Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rosh Hashana 5777

Appetizers for Rosh Hashana 


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


"May we be at the head." 


On Rosh Hashana we say "May we be at the head".  In Hebrew, the word for "at the head" is "La'Rosh", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters Lamed, Reish, Aleph, Shin.  These are the Roshei Teivot  (the initial letters) of the words "La'asot Ratzon Avinu Shebashamayim" (in English: "to do the will of our Father in Heaven").

Why should the Shofar confuse the Satan?


There are those who ask, the Torah was already given to us more than 3000 years ago, and every year we blow the Shofar.  Therefore, the Satan is already accustomed to the Shofar blasts, so why should that confuse him?  The Admor from Satmar explains, that every year there is a decline of the generations, and if so, the Holy One Blessed Be He requests less of us.  If so, the Redemption will come, and that is what the Satan is afraid of.  Also, there are those who say that the reason that we ask that question is because we don't see Mashiach, but the Satan is an angel and he sees how Mashiach is prepared to come, and because of that he is frightened.

Why do we sing on Yom Kippur "Ashamnu Bagadnu?"


The Tiferet Yisrael at the end of the Tractate of Taanit says, why do we sing on Yom Kippur "Ashamnu Bagadnu..." (in English: "We have been guilty, We have betrayed...")?  This is to remind us that sins are able to become Mitzvot if we do Teshuvah (Repentance) out of love.  There are those that say that the Satan wants to interfere with the prayers of Israel, but when he comes to the Bait HaKnesset (the synagogue) and sees all kinds of songs and Piyutim (Liturgical Poems) that the congregation of Israel are singing, he thinks that these are not prayers but we are only partying.

Why do we wash our clothing and take haircuts in honor of the Day of Judgment?


In the Shulchan Aruch it is written that we need to show that we trust that the Holy One Blessed Be He will bring our Judgment to light, and therefore we wash our clothing and take haircuts to honor the Day of Judgment.

"Erase in Your Great Mercy the Records of Our Guiltiness." 


The words of this phrase in Hebrew are: "Machok B'rachamecha Harabim Shitrai Chovotainu".  The first lettters of these words are Mem, Bait, Hey, Shin, and Chet, and those letters together spell the Hebrew word "B'simcha" (in English:  "With Happiness").  The trait of Happiness is effective for tearing up an evil decree against us.

Why do we stop blowing the Shofar on Erev Rosh Hashana?


We stop blowing the Shofar on Erev Rosh Hashana (the day before Rosh Hashana).  The Magen Avraham wrote two reasons for this: 1) to make a separation between the permissible, optional Shofar blasts during Elul and the mandatory Shofar blasts on Rosh Hashana, and 2) to confuse the Satan so he will think that Rosh Hashana has already passed.  The Taz gave a reason, that it is in order to separate between the Shofar blasts that were ordained by the Rabbis and the Shofar blasts of Rosh Hashana, which were ordained by the Torah.  The Gr"a in his explanation of the book of Yonah writes that it's possible the reason is that if the Shofar will be blown for 30 days straight, people will become accustomed to the sound of the Shofar and it will no longer arouse them.  This is similar to what was found about Titus (in Gittin 26b), that the insect (that was inside his head) after 30 days got used to the sound of the hammer and began again to drill into the brain of Titus.  It is written in the Mishna B'rura (section 581 paragraph 24) that even when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, we don't blow the Shofar on Erev Rosh Hashana even though the reason that we need to separate between the the optional and mandatory Shofar blasts no longer holds (since we don't blow on Shabbos anyway).  The reason we still don't blow the Shofar on Erev Rosh Hashana in this case is that on Shabbos we say "In memory of the Shofar blast", and it is as if we really did sound the Shofar on Shabbos, especially since in the Temple they did blow the Shofar on Shabbos. 

Simanim Tovim (Good Signs)


On Rosh Hashana we eat fruits and vegetables for a Siman Tov (good sign).  In the Tractate of Horiot  (page 6) it is written that Abaye said that we should be accustomed to see the Simanim (Signs), and in the Tractate of Kritot (page 14) Abaye said that we should be accustomed to eat the Simanim.  If someone is worried to eat one of the Simanim, such as Rubia (black-eyed beans) which might be suspected to have insects in it, or if he doesn''t like one of the Simanim, it's possible to bring them to the table and just to look at them, and to say the "Yehi Ratzon" (in English: "May it be the will [of our Father in Heaven]...").

