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.”