Saturday, June 25, 2016

Korach 5776 (In Israel: Shabbat Mevorchim for the Month of Tammuz)

The Torah Portion of Korach 


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 there took Korach the son of Yitzchar the son of Kehat the son of Levi." (Bamidbar 16:1)


The Chatam Sofer asked, how did the righteous sons of Levi name their son "Korach" which is a name of one the chiefs of Eisav (Breishit 36:5)? According to the Gemara (Yoma 38b) it is written that a man should not give his son the name of a wicked man, and we also see that he became a wicked man because they gave him this name. And the Chatam Sofer writes that perhaps the explanation of the verse "And there took Korach the son of Yitzchar the son of Kehat the son of Levi", is that he should have sanctified himself because he was the descendent of Yitzchar and Kehat and Levi, except that "there took Korach" , the name Korach took away all of the sanctity.

Rashi says "This Torah portion is expounded nicely." 


There are those that say, it's possible to give lectures on this Torah portion about Korach every day of the year, because throughout the year there are disputes. And it is also said regarding the verse, "and the sons of Korach didn't die" (Bamidbar 26:11), that dispute never ceases.

"And there took Korach." (Bamidbar 16:1) 


He took honor for himself. Honor is not something to take for yourself, but rather, others need to give you honor, and because Korah wanted to take honor before the right time, he therefore died before his time. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

Rashi says: "Korach, who was a clever man, what was it that he saw that led him to this folly?" 


It's said that Chana requested that she would have a son who would not be like his grandfather Korach, but rather he would be neither wise nor stupid, because one doesn't need to be too smart.

Just as there is a Kohen Gadol for the people of Israel, there should have been a Levi Gadol, and this appointment would have been designated for Korach, but because of the controversy Israel lost this thing. (from Imrai Emet in the name of the Zohar)

Korach asked Moshe, a house full of Seforim (Holy Books), does it need a Mezuzah? 


Moshe answered him, "Certainly". The teacher explained this to his students: that is just like if someone asks whether a store full of locks doesn't need a lock for locking the door.

Korach was jealous of the princely position of Elitzaphan ben Uziel.


The sons of Kehat in the order of their birth were: Amram, Yitzchar, Chevron, and Uziel. The sons of Amram were Moshe and Aharon, who received important appointments. Korach claimed that he was next in line after them, and that he deserved the position of prince, for he was the son of Yitzchar, the second son of Kehat, and it shouldn' t have been given to Elitzaphan who was the son of Uziel -- the fourth son of Kehat.

"They gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon...And Moshe heard and fell on his face." (Bamidbar 16:3-4) 


The Ramban asks, behold,they gathered also against Aharon, and why didn't Aharon fall on his face? And he explains, that Aharon was so ethical and holy that he didn't answer a word during all this dispute, and it was as if he were silent and admitting that Korach's level was higher than his level, except that he was doing as Moshe said and fulfilling the decree of the King.

"A righteous person like a date-palm tree will flower" (Tehillim 92:13)


The Ari HaKodesh used to say, that in the future to come there will be a correction for the soul of Korach, as it is said, "a righteous person like a date-palm tree will flower." (Tehillim 92:13) In the original Hebrew, this verse is: "Tzadik K'tamar Yifrach" . The last letters of these three Hebrew words are Kuf (end of Tzadik), Raish (end of K'tamar) , and Chet (end of Yifrach), and that spells the name "Korach" . In the end, also Korach will be thought of as being among the righteous people.

The Chozeh HaKodesh of Lublin was a descendent of Korach.


The Chozeh of Lublin said, that his grandfather didn't know that it's possible to serve Hashem from behind the stove (in a hidden, seemingly insignificant position) just like the Kohen HaGadol in the Holy of Holies.

"The wisdom of a woman builds her house" (Mishlei 14:1)


The wife of Ohn ben Pelet saved him. She said to him, "why are you getting involved in a dispute? Look, in any event either Moshe will be the leader or Korach, but you won't receive any position, so why should you get involved?" It is written in Mishlei (14:1): "The wisdom of a woman builds her house", and this refers to the wife of Ohn ben Pelet. Teachers of Ethics ask, how much wisdom does it take to look at the matter that way? Not much. But the explanation is, that at the time of a dispute, any straight thinking, even a little bit, is great deal of wisdom, because at the time of a dispute people lose their minds.

"The wisdom of a woman builds her house" (Mishlei 14:1)


That is the wife of Ohn ben Pelet. "And a foolish woman with her hands destroys it" (Mishlei 14:1), that is the wife of Korach, who said to him, "it' s not enough that Moshe took for himself Kingship, and to his brother he gave the position of Kohen Gadol, and it's necessary to give him T'rumot (donations), but he also told the whole tribe to shave". Korach said to her, "look, also Moshe shaved himself" . She said to him, "that's like what is stated 'may my soul die with the Pilishtim' (Shoftim 16:30 -- which Shimshon said after he was blinded and chained to the pillars of a building filled with Pilishtim). It's worthwhile for him to shave himself, in order so that everyone else will need to shave". (from Sanhedrin 110a) 

"My two sons you shall kill" (Braisheet 42:37)

Because Reuven said to Yaakov, "My two sons you shall kill, etc." (Braisheet 42:37), there came out from him Datan and Aviram, and they died. This is because the curse of a righteous man is fulfilled even if it is made conditionally. (from Ba'al HaTurim on the Torah Portion Mikaitz)

It is written in Ethics of the Fathers (Chapter 5), "Every dispute which is not for the sake of Heaven, this is the dispute of Korach and his congregation" . 


