subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parashat Vayesse


The yeshivah in Baronovitch had a spiritual advisor, a brilliant scholar and ssadik of exalted stature, who also served for a period as the local rabbi. He was the son-in-law of the Saba of Nevarduk zs"l. He became known as one of the leading figures of the "mussar" movement, a man of spiritual flame, proficient in mystic studies of Kabbalah. Generally, when he would speak before the students he would humbly conceal his profound knowledge of Kabbalah. In our parashah, however, he felt compelled to reveal just a little bit, to lift the curtain just a drop.

This is what the great Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Lubssenski zs"l, Hy"d, said before his students: Undoubtedly, we cannot begin to comprehend the greatness of Yaakov Avinu, know as the "behir ha'avot" - the "choicest of the patriarchs," whose figure is inscribed on the divine throne. He was the complete person, who struggled with the angel and emerged victorious. As we know, there is a cluster of worlds in the upper spheres corresponding to his attribute, and these worlds feature an abundance of spiritual bounty and light.

Just as we cannot fathom the stature of Yaakov, so are we incapable of perceiving our sacred matriarchs, Rachel and Leah, who built the House of Yisrael. We know that Tikkun Hassot features "Tikkun Rachel" and "Tikkun Leah," which correspond to the upper, spiritual worlds. There, in the upper spheres, the concept of "Rachel" corresponds to the "sefirah" of "malchut," the source of the souls of Yisrael, which receives its bounty from the worlds of Yaakov - the hidden secrets of the Torah in the highest echelons of the upper worlds. Indeed, we cannot involve ourselves too much in mystical studies!!

But Yaakov Avinu, who beheld divine visions, unquestionably knew all that was revealed to the Ar"I HaKadosh, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai and others. He knew exactly how many worlds were dependent upon him and his marriage to Rachel, that the responsibility of building the House of Yisrael rested on their shoulders. How frightening it is, that when Reuven - the firstborn - dared to involve himself in Yaakov's profound considerations, he was eternally stripped of his birthright, royalty and priesthood!

Yaakov works seven years for Rachel, seven years of reverent preparation for the building of the House of Yisrael, conducted in accordance with his exalted thoughts and sacred meditations. He was eighty-four years old when the day arrived, the day considered in the upper worlds as significant as the day of Matan Torah and the building of the Bet Hamikdash. Yaakov is building spiritual worlds and contemplating exalted thoughts - "And, in the morning, behold it was Leah!"

Can we possibly imagine the distress he must have sensed with the destruction of all that he created and the foiling of his sacred plans, all as a result of the lowly prankster - Lavan? Let's imagine how we would have reacted, what we would have said, how we would have grumbled. And Yaakov? What was his reaction? One sentence: "What is this that you have done to me? Why did you trick me?" That is it. What incredible power of restraint and self-control!

We must always remember that the stories in the Torah are of the highest sacred quality. Lessons, morals and directions for life emerge from every parashah and every pasuk, in the spirit of "ma'aseh avot siman labanim" - that which occurred to our forefathers symbolizes that which will occur to their children. Why else do we need to know that Rachel was substituted with Leah, if not in order to learn proper conduct from Yaakov Avinu - how to react to adversity, how to control one's anger against someone who broke an explicit agreement, who spoiled the other's plans and even destroyed worlds through his debauchery and outright corruption. Perhaps one easy way to react is to ignore it and say nothing. But it is far more difficult to address the culprit but with restraint. To ask him why, allow him to justify his actions, while maintaining self-control. Fortunate is the one who learns this powerful lesson! Fortunate is he, his family and friends.

There is a well-known story of the ssadik Rabbi Refael of Barshad zs"l who loved anything and everything that came from Eress Yisrael. Once, friends of his sent him woolen cloth woven from the first shearing of sheep in the Holy Land. He adored his new possession, so much so that he called the tailor and asked him to make from the material a tallit katan that he could wear at all times, so as to retain a symbol of his sacred land near him at all times. The tailor cut the material, sewed the hem and folded it, so that he could cut the in the middle the opening for the neck.

Accidentally, however, he accidentally folded it over once too much; thus, instead of one hole in the center of the garment, there were two holes!

Full of dread and fear, the tailor returned the precious material, and, his voice shaking from pangs of guilt, told the ssadik what had happened.

