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Which Messengers to Send?
"It is a time of hardship for Yaacov, Ssiva Hashem leyaakov sevivav Ssarav" (Micha 1; 17). Enemies surround us and our eyes look up to Hashem to save us, protect us, spread over us Succat Shalom (the canopy of peace), and may He subdue our enemies!
In what merit do we ask for all this? Many say that our merit is the Missvah of settling the Land of Israel and reviving its earth. It is a great merit, but we learn from our father Jacob that he did not rely solely on that merit.
Our Rabbi the Mabit, zassal, wrote that Jacob had at least two sets of angels he could have used to send to his brother. One is the merit of learning Torah and the Missvot that he did, as we learn in Pirkei Avot (4; 11) that he who fulfils a missva attains an angel who pleads on his behalf. From his many merits, Jacob had many angels that would be "on his side". He could also have used the angels of the Land of Israel, who came toward him at "Mahanayim". Jacob, as the future heir of the Land of Israel could certainly have used the angels that represented the Land!
Which of the above angels did Jacob send to Esau? Says the Mabit, zassal: the passage says that Jacob sent angels "from in front of him". Jacob sent those that came from his merits and not the angels of the Land of Israel. We must learn from our forefather Jacob that the protection does not come only from living in the Land of Israel. Ridding ourselves of enemies is possible through the Missvot and good deeds we have performed. These provide additional merit, protection and a shield through which Hashem will spread his protection over us, the Jewish people, and over Jerusalem.
To Hashem the Redemption - You Broke the Teeth of the Evil
Jacob, our father, comes back from Haran, from twenty years of exile in the house of his father-in-law, Laban, a cheat, conniving, a source of impurity, and whose house contained idols. He wished to harm Jacob and his house, as the Torah testifies "Arami oved avi" (Parshat Ki Tavo). Laban wished to overturn everything, but Jacob was not harmed at all. He says: "I dwelled with Laban but observed the 613 Missvot and did not learn from his evil deeds" (Rashi).
Jacob fled from Laban and Laban pursued him in order to catch him. Hashem appeared to Laban and warned him to be careful not to speak to Jacob "from good to bad". Not only is Laban warned not to harm Jacob, but he is also not allowed to use his deceit to speak to Jacob with a smooth tongue full of flattery and hypocrisy, since the good of the evil is bad for the righteous. Evil people smile, and behave pleasantly, as if they like you. A man may fall into their net. To smile back, to get close - and fall into the trap. He may then adopt false positions, agree to evil deeds, and accept injustice. No! One must completely disconnect oneself from evil. Jacob established a mound of separation that would separate him from Laban forever.
Jacob was saved from Laban but still had to face Esau. He prepared himself with a prayer, a present, and preparation for war. However, on the eve of this showdown, just before the critical meeting with Esau, he had another confrontation! When he was left alone on the other side of the river, Samael - Esau's "minister" in heaven appears - and fights with him. The fight was hard and prolonged. The confrontation was so intense that the dust rose "until the divine throne". A confrontation of man against angel, good against evil, white against black, a unproductive struggle with no chance of success. The evil can't control the good, cannot control Jacob. Nevertheless, something happened there! When the angel saw that he could not prevail, he touched Jacob's thigh, which became dislocated. No major injury, no break or crack, just a sprain. Jacob limped, but when the sun came up his limp went away.
The deeds of the fathers are a sign for the children. There is a hint here for each and every Jew! Each of us has a Jewish brain and a Jewish heart. We have the character of the Jew - reserved, merciful and benevolent. There is also the Jewish neshama - spirit - in each of us. By nature we are "believers, sons of believers" and the Jewish soul throbbing in us pure and glowing will never be completely extinguished. Because of it we know what is the real truth that we aspire to, and wish to be part of it!
However, even with a willing heart, ecstatic emotion, and good character - those are not enough! We must follow the right path of Torah and Missvot! We need "healthy legs" that will take us on the path going up to the path of Hashem! Alas, Esau has control over the legs. Temporary control, not total, and not irreversible: but his control can cause us to limp, to go slowly, and without enthusiasm.
