Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Emor 5770

שבת טעם החיים אמור תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Emor 5770

Sacrificing one’s life for HaShem’s Name can only be done altruistically

ולא תחללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל אני ה' מקדשכם, you shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the children of Israel; I am HaShem Who sanctifies you. (Vayikra 22:32)
The Torah instructs us regarding a commandment that appears to be very simple to fulfill. Nonetheless, if one is not scrupulous in its performance, it may be almost impossible to observe this mitzvah. What is this mitzvah that is so enigmatic? It is said (Vayikra 22:32) you shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the children of Israel; I am HaShem Who sanctifies you. Rashi explains this commandment of sanctifying HaShem’s name to mean that one must literally give up his life for the sake of HaShem’s Name. Yet, there is a caveat to this sacrifice that the Torah requires from a Jew. One must sacrifice himself by preparing to die for HaShem. However, one who sacrifices himself for HaShem with the hope that HaShem will perform a miracle for him, he should know that a miracle will not be performed for him. This statement is perplexing. If one is sacrificing his life for the sake of HaShem, why would he want HaShem to perform a miracle for him? It would seem that the commandment to sacrifice one’s self for HaShem is simply that. One must give up his life for HaShem’s commandments, regardless of whether HaShem chooses to perform a miracle for the person.
Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov immersed in the mikveh with the proper intentions
The answer to this question can be illustrated by an incident concerning the great Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov (1745-1815). The Rebbe would normally immerse himself in the mikveh (ritual bath) immediately prior to Shabbos, and this Friday was no exception. On this particular Friday, however, the bath attendant had emptied the water from the mikveh earlier than usual, and there was no water for the Rebbe to immerse in. Instead of expressing disappointment, the Rebbe turned to this attendant with a smile and said, “do not think that the lack of water saddens me. In fact, the opposite is true. Normally when one wishes to perform a mitzvah, he must sanctify his thoughts and intentions in order to ensure that he is performing the mitzvah for the sake of Heaven and not for his own pleasure. Nonetheless, who can really claim that while performing the mitzvah, his intentions are pure and undiluted by ulterior motives?”
“Today, however,” continued the Rebbe, “I experienced the fulfillment of the Sages dictum that one who attempts to perform a mitzvah and is unable to because of circumstances beyond his control is deemed to have fulfilled the mitzvah. Thus, I attempted to immerse today in a mikveh in my usual manner, but extenuating circumstances did not allow me to immerse. Therefore, the Torah itself ‘stepped in’ to perform that task, and even if I am incapable of retaining the proper thoughts and intentions, the Torah is certainly capable. It follows, then, that today more than any other day, my immersion was pure and complete.”
One must sacrifice his Life for HaShem’s Name altruistically
The Torah instructs us to perform an act that would seem to be beyond one’s capabilities. How can someone give up his life for something? Are we not commanded to live a life of enjoyment and pleasure? While normally this may be true, there are situations detailed in the Talmud and the Code of Law that that a Jew sacrifice his life. What will happen, however, if one who is prepared to sacrifice his life contemplates the thought that HaShem will save him? This thought is akin to one who performs any mitzvah without the purest of intentions. When performing most mitzvos it may be difficult to remain focused on the proper intentions. Regarding sacrificing one’s life for the sake of HaShem’s Name, however, the mitzvah can only be performed altruistically. If one dilutes the act of sacrificing his life with the hope of being saved by a miracle, then he has deviated from the intention of the mitzvah, which is to be completely dedicated to HaShem.
Reciting Shema is our way of sacrificing our life for HaShem’s Name
Most of us are not usually confronted with the obligation of sacrificing our lives for HaShem’s name. Nonetheless, we are instructed by the Torah to recite the Shema twice daily, and our intentions in the first verse of the Shema must be that we are prepared to sacrifice our very lives for HaShem’s Name. When we recite the words ‘hear O Israel, the Lord is our HaShem, the Lord is One,’ we should concentrate on dedicating our life to HaShem and His Torah. It is specifically while reciting the Shema that we focus on sacrificing our lives to HaShem, as the first verse of Shema is where we proclaim HaShem’s unity. When we acknowledge HaShem as the One Who rules the world, it is easier to dedicate our lives to fulfilling His will.
The Shabbos connection
During the week we are engaged in Torah study and prayer, but thoughts of earning a livelihood and the blandishments of the Evil Inclination make it challenging to perform spiritual acts altruistically. We may at time s be motivated by money or glory or other selfish motives. On Shabbos, however, HaShem grants us the opportunity to serve Him without ulterior motives. Shabbos is a time when we can truly feel like we are serving HaShem, unencumbered by foreign influences and biases. HaShem should allow us to serve Him truthfully, with a pure heart.
Shabbos Stories
Money from Heaven
At one time Eliezer, a holy beggar in the city of Rimanov, had to marry off his daughter. He was one of the sitters of Reb Mendele's Bais Medrash, and he needed a thousand rubles to marry off his daughter. So he made himself strong and he got up his courage and he went to the rich man of the town, and asked him, "Do me a favor. Can you please give me a loan of a thousand rubles to marry off my daughter?" The rich man looked at him and said, "If you would be honest, if you would tell me, 'give me charity, give me a thousand rubles', I would talk to you straight, but you are coming to me for a loan. Tell me, how would you ever pay back the thousand rubles? It's the biggest joke, in the world.' " Then he said, "I'll tell you what. If you can bring me the signature of another rich man I'll gladly give you the loan, but otherwise, no." The whole thing seemed to him like the biggest joke in the world. Eliezer said, "Give me a contract and I'll fill it out." The rich man wrote out a whole contract that someone will take guarantee that he will pay back the thousand rubles.
Eliezer went back to the Bais Medrash and he put his head in the Holy Ark. And he signed that paper, and this is what he signed.
"Li hakesef, Li hazahav, Nium HaShem"
If you translate it simply it says, 'Mine is the silver, Mine is the gold, says the L-rd.' But if you really really translate it, it says, 'Mine is the silver, Mine is the gold. Signed, G-d.' Then he went back to the rich man and brought him this paper.
If you translate it simply it says, 'Mine is the silver, Mine is the gold, says the L-rd.' But if you really really translate it, it says, 'Mine is the silver, Mine is the gold. Signed, G-d.' Then he went back to the rich man and brought him this paper.
The rich man looked at him and thought, "If this was a joke before, now it is a mamash a joke." But do you know something, he was so taken by this joke, because of the naïveté of this man, who really thinks G-d is paying back for him. So, just for the kick of it, he said, "Okay. I'll give you a thousand rubles."
Four weeks later, someone came to the office of this rich man and left an envelope, and it said, "This is the thousand rubles paid back for Eliezer the poor shlepper." According to the Torah, if no time limit is specified, then an ordinary loan is for thirty days. The rich man came to his office, and the secretary said, "There was someone here who left an envelope for you paying back the money for Eliezer, the shlepper." He opened the envelope. In it, one thousand rubles.
He was mamash ashamed of himself, he felt so low. He took his wagon and went to Eliezer the poor shlepper and he said, "Eliezer, I'm sorry I put you through all this trouble. Imagine, nebech, you went to someone else to borrow the money to pay me back but you didn't really have to." Eliezer said, "I don't know what you are talking about." The rich man showed him the envelope. "Someone came and brought me back the thousand rubles." This was too much for both of them. So Eliezer the holy shlepper said, 'Let's go to my holy Rebbe, Reb Mendele Rimanover, and let's ask him."
They came to the holy Rimanover. The holy Rimanover looked at the envelope, he looked at the money, He kissed the envelope and said, "Don't you know, don't you know, the envelope is from heaven, and the money is from heaven. When this little Jew signed G-d's name on that paper, there was a fire in heaven, because he really believed that G-d would pay back for him." There was a riot in heaven - Everybody wanted to pay for him. Our father Avraham wanted to go pay for him. Isaac and Moses wanted to, also. But finally the honor was bestowed on the greatest messenger of all, Eliyahu HaNavi, the Prophet Elijah." Then he told the rich man, "If you only had also believed that G-d would pay back, you would have had the privilege of seeing Elijah give you the money in person. But since you thought it was all just a joke, you only got the money, but you did not see his holy face."
This rich man was really put to shame. He said, "How can I ever use such such holy money, money from heaven? How can I ever use it for myself?"So, he left it with Reb Mendele Rimanover. What Reb Mendele did with the money we don't know. We only know that years later Reb Hershele Rimanover got the holy envelope as a present from his father, Reb Mendele.
My darling friends, maybe someday you will be walking on the street somewhere and you will see an empty envelope. Please don't step on it, don't throw it away - Maybe it’s the envelope of Eliyahu HaNavi, and maybe in that little envelope there is a little note that says, "Li hakesef, Mine is the silver, Li hazahav, Mine is the gold, Nium HaShem. Signed G-d."
Rav Eliyahu Chaim Meisel Calmly Schmoozes In The Bitter Cold
One winter in Lodz was particularly cold and prices of firewood skyrocketed, leaving the poor people without any means to warm themselves. The famed Rav of the city, Rav Eliyahu Chaim Meisel, decided to take upon himself to collect money for firewood from the wealthy people of the city.
The first stop was the home of the wealthiest man in Lodz, Mr. Posnanski. When the doorman saw the Rav coming he quickly went to get his boss, who although wearing light clothing, immediately came to the cold door personally to greet the Rav. He invited the Rav in to talk. The Rav returned his greeting but began to talk without moving from the door.
The Rav was making small talk and casual conversation about nothing in particular. He discussed the comings and goings of the city, world news, on and on without seeming to indicate the reason for his visit. Mr Posnanski stood and listened with respect while his bones began to freeze from the cold.

