Monday, November 30, 2009

Clarifying the Obvious

Rav Avraham Chaim Naeh, zt”l, used to publish important halachic rulings in a certain Torah journal. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, took great pleasure in perusing the halachic opinions whenever they came out in the journal. But one time Rav Shlomo Zalman noticed an exceedingly obvious halachah which didn’t seem to belong in the journal at all. The article mentioned that it is clearly forbidden from the Torah to squeeze grapes for any reason on Shabbos. Since this is clear from the gemara to the halachah it seemed absolutely superfluous and out of place among the many novel issues discussed in the journal.
Rav Shlomo Zalman wondered what it was doing there and at his first meeting with Rav Naeh he politely requested that he explain why it was there at all.
“I am glad you asked,” said Rav Naeh. “Unfortunately, I have found that to some this halachah is anything but simple. Not too long ago I was very pained that a certain talmid chacham who is involved in the difficult mesechtos of nezikin but has not really learned much Orach Chaim was confused on this point. When we finished praying on Shabbos night we had a delightful conversation which ended with a shock. The man declared joyously, ‘And now I will go home to fulfill Rava’s statement in Bava Basra 97: “a person can squeeze a cluster of grapes and say kiddush on it...”’
Rav Naeh continued painfully, “I learned from this man that this halahcah is by no means straightforward to all. I felt that I had to teach those that he may have mislead, so I included this halachah in the journal. We both know that Rava squeezed the grapes on Erev Shabbos, but sadly this man erred in this and we need to make a clear statement so people will know that his ‘interpretation’ is a violation of a Torah prohibition!”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

“Your Eyes Are Like Doves”

Once while Rav Chaim Berlin, zt”l, was saying Shir Hashirim, he suddenly burst into tears as he said the verse, “Behold you are beautiful, my love; behold you are beautiful, your eyes are like doves.”
After he completed the sefer those who had witnessed his outburst asked him what had made him cry and this elicited a fascinating story from the Rav:
“One time I was when I was still in Russia, a certain assimilated Jew approached me and me in secret and revealed that he had just had a son and he desired a bris milah for him, but he was afraid to do this ceremony in public. He requested that I come surreptitiously to his home and pose as a doctor to do the mitzvah.
“I agreed, and when I came to the house I found not a vestige of Jewishness—even mezuzos were lacking. I was so shocked that I asked him why he was so insistent on giving his son a bris since he obviously felt very distant from the Jewish people. His reply astounded me, ‘Well, I know that I was born to Jewish parents and got a bris according to Jewish law. Although I am distant now, the way back is always open to me and if I choose, I can return.
‘But if I do not circumcise my son, this will stigmatize him and prevent him from returning even if he wishes since he will be required to circumcise himself as an adult or remain outside the pale. In order to afford him the ability to return whenever he wants, it is my job to get him a bris.’
“On Bava Basra 24, we find that a fledgling dove never walks out of sight of its nest. This is why I cried when I read the verse that compares us to doves. Just like doves do not wander too far from their nest so they will be able to find their way back, even the most distant Jew does his best to keep the way open for his son to return home!”

