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Last week we completed the reading of the story of Miriam, which we are commanded to remember throughout the generations (Devarim 24: 9). How she was punished, swiftly and immediately, in front of everyone's eyes, because she failed to understand that she needed to judge Mosheh Rabbeinu's leadership favorably, and she erred by judging him negatively. Now we begin with the sending of the spies. Rashi brings the midrash of our sages: "Why is the story of the spies juxtaposed to the story of Miriam? For she was punished for the slander that she spoke about her brother, and these wicked ones saw and did not learn their lesson."
When we compare the story of Miriam to the story of the spies, and compare her punishment and their punishment, we must tremble! Miriam was criticized for her behavior towards Mosheh Rabbeinu, which does not seem surprising. Even if he were just a wise man, she should have judged him favorably. Rabbeinu, the Rambam, writes (Avot 1:6): "If there is a man known as a famous ssadik and a man of good deeds, whose has done something that seems wrong from every perspective, and no one could judge it favorably without great difficulty and stretching belief, one should choose that option, and it is forbidden to suspect him. About this it is said (Shabbat 97b): "One who suspects the righteous will be smitten physically." How much more so when we are talking about the Rabbi of all Israel. We have learned (in Sanhedrin 110a): "Anyone who disagrees with his Rabbi is like one who disagrees with the Divine Presence, as it says (when Korah rebelled against Mosheh): "When they ignited against G-d." Anyone who fights with his Rabbi is like one who fights with the Divine Presence, as it says: "These are the waters of Merivah, where the Children of Israel fought with G-d." Anyone who complains about his Rabbi is like one who complains about the Divine presence, as it says (regarding the complaint about the manna): "Your complaint is not against us, but against G-d." Anyone who murmurs about their Rabbi is like one who murmurs about the Divine Presence, as it says: "And the nation spoke about G-d and Mosheh." For they have already said (in the Mechilta, Beshalah 6) that anyone who believes in the shepherd of Israel is like one who believes in the One who spoke and the world existed, as it says: "And they believed in G-d and in Mosheh, His servant." Protests and doubts in one's faith in the sages are the beginning of the breaking of the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven, halilah. Therefore we are commanded (Avot 4) that the fear of one's Rabbi should be like the fear of Heaven. "Hashem, your G-d, you shall fear" - this includes the sages (Pesahim 22b). How terrible is this stringency, for even if the sage himself does not mind, the Creator cares about his honor, and punishes with all the stringency of judgement. (Berachot 19a).
Miriam sinned. She suspected the man of G-d, the father of the prophets, and the Creator rebuked her and punished her with ssara'at, with seven days of isolation. When she was healed, her sin was wiped away. The spies arose, and they did not speak about a sage or a prophet, they did not malign a Jew. They spoke slanderously against the land. And they died in a plague, in which their tongues extended to their bellies, and worms came from their tongue and went into their navels! To such an extent? Yes, for they saw the deeds of Miriam and her punishment, and they did not take heed! They did not learn the lesson!
Kayin killed his brother, on purpose, but he was only punished with exile, like one who kills accidentally. Why? "Kayin's verdict was not like the verdict of murderers. For Kayin killed, but he did not have anyone from whom to learn (the stringency of the matter and its punishment). From then on, anyone who kills, is killed" (Bereshit Rabah 22:14). Man was created in the image of G-d. Rashi explains: to understand and to comprehend (Bereshit 1:26). This is the superiority of mankind: to contemplate, to figure out one matter from another (i.e. "to understand"), and to draw conclusions (i.e. "to comprehend"). If he does not do so, then he will be accused with all stringency.
This applies in all areas: in the public and national sphere, and in the familial and personal sphere. When the first pioneers, amongst whom there were religious Jews, got caught up in the excitement of communalism, and founded the kibbutz, it seemed the pinnacle of perfection. From all aspects: the social, the personal, the economic, the ideological. Generations passed, and the ideology faded, the community crumbled and the economy collapsed. One can not blame the founders - but who would establish a kibbutz now??
