Friday, December 16, 2011

Zohar on Parshas Vayeishev

Here are two more short shiurim based on the Zohar for this week's parshah:
The first is on Yosef, Reuven, and the brothers.
The second is about Yosef's dreams and on the mechanism of dreams in general.
Gut Shabbos!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spirit of the Law: Chanukah

Reb Nosson, zt”l, explains that the “Al HaNissim” prayer was instituted because we overcame the kingdom of Yavan and the evil Haman, who were jealous of us and wanted to keep us from serving Hashem. Haman didn’t even want any Jew to be left alive! However, Hashem in His great mercy didn’t abandon us. He turned our grief and anguish into joy. Not only did they fail abysmally, but we gained two holy festival—Chanukah and Purim—which have sustained us throughout our long exile. We see, then, that their very attempt to destroy us has actually been the means through which we have gained the strength we need to survive until the redemption. The events that led up to our deliverance have made us worthy of receiving new and powerful spiritual illuminations and new mitzvos: the lighting of the menorah, recitation of Hallel, and the special Torah readings on Chanukah; and the reading of the megillah, sending of mishloach manos, contributions to the poor, and the festival meal and drinking on Purim.

The descent turned into an ascent—this is the character of Chanukah and Purim, and it can also be true for everyone, all the time. Every day, and at every moment, Hashem is orchestrating events in the most miraculous way to prevent us from falling completely. On the contrary, He turns all of our falls into ascents if we are only willing and try our best to begin again. This is the essence of doing teshuvah our of love—through which all of our sins are transformed into merits. This is how we can rise ever higher in our service of Hashem!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gauging our Bitachon

The Midrash teaches that after Yaakov Avinu was stripped of his material goods he declared, "אשא עיני אל ההרים מאין יבא עזרי"—“‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come?’ Eliezer the servant of Avraham brought ten loaded camels to convince my mother to marry my father. I don’t even have one earring or a bracelet to court my wife-to-be!

But he immediately encouraged himself, “Will I then lose my bitachon? Chas v’shalom that I should lose my hope and trust in Hashem! 'עזרי מעם ה' עושה שמים וארץ!'—“My help will come from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth.’”[1]

The commentary on the Midrash explains that the word mountains—הריםalludes to parents—הוריםsince both words are essentially the same. The word עזרי alludes to Yaakov Avinu’s future wife, the woman he hoped would be his עזר כנגדו, his helpmate.[2]

Even Yaakov Avinu, the bechir ha’avos, had a momentary lapse of bitachon before he was able to reconnect with Hashem and trust in Him fully. Clearly, bitachon is an ongoing process with its attendant setbacks, and since it is a dynamic quality we run the risk of fooling ourselves into thinking that we have attained a high level even though we have not. So how are we to know whether we are truly developing greater bitachon or just coasting?

One simple gauge of genuine bitachon is our degree of patience when facing challenges. The more bitachon one has, the harder it is to unsettle him.[3] The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, tells us that this is like walking along a narrow log to cross over a raging river. Fear itself makes it very difficult to walk along such a narrow bridge, and the person who manages it with aplomb demonstrates his confidence in a positive outcome.[4] When a person knows that he is in Hashem’s hands, bitachon is strong and fear dissipates. The bridge beneath his feet is solid, and so the pressures of a gust of wind or the fearsome sound of the rushing river below him cannot make him falter.

Our bitachon-stability is highlighted most clearly in our reactions to other people. Do we become flustered and defensive when we are challenged by their behavior, or do we have patience and try to see it from their point of view? One of the greatest tests of our real, not illusory, level of bitachon is in how we treat our spouse. The Midrash itself points to this, since Yaakov Avinu’s own lapse was in the matter of his shidduch.

Rav Nissim Yagen, zt”l, would often discuss the challenges of shalom bayis. “It truly pains me that many times shortly after marriage husbands approach me with complaints. ‘Rabbi, my wife is simply not what I though her to be before our marriage.’

“I invariably reply in kind: ‘You too, are not precisely as she thought you to be before your marriage!’

“The truth is that this feeling betrays a marked lack of bitachon. Chazal brought three proofs from Tanach that one’s wife is heaven-sent.[5] The Ben Ish Chai, zt”l, asks why the Gemara there specifically discusses shidduchim. Is not everything from Hashem? He explains that it is especially in this area that one comes to see with his own eyes that the woman Hashem has sent him is truly his match made in heaven. Like the splitting of the Yam Suf, natural law does not reign when it comes to shidduchim!

Rav Yagen concluded, “But one needs a lot of patience until he sees this, especially at the beginning. I still recall my first trip to America many years ago. I saw a slogan on a billboard that proclaimed a message from Kennedy’s inauguration address: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.’ This is also the secret to building a good marriage: Ask not what your spouse can do for you. Ask instead what you can do for your spouse!”[6]

[1] Bereishis Rabbah 68:2

[2] Maharzu, ad loc

[3] Likutei Moharan I:155; Alter of Kelm in Chochmah U’Mussar II:153

[4] Chochmah U’Mussar, Ibid

[5] Moed Katan 18

[6] Nesivei Ohr, p. 173-174, 179

Friday, December 2, 2011

Inspiration for Parshas Vayeitzei

Three new short shiurim on the parshah, to be accessed here. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Shabbos!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Inspiration for Parshas Toldos

You can download three short shiurim on parshas Toldos here.
Two are of Reb Nosson's teachings on the parsha, and one "taste of Zohar" for the week.
Gut Shabbos!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Exertion for Torah

Rav Yisrael Freidman, shlit”a, encouraged those who have a hard time toiling in Torah with the following words. “Our sages tell us that if someone claims that he has found Torah,יגעת ומצאתי , believe him. But if he claims that he has attained the Torah without toil, don’t believe him. Yet not everyone is able to learn Torah in an analytical or deep manner. How can such people acquire Torah which can only be attained through the expenditure of much effort?
“The answer to this question can be extracted from the gemara in Menachos 7. There we find that when Avimi forgot Meseches Menachos he went to Rav Chisda to learn it again. The gemara asks why he didn’t call Rav Chisda to come to him? It replies that Avimi understood that if he went to Rav Chisda the effort he put forth going to Rav Chisda would aid him in relearning the forgotten tractate. Rashi explains that this is because of יגעתי ומצאתי תאמין. We see that there is another way to obtain Torah which can be done by anyone: working hard by going out of one’s way to learn whenever possible and as well as he can.
“This is why Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, zt”l, and other greats where always particular to get the seforim necessary for the shiur themselves. They knew that even the exertion of getting up and obtaining a necessary sefer would help them to achieve more and deeper understanding of Torah.”
Rav Shamai Ginsburg, zt”l, made a similar comment to someone who expressed regret that some of his questions to the Rav had embarrassed him publicly. “I am actually glad of this, since shame is an excellent way to attain more success in learning, as we find in Menachos 7...”

Monday, November 21, 2011

To Drink or not to Drink?

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt"l, taught that one should avoid alcohol at all times. He explained that many major failures in history happened due to wine. From Adam to Noach and beyond, the underlying problem was alcohol. The only exceptions to this iron rule are Shabbos and Moadim, when one should drink "a little." And Purim when one should fulfill the halacha to drink abundantly.
Rebbe Nachman explains that a true tzaddik elevates the wine he drinks and rectifies the world by drinking; nevertheless most who drink at Chasidic gatherings would be better off abstaining. Although some great authorities argued with this contention-- Bnei Machshavah Tovah is in favor of drinking at Chasidic gatherings as a means of uplifting one's spirits--others emphatically agreed with Rebbe Nachman.
Rav Yeshayah of Prague, zt”l, was once sitting at a tisch surrounded by his chassidim. Together, they partook of a seduas mitzvah where they discussed inspiring divrei Torah at length. Naturally, this sublime experience sparked a lot of enthusiasm.
“Let’s send someone to bring wine,” a certain older chassid declared.
Rav Yeshayah immediately discouraged this notion. “Our sages teach that sleep in the morning sleep and wine in the afternoon take a person out of the world.”
“But don’t our sages also teach that one who gives wine to a talmid chacham is like one who pours libations on the altar?” the old man piously declaimed.
But Rav Yeshayah did not feel that this was appropriate. “I never understood the words of our sages at the end of Sotah. There we find that in the times proceeding Moshiach’s arrival, grape vines will give their fruit yet wine will be expensive. If there is an abundance of grapes, why is wine costly?
“But now I understand. Since we also find that chutzpah will be rampant in the times immediately preceding the arrival of Moshiach, every person will think that his rebbe is like a talmid chacham discussed in the gemara and buy wine to fill his throat and those of his followers. With such a great demand for wine, it’s no wonder that it will be costly!”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rebuke that Will be Heard