Friday, November 27, 2009

False Claims

A certain Rav Moshe proposed marriage to a widow who happily accepted. Shortly afterward, a certain Reb Yaakov approached Rav Moshe and claimed that he had already married the widow himself! Rav Moshe was shocked. How could she have possibly agreed to his proposal if she was already a married woman? Rav Moshe decided that this was very farfetched, so he asked Reb Yaakov, “Who were the witnesses to her acceptance?”
The man hemmed and hawed, “Actually, I am not one hundred percent sure...”
When Rav Moshe asked his new bride about this, she denied it categorically. “It is true that he proposed to me, but the only proposal I accepted was yours.”
Reb Yaakov continued to pester the couple, however. He even found a witness who he claimed that he saw the whole thing. Oddly enough, the witness he brought denied that the widow had accepted the proposal.
“Well, I proposed twice…” was Reb Yaakov’s evasive reply.
After Rav Moshe married the widow, the wife’s relatives decided to fake a divorce from Reb Yaakov. But their plan to try and salvage the woman’s good name was exposed.
Reb Yaakov exclaimed, “If I never married her, why were they trying to fake a גט?”
Eventually the Rosh, zt”l, was consulted about this case. “This Reb Yaakov is very unscrupulous indeed. He has sullied the reputation of a bas Yisrael, and to what purpose? It is clear to anyone that his claims are false. He says he married her. But it has been our long-held custom for to make a big wedding party with beds set and people entering and exiting, as we find on Gittin 89. Why has no one ever heard anything about such a wedding party arranged for the couple? Why doesn’t he even remember his own witnesses’ names? Why doesn’t even the one witness he presents support his claim?
“From the very fact that he claims to have proposed twice, it appears as though he is simply out to trick her. Maybe he figured he would give her something without proposing and subsequently propose. Although this is not a valid marriage, perhaps he hoped that the witnesses didn’t know that. The fact that he claims to have tried a second time when there was no change of heart in the widow is very suspicious.
The Rosh concluded, “It is fitting to punish him to ensure that people avoid such behavior in the future!”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Proper Jewish Greeting

On of the hardest habits to acquire is always greeting one’s fellow Jew with a radiant smile. Rav Avraham Grodzinsky, zt”l, a great gaon and ba’al mussar, worked two full years to acquire this middah. Even in the ghetto during WWII, his face was always shining.
Despite the challenges, it is not surprising that Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, also mastered this trait and greeted everyone with a smile. He was exceedingly careful to fulfill every detail of halachah or middas chassidus with great joy, so why should this be different? Even at a very advanced age when the Rav was already quite frail, he would go to any lengths to act in accordance with what he understood to be Hashem’s will. The Rav was always very careful to greet everyone he met, friend or self-proclaimed foe.
On the last motzei Shabbos of a year during which Rosh Hashannah came out in the middle of the week, Rav Sonnenfeld was on his way home when he encountered a neighbor who wished him “gut voch.”
The Rav responded warmly in Yiddish by wishing him a good year: “Gut yohr.”
The man had hardly continued on when the Rav called him back. “In Gittin 62 we find that if one receives a brocho should give an even greater brocho back. The custom is to respond to those who wish us a good week with ‘a good year’ since this is a bigger blessing. This particular week is the exception to the rule, since Rosh Hashanah is on Tuesday and the week extends until motzei Shabbos. So my brochah was less than yours.” He looked at the man with his shining, happy countenance and proceeded to heap brochos on the gratified man until he was satisfied that he had fulfilled his duty.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

“Women are Exempt from Tefillin...”

In recent times, the baal teshuvah movement has generated numerous halachic questions that have never been dealt with before. It takes a true Torah giant to delve into the sources, find true parallels, and rule.
One woman, after attending an Arachim seminar in Israel, was inspired to become observant. Her husband was not as interested. Although he was not overtly against religion, he was fairly indifferent. Since he seemed slightly interested in the mitzvah of tefillin, his wife asked him to put on tefillin every day.
He answered, “Tefillin are expensive and I am simply unwilling to spend that much money just for a mitzvah.”
The woman was very conflicted about this. On the one hand, she felt certain that if he only had a pair, he would comply and put them on each day without fail. She really wished to just take the money without his permission and purchase a pair of tefillin. After all, he did have an obligation. On the other hand, it wasn’t as if she was obligated in the mitzvah of tefillin and he had to provide a pair for her. Could she purchase tefillin from his money for him?
When she asked this question of her rabbi he had no idea where to even start finding an answer. But he said, “I am not sure but I will ask this question of Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, shlit”a. I will let you know the moment I get an answer.”
When consulted, Rav Eliashiv immediately ruled, “She definitely may not purchase tefillin for him with his money against his will. First of all, it is regarding tzedakah that the Nodah B’yehudah states that a woman may not take money from her miserly husband to give charity when he doesn’t allow her to do so. Although beis din forces one to give tzedakah, who appointed her to oversee this?
Rav Eliashiv concluded, “Besides, in our times, she can procure tefillin free in a gemach and he can put these on. She has absolutely no right to pay for tefillin without his consent.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Making a Spiritual Inventory

