Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5770

שבת טעם החיים מטות-מסעי תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5770

Vows and clarity

וידבר משה אל ראשי המטות לבני ישראל לאמר זה הדבר אשר צוה ה', Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Children of Israel, saying: this is the thing that HaShem has commanded. (Bamidbar 30:2)
In this week’s parasha the Torah discusses the laws of Nedarim, vows. It is said (Bamidbar 30:2) vayidabeir Moshe el roshei hamatos livnei Yisroel leimor zeh hadavar asher tzivah HaShem, Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Children of Israel, saying: this is the thing that HaShem has commanded. The Sifri notes that whereas all other prophets prophesized with the words koh amar HaShem, thus says HaShem, Moshe was unique in that he prophesized with the words zeh hadavar, this is the thing. There are a number of questions that must be addressed regarding this Medrash. First, what is the fundamental difference between the words koh amar and the words zeh hadavar that reflect a distinction between the two forms of prophecies? Second, why does the Medrash specifically point out this distinction between prophecies regarding the laws of vows? Third, we find that the words zeh hadavar are already mentioned regarding the prohibition of offering sacrifices outside of the Bais HaMikdash. Why did the Medrash not highlight there the distinction of the words koh amar and the words zeh hadavar?
The Netziv’s explanation regarding the difference between Moshe’s prophecy and other prophets
The Netziv, in his commentary to the Sifri, explains that the difference between the prophecies of all other prophets and the prophecy of Moshe is that the other prophets transmitted their prophecy after the Divine Spirit had left them, whereas Moshe uttered his prophecies while HaShem was talking to him. Thus, the words of Moshe were essentially the words of HaShem. The Netziv does not explain, however, the uniqueness of the words zeh hadavar to the laws of Nedarim. Upon examining the rationale of Nedarim we will discover the reason why the Medrash points out the uniqueness of the words zeh hadavar specifically regarding these laws.
The articulation of a vow reflects clarity
When one makes a vow, he is doing something different than telling people of his intentions. A vow reflects a clarity that the person did not have until this moment. Thus, by uttering a vow to perform an action, one is demonstrating that it is clear to him why he is performing this act. The Gemara (Nedarim 8a) evidences this concept by stating that one who declares that he will learn a chapter of Torah has pronounced a great vow to the G-d of Israel. The commentators explain that this declaration is not necessarily a true vow. Rather, one who declares that he will study a certain section of Torah is akin to one who vows to donate to charity. Nonetheless, one who articulates his intention to study or to donate to charity is surely demonstrating his inner conviction of performing the will of HaShem. While people, may be cognizant of the requirement to study Torah and donate to charity, it is much more valuable when one declares his intentions to study and to donate.
Moshe’s prophecy was akin to the clarity of a vow
Given the fact that a vow reflects the idea of clarity, we can better understand why the Medrash chose to highlight the distinction between Moshe’s prophecy and all the other prophets’ prophecy specifically regarding the laws of vows. Other prophets are akin to one who has good intentions but does not necessarily articulate his true wishes. Moshe’s prophecy, however, reflects the determination of one who is willing to act on his convictions. Thinking good thoughts are noble, but acting on them is clearly a higher level of dedication to HaShem and His Torah.
The Shabbos connection
Throughout the entire week we are faced with trials and tribulations that may at times impede on our efforts to perform good deeds and study Torah. With the arrival of Shabbos, however, a great light descends upon the world. Through the prism of this light HaShem allows us to clearly see our mission in this world, which is to study Torah and perform good deeds. HaShem should shine upon us the light of Tziyon, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos Stories
Accepting rebuke with love
The Sfas Emes' father died when the Sfas Emes was young. The Chidushei HaRim, who was the Sfas Emes’ grandfather, raised the young orphan, who was a child prodigy. At a very young age, the Sfas Emes once stayed up almost the whole night learning Torah with a study partner.
The Sfas Emes fell asleep right before morning prayers and came into Shacharis late. The Chidushei HaRim approached his grandson after davening and laced into him. He told him, "If the Rebbe's grandson comes late to davening, what type of impression does that make on the people?" He told him his actions were a Desecration of G-d's Name. He went on and on, cutting the young boy to pieces.
The Sfas Emes kept totally quiet. He did not offer the obvious excuse that he was up all night learning. His chavrusa, who was up with him and knew what had happened, approached his young study partner and asked, "Why didn't you just tell your grandfather you were up all night studying?"
The Sfas Emes answered, "To hear mussar from a great person is a wonderful experience. It was worth it to hear the admonitions and chastisement of the 'Zeida' even though I am 100 percent innocent."
We can't relate to this idea. When we are right and someone accuses us falsely, we are the first to jump and correct the misimpression. The Sfas Emes wanted to hear the chastisement.
The Sfas Emes brought a proof to the correctness of his position (of listening silently to the unjustified rebuke of a great person) from the Tribes of Gad and Reuven.
When they came to Moshe Rabbeinu and asked to live in Trans-Jordan, Moshe Rabbeinu jumped at them. He accuses them of being cowards, of refusing to fight, of repeating the sin of the Meraglim, and on and on. Then they clarified their original position. However, in the meantime, they sat there and listened to Moshe Rabbeinu's whole tirade. They patiently took in all the mussar that he was giving them, before they corrected his misimpression of their proposal.
It is worthwhile to hear mussar from a great teacher. It is worthwhile to hear oneself being cut up and put in one's place by a great individual... even if the criticism is not correct. The Sfas Emes explained that it was worth hearing his grandfather's mussar, whether or not he was at fault. ( )
Chazon Ish - Whose Guest Is He?
The Chazon Ish in his Sefer Emunah U'Bitachon tells a story of a Chosid who invited a guest to his home for Seudas Shabbos. His whole family joyously prepared for the meal because they loved hosting guests.

