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How to Get Entangled
How entangled people get! And smart people, intelligent, balanced. They lose their way and their families suffer incredibly and society condemns them. Their friends disappear, their picture appears in the newspaper, and they would rather be like Korah, and be buried alive. You hear and see and wonder: How did they fall like that. Such smart people. We would like to leave it to the psychologist or the criminologist. The problem is that they are people like you and I, and that is frightening. It is already touching us. It has been said that the wise man learns from the experience of others and the fool does not even learn from his own experience. So how do people get so entangled?
The answer, like all answers, is written in the Torah. In our parashah, Korah gets entangled and brings two hundred fifty men along with him, and they are all lost. How was Korah so brazen to attempt something so daring? Did he not realize that he had no chance? Is it possible to rebel against Mosheh Rabbeinu, the messenger of the Creator? That with a wave of his hand brought darkness upon Egypt, split the sea and drowned the Egyptians in it. That when he lifted his hand, Amalek was defeated, and when he hit with his staff, he drew water from a rock. Mosheh, that when people complained about him, snakes and scorpions came, wreaking havoc in the nation until they begged for forgiveness. Then, why attempt such an exploit: "Korah, who was smart, what did he see [that caused him to get involved] with this stupidity?"
The answer: "He was jealous of the leadership of Elssafan." Jealousy pushed him into action. One of the three impulses that remove a person from the world: "Jealousy, lust and honor." When they are at work, the intellect is suspended, there is an eclipse of the luminaries and there are no questions.
That makes sense for him, but what about the two hundred fifty heads of courts. "Princes of the congregation, special appointees, men of stature"? The answer is: they were his neighbors (Rashi). They got caught up in his words, in the smoothness of his foolishness. They were already a cohesive group, whose excitement feeds on itself and gallops, together, to the pit. Without self-criticism and the ability to stop. This is still only a partial answer: Attributes and impulses and the influence of society are weighty causes. But opposed to them there is a warning sign, verses which are written clearly - and no man is in a hurry to commit suicide.
Now let us consider the third, and the deciding cause: Trust that it won't happen to me. In the end, everything will turn out all right, there will be no criticism, they will not notice the treachery, they will reveal it but they will cover it up, we will take loans and cover the debt, we will win the lottery. Jump, and you will find a safety net or an ambulance underneath.
Mosheh Rabbeinu suggests and warns: "This you shall do, take pans for yourselves, Korah and all of his congregation. Put fire in them and place incense upon them before G-d tomorrow. And the person who G-d will choose, he is the holy one." One person will be saved: Aharon.
They took them, all of them, except for On ben Pelet who was saved by his wife at the last minute. Two hundred fifty respected leaders, wise and well thought out, stood up together for the ceremony of their death! How?!
Rabbeinu Ovadyah MiBartenura zs"l finds the answer in an detail in the words of the holy Rashi: "Pans, vessels with which one scoops up coals, and they have handles." Why does Rashi tell us here that they have handles, while he did not mention this when discussing the menorah (Bamidbar 4:9)? The answer screams out at us: They knew that the incense was dangerous. They knew that Nadav and Avihu had been burned alive because of it. But they said to themselves: This won't happen to us. For our pans have long handles. They will separate between the incense and us, and the fire will not reach us…
Foolish? Perhaps, but very human!
Hundreds of thousands of children sign up every year for the public school system. Are their parents blind? Halilah! Do they not want the best for their children? Do they not know about the cases of abuse, the physical and verbal violence which wounds and scars these wandering souls? The choice is before them: A wonderful Torah education, free of violence, clean from drugs, pure from abominations, an education to positive qualities and honor for one's parents, to a wonderful and enriching heritage and tradition! But again we are too close to see; it won't happen to me. As if a child has no qualities and impulses, as if he won't be influenced by his surroundings. But why was this parashah written in the Torah if not to teach us a lesson, that we should not gamble with the most precious thing that we have, with the souls of our children!
Morning and Evening and Afternoon
"The morning, and G-d will let you know what is His." Korah and his congregation disagreed with the boundaries of the Torah. To make them more flexible. "Mosheh said to them: The Holy One, Blessed be He distributed boundaries in His world. Can you turn morning into evening? So too you can nullify this!" (Rashi)
"And the sons of Korah did not die." The sparks of this outlook reappear every now and then. People, even religious people, who think that the halachah can be bent this way and that. Because of the current need. They are like the person who did not finish his work on Friday afternoon, so he changed the time for candle lighting. As if that way he would stop the sun from setting.