"May it be the will  [of our Father in Heaven] that our merits will increase."


When we eat the Rimon (in English: the Pomegranate) we say "May it be the will  [of our Father in Heaven] that our merits will increase".  It has been asked, how can we stand immediately before the judgment and say that our merits will increase?  How is it possible in a short time that we will have lots of merits?  The explanation is that when someone who does Teshuvah (repentance) out of love, his intentional sins are changed into merits, and also his bad thoughts are changed into good thoughts.  Therefore, we are requesting from Hashem to give us a heart to arouse ourselves to do Teshuva (repentance) out of love, and then we will have lots of merits, and that is why we say "so that our merits will increase".

Be careful to avoid anger.


One must be very careful not be be in a state of anger on these days, because that is the opposite of the Simanim Tovim (Good Signs).  (from the Mishna B'rura)

Events that happened on Rosh Hashana.


On Rosh Hashana Yosef came out of prison, and on Rosh Hashana the slavery ended in Egypt, and on Rosh Hashana Sara, Rachel, and Chana were appointed (to have children).

"There is no forgetfulness before Your Glorious Throne." 

  
Someone came to a Tzaddik (a Righteous Man) and said that he suffers from forgetfulness.  The Tzaddik answered it is written "there is no forgetfulness before Your Glorious Throne".  Repentance is great because it reaches until the Throne of Glory, so the closer you get to Hashem, the less forgetfulness you will have.


"Today the world was conceived."


It is written: "Today the world was conceived".  The explanation is that on Rosh Hashana Adam HaRishon, the first man, was formed, because the world itself was created on the 25th of Elul.  And why isn't it written "Today was when the world was conceived [in the past]"?  It is because the world was only conceived today -- every year the creation is renewed.

"Today the world was conceived." 


The explanation is that on this day Adam HaRishon was formed, because on the 25th of Elul the world was created.  It has been asked, if so, why don't we say that today Man was formed?  The explanation is that just as a woman who has conceived doesn't know what the future child will be -- righteous or wicked, strong or weak, also on Rosh Hashana we still don't know what will be the judgment.

"The remembrance of all the forgotten things comes before You." 


It is written: "The remembrance of all the forgotten things comes before You."  Those Mitzvot that a man does and he doesn't think about the fact that he's done a Mitzvah and he forgets about it, those very Mitzvot are cherished by Hashem because the person didn't regard himself with pride and conceit.

"Remember us for Life...for Your Sake, Oh Living Elokim."


We request spiritual life, and that's why we sake "for Your Sake, Elokim", that our lives should be for the Glory of Hashem.

Why is the Day of Judgment before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)?


It is asked, "Why is the Day of Judgment before Yom Kippur?"  Wouldn't it have been more suitable to clean ourselves of sin on Yom Kippur, and afterwards to come to the Day of Judgment already cleansed? The explanation is, that on Yom Kippur we need to do Teshuva (to Repent) and the Day of Judgment and the 10 Days of Teshuva (Repentance)  we arouse the heart to repentance, and Yom Kippur atones.

The Hebrew Letters of the Word Teshuva (Repentance):


The Hebrew letters of the word Teshuva are: Tav, Shin, Vuv, Bait, and Hey.  These letters are the initial letters of verses from the Tanach as follows:
Tav - "Tamim Tihyeh Im Hashem Elokecha." (Devorim 18:13).  In English: "You shall be wholehearted with Hashem Elokecha."
Shin - "Shiviti Hashem L'negdi Tamid."  (Tehillim 16:8)  In English: "I have placed Hashem before me always."
Vuv - "V'ahavta L'rayecha Camocha."  (Vayikra 19:18)  In English: "You shall love your fellow as yourself."
Bait - "B'chol Derachecha Dayaihu." (Mishlei 3:6)  In English: "In all your ways, know Him (i.e., know Hashem)."
Hey - "Hetznaya Lechet Im Elokecha." (Micha 6:8)  In English: "Walk modestly with Elokecha."

