Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ki Teitzei 5775

The Torah Portion of Ki Teitzei 


THE MONTH OF COMPASSION AND FORGIVENESS

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

"When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, Elokecha, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture its [people as] captives. And you will see among the captives a woman who is of beautiful form... And she shall shave her head and she shall do (i.e., either cut or grow) her nails...And she shall remove the garment of her captivity... And she shall weep for her father and for her mother for a full month..." (Devorim 21:10-13)


Rashi says that the Torah text is speaking about an optional war. It is written in the name of the Arizal that the Torah text is hinting about a Baal Teshuva (someone who is repentant for his past sins). When a man returns in repentance to Hashem, he will "go out to war against his enemies"; the enemies being hinted at here are his evil inclination and the limbs of his body. "And Hashem, Elokecha, will deliver him into your hand (Devorim 21:10)"; that is, Hashem will deliver your evil inclination into your hand. Then, "you will capture its captives (Devorim 21:10)" ; this means that you will gain control over the limbs of your body. "And you will see among the captives a woman who is of beautiful form (Devorim 21:11)" ; this refers to the Neshama, the soul. "And she shall shave her head (Devorim 21:12); she (the soul) will remove from herself false beliefs. "And she shall do (cut or grow) her nails (Devorim 21:12)" ; this refers to removing and preventing unnecessary luxuries. "And she shall remove the garment of her captivity (Devorim 21:13)" ; this is the garment which was made from the acts of the sins that he did, as is written (in Zechariah 3:4): "Remove the soiled garments from upon him, and then he said to him: Behold! I have removed your iniquity from upon you". And afterwards it says, "And she shall weep for her father and for her mother" ; her father refers to the Holy One Blessed Be He, and her mother refers to the congregation of Israel (See Berachot 38). "For a full month (Devorim 21:13)" ; this is the month of Elul (according to the Zohar Chadash). For the entire month of Elul one needs to cry about his sins since because of them he is separated from his father -- the Holy One Blessed Be He, and his mother -- the congregation of Israel.

A Wayward and Rebellious Son (Devorim 21:18)


The Sages say that "A Wayward and Rebellious Son" never existed in the past and never will exist in the future, because there are too many details which need to be fulfilled.  If so, then why do we learn about this?  Only in order to explain it and to receive reward.  There are those who ask, wouldn't it be bettter to explain and receive reward about the usual topics in the Torah which occur regularly, rather than something which never occurred and never will occur? Rabbeinu Bacchya explains that in the Torah's wisdom, we are given the opportunity to learn this topic in order to increase our knowledge.   By learning this topic, people can come to understand the greatness of the requirement to love Hashem, may He be blessed.  For behold, there is no greater love in the world than the love of a father and a mother for their son, and since the son transgresses the Mitzvot of Hashem, they are are required to have their love of Hashem overcome theirr love for their son, to the point that they themselves must bring him to the court for to be punished by stoning, as we find in the Akeidat Yitzchak (the binding of Yitzchak by Avraham).

"And you shall destroy the evil from within the midst of you, and all Israel shall hear and they shall fear." (Devorim 21:21)


Someone who wants his words to have influence, first he needs to fix himself, and afterwards others will accept his words.

"Remember what Amalek did to you..." (Devorim 25:17)


Before the remembrance of Amalek, it is written about the remembrance of what happened to Miriam: "Remember what Hashem Elokecha did to Miriam...." (Devorim 24:9) The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) explain why these two remembrances are close to one another in the Torah. It is to tell us, that just as we like to beautify the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek by listening to the Torah Portion of Zachor about Amalek, so too we should beautify the Mitzvah of remembering the story about Miriam, by not speaking or listening to Lashon Hara (derogatory speech).

MUSSAR (ETHICS) FOR ELUL:


Defective Sight 


It is taught in Masechet B'chorot (40b) that if a first born domestic animal has one large eye and one small eye, that is a defect. Rebbe Ya'akov Perlov of Novominsk explained: a man always needs to look at the virtues of others and not their shortcomings. And this is hinted at by the Mishna: if a man looks at himself with a "large eye" and thinks that he is an elevated person, and he looks at others with a "small eye", and notices their shortcomings, this is a sign that he himself has a defect.

Saving the Honor of the Lowly


Much greatness of character was demonstrated by the Rebbe Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, the author of the "Sefat Emet", in how he related to wretched, lowly people. One time a Tzedakah (Charity) box was stolen from the house of the Rebbe. Suspicion fell on a man who had come to help out in the house for a certain salary. The Rebbe called him and said to return the money that he had taken. That person tried to deny the theft, but when he saw how the Rebbe's burning eyes penetrated deeply within him to his very depths, he wasn't able to continue to deny it and he confessed. When he returned the money, the Rebbe told him, now I willl advise you to return to your city, for here they will not honor because of the act which you did, and I will send you your salary every month...

"....MAY I DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF HASHEM ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE..." (Tehillim 27:4)

The Torah Portion of Ki Teitzei has 110 verses. 27 positive commandments. 47 negative commandments.Haftora: "Rani Akara" and also  "Aniah Soarah" (Yishayahu 54) 

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

May you be written and sealed for a Good Year.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Shoftim 5775

The Torah Portion of Shoftim 


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 Shoftim ("Judges" ) always falls on the first Shabbos of the month of Elul, and it is written in the Sefer M''ora Shel Torah, that this is to remind us that we need to pray that our judgment will come out well.

"Judges and officers shall you put in all your gates." (Devorim 16:18)


The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) say that every man needs to make for himself "judges and officers in all your gates". The explanation is, in the gates of himself -- for speaking, for seeing, and for eating.

"Righteousness , righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and take possession of the land..." (Devorim 16:20)


Rashi says that "righteousness , righteousness shall you pursue" means that one should make a point of going to a high-quality court. There are those that explain, that the Sages say that there is no reward for a Mitzvah in this world (since the reward will come in Olam Haba, the world to come). But for beautifying a Mitzvah, or for the making an extra effort to fulfill a Mitzvah, there is a reward in this world. And that is why it says "righteousness , righteousness you should pursue" -- you should make an extra effort and fulfill the Mitzvot in a beautiful way, "so that you will live and take possession of the land" -- that your life in this world will be good and pleasant.

"...for the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise..."  (Devorim 16:19)


Yonatan Ben Uziel translates, that the bribe will cause the wise to be stupid.  And in the Torah Portion of Mishpatim, its says that "the bribe will blind the eyes of those who can see" (Shemot 23:8), because the Dayan (Judge) first of all needs to know the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat, and in addition, needs to know the trickery of the parties participating in the legal case.  And that is why it says "wise", because  the judge needs to be knowledgeable about the Shulchan Aruch, and "those who can see", because the judge needs to understand the trickery of the parties to the case, and the bribe interferes with both of those qualities. 

