Sunday, October 28, 2012


The Torah Portion of Vayeira 5773

"...and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day."  (Bereisheet 18:1)

The Sages say that Avraham sits next to the opening of Gehinom and doesn't allow anyone to enter that is circumcized, and that is what is hinted at in the verse by "sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day".  The "heat of the day" is referring to Gehinom which burns like fire.

"...and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent..."  (Bereisheet 18:2)

Why did he already start running from the entrance of the tent?  The explanation is that according to the Halacha, someone who is going to do a Mitzvah needs to run, and someone who is returning from doing a Mitzvah needs to walk slowly.  And if he returns from doing one Mitzvah and is going to do a different Mitzvah, if the two Mitzvot are of equal value, then the first half of the way he needs to walk slowly and afterwards he needs to hurry.  But if the second Mitzvah is greater and more important, then he needs to hurry from the start.  Therefore, since the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (hospitality -- receiving guests) is greater and more important than receiving the face of the Shechina (the Divine Presence), he needed to run already as soon as he started going to do the Mitzvah, and that was "from the entrance of the tent".

"...Shall I hide from Avraham that which  I am doing...For I have known him, because he commands his children and his household after him"  (Bereisheet 18:17-19)

Hashem revealed to Avraham that he wanted to overthrow Sodom, and we need to understand the connection between Hashem's need to notify Avraham about the destruction of Sodom and Hashem's knowledge that Avraham  "commands his children".  Those who explain the Torah say that this can be understood by means of a parable.  When an old man enters a store to buy himself a garment, he tries on a lot of clothes until he finds a garment that fits him.  In contrast, a father of a large family doesn't check the size of the clothes, but rather takes everything that looks suitable because in any event he won't lose out. If a garment doesn't fit one of his bigger children it will fit one of his smaller children.  Similarly, when the Holy One Blessed Be He wanted to overthrow Sodom, he wanted Avraham to pray for them.  And even though the prayers would not be effective for the men of Sodom, who were very evil, and those people would be removed from the world, in any event  the prayers of Avraham Avinu would not be wasted.  They would be a merit for his children and for the generations after him, and that is the explanation of "he commands his children and his household after him".

"And Hashem remembered Sarah..."  (Bereisheet 21:1)

Rashi says that someone who prays for his friend, and he needs the same thing (for which he is praying on behalf of his friend), the one who is praying is answered first (i.e., his needs are fulfilled before his friend's needs are fulfilled).  It is told that someone came to complain before a particular Tzaddik (Righteous Man), that his friend had opened a store next to his own store and was selling the same type of merchandise.  The Tzaddik answered him, pray that customers will come to your friend and in any event, you too will be blessed because of your prayer.

The Torah Portion of Vayeira has 147 verses. Haftora: "Va'isha Achat Min'shei V'nei HaN'vi'im" (Melachim 2:4). 

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

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lech Lecha

The Torah Portion of Lech Lecha 

"...Go for yourself..." (Bereisheet 12:1)

Rashi says, "for your pleasure and for your benefit".  It is told about the Tzaddik (Righteous Man) Ba'al HaMaor Ainayim that he was very involved in performing the Mitzvah of Pidyon Sh'vuyim (redeeming captives).  One time the Ba'al HaMaor Ainayim himself was a captive for a short time period, and it was revealed to him from Heaven that Hashem wanted him to experience for himself how it felt to be in captivity, so that he would know the greatness of the Mitzvah that he was involved in.  Also with regards to Avraham, Hashem told him "Go for yourself, for your pleasure", so that when you will feel the suffering entailed by those who are traveling and the pleasure that they feel when they find a place to stay, you will know the greatness of the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (hospitality -- receiving guests) that you perform.