The Tzaddik R' Avraham Bardaki would quickly learn the ten reasons given by Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon for why we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana.  Briefly these are:

1) It is because today is the beginning of the creation and the coronation of the Holy One Blessed Be He.
2) Today is the first day of the Ten Days of Teshuva, so it's to remind us that the time of repentance has arrrived.
3) It is to remind us of our standing at Mount Sinai, since the Shofar was sounded at that time.
4) It is to remind us of the words of our Prophets, which are compared to the sounds of the Shofar.
5) It is to remind us of the destruction of the Temple, when our enemies were blowing Shofar blasts to announce their victory.
6) It is to remind us about the Great Day of Judgment in the Future to Come.
7) It's to recollect the Akeidat Yitzchak, the binding of Yitzchak.
8) It's because the Shofar's sound causes us to tremble and to become awakened.
9) It's to remind us about the ingathering of the lost ones of Israel.
10) It's to remind us of Techiat HaMaitim, the resuscitation of the dead.


"May I sit in the House of Hashem all the days of my life"  (Tehillim 27:4)



The Torah Reading on the First Day of Rosh Hashana: "VaHashem Pakad Et Sara".  5 men are called up to the Torah.  Maftir: The Torah Portion of Pinchas "Uvachodesh HaSh'vii".Haftora: "Vayehi Ish Achad Min HaRamatayim"


The Torah Reading on the Second Day of Rosh Hashana: The Torah Portion about the Akeida. 5 men are called up to the Torah.  Maftir: The Torah Portion of Pinchas "Uvachodesh HaSh'vii".Haftora: "Ko Amar Hashem Matza Chain Bamidbar".


May the old year and its curses end; May the new year and its blessings begin.

May you be written and sealed for a Good Year.

The new year is 5777, and in Hebrew the letters representing that year are Tav Shin Ayin Zayin.
These letters form the Roshei Teivot (initial lettters) of the phrase "T'hay Sh'nat Ait Zimra".(In English: "May This Year Be a Time of Song".)  These letters also form the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the phrase "T'hay Sh'nat Aliyat Zevachim".  (In English:  "May This Be a Year of Bringing up Sacrificial Offerings".)

Nitzavim 5776

The Torah Portion of Nitzavim 


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


"You are standing this day..." (Devorim 29:9)


The congregation of Israel is similar to a day; just as a day begins in darkness and afterwards there is light, so for Israel, in the beginning there is the darkness of exile and afterwards there will be light -- lightness and happiness and redemption speedily in our days, Amen.

"You ..." (Devorim 29:9)


The first word of this week's Torah Portion in Hebrew is "Atem" (in English: "You").  The word "Atem" has three letters: Aleph, Tav, and Mem.  These are the same letters which are found in the Hebrew word "Emet" (in English: "Truth").  If you behave truthfully with one another, and don't lie to each other, then all of you will be "standing", alive and well.  Also, the three letters of the word "Atem"  (Aleph, Tav, and Mem) hint to what the Sages said that "Three books are opened on Rosh Hashana, a book for Tzaddikim (Righteous people), a book for Beinonim (Intermediate people), and a book for Reshaim (Wicked people).  The "Aleph" hints about the Righteous people, because it is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The "Tav" hints about the Wicked people, because it is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The "Mem" hints about the Intermediate people because it is in the middle of the Hebrew alphabet.

"You are standing this day, all of you, before Hashem Elokaichem..."  (Devorim 29:9)


When will you merit to be stable and standing? If you will be in a united group.  And that is why it says "all of you".  (from Yalkut)  In the book "Yalkut Me'am Loez",  a story is brought about an old man who said to his sons before his death: "Bring me a bundle of sticks". Then he asked them: "Who is able to break the bundle?"  Each one of them took the bundle of sticks and was not able to break it.  Their father said to  them, "I am able to break it."  The sons wondered how that could be possible, since he was old and his strength had waned and how could he succeed when they hadn't succeeded?  He took the bundle and separated out the sticks one by one and broke them.  He said to them: "This is what I wanted to hint to you.  If you will be all of you in one group then no one will be able to do you any harm.  But if you will be separated, then destructive forces will be able to rule over you."