Much to his surprise, the face of the ssadik lit up and he exclaimed, "Of course - this is how it was supposed to be! This is no mistake! There should be two holes in the garment. The first for the head, like any other tallit katan, and the second to see if Refael would get angry."



"She named him Reuven because she said, 'For Hashem has seen my distress, indeed now my husband will love me.'" The Hid"a zs"l explains that the righteousness of the children depends upon the purity of their mother's heart. Leah therefore said, "Reu - ben" - look at my son. Meaning, look how righteous my son is, and my husband will now appreciate my righteousness!


"She said, 'For Hashem has heard that I was despised, and He gave me this one, as well,' and she therefore named him Shimon." The Ralba"g zs"l writes that we must learn from these names that the matriarchs chose names that signified Hashem's providence and unique kindness. Indeed, this is how we must relate to our successes and achievements, and every event in our lives.


"He called his name Levi." The mystical teachings of the Torah have revealed to us that the Levi'im signify the Attribute of Justice, represented by the divine Name, "Elokim." The kohanim, on the other hand, symbolize the Attribute of Kindness. The Rema"z zs"l notes that the word "Levi'im" has the numerical value of eighty-six, the same value as the word "Elokim." And if one works out the calculation he will see that Yaakov was eighty-six years old when Levi was born.


The Alshich zs"l writes that each of the first four tribes represents the quality of one of the four letters of the sacred, divine Name of "hav-a-yah." Once Yehudah - the fourth son - was born, the four letters of the divine Name were completed. Therefore, "She said, 'This time I will thank Hashem,'" and she named the boy Yehudah, which contains the four letters of this Name plus the letter "dalet," the fourth letter, representative of his being the fourth.


"Rachel said, 'God has judged me.' She therefore named him Dan." Rabbenu Behaye zs"l writes, "One should be very careful with all his words, especially with what he says first. Hazal have already taught that four people began their words with 'af' [which denotes anger] and were subsequently destroyed. Rachel began with the concept of judgment, and she indeed suffered from the Attribute of Justice and died during childbirth." How careful must we be when we speak!


Rashi explained Leah's exclamation of "ba gad" as "Good fortune has come." He then presents a Midrashic interpretation, that Gad was born circumcised. Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura suggests that the source of this Midrash lies in another meaning of the word "gad" - cutting off, severing (see Daniel 4:11), thus implying that Gad's foreskin had already been cut before he was born.


The Alshich HaKadosh zs"l

The Alshich zs"l was among the giants of a most unique generation, who lived at the same time and in the same city as Rav Mosheh Kordovero, the Mahar"I Beirav, the Ar"I HaKadosh and the Bet Yossef zs"l, as well as other giants. As he testifies in the beginning of his book, he devoted most of his time to the study of halachah. However, he was also among the greatest "darshanim," and the Ar"I zs"l testified to the fact that the Alshich inherited the "derush" portion of the Torah.

Once the Alshich delivered a public "derashah" on our parashah, and the Ar"I was among the listeners. The Alshich explained Yaakov's comment to his wives, "And your father cheated me and changed my salary 'aseret monim,' which the Midrash understands as actually one hundred times (Bereishit Rabbah 74). The Alshich proceeded to list one by one all the tricks and pranks Lavan pulled against Yaakov, the lies and sly maneuvering through which he tried to swindle the patriarch. Throughout the derashah, the Ar"I sat and smiled.

Later, when asked as to the reason behind his smile, the Ar"I zs"l explained that in the heavens it was decreed that Lavan should descend and listen to the derashah that disclosed the entire list of his deceitful plots. After the listing of each trick, Lavan nodded as if to confirm his guilt. The Alshich continued disclosing these secrets one by one until he had listed ninety-nine pranks. When he reached number one hundred, Lavan jumped up in protest: "That is enough - this one I did not do!" he exclaimed, and then ran out of the room.

The Ar"I HaKadosh concluded, "In truth, he committed that hundredth crime, as well. But just a bit of shame was left within him, and he was too ashamed to confess."


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

Chapter 25: The Halachot of Tefillin

Ssissit and Tefillin - Which Takes Precedence?

One who cannot afford to purchase both ssissit and tefillin should buy tefillin, as it is obligatory upon each individual, and one who fails to put on tefillin violates a positive commandment. Regarding ssissit, however, although ideally everyone should have a four-cornered garment with ssissit attached, strictly speaking one is not required to specifically purchase a four-cornered garment in order to obligate himself in the missvah of ssissit.

