Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Va'etchanan & Shabbat Nachamu 5775

The Torah Portion of Va'etchanan - Shabbat Nachamu 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

"And I implored Hashem at that time saying." (Devorim 3:23) 


The "Ohr HaChaim" says that there are four aspects to prayer: 
1. supplication, 
2. asking for a free gift,
3. appropriate timing, 
4. clarity. 
All of these aspects are present in the verse "And I implored Hashem at that time saying" (Devorim 3:23): 
"And I implored" -- this is a language which implies both supplication and asking for a free gift;
"at that time" -- this indicates that it was at an appropriate time; 
"saying" -- this implies that Moshe prayed clearly.

"And I implored Hashem (in Hebrew: Va'etchanan) ..." (Devorim 3:23) 


The first word of this week's Torah Portion in Hebrew is "Va'etchanan" (Devorim 3:23), which has the Gematria (numerical sum of the values of the Hebrew letters) of 515. The Sages say that Moshe prayed 515 prayers to Hashem, which is equal in number to the Gematria of the Hebrew word Va'etchanan. The Gr"a says that Moshe's prayer included 515 topics, that is to say, 515 additional concepts that were different one from another. In any event, if Moshe had added anything more to that and prayed one more prayer, it would have been effective to cancel the decree. The Hebrew word "Shira" ("Song" in English), as well as the Hebrew word "Tefillah" ; ("Prayer" in English) both also have the Gematria of 515. 

"And I implored Hashem at that time saying." (Devorim 3:23) 


The "Ohr HaChaim" says that even though the prayer of Moshe was not accepted, no prayer every goes to waste. And occasionally it helps after the passage of time, or even may help future generations. The "Chazon Ish" says that occasionally we see an important and great man who comes from a simple family, and that is because some grandmother prayed at the time of lighting candles.

"Please let me cross and see the good land..." (Devorim 3:25)


The Sages ask: "And is it because he needed to eat from its fruits?" The Tzala"ch asks two questions regarding this:
1. Why did the Sages establish in the Three Faceted Blessing (Birkat M'ain Shalosh) which we say after eating certain foods, the phrase "to eat from its fruits" , since regarding Moshe the Sages questioned whether he needed "to eat from its fruits" , and if so why should we say a blessing about that?
2. What is the meaning of the word "needed" ? Shouldn't it have said, "is it because he wanted to eat of its fruits" ?
The answer that the Arizal gives on these questions is that the fruits of the Land of Israel have within them qualities that enable one to go up in the levels of Holiness. And also it was written by the Ba"ch (in Tur Orach Chaim 208, 8) that the Holiness of the Land of Israel which flows to it, emanates from the Holiness of the Land which is Above (i.e., in the Heavenly realms), and that this Holiness also flows into its fruits, which draw down nourishment from the Holiness of the Shechina (Divine Presence). And therefore we find that by eating its fruits we are given nourishment from the Holiness of the Shechina. And this is the question, for behold, about Moshe it is written that "You have made him slightly less than the angels" (Tehillim 8:6) - that Moshe rose up in the 49 levels of Holiness and therefore he didn't need the Segula (i.e., the special spiritual benefits ) of eating the fruits. But we, who are very distant from the levels of Moshe, certainly we need the fruits of the Land of Israel, and certainly it is relevant to say in the Three Faceted Blessing "to eat from its fruits and to be satisfied with its goodness" . 

"You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it." (Devorim 4:2)


The Maggid from Dovna asks, it is understood why you shouldn't subtract from Hashem's word, but why not add to it? And he explains by means of a parable: A person borrowed a chair from his friend, and returned him a large chair and a small chair. He told him "The large chair gave birth to the small chair and so the small chair belongs to you", and the lender was happy. Afterwards he borrowed a watch from his friend and returned him a large watch and small watch; he told him that the large watch gave birth to the small watch, and the lender was happy. And afterwards, he requested to borrow of large, expensive lamp made of gold. The lender agreed to give it to him because he thought that it would give birth to a small lamp made of gold. But the borrower didn't return it. The lender asked him: "Where is the gold lamp?" The borrower answered that it had died. The lender asked him "Is it possible that a lamp can die?" And the borrower answered him, "Just as you understood that it's possible to give birth, it's also possible to die." And that is what the Torah says, "do not add and do not subtract" , because if you add to it, it's also possible to subtract.

"And you who are attached to Hashem Your G-d, you are all alive today." (Devorim 4:4)


The first word in this verse in Hebrew is "V'atem" , which means "And you". It has the same letters as the Hebrew word "V'emet" , which means "And truth." Someone who walks with the truth is able to attach himself to Hashem.

"And you shall not covet your fellow's wife, you shall not desire your fellow's house, his field and his slave and his maidservant, his ox and his donkey, and anything that belongs to your fellow." (Devorim 5:18)


It is written at the end of the Ten Commandments, "...and anything that belongs to your fellow." (Devorim 5:18) If so, why was it necessary to specify a house, a field, a servant, etc.? A witty explanation of this is that if you covet what your friend has when you see that he has a nice house and other similar things, take also the problems and the debts that he has "and everything that belongs to your fellow."

"And you shall love Hashem... with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." (Devorim 6:5)


When Rabbi Avraham, the young son of the Chafetz Chaim passed away, his father the Chafetz Chaim gave a moving eulogy, and within his words he said: It's told that in the time of the Inquisition in Spain in the year 5252 (1492 on the secular calendar), the Gentiles slaughtered before the eyes of one woman, her two precious sons. The mother was a Kosher Jewish woman, and lifted up her eyes to Heaven and whispered: "Master of the World! I confess before You that all the time that my sons were alive, my love for You was incomplete because there remained in my heart a corner for loving my sons. And now at this time with the death of my sons, behold, all of my love is given over to You. From now on I can fufill the Mitzvah of 'And you shall love Hashem...with all your heart' completely." The Chafetz Chaim concluded with feeling, "Master of the Worlds! The love that I felt until now for my son, behold, I am consecrating it to You!"

"And these that I command you today shall be upon your heart."  (Devorim 6:6)


It has been asked, why doesn't the verse say  "within your heart"?  And the explanation is, that a person doesn't always have an elevated spiritual state of mind so that the words of Torah and Mussar (Ethics) can penetrate his heart.  But  first one needs to hear as much Torah and Mussar as possible, even if they are just external to his heart, and then at a propitious time when the heart opens, they will enter into his heart, and for that reason it is written "upon your heart".



HAFTORAH: "NACHAMU NACHAMU AMI"


There are seven Haftorahs of Nechama (Consolation) :
1. "Nachamu Nachamu Ami" (in English: "Comfort, comfort My people" )
2. "Va'Tomer Tzion Azavani Hashem" (in English: "And Tzion said Hashem has forsaken me")
3. "Aniah So'arah Lo Nuchama" (in English: "O Afflicted, storm-tossed, unconsoled one")
4. "Anochi Anochi Hu Menachemchem" (in English: "It is I, I am He who comforts you")
5. "Rani Akara" (in English: "Sing out, O barren one")
6. "Kumi Ori Ki Va Oraich" (In English: "Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived" )
7. "Sos Asis Ba'Shem" (In English: "I will rejoice intensely with Hashem" )

It is written that in the future to come, Hashem will say to the nations: "Comfort Israel, for you have done evil to them." And Israel will say, "But after an exile like this and all the difficulties the nations made for us, will they still be able to comfort us? We don't want to receive from them comfort." And Hashem will say: "If so, I will comfort you." And there are those who connect this concept to the beginning verses of each of the seven Haftorahs of Consolation, as follows: 
1. Hashem said to the nations: "Comfort, comfort My people" 
2. And Israel will say: "And Tzion said Hashem has forsaken me" -- Hashem doesn't want to comfort us
3. Hashem will say: "O Afflicted, storm-tossed, unconsoled one" -- they don't want to accept consolation from the nations
4. And therefore Hashem will say, if so: "It is I, I am He who comforts you"
5. And Israel will say, Now that's what we want -- "Sing out, O barren one"
6. They are happy to be comforted by Hashem: "Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived"
7. "I will rejoice intensely with Hashem" , the meaning is that we are happy with Hashem's consolations. May Hashem grant that the next Tisha B'av, will come to us for the Salvation of Klal Yisrael (the entire congregation of the Jewish people) and for Consolation, Speedily in our days, Amen.

