Thursday, December 20, 2007

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayechi 5768

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayechi 5768

Shabbos in the Parashah

In this week’s parashah the Torah records the blessings the Yaakov conferred upon his twelve sons. Upon close examination, we will notice a recurring theme throughout the blessings. This theme will be one of unity and its converse, disparity. When Yaakov seeks to bless his children, it is said (Bereishis 49:1-2) vayikra Yaakov el banav vayomer heiasfu viagida lachem es asher yikra eschem biacharis hayamim hikavtzu vishimu bnei Yaakov vishimu el Yisroel avichem, then Yaakov called for his sons and said: Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the End of Days. Gather yourselves and listen, O sons of Yaakov, and listen to Israel your father. These seemingly innocuous words actually define the essence of the blessings that Yaakov conferred on his sons. Yaakov was not merely calling to his children. Rather, he was demonstrating to them that the prerequisite for redemption was unity. The chastisement that Yaakov delivered to Reuven reflects on the idea that Reuven was not conforming to the principle of unity. Yaakov told Reuven (Ibid verse 4) pachaz kamayim al tosar ki alisa mishkivei avicha az chilalta yitzui ala, water-like impetuosity-you cannot be foremost, because you mounted your father’s bed; then you desecrated Him Who ascended my couch. Rashi explains that Yaakov was informing Reuven that his fault was that he had violated the Divine Presence that frequented Yaakov’s resting place. The Divine Presence reflects unity, and Reuven had disrupted this unity. Thus, Reuven could not function as the king of the Jewish People, as the essential function of the king is to unify the nation under the banner of Torah and HaShem’s will. Shimon and Levi acted like brothers, yet their unity was misplaced. Yaakov thus prayed that his own name not be mentioned regarding the spies in the Wilderness, as the spies were unified for a cause that brought catastrophe upon the Jewish People. Yaakov also requested that his name not be mentioned regarding the disgrace that Zimri, a leader from the tribe of Shimon, brought upon the Jewish People. Pinchas, a descendant of Levi, was the one who appeased the Divine wrath by killing Zimri and Kazbi, the Midianite woman. This act was one of unity, allowing the Divine Presence to rest upon the Jewish People. Additionally, Yaakov requested that his name not be invoked regarding the dispute that Korach and his entourage engaged in with Moshe, as this was a blatant declaration of division and strife amongst the Jewish People. The apparent curse that Yaakov delivered to Shimon and Levi was that they would be dispersed amongst the Jewish People. The function of this curse was that Shimon and Levi would act as the teachers of the Jewish People, thus bringing the nation closer to HaShem. Yaakov than reinstated Yehudah as the king, because Yehudah made the effort of saving Yosef from a certain death. The brothers felt threatened by Yosef, and they condemned him to death, thus willingly separating Yosef from the Jewish People. Yehudah, who advised against killing Yosef, merited that Moshiach will descend from him, and the function of Moshiach is to unify the Jewish People to perform HaShem’s will. Due to space constraints, we will not discuss all the tribes, but it is noteworthy that regarding the tribe of Dan, it is said (Ibid verse 17) Dan yadin amo kiachad shivtei Yisroel, Dan will avenge his people; the tribes of Israel will be united as one. Rashi writes in an alternative interpretation that the words kiachad shivtei Yisroel can be interpreted to mean that Shimshon, a descendant of the tribe of Dan, would judge the Jewish People akin to Dovid, who was a descendant of the tribe of Yehudah. Thus, Yaakov foresaw that Shimshon would have the potential to unify the nation to the degree that Shimshon could have been Moshiach (Bereishis Rabbah 98:14). This is why Yaakov prayed (ibid verse 18) lishuasicho kivisi HaShem, for Your salvation do I long, HaShem. The Holy Shabbos is referred to in the Zohar as raza diechod, the secret of unity. Throughout the week the Jewish People are prone to disparity and rivalry, but upon the onset of Shabbos, all distinctions between Jews vanish and we are all unified. It is for this reason that Yaakov reflects Shabbos, as Yaakov was constantly seeking unity amongst the Jewish People and Shabbos reflects unity. HaShem should allow us to merit being unified to perform His will, and then we will merit the fulfillment of the verse that states (Hoshea 2:2) vinikbitzu bnei Yehudah uvnei Yisroel yachdav visamu lahem rosh echod vialu min haaretz ki gadol yom Yizriel, the Children of Yehudah and the Children of Israel will be assembled together, and they will appoint for themselves one head and ascend from the land, for the day of Jezreel is great.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Ribbon kol HaOlamim

