CHILDREN AND ADULTS
When the Vilna Gaon conducted his personal exile, his journeys took him to
the home of a certain rabbi. Upon recognizing the great stature of his
guest, the rabbi told the Gaon, "I have here a Humash, which came to me as
an inheritance from my scholarly grandfather. Alongside the pasuk, 'and
[Hashem appointed] the minor luminary to rule by night,' my grandfather
wrote the acronym, 'GVASAK"H.' I have shown this marking to many great
scholars, but no one can decipher the code for me!"
The Gaon explained that the rabbi's grandfather, through this acronym, was
addressing the question, why does the pasuk initially describe both the
and the moon as "large," and then describe the moon as being "small"? The
answer is that the moon does not contain any light of its own. It merely
receives its light from the sun. That is why the moon was said to have
small, because we have a principle in halachah, "gadol v'samuch al shulhan
aviv, katan hu," an adult who still depends upon his father's support is
considered a minor. This, explained the Gaon, was the acronym inscribed by
the rabbi's grandfather: "GVASAK"H."
Examining this principle a little deeper, a powerful lesson emerges. We
have been granted such a rich heritage, such a splendid culture. We
dozens of generations of great wisdom and insight, in all areas of
What, then, is achieved by those who choose to be supported by the weak,
flimsy backing of the shallow, empty Western culture? By doing so, they
turn themselves into "minors," helpless and dependant upon others for
RABBI NAHMAN'S STORY
A week has already passed since the end of the holiday season, from our
celebration of Simhat Torah. A full week of regular, routine weekdays has
already passed, and perhaps now is the time to take a look back, to
to survey, to see how we have changed and how our lives have been impacted
by this recent period of festivals. In what way were we influenced by the
month of Elul, the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and
If, indeed, we acknowledge that the season has passed with no impact upon
us, then a frightening question arises: is this how low we really are?
we really so insensitive and out of touch with spirituality, that we can
experience these holy days and emerge as the exact same people as we were
beforehand? So as to prevent any such feelings of hopelessness and
we will tell a story told by the great ssadik, Rabbi Nahman of Breslav
This story involves a certain ssadik who conducted an intense process of
introspection, reviewing and taking inventory of his deeds, thoughts ands
overall character traits. Needless to say, when a ssadik embarks on such
endeavor he finds faults of some sort in all his deeds and thoughts. As a
result, this ssadik was overcome by depression, and, as we know, sadness
the father of all sin. No matter how hard he tried to resist his
melancholy, he couldn't. How could he rejoice? For what - the missvah he
performed? He can't - it was deficient. In the "tefilah" that he prayed?
It lacked the proper concentration. Finally, he concluded that, at very
least, his missvot are incomplete, but still worthy to some degree. Okay,
they weren't 100%, but they were 50%; and if not that, then at least they
were one-third or one-quarter satisfactory. "Even if my missvot are not
perfect," he said to himself, "I have still been privileged to serve my
Creator, to approach Him, to do His will. The angels long for the
opportunity to do even a fraction of a missvah and they can't.
there are so many people in the world who have no concept whatsoever of
their destiny and purpose, and thus perform nothing!" At this point, he
rejoiced in the very fact that he is a Jew, a descendant of Avraham,
and Yaakov, a child of the Almighty Himself. He strives to follow the
set before us by the patriarchs, to cling to his Creator. The more he
considered his great fortune, that indeed, "How fortunate are we, how
is our portion, and how pleasant is our lot," the happier he was and the
more intensely he was attached to Hashem. Ultimately, he reached the
of joy comparable to that of none other than Mosheh Rabbeinu as he
Har Sinai to receive the Torah. In his state of intense joy, he felt
himself growing from one level to the next, floating up into the heavens,
flying in the sky, soaring to the greatest heights like an angel. But
in this powerful state of mind, one thought concerned him and troubled him
to no end. By its very nature, spiritual growth develops and intensifies
a climax, from where it then inevitably declines. This is the way of the
world, and undoubtedly his continued progression upward would result in
same reversal. Here he was, surging higher and higher to previously
unimaginable heights of spirituality - who knows what vast distances he
covered, how far he had reached? So when he declines, who knows where he
will land! For himself, he was confident in his Creator that He will
protect him and never abandon him, no matter where he falls. But what
his family do when they see that he had disappeared? The entire city will
have to get together and form a search party. They will look high and low
and come up empty. This thought settled into his mind and detracted from
his joy. As a result, he began gradually descending, and he was
Where will he find himself? How and where will he land? He had gone so
- Hashem only knows! Finally, he felt the solid ground under his feet.
