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Cheese constitutes one of man's most essential foods. Historical documents report that cheese has existed in its various forms already 4,000 years ago. It contains a high percentage of fat, proteins, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A. Today, one can find in the market dozens of types of cheese manufactured in hundreds of different styles based on taste, smell and consistency. There is soft cheese, partially hard cheese, hard cheese, and processed cheese, which is made by mixing several different types of cheese together and adding other ingredients. Cheese is manufactured in two stages. The first stage involves putting milk at a certain temperature at which it undergoes a hardening process, which occurs through the bacteria in the milk. In industrial manufacturing, bacterial cultures are added to the milk that hasten this process. In the past, people used for this purpose materials extracted from the stomachs of certain animals. The cheese must then go through a process of stirring, salting and the like, depending on the type of cheese desired. The state of Wisconsin has thousands of cattle ranches and cheese factories. One cheese center holds the record for the manufacture of cheese-17 and a quarter tons. This cheese is made from milk taken from 16,000 cows.
The Hebrew word for cheese, "gevinah," comes from the root "b c d" This word means bumps, as cheese in olden days was often round with many protrusions and bumps. This also explains one of the names given to Har Sinai - "Har Gavnunim" (Tehillim). This is but one reason for the custom to eat dairy products on Shavuot. Another reason is that the Torah itself is likened to milk, as the pasuk says in Shir Hashirim, "honey and milk under your tongue." Hazal explain that Torah is for a Jew what a mother's milk is to a suckling babe (Eruvin 54). Just as a baby must drink milk every day, so must a Jew study Torah each day of his life.
Reb Nehumke (3)
Flashback: A poor Jew named Uziel worked in a beer factory near the town of Beisgelah. When his son, Nehumke, was born, he could not afford to send him to a teacher in the nearby city. He would therefore take the boy with him to the factory and, as best he could, teach him a little Humash. When he became overwhelmed by the boy's insightful questions about the text and Rashi's commentaries, he taught him by heart the chapters of Tehillim with beautiful, original melodies sung with sacred emotion and purity of heart.
This continued for many months which became several years. The boy reached age seven and demonstrated remarkable talent and a sharp intellect. But like mill stones turning without any grain, wearing themselves out uselessly, the youngster's talents went undeveloped. He realized that his father had very little knowledge, yet his respect for him never faded. He genuinely loved and revered his father for his innocence and integrity, his pleasantness and piety. Indeed, he was upright and honest, a man who served the Al-mighty as best as he could. He could not, however, afford to grant his dear son knowledge and scholarship, and so without a teacher or guide the boy would walk around in the streets with the youth of the nearby village. As the Jewish boys spent their days studying with teachers, he had no alternative but to befriend the gentile children, to roam around the forests with their dogs, scare the rabbits, pick berries and fruits from the trees and pick mushrooms for his mother. She accepted the gifts lovingly and with a smile, but also with sorrow. This was not what she wished for, what she prayed for every Friday evening when she lit candles. She did not long for a boy who would spend his time roaming aimlessly with gentile friends. He would learn their language and culture and imitate their conduct.
>From time to time Jewish merchants would visit the beer factory to purchase barrels of beer for their businesses. When Nahumke would meet them, the desire to learn and acquire wisdom would burn inside him. "Tell me some words of Torah," he would plead. They would willingly grant his wish and tell him some nice thought on the week's parashah, one of the ideas found in every Jew's pocket. These brief ideas would enlighten his otherwise empty life like a bolt of lightening in the dark of night. These thoughts reminded him of the beauty of Torah which was worthwhile to know but in which he had no part. However, like those brief bolts of lightening, the light would instantly disappear and give way to sheer darkness. He would once again and wander with his gentile friends, as his father and mother sighed in despair.
To be continued
Shavuot is the festival of Matan Torah. We have prepared ourselves for seven weeks, throughout the period of sefirat ha'omer, purifying and sanctifying ourselves in the seven sacred attributes. We will remain awake all through the night in the sacred engagement of Torah study and the "Tikkun Leil Shavuot" until morning, the moment at which there was "sounds and lightening, and a thick cloud over the mountain. The sound of the shofar was very strong, and the entire nation in the camp trembled. Moshe brought the nation to greet G-d-and Har Sinai was completely in smoke, for Hashem descended upon it with fire. Its smoke rose like the smoke of a furnace, and the entire mountain trembled very much." There we experienced awe and fear, as we say in our Rosh Hashanah prayers, "The entire world, too, trembled before You when You, our King, revealed Yourself on Har Sinai to teach Your nation Torah and misvot. You had them hear the majesty of Your voice and Your sacred commandments from the flames of fire. With sounds and lightening You revealed Yourself to them, and with the sound of a shofar You appeared to them." We received the Torah with "awe and dread, trembling and fear" (Berachot 22a).
