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Parashat Hukat


The commentaries struggle to identify the sin of Moshe at the incident of Mei Merivah, which resulted in his being denied permission to enter Eres Yisrael. The angel revealed to the Bet Yosef zs"l that the very fact that there exists such ambiguity testifies to the minute nature of this misdemeanor. And yet, Moshe was punished severely, and was not granted the opportunity to see the final stage of his life-long mission. Rashi writes that Moshe's comment to Hashem in Parashat Beha'alotcha, "Can enough sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them [Benei Yisrael]?" to which Hashem responded, "Is the Hand of Hashem incapable?!" was a more serious sin that that of Mei Meriva. Yet, for that he was not punished because the comment was made in private. The incident of Mei Meriva, by contrast, occurred in public, and Moshe was therefore punished so severely.Although we can never fully comprehend or appreciate the spiritual level of Moshe or his "transgressions," we can, and must , learn the proper lessons and apply them to our lives. Inappropriate behavior in a public setting, such as a religious Jew cutting a line and arousing ill will, is considered a "hilul Hashem," an aveira more severe than any other. As we know, there are no "down payments" when it comes to the punishments for this violation. Rather, the punishment surfaces immediately, Heaven forbid.And if one did violate the sin of hilul Hashem, Rabbeinu Yonah has taught us that atonement can be achieved by doing just the opposite - by bringing about a kiddush Hashem.


Generally speaking, the book of Vayikra is the one containing the laws relating to the korbanot, tum'a and tahara, forbidden foods and relations. Bemidbar is generally a compendium of stories which occurred to Benei Yisrael in the desert from which we are to learn. Thus, the inclusion of the laws of the "para aduma" (red heifer) in Sefer Bemidbar requires some explanation. Should not this parasha have been placed in Sefer Vayikra?It seems that this section serves as a direct response to last week's parasha and the events contained therein. Last week we read of the jealousy of Korah and his rebellion against the authority of Moshe. Everyone saw Moshe ascend Har Sinai to receive the Torah, how Moshe spoke and Hashem's voice responded, as it were, how he brought down from the mountain two sets of tablets. But Korah was the first reformer. He claimed that although Hashem did, in fact, ordain the misvot, He required only the generalities. The details, however, were added by Moshe himself. He thus figured that Hashem had ordered to build the mishkan but it was Moshe's decision to appoint his brother as kohen gadol. Korah even provided several "proofs" to his theory: The Torah is, after all, divine wisdom. If it were all from the mouth of the Creator, then there would not be any misvot whose rationale could not be understood by the human intellect. Therefore, Korah wore a talit made entirely of techelet, and has his two-hundred and fifty cohorts do the same. He stood before Moshe and asked, does a talit made entirely of techelet require sisit with a thread of techelet like other garments, or not? Moshe answered that it does, and Korah responded, "If a single thread of techelet suffices for an entirely white garment, certainly a garment made solely of techelet should not require a thread of techelet! You could not possibly have been commanded in this regard - you made all of this up!" (Midrash Bemidbar Rabbah, 18:3). He could not understand that just the opposite is true. This actually proves the divine origin of the Torah and its misvot. Did Korah really think that he was smarter than Moshe, who was "The father of wisdom, the father of Torah, and father of prophecy" (Megilah 13a) and reached the "forty-nine gates of understanding" (Rosh Hashanah 21b)? If Moshe would have designed the misvot on his own accord, surely he would have done so in a manner which would have been easily understood by the masses. He would have ensured that they would have been acceptable to potential dissenters such as Korah, particularly when he and his followers come before him with techelet garments. He could have assessed what their intention was. Yet, he did not hesitate and responded immediately, "Yes, they require sisit with techelet." Clearly, he was the true, faithful servant, and he transmitted the tradition just as he received it, whether or not they made sense to him.Korah proceeded to ridicule the misvot and was punished accordingly, together with his followers. They were swallowed by the earth or burned together with the ketoret. Nevertheless, "The sons of Korah did not die." Apparently, this ridicule found a home in the hearts of some, and perhaps left some doubts with some people. For this reason, the Creator presented immediately following Parashat Korah the parasha of the para aduma, a misvah which is characterized by its irrationality, the inability of the human intellect to comprehend the underlying wisdom behind its guidelines and principles, as the ashes of the para aduma make "tamei" those who are "tahor" and make "tahor'' those who are "tamei." Furthermore, the Or Hahayim Haikadosh zs"l (the anniversary of whose passing occurs this week) writes that Moshe informed the people of all the misvot. He revealed to them the intricate secrets behind the misvot. Regarding this misvah, however, although he understood the underlying rationale and concepts, as Hazal tell us, Moshe was instructed to conceal the rationale behind this misvah from his audience. In this way, they would recognize the fact that misvot are, essentially, beyond the limited intellectual capacity of the human being: "For My thoughts are not like your thoughts, and your ways are not like My ways, said Hashem. For just as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are My ways higher than yours" (Yeshayahu 55:8-9).For example, this misvah of techelet (which today we cannot observe as we have lost the identity of the hilazon snail ), if its value was purely intellectual, looking at the color and the ramifications thereof, Korah would have had a valid argument. But could we claim a thorough understanding of all the hidden meanings behind the threads of sisit, their knots, their effect in this world and the upper world?Korah's argument reminds us of the story of the truck-driver who asked a rabbi the following question: One morning he woke early and, before praying Shaharit, he recited the entire book of Tehilim. Was he required to recite Pesukei Dezimra? The rabbi smiled and answered, "If you would be asked to transport in your truck several tanks of gasoline, how would you do it?" "With joy!" answered the driver. "And before the trip," continued the rabbi, "Would you fill the tank of the truck with gas?" "Of course," came the reply, "otherwise, I couldn't drive the truck." "But isn't the truck already filled with gasoline," asked the rabbi. "Of course," responded the driver, "but the tanks on top of the truck do not help the tank inside the truck." The rabbi continued, "So certainly you could understand that the Tehilim recited early in the morning do not relate to Pesukei Dezimra recited later. They are two separate institutions, and what is accomplished by one is not accomplished by the other."


