word spread that this community had handsomely rewarded the wanderer that had introduced them to onions. Soon, afterwards, another traveler looking to secure some sorely needed funds arrived in this community with poppy seeds. The people were overjoyed with this new gift. They realized that they must offer remuneration for the poppy seeds. What would be the most worthy gift to give the traveler? Nothing less than their most valued commodity: onions! They decided to pay their new supplier with onions. We can only imagine what he told them. "I did not come here for onions; I came for money."
"Likewise, my dear host, while I greatly appreciate the brilliant Torah thoughts that you have shared with me, I have come here, however, for something else: money. Does not the Torah say that one must give the poor man 'that which is lacking for him'? I lack money."
A child for a piece of a chicken
A poor woman once knocked on the door of the home of a very special Torah scholar, a kollel-fellow who devoted himself to Torah study to the full extent of the word. It was a very special home - but, alas, a very poor one. The couple had been blessed with fourteen children. Obviously, money - and even food - was at a premium at this house. Answering the woman's knock was the kollel fellow himself. "I need a piece of chicken," cried the woman. "I am terribly sorry, my dear woman, but I cannot help you. I have two chickens in the refrigerator which I have put away for the upcoming Yom Tov, so that my family can enjoy the festival with a small piece of meat as prescribed by Halacha. This is all we have for the entire family." "Please, I am begging you, I have not had a piece of meat in such a long time. I crave a small piece of chicken," she implored. A few moments passed and the young man decided this woman's health was certainly more important than his children's Simchas Yom Tov, celebrating the festival amid joy. If she was so obsessed with eating a piece of chicken that she would beg him so profusely, then she should get it. "Ok, I am going to give you a piece of chicken," he said as he left her to go to the refrigerator for a piece of chicken.
Suddenly, there came forth a heart-rending shriek from the kitchen, as the young man opened the refrigerator door and beheld the most bone-chilling, shocking sight. His three-year old son had somehow gotten into the refrigerator and was trapped inside. His lips were already blue; his skin the pallor of death; his breathing shallow and labored - but, he was still alive! A miracle! Hatzalah, the emergency rescue team, was immediately summoned. They began to resuscitate the child, as they hurriedly transported him to the hospital. With the help of the Almighty, they succeeded in saving his life. All because of a piece of chicken. The gesture of giving Tzedakah, going out of his way to help a woman in need, saved the life of his child. We do not need proof to substantiate Chazal's dictum, "Tzedakah tatzil mimaves, charity saves (one) from death," but such an incident is encouraging and gives one hope. We also derive from here another important lesson: One never loses by performing a mitzvah. To paraphrase Horav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, "You gave away a quarter of a chicken; you received a child as a gift." (
A hook for every Jew
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: R’ Mendel Futerfas was a fiery chassid and the spiritual director of a yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael. He used to say that from everything he heard and saw in the six years he was in Siberia, he tried to learn a lesson in serving HaShem.
One prisoner used to relate that he had been a deep-sea diver in the Czar’s navy, now imprisoned by the Communists. His story went as follows: “It occasionally happened that one of the ships of the Czar’s navy would sink, sometimes because of a storm at sea, or because it struck a rock, or sometimes in battle.
“Ships are worth a lot of money; just the metal and the equipment alone were often worth millions. So the navy developed a means to lift the ship from the ocean floor so it could be towed to shore and fixed, or at least partially salvaged. That’s where I came in.
“They would situate two towing-ships on the sea above the location of the sunken ship. Each ship would lower a long, thick chain with a huge hook on the end, and I would dive down, attach one hook to the front, and the other to the rear of the sunken ship. Then the towing-ships would reel in their chains, lift the sunken ship from the ocean floor, and tow it to shore.
“This was all fine when the sunken ship had been under water for less than a month. But after that the ship began to rust, and the hooks would bring up only huge chunks of iron, leaving the rest of the ship behind. So someone developed a brilliant idea. Instead of lowering just one chain, the tugboats would spread a huge, hollow, rubber mat with thick rubber walls over the place where the sunken ship lay. Inside the entire length of the mat was a large flat sheet of steel with several hundred steel ropes attached to it. The ropes ran though special airtight holes in the lower rubber wall in a way that no water could get in and no air would escape. At the end of each dangling rope was a hook.
“My job was to go down with a few other divers, lower the mat, spread it over the sunken ship, and attach the hooks to as many places as possible. A motor on one of the two tugboats would pump air into the mat and slowly inflate it. It began to pull upwards until— suddenly—the entire ship lifted at once and could be towed to dry land.”
“You know how I understand the story?” said Rav Mendel. “The sunken ship is the Jewish people—rusty and falling apart from almost two thousand years of exile. We are the deep-sea divers. We have to try our best to attach a hook to every single Jew. When enough hooks are attached… HaShem will pull us all up together!” (

