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Parashat Beha'alotecha

Pure Beaten Gold

More than two hundred years ago, Rabbi Shimshon Vertheimer zs"l died in Vienna, a wealthy banker who supported Torah and hesed projects. Shortly after his death, the holy Rabbi Hayyim from Sanz zs"l told his hasidim: Come and let me tell you what happened in the judgement of that noble Jew from Vienna. When he went up to Heaven, he was asked to give a full accounting. He said: "I had a set schedule every day. In the morning, I got up and went to prayer, I returned to my house for breakfast and then drank coffee and smoked while reading the newspapers. Someone in my position has to be up-to-date! I said birkat hamazon and then went to the bank until noon. At noon I came back home for lunch, and then said birkat hamazon and took a nap. When I got up, the sedaka collectors and representatives of yeshivot arrived. They spread out their requests and received my donations. Then I would go to the bet knesset for minha, a Torah class and then Arbit. After prayer I would attend another Torah class and then return home for dinner and a game of chess, to relieve the tension of the day.

Finally, Shema and then to sleep. This was the schedule of my day."The heavenly court heard and said: "Gan Eden!"Two white angels came to bring him to his place and then, his friend, another banker who had died on that same day, stood up for judgement. He was at first afraid and trembling from the awesome judgement, for he had not been a religious Jew, keeping the Torah and misvot. But when he heard his friend's judgement, he calmed down. When he was asked to give and accounting, he said: my daily schedule was also set, very similar to my friend's at least in three quarters of the day. I would get up from my sleep. I did not go to the bet knesset, but I did eat breakfast and finish off with coffee and a cigar. I did not say birkat hamazon, but I did go to the bank and returned for lunch. I did not bless after that either, but I did take an afternoon nap. I did not accept requests for donations instead I went to enjoy myself with my friends but I did return for dinner and after a game of chess I went to sleep.No Torah, No prayer, No hesed, No strengthening of Torah and the court decided: Gehinnom.The man jumped up and asked: Was the Gan Eden you granted my friend - for his prayer and learning and hesed alone?!They said to him: No, he received reward for all twenty-four hours of the day!The friend complained: But twenty of our hours were exactly the same, for both me and him. Why can I not receive reward for them?!They answered: Let us relate a parable. A merchant buys grain from a farmer, bags of grain and chaff and straw and even dirt and rocks. The farmer chooses to sell it like that and receives for that his price. But if a man will come and try to sell the chaff alone and to get half the price for that they will only make fun of him...Our case is similar: Just as there can be a partnership between "Yisachar and Zevulun," one who learns Torah and the merchant who supports him and enables him to learn, so too can a man be "Yisachar and Zevulun" himself. He can work and earn his livelihood, in order to be able to live a Jewish lifestyle, to educate his children with a Jewish education, to learn Torah and participate in acts of hesed.

This man turns even his hours of work and even his hours of rest into "enablers" of misvot and receives reward for them, too. Those hours enable him to pray with peace of mind and to learn the Torah, to educate his children and to run his house in the way of G-d. But work and rest alone, if they do not enable spirituality and misvot, do not bring about reward!This is a wonderful story, and its message is pointed and obligating. The message is already hinted to in the Torah, at the beginning of our parasha: "And this was the work of the menora: it was of beaten gold, from its shaft to its flowers, it was beaten work. According to the pattern which G-d had shown Moshe, so he made the menora." The Hafetz Hayyim zs"l explained: The pure menora is comparable to the Torah, "The Torah of light." The pure oil is like the pure wisdom, the knobs and flowers are like the details of the laws and it is all like "the pattern which G-d had shown Moshe," all was given to Moshe at Mt. Sinai. But there is an innovation: even its shaft, the base which holds it up, comparable to the livelihood which enables the learning of Torah it also of the same beaten gold. It is one unit with the menora itself and is also pure gold. For it purpose is to be a base and a stand for the holy Torah and even for that we receive reward!