Indeed, Esau managed to cause us to negate some or other practical Missvot. He caused us to be negligent in attending Torah classes, to pray with the ssibur, to do Missvot. Let us be strong, push him away, and let us rise to the light of the sun and belief that will cure us from the limping.
Jacob was saved from the minister of Esau, but he still had the test of the meeting with Esau himself! Esau chose a sly approach. He stretched out his hand to shake Jacob's hand, hugged Jacob, and kissed him. The word "kissed" in the Torah has a dot above each of the letters. This indicates that it was not a kiss, but a bite. It was an assault in the guise of a kiss! Then it says that they cried! What did they cry about? Rabbeinu Yonatan explains that Esau cried over his teeth that broke, and Jacob that his neck turned hard like marble.
Let us beware of the hugging and kissing of evil people! From a smile and flattery it changes to a way to stick their teeth in our neck. Encountering Esau is not what we need. His culture is not ours, his manners are not ours. Let us let him go on his way and leave us alone!
The nineteenth of Kislev is the memorial day of the great, revered Gaon Rabbi Hai Taib "did not die", zassal, author of the "Helev Hitin", who passed away in Tunis in the year 5596.
It is told that once there was a year of famine. The people called for prayer and pleaded with Hashem to send rain, but their prayers were not answered. They decided to have a public fast day, thinking that perhaps Hashem will show mercy. Rabbi Hai was absorbed in his learning and knew nothing about all this. In the morning, he asked his wife to prepare him a cup of coffee. She said: "But they declared this day a day of fasting!" He asked: "Fasting for what?" His wife answered: "Because there is no rain". He said: "I did not know, but even so I would like you to make me a cup of coffee. A good Jewish wife does as her husband wishes." So she did as he asked. In the meantime Rabbi Hai went out of his house, lifted his eyes to the sky and said: "Ribono shel Olam, your children need rain! Please don't keep it from them." Immediately, the skies became cloudy, and heavy rain began to fall. He went back to his room to drink his coffee. His wife said to him: "What have you done? These strong rains will knock down houses and cause a catastrophe"! He got up and went out again, and said: "Ribono shel Olam, please bring down rain of good will, blessing and prosperity!" The rain became gentle, and the fast was cancelled.
Rabbi Hai went back to drink the coffee. Meanwhile, his gentile neighbor hired a wagon and traveled to the owner of his apartment, as it was a rented apartment. He announced that he was leaving the apartment right away. The landlord asked: "why"? He told the story how his neighbor prayed and was answered immediately, adding: "Who wants to live next to a lion! If he will get angry tomorrow he will make me into a pile of bones!" The landlord took him to Rabbi Hai who promised him that he would not harm him if he does not harm the Jews.
Your Name is Jacob, Your Name Will No Longer be Jacob, Rather Israel Will be Your Name:
1) It seems that there is a contradiction here. First, Hashem states that his name is Jacob, and then says that his name will not be Jacob! Rabbi Obadiah Seforno explained that Yaacov is from the word "akev" - heel - which is the end of the body. Yaacov was informed that the Jewish nation would exist forever; He alone will remain when Mashiach comes. When that happens, his name will no longer be Jacob, rather Israel - a minister, and important person. Until then the Jewish people will enjoy some good times but nothing like the time of the Messiah.
2) Rabbeinu Bachye, zassal, quoted the words of one of the great sages of Seville, who explain that Jacob indicates the heel - the lowest place in the human body. The word "Israel" indicates something great and important, and its letters form the phrase "li rosh" - meaning "to me the head". Therefore the name Jacob was not erased completely, but continued together with the name Israel. Man should be like a ladder, his feet on the ground and his head reaching the sky. Combining the two names of Jacob, we combine the spiritual and physical to effect one entity of Hashem's worship and to reach perfection.
3) The words "Your name is Yaacov" seem redundant. Here Hashem told him that the name Jacob would not be erased, rather, the name Israel will be added to it. Why? The revered Alsheich, zassal, explained, that the name Jacob indicates trickery and deceit and refers to how Jacob attained the rights of the firstborn and the blessings of Isaac. The name Israel indicates honesty and decency. Had the name Jacob been erased, one would think that now the time for trickery is over and now it is time for honesty. Therefore Hashem ordered that both names remain to tell us that even what seems to have been deceit and trickery was in effect truth and justice. Jacob was the one who deserved to receive the blessings!
