Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Shoftim 5777

The Torah Portion of Shoftim 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yochanan Yitzchak Ben Nachum z"l 
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yaakov Ben Matisyahu HaLevi z"l
L'ilui Neshamat Esther Mushka Bat Yaakov HaLevi z"l
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Malka Bat Rivkah Zlata
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Deena Bat Tzion Bat Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaya Basha Bat Esther
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Etan Naphtali Ben Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rivkah Goldah Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Shimon Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Yoledet Simcha Pearl Bat Rivkah Goldah V'Tinoka
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Moshe Shlomo Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaim Sh'muel Ben Rivkah Goldah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Avital Bat Rut
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Eliezer Yitzchak Ben Bracha Devorah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Michael Itzhak Nesshael Ben Avital 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Naomi Chana Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Refael Ben Masha Etel
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Fruma Freidel Bat Esther  
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rav Daniel Reuven Ben Esther and
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'kol Am Yisrael V'l'geulah Hashleima Bekarov


The Torah Portion of Shoftim ("Judges" ) always falls on the first Shabbos of the month of Elul, and it is written in the Sefer M''ora Shel Torah, that this is to remind us that we need to pray that our judgment will come out well.


"Judges and officers shall you put in all your gates." (Devorim 16:18)


The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) say that every man needs to make for himself "judges and officers in all your gates". The explanation is, in the gates of himself -- for speaking, for seeing, and for eating.  The Hebrew word for "your gates" is "Sha'areicha", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Shin", "Ayin", "Reish", "Yud", and "Chaf".   These Hebrew letters are the Roshei Teivot (in English: "Initial Letters") of the Hebrew words: "Shinayim" (in English: "Teeth"), "Ainayim" (in English: "Eyes"), "Rosh" (in English: "Head"), "Regel" (in English: "Leg"), "Yadayim" (in English: "Hands"), "Keres" (in English: "Belly" -- that is to say, to be careful to avoid eating forbidden foods).

"...for the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise..."  (Devorim 16:19)


Yonatan Ben Uziel translates, that the bribe will cause the wise to be stupid.  And in the Torah Portion of Mishpatim, its says that "the bribe will blind the eyes of those who can see" (Shemot 23:8), because the Dayan (Judge) first of all needs to know the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat, and in addition, needs to know the trickery of the parties participating in the legal case.  And that is why it says "wise", because  the judge needs to be knowledgeable about the Shulchan Aruch, and "those who can see", because the judge needs to understand the trickery of the parties to the case, and the bribe interferes with both of those qualities. 

"Righteousness , righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and take possession of the land..." (Devorim 16:20)


Rashi says that "righteousness , righteousness shall you pursue" means that one should make a point of going to a high-quality court. There are those that explain, that the Sages say that there is no reward for a Mitzvah in this world (since the reward will come in Olam Haba, the world to come). But for beautifying a Mitzvah, or for the making an extra effort to fulfill a Mitzvah, there is a reward in this world. And that is why it says "righteousness , righteousness you should pursue" -- you should make an extra effort and fulfill the Mitzvot in a beautiful way, "so that you will live and take possession of the land" -- that your life in this world will be good and pleasant.

"You shall not sacrifice to Hashem, your G-d, an ox or a lamb or kid in which there will be a blemish, any bad thing, for that is an abomination..."  (Devorim 17:1)


Rashi says that the thought which causes a sacrifice to become "Piggul" (a rejected sacrifice because there was an invalid thought about it, such as to eat or burn it after the proper time), only causes the sacrifice to become "Piggul" if that thought is verbally spoken, and there are those amongst the Rishonim (early Torah Scholars) who say that it also happens by means of the thought itself (without verbalizing it).  In the verse it states, "You shall not sacrifice to Hashem, your G-d ... any bad thing..."  In Hebrew, the phrase "any bad thing" is "Kol Davar Ra".  Rashi notes that this is linguistically related to the Hebrew phrase "Kol Dibur Ra", which in English means "any bad speech".  Thus he explains that the process of a sacrifice becoming "Piggul" is by means of speech, that is, if someone says he will eat the meat outside of the proper time or location.  Furthermore, the Baal HaTurim says regarding the phrase "...any bad thing, for that is an abomination..." (Devorim 17:1) that someone who dirties his mouth by speaking unclean speech is called an abomination and hated (because of the linguistic connection between "any bad thing" and "any bad speech").