"They should take for you a red heifer"

The Or Hahayim zs"l writes that when we come to eradicate the forces of impurity, we take the symbol of absolute judgment, a cow which is entirely red, including its horns and hoofs, for red is the symbol of judgment. We then burn it and mix its ashes with water which symbolizes benevolence. This procedure symbolizes the fact that only those who are entirely wicked should be destroyed, who possesses not an ounce of good. But most sinners, who are still full of misvot, should be worked with and brought along the path of teshuva. Furthermore, even the totally wicked person is hopeless only if he never bore a yoke, like the red heifer, meaning, if he never suffered any punishment. But punishments subdue one's heart, and will motivate one to return to his Creator with complete teshuva.

"They shall take for you a red heifer"

Rabbi Yosef Suso Hakohen zs"l, assistant head of the rabbis of Tunisia, asks, what role did Moshe play in the preparation of the para aduma that Hashem said, "They should take for YOU"? He answers that when Moshe saw the worship of the golden calf, accompanied by song and dance, he broke the tablets. He thought, the tablets are like the wedding contract between Hashem and His nation, so it would be preferable for the contract to be torn, thus retroactively nullifying the wedding, and Benei Yisrael would be like a single woman who defiled herself, rather than an infidel married woman. Afterward, he reasoned, since the Commandments are written in singular form, he, Moshe, was commanded, not the rest of the people. But by this argument, he should have never broken the tablets! Therefore, now that the para aduma was being prepared, a procedure which served to atone for the golden calf, Moshe was now justified for the breaking of the luhot.

"They shall take for you a red heifer"

Rabbi Ovadyah Seforno zs"l explains that misvot lead the individual along the proper path. One may eat, but he must abstain from the forbidden foods. He must separate a portion of his produce for ma'aser, recite berachot before and after eating, as everything leads one along the path of moderation. The sinner has veered to one extreme and he must, therefore, as part of his teshuva process, temporarily veer to the opposite extreme. After his teshuva, he should then return to the usual routine of moderation. The para aduma, which is completely red, represents the extreme. The burning of the para aduma facing the Ohel Moed symbolizes the opposite extreme. In the end, the ashes - the results of the burning - are mixed with water, a mixture which symbolizes the proper balance and moderation which is required from this point on.

"Thus is the statute of the Torah"

The Abarbanel zs"l writes that the para aduma process alludes to the Torah. The cow is unblemished, just as the Torah is perfect. Whoever accepts the yoke of Torah is released from other mundane burdens, just as the para aduma had never been subject to a yoke. The Torah requires the expertise of a scholar from whom to learn, just as the para aduma was prepared under the supervision of Elazar. The Torah requires diligence and occasional contemplation in solitude, just as the heifer was prepared outside the camp. The Torah requires one's thoughts to be directed towards heaven, symbolized by the blood which is sprinkled specifically towards the Ohel Moed. The Torah should be studied enthusiastically, alluded to by the burning of the para aduma. The Torah gives life to those who study it, just as live, fountain water is placed into the ashes. Finally, the Torah purifies a person, just like the sprinkling of the ashes of the para aduma.


