Friday, February 29, 2008

Parshas Vayakel - "What Do We Want Our Names to Be?"

Quickie/Funfact: Shemos 35:2 "On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem; whoever does work on it shall be put to death."

Rav Baruch Simon Shlit"a quotes in his sefer, Imrei Baruch, a Shl"A HaKadosh (Meseches Shabbos P'Ner Mitzvah O'9) that has to do with the way that we greet each other on Shabbos. The Shl"A comments that it is most appropriate that when a person greets a friend on Shabbos he not greet him in the same way that he would greet his friend during the week (Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night). Rather he should try to say "Shabbat Shalom" in order to specifically be mikayeim the mitzvah of "Zachor es Yom HaShabbos". Furthermore it is specifically fitting to finish off the greeting with the word "Shalom" because Shabbos is a day of peace. It is the responsibility of every person to distance himself from anger as much as possible on Shabbos.

(Shemos 35:30) "Moshe said to the Children of Israel, See Hashem has proclaimed by name, Betzalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah."

The Midrash Tanchuma on this weeks Parsha says that whenever a person takes part in a abundance of mitzvos he acquires a name for himself. The Midrash continues to explain that a person is given three names within their life time. One name is given by ones parents, one name is given by ones friends, and one name is given based how a person distinguishes himself in life. No person could be more exemplary of this midrash other than Bitzalel, he created a great name for himself and therefore merited to build the Mishkan.

Bitzalel acted skillfully by preparing to erect the Mishkan by acquired wisdom, understanding, and knowledge from Hashem. For the verse says, (Shemos 35:31-32) "He filled with Godly spirit, with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft. To weave designs, to work with gold, silver and copper." Nonetheless it is the Jewish belief that a person cannot accomplish anything that he was not destined to initially accomplish. From Bitzalel's birth he was destined to be a vessel that was to be utilized for the good of Klal Yisrael in order to build the Mishkan. Nonetheless a person cannot become something that they do not bring upon themselves. Bitzalel honed his skills and used them to serve Hashem and for the betterment of Klal Yisrael.

Rav Eliezer Simcha Weiss notes that according to the Midrash each person has three names: The first is given from one's parents, the second is given by one's friends, and the last which a person makes for himself. Bitzalel was not his first or his second name, rather Bitzalel was his third and most important name, it was the one that he had made for himself because of his many merits during life.

Although we can change our legal names, when we are in the earliest stage of infancy our parents give us a name that we identify ourselves with. Often times our friends will give us an additional name that somewhat represents a few of our character traits and the surroundings in which we dwell. Our real name however, is the name that we create for ourselves. The name that we create based on the way that we chose to lead our lives.

Bitzalel chose to live in the shade of G-d, thus he merited having an honorable name. What do we want our names to be?

Have a Fantastic Shabbos.......or should I say SHABBAT SHALOM!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Simcha Enhancers

Most recently I struck up a conversation with my good friend Moshe Jacobs. I had noticed that Moshe had been very busy and I wanted to know if everything was alright. After seeing the glow on his face I realized that he must have been up to BIG THINGS.

The answer to what had been consuming all of his time can be said in two words, Simcha Enhancers. Moshe had taken it upon himself to spearhead an initiative that will G-d willing change the face of simchas in the Tri-State area forever.

After attending a few weddings he was disappointed by the amount of simcha that was displayed (or lack there of). Of course, every one was smiling, clapping, and dancing with the new bride and groom, but the simcha was still lacking. Immediately he devised a plan. He was going to create a wedding shtick gemach that would be available to any simcha-goers, in order to enhance their event.

It started with just an idea, but after creating a catalog and website (, Moshe now finds himself spending most of his time dealing with this unbelievable chesed.

After perusing the world wide web for a good way to contrast a traditional wedding with a Jewish wedding, I stumbled upon an article that was written by Emunah Braverman on

Simply put,
"At a non-traditional wedding, after the ceremony is over, the newly married disappear in the middle of the dance floor briefly surfacing to hear some toasts. There's tremendous pressure to have the right dress, and even more pressure, to bring an appropriate date. A Jewish wedding is different. The whole goal -- the only goal -- is to make the bride and the groom happy. It's not about the food, the dance partners, their lives. This is the bride and groom's special moment. And it's up to us to create it."

Just remember, two words, SIMCHA ENHANCERS.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Torah from Beis Yeamans

This past Shabbos I had the privilege of staying with the Yeamans family in beautiful Scarsdale,NY.

After davening on Shabbos day, the Rav and the Rebbetzin of the community came over to the Yeamans home for a brief Kiddush and discussion of the weekly Parsha.