"If a matter of judgment will be hidden from you, between blood and blood, between verdict and verdict, or between affliction and affliction, matters of dispute in your cities -- you shall rise and ascend..." (Devorim 17:8)


There are those who explain this verse as a lesson in Mussar (ethics): 
"If a matter of judgment be hidden from you..." -- if you wonder why there are judgments and punishments 
"...between blood and blood..." -- all kinds of punishments involving bloodshed 
"...between verdict and verdict..." -- all kinds of harsh decrees 
"...between affliction and affliction.. ." -- all kinds of suffering 
'...matter of dispute in your cities..." -- the reason for all of the above is because there are quarrels and the people are not living in unity. What's the solution to this problem?
"...you shall rise and ascend..." -- the answer is that we should join together in unity.

"You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Elokecha." (Devorim 18:13)


The name "Hashem" is used to indicate G-d's trait of Mercy, and the name "Elokecha" ; is used to indicate G-d's trait of Strict Justice. Therefore it is written "You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Elokecha" -- whether He treats you with the trait of Strict Justice, or whether He treats you with the trait of Mercy, you need to serve Hashem in all situations.

"You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Elokecha." (Devorim 18:13)


Not only in front of others should you be righteous, but also when you are alone by yourself, and only Hashem Elokecha is there with you, you also need to be righteous and wholehearted. 

"When you go out to battle against your enemy, and you see horse and chariot -- a people more numerous than you -- you shall not fear them, for Hashem, Your G-d is with you..." (Devorim 20:1)


The Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh says that maybe this verse is a hint to the battle that a person has with his Evil Inclination, the battle which is known to be the greatest battle of all. In that battle there are two difficulties, first the person is not trained in warfare like his Evil Inclination which is trained and accustomed to doing battle. Second, the person is composed in such a way that he has a tendency towards everything that his animal soul desires, and this will prevent him from listening to words of Torah and Mitzvot, and also afterwards when he will stumble in many transgressions there will be added evil forces that come about as a result of his evil acts. And thus the verse (Devorim 20:1) can be explained as follows:
"When you go out to battle...and you see" -- with the eyes of your intellect 
"horse and chariot" -- "horse" is a metaphor for the Evil Inclination which is a horse prepared for war, in contrast to the person, and "chariot" is a metaphor for the composition of a person which has a tendency and a desire for certain things (note: the Hebrew words for "chariot" and "composition" have the same root letters and are etymologically related)
"a people more numerous than you" -- this is a metaphor for the evil forces which are increased because of the person's evil deeds
"you shall not fear them, for Hashem, Your G-d is with you" -- the explanation is that it's true that if you had come to this battle with only your own strength, you don't have within yourself the strength to stand this battle, but since Hashem Your G-d is with you His strength is great to save you, because when a person comes to purify himself the right hand of Hashem accepts him and he becomes attached to Hashem, and in that way the evil forces that are besieging him will be overcome. 

"But you shall remove the innocent blood from your midst when you do what is upright in the eyes of Hashem." (Devorim 21:9)


If you will behave appropriately, then there won't be any evil.

"But you shall remove the innocent blood from your midst when you do what is upright in the eyes of Hashem." (Devorim 21:9)


If you will do what is upright in the eyes of Hashem, then there won't be tragedies and terrorist attacks.  Just as we see that on Yom Kippur, even people who are distant from the Torah the whole year, in any event, on Yom Kippur they strengthen themselves to go to the synagogue and the like, this is because those of us who are observant of the Torah and Mitzvot are also strengthening ourselves to be better in our service of Hashem.

HAFTORA


"Shake the dust from yourself, arise." (Yishayahu 52:2)


The Sages say, this is like a chicken. The explanation is, that if a chicken is dirty from dust, if you wash her with water, you will just make matters worse because the dirt will penetrate more deeply. The best advice is that she should clean herself, and she shakes the dust off. So too, everyone needs to make an effort to shake off his sins from himself, as it is written "If I am not for myself then who will be for me" (Pirkei Avot Chapter 1), and then the Holy One Blessed Be He will help him.

The Torah Portion of Shoftim has 97 verses. 14 positive commandments. 27 negative commandments.Haftora: "Anochi Anochi" (Yishayahu 51). 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1 (fourth cycle).

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, August 16, 2017

Re'eh 5777

The Torah Portion of Re'eh  


Shabbat Mevorchim Chodesh Elul 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yochanan Yitzchak Ben Nachum z"l 
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yaakov Ben Matisyahu HaLevi z"l
L'ilui Neshamat Esther Mushka Bat Yaakov HaLevi z"l
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Malka Bat Rivkah Zlata
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Deena Bat Tzion Bat Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaya Basha Bat Esther
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Etan Naphtali Ben Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rivkah Goldah Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Shimon Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Simcha Pearl Bat Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Moshe Shlomo Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaim Sh'muel Ben Rivkah Goldah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Avital Bat Rut
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Eliezer Yitzchak Ben Bracha Devorah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Michael Itzhak Nesshael Ben Avital 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Naomi Chana Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Refael Ben Masha Etel
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Fruma Freidel Bat Esther  
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rav Daniel Reuven Ben Esther and
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'kol Am Yisrael V'l'geulah Hashleima Bekarov



"See (in Hebrew: Re'eh), I present before you today a blessing and a curse." (Devorim 11:26)


The name of this week's Torah Portion, as well as its first word, is "Re'eh" (in Hebrew). The letters of the word "Re'eh" in Hebrew are Raish, Aleph, and Hey. These are the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the Hebrew words: "Re'eh Elul Higia" (in English: "Behold, Elul has arrived!"). They are also the initial letters of the Hebrew words: "Elul Rosh Hashana". 

"The blessing: that you will listen to the commandments of Hashem..." (Devorim 11:27)


The very fact that you will listen, that is the best blessing.

"You shall not do so to Hashem, your G-d. Rather, only at the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose..." (Devorim 12:4-5)


Someone who erases Hashem's name or destroys items in a Beit Knesset (synagogue) transgresses this verse, "You shall not do so to Hashem, your G-d..." (Devorim 12:4). It is written in the Gemorrah Succah (53a), that at the time that David Hamelech dug deep pits for the Altar, he wrote the Divine Name on a shard of pottery and cast it into the depths, as Achitophel had advised him to do, so that the waters would not flood the world. And this is hinted at in the verse "You shall not do so to Hashem, your G-d" (Devorim 12:4), but for the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) it is permitted, and that is why the verse after that says, "Rather, only at the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose..." (Devorim 12:5)

"The entire word that I command you, that shall you observe to do; you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it."  (Devorim 13:1)


In the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan it is written another time, "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it." (Devorim 4:2)  The Gr"a says that in the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan the meaning of the verse is that you should not add new Mitzvot, but that here the meaning of the verse is that regarding a particular Mitzvah, it is forbidden to add something to it, such as putting 5 Scriptural passages in Tefillin (instead of 4), and the like. 

"After Hashem your G-d shall you walk..."  (Devorim 13:5)


Rashi says that there are two forms of the word for "after" in Hebrew, "Achar" and "Acharei".  The word "Achar" is a word which indicates a close distance, and the word "Acharei" is a word which indicates a far distance.  For example, Rashi mentions that "Acharei" indicates a far distance  in his explanation of the word "Acharei" in the phrase  "...after the way of the going down of the sun..." (Devorim 11:30).  The Chofetz Chaim asked the Imrei Emet of Gur at a big meeting of Torah Sages, if "Acharei" is a word indicating a far distance,  why is it written "After Hashem your G-d shall you walk..." (Devorim 13:5)  using the word "Acharei"?  G-d forbid, this seems to imply that we should be distant from Hashem.  The Rebbe from Gur answered him, I will give you a Chassidic explanation of the use of the word "Acharei" in this verse.  If a person regards himself as being distant from Hashem, then in reality he is close to Hashem.  [That is to say, to the extent that a person thinks he is distant from Hashem from both a  spiritual and physical perspective, then and precisely then, he merits to be close to Hashem, because "Hashem is close to those with a broken heart", to someone whose heart is humbled and broken.]  

"And the pig, for it has a split hoof, but does not chew the cud, it is impure to you... "(Devorim 14:8)


The Sages say that there is none as wealthy as the pig, and none as poor as the dog. The simple explanation is that the pig eats all kinds of filth, but the dog is always hungry. The Gr"a asks, why do the Sages teach us facts about nature? And he explains, that behold, the negative commandment regarding the pig is wealthy, because there are many that fulfill it, since many Jews avoid eating pig. But the dog, which hints at the prohibition of Lashon Hara (forbidden speech) is poor, because only a few people carefully observe the prohibition of Lashon Hara.

"You shall tithe..." (Devorim 14:22)


The Sages say "give tithes in order that you will become wealthy".  (Note: In Hebrew, the linguistic root of the word for becoming wealthy has the three letters Ayin Shin Reish, and the linguistic root of the word for giving tithes has the three letters Ayin Sin Reish, so that there is a close linguistic connection between "tithes" and "wealth".)  There are those that explain that it is written that the reward of a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah.  That is, the best reward is that it is possible to do another Mitzvah.  Thus the explanation (of the linguistic connection between the Hebrew word for giving tithes and the Hebrew word for wealth) is that you should tithe in order that Hashem will give you a blessing in the growth of your crops, so that you can give even more tithes.  This concept (that the best reward for doing a Mitzvah is the possibility of doing another Mitzvah) is what underlies the story which is told about the Gr"a, that before his death, he was crying that he was leaving a world in which for a small amount of money it was possible to buy Tzitzit and fulfill a Mitzvah, and that in the Next World he would lose the opportunity to do that.

"And if the way be too long for you, so that you are not able to carry it, because the place is too far from you..." (Devorim 14:24)


If a person does a Mitzvah with enthusiasm and happiness then it won't be difficult for him.  And therefore it is written "because the place is too far from you".  The explanation is that the word for  "the place" in Hebrew is "HaMakom", which can be interpreted as referring to the Holy One Blessed Be He.  If a person is far from "HaMakom", that is, far from the Holy One Blessed Be He, then it is difficult for him .  But if he had the enthusiasm for doing Mitzvot then it wouldn't be difficult for him.

THE MONTH OF ELUL


The Hebrew letters of the name of the month of Elul are: Aleph Lamed Vuv Lamed. These are the Roshei Teivot (initial letters) of the Hebrew words: "L'Bracha V'lo L'Klala Amen" (in English: "For a blessing and not a curse, Amen") . They are also the initial letters of the Hebrew words: "L'Chaim V'lo L'Mavet Amen" (in English: "For life and not for death, Amen") . And they are also the initial letters of the Hebrew words: "L'Sova V'lo L'Razon Amen" (in English: "For satisfaction and not for starvation, Amen" ).


The Shofar


On the first day of Elul we begin to sound the Shofar. The explanation of the Hebrew word Shofar is that it is similar to the Hebrew word "Shifru" , (in English: to improve), i.e., we need to improve our deeds.

"Of David, Hashem is my light and my salvation" (Tehillim 27:1)


On the first day of Elul we begin to say the psalm "L'David Hashem Ori V'yishi" (Tehillim 27:1 -- in English "Of David, Hashem is my light and my salvation" ) until Simchat Torah. According to the Midrash, the word "Ori" (in English; "my light") in this Psalm refers to Rosh Hashana. The word "V'yishi" (in English: "my salvation" ) refers to Yom Kippur. "Ki Yitzpinaini B'Succoh" (Tehillim 27:5 -- in English, "For he will hide me in his Succah" ) refers to Succot. 