The author of the Glilei Zahav explains the importance of proper rebuke. “A person with the ability to protest his friend’s wrongdoings and fails to do so is considered to have done these sins himself, as our sages tell us in Shabbos. This halachah is alluded to in the verse, 'אם לוא יגיד ונשא עונו'—‘If one fails to tell, he will bear his sin.’ Although literally this verse discusses one who refuses to testify on behalf of his friend, we can also explain this in terms of rebuke: Failing to give rebuke to another makes one responsible. One is considered to have done the sin if he had the power to prevent it but couldn’t be bothered to take the sinner to task.
He added, “In this vein we can also explain the extra vav in the word לוא, which indicates ‘to him.’ This teaches that one is only held responsible if he failed to give rebuke to a person who may be moved to change his ways. Regarding one who is certain to ignore rebuke our sages say that there is a mitzvah not say what he knows will not be accepted.”
Those who learned at Yeshivas Lomza when Rav Eliyahu Dushnitzer, zt”l, was mashgiach, were astounded by the sensitive manner in which he gave the students rebuke. He was always good-natured and, with a sweet smile on his face, would gently explain where the student had erred.
“He wouldn’t leave before saying to the young man, “Please forgive me.”
Naturally this would surprise the bochur. After all, why should the Mashgiach apologize?
But the bochur was not left to puzzle this over for long. “Surely you wonder why I ask your pardon. Our sages tell us that just as it is a mitzvah to offer rebuke where it will be heard, it is also a mitzvah to refrain from saying what will not be accepted. I therefore apologize if, chas v’shalom, you are in the second category. Not only did I fail to fulfill the mitzvah, I also caused you unnecessary pain. For this, I apologize.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Taste of Zohar on the Parshah

Here is an audio shiur on the Zohar's discussion of Parshas Chayei Sora. The lesson covers the nature of Ma'aras Hamachpelah, and a comparison of Chevron and Yerushalayim.
Gut Shabbos!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Actions Speak for Themselves

A certain doctor called Rav Yitzchak Silberstein, shlit”a, with a fascinating question. He explained that he was about to operate on a new immigrant to Israel who was definitely Jewish but, strangely, did not have a bris. His parents had been very liberal and although they loved the land, they did not approve of the “blemish” of making a bris. “Halachically, can I make him a bris during the main procedure without his approval ahead of time?” asked the surgeon.
Rav Silberstein explained that this was only permitted if he was not planning to arrange a bris. “Also, you must first do the bris, since the other operation will place him in the category of a sick person who may not be circumcised until he is well.”
Despite the immense risk, the doctor decided to circumcise his amiable patient.
When the patient awoke and the doctor explained what he had done, the immigrant reacted in an amazing manner. “I must say that although I have never seriously entertained having a bris, now that it has been done I feel much more love for G-d and a powerful desire to fulfill mitzvos.” He added, “I also feel overpowered with gratitude towards the kind doctor who enabled me to feel all this!”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hashem’s Elect

The Chovos Halevavos, zt”l, writes that there are many conditions that must be fulfilled before one attains genuine love of Hashem. One of these prerequisites is that one is submissive before those who fear Hashem and who are His elect.
He adds, “No generation or country is devoid of an appropriate teacher to impart avodas Hashem.
The Alter of Kelm., zt”l, takes this a step further, “Even if one is truly a scholar and tzaddik, if he is in disagreement with the sages of the generation he will not be accepted on high either. And this is true even if he happens to be right and they are wrong.”
When Rav Tzvi Broide, zt”l, from Salant, passed away, Rav Yisrael Salanter, zt”l, commented, “Some hold that each person’s heavenly tribunal that serves his final judgment comprises the departed sages of his generation. According to this, people must be especially careful in hilchos Shabbos, since Rav Tzvi was very strict in hilchos Shabbos...”
The Alter of Kelm, made a similar statement when Rav Yisrael Salanter passed away. “As is well known Rav Yisrael Salanter was very particular about middos; indeed this made up most of what he spoke about. It follows that now that he has joined the heavenly courts, people should make correcting bad middos a big priority in their lives.”
In the words of the Vilna Gaon, zt”l, “In every generation the world is run based on a particular midah. All of their actions and the way they comport themselves is according to this middah.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spirit of the Law Ben Ish Chai Sukkos

Ben Ish Chai, Ha’azinu

Rav Tzvi Meir Silberberg, shlita, adjures us to beware the many pitfalls lurking on Erev Sukkos and Sukkos:"Although the evil within tries to push one to indulge his negative character defects at all times, the negativity is especially aggressive before and during Sukkos. The main avoda of this time is joy. Since sin and negativity ruthlessly smother joy, the best way to ruin our Sukkos is to bring us to sin, which naturally leads us to worry and anguish. During these special days we must redouble our efforts to stave off depression by resisting the temptation to stumble in spiritual matters. And if we fall, we must do everything we can not to allow this to ruin our avodah; we must force ourselves to be happy no matter what.[1]

1) A person is obligated to sleep under in the actual air space of the sukkah (i.e. under the sechach.) One who sleeps under a bed that is over ten tefachim high has not discharged his obligation...
Rav Nosson of Breslov explains that after Yom Kippur we flee the Amalek within by entering into the healing Sukkah which represents the ananei hakavod, clouds of glory. Just as the clouds of glory protected those within from Amalek, so too, the sukkah affords spiritual protection from Amalek which works assiduously to blunt one’s holy sensitivity. Since the easiest way to accomplish this blunting is when one is occupied with mundane matters, we lift up all our mundane pursuits by bringing them into the sukkah. In this manner we realize that it is in our hands to elevate every aspect of ourselves by remembering that Hashem is with us at all times and especially when we feel distant.[2]
But we must be careful to remain under the sechach. The Arizal teaches that the sechach should have spaces in between since it represents that Hashem sends down wondrous kindness into the mundane world.
We must internalize that Hashem is with us no matter what! Whatever place we have fallen to can be elevated, the moment we realize this, Hashem gives us tremendous loving kindness. In as much as a person is “under the sechach,” he remembers that Hahsem is with him, he draws down His providence and tremendous loving kindness even if this is not deserved—even if the one who truly realizes that everything is from Hashem is wicked as discussed in the Midrash.
But if one allows himself to be distracted from focusing on Hashem’s providence, he will be unable to access this kindness. Much like in the desert, he will be pushed out of the clouds of glory and vulnerable to Amalek.
Rav Nosson of Breslov explains that the main reason we have not been redeemed is because of our lack of encouragement specifically when things are difficult.
But it is never too late to begin again! As Rebbe Nachman taught, in this world a person can make a huge profit with no real cost to himself at all. All he has to do is what he can, since every little drop of effort joins to form a big merit which helps one in his need, in this world and the next.

2) One must first build the walls of the Sukkah and only then put on the sechach...
The Mekor Chaim explains that one’s sukkah represents his portion in the next world, but it seems strange on the surface, that the sechach, the main element of the sukkah is primarily refuse. Rav Nosson of Breslov explains that we use refuse for the sechach, since this represents imbuing the joy of the next world into one’s experience in this world.[3] As Rebbe Nachman teaches this joy becomes so intense that one doesn’t feel any interest in attaining the next world, since his feeling in this world is so joyous that he only wants to be involved in another mitzvah.[4]
But of course such joy must be balanced and rooted in holiness, since otherwise, most often one’s joy is a “strange fire,” as Rebbe Nachman teaches. First we need a basic structure of proper values and balanced connection. Only then can we experience the true joy of the next world in this world. First we build a structure, which represents fulfilling the mitzvos and avoiding transgressing the aveiros of the Torah. Only then will we be able to “put on the sechach,” in a genuine manner.
Yet even with a proper basis (or working towards attaining one if actually doing everything is as yet beyond one’s ability,) the only way to attain the light of Sukkos is through joy, as the Beis Aharon of Karlin stresses. This explains why Sukkos is called, zeman simchaseinu, “Our joyous time.

3) The first [olive sized piece of bread] eaten in the Sukkah on the first night of Sukkos is a Torah obligation... [Note: the Mishna Berura learns in the Vilna Gaon that each additional morsel of bread eaten in the sukkah fulfills its own Torah obligation above and beyond the mitzvah fulfilled by merely sitting in the sukkah, similar to matza on Pesach.]
Rav Nosson of Breslov explains that the sukkah may not be a permanent structure since it represents the bare absolute truth. So many people fall away from closeness to Hashem because of their perception of the truth, since it appears to them that they are distant and bad. But the real truth is that this is a gross error, since Hashem is always near to anyone who calls to Him in truth as the verse states, “Hashem is close to all who call to Him in truth.”
Rebbe Nachman explains that this means anyone who calls to him from whatever level he may be on. It appears to one that he is hopelessly mired in a spiritual quagmire and will never merit lasting change, because he experiences an aspect of the plague of darkness and can not see the many ways to find lasting improvement and change. But truly calling out to Hashem from whatever level one may be at brings down a powerful light and enables one to see the many exits out of the darkness.
Through calling to Hashem honestly from whatever level one is at one merits to dispel the darkness and he can truly see that Hashem is with him even when he is involved in mundane pursuits.[5] This explains why at least the first morsel eaten in the sukkah fulfills a Torah obligation: the entire object of Sukkah is to strive to sanctify all of our mundane pursuits, especially eating with holiness.

4) One makes Kiddush after nightfall...
The Mekor Chaim explains that we sit in the sukkah for seven days because each day represents another stage of ten years, which together make up the seventy most important years of one’s life, from birth until seventy, [the average life span in many places of the world.] One merits to sanctify these years, through the mitzvah of sukkah, just as one sanctifies the seven days of the week through Shabbos. This sanctification, is drawn down, through kidush, the very name of which mean, sanctify.
In order to draw down this great holiness, we make kiddush at the onset of this holy chag.[6]
5) [Discusses the various customs of when one should say the blessing leishev baSukkah]
The Beis Aharon of Karlin explains that regardless of when one says the brocha the main thing is one’s heart, since the sukkah represents partaking of the feast Hashem will make for the tzadddikim in the sukkah fashioned from the skin of the Levyasan in times to come. Since the word, Levyasan means to accompany or connect this alludes that we merit this level through connecting to Hashem in one’s heart. This includes both the joy in one’s heart and prayer which are called service of the heart. Yet the main focus of one’s divine service should be on attaining joy, especially during this special time.
6) On the first night of Sukkos—and also on the second in chutz l'aretz—one must have in mind to fulfill the Torah commandment to eat bread on the first night of sukkos. Just like it is a Torah obligation to eat an olive's bulk of matzah on Pesach, the same is true regarding eating an olives bulk of bread in the sukkah on the night of the first day of Yom Tov. It is preferable to say this with his mouth before fulfilling the mitzvah [Note: presumably he means before washing for the bread.] l'shem yichud etc…One is obligated to eat more than an eggs bulk of bread according to all authorities.

