Monday, February 27, 2012

Tetzaveh & Zachor

The Torah Portion of Tetzaveh

"Tarshish and Shoham and Yashfeh." (Shemot 28:20)  

[These are three of the precious stones on the Choshen (breastplate) of the Cohen HaGadol.]  The Yashfeh was the stone of the tribe of Benyamin, and the Ba'al HaTurim says this is hinted at by the Gematria (numerical value of the Hebrew letters of the words).  The Gematria  of Yashfeh with the Kollel (one more for the word itself) is equal to the Gematria of Benyamin son of Yaakov. In the Gemara there is a story told about Dama Ben Netina. The Jews came to buy from him a Yashfeh stone for the Choshen (breastplate), but since his father was sleeping at that time on top of the chest in which the Yashfeh was stored, he didn't want to wake him up.  He honored his father, even though he lost a lot of money because of it.  In reward for this, he received a reward from Heaven that made him wealthy after that.  His cow gave birth to a Para Adumah (Red Heifer), and the children of Israel bought it from him for a great amount of money.  The Meshech Chachma clarifies why the stone from Benyamin had been lost.  All of the tribes caused sorrow to their father in the sale of Yosef, and even Yosef caused him sorrow about it because he didn't notify his father that he was in Egypt because he was afraid of the Cherem.  (His brothers had imposed a condition of Cherem, ex-communication, on anyone who told their father about the sale.)  But Benyamin honored his father (since he didn't participate in causing him sorrow through the sale of Yosef), and therefore the Shechina dwelled in his portion.  Therefore when the stone of Benyamin was lost, the Holy One Blessed Be He showed them the greatness of the Mitzvah of honoring one's father through Dama Ben Netina, and this was precisely with the stone of Benyamin, because Binyamin had honored his father. 

"And you shall make the Me'il." (Shemot 28:31) 

The Sages say that the Me'il (the robe of the Cohen HaGadol) atones for the sin of Lashon Hara (evil speech).  The reason is, that there ought to be something that has a sound  in order to atone for Lashon Hara, which occurs through sound, and the Me'il has a sound emanating from its bells. In addition, the Me'il was folded over at its top opening, to hint that one needs to greatly guard himself in order to keep his mouth closed.  And this is also hinted at (by the bells and pomegranates of the Me'il), because on the one hand the mouth needs to make a sound, like the bells, and this refers to the sound of Torah learning, but the mouth needs to be silent like a pomegranate, in order to not speak Lashon Hara.  And if one will act in this manner, then "his sound shall be heard when he goes into the holy place" (Shemot 28:35), that is to say, that his prayers will be accepted.

These are the things that the clothing of the Cohen HaGadol atones for: The Mitznefet (mitre) atones for having a coarse spirit.  The Tzitz (golden plate on the mitre) atones for brazenness, and for blood that was dashed or fat that was burned (in the Temple) in a state of impurity.  The Choshen (breastplate) atones for the perversion of justice.  The Me'il (robe) atones for Lashon Hara (evil speech).  The Ephod (apron) atones for idolatry.  The Avnet (girdle) atones for improper thoughts.  The K'tonet (tunic) atones for bloodshed.  The Michnesayim (breeches) atones for immorality.

"And I will dwell among the children of Israel." (Shemot 29: 45) 

It is told about one of the early Tzadikim (Righteous Men), that when he was still a little boy,  his father said to him: "If you tell me where the Holy One Blessed Be He is, I will give you one gold coin".  The little one answered: "If you tell me where he can't be found, I will give you two gold coins, because the Holy One Blessed Be He fills the whole world with His Glory".

A Moral Lesson

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

Parshat "Zachor"

[The Torah Portion of Zachor is read on the Shabbat before Purim.] 
On Wednesday,  the 13th of Adar  (during the week after Parshat Tetzaveh/Zachor,) is the Fast of Esther.  After Mincha, the unwalled cities give a remembrance for the half shekel.  On Thursday, the 14th of Adar, is Purim in the unwalled cities, and the walled cities give a remembrance for the half shekel after Mincha.  Friday the 15th of Adar is Purim in the walled cities. One needs to be careful, at the time when he gives the remembrance for the half shekel, that he shouldn't say "this is for the half a shekel", because it is not appropriate at this time (since we don't have the Temple).   Rather, he should say it's a "Zacher l'mechatzit hashekel" (remembrance for the half shekel). 

