Friday, July 20, 2007

Reb Oizer on Devarim

Parsha Potpourri
Parshas Devorim – Vol. 2, Issue 37
Compiled by Oizer Alport

אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל (1:1)
There is a mystical idea that the content of the parsha read each Shabbos is connected to the events of the coming week. It is interesting to note that Parshas Devorim is always read on the Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av. What is the connection between them?
The Gemora in Yoma (9b) teaches that one of the reasons for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash was the sin of baseless hatred of one’s fellow Jews. Many times such hatred has its origins in forbidden forms of speech, such as gossip and painful words.
Our verse opens the book of Devorim by relating that “these are the words which Moshe spoke to all of the Jewish people.” However, the Vilna Gaon reinterprets the verse to suggest that Moshe himself addressed the need to rectify the sins which caused the Temple’s destruction. The verse begins, “These are the words that Moshe spoke.” And what were those words? The Vilna Gaon explains that the end of the verse can be read not as merely describing to whom Moshe spoke, but as the beginning of Moshe’s actual message. He didn’t speak “to the entire Jewish people,” but rather told the people, “Be united as one nation, not splintered into factions.”
Additionally, the Vilna Gaon points out that the very first word in the parsha, אלה, is an acronym for אבק לשון הרע, literally the “dust” of evil speech, used to refer to traces of gossip which are forbidden as they often incite full-blown lashon hara.
Many people who speak in this manner mistakenly justify their behavior by rationalizing that mere words cannot cause any real damage to others. The name of the parsha – Devorim – means “words.” As the end product of this erroneous thinking was a widespread hatred powerful enough to destroy the Temple, we allude to the importance of rectifying this sin by beginning the week in which Tisha B’Av falls with the reading of Parshas Devorim.

אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה (1:1)
There are 5 books in the written Torah, and 6 sections of the Mishnah – the Oral Torah. The Paneiach Raza writes that there are 6 portions in the written Torah which correspond to the Mishnah, each of which begins with the letter א – אלה תולדות נח, אלה פקודי, אם בחוקתי, אלה מסעי, אלה הדברים, אתם נצבים. This is because the spelling of the letter “א” – אלף – comes from the root meeting to study, and the word Mishnah also means to learn.
Of the 6 portions, four begin with the word אלה, which alludes to the four sections of the Mishnah on which we also have Talmudic commentary, as the gematria (numerical value) of the word אלה is 36, which is also the number of tractates in the Babylonian Talmud! The last book of the Torah, Devorim, begins with one of these four parshios in order to teach that in reviewing the Torah and its laws with the nation before his death, Moshe reviewed not only the written Torah but the entire Talmud and Oral Law as well.
Similarly, there are 5 tractates in the Mishnah which begin with the letter א – אלו דברים שאין להם שיעור (פאה), אור לארבעה עשר (פסחים), ארבעה ראשי שנים הם (ראש השנה), ארבעה אבות נזיקין (בבא קמא), אבות הטומאות (כלים), which hint to the 5 books of the written Torah and teach that every component of Torah is deeply intertwined. The Torah itself represents the Will of Hashem, and just as He and His Will are one, so too all parts of the Torah are interconnected, and the components which may seem the most disparate and unrelated are full of deep and powerful wisdom waiting to be unlocked by one who toils to uncover it!

הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם ואשימם בראשיכם (1:13)
The book of Devorim begins with Moshe’s review of the 40-year national history from the time of the Exodus until the present. Rashi (1:3) notes that much of the parsha revolves around Moshe’s rebuke of the Jewish nation for sins they committed during this period, in an attempt to ensure that they wouldn’t continue in these mistaken ways. What is curious to note is that in our verse, Moshe seems to digress from his chastisement to stress that the Jewish people are distinguished, wise, and understanding. Why did he interrupt his focus on reproaching the people with this point, which is hardly a message of rebuke?
Shlomo HaMelech writes in Mishlei (9:8): Do not reprimand a scoffer lest he hate you; reprove a wise man and he will love you. Why would the wise Shlomo advise rebuking a person who seemingly shouldn’t need it and ignoring a scoffer whose ways need correcting?
The Shelah HaKadosh suggests that the erudite Shlomo is actually talking about only one person. The Torah obligates (Vayikra 19:17) a person who sees another Jew engaged in inappropriate activities to rebuke him and attempt to inspire him to change his ways and return to the proper path. In order to do so successfully, a bit of wisdom is required.
Shlomo HaMelech advises that talking condescendingly to the scoffer will be useless and cause the sinner to hate the one attempting to reprove him. However, talking to him as if he is wise and respectable will likely move the sinner to accept his words and love him for caring about him and coming to his assistance.
A modern-day application of this lesson is offered by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, a well-known contemporary psychiatrist and author. He writes that when growing up, he was a typical child who got into his share of trouble. However, his father taught him a priceless lesson in how to raise well-adjusted children by the manner in which he rebuked him.
All too often, we hear parents screaming at their children, “You good-for-nothing bum! How could you have been so foolish and lazy?” A child who grows up repeatedly hearing this message slowly absorbs the belief that he truly is foolish and lazy. Not surprisingly, he will likely go on to make decisions in his life which will reflect this self-image.
Rabbi Twerski’s father, on the other hand, used to scold his children in Yiddish, “Es past nisht” – what you did isn’t appropriate for somebody as wonderful and special as you! The message which was constantly driven into him was that he was an amazing child with tremendous potential who simply needed to maintain his focus on channeling his energy properly. As one might expect, he grew up with an unshakably positive self-esteem which surely contributed to his success in life.
With this introduction, the Shelah HaKadosh explains that before fully launching into his criticism of the Jewish people, Moshe first built them up by emphasizing their many good qualities and tremendous potential, which would in turn allow his message to be well-received. The lesson for us is clear: whenever we may need to correct a family member, friend, or co-worker, we should do so in the wise and proven manner taught to us by Moshe Rabbeinu and Shlomo HaMelech.

ואצוה את שפטיכם בעת ההוא לאמר שמע בין אחיכם ושפטתם צדק בין איש ובין אחיו ובין גרו (1:16)
Even in his youth, the great Rav Yonason Eibeshutz was known for his remarkable diligence in his studies. While his peers idly passed their free time playing games and acting their ages, Rav Yonason utilized every spare moment for the study of Torah. Somebody once asked him about his behavior, questioning whether he wouldn’t be happier if he spent at least a portion of his free time engaged in more age-appropriate extracurricular activities.
Rav Yonason, demonstrating the sharp mind for which he later became world-famous, explained his conduct based on a Gemora in Sanhedrin (7b). One opinion in the Gemora cites our verse as the source of the law that a judge may not listen to the claims of one of the litigants if the other party isn’t present to challenge his arguments. This is hinted to by the words שמע בין אחיכם – you shall listen between your brothers – which teaches that a judge may only listen to the accusations of one party if the other is present at the time.
The Gemora in Sanhedrin (91b) teaches that a person receives his yetzer hara (evil inclination) at birth, whereas his yetzer tov (good inclination) doesn’t enter him until his Bar Mitzvah, at which point he is held accountable for his actions. Even a person who never becomes a judge in a Jewish court still serves as a judge every moment of his life, as he must constantly listen to the arguments of the two “litigants” inside of him – his yetzer hara and his yetzer tov – and sort them out to reach a judgment about the proper course of action to choose.
“While closing my books to indulge in the hobbies and games enjoyed by the other boys may seem quite tempting,” concluded the wise-beyond-his-years Rav Yonason, “this is the opinion of only one of the litigants – my yetzer hara. As a judge, I am forbidden to listen to his claims until my Bar Mitzvah, at which time the other party will be able to present its counter-claims, and I will be able to reach a judgment regarding the proper course of action. However, until that time, the ‘law’ gives me no choice but to ignore him and to diligently continue with my Torah studies!”

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) As the entire Torah and its laws had been taught in their entirety to Moshe, why are so many important mitzvos, such as Shema, mentioned only in the book of Devorim?
2) Rashi writes (1:3) that Moshe waited to rebuke the Jewish people until close to his death. What purpose was there in rebuking the Jews who were alive at this time for sins committed by their parents and of which they themselves were innocent? (Darash Moshe Vol. 2)
3) Masechta Sofrim (1:7) relates that the day King Ptolemy ordered five of the Jewish elders to translate the Torah into Greek was as painful and difficult for the Jews as the day on which they sinned with the golden calf. In what way was this worse than Moshe’s translation of the Torah into all 70 languages (Rashi 1:5), which presumably includes Greek? (Mishmeres Ariel, Ye’aros Devash quoted in Shiras Dovid, HaK’sav V’HaKabbalah)
4) Rashi writes (1:13) that one would never entertain the possibility that a woman is eligible to serve as a judge. On what basis is it so clear that one could never even consider the possibility that a woman may serve as a judge, especially in light of Tosefos in Niddah (50a d.h. kol), which discusses whether we may derive from Devorah (Shoftim 4:4-5) that women may indeed serve as judges? (Rinas Yitzchok, M’rafsin Igri, Ee’bayei L’hu)
5) Moshe commanded the judges (1:17) not to fear any man (i.e. any potential litigant). If a judge fears that one of the litigants may actually kill him, is he permitted to recuse himself from the trial in order to protect himself? (Kli Chemda, Bishvilei HaParsha, Rambam Sefer HaMitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 276, Shaarei Teshuvah 3:33, Bach Choshen Mishpat 12:1)
6) If a judge mystically recognizes from the faces of the litigants that one of them is guilty, is he permitted to use this knowledge when ruling on the case? (Doveiv Sifsei Yeshonim 1:17)
7) Why did Moshe devote significantly more time to rebuking the Jewish people for the sin of the spies than for the sin of the golden calf?
8) Why did Moshe approve of the people’s suggestion to send spies to scout out the land of Israel (1:22-23) instead of responding that they should trust in Hashem and there was no need to do so? (Kometz HaMincha, Taima D’Kra Parshas Shelach)
9) Rashi writes (2:17) that for the duration of the 38-year period in which the Jewish nation was in Divine disfavor due to the sin of the spies, Hashem didn’t speak to Moshe in the manner in which He was accustomed. Did Hashem communicate with Moshe at all during this time, and if so, in what fashion did He do so? (Rashi Taanis 30b, Rashbam Bava Basra 121b, Rabbeinu Bechaye)
10) There are four blessings which – in the Diaspora, where Yom Tov is observed for two days – are recited exactly once annually, one of which is associated with this time of the year. How many of them can you identify?

