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Parashat Beha'alotecha

The Message Of Four Pesukim

Our sacred Torah, each letter of which contains intrinsic sanctity, which is rendered invalid when even a single letter is missing, devotes several pesukim to a conversation between Moshe and his father-in-law, Yitro. Yitro had left his honorable position as priest of Midyan to come to the desert and join Benei Yisrael. Upon hearing all the miracles which Hashem had performed, he converted. He proceeded to propose that Moshe establish an elaborate judicial system, and the Al-mighty agreed to the idea. And so, when the people were on the brink of entering Eres Yisrael, Moshe asked his father-in-law to join. Yitro answered, "No, I will not go. Rather, I will go to my land and birthplace." Moshe insists, "Please, do not leave us, for you have known our encampment in the desert," you have seen with your own eyes all the miracles which have been performed on our behalf, the Clouds of Glory which have encircled us, the pillar of fire which has shown us the way, the "mann" from heaven from which we have been nourished, the rock which has provided us with water - how can you leave this life to return to the culture of Midyan? Come with us, "and that good which Hashem will do for us, we will do the same good for you." Take your portion, not only of the good which is provided for us in the desert, about which is written, "You have lacked nothing," but in Eres Yisrael, as well, the promised land, you will receive your portion!

And so, was Yitro convinced? The Torah, which had allocated four pesukim, sixty-five letters, for this dialogue, didn’t see fit to tell us the end of the story. We know what happened not from this parashah, but from somewhere else. We are told in Sefer Shemot (18:26), "Moshe sent away his father-in-law, and he went back to his land." Apparently, the Torah wants us to focus on Moshe’s words themselves, and to learn the proper lessons from them, regardless of the end result.

Many people, thank G-d, come to Bet Kenesset. Many people are connected to our heritage, are interested in Judaism, want to experience tefilah, Kabbalat Shabbat, and work to transmit to their children a taste of our tradition. We watch them come in, a bit confused, sitting hesitatingly, flipping through the pages of the siddur. Those present in the Bet Kenneset are happy to see them, to see every Jew walk in, but very often they choose to ignore them, preferring that the newcomers get acclimated to the Bet Kenesset by themselves.

Our parashah teaches us that this is not the way. The rabbi, the gabbai, community leader, or be it who it may, turn to them kindly and warmly, just as Moshe, as we are told in Parashat Yitro, went to greet his father-in-law, greeted him graciously, and took him into his tent.

But this is not enough. When the tefilah is over, one must approach the dear guests, and tell them, "Come with us." Join our minyan on a permanent basis, "Come with us and we will do good for you, for Hashem has spoken to do good with Yisrael." We have here a vibrant community life, we have a wonderful group of people - come and take a portion, join us! Even when Yitro responded, "No, thank you," Moshe continued and insisted, didn’t you see how nice things are here, how wonderful it is, how can you not join? Furthermore, "You will be for us like eyes," which Rashi interprets, "You will be as beloved to us as our eyes, as the pasuk says, ‘You shall love the convert.’" And if the convert is so dear to us, than how much more so is this true regarding our dear brothers!

But even this is not enough. The Torah teaches us that Moshe added a promise: "If you come with us, then that good which Hashem will do for us we will do the same good for you." Those who come to join should be accepted with open arms and be offered an equal share of benefits, including aliyot to the Torah, opportunities to open the aron, as well as other "kibbudim." Indeed, Yitro’s descendants sat as judges in the courtyard of the Bet Hamikdash (Sanhedrin 106a).

So, with all this, was Yitro convinced? Could he not have been persuaded to join, after such a warm greeting?

No, impossible. Hazal (Mechilta Yitro 2) teach us that Yitro returned to Midyan where he brought about a revolution, bringing his friends and relatives to the recognition of Hashem, the study of the Torah, and brought them under the wings of the Shechinah. He later returned together with them to the camp of Yisrael, and they shared a portion of Eres Yisrael. A warm, gracious greeting, the transmission of the sense of, “you are our brother,” a feeling of welcoming, can surely bring them to join the congregation on a consistent basis.

