Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Eishes Chayil

The Tchebiner Rav, zt”l, recounted that when Rav Yizchok of Vorke, zt”l, passed away, some of his chassidim became followers of his son, Rav Yaakov Dovid of Amshinov, zt”l. But most of the chassidim decided to follow Rav Mendeleh of Vorke, zt”l, since he was more down-to-earth and was more involved with the common folk.
But on the day when Rav Mendeleh became rebbe he changed drastically. “Our sages teach that Ohn Ben Peles’ wife saved him from Korach. She did this by frankly saying, ‘What difference does this dispute make to you? No matter who becomes rav, you will still remain the student.’ Although the gemara attributes great chochmah to his wife, we may certainly ask what wisdom was necessary to make such a simple point?
“The answer is that Korach claimed that the entire nation is holy and that there should be no leader at all. But she was intelligent enough to see through this ruse since she understood that there would always be someone people must nullify themselves to and receive from.”
From that day, Rav Mendeleh changed his ways, speaking very little even to those who were close to him.
Rav Yehudah Rabinowitz, zt”l, a student of the Tchebiner Rav, compared Ohn’s wife to the wife of Korach. “Ohn’s wife saved him by uncovering her hair when Korach arrived. Korach’s wife, by contrast, talked him into making a machlokes in the first place. It is possible that some allow the hair of a woman to remain uncovered on her wedding day to symbolize that she should be like Ohn’s wife and steer her husband away from machlokes. We can also explain a similarly why we send the new chosson a tallis. This symbolizes to him that he should never allow himself to be drawn into a machlokes like Korach who foolishly listened to his wife. He should never be like Korach who made an argument by claiming that a tallis that is all techeiles is not obligated in tzitzis.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Hot Springs of Teveria

The hot springs in various cities in Europe were considered an excellent way to convalesce for the ill. Unfortunately, many people lost their spiritual bearings in the materialistic environment of the spas, making it seem hardly worth the effort. After all, they went to recover from physical illnesses, not to contract new spiritual maladies.
When Rav Dovid of Dinov, zt”l, was in a certain town that featured such a spring he was horrified to see that many people absolutely lost any vestige of Torah or fear of heaven. They cast off all inhibitions and acted exactly like the non-Jews around them.
Rav Dovid wryly commented, “Our sages teach that the hot springs of Teveria were a vestige of the great floodwaters that destroyed virtually all of creation. On the surface this seems strange. For what purpose did Hashem leave over a remembrance of the flood in this form? Presumably the answer is that Hashem foresaw that people would have claims on Him for destroying an entire generation. After all, what exactly could they have done to warrant such severe punishment? He left waters such as these to form spas where people will again descend into the moral bankruptcy of the flood, since thousands of people flock to these places and act in a reprehensible manner. These springs are spread all over the world to demonstrate time and time again how people acted during the generation of the flood. In this way, we see their corrupt behavior and understand that Hashem’s ways are all just.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Loyal Servant

Our sages teach that there was a time when Dovid HaMelech sought to worship idolatry. The Malbim, zt”l, explains this astonishing statement with a parable.
There was once a very cruel king who was a slave to his nasty temper. He would sentence his subjects to death for the slightest insult or offense to him. The royal butler, a very loyal servant, once spilled a little bit from the king’s cup on the table in front of his royal highness. When he saw the king’s face twist into an expression of wrath he immediately poured the remaining contents of the glass on the table.
Everyone was astounded at this outrageous chutzpah, but when asked to explain his conduct the butler explained that he had done it for the sake of the king. “I knew from the look on your majesty’s face that I would not be forgiven. But what will those who hear that I received capital punishment for such a minor error say? They will surely claim that the king is absolutely ruthless. Because of my great love for the king I have purposely poured the drink onto the table. In this way, I have saved him from scorn from potential criticism, since any king would kill a royal butler who has the nerve to purposely pour the contents of the king’s glass onto the table in front of him.”
When the king heard this he was overcome with the extent of his butler’s love. With no thought of self he had zealously guarding the king’s reputation. Not only was the butler’s life spared, he was also elevated above all other officer’s because of his great love for the king.
The same is true regarding Dovid HaMelech. When Hashem decreed that he be executed by his own son, he feared that people would complain about the seeming injustice of this punishment. After all, since he had done a complete teshuvah, how could they possibly reconcile the punishment with the sin? Dovid was even willing to pretend to worship idols to avoid the greater chilul Hashem.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

