Monday, July 30, 2012

Va'etchanan, Shabbat Nachamu & Tu B'Av


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haftorah: "Nachamu Nachamu Ami"

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

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

Tu B'Av

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

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

What else happened on Tu B'av?

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

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

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

 Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Devorim & Shabbat Chazon

The Torah Portion of Devorim

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

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

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

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

And why did Moshe speak in hints?

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

Another explanation for why Moshe shortened the rebuke at the beginning:

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

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

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

Haftorah and Tisha B'av

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

A story is written in one of the books of the Rama:  

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

The Torah Portion of Devorim has 105 verses.   2 negative commandments.

Haftora: "Chazon Yishayahu" (Yishayahu 1).

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

Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness.

Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Matot & Masei

The Torah Portion of Matot

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

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

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

One should not begin immediately to speak, but rather should think beforehand whether or not there are any words of forbidden speech in what he is going to say.  (Ben Ish Chai)  

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

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

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

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

The Torah Portion of Masei

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

Rosh Chodesh of Menachem Av is the day of Aharon's death (i.e. his Yahrzheit).  This is the only Yarhzheit written explicitly in the Torah, and also the Torah Portion of Masei is always read  in the week of his Yahrzheit. He passed away 3284 years ago.  The calculation is thus: from the destruction of the Second Temple there are 1944  years,  add another 420 years for when the Second Temple stood, and another 70 years when there was exile (between the two Temples), and another 410 years for when the First Temple stood, and 440 years from the entry into the land until the First Temple.  (The basis for the 440 years from the entry into the land until the building of the First Temple is as follows: It was written in the book Melachim that it was 480 years after the children of Israel went out from Egypt that Shlomo built the First Temple, and subtract 40 from that during which Israel was in the desert, for Aharon passed away at the end of the 40 years.)  The result of the calculation is 3284 years.

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

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

There are 1944 years from the destruction of the Second Temple.

The counting of the non-Jewish calendar began 68 years before the destruction of the Second Temple. (Note that 68 is equal to the Gematria of the word "Chaim",  i.e., "Life" in English.) Subtract 68 years from their reckoning of the year, which according to their counting is currently 2012, and the result is that from the destruction of the Second Temple there are 1944 years. 

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

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

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

His father was a holy and righteous person, and merited to have a son like Rashi, as a result of a famous story: he gave up on a diamond when he "accidentally" dropped it into the sea, because the non-Jews wanted to take it to use it for idolatry.  Rashi didn't have any sons but had daughters.  His grandchildren included the brothers Rabbeinu Tam, Rashba"m, Rib"m.  And Rabbeinu Shlomo ben Rabbeinu Meir (mentioned one time in the Gemarra in Tosefot Pesachim 105b).  Before he publicized his writings on the Torah, he fasted 613 fasts.   The letters of the name "Rashi" are the initial letters of the words "Rabban Shel Yisrael" (the Rabbi of Israel).  He passed away 907 years ago on the 29th of Tammuz, 4865. May his memory protect us, Amen.

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

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

Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness.

Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, July 9, 2012


Pinchas is called "Eliyahu the angel of the Brit (Covenant or Circumcision)".  It is written in the Holy Zohar, that Eliyahu said to Hashem (in the book of Melachim) that the people of Israel transgressed your Brit (Covenant).  Therefore Hashem said to him,  because you are accusing Israel, you are required to attend every Brit Mila (Circumcision).  The Ari asks, what kind of a punishment is it that he needs to participate in a Brit? On the contrary it is a great Mitzvah!  The explanation is, that he needs to miss out on some of the Chiddushim (new Torah thoughts) in the Heavenly Yeshiva, because occasionally in the middle of the Chiddush (new Torah thought), he needs to go down to participate in a Brit.

"...And he atoned for the children of Israel." (Bamidbar 25:13) 

It is written in the Midrash, that someone who participates in a Brit Mila (Circumcision), has all of his sins atoned for.  And that is hinted at in the verse: "...And he atoned for the children of Israel". (Bamidbar  25:13) And so it is brought in the Gemara Pesachim (114) in Tosefot, that everyone who enjoys the festive meal at a Brit Mila (Circumcision), is saved from the decree of Gehinom.

"...Because he took vengence for his G-d, and he atoned for the children of Israel." (Bamidbar 25:13)  

It is told that once Maran HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz"l participated in the Brit Mila (Circumcision) of his grandson, and said, that it is written in the Midrash, that Eliayahu said to Hashem that he is not able to tolerate going to a place where there are transgressors. [As it was stated in "Tana D'vei Eliyaha", that one time Rav Yehoshua ben Levi was walking with Eliyahu,  and Rav Yehoshua ben Levi said that he sensed a bad smell from a dead animal, and wasn't able to tolerate it.  Eliyahu said to him, that he doesn't sense any bad smell.  After that they went to another place, and Eliyahu told him that he wasn't able to stand there, because there was a bad smell, and he explained that it was because in that place there were transgressors.  But Rav Yehoshua ben Levi didn't sense that.]  And  therefore, Eliyahu told Hashem that he wasn't able to go to Brit Mila ceremonies.  Hashem said to Him, I will atone for the transgressions of those who participate in a Brit.  And HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman asked: Is a Brit Mila (Circumcision) more important than Yom Kippur, about which the Sages said that it atones only by means of Teshuvah (Repentance)?  For that was the Psak (legal decision) of the Rambam (but Rabi reasoned that Yom Kippur atones even without repentance).  And HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman came up with  a Chiddush (new Torah thought), that just as there is a physical air purifier, also there is a spiritual air purifier.  The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Eliyahu, I will purify the air from transgressions, and then you will be able to participate in Brit Mila ceremonies without sensing the presence of transgressors.  And certainly, Brit Mila ceremonies are a propitious time to get closer to Hashem.  And in the aforementioned Brit Mila ceremony, Maran Rav Yechezkel Avramski ztz"l was also a participant, and he commented that in the Midrash there were no distinctions written (regarding how much participating in a Brit Mila atones), but rather it is written that it is Hashem who atones, in any event (whether it is Yom Kippur or a Brit Mila, etc.).  And also in the book "Bnei Yissachar", it is said about  the Midrash on the verse "...Because he took vengence for his G-d, and he atoned for the children of Israel", (Bamidbar 25:13)  that Hashem gave power to Pinchas - who is Eliyahu - to atone at every Brit Mila (Circumcision), for all generations.

