Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bamidbar & Shavuot 5775

The Torah Portion of Bamidbar and Chag HaShavuot 


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 Bamidbar



The Chumash of Bamidbar is also called the Chumash of Counting (i.e. similar to the idea of calling it the Book of Numbers in English) because within it is written the number of all of the children of Israel.

"Their counted ones, for the tribe of Dan: 62,700"  (Bamidbar 1:39)



The Chafetz Chaim says that when we read in the Torah Portion of Vayigash "the sons of Dan, Chushim" (Bereisheet 46:23) , we pity him because he had only one son, but in the Torah Portion of Bamidbar we see that the tribe of Dan had the largest number after the tribe of Yehudah, and from this we see the great importance of one soul in Israel.

"Their counted ones for the tribe of Dan: 62,700" (Bamidbar 1:39)



It is said that Dan would always request from his father to pray for him, and Binyamin, who had 10 sons, did not request that he pray for him.  After the event of the Pilegesh B'givah there remained in the tribe of Binyamin only 600 people, and from this we see that a person always needs to pray.

"As they camped so they traveled".  (Bamidbar 2:17)



The Ramchal says, there are people who when they are in their homes act strictly with all the Jewish laws and when they go outside on a journey they take matters lightly.  And the opposite case is also true, there are people that when they are at home, take matters lightly, but outside of their houses they act strictly in front of the eyes of the public to show others that they are righteous.  Therefore the verse says, "as they camped so they traveled", that one should behave with the same behavior whether at home or outside.

Haftora:  



"And the number of the children of Israel will be like the sands at the sea".  (Hoshea 2:1)



 And in the Torah it is said also "like the stars of the heavens".  Stars of a necessity are separated one from the other because every star is a world unto itself, and if G-d forbid one star would crash into another, entire worlds would be destroyed.  In contrast to this, the sand at the sea is not able to exist unless every grain of sand attaches itself to another one, for each grain by itself would be washed away by the waves of the sea and made to vanish.   But the gathering together of all the grains of sand into one body generates a powerful opposing force to the waves of the sea.  Similarly for the children of Israel: if each one of them is like a complete world in and of himself, similar to the "stars of the heavens", on the other hand, they don't have any existence except when they are united together like the sand on the shore of the sea (Mayana Shel Torah - from one of the great Mussar sages). 

CHAG HASHAVUOT:


The Torah was given in Sivan



The Torah was given in the month of Sivan.  The Hebrew letters that spell "Sivan" are Samech, Yud, Vuv, Nun.  These letters are Roshei Teivot (initial letters), and have significance, as follows:
Samech has the numerical value of 60.  60 groups of 10,000 = 600,000 men stood there at the occasion of receiving the Torah
Yud has the numerical value of 10.  That refers to the 10 commandments.
Vuv has the numerical value of 6.  Shavuot is celebrated on the 6th of Sivan.
Nun has the numerical value of 50.  We count 50 days until the receiving of the Torah.  (That is, we count 49 days during Sefirat Haomer, and on the 50th day is the receiving of the Torah.)

The Shabbat before Shavuot


There are those who call  the Shabbat  before Shavuot "Shabbat Derech Eretz", the Shabbat of courtesy, because Derech Eretz (courtesy) comes before the Torah.  And there are those who call it Shabbat Kallah, the Shabbat of the Bride.


"Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" (Avot 1:1) 



Why was it not written "at Sinai"?  The Bartenura explains that the intention is, from the One who was revealed at Sinai, and that is the Holy One Blessed Be He.  The Tiferet Yisrael explains that the word "Sinai" implies humility, since that mountain was lower than the other mountains, and that is why is says "from Sinai";  one needs to learn from Moshe who was humble and then he will have great success in the Torah.  The Sages say that the mountain of Moriah was removed from its place and came to the mountain of Sinai, in order that the Torah would be given on it, for it was worthy that the Torah should be given on the place where Yitzchak was bound (at the Akeidah). 

"And they journeyed from Rephidim...and they encamped in the desert and Israel encamped there..." (Shemot 19:2)



The Ohr HaChaim writes that there are 3 ways to succeed in the Torah (as hinted at by the above verse):  1) "And they journeyed from Rephidim", first one needs to remove himself from the desires of this world and from laziness (from things which weaken him -- since the place name Rephidim has the same root letters as the Hebrew word for weakness). 2)  And afterwards "they encamped in the desert" -- one needs to make himself like a desert, abandoning his selfishness and giving in to other people, and not being  overbearing toward other people.  3) And afterwards "Israel encamped there" -- one needs to be in unison with all of Israel like one person with one heart.