"If a matter of judgment will be hidden from you, between blood and blood, between verdict and verdict, or between affliction and affliction, matters of dispute in your cities -- you shall rise and ascend..." (Devorim 17:8)


There are those who explain this verse as a lesson in Mussar (ethics): 
"If a matter of judgment be hidden from you..." -- if you wonder why there are judgments and punishments 
"...between blood and blood..." -- all kinds of punishments involving bloodshed 
"...between verdict and verdict..." -- all kinds of harsh decrees 
"...between affliction and affliction.. ." -- all kinds of suffering 
'...matter of dispute in your cities..." -- the reason for all of the above is because there are quarrels and the people are not living in unity. What's the solution to this problem?
"...you shall rise and ascend..." -- the answer is that we should join together in unity.

"You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Elokecha." (Devorim 18:13)


The name "Hashem" is used to indicate G-d's trait of Mercy, and the name "Elokecha" ; is used to indicate G-d's trait of Strict Justice. Therefore it is written "You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Elokecha" -- whether He treats you with the trait of Strict Justice, or whether He treats you with the trait of Mercy, you need to serve Hashem in all situations.

"You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Elokecha." (Devorim 18:13)


Not only in front of others should you be righteous, but also when you are alone by yourself, and only Hashem Elokecha is there with you, you also need to be righteous and wholehearted. 

"When you go out to battle against your enemy, and you see horse and chariot -- a people more numerous than you -- you shall not fear them, for Hashem, Your G-d is with you..." (Devorim 20:1)


The Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh says that maybe this verse is a hint to the battle that a person has with his Evil Inclination, the battle which is known to be the greatest battle of all. In that battle there are two difficulties, first the person is not trained in warfare like his Evil Inclination which is trained and accustomed to doing battle. Second, the person is composed in such a way that he has a tendency towards everything that his animal soul desires, and this will prevent him from listening to words of Torah and Mitzvot, and also afterwards when he will stumble in many transgressions there will be added evil forces that come about as a result of his evil acts. And thus the verse (Devorim 20:1) can be explained as follows:
"When you go out to battle...and you see" -- with the eyes of your intellect 
"horse and chariot" -- "horse" is a metaphor for the Evil Inclination which is a horse prepared for war, in contrast to the person, and "chariot" is a metaphor for the composition of a person which has a tendency and a desire for certain things (note: the Hebrew words for "chariot" and "composition&q uot; have the same root letters and are etymologically related)
"a people more numerous than you" -- this is a metaphor for the evil forces which are increased because of the person's evil deeds
"you shall not fear them, for Hashem, Your G-d is with you" -- the explanation is that it's true that if you had come to this battle with only your own strength, you don't have within yourself the strength to stand this battle, but since Hashem Your G-d is with you His strength is great to save you, because when a person comes to purify himself the right hand of Hashem accepts him and he becomes attached to Hashem, and in that way the evil forces that are besieging him will be overcome. 

HAFTORA


"Shake the dust from yourself, arise." (Yishayahu 52:2)


The Sages say, this is like a chicken. The explanation is, that if a chicken is dirty from dust, if you wash her with water, you will just make matters worse because the dirt will penetrate more deeply. The best advice is that she should clean herself, and she shakes the dust off. So too, everyone needs to make an effort to shake off his sins from himself, as it is written "If I am not for myself then who will be for me" (Pirkei Avot Chapter 1), and then the Holy One Blessed Be He will help him.

The Torah Portion of Shoftim has 97 verses. 14 positive commandments. 27 negative commandments.Haftora: "Anochi Anochi" (Yishayahu 51). 

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Re'eh 5775

The Torah Portion of Re'eh


Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Elul 


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


"See (in Hebrew: Re'eh), I present before you today a blessing and a curse." (Devorim 11:26)


The name of this week's Torah Portion, as well as its first word, is "Re'eh" (in Hebrew). The letters of the word "Re'eh" in Hebrew are Raish, Aleph, and Hey. These are the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the Hebrew words: "Re'eh Elul Higia" (in English: "Behold, Elul has arrived!" ). They are also the initial letters of the Hebrew words: "Elul Rosh Hashana" . 


"You shall not do so to Hashem, your G-d. Rather, only at the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose..." (Devorim 12:4-5)


Someone who erases Hashem's name or destroys items in a Bait Knesset (synagogue) transgresses this verse, "You shall not do so to Hashem, your G-d..." (Devorim 12:4). It is written in the Gemorrah Succah (53a), that at the time that David Hamelech dug deep pits for the Altar, he wrote the Divine Name on a shard of pottery and cast it into the depths, as Achitophel had advised him to do, so that the waters would not flood the world. And this is hinted at in the verse "You shall not do so to Hashem, your G-d" (Devorim 12:4), but for the Bait HaMikdash (Temple) it is permitted, and that is why the verse after that says, "Rather, only at the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose..." (Devorim 12:5)


"After Hashem your G-d shall you walk..."  (Devorim 13:5)


Rashi says that there are two forms of the word for "after" in Hebrew, "Achar" and "Acharei".  The word "Achar" is a word which indicates a close distance, and the word "Acharei" is a word which indicates a far distance.  For example, Rashi mentions that "Acharei" indicates a far distance  in his explanation of the word "Acharei" in the phrase  "...after the way of the going down of the sun..." (Devorim 11:30).  The Chofetz Chaim asked the Imrei Emet of Gur at a big meeting of Torah Sages, if "Acharei" is a word indicating a far distance,  why is it written "After Hashem your G-d shall you walk..." (Devorim 13:5)  using the word "Acharei"?  G-d forbid, this seems to imply that we should be distant from Hashem.  The Rebbe from Gur answered him, I will give you a Chassidic explanation of the use of the word "Acharei" in this verse.  If a person regards himself as being distant from Hashem, then in reality he is close to Hashem.  [That is to say, to the extent that a person thinks he is distant from Hashem from both a  spiritual and physical perspective, then and precisely then, he merits to be close to Hashem, because "Hashem is close to those with a broken heart", to someone whose heart is humbled and broken.]  

