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I have an issue over which I would like to shout and yell, but I will restrain myself and couch the idea in a thought related to our parashah. Indeed, this is how it should be: the Torah is a living Torah, and our sages taught us to "live with the parashah," to find everything within it.
In our parashah we read of Yaakov's wrestle with Samael, the Satan, Esav's heavenly angel. We cannot truly comprehend the greatness of Yaakov Avinu, described by Hazal as "behir ha'avot" - the "choicest" of our patriarchs. Nor do we understand how a human being can overpower an angel. In fact, the prophet Daniel describes how he was "drained of strength" upon seeing an angel (Daniel 10). Certainly, then, wrestling with an angel should leave one powerless. But, as we said, we simply do not and cannot comprehend Yaakov Avinu or angels. If so, then why is this written? It comes to instruct us according to our own terms, as our sages have taught us.
So let's see what our rabbis have taught us. Rabbenu Don Yis'hak Abarbanel zs"l writes that the Satan tried to find Yaakov's Achilles' heel. Hazal say (Berachot 61a) that the yesser hara resembles a fly, which locates every wound and is attracted to every bit of dirt. The angel tried, but to no avail. Finally, he dislodged Yaakov's hip, alluding to his having overpowered Yaakov's offspring. There are always Jews who stumble, who fall into the trap of Esav's angel during those periods when Benei Yisrael found themselves under Esav's rule. Soon, however, the sun of redemption will shine through - "Yaakov came complete" - all Yisrael will be redeemed and their ills will be perfected.
We can only wonder: didn't the Satan try to inflict a wound in Yaakov himself, and didn't he dislodge Yaakov's own hip? As the Torah relates, Yaakov limped after this confrontation. How can we claim that the angel took hold of only some of Yaakov's descendants?
We must answer - and I must stress that I do not refer to Yaakov himself, Heaven forbid, but rather to the message for us extracted from this parashah - that if there is a "wound" in the offspring, the root of the problem is found already in the ancestors. They themselves already "limped," they were not perfect.
I read an incident recorded in some books about a person who complained to the Rav of Brisk zs"l that one of his children didn't display proper kind feelings regarding a certain matter. The Rav emphatically exclaimed, "This is a lie! You are slandering!"
He was asked, "How does the rav know this with such certainty? Maybe what the man says is true?"
He answered, "It cannot be, because the father was perfect with regard to hesed, with no limit!"
If the father was absolutely perfect, then the imprint is left upon his children.
This casts a very weighty burden of responsibility upon the shoulders of us parents, to see to it that our children follow the straight path, the ways of our forefathers, that they are infused with faith and the teachings of our heritage, and receive a proper Torah education. If not, then every deviation will be charged against us and point to our own deficiency.
Parents, send your children to Torah education, afford them the opportunity to learn of our ancestral heritage and the pure faith of our patriarchs. Continue weaving the golden chain. If your children are perfect, then they will prove your own greatness and all generations will derive much nahat from them and plead on your behalf.
Wind occurs when two air masses of different pressures meet. Air then flows from the high pressure to the low pressure until an equilibrium is achieved. The greater the discrepancy between the two pressures, the faster the air will flow. Winds are affected by the earth's temperature. Air flow is also affected by other natural factors and are thus subject to change. The direct impact of winds on the environment is most clearly manifest in the phenomenon of drifts, particularly in desert regions, where winds can cause sandstorms. The effects of wind also make themselves strongly felt on large bodies of water, where wind causes waves and storms. Some types of winds can be predicted in advance and have been given special names. There are some winds that bring rain, effectively bringing blessing to the world. Others make life more difficult for the world's creatures, such the hot, dry sirocco wind that rises from Africa northward to Europe. This wind surfaces when the front edge of a storm moving eastward draws air northward from the hot, interior regions of the Sahara Desert. This strong wind which produces fierce gusts is laden with tiny, red grains of sand. This sand is sometimes dragged across the Mediterranean Sea and descends as "red rain" from the sky. The sirocco wind is not a favorite among those who experience it. Even in Eres Yisrael, where the wind is referred to as "hamsin," we won't find anyone who enjoys it. By contrast, the French mistral wind is a cold wind that brings destruction in its wake, killing fruits and vegetables with frost.
