THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The rhinoceros is among the largest mammals. Among the land-animals, it
places third in terms of size and weight, after the elephant and
hippopotamus. The rhinoceros can approach a weight of close to three tons,
the weight of more than thirty-five adult people together. Given its size,
the rhinoceros has no reason to fear animals of prey hiding in ambush.
Indeed, the rhinoceros is not afraid of the lion, and even the cheetah does
not impress him too much. Although one might have thought that such a
creature would be of a quiet and tranquil nature, nothing is farther from
the truth. The rhinoceros is an exceptionally wild animal, and, at times,
it can become so enraged that it will pounce on any moving thing that could
potentially be conceived as a threat. The reason, scientists believe, is
that although the rhinoceros has been granted fully developed senses of
smell and hearing, it cannot see very well. The rhinoceros's legs are
exceptionally thick, with three hooves protruding from the bottom of each.
Its skin is thick and wrinkled, practically without hair, resembling an
article of clothing too big for the one wearing it. From the lower portion
of the head, just above the nose, protrude two horns, while some species
have only one horn. Interestingly, these horns are constantly growing. It
should also be noted that the horns of the rhinoceros are not made from the
same material as the horns of other animals. Its horns are a kind of
in the thick skin, and are composed of a collection of hairs that have
If we were to ask the rhinoceros after one of its fits of anger, "What are
you so angry about?" it would obviously have no response. The rhinoceros
has no control over its actions; he cannot determine its nature. It has no
choice but to act in accordance with the nature that the Creator instilled
within it. The human being, however, the crown jewel of creation, is
upon to take control of his emotions and distance himself from anger.
comment that whoever gets angry "all types of Gehinnom control over him,"
and "is considered as having worshipped idols." As Jews, we know that a
person is not bound by his nature; he has the capacity to change it. Even
one who is generally short-tempered can, if only he wanted to, overcome his
anger. A Jew must follow the ways of the Almighty Himself, Who is
with an abundance of kindness."
Father and Son (19)
Flashback: Two brothers - one a pious sadik, and the other a brilliant
scholar and authority of halachah - managed the store they inherited from
their father until it could no longer support both growing families. The
younger brother - the scholar - left to find a position in the rabbinate,
and along the way was hosted by a kind innkeeper, whom he blessed that his
wife should bear a son. Years later, the son born from this blessing came
to the rabbi's town. He was poor, ignorant and ill-mannered. The rabbi
compassion for the boy and hired him to do odd jobs for the court, as he
incapable of learning. One day, the rabbi received a letter from his
brother, asking him to return to his hometown with his best student, who
will marry the brother's daughter. They left without the ignorant boy, but
he swam after the ship after it embarked, and joined the rabbi and his
One cannot describe the emotional reunion of the two brothers. The rabbi
discovered that his brother had ascended great heights in his service of
Hashem, and continued to grow from one level of sanctity to the next,
made great achievements in the purity of his conduct. He told his brother
that he planned on inviting him to join him after his fortieth birthday.
Now that he had acquired such vast knowledge in the "revealed" areas of the
Torah, the time had come for his brother to teach him the "hidden" areas of
the Torah, so that his knowledge will be complete.
As the emotion began to subside, the older brother asked, "Did you bring
your best student, so that he can marry my daughter and grow in Torah under
The brother responded, "I have obeyed your wish - I brought with me my
"Bring him here, and I will take good care of him," answered the righteous
And so the Rosh Yeshivah took his student and introduced him to the sadik.
The sadik looked at the boy and said, "This is not my daughter's match."
The Rosh Yeshivah was stunned. "What have you found wrong with him?"
The sadik, though, would not explain. "It is enough for me to tell you
that this is not my daughter's match. Did you perhaps bring another boy?"
"No," replied the brother. "You told me to bring only one student."
Suddenly, one of the people present jumped in and remarked jokingly, "You
brought Yosselle with you!"
"Who is Yosselle?" asked the sadik.
