Saturday, November 30, 2013

Vayigash 5774

The Torah Portion of Vayigash 

"And Yehudah approached him and said, 'please...' " (Bereisheet 44:18)

The Alshich HaKodesh asks, what was Yehudah's complaint?  Didn't he himself say that all of them would be slaves to Pharoah, so why did he change his mind and complain?  All the moreso, Yosef had made it easier for them and said that only Binyamin would be taken as a slave.  And the Alshich HaKodesh explains, that in the beginning Yehudah thought that they deserved all the suffering because of the selling of Yosef, but since he saw that the man only wanted to take Binyamin, he therefore decided that this was probably a false charge since Binyamin wasn't involved in the sale, and because of that he came to Yosef with complaints.

"For how can I go up to my father and the youth is not with me..." (Bereisheet 44:34)

There are those that explain this according to Mussar (Ethical Teachings), "how can I go up" after 120 years to Our Father in Heaven to give a judgment and accounting "and the youth is not with me", that is, the days of my youth have not been rectified and I damaged them?  And it is necessary to learn from this to be concerned about guarding the days of youth when one is still young and able to correct everything easily.

"And it will happen that when he sees that the youth is gone, he will die..." (Bereisheet 44:31)

The Bait HaLevi explains that Yehudah said this, because he was concerned that Yosef would claim that if Yaakov was a Tzaddik (Righteous Man) in accord with what they had said, behold, when he would hear that his son Binyamin was a thief, his love for him would end and he would agree that it was appropriate to punish him so that he would be a permanent slave.  Therefore, Yehudah hastened to say that immediately upon their return home when Yaakov would see that Binyamin was gone he would die immediately, and they wouldn't have sufficient time to tell him about what that Binyamin had done, and that is what it means by saying "when he sees that the youth is gone, he will die" -- immediately.

"...I am Yosef..."  (Bereisheet 45:3)

The Chafetz Chaim says that the brothers had many questions about the difficult behavior of Yosef towards them and about the imprisonments, but when he said "I am Yosef" they immediately understood everything that had happened previously.  So it will be in the future to come when the Glory of Heaven will be revealed, and the Holy One Blessed Be He will say "I am Hashem", then all of the hardships and sufferings that happened to the people of Israel during all the generations will be immediately understood.

"...I am Yosef..."  (Bereisheet 45:3)

There are those Meforshim (expositors of the Scriptures) who ask, why didn't he reveal to them that he was Yosef immediately when they arrived?  And they explain, that it was necessary to fulfill the dream that they would bow to him, and if he had revealed himself to them before that, they would have great embarrassment that they had to come to him and bow to him.  And because they didn't recognize him they had less embarrassment from that.

"...I am Yosef.  Is my father still alive?..."  (Bereisheet 45:3)

It is written in the Midrash Saichel Tov, "Abba Kohen Bardela said 'Woe is us on the Day of Judgment, Woe is us on the Day of Reproof.  If in the case of Yosef who was younger than the other brothers, his brothers were not able to answer him; in the future to come when Hashem judges every individual according to his deeds, all the moreso.' "  It has been asked, what is the meaning of the words (in the preceding Midrash) "according to his deeds"?  The explanation is that when a man will be asked in the Heavenly Court why he didn't give charity, and he will answer that he didn't have enough money, it will be said to him "Behold, for other things and even for inconsequential things you had money to waste, and only for charity not."  Or if he will be asked in the Heavenly Court why he didn't learn Torah as much as he should have, and he will answer that he didn't have enough time because he was busy with his work, it will be said to him "Behold, on Shabbos and Yom Tov you had enough free time so why didn't you learn then?"  And this is the explanation of "according to his deeds" -- for each and every individual it will be according to his situation and his level.  And this is the meaning of the reproof that Yosef said to them "I am Yosef.  Is my father still alive?"  Behold, they were speaking all the time about their father, so doesn't it seem a strange question to ask them if his father were still alive?  The explanation is that Yosef was rebuking them, as if to say, "If you are so worried about Father's welfare, why didn't you worry about him when you sold me, for behold you knew that Father loves me very much?  And only now you are worried about him."  And there are those that give another explanation, that Yosef thought that it was possible that in truth Yaakov had died, and they only wanted to arouse his mercy on them so that he would release Binyamin, and therefore they told him to release Binyamin because of the suffering of their father.  Therefore he said to them, "I am Yosef, now tell me the truth, Is my father still alive?"