It has been asked, why is it written "Korach and his congregation" and not "Korach and Moshe"? The explanation is, that Moshe did not participate in the dispute at all, but rather said to Korach, as far as I'm concerned take everything, but the Holy One Blessed Be He doesn't agree with it. And there are those that explain "the dispute of Korach and his congregation" , that there was also a dispute amongst them, between Korach and his congregation. 

"And Moshe got up and went to Datan and Aviram." 


(based Rashi's commentary on the verse in Bamidbar 16:12 -- "And Moshe sent to call Datan and Aviram") From here we learn, that we should not support a dispute (since Moshe went after them to restore harmony with them with words of peace).

"And he shall not be like Korach and his congregation. " (Bamidbar 17:5) 

Rav said, everyone who supports a dispute, transgresses a prohibitive commandment, as it is said: "And he shall not be like Korach and his congregation. " (Bamidbar 17:5) Rav Ashi says, it is appropriate that he should be struck with Tzaraat (a spiritual skin disease commonly translated as "leprosy" in English). (from Sanhedrin 110a)

Gehinom


The Sages say that every time that a person gets angry, "all kinds of Gehinom rule over him". The Ben Ish Chai explains that the Sages say there are 3 kinds of Gehinom: 1) fire, 2) hail, 3) smoke. The nature of a person when he gets angry is that at first he gets red, that is fire; after that gets pale, that is hail, which is white; and after that he steams from his nostrils, that is smoke. 

"And the sons of Korach didn't die." (Bamidbar 26:11) 

Rashi says that a place was set aside for them in Gehinom. It is said that the reason we say Tehillim 47, "Lamenatzayach L'vnei Korach..." ("To the conductor, a psalm of the sons of Korach") before the sounding of the Shofar on Rosh Hashana, is in order to awaken us to the fact that even though the sons of Korach repented only when they were already in Gehinom, their repentance was accepted, and so thus everyone of us who awakens himself before the sounding of the Shofar, will have his repentance accepted, and he doesn't need to give up hope.

Two men came before the "Ohr Sameach" for a judgment about an area of land. 


Each one claimed that the land belonged to him. The Ohr Sameach asked them, where are the witnesses, and where is the legal document? They said to him, we don't have witnesses or a legal document. He said to them that they should make a compromise between themselves, but they didn't agree to that. He requested to see the piece of land that was under discussion in the case. When he got there he bent down to the ground and acted as if he were whispering to it and then he turned his ear to the ground to hear its answer. They asked him, what was it that you whispered? He said to them, I asked the ground which one of you it belongs to, and the ground said that both of you belong to it, that is to say, in the end every person dies and is buried in the ground and will belong to it. The two men understood the hint and agreed to compromise, and now it is understandable why Korach was punished by being swallowed by the earth. If he had remembered where we all go at the end of life, he wouldn't have disputed with Moshe. Therefore he was punished by being swallowed by the earth when he was still alive. (from Kol Yehuda)

The Torah Portion of Korach has 95 verses, 5 positive commandments, and 4 prohibitions. 
Haftora: "Vayomer Sh'muel" (Sh'muel Aleph, 11) 

This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the Month of Tammuz.  The Molad: Lail Shlishi at the hour 12:28 with 1 Chelek.  Rosh Chodesh Tammuz is on Yom R'vi'i and Yom Chamishi (Wednesday and Thursday).

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 4 (second cycle).

Candle lighting in Jerusalem: 7:11 p.m.
Sunset: 7:51 p.m.
Motzai Shabbat: 8:32 p.m.
Motzai Shabbat Rabbeinu Tam: 9:03 p.m.
Last time K'riat Sh'ma Magen Avraham: 8:12 a.m.

(The times are according to Daylight Savings Time, and were all copied from the original Torah Portion in Hebrew as given by Rabbi Gershon Steinberg' s son.)

The Hebrew letters that spell the name of the month of Tammuz are: Tav, Mem, Vuv, and Zayin.
These letters are the initial letters of two important messages:
1) "Z'manai T'shuva M'mashmashin U'va' in" (Note: Z'manai starts with Zayin, T'shuva starts with Tav, M'Mashmashin starts with Mem, U'va' in starts with Vuv)
In English that means: "The time for repentance is actualizing and coming."

2) "Z'rizin M'akdimin V'osin T'shuva" (Note: Z'rizin starts with Zayin, M'akdimin starts with Mem, V'osin starts with Vuv, T'shuva starts with Tav)
In English that means: "Alacritous people begin early and repent." 

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, June 21, 2016

Shelach 5776

The Torah Portion of Shelach 


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



"For the tribe of Yosef, for the tribe of Menashe" (Bamidbar13: 11) 


Regarding Ephraim it is not written "For the tribe of Yosef, for the tribe of Ephraim" . The Daat Zekainim explains, that here Yosef received his punishment for speaking an evil report about the brothers. It is written "the tribe of Yosef" next to the tribe of Menashe, since there came out from that tribe Gadi ben Susi who was one of those sent by Moshe to spy out the Land (who brought up an evil report on the land of Israel), and it isn't written "the tribe of Yosef" next to the tribe of Ephraim, since there came out from that tribe Yehoshua bin Nun, who did not agree with the advice of the spies (i.e., the 10 spies who spoke an evil report on the land of Israel). 

