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The Lesson of the Reading of Parashat Zachor
The day of Purim, with all of its laws and regulations, with all of its importance, is an institution of the prophets. But on the Shabbat before Purim, we fulfill a positive commandment of the Torah with the reading of parashat Zachor, at the end of the Torah reading. All will bend their ears and listen in absolute silence to each and every word. They will concentrate on fulfilling the commandment of remembering the actions of Amalek (in addition to the commandment of learning Torah). This is no small matter. The Children of Israel left Egypt with a strong hand - "Hear, nations, and tremble. Panic seized those who live in Pelashet. Then the generals of Edom were shocked, the leaders of Moav were gripped with quaking. All of those who live in Canaan melted." They had all heard about the ten plagues and about the splitting of the Red Sea, about the clouds of glory that accompanied the nation on its journey, and about the pillar of fire that traveled before them. They saw and they feared and their hearts melted. If this fear had been maintained, the Canaanites would have fled the land, uprooting themselves to another place in fright. We would have been spared seven years of fighting. More than that: We would not have come in contact with them. We would not have learned their ways of life and their methods of religious service. We would not have followed their actions, and we would not have brought down anger from Heaven upon ourselves. Kushan Rishatayim, the king of Aram Naharayim, and Eglon, the king of Moav, would not have been sent, the Pelishtim and the Canaanites, the Midyanim and the Amonim, to torture us. Why did all of this happen? Because "the Children of Israel sat amongst the Canaaite and the Hiti and the Emori and the Perizi and the Hivi and the Yevusi. They took their daughters for wives for them and their daughters, they gave to their sons. They worshipped their gods" (Shoftim 3:5). Why did all of this happen? Because those nations did not flee out of fear. And why did they not flee? Because Amalek attacked Israel on their way out of Egypt. However, they paid dearly for that. Yeshoshua ben Nun served them a stunning defeat. Nevertheless, their very attack served to dull the fear of our nation: "It is comparable to a boiling bath that no creature can go down into. A wild person came and jumped and went down into it. Even though he was burnt, he cooled it for the others" (Rashi, Devarim 28:18). If not for them, the face of history would have been different. The fear of Israel would have been upon the nations, the whole land would have been ours, we would have prevented many serious violations and sins. And who knows? It may have been that the redemption would have come then and there!
What spurred Amalek to commit suicide, to fight against the nation that was surrounded in miracles, to attack the sons of the Heavens? Its evil, its inability to suffer holiness and purity. This is the nation about which the Creator of the World and the Tester of Hearts testified, that they do not posess even one good spark. Its heart is dark, blemished and corrupted. It carries the virus of evil in the world. He instructed us to destroy it, and promised that it would be destroyed in the End of Days "For I will destroy the memory of Amalek from under the sky" (Shemot 17:14). It is a positive commandment from the Torah to destroy it, but if we shall not fulfill this (and we can not fulfill this, since they have become intermingled with the other nations), then the Creator shall fulfill it. For only the destruction of evil from the world shall pave the path to the kingdom of the Creator in this world, until the time of redemption comes.
However, there is an independent positive commandment, to read annually the parashah about the attack of Amalek upon us. Why? So that we should remember and not forget, "that our hatred shall not weaken, and so that it should not be lacking from our souls as time passes" (Rambam, the Book of Missvot, 189). Do we not see that when the prophet Shemuel commands the king, Shaul, to destroy the nation of Amalek by the word of G-d, he first reminded him of their actions? He said: "This is what Hashem Tzevakot has said, I have remembered what Amalek did to Israel, who made for him (an ambush) when they left Egypt. Now go and cut off Amalek."
There is a lesson here for us, an eternal educational message. One can not try to fight and to succeed and to destroy, not a nation (in the case of Amalek), not a negative occurrence nor a corrupt influence, if you do not put in the time to remind and review, to admonish and to warn about it. To remember how many troubles the phenomenon caused and how many tragedies it led to. Only then can we expect success in the struggle, salvation from this phenomenon, and escape from it. It would seem that this is the idea hidden in the words of the midrash (Bereishit Rabah 49): "Anyone who mentions an evil person and does not curse him, violates a positive commandment, as it says: 'And the name of the evil shall rot.' " (This is quoted in the Sefer Hasidim 38:2.) This is not to even speak about the opposite, the testing of levels in negative matters, about which it says: "Those who leave Torah will praise the wicked." (Mishlei 28:4, and see Orhot Ssadikim, Shaar 24).
