Consider an individual going to the Bet Hamikdash. He can’t just go - first he must immerse himself in a mikveh. If he has a more stringent form of tum’ah, the process takes seven days. The Bet Hamikdash is located in Yerushalayim, the city which lies "before Hashem" (Devarim 12:7), the city of sanctity, infused with an atmosphere of holiness and purity, the city in which "..everyone is involved in the work of Heaven and the sacred service" (Tosafot, Bava Batra 21a, citing the Sifri). From this city one ascends to the great edifice, the place which hosts the Shechinah, as it were, and there one encounters "the great awe - referring to the revelation of the Shechinah," as the pasuk states, "..in order that you learn to fear" (Devarim 14:23), on which Rashi comments, "When you see the place of the Shechinah, the kohanim performing their service, the Levi’im singing, and Yisrael standing [in prayer]." There is a special misvah requiring a sense of awe of reverence for the sacred site, and thus one must leave his shoes outside, together with his wallet and walking stick. He walks barefoot, with awe and reverence, to prostrate himself before Hashem, to pray in the most sacred spot, the site directed towards the gate of heaven where all prayers ascend to the heavens and are accepted willingly. In short, the Bet Hamikdash is to the world what Yom Kippur is to the annual calendar - sacred to Hashem, holy and exalted.
The individual would not ascend to the Bet Hamikdash by himself. Throngs of people would go regularly, with awe and fear. Sick patients who were cured and those who traveled across deserts and oceans go to bring their offerings. Nazerites bring their sacrifices when their nezirut period has elapsed. Women who have given birth bring two bird sacrifices. Others bring shelamim or sin-offerings, farmers bringing their bikkurim would arrive with song and dance - what a wonderful sight!
The individual’s spirit is lifted to the highest and most profound levels of spirituality, and the impression stays with him for the rest of his life: "In order that you learn to fear Hashem your G-d all the days" (Devarim 14:23).
From the corner of his eye, he catches another glimpse, of a "sotah" being brought to the eastern gate of the Azarah, insisting that the entire accusation against her is false. She is even prepared to prove her case. The name of Hashem which had been written on the scroll is erased into the water. She drinks the water and, suddenly, her face starts changing color, her eyes bulge, she starts bloating, and she runs out of the Azarah. Any moment her belly will swell and burst, and she will die, amidst great pain, suffering, and humiliation. If only she would have agreed from the outset not to drink she could have avoided the entire ordeal. After all, there were no witnesses to the crime, it was just a suspicion.
She would have simply been divorced from her husband and have had the opportunity to rebuild her life again. But she insisted on going through with the test, and thereby brought about her own downfall.
This individual, who had come to the Bet Hamikdash to elevate himself spiritually, "to learn to fear," just received a real-life lesson in the doctrine of reward and punishment. Right in front of his eyes an obvious miracle took place, the misdeed of a sinner was revealed before everyone, and the culprit was punished with a painful and horrifying death. Unquestionably, this man will return home reawakened, and he will now stay away from sin as if it were a raging fire. Wouldn’t we think so?
Not necessarily. Hazal teach us, "Why was the section of the nazir juxtaposed to the portion dealing with the sotah? To tell us that one who sees the sotah in her shame will abstain from wine (as he accepts upon himself to be a nazir)." Not only will his fear of sin itself be insufficient, but he now sees himself in danger, and must find drastic means of prevention.
Why? Because he saw. True, he saw how the sotah was punished. But the yesser hara will lead him to forget the sight of the punishment and retain the memory of the woman herself. How awesome is the power of sight!
If the impression is so strong upon someone who specifically traveled to Yerushalayim to elevate himself, who undergoes an involved process of purification, walks up to the Bet Hamikdash with awe and reverence, and comes to the home of the Shechinah, and sees what should, ordinarily, intensify one’s fear...
Then what can be said about one who walks casually through the city streets, sees with his own eyes the breaching of all barriers of modesty, the shameless display of "perissut" - clearly he will not return the same as when he left. How much "nezirut" must he accept upon himself, how many hours of "mussar" study must he undertake!