As conversation changed from the conventional chatter that comes with introductions, The Rav proceeded to ask a question stemming from Parshas Ki Sisa that he said, "had been bothering him for quite some time."

The Gemara Brachos 7a (See "Parshas Ki Sisa - "...First isn't the worst") discusses Moshe's refusal to see the Ribbono Shel Olam's face, even after G-d insists that he does. With an inquisitive tone the Rabbi asked, "If G-d offered Moses the Divine opportunity to see his face, who is Moses to say no?!"

After internalizing the question for a moment or so, I suggested (Yes, I believe that I raised my hand!), Perhaps Moshe did not refuse. He saw G-d "panim al panim", but he chose not to internalize his vision.

There are times in our lives when we read, see, or even experience things that we chose not to internalize. Moshe Rabbeinu saw the Ribono Shel Olam in His full glory, he just never saw him with the right perspective. Only when he stood on Har Sinai did he chose to view G-d with the correct intentions. Unfortunately, by that point in time it was too late.

It seems that many of our mistakes throughout history have not been in practice but in perspective. So much so that the Second Temple was destroyed because of it. It is said that the Temple was destroyed because we did not say Bircas HaTorah before learning Torah. Can this be? Did every person in Klal Yisrael make the same mistake? Is it possible that after generations of saying a blessing, that everyone communally made the decision to drop this piece of their tradition?

One is forced to answer that the reason for the Temple destruction was not because they didn't say Bircas HaTorah, of course they did! The reason was because they didn't have the right perspective or approach to the learning of Torah. It was more of an intellectual pursuit than a way of life. We had the wrong perspective

The lesson that Moshe learned at Har Sinai was not one of his generation a lone but it is one that will remain for Dorei Doros. Moshe might have been the first person to have a test at a burning bush, but each and every one of us regularly is tested at a burning bush of our own.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Parshas Ki Sisa - "Second is the Best, but First Isn't the Worst"

QUICKIE/FUNFACT: (Shemos 33:20) "He said, You Shall not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live."

The (Gemara Brachos 7a) mentions that Hashem said to Moshe, "when I wanted to reveal myself to you (at the burning bush) you did not want to see me, now that you want to see me, I don't want to see you."

Rav Yechezkel Abramsky Zt"l exlains that at the burning bush Hashem wanted Moshe to see him and to have an understanding of G-d's initiative for Klal Yisrael. This was so they would not sin. Nonetheless Moshe did not want to look. Now at Har Sinai when Moshe finally wanted to glance at the Ribbono Shel Olam, Hashem turned him down because the only reason why looking at Hashem was necessary was when there were no prior sins or a Torah to live by. Now that the Torah was given, G-d has no reason to reveal himself.

Commenting on the words, (Shemos 34:1) "Psol Licha Shnei Luchos Avanim Karishonim" "Carve for yourselves two Tablets like the first ones", the Medrish Tanchuma says that from the moment Hakadosh Baruch Hu said, "I am the Lord your G-d" the tablets were destined to be broken because an Eyin Hara was cast on them.

Only after the first Luchos had been broken does Hashem tell Moshe that the Second set of Luchos will be given in private. A simple question that must be asked is, if Hashem knew that the first Luchos were destined to be broken because they were given in public, why didn't Hashem give them in private?

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Zt"l answers that when we say the Havdala prayer on Motzei Shabbos we recognize a few different types of havdalas (contrasts). There is the difference between Kodesh and Chol (Holy and Secular), Ohr and Choshech (Light and Dark), and Yisrael and the Amim (Israel and all other nations).

There is a major distinction made that humans and animals can see the contrast between light and darkness. To a certain degree even the flowers and the shrubs can recognize the difference these two things. This is in contrast to the difference between the Sacred and the secular. This difference is one that is almost completely hidden from the eye. (Kiddushin 68a)In the story of the Akeida, only Avraham and Yitzchak could see the holiness that hovered above the makom of the Akeida/ Mt. Moriah and not Yishmael who came with them (see Gemara for more details). We can see from this Gemara that the difference between the sacred and the secular is almost undetectable.

Lastly there is the difference that G-d created between the nation of Israel and the rest of the nations. When creating mankind Hakadosh Baruch Hu decided that everyone's exteriors, both Jewish and non-Jewish, would be similar. Thus meaning that this final difference is hidden to the human eye. There are many Jews who are meticulous with Torah commandments even though on the streets they may not look like Jews at all. Only once they close their doors and are in the confines of their homes does their true Jewish side come out.