The Mekor Chaim brings from the Zohar that seven tzaddikim—Avraham, Yizchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and Dovid—visit our sukhah on Sukkos. On the first night, Avraham leads. [This means that he focus is chessed. One who merits will become a kinder, more understanding person on the first day of sukkos.] This stands to reason since the Midrash calls Avraham: rosh l'tzaddikim: the head of tzaddikim. Since Avraham's main work was waiting for wayfarers and feeding them—in the merit of this Moshe received the Torah—we are obligated to at least make a meal on this first night. Since the minimum for a meal is a k'zayis, this is the amount one must eat to fulfill his Torah obligation to eat bread in the sukkah.[7]

[1] Sichos Hischazkus, Tishrei, pg. 300

[2] Likutei Halachos, Shabbos, #7

[3] Likutei Halachos, Hilchos Chezkas Karka’os, #3

[4] Likutei Moharan, I:5

[5] Likutei Halachos, Hilchos Ribis #5

[6] Mekor Chaim, Sukkah

[7] Mekor Chaim, Orach Chaim, 639:3

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Urgent Appeal from Rebbe Nachman

Rebbe Nachman said that spreading his teachings is "paramount."

The series that revolutionized the English speaking world is coming to its completion!

Over thirty years ago one man dreamed of making Rebbe Nachman’s magnum opus accessible to the English speaking world. Since then, fourteen volumes have been published, millions of pages have been studied around the world and Rebbe Nachman’s message has been heard. Down below is an interview with the head of Breslov Research Institute, Rabbi Chaim Kramer, explaining where it all started...

Please help make this a reality!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peace and Harmony

Rav Meir Shapiro, zt”l, was a captivating speaker. The following speech, given to the Agudas Harabanim in Poland, is worth repeating. “There are two types of feelings of peace and harmony. The first—which stems from the heart and mind—comes from the pure springs of the nefesh, expressed in the verse, 'כמים הפנים לפנים כן לב האדם'. This is the kind of real peace that we all strive to attain. We are all waiting eagerly for the fruition of this peace. As the verse states, 'וגר זאב עם כבש ונמר עם גדי ירבץ'—‘And the wolf with live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the kid.’
“But there is another, lower kind of peace which emerges instinctively from camaraderie. For example, when people are caught in an unexpected downpour and rush quickly to the only available shelter, they feel a kind of connection.
“This is how we can understand the exchange between Bilaam and the nations when Yisrael received the Torah. When the nations saw the powerful unity that we achieved prior to matan Torah, They were unable to fathom how this could be and figured that matan Torah had to be a sign of impending danger which naturally brought the Jews together.
“This explains why they ran in fear to Bilaam, exclaiming, ‘Perhaps another flood is coming to the world?’ The non-Jewish nations only know about unity that is inspired by the instinct for self-preservation, not the absolute unity of being as one man, with one heart.
“Bilaam assured them that they had nothing to worry about since there was no impending flood, neither of water or fire. It is just that for the Jewish people there is a different type of unity— 'ה' עז לעמו יתן'. This peace is the strength of all Jews, to unite through dedication to Torah. The non-Jews responded, 'ה' יברך את עמו בשלום'—Hashem shall bless His nation with peace’—a different type of peace completely foreign to their experience.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

“Seek Hashem When He is to be Found”

Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, explains how, when Hashem treats his tzaddikim with strict justice, He is feared and exalted and praised. “Our sages teach that—like Yom Kippur—the death of the righteous atones for sins.[1] It follows that just as Yom Kippur does not atone without teshuvah, the same is true regarding the death of tzaddikim. But where do we find that one does teshuvah when tzaddikim die?
“The answer can be found on Zevachim 115. There we find that the verse 'נורא אלוקים ממקדשיך'—‘Hashem is Awesome from Your Mikdash,’ can be read instead as, ממקודשיך—from Your holy ones. The gemara learns from this that when Hashem punishes tzaddikim, He is feared, exalted, and praised. This means that people are catalyzed into doing teshuvah when Hashem’s stern justice is manifest in the world.
“Just like during the ten days of teshuvah the verse states 'דרשו ה' בממצאו'—‘Seek Hashem when He is to be found,’ when tzaddikim leave the world and are eulogized properly, this inspires people to do teshuvah as well. It is easier to do teshuvah during aseres yemei teshuvah precisely because during this time middas hadin is revealed in the world. When tzaddikim pass away, the eulogies cause distress and are easily aroused to teshuvah. This time is auspicious from on high and it is easier to do teshuvah than at other times.
“This explains why a heavenly echo proclaimed that all who had attended Rebbi’s funeral merited olam haba. They all merited olam haba since during that holy time they all became complete ba’alei teshuvah!”[2]

[1] מועד קטן דף כ"ח

[2] משנת דרבי אהרן, שמיני

Monday, August 15, 2011

Withholding One’s Blessings

The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, discusses the awful consequences of being penny-pinching. “Miserliness is a reprehensible middah. Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that this defect is the source of all bad middos, since a person afflicted with it is liable to do any evil to avoid paying money. One who is enthralled with making money will eventually fall into very low places. His greed will make it easy for him to lose touch with what is important, as Rabbeinu Tam writes in Sefer Hayashar.
“Kayin was one of the first human beings and was clearly very spiritually developed. He understood why we bring korbanos from his own intellect and he brought a sacrifice. In addition, Kayin knew that only Hevel’s sacrifice was pleasing to Hashem.
The Alter continued, “Nevertheless, despite all of his advantages, Kayin killed his brother. What caused this? His lack of open-handedness, since if he had been generous, his korban would have been accepted. Kayin reasoned that beauty in serving Hashem was unnecessary, since the main thing is one’s intention. If what Hashem wants is what is in a person’s heart, why waste resources?
“Although this is true regarding someone who has nothing or very little to give, it is an error for one who has more means to use this an excuse. He should give what he has, in accordance with his means, to Hashem. It is only by bringing the best we can that we show that we are willing to give anything we have for Hashem.”
This is the meaning of Moshe’s words to Yisrael: “When you ascend to the land, sacrifice yashrus, not chovos.” This teaches that one should bring a sacrifice which is fitting, not a cheap offering that is below his means.
But the Bamidbar Yehudah, zt”l, explains differently. “Moshe was telling them the right way to approach Hashem. We must always focus on yashrus, what is righteous about the Jewish people. Never chovos, their sins or deficiencies.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chizuk from the Mishkan

The Toras Kohanim explains that when Moshe erected and took down the Mishkan throughout the week of miluim, this symbolized that he erected all seven future placements of the Mishkan: in the desert itself, at Gilgal, in Nov, in Givon, and in Shilo, as well as the first and second Batei Mikdash.
The Beis Yisrael, zt”l, explained this in a very powerful manner. “Despite the Toras Kohanim, the exact purpose of Moshe erecting and taking down the Mishkan seven times is still unclear. After all, what as the point of this elaborate symbolism?
“It seems to me that Moshe made a spiritual impression in each of these Mishkenos. This impression enabled us to keep going despite these destructions. To bring this down to Jews in every generation, there are always difficulties and hardships facing us both in spiritual and material concerns. Moshe himself erected and took down the Mishkan to imbue in us the ability to start again and keep moving no matter what challenges and falls we may face. Even if we are weakened in avodah and put upon from within and without, we will always be able to get back up again. As the verse states, 'שבע יפול צדיק וקם'—‘A tzaddik falls seven times and gets up.’”
Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, explains in a similar manner. “Moshe himself put up and took down the Mishkan to give it the power to imbue holiness in even the most desolate spiritual wilderness. The Mishkan was erected all over the wilderness where we wandered, a place of snakes and scorpions. This gave us the strength to start again, no matter the form of spiritual desolation in which the person is caught. No matter where a person finds himself, he can always start again and reconnect to Hashem.
Rav Mordechai of Lechvitz, zt”l, taught a similar lesson. “Chassidus depends on understanding the importance of every spiritual action. It follows that one who loses track of the vast greatness of every good act has lost touch with what it means to be a chassid.
He concluded, “To put it bluntly, one who cannot daven minchah with enthusiasm immediately after committing the worst sin, chas v’shalom, has not yet stepped on the doorstep of true chassidus!”

