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Parashat Ssav


This Shabbat we read for "maftir" the portion of "parashat parah," the laws of the red heifer. As we approach Pesah, the first of the three holidays on which all of Benei Yisrael would gather in Yerushalayim to bring their korbanot and be seen before Hashem in his Bet Hamikdash, and given the strength of our hope that the redemption will unfold in this month, that the Moshiah will be revealed, leading the entire nation to teshuvah and the full acceptance of the yoke of Heaven, that the Midkash will be rebuilt and the sacred service will be reinstated, and given the fact that we are all assumed to be impure and may thus not ascend onto the Temple Mount before being sprinkled by the ashes of the parah adumah - Hazal instituted that we conduct a public reading of this parashah to inform us that we must properly purify ourselves before we ascend the Temple Mount, together with the rest of Yisrael, on the festival that soon approaches.

Thus, it turns out that the reading and listening to this parashah with concentration in effect constitutes our declaration of our faith in the imminent redemption: "I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Moshiah, and even though it tarries, I will nevertheless wait for him every day that comes!" Indeed, we have been guaranteed that Yisrael are redeemed in the merit of faith!


When the service in the Bet Hamikdash would first get underway early in the morning, after the kohanim on duty gathered and conducted the lottery to divide the various responsibilities of that day, the selected kohen would wash his hands and feet from the water in the "kiyor" (faucet), walk up the ramp to the altar and take a handful of ashes from the top of the altar.

He would then come down and place it to the east of the ramp, in front of all those standing in the courtyard. He placed it there - and suddenly it was gone, miraculously devoured in its place, every day (Rashi, Me'ilah 11b)! After offering the morning "tamid" (daily offering), the kohen would enter inside the Sanctuary to clean the menorah. He changed the wicks and cleaned out the candlesticks. He took it all to the east of the ramp leading to the altar, to the same place where he had placed the handful of ashes. He placed it there - and suddenly it was gone, miraculously devoured in its place, every day (Yoma 21a)!

Another kohen went in to clean the "mizbah hazahav" (golden altar), to remove the remaining coals and ashes in order to prepare the altar for new coals and incense. He removed the ashes to the east of the ramp. He placed it there - and suddenly it was gone, miraculously devoured in its place, every day (ibid.)!

Countless birds were offered as "olah" sacrifices each day. The kohanim would remove the filthy parts of the slaughtered bird and cast them "next to the altar, to the east, to the place of the ashes - and they were devoured there, in their place" (Rashi on Vayikra 1:16).

Countless sin and guilt offerings were offered each day. The kohanim cooked them in the courtyard in earthenware utensils and ate the meat there, in the courtyard. Afterwards, the earthenware utensils had to be broken (6:26, Zevahim 93b), and the kohanim would place the broken pieces on the floor of the courtyard, where they were immediately devoured.

All this would be remarkable if not for the fact that we are dealing with the Bet Hamikdash. The Bet Hamikdash was a place of miracles - where would miracles be performed if not there? Stormy winds blew, but yet the pillar of smoke rose straight up to the sky. Rains poured from the heavens, but they never extinguished the fire on the altar. The western candle in the menorah never extinguished, the "lehem hapanim" ("showbread") on the shulhan remained fresh all week long, hundreds of thousands gathered together with their sacrifices in the 500-square meter area of the courtyard during the offering of the korban pesah. They stood crowded but had plenty of room to bow and prostrate themselves completely on the ground, a space of four amot separating each person from the next - a world of miracles! In the midst of all these miracles, however, there is a special missvah,> mentioned in our parashah: "An eternal flame shall kindle on the altar."