When the first enlightened secularists arose and rebelled against the religious establishment, they saw themselves as the harbingers of progress. Did they anticipate that this progress would bring about the assimilation of most of the nation, and the rest's complete ignorance? To the creation of the concept of criminality in the nation, from murder to corruption and the moral degeneration of such large portions, with our heart in pain!
When they established the secular school system, perhaps they hoped to raise an enlightened generation, educated, proud to be a nation in its land. But considering the results, who would send his son or daughter there?…
"And He Quieted the Nation towards Mosheh"
The spies returned from their mission, complaining and inciting bitterness: "We can not rise against the nation, for it is stronger than us." Our brothers melted our hearts. Only Kalev and Yeshoshua strengthened their hearts: "Let us go up and inherit it, for we can overcome it!" Rashi explained: Did we not leave Egypt under the leadership of Mosheh Rabbeinu. He split the sea for us and brought down the manna and brought the quail! Under his leadership, we will go up, even to the Heavens. If he tells us to make ladders and go up there, we will succeed as he says!
The Rabbi "Toldot Adam" zs"l explained that these words are to be understood literally. If Mosheh would tell us to make ladders and go up to heaven, then we will take axes and chop down trees, split them into beams and attach rungs and make ladders. Without harboring doubts about our Rabbi, without wondering about how one could go up on a ladder to the Heaven! The great leader of the generation, in every generation, is the continuation of the spark of the soul of Mosheh Rabbeinu in that generation (Tikunei Zohar 104a). This is the meaning of the term "gadol hador" (Sukah 39a). This is what they meant when they said: "Anyone who believes in the shepherd of Israel is like one who believes in the One who spoke and the world existed" (Mechilta, Beshalah). This obligation to listen is absolute and one's success is promised: "For all of those who take advice from the elders, succeed!" Fortunate are we who have merited the direction of the minister of Torah and the pillar of instruction, Mosheh Rabbeinu of our generation, Maran Malka Rabbeinu, the Rishon Lessiyon shelita. May his days be long upon his kingdom and may he continue to lead us until the coming of the Mashiach, and our king at our head!
Rabbeinu, the Rambam zs"l
We have spoken about the life of the Rambam and about his well-known sefer, the "Yad Hazakah," the book of the "Mishneh Torah" which contains all of the laws of the Torah with tremendous clarity. But he wrote other books as well, and they are: the Book of Commandments, in which he wrote down at length and with proofs, the principles by which we establish which are the 613 commandments of the Torah. Our Rabbis, the rishonim, wrote commentaries, arguments upon and resolutions for this book. Other books were written about the commandments in light of his counting of them, such as the "Sefer Missvot Gadol" (of Rabbeinu Mosheh Mikussi zs"l) and the Sefer Hahinuch.
A commentary on the mishnah, which he wrote during the years of his wandering, and which is printed after each tractate of the Talmud.
The "Moreh Nevuchim," to illuminate the eyes of those who were drawn after philosophy and who were puzzled about matters of belief. The Rambam wrote about this (at the end of his commentary on the Mishnah of Berachot) "that it is important in my eyes to learn about the principles of religion and belief, more than what I will teach." In this book there are several parts. The first explains deep concepts and defines them. The second speaks mostly about prophecy and its gradations. The third about providence and the commandments, and more. This book is difficult to comprehend for one who is not trained in the concepts and thought process of philosophy.
A book of the Rambam's responsa, which was published with explanations and comments by the Gaon Rabbi David Yosef shelita. His letters, which are cornerstones of Jewish outlook. These include Igeret Teiman, Igeret Tehiyat Hametim, Maamar Kidush Hashem, Pirkei Hahasslahah, and more.
Ten books of medicine, which stress healing through balanced diet and careful physical activity.
"Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them and they shall make for themselves ssissit"
We have learned (Menahot 43b): Our Rabbis learned: Beloved are Israel, for the Holy One, Blessed be He surrounded them in commandments: tefillin on their heads, and tefillin on their forearms, and ssissit on their clothing and a mezuzah on their doors. About them, David said: "Seven times a day I have praised You about the rules of Your justice." Tefillin on the head and the forearm - that is two. The four ssissiyot and the mezuzah, that is seven (Rashi).
