Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues
by Daneal Weiner
Get your gym shoes and some string 'cause we're gonna be tying things
together you never would have guessed! And you guessed it, it's Rav Wolfson!|
With the construction of the Mishkan complete, the Torah now begins to discuss the services to be performed within.
But seriously forks, not only is the wanting of the offeree crucial but even the thoughts of the offering Kohen (priest) are critical as well. Bad kavanos (intentions) can not only invalidate the korban, as far as atonement goes but even cause it to be considered an abomination brought onto the alter! Oy!
The Chasam Sofer writes that the last vestige of the holy korbanos is the mitsvah of Matsoh on Pesach. And along the aforementioned lines, the kavanos while making and breaking Matsoh can...make or break the mitsvah. Not only do kavanos trigger the effects of the Matsoh but the more that's put into it, the even greater that effects which come out of it.
Last week I told you a little about my trip to the Matsoh bakery. There was a big sign on one wall which said, "B'shaim mitzvahs Matsoh"- In the name of the mitsvah of Matsoh. All actions were not just to make Matsohs but for the expressed purpose of preparing Matsohs for the mitsvah of it. That's something entirely different! And this line was said over and over again! Not just once coming in, to cover the shift. There was also a lot off singing which gave the whole place an atmosphere of unity and fun even though we probably looked more like headless chickens playing beat the clock! Without even knowing what we were doing we were injecting those Matsohs with tremendous spiritual force.
Breishis 14:13> says, "The fugitive came and told Avram the Ivri..." What he told him was that Lot, Avram's nephew, was taken captive. Rashi says the fugitive is Og, and the Midrash says he's a fugitive for surviving the flood of Noach!! Avram (Avraham before G-d changed his name) is called the Ivri since he came 'ever hanahar'- across the river. 'Ivri' is from the root 'ever' which means 'across'. Geographically speaking, Avraham did live on one side of the Euphrates River (as we all do) and when G-d commanded him to get up and go, he came to Israel that was across the river. Since the Torah never speaks just physically, the deeper meaning is that when the whole world was on 'one side of the river' in their idolatry, Avraham crossed the river to monotheism.
In the Midrash Pirkai d'Rebbi Eliezer, regarding this verse, it says that Og came to tell Avraham about his nephew's capture so that Avraham would try to rescue Lot from the four kings and be killed in battle allowing Og to take Sarah for himself. But when he arrived at Avraham's tent, Avraham was in the middle of baking 'oogote' of Matsohs which is where his name, 'Og' came from. Rav Wolfson wants to know, why is this wicked giant deserving to be named after Avraham's Matsohs? And after the name 'Avram' appearing at least a dozen times in that parsha, why suddenly is he called Avram 'the Ivri'?
To understand the answers Rav Wolfson gives us some background information. Og, the giant, was one massive 'klipah' of Tumah. 'Klipah' literally means 'shell' or 'peel' and 'tumah' is the force of evil. To get to the fruit, one has to remove the klipot. Kabbalistic writings refer to the power of tumah as 'klipot' because where ever it senses holiness, it tries to bury the holiness under layers and layers of itself. Og was the embodiment of this power of tumah. In D'varim 3:11, Moshe is recounting the battles Bnei Yisrael has won and says, "For only Og, king of Bashan was left...behold, his bed was an iron bed...9 cubits was it's length and 4 cubits it's width, by the cubits of that man." Rashi explains the cubits (the length from the elbow to the tip of the finger) referred to were Og's cubits! Chazal (our Sages) teach that Moshe was no small potato either, being 10 cubits high himself. But they continue that Moshe jumped 10 cubits high and reached up with the staff, 10 cubits long and he struck Og in the ankle!! And killed him!!
