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

Introduction
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." (www.Torah.org)
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. (www.revach.net)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tazria-Metzora 5770
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3 comments:

NonymousG said...

Fantastic. Btw, if you post earlier in the week, more people find it via search engine etc. Good Shabbos!

Ben said...

how did you find it?

NonymousG said...

You're on my blogroll. I'm on yours - kind of. I moved from geshmacktorah.blogspot.com to gtorah.com - can you amend it please? . Saw your feed had been updated and came arrived that way.
Good Shabbos!