"An ignorant young man, who I appointed as a gopher for the local Bet
answered the Rosh Yeshivah.
"Let me see him," said the sadik. As soon as the ignorant boy was brought
before the ssadik, the sadik exclaimed, "This is the groom!"
to be continued...
THE GOLDEN AGE
Rabbi Sa'adyah Ibn Danaan zs"l
The wicked do not repent even as they stand at the door of Gehinnom.
Accordingly, Datan and Aviram stood by the door of their tent with their
ed. Even as the ground split beneath, them smiled scornfully and
Rabbi Sa'adyah Ibn Danaan zs"l would tell the story in this context of the
wicked enemy of the Jews, Muhmad Adridi, who revolted against the king of
Morocco and seized the capital city. He oppressed the Jews to the point
where he took the flour from their kitchens and the clothing from their
backs. Facing starvation, the Jews fled the city to look for some grass in
the fields, much to the delight of the wicked rebel, who hoped to take over
the people's desolated homes. The Almighty saw the plight of His people
came to their assistance, helping King Mulai Arssid return to the city.
guards, disgusted by the tyranny of the rebel and his followers, opened the
gates for the king, and the rebel was captured alive. The king ordered
the rebel be publicly hung and stabbed, and that all the inhabitants come
observe his death, thus discouraging any subsequent revolutions.
Rabbi Sa'adyah continued, "Look how arrogant that wicked man Adridi was.
Even as he hung on the tree and the pole was thrust into his stomach, he
still said to those around him, 'I was always higher than you, and even
at my death, as I hang on the tree - I am still higher than you.'"
There is no wonder, then, why Datan, Aviram and Korah acted as they did.
To the contrary, we stand in awe of Korah's sons, whose hearts were stirred
at the final moment and were moved to repentance. They merited a special
place and Gehinnom and were saved from bitter retribution.
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 8; The Laws of Ssissit
The Procedure for Wrapping the Tallit
The misvah of sisit applies to any four-cornered garment worn in a manner
similar to how people generally wearing their garments. As such, there is
no requirement, strictly speaking, to wrap oneself in the tallit with the
"Ishmaelite wrapping," i.e., wrapping the tallit over the head.
Nevertheless, the custom has evolved throughout the Jewish people to wrap
this way when reciting the berachah over the tallit.
Thus, the proper procedure for wrapping is as follows: immediately after
reciting the berachah of "lehitatef besisit," one should wrap the tallit
around his head, with the four corners of the tallit falling by his face,
two to the right and two to the left. He then should take the right side,
and throw it over his left shoulder. (One should stay that way for the
amount of time necessary to walk four cubits.) He should then take the
side and throw it over his right shoulder, so that now all four corner are
situated on his back. He should stay that way for the amount of time
necessary to walk four cubits (about two seconds). He should then lower
tallit over his body, so that two corners of the tallit lie in front, and
two in back. In this way, the individual is now completely surrounded by,
and enveloped in, missvot.
Some have the custom that immediately following the berachah they wrap
their heads and bodies in the tallit, and then they lift the tallit to
shoulders. Finally, they take the right side and throw it over their left
shoulder. Those who are accustomed this way need not change their
as they have authorities on whom to rely. This is the practice of the
Ashkenazim as well as some Sephardic communities.
One should ensure that while wrapping the tallit it does not cover the
entire face and eyes. Rather, the wrapping should be over the head and
around the neck and chin, under the mouth. Those who cover their faces and
eyes while wrapping the tallit are following an erroneous practice, and
should change their custom and follow one the above procedures.
Still others don't wrap the tallit at all, and simply leave the tallit
folded around their necks throughout the entire tefilah. (This practice is
especially common among those who wear a silk tallit.) Those who wear the
tallit this way do not fulfill the misvah of sisit, and their berachah is
thus a "berachah levatalah." They should be taught to correct their
practice in accordance with halachah.
After concluding the wrapping, some have the custom to recite the pesukim
of Tehillim 36:8-11. They must ensure not to recite these pesukim before
the recitation of Birkat haTorah.