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Reason for Sacrifices

As is fairly well known, the Rambam and the Ramban argue about the meaning behind korabnos. The Ramabam maintains that since the Jews lived among non-Jews who worshiped animals it was necessary to sacrifice animals on the altar to eradicate their influence.
The Ramban argues that if the Rambam was correct, why did Adam and his sons bring sacrifices? Surely not to remove some insidious influence, since at that time no one worshiped animals!
The Ibn Ezra explains that sacrifices come to help the sinner visualize that his sacrifice is being slaughtered in his own stead. After bringing this Ibn Ezra, the Ramban concludes that the korbanos are brought for hidden esoteric reasons.
The Meshech Chochmah, zt”l, explains the Ramban and attempts to reconcile both opinions. “The Ramban means that sacrifices can be likened to generating electricity in the upper worlds. Through sacrifices, the kohein joins the heavenly spheres together—he ‘closes a circuit’—and achieves great things on high.
“As far as the questions on the Rambam, these can be reconciled by explaining that the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim was only discussing the reason behind sacrificing on private altars. But the Rambam never meant to explain sacrifices brought in the Mishkan or the Beis Hamikdash.”
It seems clear from the Rambam himself in Hilchos Me’ilah that sacrifices accomplish much more than merely removing the influence of non-Jewish idolaters. “All sacrifices are included in the chukim. Our sages taught that the world rests on the merit of sacrifices. It is by doing the chukim and mishpatim that the righteous merit a portion of the next world.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Developing the Positive

The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, explained that even positive attributes that one was born with require work. “The good character traits also require development. If a person does not work to build up the good—and even more so if he acts contrary to a good middah—it atrophies and is eventually completely ruined. Later, even if he desires to arouse the good, it will be virtually impossible and he will have to start cultivating it as if he had never had it in the first place.
He explained further, “Every quality has a particular ‘statute of limitations’ during which it can still be revived even if its strength has waned. But if one does not begin to work on awakening these positive attributes while there is still time, it will be too late. This is another meaning of the verse, 'ככלות כוחינו אל תעזבינו'—‘Do not allow us to wait until we are abandoned and cannot really rectify the damage we have done...”
Rav Yisrael Salanter, zt”l, explained this with a vivid parable. “It is well known that if one sits on his hand or foot and stops circulation by avoiding any movement it is only a matter of time until he can no longer use the motionless limb no matter what he does to restore its vitality. Emunah is no different than the physical world in this regard. If one does not develop his emunah or any a positive character trait due to his laziness or any other reason, it dissolves into nothingness and unfortunately writhers and dies.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Partners in Torah

When someone wondered whether it was really worth it to make a Yissachar and Zevulun agreement with someone and asked Rav Shach, zt”l, he found that the rav was in favor.
Rav Shach answered, “You lose nothing by making such an arrangement. Therefore, even if you are eking by on your own, you should still sign this agreement, since the extra money will enable you to learn better since you will have less pressure from money, which leads to more mental clarity.
He added, “You need not worry about losing a portion of your eternal reward in the next world, since the reward of Torah in the next world is eternal and cannot be diminished by sharing it with another.”
To another student Rav Shach explained, “When it comes to making such an agreement we can apply the dictum of our sages, 'זה נהנה וזה לא חסר'—‘This one gains and the other loses nothing by it.’”
Rav Shach would also encourage laymen to take the initiative to support Torah study. “When a person who supports those who study Torah leaves the physical world—even if he himself never learned anything—he will know all the Torah that was learned with his support. You must know that the greatest bliss will be afforded those who learned Torah and those who supported those who learned.
He added, “If you think about it you will understand that if one was able to pay to know a mishnah or chapter or even a complete tractate, he would surely be willing to pay anything he could afford—even in this world where we don’t see the pristine greatness of Torah. How much more will this be true in the next world, where we will see the holiness and preciousness of every word of Torah. Surely, the one who gained the Torah will be thrilled with the Torah waiting for him, especially if he himself was unable to learn as is fitting.
“When a person thinks about this, he will surely race after those who learn to attain the merit of Torah. I am sure you will take these words—which emerge from the holy works of the Choftez Chaim—to heart and merit all the wondrous reward of those who support Torah.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Vital Tree

Rav Naftali of Ropshitz, zt”l, once found that the Chozeh of Lublin, zt”l, was troubled by something and asked him what it was. The Chozeh answered, “The verse states, 'השמר לך פן תשכח את ה' אלקיך'—‘Guard yourself lest you forget Hashem your G-d.’ Our sages teach in Zevachim 106 that anywhere the verse uses the words 'השמר', 'פן' or 'אל' this teaches that what is being discussed is a negative commandment. It comes out that one who forgets Hashem even for an instant violates a negative commandment. How is it that so many Jews forget Hashem throughout the day? Must we say that they violate a negative commandment every time they forget?”
The Ropshitzer replied that thankfully there was a way around this harsh judgment. “Regarding Peah the Mishnah teaches that a special olive which tends to drip oil but only does so in some years is special and therefore not in the category of שכחה. Chazal explain that Peah only applies to an ordinary tree which one tends to forget. But regarding a tree which one is sure to remember eventually, שכחה does not apply. This tree is important and the owners will surely come back for it. And the same is true regarding one who forgets Hashem, chalilah. If it is important in the eyes of the one who forgot and he plans to get back to it as soon as he is able this is not considered halachic שכחה and is not a violation of the לא תעשה.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

In Private and in Public

The Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, gives an excellent parable to encourage us to stay away from groups of people who indulge in lashon hara. “Imagine if ten people were once sitting together when the police rushed in and arrested one of them for some serious crimes. To their chagrin they are also taken in for questioning since they are obviously friendly with the criminal.
‘”When, after enduring hours of grueling interrogation, they are finally freed, you can be certain that they will be very careful to avoid being in the company of someone they even remotely suspect is a criminal. Why should they suffer for another’s misdemeanors?
“Similarly, when we are drawn to join a group of baalei lashon hara, we must consider the immense losses endured by a member of such a group. Very often there are one or two people who love to gossip and share all the lashon hara they can gather. But surely every person who is part of this group will suffer for being present during the sins of these unfortunate souls! We must internalize this fact and use it to resist the pull of time spent listening to lashon hara. Surely we have enough sins of our own to deal with in the next world; why should we accept even partial liability for another’s sins?”
On another occasion, the Chofetz Chaim explained the vast damage caused even by lashon hara told over in private. “If you want to send a letter to someone you may hardly know, you must first find out his correct address. Then you need to write the letter and send it. Some letters never reach the intended parties since people sometimes change addresses.
“But when one speaks slander, even in private, about someone he may not even know, the damage is virtually guaranteed. He may not have said the name, merely hinted at it, and he may not know his exact address but he can be sure that his slander will eventually reach the subject. Such is the power of slander!”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Incomplete Angels

. The Arvei Nachal, zt”l, would inspire everyone he came into contact with to do mitzvos with as much kavanah as possible. He would say, “When a Jew learns Torah, davens, or does any mitzvah he creates a defending angel. At night when his neshamah ascends on high, these angels present themselves for inspection from above. If the Torah, mitzvos, or prayer are as they should be, these angels are allowed to join the heavenly host. A sign that the angels one has fashioned are accepted is that he does not focus on what he has achieved. Instead he moves on to new mitzvos, a new topic of study, or another meaningful prayer.
“But if the angel is not complete, it is rejected from the heavenly host. This angel remains with the one who brought it into existence. A sign of this kind of incomplete mitvah is that one focuses on this mitzvah until he is filled with pride. Since he is so full of the mitzvos he has already done, he has trouble moving on to new mitzvos or focusing on moving on in learning or davening. Instead he dwells on this mitzvah which gives him great pleasure but also holds him back from advancing.
“This is a deeper meaning of the statement on Zevachim 87, לינה מועלת. It can also be read as, ‘an angel that remains with one overnight signifies that he has transgressed the prohibition of meilah.’ Since this mitzvah or Torah takes up more than its share of space in one’s head it puffs him up and makes him arrogant, pushing him to fall spiritually.
“The continuation of the statement there, 'בראשו של מזבח', teaches that this problem is especially damaging if it happens to a tzaddik or talmid chacham, the head of the mizbeach. They must be extra vigilant to learn and do mitzvos with real devotion and completion to avoid creating blemished angels.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Ashes of Humility

One time a group of young men were traveling with Rav Gershon of Yadnik, Hy”d, when they met with a man who obviously suffered terribly. They stopped to speak to him and he described his excruciating pain. As he finished explaining what he experienced, he commented, “In all six thousand years of creation there has never been a person who suffered as much as I do.”
Rav Gershon comforted him for a long time to the amazement of the bochurim. When he finally went on his way Rav Gershon commented, “Look at the power of arrogance. As if it was not bad enough that he suffers, he is also a ba’al gavah who believes he is unique in all of history!”
The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, explains, “The verse in Mishlei states, 'גאות אדם תשפילנו'—‘A man’s arrogance lowers him.’ Why? Because when we find that a person has arrogance this is a sign that he is on a low spiritual level. Clearly he lacks a desire to better himself spiritually, since if he was longing to attain the next level he would not be filled with arrogance. One who understands that he must advance cannot entertain pride since he knows that he is not complete. This is why one who indulges in this disgusting character trait is lowered. Hashem diminishes him so he should be ashamed of his low level.”
The Maharal, zt”l, explains that this is the lesson of Terumas Hadeshen. “One should never feel that if he removes his arrogance and makes himself as דשן, ash, by humbling himself he is lowered. Quite the contrary, he is uplifted. As the verse states, 'והרים את הדשן'.
“The rule is that one who humbles himself is uplifted while one who is arrogant is lowered. If one nullifies his arrogance and is nothing in his eyes like ash, he ascends on high and is one with Hashem.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Otzar HaYirah on the Three Weeks

Click here to download the sixth shiur of Otzar HaYirah (Likutei Halachos) on the Three Weeks. In this lesson, we learn about the meaning of Kinos and the significance of sitting on the floor.

