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Parashat Behar-Behukotai


This Shabbat, we read the list of berachot which we will enjoy if we observe the misvot as well as the opposite, Heaven forbid. Upon taking a closer look, it becomes clear that the "tochahah" (as this section is called) divides into two sections. The first stage of retribution for our misdeeds is suffering and anguish in Eres Yisrael itself, Heaven forbid, through enemy attacks and natural disasters. The second section describes the next phase of punishment: "I will scatter you among the nations...and you will be in your enemies' land...and those of you who remain will wither in their sins in their enemies' land..." Heaven forbid.

Why? Why couldn’t all the punishments surface within Israel itself? Why do we need to be exiled to a foreign land as part ofour suffering for our transgressions?

The Maggid of Duvna zs"l offered an answer to this question through a parable, one which touches upon an all too familiar condition.

There was once a wealthy man who was particularly noteworthy for his hospitality. He would invite all types of guests into his home, and he noticed a marked difference in behavior between various guests. The peasants who ate in his home ate large quantities of basic necessities - bread and basic cooked dishes. They would not be satisfied with quality, salty fish and other fine foods. Furthermore, their table manners left much to be desired. The wealthy businessmen whom he would host as they traveled, on the other hand, were more accustomed to fancy delicacies and were very careful about proper etiquette as they ate. They always preferred fine china and silverware, and conducted themselves with dignity. They were appalled by the rash, uncivilized eating habits of the peasants, by the way they used their hands, licked their fingers, and chewed noisily. Meanwhile, the peasants could not understand the restrained, disciplined manners of their aristocratic counterparts. The use of silverware seemed to them like a healthy person walking on crutches.

Therefore, the host decided to divide his table. His wealthy guests were invited to the front of the table, where the dishes and silverware were set properly with napkins and a fancy tablecloth. Food was served at this side of the table in expensive, luxurious utensils. The paupers sat at the end of the table, with some plates and cups, as bread and hot stews were served. These guests would tear the bread into pieces and dip them into the stew, eating in their accustomed manner and to their heart's content.

Once, as the host sat in his usual seat at the head of the table, and scores of guests sat around, a man dressed in distinguished garb respectfully entered the room. The host greeted him warmly and invited him to wash his hands and sit next to him. The guest was somewhat struck by this show of respect, recited the berachah and began eating. He noticed all the small plates of different types of salads served at his end of the table in contrast to the plain bread, raw vegetables and stew at the other end. He took note of how the guests on the opposite end took everything with their hands and shoved the food into their mouths hungrily. Following their lead, he reached over across the table, grabbed a handful of vegetables, and stuffed them into his mouth.

"Please," send the host, "go over there and sit at the other end of the table." The guest was so taken aback he almost choked. Insulted, he asked his host, "This is the hospitality for which you are so well-known? Is this proper, to insult your guest and drive him to the end of the table?"

"No, please don't be angry, you misunderstood," replied the host. "There is no such thing as 'the end of the table' in this house. There are two sections at this table, and I had initially thought that you belonged to this side, with those who eat more delicately. When I saw that this is not the case, that you prefer the food and habits of the other side of the table, I figured it would be easier for you to sit at the other end, rather than having to reach over. This way, you can eat what you please and how you please without any trouble!"

Eres Yisrael is a sacred land. "The air of your land is the air of the spirit," declared Rabbi Yehudah Halevi zs"l. There is no Torah study like that of Eress Yisrael (Beresheet Rabbah 16:7) and its air gives wisdom to its inhabitants (Bava Batra 158b). Prophecy occurs only in Eres Yisrael (Moed Katan 25a) and it is the piece of land suitable for Benei Yisrael (Bemidbar Rabbah 63).

This is fine and good, but when is all this true? When we come to the country to take advantage of its sacred quality, tostudy Torah and enhance our performance of misvot, to live enriched, Jewish lives therein, to follow the path established by our forefathers, and to continue our holy tradition. But when we live in Israel glancing over to the corrupt behavior of the other nations, when we live in Israel but pay closer attention to the sporting events of the rest of the world, when we live here but imitate the dress and lifestyle of the people out there, when we adopt all the habits and values of foreign cultures, then we are asked, "Why are you here? You don’t belong at this end!"

Let us return to our roots, to our source. Let us restore our heritage to its place, and the Al-mighty will restore our exiles to their homeland!