Megillat Ruth: 



Ruth, the Moabite woman, lived until Shlomo Hamelech as it was written "and Shlomo put a chair for the mother of the king", and that chair was for Ruth. Shmuel the prophet wrote Megillat Ruth in order to tell of the ancestry of David.   And the reasons we read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot are : 1) Because David was born on Shavuot and died on Shavuot. 2) Because the Torah is not given except through suffering and poverty, and that is similar to what Naomi and Ruth experienced. 3) In order to strengthen the Oral Torah, since it is written in the Torah "An Ammonite and a Moabite should not come into the congregration of Hashem", and the Sages said "An Ammonite man and not an Ammonite woman, A Moabite man and not a Moabite woman", and that is an example of Oral Torah.  And it is from this which we learned in the Oral Torah that Ruth the Moabite woman was permitted to get married to Boaz. 

The Name Ruth



The name Ruth has the Gematria (numerical value of its Hebrew letters)  of 606, and if we add to that the 7 Mitzvot of the children of Noach which she was required to fulfill prior to conversion, together we come up with "Taryag" (that is, 613) which is the number of Mitzvot we have in the Torah. In the Midrash Tanhuma for the Portion of Vayelech it is written that the name "Ruth" is because she had 606 Mitzvot added to her by means of her conversion.  And in the Gemarah Brachot 6b, it is written that the name Ruth is related to the Hebrew word for quenching thirst,  because she merited that David descended from her, and he quenched the thirst of the Holy One Blessed Be He with songs and praises (as written by him in the Book of Tehillim).  And the Gr"a explains that certainly the main point of the name "Ruth" is that she had 606 Mitzvot added to her by means of her conversion, but one could question why she shouldn't have been called Tur (which also has the Gematria of 606).  And on this the answer was given that David descended from her and he quenched the thirst of the Holy One Blessed Be He with songs, and therefore she was called Ruth and not Tur.  

The Seven Mitzvot of Bnai Noach  (the children of Noach)



The Seven Mitzvot of the children of Noach are, according to the order of the Hebrew alphabet:
1. Aleph - Aiver Min haChai, not to eat a limb from a living animal.
2. Beit - Birkat Hashem,  not to curse Hashem.
3. Gimel - Gezel, not to steal.
4. Dalet - Dinim, to establish a court system for enforcing the laws.
5. Hey - Hariga, not to kill.
6. Vuv - V'avoda Zara - not to worship idols.
7. Zayin - Z'nut - not to have illicit relations.

 "Who is that young woman?... She is a young Moabite woman"  (Megillat Ruth 2:6)



Boaz asked: "Who is that young woman?" (Megillat Ruth 2:5).  And the young man answered him "She is a young Moabite woman" (Megillat Ruth 2:6), because he wanted to embarrass her.  Boaz said to her, "Have you not heard, my daughter...." (Megillat Ruth 2:8) --- they are embarrassing you, and you are among those who receive insults and don't insult others, who hear their disgrace and don't answer, therefore I call you "my daughter", a term of importance, for now you are more important to me.

"The name of the man that I did (something) for today, is Boaz"  (Megillat Ruth 2:19)



This presents a difficulty, for it should have said "The name of the man that did (something) for me", because Boaz did her a favor.  But rather, we learn from this, that moreso than the  good that the householder does for the poor person, the poor person does good for the householder.  (from the Sages) 

"Better for me is the Torah of Your mouth than thousands of gold and silver" (Tehillim 119:72)



The Sages say that after David killed Goliath, everyone threw him lots of silver and gold.  And Doeg the Edomite who hated David came and said to them, why are you honoring him, isn't he from Ruth the Moabite and it's forbidden for him to come into the congregation of Hashem?  Afterwards the Sanhedrin came and said that thus it has been received from Shmuel HaRamati, "A male Amonite and not a female Amonite..."  And that is what David meant when he said "Better for me is the Torah of Your mouth from thousands of gold and silver"  (Tehillim 119:72), since the Torah Shel Baal Peh (the Oral Torah) saved me from the words of Doeg who wanted to embarrass me because I received silver and gold. 


