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
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