© 2007 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Computers Searches Cannot Fool Reb Chaim

Recently an interesting episode occurred with Reb Chaim Kanievsky that demonstrated that despite the amazing advances made by modern technology, nothing can be substituted for diligence in Torah study. A Torah scholar in Bnei Barak was discussing Torah topics with Reb Chaim and he queried Reb Chaim regarding the amount of instances where the name Moshe is listed in the Torah. Reb Chaim immediately responded that the name Moshe is listed 414 times in the Torah, to which the questioner responded that he believes that the name Moshe appears 416 times. Reb Chaim smiled and responded that apparently this person had done a computer search which resulted in the extra listings of the word Moshe, as in one instance the word is miseh, from the sheep, and in the second instance, the word is masheh, which means to lend, but certainly these words do not refer to Moshe.

Translated and edited by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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Mishna Berurah (14:16) writes that people are accustomed to finding a siddur in Shul and using it in order to daven. He comments that he does not know the heter for this. Why is it different than seforim, which the Rema rules that it is forbidden to use someone elses without their specific permission for perhaps you will tear it during your learning.

Aruch HaShulchan (14:13) rules that it is permitted since the majority of people are not particular regarding this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Loshon Hara on Eretz Yisroel

What is the source for speaking loshon hara on Eretz Yisroel? Does this apply to all inanimate objects?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Beha'aloscha by Reb Oizer

Parsha Potpourri
Parshas Behaaloscha – Vol. 2, Issue 30
Compiled by Oizer Alport

זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים חנם (11:5)
On our verse, which relates that the complainers lamented their recollection of the fish they used to eat in Egypt, the Medrash Pliah cryptically remarks מכאן שמדליקין נרות בשבת – from our verse we may derive that one is obligated to light candles for Shabbos, a mitzvah which has no apparent connection to our verse whatsoever.
The Chida explains the Medrash Pliah by noting that we must first understand what they were complaining about, as we are told that one was able to make the Manna taste like anything he so desired simply through his thoughts. If so, why were they complaining about the fish they used to eat in Egypt when they were perfectly capable of causing the Manna to take on that taste with no effort whatsoever?
Rather, the Gemora in Yoma (74b) states that although one was able to make the Manna taste like anything he desired, it nevertheless retained the standard appearance of the Manna. Even though they were able to make the Manna taste like fish, they lacked the enjoyment and satiety which comes from seeing the food which they wished to taste. The Gemora there even notes that a blind person won’t enjoy or become as full from a meal as a person with normal vision who consumes the same food.
Based on this complaint, the Medrash Pliah questioned how a person will be able to avoid the same dilemma on Shabbos, as he won’t be able to enjoy and appreciate the Shabbos delicacies if he is forced to eat them in darkness, and it therefore concluded that from our verse we may derive that a person is obligated to light candles for Shabbos!

והמן כזרע גד הוא ועינו כעין הבדלח (11:7)
מי שאמר זו לא אמר זו ישראל אומרים בלתי אל המן עינינו והקב"ה הכתיב בתורה והמן כזרע גד וגו' כלומר ראו באי עולם על מה מתלוננים בני והמן כך וכך הוא חשוב (רש"י)
During their travels in the wilderness, a group of complainers began to lament the Manna which they were forced to eat day after day. They wailed that they missed the succulent tastes of the meat, fish, and vegetables which they ate in Egypt, and now they had nothing to look forward to except for Manna. On our verse, Rashi explains that in response to their complaint, Hashem wrote in the Torah a description of how wonderful the Manna was as if to say, “Look, inhabitants of the world, at what my children are complaining about.”
Rav Pam notes that although we don’t merit hearing it, a Divine voice expressing frustration over the things we complain about still goes out regularly. We live in a time of unprecedented freedom and material bounty, and we are surrounded by a society which influences us to believe that we are entitled to immediate gratification, to have everything we want, when and exactly how we want it. If we would only step back and view our lives with the proper perspective, we would be so overwhelmed by the blessings we enjoy that there would be no room to complain about trivialities.
Although we don’t usually hear Hashem’s direct communication about this point, sometimes He sends us the message about priorities and values through a human agent, as illustrated in the following story. A student in a yeshiva was once complaining with his friends about the quality and selection of the meals that they were served. Each boy heaped more and more criticism on every aspect of the food, until they were jolted to their senses by one of the elderly teachers in the yeshiva. The Rabbi couldn’t help but overhear their loud complaints in the dining hall and walked over to deliver a succinct lesson: “In Auschwitz we would have done anything to have gotten such food.”
Every time that a husband comes home to a messy house, filled with children’s toys and dirty clothes, and once again berates his wife over her inability to keep their house clean, a Heavenly voice challenges, “How many families would do anything to have children and would gladly clean up the mess that accompanies them, and here is somebody who has been blessed with healthy children and is upset that they make his house disorderly? Where are his priorities?”
When a husband or a child complains about eating the same supper for the 3rd consecutive night, Hashem can’t help but point out how many poverty-stricken families would do anything to eat this dinner every night for a year, if only to enjoy a nutritional and filling repast. Every time that the parents of the bride and groom quarrel over petty wedding-related issues, a Bas Kol (Heavenly voice) wonders how many parents will cry themselves to sleep that evening over their inability to find a proper match for their aging son or daughter, and who would gladly accede to any terms the other side would set … if only there would be another side.
The next time that we find ourselves upset about issues which are objectively nothing more than nuisances and minor inconveniences, let us remember the lesson of the Manna and open our ears to hear Hashem’s response to our complaints.

וישמע משה את העם בכה למשפחתיו (11:10)
על עסקי משפחות על עריות הנאסרות להם (רש"י)
The Gemora in Shabbos (130a) teaches that any mitzvah which was accepted by the Jewish people with joy, such as circumcision, is still performed happily to the present day. Any mitzvah that was accepted with fighting, such as forbidden relationships, is still accompanied by tension, as the issues involved in the negotiation of every wedding cause struggles. Of all commandments, why did the Jews specifically complain about the prohibition against marrying family members?
Dayan Yisroel Yaakov Fisher suggests that when the Jews heard that they would be unable to marry their close relatives, they feared that they would be unable to enjoy successful marriages. They believed that the ideal candidate for marriage would be a person who was familiar since birth and who would be almost identical in terms of values and stylistic preferences. From the Torah’s prohibition to marry those most similar to us, we may deduce that Hashem’s vision of marriage differs from our own.
The Mas’as HaMelech derives a similar lesson from Parshas Ki Seitzei, which begins by discussing the Y’fas Toar – woman of beautiful form. The Torah permits a soldier who becomes infatuated with a non-Jewish woman during battle to marry her. This is difficult to understand, as only the most righteous individuals constituted the Jewish army. Rashi writes (Devorim 20:8) that somebody who had committed even the smallest Rabbinical sin was sent back from the war. How could such pious Rabbis be tempted to marry a beautiful non-Jewish woman?
Rashi writes (21:11) that a person who marries a Y’fas Toar will ultimately give birth to a Ben Sorer U’Moreh – wayward son. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (71a) rules that a child may only be punished as a rebellious son if his parents are identical in their voices, appearances, and height. The Mas’as HaMelech explains that even the most righteous soldier will be taken aback upon encountering a woman who looks like him and whose voice is identical to his. All external signs seem to indicate that she is meant for him, and he may be convinced that Hashem’s will is to convert her and marry her.
However, from the fact that Rashi teaches that a wayward son will come out of such a union, we may conclude that the ideal marriage isn’t one in which the two partners enter already identical. A Torah marriage is one in which the two partners grow together over time to understand and respect one another, allowing them to overcome their differences and create a beautiful, harmonious blend of their unique perspectives and experiences.

האנכי הריתי את כל העם הזה אם אנכי ילדתיהו ... מאין לי בשר לתת לכל העם הזה (11:12-13)
The S’fas Emes once noted that one of his recently-married Gerrer chassidim had suddenly become much less diligent in his studies. The Rebbe approached the newlywed and inquired as to the source of his recent absence from the Beis Medrash. The chossid was embarrassed that the Rebbe noticed his declining involvement in Talmudic studies, but explained that he was having a difficult time meeting his financial needs and was being forced to spend an increasing amount of time working to support his new wife. The Rebbe asked whether he was receiving any financial assistance from his parents, to which the chossid replied that his father wanted to help him but simply didn’t have the money to do so.
The sagacious S’fas Emes called in the newlywed’s father to discuss his worries that the chossid, who possessed great potential, was being derailed from his true calling by financial matters. The father expressed his concern but reiterated that he was simply unable to do anything to be of material assistance.
The Rebbe replied by asking him why Moshe Rabbeinu, in his complaints to Hashem, began by asking whether he had conceived and given birth to the Jewish nation, and only subsequently continued to express his inability to supply them with the tremendous amount of meat necessary to meet their desires. If he knew that he lacked the means to provide them with their request, why was it relevant whether or not he gave birth to them?
The chossid remained silent, to which the Rebbe answered that we derive from here that only because Moshe didn’t conceive the Jewish nation was he able to excuse himself with the argument that he was incapable of meeting their demands, but if somebody did indeed give birth to another, then the claim of lack of means to assist and support them is completely invalid!