The Torah Portion of "Tetzaveh" has 101 verses, 4 positive commandments and 4 negative commandments. Two  Torah scrolls are taken out.  In the first scroll, the Torah Portion for the week is read.  In the second scroll, The Maftir. which is Parshat Zachor, is read from the end of the Torah Portion of Ki Taitzai.The Haftorah is "Ko Amar Hashem Pakaditti" (Shmuel Aleph 16)

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l
Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, February 20, 2012


Why does Torah Portion of T'rumah (in English: an offering or donation), immediately follow the Torah Portion of Mishpatim (in English: judicial laws and ordinances)?  The Ohr HaChaim explains that in order to properly fulfill the Mitzvah of giving Tzedaka (charity), one must first make sure that the money found in one's possession is rightfully and lawfully his.

"And they shall take (to) Me an offering." (Shemot 25:2)   

The commentators ask, shouldn't it have been written "And they shall give"?  The Sages say that more than the rich person gives to the poor person, the poor person gives to the rich person.  By virtue of the poor person's acceptance of a donation from the rich person,  the rich person is able to fulfill the great Mitzvah of Tzedaka.  This is the explanation of "And they shall take" -- that the act of giving is in its very essence an act of taking.

"And they shall take (to) Me an offering." (Shemot 25:2)  

It is written in the Tanach that "Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold".  It would therefore seem that it is not appropriate to speak of giving an offering to the Holy One Blessed Be He, since all the money really belongs to Him.  But the explanation is that the main thing that the Holy One Blessed Be He requests from the Children of Israel is that when we give an offering to Hashem, we should give it with a full heart.  That is why it is written "whose heart makes him willing" (Shemot 25:2).  The physical act of donating  is in itself not doing anything, since "Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold", but the act of giving with a full heart is the main point of the donation.

"From every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take (to) Me an offering." (Shemot 25:2) 

At the time when the Chafetz Chaim was about to construct the building for his Yeshiva, a Jew came to him and said "Rabbi!  Hashem graced me with wealth and I want to merit the great Mitzvah of constructing the Yeshiva  entirely from my funds."   The Chafetz Chaim answered him: "Your intention is praiseworthy, and Hashem should reward you for your good thoughts, but I cannot accept your offer.  The building of a Yeshiva, a place of Torah, is a Mitzvah, and it is necessary to give every Jew the possibility of participating.  Thus we find in the case of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).  The Holy One Blessed Be He said 'From every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take (to) Me an offering'.(Shemot 25:2)  According to the Sages, every single person in Israel had the financial capability to build the Mishkan all by himself.  Nonetheless, the Torah commanded: 'From every man', so that every person in Israel would have a portion in the construction of the Mishkan."

"And they shall make Me a Mikdash (Sanctuary), so that I may dwell among them." (Shemot 25:8) 

Why was it written "among them"? Shouldn't it  have said "within it", that is to say, within the Mikdash?  The Alshich Hakodesh explained that the intention of this verse is that each one of us needs to make a Sanctuary within his own heart, so that it should be a dwelling place for the Shechina (Divine Presence).  Thus, when the verse says "so that I may dwell among them", it  means "within the heart of every single person".

"And they shall make an Aron (in English: Ark)." (Shemot 25:10) 

Regarding the ark it is written "And they shall make", in the plural.  Regarding all the other vessels, it is written "And you shall make", in the singular.  The reason the Ark is different is because the Torah was within the Ark, and the intention of this verse is to show us that all of us are equals when it comes to the Torah, since every single person has a portion in it. (from the Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh)

"And they shall make an Ark of accacia tree-wood;  two and a half Amot (in English cubits) shall be its length, and one and a half Amot shall be its width, and  and one and a half Amot shall be its height." (Shemot 25:10)  

All the measurements of the Ark are not whole numbers: two and a half Amot, one and half Amot,  and one and a half Amot.  This is to hint that someone who learns Torah needs to regard his position as being at only  the half-way point in his journey, and that he has not yet reached wholeness and completion. 

"And they shall make an Ark of accacia tree-wood...And you shall overlay it with pure gold". (Shemot 25:10-11)  

Wood is a plant substance which continually grows; it develops without stopping and it also bears fruit.  In contrast, gold is the substance which is most stable; it doesn't rot or get rusty, and it preserves its qualities against every external influence.  The ark hints at the Torah, which has both the qualities of gold, in that it is eternal, and as well as the qualities of wood, in that it grows and causes others to grow.  The person that occupies himself with Torah renews himself and grows without stopping because he finds within it an infinite depth.