When Hashem gave Klal Yisrael the first Luchos the entire world shook. At that point, in fear that G-d was destroying the world, all of the nations came running to Bilaam's court asking him to save their lives. After listening to every single one of them plead and cry, Bilaam answered, "Hashem Oz Liamo Yitein Hashem Yivareich Es Amo BaShalom." He told them that they have nothing to worry about. G-d was delivering the Torah to his people, the nation of Israel. Even though Hashem knew that the first Luchos were going to be destroyed, He still gave them in public so that everyone in the world would know the difference between Klal Yisrael and all of the other nations. They were G-d's chosen people. (Also said in the name of R' Meir Shapiro Zt"l , who is most famous for instituting the Daf Yomi cycle.)


Thursday, February 21, 2008

ViChayei Olam Nata Bisocheinu - Purim Katan

As I’m sure many of you know, today was Purim Katan. Aside from it being the 14th day of Adar Rishon and a day of minimal levity it is also the Yartzeit of the late Rav Shimon Schwab Zt”l….

Tonight in the Yeshiva University’s main Beis Medrish, Rabbi Elchanan Adler Shlit”a addressed the student body in an intriguing and thought evoking speech. He reflected upon a major part of this week’s Parsha.

In this weeks sedra we learn of the infamous occurrence with the Golden Calf. Many meforshim commenting on this grave sin, mention that the causers of this despicable act were not from Jewish decent but were in fact Egyptian converts (Eirev Rav).

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz Zt”l asks in his work Sichos Mussar, many people seem to find comfort in the fact that it wasn’t the Jews themselves who originally sinned but that it was the non-Jews who directly distorted the Jews ideas. Rav Chaim says, unfortunately there should not be any comfort found in this. The Egyptians saw and even experienced all of the miracles that G-d performed in Egypt and at the sea!

How is it possible that even the Eirev Rav could have sinned so gravely after experiencing these unbelievable events?!

Rav Chaim answers, that often times we have experiences which give us momentary highs. At the point of theses temporary euphorias we believe that we have been eternally changed. Shortly after the high leaves however, we realize that it was nothing more than a mirage.

When the Eirev Rav saw all of the miracles that were performed by G-d in Mitzrayim they were mesmerized. This placed them into a momentary trance that had them following the ways of klal yisrael up until mamad Har Sinai. Unfortunately this love of Hashem was only a quick fix and left immediately after they were “abandoned” my Moshe at Har Sinai.

Rav Adler recalled a specific meeting that he once had with Rav Shimon Schwab Zt”l. Rav Schwab told him a story that involved the true meaning of the words, “Vichayei Olam Nata Bisocheinu”.

As a child R’ Schwab had the opportunity to meet the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim barded the child (R’ Schwab) with rhetorical existential questions. The main one being, “where will you be in 100 years?” “where will you be in 1000 years?” “where will you be in 1,000,000?” After each question the Chofetz Chaim appropriately answered with increasing emotion, “with the Ribbono Shel Olam!”

R’Schwab commented that when a person says “ViChayei Olam Nata Bisocheinu”, it should not be a temporary fix, but it should be something that is permanently ingrained within each and every one of us. We should truthfully believe that we are and will always be with the Ribbono Shel Olam.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Avnei Miluim

This past Friday morning my good friend Jeremy Apfel asked me to go to a shiur with him which was given by Rav Shor in Brooklyn. Rav Shor gave over the following inspiring Dvar Torah along with many others.

In Parsha Tetzaveh there is a listing of the clothing that the Kohen Gadol would don in the Mishkan. (The Meil, Ephod, Ketones,Avneit,Choshen,Tzitz...etc.) The one that is most identified to the Kohen Gadol however is the Choshen.

When describing the beautiful and valuable stones that made up the Choshen (see story with Dama ben Nisina to see the value) the Torah calls then the “Avnei Miluim” – filling stones. Rashi commenting on the name of these precious stones says that they were given the name “Avnei Miluim” because they filled 12 holes.

The late Rav Shmuel Birnbaum Zt”l posed the question; shouldn’t the name of the stones be on the stones themselves and not what they happen to accomplish on the side?

R’ Shmuel answered that within the context of the Kohen’s clothing there are two different types of stones mentioned. There is the Avnei Miluim and there is the Avnei Shoham. The Avnei Shoham were also beautiful and ornate stones much like the Avnei Miluim, nonetheless the Avnei Miluim were used in the Choshen to teach Klal Yisrael that a person or community can be tremendously accomplished, but as long as they are lacking something their accomplishments are belittled. A person/community must fill their holes (Avnei Miluim) before they can move on to the Avnei Shoham.

