MAY 10-11, 2013 2 SIVAN 5773
Day 46 of the Omer
"Moshe received the Torah at Sinai and handed it down to Yehoshua." (Pirkei Abot 1:1)
"And Boaz said...'to whom is this young girl?'" (Megillat Ruth 2:5)
We are about to celebrate the holiday of Shabuot. This is the time of year that we celebrate the giving of the Torah to our nation at Mount Sinai. We have been learning Pirkei Abot to prepare us for the holiday, and on this holiday we read the story of Ruth.
Pirkei Abot starts with a historical chain which tells of the Torah carefully being handed down from generation to generation. It seems out of place that a book of ethics should begin with a historical chain. However, there is a profound message here. This book is not just telling us the ethics of the Torah, but it is telling us that there is also a tremendous responsibility. Our generation is a link in that glorious chain from Moshe until today. We are responsible to practice these ethics in order to inspire the younger generation to pick up the baton and carry it to their children. We shouldn't be a sterile generation that is born into a rich tradition and does not give birth to a new generation of enthusiastic followers of the Torah. If one sees a clock whose hands are not moving, he knows that the problem is not in the clock's hands, but in the inner movements of the watch. If the youth of a generation is not excited about the ethical lifestyle of the Torah, it is because of the parents. Therefore, Pirkei Abot starts with a chain, to tell us that we must learn these lessons well. Don't be the generation that breaks the chain.
When Boaz came to his field, he saw a young woman by the name of Ruth. He couldn't help but notice her modesty and purity. He commented to his worker, "To whom is this girl." He doesn't ask who she is, but he asks to whom she is, meaning to say, "Who is the one who taught her such beautiful ways?"
On this holiday of the giving of the Torah, let us resolve to accept the Torah way of life in such a way to cause our youth to happily accept the Torah as well.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Holiday. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And they gathered the entire nation on the first of the second month...according to the number of the names" (Bemidbar 1:18)
Hashem commanded Moshe to take a census of the Children of Israel by counting the "number of the names." The Ramban explains the meaning of counting the names: "Hashem told Moshe: 'Count each and every [member of Israel] with honor and dignity. Do not merely ask the head of each household how many children he has. Rather, everyone should pass before you with honor, and you should count them'." B'nei Yisrael deserved to be counted in person by Moshe.
The purpose of a census is a practical one: to ascertain the total population of a nation. The most efficient method is to ask the head of each household for data regarding his family. Having Moshe personally count each person was not only very inefficient, but extremely laborious and tiresome considering the numbers involved. (There were approximately three million Jews in the desert.) Why did Hashem trouble Moshe to exert himself to such an extent? Had Moshe asked the representative of each household for a tally of his family, the result would have been the same.
Hashem was teaching Moshe and the Children of Israel the value and uniqueness of each and every person. No one can be treated as a mere number, even when he is being counted for a census. Moshe had to meet each member of B'nei Yisrael and show him the honor and respect he deserved, as a human being created in the image of Hashem.
When dealing with a group of people, be it a group of ten or ten thousand, we must be conscious of the fact that the group is comprised of individuals, each one unique and worthy of the entire world existing for his sake. Each person deserves the dignity and warmth of our personal attention, and cannot be looked upon as just a number. Every resident of our community, every member of our family, every co-worker at our job should be treated with the same care and sensitivity we ourselves would expect.
Sometimes just stopping to spend a few moments with another person, even if only long enough to share a smile and say "good morning," can do a great deal to raise his spirits and carry him through the rigors of his daily schedule. If we bear in mind the overwhelming love and concern Hashem has for each of His children, we will surely feel a natural desire to emulate His example. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
"Even if you were to give me all the silver and gold...in the world, I would dwell nowhere but in the place of Torah." (Abot 6:9)
Why didn't Rabbi Yose want to move away from the place of Torah learning to help a distant Jewish community?