The Rav kept on going with endless conversation as if he were relaxing somewhere comfortable instead of standing in the freezing cold. After a long while the cold became too much for Mr. Posnanski and he apologetically asked the Rav if they can move into the warm living room. Without budging Rav Eliyahu Chaim said that now he will tell him why he came. He told him about the lack of firewood, and Mr. Posnanski gave him the large amount that he asked for. Only then did the Rav finally accede and followed the host into the living room.

When they sat down in the comfort and warmth, Mr Posnanski asked the Rav why he insisted on speaking for so long at the door in the cold. Rav Eliyahu Chaim said that the world says that a satisfied man cannot comprehend the pain of those who are starving. Similarly those who live in heated homes cannot fathom the pain of those living in frigid apartment with no heat. Had we sat inside you would not have given as generously as you did after standing in the cold for so long and experiencing a small taste of the poor peoples' pain. (Gedolei HaDoros)
The Kotzker Rebbe Exposes The "Yetzer Hara's Tzaddik"

The Chozeh of Lublin had a falling out with the Yehudi HaKadosh of Peshischa after one of the senior and most Choshuveh Chassidim from the Chozeh's court told false reports about the Yehudi HaKadosh.
The Kotzker Rebbe, who followed the Yehudi HaKadosh, said that we see from here the evil and conniving ways of the Yetzer Hara. This senior Chasid was a no tzaddik. However the Yetzer Hara did not interfere with his Avodas HaShem and even helped him his whole life in order that one day late in his life when he tells Motzi Shem Ra to the Chozeh, he would have good standing. Then his malicious lies would be accepted by the Chozeh and cause machlokes. Watch out, the Satan is a smart and patient investor and Lashon Hara is a worthwhile investment for him.
The Sfas Emes Refuses To Be Sent Out
The Sfas Emes rarely took any trips as he was a great masmid and preferred to stay put and learn. Any small trip he took was a great occasion to his Chasidim. One time he traveled to nearby Warsaw which was not far from his hometown Gur. When he arrived, a large gathering was waiting for him and his host prepared a lavish Kiddush for the occasion.
The Sfas Emes said that he does not want to attend such a reception. The host argued that Chazal tell us "Kol SheOmer Licha Baal HaBayis Aseh Chutz MiTzei", whatever the host instructs you to do you must do except if he asks you to leave. Therefore, said the host, the Rebbe is halachicly bound to attend.

