Hashem decreed to Avraham, "Your offspring will be foreigners in a foreign land, where they will be enslaved and tortured for four hundred years." Ya'akov and his children went down to Egypt, and Levi outlived the rest of his brothers. As long as he lived, the slavery did not begin. Once he died, Pharaoh asked for volunteers to help with construction. Benei Yisrael, demonstrating their good citizenship, were the first to volunteer. Only the tribe of Levi did not get involved, as they were busy with other pursuits. They had a scholarly tradition, even before the giving of the written Torah. Avraham had a Masechet Avodah Zarah with four hundred chapters. Their tradition contained secrets and mysteries of wisdom which were transmitted from the forefathers. The result was that the volunteers were turned into slaves, while only the tribe of Levi was free to continue their studies.
This tribe produced Amram, the Torah leader of his generation, and his sons were Moshe and Aharon. When the nation was redeemed by the Al-mighty, this tribe merited special closeness to Hashem, and they became the tribe which would serve Hashem in the Bet Hamikdash. They earned a special place in the camp, as they were situated around the mishkan. From this tribe, Aharon and his sons were chosen as the kohanim, and they were to abide by special guidelines which are presented in our parashah. The nation was instructed to show respect to this group of kohanim - "You shall sanctify him, for the bread of Hashem he offers. He shall be sacred to you, for I, Hashem who sanctifies you, is Holy." Rashi explains that this pasuk obligates the rest of the nation to honor the kohanim with special rights, as being the first in all sorts of activities.
In seven years, Benei Yisrael conquered their land, and they spent the next seven years dividing the property. They planted fields and vineyards, they plowed and sowed, planted and harvested - as the tribe of Levi sat off to the side. They received ready-made cities and did not participate in the cultivation of the land. Rather, they were immersed in the study of the Torah. They studied and taught, the fulfillment of Moshe's blessing to them, "They will teach Your laws to Yaakov, and Your Torah to Yisrael." Their livelihood was provided by the Jewish farmers who, after completing the harvest of their grain, vineyards, and olives, brought terumah and ma'aser to the kohanim and levi'im. After their trees bore fruit, they brought "bikkurim" to the kohen. When their sheep or cattle gave birth to a firstborn, it was given to the kohen. When they slaughtered an animal, the kohen received a portion. When a Jew offered a sacrifice, the kohanim received a portion. And yet, no political leader ever rose and asked, "Wait a minute? How many kohanim do we need? Why do they not take part in the agricultural efforts of the nation? Why do the rest of the nation have to take responsibility for their livelihood? Way back when, when they were but one family, an arrangement was made for them. But now they are so many - how many kohanim do we need?"
Why did they never ask these questions? Because they knew the answer. "He shall be sacred to you, for I, Hashem who sanctifies you, am Holy." The Ramban zs"l explains, "...for through him [the kohen] I sanctify all of you." The Or Hahayim zs"l adds, "Through the means of the sanctity of the kohen, Hashem has His Shechinah reside in our midst and blesses us." They understood that the kohanim give to the people far more than what the people give to the kohanim. If there is a tribe of people which dedicates itself to Torah and pure worship of Hashem, it shines upon all its surroundings and has an effect upon all the other tribes. The Gemara (Berachot 63, cited by Rashi, Bamidbar 5:10) says, why was the portion dealing with ma'aser placed next to the section dealing with the sotah, the infidel woman? To teach us that one who withholds his terumah and ma'aser will, G-d forbid, experience immorality in his family.
For what does this awful punishment surface? One who does eat "tevel," separates his terumah and ma'asrot properly, but withholds them, he does not give them to the kohen and levi right away, leaving it to lose its freshness - why would he do this? Because he does not fully understand why he must include the kohen in his work. He does not understand the bilateral agreement between them, that he receives his spirituality from the kohen, a priceless gift of spiritual fulfillment, and, in turn, he gives a portion of his income to the kohen.
One who fails to understand this lacks a sense of spirituality and is too absorbed in this material world. In such a world, it is all the more likely that immoral behavior will erupt.
The Rambam (end of Hilchot Shemitah Veyovel) applies this not only to the tribe of Levi but to all those who apply themselves to Torah study. The more this tribe grows and flourishes, the more the nation will grow, as they inspire their surroundings. If someone tries to withhold their support, he testifies upon his lack of understanding and spiritual insight.
