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Anyone who has no problems, please leave. Look around: pressured faces, worried, nervous. Wrinkles around the mouth, furrows on the brow. The need for tranquilizers has reached a new high. People are loaded with explosive material and our wicks are very short. Violence on the roads, in the schools. Verbal violence and physical brutality. A high-pressure, bitter society. And just as we see those around us, so too they see us. We are also part of the widespread dissatisfaction. And not without reason - just listen to the news! The economy, the employment situation, health, and whatnot.
So let us leave this all for a short while. Let us turn our imaginations to the generation in the desert. That was a comfortable life, a five-star hotel. Surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, with a cloud beneath their feet, carrying them like a magic carpet. A cloud in front of them, showing them the way. Every morning, a meal of manna. The amount: an "omer" for each person, a size larger than forty eggs. One could grind it and crush it, boil it and fry it, and taste any taste in the world. In addition, the quail. And in addition, the herds of sheep and cattle. The verse testifies: "For these forty years, Hashem, your G-d, was with you, you did not lack anything" (Devarim 2:7). "All that they needed was to mention anything, and it was created right before them!" (Shemot Rabah 21: 10). We should only have it like that! If we lived then, how happy we would be! With no worries about sustenance, without concerns about health, without the difficulties of raising children, without headaches. Mosheh Rabbeinu at our head, and Aharon, the holy one of G-d. For every group of ten, a leader, a personal Torah teacher. A leader for every group of fifty, like the Rabbi of a synagogue. A leader for every group of one hundred, the Rabbi of the community. A leader for every group of one thousand, the leader of the whole sector. The prince of each tribe and the great Sanhedrin. A wondrous system of learning Torah - fortunate is the nation that has this, fortunate is the nation that Hashem is their G-d!
This is all true, but please read the parashah. "And the nation was like complainers, evil in the eyes of G-d. And His anger flared, and the fire of G-d burned within them." What did they say? "How much difficulty have we had on this road, three days that we have not rested from the torture of traveling." The torture of traveling? They were carried in His hands, on the wings of eagles, on a cloud of glory! They were carried effortlessly towards the Promised Land, with unnatural speed. What torture and what lack of rest?
The fire burned within them and they cried out to Mosheh. He prayed and the fire sank. Did they learn their lesson? Now they wanted meat. Meat?! Does it not say that "There was great livestock." When they left Egypt, they did not leave a hoof behind. They brought a tremendous amount of sheep and cattle with them! But our souls desire the meat of fowl… They received the quail. The least of them collected ten piles. Now, were they satisfied? No: our soul is disgusted with this rotten bread… They said: This manna will eventually explode in our stomachs (Rashi, Bamidbar 21:5). If they were worried about that from the beginning, that would be one thing. But after forty years of eating it, to say such a thing! The answer is that whiners don't really have problems, they will grab onto anything, they will find any excuse…
What can we say about them? That they were ungrateful in the most extreme way, irreparably lacking understanding. To be in Gan Eden and to complain, to be seated at the table of G-d and to argue!! If we were in their place, how satisfied we would be!
That is it. That was a small experiment, we have merely looked in the mirror. Let us ask ourselves: If our grandparents would have known that there are people who do not have to draw water from a well, who can turn the handle of a faucet and the water comes out of the wall. They don't need to chop down branches and start a fire under the pot. You have gas flames - and not just one, or two or three - and an electric oven and a microwave. A toaster and a deep fryer and a barbecue. Not only don't they have to carry their laundry to the river, they have a washing machine and a drier and an iron. An electric refrigerator and a freezer. Formica tables and upholstered chairs and couches and armchairs. And mattresses and bedding and closets and shelves and clothing and shoes and what have we forgotten. They have electric and neon lighting, fans and air conditioners, wall clocks and wristwatches. Ballpoint pens instead of quills and inkwells and blotters. This is only a part and they are still not satisfied. They travel in comfortable autobuses for long distances, they chat on the telephone and send faxes. But they are bitter and pressured and tense and complaining. Is this not ungratefulness? Are we not like those complainers in the desert?…
To Take with Words
"Take the Leviim from within the Children of Israel." How do you "take" people? Rashi writes: Take them with words, tell them: Fortunate are you who have merited being the servants of the Creator. Not only must the Leviim be convinced with soft words. We have already read the verse: "Take Aharon, and his sons with him" (Vayikra 5:2). There too, Rashi explained: Take him with words and bring him. Not only for the kehunah, but also for leadership and royalty it says: "Take Yehoshua for yourself" (Bamidbar 27:18). There too Rashi explains: Take him with words. Tell him: Fortunate are you, for you have merited to lead the children of G-d. Even the first Adam before the sin, whose level was as high and lofty as that of the ministering angels. When the Creator wished to raise him a level and to bring him into Gan Eden, it says: "And Hashem, G-d, took the man and placed him in Gan Eden." Even there Rashi explained; "He took him with pleasant words and convinced him to enter" into Gan Eden!