Let us emphasize: This is an educational fundamental! You can not bring abhorrent newspapers into your house, not to mention corrupting films, and still remain free from their influences. Certainly we must educate our household to escape from them! If you want to guard the purity of the house, the purity of one's eyes and the purity of one's heart, you are obligated to stress their dangers to yourself and to others. To uproot them and to generate hatred of them!
To Return to the True Joy of Purim!
"For the Jews, there was light and happiness and joy and glory" on Purim, how wondrous! Seven-times more wondrous is what is written in the gemara (Megillah 16b) about this verse. "For the Jews, there was light" - this is Torah, as it says: "For a commandment is a candle, and the Torah is light." "And happiness" - this is holidays. "And joy" - this is circumcision (about which Haman decreed that they should not practice, Rashi.) "And glory" - this is tefillin which are the glory of the honor of the Children of Israel. The Maharal from Prague zs"l (in his book, "Or Hadash") explained that through the miracle of Purim and its happiness, Israel drew closer to their Creator, accepted his dominion and bonded to him. These four: the Torah, the holidays, circumcision and tefillin, express the connection and bond between the Creator and his nation.
"And these days are remembered and practiced in every generation, in every family… and these days of Purim shall not pass from the Jews, and their memory shall not leave their descendants." The illumination of Purim is eternal, and this is its meaning: Happiness at the miracle, a stronger connection between man and his fellow man, between Jew and Jew by sending Mishloah Manot and Matanot La'evyonim, and a greater connection between man and his Creator: with Torah which is light, prayer and thanks, sentiment and commandments.
But it is a corruption, and perhaps ingratitude to the Creator, that instead of the days of Purim being a time for ascension, they have turned into days of wildness. Instead of feelings of holy emotion, an abundance of silliness. Let us return them to their source, to days of praise and thanks, rising and bonding and a surplus of holiness!
Rabbeinu Avraham Ibn Ezra zs"l
Rabbeinu Avraham Ibn Ezra zs"l, who is well-known for his commentary on the Torah, was born in the city of Toledo in Spain in the year 4852 (1092 C.E.). His father was Rabbi Meir, from the famous Ibn Ezra family, from the descendants of princes of Israel, and he was the father-in-law of Rabbi Yehudah Halevi zs"l, author of the Sefer Hakuzari. He had many great difficulties in his life, and he lamented them in his poem: "I strive to succeed, and I can not. If my business were candles, the sun would never set until my death. If I sold shrouds, people would never die all of my days. I come early to the house of the minister, and they say: He has already left. I come in the evening, and they say: He has already gone to sleep. Either he has entered his chariot, or he has entered his bed. Woe to the poor man, he born without a star..." Despite his poverty and his troubles (his only son died in his lifetime), he was one of the luminaries of Israel. "He rose as one of the sages in Israel in his understanding of the truth, and he remained by the doors of wisdom, and stayed far from the confusions of faiths," wrote about him Rabbeinu Yedayah Hapenini. Rabbeinu Zecharyah ben Sarug wrote that his greatness was like the greatness of the Geonim. He wrote a commentary on several tractates of the gemara "and his novellae are absolutely refined and truthful."
Well-known are the words of the Rambam in his letter to his son. "I command you not to look in commentaries and writings except for the explanations of Rabbeinu Avraham Ibn Ezra in his writings and his books, for they are very good and helpful for anyone who looks at them carefully, with a clear mind and sharp examination. For he was like Avraham Avinu in his spirit. The more that you read his words and his hints, look at them and contemplate them carefully with a refined mind and clean examination. In his commentary on the Torah, he revealed deep and great secrets, that one can not understand unless he is on his level, and those are few. He clarified many things for me, and the book, Moreh Nevuchim, is based on the secrets that he alluded to in his writings and his books." Many commentaries have been written to reveal the secrets he alluded to. (For example: "One who has a heart to understand the secret of the world, then he will know the secret of the first-born and the tenth." Vayikra 27:34). Rabbeinu Behaye tried to do so many times (Bereishit 32:2, Vayikra 16:7, Bemidbar 5:18, and more). He wandered many countries: England and France, where he met many of our Rabbis, the Tosafists, Israel and Syria, Persia and India. On Rosh Hodesh Adar Rishon, 4927 (1167 C.E.), when he was seventy-five years old, he died, and was buried in the city of Kabul in Spain.