Published in 5401 (1641)

Melech tamim darco, King Whose way is wholesome. The word tamim can be translated as wholesome, and can also refer to one who is honest and innocent. It is said (Devarim 32:4) haTzur tamim paalo, The Rock!-perfect is His work. When one is honest in all his actions, even what may seem like deceit will eventually be revealed to be truthful. Often we are perplexed by the way that HaShem conducts His world, as we see the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. Yet, by believing that Hashem is “honest and innocent,” we can declare that HaShem is perfect and wholesome in His ways, as in the future it will be revealed that everything HaShem has done is for our good and for the world to reach a state of perfection. This theme is elaborated on by the Ramchal in Daas Tevunos, a truly insightful work describing how Hashem conducts Himself in this world.

Shabbos in Tefillah

Uvituvo mechadesh bichol yom tamid maaseh vireishis, and in His goodness renews daily, perpetually, then work of creation. It is well-known that the meaning of this passage is that were HaShem to cease even for a moment from giving life to the universe, the entire universe would cease to exist. It is important, however, to focus on the word uvituvo, and in His goodness. Every second that the world exists is because of HaShem’s goodness. Ultimately, everything that HaShem created is for the good. Were we to be cognizant of this fact, we would most likely never sin and we would merit the Ultimate Redemption immediately.