The most basic quality of wind is that it is temporary. At one moment it blows, uproots and overturns, and in the next instant it is calm, only to then disappear entirely. The distinction between something fleeting, such as wind, and that which is permanent is a critically important one in the lives of people in general and of Jews in particular. A person who realizes that many things come and go knows to enjoy the present and invest his efforts in misvot, which are of eternal value. He will also manage to accept pain and discomfort patiently. One need not possess prophetic "ru'ah" (spirit, or wind) to see the need for closeness with the Creator. The only "ru'ah" required is "nahat ru'ah" - pleasing the Al-mighty.
A Match Made in Heaven (2)
Flashback: In the outskirts of the city of Kobrin lived an elderly widower who made a living from the production of honey. When he died, he left a son, Tuvia, and he instructed him just prior to his death regarding the msvah of sedakah. He told him that he used to give one-tenth of his profit to charity, bringing the money to the rabbi of nearby Pinsk to distribute to the poor.
In the city of Pinsk there was a Jewish carpenter named Reb Yaakov. He was a straight, honest and upright man, who feared Hashem and avoided wrongdoing. He arose early every morning to pray with the first minyan and then hurried to his work, which involved planing beams for buildings, which were built from forest wood. This was hard labor which brought him little money. He barely managed to support himself and his wife, and he wondered what would happen when his family grew.
But, as Ben Sira wrote, "Do not feel distress over tomorrow's troubles, for you do not know what a day will bring - perhaps there will be no tomorrow, and he will have thus felt distress over a world that was never his" (Sanhedrin 100b). Once Reb Yaakov was working on a new building when a heavy beam fell on his back. He lay in bed ill for three weeks, at which point he succumbed to his wounds and died.
Three months later, his widow gave birth to a daughter.
The baby, named Havah Devorah, was born into a life of poverty and destitution. If not for the local charity fund and soup kitchen, her house would have had no bread to eat. Even now, they had little more than that. Having no wood for fire, her mother would pile layers of rags on her to keep her warm in the wintertime. When she stopped nursing she ate only bread crumbs soaked in water. The baby acquired an immunity to these severe living conditions and survived. Three years later, however, the bitter cold overtook her mother, who fell ill with pneumonia and died. Havah Devorah was alone in the world.
At the time there lived a Jew in Pinsk named Mordechai, who, together with his wife, took upon the responsibility of becoming parents to orphan children, of whom there were many during this very difficult period. The boys were sent to Torah schools while the girls helped out in the home. When they reached bar or bat misvah, the young men would be given over as apprentices to various professionals, in order to learn a trade. The girls were sent as mothers' helpers until they reached marriageable age. At this particular time, Reb Mordechai had room for more orphans, of which, unfortunately, there was no shortage.
The nine years Havah Devorah spent in Reb Mordechai's home flew by very quickly. She was there with other tender orphans like herself, and together they were trained by the older girls in household jobs. At age twelve she was adopted by a local family where she would help the mother with her work in exchange for room, board and clothing. Havah Devorah was exceptionally good-natured and appreciative. She warmly thanked Reb Mordechai and his wife for their kindness, and she thanked as well her new family for opening their home to her. She connected well to the children with her warmth and dealt with them devotedly and lovingly. She performed all the difficult tasks in the home: drawing water from the well, collecting wood in the forest, washing clothes and hanging them in the sun to dry, cooking, and baking. The next six years, too, flew by far more quickly than expected.
When she turned eighteen years old, her host's brother came for a visit.
To be continued
"Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him"
The Gemara (Hullin 91a) states that Yaakov forgot some small boxes of items and he went back to retrieve them. Rabbenu Eliyahu Mizrahi zs"l explains that since the Torah already said, "he crossed over his belongings," the question arises as to why Yaakov returned and was thus left alone. Hazal answer that he went back to retrieve small, insignificant items (see Baba Kama 16a).
Rabbenu Bahya added an allusion to this from the words, "vayivater Yaakov levado" (Yaakov was left alone): the word "levado" should actually be read, "lekado," or "for his container," implying that he went back to retrieve a small container. Rabbenu Eliyahu Mizrahi writes the following comment regarding this allusion: "Only the Tannaim and Amoraim have the power to expound in this manner. Anyone else - even the Geonim - do not have the power to expound this way." He then notes that some have interpreted the word "levado" as related to the term, "bet habad," or oil press, thus referring to a small jug of oil. Rav Eliyahu writes regarding this view that this was a container of oil, "If it is a tradition, we will accept it."
