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Parashat Beha'alotecha


Our parashah opens with Hashem's charge to Aharon, ".when you raise the candles." The commentaries explain that the light of the menorah symbolizes the light of Torah. The menorah was fashioned from pure gold, from a single block, and so must Torah education be conducted. It mustn't be merely a welding of various distinct pieces, without any inherent relationship between them. Everything must somehow fit in as a piece within the whole, rather than a mere composite of various fields with no connection between them. Every piece must constitute a part of the general aggregate, so as to ensure proper development of the student's personality and world outlook.

A child's education must be of "pure gold," of the highest possible quality, the very purest, finest and best. Throughout the generations, parents have sacrificed even their own food for the sake of providing their children with the best possible education. Today, baruch Hashem, Torah education is possible for every parent and child, and there is no need to settle for anything short of the absolute finest.

"When you raise the candles." Rashi explains, "Since the flame rises, the expression 'raising' is used in reference to the lighting; it must be lit until the flame rises by itself." Some, though not many, parents say, why should we send our children to Torah educational schools? After all, we run a traditional household: we recite kiddush, eat hallah with the berachah, and sing zemirot. The child sees, experiences, participates and absorbs.

This should be enough. In truth, however, this is not enough. It is fine so long as the child is young and attached to his parents' table. But as the child grows and makes friends, friends who expect him to join them at their parties, he will then leave the parents alone in distress. It is not enough that the wick burns when the kohen holds the fire to it, only to be extinguished when the kohen moves his hand away. No - this is not a legitimate kindling. The kohen does not fulfill his obligation with such a lighting. The flame must stand by itself. One fulfills his obligation only when the son or daughter are infused with unwavering faith, firmly attached to their ancestral heritage, saturated with good midot and values, when they shine brightly by themselves.

Rashi, however, continues with an additional explanation: "When you raise the candles - our rabbis also learned from here that there was a step before the menorah, upon which the kohen stood when he cleaned the candles." It is interesting to note that the menorah itself was a mere eighteen hand-breadths - or about a meter-and-a-half - tall. Why did the kohen need a stair - or three stairs (Menahot 29a) - on which to stand?

The answer, if you will, perhaps lies in a fundamental perspective regarding education. The teacher must be above the rest, a person of stature and admirable character. One who wishes to light the kindle in others must himself "stand tall," a level above the rest.

The correct explanation, however, is quite simple, and demands our attention. Rashi stressed that the stairs were not needed for the lighting of the candles, but rather for the cleaning. Although the kohen could have cleaned the oil containers while standing on the ground, doing so would run the risk of leaving a small corner not thoroughly clean. A slight drop of sediment might go overlooked, and, should this happen, the pure olive oil and highest-quality wicks used for lighting will be useless. The light will be faded, the oil will become dirty, and the flame will flicker and ultimate be extinguished. Only if the kohen stands up on three stairs and bends over the containers can he clean them thoroughly and ensure that they glisten and shine. Only then can he maintain the required quality of the oil and light for the menorah.

Every educator and parent must realize that even the best education, most advanced programs, the purest menorah laden with decorative flowers, the purest oil in the world - even all this is not enough. The light could still be extinguished so long as the container is not perfectly clean, so long as some dirt or sediment remains. If violence exists within the school building, if boxing gloves and knives show up in school, if the language used isn't clean and foul language circulates through the hallways, if permissiveness rules and rejection of obligation becomes the accepted norm - there is no chance for education; it is a lost cause from the very outset.

Only Torah education, which stresses cleanliness of speech, gentle manners, respect for parents, and the absolute pureness of the "oil containers," could provide true education, and raise the light in the menorah.


Aharon was eighty-four years old, no youngster by any perspective, when he was ordered by Hashem to lift the Levi'im as part of their inauguration for service in the Mishkan. There were twenty-four thousand Levi'im, and each one he had to "bring out, bring in, lift and lower." They all stood in line, waiting, young and old, the skinny and the robust. Who has the strength for such a task? Who could possibly carry out such a command? Even if Aharon would lift without slowing down or stopping for twenty-four consecutive hours, he would have to lift 1,800 every hour - thirty Levi'im a minute!

But Aharon wasn't overwhelmed. He went ahead and began his job with full enthusiasm. Then the miracle occurred: he was endowed with heavenly powers, and continued to lift one Levi after another, a hundred, another hundred, a thousand, another thousand, and completed his task.

