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Jacob Goes to Haran:
A man plants a tree, hoes, and fertilizes, devotedly. The tree grows, blossoms, and branches out. Many years of devoted care produce fruit. This is the parable to the hours in our day! Thus writes Rabbi Yehudah Halevi , zassal, in his book "The Kuzari". He created the concept: "The fruit of the day". This means that our activity during the day resembles the efforts that the farmer puts into the tree he planted. All the things that we do during the day are necessary but not so important. We must work, eat, and rest. But the "Fruit of the day" is the prayer. Man works hard all day and waits for the hour after work. That will be the hour that will shape his personality and bring light into his day. "A person comes from the field in the evening and goes into the Synagogue. If he is used to reading Humash, he reads Humash. If he is used to learning Mishnah, he does so, he reads Kriyat Shma and prays, then he eats his bread and makes a blessing. This is the hour that gives serenity and joy, that consoles man for all the difficulties and strains of the day. Thus writes Rabbi Haim the Cohen from Aram Ssoba , zassal, in his book "Torat Hayim": "Vayelech Haranah vayifga bamakom" - He went to Haran and came across the place. Our Sages learned that Jacob created the evening prayer - Arvit. This is the hour that anger and pain disappear. It is an hour of uplifting spirituality
To be strong in Hasagah:
Jacob arrives at Haran and sees three flocks of sheep surrounding a well. The shepherds are waiting for their friends in order to remove the enormous stone covering the mouth of the well. The shepherds of the three flocks cannot remove the stone, even with their combined efforts, and need help from the others. When Jacob sees Rahel, his cousin, he goes to the well and with one hand pushes off the stone (Targum Yonatan) just as if it were like removing the top from a dish - telling you that he was very strong (Rashi).
The Torah is here to teach us. What are we supposed to learn from the fact that Jacob was strong? The Yemenite Medrash "Ohr Haafeila" - The Light in the Darkness - writes that this means that Jacob was strong in comprehension. The word "Vayagel", literally meaning "to roll" is explained there to mean that he rejoiced ("gil" means Simchah = happiness, in Hebrew). How do we understand this and what do we learn from it?
The following story appears in the book "The history of the great Gaon, Rabbi Zalman of Vilna, brother of Rabbi Haim of Volozhin , zassal". An eyewitness related: Once, when he was learning, the Gaon Rabbi Zalman had to look something up in a certain book that was on the book shelf. However, in front of that shelf there was a large box that was full, and three men were needed to move it. What did he do? He walked back and forth while he repeated to himself with growing enthusiasm the explanation of our Sages on the passage in the Torah that says that the Torah is "Not in the sky". Rashi there says that if it had been in the sky, man would have had to make a ladder and climb up to the sky to bring it down. It is not across the sea - if it had been across the sea, man could have gone there by boat to reach it (Eiruvin 55). "He repeated it again and again with an intense love that words cannot describe, in his pleasant voice until he felt inside him strength and courage, and ran quickly and with great energy to the box, lifted it up without any help, and took the book. It was a miracle and wonder in the eyes of all who saw it.
A famous person who repented started his path to Judaism in Japan. They taught him there that man could break a stone by striking it with his hand. How? By concentrating all his energy into that strike. If this is so, he thought, power is not the main thing, but spirit is. He therefore started to search for spirituality, and found it in the limitless sources of Judaism and the Torah.
This is the secret of Jacob's rolling the stone, and the secret of Jacob's greatness. We can do it too. If we want to taste the taste of greatness, we should concentrate all our efforts on the task that is in front of us. To forget everything in the world, to concentrate on one point and to break through it. Whether it is a Sugya in the Gemara, or a blessing or a prayer. Let us be honest with ourselves: Have we ever said Birkat Hamazon like that? Have we ever said "Shehakol nihya bidvaro" with all our concentration?
The Gemara teaches us that, once, Rava was learning a piece of Gemara and his fingers got squashed in something and started to bleed, but he did not feel any pain. This is the way that an Amora learned. When a disciple of the Gra said the blessing on thunder in the middle of the class, he was not allowed to participate any more in the class, because who heard thunder when the Gra was giving a Shiur?