"...from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house..." (Bereisheet 12:1)

There is a hint here to that which is written in Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot 3:1): "Look at three things and you will not come into the hands of a sin -- know from where you came, to where you are going, and before Whom you are to give a judgment and an accounting in the future." "From your land"-- this is referring to the dust of the earth, and this is "to where you are going".  "From your birthplace" -- this is referring to the origin of your birth, and this is "from where you came".   "And from your father's house" -- this is referring to our Father in Heaven, and  in the future you will give before Him a judgment and an accounting.

"...and the souls that they made in Charan..."  (Bereisheet 12:5)

It is told in the Midrash, that one time Avraham Avinu hosted a guest who was an elderly 90 year old man.  After the man finished eating and drinking, Avraham told him to cast off his idol worship, and he spoke with him for 6 hours in order to convince him and bring him close to Hashem.  In the end the man took out his idol from his pocket and kissed it.  Avraham said to him, "I gave you food and drink and spoke to you for 6 hours on this topic, and you still stuck to your opinion (to continue worshipping idols)",  and he sent him away from his house.  When the man left, the Holy One Blessed Be He said to Avraham, "I kept him alive for 90 years, because maybe he would do Teshuva (repent), and you, after only 6 hours, gave up on him".  Immediately, Avraham went to look for the man, and begged him not to go now during the night when there are dangers on the road and dangerous animals, saying "Come back to me and I will give you a place to stay the night".  And that is what the man did, and the next day Avraham again spoke to his heart for many hours until the man repented.  From here we learn that one should never give up on any student, and even though he doesn't succeed in the beginning, he should  return and try again and with the help of Hashem he will succeed, and he will see blessing and Nachat (satisfaction) from every single student.

"And it occurred, as he was about to come to Mitzrayim, he said to his wife Sarai, 'Behold, now have I known that you are a woman of fair appearance'."  (Bereisheet 12:11)

The Ramban writes that Avraham Avinu inadvertently sinned a great sin when he brought his wife to the possibility of stumbling in a sin when he was afraid that they would kill him, and he should have trusted in Hashem to save him and his wife and everything that he had, for Elokim has the power to help and to save.  Furthermore, his leaving the Land of Israel because of the famine, after he had previously been commanded to enter it, was also a transgression in which he sinned.  For also in a famine, Elokim can save one from death.  And because of this event, it was decreed upon his descendents exile in the land of Mitzrayim at the hand of Pharoah.  In the place of judgment, there is the evil and the sin (see Kohelet 3:16). Maran HaGaon Rav Eleazar Menachem Man Shach ztz"l asks, from where does the Ramban know this, since we don't find it written in the Gemara or Midrash?  And he explains that it is is written, "The secret of Hashem is to those who fear Him" (Tehillim 25:14).  The Holy One Blessed Be He reveals secrets to those who fear Him.

"And he proceeded on his journeys..." (Bereisheet 13:3)

Rashi says that on his return, he repaid his debts.  When he went to Mitzrayim, he borrowed from the lodging places that he rested at, because he didn't have money.  And upon returning, since he had become wealthy, he repaid his debts.  And there is an additional explanation, that the non-Jews asked him provocative questions: "You who are so attached to Hashem and rely upon Him, how is it that you are a poor person and Hashem doesn't help you?"  And he answered them, "You will yet see that there will come a time that I will be very rich".  And that is the explanation that on his return he repaid his debts, that is to say, that he was required to give them an answer to their questions, and he showed them that Hashem helped him.

"On his return he repaid his debts."  (Rashi on Bereisheet 13:3)

When a man learns something the first time, he has questions and doesn't understand.  But when he returns (i.e., reviews), it becomes more clear to him, and that is what is hinted about "on his return..."  When one reviews  another time, he repays his debts -- he finds an answer to his questions.

"And there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Avram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock..."  (Bereisheet 13:7)

In the beginning the word used to refer to their arguing was "Reev"   (in English: "quarreling"), which is a masculine word, and afterwards the word used was "M'reeva" (in English: "strife"), which is a feminine word.  For the way of quarreling is that it begins with a small matter, like a male which doesn't give birth, and afterwards it is like a female, which does give birth, for the quarreling and divisiveness spread out.  And this is a Mussar (Ethical) teaching, that one should not start a quarrel at all, because it is impossible to know what it will give birth to afterwards. 