"And they shall make an Ark of accacia tree-wood...And you shall overlay it with pure gold". (Shemot 25:10-11) 

They made the ark of wood and gold.  This is a hint that the Torah belongs to everyone equally, whether we are poor or rich.  The wood hints at poor people and the gold hints at rich people.

"On three things does the world stand, on Torah, on Avodah, and on Gemilut Chasadim." (Avot 1:2)

In the Mishkan we find  hints to the three things which the world stands upon: Torah, Avodah (Divine Service), and  Gemilut Chasadim (Acts of Kindness).  There were 48 boards within the Mishkan, in parallel  to the 48 ways of acquiring the Torah.  The sacrifices represent Divine Service.  And the middle bar (in Hebrew: Briach HaTikon) hints to Acts of Kindness.  The Sages explain that the middle bar was made from the Eshel  (tree) of Avraham Avinu a"h, where he received guests.  It is written in the Targum of Yonatan Ben Uziel that the angels cut down the Eshel of Avraham and threw it into the sea, where it floated on the face of the waters.  The angels shouted that the wood was from the Eshel of Avraham, so the Children of Israel took it and made the middle bar from it.  There were many miracles associated with the middle bar; its measure was 70 Amot and it entered into the walls of the Mishkan from its three sides completely, like a snake.  All this comes to hint to us that if we do these three things (Torah, Divine Service, and Acts of Kindness), this will bring about the revelation of the Shechina (Divine Presence), just like in the Mishkan.

The Mishkan vs. The Second Temple

The Sages say that within the Mishkan which was in the Wilderness, the revelation of  Shechina occurred on a daily basis,  just like on the day of Yom Kippur.  Aharon the Cohen HaGadol was able to enter the Holy of Holies every day just like on Yom Kippur, and so was Moshe Rabeinu.  But in the Temple of Hordus (in English: Herod), even though the Sages said that someone who did not see the building of Hordus never saw a beautiful building all his life, nonetheless  the Kohen HaGadol was only able to enter within the Holy of Holies on the day of Yom Kippur.  The revelation of the Shechina which occurred on Yom Kippur, did not occur every day.  We see from this that even though from an external viewpoint the Temple  was much more beautiful than the Mishkan (which was built from wooden boards and curtains); nonetheless, the main point is the internal aspect and not the external aspect.

The Three "Crowns" in the Mishkkan

There were three Crowns in the Mishkan: the Golden Crown of the Ark which represents the Crown of Torah, the Golden Crown of the sacrificial Altar which represents the Crown of the Kehuna (i.e., the Cohen or Priestly class), and the Golden Crown of the Table which represents the Crown of Kingship.  (from Rashi)  Similarly, there are 3 times that the word "V'Nishma" (in English: "And we will hear") occurs in the Torah, in parallel to these three Crowns.  "Naaseh V'Nishma" ("We will do and we will hear") - this corresponds to the Crown of Torah (regarding the acceptance of the Torah in the Portion of Yitro and the Portion of Mishpatim, Shemot 24:7).  "Y'Nishma Kolo" ("And its voice will be heard") - this corresponds to the Crown of the Cohen (in the Torah Portion of Tetzaveh, Shemot 28:35, regarding the M'eil, the Robe of Aharon HaCohen HaGadol).  "V'Nishma Pitgam HaMelech" ("And the king's saying will be heard") - this corresponds to the Crown of Kingship (from Megillat Esther 1:20).

"And you shall make it a border." (Shemot 25:25)

Regarding the Table, it is written: "And you shall make it a border" (Shemot 25:25).  This comes to hint to us that at the table of a person during his meal, he needs to make a border around it, so that he doesn't fulfill all of his physical desires.  (from Kli Yakar)

"And the Menorah opposite the Table." (Shemot 26:35) 

The Menorah hints to Torah, as it written, "A Candle is a Mitzvah and a Torah is Light".  The Table hints to Parnassah, a Livelihood.  And this is the intention of "And the Menorah opposite the Table", one thing faces the other.  For if there is no flour (Parnassah) there is no Torah, and if there is no Torah there is no Parnassah. (from Meforshim)

"And the Menorah opposite the Table." (Shemot 26:35) 

It is written by the Ramban, that by virtue of the Menorah there is an emanation of blessing and satisfaction to all of Israel, just as in the story about the prophet Elisha (Melachim II:4) -- by virtue of the cruze of oil, all of the vessels were filled with oil.