Also there: "And you shall see it and remember all of the commandments of G-d." This commandment is equivalent to all of the commandments together. Rashi explains: Since it says "all of the commandments of G-d." Also, ssissit in gematria is 600; with five knots and eight strings, that is 613.
Also there: Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai said: Anyone who is zealous about this commandment will merit and receive the Divine Presence. It says here "and you shall see it," and later it says "Hashem, your G-d, you shall fear, and you shall serve Him." Just as there it refers to the Divine Presence, so too here it refers to the Divine Presence.
Also there: Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov said: Anyone who has tefillin on his head and tefillin on his forearm and ssissit on his clothing and a mezuzah on his doorway, there is an assumption that he will not sin, as it says: "And the three-layered string (tefillin, ssissit and mezuzah) shall not speedily be rent asunder." It says: "The angel of G-d dwells around those who fear Him (those who fulfill His commandments) and He shall save them" from sin.
In the tractate of Shabbat (32b) we learn: Anyone who is zealous about the commandment of ssissit, will merit in the future and will be served by two thousand eight hundred servants, as it says (Zechariah 8:23) "In those days, when they will hold ten men from each of the nations of the gentiles, and they hold onto the corner of a Jewish person." As a reward for the ssissit on his corner, ten people from each of the seventy nations shall hold onto him - seven hundred - and for each of the four corners, we come to two thousand eight hundred.
In the Sifrei on our parashah, they conclude: And about anyone who nullifies the commandment of the corner, what does it say? "To grab onto the corners of the land, they shall shake the wicked ones from it."
In the holy Zohar (Zohar Hadash, Rut 84b), they say: "On the corners of their garments ledorotam" - from the root dirah, dwelling. In the mezuzah, the first two sections of the Shema are written, and the third one that is missing is the section of ssissit. How is it completed? When a person wraps himself in ssissit and leaves the doorway of his home, all of the sections of the Shema are completed through the wearing of his ssissit. The Holy One, Blessed be He is happy about him, and the Angel of Death leaves. This is what is meant by "ledorotam," that his dwelling is perfect and complete. He leaves his house crowned with the commandments and the Angel of Destruction leaves his home and the person is saved from all harm.
Rabbeinu Mosheh Mikussi zs"l (SeMaG, positive commandment 26): "And I regularly explain to the masses as follows: The Holy One, Blessed be He, wanted to remind us of three things with the ssissit: (1) the master of the world, (2) the miracles at the Red Sea, and (3) the amount of commandments. For the blue of the ssissit is like the sea, and we remember the Red Sea with it. The sea is like the firmament, and we remember He who dwells in the Heavens with it. And the amount of commandments, for the word "ssissit" has the value of 600. With the eight strings and the five knots, there are 613. They are all alluded to in the verse "And you shall see them and remember all of the commandments of G-d (this is the amount of commandments), I am Hashem, your G-d (this is remembering the Master of the world) who has taken you out of the land of Egypt (this is remembering the exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea).
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"
Announcement before mentioning
• If one came late to prayer at shaharit on Shemini Asseret and heard the hazan announcing "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem," he should still not mention "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in his shaharit prayer. (Instead he should say "morid hatal" even in the places which do not have the custom of saying "morid hatal" in the summer.)
Mentioning "morid hatal" in the summer
• Our sages only obligated us to say "morid hagashem" in the winter months, but one is not obligated to say "mashiv haruah" or "morid hatal," since at any rate, the wind and the dew never cease. Therefore, if he only said "mashiv haruah" in the summer months (without saying "morid hagashem"), or if he did not say "mashiv haruah" in the winter months (and he only said "morid hagashem"), he does not repeat the prayer. Also, if he said "morid hatal" in the winter months, or if he did not say it in the summer months, he does not repeat the prayer.