The Wonders of the Creator

We have all seen the way uncles, aunts, and grandparents speak to, and laugh with, a baby. They will hold and play with him, as long as the baby opens its mouth and shows the first tooth. The tooth is a sharp, stable bone which grows into the mouth cavity and is, in effect, the hardest material in the human body. You may ask, what is the teeth made out of? It is made out of a white material called enamel. Actually, enamel is only what covers the tooth. Inside is found the actual material of the tooth itself. Several nerves pass through the tooth, which are responsible for the toothaches from which many people suffer on occasion. Just to be clear, the nerves do not cause the pain. They merely serve as an alarm when there is a hole in the tooth which allows for the infiltration of bacteria which can cause serious complications. The nerves "ring" and alert the person, through the pain, to the fact that there is trouble. Let’s face it - if not for the pain, who would run to the dentist to fix their teeth? Not too many people, if any.

A person has 32 teeth - 16 in the lower jaw and 16 in the upper part of the mouth. The eight front teeth - four on top and four on the bottom - are responsible for biting food. Next to them lie the canines, 2 on top and two on the bottom - which are the sharpest teeth in the mouth, triangular in shape. The other teeth have a flat edge. Virtually all food which we eat would not be suited for digestion in the stomach without first being chewed into small pieces in the mouth. Our Creator provided that we are equipped with the front teeth which, for example, can separate from the apple the part which can be chewed, and the three back teeth on each side, on top and on the bottom, which grind the food in perfect harmony. Imagine - if the back teeth were in front and the front teeth were in the back, we would not be able to eat properly. Furthermore, if not for the enamel, an especially hard substance, which lines our teeth, without question our teeth would wear out after just a few years. All this the Creator did in His love for us, so we have good reason to show off our teeth with a big, joyous, smile.

The Rabbi’s Blessing
a continuing saga (part four)

FLASHBACK: Young Yis’hak Goite worked as a servant in a wealthy home in the city of Triast. A righteous messenger from Eres Yisrael visited on a fundraising mission on behalf of the Jews of Israel, and the boy brought to him all his savings as a donation. The sadik was very moved and gave him a berachah that he should soon become wealthy.

In those days, pirating was a booming business. Pirates had fast, armed ships, and they were often based in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Moslem pirates would ambush ships carrying the flag of a Christian country, just as Christians would attack boats with a flag from the Ottoman Empire. The ships were either robbed or sunk, and the passengers and merchandise were sold in the marketplace in the big cities. The people were sold as slaves and the merchandise was sold in the public market.

Once, Yis’hak was on his way back from running some errands for his boss when he passed by the marketplace and heard a roaring sound. The large gathering of people aroused the curiosity of the young boy. He made his way through the crowd and reached the main square. A line of wooden barrels blocked his way. On the stage in front of him a person declared, "Residents of Triast, listen! We sell here the booty of a captured ship. Time is short, as the sailors have just arrived and soon they must leave. We have here lavish silk, beautiful, shiny silk, two hundred cubits worth. Who would like to offer a price?"

Nobody answered.

"Two hundred cubits for fifty dinar!" he cried.

Still, nobody answered.

"Forty dinar - this is almost for free!"

One individual finally walked over to the stage, and placed his hand on the sparkling pile.

"Who offers more?" asked the merchant.

"Forty-five," someone called out.

The tension grew, as the first one never removed his hands from the silk.

"Fifty!" shouted the other.

The first then removed his hand, indicating his pulling out of the bid.

"Fifty!" cried the merchant, and the second bidder won. "Now - these wooden barrels. Does anyone know what they contain - wine, oil?" "Perhaps water," somebody said, evoking laughter on the part of the audience.

"Maybe," confirmed the merchant. "Fifty dinar, who is ready?" Everybody looked at the barrels, on which Yis’hak leaned innocently, unaware that this indicated his consent to the purchase..

The Golden Column
Rabbi Yehudah Ben Atar ZS"L

This Shabbat marks the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Yehudah Ben Atar zs"l, who lived around three hundred years ago. The Or Hahayim zs"l is among his descendants.

