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In our parashah, Moshe Rabbenu, the faithful servant, requests, "Let Hashem, the G-d of spirits for all flesh, appoint a person over the nation, who will go out before them and come before them… " Rashi explains, "Not like the kings of the nations who sit in their homes and send their armies to war, but rather like I did, as I personally fought against Sichon and Og, and like Yehoshua did, as it says, 'Yehoshua went to him and said, Are you with us or our enemies?' It similarly says regarding David, 'For he went out and came before them,' leading them as they went out and returned."
This is indeed the distinguishing characteristic of the true shepherd of Yisrael, who takes upon himself primary responsibility in the nation's battles. This is the path of our father and shepherd, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, who is personally involved in all communal needs, guiding, teaching and advising. He has spread his net over all the many activities of the El Hama'ayan educational system, as well as innumerable causes of Torah, charity and "hessed." He bequeaths Torah to our generation through his written rulings of halachah, public lectures and assemblies. He concerns himself with kashrut, providing meticulous supervision, as well as all aspects of our communal life. He lends an open ear to personal problems just as he tends to the needs of the community at large. May Hashem grant us the privilege of his influence for many years, and may he continue to shed his light and radiance with good health and many long years.
Let us not forget, however, that a similar responsibility also rests upon the shoulders of every family-head in Yisrael: "who goes out before them." He must look after the Torah education of his sons and daughters and the general character of his family, and actively impact upon the entire household, serving for them as an example of Torah and exerting spiritual authority.
Twenty-four thousand people died in the plague unleashed by Hashem's wrath in response to their sinful immorality exhibited at "het ba'al pe'or." Pinhas quieted the divine anger, and Moshe Rabbenu was then commanded to count the survivors: "This is comparable to a shepherd into whose flock came wolves and killed them: thereafter he counts them to find out how many are left" (Rashi). Counting something indicates its importance; the Creator wished to teach us that despite our sins and wrongdoing, which nearly brought about our destruction ("I did not destroy Benei Yisrael in My anger" - implying that He was prepared to do just that), we are still precious and beloved in the eyes of the Al-mighty. He cherishes us not only as a nation, but as individuals. Each person is His beloved son, and our compassionate Father takes personal interest in him. This is as if to say, "How is so-and-so, My son who sinned? Did he survive? Was he saved from the plague?" Indeed, this applies even to each and every one of us.
How can we understand this ocean of love and sea of compassion, only the slightest edge of which do we see with our eyes, to the point of the beautiful comment of the Ba'al Shem Tov zs"l - "If only I loved a sadik in Yisrael as much as the Al-mighty loves the wicked among Yisrael"? We can perhaps better understand this in light of one pasuk that appears in the list of the survivors: "The sons of Eliav: Nemuel, Datan, and Aviram; these are Datan and Aviram, the distinguished members of the nation, who incited against Moshe and Aharon in Korach's following, when they incited against Hashem. The land opened its mouth and swallowed them and Korach when the following [of Korach] died, when the fire consumed the two hundred and fifty people - who then became an example." The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l asked, why does the Torah repeat in this context the background and deeds of Datan and Aviram? We have already read about them in Parashat Korah! What more, here we are interested in the number of the survivors, not those who had perished!
He answers as follows: "It seems that the pasuk here comes only to say that they themselves were the reason behind the entire incident of Korah, for Hashem wishes to publicize the wicked who caused the evil that was done. This is what is meant when it says, 'These are Datan and Aviram,' the ones who incited the others against Hashem and His servant, Moshe, thus teaching us that they were the ones who led the assembled following to sin… The indication [that all of Korah's rebellion occurred only on their account] is that Moshe tried to appease only them, as it says, 'Moshe sent to call for Datan and Aviram, and they said, 'We will not come.’' He sensed that it all depended on them. Thus, the souls of the those who perished are attributed to these two wicked men, and this constitutes a defense of Korah and the two hundred and fifty men. According to this, we can explain the view that maintains that Korah and his following have no share in the world to come as referring only to Datan and Aviram; we can likewise explain the view that the pasuk, 'He casts down into She'ol and raises' speaks of them as referring to the rest of the following, everyone besides them [Datan and Aviram]."
