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Parashat Vayikra


"When a person from among you offers a sacrifice to Hashem"

As we begin reading Sefer Vayikra, the book of korbanot, it is fitting to study the words of the Sefer Hahinuch (in Missvah 95, after his introduction: "I fear approaching the Mikdash of Hashem, for I know that anyone who approaches without sanctifying himself accordingly will not see the House and live." He relies upon the fact that "there are seventy 'faces' to the Torah. In each one there are great and many roots, each root has branches, and each branch bears a large cluster with luscious fruits to enlighten the hearts. Each day they blossom with flowers for those who engage themselves in them, flowers of wisdom and sound intelligence. And if there are those who cannot afford to take from the fruits of the trees of the garden, then they shall take its leaves as a remedy." With this in mind, he sets out to explain "according to the simple level of interpretation, the concept of the korbanot").

These are his sacred words:

The main tendency of the heart is determined by actions. Therefore, when an individual sins, his heart will not be properly purified through words alone, through his saying between him and the wall, "I sinned, and will never do it again." But by undertaking a significant action on account of his sin, by taking animals from his pen, and by going through the trouble of bringing them to the kohen in the sacred House, and performing all the rituals outlined regarding the sacrifices of sinners, as a result of all this immense activity the evil of the sin will be established in his heart, and he will avoid it on later occasions.

He then adds:

I found a similar reason in the [writings of] the Ramban z"l, along the lines of the straightforward interpretation, who wrote in the name of others, "Whereas the actions of people involve thought, speech and the action, Hashem commanded that when one sins he brings a korban and rests his hands upon it - corresponding to his action, he confesses verbally - corresponding to his speech, he consumes on the altar the insides, including the kidneys - the source of thought and desire, and the legs - corresponding to the person's arms and legs that carry out his plan. The blood is sprinkled on the altar - alluding to his own blood, that the person should think when he does all this that he sinned to Hashem with his body and soul, and he is deserving of having his blood spilt and body burnt, if not for the compassion of the Creator Who took instead an exchange, and the sacrifice atones for him. The blood comes in the place of his own blood, the [animal's] life in place of his own life, and the animal's main limbs in place of his own limbs. The kohen's portion supports the Torah teachers who should pray for him. And the daily sacrifice - because people are never safe from sin." These are reasonable words, which draw the heart like words of Aggadah.

He writes further: The sacrifice of animals has another arousing impact upon the heart. Namely, from the perspective of similarity, for the bodies of humans and animals are similar in all aspects, and their difference lies only in this - that one was granted intelligence, and the other not. Since the human body leaves the boundaries of intelligence when one sins, he should know that he enters at that moment the boundary of animals, whereas their difference lies only with regard to intelligence. Therefore, he is commanded to take a body of flesh like his own body and bring it to the designated location in order that his intelligence be uplifted, and that it [the animal] be burnt there completely in place of his body, in order to firmly engrave upon his heart that all conduct with body without intelligence is completely lost and nullified, and that he should rejoice in his portion of the intelligent soul with which Hashem graced him, and which lasts forever. Even the body that joins with it has eternal existence through the resurrection of the dead, if it walks together with the soul by avoiding sin. When he engraves this image upon his soul he will be very careful to avoid sin. The Torah promises that through this great action and the resolve of the sinner to regret his sin with his heart and soul, his inadvertent sin will be forgiven.


Rav Seliman Al Karah zs"l

Rabbi Seliman Al Karah zs"l was the crown jewel of the glorious Yemenite community, the leader of the Jews and beloved by all his brethren. Unfortunately, when the Turks took control of Yemen and oppressed the Jewish community with all types of cruel decrees, nobody knew their language. The Yemenite community sent a letter to the chief rabbi of Turkey, asking him to send a "Hacham Bashi" to stand at their head and represent them. And so arrived the great Rav Yisshak Shaul zs"l, who carried out his mission with excellence and met with substantial success. Yet, even he submitted to the will of the revered rabbi, Rav Seliman.

On Purim, the custom was for the entire community to send beautiful mishlo'ah manot to the rabbi. Each one would come and place his gift on the rabbi's table. The rabbi would take the mishlo'ah manot and then with a warm smile offer a gift in return.

