"Do not see the ox of your brother, or his sheep, lost and then ignore them; rather, return them to your brother." And if one sees the soul of his brother lost, wayward, detached from its source, from the eternal fountains and springs of faith - can one possibly ignore him? Can one remain indifferent? "Do not see the donkey of your brother, or his ox, falling along the way and ignore them; rather, pick them up with him." And if one sees his brother, himself, falling along the way, entrenched in the mire of iniquity, involved in sins of which he is unaware, can one possibly ignore him? Can one simply tell himself, so long as all is well with me, so long as my path is straight? True, we cannot perfect the entire world. However, the Rishon Lessiyon Rav Ovadyah Yossef shlit"a has urged that everyone speak to one friend or acquaintance in an effort to guide, direct, teach, and even host, to share with him the delight of our heritage and the glory of Torah and missvot. Bring him to his source, to the Shechinah, and thereby he will save an entire world, all his subsequent generations. We cannot even begin to imagine how much love will pour down upon us from Above when we arrive at the Day of Judgement able to proclaim, "Master of the World, we brought with us one of Your sons who has returned to You!! How much blessing and kindness would a father bestow upon one who has returned a lost son to him! We can experience this love tenfold - there is so much we can do with our lost brothers!
HOW WILL WE MERIT A GOOD YEAR?
A mother and her son once came before the great sadik, Rabbi Yisrael Abuhassera zs"l, the Baba Sali. The boy looked angry and scornful, and it was perfectly clear that he harbored passionate feelings of resentment. His hair was overgrown, his clothing was dirty and unkept, and his hands rubbed anxiously against the chain hanging from his chest. When their turn came, they approached and stood next to the great sadik.
The "gabbai" read from his records the request of the mother: "I, the mother of this boy, request that the rabbi bless him that he behave with more respect towards his mother, so that he does not violate the misvah of honoring one's parents."
A deafening silence gripped the room. The mother and her deliquent son gazed at the sadik, who said nothing. His face reflected a deep sadness, and he whispered as if to himself, "If only I had a mother, I would pick her up and dance with joy..." Gradually, a tear made its way down the cheeks of the sadik.
The son was shaken. Turning to his mother he said, "I am sorry, Mommy." His voice trembling, he continued, "I am terribly sorry for all the trouble I have caused you, for everything I have done!"
The sadik heard and his face glowed. He smiled at the boy and said, "Your sin has been forgiven, my son. Come, sit here at my right side, and I will tell you a story."
The boy stood next to the sadik, who began his story.
"When my brother, Rabbi David, may his blood be avenged, and I, were young, we served our father (Rabbi Masoud Abuhassera zs"l) to the very best of our ability, as he was gravely ill. His pain and suffering caused us great distress. One day, my brother turned to our father and asked, 'Father, why do you groan so loudly?'
"Our father looked at us both and said, 'Until this moment I had a shining jewel [referring to his outstanding son]. Now, his glow has faded.' "My brother heard the words which had left our father's sacred mouth and was seized with terror. He decreed upon himself exile, which atones for all sins, and he spend an entire year locked in one of the local Batei Kenesset. He did not leave his seat. He sat and studied by himself, as if he were excommunicated, G-d forbid. At the end of the year, he said to himself, 'Even the most wicked serve just twelve months in Gehinnom. Since exile atones for all sins, perhaps my sin has been forgiven!' He left the Bet Kenesset but dared not enter our home. He went instead to the governor's house, who was a friend of the family. He was greeted there with great honor and respect. My brother asked the governor to go to our father to ask if he has retracted the harsh judgement which he had passed a year earlier. "The governor stopped what he was doing and came to our home. My father responded, 'Go tell him that I have no harsh feelings whatsoever. I knew, in fact, that he is a sparkling jewel, and I now see that the glow has not faded.'
The governor went and reported back to my brother. My brother hurried home, and, as soon as he reached the front door, he kneeled. He crawled on his knees until my father's seat and then cried, 'My father, do with me as you wish! I am prepared to die upon the altar of your will!'
