Monday, May 23, 2016

Bechukotai 5776

The Torah Portion of Bechukotai 5776, Shabbat 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)


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

Behar 5776

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 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

Emor 5776

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)


We bless those who fast on Yom Beit-Yom Hey-Yom Beit.
Pirkei Avot, Chapter 3.



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

Kedoshim 5776 (which is Shabbat Mevorchim for Chodesh Iyar in Israel)

The Torah Portion of Kedoshim  


Shabbat Mevorchim Chodesh 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

"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 Kedoshim has 64 verses, 13 positive commandments, and 38 negative commandments.Haftorah: "Machar Chodesh" (Shmuel Aleph 20).


This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Iyar.  The Molad is Lail Shabbat Kodesh at the hour 10:59 with 17 Chalakim.  Rosh Chodesh Iyar is on Yom Rishon and Yom Shaini (Sunday and Monday).


Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2.


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 17, 2016

Acharei (Isru Chag in Israel) 5776

Appetizers for the Torah Portion of Acharei (Isru Chag in Israel) 


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 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.


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 Acharei has 80 verses, 2 positive commandments, and 26 negative commandments. Haftorah: "Halo K'vnai Kushiyim" (Amos 9).


Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1.


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

The Passover Holiday 5776

Appetizers for the Passover 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 Influence of the Seder Night


It is told in the Gemara about Rabbi Yehuda bar Ila'i, that he would have a headache from drinking the four cups of wine on the night of the Seder, from Passover until Shavuot; and this was something to wonder at, that every time he would have a headache, at exactly the same season from Passover until Shavuot.  They explained this from a Mussar (ethical) point of view, that the meaning of this is that the influence of the night of the Seder needs to extend until Shavuout because that is its end-point and purpose, for the main reason that the children of Israel went out from Egypt was so that afterwards they would receive the Torah (from Rabbi Yehuda Tzadka).

The Four Questions  (from the Passover Haggadah)


In asking "Mah Nishtana" (the four questions), the main point of the son's question is -- why we do acts which are diametrically opposed to one another?  We eat Matzah, which is a reminder of slavery (as the Ibn Ezra wrote that one time he was held captive in the land of India, and they gave him to eat Matzah, and said to him that Matzah is satisfying even if one eats only a little bit), and also Maror (bitter herbs) is also a symbol of slavery.  On the other hand, we perform the act of dipping some foods, and also we recline while eating, and these are symbolic of freedom.  And upon this the father answers, "We were slaves, etc.", for on this very night we were also slaves and also freed.  Until midnight we were still slaves, and from midnight  and onwards we were free people, and therefore on the night of the Seder we do things which are diametrically opposed like that.

"How many levels of goodness TO the Omnipresent  are upon us." (from the Passover Haggadah) 


It should have been written, "FROM the Omnipresent are upon us", and not "TO the Omnipresent", as if the intention was that He received a benefit.  And the explanation is, that everything that the Holy One Blessed Be He does for the people of Israel, He is also doing it for Himself, and if there is something which is good for the children of Israel, it is also good for Him.  This is similar to what we find by Rabbi Yishmael who entered within (the Sanctuary of the Temple) and the Holy One Blessed Be He requested "Bless me", and Rabbi Yishmael said to Him, "May Your Mercy overcome Your anger at us".  Wasn't that a blessing to Israel and not to the Holy One Blessed Be He?  However, the explanation is that a blessing to Israel is in its very essence a blessing to the Holy One Blessed Be He.

"Matzot shall be eaten in a holy place"  (Vayikra 6:9)


It is written in the Torah Portion of Tzav, "Matzot shall be eaten in a holy place" (Vayikra 6:9)  This is a hint to the Matzot that are eaten on the night of Passover, that they should be in a holy place.  That is to say, that one should sanctify his mouth, for that is the place of eating the Matzot.  This is also hinted at by the word "Pharoah", which in Hebrew has the same letters as Peh-Ra (an evil mouth), and the rectification for this is Pesach, which in Hebrew is similar to the Hebrew words Peh-Sach (a mouth which speaks).  One should speak only words which are good and holy, for everyone who increases speaking about them (i.e., the miracles of Passover) is praiseworthy.  And the opposite is also the case; someone who doesn't speak good words, G-d forbid, is not praiseworthy.


Why are we stringent on Pesach about the slightest bit of Chametz?


