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

Chag HaPesach 5775

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tzav & Shabbat HaGadol 5775

The Torah Portion of "Tzav - Shabbat HaGadol " 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

"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.


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.


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 "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 Pesachim and the Zevachim (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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Vayikra & HaChodesh 5775

The Torah Portion of "Vayikra - HaChodesh"


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 called to Moshe..." (Vayikra 1:1)


Rashi says that this (the use of the term "calling") is a language of love, the language which the angels of service use, as it is said "And one (angel) will call  to the other and say" (Yeshayahu 6:3).  It can be asked, what kind of a proof is this, that since the angels of service use the term "calling" that this is a language of love?  But the explanation is, as the Chatam Sofer says: behold the verse "And one (angel) will call to the other" is translated (to Aramaic) in the Tirgum Yonatan by "And they receive one from another".  And on the face of things, what is the connection between a language of "receiving" to a language of "calling"?  But we see that by means of the angel calling to the angel who is smaller than he is, the smaller angel is given additional strength so that he can sanctify Hashem and say "Holy holy holy..."  (Yeshayahu 6:3).   And we thus find that the "calling" of the angels causes "receiving".  And that is why the Torah specifies also regarding the speech of Hashem to Moshe the language of "calling", to teach us that by means of this "calling", Moshe was given additional strength to receive the flow of prophesy and holiness,  and if so, it's simple that this is a language of love.  
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"A man if he offers from you an offering to Hashem" (Vayikra 1:2) 


The Holy books write that there is a hint here, that if a man wants to bring himself close to the Divine service of Hashem, he needs to negate all of his identity, to submit himself to Hashem entirely, and to negate his "I", his ego. And that is the intention of saying "A man if he offers 'from you'"; that is to say, if he is prepared to sacrifice "from you", his identity, then he is worthy to be an offering to Hashem.

"A man if he offers from you an offering to Hashem, from the cattle" (Vayikra 1:2) 


The Holy Alshich wrote, that the main point of the service of bringing an offering to Hashem is, that he should think in his heart, that according strict justice, it would be appropriate to have done to himself that which is done to the cattle, to burn his limbs and dash his blood on the altar, G-d forbid, because of the sins which he has committed. And it is only because of the great mercy and kindness of Hashem, that the animal has exchanged places with the man.   And this is the intention of saying "A man if he offers from you", that is, the man needs to offer himself, but the sacrifice to Hashem is from the cattle, since the animal is in place of him.

"...from the animals -- from the cattle and from the flocks..."  (Vayikra 1:2)


Rashi says, one might be able to think wild animals are also included; to teach otherwise  the Torah says "cattle and flocks".  In the book "Eidut B'yosef" it is brought in the name of the Gaon Rav Ziskind M'Rotenberg z"l that behold, the early scholars found three reasons why we don't bring sacrifices from wild animals: 1) The Holy One Blessed Be He said not to bother you to go out to forests.  The explanation of this is that domestic animals are found amongst people but wild animals are found only in forests and places which are distant so that the hand of man cannot easily obtain them.  2) Hashem requests the pursued and the domestic animals are always pursued by the wild animals that want to tear them apart.  3) The wild animal has pride and a conceited spirit, but the domestic animal is humble and its spirit is as low as the earth, and the Holy One Blessed Be He hates pride and a conceited spirit.  According to this, in the future to come, when it will be as it is written (Yeshayahu 11:7) "A lion like cattle will eat straw together in one trough and a small lad will lead them", it will be found then that wild animals will be easy to obtain, and also there will be peace between the domestic animal and the wild animal so the domestic animal will no longer be pursued.  Thus, it will only because of the third reason, a conceited spirit (that we would bring only domestic animals for an offering).  And this is the explanation of the verse in Tehillim (51:19), "The offerings to G-d are a broken spirit", that the sacrifices are only from domestic animals who have a broken spirit.  And it is thereby demonstrated that "a broken and humble heart, G-d, You will not despise" (Tehillim 51:19).  But if you will say that this is not important but rather the first two reasons given above, on this the verse says "Do good as You see fit to Tzion...Then You will desire the sacrifices of righteousness" (Tehillim 51:20-21).  That is to say, that then in the future to come, there will not be domestic animals who are pursued and also wild animals will be easily obtained, but even so, only "bulls will then be offered  on Your altar" (Tehillim 51:21).  And it is thereby demonstrated that the main reason is because "a broken heart You will not despise".  (Tehillim 51:21).