The Torah Portion of Bamidbar has 159 verses.  Haftora: "V'haya mispar yisrael" (Hoshea 2)  



Pirkei Avot Chapter 1


Chag HaShavuot:




Two Torah Scrolls are taken out.  In the first, 5 men are called for reading in the Torah Portion of Yitro, "Bachodesh hashlishi".  In the second, the Maftir is read from the Torah Portion of Pinchas, "Uvayom habikurim".  Haftora: "Vayehi beshloshim shana" (Yechezkel 1) until "Kol midabair", then skipping to Chapter 12 verse 3, "V'tizaeini ruach" until "mim'komo".



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

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

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bechukotai 5775

The Torah Portion of Bechukotai 


Shabbat Mevorchim/Chazak (finishing the book of Vayikra) 

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

"If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) 


Rashi explains that this means that you should be laboring in the Torah. The Eglei Tal writes in the introduction to his book that the main emphasis of the Mitzvah of learning Torah is to be rejoicing and happy and enjoying one's learning, and since he enjoys the words of Torah he becomes attached to the Torah. And in the book Ohev Yisrael it is written that everyone who learns with more labor and effort finds more enjoyment in his learning, and it is a Mitzvah in and of itself to be laboring and making an effort in the Torah and to increase his enjoyment all the time. And in this way he explains the verse "If you will walk in my statutes...then I will provide your rains in their time" (Vayikra 26:3-4): if you will be laboring in the Torah all the time to increase your enjoyment of learning the Torah, then the reward will be "Middah K'neged Middah" (a turn for a turn) and I will give your rains in their time, which is also an increase in enjoyment.

"If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) 


The Ohr HaChaim explains that "If you walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) uses the language of "walking", because one should fulfill the Mitzvah (of learning Torah) "when you are walking on the way" (Devorim 6:7)

"If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) 


The masters of Mussar (ethical teachings) say that we need to take a lesson from a bicycle, because if a bicycle stands still it falls, and if it is working then it goes forward. And that is the explanation of "you will walk", that one needs all the time to work and to go forward in the Torah and in the service of Hashem.

"If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) 


This is a hint that in any place where you go, you should go with the Mitzvot of the Torah, because in general when going on a journey it is difficult to be careful about fulfilling the Mitzvot, and that is why the verse says "If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3): even on the road it is also necessary to be careful about the Mitzvot.

A Good Heart


From the holiday of Pesach until Lag Ba'omer there are 32 days, and that is the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "Heart" (Lev). And from Lag Ba'omer until the holiday of Shavuot there are 17 days, which is the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "good" (Tov). Together that is a "Good Heart" (Lev Tov). This is a hint that we need to strengthen ourselves with good character traits and good behavior, as a preparation for receiving the Torah.

Haftora:


"Blessed is the man that trusts in Hashem, then Hashem will be his security" (Yirmiyahu 17:7) 


When a man trusts in Hashem, then even if he has difficulties Hashem will help him; therefore a man needs to make as much effort as he can and Hashem will help him, and that is why the verse finishes "then Hashem will be his security". R' Yosef Yuz'l Horovitz ztz"l explains that the very essence of the matter that one trusts in Hashem is in and of itself a blessing, even if his request to Hashem has not yet been accepted.

The Torah Portion of Bechukotai has 78 verses, 7 positive commandments and 5 negative commandments. 
Haftora: "Hashem uzi" (Yirmiyahu 16)
It is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Sivan. The Molad is Yom Bait at 2:11 with 5 Chalakim. Rosh Chodesh Sivan is on Yom Shlishi. 
Pirkei Avot, Chapter 6.



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, May 3, 2015

Behar & Lag Ba'omer 5775

The Torah Portion of Behar   


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 Shabbat for Hashem" (Vayikra 25:2)


The Holy One Blessed Be He commanded to fulfill the Mitzvah of Shmittah and Yovel, in order that everyone would know that the Holy One Blessed Be He is the owner of all the world, and therefore it is called "A Shabbat for Hashem" . (Vayikra 25:2) 

"A Shabbat for Hashem" (Vayikra 25:2)


For all fields it is good for them to rest a certain period of time, and that is beneficial so that they will grow better afterwards, and therefore it is written "A Shabbat for Hashem" (Vayikra 25:2), because it is necessary to fulfill the Mitzvah of Shmittah and Yovel for the sake of Heaven and not for the sake of benefiting the field.