The Magid of Dubno, zt”l, tells a beautiful parable:
Once there was a merchant who slowly built himself up until he was doing business with very large sums of money. Strangely, this merchant really didn’t know exactly how much money he had of his own since he was not very adept at making the complicated calculations that would provide the information. In any event, he was very busy and could not make the time to clarify the exact extent of his personal capital investment.
One day, this merchant heard that a fellow businessman who had at one time been very wealthy lost all of his money and even left over many debts which he could not pay. Understandably, this made the merchant anxious about his own standing and he began the laborious process necessary to determine exactly how much money he had. What was his exact status?
The Maggid continued, “The same is true in spiritual terms, as we find in Bava Basra 78. One must make a careful calculation to grasp the vast importance of every mitzvah and the terrible loss incurred by every sin.”
Rav Dessler, zt”l, taught that we find in the Torah that, “The moshlim say: באו חשבון—‘Let us make an accounting.’” This is in plural form to teach that one cannot truly succeed in making an honest cheshbon hanefesh unless he is part of a group—even if they are on a lower level than himself. Alone he will almost certainly fail.
One Elul, Rav Leib Chasman, zt”l, the mashgiach of Chevron Yeshivah, delivered a very important lesson regarding cheshbon hanefesh. “In Bava Basra 78 it states that a fire will emerge from those who did a cheshbon hanefesh which will burn those who did not.”
Rav Leib thundered his message with great feeling, “From here we see that a true cheshbon hanefesh must be done with the intensity of a roaring fire!”

Monday, November 23, 2009

When Must One Close His Gemara?

The Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, was unusually scrupulous that his weights and measures should always be exactly correct. Despite his zealous care not to waste a moment unnecessarily, adjusting his scales was the one business need that took him out of the beis midrash every weekday without fail.
Each day, he would close his gemara to visit his store and check that the weights and measures were exactly correct. He would never rely on his having checked them the day before, since he saw it as his holy duty to be absolutely certain that he was not cheating anyone, even for one day.
Reb Yosef, zt”l, a student of the Chofetz Chaim and also the ironmonger of Radin, recounted an amazing story which demonstrates the care that his rebbe took in this area. “The Chofetz Chaim gave me the honor of making his weights for him and replacing them when they wore out, but he would not allow me to make the marks signifying the exact position of each weight. This task he left to himself. If I had not seen how he dealt with those weights I would never have believed it.
“It took him hours to make one siman on a weight. In order to ensure that the weight was exactly correct he would spend hours before he was finally satisfied that it could be used.”
“It is well known that I was a very poor man in those years,” Reb Yosef continued. “But I tell you now that I would not have agreed to mark those weights with the scrupulous care of the Chofetz Chaim if he had paid me twenty five ruble an hour! Even for what was a veritable fortune for me, I would never have been able to replicate the intense focus that the Chofetz Chaim put into what otherwise would have been a simple task, with a much less honest result.”

The Rewards of Diligence

A certain man once traveled to a far-flung country to make his fortune. He claimed that he knew of a place where they could mine a king’s ransom in valuable gems for a very small investment since such trinkets were fairly common in this distant land.
But he didn’t wish to go alone, so he requested all eligible young men in his city to join him in his adventure. When they heard how far away his destination was, they declined, since they really didn’t want to exert themselves to such an extent. And could they really be sure this man was not mistaken? Who knew what they would really achieve after putting in such Herculean efforts?
Yet there was one young man from their town who agreed to accompany this entrepreneur in his venture and the two went off together. Many years passed while the two off together, presumably digging up jewels.
Of course, one day the two returned. The original businessman who put in all the capital for their project had amassed an immense fortune in jewels. And even his assistant came back a big millionaire. How do you think the other young men felt when they saw the stunning success of this venture? They felt foolish for not putting in the effort which would have made them as rich as their friend. After all, he was from the same town and had no great advantage over them. He had merely taken the opportunity that had come his way since he was willing to work hard.
The Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, told this parable to illustrate to his son that everything really depends on how hard one works. “This parable explains the statement of our sages that the elders lamented, ‘The face of Moshe is like the sun and the face of Yehoshua is like the moon. Oy, such a shame! Oy, such an embarrassment!’ Yehoshua shines like the moon, but he was one of us. The only reason he got ahead was that he never left the tent of Moshe. We could have done the same and attained a similar distinction. Is this not humiliating?”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Importance of Chessed

We find in the Avos d’Rav Noson that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai was once leaving Yerushalayim, followed by Rabbi Yehoshua. When Rabbi Yehoshua caught a glimpse of the destroyed Beis Hamikdash he exclaimed, “Woe to us that the place that atoned for the sins of Israel has been laid to waste!”
Rav Yochanan ben Zakai responded, “Do not be too distressed, for we still have one act that atones as the Beis HaMikdash once did: chessed.
Once, a certain chossid came to Rav Chaim of Sanz zt”l and lamented that he lacked the money to cover his daughter’s dowry. The Rav sent him to a wealthy and learned follower with a written request to help the poor man raise the sum.
When the poor chossid presented the letter, the wealthy scholar demurred. “I don’t have the time, I’m too busy learning!”
A few months later, this man came to Sanz but the Rav didn’t shake his hand. When it was time for him to take his leave, the Rav said, “We find that when Yaakov struggled with a “man,” it was the angel of Eisav. But when it says that a “man” found Yosef, it was the angel Gavriel. How did Chazal know which “man” was which? When a “man” comes to show Yosef the way when he was lost, he’s a holy angel. But when a “man” refuses to give Yaakov a blessing because he is in a rush to sing shirah, he’s an angel of Eisav! Chessed, you do at all times!”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rav Zusia and the Miser

Once when Rav Zusia of Anapoli, zt”l, went around collecting tzedakah with another rav they had a singular experience. It was when they went to visit a certain miser whom the rav knew never donated to any cause, not matter how worthy. When the two were invited into the wealthy miser’s home and he predictably refused to donate a penny, Rav Zusia asked him why.
“What do you mean, why?” barked the man. “I picked up my conduct from a clear gemara in Bava Basra 9. There we find that while one who gives charity receives six blessings, one who speaks kindly to the poor gets eleven. Isn’t it better to honor the poor man without giving a cent? After all, one who does so is granted almost double the blessing, so obviously he is doing the main avodah!”
While the rav who had accompanied Rav Zusia stood speechless at the man’s callousness to the plight of others, Rav Zusia drily replied, “You have not learned the gemara correctly. After all, why would the one who honors the poor be afforded greater blessing when the actual money given to him feeds him and literally saves his life?
“The root of your error is that you think that the money you give the poor is a gift from your resources, but in truth this is not so. We find in many sources that the money that the wealthy man gives the poor is actually the poor man’s which has been deposited with him for the express purpose of returning it to the poor person. One who gives the deposit back is blessed, but someone who refrains from donating to a worthy cause when he can well afford it is nothing less than a thief. If, besides giving a donation, a person also speaks kindly to the poor man he is afforded extra blessings since in this manner he gives the poor man from his own. He has gone beyond merely returning the poor man’s property that has been entrusted with him from on high!”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Say Tehilim or Learn Torah?

A certain merchant from Metz would earn his living by selling furs, primarily at the seasonal market fair in Vilna. Everyday this merchant, who knew how to learn a little, would finish selling for the day and go the beis midrash of the Vilna Gaon and say Tehillim.
The Gaon noticed that he was no ignoramus and was a bit perplexed as to why he said Tehillim instead of using his time to learn. He decided to ask him why.
The merchant replied, “I do this because of something I heard from our Rav in Metz, Rav Yonasan Eibeschitz, zt”l. He taught from our sages that Dovid Hamelech asked Hashem that Tehillim should be considered like learning the hardest areas of Torah. Surely we see from this the greatness of Tehilim since Hashem certainly did not refuse Dovid Hamelech.”
“But why do you think that Hashem would not refuse Dovid Hamelech?” countered the Gaon. “In Bava Basra 17 we find that the gemara entertains the possibility that Hashem did refuse Dovid a request. There we see that the gemara entertains the possibility that Dovid was one of the very few whom the worms could not overcome after death. One opinion cites Dovid’s prayer in Tehillim 16 where he pleads that his flesh be protected from worms. The other opinion disregards this proof out of hand since this was merely what Dovid asked for, not what he got. Please ask your Rav how he answers this question which seems to show clearly that a request of Dovid’s may not have been accepted?”
The next year, the merchant was back and sure enough he had an answer from Rav Yonasan. “My Rav said that that is not how he learned the gemara at all. The opinion that says that this was merely prayer does not mean that Dovid was not protected from the worms. He requested this in Tehillim and surely it was granted. This opinion merely posits that Dovid should not be included in the list of those who were protected because of their righteousness since Dovid was merely protected because of his prayers, not because he deserved it as a result of his personal purity. Similarly, no one would really believe that Dovid requested something from Hashem which he did not receive without a clear proof that he was not answered. Since we see no indication that Dovid was not answered you may definitely continue to say Tehillim in the beis midrash, and have it considered Torah study.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Bitter Medicine

Rav Rafael of Bershad, zt”l, explained that when a person slips up or makes an error in davening or is embarrassed, he should not allow himself to be vexed by this in the slightest. “This is just like a person who is sick and requires a bitter medicine to heal him. Although he would prefer to avoid taking the medication altogether, if he is sick he will take it and thank the doctor for administering it.
“Similarly, Hashem arranges for a person to err when he falls into arrogance. In order to rectify this, a person is made to stumble and this naturally makes him feel very small. Although such failings are a direct result of Hashem’s mercy upon us, we are better off searching for a simpler anti-dote to our hubris so we will not be required to endure such embarrassing moments. If a person yearns to attain humility with his entire heart, Hashem will help him attain it.
“But when we fail we must never give in to feelings of depression which distance us from Hashem. Rav Pinchas of Koretz, zt”l, once encouraged me on just this point with the words, ‘Just don’t be afraid.’
“I always understood this to mean that a person should never allow anything to depress or frighten him. Instead one should thank Hashem for the difficulty, saying, ‘Master of the world. You have sent this trouble so I should attain humility and be healed spiritually, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart! Please protect me from stumbling in this manner in the future. Instead, protect me from the defilement of arrogance by awakening a desire within me to attain a truly humble spirit, so there is no longer any need to cause me to stumble and fall in the future.’”
When someone asked Rav Rafael for advice to help him conquer his ego, Rav Rafael answered, “Hashem created a person so that he would spend his entire life searching for ways to be saved from pride!”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Either Spiritual or Material

Our sages teach: “If it weren’t for the sound of the sun in motion, we could hear the clamor of the throngs of Rome. And if it weren’t for the clamor of the hordes of Rome, we could hear the sound of wheel of the sun.” The Afikei Yam zt”l explains that the noise of the sun is the consciousness that time flies past us so quickly, and the present is just a transient moment without substance. It is this awareness of the limited nature of our lives in this world that brings the wise to fear heaven, and fills them with the fortitude to serve Hashem in purity before the opportunity slips away. The antithesis of this is the clamor of Rome that represents the vapid pleasure of the material world and the complacency of the wicked. These two sounds are mutually exclusive; the worldly “static” blocks out the voice of conscience and the exhortation of our evanescence, but when we recall the finite nature of the material world it loses its allure.
This can be understood with one of Rebbe Nachman’s parables: The evil within,יצר הרע is like a practical joker who races through a crowd showing off a clenched fist. He approaches first one person and then another, taunting, “Wouldn’t you like to know what I have in my hand?” Everyone he meets imagines that the clenched fist contains his heart’s desire. They all chase after him with abandon… They finally catch up with him, but when this joker opens his hand, he laughs at the consternation of his victim. His hand is completely empty!
When time runs out, the “joker” has no need to hide the truth any longer—that what he has to offer, the temptations he presents, are just illusions. We either hear the sound of the sun, or the sound of the hordes of Rome—we cannot listen to both at the same time!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Generous or Miserly?