Rabbi Hayim Ben Atar zs"l

Thursday, 15 Tamuz, marks the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Hayim Ben Atar, the Or Hahayim Hakadosh, who is buried on Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives). May his merit protect us and all of Israel, amen!Rabbi Hayim Ben Atar was born in Saali, Morocco, three hundred years ago, in the year 5456. He moved to the city of Menaas where he taught many students who drank his teachings thirstily. During his lifetime barbaric Arabs plundered the community. They robbed, murdered and raped. Rabbi Hayim lost all his possessions during the riots. He then moved to Eres Yisrael, stopping along the way in Italy in order to publish his works.In Italy he attained much notoriety and throngs of people came to study from his mouth, and it reached the point where people could no longer fit into the Beit Kenesset to hear his shiurim. After he published his works, "Or Hahayim and "Peri Toar," he decided to continue his journey to Israel accompanied by thirty exceptional students, and after a group of contributors agreed to support Yeshivah Kenesset Yisrael in Yerushalayim.On Rosh Hodesh Menahem Av 5501 he reached the port of Acre, and after visiting the graves of the sadikim in the Galilee he moved to Yerushalayim and established his yeshivah, to which throngs of students flocked from all parts of the world. These students included the Hida zs"l. However, not even five years after his arrival he returned his soul to the Beit Midrash of above, in the year 5503, at the age of forty-seven, and was buried on Har Hazeitim.


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a
Rosh Beit Midrash Meor Yisrael

When the Beracha for Wine Fulfills the Requirement for Other Beverages

In the previous issue we explained that the beracha of hagefen recited over wine fulfills the requirement for other beverages, as well. The reason given is that wine is the most prominent among all drinks. Therefore, other beverages are considered less significant, and their blessing is fulfilled through the blessing over the wine, even "lechatehilah."Therefore, it would seem that those who recite kiddush in Bet Kenesset after mussaf, and those who listen to the beracha to fulfill their obligation of kiddush, if they drink some wine they do not have to recite shehakol on other beverages. But if they only heard the beracha, but did not drink any wine, even though the principle is that one who hears the beracha is considered to have recited it himself, and these people have therefore fulfilled their misva of kiddush, nevertheless, since they did not drink of the wine, they must recite a beracha over the beverages which they drink afterward. Although they fulfilled their requirement of kiddush, they did not fulfill the requirement of the beracha. The whole reason why the beracha for wine can fulfill the obligation for other drinks is, as explained, that the other beverages are less significant when wine is drunk together with them. Therefore, one who does not actually drink wine has no way of fulfilling the requirement for the other beverages. Just as if they were to speak after hearing the beracha they would require a new beracha should they want to drink wine, certainly they must recite a new beracha should they drink another beverage. However, there is an authority who argues, and maintains that just as their listening to the beracha fulfills their obligation of kiddush, so does the tasting of the wine by the one reciting kiddush works for those listening. However, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, in Yehaveh Da'at vol. 8 (ch. 20) writes that the majority opinion does not follow this view, and therefore one who did not drink wine must recite a beracha over other beverages. This is the proper ruling to follow.(Parenthetically, from these authorities it emerges that when the one reciting kiddush tastes the wine, all those listening fulfill their obligation of kiddush, even without drinking, and this applies even to the daytime kiddush, where the critical point is the drinking. Although one authority rules otherwise, the predominant ruling is that one fulfills kiddush by listening to the recitation, even if he does not drink.)However, needless to say, when kiddush is recited in Bet Kenesset, and those listening wish to fulfill their obligation of kiddush, they must eat at least a kezayit of "pat haba'ah bekisnin" in order to be considered as having recited kiddush in the place where they ate, or they can drink a revi'it of wine. If they fail to do this, then their listening to kiddush is meaningless, and they have thus violated the prohibition of eating prior to making kiddush, and one should be very careful in this regard.In summary, the beracha of hagefen fulfills the requirement for all other beverages, but this applies only to one who actually drinks wine. But one who merely hears the beracha without drinking wine must recite a beracha on other beverages, as the beracha of hagefen does not fulfill his requirement, since he did not drink from the wine.


