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The sadik, Rabbi Yis'hak of Nashkiz zs"l once visited the city of Vlodovka. One evening he lay down to rest in bed, with several of his close disciples around him. He told a story that occurred years earlier in the town of Apta. A certain learned, young student, a talented and charismatic young man, was compelled to go into business in order to make a living. He would visit the estates of the wealthy noblemen, look over the fields' produce, and offer different prices for them. He was wise and honest, and quickly earned the trust of those involved. He also learned their protocols and general guidelines, discovering how to find favor in their eyes. This favor, however, turned out to work against him. For near his town was a large estate with whose lord he conducted business. One day the landowner died, leaving the estate to his only daughter. The young businessman continued his business dealings with the daughter, and his gentle, proper manners found favor in her eyes. In short, he did not withstand "the trial of Yosef." He steadily deteriorated to the point where he converted out of the faith and married her, and he became the lord of the estate.
"Our rabbi," one of the listeners interrupted, "a similar story took place not far from here, with one of the local residents… "
The others quickly hushed him and the sadik continued the story.
Imagine, he said, a Jew finds himself held captive by the Satan. No tefilah, no tefillin, no Shabbat, no festivals, no Rosh Hashanah and no Yom Kippur. Such a desolate life, a barren wasteland of the mundane, filled with the stench of forbidden foods. More than once he felt regret over his decision. He wanted to return, to go back to his life of Torah and misvot. But the door was locked, for according to the edict that was in force back then, a heretic was not permitted to return, and anyone who helped him was severely punished. Nevertheless, he tried. But the wicked woman stood guard; she detected his hesitation and monitored his steps. As soon as he made connections with the local Jews, she would turn them into the authorities, who tortured the Jews terribly.
The rabbi of Apta was a sage and a great sadik. One night he sat and learned when suddenly he heard knocking at the door. He rose and opened the door, and saw the apostate standing before him.
"Please save me, rabbi," he tearfully wailed. "I want to perform teshuvah, I want to return to Judaism."
The rabbi knew that many Jews paid bitterly for agreeing to help him. He closed the door on the man. But the man did not give up. He returned every night, at the same time, after everyone in his estate had gone to sleep.
One night the rabbi's patience wore out. When he heard the knocking, he took his rod with him to open the door. He opened the door and lifted the rod. He told the heretic, "Go away, or else I will use the rod!" The man's face turned white, and the rabbi declared, "Just as this staff could never grow fruit, so will you never return - never!"
The apostate turned around and began leaving, with no intention of ever coming back. The rabbi, meanwhile, looked at his rod and saw that, right before his eyes, it began blossoming, it produced flowers!
"Come back!" he cried. He invited the heretic into his room and began teaching him the path of teshuvah. In the early morning hours, the man returned to his estate, only to find it ablaze, fire and smoke rising from the buildings and filling the air. The entire house and all its inhabitants burned down, and he was saved - saved in order that he can begin a new chapter in his life.
The sadik completed his story and said, "In earlier years, wondrous stories like this were heard. But in our days, could such a thing really happen?" He waited a moment and then added, "Perhaps it could. Good night."
The next day word came that that night an estate burned down not far from the city. Miraculously, the lord of the estate, a Jew who had converted out of the faith, was not at home. He had stayed in Danzig to look after his business and had not come back. He decided to return to the religion of his forefathers.
We may say the same: "In earlier years, wondrous stories like this were heard. But in our days, could such a thing really happen?" But we need not respond, "Perhaps it could"; we know that this happens nowadays, and how! It is told that before his death, the Hatam Sofer zs"l uttered a prayer, "that the wellspring should not run dry, and the tree should not be cut!" Master of the world, how hard have they tried to dry the wells and cut down the trees, to detach us from our heritage, to tear us away from Judaism. Indeed, it seems as though there was little hope for revival, that everything was lost. But then arose our rabbi, Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a, and brought down life-giving dew, he drew water from the wellsprings for the thirsty flocks. And behold, the teshuvah movement has arisen, and trees that appeared dry now blossom; we have returned to our source. "And you will say to yourself, who bore these for me when I was bereaved and barren, exiled and disdained - by whom, then, were these reared? I was left all alone - and where have these been?" (Yeshayahu 49:21).