TU B'AV



HaTov V'HaMaitiv (Who is Good and Who Does Good)


The Evil Adrianos (i.e. the Roman Emperor Hadrian) had a vineyard of 18 miles by 18 miles, and commanded to make from the corpses killed in Beitar a fence for his vineyard, and they were placed there for several years. And when that ruler died and another ruler replaced him, the new ruler commanded to bury them, and that was on Tu B'Av. Upon this the Sages established the fourth blessing in the Blessing after Food (Birkat HaMazon), "Who is Good and Who Does Good" (HaTov V'HaMaitiv) . Hashem is Good, because the bodies weren't malodorous, and He Does Good, because they were given burial.

What else happened on Tu B'Av?


Tu B'Av is also the day that the men who died in the desert (for 40 years) stopped dying. It's the day that the 10 tribes were permitted to marry one another. It's the day that the tribe of Benyamin was permitted to become once again part of the general Congregation of Israel. It's the day that the King Hoshea ben Aleh canceled the guards that Yerovam ben Nevat had posted to prevent Jews from going up to Jerusalem for the Holy Days. It's the day that they stopped cutting trees for the fire which burnt on the sacrificial altar -- the happiness was that they had completed the Mitzvah, like when someone makes a Siyum (Party for completing the learning of of something, such as a tractate of the Talmud). And there are those that explain that the happiness was that they now had time to learn more.

The Torah Portion of Va'etchanan has 118 verses. 8 positive commandments. 4 negative commandments.Haftora: "Nachamu Nachamu Ami" (Yishayahu 40). 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 4.


May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Monday, July 20, 2015

Devorim 5775

The Torah Portion of Devorim - Shabbat Chazon 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

Chumash Devorim.


A good beginning -- we are beginning Chumash Devorim. Chumash Devorim is also called "Mishneh Torah" (in English: "a review or repetition of the Torah") . Every Chumash has an additional name. The Chumash Breisheet is also called "Sefer HaYashar" (in English: "the Book of the Straight" ), because it speaks about the Avot (Patriarchs) who are called Straight Ones. We see this in the Book of Yehoshua, that when the sun was made to stand still there is a verse which says, "Is it not written in the Sefer HaYashar" (Yehoshua 10:13), and that verse is referring to the Chumash Breisheet within the Torah Portion of Vayechi, when Yaakov said to Yosef, "However his younger brother will be greater than he" (Breisheet 48:19) -- and the intention was that Yehoshua would descend from him (that is, from Ephraim), and that in his merit the sun would stand still. From here we see that Chumash Breisheet is called "Sefer HaYashar" ("The Book of the Straight" ). 

The Names of the "Chamisha Chumshai Torah" ("The Five Books of the Torah") :


1.Breisheet -- Sefer HaYashar ("The Book of the Straight" )
2. Shemot -- Sefer HaGeula ("The Book of Redemption" , and and there are those that add also, "Sefer Michamot Hashem" ("The Book of the Wars of Hashem" )
3. Vayikra -- Torat Kohanim ("The Torah of the Priests" )
4. Bamidbar -- Chumash HaPekudim ("The Chumash of The Countings" )
5. Devorim -- Mishneh Torah ("Review or Repetition of the Torah")

Why is the Torah called Chumash? 


Because it has within it five books. [Note: the Hebrew word "Chumash" , which refers to the five books of the Torah, has the same root as the Hebrew word for "five", "Chamisha".] The Mabi"t adds that there is another reason, and that is because the Torah was given in five places: 1) in Mitzrayim (Egypt) -- the Korban Pesach (Passover Offering) and the laws regarding the firstborn offspring were given, 2) At Mara -- Shabbat, and the Parah Aduma (Red Heifer) and its laws were given, 3) at Har Sinai, 4) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the Tent of Meeting, and 5) in the Plains of Moab.

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael..." (Devorim 1:1)


The Sages say: "The majority [stumble in the sin of] robbery, the minority in the sin of illicit relations, and everyone in the sin of Avak Lashon Hara (the dust of forbidden speech)" . The first word of Chumash Devorim in Hebrew is "Aileh" (in English: "These are") -- and the verse continues that "Moshe spoke to ALL Israel" (that is to say, this is a hint that everyone stumbles in the sin of Avak Lashon Hara). The letters of Aileh are Aleph, Lamed, Hey, and these are the initial letters of the words "Avak Lashon Hara" (in English: "the dust of forbidden speech" ). The Ohr HaChama brings in the Siddur (prayer book), that the Sages say that the Ketoret (incense offering) atones for Lashon Hara (forbidden speech). There should come something in secret, that is to say, quietly, because it is forbidden for any man to enter at the time of the incense offering except for one Kohen. And that thing (the incense offering) should atone for something which occurs secretly, for usually people speak Lashon Hara quietly. And in the case of the Ketoret, it is written that "you should grind some of it very finely" (Shemot 30:36) -- that you need to break down the components of the incense very finely, like dust. And this is a hint about Avak Lashon Hara (the dust of forbidden speech).

The Gr"a says, that Chumash Devorim is divided into three parts:


1) Words of Mussar (Ethics) and rebuke, from the beginning up until the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan Chapter 5. 
2) Mitzvot of the Torah, from the fourth Aliyah of the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan, until the Torah Portion of Ki Tavo Chapter 27 Verse 9.
3) Blessings and Curses, from Chapter 27 Verse 9, till the end of the Chumash. 
And this is hinted at within the first five verses of Devorim: 
"These are the words that Moshe spoke..." (Devorim 1:1) -- this refers to the part about Mussar (Ethics) and rebuke. 
"...Moshe spoke to the Children of Israel according to everything that Hashem commanded... " (Devorim 1:3) -- this refers to the part about the Mitzvot.
"...Moshe began clarifying this Torah..." (Devorim 1:3) -- this refers to the part about the Blessings and Curses. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel, across the Jordan, in the desert, in the Plain, opposite (the Sea of) Reeds, between Paran and Tophel and Lavan, and Chatzerot and Di-Zahav." (Devorim 1:1)


Moshe spoke to Israel in hints:
"in the desert" -- on what they did in the desert, when they said "Who will grant that our death will be at the hand of Hashem." (Shemot 16:3) 
"in the Plain" -- on what they did in the Plains of Moab, in the sin of Ba'al Peor. 
"opposite (the Sea of) Reeds" -- on what they did at the Sea of Reeds, when they said "Are there no graves in Egypt, etc." (Shemot 14:11)
"between Paran" -- the sin of the spies.
"Tophel and Lavan" -- when they spoke about the Manna saying "And our souls are disgusted with this light bread." (Bamidbar 21:5)
"and Chatzerot" -- this is the Machloket (dispute) of Korach.
"and Di-Zahav" -- this is the deed of the Golden Calf.