"And the pig, for it has a split hoof, but does not chew the cud, it is impure to you... "(Devorim 14:8)


The Sages say that there is none as wealthy as the pig, and none as poor as the dog. The simple explanation is that the pig eats all kinds of filth, but the dog is always hungry. The Gr"a asks, why do the Sages teach us facts about nature? And he explains, that behold, the negative commandment regarding the pig is wealthy, because there are many that fulfill it, since many Jews avoid eating pig. But the dog, which hints at the prohibition of Lashon Hara (forbidden speech) is poor, because only a few people carefully observe the prohibition of Lashon Hara.

"And if the way be too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it, because the place is too far from you..." (Devorim 14:24)


If a person does a Mitzvah with enthusiasm and happiness then it won't be difficult for him.  And therefore it is written "because the place is too far from you".  The explanation is that the word for  "the place" in Hebrew is "HaMakom", which can be interpreted as referring to the Holy One Blessed Be He.  If a person is far from "HaMakom", that is, far from the Holy One Blessed Be He, then it is difficult for him .  But if he had the enthusiasm for doing Mitzvot then it wouldn't be difficult for him.

THE MONTH OF ELUL


The Hebrew letters of the name of the month of Elul are: Aleph Lamed Vuv Lamed. These are the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the Hebrew words: "L'Bracha V'lo L'Klala Amen" (in English: "For a blessing and not a curse, Amen") . They are also the initial letters of the Hebrew words: "L'Chaim V'lo L'Mavet Amen" (in English: "For life and not for death, Amen") . And they are also the initial letters of the Hebrew words: "L'Sova V'lo L'Razon Amen" (in English: "For satisfaction and not for starvation, Amen" ).

The Shofar


On the first day of Elul we begin to sound the Shofar. The explanation of the Hebrew word Shofar is that it is similar to the Hebrew word "Shifru" , (in English: to improve), i.e., we need to improve our deeds.

"Of David, Hashem is my light and my salvation" (Tehillim 27:1)


On the first day of Elul we begin to say the psalm "L'David Hashem Ori V'yishi" (Tehillim 27:1 -- in English "Of David, Hashem is my light and my salvation" ) until Simchat Torah. According to the Midrash, the word "Ori" (in English; "my light") in this Psalm refers to Rosh Hashana. The word "V'yishi" (in English: "my salvation" ) refers to Yom Kippur. "Ki Yitzpinaini B'Succoh" (Tehillim 27:5 -- in English, "For he will hide me in his Succah" ) refers to Succot. 

"One thing I request of Hashem...that I may dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life...and to visit in His Sanctuary" (Tehillim 27:4)


The above verse is written in the Psalm "L'David Hashem Ori" (27:1), which we begin saying on the first day of Elul. It has been noted that there seems to be a contradiction here, because the phrase "all the days of my life" implies that he would be there permanently, on a fixed basis, but "to visit" implies that he would not be there permanently. The explanation is that the nature of a person is that if he becomes accustomed to something, it doesn't arouse him and he doesn't get excited, but if he comes to a new place that causes him excitement. And that is why David said "One thing I request of Hashem...that I may dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life", on a permanent basis, but as if on a visit, with renewal and arousal.


It used to be in Israel that when the announcement of the sancitification of the month of Elul was heard, every person was trembling with fear.


The Torah Portion of Re'eh has 126 verses. 17 commandments. 37 negative commandments.Haftora: "Hashamayim Kisi" (Yeshayahu 66)

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 6.

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

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

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Eikev 5775

The Torah Portion of Eikev 


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 it will be that because of your listening to these ordinances, and your observing and performing them; then Hashem, your G-d, will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. " (Devorim 7:12)


"And it will be" is a language of happiness. "Because of'" (in Hebrew: Eikev) hints to the end of days [since the word Eikev in Hebrew is related to the Hebrew word for "footstep" ;, and the end of days is also referred to as the footsteps of Mashiach]. There will be great happiness before the coming of the Mashiach, because there will an awakening of Teshuva (repentance) .

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)


The Tzala"ch asks, there is a law regarding the Sheva Minim (the seven kinds of fruits for which Israel is praised) which are written in this verse, that what comes earlier in the verse takes precedence when deciding which fruit to say a blessing on first. This presents a difficulty, since the Torah needs to tell us the list of the fruits, and perhaps all of them are equal in value; and if so, what is the proof that any of them take precedence? And he explains, that there was no reason for the Torah to write the word "land" a second time in this verse, except to hint to us here the law of precedence (when making a blessing).

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)


The Rav of Brisk said that if the Torah tells us a list, then that in and of itself is a law of precedence. And if the Torah wanted that things wouldn't be in a particular order, in another place it would have stated a list in a different order. For example, "These are Moshe and Aharon" (Shemot 6:27) and "These are Aharon and Moshe" (Shemot 6:26), to show us that they are equal in importance. And so we have found regarding the daughters of Tzelophad, that the Torah wrote two lists to show us that they are equal in their righteousness.

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)


The Rebbe told to his Students that the seeds of the fruit are a Siman (a sign to remember the order of precedence when saying a blessing on the fruits):
1. "Olive" - It has only one seed.
2. "Date" (which is referred to as honey in the verse) - It has a seed with a crack, so it is like two.
3. "Grape" - When grapes have seeds, they have three seeds, so that is the third. (And also the word for Grape in Hebrew is "Gefen" , which starts with the letter Gimel, the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet.)
4. "Fig" - It has many tiny seeds, so that is the fourth.
5. "Pomegranate" - It has many large seeds, so that is the fifth.

"...A land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper." (Devorim 8:9)


The Targum Yonatan says (in the translation of this verse to Aramaic): "A land in which its Sages declare decrees which are clear like iron, and its Students ask questions which are marked like copper." And it has been asked, why does this belong in the middle of verses that are speaking about the praises of the fruit of the Land of Israel? The explanation is thus: by means of increasing his eating, a man comes to forget the Torah and its Mitzvot, as it is written: "Yeshurun became fat and kicked - you grew fat, you became thick, you became covered -- and he forsook G-d his Maker..." (Devorim 32:15) But when eating of the fruit of the Land of Israel, on the contrary, there is an increase of Holiness, as it is written by the Ba"ch in Orach Chaim, Siman 208, that the Holiness of the Land emanates from the Holiness of the Upper Land (in the Heavenly Realms), and this emanates also into the Land's fruits which draw their Holiness from the Holiness of the Shechina (Divine Presence) which dwells within the midst of the Land. And therefore we say "and we will eat from its fruits and be satisfied from its goodness" , because by eating from its fruits we are nourished from the Holiness of the Shechina and from its Purity and we are satisfied from its Goodness. And there are those that add, that the Sages say that the Land of Israel is higher than all the other lands, and this is a hint that the earthiness, that is to say the materialism, of Israel is higher in its level than that of the other lands because it adds Holiness to the person.