"And the angel of Hashem said to her, 'Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to suffer under her hand'."  (Bereisheet 16:9)

Why does the verse add "under her hand"?  Behold, it is sufficient for the verse to say "Return to your mistress and submit yourself to suffer".   But rather, the intention of what the angel said to her, is that if it is decreed upon  a person to undergo suffering, nothing can help him and no matter where he flees to he will still undergo the suffering.  And that is why the angel said to Hagar, "Return to your mistress and submit yourself to suffer under her hand".  It is worthwhile and preferable for you to suffer under the hand of Sarah rather than suffering someplace else.

"On that very day was Avraham circumcised, and Yishmael his son."  (Bereisheet 17:26)

Rashi wrote that "on that very day" means that on the day when 99 years were filled for Avraham and 13 years were filled for Yishmael, they were circumcised.  The Ramban explains that "on that very day" that he was commanded in this Mitzvah, he and all those who were born in his house, 318 men and all those purchased of his money, were circumcised.  And the verse comes to tell us the great level of Avraham's fear of Hashem, and the level of all the members of his household, for all of them were alacritous to fulfill Mitzvot without delay.

The Torah Portion of Lech Lecha has 126 verses. One positive commandment.
Haftora: "Lama Tomar Ya'akov" (Yeshayahu 40). 
We say Borchi Nafshi.

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, October 15, 2012


The Torah Portion of Noach 

"These are the offspring of Noach -- Noach was a righteous man..." (Bereisheet 6:9)

At the time when a Tzaddik (Righteous Man) leaves this world without children, he is distressed and cries.  The Holy One Blessed Be He says to him, "Why are you distressed and crying that you didn't beget any children?  I have a fruit that is more beautiful than children, the Torah which you occupied yourself with."  For so it is written in Proverbs (11:30):  "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life", and there is no tree of life other than Torah, as it is said, "It is a tree of life to those who uphold it" (Proverbs 3:18).  The verse "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life", refers to Noach.  Our Rabbis said that Noach did not pass away until he saw all the world resettled, ... and until he saw seventy nations who were his descendents, and none of this was remembered -- only his righteousness, as it is said "These are the offspring of Noach -- Noach was a righteous man", and it is not written Shem, Ham, and Yaphet, but rather his righteousness.  You should know that this verse ( "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life" -- Proverbs 11:30) is speaking about Noach, because at the end of the verse it is written "and a wise man takes souls" (Proverbs 11:30).  This refers to Noach who took souls, and would support and feed them (i.e. the other people and animals who were with him in the ark).  (from Midrash Tanchuma as published by Buber)

"Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva (the ark) ..."  (Bereisheet 6:16)

There are two explanations for the Hebrew word "Tzohar"; there are those who say it means a window, and there are those who say it means a diamond.  The Hebrew word "Teiva", in addition to meaning "ark" in English, also means "word" in English.  Based on this, teachers of Mussar (Ethics) say that every word that you bring out of your mouth needs to enlighten, that is, one should bring out his words in Torah and prayer, and do it in such a way that those words will spread light.

"Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva (the ark or the word) and to an Amah (cubit) you shall finish it from above.  The Petach (entrance) of the ark  you shall make in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks."  (Bereisheet 6:16)