This teaches us, quite simply, that it is forbidden to despair. Never just give up, never allow defeatism to win you over. We must approach our responsibilities boldly and confidently, and do our best. Then Hashem's assistance will accompany us, and we will realize our dreams and reach our destiny.


The Wolf

To be sure, it is not recommended to confront a wolf face-to-face. It is far more pleasant to read about it in this pamphlet than to meet up with it in the woods late at night. Folklore depicts the wolf as a vicious beast of prey. Is this merely unfair, slanderous talk, or,"there is no smoke without fire" and the wolf really is vicious? Indeed, there are stories of groups of starving wolves that attacked humans in the thick of the forest. These incidents took place most commonly in Russia and Poland. In the United States, by contrast, not a single incident has been confirmed of wolves pouncing upon people. Furthermore, researchers claim that wolves who attack farmers in the woods actually intend to attack horses, not people. In any event, though, the wolf has always been perceived by humans as an animal from which one must be extra careful and keep distant. Wolves have been known to bring about considerable damage upon the animal-breeding industry, as they enjoy devouring sheep, chickens, and other domesticated animals.

From the perspective of family, the wolf is considered a loyal husband and spectacular father. It conducts a proper family life and never abandons its female companion. To the contrary, it guards and protects her for its entire life. It also assists its mate in digging their shared home. A long tunnel leads to the nest, which is a hole in the ground. When not in search of food, the wolf stays near the home in order to protect its family from harm.

So, when all is said and done, is the wolf good or bad? Is it a cruel hunter or a loving family animal? The wolf, like all other creatures except man, performs all activity on instinct. The Creator instilled within it natural inclinations and impulses according to which the creature acts; it does not have the capability to change it. Angels, too - "lehavdil" - have no free choice. As it turns out, then, man stands on the highest level, higher even than the angels. He has the capacity to change his nature with the help the precious gift granted to us by the Al-mighty: free will. The human being has the ability to choose between right and wrong and distinguish between proper and improper. The human has the option of acting in accordance with Hashem's command, in which case his actions are considered good and favorable.

On the other hand, one can also do the opposite, and it is for this reason why the Torah was given to human beings, and not to the angels.

The Golden Column

The Sacred Gaon
Rav Eliyahu Mishan zs"l

Approximately one hundred and seventy years ago the sacred ssadik Rav Eliyahu Mishan zs"l lived in Arab Soba. He became known by the name of his critical work in the hidden fields of Torah entitled "Sefat Emet." One day, a stranger came before him and pleaded, "Save me, rabbi." He explained that he lived in one of the villages in the western part of the country, and every year this village conducts a central fair. Thousands of farmers from all over the region come to purchase what they need for the upcoming year.

They buy weaves, haberdashery, utensils, spices, everything. This Jew that stood before the rabbi was a well-known merchant, an honest and trustworthy salesman, and everyone bought goods from his shop, thus providing his livelihood. This year, too, he filled his shop with an abundance of merchandise that he purchased on credit. Unfortunately, however, no one came by his store. Throngs of consumers flocked from all over to the village, but nobody brought anything from him. Towards evening he investigated the matter and discovered that his Arab neighbor incited the farmers to boycott the Jew's goods. They knew that he sold the highest quality goods for the best prices, but they all feared the powerful hand of the Arab neighbor.

"What can I do," sighed the rabbi in anguish. "What's done is done - the fair has ended, has it not?"

"No, rabbi, it goes on for two days. This is why I took the trouble to come to you."

"If so," replied the saintly rabbi, "sleep here overnight. Write the Arab's name on a slip of paper and leave it in the Bet Kenesset in the morning."

The merchant did what he was told, and he waited for the rabbi to complete his tefilah. He then reverently approached the rabbi, who turned to him pleasantly and said, "The Gemara teaches that if someone has enemies, he should come early and stay late in the Bet Midrash, and they will be defeated. You have already done this, so now you may return to your village."

The salesman hurried back to his town and saw the funeral procession for his deceased neighbor.

That day, he sold all his merchandise.

