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"DO NOT KINDLE A FIRE!"
The Gemara tells of a couple who would break out into a fight every Erev Shabbat towards the end of the day. Once, the saintly tanna, Rabbi Meir Ba'al Haness, chanced upon this couple and stayed with them for three weeks until he successfully restored domestic peace and tranquillity. He heard the Satan lamenting, "Oh, that Rabbi Meir drove me from my home!"
We learn from here that fighting and arguing result from the incitement of the Satan, and a house of quarreling is his abode. But why did he incite them specifically on Friday, and specifically right before the onset of Shabbat?
Rabbi Hayyim Shemueleviss zs"l explained based on the comment of the Zohar regarding the opening pasuk of our parashah: "Do not kindle a fire in all your residences on Shabbat day." The Zohar says, "Do not kindle the fire of arguing on Shabbat day, which is to be a Shabbat of peace." Shabbat is meant to be a day of "rest of peace, tranquillity and security." What a great accomplishment it is for the conniving Satan when he can stir a fight just prior to the onset of Shabbat and thus bring about a Shabbat marked by strife, contention, anger and distress. Let us drive the Satan from out midst, and ensure that at least on Shabbat Kodesh he has no control over us. Let us learn to forgive and pardon, pull out a fresh slate, and hear the Satan's lament: "Oh, I have been driven from my home!"
HOW TO BUILD A MISHKAN
Generous donors were instructed to supply the materials for the Mishkan. When enough materials were collected, talented craftsmen were sought: "Everyone whose heart carried him came." What is meant the "carrying of their hearts"? The Ramban zs"l explains, "For there was no one among them who had learned these skills from a mentor, or anyone who trained their hands at all." But if so, then who came? Those people "who found in their nature the ability to do this, whose hearts rose in the ways of Hashem to come before Mosheh and say to him, 'I will do whatever my master orders.'"
At first glance, this seems very difficult to understand. Just six months earlier these people were lowly slaves, who performed back-breaking labor with bricks and cement, who collected straw, mixed it with mud and built city walls. Now they worked with gold to produce keruvim, golden adornments, a menorah the height of a person, made from one block of gold with decorative balls, flowers and goblets. They wove the priestly garments from fibers made of gold, techelet, purple, red-dye and finely strung linen. They produced a parochet described as "artisan's work," which was woven with the picture of a lion on one side and the picture of an eagle on the other. They worked with precious stones of twelve different types. They polished them, cut each one to size, made use of the shamir, the worm that hewed the stones, with which they engraved the letters of the names of the tribes upon the tiny stones. Can we even imagine the precision required to perform this delicate work, or the burden of responsibility resting upon their shoulders? Think for a moment - would anyone give their most precious diamond to an amateur smith to cut? Would someone entrust the building of his house with a rookie builder who suddenly volunteered to work as a carpenter, stone-layer and plasterer?
The answer appears later in our parashah: "Every wise-hearted man. Hashem implanted wisdom and understanding within them, to know and do all the labor of the sacred work, for all that Hashem commanded." In other words, this work was accompanied by special "siyata di'smaya" - divine assistance. The workers received special inspiration and knowledge from the heavens. "He was filled with the spirit of Hashem, with wisdom, understanding and knowledge regarding all the work, and to make calculations, to work with gold, silver and brass, and with stone-cutting to do settings and wood-carpentry, to do all skilled labor." They were assisted from Hashem, Whose help accompanied the entire process of the construction of the Mishkan, including the work with gold, silver, brass, the precious stones, the complex weaving, etc. This entire project was completed in a span of approximately ten weeks. This divine assistance allowed for the beauty and splendor of the Mishkan, the honor and glory that it so accurately reflected. The entire Mishkan - the beams, pillars, sockets, tapestries, curtains and all the accessories. What would have happened if, Heaven forbid, divine assistance did not accompany the construction of the Mishkan? These "craftsmen" would be lost, hopeless, and incompetent. They would have destroyed rather than built. This would have been an assembly of desperation, frustration and hopelessness, the destruction of materials and a wrecked product. This process would have been one of ongoing heartache and endless discouragement.