The Maharshal explains this tradition beautifully. This jug of oil was meant to be used to pour oil onto the monument that Yaakov had erected in Bet El. It is therefore not included in "his belongings" that Yaakov had carried over the river, because this oil was not his; it belonged to Hashem, as it were. He therefore endangered his life by going back for it. In reward for his devotion in retrieving this jug of oil to fulfill his vow, his descendants were granted the miracle of Hannukah!
"Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him"
Rabbenu David Pardo zs"l, in his work, Maskil L'David, explains that since this jug of oil was intended for use in the fulfillment of Yaakov's vow, thus rendering his oil "hekdesh" (sacred property), Yaakov endangered his life for it. He was willing to go back by himself in the dark of night because he feared that others will find it and use it for mundane purposes. Since he returned for the purposes of a misvah, and "those going to perform a misvah are not harmed," he defeated the angel who attacked him. However, since he did forget a jug of sacred oil, he was temporarily wounded in his hip.
"Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him"
Rabbenu Bahya zs"l also addressed the issue as to why Yaakov returned, if the pasuk already states that he brought all his possessions over the river. He explains that these items were his children's drinking cups. He was willing to risk his life in order to ensure that his children would drink from the cups to which they had already grown accustomed!
"Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him"
The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l writes that Yaakov Avinu did not rely on the gift that he sent Esav, but rather on the camp of angels he had with him. This is what the pasuk means, "The gift passed him, and he slept that night in the camp," referring to the camp of angels. However, when he brought his family and belongings across the river, the angels went across, as well. Then, when he returned, he was truly "left alone," without the protective angels, and he was attacked.
"Yaakov was left alone, and a man wrestled with him"
Rabbenu Yis'hak Aramah zs"l, in his work, Akedat Yis'hak (26), explains this event as a sign to Yaakov's descendants. So long as a person involves himself with the necessary needs of his family, such as Yaakov, who devotedly carried his family and belongings across the river, there can be no claims against him. If, however, he begins dealing with "small containers," non-essential items, then Esav's angel confronts him.
Rabbenu David Ben Zimra zs"l
The Radbaz zs"l was among the exiles from Spain. He disseminated Torah in Egypt for forty years and had the merit of a revelation of Eliyahu Hanavi. In his later years he emigrated to Sefat, where the Bet Yossef zs"l appointed him as religious leader. He passed away there in Sefat, where he is buried, at the age of 110 years old.
The Radbaz fought ardently on behalf of Torah observance. When he was asked about a certain individual who renovated the Bet Kenesset and wanted to inscribe his family emblem - a lion wearing a crown on its head - on top of the aron kodesh, the Radbaz vehemently forbade such an inscription. He wrote, "If I were there, I would have devoted myself entirely for this issue."
In another instance, he was asked concerning a certain sofer who studied Kabbalah and wished to emend the Sifrei Torah based on a certain idea he saw in the Kabbalistic works. This correction entailed adding a letter to a certain word. When the Radbaz sharply condemned this plan, the sofer threatened him. Not a year passed until he was blinded as punishment.
The Radbaz writes regarding this incident: "I paid no attention to his words, for I did what I did not for my honor or the honor of my family, but in order to avoid the sprouting of disputes in Yisrael and so that our Torah does not become like two Torot, and that the gentiles do not say that we are changing the Torah and adding letters as we wish. I therefore went personally to the scribe's home, found there three revised sefarim, and I corrected them, restoring the Torah's glory to its original state. I decreed upon him that he may not emend the Torah based on midrash!"
It has likewise been written about him that he was "full of wisdom, knowledge and fear of Hashem. His face was like the face of a lion - when a lion roars, who does not fear?! Before him noblemen and dignitaries kneel and scholars and sages bow. With him there was no unfairness, prejudice or acceptance of bribes" (from the introduction to Rav Y. Akrish's work on Shir Hashirim). May his merit protect us and all of Yisrael.
A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Misvah of Lighting Hannukah Candles
One who, as a result of extenuating circumstances, failed to light Hannukah candles one night, does not have the opportunity to make it up; he cannot add more candles the next night. He rather lights the same number of candles as everyone else lights that night.
One who cannot afford oil for all eight days of Hannukah, but only for one night, should light a candle on the first night. He should not divide the oil into smaller portions in order to light every night, for one does not fulfill his obligation if he lights with an amount of oil that cannot burn for a half-hour. If he does so, his berachah may very well constitute a "berachah levatalah" (a wasted berachah).
