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Our Feelings Should Not Become Fossilized
The nation was divided this past week, divided between mourning and comfort, between troubles and hope for salvation. This week we begin the seven weeks of comfort, which lead to the new year, that should come upon us well. There is a strong connection between mourning and joy, as the Gemara says, "Whoever mourns over Jerusalem will be worthy of seeing its joy. Whoever does not mourn over Jerusalem, does not see its joy, as it says 'Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be gald with her, all you who love her. Rejoice for joy with her all those who mourn for her' (Yeshayah 66:10, Ta'anit 30b). Thus the hachamim understood that even though the resurrection will occur after the redemption, those who mourned over Jerusalem in their lives will be resurrected before the redemption, so they will be able to see her joy.
But we should pay particular attention to the word "see" in the statement of the hachamim. Why is seeing important here? It should have said, will become worthy of being present in her joy. Further, let us imagine that there was a Jew who did not mourn (between us, does merely sitting on the ground and reciting "Eichah" qualify as mourning?), and Messiah comes today or tomorrow. Will he not see the redemption? Will he not be worthy of its joy?
I heard a statement from one of the older students of one of the leading mashgihim of the generation, the great Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, shlit"a. The fact is, I recall this statement some forty years later. A young scholar was returning home after shaharit. The bag with his talit and tefillin were in one hand, and a few groceries were in the other. He went briefly to the mailbox to pick up the morning newspaper, and he entered his house with a loud, "good morning". The table was set with a fine breakfast, and he went to wash his hands. He sat at the table with an omelet before him, the salad to his right, and the paper to his left. He had a slice of bread in his one hand and a fork in the other. His eyes scanned the newspaper, so as not to waste time. A person has to know what is going on in the world, first and foremost the list of recent engagements. Then he turned to the left column. Mosheh, Yehudah's father in law, had died. What a tragedy. He took a bite of the slice of bread. Some Cohen who he didn't know had also died. A bite of omelet. The headline: two soldiers had been killed. Blessed is the True Judge. A spoon of salad. Those auto accidents. They don't seem to end. Another sip. "He who eats and does not drink, it is as if he had eaten blood" (Shabbat 41a). What else is new? There are three hundred thousand unemployed. Poor folks. A bite of the bread. The Minister of Welfare declares, the Ministry of Finance plans, the Ministry of Employment explains, and the omelet is getting cold. An infant was found dead. How terrifying. Time to wash before birkat hamazon.
The elder mashgiah said that everyone should remember one thing: the day will come - tomorrow, the next day, eventually - and the scholar sitting in his house with the talit and tefillin in his one hand and the groceries in the other. He will go to the mailbox and take out the morning paper. He will go home and sit at the table with his omelet, salad, and bread on the right, and the paper on the left. He will see in front of his eyes the enormous headline: "King Messiah has Come!" A bite of bread. Another headline: "Jerusalem is entirely alight. The Temple of fire has descended from heaven. The mosque is gone." The omelet is too soft. "Masses are celebrating. There are tremendous traffic jams getting into Jerusalem. Drivers are requested not to come to the city." Good salad. "The Prime Minister declared: My task is finished!" Funny, there are no obituaries today. Where's the juice?
This is what the mashgiah explained. If the heart becomes desensitized to troubles, it will be just as desensitized to joy. Someone who does not mourn over Jerusalem - and not only for Jerusalem but also over the life of tumult, the culture of alienation, and the destructive media - can become cold and alienated, indifferent and closed off. We should remember our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, those sensitive and warm Jews. They let their feelings be hurt. Where has all of that gone?! We have worn armor of ice, and placed a cover of frost over our hearts. One who loses the ability to appreciate the suffering of others also loses the ability to appreciate true joy. When Jerusalem celebrates, that person will be unable to see it, he will be unable to truly join, because his feelings have become dulled. We are not to blame. The media, particularly the visual media, loads us with violent and disgusting images, that dull any emotions. For our own good, for the good of our feelings, we should cut ourselves off from it to the best of our abilities.
