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Peninim on the Torah

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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Speak to Aharonů When you kindle the lamps. (8:2)

Rashi explains the juxtaposition of the passage concerning the Menorah upon the previous parsha, which details the offerings of the Nesiim. Aharon was chagrined that every other tribe, represented by its leader, was involved in some way in the dedication of the Mishkan. His tribe, however, Shevet Levi, of which he was the leader, was excluded from this important task. Hashem responded to Aharon with the notion that his service, the lighting of the Menorah, exceeded their role in the dedication. The Ramban wonders why Hashem did not comfort Aharon with the more auspicious rituals that he performed, such as burning the Ketores, Incense. He explains that the passage regarding the Menorah alludes to a later Menorah, namely, the miracle of Chanukah. Hashem was alluding to the role Aharon's descendants would play when the avodas Bais Hamikdash, Temple service, would be discontinued as a result of a decree by the Greek oppressors. Specifically at a time when all seemed to be lost, when Klal Yisrael would be on the verge of forgetting the Torah, the emunah, faith, and mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, of the Chashmoneans, descendants of Aharon would miraculously triumph over the Greeks, and they would reinstate the kindling of the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdash once again. The offerings of the Nesiim were truly distinctive, but they were temporary. Aharon's contribution, in contrast, would be eternal.

The Ramban's statement begs elucidation. Are the neiros Chanukah the personal domain of only Aharon and his priestly family? Does not every Jew light the Chanukah candles? How was "Aharon" to be comforted? The text of Chazal cited by Rashi is, Shelcha gedolah mi'shelahem, "Yours is greater than theirs." Is this accurate?

Horav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Shlita, explains that the actual neis, miracle, that Hashem wrought with the pach shemen, flask of oil, underscores the distinction of the kindling of the lamps. In what other context do we find a circumstance in which Hashem performs a miracle for the sole reason of preserving a mitzvah? For what other reason did this miracle occur, if not to guarantee the future of the kindling of the Menorah? This, in itself, is the greatest indicator of the Menorah's unique place in the avodas Bais Hamikdash. Aharon's contribution exceeded that of the Nesiim, because Hashem was willing to transform nature to ensure the continuity of the Menorah.

We can go one step further. Hashem told Aharon that "his" mitzvah, the kindling of the Menorah, would endure forever. Is this realistic? The hadlakas neiros Chanukah is a different mitzvah than the lighting of the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdash - or are the two mitzvos one and the same? It could be suggested that hadlakas neiros Chanukah is actually a "reincarnation" of the kindling of the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdash. To paraphrase Rav Ezrachi, "Whoever has eyes can discern in the neiros Chanukah that they are the neiros of the Bais Hamikdash." Veritably, logic dictates this concept. The fact that Hashem wanted the neiros of the Bais Hamikdash to endure through the miracle of the flask of oil indicates their uniqueness and special significance. It is as if, when Hashem gave the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah, there was a hidden clause stating if the Bais Hamikdash were to be destroyed, the Menorah would continue to be lit in the home of each and every Jew! The mitzvah of Hadlokas haMenorah lasts forever! Shelcha gedolah mi'shelahem. "Your mitzvah is greater than theirs, because yours endures forever."

Make for yourself two silver trumpets. (10:2)

These trumpets provided the same fanfare for Moshe Rabbeinu as for a king. Rashi adds that the funds used for making these trumpets were to be provided personally by Moshe. This halachah seems inconsistent with Moshe's position as king. A king does not generally have to pay for the trumpets used to glorify him. Should the funds not have come from the treasury?

Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl, distinguishes between Moshe as king and other kings. The Torah states in Devarim 17:15, "You shall surely place upon yourself a king." Once appointed, the king has royal status. He now has the power to legislate laws and enforce his position over the nation. Moshe, however, was never appointed by the people to be king. He achieved this status because he was Hashem's agent for the redemption from Egypt and the individual who served as the medium for receiving and teaching the Torah to Klal Yisrael. Hashem provided for all of Klal Yisrael's needs through Moshe. The status of royalty that Moshe achieved was a G-d-given position based upon one primary role: he was every Jew's teacher. While it was appropriate that trumpets be blown before him to assemble the people when necessary, his royalty was an expression of the fact that he was the quintessential teacher of Torah. As such, he was not permitted to take anything from the people. This would be considered undue remuneration. As it is, Chazal teach us in the Talmud Chagigah 7a that a Torah scholar may not be reimbursed for his efforts, because Hashem says, "Just as I teach you without compensation, you, too, must teach and not receive payment."

