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Parashat Devarim

Essay of the Week
The Month that Will Turn from Sadness to Happiness!

Shabbat, the sixth of Av, is a day of rest and sanctity. "On the 7th of the month the gentiles entered the Temple grounds, and on the 7th and 8th they damaged, and on the 9th near nightfall they lit the fire, which burnt all day long during the 10th. As it says, 'Oh for the day has turned, for the shadows of evening are stretched out.' Thus Rabbi Yohanan said, 'Had I lived in that generation, I would have established the fast on the 10th, because most of the Temple was burnt on that day.' If so, why was the fast made on the 9th? Because the beginning of the destruction is worse" (Ta'anit 29a). Indeed the Jerusalem Talmud says that there were places where they fasted for two days, and those which fasted on the 9th and the eve of the 10th. But the halachah does not follow them. Still, the practice is not to eat meat or drink wine on the 10th.

The question is asked, wouldn't it be more appropriate for the severity of the fast to increase on the 9th in the afternoon? Instead, it becomes more lenient, in that we need not sit on the floor. Even in those places where there is no priestly blessing in the morning there is in the afternoon. There is a practice not to wear tallit and tefillin in the morning, but they are worn in the afternoon.

It seems backwards. Generally the mourning occurs after the disaster. In this case first there are the three weeks in between the fasts, and the week of the 9th of Av itself, including all of its laws, and the laws of the eve of the 9th of Av, and the 9th of Av itself. Then, immediately thereafter, there are the seven weeks of comfort, and the mourning ends. An answer appears in a deep essay of the holy Shelah on Parshat Balak. This is a fundamental matter, and it bears repeating. He says, "Know that no evil descends from heaven to the Jewish nation, because they are God's sons. Even if God became angry and destroyed the Temples and scattered Israel into the Diaspora, this is all for their good. Just as a man might punish his own son, so God punishes us. It is all for our own good, so that we will become purified in the crucible of the nations and become clean of sin and iniquity. We will become pure and unsullied, with only pure light in our futures. For suffering cleanses and leads to repentance. Then the words of the verse, "I will raise you up, O God, because you made me poor," will be fulfilled. This has two explanations: a meaning of poverty and a meaning of elevation. Poverty, which refers to troubles, causes elevation. They cause the light to increase, and this growing light will derive from the darkness because God has put us in the darkness in order that a great light will emerge from the darkness. Just as blood becomes milk, which is white (the color of the pious), so too God will turn the curse into a blessing. The destruction of the Temple ultimately builds us, because it causes "the end of your sins, O Zion." Then the great Temple will be built, which will stand forever. Therefore we honor the Temple just as much in its destruction as in its construction. (It is well known that it is forbidden to ascend to the Temple mount because we are assumed to be unclean). The destruction is the cause of the eternal construction, and it has an aspect of 'one who demolishes in order to build something in its place' (Shabbat 31b). 'The fast of the fourth month (the 17th of Tamuz), and the fast of the fifth month (the 9th of Av), … will become for Israel as celebration and happiness and holidays' (Zechariah 8:19). The Torah hints at this when Aharon says about the 17th of Tamuz, 'It is a holiday for God tomorrow' (Shemot 32:5). The tomorrow refers to the distant future, when the 17th of Tamuz will become a holiday. The 9th of Av is referred to as a 'holiday,' as it says, 'has called me a holiday' (Eichah 1:15), in reference to the future. That is why the 9th of Av always occurs on the same day of the week as the first day of Pesah, the day on which the Jews left Egypt. This hints to the future redemption, as it says, 'Just like the days you left Egypt, I will show you wonders' (Michah 7)." The Shelah continued with his holy words.

Now we understand why we begin the comfort during the peak of the mourning, just as Rabbi Akiva rejoiced when he saw a fox running through the Holy of Holies. The difficult troubles prove that the salvation is just around the corner, and the prophecies of comfort will be fulfilled soon (end of Makkot). We should recall the words of the Haftess Hayyim zss"l, who said, Messiah is so close. All the signs of the period before his arrival have occured. What kind of a face will we show him?! After all, "I do not want to save them if they are not involved in Torah study" (Or Hahayyim on Shemot 27:20). He will remind each person how many missvot he has done, how he educated his children. We should become active before his arrival, so that we will become worthy of his kindness and the light of his face.