Again, the Torah never talks just in the physical sense. It is describing for us the tremendous force that Og was and Moshe beat it. Whatever it means, we quantify Moshe's spiritual force as at the 50th gate or level of kedushah (holiness), which was necessary to extract Bnei Yisrael from under almost 50 layers of the tumah of Egypt. We touched upon this weeks back when the Torah said that Bnei Yisrael came out of Egypt 'chamushim'. Rashi says 'chamushim' means armed. The Zohar says it's from the root 'chamishim' which means 50. As much as the physical description of Og seemed to out size Moshe many times over, the 50th level is the maximum quantified strength be it to the side of kedushah or tumah. Maybe this was Moshe's message in D'varim. That size means nothing! The only power that counts is a spiritual power and if Bnei Yisrael stay strong in Torah and mitsvos they will defeat any enemy!
Another idea of the power of the 50th level of kedusha is the Yovel (Jubilee) year when all slaves are sent free and all land reverts back to it's ancestral owners. It reflects an aspect of holiness that can not become tainted. If a Jew steals and can not pay restitution he is sold into slavery for a maximum of 6 years. If the Jew decides that he rather remain a slave than go free to serve Hashem, his ear is pierced and the Torah says he stays a slave forever. If he'd rather be a slave to a slave than a slave to G-d, it is as if he relinquishes his right to be a Jew. Ch'v. But even with the language "a slave forever" he goes free at the Yovel year. The incorruptible power of the 50th gate restores everything to it's former glory. It's like the injection of a cell of healthy bone marrow into a completely depleted skeleton and giving it new life!
Back in the Purim edition we asked from where did Haman get the 50 cubit long piece of wood to build the gallows for Mordechai? Chazal say it was from Noach's Ark. Noach's ark was the single cell which rejuvenated the world. Noach's Ark drew its strength from the 50th gate of kedushah. Since Og was the antagonist of this force, he had a connection to it. To be inside the Ark would mean to have surrendered to it. Chazal say Og saved himself by hanging on to the outside of the Ark. Not because he was a giant and had a large grip. Because spiritually he was connected and that gave him the grip. [I just heard Rabbi Tatz explain Gematrias in a similar fashion. They are quantified representations of a force of a word. It doesn't matter if the force is of kedushah or of tumah. If two words are equal then they're related somehow.]
Sarah Imainu represented Bnei Yisrael! When she and Avraham went down to Egypt that was Bnei Yisrael going down to Egypt. When she was taken by Pharaoh, that was the captivity of Bnei Yisrael. When Pharaoh was stricken with a plague because of her, that was the 10 plagues. And when she was sent out, that was the redemption! And if she represents the redemption than she represents the 50th level of kedushah. Og wanted to save Pharaoh the trouble. He wanted to nullify Sarah's potential and thereby destroy the Nation of Israel before it even started! r'l!
We said that when Og showed up at Avraham's tent flap, Avraham was already baking Matsohs! What's with the Matsohs? Chazal say that if even one of Bnei Yisrael's Matsohs had become chamets (soured or leavened) while leaving Egypt then the ENTIRE exodus would NOT have been!!! Incredible! With out getting into it (makes you think I can, doesn't it?) we see the Matsohs are tied into the redemption therefore they must be also connection to the 50th level of Kedushah!
The Shlah Hakodesh writes that when G-d created Adam he took dirt from the earth and kneaded it in water. G-d's intention was for Adam to be Matsoh till the snake came and 'soured' the dough. I don't know what this means either but what we can take out is a connection between Matsoh and pre-sin Garden of Eden! It's another tie in of Matsoh to an ultimate level of Kedushah. Hold this thought.
A bad analogy did just pop into my head which I'd like to share with you. This is how I understand this '50' business. A car has a battery and an alternator. The battery starts the alternator and then the car runs off the alternator. But once the alternator stops, it needs a battery to get it going. G-d set up the world to run off of 50 alternators. i.e. 50 levels of keddushah. Each level sustains whatever G-d has wired to it. There are also 50 mechanics. (the klipot of tumah) who would love to do a number on their respective alternators. With me so far? There a battery connected only to the 50th level alternator. No mechanic works on a battery. It comes from the factory. And coming from G-d's factory, it never drains! It will always be able to restart the 50th alternator. Some things G-d wired to the 50th alternator and some things He wired directly to the battery! But they are all related because they all represent that highest level. Gan Eden, Noach's Ark, the Holy of Holies of the Mishkan and Temples, the Yovel year, the Mashiach and Matsohs are all these things powered from the 50th. Olam Habah, the world to come, is when all the alternators are removed and everything gets wired directly to the battery. Olam Habah is definately wired straight to the battery. No machanic can touch it.