Rav Shalom Shwardron once gave a very inspiring lesson regarding true generosity. “Many businessmen are truly kindly and run after opportunities to give tzedakah, but when it comes to business they will not give up even one penny. Why? Because of a ‘bad eye’—a grasping tendency.”
“Why can’t these baalei tzedakah surrender an extra few cents to someone in business dealings? The difference is clear. In tzedakah, I am the giver. But in business, someone is taking. How can I give in and allow him to profit? I don’t really care, but why should I allow him to get ahead?”
Rav Shalom continued, “I once heard from Rav Meir Chodosh, zt”l, a very relevant lesson from Bava Basra 15. The gemara brings a verse in which we find that among other things, Iyov is referred to as ‘one who turns from evil.’ Rav Abba bar Shmuel explains that he is called this because he was able to let go when it came to money.
“For example, it was normal for one who owed a worker half a perutah to purchase an inexpensive loaf of bread and give half to the worker and take half. But Iyov would give the entire perutah to the worker since it was despicable in his eyes to be so grasping regarding such an insignificant amount of money.
Rav Shalom continued, “How does such a seemingly insignificant monetary gift reveal that Iyov ‘turned from evil?’ The answer is clear. One who avoids evil does not have a bad eye. He is not pained when his friend profits even at his own expense. How can one know where he is holding in this area? From the little things that will be unnoticed. We all know that people often say, ‘I can surrender on any matter but business is business.’
“Rav Meir brought a story to illustrate. A certain woman was very careful to give generously to tzedakah, even going to much trouble so that yeshiva students should eat at her house at no charge. One time a certain student used a bit more water than necessary to wash his hands. The woman began to scream, ‘Kloiznikim! Good-for-nothings! These people are not careful to conserve water!’
“This is a classic case of petty miserliness. If I give, that it fine, but if someone takes even a little unexpectedly, I am willing to heap insult and shame on his head!”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spirit of the Law, Chapter 72:23

23) One should check through his garments Erev Shabbos to ensure that he did not inadvertently leave something muktzeh, forbidden on Shabbos, in his pockets.

The Mekor Chaim explains that Erev Shabbos can refer to the time before one leaves the physical world since Shabbos is likened to the next world. In this context our halacha teaches that one should do a careful moral inventory a day before he dies.

This accounting must include every limb, like that of Chizkiyahu Hamelech who said to Hashem, “I have looked over every limb and have not found any with which I have angered You.” This is our mitzvah the day before we leave the world.

Our sages teach us that one should always carefully check his deeds, y'mashmesh b’maasav. They use this same language when discussing searching through one’s pockets before Shabbos—y’mashmesh—to teach the connection between the two.

But as Rabbi Eliezer teaches, since we do not know what day we will leave the world, we should be involved in teshuvah every day. This is especially true regarding the day before Shabbos, since we are expected to bear witness that Hashem created the world. How can we be considered a proper witness when our actions during the week seem to declare the opposite of our testimony, chas v’shalom?

Even if one finds that he has blemished with every limb he must never give up since “Hashem is not a tyrant.” Rav Nosson of Breslov teaches regarding this: even a person who has violated the entire Torah eight hundred times can still do teshuvah and rectify everything. Yet, we must at least make a special effort to repent before we declare Hashem the Creator on this holy day.

We must do our utmost to cast away any behavior or “baggage” which we would not want to have with us in the next world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spirit of the Law, Chapter 72:22

22) Near sunset one should gently tell the member’s of his household to light the Shabbos candles.