And why did Moshe speak in hints? 


Because of the honor of Israel. And it has been asked, if so, why did he go on at length afterwards? The explanation is that, since Moshe spoke to Israel in hints they immediately did Teshuva (repented) out of love -- for when words come from the heart they enter into the heart (of the listener). Then Moshe began to go on at length and explain the details of the sins, because when someone does Teshuva out of love, the sins are turned into merits, and therefore Moshe went on at length, so that they would have many merits. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

Another explanation for why Moshe shortened the rebuke at the beginning, is because that needs to be the way of Mussar (ethics). When someone is brought close to the Torah it needs to be done in stages, in the beginning by means of hints, and after that when we see that he accepts it then we need to expand upon the Mussar. (from Torat HaParsha)

"There are eleven days from Chorev..." (Devorim 1:2) 


The Kli Yakar says that there is a hint here about the eleven days that we mourn on the Churban Bait HaMikdash (Destruction of the Temple) in the year: the Nine Days of the Month of Av, the 17th of Tammuz, and the 10th of Tevet. 

"How can I alone carry your difficulty and your burden and your quarrels?" (Devorim 1:12)


The Ramban says, that Moshe Rabbeinu hinted to them about the three things that he told Yitro he was doing for the people.  "Your difficulty" corresponds to "And I make known the statutes of Hashem and His laws" (Shemot 18:16), because it was very difficult to teach those who went out of Egypt the statutes, the laws, and their explanations, clarifications, and secrets.  "Your burden"  corresponds with "to inquire of Hashem"  (Shemot 18:15), which refers to the prayers that he would pray about them, because the Hebrew word for "burden" is linguistically related to the Hebrew word "to lift up", which is used in several places in connection with prayer, such as the phrase "to lift up prayer" (Melachim Beit 19:4), and the phrase "do not lift up for them song and prayer"  (Yirmiyahu 7:16).   And "your quarrels" is understood in its simple sense, to refer to matters of judicial decisions.  Thus we see from this that the role of a leader of Israel is to teach the Torah to the people, to explain to them and clarify to them very well by making a big effort, to prayer for every individual who is suffering, and to judge their legal decisions and disagreements.

"And they said 'Good is the land which Hashem Our G-d gives us'...Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d." (Devorim 1:25, Devorim 1:32)


Who were those who spoke of its goodness?  Rashi explains that it was Yehoshua and Caleb.  And the Ramban asked, if so, what is the complaint against Klal Yisrael (the entire congregation of Israel) that they didn't believe in Hashem?  Look, isn't it appropriate that they should believe in ten men moreso than in two?   And he explains that it's possible, that since the Holy One Blessed Be He announced to them that it is a good land, and the greatest and most righteous of those who had been sent on the mission (Yehoshua and Caleb) had testified that this was so, they should have believed in the greatest and most righteous ones among them, because the others said what they said because of cowardice.  

"And they said 'Good is the land which Hashem Our G-d gives us'...Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d." (Devorim 1:25, Devorim 1:32)


It is also written regarding the above verses, that all of them acknowledged and agreed before Moshe and Aharon and all the congregation, that the land is good, for we see that they said "We came to the land that you sent us to and it is indeed flowing with milk and honey and this is its fruit" (Bamidbar 13:27), but because of the strength of the people who were there, their hearts melted.  And afterwards when they saw that Yehoshua and Caleb would strengthen the hearts of the people for war, the rest of the spies came to the children of Israel -- not in the presence of Moshe -- and spoke slanderously about the land, saying  that it it is a land which eats up its people, and this is what is referred to by the verse "and you slandered in your tents" (Devorim 1:27).  And they didn't say this slander in front of Moshe, because he would be able to argue with them that they didn't say that when they first spoke.  Rather, they said to Moshe, "To where can we go up? our brothers melted our hearts by saying that the people is greater and taller than we are" (Devorim 1:28) And in response to this Moshe told them, it's true what you are saying, that the people is great and tall, but Hashem will fight for you just as He has done for you from Egypt until here.  And that is what is Moshe meant when he said to them "Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d", (Devorim 1:32)  that you delayed yourselves from going up only because of your lack of faith.

TISHA B'AV


Yermiyahu wrote the Megillat Eicha according to the order of the Aleph - Beit (the Hebrew alphabet), because they transgressed the Torah which was given with the Aleph - Bet. But the letter Pei (which hints at the Hebrew word for "mouth" , "Peh" ) comes before the letter Ayin (which hints at the Hebrew word for "eye" , "Ayin" ). (And that is not in its usual sequence.) This is because they spoke with their mouth what that they didn't see with their eye. But in the first chapter the Ayin comes before the Pei -- because that chapter hints about the spies who spoke also a little bit truth. (from Taamei Minhagim)

The Sages say: "Every generation that the Bait HaMikdash (Temple) is not built in its days, it's as if it was destroyed in its days."


A story is written in one of the books of the Rama: After the destruction of the First Temple, the sages of the world's nations came to see the Temple when it was burnt. And one of them came who was the greatest sage of the nations of the world and his name was Appleton. And he saw how Yirmiyahu was sitting there and crying and crying without stopping. He said to him: "I can see about you, that you are a wise person. How is it suitable for you to cry about stones that are burnt?" Yirmiyahu answered him: "They say about you that you are the wisest person of all the non-Jews. Certainly you have questions that you haven't solved." Appleton answered him: "Yes, I have questions, but no human being in the world is able to solve them." Yirmiyahu said to him: "Try to ask me. Perhaps I will succeed to solve them for you." And Appleton began with his questions, and Yirmiyahu answered him immediately on everything. Appleton said to him: "If so, the puzzle is even greater. If you are so wise, why are you crying about a building which is burnt?" Yirmiyahu answered him: "All of my wisdom comes from this House (i.e. the First Temple), and how will I not cry?"

"My soul well remembers and is bowed down within me" (Eicha 3:20)


The Tzaddik R' Avraham Bardaki ztz"l would always repeat the verse in Eicha (3:20) "My soul well remembers and is bowed down within me". Rashi says, I know that in the end You will remember us, but we don't have strength to wait so much time. He (Rav Avraham Bardaki ztz"l) also would repeat the last verse (Eicha 5:22): "For if You have utterly rejected us, You have [already] been exceedingly wroth against us." Rashi explains, that in response to our sinnning You didn't need to increase your anger against us as much as You did". If it weren't the case that this verse had stated it, it would be forbidden for us to make such an interpretation on our own.

"Why do you forget us forever, abandon us for lengthy days? Return to us Hashem and we will return. Renew our days as of old." (Eicha 5:20-21)


At the end of Eichah (that is, in the verses right before the last verse, which we repeat at the end of the reading of Eichah) it is stated (Eicha 5:20-21): "Why do you forget us forever, abandon us for lengthy days? Return us ... renew our days as of old". The Chatam Sofer explains, that it is written "Make us rejoice like the days in which You afflicted us" (Tehillim 90:15). And if so, after a lengthy exile like this there won't remain many days left until the end of 6,000 years to "make us rejoice" . But the answer is that the Holy One Blessed Be He will make the days long in order to compensate us. And upon this we say "Why do you forget us forever" , and therefore "abandon us for lengthy days" -- that is to say, that the days will be lengthy days. "Return us Hashem and we will return" , and then "Renew our days as of old" -- regular days will suffice to be like the ancient days.

The Torah Portion of Devorim has 105 verses. 2 negative commandments.Haftora: "Chazon Yishayahu" (Yishayahu 1).


We don't read Pirkei Avot. 


Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness.