"...every man of Israel."  (Devorim 29:9)


Every man of Israel is important and has special qualities.  It is told about the Tzaddik (Righteous man) HaRashab, that once a diamond merchant came to him and asked the Tzaddik why he praised a particular person, since he (the diamond merchant) didn't see any special qualities in that man.  The Tzaddik was quiet and didn't answer him.  Afterwards the Tzaddik requested that the diamond merchant show him the diamonds.  The merchant put the diamonds on the table, and told the Tzaddik that a particular diamond was very important.  The Tzaddik told him that he didn't see in that diamond anything which would make it superior to the other diamonds.  The merchant told him, in diamonds one needs to be an expert in order to understand them.  The Tzaddik answered him, also in regards to a Jewish person, one needs to be an expert to understand him -- every Jew is crowned with great qualities.  (from M'orah Shel Torah)

"And it will be that when he hears the words of this oath, he will bless himself in his heart, saying, 'I will have peace though I go as my heart sees fit'..."  (Devorim 29:18)


The head of the Yeshiva "Porat Yosef", HaRav Yehuda Tzadka ztz"l would say that when it is written in the Torah Portion "...he will bless himself in his heart, saying, 'I will have peace'...", this is a hint about the Chilonim (non-religious Jews) who say that the main point is the heart.  The Rav Shalom Shwadron ztz"l would give an analogy which is similar to this situation.  Someone entered a hospital and saw a person lying there without arms or legs and groaning, and asked him "What do the doctors say about your heart?"  The patient answered him, "They say that my heart is healthy".  The man said to the patient, "If so, why are you groaning, since your heart is healthy?"  And a wise person will understand the analogy.

"The hidden things are for Hashem Elokainu, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah" (Devorim 29:28)


The Sages said: "Why isn't the reward for the Mitzvot (commandments) revealed?"  The answer is, so that people will not choose among the Mitzvot.  A person might say that one particular MItzvah is more worthwhile, and abandon other Mitzvot.  There are only two Mitzvot for which the reward is revealed:  sending away the mother bird, and honoring one's father and mother.  And that is why this verse says "the hidden things are for Hashem Elokainu" -- all the rest of the Mitzvot are hidden and their reward is not revealed. But sending away the mother bird, is "for us", and honoring faher and mother is "for our children"-- and for those two Mitzvot the reward is revealed.  And the reason the reward is not revealed for the rest of the Mitzvot is so that we will "carry out all the words of this Torah", and not choose among the Mitzvot.  (from Meforshim)

"The hidden things are for Hashem Elokainu, but the revealed things are for us and for our children..." (Devorim 29:28)


Rabbeinu Bachya writes, "I heard in the name of the Rambam z"l an explanation of the verse "the hidden things are for Hashem Elokainu...", that the secrets of the Torah are hidden and the reason for the Mitzvot is known to Hashem.  And if a man merits to know a small bit of the root of a Mitzvah and its basis in the hidden realms, he should not say that he is absolved from that which is openly revealed and refrain from doing the actual physical Mitzvah, for he should not prevent himself from fulfilling it in the the revealed realms, since "the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to carry out....".

"And it will be that when all these things come upon you --  the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you -- then you will take it to heart..." (Devorim 29:29)


The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh says, that it's possible that the intention of this verse is to show us that which the Sages said:  "It's required for a man to bless on the bad just as he blesses on the good", for he needs to accept the bad with happiness in the same way that he is happy about the good.  The first word of this verse in Hebrew is "V'haya" (in English: "And it will be"), which is a language that indicates happiness.  The verse continues, "that when all these things come upon you",  to tell us that we should accept both the blessing and the curse with happiness, because they come together as part of one overall equation (i.e., the blessing and the curse are part of the overall "package deal").  

"And Hashem Elokecha will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring..." (Devorim 30:6)


In Hebrew there are four words within this verse, "Et Levavcha V'et Levav" (in English: "your heart and the heart"), which start with the Hebrew letters Aleph, Lamed, Vuv, and Lamed.  These four letters spell Elul, the name of the last month of the Jewish year.  In the Torah Portion of Eikev, it was written, "And you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart" (Devorim 10:16), and in this week's Portion it is written "And Hashem Elokecha will circumcise your heart".  The Sages say, "Open for me an opening the size of a needle's tip, and I will make an opening for you which is the size of an opening to a large banquet hall".  The explanation is that we first need to start, and afterwards Hashem will help.  And that is why it is written "And you shall circumcise"  (in the Torah Portion of Eikev, which we read a few weeks ago) -- that first you will begin to serve Hashem.  And afterwards (in this week's Torah Portion), "Hashem Elokecha will circumcise your heart." 
(from Mayana Shel Torah)

"For the matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it."  (Devorim 30:14)


Why does it say "in your mouth" before it says "in your heart"?  The reason is that occasionally the heart doesn't get awakened.  And then, beforehand, one needs to express with his mouth the learning and the prayers, and afterwards, his heart will become awakened.  (from M'ora Shel Torah)

"For the matter is very near to you..." (Devorim 30:14)


The word "very" in Hebrew is "M'od", which is written with the letters Mem, Aleph, and Daled. These Hebrew letters are the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the names of Moshe, Avraham, and David.  Someone who wants to succeed in Torah should be lowly in his own eyes, like Moshe, Avraham, and David, for they were all humble men. 