Words from the Editor
Why is it called Av?

Rabbeinu Yosef Hayyim wrote (Ben Ish Hay, Devarim, 301) that this month is called Av (lit. father) because it will eventually become the father of all the months. The fact that so many troubles occurred in this month proves that it has even greater good sides than the other months, based on the principle, "make us happy according to the days you afflicted us."

He also said, that the reason it is called Av is because it will become repaired and become strong in merit of the Torah, as Hazal said, (Shabbat 105a), "Jerusalem was not destroyed until the talmidei hachamim were scoffed at, and it will not be rebuilt until the honor of Torah is raised. Examine his holy words, which contain Remez, Derash, and Sod.

We must be particularly strong during this week in which the 9th of Av occurs to strengthen Torah in order to bring the redemption closer. This includes personal study and improving the study of children. It says (Berachot 17a and Sotah 23a) that someone who sends his children to a Torah education gains reward for all his learning and all his good deeds.

It is particularly sad that the month which is designated for strengthening Torah is the month in which there is a break from study. We must be sure that there is no disconnection from Torah, God forbid, but rather that there is continuity in a daily class, in review, or in preparation for the upcoming school semester. We should be worthy of the upcoming redemption through the merit of the holy Torah.

The Golden Column
Rabbeinu Yisshak Ibn Latif zss"l

The Greek philosophers sat on the ground and tried to understand all the secrets of the universe. They tried to force it to fit into their minds. They studied the movements of the heavenly bodies, and decided that there were spheres, paths for the stars. They raised the question: what moves them, and keeps them in their fixed paths? Instead of drawing the correct conclusion, that there is a Creator who fixes the stars in their watch in the heavens, according to His will, they determined that the spheres and stars are spiritual beings. They attributed power to them (this is the root of star worship), and drifted deeper and deeper into error. Many were led astray by them.

Rabbeinu Yisshak Aramah zss"l, in his book Akedat Yisshak (Sha'ar 2) lifted all of the fog. The stars are material objects which are launched into orbit by the Creator. Nothing more. He knew that his words would cause a storm, so he explained that he had a source: Rabbeinu Yisshak Latif Zss"l, in his work Sha'ar HaShamayim, who wrote that the path of the stars was derived from gravity and inertia (in his language: the constant heavenly motion from the force of the spherical parts). This is well known today, but was quite original a thousand years ago, when the Greek theory was dominant.

Rabbeinu Yisshak Ibn Latif was a ssadik and kabbalist, a researcher and philosopher. The breadth of his books demonstrates the range of topics he addressed. His book Agadot Hateshuvah deals with issues of philosophy and faith, as does his books Ginzei Hamelech and Ssror Hamor. These books were printed and we have them today, in addition to his Ssurot Ha'olam. He authored other books, which have been lost, including: Sha'ar Shamayim - on issues of engineering, which is quoted by the author of the Akedah, as noted, his commentary on Kohelet, his Rav Pe'alim, and others. Other than his time, the beginning of the current millennia, and his place, Spain, we know almost nothing of him. He was a bright star in the galaxy of lights which lit up the heavens of the Spanish Diaspora. May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.

From the Wellsprings of the Parashah

May the Temple be built soon.

"And it shall come to pass at the end of days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established at the top of mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all the nations shall go to it. And many people shall go and say, come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Ya'akov, and He will teach us His ways and we will walk in the His paths. For the Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem" (Yeshayah 2:2-3)

May the Temple be built soon.

The "Angel from Brisk" would study Talmud day and night. He would not go to his room but would drowse here and there and return to his studies with the strength of a lion. With dawn he would get up out of his chair and go to the window which looked over the Temple mount. He would look across and with tears in his eyes say, "Tonight also it was not built."

