Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Noach 5775

The Torah Portion of Noach 5775


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l



"These are the offspring of Noach -- Noach was a righteous man..." (Bereisheet 6:9)


At the time when a Tzaddik (Righteous Man) leaves this world without children, he is distressed and cries.  The Holy One Blessed Be He says to him, "Why are you distressed and crying that you didn't beget any children?  I have a fruit that is more beautiful than children, the Torah which you occupied yourself with."  For so it is written in Proverbs (11:30):  "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life", and there is no tree of life other than Torah, as it is said, "It is a tree of life to those who uphold it" (Proverbs 3:18).  The verse "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life", refers to Noach.  Our Rabbis said that Noach did not pass away until he saw all the world resettled, ... and until he saw seventy nations who were his descendents, and none of this was remembered -- only his righteousness, as it is said "These are the offspring of Noach -- Noach was a righteous man", and it is not written Shem, Ham, and Yaphet, but rather his righteousness.  You should know that this verse ( "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life" -- Proverbs 11:30) is speaking about Noach, because at the end of the verse it is written "and a wise man takes souls" (Proverbs 11:30).  This refers to Noach who took souls, and would support and feed them (i.e. the other people and animals who were with him in the ark).  (from Midrash Tanchuma as published by Buber)


"...and the earth had become filled with robbery."  (Bereisheet 6:11)


The Sages say that the Holy One Blessed Be He doesn't begin to punish people by taking their lives, but rather begins with their financial wealth.  If so, why didn't Hashem first punish the generation of the Flood financially?  The explanation is that the money which was in their possession was stolen, and therefore He immediately punished them physically.


"Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva (the ark) ..."  (Bereisheet 6:16)


There are two explanations for the Hebrew word "Tzohar"; there are those who say it means a window, and there are those who say it means a diamond.  The Hebrew word "Teiva", in addition to meaning "ark" in English, also means "word" in English.  Based on this, teachers of Mussar (Ethics) say that every word that you bring out of your mouth needs to enlighten, that is, one should bring out his words in Torah and prayer, and do it in such a way that those words will spread light.


"Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva (the ark or the word) and to an Amah (cubit) you shall finish it from above.  The Petach (entrance) of the ark  you shall make in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks."  (Bereisheet 6:16)


It is told about the Gaon R' Yehuda Tzadka ztz"l Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, that he was always accustomed to say every blessing with three pauses, for example:  1) Baruch Atah Hashem (Blessed are You Hashem), 2) Elokeinu Melech Haolom (Our G-d King of the universe), 3) Shehakol Nih'ye Bid'varo (that everything exists at Your word).    After he passed away, he came in a dream to one of his grandsons, and told him the verse "Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva...", emphasizing the interpretation that "Teiva" means "word".  During a blessing, one should express his words clearly like a "Tzohar", which is related to the Hebrew word for light.  An "Amah" is a Hebrew measurement which is usually translated as a cubit.  The three letters of the Hebrew word Amah (Aleph, Mem and Hey)  are the Roshei Teivot (beginning letters) of the Hebrew words "Elokeinu Melech Haolom"  ("Our G-d King of the universe").  So the message here is that when one says a blessing, it should be with Kavana (intention) that the One he is saying it to is Our G-d King of the universe.  The word "Petach" (entrance) which appears in the phrase "an entrance of the ark you shall make in its side", hints to us about the Evil Inclination, as it it written "at the Petach (entrance) sin crouches" (Bereisheet 4:7).  This means that in the merit of saying a blessing properly, one can overcome the Evil Inclination.  And regarding "bottom, second, and third decks",  the meaning of this is that you should make three pauses in every single blessing.


"Noach did according to everything that Hashem had commanded him, so he did."  (Bereisheet 6:22)


Noach didn't think to make the ark in order to save himself, but rather he only did it because of the commandment of Hashem.


"...and from the animal which is not pure..."  (Bereisheet 7:8)


The Torah used an extra eight Hebrew letters in order to speak in a clean language (by saying "and from the animal which is not pure", instead of " and from the impure animal").  It has been asked, "Don't we see that many times the Torah does explicitly use the word 'impure'?"  The explanation is, that when the Torah writes a Halacha (a religious law), it needs to be in a way which is clear and explicit so that we won't make any mistakes in following the Halacha, but in a story about an event, which would not cause us to err, the Torah uses a clean language in order to teach us how we should speak.