The Hid"a zs"l wrote about him that he was "..accustomed to performing miracles, and I have heard about many wonders which happened to him, both during his lifetime and after his death. I have heard from the sacred rabbis of the West that he was a holy man of G-d." The Hid"a tells of the following miracle. The king of Morocco would sometimes arrest the Jewish scholars and free them only at a high ransom. Once he ordered the arrest of Rabbi Yehudah Ben Atar and demanded a huge fortune in exchange. If the ransom was not paid, he warned, the rabbi would be thrown into the lions’ den. The rabbi told the community leaders, "The halachah forbids paying large amounts for the ransom of captives, in order that the captors not repeat the crime. I hereby forbid you from redeeming me."

When the king saw that the Jews failed to pay the money, he ordered that the lions be starved and, subsequently, that the rabbi be thrown into their den. To everyone’s astonishment, the rabbi sat among the lions as they surrounded him, not even touching him. He sat there this way all day and all night, and throngs of people came to behold this amazing sight. Eventually, the king, himself, came to witness the event, and was amazed. He then ordered that the rabbi be freed, and asked for his forgiveness.

From the Wellsprings of the Parasha

"When you light the candles"

Rabbi Avraham Abuhassera zs"l notes that the numerical value of these words equals that of "tefilin rosh, yad, petil" (referring to a pair of tefilin and sisit), 1,605. The message is that "For a misvah is like a candle and Torah is light," that when a Jew wears a talit and tefilin, he lights the candle of misvot and shines light in his soul, "The soul of a person is the candle of Hashem, and his prayer is accepted.

"When you light the candles"

Rabbi David Nehemias zs"l writes that the candles symbolize the misvot, "For a misvah is a candle and Torah is light." Women who assist their husbands fulfill their misvot share a portion in those misvot, and they therefore have a portion even in those misvot from which they themselves are exempt. This is why the pasuk states, “Towards the center of the menorah,” implying that corresponding to the husband’s misvot there are the women’s misvot, alluded to in the word, "menorah," which can be seen as an acronym: "hadlakat ner" (lighting of the Shabbat candles), "misvat nidah" (family purity), "reisheet ha’isah" (the misvah of halah).

"When you light the candles"

Rabbi Mekikass Sheli zs"l of Djerba dedicated his life to the dissemination of Torah, and explained this pasuk as referring to the responsibility of a rabbi to his student. "When you light the candles" - when you want to infuse your students with the light of the Torah, "towards the center of the Torah" - if you want to know whether or not they understood the "sugya" properly, with all its intricacies, "the seven candles should shine" - you should inquire and expound with seven inquiries, in order to ensure that they understood the material.

"The seven candles should shine"

In Midrash Tanhuma in Parashat Tesaveh, Rabbi Hanina Segan Hakohanim testified, "I served in the Bet Hamikdash, and several miracles occurred in the menorah. When they would light it on Rosh Hashanah, it would not be extinguished until the following year!" Rabbi Shalom Hakohen zs"l, rabbi of Zarsis, in his work, "Nahar Shalom," writes that "the seven candles should shine" has the same numerical value as the expression, "The kohen would light it on Rosh Hashanah and it would not be extinguished for the entire year"!

"Towards the center of the menorah the seven candles should shine"

Rabbi Ovadia Seforno zs"l explains that the candles on the right symbolize those who study Torah, and those on the left represent people who work and support Torah. They both face the center of the menorah, as they all together form a single unit. The two sets of candles face each other with love and affection. Hashem’s will is carried out through the combined efforts of the entire nation, working together.

Drag Him into the Bet Midrash

Our parashah tells of the nation’s journey from Har Sinai. They had remained there for about a year, from Rosh Hodesh Sivan until 20 Iyar. Besides the unfortunate mishap of the golden calf, which occurred in a moment of frenzy and through the initiative of the "erev rav," no transgression was committed by the nation throughout their stay at Sinai. Just as they left the mountain, they immediately sinned in the incidents of the "mitonenim," the spies, and the rest of the mishaps about which we read in Sefer Bemidbar. Why? The Maharsha zs"l (Shabbat 116) explains that Har Sinai was a Bet Midrash for them, a place where they grew in Torah. When they left Har Sinai, they, in effect, left the Bet Midrash.

