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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Now you shall command Bnei Yisrael that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil. (27:20)

Why are they commanded to bring the oil to Moshe Rabbeinu? What role did Moshe play in the lighting of the Menorah? Was this not the function of Aharon HaKohen? Horav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zl, explains that Moshe's relationship with Aharon was unique in the sense that they were like one person. Aharon reciprocated this feeling. Each one was filled with joy about the success of the other. Aharon was as happy when Moshe, his younger brother, became Klal Yisrael's leader, as if it were he that had ascended to this position. Likewise, Moshe was overjoyed to hear that Hashem had selected his brother to become the Kohen Gadol. The lighting of the Menorah was a form of appeasement to Aharon, since he was disturbed that neither he - nor any member of his tribe - had been involved in the Chanukas HaMishkan, Dedication of the Mishkan. Hashem told him, "Yours is greater than theirs, for you will light the Menorah." Aharon's anguish was Moshe's anguish. Consequently, when they brought the oil to Aharon for the lighting, it was as if they brought it also to Moshe. His involvement in the lighting of the Menorah was supportive. He was as excited about his brother's lighting as if he himself had been the one who lit the Menorah.

Aharon Hakohen was the quintessential ohaiv Yisrael, one who loved all Jews. His empathy was not only for his brother; it was for all Jews. This is why he merited to wear over his heart the Choshen Hamishpat, Breastplate, upon which were engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes, representing Klal Yisrael. The heart that was sensitive to all Jews should carry the Choshen, which served as an atonement for Klal Yisrael. Aharon's heart was pure, untainted by any vestige of jealousy. He was truly happy that Moshe had been chosen to lead Klal Yisrael - an unnatural character trait. He was a unique individual, whose abounding love for others was characterized by a heart that was the pulse of the nation.

The true mark of a gadol, Torah leader, is his ability to be the pulse of the nation. The people's pain is his pain; their joy is his joy. There are those who "talk the talk," but the true gedolim live this throughout their lives, worrying, caring, sensitizing themselves to the needs of the wider Klal Yisrael - both spiritually and physically. Some go beyond the expected. Their sensitivity extends even to those whose emotions are not so sharp, but are nontheless, very fragile. Their sensitivities are just as important. The following story demonstrates this idea as it characterizes one of our greatest Torah leaders, Horav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zl. A posek, halachic arbiter, without peer, he was also a modern day Aharon HaKohen who loved all Jews with a love that was reciprocated.

A couple once arrived at his home to seek counsel regarding their son who was mentally challenged. They had the option of sending him to either of two fine institutions. Each one had pros and cons. They left the final decision up to Rav Shlomo Zalman.

The Rav asked, "What is the boy's preference? Where would he like to go?"

"Rebbe," the father replied, somewhat taken aback, "did we not say that he his mentally disadvantaged? Regrettably, he is incapable of making even the most simple decision. Surely, he cannot have a say concerning which school he should attend." Rav Shlomo Zalman looked back at the parents in a manner which was not typical of his usual smiling countenance and said, "You are doing your child a grave injustice. Picture yourself in his position. To be suddenly evicted from the comfort of your home and thrown into a strange place could be devastating. Even the most well-adjusted adult has a difficult time getting adjusted to, and acquainted with, a new environment. This is especially true of a young child whose emotions are already very fragile. He needs more love and attention than the average child. You must include him in your decision." While the parents did not disagree with Rav Shlomo Zalman, they had no idea how to implement his practical suggestions into reality. Taking into account their son's mental capacity, even normal communication was most difficult.

Realizing their dilemma, Rav Shlomo Zalman asked to see the child. "What is your name?" the rav asked the boy affectionately when he came into the room.

"Akiva," the boy answered.

"You have a beautiful name," Rav Shlomo Zalman said. My name is Horav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and I am considered one of the great Torah scholars of our time. Many Jews throughout the world listen to what I have to say. I would like you, Akiva, also to listen to what I have to say. You will soon be going to a new school. I would like to ask a favor of you. Could you please be my agent to supervise the kashrus at the school? It means very much to me to have you do this." The parents listened in total disbelief. They could not believe what they were hearing. To hear Rav Shlomo Zalman accord such accolades to himself was totally anomalous. This was a gadol who was the paragon of humility. How could he speak this way? It was not yet over. Rav Shlomo Zalman looked at Akiva and said, "By the power vested in me, I grant you semichah, ordination, and appoint you as my agent for all areas of kashrus coordination in your new school. Please carry out your duties courteously and responsibly."

When the parents looked at their Akiva, they understood what Rav Shlomo Zalman had done. The child's eyes glimmered with enthusiasm. His face exuded excitement. He could not wait to transfer to his new school. The transition went so smoothly that the boy never wanted to leave the school. He would often tell his parents, "I am the mashgiach, kashrus supervisor, for the gadol hador, pre-eminent Torah leader of our generation. How can I leave my position?"

Once again, it is the little things that make a great person. Expressed in other words: when great people care about little people, they become greater.