"And you will look upon the land, what is it?" (Bamidbar 13:18)


3 times in the Torah it is written "And you will look", to hint about the statement (in Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 3, first Mishna) "Know from where you came, and to where you are going, and before Whom in the future you will give a judgment and accounting" : 
1) "And you will look upon the birth-stool" (Shemot 1:16, regarding the order that Pharoah gave to the midwives), hints about the phrase: "from where you came". 
2) "And you will look upon the Land, what is it?" (Bamidbar 13:18, regarding Moshe's instructions to the spies), hints about the phrase: "to where you are going". 
3) "And you will look upon it and remember all the Mitzvot of Hashem" (Bamidbar 15:39, regarding the Mitzvah of Tzitzit), hints about the about the phrase: "and before Whom in the future you will give a judgment and accounting" . 

The Holy Ari says, that the bringing of the first fruits is an atonement for the sin of the spies. 


Rabbi Menachem Zambe ztz"l explains, for this reason it is written in the Mishna, "One who goes down into his field and sees a grape cluster which is a first fruit, a pomegranate which is a first fruit, a fig which is a first fruit, ties upon it a band, etc." In truth, for all of the seven kinds (for which the Land of Israel is praised) it is required to bring first fruits from them, but the Tanna in the Mishna emphasized these particular kinds, because it was these particular kinds of fruits that were taken by the spies, and in this way we repair the spiritual damage caused by that sin.

The spies went on the 29th of Sivan and returned on the 8th of Av.


On the night after that, they (all the people who believed the evil report of the spies) wept. Hashem said, you cried for nothing, I will fix for you a weeping for the generations, and this is the day of the destruction of our Temple on Tisha B'av.

The punishment of the spies.


The punishment of the spies was, that their tongues stretched out until their navels, and there were worms coming out of their tongues until their navels, and they were suffering like that until the 17th of Elul, and that day is their Yahrzheit; so it is written in the Shulchan Aruch, Siman 580. The Bait Yosef asks, why was the day of the death of the spies counted among the fast days for Tzaddikim (righteous people)? Isn't it written that "when evil people perish there is rejoicing song"? However, they probably repented, but did not merit to have their repentance accepted. 

"The beginnnings of your kneadings you shall raise up a loaf as a portion" (Bamidbar 15:20) 


The word for kneading in Hebrew is "arisa" , which can also be understood as "bed" . Immediately when you get up in the morning from the bed, it is necessary to begin serving Hashem, and from that you will have a lot of success during the rest of the day. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"The beginnings of your kneadings... " (Bamidbar 15:20)


There are people that say that at the time of their old age, then they will have free time to serve Hashem. And that is what the meaning of the words "the beginnings of your kneadings" refers to: during your youth, immediately serve Hashem, and don't wait for a later time. "Don' t say that when I will have free time I will learn, for perhaps you won't ever be free". (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"On the corners of their garments" (Bamidbar 15:38) 


And why did it command to put the Tzitzit on the corners of the garment? It says in the Midrash and is brought by Rashi, this is in order to recall for us the goodness that the Holy One Blessed Be He did for them in the time that they went out from Egypt, for it is said "And I carried you on eagles' wings" (Shemot 15:4). (Note: The Hebrew word for corners and wings, which is "Kanfei" , appears in both of these verses.) And why does a Tallit of 4 corners require Tzitzit, and not one with 6, or 5, or 3? This is in parallel to the 4 languages of redemption which were stated in Egypt: "and I will bring you out", "and I will deliver you", "and I will redeem you", "and I will take you" (Shemot 6:6-7) The torquoise wool is becasue of the plague of the first-born which was at night, because torquoise wool is simlar to the color of the sky when it is darkened at night. The 8 threads correspond to the 8 days that passed from the slaughtering of the Passover offering until the splitting of the Reed Sea.

Tzitzit.


The word Tzitzit has the Gematria (numerical value) of 600, and has in it 8 strings and 5 knots, together adding up to the number 613 (the number of Mitzvot in the Torah)

Tzitzit.


The Gr"a z"l wept before his death. His students said to him, behold, you have been serving Hashem all the days of your life, so why do you need to weep? Certainly you will merit the World to Come. He said to them, that he is crying because he is going away from such a world as this, in which it is possible to merit for a small amount of money, to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzit which is weighed against the whole, entire Torah. (Note: see preceding paragraph, which shows how the Tzitzit stand for all 613 Mitzvot.) And there (in the World to Come) it is already impossible to fulfill this great Mitzvah. 

Mussar (Ethics)


There is a puzzling Midrash that says: "Tzaddikim (Righteous people) eat Cooked Food, enjoy Robbery, and say Chedolaomer (a word which is similar to Chedorlaomer, the name of one of the Kings in the war between the four kings and five kings in the days of Avraham Avinu)".  The Midrash can be understood by means of Roshei Teivot, the initial letters of the Hebrew words for "Cooked Food", "Robbery" and "Chedolaomer".  The Hebrew word for "Cooked Food" is "Mevushal", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Mem", "Bait", "Shin, and "Lamed".  These letters are the initial letters of the Hebrew words in the saying "Mistapek B'mah Sheyaish Lo", which means "He is satisfied with what he has", which refers to Rebbe Chanina Ben Dosa, who was satisfied with a small portion of Carob from one Shabbat to the next Shabbat.  The Hebrew word for "Robbery" is "Gezel", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters  "Gimel", "Zayin", and "Lamed".  These letters are the initial letters of the Hebrew words in the saying "Gam Zu L'tova", which means "Also this is for the good".  Thus, "enjoying Robbery", is a reference to Nachum Ish Gam Zu, whose favorite saying was "Also this is for the good".  [Note: there is a story told about Nachum Ish Gam Zu, in which some thieves robbed him.  They emptied out a box of treasures  that he was entrusted to carry and refilled it with seemingly worthless sand and dirt. Ultimately benefited because of that robbery.]  "Chedolaomer" is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Kaf" "Dalet", "Lamed", "Ayin", "Mem" and "Raish".  These letters are the initial letters of the Hebrew words in the saying "Kol Mah D'aveed Rachmana L'Tav Aveed", which means "Everything that the Merciful One (i.e., Hashem) does, is done for the good".  This is a reference to Rebbe Akiva, who frequently said "Everything that the Merciful One does, is done for the good".