"Your heart and the heart..." (Devorim 30:6)


The four initial letters of these word spell the word "Elul" in Hebrew.  The Chida adds that the last letters of these words spell "Tikateiv" (in English: "you will write".  This is a hint that in Elul we will repent and be written in the book of those who live a good life.


The Torah Portion of Nitzavim has 40 verses.  Haftora: "Sos Asis"  (Yishayahu 61).  This is a "Sium":  the last of the 7 Haftoras of Consolation.

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5 and 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

May you be written and sealed for a Good Year.

Ki Tavo 5776

The Torah Portion of Ki Tavo 


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



"And it shall be, when you will enter the land..." (Devorim 26:1)


The Hebrew word "Tavo" (in English: "you will enter") has the same letters as the Hebrew word "Avot" (in English: "Patriarchs"). Because of the merit of the Patriarchs, we merited to receive the Land of Israel.


"And it shall be, when you will enter the land..." (Devorim 26:1)


Rashi says, do this Mitzvah, for because of it you will enter the Land of Israel.  In truth, they were not obligated to do the Mitzvah of Bikurim (the bringing of the First Fruits) until after 14 years: after 7 years of conquest and 7 years of dividing up the Land of Israel among the tribes.  But in essence, the merit of accepting upon themselves the Mitzvah of Bikurim gave them the merit to enter the Land of Israel.  (from the Malbim)


The Rebbe asked his students, Was Moshe ever in the Land of Israel?


And the answer is, that according to the Tirgum of Yonatan Ben Uziel that the cloud brought all of Israel from Egypt to Har HaMoriah to do the Korban Pesach (sacrificial offering of Passover), so certainly Moshe was also there.


"...and you shall put it in a basket..." (Devorim 26:2)


The portion required for the Mitzvah of Bikurim (the giving of the First Fruits) is 1 out of 60.  The Baal HaTurim says that this is hinted at by the Hebrew word "Tene" (in English: "basket), which has a Gematria of 60.  (Translator's Note: The Hebrew word "Tene" is spelled with the letters Tet with a Gematria of 9, Nun with a Gematria of 50, and Aleph with a Gematria of 1.  The sum of 9 + 50 + 1 = 60.)  Also, within the whole section of the Torah that deals with Bikurim, there is no occurrence of the Hebrew letter "Samech", which also has a Gematria of 60.


"An Aramean would have destroyed my father, and he descended to Mitrzrayim (Egypt)..."  (Devorim 26:5)


It has been asked, what is the connection between Lavan the Aramean and the descent to Mitzrayim (Egypt)?  The explanation is that Lavan was the cause of the Egyptian exile, because he exchanged Leah for Rachel and therefore the firstborn son was Reuven.  And if he hadn't exchanged them, the firstborn son would have been Yosef, and the sale of Yosef would not have occurred, and they wouldn't have gone down into Egypt.  Therefore we find that Lavan caused the Egyptian exile.


"An Arami ( that is, an Aramean) would have destroyed my father, and he descended to Mitzrayim (Egypt) and he sojourned there, few in number, and there, he became a nation -- big, numerous, and great." (Devorim 26:5)


The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains, "an Arami" refers to the Evil Inclination because it is a big Ramai (in English: a deceiver. Note that the Hebrew words "Arami" and "Ramai" both have the same letters.) The Evil Inclination deceives people in order to destroy them. "Destroyed my father" refers to the fact that the Evil Inclination caused the first man, Adam HaRishon, to sin. Adam HaRishon was our first father, and this destroyed him and caused death to him and the generations that follow him. "And he descended to Mitzrayim" refers to the the body of the person, because the body is called "Mitzrayim" since it causes distress (in Hebrew "Maitzar", which is a similar word to "Mitzrayim") to the soul because of its desires. "And he sojourned there", because in the beginning the Evil Inclination enters into the person just to sojourn there on a temporary basis. "Few in number" , means with only a small amount of power. "And there he became a nation -- big, numerous" , means that afterwards the power of the Evil Inclination increases by what the man himself does. "And great", that is to say, the Evil Inclination is great. Similarly, the Arizal explains the verse "And forgive my sin because it is great" (Tehillim 25:11), that this is a request that Hashem should forgive my sin because the Evil Inclination is great.