We must remember that Hashem promised to help a person in his battle against his drives. But this protection is not guaranteed to one who specifically places himself in a dangerous situation. Therefore, one who does not need to spend time in the city streets should avoid it as much as possible.
The Wonders of the Creator
Maintenance of Equilibrium
Anyone who has seen someone suffering from severe dizziness is well aware of the critical nature of the sense of equilibrium, a sense whose value is often overlooked while it is of paramount importance. One who is dizzy cannot stand up straight, move his head, eat or drink, sleep, or change position. The sense of equilibrium is the first sense of the body which develops in the human being, even before the senses of sight, sound, and the others. Unlike the other senses which send messages to the brain through the nerves only when they are stimulated, but send no messages when they are not stimulated, the system of equilibrium sends messages to the brain even at rest. Indeed, this system can never rest, as it must operate constantly. Three other systems of the body share the responsibility of ensuring the proper functioning of one’s sense of equilibrium: the systems of sight, sound, and the nervous system. The most important of these in terms of balance is the inner ear, and, in fact, the Hebrew word for ear - "ozen" is derived from the word for balance - "izun." These three systems work in tandem, with help from the brain which collects the transmitters through the nerves, and together they watch over the body’s balance and equilibrium. When any of these three systems does not function normally, one’s balance maybe affected, causing dizziness.
Maintaining one’s balance is a key concept in one’s spiritual life, as well. One who loses his sense of equilibrium from a spiritual perspective is bound to be drawn after one fashion or another which expresses itself in how one dresses but, much more importantly, in the form of the rejection of the misvot for the sake of enhancing one’s physical and material well-being or an improper religious outlook. Eventually, much later, the individual will regret not having kept his balance. So, how does one keep his spiritual balance? It would seem that one does this in much the same way as his physical balance is maintained - through the same three organs: by watching our ears so that they don’t hear improper speech, guarding our eyes against seeing that which is inappropriate, and proper maintenance of the muscles, that they don’t bring one to places where he should not be.
The Rabbi’s Blessing
a continuing saga (part three)
FLASHBACK: The Goite family emigrated to Triast, Italy, and their son, Yis’hak, was hired as a helper in a wealthy family of the city. A messenger from Israel came to collect funds for the yeshivot in Yerushalayim and stayed at this family’s home. Upon his departure, he blessed the entire family and Yis’hak, too, came for a blessing, only to be scorned by the father of the house, who claimed that blessings are only for those who donate money and their families. Yis’hak was insulted and ran away. The wealthy man regretted deeply what he had done, and went to search for the boy.
The family scurried about frantically to find the insulted servant. They hadn’t gone far when they saw the boy marching proudly, carrying a bag. He approached the sadik from Yerushalayim and handed him the bag. "Here is my donation," he said.
The "meshulah" opened the bag, untied the string, and saw that it was full of silver coins. "What are these?" he asked softly. "This is my money, these are all my savings! Each week my boss gives me a silver coin as a salary. Please, take it - this is rightfully-earned money!" Yis’hak answered.
"But," interrupted the wealthy man, "your father requested that this money remain with you as security for your future. Certainly you want to build a Jewish home - you don’t want to be an indentured servant for the rest of your life!"
Yis’hak eyes glistened. "I heard the rabbi say that one who gives charity is rewarded in double. I heard the rabbi say that the holy Talmud states that one who gives a handful to a poor person is given by the Al-mighty a handful of blessing. He quoted the pasuk, ‘You shall surely give him, and your heart should not feel hurt when you give him, for because of this Hashem your G-d will bless you in all your deeds and in everything in which your hands do’ - have I quoted it correctly?"
"Correctly and accurately," answered the sadik.
"If so," said the wealthy man, "then all I can do is ask the sadik that he bring great blessing from above onto the head of the young man."
"He is blessed and shall be blessed," said the meshulah, full of emotion. Yis’hak bent his head before the sadik, who placed his hands on the boy’s head. He closed his eyes and said, "May Hashem open His great treasure for you. My hope is strong that when I come next year you will donate gold coins, like your boss gives."
Everyone answered amen and drank for the berachah.
The meshulah went on his way, and the wealthy man called Yis’hak to the side to return to him the money which he had donated...