The Torah Portion of Shelach has 119 verses. Haftora: "Vayishlach Yehoshua" (Yehoshu 2) 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 3 (second cycle).



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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Beha'alotcha 5776

The Torah Portion of Beha'alotcha 


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



Why was the passage about the Menorah placed after the passage about the Princes? 


Because when Aharon saw the inauguration of the Princes he felt mentally weakened because neither he nor his tribe participated in it. Then the Holy One Blessed Be He said to him, by your life "yours is greater than theirs, because you light and prepare the candles" (from Rashi) The Ramban says that this comes to hint to us that the Chashmonaim will be descended from him, and they will establish the Mitzvah of lighting the candles of Chanukah, and that is what is meant by "yours is greater than theirs" .


Rashi says "yours is greater than theirs because you light and prepare the candles" . 


It has been asked, didn't it need to say "because you prepare and light", since the preparation of the candles is before the lighting? Another question is, how did the Holy One Blessed Be comfort him by saying that, so that afterwards he no longer felt mentally weakened? The answer is, that there are rare Mitzvot such as the redemption of a first-born mule, and the like, and that when people do those Mitzvot they feel great enthusiasm, because they are not frequently performed, but for a Mitzvah which is performed on a regular basis there is not so much enthusiasm. And this is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended when He said to him "yours is greater than theirs" : that you will light the Menorah regularly, and even so it will be with great enthusiasm. Therefore it is written "light and prepare" because that indicates the continuity "light and prepare, light and prepare" without stopping. (from Kol Yehuda)


"Toward the face of the Menorah they will cast light" (Bamidbar 8:2)


It is written in the Zohar, that the face of a man is similar to the Menorah. The 6 branches correspond to the 2 ears, the 2 eyes, the 2 nostrils, and the mouth, which is most important, corresponds to the "face of the Menorah" (Bamidbar 8:2). One needs to sanctify all of these parts of one's face, and then he will cast light upon the Torah with great success, and that is what is meant by the verse: "towards the face of the Menorah they will cast light" (Bamidbar 8:2)


"But a man who is pure and was not on the road" (Bamidbar 9:13) 


There are those who explain, that if someone wants to be pure, then he should not be on the road, he should not wander around outside and he should guard his eyes.


"According to the word of Hashem they would camp, and according to the word of Hashem they would journey" (Bamidbar 9:23) 


The Chida says, that we always need to mention the name of Hashem, at every place and in every matter that we turn to: Baruch Hashem (Bless Hashem), May Hashem be merciful, If Hashem wills it, etc., and we learn this from the verse: "according to the word of Hashem they would camp, and according to the word of Hashem they would journey" (Bamidbar 9:23)


"And when the Ark would journey... And when it rested, he would say..." (Bamidbar 10:35 - 10:36)


Regarding these two verses,  the Sages say that they have 85 words and that they constitute a  separate Chumash (book of the Torah) by themselves.  And these two verses are surrounded by a pair of symbols  that look like a backwards Hebrew letter "Nun", in order to make an interruption between one passage which deals with a bad event and another.  The first bad event is: "And they journeyed from the mountain of Hashem" (Bamidbar 10:33), like a young child who is running away from school.  The second bad event is the incident of the Mitonenim: "And the people were as murmurers speaking evil" (Bamidbar 11:1).  And why is the Hebrew letter Nun backwards?  The Ba'al HaTurim says that the Sages say that this is not the appropriate place for these verses, but rather 50 sections prior to that (since the numerical Gematria value of the Hebrew letter Nun is 50), before the verse  "And the Tent of Meeting will journey..." (Bamidbar 2:17).  And the Sages say that in the Future to Come these verses will move backwards 50 sections.  (from Shabbat 116)


"And the man Moshe was very humble, more than any other person" (Bamidbar 12:3) 


It has been asked, why isn't this written in the Torah Portion of Shemot, because also there the humility of Moshe is shown when he said "Who am I" (Shemot 3:11), "I am not a man of words" (Shemot 4:10), and "Please send by the hand of whomever you will send" (Shemot 4:13)? The explanation is that here in this passage, his humility is shown after they hurt him when they said about him "that he had taken a Cushite woman" (Bamidbar 12:1). This is a greater proof of his humility. 


Moshe prayed for Miriam "Please G-d, heal her now" (Bamidbar 12:13) 


In this verse the Hebrew word "Na" appears twice. Why? The Daat Zekainim says the translation into Aramaic explains the first "Na" as a language of request ("Please" ), and the second "Na" is translated as "now" . There are those that explain that a request which includes the word "Na" two times is a great Segula (that is, it is very effective method) for a prayer to be accepted. The word "Na" also occurs twice in the prayer "Please Hashem Save Now" (Tehillim 118:25, which we say during the Hallel). 