At the same time, Hazal teach us that Har Sinai miraculously became enveloped by a layer of vegetation, to the point where Hashem had to forbid the sheep and cattle from grazing on the mountainside. They also taught us that with every commandment uttered by the Al-mighty, the entire world became filled with fragrant spices. So strong was the aroma that it allowed no room for any other smells. "If it was filled after the first utterance, then what happened during the second? The Al-mighty took out a wind from His storage house and would remove each one, as it says, 'His lips are like roses, they drip flowing myrrh'" (Shabbat 88b).
Upon closer reflection, a critical lesson emerges. Just as we must remember and may never forget Ma'amad Har Sinai, including the fire, torches and awesome display (Devarim 4:9, and Ramban there), so must we remember the flowers and fragrant spices. Moreover, on Shavuot we do not blow the shofar to instill fear within our hearts, but rather decorate the Sifrei Torah with roses and the Batei Kenesset and homes with branches and flowers! This teaches us that as much as we must approach Torah with a sense of awe for its sanctity, so must we remember and entrench within our hearts its sweetness, its beauty and majesty, like magnificent, multicolored flowers. We must realize that there is nothing more pleasant than Torah, nothing as sweet as its study. "Misvah is like a candle, Torah is light," fortunate are those who study it and those who transmit it to their children!
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
There is a widespread custom to eat dairy products on Shavuot. The reason for this practice is that Benei Yisrael learned about the misvot when the Torah was given. Thus, upon their return to the camp, they could not immediately eat meat products, which require a lot of preparation. Similarly, they could not cook with old utensils, since they had used these utensils for non-kosher food prior to Matan Torah. They thus had no choice but to eat dairy foods. Some also have the custom to eat honey and milk and Shavuot, since Torah is compared to both honey and milk (Shir Hashirim 4:11).
The custom of eating dairy notwithstanding, there is still a misvah to eat meat products on Shavuot, since "there is no joy other than through meat and wine." One for whom this presents difficulty may eat chicken, instead. One must ensure not to eat dairy foods within six hours of consumption of meat. Therefore, one should first eat dairy foods, and then, after washing and rinsing as required by halachah, one should eat meat. Some have the practice of eating meat products on Shavuot night and dairy foods on Shavuot day. In any event, no matter what one's custom is, he should be careful not to consume too much meat and wine, especially on Shavuot night when excessive indulgence may interfere with his learning. Similarly, one should avoid frivolous talk and joking.
It is proper on Shavuot night to learn the specially compiled "Tikkun Leil Shavuot," based on the comments of the Zohar HaKadosh (introduction, 8a) that in ancient times the pious ones would occupy themselves on Shavuot night with the study of Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim, Midrashim and "hidden" areas of the Torah. This "Tikkun Leil Shavuot" was instituted by the Ar"i z"l, and is preferable over other areas of study. Nevertheless, scholars and yeshivah students who long to diligently study Talmud on this night may do so, and they have authorities on whom to rely in this regard. Some have the practice of learning Rambam's Sefer Hamisvot on this night. However, in a place where the majority of the community is studying the "Tikkun Leil Shavuot," individuals may not separate from the rest of the community and engage in other areas of study.
The "Tikkun Leil Shavuot" of the Bet Yossef zs"l
The great Kabbalist Rav Shelomoh Alkabess zs"l, composer of the traditional hymn, "Lechah Dodi," had the privilege of spending Shavuot with the Bet Yossef zs"l and recorded his memories and impressions of that experience. These were published in the sacred work, "Shenei Luhot Haberit." We cite here several segments from the published memoir so as to inspire our hearts to learn Torah on this great and sacred night.