The Torah Portion of "T'rumah" has 96 verses, 2 positive commandments and 1 negative commandment.  The Haftorah is "V'Hashem Natan Chachma L'Shlomo" (Malachim 1:5)

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben  R' Chaim ztz"l

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mishpatim & Shekalim

The Torah Portion of Mishpatim

"And these are the judgments (or ordinances) which you shall set before them." (Shemot 21:1)  

In Hebrew this verse reads: "V'aileh hamishpatim asher tasim lifnaihem", and the Hebrew letters of each word in this verse form the initial letters of a Hebrew phrase which teaches us something about the judicial process.  From  the letters of "V'aileh", we get: "A person is required to investigate the legal decision".  From "hamishpatim", we get: ""The judge is commanded to make a compromise before holding a trial";  from "asher": "if both sides want".  From "tasim": "Listen to both of them speaking, together (that is, don't hear one side of the case without the other side being present)". From "lifnaihem": "Don't favor the person who is a wealthy philanthropist; act as a stranger to him".  (from Baal Haturim)

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1) 

Rashi says, just as the preceding (laws were given) at Sinai, so these (were given) at Sinai. The Chidushai Harim explains that these legal ordinances make logical sense, and we could have arrived at them from our own understanding (even if they hadn't been given at Sinai).  Therefore, the Torah tells us that all the laws were given at Sinai, because we need to focus on the fact that we are following these laws because they are the will of Hashem, even though we could have arrived at them from our own understanding.

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1) 

It is written in the Zohar that this refers to the arrangement of reincarnations (Gilgulim).  The explanation is that when one person owes a debt to another person and doesn't return it, when he dies he is reincarnated as a horse or donkey, and the other person purchases him. In that way the person returns the debt to the other person.  There was a story in Jerusalem that there was a man who had a donkey that worked for him much more than was usual.  He went and asked a Tzadik (highly righteous man) about it. The Tzadik told him that someone remained financially indebted to him and the donkey was his reincarnation, and if he would say to him "You are pardoned", the donkey would stop doing that.  And so it was; he told the donkey "You are pardoned",  and the donkey died immediately.  There is also a hint about this in the verse "For the horse of Pharaoh came..." Shemot (15:19), that he becomes reincarnated as a horse in order to pay off a debt.  The word Pharoah in Hebrew is similar to the word for repayment.

"...which you shall set before them." (Shemot 21:1) 

Rashi says, like a table which is set and prepared for eating before a person. HaRav HaGaon R' Chaim Yehuda Yakovzon ztz"l explained this by way of analogy to a pharmacy.  In truth, the shelves of a pharmacy are full of medications, but the medicines are not given out without a reason.  They are only given to patients who need the medications.  Similarly, Hashem told Moshe, until now we learned all kinds of essential Mitzvot, such as circumcision, Shabbat, and other similar Mitzvot.  But this section of the Torah you only need to set before them, so that they will be prepared if occasionally it is necessary to administer a punishment.  But it would be better if they didn't need to use these remedies at all.

"...and  he shall cause him to be completely healed." (Shemot 21:19)  

In Hebrew this is written as "Vrapo  yirapeh"; the root of the word for "heal" is repeated (twice).  This is a hint that when one goes to a doctor, it is sometimes necessary to go repeatedly until one becomes healthy.  But the Holy One Blessed Be He says, "I am Hashem Your Healer (or Doctor)" (Shemot 15:26), and here the root for the word "heal" is only written once.  Hashem can heal us all at once.

"...and he shall cause him to be completely healed."  (Shemot 21:19) 

There is a dot in the Hebrew letter "Pay" within the Hebrew words "Vrapo yirapeh", which is a hint that sometimes when we go to a doctor for healing, there is still some remnant of the illness which continues to leave its mark upon us.  But regarding the Holy One Blessed Be He, it is written "Rofecha" (without a dot, so the Hebrew letter is "Fay" instead of "Pay").  When He heals us, no remnant of the illness remains.

"...and he shall cause him to be completely healed." (Shemot 21:19)  

From this verse, permission is given to the doctor to heal.  Someone once came to a Tzadik and told him that he had a sick person in his household and that the doctors had despaired of the possibility of healing him.  The Tzadik answered him that the Sages say that the doctor has permission to heal but not to despair (or cause others to despair).  The Admor of Kotzk ztz"l added, that there is a hint to this in the phrase "despair without knowledge" (in Hebrew "Ye'ush shelo m'daat", referring to a discussion in Baba Metzia about whether one is required to return a lost object if the person doesn't yet know he lost it, but would have despaired of finding it if he knew he lost it). If someone has despaired, it's a sign that he doesn't have knowledge. 