The Espionage Case

A continuing saga

Part eighteen

Flashback: The military court in the city of Vitebsk issued a guilty verdict against Efrayim Lebovitz, the yeshivah student in whose pocket were hidden the architectural plans of the Russian fortresses in Kovno prior to the German offensive during World War I. By military law, the innocent student was to be put to death for spying on behalf of an enemy country during wartime.

The judges continued dictating the verdict: "However, considering the young age of the accused, we sentence the boy instead to twelve years of imprisonment with forced labor. Whereas he has already spent two years in prison waiting for trial, he will be sent to a labor camp for ten years." Upon hearing the sentence, Efrayim Leboviss fainted.

Just as the police officers worked frantically to wake him, the judges left the room and the defendant's friends broke out crying. He was twenty-two years old when he was arrested, and he was now twenty-four, at the blossoming point of young adulthood. Besides the backbreaking labor, the terrible suffering, the terrifying detachment from Torah and missvot, from his friends and the world of Torah study, besides all this, when he is freed he will already be thirty-four, broken and shattered. Even if he survives, by the time he is released he will be alone and torn.

As they left the courtroom, the friends gathered together to consider their options. They decided not to tell their great rabbi, the Hafess Hayyim, the distressing news. They feared that the devastating sentence will adversely affect his already failing health, which has already suffered the grueling exile from Radin, the strenuous responsibility of raising funds to support the yeshivah in its new home in Shumiass, and the counseling of throngs of people who suffered terribly from the ravages of the war. They therefore decided to tell the Hafess Hayyim that only two years of labor have been decreed.

Depressed and downhearted, they made their way from Vitebsk to Shumiass.

They came to the Hafess Hayyim, and he asked them how the trial went.

They reported to him about the final arguments and the sentencing. They explained that the court found the boy guilty, but they suspended the death sentence due to his age. It was decided, the students said, that Efrayim would be sent to two years of labor.

They expected to hear from the ssadik the berachah of "ssiduk hadin," his acceptance of the divine decree, which is recited upon hearing tragic news.

Much to their surprise, the Hafess Hayyim smiled sadly and said, "The court took the defendant's young age into consideration, and you are taking my old age into consideration, aren't you?"

"We don't understand, rebbe," they muttered.

"If you need an explanation, then I will explain. It is impossible that a death sentence will be substituted by only two years of labor. Also, if this were true, then you would have returned overjoyed. I demand that you tell me the truth - what sentence was issued for dear Efrayim?"

From the Wellsprings of the Parasha

"And our souls are dry; there is nothing"

"There is nothing"?!? Didn't they have the sweet-tasting mann?! The Hid"a zs"l explains that since they wanted to taste in the mann the taste of harmful foods and their wish was not granted, they resented it. They therefore exclaimed, "There is nothing, this is worth nothing."

This reminds us, "lehavdil," of the wicked man who worked as a barber is some far-away village, living his life at the lowest social rung. He eventually made his way up the bureaucratic ladder until he became the royal viceroy. He was given the royal signet, and the citizens of all one hundred and twenty-seven states bowed down before him. He enjoyed the support of a large, flourishing family, many friends and advisors, and lived in a luxurious palace with all the wealth a man could hope for. The only thing was that a drop of resentment put a damper on his glamorous success: one man refused to bow before him. The viceroy thus decided to vent his anger and eradicate both the stubborn man and his entire nation. He received permission, issued a royal edict, and then watched as his planned victim decreed a public fast day, donned mourners' garb, and cried out in prayer.

At that moment, the viceroy enjoys the peak of his fame: "And whom did Ester invite together with the king to the party she made - only me! And tomorrow, as well, I am invited to her with the king." He leaves the feast and encounters Mordechai who, as usual, did not budge. He calls for an emergency meeting, tells them of his fame and wealth, but, he concludes, "All this is not worth anything to me!"

"There in nothing"! Our souls are dry.

We write this not to criticize, but to learn the appropriate lesson. The following passage appears in the work, "Nifla'ot HaSaba Kadisha" (11:1): "The ssadik Rabbi Yaakov Ssevi zs"l of Porisov told in the name of his rav, the Saba Kadisha of Radoshiss, that when people would complain to him about the lack of avodat Hashem, he would respond, 'Appreciate your situation, for there are far worse conditions!'"

Always strive to grow further, yearn for greater growth, but never say, "There is nothing." Be thankful for what there is!

