Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770

Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770
הא לחמא עניא, this is the poor man’s bread.
Why do we begin the Hagadah with the word הא? I once saw a commentator write that the word is really הא (with a סגול) which means here. This interpretation is based on the verse that states (Bereishis 47:23) הא לכם זרע, here is seed for you. This is what Yosef told the Egyptians after informing them that he had acquired the people and their land for Pharaoh. Perhaps the idea is that we are alluding to the fact that initially we were like the Egyptians, who were enslaved to Pharaoh. Ultimately, however, HaShem redeemed us from Pharaoh and slavery.
די אכלו אבהתנא בארעא דמצרים, that our forefathers ate in the Land of Egypt
Why do we mention that our forefathers ate the poor man’s bread in Egypt? Would it not have been sufficient to state that the Jewish People ate the poor man’s bread in Egypt? The answer to this question is that the Zohar states that in Egypt the דיבור, the speech of the Jewish People, was in exile. How are we to understand this enigmatic statement? According to one opinion in the Gemara (Brachos 40a) the tree that Adam HaRishon ate from was wheat. The Gemara derives from this that a child does not begin to call “Abba, Imma, father, mother” until he tastes wheat. Thus, we see that prior to consuming wheat, the child is lacking in דעת, knowledge. Furthermore, the Gemara (Nedarim 41a) states that the true poor person is one who is bereft of דעת, knowledge. Thus, the Zohar that states that the דיבור was in exile can be interpreted to mean that the Jewish People did not have the ability and knowledge to call out to their Father in Heaven. The word אוכל, normally translated as eating, also means to consume. Perhaps it is for this reason that we specifically mention our forefathers. This is not referring to our biological father. Rather, this alludes to our Father in Heaven. Thus, the passage can be interpreted as follows: this is the poor man’s, i.e. poor in knowledge, bread, that our forefathers ate, i.e. that our forefathers “consumed” while in Egypt. Simply stated, the Jewish People were lacking in knowledge that would have allowed them to call out to their Father in heaven to redeem them.
כל דכפין ייתי ויכל כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח, all who are hungry come and eat, all that are in need should come and partake in the Korban Pesach
There is a famous question regarding this passage. Why do we extend an invitation to all those who are hungry to come and eat when we are already seated at the Seder? It would seem to be more appropriate to invite people prior to the commencement of Pesach. Furthermore, there is a Halachic difficulty with inviting people to partake in the Korban Pesach if they had not been previously registered for it. Additionally, the context of the Ha Lachma Anya passage indicates that it was said when the Jewish People were in exile and there was no obligation to bring a Korban Pesach. What, then, are we demonstrating by mentioning the Korban Pesach?
Perhaps the answer to these questions can be illustrated by an analogy that I once heard from the Maggid from Binei Brak, Rav Yaakov Galinski, Shlita. A former Russian general was sent to Siberia for his supposed misdeeds. Every night this general would arise and don his army uniform and then proceed to perform the various Russian army salutes. His fellow prisoner was bewildered at his colleague’s behavior. “Boris,” his friend asked, “what are you doing?” Boris replied, “I am remembering the time when I was in the army. I may not be at that status currently, but I wish to remind myself of what I once was.” Similarly, Rav Galinski said, on Yom Kippur we wear white and fast all day to emulate the level we wish to aspire to, which is that of the angels.
The same idea can be applied by the Seder night, when we don the traditional white kittel and exhibit symbols of freedom. While for the moment we may be in exile, we call out to everyone who can hear that if you are hungry, come and eat. Furthermore, we invite people to partake in the Korban Pesach, as if the redemption has just arrived and we are demonstrating our exuberant feelings at having been delivered from the long and painful exile.
השתא הכא לשנה הבאה בארעא דישראל השתא עבדי לשנה הבאה בני חורין, now we are here, next here we should be in the Land of Israel. Now we are slaves, next year we should be free people.
Why do we first ask to be in Eretz Yisroel and only then do we pray that we should be free? Shouldn’t we first ask to be free from the subjugation of the gentiles and from the blandishments of the Evil Inclination and only then beseech HaShem that we return to Eretz Yisroel? The answer to this question can be found later in the hagadah when we recite the words ואלו לא הוציא הקב"ה את אבותינו ממצרים הרי אנו ובנינו ובני בנינו משעבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים, and if HaShem would not have taken us out of Egypt, then we and our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. This passage indicates that it was impossible for us to be free had we not left Egypt. Thus, here we ask HaShem that we leave the Diaspora and return to Eretz Yisroel, and only then can we truly be free. Support for this idea can be found in Bircas HaMazon, where we recite the words נודה לך ה' אלקינו על שהנחלת לאבתינו ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה ועל שהוצאתנו ה' אלקינו מארץ מצרים ופדיתנו מבית עבדים, We first thank HaShem for bringing us to Eretz Yisroel, and only then do we thank HaShem for taking us out of Egypt. The reason for this is because the ultimate goal is to reside in Eretz Yisroel, and as long as we are not dwelling in Eretz Yisroel, we are not considered a truly free people.
מה נשתנה הלילה הזה מכל הלילות, why is this night different from all other nights?
Why do we have the children ask questions? Is this the best form of educating our children regarding the story of the exodus? Would it not be sufficient for us to tell our children the story in an engaging manner, rather than have them pose ready-made questions? To answer this question, we must understand the function of a question. A question is usually a sign that something is troubling the person posing the question. One who is in exile and is not troubled by the current situation is certainly lacking an understanding of what HaShem wants from us. The Halacha states that one who is G-d fearing should constantly be distressed over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. The Kotzker Rebbe would say that one who is not concerned over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash should be concerned over his own personal destruction. For this reason we require that the children ask us why this night is different than all the nights of the exile. When we show the children that it is important to ask questions as s sign that we are not complacent in the exile, we are demonstrating to them that we wish to leave the exile and be redeemed as soon as possible. Based on this premise we can also understand why the first night of Pesach occurs on the same night as Tisha BaAv. Tisha BaAv is the one day of the year when we are shaken out of our complacency and we mourn over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. Similarly, on Pesach night we are removed from our complacency in an exalted fashion, as we recline like free men and demonstrate that we are ready to leave the exile and be redeemed.
Pesach Stories
A Pesach Dream