So who has heard of the chinchilla? Not too many of you, probably, and for good reason. The chinchilla is a rodent that is not very common in our region, but lives in caves and holes in the tall Andes Mountains in South America. It lives at the peaks of mountains between 6-12 thousand feet above sea level. Due to the low temperatures in its region, the chinchilla received from the Creator beautiful, thick fur that almost led to this unique rodent's extinction. It suffered many years from mass hunting. The fur removed from its carcass was used in the manufacture of coats worn by the wealthiest people in the world. This special fur is considered to be of among the highest quality furs in the world. It is thick, smooth and comfortable. In response to the high demand for this fur, a wild hunting campaign began, targeting this poor rodent. Only a change in fashion saved its life. Much to its good fortune, the chinchilla became no more nor less than a popular pet, loved, sought after, and cared for. To demonstrate just how significant a reversal of fortune this is, consider the fact that a single fur coat required no fewer than two hundred chinchillas! In recent years, with the worldwide protest against the use of animal fur, most of the breeding farms closed down. Since then, the pet market has been flooded with thousands of chinchillas that suddenly became among the most popular pets in the United States and Europe.
One who hears the story of this rodent could perhaps think, "What luck! A pursued animal on the brink of extinction suddenly became a pampered pet!" Others, however, will stand in awe and exclaim, "His compassion is upon all His creatures; G-d extends His providence even to a small creature such as this!" If this is true concerning animals, then all the more so does it apply to the most important creature - the human being. One who looks with open, watchful eyes will see divine providence not only in supernatural wonders, but even in routine, daily life, and even during the unpleasant situations that we sometimes experience. We Jews know that belief in providence constitutes not a measure of added piety, but rather one of the cardinal articles of faith listed among the thirteen principles of the Rambam: "I believe with complete faith that the Al-mighty exists and oversees… "
"One Who Walks Innocently Walks Securely" (3)
Flashback: The body of a Christian child was discovered shortly before Pesah in the city of Boskovitz. The incited mob descended upon the Jewish neighborhood looking to riot. The priests inflamed their hatred with the terrible blood libel, according to which the Jews mixed the blood of gentiles in their masot. But the rabbi had anticipated the possibility of the libel and already refuted the allegations to the governor. The governor sent his police force to protect the Jews from the mob. The fury was now diverted towards the governor, and the mob made its way towards his palace to besiege it.
The calls for revenge rose like the waves at high tide and they reached the governor's chamber. He immediately understood the danger he faced. The mob could easily break through the palace and release their anger against its occupants. He donned his official garb and went out to the terrace. He was greeted by a cacophony of hisses and shouts, plus curses and waving fists. But he stood firm as stone, with a sense of authority and dignity, and calmly raised his hand. Miraculously, the noise subsided. His coolness of spirit had worked its magic. But he knew that the lull was only temporary; the coal simmered and the fermenting of emotion hadn't stopped. Everything now depended on him, whether the mob would relax and scatter, or whether it would burst out of control.
"Citizens of Boskovitz," his voiced thundered, "a terrible crime has been committed in our town. Human beasts have taken the life of an innocent, young boy."
"Revenge! Revenge!" the crowd began chanting.
The governor again calmly and resolutely raised his hand, and again there was silence.
"Revenge will surely come, swiftly and severely. The perpetrator will be burnt at the stake in the center of the town!"
"Hooray! Long life the governor!" Hats were thrown in the air, and the governor's arm lifted for a third time.
"But I want the entire world to see that in Boskovitz justice is carried out fairly. I want to find the guilty party and expose his crime publicly, to prove his guilt and put him to shame, and thereby ensure that such a despicable crime will never again be committed in the streets of our city, nor anywhere else on earth!"
Shouts of cheer cut off his speech. The mob's spirit was so fickle; this time, he did not interrupt them. He waited for the cheers to subside by themselves, and then he continued: "The police will investigate the matter through and through. It will not rest nor spare no efforts until the wicked criminal is caught and stands trial. And then, justice will be served." The mob roared approvingly, shouted, cheered, and eventually dispersed.
The governor entered his chamber perspired and worn. He was but one step away from success and failure, between control over the mob and the loss of all restraint. He summoned the chief of police and ordered him to draw all possible resources and investigate throughout the country. He was to spare no effort until the matter has been resolved. "Do not ask my permission," he concluded. "Everything is permissible and sanctioned. Do whatever you feel necessary, employ whatever means you have at your disposal. The next time you come here, you bring the murderer with his hands in chains!"
The chief of police did as he was ordered. But neither of them ever suspected whom the chief of police would bring to the governor's chamber!