Residents of the Land

It is well known that the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, yearned to move the Eretz Yisrael with all of his soul, and even made several plans to leave the diaspora for the holy land. The residents of Eretz Yisrael were so excited when they heard about this that they even built a shul for him. Sadly, his desire never came to fruition.
When the Chofetz Chaim’s son, Rav Leib, visited Eretz Yisrael and then returned to galus, his father rebuked him. “Why didn’t you stay? Returning was nothing more than a foolish mistake. We are in the time known as ikvesa d’mishichah, the end of days. When Moshiach finally arrives, we cannot be sure that we will have the merit to even enter eretz Yisrael. But if we are already living in the land before Moshiach arrives we can feel secure that we will not be evicted from our home...”
When Rav Yashar, z”l, recounted this story he commented, “One may well wonder about the Chofetz Chaim’s source for this surprising teaching. I believe that his source is from the gemara. In Kesuvos 111 we find that the land and holiness of Eretz Yisrael is compared to the altar. This is learned from the proof that one who is buried in Eretz Yisrael is considered as if he is buried under the mizbeach. We see this from the verse. On the one hand we find, 'וכיפר אדמתו עמו' and it also says, 'מזבח אדמה תעשה לי'. This equates the land of Eretz Yisrael to the altar.
“Since we find in Zevachim 84 that what is brought up on the altar is not removed except under exceptional circumstances, it seems clear that the same is true of one who is already in Eretz Yisrael before Moshiach comes!”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Shiurim for the Three Weeks

Click here for the next two lessons from Otzar HaYirah on the Three Weeks.

Avoiding Harsh Decrees

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, zt”l, explains the cause of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and how to avoid harsh decrees. “The verse tells us not to accept a blemished sacrifice from a non-Jew since 'משכתם בהם מום בם לא ירצו לכם'. This seems to be redundant. Rashi on that verse writes that you will not have atonement through a blemished sacrifice. This is puzzling since the context is that we bring the sacrifice for the non-Jews, not Jews.
“It is possible that this comes to defend the actions of Zechariah ben Avkulas. After Kamtza was humiliated in front of the sages, he ran to the Roman government and claimed that the Jews where rebelling. To test this assertion he suggested that the Roman emperor send a sacrifice to Yerushalayim to see if they would bring it on the altar.
“He brought it and made a blemish on it which is permissible for non-Jews but halachically forbids us offer it. Rabbi Zechariah refused to offer it and also ruled out the execution of Kamtza. This caused the Roman emperor to send troops to put down the supposed rebellion and led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.
“Our verse is saying that even without Rabbi Zechariah’s psak the Romans would have found another reason to destroy the Beis Hamikdash. This is the meaning of the verse that we should not offer even those blemishes which are acceptable to them. Why not? Because 'משכתם בהם'. Their destructiveness—which stems from avodah zarah and gilui arayos—is within them. 'מום בם'—‘The Romans are the blemished ones.’ 'לא ירצו לכם'—Even if you bring their sacrifice they will find another pretext. If we fail to do teshuvah, we will be just like the myriad of nations trampled under the mighty foot of Rome.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

“According to His Path”

The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, gave a very decisive lesson about how we should comport ourselves at all times. “'חנוך לנער על פי דרכו...'. From this verse we see that each youth must be educated in the right path for him. We can understand from this that every person must vigilantly educate himself to act as is fitting in each situation.
“For example, we certainly must speak with restraint and are better off not speaking in front of one who is older and has more experience as we find in Avos. But that does not apply to those who scoff the Torah and its values. Regarding such people we must certainly speak if we can do so with understanding, enabling others to see how false their opinions are.
“As we find in Meseches Derech Eretz, one must not be sad where people are joyous or overtly happy when people are sad. We must learn to speak with talmidei chachomim as is fitting and with the ignorant in a different manner. To those who are truly wise and will appreciate it, we should give moral direction to help them improve. We must refrain from giving the ignorant rebuke since this will not help. On the contrary, they will resent such intrusion and react angrily.
“The same is true in every regard. Sometimes one action is appropriate and other times we must act in the exact opposite manner. We must learn how to deal with the challenges of every encounter. Sometimes the best path is to pretend to fall asleep. Sometimes, we must act with decisiveness. In other situations it is better to be deliberate. The main thing is to learn how to act in each situation and educate ourselves slowly but surely to improve.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Best Portion

The Rambam teaches an important halachic principle from the fact that the chelev of a sacrifice is reserved for Hashem. “Just like in a sacrifice the chelev, which is the best part of the animal, is reserved for Hashem, the same is true regarding other mitzvos. If you wish to build a shul, make it nicer than your house. When you feed the hungry, do so with the best and sweetest foods on your table. A person who provide clothing for those who need them should do so with his best garments. As the verse states, ‘And all chelev is for Hashem!’”
Once, a certain person came to the Imrei Emes, zt”l, and explained that he wished to daven but did not have tefillin and desired to borrow a pair. To everyone’s shock the rebbe took out a very valuable pair of tefillin which he had as an inheritance from his ancestors and loaned this pair to the man requesting tefillin.
The chassidim were astounded, “The rebbe himself rarely puts on these precious tefillin! How did he lend them, then, to the poor man?” they whispered among themselves.
But when they asked the rebbe about this apparently strange behavior, his answer was sharp and to the point as usual. “What kind of a question is that? Am I not fulfilling the mitzvah of gemilas chassadim when I lend that unfortunate fellow a pair of tefillin? The Rambam writes that we should use the best we own to do mitzvos. As the verse states, ‘And all chelev is for Hashem!’”

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Dread of Death

Rabbeinu Yonah, zt”l, writes that one who is happy only on people’s birthday but is deeply saddened for the deceased on the day he dies lacks true understanding. Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, zt”l, explains, “Why should one be sad for the departed? We believe that every person has a mission to fulfill in this world and when it is done he is recalled. Rabbeinu Yonah alludes to a famous parable to illustrate this concept. Once there a merchant who sent his son out to do business in a distant land. When the son has completed his time abroad and returned home to his father, is the departed to be pitied? Surely not! On the contrary, it is good that the son returns to his father since the purpose of his leaving in the first place was to make a profit and return home.”
So we should not feel that death is a great loss for the one who dies. But sometimes people take this too far, as Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, zt”l, explained regarding the purpose of melikah as opposed to shechitah. “Why does shechitah suffice for he rich man’s sacrifice but the poor man’s must have melikah? Why not do shechitah on bird korbanos like we do for animals? To understand this we must consider why sacrifices are slaughtered. This is to break the heart of the sinner since he will contemplate that it is fitting to kill him instead of the animal. That is enough to break the heart of a wealthy man who brings an animal, but what about a poor man? He has such a hard life that he may literally prefer death. After all, once it’s over he will stop suffering and eventually enjoy his eternal reward. This is why we do melikah which is much more painful. This is to show that until one dies things can also be very bitter. And death itself can also be very painful. It is only in this way that the poor person will also break his heart and do teshuvah.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Likutei Halachos on the Three Weeks

Here is a lesson from Otzar Hayirah on the significance of the Three Weeks.
May we see the complete consolation soon, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Greatness of Tzaddikim

We cannot understand the greatness of every good action, word, and thought since we hardly discern their impact in this physical world. How much less do we have a grasp of the greatness of a tzaddik who struggled to overcome his yetzer hara and live in absolute accordance with Hashem’s will.
This is how the Pri Ha’aretz, zt”l, explains an apparently enigmatic statement of our sages. “Our sages teach that while a live ram has one voice, a dead ram forms seven sound producing instruments. This alludes to the tzaddik who will be recognized as is fitting only in the ultimate future. Although while in this word he attains a certain degree of renown, this is not nearly as much as it fitting since we cannot discern with physical eyes his vast greatness. To us, great and small tzaddikim appear essentially the same. In the world to come we will see the precise greatness of each tzaddik in accordance with how much he toiled to come closer to Hashem. The praise of true tzaddik—even those who attain great prominence in this world—will be at least seven-fold. It is only then that each tzaddik will be treated as he truly deserves.”
But the Ohel Yosef Yitzchak, zt”l, explains differently. “We find in the Midrash that the Jewish people are compared to a vineyard. Just like a vineyard is propagated upon dead branches, so too, Yisrael survives on the great merit of the Avos. The Midrash adds that our prayers are also only accepted due to the merit of the Avos. This is clear from the prayers of Eliyahu on Mount Carmel. Although he petitioned Hashem with many prayers he was only answered when he mentioned the departed.
“This is the meaning of the words of our sages that the live ram has one voice but the dead ram has seven. ‘Seven voices’ alludes to diversity among the Jewish people. Even though we are very diverse, we are still unified because we stem from the live ram, the Avos, whose voice is only for the Creator. Although there is much apparent diversity, at our source the Jewish people are one.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Children of Keturah

