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
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
For sponsorships please call
To subscribe weekly by email
Please send email to
View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
and other Divrei Torah on

No comments: