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A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Before placing the tefillin shel yad, one recites the berachah "lehani'ah tefillin," and thereafter places the tefillin shel rosh without any berachah. If one spoke between the placing of the shel yad and the shel rosh, he must recite before placing the shel rosh the berachah, "al misvat tefillin." The custom of the Ashkenazim is to always recite this berachah when placing the shel rosh. According to their custom, if one spoke in between the placing of the shel yad and the placing of the shel rosh, he recites both berachot before placing the shel rosh.
The word "lehani'ah" is pronounced with a "kamass" under the "heh" and without a "dagesh" in the "nun."
When putting on tefillin, one should have in mind that Hashem commanded us to place the four parshiyot of tefillin, which contain the themes of Hashem's oneness and Yessi'at Missrayim, on our arm near our heart, and on the head near the brain, in order that we remember the miracles He performed for us - which prove His oneness - and that He has the power in both the upper and lower worlds to do as He wishes. One should subjugate to the Al-mighty his soul, situated in the brain, as well as the heart, the primary source of thoughts and desires, such that he will remember the Al-mighty and limit his physical indulgence in worldly matters. Strictly speaking, it suffices simply to have this mind, but some have the custom of reciting the "Leshem Yihud" paragraph before placing tefillin, which includes these ideas.
One may not make any verbal interruption in between the placing of the shel yad and shel rosh, even for a misvah, such as to greet one's rabbi. If one hears kaddish or kedushah in between the shel yad and shel rosh, he should not respond, but rather think the response in his mind.
Rashi and Rabbenu Tam argued as the proper sequence in which the four parshiyot should be written. Rashi felt they should be arranged in the order in which they appear in the Humash, whereas Rabbenu Tam held that the two parshiyot that begin with "vehayah" should be placed in the middle. The accepted view is that of Rashi, as ruled by the Shulhan Aruch (34:1). However, he adds (in 34:2-3) that a G-d-fearing person should be stringent and wear both pairs of tefillin. However, he writes, only those who are assumed and well-known to be pious should do this.
Nowadays, however, when many people wear tefillin Rabbenu Tam, we need not be concerned that wearing it will constitute a display of arrogance. It is therefore proper for everyone to wear tefillin Rabbenu Tam in addition to tefillin Rashi rather than run the risk of not fulfilling the misvah of tefillin. When placing the two pairs, one must have in mind to fulfill the misvah with the correct pair, and the other should be seen as just straps worn on the body. Ideally, it would be preferable to wear both pairs of tefillin simultaneously. However, this would require wearing very small tefillin, and it is very hard to find kosher tefillin of such a small size. Therefore, after wearing tefillin Rashi and reciting shema and tefilah, one should take them off and place tefillin Rabbenu Tam and read with them the first two parshiyot of shema.
Around one thousand years. Yes, around one thousand years Adam Harishon lay in Me'arat Hamachpelah, next to his wife, Havah. In the meantime, a flood covered the entire earth, destroying almost all his offspring. The world was then rebuilt, mankind became cultured, and Hashem ultimately mixed people's languages and scattered them through the world, each nationality and tongue occupying its own land. Adam and Havah, the parents of humanity, rest in peace all throughout in their cave. This is the site which is said to be the gate to Gan Eden, the point of the earth's connection to spirituality. They waited for those who would come and ask them to invoke divine compassion, to bring our merits to the Al-mighty. After all, Adam Harishon was a prophet, the handiwork of Hashem Himself. His level of understanding surpassed that of the angels. And though he sinned, he repented through continuous fasting and self-affliction over the course of one hundred and thirty years. Can we even imagine such teshuvah? For good reason, the Gemara (Eruvin 18b) asserts that Adam Harishon was a "hassid gadol" - an exceedingly pious man.
He waited and waited, but no one came. Finally, the father of our nation arrived. He was attracted by the great light, he had the merit of smelling the scent of Gan Eden. He entered, and was privileged to behold the sight of Adam and Havah. Indeed, this was a privilege. We know the story of the holy amora who was granted permission to enter Me'arat Hamachpelah and see our nation's patriarchs and matriarchs. Yet, he was denied entry into the interior chamber to see Adam and Havah, for their stature was greater than that of the avot (Baba Batra 58a).