"The land shall observe a Shabbat for Hashem (Vayikra 25:2) 


Shmittah is similar to Shabbat; by way of the Shabbat the entire week becomes blessed as is stated in the Zohar, and similarly the Sages state, that from the year of the Shmittah the other six years become blessed.

"Do not harass one another" (Vayikra 25:17) 


The verse is speaking about verbal harassment. It is forbidden to cause suffering to one's fellow man, and forbidden to give him advice that is not beneficial to him but which is to the benefit of the person who is giving the advice.

"Do not subjugate him through hard labor" (Vayikra 25:43)


It's forbidden for a person to request a favor from his friend when he knows that it will be a burden for him, because he thereby transgresses the prohibition of "Do not subjugate him through hard labor" (Vayikra 25:43) (from Rabeinu Yonah)


Sefirat Haomer:


There were 12,000 pairs of students who studied under Rebbe Akiva from Gabbata to Antipatris, and all of them died during one time period because they didn't behave to each other respectfully. And the world was desolate until Rebbe Akiva came to our Rabbis in the South and taught to them: Rebbe Meir, Rebbe Yehuda, Rebbe Yosi, Rebbe Shimon, and Rebbe Elazar ben Shamua. And these were the ones who upheld the Torah at that time. It is taught that all (of the 12,000 pairs of students) died between Pesach and Shavuot. (Yevamot 62b)

Lag Ba'omer:


One of the righteous people traveled one time to the gravesite of Rebbe Akiva, and it was very difficult for him to reach that place because it was a rocky road, and after he went a certain distance, he said that he didn't have the strength to continue, and he returned.  He said to his students: I will already meet Rebbe Akiva in the Mishna and the Gemara.  And so it was also said by a particular Rav to his students, that it is possible to meet Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai in the Mishna and the Gemara.  May his merit protect us and all of Israel, Amen.

It is written in books: On Lag Ba'omer the soul of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai spreads out over the whole world, and someone who does not travel to his gravesite in Meron in order to pray, is able to pray in any place.

Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai said that if he had been at Mount Sinai he would have requested that two mouths be given to man, one for Torah and one for other things, except that he was concerned  that if we had two mouths, we would be liable to destroy both of them with Lashon Hara (evil talk).  (From the Yerushalmi Gemara)

Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says: Great is the honoring of father and mother, for Hashem made honoring them equivalent to honoring Himself.

"His Torah protects us; it enlightens our eyes; he serves as a good advocate for us, our master Bar Yochai" (from the traditional songs sung on the night of Lag Ba'omer)

The Torah Portion of Behar has 57 verses, 7 positive commandments and 17 negative commandments. Haftora: "Vayomer Yirmiyahu" (Yirmiyahu 32)


Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5.


.
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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Emor 5775

 The Torah Portion of Emor 


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


"Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon".   (Vayikra 21:1) 


The Sages say that the Holy One Blessed Be He cautioned Israel about the holiness of the Kohanim.  This is analogous to the son of a king whose eating is not similar to that of the resident of a village; for if the son of the king eats the food of the villager, he won't digest his food and it will damage him.  Thus Hashem said to the Kohanim -- guard yourself from every impurity, for even a slight impurity can cause you damage.

"These are the festivals of Hashem...declare  them (Otam) in their season" (Vayikra 23:4)  


There is a Hebrew word in this verse "Otam" (them), which the Sages interpret as "Atem" (you).   That is to say, the interpretation is that YOU shall declare the festivals, even if you accidentally err, and even if you intentionally err in your declaration of the timing of the festivals.  If when it is written "Otam" (them), we interpret it as "Atem" (you), all the moreso in the verse "You are children to Hashem" in which it is explicitly written "YOU". Then certainly "You are children to Hashem", even if you sin by accident or on purpose; in all circumstances, you are still children of Hashem.

"And you shall afflict your souls " (Vayikra  23:27)  


After every fast we pray and request that the lessening of our blood and fat should be considered as if we were bringing a sacrificial offering, but that will be the case only if the blood and fat are pure. Therefore the Torah commands us to eat on Erev Yom Kippur so that the food we put into our bodies will be considered to be a Mitzvah,  and that  way we can say that our blood and fat which diminish on Yom Kippur are pure and come from the fulfillment of a Mitzvah, and then our sacrifice will be appropriate and acceptable.

Another reason why it is a Mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur


The "Sefat Emet" says another reason why it is a Mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur.  Since it is a day in which we need to forgive our fellow man, the Torah commanded us to eat and drink on Erev Yom Kippur, in order so that we will be relaxed and settled and will forgive our fellow man with a full heart, because when someone eats he has a happy heart.