"And you will be happy with all the goodness..." (Devorim 26:11)


The Ohr HaChaim says, that "all the goodness" is also hinting to us about the Torah, as it is said in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 6, Mishnah 3) "And there is no goodness except for Torah". For if people would feel the sweetness of the Torah and the pleasantness of the Torah's goodness they would be passionately crazy about it, and all the silver and gold in the world would seem in their eyes as nothing (by comparison), for the Torah contains all of the goodness in the world.


The Bikkurim (The First Fruits)


The Ari says that the Mitzvah of Bikkurim is an atonement for the sin of the Meraglim (the Spies), in order to show that we cherish the Land of Israel, and also to teach us not to be gluttonous, since the first fruits are for the Mitzvah of Bikkurim. Also, the Bikkurim instruct us regarding the trait of Gaiva (Arrogance), since the Mishna says that even the King needs to hold the basket of the Bikkurim on his shoulder as in the case of Agrippas HaMelech, because it is not appropriate to be haughty before Hashem.


The Four Verses explained in the Passover Haggadah (Verses 5, 6, 7, 8 in Devorim Chapter 26)


The four verses that are explained in the Passover Haggadah (Verses 5, 6, 7, 8 in Devorim Chapter 26), come from the section about the Bikkurim (the First Fruits). Why are the explanations in the Passover Haggadah based on these four verses from the section about the First Fruits, and not from the story of the Exodus in Shemot, which is where the Exodus from Mitzrayim is written about? The reason is that the concept of Hakarat HaTov (Gratitude) is written about within the section about the First Fruits, and at Passover we thank and express our gratitude to the Holy One Blessed Be He for all his kindness.


"I have not transgressed any of your commandments, and I have not forgotten... " (Devorim 26:13)


This is stated at the time of Vidui Ma'aserot (Confession of the Tithes). This occurs twice in seven years, 1) on Erev Pesach after the third year, and 2) on Erev Pesach after the sixth year. What is the meaning of "and I have not forgotten" ? Rashi explains "and I have not forgotten", that I haven't forgotten to say the blessing about separating the tithes. There are those that explain that the Sages say that if someone doesn't separate tithes, rats come and eat his produce, and if someone eats food after a rat ate part of it, that will cause forgetfulness. And this is why it says, "and I have not forgotten" -- I fufilled the Mitzvah of tithing, and therefore rats didn't eat my produce, and I wasn't caused to become forgetful. (from Mayana Shel Torah)


Vidui Ma'aserot (Confession of the Tithes)


The Soforno explains why it is called Vidui Maaserot (Confession of the Tithes), for in truth the Divine service needed to be performed by the Bechorot (First Born men), but only because of the sin of the Golden Calf, the T'rumot and Ma'aserot (offerings and tithes) are transferred to the Kohanim and the Levi'im. And that is why it is called the Confession of the Tithes -- because we are regretting our sins. There are those that explain that the reason is it called Vidui Ma'aserot (Confession of the Tithes), is that the Hebrew word Vidui is similar to the Hebrew word Vadaut (certainty), that is to say, we need to ascertain that in truth that the removal (of the tithes) was done properly. And also in the Vidui of Teshuva (the Confession when we Repent), the person confessing ascertains what he did in private and in public.


"Cursed is one who strikes his fellow in secret..." (Devorim 27:24)


The Chafetz Chaim says that there are those who request blessings from Tzaddikim (righteous men), and if the person is a Ba'al Lashon Hara (habitual speaker of derogatory speech) the blessings cannot take effect, because it is written "Cursed is one who strikes his fellow in secret" (Devorim 27:24), and this is referring to someone who speaks Lashon Hara (derogatory speech). If 600,000 Jews cursed him how can a blessing be effective?