Those who Lust For Their Desires

What can one say about a land surrounded by enemies, besieged, that opens its gates wide before its enemy with indifference, saying "It will be fine; We will overcome."?!Man is also under siege, his evil inclination ambushes, waiting outside, as it says "At the doorway, sin crouches." What is the judgement of a man who opens his gates for him, brings him into his house, his mind and his heart?!This was the sin of the "complainers": they lusted for their desires. They wanted their evil inclination to incite them! "The wrath of G-d was very enflamed, and it was evil in the eyes of Moshe."When we think about this, we will realize that we too, are also steeped in the culture of "lusting for our desires." Our culture incites us to rise up and to fall, to sin and to pollute, to impurify and to corrupt. The written, broadcast and televised communication details every hidden and open thread, uses all its channels and plots to bring into the house, into the heart, the licentiousness and abominations, the corruption and the filth. Why should we open our doors to it? Why should we bring poison into our house with our own money, to poison the souls of our children? It is not enough to struggle with the evil inclination within us, that we must bring ourselves to more difficulty and increase the power of the inclination to triumph?!Let us purify our houses and guard our fortresses!

The Golden Column

The Saba Kadisha, Rabbi Shelomoh Eliezer Alefandri ZS"L

Once, when the Saba Kadisha, Rabbi Shelomoh Eliezer Alefandri zs"l, was living in Sefat, two young scholars turned to him with tears in their eyes. They had received a draft order to the Turkish army. They were being forced to leave their homes and families, the Bet Midrash and the sacred books, to serve in the army.The Saba Kadisha straightened himself in the chair and said in definitive fashion, "Hazal promised us that whoever accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah is relieved from the yoke of the governments (Avot 3:5). They have no right to draft you."Knowing that Hashem consents with the decree of the righteous, the two were calm. Soon after, the soldiers knocked at the doors of the young scholars, Hacham Michlof and Hacham Moshe, and hurried them to headquarters, from where they were sent on their way to the training base in Sidon. Even with all their faith, they couldn't understand what happened to the blessing and promise of the sacred sadik. The soldiers brought the two to Acre, where they were to board a ship heading to Sidon. Upon their arrival in Acre, the soldiers went, as was their wont, to one of the local bars. The two young scholars refused to enter, so the two soldiers tied them up in chains by the door and went inside. Not an hour had passed before a Turkish chariot passed by and stopped near the two scholars. "Why are you chained here by the door?" the chariot rider asked. They explained that they were drafted to the army but refused to go inside and partake of the frivolity of the bar. "If so," said the driver, "then you do not belong in the army." He pretended to be a Turkish general and ordered that they be released. He then administered a certificate of release, ensuring their freedom from the draft.Once they demonstrated their commitment to Torah conduct, they were relieved of the yoke of the government!

Father and Son

a continuing saga
(part seventeen)

Flashback: Two brothers - one a Torah scholar and the other a sadik - ran the store they inherited from their father until it was not enough to support both growing families. The scholar left and established a vibrant yeshivah, and he also adopted the boy born through the rabbi's blessing to the kind innkeeper who had hosted the rabbi and his family. The boy could not absorb any Torah, so the rabbi appointed him as the messenger of the Bet Din. One day, a letter came from the rabbi's brother, asking that he come and bring the best student in the yeshivah to marry his daughter.The rabbi thought to himself, when I came here, I traveled by wagon from town to town and village to village, in search of a position and a place to settle. Now, I am able to return to my hometown by boat along the river and reach my destination quickly and comfortably. And so, he rented a small ship and ordered that it be loaded with food for travel. He decided that he would take with him only his family, the yeshivah student who would marry the rabbi's niece, and Yossele, the assistant of the court, as nobody else would care for him in the rabbi's absence. However, the yeshivah student approached the rabbi and said, "Rebbe, if you plan on loading the ship with enough food for Yossele, it will sink. All he does is waste his time and eat. Look - if you decide to stay and manage the store, then you won't even need a helper in the Bet Din anymore. And if you convince your brother to let you return here, then Yossele can wait for you here!" The rabbi agreed with the student's point, but didn't know how to break the news to Yossele. He is a total ignoramus, and nothing can be explained to him rationally. On the morning of his departure, the rabbi said to Yossele, "Please go to the next village and call so-and-so to the Bet Din." It would take several hours each way, and when the boy would return the judges would tell him that the rabbi left and would return in another hour. Yossele went, and just as he left the city he came across that person. He told the man that the rabbi called him for a court case, and the man joined Yossele back to the city. They came to the rabbi's house and found it empty. The boy was taken aback, and the judges told him that the rabbi had left. Before they could even finish the sentence the boy ran out of the house to the dock. He saw as the anchor lifted, and he jumped into the water and swam as quickly as he could towards the ship. Two hands descended to the water to bring him up into the boat - the two hands of the rabbi.

