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THE ROAD, THE MAP, AND THE COMPASS
We are now in the period of "the heel of the Moshiah," the age preceding the redemption. Our sages have told us from the outset that this period will not be an easy one. In fact, they outline in great detail the crises that will surface during this period (see Sanhedrin 97a; Sotah 49b). Why?
The Ramhal zs"l compared this phenomenon to an egg. When an egg is first laid, it is edible for humans; if it is placed underneath the hen, a young chick will ultimately emerge. However, in the stage before the egg hatches, all types of processes occur within the egg which result in the formation of a life. If it is opened during this stage, any onlooker would be appalled by the vulgar mess of blood and membranes contained therein. However, if the process is allowed to continue, all the disarray will produce a new live chicken.
The events of our generation follow this example. Things are currently unfolding in opposite directions, or, more precisely, in contradictory directions. Indeed, we are left confused and befuddled. On the one hand, we are witnessing the remarkable gathering of our exiles that, we are promised, precedes the complete, miraculous gathering (Yeshayahu 56:8).
However, we did not ask for the overpowering secular culture, the disregard of all that is sacred and precious, the detachment from our heritage and the ceaseless disdain towards those committed to its continuity. On the one hand, our nation has seen the emigration of hundreds and thousands of our dear brothers who were severed from their Judaism for seventy years, until the collapse of the Iron Curtain. On the other hand, they were accompanied by hundreds of thousands of gentiles, including professed anti-Semites.
On the one hand, in our generation Jews have settled in the land of our patriarchs to an extent we have not seen in two thousand years. At the same time, however, ongoing Arab consolidation poses a serious threat in the West Bank, Northern Israel, the Negev, and even Israel's heartland. Anyone surveying the situation with open eyes can see that we sit on a barrel of explosives. Given our steadfast faith in the One who directs world events, we have no way of knowing where all this will lead us. Indeed, we are confused and flustered.
However, just as one lost in travel makes use of his map and compass, which help him find his way so that he may continue with confidence, so are we equipped with a map and compass - the eternal Torah that foresaw everything, for all generations. If, Heaven forbid, two nations will arise in Israel - a Jewish nation and an Israeli nation, if an identity detached from religion solidifies and stands in opposition to Torah observant Jews, then the determining factor will not be numbers or physical strength.
Our victory is guaranteed without having to raise a finger. Very simply, the other camp will pick up and leave, claiming that they are fed up with the war, tension and religious coercion. These are all poor excuses. The eternal truth is "that Eress Yisrael does not sustain sinners. This may be compared to a prince who was fed something disgusting - it does not remain in his stomach; he rather vomits it" (Rashi, Vayikra 18:28). Therefore, let's not invest too much energy into unnecessary fighting. Let's instead concentrate on building ourselves, upholding and glorifying the Torah, bringing back those who have become distant through love and pleasantness, and spreading the light. Those who resist will ultimately leave. A half-million former Israelis live in Los Angeles - the same population as the entire greater Tel-Aviv metropolitan area.! After all, why would they remain in such a hot, steamy climate, fraught with stress and complications, when they have no roots? Why would they stay in Israel to create an imitation culture rather than living with the original source of the culture?
The same applies to the gentiles from all other nations. We have been promised an eternal promise: "Your enemies who settle in it [the land] shall be appalled by it" (Vayikra 26:32). The Ramban explains, "This brings good tidings, informing that in all the exiles, our land does not contain our enemies." Judea, Samaria, the Galil, the lower hills, the entire Land of Israel - our hold on it can never be lost. Even if we see our enemies building, expanding, establishing themselves, and even gaining control, we must understand with conviction that the pasuk will ultimately be fulfilled: "I saw a wicked man, powerful, well-rooted like a robust native tree.
Suddenly he vanished and was gone; I sought him, but he was not to be found" (Tehillim 37:35-36). How will this happen? This only the Creator knows, "He who announced the generations from the start" (Yeshayahu 41:4). There can be no doubt, however, that this will occur, whereas the Torah promises so. We will see the fulfillment of the pasuk, "The wicked prepares, but the righteous wears it" (Iyov 27:17). We can only imagine the distress felt by the Jews during the construction of Haman's palace, the resentment they felt towards his power and grandeur. Never did they consider the possibility that Mordechai will take over the house, over which Haman exerted himself - only so that Mordechai can live in it! Let us contemplate the events in light of the Torah, and we will realize that everything is being woven for our benefit!
