The One Story That Teaches About the General Whole
This week marks the "sheloshim" (one month) to the death of Rabbi David
Kanafo a"h, father of the director of El Hamaayan, Rav Amram Kanafo.
David is a descendant of the great ssadik and Kabbalist, Rabbi Yossef
Kanafo. Over the course of the shiva, a story was told that is just one
manifestation of a general trend, and that is Eastern Jewry and the crisis
it endured specifically upon its arrival to the shores of Eress Yisrael,
land of our patriarchs for which generations longed and yearned so
Upon its arrival, the family went to Kiryat Ata, purchased an apartment,
and began involving itself in the new land. The first week passed, and
Shabbat Queen arrived. Early Shabbat morning, the rabbi was awakened by a
strange noise coming from the street. He looked out the window and was
stricken with fear. He asked his wife, may she merit many good, long
to wake the children and quickly bring them down to the shelter.
"What's going on? What happened?" she asked, alarmed by her husband's
"A war has broken out!" he cried.
"How do you know?" she inquired. "There was no siren!"
"We don't need a siren," he answered. "Come, look with your own eyes.
Today is Shabbat, and cars and driving on the street. Obviously this must
be a life-threatening situation, an emergency, a war!"
Otherwise, it would be simply inconceivable. There is just no way that in
the land of the Jews, Jews will be driving on Shabbat, unless it was a
situation, unless a war had broken out.
He wasn't na´ve. He knew full well that there were secular Jews in Eress
Yisrael, that there lived Jews who weren't necessarily Torah observant.
this regards their private lives, into which certainly no one would
interfere. But in the public domain, with regard to the overall nature of
life - it had to be a firmly Jewish existence!
In truth, why does this seem to us so strange and foreign? Why should
Shabbat be any less than Yom Kippur, when everyone stops work willingly
naturally, with nearly universal consent? His perspective was the
healthy one. We, however, have had our outlook tainted, until the
has become the accepted norm that continues to establish itself more
with every passing day.
To counter this trend, we need to shine the light of Torah, to increase
number of Torah classes, of educational youth programs, religious schools,
nurseries and kindergartens, kollelim and yeshivot. The light will
eventually outshine the darkness, until, ultimately, the land will be fill
with the knowledge of Hashem, in the redemption that may soon arrive,
speedily and in our days, Amen.
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
Each panda in the mountains of China has its own domain in which to live,
usually around five kilometers in size, where it spends the fifteen or so
years of its life. The panda is a quiet creature, and on only rare
occasions can sounds be heard coming from its mouth. It lives in solitude
and refrains almost entirely from contact with other pandas. You might
if the panda is really so lonely and solitary, then what does it do all
The answer is quite simple - it eats and sleeps. Indeed, the panda's life
is a most boring one, and even its food is pretty uniform. It feeds off
small bamboo branches. In its region of residence - the mountains of
northern China - there are plenty of bamboo bushes. Given the fact that
panda is a large, clumsy animal weighing around one hundred kilograms, it
requires a massive amount of bamboo to eat. Throughout the day, the panda
wanders from mountain to valley in search of bamboo. With the help of its
thumbs and sharp fingernails, the panda peels off the outer layer of the
bamboo rod and then eats the substance inside, in the center of the
After completing its meal, it looks for a nap. It doesn't need any
particular location in which to sleep; it just sprawls out anywhere on the
ground, rests its head on a piece of wood, and falls asleep.
Clearly the most outstanding feature of the panda is the monotony and
uniformity of its existence, that its entire life is marked by solitude
the endless cycle of sleeping and eating. As disturbing as it may sound,
there are people who live lives similar to that of the panda. Some may
engage in social contact, unlike the panda, but still resemble this bear
the fact that their lives revolve around eating and sleeping. Since
need not only actual food but spiritual nourishment, as well, "experience"
becomes the key word, as these people search for experiences to bring
something else into their lives of eating and sleeping. Unfortunately,
though, these experiences divert one's attention from the source of all
experience - the Torah. The Torah continues to renew itself, as it
broadens, becomes richer and multifaceted. Today we are blessed with an
immense bounty of Torah literature, and the novel ideas one raises over
course of his day-to-day learning are among the sweetest experiences one
ever enjoy. Anyone who has experienced this joy knows that it cannot be
exchanged with any experience in the world. Next to them, all other
experiences seem meaningless and of no substance. There is nothing that
cannot be found in our sacred Torah, which continues to provide enjoyment
and spiritual nourishment to its students, from the time of our
to this very day.