"You should know that the pious one (referring to the Bet Yossef) and I, his servant, and other authors, agreed to remain steadfast and avoid sleep on the night of Shavuot. Thanks to Hashem, we did so, for we did not stop for a moment. All this was with awe, fear, melody and beauty-it would not be believed when told. Afterward we studied along the path of Kabbalah. "When we began learning mishnah and we studied two masechtot, our Creator granted us the privilege of hearing the voice speaking from the mouth of our master, a great voice with much pleasantness, the voice growing stronger and stronger. We fell upon our faces and none of us had strength to lift his eyes and look, out of the immense fear. The voice spoke with us and said:
Listen, My friends, the ones who go beyond the call of duty, My beloved friends, peace unto you! Fortunate are you. fortunate are you in this world, and fortunate are you in the world to come, for you have decided to glorify Me on this night. Be strengthened, My friends, gird yourselves, My beloved ones. Rejoice and celebrate, and know that you are from the exalted ones, you have earned the privilege of being in the palace of the King. The sound of your Torah and the breath of your mouths rose before the Al-mighty and split many atmospheres and skies until it made its way up! The angels were silenced, the seraphim were quieted, and the sacred beings stood; all the celestial beings listen to your voices!.
Fortunate are you and fortunate are those who gave birth to you, My friends, that you withheld sleep from your eyes and through you I have been elevated on this night. You are not like those who sleep on their beds, which amounts to one-sixtieth of death-you have attached yourselves to Hashem, and He rejoices in you!
Therefore, My children, strengthen yourselves, gird yourselves, and rejoice in My love, My Torah, and My fear!
Therefore, strengthen yourselves, gird yourselves and rejoice, My children, My pious friends. Do not stop learning, for a thread of kindness is stretched over you and your Torah is pleasant before the Al-mighty. Therefore, stand, My friends, on your feet and recite loudly as on Yom Kippur: 'Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto le'olam va'ed!'
"We stood on our feet with fear and trembling and recited loudly that which we were commanded.
"He then repeated, 'Fortunate are you, My children! Return to your studies and do not stop for a moment!'
"We all wailed crying out of joy and then we strengthened ourselves until daybreak; study did not leave our lips; it continued with joy and awe. "It was in the morning. the voice of our Beloved knocked, and he began:
Listen, My friends, those who go beyond the call of duty. You are the ones who raise Kenesset Yisrael. You should know that you are among the exalted ones, you are attached to Me, honor hovers over your heads, and a thread of kindness is stretched over you. If permission would have been granted to the eye, you would see the fire surrounding this house. Therefore, be strong and brave, and say loudly, 'Shema Yisrael' and 'Baruch Shem.' You should realize-has any nation heard the voice speaking as you have? Ask your father, he will tell you; your elders-they will say to you, if in the last several hundred years they have heard or seen anything like this-and you earned this privilege! Therefore, from here on your eyes must be watchful of your ways, each one should help the other and strengthen his brother. The weak shall say, 'I am strong!' for you are in the palace of the King!"
These are but selected segments of the inspiring memoir, which reveals just a little of the remarkable power of Torah study with diligence and enthusiasm on Shavuot night.
David Hamelech a"h
Hazal tell us (commenting on the pasuk in Tehillim, 39:5) that David Hamelech asked Hashem to inform him as to what will happen to him in the future. The Al-mighty responded, "I have decreed not to inform a human being about his future."
David then requested to know how long he will live. Again, Hashem replied that such information is never divulged.
Finally, David asked to find out on what day he will pass away, and the Al-mighty told him that he would die on Shabbat. David then requested that he die instead on Sunday, rather than Shabbat, in order to allow time for a proper burial and eulogy. Hashem answered, "On Sunday the term of your son, Shelomoh's, kingdom will have arrived, and one kingdom cannot overlap even a hairsbreadth with another."
David then asked to die on Erev Shabbat so that people will be able to immediately tend to his burial needs and a day will be added to his son's reign. The Al-mighty responded, "I prefer one day when you sit and involve yourself in Torah study than the one thousand 'olah' offerings that Shelomoh your son will offer upon the altar!"
David thus sat and studied Torah without stop for the entire Shabbat every week, as Torah learning protects one from death. His time, however, came on Shavuot, which occurred on Shabbat. The angel of death saw David learning Torah and thus could not approach him. The angel of death therefore went to the orchard behind the palace and shook some branches. David went to see what the noise was, as his lips continued speaking words of Torah. As he proceeded down the stairs, one of steps broke beneath his feet. Falling, his lips stopped speaking Torah, and his soul departed.
The Yalkut Eliezer writes that each Jew possesses a spark of David Hamelech. Each Jew must realize that the Torah is a Torah of life, and one who increases Torah increases life. If one stops learning, his "step" will break, and he will lose a dimension of his life!
An ancient custom, mentioned in the rulings of halachah of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, dictates reading the entire Sefer Tehillim on Shavuot, the day on which David Hamelech a"h passed away. Events turned out this way for good reason, to teach us that we must receive the Torah with the same fervor, enthusiasm and emotion with which David composed his praises of Sefer Tehillim, in which he exclaims, "My heart is warm inside me, my thoughts are all aflame." Indeed, the longest chapter in Tehillim, 119, is based on an eight-time repetition of the alphabet and speaks entirely about Torah (Ibn Ezra).
