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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