But an explicit Gemara (Shvuot 15b) says that the Temple will not be built at night, as it says, "On the day the mishkan was established" (Bamidbar 9:15). But Rashi had said (Sukkah 41a, Rosh Hashanah 30a, Tosfot Shvuot 15b) that that only refers to human construction. But the third Temple, which we expect to be revealed and descend fully built from heaven, may be built at night.

Something similar appears in Tana Devei Eliyahu (Chap. 18). The last Temple, which God will build, will be eternal and enemies will never have control over it, and the shechinah will never leave it.

May the Temple be built soon.

Maharil Diskin zss"l asked. Building the Temple is one of the missvot of the Torah (Rambam, Sefer Hamissvot, Positive Commandments, 20). If the Temple will descend from heaven already built, then the command to build it will be cancelled. We must say that God, for our own good, will leave one detail unfinished, and finishing that detail will be considered completing the construction.

What in particular will we do? At the time of the destruction it says, "Its gates sank into the earth" (Eichah 2:9). King David had made them, and his handiwork is not destroyed, and enemies do not have control over it (Sotah 9a). In the future, the gates will float up from below ground and be revealed (cited in Tosfot Kiddushin 31b), and we will take them and put them in place. It will be considered as if we finished the construction.

This is the kind of repair that can acquire an object. As we learned, if a person builds a palace in India on ownerless property, and another person comes and puts doors on it, they the latter has acquired the property. The palace is no more than a collection of bricks until it has doors (Bava Batra 42). Thus, we will acquire the entire construction of the Temple by attaching the doors.

When we say in our prayers, "Build Your house as it was originally… Let us see it built, make us happy in its establishment (tikkuno)," we mean that we want to see it when it descends fully built from heaven. We should not feel bad that we did not take part in building it, and that we missed out on a missvah. We will be happy because we will repair (tikkun) it. That is, we shall put on the doors and then we will take part in constructing it. Let it be very soon!

May the Temple be built soon.

The Temple will eventually be built from 12 giant onyx stones, and the entire world will be lit from the glow of the Temple (Midrash Hachamim). The eastern gate of the Temple, and the two lower gates next to it, will be filled with beautiful stones and pearls. As it says, "And all your borders shall be precious stones" (Yeshayah 54:12). If a person owes money to his friend, and says "Let us go to judgment before the King Messiah," as soon as he enters the borders of Jerusalem he will be able to pluck a precious stone, give it to his friend and say, "I no longer owe you anything." This is what the verse means by "Your borders will create peace."

According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a

• They made a rule that we should ask God for dew and rain during the rainy season in "Birkat Hashanim", at the times that will be explained.

• The Sephardim and the Eastern Jews says "Barech Aleinu" during the rainy season, and ask for dew and rain during that blessing. During the summer they say "Barecheinu", and ask only for dew. The Ashkenazim say "Barech Aleinu" always, and during the winter they say "veten tal umatar." But during the summer they don't ask for dew or rain, but only say "veten berachah." Regarding "Birkat hashanim", the practice of the Sephardim and the Eastern Jews is to say, "and satisfy the entire world with your goodness." Some Ashkenazim say "and satisfy us with its goodness."

• In the Land of Israel we start mentioning "tal umatar" beginning with evening prayers on the eve of the 7th of Marheshvan. After the fact, if he erred and asked for tal umatar in the Land of Israel in between Shemini Asseret but before the 7th of Marheshvan, he has fulfilled his obligation. Even if he remembered before he finished the prayer, he continues and does not return. Still, it is better if after he finishes his prayer he prays again, making a condition of a voluntary prayer. He can say, if I am obligated to repeat, then this prayer is a requirement. If I am not obligated to repeat, then this prayer should be voluntary.