The Sages say that four categories (of sinners) don't receive the face of the Shechina (Divine Presence). 


These have the initial letters of Chashmal (the Hebrew letters Chet Shin Mem Lamed). Chet stands for Chaneifim (flatterers) , Shin stands for Shakranim (liars), Mem stands for Mesaprai Lashon Hara (speakers of Lashon Hara - derogatory speech), and Lamed stands for Laitzanim (scoffers). The Gr"a says that these four groups of sinners are the four legs of the throne of the chariot of impurity. And the Raishit Chachma writes, that he heard in the name of the Kabbalists that corresponding to these four groups of sinners are the four impure animals, the Shafan (rock badger) , the Arnevet (rabbit), the Gamal (camel), and the Chazir (pig). And in correspondence to these there are four Klipot (husks of impurity) in the upper realms to raise up the act of the sinner and punish him in Gehinnom. In addition he wrote that he heard that someone who sinned and was a member of one of the aforementioned four categories, in the future he will be reincarnated as one of these four impure animals, each one in the animal that is hinted at and related to the particular type of sin which he did.


The Torah Portion of Beha'alotcha has 136 verses, 3 positive commandments and 2 negative commandments. Haftora: "Rani v'simchi" (Zecharia 2) 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2 (second cycle).


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

Chag HaShavuot 5776

Appetizers for Chag HaShavuot 


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 was given in Sivan


The Torah was given in the month of Sivan.  The Hebrew letters that spell "Sivan" are Samech, Yud, Vuv, Nun.  These letters are Roshei Teivot (initial letters), and have significance, as follows:
Samech has the numerical value of 60.  60 groups of 10,000 = 600,000 men stood there at the occasion of receiving the Torah
Yud has the numerical value of 10.  That refers to the 10 commandments.
Vuv has the numerical value of 6.  Shavuot is celebrated on the 6th of Sivan.
Nun has the numerical value of 50.  We count 50 days until the receiving of the Torah.  (That is, we count 49 days during Sefirat Haomer, and on the 50th day is the receiving of the Torah.)

The Shabbat before Shavuot


There are those who call  the Shabbat  before Shavuot "Shabbat Derech Eretz", the Shabbat of courtesy, because Derech Eretz (courtesy) comes before the Torah.  And there are those who call it Shabbat Kallah, the Shabbat of the Bride.


"Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" (Avot 1:1) 


Why was it not written "at Sinai"?  The Bartenura explains that the intention is, from the One who was revealed at Sinai, and that is the Holy One Blessed Be He.  The Tiferet Yisrael explains that the word "Sinai" implies humility, since that mountain was lower than the other mountains, and that is why is says "from Sinai";  one needs to learn from Moshe who was humble and then he will have great success in the Torah.  The Sages say that the mountain of Moriah was removed from its place and came to the mountain of Sinai, in order that the Torah would be given on it, for it was worthy that the Torah should be given on the place where Yitzchak was bound (at the Akeidah). 

"And they journeyed from Rephidim...and they encamped in the desert and Israel encamped there..." (Shemot 19:2)



The Ohr HaChaim writes that there are 3 ways to succeed in the Torah (as hinted at by the above verse):  1) "And they journeyed from Rephidim", first one needs to remove himself from the desires of this world and from laziness (from things which weaken him -- since the place name Rephidim has the same root letters as the Hebrew word for weakness). 2)  And afterwards "they encamped in the desert" -- one needs to make himself like a desert, abandoning his selfishness and giving in to other people, and not being  overbearing toward other people.  3) And afterwards "Israel encamped there" -- one needs to be in unison with all of Israel like one person with one heart.

Megillat Ruth: 



Ruth, the Moabite woman, lived until Shlomo Hamelech as it was written "and Shlomo put a chair for the mother of the king", and that chair was for Ruth. Shmuel the prophet wrote Megillat Ruth in order to tell of the ancestry of David.   And the reasons we read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot are : 1) Because David was born on Shavuot and died on Shavuot. 2) Because the Torah is not given except through suffering and poverty, and that is similar to what Naomi and Ruth experienced. 3) In order to strengthen the Oral Torah, since it is written in the Torah "An Ammonite and a Moabite should not come into the congregration of Hashem", and the Sages said "An Ammonite man and not an Ammonite woman, A Moabite man and not a Moabite woman", and that is an example of Oral Torah.  And it is from this which we learned in the Oral Torah that Ruth the Moabite woman was permitted to get married to Boaz. 

The Name Ruth



The name Ruth has the Gematria (numerical value of its Hebrew letters)  of 606, and if we add to that the 7 Mitzvot of the children of Noach which she was required to fulfill prior to conversion, together we come up with "Taryag" (that is, 613) which is the number of Mitzvot we have in the Torah. In the Midrash Tanhuma for the Portion of Vayelech it is written that the name "Ruth" is because she had 606 Mitzvot added to her by means of her conversion.  And in the Gemarah Brachot 6b, it is written that the name Ruth is related to the Hebrew word for quenching thirst,  because she merited that David descended from her, and he quenched the thirst of the Holy One Blessed Be He with songs and praises (as written by him in the Book of Tehillim).  And the Gr"a explains that certainly the main point of the name "Ruth" is that she had 606 Mitzvot added to her by means of her conversion, but one could question why she shouldn't have been called Tur (which also has the Gematria of 606).  And on this the answer was given that David descended from her and he quenched the thirst of the Holy One Blessed Be He with songs, and therefore she was called Ruth and not Tur.  