Indeed, the Nation is Like Grass
This week we will read the haftarah of comfort, which includes the following verses. "A voice said, Call, and said, What shall I call. All flesh is grass and all of its goodness is the flower of the field. The grass has withered, the flower has faded, but the word of our God shall stand forever." What shall we say about this? What is this call? What is the message of these words?
These are words of prophecy, and since they are Torah, we must study them. The righteous author of the Hovot Halevavot enlightened our eyes (Sha'ar Habitahon, Chap. 2). His words are so wonderful! Know, said the prophet, "All flesh is grass." Man is so vulnerable. His very existence hangs over an abyss. His happiness is insecure, and his wealth is in danger. "All of its goodness is like the flower of the field." Someone who makes himself dependent on flesh and blood, makes himself dependent on a weak reed. "The grass has withered, the flower had faded." Even though we are so vulnerable and erratic, "The word of our God shall stand forever." Our Master is great, and has great strength, and His understanding is infinite. We can trust in Him! He can protect our health, our happiness, our family, our income, our lives, everything! Without Him, God forbid, all is in danger. With him, all is secure, all the good of the world.
Rabbeinu David Kimhi, zss"l
Rabbeinu David Kimhi, zss"l, was born in southern Spain in 4820 (1160), to his father, the known grammarian, Rabbeinu Yosef Kimhi. At that time, Spain was under Muslim rule. The persecutions became worse when a holy stone was stolen from Mecca, and the Jews were accused of the theft. With the persecutions, the family fled from Spain to Narvonne, France. He became orphaned from his father at age ten, and his brother - Rabbeinu Mosheh Kimhi, also a Torah giant - became responsible for his education. Rabbeinu David progressed in his learning of the holy Torah, and became one of the most famous grammarians. His book, Michlol, is like an encyclopedia of grammar, and became one of the most basic works on the subject for hundreds of years. He published many articled to disprove the claims of the Christians, and his Teshuvot Lanossrim was useful to Jews who were forced to dispute Christians and apostates.
His most important available works are his commentaries on Nevi'im, Tehillim, and Divrei Hayamim. He also wrote a commentary on Humash, of which we have only the section on Bereishit. He focuses mainly on the simple meaning and the grammatical explanation, but he does not ignore either Midrash that is based on close readings of the text or allegorical readings of the text and words of Hazal.
At the end of his life, the argument over Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim broke out. Some opposed his philosophical explanations of ta'amei hamissvot, which Rambam wrote for those who were attracted to such an approach. Radak defended Rambam and even traveled through Spain to convince the great rabbis of the generation that he was right. Yet, he became sick on the journey, returned to his city, and died at age seventy five, in the year 4895.
"And you shall love Hashem your God"
"And you shall love Hashem your God". This is a positive commandment. The Rambam's explains this missvah as follows. "This is the third missvah, that we are commanded to love Him, may he be exalted. That is, we should examine and study His commandments and actions until we achieve understanding and take the greatest pleasure in what we have understood. This is the love of which we are commanded."
The words of our Rabbis in the Sifrei: "It says, 'And you shall love Hashem your God'. I would not know how to love God, so it says, 'These words that I command you this day shall be on your heart.' This [Torah study] leads to a recognition of the One who spoke and brought the world into being."
They already said that this missvah includes an imperative to call upon all of humanity to serve Him and believe in him. If one loves a person, he wants everyone else to love him as well. When you love the Creator, then you will certainly call upon the heretics and fools to recognize Him as well. These are the words of the Sifrei, "'You shall love Hashem your God.' Make him beloved among the creatures, just as Avraham your father did. He attracted people in Haran to faith because of his love of God, as the verse testifies, 'Avraham who loves me' (Yeshayah 41:8). You too, love Him so much that you cause others to love Him."
In Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah (2:2) Rambam says, "This great and awesome God, there is a commandment to love and fear Him, as it says 'And you shall love Hashem your God', and it says, 'You shall fear Hashem your God.' What is the way to love and fear Him? At a time when man looks at His wonderful and great actions and creations, and he sees His infinite wisdom, immediate he loves, praises, lauds, and desires with a great desire to know the great Hashem. As David said, 'My soul thirsts for the Lord, the living God.' When he thinks of these very things he will immediately become frightened and afraid, and know that he is a small and insignificant creature, who stands ignorant against the pure Mind. As David said, 'When I see your Name, and the work of Your fingers, what is man that you shall recall him?'"
Rabbeinu Mosheh Micoucy zss"l wrote (Semag positive commandments, 3), the greatest level of service of the Creator is what is said, "You shall love", that is to serve God out of love, without a desire to be granted a reward. He should think in his heart about all that God has done for him: created him, granted him wisdom, made him with adequate excretory organs. He gave him eye holes on the outside to see, and eyelids to close his eyes and sleep, and to avoid looking at evil. He made him with ear holes in order to be able to hear, and a nose in order to breathe and smell. The mouth allows him to eat and speak. The teeth chew food. The tongue mixes the food and helps him speak. His esophagus and stomach swallow. A neck helps to breathe and speak. The heart houses the spirit of life. The upper intestines digest the food and revive the body. The liver and bladder, the two kidneys, and other internal organs are also critical. The spine and skeleton build the body, and the flesh fills it out, including the muscles and blood vessels. He created many ways to bend the spine and the fingers and legs, the elbows and knees, the palm and the foot, the neck bones and the shoulders. All these allow him to rise and bend, to bow and straighten, to stand and sit. He wrapped him in skin above the flesh, muscles, and bones. He has a skull, a face, and a brain which is the seat of the mind, the soul, and the wisdom. He has hands to do work and legs to walk. How many good things has God done for him since he emerged into the world? He made him grow and helped him. How much should he love Him for all this, and how much should he work to recognize all of this good, not to mention the great reward he will receive in this world and the world to come? He has given us all of this as a test in order to be able to give us a bit more of His great good and blessing.
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
• The count of sixty days from the tekufah of Tishrei begins on the day upon which the tekufah (equinox) of Tishrei begins, including the tekufah itself. This is true even if the tekufah occurs in midday or afterwards, as long as the beginning is before nightfall. We begin asking for tal umatar on the evening prayer of the sixtieth day after the tekufah, and we don't wait for there to be a full sixty days on the clock from the beginning of the tekufah. Today, we begin asking for tal umatarh outside of Israel beginning on the fourth of December, according to their calendar. On days when February has 29 days, you begin asking in the evening prayer of the eve at the end of the 5th of December. This will be true up to the year 2100 according to their calendar. Afterward the sixtieth day of the tekufah will become later by one day. (The time of the tekufah is fixed according to the gentile solar calendar, but according to the Hebrew calendar, the day changes, because the Hebrew calendar is both solar and lunar.
• Both in and out of Israel, you continue asking for tal umatar until minhah of the afternoon before Pesah. Then you stop.
• A resident of a country outside Israel who forgot to ask for tal umatar in the evening prayers of the sixtieth day of the tekufah: if he remembers before he gets to the berachah "Shema Koleinu", he says "vetan tal umatar livrachah" during the middle of the berachah "Shema Koleinu." If he remembers after that, or he already finished his prayer, he does not repeat. Still it is better for him to repeat on the condition of a voluntary prayer. He can say, if I am obligated to repeat, then this prayer is a requirement. If I am not obligated to repeat, then this prayer should be voluntary. A resident of Israel who made a mistake and did not ask for tal umatar in the evening prayer of the 7th of Marheshvan must repeat, following the law of someone who forgot to say tal umatar on other winter days, which shall be explained in the following. Still, if he finished his prayer already, it is better that he should make a condition of a voluntary prayer before he begins. He can say, if I am obligated to repeat, then this prayer is a requirement. If I am not obligated to repeat, then this prayer should be voluntary.