The Sfas Emes replied that the word "Tzei" has another connotation beyond leaving the immediate premises. The Misha in Pirkei Avos (4:28) says that three things take a person out of the world, Kinah, Taava, Kavod. Since honor will take a person out of the world and anything that will cause a person to "go out" he need not listen to the Baal HaBayis, therefore the Sfas Emes need not listen to the host and indulge in this honor. (Chaim SheYesh Bahem - Aish Tamid) (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Emor 5770
Is sponsored in honor of the birth of a baby boy to Rabbi Avromy and Mrs. Tzippy Adler of Cleveland. May they be zoche to be mahcnis their son libriso shel Avraham Avinu biito uvizmano and may they have much nachas from all their children
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Acharei-Mos-Kedoshim 5770

שבת טעם החיים אחרי מות-קדושים תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Acharei-Mos-Kedoshim 5770

Good thoughts require a close relationship with HaShem

ואם האכל יאכל ביום השלישי פגול הוא לא ירצה, but if it shall be eaten on the third day, it is rejected – it shall not be accepted. (Vayikra 19:7)
Parashas Kedoshim contains more mitzvos than any other parsha. While the commentators offer reasons for the juxtaposition of the mitzvos, one mitzvah appears to be out of place. After instructing us to be holy, fear our parents, observe the Shabbos and not stray after idols, the Torah instructs us regarding the prohibition of pigul. The definition of this negative commandment is that when one offers a sacrifice, he is forbidden to entertain a thought of sprinkling the blood, burning the pieces of the sacrifice, or eating part of the sacrifice outside the designated place of eating the sacrifice. Additionally, one is forbidden to entertain a thought of performing one of the above mentioned actions outside the designated time that the sacrifice can be eaten. The commentators (Ramban, Ibn Ezra, and Sforno) write that after the Torah instructs us not to stray after idols, the Torah exhorts us not to defile the sacrifices that we offer with any stray thoughts.
How can one prevent foreign thoughts from entering his mind?
The mitzvah of pigul is not relevant in our times as we do not have a Bais HaMikdash and we do not offer sacrifices. Nonetheless, there is a relevant lesson that is contained in this mitzvah. One may wonder how it is possible for a person to prevent foreign thoughts from entering his mind. One answer to this question is that although one cannot prevent foreign thoughts from entering his mind, he can make a conscious effort to banish those disturbing thoughts. I would like to suggest an alternative answer, based on an incident with the famed Reb Mottele Chernobyler. It was well known that the famous tzaddik Reb Mottele of Chernobyl zt”l knew the inner thoughts and hidden secrets of his followers. Nothing was hidden from his holy gaze. However, he would never chastise others directly. Instead, he directed his criticism at himself, and the intended subject got the message without having to suffer the shame.
In Chernobyl there lived a rav who was a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) in his own right. This rav, however, wanted nothing to do with the Chasidim and their strange ways. He obstinately refused to pay Reb Mottele so much as even a courteous visit.
On Pesach, many Jews refuse to eat any food that was not prepared in their home under their supervision. On the last day of Pesach (Acharon shel Pesach), though, most people mishn zich, i.e. they eat others food as well. In fact, it is said that the holy Rebbe of Sanz on Acharon shel Pesach would eat food even from those whom he didn’t trust all year long. Perhaps this Rav was inspired by the spirit of mishn zich, because it was on one certain Acharon shel Pesach that he finally relented and made up his mind to once-and-for-all see what these Chasidim and their Rebbe were all about. He had heard about Reb Mottele’s custom of rebuking himself and meaning others, so it was with great surprise and shock that, no sooner had he entered the Rebbe’s courtyard when he heard the Rebbe mutter, “Mottele, Mottele, you must do teshuvah. you have partaken of chametz on Pesach!”
He realized right away the Rebbe meant him, but for the life of him, he couldn’t imagine to what the Rebbe was referring. “Perhaps,” he said to himself, “I didn’t pay attention to some minute detail? Perhaps I overlooked some stringency that most people don’t even adhere to, but I, being that I am a Torah scholar, should have been more particular?” “But what?” He decided he would immediately return home and look into the matter.
He searched his house high and low for any sign of an area that might not have been checked or cleaned thoroughly. He asked his wife, his sons, and his daughters if they had done everything with the same caution as in previous years. They responded that they had. He was just about ready to give up when suddenly he saw it. There, at the bottom of the huge barrel they had drawn and prepared especially for Pesach, lay a huge chunk of bread. Examining the water more closely, he could see tiny crumbs, barely visible, floating around. This was the only water they drank and cooked with on Pesach. Everything they ate had been tainted by it. He was devastated.
Broken-spirited, he returned to Reb Mottele, and humbly requested that the Rebbe give him a program through which he could repent for his sin, albeit unintentional. “But Rebbe,” he added, “with all due respect, one question gives me no rest. Your eyes see all; maybe I was wrong for not coming to visit you earlier, but you knew we were consuming chametz all Pesach, so how could you not have sent someone to warn us, and saved us from such a grave sin?”
“G-d forbid,” said Reb Mottele, “that I should know of a Jew sinning and refrain from telling him out of concerns for my honor! Believe me, until you passed through the gates to my courtyard, I had no idea what was going on in your home. It’s only once you came, and decided to form a bond with us, that I saw what I saw, and made it known right away.”
A close relationship with HaShem prevents a person from entertaining foreign thoughts
We can suggest that the lesson that Reb Mottele taught this man is implicit in the Torah juxtaposing the prohibition of pigul to the mitzvos of being holy, fearing parents, observing Shabbos, and not straying after idols. HaShem desires that we should develop a loving and close relationship with Him, and it is for that reason that we are prohibited to even have a thought of idol worship in our hearts and minds. Once we develop that close relationship, it will be almost impossible for us to entertain any foreign thoughts, whether they are thoughts of idolatry or of offering a sacrifice in the wrong time or place.
The Shabbos connection
Throughout the week we are barraged by thoughts that are foreign to holiness and spirituality. With the onset of Shabbos, however, all harsh judgments depart and we are united with the Oneness of HaShem and His Holy Shabbos. While according to Halacha one is permitted to contemplate mundane matters on Shabbos, there is an opinion in the Mechilta that on Shabbos one should not allow himself to be distracted by any thoughts that are foreign to this Holy Day. We should merit that HaShem will purify our thoughts and allow us to serve Him with truth.
Shabbos Stories
He wasn’t the man for the job
Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Baranovitch Yeshiva, visited the United States in the latter part of the 1930s to raise funds for his yeshiva. Unfortunately, he made a greater impact on the America than America made on his yeshiva, and the funds raised did not help much. Reb Elchonon returned to a Poland clouded by the darkness of war to be with his students for the ensuing nightmare. The Nazis later murdered him together with his students in Kovno (Kaunus) Ghetto.
While he was in the United States, he was accompanied by young, enthusiastic students, my father amongst them, who felt privileged to help the great sage in his efforts.
Once, a student brought him to visit a wealthy man who had a philanthropic reputation. The bachur was confident that the meeting would prove successful. Unfortunately, the expectations proved fruitless, and Reb Elchonon and the student were shown to the door, empty-handed.
The young man left the house and sat down on the steps of the mansion utterly dejected. Reb Elchonon, who was quite tall, bent down to him, "Why are you so upset?" he asked softly.
"Upset? Why shouldn't I be upset? This man has the ability to support your whole yeshiva for a year, and he sent us away as if he does not have the ability to give even a dime!"
Reb Elchonon smiled. "The Torah tells us that Moshe was told to choose Betzalel to build the Mishkan. Let us assume that Moshe went in the street and asked where he could find Betzalel. Moshe was told that Betzalel could be found in the Bais Medrash. He went into the Bais Medrash and asked someone, 'Are you Betzalel?' The man said no. Should Moshe have been upset? Of course not! It's not the man's fault that he was not Betzalel! He was not born Betzalel and his job was obviously not to be Betzalel! Moshe went to another man. Are You Betzalel? Again the man said no! Should Moshe have been angry with him? Again, of course not!
"Well, my son," continued Reb Elchonon, "You can't be upset with him! He is just not the man that was chosen to help!" (
The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva Dances A Daring Dance
It was a cold snowy night in Manchester which made walking outside very difficult. The aging Manchester Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yehuda Zev Segal was outside on his way home when a car pulled up to drive him.