"And Haran died in the presence of Terach his father, in his native land, in Ur Kasdim."  (Bereisheet 11:28)


It is written in the Targum Yonatan that when Nimrod cast Avram into the burning furnace because he didn't worship idols, Haran said "If Nimrod wins I will be with his group and if Avram wins I will be with his group".  And when all the people that were there saw that the fire did not have any effect on Avram, they thought in their hearts: "Isn't Haran the brother of Avram full of magic and witchcraft?  It must be that he is charming the fire so that it won't burn his brother."  Immediately fire fell from the upper heavens and engulfed Haran and he died, in front of Terach his father.  And in Rashi it is written that Haran sat and thought in his heart: "If Avram wins I will be with him, and if Nimrod wins I will be with him."  When Avram won, they said to him, "Who's side are you on?"  He told them, "I am with Avram".  Then they threw him into the burning furnace and he was burnt up.   There are those that question why this happened, because in any event Haran did a good deed?  And the answer is that the Holy One Blessed Be He doesn't hold back reward from anyone, and his reward was that Sarah was descended from him (Iskah, Haran's daughter, is Sarah), and the rest of the Matriarchs were descended from Milcah  (who was also Haran's daughter), and in addition, from Lot (who was Haran's son) were descended Rut and Naamah. 


Words of Chizuk (Encouragement)


The Sages say that the Seal of the Holy One Blessed Be He is Truth.  There are those that explain this by saying, that when you look at the letters and words that are on a Seal, they superficially seem to be backwards, but when you use the Seal to sign a document, the letters and words come out properly.  Similarly, there are occasionally people who when they do not understand the ways of Hashem, they immediately have complaints, G-d forbid.  On this we can say to them, that the Seal superficially appears to be backwards, but if we look carefully at the matter we will see that it is straight, because Hashem's leadership and Seal are precise and true and straight.


The Torah Portion of Noach has 153 verses.We take out two Torah Scrolls.  In the first we ready the Torah Portion of the week, and in the second we read the Maftir, from the Torah Portion of Pinchas "U'vayom HaShabbat" until "V'Niskoh".   Haftora: "Hashamayim Kis'i" (Yeshayahu 66). This Shabbat is Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Mar Cheshvan; in Musaf we say "Atah Yatzarta".We say Borchi Nafshi.



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, October 5, 2014

Bereisheet 5775

Bereisheet 5775


SHABBAT MEVORCHIM


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

"A Good Beginning."


A teacher said to his students: "Don't say that we have passed the Holidays, but rather, Baruch Hashem we have gained the Holidays, and Baruch Hashem we have also gained many Mitzvot."

"Rabbi Yitzchak said..." (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:1)


Rashi began his Commentary on the Torah with the comment "Rabbi Yitzchak said..."  The source of this comment is from the Yalkut Shimoni.  The "Be'er Mayim Chaim" wrote that Rashi began with this particular comment in order to honor his father, who was called Rabbi Yitzchak, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of honoring one's father and mother.

"Rabbi Yitzchak said..." (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:1)


Rashi began his Commentary on the Torah with the letter Aleph, "Amar R' Yitzchak" (in English:  "Rabbi Yitzchak said").  And he finished his Commentary on the Torah Portion of V'Zot HaB'racha with the letter Tav, "Yishar Cochacha She'Shavarta" (In English: "May your strength be straight for having shattered the Tablets").  This is to hint to us that Rashi's commentary was inclusive from Aleph until Tav (from the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet to the last), and didn't miss anything. (from the Gaon R' M.D. Halperin ztz"l)


"In the beginning of G-d's creating the heavens and the earth -- and the earth was bewilderment and void..." (Bereisheet 1:1-2)


First of all a Jew needs to believe that Hashem created the heavens and the earth, and from that he will understand that all of this world is bewilderment and void. 

The high level of Adam HaRishon (the first man) and what we can learn from it.


The most capable person in the world and the the one with the greatest memory and deepest understanding and intellectual grasp, was Adam HaRishon (the first man).  The reason he was on such a high level was because he was directly created by the Holy One Blessed Be He.  And he also had a lot of physical strength, and when he was expelled from Gan Eden (the garden of Eden), it was necessary to have a strong guards to prevent him from entering again because of his great strength.  And these strong guards were the Keruvim (Cherubim), angels of destruction, and the flaming sword which turned every way. And if he had not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, he would have lived forever.  And what did he do in Gan Eden?  The Torah tells us that Hashem put Adam HaRishon into the Gan of Eden "to work it and to keep it" (Bereisheet 2:15).  The Sages say that  "to work it" refers to the positive commandments, and "to keep it" refers to negative commandments.  And Adam HaRishon was constantly studying the Torah.  And we see from this an awesome thing, that the Torah of Hashem has no end.  Adam HaRishon was the person with the most capability in the world and he had the potential to live forever, and he learned the Torah constantly, and in spite of all that, he still had more to learn from Hashem's Torah.  (This ethical lesson is from the Chafetz Chaim.) 

"...Let there be a firmament..." (Bereisheet 1:6)


Rashi says that the heavens were wobbly on the first day.  The Holy One Blessed Be He shouted at them on the second day ("Let there be a firmament"), and because of that they are standing in fear and awe until today.  Because of this we have the term "fear of Heaven".  Just as the heavens always stand in fear and awe, so the Tzaddik (Righteous Person) is always in fear and awe (of Hashem).