A certain young student told that he once met another young man whom he had never seen before, who said to him, "I'm so jealous of you!" The former responded, "You don't even know me! How do you know if I'm an expert in halachah, Talmud, or Midrash? How do you know that there is of what to be jealous?" The other student answered, "You know how to read Rashi script!"

The young man continued by describing his thoughts at that moment. How correct this stranger is! There are millions of Jews in the world who cannot read Hebrew. How thankful must we be to the Creator of the world who gave us the privilege of knowledge of the sacred tongue! Hundreds of thousands of precious Jews in Israel are not familiar with the siddur; they do not know of a Shabbat table, the atmosphere of Yom Tov, or the sanctity of festivals. How fortunate are we, how great is our portion, and how pleasant is our lot for every piece of knowledge, for e very stage we have attained. We must constantly strive for more and work hard, and with Hashem's help we will achieve even greater accomplishments. However, we must appreciate how much we have, the treasure we have already acquired.

Let us not be ungrateful, Heaven forbid, but rather thankful for the past and present, and through our appreciation we will ask for assistance for the future.

We and the Fish

OneErev Shabbat, the ssadik Rav Menahem Mendel of Primishlan zs"l asked that his hassidim accompany him to the kitchen, where Shabbat preparations were in full force. "As you all know," he told them, "the fish is nourished from smaller fish. Did you ever wonder how a fish catches the smaller fish?

The human fisherman uses a net, a hunter uses his bow and arrow. Wolves and bears have arms and claws with which to catch their prey. But what about the fish? How does it capture the smaller fish that it so desperately needs for its nourishment?"

The students' faces showed that they weren't particularly troubled by the question. The ssadik understood full well what went through their minds. "You are all thinking that this isn't much of a question," he continued after a moment. "The fish is big and fast, and it chases after schools of smaller fish. Even if they run away, certainly enough remain behind to feed the larger fish." Again, he correctly read their faces as indicating their confession to having reasoned such. "But," the ssadik added, "if this were the case, that the fish caught the smaller fish from behind, he would have to swallow them tail first. Then their fins would lodge into its throat like needles - the fish would choke to death during his very first meal!"

The students were silent; they had no answer.

"So, let us see." They entered the kitchen and saw on the counter a large fish that had been purchased for Shabbat. The cook cut open the fish's stomach, and everyone leaned over to look inside. Indeed, there were many small fish inside, and all of them, without exception, were positioned with their head towards the fish's tail.

"You see," said the ssadik, "the fish does not chase after schools of smaller fish and eat them from behind. Rather, it swims in a relaxed manner, keeping its mouth wide open. The smaller fish that it needs for food swim right into its open mouth and slide into its mouth, the fins pointing backwards, and they go straight into its belly."

Why do we bring this story? This week's parasha tells us that each member of Benei Yisrael received its food on a daily basis. Each Jew received his daily portion of mann that descended from the heavens. However, different people received their portion in different ways. For the ssadikim, the mann landed right at their doorstep, while the wicked had to wander outside the Jewish camp to find their portion (Yoma 75a, Rashi). We can only but wonder - wicked? There were wicked people in the wilderness, in the generation of prophecy and overt miracles?!

The Zohar explains that these were the Jews who lacked a degree of faith.

They were afraid that maybe the mann would not arrive at their doorstep.

They were concerned that the mann would land a distance away from their homes, and they would have to run around in search of their daily portion.

Whoever thought this way, indeed did not find his portion by his door.

The Torah refers to these people who scattered about looking for mann with the word, "shatu" (literally, "they scrambled"), which is related to the word "shetut," nonsense. Whoever thought he had to work hard for the mann, in fact needed to do so, to wander about and work twice as hard for his food.

Similarly, the "Hiddushei HaRim" zs"l would say that although Hazal tell us, "Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven," we find people doing just the opposite. When it comes to livelihood, which is in the hands of Hashem and determined on Rosh Hashanah, and all a person requires is merely to fulfill his small role ("hishtadlut"), people labor day and night, they are filled with worry and are constantly stressed like a bundle of nerves. By contrast, what regards the fear of Heaven, Torah study and spiritual growth, which cannot be achieved without hard work and exertion - "You did not work and were successful - do not believe" (Megilah 6b) - people relax and take it easy, they proceed without worry or concern.