Once a certain Jew came and placed his plate, which was covered with a napkin, on the table. The rabbi looked around, chose the fullest tray, and handed it to the man. The guest left, and those standing around the rabbi wondered, what is in this small plate that warranted the such a lavish gift? They raised the napkin and found on the plate. a rotten radish! The did not even bother to conceal their astonishment: "This man insulted our revered rabbi - how can he remain silent? He is our leader, and a leader may not forego on his honor!"

The rabbi heard the question and expressed his anger: "Were you not to have questioned my actions or gazed at the plate I would have remained silent. But now that this matter has been revealed, I must tell you that this individual is impoverished, and the radish was the only food he had in his home! As leader of the community, I decree upon all of you that each of you must go and fill an entire tray with food and sweets, all types of pastries and delicacies, and send it to his home!"

In this way, the rabbi saved the pauper from hunger!


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 Proper Place for the Tefillin Shel Yad

One places the tefillin shel yad on the place in between the armpit and the elbow. This area is sometimes referred to as the "zeroa" (for example, see Shofetim 15:14).

Specifically, the tefillin is placed on the muscle, where the arm appears as if it swells. Hazal (Menahot 37a) learn this halachah from the relationship between tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh. Just like tefillin shel rosh is placed on the highest point of the head, so is tefillin shel yad placed on the highest point of the arm - the muscle near the shoulder.

Some derive this halachah from the pasuk (Shemot 13:9), "It shall be for you as a sign," as if to say, it shall be a sign specifically for you and not for anyone else. Meaning, the tefillin shel yad should be situated on a place on the arm that one generally covers, not near the front of the arm, which is generally exposed. Others learn this halachah from the pasuk (Devarim 11:18), "You shall place these words of Mine on your heart," implying that the tefillin shel yad should be placed on a place on the arm near the heart, i.e. the upper arm. However, not every place where the flesh of the arm is elevated is suitable for placing the tefillin shel yad. Only the elevated part of the lower half of the upper arm, near the elbow, is suitable. One must ensure that not even a slight portion of the tefillin shel yad is placed underneath the elevated portion of the upper arm.

For this reason tefillin should not be made too large, so as to ensure that it is placed in its entirety on the proper spot on the arm. If one can only place his tefillin shel yad on the upper half of the upper arm, near the armpit, such as if one has a bruise on his arm, then he should place them there without a berachah. If one's tefillin were exceptionally large, then he should preferably place the tefillin shel yad in such a way that part of it extends to the upper portion near the armpit (without a berachah), rather than having even a small part of the tefillin on a spot where the flesh is not elevated. Those who are accustomed to wearing two pairs of tefillin (Rashi and Rabbenu Tam) simultaneously (as is the view of several Kabbalists) must also be extremely careful to place both tefillin shel yad on the proper place on the arm, that is the bottom half of the upper arm where the flesh is elevated. If the tefillin are somewhat large, then one should not wear them together, but rather one after the other. That is, he should first place Rashi tefillin and after the repetition of the sheli'ah ssibur, before "ashrei/uva lessiyon," he places Rabbenu Tam tefillin without a berachah. One must turn the tefillin shel yad a little bit inwards, towards the body, such that when he bends his upper arm downward the tefillin shel yad are near the heart, in fulfillment of the pasuk, "These words shall be on your heart." Nevertheless, even one born with his heart towards the right side should place tefillin on his left arm, even though the tefillin will then not be directly near the heart.


This Shabbat we read "Parashat Zachor." Indeed, the Torah is eternal: each individual constitutes his own small world, and within him lies a small "Amalek," the yesser hara, as well as the small, vulnerable "stragglers" who, like the stragglers among Benei Yisrael in the wilderness, are expelled from the cloud and fall prey to the yesser hara.

In this context we bring to mind the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 22:6) about the "wise dog" in Rome who would attack bakers as he was carrying a tray of pastries. The tray would slip from the baker's hands and the pastries would scatter all about. The dog then promptly takes one pastry and flees. The baker then bends down to collect the pastries, counts them and is comforted: only one is missing, not so bad. The bakers don't understand that all the dog really wanted to begin with was only one cake.

This is exactly how the yesser hara works. He confuses and blinds his victim. After the individual successfully wards it off, he consoles himself by saying, not too terrible; all I did was speak a little bit during keri'at haTorah, I daydreamed a bit during tefilah. But right afterwards I got back onto the path.