The Place for Lighting Hannukah Candles
The misvah is to place the Hannukah candles outside near the doorway to the house in order to publicize the miracle. There is a misvah to place them to the left of one entering the house, in order that the mezuzah be to his right and the candles to his left, such that one entering or leaving the house is surrounded by misvot. This is especially meaningful when the individual wears sisit, in which case we may apply the pasuk, "The triple thread will not soon tear." If, however, one places the candles on the right, he has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation. If there is no mezuzah on the door (such as if that doorway does not require a mezuzah, or if the mezuzot were taken down to be checked), then one places the Hannukah candles to the right. If one places the candles in the doorway, underneath the framehead, then he should place them on the left side of the doorway.
If there is a courtyard in front of the house, then one places the Hannukah candles in the entranceway to the courtyard, rather than the doorway to the house. If one lives in a home without any doorway to the public domain, he should place the Hannukah candles near a window facing the public domain or in the opening to his balcony that faces the public domain. The same applies to someone who lives in an apartment building whose occupants live in individual residences but share a staircase: it is preferable for them to light near a window or balcony facing the public domain then in the entrance to the stairwell. If, however, one does not have a window or balcony facing the public domain, or if he lives on a high floor such that his windows are twenty cubits or more higher than the public domain, he should place the candles by the entranceway to the apartment. Others, however, have the practice of lighting the candles in the entrance to the stairwell, rather than in front of the apartment or near a window.
Am Yisrael currently finds itself in a difficult period, perhaps among the most difficult periods in its history. Danger has always loomed over our nation. At times there was spiritual danger, such as the threat of the Sadducees during the time of the second Mikdash, the heretics towards the end of that period, the philosophers in the Middle Ages and the enlightenment in the modern era. At other times, we faced physical danger, such as during the time of the destruction and the great revolt, the pogroms and riots. Our generation, however, is unique in that we face both dangers. We see before us widespread assimilation and intermarriage at a frightening rate, and detachment from our heritage among Jews living in Israel, where they face grave physical danger as well. When our enemies are equipped with missiles capable of spanning our entire country, approaching nuclear capability, how can we not fear, just as Yaakov Avinu feared Esav who marched towards him with four hundred men, prepared to kill and destroy?
But Yaakov knew the secret: Esav doesn't kill, sins kill. As Hazal explain, he feared lest his sins caused him to deserve defeat. Perhaps Esav will be granted permission to execute his plan, Heaven forbid! We must fear both sin and its punishment!
Anyone concerned about his fate and that of his family as well as the five million Jews in Israel, should ensure to add misvot to the scales so that they tip in our favor. This is our true defense, and there none other!
"Kiruv rehokim," bringing back Jews who have strayed, is an invaluable misvah. There is no one dearer to the Al-mighty than one who brings merit upon the public. However, this applies only to positive guidance and influence with warmth and genuine interest. Conflict and arguments - one must keep his distance from them, and for two reasons. Arguing causes each side to reinforce his view. Nobody likes conceding defeat. The Rambam therefore writes (Avot 2:14) that one mustn't engage in theological disputation with heretics, because there is no hope of affecting them in that way. And secondly, one who works with dirt becomes dirty; we do not tell a person, "Sin in order to bring merit to your fellow." The Midrash (Kohellet Rabbah 1:25) tells that Rabbi Yehudah Ben Nakusah once engaged in disputation with heretics. They would pose him with challenges and he would respond; they would bring him more questions, and he would answer them. Finally, he said to them, "Look, there is no end to your questions. Let's make an agreement that the winner hits the opponent's head with a hammer." They agreed, and with every successful response to their questions he hit them on their heads until they were full of wounds. Upon his triumphant return, his students said to him, "Rabbi, Hashem assisted you and you won!" But he replied, "Go pray on my behalf, for the jug that was filled with jewels and precious stones is now filled with coals." As we said, one must distance himself from filth!
Nevertheless, there are certain, unique, pure souls who earn special divine assistance such that they are not harmed by confrontation. These include Shelomo and the Rambam. But who can compare himself to them? Who would dare bring himself into a place of danger?
One of our sages earned Hashem's assistance and cogently represented our view in the courtyard of the Roman emperor. He even defeated the sixty wise men of Athens (Bechorot 8b). This is the great Tanna, Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Hananyah.
During the unbearably difficult period of the destruction and failed Bar Kochba revolt, when the authorities were unabashed in their hatred and the oppressors incited and slandered, Rabbi Hananyah brilliantly exposed their foolishness and foiled their plot.
When he took fatally ill, the sages came to him frightened and shaken: who will help us now? Who will oppose our enemies, who will refute the claims of the so-called wise men, who are wise only in their ability to incite cruelty?
