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by Daneal Weiner
Omer Tov! I hope every one had an enlightening and illuminating Lag b'Omer.
Mine was more sedate this year then in the past. In recent years past (?),
Rav Wolfson and about 75 Chasidim and family members would come to Israel,
meet up with another 50 and we'd all head for the hills! The hills of
Tiveria and Merone, the latter being the burial site of Rav Shimon bar
Yochai. The Tannah who illuminated the world with the revelation of the
Zohar. Those were great Lag b'Omers. A Chassidish Lag b'Omer! |
This year was more Litvish. The Yeshiva I was at made a huge bon fire...out of particle board! It burned great about a half hour. We sang and danced about an hour, then everyone went back to the beis hamidrash. A Spharadi place a few minutes away had a bon fire, I think it was about the size of a bus. I couldn't get close enough to look because my facial hairs began to smolder just by turning onto the street it was on.
I remember the stories Rav Wolfson told us last year, live, in person, in the flesh, face to face, up close and personal, to express his emotions and, no doubt, to give us an appreciation of where we were. At the time we were at a small motel in Tiveria. Tiveria is a non-religious tourist town. For a group accustomed to the sanctity of a Torah community, the streets of Tiveria left much to be desired. Rav Wolfson told a story of a man who's son was living outside of Israel. Whenever the father would send his son a letter, via camel-jockey express (this was maaaaany decades back) he would go every morning to the camel stables to see if a response had arrived. This never put him in very good spirits because the place stank and one can't learn or even think Torah in such an environment. Passers-by who would greet the father were usually acknowledged in return with a grunt.
One morning a passing friend said hello and remembering what would be the inevitable response, he tried to retract his words. This time the father responded with a very friendly and warm greeting! The friend asked about the transformation. The father said it had finally occurred to him how many tsaddikim the world over would give anything just to stand next to an arab camel stable on Israel's soil!
When one is in a place of kedusha- sanctity, the kedusha is everywhere! It's just a question of how one looks at it. I'd look...oy! Rav Wolfson looks...only holiness.
We were there to see the burial site of a holy man. How much more so are would we want to see the man himself. Any holy man, for that matter. Truth is, when we know someone and THEY saw a holy man, we are already drawn to make a connection. There are still a precious few Tsaddikim around, until 120 G-d willing, who learned under the Chafets Chaim! They themselves are walking Torah Scrolls. But they saw the Chafets Chaim!!! "Let's go get a blessing from them." Any connection to spirituallity attracts the Jewish soul. Rav Wolfson said that there in Tiveria we get to see the very same mountains who saw the great Tannaim and Amoraim of the Gemorah over 1500 years ago!! I look...oh, a mountain. It goes up on one side and then peaks and then comes down the other side. Rav Wolfson looks...only holiness.
We passed by a forest planted by the Keren Kayemet, funded from the donations of Jews overseas. Rav Wolfson had said that the purity of heart of the donors was evident by the beautiful forest it produced which flourishes till today.
On the bus from Tiveria to Merone, Lag b'Omer night, Rav Wolfson had told us of Reb Shlomo of Zvhil. A Chassidic Rabbi who loved Lag b'Omer because it reminded him of the Shalosh Regalim- the three pilgrimage festivals. The Spharadi's would bring their food, fresh- and slaughtering it on location. This reminded Rav Shlomo of the korban Pesach- the Pascal lamb. All the over-nighters would be camping out in their tents. This reminded him of Sukkos. And the mountain itself and the nation of Israel all around, would remind him of Mt. Sinai and Shavuos.
There is more there than what meets the eye because it says in Parshas Mishpatim, in a paragraph dealing exclusively with the Shalosh Regalim (Shmos 23:17), "Shalosh p'amim bashanah yaira'eh kol zchurcha el pnai ha'adone, Hashem."- Contextually translated as, "Three times a year shall all your menfolk appear before the L-rd, Hashem'. The Zohar says that the word 'ha'adone' (the L-rd) refers to Rav Shimon bar Yochai!?! What??? Blasphemy! Apostasy! Heres...y...you know...takah, that answer's 2 difficult questions!
First of all, in this context the word 'ha'adone' wouldn't mean 'the L-rd' but 'the lord' or 'the master'. Lower case letters. The word 'ha'adone' in this verse is written lacking a the letter 'vav'. With people's names we use and addition or subtraction of letters to learn out various attributes or shortcomings in their personalities. Not the kind of thing we should be doing with G-d's name. So the Zohar tells us it's not referring to G-d. This would work!
