Monday, November 26, 2012


The Torah Portion of Vayishlach

"...I have sojourned with Lavan..."  (Bereisheet 32:5)

Rashi explains this to mean that "I kept the 613 commandments", since the Gematria of the Hebrew word "Garti" (in English: "I have sojourned") is 613.  This presents a difficulty, since there are many Mitzvot such as the laws relating to a Cohen and the laws related to Leprosy, etc., that Yaakov did not fulflll, so how was it possible for him to say that he observed the 613 Mitzvot? In answer to this, it has been explained in Kiryat Sefer (in the Introduction, Chapter 7), that it is possible for every person to fulfill all the 613 Mitzvot, by means of reading and learning about each and every Mitzvah in the Torah, for learning about the Mitzvot is equivalent to performance of the Mitzvot.  This is similar to what is written by the Sifrei (on the Torah Portion of Shalach) about the verse "and you will remember and do all the Mitzvot of Hashem"; from this verse we see that remembrance of the Mitzvah is similar to performing the Mitzvah.  That is to say, that by reading about them and accepting upon himself that if he had been commanded  to do them he would fulfill them, it's thought of as if he did perform them.

"And Yaakov was very frightened and he was distressed..."  (Bereisheet 32:8)

Rashi says that he was frightened  that perhaps he would be killed, and he was distressed that perhaps he would kill others.  The Sages say that Rebbe Meir is referred to as "others".  Since Rebbe Meir came from the Caeser Niron, who was a descendent of Eisav, Yaakov was afraid that he would kill Eisav and Rebbe Meir would not come out from Eisav.

"Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav..."  (Bereisheet 32:12)

It is written in the Zohar that someone who prays needs to explicitly specify the matter he is praying about, and the proof is that Yaakov specified "from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav".  Even though the Holy One Blessed Be He knows everything, it is still necessary to be explicit. 

The Torah Portion of Vayishlach has 145 verses. Haftora: "Chazon Ovadiah" (Ovadiah 1:1 in Trei Eser). 

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

Saturday, November 17, 2012


The Torah Portion of Vayeitzei 

"...and he took from the stones of the place..."  (Bereisheet 28:11)

It is written in the beginning that "he took from the stones of the place", in the plural, and afterwards it is written "..and he took the stone.."  (Bereisheet 28:18) in the singular.  The reason for this is that the stones began to argue with one another; one said "on me the Tzaddik (Righteous Man) will lay his head", and another one said "on me he will lay it".  Immediately the Holy One Blessed Be He made them all into one stone.  And the difficulty with this explanation is that also now the head of the Tzaddik would be resting on only one place, and if so, what is the benefit if they are all made into one stone?  But the answer is, that if they are united together and there are no arguments, then there will not be any complaints from anyone at all.

"...and He will guard me on this way..."  (Bereisheet 28:20)

The Sages say that Yaakov requested from the Holy One Blessed Be He that he should not stumble in the sin of Lashon Hara (forbidden speech).  And see the Introduction to the book "Chafetz Chaim", that by sinning in Lashon Hara it is possible to transgress 17 negative commandments, 14 positive commandments, and 3 curses. 

"...and she said 'This time I will give thanks to Hashem'; therefore she called his name Yehudah..." (Bereisheet 29:35)

The Sages say that from the Creation of the World there wasn't anyone who thanked Hashem like Leah.  And it has been asked, weren't there many Tzaddikim (Righteous People) before her, and certainly they gave thanks to Hashem?  The explanation is that Leah wanted to give thanks constantly, and therefore called her son Yehudah, which can be explained as thankfulness without interruption.  (Translator's note:  The name Yehudah is related to the word for thankfulness in Hebrew.)  When she saw Yehudah she immediately began to thank Hashem, and at every time that Yehudah would come and go, and eat and sleep, she would always give thanks.

"...therefore she called his name Yehudah, and she stopped giving birth."  (Bereisheet 29:35)

It has been asked, isn't thankfulness a good thing, yet in this verse the meaning seems to be that because she gave thanks to Hashem, she ceased to give birth?  The explanation is that everyone needs to give thanks about the past and to pray about the future.  Therefore when a man is asked "How are you?", he answers "Baruch Hashem V'yeracham Hashem"  (Bless Hashem and may Hashem have mercy).   But Leah only gave thanks about the past and didn't request on the future, and therefore she stopped giving birth.  

The Torah Portion of Vayeitzei has 148 verses. Haftora: "Vayivrach Yaakov" (Hoshea 12).

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, November 14, 2012


The Torah Portion of Toldot 

"And these are the generations of Yitzchak, Avraham's son  -- Avraham begot Yitzchak."  (Bereisheet 25:19)

Why is it necessary to say "Avraham begot Yitzchak", since it was already stated that "these are the generations of Yitzchak, Avraham's son"?  Rashi explains that Yitzchak was similar to Avraham in his facial features.  And the Abarbanel explains that everything that happened to Avraham happened also to Yitzchak.  Both of them took a wife from within their families.  Avraham and Yitzchak both suffered with problems of infertility.  They both had two children, one of whom was righteous and one of whom was wicked.  In both of their times there was a famine; as a result of which Yitzchak went in exile to Gerar and Avraham went in exile to Mitzrayim (Egypt).  Both of them said about their wives "she is my sister".  Both of them were blessed with many cattle.  Both of them dug wells which the Philishtim plugged up.