Similarly, one who can afford either ssissit or one of the two tefillin - the head tefillin or the arm tefillin - should purchase tefillin, since the two tefillin are two separate missvot, and the absence of one does not hinder the fulfillment of the missvah of the other. It goes without saying that if one can afford both ssissit and tefillin but only one of them in higher quality, higher quality tefillin takes precedence over higher quality ssissit.

One who cannot afford both the head tefillin and the arm tefillin should first purchase the head tefillin. If one cannot afford both Rashi tefillin and Rabbenu Tam tefillin, he should first purchase Rashi tefillin.

One who has Rashi tefillin and cannot afford both ssissit and Rabbenu Tam tefillin should first purchase Rabbenu Tam tefillin. Regarding all these cases, if one can afford only one of the two missvot but can borrow the other for a long period of time until he saves enough money to purchase the second missvah, then he should first purchase the missvah that he can afford. This is true even if the missvah he can afford is of lesser importance than the other, since this way he can fulfill both missvot. For example, one who does not have ssissit and tefillin and can borrow tefillin for an extended period of time should buy ssissit and borrow tefillin until he can afford to buy.

One who cannot afford to buy ssissit or tefillin is not required to go around begging or accept charity in order to buy them; he should rather borrow from someone else. However, if one can afford to purchase tefillin but does not, relying on the possibility of borrowing from others, his punishment is severe.

Those who keep their tallit and tefillin in the same bag must be careful that the tefillin are not placed near the top by the opening to the bag. They must be arranged in such a manner that when the bag is opened, the tallit presents itself first. As discussed last week, the tallit is put on before the tefillin.

If, however, one takes the tefillin out of the bag before the tallit, then according to the Shulhan Aruch he should wear the tefillin first, in line with principle "ein ma'avirin al hamissvot" (one does not pass by the opportunity to perform a missvah). However, the Kabbalists maintain that ssissit must be worn prior to the placing of the tefillin in any event, as this is the proper order according to the mystical teachings. Therefore, in order to satisfy all opinions, one should put down the tefillin and occupy himself with something else. He should then come back and pick up the tallit, put it on, and then don the tefillin.

It is proper not to keep the tallit and tefillin in the same bag, because if the tefillin is placed near the top, the individual may come to remove them first. And if the tallit is placed on top, it is improper that the tallit should rest on the tefillin. Therefore, each should be placed in a separate bag or, alternatively, the tallit should be placed on one side of the bag and the tefillin on the other.



Earthquakes occur without advanced warning. The ground suddenly begins trembling and moving about, accompanied by powerful subterranean noises. The accepted explanation of earthquakes is as follows: the surface of the Earth is made of blocks of different sizes that move at a very slow rate.

These moving blocks have the capacity to break solid rocks in their path, and this shattering of the rock can cause an earthquake. During an earthquake, waves are sent from the center of the quake and as they extend farther away their strength diminishes. The energy released during an earthquake is exceedingly powerful, sometimes even greater than the energy released by an atomic explosion. In the aftermath of an earthquake, enormous holes may be opened in the ground and the map of the region can change drastically. Rivers may change their course, lakes can disappear and new lakes may suddenly emerge. New valleys may also suddenly appear in the ground. The potency of earthquakes is measured by a special method of measurement, known as the "Richter scale," which gages the quake's power on a scale from zero to ten. The instrument used to measure is the seismograph, which has a sensitive sensor that detects even weak rumbles that cannot be felt by humans. This instrument measures the strength of earthquakes and determines when they strike and where. It thus helps to determine more or less which locations are susceptible to quakes.

However, all this occurs after the fact; there is no instrument that can predict ahead of time where an earthquake will hit. The seismograph functions only during the quake itself.

Based on the information garnered from seismographic stations throughout the world, it appears that there occur about a half-million earthquakes that can be felt by humans but cause no damage, and one thousand that are relatively small but cause some damage. Besides these, there are about a million tremors felt only by sensitive instruments, most of which occur out in the ocean, too far to be felt in settled areas. Thus, planet Earth is not quite as safe and tranquil as it seems to us. When the ground beneath us moves, the Jew senses that his Torah and good deeds are, ultimately, his only truly eternal possession. His home can no longer be viewed as his shelter, and his property cannot guarantee his protection and security.