Those who have the custom of wrapping the tallit around their heads and
bodies may recite these pesukim during the wrapping, while the entire body
is wrapped in the tallit. However, those who first wrap the tallit only
around the head should not recite these pesukim until they have completed
the entire procedure and the tallit rests on their entire bodies, so as not
to make an interruption. However, if one did recite these pesukim before
lowering the tallit over his entire body, he does not need to recite a new
berachah, since he did begin the performance of the misvah before reciting
TO THE HIGHEST PEAKS
The end of this week's parashah presents the parashah of sisit, which we
read each morning and evening. The Hafess Hayyim zs"l derives a critical
lesson from this section, one which demands our thought and attention. The
Torah requires that we affix ssissit to the corners of our garments in
that we remember the misvot at all times: "...and you shall not stray after
your hearts and eyes." Hazal explain (Berachot 12b) that "after your
hearts" refers to heresy, whereas "your eyes" refers to licentious
About these thoughts the pasuk then testifies, "that you stray after."
Meaning, the Torah refers here even to those who have already filled their
minds with heretical ideas and whose eyes and thoughts have indulged in
promiscuous material. The Torah then adds, "In order that you remember to
perform all My misvot, and you shall be holy to your God." Even from this
young man the Torah demands that he not only abandon his inappropriate
and not only that he perform the misvot, but that he reach the highest
of kedushah, sanctity. The Torah testifies to the fact, and the Almighty
demands, that he lift himself from the abyss of iniquity to the highest
levels. Indeed, there is no such thing as desperation - if he only desires
it, anything is possible!
Each individual must tell himself - the Almighty believes in me; I must
therefore believe in myself and gather strength to raise myself to the
THE REALITY AND THE INTERPRETATION
Many people wonder about the future and ask themselves what will be. Our
rabbis have taught us that all answers can be found in the Torah, and that
we must study the weekly Torah portion. This week's parashah is less then
encouraging, as it tells the tragic story of the spies. However, even this
story can illuminate and offer hope. Many have asked, why were the spies
punished so severely? After all, they reported the truth: "It is a land
flowing with milk and honey, and here is its fruit. However, the nation
dwelling there is strong, and the fortified cities are very large." It's
all true! The Ramban writes, "In this regard they spoke the truth, and
responded in accordance with that which they were commanded...For they were
supposed to report the truth to those who sent them, as this is what they
were commanded." The entire sin lay in a single word - "efes," "however."
They wronged by saying, "Everything is good, except..." There is no
"except"! Were they to have stopped after the report itself, they would
have executed their mission perfectly. But once they gave their analysis,
and appended to the report their own interpretation and assessment, they
overstepped their bounds. Why? For Hashem is all-powerful, and He can
easily overpower the mighty nations of Canaan: "And I destroyed from them
the Emori, whose height is like that of cedars, and who are strong as oaks.
I destroyed its fruit from above and its roots from down below" (Amos 2:9).
This is our lesson from this parashah. We all see what is going on, but
only the omniscient God Himself knows the inner significance of that which
transpires, and everything He does is for the best.
Rabbenu Nissim's "Sippur Hamaasiyot" tells the story of Rabbi Yehoshua ben
Levi who fasted and prayed for days that Eliyahu the prophet would appear
him. Eventually, the prophet came to see him, and asked Rabbi Yehoshua
he wishes. Rabbi Yehoshua answered that he desires to accompany the
to see what he does in the world and thus learn of his great wisdom.
Eliyahu answered, "You will not be able to tolerate that which you will
and you will constantly bother me by questioning everything I do." Rabbi
Yehoshua therefore promised that he will not ask anything and agreed that
the moment he asks Eliyahu about something he did, they will part ways.