How beautiful are these comments, and how relevant they are to tens of thousands of our brethren in this generation! There are so many "babies taken captive," hundreds of thousands of Jews who never had the opportunity to learn "Shema Yisrael," who don't know how to go through a siddur! There are so many hundreds of thousands who never experienced the beauty of Shabbat or the light of the Torah! Our hearts are pained, our eyes overrun by tears. But they are not to blame! They were detached from the wellsprings of Judaism, an evil hand broke the chain - the golden chain that continues to grow all the way from Har Sinai, the radiant, sparkling chain, containing scholars, sages, and sadikim. Such a spectacular heritage, filled with wisdom and purity! Each and every one of us has behind him hundreds of generations of ancestors who observed the Torah and even gave their lives for their faith. They now reside in Gan Eden and look down, gazing upon their descendants and sighing deep sighs of anguish. Even more intense is the lamentation of the Shechinah itself: "Woe unto Me for My pain! My tent was pillaged, all My ropes were torn, My children have left and they are gone - no one pitches My tent or hangs My curtains!" Nevertheless, the Shechinah defends those who have strayed: "For the shepherds are fools and did not seek Hashem; therefore they have not prospered and all their flock is scattered" (Yirmiyahu 10:21). The shepherds are the ones who have plundered - "We will destroy the old world down until its foundations" - and it is their world that has been destroyed. It is the shepherds who have strayed and led others away with them. But what about the sheep?
Where are they? Who will bring them back? Who will restore the pristine splendor, bring joy to the forefathers in Gan Eden, and console the bereaved Shechinah?
Fortunate is the one who involves himself in this task, of bringing closer those who have strayed, taking part in restoring the glory of Torah to its proper place!
"The name of the smitten man from Yisrael, who was smitten with the Midyanite… "
The pasuk mentions Zimri's having been smitten twice, once in the present form ("hamukeh") and again in the past tense ("hukah"). The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l explains that this alludes to Zimri's having been killed twice, both physically and spiritually. Physically, he died when Pinhas killed him, but spiritually he perished when he committed the sin: "It is not the wild donkey that kills, but it is the sin that kills." The wicked are considered dead already in their lifetime, as sins kills and destroy, as it says, "Evil will kill the wicked."
"The name of the smitten man from Yisrael, who was smitten with the Midyanite… "
The Torah does not mention the names of the sinners when recording the actual incident. It rather leaves them anonymous: "Behold, a man from Yisrael came and brought a Midyanite woman to his brethren… " The reason is clear: why should we know their names? Every Jew is forbidden from committing sins, and the attribute of justice sought to kill them all. But when our pasuk comes to praise Pinhas' zealous act for Hashem, it emphasizes that he was not inhibited by Zimri's having been a tribal leader or Kozbi's having been the princess of a large nation. The Torah therefore here identifies the sinners. This is how the Ramban zs"l explained.
We learn from here that even when we hear - for valid, legitimate reasons - of an inappropriate act, it is proper to leave the perpetrators' names concealed if no purpose is served by their exposure. In this way we fulfill the commandments of following the ways of Hashem!
"The name of the smitten man from Yisrael, who was smitten with the Midyanite… "
From the comments of Rabbenu Bahya zs"l a different reason emerges for the initial concealment of the names of Zimri and Kozbi. When a sin is committed publicly, in the presence of all of Yisrael, involving the denigration of Moshe Rabbenu and brazen defiance of the prohibition, there is no worse hillul Hashem (desecration of Hashem's Name). Mentioning a person's name generally signifies an degree of importance afforded to that individual. How could the Torah have given any respect to one who committed an unspeakable hillul Hashem?! However, after he received his punishment and Pinhas received his reward for having brought about a kiddush Hashem, it turned out that through Zimri a kiddush Hashem resulted. His death brought the plague to a halt, reward to Pinhas, additional sanctity to Am Yisrael, and an eternal covenant of kehunah. At this point the Torah can mention his name!!
"The name of the smitten man from Yisrael, who was smitten with the Midyanite"
The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l writes the following, frightening comments: "Come and see what a sin causes! First, he was called "a man from Yisrael," and an important, distinguished member of the nation, a tribal leader. Now he is 'smitten,' wounded and trampled. But not only was he smitten - he was 'smitten with the Midyanite,' lowered to her level, considered her equal. She is tied to him like a dog, accompanying him and walking before him to the day of judgment (Sotah 3:2)!"
How frightening! One who becomes addicted to his desires and allows them to overcome him is identified based on those desires. His very self becomes inextricably connected to his sins, to the point where one can make no distinction between the two. Everyone knows that an evil person is banned from Gan Eden and sent to Gehinnom. But not everyone realizes the manner in which such a soul ascends and appears before the Heavenly Tribunal. Tearing the sinner's soul from the worldly desires to which it had become attached is like detaching a piece of wool that became tangled in a thicket of thorns. Fibers are caught, pulled, and torn (Berachot 8a). What horror! Fortunate is the one who can tear himself from his desires and separate his pure soul from them, thereby retaining its sacred essence.
