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Parashat Ki Tissa
THE GREATNESS OF THE FATHER OF ALL PROPHETS
On the first anniversary of the passing of the Saba of Nevarduk zs"l, a man of remarkable self-sacrifice who established a network of yeshivot that were forced to operate secretly and underground, endangered by the ravages of World War I and riots, his foremost students and faithful followers of his heritage - the heads of the yeshivot of Nevarduk - organized a meeting of encouragement and planning for the difficult tests before them. This was no small matter, maintaining a network of dozens of yeshivot in the stormy conditions in Russia, and to fight the wave of radical revolution that declared all-out war against religion. His great student, Rav Shemuel Weintraub zs"l, the Rosh Yeshivah of Berditchev, was asked to characterize the greatness of the Saba, the revered rabbi. He stood up and said, "If we were asked to characterize the greatness of Mosheh Rabbenu, to define his greatness, we would find ourselves at a loss for words; we would be afraid to say a thing. But the Torah itself did so and identified the pinnacle of greatness and glory: 'And for all the great might and awesome power that Moshe displayed before all Israel.' Rashi explains, 'that his heart brought him to break the tablets in front of their eyes, as it says, 'and I broke them in front of your eyes,' and the Almighty consented to the idea, as it says, 'asher shibarta' [literally, 'that you broke'], meaning, you should be commended for breaking them.' This is the greatest praise of a faithful servant, who does not only perform the great and exalted deeds, who does not try to limit his efforts, whose only concern is the will of his Creator!" He went on to tell that the Saba of Nevarduk once sent two of his students to a distant city in the heartland of Russia in order to establish a yeshivah. The two worked devotedly, gathering students, arranging for the building, supplying food and teaching Torah. Once the yeshivah was firmly established and off the ground, the secular leaders of the community decided to tamper with the yeshivah's curriculum. They threatened that if their changes were not implemented, they would drive the yeshivah from its building, which was owned by the community. The two students didn't know what to do. The Saba took with him three of his students - Rabbi Shemuel among them - and traveled to the town, a three-day journey from his home. He tried persuading the community leaders to change their minds, and when he saw he could not win he convinced the parents to send their children to other yeshivot from his network. He did not budge until he shut down the yeshivah. This is true greatness, the greatness of "breaking the luhot," which results in the second tablets, such that nothing at all has been lost. When the wicked government sought to introduce secular studies into the curriculum of the famed yeshivah of Volozhin, several gedolim of the time considered giving into the demands, given that Volozhin was the central and oldest yeshivah of the country. But the Rosh Yeshivah - the Nessiv zs"l - decided to "break the luhot" and close the yeshivah. Remarkably, the yeshivah's alumni opened yeshivot in their respective hometowns, and dozens of new institutions thus sprang up. Torah study continued to flourish and its scholarship continued to increase. And when the Saba of Kelm zs"l consulted with his rebbe, Rav Yisrael of Salant zs"l, whether or not to open his yeshivah, he answered, "If you can close, then you can open". Why do we bring this up in this context? If we look around us we'll see that much of what we do is on the level of "bedi'avad," less than optimal, part of our routine and habitual behavior, that although we are not happy with it and would never engage in such activities were it not forced upon us, we continue along because we feel trapped, swept by the current without strength to oppose it. We find it difficult to stop, change direction, and "break the luhot." We sometimes encounter secular Jews who know that the truth lies in Judaism, that one must fulfill the missvot, and observe Shabbat, kashrut and family purity. But they simply lack the strength to pick themselves up and do it, to accept the yoke of Heaven and go to a seminar. We sometimes meet parents who send their most precious possessions in the world - their beloved children - to school to acquire knowledge and erudition, only to be utterly shocked by the growing trend of violence, by the language the children bring home, the expressions and words that suddenly entered the home. They are stunned by the permissiveness and animalistic behavior. We wonder, what are you waiting for? Change directions while you still have time left! "Break the luhot," switch your children to a school that educates towards faith and our heritage, towards fine qualities and eternal values, towards the recognition of the Torah and Siddur, honoring parents and good manners - save your children, and they will be forever grateful! Each of us should carefully examine himself and see to what extent he finds himself stuck in a routine, locked in a path of distress, and then gird his loins to change his situation before calamity strikes. This is the pinnacle of greatness, for which one receives a blessing of "yiyasher kohacha" directly from Hashem Himself!