Hundreds of years passed, and our sacred patriarchs and matriarchs were buried in the holy cave - Avraham and Sarah, Yis'hak and Rivkah, Yaakov and Leah. Their children were exiled to Egypt and later redeemed. They sent scouts to see the land, and Kalev, the tribal leader of Yehudah, went to visit Me'arat Hamachpelah to pray at the grave site. He asked for divine assistance to help him resist the plot of the scouts to speak negatively about the land. His prayer there was answered - because of the merit of the patriarchs, and because the land was promised to them by the Al-mighty, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land with wondrous spiritual powers, whose air gives wisdom, and whose Torah study is greater than Torah study anywhere else. Undoubtedly, it was pleaded on his behalf in the heavens, "Master of the world, open the eyes and heart of Kalev ben Yefuneh, our grandchild, that he may see the goodness of the land and will not be swept along by those who look for its blemishes and speak negatively about it!" Indeed, Kalev was saved from the pressure of the scouts, and he shouted against them, "The land is very, very good!" He received his reward and did not die like the rest of them in the wilderness. He earned the merit of entering the land as leader of the tribe of Yehudah, and was among the generation that inherited the land.
Another three thousand years have passed. For two thousand of them, the land was desolate. The children did not visit the graves of the patriarchs; they did not appeal to them to intervene on their behalf. Until the gates of compassion opened, until the children returned to their ancestral homeland, until the cave was redeemed and the grandchildren flocked there in throngs. They came to declare: our sacred patriarchs, look! We held onto our heritage, the coal still burns! The generational chain continues, the sacred chain is growing still. A Jewish community has arisen in Hevron, people who make frequent visits to Me'arat Hamachpelah, to pray and invoke the merit of those who rest in Hevron, that they do not rest - that they plead before the Al-mighty, as Kalev did in his day, that they stand before Hashem's Throne of Glory and cry, "Master of the World! You promised us an eternal nation in the sacred land, a wondrous nation in a wondrous land. Behold, the nation has returned to its land, You have brought about a time of remembrance. Please, let its residence in the land be a tranquil one, a secure one, a peaceful one. May the blood-bath come to an end, may the bloody scenes finally end, may the suffering finally end. May its settlement be prosperous, with blessing and abundance. May the remembrance be complete, may the redemption come!"
Different Types of Horses
Today there live over forty different species of horses in the world. They all developed from two ancient types of horses - one large and heavy, the other light and swift. The horse has exceptionally keen vision but even more developed senses of hearing and smell. Some people think that horses are unintelligent, but in truth the horse is a particularly wise creature. It thus knows to obey orders it receives from the human being and can be easily trained. It is also known for its fine memory, which enables it to find its way back home from long distances. It is very obedient and follows orders without opposition, performing any task with which it is charged - despite the immense effort entailed. Incidentally, the Belgian horse is well known for its capabilities as a transport animal. It is very large and heavy with a wide back and sturdy legs covered by long hair. It is known to be a very powerful animal.
As we know, horses are assigned many various types of jobs, and not every horse is capable of performing all these difficult functions. The human being, with his wisdom and insight, understood that every horse has its unique talent with respect to certain tasks, enabling it to perform those tasks efficiently. The various species of horses have therefore been divided into different groups. Some, as mentioned, are alert and quick, and are thus used for riding. The heavier horses are used for labor, such as plowing, transport, or pulling carriages. In effect, every creature in the natural world is used in accordance with its particular strengths and talents. "Le'havdil," in the world of humans, too, each person has a specific job that suits his talents. This simple logic operates with regard to the Jewish people itself, and this notion is embodied by the famous "Yissachar-Zevulun" arrangement. Yissachar had the talent for diligent Torah learning, and so this tribe invested all its time and energy into study. The tribe of Zevulun had a talent for commerce. It therefore worked and supported Yissachar, thereby benefiting from the reward of Yissachar's learning. Thus both tribes benefit - one studies and earns its sustenance, while the other works and earns the privilege of supporting Torah scholars, and therefore has a share in their learning. When each individual invests his talents in the proper place, he benefits in both worlds.