"...and you shall not respond over a dispute..." (Shemot 23:2) 

Rashi says that you should not disagree with the head of the Sanhedrin.  And in the explanation of Rabenu Yonah it is written that you shouldn't answer during a disagreement when others are quarreling with you, but you should just keep quiet.

"From a false matter you shall distance yourself..." (Shemot 23:7)  

We find the language of "distance yourself" only in regards to falsehood, because we need to be especially careful about falsehood.

"From false matter you shall distance yourself..." (Shemot 23:7)  

It is written that "A speaker of falsehoods will not be established before Hashem".  A Tzadik  explained, that from one statement of falsehood one becomes distanced from the Holy One Blessed Be He, and that is the explanation of  "distance yourself" -- that is, you will distance yourself from the Holy One Blessed Be He.

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1)  

The first word of this verse in Hebrew is V'aileh, and the Hebrew letters of this word form the initial letters of the words "La'yehudim Hayta Ora V'Simcha" (in English -- "And the Jews had light and joy") from Megillat Esther 8:16.  This is a hint to the beginning of the month of Adar.

Parshat Shekalim - The Torah Portion about Shekalim (Shekels)

It is written in the Mishna that on the first of Adar they announce about the Shekalim.  In the time of the Temple it was a Torah Mitzvah that everyone would donate a half shekel to the office of donations in the Temple, in order to purchase with that money all of the public sacrificial offerings.

"We compensate for the bulls with our lips." (Hoshea 14:3)

The Sages established during the time when the Temple existed, that on the Shabbat right before the month of Adar (or on the Shabbat which fell on Rosh Chodesh Adar) they would read Parshat Shekalim, because on Shabbat all the people would gather in the synagogues and study halls.  When they would hear about the obligation to donate the half shekel, they would be reminded and encouraged to fulfill that Mitzvah.  In our times when the Temple doesn't exist, and we don't have the sacrificial altar and sacrifices for our atonement, the Mitzvah of collecting the half shekel cannot be fulfilled.  Nonetheless, we read this portion from the Torah on the Shabbat right before Adar, since "we compensate for the bulls with our lips" (Hoshea 14:3).  May the reading be considered as if we fulfilled the Mitzvah in actuality.

Haman's Shekalim

The Sages say that it was revealed and known before the Holy One Blessed Be He that in the future Haman would weigh out Shekalim to the King Ahashvairosh against Israel, and therefore Hashem commanded us to donate Shekalim so that our Shekalim would precede the Shekalim of Haman.

The Four Parshiot, Four Special Torah Portions

The four Parshiot, special Torah portions which are read  at this time of year before Passover, are: Shekalim (about the shekels), Zachor (about remembering Amalek), Parah (about the red cow) , and Hachodesh (about the month of Nisan).  The names of the four portions give us hints about improving ourselves from an ethical  (Mussar) point of view.  1.  Shekalim - one needs to weigh his deeds  (since the word for weighing has the same Hebrew root letters as Shekalim). 2. Zachor - one needs to remember Hashem (since the Hebrew word Zachor refers to remembering).  3. Para - one needs to purify himself (since the Parah Adumah, the red cow, was used for purification).  4. Hachodesh - one needs to renew himself (since the word for renewal has the same Hebrew root letters as Hachodesh, the month).  

The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" has 118 verses, 23 positive commandments and 32 negative commandments.

The Maftir is "Parshat Shekalim" from the beginning of Parshat "Ki Tisa" until the words "Al nafshotaichem".The Haftorah is "Ben Sheva Shanim" (Malachim 2:12)

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben  R' Chaim ztz"l

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


"And Yitro rejoiced..." (Shemot 18:9) 

The explanation is that he was happy, and there are those that explain that his flesh became prickly -- he developed gooseflesh [because he was aggrieved over the destruction of Egypt]. (from Rashi)  [Note: The basis of Rashi's explanation is that the word in Hebrew  "Vayichad" can be simply translated as "rejoiced", but it also has the same root letters as the Hebrew word for "prickly".] Another explanation is that Yitro thought he was coming to the desert to live a life of sorrow and suffering in order to bring himself to the acceptance of the Torah, and now that he came to the desert and saw that they had everything good, he was aggrieved because the Torah was not being received in suffering.  The Sages say that we are given reward for one Mitzvah done in suffering more than for 100 Mitzvot that are done easily. 