The Wonders of the Creator
Interesting Facts About the FROG
The frog leads a double life - it can live both on dry land and in the sea. Fish, by contrast, cannot live outside of the water. In the summer, the frog lives in the water. Interestingly, the fact that the frog breathes fresh air while on the ground is quite a disadvantage while it lives in the water. Underwater, it needs once in a while to come up to the surface and breathe some air into its lungs. Otherwise, it will suffocate. In the winter, however, the frog sinks under the brook, somewhere under the mud, and falls asleep, just like the bear hibernates throughout the long winter in its cave. The frog lives this way even when the stream and mud covers it completely and does not allow the frog to pull its head out. Clearly, this "sleep" is not your ordinary sleep. It sleeps underwater and sinks into a state of near death - a deep sleep, where he is unconscious. It sleeps in this way for the entire winter, and during this time it does not need to breathe any air. The frog comes back to life in the beginning of the spring and jumps out of its "grave," the small enclave where its spent the winter.
The Jews knows that there is no situation in which he can allow himself to fall asleep, physically or spiritually. Service of Hashem must be performed with the utmost awareness and enthusiasm, every moment of one's life, for this what our Torah teaches, for our benefit in this world and the next.
The Golden Column
The Saba Kadisha, Maharsha Alefandri zs"l
After the Spanish Inquisition, the country's economy deteriorated steadily. The Jews, with their energy and talent, were the "salt of the land," and their banishment from the country proved fatal to the country's economic stability. The Ottoman Empire, recognizing the treasure which the Jewish presence provides, invited the Jews to live within its boundaries. In exchange, the Jews demanded the right to conduct their lives in accordance with their religion and that they would not be drafted into the army. The Sultan gladly agreed, and gave them a signed, official agreement.
Two hundred years later, a messenger of the Sultan appeared in the home of the great Hacham Bashi of Constantinople, Rabbi Moshe Halevi zs"l. The messenger requested, in the name of the Sultan, to see the ancient charter which guaranteed the Jews their rights. The reason of this request was clear and simple: the Sultan decided to draft the Jews into his army.
Hacham Bashi replied, "I wasn't given the charter personally, and not even to the Hacham Bashi of that time. It was given to the community as a whole. I will ask them."
Hacham Bashi called for an assembly, and the panic was widespread. The Sultan's word was law, and he could not be prevented from issuing any decree he wished, be it taxes or forced evacuation. Suddenly, the young rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Shelomoh Eliezer Alefandri zs"l, stood and declared, "The Sultan has no need for Jewish soldiers. This is clearly a decree instituted to coerce us to abandon our faith. According to the halachah, we may not obey!"
Hacham Bashi heard the rosh yeshivah's "pesak" and announced, "There is nothing which needs to be said after the ruling of Rabbi Shelomoh Eliezer. The halachah follows his view always."
One of the prominent members of the Jewish community, who strongly supported the Sultan's initiative to draft the Jews, was warned by Rabbi Shelomoh Eliezer to withdraw from the discussion. He disobeyed the sadik's order, and died that day. Rabbi Shelomoh Eliezer hesitated not a moment to enrage the Sultan or to pray the price. He was exiled from Constantinople and became the rabbi of Damascus. Later, he moved to Eres Yisrael and lived in Yerushalayim, where he reach a very old age. Neither his eyesight nor his remarkable intellectual capabilities suffered the effects of aging, and they remained intact until his final day of life, 22 Iyar, 5690, at the age of one hundred and fourteen years. He is buried on the Mountain of Olives.
The Repaid Debt
a continuing saga (part seventeen)
Flashback: Naftali, the young boy who was on his way to stand trial for accidentally injuring an officer, was saved by a kind-hearted, Jewish villager who took the boy into his home. Upon the young man's departure, he asked his host to calculate the expenses which he incurred on Naftali's account. Naftali went to yeshivah and eventually became the rabbi and rosh yeshivah in Pozna. In the meantime, the villager's daughter married and moved to the city. One night, she was abducted by a horseman and taken to his palace. When he left the room for a moment, she put on his hat and coat and sneaked out of the palace.