The Faithful Student
In front of the local prison in Grodna, a most dreary and intimidating
dungeon, stood two policemen on their guard. They were dressed in their
splendid uniforms, their swords girded in their belts. Passersby walked
ever so gingerly upon encountering the giant, iron gate. Everyone had
the chilling stories of the atrocities committed in this penitentiary, the
various forms of torture employed in the dungeon. A Jew walked by,
down and moving steadily past the jail, as a second Jew walked rapidly
behind him. Suddenly, the second pedestrian bumped into the first and
muttered, "I'm sorry, forgive me, pardon me," etc. He quickly
himself and left. The first stood somewhat baffled, and then felt his
pockets. "Thief!" he cried, noticing that his money was gone. "Robber!
Catch him! Stop that man!"
One of the officers told the man to stay there as he chased after the
pickpocket, who had now begun running as fast as he could to escape. He
turned around and saw how the policeman was narrowing the distance between
them. Before he could turn his head back to look in front of him, he
slammed into a person walking opposite him. The two fell to the ground,
by that point the officer was already standing over them. The policeman
leaned down, grabbed the man's collar, and picked him up. A circle of
curious onlookers had already formed, thus precluding any possibility of
escape. Among the articles found in the suspect's wallet was a
The wall of onlookers was broken by the victim, who cried, "There it is!
That is my wallet! All of my saving are there!"
"Not true!" insisted the other, now chained and covered with dirt. "This
is my wallet!" Nobody believed him.
"How much money is in the wallet?" asked the officer.
"One hundred and forty rubles," answered the victim on the spot. The
around them gasped in disbelief, as this was a considerable fortune.
"Yeah, one hundred and forty rubles," echoed the accused, earning a round
of laughter from the people around him.
The policeman opened the wallet and counted exactly one hundred and forty
"I told you!" shouted the victim. "Now give me the wallet!"
"Just as I said," repeated the accused in a low, submissive voice. "Now
give me my wallet!" Again, the audience chuckled.
The policeman put the wallet in his pocket and took out several chains.
To be continued.
WE AND THE BIRD
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 108b) tells of a bird called "oshinah" that closed
itself off in a corner in Noah's ark, and never asked for food. When Noah
asked it if it wants to eat, it responded, "I saw you were so busy feeding
all the other animals, so I didn't want to bother you." Noah blessed the
oshinah that it should live forever.
When probing deeper into this Gemara, a powerful lesson emerges. This
wanted to save Noah from just a minute of extra work. These seconds are
worth eternal life?! Absolutely. For at every moment, a ssadik earns for
himself eternal life. Every missvah, every good deed, every moment of
study and every berachah, acquires eternal life. Indeed, Hazal tell us,
moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all of
World to Come" (Avot 4:17).
Knowing this obliges us to properly take advantage of every moment, to
our time with Torah and missvot. Additionally, this teaches us the extent
to which we must exercise care with respect to the time of our gedolim,
to bother them with nonsense and pettiness.
A STORY AND ITS SOURCE
Rav Mosheh Feinstein zs"l was twenty-five years old hen he was called from
the rabbinate of Ozdah to serve as the rabbi of Luban in Russia. This was
during the heart of the Bolshevik Revolution, and the authorities outlawed
any religious service, pursuing the religion and its observers with
vehemence and cruelty. The shohet was imprisoned and exiled to Siberia.
The rabbi's salary was confiscated, and he and his family were thus
sentenced to a life of hunger and destitution. Yet, none of this affected
Rav Mosheh's spirits, and his wife served as a constant source of
encouragement. She was prepared to suffer the shame of poverty, to
at every knock on the door, to fear day and night, knowing that any moment
her husband may be imprisoned for illegal religious activity. He
to learn and teach, to rule questions of halachah and officiate at
When the authorities ordered that the mikveh be closed, Rav Mosheh
with the contractor who built the local public swimming pool. After many
pleas, and in exchange for a considerable sum of money, the contractor
secretly built around the local reservoir and attached it to the pool,
making a proper mikveh. The authorities consented to allow an hour of
separate swimming for women, unaware of the secret that it had been
transformed into a mikveh. Thus, the young, devoted rabbi saved his
community from severe Torah violations.
The oppression from the government intensified, and they expropriated the
rabbi's home. The shamash of the Bet Kenesset, who lived with his seven
children in a small, narrow residence off to the side of the Bet Kenesset,
offered to split his cramped apartment into two, allowing the rabbi to
in one half, together with his wife, three small children, and elderly
father-in-law. Soon afterward, a yeshivah student who was chased by the
Soviet intelligence sought refuge from anyone who would offer, and Rav
Mosheh offered him his room. This student thus became the sixteenth
resident in the apartment. But they all knew what the next stage would be
in the battle between the forces of sanctity and those of impurity -
imprisonment was only a matter of time. Yet, this thought didn't deter
Mosheh from his resolve. "A Jew is like a soldier on the battlefield -
a soldier never flees," he would say.