"And now, do not be distressed...because as a supporter of life G-d sent me ahead of you."  (Bereisheet 45:5)

This presents a difficulty, for what sort of comfort for them was it that he said "as a supporter of life G-d sent me..."?  Behold, they didn't have an intention for the good (when they sold him), and  the Sages say (in Nazir 23a) that someone that intended to pick up a piece of pig (to eat) and ended up picking up a piece of lamb, needs atonement.  The explanation is thus: the Sages said (Kiddushin 29b) that a thought doesn't cancel out a deed, but does cancel out a thought; and spoken words cancel out spoken words.  And  if so, when a person transgresses and does an intentional sin, and the damage was in deed as well as in thought because he performed the sin intentionally, the regret that he has in his thoughts as well as the speech when he repents and confesses are effective to uproot the thought which was connected with the sin, but the deed of the sin is not uprooted.  But here, when the brothers regretted selling him and said "but we are guilty about our brother...therefore there has come upon us this distress", the bad thoughts were uprooted by means of the regret and also the confession that they said "but we are guilty about our brother".  But even so, the brothers were worried that behold, the deed still remained.  Therefore, Yosef said to them, "and now, do not be distressed", because also the deed is canceled, for behold, the deed was for the good "because as a support of life G-d sent me ahead of you".  And also, Yosef himself was comforted from his suffering, because it was due to that suffering that he was made a ruler in all of the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt),  (from R' Tzaddok HaKohen from Lublin)

"With whomsoever you find your gods, he shall not live..." (Bereisheet 31:32)

The Chafetz Chaim says that Yaakov said to Lavan "WIth whomsoever you find your gods, he shall not live", and because of that Rachel was punished and died on the way.  And behold, we see that when Yosef's brothers came from Mitzrayim (Egypt) and told their father that the ruler of the land thought that they were spies and in addition commanded them to bring Binyamin, at that time Yaakov Avinu did not curse the ruler.  On the contrary, he commanded to bring him presents, a little bit of honey, etc.  And he prayed for them that they would find favor in the eyes of the man. And if Yaakov had brought out from his mouth words of cursing against the man that had spoken to them harshly, he would have killed his son Yosef whom he loved more than all his other sons.  From this we see how we need to be careful not to express words of cursing from our mouths.

"And Yaakov said to Pharoah, 'The days of the years of my sojourning have been 130 years, few and bad have been the days of the years of my life...' (Bereisheet 47:9)

There are those that explain that because Yaakov came to Mitzrayim (Egypt) there was a blessing on the Nile River and the famine ceased.  And Pharoah saw that Yaakov appeared to be a very old man and worried that he was going to die and the blessing would end, and therefore Pharoah asked Yaakov how many were the days of years of his life.  And on this Yaakov answered him that the fact that he appeared old was only because of suffering, but with the help of Hashem he would live more years which would be good, and so it was that he lived another 17 years.  [Translator's note:  Note that the Gematria of Hebrew word for "good" (that is, "Tov")  is 17.]


On the eighth day of Tevet, Talmei the king of Yavan (Greece) forced the Sanhedrin to write the Torah in the Greek language and the world was darkened for three days.  The ninth of Tevet is the Yahrzheit of Ezra and Nechemia.  On the tenth of Tevet the king of Bavel (Babylonia) besieged the city.  It is written in the Abudaraham that if the tenth of Tevet fell on the day of Shabbat, they used to fast also on Shabbat, since it it written "specifically on that day".    In the Chatam Sofer it is written that every year on the Tenth of Tevet it is judged in Heaven whether the exile will continue or whether the final redemption will come.

The Torah Portion of Vayigash has 106 verses.Haftora: "Vayehi D'var Hashem" (Yechezkel 37).