The driver told the Rosh Yeshiva that his wife had just given birth to a baby girl. The Rosh Yeshiva wished him a Mazel Tov and asked him how the mother and baby were doing. He said that they were both Boruch HaShem doing very well.

When the car stopped the Rosh Yeshiva got out into the snow covered street and started dancing with the father in the most unpleasant and unsafe conditions. The father asked the Rosh Yeshiva why he was endangering himself and dancing on the slippery street. The Rosh Yeshiva answered that whenever he hears that a mother and child are healthy after childbirth he is so consumed with Simcha and Shevach for HaShem that he needs to dance. And dance he did! (Heard from the baby's brother)
The Brisker Rav Inspects Before Accepting The Mishloach Manos
Someone came late in the day to the Brisker Rav’s home to give him Mishloach Manos. The Rav did not take the package but instead walked out of his front door and started to inspect the sky. The visitor was intrigued by this strange response.
The Brisker Rav explained to him that the pasuk says "Sonei Matanos Yichyeh", a person who hates gifts will live. Under normal circumstances I would never accept a gift, said the Brisker Rav. However today is Purim and there is a special Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos Ish Lireieihu which I am happy to participate in. However the hour is late so I needed to go outside and make sure the sun has not set on Purim, before I could accept your gift. - Chaim SheYesh Bahem
Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin Warily Eyes The Moving Man
Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, the Rav of Yerushalayim, was moving apartments and had a number of moving men carrying his belongings to his new home. During the move, Rav Yehoshua Leib followed one of the movers who was carrying two stuffed boxes, one on top of the other. Rav Yehoshua Leib not only followed him out of the apartment, but he walked alongside him the entire way from the old apartment to the new one. All the while he kept warning him not to switch the order of the boxes and to make sure that after he rests and loads up again he doesn't put the bottom box on top.

After hearing these instructions incessantly during the walk, the moving man finally lost his patience and asked Rav Yehoshua Leib, "what are you so tense about? What difference does it make which box is on top?"

Rav Yehoshua Leib answered, in complete humility, that the top box contained his father's writings and the bottom box held his own personal writings in it. "It is not proper that even for a short while my father's writings should be on bottom and mine on top." The level of Kibud Av Vaeim by a tzaddik! (Chaim SheYesh Bahem) (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Acharei-Mos-Kedoshim 5770
Is sponsored with wishes of bracha and Hatzlacha to the entire Adler, Shuvalsky and Baddouch families
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Malchus Shebiteferes