True Empathy

During one of the conventions of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah around the year תשי"ב, the gedolim wondered what to do about the terrible decrees of Stalin against the Jewish people in the Soviet Union. Should they organize a protest outside the Russian consulate in the United States? Or would it be wiser to just try to help their unfortunate brethren as quietly as possible? After all, any protest could potentially be harmful for Jews under Soviet rule.
Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, and Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, the Boyaner Rebbe, zt’l, and the Kopitzhnitzer Rebbe were among those who felt that vigorous protest was the proper path to take. Most delegates disagreed. Suddenly, the Bluzhiver Rebbe, zt”l, got up and explained why they were obligated to protest despite knowing that their protest will be ignored. “Our sages recount that Pharaoh consulted with three advisors about his plan to persecute the Jews: Bilaam, Yisro, and Iyov. Bilaam concurred with Pharaoh’s vision and was killed for it. Yisro ran away and merited that his descendants sat in the Lishkas Hagazis. Iyov remained silent and endured suffering.
“We may well ask what the connection is between Iyov’s silence and his suffering. Are we not taught that Hashem punishes measure for measure? The answer is that Iyov—like Yisro—knew that Pharaoh should be stopped. He refrained from protesting because he was sure that any protest would be in vain. Hashem judged him with suffering to show him that if one truly suffers he cries out even though he knows that his cries are futile. He cries out because it hurts, without a thought of whether this will help. This taught Iyov that if one sees suffering and he does not cry out, this shows that it does not hurt him. If he was in pain over the other’s trouble, a cry would burst out with no conscious thought at all.”

Monday, August 16, 2010

Learning for the Sake of Heaven

Rav Chaim Volozhiner, zt”l, explains, “Our sages teach:'לעולם'—‘one must always’ learn Torah not lishmah, since it is only through learning not for the sake of heaven that one comes to learn lishmah. This means that although it is virtually impossible to begin learning for the sake of heaven, one must focus on coming to learn Torah l’shmah. If he does not think about coming to lishmah, however, he is all too likely to spend his entire life learning shelo l’shmah.
“This can be compared to a king who orders his servant to ascend to the top floor of a tall building. It is certainly obvious that the servant cannot jump so many flights on his own steam. He must obviously take the stairs and ascend story by story until he finally arrives at the top floor. It is self-evident that the king would have no right to be angry at his servant for beginning his climb up the stairs from the ground floor. Nevertheless, if the king were to see the slave loitering from side to side on the steps and not really ascending at all, he would be furious.”
The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, similarly explains that one must learn shelo lishmah that will bring to lishmah. “If one learns for ulterior motives but he is also motivated by a deep desire for spirituality, his she’lo lishmah is somewhat lishmah already and he will eventually learn lishmah. But if one’s entire motivation is for a shallow desire for honor in this world or other material concerns, he will likely never learn lishmah. The reason for this is since although this person appears to be serving Hashem, this is really just a façade that is as shallow as a Purim spiel. Just like one’s actions on the stage on Purim do not necessarily reflect who he really is, so too, a person learning Torah only for material benefit without a thought for Hashem cannot come to lishmah. Nevertheless, we must not refrain from doing mitzvos or learning merely because we have ulterior motives, since although this is a very puny level compared to lishmah, one will still be rewarded for every mitzvah or Torah learning, even shelo lishmah.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Value of Every Effort

Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter, shlit”a, taught a very inspiring lesson from a statement of our sages “In the midrash we find that Hashem wished to return the world to primordial chaos because of the heinous acts of Yehoyakim. It is therefore not surprising that the gemara asks why Yehoyakim is not on the list of kings who have no portion in the next world. The gemara explains that he received atonement due to the humiliation of not being buried. Rav Preida’s grandfather found a skull near the gates of Yerushalayim. On the skull was imprinted, ‘This and another.’ He buried it but it resurfaced. When this happened again, he understood that this was the skull of Yehoyakim, regarding whom the verse states, ‘He will be buried like a donkey.’ This was the first act of recompense that was alluded to in the inscription. But despite this curse, Rav Preida’s grandfather figured that it was inappropriate for a king to be dishonored in this manner and he wrapped it in silk and placed it in a chest. His wife found it and her neighbors reasoned that it was likely of his first wife whom he could not forget; in a fit of jealousy she burned it in the oven. This was the other act of recompense imprinted on the skull.’
“We learn from this gemara the vast importance of every action in this world. If this humiliation after death was enough to atone for Yehoyakim’s many sins, it is obvious that every embarrassment or effort one makes while still in this world certainly helps rectify one’s sins. But of course one requires great siyattah d’Shmayah to merit such atonement.
“Our main hope and prayer must be that Hashem shine His face upon us and be gracious to us, as the midrash learns from the verse, 'האר פניך ונושעה'. Sometime a ha’aras panim is shined on one and through one experience or thought he can change himself from one extreme to the other!”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Drawing Others Closer

Rav Shlomo of Bobov, zt”l, recounted, “Our sages teach, 'גדולה לגימה שמקרבת הרחוקים'—‘Great is drink, for it draws those who are far closer.’ This was the way of the chassidim and anshei maaseh of every generation, to draw those distant closer through food and drink. They would gather together at a meal and bring them close to the Shechinah. This was the path followed by Avraham Avinu who would first serve food and when his guests thanked him he would say, ‘Did you eat from mine that you thank me? You ate from the food created by the Master of the Universe! Praise and thank the One who spoke and the world was created.”
The Beis Yisrael, zt”l, was very well known as a dynamic force for kiruv and mussar in his generation. He was especially effective working with people in the morning hours. He would invite people who were in his shul to join him for an early morning tea at his home. As they sat down the rebbe was often heard humming, in a low tone, the verse, "לחמו נתן מימיו נאמנים"—“His bread shall be given, his waters shall be sure.” Many chassidim would mentally supply the rest of the verse, "מלך ביפיו תחזינה עיניך"—“Your eyes shall see the king in his beauty.”
The rebbe used this time to fill those who visited with yiras shamayim. Some would get a “psak,” while others received chizuk. Yet others required only a penetrating look to inspire them to change. Over the years thousands spent this special time with the rebbe and all were elevated, each according to his level.
His tisch was also a place where many people attained inspiration. These included some of the most broken Holocaust survivors. Somehow, going and getting shirayim from the rebbe uplifted people who might have fallen into despair and gave them a new lease on life.
When these remarkable results of his daily tea and his tisch were brought to his attention, the rebbe’s answer was modest but short and to the point. “It’s not the tea time or the shirayim. It’s just that our sages said that הרחוקים" "גדולה לגימה שמקרבת.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Merit of Building Eretz Yisrael

When Ashkenazim began making aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in the modern period, groups were formed to purchase as much land as possible from the Arabs. After World War I, a group called “Neve Sha’anan” was established for this purpose. This group acquired an abundance of land in Yerushalayim. It was on land acquired by this group that the Kenesset and the original government complex was built. It should be noted that the majority of such groups at that time were founded and run by observant Jews.
On one occasion when Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, was present at one such purchase he gave a very moving speech. “Our sages teach that Omri became king because he added a city to Yisrael. From here we see the great merit of those who are occupied with the mitzvah of building up the holy land: due to this, one merits to rule.
“In our day we see that the Zionists add many cities and yishuvim in Eretz Yisrael and this certainly gives them merits. It is possible that due to this development they will merit to rule the holy land before Moshaich comes. If this is the direction that we are heading in, it is incumbent on all of us to build religious neighborhoods and moshavim throughout the holy land, since only in this way will we stand up to those who wish to swallow up all religious sentiment, emptying the land of all holiness to form a profane state.
“Our answer can only be resounding if we have a strong presence here. We will then be able to proclaim: ‘Your plans will never come to fruition!’”
He completed his speech with the verse, 'סולו סולו המסילה סלקו מאבן'—‘Cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones!’” As he finished he quickly slipped off the podium, removed his coat and bent to the ground. With alacrity and enthusiasm, he began to clear away the stones, intoning the verse 'סולו סולו המסילה סלקו מאבן' over and over again, with the crowd soon following behind until a broad path was cleared.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Untainted Rebuke