Once when Rav Shimon Sofer, the Rav of Krakow, was in Warsaw, some rabannim and scholars met with him. Among the crowd was a certain rav who said over many new and interesting Torah concepts, but Rav Sofer understood that although his words sounded very brilliant they were not really true.
Rav Sofer said to his visitor, “We find in the the gemara in Zevachim 62 that the nephews of Rabbi Tarfon were sitting in front of their uncle. Rashi explains that they remained silent. But how could this be? This must mean that they were speaking in learning, but Rashi calls it silence since their words were not the absolute truth. Rabbi Tarfon misquoted the verse, 'ויוסף אברהם ויקח אשה ושמה...'—‘And Avraham went on and took for a wife...’ However, instead of saying Keturah he said Yochni. His nephews immediately corrected him, ‘She was called Keturah!’
“‘You are like the Bnei Keutrah,’ Rabbi Tarfon answered back. Could it be that the great Rabbi Tarfon accidentally misquoted a verse? It is clear that he did so intentionally so that his nephews should break off speaking Torah not directed towards the truth, by correcting him that her name was actually Keturah, which is one hundred percent true. In this manner he taught them that truth is better than the sharpest vertlach that are not founded on absolute truth. It is better not to have lived if all one is occupied with is essentially false Torah.”
The Pnei Menachem, zt”l, explains differently, “He called them Bnei Keturah since he saw that they were immersed in the wakeful slumber of one who is completely focused on material matters. He therefore arranged to call them Bnei Keturah to teach them that they should not be like the children of Hagar. Rather they should act like the children of Sorah who make good use of their time since they value every minute and every hour of each day.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Power of Longing

Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, explains that all avodah is predicated on lighting a fire in one’s heart and understanding that we can accomplish whatever spiritual goal we set for ourselves. In the words of the Alter of Kelm, zt”l, “Greatness of the heart is a foundation of every Jew’s avodah, since everything, both material and spiritual is predicated on it. Consider the manner in which the Mishkan was fashioned. How could these Jews, who had been slaves all their lives, craft such beautiful workmanship? The answer is that their hearts was filled with a fiery desire to build the house of Hashem. This was so powerful that they cried, ‘Yes, we can!’
“This took such surprising courage in the sense of strong-heartedness that Moshe himself was surprised to see it. As the verse states, 'וירא משה והנה עשו ככל הצוה ה''—‘And Moshe saw that, behold, they had done as all that Hashem had commanded.’ The word ‘behold’ is superfluous. It serves to express Moshe’s wonderment that such untrained laborers achieved results.
“Where did this strength come from? It emerged from the fiery longing in their hearts to do the will of Hashem at all costs. This desire stems from one’s understanding, since there is no longing without awareness. Yet arousing this fire also depends on how we act on our holy desire. As we push ourselves to act we will achieve siyaata d’Shmaya and expand our yearning and achieve more and more amazing results.”

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Offering Sacrifices Today

. The Minchas Chinuch, zt”l, explains that even those who argue nevertheless admit that the makom hamikdash retained its holiness since Dovid purposely did not conquer it. Instead he bought it, sanctifying it for all time.
Rav Shlomo Ulman, zt”l, the author of Yerios Shlomo, asked the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, if there was any way to permit offering korbanos on Har Habayis in our times.
“Presumably this is not possible,” the Chasam Sofer replied. “It is not feasible to offer korbanos there nowadays either because the government will not allow this or due to our defilement. Since we are all tamei mes, someone who goes on har habayis is liable to the punishment of kareis. So until the hidden cache of the ashes of the parah adumah is found, this is apparently forbidden.
“However, the Kaftor V’ferach, zt”l, records a fascinating story regarding this question which seems to teach that there are leniencies in this regard. When the author of Kaftor V’ferach journeyed to Eretz Yisrael he merited to make it to Yerushalayim. While there he showed his sefer to Rabbeinu Boruch who learned through the entire thing and offered a critique.
“When the Kaftor Vaferach mentioned that presumably one who enters the makom habayis today when we are tamei mes is liable for kareis, Rabeinu Boruch agreed but qualified this with a story. ‘In the year 5017, Rabbeinu Chananel of Paris wished to come to Yerushalayim and offer korbanos.’ I was in such a rush to go through the entire sefer that I was unable to ask him two obvious questions on this. Firstly, what about our tumah? Secondly, how can we be sure that the kohein designated to perform the sacrifice is truly a kohein, since we no longer have absolute assurances of the lineage of kohanim?
“But then I realized that at least tumah is not a problem since we are all temaim...”

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Rama, zt”l, provides a wondrous explanation of the placement--and the avodah--of the laver. “The Tzror Hamor, zt”l, teaches that a person must wash away all spiritual filth, as we find in Yeshayah, 'רחצו הזכו'. It is for this reason that Hashem commanded us to make the laver and place water in it. Anyone who wishes to come close to Hashem and enter the environs of the Shechinah must first remove the foreign ideologies that defile both his body and his soul. Based on this, we can understand why the kior was fashioned from mirrors. Washing ourselves represents the self-examination that is the prerequisite of true internal change. This is also why we find that the kior was positioned a bit south of the altar. The southern side where the menorah stood alludes to wisdom, as we find in Bava Basra. Purifying one’s mind and attitude requires wisdom.”
Negative attitudes and false perspectives are easily overlooked. We must check our reflection carefully: Do things we say, although they are well meant, sometimes have a subtle tone of kefirah or leitzanus to them? When we have a question, are we sure to phrase it in a way that does not betray a lack of respect for the sages?
A certain person once asked the Alter of Kelm, zt”l, a very penetrating question. Based on his understanding there was a clear contradiction in the sources that could not be reconciled. Although the Alter often fielded such difficult questions, he felt that the way the question was phrased revealed a kernel of apikorsus in the questioner’s heart. He immediately called out this young but brilliant student on his false beliefs and expelled him from the Talmud Torah when he would not recant.
Years later this very same student—now a famous gadol—always related with the greatest respect to the Alter. It was clear that he had no claim against the harsh treatment he had received. On the contrary, he understood that the Alter had been correct and changed himself for the better.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Meaning of the Fig Tree

The obligation of gratitude is truly staggering. The Akeidas Yitzchak, zt”l, writes, “The worst and most damaging character trait is a lack of gratitude.”
Rav Meshulam Dovid Soleveitchik, shlit”a, uses this concept to explain an interesting Rashi. “In Zevachim 58 we find that we offer the incense from the second ma’aracha on fig branches. Rashi explains the aggadaic reason for this practice. ‘We use specifically a fig branch since it was through this branch that Adam covered his nakedness.’ This teaches the real extent of hakaras hatov. Even though the fruit of this very tree caused death to Adam and all of his descendants, it does not detract from our obligation to express hakaras hatov to this tree since our earliest ancestors fashioned chaguros from its leaves.”
But the Tiferes Yisrael, zt”l, understood this Rashi in a very different manner. “Adam Harishon sinned since he and Chavah accepted the snake’s words of slander against Hashem. Since the incense atones for lashon hara, we use the branches of the fig tree which covered Adam’s nakedness then.”
But it may be possible to suggest a third explanation. The verse tells us, 'נוצר תאנה יטול פריו'—“He who guards the fig tree will eat its fruit.” Our sages explain that the fig tree produces fruit in small batches, so that if someone misses a day, he is unable to harvest the entire crop. The same is true with Torah. If one is like Yehoshua, who always was in the tent, he will eat of its fruits. But one whose commitment is haphazard will not succeed like one who is more committed.
Specifically a fig leaf covered Adam’s nakedness to teach that only through Torah could what he lost be regained. We use this wood for the ketores to teach the very same lesson. Only through Torah will we merit to transform our negative character traits, alluded to in the chelbonah, into good.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Everyday Miracles

Every day has its own miracles even though we often miss them. We acknowledge these constant gifts three times a day in shemonah esrei 'יעל ניסך שבכל יום עמנו'. The Pnei Menachem, zt”l, explained that this is at the root of why the korban todah may be eaten only for one day and one night, unlike other kodshim kalim. “This is to ingrain within us an essential message: that every day is a fresh miracle.”
The Imrei Emes, zt”l, explained similarly. “We eat the korban todah only the same day because we bring a korban todah for a miracle. But there are fresh miracles each day, as we find in Shabbos 13. There Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel explains that we don’t write a megliah of all the afflictions we have been delivered from each day in exile because there would be no end to what we would have to record. Rashi explains that we could not make every day a yom tov, to celebrate a different deliverance.
“How can we eat the same korban toda on the morrow? Perhaps we will be required to bring another korban for a different miracle? Perhaps we will discern and appreciate Hashem’s deliverance that is unique to that day!”
As the Sochatchover wrote regarding the continuous daily miracles we experience, “Every day comes with its own cascase of amazing miracles. We do not discern them due to the maxim: 'אין בעל הנס מכור בניסו'. Yet the Kotzker Rebbe wrote that we will not always remain ignorant of Hashem’s vast daily kindnesses. He explained that there will be a sefer zikaron which will list every single miracle wrought for our benefit that was largely unnoticed. Even now we can appreciate Hashem’s kindness since although we do not know what miracles He is performing, we are aware in a general way that there are miracles.”