looked around and recognized his surroundings: the same city, same house,
same room. He was almost in the precise location from where he ascended.
Rabbi Nahman writes, "He looked at himself and saw that he was exactly
he was to begin with; he had not moved at all. Perhaps he had moved a
hair's breadth, incalculable and indiscernible by human beings, only by
Almighty Himself. The ssadik could not understand - he flew up to the
heavens and came back down, but did not move at all. In this way he was
shown that even the slightest movement and progression, even smaller than
hair's breadth, is so precious before Hashem that many thousands of worlds
are not worth this slight movement forward!"
Obviously, this story is a parable, teaching us a critical lesson.
Throughout the month of Elul, Yamim Noraim and Sukkot we "floated." We
experienced profound spiritual elevation and sensed a feeling of closeness
to Hashem. We experienced genuine fear of judgement and equally sincere
of the Torah. At the time, these feelings were genuine and true. Now we
have "landed," and we find ourselves in the exact same spot as from where
"took off." How could this be? The answer is, no! We are not in the
spot. These sacred days of awe and joy have undoubtedly impacted us, if
only a hair's breadth. And we cannot even imagine how precious and dear
that hair's breadth is before the Almighty!
We now come upon Shabbat Bereishit, a sacred day of Shabbat from beginning
to end. Let's try to use this Shabbat to grow, and who knows if next week
we will be even a hair's breadth higher than this week!
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"In the beginning, Hashem created"
The Ar"i HaKadosh zs"l explains that the Torah begins with the letter
(the second letter) rather than "alef" (the first letter) because the
of the Torah are grounded, in effect, in the upper, spiritual worlds,
signified by the letter "alef." For example, the missvah of Shabbat was
given to us because on this day the spiritual worlds undergo a process of
elevation and receive spiritual bounty from the worlds above them. Thus,
one who properly observes Shabbat receives a portion from that bounty,
whereas one who desecrates the Shabbat has detracted from the bounty,
forbid. Thus, the missvot are, in essence, the physical expression of the
spiritual reality. In other words, the spiritual reality itself is the
"alef," while the missvot constitute the "bet."
"In the beginning, Hashem created"
The Hid"a zs"l writes that he heard from a certain God-fearing, elderly
that in one version of numerical calculation (when including two
expansions of the letters), the words "Bereishit bara" ("In the beginning,
He created") has the equivalent numerical value as the pasuk, "Shema
Yisrael..." The Hid"a explains that the very beginning of the Torah
to Hashem's singularity and all the characteristics of the concealed
underlying this principle. All this is hinted at right at the beginning
He then suggests that the letters of 'Bereishit' stand for "bekol ram
avarech Shem Hashem tamid" - "I will always bless the Name of God in a
voice." This acronym alludes to the fact that one must recite a berachah
loudly and clearly, to allow others to hear the berachah and recite amen.
"In the beginning, Hashem created"
Rabbi Mekikass Sheli zs"l cites in this context the comments of the Gemara
(Sanhedrin 91) regarding the pasuk, "He calls to the heavens from above,
to the land to judge His people." The heavens refer to the soul, while
here alludes to the body. Both body and soul will stand trial and be held
accountable for their deeds. Thus, in the beginning of the Torah there is
an allusion to the fact that man was created from a blend and complex
composition of heaven and earth, body and soul, which must participate
together in the observance of the Torah and the performance of missvot.
Rabbi Mekikass adds that the Torah, too, is composed of both elements.