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Mishpatim 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and a Good Chodesh
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Yisro 5770

שבת טעם החיים יתרו תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Yisro 5770

The Ten Commandments, Shabbos and Torah

זכור את יום השבת לקדשו, remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it (Shemos 20:8)
In this weeks parasha the Torah records the giving of the Torah, or more specifically, the Ten Commandments. The Gemara (Shabbos 86b) states that all opinions concur that the Torah was given on Shabbos. What significance is there in this statement? Does it make a difference to us today when the Torah was given? Had the Torah been given on the fourth day of the week, would we be lacking something? Let us understand the association of the Torah, the Ten Commandments and Shabbos.
The Torah expounds on Shabbos in the Ten Commandments
When we examine the wording of the Ten Commandments, we will notice that the Torah is brief regarding most of the commandments. The only commandment that the Torah elaborates on is the commandments to remember the Shabbos. What is it about Shabbos that necessitated a lengthy instruction?
Shabbos was not erased from the Luchos
The Pinei Menachem writes that although Moshe broke the Luchos upon witnessing the Jewish People worshipping the Golden Calf, Shabbos was not erased from the Luchos. It is noteworthy that in the Shacharis prayer of Shabbos, we recite the words yismach Moshe bematnas chelko ki eved neeman karasa lo kelil tiferes birosho nasata lo biamado lefeonecho al har Sinai ushnei luchos avanim horid beyado vichasuv bahem shemiras Shabbos vichein kasuv bisorasecho, Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion: that You called him a faithful servant. A crown of splendor You placed on his head when he stood before You on Mount Sinai. He brought down two stone tablets in his hand, on which is inscribed the observance of the Shabbos. So it is written in Your Torah… The simple meaning of this passage is that Moshe brought down the two tablets on which was inscribed the commandments of observing the Shabbos. On a deeper level, however, we can suggest that this passage alludes to the idea that after Moshe brought down the two tablets, although he subsequently broke them, the words of Shabbos remained forever.

Shabbos and Torah are eternal

Now that we have learned that the words of Shabbos that were inscribed on the tablets remained, we can better understand the statement of the Gemara that all agree that the Torah was given on Shabbos. The Gemara is teaching us that similar to Torah which is eternal, Shabbos by itself is also eternal. While Shabbos is a part of the Torah, it contains its own element of holiness and transcends this world. This is also the explanation for the words that we recite in Birkas HaMazon on Shabbos: may He cause us to inherit the day which will be completely a Shabbos and rest day of eternal life. Shabbos is not merely a day off from the rest of the week. Rather, Shabbos and Torah are unique that they both transcend time and matter.
The Shabbos connection
It is brought in Halacha that one should study novel topics of Torah on Shabbos. This ruling is in line with the idea that we mentioned that all agree that the Torah was given on Shabbos. Shabbos is a day of Torah, and HaShem should allow us to study new topics, introduce new insights in Torah to our families and friends, and merit a holy and peaceful Shabbos.
Shabbos Stories
Baron Rothschild Teaches the Ksav Sofer Peshat in Bikur Cholim
The famous Baron Reb Shimon Wolf Rothschild was a close friend of the Ksav Sofer. When they would spend time in the same spa-town, Baron Rothschild would come to visit the Ksav Sofer every day, to hear Torah from his mouth.
One day Baron Rothschild stayed only briefly and then suddenly got up to leave. The Ksav Sofer asked him why he is cutting his visit so short. He answered that he noticed that the Ksav Sofer was not feeling well. The Gemara in Bava Metzia (30b) says that we learn the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim from a passuk in Yisro (18:20), “ViHodatem Es Haderech Yeilchu Ba,” you should show them to go in the way of the Torah. Chazal say, “'Yeilchu - Zeh Bikur Cholim.” The Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim is learned from the word Yeilchu.