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) As the Gemora in Yoma (24b) rules that lighting the Menorah isn’t considered part of the Divine service and may be performed by a non-Kohen, why is the section discussing the lighting of the Menorah addressed (8:1) specifically to Aharon? (Ritva and Tosefos Yeshonim Yoma 24b, Raavad and Mahar”i Korkos Hilchos Bias Mikdash 9:7, D’var Avrohom 1:14, Mikdash Dovid 21:2, Tzafnas Paneiach Hilchos Berachos 11:15, Shu”t Tzafnas Paneiach 52 and 251, Meshech Chochmah, Chazon Ish Menachos 30:8, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
2) Rashi writes (8:2) that there was a step in front of the Menorah upon which the Kohen would stand when cleaning out and lighting the Menorah. As the Menorah was only 18 tefachim tall (approximately 5 feet), why was it necessary for the Kohen to stand on a step to light it? (Rav Yonason Eibeshutz, Rav Leib Tzintz quoted in P’ninei Kedem)
3) Rashi writes (11:5) that the Manna tasted like whatever the person eating it desired, except for five tastes which it couldn’t take on because they are unhealthy for nursing women. Did the person eating it need to actually state the taste that he desired, or was it sufficient merely to think it? (Shemos Rabbah 25:3, Moshav Z’keinim 11:8, Chavatzeles HaSharon Parshas Beshalach)
4) Rashi writes (11:10) that the Jews began to weep over the fact that with the giving of the Torah, they were forbidden to marry various relatives. There is a Talmudic maxim (Yevamos 22a) גר שנתגייר כקטן שנולד דמי – one who converts to Judaism is considered to be newly born, and is therefore not considered to be legally related to any of his former family members. Why did the Jews cry over the forbidden relationships when they all converted at Mount Sinai and were no longer considered to be related? (Gur Aryeh Bereishis 46:10, Shev Shmaitsa Hakdama 9, Kli Chemdah Vayigash 2, Shu”t Doveiv Meishorim 1:136, Chiddushei HaGranat Kesuvos 28, Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha, Chavatzeles HaSharon, M’rafsin Igri)
5) Is it permissible for a person who is suffering – physically or emotionally – to pray that he, or another person who is in pain, should die? (Ramban 11:15, Ran and Maharsha Nedorim 40a, Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah 335, HaEmek Sh’eilah and Sh’eilas Sholom on Sheiltos 93, Shabbos 30a, Sefer Chassidim 301, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
6) The Gemora in Arachin (16a) teaches that a person is afflicted with tzara’as as a punishment for speaking lashon hara only if his words caused actual damage. Why was Miriam stricken with tzara’as (12:10) when her criticism of Moshe had no effect? (Sh’eilas Sholom on Sheiltos 98, Chofetz Chaim in Be’er Mayim Chaim Hilchos Lashon Hara 3:6, Chavatzeles HaSharon)

© 2007 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chassideshe Tidbits on Beha'aloscha by Rabbi Ganzweig

Beha'aloscha by Reb Jay


“And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him: When you kindle the lamps (of the Menorah), towards the face of the Menorah shall their light be directed” (Bamidbar Ch.8 v.1-2). Rashi explains that when Aaron saw the sacrificial offerings the head of the tribe offered at the dedication of the Mishkan, he felt bad that the tribe of Levi (of which he was part) was not included. The reason the Levites and the Kohanim (priests who were Levites descended from Aaron) were not included in the number of tribes, and were not given an inheritance in the Land of Israel is as follows: During the incident of the golden calf the Levites were the only tribe that was not at all involved. This was typical of the Levites, as even during the bitter years of enslavement in Egypt they had never been enslaved, as they were too busy studying Torah and Pharoh left them alone.

These two things displayed the true essence of the Levites: ruchniyus. Hashem did not want them to be worrying about tending to their land. This was not to be their role; rather, they would be the caretakers of the Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash (The Levites sang every day in the Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash and transported the Mishkan when the Jews traveled; the Kohanim were in charge of the actual running of the Mishkan/Beis Hamikdash, i.e. sacrifices, lighting the Menorah, etc.). If the Levites were in charge of the running of the Beis Hamikdash, why would Aaron care that they were not represented at the tribe’s offerings at the dedication of the Mishkan?

The Ohr Gedalyahu explains: Each head of a tribe offered up the exact same sacrifice (see Bamidbar Ch.7). Moshe did not want to accept their sacrificial offerings, however, as he did not understand their intentions behind the offerings, until Hashem told him to accept it. This was one of the first manifestations of the Torah She’bal Peh. The body of each sacrifice was identical. The reason and intent each one put behind the offering was different.

This is how we relate to the Torah She’bal Peh. The body of law is the same for every Jew (with minor variation in detail). But the intent behind it can be different for each Jew. The Vilna Gaon says that when the Jews accepted the Torah each person related to it in 70 different ways.

This concept answers the age-old dilemma. How can a Jew retain his individuality while at the same time keeping the Torah the same as millions of other people.
When Aaron saw he did not have an offering he worried that perhaps the Levites would not be able to express their individuality through the Torah She’bal Peh. Then Moshe appeased him by saying, “You will have the honor of the daily lighting of the Menorah.”

The Menorah is the symbol of the Torah She’bal Peh. As opposed to the Aon, which was interacted with once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Menorah was interacted with every day. This is metaphorical to our relationship with the Torah She’bksav and the Torah She’bal Peh. The Torah She’bksav, although to be studied, is the unchanging word of Hashem. The Torah She’bal Peh, while the word of Hashem, is meant to be developed in tandem with man. Thus, even if one is proven right in the Heavenly court, yet proven wrong in the earthly court, the person is judged to be wrong. The Torah was given to man, to be used by man ( Bava Metsia 87b; Chagiga 15b).
Constant interaction and study of the Torah are required. This is similar to the Menorah, which symbolizes the Jewish people’s relationship to the Torah.

Friday, March 23, 2007


by Reb Jay

We eat bitter herbs to remember the bitterness of our ancestors’ slavery in Egypt (Either grated horseradish root or romaine lettuce is used). In maror lies an important concept. The taste of maror is bitter. Nonetheless it is a mitzvah to eat maror, and mitzvos are to be fulfilled joyfully. How can this be accomplished with maror? Furthermore, why during korech is the maror eaten with matzah in a sandwich? In our exiles we have undergone many bitter times, too numerous to count. We believe that it was all for a purpose, that there is rhyme and reason to all that we have undergone as a people. Only when the messiah comes, will it be clear to us why everything that has happened had to happen the way it did.

When we eat the maror we taste the bitterness, and remember the bitterness of our ancestors’ slavery in Egypt, and all the other exiles, including the one we are in now.

But we also eat it knowing that this is only a stage. After the maror, we eat the matzah and maror in a sandwich together (Hillel sandwich). We combine the suffering and the redemption, symbolizing that it is all towards one goal. And finally after the sandwich we eat the delicious meal with a feeling of joy. This symbolizes that when the redemption comes, we will understand all that led up to it, and enjoy our state. The meal alludes to yemos Hamoshiach when the world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem, and mankind shall live in peace.


by Reb Jay

The significance of matzah is when the Jews were leaving Egypt, they were forced to hurry. This did not allow the dough proper time for it to rise; hence they left with matzah.

Is it not rather arbitrary, however, that because the Jews were forced to leave in a hurry, and their dough was not given time to rise, therefore, for eight full days (Pesach is seven days in Israel) we are not allowed to eat or even possess bread?

Obviously there is a much deeper significance to matzah.
In Hebrew the plural form of matzah and mitzvah (commandment) are spelled the same. The sages in the Talmud teach us, “don’t read matzos (plural form of matzah), read mitzvos (plural form of mitzvah).” This means that within matzah lay the true essence of mitzvah.

Einstein proved that speed and time have a direct correlation, i.e., if one could somehow travel faster than the quickest known speed (the speed of light), time could be bypassed.

Traveling faster than the speed of light and bypassing time are impossible. The level below that, however, is not. The level below traveling beyond time would be to do things as quickly as possible, meaning at the first opportunity.

Although time will not be bypassed in this manner, by doing so one is as close as is physically possible to “being above” time.

We do not eat matzah simply because our dough did not have time to rise, but rather we eat matzah because it is sustenance made as quickly as possible. Our birth as a nation took place in a hurried state (the sages state we were born as a nation as we left Egypt). This teaches us that as a nation, we are as close as possible to “being above time”. As we stated earlier, our very existence as a people for nearly 2000 years without a homeland, proves we are unlike any other nation. The normal rules that are either a guarantor of a nation’s flourishing or disappearing do not apply to us.

This is also the reason why the sages state in the Talmud (Pesachim 4a), mitzvos (commandments) should be fulfilled at the earliest possible time i.e. as quickly as possible. (This does not mean mitzvos should be done as quickly as possible - rather they should be fulfilled at the earliest possible time; for example a bris—circumcision-- should be done first thing in the morning). Performing the mitzvos at their earliest time shows an eagerness and enthusiasm. The passage of time usually dulls one’s desires. Our unique relationship with Hashem and His Torah have stood the test of time, and our performance of mitzvos with zeal highlights this concept.

Therefore, precisely at the moment when we became a nation is when we were hurrying out of Egypt with our matzah. Furthermore, of modus operandi of doing mitzvos is to fulfill them at the earliest possible opportunity, thereby reflecting our relationship with time. (For a deeper understanding of this concept, see the Maharal’s classic work Gevuras Hashem).

Another approach to matzah is nullification of the self-i.e. the ego. The whole year we eat dough that has risen, which is full. For eight days we eat dough which has not risen. This is a message to us to tone down our ego in order to enable it to coexist with Hashem. According to the Maharal, this is one of the reasons matzah is called “poor bread”, because it represents simplicity.

Every Generation they try to destroy us

Why is it so important to mention this point? It seems to be a strong inclination amongst Jewish people; to not only relive good times, but also bad ones. Why is this so?

We remember the bad times to remind us that we are special and therefore have special responsibilities.

Let us think back: why did Hashem take us out of Egypt? To fulfill the purpose for which the world was created, i.e., the receiving of the Torah (which rectifies the world).

When we do not remember this and do not in act in accord with our exalted status, Hashem sends us reminders. These reminders take the form of other nations trying to destroy us. This is all done with the hope that any person, by use of minimal perception, will take note of the unnatural attention paid to the Jews by the non-Jewish world.