"Cursed is one who will not uphold the words of this Torah..." (Devorim 27:26)


It is told that a man came to the Chafetz Chaim together with his son, to ask for a blessing. The Chafetz Chaim told him, you don't need my blessing. If you send your son to a Talmud Torah, you don't need my blessing, because all of Israel blessed you, saying "Blessed is one who will uphold the words of this Torah". And if your son learns in a Chiloni (anti-religious) school, my blessing won't help, because all of Israel cursed you when they said "Cursed is one who will not uphold the words of this Torah". The man was very impressed that the Chafetz Chaim knew that he was giving his son a Chiloni education, and he did Teshuva (repented). (from Torat HaParsha)


"Blessed is one who will uphold the words of this Torah..." (based on Devorim 27:26 -- since for each of the curses which were stated, a blessing was also stated)


The Ramban says that someone who properly performs Hagbaha (the elevation of the Torah scroll in front of the congregation) is included within the blessing, "Blessed is one who will uphold the words of this Torah". One of the Tzaddikim (Righteous Men) saw someone gluing Seforim (Holy Books) in the Bait HaKnesset (synagogue), and told him to say "Blessed is one who will uphold the words of this Torah". This blessing also includes those who hand out and arrange Seforim in the classroom, and those who return Seforim to their place.


"And it will be that if you do not listen ... then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you." (Devorim 28:15)


The Tirgum Yonatan says, that when Moshe began the words of this rebuke, the Earth quaked, and the Heavens shook, the Sun and the Moon darkened, and the Stars gathered in their brightness, and the Patriarchs of the World screamed from their graves, and all the creatures were still, and even the branches of trees did not move. And the Patriarchs of the World were saying, Chaval (Oy Vey!) on our children when they will sin and these curses will come upon them. How will they be able to stand them, and perhaps they will be destroyed entirely, and our merit will not protect them, and there won't be a single person who will stand up and pray for them? A Bat Kol (Heavenly Voice) came down from the Heavens and said, don't be afraid Patriarchs of the World, even if the merit of all the generations will cease, your merit will not cease, and the Covenant which I established with you will not be cancelled and it will protect them.


"Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this Torah, Hashem will bring them upon you, until you are destroyed." (Devorim 28:61)


In this week's Torah Portion, 98 curses are written, and in addition there are two more in "Also every sickness, and every plague" . Together that makes 100. In parallel to that, the Sages have established 100 blessings (to be said daily) to overcome the curses. May Hashem grant us that the year and its curses will end, and for this reason we read the curses before Rosh Hashana. And the Tosefot adds, that it is necessary to have a break between the curses and Rosh Hashana, so that we read another Torah Portion (such as Nitzavim), so that we don't enter immediately after the curses into Rosh Hashana. One of the Tzaddikim (Righteous Men) said that the reason we read the curses before Rosh Hashana is so that we will fulfill the curses only by means of reading them and not have them occur in actuality. (from Mayana Shel Torah)


REGARDING THE DAYS OF JUDGMENT



"Elokim has ascended with a blast, Hashem, with the sound of the Shofar." (Tehillim 47:6)


It is known that the name Hashem is associated with the trait of Mercy and Compassion, and the name Elokim is associated with the trait of strict Justice. Thus, the explanation of this verse is that "Elokim has ascended" , that is, the trait of strict Justice is exchanged by means of the Shofar to Hashem, which is the trait of Mercy and Compassion.


"Had I not (in Hebrew: Lulei) believed that I would see the goodness of Hashem..." (Tehillim 27:13)


The first word of this verse in Hebrew is "Lulei" , which has the same Hebrew letters as the month of Elul. The implication is that in the month of Elul, we need to strengthen ourselves in faith.

The Rambam's words regarding the Shofar: "Arouse yourselves, sleeping ones from your sleep, and dormant ones awaken from your dormancy, and search out your deeds and return in repentance and remember your Creator."

It is said that Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev remarked after the sounding of the Shofar: we blew 200 Shofar blasts on two days (of Rosh Hashana), and we are requesting from the Holy One Blessed Be He only one Shofar blast, and that is the Shofar of Moshiach who will be revealed speedily in our days Amen.


"...He walks along weeping as he carries the bag of seed, he will come with joyous song as he carries his sheaves." (Tehillim 126:6)


The Tzaddikim (Righteous Men) explain: "He walks along weeping" -- if a man grumbles and has complaints, then "he carries the bag of seed", that is, he receives a small package. "He will come with joyous song" -- if a man is happy with his portion, then "he carries his sheaves" , that is, he will receive great abundance.