May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Matot & Masei 5775

The Torah Portion of Matot Masei 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

THE TORAH PORTION OF MATOT


"He shall not profane his word, according to whatever comes out of his mouth he shall do." (Bamidbar 30:3) 


Someone who guards his mouth, and doesn't profane it, is on the level of a Tzaddik (Righteous Person) who decrees, and the Holy One Blessed Be He will fulfill everything that comes out of his mouth. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"He shall not profane his word." (Bamidbar 30:3) 


One should not begin immediately to speak, but rather should think beforehand whether or not there are any words of forbidden speech in what he is going to say. (Ben Ish Chai)  Along these lines, a Tzaddik (Righteous Man) explained the Mishna from Ethics of the Fathers "L'fum Tzara Agara" (in English: "In accordance with the suffering is the reward").  He explained that the Hebrew word "L'fum" could be interpreted as referring to the Hebrew word "Peh" (In English: "Mouth").  Thus the Mishna can be interpreted to be telling us that the mouth can cause you to have suffering, and also the opposite, the mouth can cause you to have reward.

"And Moshe sent them - a thousand per tribe for the army - them and Pinchas Ben Elazar the Cohen to the army..." (Bamidbar 31:6) 


The Midrash asks, didn't the Holy One Blessed Be He say to Moshe "Take vengeance... " (Bamidbar 31:2), that is to say, that you yourself should do it? So how did he send someone else to do it? And the explanation is that because Moshe grew up in the land of Midian, he didn't want to cause suffering to someone who had given him benefit. This is similar to the proverb which says: "A well from which you have drunk water, don't throw a stone in it". The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) say that we see from this how great is the requirement of feeling and showing gratitude, for behold the Holy One Blessed Be He commanded to Moshe "Take vengence for the Children of Israel from the Midianites; afterwards you will be gathered unto your people" . (Bamidbar 31:2) And Rashi says that even though he heard that his death was dependent upon this vengence, he did it happily and didn't delay it. If so, Moshe Rabbeinu gave up his life in order that they should go to take vengence for the Children of Israel from Midian, and also forced the Children of Israel to go out to war against their will because they didn't want to bring about Moshe's death. And in spite of all that, Moshe also did not cancel out the requirement to feel and show gratitude, and did not fulfill the Mitzvah of taking vengence by himself, but rather through his appointed agent.

"And to half the tribe of Menashe." (Bamidbar 32:33) 


The Ramban asks, why did Moshe give to half the tribe of Menashe their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River? We don't find that they requested to receive a portion and inheritance there. The Chazkeni says that, in truth, the children of Menashe didn't request for themselves an inheritance in the land of Sichon and Og, and only the children of Reuven and Gad requested that. The explanation is that their father Menashe caused the fathers of the other tribes to tear their clothing by the act of hiding Yosef's special goblet in Binyamin' s knapsack, so therefore his tribe's inheritance was given in two separate portions on the two sides of the Jordan River. And so it is found in the Midrash (B'raishit Rabba 84:19), that Menashe caused the heads of the tribes to tear, and therefore his inheritance was torn, half in the land of Jordan and half in the land of Canaan. And the Masters of Mussar (Ethics) ask, behold Menashe did that because of the Mitzvah of honoring his father, for Yosef commanded him to do so, and Yosef the Tzaddik (Righteous Man) had a correct reason for it, so why was he punished for that? And the explanation is, that matters related to the behavior of a man toward his fellow man are very severe, and everyone who hurts another person, even though he does so with good intentions and only harms him inadvertently, in any event he is punished for it. And that is what we see in this case, that in any event Menashe was punished generations after the deed and his inheritance was divided into two portions. Therefore it is necessary for us to learn to be very careful not to hurt or embarrass someone, even with good intentions, because matters related to the behavior of a man toward his fellow man are very severe.

THE TORAH PORTION OF MASEI


"Then Aharon HaKohen went up to the Mountain of Hor by the mouth of Hashem and died there...in the fifth month on the first of the month." (Bamidbar 33:38) 


Rosh Chodesh of Menachem Av is the day of Aharon's death (i.e. his Yahrzheit). This is the only Yarhzheit written explicitly in the Torah, and also the Torah Portion of Masei is always read in the week of his Yahrzheit. He passed away 3287 years ago. The calculation is thus: the number of years since the destruction of the Second Temple is 1947 years. [The counting of the non-Jewish calendar began 68 years before the destruction of the Second Temple. (Note that 68 is equal to the Gematria of the word "Chaim" , i.e., "Life" in English.) Subtract 68 years from their reckoning of the year, which according to their counting is currently 2015, and the result is that from the destruction of the Second Temple there are 1947 years.] Add another 420 years for the length of time when the Second Temple stood, and another 70 years for the length of time when there was exile (between the two Temples), and another 410 years for the length of time when the First Temple stood, and 440 years from the entry into the land until the First Temple was built. The basis for the 440 years from the entry into the land until the building of the First Temple is as follows: It was written in the book Melachim that it was 480 years after the children of Israel went out from Egypt that Shlomo built the First Temple, and subtract 40 from that during which Israel was in the desert, for Aharon passed away at the end of the 40 years. The result of the calculation is 3287 years.

The Sages say that the "city of refuge" from the Evil Inclination is to say "Kriat Sh'ma" . 


Behold, the first verse of "Sh'ma" has 6 words in parallel to the 6 cities of refuge. And from the word "V'ahavta" (in English: "and you shall love") until "B'shaarecha" (in English: "in your gates") there are 42 words, like the additional 42 cities. When we read the "Kriat Sh'ma" with intention, we flee from the Evil Inclination. (from Mayan Shel Torah)

"By the rivers of Bavel, etc....also we cried". (Tehillim 137:1) 


What is the significance of the word "also" ? It means that also the waters cried, because the "Nisuch Hamayim" (Mitzvah of pouring the waters in the Temple) was eliminated. (from the Sefat Emet) The Sages say: Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem, merits and sees her happiness. It has been asked, why did they say "merits" in the present tense? Shouldn't it have been written in the future tense "will merit"? The Sages explain, behold there is a decree on a dead person that he will be forgotten by the heart, meaning that after 12 months the dead person is forgotten by the heart of the mourner. But if the mourner doesn't forget it's a sign that the person didn't die. And that is the explanation for the word "merits" (in the present tense), if we are crying about the Temple after so much time this is a sign that the Temple is still alive and existing.

On the 29th of Tammuz falls the Yahrzheit of the holy Rashi, Rabbeinu Shlomo Yarchi ben Yitzchak. 


His father was a holy and righteous person, and merited to have a son like Rashi, as a result of a famous story: he gave up on a diamond when he "accidentally" dropped it into the sea, because the non-Jews wanted to take it to use it for idolatry. Rashi didn't have any sons but had daughters. His grandchildren included the brothers Rabbeinu Tam, Rashba"m, Rib"m. And Rabbeinu Shlomo ben Rabbeinu Meir (mentioned one time in the Gemarra in Tosefot Pesachim 105b). Before he publicized his writings on the Torah, he fasted 613 fasts. The letters of the name "Rashi" are the initial letters of the words "Rabban Shel Yisrael" (the Rabbi of Israel). He passed away 910 years ago on the 29th of Tammuz, 4865. May his memory protect us, Amen.

The Torah Portion of Matot has 112 verses. 1 positive commandment, 1 negative commandment.The Torah Portion of Masei has 132 verses. 2 positive commandments, 4 negative commandments.Haftora: "Sh'mu Davar Hashem" (Yirmiyahu 2). 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 3 (third cycle).



Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness.