I had had too much to drink ― four overflowing cups of wine, plus a little bit more at the dinner. My son ― you know, the one who everyone says is going to be a rabbi, with the way he reads Hebrew ― heard at his Hebrew school that you have to drink a full cup each time the Seder calls for a toast to the redemption from Egypt. Four full cups, when one is usually more than enough to set my head swimming.
Now the songs and the kibbitzing and the lively discussion at the table ― my wife's cousin, the professor from Stanford, had opinions on everything ― pounded into my brain from every direction. Try as I might to concentrate on my guests, I couldn't keep my mind from drifting off into another world. As I leaned back on my cushion, the pages of my Haggadah blurred into a swirl of words and white, my eyes lost their last battle to stay open, and I was gone.
I awoke with a start to the sound of what I thought were shots being fired all around me. I was no longer at my home, but in a small, dimly lit, broken-down room. I was seated at a long wooden table, together with twelve or thirteen other people. There were no chairs, and we sat on benches or crude wooden crates. It was late at night and very dark. The only light in the room came from two thin candles in the center of the table, and I had to strain my eyes just to see the faces of those around me.
Through the shaded windows ― covered with burlap cloth ― I could see occasional flashes of light, brilliant and fleeting as lightning. Yet this wasn't lightning, for each burst of light was accompanied by a strange thunder, a terrible, deafening noise ― so close the room shook, and so loud I held my breath in fear. Where in God's name was I?
As I peered through the darkness, still too dazed to speak, I could discern young and old at the table. There were boys with funny little caps, and dark, cavernous eyes, the sleep drained from them, like old men's faces in children's bodies. There were several women with shawls of gray and worn hands, who sobbed almost imperceptibly in a sing-song wail. Men with long, black coats and longer faces had the strangest expressions, as if they were asleep while awake, their eyes fixed vaguely on some far-away object beyond my sight. The flashes of light seemed to illumine their faces in fear each time the room brightened and shook, and I grew frightened by the terror in their eyes.
At the head of the table was an old man, whose face was barely visible to me, for he wore a large black hat, pulled low upon his forehead, and he had a majestic, flowing white beard, like a soft blanket to cover his wearied features. He kept his head down in his lap, and only when I finally spoke ― too perplexed to remain silent ― did he look up, piercing me with his stare, like an ancient patriarch.
"Where am I?" I cried out. "Who are all of you? Am I dreaming this?"
The old man stared straight at me, his gaze both soothing and scolding me with its authority. "Do not become foolish, Shmuel," he said slowly but sternly. "You are at the Seder able, and there will be no dreaming until we finish the Afikoman."
"But where are we?" I repeated, still determined to solve this mystery.
The patriarch gave a long sigh and I saw tears begin to glisten in his tired eyes. "You are in Warsaw, of course, celebrating the Pesach of 1943."
I gasped in confusion. Was I hallucinating? Could this be the Warsaw Ghetto of which I had read? Certainly the bombs exploding outside just beyond our windows seemed real enough, and the faces of my fellow Jews at the table were the most vivid and striking I had ever seen. But I had no time to think, for the old man, whose name I learned was Reb Yisrael, motioned for all of us to open our Haggadahs and begin the Seder service.
I listened with fear and wonder as Reb Yisrael recited the Kiddush and sanctified the holiday, his body trembling but his voice unwavering as he held the small glass of wine, chanting each word slowly and deliberately. When he reached the phrase, "For You have chosen us from among all nations," he began to weep loudly, the wine spilling from side to side...
I was a mass of confusion, lost in a semi-panic, like one who has been turned around by a blinding snowstorm so that he cannot find his way home. Everything that was happening was bizarre and beyond belief, and yet I had the feeling that I had been here before. Was I imagining all of this? Or was my other, a life which seemed far off and improbable now, merely an illusion? And why, as I stared at Reb Yisrael, did he begin to look so familiar, as if I somehow knew him all my life?
They called upon me to recite the Four Questions, and it seemed rather ludicrous and ironic that I should be asking why this night is different from all other nights. We came to the eating of the maror, a small bite of a bitter radish which one of the women had saved for weeks. The assembly began to discuss the bitterness of Egypt, and argued that their own lives had reached a depth of bitterness even more distasteful.
One after another, they told horrible tales of families split apart, of babies starving for lack of a piece of bread, of sleepless nights and haunted dreams spent agonizing over a loved one taken by force in the dead of night. No, they needed no maror to simulate ancient bitterness. It was in each man's mouth, and with every flash of light I could glimpse the desperate faces of souls who had lost all hope of a better world.
Suddenly, the conversation was abruptly halted by Reb Yisrael's anguished cry: "Stop your moaning and wailing!" he demanded. "Is this still not Passover, the Festival of Freedom? Are we not Jews, ever oppressed but ever hopeful, ever persecuted but ever resurgent? And, as the Haggadah says, do they not oppress us in every generation, only to fall before the hand of the Almighty?
"Have faith, all of you, and do not let your resignation give victory to the beasts at our door. Remember the words of the ninety-fourth psalm: 'The Lord will not cast off His righteous, nor will He forsake His inheritance.' We are here tonight because our ancestors did not give up hope when they faced adversity. And neither shall we!"
Buoyed by Reb Yisrael's moving speech, the participants of this unique Seder began a long discussion of the oppression in Egypt and God's eventual salvation. There was no mistaking their troubled souls; they had fought an evil as great as Pharaoh, they had experienced the ten plagues a hundred-fold. Yet they still sang 'Dayenu' and thanked God for that which they still had, for their being alive to read the Haggadah one more time, for the Judaism they clung to like a piece of wood in a rampaging river, which kept their heads raised above the swirling waters of approaching doom...
As the sound of fighting increased outside, we reached the section of the Seder dealing with Elijah the prophet, the messenger of Mashiach, and we filled his cup in the center of the table. There wasn't enough wine left for the large goblet, so we poured whatever liquids we could find into the cup of redemption.
Reb Yisrael's wife looked at me and said, with almost a smile: "Shmuel, you open the door for Elijah. Tell him to enter. We have waited patiently for him, and his seat has remained empty these two thousand years. It is time for him to join the Seder."
I arose from my seat and went to the door. I was scared, for I felt Elijah's presence. I opened the door and stepped into the small hallway, while those at the table recited Elijah's prayer. I could hear them call out for the great prophet to usher in that age of glory when all men would pursue peace and justice, when the lions would no longer prey upon the lambs. I heard clearly the prayer end with "Shalom," the ancient plea for peace.
As I turned to re-enter the room, I saw something fly through the window. There was a flash of blinding light, a huge explosion. I was sent flying into the wall, and a heavy veil of darkness descended over me.
I opened my eyes, and I was back at my home. All of my guests were there, and they were staring at me.
"You were dozing, dear," said my wife. "You could never handle those four cups of wine."
I got up from the table and rushed into my bedroom. From a desk drawer, I pulled out an old photograph album that my father had given me years ago. Frantic, I leafed through the worn pictures, now yellow with age, until suddenly I stopped. I stared long and hard at the photo of my grandfather, whom I had never known, and read the note scrawled at the bottom:
Reb Yisrael: 1873-1943.
Matzah and Maror are Mechutanim
One Seder night, the holy Rebbe R' Yissachar Dov of Belz was walking through the alleyways of his town Belz. As he passed by the house of a simple yet G-d-fearing Jew, he stopped by the window to listen in on his Seder. He overheard the Jew saying the section of the Haggadah which establishes the correct time to remember the Exodus:
"One might think that the obligation to discuss the Exodus commences with the first day of the month of Nissan... therefore the Torah adds (Shemos 13:8), 'It is because of this that HaShem did so for me when I went out of Egypt," [the pronoun this implies something tangible, leading us to conclude that] I have commanded you [to discuss the Exodus] only when matzah and maror are lying before you [at the Seder]."
The simple Jew, it seems, was not very learned. Instead of saying, "I have commanded you only when matzah and maror lie (munachim) before you," he said, "I have commanded you only when matzah and maror are mechutanim (i.e. relatives through marriage) before you." It was all his disciples could do not to break out laughing. Yet to their surprise, R' Yissachar Dov took his blunder quite seriously. After pondering the simple Jew's words for a moment, he remarked, "Indeed, matzah and maror are mechutanim!" Seeing his disciples' amazement, he related the following story.
Reb Zelig was a rich and important Jew who's daughter's time had come to marry. Her father searched far and wide for a young man worthy to take his daughter's hand in marriage, yet it seemed that every boy he met just didn't suit the bill.
One day, while travelling on business, he came across a young man sitting and learning in the Bais Hamidrash. At first, R' Zelig was put off by the boy's shoddy clothes and impoverished appearance. The more they spoke, however, the more impressed he became. "This young man is a diamond in the rough," he thought to himself. R' Zelig wasted no time, and immediately arranged a shidduch, with a date for the wedding to be arranged later.
So excited was R' Zelig by his chassan that he began to become paranoid lest someone else "discover" him and steal from him his catch. He sent an urgent telegram to the young chassan. "Come right away," it said, "the wedding must take place immediately! Do not worry about clothing or wedding expenses, I will take care of everything."
Alarmed, the chassan promptly gathered his meager possessions, and travelled to the city of the kallah. When he arrived, he was whisked off to the tailor to have a new suit made for the chasunah. The tailor was instructed save the chassan's old torn suit for the father of the kallah, who was footing the bill. Then, not even taking the time to prepare a lavish wedding banquet, as would normally befit a man such as R' Zelig, a hasty chasunah took place.
In later years, when R' Zelig's son-in-law disagreed with him, or refused to take his advice, R' Zelig would go to his closet and remove the old, tattered clothing his son-in-law had worn before marrying his daughter. "You forget," he would say, "that I'm the one who made you what you are today. Look at your regal clothing - this is what you used to wear!"
Not to be outdone, R' Zelig's son-in-law had his own trick up his sleeve. He had put aside a stale piece of bread from the hastily prepared leftovers which had been served at his chasunah meal, saving it for just such an occasion. Taking it out, he would say, "Ah, but you too forget just how anxious you were to have me as your son-in-law. Why, you didn't even take the time to prepare a normal meal - you just couldn't wait!"
"So, you see," said the Belzer Rebbe, "they were mechutanim worthy of one another."
"The same discussion," concluded the Rebbe, "takes place between the Jewish nation and HaShem on the Seder night. HaShem, so to speak, takes out the maror, showing it to us. 'You see,' He tells us, 'this is how bitter your lives were before I took you out of Mitzrayim. Without Me, you would still be there!' But, not to be had, we too have what to say. We take out the unleavened matzos before HaShem, as if to say to him, 'Ah, but remember the rush You were in to have us as your nation. Why, you couldn't even wait until our bread had time to bake!' Indeed, matzah and maror are the finest of mechutanim." (
A Pesach Miracle
It happened in Jerusalem in 1915 - the Year of the Great Drought. There was no grain in the entire city. Pesach was only days away, and the Jews of Jerusalem wondered whether they would have matzos for the holiday. Rabbi Yisrael, the leader of the Jewish community, was walking on the outskirts of town, praying that God would help them, when he noticed a cloud of dust winding toward the city. As it approached, he saw that it was a long caravan of camels. Halloo there, he called to them. In just a few seconds, an Arab merchant rode up to him. He looked worn and tired, but from his clothing, Rabbi Yisrael knew that he was quite wealthy. Salaam Aleikum, the merchant greeted him, Is this the road to Damascus? No, Rabbi Yisrael answered, This road leads to Jerusalem. What a magnificent caravan. Magnificent? he snorted. It is only trouble. I have been carrying flour for weeks, but no one buys it. I just want to get home. Flour? Rabbi Yisrael answered. I would gladly buy it all, only I don’t have the money. Our holiday of Pesach is just three days away and we need flour to bake matzah. Maybe we can help each other, the merchant suggested. What if I give you the flour now and you pay me back when I return here in a month. Rabbi Yisrael quickly agreed, and the Jews of Jerusalem had matzah for Pesach. During Chol HaMoed he wrote letters to the Diaspora describing what happened and asking for help to pay for the flour. In just a few weeks there was enough money to pay for it all, but the merchant never showed up, so Rabbi Yisrael put the money in a bank. A year went by, and then another, but the merchant never returned. After a few years, the sum in the bank doubled and tripled. No one could touch it though, because it belonged to the Arab merchant. Many years later, when Rabbi Yisrael was dying, he told his son what to do: Wait ten more years for the merchant to return. If he does come back, you must pay him for the flour, but if he doesn’t, you must take the money and share it among the poor people of Jerusalem before their holidays. This way, everyone will benefit from the merchants kindness. Ten years later, Rabbi Yisrael’s son took some of the money to buy food and clothing for the poor people of Jerusalem. He did that before every holiday for many years.

