This Shabbat marks Rosh Hodesh Nissan, the first of the month in which Benei Yisrael were redeemed and will be redeemed in the future. This is the month in which the mishkan was consecrated and in which the Bet Hamikdash will be rebuilt, speedily and in our days. Starting on Rosh Hodesh, the nesi'im (tribal leaders) of Yisrael began offering their special sacrifices, each one on his specific day. The entire nation (the members of these tribes,) refrains from saying "tahanun" throughout this period. Why? Because the sacrifices of the nesi'im symbolize absolute unity. Each nasi offered the exact same sacrifice as each of his colleagues, and not one of them tried to outdo the other. This unity was so powerful that despite the fact that each sacrifice was that of an individual, it nevertheless took precedence over Shabbat, just as a community sacrifice does. For good reason, the nesi'im brought one wagon for each two nesi'im, and a single ox for each nasi. The wagon could not move if each ox headed in a different direction.
We can now understand why to this very day Benei Yisrael observe these days as a joyous period. We rejoice over the beautiful harmony which existed among the nesi'im of Yisrael, the harmonious cooperation with which they worked. We now also understand why this event in particular opens for us this most exalted month, the month of wonders and miracles. It reminds us of the path towards redemption - the elimination of all senseless hatred and divisiveness. These awful phenomena are still all too prevalent and keep us even further away from our ultimate redemption. Only with the coming together of our people, when the tribes of Israel are united, will our king be crowned once again, and our redeemer will come to Siyon! May we observe this period as a time for heightened awareness of ahavat Yisrael and the power of Jewish unity, and like days we left Egypt we shall see miracles! THE FRUIT BASKETS
This Shabbat, we begin reading Sefer Vayikra, the book dealing with the laws of korbanot. Pesah is nearby, and we will soon read the Haggadah, in which we offer thanks for all the wonderful favors with which the Al-mighty has blessed us. We add to our songs of praise, "...build for us the Bet Habehirah [Bet Hamikdash] to atone for all our sins," referring to the korbanot, about which we begin reading this week and which bring us atonement. The Hid"a zs"l, in the newly-printed Haggadah, "Peninei HaHid"a," asks, if the service in the Bet Hamikdash is truly an atonement for our sins, then why were Benei Yisrael thrown into exile on account of their sins? Weren't all their transgressions atoned for by the korbanot? To see the Hid"a's answer, the reader is referred to the Haggadah, "Peninei HaHid"a." Here, we will answer the question with a story cited in the work,
A farmer once sent his cows to graze in a certain field. It was soon reported to him that his cows intruded onto the property of the governor, who promptly ordered their confiscation. The farmer's face turned white. The cows were his treasure, practically all his property! What could he do? How could he retrieve his cows? The governor was strict and cruel. His word was the final say, no questions asked. He asked his friends for advice. They told him, "Relax! Last week a similar incident occurred, when someone's cows wandered into the governor's fields and were confiscated. He went to the governor's palace with a gift, a basket full of fruits, and the governor then agreed to give back his cows." And so, the farmer quickly took a giant basket, filled it with large apples, carried it on his shoulders and headed towards the palace. The butler opened the door and the farmer said, "I have a gift for the governor." The butler stood aside, allowing the farmer to come in. The farmer placed the gift on the carpet and left. He went to the stables and asked for his cows. The supervisor, who saw him coming from the palace, assumed that the issue had been resolved, and gave the cows back to the farmer. The farmer took them back to his farm, overjoyed. A short while later, the governor came down from his room and was shocked to see a basket in the entrance. "What is this?" he asked. "This farmer left it here and took his confiscated cows," came the reply. The governor's servants came to the farmer's stables and disrupted his celebration. They confiscated all his cows and chained him to a fence to be stoned with his apples. "Stop!" he cried bitterly. "This is a mistake! I can prove it! Bring me before the governor and everything will become clear." The servants were confused, but they agreed to take him to the governor. Upon seeing the farmer, the governor's anger was kindled. "Throw him into prison!" he ordered. As the guards took hold of his arms, the farmer exclaimed, "My dear governor, this is not fair. Last week a certain person's cows wandered into your fields, but you freed his cows in return for a basket of fruits. Now, I also brought you a basket of fruit, and yet you order the confiscation of all my cows and that I be stoned with apples and imprisoned. Where is the justice?" The guards hesitated, waiting for the governor's response. He answered, "How do you not understand? The cows were confiscated legally, as they caused damage to my field. Your friend recognized the loss he caused, he came and promised that he would be more careful in the future, he expressed sincere regret over the damage, he guaranteed me that it will not happen again, he asked forgiveness and offered me a gift. I agreed to return his cows. But you, first your cows intrude onto my property as if you owned it. Then you come and leave a basket of fruit on my carpet, as if you owned it. Then you go into the stables and take your cows, as if you owned the stables. I will show you who is really in charge!" The korbanot are merely a sign, a reflection of one's submission to Hashem. If they are offered in this manner, they can arouse mercy and compassion, they can atone for our misdeeds. But the moment we entertain the possibility that the korbanot allow us to commit the sins, then, "'Why do I need all you sacrifices?' says Hashem." To the contrary, they arouse His anger. Today, our prayers take the place of korbanot. It is erroneous to think that one can behave as he pleases outside the synagogue and then erase everything inside the Bet Kenesset. To the contrary, prayer must lead to furthering our relationship with Hashem even during the hours in between one tefillah and the next.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Taken from "Torat Hamoadim" by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Laws of Bedikat Hamess