The Espionage Case (14)
Flashback: A telegram arrived for the Hafess Hayyim, in the city to which his yeshivah relocated, Shumiass. The letter informed him of the imminent opening of the trial of his student, Efrayim Leboviss, in whose pocket were hidden the architectural plans of the fortresses of Kovno. The defendant was to select a lawyer at once, and everyone recommended Oscar Grosenberg.
The Hafess Hayyim sent his student to the capital city to hire the well-known defense lawyer, but the messenger came back empty-handed. He reported that the attorney expressed his regrets, saying that the imminent defeat and embarrassing retreat of the Russian army have forced the authorities to find a scapegoat whom to blame. They are therefore directing the accusations against the Jews living within the "pale of settlement," near the border. These Jews have family and business connections beyond the border, bringing them under suspicion of open sympathy and support for the foreign governments that grant free rights to their Jewish citizens. For this reason, the upcoming trial will allow the government to release all its frustration and resentment towards the Jews. It is unwise, therefore, for a Jew to take up the defense, as this will simply reinforce the prevailing feeling that the Jews unified in opposition to the authorities.
Furthermore, heretofore only Jews living in the "pale of settlement" came under suspicion of disloyalty to the Czarist regime. If a Jew from St. Petersburg represents the suspect, he will bring the entire Jewish population of that city under similar accusations.
The messenger reported the response to the Hafess Hayyim, sympathetic to the attorney's concern for his welfare as well as that of his city's community. Much to the student's surprise, however, the Hafess Hayyim rejected the entire argument outright: "Nonsense! Everybody knows that he is the finest lawyer, and everybody understands that the defendant wants a lawyer who speaks his language and can best represent him."
"But he is afraid, rebbe," reminded the messenger.
"His fear has no basis," replied the Hafess Hayyim adamantly.
"Representing the boy is a missvah, and one who observes a missvah will know no evil. Those going to do a missvah are not harmed!"
"But what can we do? He refused!"
"I will go to him myself," declared the Hafess Hayyim.
To be continued
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The list of Vitamin C's qualities seems to have been taken from an imaginary science book. Yet, the truth is that these benefits have been proven not only in laboratory tests, but also through careful examination and study of people using the vitamin. Nutrition experts claim that proper use of Vitamin C can bring about real miracles. For example, Vitamin C and ascorbic acid have been used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, allergies, ulcers, rheumatism, insufficient absorption of iron, digestive disorders, bites and poisonous injections from various creatures, post-surgery fatigue and weakness, glaucoma, sunstroke, lead-poisoning, and gum and nose bleeding. However, this is only a partial list. This most unique vitamin is, in essence, a natural antibiotic, that may be used worry-free with no side effects in the treatment of various illnesses.
The reason is the Vitamin C is acidic. Since bacteria have difficulty surviving in an acidic environment, the entire body must be acidic to some degree. The most important sources of ascorbic acid are green and red peppers citrus fruits, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes and liver.
The body's need for ascorbic acid cannot be questioned. Given the fact that the body excretes this vitamin in various ways, the only way not to suffer the consequences of Vitamin C deficiency is to eat the proper foods.
It stands to reason that plants, as well, require ascorbic acid. Indeed, researchers have found that ascorbic acid plays several critical roles in the exchange of materials in plant cells. The Almighty, in His infinite mercy upon all His creatures, embedded within plants the ability to create ascorbic acid. The same applies to many animals, as well. This remarkable phenomenon, that requires man to do what he must to attain what nature receives automatically, exists in the spiritual realm, as well. A person is called upon to do what he must to fill his spiritual knowledge base. Otherwise, he remains exposed to the dangers of his environment. One cannot allow himself to sit and wait until he naturally becomes filled with the "vitamin" of knowledge. This is how the Almighty created His world, in such a way that a person must exert himself in Torah study and missvah fulfillment, and in the merit of this effort he receives his reward. This reflects Hashem's intense love for us, enabling us to feel that we receive reward for our hard work and effort.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"Your enemies who settle in it [the land] shall be appalled by it"
Rashi comments that this pasuk actually indicates "a favorable measure towards Yisrael." Their enemies will not enjoy living in Eress Yisrael, and it will remain desolate from any inhabitants. The "Arvei Nahal" zs"l notes the peculiar expression used by Rashi - "a favorable measure towards Yisrael." We would have expected Rashi to write that the pasuk here "presents Benei Yisrael with good tidings," as the Ramban writes. What does Rashi mean by "a good measure"? He answers with the following parable:
An impoverished pauper who wants a piece of clothing cannot afford to pay a tailor; he must purchase several cubits of cloth and ask his wife to make him a shirt, regardless of her level of experience. She may be completely untrained, and her shirts may come out in an unpredictable size or shape.