May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pinchas 5775

The Torah Portion of Pinchas 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l


Pinchas is called "Eliyahu the angel of the Brit (Covenant or Circumcision) ". 


It is written in the Holy Zohar, that Eliyahu said to Hashem (in the book of Melachim) that the people of Israel transgressed your Brit (Covenant). Therefore Hashem said to him, because you are accusing Israel, you are required to attend every Brit Mila (Circumcision) . The Ari asks, what kind of a punishment is it that he needs to participate in a Brit? On the contrary it is a great Mitzvah! The explanation is, that he needs to miss out on some of the Chiddushim (new Torah thoughts) in the Heavenly Yeshiva, because occasionally in the middle of the Chiddush (new Torah thought), he needs to go down to participate in a Brit. 

"...And he atoned for the children of Israel." (Bamidbar 25:13) 


It is written in the Midrash, that someone who participates in a Brit Mila (Circumcision) , has all of his sins atoned for. And that is hinted at in the verse: "...And he atoned for the children of Israel" . (Bamidbar 25:13) And so it is brought in the Gemara Pesachim (114) in Tosefot, that everyone who enjoys the festive meal at a Brit Mila (Circumcision) , is saved from the decree of Gehinom.

"...Because he took vengeance for his G-d, and he atoned for the children of Israel." (Bamidbar 25:13) 


It is told that once Maran HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz"l participated in the Brit Mila (Circumcision) of his grandson, and said, that it is written in the Midrash, that Eliayahu said to Hashem that he is not able to tolerate going to a place where there are transgressors. [As it was stated in "Tana D'vei Eliyaha" , that one time Rav Yehoshua ben Levi was walking with Eliyahu, and Rav Yehoshua ben Levi said that he sensed a bad smell from a dead animal, and wasn't able to tolerate it. Eliyahu said to him, that he doesn't sense any bad smell. After that they went to another place, and Eliyahu told him that he wasn't able to stand there, because there was a bad smell, and he explained that it was because in that place there were transgressors. But Rav Yehoshua ben Levi didn't sense that.] And therefore, Eliyahu told Hashem that he wasn't able to go to Brit Mila ceremonies. Hashem said to Him, I will atone for the transgressions of those who participate in a Brit. And HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman asked: Is a Brit Mila (Circumcision) more important than Yom Kippur, about which the Sages said that it atones only by means of Teshuvah (Repentance) ? For that was the Psak (legal decision) of the Rambam (but Rabi reasoned that Yom Kippur atones even without repentance). And HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman came up with a Chiddush (new Torah thought), that just as there is a physical air purifier, also there is a spiritual air purifier. The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Eliyahu, I will purify the air from transgressions, and then you will be able to participate in Brit Mila ceremonies without sensing the presence of transgressors. And certainly, Brit Mila ceremonies are a propitious time to get closer to Hashem. And in the aforementioned Brit Mila ceremony, Maran Rav Yechezkel Avramski ztz"l was also a participant, and he commented that in the Midrash there were no distinctions written (regarding how much participating in a Brit Mila atones), but rather it is written that it is Hashem who atones, in any event (whether it is Yom Kippur or a Brit Mila, etc.). And also in the book "Bnei Yissachar" , it is said about the Midrash on the verse "...Because he took vengence for his G-d, and he atoned for the children of Israel" , (Bamidbar 25:13) that Hashem gave power to Pinchas - who is Eliyahu - to atone at every Brit Mila (Circumcision) , for all generations.

"To the chief musician...on the eighth" (Tehillim 6:1)


Rav Eliahu Gutmacher brings in his explanation of Masechet Shabbat on the Chapter "R' Eliezer D'mila" that it is a great Segulah (charm) to say at the time of Brit Milah (circumcision) the sixth Chapter of Tehillim "To the chief musician...on the eighth" (Tehillim 6:1), and to request all that one's heart desires. And he concludes there that this is a wonderful piece of advice.

"To Ozni, the family of Ozni" (Bamidbar 26:16)


Rashi says that the family of Ozni is Etzbon, which is mentioned in the Torah Portion of Vayigash. On this the Sages said, that the fingers were given to man, so that if he will hear Lashon Hara (derogatory speech) he should plug up his ears with his fingers. And this is hinted at by the text, "Ozni" is linguistically related to "ozen" (in Engish, "ear" ), and he is from the family of Etzbon, which linguistically related to "eztbaot" (in English, "fingers" ).

Why isn't the name of Zimri written at the end of the Torah Portion of Balak?


One of the Gedolim explains, why the name of Zimri isn't written at the end of the Torah Portion of Balak, but only in the Torah Portion of Pinchas.  The reason is that in the Torah Portion of Pinchas, the Holy One Blessed Be He wanted to emphasize how praiseworthy Pinchas is, for in order to do what he did, he had to strengthen himself to kill a person who had the status of being a Prince in Israel, such as Zimri. But the Torah doesn't ever tell us Lashon Hara (derogatory information) for no reason without any useful purpose.

"To Puva, the family of Puni" (Bamidbar 26:23)


The Ohr HaChaim says, that "Puva" is linguistically related to "peh" (in English, "mouth" ). The mouth that learns Torah is like a tool for serving Hashem, and one needs to empty it of eating unnecessary food and from speaking forbidden words, because those things prevent the fulfillment of the Torah. And that is why it says "Puva" which is "peh" (in English, "mouth" ), and "Puni" is linguistically related to "P'nui" (in English: "free, vacant, or unoccupied" ), to tell us to empty our mouth of forbidden things (i.e. forbidden speech and food). 

"To Yeitzer, the family of Yitzri, to Shilaim, the the family of Shilaimi" (Bamidbar 26:49)


In the way that a man wants to go, in that direction is he led.  The name "Yeitzer" in Hebrew is linguistically related to the term "Yeitzer Hara" (in English: "The Evil Inclination"), and the name "Shilaim" is linguistically related to "Sh'leimut" (in English: "Perfection").  Thus the message hinted at by this verse is, "To Yeitzer" -- if a man wants to go in the way of the Evil Inclination,  "the family of Yitzri", then he has bad friends.  But "To Shilaim" -- if he wants to perfect himself, "the family of Shilaimi", then he needs to have good friends.  Along the same lines, it is told that someone sent a letter to the "Chazon Ish" and complained about his problems and difficulties.  The Chazon Ish sent a letter to him in reply, and in it was written the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) "Mem Yud Mem Yud".  His intention in writing that was to refer to a phrase (whose words begin with those letters) which is written in the Tractate of Eiduyot 5:47 "Ma'asecha Yirchakucha Ma'asecha Yikravuycha" (In English:  "Your deeds will distance you; your deeds will bring you close").  In the way that a person behaves, in that way he will have what is good for him (i.e., whatever will assist him to go in the direction he wants to go.)

What is the significance of Sh'mini Atzeret after the Chag of Succot?


It is written in Rashi, that the significance of Sh'mini Atzeret after the Chag of Succot, is that the Holy One Blessed Be He says to Israel, "your separation is difficult for me" (i.e., Hashem wants to have this additional holiday because it's difficult for Him to separate from us).   The Teachers of Mussar (Ethics) say, that the reason the Holy One Blessed Be He says "your separation is difficult for me", is that what is difficult for Him is the divisiveness within the people of Israel; we need to be in unity, and then there will be great success. 

The Torah Portion of Pinchas has 168 verses. 6 positive commandments.Haftora: "Divrei Yirmiyahu" (Yirmiyahu 1).

This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Menachem Av.  The Molad is on Yom Hey (Thursday) at the hour 3:39 with 7 Chalakim.  Rosh Chodesh is on Yom Vuv (Friday).