The source for this is the Mishnah which tells us to ask our household before Shabbos, isartem, if they tithed, eiravtem, and dealt with the eiruv. Then we are to remind them to light the candles.

The Komarna Rebbe explains that each person needs these two essential elements in order to merit the light of Shabbos in his soul.

First isartem. This means to imbue ourselves with G-dliness through a deep abiding faith in Hashem. On this level one truly feels that with every step he is with Hashem at all times. Clearly there are many levels to this emunah. One who works on attaining this will eventually be so filled with emunah that he will have imbued emunah in his ten essential strengths which represent the ten Sefiros. In this way he fulfills isartem, which can be explained as “have brought G-dliness into the ten.” To explain in simple terms this means that every pore of one’s being is filled with the joyous knowledge of Hashem.

The first step towards attaining this level is that one must truly yearn with his soul to truly serve Hashem. This leads him to use his wisdom, discernment, and understanding to understand how to remain with Hashem at all times. Through this feeling of imminence all of one’s natural tendencies towards kindness, and alacrity, are revealed as love and balanced fear of Hashem. Everyone who sees him is filled with a feeling of Hashem’s great magnificence and is influenced for the better. This combination of love and fear brings one the beauty of true dveykus and a true connection to the Torah. He will praise Hashem at all times and work to find the best method to declare Hashem’s kingship in the world with his every act.

But it is possible to explain this in a different manner. We can say that we must all tithe ourselves spiritually. Just as tithing literally means taking a tenth, thereby elevating the remaining produce and permitting it to be eaten, one elevates every experience through focus on declaring Hashem’s kingship. This level of Malchus is the entry point to every true level of divine service as the Tikunei Zohar explains. As Rebbe Nachman explains, the best way to imbue divinity in the mundane is to focus on the G-dly aspect of his endeavor. For example, when a person works for a living he should focus on the charity he will give from his salary and that he will be doing the great mitzvah of supporting his family, etc., through the money. In this manner one’s every instant is elevated to Hashem.

Either way, the Komarna explains that this element alone is not enough since one must also be among people, leading them to improve themselves by his example and helping them in any way he can. This is the second important essential, since the world eiruv literally means to mix, since the point of an eiruv is to make different rabbinical domains as one.

Through both of these steps “the candle will be lit,” one will be filled with the powerful light of Shabbos.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Spirit of the Law chapter 72:21

21) [Discusses proper way to do hatmanah, cover something in a davar hamosif hevel, material that increases the natural heat of the cooked object. The most prevalent example of this in our times is covering a pot that is on the stove from before Shabbos. It may not be covered completely on all sides. Instead one must leave one side exposed. This side should be covered with a board or the like which will ensure that there is space between any other covering and the pot on the fire. One then covers this board with old clothes which keep in the warmth.]
The Mekor Chaim explains that something which increases heat refers to lashon hara which makes a person feel “under fire,” filling his heart with feelings of resentment and anger. Although it is absolutely forbidden to listen to lashon hara unnecessarily, there are times, when this is permitted. For example, when one listens in order to protect himself or his fellow man from harm.
But, even if this is truly the reason why one allows himself to be exposed to what usually increases fire, he must be very vigilant that this merely galvanizes him to act as if this is true to ensure that he or his friend are not damaged by a potential fraud and the like. But we are not permitted to allow the natural heat to touch us “on all sides,” that is to believe the lashon hara, absolutely. We must separate ourselves from what we are being told.
But of course it is human nature to either get riled up about what we are told, and deal with it, or to apathetically disbelieve it entirely. How are we to act on what we are told, and yet not hate the person spoken about? The way to do this is to separate ourselves from being enticed to hate the other party, while at the same time believing what we are told just enough to suspect the possibly guilty party and act in a protective way.
We do this by separating ourselves from the lashon hara with a board, which we cover with clothes. In our context this alludes to reframing what the person allegedly did, until we understand that there are many ways to see how he is not really responsible for his actions. Perhaps he does not understand or he is in great pain and can hardly control his impulses. In this manner his actions are seen in a very different light, since one has placed him in different spiritual garments even if he actually did the forbidden deed.
But we can only do this through living the Mishnah: “Do not judge your friend until you have come to his place.” Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that since no mortal can ever really be entirely in another’s place, this Mishnah teaches us never to stand in judgment on the actions of another person. Even if we see the bad actions we must never condemn another person absolutely.
Only Hashem can truly know who is really responsible for his actions and can determine what are the proper measures to deal with such a person.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When is it Forbidden to Borrow?