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Purpose of Working for a Living

It was motzei Shabbos and Rav Yosef Dov Soleveitchik, zt”l, known by most simply as “the Rav,” needed a minyan for ma’ariv. He wandered into a Modzhitzer shtiebl where, despite the lateness of the hour, the chassidim were singing with intense dveikus. After waiting a time he asked when they would daven ma’ariv. “What, you want to bring in the week already?” was the indignant reply.
The Modzhitzer chassidim worked hard for their livelihood often with physical labor, as water carriers and the like. It would certainly be fair to wonder where they got the strength to be so involved in spirituality despite their heavy involvement in materialism the entire week. The following words of the Divrei Yisrael of Modzhitz, zt”l, answers sheds light on the question. “The olah offering represents Torah and prayer, as we can learn from Menachos 110. It is kodshei kodshim, unlike the shelamim which is kodshim kalim and alludes to making a living. Through this we can understand the Mishnah we say every day during korbanos. Shelamim are kodshim kalim and their blood must be applied in a double application that is really four. The word damim, blood, can also refer to money. One must work and make money to enable him to learn Torah and daven, both of which are double-fold. Torah is doubled because there are two elements to Torah—written and oral—and they each contain both positive and negative mitzvos. Prayer is also doubled since we daven day and night. These are the two applications that are four to which we must apply our money.
“We must know that the time we spend learning and davening does not cause us a financial loss since the purpose of working is to learn and daven!”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Shabbos After Shavuos

In many chassidic circles, the Shabbos after Shavuos—in Yiddish, “Shabbos noch Shavuos”—was also called, “Noch a Shavuos”—another Shavuos. Although the Beis Avrahom of Slonim, zt”l, writes that the same is true regarding the Shabbos after Simchas Torah, the Pachad Yitzchak of Boyan, zt”l, would only use this title for the Shabbos after Shavuos. The Tchortkover Rebbe, zt”l, would also only use this title for the Shabbos after Shavuos.
When the Maharsham, zt”l, was in Tchortkov, someone asked him why the Shabbos after Shavuos was any different than the Shabbos after any other yom tov.
As always, the Maharsham, zt”l, gave a compelling answer. “We can understand this from the explanation of the Radvaz regarding a statement brought on Menachos 96. There we find that during all three holidays the kohanim would exhibit the lechem hapanim which remained hot and fresh despite sitting on the shulchan for a week—and exclaim, ‘See how much Hashem cherishes you!’
“The gemara implies that they exhibited the lechem on all three festivals. Yet the Lechem Hapanim was removed on Shabbos. Regarding Sukkos and Pesach it is easy to understand when they showed them the lechem. Since there is a Shabbos chol hamoed, it is clear that they took out the breads then. But regarding Shavuos this is difficult. Most often Shavous did not fall on Shabbos. So how could the kohanim exhibit the breads?
“The Radvaz explains that presumably the kohanim exhibited the breads on the Shabbos after Shavuos. This is explains why specifically the Shabbos after Shavuos is known as another Shavuos.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pesach and Shavous: Convalescence and Recovery

The Avnei Nezer, zt”l, provides a deep explanation of the place of Pesach, Sefirah, Shavuos and Shabbos. “The Zohar explains why we absolutely refrain from chometz on Pesach, yet we specifically bring an offering of chometz on Shavuos. This can be understood with a parable of a king whose only son was very sick. The doctors said that the king’s son should eat a healing diet to help him recover. But when the son became well again, there was no need for him to confine himself to eating according to such a restricted plan.
The Avnei Nezer explained, “The same is true regarding chometz. On Pesach we are ill and must eat matzah to heal us. But after the splitting of the sea, we are no longer vulnerable to chometz and can now bring it up on the altar. We can understand this in view of the words of the Ramban in Devarim 29:17. As is well known, chometz is likened to the yetzer hara. On Pesach we are likened to an ill person who cannot absorb foods that are difficult to digest. By Shavuos we are so completely recovered that we can serve Hashem with our yetzer hara.
“In light of this we understand why the Lechem Hapanim—which was set up on Shabbos—must be matzah and may not be chametz. Although Shabbos is higher than Shavuos, it has a dual purpose. It is the pinnacle of the week that passed. But it is also the source of the blessings for the week to come, as we find in the Zohar. The showbread is set up on Shabbos to stay until the next week and is the source of material bounty for the next week, as the Ramban writes in Parshas Terumah. Clearly, this does not allude to the first aspect of completion of the week gone by. Lechem Hapanim, in its bearing of the blessing of the coming week, must be matzah to signify that it represents a new beginning which has not yet come to culmination. Shavuos is the culmination of Pesach and the Sefirah. Since it alludes to completion, we bring the offering of the two breads specifically from chometz.”

The Breads and the Lambs of Shavuos

The Rema, zt”l, explains why we bring the breads and two sheep on Shavuos.
He wrote, “The two sheep brought on Shavuos represent the shnei luchos habris as well as the dual declaration, נעשה ונשמע, through which we merited them. The two breads brought along with them allude to the oral Torah which corresponds to every element of the written Torah.
“This explains the halachah that if the shtei halechem are brought without the two lambs they are accepted, but not vice versa. This teaches that the main thing is the oral Torah. One who delves in the oral torah and neglects the written Torah is considered to be in a post facto state of completion. But the person who delves only in the written Torah is compared to one who has no G-d, as our sages revealed. This is also why the two lambs must be alive while they are waved together with the breads. Yet the lambs are also waved since one who does not know the written Torah is sorely lacking. Clearly the written Torah is truly essential, otherwise why did Hashem give it to us?
“Since the sacrifices brought on Shavuos symbolize the intrinsic wholeness of the Jewish people when we delve into the written and oral Torah, there is no sin offering brought in the mussaf of Shavous. The reason we wave the lambs and breads in all six directions is to allude to the revelation at Sinai. On that great day Hashem’s voice was heard resonating from all directions. This is why the chest and foreleg of the lambs were waved again; this alludes to the waving of other sacrifices.
He concluded, “We wave both the foreleg—which alludes to actions—and the chest, which is called the חזה in Hebrew. The chest is where the heart is. It is called חזה, which also means vision, to teach that one perceives the Divine through a pure heart. We wave both to teach that a talmid chacham has to be תוכו כברו—his actions and his heart must both be directed only to Hashem.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bedikah, Bitul, and Burning the Chometz

#1 In the household of Rav Meir of Premishlan they had many unusually
strict practices when it came to Pesach. For example, they were not
content with merely scrubbing even the doorknobs. Instead, they would
pour boiling hot water on them to do hagalah on any possible trace of
chometz—even though any visible chometz would have been removed
altogether before this process.
The Sar Shalom once gave a tongue-in-cheek source for this practice
from a statement on today’s amud. “The Rosh writes in Pesachim that
Yisrael are kedoshim and they therefore scrub and remove any trace of
chometz, even the slightest amount. The Shulchan Aruch brings this
excerpt and adds 'ויש להם על מה שיסמוכו'. Perhaps the Premishlaner
understood this to mean that they should even clean what they lean on,
that is the door knobs, in an especially rigorous manner!”
The Beis Halevi once noticed his wife doing a very thorough job
cleaning the walls in their home. Although the Shulchan Aruch on
today’s amud writes that the custom is to clean even the walls from
the slightest speck of chometz, she was scrubbing so rigorously that
the Beis Halevi feared for her health.
“You know that if you keep scrubbing with such vigor you will break the wall…”
His wife didn’t take a moment to deliver her scathing reply. “I tell
you, if we relied on you in these matters we would end up eating
chometzdike rolls on Pesach too!”

#2 Once, during bedikas chometz in the house of the Chazon Ish, a
bochur found a bottle of whiskey. Obviously, the young man was
gratified at having found it but wondered whether it should be sold or
thrown out.
As always, during bedikas chometz the Chazon Ish, was in a very
exalted state of mind. When the bochur showed him this find and asked
what was to be done, he was surprised by his reply. “Tell all the
bochurim to stop checking the house for chometz and come here, since
there is a l’chaim to be drunk.”
That is exactly what happened. The bochurim came over and the Chazon
Ish poured each a drink. When they were all supplied with one, the
Chazon Ish drank l’chaim with each of them.”
On another occasion, a bochur climbed on top of a closet in the Chazon
Ish’s house and stood there scrubbing for a few minutes. When the
Chazon Ish noticed how long he was at his labors, he asked him what he
was doing.
The young man replied, “I found a cookie here and have been trying to
remove any trace that may be left...”
The Chazon Ish’s good-natured reply was accompanied by a bright smile.
“Get down fast,” he said. “If not, you yourself will turn into chometz
which must be sold to a goy!”

#3 The Chakal Yitzchak of Spinka checked for chometz even in places
that seemed highly unlikely. He would often invite Rav Tzvi Yosef
Hoffman to help him during the many hours exhausting hours it took to
peer into any possible place where chometz might be found.
One year, as they were searching, the rebbe decided to climb up a
precarious clock which was quite high and was not a place where most
people put their hands, to say the least. Despite the huge efforts
necessary to get to the top of the clock the rebbe would not be
deterred from his purpose and slowly scaled the clock.
As he rested for a moment from his exertions, Rav Tzvi Yosef brought
up his usual objection that arose during their joint searches year
after year. “Rebbe, this clock is surely a place where no one put
chometz. Why make such efforts to check it when there is no halachic
As always, the rebbe didn’t reply. Instead, he continued climbing
until he reached the clock’s face. When he began to check between the
hands and the clock he actually found a small object nestled there. It
had obviously been placed there on purpose, but what was it? When the
rebbe unwrapped this, he found a small roll, indisputably chometz
After a small series of investigations, he found that this roll had
been one of the twelve challos with which he would begin the Shabbos
meals. He had given this one to his grandson who had wedged it in the
clock for safekeeping.
The rebbe, who was ecstatic at this find, turned to Rav Tzvi Yosef and
said, “Now you understand why I work so hard to check even places not
obligated by the letter of the law. This challah is a case of chometz
which the owner wants and is not included in his bitul If this is the
only thing I find, all of my extra efforts were well worthwhile!”

