FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael"
The Rambam writes, in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, 5: "All Benei Yisrael are
commanded to sanctify the Great Name, as it says, 'I will be sanctified in
the midst of Benei Yisrael." And they are warned not to desecrate it, as it
says, "You shall not desecrate My Sacred Name.
"Whoever violates willingly, not by force, any one of the misvot written in
the Torah with passion, in order to anger [God], has desecrated the Name.
If he violated in the presence of ten Jews, he has publicly desecrated the
Name. Similarly, one who avoids sin or perform a misvah for no reason -
such as concern, fear or honor - other than the Almighty Himself, like
Yosef's avoidance of his master's wife, has sanctified the Name."
"I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael"
Rabbi Eliezer Azkari, in "Sefer Haredim" (9), writes: "There is a positive
misvah to sanctify God if he is forced to convert from his faith or violate
one of the three most severe sins in the Torah - idolatry, sexual misconduct
(including the laws of family purity), and murder. In these instances, one
must be prepared to die rather than violate.
"One must think this as he recites in Shema the expression, "and with all
your soul" (both times this expression occurs in the Shema). He must
completely resolve that should he be put to the test he will strengthen
himself and joyfully give over his life and money, like Rabbi Akiva and the
sons of Hannah. He will thus be considered as having actually given over
life, like the verse, "For You we are killed all day; we are considered like
sheep to the slaughter" (Tehillim 43:23). Can a person actually be killed
all day long? Rather, the Almighty considers the sadikim as actually being
killed each day, since they commit themselves this way. This is what is
written in the Sifrei. In the Zohar, Parashat Balak it says that one must
think this as he elongates the "dalet" in the word, "ehad," and anyone who
does so is considered as having sacrificed himself for the sanctity of His
"I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael"
Rabbi Yehudah HaHasid zs"l writes (Sefer Hasidim, 155): "When the evil
inclination to violate, Heaven forbid, a transgression becomes overpowering,
imagine that you lived during a time of persecution, when the halachah
demands that one suffer all suffering, even death, in order not to violate
this sin. You would suffer it all for the sanctification of the Name - so
certainly this power of the evil inclination is not such a big thing!"
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rabbi Shelomoh Molcho Zs"l
As we read our parashah, which contains the missvah of sanctifying God's
Name, it is worthwhile to recall Rabbi Shelomoh Molcho zs"l, whose death for
the sanctification of God's Name was the envy of Maran Rav Yossef Karo zs"l.
Rabbi Shelomoh was a descendant of Portuguese Marranos and a scribe in the
royal court. When David Hare'uveni visited the royal court, Shelomoh was
aroused to return to his ancestral religion and proceeded to circumcise
himself. He then merited a purity of spirit and capability for the study of
Torah. He left the luxuries of the palace and escaped from Portugal. He
arrived in Italy and soon earned the reputation as a brilliant Torah
scholar. He even published twenty-two essays on the topic of redemption
according to the secrets of Kabbalah in his work, "Hamefoar." He met with
the Pope and asked him to stop the campaign against the Marranos. He also
met the Bet Yossef zs"l and Rabbi Taitzik zs"l, and urged the people to do
teshuvah in order to bring the redemption. His influence grew when he
predicted the flood that devastated Rome and the earthquake in Portugal.
His speeches inspired many Marranos to publicly return to their faith.
Eventually, though, the Inquisitor arrested him and sentenced him to capital
punishment. He was spared through the intervention of the Pope and
continued his work. He turned down the opportunity to escape to the nearby
Ottoman Empire and live under its protection in order to remain and inspire
the hearts of his brethren. He even met the Caesar and suggested that he
convert. Again, however, he was arrested by the officers of the
Inquisition. They offered to spare his life if he would convert to
Christianity, but he proudly declared, "I was once already considered as a
member of your faith, and I was privileged to distinguish between falsehood
and the true religion. The One God is worth happily giving our lives for!"
As he recited Shema, he was burned at the stake. May Hashem avenge his blood.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
Chapter 7: When to Recite "Asher Yassar"
Anytime one performs his bodily functions he must wash his hands and then
recite "asher yassar." If he is about to pray, then he must wash his hands
even if he performed his bodily functions without touching any dirty parts
of the body, in order to properly prepare himself to greet the King of
kings. However, if he is not about pray, then he does not need to wash his
hands unless he dirtied his hands when having performed his bodily functions.