When we see this happening it is meant to remind us of our awesome responsibilities, and that if we ignore them, Hashem will remind us of them. We can never live as a regular nation. From the moment we accepted the Torah we are a nation set apart. Hopefully we will accept is as the special privilege that it is.


by Reb Jay

Carpas is used as an appetizer. An appetizer whets one’s appetite for the coming meal. Why do we dip? The sages give a cryptic answer: “We dip in order that the children should ask.” The Maharal explains that one of our goals on Pesach is to clarify why it was necessary for us to have undergone slavery. He answers that one of the reasons we had to undergo slavery was in order to enable us to experience freedom. If one has never experienced the opposite of freedom, which is slavery, then one cannot truly appreciate freedom. (This concept is true of all pleasures. They can only be truly appreciated when one has experienced the opposite, and expended the necessary effort to achieve them.)

So when the children ask: “Why do we dip the vegetable?”, we explain what an appetizer is. That just as one cannot really enjoy food, unless a hearty appetite has been developed, so too one cannot enjoy freedom until one has experienced slavery. This concept can be explained on an even deeper level - that one cannot appreciate answers, until one asks questions. In order for Judaism to be meaningful in our lives, we must question, and put the same passion into it that we put into our jobs, families and recreation.
(Based on an idea from Rabbi Uziel Milevsky zt’l)

Arba Kosos

by Reb Jay

In Shemos ch.6 v.6-7 it states “Therefore say to the children of Israel, “I am Hashem and I will take you out from under the toils of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their labors, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements. And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be to you Hashem.”

The Yerushalmi in Pesachim states we drink the four cups to commemorate the four expressions of redemption. I will take you out, I will deliver you, I will redeem you, and I will take you to Me.

The Jews in Egypt were tortured and enslaved, and were strangers in a strange land. These three levels correspond with the first three expressions of redemption. Being tortured corresponds to “I will take you out from under their toils.” This refers to the period of time after the first plague, when the Egyptians stopped torturing the Jews. “ I will deliver you from their labors” refers to the time period after the first couple of plagues, when the Egyptians stopped enslaving them. “I will redeem you” refers to the point in time after the ten plagues, when the Egyptians let us go.

What does the fourth expression, “I will take you to Me”, refer to? In this expression of redemption lies the crux of our redemption from Egypt.

If one were to say our celebration of Pesach is simply to commemorate our leaving Egypt, then the whole Seder is a farce. What is there to celebrate? How many times have we been enslaved since then? We are obviously commemorating something much greater than simply leaving Egypt.

The Seder is a celebration of the very fact that we still exist. What would one say if right now a group of Assyrians demanded a state from the United Nations? Or Mesopotamians? Or Babylonians? Yet fifty something years ago that is exactly what happened. 2000 years after the Jews were exiled from Israel, we are still around (this is not said as a statement that is pro-zionistic, but merely to point the resiliency of Klal Yisroel).

How can this be explained? How can a people be separate from its land for 2000 years, yet still not only exist, but have an identity? Obviously, the secret of our survival is greater than any land, even Israel.

That secret is the last of the four expressions of redemption: “I will take you to Me as a people.” What does “take you to Me” mean? That Hashem will give us the Torah. Our having been taken out of Egypt was only a means to an end; that end is the purpose of our existence.
The word meitzar in Hebrew means constriction. Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for Egypt, means two constrictions. When Hashem redeemed us from Egypt, He released us from the constriction of being a physical slave, and He released us from the constriction of being spiritual slaves.

A mere seven weeks after we were taken out of Egypt, Hashem gave us the Torah, this being the reason He took us out of Egypt.

During the seder the first three cups of wine are drunk with thanks to Hashem for physically liberating us from Egypt and in thanks for all He has provided us with, both physically and materially since then. The fourth cup symbolizes our gratitude towards Hashem for having found us fit to receive the Torah, which gives our lives meaning and purpose. That is why even in the most horrible of conditions, in Western Europe during the crusades, in Spain during the Inquisition, and in the concentration camps, we gather on the anniversary of Hashem taking us out of Egypt, and we retell the story. And by virtue of our being here to observe the Seder, our relevance and our connection to Hashem and the Torah is proven.

Vayikra by Reb Jay

Vayikra is the third section of the Torah. Most of this section deals with the laws of korbanos—sacrificial offerings.
Karbon—the singular form of the word karbanos— means to get close. When we offered sacrificial offerings we were getting close to Hashem.
In a person there is a physical side (guf) and a spiritual side (neshama). The connection between these two parts is made through eating and drinking. As Jews we are commanded to eat only kosher food. We receive sustenance from our eating, not merely physical sustenance, but energy that enables us to engage in spiritual acts using both our physical and mental capacities. Therefore we must be careful about what goes into our bodies.
Similarly when we offer a korban to Hashem, we are offering sustenance to Him. In fact our offerings are found to be before Hashem as a “rayach nichoach—a smell of satisfaction” (Vayikra 1:9). Obviously this does not mean that Hashem needs to eat, as He has no physical attributes whatsoever, but what it does mean is that just as food sustains us and enables our bodies and souls to connect, allegorically we are able to connect with Hashem through our giving Him sustenance (Nefesh Hachaim; Rav Tzadok HaKohen).
This is why in certain types of korbanos we are allowed to partake of the meat because our eating further strengthens our bond with Hashem by reason of our partaking in His “meal”

Vayikra by Reb Oizer

Parsha Potpourri
Parshas Vayikra – Vol. 2, Issue 19
Compiled by Oizer Alport

אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לד' (1:2)
In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, a person who sinned at least had the comfort of knowing that he could bring a sacrifice to complete the atonement process prescribed by the Torah. In the absence of this option, how can a person in our times fully repent and cleanse the effects of his transgression?
The Mabit offers us a tremendous consolation. He writes that in the times of the Beis HaMikdash, when Hashem’s presence could be tangibly perceived, the ramifications of a sin were correspondingly greater, thus necessitating the offering of a sacrifice to fully purify oneself from its spiritual damage. Since its destruction, we have been living in an era in which Hashem’s Providence is subtly hidden.
While this makes it more difficult to feel and recognize His constant presence, it also effected a change in the amount of destruction caused by sin. Because the transgression doesn’t cause as much damage as it once did, the bringing of a sacrifice is no longer required to effect complete atonement. Atonement may now be fully accomplished through the other steps of the repentance process, namely correcting one’s ways, confessing the sin, and accepting upon oneself never to do so again.

על כל קרבנך תקריב מלח (2:13)
The Gemora in Taanis (2a) refers to prayer as “the Divine Service of the heart.” The laws concerning the daily prayers are often derived from those which govern the offering of the sacrifices in the Beis HaMikdash. If so, where do we find in our prayers a parallel to the requirement that every sacrifice be accompanied by salt?
Rav Moshe Meir Weiss quotes a beautiful answer that he once heard from a Mr. Levinger. He posited that our heartfelt, salty tears are intended to correspond to the sacrifices, while noting that the Torah requires this “salt” to be brought together with every single offering!

ואם נפש אחת תחטא בשגגה מעם הארץ בעשתה אחת ממצות ד' אשר לא תעשינה ואשם (4:27)
Our verse introduces the laws governing the sin-offering which must be brought by a person who sins unintentionally. It is difficult to understand why the Torah requires a person to repent and receive atonement for an action which was completely accidental, with no intention to transgress whatsoever.
An insight into resolving our difficulty may be derived from a story involving the founder of the mussar movement, Rav Yisroel Salanter. On one of his travels, Rav Yisroel was in need of money. He requested a small loan from one of the local townsmen. Because the man didn’t recognize him, he was suspicious of the request and demanded collateral to avoid being swindled. Some time later, Rav Yisroel encountered that same man carrying a chicken, attempting to find somebody who could slaughter it for him. The man approached him and asked if he was could do so.
Seizing the opportunity, Rav Yisroel taught the man an invaluable lesson in priorities and values. He pointed out that with regard to the possibility of losing a small amount of money, the man suspected him of being a fraudulent con artist who wouldn’t repay his loan. Yet when it came to the risk of eating non-kosher meat if his animal wasn’t properly slaughtered, the man had no problem trusting him.
Based on this story, we can now appreciate how Rav Moshe Soloveitchik answers our original question by comparing it to a case of a person carrying glass utensils. If they are inexpensive, it is likely that he won’t be particularly careful, and periodically some of them may fall and break. On the other hand, if they are made of fine china and are extremely valuable, he will take extraordinary precautions to ensure their safe transport.
Similarly, if a person recognized the true value of mitzvos, he would take so much care to avoid transgressing them that accidents would be unthinkable. The Brisker Rav was renowned for what some perceived as a fanatical approach toward performing mitzvos, constantly worrying if he had properly fulfilled his obligations. He explained that just as a person who is transporting millions of dollars in cash would constantly check his pocket to make sure that the money is still there, his mitzvos were worth millions in his eyes and he “felt” them constantly to make sure that he didn’t lose them.
Although a person’s transgression may have been completely devoid of intent to sin, it was the lack of proper recognition of the importance of the mitzvah which allowed him to slip up. It is this mistaken understanding which the Torah requires him to repair and correct.