"You will eat and you will be satisfied and you will bless Hashem, your G-d, for the good land that He gave you." (Devorim 8:10)


The Rishonim (Early Ones) ask, why didn't they establish a blessing about Birkat HaMazon, "Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to bless Birkat HaMazon" ? And the explanation is, that they didn't establish a blessing on another blessing, because if they did so there would be no end to the matter, for similarly one would also need to say another blessing on the blessing that was made. And the "Sfat Emet" explains, that Birkat HaMazon is a blessing about gratitude, and everyone understands that on eating it is necessary to give thanks, and this is not just a matter of sanctity which would require one to say "Who has sancitified us...", and therefore they didn't establish the saying of the blessing "Who has sanctified us...".

"And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you..." (Devorim 10:12)


From this verse, the Rabbis said (in Menachot 43:2) that a man is required to say 100 blessings every day. For they said, don't read "Mah" (in English: "what" ) but "Meah" (in English: "100" ). That is to say, "a hundred Hashem your G-d asks of you".

"And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you..." (Devorim 10:12)


The word "what" is a language of humility, as in the verse "and what are we" (Shemot 16:7). One needs to behave with humility.

"And now.." (Devorim 10:12)


Also, the fact that it is written "and now", means that one always needs to say "and now"-- from now it is necessary to serve Hashem. For the Evil Inclination always causes a person to despair, and it is necessary to tell oneself, from now I am beginning, just like we say at the end of the Ashrei prayer "from now until forever" , immediately "from now" I will begin again.

"You shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart and no longer stiffen your neck"  (Devorim 10:16)


In the Torah Portion of Netzavim it is written: "And Hashem will circumcise your heart" (Devorim 30:6).  Someone who comes to purify himself is given assistance.  First, "you shall circumcise", you need to fight against the Evil Inclination by yourself, and afterwards, I will help.  And that is why the first time it says "you shall circumcise" and afterwards it says "Hashem will circumcise".  

"You shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart and no longer stiffen your neck"  (Devorim 10:16)


From this verse we see that it is necessary to learn Mussar (Ethics) and that will remove the foreskin of the heart.


The Torah Portion of Eikev has 111 verses. 6 commandments. 2 negative commandments.Haftora: "Vatomer Tzion" (Yishayahu 49). 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5.

This is Shabbat Mervorchim for the month of Elul.  The Molad is on Shabbat Kodesh Lifnot Boker (A.M.) at the hour 4:23 with 8 Chalakim. Rosh Chodesh will be on Shabbat Kodesh and Yom Rishon.  



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, July 29, 2015

Va'etchanan & Shabbat Nachamu 5775

The Torah Portion of Va'etchanan - Shabbat Nachamu 


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 I implored Hashem at that time saying." (Devorim 3:23) 


The "Ohr HaChaim" says that there are four aspects to prayer: 
1. supplication, 
2. asking for a free gift,
3. appropriate timing, 
4. clarity. 
All of these aspects are present in the verse "And I implored Hashem at that time saying" (Devorim 3:23): 
"And I implored" -- this is a language which implies both supplication and asking for a free gift;
"at that time" -- this indicates that it was at an appropriate time; 
"saying" -- this implies that Moshe prayed clearly.

"And I implored Hashem (in Hebrew: Va'etchanan) ..." (Devorim 3:23) 


The first word of this week's Torah Portion in Hebrew is "Va'etchanan" (Devorim 3:23), which has the Gematria (numerical sum of the values of the Hebrew letters) of 515. The Sages say that Moshe prayed 515 prayers to Hashem, which is equal in number to the Gematria of the Hebrew word Va'etchanan. The Gr"a says that Moshe's prayer included 515 topics, that is to say, 515 additional concepts that were different one from another. In any event, if Moshe had added anything more to that and prayed one more prayer, it would have been effective to cancel the decree. The Hebrew word "Shira" ("Song" in English), as well as the Hebrew word "Tefillah" ; ("Prayer" in English) both also have the Gematria of 515. 

"And I implored Hashem at that time saying." (Devorim 3:23) 


The "Ohr HaChaim" says that even though the prayer of Moshe was not accepted, no prayer every goes to waste. And occasionally it helps after the passage of time, or even may help future generations. The "Chazon Ish" says that occasionally we see an important and great man who comes from a simple family, and that is because some grandmother prayed at the time of lighting candles.

"Please let me cross and see the good land..." (Devorim 3:25)


The Sages ask: "And is it because he needed to eat from its fruits?" The Tzala"ch asks two questions regarding this:
1. Why did the Sages establish in the Three Faceted Blessing (Birkat M'ain Shalosh) which we say after eating certain foods, the phrase "to eat from its fruits" , since regarding Moshe the Sages questioned whether he needed "to eat from its fruits" , and if so why should we say a blessing about that?
2. What is the meaning of the word "needed" ? Shouldn't it have said, "is it because he wanted to eat of its fruits" ?
The answer that the Arizal gives on these questions is that the fruits of the Land of Israel have within them qualities that enable one to go up in the levels of Holiness. And also it was written by the Ba"ch (in Tur Orach Chaim 208, 8) that the Holiness of the Land of Israel which flows to it, emanates from the Holiness of the Land which is Above (i.e., in the Heavenly realms), and that this Holiness also flows into its fruits, which draw down nourishment from the Holiness of the Shechina (Divine Presence). And therefore we find that by eating its fruits we are given nourishment from the Holiness of the Shechina. And this is the question, for behold, about Moshe it is written that "You have made him slightly less than the angels" (Tehillim 8:6) - that Moshe rose up in the 49 levels of Holiness and therefore he didn't need the Segula (i.e., the special spiritual benefits ) of eating the fruits. But we, who are very distant from the levels of Moshe, certainly we need the fruits of the Land of Israel, and certainly it is relevant to say in the Three Faceted Blessing "to eat from its fruits and to be satisfied with its goodness" . 

"You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it." (Devorim 4:2)


The Maggid from Dovna asks, it is understood why you shouldn't subtract from Hashem's word, but why not add to it? And he explains by means of a parable: A person borrowed a chair from his friend, and returned him a large chair and a small chair. He told him "The large chair gave birth to the small chair and so the small chair belongs to you", and the lender was happy. Afterwards he borrowed a watch from his friend and returned him a large watch and small watch; he told him that the large watch gave birth to the small watch, and the lender was happy. And afterwards, he requested to borrow of large, expensive lamp made of gold. The lender agreed to give it to him because he thought that it would give birth to a small lamp made of gold. But the borrower didn't return it. The lender asked him: "Where is the gold lamp?" The borrower answered that it had died. The lender asked him "Is it possible that a lamp can die?" And the borrower answered him, "Just as you understood that it's possible to give birth, it's also possible to die." And that is what the Torah says, "do not add and do not subtract" , because if you add to it, it's also possible to subtract.