The Seven Mitzvot of Bnai Noach  (the children of Noach)



The Seven Mitzvot of the children of Noach are, according to the order of the Hebrew alphabet:
1. Aleph - Aiver Min haChai, not to eat a limb from a living animal.
2. Beit - Birkat Hashem,  not to curse Hashem.
3. Gimel - Gezel, not to steal.
4. Dalet - Dinim, to establish a court system for enforcing the laws.
5. Hey - Hariga, not to kill.
6. Vuv - V'avoda Zara - not to worship idols.
7. Zayin - Z'nut - not to have illicit relations.

 "Who is that young woman?... She is a young Moabite woman"  (Megillat Ruth 2:6)



Boaz asked: "Who is that young woman?" (Megillat Ruth 2:5).  And the young man answered him "She is a young Moabite woman" (Megillat Ruth 2:6), because he wanted to embarrass her.  Boaz said to her, "Have you not heard, my daughter...." (Megillat Ruth 2:8) --- they are embarrassing you, and you are among those who receive insults and don't insult others, who hear their disgrace and don't answer, therefore I call you "my daughter", a term of importance, for now you are more important to me.

"The name of the man that I did (something) for today, is Boaz"  (Megillat Ruth 2:19)



This presents a difficulty, for it should have said "The name of the man that did (something) for me", because Boaz did her a favor.  But rather, we learn from this, that moreso than the  good that the householder does for the poor person, the poor person does good for the householder.  (from the Sages) 

"Better for me is the Torah of Your mouth than thousands of gold and silver" (Tehillim 119:72)



The Sages say that after David killed Goliath, everyone threw him lots of silver and gold.  And Doeg the Edomite who hated David came and said to them, why are you honoring him, isn't he from Ruth the Moabite and it's forbidden for him to come into the congregation of Hashem?  Afterwards the Sanhedrin came and said that thus it has been received from Shmuel HaRamati, "A male Amonite and not a female Amonite..."  And that is what David meant when he said "Better for me is the Torah of Your mouth from thousands of gold and silver"  (Tehillim 119:72), since the Torah Shel Baal Peh (the Oral Torah) saved me from the words of Doeg who wanted to embarrass me because I received silver and gold. 




We read Megillat Ruth.


Two Torah Scrolls are taken out.  In the first, 5 men are called for reading in the Torah Portion of Yitro, "Bachodesh hashlishi".  In the second, the Maftir is read from the Torah Portion of Pinchas, "Uvayom habikurim".  Haftora: "Vayehi beshloshim shana" (Yechezkel 1) until "Kol midabair", then skipping to Chapter 12 verse 3, "V'tizaeini ruach" until "mim'komo".



May you all have a light-filled and happy Yom Tov.  Good Yom Tov.

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

Naso 5776

Appetizers for the Torah Portion of Naso 



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 Naso is usually read immediately after the holiday of Shavuot, and it is the longest portion in terms of the number of its verses, to hint to us that after receiving the Torah we need to increase in learning and to strengthen ourselves.  Also the Midrashic explanations, as well as the explanations in the Zohar on this Torah Portion, are very extensive. 

The Torah Portion of Naso, as already mentioned, is the longest Torah Portion and has 176 verses.  


And also in the book of Psalms, the longest chapter is chapter 119 which has in it 176 verses.  In addition, the longest tractate is Baba Batra, and it has 176 pages. In the name of the Gr"a it is stated that in truth the tractate of Baba Batra is the longest in terms of the number of pages which it has;  however, the  tractate of Berachot is the longest one in terms of the number of words. 

"Count the number of the sons of Gershon, also them". (Bamidbar 4:22)  


The Ohr HaChama explains, why does it say "also them"?  The sons of Levi in the order of their birth are Gershon, Kehat, and Merari, that is, Gershon is before Kehat.  But in the order of their carrying of components of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the carrying done by the sons of Kehat is written about in the Torah Portion of Bamidbar - before the carrying done by the sons of Gershon, because the items carried by Kehat were the most holy items.  So in order to not cause us to err and say that the sons of Gershon were excluded from the general class (of sons of Levi who were honored by being given the task of carrying components of the Tabernacle), it was therefore written "also them", because also they were highly honored.  

"And they shall confess their sin". (Bamidbar 5:7)


The law of Vidui (confession) is written in the context of stealing from a convert: "And they shall confess their sin" (Bamidbar 5:7). And why was this written in the context of stealing from a convert?  The reason is that every sin is a type of theft, because Hashem created man to do good acts, and if so when he sins he is stealing from the Holy One Blessed Be He.  (from the Sefat Emet)

"...any man, if his wife go aside..."  (Bamidbar 5:12)


In the section about the Sotah it is written, "...any man, if his wife go aside...".  (Bamidbar 5:12)
In connection with this verse, the Sages say that a person does not sin unless there enters into him a spirit of foolishness.  [Translator's note: This is based on the linguistic similarity between the Hebrew word "Tisteh" (in English: "go aside") and the Hebrew word "Shtut" (in English: "foolishness").] 