If it were possible to bend the halachah, the gentiles would have agreed to accept the Torah. But that is exactly the point, the Torah demands a person bend himself, to make himself fit into the halachah.
Just as there is day and there is night, there is the interim time between the setting of the sun and the appearance of the stars. This is a time of doubt, in which we are stringent. We accept the Shabbat before the sunset and we only end the Shabbat after the stars appear. This is the way of the laws of the Torah. Like the laws of kashrut, for example. There are the permitted and the forbidden, and there are the doubtful cases. If there is a question about a Torah law, a suspicion of eating forbidden food which sullies the heart, one should separate from it, to take a step back and abstain. To be strict about a high level of kashrut, and not to enter the realm of doubt!
The Holy Mekubal,
Rabbeinu Yosef Giktilia zs"l
Rabbeinu Yosef Giktilia zs"l was one of our Rabbis, the rishonim. He was born in the year 5008 (1248 C.E.) in Castilia, Spain. He learned from the holy Mekubal, Rabbi Avraham Abulafia zs"l, who wrote about him: "He succeeded wondrously in what he learned from me, and he added much from his own mind, and G-d is with him." Maran, the Bet Yosef zs"l heard from a magid that spoke of him, that Rabbeinu Yosef Giktilia knew the secrets of the kabalah clearly, even if even if he hid them in his books.
He wrote his book, "Ginat Egoz," an explanation of the names of the Creator and the behaviors associated with each one, when he was twenty-six years old. He also wrote the book "Shaarei Hashamayim," about the wisdom of the kabalah, "Shaarei Ssedek" about the matter of intentions, and his most famous book, "Shaarei Orah," an explanation of the holy spheres and the holy names that correspond to them. He also wrote "Sefer Hanikud," an explanation of the vowels and their kabalistic meanings, and more.
Recently, two new books of his have come to light from manuscripts, "Kelalei Hamissvot," in which is found the commandments' individual abilities, conditions, punishments, and more, in an organized system according to the alef-bet. Also "Sefer Hameshalim" with brief, educational definition of various issues. May the lips of our Rabbi still speak good about those who learn his Torah, when we quote some of his parables. For example:
What is the soul in the body like? Like a minister who has been sent by the king to lead the people of his country. What is the soul like in the days of one's youth? Like a pearl sunk into mud. In one's maturity, it is like a king who is surrounded by wars on all sides. In his old age, like a king who has rested from war, but the enemy still can attack… What is a wise man amongst fools like? Like a river running through the desert: It is ready to irrigate, but the ground is salty… What are wisdom and fear of sin like? Like the banks of a flowing river, which is the evil inclination. No matter how high its path rises, they will border the river so that it will not flood them!
"The staff of Aharon has flowered"
Rabbeinu, the Ramban zs"l explained that Korah and his congregation disagreed with the priesthood of Aharon and his sons. They claimed that the whole congregation was holy, and that each person could perform the holy service on his own, like the kohen gadol. Their test was in the offering of the incense, when they were burned alive. They saw that only Aharon could offer incense, him and his children. Now the Children of Israel claimed: True, the kohanim are the servants of G-d, but why was the tribe of Levi selected to serve the kohanim. We want this honor to be given to the first-born of each family, as in the past. Here the Creator gave an instruction that Aharon should give in his staff, as the head of his tribe, along with the other princes of the tribes. When "the staff of Aharon flowered for the tribe of Levi," it was proven that the tribe of Levi alone was chosen from all of the tribes, and the complaint of the Children of Israel was quieted.
Rabbeinu, the holy Alshich zs"l brought down a story from the holy Zohar (Part 1, 100a). There was a story of Rav Aha who happened upon the village of Tarsha. The people of the place came before him and cried out about their tragedy: A plague had been killing them off for seven days, and it was getting stronger and stronger every day. He said: Let us go into the synagogue and ask for mercy from the Creator. While they were walking, they came and said that two men had fallen ill, and were about to die. He said to them: If so, there is no time to waste. Call forty of the most important citizens of the city, and let them walk in groups of ten in the four directions, saying the parashah of the incense, which the Holy One, Blessed be He gave to Mosheh, and the parashah of the sacrifices that come along with it. They did this three times, and he sent them to the house of the sick people to do it there as well, and the plague stopped. They said to Rav Aha from the Heavens: If you have that, then do this also. Go and tell them that they should repent, for they are guilty. He went and he caused them all to repent completely, and they accepted upon themselves never to waster time from learning Torah forever. They changed the name of the place to Mata Mahseya, a city of escape and salvation.