ואם נפש כי תחטא ועשתה אחת מכל מצות ד' אשר לא תעשינה ולא ידע ואשם ונשא עונו והביא איל תמים מן הצאן בערכך לאשם אל הכהן וכפר עליו הכהן על שגגתו אשר שגג והוא לא ידע ונסלח לו (5:17-18)
A number of commentators are troubled that the sacrifice prescribed by the Torah for somebody in doubt whether he transgressed, such as a person who ate one of two pieces of meat and subsequently learned that one of them wasn’t kosher, is significantly more expensive – 48 times more – than that required of a person who knows with certainty that he sinned. Wouldn’t logic seem to dictate that the opposite would be more appropriate?
The following interesting story will help shed light on this conundrum. The Mir yeshiva spent much of World War 2 in exile in Shanghai. Aware of the dangers faced by their families and friends, the daily prayers were intense. Those during the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe) were powerful beyond words. One year in the middle of the Rosh Hashana prayers, one of the students walked out, only to return minutes later wearing a different outfit.
At the conclusion of the prayer services, several of his friends inquired about his peculiar behavior. He explained that he had been trying his utmost to pray with the concentration appropriate for the Day of Judgment, but try as he might, he felt that his prayers weren’t coming out properly.
He remembered that the mystics write that wearing shatnez (a forbidden mixture of wool and linen) can prevent a person’s prayers from being accepted. He realized that the new suit he had received for Yom Tov had never been tested for shatnez. Suspecting it as the culprit, he returned to his room and donned his weekday suit and noticed a marked improvement in his prayers. After the holiday concluded, his new suit was checked and found to contain shatnez, just as he had suspected!
In light of this story, we can understand the answer to our question offered by the Chasam Sofer. He writes that if the smallest bit of dirt would fall onto a bride’s pure white gown, it would be easily detected and removed. If, on the other hand, it falls onto an already filthy garment, it would be difficult to locate because it would blend in with the numerous stains which preceded it.
Similarly, if a righteous person needs to find out if he has sinned, he will be able to clarify the matter by simply checking his pure neshama to see if it has been sullied, just as the student in Shanghai was on such a high level that he was able to detect the problem with his suit. If he finds a “stain” on his soul, he will realize that he has sinned and will bring the offering of a person who knows that he has sinned. If he finds no stain, he won’t have to bring any sacrifice. Either way, he will never be in doubt.
If a person is in doubt and is unable to recognize whether or not he sinned, as in the case of a person who finds out that he may have consumed a non-kosher piece of meat, this can only be the case if his originally pristine soul has been repeatedly stained through his prior transgressions. It is for arriving at this pitiful spiritual state through his previous sins that the Torah requires such an expensive sacrifice to effect his atonement!

ולא אותי קראת יעקב כי יגעת בי ישראל (הפטרה – ישעיה 43:22)
The Darkei Mussar (Parshas Balak) writes that of the thousands of parables developed by the Dubno Maggid, there were three which the Kotzker Rebbe declared were said with Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration). One of those three was used to explain our verse.
A businessman once returned home from his travels and hired one of the porters at the train station to carry his luggage to his home. Upon arriving at the man’s house, the porter put down the bags and approached the man to receive his payment. The traveler took one look at the boy and informed him that he had mistakenly brought the wrong suitcases.
The surprised porter questioned how the businessman could make this claim with such certainty when he hadn’t even seen the bags, which were still outside. The man explained that it was clear from the boy’s appearance that he had sweated and exerted tremendous effort to transport the luggage. As the bags which belonged to the businessman were filled with lightweight items which wouldn’t have required such exertion, it could only be that the porter mistakenly brought the wrong suitcases.
Similarly, Yeshaya related that Hashem told the Jewish people, “You haven’t called Me” in your performance of mitzvos. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh writes (Bamidbar 23:21) that the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvos should be enjoyable and invigorate a person. Yeshaya teaches elsewhere (40:31), וקוי ד' יחליפו כח – those who look to and trust in Hashem will be constantly strengthened and refreshed. Just as the businessman told the porter of his error, the Navi chastises the Jews that they must not be learning and doing mitzvos for Hashem’s sake. The proof of this claim is that instead of feeling renewed and energized, “you grew weary of Me!”

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Medrash teaches (Vayikra Rabba 7:3) that in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash, one who recites and studies the laws of the sacrifices will be considered in Hashem’s eyes as if he actually brought them. How does studying these concepts and merely saying the words effect atonement?
2) Many of the sacrifices described in our parsha are completely voluntary in nature. If these mitzvos are so important, why isn’t their performance obligatory, and if they aren’t, for what purpose did Hashem give them? (Birkas Peretz, Akeidas Yitzchok, HaDerash V’HaIyun, Torah L’Daas Vol. 8)
3) The Gemora in Nedorim (10a-b) derives from 1:2 that a person who wishes to sanctify an animal to be offered as a sacrifice may say עולה לד' – an elevation-offering to Hashem – instead of לד' עולה. The Gemora explains that if he says it the other way, we are afraid that he may die before saying the word עולה and he will have said Hashem’s name in vain. According to this logic, how is a person allowed to say a blessing prior to doing a mitzvah when he may die before he performs it and will have said Hashem’s name in vain? (M’rafsin Igri)
4) The Magen Avrohom rules (607:4) that a person may not rest his body on another object while reciting the viduy – confession – on Yom Kippur because the viduy must be said while standing and resting on another object is legally considered sitting. How was a person who brought a sacrifice permitted to lean on it (1:4) while confessing his sins? (Pardes Yosef, M’rafsin Igri)
5) The Torah requires (1:7) the Kohanim to kindle a fire on the copper altar. Because the altar was five cubits tall (8-10 feet), they were required to climb up onto it to do so. How were they able to walk on top of it without burning their bare feet? (Paneiach Raza, Tanchuma Terumah 11, Tosefos Chagigah 27a d.h. she’ein, Rabbeinu Bechaye Parshas Terumah)
6) The Gemora in Chagiga (27a) derives from a verse in Yechezkel that in the absence of the Beis HaMikdash Temple, the generous opening up of a person’s table to serve the poor and other guests serves in lieu of the altar. As a person’s table is comparable to the Altar and the food consumed to a sacrifice, the Rema rules (Orach Chaim 141) that just as every sacrifice required salt (2:13), so too the bread eaten at a meal must be dipped in salt. If a person doesn’t have any salt, can he use sugar for this purpose? (Yafeh L’Lev quoted in Kaf HaChaim Orach Chaim 167:37, Minhagei Chasam Sofer, Shu”t Torah Lishmah 500, Shu”t Rav Pe’alim Yoreh Deah 2:4, Ben Ish Chai Shana Rishona, Bishvilei HaParsha)

© 2007 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Purim by Reb Oizer

Parsha Potpourri
Megillas Esther – Vol. 2, Issue 16
Special Purim Edition in the
Spirit (or Spirits) of the Times
Compiled by Oizer Alport

המלך מהדו ועד כוש שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה (1:1)
The Medrash relates that Rav Akiva was once in the middle of teaching a class when he noticed his students beginning to doze off. He digressed from the subject he had been discussing and asked, “Why did Queen Esther deserve to rule over 127 countries? She merited this because she was descended from Sorah, who lived 127 perfect years.” Why did Rav Akiva interrupt his class specifically to interject this tangent at this time?
The Chiddushei HaRim explains that a person could view Esther’s kingdom as simply a collection of countries, and for each year of Sorah’s life she merited to rule over another one. In reality, each country consists of states, cities, neighborhoods, streets, and even houses. Similarly, a year can be subdivided into months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds.
Rav Akiva explained that Sorah didn’t live a “mostly” good life which allowed Esther to receive the same number of countries as the years of her life. If Sorah would have let up for a week or even a second, it would have resulted in a corresponding deficiency in Esther’s empire, causing her to be lacking a city or even just a house. It was only because Sorah’s life was equally good from the beginning until the end (Rashi Bereishis 23:1), every second of every day, for her entire life, that Esther’s kingdom was complete.
Rav Akiva’s students were obviously quite tired, and they assumed that if they would take a short nap and miss a little of the class, it wouldn’t have any substantial ramifications. Realizing this, Rav Akiva wanted to teach them that every second of our lives, every word that we say, and every action that we take, have very real and direct consequences.

לא הגידה אסתר את עמה ואת מולדתה כי מרדכי צוה עליה אשר לא תגיד (2:10)
It is well-known that Hashem’s name doesn’t appear a single time in the entire Megillah. This peculiarity is traditionally explained as hinting to the fact that the Megillah contains only “hidden miracles” but is lacking open miracles which more clearly demonstrate Hashem’s Providence. Rav Eizel Charif sharply suggested that nevertheless, one clear miracle remains. Mordechai told Esther not to reveal her religion or nationality, and a woman actually managed to keep a secret!

ויבז בעיניו לשלח יד במרדכי לבדו כי הגידו לו את עם מרדכי ויבקש המן
להשמיד את כל היהודים אשר בכל מלכות אחשורוש עם מרדכי (3:6)
Rav Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. 1, 76-77), quoting the Alter of Kelm, derives a fascinating insight into trusting our Sages from the Megillah. Historically, the events described in the Megillah span a period of nine years, beginning with the party held in the 3rd year of the reign of King Achashverosh (1:3) and concluding with the triumph of Mordechai and Esther over Haman in the 12th year of his reign (3:7).
The Medrash relates that Mordechai warned the Jews against intermingling and attending Achashverosh’s lavish and excessive party, but they answered that not to attend would endanger the lives of the entire Jewish nation, and they attended as they felt that saving lives overrode all other concerns. To the naked eye, there were no immediate negative consequences to their attendance, and they surely concluded that they had acted properly and Mordechai had erred in his zealotry.
Nine years later they had surely forgotten the entire affair when Haman was promoted to second-in-command and ordered that every passerby must bow down to him. In reality, it was permitted to do so, as the Gemora in Sanhedrin (61b) states that there was no actual idolatry involved but merely a question of improper appearance. As a result, the Jews en masse once again maintained that it is obligatory to do so in order to protect themselves and their coreligionists.
Mordechai, on the other hand, felt that it was appropriate to be stringent even where not strictly required to do so by the letter of the law, and he refused to bow down. The Medrash records that once again they begged Mordechai not to endanger their lives, but he refused to listen.
True to their worst fears, Haman learned of Mordechai’s intransigence and, filled with rage, declared war on Jews everywhere. From the perspective of the Jewish people, their reasoning was once again proven correct and “Rabbi” Mordechai’s misplaced piety was to blame for the decree. In reality, things work differently in Heaven.
The Gemora in Megillah (12a) states that the Jews of Shushan were deserving of annihilation because, nine years prior, they had refused to listen to Mordechai’s advice and had enjoyed themselves at the forbidden bash. While the Satan convinced them that Mordechai was to blame for their current dilemma, the truth was the exact opposite. It was their failure to respect and heed the Rabbi’s instructions which eventually brought about Haman’s diabolical decree.
When Mordechai approached them and ordered that everybody must fast for three consecutive days, they could have easily responded, “For too long you’ve been ignoring us. We kept telling you that your fanaticism was going to get us killed, and now you finally learned the hard way. You made this mess, and now it’s your job to go get us out of it!”
This was exactly the “logic” which the evil inclination attempted to impress upon them. Fortunately, in this time of national danger, they were inspired to repent and correct their ways. They chose to listen to Mordechai’s instructions and joined him in the fast which allowed Esther’s risky gamble to succeed.
As happy as they were at the time, the Jews never came to appreciate what Mordechai knew through Divine Inspiration. They never connected the seemingly disparate events to form the big picture that he grasped all along. So many times it seems so “clear” to us the rightness of our thinking and the error of our leading Rabbis’ logic. At such times we would be wise to remember this lesson of Purim and to recognize that perhaps the Rabbis are privy to pieces of the puzzle that we never even knew existed.