Getting back to the relevance of the Matsohs: Earlier, Avraham and Lot had the dispute and Lot separated from him. The verse says (13:11), "Lot chose for himself the whole plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed from the east." Well, since the plain of Jordan is called the 'West Bank' I guess it makes perfect sense that Lot journeyed 'from the east' to get there. The only problem is, the West bank refers to Jordan's perspective!!! From Israel's perspective it's as east as you can get!!! So where did Lot go?? He wanted to go east and the verse says he traveled from the east!? Lot did not want Avraham to know where he was going so Lot headed west and circled around!
Avraham Aveinu knew the four kings had declared war and that they swept through Sodom. He didn't know Lot was taken captive!! Still, Avraham also knew that these 4 kings were more than just symbolic of the 4 kingdoms which were to put his descendants into exile. Those four kings also were the embodiment of the klipot of the 50th level of tumah. So for the sake of his descendant's, Avraham was already planning to knock them out! Avraham's Matsoh Surprise was the preparation of the spiritual force of the 50th level of kedushah necessary to destroy the 4 kings! Unfortunately for Og, it was the same energy needed to nullify him. His plan of subjugating Sarah was finished before it even started! Measure for measure against him wanting to stop Bnei Yisrael before it started! And Og was called after the 'oogote Matsohs' of Avraham because he was the klipot of that same energy as the Matsohs.
And now we can answer Avraham being called Ivri. Again, Rashi said that he came from 'ever hanahar'- across the river. In the Hagadah we say a verse from the book of Yehoshua. Yehoshua says to Bnei Yisrael, "Across the River our fathers will sit forever." The verse has different connotations. One is as we said, that are forefathers were monotheists and always will be. Another is as the Zohar says it. Where will they be sitting forever? In Olam Habah! 'Across the river' means Olam Habah! Another '50'! So the reason Avram is called Ivri here, now, is because all these aspects of the 50th gate are coming together. Og, the Matsohs, Og's message about Lot who is the progenitor of the mothers side of the Mashiach (another 50) and Og's hope of getting Sarah (she's a 50)!! What better place to drop a hint to Olam Habah! But wait! There's more! Matsoh more!
My Rebbe remembers learning from his non-Jewish history teacher in 9th grade that the day Napoleon had to retreat from the Russians was the same day that Russia lost an enormous number of men! Years later the Rav learned the cause of that manifestation. There was a 'battle' going on between the Torah Gedolim (giants) of the world. It was a battle for the final redemption! One side wanted the French to win. It would have meant tremendous bloodshed the world over, especially for the Jews but the Mashiach would have come immediately! The remaining Gedolim felt the time was not right and wanted the Russians to win. The Rimnover Rebbe was of the opinion to bring the Mashiach right away. He prayed for the French. While the Rimnover Rebbe was making his Matsohs, with every oogote of Matsoh he threw into the oven he'd pray, "Ah Matsoh in oiven nuch ah tiozent Rusin!" Very roughly translated as, "Each Matsoh baked should burn the strength of a thousand Russians!" The prayers for the Russians were answered overall but they paid a tremendous price due to the Matsohs of the Rimnover Rebbe.
A Gemorah Megillah says that what we can't see our guardian angel can see! If we have a sudden fear it's because we're sensing feelings from our angel who is looking at trouble. The Gemorah gives three pieces of advice for being suddenly overcome by a sense of fear. 1) Say the Shema. 2) If you're not in a place appropriate for saying the Shema then jump 4 cubits (6 ft.) from where your standing. 3) If one can't jump then say, "The goats in the slaughterhouse are fatter than me."