Rabbi David Siyon Laniado zs"l
We read in our parashah of the laws of "yerushah" (inheritance), which bring to mind the sadik Rav David Siyon Laniado zs"l, who in his youth emigrated to Eress Yisrael from Aram Soba. He settled in Yerushalayim, where he became a regular visitor in the house of the sacred sage, Rav Shelomoh Eliezer Alefandri zs"l. He exhibited remarkable strength in Torah and sincere avodat Hashem, but above all else he excelled in the area of charity, for which he donated all his money.
Towards the end of his life he summoned his eldest son and said, "The Creator has granted me the privilege of seeing children following the path of Hashem and building their homes on the foundations of Torah and misvot. I tried with all my strength to fulfill the misvot of Hashem, and the time has now arrived for me to fulfill an additional misvah, that of bequeathing an inheritance.
"I have no money or property, as I spent all my assets on charity, for which I am very glad. Indeed, the king Munbaz said, 'My predecessors buried treasures down below, and I buried treasures up above; my predecessors buried treasures for others, and I buried treasures for myself.' All my wealth amounts to just a single lira, and with it I would like to fulfill the misvah of bequeathing an inheritance. I therefore entrust it in your hands, that you should share it with your brothers. You shall take a double portion for yourself, as is written in Moshe's Torah. The merit of the misvah of inheritance that I fulfill with this lira shall protect me, you and all Am Yisrael!"
He did not leave behind any silver or gold; his children did not become wealthy from the single lira they inherited. However, his good deeds and purity of faith, his reputation and meticulous observance of misvot - all this he bequeathed to his offspring who perpetuated his legacy. When his children, grandchildren and those who respected him escorted him to his final resting place, the lamenter cried, "Our Sages said that a person is not accompanied [to his final resting place] with his silver or gold, nor with his riches or possessions, but only with Torah and good deeds! Behold, we see that not only do they accompany him to his final resting place, but their impact remains with us, accompanying his offspring in the way they conduct their lives!"
A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
It is permitted to play music during the three weeks at a festive celebration involving a misvah, such as a berit, sheva berachot, or bar misvah on the day when the child reaches age thirteen. (If, however, the bar misvah celebration is not conducted on the actual birthday, then it is proper to be stringent and not play music during the celebration should it take place during the three weeks.) Similarly, it is permitted to play musical instruments at a "pidyon haben" or "siyum." It is forbidden, however, to play music at the celebration conducted on the night before a berit. Only singing - without musical accompaniment - is allowed. The Ashkenazim have the custom not to allow music at any celebration conducted during the three weeks, including all those mentioned.
If one makes a living from playing music for others, then if he does so before gentiles and does not play the music for his own rejoicing, but merely for purposes of his livelihood, he may perform during the three weeks until Rosh Hodesh Ab. After Rosh Hodesh Ab, however, he should not play music even under such circumstances. However, if he fears losing his job by refusing to play after Rosh Hodesh, then he may play even during this period. In any event, however, he will not see blessing from his work performed during the three weeks. If his work involves performing for Jews, then it is forbidden for him to play from the seventeenth of Tammuz, as doing so would be bringing others to sin by playing music for them during this period, when listening to music is prohibited.
It is proper to avoid reciting the berachah of "sheheheyanu" during the three weeks, from the night of Shivah Assar Be'Tammuz until after Tisha Be'Ab, on a new fruit or garment. One should leave the new fruit or garment until after Tisha Be'Ab, and should not eat/wear it without reciting sheheheyanu. One does, however, recite sheheheyanu when performing a pidyon haben during the three weeks, and one should not lose out on the recitation of the berachah. The Sefaradim and Eastern communities who generally recite sheheheyanu at a berit milah (and those Ashkenazim who follow this practice) should do so during the three weeks. When reciting sheheheyanu at either of these functions, one may, if he wishes, place a new fruit before him and have in mind for the berachah to apply to the new fruit. He should then recite the proper berachah over the fruit and eat it.
So, What Do We Do?
"Rabbi Menahem Bar Yossi taught: 'For a misvah is a candle and Torah is light' (Mishlei 6:7) - the pasuk associated a misvah with a candle and Torah with light. A misvah is associated with a candle to teach you that just as a candle shines only temporarily, so does a misvah protect only temporarily. Torah is associated with light to teach you that just as light shines forever, so does Torah protect forever" (Sotah 21a).