To be continued
Rabbi Yehoshua Perahyah zs"l
Rabbi Yehoshua Perahyah zs"l was the rabbi of Salonica and its Rosh Yeshivah. He was looked upon with reverence by all the Jews of the city who responded lovingly to the love he showed them. He established his place of study in the synagogue of the fishermen in order that he be close to the masses and thereby guide them along the proper path and draw them with loving kindness. He would say, "Whoever tries lifting a heavy burden must hold it from underneath; if he holds it from up top he cannot lift it. Similarly, one who wishes to raise his community must go down to the lowest elements in order to bring them up with him."
One day he sat in the fishermen's synagogue and studied, when suddenly a Jew ran in frantically and panicked. "Save me!" he shouted. "The mukhtar is after me!"
"Why, what happened?" he was asked.
"I didn't pay my taxes," he replied.
As he was talking, the mukhtar ran inside the synagogue, his eyes gazing dreadfully, his hand wielding a long knife.
"There you are," he called out fiercely, and began heading towards the Jew.
At that moment the rabbi's voice was heard. "Let go of the knife! This is a sacred place, and one may not enter with a weapon."
The mukhtar glanced disdainfully at the rabbi, and continued towards the Jew who trembled with fear, and waved his arm.
"May your arm become paralyzed!" the rabbi announced.
At that very moment, the arm remained waved in the air like a beam. The rage and hatred suddenly gave way to fear, amazement and trepidation. The mukhtar grabbed hold of his frozen arm with his left hand and tried to bend it, but to no avail. He struggled, gritted his teeth, tried with all his might, but the arm was like iron.
"Forgive me, holy rabbi, for insulting you," the mukhtar muttered.
"You insulted not me, but the sanctity of this place," the rabbi replied. "Leave this holy place, and then your arm will be released."
The mukhtar left in humiliation, the Jew's live was saved, and the rabbi returned to his studies.
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
The Halachot of "Basar Be'Halav" - Meat and Milk
The Torah writes, "You shall not cook a kid in its mother's milk" (Shemot 23:19, 34:26; Devarim 14:21). Hazal (Hulin 115b) explain that the Torah repeated this prohibition three times to introduce the three prohibitions of eating, cooking and benefiting from meat and milk. According to Torah law, only standard modes of cooking are included in the prohibition against cooking meat and milk; Hazal, however, forbade all cooking of meat and milk.
Although the Torah mentioned only a "kid," all beef is included in these three Torah prohibitions. Likewise, these prohibitions include all milk, not just that produced by the mother of the animal whose meat is being eaten or cooked.
How does the prohibition against benefit apply? If one mistakenly cooked meat in milk, and the milk comprises less than sixty times the amount of meat, one may not give it to a gentile as a gift, not to mention that he may not sell it to a gentile. One may also not give it to a dog, even an ownerless dog, or throw it into the sea, since the fish will eat it. One should instead throw it into the toilet.
The prohibition against cooking meat and milk means that one may not accept a job preparing food for gentiles if this entails cooking meat and milk together. Regardless of how much money one will lose by turning down such a job, he may not accept it, since cooking meat and milk violates the Torah prohibition even if the individual does not himself eat it.
According to some authorities, one may cook meat for a gentile in a pot in which milk had been cooked that day. Others, however, argue. The halachah follows the lenient view, though it is preferable to be stringent in this regard. Therefore, when the need arises, one may accept a job cooking for gentiles if he need not cook meat and milk together, even if he will cook meat and milk in the same utensils. Preferably, however, one should wait twenty four hours in between the cooking of the meat and milk; taste of food that has been absorbed into the utensil over twenty-four hours ago is forbidden only by rabbinic enactment, and when dealing with a rabbinic, rather than Torah, prohibition, we have even more room for leniency and may certainly adopt the lenient position. Even if this is impossible, one should at least try to wait overnight before cooking milk in a utensil used that day for meat, or vice-versa. It is most preferable, of course, to arrange for separate utensils for meat and milk.
In any event, when cooking milk in a meat pot - or vice-versa - is permitted, one must ensure not to taste the food at all, for according to all views the food is forbidden, if only miderabanan (by Hazal).