This is the way it is in Tefillah as well as in Torah! Stories are told about great people who did not hear anything even when a gentile minister would shoot off a gun near their ear while they were praying. That kind of prayer must have great power. This is what the Gemara tells us: Once there were two calamities, famine and plague and the Sages wished to make a fast day and prayer for the calamities to end. They said: "We must dedicate the fast day to only one of the calamities. Why? Because someone who prays about two things simultaneously divides his concentration between the two things. In order to break the barriers of heaven, one needs to concentrate on only one thing; then, success is guaranteed. It is told that once a Jew was in pain because he broke his leg. He was brought in front of Rabbi Mordechai of Lachovitz, who said to him: "Say after me: "mehaye maitim ata rav lehoshia, somech noflim verofe holim" - Hashem awakens the dead and saves man, picks up the fallen and cures the sick - do you believe in this". The sick man answered: "Yes, Rabbi". The Rabbi said to him: You are lying. Say it again. Finally the person shouted: "I believe, I believe". If so, said the Ssadik, stand up on your feet. He stood up, and walked, like a healthy man.
These are the results of concentration of the intention: The power of pure spirituality which overcomes every obstacle and nothing can stand in its way. The scattering of intention is the opposite. The Hovat Halevavot said: "Hashem should save us from scattering our soul".
See the great difference between the hospitality of our holy forefathers and that of Laban who made his nephew, his son-in-law, work hard for twenty-two years!
The Gaon Rabbi Haim Toledano , zassal, who was Rabbi of the town of Sali in Morocco, used to host at his table passers-by on Sabbath and festivals. He made every effort to have a guest each time. Once, on the eve of the festival of Shavuoth, there was nobody for him to host. The Rabbi told his aide to search throughout the city. Toward evening he came back and said that he had searched and could find no one. The Rabbi told him to go to the cemetery. He did that, and found no one. He decided to search more carefully and found a Jew sitting there amongst the graves, his head in his hands and crying bitterly, his whole body shaking. The servant asked him to come to stay with the Rabbi for the festival but the Jew did not listen to him. The servant came back to the Rabbi and told his story. The Rabbi put on his coat, took his staff, and hurried to the cemetery. He found the crying man, and made every effort to convince him to stop crying and come to his house for the festival. The Jew refused to be consoled, and continued crying. The Rabbi said to him: "Put your worries aside, come with me and I swear that I will save you from your trouble"! Once he heard this, the Jew rose and went with the Rabbi. On the way, he told his story. He was born and grew up in that town, but many years ago he left his home to make his fortune across the sea. Hashem blessed him, and he made much money and came back to the city. The ship docked at the harbor and the passengers climbed into a small boat that was to take them to the shore. When they lowered the chest that contained all his money, the rope tore and the box sank to the bottom of the sea! All his hard work was for nothing! He became poor on the spot! The Rabbi was shocked! He had sworn he would help the Jew, but what could he do? He thought of selling his house and all his property and giving it to the poor man, but it was clear that even if he did so the amount would not reach half of the loss! The Rabbi went to the port and asked to see the place where the chest had fallen. Then he stood and prayed to Hashem with all his heart! Suddenly, the waves whirled up in a storm, and the chest floated up from the depths of the sea and came ashore. The man was delighted and carried his precious treasure to the Rabbi's house. One question bothered him. What had happened to his wife all those years? The Rabbi asked for her name, and when he told him it turned out that all the years the Rabbi had employed her so she would have money to live on….!
Reuben: "She named him Reuven because she said Hashem saw how I was poor, now my husband will love me". Maran the Hida explained that the righteousness of sons depends on the pure heart of their mother. Leah knew that when Jacob the Ssadik would see her son he would realize that the mother is a great Ssadeket as well.
Shimon: "She said: Hashem heard that I am hated and gave me this one as well, and she named him Shimon". Our Rabbi the Ralbag explains in his Mussar teachings that we must learn from these names that every child born to the Matriarchs they attributed to the mercy and benevolence of Hashem. We should relate in the same way to every success in our lives!
Levi: "She called his name Levi". It is known in the secrets of Torah that the Levites represent the aspect of judgment. Our Rabbi the Remez wrote that the word "Leviim" in Gematria adds up to 86, which is the same as the name "Elokim", representing the judgment of Hashem. When you check, you will calculate that Jacob was 86 years old when Levi was born.