Why are we stringent on Pesach about the slightest bit (of Chametz)?  To hint that if the congregation of Israel had remained in Egypt the slightest bit more time, they would have entered the 50th gate of impurity.

Everyone who is careful about avoiding the slightest bit of Chametz on Pesach is promised that he won't sin all year.  (Ba'er Heitev Siman 447)

"In the beginning our forefathers were idol worshipers" (from the Passover Haggadah) 


Why does the Haggadah begin with a disgrace and end with praise?  To show us that even if a person is found at the lowest level, G-d forbid, he is still able to elevate himself to high levels.

"For His kindness overcame us"  (from the Hallel in the Passover Haggadah)


At times a person doesn't know that what that happens to him is really a kindness for him, but rather he just thinks that it is detrimental for him.  And that is the meaning of saying that His kindness "overcame" us, that is to say,  the person receives the kindnesses of the Holy One Blessed Be He with self-restraint and effort, even though he doesn't want to.  And also, it is necessary to interpret what we mean when we say in the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, that Hashem is "a giver of good kindnesses" -- is there such a thing as kindnesses which are not good?  No, it is just that there are kindnesses that appear to a person as if they are not kindnesses, and for that reason we request that it should also be recognizable by us that the kindnesses are good.

May we merit to eat from the Zevachim and the Pesachim  (the Passover offerings) speedily in our days.


Two Torah scrolls are taken out:1) Moshchu V'kchu (from the Torah Portion of "Bo")2) for the Maftir, "Uv'chodesh  Harishon (from the Torah Portion of "Pinchas")The Haftorah is "B'ait Hahi" (Yehoshua 5)



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

In Nissan we were redeemed, and in Nissan we are to be redeemed in the future. (Rosh Hashanah 11a)


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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Metzora & Shabbat HaGadol 5776

The Torah Portion of Metzora - Shabbat HaGadol  


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 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.

Shabbat HaGadol



The Shabbat before Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat, because of the miracle which occurred on it: the children of Israel took sheep, and tied them to their beds, in preparation for slaughter.  Even though the Egyptians were very angry that the Jews were going to slaughter sheep, since they worshiped the sheep as idols, they didn't say anything about it to the Jews because they had developed a great fear of the Jewish people.

Another reason that it is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat, is because then a Gadol (great person) speaks before the people about matters pertaining to the holiday, and therefore it is called "Shabbat HaGadol".

Another reason it is called "Shabbat HaGadol" is because the Haftara of this Shabbat ends with the words "Yom Hashem Hagadol..." (the Great day of Hashem).

Why do we have this remembrance precisely on Shabbat?  Even if the Jews had done so  (taken the sheep) on one of the days of the week, it would also have been a miracle.  Therefore the remembrance should have been set for the 10th day of Nissan, when they were commanded about it.  However, because Miriam passed away on the 10th day of Nissan, as is explained in Shulchan Aruch Siman 580, they didn't want to set the remembrance for that day, but rather on the day of Shabbat, for in that year the 10th of Nissan was on Shabbat.  (Shulchan Aruch HaRav)

Everyone who is careful about avoiding the slightest bit of Chametz on Pesach is promised that he won't sin all year.  (Ba'er Heitev Siman 447)

Why are we stringent on Pesach about the slightest bit?  To hint that if the congregation of Israel had remained in Egypt the slightest bit more time, they would have entered the 50th gate of impurity.

In the Haftorah for Shabbat HaGadol it is written "Behold, I am sending you Elijah the Prophet" and take notice -- it should have been written "I will send", in the future tense, and not "I am sending", in the present tense.  And the Chafetz Chaim explains, that the reason it says "sending", in the present tense, is that there is nothing holding back the Holy One Blessed Be He and that He would send Eliyahu HaNavi immediately.  But the matter is only dependent upon us, and at the moment that there will not be any delays caused by us, the Children of Israel, Hashem would immediately send us Eliyahu HaNavi to announce the arrival of the redemption.


The Torah Portion of Metzora has 90 verses, and 11 positive commandments.The Haftorah is "V'arvah L'Hashem" (Malachi)


We stop saying Borchi Nafshi


In Nissan we were redeemed, and in Nissan we are to be redeemed in the future. (Rosh Hashanah 11a)May we merit to eat from the Zevachim and the Pesachim (the Passover sacrificial offerings)



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