Then, one day, the news came like a crash of thunder on a clear day - the
rabbi is leaving! He considered the possibility of moving to Eress
but decided against it. He ultimately decided to go to America, and the
authorities were thrilled to grant him his exit visa. A delegation of the
local Jewish community met with him and pleaded with him to stay, despite
the difficulties and dangers. "The difficulties have not discouraged me,"
he answered definitively. "The dangers don't frighten me. I believe I
proven that to you over the last several years."
"Without question," they replied. "That's why we are wondering what has
suddenly changed, what brought the rabbi to the breaking point."
"Breaking point?" asked the rabbi. "Who said anything about a breaking
point? The situation has changed. A new factor has entered the picture."
"What is it?" they asked curiously.
"My children have grown, and I now must concern myself with their
education," he explained. "You understand that, as I have told you, a Jew
is like a soldier in battle. His primary responsibility is to the proper
Jewish education of his children. Everything else takes second priority."
Thus Rav Mosheh Feinstein saved his children, and served as an inspiring
source of light for the Jews of the United States and worldwide for over
The question that remains is, what is Rav Mosheh's source? After all,
seems to be a conflict between three children and an entire community.
can decide matters like these?
The source, in truth, appears to be in our parashah. Hazal comment that
Noah did not intervene on behalf of his generation as did Avraham. At
glance, this seems to be a note of criticism against an individual about
whom the Torah testifies that he was a ssadik. The Ketav Sofer zs"l
explains that the difference between Avraham and Noah lie in the fact that
Noah had children. When an individual has children, then he must invest
his concentration and efforts in their education. How great is the
obligation, then, upon every parent to ensure that his children receive an
intensive religious education!
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"Noah was a righteous, complete man in his generation"
The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 6a) explains that Noah was "complete" in his ways
and "righteous" in his actions. Rashi clarifies the Gemara's comments,
"complete in his ways" means that Noah was particularly humble and
unassuming. The Hid"a zs"l notes that this attribute of Noah is alluded
in the pasuk, (at the end of Parashat Bereishit), "And Noah found favor in
the eyes of Hashem." The numerical value of the word "matza" (found) is
same as that of "anavah," humility. This is why Hashem needed to tell
"for you I have seen a ssadik before Me in this generation," since Noah,
his great modesty, did not consider himself a ssadik at all.
"Noah was a righteous, complete man in his generation"
The Bet Yossef zs"l explains that Noah lived through two generations -
of the flood and that of the dispersion (the tower of Bavel). The
generation of the flood sinned in the area of sexual prohibitions, thus
affecting the level of "yesod." One who is careful in this regard and
refrains from these transgressions is called a "ssadik," as the pasuk
states, "a ssadik is the foundation ['yesod'] of the world." The
of the dispersion sinned in the area of idolatry, and one who is careful
this regard is called a "tamim," complete: "There shall not be found among
you one who passes his son or daughter through fire.You shall be complete
with Hashem your God." Thus, the Torah testifies that Noah was both a
"ssadik" and a "tamim" in his generations ("bedorotav" is written in this
plural form, thus referring to more than one generation). He was free of
guilt in both areas violated by the two generations in which he lived.
is why Hashem tells Noah before the flood, "for you I have seen a ssadik
before Me in this generation." In this generation - the generation of the
flood - there was only the sin of sexual violations, corresponding to
Noah earned the title "ssadik." The epithet "tamim" was added only later,
during the generation of the dispersion.
"Noah was a righteous, complete man in his generation"
The Abarbanel zs"l explains that the generation of the flood sinned both
regard to their conduct among each other - "for the world was filled with
theft" - as well as desire, moral corruption, and the breach of all
standards of modesty and morals: "The land became corrupt before God."
rose above his generation in both areas. He was a "ssadik," he treated
others kindly and compassionately. He was also "tamim," complete, his
inclinations and inner character traits were pure and refined, not
and perverted as those of his generation. The word "bedorotav" - in his
generations - teaches us that despite the fact that he was six hundred
old, and he thus lived among the wicked people so long, he nevertheless
remained steadfast in his righteousness and piety.
"Noah was a righteous, complete man in his generation"
Rabbi Kalfon Mosheh Hakohen zs"l of Garba explains based on the comment of
Hazal that the 613 missvot correspond to the 613 limbs in the human body,
and each missvah illuminates the corresponding limb. Thus, one who is
lacking a missvah is spiritually deficient, just as one who is missing a
part of his body is physically deficient. Conversely, a ssadik is
complete, lacking nothing.