To supplement this idea, Horav Michel Barenbaum, zl, pointed out that this explains why the trumpets had to be hammered into shape, rather than cast. The Menorah was also hammered, not cast. The process of hammering symbolizes the manner in which Torah is studied. Diligence, labor, toil, these are the terms used to describe Torah study. It is not simply studied as literature; it demands toil. It demands mikshah, hammering. We now understand what Chazal mean when they say, Mon malki? - Rabbanan. "Who are kings? The Rabbanim." Our Torah scholars are our kings, because each one is a teacher/king to his students.

Now, the man Moshe was exceedingly humble. (12:3)

Moshe Rabbeinu epitomized the character trait of humility. He did not shy away from accepting responsibility, taking a stand when needed, confronting challenge after challenge with resolution. Yet, he always felt that he was merely doing what had been asked of him. While he understood his great ability, he felt humble in that he had not yet achieved his great potential. The Shalah Hakadosh, zl, observes that, of all of Moshe's virtues, the one that the Torah chose to emphasize most emphatically was his humility. Horav Chaim Volozhiner, zl, writes that humility is the key to acquiring all other positive character traits, and, indeed, to all success in general. He adds that if an individual had been living in his generation whose humility was of the calibre of Moshe's, he would have been worthy of acquiring the knowledge of the entire Torah. The Chida, zl, writes that the Bais Yosef merited to be the codifier of Jewish law due to his extreme humility. The Steipler Rav, zl, related that in the generation of the Pri Megadim, another gaon with the equivalent ability lived, who produced a similar volume of halachah. It was because of the incredible humility of the Pri Megadim, however, that Hashem granted him the privilege of having his sefer accepted as the last word in halachah. The Pri Megadim would conclude every halachic exposition with the words, tzarich iyun, "it needs contemplation," making it sound as if the author felt personally unworthy of halachic rendering. The other author, however, writes in his preface that he had thoroughly researched and elucidated the halachah. The individual who viewed himself as less than competent achieved total acceptance by the Torah world.

The Chafetz Chaim, zl, did not perceive himself to be any different than the common Jew. He would say, "A person eats and drinks. Is that a reason for him to be haughty? Is spiritual sustenance any different? Does one who studies Torah, and performs mitzvos as part of his spiritual regimen, deserve any special credit for this?" Indeed, the Chafetz Chaim dressed as a common Jew, wearing a simple suit and the hat of that of a plain Polish Jew. He would not allow those rabbanim who gave approbations on his Seforim to praise him personally or to confer any titles upon him. He asked only that the literary and halachic value of the sefer be emphasized. He shied away from any honor, because he truly felt that he did not warrant it.

Kelm, the famous mussar, ethics, center, was a yeshivah where great emphasis was placed on extirpating selfishness at its source. The Alter, zl, m'Kelm, mentor of some of the greatest mussar giants, attacked the consequences of self-love, one of which was the pursuit of honor. In fact, Kelm anathematized kavod, honor. Humility and discreetness were the badges of the true Kelm product. Anything that called attention to oneself, by its very nature reflected the intrusion of some value other than the rigorous pursuit of emes, truth.

In Kelm, no one stood in the place of honor in the first row of the bais ha'medrash. No one had honorific titles, and students did not even rise out of respect for the rebbeim, much less one another. The Alter was uncomfortable when anyone stood for him, and he did not allow anyone to address him with any distinguishing titles. He would say, "Honor destroys both the body and the soul. It is disgraceful for me to be addressed as, 'Our master and teacher,' since I am neither. I wish to be addressed only as, 'The one who loves us and seeks our good.' I think that might be the truth."