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mikeitz 5774

The Torah Portion of Mikeitz 


"And it happened at the end of two years of days..." (Bereisheet 41:1)

The Sages say that in every place where it says "Vayehi" (in English: "And it happened")  it is a language of suffering, with only a few exceptions.  The reason it uses this language of suffering here is to tell us that if G-d forbid we find ourselves in a time of suffering, then we are advised to fulfill Tz'om (fasting), K'ol (voice), and M'amon (money), since these three words have the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of Tzadi, Kuf, and Mem, which spell the word "Mikeitz" (the name of this week's Torah Portion, which in English means "at the end of").  Tzom (fasting) refers to Teshuvah (repentance); Kol (voice) refers to Tefillah (prayer); Mamon (money) refers to Tzedakah (charity).  And (as it says in the prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) by means Repentance, Prayer, and Charity, the evil decree is removed.  And in will be that "at the end of two years of days", in the end, the days will be changed for the good.  Mikeitz ("At the end") is a language referring to the endpoint, and "two years" is a language which refers to changing (since the word for two years in Hebrew is similar to the Hebrew word for changing).

"And the thin ears of corn swallowed up...."  (Bereisheet 41:7)

The Da'at Zekeinim asks, behold, the Sages say that we aren't shown in a dream something that can't possibly occur.  For example, we aren't shown in a dream that an elephant will enter into the hole of a needle.  So how is it possible that Pharoah saw in his dream something so weird, that the thin ears of corn swallowed up the healthy ears of corn?  But the explanation is that the meaning of the word "swallowed" is that the thin ears of corn covered the healthy ears of corn, such as was written in the Torah Portion of Bamidbar (Chapter 4, verse 20) "and they shall not go in to see the holy things as they are begin swallowed", where the word "swallowed" clearly means "covered".  And the Da'at Zekeinim adds, that this explanation is a Midrashic type of interpretation, but on the level of P'shat, the simple level, this is actually a language of swallowing.  And that is what it means when it says in the end that "Pharoah woke up and behold it was a dream (Bereisheet 41:7).  For Pharoah said, that cows are eating each other is possible to be, but that ears of corn are swallowing each other, that certainly must be a dream.

"And they rushed him from the pit..." (Bereisheet 41:14)

Why is it written that "they rushed him from the pit" and not written that they raised him from the pit?  The reason is that when the time arrives for a man to be saved, they rush him quickly without any time delays, for Hashem doesn't give unnecessary suffering.  And so it was also in the redemption from Mitzrayim (Egypt), about which it is written  "and Mitzrayim (Egypt) urged the people to hurry to send them out..." (Shemot 12:33), since the time for the redemption had already arrived. 

"And now let Pharoah seek out a discerning and wise man..." (Bereisheet 41:33)

It is written in the Holy Books that this is not just an instruction to Pharoah on how to prepare himself before the coming of the famine in Mitzrayim (Egypt), but it is a teaching for every man when he is still healthy, Baruch Hashem, and able to open a Gemara and learn and pray, that he needs to be wise and discerning, and to know that today he is in the years of plenty.  But also there will arrive for him G-d forbid the years of famine, which are the days of old age.  Therefore, he needs to fill for himself treasurehouses by struggling to learn the Torah and doing good deeds now.  For the wise man has his eyes in his head to fix this matter at the very beginning.  Who is wise?  The one who sees the outcome.

"...has given you a hidden treasure...And he brought Shimon out to them."  (Bereisheet 43:23)

There is a hint in this verse that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai will reveal a hidden treasure, and this is the Holy Zohar which are the secrets of the Torah.  

"And Reuven said to his father , 'You may slay my two sons...' "  (Bereisheet 42:37)

The Midrash says that because of these words, Datan and Aviram, who were the descendents of Reuven, died. And from this we see how much we need to be careful about every word that comes out of our mouths.


At the end of every Torah Portion, we record the sum of the number of verses that are present in the Torah Portion.  But for the Torah Portion of Mikeitz, we also record the sum of the number of words, which are two thousand and twenty-five (2025). The Gr"a explains that this is because the Torah Portion of Mikeitz usually falls during Chanukah, and during Chanukah we light candles for 8 days.  The Gematria (numerical value) of the word for candle in Hebrew (Nair) is 250.  8 multiplied by 250 comes out 2000.  And the explanation for "25" is that we begin on the 25th of Kislev.  So that is why we record the count of the 2025 words (in the Torah Portion of Mikeitz).