The Sefer Chassidim records an interesting story of a certain wicked person in relation to the verse: “לוה רשע ולא ישלם”—“A wicked man borrows and does not repay.”
A certain person was destitute and needed money for expenses. Of course he could have asked for charity like most indigents but he shied away from this drastic step. “How can I take money from public funds and deprive a poor family?” he reasoned.
But the bills needed to be paid. Finally, when he really had no choice, he borrowed a large sum to cover his most basic expenses. He reasoned that this was better than taking charity since he was certainly not depriving those who could not afford to give. In any event, he was comfortable borrowing so this is what he did.
Day by day his loans mounted and when anyone would request money from him he would explain that he could not pay. After all, sometimes people borrow in good faith but then find themselves unable to repay the debt as planned. In this man’s case, it eventually became clear to all that he was borrowing with no real plan to pay any of it back—unless Hashem sent him a windfall, which he felt certain would definitely come one day. In that case, he would repay all of his outstanding loans and everyone would be happy with him.
But strangely, this man continued to request loans from unsuspecting prospects even though he had not yet returned a penny of his many prior debts and still had no means to repay any of the loans. When people noticed his strange behavior they confronted him. “How can you possibly borrow when you have not yet repaid such a fortune of money? Aren’t you ashamed to borrow money in such bad faith? Why not take what you can from tzedakah if you are qualified to receive it?”
But this man was unperturbed. “Is it better for me to take tzedakah and rob a poor man who has no way to support his family? This way, I take from those who don’t need the money as much and everyone is happy. And I do hope to repay the loans someday with Hashem’s help...”
The Sefer Chassidim comments: “This man is very wicked since not only does he make a tremendous chilul Hashem, he also causes people to refrain from lending other indigents who would repay their loans, making their lives much harder!”

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Another Way

One of the most vocal proponents of the need for “shemiras einayim” in recent times was Rav Eliyahu Lopian, zt”l. Once, a certain young man wished to travel a long distance from the yeshiva for a wedding. Since he was learning in Kfar Chassidim, he required permission to travel from the mashgiach, the venerable Rav Eliyahu Lopian. But when he requested permission, he was surprised that Rav Lopian did not look on this favorably.
“Aren’t you afraid that you will see what is unseemly and spiritually damaging?” he asked.
“Not really,” the young man replied. “I have never found that seeing such things have any real effect on me.”
The mashgiach then made what seemed to be a very strange request. “May I have your mother’s name please?”
The bochur was flummoxed, “But why?”
The mashgiach clearly pitied the young man when he said, “I am eighty years old and I tell you truly that even walking a little bit in the street effects me adversely, and you, a young man in the prime of life, feel nothing? Obviously you are sick, so I need your mother’s name to daven for your complete recovery!”
On another occasion, when Rav Lopian was still living in Yerushalayim, a group arrived exactly on time for a va’ad and joyously shared with the mashgiach that they had cut through the Machaneh Yehudah market in order to make it on time.
To their dismay, the mashgiach was not pleased with this discovery, since it is virtually impossible to avoid seeing the unseemly in such a crowded area. “How could you have possibly cut through the shuk?” he thundered. “The Rashbam says clearly that if there is another way, one who takes the shorter path paved with pritzus is wicked even if he closes his eyes and sees nothing since he should have distanced himself from potential sin, not drawn it nearer to him. The gemara tells us that we must distance ourselves from what is unseemly!”