One should avoid eating fish with milk or cheese, because this may pose a threat to one's health, as the Shulhan Aruch rules (Yoreh De'ah 87). Although many Aharonim have questioned this ruling, since Hazal forbade out of this concern only the consumption of fish and meat, and some argued that there is a misprint in the Shulhan Aruch, the work, "Hinuch Bet Yehudah" cites an earlier source who upholds this ruling. This source consulted with physicians who said that one can eat fish fried in butter, but fish cooked in milk may pose a medical threat. Other Aharonim uphold this ruling of the Shulhan Aruch, as well, and indeed this is the prevalent custom that is proper to follow.
Although, as mentioned, some authorities permitted eating fish with butter, nevertheless the Ben Ish Hai ruled stringently, based on the Shulhan Aruch's ruling. One should preferably avoid frying fish in butter, though those accustomed to doing so need not change their practice.
In our parashah we read of Korah, who, in effect, committed suicide. His emotions overtook him, he envied the prestigious position as leader of the family of Kehat given to his cousin, Elitzafan. As we know, jealousy is listed as one of the three things that "remove a person from the world." That was Korah's reason for rising up against Moshe. But what about the two hundred and fifty men, the leaders of the community, members of the Sanhedrin - what led them to bring destruction upon themselves? How did they not fear the consequences of opposing Moshe Rabbenu, who cast ten plagues upon Egypt, drowned them at sea, brought manna from the heavens, ascended to the skies to receive the Torah and came back down? How did they not fear the consequences of challenging the rights of Aharon to the kehunah (priesthood) and seeking to replace him, after having seen what happened to his two eldest sons (Nadav and Avihu) when they brought an unauthorized offering?
Our sages have taught us the answer. They knew exactly what would happen to them, but chose this direction anyway. It was all worthwhile for them, in order to earn the privilege - if only once in a lifetime - to offer the ketoret (incense), to offer and then die!
It sounds strange, but this is the fact. And they were not the only ones. In the second Bet Hamikdash, which stood for around four hundred years, three hundred kohanim gedolim served. If we subtract the forty years when Shimon Hasadik served as kohen gadol and the eighty years of Yannai, we will see that every other kohen gadol served for about a year and then died upon bringing the ketoret in the kodesh hakodashim (innermost sanctum of the Bet Hamikdash) on Yom Kippur. We would have thought, perhaps, that kohanim would have had to been pressured or coerced into accepting such a life-threatening position. Much to our surprise, however, the kohanim actually competed for this sacrifice of their lives - and they would even bribe the king with huge amounts of money for the nomination!
Okay, so this is what happened. But it still sounds strange, difficult to understand. Let us, then, consider a story of a strange country, a small, socially-divided state, stricken by rampant unemployment and overcome by foreign labor, a country that suffers from a deep recession and growing inflation, politically isolated, under constant military threat, its Minister of Defense speaks of one or two attempted suicide bomb attacks daily. Armed and resolute terror organizations plan to attack every day. The country is submerged in a bloody conflict with a cruel and hostile population without any moral restraint that encourages and trains martyrs and refuses any form of compromise. There is no solution to this conflict; we have tried everything already - from signed agreements that were never taken seriously to begin with, to a military campaign that was like firing missiles at mosquitoes. In short - the country finds itself in quicksand. And yet, look at the line forming of people who seek candidacy for Prime Minister. They know from the outset that they have no solution for any problem, and this job invites nothing but headaches every day of the year, twenty-four hours a day, not to mention a hostile press and unending popularity polls, impossible coalitions and internal strife.
Let us therefore at least salute those of whom we read in the parashah, who acted for the sake of a spiritual experience, for avodat Hashem, to offer the ketoret!
"And he shall not be like Korah and his following"
"Rav said, whoever holds onto strife violates a Torah prohibition, as it says, 'and he shall not be like Korah and his following.’ Rav Ashi said, he is deserving of contracting sara'at: it says here [at the end of the pasuk], 'as Hashem said to him through Moshe,' and it says elsewhere, 'Hashem said to him again, bring your hand into your bosom… and behold, it was leprous’" (Sanhedrin 110a). The Semag indeed cites this prohibition as one of the 613 misvot (lo ta'aseh 157), as cited by the Mishnah Berurah (156). See also the the Sefer Hahinuch 128. Other Rishonim who list this as one of the 613 misvot include Rav Sa'adia Gaon, Rabbenu Shelomo Ibn Gabirol, the Rashbass, the Sefer Haredim, and Rabbenu Yonah in Sha'arei Teshuvah 3:58.