The Vizhnitzer Rebbe Demands an Extra Matzah From The Skulener Rebbe
Pesach was fast approaching in Post World War II Romania and the Skulener Rebbe zy"a was fortunate to have someone illegally obtain for him some wheat and a mill on the black market. Since there were very few matzos to go around the Rebbe decided he would allot one matzah to all the Rebbes in the surrounding area.
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe zy"a hearing about the availability of matzos sent his son to the Skulener Rebbe. Upon his arrival the Skulener Rebbe gladly handed the Vizhnitzer Rebbe's son the matzah he put aside for him. After receiving the matzah his son said that his father requested 2 matzos. The Skulener Rebbe explained that there was a limit of one in order to allow as many of the Rebbes as possible to all be mikayem the mitzvah of eating matzah.
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe's son explained that he had strict instructions from his father to bring back two matzos and made it clear that he would not leave back to his father until he had two matzos for him. Seeing that he had no choice the Skulener Rebbe relented and gave him two matzos.
A few weeks later on Erev Pesach the Vizhnitzer Rebbe's son knocked on the Skulener Rebbe's door and asked to speak to the Rebbe. When he was brought in to the Rebbe he pulled out a single matzah and handed it back to the Skulener Rebbe. Befuddled the Rebbe asked him why he was so insistent on taking two matzos when he first came and why did he make the long trip, on Erev Pesach of all days, to come and bring it back.
The Vizhnitzer Rebbe's son explained that when his father heard that the Skulener Rebbe had only a small quantity of matzos and was giving them out, he was sure that at the end the Skulener Rebbe would inevitably give out ALL the matzos leaving nothing for himself for Pesach. Therefore the Vizhnitzer Rebbe schemed to take an extra matzah for safekeeping so that he can return it to the Skulener Rebbe Erev Pesach so that he himself would enjoy a Seder that included the prized matzos. (

Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770
is graciously sponsored by Mr. Avrohom and Mrs. Alexander Goldberg in honor of the birth of the twins Yehuda Simcha and Leah bnei Noach Arieh and Sori Goldberg.
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Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770
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Hagadah Shel Pesach 5770
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol 5770

שבת טעם החיים צו-שבת הגדול תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol 5770

Shabbos HaGadol and the mitzvah of Tzitzis

גדילים תעשה לך על ארבע כנפות כסותך אשר תכסה בה, you shall take for yourselves twisted threads on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself (Devarim 22:!2)
Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Shabbos. Isn’t every Shabbos great? What is so special about this Shabbos that it earns its own title? The Halacha teaches us that on the Shabbos prior to the Jewish People being redeemed from Egypt, HaShem instructed the Jewish People to take a sheep and tie it to their beds. Given the fact that the sheep was the deity of the Egyptians, the Egyptians were distressed to hear from the Jewish People that their deity would be slaughtered. Nonetheless, the Egyptians were powerless to confront the Jewish People, and this was cause for celebration. Thus, every year, on the Shabbos prior to Pesach, we celebrate this event by referring to the Shabbos as Shabbos HaGadol. There are a number of difficulties with this explanation. First, what was the significance of tying the sheep to the bed? Furthermore, how does the idea of tying the sheep to the bed correlate to the name Shabbos HaGadol?
The mitzvah of tzitzis is related to the exodus
The word gadol, besides the usual translation of greatness, is also associated with the word gedil. It is said (Devarim 21:12) gedilim taaseh lach al arba kanfos kesuscha asher tichaseh bah, you shall take for yourselves twisted threads on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself. In the parasha that discusses the mitzvah of placing strings on ones garments, the Torah uses the word tzitzis. Nonetheless, here in Devarim the Torah chose to use the word gedilim to describe these threads. Perhaps the different terminology alludes to the idea that the exodus from Egypt was a kindness from HaShem. The attribute of Gedulah, greatness, is associated with the attribute of chesed, kindness.
A Chasid is one who performs chesed with HaShem
The Jewish People informed the Egyptians that they would be slaughtering their god and the Egyptians were powerless to prevent this. HaShem instructed the Jewish People to tie the sheep to their beds, as the act of tying symbolized the idea that the Jewish People would be reconnecting with HaShem. The Zohar states that a chasid, normally translated as one who is pious, is one who performs chesed with his creator. Thus, by performing HaShem’s commandments and tying the sheep to the bed, the Jewish People were performing an act of chesed with HaShem. We can now better understand why the Torah uses the word gedilim regarding the mitzvah of tying threads to a four cornered garment. At the end of parsahas Shelach, after discussing the mitzvah of placing tzitzis on the four cornered garment, it is said (Bamidbar 15:) limaan tizkiru vaasisem es kol mitzvosai vihyisem kedoshim leiElokeichem ani HaShem Elokeichem asher hotzeisi eschem meieretz Mitzrayim lihyos lachem leElokim ani HaShem Elokeichem, so that you may remember and perform all My commandments and be holy to your G-d. I am HaShem, your G-d, Who has removed you from the land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you; I am HaShem your G-d. The mitzvah of tzitzis is directly related to the exodus from Egypt. The Torah does not expound on the association between the mitzvah of tzitzis and the exodus. It would seem, however, that the association between the two is that the exodus was predicated on HaShem’s kindness to us. In a similar vein, the mitzvah of tzitzis reflects the idea that we connect ourselves to HaShem. Thus, the word gedil, which means thread, is associated with gedulah, the attribute of kindness that HaShem exhibits towards us.
The Egyptians were cut off from HaShem and the Jewish People were reconnected to HaShem
There is another connection between the mitzvah of tzitzis and the exodus from Egypt. Rashi writes that the word ticheiles, translated as turquoise wool, is derived from the word tichla, which means death. This refers to the death of the Egyptian first born. Perhaps the meaning of this cryptic association between tzitzis and the death of the firstborn is that the Egyptians were cut off from the connection to HaShem, whereas the Jewish People were now strengthened in their connection to HaShem.