The Golden Column
Rabbi Moshe Yehezkel Salah ZS"L
Our parashah contains "birkat kohanim," the priestly blessing. Rabbi Moshe Yehezkel Salah zs"l of Baghdad once asked his congregation, "Shouldn’t the kohanim face the aron when they recite this blessing and beseech the Al-mighty to bestow His kindness upon us? Why do they face the rest of the congregation during birkat kohanim?
The audience was perplexed, and could not offer an answer.
He answered with the following parable: Once a prominent man from a distinguished background had a son who turned his ways in the wrong direction and began acting inappropriately. Eventually, his father had no choice but to drive the child out of his house. Rather than improving, the boy joined the gangs in the street.
A merchant met the father and told him, "The winter is well on its way, and your son will be sleeping on a bench in the park wearing his summer clothes. Why didn’t you give him some money so he can rent someplace to live and buy some clothing?"
The father’s eyes began shedding tears and said, "It hurts me to no end, my friend, but you are speaking to the wrong person. I am ready to give him everything - I have an entire wing in the home ready for him. But, his misbehavior forced me to send him away. If you are concerned about his well-being, speak to him, and persuade him to come back and behave."
For this reason, the kohanim turn around and face us. They plead with us, as if to say, improve your ways! Bring the Shechinah into your lives, as the pasuk states, "They will place My Name upon Benei Yisrael," and only then, "I will bless them," with an open hand!
From the Wellsprings of the Parasha
"To transgress a transgression to Hashem"
This pasuk refers to the stolen property of a convert who subsequently died. Since the convert has no relatives to inherit him, when the thief wishes to repent he gives the money to a kohen. Rabbi Ovadia Seforno zs"l notes that the Torah stresses that this crime involves a "transgression before Hashem," a "hilul Hashem" brought about by stealing from a convert, who came to reside under the wings of the Shechinah as a Jew only to be a victim of theft and robbery. How much care must religious Jews take, therefore, to increase the respect for Hashem and His Torah and not the opposite, Heaven forbid.
"The sacred portions of a person shall be his"
Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel explains this pasuk to mean that one who donates some of his belongings to charity, then besides the reward which he receives, he has lost nothing, as that money will undoubtedly come back to him. Rabbi David Nehemias zs"l extends this principle to all misvot, that nothing is lost despite the high cost often involved in the performance of misvot. "The sacred portions of a person shall be his" - they are kept for his merit in the eternal world, forever.
"A person who suspects his wife"
Rabbi Yeshuah Shimon Haim Ovadia zs"l of Morocco asks, why does this portion of "sotah" open with the word, "ish," man, the one who was hurt by his wife’s infidelity? Should not the parashah have begun, "A woman who is suspected…" as it appears at the end of the parashah? Rather, the pasuk teaches us that part of the blame rests on the husband’s shoulders, as well. If he himself would have observed proper modes of modest behavior in his home, events would not have transpired the way they did. "Afterwards, the nazir may drink wine"
The Alshich zs"l has taught us that a person should never say, why should I accept "nezirut" for thirty days, if I will be the exact same person afterward as I am now?! (This can be applied to all temporary heights of spirituality, such as Torah classes, etc.) The Torah tells us that this is not so, and even after his nezirut period, when he returns to his normal routine, the impression of kedushah remains with him, and even his drinking of wine will be on the level of nezirut.
"One spoon, weighing ten units of gold"
Rabbi Mimon Abo zs"l of Algiers cites the story in the Gemara of a person who slaughtered an animal and another quickly came, recited the berachah over the misvah to cover the blood, and proceeded to cover the blood himself, rather than allowing the "shohet" himself to do so. The shohet took the other to a "Din Torah" and the other was forced to pay ten gold coins for stealing the berachah. An allusion to this halachah may be found in this pasuk, for a person is obligated to recite 100 berachot each day, which is the numerical value of "kaf" (spoon). Thus, "One spoon" - one of the one hundred berachot - is worth "ten units of gold." Shining Our Faces
In the sacred writings of the Ramha"l zs"l, it is explained that the berachah found in "Birkat Kohanim," "May Hashem shine His face upon you," constitutes the apex of all blessing, as it is all-encompassing. He writes, “The root of everything is the concept of His shining His face or His concealing His face, which is, in effect, the existence of good and evil. >From the force of this shine abundance emerges, as does purity and endearment, and from the force of the concealment emerges lacking, paucity and insufficiency" (Derech 5, 2-8). The Midrash comments, "Yisrael said before the Al-mighty, ‘All we have to ask for is the shining of Your face,’ as the pasuk states, ‘L-rd of Hosts restore us, shine Your face and we will be saved!’"