Shabbos Story

[Yechiel Mechel Rabinowicz was a businessman who lived in England during World War II. He was devout in his Jewish observance, letting nothing stand in the way of Torah tradition. As his daughter relates:] Upon his return to London, my father opened a small factory, similar to the one in Birmingham. He was employed by the government to check the precision of various instruments and to produce munitions. My father was paid a salary by the government and was not permitted to accrue any personal profits from his work. As he had done in Birmingham, he hired as many Jews and refugees as he could. This was a godsend for many Shabbos-observant Jews; obtaining a job that did not require work on Shabbos in those times was next to impossible. The refugees he hired were saved the fate of being drafted or evicted from the country. One Friday night, when my parents were sitting at the Shabbos table, a government official and two police officers came to their home. “Where is Mr. Rabinowicz?” they demanded. “I am Mr. Rabinowicz,” my father answered. “I am a government inspector,” said the official. “I found that your factory is closed tonight. You must come with us.” My mother protested and begged them to wait until after Shabbos, to no avail. “All right,” Father said. “I will come with you now, but I must walk since I do not ride in a vehicle on the Sabbath.” They had no choice but to agree. He walked while they rode alongside him in their police car to the nearest police station, which was not very close by. The officer in charge gazed at my father with a stern expression on his face. “Mr. Rabinowicz, are you aware that all war production plants are required to operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day, in three shifts, in order to ensure maximum efficiency of our war effort?” My father responded calmly, “Certainly, sir, I am aware of this fact. But you see, sir, as an Orthodox Jew I am a Sabbath observer. We are commanded to rest on the Sabbath. It is impossible for me to have my factory in operation on the Sabbath.” “Mr. Rabinowicz,” the man bellowed, “you are charged with the crime of having your factory closed on Saturday. Your crime falls under the category of jeopardizing the safety of our country during wartime, a most serious offense. We will inform you when the court-martial will take place. You are advised to hire the best lawyer you can find, and you may be accompanied only by your lawyer in court. Remember that failure to appear at the court-martial is a serious infringement of the law. You may return home now.” The police officer who accompanied my father home tried to explain to him the ramifications of his crime. He told my father that he need not bother to retain a lawyer, since the men in the tribunal that would try him were not judges by profession. They were army and naval officers, and in their eyes his offense was inexcusable. By jeopardizing the safety of the country, he would be found guilty of treason, which usually incurred the death sentence. It was worse than that, my father thought to himself. He was not even a British citizen but was actually a former resident of Austria, an enemy ally. His travel permit classified him as “stateless,” which implied that there was something suspicious about him. Father decided to forgo the services of a lawyer (he did not have the money for one anyway) and prepared his own defense. He spent the next few days and nights preparing the production records of the factory. He recorded all the orders he had received, when he had delivered the samples, and when he had filled the orders. His records were meticulous to the last detail. The call finally came, informing him exactly when and where to appear in court. My mother was not permitted to accompany him, and she had an agonizing wait until he finally returned home at the end of the day. He announced simply that he was a free man and described the scene to her. He had been led to a room containing a long table. There were many men sitting there, adorned with all sorts of medals. It was obvious that they were high-ranking army and naval officers. My father was asked where his lawyer was. He replied that he had prepared his own defense. Then he was asked to state his name, address, and occupation and to answer questions about the nature of his work. He told them, “I have made a tremendous effort, working many extra hours, sometimes close to exhaustion, in order to meet my production deadlines. If you will examine the records I have brought of our production schedules, you will see that I have never missed my deadlines for government consignments by even one day.” They did a thorough examination of his records. One of the officers said, “Since you have been hired by the government as part of the war effort, and the law of the land is that any such enterprise must be in full production seven days a week, 24 hours a day, you are accused of jeopardizing the safety of our homeland, Great Britain. What do you have to say in your defense? Keep in mind that if you are found guilty you may incur the death penalty.” “I felt no fear as I looked into their eyes,” Father told Mother. “I knew exactly what I was going to say. I told them, ‘I may not operate my factory on Saturday. G-d does not permit me to work on the Sabbath’.” “We also have a Sabbath-Sunday-but we go to work. We are in the midst of a war!” his accuser countered. “How can you jeopardize the safety of an entire country for the sake of the Sabbath?” “My dear, honorable officers, I am a newcomer to this land of England. I have chosen to live in this country because you are the defenders of democracy. You are fighting the forces of evil in the world and saving the lives of the many innocent brothers and sisters I left behind in mainland Europe. I wish for victory for our homeland surely as much as you do. “What I realize, however, is that this war that we are fighting is not a war like other wars. It is not a natural war. It is not two nations or a number of nations fighting each other. I see clearly here that in this war a group of allied nations is fighting evil. In order to be able to successfully overcome this evil we must elicit the help of G-d in Heaven. He has the ability to destroy this evil and to allow the forces of democracy to rule throughout the world. And so I pray daily to our Father in Heaven that He deliver the enemy into our hands, to stop the deaths of our noble and good English citizens, and to allow us to end the war. But, my dear gentlemen, in order for me to find favor in G-d’s eyes, I must do His will. Why would He listen to me and answer my plea, why would He help me, if I disobey His word? I am a religious Jew, and our code of law is the holy Torah. One of the commandments of our Torah, as I am sure you are aware, is to honor the Sabbath. If I were to transgress the Sabbath, not only would I not find favor in the eyes of G-d, but He would certainly pay no attention to my pleas of mercy to Him. And so, as part of my efforts toward winning the war, I am doing whatever is in my capabilities to win G-d’s favor and to get Him to fight our battle for us. “And so, gentlemen, by keeping my factory closed on the Sabbath and fulfilling the will of G-d, I am actually helping you win the war. May G-d be with us and bring victory to our land.” The men were silent for a long moment as they absorbed my father’s fiery words. Then they all stood up for him. They were visibly overcome with emotion, something the proud Englishman rarely exhibits. One by one they extended their hands to shake my father’s. The death tribunal unanimously waived the charges against him. My father’s chief accuser said, “Continue working as you have until now, continue observing your Sabbath, and continue praying for our victory!”