From those days we move to our own times. We also build a Mishkan. As Hazal teach us, if a husband and wife are deserving, the Shechinah dwells among them. Surely this is no simple matter. Two people, each with different interests, different backgrounds, pasts, memories, sensitivities, expectations, aspirations, and hopes for the future. The home is built from a mosaic so complex, delicate, fragile, precious and complicated. Who could honestly claim to fully understand it, who could claim to have succeeded in building it? Who knows all the various maneuvers necessary for this complex process, to avoid wrong turns, to step over mines, to avoid touching upon gentile sensitivities? What a heavy burden of responsibility it is, to build a house in Israel, a sacred sanctuary! And this burden rests upon the shoulders of such young, preoccupied, inexperienced couples. The fact is that so many fail, so many homes collapse, so many expectations die, leaving broken hearts and oceans of tears. In truth, what are the chances for success, given the growing numbers of divorce, much to our dismay and chagrin? What are the chances of success, of the actualization of the dreams for a lasting relationship, to build a nest upon strong foundations, a glorious family cell? There is but one guarantee - divine assistance, which provides the couple with light and warmth, knowledge and understanding to weave together their joint future and overcome difficulties and obstacles. This divine assistance is provided to those who build their homes on the foundations of Jewish family purity, Shabbat observance and kosher food. Then the Shechinah will reside in the minor sanctuary, which will become an everlasting structure!
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
Everyone knows about the body of the zebra, which is adorned by black and white stripes. Why does it have these stripes? Or, if we may rephrase the questions, why does the zebra wear pajamas? What function do these stripes serve? How do they help the zebra survive? After much rigorous research, scientists have reached a number of possible speculations.
The first explanation suggests that the stripes serve as camouflage, helping the zebra obscure its body so it can hide from its enemies. It seems, however, that zebras prefer standing in groups in open areas where they can make use of their sharp senses. The Creator graced the zebras with the ability to flee instantly upon the onset of trouble, such that they do not freeze and thus do not require the camouflage of their stripes.
Another theory claims the opposite, that the zebra's stripes are specifically very obvious and attract attention, such that they can be seen from even vast distances. Some researchers have thus concluded that the stripes are meant to be seen from far away, as the striped figure creates an optical allusion which fools a threatening lion into miscalculating the distance between it and the zebra. The zebra can therefore flee when it comes under attack. This theory, too, has been called under question by video clips showing the lions' attacks of zebras with no evidence of inaccurate calculation of distance. When the zebra does escape, it is generally thanks to its sharp awareness and speed.
Another speculation regarding the function of the stripes is that the black and white stripes distort the vision of the approaching lion, making it difficult to discern when one zebra ends and the other begins. The escaping herd appears to the lion as a single mass of black and white. Again, however, it seems that lions have little trouble identifying their targets during a chase and catching the slow zebras.
Thus, although all the suggestions sound good, they are all contradicted by empirical observation, and so the question remains: why do zebras have stripes? The problem is not the lack of an answer, but the abundance of answers! How amazing this is, further emphasizing the vast difference between the worlds of science and Torah. Whereas the correct among the suggested answers to this scientific question is unknown, regarding the sacred Torah the answer is clear and straightforward. Even if a certain pasuk has several possible interpretations, they are all correct, as it has been said, "There are seventy faces to the Torah."
The Espionage Case (2)
Flashback: During the tumultuous period of World War I, many people visited the city of Radin to meet with the great ssadik, the Hafess Hayyim zs"l, to receive his blessings and thus be granted salvation. Among the visitors was a young man, a tanner, whose livelihood was severed and came to spend some time in the yeshivah and receive the tsadik's blessing.