Will the real Moshe please stand up

Arguably the most talked about aspect of this past week’s Parsha was Moshe Rabbeinu’s name not being mentioned.

The Baal HaTurim explained that Moshe Rabbeinu was so humble and selfless that he told Hashem to take his name out of a Parsha in hopes that Hashem would save Klal Yisrael after the sin of the Golden Calf. Although Hashem made the “decision” to spare the lives of Klal Yisrael some aspects of Moshe’s condition were ever lasting and his name was erased eternally from Parshas Tetzaveh.

The Rav who spoke in the Romanisha shul (in the Lower East side) commented that of all of the Parshiyos in the Torah for Moshe not be mentioned this Parsha was the absolute worst. Parshas Tetzaveh talks about the Kehuna (Moshe was a Kohen for 8 days) and the listing of responsibilities which were to be handed over to his dear brothers and nephews. Hashem should have removed him from Parshas Balak! Why was he specifically removed from Parshas Tetzaveh?

The Romanisha Rov suggested that contrary to the Baal Haturim’s insight, perhaps Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is mentioned in this past week’s Parsha.

A person has two aspects to his name. There is the name which is given to a person by a guardian (Moshe,Aaron,Dovid, Shlomo, Aryeh, Zev…)and there is the actual essence of a person which a person is most familiar with as “himself/herself”. (See Aryeh Kaplan’s, "If you were G-d")

In this past week’s Parsha, by “removing” Moshe’s pretentious name (which was given to him by Batya – Pharaohs’ Daughter), we see the true essence of Moshe Rabbeinu. The first word of the Parsha truly illustrates this idea. The Parsha begins, “V’Ata Titzaveh Es Bnei Yisrael.” Who is the V’Ata that Hashem is commanding? It is Moshe Rabbeinu!

The only one who was truly responsible enough to handle this important revelation from G-d about the protocols of the Priestly garb was Moshe. Instead of Moshe being removed, Parshas Tetzaveh is the only Parsha were the real Moshe is beings mentioned.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Shevet HeKehosi: Tell the Person Collecting That Daddy Is Not Available

If someone knocks on the door collecting tzedaka and a child answers when his father is sleeping should he wake him up or not? The Shevet HaKehosi (5:176) says no. Although the Sefer Chasidim says you should wake your father up for a mitzva since it will make him happy nevertheless tzedaka is different.

Firstly unless the son knows for a fact that his father has enough money to support his family he may not even be obligated to give tzedoka according to some acharonim. Even according to those who say he is still obligated they agree that there is no mitzva to give this particular collector. Additionally the son cannot be sure that this collector is worthy. He may be crook which is all too common nowadays according ot the Shevet HaKehosi. Therefore it is better to ask the collector to come back later unless the father specifically asks to be woken up.

Interestingly the Sefer Chasidim says that Dama Ben Nesina did not wake his father up to get the keys to sell the jewel to the Chachomim because the profit was his alone. If his father would have profited from the sale it would have been permissible to wake his father up.*


Friday, February 15, 2008

Parshas Tetzaveh - "Crown of Gold"

Quickie/Funfact: In the Slichos of Musaf on Yom Kippur it is written that the Kisones Tashbaitz (the inner shirt of the Kohen Gadol) was made of Shatnez. This is very problematic, since the Pasuk clearly states that it was made of Shaysh (linen) and not linen and wool?

The Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer 1762 - 1839), one of the leading rabbis of European Jewry in the first half of the nineteenth century answers with a Halacha in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah Siman Shin Sif 4). The Rema quotes a Yerushalmi, if the under garment cannot be removed without taking off the outer garment first; and one is wool and the other is linen, it is Shatnez. Here too, since the outer garment was the Mi'il, which was made of blue wool, and the inner garment was the Kisones Tashbaitz made of linen, and it is not possible to remove the Kisones without removing the Mi'il, it is considered Shatnez.*


Following in sequence with last week's Parsha which discussed the construction of the Mishkan, Parshas Tetzaveh discusses the particulars of the priestly garb. The Torah systematically goes in order when discussing the Kohen's garmets. Klal Yisrael was to collect gold, turquoise wool, and purple wool, scarlet wool, and twisted linens. All of these specific and beautiful materials were chosen to express the uniqueness of the Priest and his responsibilities. Eventually the Torah comes to the point which it begins to discuss the Tzitz of pure gold which is placed on the Kohen's forehead.

Shemos 28:38 "It shall be on Aaron's forehead and Aaron shall bear the sin of that which is holy that the Children of Israel consecrate for any gifts of their holy offerings; and it shall be on his forehead always, for appeasement for them before Hashem."