"It is not written on the second day that it was good."  (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:7)


Rashi says that the work of the second day was not completed until the third day, and that is why it doesn't says "Ki Tov" (that it was good) on the second day. The Sages say the reason is because it was written on the second day about the division between the upper waters and lower waters, and where there is divisiveness it is not appropriate to say that it is good.  Machloket (divisiveness or quarreling) is the opposite of goodness.

A Story about Rabbeinu Bachya (author of Chovot HaLevavot)


Rabbeinu Bachya had many arguments in his days with non-believers of various kinds.  One time they told him that there was a world famous artist who had made a very beautiful painting and they showed it to him.  He said to them that the painting was made during the night by a monkey who had come, and next to the monkey was a bottle of ink, and he spilled the ink on the canvas and the result was this picture...They said to him, an astute person like you, how can you say such things?  How is it possible that this was done by a monkey?  He said to them, also you say things like that, that this world with a sun and moon and all the creations, with all the plants and animals, happened by itself without the existence of a Creator and Leader of the World.  And in this way he convinced them.

A Similar Story about Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi


Similarly, it is told about Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi z"l that he had a neighbor who was  a non-Jewish poet, and he had arguments with him about faith in Hashem.  One time the non-Jew wrote a song on his table in the courtyard and was not able to finish it with a nice ending.  Meanwhile he went for a walk in the forest, thinking that perhaps he would find some kind of nice ending.  Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, who was also a great poet, saw this.  On the man's table was a pen with ink, and Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi took the pen and finished the song in a beautiful way.  When the non-Jew returned he saw his song's ending, that it was very beautiful, and he thought to himself, certainly my neighbor Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi finished it.  And he asked him: "Did you write this ending?"  Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi answered him that it happened by itself.  The neighbor said to him: "An astute person like you, how can you say things like that?"  Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi answered him: "Your ears should hear what your mouth is saying.  Two lines can't be written by themselves, and a beautiful world like this, how was that created by itself???!!!"  And he convinced him.

"...Dust shall you eat..."  (Bereisheet 3:14)


Hashem gave a punishment to the snake that "dust shall you eat".  Doesn't this seem to be good for him, because he will have sufficient food in every place that he goes?  The explanation is that in truth, this is bad.  This is similar to a parable about a king who was angry at his son and gave him a lot of money and sent him away from his table.  He said to him: "I don't want to see you.  You have enough money, go and support yourself in any place that you want, but by me you are not welcome to have your foot step inside my house any more."  Applying the parable to the snake's situation, we find that all of the living creatures have a connection with Hashem and always request food from the Holy One Blessed Be He.  But the snake has no connection to the Holy One Blessed Be He, for He said to him "You will have food in any place that you want, but not from me".

"And Kayin (Cain) rose up against his brother Hevel (Abel) and killed him."  (Bereisheet 4:8)


The Sages say that they argued about apportioning the world, and they agreed between themselves that Kayin would take for his portion the land (real estate) and Hevel would take for his portion the movable property.  And therefore they quarelled, because Kayin said to Hevel that he should fly in the air and not have his foot walk on the ground since it belonged to him, and Hevel said to Kayin that he should give him the clothing that he was wearing.  Maran HaGaon Rav Eleazar Menachem Man Shach ztz"l asks, what are the Sages coming to tell us by saying this?  The answer is that it is in order for us to contemplate this: that even if all of the world is his, all of the countries great and small, in any event if a person doesn't work on his Middot (character traits) he is liable to arrive at the lowest level so that he won't able to stand that another person would walk on his land.

"And Noach found favor in Hashem's eyes."   (Bereisheet 6:8)


The Midrash says that if someone who is "Noach L'briot" (in English: "easygoing with others"), he will find favor in Hashem's eyes.

The Torah Portion of Bereisheet has 146 verses. It has one positive commandment.Haftora: "Ko Amar HaKail"  (Yeshayahu 42). This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevorchim.  Rosh Chodesh of the Month of Mar Cheshvan will be on Yom Shishi and Yom Shabbat Kodesh (Friday and Shabbat).The Molad: Lail Shishi (Thursday night) at the hour 9:02 with 16 Chalakim. 


This Shabbat we begin to say Borchi Nafshi.


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

Chag HaSuccot & V'zot HaBracha 5775

CHAG HASUCCOT -- V'ZOT HABRACHA 5775


"V'Samachta B'Chagecha"  ("And you will rejoice in your Holiday")

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 HOLIDAY OF SUCCOT


On the first night of Succot, it is a requirement to eat a K'zayit (olive-sized portion) of bread in the Succah, and one needs to intend with the first K'zayit to fullfill the positive Mitzvah to eat bread in the Succah.  This is similar to the eating of Matzah on the first night of Passover.  And one should also intend that the reason for the Mitzvah is a remembrance of our leaving Mitzrayim (Egypt)  as well as a remembrance of the Clouds of Glory.