But we often fail to understand that the "dog" already took what he wanted; he cut off another missvah, and now celebrates his victory.


"Amalek came and waged war against Yisrael in Refidim." This is the Torah reading on Purim day, which comes to remind us that for good reason Haman sought to destroy and annihilate all the Jews, from the youth to the elderly, women and children. He was a true descendant of Agag, the king of Amalek, he proudly carried the heritage of impassioned hatred towards Am Yisrael. This hatred harbored by Amalek was a blind hatred, which led them to wage an unprovoked war against Benei Yisrael as they left Egypt - just after the Egyptian superpower was smitten with miraculous plagues and Pharaoh was forced to let the slaves free. This occurred immediately after "The nations hear and tremble; agony grips the dwellers of Peleshet. Now are the clans of Edom dismayed; the tribes of Moav - trembling grips them; all the dwellers in Canaan are aghast." Everyone heard of the splitting of the Yam Suf and the drowning of the Egyptian army. The nation now journeys through the wilderness surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, guided by the pillar of fire, miraculously fed by the mann that rained down from the heavens daily. Yet, Amalek comes and attacks: "This may be compared to a boiling bath into which no creature could descend. One wicked person came, jumped and went into it" (Rashi, Devarim 25:18).

At first glance, Amalek strikes us as blind and suicidal, people who knowingly jump into a boiling pot where they are bound to be scorched alive.

However, from the reading of Parashat Zachor this Shabbat - and hearing this reading is a Biblical missvah - a much different picture emerges: "Remember that which Amalek did to you on the way when you left Egypt; that they surprised you on the way, and cut down all the stragglers behind you." Rashi explains "stragglers" as referring to those who had lost their strength on account of their sins and were consequently expelled from the camp by the divine Clouds of Glory. The Sifrei writes, "This teaches that they killed only those people who had strayed from Hashem's path and were weakened from under the wings of the Almighty." The Midrash Tanhuma adds that these people were idolaters!

This changes the picture entirely. Amalek came and hid in ambush outside the Clouds of Glory that encircled Am Yisrael, outside the protective shield that surrounded them. A certain individual was shamefully expelled from the camp. What happened? He had sinned, was led astray to worship avodah zarah, thus leading him away from sanctity and resulting in his expulsion. Amalek attacked him and killed him, confident that they will not have to stand trial or see any retribution. After all, the victim was a rejected sinner who was removed in utter humiliation, cut off through his actions from the rest of the nation.

But no! Mosheh is commanded to go to war, Yehoshua is appointed as general while Mosheh Rabbenu looks on from atop the hill. The Creator swears that He wages war against Amalek for all generations until the ultimate redemption. Why? Because Amalek dared lift a hand against those who left behind, the idolaters who were banished from the camp. This teaches us that "a Jew, even though he sinned he is a Jew." No Jew is ever expelled more than temporarily, he always has the opportunity to do teshuvah. No matter how grave his sin against the Almighty, even if he comes to outright rebel against his Creator and worship idols, he is nevertheless a son of the Almighty, a part of Am Yisrael, and the entire nation is drafted to avenge his blood!

We have perhaps no greater or more conclusive proof to the exalted quality of every Jew than the ambush Amalek set to attack these outcasts. Amalek, who despises and battles against kedushah, plotted against these sinners, for they, too, are sacred and pure. They, too, are the sons of Avraham, Yisshak and Yaakov. They, too, were sought by Amalek. What's true of Amalek then was true of Haman the Amalekite and of the Amalek of more recent times, who decreed destruction upon every Jew no matter who he was, sending to gas chambers both religious and secular, apostates and believers - even idolaters and heretics!

How immense an obligation does this place upon us, how much do we have to learn about our attitude to every Jew no matter who he is. Even if he sinned, he is still a Jew. Even if the cloud expelled him outside the camp, to the spiritual wasteland, to the secular wilderness - especially when this occurred unknowingly, without guilt, having been born into such an environment and thus affording him the status of a "tinok shenishbah" - he retains his status as a son of the Almighty. He is one of us, and his stay outside the camp is but temporary. The light shines upon him from the pillar of fire in the camp, from the light of Mosheh and the light of the Torah and missvot. In the end, all the stragglers will return back inside the camp. We wage no war against them - to the contrary, we warmly extend to them our hands. They belong with us, in the safe, secure confines of the camp, which waits for them with confidence, assured of their imminent return. We wage war only against Amalek, which although assumes different forms at different stages of history always devotes itself to the same goal - to forever eradicate the stragglers, to cut them off for all eternity. Amalek we must remember, towards them we are commanded to harbor eternal hatred, and his plan we are ordered to thwart!