There is the body - the actual missvot and practical halachot, and then
there is the soul - the underlying reasons and hidden concepts behind the
actual laws. These two elements must blend together and complement one
another, in order to form a complete, perfect unit of Torah.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rabbi Yehudah Etyah zs"l
Rabbi Yehudah Etyah zs"l was of the great rabbis of greater Aram Ssoba,
was constantly involved in Torah learning. When his wife would give him
some money to purchase groceries for Shabbat and festivals, he would give
the money to Shalom Hakim, who owned the shop in the marketplace, and he
would buy the items and bring them to Rabbi Yehudah's home.
One day his wife told him, "This is the last of our savings, so please
carefully and buy only that which we really need." The rabbi left, and on
his way to Shalom Hakim's booth he encountered another shopkeeper,
Revia, who was sitting and crying over money that he had just lost. Rabbi
Yehudah thought to himself, these are my very last coins. What am I going
to do after I spend them? I will have to trust in the Creator to provide.
If so, then why can't I trust in Him now, as well, even before I buy my
food! And so, he gave Yeshayahu the money, and proceeded to the Bet
He came home, and his wife asked him, "What did you order in the market?"
"I ordered many great delicacies," he answered, "and when Shalom comes
the delivery you will see."
The next day, his wife turned to him and said, "Shalom hasn't brought
"It's still early," Rabbi Yehudah answered.
Before dusk they heard a knock at the door. The delivery-man stood at the
door, dressed in his uniform, holding an official document. Rabbi Yehudah
opened the envelope and found fifty lirot, an enormous sum of money, a
from the Hadiah family in America.
He then told his wife, "Let me run over to the marketplace to see why
never brought the groceries. One thing I can tell you, though - I ordered
large amount of goods, and my order was delivered in full."
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
Chapter 10: The Laws of Tallit
Strictly speaking, there is no obligation to wear a four-cornered "tallit
katan" throughout the day. The obligation is only to wear ssissit if one
wishes to wear a four-cornered garment.
Nevertheless, it is most desirable for every individual to make the effort
to fulfil this precious missvah throughout the day, as this missvah is
equivalent to all missvot in the Torah (Menahot 43b). Furthermore, this
missvah helps one remember the missvot at every moment, as the pasuk says
(Bemidbar 15:39), "You will see it and you will remember all the missvot
Hashem and perform them."
Whereas the tallit gadol should be worn on top of all one's clothes, the
tallit katan, according to the custom of the Sefaradim and all "Edot
Hamizrah," should be worn specifically underneath one's clothing, and the
strings should not be left outside one's clothes.
Every Jewish male should wear a tallit katan at all hours of the day. The
especially meticulous make sure not to walk four cubits without wearing a
The Zohar writes (Parashat Shelah 175a) that even one wearing a tallit
should make sure to wear a tallit gadol during the recitation of shema and
The prevalent custom among the Jewish people is to wear a tallit gadol for
Shaharit alone. Some Kabbalists, however, had the custom of wearing a
tallit gadol (and placing tefillin) for the Minhah prayer, as well. The
custom is to wrap oneself in the tallit after reciting birkot hashahar and
birkot haTorah. It is preferable not to remove one's tallit until after
completion of the tefilah, after "aleinu." One who prays "Arvit" before
sunset (after pelag haminhah) should preferably be wearing a tallit katan.
The custom in Yerushalayim is to wear tallit and tefillin in the Bet
Kenesset for Shaharit on Tisha B'Av. Others, however, have the custom of
wearing tallit and tefillin in the Bet Kenesset on Tisha B'Av during
only, and they recite Shaharit without tallit and tefillin. Those who
follow this practice have authorities on whom to rely. Preferably,
those who follow this practice should try to put on tallit and tefillin in
their homes before Shaharit and recite shema while wearing tallit and
tefillin (after the recitation of birkot haTorah). After reciting the
shema, the tallit and tefillin should be removed for Shaharit, and then
again for the Minhah service.
A mourner during "shivah" wears a tallit gadol during Shaharit, even on
first day of mourning, when tefillin is not worn.