Rav Shalom Schwadron, zt”l, once explained how to properly offer rebuke. “Our sages teach that Yeravam become king because he rebuked Shlomo HaMelech. But he was also punished because he rebuked Shlomo in public. The obvious question is that the verse tells us that Yeravam was punished because he caused his subjects to worship idolatry, presumably not on account of how he rebuked Shlomo HaMelech.
“The Maharsha asks this question and explains that the character defect of arrogance which caused Yeravam to publicly rebuke Shlomo HaMelech also brought about his downfall. It was this selfsame pride that caused him to prohibit the Jews from ascending to the temple and erect a calf for them to worship instead.
“We can better understand this when we consider what my rebbe taught about the mitzvah of rebuke. He says that rebuke is very close to lashon hara, since the one who rebukes his friend attempts to deal with his friend’s errors. The essential difference is that rebuke is a result of one’s desire to save the sinner while lashon hara is when such an interest is absent.
“Clearly, rebuke is not lashon hara only when the one giving the rebuke is careful to honor the person who erred since he rebukes solely for the benefit of the person who stumbled. But if one rebukes publicly, he has not considered the honor of the person rebuked and has violated the prohibition of lashon hara. Although Yeravam was rewarded for rebuking Shlomo HaMelech, he was given as a test to see how well he would withstand temptation in the same situation. Because he failed to rebuke with the proper care, he was severely tested and failed.
Rav Shalom concluded, “He only failed so abysmally because the kingdom was handed over to him as a test, not a gift!”

Sunday, August 8, 2010

One Day at a Time

The Chasam Sofer, zt”l, learns a very practical lesson about one’s daily avodas Hashem from Sanhedrin 100. “Our sages teach that one should not worry about tomorrow since perhaps he will no longer live by then. Why worry about a world he has no part in? This is very valuable advice that shows how to overcome our yetzer hara. If one focuses on the long struggle he will have throughout his entire life, he can easily give up on himself. Just thinking about the unrelenting effort required to overcome the evil within is enough to discourage anyone, since who knows that he will be able to keep up the struggle?
“Instead, one should focus on the day he is in right now. He should act as though he only has this day to live, since he really has no guarantee that he has a moment longer. He should tell himself that just for that day he will refuse to listen to his yetzer hara. After all, one day is really not too difficult. The next day he should once again focus only on that day. In this manner he will be able to overcome his yetzer hara with relative ease.
“This is the meaning of the verse, 'ואתם הדקבים בה' אלקיכם חיים כלכם היום'—‘And you who cleave to Hashem your G-d, your are all alive this day.’ Those who wish to attain true dveikus with Hashem can do so through focusing exclusively on living and overcoming the evil within only on the day he is now living. In this manner he will truly cleave to his Creator and never need to feel overwhelmed by the task ahead of him.”
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt"l, also adjures us to live only in the present. In his words, "Yesterday and tomorrow are man's downfall. Today we may be inspired to come close to Hashem but yesterday and tomorrow hold us back."
This is one of the many paths Rebbe Nachman shared with us to come to joy when things are hard. Just focus on the present, as if we were born today.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Place of Baalei Teshuvah

Once Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, zt”l, met a Jewish sinner in the street. To the man’s surprise, Rav Levi Yitzcak grabbed him and lovingly exclaimed, “Do teshuvah and I will be very jealous of your stature. As is well known, you have sinned greatly. But our sages teach that that one who repents out of love transforms his sins to merits. If you change all your sins to merits you will be way ahead of me!”
When the Sifsei Tzaddikim, zt”l, records this story he adds, “It is possible to apply to this the famous gemara that even absolute tzaddikim cannot stand in the place of baalei teshuvah.”
But the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, once explained this statement differently. “If a tzaddik gives a sinner moral direction the sinner may well think or even say, ‘Easy for him to tell me to change, since he has never tasted the pleasure of the sin he warns about.’
“However, a baal teshuvah who gives moral direction properly is often much more effective. He can say, ‘My precious fellow Jews! I have sinned plenty in my life and I know what it feels like. Nevertheless, I have seen that all sin leads to absolute emptiness. Living a life of sin merely harms one’s soul while affording no true benefit. On the contrary: being shackled to sinful behavior, like heretical thoughts or illicit desires, brings one to depression and ruins his life. Is it any surprise that I decided to let go of such harmful behavior and do teshuvah? I appeal to you, too, to return to the straight path of righteousness.’
“This is why the gemara tell us that a tzaddik cannot stand in the place of baal teshuvah. This means that he cannot be an example to a sinner to change. But a baal teshuvah has a much better chance of standing up as an example to which even a hardened sinner can relate!”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Generation of Moshiach: Entirely Righteous or Entirely Guilty