From The Wellsprings of the Parashah

"And the people went about and gathered it"

The Rav Siftei Cohen zs"l brought down the words of the holy Zohar, that the letters of the word "went about" are the same as the word esophagus ("veshet") in Hebrew and of the root of foolishness ("shtut"). He explained that in the throat there is the esophagus for eating and the trachea for speech. A wise man realizes that the esophagus is of similar function in men and animals, for both of them eat for their sustenance. The advantage of man over animal is in his speech, if he uses it for prayer and praise of his Creator and for learning Torah. The "man" was spiritual food, that helped in the learning of Torah and in spiritual acheivements, as it says in the Mechilta, "The Torah was only given to those who ate 'man.' " But the "erev rav" were disgusted by the man's spiritual quality which aided the trachea and speech. They chose the path of eating and the esophagus, and revealed their foolishness, for they were like animals, who only think of their trough!***The Rav Kaf HaHayyim zs"l brought the words of our sages, that the righteous received man right by their doorstep, and the "nation," meaning the "erev rav," had to go to distances to search for their food. There were levels in the preparation of the food as well. For the righteous the man was like bread and cakes, but the erev rav had to grind it in a mill or beat it in a mortar with great effort. He explained this according to what our sages said, that the Torah was only given to those who ate man.

Therefore the righteous who dedicated themselves to Torah, were graced by G-d, who wished to save them time and effort and provided them with sustenance with little difficulty. But the wicked who did not spend their time in Torah, had to weaken their inclination through hard work which makes one forget sin.He told a story of one of the messenger from Israel who arrived at a city to collect donations for its yeshivot. He came to one of the wealthy men of the city. He said to him: Why don't you go to all the other citizens, and come to me last.

He did this and came back to the wealthy man. The wealthy man asked him: This money is for what? He said: For supporting those who are learning Torah. The wealthy man asked: And for collecting money you are grinding your feet and ruining your life? The wise man answered: Through these coins, the sages of our yeshiva learn Torah and merit the world to come. Thus they merit those who support them too. The wealthy man said: If so, then since all of Israel has a place in the world to come, give me the money that you have collected, and I will give those who have donated my share... The wise man answered: That is a good idea, if I were sure that you have not yet lose your share through your sins... Who knows if you have not borrowed from the Creator more than your portion with the good he has bestowed on you. But the sages who learn Torah increase their portion, and thus those who support them surely have a portion!

The Wonders of the Creator

Creatures that Fly in the Air

Have you ever seen a flying snake? How about a flying lizard, or squirrel, or a flying fish? Remarkably, there are animals that, despite the fact that they are not classified as birds, have the ability to glide in the air. Gliding indicates getting around in the air without wings, with the help of special membranes that assist in this endeavor. These creatures can spread their folds of skin during take-off, and keep them that way until the time comes to land, when they fold the skin once again. These creatures are also blessed with particularly sharp vision, thus enabling them to properly gage the distance to their destination and arrange the appropriate speed of flight. One fish that lives in the African rivers can glide over short distances in its search for food. It swims at high speed from under the surface of the water and surges forward onto the insect that flies above, swallowing it. It is capable of gliding in the air for about five to twenty seconds and reaching ten or more meters above the water.

This ability comes in handy also when stubborn fish of prey chase after it. Just as it lands back in the water, it smacks its tail and begins the next glide. And so it glides again and again until it is out of harm's way.As a creature glides, it reflects from above what it cannot do down below on the ground, and gains a broader view of the land below. In a similar vein, the human being must gather all his spiritual strength and raise himself. He must glide in the sky and see all his life from up above, detaching himself from the mundane routine of life. This allows him to analyze logically, without emotional confusion, the path of life he has chosen. This will bring him to the single answer that one can reach from this perspective - the Hashem is the true G-d, and everything He does is for the best. The Jew has only but to serve Hashem with faith, and then He will provide his needs. Just as a snake or fish, who do not fly, can glide into the sky when the need arises, so does the Jew receive the necessary capability to live a fulfilling life, a life of Torah and misvot.

Halachah Berurah

Halachic decisions according to Rav Ovadia Yossefshlit"a

arranged in the order of the Shulchan Aruch

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a

Rosh Bet Midrash "Yehaveh Da'at"

The Laws of Sisit

One should be careful not to speak in between the recitation of the berachah and wrapping himself in the tallit. If one did speak even a single word not pertinent to the performance of the misvah in between the berachah and the wrapping, he must recite a new berachah. One may not even answer kaddish, kedushah or barechu after reciting the berachah, so long as he has not begun the performance of the misvah.

