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THE SULTAN AND THE PRECIOUS STONE
Our parashah enumerates the stones of the hoshen, which the kohen gadol carried against his heart. Rabbenu Behayei zs"l elaborates on the specific, wondrous qualities of each stone, the supernatural forces that the Creator implanted within these special stones. In this context, we bring to mind the story of a man who came before the Divrei Yehezkel zs"l, distraught and overcome with panic. His son had taken seriously ill and the doctors had given up in their search for a cure. The rabbi said to him, "Listen to me, and I will tell you a story." The father wondered, his son was suffering from severe pain and deteriorating steadily; is this the time for storytelling? But he listened as the rabbi began his tale: Baron Rothschild, among the wealthiest men of his time, once wanted to feast his eyes upon his wealth. He went to the safe and took out the boxes of precious stones, and while he was enjoying the delight of his fortune, the door suddenly shut; he found himself locked inside the storage cellar with no way out. Terrified, he knocked, banged and shouted, but no one heard. The door was exceedingly thick and the room was located in the bottom cellar of the home. Everyone assumed that he left for work, and when he didn't return that evening they figured he must have left on a business trip. After several days, they became concerned, and the searches came up empty. They had no choice but to declare him officially missing, and his children went down to the storage cellar to estimate the fortune he left behind. They found their father lying lifeless, and with the blood he extracted from his finger he had written, "I, the wealthiest man in the world, died of hunger." After the period of mourning had passed, the inheritors divided the assets. They successfully ascertained the value of every item, until they got to a certain precious stone the size of an egg that shone in a myriad of colors. The experts could not accurately determine its value. They figured that the Turkish Sultan, who owned the largest collection of precious stones in the world and was renowned as an unparalleled expert in the field, would be able to determine its value. And so the brothers picked up and traveled to Turkey to consult with the Sultan. They reached Istanbul, the capital, and set an appointment with the Sultan. They showed him the stone and his eyes sparkled with delight. A stone so perfect that shone with so many colors would be the crown jewel of his treasury! "In exchange for this stone I am willing to pay half a million perah" - the Ottoman currency of the time. Being erudite businessmen, they refused the offer and insisted that they would not sell it for less than one million. The Sultan's face darkened in anger - if they were his subjects he would have them beheaded. No one haggles with the Sultan! He said, "I offered you a generous price, better than which you will not find. Go!" Again, erudite merchants as they were, they left the palace. They knew full well that a compulsive collector who found an item he was missing would pay any price in exchange. They got into the wagon and ordered the driver to turn around, confident that the Sultan would soon send his men after them. But the Sultan was a man of honor and did not bring them back. When they passed the border, they turned into an inn and sat down to discuss their trip. But the frantic crying of a baby disrupted their conversation. The innkeeper's infant had taken ill and was running a high fever; nothing could calm his down. They decided to give the child the shining stone to play with, and the baby was delighted. He played with it happily, calmed down, and fell asleep, allowing the brothers to discuss things in peace and quiet. They concluded that their tactic failed and that the Sultan was correct in his assertion that they will not find a better price. They went over to the sleeping baby, took the stone from his fingers, went to the carriage and told the driver to head back towards Istanbul. They returned to the Sultan and told him that they consented to his original price. "You acted wisely," he complimented them. "Show me the stone," he then asked. He took it, looked at it carefully, and asked angrily, "Are you trying to mislead the Sultan?! Show me the original stone!" They exchanged looks of surprise back and forth and insisted, "This is the stone!" The Sultan was incensed: "Don't play games with me - this is a simple stone!" They were, however, known as honest people, so he began inquiring if the stone had changed hands in the interim, if they had shown the stone to anybody who might have swapped it. "No, not