Rav Yechiel Mordechai Gordon, zt”l, the Rosh Yeshivah of Lomza, was always filled with a burning desire for Moshiach. It is no surprise that such a sensitive person was also very concerned at the low state of spiritual development in the average Jew, especially among the disaffected. He was always filled with love for every fellow Jew and was quick to be melamed zechus on others.
He once wrote in a letter to a student: “Our sages tell us that Moshiach will come in a generation that will either be completely righteous or completely wicked. We can understand this statement in context of the verse in Shmuel which tell us that Hashem struck down, ‘seventy men, and fifty thousand men’ after they had gazed inappropriately at the ark that had returned from the Pelishtim. Our sages explain that each of those seventy was like fifty thousand. A second opinion is that each of the fifty thousand was like one of the seventy sages who sat on the Sanhedrin.
“Either way, this teaches that in heaven, numbers can sometimes work very differently than in mundane terms, especially if there is a pressing need. In this context it is quite possible that a small group of people could count like most of the generation, since quality is what will be counted. Indeed, the Zohar teaches that even one congregation that does true teshuvah can bring the ultimate redemption. It is therefore possible to fulfill a generation that is completely obligated: that is the overwhelming majority are in spiritual low places. Yet at the same time it is completely righteous since the quality of avodah of a smaller group counts like a majority.”
The Shem MiShmuel, zt”l, learns this differently. “It means that the generation will have two polar extremes. Either people will be completely righteous or the opposite.”
The Chiddushei HaRim, zt”l, taught that the statement is actually a goad to self-reflection. “It means that people will think they are completely righteous. This is the greatest failing possible!”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Moshiach: the Meaning of Inattention

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, would deliver a daily shiur in the shul in Batei Machseh between Mincha and Maariv. Once one of the regular attendees of the shiur asked him a question about how Moshiach will arrive. “Our sages teach that Moshiach will only arrive when we aren’t paying attention. But how can that possibly be? After all, Moshiach’s coming is a core belief mentioned in ani ma’amin which we recite daily. In addition, we daven for the advent of Moshiach in every shemonah esrei; how could we possibly forget him? ”
The Rav replied with a question of his own. “What is ‘hesech hada’as’? If someone were to tell us sitting here in shul discussing Moshiach that he has actually arrived and is standing on our street, we would be astounded and would all instinctively cry out in our shock: ‘Can it be true??’
“This is the state of distraction to which our sages referred.”
The Shem MiShmuel, zt”l, asked a similar question but offered a very different answer. “Our sages revealed that Moshiach will only come when we have given up on the redemption. Of course this cannot be literal. It can be understood in the context of a revealing statement once made by the Maggid of Mezritch, zt”l, ‘Even if I were to fall and violate a terrible sin, chas v’shalom, I would never fall away from my avodas Hashem. The reason why is because I do not serve Hashem to avoid gehinom or to attain the world to come. I serve him like a slave serves him master with no thought of reward for doing his duty.’
The Shem MiShmuel continued, “This attitude is laid down by the Mishnah in Avos: ‘Be like slaves who serve their master with no thought of reward.’ Of course serving Hashem brings one vitality and eternal life,but one should not serve Hashem only on condition of receiving reward. As our sages say in the Sifri: ‘One should not learn only to be a ben olam haba. Instead, he should act from love and the honor due to him will come.’
“This is what it means to ‘give up’ on the redemption: people will focus on serving Hashem out of love, not the reward they will receive after Moshiach arrives!”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