However the person making arrangements for the guest didn't realize that the Chosid had invited him, so he sent him to a different family for the Seudah.

When the Chosid finished Davening on Friday night the guest was nowhere to be found. The Chosid finally got to the bottom of the story and when he returned home without the guest the family was greatly disappointed. The Chosid said to them, "Is our guest your personal property to do business with? I only worried that he should have a place to eat and enjoy Seudas Shabbos. What is the difference if this is done in our house by someone else?"

Selflessness is considering another person's needs. Selfishness is using other peoples' needs as a way to satisfy your personal desires, whatever they may be.
The Brisker Rav & Rav Dessler - Waiting For Moshiach At The Door
The Rambam (Melachim 11:1) writes that anyone who does not believe in the coming of Moshiach or does not wait for him... is Kofer in Toras Moshe. The Brisker Rav points out that even if you believe in Moshiach but are not awaiting his imminent arrival, you are a Kofer. This is further emphasized by the Rambam by writing in the 13 Ikarim, "Achakeh Lo BiChol Yom SheYavo". The waiting is not simply a word about our yearning for Moshiach. It is part and parcel of believing in him. If you are not waiting, you do not believe.

So how does one wait? Rav Eliyahu Dessler in Michtav MeiEliyahu writes that when a person is deathly ill and waiting for a special expert Doctor who promised to come from far, when the patient hears every knock on the door he jumps expecting it to be the Doctor. Even if the Doctor hasn't shown up for days, the patient never gives up hope and is convinced that each knock is finally him.

It is said on the Chafetz Chaim that often when he woke up, he would urgently ask, "Did Moshiach arrive, while I was sleeping?"

Rav Avrohom Grodzinsky Dances Right On Time
The following story gives a glimpse of the greatness of Rav Avrohom Grodzinsky and gives new meaning to the obligation to feel for another Jew. One time when Rav Avrohom was in Warsaw he went to visit some relatives. All during the visit he kept asking what the time was. At one point after they told him the time he got up and started dancing. His hosts asked him what he was doing, but he was oblivious to his surroundings as he danced with great fervor. After finishing dancing he sat back down again as if nothing happened.

When his relatives asked him what this odd behavior was all about he explained that one of the talmidim was getting married in Slabodka that night. He really wanted the Mashgiach Rav Avrohom to be there. "While unfortunately I was unable to be there for his simcha", said Rav Avrohom. "There is no reason that I could not share in his simcha." (Gedolei HaDoros)

Rav Avrohom Grodzinsky Hy"d was the Mashgiach of the Slabodka Yeshiva. He was the sole leader of the Yeshiva present at the outbreak of the Holocaust, as the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Isaac Sher was abroad at the time. Years earlier the Yeshiva had split into two with the establishment of Slabodka in Eretz Yisroel and while Rav Avrohom was actually sent with the initial group, he was recalled to Slabodka to hold up the Yeshiva when the Alter himself traveled to Eretz Yisroel.