We are commanded to place firewood on the altar morning and evening to ensure a constant flame. This is despite the fact that a fire descended upon the altar from the heavens (Yoma 21b). The Sefer Hahinuch (132) explains this missvah as coming specifically to conceal the miracle. An obvious question, however, arises. So many miracles occurred in the Mikdash on a daily basis, and yet no attempt is made to conceal them. Why, then, is there a missvat aseih and missvat lo ta'aseh to bring our own firewood in order to hide a single miracle? Secondly, would firewood morning and evening really conceal this miracle? Could anyone possibly think that a little bit of wood twice a day sustains a fire throughout an entire day of sacrifices? Everyone realizes that a heavenly fire burns on the altar! But if we probe a little deeper we will find that, true enough, this was precisely the point of the missvah. It teaches us that there are hidden miracles and overt miracles. Yet, even the concealed miracles are covered with but a thin layer, and any discerning eye could at once see the miracle and peer through the darkness that hides Hashem's wondrous Providence. Everyone must take a look at his life - his health and livelihood, family life, and entire existence. One must take note of the divine kindness that permeates every facet of life, the opportunities that presented themselves at various stages and surprising twists and turns. Without question, one who takes a moment to look will see the Hand of Hashem guiding, directing, navigating and accompanying. If we took a close look at our national history, how our people has survived under conditions of exile and persecution for thousands of years, a miracle which Rav Yaakov Emden considers greater in his eyes than the miracles of yessi'at Missrayim, if we consider the miracle of the continuing existence of the State of Israel, a single sheep amongst wolves of prey, anyone assessing this situation intelligently must admit that this is an overt miracle, composed of an entire chain of endless miracles. We must appreciate these miracles, and learn to thank Hashem accordingly.


The Espionage Case (5)

Flashback: A young Jew who "sold his soul to the Satan" and worked for the Russian intelligence, hid a sketch of the fortresses of Kovno in the pocket of Efrayim Leboviss, a German student in the yeshivah in Radin. This occurred during World War I, when Jews in Russia were suspected of sympathizing with and assisting the German enemy. Yeshivah students of German nationality were singled out in particular. In the middle of the night, the security forces stormed into the home that hosted Efrayim and arrested him.

The officer of the unit decided to arrest as well Reb Leib Matlis, the brother-in-law of the Hafess Hayyim who hosted Efrayim in his home, and who had declared that he could vouch for the innocence of the suspected spy. The officer saw this declaration as an indication of participation in the alleged crime. The secret police then proceeded to the homes that hosted the other two German students in the yeshivah. But the noisy infiltration into Reb Leib's house served for them as a warning signal, and they fled with nothing more than the shirts on their backs to the fields surrounding the town. One of them secretly returned two days later, and the second was found only after several days of intensive searching. By the time he was found, he had gone insane from fear and dread.

Early in the morning the horrible events of that evening were reported to the Hafess hayyim. He ordered a delegation to go to the nearby city of Lida and find out what happened to the prisoners. To their horror, they learned that the prisoners are due to stand trial before the military court on charges of wartime espionage. It was understood that a guilty verdict would be followed by execution. In this time of crisis, the guidance of the Hafess Hayyim took charge. Urgent telegraphs were sent to Vilna, the regional capital, to the devoted mediators who held leadership positions in the community. They received the message, made use of their connections, and soon enough the investigator's office in Vilna issued a message to the city of Lida: the dangerous spies that were captured are only on the edge of a major, widespread movement of potentially destructive espionage throughout the country. Should they be put to trial and sentenced, all their knowledge regarding the movement's operation will be lost with them. They must therefore be transferred to Vilna, bound in chains, in order that they be interrogated and all the pertinent information be released. Indeed, the two "spies" came to Vilna accompanied by a heavily armed, military escort and were locked in the infamous cellars of the interrogation center. There the investigators tried to break their prisoners with unspeakable torture until they confessed their crime.

To be continued.


The ssadik of Greidiss, the saintly Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher zs"l, authored a work entitled "Sukkat Shalom," in which he clarifies a critical issue that affects the hearts of many of us. As we know, the halachah states that the missvah of honoring parents applies after their passing, as well. Even after the parents leave this world, the children are required to honor them, to respectfully perpetuate the memory of their beloved and afford them honor. Generally, this is exactly what happens - they educate their children according to the heritage of their parents. But the missvah of honoring parents involves primarily active effort on their behalf, to help and assist them, to carry out their wishes and make things easier for them.