How do we merit the shining of Hashem’s face upon us, the blessing which incorporates all berachot and the peak of all goodness, including success and salvation? There is a guaranteed way. As we know, Hashem treats us measure for measure. Thus, "Whoever has compassion for other people, the Heavens have compassion on him." Whoever shines his face to others - family members, friends, acquaintances - Hashem up above will shine His face upon him.
Let’s remember to always smile and maintain a pleasant countenance, and deal with others patiently and benevolently. In this way, we may merit the shining of Hashem’s face upon us, which contains all the berachot in the world!
Is there an easier way to achieve all this abundance of goodness and prosperity?
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a
Belittling Israel (part I)
Aaron: Did not Moses censure them severely for their sins?
Mr. Goodfriend: Did not G-d censure even Moses severely for sins, although we do not understand what the sins were? "The censure is proportionate to the excellence of the censured" (Cuzari I:93). "Whomever the L-rd loves, He rebukes." (Mishle 3:12). Because G-d loved them greatly, He therefore censured them greatly. Because of this great love, His prophets denounced the slightest sin with the very worst expressions. The superlatively severe censure by the prophets has created the impression that the generations from Moses’ days down to the end of the Scriptural era were not righteous. Actually, the extreme oppisite is true. These generations were the most exalted in Jewish history, and it is superfluous to say that no nation or group of men in any era has ever even remotely equalled them in virute.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a
One Who Eats "Pat Haba’ah Bekisnin" and Drinks a "Revi’it" of Water
One who eats some "pat haba’ah bekisnin" of a quantity which requires a berachah aharonah (i.e., he eats more than 27 grams in a period of time from 4 minutes to 7.5 minutes), and, together with that, he drinks a revi’it of water which normally obligates him to recite a borei nefashot (if he drinks the entire revi’it at the normal speed of drinking), the poskim are in dispute as to the recitation of the two berachot which he must now recite - me’en shalosh and borei nefashot. Rabbi Avraham Hakohen of Salonki, in Shu”t Me’at Mayim (25:21) writes that since me’en shalosh fulfills the obligation of borei nefashot, one should not drink the water until after he recites me’en shalosh. Only then should he drink the water and then recite borei nefashot. However, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a in Shu"t Yabia Omer vol. 5 (17) cites many authorities who argue that me’en shalosh fulfills the requirement only for those items which grow from the ground, like vegetables and the like. The phrase, "ve’al tenuvat hasadeh" (for the produce of the field) which appears in me’en shalosh, fulfills the requirement for vegetables, as the Semak and Agudah hold regarding one who eats apples and figs, that he does not require a borei nefashot for the apples because they are included in the phrase, "al tenuvat hasadeh," and this is also the halachah regarding one who ate vegetables together with fruits of the seven species. Furthermore, the Rashbass writes that one who eats cucumber with figs needs to recite only me’en shalosh, since the phrase, "al haperot" includes vegetables, as well. However, water obviously does not grow from the ground, and it is therefore not included in the berachah of me’en shalosh. Therefore, in our case, he may recite me’en shalosh for the "pat haba’ah bekisnin" which he ate and then recite borei nefashot for the water which he drank. This is the proper sequence, since some authorities maintain that me’en shalosh is a Biblical requirement, whereas borei nefashot is clearly of rabbinic origin to increase our praise of Hashem. Therefore, me’en shalosh should come first.
In summary, one who eats from fruits of the seven species, or "pat haba’ash bekisnin," of a quantity which requires a me’en shalosh, and, together with that, drinks a revi’it of water which requires a borei nefashot, recites when he is finished a me’en shalosh for the fruits or "pat haba’ah bekisnin" and then recites a borei nefashot on the water.
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