The Dowry (3)
Flashback: The daughter of a diligent Torah scholar reached marriageable age, but he could not afford a dowry for her. He consulted with his rabbi, the Hozeh of Lublin zs"l, who sent him to the city of Cracow to find his salvation. The man went and checked into a Jewish motel. He unpacked his bag and began learning.
One week passed, and then another. The innkeeper saw how the man sat and learned without stop all day and did not engage in any other type of work. He wondered what was going on, so he initiated a conversation with him. He asked from where he had come and what he does.
"I am a simple Torah student," the man replied. "I try to serve my Creator to the best of my ability."
"A simple man, a dweller of tents," the innkeeper said. "And what led you to leave your hometown and come to Cracow?"
"My great rabbi, the sacred Hozeh of Lublin, ordered me to do so. I have been promised by his holy mouth that here I will find a dowry for my daughter who has reached marriageable age."
"How?" the innkeeper inquired.
"I don't know," the man replied, much to his host's astonishment.
"But what about your lodging expenses?" the innkeeper asked. Naturally, this was the main question he had wanted to ask.
"Have no fears," the man calmly replied. "I will not leave here until I pay you in full for your services." Then, turning the conversation around, he asked, "And you? What is your story?"
He was sincerely interested to hear about the innkeeper, who told him that he made a respectable livelihood, thank G-d. In the past, his status had been far better, as he had in the kitchen a reliable, trustworthy Jew who served as the chef, the baker, the cook and kashrut supervisor, taking a heavy burden off the shoulders of the innkeeper himself. He therefore had spare time to engage in other business enterprises and was among the most active merchants in the big market in Danzig.
"But that is all in the past," he concluded with a sigh.
"Why?" the man wondered.
"Because I once borrowed a large sum of money to purchase a heavy load of merchandise. I sold the merchandise at a huge profit, and returned home happy as could be. I counted the money and divided it into small bags - twenty bags in all, each containing a thousand rubles. Thirteen bags went to pay my debts, and the other seven were my profits. I placed the bags in the drawer in my table and went to the market to make some purchases for the inn. When I returned, I discovered, much to my horror, that the drawer had been opened; the money was gone. I immediately suspected the butler, who cleaned the rooms. I spoke with him and even threatened him, but he denied everything. What could I do? I asked a rabbi, and he told me that I could not turn the butler over to the authorities, who would torture him. And besides, he may be totally innocent. I fired him, and began paying my doubts slowly and gradually. My business thus ended, and now I am supported only by the inn. I am now about to finish paying my debts - if all my guests pay for their stay," he remarked. The conclusion was a clear hint that could not be missed.
"Hashem shall assist you and provide you with honest guests," the man said innocently.
The man shrugged his shoulders and told his wife about their strange guest.
To be continued
"The matter has been decreed by Hashem"
Rabbenu Bahya zs"l writes: "We learn from here that the matter of matchmaking is decreed from the heavens, as our Sages said: 'Forty days before the creation of a fetus a heavenly voice goes out and declares: the daughter of so-and-so for so-and-so'; even from across the ocean. This is what Shelomoh a"h mentions, 'A home and fortune are the inheritance from fathers; and from Hashem comes a wise woman.' The pasuk means that what the fathers bequeath to children is houses and money; an intelligent woman, however, they have no power to bequeath to them, as it will come only from Hashem. He thereby informs us that a wise woman is more precious than a house or money, as it says, 'A woman of valor - who will find? And her value is more precious than pearls.'"
The Midrash Tehillim writes: "Come and see how difficult the power of matchmaking is; for we find that the Al-mighty attributed a match to His Shechinah in three places - in the Torah, the Nevi'im and the Ketuvim. In the Torah - as it says, 'the matter has been decreed by Hashem.' In the Nevi'im - as it says, 'but his [Shimshon] father and his mother did not know that was decreed by Hashem.' In the Ketuvim - as it says, 'from Hashem comes a wise woman,' and it says, 'He who finds a woman - finds goodness, and will extract favor from Hashem.'"