• Outside of the Land of Israel, they start asking for "tal umatar" sixty days after tekufat Tishrei (i.e. early December). In places near the Land of Israel, with similar climates, like Sinai, El Arish, and Damascus, you begin saying "tal umatar" on the 7th of Marheshvan, according to the practice of the Land of Israel. If in a particular place they need rain prior to sixty days after tekufat Tishrei, they ask in the blessing "Shema Koleinu". After the fact, if he accidentally asked for "tal umatar" in "Birkat hashanim" outside of the Land of Israel on the 7th of of Marheshvan, and they needed rain in that place at that time, he has fulfilled his obligation. Even if he remembers during the prayer, he should complete his prayer and not go back at all. Even prior to the 7th of Marheshvan, if the place needs rain, he has fulfilled his obligation. Still, it is better if after he finishes his prayer he prays again making a condition of a voluntary prayer. He can say, if I am obligated to repeat, then this prayer is a requirement. If I am not obligated to repeat, then this prayer should be voluntary.

A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a

1) Hazal equated the mourning of the 9th of Av to the mourning over the death of a close relative. Still, the mourning over the temple is old, and therefore there are some leniencies. For example, during the first three days of mourning for a relative all work is prohibited, even for a beggar who lives off of ssedakah. After three days it is permitted to do work in private, if there is a great need for it. Similarly, on the 9th of Av work is permitted in places that have that practice. Still, in virtually every Jewish community the practice is not to do work, and someone who does will not see any blessing from that work.

2) During the first three days of mourning, one may not greet a friend, and if a friend greets the mourner he may not respond. After three days, the mourner is permitted to respond. Similarly, on the 9th of Av you may not greet a friend, but if one greets you, then you may respond with the proper level of seriousness.

3) A mourner is prohibited from studying Torah during all seven days of mourning, because Torah makes people happy. Similarly on the 9th of Av one may not learn Torah, at least those parts of Torah that make one happy. One can and should learn the laws of mourning.

4) Ashkenazim do not bathe during the first 9 days of Av. Sephardim do not bathe only during the week of the 9th of Av, at least not in warm water. Cold water is permitted. This is also only true of bathing for pleasure. But a woman who needs to bathe prior to going to the mikveh may do so.

5) The entire three week period between the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av is a period of mourning for all of Israel.

The Wonders of Creation
The Frog

How many species of frogs are there? Don't be embarrassed if you don't know. We will explain later. Scientists distinguish between 1700 - yes, 1700 - species of frogs. There is the giant West African frog, which reaches a full foot long. Imagine it filling an entire floor tile. It weighs over twenty pounds. This is the kind which persecuted the Egyptians, and it is indeed called the Nile Frog. There is also the dwarf frog, which lives in swamps, and grows to only one inch. Let's think about jumping. The frog can jump from standing, without running. It can jump twenty times higher than its own body. Imagine if we could jump 120 feet, as high as a fourteen story building. It can do this because of its back legs which have distinctive muscles, which also help it swim. It needs to jump like this in order to flee from its enemies, like snakes and storks. God gave it another protection, camouflage. Its green and speckled skin blends with the environment perfectly, and it gets lost in the swamps in which it lives. Other frogs which live in mud are brown, and those which live in trees look like leaves. Some can even change their colors. Motion is the only way for predators to find them.

We will return to study frogs, but in the meantime we should fulfill our promise. Why don't we have to be embarrassed for not knowing about all the species of frogs? Because what do we have to do with them? We should feel bad for the researchers who spend time in the swamps, researching frogs and distinguishing between species. Can we distinguish between the melachot of Shabbat, all 39 categories and their subcategories? Can we categorize all the blessings? Do we know them well enough? Isn't this much more interesting, more necessary, more rewarding, than distinguishing between frogs?

The Wheel of Life Keeps Turning (13)
From the book, "Great are the Deeds of G-d"

Summary: The banker from Alexandria was telling the son of his friend from Kushta the story of his servant, who the son wanted to take with him on his journey home. He told him how he had become impoverished, and with his last money had gone to buy supplies for Pesah. He saw a captive boy, and redeemed him with all of his money. As he returned home, a deal involving jewels fell into his lap, and he earned a goodly sum. He returned home, bringing the boy and the supplies for Pesah.