"And he shall not be like Korah and his following"
The Hafess Haim writes (Shemirat Halashon, Sha'ar Hazechirah 17): "A person must exercise care not to be among those who promote strife, in order that he not be punished as well when their time of reckoning arrives, as they said, 'The Torah punishes those who join sinners like the sinners themselves' (Makkot 5b). The Midrash says in Parashat Korah, 'Come and see how harsh strife is, for whoever assists in promoting strife, the Almighty eradicates his memory, as it says, 'and fire came forth from Hashem and it consumed the two hundred and fifty men who offered the ketoret'.' They also said, whoever holds onto strife violates a Torah prohibition, as it says, 'And he shall not be like Korah and his following.' Rav Ashi said, he is deserving of contracting sara'at. See above, chapter 6, what we wrote in the name of the work, "Sefer Hakaneh," that at times the Al-mighty substitutes the punishment of sara'at with poverty, and he thus becomes a poor person dependent upon others, Heaven forbid.
"Even if the disputant is one's relative, and even if it is his father, one must be especially careful not to honor him by joining him, even if his father orders him in this regard, as it is ruled in halachah that one may not listen to his father if he orders him to violate the Torah, all the more so when dealing with such a severe transgression as strife. Indeed we find that Korah's sons did not follow their father and were thus spared from the punishment that came upon him. This is certainly relevant if one has in his power the ability to calm the argument, for bringing peace between man and his fellow is among those things that a person 'eats of the fruit in this world while the principal remains for him in the world to come.'"
"And he shall not be like Korah and his following"
The Rambam z"l wrote the following in his last will and testament to his son, Rabbenu Avraham z"l: "Do not contaminate your souls with strife, which destroys body, soul and money - and what else is left after that? I saw white that turned black, dignitaries humiliated, families driven away, officers demoted from their stature, large cities shaken, groups separated, individuals lost, men of faith destroyed, and respected people scorned, as a result of strife.
"Prophets prophesied, wise men spoke wisely, and philosophers searched and spoke much of the evil of strife, but never even arrived at the real thing. They therefore despised it and fled from it, they distanced themselves from all who loved it, its proponents and adherents. And even if all your family love arguments, be strong and stay away from them, lest you be swept away because of their iniquity!"
"And he shall not be like Korah and his following"
The Shelah Hakadosh zs"l writes (Sha'ar Ha'otiyot 2:12): "Undoubtedly, even the lowest among Yisrael would endure all four death penalties before worshipping idolatry. And our Sages said (Yerushalmi, Hagigah 1:7) that strife is harsh in the Al-mighty's eyes even more so than idolatry. How, then, will one not control himself from instigating controversy - which is more severe than idolatry?! Therefore, not only should one feel no distress over that which done to him, rather than hold onto the dispute, but to the contrary, he should rejoice in this challenge he has to overcome his anger, for which all his sins will be overlooked (Rosh Hashanah 17b)."
"Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying: Separate from this evil congregation and I will annihilate them in an instant. They fell on their faces." The nation is saved, and only Korah and his following are destroyed. "The entire congregation of Yisrael complained the following day to Moshe and Aharon, saying: You killed the nation of G-d! Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, rise up from the midst of this congregation and I will annihilate them in an instant; and they fell on their faces." What exactly does it mean that they "fell on their faces"?
Korah and his followers accused Moshe and Aharon of separating themselves from the rest of the nation: "why do you raise yourselves above the congregation of Hashem!" According to their view, then, they do not deserve the protection afforded by the merits of Moshe and Aharon. Hashem therefore instructed Moshe and Aharon to "separate" or "rise up" from the nation - to detach themselves and let the nation be, and they will thus be punished.
Am Yisrael is like a complete body, consisting of the "heads" of the nation and the "eyes," the leaders, as well as its various limbs, the different factions, down to the lowest elements, and the feet are considered outside the basic framework of the body (see Zohar, vol. 1, 21b). But Moshe and Aharon did not want to detach themselves, to separate, and let the nation then suffer its fate. To the contrary, they fell on their faces, they lowered their heads to the top of their legs to join with the lower elements, to protect them and save them.
This is the approach of the shepherds of Israel since time immemorial, and this is the approach of our leader, Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a, who descends from the mountain to the nation to guide it along the path of Hashem. May Hashem add years onto his reign, and with His help may he succeed in his goal to bring the hearts of the entire nation back to its source!
Yaakov Ben Senyar and Yis'hak Shaul Ben Leah
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