"Zot Chanukat HaMizbeiyach"  (in English:  "This is the dedication of the Altar") (Bamidbar 7:84)

The eighth day of Chanukah is called "Zot Chanukah" (in English: "this is Chanukah").  And even though this is not mentioned by the Rishonim (early Torah scholars), in any event, since it is called that by the majority of Israel, there is certainly a source for that in the words of the Torah.  And even moreso, we find that it is mentioned in the Gemora, that is to say, that men spoke about it and there are words of Torah about it in the Shas.  And the source of the name is because we read on it the section of Torah which contains the words "Zot Chanukat HaMizbeiyach" (In English: "This is the dedication of the Altar").  And most likely this has a connection to the Holiness of the day.  (from R' Tzadok HaCohen of Lublin)

"You push man down until the crushing point..." (Tehillim 90:3)

It is written in Holy Books that Chanukah is the conclusion of Elul and the Days of Awe.  And that is hinted at in the verse: "You push man down until the crushing point..." (Tehillim 90:3).  The word "Daka" (in English: "the crushing point") has the Gematria (numerical value) of 25.  This is a hint to the 25th of Kislev, and the real end is on  "Zot Chanukah" which is the conclusion of Chanukah.  [Translator's note: "Zot Chanukah" literally means "This is Chanukah".  This refers to the last day of Chanukah, on which the Torah Portion containing the phrase "Zot Chanukat Hamizbeiyach" is read.] And a hint to this is the verse  "With this Aharon will enter into the Holy Place" (Vayikra 16:3) [Translator's note: that particular verse is a reference to the Kohen Gadol coming into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, and it also contains the Hebrew word "Bazot" which is grammatically related to the Hebrew word "Zot".]

It was often said by our early Rabbis that on Chanukah there is an opportunity to awaken mercy on those who are childless (i.e., to have them blessed with children), similar to Rosh Hashanah. The main matter, the main Segulah (propitious opportunity) is on the last day which is called "Zot Chanukah".  (from B'nei Yissachar) 

The happiness of Zot Chanukah (the last day of Chanukah) is like that of a Siyum (party made on the completion of a body of learning), the happiness of completing a Mitzvah.

The Torah Portion of Mikeitz has 146 verses, and it has 2025 words.Two Torah Scrolls are taken out, in one we read the Torah Portion of the week, and in the second we read for the Maftir in the Torah Portion of Naso, "Bayom Hash'lishi". Haftora: "Rani V'Simchi" (Zecharia 2).

This is Shabbat Mevorchim, and we bless the month of Tevet.  
Rosh Chodesh Tevet is on Yom Shlishi and Yom Revi'i (Tuesday and Wednesday).  
The Molad is Lail Gimmel at 12:58 and 5 Chalakim.

We say Borchi Nafshi.  

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Vayeishev 5774

The Torah Portion of Vayeishev 

"And Yaakov dwelt in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan.  These are the generations of Yaakov, Yoseph..."  (Bereisheet 37:1-2)

The Alshich says that in the land of his fathers sojournings, with all of the chiefs (of Eisav) and also with Eisav, Yaakov was able to manage, and he was in a situation of dwelling with a feeling of being settled and tranquil.  But when his sons were not in unison that made him suffer more than anything else, and that began a new situation as described by: "These are the generations of Yaakov, Yoseph."

"..and the pit was empty, there was no water in it."  (Bereisheet 37:24)

Rashi says "but there were snakes and scorpions in it".  This can be seen by means Roshei Teivot.  The Hebrew letters of the words "Ain Bo" (in English: "was not in it")  which appear in this verse, are Aleph Yud Nun Beit Vuv.  These form the first letters (Roshei Teivot) of the Hebrew words "A'val Y'eish B'o N'achashim  V'Akravim" (in English:"but there were snakes and scorpions in it").  The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) explain that water is likened to Torah.   And this is the meaning of "there was no water in it": if there is no Torah within a person but he is empty of it, then immediately come the bad Middot (character traits) which are likened to snakes and scorpions.  And apparently this presents a difficulty, for if there are snakes and scorpions in the pit, then it is not empty.  However, the Gaon HaRav Povorski ztz"l said that the whole purpose of the pit is that it should have water in it, and all the time that it doesn't have water it is thought of as empty even though it has other things in it.  And in this way he explained the verse (from Shir HaShirim), "like a slice of pomegranate is your forehead", even the empty ones among you are filled with Mitzvot like a pomegranate.   And apparently, if they are full of Mitzvot why are they empty?  But the explanation is that it is not sufficient for a man to do Mitzvot, but the Mitzvot need to be his purpose and the main point of his aspirations, so that this can be seen in all his ways and deeds.  And if this is not the case, he is called empty even though he is full of Mitzvot.  