However, if one performed his bodily functions in the bathroom, then in any
event he must wash, by virtue of his very entry into the restroom.
One does not recite the berachah, "al netilat yadayim" when washing after
performing his bodily functions, except when washing after having woken up
in the morning, which requires a berachah irrespective of his having
performed his bodily functions.
Although a single washing, strictly speaking, suffices after having
performed one's bodily functions, it is proper to wash three times in
alternating fashion, as one does when waking up in the morning. A revi'it
of water must be used. Although a utensil is not necessary, one should be
stringent in this regard, as well.
One who has no water or nearby access to water should wipe his hands on
some cleaning agent, such as a rock, dirt, a twig, wall, beam, sheet, cloth
or clothing, and then recite "asher yassar."
One who did not recite asher yassar after having performed his bodily
functions and remembers within seventy-two minutes, should recite it when he
remembers. After seventy-two minutes, though, one may recite it only
without the mention of God's Name, as a full berachah is never recited when
its requirement is in doubt. If he remembers at a time when he needs to
perform his bodily functions again, then even if only a short period time
has passed, he should not recite the berachah until he performs his bodily
One who needs to use the bathroom during Pesukei Dezimra washes his hands
and then recites asher yassar. If, however, he is right in the middle of a
chapter, he should finish the chapter and then recite asher yassar before
beginning the next chapter. If this occurred after he concluded Pesukei
Dezimra but before the recitation of Yishtabah, he should then wait until
after Yishtabah to recite asher yassar. Similarly, if, for whatever reason,
he did not recite asher yassar during Pesukei Dezimra, he should recite it
after Yishtabah. If he did not recite it then, either, he should recite it
after Amida, so long as seventy-two minutes have not passed from the time he
performed his bodily functions.
If one forgot to recite asher yassar and his mind had been completely
diverted from the issue until he performed his functions a second time, the
Shulhan Aruch rules that he should recite the berachah twice. However, most
of the later authorities argue on this ruling of the Shulhan Aruch, and
therefore one should recite the berachah only once, as we never recite a
berachah whose requirement is in doubt, even against the ruling of the
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The peach tree can grow as tall as seven meters. However, farmers who grow
peach-trees never allow the tree to grow to its full length, for two
reasons. Firstly, they need to spray the fruits with chemicals in order to
deter insects from damaging the fruits; secondly, they want to be able to
pick the fruits more easily. A single pit of a peach reveals the profound
wisdom with which the Almighty created His world. Each pit contains within
it a complete design for the future of the tree. The pit is especially hard
in order to protect its contents from the teeth of those who try to break
it, thus helping to ensure a successful future for the tree. Inside the
pit, a line divides the pit into two halves, which are connected so tightly
together that even a nutcracker cannot break it. Nevertheless, when the pit
falls to the ground, the pit opens by itself in order to allow the seed to
grow. The dividing "stitch" is constructed in such a way that it can open
only on the ground, reflecting the incredible, intricate wisdom that
underlies every single element in nature. The stitch disintegrates as a
result of the activity of micro-organisms in the ground, so that is can
develop. Undoubtedly, even an inanimate object such as the peach recognizes
the presence of the Creator, as it were, His unlimited wisdom and kindness
in giving us the peach, a fruit rich in taste and vitamins.
When a person plants a small seed from which a large, fruit bearing tree
emerges, he cannot but be amazed at how the result seems to have no
relationship whatsoever - in quality or quantity - to the original seed.
Think about it - how could there be any connection between this tiny seed,
bereft of taste and aroma, and the enormous tree that produces delicious
fruit? Nevertheless, this is a fact of nature, that the tiny seed contains
inside it the future of the seed - the tree. The same principle may be
applied to the misvot performed by a Jew. Many misvot seem very simple and
elementary: wearing sisit and tefillin, reciting a berachah, offering an
encouraging word to a friend in distress. But these seemingly small actions
yield tremendous results in the form of reward, the majority of which occurs
in the World to Come.
Father and Son (13)
Flashback: A righteous, wealthy man ran an inn where he graciously hosted
the poor. A rabbi once stayed with him and blessed him that his wife should
give birth to a son and, indeed, a boy was born a year later. However, the
boy was ignorant and delinquent, and his parents died young out of anguish.