4) Our Rabbi the Siftei Cohen, zassal, wrote that the principal name "Israel" is for the world-to-come, when the name of Hashem will be in full. That is what the passage says "ki im Yisrael" - rather Israel "yihye shimcha veyikare" - the ends of the words amount to 26 like the name of Hashem. Then his name will be Israel.
According to the rulings of Maran the Rishon Lession Rabbi Obadiah Yosef Shlita
Harav Hagaon Harav David Yosef
· · Even when someone is praying alone he should conclude his prayer by saying "veimru amen" - and say amen, as he is saying it to the angels that are watching over him. One should not say "Oseh Shalom" while taking the three steps backwards, but rather when he finishes doing so.
· The same applies to Kaddish. There too one should take three steps backwards while bending, then turn to the right and say "Oseh shalom bimromav" etc. and not say it while taking the three steps backwards.
· It is proper to take the three steps backwards at the end of every Kaddish that concludes with "Oseh shalom bimromav" and not only in Kaddish with "titkabel" which is recited after the Repetition of the cantor. This applies also to those who say Kaddish "al Yisrael", or Kaddish "Yehe shelama".
· When a Talmid Hacham is praying slowly, and the Ssibur are waiting to start the Repetition (of the Amidah) until he finishes, and therefore he cannot step back in the proper way, some allow him to take the steps between one benediction and the following one even before he has finished his silent prayer. It is better that he should stop and make a sign with his hand that the congregation should proceed, and then continue with his prayer. If he already concluded the benedictions and reached "Elokai nessor", he may take the three steps there and then.
· It is customary to say a prayer for the building of the Bet Hamikdash after "Oseh shalom". The Ashkenazim say "sheyibane" - it should be built - and the Sephardim say "shetivne" - you shall build.
· When saying "Oseh Shalom" after having taken the three steps, he must still keep his feet together as in prayer. Once he has finished "Oseh Shalom", he may separate them. Nevertheless, he may not return to the place he had been standing in, because that would be like a dog going back to his vomit. Rather, he should wait to return the three steps until the cantor reaches Kedushah, or at least until he starts the Repetition: only then he should return to the place he was standing.
· One must be stringent to stand where the three paces ended, and not to go somewhere else. Also, one should not sit. If someone is weak and it is taking a long time for the Repetition to begin, he may sit in the meantime. But when it is time for Kedushah he should be stringent, to go back to where he was praying and to say Kedushah.
When we want to check how we should conduct ourselves in issues of Kashrut, we should compare it to someone offering us something to eat where there is a very tiny doubt that perhaps there is something in this food that can damage the health of the person who will eat it, and that he who eats it may come down with a certain disease. In such a situation, it is obvious that no sensible person would even taste this food. Rightly so, for the Torah taught us that we should be careful with our health. Why should Kashrut be any different? Why do people always find reasons to be lenient when eating things that may possibly be prohibited and contaminate the heart. People say: "But Rabbi X is signed on the product" and our Sages said that "one witness is sufficient for issues of prohibition". All this is decided without knowing if indeed the Rabbi in question knows and understands the practical side of Kashrut as well as the theory and learning. Why is it that regarding Kashrut issues someone might say that he relies on the Rabbi and if there is a problem with the product it is the Rabbi's problem, whereas in health issues a person would not rely on the Ministry of Health and if he had any doubts would throw out the questionable product?
What are we relating to here? We are witnessing a regretful situation in which anyone selling meat claims that his meat has the Kashrut of "Halak Bet Yosef"; however, closer inquiry reveals that this is not true. Therefore, all those who buy meat should personally check that the products have the official sign of the "Badatz Bet Yosef": they are the only guarantee that the meat is indeed Kosher according to the rulings of our master the Bet Yosef.
Let us conclude with the famous story about a knowledgeable Jew who entered a butcher's shop to buy meat. The walls were full of pictures of the great Rabbis of the generation. However, a Kashrut certificate was not in evidence. When he asked if the place is Kosher, the proprietor said: "Don't you see the pictures of all the Rabbis on the wall"? Answered the Jew: "If your picture was on the wall and the great Rabbis were the ones selling the meat, I would of course rely on them. But since it is merely their pictures on the wall and you are the one selling…I must have a certificate to confirm that indeed everything is Kosher!