Who knows how much sleep a person needs over a twenty-four hour period? For how long can a person last without sleep? What does one do if he has trouble sleeping? We will discuss these and other similar question in this week's column.A person sleeps for about a third of his life - i.e., most people sleep eight out of every twenty-four hours. Or, in other words, out of every three hours of a person's life, one of them is spent sleeping. From one perspective, this is lost time, but, on the other hand, without sleep a person simply cannot survive. We can survive longer without food than we can without sleep. In this sense, the human is no different from any other creature. Hazal say that when one takes an oath not to sleep for three days the oath is considered null and void, and the individual is therefore punished for having uttered a wasteful oath. The Creator created man in such a way that he needs sleep. Over the course of the day the body exerts itself in so many different ways. The head works, so do the heart and muscles, the nerves are under stress and the person becomes fatigued. At night, as he goes to bed, the body rests and refreshes itself. For this reason, we recite every morning the beracha, "...Who restores the souls to dead bodies." Meaning, we thank the Creator Who restores our souls to us, Who refreshes our tired bodies.How much sleep does a person require? This depends on the person. Some can function on just a few hours of sleep, such as some famous people who studied Torah diligently day and night and operated without any problem on just a few hours of sleep. Most people, however, require an average of eight hours of sleep. Age also plays a role. Babies sleep for the majority of the day, small children sleep for about sixteen hours out of every twenty-four, and the time needed shrinks as the child grows older. At age six the time is more or less split in half, and from age 15 through 50 the average time needed is eight hours. At an older age, less sleep in needed.A good sleep is very valuable, and people find different ways in which to sleep properly. Some insist on a comfortable bed, others worry about the temperature, others are particularly sensitive to noise. However, the most important thing is that a person should go to sleep in a relaxed state, not under stress or anxiety. Otherwise, the comfortable mattress won't help. He will not sleep well, he will toss and turn and have bad dreams. This may cause him to wake up cranky and uptight. It is difficult even to look at such a person! As we believe, Hashem Who created the world looks out for each and every one of us, and we can sleep easily knowing that He will take care of our needs. Especially as we read "shema" right before we go to sleep, and we believe that, "...the Guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers," we can sleep restfully without any worries.


The Rabbi's Blessing (7)

FLASHBACK: Yishak Goite, a young house-attendant in a wealthy home in Triast, Italy, gave all his savings to a visiting sadik who was collecting money for the Jews in Jerusalem. The sadik blessed the boy that by his next visit the boy will be among the wealthiest people in the city. Soon afterward, the boy came upon a public auction of pirated goods, and he rested against some barrels whose contents were unknown. Little did he know that the leaning against them indicated his agreement to purchase them. The barrels were delivered to his master's home who was furious at the boy for having made an expensive purchase on unknown items without his permission. He ordered that the boy work a full year without pay to make up for the lost money, fifty gold coins. .The barrels were brought to the storage room where they took up quite a large amount of space. Later, a new shipment of merchandise was delivered, and, when no room could be found for it, the man's patience ran out and called his servant. "Come," he said, "let's check what you bought and we'll see how you invested your money - for water, forbidden wine, or expensive spices from the Far East." "Spices are sold in boxes, not in barrels," said the servant humbly. He took the torch to help his master find his way, and the man proceeded to the back of the storage room. He removed the first lid and cried in disgust, "Bundles of flax! These are not worth anything!" "Pardon me, Sir," said the boy respectfully, "but if the barrels contained nothing but flax, the workers would not have struggled so much to carry them."The man threw a glance at the boy and quickly removed the flax which seemed to have no end. When he finished, the boy held the torch over the barrel and the man kneeled close, squinting from the reddish glow which shone from the depths of the barrel. The barrel was filled to one-third of its capacity with gold coins. He quickly covered the treasure with the flax and he turned his voice into a whisper. "Do you have any idea why they put the flax here?""Yes," responded the boy, "in order that the barrels weight would be equivalent to a barrel full of water.""Hmmm...I wonder," muttered the wealthy man."What are you wondering, Sir, what is contained in the other barrels?""Not necessarily," the man answered. "This barrel alone contains a huge fortune. If they are all like this one, than you are without question the wealthiest man in Triast. Let's check another barrel." He slammed the hammer against the next barrel and removed the cover, and once again quickly took out bundles upon bundles of flax. Again, gold coins shone in their faces. "It seems that we should change places," muttered the man. "I will hold the torch for you!" "God forbid," shuddered the boy. "I am your faithful servant. But, please tell me, what were you just wondering a few moments ago, Sir?" "Oh, that...I asked a question and you answered such an intelligent answer, and I saw with my own eyes the expression, 'The one with wisdom is the one with wealth..."

to be continued...