Second, in the trop- the cantillation marks of the verse, there is a 'pseek', which is a pause, between the words "ha'adone" and "Hashem". Why would the Torah deliberately separate two names of Hashem?? Unless, again, the "ha'adone" refers to a man! Then it should absolutely be separated from the name of Hashem. Eating by friends one Shabbos, I told this tid bit of Torah over and the hostess (Faith Neuman) pointed out that of two renowned songs we sing on Lag b'Omer, praising Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one ends every stanza with "adonainu bar Yochai"- our master, bar Yochai. As it turns out, when Rav Shlomo of Zvhil made a connection of the celebration of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to the Shalosh Regalim, apparently he wasn't the first!
And speaking of a connection, maybe this weekly dvar Torah will eventually connect to this weeks
B'har opens saying that at Mt. Sinai Moshe learned all the details of the laws of Shmittah, the 7th year when the land is left fallow. The question asked by all is why suddenly bring up Mt. Sinai again and why attach it to the mitsvah of Shmittah? Rashi explains that just as all the details of this mitsvah was explained at to Moshe Mt. Sinai, so too was all the details of all the mitsvos explained to Moshe at Mt. Sinai. Rashi continues that the mitsvah Shmittah were chosen because it is not repeated in the book of D'varim. If another mitsvah was used, one might think that all the details but those mentioned later where given at Sinai. Then Hashem filled in the blanks just before entering Israel. Since Shmittah is not mentioned in D'varim, now all the laws from Sinai means ALL the laws!!
Other commentaries offer that the very last thing Bnei Yisrael were able to do was the Shmittah. The laws of Shmittah include all Jews being settled in Israel. It took Yehoshua 7 years to conquer Israel and another 7 years to get everyone settled. Then the counting started! So the 21st year after entering was the first Shmittah year. If there was any law that Bnei Yisrael was not in a hurry to hear about, it was the Shmittah! And if they got that one at Mt. Sinai, they got every one at Mt. Sinai. (Of course the first Yovel- Jubilee year wasn't till the 64th year after entering Israel so it would have been a better choice. Perhaps that can be answered by the similarities of the Shmittah and Yovel years. Discussing one discusses the other as well.)
The Chasam Sofer offers another answer to 'why Shmittah'. It is one of the more 'G-dly' mitsvahs. For background, we mentioned above the parsha first commands the Shmittah and then mentions the 6 years leading to it. Why in this order? The Ma'or Einayim explains that the Shmittah is the end point, the focus. What is the means to this end? The 6 years of planting. We can't lose sight during those 6 years of labor that it is not our land, it is Hashem's. It is not our labor that produced the results, it is only H's will. The Shmittah year will prove that. The 7th year, like the 7th day, testifies the world belongs to Hashem. Every farmer knows the fields have to be left fallow sometime. But the way of the world is to leave it every other year or every third year. None would think of going 6 straight years before giving the land rest. The Torah is telling us that first recognize the goal, Shmittah. Now that you've done that, go ahead and plant 6 straight years and every year will be a healthy crop. This is what the Chasam Sofer meant. ONLY Hashem can make a promise like that. Only a Divinely written book can give the masses a 'test' opportunity, that in a few short years they will know if it's a book of truth or lies. Other religions can only promise heavenly rewards because anything else it's followers can check for accuracy. Knowing this, the human originators promise nothing tangible.
The Torah goes even farther! G-d assures that the 6th year's crop will last till the beginning of the 9th year!!! (When that which was planted in the 8th will be harvested and ready to eat.) And that can be done in two ways. For the believers, the standard produce of the 6th year's crop will miraculously last for three years. People will be satisfied from eating a third as much food. The work in the 6th year will be the same and the next three years of cooking and washing dishes will be a blessing as well.
But if one asks, "What will we eat in the 7th year?" If they doubt Hashem then hashem 'forces' a blessing. An unbelievable bumper crop in the 6th year! What should be the field's weakest year will be an explosion of three years worth of produce!!! Harvesting will be a back breaking work! Finding storage will be a nightmare! The Sages say "An increase in property is an increase in worry." There will be concerns of spoilage, theft, infestation. Cooking and cleaning will be as usual. This is a vort in and of itself. Our point again being that only Hashem could write such promises for His children. And so the mitsvah Shmittah was chosen to say that just as it could only come from the Sinai, a Divinely revalation of Divine laws and in all it's detail, so too is mitsvah from Sinai. Divine in origin to it's finest detail!
And speaking of Divine in origin,
opens (26:3), "Eem b'chukosai tailaichu v'es mitsvosai tishmeru va'asisem osom"
The Ohr HaChayim HaKodosh (Oh"C) lived over 200 years ago. As the story goes, he used to give out meat to his talmidim for Shabbos. Once in a time of shortage, the Oh"C managed to acquire a generous supply of meat while most of the community had none. One of the men of the town came to him and complained why should his do-nothing-students eat so well? The Ohr HaChayim ignored the man. Shortly thereafter, the Oh"C realized that he himself belittled Torah by remaining silent and not reprimanding that man. He put himself into exile. He packed a small bag and went wandering from town to town, come what may. The Oh"C left home during this week of Parshas B'chukosai. Already accepting the Oh"C's regret and act of tshuvah, the Heavens opened and revealed to him 14 insights into the first verse.