It would seem that the Almighty wished to remind the human being that he constantly depends upon His kindness, for when the ground suddenly shakes the person feels his helplessness acutely. All his desires, wishes and ambition suddenly disappear in face of the terrible fear. So, what it is left? Only his yirat shamayim.


The Faithful Student (6)

A Story From the Book "HaSaraf miBrisk,"
the Story of the Life of Mahari"l Diskin zs"l

Flashback: The wife of Chetzkl the smuggler, whose profession put himself and all his earnings at great risk, feared what might happen should her husband be caught. She turned to the great ssadik, Reb Nechumke of Horodnah, for a blessing for their security. She told him of her husband's profession - which is in clear violation of halachah - and he asked to see the smuggler.

Chetzkl was a sharp businessman, and sharp businessmen seem always to come out with a profit, no matter what the situation. He came before the ssadik and asked, "Rebbe, I came to seek your advice. If a person has a dangerous livelihood, what can he do to assure blessing and that no calamity will occur?"

The ssadik answered, "I can give you the advice of the Torah. The Midrash teaches that those who give charity are fortunate, for so long as one designates some of his money for charity, the Almighty opens His hands generously, spares him from all crises and protects him from any disaster, as the pasuk states, 'The gift of person will benefit him.'"

"But are there honest paupers to support, rebbe?"

"Of course! I have just come now from an upright family. The father of the household has been missing already for some time, and they are left with any means of support," replied the ssadik.

"How much money do they need for their livelihood?" Chetzkl inquired.

"Twenty rubles a week," answered Reb Nechumke. Chetzkl was amazed.

"Rebbe, this amount can support four families for a week!"

"True, my son," affirmed the ssadik. "But they are accustomed to a particularly high standard of living, and the Torah demands that we provide one with means on par with the standard to which he is accustomed. For example, if Heaven forbid something should happen to you -"

"Enough, please don't say anymore," shuddered Chetzkl. "I take it upon myself to support this family until the father is found."

The ssadik's eyes lit up: "May blessing come to you, my son. May you succeed in everything you do and be saved from all evil. By the way, how do you make a living?"

"In business, rebbe, business," Chetzkl frantically replied, as he handed the ssadik twenty rubles.

to be continued


"He dreamt, and behold there was ladder stationed in the ground with its top ascending to the heavens; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending." As we read of this dream we cannot help but wonder - human beings need ladders, rungs and steps. But angels have wings and are purely spiritual beings. They can ascend to the heavens instantly by flying, like a fiery flame!

Apparently the Torah here teaches us that even spiritual and exalted things do not come about in an instant, with a sudden take-off. Even angels fly in intervals: "Gavriel with two, Eliyahu HaNavi with four" (Berachot 4b). They also must work in stages, they must work their way up the rungs of the endless ladder.

Our inspiring leader, the Rishon Lessiyon Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a has devoted himself to restoring the glory of eastern Jewry to its rightful place. He established a vast Torah education network, the "El Hamaayan" movement for the dissemination of Torah, the "Benei Hayyil" and "Margalit Em B'Yisrael" organizations, as well as many other nationwide projects. All these operations are built and developed; they grow and solidify in stages, much like the ascent along the ladder on the way to the heavens.

We have now reached a new period, an additional stage and rung on the ladder. A new director has been appointed for the "El Hamaayan" network, Rav Shimon Kohen shlit"a, a well-known educator and administrator, the author of several works of halachah and among the long-time, dedicated and involved participants. He brings his merit and talents to replace the departing director, himself rich in merits and accomplishments, Rav Amram Kanafo shlit"a, who has decided to devote his work on various projects in his city, Ashdod, to bolster and enhance the community and apply himself to the ongoing development of the city, to increase and glorify the Torah. Few people are aware of the fact that Ashdod is the third largest Haredi city in Israel. We express our gratitude to Rav Kanafo for the years of work and dedication whose fruits are self-evident. We bless him with continued success in all his work. We also extend our heartfelt blessings to the incoming director, Rav Shimon Kohen shlit"a, that he may expand the boundaries of sanctity and the network of Torah classes and youth programs, restore the glory to its rightful place, and the increased Torah learning and entrenchment of faith shall lead to the ultimate redemption, speedily and in our days.

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Jerusalem, Israel