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



The Torah Portion of Ki Tavo has 122 verses. 3 positive commandments. 3 negative commandments.Haftora: "Kumi Ori" (Yishayahu 60). 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 3 and 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

May you be written and sealed for a Good Year.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ki Teitzei 5776

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 in Israel. (Chapters 1 & 2 outside Israel)



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.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Shoftim 5776

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.  The Hebrew word for "your gates" is "Sha'areicha", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Shin", "Ayin", "Reish", "Yud", and "Chaf".   These Hebrew letters are the Roshei Teivot (in English: "Initial Letters") of the Hebrew words: "Shinayim" (in English: "Teeth"), "Ainayim" (in English: "Eyes"), "Rosh" (in English: "Head"), "Regel" (in English: "Leg"), "Yadayim" (in English: "Hands"), "Keres" (in English: "Belly" -- that is to say, to be careful to avoid eating forbidden foods).

"...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. 

"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.

"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" 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 in Israel (Chapter 6 outside of Israel).



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, August 29, 2016

Re'eh 5776

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.

"You shall tithe..." (Devorim 14:22)


The Sages say "give tithes in order that you will become wealthy".  (Note: In Hebrew, the linguistic root of the word for becoming wealthy has the three letters Ayin Shin Reish, and the linguistic root of the word for giving tithes has the three letters Ayin Sin Reish, so that there is a close linguistic connection between "tithes" and "wealth".)  There are those that explain that it is written that the reward of a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah.  That is, the best reward is that it is possible to do another Mitzvah.  Thus the explanation (of the linguistic connection between the Hebrew word for giving tithes and the Hebrew word for wealth) is that you should tithe in order that Hashem will give you a blessing in the growth of your crops, so that you can give even more tithes.  This concept (that the best reward for doing a Mitzvah is the possibility of doing another Mitzvah) is what underlies the story which is told about the Gr"a, that before his death, he was crying that he was leaving a world in which for a small amount of money it was possible to buy Tzitzit and fulfill a Mitzvah, and that in the Next World he would lose the opportunity to do that.

"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 in Israel (Chapter 5 outside Israel).


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, August 22, 2016

Eikev 5776

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..." (Devorim 8:10)


From the very essence of Birkat HaMazon "you will be satisfied", that is to say, you will be satisfied from the pleasure that you have merited to bless Hashem by saying Birkat HaMazon.

"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...".

It is written in the Halacha that one needs to place his 10 fingers on the bread at the time that he says the blessing "Hamotsi" (which is said before eating bread).


This corresponds to:
The 10 words in the blessing "Hamotsi" (which is said before eating bread).
The 10 words in the verse "And may G-d give you..." (Bereisheet 27:28)
The 10 words in the verse "A land of wheat, barley, etc." (Devorim 8:8)
The 10 Mitzvot  that can be fulfilled in connection with the preparation of the bread before it reaches our mouths: "Do not plow with an ox and a donkey ..."(Devorim 22:10), "Do not plant Kilayim" (forbidden mixtures of seeds -- see Vayikra 19:19), "Leket" (leaving behind one or two gleanings of the harvest for the poor if they fell to the ground) , "Shichacha" (leaving behind forgotten parts of the harvest for the poor -- see Devorim 24:19), "Peah" (leaving behind the corners of the field for the poor -- see Vayikra 19:9), "Don't muzzle the ox during his threshing" (Devorim 25:4), "T'rumah Gedolah" (the larger "T'rumah" portion of the harvested grain which is set aside to be to the Kohen), "T'rumat Ma'aser" (the "T'rumah" portion taken from Ma'aser tithe, to be given to the Kohen), "Ma'aser Rishon" (the first tithe), "Ma'aser Sheini" (the second tithe), and "Challah" (from the Ba'al HaTurim).  (Translator's note: Actually 11 Mitzvot are listed here, but the Ba'al HaTurim counts the T'rumah Gedolah and T'rumat Ma'aser together as one Mitzvah).

"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 in Israel (but Chapter 4 outside of Israel).

This is Shabbat Mervorchim for the month of Elul.  The Molad is on Lail Vuv at the hour 1:56 with 3 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