The Torah writes that the Succot and Arba Minim (Four Kinds) should be majestic and beautiful.


HaRav Yakovson ztz"l would explain this by means of a parable.  There was a boy whose mother needed to dress him in beautiful clothing so that he could participate in a Simcha (happy occasion).  The boy came from the street, and his body and clothes were dirty. Then his mother went to dress him in his beautiful holiday clothes.  People told her, that's not the right way.  First give him a bath, and when his body is clean then dress him in the beautiful clothing.  And similarly, this also applies to the people of Israel.  During the month of Elul we purify ourselves, and also on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  And after that, we arrive at those things which have majesty and beauty --  a beautiful Succah, and the Arba Minim (Four Kinds) which are majestic.  First comes purification and then comes beauty.


"And you shall rejoice on your Holiday..."  (Devorim 16:14)


It is said in the name of HaRav M'Brisk ztz"l that the most difficult Mitzvah is the MItzvah "and you shall rejoice on your Holiday".  One needs to be very careful not to be even a moment in sorrow, in order not to transgress the positive Mitzvah of  rejoicing on the holiday.


"...That I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in Succot..."  (Vayikra 23:43)


The Tur asks why we don't build Succot in the month of Nissan, since the Succot are a remembrance of the Clouds of Glory, and the Clouds of Glory were there immediately upon our leaving from Mitzrayim (Egypt).  The Gr"a explains that after the Sin of the Golden Calf, the Clouds of Glory disappeared, as it is written: "...and Moshe saw the nation, that it was uncovered..." (Shemot 22:25), that is, they had become revealed to everyone's eyes since the Clouds of Glory had disappeared.  It was only afterwards that the Holy One Blessed Be He forgave Israel for the Sin of the Golden Calf, as it is written "I have forgiven according to your word" (Bamidbar 14:20), and that was on the 10th of Tishrei (Yom Kippur).  Immediately afterwards on the day after Yom Kippur, on the 11th of Tishrei, the Children of Israel were commanded about the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).  During the course of two days they brought the donations for the Mishkan, that is on the 12th and the 13th of Tishrei.  On the 14th of Tishrei all the wise-hearted took the donations for the MIshkan in their hands and immediately on the 15th of Tishrei they began to occupy themselves with building the Mishkan.  It was then that the Clouds of Glory returned.  Therefore we find that on the 15th of Tishrei, which is the time when the Clouds of Glory returned, we make a remembrance for that on the Holiday of Succot.


THE FOUR KINDS 


The Etrog (Citron) is similar to the Heart, as it is written in the Zohar, that the Etrog is the Heart.  The Lulav (Palm Branch) is similar to the Spine, the Aravot (Willow Branches) are similar to the Lips, and the Hadassim (Myrtle Branches) are similar to the Eyes.  And with these four items, one sanctifies his entire body.

The Etrog (Citron) has both taste and scent.  The Lulav (Palm Branch) which is from the tree which produces Dates, has taste but not scent.  The Hadassim (Myrtle Branches) have scent but not taste.  The Aravot (Willow Branches) don't have either scent or taste.  This is a hint that there are all different kinds of people, and we need to bring all of them close.



THE SHAKING OF THE FOUR KINDS


A man was in a war and he was told to bomb.  He asked his commanding officer about that and said that he didn't see any reason why he should bomb, since he didn't see any target.  His commanding officer said to him, don't ask, just bomb and afterwards you'll see what you did.  And in truth, afterwards he saw that many of the enemy were killed and their buildings were destroyed.  Later on, when the man was standing and shaking the four kinds, he remembered his experience in the war, and he said to himself, if the Holy One Blessed Be He commands us to do the shaking of the four kinds, we don't need to see the results immediately, and in the course of time we will merit to see it.

KOHELET



"Fear Elokim and observe His Mitzvot..." (Kohelet 12:13)


It is written in Kohelet "Vanity of Vanities" seven times.  Rashi says that this corresponds to the seven days of the week.  The Meforshim (expositors) ask, isn't it written in the verse, "And Elokim saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good" (B'raishit 1:31), so how did Sh'lomo say everything was "Vanity of Vanities"?   The explanation is that when one writes a lot of zeroes  000000 that it amounts to nothing.  But if one writes the number 1 at the beginning of all those zeroes, it's able to be a very big number.  Similarly it is written in Kohelet "Fear Elokim and observe His Mitzvot".  If one has Fear of Heaven, that already isn't vanity of vanities, and that is very good.  (from the Gr"a)


THE TORAH PORTION OF V'ZOT HABRACHA



"And this is the blessing with which Moshe blessed..." (Devorim 33:1)


The very fact that Moshe Rabbeinu blessed, is in and of itself a blessing.