The Mishnah in Avos (2:1) states: Rebbi said, what is the proper path that one should choose for himself? That which is a credit to the one who performs it and that he will be esteemed by man. The author of this statement is Rebbi. The Rokeach writes that every author is supposed to write a hint to his name in the beginning of his work. The Mishnah was authored by Rebbi, and he commenced his work with the words meaimasai korin es shema biarvis, from when does one begin to recite the Shema in the evening. The Gemara (Bava Basra 58a) states that Yaakov’s beauty was a mere semblance of Adam HaRishon’s beauty. It is said (Bereishis 47:28) vayechi Yaakov bieretz Mitzrayim sheva Esrei shanah, Yaakov dwelled in the land of Egypt for seventeen years. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 96:5) states that Rebbi called on himself, “and Yehudah (Rebbi) dwelled in the city of Tzipori for seventeen years.” One of the commentators writes that the reason for this declaration of Rebbi was because his soul was a reincarnation of Yaakov. Based on this Gemara and Medrash, we can suggest that the word meaimasai, ‘from when,’ forms an acrostic for the words meiein Adam Yaakov meiein tam Yehudah, a semblance of Adam is Yaakov, and a semblance of the perfect one (Yaakov) is Yehudah (Rebbi). In line with this idea, the Mishnah in Avos states that Rebbi asked, what is the proper path that one should choose for himself? His answer is, that which is a credit to the one who performs it. The word for credit is tiferes, which is literally translated as glory. Avrohom reflects the attribute of chesed, kindness, and Yitzchak reflects the attribute of gevurah, strength, which means to resist temptation. Yaakov, however, reflects the attribute of Tiferes, glory, which is described as a synthesis of chesed and gevurah. It is thus appropriate that Rebbi was the one who said that the path to choose is the attribute of tiferes, as the soul of Rebbi was a reincarnation of Yaakov. Furthermore, Rebbi asked, what is the proper path that one should choose for himself? The Kuzari writes that the Patriarchs represented a filtering process. Avrohom had two sons. One son was Yitzchak, who was righteous, and the second son was Yishmael, who was wicked. Similarly, Yitzchak had Yaakov, who was righteous, and Esav, who was wicked. It was not until Yaakov, however, that the chaff was totally removed from the wheat, as Yaakov’s twelve sons represented perfection amongst humans. Thus, we can understand why Rebbi asked, what is the proper path that one should choose for himself, as one should always strive to reach the level of the Patriarchs. Ultimately, it is through the attribute of tiferes that one will achieve glory for HaShem and for mankind.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tazria-Metzora 5770

שבת טעם החיים תזריע-מצורע תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tazria-Metzora 5770