At the beginning of the night of the fourteenth of Nissan, we check for hamess with the light of a candle. The proper time for the bedikah is twenty minutes after sunset. One must check in all the cracks and holes and in all the corners of the house, including the balconies. If it is too difficult to search all the rooms himself, he may have other family-members stand next to him when he recites the berachah at the beginning of the search and then have them search around the house. There is a particular misvah on the head of the household to perform the search himself, as misvot are always preferably fulfilled by the individual himself rather than his emissaries. If, for whatever reason, he cannot search at all, he may appoint someone to search for him, and the agent who performs the search recites the berachah, not the head of the household. The search must be done with a wax candle. If one does not have a proper candle, he may use a small flashlight which can fit into small holes and cracks, and a berachah may be recited on such a search. One may not eat a meal consisting of more than a "kebeissah"(about 56 grams) of bread or cake from a half-hour before the time of the bedikah until he actually performs the search. Fruits and vegetables of any quantity, even more than a kebeissah, may be eaten prior to the bedikah. Needless to say, one may drink tea or coffee, as well. It is also forbidden to begin learning Torah from the time the requirement of bedikah has begun until the bedikah has taken place. However, if one had been learning prior to the time of bedikah, he does not have to interrupt his learning for the bedikah. This applies to private learning. A daily, public shiur, however, may be conducted even after the time of bedikah has begun, because the people in the class will remind one another to perform the bedikah, and there is no concern that someone will forget to check his house for hamess. Preferably, after the class someone should announce to the participants that they should do the bedikah. Immediately before the bedikah, the blessing, "al bi'ur hamess" is recited. We say, "al bi'ur" and not, "al bedikat" because the bedikah is only for the sake of the bi'ur, the destruction of the hamess afterward. One may not speak between the recitation of the berachah and the actual bedikah, and if one did speak during that period of matters not pertaining to the bedikah he must recite a new berachah. In the middle of the bedikah one may speak about anything which is relevant to the bedikah, but nothing else. However, once the bedikah has begun, if one did speak about matters not related to the bedikah he does not need to recite a new berachah. "Shehehiyanu" is not recited on the bedikah. However, since some authorities maintain that a shehehiyanu is to be recited for the bedikah, ideally one should buy a new fruit and place it on the table when the bedikah is about to begin and the blessings are recited, including shehehiyanu. Then, after the bedikah, the individual recites the standard berachah for the fruit and eats it. However, this practice is not required, only as an extra measure of piety ("midat hasidut"). After the bedikah one should renounce his ownership to his hamess, reciting the "kal hamira" passage found in most siddurim and haggadot. The nullification of rights to the hamess must be recited in a language which the person understands, so that he realizes that he is considering all his hamess as something of absolutely no value. The custom is to recite the "bittul" three times for further emphasis. During one of the three recitations one should add the word, "hefker" (ownerless) before the term, "ke'afra de'ara" (like the dust of the earth).
One can nullify his hamess even if he is not home. One can also have his wife recite the "bittul," and she, too, must recite it in a language she understands and should say, "...in the possession of my husband" rather than, "...in my possession."
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rabbi Shaul Sadkah zs"l
In 5708, like this year, the seventh of Nissan occurred on Erev Shabbat Hagadol, and on that day Rabbi Shaul Sadkah zs"l passed away. He was the father of the great Rabbi Yehudah Sadkah zs"l. This reminds us of the story of the father of the great "Gadol of Minsk" zs"l who was a simple baker. Once, as he entered the Bet Kenesset, the rabbi of Brisk stood all the way up in his honor. When asked why he stood, the rabbi of Brisk answered, "Whoever has a son like the Gadol of Minsk cannot be just a simple Jew!" The same can be said of Rabbi Shaul Sadkah zs"l. Indeed, Rabbi Yehudah Sadkah zs"l would comment, "If you want to see the spiritual stature of somebody, see how he prays." He would tell of his father who was a merchant who dealt with "lulavim." Needless to say, the most pressured season was from after Yom Kippur until Erev Sukkot. His shop was so crowded with customers that he did not have time to come home to eat. Therefore, his family would send him food from home. On many occasions the food remained intact, as he could not find even a few moments to sit and eat.