Rav Wolfson goes off on a tangent and lays it on the line. What were the blood libels? That Jews were making Matsohs with the blood of non-Jews! Blood!? It's forbidden to us outright in the Torah, and we are accused of mixing it into our Matsoh?!?! Do our enemies really need a logical reason to hate us? But what their eyes can not see, their angels eyes can see! Their angels sees all too clearly the Matsohs of Avraham Aveinu and the Matsohs of the Rimnover Rebbe were indeed made with the blood of the enemies of Israel! Now, where did I put my measuring cup and rolling pin?
The Ma'or v'Shemesh writes how tremendously important it is that our Matsohs stay chomets free but it is humanly possible to do only so much. In fact, it would be impossible were it not for the goodness of Hashem Who helps make it possible. The Ma'or v'Shemesh says that at this time of the year the Shchinah descends to the world to stand guard. How careful should we be in our Torah and mitsvos with the Shchinah in our midst!. In Parshas Vayairah the three angels come to Avraham. Two will continue on to Sodom to save Lot and family. The Midrash tells us it is Pesach time and indeed, when the angels arrive by Lot's house, the Torah says they baked and ate Matsohs. Vayairah opens with G-d appearing to Avraham from the plains of Mamre. Since this is the only time in the Torah that a vision is mentioned without a message or explanation, Chazal learn that H' was visiting the sick, this being the third day after Avraham's circumcision. In light of the Ma'or v'Shemesh it may also be said that the Shchinah had descended to safeguard the flour and baking of the Matsohs.
This Shabbos is also Parshas Hachodesh. We read a special portion from the beginning of Shmos when Hashem commands Moshe with the first mitsvah of declaring the new moon. Then Hashem commands Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael that on the 10th of the month they will take in a lamb or kid to be slaughtered on the 14th. Rashi says Hashem is commanding Moshe to tell them on the first of the month that they will take the animal on the 10th! Why the 10 day advance notice?
Because similar to our opening message from Vayikrah, the word should be on the street! The kavanos and conversations should all be about the impending redemption!! Earlier on (Shmos 5:9) Pharaoh increased the burdens of Bnei Yisrael by not giving them straw saying they should be too busy and too weak to discuss "false words", i.e. the words Moshe Rabbeinu just brought them of the impending redemption. So measure for measure G-d has Bnei Yisrael talking it up big and by the Matsohs we saw that the more the talk, they better it gets.
In the special Haftorah we read for Parshas Hachodesh it says, (Yechezkel 46:1) "So said Hashem, 'The gate of the inner courtyard that faces east, 6 days of the week it shall be closed and on Shabbos it shall be open and on the day of the new month it shall be open.'" This Shabbos is both! Hold this thought.
The Mishkan was dedicated on the first of Nisson and on the first 12 days of the month the 12 Princes brought their dedication/gift offerings. Since each tribe parallels one of the 12 months, this parallel can also be said for the first 12 days of Nisson. This year, the first of the month falls out on Shabbos. This first day parallels, of course, the first month which is Nisson itself. Every month also has a 'tsiruf'. The 4 letter Name of Hashem as 24 possible letter combinations. Since two of the letters are the same, the 24 ends up being a duplicate set of 12. Each of these twelve different combinations is called a 'tsiruf' and is found in four words somewhere in the Tanach. The tsiruf for Nisson is (Psalms 96:11) "Yismachu Hashmayim V'sagel Ha'arets!"- (The acronym is Hashem's Name) it means, "The heavens will be glad and the earth will rejoice!"
Bamidbar 10:10 says, "And on the day of your gladness..." Chazal tell this 'day of your gladness' means Shabbos! So...
This Shabbos - Rosh Chodesh, the gates of the inner courtyard are doubly open, (for Shabbos and for Rosh Chodesh!) And the tsiruf of the month of Nisson, "The heavens will be glad and the earth will rejoice" falls out on Shabbos "the day of our gladness"! It's a double whammy quadruple zinger!!!!!!
May all are prayers enter the inner chambers of Hashem. May the desecraters of Shabbos do tshuva. May the desecraters of the graves do tshuva! May we be worthy of this 2 fold celebration, right in the middle of the two months of redemption!!! Set one more place at the table for the Shchinah and have a top 50, sour free, taste of Olam Habah Shabbot Shalom!