How does this element of the missvah apply after their passing? At first glance they seem detached from our world, they have risen from the complexities of life and now enjoy the glory of Shechinah; they live in Gan Eden, their eternal resting place. Of course, this is certainly correct. In truth, however, they need their children now more than ever. Why? Because there, in the upper world, the individual's status is frozen. One can no longer increase his performance of missvot and thereby earn more reward. Our world is the world of work and effort, of fulfilling the Torah and missvot. The World to Come is the world of reward. If the deceased would be given the opportunity to fulfill even a single missvah, to learn Torah for even one hour, his exuberance would be unlimited. But the Gemara has already compared our world to dry land and the World to Come to a ship sailing at sea. If food and water are not supplied at the fort, then its passengers will starve and the ship will have to stop at the first available island. In other words, they will be forced to come into our world in a different form. Herein lies the primary responsibility of the children; this is their most critical and serious task. Hazal say that a child brings merit to his parent. If he gives charity or learns in his memory, he acquires merits for the parent since children are considered the continuation of the parent. In effect, every missvah the child performs yields merit for the father and mother; their place in Gan Eden is elevated and shines brighter. If he puts on tefillin, properly observes Shabbat, prays with proper concentration, sends his own children to Torah educational systems, all this as well as other activities bring untold enjoyment and "nahat" to their souls in the hidden upper worlds and increases their reward immeasurably.

Now comes the "hiddush" of the ssadik of Greidiss. Since the mishnah teaches us that the reward for Torah study equals the reward of all the other missvot combined, it follows that the Torah of the child increases the reward of the parents like all the other missvot combined. Thus, since public Torah study is the greatest of all Torah study, then the most superior way of honoring parents is for the child to teach a public Torah class in memory of their parent, particularly on the anniversary of their passing.

And so, if the son is a rabbi or rosh yeshivah, then fortunate is he and fortunate are his parents. But what about a layman? "El Hamaayan" considered this and therefore decided to come and help those who wish to bring merit to their deceased loved ones, be it on the anniversary of their death or any other time conducive for such an endeavor. One can sponsor a public Torah class for a departed relative in order to eternalize his memory, and the rabbi will announce at the beginning of the shiur the name of the one for whom the class id delivered, and no money goes for a profit.

The merit of public Torah study will then go towards their merit. What greater honor for parents can there be? Fortunate are the children who bring such merit to their parents, and fortunate are the parents who have such children. One needs but to contact the "El Hamaayan" offices in Israel, ask for "Maayan Zechuyot," and tell them the date and name.


Secrets Hidden Underground

It is no rare sight to see researchers taking with them wherever they go a spoon and plastic bags to take samples of dirt at every opportunity. Why do they need dirt samples? It seems that as of late the ground has become a never-ending and valuable source for the extraction of materials from the microorganisms living in the earth. Searches in the dirt have yielded many important results. A worker for a medicine company brought back from a vacation Norway a piece of mold from which scientists produced a medicine that prevents the body's rejection of organ transplants. A university student found in a cornfield a bacterial protein that creates ice, which can be used for artificial snow production in ski resorts. Another scientist discovered in the ground a bacteria from which a molecule can be extracted that turns starch into sugar, which is used for the manufacture of soft drinks. In a golf course in Japan, a scientist found a block of dirt that contains a medication that attacks a certain parasite that affects sheep and livestock. No wonder, then, that medicine manufacturers and biotech companies check thousands of bacteria each week. It is no small matter to find an effective bacteria; it's almost like finding a needle in a haystack.