THE MESSAGE OF THE PARASHAH
The Torah is eternal, as are its messages. The story of the golden calf, which has formed an eternal stain upon the chosen people, would not have been recorded were it not to behoove us to extract the relevant messages therefrom. Perhaps the most penetrating lesson to be gleaned jumps out at us right from the beginning: "The nation saw that Mosheh delayed coming down from the mountain." They waited for him and anticipated his return. They were guaranteed of his arrival, they lived amongst spiritual giants - Aharon and Hur, they were surrounded by the Clouds of Glory and fed by heavenly bread that fell daily, and the mountain still burned with God's fire. But they lost their patience, they broke down. This all is ever so reminiscent of our own generation. We were promised an imminent redemption, and all the signs of its arrival are unfolding before our very eyes. The coming of Moshiah is closer now than ever before, we have gedolei Torah living in our midst, and all we are called upon to do is remain loyal to the faith, to wait patiently, and not to stray "in the meantime" after a golden calf. Then we will merit greeting Moshiah speedily and in our days!
THE TEST OF THE DIAMOND
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Four hundred and fifty years ago, Rabbi Shimon Lavi decided to emigrate to the Holy Land. As he passed through Tripoli, however, he found an opportunity for active involvement in Torah and spiritual causes in that city. He thus decided that the interests of the public good come first, and stayed. He met with much success, and when he died he was buried in Tripoli. His grave became a pilgrimage site, and soon great wonders became associated with his grave. This aroused the jealousy of the local Moslem population, who decided to withhold access to the grave from the Jews. They built a dome upon it, turned it into a site for their prayers, and called it "ibn limam." They then began burying their dead in the environs of the grave. Once, Rabbi Kamos Yamin zs"l, the rabbi of the Amros community, was making his way to Tripoli and happened to be in the area of the Moslem graveyard near the site of Rabbi Shimon's grave. Suddenly, he was attacked by gangsters. His fear provided him with immense powers, and he fled to the sacred grave. As he reached the gates of the structure erected by the Moslems, he found that the iron gates were locked closed, as part of the Moslems' attempt to prevent entry to the grave. The rabbi grabbed onto the two iron rings in the locked gate and exclaimed with intense emotion, "Rabbi Shimon Lavi, Rabbi Shimon Lavi - your merit shall stand for me, redemption you shall bring me!" As he stood in prayer, the thieves caught up to him. They began scouring the area, and he could hear them saying, "Where is he? To where did he disappear?" They searched frantically, having themselves seen him go to that area. They searched high and low, but did not find him. The rabbi, trembling from fear all throughout, attached himself to the gate and held tightly onto the rings. Finally, the thieves gave up and left, at which point he let go of the gate. For an entire hour he could see without being seen, and when he regained his strength he continued along his way. Upon his arrival in Tripoli, he told of the great miracle that he had experienced.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
Just two pesukim earlier, we were commanded, "You shall observe the Shabbat, for it is holy for you." What does this second command add? Rabbenu Avraham Ibn Ezra zs"l explains that this pasuk refers to the weekdays: ".. that they shall observe the days of the week, not forgetting which day is Shabbat, so that one prepare his needs on Friday so that he observes Shabbat without desecrating it." Thus, it turns out, one who prepares for Shabbat by baking and cooking fulfills a missvah in the Torah - "Benei Yisrael shall observe the [needs of] Shabbat"!
"Benei Yisrael shall observe the Shabbat"
The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l explains the word "shamar" - generally "observe" or "watch" - in this context as related to a similar term in reference to Yaakov's reaction to Yossef's dreams: "and his father 'shamar' the matter." There Rashi explains that Yaakov was anxiously waiting for the dreams to be realized. Similarly, in this context, it is not enough for one to simply observe Shabbat and refrain from prohibited activity. Rather, one must not consider Shabbat in any way a burdensome obligation: "One must rejoice on Shabbat willfully and with utmost desire, and he should always wait and anticipate its arrival."