They all have sleeves and a neck opening, but they do not correspond to the size of the intended wearer. Anyone could put it on, regardless of his weight or size. A person with money in the bank, by contrast, doesn't wear such clothing. He goes to the store, expresses his wish to purchase a suit, and a suit is chosen according to his size and preference. The store sells suits of all sizes, servicing the entire population, and everyone can find a garment that suits him.
An especially wealthy man does not go into a store to purchase a suit. He turns to a professional dressmaker who takes the customer's precise measurements - the width of his shoulders, chest and loins, the exact length of his arms and circumference of his thighs. He considers the curvature of the back and the positioning of the torso, and he attempts to hide the slouching shoulders or protrusion of the belly. The final product will fit the wealthy customer perfectly, so much so that no one else will be able to wear it.
Similarly, there are many different lands and nations in the world. Some lands correspond to the nature of the nation dwelling thereupon, but any other country could overtake the land and find it equally as suitable: "The Horrim lived in Se'ir in the past, but the children of Esav conquered them and destroyed them, and dwelled in their stead." Asian tribes infiltrated Europe, and Europeans conquered America - just like the poor man's cloak, that fits anyone and everyone.
Only one land suits a single nation exclusively, resembling the wealthy man's tailor-made suit. As its name suggests, Eress Yisrael accommodates only Benei Yisrael. If foreigners settle there, they will not find their place there, and eventually they will leave the land to its natural inhabitants. This is alluded to in Rashi's comments - "This is a good measure to Yisrael." This land was cut to order, as it were, to fit Benei Yisrael's precise measurements, and consequently no other nation can find itself at home in Eress Yisrael. For two thousand years they did not settle the land, and even today their hold thereon is weak and transient.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rav Reuven David Navi zs"l
The great Kabbalist Rabbi Yehudah Patiah zs"l told a remarkable story from his great-grandfather, Reuven David Navi zs"l, the head of the rabbinical courts in Baghdad and the only one to whom Rabbenu Yossef Hayyim zs"l refers as "Abir HaTorah" - the great one in Torah!
Once Rav Reuven David was deeply engrossed in a complex "sugya," until eventually he succeeded in resolving all the questions and difficulties. The hour was very late, and so he wrote a brief summary of his conclusions, told his helper to turn out the light, and went to sleep. A half-hour later, the helper heard the rabbi's voice, "Please turn on the light!"
The helper turned on the lamp, the rabbi got up and added a piece to his notes.
Once again, the light was extinguished and darkness returned. A half-hour passed, and again the rabbi asked that the light be restored, got up from his bed, and recorded some more. This pattern continued throughout the night, and in the morning the helper asked the rabbi for an explanation.
The rav answered, "When I clarified the sugya, I went to bed. The Rif came to me in a dream and said, 'Your explanation is good, but it does not resolve the issue according to my view.' I carefully studied his opinion, delved again into the sugya and reached a resolution in accordance with his approach. I then go up from my bed and wrote down my answer. I fell asleep, and then the Rambam came to me in a dream, noting that my answer does not accommodate his opinion. After him came the Rosh."
This story is truly amazing, and it raises the question, if the great sage was privileged to have the souls of the Rif, Rambam and Rosh appear to him, asking him to resolve the sugya to accommodate their views, why did they not go on to explain the sugya to him as they learned it? Why did they simply point out that his answer does not resolve the problem according to their positions, and then leave it to him to resolve? The answer is clear from the beginning of our parashah. Hashem guarantees us blessing "If you walk in My ways," which, as Hazal explain, refers to diligent and intensive Torah study. Surely they would not want to take the rabbi's berachot away from him!