The Torah Portion of Pinchas has 168 verses.  6 positive commandments.

Haftora: "Divrei Yirmiyahu" (Yirmiyahu 1).

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

Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, July 2, 2012


It has been asked: Rashi says that the non-Jews requested a prophet, so Hashem gave them Bilaam as a prophet.  The Sages said that his power was like the power of Moshe, as has been explained on the verse, "And there has not arisen a prophet in Israel like Moshe" (Devorim 34:10), that in Israel there hasn't arisen, but in the non-Jews there has arisen a prophet like Moshe.  If so, how was he such an evil person?  Didn't Hashem speak with him?  The explanation is by way of a parable: two women cooked the same food, and by one of them the food came out with a good and pleasant taste and smell.  But by the second one the food came out with a bad taste and smell.  The second one asked her friend:  "Behold, both of us cooked the same food, so why did mine come out spoiled?"  The first one replied: "Tell me, did you wash the pot well before you cooked in it?"  The second one told her: "I didn't wash the pot."  The first one answered her: "If so, the matter is understood, you cooked the good food inside a dirty pot, and therefore the food came out that way."  Similarly, Moshe prepared himself to be a beautiful vessel by means of Mitzvot and good deeds, as we found that when he was a shepherd he had compassion for the flocks, and then he was pure and clean to receive the indwelling of the Divine Presence, and arose to the heights in prophesy.  That was not the case by Bilaam, who was dirty and polluted, and spoiled all the goodness that he received.

"Whose eye is opened (or pierced.)"  (Bamidbar 24:3). 


It is told that during the Holocaust, there was a wicked Nazi, may his name be erased, and he had one artificial eye.  He grabbed a Jew and told him that he had to tell him which eye was real and which one was artificial, and if he doesn't know, he will kill him.  The Jew prayed to Hashem and succeeded to tell him which one was the real eye.  He asked him: "How did you succeed to distinguish it?"  The Jew answered him, that he sees in one eye that hatred for Jews is burning in it, and in the second eye he doesn't see that, and so he knew which was the true eye.

"Fallen down and with uncovered eyes" (Bamidbar 24:4). 

It has been said in the name of a particular Tzaddik (righteous man) that this hints that all of a person's falls are only because he doesn't guard his eyes.

Yitchak said (to Ya'akov when he blessed him) those who curse you will be cursed and those who bless you will be blessed (Braishit 27:29), and Bilaam said the opposite, those who bless you will be blessed and those who curse you will be cursed (Bamidbar 24:9).  Yitzchak truly wanted to bless, and therefore finished at the end with a blessing, but Bilaam's intention was to curse, and therefore finished at the end with a curse.  Rashi in the Torah Portion of Toldot explains that for righteous people, their beginning is suffering and their end is tranquility, and their curses and sorrows precede their blessings, and therefore Yitzchak the curse on those who cursers to the blessing on the blessers.  For wicked people, their beginning is tranquility and in the end suffering; therefore Bilaam said his blessing before his curse.

Words of Encouragement about Prayer

"Also if I will shout and I will cry out for help my prayer is blocked" (Eicha 3:8).  

The word "blocked" in Hebrew is written like "Sh'tum" (with the Hebrew letter Shin as the first letter)  but read like "S'tum" (with the Hebrew letter Samech as the first letter). The explanation of the word "Sh'tum", written with a Shin as the first Hebrew letter is "opened", as in the verse from this week's Torah Portion: "Whose eye is opened" (Bamidbar 24:3).  That is to say, even though my mouth is blocked, it is opened a little bit to pray to Hashem in the direction of the Land of Israel, and to send the prayer by way of the Gate of Heaven, as our Rabbis of Blessed Memory said in the Gemara Brachot (30a).  (from the Shl"a)  The Ibn Ezra and the Ramban write that the word "Sh'tum" (opened) is found only one time in the Scriptures, in this week's Torah Portion "Whose eye is opened" (Bamidbar 24:3).  But according to the Shl"a it is also present in Eicha (3:8) according to the written form but not according to how it is read.

It is written in the Halacha (Jewish law) that it is necessary to pray as if counting money. But apparently we see that the cashier in a bank counts the money quickly, and today there is a machine that counts the money at great speed.  So how is it possible to compare prayer to counting money?  The answer is that it is possible to count quickly only when all the bills are of one kind, but if one needs to count different kinds of money, such as Shekels, Dollars, and Sterling, and he has bills of 100 and bills of 50 and of 20, then it is not possible to count quickly.  And that is the intention, that in prayer every word is a complete subject in and of itself, and the Anshei Knesset HaGedola (Men of the Great Assembly) intended within each word very many meanings, and that is the explanation of "as if counting money".

The Torah Portion of Balak has 104 verses.  Haftora: "V'haya Shaarit Ya'akov" (Micha 5)

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

Shabbat Shalom!