The Alter considered any display of honor tantamount to administering poison to the one so honored. Men were called up to the Torah only by their names, with no titles of any kind. The Alter was called up without any title. Even Horav Elchanan Wasserman, zl, was called up as Elchanan ben Naftali. There was one exception to this rule: the Chafetz Chaim, whom the Alter instructed the gabbai to call up as, "Moreinu, Our teacher."

One of the legendary features that described the life of Horav Eliyahu Lopian, zl, was his humility. In his later years, he wrote up an announcement and had it placed on the door of the bais ha'medrash in the Yeshivah Kfar Chassidim. It read: "I earnestly request of the public and of the yeshivah students that they not stand up for me when I enter the bais ha'medrash, as this causes me much grief. David Hamelech said in Tehillim 51:5, 'I acknowledge my transgressions.' Since he used the first-person grammatical form of the verb, the word ani, which means 'I,' is superfluous in the pasuk. Obviously he was speaking of himself. Yet, his intention was to make it clear that when someone has sinned, often he alone knows of the sin, while the rest of the world is unaware of his failing. For this reason, he is embarrassed before everyone, for, were they to be aware of his shortcomings, they would not think of him in a positive light.

"For myself, I can only repeat the words of David Hamelech: 'I acknowledge my transgressions.' Although I agree to bless others, it is not because I feel that I hold any advantage, but solely because 'a layman's blessing should not be taken lightly in your eyes.'"

Horav Elchanan Wasserman, zl, embodied the greatness of one who walks with Hashem. Yet, his self-effacing character was one of his hallmarks. Indeed, as his stature grew, his estimation of himself diminished. When the Mashgiach of Baranowitz would exhort the students with his fiery discourses prior to Rosh Hashanah, Rav Elchanan would stand in the back and weep, as if the words were being directed to him. He always sought to be "one of the crowd," looking to remain inconspicuous, never seeking to call attention to himself. He would not permit the chazzan to wait for him for the public recital of Shemoneh Esrai. People from all over would approach him seeking his blessing, which he avoided giving. Once, when someone persisted in asking for a blessing, Rav Elchanan replied with candor, "Believe me, if you knew me as well as I know myself, you would not seek my blessing."

Last, we cite from the life of a contemporary Rosh Yeshivah. Horav Mendel Kaplan, zl, who exemplified the trait of anavah, humility. Each year when a new group of students arrived in his shiur, he would deliberately explain the Talmud incorrectly for the first few days. Then, as he observed the students taking notes of everything he said, he would remark, "Oy, I made a mistake! What, you are writing down everything I say? Why must you write down my mistakes?" He would thus teach his students two lessons: First, he could err. Second, they should think independently about everything that he said.

Rav Kaplan once explained why he peppered his shiur with much of his own chidushim, novellae. I like the things that I say myself more so than what I see in other sefarim. It is not that I think that I am better or that what I say is better. It is just that what I say is clearer to me, so I understand it better."

Now, the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth. (12:3)

Rashi adds a new dimension to Moshe Rabbeinu's humility when he defines anav as shafal v'savlan, lowly and forbearing. Humility bespeaks more than just self-effacement; it goes a step further. The humble person is tolerant and accepting. He does not respond to the taunts and disparagement of others. The commentators wonder why the Torah emphasizes Moshe's humility at this point. The Ramban explains that Hashem intervened on behalf of Moshe, because He knew that Moshe would never involve himself in any form of discord. If someone spoke ill of him, he would take it in stride and ignore the comment. That was Moshe; that was his unique humility.

Chazal refer to this character trait as, Ne'elavim v'einam olvim, "They are humiliated, but do not rebut with the same." They accept their humiliation. The Shevet Sofer writes that at the moment that David Hamelech did not respond to Shimi ben Geira's curses and his continued disparagement, he was chosen to become one of the four images on the Holy Chariot.