Thus, when the Children of Israel complained about the priesthood of Aharon, and the selection of the Leviim, the plague struck them. Aharon hurried to offer incense and to stop the plague. But that was not enough, as we saw in the story of Rav Aha, for there was still an accusation against them, and they had to repent. Therefore, he took the staff from every prince and showed them that only the staff of Aharon had flowered, for he was chosen by G-d. They regretted their complaint, repented and nullified the accusation.
Rabbeinu, the Hida zs"l, wrote that he found in an old manuscript essay by the students of Rabbi Yehudah Hahasid zs"l that the almond tree has a male tree which does not produce fruit, but does flower and pollinate the female tree, which does produce fruit. With this the Creator alluded that the service of the kohen in the Temple, rises to heaven and there it has an effect in producing fruit, and bringing about a surplus of goodness and blessing. The hida added to this that the word "almonds" (shekedim) has the letters as "My Temple" (mikdashi), which alludes to the Temple in Heaven, which corresponds to the Temple on Earth. The holy service here rises and has an effect there.
As is known, the prayers were instituted in place of the sacrifices. Every prayer rises to heaven and has its effect there, bringing about a surplus of salvation and comfort, profit and success!
Rabbeinu Yisshak Abarbanel zs"l wrote a wonderful explanation, which he discussed at length in the book "Megaleh Amukot." On every staff was written the name of the tribe, but on the staff of Levi was written the name of the tribe on one side, and the name Aharon on the other side. The staff of Aharon flowered for the children of Levi, meaning that the staff flowered on the side on which the name of Aharon was engraved, and this gave a double instruction: That the tribe of Levi was chosen, and within it, Aharon was chosen!
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Laws of Mentioning Dew and Rain
The times for mentioning "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem"
One who erred and mentioned rain in the summer
• One who erred and mentioned "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in the summer must repeat the prayer. Even if he said both "morid hatal" and "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem," he still must repeat.
According to Sefardic custom, as well as some Ashkenazic communities that stop saying "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" at musaf of the first day of Pesach, and say "morid hatal" instead, then even if one erred in the musaf of the first day of Pesach and said "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem," he must repeat the prayer. Some Ashkenazim have the custom of saying "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in the musaf prayer of the first day of Pesach, and only stop saying it at minhah.
• One who erred and said "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in the summer, but remembered before saying the name of G-d in the ending of the blessing, should return to the beginning of the blessing. If he only returned to "rav lehoshia," and if he has already completed the blessing, then he should not repeat the prayer again.
If one said "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in the summer, and remembered after saying the words "baruch atah Hashem," but before he said "mehayeh hametim," then he should say "lamdeni hukecha, so that it is as if he is merely saying a verse. (Tefillim 119:12). Afterwards he should continue with "atah gibor."
If he completed the blessing with "mehayeh hametim," and certainly if he began the next blessing, he should return to the beginning of the prayer. It is also proper for him to say the verse "Hashem sefatai tiftah" again. Certainly if he finished his prayer, he should say "Hashem sefatai tiftah" when he repeats the prayer.
• Even in places where rain is extremely necessary in the summer months, they are not permitted to say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in the summer. If he said "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in the summer, he must repeat the prayer. Even if an entire country needs rain in the summer, they are still not permitted to say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in the summer. Later on (chapter 177) we will discuss the law of places that need rain in the summer in terms of the request for rain in the middle blessings.
• If one erred in the summer and said "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem," but remembered immediately, then it is still better for him to return to the beginning of the blessing, rather than correcting himself immediately. If he corrected himself immediately and said "morid hatal," then after the fact, he has fulfilled his obligation.
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
The Laws of Pesukei Dezimrah
1. A kohen or levi who is in the middle of pesukei dezimrah and is called up for an aliyah to the Torah, may say the blessings before and after the reading. He also should read along word by word with the baal koreh,for if not so, then his blessings may be berachot levatalah. This also applies to a yisrael who is called up for an aliyah by his name. However, they may not say a hashkavah for their parents, or a mi sheberach.
This also applies to one who is in the middle of pesukei dezimrah and is needed to read from the Torah. In all of these cases, one may return to where he left of in the pesukei dezimrah, and need not start again, no matter how much time has elapsed.
However, if the kohen is in the middle of the Shema or its blessings, he may not pause to go up to the Torah, even if he is called by name.