Two Women At Meron

Around one hundred and thirty years ago, Rabbi Shemuel of Selonim, who was then a young man, visited Eres Yisrael and went to Har Meron, the grave site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai. As he approached, he encountered two women standing near the holy site. One was poor and embittered, whereas the other seemed well off. The impoverished woman cried, and poured her trouble-stricken heart out to the great "Tanna." Her husband was unemployed and her children were hungry. Her daughter had reached adulthood but the mother cannot afford to marry her off. When she finished her prayers, the wealthy woman turned to her and asked, "Tell me, my dear friend, how much money do you need?" The poor woman could not even speak. The stranger continued, "How much money do you need to marry off your daughter? How much do you need to feed your family for a year, or to pay your rent?" The woman was shocked and began listing her needs. The wealthy money made the calculation, opened her wallet, took out some gold coins, and gave her the complete amount, generously adding more to the final total.

The poor woman could not find the words to thank her benefactor, offered her an emotional blessing, and left. The wealthy woman then turned to the great Tanna and said, "This woman who was here, she turned to you for salvation, she pleaded that you beg before the Al-mighty on her behalf. But I was in a position to help her, and I did. I have no children. I know that you can help me, that you can plead my case in the heavens. Therefore, just as I did what I could for that impoverished woman, please, do what you can to help me!" The woman then burst out in tears.

Rabbi Shemuel said that he has no doubt that the woman’s wish was granted. She asked properly, and, in truth, she deserved to be answered. If she helped another, she deserves to be helped, and, indeed, whoever shows compassion on others - Hashem will have compassion on him. May each individual do what he can on behalf of others, be it financially, offering a loan, or simply encouragement and sound advice. Give a helping hand when there are difficulties in someone else’s home, take more of interest in the children, and take care of parents. If everybody does what he can to help others - he will be assisted many times more from Hashem, with an abundance of berachah and salvation.

The WOnders of the Creator
The Ear

The ear contains three parts: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. Every sound which enters the ear is amplified by the hammer which beats on the eardrum. If every single sound would actually reach a person, he would become deaf from the noise of the drum. Therefore, the Al-mighty provided the ear with the Eustachian tube which is full of fluid which moderates the force of the sound. It also contains a pipe which brings air to the inner ear. The drum can function only when there is a balance of air pressure between the two sides of the ear, and, in effect, one would not be able to hear properly otherwise. Inside the air lies the snail-shaped cochlea which contains up to 20,000 fibers, ranging in size from 1/20 to ˝ of a millimeter. They act like the strings on a guitar, which receive the sound waves and result in what we hear as sound. These chords can distinguish between 40,000 different sounds. If they are even the slightest bit damaged, the person’s hearing is impaired. Think for a moment how smart it is that a person has two ears, one on either side of his head, so that he can identify from which direction a given sound is coming. We won’t even get into the details of the inner ear which affords the person the ability to discern weight and maintain his balance. If this part of the ear does not function properly, the person gets dizzy and could even faint.

For us, all we can do is pray that we will know how to properly use our ears, so that we never reach the state where halachah, mussar, or wonders of nature reach our ears with no subsequent effect. The ears must never be forgotten or left on a passive mode.

They should be transformed into an integral part of Jewish existence, guiding us to follow the Word of Hashem, and then will our ears have fulfilled their ultimate function.

The Rabbi's Blessing
a continuing saga (part one)

Three hundred years ago, there lived a poor family in Tripoli. In this sense, they were not an unusual family, as there were as many impoverished families in Tripoli as there were well-to-do ones. However, the head of the Goite household was not content with this arrangement. His family's poverty and suffering pained his heart. He thought to himself that by moving to a new location his fortune would change. He had heard so much about the wealth of the Jewish community in Italy, across the sea, and decided to try his luck there. He saved one penny at a time until he finally herded his family on a ship, on their way to Italy.

The port in Triast was an exceptionally busy one, as it was the window from Europe to other continents. There were merchants who would travel to and from the port, many different types of travelers would pass through. The commerce was flourishing, and the Jews took a prominent role. The Goite family arrived and joined the huge Jewish community. However, the process of absorption was a difficult one. The language was foreign and the job opportunities were scarce. The father made a living by doing odd jobs and waited every day for his fortune to change. In the meantime, he could not afford to provide an education for his son, Yis'hak, and he had hardly enough to feed him. Heartbroken, he gave him to one of the wealthy families in the community where he would work. There he would be well fed and his needs would be provided. "Each week come and receive his salary," said the man to the father.