While commenting on the purpose of the Tzitz the Gemara in Eruchin 16a mentions that it was to rectify the trait of brazenness.

To explain this Gemara in Eruchin that comments on the Tzitz, Rav Yishayahu Zilberstein (author of Maasei L'Melech on the Rambam) brings up a Mishna in Pirkei Avos. The Mishna in Avos (5:20) says, "He used to say: Brazenness to Geheinom, embarrassment to Gan Eden, May it be your will Hashem that your city is built up quickly in our days and that you give us a portion of your Torah." After reading this Mishna one is forced to ask, what is the connection between brazenness, embarrassment and the building of Hashem's city [Beis HaMikdash]?

Rav Akiva Eiger expounds that in order to be successful when learning Torah, one needs to have the trait of brazenness. Not only that, but while learning it is also imperative that the trait of embarrassment be entirely non-existent ("For the embarrassed one does not learn").

In the future, during the time of the Messiah however, the world will be filled with knowledge and there will no longer be any need to be brazen while learning. Learning Torah will be easy and joyful. For this reason the Mishna in Avos says, "Brazenness to Geheinom, embarrassment to Gan Eden, May it be your will Hashem that your city is built up quickly in our days and give us a portion of your Torah." It will only be that the trait of brazenness is no longer needed during the time of the Messiah. We pray that the building of Jerusalem occurs soon in our days so that we no longer have a need for brazenness, and that the only people who use it, like the Mishna says, are those who are in Geheinom.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Home Improvement?

A piece on Kedushas Beis Haknesses & Beis HaMedrash that hopefully will have an affect on the way that I treat them in the future:

In O”C 153 S’ 1 it is mentioned that a congregation is permitted to transform a Synogogue into a Beis HaMedrash (Study Hall). While commenting on this ruling by the Shulchan Aruch, the Mishna Brura (S”K Aleph) mentions that the reason for this is only because the level of Kedusha in a Study Hall is greater than that of a Synagogue. Acknowledging the reasoning of the MB, the Shaar Hatzion nevertheless emphasizes that the community should still try to the best of their ability to continue maintaining the Synagogue, and try to raise money for the building of a new Study Hall.

Piskey Teshuvos nevertheless suggests that when the Shulchan Aruch says that a Synagogue may be changed to a Beis Medrish it need not continue as a place of prayer. He also mentions that the declaration of the Mechaber was strictly on the condition that the “new” Study Hall is a place of assiduous study.

Nowadays however, the theory of the S”A as to why the Synagogue is permitted to transform may no longer be valid. Fore nowadays Study Halls are not only used for learning, but they are also utilized as all purpose rooms (ex. Learning, eating, sleeping, and idle chatter) (This is obviously assuming that kedushas beis Haknessess is midrabanan). The utilization of Shuls on the other hand is strictly for prayer services. Therefore if one were to transform the Synagogue into a Beis Medrish the structure would in actuality be moving down in kedusha. All of this being said, nowadays, it is possible that it is prohibited for one to convert a Synagogue into a Beis HaMedrash.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Intellectually Honest?!

After reading over the last post, I initially was worried that I hadn’t been entirely intellectually honest. (For those who didn’t read it)R’ Eliezer Simcha Weiss, maintained the suitability of Hakodosh Baruch Hu’s request for money. He discussed that this request for donations was the perfect test of Klal Yisrael’s loyalty. Nonetheless, I preceded that Dvar Torah with a (Quickie), which was said in the name of the Ohr Chaim HaKadosh. Accidentally, it just so happens, that the Ohr HaChaim was of the original opinion that Klal Yisrael’s donations were not given willfully but by force! If this would be true then, it would be rather peculiar of me to neighbor two Divrei Torah by people who contradict one another (at least without listing the other side).

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh wrote clarifying the meaning of the word “Vayikchu”:

The word “Vayikchu”(taking), connotes forcefully taking. When the Torah says “Vayikchu Li Terumah” it seems that the Terumah is being taken from Klal Yisrael by force. The truth is however, that in this week’s Parsha, there is a listing of 3 obligatory givings that must take place (See Yerushalmi Shekalim 1:1 and Rashi on 25b). They are the Machatzis HaShekel which is to be used for the sockets, the Machatzis Hashekel which is to be used for the communal offering, and the “[Vayikchu] giving” that is said at the beginning of the Parsha.

The Ohr HaChaim concludes that in fact the forceful terminology used “Vayikchu” is only distributed to the Machatzis Hashekel givings and not on the voluntary giving at the beginning of the Parsha.*

Therefore, even though at the beginning I felt that I was being intellectual dishonest, in the end the two Divrei Torah mesh together very well.