"I had just left my home," he said, "when people turned to me offering me all kinds of transactions. I was shocked. For months I had wandered in the marketplace looking for people with whom to buy and sell, but all the doors were locked. Suddenly, I walked innocently around, and everybody approached me. I took part in these deals, and I was blessed in everything that I did. I earned well, and the comfort returned to my house, in place of the hunger which had been common. Worse of all, in the words of the sages, "When the pot is empty, the house is full of arguments." We had emerged from darkness to light, and from trouble to comfort. Peace and tranquility returned and we celebrated Pesah with joy and good spirits. I understood that this blessing was a reward for fulfilling the great and incomparable commandment of redeeming captives. As is well known, money that was collected for constructing the Temple itself can be used for this important missvah. It is the peak of kindness, and one of those commandments of which man eats the fruit in this world and the capital remains as reward in the World to Come. My luck was great, and people came to see me as honest, and they trusted me. They gave me their property, and I sold it for them in a way that everybody profited. I became one of the wealthiest in the city, and the peak of our happiness was when the Creator gave us a friend as great as your father. I am very thankful to the young man who has given me the opportunity to perform this great commandment. I raised him as my own son, and he is dear to me. He has wonderful character traits, and a good heart. He has exceptional wisdom, and God has helped him study Torah seriously. He has broad knowledge, and I considered making him into a business partner after he would marry and build a home."

"But, if you request that he travel with you to your parents, because he is such a trusted friend, well who knows how to evaluate friendship better than I? If he agrees, he has my permission."

The young man thanked him emotionally, and the friend was called and asked if he would be willing to travel to Kushta. He said, "Kushta is a city full of Hachamim and scribes. I want to meet them and learn from them, to acquire wisdom from the generation's great ones." He agreed to go. He received the blessing of the host, and they went on their way.

Then, everything changed for the host.

Continuation, God willing, next week.

Sha'agat Aryeh
Now is the Time

Expecting redemption is one of the principles of Judaism. It is not only the books of the prophets that are full of prophecies about the Messiah's arrival, the salvation and comfort he will bring, the physical and spiritual wealth, the long lasting health, the development of each person to the level of a prophet, and the opening of the gates of light. As Rambam says in his halachic work, "Anyone who does not believe in him, or one who does not anticipate his arrival, not only does he deny the other prophets, but he denies the Torah of Mosheh Rabbeinu." We should recall one detail. Two hundred years ago, could anyone have anticipated what the world would come to be? That was the time of Napoleon. Could anyone have anticipated the downfall of the "thousand year empire", the dramatic fall of the Russian superpower, the fall of the Berlin wall, the erosion of communist rule in China? Why should we look so far away? Fifty years ago, could anybody have anticipated the fall of Mapai rule, the unity of the labor unions, the privatization of the kibbuss movement? We should ask, is anyone willing to guess what the world will look like in one hundred years? The holy torah anticipated, over 3300 years ago, the conquest of the Land and its borders, the exile from it, the return to Zion at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the second borders, the scattering of the people around the world, and the gathering of the people into its land. This prediction is beyond human capabilities. It comes only from God's knowledge of the future, for He is the "One who reads the generations in advance" (Yeshayah 41:4). He, who told us all of this also told us that the process will end with the coming of the Messiah. We certainly wait for him each day. Each generation waited, and he could surprise us. But, if the process was predicted in advance, then the holy Gemara tells us signs that anticipate his coming (Sanhedrin 98a, Sotah 49a). All of them are happening before our very eyes. "He is standing behind the wall," and will change the whole situation.

But, in some respects, it is good that he has not yet come. Why? Because of a verse in Sefer Yehezkel, Chapter 44. When the prophet saw the third Temple, which should be built soon, he was told, "And the kohanim and leviim the sons of Ssadok, who kept guard over my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister to me, and they shall stand before me to offer on the table ". When Messiah will come, he will become particularly close with those who stood ground during difficult times, who held strong to their faith during the times when God hid his face, who went against the trend, who kept Torah and missvot during difficult times. Since the redemption is coming soon, who does not want to find favor in the eyes of the Messiah, to be worthy of being close to him, to gain double and triple influence from him? We can achieve that if we attend a Torah class regularly, if we help Torah become strong, if we send our children to Torah education, if we become strong in Torah and missvot. Then, when Messiah comes, we will be worthy of particular love and such a wonderful closeness.

Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom

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