Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ki Tisa & Para 5773

The Torah Portion of Ki Tisa 


"This is what they shall give..." (Shemot 30:13)

Rashi explained that the Holy One Blessed Be He showed Moshe a sort of coin of fire and told him: "Something like this is what they shall give".  The coin of fire hints that fire is able to be beneficial and also to cause damage.  Fire is able to burn, G-d forbid, but it is also able to cook and to heat and to give light, and the like.  Similarly, the coin, if it is used for Tzedaka (charity) and acts of kindness, then it has great benefit; but if we use money when it isn't for the purpose of fulfilling a Mitzvah, it can burn and cause damage, G-d forbid. (from Noam Elimelech)

The Coin of Fire

The coin of fire also hints that just as fire is able to give enjoyment to several people simultaneously and the fire does not get used up any faster because of that, so too someone who gives (tzedaka) does not diminish his property and won't be lacking anything.  The coin of fire also hints that even for a poor person who is only able to give a little bit and a small amount, if his giving is done with the enthusiasm of fire then even the small amount that he gives is thought of as a great donation, and it is also able to be an atonement for his soul like a great donation.

"...half of the shekel..." (Shemot 30:13)

And why not a whole one?  Because a man needs to regard himself as a half, and not as a complete person.

"... and into the heart of all who are wise of heart I have put wisdom..." (Shemot 31:6)

The Sages, may their memory be blessed, say that Hashem gives wisdom to the wise.  It can be asked, how did they get their original wisdom?  There are those who explain that the intention of this verse is that Hashem gives wisdom to those who have fear of Heaven, which is called wisdom, as it is written "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem" (Tehillim 111:10). And there are those who explain that Hashem gives wisdom to those who want the wisdom and know to appreciate it.

"...Only (in Hebrew: "Ach") observe my Sabbaths..."  (Shemot 31:13)

The Hebrew word "Ach" is a language of limitation and exclusion, as when it is used in the context of  Hagalat Kailim (Kashering pots).  The verse about Kashering pots states: "...Only  (in Hebrew: "Ach") the gold and the silver..." (Bamidbar 31:22).  And the Sages derived from that verse, that the word "Ach" comes to exclude the rust and the tarnish. Therefore one needs to clean the rust off before Kashering the pots.  Similarly it is possible to derive from the current verse (in which the Hebrew word "Ach" is also used) that before Shabbat one needs to clean the "rust" off one's body, and to purify himself by doing repentance in preparation for Shabbat, in order to enter Shabbat when he is clean.  And then he will be able to receive the Shabbat with perfection.  (from the Sefat Emet)

" is a sign forever..." (Shemot 31:17) 

The Shabbat is like a sign.  Just as in the case of a store, even if it is closed, all the time that the sign is hanging at the entrance, it's an indication that the store will be open in the future.  But if the sign is taken down it's an indication that the store will never open again.  Similarly, regarding the Shabbat, if it happens that G-d forbid a Jew stumbles in a sin, all the time that he still observes the Shabbat it's an indication and evidence that he is a Jew who has a connection in his heart to the Holy One Blessed Be He.  But if he doesn't observe the Shabbat, the sign is removed and it's evidence that he doesn't have any connection to the Holy One Blessed Be He and the Torah.  (from the Chafetz Chaim)

"You shall not make yourselves molten gods." (Shemot 34:17)

Immediately after this verse it is written: "You shall observe the Festival of Matzot".  (Shemot 34:18) Why are these verses next to each other, and what is the connection between the two of them?  The reason is that on Erev Pesach (the time before Passover), because of much distress and the pressure of the work, it is possible G-d forbid to become angry.  And behold, "everyone who is angry it is as if he is worshipping idols" (Gemara Shabbat 105b).  And that is the reason for the juxtaposition of the Festival of Matzot next to the sin of idol worship.  Similarly the Be'er Haitev brings in the name of the Rokach, that a person should not say ""how much hardship there is in this Pesach", because that is the statement of the Rasha (the wicked one of the four sons discussed in the Passover Hagaddah) who said "What is this work to you?"