The Oh"C came to a town and a kind homeowner took him in. That Friday night in shul, the Rav of the town stood before the congregation and said, "It has been revealed to me from Heaven in the name of the Oh"C the following dvar Torah." And he gave it over. The Oh"C, from the back of the shul shouted, "Ahhh! The Oh"C is no big deal." To dissipate the anger of the crowd the Oh"C's kind host jumped to the vagrant's defense insuring the congregants he was a simpleton and doesn't realize the foolishness of his words. More Torah was then revealed to the Ohr HaChaim.
Shabbos morning, the Rav got up with another revelation, again in the name of the Oh"C. Again the Oh"C, insulted himself and his Torah. Again the crowd needed pacification by the host. Again the Oh"C received a wellspring of Torah. Shabbos afternoon, a repeat performance. This time it could not be tolerated. The town Rav ordered the vagrant locked up till it could be decided what punishment to give him.
Motsai Shabbos, the Rav went to bed and had a dream. The Sages tell us that on Shabbos, even Gehenom rests. Purification doesn't resume till we make havdalah. (Food for thought for those who can't wait for Shabbos to end.) The Rav dreamt that night that Gehenom had not yet began operations because the Ohr HaChayim HaKodesh had not yet said havdalah. The Rav woke, baffled. Why would he have such a dream...until it occurred to him...there was one man in town who was not in a position to make havdalah! They threw the Ohr HaChaim HaKodosh in jail!!!
The Rav told the Oh"C of his dream and the Oh"C took it as a message his self imposed exile was over. He could go home. All together, 42 insights of the first verse were revealed to him that Shabbos. I managed to get through about 20 of them. Lets see how many we can get through now.
26:3> "Eem b'chukosai tailaichu v'es mitsvosai tishmeru va'asisem osom" (Torah)
"If you follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them" (ArtScroll. Not one of the Oh"C's.)
"If in My statutes you will walk and My mitsvos you will guard and you will
The numbering is the Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh's.
"Chukosai" is written without the letter 'vav' so it appears to be the singular form. It is read with a the vav which is the plural form. What appears as one is really two. But don't think it's two, it's really one! The one Torah is 2, Written Torah and Oral Torah. Day and night (2 times frames to learn in) is really one 24 hr. day. One has to learn every 'day'. Learning is learning! But there are two types of learning, for ones self and for teaching to others.
And "..you will walk" means learning on the road. Not just at home or in
school or nly in the most conducive environment. Always be going over
something in your head.
And speaking of watching and doing, or at least watching what we're doing, let's avoid the admonition in this weeks parsha! It's far worse than the one we read in the Shema twice a day, "And you will swiftly be banished from the good land that Hashem has given you." Another 13% of Israel is on the chopping block. I'd say 'G-d forbid' but it's up to us. It's all laid out as clear as can be. From the laws of Shmittah to the laws of being shmettered, r'l! And they unfold before our very eyes. Is anyone watching? Some feel the redemption started because the Sages say in the time of the redemption Israel will bare her fruit, and it is! So 1 + 1 = 2! How about the Torah which says that line read in the Shema? And another 13% on it's way out? Is 1 + 1 still 2??? Nowhere does it say in the Torah or in the Prophets or the Writings that the key to Jewish existence in the land of Israel is building a 2 flat on a hill top.
"Eem b'chukosai tailaichu v'es mitsvosai tishmeru, va'asisem osom..." What were those aforementioned rewards? A few verses later, "I will provide peace in the land and you will lie down with none to frighten you." It's just that straightforward and simple.
This Shabbos welcomes the new month of Sivan. The month blessed and which blesses us with Shavuos! We have a few more days of the Omer to work on those last areas of refinement in ourselves and in our service of Hashem. We count every single day because every single day counts! Rabbi Orlofsky pointed out we that don't count a week once, a week twice, a week three times. We count week one. Then week one and a day. Then week two and a day. Week three AND... Because this way it is a constant building on what was before. That's the only building we need. And even if you're not happy with what you've accomplished till now or feel there's nothing to build on, HORG WARSH!!! These final days have the ability to accomplish it all! In the last day alone you can achieve all 50 days of growth. And I have no doubt that is exactly what Rav Wolfson will be discussing in next week's Shabbos shmooz.
And speaking of Shabbos, get going by going and getting ready for a go-getting, chukosai observing, mitsvosai watching, Shabbot Shalom!