"...to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting he shall bring it, in accordance with his will..." (Vayikra 1:3)


The Torah hints to us, that when a person brings a sacrificial offering to Hashem, it's possible that he might have a thought that he has already reached perfection and rectified everything, and has arrived at very highly elevated state.  Therefore the Torah says "to the entrance of the tent of meeting..." -- he needs to know that he is still standing at the entrance, at the beginning of serving Hashem, and is still far from perfection.  And also it is brought in the Gemara,  someone who has a broken heart, is regarded in the holy texts as if he has brought all of the sacrificial offerings, as it says "the sacrifices to G-d are a broken spirit..." (Tehillim 51:19). The main point of bringing a sacrificial offering is that one's heart should be broken within him, as he thinks to himself about far away he is from serving the Creator.  In addition, the continuation of the verse  states "in accordance with his will" (Vayikra 1:3); this shows us that the most important aspect of bringing a sacrificial offering is that one should bring his will closer to the true service of Hashem.

"...and he shall perform Melika (in English: pinching off its head) ..." (Vayikar 1:15)


It is written in the Sefer HaChinuch, what is the reason that when an "olah" (burnt-offering) of a bird is brought, they perform Melika (pinching off its head), and not like the rest of the sacrificial offerings which require Shechita (ritual slaughtering)?  The reason is that the children of Israel are compared to a dove, and the children of Israel are referred to in the Torah as a stiff-necked (i.e. stubborn) people.  Therefore they perform Melika (pinching off the bird's head), which entails cutting at the neck, to hint that it is necessary to remove the stiff-necked stubbornness from the  children of Israel (who are symbolized by the dove).  In addition, there are those who explain that the reason that an "olah" (burnt-offering) of a bird is Kosher even if it has a defect, is because it is written about the children of Israel "He perceived no iniquity in Yaakov" (Bamidbar 23:21) -- the Holy One Blessed Be He disregards the lacks and defects of the children of Israel.  And therefore, also the dove whom the children of Israel are compared to, is Kosher even if it has a defect.  Only if it has a great defect, such as if it is lacking a limb, is it considered invalid.

"...for any leaven, nor any honey, you shall not burn of it an offering made by fire to Hashem" (Vayikra  2:11)


The Baal HaTurim  says the reason for this is that leaven is symbolic of the Evil Inclination, and therefore the verse also warns about honey to hint to us that the Evil Inclination seems as sweet to a person as honey. 

Why are the Chatat (sin offering), the Asham (guilt offering), and also the Minchah (meal offering) considered to be Kodshei Kodashim (the most holy kinds of offerings)?


The Abarbanel wrote that the reason that the Chatat (sin offering) and Asham (guilt offering) are considered to be the most holy kinds of offerings, is that they come from a man who wants to repent and return to Hashem.   And that is very dear to Hashem, and therefore they are entirely holy to Hashem. And also, the Minchah (meal offering) is an offering made by a poor person, who has a lowly soul, and also he is very dear to Hashem, and therefore his offering is considered to be one of the most holy kinds of offerings.

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.

10 Crowns that were taken by Rosh Chodesh Nissan:


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

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

The Torah Portion of "Vayikra" has 111 verses. There are 11 positive commandments and 5 negative commandments.ThreeTorah Scrolls are taken out:1) for the weekly Torah portion2) for the Torah portion for Rosh Chodesh3) for the Torah Portion of "Bo", from "Vyomar Hashem... HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem"until "Tochlu Matzot".The Haftorah is "Kol HaAm HaAretz" (Yechezkel 45)


We say Borchi Nafshi


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

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