"...and the woman shall say "Amen, Amen".  (Bamidbar 5:22)


There are those that learn a hint from this verse, based on the concept of Roshei Teivot (initial letters).  The Hebrew lettters which spell the word "Amen" are "Aleph", "Mem", and "Nun". "Aleph" is the initial letter of the words "Arba Kosot" (referring to the "Four Cups" of wine which we drink at the Passover Seder).  "Mem" is the initial letter of the word "Megillah" (referring to the Book of Esther which we read at Purim).  "Nun" is the initial letter of the words "Neir Chanukah" (referring to the Chanukah candles that we light).  These are the Mitzvot that women are also required to participate in, because also they played an important role in those miracles (of Passover, Purim, and Chanukah).


"To take a Nazarite vow". (Bamidbar 6:2) 


Rashi explains that the reason the passage about the Sotah is adjacent to the passage about the Nazir is to tell you that everyone that sees a Sotah in her disgrace should take upon himself to abstain from wine.  And this presents a difficulty, because a Nazir needs to bring a sacrifice for causing himself to abstain from wine, as the Rabbis said, that he sinned against his soul by causing himself suffering by abstaining from wine.  And the explanation is, that what is meant by saying that someone who sees a Sotah should abstain from wine is that he should not drink a lot to the point of drunkenness. (from the Riv"a) 

"And the first days shall fall aside". (Bamidbar 6:12)


 This is a hint, to every person who is trying to bring himself closer to Hashem, and the evil inclination puts him down, by saying "you are a sinner and doing repentance will not be effective".  The verse says "And the first days shall fall aside" (Bamidbar 6:12); he should not think about what occurred in the past, but rather should start anew, and strengthen himself.  And so we say in one of the prayers: "from now until eternity"; that the main point is that we need to strengthen ourselves so that "from now until eternity" we will behave correctly. (from Mussar teachers)

The blessing given by the Kohanim (Bamidbar 6:24 - 6:26)


In the blessing given by the Kohanim, there are 6 blessings:  "May He bless you", "May He guard you", "May He illuminate His countenance for you", "May He be gracious to you", "May He turn His countenance toward you", and the last one is related to Shalom (peace): "May He establish peace for you".  The first fiive blessings correspond to the Five Books of the Torah, and above all of them is Shalom (peace), because without peace, it is not possible for these blessings to be actualized.  (from the Gr"a) 

The blessing given by the Kohanim (Bamidbar 6:24 - 6:26)


Before performing this Mitzvah, the Kohen says a blesssing:  "... and has commanded us to bless the people of Israel with love".  Where is it written in the Torah that Hashem commanded the Kohanim to bless them "with love"?  There are those that say, that without love the blessings cannot be actualized.  In support of this viewpoint is what Rashi says about the words "saying to them" (Bamidbar 6:23). The word Hebrew word "Amor", which means "saying" in English is written out fully, including a "Vuv".  [Translator's note: the word could have been written with three letters "Aleph", Mem", "Reish", but instead it is written "Aleph", "Mem", "Vuv", "Reish", which is a longer way of writing it.]    This indicates that the blessing given by the Kohanim should not be said in haste and confusion, but rather with concentration and intention.  (from Maharitz Chayot Sota Daf 39)    And there are those that say that it is written in the Zohar that in the case of a Kohen whom the congregation hates or who hates the congregation, the Kohen would be endangering himself if he lifts up his hands (to say the blessing given by the Kohanim), and therefore they established in this blessing prior to the Mitzvah, that he should bless his people with love.  And therefore, if he is unable to overcome his natural inclinations and to remove the hatred from his heart, he should leave the synagogue prior to "Retzei" (the part of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer which precedes the blessing given by the Kohanim).  (from Mishnah Berurah section 128, based on the Acharonim) 


"And I will bless them".  (Bamdibar 6:27) 

In the blessings given by the Kohanim, it is not specified in the verse with what Hashem will bless us, etc. (The Sages explained, that "May He bless you" is with wealth,  "And may He guard you", is from damaging influences, etc., but these are not stated explicitly in the Torah.) The Gaon Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld ztz"l says, that the Kohen himself doesn't know what is lacking for each individual, so it would be possible for him to bless someone with wealth and it wouldn't be good for him to have that, because "there is wealth which is guarded for its owner to his detriment".  The Holy One Blessed Be He said to the Kohen "You will say 'May He bless you', etc.", "And I will bless them" (Bamidbar 6:27).  I will bless each and every one with what is beneficial for him.

The Gifts of the 12 Princes


Each of the 12 Princes  brought the same sacrifices and offerings.  If so, why does the Torah repeat and detail the sacrifices and offerings of each one of the 12 Princes?  The reason is to emphasize that each one had his own special intentions in bringing his gift. And in the Midrash it is written that each and every tribe had a tradition handed down to it from Yaakov Avinu about what would occur to it until the Days of Mashiach, in the context of that tradition, each Prince brought his gift.  

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers


It is written in Pirkei Avot (4:2)  "Mitzvah Goreret Mitzvah"  (in English, "One Mitzvah drags another Mitzvah after it").   Why isn't it written "Mitzvah Maviah Mitzvah" (in English, "One Mitzvah brings another Mitzvah")?  The reason is that sometimes there are all kinds of delays.  For example, in a Brit (Circumcision ceremony), the people need to wait until the Mohel arrives.  And this waiting is in and of itself also a Mitzvah.  And that is why the word "Goreret" ("drags") is used, that the Mitzvah is dragged out.  (from HaGaon HaRav Reizman) 

The Torah Portion of Naso has 176 verses, 7 positive commandments and 11 negative commandments.  Haftora: "Vayihi ish achad m'tzara" (Shoftim 13)  

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1 (second cycle).