The Shabbos connection
We have seen that the word gadol relates directly to the exodus from Egypt, as the exodus was brought about through HaShem’s kindness to us and through our kindness to HaShem by performing His commandment of tying the sheep to the bed. This idea of HaShem’s kindness towards us and our acts of kindness to Him is reflected in Shabbos. Throughout the week we may find ourselves disconnected from HaShem, as we face the struggles of earning a livelihood and we are confronted with various temptations that are obstacles in serving HaShem. Shabbos, however, is the Secret of Oneness and unity, and this is a time when we reconnect to HaShem and experience His kindness to us. Thus, this Shabbos is given the appropriate title of Shabbos HaGadol, which we can now translate as the Shabbos of HaShem’s Attribute of Kindness. HaShem should allow us to perform acts of kindness towards Him, and in turn He will demonstrate His kindness towards us and redeems us with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos Stories
Take a broom
The Steipler Gaon, Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Kanievsky, was a paradigm of holiness. The stories about his sanctity were well known throughout the Torah community. At seventeen, he had already survived the Russian army without compromising Shabbos or Kashrus.
The Steipler was not known for lengthy conversation. He had lost his hearing standing as a sentry on freezing Siberian nights during his tenure in the Czar's army. People would write questions to him or beseech him to pray on behalf of the sick or unfortunate. The Steipler would read the note, hardly lift his eyes from the large volume on his old table, and would start to pray. He would often condense his advice into one or two sentences, but it would be potent. People asked, and he gave answers. Within days miraculous salvation came. And so did the people. They stood in lines outside his modest home, and the very old man would find the time to see anyone who walked in with the problems of the world bearing down on his or her shoulder.
An aspiring young man, whose quest was to be as great a scholar as the Steipler himself, came with a problem. The young man felt that this particular predicament was impeding his spiritual growth and surely a man like Rabbi Kanievsky, who persevered in the face of life-threatening problems, could relate to his!
The young man had written the situation in detail for the Steipler to grasp its severity. "Every Friday," wrote the young man, "I come home from Yeshiva, and the scene in the house leads me to despair. The table is not set, the kitchen is hardly clean, and the children are not bathed! What should I do? How can I concentrate on my studies when I have such problems?" The aspiring scholar expected the Steipler to advise him how to deal with a wife that was not keeping to his standard.
The Steipler looked up from the paper and made a grave face. The young man smiled. The Steipler must have realized the severity of the situation. Then he spoke in his heavy Russian-accented Yiddish. "You really want to know what to do?" The young man nodded eagerly. The Steipler looked austere.
Rav Chaim Ozer visits Cracow

Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, zt”l once visited Cracow. When he arrived, Rav Chaim Ozer sought a tailor who could sew his suit which had torn on the way. He eventually found one, and requested that he fix his suit.
The tailor answered, “Forgive me, Kavod HaRav, but I have not yet lit the Chanukah candles. If you wish, you can wait until I light, and after a half an hour, I’ll sew your suit.”
While Rav Chaim Ozer waited, he noticed how this simple tailor prepared himself for the mitzvah. He removed his weekday clothing, and donned Shabbos clothing. He washed his hands and joyously prepared to light the candles.
Rav Chaim Ozer was astounded by the temimus of this man and he said, “Now I understand how the city Cracow produces such Gedolei Torah and giants of spirits, if this is what the simple tailors are like!” (Chaim SheYesh Bahem)
The Chasam Sofer's Final Minutes
"Ashrei Ish Sheba L'Kan V'Talmudo B'Yado" (Pesachim 50a). In the final days of his life, the Chasam Sofer reviewed all the Torah he learned in order to come to Shamayim with his Torah intact. In the last few hours of his life he realized that three Chiddushim of his were no longer clear in his mind. He quickly called for his close talmid, Rav Menachem Katz, who lived not too far from Pressburg, where the Chasam Sofer lay deathly ill.
Rav Menachem reviewed with him these chiddushim and then the Chasam Sofer's face lit up content that he would return his neshama to Shamayim with all the Torah still with it. As soon as they finished reviewing, the Chasam Sofer screamed to Rav Menachem Katz, who was a Kohen, "Run out I am dying!" As soon as Rav Katz ran out, he heard the Chasam Sofer say Shema Yisroel as his Holy Neshama departed to the heavens.
Rav Katz later said about his Rebbi that he had such a good heart, that he held back the departure of his Neshama until he was sure that Rav Katz was safely outside without violating the Mitzvos of the Kohen.
Last Second Arrangements On The Train To Auschwitz
It happened in a small village in Hungary – the familiar heartrending scene of the Holocaust as Jews were herded into trains, packed in tightly like animals. The non-Jews gathered around the train station, happily entertaining themselves by watching the Jews’ distress. They lacked all compassion for the Jews’ suffering, and as the trains began to move, they actually began clapping.
A few Jews stood by as well, those who had not yet been decreed to be sent to the death camps, and who had come to part from their relatives. As the train slowly began its grim journey, one Jew stuck his head out of the window and called to one of his friends, “Yaakov, I forgot to feed the chickens. Do me a favor; go to my house and feed them. Remember – it’s tzaar baal hachayim.” (Min Hameitzar) (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and a Chag Kosher Vismaeach
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayikra 5770

שבת טעם החיים ויקרא תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayikra 5770

Korbanos is all about coming close to HaShem

דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה' מן הבהמה מן הבקר ומן הצאן תקריבו את קרבנכם, speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: when a man among you brings an offering to HaShem: from animals – from the cattle or from the flock shall you bring your offering. (Vayikra 1:2)
Korbanos. Sacrifices. This is the short description of the Book of the Torah that we commence reading this week. Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, in his classic work Oznaim LaTorah, writes in his introduction to Vayikra that because people distance themselves from studying the complex laws of the sacrifices, he has made it user friendly by incorporating the exegesis of the Gemara into his commentary. Nonetheless, the laws of sacrifices are difficult and abstract. What approach can the casual student of Chumash adopt regarding the intricate and detailed study of the sacrifices?
The Korban Pesach was a sacrifice of oneness and unity
In order to gain an appreciation of the laws regarding the sacrifices, it would be worthwhile to examine the concept of the Korban Pesach, the Paschal Lamb that the Jewish People offered when the Bais HaMikdash was in existence. The Maharal (Gevuros HaShem § 60) makes note of the idea that many of the laws that are said regarding the Korban Pesach are associated with the concept of oneness. A few examples of this theme is that the Torah commands that the Korban Pesach be offered within one group and one is prohibited from breaking a bone of the offering. Furthermore, the Korban Pesach must be eaten with its head, its legs and with its innards, as this form of eating demonstrates the idea of unity. This idea of unity is also reflected in a standard sacrifice. The commentators write that the word Korban is derived from the word karov, which means closeness. Essentially, one who offers a sacrifice to HaShem is attempting to come close to HaShem and to unify HaShem.
Studying the laws of sacrifices is akin to offering them
The study of the laws of sacrifices is unique in that we can be proficient in the laws and yet we are incapable of practicing them. The obstacle we face is that there is no Bais HaMikdash and according to most opinions we have no way of offering sacrifices in modern times. Nonetheless, the Gemara offers us a solution for this difficulty. The Gemara (Menachos 110a) states that one who studies the laws of the sacrifices is deemed to have actually offered the sacrifices. One who takes this statement to heart will surely study the laws in depth, as we certainly all desire to come closer to HaShem and to His Torah.

The Shabbos connection
Those who pray Nusach Sefard on Friday evening recite in the prayer of Kegavna, the words: raza diShabbos ihi Shabbos diisachadas beraza diechod limishrei alah raza diechod, this is the secret of the Shabbos: She [Kingship] is called Shabbos when She becomes united in the secret of Oneness so that G-d’s Oneness may rest upon her. The secret of Shabbos is oneness and unity. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) tells us that were the Jewish People to observe two Shabbasos, they would immediately be redeemed. We are now in the month of Nissan, and the Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 11a) states that we were redeemed from Egypt in the month of Nissan and the Ultimate Redemption will also occur in Nissan. It is worthwhile for us to unite as a nation and unite with HaShem, His Shabbos and His Torah, and then we will surely be deserving of the redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
Every number has meaning
A Jewish intellectual in post-war England approached Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky, who headed the London Beth Din, with a cynical question: "In reviewing our Hagadah service," he sniped, "I was shocked at the insertion of ‘Who Knows One', a childish nursery rhyme, at the end. Why would the sages put a silly rhyme - 'One is HaShem, two are the Tablets, three are the fathers,' and so on, at the end of the solemn, intellectual Seder night service? It is very unbecoming!"
Rabbi Abramsky was not shaken. "If you really want to understand the depth of that song, then you must travel north to the town of Gateshead. There you will find a saintly Jew, Reb Elya Lopian. I want you to discuss the meaning of every aspect of life with him. Ask him what the meaning of the sea and fish is; ask him what the meaning of the sun and the moon is. Then ask him what is the meaning of one, of six, of eleven and so on."
The philosopher was very intrigued. He traveled to Gateshead and located the Yeshiva at which Reb Elya served as the Mashgiach (spiritual advisor). He was led into the room where a saintly looking man greeted him warmly.
"Rabbi, I have many questions," the skeptical philosopher began. "What is the meaning of life?" "What is the essence of the stars?"
Rabbi Lopian dealt with each question with patience, depth, and a remarkable clarity. Then the man threw out the baited question. "What is the meaning of the number one?"
Rabbi Lopian's face brightened, his eyes widened, and a broad smile spread across his face. "The meaning of one?" he repeated. "You would like to know the meaning of one? One is HaShem in the heaven and the earth!"
The man was shocked. "What about the depth of the numeral five?"
"Five?" repeated the sage. Why five has tremendous symbolism! It represents the foundation of Judaism - the Five Books of Moses!" The rabbi then went on to explain the mystical connotations that are represented by the number five and exactly how each Book of the Torah symbolizes a component of the sum.
The man left with a new approach and attitude toward the most simple of our rituals. (
We don’t cut reeds so we have time to learn
Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, zt”l, the Av Beis Din of Ohel and a close student of the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, recounted that it was the wont of his rebbe to apply everything he heard or saw to Torah. He illustrated this statement with a remarkable story.