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.  

Regarding two holidays it is written "on that very day" -- Shavuot and Yom Kippur


The reason is that because all of the holidays are connected to events which occurred in the past.  Passover is connected to the Exodus from Egypt, and Succot is connected to the Clouds of Glory. But Shavuot, which is about the giving of the Torah, even though this also was an event which has already occurred in the past, nevertheless, on every single day it should be in your eyes as if it is something new -- as if the giving of the Torah occurred "on that very day".  And with regards to  Yom Kippur, the Holy One Blessed Be He forgives us (every year) "on that very day".

"...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.

Sefirat Haomer


It is written in the Holy Books that "Sefirat Haomer" (which is the name of the time period during which we count the 49 days of the Omer) has a linguistic connection to the words "Sapphire" and "Zohar" (brightness), because these days shine with a great light so that we will be capable of  preparing ourselves for receiving the Torah.

The Torah Portion of Emor has 124 verses, 24 positive commandments, and 39 negative commandments.  Haftora: "V'hakohanim Haleviyim" (Yechezkel 44)


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

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Acharei - Kedoshim 5775

The Torah Portion of Acharei/Kedoshim  


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 ACHAREI


The first service within the inner sanctuary on Yom Kippur is the Ketoret (incense offering) which atones for Lashon Hara (evil speech). "There should come something which occurs secretly and atone for something which occurs secretly" , and the Chafetz Chaim says that if there wouldn't have been an atonement at the start of the service for Lashon Hara, all the service of the day would not have been effective.


"For on this day He will atone for you to purify, etc...." (Vayikra 16:30)


The verse begins with the a language of atonement and ends with a language of purification, since the sin which a person transgresses, G-d forbid, besides the essence of the sin itself, also defiles and blocks up the heart, and that is why it says that Yom Kippur atones as well as purifies.


"Before Hashem you will become purified" . (Vayikra 16:30)


The teachers of Mussar (ethics) say that before Yom Kippur we need to purify ourselves, and not wait until Yom Kippur.


THE TORAH PORTION OF KEDOSHIM



"Do not go as a talebearer" . (Vayikra 19:16)


With Lashon Hara (evil speech) one transgresses 17 negative commandments, 14 positive commandments, and 4 curses. The Sages say that Lashon Hara causes poverty. There is a hint to this in the word "Parnassah" (a livelihood), which has the same letters as "Peh Ressen" (reign in the mouth), since one who reigns in his mouth from speaking Lashon Hara will have an abundant livelihood. The Sages say that the generation of Achav were idol worshipers and yet they went down to war and were victorious since they did not have among them speakers of Lashon Hara (i.e., slanderers). But the generation of Shaul would go down to war and not be victorious, even though there was no idol worship, because they had among them wicked people who spoke Lashon Hara.


"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem." (Vayikra 19:18)


There is a story told about two friends, who loved and were faithful to one another. One time false charges were brought up against one of them, and the court system decreed a death penalty on him, and his faithful friend tried with all his strength to do everything in his power to save him from the death sentence, but it was to no avail. And then, at the time that the bitter day arrrived and he (the one sentenced to death) was already being led to the place of the gallows, and his friend saw how they were bringing him chained and with ropes around his neck, G-d forbid, he felt great pain and suffering, and was not able to see that his friend and close companion was being led that way to death. And he wasn't able to hold himself back, and in his agitation he ran to the place of the gallows shouting "Gevalt! Don't kill a man who is innocent of any crime, who didn't do anything! I am the one who did the crime and it wasn't him!" He did that from his great love because he couldn't bear to see the death of his friend and he requested that they would carry out the death sentence on him and not on his friend who was an upright person. And the executioners, who wanted to perform their role in carrying out the death sentence, were agitated and astonished, and they wondered, is such a thing possible that the guilty will be acquitted and the innocent will be found guilty? And then the one who had been sentenced to death himself, courageously raised his voice and declared that his friend had intentionally spoken a lie, in order to save me from your hands and he is prepared to die in my place. And also he (the one who had been sentenced to death), from the great love he felt for his friend, didn't agree that his friend would sacrifice his life for him. While they were still arguing between themselves about which one was telling the truth, a great ruckuss was made around them, until the matter came to the ears of the king. The king was very moved by seeing that a great love like this could exist between two close companions, and he immediately canceled the death sentence, and requested from them to please include him also as a partner in their friendship. Similarly, the Holy One Blessed Be He, when He sees that there is love and friendship between a man and his fellow man, as it were, He also wants to include Himself with them, and that it why it is written in the verse "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem" ; if you will love one each other, "I am Hashem" , I will be a partner in your love. (from Mayana Shel Torah)