It is told about the Gaon R' Yehuda Tzadka ztz"l Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, that he was always accustomed to say every blessing with three pauses, for example:  1) Baruch Atah Hashem (Blessed are You Hashem), 2) Elokeinu Melech Haolom (Our G-d King of the universe), 3) Shehakol Nih'ye Bid'varo (that everything exists at Your word).    After he passed away, he came in a dream to one of his grandsons, and told him the verse "Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva...", emphasizing the interpretation that "Teiva" means "word".  During a blessing, one should express his words clearly like a "Tzohar", which is related to the Hebrew word for light.  An "Amah" is a Hebrew measurement which is usually translated as a cubit.  The three letters of the Hebrew word Amah (Aleph, Mem and Hey)  are the Roshei Teivot (beginning letters) of the Hebrew words "Elokeinu Melech Haolom"  ("Our G-d King of the universe").  So the message here is that when one says a blessing, it should be with Kavana (intention) that the One he is saying it to is Our G-d King of the universe.  The word "Petach" (entrance) which appears in the phrase "an entrance of the ark you shall make in its side", hints to us about the Evil Inclination, as it it written "at the Petach (entrance) sin crouches" (Bereisheet 4:7).  This means that in the merit of saying a blessing properly, one can overcome the Evil Inclination.  And regarding "bottom, second, and third decks",  the meaning of this is that you should make three pauses in every single blessing.

"...and from the animal which is not pure..."  (Bereisheet 7:8)

The Torah used an extra eight Hebrew letters in order to speak in a clean language (by saying "and from the animal which is not pure", instead of " and from the impure animal").  It has been asked, "Don't we see that many times the Torah does explicitly use the word 'impure'?"  The explanation is, that when the Torah writes a Halacha (a religious law), it needs to be in a way which is clear and explicit so that we won't make any mistakes in following the Halacha, but in a story about an event, which would not cause us to err, the Torah uses a clean language in order to teach us how we should speak.

Words of Chizuk (Encouragement)

The Sages say that the Seal of the Holy One Blessed Be He is Truth.  There are those that explain this by saying, that when you look at the letters and words that are on a Seal, they superficially seem to be backwards, but when you use the Seal to sign a document, the letters and words come out properly.  Similarly, there are occasionally people who when they do not understand the ways of Hashem, they immediately have complaints, G-d forbid.  On this we can say to them, that the Seal superficially appears to be backwards, but if we look carefully at the matter we will see that it is straight, because Hashem's leadership and Seal are precise and true and straight.

The Torah Portion of Noach has 153 verses. Haftora: "Rani Akara", and "Ania So'ara" until  "Ki Pa'arach" (Yeshayahu 54). 

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

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The Torah Portion of Bereisheet 

"A Good Beginning."

A teacher said to his students: "Don't say that we have passed the Holidays, but rather, Baruch Hashem we have gained the Holidays, and Baruch Hashem we have also gained many Mitzvot."

"Rabbi Yitzchak said..." (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:1)

Rashi began his Commentary on the Torah with the comment "Rabbi Yitzchak said..."  The source of this comment is from the Yalkut Shimoni.  The "Be'er Mayim Chaim" wrote that Rashi began with this particular comment in order to honor his father, who was called Rabbi Yitzchak, in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of honoring one's father and mother.

"Rabbi Yitzchak said..." (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:1)

Rashi began his Commentary on the Torah with the letter Aleph, "Amar R' Yitzchak" (in English:  "Rabbi Yitzchak said").  And he finished his Commentary on the Torah Portion of V'Zot HaB'racha with the letter Tav, "Yishar Cochacha She'Shavarta" (In English: "May your strength be straight for having shattered the Tablets").  This is to hint to us that Rashi's commentary was inclusive from Aleph until Tav (from the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet to the last), and didn't miss anything. (from the Gaon R' M.D. Halperin ztz"l)

"In the beginning of G-d's creating the heavens and the earth -- and the earth was bewilderment and void..." (Bereisheet 1:1-2)

First of all a Jew needs to believe that Hashem created the heavens and the earth, and from that he will understand that all of this world is bewilderment and void. 

"...Let there be a firmament..." (Bereisheet 1:6)

Rashi says that the heavens were wobbly on the first day.  The Holy One Blessed Be He shouted at them on the second day ("Let there be a firmament"), and because of that they are standing in fear and awe until today.  Because of this we have the term "fear of Heaven".  Just as the heavens always stand in fear and awe, so the Tzaddik (Righteous Person) is always in fear and awe (of Hashem).