They walked together and arrived at the home of an impoverished man, who
received his livelihood from his scrawny cow. As they approached the
the couple saw them from the window and immediately stood up and came to
greet them. They graciously invited the men and treated them to milk and
cheese, produced by the cow. The hosted them for the night and wished them
a fond farewell the next morning. As they left, Eliyahu prayed that the
should die. They had walked but a small distance when they heard the
wailing of the couple over the loss of the cow. Rabbi Yehoshua was stunned
and embittered. Is there no better reward for this hospitable peasant then
the untimely death of his cow? He asked Eliyahu, "My master, why did you
kill this nice man's cow?" The prophet responded, "Remember our condition.
If you want to part ways now, I will tell you." Rabbi Yehoshua kept quiet
and they continued walking.
They walked the entire day, and just before nightfall they reached the
of a wealthy man. The man ignored them and offered them nothing. Only
after they pleaded with him did he agree to let them stay for the night, in
his courtyard, among the bricks being used for the renovation of his house,
to replace a flimsy wall with a more sturdy one. They slept there hungry
and thirsty, and in the morning Eliyahu prayed that the flimsy wall will
become sturdy, and its cracks will disappear. Before they left, Eliyahu
turned to the man and asked, "Why do you spend all this money for nothing?
Look - the wall is sturdy and firm!" The man looked and saw that, indeed,
the wall was in tact, and the two guests continued along their way.
Rabbi Yehoshua could not control himself, and he spoke up. "Rebbe, I see
topsy-turvy world! The poor couple went out of their way to host us, and
they were punished by losing their single source of livelihood. Meanwhile,
this wealthy miser gave us nothing and was rewarded with a new wall!"
Eliyahu answered, "If you are willing to separate at this point, I will
answer you. It had been decreed that this poor woman would die, leaving
husband a widower. I therefore prayed on their behalf that the decree be
improved, and the cow therefore died instead. The woman will now have to
embark on a business enterprise, and she will be very successful. As for
this miser, I knew that he would find an enormous treasure were he to take
down that wall. I therefore prayed that the wall remain in tact, so that
would not discover the gold and silver."
Indeed, we can only see what lies in front of us; but the true
lies well beyond the scope of our vision. We place our trust in the
Almighty, for everything He does is for the best, and, soon enough, the
hidden good will be revealed.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"They shall place on the sisit of the corner a string of blue dye"
During the time of the Bet Hamikdash, it was known how to produce the
"techelet" dye for the sisit. Although in exile we have lost the
the halachah is that the missvah of ssissit can still be fulfilled even
without techelet (Menahot 84a), through the white strings that we wear.
Ar"i zs"l (Sha'ar HaKavanot, Derushei HaSsissit 4) has expanded on why the
techelet was hidden during exile according to the Kabbalistic tradition.
The Rem"a MiPano zs"l explains this fact on the simple level. The white
ssissit strings represent the Attribute of Kindness, and the dark techelet
symbolizes the attribute of power and heavenly protection. These two
divine attributes are aroused by our performance of missvot.
However, during the time of exile we find ourselves in danger and thus in
need of further protection. The techelet was therefore hidden. Since
is the principle, "One who wanted to perform a missvah but was unable to
[due to circumstances beyond his control], he is considered as having
performed it," without the techelet, the Almighty Himself protects us!
"It shall be for you as sisit"
The Alshich zs"l notes the apparent redundancy: "They shall make for
themselves sisit...it shall be for you as ssissit." He also raises another
difficulty in the pasuk, that it begins in third person and concludes in
He explains that the beginning of the pasuk presents the command, and
therefore writes in third person, as many missvot are written. However,
people may come to ask, we performed the missvah, we affixed the ssissit to
our garments and looked at them. Yet, we have not been awakened to
and perform all the missvot. Where is power of sisit that was promised?
Hashem then responds, in second person, do you think that this power is
effectuated automatically? "It shall be for you as sisit." Meaning, it
works only if you make the effort to remember. This may be compared to one
who ties a string around his finger so that he remembers to do something
very important. If he looks at the string, he will remember. However, if
he just happens to tie a string around his finger, it won't remind him of