"The matter has been decreed by Hashem"
Rabbenu Yis'hak Aramah zs"l asks (in his work, Akedat Yis'hak, 8), what does it mean, "The matter has been decreed by Hashem; we cannot speak to you good or evil"? Certainly they could not refuse the match; but clearly they could express their consent! Why could they not even speak "good"?
He answers that we do not consider something "good" unless the possibility exists for evil. A watch, for example, is either on or off. Its activity, however, cannot be described as "good," but rather as "functional," or something along those lines. Likewise, we do not consider it "bad" when the watch is not functioning; we rather say that it is "broken." Therefore, we speak of the heavenly bodies (in kiddush levanah) as "po'alei emet" - those who function truly. They are true, but not "good," since they have no free choice. This is what Lavan and his mother said to Eliezer. Since the matter was decreed by Hashem, we have no choice in the matter to decide one way or the other. Therefore, our consent cannot be described as "good," but rather as normal, and expected, the way things must naturally turn out!
"The matter has been decreed by Hashem"
The Hid"a zs"l writes (in his work, "Penei David") that "Rivkah" has the numerical value of the name "Yis'hak" plus an additional one hundred - symbolic of the one hundred years of age at which Avraham fathered Yis'hak. This is what is meant by, "The matter has been decreed by Hashem" - even his name alludes to the match. Indeed, names are not coincidental. Rabbi Meir would study names very closely, and even gentiles would look into names, as Esav said, "Is it for this reason that his name is called Yaakov - for he tricked me ['vayakveni'] now twice!" Lavan and his mother therefore relied on the allusions that emerged from the names of Yis'hak and Rivkah.
"The matter has been decreed by Hashem"
The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l cites a Midrash from Hazal: "The matter has been decreed by Hashem - where was it decreed? On Mount Moriah." Meaning, they did not just say, "Me'Hashem hadavar" ("The matter is from Hashem"), but rather, "Me'Hashem yatza hadavar" - literally, "The matter left from Hashem," implying that this matter had "left" from somewhere, which Hazal identify as Mount Moriah. After akedat Yis'hak, the Al-mighty informed Avraham Avinu that Yis'hak's bride was born in Haran, as the Midrash writes towards the end of Parashat Vayera. Now when the heavenly voice decrees, "The daughter of so-and-so for so-and-so," free choice remains; permission is still granted for the individual to make his choice. But if the Al-mighty Himself informs one of who he will marry, it must happen. Therefore, Rivkah's family could say nothing - the matter was already decreed by Hashem!
Rabbi Haim Plagi zs"l
In this week's parashah we read of how Avraham Avinu, the pillar of kindness, treated his servant with honor and respect. We are reminded of that which Rabbi Haim Plagi zs"l, the rabbi of Izmir, tells in his work, "Tochehat Mussar" (Parashat Va'era). One of the wealthy men in his town passed away, and around a month later he came to the rabbi in a dream dressed in beautiful clothes and with his face radiating with joy and exuberance. The rabbi asked him why he had merited such great honor. The man answered that he was granted a share in the world to come because he never overworked his servants and employees; he always treated them with compassion and forbearance. In the morning, the rabbi inquired as to how this wealthy man would act towards his servants, and it turned out that indeed, this was how he acted. He never overworked them and always tried to lighten their workload as much as he could. Fortunate is he - great is his portion!
He further writes (Parashat Vayeshev) that in his younger years there were three great merchants in his city, and the bulk of the city's commerce was concentrated among them. They dealt mainly in the most profitable areas of business. The rest of the merchants complained that they had access only to the "leftovers" of these three tycoons. They complained despite the fact that they did not suffer from a lack of business. The rabbi told them not to complain, for no one ever infringes upon that which is decreed to belong to the other. To the contrary, perhaps in the merit of the charity performed by the three merchants they have received this blessing from Hashem, and the whole town is blessed with prosperity on their account, such that all the merchants have enough to eat. His words, however, fell upon deaf ears.