"They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the desert of Sinai and they encamped in the desert (or wilderness); and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain." (Shemot 19:2)  

There are 3 preparations for receiving the Torah: 1) "They journeyed from Rephidim...',  means that they left the trait of having weakness of hands, which is laziness. [Note: The basis for this interpretation is that although the word Rephidim is a place name, it is also similar to the Hebrew word "Refayon", which means weakness.] 2) "...and they encamped in the desert (or wilderness)", each one needs to regard himself as if he is a desert (or wilderness) in order to abandon his physical lusts and to humble himself. 3) "...and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain", means that all of Israel were together in unity. [Note:  The basis for this is that the singular verb is used for encamped, and as Rashi interprets it: "as one man, with one heart".] 
(from the Ohr HaChaim)

"...and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain" (Shemot 19:2) 

The word for encamped  in Hebrew ["vayichan"] is similar to the word for "grace" or "favor" in Hebrew ["chain"].  And "opposite the mountain" is a hint about opposing the Evil Inclination.  The Sages say that the Evil Inclination is similar to a mountain, and if everyone will find favor (or grace) in the eyes of his fellow, that is the greatest weapon we can have against the mountain which is the Evil Inclination.  

"All of Israel are guarantors [in Hebrew "aravin"] one for another." 

There is an explanation that each one needs to be sweet to the other one, because although the Hebrew word "aravin" means guarantors (of loans) it is also is similar to a word in Hebrew which means sweetness. 

"You shall not covet your fellow man's house...nor anything that belongs to your fellow man." (Shemot 20:14) 

It can be asked, why was it stated "your fellow man's house", isn't that included in "anything that belongs to your fellow man?"  And the answer that is given (tongue in cheek) is that if a person covets what another has because he has a nice house or other nice things,  he is told to take into account that it's a package deal and if you get everything that belongs to your fellow man that also includes all the sorrows, obligations, and other difficulties.

Translator's Summary and Comments:

From the lessons brought by Rav Gershon Steinberg ztz"l on this week's Torah Portion, as translated in the excerpts above, the important points to remember are:
A.  If you find yourself in a "happy situation", rejoice.  But if you are in a difficult situation, and make an effort to perform a Mitzvah, be happy that the reward you will get for one Mitzvah done in difficulty is 100 times greater than the reward for a Mitzvah done in an easy situation. 
B.  If we really want to receive the Torah, each one of us needs to emulate the Jews at Sinai and 1) start moving - and leave behind the trait of weak hands, laziness, 2) regard one's  own self as a desert, a wilderness, in order to abandon his physical lusts and attain true humility, and 3) be at unity with everyone else, to be as if we are "one man, with one heart".  This last third point is very significant, for if everyone can find grace and favor in the eyes of his fellow man, we can truly overcome the Evil Inclination.   All of Israel are guarantors for each other, we are our brother's keepers, and thus we need to act sweetly to one another. 
C.   The last of the 10 Commandments is that we shouldn't covet, we shouldn't be jealous and envious of what the other fellow has, because we need to remember that while everyone else has nice things that we might want, they also have problems too -- everyone does.  If we look at our fellow man with a good eye, and not with a jealous, "bad eye", it will be much easier to feel empathy for the other person's difficulties, to attain the state of being a nation of "one man, with one heart", and  to merit the Geula Shleima (complete redemption).

The Torah Portion of "Yitro" has 72 verses.The Haftorah is "B'sh'nat Mot Hamelech Uziahu" (Yeshayahu 6)

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beshalach, Shabbat Shira & Tu BiShvat

The Torah Portion of Beshalach

"...And Hashem did not lead them by the way of the land..." (Shemot 13:17)  

Hashem did not lead Israel according to the natural way of the world, in which the drinking water arrives from above and the food arrives from below, but in the desert it was reversed; food came from above (the manna) and drinking water came from below (Miriam's well).

"...And the children of Israel were armed..." (Shemot 13:18)

  [Note: The word "armed" in Hebrew has the same root letters as the word "five".] Rashi explains that one out of five came out and the rest died in the plague of darkness, and the Targum Yonatan explains that each one had 5 children.  The B'air Yosef asks, how is it possible that each one had exactly 5 children? He explains that since 4 out of 5 died in the plague of darkness and those that remained accepted upon themselves the responsibility to care for the orphans of the 4/5 that died, therefore each one had 5 families.  In the merit of this kindness there were miracles done for them, and the Tirgum Yerushalmi adds that it was in the merit of good deeds.  Also there is a verse that says "and I remembered for you the kindness of your youth".