"One thing I request of Hashem...that I may dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life...and to visit in His Sanctuary" (Tehillim 27:4)


The above verse is written in the Psalm "L'David Hashem Ori" (27:1), which we begin saying on the first day of Elul. It has been noted that there seems to be a contradiction here, because the phrase "all the days of my life" implies that he would be there permanently, on a fixed basis, but "to visit" implies that he would not be there permanently. The explanation is that the nature of a person is that if he becomes accustomed to something, it doesn't arouse him and he doesn't get excited, but if he comes to a new place that causes him excitement. And that is why David said "One thing I request of Hashem...that I may dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life", on a permanent basis, but as if on a visit, with renewal and arousal.


It used to be in Israel that when the announcement of the sancitification of the month of Elul was heard, every person was trembling with fear.


The Torah Portion of Re'eh has 126 verses. 17 commandments. 37 negative commandments.Haftora: "Aniah Soara" (Yeshayahu 54).


This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Elul.  The Molad is on Yom Shlishi (Tuesday) at the hour 10:44 with 15 Chalakim.  Rosh Chodesh is on Yom Shlishi and Yom R'vi'i (Tuesday and Wednesday).



Pirkei Avot, Chapter 6 (third cycle).


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, August 9, 2017

Eikev 5777

The Torah Portion of Eikev 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yochanan Yitzchak Ben Nachum z"l 
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yaakov Ben Matisyahu HaLevi z"l
L'ilui Neshamat Esther Mushka Bat Yaakov HaLevi z"l
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Malka Bat Rivkah Zlata
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Deena Bat Tzion Bat Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaya Basha Bat Esther
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Etan Naphtali Ben Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rivkah Goldah Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Shimon Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Simcha Pearl Bat Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Moshe Shlomo Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaim Sh'muel Ben Rivkah Goldah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Avital Bat Rut
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Eliezer Yitzchak Ben Bracha Devorah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Michael Itzhak Nesshael Ben Avital 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Naomi Chana Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Refael Ben Masha Etel
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Fruma Freidel Bat Esther  
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rav Daniel Reuven Ben Esther and
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'kol Am Yisrael V'l'geulah Hashleima Bekarov


"And it will be that because of your listening to these ordinances, and your observing and performing them; then Hashem, your G-d, will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. " (Devorim 7:12)


"And it will be" is a language of happiness. "Because of'" (in Hebrew: Eikev) hints to the end of days [since the word Eikev in Hebrew is related to the Hebrew word for "footstep", and the end of days is also referred to as the footsteps of Mashiach]. There will be great happiness before the coming of the Mashiach, because there will an awakening of Teshuva (repentance) .

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)


The Tzala"ch asks, there is a law regarding the Sheva Minim (the seven kinds of fruits for which Israel is praised) which are written in this verse, that what comes earlier in the verse takes precedence when deciding which fruit to say a blessing on first. This presents a difficulty, since the Torah needs to tell us the list of the fruits, and perhaps all of them are equal in value; and if so, what is the proof that any of them take precedence? And he explains, that there was no reason for the Torah to write the word "land" a second time in this verse, except to hint to us here the law of precedence (when making a blessing).

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)


The Rav of Brisk said that if the Torah tells us a list, then that in and of itself is a law of precedence. And if the Torah wanted that things wouldn't be in a particular order, in another place it would have stated a list in a different order. For example, "These are Moshe and Aharon" (Shemot 6:27) and "These are Aharon and Moshe" (Shemot 6:26), to show us that they are equal in importance. And so we have found regarding the daughters of Tzelophad, that the Torah wrote two lists to show us that they are equal in their righteousness.

"A land of wheat and barley, and grape, and fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey." (Devorim 8:8)


The Rebbe told to his Students that the seeds of the fruit are a Siman (a sign to remember the order of precedence when saying a blessing on the fruits):
1. "Olive" - It has only one seed.
2. "Date" (which is referred to as honey in the verse) - It has a seed with a crack, so it is like two.
3. "Grape" - When grapes have seeds, they have three seeds, so that is the third. (And also the word for Grape in Hebrew is "Gefen" , which starts with the letter Gimel, the third letter in the Hebrew alphabet.)
4. "Fig" - It has many tiny seeds, so that is the fourth.
5. "Pomegranate" - It has many large seeds, so that is the fifth.