The Torah was given with fire and is compared to fire, and Torah scholars are fire (end of Hagigah). The Zohar writes that Jews are accustomed to shaking their bodies with enthusiasm as they pray and study because their souls burn like a fiery flame that cannot stand still.
"The nation saw and trembled," and the Torah is likewise studied with awe and trembling (Berachot 22a) - "like its original transmission, for it was transmitted with fire" (Yalkut Shimoni, Devarim 4).
Let us preserve this fire of Matan Torah that it will illuminate our hearts and paths; the sacred fire shall burn and consume all evil and burn within us through the study of Torah and performance of misvot!
Parashat Bemidbar will always be read on the Shabbat immediately preceding the festival of Shavuot, the commemoration of Matan Torah -- and for good reason. This parashah contains several lessons that prepare us for receiving the Torah, among them an important lesson extracted for us by the Alshich Hakadosh zs"l.
Moshe Rabbenu is commanded to count the nation, together with the tribal leaders. Hashem gave the names of these leaders to Moshe, who then took these men and assembled the nation for the census.
The Alshich Hakadosh explains the pasuk, "These are the designated ones from the nation" as referring to their having been the distinguished members of the community even before their selection as tribal leaders. Their wisdom and intelligence had already earned them a prominent place among the people. Nevertheless, Moshe Rabbenu did not choose them until the Al-mighty explicitly singled them out. The reason is that there were other scholars, as well, who could have potentially felt insulted by Moshe's preference of the others. Moshe Rabbenu refused to choose some over the others; he therefore had Hashem Himself make the selection.
Moreover, even after Hashem mentioned the names of those selected as "nesi'im" and Moshe Rabbenu prepared to assemble the nation, they did not use this opportunity for a formal ceremony. They spoke with the selected individuals before the assembly and informed them of their appointment. They did this for the same reason: if they would call out the names in everyone's presence, others who felt themselves worthy of the task would feel rejected. Moshe Rabbenu exercised extreme care when it came to the respect and feelings of others and conducted himself with the utmost sensitivity.
We read this parashah before Matan Torah, as this lesson constitutes a prerequisite to Matan Torah: "derech eress" precedes Torah. Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students died because they did not demonstrate proper respect towards their peers; they died during the sefirah period and didn't earn the privilege of making it to Matan Torah. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 11a) tells that Rabbenu Hakadosh (Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi) sat and taught and suddenly smelled the foul odor of garlic. The smell caused him discomfort, so he asked that whoever had eaten garlic should leave. The greatest among the students, Rabbi Hiyya Hagadol, stood up and left. He set the precedent that everyone else followed -- they all left. Thus, that day the shiur was not completed. On the next day, Rabbi Yehudah's son, Rabbi Shimon, turned to Rabbi Hiyya and asked, "You were the one who distressed my father?" Why did you eat garlic before the shiur?
"Heaven forbid!" Rabbi Hiyya replied. I only left so that everyone would leave with me in order that no one would know who it was who ate the garlic and he would thus not be ashamed. So careful were our sages not to embarrass others!
But for this the shiur would be canceled? Yes! For derech eress must precede Torah. Bearing responsibility towards others is among the requisites for the acquisition of Torah!
In his youth, Rabbi Akiva Eiger zs"l earned a widespread reputation as a remarkable genius who had achieved mastery over all areas of the Torah. A certain wealthy man who loved Torah had the privilege of marrying off his daughter to the sage, and during the engagement period he invited his future son-in-law to his town so he could show him off before the local scholars. Everyone was overjoyed to meet the renowned scholar and they surrounded him with all types of questions and intricate difficulties in learning. The groom sat there silently; he could not answer a single question. All the scholars were stunned, and the father-in-law was disappointed and suffered some scorn in his community. He even considered annulling the engagement. The groom asked him to wait a couple of days before making this decision. Two days later, the groom went into the Bet Midrash and demonstrated to all his overpowering mastery. He answered all the questions and resolved all the doubts that arose. He proved his expertise and razor-sharp mind, and everyone was amazed. Only one question troubled them: why had he shut off his wells of wisdom until then?