• A resident of the Land of Israel who left the Land after Sukkot before the 7th of Marheshvan: if he moved his home completely, or he intended to remain outside the Land with his wife and family for a year or more, he should ask for tal umatar like a resident of outside the Land of Israel, that is sixty days into the tekufah. But, if he intended to return to the Land during the year, or he had left his wife and children in the Land of Israel, he should request tal umatar beginning on the 7th of Marheshvan in the berachah of "Shema Koleinu". That is, before he says "ki atah shome'a", he should say, "veten tal umatar livrachah." (If he forgot to request tal umatar in shema koleinu, he does not repeat.) At the sixtieth day of the tekufah he should ask for tal umatar in "Birkat Hashanim." This is true even if on the 7th of Marheshvan he is still traveling, but has already left the Land of Israel.
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
1. There are many practices that the hachamim instated after the destruction of the Temple. For example, one who builds a new home should leave an unplastered area of an amah by an amah in his house; one who sets the table for a celebration should leave one empty space; a woman who dresses in all kinds of jewelry should leave one kind out.
2. It is permitted to sing songs of praise to God, even with musical instruments, at a meal celebrating a missvah, like a wedding, a berit milah, a pidion haben, etc. But, this should be done for the sake of glorifying God.
3. Those who are lenient and listen to music that praises God through a tape or radio have upon whom to rely, as long as this is not done in the spirit of silliness or light headedness.
4. One may sing or hum songs in praise of God. But love songs are prohibited, and the hachamim indicated a serious punishment for singing such songs. The same is true of those who sing verses from Shir Hashirim, and treat them as love songs.
5. It is permitted to use melodies from non-holy sources and sing holy lyrics to them during prayers. There are many incidents in which great rabbis approved of such things. This does not apply to unclean or vulgar songs.
6. It is critical for the shaliah ssibur to pronounce God's name properly. In pronouncing God's name, the accent should follow the "nun", and not the "daled." One should not mispronounce God's name in order to fit the melody.
The Frog (2)
For seventeen years a youth lay in deep slumber. He was called a "vegetable", but his family did not despair of his life. They did not ask a judge for a permit to turn off the respirator. In the end, he miraculously opened his eyes, got up, and returned to life. As simple as that. A medical miracle, they called it. The definition doesn't matter. Only the knowledge that life is too complicated, encrypted with mysteries, and even the doctors don't know everything, certainly not the judges. The only authority is given to the Creator. And He commanded to act according to the halachah. This is His will, and any other behavior will result in a claim from above: who are you to decide?
In order to give us a sign and to warn us, the Creator blessed be he made the frog in a special way, that same creature whose song is like the song of the angels: "Blessed is the name of His majesty's honor forever"! Not only does it start its life in the water, as a tadpole, later turning into a land animal. But as a cold-blooded animal, the winter poses the danger of freezing. What does it do? It hibernates. In this it is not alone. Everybody knows about the hibernation of bears, and of other animals. But the frog is a land animal, and when it swims, it must raise itself and its head out of the water every few minutes. If it would not do this, it would choke and drown, just like man. This frog goes into the water and stays at the bottom for a lengthy winter hibernation, lasting a few months. And during this whole time it does not breathe at all! It goes into a total and complete coma, until the winter is over and the spring comes. Then the frog revives, jumps out of the water, and starts breathing again!
This trait comes to show us that there is life after a coma. This is especially true of a prolonged spiritual coma. This is true for each and every individual, for the collective, and also for the entire nation. And what will the upcoming redemption be, if not the awakening from a two thousand year coma!?
From the book, "Great are the Deeds of G-d"
Summary: The son of a rich scholar traveled to Alexandria to meet the good friend of his father. He was happy to greet him, but since he was busy with his business, he introduced the guest to an escort who would help him during his stay. They two found a common language about all things, and when the guest prepared to sail back home he asked that he be permitted to return with his escort. The host recalled how he had redeemed the youth from captivity and how his luck had improved because of him. But, if the youth would agree, he would be permitted to return to the guest's land.
The two young men set sail for Kushta, and the luck of the banker took a turn for the worse. He failed wherever he turned and in everything that he did. Every investment failed, and every business collapsed. Loss followed loss, and everyone who had deposited money in the bank demanded it back. He was an honest man, and he sold his investments in order to return the money to the customers. Within a short while, he had lost all of his property. He fired his workers, sold his building, sent his servants away, withdrew his savings, and sold his valuables. In short, he had plummeted from the highest heights to the deepest pit, without an end in sight.