"...and behold, a caravan of Yishmaelim was coming from Gilead and their camels were carrying spices, etc...." (Bereisheet 37:25)

Rashi says that the Yishmaelim always carried petroleum and similar things (which have a bad odor), and only for the sake of Yosef HaTzaddik (the Righteous one), so that he wouldn't have to smell a bad odor, this time they were carrying spices.  Rabbeinu HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz ztz"l raises a question about this: behold, Yosef was going to Mitzrayim (Egypt) and he didn't know what the next day would bring, and he was in such a state of suffering.  What was the difference to him at a time like that, whether they were carrying petroleum or spices?  The answer is that we see from this situation, that when a punishment has been decreed from Heaven, then the punishment is exact with great precision.  Therefore, even though he was sold and they were taking him to Mitzrayim, since he didn't deserve to have to smell the bad smell of petroleum, therefore the Yishmaelim needed to be carrying this time an item that they weren't accustomed to carry, in order not to add suffering to Yosef that he didn't deserve.

"And Yehuda said to his brothers: 'what profit....' " (Bereisheet 37:26)

There are those who explain that the word Hebrew word for "profit" is "Betza", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters Beit, Tzadi, Ayin.  These three letters are the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the three Hebrew words: 
"Boker" (in English: "Morning"), 
"Tzaharaym (in English: "Afternoon"), 
"Erev" (in English: "Evening").
Yehudah argued with them saying, what purpose would there be to the three prayers that we pray daily (in the morning, afternoon, and evening) if we kill our brother?

"And he refused and he said..." (Bereisheet :39:8)

Masters of Mussar (Ethics) say that if a person has a test and a temptation to do a sin comes before him, first of all he needs to "refuse" and flee from the sin, and only afterwards to explain and to "say" why he is fleeing.

A Midrash on why Yosef merited to get out of prison

It is written in the Midrash that in the merit that Yosef served Potiphar, he merited to get out of  prison.  And it is necessary to understand, what was so great about this merit?  And the Sefat Emet explains that Yosef's merit was that he would say about everything when he was in the house of his master, that everything was from the Holy One Blessed Be He, and that when Potiphar told him to serve him Yosef knew that the Holy One Blessed Be He had told him to do so, and likewise regarding everything single thing, that he believed that everything was from Hashem;  therefore he merited to get out of prison.


It is written in the Rambam that the Mitzvah of Chanukah is a very beloved Mitzvah, and this language is found only regarding Chanukah.

"What is Chanukah?"

The Rav Chaim Yehudah Yakovzon ztz"l explains what that the Gemara asks "Mai Chanukah?" (What is Chanukah?)  Rashi's interpreration of "Mai Chanukah" is that the Gemara is asking, on what miracle was Chanukah based?  And it is difficult to understand this interpretation -- "on what miracle", because there were several miracles.  And Rav Yakovzon ztz"l explains, that during the time of the Second Temple there were additional holidays in commemoration of victories in wars that Israel had during that time period, and after that those holidays were canceled because they canceled Megillat Taanit.  And that is what the Gemara is asking in the question "Mai Chanukah", that if the holiday of Chanukah is because of the war and the victory against the kingdom of Yavan (the ancient Greek kingdom), isn't it the case that Megillat Taanit was canceled?  But the Gemara's answer is that the main reason for Chanukah is because of the miracle of the cruse of oil, and the victory in the war is in addition to that.

Why do we light eight days, since on the first day there wasn't a miracle?

The Chatam Sofer addresses the question of the Beit Yosef: "Why do we light eight days, since behold on the first day there wasn't a miracle?"  His answer is that "they lit candles in Your Holy Courtyards".  When the Chashmonayim came to the Temple, since the Inner Sanctuary had been defiled, they therefore lit the Menorah outside.  And it's a known fact that outside a candle draws up more oil because of the wind and therefore the flame is larger.  And the amount that was sufficient to provide one candle's worth of oil was only in order to light it inside in an enclosed place, but outdoors one needs more oil.  If so, also the first day was a miracle.