The great Tanna Rabbi Meir was the son-in-law of Rabbi Hanina Ben Teradyon, one of the ten martyrs of the Roman persecution who assembled large gatherings of Torah against the Roman decree. The enemies grabbed him and sentenced him to be burnt wrapped in the Sefer Torah. They took bundles of wool, soaked them in water, and placed them near his heart so that he would not die quickly. They killed his wife, as well, and sentenced their daughter to a life of shame. May Hashem avenge their revenge and the revenge of the blood of all his servants.Beruria, Rabbi Meir's wife, asked her husband to save his daughter from such a shameful captivity. He dressed as a non-Jewish soldier, drove to the camp of captives, and asked that the guard give him so-and-so captive. The guard answered that he was afraid, lest a battalion of supervisors come and notice the missing captive. The guard would then be sentenced to death. Rabbi Meir handed him a sack full of gold and said, "Take a half for yourself and use the other half to bribe your supervisor." The guard asked, "And when the money runs out, what will I do then? I will be executed!" The Tanna responded, "Say, 'God of Rabbi Meir, answer me!" and you will be saved. The guard continued, "How can you assure me that this will work?" Rabbi Meir continued, "I will try it on myself." He went into a den of hungry dogs. As soon as they saw him, they pounced to devour him. He cried, "God of Rabbi Meir, answer me!" They immediately retreated. The guard agreed and gave him the girl. A group of supervisors came, and he bribed them. Eventually, the money ran out, the missing captive was noticed and the guard was sentenced to death. They tied the noose around his neck and he cried, "God of Rabbi Meir, answer me!" Immediately, the rope tore. They were all amazed, and he told to them the entire incident. They attempted to capture Rabbi Meir, and he was saved through a miracle. (Avoda Zara 18) From then on, a tradition has developed that whenever a person encounters a crisis or has a certain request, he should give charity and say twice, "God of Rabbi Meir, answer me!" Many have merited salvation in this way.Rabbi Menahem Azayah of Pano zs"l explains what these words mean: "Master of the World, answer me based on the same intentions which Rabbi Meir intended." He thus explained the pesukim, "Fortunate are those who dwell in Your home, they will continue to praise You, Sela! Fortunate is the one who is strong with You, paths are in their hearts" (Tehillim 84:5-6). Meaning, fortunate are all those who entered the house of Hashem, referring to the profound, deep intentions, and turned themselves into a dwelling place for the Shechina, in the spirit of, "This is my God and I will be a dwelling place for Him" - and fortunate are those who trust in the "paths of their hearts," those who are familiar with these deep concepts.From here the Hida zs"l learned ("Petah Enayim" Avoda Zara 18) that it is a worthwhile practice to say, as many do, before performing misvot or saying a tefila that they do so " the knowledge of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai," meaning, by the knowledge and intentions of those who were familiar with these deep intentions. Why do we mention this on the week of Parashat Hukat? Because all this is found in commentary of the Or Hahayim in this week's parasha. Hazal tell us (Bemidbar Rabba 19:6) that the deep meaning of he para aduma was revealed only to Moshe and the Almighty instructed him, "Speak to Benei Yisrael and tell them to take for you a red heifer." What does it mean, "They shall take for you...?" It means that besides the actual taking of the para aduma, they should have in mind that the taking should be according to all that you know regarding the deepest meaning behind this misvah. In this way, the misvah will be considered complete with the proper intention, and in every generation one who performs a misvah will do so having in mind that which Moshe understood about the misvah. In this way, our misvot are combined with the sublime thoughts of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai and even Moshe!

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a
Israel Among The Nations (part III)

Mr. Goodfriend: The boys were subjected to forcible conversion to Christianity , and many perished while resisting .One of them relates : "Did you pass through the departments of Hell through which we passed? Did they ever smear you with turpentine ,and then put you upon the top step in the sweat-room under a burning and suffocating cloud of steam? Did they beat you with whips because they discovered you whispering the prayer 'Modeh Ani'? Did they force you to kneel on sharp stones for hours, because you refused to kiss that which they commanded you to kiss? Did they find you secretly kissing an Arba Kanfot and they sentenced you to lashes in the number of the threads of the Arba Kanfot? . . . But not one day passed without our saying Modeh Ani; and we refused to eat pork, until . . . they gave us no food or water for two days . . . and this little Shimeon here attempted to eat the grass"(Zichron Yaakov I, p. 222).

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