"...A land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper." (Devorim 8:9)


The Targum Yonatan says (in the translation of this verse to Aramaic): "A land in which its Sages declare decrees which are clear like iron, and its Students ask questions which are marked like copper." And it has been asked, why does this belong in the middle of verses that are speaking about the praises of the fruit of the Land of Israel? The explanation is thus: by means of increasing his eating, a man comes to forget the Torah and its Mitzvot, as it is written: "Yeshurun became fat and kicked - you grew fat, you became thick, you became covered -- and he forsook G-d his Maker..." (Devorim 32:15) But when eating of the fruit of the Land of Israel, on the contrary, there is an increase of Holiness, as it is written by the Ba"ch in Orach Chaim, Siman 208, that the Holiness of the Land emanates from the Holiness of the Upper Land (in the Heavenly Realms), and this emanates also into the Land's fruits which draw their Holiness from the Holiness of the Shechina (Divine Presence) which dwells within the midst of the Land. And therefore we say "and we will eat from its fruits and be satisfied from its goodness" , because by eating from its fruits we are nourished from the Holiness of the Shechina and from its Purity and we are satisfied from its Goodness. And there are those that add, that the Sages say that the Land of Israel is higher than all the other lands, and this is a hint that the earthiness, that is to say the materialism, of Israel is higher in its level than that of the other lands because it adds Holiness to the person.

"You will eat and you will be satisfied and you will bless..." (Devorim 8:10)


From the very essence of Birkat HaMazon "you will be satisfied", that is to say, you will be satisfied from the pleasure that you have merited to bless Hashem by saying Birkat HaMazon.

"You will eat and you will be satisfied and you will bless Hashem, your G-d, for the good land that He gave you." (Devorim 8:10)


The Rishonim (Early Ones) ask, why didn't they establish a blessing about Birkat HaMazon, "Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to bless Birkat HaMazon" ? And the explanation is, that they didn't establish a blessing on another blessing, because if they did so there would be no end to the matter, for similarly one would also need to say another blessing on the blessing that was made. And the "Sfat Emet" explains, that Birkat HaMazon is a blessing about gratitude, and everyone understands that on eating it is necessary to give thanks, and this is not just a matter of sanctity which would require one to say "Who has sancitified us...", and therefore they didn't establish the saying of the blessing "Who has sanctified us...".

It is written in the Halacha that one needs to place his 10 fingers on the bread at the time that he says the blessing "Hamotsi" (which is said before eating bread).


This corresponds to:
The 10 words in the blessing "Hamotsi" (which is said before eating bread).
The 10 words in the verse "And may G-d give you..." (Bereisheet 27:28)
The 10 words in the verse "A land of wheat, barley, etc." (Devorim 8:8)
The 10 Mitzvot  that can be fulfilled in connection with the preparation of the bread before it reaches our mouths: "Do not plow with an ox and a donkey ..."(Devorim 22:10), "Do not plant Kilayim" (forbidden mixtures of seeds -- see Vayikra 19:19), "Leket" (leaving behind one or two gleanings of the harvest for the poor if they fell to the ground) , "Shichacha" (leaving behind forgotten parts of the harvest for the poor -- see Devorim 24:19), "Peah" (leaving behind the corners of the field for the poor -- see Vayikra 19:9), "Don't muzzle the ox during his threshing" (Devorim 25:4), "T'rumah Gedolah" (the larger "T'rumah" portion of the harvested grain which is set aside to be to the Kohen), "T'rumat Ma'aser" (the "T'rumah" portion taken from Ma'aser tithe, to be given to the Kohen), "Ma'aser Rishon" (the first tithe), "Ma'aser Sheini" (the second tithe), and "Challah" (from the Ba'al HaTurim).  (Translator's note: Actually 11 Mitzvot are listed here, but the Ba'al HaTurim counts the T'rumah Gedolah and T'rumat Ma'aser together as one Mitzvah).

"Then you shall remember Hashem...that it was He Who gives you strength to make wealth..." (Devorim 8:18)


The Targum explains, that Hashem is the One Who gives you the advice to purchase property.

"And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you..." (Devorim 10:12)


From this verse, the Rabbis said (in Menachot 43:2) that a man is required to say 100 blessings every day. For they said, don't read "Mah" (in English: "what" ) but "Meah" (in English: "100" ). That is to say, "a hundred Hashem your G-d asks of you".