Rav Avraham Yehoshua accompanied the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, to a distant town so the latter could have a well deserved summer rest. The two stayed in a very simple village at the home of a simple villager who worked all day long in the field. One evening their host returned home in a despondent mood. He complained to the Chasam Sofer that he had it worse than all the other field workers who were off during the winter months. “I also know how to cut thin reeds which grow in swamps. Since this job can only be done during the winter months, when the swamps are frozen over, I have no rest; not during the summer or even for the duration of the long winter.”

The Chasam Sofer expressed his sympathy and the man left the room. He then turned to his companion and said, “I learned from that simple man a new explanation in Sanhedrin 33. There we find that Rav Ashi says, ‘Are we people who cut reeds in swamps?’ But why did Rav Ashi specifically choose this livelihood to illustrate a person who is not learned? The answer may well be as this simple man just explained: a cutter of reeds in the swamp works during winter and since he is likely to also be preoccupied with his field during the summer months, he never has time to learn. Rav Ashi was saying: since we are not people who cut reeds in swamps, we at least have time to learn during the winter months!” (

A Holy Toothless Jew
A Russian Jew once struck up a conversation with his seatmate on a bus in Eretz Yisrael, and in the course of the conversation, described himself as a Yom Kippur Jew. His seatmate immediately thought that he meant that he went to shul only once a year on Yom Kippur. However, the Russian Jew explained to his new friend that he was referring to something else.
He was a soldier in the Russian army following WWII. In order to avoid serving on Yom Kippur, every year he would feign illness. Each Yom Kippur, he would show up at the army doctor and moan over his "toothache" and beg to have his tooth pulled. After his tooth was pulled, he was freed from his duties for the rest of the day. The Russian Jew flashed a toothless smile to his seatmate, and said, "I was in the army for six years and I lost six teeth this way, but at least I never worked on Yom Kippur." (Meoros Daf Yomi)
The Brisker Drasha - Quick & Short, No Time to Nap
The Brisker way was to say short Drashos. As the Brisker Rav would say, the goal is to reach the truth, which can be done quickly with few words. At the wedding of the Brisker Rav’s son Reb Dovid, the Chosson stood up and gave a drasha as was the minhag back then. The son of the great Brisker Rav gave a drasha that lasted a whole of seven minutes.
There was an Adam Gadol who was present who expressed surprise to the Chosson about the brevity of his Drasha. Reb Dovid did not respond and neither did the Brisker Rav. This Gadol then again commented and said that it was befitting the son of the Brisker Rav to give a longer Drasha. At this point the Brisker Rav became a bit agitated in his seat but still remained quiet.
When this Gadol did not give up and made his third remark about the length of the Drasha, the Brisker Rav broke his silence. He said, "Does one need to speak longer? I was at a Chasuna where the Chosson spoke so long that I had time to fall asleep and even wake up again. Even after I awoke the Chosson still had nothing to say." (Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro - Zahav MiShva)
What Is Scarier Than The Russian Army?
Reb Yechezkel Levenstein, a Kelmer and a student of the Chafetz Chaim, was the Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva during their flight from the Nazis through Siberia to Shanghai. Shortly before the war began, the Jews were apprehensive and uncertain about the times ahead. Furthermore, there was great uncertainty about which enemy was the worse of two evils, the Germans or the Russians. A palpable sense of doom was felt everywhere. The yeshiva students had already heard ominous rumors about the vicious behavior of the Russians, and their hatred of everything religious.
R' Levenstein gave a shmues shortly before Rosh Hashanah of 1939, which was also shortly before the official beginning of World War II. R' Chatzkel was aware that he was facing a Bais Hamidrash filled with binei Torah with great fear in their hearts, but he was not pleased with the source of the fear. He said, "It is not because of the Russians that you need to fear. It is only the Yom HaDin that you need to fear." The absolute conviction in R' Chatzkel's voice helped instill emunah and bitachon in the heart of each person present, and fortified them for the difficult times ahead. (Reb Chatzkel) (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayikra 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ha lachma anya

Ha Lachma anya, this is the poor man’s bread.
Why do we begin the Hagadah with the word ha? I once saw a commentator write that the word is really hey, which means here. This interpretation is based on the verse that states (Bereishis 47:23) hey lachem zera, here is seed for you. This is what Yosef told the Egyptians after informing them that he had acquired the people and their land for Pharaoh. Perhaps the idea is that we are alluding to the fact that initially we were like the Egyptians, who were enslaved to Pharaoh. Ultimately, however, HaShem redeemed us from Pharaoh and slavery.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayakhel-Pekudei-HaChodesh 5770

שבת טעם החיים ויקהל-פקודי-החודש תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayakhel-Pekudei-HaChodesh 5770