There is a theme here, there is instruction and guidance for us, for parents and for teachers. We all want only the best for our children and students. To bring them into Gan Eden in two worlds. But the matter still entails a change in their situation, and we must convince them, with the pathways of pleasantness, with soft words, with beautiful speech. If even the first Adam needed to be convinced before the sin, as Rashi says, then how much more so must we increase the pleasantness of our speech to young children!
Rabbeinu Meir the son of Rabbi Tudrus Halevi Abulafia zs"l, known as Rabbeinu, the Ramah, was one of the great leaders of Spain. "And in the end of the days of the Rambam, a shining star appeared, a jewel from the holy crown, a helping stone, Rabbienu Meir Halevi from the city of Burgos. He came to Toledo, spread Torah, taught many students and explained many tractates with tremendous precision and with great and deep intricacy. He wrote many books on the laws of the Torah" (Yesod Olam, chapter 18).
The Ramah (Rabbeinu Meir Halevi) zs"l was born around the year 4550 (1190 C.E.) and he was the son-in-law of the prince Rabbeinu Yosef Ibn Shushan. He was the head of the yeshivah in Toledo. He served as the head of the rabbinical court, along with Rabbeinu Yisshak Ibn Migash and the Raavan zs"l.
When the writings of the Rambam came to Spain, Rabbeinu the Ramah wrote comments on many of his decisions, and, as is usual in Torah, there were disagreements. The sages of Lunil did not agree to him and they wrote to justify the words of the Rambam. However, Rabbeinu Shimshon from Shantss zs"l, one of the Tosafists, agreed to his words and added more proof to them. This Halachic give-and-take was collected by the Ramah in one book. In addition, he wrote two versions of his commentaries on the gemara. One is his long edition ("rashin") in which he brings down the words of other commentaries and discusses them, either to confirm or reject their explanations. (Of this version we only have remaining the commentaries on Sanhedrin and Baba Batra.) He also wrote an abridged edition ("peratei peratin") in which he writes only his Halachic conclusions. He also wrote responses to thousands, some of which are in our hands and some of which are quote in the works of our Rabbis, the rishonim.
In the book "Ossar Hakavod," there is written about him: "He is fortunate and his portion is fortunate, who has merited the inner secrets of the Torah and lofty wisdom." He also wrote a kabbalistic commentary on the Torah, "Ginat Bitan," and a commentary on the Sefer Hayessirah, "Lifnai Velifnim." On the holiday of Pesach, in the year 5004 (1244 C.E.) he passed away, but his Torah will light the way for us forever.
"When you lift up the candles"
The Gaon Rabbi Meir Dahanun zs"l, one of the great leaders of Jerusalem around two hundred years ago, write in his book "Be'er Basadeh": the menorah is an allusion to the holy Torah, about which it says: "For a commandment is a candle and the Torah is light" (Mishlei 10:23). It says in the holy Zohar (Part 2, 166b) "For a commandment is a candle" - this refers to the Mishnah. "And the Torah is light" - this refers to the written Torah. This is the allusion in the phrase, "and six arms comes out of its sides," these are the six orders of the Mishnah, which come out of the main body of the menorah and light up towards the menorah. The middle light towards which they all face is the written Torah. The Torah commanded that the lighting and cleaning of the menorah be done by Aharon and his sons, as it says: "And the lips of the kohen shall guard wisdom, and they shall request Torah from his mouth" (Malachi 2:7). It also is written that "They shall teach Your laws to Yaakov and Your Torah to Israel" (Devarim 33:10). This is the explanation of the midrash which notes that the sacrifices of the princes were only a one-time event, and the lighting of the candles is forever, as it says, "to lift up the candles forever," for the Torah does not ever cease. Even though the menorah which alludes to the Torah has passed away, but the Torah itself exists forever, and it is principally learned by the tribe of Levi (as it says in Yoma 26a, that from them come most of the teachers in Israel).