He answered them with a pasuk from this week's parashah: "He [Esav] said [to Yaakov], let us travel and go, and I will accompany you" (Hagigah 5b).
What depth and profundity lies within this ever so brief response! Rabbi Yehoshua here told the rabbis that the power of Esav, the power of the enemy gentiles and the heretics, comes from the heaven. They will always accompany us, they will try to devour us, but Hashem places a limit before them. Commenting on the word, "le'negdecha" on this pasuk, Rashi explains, "equally," with complete balance. It is impossible for there to a wicked ruler in the world such as Nimrod unless there is an Avraham Avinu opposite him to balance him. There cannot be an evil prophet like Bilam unless there is Moshe Rabbenu on the other end. Yirmiyahu Hanavi opposite Plato, Shimon Hasadik opposite Aristotle, and so on, in every generation. When the enlightenment began drawing masses under its wings, Providence established on the other end the Mussar movement, Hassidut, the flowering of yeshivot and Torah centers. Some have homiletically interpreted in this vein the pasuk, "who makes snow like wool." Meaning, the amount of cold Hashem generates corresponds to the ability to keep warm. Attacks are in proportion to the ability for defense. These are the wonders of Hashem's Providence!
This means that if the street is poisoned, if permissiveness runs rampant, if hatred for religion has turned into a religion unto itself, and violence has become the nationwide plague, then there must be a remedy: "The Al-mighty said, I created a yesser hara, and I created Torah as its antidote" (Kiddushin 30b). If the yesser hara has been let loose, then the Torah, too, has widened its boundaries. Everyone can listen to the many Torah classes offered, to see the shiurim broadcast by satellite, to hear Torah tapes, etc. Everyone can, and everyone must, in order to defend oneself, protect oneself, and strengthen oneself.
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
The Halachot of Leil Shabbat
Hazal instituted that after Arbit on Leil Shabbat, the hazzan recites "Magen Avot," the paragraph briefly summarizing the Shabbat Amidah prayer. They did so to enable those who arrived late to the Bet Kenesset to finish their tefilah by the time everyone left. Since Batei Kenesset in those days were situated out in the fields, Hazal did not want people leaving the Bet Kenesset alone in the dark. They prohibited traveling alone on Wednesday nights and Leil Shabbat, since the "mazikin" (harmful spiritual forces) surface during those times (Pesahim 112b). Although these mazikin no longer have the power to bring about harm in settled areas, they do have power in the open roads (Hulin 105b). Hazal were therefore concerned about people who would leave the Bet Kenesset alone at night. Although nowadays Batei Kenesset are located within the residential areas, the original institution remains in force. Since this berachah was established only in Batei Kenesset, those praying privately should not recite it. Furthermore, it was established only for Leil Shabbat, because people would arrive late in the Bet Kenesset due to the many preparations required before the onset on Shabbat. On Yom Tov, however, preparing food is permitted even after nightfall, so this problem did not arise. Thus, we do not recite Magen Avot on Leil Yom Tov unless it falls on Friday night.
The Shulhan Aruch (268:12) explicitly rules that one may not speak at all during the recitation of both Vayechulu and Magen Avot. The Sefer Hahasidim (58) writes that one is liable for harsh punishment for speaking during these parts of tefilah. All the more so, then, is one deserving of severe punishment if he talks during the repetition of the Amidah, as the Shulhan Aruch writes (124:7). One may not even speak words of Torah during the repetition. He must rather listen attentively, realizing that the hazzan's repetition is immensely beneficial to his individual tefilah, as well, as it invokes the merit of the entire congregation.
Magen Avot is recited only in Batei Kenesset, not in ad hoc minyanim arranged in other locations. Nevertheless, the custom in Yerushalayim is to recite it everywhere, due to the special kedushah of the city.
The hazzan should not bow at all during the recitation of Magen Avot, as it was not instituted as an actual Amidah prayer. A hazzan who does so should not be chastised, but he should be informed afterwards that it is proper not to bow.
On Shabbat Shuvah, the hazzan recites "ha'Melech hakadosh" in place of "ha'Kel hakadosh." If he forgets to make this change, then if he remembers before reciting Hashem's Name in the concluding berachah he goes back and corrects his mistake. Otherwise, he need not repeat the berachah, since we do not consider this berachah as an actual Amidah prayer.
Yosef Ben Geraz and Nizha Bat Oro
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