at all," they answered, "it was only with a baby - and he certainly didn't switch it!" They told him of the sick baby and he exclaimed, "Oh - now it all becomes clear. This stone is capable of curing a certain illness that is considered otherwise untreatable. When you gave the child the stone, he drew from it all its power and was cured. It has now lost all its value - it is worth not even a single perah!" As it turned out, the rabbi concluded, the Creator, Who governs all occurrences in the world, arranged that this wondrous stone would reach that forsaken inn to cure the child that had been dangerously ill. Now return to your home, and wait for His salvation! A spark of hope was kindled in the father's heart and he headed home. On the way back, he was informed that the royal physician happened to pass by the city. The father went to greet the doctor and asked him to see his son. The doctor came, identified the illness, and took the medicine out of his kit.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The ibis is an egg-laying bird whose feathers are shiny brown and whose beak is bent like a sickle. For this reason, the bird is called "maglan" in Hebrew (related to the word "magal," a sickle). When the ibis finds its mate, they quickly begin building their home together. The ibis generally builds its nest in the upper third of the tree. In order to build the nest, it collects twigs and, if necessary, the ibis will cut and break dried branches straight off the tree where it is building. This is accomplished by its useful and efficient beak. Sometimes it seems as though the ibis is plundering other nests. What business does it have around the nests of other ibises? The answer is simple - it needs dried twigs for its own nest. Interestingly, however, theft of materials for purposes of building a private nest is quite rare among the bird kingdom. For some reason, though, this phenomenon is rampant among ibises. Apparently, they are just outright lazy. The building process takes around five days, but even thereafter the ibis couple continues to revamp their home and add more nesting materials to their joint residence. A well-organized system of division of labor ensures efficient production. The male is responsible for bringing the building materials while the female does the actual building. When the nest is ready, the couple deserves a "mazal-tov," as the female lays three to five eggs with an interval of one or two days in between each. The eggs are small and turquoise-gray. Researchers testify that a single nest can have eggs of many different colors, though they have yet to ascertain conclusively what determines the eggs' colors or whether a relationship exists between the color of the egg and its content. The way in which the ibis takes care of its needs - by stealing - is unique within the bird community. As we know, however, this conduct may be found amongst humans. Within every person a battle is waged between the opposing drives of giving and taking. There are those who take forcefully from others, insensitive to the distress brought about upon the victim. We may classify such a person together with the ibis. Others take without harming anyone; they like to take without giving in return. They fail to understand that "he who hates gifts will live." We Jews know that the drives of giving and taking form the root of all actions and personality traits. Our Sages teach us that, unlike the general perception that one can give to only someone whom he likes, it is specifically giving to someone that generates love towards him. One who strives to cling to the attributes of the Creator knows that giving constitutes a central quality of the Almighty, as He gives without ever receiving anything in return.
The Faithful Student (The End)
A story from the book "HaSaraf MiBrisk," the story of the life of Maharil Diskin zs"l
Flashback: Igor Burak, the assimilated Jewish attorney, was suspected by the authorities of assisting the Polish underground and consequently refused to take on the defense of the "Saraf of Brisk," Maharil Diskin zs"l, who was imprisoned as a result of a concerted effort by the authorities to bring about his collapse. The great ssadik Reb Nechumke of Horodna, who supported the lawyer's family during his stay in jail, pleaded with the lawyer that one must endanger himself to save such a sacred and venerable ssadik. When the assimilated lawyer asked for proof, Reb Nechumke told him of Rav Hayyim Simhah, the faithful student of the Saraf, who staged a pickpocket attempt in order to be imprisoned together with his rabbi. The lawyer agreed to take on Rav Hayyim Simhah's defense, and indeed the defendant was proven innocent.