"And you who are attached to Hashem Your G-d, you are all alive today." (Devorim 4:4)


The first word in this verse in Hebrew is "V'atem" , which means "And you". It has the same letters as the Hebrew word "V'emet" , which means "And truth." Someone who walks with the truth is able to attach himself to Hashem.

"And you shall not covet your fellow's wife, you shall not desire your fellow's house, his field and his slave and his maidservant, his ox and his donkey, and anything that belongs to your fellow." (Devorim 5:18)


It is written at the end of the Ten Commandments, "...and anything that belongs to your fellow." (Devorim 5:18) If so, why was it necessary to specify a house, a field, a servant, etc.? A witty explanation of this is that if you covet what your friend has when you see that he has a nice house and other similar things, take also the problems and the debts that he has "and everything that belongs to your fellow."

"And you shall love Hashem... with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." (Devorim 6:5)


When Rabbi Avraham, the young son of the Chafetz Chaim passed away, his father the Chafetz Chaim gave a moving eulogy, and within his words he said: It's told that in the time of the Inquisition in Spain in the year 5252 (1492 on the secular calendar), the Gentiles slaughtered before the eyes of one woman, her two precious sons. The mother was a Kosher Jewish woman, and lifted up her eyes to Heaven and whispered: "Master of the World! I confess before You that all the time that my sons were alive, my love for You was incomplete because there remained in my heart a corner for loving my sons. And now at this time with the death of my sons, behold, all of my love is given over to You. From now on I can fufill the Mitzvah of 'And you shall love Hashem...with all your heart' completely." The Chafetz Chaim concluded with feeling, "Master of the Worlds! The love that I felt until now for my son, behold, I am consecrating it to You!"

"And these that I command you today shall be upon your heart."  (Devorim 6:6)


It has been asked, why doesn't the verse say  "within your heart"?  And the explanation is, that a person doesn't always have an elevated spiritual state of mind so that the words of Torah and Mussar (Ethics) can penetrate his heart.  But  first one needs to hear as much Torah and Mussar as possible, even if they are just external to his heart, and then at a propitious time when the heart opens, they will enter into his heart, and for that reason it is written "upon your heart".



HAFTORAH: "NACHAMU NACHAMU AMI"


There are seven Haftorahs of Nechama (Consolation) :
1. "Nachamu Nachamu Ami" (in English: "Comfort, comfort My people" )
2. "Va'Tomer Tzion Azavani Hashem" (in English: "And Tzion said Hashem has forsaken me")
3. "Aniah So'arah Lo Nuchama" (in English: "O Afflicted, storm-tossed, unconsoled one")
4. "Anochi Anochi Hu Menachemchem" (in English: "It is I, I am He who comforts you")
5. "Rani Akara" (in English: "Sing out, O barren one")
6. "Kumi Ori Ki Va Oraich" (In English: "Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived" )
7. "Sos Asis Ba'Shem" (In English: "I will rejoice intensely with Hashem" )

It is written that in the future to come, Hashem will say to the nations: "Comfort Israel, for you have done evil to them." And Israel will say, "But after an exile like this and all the difficulties the nations made for us, will they still be able to comfort us? We don't want to receive from them comfort." And Hashem will say: "If so, I will comfort you." And there are those who connect this concept to the beginning verses of each of the seven Haftorahs of Consolation, as follows: 
1. Hashem said to the nations: "Comfort, comfort My people" 
2. And Israel will say: "And Tzion said Hashem has forsaken me" -- Hashem doesn't want to comfort us
3. Hashem will say: "O Afflicted, storm-tossed, unconsoled one" -- they don't want to accept consolation from the nations
4. And therefore Hashem will say, if so: "It is I, I am He who comforts you"
5. And Israel will say, Now that's what we want -- "Sing out, O barren one"
6. They are happy to be comforted by Hashem: "Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived"
7. "I will rejoice intensely with Hashem" , the meaning is that we are happy with Hashem's consolations. May Hashem grant that the next Tisha B'av, will come to us for the Salvation of Klal Yisrael (the entire congregation of the Jewish people) and for Consolation, Speedily in our days, Amen.

TU B'AV



HaTov V'HaMaitiv (Who is Good and Who Does Good)


The Evil Adrianos (i.e. the Roman Emperor Hadrian) had a vineyard of 18 miles by 18 miles, and commanded to make from the corpses killed in Beitar a fence for his vineyard, and they were placed there for several years. And when that ruler died and another ruler replaced him, the new ruler commanded to bury them, and that was on Tu B'Av. Upon this the Sages established the fourth blessing in the Blessing after Food (Birkat HaMazon), "Who is Good and Who Does Good" (HaTov V'HaMaitiv) . Hashem is Good, because the bodies weren't malodorous, and He Does Good, because they were given burial.

What else happened on Tu B'Av?


Tu B'Av is also the day that the men who died in the desert (for 40 years) stopped dying. It's the day that the 10 tribes were permitted to marry one another. It's the day that the tribe of Benyamin was permitted to become once again part of the general Congregation of Israel. It's the day that the King Hoshea ben Aleh canceled the guards that Yerovam ben Nevat had posted to prevent Jews from going up to Jerusalem for the Holy Days. It's the day that they stopped cutting trees for the fire which burnt on the sacrificial altar -- the happiness was that they had completed the Mitzvah, like when someone makes a Siyum (Party for completing the learning of of something, such as a tractate of the Talmud). And there are those that explain that the happiness was that they now had time to learn more.

The Torah Portion of Va'etchanan has 118 verses. 8 positive commandments. 4 negative commandments.Haftora: "Nachamu Nachamu Ami" (Yishayahu 40). 

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

Devorim 5775

The Torah Portion of Devorim - Shabbat Chazon 


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

Chumash Devorim.


A good beginning -- we are beginning Chumash Devorim. Chumash Devorim is also called "Mishneh Torah" (in English: "a review or repetition of the Torah") . Every Chumash has an additional name. The Chumash Breisheet is also called "Sefer HaYashar" (in English: "the Book of the Straight" ), because it speaks about the Avot (Patriarchs) who are called Straight Ones. We see this in the Book of Yehoshua, that when the sun was made to stand still there is a verse which says, "Is it not written in the Sefer HaYashar" (Yehoshua 10:13), and that verse is referring to the Chumash Breisheet within the Torah Portion of Vayechi, when Yaakov said to Yosef, "However his younger brother will be greater than he" (Breisheet 48:19) -- and the intention was that Yehoshua would descend from him (that is, from Ephraim), and that in his merit the sun would stand still. From here we see that Chumash Breisheet is called "Sefer HaYashar" ("The Book of the Straight" ). 