Baron Rothschild continued and said that the message we can learn from this Drasha is that Bikur Cholim does not always necessitate a long visit with the sick person. Sometimes the greatest mitzvah of Bikur Cholim is “Yeilchu” to know when to go. By going you may be doing the Choleh a far bigger favor than by staying.
The Chasam Sofer frequently repeated these words in the name of the Baron. (Shnayim Mikra) (

Lessons Learned When Attending to Gedolim

After R’ Reuven Grozovsky, Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Medrash Elyon, had a stroke he was left paralyzed on the right side of his body. The bochurim in the Yeshiva had a rotation to help the Rosh Yeshiva wash negel vasser, hold his siddur and wrap the Rosh Yeshiva’s Tefillin around his arm and head. To make the task an even greater challenge, the Rosh Yeshiva’s left hand would occasionally shake uncontrollably.

On one particular occasion, a new bachur was assigned the task of helping R’ Reuven, and the bachur was very nervous. He had never really spoken with the Rosh Yeshiva before. When he heard R’ Reuven wake up, the nervous young man quickly walked over to help the Rosh Yeshiva wash negel vasser. Unfortunately, R’ Reuven’s hand suddenly shook and the water missed the Rosh Yeshiva’s hand entirely. The embarrassed bachur tried a second time, but this time he was so nervous that he ended up pouring the water all over the Rosh Yeshiva’s bed and clothing. The bachur now wanted to run, but R’ Reuven was relying upon him. The third time he carefully poured the water over R Grozovsky’s hands, held the siddur while R’ Reuven said birchos hashachar and helped put Tefillin on the Rosh Yeshiva. As the bachur was ready to leave, R’ Reuven called him over and chatted with him for a few moments. The bachur left a few minutes later much calmer than before after this pleasant conversation with the Rosh Yeshiva.

When the bachur retold the story to his friends in the Bais Midrash they couldn’t believe it. As far as anyone knew no one could ever remember the Rosh Yeshiva speaking while he was wearing Tefillin. It became clear to everyone that R’ Reuven had made an exception to the rule in order to be able to put the mind of this young bachur at ease.

Honoring the Opinion of Rabbi Yehudah

The year was 1970. The Admu”r from Sanz was traveling to Meiron, and on the way he and his entourage paused to daven Mincha. The Rebbe suddenly instructed that the group stop at the grave of the Tanna, Rabbi Yehudah bar Ilaei (Rabbi Yehudah in the Mishnah), to daven minchah. Although the site of the monument on his grave was along the road to Meiron, it was surprising that the Sanzer Rebbe be so determined that this be the spot where the group daven that day.

The Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Shmerkler, who was accompanying them on that excursion, noticed the curiosity of those assembled, and he explained. “Fifteen years ago (1955) was the year the Rebbe first visited Eretz Yisroel. As we arrived in the north to spend Shabbos in Tzefas, we passed this spot, and we stopped to daven minchah here, at the grave of Rabbi Yehudah. As we were about to leave, the Rebbe turned to those around him and anguished, ‘Oy vey! What have we done! Rabbi Yehudah is the one who rules that one may only daven minchah until plag minchah, and we just convened a minyan to daven after plag minchah!’
The Rebbe never forgot that oversight, and he often told me to remind him that when we come this way again, we should amend for our insensitivity. This is why we made a special effort to arrive here, and to daven minchah before plag.” (Daf Digest)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Yisro 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.
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To subscribe weekly by email
Please send email to
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