2. One should not answer "baruch hu uvaruch shemo" in the middle of pesukei dezimrah, since it is not obligatory from the talmud. One may say it between yishtabah and the blessing of yosser or. [Some have the custom of not saying "baruch hu uvaruch shemo" to the blessings in the repetition of the prayer, but the Sefardic custom is to say it.]
3. Usually, if one hears the congregation saying "shema yisrael," then he should say it along with them. However, if he is in the middle of pesukei dezimrah or the Shema and its blessings, then he should not say the words, but should only place his hands over his eyes, so that it looks like he agrees with them. One may say the shema with the congregation between yishtabah and the blessing of yosser or.
4. One who is in the middle of pesukei dezimrah and hears the hazan saying modim in the repetition of the prayer should not answer to him, but should bow down and say the three words "modim anahnulach."
5. One who is in the middle of pesukei dezimrah and hears the hazan saying kedushah should only say the two verse of "kadosh" and "baruch," and no more. If he is between yishtabah and yosser or, he may respond to the entire kedushah.
6. One who must use the bathroom in the middle of pesukei dezimrah should not say the blessing of "asher yassar" until after the blessing of yishtabah. Some hold that since he has already paused to use the bathroom, he may also say the blessing of "asher yassar." Both opinions are valid, but the former is preferable.
7. It is permitted to pause between yishtabah and yosser or for a missvah, such as giving ssedakah, the needs of the congregation, and to call for a minyan, so that the prayer may continue.
8. It is obvious that one may only speak between yishtabah and yosser for a matter involving a missvah, but not for personal reasons.
There, Even a Staff Flowers!
Mosheh Rabbeinu was commanded to take a staff from the head of every tribe, and a staff from Aharon as the head of the tribe of Levi, and to place them before the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. "And the staff of Aharon was within their staffs." The holy Alshich explained that the staffs of the other tribes surrounded the staff of Aharon from all sides, so that no one would say that Mosheh knew how to put Aharon's staff on a special side, where it would flower. The staff was pushed from every side, they were on the side of the Ark, and his flowered! In the holy books, they write that this comes to allude that the whole power of the tribe of Levi is from the power of Israel, for he fights for the holy service. Just as by the mishkan, the children of Levi encamped around the mishkan, and the Children of Israel encamped around them, surrounding them from every side, so to by the staffs. The Rambam wrote (at the end of the book of Zeraim) that those who learn Torah are the tribe of Levi of that generation, and their main role is to be "amongst the staffs," illuminating and influencing the generation. Like an inner circle which radiates towards an other one. "He shall teach your laws to Yaakov, and your Torot to Israel.":
We have found another explanation, that is the exact opposite. In the commentary of Rabbeinu Yaakov Baal Haturim (Shemot 7:12) he wrote that just as the staff of aharon swallowed up the crocodiles of the magicians, so too the staff of Aharon swallowed up the staffs of the other tribes. Thus he alone stood in the shadow of the Divine Presence in the Holy of Holies and remained alone. When Mosheh Rabbeinu took it out, it spit out the other staffs and therefore, they did not flower.
What brought him to that interpretation? Because in the Holy of Holies, everything flowers! The influence is so great that even a dry staff will give forth flowers and fruit. Similarly, the plants of gold that where in the Temple gave forth fruits of gold (Yoma 21b), barren trees in Gan Eden gave forth fruit (Bereishit Rabah 5:9 and Ramban, Bereshit 1:11), and in the future, they once again will be laden with fruit (Torat Kohanim Behukotai, Rashi Vayikra 26).
There is a well-known saying in the name of the Rebbi from Peshiha zs"l, that because of the sin of the first Adam, all was blemished, and then it was blemished again during the destruction of the Temple. Except for one thing: the holy Torah, about which it is said: "The Torah of G-d is perfect," (Tehillim 19:8), for it was not blemished at all (Shem Mishemuel, Toldot).
If so, then every person, even if he is like a "dry staff," if he would only place himself by the side of the holy Torah, he would flower and bring forth glorious fruit! There is no person, specifically in our generation, who does not feel that his emotions are bewildered and his heart is sealed up, his energy is sapped and darkness surrounds him. The advice is that he should escape to the tents of Torah. If he is a "ben-Torah", then he is fortunate. In the halls of the yeshivah, even a staff will flower, and specifically after the night has passed over him, a time of darkness and crisis. Just as everything that rots returns to flower with greater strength and power. But even a person who attends a Torah shiur, especially a regular Torah shiur, to recharge his batteries, to gladden his soul, to satisfy his spirit, to provide himself with spiritual sustenance, to turn himself into a new person!
With the blessings of Shabbat Shalom,
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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