You shall make vestments of sanctity for Aharon, your brother, for glory and splendor. (28:2)

Glory and splendor - kavod and tiferes seem synonymous with each other. Wherein lies the difference between the concept of glory and splendor? The Malbim explains that kavod, glory, is a reference to the inherent spiritual potential with which one is endowed at conception due to the greatness of his neshamah, soul. Tiferes, splendor, is the fruition of this potential, the achievement and fulfillment of the unique capabilities with which one is blessed. When Aharon HaKohen wore the Bigdei Kehunah, he represented these two facets of his unique spiritual character. He was bestowed with a neshamah that was destined for prominence. Second, the unique potential of his neshamah reached fulfillment and, thus, he became the progenitor of all future Kohanim.

Horav Avraham Pam, zl, asserts that this dual concept applies to bnei Torah. They are the modern-day wearers of Bigdei Kehunah. If we were to take into consideration the moral abyss that has become the standard of contemporary society, the permissiveness, licentiousness, violence and drug addiction that confronts us daily in the media and on the street, it is a wonder how in such a poisoned environment the level of Torah study manifest by bnei Torah is so incredibly high. Why do they not sink with the rest of society? How do they overcome the influence of moral degeneration? The answer is: the kavod, glory, the immense potential of the neshamos of these bnei Torah. The prodigious capabilities inherent in those who spend their lives in the pursuit of Torah knowledge, immersed in the holiness and purity of the Torah and mitzvos, are exceptional. They do not abscond to the way of life that is represented by the nadir of depravity to which our society has descended.

"What is the source of this spiritual endowment?" asks Rav Pam. He suggests that it quite probably is a bequest derived from a previous righteous ancestor who served the Almighty under extreme duress and mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice. This total abnegation of one's self earned him the distinction of having his descendant display a similar dedication to Torah and mitzvos. As the Rosh Hayeshivah notes, with kavod comes the responsibility to obtain the mantle of tiferes and see to it that the enormous spiritual potential achieves fruition. It is not enough to just be better than those on the street. One must strive to set the standard and provide the beacon for others to follow.

You shall make vestments of sanctity for Aharon, your brother, for glory and splendor. (28:2)

The commentaries address the concepts of glory and splendor. Ramban asserts that the vestments were to honor the Kohanim, since these garments were similar to the clothes worn by royalty. Sforno says that the garments were for the glory of Hashem and to lend splendor to the Kohen Gadol as the pre-eminent teacher of the nation, so that he be held in the highest esteem by the shevatim, tribes, whose names he carried on the Choshen Hamishpat. Regardless of the purpose and function of the Bigdei Kehunah, they were exceptional garments that reflected dignity and beauty and raised the esteem of the Kohanim who wore them. Wearing these vestments was an integral component in the Kohen's avodah, service. Indeed, a Kohen who serves in the Bais Hamikdash without wearing the Bigdei Kehunah is liable for Heavenly Excision.

In today's society we have a popular maxim that "clothes make the man." Regrettably, this is true, only in the sense that contemporary society perceives an individual by external appearances. A person is who he is based upon his internal essence, not by the way he dresses and the type of clothes he wears. Human values, however, attribute much to what they see externally. Thus, the ben Torah should reflect the dignity and regality of the Torah. People look at us all the time: some with respect; others with envy and derision. We should raise the banner of the monarchy of Torah by the way we carry ourselves.

There is a fascinating story concerning this concept that occurred with Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, rav of Khal Adas Yeshurun, in Washington Heights. It goes back to 1936, when he was a young Rabbi in Germany. On Shushan Purim, Rav Schwab was accused of publicly maligning the accursed Adolf Hitler. It seems that in the rav's Shabbos derashah, sermon, on Parashas Ki Sissa, he was addressing the sin of the Golden Calf. In his disparagement of the sin and the people's error in thinking that one needs a "middleman" to approach Hashem, he had said, "The Jews do not need a vermittler, German for "go between." A government spy, which was a common occurrence in shul during those times, misunderstood this and thought the rav said, "Hitler," and that the German dictator was the focus of Rav Schwab's criticism.

The rav was brought before the Gestapo to explain himself. Making direct eye contact with the official, the rav emphatically declared his innocence. This was not a sufficient defense for the Nazis. He was told that his case would be reviewed, and he would be advised of the verdict.

After that meeting, Rav Schwab was in fear for his life. He knew that he was not dealing with human beings. In his diary, he recorded that it took up until the middle of Iyar - two months - before the matter was cleared up, so that he was vindicated. During this period, he slept fitfully, if at all - with his clothes on. He feared that he would be arrested in middle of the night, which was common practice for those beasts, and taken to jail - or into the forest to be beaten or left to die.

In other cases, they would rouse their victim in the middle of the night and take him out to the town square for a public hanging. If this would be his fate, he would face it with dignity - and with his clothes on - as befits a Torah leader. He was not about to allow the Nazis to hang the rav of the town in his bedclothes! Chazal view a rav, as well as any Torah leader, as sheluchei d'Rachamana, Hashem's emissaries, and, as such, he must maintain his semblance of dignity at all times. This is the meaning of kavod and tiferes.