Rabbi Yeruham zs"l of Mir asks, that although it is understood how an individual might stumble upon leaving the confines of the Bet Midrash, how could the entire nation stumble when the entire "yeshivah," as it were, left together? They left the mountain not to go to the streets, but to the desert, with Moshe leading the way!

We see that the confines of the yeshivah themselves offer a unique protection. A person must make a concerted effort to spend time in this special environment, and take extra special care upon his departure from the yeshivah.

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Belittling Israel (part II)

Mr. Goodfriend: The tendency to belittle the sublime men of Israel’s antiquity is based on three factors: 1) Superficial understanding of the Scriptures; 2) Gentile bias against Israel, especially because Israel rejected the Nazarene and Mohammed; and 3) the Evil Inclination which seeks to deprecate Israel so that the nations should not perceive Israel’s excellence and thereby learn their ways. The Scriptural censure was due to G-d’s love for Israel. The truth about the generation of the Wilderness we can learn from the mouths of those who did not wish to censure. The 250 leaders of Korach’s assembly declared: "The entire congregation are holy, every one of them; and the L-rd is in their midst" (Bemidbar 16:3). Bileam declared: "He (G-d) has beheld no iniquity in Jacob, and He has seen no wrong in Israel" (ibid., 23:21).


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a

One Who Makes Ha'ess on Wine

One who eats grapes and drinks wine should first recite the appropriate berachah for each, and at the end recites a single berachah me’en shalosh which fulfills the requirement for both the grapes and the wine. If the individual mistakenly recites "hagefen" over the grapes he has fulfilled his obligation, since grapes are also called, "fruit of the vine," and thus this case is similar to that of one who mistakenly recites "ha’adamah" over fruit. Since fruits, too, grow from the ground, the individual has fulfilled his obligation.

Generally, one who squeezes the juice from a fruit recites "shehakol" on the juice, since it has lost the significance of the fruit. If he recites ha’ess, he has not fulfilled his requirement and must recite a shehakol, as the juice is considered nothing more than "perspiration" of the fruit. The only exception is juice of fruits which are entirely squeezed, in a manner so that the entire fruit is dissolved, and after the squeezing only the rind is left, that in such a case, according to some views, this juice is to be considered the fruit itself which has changed its form. Since the Shulhan Aruch rules that a change of the fruit’s form does not yield a change in the required berachah (Shulhan Aruch 202:7), if one mistakenly recites ha’ess on such juice instead of shehakol, he has still fulfilled his obligation, since there is a dispute as to whether he should recite a new berachah, and we refrain from reciting berachot whose requirement is the subject of doubt. However, other juices, where much of the fruit remains after the juice is squeezed, one who mistakenly recites "ha’ess" must recite a shehakol, as he has not fulfilled his obligation.

What about one who mistakenly recites ha’ess over wine? The Aharonim are in dispute as to whether or not the individual has fulfilled his requirement. The "Ginat Veradim" writes that he has fulfilled his obligation, since the wine has more significance than the grapes themselves, as evidenced by the fact that it requires a more significant berachah than do the grapes. Thus, wine is not considered a mere outgrowth of the fruit, but should rather be seen as a fruit unto itself, and thus the berachah of ha’ess is appropriate, and the individual has fulfilled his obligation. (This is similar to the halachah regarding oil, that one who drinks oil which does not harm him recites ha’ess, not shehakol, as it is considered a fruit unto itself.) However, the Magen Avraham writes that the individual has not fulfilled his obligation. The Yad Efrayim explains this position, that since the wine has been afforded a status more significant than that of the grapes, as evidenced by the fact that is was given a more specific berachah, it can never lose that status. (It may be that this point is a dispute among the rishonim - see Sha’ar HaSiyun 208:67). The Mishnah Berurah (208:70) rules that since we never recite a berachah whose requirement is in doubt, we do not require such an individual to recite another berachah over the wine, and such is the ruling of the Kaf Hahayim.

In summary, one who recites ha’adamah over carrot juice must recite a shehakol, as he has not fulfilled his obligation. However, if a ha’ess was recited over juice from a fruit which is completely dissolved into the juice, a new berachah is not required, and similarly one who recites ha’ess over wine does not recite another berachah. Furthermore, one who recites hagefen over grapes does not recite another berachah.

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