Our sacred father sighed deeply and kissed him on the head."
When the sadik finished his inspiring story, he placed his hand upon the boy's head and said, "My son, if you promise to mend your ways and behave properly towards your mother, I will bless you with all the blessings. You should feel fortunate that you have the opportunity to fulfill such an exalted misvah. Fulfill it properly!"
The boy who left the sadik's chamber was a completely different one from the one who had entered. The mother had, in effect, won back her son. This story, which is cited in the work, "Yosef Da'at" for the Yamim Noraim, relates to our parashah which contains the laws regarding the "ben sorer umoreh," the wayward son who refuses to obey his parents' wishes. But its relevence extends to this time of year, as well. For what do we hope? To merit a year of life and goodness: "Remember us for life, the King Who wishes life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life, for Your sake, the Living G-d." The path to this end is so simple and straightforward. In the Ten Commandments we are are guranteed, "Honor you father and mother, as Hashem your G-d has commanded you, in order that your days be lengthened and in order that He will do good for you..." (Devarim 5:16). As we know, honoring one's parents is one of the misvot whose fruits are eaten in this world while the principal reward remains for us in the World to Come.
Let us all increase the respect with which we treat our parents, by obeying their wishes and concerning ourselves with their well-being, and then Hashem will increase our blessing of life, happiness, and success, and all our wishes will, in turn, be fulfilled.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"When you go out to battle against your enemies, and you take its captives"
The Or Hahayim zs"l writes that this parashah alludes to the fact that a person's life constitutes an ongoing battle against the evil inclination, as Hazal say, "Who is a mighty person? One who conquers his inclinations." Therefore, the pasuk says, "When you go out to THE war" ("LAmilhamah'), indicating the most common war, the one from which no one can escape. This battle is waged against an enemy who will never retreat, one who remains a foe forever. One must therefore fight relentlessly against this shrewd enemy. However, we are guaranteed that if we fight hard we will win, with Hashem's help: "Hashem your G-d will give him in your hand and you will take captives..."
The Hid"a zs"l explains based on Hazal's comment that the great city of Sorr was full of the booty taken from the the destruction of Jerusalem. Meaning, the sins caused the "Sitra Ahara" to grab the sparks of holiness and take them captive. This resulted in the fall of Jerusalem and the success of Sorr. When a Jew wages a successful campaign against his yesser hara, he "takes its captives," meaning, he frees these sparks of holiness which had been held captive by the Sitra Ahara, and Jerusalem will soon be filled by the booty taken from the destruction of Sorr!
Rabbenu Vidal Hassarfati zs"l asks, why does the pasuk write, "ITS captives"? Should it not have written, "YOUR captives"? He answers that the pasuk refers to the captives of the Al-mighty. Meaning, when you go out to battle and win, this is because "Hashem your G-d will give them in your hands." Every small victory must be attributed to His power alone, not to human effort or skill. Remember, "you take HIS captives," because Hashem was responsible for your victory.
Rabbenu Abir Yaakov Abuhassera zs"l writes, what is the most effective method to defeat the prosecutors against us in the Heavenly Court, and merit goodness? The answer lies in the word, "tesse" (you go out), which contains three letters, "tav," "sadi," and "alef." The "tav" stands for "ta'anit," fasting, the "sadi" stands for, "sedakah," charity, and the "alef" stands for, "or," light, referring to prayer and Torah study. These are the three central components of which we speak on Yamim Noraim - "teshuvah, tefilah, sedakah," as they eradicate the evil decrees.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rabbi Yosef Hayim zs"l of Baghdad
This Friday, 13 Elul, marks the anniversary of the passing of the Ben Ish Hai, Rabbenu Yosef Hayim zs"l of Baghdad. He was proficient in all areas of the Torah, both revealed and hidden, from the straightforward meaning of the texts to the deep and most profound, he was truly a fountain which continually rises, a river which never runs dry.