As they left the courtroom, Rav Hayyim Simhah said to the lawyer, "I must compliment you on how you carried out your duties adequately!" The assimilated lawyer was taken aback - what nerve! Yet, he couldn't deny the truth, that he was just an actor in the play staged by this young man. "Tell me, what would have happened if something went wrong?" "I took that into consideration," answered the sharp student. "The wallet could have been lost in the prison offices, and then the whole plan would have been foiled." "You say this so calmly," the lawyer observed. "Well, it was just a matter of analyzing the facts; there was no reason to get all excited," the student replied. "Right, why should anyone get excited?" mocked the lawyer. "After all, what's at stake? Only seven years in prison." The young student stopped and gazed into the lawyer's eyes, his stare pure and pristine. "You are right," he said, "but also at stake was the opportunity to spend time with my rebbe, the privilege of helping him! When I go the heaven and I will be asked what I did here, in the world, I don't know what I will bring with me. But one thing I do know - there will be with me several days of brilliant light, which I spent together with the ssadik. During that period I helped, to the best of my ability, an angel!" Igor Burak looked into the eyes of his client that shone with the inner truth and were covered with a layer of emotional tears. He himself had to wipe his eyes, which quickly welled over in emotion. He then knew that he would serve as the defense in the trial of the Saraf, for one day he will go to the heavens, and he will need something to bring with him.
The story of the trial and its surprising ending, as well as the daring escape from the prison of Grodna, are written in the thrilling work, "HaSaraf MiBrisk," the story of the life of Maharil Diskin zs"l.
BOW DOWN TO GOD IN THE GLORY OF SANCTITY!
The Mishnah tells us that the pious people in ancient times would spend an hour before and after tefilah directing their hearts towards their Father in heaven (Berachot 30b). We are all busy and preoccupied, lacking both patience and spare time, but we each must reach if only a small fraction of this measure of piety. We shouldn't stand by the doorway of the Bet Kenesset and catch a quick tefilah; we shouldn't pray immediately upon arrival in the Bet Kenesset, but rather sit and wait a moment a two (Shulhan Aruch Orah Hayyim, 90:20). A source from the Torah exists for this practice. In our parashah, the kohen gadol is instructed to wear a robe of techelet with bells at its bottom, "so that the sound of it is heard when he comes into the sanctuary before God and when he goes out - that he may not die." The Ramban writes: "In my opinion, it [this pasuk] constitutes an explanation for the missvah of the bells. He commanded them in this regard so that his sound is heard in the sanctuary and he enters before his Master as if having requested permission. For one who comes into the king's palace suddenly is deserving of the death penalty by royal edict, as we find by Ahashverosh (regarding whom it is written: '. who comes to the king without having been called, regardless of his religion, he is to be put to death')." The Ar"I Hakadosh writes: "Before one comes into the Bet Kenesset he should say, 'To the house of God we will go enthusiastically.' And he should feel and be overwhelmed when entering the Bet Kenesset out of his fear. He should wait and pause a bit, and then say, 'And I, in Your immense kindness, I will come into Your house; I will bow down before Your sacred palace in Your fear. Then he shall enter." (Cited in Sha'arei Teshuvah and Mishnah Berurah, 46.) Indeed, a Bet Kenesset constitutes a "minor Bet Hamikdash," a House of Hashem to which one must go with enthusiasm, with impassioned feelings of sanctity. One may not enter the King's palace suddenly or casually. It is also brought down as halachah (end of siman 132) that when concluding tefilah one leaves the Bet Kenesset while bowing down - just as the kohanim would bow down before Hashem prior to leaving the Bet Hamikdash after the completion of the avodah!