The person offered Rabbi Yose, "I will give you a million golden dinars in addition to precious stones and pearls." Rabbi Yose listened carefully to his words and wondered, "Why does he say 'I will give you' and not the community? Moreover, no community pays a Rabbi such a phenomenal salary. Why couldn't they get a Rabbi for much less? Obviously this person is looking for someone to be his Rabbi, to free him from all of his obligations to Torah and misvot, and to certify everything he is doing as 'kosher.'" To such a desire, Rabbi Yose responded, "I would rather live in poverty in a place of Torah study than to sell myself for money."
A very modern Rabbi once asked Rav Nosson Adler, the teacher of the Hatam Safer, "Why is it that in our congregation our Rabbis are paid very handsomely and your Rabbis, who claim to be the real Rabbis, are compensated so little by their communities?" Rav Adler wisely responded, "It is popular knowledge that people pay much more for a piece of art than from the true original thing from which it was copied." (Vedibarta Bam)
"For wherever you go I will go" (Ruth 1:16)
According to halachah (Shulhan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 268:2) a prospective convert is informed of some severe and some easy Torah laws. Therefore, the Midrash Rabbah (2:22) says that Naomi told Ruth, "It is not the custom of daughters of Israel to go to the theaters," to which she responded, "For wherever you go I will go." Why did Naomi particularly select this halachah?
The Torah teaches the way of life for the Jew. It prescribes the conduct for the time before one is born till after one dies. Unfortunately, there are those who observe some of the traditions they find pleasant and enjoyable, but are not ready to commit themselves entirely to the ways of Torah. For instance, some will eat a lavish meal on Friday night, but not observe Shabbat according to halachah. Some will eat latkes on Hanukah and blintzes on Shabuot, but fail to light the menorah or otherwise fall short of accepting the Torah in its entirety. Some come to synagogue to hear the beautiful voice of the hazzan, but not to actually pray to Hashem or listen to the Torah reading.
Naomi, in preparing Ruth for her conversion, was conveying a basic principle about Judaism: Torah and misvot should not be viewed as a theatrical performance, and one should not accept only what is pleasant or intriguing. It is a way of life which at all times and under all circumstances demands full dedication.
Ruth, fully comprehending her mother-in-law's message, responded, "For wherever you go I will go." (Vedibarta Bam)
What is the reason for the custom to read Megillat Ruth on Shabuot?
1) Ruth was the ancestor of King David, and he is the ancestor of Mashiah. King David died on Shabuot, and since the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 11a) says, "Hashem completes the years of the righteous from day to day," it follows that David was also born on Shabuot. Hence, it is customary to read Megillat Ruth in his honor.
2) The story of Ruth concerns a girl, who as a Moabite, was seemingly forbidden to marry into the Jewish people. However the Sages interpret the verse, "An Amorite or a Moabite may not marry into the community of G-d" to refer only to the Moabite men but not to the women. Consequently, due to the Rabbinic interpretation of the Torah, it was possible for Ruth to marry Boaz and become the ancestor of King David and Mashiah. Therefore the Book of Ruth is read on Shabuot to emphasize the immense benefit the Jewish people derive from the Oral Torah.
3) Ruth was married to Mahlon, the son of Elimelech. After her husband and father-in-law died, she was seeking for one of their relatives to marry her and purchase the family field. Thus, when she came to the field, people would say, "This is Mahlon's widow," and his memory would be perpetuated. Her closest relatives were an uncle named Tob and a cousin named Boaz. Since she was a Moabite, Tob refused to marry her out of fear that he would bring a blemish upon his family. Boaz married her and also acquired the field.
At that time Boaz, who was one of the judges in the Jewish community, was wealthy and head of a large family. He could have easily avoided marrying Ruth. Why did he agree to get involved? Obviously Boaz's attitude was that no opportunity to do a misvah should ever be missed.
Shabuot is celebrated as the period of the giving of the Torah, and in the Torah there are six hundred and thirteen misvot. The reading of the story of Ruth on Shabuot emphasizes the importance of every misvah and that a person may never know how performing a single misvah may bring Mashiah and the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people. (Vedibarta Bam)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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