In the Talmud Bava Basra 23b, Chazal relate that Rabbi Yirmiyah peppered his shiurim with a multitude of halachic questions. It became increasingly difficult for the rabbis to learn because they were always responding to his many questions. It reached the point at which they felt they had to ask him to leave. Horav Chaim Vital, zl, writes that Rabbi Yirmiyah had lofty reasons for asking his many questions. His intentions were noble, as he sought to increase the Torah learning in the bais ha'medrash. He was willing to undergo the embarrassment of being asked to leave. He accepted this with forbearance and resolve. He was rewarded posthumously in that in the Yeshivah Shel Maalah, Heavenly Yeshivah, every question that is raised may be articulated only through him.

The following episode concerning Horav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zl, the Bais Halevi, demonstrates the extent to which our Torah leaders have acquiesced to disparagement. One hot summer day, the Bais Halevi was studying together with his son Rav Chaim. Rav Yosef Dov removed his hat and frock due to the heat. Suddenly, one of the city's butchers stormed into the bais ha'medrash and began to rant and rave at Rav Yosef Dov. Among the many insults that he heaped upon him was the claim that the rav was crooked. It seems that the previous day this butcher had come before Rav Yosef Dov in a dispute with another butcher. Although this butcher was justified and the halachah would have been rendered in his favor, he made a foolish mistake: he offered Rav Yosef Dov a large bribe. In response, the rav found him guilty.

When Rav Yosef Dov heard the claims against him, he immediately donned his rabbanic frock and hat and stood there, mute, with his head lowered. When the butcher saw how lowly the rav acted, he took it as a sign of weakness and proceeded to heap even more scorn on him. Yet, this was not enough. He extended his vicious tirade to include all the rabbanim, calling Rav Yosef Dov a crook and leader of a band of crooks. During this entire time, Rav Yosef Dov remained silent, accepting his humiliation without reply. As the butcher was leaving, Rav Yosef Dov followed, saying, "Machul lach, machul lach. I forgive you completely. I do not want anyone to suffer as a result of my pain." The next day, as the butcher was leading a herd of bulls to the slaughter, one of the bulls broke away and killed the butcher. Upon hearing the news, Rav Yosef Dov was terribly shaken up. He said, "I am afraid that I might have been a bit upset, causing his sudden death." His son, Rav Chaim, countered, "But, father, did you not forgive him?" "How do you know this?" queried Rav Yosef Dov. "I, myself, heard the words," Rav Chaim replied. "Are you absolutely sure that I said those words, that I forgave him b'mechillah gemurah, with total forgiveness?" asked Rav Yosef Dov. The rav, although finally convinced, would not relent. He followed the bier to its final resting place at the cemetery and cried bitterly at the funeral. He took it upon himself to recite Kaddish for the soul of the butcher for the duration of the eleven months of Kaddish. Every year on the Yahrtzeit, anniversary of his death, Rav Yosef Dov would fast, say Kaddish and study Mishnayos in memory of the butcher. Furthermore, he maintained every chumrah, stringency, as if his own father had passed away. This is gadlus, greatness, at its zenith!

Va'ani Tefillah

Seder Korbonos -order of sacrifices

Following the Shema and brachah of Kiddush Hashem, the next section of the morning Tefillos is comprised of a selection of studies from the Torah, Mishnah and Talmud, dealing with laws of korbanos, sacrifices, and Ketores, Incense. Chazal suggest a number of reasons that these readings have been inserted in the Siddur and are to be recited daily. The Levush contends that they avail every Jew the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of Limud HaTorah on a daily basis. The Torah consists of three primary categories: Ta'Nach, Mishnah, Talmud. By reciting these readings, one carries out the minimum requirement of this mitzvah. Alternatively, by reciting the laws of the sacrifices, it is as if one has actually offered a sacrifice upon the Altar. Indeed, our daily Tefillos coincide with the daily communal sacrifices that were offered in the Bais Hamikdash. These sacrifices achieved atonement by serving as a vehicle whereby the petitioner was bringing himself closer to Hashem and reestablishing his unity with the Almighty. While we do not offer the korbanos of old today, our study of the meaning and role of the korbanos, together with our prayers, serve to unite us with Hashem.

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