The Names of the "Chamisha Chumshai Torah" ("The Five Books of the Torah") :


1.Breisheet -- Sefer HaYashar ("The Book of the Straight" )
2. Shemot -- Sefer HaGeula ("The Book of Redemption" , and and there are those that add also, "Sefer Michamot Hashem" ("The Book of the Wars of Hashem" )
3. Vayikra -- Torat Kohanim ("The Torah of the Priests" )
4. Bamidbar -- Chumash HaPekudim ("The Chumash of The Countings" )
5. Devorim -- Mishneh Torah ("Review or Repetition of the Torah")

Why is the Torah called Chumash? 


Because it has within it five books. [Note: the Hebrew word "Chumash" , which refers to the five books of the Torah, has the same root as the Hebrew word for "five", "Chamisha".] The Mabi"t adds that there is another reason, and that is because the Torah was given in five places: 1) in Mitzrayim (Egypt) -- the Korban Pesach (Passover Offering) and the laws regarding the firstborn offspring were given, 2) At Mara -- Shabbat, and the Parah Aduma (Red Heifer) and its laws were given, 3) at Har Sinai, 4) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the Tent of Meeting, and 5) in the Plains of Moab.

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael..." (Devorim 1:1)


The Sages say: "The majority [stumble in the sin of] robbery, the minority in the sin of illicit relations, and everyone in the sin of Avak Lashon Hara (the dust of forbidden speech)" . The first word of Chumash Devorim in Hebrew is "Aileh" (in English: "These are") -- and the verse continues that "Moshe spoke to ALL Israel" (that is to say, this is a hint that everyone stumbles in the sin of Avak Lashon Hara). The letters of Aileh are Aleph, Lamed, Hey, and these are the initial letters of the words "Avak Lashon Hara" (in English: "the dust of forbidden speech" ). The Ohr HaChama brings in the Siddur (prayer book), that the Sages say that the Ketoret (incense offering) atones for Lashon Hara (forbidden speech). There should come something in secret, that is to say, quietly, because it is forbidden for any man to enter at the time of the incense offering except for one Kohen. And that thing (the incense offering) should atone for something which occurs secretly, for usually people speak Lashon Hara quietly. And in the case of the Ketoret, it is written that "you should grind some of it very finely" (Shemot 30:36) -- that you need to break down the components of the incense very finely, like dust. And this is a hint about Avak Lashon Hara (the dust of forbidden speech).

The Gr"a says, that Chumash Devorim is divided into three parts:


1) Words of Mussar (Ethics) and rebuke, from the beginning up until the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan Chapter 5. 
2) Mitzvot of the Torah, from the fourth Aliyah of the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan, until the Torah Portion of Ki Tavo Chapter 27 Verse 9.
3) Blessings and Curses, from Chapter 27 Verse 9, till the end of the Chumash. 
And this is hinted at within the first five verses of Devorim: 
"These are the words that Moshe spoke..." (Devorim 1:1) -- this refers to the part about Mussar (Ethics) and rebuke. 
"...Moshe spoke to the Children of Israel according to everything that Hashem commanded... " (Devorim 1:3) -- this refers to the part about the Mitzvot.
"...Moshe began clarifying this Torah..." (Devorim 1:3) -- this refers to the part about the Blessings and Curses. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel, across the Jordan, in the desert, in the Plain, opposite (the Sea of) Reeds, between Paran and Tophel and Lavan, and Chatzerot and Di-Zahav." (Devorim 1:1)


Moshe spoke to Israel in hints:
"in the desert" -- on what they did in the desert, when they said "Who will grant that our death will be at the hand of Hashem." (Shemot 16:3) 
"in the Plain" -- on what they did in the Plains of Moab, in the sin of Ba'al Peor. 
"opposite (the Sea of) Reeds" -- on what they did at the Sea of Reeds, when they said "Are there no graves in Egypt, etc." (Shemot 14:11)
"between Paran" -- the sin of the spies.
"Tophel and Lavan" -- when they spoke about the Manna saying "And our souls are disgusted with this light bread." (Bamidbar 21:5)
"and Chatzerot" -- this is the Machloket (dispute) of Korach.
"and Di-Zahav" -- this is the deed of the Golden Calf.

And why did Moshe speak in hints? 


Because of the honor of Israel. And it has been asked, if so, why did he go on at length afterwards? The explanation is that, since Moshe spoke to Israel in hints they immediately did Teshuva (repented) out of love -- for when words come from the heart they enter into the heart (of the listener). Then Moshe began to go on at length and explain the details of the sins, because when someone does Teshuva out of love, the sins are turned into merits, and therefore Moshe went on at length, so that they would have many merits. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

Another explanation for why Moshe shortened the rebuke at the beginning, is because that needs to be the way of Mussar (ethics). When someone is brought close to the Torah it needs to be done in stages, in the beginning by means of hints, and after that when we see that he accepts it then we need to expand upon the Mussar. (from Torat HaParsha)

"There are eleven days from Chorev..." (Devorim 1:2) 


The Kli Yakar says that there is a hint here about the eleven days that we mourn on the Churban Bait HaMikdash (Destruction of the Temple) in the year: the Nine Days of the Month of Av, the 17th of Tammuz, and the 10th of Tevet. 

"How can I alone carry your difficulty and your burden and your quarrels?" (Devorim 1:12)


The Ramban says, that Moshe Rabbeinu hinted to them about the three things that he told Yitro he was doing for the people.  "Your difficulty" corresponds to "And I make known the statutes of Hashem and His laws" (Shemot 18:16), because it was very difficult to teach those who went out of Egypt the statutes, the laws, and their explanations, clarifications, and secrets.  "Your burden"  corresponds with "to inquire of Hashem"  (Shemot 18:15), which refers to the prayers that he would pray about them, because the Hebrew word for "burden" is linguistically related to the Hebrew word "to lift up", which is used in several places in connection with prayer, such as the phrase "to lift up prayer" (Melachim Beit 19:4), and the phrase "do not lift up for them song and prayer"  (Yirmiyahu 7:16).   And "your quarrels" is understood in its simple sense, to refer to matters of judicial decisions.  Thus we see from this that the role of a leader of Israel is to teach the Torah to the people, to explain to them and clarify to them very well by making a big effort, to prayer for every individual who is suffering, and to judge their legal decisions and disagreements.