The boy eventually joined a group of paupers that traveled from city to
city, and eventually they arrived in the town of that same rabbi. The boy
went around and started fights wherever he went, until he came to the
rabbi's home where he started one of his usual fights. The rabbi started
conversing with him and realized who this boy was.
The rabbi was simultaneously shocked and glad. He was overjoyed over his
blessing that was fulfilled, but was taken aback by the nature and character
of the boy born as a result of his blessing. "Where is your father?" asked
the rabbi. "He died," answered the boy bluntly. "It's good that he died,
because he would force me to study. Now I am free to do as I please, and
nobody tells me what to do."
"So where is all his property, the inn, all your parents' wealth?" asked
"I have no idea," roared the boy. "My father died a poor man. I have no
house and no property, except what people give me and what I take on my own.
But why are you asking all these questions? Just give me some donation, or
else I will break and destroy everything you have!"
The rabbi sighed painfully. He had known the boy's righteous father, his
pleasantness and gentle demeanor. This boy's behavior compared to his
father's like night and day. He gently asked the boy, "Perhaps you would
like to join me at the table for a meal?"
"I already ate," bellowed the boy. "Just give me some money and I will go!"
"How much would you like?" asked the rabbi politely.
The boy was awfully confused. Nobody has ever asked him such a question.
"Give me a gold coin," he answered.
The rabbi put his hand in his pocket and took out a gold coin. "Here,
take," he said.
The boy grabbed the coin and stuck it inside his fist.
"Do you want more gold coins like this one?" asked the rabbi.
"Of course!" shouted the boy.
"Look, it stands to reason that your father left after him an enormous
fortune. If we sell the inn and locate the property, you will have many,
many gold coins. If it's okay with you, I will try to find out what
happened to all his property. You may be a very rich boy, Yoselle!"
"It's okay with me, of course it's okay!" Yoselle replied.
"It might take a few days, Yoselle."
"But we are planning to leave soon," answered the boy.
to be continued...
THE RAINBOW IN THE CLOUD
This Monday night, tens of thousands of Jews will observe Lag Ba'omer, the
anniversary of the passing of the saintly tanna, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, may
his merit protect us. In describing his greatness, our sages said: "A sign
of one's piety is that a rainbow never appears during his lifetime, because
so long as he is alive the world does not need this sign. Who is such a
pious individual? One who pleads for mercy on behalf of the people, like
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, during whose lifetime the world never required this
sign, for every decree issued against the world was annulled" (Zohar, vol.
The rainbow appears when rain and sunshine are working simultaneously, and
the rays of sun refract in the raindrops. Thus, the rainbow symbolizes
confusion, and thus signifies the tension between the forces of judgment and
compassion, between a harsh decree and a moderate one. "I placed My rainbow
in the cloud." A rainbow represents "hester panim," Hashem's concealment
from the world. But a sadik can drive away the confusion through his
righteousness, allowing the sun to shine in full force, illuminating the
entire world with clarity.
Furthermore, the rainbow is seen when we, ourselves, are like a rainbow,
when the forces of good and evil work simultaneously within us. This occurs
when we sustain inside us all different colors of the rainbow all at once,
confusing different actions and modes behavior. The sadik is like the sun,
clear and bright. His thoughts are pure and his actions consistent. In his
merit, the entire generation, which lives under his protection, is saved.
WARNING THE ADULTS ABOUT THE YOUNGSTERS
Our parashah opens: "Hashem said to Moshe, speak to the kohanim, the sons
of Aharon, and say to them, they may not become impure to a dead body."
Rashi explains that the repetition - "Speak...and say" instructs the adults
to enforce these rules upon the children. The sins involving ritual
impurity are of a particularly strict nature, and therefore the adults bear
the responsibility of ensuring the purity of the children.
There have always been two clearly distinct relams - the Bet Midrash and
the street. Already two thousand years ago, Torah scholars thanked Hashem
that "You have made my place among the dwellers of the Bet Midrash, and not
from the dwellers of the street-corners." Yaakov, the dweller of the tents
of Torah, stood in opposition to the personality of Esav, the "man of the
field," who wasted his time outside. The Bet Midrash was always the place
of spirituality and growth; the street was the place of darkness, emptiness
and spiritual deterioration.