For the Sake of Heaven

“How great is an action for the sake of heaven!”
The Chofetz Chaim exclaimed this and explained that that we learn it from a statement of our sages. “If one offers a gift to a king of flesh and blood, he must consider the possibility that his gift will be rejected. And even if the king accepts his gift, he cannot know how much of an impact it will make on him; perhaps in the king’s eyes, his gift will be of little consequence. But to Hashem, every good action done for His honor is very precious.
“Our sages recount that when the king of Bavel sent a letter to Chizkiyahu Hamelech he wrote, ‘Shalom to King Chizkiyahu, Shalom to Yerushalayim, Shalom to the great Hashem.’ Nevuchadnezzar, who was at that time the Babylonian king’s usual scribe, had not been present when the letter was drafted. When he returned and heard the above text it upset him. “The ‘great Hashem’ should be first! We must write instead, ‘Shalom to the great Hashem, Shalom to King Chizkiyahu, Shalom to Yerushalayim. Nevuchadnezzar then ran a few steps after the messenger and called him back, giving them a letter with his text instead.
“In the merit of this slight exertion, he became king of the entire world and was given many other benefits listed there. From this we see the greatness of every action that we perform for the sake of heaven. Is it so difficult to pay attention to our many mitzvos and focus on acting for the sake of heaven? We will fulfill them regardless. It is surely worthwhile to add the simple thought that we wish our deeds to be for the sake of heaven!”

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Special Visit

Our sages tell us that after Yaakov reached Charan he regretted not having davened at the place where Avraham and Yitzchak had prayed, so he decided to return. The Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, addresses this teaching with a pointed question. “How could Yaakov Avinu, the bechir ha’avos, miss such an obvious opportunity to daven at the holiest place in the world?”
His answer highlights a very practical lesson. “Yaakov Avinu was a true tzaddik and understood that when he was passing by the makom hamikdash on his way to Charan, a random visit was not the right way to visit the holiest site in the world. He knew that such a holy place should merit its own exertion. It was therefore not spiritually valuable for him to just make a short stop over on the way to Charan. He preferred instead to first pass it by and arrive at his destination and only then to turn back and make a special journey to this most holy place.”
He concludes that every person should learn from this. Many chassidim did not visit when passing their rebbes or great tzaddikim on their business travels and the like. Instead, they preferred to visit the rebbe on a special visit when the only purpose of their trip was to see the tzaddik.
Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that a person must know himself truly and determine if he is on a sufficiently high level to implement this kind of advice. As the Chovos Halevavos, zt”l, points out, the yetzer likes to use a person’s desire to do a mitzvah perfectly to prevent him from doing anything. For example, although it is better to do a mitzvah in private, sometimes a person will refrain from doing a mitzvah publicly but will also not have the strength of will to do it privately, despite his good intentions. The same is true in this case.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Where Credit is Due

Before he was well known, Rav Zusia of Anapoli, zt”l, was very poor and not respected. Although he lived in a city where there was no lack of wealthy people, they would not respond to the entreaties of a poor person unless he literally begged them for bread. Even when grudgingly donating they would only give the bare minimum. And they certainly never checked to see if one of the destitute of the community required assistance.
After many years of avodas Hashem spent in dire poverty, Rav Zushia started to be known as of one of the greatest students of the Maggid of Mezeritch and a tzaddik in his own right. Shortly after Rav Zusia became renowned, one of the wealthiest men in the community decided to make a banquet in honor of the town tzaddik. He invited all of the most worthy people in the town to honor Rav Zusia. Although this man was very generous when it came to what interested him, he was very stingy with the poor.
During the feast, Rav Zusia put some meat and soup on his spoon and smeared it on his resplendent garment strangely intoning, “Take, bekeshe, since it is only in your honor that this meal has been convened…”
When he noticed the other guests staring at him, Rav Zushia explained his strange behavior. “I was just thinking about why I have suddenly become a guest of honor here. Why, until now, although I was starving it was very difficult to get even a little food. Now look at this meal—surely this is inexplicable.
“It can’t be because of anything I have done since, due to my sins, I do not discern any way that I have improved spiritually, so it must be the new garments I am wearing. Isn’t it only fair that I share the meal with what apparently prompted it?”
After telling this story, the Munkatcher Rav, zt”l, applied it to a famous gemara. “In this context we can understand why Rav Yochanan called his garments, מכבדותי. He saw all the honor directed at him which he felt was undeserved and could not understand why they were honoring him until he realized that this was on account of his garments. They must be the reason he was afforded such honor!”