"And when he tortured it (the people of Israel) so it would increase and so it would spread..." (Shemot 1:12)

The Yavanim (ancient Greeks) wanted to cancel out, in principle, three Mitzvot: the Chodesh (Month), the Shabbat, and Brit Milah (Circumcision).  And in Chanukah we find all three of these things, for in Chanukah we have Rosh Chodesh Teivet (the beginning of the Month of Teivet) which is during the days of Chanukah, Shabbat, and the 8 days needed to fulfill the Mitzvah of Circumcision for a boy who is born on the first day of Chanukah.

"There are Yavanim (ancient Greeks) and there are Chashmonayim."

A famous head of a Yeshiva said once at a Chanukah party for students at a Talmud Torah, that in every generation "there are Yavanim and there are Chashmonayim".  Those who interfere with the learning of the Torah are the Yavanim in our generation, and you, the young students who are learning Torah, are the Chashmonayim in our generation.  You need to strengthen yourselves in the Torah and overcome the evil.

Why do we give thanks on the wars within the prayer "Al HaNisim" (in English: "On the miracles")?

The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) ask, we do we say within  the "Al HaNisim" prayer of thanks, "and on the wars"?  What kind of thankfulness is there in connection with wars?  Are wars something good?  The explanation is, that if there are no wars against evil, then there is no purpose to serving Hashem.  But if there are wars and victories, then there is spiritual enjoyment.

The Three Mitzvot D'Rabanan (Commandments instituted by the Rabbis) that women are obligated in

There are Three Mitzvot D'Rabanan (Commandments instituted by the Rabbis) that women are obligated in, because also they participated in the miracles.  The Roshei Teivot (initial letters in Hebrew ) of those three Mitzvot are "Aleph" - "Mem" - "Nun" (which spells the word "Amen"):  
1. "Aleph" is the first letter of "Arbah Kosot", the four cups of wine that we drink at Passover.  
2. "Mem" is the first letter of "Megillah", the Megillat Esther that we read at Purim.  
3. "Nun" is the first letter of "Neir Chanukah", the Chanukah candle.   
Altogether there are Seven Mitzvot D'Rabanan (Commandments instituted by the Rabbis), and they are hinted at by  the Roshei Teivot (initial  letters) "Shin", "Mem", "Ayin", "Beit", "Nun", "Yud" which spell the words "Sh'ma B'ni" (in English: "Hear my son"):
1. "Shin" stands for "Shevach", praise, which refers to the saying of the Hallel.  
2. "Mem" stands for "Megillah", referring to the Megillat Esther.  
3. "Ayin" stands for Eruv.  
4. "Beit" stands for "Brachot" - the blessings said on enjoyment, for praise, and and for Mitzvot.  
5 and 6.  "Nun" stands for "Neirot" - candles;  the candles of Shabbat & Yom Tov, and the candles of Chanukah  (those are two separate Mitzvot)
7. "Yud" stand for "Yadayim" - the Mitzvah of Netilat Yadayim (ritual handwashing).

The Torah Portion of Vayeishev has 112 verses. Haftora: "Ko Amar Hashem" (Amos 2).

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

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Vayishlach 5774

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 Kohen 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 Caesar Niron, who was a descendent of Eisav, Yaakov was afraid that he would kill Eisav and Rebbe Meir would not come out from Eisav.

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

The Targum Yonatan explains that he was frightened because he didn't perform the Mitzvah of honoring his father for 20 years.  And also regarding the verse "Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav, for I fear him" (Bereisheet 32:12), the Targum Yonatan explains, that "for I fear him" means that Yaakov was afraid of Eisav because Eisav performed the Mitzvah of honoring their father.

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

There are those that explain, that the reason that he was distressed was because he was afraid at all, since Hashem had promised him to guard over him.

"He prepared himself for three things, for a gift, for prayer, and for war (Rashi on Bereisheet 32:10)

There are those that ask, if he prepared himself for prayer, why does he also need to give a gift and to prepare himself for war?  The answer is that we need to do things by natural means and to give gifts, etc., but  also we need to pray that the gifts will help and also that we will succeed in war.  

"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. 