"The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a Heritage..."  (Devorim 33:4)


There are two times that the word Morasha (in English: Heritage) is written in the Torah.  One is in the Torah Portion of Va'eira: "...And I shall give it to you as a Heritage..." (Shemot 6:8), and the other place is here.  This is a hint about the Land of Israel, that we cannot continue to exist there unless we observe the Torah, because the Torah and the Land of Israel are connected together (since both are referred to as a Heritage).


"The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a Heritage of the Congregation of Ya'akov." (Devorim 33:4)


In the Torah there are all kinds of laws that are not applicable to everyone.  There are Mitzvot that are applicable only for a Cohen, and there are Mitzvot that are applicable only for one who works the soil, and no one fulfills all of the Torah.  Only if we are united can it be considered that each and every individual fulfills the entire Torah, and that is the meaning when the verse says that the Torah that Moshe commanded us is a Heritage of the "Congregation of Ya'akov".   (As individuals none of us fulfill all of it, but united together as part of the Congregation of Ya'akov, we can fulfill all of it.)


On the First Day of Succot we take our two Torah Scrolls.In the first we read in the Torah Portion of Emor: "Shor Oh Kesev", and 5 men are called.In the second we read the Maftir, in the Torah Portion of Pinchas, "Uvachamisha Asar Yom".Haftora: "Hinai Yom Ba" (Zechariah 14)


On Shabbat Chol HaMoed Succot we read Megillat Kohelet.We take our two Torah Scrolls.In the first we read the Torah Portion Ki Tisa: "Vayomer Moshe El Hashem Re'eh", and 7 men are called.In the second we read the Maftir, in the Torah Portion of Pinchas, "Uvayom Hash'lishi".Haftora: "V'haya Bayom Hahoo."  (Yechezkel 38)



On Simchat Torah we read in three Torah Scrolls.In the first we read "V'Zot HaBracha".In the second we read Braishit, from the beginning until "La'asot".In the third we read the Maftir, "Bayom Hash'mini" in the Torah Portion of Pinchas.Haftora: Yehoshua Chapter 1.


May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat Kodesh and Yom Tov.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.

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

May the Merciful One establish for us the Fallen Succah of David.

May be be glad and rejoice in this the Torah.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Yom Kippur 5775

YOM KIPPUR 5775


"AND FOR EVERYTHING, G-D OF FORGIVENESS, FORGIVE US, PARDON US, ATONE FOR US" (from the "Al Chait" prayer)

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

"...Seal the mouths of our adversaries and accusers..."  (from the "Avinu Malkeinu" prayer)


The Chafetz Chaim says that when a man requests "...Seal the mouths of our adversaries and accusers", he is asked in the Upper Realms: "What about your mouth?  Do you guard your mouth?",  but when a man is careful about his speech, then his prayer is accepted.


It's a Mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur, the day before Yom Kippur.


There are several reasons for this.  There are those that say that it is in order for a person to have the strength to fast.  And there are those that say the reason is that on every Holy Day, half of the day needs to be for Hashem, and that is the prayer, and half of the day is for us, and the festive meals are the half for us.   Thus the eating on Erev Yom Kippur is the half which is for us, and on Yom Kippur we pray the entire day, and that is the half for Hashem.  Rabeinu Yonah says another reason; it is a Mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur because we need to be happy that we have arrived at this day.  The Sefat Emet says another reason why it's a Mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur; on Erev Yom Kippur it's a Mitzvah for each person to appease his fellowman.  And it's only natural that when a person is fasting he is tense and his heart is not receptive to listening to his friend.  Therefore the Torah said to eat in order for a person to have the heart to forgive his friend, as it is written regarding Boaz "And he ate...and his heart was satisfied". (Megillat Rut 3:7) 


"For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to purify you; from all your sins shall you be purified before Hashem."  (Vayikra 16:30)


Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says that if Yom Kippur was even only once in 70 years, we would need to be happy, all the more so that it comes every year.  


"Al Chait...V'Al Chait"  (in English: "For the sin....and for the sin...")


We say "Al Chait" according to the order of the Hebrew Alphabet, twice.  One time we say "Al Chait", and another time we say "V'Al Chait".   The reason the confession covers every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is in correspondence to the Torah which we have sinned against, since the Torah was written with every letter of the Hebrew Alphabet.  And why do we cover the Hebrew alphabet twice?  One time corresponds to sins between man and Hashem, and another time corresponds to sins between man and his fellow man.


"And they shall confess their sin which they have done..."  (Bamidbar 5:7)


Vidui (In English: Confession)  is a positive Mitzvah from the Torah, as it is stated in the Torah Portion of Naso: "And they shall confess their sin which they have done..." The main point of confession is to abandon the sin, and one strikes his heart to as if to say "you (my heart) have caused me to sin".  