The Mishkan teaches us to be exact and uncompromising

ותכל כל עבדת משכן אהל מועד ויעשו בני ישראל ככל אשר צוה ה' את משה כן עשו, all the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed, and the Children of Israel had done everything that G-d commanded Moses, so did they do. (Shemos 39:32)
In this week’s parshiyos, Vayakheil and Pekudei, the Torah repeats the entire process mentioned earlier in Parashas Terumah and Tetzaveh, detailing the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, and the fashioning of the vestments of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. Surprisingly enough, the Medrash and the commentators do not address why it was necessary for the Torah to expend numerous verses in what appears at first glance to be unnecessary repetition. What could be the reason for this redundancy?
The Mishkan was akin to the Tents of the Patriarch’s
In his introduction to the Book of Shemos, Ramban explains that prior to the construction of the Mishkan, there was a void among the Jewish people. HaShem’s Divine Presence which existed to such a high degree during the time of the Patriarchs was no longer present. A primary goal of building the Mishkan, he explains, was to restore that lofty level of HaShem’s that existed during the time of the Patriarchs. The Patriarchs, through selfless devotion to HaShem and uncompromising beliefs, merited to having the Divine Presence resting on their tents. The Torah therefore repeats many of the details of the Mishkan’s construction to reinforce the idea that the Mishkan was meant to be exact to the last detail – that there’s no such thing as “it’s just a detail.”
Reb Mendel The Shochet
The Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Levi Horowitz of blessed memory, recalled an incident with Reb Mendel, a chassid from Jerusalem, who came to America and worked as a ritual slaughterer in New York. His job was particularly hard during the freezing winters, as the slaughterhouse where he worked was open and unheated. However, the slaughterhouse had a small cubicle where one or two people could sit and warm themselves by a small stove. The slaughterers would go out to work but they would hurry back as soon as they could to avoid frostbite.
One cold winter evening, while was waiting in the cubicle for the truck to come in, Reb Mendel dozed off. When it finally arrived, the air was filled with the wake-up call for the slaughterer) Reb Mendel jumped up and ran to his place. The boss and six or seven workers were already there and ready to start.
Reb Mendel quickly recited the blessing and began to slaughter the chickens, one... two... three. He then checked his knife to make sure that it was still perfectly sharp and free from nicks. As he was getting ready for the next batch of chickens, he happened to run his hand across his head and was stunned to discover that he was not wearing a yarmulke!
Apparently, while he was dozing in the cubicle, his yarmulke had fallen off his head. “Oh no!” he thought to himself. “What did I do? I made a blessing and slaughtered without a yarmulke, and I didn’t even know it.”
The hallmark of a professional slaughterer is that he has the requisite sensitivity and focus that allows him to detect even the slightest jerk in the chicken’s neck during the slaughtering process. One who does not wear a yarmulke while slaughtering has not invalidated the act of slaughtering. Nonetheless, the lack of proper sensitivity could render the chicken not kosher.
Reb Mendel said to himself, “if I couldn’t feel whether I was wearing a yarmulke on or not, how could I tell if I had slaughtered the chickens properly?”
A lesser man may have hesitated, but Reb Mendel was a chassid through and through. He walked straight back to the cubicle, laid down his knife, and told his startled boss that he was resigning from his position. When his boss questioned him regarding his plan for earning a livelihood, Reb Mendel responded that he would find a different means of livelihood. Reb Mendel ultimately found a job which paid him handsomely.
The construction of the Mishkan was a microcosm for the life of a devout Jew. Uncompromising belief in HaShem and in His Torah is what sets the standard for true devotion and is what allows the Divine Presence to rest on our homes.
The Shabbos connection
Throughout the week, we are often faced with the challenge to compromise in some manner on our beliefs. We must always remain strong in our conviction that HaShem will provide for us in all circumstances. On Shabbos we are granted special assistance from above to retain a level of holiness and integrity, and even an ignorant person is infused with the fear of Shabbos. HaShem should grants us the fortitude to observe His mitzvos with complete Faith and we should merit the Ultimate redemption with the arrival of Moshiach, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
Shabbos in the Chafetz Chaim’s home
Leib, a 14-year-old boy, studied in a small yeshiva in Russia. On one occasion, he was due to return home for a visit. The train was scheduled to reach his station on Thursday afternoon. He would board there and travel to his home in Stuchin, Poland. Even if the train ran exactly on schedule, Leib knew that he would arrive home just hours before Shabbos.
As it turned out, the train did not arrive at the station until Thursday evening. By the time Leib had boarded, darkness had fallen. By Friday morning he knew he would never reach Stuchin before Shabbos. He would have to find another place in which to spend the holy day.
Leib asked a conductor for a list of the stations where the train was due to stop. He had decided that if he recognized one of the stops as a place where Jews lived, he would get off the train, in the hopes that someone would invite him home for Shabbos. To his joy, the conductor informed him that one of the cities was very close to Radin. Leib was quite excited at this news, because his aged great-uncle, the Chafetz Chaim, lived in Radin. Leib’s grandfather was the Chafetz Chaim’s brother. It looked as though he would be able to spend Shabbos at the home of his illustrious relative.
When the train came to his stop, Leib gathered his belongings and got off the train. He asked passersby the way to Radin, and quickly made his way to his great-uncle’s house. His arrival was greeted with joy by the Rebbitzen. She explained that her husband had already left for shul, adding that, as a rule, the Chafetz Chaim, as the Rav, went to shul early in order to learn with some of the congregants before davening. She advised Leib to rest a bit before going to shul.
Having spent the entire previous night awake on the swaying train, Leib was exhausted. He fell asleep immediately.
Upon awakening, the first thing he saw was the Chafetz Chaim seated at his Shabbos table, learning from a sefer. His uncle welcomed him warmly, then suggested that the boy wash his hands and daven Kabbalas Shabbos and Ma’ariv, after which they would eat the Shabbos meal together.
When Leib had finished davening, the Chafetz Chaim summoned his wife to join them at the table. The Chafetz Chaim made Kiddush, and the three of them -- the aged rabbi, his wife, and the 14-year-old youth -- sat down to their Shabbos feast.
When the meal was over, the Chafetz Chaim excused himself and went to his room to sleep.
Leib prepared himself for bed as well. He tried to fall asleep again but to no avail. At last, he rose and went into the kitchen, where a clock stood on a shelf. Leib looked at it to check the time, then rubbed his eyes in disbelief. The clock appeared to be functioning and yet it showed 4 o’clock! How could it be 4 in the morning already? Shaking his head in bewilderment, Leib returned to his bed.
When he awoke in the morning, he again went into the kitchen, where this time, he found the Rebbitzen.
“Good Shabbos,” he began. Then he asked her the question that had been troubling him. “Last night, after the meal, I couldn’t fall asleep right away. I went into the kitchen, and saw that the clock showed that it was 4 in the morning! Does the clock work properly? What time did we finish the meal last night?”
“It was very late when we finished,” she answered.
“But the meal didn’t last that long! What time did we sit down to eat? Did I sleep so long when I first came?”
“I’ll tell you what happened,” replied the Rebbitzen. “When the Rav returned from shul, you were in a very deep sleep. I wanted to wake you so that you could hear Kiddush, but my husband stopped me. He said that you were tired from your long journey, and advised me to let you sleep. He said that he would wait, and make Kiddush when you woke up.
“When some time had passed, not wanting to make me wait any longer, he asked our son Aharon to make Kiddush so that my son and I could eat our meal. Meanwhile, my husband sat and learned, waiting for you to wake up. We agreed that he’d call me when you did, and that we would sit down together to the Shabbos meal, in your honor.”
The Rebbitzen added, “You slept for hours, but the Rav was determined not to start the Shabbos meal without you!”
Had Leib not asked his question, neither the Chafetz Chaim nor his wife had planned to say a word about their extraordinary behavior that Shabbos night! (
Skolya Rebbe
The Skolya Rebbe, Rabbi Dovid Yitzchok Isaac Rabinowitz, was known for his great genius and depth in Torah learning, among other things. He had a certain custom at his tishen. Somebody present was chosen to say a pasuk (verse), any pasuk, from the Torah. The Rebbe would instantly begin to expound on the pasuk. He would expound, and he would expound, sometimes for up to two hours. The person honored with giving the Rebbe the pasuk was usually a guest or somebody prominent. The Rebbe never failed to impress, and hold those present at the tish rapt. Once while visiting Ireland the Rebbe was at the home of a prominent Rav. During the course of conversation the Rav said, "why doesn't the Rebbe come clean! Everyone knows that the Rebbe plans which pasuk is going to be said ahead of time." The Rebbe challenged the Rav, and asked for a pasuk. He thought for a second, and said "Reuven, Shimon, Levi, VeYehuda." The Rebbe closed his eyes, and expounded on the verse until the Rav had to stop him at 2:30 in the morning. He begged the Rebbe's forgiveness, who, in turn, said, "I forgive you, but please don't accuse another Jew of lying in the future."
And now to the story: The Rebbe was sitting in his apartment when he heard a truck pull up downstairs. Suddenly, the horrifying sound of boots running through the halls and up the staircase was resonating in the corridors of the building. It was a Nazi raid. Amidst the banging on doors, smashing down of doors, dragging of Jews out of their apartments, horrifying screams and, the incessant sound of boots, the Rebbe, scared for his life, sat at his table, and began to say the pasuk, "ve'es ha'anashim asher pesach habayis hiku basanveirim mikaton v'ad gadol vayeel'u limtzo hapasach" (and the people who were at the entrance of the house were stricken with blindness, from young to old, and they tried in vain to find the entrance. Shemos 19:11. It refers to the people of Sodom who surrounded Lot's house in order to terrorize him and his visitors, but were stricken were blindness, and were unable to find the door to the house). The Rebbe, with intense concentration, repeated the pasuk over and over again. The apartment to the right of his was raided, the apartment to the left was raided, and all Jews had been emptied out of the apartments above and below, and later shipped off to their deaths. But with this pasuk a great neis (miracle) had occurred, and the Rebbe was later able to escape from Europe with his life.
Rabbi Eliezer Silver and the Satmar Rebbe

Just as an aside from this week's parsha, as well, the first Satmar Rebbe was once late for a bris. In attendance was Rabbi Eliezer Silver, who was on a tight schedule that day. The bris was to begin at 9:00 sharp, but the Satmar Rebbe was nowhere to be seen. 9:15 came, 9:30. At twenty minutes before ten the Satmar Rebbe walked in, and with a look of astonishment on Rabbi Silver's face he said to the Rebbe, "what happened to 'vayashkeim Avraham baboker? (and Abraham woke up early in the morning)'" The Satmar Rebbe replied, "it doesn't say how long the 'vayachavosh es chamoro (and he saddled his donkey)' took!!!"
Rizhiner and the Tzemach Tzaddik
The Tzemach Tzaddik was the son-in-law of the holy Rizhiner Rebbe. The Rizhiner was known for his riches and malchus (royalty), but for all of his material wealth, he was on a very high, exalted level. When it came to physical matters such as eating he took after the tradition of his grandfather, Reb Avrohom the Malach (the angel), given this title for his reluctance to partake in earthly delights such as food.
One day when the Tzemach Tzaddik and the Rizhiner were engaged in a meal, the Rizhiner put his fork down after he was only half way through with his meal. When the Tzemach Tzaddik questioned him the Rizhiner said that before he was born, he had made a deal with his neshama (soul), only to eat enough to get by, and not a morsel more. The Tzemach Tzaddik then commented that he just realized something. "All my life there was something that bothered me, and I just figured out the answer," he said. "On Friday night we sing shalom aleichem, welcoming the angels that accompany us home from shul into our homes. But then, just a short while later, we sing tzeischem lishalom, bidding them farewell. Why do we send them away so soon? Now I realize why. It's because angels can't partake in earthly pleasures. They can't taste food. We don't want to show them disrespect by eating in front of them, so way say goodbye before we begin our meal," at which point the Tzemach Tzaddik put down his fork, indicating that he was in the presence of a malach at that moment, the Rizhiner himself.
Speaking of food, the mother of the Rebbe Reb Shmelke of Nickolsburg and his brother Reb Pinchas once complained that one of her sons doesn't say Bircas HaMazon (grace after meals), and the other doesn't say Kriyas Shema al Hamitah (prayer before going to bed). (one didn't eat and one didn't sleep). (
I Think I Came To Israel Just To See You
On one of R' Nachman Bulman's trips from his home in Eretz Yisrael to New York, his close friend, Rav Yechiel Perr, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Derech Ayson, came to see him. He noticed how exhausted R' Bulman appeared and asked him why he was so tired. R' Bulman answered that he was up the night before the trip. R' Perr expressed surprise that R' Bulman didn't make sure to rest before his long flight. R' Bulman sighed and told him a story which aptly illustrated his devotion to helping and inspiring people.
A young girl from the States had traveled to Paris to study art, and she became involved with a non-Jewish artist there, who eventually proposed marriage. She called her parents and told them she was thinking of marrying this artist, and wanted to know if they had any objections to the fact that he wasn't Jewish. Her parents reassured there that they had no problem with it whatsoever, and if she loved him, she should marry him.