"Benei Yisrael shall observe the Shabbat"
The Siftei Kohen zs"l notes that earlier Hashem said, "You shall observe the Shabbat," in the second person form, whereas here He says, "Benei Yisrael shall observe," in the third person. He explains that the Almighty tells us that even in exile, during a period of "hester panim" - the concealment of His providence - we must continue to observe the Shabbat, as the pasuk continues, "for their generations, an eternal covenant." The Zohar explains the word "l'dorotam" - for their generations - as "dirah tamah" - eternal residence. Meaning, in the merit of the observance of Shabbat we will be redeemed and earn eternal inheritance of the land - "an eternal covenant"!
"Benei Yisrael shall observe the Shabbat"
The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l writes that the earlier pasuk prohibited the forbidden areas of activity on Shabbat: "You shall observe the Shabbat, for it is holy for you." In our pasuk, Hashem comes to add that Shabbat involves more than mere refraining from prohibited activity. As the pasuk continues, "to make the Shabbat" - to infuse it with spiritual content, such that "between Me and Benei Yisrael, it is an eternal sign." It shall be a day of Torah study, sanctity, and closeness to the Almighty!
"Benei Yisrael shall observe the Shabbat"
Rabbenu Shelomoh Alkabess zs"l writes in his work "Ayelet Ahavim" (on Shir Hashirim) that the Torah bases the requirement of observing Shabbat on the fact that "between Me and Benei Yisrael, it is an eternal sign that Hashem made the heavens and earth in six days." Hazal say that Benei Yisrael were conceived of even before the creation of the world, and their souls were created before all else. Therefore, we are the ones to testify to His creation of the world, and we required to do so through the observance of Shabbat.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
When to Remove One's Tefillin
Some have the practice that both the "sandak" and father of a newborn child on the day of a berit do not remove their tefillin until after the milah. The reason for this custom is that tefillin is considered a "sign," as it says, "You shall tie them as a sign on your arm." (Devarim 6:8), as is milah.
"You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you" (Bereishit 17:11). Others, however, have the practice of removing their tefillin before the milah. In any event, if the milah occurs on Rosh Hodesh and is performed after mussaf, then it is proper not to put on tefillin for the berit and wear only the tallit. If one is wearing tefillin and hears the congregation reciting mussaf and approaching the kedushah, then if he has time, he should remove his tefillin before kedushah and recite kedushah along with them. If he does not have enough time before kedushah to remove them, then he should move his tefillin shel rosh to one side and put his sleeve or some other material underneath his tefillin shel yad, so as to stand in between the tefillin and his arm. Then he should recite kedushah along with the congregation. If he has no time for this, either, then he should simply recite kedushah together with the congregation, even with his tefillin. Similarly, if one forgot to remove his tefillin before mussaf and remembers in the middle of the tefilah, then he should move them from their place and then continue his tefilah. If he remembers only after completing his tefilah, then he does not need to repeat the tefilah. Those who are accustomed to wear tefillin every day at minhah should do so on Rosh Hodesh, as well. According to some authorities, those who are accustomed to wearing tefillin on Hol Hamoed should remove their tefillin before mussaf. Others, however, maintain that they should remove their tefillin before hallel. The sheliah ssibur, however, does not remove his tefillin before hallel, but rather after hallel on Hol Hamoed Pesah, and before hallel and taking the lulav on Hol Hamoed Sukkot. On Purim, the custom is not to remove one's tefillin until after the completion of the reading of the Megilah, since it says in the Megilah, "There was light, joy, exuberance and glory for the Jews" (8:16), and the Gemara (Megilah 16b) understands the word "yekar" (glory) as referring to the tefillin. Therefore, it is proper to wear tefillin during the reading of the Megilah. When the word "yekar" is read, one should feel his tefillin shel rosh and kiss them.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