Shabbos in Navi

Yehoshua Chapter 16

In this chapter the Navi delineates the inheritance of the tribe of Yosef. It is said (Yehoshua 16:4) vayinchalu vnei Yosef Menasheh viEphraim, the children of Yosef-Menasheh and Ephraim-received their heritages. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 84:5) states that Yaakov is akin to the fire, whereas Yosef is akin to the flame. The Sfas Emes (Vayigash 5659) writes that Yosef reflects Tosefes Shabbos, the addition of Shabbos to the weekday. Perhaps we can suggest that Menasheh, whose name is rooted in the word nashah, forgetfulness, reflects the six days of the week, when one may forget his true purpose in this world. Ephraim, however, means to become fruitful, so Ephraim reflects Shabbos, when one returns to himself and to his true purpose in this world. In truth, both forgetfulness and remembrance play important roles in our lives, as we constantly seek to forget the evil and remember the good. Yosef himself epitomized this dual function, as he sought to forget his troubles and only remember the good. Thus, the verse that states that the children of Yosef-Menasheh and Ephraim-received their heritages alludes to this idea, as by forgetting the troubles of the week and remembering the Shabbos, we merit the heritage of Yaakov, which is Shabbos, and the heritage of Yosef, who reflects Tosefes Shabbos.

Shabbos in Agadah

The Gemara (Shabbos 119a; Avodah Zara 3a) extols the virtue of one who prepares well for Shabbos. Yet, the Torah states (Shemos 20:9) that one should work six days of the week. How, then, is one expected to prepare for Shabbos properly if he is constantly engaged in labor throughout the week? The simple answer to this question is that when one is not engaged in labor during the week, he will have time to prepare for Shabbos. In truth, however, there is a more profound answer to this question. The Meshech Chochmah (Shemos 31:16) writes that in one instance it is said (Shemos 20:9) sheishes yamim taavod viasisa kol milachtecha, six days shall you work and accomplish all your work, whereas in two other instances it is said (Shemos 31:15; Ibid 35:2) sheishes yamim yaiaseh (teiaseh) melacha, for six days work may be done. In the first instance the Torah is stating that one should work six days, whereas in the other two instances the Torah states that the work will be done by others. The Mechilta explains that when the Jewish People are performing the will of HaShem, their work will be done by others. Thus, in our present state we must work during the week and subsequently we have little time left to prepare for Shabbos. When we will merit the redemption, however, our work during the week will be performed by others and we will have the leisure of preparing for Shabbos throughout the entire week.

Shabbos in Halacha

Instant coffee can be prepared in the same way as coffee. One can only prepare unprocessed cocoa, however, in a kli shelishi.

Shabbos in Numbers and Words

It is said (Bereishis 3:21) vayaas HaShem Elokim liadam ulishto kosnos ohr vayalbisheim, and HaShem made for Adam and his wife garments of skin, and He clothed them. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 20:12) states that in the Torah of Rabbi Meir the word ohr (ayin-vav-fei), skin, was written ohr (aleph-vav-fei), light. The commentators write that the meaning of this statement is that one should aspire to ascend from skin, i.e. materialism, to light, i.e. spirituality. This idea is reflected in Shabbos, as throughout the week one can be submerged in materialism, and he only sees the true light on Shabbos. It is noteworthy that the word ohr, skin, spelled with an ayin, in mispar katan, digit sum, equals 6, which alludes to the six days of the week. The word ohr, light, spelled with an aleph, in mispar katan, equals 9, and the word Shabbos in mispar katan equals 9, thus alluding to the light of Shabbos.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayechi 5768

is sponsored anonymously

I will be delivering a class in Navi this Friday night

at my home 26100 Marlowe Place in Oak Park.

The class will be 8:30-9:15

We will be studying Sefer Shmuel Perek 1 and there will be Oneg Shabbos.

Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.

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Anonymous said...

Are you going to do anything on regular aggadta anymore?

Anonymous said...

I hope in the near future to start from Brachos. Thanks for the incentive.