The Fly

When one looks at a fly through a magnifying glass, it appears exceptionally frightening. Its two eyes resemble beans, they are brownish-reddish and remarkably large in proportion to the rest of the head.

Each eye is composed of four thousand tiny lenses, which can see everything from every direction - up, down, and both sides. With the generous help of these special eyes, the fly can see everything at the same moment. Near each eye the fly has a small, thick antenna. Each one contains a large number of extraordinarily sensitive sensory cells, which allow the fly to smell food from large distances. Why does the fly need so many sensitive sensory cells? Because for the fly, virtually anything in the world can become his food. When the fly finds liquid nourishment, it presses on the small cushions situated near its mouth, which absorb the liquid like a sponge. The fly then sucks the absorbed liquid. When it encounters solid food, the fly melts it with its saliva, and suddenly its meal is ready.

The problem with flies is that their legs aren't altogether clean. The fly likes to roam around on heaps of garbage and animal excrement, and thus the microscopic hairs on its feet pick up bacteria, which spread dangerous diseases. Add to this the fact that the fly does not wipe its feet before entering the house. Rather, it brings inside all the filth and bacteria it had accumulated outside. The fly also leaves behind excretions which often contain dangerous bacteria.

The housefly is a very dangerous insect because of its ability to transmit bacteria of contagious diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, and others. One cannot, therefore, exercise inappropriate mercy when dealing with this insect, and he must instead drive it from the house and destroy it in any way possible. The destruction of even a single, lone fly is of great value, as valuable as the destruction of thousands of flies. This is because during the summer each fly establishes several generations of new flies. What do these facts tell us? A person must eliminate any negative attribute that arises, immediately and mercilessly, before it causes any damage. Indeed, negative conduct, even the first time, can become routine and habitual if it is not dealt with at once, or if it is treated forgivingly or with a sense that nothing can be done to overcome it. Hazal expressed this beautifully when they said, "One who sinned and repeated the sin - it seems to him as permissible." One must remember that each individual has the capacity and strength to change himself, to correct his ways from one extreme to the other: "Nothing stands in the way of will."


The Espionage Case (4)

Flashback: During World War I, when the German army infiltrated into Russia, Russian Jews were generally suspected of sympathizing with the German enemy, and German yeshivah students learning in Russia were accused of spying and ordered under arrest for the purposes of exile. Three of them, who studied in the yeshivah in Radin, assumed that they would not be found in such a far-away town. But one day a young, unemployed tanner came to Radin and stayed there for a short while. Once he followed a group of students as they took a walk and, when they weren't looking, he secretly stuck a note in the pocket of Efrayim, one of the three German students.

In the dark of night, when the residents of Radin slept deeply and quietly, policemen from the nearby town of Lida came to Radin, led by the chief inspector of Vilna, the regional capital. They surrounded the home of Rabbi Leib, the brother-in-law of the great ssadik, the Hafess Hayyim zs"l, and proceeded to bang noisily on the front door. Their knocking and shouting could be heard from afar: "Open up - in the name of the law!"

Rabbi Leib opened the door, carrying a portable gas lamp. The authorities brazenly pushed him away and entered inside, knowing exactly where they were headed. Efrayim Leboviss, who woke up in terror, looked in wonder at the inspector that went towards the chair near his bed. He took the boy's pants from the back of the chair and removed a folded piece of paper from the pocket. He opened the page and to the light of lamp he saw the sketches of the fortress of Kovna, which blocked the German invaders from the path to the inner regions of the country. The sketch was precise, noting especially the weaker points in the fortress through which the blockade could be breached.

"Get up!" he shouted at the terrorized youngster. "Come with us!" The boy was barely allowed to wash his hands three times, in alternating fashion, from the bowl near his bed. The inspector ordered him to dress himself and the shouted, "Place your hands forward!" The metal of the chains shone in the light of the lamp and the clanking reverberated throughout the house. Rabbi Leib stepped forward, his face pale and his body trembling: "My dear officer, this is a terrible mistake! I can vouch for this boy, that he did not do anything wrong!"