The custom in most Jewish communities is to add in "morid hatal" in the summer months. This is the custom in the Land of Israel. There are some Ashkenazim who have the custom of not adding in "morid hatal" in the summer, and they say "rav lehoshia, mechalkel hayim…"
However, even if those who have the custom of saying "morid hatal" in the summer did not say it, and even if they have not yet completed the blessing with "baruch atah Hashem mehayeh hametim," they still should not repeat the prayer.
• According to the Ashkenazic communities that do not say "morid hatal" in the summer, one should not stop saying "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" on the first day of Pesach until the minhah prayer. However, in the silent musaf prayer, they should say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem," and only the hazan in his repetition, should omit "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem."
At any rate, even according to this custom, if one erred and did not say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in the musaf prayer of the first day of Pesach, he should not repeat the prayer.
If an individual was delayed and did not pray the musaf prayer until after the hazan repeated musaf, then even according to this custom, he should not say "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" in his prayer, since the hazan has already stopped saying it. Even if he is unsure whether the hazan has already prayed the repetition of the prayer, it is better for him not to say in his prayer "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem." As a first choice, he should quickly say the musaf prayer before the hazan repeats the prayer.
The Seal and the Jewish Perspective
The eye sees only white and more white, from the icy surfaces until the far end of the horizon. The polar bear, searching for his prey, strains his eyes. He knows that the Creator granted the Arctic creatures with white camouflage fur, which blends in to the white snow. Like him, for example. Therefore, he looks for movement, a white fox or a white rabbit. But he sees nothing, and continues on his way, hungry.
If he would come closer, he would see a layer of hundreds upon hundreds of young seals, recently born. They have no hope, they don't know how to swim or to search for food. They lie like babies in their cribs, waiting for their mothers to come to them at night to nurse them. They are open to all and they are easy prey for bears and predatory birds. What did the Creator do? He granted them a later of soft warm fur, with which they blend into the clear snow, and their lack of movement becomes an advantage and a gain, for the predators can not discern them at all.
Thus they are protected and spend the first month of their lives nursing from their mothers' milk, which has ten times the fat of cow's milk. They grow quickly until they weigh, within a month, around sixty kilograms. Then they rise and join their mothers in their swimming and search for food. But here, their white fur coat could become a liability, for it could attract the quick ocean predators. What did the Creator do? He changes their coat into gray, which blends into the color of the depths of the sea: "Everything He has done well, in its time"!
And for the Jewish perspective: It is known that a leather vessel (such as a water sack made from the skin of a sheep) can become impure (Bamidbar 31:20), but the skin of a fish (such as sharkskin) can not become impure. About this the mishnah says: "Everything in the sea is pure, except for the seal, for it escapes to the land" at times of distress. Similarly by every Jew, at the times of distress when he escapes to repentance and prayer and charity, he is pure!
From the book, "Great are the Deeds of G-d"
Summary: The son of a wealthy learned man heard from his father about his close friend who lives in Alexandria. He expresses a desire to meet him and to prove the strength of true friendship. He is accepted with the honor of kings in the merit of his father. A fabulous party is organized in his honor, and his father's friend, a rich banker, puts a companion and guide at his service: a learned, intelligent young man, a scholar with broad knowledge.
The two youths decided to learn Torah together, and a new world was revealed to the son of the wealthy man. He knew that his father was a Torah scholar, and that he enjoyed learning Torah very much. But he never understood what was so enjoyable about it. He had never tasted its pleasant taste. He would say the verses from Tehillim in his prayer, that discuss the Torah: "They are more precious than gold and great wealth, and sweeter than honey and dripping of honeycombs," but his heart was very far from those matters. He learned in the study hall, and his thoughts strayed outside of it. This is how his bad friends had pushed him aside; this is how they seduced him to their parties and vanities. He knew that he had caused distress to his father, but he had never been able to force himself to learn Torah diligently. Now, when he learned with his companion, he first tasted the taste of Torah. His attention was turned to the questions that he should be asking, to the matters he should be surprised about. The topic that had seemed so simple became filled with wonders, obstacles at every step and path. One must think hard, to test the foundations, to change one's approach, and all of the difficulties would be resolved, all of the questions would be answered. It would all be clear and illuminating, and the joy was so great, "there is no joy like the resolution of doubts!"