"...And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him..." (Shemot 13:19)  

The Sages say regarding Moshe "...And a wise heart will take Mitzvot...", for everyone was busy with silver and gold while Moshe was busy with the bones of Yosef.  The Sages say: "After a man's death silver and gold do not accompany him, only Torah and good deeds".  That is what is meant by saying and "he took the bones of Yosef 'with him'", because to the upper realms [in the Next World] we take only Mitzvot. (from Kli Yakar)

"...Before Baal Tzefon..." (Shemot 14:2) 

The Daat Zekainim asks how is it that Hashem said to return and gave them a road-mark to do so before Baal Tzefon?  Isn't it forbidden to use a location of idol worship as a road-mark, as it says "...And you shall not mention the names of other gods"?  His answer is, that this was because it was before the giving of the Torah.

"...And Pharoah said to the children of Israel..." (Shemot 14:3) 

Rashi explains that this means "...And Pharoah said about the children of Israel".  Another explanation is given by  the Tirgum Yonatan, who says that Pharoah spoke to Datan and Aviram who remained in Egypt.  It is asked, if they were wicked [and therefore wanted to stay in Egypt], shouldn't they have died in the plague of darkness?  The answer is, they in truth did want to leave  Egypt, and therefore didn't die in the plague of darkness.  But they thought that since it was only for three days, it wasn't worthwhile to go out and afterwards to return.  The secret that the Jews were going out and not returning was not told to them since they were  Malshinim (Slanderers) who would have told Pharoah.

"...And Egypt will know that I am Hashem..." (Shemot 14:4)  

The Gaon HaRav A.M. Shach ztzvk"l explains, for how much time did Egypt know Hashem?  For just a moment before death, for until the very last moment they wanted to make war against Israel.  From this we see how significant is the one moment that "they knew Hashem", for all the miracles and wonders were worthwhile just so that the Egyptians would know Hashem for one moment.  All the moreso, the miracles and wonders were worthwhile for the sake of the children of Israel, who were meant to serve Hashem for all time [and not just for one moment].

"And Pharoah drew close..." (Shemot 14:10)  

[Note: The word for "drew close" in Hebrew is "hikriv", which can also be translated as "to bring a sacrifice".] There are three explanations: 1) Pharoah went first to the war, 2) Pharoah offered a sacrifice to Ba'al Tzefon,  and 3) Pharoah brought the Jews close to our Father in Heaven, since because of him Israel repented (did Teshuvah).

"Hashem will fight for you and you shall remain silent." (Shemot 14:14)  

When they were leaving Egypt, why did the Jews need merits such as the blood of the Passover offering and the blood of circumcision, and here [at the splitting of the sea] it was said to them "you shall remain silent"? The explanation is that Hashem knew beforehand that here they would risk their lives in complete devotion to Hashem (Mesirut Nefesh), for example in the case of Nachshon [who entered the sea before it split], and where there is complete devotion to Hashem that is the greatest of all merits. (from Avnei Nezer)  Similarly, it is asked, why didn't they build the Temple on Har Sinai where the Torah was given? The answer is that Har Hamoriah was a place where a Jew (Yitzchak) exposed his neck to be slaughtered for  Hashem's honor, and therefore it was suitable to build the Temple there, since there is no other place which has a greater honor than that.

Before Kriat Yam Suf (the splitting of the Reed Sea)

Before the splitting of the sea at Yam Suf the children of Israel were divided into four groups. One group said we should shout against the Egyptians; the second said we should make war against them; the third said we should return to Egypt; and the fourth said we should fall into the sea, for it is preferable to die in the sea rather than dying by the sword.  Moshe answered to each of the four groups in an appropriate way.  To the group that said we should fall into the sea, he said " not be afraid, stand still and see the salvation of Hashem..." (Shemot 14:13).  To the group that said we should return to Egypt he said "...for whereas you have seen the Egyptians today, you shall not see them ever again" (Shemot 14:13).  To the group which said to fight with the Egyptians, he said "Hashem will fight for you..." (Shemot 14:14).  To the group which said we should shout against them, he said "...and you shall remain silent" (Shemot 14:14).  (from Yonatan been Uziel)

"Hashem will fight for you and you shall remain silent." (Shemot 14:14) 

If Israel will guard themselves not to speak in the Bait Haknesset and remain silent, then the Holy One Blessed Be He will fight for them. (from the Zohar Hakodesh)

"...and the waters were split." (Shemot 14:21)  