"...And Yaakov was a man of simplicity (or wholesomeness)..." ( Bereisheet 25:27)  

Rashi says that someone who doesn't know how to deceive is called simple (or wholesome).  (Translator's note: the word in Hebrew "Tam" can be translated as either simple or wholesome.)  Apparently, however, we see that when he was with Lavan, Yaakov knew how to deceive.  Rather, Rashi's intention is that someone who doesn't know how to deceive is called simple.  In contrast, Yaakov was not "simple", but rather, a man of simplicity (or wholesomeness), who ruled over his simplicity and knew when to be straightforward and when not to.  The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) say that Yaakov represents the aspect of Truthfulness, as it is said "Give Truth to Yaakov..." (Micah 7:20), yet we see that several times he acted in a cunning manner: 1)  he took the birthright of the firstborn son,  2)  he took the blessings, and 3) with Lavan, he used the sticks (to increase his flocks).  For we don't know what is "Truthfulness", but the Tzaddik (Righteous Man) knows when to act in a straightforward manner and when to act cunningly.

"And Yitzchak loved Eisav..." (Bereisheet 25:28)

The Gaon R' Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld ztz"l explains why Yaakov is called the "select one of the Patriarchs", in connection to the verse "and Yitzchak loved Eisav".  If the Torah writes this verse, that means that the love of Yitzchak for Eisav was a true and recognizable love.  In spite of that, when Yaakov and Eisav were going out in the morning, each one went on his path; Yaakov went to serve Hashem by making an effort in Torah and prayer while Eisav went to do evil deeds.  In the evening when they returned Yitzchak showed love to Eisav and didn't pay any attention at all to Yaakov, and so it was for the duration of a long period of time.  And because of this, Yaakov of necessity would have thought that certainly since Yitzchak was the greatest person of the generation and he gave emotional support only to Eisav, perhaps his (Yaakov's) way of serving Hashem wasn't appropriate.  But in any event, he didn't pay attention to that and stayed with strength and persistency on his path, even though he saw that Yitzchak related only to Eisav.   Therefore he is called "the select one of the Patriarchs", since he was in a constant state of living with a very difficult challenge, and in spite of it all, he remained steadfast in his wholesomeness.

"...I am sick of my life on account of the daughers of Chait, if Yaakov takes a wife from the daughters of Chait like these, from the daughters of the land, why do I need life?"  (Bereisheet 27:46)

Why didn't she say to Yitzchak that Eisav wants to kill Yaakov, like she said to Yaakov?  The Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh says that because of the prohibition of Rechilut (Gossip)  she gave another reason to Yitzchak, but by revealing it to Yaakov, she fulfilled a Mitzvah (from Vayikra 19:16) of "do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor".

The Torah Portion of Toldot has 106 verses. Haftora: "Masa D'var Hashem" (Malachi 1:1).

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

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chayei Sarah

The Torah Portion of Chayei Sarah 5773

"...the years of Sarah's life."  (Bereisheet 23:1)

Rashi explains that "they were all equal in goodness".  And behold, in truth Sarah had much anguish and suffering in her life.  Until the aged of 90 she didn't have children, and she was also taken into the house of Pharoah and the house of Avimelech, and she also suffered from famine.  And in spite of all that, she accepted everything with love, and that is the explanation of what Rashi said that "they were all equal in goodness".  Even the difficult days were thought of in her eyes as good.

"And Avraham was old, coming with days..."  (Bereisheet 24:1)

The commentators on the Torah say that he filled all the days of his life  with Torah and with Mitzvot, and that Avraham came to the Next World with all the days (of his life), for there was no defect in any of them.

"...and Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything."  (Bereisheet 24:1)

What is the blessing to Avraham "with everything"?  If it's good for everyone and not just for himself, that was regarded as a blessing by him. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"...drink and I will also give water to your camels..."  (Bereisheet 24:14)

The commentators on the Torah ask, what was so special about that?  Behold, also today we see that the daughters of Israel do much kindness similar to that.  The explanation is that Eliezer arrived with many servants and Rivkah could have thought to herself that kindness is something that one should do only if it's needed, but in this instance Eleazer, who was very wealthy and also had a lot of servants, why should he bother a small girl of three years old?  And even so, Rivkah didn't make any calculations like that and immediately acted kindly.  And this is called an act of kindness without any excuses or calculations, because if an opportunity to perform a Mitzvah comes to your hands you shouldn't miss the opportunity because of various answers and excuses.  And this is similar to someone who sees a diamond on the ground, that he shouldn't tell someone else to pick it up.

The Torah Portion of Chayei Sarah has 105 verses. Haftora: "V'hamelech David" (Melachim 1:1).

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