(*Imrei Baruch , Parshas Terumah, Maamar Aleph)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Parshas Terumah - "Walking the Walk"

Quickie/Funfact: The Torah relates all of the materials that people donated for the Mishkan. The Torah lists GOLD, SILVER, AND COOPER. TURQUOISE, PURPLE, AND SCARLET WOOL. LINEN AND GOAT HAIR…SHOHAM STONES AND STONES FOR THE SETTINGS FOR THE EPHOD AND THE BREASTPLATE. (25:3-7) The list seems to be in descending order of value beginning with gold and working its way down to the less valuable items. Why, then, does it mention the expensive shoham stones and the setting stones at the end of the list?

The Or HaChaim HaKadosh answers that the Shoham and setting stones differed from the other items donated to the Mishkan. Since they were on the garments of the Kohein Gadol, they could be used for non-holy purposes when the Kohein was not on duty. (See Yoma 68b) Everything else donated to the Mishkan was halachically holy and not usable for a secular purpose. Therefore, the items which were less holy were relegated to the end of the list.*

*From R' Dov Lipman

Shemos 25:2 "Speak to the children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion."

"At the moment that Bnei Yisrael said, Naaseh V'nishma, immediately thereafter Hashem said, Vayikchu Li Terumah" – Medrish

After the Revelation at Sinai, Bnei Yisrael made an astounding declaration, "we will do and we will hear". In essence, Bnei Yisrael, as a cohesive unit made the decision that anything and everything that was commanded of them at Sinai, they would accept upon themselves as part of the yoke of heaven.

This proclamation however was not just a slip of the tongue, but it was a well thought out and sincere announcement to the Ribbono Shel Olam that his creed was their one of choice.

There is a Midrash at the beginning of Parshas HaAkeida (Tanchuma Vayeira Perek 18) that brings down a discourse that happens between Yishmael and Yitzchak. At first Yishmael claims, "I am greater than you, for I went through excruciating pain when I was circumcised at the age of thirteen; you however, experienced no pain while being circumcised at the negligible age of eight days." Yitchak Rebutted, "You are right my brother, I did experience only minimal pain at the time of my circumcision, nonetheless, you only sacrificed a little bit of pain, for I would be willing to give up my life for Hakadosh Baruch Hu if it was asked of me."

Immediately after this discourse, the Torah continues with, "VaYihi Achar Hadivarim HaEleh". After Yitzchak's honest and powerful proclamation of solidarity to the Ribbono Shel Olam, Hashem tested him, by having Avraham take him to the Akeida.

After hearing a similar proclamation of solidarity from Klal Yisrael at Har Sinai, why did Hakadosh Baruch Hu put them through such a minimal challenge like that of Terumah. One would assume that Hashem would put them through a cataclysmic test that would stand as a true testament of their loyalty, similar to that of Yitzchak?

Harav Eliezer Simcha Weiss of Kfar Roeh answers that the test of Terumah was in fact a true challenge of Klal Yisrael's sincerity and loyalty. Fore after leaving Mitzrayim, Bnei Yisrael were downtrodden and penniless. Nonetheless Hakadosh Baruch Hu awarded them by giving them the worldly possessions of their Egyptian oppressors both before their Exodus from Egypt as well as on the Shores of the Yam Suf after the astounding miracle of the splitting of the sea.

After the making of the Proclamation of "Naaseh Vinishma", Hashem realized that Klal Yisrael was mesmerized and under the trance of materialism that worldly pleasures bring. Similar to the Nisayon of Yitzchak, Hashem asks Bnei Yisrael to give of themselves ( Nidava – a voluntary contribution) for the upkeep of the Torah by giving Terumah. The Test of Terumah was in fact the ultimate challenge for Hashem to measure the true sincerity of Klal Yisrael to His Torah.

Just like Yitzchak made the proclamation that he would give his entire life for Hashem, and Hashem tested him on his statement. Klal Yisrael made the proclamation of "Naaseh Vinishma", so Hashem also tested them on their willingness not only to listen but to live his Torah. Realizing that Klal Yisrael was in a state of prosperity, Hashem tested them on a mitzvah that one would assume they would be most reluctant to observe, the giving of Terumah.

Seemingly the challenge posed to our forefathers at Sinai is everlasting and is still very much existent today. It is not enough for us to simply accept the yoke of heaven upon ourselves verbally, but we must take action when the challenge is posed, we must both defend and proactively practice the words of the Torah as our primary and integral focus of life.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mishenichnas Adar Rishon, is it really Adar?

It is a matter of major halachik contention among the rabbinic authorities as to the status of Adar Rishon.