One who does not have a tallit and may miss public tefilah should he wait
for a tallit should pray with the congregation without a tallit rather
wait for his tallit and thus sacrifice praying with a minyan. At very
least, however, he should be wearing a tallit katan as he prays.
One should hold the ssissit with his left hand near his heart as he
According to the Ar"i zs"l and the Kabbalists, one should hold all four
strings in his hand. Others, however, maintain that only the two front
strings should be held.
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
Tiny Beasts of Prey
Try to guess which animals of prey are the strongest and most vicious in
relation to their size. The answer is not the tiger, leopard or lion, not
even the wolf. The answer is rather tiny creatures - really small -
creatures without vertebrae, such as crabs, spiders, small insects, and
others. One of the most dangerous creatures of prey - the dragonfly - has
the misleading appearance of a nice, gentle insect that flies over puddles
and streams. It has a large head with two large eyes, each of which
contains around a thousand small eyes. Its sharp vision and speed makes
qualify as a first-rate hunter. It can catch its prey both while on the
hunt as well as while sitting and relaxing. Its two pairs of wings allow
to accelerate to a speed of thirty kph while searching for insects. Its
ability to change colors, albeit somewhat restricted, also assists in its
chase after prey. It can camouflage itself in one of its colors,
from the sight of the unsuspecting victim. As its defense mechanism is
down, the prey stands no chance against the dragonfly's surprise attack.
Another small insect, a type of wasp, prepares in advance the food needed
for all its young it will produce throughout its life. It accomplishes
by hunting spiders and other crawling insects. Through the poison it
injects with its stinger, this creature paralyzes its victim. Its
and stinger allow it to hunt even dangerous, poisonous spiders. First it
hovers above the spider, and then it thrusts its venom into the
prey. It then carries its meal into its hive and lays its eggs, thus
ensuring that the offspring will have its food ready for it right upon
One who sees such a tiny creature will find it awfully surprising that
can be so vicious. Indeed, external appearance can easily mislead
unknowing onlookers. Now this isn't such a big deal with regard to the
characteristics of one creature or the next. Besides the scientific
knowledge, this information won't make one bit of difference to the
individual. But it's a different matter entirely when the external
appearance of a person prevents him from striving towards the source of
truth, lives of Torah and missvot. One who succeeds to overcome
preconceived notions can expect a warm and pleasant surprise. He will
the benefit of the great light provided by the Torah and the fulfilment of
missvot, something which cannot be matched by anything else in the world.
The Deserted Woman of Jerusalem (The End)
A story taken from the book, "Hasaraf MiBrisk,"
the story of the life of
Maharil Diskin zs"l
Flashback: Mereishah, who was abandoned by her unscrupulous husband, was
instructed by the Seraf of Brisk, Mahari"l Diskin zs"l, to go to Paris to
find her husband. The day she arrived, a wedding was taking place at the
inn where she was lodging. She looked on and identified the groom as her
husband, at which point she fainted. Upon regaining her consciousness,
told her story to the local rabbi who was about to conduct the wedding
ceremony, and he told the bride's father what had happened. The father
spoke to his daughter, and they both decided that they could not bear the
embarrassment of cancelling the wedding. The father asked that the rabbi
"finish the business" and start the huppah.
"In order to 'finish the business' as you asked," said the rabbi, "we must
arrange for the giving of a 'get.'"
"Okay, we can do that in ten minutes," said the father, and he promised to
pay the fee. The rabbi noticed out of the corner of his eye how the groom
suddenly straightened up on his chair and the smile returned to his mouth.
He was about to earn the total elimination of his past, he wouldn't even
need to keep his secret and fear the uncovering his past. After all, his
bride and father-in-law know full well about his past; never again could
they contend that they were tricked or misled. The rabbi sensed what was
going through the groom's mind, and realized that a simple arrangement
as payment for the "get" is not enough. "Arranging the 'get' is not the
problem," he explained. "The real issue here is that the deserted woman
demands compensation for her suffering, an amount that will guarantee her
future as well as that of her children. I believe that a Bet Din must be
convened in order to determine an appropriate payment."