"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem" . (Vayikra 19:18)


The Holy One Blessed Be He says that in the way that you behave toward your fellowman, in that way I will behave toward you. (from Otzar HaChaim)


"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem" . (Vayikra 19:18)


The Sefat Emet says that this Mitzvah is very difficult to fulfill, and therefore the verse ends with the words "I am Hashem" , that if you truly want to fulfill it, I (Hashem) will help you to do so.


"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, this is a great general principle of the Torah." (from Rabbi Akiva) 


To be concerned that your friend will make progress in the Torah (i.e. in his Torah learning and observance), that is a worthwhile way of loving your neighbor.


"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem." (Vayikra 19:18)


In the Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim paragraph 215 sub-point 1, it is written that someone who hears that they are making a Mishebairach (i.e.,a blessing at the Torah reading for a sick person to recover from illness) for someone, it is proper to answer Amen and to fulfill by doing that the Mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself.


"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, this is a great general principle of the Torah." (from Rabbi Akiva) 


It is written in the Gemarrah that one time a non-Jew came to Hillel HaZakein and said to him, Rabbi, convert me to Judaism on the condition that you will teach me all of the Torah on one foot. Hillel said to him, this is a general principle which you should carry in your hands, that which is hateful to you, don't do it to your friend and now go finish it. The explanation is, that which you hate if people do it to you, don't do to your friend, and the rest of the Mitzvot of the Torah you can learn from this general principle. Now, regarding the intellectually logical Mitzvot (i.e., commandments and prohibitions) such as stealing, robbery, extortion, returning a lost object, murder, and the like, it's understandable how they are included in this general principle. But regarding Mitzvot concerning the eating of pork, Sha'atnez (wearing garments of linen mixed with wool), Klai'im (planting crops of different varieties mixed together), and the like, it is not understandable how they are included in this general principle. The Mateh Yosef wrote that he heard from the Chatam Sofer ztzuk"l, a parable about a boy who was an orphan without a father or mother, who didn't have anything. A rich man met him and took him to his house, raised him and taught him and gave him everything that he lacked. When the boy grew up and it became known to him that this man, who wasn't his real father, had given him benefits just as if he were one of his real children, he recognized that he needed to thank the wealthy man beyond all measure. One day the wealthy man went with the orphan to teach him about commercial business methods and they came to a big city and entered a very big store full of expensive merchandise, and the wealthy man said to the orphan, choose for yourself here merchandise for your wardrobe, and even if it is the most expensive clothing in the store I am prepared to pay for you. And the orphan chose for himself a very expensive item, and the wealthy man looked and saw that it was a red colored garment, and he said "It bothers me very much that you chose the color red, which I dislike; chose for yourself from the other colors whichever one you want and at whatever high price, whatever is good in your eyes, but only the color red don't pick for yourself." Now certainly, the orphan is required to nullify his own choice and fulfill with great delight the will of the wealthy benefactor who gave him many great benefits. And if he doesn't do so and rebels against the wealthy man's will and takes the red garment he is despicable and lacks gratitude, and certainly it would be correct for the rich man to get angry at the despicability of this orphan. The lesson to be learned from this parable applies to the people of Israel in relationship to Our Father in Heaven (Hashem). Hashem in His compassion has allowed us to eat various livestock, animals and birds, but has prohibited us from eating pork. He has allowed us to wear clothing from anything that we desire, only that there should not be Sha'atnez (linen and wool mixed together) within it. He has allowed us to plant all the crops in the world and to plant all the vineyards according to what is good in our eyes, only not Klai'im (mixtures of different kinds of plants together in one place). Now certainly we are required to fulfill with great delight the will of our Father, the Compassionate Father, and if we don't fulfill it then we are despicable, we are destructive children. But if we take to heart the idea, "that which is hateful to you, don't do to your friend" , go and consider, if you were to do so many good things for your friend just like the Holy One Blessed Be He does for you, and if he were to do something against your will, wouldn't you be angry and wouldn't you punish him appropriately? Similarly, you should think how you are required to do the will of your Creator who gives you life and health and intelligence and understanding and houses and fields and vineyards, and doesn't request from you anything except to be in awe of Him and to serve Him and to fulfill His will. It is simply apparent that you are required to fulfill His will with a strong desire and it is well understood how all the entire Torah is included in the Mitzvah of "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" . 