"To make them days of festivity and happiness and sending of portions each person to his friend, and gifts to the poor"
Rabbeinu Shemuel de Ovida zs"l explained, that Haman decreed not only that the Jews should be destroyed, killed and vanquished, but that "their property should be looted." With the miracle of the nullification of the decree, they merited the money that they had already become despondent of. Therefore, it is appropriate that they should split it with their friends and with the poor.
The word "evyonim" is written missing a letter, to imply that one should not be over-cautious about this form of charity, wondering if it is really necessary and if he is really poor. Anyone who stretches out his hand should be given generously, as the Shulhan Aruch decides (694: 3).
Rabbeinu Yisshak Aramah zs"l wrote that Haman ben Hamedata accused the Jews of being "a scattered and separate nation," for when their hearts are separated and their souls are distanced, the accusation rules over them and the danger is great. Therefore, Esther said, "Go and gather all of the Jews" with unity, love, brotherhood, peace and friendship, and then there would be a chance of nullifying the decree. Mordechai did this, "the Jews gathered" and united as one person with one heart, and the miracle occurred. Therefore, Mordechai instructed that they should send portions and gifts to the poor to increase the love and friendship in the nation of Israel, something that would nullify all of the accusations against them.
The Gaon Rabbi Elisha Galico zs"l, the student of Maran Bet Yosef zs"l, wrote that Mordechai instituted that they should note the miracle by sending portions to each other and gifts to the poor. This was to note the power of the miracle, against the natural order. For the decree had already been decreed and signed, and books were sent, and then the whole matter was overturned, and the nation of Israel was alive and well. Mordechai instituted that on this day each person should portions to their friends and gifts, despite the fact that it says: "One who hates gifts shall live" (Mishlei 15:27), and that one who accepts them shortens his days (Megillah 25a). But the miracle of Purim is so great, that on this day the gifts do not damage!
Rabbeinu Shelomoh Alkabess zs"l wrote (in his work, "Manot Halevi") that the commandment of sending portions, is for two portions of food or drink to one person. But the commandment of gifts to the poor is for two gifts to two people. Why are the gifts to the poor split between more people? Because first and foremost, the poor person needs encouragement, for people to turn to him and recognize his needs. Just as one must worry about his portions, so too one must take care that many people give to him!
He also explained why the giving to friends is called "sending of portions", while the giving to the poor is called "gifts." Because from the poor, we do not expect to get something in exchange, and we are giving them as a gift. But from friends, we give and then we receive, and it is merely the sending of portions back and forth.
The Holy Rabbi Alshich (in his book "Masat Mosheh") explained that with the knowledge of the decree of Haman, the Chidren of Israel did an accounting of their souls - because of what sin did this trouble come? They found that it had come because of the sin of bowing down to the statue in the times of Nebuchadnessar, and because of their participation in the feast of Ahashverosh. Therefore, they decided to use the "teshuvat hamishkal." If it was due to the sin of the bowing down to the statue, which is punishable by death, then they would accept the judgement of Heaven upon themselves with love, and they would already organize a eulogy for themselves. If it was because of the feast, then they would decree a fast. Also, these two sins were in public, and were included in the category of the desecration of G-d's name in public, for which there is no forgiveness. Therefore, the fast and the crying and the eulogy were also done in public and with the participation of the whole congregation. When G-d saw their regret and their repentance, he pushed aside the decree and saved them. Also, they established days of festivity as opposed to the fast, and happiness as opposed to eulogy, and the sending of portions to each other and gifts to the poor, to unite their hearts towards the commandment of G-d and the joy of the miracle.