Eventually, the three big merchant decided to move to Eress Yisrael. The other, smaller entrepreneurs rejoiced, as now they would inherit the lion's share and their profits would drastically increase. Much to their dismay, however, the local economy collapsed, and there was no more business in the community. The smaller merchants were reduced to poverty, Heaven forbid, and they saw that, indeed, no one will ever receive that which is destined for someone else.
A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Cooking a Baked or Roasted Item on Shabbat
Preparing Coffee on Shabbat
According to the practice of the Sefaradim and Eastern communities, one may pour hot water from a keli rishon (the original utensil, in which the water was boiled) onto Turkish roasted coffee powder in a cup, since they do not forbid cooking an item that had been previously baked or roasted. Even though the powder is partially melted and turns into liquid, and halachah forbids cooking a liquid that had been previously cooked, nevertheless, in all these situations we follow the beginning of the action, at which point the coffee powder was dry. We may therefore be lenient. The Ashkenazim, however, are stringent and do not allow pouring hot water over this type of coffee powder that had been previously roasted. They therefore first pour the water into a different utensil (a keli sheni) and then pour the water into a third cup (keli shelishi) and then place the coffee powder into that third cup. (No prohibition is involved in the fact that the water is colored by the coffee powder, since the prohibition against coloring does not apply to food or beverages. The same applies to tea and other beverages.)
One may pour hot water from a keli rishon onto instant coffee powder or sugar inside a cup, even according to the custom of the Ashkenazim, since these are previously cooked, and halachah does not forbid cooking on Shabbat dry foods that have already been cooked. The fact that they turn to liquid is of no consequence, as we discussed earlier. This applies as well to instant tea powder or milk powder that had been previously cooked. If it has not been cooked, then one must be stringent.
Preparing Tea on Shabbat
Although in some places tea leaves undergo a sort of roasting process before being marketed, nevertheless, since they are not independently edible and are used only to impart their taste into water, we do not consider their cooking process complete until their immersion in hot water. Therefore, one must be stringent and refrain from pouring on Shabbat hot water on tea leaves (both in bags and without bags), as we consider this the final stage of their cooking. One should refrain even from soaking them in a keli sheni, since Hazal teach that items that cook very easily, such as by soaking in hot water, may not be soaked even in a keli sheni. The authorities write that tea leaves fall under this category of items that cook very easily. Therefore, if one wishes to prepare tea on Shabbat by placing leaves into water, one should use water in a keli shelishi. Meaning, he should pour the water from a keli rishon into another utensil, and then pour the water from that utensil into a cup, into which he may then place the tea leaves. Preferably, one should avoid making tea on Shabbat by placing leaves into the water. Instead, he should use tea essence prepared before Shabbat. (One may place mint leaves into a hot cup of tea on Shabbat; the same applies to placing a piece of lemon or squeezing lemon into a cup of hot tea.)
We find a beautiful passage by Rabbenu Yossef Haim zs"l regarding a pasuk in our parashah (in his derashot, "Od Yossef Hai"), and, like all words of Torah, there is great depth and profundity behind it. The pasuk states, "The servant took ten camels from his master's camels, and he went, with all his master's riches in his hands. He picked up and went." Why does the pasuk say twice that the servant "went"? He explained based on Hazal's comment that the servant was granted "kefissat ha'derech," meaning, his trip was shortened; he arrived in Haran immediately after his departure. Clearly, however, this miracle did not begin as soon as he stepped foot out of Avraham's home, since miracles do not happen in public. Rather, he began traveling normally until he left the town, and then the road miraculously contracted. Thus, the servant "went" twice, and hence the pasuk mentions twice that he went.
The Torah is eternal, and its lessons are valid and applicable in every generation. Nothing is done for the sake of Heaven that does not earn abundant divine assistance. We, at the "El Hama'ayan" movement, can testify to this effect. But there is one condition: at first, we must work through natural means, we must pave the way with all the difficulties and challenges involved, we must prove our devotion to the cause and our pure motives for the sake of Hashem. Then, and only then, will the wondrous divine assistance come to our side, then will the paved road appear. One who looks carefully will see this in everything - the difficulties encountered the first year in yeshivah, the first steps in building a home - "all the beginnings are difficult" (Rashi, Shemot 19:5). But then comes the overt siyata di'Shmaya - Hashem's assistance, to help us through the rest of the journey.