You shall make a forehead plate of pure gold and engrave upon itholy unto Hashemand it shall be on Aharon's brow. (28:36,37,38)

The Midrash teaches that each of the Kohen Gadol's begadim, vestments, symbolized Divine atonement for various sins. The Tzitz, forehead plate, denoted Divine forgiveness for brazenness. The Hebrew words for brazenness are azuz metzach, literally a "bold brow;" hence, the Tzitz that is worn on the metzach, brow, of the Kohen Gadol. Chutzpah, azus, brazenness, by any standard, is a character trait that demonstrates a person's lack of shame. It is a middah, character trait, that goes against the personality of a Jew, considering the fact that Jews are defined by three traits: baishanim, they have a sense of shame; rachamanim, they are compassionate; gomlei chasadim, they perform acts of loving kindness. Of course, if the brazenness is employed in a constructive manner, as when a person refuses to yield to the blandishments of contemporary moral standards or stands resolute in the face of overwhelming peer and social pressures, chutzpah is desirable.

In the period prior to Moshiach's advent, chutzpah will be one of the hallmarks of the generation. As mentioned, the true distinction of a Torah Jew is an inherent sense of shame, which prevents him from slipping into inappropriate behavior. Where does today's chutzpah manifest itself and from where does it originate? In the frum, observant, camp it is noticeable in the lack of derech eretz, respect/comportment, that we show to our elders, our rebbeim, our parents. There used to be a time when a gadol's, Torah leader's, words were sacrosanct, when students had a respect bordering on fear and awe, for their rebbe. A yeshivah bachur would instinctively show respect to his rebbe. Today, it is different. The student has to "hold" of the rebbe; the rebbe has to conform to the student's line of thinking. The days when a rav was held in the highest esteem are over. Today, he is an employee who often has to take a position commensurate with the future of his paycheck.

Where does this all originate? Horav Moshe Aharon Stern, zl, relates that he was once on a bus when an elderly gentleman alighted. Rav Stern said to a teenager sitting next to him, "Stand up for him and give him your seat." The teenager replied insolently, "There are children on this bus that are younger than I. Let them get up for the old man." Rav Stern looked at the young man incredulously and countered, "But they are not getting up." In the end, the teenager refused to give up his seat for the older gentleman. Rav Stern then got up and gave his seat to the man. The rav was now standing - the old man was sitting - and so was the young man. Then Rav Stern looked at the teenager and said, "Will you at least get up for me?"

The teenager replied, rather smugly, "If you want to stand, that is your business."

This is the type of chutzpah that challenges us on a regular basis. Chazal foretold this would occur, and it has. Now, if you would like to know how this teenager became such a mechutzaf, Rav Stern cites another incident that occurred on the bus. This time, an elderly woman ascended the bus to find seating at a premium. Seated near the door, where the elderly woman stood with her packages, was a young woman with her young child. The people on the bus insistently told her, "Tell your son to stand up for this old woman!"

The mother turned to her son and said, "Do not get up; let her stand."

We intimate to them to ignore mitzvos in the Torah. We teach our children chutzpah when they see us acting inappropriately to others. As our children grow up, they perceive right and wrong consistent with what they see at home. The lessons we impart by our own demeanor can have a lasting effect. Hopefully, it will be of a positive nature.

Va'ani Tefillah

Birchos HaTorah

Torah study is the lifeblood of the Jewish People. It is a mitzvah that is critical to our continued observance of all other mitzvos. As such, Chazal have made the brachah over the Torah an integral part of the Birchos Hashachar. Our duty to study Torah begins as soon as we arise. Following the brachah, Chazal have included three paragraphs from the Torah: one from Chumash, Yevarecha, "may Hashem bless you;" one from Mishnah, Eilu devarim she'ein lahem shiur, "These are the things that have no fixed measure;" and one from Talmud, Eilu devarim she'adam ochal peiruseiham, b'olam hazeh, "these are the things whose fruits man enjoys in this world." One blessing suffices for the learning of the entire day. According to many opinions, this brachah is min haTorah, Biblical in origin.

- Asher kideshanu b'mitzvosav v'tzivanu laasok b'divrei Torah - Who has sanctified us with His mitzvos and has commanded us to occupy ourselves with the words of Torah.

The minhag Sefardim is to say al divrei Torah, "concerning the words of Torah." The Bach explains that we prefer the concept of eisak haTorah, because divrei Torah, speaking words of Torah alone, is insufficient. The purpose of limud haTorah is to learn how to correctly observe mitzvos. Thus, as Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, explains, the extended meaning of laasok is to occupy our minds with Torah, expressing its learning in words, and implementing the divrei Torah in practical activity. The Taz explains that laasok refers to the great amount of effort expended in learning Torah. Overcoming the obstacles and challenges that confront us is an inherent part of eisak haTorah.

Meir Bedziner
R' Meir ben Betzalel HaLevi z"l
niftar 24 Shevat 5764
Reb Meir loved people and was beloved by all. His sterling
character and pleasant demeanor were the hallmarks of his
personality. He sought every opportunity to increase the study of Torah and that be accessible to all.
Yehi Zichru Baruch

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