Sefiras HaOmer: One Continuous Day of Shabbos

וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עמר התנופה שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה, you shall count for yourselves – from the morrow of the rest day, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving – seven weeks, they shall be complete. (Vayikra 23:15)
We are now in the days of Sefiras HaOmer, the counting of the days from when the Omer was brought when the Bais HaMikdash was standing. The counting of the Omer occurs from the second day of Pesach until the day prior to Shavuos. The counting of the Omer is for forty nine days, and is also referred to in the Torah as the counting of seven weeks. While it is easy to keep track of the counting of the Omer, it is challenging to understand the idea of the counting. The Sefer HaChinuch writes that we count the days preceding Shavuos like a slave who anxiously waits the time when he will be able to move away from the hot sun that beats down on him and enter a shady area. Similarly, we count the days Shavuos, the day when we received the Torah directly from HaShem. How does this idea relate to the counting from the Omer, and why is it necessary to count for forty nine days?
HaShem uttered Zachor and Shamor simultaneously
In order to gain an understanding into the counting of the Omer, it is worthwhile to examine a parallel idea, and that is the six days of the week and the subsequent day of Shabbos. The Gemara (Shavuos 20b) states that HaShem uttered both Zachor and Shamor simultaneously. What is the meaning of this statement? Zachor is translated as remember, whereas Shamor means to safeguard. Essentially, Zachor means to actively sanctify the Shabbos, and Shamor means to safeguard the sanctity of Shabbos by not performing any work. The commandment of Zachor is written in Parsahas Yisro, where we were instructed regarding the Luchos Rishonos, the First Tablets. The commandment of Shamor, however, was mentioned in Parashas Vaeschanan, where we were instructed regarding Luchos Shniyos, the Second Tablets. It would appear that the first instance when we were instructed regarding the Ten Commandments was prior to the sin of the Golden Calf, whereas the second set of commandments was given after the sin. Thus, it would follow that prior to the sin of fashioning the Golden Calf, the Jewish People only needed to be instructed regarding Zachor, the positive aspect of sanctifying the Shabbos. The reason for this is that Zachor reflects the idea that throughout the week one is involved in preparing for Shabbos, whereas Shamor is more reflective of the idea that one has to safeguard the Shabbos on the day of Shabbos itself. When HaShem placed Adam HaRishon in Gan Eden, it is said (Bereishis 2:15) vayikach HaShem Elokim es haadam vayanicheihu vigan eden liovdah ulishamroh, HaShem G-d took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and to guard it. The Medrash states that the words “to work it” refer to a positive commandment, whereas the words “and to guard it” refer to a negative commandment. These positive and negative commandments would be akin to the commandments of Zachor and Shamor. Given the fact that Adam had not yet eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, one must wonder why Adam had received a negative commandment. The answer to this question is based on the statement of the Gemara that HaShem uttered the commandments of Zachor and Shamor simultaneously. While the Jewish People had not yet sinned with the Golden Calf, HaShem foresaw that they would sin and thus Shamor would be incorporated into the sanctity of Shabbos. In a similar vein, HaShem foresaw that Adam would sin and he therefore instructed him regarding the negative commandment.
Moshe prays for the Divine Presence to rest on the Mishkan
The ideal Shabbos for a Jew is to be constantly engaged in Zachor, the positive aspect of Shabbos. The Gemara (Brachos 64a) states that the righteous and the Torah Scholars do not have rest in this world or in the next world. How could it be that after toiling in this world the righteous will not merit an eternal rest? The answer is that rest is not defined as vacation and kicking back after a hard day. Rather, the true rest is defined by Shabbos, and the Tanna Divei Eliyahu (§1) states that one should make Shabbos a complete pursuit of Torah. This, then, is what the Gemara means when it states that the righteous have no rest in this world and in the next world. They toil in Torah and good deeds in this world and this allows them to continue their spiritual ascent in the next world.
Proper behavior allows a Jew to inherit two worlds
The Medrash in this week’s parasha states that the laws regarding pure and impure animals are stated before the laws of purity and impurity regarding man. If man is meritorious, the Medrash states, he will inherit both worlds, and if not, he will stand before HaShem in judgment. The Sfas Emes writes that the word that the Medrash uses for inherits is nocheil, which also means a flowing stream. Thus, the Medrash is telling us that through a Jew’s positive actions he will merit reward in this world and in the next world, and the reward is a continuous flow from this world to the next. The Zohar states that a Torah Scholar is always in the category of Shabbos. Based on the premise that the two worlds are connected, we can understand this statement in a new light. The Torah scholar is constantly toiling in Torah, and that allows him to connect this world with the World to Come, and he is never granted rest in either world. We now see that Shabbos is not merely a once a week experience that grants a person respite from the toil of the week. Rather, Shabbos can transform ones entire week, provided that one be involved in spiritual pursuits throughout the week. This is the meaning of the statement that Zachor and Shamor were uttered simultaneously, as one should not be satisfied with just safeguarding the Shabbos by not committing an infraction on Shabbos. Rather, one should strive to maintain the sanctity of Shabbos throughout the week, and then he will merit both worlds without ever resting.
We must keep praying for the Ultimate Redemption
Returning to the idea of counting the Omer, it is important for us to realize that we have just celebrated the festival of Pesach, which is the only festival that the Torah explicitly refers to as Shabbos. Pesach, however, does not end after eight days. The Ramban writes that the days between Pesach and Shavuos are akin to Chol HaMoed, the Intermediate Days of the festival. It follows, then, that our counting of the Omer is for the purpose of connecting this world and the next world. On the surface it may appear to us that the days between Pesach and Shavuos are merely secular days which can be frivoled away. In truth, however, these are days of introspection and transcendence which can be transformed into days of light and holiness. We can thus understand why the Torah refers to these weeks as sheva Shabbasos temimos, seven complete weeks. The days of the Omer are essentially one continuous Shabbos, and all forty nine days are connected to Pesach, which is referred to as Shabbos (Vayikra 23:15).
The Shabbos connection
The manner in which we can connect this world and the next world is by celebrating the Shabbos and the festivals and by recognizing that the intermediate days of the week and the days between the festivals are days of spiritual light and holiness. When we are cognizant of this ideal, HaShem will surely grant us the freedom that we are seeking, and then we will merit true rest in this world and in the World to Come.
Shabbos Stories
Time for a little honor
A few years after Rabbi Shneur Kotler succeeded his late father Reb Aharon as the Rosh Yeshiva of the Lakewood Yeshiva, the Yeshiva's enrollment began to expand. No longer was Reb Shneur able to sit and study in the large Yeshiva all day. He was suddenly forced to raise funds day in and day out often leaving early in the morning and returning home way past midnight.
A brief respite was the annual convention of Agudath Israel at which nearly 1000 laymen and rabbinical leaders would gather for a long weekend to discuss the state of Torah affairs.
My grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, the oldest member of the Council of Torah Sages would often highlight the keynote session on Saturday night. As the eldest of the world's Torah sages, Reb Yaakov would find a way to sneak up to the dais, usually through a back door, to avoid having the entire crowd arise upon seeing his presence as is required by Jewish Law. Yet this year things were different. Reb Yaakov engaged the much younger, Reb Shneur in conversation outside the large ballroom and waited until everyone took his or her seats. Then he took Reb Shneur by the hand and said, "I think it is time we took our seats." He proudly held Reb Shneur by the arm and escorted him to the dais as the throng of people rose in awe.
Reb Shneur, stunned by Reb Yaakov's departure from his trademark humility asked him why he did not go through the back as was his usual custom.
"Reb Shneur," he explained, "your Rebbitzen (rabbi's wife) is sitting in the auditorium. The entire year she sees you in a much-dishonored light. You run from donor to donor in order to keep the Yeshiva open, you have hardly any time to prepare your lectures, and all she sees are people knocking on your door with their problems. Yet she stands beside you faithful and unwavering. It is time that she sees that you get a little kavod (honor).
Remember the Alamo
In the early 1900s, a simple religious Russian Jew decided that he could no longer stand the Czar's persecution. He would leave Russia to join his son who had settled in Houston, Texas, some twenty years earlier. The son, who had totally assimilated and was a successful oilman, was thrown into a panic. "Of course, you are welcome, Pa," he cabled, "I will arrange a visa, your tickets and fares. But you must realize that I have a wonderful reputation here as an oil man. When you arrive, you must adapt to American culture or I will be destroyed.
Upon arrival at the train station, the old man, dressed in his long coat and up-brimmed hat, was whisked to a haberdashery, where he was fitted with the latest style fedora and a modern-cut suit. But still, his father looked too Jewish.
"Pa it's not enough. I'll take you to the barber."
The first thing that came off was the beard. The son looked on and said, "it's not enough Pa. The peyos, they'll have to go." The barber cut off the right peya. While the son looked on proudly, his pa was becoming a real American. Then the second. And the old man began to weep.
"Why are you crying, Papa?" the son asked incredulously.
The father, resigned to his fate, simply answered. "I am crying because we lost the Alamo!"