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
The Rishon Lessiyon, Rav Yaakov Meir zs"l
Rabbi Yaakov Meir, the rabbi of Sloniki and, later, the Rishon Lessiyon, raised his eyes and saw a guest, a young scholar wearing "pei'ot" and a long beard, his sparkling face reflecting the purity of kedushah. "Shalom aleichem," he greeted warmly. "Who are you? What do you do?" My name is Pinhas David," the stranger answered, "and I am a spy." This occurred during the stormy battles of World War I, when all of Europe suffered from the bloody maelstrom of war. The rabbi was terrified, and the guest proceeded to explain that he was born and raised in Jerusalem. The scholars of Yerushalayim sent him to raise funds in Austria, but when hostilities erupted he was arrested as a foreigner in an enemy country. If he carried an Austrian passport, he would have to go out to the battlefields, unless he would agree to be drafted to the intelligence corps and serve as an Austrian spy in Greece. He had no choice but to agree. They equipped him with forged documents, they gave him a list of assignments and a personal communication device, and they sneaked him over the border. Now that he was here, to whom would he turn, if not to the rabbi. The rabbi was scared. If he was caught hiding a spy, disaster would strike his entire community! Alternatively, if he hands the spy over to the authorities, they would undoubtedly kill him. The rabbi thought for a moment and then said, "Yesterday, a young Jew passed away. I will give you his documents, which will be enough for a superficial check if you are caught. We cannot, however, put ourselves at risk any further. Therefore, I will find for you a ticket for the first ship leaving the port." The first ship that left the port went to the United States. Thus, this righteous young scholar, who found himself unjustly entangled in an affair of espionage, was forced to journey to a new continent. He arrived penniless in Boston and found there ample room for involvement in all areas of Judaism. And so was established the Hasidic dynasty of Boston, which recognizes its debt of gratitude to the Rishon Lessiyon, Rabbi Yaakov Meir zs"l.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"pure, beaten olive oil for lighting, with which to light the eternal candle"
The Midrash comments that the word "katit" [beaten] alludes to the two Batei Mikdash. The first Mikdash stood for four hundred and ten years, and the second for four hundred and twenty years, for a total of eight hundred and thirty, the numerical value of the word "katit." Rabbenu Behayei zs"l asks, why doesn't the pasuk allude as well to the third Bet Hamikdash, which will be built speedily and in our day? He answers that the third Mikdash is in fact hinted at in this pasuk. The two Batei Mikdash that were destroyed on account of our sins are alluded to in the word "katit," as they lasted for a finite number of years - the numerical value of "katit." The third Mikdash, which is eternal, has its allusion in the world "lamaor" - "for lighting" - as the pasuk states, "Rise up, my light, for your light has come," referring to the presence of the Shechinah, of which it is said, "Hashem is my light and my salvation" and "Hashem is all-might, and He lights for us." The pasuk concludes, "to light the eternal candle" - meaning, its quality remains forever, speedily and in our days, Amen!
"pure, beaten olive oil for lighting, with which to light the eternal candle"
The Or Hahayyim zs"l writes: "The pasuk explains in the form of an allusion along the lines of the passage cited in the work Zohar Hadash, that they were redeemed from each of the four exiles in the merit of one individual. They were redeemed from the first exile in the merit of Avraham Avinu; they were redeemed from the second in the merit of Yisshak; and the third - in the merit of Yaakov. The fourth is dependent upon the merit of Mosheh. This is why the exile has lasted so long - so long as we are not involved in Torah and missvot, Mosheh does not want to be involved in the redemption of those who waste time from Torah! "This is to what the Torah alludes here when it says, 'You shall command Benei Yisrael,' along the lines of the pasuk 'For He commands for you His angels," or along the lines of Hazal's comment, 'The word 'ssav' - command - refers specifically to kingship.' He will rule over us in the future, but on the condition that Yisrael involve themselves in Torah. This is what is meant by, 'they shall take for you pure, beaten olive oil." This alludes to the Torah, which is likened to oil - just as oil illuminates the world, so does Torah. The requirement that the oil be "pure" alludes to the obligation to study Torah specifically for its sake, without ulterior motives, such as to argue against it, Heaven forbid, or to become a leader and authority, which are the contaminating sediments of the otherwise pure oil. "It also says, 'beaten,' meaning, that one must study Torah and exert his body and energy, as they [the Sages] say, 'This is the Torah - one who dies in a tent' [referring to utmost effort and exertion]. It also says, "for lighting," which may also be explained according to our approach. During the time of exile, the light of the Shechinah is darkened. One must therefore 'light the eternal candle,' so that it does not become dismayed anymore, and Hashem will become for it an eternal light."