#4 In Slonim there was a certain wealthy miser who would not give a
penny to charity no matter how worthy the cause. Perhaps the best way
to heal someone of this flaw is to find a way to bring home how
utterly despicable it is to ignore the poor when one has ample means
to help them. Of course, one must find the right time and manner to
convey this message and Rav Aizel Charif, the Rav of Slonim, was known
to be very adept at finding creative and effective ways to reach such
Early on Erev Pesach, Slonim was very busy. People would check their
pockets for chometz before going to burn their chometz. Rav Aizel made
sure to meet this miser while he was cleaning out his pockets from any
possible crumbs of chometz. The rav acted surprised to see the miser
fulfilling this halachah and said in a gentle tone with utmost
sincerity. “You do know that you don’t have to check your pockets for
“Why not?” asked the surprised miser. “Isn’t it clear in Shulchan
Aruch that one must check his pockets? All of my neighbors do it and
have always done it. Why am I different?”
“In Shulchan Aruch 333:7 we find that if there is a hole between a Jew
and a non-Jew it is not obligated in bedikas chometz. Since everyone
knows that you are a Jew only until your pockets, clearly these don’t
need to be checked for chametz!”

#5 Every year, when the Rebbe burned his chometz in Belz, the
chassidim knew it was an opportunity for deep introspection. His
followers would crowd around and the Rebbe would give over a very
inspiring Torah to arouse the assembled to teshuvah. During one such
gathering, Rav Yissachar Dov of Belz gave over a Torah explaining the
He said, “Our sages teach in hilchos Pesach that one blessing suffices
for the search of several homes. The Ridvaz famously teaches a
striking reason why the Torah has special requirements regarding
chometz. Unlike most other prohibitions we are required to hunt out
and eradicate all chometz, since even owning chometz is a violation of
the prohibition 'לא יראה חמץ ולא יראה שאר בכל גבולך'. In addition our
sages required both inspection and nullification for even a miniscule
amount of chometz is prohibited.
“The Ridvaz explains this in light of the sages’ teachings that
chometz represents the yetzer hara, the infamous ‘yeast in the dough’
that prevents us from doing Hashem’s will. This explains why we
eradicate even the smallest amounts of chometz and why we must also
actively search it out. This alludes to removing the evil from within
“But we must understand that a single blessing can cover many houses.
This alludes to one sincere effort to come close to Hashem and change
our ways in general. It is not always the right time to dredge up all
of one’s sins and work on each one. At times, we need only make one
brochah, one sincere thought of teshuvah, in order to search out many
houses. We remove vast quantities of filth with one genuine teshuvah,
and rectify more than we can possibly fathom!”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Never Forget the Tachlis

It was motzei Shabbos and Rav Yosef Dov Soleveitchik, zt”l, known by most simply as “the Rav,” needed a minyan for ma’ariv. He wandered into a Modzhitzer shtiebl where, despite the lateness of the hour, the chassidim were singing with intense dveikus. After waiting a time he asked when they would daven ma’ariv. “What, you want to bring in the week already?” was the indignant reply.
The Modzhitzer chassidim worked hard for their livelihood often with physical labor, as water carriers and the like. It would certainly be fair to wonder where they got the strength to be so involved in spirituality despite their heavy involvement in materialism the entire week. The following words of the Divrei Yisrael of Modzhitz, zt”l, answers sheds light on the question. “The olah offering represents Torah and prayer, as we can learn from Menachos 110. It is kodshei kodshim, unlike the shelamim which is kodshim kalim and alludes to making a living. Through this we can understand the Mishnah we say during davening that Shelamim are kodshim kalim and their blood must be applied in a double application that is really four. The word damim, blood, can also refer to money. One must work and make money to enable him to learn Torah and daven, both of which are double-fold. Torah is doubled because there are two elements to Torah—written and oral—and they each contain both positive and negative mitzvos. Prayer is also doubled since we daven day and night. These are the two applications that are four to which we must apply our money.
“We must know that the time we spend learning and davening does not cause us a financial loss since the purpose of working is to learn and daven!”

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Apex of Beauty

One of the residents of Yerushalayim was once fleeing for his life from a non-Jew who was out to kill him. In a panic, he ran to the Maharil Diskin, zt”l, and asked what he should do. The Maharil gave him advice that seemed strange. “Learn maseches Middos and you will be saved.”
This man immediately fled to the safest place he could think of and learned through maseches Middos. Surprisingly, the non-Jew completely gave up on him and went home. Many local talmidei chachamim heard about what had happened and wondered if there was some kind of source for the Maharil’s directive, but no one could find any teaching of chazal that shed light on the subject.
When the Satmar Rav, zt”l, visited Yerushalayim in תרצ"ב, everyone was astounded at his vast bekiyus and deep understanding. Eventually he was asked if he knew of a source for this strange segulah.
“Of course,” replied the rebbe without a moment’s hesitation. “When Dovid fled from Shaul, the verse in Sefer Shmuel tells us that Dovid sat with Shmuel in Ramah. The gemara explains that Dovid sat in that ‘high place’ and occupied himself with building the Beis Hamikdash, the apex of beauty in the world. He worked to find and prepare its location.
“I believe that this was the Maharil Diskin’s source. Just like when Dovid was chased he learned Middos and was saved, the same is true for all time. The reasoning behind this is that the Beis Hamikdash was above nature. It follows that one who needs a supernatural salvation should learn about the Beis Hamikdash!”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Foolishness of Pride

Many great tzaddikim explained that, in a certain way, arrogance is the worst character trait. Even when a person truly improves himself, he can easily fall into the trap of feeling excessive pride in his accomplishments. Once he starts feeling this way, it is very difficult to help him. But what should one do to avoid such pitfalls? The Kedushas Tzion, zt”l, learns practical guidance on this issue from a statement in the Mishnah.
“If one works hard to advance spiritually, he still must overcome the kinds of thoughts that invalidate his avodah just as thoughts of pigul invalidate an offering. These thoughts revolve around how much he as grown, but they are tainted by conceit. To counter them we need only consider the root cause of pride. Our sages teach that arrogance is a sign of poverty in Torah. As people are wont to say, ‘A baal gaavah is nothing more than a fool.’ The person who fell in this area will then understand that the only way to overcome his flaw is to begin learning Torah with renewed intensity. If he learns Torah with this intention, the arrogance will quickly pass away.
“This is the meaning of the statement in the Mishnah, 'עלה בכבש'—‘One who has ascended in being kovesh yitzro, in overcoming his yetzer hara, and attains a level of kedusha; 'ופנה לסובב'—He understands that he has veered off the path of holiness by indulging in prideful thoughts; 'ובא לו לקרן דרומית'—‘He will then come to the south corner.’ This should be understood in light of the teaching in Bava Basra, ‘One who wishes to become wise will turn to the south,’ which was the place of the menorah, the light of the Torah. The only thing for him to do is to learn Torah with renewed intensity so that he can rectify that which caused the arrogance in the first place: poverty of Torah.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

“How Did He Ascend?”

Many great rebbes were loath to deliver Torah discourses in public. Their avodah was an inner battle from which they refused to be distracted, even to give inspiring Torah to their chassidim. Many wonder what could possibly be behind such a seemingly odd custom. When this was asked of Rav Yaakov of Pshevorsk, zt”l, he explained it very well.
“Our sages teach that while a word is worth a sela, silence is worth two. Now this cannot be discussing a meaningless word, since why would such words be worth anything? The obvious lesson here is that even if a word is precious it is only half as good as silence. Even if the word is Torah or tefillah, even if it is so good that every word is worth a gold coin, remaining quiet is twice as good as speaking. From here we see the greatness of the midah of silence.”
Rav Yitzchak of Skver, zt”l, was careful never to speak unnecessarily. He even spoke words of Torah with great reservation. Once a certain person pestered him so much to give a dvar Torah that he felt he had no choice but to obey. Yet he decided to give this person a bit of a lesson. He taught a Torah on a Mishnah, which explained why it is often better not to share Torah at all.
“The Mishnah states, 'כיצד עלה'—'How did he go up?' We can understand this to mean: how did Moshe ascend on high? 'בכבש'—through being koveish his face in the ground. 'ופנה לסובב'—through this he was able to connect to Hashem who surrounds all worlds. 'ובא לו לקרן'—in this manner he attained the level of 'קרן עור פניו'. And he also attained, 'מזרחית'—which alludes to the Torah which shines, זורחת, on the entire world. 'צפונית'—but this Torah which he understood must remain hidden and should not be revealed to anyone.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Nighttime Offering

Rav Shach, zt”l, once traveled to the Kotel with a close student. He was obviously very moved by the visit and offered a very heartfelt prayer. When they were on the way home Rav Shach explained what had touched him so deeply. “I remembered that a certain person is very ill but I also recalled the Nefesh Hachaim who writes that Hashem renews the world every instant of each day. I pleaded with Hashem, ‘Master of the world! Just like you renew creation at all times, you can make it that this man will have a complete recovery. After all, the world is completely recreated. Surely in this new world You can cause that he feels entirely better!”
The Rama, zt”l, provides a similar explanation for why we only offer sacrifices by day, yet we may bring the innards and limbs of the animals on the mizbeach at night. “Korbanos allude to Hashem’s complete recreation of the world at all times, which is the foundation of emunah. The person who brings an offering affirms that there is Divine providence and that he is in Hashem’s hands like a defenseless animal. For this reason they are offered by day whose light is called good. As the verse states, 'וירא אלוקים את האור כי טוב'. Since the night represents the darkness when we do not perceive Hashem’s kindness, it is not fitting to offer sacrifices which teach Hashem’s renewal of the world.
“But bringing the fats and limbs onto the altar which is not essential for the atonement represents the material nature of this world, which obscures Hashem’s renewal. For this reason these can be brought at night which represents the apparent darkness of this world.”