לעשות אותם ימי משתה ושמחה (9:22)
The Rema rules (Orach Chaim 695:2) that the majority of the festive Purim meal must be eaten before sundown while it is still Purim. A priest once challenged Rav Yonason Eibeshutz to explain why the custom of so many Jewish families is to start the meal just before sundown and to conduct the bulk of the meal during the night after the holiday has already ended.
Rav Yonason sharply responded with a question of his own. The most popular holiday in the priest’s religion falls on December 25. If the non-Jewish day begins at midnight, why is it so prevalent among his coreligionists to begin the festivities the night before?
Having turned the tables and with the priest now on the defensive, Rav Yonason proceeded to brilliantly answer his own question. The holiday they are celebrating on December 25 is really the commemoration of the birth of a Jew. As such, it’s only proper to celebrate it using the Jewish day and to begin at sundown on the evening before. Purim, on the other hand, commemorates the death of Haman, a non-Jew, and it is therefore fitting for our festive meal to be based on the non-Jewish day and continue into the night!

וכל מעשה תקפו וגבורתו ופרשת גדלת מרדכי אשר גדלו המלך
הלוא הם כתובים על ספר דברי הימים למלכי מדי ופרס (10:2)
Rav Yechezkel Abramsky questions the purpose of the Megillah in mentioning that the events detailed therein are also recorded in the historical annals of the Persians. Upon reading this fact, has even a single person ever attempted to track down this version in the recesses of some institutional library?
Rather, it is coming to teach us not to make the mistake of viewing Megillas Esther as nothing more than the historical recounting of an ancient event in our people’s history. If that were its sole purpose, we would be able to research and track down the mundane facts in some academic archives. Instead, the reason that Mordechai and Esther chose to recount the events and the Rabbis saw fit to canonize their Divinely-inspired version must be that it is full of inspiration and moral lessons which are relevant in every generation.
The Mishnah in Megillah (17a) rules that a person who reads the Megillah backwards doesn’t fulfill his obligation. The Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov (agreeing for once) suggest that this law can be symbolically understood as suggesting that one who reads the Megillah but views it “backwards” through a chronological lens, relating to the events described therein as nothing more than a historical narrative, has failed to internalize the lesson of Purim and doesn’t fulfill his Purim obligation!

Purim Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) The Megillah emphasizes (2:22) that Esther related the assassination plot of Bigsan and Seresh in the name of Mordechai, from whom she originally heard it. The Mishnah in Avos (6:6) derives from here that whoever states something in the name of the original source brings redemption to the world. Why doesn’t this Mishnah tell us who stated this lesson?
2) Esther told Mordechai (4:11) that there is a well-known law that anybody who attempts to enter and approach Achashverosh without being called in to see him will be put to death, yet we find later (6:4) that Haman was on his way to speak to the king about his plan to hang Mordechai on the gallows that he had just built when Achashverosh called him in to discuss a different subject. How was Haman planning to approach the king if he hadn’t been requested to do so?
3) Which two wicked people in Megillas Esther have names which rhyme?
4) If one of the obligations of Purim is to drink to the point that one is unable to distinguish which of Haman and Mordechai deserves to be blessed and cursed (Orach Chaim 695:2), why did the Rabbis establish that the central song of the day, Shoshanas Yaakov, is one which clearly states that Mordechai should be blessed and Haman should be cursed? (Pachad Yitzchok Purim 6)
5) If a father commands his post-Bar Mitzvah son not to get drunk on Purim, does the mitzvah of honoring his father obligate the son to obey his father’s request, or is this considered a command to violate a mitzvah which a child is required to disregard? (Halichos Shlomo Vol. 2 19:25)
6) Which mitzvos, if any, of Purim won’t be applicable in the Messianic era? (Shalmei Moed)
7) If a minyan of men can be arranged only once for the reading of the Megillah on Purim, is it better to do so at night or during the day? (V’Aleihu Lo Yibol pg. 242, Aruch HaShulchan 687:3)
8) If Purim falls on Motzei Shabbos, is a person permitted to practice reading the Megillah on Shabbos, or is this forbidden as an act of preparation for after Shabbos? (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso Chapter 28 Footnote 169)
9) How many cities can you name which read the Megillah on both 14 and 15 Adar because they are in doubt whether they had walls from the times of Yehoshua bin Nun?
10) On Shavuos and Shabbos Chol HaMoed Sukkos, Megillos Rus and Koheles are respectively read before the reading of the Torah. Why is Megillas Esther read on the morning of Purim only after the reading of the Torah? (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchoso Vol. 2 Chapter 58 Footnote 106)
11) Rashi writes (Devorim 25:19) that in order to completely blot out the memory of Amalek, a person must also destroy the possessions of the Amalekites so that their name shouldn’t be mentioned in conjunction with the item. How was Esther permitted to accept the house of Haman (Esther 8:1), who was descended from Amalek (Targum Sheini Esther 3:1), instead of insisting upon its destruction? (Rav Yerucham Perlow on Sefer HaMitzvos of Rav Saadyah Gaon Aseh 59, M’rafsin Igri Inyanim Vol. 2, Chavatzeles HaSharon Esther 8:1)

© 2006 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Teztaveh by Rabbi Ganzweig

ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלות נר תמיד
Now you shall command the Children of Yisroel that they shall take for you pure olive oil, pressed, for illumination, to kindle a lamp continually.
פרש"י בא"ד שנאמר כתית למאור ולא כתית למנחות
The Tiferes Shlomo expounded on the Possuk as follows kossis – pressed, lame’or – illuminated, When one is in a tight situation; from there will come the light, lo kossis – not pressed, laminochos, hinting to a stationary position. A prominent Rov in Yerushalaim repeated this from one who survived WW II and accredited his survival to the steady encouragement he received from this vort.
We can now value what one vort can accomplish!
ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל
In this week’s Parshah the name of Moshe Rabbeinu is not mentioned, in contrast to all the Sedros since Moshe Rabbeinu’s birth. the Baal Haturim Explains that since Moshe Rabbeinu said after the incident of the eigel (the calf) v’atah im tissa chatossom v’im ayin micheiny nah misifricha asher kossavta (and now if You would forgive their sin – but if not erase me now from Your book that You have written) and the curse of a Chochom (sage) takes effect even on a condition; and it took effect here. One may ask why is Moshe Rabeinu‘s name not mentioned in Parshas Titzaveh, but rather it should not be mentioned in Parshas Ki Sisa when Moshe Rabbeinu said micheiny nah misifricha asher kossavta or thereafter? Explains Rav Moshe Adler that earlier (in Possuk 10) Hashem said to Moshe Rabbeinu v’atah hanicha Lee (and now desist from me) to which Rashi quotes the Medrash – That here Hashem opened a door for Moshe by notifying him that it is up to him; if you will be mispallel (pray) for Klal Yisroel then they will not be destroyed . More so since Moshe Rabbeinu saw that there is (previously) a Parshah without his name he deduced that he can undertake on himself to say micheiny misifricha erase my name.
From this we see how Hashem always opens the door of tefillah for all those who want to beseech Hashem in all situations.

שמחת פורים
The Beis Aaron would say ki bisimcha satzayu (lit. for in gladness you shall depart) with happiness one can depart all hard situations.
The Baal Shem Tov related the following story There was once a great Tzaddik whose wish always came true. The Tzaddik wished and Hashem fulfilled it was therefore decreed that he always be drunk.
To this stated the Chidushei HaRim on Purim kol haposhet yodo nosnim lo - He who stretches out his hand is given (literally in charity; seforim say in tefillos too) a person can request all that his heart desires. the sages therefore obliged us to drink wine on Purim…
The Chidushei HaRim would conclude that the optimal is to do as the sages commanded us, and one will only gain by doing such, we therefore heed their instruction to fill the day of Purim (and night after too!) with festivities in thanksgiving to Hashem for our rescue from Hamon inc. We are lucky and proud to be the nation of Hashem. We will daven to Hashem as fit for this great and opportune day, fulfill the commandments of the day, mishteh visimcha (feasting and gladness).In this manner we are upholding the inspiration of this wondrous and joyous day.
לזכות מיכאל בן אסתר לרפו"ש
חיים מרדכי בן צביה איידל לרפו"ש
חי' מרים בת ברכה עלקא לרפו"ש
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tetzaveh by Reb Oizer

Parsha Potpourri
Parshas Tetzaveh – Vol. 2, Issue 15
Compiled by Oizer Alport

ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלת נר תמיד (27:20)
As our verse discusses the use of olive oil for the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash, the Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 36:1) expounds upon a verse in Yirmiyahu (11:16) in which the prophet compares the Jewish people to olives. One explanation of the Medrash is that just as olive oil is unique in that it remains completely separate and rises to the top when combined with any other liquid, similarly the Jews will always remain distinct from their non-Jewish neighbors and will be superior to them as long they perform Hashem’s will.
In his commentary to a very similar Medrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:21), the Y’dei Moshe quotes a fascinating legal ruling which he heard from the Rav of Krakow, who was his brother-in-law. The Medrash states that olive oil will rise to the top when mixed with every משקה (liquid) in the world.
However, when he mixed it with whiskey, he found that the olive oil actually settled to the bottom. In order to resolve this scientific challenge to the words of the Medrash, we are forced to conclude that whiskey is not legally considered a liquid, and as a result one shouldn’t use whiskey to make Kiddush on Shabbos day, which must be recited over a “liquid!” (See however Machatzis HaShekel Orach Chaim 272:6 who quotes this opinion and concludes that it is inappropriate to derive legal rulings from Aggadic sources; additionally, highly unscientific tests seem to contradict his claims about the result of mixing whiskey with olive oil.)