The laws of Friday Night:
1) Our Rabbis decreed that after the "Amidah" of Friday night the Hazzan says the blessing that is a summary of the seven blessings of the night prayer. The reason for this decree was that in the time of the Talmud, the people used to pray in synagogues that were in the fields and sometimes they would come late to Shul to pray because of preparation for Shabbat. They would catch up when the Hazzan would say this prayer and not be left alone outside the city.
2) This blessing is called "Berachah me'en Sheva. Each part of it corresponds with part of the seven benedictions of Amidah of Arvit of Shabbat.
3) The decree to say this benediction only applies on Friday night. It does not apply when Yom Tov is on a weekday, as on Yom Tov they did not have to prepare everything in advance and were able to make it to Shul on time.
4) When the Hazzan is saying this benediction one must not talk, as the prayer is very important. Similarly, one should not talk when the Hazzan is saying "Vayechulu". Sefer Hasidim tells us that one Hassid saw another in a dream and his face was green. When he asked him why he said that it is because he spoke during vayechulu, magen avot and Kaddish.
5) Even greater is the punishment of he who talks during the Repetition of the "Amidah", as the Shulhan Aruch warned severely (O"ch 124; 7); one should not even recite Torah during this time. The Repetition is the prayer that comes from the whole community, and is closer to be accepted than that of the individual.
6) "Me'en Sheva" is said only in a permanent Shul, not in a temporary one. Therefore, it is not said in the house of a mourner or a bridegroom. However in the Old City of Jerusalem it is said everywhere because of the Kedushah of the place that it is all like a Shul. When there is a distinct practice we do not say that "safek Berachot lehakel".
7) Our Sages did not decree bowing in any part of Me'en Sheva. If someone does do so by mistake, one should correct him quietly after the prayer so as not to embarrass him.
8) If someone forgot to say the Amidah of Arvit on Friday night, or said, by mistake, the weekday version for, and then he heard the blessing "Me'en Sheva" from the cantor from beginning to end, having the intention to use that as his Amidah, and also the Hazzan had in mind that the listeners should fulfill their obligation through his prayer - he fulfilled his obligation. Nevertheless, one should not rely on this as first choice: rather in this case he should repeat the Amidah of Arvit. Nevertheless, if it was Rosh Hodesh, and he forgot to say Yaaleh veyavo in Minhah, and remembered on Friday night or after Barchu of Arvit of Shabbat even if outside it is still day, in this case one can only pray a second time Arvit as a voluntary prayer as he still can't say Yaaleh veyavo as Rosh Hodesh is over. Since one should not say a voluntary Amidah on the Sabbath, he should listen to the "Meen Sheva" and that will be enough.
9) The Hazzan who forgot to pray Mincha on Friday afternoon, or Rosh Chodesh was on Friday and he forgot to say Ya'aleh veyavo in Minhah, he should pray Arvit twice, as he, being the Hazzan, can rely on the "Meen Sheva" as his second prayer.
10) If someone made a mistake in the prayers of Sabbath, and when he finished "Ata kadosh" he started "Ata honen", he finished the blessing he started, and then goes back to the "Ata Kidashta" for Friday night, "Yismah Moshe" for Shaharit, or "Ata ehad" for Minhah. Even if by mistake he said a few benedictions for weekdays, he should finish the blessing he is at, and go back to say the benediction for the Sabbath. If one notices in Mussaf that he is saying the benedictions of weekdays, he must stop right away and go to "Tikanta Shabbat".
11) If someone made a mistake and said the "Yismah Moshe" in the Amidah of Arvit instead of Shaharit, he does not have to repeat it, as all of the blessings for Sabbath discuss the sanctity of the Sabbath. Nevertheless our Sages arranged to say "Ata kidashta" Friday night because that was when the creation of the sky and earth was concluded, and they said "Yismah Moshe" should be recited in the morning, because the Torah was given to Moses on Sabbath morning.
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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