One of the factors mitigating hostility in the animal world is the various ways in which weaker animals soften the enmity of their more powerful foes. Submissive conduct effectively and clearly transmits the message, "You win - I surrender." A potential aggressor rarely ignores these messages. After winning a given competition, it has no reason to run the risk of injury in subsequent battle and incite the anger and vengeance of the desperate loser. A cardinal rule among the entire animal kingdom says that the conquered obeys the conqueror. They make a point of expressing an attitude of submission, which differs as much as possible from the threatening and imposing demeanor of others among their own species. As much as possible, the weak must become the polar opposite of the powerful. For example, a weak chimpanzee who confronts a belligerent enemy stronger than itself lets out a soft sigh similar to heavy breathing and lowers its body as much as possible so it looks upward and thus stress its size disadvantage. In other words, it submits in the presence of the ruler. At times the chimpanzee will quickly bow down several times and bring the larger animal some small object, such as leave or stick. To complete the flattery, it may even kiss the enemy's feet. Submissive behavior exists amongst humans, as well, on different levels. Some submit themselves to give honor to another for his social stature, upon his having been selected by the group. Extreme cases of submission result in utter self-deprecation, which often involves inappropriate and exaggerated flattery. Nobody looks favorably upon such behavior. In the Torah world, the situation is completely different. We Jews express submission before the gedolim of the generation who guide us spiritually. We do so out of a sense of appreciation and desire to adhere to their teaching. Standing before a rabbi, for example, signifies the respect we afford to his Torah, to the values of sanctity that he has absorbed, and his fine qualities and demeanor. Every Jew has the ability of making a rav for himself, to whom he listens and who guides his path. Obviously, the Jew is then obligated to respect his rav. He must stand before him, serve him, and for his own good submit to the da'at Torah of his rav. Furthermore, all Jews, including their Torah authorities, submit themselves absolutely, out of both love and fear, out of a sense of complete self-nullification, before the Creator of the world.
The Espionage Case (1)
It has already been said that certain cities are located on the world map with big letters: New York, Moscow, London, Paris, etc. In the world map in the heavens, however, different cities shine with large letters: Teveryah, Ssipori, Sura, Pumpadita, Fez, Girondi, Kortva, Aram Ssoba, Vilna, Mezhbiss, etc. Among the neglected cities that has earned its large letters in the heavenly map is Radin, the city of the saintly ssadik, Rav Yisrael Meir Hakohen Kagan zs"l, the Hafess Hayyim. It was in Radin where he composed his world-renown works and sent them throughout the world, where he established his yeshivah known for its hundreds of students, and to there people came from all over to seek his counsel and receive his blessing. His words were like the "Urim V'tumim," emanating from ru'ah hakodesh, and his blessing would not return empty-handed. The swarm of visitors increased during the tumultuous and turbulent period of World War I. Tens of thousands of young Jewish men were drafted to the Czar's army and sent to the battlefields. The highways were overrun by armies, the economy deteriorated steadily and masses of people starved. This was a critical period, and to whom would the tortured, grieved souls turn if not to the father of Israel, whose heart genuinely felt their sorrow and eyes wept incessantly? Soldiers came for his blessing before heading out to battle, unemployed men would seek a blessing for a livelihood, wives the fate of whose husbands was unknown would seek his blessing that their husbands return home safely and healthy, that in the meantime they would have enough to feed their children, and the children would grow up properly in the absence of guiding light of their father. Throngs of people flocked to Radin. They would take the train to the nearest stop and would make their way by foot to the small town. They would lodge in the homes of the local Jewish population, many of whom were connected to the yeshivah, either teachers or members of the kollel. The residents opened their homes warmly and generously, drawing inspiration from the example set by the exalted personality of the ssadik. They didn't ask for the identity of the guests, in fulfillment of the dictum, "Let your house be open wide, and let the paupers be members of your household." Among the visitors was a certain young man who sought lodging in the yeshivah dormitory. He was a tanner whose livelihood came to a halt with the onset of the war. He told the students that he came to seek the ssadik's blessing. The students fulfilled the missvah of welcoming guests, unaware of the crisis they were bringing upon themselves.
to be continued.
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