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch
Taken from the work "Osserot Yossef" by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Customs of the Festival of Shavuot
The festival of Shavuot occurs on the sixth of Sivan, culminating the seven-week period of sefirat ha'omer (see Devarim 16:9-10). When Benei Yisrael were informed of their departure from Egypt, they also learned that they would receive the Torah fifty days after their departure, as Hashem had told Mosheh at the burning bush, "When you take the nation from Egypt you will serve." (Shemot 3:12). The word "ta'avdun" ("you will serve") features an extra letter "nun" at the end (the normal construction is "ta'avdu," without the "nun"). The added "nun," whose numerical value equals fifty, alluded to the fact that Benei Yisrael would receive the Torah fifty days after their departure from Egypt. Out of their great love and yearning for the Torah, Benei Yisrael counted each day from their departure until the giving of the Torah. Their desire for Torah was so great that the fifty-day waiting period seemed like an awfully long time. In commemoration, we observe this period between Pesah and Shavuot as a period of counting.
The custom is to decorate the homes and Batei Kenesset with fragrant plants, flowers and roses in honor of Shavuot.
Some authorities maintain that on Shavuot night one must wait until after dark before reciting kiddush. The reason is that if one recites kiddush before the time we can consider definitively as nighttime, it is as if he has not completed the entire forty-nine days of "sefirah" before Shavuot.
Other disagree and allow the recitation of kiddush even before sunset. It is preferable to follow the stringent view when possible. However, in locales where the sun sets very late during this season and waiting until nightfall would cause great discomfort to one's family as well as interfere with the traditional learning session on Shavuot night, then one may be lenient and recite kiddush and eat his Yom Tov meal earlier. Preferably, even those following the lenient view should wait until the beginning of sunset, when the sun is concealed from our view. Additionally, it is preferable to eat a "kezayit"- worth after dark.
Even communities following the stringent view, who do not recite kiddush before dark, may recite arvit on Shavuot night before sunset, after "pelag haminhah." They do not have to wait until after dark to recite arvit.
One recites three berachot in kiddush on Shavuot night: "borei peri hagefen," "asher bahar banu," and "shehehiyanu."
There is a widespread custom to eat dairy products on Shavuot. The reason for this practice is that Benei Yisrael learned about the missvot 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 missvah 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.
The prevalent custom among the Jewish people is to remain awake throughout the night of Shavuot engrossed in Torah until daybreak.
"I WILL MULTIPLY YOU"
"I will look with favor upon you, I will make you fertile, and I will multiply you." These blessings appear in the list of the wondrous berachot promised to us should we fulfill the missvot. Rashi explains "I will look with favor upon you" as referring to our reward, and "I will make you fertile" as meaning that our families will grow. How beautiful! The following berachah, "I will multiply you," Rashi understands as referring to "komah zekufah" - a proud, upright posture. What kind of berachah is this, and how does this derive from the simple meaning of the words, that Hashem will "multiply us? In truth, this berachah constitutes the greatest blessing of all. We see so many people whose homes experience Hashem's blessing, Baruch Hashem, and their families are prosperous. But they themselves are so small and empty. Their personalities are gray, their horizons narrow, their knowledge limited. It is as if their souls have been folded into the pages of an office calendar, and have been reduced to a pocket-sized electronic organizer. How tragic it is. Every Torah class raises the person, opens his eyes, stirs and awakens his mind and intelligence. Every Torah class builds the person, and straightens him into a proud, upright position. It develops his personality, provides him with satisfaction and vitality, renewal and freshness. Indeed, there is no greater berachah than this - "I will multiply you," that we become bigger inside us, better built and developed. There is only one way to reach this goal: through diligent Torah study. We achieve this upright position by participating in Torah classes, listening to Torah cassettes, and studying sacred books - by opening our eyes and hearts, and growing.
Eliyahu Ben Masudah & Yaakov ben Senyar
Produced by Cong. Bnai Yosef and the Aram Soba Foundation - translated from Ma'ayan Hashavua in Israel
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