"to light the eternal candle"
The Shelah Hakadosh zs"l writes that the pasuk alludes to contemporary times, as well. Even in the absence of the Mikdash, there is a missvah to light candles in Batei Kenesset and Batei Midrash, which serve as "minor" Batei Mikdash. The candles should burn evening and morning - during the tefilah, since the tefilah takes the place of korbanot.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
When to Remove One's Tefillin
On Rosh Hodesh, tefillin are removed before mussaf. The reason is that in the kedushah for mussaf we recite "keter yitenu lecha" - "We will give you a crown," and it is inappropriate to recite this while wearing the "crown" of tefillin. Since we cannot wear tefillin during the repetition of the shemoneh esreih, we cannot wear them during the silent shemoneh esreih, either. Some offer a different reason, that tefilat mussaf takes the place of the mussaf sacrifice offered in the Bet Hamikdash. Since the time when the sacrifice was offered is observed as a festival of sorts, we do not wear tefillin during mussaf, whereas tefillin are not worn on Yamim Tovim. The Kabbalists also maintain that tefillin should not be worn during mussaf, because on the basis of Kabbalah tefillin has no relevance whatsoever to the mussaf prayer. Even those among the Ashkenazim who do not recite "keter" during the kedushah of mussaf should remove their tefillin before mussaf. On Rosh Hodesh the tefillin are removed after half-kaddish, before beginning mussaf, and this is the accepted practice. The view of several Kabbalists is that after one removes his tefillin before mussaf on Rosh Hodesh, they should not be worn again the entire day. One should be stringent and follow this view. Even if one is accustomed to learning Torah every day with tefillin, on Rosh Hodesh it is preferable to learn Torah without tefillin. One who is accustomed to wearing tefillin Rabbenu Tam every day should make sure on Rosh Hodesh to wear them before mussaf. One may put them on before Torah reading or when the aron is opened, when we recite "yehi rasson." In any event, if he did not have the opportunity to put them on before mussaf - such as if he took more time during tefilah or he was the sheli'ah ssibur during shaharit - he may place them after mussaf. The concern of not wearing tefillin after mussaf does not warrant neglecting tefillin Rabbenu Tam or missing mussaf with the ssibur. It is preferable that besides simply reciting shema with the tefillin Rabbenu Tam, one should learn Torah while wearing them, to the best of his ability. One who forgot to include "ya'aleh veyavo" in shaharit on Rosh Hodesh and catches his mistake only after reciting mussaf must recite the shemoneh esreih of shaharit over again, and he should preferably put on his tefillin again before repeating the shemoneh esreih.
A MITSVAH AND ITS MESSAGE
One of the six hundred and thirteen missvot in the Torah is the prohibition against tearing the lining of the kohen gadol's "me'il" (robe): "There shall be a lining for its opening all around; it shall not be torn." The Gemara in Yoma (72a) teaches us that one who tears the priestly garments is punished with "malkot" (lashes). Would the Torah suspect a Jew of wanting to tear the sacred garments of the kohen gadol, to the point that an outright prohibition, punishable by whipping, is necessary? Certainly not! Rather, a hidden lesson underlies this prohibition. The Sefer Hahinuch explains that this missvah was instituted "so that the one wearing the garment wears it with reverence and fear, quietly and in a respectable manner, that he be afraid of ripping it or destroying anything upon it." Taking this principle one step further - if the priestly garments, which are merely accessories of the sacred avodah, require a sense of "reverence, fear, quiet and a respectable manner," then certainly the avodah itself demands this feeling. Tefilah takes the place of korbanot (Berachot 26b). How careful we must be, therefore, to ensure that we conduct our tefilah with awe and reverence, that our prayers are not "torn" - that we articulate all the words properly, with their proper pronunciation and concentration!
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