For eating he did not have time. But for tefilah with the "sibur" he always found time, and he would pray slowly and with intense concentration, even during this period of intense pressure. In the morning he would pray in the Bet Kenesset at his slow pace without rushing, and in the afternoon he would assemble a minyan in his shop. Once the tefilah began he would invest all his energy into the tefilah and stood for a long while, forgetting everything else. Around him the commotion continued, as merchants from Jericho came to bring their lulavim, his staff awaited his instructions, customers wanted to arrange their credit, people needed his advice, and all the people already concluded their tefilot - only the shopkeeper still stood before his Creator. His son would tell those around him, "Look - this is how one is to pray!"
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"A person from among you who offers a sacrifice to Hashem"
Rabbi Yosef Gabbai zs"l of Buzad, Morocco, writes in his work, "Bigdei Shesh" that the note over the word, "adam" (person) is a "ravi'a", and on the word, "mikem" (from among you) is a "tevir." "Ravi'a" is Aramaic for "hover," and "tevir" in Aramaic means "break." Thus, this pasuk alludes to the fact that the yesser hara hovers over a person like a lion waiting for its prey, and the person's task is to break it. If he is successful, this is his "sacrifice to Hashem," in this way he comes closer to his Creator and will be considered to have brought a korban. Indeed, this is how the Gemara (Sanhedrin 43) learns the pasuk, "One who sacrifices a thanksgiving offering honors me."
"A person from among you who offers a sacrifice to Hashem"
The Gemara (Sotah 5) says that during the time of the Bet Hamikdash, if a person offered an "olah" sacrifice, then he received reward for an "olah"; if he offered a "minhah" sacrifice, he receives reward for a "minhah"; but if one carries himself with humility, then he is considered to have brought all the sacrifices, as it says (Tehillim 51), "The sacrifices of Hashem are a broken spirit." The author of, "Michlal Yofi," one of the great leaders of Algiers, notes that this is alluded to in the word, "adam" (a person). The three letters of this word stand for, "Avraham," "David," and "Moshe." These three men were famous particularly for their humility. Avraham said, "I am dust and ashes," David said, "I am a worm, not even a man," and Moshe said, "And who are we?", and this is the ultimate sacrifice to Hashem!
"A person from among you who offers a sacrifice to Hashem"
The saintly Rabbi Yehudah Elbaz zs"l of Morocco cites the Midrash that when Benei Yisrael heard the parashah dealing with the korbanot they became very frightened. Moshe reassured them, "Involve yourselves in Torah and you will not be afraid." That is what is meant by the pasuk, "This is the Torah for the olah." He explains that they feared the time when there would be no Bet Hamikdash. How would their sins be forgiven? Moshe therefore answered them that Torah study atones like korbanot, as Hazal say (Menahot 110) that one who involves himself in Torah study does not need an olah, minhah, or hatat.
FROM THE WONDERS OF CREATION
"Study It, For It Contains Everything"
The Gemara (Bechorot 7) tells of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Hananiah who went to a gathering of the Wise Men of Athens, and he was astounded to see that the younger scholars stood in the front while the elders stood at their feet. In truth, according to their logic this is the proper procedure. Science continues to progress, and the younger scientists make new discoveries and new horizons open up before them. From their perspective, "The world belongs to the youngsters." However, this is only true in their perspective, that the world originated from nothing, and man was created walking in the darkness. In each generation, they believe, another dimension of the wonders of creation is discovered. But we believe in a Torah which came to us from heaven, and everything is contained therein. In his remarkable introduction to his commentary on the Humash, the Ramban zs"l writes that King Shelomoh, the wisest of all men, knew all the secrets of creation from the Torah, because the Creator granted him the insight to see everything from the Torah. Therefore, we are commanded to honor the elders, who are closer to Matan Torah than we are, and the scholars who are proficient in the Torah. The mishnah says, "Torah scholars - the more they age their knowledge grows." Rabbi Yosef Hayim zs"l, the Ben Ish Hai, gave an example from the pasuk, "To make a weight for the wind" (Iyov 28), which was explained by Rabbi Hayim Vital zs"l as a proof that air has weight, as demonstrated by Kabbalah. The scholars of other nations scorned him for this, arguing, if air had weight, we would be crouching under the mass of air on top of us. However, years later, scientists revealed that, in truth, air does have weight, and when a balloon is filled with gas which is lighter than air it will float, just as a log of wood floats on top of the water. It took the scientists so many years to make this discovery and considered it a major breakthrough, whereas we knew it all along from the Torah. This is the meaning of the mishnah in Avot (end of chapter 5), "Study it thoroughly, for it contains everything." One who learns Torah will learn everything from it, and slowly science reveals that which is contained in the Torah and what Hazal knew centuries ago.