THE GOLDEN AGE
Rabbi Hayyim ben Atar
Rabbi Hayyim ben Atar zs"l, the Or Hahayyim, spent the majority of his
engrossed in Torah study, and only on a temporary basis engaged in his
profession, weaving threads of gold and silver into fancy garments. Once,
the governor of Sali, where the Or Hahayyim lived, was marrying off his
daughter. The entire family bought expensive clothing and sent them to
Or Hahayyim to weave gold threads into the material. He said to them,
"Every month I work enough for my livelihood, and the rest of the time I
devote to Torah study. This month I have already earned enough money for
livelihood. Come back next month." They then told him that the wedding
taking place already that month. The Or Hahayyim still refused the job,
returned to his studies. When word got back to the governor about the Or
Hahayyim's refusal to perform the work for his daughter's wedding, he was
incensed. He immediately ordered that the lions in his courtyard be
and sent a warning to the Or Hahayyim that if he doesn't accept the job at
once he will be cast into the lion's den. He ignored the warning and
continued learning. The governor's men eventually came and took Rabbi
Hayyim from his home and threw him into the lion's den. He sat in the
middle of the lions, who formed a circle around him, and sang chapters of
Tehillim in a sweet, pleasant voice, as all the lions watched and
It was quickly reported to the governor what was happening, and he came to
see the amazing miracle with his own two eyes. As soon as he looked into
the den, he ordered that the Or Hahayyim be lifted from the den, and
the sacred rabbi for forgiveness, entreating him with gifts. Thus,
the great rabbi the verse was fulfilled - "And your fear and intimidation
will be cast over all the beasts of the land." Hazal teach us that anyone
within whom the image of God rests in totality instills fear upon the
animals, "and no animal overcomes a person unless he appears to the animal
as another animal" (Shabbat 151b), that he has lost his "sselem Elokim,"
image of God.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
Chapter 10: The Laws of Tallit
It is a missvah to hold the ssissit strings with one's left hand near
heart during keriyat shema. According to the Ar"I, one should take hold
the ssissit already in the paragraph of "ahavah rabbah" (just prior to
shema), as he recites the words, "me'arba kanfot ha'aress" ("from the four
corners of the earth"). The strings should be held in between the pinkie
and ring-finger near one's heart. Then, when the individual reaches the
parashah of ssissit, he should take the upper part of the strings with his
right hand, and hold them thus with both hands until he recited the words
"vene'emanim venehemadim la'ad," in the paragraph of "emet veyassiv," at
which point he should kiss the ssissit and let them go.
Whereas according to the Ar"I and the Kabbalists one should hold all four
strings in his hand, some maintain that only the front two strings are to
Some authorities hold that one who is left-handed must also hold the
ssissit in his left hand. The custom is not to hold or kiss the ssissit
during the nighttime keriyat shema, since ssissit is not obligatory at
It is preferable to look at the ssissit before reciting the berachah on
tallit, since the pasuk says (Bemidbar 15:39), "and you shall see them,
you will remember all the missvot of Hashem and perform them," and Hazal
explain (Menahot 43b) that seeing the ssissit leads one to remembering,
remembering leads one to the performance of the missvot.
Some have the custom of looking at the ssissit when they reach the
aforementioned pasuk of "ur'item oto" ("and you shall see them."). This
practice is a proper one and exhibits one's love for the missvah.
to the Ar"I, one should look at the ssissit throughout the recitation of
parashah of ssissit. There is also a custom to place the ssissit on the
eyes when reciting "ur'item oto," and anyone who passes the ssissit over
eyes does not experience blindness. One should feel the strings of his
ssissit when reciting "ur'item oto" and kiss them when he looks at them.
According to the Ar"I, one should kiss the ssissit and place them over his
eyes when reciting "ur'item oto" and "velo taturu aharei levavchem
eineichem." Some have the custom of kissing the ssissit also when
"Hashem Elokeichem emet." Others have the practice to kiss the ssissit
after each recitation of the word "ssissit." Others, however, maintain
this practice should not be followed, as kissing the ssissit after each
recitation of "ssissit" constitutes a "hefsek," an interruption in the
recitation of shema. In fact, some authorities maintain that the ssissit
should not be kissed at all throughout the recitation of the parashah.
Some hold that a blind person should hold the ssissit in his hand and kiss
them when reciting the words "ur'item oto," but should not place them on
eyes. Some, however, maintain that based on Kabbalistic sources even a
blind person should place the ssissit over his eyes when reciting "ur'item
According to the Ar"I, one should hold the front two ssissit when reciting
"Baruch she'amar." Then, upon completing "Baruch she'ama," one should
the ssissit and let them go.
From the pasuk, "This is my God, and I will glorify Him" (Shemot 15:2),
Hazal (Shabbat 133b) derive the principle that one must be glorified
Hashem in his performance of missvot. Therefore, it is proper for one to
make a beautiful a tallit, and the tallit should be laundered and cleaned.