Rav Avrohom was the spiritual leader in the Kovno Ghetto, which was situated in the suburb of Slabodka. He dispensed chizuk and emuna to the broken hearted remnants of the Yeshiva and the rest of the Kovno/Slabodka community during those bleak days. Rav Shloime Volbe and Rav Chaim Kreiswirth were married to his daughters. Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky was his brother-in-law. (

A Soul for a soul

Winter in Israel can be the coldest of times, especially out, unprotected and vulnerable, in the frigid air of the Casbah. As Yoni patrolled the deserted streets and marketplaces, he felt a longing for the simple, uncomplicated existence he had enjoyed before being drafted to the Golani Brigade. He thought back to his high school days, to the summers spent at a little bungalow high in the hills of the Galil. He let his mind take him far away. Anywhere was preferable to where he was right now. "Any shadow could be a terrorist, every rock a mine waiting to be stepped on." Why, oh why, had he wanted to join an elite combat unit?...
Not more than one hundred feet away, perched high in the minaret of the nearby mosque, Jamal steeled himself against the bone-numbing coldness of the damp stone wall. Next to him stood the rifle, snout poking through the small window high in the tower’s side. He peered at his watch, a present from his uncle for his seventeenth birthday, and he knew that it would soon be time...
Wait! There he was, the Israeli soldier, out on the evening’s patrol. Jamal’s finger tensed, teasing the trigger, caressing it gently. As the Israeli soldier moved directly into his line of vision, equipment weighing him down, Jamal al Khadouri pressed down gently on the trigger, sending out a bullet which sped straight at the unsuspecting soldier. The bullet struck its target. The soldier crumpled to the ground, and Jamal knew that he’d been successful...
If there was one thing that Doron Halpern hated about being a soldier, it was the fact that the barracks were so crowded. It was too hard to find a little space for yourself in a room with so many other soldiers. Sometimes the only recourse was to get into his heavy army overcoat and go for a stroll outside. Just for a few minutes and not too far away ― one never knew who was waiting in the dark streets and squalid alleyways.
There had been a special delivery of shwarma that evening, which one of the soldier’s mothers had sent up to them from Tel Aviv, and the excitement was high, the mood festive. Their platoon had almost finished its time here, and the feeling of liberation was palpable. It was party time in the barracks and Doron wanted no part in the festivities.
He shrugged into his coat, slung his rifle over his shoulder, and prepared to brave the inclement weather. He opened the door leading to the street and left the building, strolling past the guardhouse where the soldiers stood alert and ready. He breathed in deeply, tasting the fresh night air and began walking down the quiet street in the direction of the Casbah, the city square. He had been walking for seven minutes when he heard the shot.
It came from somewhere to his left and his training kicked in immediately. Without pausing for a second, his rifle was off his shoulder and his eyes were sweeping from right to left as he ran in the direction of the shot. They timed it well, he thought as he ran. No one was supposed to be out now. On and on he ran, through the darkened streets and empty lots full of vandalized cars. And then he turned a corner and ran through the courtyard of the mosque and out through the parking lot. Doron nearly went flying over the prostrate form of the soldier who’d been shot.
Fresh blood gushed out of his wound, and Doron realized that time was of the essence if he wanted to save the young soldier’s life. He dialed the base’s emergency line, giving the soldier on the other end his location, and he then got down to work. First, he ripped a thick piece of material off his shirt and wrapped it tightly around the area of the wound, stanching the bleeding somewhat.
The soldier’s face was turning paler and paler, and it seemed like forever before Doron heard the welcome relief of the sirens. The medics jumped out of the ambulance, pulled out the stretcher and practically threw the soldier inside. The doors slammed closed and the ambulance sped away to the nearest hospital, leaving Doron with torn clothing and bloody hands. With nothing more to be done, Doron ran back to the base, changed out of his clothes and, without telling anyone what had happened, went to bed and tried to sleep. He had never been one to boast.
And so, when the parents of Yoni Harel came to the hospital to visit their son ― who was recuperating beautifully ― and inquired as to the identity of their son’s savior, nobody had anything to tell them. There were a few platoons stationed in the city, and there was no telling from which patrol Yoni’s anonymous guardian angel had come. When a few more days had gone by and the brave soldier had still not come forward, the army gave up the search for the hero.
Yoni’s parents, however, went home to the grocery store they owned in Kiryat Malachi and posted a sign on the wall with the date and details of the story. Israel is a small country, and they figured that sooner or later somebody was bound to walk in who knew the soldier, or who knew someone who knew someone who knew the soldier. But the sign hung there, month after month, with no one volunteering the information they sought.