The officer's eyes gazed at him angrily and piercingly: "You are vouching for a dangerous spy - you can join him if you'd like!" The barrel of a gun was shoved into Efrayim's back. "Come - and don't you dare try to escape! We will hesitate not a moment to shoot!"

to be continued.


"He called to Mosheh." This is the opening pasuk of Sefer Vayikra, which we begin reading this Shabbat. Curiously, the last letter in the first word - the "alef" - is traditionally written smaller in the Torah scroll. So much ink has been spilt on account of this tiny letter, in an attempt throughout the ages to uncover its deeper meaning and secrets. We will discuss here the explanation offered by the Keli Yakar zs"l, and derive the eternal lessons from the eternal Torah.

We begin with the comments of the Midrash on our parashah: "Wherein lies the difference between gentile and Jewish prophets? The Almighty reveals Himself to the gentile prophets only with half a speech, as it says, 'God chanced upon ['vayikar'] Bilam.' To Jewish prophets, by contrast, He reveals Himself with a complete speech, as is says, 'He called ['Vayikra'] to Mosheh.'" Meaning, the expression used in reference to Bilam - "vayikar" - is associated with the word "mikreh," chance. Bilam was, after all, the lowest of men, the symbol of all negative traits (Avot 5:19), corruption and abomination (Sanhedrin 105b). Of and within himself, he was unworthy of prophecy. He was as far from prophecy as east is from west. Only by chance, as it were, was he selected to receive the prophetic Word of God, like a communication device which itself is nothing without the information it transmits. Jewish prophets, by contrast, elevated and purified themselves and their characters, as the Rambam writes (Hilchot De'ot, beginning of chapter 7): "Prophecy comes upon only a scholar who is great in wisdom, strong in character, whose inclination does not overpower him regarding anything in the world, but who instead always overpowers his inclination, and who is of broad and very correct intelligence. and he continues to be sanctified and separates himself from the ways of the commoners who walk in the darkness of the time. and his mind is always turned upward, connected with the Heavenly Throne - immediately, the sacred spirit rests upon him." If so, then prophecy does not come upon Jewish prophets "by chance." Rather, it comes in a manner similar to "He called to Mosheh," after his having elevated himself to merit prophecy and beholding the words of the sacred Shechinah! Now here comes the "hiddush" of the Keli Yakar. The letter "alef" - the last letter of the word "vayikra" - is written small to teach us that it is, in one sense, not written at all. It is as if even Mosheh's prophecy had a certain aspect of "vayikar." How frightening! How could this possibly be?

Was there anyone in the world more deserving of prophecy than Mosheh Rabbenu? The answer is that although, undoubtedly, there was no one more deserving than he, even the one most deserving of prophecy receives it only as a special gift on behalf of the generation. Only in his capacity as leader of the generation does one merit the privilege of prophecy!

In fact, this is made clear by the Gemara (Berachot 32a) in its comments regarding the sin of the golden calf. Hashem told Mosheh after the sin, "Go down!" which the Gemara interprets as meaning, "Go down from your position of greatness! Did I grant you greatness for any purpose other than Yisrael? Now that Yisrael have sinned, what do I need you for?" Hazal here teach us that even Mosheh Rabbeun earned his exalted stature as leader only as a gift from above. This gift is alluded to by the word "vayikar." A special gift is granted to the leader of the generation, a special bestowal from the Heavens is given to him to lead the community, the sons of the Almighty. This is what is meant by the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 11:8): "Just as this bird does not fly without wings, so are Yisrael unable to do anything without their elders." The ability to "fly," to look and soar to great distances - this power was given to the elders and leaders of the generation. This is the concept of "da'at Torah," about which is said, "Whoever consults with the elders does not fail" (Tanhuma Shemot 29). Our generation, orphans the children of orphans, have merited the light of the great pillar of Torah and halachah, the treasure of knowledge, our guiding light and teacher, the Rishon Lessiyon Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, may he merit long life in good health and vision. No less than his being the pillar of Torah from whom scholars derive wisdom and good counsel, more importantly, he is the glory of the generation and its leader. Let us walk in his light, and follow him until the coming of the redeemer!

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