Defending his Father’s Honor
Rabbi Abraham Twersky tells the story of a young man who came to the chief Rabbi of Vilna, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky with a request. As this young man's father was applying for a Rabbinical position in a town that the sage was familiar with, he asked the rabbi for a letter of approbation on his father's behalf.
Rabbi Grodzinsky felt that the candidate was not worthy of the position, but instead of flatly refusing, he just said that he would rather not mix into the Rabbinical affairs of another city and was sure that the council of that city would make a fair and wise decision.
Rabbi Grodzinsky did not realize the tirade that would be forthcoming. The young man began to spew insults and aspersions at him. The sage, however, accepted them in silence. After a few minutes of hearing the abusive language, Rabbi Grodzinsky excused himself and left the room.
Students who witnessed the barrage were shocked at the young man's brazen audacity. They were even more surprised that the Rav did not silence the young man at the start of the barrage.
Rabbi Grodzinsky turned to them. "You cannot view that onslaught on its own. You must look at the bigger picture. This young man was defending the honor of his father, and in that vein I had to overlook his lapse." (
Why Was Rav Avigdor Miller's Head In The Sink?
Rav Avigdor Miller was known for his emphasis on appreciating the wonder and beauty of nature and the vast wisdom of the world that HaShem created among a multitude of other qualities from which we can learn so much. This classic story epitomizes his constant focus on appreciation for HaShem.
Once, a grandchild visited Rav Miller at home and was puzzled to see his grandfather with his face in the sink. After a few minutes, Rav Miller stood up, and breathed deeply. "The air is so wonderful," he said.
His grandchild said, "Why was your face in the water for so long that you couldn't even breathe properly?" Rav Miller said, "On my way home, someone started talking to me and commented that lately, the air has been polluted. I didn't want my appreciation of HaShem’s air to lessen, so I decided to deepen my appreciation of air. After depriving myself of air for just a short while, I now am even more thankful to HaShem for providing us with such wonderful air. (Rabbi Shmuel Brog)
Rebbi Akiva Eiger's Vacation To Remember
Every now and then you read a story that makes you realize what it means, and what it takes, to truly become a Gadol BaTorah. Rebbi Akiva Eiger was not in great health and his children wanted to take him to a place with fresh air, to get away and rejuvenate his ebbing strength. But how would they convince him of this? First of all how would they approach him since he was always busy learning. Even if they would interrupt him, there was no way he would agree to go.
The decided to make all the arrangements without telling him and at the appointed time a carriage waited outside the house. His son went to him and took his father and walked with him to the carriage. Rebbi Akiva Eiger walked with him while continuing to be immersed in his learning. They got into the carriage and were off to the mountains. When they arrived at the inn, they took Rebbi Akiva Eiger up to his room and sat him on a couch facing a window with a view of the mountains. All the time he continued learning without paying any attention to his new surroundings.

Finally after sitting on the couch for a while, he turned to his son and asked, "where is the baby?" No one understood what he wanted. Finally they figured out that since he was seated on the couch, he thought he was called to be Sandak at a Bris and was waiting for the baby so that they can perform the Bris and he can get back home to his learning. (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tazria-Metzora 5770
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini 5770

שבת טעם החיים שמיני תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini 5770