World War I was fought primarily between Germany and Russia. Instinctively, the Russian authorities looked upon the Jewish community with suspicion. First of all, the Jews had plenty of good reasons to despise the antagonistic and hostile Czarist regime, for its strangling decrees and cruel edicts. For example, the decree of the coerced, narrow pale of settlement forbade Jews to reside within greater Russia and restricted them to a narrow strip where making a living became awfully difficult. Another decree banned the Jews from the villages, and other edicts governed their mode of dress, restricted Torah education, mandated strict censorship of Jewish literature, and forbade religious Jewish newspapers. Everything all together resulted in a series of libels and false charges. For good reason, then, the Jews were suspected of sympathizing with the Western government of freedom and rights. This in addition to the fact that there were Jewish communities in the West towards whom Russian Jews harbored sentiments of closeness and identification. Furthermore, the Yiddish language, which was spoken by Russian Jews, was very close to the enemy tongue - German, and five million Jews lived along the border. It is no wonder that during the war Jews were constantly accused of sedition. Fuel to the flames of suspicion was added by the dozens of German citizens who resided among the Russian communities - yeshivah students who left Germany to learn in the yeshivot in Lithuania. The Russian authorities issued an emergency edict by which all native Germans were to be arrested and deported to captivity camps in Russia - where there were no Jews or possibility of observing Judaism - or labor camps in Siberia. In the yeshivah of Radin, the yeshivah of the Hafess Hayyim, there were three German students. They heard the decree and feared arrest and possible deportation. They decided to move to the underground, assuming that the authorities wouldn't search for spies in a "far-away" town such as Radin. What a mistake this was.
to be continued.
A HALACHAH AND ITS MESSAGE
A story is told of a congregation that gathered for minhah and began reciting the "parashat hatamid" and "parashat haketoret." The rabbi noticed that one of the worshippers did not participate in the service. He looked at the man, raised his eyebrows in an expression of wonder, and pointed to the siddur. The individual nodded, acknowledging the rabbi's admonishment, and mouthed his justification for the rabbi to see: "This morning I came late to shaharit and could not say the tamid or ketoret. How can I speak now of the afternoon tamid and ketoret when I skipped their first halves?" The rabbi replied that he should recite them anyway, and he will explain the reason after tefilah. And so, after tefilah the man approached the rabbi for the explanation.
"Regarding the tamid, there is an explicit halachah that if the morning sacrifice was not offered, even intentionally, the afternoon tamid is offered nonetheless. The two are unrelated to one another. But regarding the ketoret, we find an even more remarkable halachah. If the morning ketoret was not offered, then in the afternoon not only is ketoret brought, but the amount of the morning ketoret is added to the regular amount, such that a double portion of ketoret is offered on the altar. In this way, the error committed in the morning can be corrected in the afternoon. You see, my son, how careful one must be not to decide upon a ruling of halachah by himself, without consulting a rabbi for guidance!" The worshipper thanked the rabbi both for the ruling and the knowledge imparted.
The rabbi then added, "Each time one deals with words of Torah, he discovers something new. Latent in these two halachot lie critical lessons.
The first halachah teaches us that it is never too late. Even if one missed or failed one stage, he should not despair - he can start anew in the next stage! In fact, this is an explicit pasuk: 'Sow your seeds in the morning, and in the evening do not rest your hands.' The Gemara (Yevamot 62b) tells of Rabbi Akiva's twenty-four thousand students who died all at once for not treating each other respectfully. The world remained desolate, but Rabbi Akiva did not despair even in the face of such tragedy. He went to the rabbis in the south and imparted his Torah to them - Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai and Rabbi Elazar Ben Shamua. They were the ones who upheld the Torah for the next generation! The Torah associates Rabbi Akiva's resilience with this pasuk, teaching us that one should never despair, thinking that it's too late, and he might as well continue along his mistaken path. No, it is never too late!