Rabbi Yosef Hayim stood as a stone wall against the heretics who tried to rise up against us, and consistently foiled their plans. His student, Rabbi Ben Siyon Hazal zs"l, wrote, "If Benei Yisrael had listened to the prophets in those days the way they listened to Rabbi Yosef Hayim nowadays, the Bet Hamikdash would not have been destroyed."
In the year 5646, when an attempt was made to open a school for girls against the spirit of Judaism, Rabbi Yosef Hayim announced to all the rabbis of Baghdad, "We have agreed in no uncertain terms, an absolute and authoritative decision, to prevent this and not to follow through on this plan under any circumstances...No man should send his daughter to this school, and one who violates this edict and sends - besides the fact that he will be judged as one violating the agreement of the community and he will bear his sin, we will also do all which we can to punish him. We will not administer a wedding of any girl who attends this school, we will not write her a ketubah, and she will remain an 'agunah' for the rest of her life." The words spoken were, indeed, effective, and nobody dared send their daughter to the school, despite the administration's promise that the education would not oppose our heritage.
For centuries, education of Torah, fear of Hashem, and good character traits have always been the highest priority of our leaders - and it continues to be so, to this very day.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadyia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash "Me'or Yisrael"
Specific Laws Regarding Berachot
The mishnah in Masechet Sotah (32) says that one who does not understand Hebrew may recite all the berachot in any language which he understands. This applies both to birkat hamazon, whose obligation is Biblical, as well as to other berachot, which are only "miderabanan." The Gemara there (33) derives this principle from a pasuk - "You shall eat, be satiated, and bless Hashem your G-d," implying any language in which you are capable of blessing the Al-mighty.
The Shulhan Aruch (ch. 206) writes, "All these berachot may be said in any language," and, similarly, he rules (116:10) that one who recites a berachah in Aramaic has fulfilled his requirement.
When one recites a berachah over any item, he should first take hold of the item in his right hand and only then proceed to recite the berachah. This is to ensure that he concentrates properly on his berachah. This halachah applies both to berachot over foods as well as birchot hamissvah, recited prior to the performance of missvot. The Mishnah Berurah adds that for reasons related to Kabbalah one should actually hold in his hand the fruit or vegetable over which he is reciting the berachah, rather than hold it with a spoon or fork. However, if the item is generally eaten with a spoon or fork he may do so before reciting the berachah. The Kaf Hahayim rules that one should even remove his gloves so that he actually touches the item with his hand directly. If one recited the berachah without holding the item, even if it was lying on the table, he has, post facto, fulfilled his requirement, as this halachah applies only "lechatehilah."
In ch. 296:6, the Shulhan Aruch writes that during havdalah one holds the cup of wine in his right hand and the spices in his left as he recites the berachah over the wine. Then, he should switch hands and proceed to recite the berachah over the spices. After this berachah, he once again holds the wine in his right hand for the rest of havdalah.
One should not recite a berachah over a fruit if it is not definite that he will be able to eat it right away. Therefore, one who is waiting for his friend to bring him some food item should not recite the berachah until the item has reached him, as he is dependant on somebody else, and by reciting the berachah earlier he runs the risk of making a wasted berachah. However, one who wishes a fruit of his own, and he is not dependant upon the actions of others, may recite the berachah even before the fruit has arrived. Thus, the Shulhan Aruch writes (206), "One who is standing along a stream of water may recite the berachah and drink, even though the water that he drinks was not in front of him when he recited the berachah, since for this was his intention from the outset." In other words, since the water is running along a current, one might have thought that such a person cannot drink the water, since he has no way of reciting the berachah when the water which he will drink is before him. He will inevitably end up drinking water which was upstream at the time of the recitation of the berachah. Nevertheless, rules the Shulhan Aruch, he may still recite a berachah and drink, since at the time of the berachah the individual knew full well that the water before him at that moment is not the water to be drunk, and he therefore does not intend for his berachah to apply to that water, but for the water further upstream.