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2 (third cycle)



The Hebrew letters that spell the name of the month of Tammuz are: Tav, Mem, Vuv, and Zayin.

These letters are the initial letters of two important messages:
1) "Z'manai T'shuva M'mashmashin U'va'in" (Note: Z'manai starts with Zayin, T'shuva starts with Tav, M'Mashmashin starts with Mem, U'va'in starts with Vuv)
In English that means: "The time for repentance is actualizing and coming."

2) "Z'rizin M'akdimin V'osin T'shuva" (Note: Z'rizin starts with Zayin, M'akdimin starts with Mem, V'osin starts with Vuv, T'shuva starts with Tav)
In English that means: "Alacritous people begin early and repent." 

May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Balak 5775

The Torah Portion of Balak 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

It has been asked: Rashi says that the non-Jews requested a prophet, so Hashem gave them Bilaam as a prophet. The Sages said that his power was like the power of Moshe, as has been explained on the verse, "And there has not arisen a prophet in Israel like Moshe" (Devorim 34:10), that in Israel there hasn't arisen, but in the non-Jews there has arisen a prophet like Moshe. If so, how was he such an evil person? Didn't Hashem speak with him? The explanation is by way of a parable: two women cooked the same food, and by one of them the food came out with a good and pleasant taste and smell. But by the second one the food came out with a bad taste and smell. The second one asked her friend: "Behold, both of us cooked the same food, so why did mine come out spoiled?" The first one replied: "Tell me, did you wash the pot well before you cooked in it?" The second one told her: "I didn't wash the pot." The first one answered her: "If so, the matter is understood, you cooked the good food inside a dirty pot, and therefore the food came out that way." Similarly, Moshe prepared himself to be a beautiful vessel by means of Mitzvot and good deeds, as we found that when he was a shepherd he had compassion for the flocks, and then he was pure and clean to receive the indwelling of the Divine Presence, and arose to the heights in prophesy. That was not the case by Bilaam, who was dirty and polluted, and spoiled all the goodness that he received.

"Whose eye is opened (or pierced)" (Bamidbar 24:3). 


It is told that during the Holocaust, there was a wicked Nazi, may his name be erased, and he had one artificial eye. He grabbed a Jew and told him that he had to tell him which eye was real and which one was artificial, and if he doesn't know, he will kill him. The Jew prayed to Hashem and succeeded to tell him which one was the real eye. He asked him: "How did you succeed to distinguish it?" The Jew answered him, that he sees in one eye that hatred for Jews is burning in it, and in the second eye he doesn't see that, and so he knew which was the true eye.

"Whose eye is opened" (Bamidbar 24:3)


It is written (in Eicha 3:8):"Also if I will shout and I will cry out for help my prayer is blocked" . The Shl"a explains, that the word "blocked" in Hebrew is written like "Sh'tum" (with the Hebrew letter Shin as the first letter) but read like "S'tum" (with the Hebrew letter Samech as the first letter). The explanation of the word "Sh'tum" , written with a Shin as the first Hebrew letter is "opened" , as in the verse from this week's Torah Portion: "Whose eye is opened" (Bamidbar 24:3). That is to say, even though my mouth is blocked, it is opened a little bit to pray to Hashem in the direction of the Land of Israel, and to send the prayer by way of the Gate of Heaven, as our Rabbis of Blessed Memory said in the Gemara Brachot (30a). The Ibn Ezra and the Ramban write that the word "Sh'tum" (opened) is found only one time in the Scriptures, in this week's Torah Portion "Whose eye is opened" (Bamidbar 24:3). But according to the Shl"a it is also present in Eicha (3:8) according to the written form but not according to how it is read.

"Fallen down and with uncovered eyes" (Bamidbar 24:4). 


It has been said in the name of a particular Tzaddik (righteous man) that this hints that all of a person's falls are only because he doesn't guard his eyes.

"How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisrael" (Bamidbar 24:5)


The Sages say that these are the synagogues and Torah study halls. It is told, that one time someone asked the Natziv of Volozhin how he was able to live next to the Yeshiva which had a lot of noise, and the sound of learning Torah, and how come that doesn't bother him to sleep. The Natziv answered and said, that behold, also the owners of the gristmill live next to the gristmill, and I have never heard that they have complaints about the noise of the mill. On the contrary, they have a pleasant and sweet sleep the more that the mill works, since they know that they are making a lot of money from it. Also I, when I hear the sound of Torah learning, then I think about the verse "How goodly are your tents Yaakov" , and I enjoy it while I am sleeping. (from Torat HaParsha)

"...those who bless you are blessed and those who curse are cursed" (Bamidbar 24:9)


Yitchak said (to Ya'akov when he blessed him) those who curse you will be cursed and those who bless you will be blessed (Braishit 27:29), and Bilaam said the opposite, those who bless you will be blessed and those who curse you will be cursed (Bamidbar 24:9). Yitzchak truly wanted to bless, and therefore finished at the end with a blessing, but Bilaam's intention was to curse, and therefore finished at the end with a curse. Rashi in the Torah Portion of Toldot explains that for righteous people, their beginning is suffering and their end is tranquility, and their curses and sorrows precede their blessings, and therefore Yitzchak first mentioned the curse on those who curse, prior to the blessing on those bless who bless. For wicked people, their beginning is tranquility and in the end suffering; therefore Bilaam said his blessing before his curse.

Words of Encouragement about Prayer


It is written in the Halacha (Jewish law) that it is necessary to pray as if counting money. But apparently we see that the cashier in a bank counts the money quickly, and today there is a machine that counts the money at great speed. So how is it possible to compare prayer to counting money? The answer is that it is possible to count quickly only when all the bills are of one kind, but if one needs to count different kinds of money, such as Shekels, Dollars, and Sterling, and he has bills of 100 and bills of 50 and of 20, then it is not possible to count quickly. And that is the intention, that in prayer every word is a complete subject in and of itself, and the Anshei Knesset HaGedola (Men of the Great Assembly) intended within each word very many meanings, and that is the explanation of "as if counting money".

The Torah Portion of Balak has 104 verses. Haftora: "V' haya Shaarit Ya'akov" (Micha 5) 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1. (third cycle)

On the Month of Tammuz


The Hebrew letters that spell the name of the month of Tammuz are: Tav, Mem, Vuv, and Zayin.
These letters are the initial letters of two important messages:
1) "Z'manai T'shuva M'mashmashin U'va'in" (Note: Z'manai starts with Zayin, T'shuva starts with Tav, M'Mashmashin starts with Mem, U'va'in starts with Vuv)
In English that means: "The time for repentance is actualizing and coming."

2) "Z'rizin M'akdimin V'osin T'shuva" (Note: Z'rizin starts with Zayin, M'akdimin starts with Mem, V'osin starts with Vuv, T'shuva starts with Tav)
In English that means: "Alacritous people begin early and repent." 