Yehudah: Our Rabbi the holy Alsheich wrote that each one of the first four tribes represented one of the four letters of Hashem's name. When Judah was born it completed the four letters and therefore Leah said: "This time I will thank Hashem. She called him Yehudah, as the name Yehudah contains the letter Dalet = 4, and the 4 letters of the name of Hashem.
Dan: "Rachel said Hashem judged me… therefore she called his name Dan". Rabbeinu Bachaye writes: "It is right for man to be careful with everything he says, especially when he begins to speak. Our Sages said that those who started their statement with the word "af" were banished from the world. Rachel started with the word "judgement" and the measure of judgment killed her in childbirth. We must watch carefully what we say!
Gad: In Rashi: "Ba Gad - good luck. The Aggadah says that he was born circumcised. Rabbi Obadiah of Bartenora asked what is the source for this? He answers that the word "Gad" also means to cut a slice. Gad was born cut - with no Orlah.
based on the rulings of the Light of Israel, our Master the First of Zion, Harav Ovadiah Yosef.
Harav Hagaon Harav David Yosef
· After completing saying "yihyu lerasson" that comes after "Elokai nessor" one may answer any Amen and even "Baruch hu uvaruch shmo" and even say "Alenu" with the congregation.
· One should say the passage "Yihyu lerasson" before "Elokai nessor". If one wants to say it again after "Elokai nessor" one may do so. It is even good to do so, and that is the practice of the public.
· After "Elokai nessor" it is customary to say, "Do (it) for your name, do (it) for your right, do (it) for your Torah, do (it) for your Kedushah (holiness)". One who says these four things merits and receives the "face of the Shehinah".
· "Elokai nessor" is said even on the Sabbath and Yom Tov even though one should not ask for requests on those days. Nevertheless it is permissible, as it has become an integral part of the prayer service.
· Some say after "Elokai nessor" - a passage from Tanach whose first letter is the first letter of his name, and whose last letter is the last letter of his name. He may say this passage even before the second "Yihyu lerasson".
· When one concludes the "Shmoneh esreh" it is required that one bows, and takes three steps backward. The bowing here should be the same as it is elsewhere in the prayers.
· After taking three steps back, while one is still bowing, one should turn to the left, and then to the right and then bow to the front like a slave who is parting from his master.
· When he turns to the left he should say: "Oseh shalom bimromav". When turning to the right he should say: "hu yaaseh shalom alenu" and when he bows down in front, he should say: "veal kol Yisrael, veimru amen". (Sephardim and people of eastern origin say: "hu berachamav yaaseh shalom alenu").
· Even when praying by oneself, one should conclude with "veimru amen" - and you shall say "amen" because, even though there is no one else there, he is saying it to the angels watching him.
· One should not say "Oseh shalom" while he taking the three steps backward; rather one should say it when finishing taking the three steps.
The Laws of Cooking on the Sabbath:
1) Someone who bakes or cooks on Sabbath is required to offer a Korban because he did the Melachah of "cooking". This is one of the thirty-nine Melachot prohibited on the Sabbath. Similarly, someone who boils water or milk transgressed the prohibition of cooking on Sabbath. Also if someone roasts meat over a fire, or melts wax or fat, these are all Toladot of Mevashel. Even fruit that can be eaten without cooking, if someone cooked it on the Sabbath he is liable to offer a Korban.
2) In the winter, if someone wants to drink tea or coffee and boils water, he transgresses the prohibition of cooking on the Sabbath. This is also true if he takes a cup of water and throws it into the boiling water.
3) The "First Vessel" relates to a pot that is used on the fire, like a metal pot. This pot, once it has been heated on the fire, can cook what was put into it even after it was removed from the fire as long as the hand retracts from touching it (45c).
4) When someone pours something from a "First Vessel" onto some other substance, a thin layer of that substance is cooked. It is, therefore, prohibited to pour from a "First Vessel" onto a food.
5) A "Second Vessel" does not cook. Therefore, if someone emptied the contents of the "First Vessel" into a different vessel, and then put raw food into that, it is not a transgression, even if the second vessel is very hot. Nevertheless, one should not put a raw egg into a "Second vessel" containing hot water, because a raw egg cooks easily and will cook even in a second vessel. If someone did so there is a disagreement about whether he must bring a Korban.