If that was not enough, his wife voiced her opinion. When he had brought the boy his wife had complained that she would be unable to feed another mouth and that he had spent money redeeming him instead of purchasing supplies for the holiday. Now she changed her attitude. She saw clearly that the boy had brought blessing, and that as long as he was with them they were successful in all their endeavors and they had reached the peak of success and wealth. She understood that he had been their talisman. She saw that since he had left, their luck had turned and they had begun to descend down a steep slope. What should he do? She said that he should turn the wheel backwards, and send for him to return!
For naught he explained that he had not raised the boy as a slave. They did not treat him as property. The boy was not a captive, and that is not why they had redeemed him. They had only brought him to fulfill the missvah, and for the sake of the missvah they had raised him, educated him, and adopted him as a son. When he had agreed to sail to Kushta, when he had found a true friend, they did not stop him. I do not have the right to stop him.
"But our luck," the woman screamed. "Our luck has failed since he left. You must bring him back so that our luck will return."
"Good luck came as a result of good action, and it will not return as a result of a bad action," he argued logically. But logic did not affect his wife. She made his life miserable, until he agreed to write to his friend in Kushta. He would explain everything and ask his opinion. Is it better to ask him to return? If he returns, he will come back to an impoverished house, for the wheel of fortune had turned badly for them.
(Continuation, God willing, next week.)
"May the Lord our God be With Us as He had Been with Our Fathers"
In the book of derashot by the great genius the author of the Shevet Halevi, zss"l, it says, "I heard from one of my friends, who heard from the great genius and righteous man the Hafess Hayyim, who told him that each time he avoids walking through the streets of the big city he has earned principle for the world to come." It also says that that Gemara which says that "Anybody who walks behind a woman in the river (when crossing the river, the water lifts her clothes) has no place in the world to come" (Eruvin 18b) refers to walking in the streets of today's cities. The Gemara suggests that "If there is a plague in the city, one should walk on the side of the roads" (Bava Kama 60b).
The great genius and ssadik Rabbi Dan Segal shlit"a told that he heard from the genius Rabbi Shraga Mosheh Kalminovitz zss"l that in the conference of great ssadikim of Europe some eight years ago (Vienna, 5683) the men met in the main hall and the women were in the upper balcony. Some suggested that there should be a curtain. Others said that a curtain would obstruct vision, and that the balcony is very high up, and behind the men, and therefore there is no reason to make things more difficult. They decided to ask the elderly leader of the ssadikim of the generation, the Hafess Hayyim, zss"l. He heard and said, "By law there is no need for a curtain. This is not a synagogue that has a status of sanctity, and this is not a situation of the light headedness of a festive meal. There is no mixed socializing. In short, there is no need. Those who suggested leaving things as they were heard this.
But, he continued. "Do you know what is the greatest disaster that could befall us? There is nothing worse than if God abandons us, God forbid. As long as God is with us, we are not afraid. 'Even if I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.' But if, God forbid, the Creator abandons us, then 'You have hid your face - I was afraid.' Do you know when God abandons us? Never. A father does not abandon his children. 'I am God who dwells with you in your impurity.' Only one thing can exile the divine presence. 'And a licentious thing shall not be seen among you.' Only licentiousness will exile the divine presence!
Thus, he concluded that any improvement in this area is better. He told them to make the curtain.
Rabbi Dan concluded from this that it is not black and white, either licentiousness or modesty, either the divine presence is present or it leaves. There are many intermediate levels. Any improvement increases the divine presence for a man, for his family, for his home, for the community, and the entire collective.
This is particularly relevant now. Pay attention to where you walk, where you glance, where you vacation or go for recreation, and how you behave there. Happy is the one who can increase the divine presence for himself and the community. Happy is the one who collects, in the words of the Hafess Hayyim zss"l, principle in the world to come.
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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