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


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tazria & HaChodesh 5776

The Torah Portion of Tazria - Parshat HaChodesh  


This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Nissan - We say "Atah Yatzarta" in Mussaf


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.


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 this reading: to announce to the people that Passover is coming 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.

And they established that they would announce about this (that Passover is coming soon) on Shabbat, because that is the day that people gather in the synagogues, and this would lead to the greatest publicity about this announcement.

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 Kohanim); 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 Kohanim 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. The Haftorah is "Kol HaAm HaAretz" (Yechezkel 45)


ThreeTorah Scrolls are taken out:1) for the weekly Torah portion2) for the Torah portion for Rosh Chodesh, in the Torah Portion of Pinchas, from "Uv'yom HaShabbat" until "V'nisko"3) for the Torah Portion of "Bo", from "Vyomar Hashem... HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem"until "Tochlu Matzot".


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

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sh'mini & Para 5776

The Torah Portion of "Sh'mini - Para" - Shabbat Mevorchim Chodesh Nissan 5776


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 be sanctified 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.

"...the sons of Aharon that were left..."  (Vayikra 10:16)


The Sages say that one needs to make oneself like a "leftover", and that is why the verse says "the sons of Aharon that were left", that is to say, that they made themselves like "leftovers", lowly in their own eyes, and because of that they merited to survive.  (from the Evnei Ezer)

"And Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, TO SAY TO THEM: Speak to the children of 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)

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 cannot bring the Passover offering and we cannot perform the procedure of purifying ourselves from  contact with a dead person in order to eat from the holy flesh of the Korbanot (sacrificial offerings), 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 11 negative 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)

This week we bless the coming of the new month of Nissan.  The Molad is Yom Hey 10:15 with 16 Chelekim.  Rosh Chodesh Nissan is on Shabbos (of the following week).


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

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tzav 5776

The Torah Portion of "Tzav" 


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

"And he shall remove his garments and he shall put on other garments" (Vayikra 6:4) 


Rashi explains, garments in which he was dressed when he cooked a pot of food for his master, he should not pour while dressed in them, a cup of wine for his master.  The Maharsha brings from this a proof, that a person should change his clothes in the honor of Shabbat to garments which are appropriate and clean, just as the Cohen would change his clothes at the time of his service, and would not use the same clothes that he wore when he was removing the ashes from the altar.  Thus it is necessary to change clothes for Shabbat, and not use the same clothes that one wore on Erev Shabbat while preparing for Shabbat.

"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.

An Ethical Teaching


There is a story told about Sh'muel HaNagid, zya"a (may his memory protect us, Amen), who was close to the king.  One time the king was traveling together with R' Shmuel and they encountered a bad person, a non-Jewish musician who was jealous of R' Shmuel.  The musician composed derogatory songs about the Jews and about R' Shmuel, and when the the carriage of the king passed by he sang the derogatory songs.  The king got very angry about that, and told R' Sh'muel: "For such brazenness, I command you to cut out his tongue".  What did R' Sh'muel do?  He composed a song with words of praise about the non-Jew, and also gave the non-Jew a significant gift.  The non-Jew was very amazed by that, and in response made a song about R' Sh'muel that contained words of praise and thanks for the gift.  The king passed by and heard that the non-Jew was still singing, and said to R' Sh'muel: "Didn't I command you to cut out his tongue?"  R' Sh'muel answered:  "That is what I did.  I cut out his bad tongue and changed it into a good tongue."  He explained to the king: "If I would have cut out his tongue, there would have sprouted in its place many bad tongues from his family and the people of his city", and his wisdom was very good in the eyes of the king.


The Torah Portion of "Tzav" has 97 verses.  There are 9 positive commandments and 9 negative commandments.The Haftorah is: "Ko Amar Hashem " (Yirmiyahu 7)


This week is a second break in the "4 Parshiot".
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

Purim 5776

Purim - Megillat Esther 


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 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