"No," said the father passionately. "I cannot do that. Give the salary to him. Let him save some money for his future so that he will be able to marry and build a family, so he wont be like me, poor and distraught" The wealthy man was overcome with emotion, as well, as guaranteed the father that he would treat the boy kindly and graciously. Indeed, there was no way he could have treated him differently.

The boy was constantly happy, upbeat and pleasant, with a good spirit and smile. He was upright and disciplined, G-d-fearing and clear of all suspicions. His sweet personality was truly a delight, and, in his innocence, never suspected anything..

to be continued...

The Golden Column
Rabbi Haim Shaul Hakohen Dweck zs"l

One hundred and forty years ago, the saintly Rabbi Haim Shaul Hakohen Dweck zs"l, was born in Aram Soba. At the age of thirty-two, he moved to Yerushalayim where he became a distinguished leader, the head of the Kabbalists at that time. During the First World War, he developed an illness in his eyes, and the doctors recommended that he travel to Alexandria, Egypt, for an operation to restore his vision. But the great sadik refused, insisting that he would rather be blind than leave the holy land.

Rabbi Noah Gad Weintraub zs"l of Yerushalayim, son of the saintly Rabbi Yaakov David of Radumask zs"l, told the following story in his work, "Even Hen":

When Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Satrikov zs"l visited Yerushalayim, Rabbi Noah Gad approached him and asked what he should name his father's work on Sefer Tehillim, which he had arranged and was soon to be published.

Although the sadik was at first reluctant to answer, he eventually responded, "Name the work, 'Imrei David.'"

Rabbi Noah Gad left and, on the way home, decided to visit Rabbi Haim Shaul Hakohen Dweck. He asked him, too, what name he should give to his father's work. Immediately, the sadik answered, "Call it, 'Imrei David.'"

Rabbi Noah Gad was stunned and said, "I just came from speaking with the rebbe of Satrikov, and he came up with this name only after reflecting for some time. It seems that my rabbi came upon this name with ruah hakodesh!"

Rabbi Haim Shaul agreed and said, "Indeed, this is called ru'ah hakodesh."

Rabbi Noah Gad used to say, "This is no wonder. Anyone who ascended the ladder of Rabbi Pinhas ben Yair, step by step, will naturally reach the level of ru’ah hakodesh."

"The One Who Builds Jerusalem"

This Sunday marks "Yom Yerushalayim," the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. Whose heart didn't pound with excitement upon hearing the dramatic declaration, "The kotel is in our hands!" when the young, kibbuss-born paratroopers broke out in tears upon approaching the kotel? How symbolic it is, that this day occurs precisely one week before Shavuot, the commemoration of our receiving the Torah! Only with our increased Torah study and meticulous misvah observance will Jerusalem remain in our hands as an eternal capital. Only then will our enemies retreat, and the Glory of Hashem will shine upon us forever. The Bet Hamikdash, a building of fire, will descend from the heavens. When will this happen? It will come down when it is built. From what materials in this Bet Hamikdash built? It is constructed from our misvot, our Torah study. Each misvah adds a brick to the edifice. Each Torah class we attend adds another dimension. For this reason we refer to Hashem in our prayers as, "the One Who builds Jerusalem" and "the One who redeems Israel," in the present tense, for the Temple is built on an ongoing basis through our misvot ("Divrei Shemuel" 132).

The story is told of the "Divrei Hayim" zs"l who sat at his table and said, "The construction of the Bet Hamikdash in the heavens has been completed. Only the 'parochet' [curtain] is missing." One of the rabbis at the table responded, "We are confident that our rabbi, through his Torah and tefilah, will finish it." The sadik remained silent. A little while later, he remarked, "A war is currently taking place in the heavens, like the war which led to the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. Each misvah adds a brick of fire, but each violation, every act of Shabbat desecration, every slanderous comment about another, destroys and interferes with the construction."

As we said, Yom Yerushalayim has significance only insofar as it serves as a preparation for Shavuot, the commemoration of our acceptance of the misvot. Let us all increase our attendance at Torah classes and misvah observance, and we will thereby increase the number of bricks in the heavenly Bet Hamikdash, to bring even sooner the rebuilding of Yerushalayim!


"Hashem said to Moshe on Har Sinai"

Hazal ask a famous question: "What does 'shemittah' have to do with Har Sinai?" Why regarding this misvah specifically did the Torah explicate that it was given at Har Sinai? The Hid"a zs"l explains that so many Jews, due to their financial pressures, cannot find any time to dedicate for the study of Torah. Therefore, Hashem required that every seventh years the land not be worked, so that we abstain from work for the entire year, and our needs will be taken care of miraculously. In this way, we will be reminded that the key to livelihood lies in the hands of Hashem alone, and we should therefore not be concerned if we take from our work time to study Torah.