The Torah is our weapon, our shield. Commenting on the pasuk, "Our feet would stand in your gates, Yerushalayim," the Gemara says that "our feet would hold strong in battle in the merit of the gates of Yerushalayim in which people were involved in Torah" (Makkot 10a). Indeed, this was the practice of Shelomoh Hamelech, who, as Hazal tell us, designated two hundred out of every thousand conscripted soldiers to Torah study, in the merit of which his army would succeed in battle (Shavuot 35b).
As stated, the Torah serves as our shield. Just as a group of Torah students in the nation protects the entire nation, so does this occur within the family unit. If a family sends the children to Torah education, then besides the Jewish knowledge they acquire and besides their keeping away from the filth of the street, the violence, permissiveness, and perversion upon which today's society is founded, besides all that, the children's Torah protects the family. We have no concept of the blessing the child's learning brings upon the family!
If in general, as the Gemara tells us, the world exists only in the merit of the schoolchildren (Shabbat 119b), then in the narrower framework, a family exists in the merit of the children studying in religious schools. We cannot even imagine the love that showers down from the heavens upon such a family, and how this love bring protection, health, and good life with sufficient livelihood, "nahat" and happiness.
Dear brothers! The Gemara asks, "What can a person do to be saved from the "pangs of Mashiah," referring to the many troubles that our generation suffers. It answers that one should involve himself in Torah and kindness. First and foremost, then, one should send his children to Torah schools, thereby fulfilling both requirements. The children are educated towards good "middot" and respect for parents, towards acts of kindness and assisting others. The family is thus guaranteed protection from the pangs of Mashi'ah, from all the disasters and attacks.
As emerges from the eternal prophecies, the coming period will not be an easy one, to put it lightly. Let us therefore quickly purchase for ourselves and our beloved family the "insurance policy," by registering our children in Torah schools, thus bringing upon ourselves divine kindness.
Reb Nahumke (8)
The young Nahumke was exposed to the light of the Torah for the first time in his life when his father's employer, Yehudah Leib Ganker, adopted him as a son and guided him in intensive Torah study. A brilliant world suddenly opened before the youngster, and with his remarkable talent, quickness of thought and incredible memory, he saw success in his studies. When Yehudah Leib had to leave on business, Nehumke made his way to the Bet Midrash in nearby Beisgelah. He began to learn together with other students, but he was very quickly disappointed.
His first "havruta" enjoyed "pilpul," tying one thread to another and weaving an entire garment of nonsense. Nahumke switched to another "havruta," but it soon turned out that he "traded in a cow for a donkey." He was stubborn as a mule, completely lacking in the critical quality of "conceding to the truth," no matter how clearly he was proven wrong. Nahumke left him and thereby acquired yet a second foe. He began learning with a third, who was awfully slow. He did not absorb the information the first time, didn't understand the second, and misunderstood the third time around. The next "havruta" was talented and sharp, the son of a soldier and quite sociable. He knew all the town's secrets and residents and spoke about it all during learning time. After him Nahumke studied with a daydreamer, and thereafter with an intensely G-d-fearing student who would get up every minute to wash his hands, afraid that he may have touched his hair or skin. In the end, Nehumke never found anyone suitable and thus preferred to learn on his own. However, the fiery energy which characterized his study when he first arrived faded. The flame had been extinguished. After all, it is not easy to learn with energy and confidence when one peer is jealous and another scorns; one is angry and the other turns his back. And remember, Nehumke was just a youngster, remarkably talented but no less sensitive than any other child. The attitude of the other students offended him and broke his heart, and he fell into a crisis of depression. He longingly recalled his glorious days of study with Reb Yehudah Leib, his teacher and guide, the firmly grounded reasoning, the crystal-clear logic. He missed him dearly.
Overcome with distress and his energy gone, Nahumke no longer earned the enthusiastic warmth of the community members at whose table he would eat. His sensitive soul took note of the change, and one day the students in the Bet Midrash in Beisgelah found, much to their surprise, Nahumke's seat empty.
The students did not know what happened. They looked around and saw that even his tefillin were gone. His hosts waited for him, but he never showed. Nehumke had taken off and run away.
To be continued
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
The Halachot of Honoring Parents (continued)
One must stand when his father or mother enters the room, and he must remain standing until the parent sits down. The obligation to stand applies once one can see his parent from the distance. Although Rav Haim Ben Atar rules leniently in this regard, that one must stand only when his parent comes within four cubits, other authorities disagree and require standing even upon seeing one's parent from a distance. The Gemara in Kiddushin (31a) tells that when Rav Yossef, who was blind, heard his mother's footsteps, he would say, "Let me stand in respect of the Shechinah," referring to the fact that honoring one's parents is equivalent to honoring the Shechinah (Kiddushin 30b).