ועשית בגדי קדש לאהרן אחיך לכבוד ולתפארת (28:2)
Rav Yitzchok Hutner once related that while studying in Slabodka, he often heard America referred to as the “goldeneh medina..” Lliving in the poverty that was rampant in Eastern Europe at that time, he couldn’t even begin to imagine the wealth and excess being referred to. Even upon arriving at America’s shores, he and all of the immigrants with whom he associated continued living under very simple and modest conditions. Hearing everybody complain about the difficulty in finding a job which paid a decent salary and allowed a person to respect his religious traditions, Rav Hutner remained cynical about the reports that America was a country where money was the most precious commodity and dollars rolled through the streets.
One day, that all changed. Rav Hutner was walking down a Brooklyn street during the week of Parshas Tetzaveh, and he observed two small Jewish boys playing ball in front of their house. The older of the two was regaling his younger brother with all that he had learned from his Rebbe about the lofty role of the Kohen Gadol – his eight beautiful garments, made to invoke glory and splendor; the sacrifices he was able to bring daily in the Beis HaMikdash; and of course, his unique role in effecting atonement for the entire Jewish people once annually, on the holiest day of the year in the holiest place on earth. The young boy listened with interest and fascination, envisioning the action transpiring before his very eyes. He paused to take it all in and digest it before asking … “Tell me, what do you think his annual salary was?” Sadly, Rav Hutner would say later that he had finally been welcomed to the goldeneh medina!

והיה על אהרן לשרת ונשמע קולו בבאו אל הקדש לפני ד' ובצאתו ולא ימות (28:35)
The Gemora in Pesachim (112a) relates that Rabbi Akiva gave seven commands to his son Rabbi Yehoshua. One of them was that he shouldn’t enter his house suddenly and unexpectedly. In his commentary on the Gemora, the Rashbam quotes a Medrash which relates that whenever he approached his home, Rabbi Yochanan would intentionally make noise so as to alert anybody who may be inside to his imminent arrival.
Rabbi Yochanan explained his actions based on our verse, which states that the Kohen Gadol must have bells on the hem of his Me’il (Robe) in order that the sound announcing his entrance should be heard whenever he entered Hashem’s Sanctuary.
Rav Shmaryahu Arieli questions how an individual person, even one as great as Rabbi Yochanan or Rabbi Akiva, could derive guidelines for proper conduct from the Torah’s rules for the Kohen Gadol, who was subject to special stringencies due to the sanctity of the Temple in which he served?
Rav Arieli quotes the Gemora in Sotah (17a), which teaches that if a husband and wife dwell together in peace and harmony, the Shechina (Divine Presence) will rest between them and fill their house with an atmosphere of Holiness. If so, we can understand that any man with a successful marriage must recognize that the Shechina resides in his house and conduct himself just as the Kohen Gadol did.
Lest one think that these lofty levels were only for previous generations, a modern-day example of such behavior can be found in a beautiful story involving Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Somebody was once discussing an important issue with Rav Shlomo Zalman on his way home. As they walked through the streets of Jerusalem, Rav Shlomo Zalman suddenly paused to straighten and clean his clothes.
As his clothing didn’t appear disheveled to begin with, the man inquired as to the cause of the Rav’s actions. The saintly Rav replied that he had been blessed for decades to live in peace and tranquility with his wonderful, loving wife, and they were therefore fortunate to feel Hashem as a regular presence in their home. As they were turning the block to approach his house, he felt compelled to ensure that his appearance would be appropriate for the important Guest he was about to greet!
In light of such daily behavior, it shouldn’t be surprising to conclude by mentioning that at the funeral of his beloved wife and lifelong partner Rebbetzin Chaya Rivkah, the normally humble Rav Shlomo Zalman announced that it is customary that at the funeral of one’s spouse, he should ask forgiveness from the deceased for anything he may have done or said that caused pain in any way.
However, Rav Shlomo Zalman continued, “I have no need to do so, for I can say with complete confidence that in almost 54 years of marriage, I never once upset or hurt her in any way, and there is nothing for which I need to ask her forgiveness.”
Although marriage brings its daily challenges for even the most compatible of spouses, let us learn to overcome them by viewing our efforts to keep the peace as bringing the Divine presence into our homes, thereby turning ourselves into High Priests who serve Hashem every time we enter our homes and instill an atmosphere or happiness and harmony.

שבעת ימים ילבשם הכהן תחתיו מבניו אשר יבא אל אהל מועד לשרת בקדש (29:30)
A controversy once broke out when the Rav of a small town in Europe passed away. The leaders of the community wanted to appoint an outsider to take his place, while some of the Rav’s sons argued that they were suited for the position and deserved precedence as the “inheritors” of their deceased father. They agreed to bring the dispute to the Chofetz Chaim for resolution.
The Chofetz Chaim began by agreeing that Jewish law recognizes that all religious positions, including Rabbinical appointments, are subject to be inherited by the offspring of the deceased. However, the Gemora in Yoma (72b) distinguishes between the son of the Kohen Gadol, who may inherit his father’s purely religious position, and the son of the Kohen Meshuach Milchama (the Kohen who leads the Jews to battle), who may not. Because the latter position is uniquely intended for a man of war and is not purely a religious function, the fact that somebody was suited to the role is irrelevant to his son’s capacity to inherit and fill the role.
Similarly, it was once true that the function of the Rav of a community was purely religious in nature – to render legal rulings and to teach the people – and his children were legally entitled to be offered the position before other candidates were considered.
However, the Chofetz Chaim continued, this has unfortunately changed due to the assault of the reform and communist movements on traditional religious standards and values. As a result, the role of the Rav has been transformed into that of a general leading his troops into a fierce battle, regarding which the Gemora rules that the children are not entitled to automatic precedence in inheriting and filling the position of the deceased Rav!
זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים (דברים 25:17)
The Kli Yakar writes (Shemos 17:8) that in relating that Amalek attacked the Jewish people in Refidim, the Torah is hinting to the source of their ability to have any power over the Jews. As long as the Jewish nation is in a state of internal unity, Amalek has no ability to harm them. Refidim (רפידם) contains within it the letters which form the root of the word פירוד – separation – hinting to the fact that when the Jews encamped there, they were stricken by strife and discord (see Rashi Shemos 19:2).
The Chiddushei HaRim suggests that this is alluded to by the Torah’s emphasis on remembering what Hashem did לך – to (the singular) you, as Amalek holds no sway over a united Jewish nation. Rashi writes (Devorim 25:18) that Amalek struck at those who had been expelled by the Clouds of Glory from the Jewish camp as a result of their sins. Those individuals didn’t enjoy the merit of being part of the community, and they were therefore susceptible to Amalek’s attacks.
Haman, who was descended from Amalek, learned this lesson from his ancestors. The Sfas Emes notes that Haman described to Achashverosh (Esther 3:8) his desire to eradicate an עם מפוזר ומפורד. Literally, he described the Jews as a people who are scattered and dispersed around the world, but this may also be understood as a nation of people are who separated from one another and lacking in unity.
The Shelah HaKadosh writes that recognizing the true source of Haman’s power, Esther immediately began efforts to unify the nation, instructing Mordechai (Esther 4:16) go gather together all of the Jews, not just physically but also symbolically. Not surprisingly, it was this national togetherness which prevailed, as is memorialized in the well-known song Shoshanas Yaakov צהלה ושמחה בראותם יחד תכלת מרדכי – the Jewish nation was cheerful and glad when they saw together that Mordechai was robed in royal blue – a lesson which should inspire us to new levels of feeling a sense of community and togetherness with our fellow Jews in these difficult times for our people.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Hashem told Moshe (27:20) to command the Jewish people to take pure olive oil in order to light the menorah. Is it also preferable to use olive oil instead of candles to light one’s Shabbos candles? (Mishnah Berurah 264:23, Pri Megodim Aishel Avrohom 264:12, Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 264, Dibros Moshe Shabbos Chapter 2 Ha’arah 23, Shu”t Az Nidb’ru 3:4)
2) Hashem told Moshe (28:3) to instruct the “wise of heart” to make garments for Aharon. Hashem later added (31:6) that He had placed wisdom into the hearts of those are wise to allow them to do so. From this latter verse the Gemora in Berachos (55a) derives that Hashem only gives wisdom to one who already possesses it. How did these wise-hearted individuals escape the apparent catch-22, and from where did they attain their initial wisdom? (Baal HaTurim 28:3, Nefesh HaChaim 4:5, Sichos Mussar 5733:2, Shiras Dovid)
3) The Gemora in Yoma (9b) states that the first Temple was destroyed for the sin of idol-worship. As the Gemora in Zevochim (88b) states that the ephod (28:6-12) atoned for the sin of idolatry, how could the Beis HaMikdash be destroyed for a sin for which the ephod effected atonement? (Shavuos 7b, Tosefos Sanhedrin 37b, Rav Chaim Kanievsky quoted in M’rafsin Igri)
4) As the Me’il was a four-cornered garment, why wasn’t the Kohen Gadol required to place tzitzis on its corners? (Minchas Chinuch 99:4, Shu”t Doveiv Meishorim 3:16, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
5) Why was there a need for two different altars in the Mishkan? (Kli Yakar, Taam V’Daas)
6) Rashi writes (Devorim 25:19) that in order to completely blot out the memory of Amalek, a person must also destroy the possessions of the Amalekites so that their name shouldn’t be mentioned in conjunction with the item. How was Esther permitted to accept the house of Haman (Esther 8:1), who was descended from Amalek (Targum Sheini Esther 3:1), instead of insisting upon its destruction? (Rav Yerucham Perlow on Smag Aseh 59, Chavatzeles HaSharon)

© 2007 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

Purim by Reb Jay


At the time of Kabalas HaTorah, Bnei Yisroel stood at the foot of the mountain. Rav Avdimi Bar Chama Bar Chasa says this teaches that Hashem held the mountain over the Jewish people and said to them: “If you accept the Torah, good. If not, this shall be your burial place”. Rav Acha Bar Yaakov says we see from here that the acceptance of the Torah was coerced. Rava says it was reaccepted (willingly) in the days of Achashverosh, as it is written Kimu V’kiblu (Shabbos 88a).