Rabbeinu, the holy Alshich zs"l wrote, and these are his holy words: There is no doubt, that not only does a person who fulfills a commandment become sanctified and made into a new creation, but even the object with which he performed the commandment is elevated and gains in holiness…. This is the case if his intent when fulfilling this commandment was just to fulfill the commandment of his Creator. How much more so if he knows the secret of the commandment!… This is what the Creator said to Aharon the kohen: "When you lift up the candles" - if you, who knows the secret of the commandment, lights the candles yourself, then the candles will be lifted. "Towards the face of the menorah, the seven candles shall light," that even the menorah itself, which is the object of the commandment, shall acquire a high level of holiness!
Wonderful is the idea of the Gaon Rabbi David Nahmiash zs"l in his book "Mahaneh Dan." The "candles" in the verse are really the holders, in which the oil of wisdom and light of Torah are found. But to what does the golden menorah itself allude? The holders allude to the Torah learning of the men, but the golden menorah refers to the women, those who carry the burden of the home, and the education of their children towards Torah and its commandments. Their three main commandments are alluded to in the word "Hamenorah." They are "Hadlakah," meaning the lighting of the Shabbat and holiday candles. "Missvat Nidah," which refers to family purity. "Reshit ha'isah," which is the commandment of separating the halah. The Torah said: "Towards the face of the menorah, the seven candles shall light." The woman takes an absolutely equal share in the Torah of her husband and every Torah class that he attends. His elevation in Torah illuminates the house and influences the wife as well, like the mutual influence of the menorah and the holders!
Rabbeinu Behaye zs"l (in his book "Kad Hakemah," erech reshut) explained the order of the sections in our parashah: the lighting of the menorah by the kohanim, the sanctification of the Leviim, "And the Children of Israel shall make the Pesach." This stresses the order of the levels in the nation of Israel: Kohanim, Leviim, and Yisraelim. And before them all, at the end of last week's parashah, Mosheh Rabbeinu is mentioned, to show us that the honor of a haham who teaches Torah is greater than them all!
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Laws of Mentioning Dew and Rain
• If one erred and said "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" on the night of Shemini Asseret or at shaharit on Shemini Asseret morning, and if he realized his mistake before saying "baruch atah Hashem mehayeh hametim," then he should return to the beginning of the blessing. If however, he only realizes after saying "mehayeh hametim," then he should not repeat the blessing. This is also the case in arvit or shaharit of the first day of Pesach. If one did not say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" or "morid hatal," then he should not repeat the blessing.
• It is forbidden to say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" until it is announced by the hazan beforehand. Therefore, if one is old or sick and can not go to the synagogue to pray, he should not pray musaf until the hazan has announced "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem." However, if he knows that the hazan has already announced "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem," then even though he himself did not hear that announcement from the hazan, he may say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in his musaf prayer. Therefore, if one came late to the synagogue, and the congregation has already begun to pray musaf, he may say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in his prayer even though he did not hear it from the hazan.
It is a Jewish custom that the hazan announces before the musaf prayer that from now on, we say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem." There are those who have a custom of saying piyutim, which are praises of G-d who makes the wind blow and the rain fall. This is the Sefardic custom. It is proper to be stringent about the saying of "morid hatal" in the summer, and to have the hazan announce it before the musaf prayer. This is also a Sefardic custom. If they forgot to announce "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" before musaf, the hazan or someone else from the congregation should hurry in their silent prayer, and should say in a loud voice "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem," after which the congregation can say it as well.
• One who lives in a place where there is no minyan, should wait to pray musaf on the day of Shemini Asseret until the time when musaf is prayed in Jewish congregations. He should wait until the end of the first six hours of the day, for certainly the congregation would not pray later than that.
In a place where there is a congregation that prays shaharit with the sunrise, there is some doubt if the hazan's announcement in that minyan is effective for those who pray in the later minyan and want to pray musaf before the hazan in the later minyan announces it. However, an individual who is praying in his house is permitted to pray musaf as long as the hazan in the synagogue announced it as the sunrise minyan, even though he does not regularly pray at that minyan.