In the dark of night, the woman appeared in her house. Her husband was shocked to see her, dressed in the dignitary's cloak and adorned with his hat. Before she could tell him the story, a band of gentiles started banging on the gates of the pub which adjoined their beverage company. The man opened the door and in rushed an angry dignitary and his friends. The dignitary offered them all drinks on his account, and he drowned his anger with the intoxicating beverages. He told his friends how he captured a Jewish woman and brought her to his palace, but when he went to bring her some water she took his cloak and hat and escaped. When they tried consoling him, he exclaimed, "Don't you understand, she left with my cloak! All my savings were sewn in the inside!"
The raucous group left the pub and the man went back home. He opened the cloak and found bills of money sewn on the inside - an enormous fortune! He was overjoyed at his wife's courage and her escape, but wondered why the incident had happened, for what purpose did the Al-mighty bring about the scare? He suggested to his wife that they go the rabbi, who was a saintly and pious man. Despite the late hour, they knew he would still be awake, learning diligently, so they set out to the rabbi's home.
They came to the revered rabbi and told him their story. He asked how much money was found in the cloak, and they told him. He said, "I will tell you the reason behind all this." He put his hands into his pockets and took out a piece of paper which his benefactor had given him, the account of all the expenses incurred on his behalf. The amount was the exact same as the money found in the dignitary's cloak.
"Relax," he said, "from the heavens the debt was repaid."
"Do not desecrate My sacred Name, and I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael"
The Rambam zs"l writes (Sefer Hamisvot, negative commandment 63) that when a Jew commits an averah not as a result of an overpowering drive, but willingly and with a sense of denigration for the prohibition (as is the case regarding most violators of forbidden speech), then he violates, in addition to the transgression itself, the averah of hilul Hashem and must receive "malkut" for this sin, as well. In Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah (5:10) he adds, that anyone who fulfills a misvah or abstains from committing an averah because of the realization that Hashem commanded him such - he sanctifies Hashem's name, and there is no limit to his reward, in addition to the reward for the misvah itself.
"Do not desecrate My sacred Name, and I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael"
The author of "Kaf Hahayim" zs"l cites (in his work, "Yismah Yisrael") a proof for the idea posed by the Rambam, as cited earlier, from the pesukim. The pasuk writes, "You shall observe my misvot and perform them, I am Hashem. Do not desecrate My sacred Name, and I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael" -meaning, that if you observe the misvot and abstain from sins, not because of any external reason but simply because, "I am Hashem," and you do not desecrate My Name with foreign thoughts or inclinations, then you fulfill, as well, the misvah of Kiddush Hashem, for which the reward is boundless.
"Do not desecrate My sacred Name, and I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael"
Rabbenu Behayeh zs"l writes that hilul Hashem is the most serious of all transgressions. Although, as we know, Hashem forgives for many serious misdeeds, He does not forgive for this sin. Hazal write that not even Yom Kippur day can atone for this averah, and not even teshuvah and punishments atone until death itself. The only antidote for the sin of hilul Hashem is to affect a kiddush Hashem of the same nature as the hilul Hashem. Therefore, the violation of hilul Hashem is immediately followed in the Torah by the phrase, "I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael," like an illness which is cured only by its reverse. In this way the person can save himself from harsh judgement and tip the scales in his favor.
"Yisrael, In Whom I am Glorified"
In our parashah, we find an interesting halachah: a kohen who has a physical blemish is unfit for the avodah, the service in the Bet Hamikdash. The question begs itself, why? Is it the kohen's fault that he has a defect in his eye, for example? Is it not enough that he suffers from the constant discomfort presented by this defect that he is also shunned from the kedushah of the Bet Hamikdash? Furthermore, as we know, suffering serves as a means of atonement. Certainly, this kohen who bears the pain of his defect all day every day, unquestionably he has achieved atonement. "Every arrogant heart is an abomination to Hashem," and there is certainly no more humble, submissive person than one who is deformed. Wouldn't he be especially suited for the service? Why must he keep his distance?
All these factors are true, but, alas, "A person sees with his eyes." If those who come to the Bet Hamikdash see a deformed kohen, the sanctity of the avodah would be undermined in their eyes, causing a hilul Hashem. As we know, only the tallest, best looking guards are chosen to guard the Kennesset building in Yerushalayim, as is the case regarding the guards of Buckingham Palace in England.