These words become especially pertinent this time of year, when parents are registering their children for the upcoming school year. One thing cannot be questioned: parents want only the best for their sons and daughters, and the best possible education is Torah education. With Torah education children learn about values and good midot, and they are not exposed to violence, unlimited permissiveness, alcohol or drugs. They are exposed instead to deep-rooted faith and love for our heritage, honor for parents and good manners. They also study general subjects, and research studies have confirmed that the intense study of Gemara and involvement in advanced Torah learning afford one amazing capabilities in the study of computers and programming, the profession now in highest demand. In any event, as important as this is, this is not the main thing - one's livelihood is determined from the Heavens! We may never forget the main thing: we are Jews, and we bear a glorious heritage. We have a Torah and missvot, and these we must pass over to our children.

Therefore, from any perspective, Torah education is the best choice for us.

And for our future - our sons and daughters - we do not settle for anything less than the very best!


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, Rosh Bet Midrash "Yehaveh Da'at"

The Laws of "Hassissah" Regarding Tefillin

A bald man who wears a toupee must remove the toupee when wearing tefillin shel rosh. If he is embarrassed to do so in the presence of the other worshippers in the Bet Kenesset, then he should put on tefillin at home before coming to Bet Kenesset and recite shema with the tefillin. He should then go to Bet Kenesset and wear the tefillin over the toupee.

If one had hair surgically implanted onto his head, such that the hair is permanently attached and can never be removed, he may consider his new hair as part of his body. Therefore, he may wear his tefillin shel rosh on his hair. The Halachot of a Left-handed Person With Regard to Tefillin A left-handed person, who writes and performs all work with his left hand, wears tefillin with a berachah on his right arm, since for him that hand is the equivalent of the left hand for other people. If he placed tefillin on his left arm as right-handed people do, he has not fulfilled his obligation.

He must therefore place tefillin on his right arm with a berachah.

Someone who is ambidextrous, and can write and perform activity with equal skill with both his hands, places tefillin on his left arm.

If someone writes with his right hand and performs other activity with his left, or if he writes with his left and performs other activity with his right, then according to the view of the Mehaber and the Rema the hand with which he writes is to be considered his stronger hand for purposes of hilchot tefillin. He therefore places tefillin on the other arm, which is considered the weaker hand in this regard.

Nevertheless, since many authorities argue, and rule that the hand with which other activity is performed is considered the stronger hand, it is preferable that after tefilah the individual place the tefillin again on the writing hand, without a berachah, and recite shema with the tefillin on that hand. In this way, he satisfies all opinions.

If one writes with equal skill with both hands but performs other activity with one hand, then according to the Shulhan Aruch he places tefillin on his left arm. However, since there are opposing views, it is proper to put the tefillin on his right arm after tefilah and recite shema.

Regarding all that has been said, there is no difference between Hebrew writing with which tefillin and Sifrei Torah are written and any other writing. The hand with which the individual writes, regardless of which language he writes or whether or not he writes Hebrew, is considered the stronger hand. If, however, the individual cannot write at all in any language, then the arm with which he performs activity is considered the stronger of the two arms.

One who was accustomed to writing and performing all activity with his right hand, like most people, but afterwards trained himself to write with his left hand while still performing other activity with his right hand, is not considered left-handed with respect to tefillin. He therefore places tefillin on his left hand. However, since considerable debate among the authorities exists regarding such a case, it is preferable for one not to change his writing from one hand to the other. One who naturally writes with his right hand should continue doing so, in order not to enter a situation of doubt.

If a left-handed person, who was accustomed to writing and performing activity with his left hand, trained himself to write with his right hand while continuing to perform other activity with his left hand, then according to some authorities he is no longer considered left-handed, whereas he now writes with his right hand like most people. This is the correct view. Nevertheless, it is proper to be stringent and place the tefillin on his right arm without a berachah. Here, too, it is advisable not to switch from one's original habits. Thus one who writes and performs activity with his left hand should continue to do so in order to avoid a situation of doubt.

If someone was accustomed to writing and performing work with his right hand, like most people, but due to a debilitating injury to his right hand/arm (such as an amputation of the hand and the like) he can no longer use his right arm and now writes and performs activity with his left arm, then he places tefillin on his right arm, as a left-handed person does.

If possible, he should place the tefillin on his left arm, too, though without a berachah.

Eliyahu Ben Masudah & Yaakov ben Senyar

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