"We can have the entire issue settled in ten minutes," the father
guaranteed. "I promised this person over here that I would give ten
thousand franks as a dowry. Certainly he would agree to transfer that sum
over to his former wife and children. I believe this would be enough for
Ten thousands franks - a fortune! The rabbi caught a glimpse of the
gritting teeth, as the glimmer of delight quickly disappeared from his
The father-in-law took the guarantee from his pocket and said, "All you
to do is change the name. The rabbi can already begin arranging the
Let's finish this whole affair and get on with the wedding."
Mereishah returned to Yerushalayim as one of the wealthiest women in the
city. She paid the "General Council" for the expenses of her trip and
married off her children generously. Rabbi Naftali Ssevi Parush, the son
Rabbi Shelomoh Zalman who brought Mereishah to the Seraf of Brisk in the
first place, recorded this incident in his work, "so as to point out the
greatness and sanctity of our rabbi zs"l as the worker of wonders, who
a Jewish woman in most wondrous fashion from her state of abandonment."
A SHEEP LOST IN THE STRAW
We have no choice. No matter how well everyone knows the story, no matter
how many times it has been repeated, perhaps even exhausted, we must tell
again. The criticisms and condemnations have themselves become
and yet we don't find people too tired to repeat them constantly, to find
new versions of the slander and yield from them false accusations and
King David says in Tehillim (119:176), "I have strayed like a lost sheep,
seek Your servant." Rav Bunim of Peshischa zs"l once sat with his hasidim
and asked, "Who among you can tell me the explanation of the pasuk, 'I
strayed like a lost sheep, seek Your servant'? How can a sheep get lost
He meant that the word "bekash" - "seek" - may also be understood as the
contraction, "be-kash," in straw. His disciples were baffled by the
question, and no one dared point out that the pasuk is not referring to
straw. They understood that something deeper must underly the rebbi's
The rebbi explained with a story of a plague that broke out in the forest,
decimating the wildlife that inhabited the woods. The lion thought to
himself, "There is no punishment without sin, and there is no death
some guilt; we must therefore examine our deeds to find out why this
calamity has struck."
And so, the entire animal kingdom was assembled for an urgent meeting to
conduct a process of introspection and repentance. The lion opened the
session by confessing, "I recall my sin before the public audience - every
day I consume two sheep and conclude my meal with several young lambs."
All the animals responded in unison, "This involves no wrongdoing - a king
can do as he pleases, and nobody can stop him!"
Then the wolf spoke up, confessing his sin, as well: "I also have attacked
flocks, taking for myself sheep indiscriminately!"
The animals calmed him down, as well: "This is how it is by nature -
attack and plunder. This constitutes no sin!"
Then the bear stood up and confessed to having stolen an entire honeycomb.
He, too, was comforted by the others, who noted that this is the way of
world, that bears take honey for themselves.
But they all wondered, if so, if we cannot find any guilty party, on whose
account was the forest devestated by plague?
A meek, frail sheep stood up and confessed humbly and regretfully, "Once I
was overcome by hunger, beyond control. I saw a roof of a hut covered
straw, so I climbed up and chewed on some straw."
"Aha!" they all cried. "Because of you we have suffered this calamity!"
Immediately, the lion, bear and wolf pounced on the sheep and killed it
its crime, turning his flesh into their supper.
This is what David said in Tehillim: Master of the World, there is so much
corruption in the world, in all walks of life. Look at those who condemn
religion in the universities, the sinful behavior in theaters, discos,
sports teams, and everywhere else. People spend so much money for vanity,
in their gluttonous pursuit of nothingness. It was admitted that the
Minister of Education in Israel could save four hundred million shekels
without affecting anything, but doesn't, in order that he can maintain his
honor and respectability. In kibbussim they teach just nine children in a
classroom, under fantastic conditions. Nobody would dream of cutting back
the budget - they continue to throw more and more funding into these
programs. Alas, they found the cuplrit, they identified the soft-spoken
sheep, the small classes in the Torah educational system. If they beat
sheep, then all the problems will suddenly be solved, and only then will
lion, bear and wolf live complete, fulfilled, and satiated lives.