Divers occasionally encounter an unusual sight: a school of large fish patiently waiting in line, with the line advancing slowly, like the line at a health clinic… The doctor, in this case, is a small fish who helps these giant fish by removing tiny parasites that have attached themselves to them and which suck their blood, plain and simple. These fish can not save themselves and pick off their lice, as monkeys do, even if they are suffering terribly and are about to die. But the Creator has brought a solution before the ailment. He created small fish which feed on these parasites. These small fish usually live in the crevices of a coral reef. It is amazing how the suffering large fish know to where to turn and where these small saviors reside. But the fact is that they swim until they arrive, and the small fish know that a patient has arrived and they come out of their hiding spot. Another wonder: The giant fish, which usually feeds on small fish, does not harm them. He waits patiently, and receives dedicated care, and the small fish clean off the parasites one by one, carefully removing them and swallowing them. This is how it receives its payment, and the giant fish swims away, leaving room for the next patient.
This type of occurrence, which is very common in the plant and animal world, is called symbiosis. Mutual dependence and coexistence of several species. The butterflies are sustained by the nectar of apples, and when doing so, they clean the flower and ensure its continued existence. This occurrence, which is so common, points clearly to the Creator of the world, the programmer of creation, who created its parts with so much coordination. Truthfully, this symbiosis exists in every family structure, where there is mutual dependence of the two spouses on each other. In every society, there is mutual dependence of its components on each other; the baker needs the shoemaker and both of them need the tailor, and he needs them and so on. Between the Rabbi and the students and between the students and the Rabbi, and amongst the students themselves. How wonderful and complicated is the world!
From the book, "Great are the Deeds of G-d"
Summary: The son of an honorable, wealthy man, who was also a Torah scholar, expressed his desire to meet the close friend of his father. He sailed from Costa to Alexandria, Egypt. The rich banker was so glad to see him that he arranged a huge party in his honor and introduced him to all of those present.
The next day, the banker said to him: "Please, understand, I must return to my business, so that it will not collapse, halilah. But I am at your service at any time and at any hour. In the meantime, please meet the steward of my house. I have commanded him to play host to you and to fulfill your every wish, anything that your heart desires!"
The steward of the house, a youth around the age of this young man, bowed his head to him.
The banker left to his business, and the steward said: "If you would like, I can show you the treasures of the city. We can begin with its synagogues and study halls. I will introduce you to its Rabbis and scholars, for this is a city overflowing with Torah and good deeds. It also has beautiful gardens and stunning palaces. Also busy markets and an active port."
"As you say," answered the guest.
He soon realized that his guide was extremely well rounded, a treasure of knowledge and wisdom. He knew every corner of the city, its status and its history. He language was rich and flowing, and his behavior was clearly noble. In the study halls, he was received as one of their own, and the sages of the city showed obvious affection for him. At the end of the day, he could not find words to thank his host for his wonderful companion. The banker's face lit up with happiness. A suspicion crept into the heart of the guest, and when he was alone with the steward, he asked him: "Tell me please, does the master of this house have any relatives?"
The steward's face burned, and he answered abruptly: "No!"
The guest understood that there was some secret matter here, and he stopped his inquiries.
On the second day and the day afterwards, he again toured the big city and was amazed by its sites and its pathways. But more than the treasures that his eyes feasted upon, his ears enjoyed listening to his guide's words of wisdom. On the fourth day, he did not even go out for a tour. He sat in the company of the steward and enjoyed his conversation on a variety of topics. He was an expert in everything. His analysis was clear and his common sense was intelligent and mature. When he expressed his surprise at this, the young man burst out emotionally: "But believe me, all of this is not worth one hour of learning Torah!" He immediately recanted: "Forgive me, the master commanded me to stand at your service. I will converse with you on any topic." The guest responded, saying: "The opposite, if it is your will, I would be happy to learn Torah with you!" How the young man's eyes lit up with joy!
To be continued, G-d willing, next week…
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
The Laws of Rising in the Morning
1. In the morning, one must wash his hands three times each, first the right, then the left, back and forth three times. This is necessary to remove the "ruah ra'ah," the spirit of evil that rests on one's hands at night, since night is one sixtieth of death.
Also, on the matter of evil spirits, the gemara writes in Hulin 105b, that demons have no permission to take from something that has been counted or measured. However, the Tosafot asks that the gemara in Taanit states that there is no blessing on things that are counted or weighed or measured, but only on those that are hidden from the eye. The Tosafot answers that the demons can not take from measured items because they already belong to a person. But if a person is blessed and receives more, then he has not yet formally acquired that extra, and a demon can take possession of it.
