Saturday, July 29, 2006
The thought struck me: Why do we need to know so much detail about this one amah? There was only one person who approached and entered that amah and that was only once a year as it is on yom kippur, and it was only a passage to the room beyond it, so why does it make such a big difference to us that the gemarrah needs to dedicate a whole amud to delineating this amah and discussing its purpose? Mah Nafka Minah?
It is important for us to delineate the amah because we need to know our limits. It does not matter whether or not you will actually get close to those limits or not, but our lives are limited by our limitations and we have to be aware of what those are. For us to function properly, those limits are important.
Psychologists always tell us about children that they misbehave because they are testing the limits and parents who do not delineate a childs borders are negligent as that is the cause of many problems.
We need to know our borders and our limits. It provides for a healthy attitude and a healthy approach to life. Without limits, we are living a life of chaos.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
It seems a little strange that young children, crying out to their mothers, would ask for wine, rather than water.
3:6 -במחשכים הושיבני כמתי עולם
This phrasing – “they placed me in darkness” - is not just metaphoric, but rather quite literal. There is a pit in the city of
3:30 - יתן למכהו לחי ישבע בחרפה
This is not to be confused with the Christian doctrine of “turn the other cheek”. That doctrine, so far as I can tell, was intended for all times and all seasons, whereas this was only meant for certain dark periods in
For a completely novel interpretation, see the Nachal Eshkol. He understands the verse to be giving advice concerning how to deal with those who would attack us. The best way, according to this understanding of the verse, is to deliberately allow yourself to be hit. This will then turn the desire of the attacker into a sense of shame, and he will thus desist. Whether this philosophy is correct or not, in light of the events of the 20th century, is open for question. In general, of course, the correct Jewish response to gentile aggression has always been debated, just as any country argues internally over the best response to foreign aggression. As others have pointed out, the stories of Chanukah and Purim indicate that sometimes military fighting is called for, sometimes prayer, and sometimes diplomacy. Of course, our forefather Jacob combined all three when preparing to confront Esau.
The Ritva answers that the Gemora in Bava Basra is referring to the keruvim that Moshe made (those that were on the ארון) and our Gemora is discussing the keruvim that were drawn on the wall and these keruvim never changed their positions. Rashi seems to indicate like this pshat for he says that the goyim peeled them off the walls and then brought them outside.
The Maharsha brings from Rishonim that it was a special miracle at this time in order to shame the Jews in the eyes of their enemies.
An answer is brought in the name of a Rov from the previous generation who was forced out of his position due to his constant rebuking of the community members on their deficiency in avodas Hashem. As he was departing, he gave a farewell drasha and he asked the former question. His answer was that at the time that the רבונו של עולם was compelled to remove his heavenly presense from the Beis Hamikdosh, this was not the time to make calculations. It pained Him to such an extent, like a father who is forced to leave his son, it was as if all reckoning was forgotten and that is why the keruvim were embracing each other.
Rav Meir Bergman proposes another solution and he says that this is the accurate answer. The professionals, who initially crafted the keruvim formed them facing each other. Subsuquently, when the shechina resided in the Beis Hamikdash, the keruvim were given a רוח חיים, and when Bnei Yisroel were not virtuous and not commiting themselves to do the will of Hashem, the keruvim turned away from each other. At the time of destruction, the shechina completely vanished from the Beis Hamikdosh and nothing remained. The keruvim then reverted back to their original construction and they were found facing each other.
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz states that there is an important lesson to learn from here in the method of מדת הדין - when Hashem is administering justice to those that deserve it, at the outset there must be love. Pinchas had the right to be a zealot for he was a descendant from Aharon Hakohen who was a seeker of peace and harmony. This is what the Gemora in Sotah (47) means when it states לעולם תהא שמאל דוחה וימין מקרבת. One must be extremely cautious in these matters. This is the lesson we learn from the keruvim.
that the Kohen Godol is able to walk along the northern wall towards
the Kodesh Kodashim. Although this means that he will be walking
with his eyes directly towards the Kodesh Kodashim--which according
to Rebbi Meir would not be proper--Klal Yisroel is beloved, and therefore,
we do not need an intermediary to communicate with Hashem (and can
"look" directly at the Kodash Kodashim). This means that each and
every Jew can daven directly to Hashem (this is according to Rashi's
pshat; see Rabeinu Chananel or Tosfos Yeshanim for a different
How are we to understand this statement of Rebbi Yossi? Rebbi Yossi
holds that the opening to the Kodash Kodashim was in the north, thus
requiring the Kohen Godol to walk along the northern wall. What is the
significance of the opening being in the north? The word for north in
loshon hakodesh is tzafon. The word tzafon also means conscience or
intellect. The Shem Mishemuel writes in the name of his father (N'os
Deshe/Avnei Nezer) that the Korban Olah was slaughtered at the
north side of the mizbeiach (Vayikra 1:11). This, writes the Shem
Mishmuel, is because the Korban Olah comes to be mechaper for sinful
thought which occur in the "north" of man, i.e, the intellect. One would
think that logically, one is only required to atone for sins involving an action.
Why do sinful thoughts require atonement? The highest level of person is
his sechel (the neshama, contrary to popular belief, is not contained in
the heart, but in the brain). This is our essence. When a person uses his
intellect the proper way, he can build olamos. When used the wrong way,
chas v'shalom, it can destroy them (see first perek of Nefesh Hachaim).
The Kohen Godol is a representative of Klal Yisroel. Although we are not
perfect, and unfortunately we perform aveiros, our nekudas hapnimi is
goodness. And it is that nekuda that always desires to have a shaychus -
a connection with the Ribono Shel Olam, even when we have become
lowered and unworthy. Thus although the people the Kohen Godol
represents may not be zoche al pi din to walk directly opposite the
Kodash Kodoshim (which l'choreh is the reason Rebbi Meir does not
allow it), Rebbi Yossi says that we are beloved before Hashem, and
this enables us to talk to Him directly (and walk opposite the Kodash
The Me'or Anayim asks how is it that we can have a shaychus with the
Ribono Shel Olam when the chasm between us and Him is so great?
There are several answers to this question, and one answer is that
it is a chesed from Hashem--olam chesed yiboneh. And it is through
this chesed that He allows us this opportunity to relate to Him directly.
The loshon of Chavivin Yisroel is only used a handful of times, that
we were created B'tzelem (which means that we can imitate Him),
that we have the Torah (Kli Chemda), that we are called bonim. Each
of these connotes that our chavivus is our inherent closeness with the
Ribono Shel Olam. May we be zoche to actualize it.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
See Rashi, who explains that Jeremiah accuses God, as it were, for being the source of the nations’ hatred towards us. Because the Torah forbids us to eat of their foods and marry their children, the nations tend to dislike us. This might be the idea behind the comment of our sages in Shabbos 88a, that Sinai is called such because the gentile’s hatred [sinnah] toward us came from Sinai. The passage is usually interpreted to mean that the gentiles are somehow jealous of us.
However, the verse seems to suggest the nations were happy specifically because God Himself caused our destruction. oweverHPerhaps then the meaning is as follows: Had
Thousands of years later, the Nazis too, would ask this question of the martyrs –“Where is your God now?” Rav Gifter (z’l) tells of what his great Rebbi responded moments before he was murdered, when his Nazi executioner mocked him by asking him this very question: “He is not only my God, He is your God also, and the whole world will yet find this out.”