6) One may put Nana (mint) or Shiba leaves in a cup of tea on Sabbath - leaves that Moroccans like to add to tea - even if the teacup is hot and the hand retracts on touching it. This is because the cup is a "second vessel" that does not cook. Tea leaves cook easily, and one should not put them raw into a "second vessel". Also one should not pour hot water from the "first vessel" onto the leaves as it cooks the top layer of them. Rather, after he puts the water in the cup he should put in the Nana or Shiba leaves.
7) If there is a sick person whose life is in danger it is permissible to cook for him. However, a healthy person should not eat from that food.
8) Our Rabbis said that there is no cooking after cooking. This applies to something dry and cooked like rice or potatoes, pieces of meat or fish. You may warm them up opposite the fire even if they can heat up where they are, as long as you haven't added to them something that has not yet cooked.
9) Maran in the Shulhan Aruch ruled that, when applied to wet substances, there is cooking after cooking. For example: soup, even if it was cooked before Sabbath and cooled, may not be heated it opposite the fire as, since it is moist, it can cook. However, even a dry cooked substance should be warmed on top of a pot that is on the fire, or opposite the fire but not on the fire itself because it looks as if one is cooking. If on the fire there is a metal plate with holes one may put on it a dry, cooked, cold food in order to warm it up. Also, one may place this food on a platta (Sabbath warmer) as people do not use it to cook, only to heat.
10) There is a disagreement whether baked or roasted foods can then be cooked. The Knesset Hagedolah said that it is not cooking and many Talmidei Chachamim were seen taking something baked or roasted and pouring onto it hot soup.
11) Great Sages discussed the status of ground coffee. Rabbi Haim Falagi said that since it is roasted he might pour hot water onto it on the Sabbath. Also, Maran (our Master) the Shulhan Aruch is lenient regarding cooking after roasting. This is also the rule with instant coffee. According to Ashkenazi Rabbis, one should not pour boiling water onto coffee: they are concerned about whether there is cooking after roasting. But we follow the opinion of our Master the Shulchan Aruch, because the abbreviation "Maran" means he was ordained by two hundred Rabbis. Our Rabbi the Hidah said in the name of Rabbi Haim Abulafiah that he who rules like the Shulhan Aruch is as if he were following two hundred Rabbis.
12) Our Rabbis prohibited food cooked by non-Jews for two reasons. Firstly, perhaps a non-Jew will feed him prohibited food and secondly, because of assimilation. If a non-Jew brings a Jew tea or coffee or other hot drinks, they will get close to each other until the time may come when the gentile might marry the daughter of the Jew, or the Jew the daughter of the gentile. However there is a disagreement regarding pots that absorbed food cooked by a non-Jew. Some say that the frying pan of a Jew who has a gentile cook who cooked something in it must be kashered; others say it is permissible.
13) Hospitals employ a non-Jew to cook on Sabbath for sick people whose lives are not in danger. This is fine. However, if the sick person did not eat all his food may someone else eat it? The Mishnah Berurah contradicts himself. Some authorities differentiate whether the gentile cooked for the sick in his own house or in the Jew's house. If it was in the gentile's house, he may not eat from the food even after the Sabbath, even for a sick person whose life is not in danger, because permission to eat food cooked by a non-Jew was only on the Sabbath. However, if the gentile cooked it in the Jew's house, or in the hospital, even a healthy person may eat from it after the Sabbath.
14) There are some restaurants where Sufganiyot (doughnuts) are baked on Shabbat during the festival of Chanukah . They employ a non-Jew who makes them in the restaurant. Since the gentile is hired, and there is no danger of a friendship starting, it is permissible to eat them. If someone prefers to be stringent for himself about this matter, that is his decision, but the above is the law which is generally accepted.
Peas are usually not eaten raw, nor are they eaten at a king's table. Rambam writes that a person does not invite someone to eat just roasted seeds and therefore they are permissible. However, cooked peas, cooked by a gentile, are prohibited because they are considered a superb food.
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
Produced by Cong. Bnai Yosef and the Aram Soba Foundation - translated from Ma'ayan Hashavua in Israel
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