Many ask, is it considered to be its own month called Adar Sheini (under the single name, Adar but actually more like Shvat) or is it more like Adar itself? Knowing that one may not fast or deliver a hesped during Adar, the Rosh on the first perek of Meseches Megilla (S’7), poses the following question, may one deliever a hesped or fast during Adar Rishon?

(Shulchan Aruch Siman 568 S’7) Logistically, to most, one would think that there isn’t actually any difference. The Rama nonetheless paskins that the first Adar is thought of as part of Adar itself not Shvat, therefore even in Adar Rishon, on the day of a Yartzeit, one may not say eulogies or fast.

The GRa”Ch however, brings a support to the other side in the name of the Mahari Mintz. The Mahari Mintz says, that a boy who celebrates his Bar Mitzvah in Adar (during a leap year) should observe it during Adar Sheini! According to this opinion the month of Adar Rishon is more like Shvat then Adar?! How can we explain this contradiction?

In order to solve our problem, we must say, fasting on the day of a Yartzeit is dependent on the day of the actual death. It just happens to be that during this year there are two Adars. Therefore, hypothetically, one can decide that he wants to commemorate their loss during whichever month he pleases!

By a Bar however the circumstances are a little bit different. In order to be considered a Bar Mitzvah, the young male must be alive for thirteen complete years. In Adar Rishon this boy has not yet lived thirteen complete years, he therefore must wait until Adar Sheini to celebrate becoming a man.

In addition one can say, that one does not truly become a Gadol until he has lived for thirteen years and one day [(Nidda 45b) & (Rambam Hilchos Ishus 2:10)]. He officially does not become a Bar Mitzvah until the first day of the fourteenth year! We can therefore say that in this case, although the boy may turn thirteen in Adar Rishon he does not become a Bar mitzvah until the first day of the next year. He is therefore only considered to be a Bar mitzvah after Adar Sheini.

We can therefore conclude that instead of there being a contradiction in the status of Adar Rishon , practices that are supposed to be observed during this month need to be fully analyzed before being put into practice.*

*As Seen in the Sefer Harrirei Kedem (Thank you Joel for letting me borrow it!)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Torah from Beis Kret - Nirtza - "Choose the Right Master"

This past Thursday night my Chavrusa piously decided to help a person in need by learning Hilchos Brachos/Pirkei Avos with him. This awarded me a "night seder" to see a few pieces on this past weeks Parsha.... Efmeister, shkoich!

One of these pieces was by the "Baal Haturim on the Parsha" (Parenthetically, the Tur, who was most famous for his work, the Arba Turim, was the son of the Rosh).

Getting back to the Parsha...the second topic discussed in this past weeks Parsha are the halchos regarding an Eved (a slave). When talking within the context of an Eved Ivri (Jewish slave), the Torah discusses the laws of a Nirtza, a Jewish slave who makes the personal decision that instead of going free after six years of servitude that he wants to stay with "his master" for the rest of his life (until the next jubilee year).

After pro actively making this decision to stay in servitude, the "owner", must take an awl and thrust it through his slave's right ear.

But Why? What is the significance of specifically piercing the slaves ear?!

Rashi on this pasuk answers, that this same ear that heard at Mount Sinai, "for the Children of Israel are slaves unto me."STILL Nonetheless decides to take a new master,. We therefore pierce his ear.

The Baal Haturim based on this Rashi answers, that the gematria of the word, Martzea (awl), is 400. the same as the amount of years that Klal Yisrael spent in Mitzraim.

By becoming a Nirtza this slave made the decision that he was not done with his servitude to mankind and that he had no interest in keeping the Torah that redeemed him from Egypt.

Along with the Nirtza we also were in servitude in Mitzrayim. Along with the Nirtza we also spent 40 days and 40 nights waiting to receive the Torah at Sinai. It is our responsibility as Hashem's chosen people not to make the same mistake as the Nirtza. Choose the right master.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Parshas Mishpatim - "A Human Sefer Torah"

At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Rashi, draws a parallel between Parshas Yisro and Parshas Mishpatim. In that, just as the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai (Yisro) so were the “judgments” that are given in this week’s Parsha.

It seems rather peculiar however, that immediately after the Parsha that stated the 10 commandments we immediately jump right back into the Mitzvos. Didn’t we just list all of the Mitzvos (The 10 commandments are all encompassing!)?