"The second halachah presents us with perhaps an even more powerful message. The Gemara (Eruvin 65a) tells us that Rabbi Nahman Bar Yisshak would often say, 'We are day-by-day workers.' In other words, the Almighty does not count pages of study, but rather the hours invested. Whether one does a lot of a little, the key is for one to take full advantage of his time, so that at the end of his life he will bring with him all his days filled with Torah and missvot. Yet, the Gemara continues by telling us that Rav Aha Bar Yaakov would 'borrow and pay back.' Rashi explains that he established for himself a certain amount of material that he would study every day. When, however, his occupation took up too much time by day for him to complete his quota, he would make up the material at nighttime. True, the Almighty counts hours and not pages, and Rav Aha Bar Yaakov on those days wasn't wasting his time - he was involved in the missvah of supporting his family. But he learned the lesson of the ketoret: if one could not offer the ketoret in the morning, he must bring double with the afternoon ketoret. Whoever did not learn his quota in the morning must make up the material at night, rather than remaining 'in debt' to his Creator and to himself. These are some of the critical lessons latent within the halachot of the sacred Torah, and fortunate is the one who extracts these messages!"
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"Neither man nor woman shall do anymore work [for the Mishkan]"
As we know, on Shabbat one may not carry from a private domain to a public domain/karmelit or within a public domain/karmelit itself. Even when an eruv is present, one should preferably refrain from carrying since the legitimacy of an eruv depends upon many conditions, regarding both halachah and practical issues. It is almost impossible to find an eruv that meets all the conditions according to all authorities, and therefore one should preferably not carry at all on Shabbat.
The Talmud Yerushalmi (cited by Tosafot Shabbat 99b and Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 12:8) derives the prohibition of carrying from our pasuk: "Carrying from one domain to the next constitutes one of the thirty-nine forbidden activities. And even though this, as well as all fundamentals of the Torah, were said from Mosheh at Sinai, it also appears in the Torah: 'Neither man nor woman shall do anymore work for the sacred contributions; and the nation stopped bringing.' Thus we see that bringing is considered work."
"Neither man nor woman shall do anymore work [for the Mishkan]"
The Siftei Kohen zs"l writes that he heard an explanation claiming that the talented people came to Mosheh and whispered, "The nation is bringing too much materials for the work that Hashem commanded to do." As we know, the word "ha'am" [the nation] always refers to the "erev rav" (the gentiles that joined Benei Yisrael when they left Egypt). Since the sanctity of the Mishkan depended upon the pure generosity and sincerity of the donors, and the erev rav contributed only for their own egos, the artisans feared that the sanctity of the Mishkan would be undermined by their contributions. So as to avoid strife and contention, Mosheh Rabbenu issued an order throughout the entire camp, "Neither man nor woman shall do anymore work [for the Mishkan]." The immediate response was, "the nation ['ha'am'] stopped bringing." As soon as they heard that they were absolved, the erev rav stopped contributing. Benei Yisrael, however, continued bringing their donations. And if someone would think that the Mishkan did not have sufficient materials without the erev rav's donations, the pasuk continues, "And the materials were sufficient for the work to be performed."
"Neither man nor woman shall do anymore work [for the Mishkan]"
Hazal asked, once the Torah already told us of the artisans' complaint to Mosheh that they had too many materials, thus prompting Mosheh's order that no more materials be donated to the Mishkan, why does the Torah add, "And the materials were sufficient for the work to be performed, and more."
Rabbenu Hayyim Kohen zs"l of Aram Soba, a student of the Ar"I Hakadosh zs"l, explained that whereas the construction of the Mishkan served as atonement for the sin of the golden calf, the pasuk tells us that the contributions were enough to atone for all the work done for the golden calf and even more than that. This teaches subsequent generations that even if one sins, God forbid, he has the opportunity to correct the mistake through active involvement in the sacred service of Hashem, which atones for what has been committed in the past!
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
One day the community leaders of Tripoli received a summons to come before the city's rabbi, Rabbi Prigah Dabush zs"l. They were taken aback by the summons, and when they arrived to the Bet Din they found the judges surrounding the revered rabbi and head of the Bet Din, Rabbi Prigah, who was blind.