Even this difficulty he resolved: upon his arrival in town, he met another groom blessed with very fine qualities, though far removed from his own genius. His father-in-law, too, wished to show him off to the community, and indeed, he rightfully earned a very warm welcome in town. Rabbi Akiva Eger did not want to overshadow this other groom and therefore presented himself as an ignoramus until the other groom left. Only then did he reveal his greatness in Torah -- for derech eress must take precedence!v
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
The Halachot of "Yom Tov Sheni"
In the times of Hazal, the beginning of the new month was determined by the Bet-Din based on witnesses' testimony of the sighting of the new moon. The court would then dispatch messengers to inform the Jewish communities as to when Rosh Hodesh will occur. There were certain remote sections to where the messengers never reached and hence did not know on which day to observe the festivals. They therefore observed two days out of doubt. Although nowadays we follow the fixed calendar, which avoids any confusion as to the date of any given festival, the Gemara requires that we follow this practice of our ancestors. Therefore, Jews living outside of Eress Yisrael observe two days of Yom Tov on Shavuot, the first and last days of Pesah, the first days of Sukkot, and Simhat Torah. The Rambam ruled that whether to keep one or two days of Yom Tov depends on the locations to where the messengers did or did not arrive. Therefore, in his view, even certain places in Eress Yisrael would observe two days of Yom Tov. However, most authorities have adopted the position of the Ritva, that the decree of observing two days was issued specifically for communities outside of Eress Yisrael.
If one who lives outside Eress Yisrael spends Yom Tov in Eress Yisrael and intends to return, according to the Hacham S'evi he observes only one day of Yom Tov. Since Yom Tov Sheni commemorates the doubt surrounding the date of Yom Tov in communities outside Eress Yisrael, once the individual comes to Eress Yisrael, he no longer has any doubt in this regard. Most authorities, however, contend that if the visitor intends to return home he must observe two days of Yom Tov. Indeed, the Bet Yossef testifies to this having been the prevalent practice in his time in Eress Yisrael. However, a single man visiting Eress Yisrael observes only one day, since he may find a suitable match in Eress Yisrael and thus decide to establish his permanent residence there. This provision would not apply if the young man is set on returning even if he is offered a match. In such a case, he should observe Yom Tov Sheni.
In recent times the question arose concerning those who live outside Israel but own residences in Israel where they stay for Yom Tov. The authorities debate as to whether or not such an individual should observe Yom Tov Sheni in Eress Yisrael. It would seem that considering the aforementioned position of the Hacham S'evi and those who adopt his view, these people who come to their residence in Eress Yisrael for the festivals should observe only one day.
An Israeli resident who travels temporarily outside Eress Yisrael wears tefillin and recites a weekday tefilah on Yom Tov Sheni, as he would in Israel. However, he should not do any "melachah" (activity forbidden on Yom Tov) on Yom Tov Sheni, out of respect for the local residents who observe that day as a Yom Tov. For the same reason, he should wear Yom Tov clothing. On the night following the first day of Yom Tov he should recite havdalah in private. If the second day of Yom Tov falls on Friday, he need not prepare an "eruv tavshilin." On the second night of Pesah, he should participate in the seder together with the local residents and tell the story of Yessi'at Missrayim, though he does not recite the berachah "asher ge'alanu" or the berachot over the misvot ("al achilat maror," etc.). This applies only to Israeli residents who spend Yom Tov outside Israel and plan to return. (This includes those who go outside to Israel for medical treatment.) Those who go outside Israel for purposes of business and the like are considered as having established residence outside of Eress Yisrael and observe two days of Yom Tov. An Israeli who traveled abroad with his family for a year or more must likewise observe two days of Yom Tov.
The Responsibility of Education
In Parashat Emor, the Torah juxtaposes two seemingly unrelated halachot: that of a kohen's daughter, who is sentenced to death by fire for immorality, and the law forbidding a kohen gadol from tearing his clothing for deceased relatives. The Torah connects these two pesukim with the conjunction "ve" - "Vehakohen hagadol. " Wherein lies the connection between these two issues?
This perhaps alludes to the story recorded in Masechet Sanhedrin 93a about Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol, who was cast into a furnace by Nevuchadnessar. Although, being a ssadik, he was miraculously saved, his clothing was charred because he married his daughters to unscrupulous men. The Torah here thus alludes that if one does not educate his children properly, symbolized here in the pasuk by the immoral daughter of the kohen, then even if he is a righteous kohen gadol, his clothing will be torn! Woe unto parents who do not send their children to Torah schools! By the time they experience anguish over their child's having strayed from the path, it is too late. They must therefore ensure to direct their children when there is still time, and register them in Torah educational systems.
Luna Bat Miriam and Yosef Ben Geraz
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