The Torah Portion of Para 

The reason for the reading of the Torah Portion of Para (the Red Heifer) is that at the time when the Temple existed and they could sacrifice the Passover offering, someone who was impure because of contact with a dead person was not able to bring the offering unless he became purified beforehand by means of the ashes of the red heifer.  It was necessary to remind and announce to everyone who had become impure from contact with a dead person to purify himself from that impurity, so that he could bring the Passover offering at the right time. Therefore  they began early to encourage people about it before the month of Nissan, so that those who lived far away from Jerusalem would already start to leave their cities on Rosh Chodesh Nissan in order to go up to Jerusalem, and while the people were still at home in their cities, they would remind them that if someone had become impure from contact with a dead person, he first needed to purify himself.  And even though, in our many sins, the Temple has been destroyed and we don't have the bringing of the Passover offering and don't have impurity from a dead person which we need to be purified from beforehand, in any event we learn about these commandments and laws and pray before Hashem, may His name be blessed, that also upon us will be cast the purifying waters, in the near future.  And by means of learning these laws may it be considered as if we have purified ourselves from our impurity.

The Torah Portion of "Ki Tisa" has 139 verses, 4 positive commandments and 5 negative commandments.  Two Torah Scrolls are taken out: 1) for the weekly Torah portion and 2) for the Torah portion of Para, from the beginning of the Torah Portion of Chukat until the words "ad haerev" (in English: until the evening).The Haftorah is "Vayehi Devar Hashem" (Yechezkel 36)

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, February 18, 2013


Purim - Megillat Esther  

The entire story of the miracle of Megillat Esther took place over a period of nine years.  It began in the third year of the reign of King Achashveirosh, at the time  when they killed Vashti.  In the seventh year of the reign of King Achashveirosh he took Esther as a wife, and in the twelfth year of his reign was the decree of Haman.  And at the time when they killed Vashti, not a single Jew foresaw that there would be a connection between that event and the salvation of Israel.  It was only afterwards when Achashveirosh took Esther that they began to understand a little bit that there might be a connection.  And it was only after nine years when the decree of Haman occurred, and by means of Esther the decree was cancelled, that they understood the preceding events. They saw that all those events had been connected together in order to save them from the decree of being destroyed and killed.  And so it will be in the future to come when the Holy One Blessed Be He reveals Himself in His great Compassion and Kindness, at that time all of us will understand that all the events that occurred throughout all the years have been connected together for the purpose of the future redemption, may it occur speedily in our days, Amen.

"And he raised (in Hebrew: "Omen") Hadassah..." (Megillat Esther 2:7)

The Hebrew word "Omen" has the same root as the Hebrew word "Emunah" (in English: Faith).  The meaning of this is that Mordechai the Tzaddik trained Esther to have faith that everything that happens to her is all  a result of Divine Providence.

Why is the name of the holiday called Purim?

There are those who ask why the name of the holiday is called "Purim" (based on the Hebrew word "Pur", meaning "lottery"), shouldn't it have been called "Yom HaHatzala", the day of salvation?  The explanation is that when Achashveirosh said to Haman "..and the people to do with it as is good in your eyes" (Megillat Esther 3:11), he should have immediately gone to battle to kill Israel, but it came up in his mind that it would be better to do a lottery and not to begin immediately.  Therefore there was more time to pray and within four days of the decree they hanged Haman on the tree.  The decree was on the 13th of Nisan and they hanged him on the 16th of Nissan.  From this we see the power of prayer.