One must stand when a scholar proficient in halachah decision-making or an older person - seventy or more years old - comes within four cubits. Fore more about this halachah, see Yabi'a Omer vol. 4, Yoreh De'ah 16.
Even of one's parents act inappropriately towards him, he should nevertheless not raise his voice at them, Heaven forbid. Rather, he should present his case humbly and with reverence. One who restrains his mouth during an argument, who remains silent and accepts the other's insults, the entire world is said to exist on his account.
The Rambam writes that one need not listen to his parent if he/she tells him to a violate the Torah, since he and his parents are all obligated to honor and obey Hashem. We learn this halachah from the story of David and Yonatan, where Shaul told Yonatan (his son) to bring David to him, and Yonatan, knowing that Shaul would kill David, told David to run away.
Even despising one's parents in his heart, while outwardly respecting them, constitutes a violation. One must find a favorable quality of his parents and focus on that characteristic. The Rambam (Hilchot Mamrim 6:11) extends to misvah of honoring parents to cases of non-observant parents, a ruling brought down in the Shulhan Aruch. This halachah is very relevant in contemporary times when a child raised in a non-observant home becomes a ba'al teshuvah. The Tur, however, argues on the Rambam and maintains that a child need not honor his parents if they are sinners, as implied by the Gemara in Baba Kama 94b. The Gemara there establishes that inheritors need not return an item unlawfully taken by their father as interest for a loan unless he did teshuvah before his death. Since the only requirement to return it evolves from the concern of sparing their father the shame of having an illegally acquired item as part of his estate, no such obligation applies if he was a sinner. Clearly, the Gemara's underlying assumption is that one need respect a parent who is a sinner. The Radbaz, however, reconciles this Gemara with the Rambam's view, explaining that only after an iniquitous parent's death does the obligation of honor no apply, since the parent has no more opportunity to perform teshuvah. In the parent's lifetime, however, a child must honor him/her despite their sins, since they still have a chance to do teshuvah. The Or Hahaim answers differently, that one must respect his parents even if they sin because they at any moment they could have done teshuvah in their hearts. When, however, the parent has yet to return to the item illegally taken as interest, it can be assumed that teshuvah has not yet been performed. The Hid"a, however, raised two difficulties with this resolution. First, according to the Or Hahaim's approach, the obligation of honoring one's parents who sin is required out of uncertainty, because the parents may have possibly repented. The Rambam generally holds that in situations of doubt regarding Biblical obligations, one must be stringent only "miderabbanan," as ordained by Hazal. As far as Torah law is concerned, however, one need not act stringently in cases of doubt. Accordingly, this obligation of honoring one's parents who sin should be only "miderabbanan." The Rambam implies, however, that this obligation constitutes an outright, Biblical requirement. Secondly, if the parent is assumed to be a sinner, we have no reason to consider the possibility that he or she repented.
The correct explanation of the Rambam's position is that the Torah itself drew no distinction between sinful and righteous parents when it comes to the misvah of honoring them. Therefore, even if one knows beyond a doubt that his parents have not done teshuvah, he must nevertheless respect them as they brought him into this world. Although the Rema writes, "Some authorities claim that one need not respect his wicked father," he does not conclude by writing, "and this is the halachah." Therefore, even the Ashkenazim, who generally follow the rulings of the Rema, must respect their parents even if they sin. Preferably, of course, one should try his utmost to speak with them kindly and with sensitivity, and he will then be deserving of blessing. In fact, perhaps specifically by honoring them and seeking to satisfy their wishes they will come to realize the beauty and pleasantness of the Torah.
All this applies only in situations where the parents do not interfere with their children who have come to realize the truth and return to their spiritual source. If, however, they cause trouble to their children on account of their having adopted a religious lifestyle, then the parents are considered "apikorsim" (heretics) and the child has no obligation to respect them. If possible, the child should dissociate himself entirely from his parents and move elsewhere. For more on this topic, see Yabi'a Omer vol. 8, Yoreh De'ah 21.
Since Torah study supersedes honoring parents, one need not listen to his parents should they oppose his decision to study in a yeshivah. Since the parents, too, are obligated to obey the Al-mighty, the misvah to honor them cannot override the obligation to study Torah. See Yehaveh Da'at 5:56.
Luna Bat Miriam and Yosef Ben Geraz
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