One medication reaches the market out for every 20,000 compositions that are checked. Years can pass before one important material is discovered. Only a small portion from all the bacteria in the world have been identified thus far. Locating and identifying the rest is in essence a race against time, as certain species may soon become extinct. This is why national institutes of health and science funds offer attractive incentives to encourage scientists to continue their research in this regard. The Torah writes in Bereishit 2:7: "Hashem Elokim created man - dirt from the ground - and blew in his nostrils a living soul; and man became a living creature." The human being was created from the ground, and his body contains various materials whose absence or deficiency adversely affects his health. However, beyond the physical treasures found within the person are the deep-rooted spiritual forces. To unearth these forces, one must research and dig deep down. One who remains complacent and inactive will never merit the actualization of the potential latent within him. Just as science engages in a race against time to find the effective materials before they become extinct, so must a person act urgently before it is too late. Indeed, Hazal tell us, "Do not say, when I have time I will learn." A Jew must determine his obligation in the world and capitalize upon the forces and fine qualities hidden within his being.


Rabbi Yisshak Apumado zs"l

Rav Yisshak Apumado zs"l was a student of Rabbenu David Ben Zimra (the Radbaz) zs"l and studied together with the Ar"I Hakadosh zs"l, who testified about him that his name would become renown for his in-depth understanding of the sacred Torah.

Rabbi Yisshak once arrived in Sloniki and was present at the proceedings in the Bet Din when a case came before them involving a young girl who was betrothed by three different people but could not remember to which she was betrothed first. This became the talk of the town and they mockingly called her the "eglah meshuleshet" (the "triple cow"). One of three had died in the interim, and the other came before the Bet Din. The first brought witnesses present at the time of the betrothal, and the other slyly brought witnesses to testify that they saw the first witnesses perusing around the city eating "shekassim" (insects). Inasmuch as they are sinners according to this claim, their testimony is invalid. The entire town was mired in confusion and the judges could not reach a decision.

Rabbi Yisshak Apumado stood up and requested permission from the judges to question the witnesses. He turned to the first witness and asked, "You saw with your own eyes these two witnesses eating 'shekassim'?"

"Yes," he responded definitively.

"If so," said Rabbi Yisshak, "then certainly you will be able to tell the judges whether the food was from livestock or sheep?"

"Meat from a sheep," he answered, and the audience broke out in laughter.

He was an absolute ignoramus who was hired to falsely testify without having any idea what "shekassim" are. Thus was the evil plot discovered. It turned out that the initial witnesses in fact told the truth and the girl had been betrothed to the first individual. The head of the Bet Din stood up, kissed Rabbi Yisshak on his head, and the words of the Ariza"l - that Rabbi Yisshak would emerge as a leading scholar - were fulfilled.


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

The Placement of the "Yud"-Shaped Knot on the Tefillin Shel Yad.

The prevalent custom is to make a "yud"-shaped knot in the straps of the tefillin shel yad, such that that knot would be situated near the heart and the tefillin-box on the outside when wearing the tefillin. The custom of the Sefaradim and Eastern communities is to have the double strap leave the "ma'abarta" (the part of the tefillin-box through which the straps run) on the other side of the tefillin, not on the side of the "yud"-shaped knot. Thus, according to this custom, one ties the tefillin on his arm from the outside, not from the side of his body where the "yud" is situated.

Some Ashkenazim, however, have the double strap leave the "ma'abarta" on the same side of the tefillin as the "yud"-shaped knot, such that the individual ties the tefillin on his arm on the same side of the tefillin where the "yud" is situated - towards his body, near the heart. Those following this custom must ensure that the double strap through which passes the strap tied around the arm does not take up too much room, in order that the place of tying the tefillin also can be located near the heart.

One must be careful not to move the "yud"-shaped knot in the strap from the box of the tefillin. The Zohar writes (Parashat Pinhas 236b) that whoever distances the knot from the box of the tefillin is distanced from the heavens. Regarding this issue it is written, "For those who honor Me I will honor, and those who scorn Me I will scorn" (Shemuel I 2:30). It is proper for the knot to be immediately adjacent to the box of tefillin where the parshiyot are located; it is not enough for the knot to be attached to the "ma'abarta."