May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chukat 5775

The Torah Portion of Chukat 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l


"This is the statute of the Torah." (Bamidbar 19:2) 


It's been asked, why wasn't it written "This is the statute of the Heifer" , and the explanation is that in the Torah there are Mitzvot that can be understood intellectually, such as honoring one's father and mother, which is a matter of gratitude, and observance of Shabbat and Yom Tov, since one needs to have rest and it's beneficial for the body. But regarding the Red Heifer, we don't know the reason for it, and if we fulfill it this demonstrates that we are fullfilling all the Torah for the sake of Hashem and not for the sake of our own selfish benefit. Therefore it is written "This is the statute of the Torah". (Bamidbar 19:2) (from the Ohr HaChaim)

"This is the statute of the Torah." (Bamidbar 19:2) 


Rashi explains, since the Satan and nations of the world taunt Israel saying "What is this Mitzvah and what reason is there in it?", therefore it is written of it that it is a statute, it is a decree from before Me and you have no right to question it. And this needs investigating, why specifically regarding this Mitzvah do the Satan and nations of the world taunt Israel? And the explanation is what is written when Bilaam wanted to curse Israel, "And Bilaam saw that it was good in the eyes of Hashem to bless Israel, so he didn't go as in previous times in the direction of divinations, but he set his face toward the wilderness." (Bamidbar 24:1) And Rashi explains, Bilaam said that [whether] Hashem wants to curse them or doesn't want to curse them, I will recall their sins and the curse will take effect upon the mention of their sins. And the Translation into Aramaic by Onkeles says, that he set his face toward the direction of the [golden] calf that Israel served in the wilderness. Behold, that Balak and Bilaam when they wanted G-d-forbid to bring harm to Israel they knew that G-d-forbid that by means of recalling the sin of the calf the curse would take effect. And here (at the verse "This is the statute of the Torah") Rashi brings in the name of Rabbeinu Moshe HaDarshan a reason for the Red Heifer, that it is to atone for the sin of the calf: his mother should come and clean up the excrement of her son. And that is why the Satan and nations of the world taunt Israel precisely about this Mitzvah, "What is the reason for it?" so that they should say to them the reason is the calf and by means of that they will mention the sins of Israel and G-d-forbid the curse will take effect. And to this, the Holy One Blessed Be He answers, it is a statute from before Me and you have no right to question it. There is no permission to question it and to mention the sin, and thus the mouth of the Satan will be blocked.

Rashi brings a reason for the Red Heifer in the name of R' Moshe HaDarshan. 


And this presents a difficulty, since the Sages said that we don't know the reason for the Red Heifer. The Ohr HaChama provides an explanation, when the Sages said that we don't know the reason for the Red Heifer, that was only on the level of P'shat (the simple, straightforward understanding of the Torah). But on the level of Midrashic interpretation, it's possible to say many reasons.

"Which doesn't have a defect, upon which a yoke has not come." (Bamidbar 19:2) 


Someone who holds that he doesn't have any defects, it's a sign that he doesn't have upon him the Yoke Of Heaven. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"And every open vessel that has no covering fastened to it is impure." (Bamidbar 19:15) 


The explanation is that any earthenware vessel if it is not closed well, becomes defiled, because the defilement enters into its interior air-space. The Masters of Ethics say "Every open vessel" , someone who has an open mouth and speaks forbidden speech, "it is impure" , it's a sign that he has defilement within him.

"And the children of Israel came...And Miriam died there." (Bamidbar 20:1) 


The section about the Red Heifer was told to Israel in the second year after going out from Egypt on Rosh Chodesh Nissan on the day of erecting the Mishkan (i.e. the Tabernacle), and the death of Miriam was in the fortieth year. So why was the the death of Miriam adjacent to the section about the Heifer, since many years had elapsed between the two events? The answer is that the verses are coming to hint to us that just as the Heifer atones for Israel, as was explained by R' Moshe HaDarshan that it atoned for the sin of the calf, so the death of Tzaddikim (righteous people) also atones.

Moshe was punished because he hit the rock. 


This was because there would have been a great sanctification of Hashem's name if he had spoken to the rock; if a rock listens to what is spoken to him, all the moreso should a person listen to what is spoken to him. It has been asked, if one hits a rock and it gives water isn't that also a miracle and sanctification of Hashem's name? The explanation, is that the Holy One Blessed Be He desires that we should learn to come close to Hashem without having to be hit.

It is written by the Sages, that Aharon loved peace and pursued peace, and brought about peace between a man and his wife. 


When Aharon died, 80,000 young men whose names were "Aharon" walked after his funeral bier. They had been born in the merit of Aharon who had brought about peace between their parents, and they were walking with their right shoulders exposed, for that used to be the custom.

"And from the wilderness to Matana (the name of a place , which can also be translated as the word "gift" in English). (Bamidbar 21:18) 


The Sages say, that if one makes himself like a wilderness which is ownerless and he gives up all of the vanities of this world, and gives in to everyone without any resentment, he will get the Torah as a gift. One time a man went to the "Chazon Ish", and during their conversation he asked the "Chazon Ish" if he feels resentment towards him, because perhaps he said something to him that was disrespectful. The Chazon Ish answered him, in my store I don't have at all an item like that, I don't know what resentment is. 

Ethical Teachings about Anger


The Sages say that every time that a person gets angry, it is as if he is participating in idol worship, because the anger is not beneficial for him at all just like idol worship which is not beneficial at all.  And not only that, but it damages him.  That is like what the Sages say, that for an angry person nothing comes up in his hand except for his anger, and all that it does is damage him.  It is written in the holy books that occasionally when Hashem wants to shower a person with Heavenly blessings, He tests him in the matter of anger.  If he overcomes his anger, he receives the blessings, but if G-d forbid he gets angry, then he loses them.

The Torah Portion of Chukat has 87 verses. 3 positive commandments. Haftora: "V'yiftach Hagiladi" (Shoftim, 11) 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 6 (second cycle).


The Hebrew letters that spell the name of the month of Tammuz are: Tav, Mem, Vuv, and Zayin.

These letters are the initial letters of two important messages:
1) "Z'manai T'shuva M'mashmashin U'va'in" (Note: Z'manai starts with Zayin, T'shuva starts with Tav, M'Mashmashin starts with Mem, U'va'in starts with Vuv)
In English that means: "The time for repentance is actualizing and coming."

2) "Z'rizin M'akdimin V'osin T'shuva" (Note: Z'rizin starts with Zayin, M'akdimin starts with Mem, V'osin starts with Vuv, T'shuva starts with Tav)
In English that means: "Alacritous people begin early and repent." 

May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Korach 5775

The Torah Portion of Korach 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l


"And there took Korach the son of Yitzchar the son of Kehat the son of Levi." (Bamidbar 16:1)


The Chatam Sofer asked, how did the righteous sons of Levi name their son "Korach" which is a name of one the chiefs of Eisav (Breishit 36:5)? According to the Gemara (Yoma 38b) it is written that a man should not give his son the name of a wicked man, and we also see that he became a wicked man because they gave him this name. And the Chatam Sofer writes that perhaps the explanation of the verse "And there took Korach the son of Yitzchar the son of Kehat the son of Levi", is that he should have sanctified himself because he was the descendent of Yitzchar and Kehat and Levi, except that "there took Korach" , the name Korach took away all of the sanctity.

Rashi says "This Torah portion is expounded nicely." 


There are those that say, it's possible to give lectures on this Torah portion about Korach every day of the year, because throughout the year there are disputes. And it is also said regarding the verse, "and the sons of Korach didn't die" (Bamidbar 26:11), that dispute never ceases.

"And there took Korach." (Bamidbar 16:1) 


He took honor for himself. Honor is not something to take for yourself, but rather, others need to give you honor, and because Korah wanted to take honor before the right time, he therefore died before his time. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

Rashi says: "Korach, who was a clever man, what was it that he saw that led him to this folly?" 


It's said that Chana requested that she would have a son who would not be like his grandfather Korach, but rather he would be neither wise nor stupid, because one doesn't need to be too smart.

Just as there is a Kohen Gadol for the people of Israel, there should have been a Levi Gadol, and this appointment would have been designated for Korach, but because of the controversy Israel lost this thing. (from Imrai Emet in the name of the Zohar)

Korach asked Moshe, a house full of Seforim (Holy Books), does it need a Mezuzah? 