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
Preference of "Devarim Shebikedushah" over Prayer with a Congregation
One who hears "modim" in the middle of prayer
• An individual who is praying "shemoneh esrei" during the hazan's repetition on a public fast day, is not permitted to say "anenu" as an independent blessing. He should say anenu in the blessing of "shema koleinu." Even if because of this he will not be able to say modim with the hazan, he should still do so. He should bow a little (if he is in the middle of a blessing) at the time when the congregation says modim.
One who hears "kedushah" in the middle of prayer
• If one is praying the shemoneh esrei, and when he completes the blessing of "mehayeh hametim" he hears the congregation in another minyan saying kedushah, he should answer them. Even if he already heard kedushah beforehand, or if he will hear it afterwards, he should answer them.
• One is praying the shemoneh esrei of shaharit and one hears another minyan saying the kedushah of musaf, or vice versa. According to the Sefardim who have accepted the decisions of the Shulhan Aruch, one should not answer them, but according to Ashkenazim, one can answer them. According to their custom, one should answer the full order of kedushah, including "keter" and "nakdishcha."
But if one heard a congregation saying the kedushah of "uva lessyion" when he said mehayeh hametim in his prayer, even according to the custom of the Ashkenazim, he should not answer them. Also, if he were praying arvit, and when he said mehayeh hametim, he heard a congregation saying the kedushah of minhah, he should not answer them even according to the custom of the Ashkenazim.
The Laws of "Havinenu", Abridged Prayer, "Tefilat Haderech" and "Tefilat Bet Hamidrash"
The Laws of Havinenu
• At a time of stress, when one can not pray the shemoneh esrei, our sages instituted that one should pray havinenu. One first says the first three blessings of the shemoneh esrei, and then says havinenu, which includes the topics of all the middle blessings of prayer, and ends with "baruch atah Hashem, shomea tefilah." Afterwards, he continues with "resseh" and the final three blessings of the shemoneh esrei.
The Shark and Shabbat
In honor of the sign of the month of Adar, fish, we will analyze the shark. Other than whales and dolphins, which are mammals, it is the largest known fish - at least some of them. There are over two hundred fifty known species of sharks. Some are only 15 centimeters long and the largest, the whale shark reaches a length of twenty-five meters! (the length of seven rooms in a row!) The thickness of its skin is 12 centimeters and its weight is approximately six tons. In its mouth are three thousand six hundred teeth, in three hundred ten rows. Small teeth, rounded teeth and sharp teeth. All amazingly designed, with the upper jaw parallel to the lower jaw. And if one falls out, no worry! A new one immediately grows underneath. So that there should not be only three thousand five hundred ninety-nine, halilah!
The sharks are "eating machines," gobbling everything up with an appetite that knows no bounds. They can smell blood from a huge distance, which drives them towards a predatory hunger. Once a white shark's stomach was opened (the shark was only twelve meters long) and a whole, two-meter long shark was found inside, swallowed in one gulp.
The most striking thing about the lifestyle of sharks is their constant activity. They swim and swim and swim, circling round and round, with an unending energy, unceasing motion. If this were not the case, they would no be able to remain in the water and dive to its bottom. For they do not have in their bodies a bladder of air that helps them float, as other animals do.
Since we know that everything that was created, was created for a reason and to be a lesson and a teaching for mankind. There is a vital task for the shark, being the "garbage pail" and food shredder of the see, that cleans up all the garbage. We can also learn an enormous lesson for anyone who contemplates. It is the symbol of evil, with a living example in the verse: "And the wicked storm like the sea, for they can not deal with quiet." Evil and a lack of rest are linked one with another, the opposite of Shabbat, the day of holiness and the day of rest!
From the Book, "And Mosheh Was a Shepherd"
Summary: Rabbi Mosheh Pardo, a previously a successful textile merchant in Tel Aviv, left his whole business at its height, and found an institution for Sefardic girls. He founded an educational campus for over one thousand students, and another two sister campuses, and yeshivot gedolot and ketanot, talmudei torah, and kollelim. He supported other institutions, and still did not say "Enough!"
An example of his unending energy can be seen in the revolution that occurred in Tiveriyah, where arrived for vacation for a few days. There he found a young scholar who was devoted to bringing good to the many, named Rabbi Derli shelita. He urged him to open a kollel in the city. Two thirds of the budget, he took upon himself. The young scholars would aid him in the spreading of Torah, their wives would be teachers and educators, and their children would form the nucleus of a talmud torah.