This concept places an enormous responsibility upon each and every one of us. Each religious Jew serves, in the eyes of his secular onlookers, as a representative of the Jewish religion. This is true all the more so with regard to yeshivah students, not to mention those who hold public, religious positions. If such a person appears with unkempt attire, if he speaks abruptly and ignores conventional guidelines of etiquette and courtesy, he may very well cause a hilul Hashem, a sin for which there is no atonement, regarding which Hazal have applied the pasuk, "All those who make others hate Me love death," Heaven forbid. On the other hand, if his behavior is proper, his appearance always tidy and pleasant, the pasuk says, "Yisrael, in whom I [Hashem] am glorified." Such behavior brings about a kiddush Hashem, a misvah loftier than any other.
Fortunate is such a person, who in one moment secures for himself a place in the World to Come!
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a
Aristocracy of commandments (part II)
Aaron: Illustrate this. Sir.
Mr. Goodfriend: Everywhere in the Scriptures, we are called Israelites (down to the exile of the 10 Tribes, when the remnant was called also Judeans, or Jews. Also with the exception when eords are spoken to gentiles in the Scriptures; for the gentiles avoided the honor-title Israel and used instead the general word Ivri, or Hebrew).There is, however, one exception: the man who is sold into temporary bondage is called Eved Ivri [Hebrew slave] (Shemot 21:2). This demotion is due to his inability to serve freely his true master, for which inability he is deprived of the privilege of one prohibition: the prohibition against taking the slave-woman. Because he is now permitted a slave-woman(ibid 21:4), he no longer deserves the title of Israelite. Rav Joseph, who was blind, declared: "If I should be told that the law is not as Rabbi Judah said (that a blind man is absolved from the Mitzvot), I would make a feast for the Torah-scholars". He would celebrate his obligation.
One Who Eats of the Seven Species With Other Fruits
The Rambam (Hilchot Berachot 8:16) writes that one who eats an amount of fruit from the seven species which requires a berachah aharonah, and, together with that fruit, eats other fruits which are not of the seven species, he recites one berachah "me'en shalosh" for everything. The Rashba explains that since the berachah me'en shalosh contains the phrase, "al ha'ess ve'al peri ha'ess" (for the trees and fruits of the trees), the berachah covers all fruits which he has eaten. The Semak and the Agudah (cited by the Kaf Hahayim 208:73) write differently, that the phrase, "tenuvat hasadeh" (produce of the field) includes all products grown from the ground.
However, this halachah applies only if the fruits from the seven species as well as other fruits which grew on trees. With regard to vegetables, however, one who eats fruits from the seven species with vegetables requires a separate berachah aharonah for each item. Indeed, the Shulhan Aruch (208:13) writes that one who eats from the seven species as well as apples does not require a borei nefashot on the apples, for they are included in the berachah me'en shalosh for the seven species. However, if the person ate meat or vegetables with the seven species, he must recite a separate berachah aharonah for each. Even though the conclusion of the berachah me'en shalosh contains the expression, "al haperot," which seems to include vegetables, nevertheless, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, in his work, Halichot Olam vol. 2 (forthcoming, Parashat Pinhas 10) demonstrates that that view of the Mehaber is that the determining factor is the not the text of the conclusion of the berachah, but rather the text of the central portion of the berachah. Therefore, since the central body of the berachah includes fruits from trees but not vegetables, one who eats vegetables with the seven species requires a separate berachah whereas one who eats apples with the seven species does not.
One who does, in fact, eat vegetables with fruits from the seven species recites first a borei nefashot, to fulfill his requirement for the vegetables, and should then recite the berachah me'en shalosh for the fruits of the seven species which he ate. Although the berachah me'en shalosh is considered a more significant berachah than borei nefashot, as berachah me'en shalosh is, according to some opinions, a Biblical requirement whereas borei nefashot is of rabbinic origin, one should still recite borei nefashot first, because if he recites beracha me'en shalosh first, he has, according to the view of the Semak and the Agudah, fulfilled his requirement even with regard to the vegetables, as the phrase, "al tenuvat hasadeh" covers the vegetables, as well. Furthermore, according to the Rashba, the phrase, "al haperot" fulfills the requirement for the vegetables. And although, as we have seen, the Mehaber disagrees, it is preferable to avoid this issue, and thus recite borei nefashot first.
In summary, one who eats a quantity of apples which requires a berachah aharonah, and he eats such a quantity of fruits from the seven species, as well, he recites a berachah me'en shalosh, which covers both the apples and the fruits from the seven species. However, one who eats vegetables together with fruits of the seven species, he recites a borei nefashot and thereafter he recites a berachah me'en shalosh.
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