Keep on praying for the Redemption

ויבא משה ואהרן אל אהל מועד ויצאו ויברכו את העם וירא כבוד ה' אל כל העם, Moshe and Aharon came to the Tent of Meeting, and they went out and they blessed the people – and the glory of HaShem appeared to the entire people (Vayikra 9:23)
The Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which will serve as the resting place for the Divine Presence in the Wilderness, is ready to be erected. The entire Jewish People is anxiously waiting for a fire to descend from heaven, and this revelation would reflect the love that HaShem had for them and would also demonstrate that they had earned atonement for the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf. Unfortunately, it appears as if they have waited in vain. The fire has not descended, and they voiced their complaint to Moshe. What could Moshe do that would satisfy their desire to have the Divine Presence in their midst?
“Am I also preventing the Redemption from occurring?”
The Munkatcher Rebbe, Reb Chaim Elazar Shapiro (1872-1937) had finally arrived in Jerusalem for a historic meeting with the renowned Kabbalist, Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri, known as the Saba Kadisha, The Holy Elder (1820-1930). For years they had communicated by mail and now a great crowd had gathered to witness the meeting of these two great Torah luminaries. The crowd finally dispersed and only the Rebbe’s attendant, Reb Shalom, remained in the room where the two leaders were to meet. The Rebbe gave his attendant a knowing glance and Reb Shalom left the room. Unable to contain his curiosity, however, Reb Shalom remained listening behind the door, curious as to what would transpire in this fateful encounter. At first Reb Shalom could not hear anything, and he assumed that the language barrier was preventing any communication, as the Rebbe only spoke Yiddish and the great Kabbalist spoke in his native Hebrew. Finally the two settled on Hebrew as the spoken language, and Reb Shalom heard the Rebbe ask in a slow but urgent tone, “tell me, please, when will the Messiah finally arrive to redeem us from this long exile?” The Saba Kadisha replied sadly, “there are those who are preventing the redemption from occurring.” Reb Shalom listened eagerly for further conversation, but he could not hear anything. After a few moments he heard the Rebbe crying and then through the tears, he was able to make out the Rebbe’s muffled cry, “Am I also among those who is preventing the redemption?” The Rebbe’s sincere query pierced Reb Shalom’s heart and penetrates the hearts of Jews the world over. Are we doing enough to bring the redemption?
Moshe prays for the Divine Presence to rest on the Mishkan
Moshe was confronted by the Jewish People’s disappointment that they had not yet merited the Divine Presence to rest on their new edifice. Rashi writes that Aharon was also saddened by the fact that despite having offered all the necessary sacrifices to inaugurate the Tabernacle, the Divine Presence had not yet appeared. Moshe then entered the Mishkan together with Aharon and they prayed that the Divine Presence should rest on the handiwork of the Jewish People. Immediately a fire went forth from before HaShem and consumed upon the Altar the burnt-offerings and the fats; the people saw and rejoiced at the revelation of HaShem’s Presence in their midst.
We must keep praying for the Ultimate Redemption
We are constantly praying for the Redemption, and at times we may wonder if there is something more that we need to do to hasten its arrival. In truth, however, just as Moshe did for the Jewish People in the Wilderness, we must keep praying to HaShem to bring the Redemption. HaShem revealed Himself to the Jewish People then, and He will certainly answer our prayers and bring us the Messiah and the long awaited redemption.
The Shabbos connection
Throughout the week we anticipate the Redemption. On Shabbos, however, we feel that we are so close to redemption, as we recite in the Lecho Dodi prayer, karvah el nafshi gealah, draw near to my soul-redeem it! HaShem should give us the strength to keep praying for redemption, and in the merit of our Shabbos observance, he will surely redeem us, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos Stories
“Say it again and again until you understand it!”
The sudden death of Reb Yosef could not have come at a more untimely time - a few days before Passover. A Holocaust survivor, he had rebuilt his life in Canada and left this world a successful businessman, with a wonderful wife, children, and grandchildren. It was difficult, however, for them all to leave their families for the first days of Passover to accompany his body, and thus his widow traveled with her son to bury her husband in Israel. After the funeral the two mourners sat in their apartment in the Shaarei Chesed section of Jerusalem. Passover was fast approaching, and they were planning to spend the Seder at the home of relatives. As they were about to end the brief Shiva period and leave their apartment, a soft knocked interrupted their thoughts. At the door to her apartment stood none other than one of Israel's most revered Torah sages, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.
"I live nearby," he said, "and I heard that there was a funeral today. I came to offer my condolences."
The sage then heard a brief history of Reb Yosef's difficult, yet remarkably triumphant life.
Then Reb Shlomo Zalman turned to the widow and asked a very strange question. "Did you say the blessing Boruch Dayan HaEmes? Blessed are You, HaShem, the true Judge." (This blessing acknowledges the acceptance of HaShem as the Master Planner of all events acknowledging that all that happens is for the best.) "Why? Yes," answered the elderly lady. "I said it right as the funeral ended. But it is very difficult to understand and accept."
Reb Shlomo Zalman, a man who lived through dire poverty and illness, four wars, and the murder of a relative by Arab terrorists, nodded. "I understand your questions. That blessing is very difficult to understand and to accept. You must, however, say it again and again. As difficult as it may be, believe me, if you repeat it enough you will understand it."
Pesach without any questions
Once, when a student of R' Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik zt"l (the Brisker Rav; died 1959) was leaving Yerushalayim to return to his home in Binei Brak, the Brisker Rav said, "Please tell your father that I wish him a `Chag Sameach.' Also, please give him my wish that the holiday should pass with no shailos [i.e., that no questions should arise regarding whether chametz had found its way into the food or into the pots and pans]."
The Brisker Rav added: "Do not think that this is a small blessing. I remember that when I was a child, my father [R' Chaim Brisker zt"l] once said to my mother after Pesach, `Thank G-d the holiday passed with no shailos.' He spoke then the way a person speaks after successfully undergoing difficult surgery."
The Brisker Rav also added: "A shailah in those days was not like a shailah today. I remember as a child in Volozhin that a question arose in someone's kitchen, and all of his pots and dishes were declared chametz. Today, rabbis are so much more likely to accept a lenient opinion among the poskim / halachic authorities."
Pesach is like winning the lottery
The 19th century chassidic rebbe, R' Yechiel Meir of Gostynin zt"l, barely slept all of Pesach. His family was worried about his health and asked him why he would not sleep. He replied, "If I had won the lottery, would you ask me why I couldn't sleep? Believe me! Every minute of Pesach is like winning the lottery."
What did he mean by this? Why did he feel more fortunate on Pesach than on any other day? The Amshinover Rebbe explained: Our Sages say that chametz represents the yetzer hara. Thus, Pesach is a time that is free of the yetzer hara. Every minute of such a time is priceless. (Otzroseihem Shel Tzadikim)
A right way and a wrong way to read the Hagadah
The mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim / relating the story of the Exodus requires more than just reading the story. One's recitation of the Haggadah must be from the heart and also must penetrate one's heart, so that the story of the Exodus will serve as the basis for strengthening one's emunah/faith. Indeed, R' Simcha Zissel Ziv zt"l (the "Alter of Kelm"; died 1898) used to observe that the statement in the Haggadah, "The more that one relates about the Exodus, the more praiseworthy it is," also can be translated, "The more that one relates about the Exodus, the more improved he is."
R' Yaakov Levitt zt”l (Bialystok) illustrated with a parable the difference between the right way to tell the story of the Exodus and the wrong way:
A villager once took seriously ill. The doctor was called, and the doctor recognized that the villager's illness was fully curable if treated properly. He wrote out a prescription and he told the villager's wife, "Give your husband this prescription with water three times a day until it is finished, and he will be cured."
The family did as it was told. Every day, the simple village wife tore a small piece off the prescription, dissolved it in water and gave it to her husband to drink. Needless to say, his condition did not improve.
The doctor was called, but he was very perplexed. "I know that this prescription works," he said. "I have prescribed it for this illness before."
"Let me see the prescription," he requested finally. "Perhaps I made a mistake." The villager's wife explained, however, that she could not show him the prescription because she had given it to her husband as instructed.
"Fools," he shouted. "Can a piece of paper cure your husband's illness? It's not the paper that makes the difference, but what's written on the paper that would have cured him."
So it is with the Haggadah. It is not the book of the Haggadah nor simply reading the Haggadah which illuminates one's soul. Rather, one must absorb the contents of the story. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Shaarei Armon p. 150)
Reb Shaul Kagan zt"l
Reb Shaul Kagan, founder of the Kollel of Pittsburgh, was born in Europe. After his family fled to the U.S., his father became Rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef (RJJ). R' Shaul studied there and later enrolled in the fledgling yeshiva in Lakewood under R' Aharon Kotler.
Over 30 years ago, R' Kagan established a kollel (institute for advanced study by married men) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began with ten men who studied and taught classes (for free) to the community. An appreciation of the Kiddush HaShem that he and his kollel made on the city of Pittsburgh may be gleaned from a comment made once by the non-Jewish, then-Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caligari, "What those ten men are doing day and night in that study hall on Bartlett Street is giving hope and strength for Russian Jews far across the globe." Asked later why he would make such a comment, the Mayor said, "Rabbi Kagan told me a little bit about the Torah. Then he explained what you rabbis do. Then he took me to the kollel. I saw from the way that he talked about your Torah and by seeing you study that whatever the Torah does, it must impact much farther than Pittsburgh." (Based on Yated Neeman) (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shemini 5770
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
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