"...and his eleven children..."  (Bereisheet 32:23)

Rashi explains that Deena was in a box.  And the Gr"a ztz"l asks, from where did Rashi know that it was Deena that was in the box, perhaps it was a different child?  And the explanation is related to what the Sages say: that the Temple was built in the portion of Binyamin, because he didn't bow down to Eisav.  Therefore, if it had been one of the sons who was in the box, it would have been necessary to build the Temple in that son's portion for also he wouldn't have bowed down, if he had been placed inside the box.  But rather, it is necessary to say that all of the sons bowed down except for Binyamin who had not yet been born.  Therefore it must be that only Deena was inside the box.   And there are those that add that "Mordechai didn't kneel and didn't bow" (Megillat Esther 3:2), for he was from the seed of Binyamin and Haman was from the seed of Eisav.  Therefore Mordechai didn't bow down just like Binyamin.

"...and a man wrestled with him..." (Bereisheet 32:25)

Rashi says that this was the guardian angel of Eisav.  The Chafetz Chaim explains why we don't find that the guardian angel of Eisav came to fight with Avraham or Yitzchak as he did with Yaakov.  The reason is that Avraham represents  the quality of Chesed (kindness), and the evil inclination doesn't strongly oppose the doing of kind acts.  And Yitzchak represents the quality of service, that is to say, Gevurah (strength), and also on that the evil inclination is willing to give in if necessary.  But about Yaakov it is stated "Give truth to Yaakov ..." (Micah 7:20), and the truth is the Torah -- "the voice is the voice of Yaakov"  (Bereisheet 27:22); on this it fights with all its might.  The evil inclination puts all of its strength into fighting against the learning of Torah and is not willing to give in at all.

"and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn."  (Bereisheet 32:25)

Dawn break is a hint to the Geula (the final redemption).  This hints that there will be a war against evil until the final redemption, just as we see that there are always bad events and suffering, may Hashem have mercy.

"And he bought the parcel of ground..."  (Bereisheet 33:19)

The Gaon HaRav Yechezkel Avramski ztzk"l told that when he came to settle in Israel, he bought a small portion of ground in the Galil because of the holy words of the Ibn Ezra in this Torah Portion about the verse "And he bought the parcel of ground...":  "A parcel of ground means part of a field of ground, and the verse mentions this in order to let us know that there is a great quality to the Land of Israel, and someone who has within it a portion, it is thought of as if he has a portion in the Next World", until here is the language of the Ibn Ezra.  And the Gaon HaRav Yechezkel Avramski ztzk"l said that he was never there even one time and never saw the parcel of ground, and the only reason he bought it was because of the words of the Ibn Ezra.  (from Mishmar HaLevi Al HaTorah)

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

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, November 4, 2013

Vayeitzei 5774

The Torah Portion of Vayeitzei 

The Torah Portion of Vayeitzei begins as a "Parsha Stuma" (in English: "a closed Torah Portion")

[Note: When the end of a Torah Portion is marked by three Hebrew letters of Samech, and the new Torah Portion begins on the same line, this is known as a "Parsha Stuma".] The reason the Torah Portion of Vayeitzei begins as a "Parsha Stuma" ("a closed Torah Portion") is because Yaakov fled from Lavan in a closed, hidden way.  And also all the existence of the congregation of Israel is closed and hidden; that is to say, how it can be that after so many years of exile they are still living and existing -- and the reason for this is only because the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from the hands of those who wish to destroy us.

"And Yaakov went out..." (Bereisheet 28:10)

Rashi explains "its brilliance went away, its splendor went away, its majesty went away".  And it can be asked, why is it not written with regards to Avraham and Yitzchak when they went away that "its brilliance went away..."? The answer is that Avraham and Yitzchak were very wealthy and they had servants, and certainly when they left, everyone felt the effects of their departure immediately.  But regarding Yaakov who was sitting inside tents (to learn Torah), apparently it should not have been recognizable when he left.  Nonetheless, the brilliance and majesty of the place went away, and his departure from the place made a great impression.

"...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 dreamed, and behold a ladder set down on the earth and the top of it reaching to Heaven..." (Bereisheet 28:12) 

The Hebrew word "Sulam" ("ladder") has the same Gematria (numerical values of the letters) as the Hebrew word "Mamon" ("financial wealth").  Thus we see that there is some equivalence between a Sulam and Mamon based on the Gematria.  If one merits, the top of it (i.e., the financial wealth) reaches to Heaven, when one does with it Tzedakah (charity) and Chesed (kindness).  And if one doesn't give Tzedakah (charity), its feet are set down on the earth and the money goes down to get lost in the depths, G-d forbid.