Even if he hears another recite the berachah "lehitatef besisit" he may not answer "amen."One should also ensure that he does not wait "toch kedei dibbur" (the time required to say "shalom alecha rebbe") in between the recitation of the berachah and the performance of the misvah. However, one who does wait this long or even longer after the blessing does not require a new berachah.Even after the beginning of the wrapping, one should not speak until he has completed wrapping the tallit around his body. However, if one did speak before completing the wrapping, he does not require a new berachah, so long as the tallit had already been placed on his head before he started speaking.If, while he is wrapping the tallit (before it has been placed around his body), he hears a berachah, kaddish, kedushah or barechu, he must respond with the appropriate response. Even if he did not yet complete the "Yishmaelite wrapping," so long as the tallit has already been placed on his head, he must respond. Since he has already begun the performance of the misvah, such an interruption does not constitute an interruption between the berachah and the act when there is such a need, such as those mentioned.Some are accustomed to reciting pesukim while wrapping the tallit. Those who have the custom to wrap the tallit around the head and entire body should recite the pesukim before lowering the tallit around the body. Those who have the custom to wrap the tallit only around the head should still not recite the pesukim until after they have lowered the tallit around the body.Even after the wrapping has been completed, one should optimally not interrupt with any irrelevant speech until he has lowered the tallit onto his body.The Procedure For Wrapping the TallitBefore wrapping the tallit, some have the custom to recite the two pesukim of Tehillim 104:1-2 ("Barchi nafshi...Oteh or..."). Those who have this custom must ensure to recite the "birkat haTorah" prior to the recitation of these pesukim.Strictly speaking, one does not have to wrap the tallit like the "Yishmaelite wrapping," because the requirement of sisit applies to any garment worn in a manner similar to how people are generally accustomed to wearing clothing. Sometimes people wear the garment over their heads, and sometimes they wear the garment only over their bodies. Therefore, one does not need, strictly speaking, to wrap the tallit over his head. Nevertheless, the custom has evolved among the Jewish people to wrap the tallit like the "Yishmaelite wrapping" when the berachah is recited.

A Shivering Quality

We have seen something surprising in this week's parasha, and we must test ourselves according to it, do we touch it or even a speck of it? In the hagada of Pesah we say: If he had provided our needs in the desert for forty years and did not give us the man, dayenu. If he had given us the man and had not given us the Shabbat, dayenu." Out of all the goodness that G-d did for us, the well is not mentioned and the holy clouds are not mentioned. Neither are the clothes that did not wear away, nor the feet that did not collapse. Only the man, which was like a white coriander seed and tasted like a dish of honey, "the ray of the shechina corporeal," "the bread that the angels eat," the food that was absorbed by all one's limbs and strengthened one's spirituality. One could taste in it all the tastes of the world, prepare it in all the ways possible. It was food that came down wrapped from above and below, and in a revealed miracle was always measured as an "omer" per person. It was food that wholly spoke of the personal providence of G-d and the light of G-d's face.And amongst them were the complaining erev rav, who saw in this only the "rotting bread," (may G-d save us), those people who did not appreciate the good, as the gemara reports. But more than not appreciating the good how can one take the best, most valuable present, the wonderful miracle of the Creator of the world and to see in it such a rotting negative?!It is shocking, bothersome and troubling. But let us be honest ourselves: in that same hagada of Pesah, it says: "If He had given us the man, and not given us the Shabbat, and not brought us before Mt. Sinai, and not given us the Torah... If he had given us the Torah and not brought us into the land of Israel, Dayenu!" There is no greater present than Shabbat, from the treasure house of G-d, than the Torah, which the angels did not want to be given and requested that it remain in Heaven. Are we really aware of the value of these gifts, of their worth and holiness? Not only in out speech, in the blessings in birkat hamazon and the blessings of the Torah, and in the kidush on Shabbat night and its prayers but in our actions. Do we dedicate time to studying Torah, taking advantage of the day of holiness and rest, the day on which an hour of learning Torah is worth a thousand hours of learning during the week, according to the Kabbalists?Let us prove, first and foremost to ourselves, that we do appreciate the good. That we know how to value a great gift especially a gift like the gift of Shabbat and especially the gift of Torah and how much more so, the combination of Shabbat and Torah together!

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