"It is not written on the second day that it was good."  (Rashi on Bereisheet 1:7)

Rashi says that the work of the second day was not completed until the third day, and that is why it doesn't says "Ki Tov" (that it was good) on the second day. The Sages say the reason is because it was written on the second day about the division between the upper waters and lower waters, and where there is divisiveness it is not appropriate to say that it is good.  Machloket (divisiveness or quarreling) is the opposite of goodness.

A Story about Rabbeinu Bachya (author of Chovot HaLevavot)

Rabbeinu Bachya had many arguments in his days with non-believers of various kinds.  One time they told him that there was a world famous artist who had made a very beautiful painting and they showed it to him.  He said to them that the painting was made during the night by a monkey who had come, and next to the monkey was a bottle of ink, and he spilled the ink on the canvas and the result was this picture...They said to him, an astute person like you, how can you say such things?  How is it possible that this was done by a monkey?  He said to them, also you say things like that, that this world with a sun and moon and all the creations, with all the plants and animals, happened by itself without the existence of a Creator and Leader of the World.  And in this way he convinced them.

A Similar Story about Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi

Similarly, it is told about Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi z"l that he had a neighbor who was  a non-Jewish poet, and he had arguments with him about faith in Hashem.  One time the non-Jew wrote a song on his table in the courtyard and was not able to finish it with a nice ending.  Meanwhile he went for a walk in the forest, thinking that perhaps he would find some kind of nice ending.  Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, who was also a great poet, saw this.  On the man's table was a pen with ink, and Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi took the pen and finished the song in a beautiful way.  When the non-Jew returned he saw his song's ending, that it was very beautiful, and he thought to himself, certainly my neighbor Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi finished it.  And he asked him: "Did you write this ending?"  Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi answered him that it happened by itself.  The neighbor said to him: "An astute person like you, how can you say things like that?"  Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi answered him: "Your ears should hear what your mouth is saying.  Two lines can't be written by themselves, and a beautiful world like this, how was that created by itself???!!!"  And he convinced him.

"...Dust shall you eat..."  (Bereisheet 3:14)

Hashem gave a punishment to the snake that "dust shall you eat".  Doesn't this seem to be good for him, because he will have sufficient food in every place that he goes?  The explanation is that in truth, this is bad.  This is similar to a parable about a king who was angry at his son and gave him a lot of money and sent him away from his table.  He said to him: "I don't want to see you.  You have enough money, go and support yourself in any place that you want, but by me you are not welcome to have your foot step inside my house any more."  Applying the parable to the snake's situation, we find that all of the living creatures have a connection with Hashem and always request food from the Holy One Blessed Be He.  But the snake has no connection to the Holy One Blessed Be He, for He said to him "You will have food in any place that you want, but not from me".

"And Kayin (Cain) rose up against his brother Hevel (Abel) and killed him."  (Bereisheet 4:8)

The Sages say that they argued about apportioning the world, and they agreed between themselves that Kayin would take for his portion the land (real estate) and Hevel would take for his portion the movable property.  And therefore they quarelled, because Kayin said to Hevel that he should fly in the air and not have his foot walk on the ground since it belonged to him, and Hevel said to Kayin that he should give him the clothing that he was wearing.  Maran HaGaon Rav Eleazar Menachem Man Shach ztz"l asks, what are the Sages coming to tell us by saying this?  The answer is that it is in order for us to contemplate this: that even if all of the world is his, all of the countries great and small, in any event if a person doesn't work on his Middot (character traits) he is liable to arrive at the lowest level so that he won't able to stand that another person would walk on his land.

"And Noach found favor in Hashem's eyes."   (Bereisheet 6:8)

The Midrash says that if someone who is "Noach L'briot" (in English: "easygoing with others"), he will find favor in Hashem's eyes.

The Torah Portion of Bereisheet has 146 verses. It has one positive commandment.Haftora: "Ko Amar HaKail"  (Yeshayahu 42). 

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