"And now Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you..." (Devorim 10:12)


The word "what" is a language of humility, as in the verse "and what are we" (Shemot 16:7). One needs to behave with humility.

"And now.." (Devorim 10:12)


Also, the fact that it is written "and now", means that one always needs to say "and now"-- from now it is necessary to serve Hashem. For the Evil Inclination always causes a person to despair, and it is necessary to tell oneself, from now I am beginning, just like we say at the end of the Ashrei prayer "from now until forever" , immediately "from now" I will begin again.

"You shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart and no longer stiffen your neck"  (Devorim 10:16)


In the Torah Portion of Netzavim it is written: "And Hashem will circumcise your heart" (Devorim 30:6).  Someone who comes to purify himself is given assistance.  First, "you shall circumcise", you need to fight against the Evil Inclination by yourself, and afterwards, I will help.  And that is why the first time it says "you shall circumcise" and afterwards it says "Hashem will circumcise".  

"You shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart and no longer stiffen your neck"  (Devorim 10:16)


From this verse we see that it is necessary to learn Mussar (Ethics) and that will remove the foreskin of the heart.

The Torah Portion of Eikev has 111 verses. 6 commandments. 2 negative commandments.Haftora: "Vatomer Tzion" (Yishayahu 49). 

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5 (third cycle).



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, August 3, 2017

Va'etchanan & Shabbat Nachamu 5777

The Torah Portion of Va'etchanan - Shabbat Nachamu 


Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yochanan Yitzchak Ben Nachum z"l 
L'ilui Neshamat R' Yaakov Ben Matisyahu HaLevi z"l
L'ilui Neshamat Esther Mushka Bat Yaakov HaLevi z"l
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Malka Bat Rivkah Zlata
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Deena Bat Tzion Bat Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaya Basha Bat Esther
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Etan Naphtali Ben Zehava
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rivkah Goldah Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Shimon Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Simcha Pearl Bat Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Moshe Shlomo Ben Rivkah Goldah
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Chaim Sh'muel Ben Rivkah Goldah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Avital Bat Rut
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Eliezer Yitzchak Ben Bracha Devorah 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Michael Itzhak Nesshael Ben Avital 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Naomi Chana Bat Chaya Basha 
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Refael Ben Masha Etel
L'refuat Hanefesh V'lrefuat Haguf L'Fruma Freidel Bat Esther  
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'Rav Daniel Reuven Ben Esther and
L'refuat Hanefesh V'l'refuat Haguf L'kol Am Yisrael V'l'geulah Hashleima Bekarov



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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


"...Moshe set aside three cities..." (Devorim 4:41 - 4:43)


Moshe set aside three cities of refuge for accidental killers: Betzer, Ramot, and Golan.  Rashi explains that Moshe said that even though these would not yet have the legal status of being cities of refuge, Moshe said, I am doing what is possible. (The legal status of being cities of refuge would only go into effect after the other three cities on the other side of the Jordan would be designated.) Afterwards Scripture continues: "And this is the teaching that Moshe placed before the children of Israel" (Devorim 4:44).  The Kli Yakar explains, that this is a general principle of the Torah, that we need to do what is possible.  The Teachers of Mussar say in Yiddish: "Men Darf Tohan, Men Muz Nisht Of Tohan".  The explanation is that we are not required to be effective, we only need to do what we can.

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


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

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


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

"And these words that I command you today shall be upon your heart."  (Devorim 6:6)


It has been asked, why doesn't the verse say  "within your heart"?  And the explanation is, that a person doesn't always have an elevated spiritual state of mind so that the words of Torah and Mussar (Ethics) can penetrate his heart.  But  first one needs to hear as much Torah and Mussar as possible, even if they are just external to his heart, and then at a propitious time when the heart opens, they will enter into his heart, and for that reason it is written "upon your heart".



HAFTORAH: "NACHAMU NACHAMU AMI"


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

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

TU B'AV



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


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

What else happened on Tu B'Av?


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

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

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 4 (third cycle).



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