"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set down on the earth and the top of it reaching to Heaven..." (Bereisheet 28:12) 

Only when a ladder is bent at an angle is it possible to use it.  Thus, someone who wants to go up in the heights of the Torah and fear of Hashem needs to be submissive and bend himself down like a ladder.

"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set down on the earth and the top of it reaching to Heaven..." (Bereisheet 28:12) 

The three letters of the word "Sulam" are Samech, Lamed, Mem, and these are the Roshei Teivot (in English: "initial letters") of the "Seudah Livui Malka" (in English: "Meal of Escorting the Queen", that is to say, the meal we eat after Shabbat ends, which is commonly known as a "Melaveh Malka").  Its feet are set down on the earth, and there are people who are careless about it (that is, about the Melaveh Malka meal), but the top of it reaches to Heaven.  It is told about the wife of the Gr"a ztz"l that one time she wanted to fast a whole week from Shabbat to Shabbat.  After Havdalah (the blessing at the end of Shabbat said over wine, spices and candle) the Gr"a asked where his wife was, and they told him that she already went to sleep.  He commanded to wake her, and told her that if she would miss the meal of Melaveh Malka her fasting for the entire week wouldn't be worth anything.  It is told that one time the Gr"a was sick on Motzei Shabbat (the nighttime after Shabbat is over), and before the beginning of daybreak he requested from his family to put into his mouth a Kazayit Pat(Halachic minimal amount of bread for a meal) in oder to fulfill the Mitzvah of Melaveh Malka.

The Melaveh Malka Meal

Its written in Seforim (Holy Books) that the three meals of Shabbat are connected to the three Avot (the Fathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov), and the Melaveh Malka meal is connected to David HaMelech o"h.  And why did David merit to be the fourth foot of the Throne of Glory?  It was because when he fled from Avshalom, Shimi ben Geira cursed him on the way with a very severe cursing and Avishai ben Tzruya therefore wanted to kill Shimi. But David didn't give him permission to do so and he said that Hashem told Shimi to curse and that everything was from Heaven.  Therefore David merited to be the fourth foot of the Chariot.  And generally during all the three meals of Shabbat people sit in a manner which is honorable and nice, but at the meal of the Melaveh Malka there are those who are careless about it.  And it is written in the Shulchan Aruch that are man should always arrange his table on Motzei Shabbat, even if he doesn't need to eat more than one Kazayit (Halachic minimal amount of bread for a meal).  And behold, it is written in Tehillim Chapter 39 verse 13:  "For a stranger I am with you, a sojourner like all my fathers".  In Hebrew, this verse begins "Ki Ger Anochi".  "Ki Ger" (which means "for a stranger" in English), has the same Gematria (numerical value of the letters) as "Regel" (in English: "Foot").  "Anochi" (which means "I am" in English) hs the same Gematria as "Kisa" (in Englsih: "Throne").  The hint here in this Tehillima is that David is complaining that "I am the fourth foot", and why don't people sit down at my meal "like all my fathers", like at all the meals of Shabbat that are intended to be connected to the Fathers (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov).

"...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.  

What did Yaakov do in the house of Lavan for 20 years?

The Sages ask, what did Yaakov do in the house of Lavan for 20 years?  One says that he said all the entire book of Tehillim (Psalms), and another says that he said all the Shir HaMaalot (15 chapters of Tehillim from chapters 120 through 134).  We see from this the great elevation of saying Tehillim. (from Midrash Vayeitzei)

WORDS OF CHIZUK (Words of Strengthening and Encouragement)

"One who removes his ears from hearing Torah, also his Prayer is repugnant." (Mishlei 28:9)

It is written in Mishlei (Proverbs) Chapter 28 Verse 9: "One who removes his ears from hearing Torah, also his Prayer is repugnant".  Why isn't it written "from learning Torah"?  The simple explanation is that when someone tells someone a Dvar Torah (a lesson from the Torah) and he says "I already heard", then the Holy One Blessed Be He says to him, also "I already heard" the prayer that you said yesterday, and why are you requesting another time?  (from Masters of Mussar)

"How beautiful are your steps in shoes..." (Shir Hashirim 7:2)

It is written in Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs): "How beautiful are your steps in shoes".  The Sages say that a man doesn't know the reward, even for shining his shoes for the honor of Shabbat.  (Brought from the Rav HaKodesh M'Apta in the name of the Midrash)

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

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