"P'tach Lanu Sha'ar"  (in English:  "Open for us a gate", from the Ne'ila prayer)


It is written in the Holy Books, that just as every gate has a specific key to open it, but an axe can open every gate; so too in the Upper Realms every "Heichal"  (in English: "Hall")  can be opened by means of specific Kavanot (in English: elevated and/or Kabbalistic intentions during prayer), but a broken heart and submission to Hashem and crying are like an axe that can open all the Halls.  It is written in the Zohar that there is a Heichal (Hall) and a treasure which is opened only one time in the year at the time of Ne'ila (the final prayer on Yom Kippur).  This treasure has within it all the goodness in the world -- atonement, forgiveness, an emanation of abundance, and everything good.  If so, we need to strengthen ourselves very much at the time of Ne'ila in order to receive this emanation of abundant blessings.



On Shabbat-Yom Kippur we take out two Torah Scrolls.In the first we read the Torah Portion of Acharei, and 7 men are called.In the second we read the Maftir, in the Torah Portion of Pinchas, "Uve'asur Lachodesh".

Haftora:  "V'amar Solu Solu"  (Yeshayahu 57)

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

G'MAR CHATIMA TOVA -- MAY YOU BE SEALED FOR A GOOD YEAR

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tazria & HaChodesh 5774


The Torah Portion of Tazria 5774


Rav Chaim of Volozhin says: why does the declaration of impurity and purification from plagues need to be done specifically by the Kohen who will say "You are pure" or "You are impure"? The reason is that generally the habitual speakers of Lashon Hara (evil speech) speak about the chosen ones of the people and about great Rabbis, and the Kohanim are the chosen ones.

Mussar (ethical teachings) for guarding one's tongue:  


Rabban Gamliel said to his servant Tavi to bring him the most precious meat and he brought him an animal's tongue.  Another time he told him to bring the most simple meat, and he brought him an animal's tongue again.  Rabban Gamliel asked him, if a tongue is the most precious meat and also the most simple meat, isn't that a contradiction?  He answered him, the tongue is able to be used for the good and also for the opposite, and that is why it is written that "Life and death are in the hand of the tongue".

The Tongue doesn't have bones


It's said that the tongue doesn't have within it bones, so that it is possible to turn it in any direction that one wants, and one needs to be concerned and guard it so that it will go in a good direction.

Parnassah (Livelihood)


Parnassah (a livelihood) in Hebrew has the same letters as Peh Resen (reining in the tongue). Someone who want a livelihood should rein in (control) his tongue.

"This shall be the Torah of the Metzora on the day of his purification" (Vayikra 14:2)


It is written in the Chovot Halevavot (the Gate of Submission, chapter 7): Someone who speaks Lashon Hara (evil speech) about his fellowman, all of his Mitzvot (good deeds) go to his fellowman and he receives all of his fellowman's sins.  The Chatam Sofer (on the Torah portion of Tetzaveh) writes that if he repents, they (his Mitzvot) return to him.  And that is what is meant by "This shall be the Torah of the Metzora on the day of his purification" (Vayikra 14:2), that the Torah that he learned will return to him of the day of his purification, that is to say when he repents.

"This shall be the Torah of the Metzora on the day of his purification, he shall be brought to the Kohen" (Vayikra 14:2)  


The Chafetz Chaim wrote books on the topic of Lashon Hara (evil speech), and there is a hint here:  one who wants to do Teshuva (repent) for the sin of Lashon Hara, "he shall be brought to the Kohen", he should learn the books of Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen (i.e. the Chafetz Chaim), and he will be healed.

Parshat HaChodesh (The Torah Portion of HaChodesh):


The reason for this reading is to sanctify and declare the month of Nissan, because of the importance of this month, for so it is written in the Torah: "This month will be to you the head of the months; it is the first for you of the months of the year". (Shemot 12:2) It is the head of the months and of the festivals. (Practically speaking, this is not the actual sanctification of the month but rather just an addition of holiness.)