The kollel was established, and Rabbi Mosheh rented a building for the talmud torah. He worked towards the development of the "Bet Yaakov" school, despite his advanced age. The talmud torah building was too small to hold the growing student body, and Rabbi Mosheh instructed them to search for another building. They searched and found that the Alliance school was up for sale. Rabbi Mosheh heard and was moved: this was the first secular school in Tiveriyah, which had sown into its students the poison of heresy. Now the circle had closed, and "Jerusalem would be built on the ashes of Tyre." Rabbi Mosheh contacted two philanthropists in Brazil, and gave them the great merit of buying the building, which would be the basis for the return of the crown to its old position, in the holy city, rich in history. Each one of them donated three hundred thousand dollars, and the building was bought.
Then he turned to strengthen the "Bet Yaakov," and to increase the enrollment. After the elementary school, he worked to found a high school and seminary. Remember, the "Or Hahayim" institutions were founded in their time for four girls from Tiveriyah, who had graduated the "Bet Yaakov" and had nowhere to continue their studies! Now, "Or Hahayim" was flourishing and in Tiveriyah there was a Torah high school and seminary! A glorious Torah community sprang up, and Rabbi Mosheh contacted donors for the building of a Central synagogue. At the inauguration of the building, at the entrance of the Sifrei Torah, when thousands filled the roads with song and dance, and hundreds of students of the Talmud Torah marched holding torches, and tens of young scholars and hundreds of congregants marched happily, Rabbi Mosheh leaned over to Rabbi Derli and quoted , emotionally, the verse from the prophet (Yishayahu 60:4) "Look around your eyes and see, that they have all gathered and come to you. Yours sons shall come from far and your daughters shall have faith at the side. Then you shall see, and you shall flow forth, and opur heart will fear and tremble. And you shall say in your heart, who bore these to me… who would have believed!"…
To be continued, G-d willing, next week…
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
The Laws of Blessings
The Laws of Purim
A person is obligated to read the megillah at night and during the day, to remember how the Jews cried out at night and day to G-d to nullify the decree. This decree fell upon them because they enjoyed the feast of Ahashverosh, despite the fact that Mordechai told them not to attend, and because they bowed down to an idol in the days of Nebuchadnessar.
What did Mordechai do? He gathered all of the children and withheld food and drink from them and dressed them in sackcloth until all of the Jewish people cried out for mercy to G-d. Mordechai decreed a three day fast, and their cries were heard before G-d, who had mercy upon them and saved the Jews from the decree of Haman.
When Mordechai saw Haman approaching to dress him in royal clothes, he thought that he was coming to kill him and told his students to flee. They refused to abandon him, and sat in prayer with him. After the prayer, Haman asked what they had been learning beforehand. Mordechai answered that they had been learning about the flour-offering in the Temple. Haman cried that your handful of flour has vanquished my ten thousand bars of gold! Mordechai answered that everything that a servant acquires belongs to his master.
We may explain that the gold that Haman had offered to the king, was distribute by Haman to the poor, which he thought would be a merit for him. Mordechai answered that all of this charity had been done for the sake of Mordechai, for everything that a servant acquires belongs to his master.
It says in the megillah that Haman got all of this gold from the craftsmen. This is because the Jews produced high quality items at a lower cost than the Persians. Haman convinced them to give him a one-time donation so that he would be able to destroy the Jews forever.
When did Haman become the servant of Mordechai? When they were both generals in the Persian army, and Haman's soldiers had used up their food supply out of mismanagement. Haman's soldiers were about to kill him, and he begged Mordechai to share his store with him. Mordechai agreed on condition that Haman sell himself as a servant to Mordechai. This Haman did, which is what made him so angry whenevery he saw Mordechai by the palace gate.
How did Mordechai know that a decree had been issued against the Children of Israel? Eliyahu the prophet had heard, and had run to Mosheh for advice. Mosheh advised him to tell the most righteous man alive, who was Mordechai. With Mordechai's prayers below and mosheh and Eliyahu's prayers above, the decree would be nullified.
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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