We can easily imagine the house of Betuel in Aram Naharayim. A large, comfortable village home, family memories of the elderly uncle, Avraham, who believed in one G-d and was cast into a fiery furnace and miraculously saved. The uncle who broke the idols and challenged the entire society, who won over many people with his teachings and ultimately left the region with his disciples, resettling in the Land of Canaan some sixty-five years earlier.
Now, suddenly, his veteran servant shows up leading a caravan of ten camels carrying riches and precious goods. He gives Rivkah expensive gold jewelry, tells of how his master had amassed great wealth - cattle, sheep, gold, silver, servants, camels, donkeys, etc. All his property he is prepared to give to his son, and he asks that Rivkah will marry him. She will live like a queen.
Now let us remember who this hosting family is. The nephew of the wealthy, successful prophet sets his table for the guests very generously - and poisons the servant's portion.
We all know the end of the story. An angel comes and switches around the plates. Betuel is poisoned and dies. We ask ourselves, what did he hope to gain? What did he think he would achieve? A person does not kill just like that, for no reason at all. The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l writes that they desired Eliezer's wealth. But there were ten servants riding the camels. Did Betuel try to kill them, too? If not, they would have undoubtedly taken the riches and rushed back to Eress Yisrael and report to their master, Avraham.
It would seem that the plot appears simple. They would keep the gold and silver, the gifts and fancy clothing, all the riches that were loaded on the ten camels. Eliezer will die, and the entourage will return to Avraham with their report. What would Avraham do? He would send another representative, or perhaps he would come by himself. And then, he would bring yet another ten camels, and the family would have indeed profited considerably from their plot.
Perhaps one would ask a simple question: this is a reason to kill?! Someone would murder in cold blood with such a villainous plot? The answer is frightening, and sheds some light onto the selfishness of man. This parashah was written to teach us how hard we must work in order to avoid becoming like Lavan and Betuel. Selfishness is cruel and heartless, resolute and unrestrained. Woe unto the one who is held captive by it!
Consider what the Gemara writes (in Nedarim 40a): "Whoever does not visit the sick is as if he shed blood." Rav Hai Gaon zs"l presents a frightening explanation of this passage, in his She'iltot. A Jew is sick and his friend did not come to visit him; he was too busy, he couldn't find any time, so he pushed the visit off for a day or two. Then he learns that his friend has been cured. How can he meet him now? How can he look into his face? How could he apologize for not having visited him? In his heart-of-hearts he beseeches the Al-mighty and asks him that the patient's illness return so that he will die - just so that the friend won't have to experience shame!
To such an extent?! Apparently, yes.
If you do not believe it, ask rabbis and rabbinical judges. They will tell you just how infantile a person can be. An incident occurred - clearly an extraordinary story, but characteristic nonetheless - of a Jew who lived with his nine children in a residence consisting of three tiny rooms in a top floor. He wanted to build another room on top of the roof in order to have more space. A neighbor - listen to this - who lived across the street, protested. According to his complex calculations, the room would block the sunlight a few minutes earlier than the building would otherwise during one period in the year. Needless to say, his objection was overruled. But the notion itself - you have the much-needed space for a large family on the one hand, the end of their terribly uncomfortable living conditions, and on the other, a few minutes less of sunlight for a short period of time. Which is more important?
For good reason a saying has been circulating recently: Noah built the ark with three levels, like an average building in our neighborhood. He lived on the top floor. Why didn't he build on the roof? Because beneath him lived animals; this is the answer.
It's easy to smile, to laugh at others. But practically, each one of us must look honestly into himself and identify the "Betuel" inside him, and eliminate it. We must reaffirm our membership in the nation of kindness, the descendants of those who performed kindness, the nation that remains committed to the covenant of Avraham Avinu (Ketubot 8b).
Senyar Bat Mazal and Yis'hak Shaul Ben Leah
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