Another reason for the reading of Parshat HaChodesh: 


to announce to the people that Passover iscoming soon, so that they should prepare themselves to come up to Jerusalem for the festival. The Mitzvah of coming up to Jerusalem for Passover is more
stringent than for the the other festivals, because of the "Korban Pesach" (Passover offering), which is a positive commandment that has the punishment of Korait (cutting off) if not fulfilled

10 Crowns that were taken by Rosh Chodesh Nissan:


1) The first for the act of creation
2) The first for the princes; the princes began to bring sacrificial offerings
3) The first for the priests (the Cohanim); the priests began to do their service
4) The first for the service; the sacrifices of the community began to be offered
5) The first for the coming down of fire upon the sacrificial altar
6) The first for eating of the holy offerings, according to their statutory laws
7) The first for the indwelling of the Divine Presence
8) The first time for the Cohanim to bless the people of Israel
9) The first time when it became forbidden to offer sacrifices on Bamot, so that they would be offered only in the Mishkan
10) The first of the months of the year

On Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Moshe blessed Israel, May it be His will that the Divine Presence will dwell in the acts of your hands. It is customary from Rosh Chodesh Nissan until the 13th of the month to say each day the Torah verses about one of the princes from the dedication of the sacrificial altar. On the the first day, we begin with "Vayihi Biyom Kalot Moshe"; on the 12th day we complete the Torah portion of Naso; and on the 13th day we say the Torah portion of Baaloticha until "Et Hamenorah". (A Kohen or a Levi should not say the Yehi Ratzon.) (from Mishna Berura, Siman 429)

The Torah Portion of Tazria has 67 verses, 5 positive commandments, and 5 negative commandments.  TwoTorah Scrolls are taken out: 1) for the weekly Torah portion.2) for the Torah Portion of "Bo", from "Vyomar Hashem... HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem" until "Tochlu Matzot". The Haftorah is "Kol HaAm HaAretz" (Yechezkel 45).

This is Shabbat Mevorchim for Nissan.  Rosh Chodesh Nissan is on Yom Shlishi (Tuesday).  
The Molad is Lail Sheini, at the hour 3:45, with 9 Chalakim.  

 We say Borchi Nafshi.


Shabbat Shalom.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
In Nissan we were redeemed, and in Nissan we are to be redeemed in the future.


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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sh'mini & Para 5774

The Torah Portion of Sh'mini 



"...Come near to the sacrificial altar..." (Vayikra 9:7)


The Satan showed Aharon the likeness of a calf, in order to interfere with his performance of the Divine service, so Moshe said to him, "Come near to the sacrificial altar" (Vayikra 9:7), don't be afraid. (from the Da'at Z'kainim) From this we learn that when the Satan comes to prevent us from serving Hashem, we need to strengthen ourselves. (from Masters of Mussar, i.e. ethical teachings)


"And Moshe said to Aharon: Of this did Hashem speak, saying: 'I will besanctified through those who are close to Me'." (Vayikra 10:3)


The death of Nadav and Avihu was by burning of the soul with the physical body remaining intact. Moshe said, that they were greater Tzadikim (more righteous) than himself and Aharon.


"And Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, TO SAY TO THEM: Speak to the childrenof Israel, saying, these are the living animals..." (Vayikra 11:1-2)


It is written in Trei Eser, "And your sons and daughters will prophesy", that in the future to come Hashem will speak with all of Israel. The Sages say that Moshe Rabeinu did not want to nurse from the Egyptian women because in the future he would speak with the Shechina, and that is what is emphasized in this verse (Vayikra 11:1) by the words "TO SAY TO THEM"; that in the future the Holy One Blessed Be He will speak with all of Israel, and therefore we need to be very careful in the matter of food and to eat only that which is Kosher, so that we will be worthy to have Hashem speak with us.


Mussar (Ethical Teachings) from the Chafetz Chaim


The Chafetz Chaim says: just as we are careful not to put into our mouths forbidden foods, so one also needs to be careful about what he puts out of his mouth, that is to say, forbidden words.


THE TORAH PORTION OF PARA 


The reason for the reading of the Torah Portion of Para (the Red Heifer) is that at the time when the Temple existed and they could sacrifice the Passover offering, someone who was impure because of contact with a dead person was not able to bring the offering unless he became purified beforehand by means of the ashes of the red heifer.  It was necessary to remind and announce to everyone who had become impure from contact with a dead person to purify himself from that impurity, so that he could bring the Passover offering at the right time. 

Therefore  they began early to encourage people about it before the month of Nissan, so that those who lived far away from Jerusalem would already start to leave their cities on Rosh Chodesh Nissan in order to go up to Jerusalem, and while the people were still at home in their cities, they would remind them that if someone had become impure from contact with a dead person, he first needed to purify himself.  And even though, in our many sins, the Temple has been destroyed and we don't have the bringing of the Passover offering and don't have impurity from a dead person which we need to be purified from beforehand, in any event we learn about these commandments and laws and pray before Hashem, may His name be blessed, that also upon us will be cast the purifying waters, in the near future.  And by means of learning these laws may it be considered as if we have purified ourselves from our impurity.

There are those that say that also the reading of the Torah Portion of Para is a Mitzvah D'Oraita (a commandment from the Torah), but the opinion of most of the Halachic authorities is that this reading is a Mitzvah D'Rabanan (a commandment from the Rabbis).  In the Sefer Aruch HaShulchan, and in the Sefer Dovev Meisharim, there are sources brought about this.  And it is written in the Mishna Brura (Section 685, small section 15) that even for a Mitzvah D'Rabanan (a commandment from the Rabbis), it is also necessary to have intention to fulfill the Mitzvah.