Rashi says all the waters in the world were split, and on a simple level this was in order to publicize the miracles throughout all the world.  There are those that explain that this was in order to cause the Egyptians to err.  Pharoah was a great king and had many wise counselors, so how could it be that they saw the waters splitting for Israel and were not afraid to enter?  If they were seeing an open miracle for Israel how could they think that they could be saved?  The answer is, that they saw that all the waters in the world were being split, and they said that this was not connected to Israel but was just a natural event.   This is what the Targum means when it translates "the waters were piled up"  (Shemot 15:8) as "the waters were intelligent"; the waters did something intelligent and cunning in order to cause Pharoah to err.  But it can be asked, how did the waters do something that they weren't commanded to do?  And also, why did the Egyptians deserve a punishment?  Weren't they fulfilling the command of Hashem who said to Avraham "and they will enslave them and they will oppress them"? (Braishit 15:13) However, it is because the Egyptians went beyond  the decree of enslavement.  Hashem didn't tell them to throw the boys into the Nile river, or to put the children into the walls.  If so, the waters said, just as the Egyptians went beyond Hashem's decree, we also will go beyond what Hashem decreed.  Also, with regards to the plague of darkness it says in the Psalms that "He sent darkness and it became dark", and the Sages explained, it became even more dark, "and they [the forces that increased the darkness] didn't rebel against His word".  Why wasn't it considered a rebellion?  Just as the Egyptians went beyond the  decree of slavery, so it was permissible for the darkness to increase itself. (from B'air Yosef)

"...And Israel saw the great hand..." (Shemot 14:31)  

What caused Nachshon to hurry and enter the water?  "The great hand" of the daughter of Pharoah that stretched out her hand and Hashem lengthened her arm.  Nachshon said, I will enter the sea and Hashem will help, and that is what is meant by "...And Israel saw the great hand...".


Rav Yisrael Ben Levi says that everyone that says songs of praise (Shira) in this world merits to say songs of praise in the Next World (from Sanhedrin 91).  Everyone who says the song of the sea with great happiness, has all his sins forgiven. (from Midrash Tehillim 18)

"This is my G-d, and I will glorify Him..." (Shemot 15:2)  

The Sages say, be glorious before him with Mitzvot - a beautiful Tallit, a beautiful Succah, etc.  And it is necessary to understand why the explanation about beautifying the Mitzvot  is connected to the Torah Portion of Shira (the Song of the Sea), for it should have been appropriate to reveal this concept in one of the Torah Portions which speaks of the fulfillment of the Mitzvot, such Tzitzit, Succah, etc.  The explanation is that besides enabling Israel  to pass through the Sea, Hashem added many more miracles in the Sea, as is explained in the Midrash: many kinds of fruits grew, and there were many kinds of plants, spices, sweet water, and windows within the walls of the sea, etc.  Since Hashem added miracles for us much more than what was necessary, we should certainly add to the Mitzvot much more than what is required by law by making each Mitzvah beautiful and glorious as much as possible. (from Oznaim L'Torah)  In addition, there are those that explain that if we look at Rashi in the Torah Portion Vayeitze (29:35), he wrote "This time I will thank because I have taken more than my portion, and from now on I need to thank".  [with regards to Leah when she bore more than 1/4 of Yaakov's children]  It is clarified that the concept of thankfulness comes into play especially in response to recognition that we are getting more than we deserve. Therefore at the Sea we come to the expression of thankfulness by means of beautifying the Mitzvot because of the recognition and acknowledgement that we have received more than we deserved from the Holy One Blessed Be He.  We express in response to that our will to serve Hashem more than we are commanded to and required to.  And there are those that say that the reason  that Israel accepted upon themselves to beautify the Mitzvot, was that the fifth miracle which was done at the Sea (look at the Rav Ovadia Bartenura in Ethics of the Fathers Chapter 5 Mishne 4) was that the waters that "froze" on the floors of the Sea were not all in one piece but were like building blocks that were interlocked, and that certainly was in order to make it beautiful for Israel.

Tu BiShvat 

There is a custom to eat on different kinds of fruit from trees, and especially from the fruit of the Land of Israel, on Tu BeShvat (to fulfill the idea of making symbols for ourselves), to show that this day is the New Year for the Trees (in regards to the matter of Trumot and Maaserot, etc.).  And it is customary to pray also for a beautiful Etrog.

The Torah Portion of "Beshalach" has 116 verses.The Haftorah is "V'Devora Isha Naviah" (Shoftim 4)

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben  R' Chaim ztz"l

Shabbat Shalom!