It was late December the following year when the woman walked into the store. She glanced around, as if to reacquaint her memory with her present surroundings, and she picked out a bottle of orange soda which she carried to the checkout counter. There were a number of customers in the store, and the woman had the chance to observe the owners in action. Every person was greeted as if he or she was a long lost friend. There were smiles, plenty of them, along with warm wishes and soothing energy. Small or large purchase, it mattered not; what was important was how each person was feeling.
As the woman waited in line to pay, she happened to glance at the old sign on the wall opposite the cash register. She scanned the bold, black print with obvious interest and, with mounting excitement, motioned at the owner’s wife to come over to her. The owner’s wife finished wrapping up a purchase and came over to the excited woman.
"Yes?" she inquired.
"This story," said the strange woman pointing at the sign, "I think it was my son. Yes, I remember, almost exactly a year ago, he arrived home from his army base for the weekend and told us the entire story. Wait," she whipped her phone out of her bag, "I’ll call Doron right now and ask him if this is the story." She dialed the number and the storekeeper’s wife stood nearby, watching intently...
"Listen, Doron," said his mother. "I’m here in this grocery store in Kiryat Malachi and there’s a sign on the wall..." She told him the entire story.
"That sounds like my story," Doron confirmed. "Tell them that I found the soldier lying wounded in the parking lot next to the Salheda ibn Salhera mosque." Yoni’s mother heard every word, and tears began to well up in her eyes.
"That was the place," she confirmed through the sudden mist, and the two women suddenly discovered an intense bond between them and their families.
The celebration party was set for the following Saturday evening at the home of the Harel family in Kiryat Malachi. Lights blazed from all the windows, and passersby wondered at the sounds of rejoicing coming from inside. The festivities were just beginning as members of the Harel family streamed to their home from all around the country, to meet the young man who had saved their son/cousin/brother or nephew. Trays and trays of luscious food kept on putting in an appearance, and the music was loud and heartfelt. In the midst of all the goodwill and happiness, Doron’s mother called Yoni’s mother over to the side for a private chat. They strolled together outside behind the house and into the nearby park. After walking around the park for ten minutes, they sat down on one of the benches and Doron’s mother began to speak.
"The truth is," she began, "that I didn’t just happen to walk into your store. It wasn’t just random."
"I know," replied Yoni’s mother. "You live in Kfar Saba, and Kiryat Malachi isn’t much of a tourist attraction."
"The truth is," said Doron’s mother, "that I came especially to Kiryat Malachi to come to your store."
"Why on earth would you do something like that?"
"The reason for my visit to your store goes back many years," Mrs. Halpern said, and her eyes took on a faraway look. "About twenty years ago," she continued, "a young woman walked into your grocery store. She had just happened to pass through the city and just happened to stop in your store for a drink. She was very troubled about something and it showed in her eyes.
"The woman behind the counter was very busy, but she became unbusy when she caught sight of the young woman’s face. In a soft, caring voice, she began questioning the stranger, expertly drawing out her story. She was able to make the stranger feel comfortable enough to confide in someone she had never met before.
"The young woman related how she was expecting a child, but instead of joy, she felt only bitterness and heartbreak. Their desperate financial situation wasn’t sufficient to support a larger family, and she and her husband had begun to argue over the upcoming child’s arrival.
"All the fighting had made her sick, and the more the tension escalated, the more weak and frail she became. The doctors all concurred that the longer the situation stayed the same, the more danger she was in. They painted the blackest of pictures of what would happen to her if she continued with the pregnancy.
"The young woman found herself in the harshest of predicaments. On one hand, she was truly frightened over what would happen to her if she didn’t listen to the doctors’ advice. On the other hand, she couldn’t imagine doing what they were advising her to do. And so, she was walking around torn from within, terribly sick from without.
"The store-owner’s wife suddenly, miraculously, found herself without anything to do, and she bundled her young and troubled charge out of the store and into her home where, over hot coffee and fresh cake, they sat and talked, for what felt to the young woman like a few minutes, but what was in reality quite a while. And during the course of that conversation, her confusion lifted. The young woman suddenly knew that she was not going to listen to the doctors and their advice: she would find a new doctor who would support her in doing what felt right to her. The young woman’s fresh resolve and newfound confidence was all because of that store owner’s wife, who saw a troubled soul and reached out to her in her time of need.
"Five months later," continued Doron’s mother, "that young woman had a baby boy. His parents named him Doron." As quoted on Arutz Sheva (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5770
Is sponsored by Mrs. Sybil Carmen and her children in loving memory of her dear departed husband, Mr. Moshe Carmen, Moshe ben Shlomo zt”l, niftar Rosh Chodesh Av
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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