2. Before he dries his hands, he should say the blessing of "al netilat yedayim." One should be stringent and make the blessing immediately and not wait until going to the synagogue to do so.
3. One may wash his hands in the morning in a washroom that does not have a toilet in it, and then say the blessing outside of the bathroom. However, one should not wash his hands in a bathroom that has a toilet in it, for there is ruah ra'ah in that bathroom as well, unless he has no other option.
4. One should not touch any food before washing one's hands in the morning. If one does so, then he should wash the food if it is possible. If it is impossible to do so, for example if he touched bread, then he may rely on those opinions that are lenient on this matter.
5. One should not wash his hands onto the ground lest someone come and step on the water that has ruah ra'ah upon it. One may wash one's hands onto a paved surface, just as one is permitted to wash one's hands into a vessel, because the ruah ra'ah does not dwell upon those places.
6. There is a disagreement as to whether the Torah blessings are of Torah or Rabbinic origin. The main opinion is that they are Rabbinic in origin, and therefore, if one is unsure if he has made them, he should not repeat them. Rather, he should have intent to fulfill this obligation with the blessing of ahavat olam.
7. Our sages instituted the saying of pesukei dezimrah every day before prayer, beginning with the blessing of "baruch sheamar" and ending with the blessing of "yishtabah." This was learned from Mosheh Rabbeinu who praised G-d before making his requests of Him.
8. It is forbidden to pause in the middle of pesukei dezimrah with the saying of "baruch hu u'varuch shemo" when hearing a blessing. This is because the saying of "baruch hu u'varuch shemo" is not an obligation from the gemara. It originated in the times of the rishonim, with the Rosh.
My Nation, Torah is in Their Heart!
"Bind your sword onto your thigh, courageous one, your beauty and your splendor," said King David (Tehillim 45:4). It is said in the gemara (Shabbat 63a) that this is a parable to the words of Torah. We understand the parable, but what is its meaning? Wondrous is the explanation of the Maharal Miprag zs"l (Gur Aryeh, Bemidbar 21:35) about the killing of Og, the king of Bashan by Mosheh Rabbeinu. It says (Berachot 54a) that the height of Mosheh Rabbeinu was ten amot, that the length of his sword was ten amot, and that he jumped a height of ten amot, and hit him. The Maharal explained "that in order to succeed a person (or an army, or a nation!) needs three qualities. Personal courage (physical, and spiritual strength), diligence (showing will and motivation) and the proper means, such as weaponry and battlegear. Our sages alluded to this with the height of Mosheh (personal courage), the jump to a great height (diligence and determination) and a sword, ten amot long (appropriate weaponry).
This is what it means by, ""Bind your sword onto your thigh, courageous one, your beauty and your splendor." It is not enough to have personal courage. One must also equip oneself with the proper arms. Our sages have taught us that this is a parable to the words of Torah. It is not enough to have abilities, no matter how developed and shining they are. One must also equip oneself with broad knowledge. Then, with the combination of the two, in addition to the third factor, motivation, diligence and toil in Torah, the sum total will bring forth the perfect result: your beauty and your splendor. We will add and say: "Bind your sword onto your thigh, courageous one." There are many of those who learn, who when asked a question, answer: "We must look and see." They know where to look, and when they look, they know what to answer. This too is a level for which we should not show disrespect. But to what does this compare? To a valiant warrior who walks on the street, meets an enemy who bears a sword, and answers: Wait for me. I have forgotten my sword at home. When I return, I can fight against you… This is not the proper way: "Bind your sword onto your thigh, courageous one," your knowledge should be by your side always. "So that the words o Torah should be sharpened in your mouth, so that if a person asks you something, you should not hesitate. Rather you should answer him immediately!" (Kidushin 30a).
I remember how the scholars would go to the house of Maran Maka, the minister of Torah and the pillar of Halacha, our teacher and our light, the Rishon lEssiyon Rabbeinu Ovadyah Yosef shelita, asking him a Halacha and pressing the "record" button, and then filling the tape on the spot!
Thus should one learn and thus should one teach. "When you lift up the candles, until the flame rises on its own." You should not need the constant back-up of authors and books. You should be at the level of: "The nation, My Torah is in their heart!" The words of the Torah should be sharpened in our mouths, summarized and organized perfectly!
With the blessings of Shabbat Shalom,
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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