Day followed day and thirty days of his stay passed. He remembered that Yaakov Avinu resided by Lavan for thirty days, and then went out to work with his sheep. He would no longer continue to eat the bread of kindness, even though he was his beloved… In his home, his elderly parents were waiting for him, awaiting his peaceful return. He turned to his host, the faithful friend of his father, with whom he would dine every night, taking interest in how he had spent the day, and asking if he needed anything, was he satisfied. He turned and said: "I wish to return home."
The host was crushed: "Are you lacking anything that you wish to leave?"
"My father awaits my return," he explained and his father's friend agreed with all of his heart. "Happy is the father who has a son like you! Tell me, would you like something from my property, as a souvenir? Tell me what you want, and you will receive it, with joy!"
There were artistic treasures and beautiful objects of incalculable worth. But the guest chose something that surprised and shocked his host.
To be continued, G-d willing, next week…
About the Everyday Miracles
We read this Shabbat about one of the most distressing incidents that happened to our forefathers in the desert. We must begin by saying that we are talking about a generation of knowledge, of whom the spies were the leaders, and when we contemplate, we can not even comprehend them! They had seen the miracles of G-d at the sea and in the desert, they knew that nothing was out of His hands. But they also knew that this behavior was temporary, and would soon come to an end. When they entered the Land, they would no longer eat the manna, nor would they drink from the water that came from the stone. They would not be protected by the clouds of glory and there would not be a pillar of fire to lead them. They would once again become subject to the vicissitudes of nature. Therefore, they wished to send spies, as is naturally done. To prepare for war, according to the laws of nature. From this perspective, the spies faithfully fulfilled their task. They told them that this would be naturally impossible. The cities were fortified, and very strong. They had also seen the sons of giants there. Who could stand before them - the matter was undoable. It is no surprise that the hands of the people were weakened. They chose to stay in the desert, with the protective, miraculous behavior.
G-d's anger burned at them: "And G-d said to Mosheh, until when will this nation anger Me, and until when will they not believe in Me, with all the signs that I have made in their midst." Rashi explained: "In return for all of the miracles that I have done for them, they should have believed that I am capable of fulfilling my promise." Even Mosheh Rabbeinu rebuked them, saying: "Hashem, your G-d, walks before you, He will fight for you. Like everything that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the desert where you saw that He, Hashem, your G-d, carried you like a man carries his son. And in this matter you do not believe in Hashem, your G-d!" (Devarim 1:30)
We must understand: For what is this anger, and what is the connection? They knew that the Creator could generate miracles beyond the boundaries of nature, like the miracles of Egypt and the miracles of the desert. But this behavior would end when they entered the Land, and they would be forced to manage naturally, and naturally, they had no chance. What is the response to this suspicion?
The answer is so sharp: They are being accused for that thought itself, for thinking that G-d does not rule over nature and that He does not lead it according to His Will. Because they thought that nature is its own ruler, and that G-d only takes part in the revealed miracles! Because of this, they were sentenced to remain in the world of miracles, in the desert, and not to merit seeing in front of their eyes the providence of the Creator upon every detail, in the world of nature!
The Torah is eternal, and its messages are up-to-date. We must lift our eyes and see the revealed miracles in the natural world. More than two thousand shells landed on specific cities, and these are not miracles? Thirty-nine Iraqi missiles landed in our land, in settled areas, and these are not miracles? The first Prime Minister said, that one who does not believe in miracles, is not a realistic person!…
On the national and general plane, and on the personal and individual plane, in the realm of health, employment, family, a surplus of miracles! May G-d grant that they should continue, for goodness and for blessing, for joy and for happiness, for salvation and for consolation!
With the blessings of Shabbat Shalom,
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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