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

Bamidbar 5776 (Shabbat Mevorchim for Chodesh Sivan in Israel only)

Appetizers for the Torah Portion of Bamidbar   

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 Chumash of Bamidbar is also called the Chumash of Counting (i.e. similar to the idea of calling it the Book of Numbers in English) because within it is written the number of all of the children of Israel.



"Their counted ones, for the tribe of Dan: 62,700"  (Bamidbar 1:39)


The Chafetz Chaim says that when we read in the Torah Portion of Vayigash "the sons of Dan, Chushim" (Bereisheet 46:23) , we pity him because he had only one son, but in the Torah Portion of Bamidbar we see that the tribe of Dan had the largest number after the tribe of Yehudah, and from this we see the great importance of one soul in Israel.


"Their counted ones for the tribe of Dan: 62,700" (Bamidbar 1:39)


It is said that Dan would always request from his father to pray for him, and Binyamin, who had 10 sons, did not request that he pray for him.  After the event of the Pilegesh B'givah there remained in the tribe of Binyamin only 600 people, and from this we see that a person always needs to pray.


"As they camped so they traveled".  (Bamidbar 2:17)


The Ramchal says, there are people who when they are in their homes act strictly with all the Jewish laws and when they go outside on a journey they take matters lightly.  And the opposite case is also true, there are people that when they are at home, take matters lightly, but outside of their houses they act strictly in front of the eyes of the public to show others that they are righteous.  Therefore the verse says, "as they camped so they traveled", that one should behave with the same behavior whether at home or outside.


Haftora:  



"And the number of the children of Israel will be like the sands at the sea".  (Hoshea 2:1)


 And in the Torah it is said also "like the stars of the heavens".  Stars of a necessity are separated one from the other because every star is a world unto itself, and if G-d forbid one star would crash into another, entire worlds would be destroyed.  In contrast to this, the sand at the sea is not able to exist unless every grain of sand attaches itself to another one, for each grain by itself would be washed away by the waves of the sea and made to vanish.   But the gathering together of all the grains of sand into one body generates a powerful opposing force to the waves of the sea.  Similarly for the children of Israel: if each one of them is like a complete world in and of himself, similar to the "stars of the heavens", on the other hand, they don't have any existence except when they are united together like the sand on the shore of the sea (Mayana Shel Torah - from one of the great Mussar sages). 




The Torah Portion of Bamidbar has 159 verses.  Haftora: "V'haya mispar yisrael" (Hoshea 2) 



This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the Month of Sivan (in Israel only). The Molad is Yom Rishon at the time 11:44.  Rosh Chodesh is on Yom Shlishi (Tuesday).

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bechukotai 5776

The Torah Portion of Bechukotai 5776, Shabbat Chazak (finishing the book of Vayikra) 


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

"If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) 


Rashi explains that this means that you should be laboring in the Torah. The Eglei Tal writes in the introduction to his book that the main emphasis of the Mitzvah of learning Torah is to be rejoicing and happy and enjoying one's learning, and since he enjoys the words of Torah he becomes attached to the Torah. And in the book Ohev Yisrael it is written that everyone who learns with more labor and effort finds more enjoyment in his learning, and it is a Mitzvah in and of itself to be laboring and making an effort in the Torah and to increase his enjoyment all the time. And in this way he explains the verse "If you will walk in my statutes...then I will provide your rains in their time" (Vayikra 26:3-4): if you will be laboring in the Torah all the time to increase your enjoyment of learning the Torah, then the reward will be "Middah K'neged Middah" (a turn for a turn) and I will give your rains in their time, which is also an increase in enjoyment.


"If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) 


The Ohr HaChaim explains that "If you walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) uses the language of "walking", because one should fulfill the Mitzvah (of learning Torah) "when you are walking on the way" (Devorim 6:7)


"If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) 


The masters of Mussar (ethical teachings) say that we need to take a lesson from a bicycle, because if a bicycle stands still it falls, and if it is working then it goes forward. And that is the explanation of "you will walk", that one needs all the time to work and to go forward in the Torah and in the service of Hashem.


"If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3) 


This is a hint that in any place where you go, you should go with the Mitzvot of the Torah, because in general when going on a journey it is difficult to be careful about fulfilling the Mitzvot, and that is why the verse says "If you will walk in my statutes" (Vayikra 26:3): even on the road it is also necessary to be careful about the Mitzvot.


A Good Heart


From the holiday of Pesach until Lag Ba'omer there are 32 days, and that is the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "Heart" (Lev). And from Lag Ba'omer until the holiday of Shavuot there are 17 days, which is the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "good" (Tov). Together that is a "Good Heart" (Lev Tov). This is a hint that we need to strengthen ourselves with good character traits and good behavior, as a preparation for receiving the Torah.


Haftora:



"Blessed is the man that trusts in Hashem, then Hashem will be his security" (Yirmiyahu 17:7) 


When a man trusts in Hashem, then even if he has difficulties Hashem will help him; therefore a man needs to make as much effort as he can and Hashem will help him, and that is why the verse finishes "then Hashem will be his security". R' Yosef Yuz'l Horovitz ztz"l explains that the very essence of the matter that one trusts in Hashem is in and of itself a blessing, even if his request to Hashem has not yet been accepted.


The Torah Portion of Bechukotai has 78 verses, 7 positive commandments and 5 negative commandments. Haftora: "Hashem uzi" (Yirmiyahu 16)


Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5.


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

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