However, the street has never been a place of such impurity as it has
become today. The dress has deteriorated from immodest to vulgar, the media
and press are full of corruption and immorality that any good soul would
avoid. The obligation of this week's parashah must be enforced tenfold:
"Warning the adults about the youngsters," ensuring that the children be
kept away from the impurity, off the streets and their culture. The one way
to accomplish this is to send them to the Bet Midrash, to the place of
purity, to send them to Torah educational institutions to protect the purity
of their souls.
"I WILL BE SANCTIFIED IN THE MIDST OF BENEI YISRAEL"
Our souls made a long journey, from the wings of the Shechinah to this
world, where they are to spend a few dozen years and then return with a
treasure. They will return with the eternal wealth of misvot that yield
reward in Gan Eden. We must continue to grow, filling our bags with misvot,
both big and small, major and minor. Another bag, a black, ugly sack,
weighs down on the other shoulder - the bag of sins. "This calculation does
not operate according to quantity, but rather by size. Some merits equal
several sins, and some sins equal several merits, as it says, 'One sinner
can lose much good.' The calculation is conducted only according to the
wisdom of the God of Knowledge, and he knows how to weigh merits against
sins" (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:4).
In general, we are told, "Be as careful with light misvot as with severe
misvot, for you do not know the reward for misvot" (Avot 2:1). At the same
time, our Sages have revealed for us just a glimpse of the world of reward
and punishment. Rabbi Yisrael of Salant zs"l has taught us that the
greatest punishment will occur for the neglect of easy misvot, specifically
because they are so simple, and we therefore have no justification for their
neglect. He based this principle upon the parable of the Gemara (Masechet
Menahot 43b) of a king who ordered one servant to wear some dry mud on his
garment as a sign of his indentured status. He ordered a second servant to
wear a gold tag. Both failed to comply, and the king ordered harsher
punishment upon the former. Since it was so easy for him to take some dirt,
and yet he neglected the royal command, he deserves a stricter sentence.
Rabbi Yisrael's student, Rabbi Yis'hak Blazer zs"l, in his work, "Kochvei
Or," chapter 2, points to another consideration in the world of reward and
punishment. Just as sins such as the desecration of Shabbat and eating on
Yom Kippur carry with them more severe punishment than other sins, and the
subsequent process of teshuvah is more difficult, the sin of "hillul
Hashem," desecrating the Name of God, is more severe than any other sin.
Regarding this sin the prophet declares, "Hashem swears, this sin will not
be atoned until you die" (Yoma 86a). The only advice for one who has
committed this sin is to increase "kiddush Shem Hashem," the sanctification
of God's Name. In this way he can achieve atonement, as Rabbenu Yonah
taught us (Sha'arei Teshuvah, 1:47). Rabbi Yisshak Blazer concluded from
here that although we do not know the ultimate reward for misvot (as stated
in the aforementioned Mishnah in Avot), we know that one misvah is greater
than any other, and that is a missvah mentioned in our parashah: kiddush Hashem.
Many people have the common misconception that this missvah can be
fulfilled only by dying for Hashem's sake. True, martyrdom carries with it
untold reward: "No soul can stand in the same quarters as those killed by
the government" (Pesahim 50a). But, in essence, anyone who increases the
honor of Hashem, whoever plays a role in strengthening the honor of Hashem,
has earned the merit of the greatest misvah in the Torah, the one that is
equivalent to all others combined, the misvah for which the world was
created: "Blessed in our God, Who created us for His honor." "Everything
the Almighty created in His world He created only for His honor" (end of
In two weeks, every Israeli citizen is invited behind the curtain, to stand
before a pile of ballots. Quite frankly, a single vote has a minuscule
chance of swaying the election in any given direction. No government
official has ever won by a single vote. However, in the Heavens everything
is calculated differently. If there is a list of God-fearing individuals,
who observe the Torah, remain loyal to the faith and to the authority of
Torah scholars, who are committed to maintaining the Jewish image of the
State, to the proliferation of Torah institutions, the increase of Torah
education, implanting Torah values, people who believe in the Creator and
insist that the yeshivot receive money along with the universities, that
public Torah classes be subsidized along with the sport functions, theaters
and concerts - how sad it is that in a Jewish state such fights are
necessary - then in the heavens it will be recorded that such-and-such
person joined the ranks and took part in the sanctification of Hashem's
Name. He merits the greatest misvah of all, in a single moment.
If one does not take advantage of this simple misvah, how can he justify
not having participated in this kiddush Hashem?