"Are they all hear?" asked the rabbi. He received a response in the positive and then began telling a story: "As you know, my salary is enough for me to support my family. For many years, every Thursday I would purchase a 'se'ah' measure of barley and a quarter-'se'ah' measure of wheat and support my family - my wife and seven children - with these rations. A month ago, my wife told me on Wednesday that our supply of grain has been depleted. I was shocked, since my weekly purchase always lasted the full week. The next week, I purchased the grain on Tuesday, two weeks ago on Monday, and this week on Sunday! I understood that a curse has come upon my grain. I told my wife to gather the entire family and to collect all the grain into a single bowl. I then asked each family member to place his hand into the bowl. We are nine altogether, and I am blind - you should never know! When I felt all the hands in the bowl, I felt nine hands besides my own. Do you know whose hand was the tenth?"
Silence fell upon the room; no one could say a word. The rabbi then continued, "It was the angel of famine! Famine has come to our city - haven't you felt his hand stirring the pot, bringing curse to our grain?"
"Indeed," answered the community leaders. "Our rabbi is correct - inflation has risen together with the demand. Everyone is frantic to eat; no one is satiated with just a little!" "The angel of famine has visited our city," said the rabbi. "This is the sentence in the heavens - when people are not hungry for the bread of Torah, then hunger for the bread of grain ensues. When people do not give bread to the poor, then they find themselves spending more for bread for their families." The leaders spread the rabbi's words, and the angel of famine left the city.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
The tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh constitute two mutually independent missvot, and one can therefore fulfill one without the other. As such, one who has only one of the two puts it on and recites the berachah. If it is the tefillin shel yad, he recites "l'hani'ah tefillin," and if it the tefillin shel rosh, he recites the berachah "al missvat tefillin." According to the custom of some Ashkenazim to always recite two berachot over the tefillin, then one wearing only tefillin shel rosh recites both berachot - "l'hani'ah tefillin" and "al missvat tefillin."
One Who Can Afford Either Tefillin Shel Yad Or Tefillin Shel Rosh - Which Should He Buy?
If a person has one tefillin made according to Rashi's view and the other tefillin according to Rabbenu Tam, and he cannot afford a full set following Rashi, then he should wear them and recite the berachah on the Rashi tefillin. Thus, if the tefillin shel yad is according to Rashi, then he recites on it "l'hani'ah tefillin," and if the tefillin shel rosh is according to Rashi, he recites on it "al missvat tefillin." (If one who follows the custom of some Ashkenazim to always recite to berachot has tefillin shel rosh according to Rashi, then he recites on it both berachot.)
If one has both tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh but, due to circumstances beyond his control, he cannot wear both, such as if he has a wound on either his arm or head, he puts on the tefillin that he can.
If one is in a rush to go on a trip and may miss his flight, for example, if he takes the time to put on both tefillin shel yad and shel rosh, but he knows that he will be able to put the second one on afterwards, then he should put one tefillin on now and the other one later. In such a situation it is preferable to place first the tefillin shel yad and only afterward the tefillin shel rosh.
If, however, he knows that afterwards he will be unable to put on any tefillin, he may not place only one tefillin now, because hurrying for a trip is not sufficient grounds to allow for the suspension of the missvat aseih to wear both tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh.
If one can put on only one of the two tefillin, knowing that afterwards he will be unable to put on another one due to circumstances beyond his control (e.g., he is forced to go immediately to a place where he will be unable to put on tefillin at all, or if he must go at once to tend to a life-threatening situation, and has time now to put on only one of the two tefillin), he should put on the tefillin shel rosh.
If one wishes not to wear the tefillin shel rosh because of the presence of potentially antagonistic gentiles, he may not suspend the missvah of tefillin because of such a concern, and should cover the tefillin shel rosh with his tallit.
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