"And they said 'Good is the land which Hashem Our G-d gives us'...Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d." (Devorim 1:25, Devorim 1:32)


Who were those who spoke of its goodness?  Rashi explains that it was Yehoshua and Caleb.  And the Ramban asked, if so, what is the complaint against Klal Yisrael (the entire congregation of Israel) that they didn't believe in Hashem?  Look, isn't it appropriate that they should believe in ten men moreso than in two?   And he explains that it's possible, that since the Holy One Blessed Be He announced to them that it is a good land, and the greatest and most righteous of those who had been sent on the mission (Yehoshua and Caleb) had testified that this was so, they should have believed in the greatest and most righteous ones among them, because the others said what they said because of cowardice.  

"And they said 'Good is the land which Hashem Our G-d gives us'...Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d." (Devorim 1:25, Devorim 1:32)


It is also written regarding the above verses, that all of them acknowledged and agreed before Moshe and Aharon and all the congregation, that the land is good, for we see that they said "We came to the land that you sent us to and it is indeed flowing with milk and honey and this is its fruit" (Bamidbar 13:27), but because of the strength of the people who were there, their hearts melted.  And afterwards when they saw that Yehoshua and Caleb would strengthen the hearts of the people for war, the rest of the spies came to the children of Israel -- not in the presence of Moshe -- and spoke slanderously about the land, saying  that it it is a land which eats up its people, and this is what is referred to by the verse "and you slandered in your tents" (Devorim 1:27).  And they didn't say this slander in front of Moshe, because he would be able to argue with them that they didn't say that when they first spoke.  Rather, they said to Moshe, "To where can we go up? our brothers melted our hearts by saying that the people is greater and taller than we are" (Devorim 1:28) And in response to this Moshe told them, it's true what you are saying, that the people is great and tall, but Hashem will fight for you just as He has done for you from Egypt until here.  And that is what is Moshe meant when he said to them "Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d", (Devorim 1:32)  that you delayed yourselves from going up only because of your lack of faith.

TISHA B'AV


Yermiyahu wrote the Megillat Eicha according to the order of the Aleph - Beit (the Hebrew alphabet), because they transgressed the Torah which was given with the Aleph - Bet. But the letter Pei (which hints at the Hebrew word for "mouth" , "Peh" ) comes before the letter Ayin (which hints at the Hebrew word for "eye" , "Ayin" ). (And that is not in its usual sequence.) This is because they spoke with their mouth what that they didn't see with their eye. But in the first chapter the Ayin comes before the Pei -- because that chapter hints about the spies who spoke also a little bit truth. (from Taamei Minhagim)

The Sages say: "Every generation that the Bait HaMikdash (Temple) is not built in its days, it's as if it was destroyed in its days."


A story is written in one of the books of the Rama: After the destruction of the First Temple, the sages of the world's nations came to see the Temple when it was burnt. And one of them came who was the greatest sage of the nations of the world and his name was Appleton. And he saw how Yirmiyahu was sitting there and crying and crying without stopping. He said to him: "I can see about you, that you are a wise person. How is it suitable for you to cry about stones that are burnt?" Yirmiyahu answered him: "They say about you that you are the wisest person of all the non-Jews. Certainly you have questions that you haven't solved." Appleton answered him: "Yes, I have questions, but no human being in the world is able to solve them." Yirmiyahu said to him: "Try to ask me. Perhaps I will succeed to solve them for you." And Appleton began with his questions, and Yirmiyahu answered him immediately on everything. Appleton said to him: "If so, the puzzle is even greater. If you are so wise, why are you crying about a building which is burnt?" Yirmiyahu answered him: "All of my wisdom comes from this House (i.e. the First Temple), and how will I not cry?"

"My soul well remembers and is bowed down within me" (Eicha 3:20)


The Tzaddik R' Avraham Bardaki ztz"l would always repeat the verse in Eicha (3:20) "My soul well remembers and is bowed down within me". Rashi says, I know that in the end You will remember us, but we don't have strength to wait so much time. He (Rav Avraham Bardaki ztz"l) also would repeat the last verse (Eicha 5:22): "For if You have utterly rejected us, You have [already] been exceedingly wroth against us." Rashi explains, that in response to our sinnning You didn't need to increase your anger against us as much as You did". If it weren't the case that this verse had stated it, it would be forbidden for us to make such an interpretation on our own.

"Why do you forget us forever, abandon us for lengthy days? Return to us Hashem and we will return. Renew our days as of old." (Eicha 5:20-21)


At the end of Eichah (that is, in the verses right before the last verse, which we repeat at the end of the reading of Eichah) it is stated (Eicha 5:20-21): "Why do you forget us forever, abandon us for lengthy days? Return us ... renew our days as of old". The Chatam Sofer explains, that it is written "Make us rejoice like the days in which You afflicted us" (Tehillim 90:15). And if so, after a lengthy exile like this there won't remain many days left until the end of 6,000 years to "make us rejoice" . But the answer is that the Holy One Blessed Be He will make the days long in order to compensate us. And upon this we say "Why do you forget us forever" , and therefore "abandon us for lengthy days" -- that is to say, that the days will be lengthy days. "Return us Hashem and we will return" , and then "Renew our days as of old" -- regular days will suffice to be like the ancient days.

The Torah Portion of Devorim has 105 verses. 2 negative commandments.Haftora: "Chazon Yishayahu" (Yishayahu 1).


We don't read Pirkei Avot. 


Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness.


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, July 12, 2015

Matot & Masei 5775

The Torah Portion of Matot Masei 


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 MATOT


"He shall not profane his word, according to whatever comes out of his mouth he shall do." (Bamidbar 30:3) 


Someone who guards his mouth, and doesn't profane it, is on the level of a Tzaddik (Righteous Person) who decrees, and the Holy One Blessed Be He will fulfill everything that comes out of his mouth. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"He shall not profane his word." (Bamidbar 30:3) 


One should not begin immediately to speak, but rather should think beforehand whether or not there are any words of forbidden speech in what he is going to say. (Ben Ish Chai)  Along these lines, a Tzaddik (Righteous Man) explained the Mishna from Ethics of the Fathers "L'fum Tzara Agara" (in English: "In accordance with the suffering is the reward").  He explained that the Hebrew word "L'fum" could be interpreted as referring to the Hebrew word "Peh" (In English: "Mouth").  Thus the Mishna can be interpreted to be telling us that the mouth can cause you to have suffering, and also the opposite, the mouth can cause you to have reward.