"...and fast for me, and don't eat and don't drink for three days.." (Megillat Esther 4:16)

There is a difficulty in this verse, for there seems to be an unnecessary repetition; since it said "fast for me", isn't it obvious that they aren't eating and drinking?  And the explanation is, that during those three days was also the first day of Passover, and there is a requirement from the Torah to eat Matzah and drink the four cups of wine.  And that is what Esther was saying, "fast for me", and even though the Yom Tov of Passover comes out during those days, in any event don't eat Matzah.  And don't drink the four cups of wine.  And Esther's intention in this was that if they didn't fulfill the Mitzvot of the holiday of Passover, this would show the Heavens how the world would look without the people of Israel.  Just as now the are not fulfilling the Mitzvot of the night of the Seder, so it would be if G-d forbid there would be a decree of destruction, and by means of this Mercy would be aroused in the Heavens to cancel the decree.

"For the Jews there was Light and Happiness and Rejoicing and Honor." (Megillat Esther 8:16) 

In the Gemara "Megillah", it says that Light means Torah, Happiness means Yom Tov, Rejoicing means Mila (Circumcision) and Honor means Tefillin (Phylacteries).  The question is, why are these written only as a hint, it could have been written explicitly "Torah, Yom Tov, Mila, and Tefillin"?  But the explanation is that Israel rose at that time to such a great level that they felt that the Torah was their light, that Yom Tov was their happiness, that Mila was their rejoicing, and that Tefillin was their most precious, honored object. (from the Sefat Emet)

"LaYehudim Hayta Orah - Orah Zo Torah" (For the Jews there was Light - Light is the Torah)  

Purim Sameach!  (Happy Purim!)

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

Tetzaveh & Zachor 5773

The Torah Portion of Tetzaveh

"Tarshish and Shoham and Yashfeh" (Shemot 28:20)  [Translator's note: These are names in Hebrew of three of the precious stones on the Choshen (breastplate) of the Kohen 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...the opening of its head shall be folded over within it, its opening shall have a border all around...a golden bell and a pomegranate" (Shemot 28:31-34) 

The Sages say that the Me'il (the robe of the Kohen 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 also "a golden bell and a pomegranate" comes to hint to us that on the one hand, one needs to keep his mouth closed like a pomegranate and not speak forbidden speech, for the pomegranate is like an egg which is sealed and doesn't have a mouth.  And on the other hand, when one's speech is for a holy purpose he shouldn't keep quiet but rather open his mouth, like the bells that made a sound for the purpose of holiness, as it is written "its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary" (Shemot 28:35), meaning that when it comes to a matter of holiness the sound of one's voice should be heard (for example, when praying or learning Torah).  In addition the Chafetz Chaim writes that if one does so (that is, closes his mouth to avoid forbidden speech, but makes his voice heard  for the purpose of holiness), "his voice will be heard when he enters the Sanctuary", that is to say, that his prayers will be accepted.

All the Clothing of the Kohen HaGadol serves as an Atonement

These are the things that the clothing of the Kohen 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),  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.

The Fast of Esther, Purim, and the Remembrance of the Half Shekel

On Thursday, the 11th of Adar, is the Fast of Esther.  After Mincha, the unwalled cities give a remembrance for the half shekel.  On Sunday, the 14th of Adar, is Purim in the unwalled cities, and the walled cities give a remembrance for the half shekel after Mincha. Monday 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 15

"M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha"
"When Adar begins Happiness Increases"
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

Sunday, February 10, 2013

T'rumah 5773

The Torah Portion of T'rumah  


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 Beit Levi explains that in the beginning before a man does the Mitzvah of giving Tzedaka (charity) wiith his money, he needs to see to it that his money was earned lawfully without the slightest dishonesty.  For if he doesn't do that, the Tzedaka that he gives will not be effective for him at all.  Similarly a Lulav which is stolen is disqualified, because it would be a Mitzvah which comes about by means of doing an Aveirah (transgression).  Therefore the Torah told them first about"Mishpatim" (judicial laws and ordinances) and afterwards about the donation for the Mishkan.

"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 Mishkan

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)

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, February 2, 2013

Mishpatim & Shekalim 5773

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 -- the meaning of this is that one should explain matters clearly to a student.. 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.

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.

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, 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). 

M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha (When Adar enters, we increase in happiness)

The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" has 118 verses, 23 positive commandments and 30 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 Beit Chapter 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