The girl was surprised by her parents' reaction since she had expected them to be opposed. Her own doubts about marrying a non-Jew led her to inquire about Yiddishkeit. Eventually, she decided that she should travel to Israel, where she had never visited, before she made a decision to marry him or not. She impulsively set out for Israel, without any concrete plans of what she would do when she stepped off the plane. Once she was off the plane and standing in line, she started chatting with the person next to her. She admitted to the woman that she wasn't sure why she had come to Israel, but she had simply felt she had to come, and she had no idea where she would go. The person she was talking to said, "There's someone in Jerusalem, R' Nachman Bulman; you must go talk to him."

The woman gave her the phone number, and the girl called from the airport. "Rabbi Bulman, I was told I must see you." R' Bulman apologized that he was unable to meet with her as he was leaving to America the next day. She said, "Please, I think I came to Israel just to see you. Please don't say no." Rav Bulman agreed, and the girl came that night. After speaking to him for a few hours, she enrolled in a seminary for ba'alos teshuvah, and Rav Bulman lost his night's sleep. (Rabbi Yechiel Perr) (
Not merely an appellation
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Rabbi Zev Wilenski, shlita, recited that a student of Rabbi Boruch Ber Lebowitz, zt”l, had undertaken to transcribe the notes of the revered sage to prepare them for print. This work would eventually be known as the Birkas Shmuel, one of the classic exegetical works on Talmudic Law.
As the student reviewed the work, he noticed a seeming redundancy of the titles mentioned about Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, the Brisker Rav who was a son of Rabbi Lebowitz's own teacher Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, and revered as well, by Rabbi Lebowitz.
Each time that Rabbi Lebowitz quoted him, he would preface Rabbi Soloveitchik’s name with all due titles and accolades, "the true Gaon, Rebbe and Teacher of all of Israel, The Gaon of Brisk, he should live to see long and good days."
Even three or four times in one paragraph, Rabbi Lebowitz would repeat the words, each preceded with a slew of praise and reverence, "the true Gaon, Rebbe and Teacher of all of Israel, The Gaon of Brisk, he should live to see long and good days."
The next time that Rabbi Soloveitchik was quoted in the works, the student, in the interest of brevity, decided to leave out the seemingly supplementary appellations. Instead he wrote, My Rebbe, the great sage, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, shlita.
Upon reviewing the work, Rabbi Lebowitz was visibly shaken. "Why did you leave off the introductory appellations? "But, Rebbe, countered Rabbi Lebowitz's student, "I mentioned them the first time. Must I repeat them every single time?
Rabbi Lebowitz was dismayed. "Why am I publishing this book?" he asked in true sincerity. "What do I have from it? Honor? Money? Of course not! I wrote this work so that a student will understand how to learn a Rashba (a medieval commentator) or to understand the Rambam."
He paused. "The same way that I want them to understand the text, I also want them to understand to appreciate the greatness of the Rebbe. I want them to see and understand that Rav Yitzchak Zev is "the true Gaon, Rebbe and Teacher of all of Israel." (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayakhel-Pekudei-HaChodesh 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ki Sisa-Parah 5770

שבת טעם החיים כי תשא-פרה תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Sisa-Parah 5770

Sin for the sake of future Repentance

ועתה לך נחה את העם אל אשר דברתי לך הנה מלאכי ילך לפניך וביום פקדי ופקדתי עלהם חטאתם, “now go and lead the people to where I have told you. Behold! My angel shall go before you, and on the day that I make My account, I shall bring their sin to account against them.” (Shemos 32:34)
The highlight of this week’s parasha is the infamous sin of the Jewish People fashioning and bowing down to the Golden Calf. The commentators offer numerous explanations as to why the Jewish People made the Golden Calf. What is striking is that even after the Jewish People repented and HaShem granted them atonement on Yom Kippur, the sin lingered on throughout history. It is said (Shemos 32:34) viatah leich nichei es haam el asher dibarti lach hinei malachi yeileich lifanecho uvayom pakdi ufakaditi aleihem chatasam, “now go and lead the people to where I have told you. Behold! My angel shall go before you, and on the day that I make My account, I shall bring their sin to account against them.” Rashi cites the Medrash that states that HaShem was saying that every time the Jewish People are punished for their sins, contained within the punishment is a form of punishment from the sin of the Golden Calf. This idea is truly perplexing. How is it that the Jewish People can be punished in future generations for a sin of their forefathers?
Simultaneous Revelation and sin
The answer to this question will seem shocking to some, but in truth this is the only way we can understand the sin of the Golden Calf. The Medrash states that when HaShem gave the Jewish People the Torah, He opened up the heavens and earth and demonstrated that there is no other G-d besides Himself. Yet, a different Medrash states that when HaShem opened up the heavens, He revealed the Heavenly Chariot and this catalyzed the sin of the Godden Calf. How is it possible that the very act of opening up the heavens would cause the Jewish People to sin?
Too much gold and silver
In order to understand this concept, it is worthwhile to examine a cryptic statement of the Gemara. It is said (Devarim 1:1) vidi zahav, and the Gemara (Brachos 32a) states that Moshe said to HaShem, “Master of the World! It is because of the abundance of silver and gold that you bestowed upon them that caused them to fashion a Golden Calf!” The Gemara is clearly stating that the Jewish people were not at fault for having fashioned the Golden Calf. Why, then, were they punished, and why was their punishment extended to every sin that they ever committed?
Free choice is sometimes limited
The answer to these questions is that HaShem designed the world that man has free choice, but there are times when HaShem removes the free choice option and man is forced to commit certain acts. While this concept goes against the conventional understanding of free choice, the Gemara mentioned above states explicitly that the Jewish People were left with little choice but to sin. Thus, it would seem that they should not have been punished at all for the sin of the Golden Calf. The Gemara (Avodah Zara 4b-5a) states that the Jewish People were not worthy of the sin of the the Golden Calf. Rather, they sinned in order to demonstrate the power of repentance to future generations. Thus, we can infer that the punishment for the sin of the Golden Calf was not the classic punishment for ones misdeeds. Rather, the Jewish People were punished then and in the future so they should have a constant reminder of the power of repentance. In this vein we can understand why, despite the tremendous outpouring of repentance following Haman’s decree of annihilation of the Jewish People, the Jewish People succumbed shortly after to the sin of Shabbos desecration and marriage to gentile women. Furthermore, the majority of the Jewish People did not return for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Bais HaMikdash. Nonetheless, the repentance following Haman’s evil decree was hailed by The Gemara (Megillah 14a) as the greatest form of repentance in the history of the Jewish People. The reason for this is because the miracle of Purim was akin to the revelation at Sinai. The Gemara (Shabbos 88a) states that although the Jewish People accepted the Torah at Sinai under duress, in the days of Achashveirosh they reaccepted the Torah out of love. This statement can be interpreted to mean that the acceptance of the Torah was initially forced upon them, and thus the subsequent sin of the Golden Calf was also deemed to be under duress. Yet, even after reaccepting the Torah out of love, the aspect of demonstrating the power of repentance to future generations remained. If this power of repentance had not remained, then HaShem would have brought Moshiach and ushered in the final redemption. However, Moshiach will not arrive until the Jewish People have repented, so in a sense, HaShem caused that the Jewish People sinned after being delivered from Haman’s schemes. The lesson contained in all these episodes is that while we are given free choice, we must realize that HaShem is the One Who controls our destiny, and it is HaShem’s will that people sin, despite their ability to exercise free choice.
The lesson of the Parah Adumah
This Shabbos, in addition to the regular Torah reading, we will also read the parasha in Chukkas the discusses the parah Adumah, the Red Heifer. According to Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan cited by Rashi, the Parah Adumah served as an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf. This is remarkable, as the Jewish People had already received atonement for this sin on the first Yom Kippur in history. Nonetheless, we see that the sin was still lingering, and its atonement was effected through a mitzvah that was relevant when there was a Bais HaMikdash and will become relevant again when Moshiach arrives. Thus, the sin of the Golden Calf was meant to serve as a reminder for us that repentance and atonement are necessary components of the Jewish makeup. This atonement can come through punishment, Heaven forbid, or, if we are wise, through our own voluntary repentance.