"...And they shall take to you..." (Bamidbar 19:2)


The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moshe that only "to you" I am revealing the reason for the Para Adumah (Red Heifer), and not to anyone else.  And even Shlomo HaMelech that Scriptures says about him that he was wiser than all the people, and he was expert in all kinds of wisdom, did not grasp the secret of the Para Adumah, and that is why he said: "I said that I would become wise, but it is distant from me" (Kohelet Chapter 7).  That is to say, I though in my heart that I would become wise and succeed to understand the secret of the Para Adumah, and behold, it is distant from me.  The words "it is distant" in Hebrew have the same Gematria (numerical value) as "Para Adumah".

The Torah Portion of Sh'mini has 91 verses, 6 positive commandments, and 11negative commandments.Two Torah Scrolls are taken out: 1) for the weekly Torah portion and 2) for the Torah portion of Para, from the beginning of the Torah Portion of Chukat until the words "ad haerev" (in English: until the evening).

The Haftorah is "Vayehi Devar Hashem" (Yechezkel 36)


We say Borchi Nafshi

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

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Purim 5774


Purim - Megillat Esther 




The entire story of the miracle of Megillat Esther took place over a period of nine years.  It began in the third year of the reign of King Achashveirosh, at the time  when they killed Vashti.  In the seventh year of the reign of King Achashveirosh he took Esther as a wife, and in the twelfth year of his reign was the decree of Haman.  And at the time when they killed Vashti, not a single Jew foresaw that there would be a connection between that event and the salvation of Israel.  It was only afterwards when Achashveirosh took Esther that they began to understand a little bit that there might be a connection.  And it was only after nine years when the decree of Haman occurred, and by means of Esther the decree was cancelled, that they understood the preceding events. They saw that all those events had been connected together in order to save them from the decree of being destroyed and killed.  And so it will be in the future to come when the Holy One Blessed Be He reveals Himself in His great Compassion and Kindness, at that time all of us will understand that all the events that occurred throughout all the years have been connected together for the purpose of the future redemption, may it occur speedily in our days, Amen.

"And he raised (in Hebrew: "Omen") Hadassah..." (Megillat Esther 2:7)


The Hebrew word "Omen" has the same root as the Hebrew word "Emunah" (in English: Faith).  The meaning of this is that Mordechai the Tzaddik trained Esther to have faith that everything that happens to her is all  a result of Divine Providence.

Why is the name of the holiday called Purim?


There are those who ask why the name of the holiday is called "Purim" (based on the Hebrew word "Pur", meaning "lottery"), shouldn't it have been called "Yom HaHatzala", the day of salvation?  The explanation is that when Achashveirosh said to Haman "..and the people to do with it as is good in your eyes" (Megillat Esther 3:11), he should have immediately gone to battle to kill Israel, but it came up in his mind that it would be better to do a lottery and not to begin immediately.  Therefore there was more time to pray and within four days of the decree they hanged Haman on the tree.  The decree was on the 13th of Nisan and they hanged him on the 16th of Nissan.  From this we see the power of prayer.

"...and fast for me, and don't eat and don't drink for three days.." (Megillat Esther 4:16)


There is a difficulty in this verse, for there seems to be an unnecessary repetition; since it said "fast for me", isn't it obvious that they aren't eating and drinking?  And the explanation is, that during those three days was also the first day of Passover, and there is a requirement from the Torah to eat Matzah and drink the four cups of wine.  And that is what Esther was saying, "fast for me", and even though the Yom Tov of Passover comes out during those days, in any event don't eat Matzah.  And don't drink the four cups of wine.  And Esther's intention in this was that if they didn't fulfill the Mitzvot of the holiday of Passover, this would show the Heavens how the world would look without the people of Israel.  Just as now they are not fulfilling the Mitzvot of the night of the Seder, so it would be if G-d forbid there would be a decree of destruction, and by means of this Mercy would be aroused in the Heavens to cancel the decree.

"For the Jews there was Light and Happiness and Rejoicing and Honor." (Megillat Esther 8:16) 


In the Gemara "Megillah", it says that Light means Torah, Happiness means Yom Tov, Rejoicing means Mila (Circumcision) and Honor means Tefillin (Phylacteries).  The question is, why are these written only as a hint, it could have been written explicitly "Torah, Yom Tov, Mila, and Tefillin"?  But the explanation is that Israel rose at that time to such a great level that they felt that the Torah was their light, that Yom Tov was their happiness, that Mila was their rejoicing, and that Tefillin was their most precious, honored object. (from the Sefat Emet)

Purim Sameach!  (Happy Purim!)


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