Some Kabbalists have written that even when the tefillin are in their case or bag one must ensure that the "yud" does not move away from the box of the tefillin. Therefore, some have the practice of tying the "yud" to the box with a sinew-thread. The knot should be made from the same sinew-thread used for sewing the body of the tefillin. Additionally, the "yud" should be tied from the top, so as not to block between the thread and the individual's skin (which would constitute a "hassissah").

The Location of the "Ma'abarta" - On the Side of the Shoulder

The correct practice is that the "ma'abarta" - the part of the tefillin-box through which the strap passes - be placed towards the upper part of the arm, on the side of the shoulder. The tefillin-box, where the parshiyot are kept, should therefore be facing downward, on the side of the hand.

A left-handed individual, who must place his tefillin on his right arm, who only has tefillin suitable for a right-handed person who places tefillin on his left arm, should place the tefillin on his right arm and turn the tefillin upside-down, such that the "ma'abarta" be facing downward, towards the hand, and the tefillin box containing the parshiyot should face upwards, towards the shoulder. This is to ensure that the "yud" will be located near the body, opposite the heart.


"This is the law of the 'olah'"

The Hid"a explained this pasuk as follows. Hazal comment (Pesahim 66b) regarding an arrogant individual that if he is scholarly, his scholarship leaves him. The Yerushalmi (Yevamot 12:6) tells of a group of people ("Benei Simonia") who came before Rebbi and asked him to recommend someone to be their rabbi, judge, hazzan and teacher. He referred them to Rabbi Levi Bar Sissi. They made an enormous stage on which for him to sit while they asked him questions. First they asked him questions of halachah, but he didn't know the answers. The figured, perhaps he does not know halachah but knows aggadah. They proceeded to ask him questions of aggadah, but again he did not answer. They once again approached Rebbi and complained, "Do you think this is what we were asking for?" He said to them, "I guarantee you that I gave you someone on the same stature as I." He sent to him and asked all the same questions that they had asked,

and he answered each correctly. Rebbi then asked him, "Why didn't you answer them?" He replied, "They made such a big stage in my honor that I began feeling too good about myself. I immediately forgot all my learning."

Along the lines of "derush" the following explanation may given for why one who becomes arrogant loses his knowledge. Hazal tell us that Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi once accompanied Eliyahu HaNavi. They passed by an odorous corpse of an animal and while Rabbi Yehoshua covered his nose, Eliyahu HaNavi did not even notice the stench. Then, a person suddenly passed them by and Eliyahu HaNavi quickly covered his mouth. He remarked, "This person is arrogant, and arrogance produces a stench so bad that it cannot possibly be withstood!" We learn from here that spiritually, arrogance spreads a putrid odor. The Torah is spiritual, and the halachah states that one may not study Torah in the filthy alleyways where there is a foul odor. An arrogant person is considered, from a spiritual perspective, an odorous alleyway. His Torah scholarship must therefore leave him, for it may not remain in a place with a foul odor.

To this our verse alludes: "This is the Torah of the 'olah' - it is the 'olah.'" Meaning, this is the Torah that resides in the heart of one whose spirit rises ("olah" = rise) in arrogance - "it is the 'olah'" - it itself must rise and leave the individual.

At times a rabbi must demonstrate strong leadership and authority in order to reinforce the honor of Torah, as Rebbi instructed his son before his death to impose his authority upon his students (Ketubot 103b). At the same time, however, the rabbi's heart must remain humble and unassuming, just as Rebbi himself served as the paradigm of humility (end of Mesechet Sotah). This is perhaps what is meant by the pasuk, "This is the Torah of the 'olah'" - meaning, when may the Torah scholar show his leadership and exercise his authority? Only when "it is the 'olah'" - when the Torah rises, when it itself is what becomes proud and lofty, while the scholar himself remains modest and unpretentious.

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