The Torah Portion of Acharei has 80 verses, 2 positive commandments, and 26 negative commandments. The Torah Portion of Kedoshim has 64 verses, 13 positive commandments, and 38 negative commandments.Haftorah: "Halo K'vnai Kushiyim" (Amos 9).


We say a blessing for those who fast on the days Beit-Hey-Beit after the Passover Holiday.



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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tazria & Metzora 5775

The Torah Portion of Tazria - Metzora  


This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Iyar

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

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.


The Torah Portion of Tazria has 67 verses, 5 positive commandments, and 5 negative commandments.  The Torah Portion of Metzora has 90 verses, and 11 positive commandments.Haftorah:  Machar Chodesh (Sh'muel Aleph Chapter 20)

Shabbat Mevorchim: Rosh Chodesh Iyar is on Yom Rishon and Yom Sheini (Sunday and Monday), the Molad is on Lail Aleph, the time 1:27 and 4 chalakim.
Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2.



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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sh'mini 5775

The Torah Portion of Sh'mini - Isru Chag  (Shabbat right after Pesach ends) 5775


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


"...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 Differences between the Mishkan and the First Temple, in comparison to the Second Temple


There were five things missing in the Second Temple:  The Aron (Ark), the container of Mannah, the staff of Aharon, the Holy Name which was part of the Urim and Tumim, and the annointing oil.  Also, the fire in the Second Temple was not like the fire in the Mishkan and the First Temple.  In the Mishkan and the First Temple, the fire came down from Heaven and appeared like a lion, and in the Second Temple the fire didn't come down from Heaven and it looked like a dog.  (based on Yoma 21a)

PIRKEI AVOT (Ethics of the Fathers)


We say Pirkei Avot during the summer season, for a total of four cycles. A siman (sign) of when when we usually do that is given by means of Roshei Teivot (initial letters) based on the Hebrew word "Nefesh".  The letters which spell the Hebrew word "Nefesh" (in English: "soul") are  "Nun", "Pey", and "Shin".  "Nun" stands for "Naso", "Pey" stands for "Pinchas", and "Shin" stands for "Shoftim".   Usually, the times when we start to say Pirkei Avot -- besides the first time -- are when we read the Torah Portions of Naso, Pinchas, and Shoftim.   Also, there is another reason why the Hebrew word "Nefesh" ("soul") is connected to Pirkei Avot -- because Pirkei Avot contains teachings which help us to repair the defects of the soul. 

"Moshe received the Torah from Sinai..."  (Pirkei Avot 1:1)


Why is it written "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai"?  Isn't all of the Torah from Sinai?  The reason is that within Pirkei Avot, what is discussed are matters of ethics and proper conduct, and also amongst the other nations of the world there have been people who have published books about proper conduct and ethics.  But those people made up their ethical values on their own, and the ethical values of Israel were given at Sinai.  (from Rav Ovadia M'Bartenura)

"...the Men of the Great Assembly..." (Pirkei Avot 1:1)


There were 120 Men of the Great Assembly, and there are those who say 85.  Amongst them were the prophets Chagai, Zacharia, and Malachi.  The last one of them was Shimon HaTzaddik.  They returned the crown of the Torah to its place, after the Babylonian exile of 70 years.

"He used to say..."  (throughout Pirkei Avot)


It is written in Pirkei Avot a number of times, "he used to say".  What does this expression mean?  On a simple level this means that the Sage being quoted was accustomed to say those words on a regular basis.  And there are those who explain that he himself was an elevated person who lived in accord with the principle that he stated, and not just that he used to say it to other people. 

The Days of Sefirat HaOmer (the counting of the Omer)


It is written by the Ramban (23:36) that the days of the counting of the Omer (the 49 days counted from the second day of Pesach until the holiday of Shavuot arrives on the 50th day) are like Chol HaMoed -- the intermediate days of a festival.

The Torah Portion of Sh'mini has 91 verses, 6 positive commandments, and 11 negative commandments.The Haftorah is "V'yosef Od David" (Sh'muel Bait 6)We begin to say Pirkei Avot, Chapter One.





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