"And Moshe sent them - a thousand per tribe for the army - them and Pinchas Ben Elazar the Cohen to the army..." (Bamidbar 31:6) 


The Midrash asks, didn't the Holy One Blessed Be He say to Moshe "Take vengeance... " (Bamidbar 31:2), that is to say, that you yourself should do it? So how did he send someone else to do it? And the explanation is that because Moshe grew up in the land of Midian, he didn't want to cause suffering to someone who had given him benefit. This is similar to the proverb which says: "A well from which you have drunk water, don't throw a stone in it". The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) say that we see from this how great is the requirement of feeling and showing gratitude, for behold the Holy One Blessed Be He commanded to Moshe "Take vengence for the Children of Israel from the Midianites; afterwards you will be gathered unto your people" . (Bamidbar 31:2) And Rashi says that even though he heard that his death was dependent upon this vengence, he did it happily and didn't delay it. If so, Moshe Rabbeinu gave up his life in order that they should go to take vengence for the Children of Israel from Midian, and also forced the Children of Israel to go out to war against their will because they didn't want to bring about Moshe's death. And in spite of all that, Moshe also did not cancel out the requirement to feel and show gratitude, and did not fulfill the Mitzvah of taking vengence by himself, but rather through his appointed agent.

"And to half the tribe of Menashe." (Bamidbar 32:33) 


The Ramban asks, why did Moshe give to half the tribe of Menashe their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River? We don't find that they requested to receive a portion and inheritance there. The Chazkeni says that, in truth, the children of Menashe didn't request for themselves an inheritance in the land of Sichon and Og, and only the children of Reuven and Gad requested that. The explanation is that their father Menashe caused the fathers of the other tribes to tear their clothing by the act of hiding Yosef's special goblet in Binyamin' s knapsack, so therefore his tribe's inheritance was given in two separate portions on the two sides of the Jordan River. And so it is found in the Midrash (B'raishit Rabba 84:19), that Menashe caused the heads of the tribes to tear, and therefore his inheritance was torn, half in the land of Jordan and half in the land of Canaan. And the Masters of Mussar (Ethics) ask, behold Menashe did that because of the Mitzvah of honoring his father, for Yosef commanded him to do so, and Yosef the Tzaddik (Righteous Man) had a correct reason for it, so why was he punished for that? And the explanation is, that matters related to the behavior of a man toward his fellow man are very severe, and everyone who hurts another person, even though he does so with good intentions and only harms him inadvertently, in any event he is punished for it. And that is what we see in this case, that in any event Menashe was punished generations after the deed and his inheritance was divided into two portions. Therefore it is necessary for us to learn to be very careful not to hurt or embarrass someone, even with good intentions, because matters related to the behavior of a man toward his fellow man are very severe.

THE TORAH PORTION OF MASEI


"Then Aharon HaKohen went up to the Mountain of Hor by the mouth of Hashem and died there...in the fifth month on the first of the month." (Bamidbar 33:38) 


Rosh Chodesh of Menachem Av is the day of Aharon's death (i.e. his Yahrzheit). This is the only Yarhzheit written explicitly in the Torah, and also the Torah Portion of Masei is always read in the week of his Yahrzheit. He passed away 3287 years ago. The calculation is thus: the number of years since the destruction of the Second Temple is 1947 years. [The counting of the non-Jewish calendar began 68 years before the destruction of the Second Temple. (Note that 68 is equal to the Gematria of the word "Chaim" , i.e., "Life" in English.) Subtract 68 years from their reckoning of the year, which according to their counting is currently 2015, and the result is that from the destruction of the Second Temple there are 1947 years.] Add another 420 years for the length of time when the Second Temple stood, and another 70 years for the length of time when there was exile (between the two Temples), and another 410 years for the length of time when the First Temple stood, and 440 years from the entry into the land until the First Temple was built. The basis for the 440 years from the entry into the land until the building of the First Temple is as follows: It was written in the book Melachim that it was 480 years after the children of Israel went out from Egypt that Shlomo built the First Temple, and subtract 40 from that during which Israel was in the desert, for Aharon passed away at the end of the 40 years. The result of the calculation is 3287 years.

The Sages say that the "city of refuge" from the Evil Inclination is to say "Kriat Sh'ma" . 


Behold, the first verse of "Sh'ma" has 6 words in parallel to the 6 cities of refuge. And from the word "V'ahavta" (in English: "and you shall love") until "B'shaarecha" (in English: "in your gates") there are 42 words, like the additional 42 cities. When we read the "Kriat Sh'ma" with intention, we flee from the Evil Inclination. (from Mayan Shel Torah)

"By the rivers of Bavel, etc....also we cried". (Tehillim 137:1) 


What is the significance of the word "also" ? It means that also the waters cried, because the "Nisuch Hamayim" (Mitzvah of pouring the waters in the Temple) was eliminated. (from the Sefat Emet) The Sages say: Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem, merits and sees her happiness. It has been asked, why did they say "merits" in the present tense? Shouldn't it have been written in the future tense "will merit"? The Sages explain, behold there is a decree on a dead person that he will be forgotten by the heart, meaning that after 12 months the dead person is forgotten by the heart of the mourner. But if the mourner doesn't forget it's a sign that the person didn't die. And that is the explanation for the word "merits" (in the present tense), if we are crying about the Temple after so much time this is a sign that the Temple is still alive and existing.

On the 29th of Tammuz falls the Yahrzheit of the holy Rashi, Rabbeinu Shlomo Yarchi ben Yitzchak. 


His father was a holy and righteous person, and merited to have a son like Rashi, as a result of a famous story: he gave up on a diamond when he "accidentally" dropped it into the sea, because the non-Jews wanted to take it to use it for idolatry. Rashi didn't have any sons but had daughters. His grandchildren included the brothers Rabbeinu Tam, Rashba"m, Rib"m. And Rabbeinu Shlomo ben Rabbeinu Meir (mentioned one time in the Gemarra in Tosefot Pesachim 105b). Before he publicized his writings on the Torah, he fasted 613 fasts. The letters of the name "Rashi" are the initial letters of the words "Rabban Shel Yisrael" (the Rabbi of Israel). He passed away 910 years ago on the 29th of Tammuz, 4865. May his memory protect us, Amen.

The Torah Portion of Matot has 112 verses. 1 positive commandment, 1 negative commandment.The Torah Portion of Masei has 132 verses. 2 positive commandments, 4 negative commandments.Haftora: "Sh'mu Davar Hashem" (Yirmiyahu 2). 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 3 (third cycle).



Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness.


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