The Shabbos connection
Throughout the week, we are given choices to act properly or, Heaven forbid, in an inappropriate manner. On Shabbos, however, the Mishnah (Demai 4:1) teaches us that even the unlearned people are believed regarding tithes, because the fear of Shabbos is upon them. Thus, we see that Shabbos in a sense removes an element of free choice, and the Jewish People are coerced to accept the holiness of the day. We should obviously do everything to prepare for the holiness of Shabbos, but we must be cognizant of the fact that it is HaShem’s day, and He chose to bestow this holy day upon His Chosen Nation.
Shabbos Stories
It’s my life at stake!
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Lou Maidenbaum, former President of Met Foods, help establish the Gedaliah Maidenbaum Preparatory School Division of Yeshiva of South Shore. Before passing away last month, he was confined to a hospital in Miami Beach.
But in his sick bed he never lost his spunk, charm or the will to live life to its fullest.
A week before he passed away, he was in his hospital room and was experiencing some discomfort. He pressed the button for a nurse, but no one came. Five minutes later he rang again. Still no response. He tried two more times and then decided a new tactic.
He picked up the telephone and dialed 3 digits. 9-1-1. "Emergency services, came the woman’s voice, "what is the problem?" "I’m having difficulty breathing" gasped Lou. "Where are you calling from?" "Mount Sinai Hospital, Room 321," came the response. "Mount Sinai Hospital?" Repeated the incredulous dispatcher, "what are you calling us for? You are in the Hospital already!" Lady," he shouted to the operator. "This is my life we are talking about. And If this is the way I’ll get the best response, then I’m calling 911!
Tales out of Shul
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: Rabbi Emanuel Feldman of Atlanta, in his recent work Tales Out of Shul, related that he once made a hospital visit to a gentlemen from south Georgia. He promptly received the following letter.
"Dear Rabbi: Thank you for visiting my husband in the hospital. I thought that orthodox Rabbis just sit and study and pray all day. I am pleased that you do not."
Another time, Rabbi Feldman writes, he was on a plane, and due to overbooking he was bumped up from economy class to a seat in the first class section of the aircraft. During the entire flight, a major Jewish philanthropist, who was seated in first class as a matter of monetary right, kept staring at Rabbi Feldman with a look of curious displeasure. As they were departing the aircraft, the wealthy man could control himself no longer. "Excuse me, Rabbi," he imposed. "Do you always fly first class?"
At first Rabbi Feldman was taken aback but he composed himself and without apologies he comfortably replied, "Doesn't everybody?"
The humility of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: It is told that a student of the Rebbe R' Elimelech once met up with a man who was a staunch opponent of chassidus. Upon hearing that there stood before him a student of one of the infamous "Rebbes," this misguided Jew decided he would have a little fun at the Rebbe's expense.
"Tell me - you say you are a talmid (student) of the world renowned Rebbe R' Elimelech?"
"Yes, I am," he said proudly.
"Why, it's an honor. I would like you to tell me something of the greatness of your 'Rebbe.' After all, I make use of his sefer all the time!" The talmid blushed.
"Yes, it's true. Would you like to see?" With this, the man stood up from his chair, and lifted the cushion upon which he sat. Beneath it lay the sefer Noam Elimelech. "Why - I've never found any other sefer which gives me such 'backing' and 'support' as your Rebbe's sefer! A true metziah! Now, be so good, and tell me more about your 'Rebbe'."
"My holy Rebbe, the Rebbe R' Elimelech," stuttered the talmid, "was so great, that had you placed him under your cushion instead of his sefer - he would have been equally still. Indeed, he was so humble and unassuming that I imagine he would have felt that he belonged there!"
When petitioners used to come to R' Elimelech zt"l, seeking his prayers and blessings, he used to say to his disciples: "Do you know why these people always come to me? It's not because I'm great, nor because my prayers have any special power. I'll tell you why: Chazal (our Sages) say that every person should imagine as if all the world's inhabitants stood upon a scale which weighed their deeds, and that the scale was exactly balanced, so that if, G-d forbid, one sins, he will tip the scales and bring suffering and calamity to the world.
"Now, the fine and upstanding people who come to me all find themselves in difficult and onerous situations. Some are lacking in parnasah (making a living). Others, may HaShem protect us, are sick. Still others have marital problems, or can't find a befitting spouse for their son or daughter. But they know the truth: They are pure minded and righteous people - it is certainly not they who have tipped the scales and brought these problems to the world. So they ask themselves, 'Who could it be that is at fault for all our suffering? Who is the sinner that keeps tipping the scales?' And they come to the only logical conclusion: It's me!
"Thus, they come to me, and tell me of their pain and tzures, not because they hope I'll pray for them, but rather because they hope I'll be aroused to do teshuvah (repentance) after hearing all of their suffering - and realizing that I'm at fault!" (
It pays to be friendly
In the year 5569 (1809) war broke out between France and Austria and the city of Pressburg was under siege. During this time, the Chasam Sofer went through a terrible experience and only through a miracle was his life saved. This is his story.
Some Jews who lived in Pressburg endangered their lives by buying weapons from villagers who had collected them from the battlegrounds. At that time France ruled over Pressburg and demanded that all weapons be turned in to the French authorities. But the Jews sent the weapons they had bought to Austrian headquarters, where the Kaiser paid a high price for them.
One day when these Jews were dividing their profits, an argument broke out among them about how to split the money. This dispute was brought before the beis din of Pressburg over which the Chasam Sofer presided. The beis din decided in favor of one of the parties. The winning party decided to confirm their victory in the local gentile court as well.
When the case came before the judges, they immediately realized that it involved a serious criminal act, and informed the French authorities. As a consequence the French military court charged the Chasam Sofer with illegally authorizing trading in weapons in an effort to assist the enemy. Since the beis din was under the Chasam Sofer's authority, they held him responsible. The Chasam Sofer faced charges of helping the enemy in time of war, a very serious offense. As such he would stand trial at a military court.
A great fear fell over the Jewish community since they knew that the punishment for treason was death. They looked for a way for the Chasam Sofer to escape Pressburg. The leaders of the community, however, were somehow convinced that the Chasam Sofer could stand trial and that G-d would save their beloved rabbi from harm. In the city, a large sum of money was collected to cover the expenses of the trial.
The day of the trial arrived. When the Chasam Sofer entered the courtroom, he was struck with fear. The judges sat in a semi-circle wearing army uniforms with stern faces and their swords drawn.
The presiding judge was a French army officer with the rank of general. He tried to pacify the Chasam Sofer, telling him that he need not worry; the drawn sword was merely a military procedure to give the accused a feeling of awe. The general ordered all the judges to sheath their swords. Then he waited a while until the Chasam Sofer had calmed down before he began the trial.
After hearing the Chasam Sofer, who spoke eloquently and logically, judgment was passed in his favor and he was acquitted of all charges.
Afterwards, the general and the Chasam Sofer went into private conference behind locked doors. This amazed everyone present.
Later, the Chasam Sofer explained what had happened. Many years earlier when the Chasam Sofer was a young boy, he had studied in the city of Mintz and had lodged there in the house of a wealthy man. When Napoleon’s army conquered the city, a few soldiers stayed at this wealthy man's house. One of them, a talented young officer, became friendly with the Chasam Sofer, and offered to teach him various things if he would serve him. The Chasam Sofer agreed and cleaned his shoes, washed his clothes, and performed other services that he needed.
Over the years, the officer rose in rank and became a general. This man happened to be the presiding judge at the Chasam Sofer's trial. He had immediately recognized that the rabbi in front of him was the boy he had liked so much, and therefore he made sure that the Chasam Sofer was acquitted. Then, when they met privately afterwards, he revealed his identity to the Chasam Sofer. The Chasam Sofer remarked that the unusual friendship he had formed in his youth was a perfect example of the many things in our lives which have a significance we do not comprehend initially, but only later can be understood. (MORESHET AVOT II, p. 181) (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Sisa-Parah 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
For sponsorships please call
To subscribe weekly by email
Please send email to
View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
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