"Hashem said to Moshe on Har Sinai"

Although this pasuk clearly introduces the parashah of shemittah, the Kaf Hahayim zs"l suggests that this pasuk relates as well to the previous section, that of the blasphemer. Hazal disagree as to why the blasphemer resorted to such behavior. It is possible that the juxtaposition of the section of shemittah to the incident of the blasphemer teaches us that a person should not be troubled by the fact that so many misvot - most notably Shabbat and shemittah - seem to require a substantial financial loss. A person must never become distressed over this loss, for one never loses by performing a misvah - he has only to gain!

"If you walk in My ways and Observe My misvot"

Rabbi Mordechai Sigron zs"l of Midenin notes that the final letters of the first four words of our parashah spell "yamut" (will die), alluding to Hazal's remark on the pasuk, "This is the Torah, one who dies in a tent...," that Torah knowledge is acquired only by one who "kills" himself over it. Generally, people have sympathy for the scholar who kills himself in the tent of Torah, abstaining from worldly pleasures. But specifically this lifestyle is the one which brings all the blessings of the Torah, yielding success and prosperity. "Long life is in its right, in its left - wealth and honor."

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

Aristocracy of commandments (part III)

Aaron: That is probably the reason why a feast is made when a lad becomes 13 years old. The commandments which he did before, he continues to do; but now he is privileged to be obligated.

Mr. Goodfriend: And the greater a man is, the more are his privileges of obligation. Thus a Kohen has more commandments than other Israelites, and the Kohen Gadol has more obligations than the other Kohanim.

Aaron: But why was Israel, more than any nation, privileged with these obligations?

Mr. Goodfriend: "In the way one wishes to go, he is led" (Makot 10b). The forefathers desired to do G-d’s commandments, therefore, "the Holy One desired to give Israel merit and therefore He increased for them the Torah and the Misvot" (ibid., 23b). He said to Abraham, after he had made haste to sacrifice his son ("Abraham rose up early in the morning"-Beresheet 22:3) "I shall indeed bless you...because you hearkened to My voice and he kept My keeping, My commandments, My statutes and My teachings" (ibid.,26:5).

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

One Who Eats Fruits of the Seven Species With Other Fruits

In the previous edition we explained that one who eats a fruit (such as an apple or orange) of a quantity which requires a berachah aharonah together with a similar quantity of fruits from the seven species (such as a date), he does not recite a borei nefashot for the apple or orange, and the "me'en shalosh" which he recited for the date fulfills the requirement for the apple or orange. However, one who eats a vegetable together with a fruit from the seven species recites a borei nefashot for the vegetable and thereafter recites a me'en shalosh for the fruit. However, if he recited the me’en shalosh first, he does not then recite a borei nefashot.

Some, however, argue and insist that the aforementioned procedure constitutes the recitation of an unnecessary berachah. Since, as stated, one who recites the me’en shalosh first may not then recite borei nefashot, why should we recommend that optimally he should say borei nefashot and then the me’en shalosh? This view, therefore, contends that the person should simply recite me'en shalosh and not borei nefashot. Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, in "Halichot Olam" vol. 2 (Parashat Pinhas 9) rules that we generally assume that in a situation where we want to recite two berachot on different items in order to satisfy conflicting opinions we may do so, and this does not constitute an unnecessary berachah. Since, in this instance, the recitation of borei nefashot would be to fulfill the view that this berachah is required, he may do so, and he should thus recite borei nefashot followed by me'en shalosh.

Many have the custom to eat one of the items by itself, recite the berachah aharonah, and only then proceed to eat the second item and then recite its appropriate berachah aharonah. In order not to enter into a situation of doubt, they avoid the problem by ensuring not to eat a fruit from the seven species together with a vegetable. Rather, they eat them separately. This is the preferable procedure, as it avoids all disputes.

In summary, one should optimally avoid eating vegetables together with fruits of the seven species so as not to enter into a situation of doubt. Rather, one should first eat the fruits from the seven species and recite the proper berachah aharonah, and only then proceed to eat the vegetables with a borei nefashot afterward. However, if one did eat a quantity of fruits from the seven species requiring a berachah aharonah together with such a quantity of vegetables, he should first recite borei nefashot and then a me'en shalosh. If he recited the me'en shalosh first, he does not then recite the borei nefashot.

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