Moshe answered him, "Certainly". The teacher explained this to his students: that is just like if someone asks whether a store full of locks doesn't need a lock for locking the door.


Korach was jealous of the princely position of Elitzaphan ben Uziel.


The sons of Kehat in the order of their birth were: Amram, Yitzchar, Chevron, and Uziel. The sons of Amram were Moshe and Aharon, who received important appointments. Korach claimed that he was next in line after them, and that he deserved the position of prince, for he was the son of Yitzchar, the second son of Kehat, and it shouldn' t have been given to Elitzaphan who was the son of Uziel -- the fourth son of Kehat.

"They gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon...And Moshe heard and fell on his face." (Bamidbar 16:3-4) 


The Ramban asks, behold,they gathered also against Aharon, and why didn't Aharon fall on his face? And he explains, that Aharon was so ethical and holy that he didn't answer a word during all this dispute, and it was as if he were silent and admitting that Korach's level was higher than his level, except that he was doing as Moshe said and fulfilling the decree of the King.

"A righteous person like a date-palm tree will flower" (Tehillim 92:13)


The Ari HaKodesh used to say, that in the future to come there will be a correction for the soul of Korach, as it is said, "a righteous person like a date-palm tree will flower." (Tehillim 92:13) In the original Hebrew, this verse is: "Tzadik K'tamar Yifrach" . The last letters of these three Hebrew words are Kuf (end of Tzadik), Raish (end of K'tamar) , and Chet (end of Yifrach), and that spells the name "Korach" . In the end, also Korach will be thought of as being among the righteous people.

The Chozeh HaKodesh of Lublin was a descendent of Korach.


The Chozeh of Lublin said, that his grandfather didn't know that it's possible to serve Hashem from behind the stove (in a hidden, seemingly insignificant position) just like the Kohen HaGadol in the Holy of Holies.

"The wisdom of a woman builds her house" (Mishlei 14:1)


The wife of Ohn ben Pelet saved him. She said to him, "why are you getting involved in a dispute? Look, in any event either Moshe will be the leader or Korach, but you won't receive any position, so why should you get involved?" It is written in Mishlei (14:1): "The wisdom of a woman builds her house", and this refers to the wife of Ohn ben Pelet. Teachers of Ethics ask, how much wisdom does it take to look at the matter that way? Not much. But the explanation is, that at the time of a dispute, any straight thinking, even a little bit, is great deal of wisdom, because at the time of a dispute people lose their minds.

"The wisdom of a woman builds her house" (Mishlei 14:1)


That is the wife of Ohn ben Pelet. "And a foolish woman with her hands destroys it" (Mishlei 14:1), that is the wife of Korach, who said to him, "it' s not enough that Moshe took for himself Kingship, and to his brother he gave the position of Kohen Gadol, and it's necessary to give him T'rumot (donations), but he also told the whole tribe to shave". Korach said to her, "look, also Moshe shaved himself" . She said to him, "that's like what is stated 'may my soul die with the Pilishtim' (Shoftim 16:30 -- which Shimshon said after he was blinded and chained to the pillars of a building filled with Pilishtim). It's worthwhile for him to shave himself, in order so that everyone else will need to shave". (from Sanhedrin 110a) 

"My two sons you shall kill" (Braisheet 42:37)


Because Reuven said to Yaakov, "My two sons you shall kill, etc." (Braisheet 42:37), there came out from him Datan and Aviram, and they died. This is because the curse of a righteous man is fulfilled even if it is made conditionally. (from Ba'al HaTurim on the Torah Portion Mikaitz)

It is written in Ethics of the Fathers (Chapter 5), "Every dispute which is not for the sake of Heaven, this is the dispute of Korach and his congregation" . 


It has been asked, why is it written "Korach and his congregation" and not "Korach and Moshe"? The explanation is, that Moshe did not participate in the dispute at all, but rather said to Korach, as far as I'm concerned take everything, but the Holy One Blessed Be He doesn't agree with it. And there are those that explain "the dispute of Korach and his congregation" , that there was also a dispute amongst them, between Korach and his congregation. 

"And Moshe got up and went to Datan and Aviram." 


(based Rashi's commentary on the verse in Bamidbar 16:12 -- "And Moshe sent to call Datan and Aviram") From here we learn, that we should not support a dispute (since Moshe went after them to restore harmony with them with words of peace).


"And he shall not be like Korach and his congregation. " (Bamidbar 17:5) 


Rav said, everyone who supports a dispute, transgresses a prohibitive commandment, as it is said: "And he shall not be like Korach and his congregation. " (Bamidbar 17:5) Rav Ashi says, it is appropriate that he should be struck with Tzaraat (a spiritual skin disease commonly translated as "leprosy" in English). (from Sanhedrin 110a)

Gehinom


The Sages say that every time that a person gets angry, "all kinds of Gehinom rule over him". The Ben Ish Chai explains that the Sages say there are 3 kinds of Gehinom: 1) fire, 2) hail, 3) smoke. The nature of a person when he gets angry is that at first he gets red, that is fire; after that gets pale, that is hail, which is white; and after that he steams from his nostrils, that is smoke. 

"And the sons of Korach didn't die." (Bamidbar 26:11) 


Rashi says that a place was set aside for them in Gehinom. It is said that the reason we say Tehillim 47, "Lamenatzayach L'vnei Korach..." ("To the conductor, a psalm of the sons of Korach") before the sounding of the Shofar on Rosh Hashana, is in order to awaken us to the fact that even though the sons of Korach repented only when they were already in Gehinom, their repentance was accepted, and so thus everyone of us who awakens himself before the sounding of the Shofar, will have his repentance accepted, and he doesn't need to give up hope.

Two men came before the "Ohr Sameach" for a judgment about an area of land. 


Each one claimed that the land belonged to him. The Ohr Sameach asked them, where are the witnesses, and where is the legal document? They said to him, we don't have witnesses or a legal document. He said to them that they should make a compromise between themselves, but they didn't agree to that. He requested to see the piece of land that was under discussion in the case. When he got there he bent down to the ground and acted as if he were whispering to it and then he turned his ear to the ground to hear its answer. They asked him, what was it that you whispered? He said to them, I asked the ground which one of you it belongs to, and the ground said that both of you belong to it, that is to say, in the end every person dies and is buried in the ground and will belong to it. The two men understood the hint and agreed to compromise, and now it is understandable why Korach was punished by being swallowed by the earth. If he had remembered where we all go at the end of life, he wouldn't have disputed with Moshe. Therefore he was punished by being swallowed by the earth when he was still alive. (from Kol Yehuda)

The Torah Portion of Korach has 95 verses, 5 positive commandments, and 4 prohibitions. Haftora: "Vayomer Sh'muel" (Sh'muel Aleph, 11) 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5 (second cycle).


The Hebrew letters that spell the name of the month of Tammuz are: Tav, Mem, Vuv, and Zayin.

These letters are the initial letters of two important messages:
1) "Z'manai T'shuva M'mashmashin U'va' in" (Note: Z'manai starts with Zayin, T'shuva starts with Tav, M'Mashmashin starts with Mem, U'va' in starts with Vuv)
In English that means: "The time for repentance is actualizing and coming."

2) "Z'rizin M'akdimin V'osin T'shuva" (Note: Z'rizin starts with Zayin, M'akdimin starts with Mem, V'osin starts with Vuv, T'shuva starts with Tav)
In English that means: "Alacritous people begin early and repent." 

May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772