In summary, one who does not understand Hebrew may recite all berachot in whichever language he understands, and he must be able to eat the food item immediately on his own, without being dependant upon others.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
People say that there are different types of tears. There are warm tears, boiling tears which result from extreme emotion, tears of joy which emerge from passionate feelings of happiness, and there are tears of bitterness, tears which fall from eyes which cry, often during the recitation of heartfelt prayer. Indeed, tears serve many functions. But what are tears? Who are the people who cry more often than others? What causes tears? A tear is a liquid which constantly lubricates the inner surface of the eye. This allows the eyeball to move freely and smoothly and also removes dust and other foreign particles from the eye. The layer of moisture which forms on the cornea allows for maximum vision, protects the eye, and prevents the collection of dirt. The system of tearing is composed of two mechanisms. There are glands which produce the tears and secrete them when stimulated, and tear ducts which bring the tears from the surface of the eye to the nose cavity. Each eye contains two tear glands, one large and one small. The large one is located in the front section of the orbit of the eye, towards the temple, whereas the smaller one is found in the upper eyelid. Besides these, there are also many microscopic glands. The secretion of tears results from external stimuli such as the penetration of a foreign object, a strong wind, etc. Many people assume that crying and tearing belongs to the weak of heart, those who cannot overcome pain, grief, or shame. However, it would seem that the emotional ones are right for letting their tears flow. Scientists in recent years have revealed how healthful the flow of tears is for a person. They relieve tension, remove poisons from the body and help the body heal itself. Believe it or not, studies have shown that people who cry enjoy better physical and emotional health.
Undoubtedly, crying is a wonderful gift provided by our Creator. As Jews, we are aware of the fact that tears contain an added benefit, a benefit whose value cannot even be imagined. The Gemara (Berachot 32b) says, "Even though the gates of prayer have been locked [in the aftermath of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash], the gates of tears have not been locked." No barrier stands in the way of prayer with tears. In their merit, all the gates of heaven should be opened before all of the nation of Israel, and we will merit the redemption, speedily and in out days, Amen.
Measure for Measure (6)
Flashback: A poor, scholarly, gentle man, joined a Bet Midrash which was supported by a wealthy man who loved Torah. When the wealthy man realized how great a scholar this poor man was, he invited him to his home, and the two conversed in Torah throughout the entirety of the meal.
When the wealthy man finished eating to his heart's content, he also completed his complex discussion with the poor scholar. He wiped his mouth and said, "Certainly you will return to the Bet Midrash. However, I ask that you will please honor me with a visit after arbit, during dinner time. It would bring me great pleasure."
"Anything which the 'ba'al habayit' says I must obey," replied the scholar pleasantly. Exhausted, he stood up from the table and dragged his weary feet with whatever energy he had left to the Bet Midrash. Being a righteous and humble person, who always looked for the best in everybody, he thought to himself, "He did not know that I had nothing to eat all day. In fact, for the last two days I have been without bread. How was he supposed to know that? He obviously thought that I had eaten this morning and that I will eat again this evening. That is why he invited me to his table while he ate."
And so, he returned to the Bet Midrash and continued learning diligently. Once he opened his sefer, he forgot everything and satiated himself with Torah. Gradually, the students returned to the Bet Midrash from their meals. When they saw him studying they said to themselves, certainly he ate very well at the wealthy man's home and received added strength to learn with such intensity. They began discussing among themselves which of them should invite him for supper and who should have the privilege of hosting him for the night. Before they reached an agreement, the wealthy man, the supporter of the Bet Midrash, entered the room and took the poor scholar with him to his seat next to the aron kodesh. Together they prayed arbit with the rest of the congregation and the philanthropist took the poor man by his arm and brought him to his home. The other scholars said to one another, "This is better, that we all forgo on the honor of hosting such a special man, so that he may partake of the delights waiting for him on the table of the wealthy man. After all, how much can we offer him?"
Meanwhile, the wealthy man said to the poor scholar who was withering from hunger, "I thought of a very serious 'kushya' in my learning." He presented the difficulty, which was, in fact, a serious question. "Look into it, as I wash my hands"
TO BE CONTINUED...
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