What is the implication of Kimu V’kiblu? That when Klal Yisroel accepted the mitzvos of Purim upon themselves, this shows that they willingly accepted the Torah, albeit 1300 years later (the Maharal writes that the trepidation of Klal Yisroel in accepting the Torah was regarding the Oral Law; thus by accepting these mitzvos which had been decreed by the Rabanan, they were showing their acceptance of the Oral Law).

However, the Gemara in Shabbos (14b) states that Shlomo HaMelech instituted the mitzvos of eruvin and netilas yadayim. Therefore, Klal Yisroel already accepted upon themselves mitzvos d’rabanan, so why doesn’t the Gemara say that they reaccepted the Torah (willingly) in the days of Shlomo HaMelech? What is unique about Purim?

The Miracle of Purim occurred between the first and second Beis Hamikdash. This was a time of unprecedented change for Klal Yisroel. To go from having a Beis Hamikdash, to having it destroyed was a potentially a devastating loss that could lead to tremendous despair. People could think that the relationship between Hashem and Klal Yisroel had now ended. Klal Yisroel was in a transition period from Ha’aras Panim (seeing Hashem’s “face” kaviyachol) to Hastaras Panim--the hiding of Hashem’s “face” (in fact, soon after the Miracle of Purim, the gift of prophecy was lost--Yoma 9b). It was in this framework that the Miracle of Purim occurred.

Megillas Esther is unique in that the name of Hashem is never mentioned openly. The meforshim explain that this is to teach us that just as Hashem effects salvation for us through open miracles above nature--l’maaleh min hateva (i.e,Pesach), He also effects salvation for us within nature (i.e, Purim). The Miracle of Purim was a gift to enable us to understand this concept.

When Klal Yisroel said Kimu V’kiblu and willingly accepted these mitzvos, it was more than the mitzvos they were accepting. Klal Yisroel was accepting the hashgacha of the Ribono Shel Olam, even B’hastaras panim.

In order to understand this, we must first understand the dilemma posed by the aforementioned Gemara in Shabbos. It says in the Parshas Mishpatim that when Klal Yisroel accepted the Torah, they said na’aseh v’nishma--we will do and we will listen, thus implying they fully accepted the Torah willingly. Yet the Gemara mentioned here says Hashem had to hold the mountain over their heads in order to make them accept it. There are many answers to this apparent contradiction. One answer is that Hashem did not literally hold the mountain over their heads. However, by virtue of what Klal Yisroel experienced at Har Sinai--this unprecedented closeness with Hashem--it is as if He held a mountain over their heads. Klal Yisroel lost their Free will because of their proximity to Hashem (the Ramban learns that Malachim have a degree of free will, but they are unable to manifest it, due to their closeness with Hashem).

It was only during the days of Purim that they reaccepted the Torah willingly. When Klal Yisroel saw that even at a time of hastaras panim--when Hashem seemingly turns His face away from us--there is still hashgacha, that He is still guiding us. It was to this hashgacha, and to the mitzvas hayom of Purim that Klal Yisroel said Kimu V’kiblu--we will fulfill and we accept.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Terumah by Reb Jay

In this week’s parsha, the Jewish people are commanded to build the Mishkan (tabernacle): “They shall make a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell amongst them” (Shemos 25:8).

Then instructions are given on building different vessels which would be inside the Mishkan, starting with the Aron (which would hold in it the Tablets which Moshe received at Sinai): “They shall make an ark of shittim wood” (Shemos 25:10). After the Aron, commands are given to build the Keruvim, the Shulchan and the Menorah. Only after this are the detailed instructions given for how to build the Mishkan itself, its covering, its walls etc.

If the Mishkan was intended to have been built first, why were the specifications given for the ark first? And when Moshe gave over the instructions to Betzalel the son of Uri, who had been appointed to build the Mishkan, he told him to first build the ark, then build the Mishkan. Betzalel correctly deduced that first the house is built in which the “furniture” will be placed (Meseches Brochos 55a). Why would Moshe deviate from the order given to him by Hashem?

In Judaism, spiritual acts and instructions often have as much significance as physical ones do. Even though the physical construction of the Tabernacle was to take place before the construction of the ark, because the ark housed the Torah it was the focal point of the Tabernacle. So the first mention was of the Tabernacle, as that was to be the first tangible thing to be built. But the specifications were given first for the ark, because the ark is the purpose of the tabernacle not vice versa.

The Mishkan was built as an equal to the world (Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar), a world of compressed spirituality, a place where Hashem’s presence could dwell in this world. The Torah was the impetus and the blueprint for the world: “Hashem looked in the Torah and created the world” (Zohar HaKadosh Parshas Terumah). So just as in the Mishkan, on a spiritual level, the ark preceded the Mishkan, as the raison d'être of the Mishkan was to be the ark, so too the Torah preceded the world, as the raison d'être of the world is the Torah.

What does it mean the Torah predates the world? The concepts listed in the Torah are not subject to the constraints of time. True, there are certain commandments at the present time which are not in practice, such as the laws of the Karbanos, and the laws relating to a king. This is not because these laws are no longer relevant, but rather, we lack the necessary means to fulfill them.

The idea that the Torah is older than the world itself forces us to confront reality in a completely different fashion. Instead of trying to see and understand the Torah through the glasses of contemporary mores, we must view contemporary reality through the spectrum of the Torah.

One of the biggest challenges to being a Jew in our society is the problem that very often our views will conflict with the New York Times, G-d forbid.

The perspective of the Torah is the perspective of Hashem. A perspective not clouded by changing views.

We must remember to view the Torah from this perspective, and when we do so, we will see the wonder of the Torah, that it is truly timeless.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yisro by Ivaylo

This week's Torah portion touches a live nerve deep within my own soul. Much akin to Moses' father-in-law, my personal path to spirituality has been anything but straight and narrow. Born, raised, and indoctrinated behind the Iron Curtain, the chances of discovering a faith, any faith, were somewhere between slim and none. Yet, I am here to tell You - if I could do it, against all odds, so can You.
At the age of thirteen or so, I was awoken in the middle of the night by an unusual dream - an image of a word had been emblazoned deep in my mind's eye. The word, which at that age I did not know the definition of, was "EMANATION." That is how my search for truth commenced. Looking back, sometimes I wish that there was some sort of explanation attached to it, something to push me towards Judaism even then. But it was not meant to be, I had to pass through years of trials, tribulations, twists, turns and a myriad of dead ends, to finally make it where I stand today.
The sages teach us that when we are introduced to a spiritual concept that is true, it resonates within our soul, and we know it is absolutely true, even if we are unable to prove it in any tangible fashion. That is how I feel about Judaism. The sources tell of an angel who teaches the entire Torah to every child in the womb, and when the child is born the angel causes the child to forget it by gifting it with speech. On a personal note, Torah learning for me feels like remembering, rather than learning anew. It is said that the souls of the generations of Israel, as well as the souls of all future converts were present at Mt. Sinal. Again I feel, I know, that I was there, and the experience at Mt. Sinai is inside my own heart.
Where Yitro and I differ, however is at the historical backdrop in which we join the Jewish people. A spiritual giant of a man, Yitro heard what G-d had done for the Jewish people and hurried over to embrace their faith. Things could not be better for the Jews, and becoming one carried certain intrinsic benefits. As for myself, you don't need many examples from our day and age to prove you that as Jews, we are fighting an uphill battle. So why make life harder than it already is?
My father, may G-d have mercy on his soul, did not relate to my understanding of spirituality. An atheist to the bone, he viewed my journey as a waste of time and energy. My mother, a nominal Christian, supports my actions, as she feels in her heart that this is not a choice I have made - this is who I am.
What about you? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are doing here?
The answers to all these questions, and more are to be found in Torah. Study, learn, help others learn, do the mitzvahs that's what I feel defines our existence. Moreover, if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, if you are fulfilling your mission, your soul reverberates with joy, and you are truly happy to serve Hashem.

Ivaylo V. Stanev

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yisro by Rabbi Naftali Ganzweig

וישמע יתרו כהן מדין
R’ Leibel Eiger says that the background of Yisro (and his résumé) as an introduction to the giving of the Torah is to teach us that anyone searching for the truth shall not be discouraged from trials, trivia’s and past experiences and one shall always hope for salvation. Yisro who was so far from the truth born and bred to idolatry merited to come close to Hashem, surely a Jew can hope for salvation, merit to come close, learn and teach others. Therefore one should not be disheartened but hope daily Today I will merit to come close to Hashem.

ביום הזה באו מדבר סיני
פרש"י שיהיו דברי תורה חדשים עליך
Thoughts of failed past learning experiences are irrelevant, while learning Torah they can only bring to discouragement and lead to weakness therefore one shall see the words of Torah as new as if he is beginning to learn Today. - Sar Shalom
כל אשר דבר ה' נעשה
Every thing that Hashem has spoken we shall do
Two men met on a flight. Upon schmoozing about their trip one said to the other, why is it that you are sitting in first class? a limo is awaiting your arrival to bring you to a comfortable apartment (on the house), while I am paying for my economy ticket out of my own pocket? The answer was simple; I am on a business trip my boss is providing me with my necessities that I may serve him with full devotion and capabilities I therefore must be comfortable and rested to be able to work at my full capacity, were as you are going for your own interests and you must cater to yourself.

The Bnei Yissochor asks why by birchas hamozon (grace after meals) do we say (when ten men are present) nivarech (let us bless) Elokeinu – Midas hadin (attributes of judgment) and not nivarech Hashem – Midas horachamim (attributes of mercy)? (since sustenance is an attribute of mercy) To which he answers that since Klal Yisroel are servants of Hashem it is obligatory that that a master give his servant food, therefore it is appropriate to say nivarech Elokeinu (judgment) since we are avdei Hashem
The afore mentioned story of our travelers is a parable. If our agenda is one of devotion to Hashem then we are on a business trip – all necessities are included (luxuries are extra) otherwise it’s out of pocket expenses

Mazal Tov to our counterpart Al Hatorah V’al H’avodah on the occasion of one year of harbotzas Hatorah – much hatzlochah B”H

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