Flashback: The boy, Naftali, threw a rock during a game which injured the general. On his way to the capital city where he was to stand trial, he and his guard encountered a terrible storm and found refuge in a Jewish home. The Jew bribed the guard into lying and saying that the boy drowned while crossing the river. The guard returned to his city and the boy stayed in his savior's home, and the savior promised the guard that the boy would never return to his city, and his family will mourn for him.
Naftali was all of eight years old, but his talents were remarkable. Complete Masechtot were fluent in his mouth, and his mind was as sharp as a razor. His diligence knew no bounds, and as he studied he continued to uncover new concepts from the sugyot. He came up with brilliant approaches and his novel ideas flowed like a spring. His eyes sparkled like the stars and his face shone. The host's wife and their daughter, who was seven years old, stood in between the study and the kitchen, struck by the boy's joy over his studies. They listened to his sweet voice as he chanted the material. "How fortunate we are," she said to her husband, "that we can raise a Torah scholar in our home."
"Indeed," he agreed, "let us thank Hashem who gave us the merit to save him from his captors, and that we have the privilege to raise him. You should know, that we have here with us not merely a talmid hacham, but a leader of the generation!"
From the outset they feared that their neighbors would be very suspicious of this boy who suddenly joined their household. They were afraid that the word would spread and the authorities would find out what had happened. But the boy did not leave the house, as he was attached to his learning day and night. When he turned twelve, he politely asked if he could learn in the storage room in the outskirts of the yard, as he was uncomfortable spending the entire day in the same quarters as a girl around his age. The host gladly agreed and from that point on the boy closed himself up in the storage room, where he had his meals brought to him and from where his sweet voice was heard from the early morning hours until late at night. Six years passed, until the host turned to his seventeen-year-old daughter and asked, "So, what do you think..."
to be continued...
THE WELLSPRING OF EDUCATION
An Appeal to the Yeshivah Students
I recall during the "War of Attrition" by the Suez Canal, how every day we heard of more casualties and injuries. We heard of more widows and parents who lost their children. This was at the end of the month of Nissan, the month when the yeshivot have their vacation. Some yeshivot started a few days earlier. Rabbi Yehezkel Abramski zs"l, head of the Council of Yeshivot, came to give the first shiur of the new semester. After the shiur he said, "My dear students. You have no idea how much fear and trepidation I have experienced over the last month!" They were all very surprised. What happened? He continued, "A full month I sat trembling. By the Suez Canal our brothers, the Jewish soldiers, sit, as bombs are falling and their lives are in danger. And the yeshivah students, whose studies protect our soldiers, have left for vacation! You should know that my fear made it difficult for me to enjoy the holiday. I was counting the days to when the students return to the yeshivot. Now, the curtain of protection has once again been established, our dear soldiers are protected once again." He then said, "I know that not all the students stopped learning. There is certainly an obligation to assist the parents in their preparation for Pesah. There is no limit to the great value of this misvah, and we learn in order to perform. Indeed, the misvah of honoring one's parents is of paramount importance! But many yeshivah students still took advantage of every spare moment to learn and they set aside time for Torah study even during vacation. To them I cite the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 9:5), "If you see that people have been lax in Torah - stand up and strengthen yourself in it, and you will receive reward for all of them." Those students who studied during vacation, their Torah protected our land and its defenders, and they receive reward of all great Torah scholars!" This week Pesah vacation begins in the yeshivot. May these words of one of the great Roshei Yeshivah ring in the ears of our students. Please, use all your spare time for Torah study, and in your merit we will be saved from every woe and injury!
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a
Shabbat and love of Israel (part IV)
Aaron: All this is to be considered on the Shabbat day?
Mr. Goodfriend: The Shabbat is not only a memorial to the work of Beresheet when creation took place, but it is also a memorial to the going out of Egypt when Israel was elected. It was then that the ddeclaration was made: "So said the L-rd: My first-born son is Israel" (Shemot 4:22). It was then that the body of every Israelite bacame sacred, for all time to come.
Aaron: How do you know that their bodies became sacred?
Mr. Goodfriend: "You shall do all My commandments, and you shall be holy to your G-d" (Bamdbar 15:40). The doing of the Mitzvot causes them to be holy.
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