The Ramban and the Sforno both answer that although it is correct that we were told the Mitzvos in last week’s Parsha, none of their specifics were mentioned. Therefore, the beginning of the Parsha discusses the proper manner to treat a friend’s property so that we do not become involved in the prohibition of, (Lo Sachmod).[ “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”]

Shemos 21:1 “And these are the judgments that you shall place before them:”

Coming off the brink of the above Dvar Torah, one should have an idea as to why these “judgments” were mentioned right after Matan Torah, but it seems rather superfluous to say that “the judgments” were placed “before them”(Lifneihem). Of course it was placed before them! Who else could they have been placed before?

Rav Avigdor Nevenzahl answers that yes, it is obvious that they were given specifically to Klal Yisrael. It is not obvious however that these judgments have to be carried out in a Jewish Halachik judicial system. One might assume that as long as these rules are utilized and abided by, that a secular court system could use them to carry out justice. Therefore the Pasuk says, “Before them” (Lifneihem), to teach us that the only people who have the right to try such a court case are a Jewish court.

Rav Nevenzahl also analyzes another possible reason as to why the first Pasuk of this week’s Parsha states the word, Lifneihem.

At this point in the Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu was found to be in the heavens with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. While he was there, many of the world’s secrets and solutions to its many intricacies were revealed to him. He attained a true understanding of the reason for every mitzvah and the profound meaning that each one carries. After seeing and learning all of this, Hashem eventually told Moshe, “until this point in your stay in Shamayim who have had the privilege to indulge yourself in the deepness (amkus) of the Torah, but now that you are going to be returning back down to Klal Yisroel, I now must teach you the proper way to apply my justice system back into the world.”

Therefore when the verse, “And these are the judgments that you shall place before them” is said, Hakadosh Baruch Hu was referring to the laws that are utilized on a day to day basis by the judges of Klal Yisroel, for they could definitely not understand the regulations and their profundity to the same extent as Moshe when he was in Shamayim.

But why? Why is it that the heavenly “judgments” cannot be fully comprehended by the Tzadikim and Gedolim or our time? The answer is that regardless of how big of a Talmid Chacham a person is or how pious and humble one is, they are still just a human being. And if we wonder, what place these divine Mitzvos play in our world if we cannot understand them. We can be rest assured that they are being taken care of in Shamayim ,and that Beis Din Shel Maaleh is doing all of their work.

The Gemara says in many places that the Torah was not given to Malachei Hashaares, but to humans. Although we may not have a full understanding of the incomprehensible depths of the Torah, we are also inheritors and guarantors of a four-thousand year-old tradition of Jewish life and learning. Hashem looked in the Torah and created the world, we are a physical incarnation of the depths of the Torah and all that it entails.

Just like Bnei Yisrael did in this weeks Parsha, may we all wholeheartedly make our own proclamations of Na'aseh V'nishma so that Hakadosh Baruch Hu, will speedily bring the Mashiach Bimheira Biyameinu.



At the time of Matan Torah, Hakadosh Baruch Hu called down to Klal Yisroel and he said, “My child! I have a great present to give to you, but I will only give it to you if you keep my Torah and its Mitzvos.” Klal Yisroel responded curiously, “Ribbono Shel Olam! What conditional present do you have for us that we can only receive if we keep your Torah?! Hashem answered, “Olam Haba [The World to Come]”. Klal Yisroel anxiously responded, “But how are we supposed to aspire for something that we cannot comprehend? Please, show us an example.” Accepting his nations proposal Hashem answers, “This is Shabbos, for it is 1/60th of Olam Haba, for Olam Haba is entirely Shabbos." - Osios DiR'Akiva

People get discouraged by the concept of Olam Haba, they feel that it is too distant from reality and that it is an unattainable goal. The truth of the matter is, that if we picture attaining Olam Haba as being similar to the way that one attains Shabbos (1/60th of Olam Haba), then it makes Olam Haba all that much more feasible.

Shabbos is the paradigm of completion. After six days of creation the entire world was seemingly lacking nothing. During these days even the angels were created (See Ramban). One Shabbos came however, the world realized that something in fact had been missing, Menucha (rest).

Breishis Rabba brings a parallel mashal to the story of creation. There was once a king who made a complete and extravagant wedding. He even made a pristine canopy that was perfect for the ceremony and the later wedding festivities. Nevertheless, something was still missing, the Kala (bride), who was eventually subject to walk under it. The same was the story of the world during creation. It seemed that after six days the world was complete, lacking nothing! Then Shabbos came, and they came to a stunning realization; Shabbos was what the world needed to be truly complete. This day of Sabbath, is the crux of an existential but yet spiritual existence, only through it can the Shechina dwell in this world in order to weekly complete the creation of the world.*

* Michtav Mi'Eliyahu, Beginning of Krach Beis

You are Sorely Missed!

You are Sorely Missed!