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Towards the end of our parashah the Torah relates that Yosef resettled the Egyptian population, transferring them "from one edge of the Egyptian border to the other." Why did he do this? "He meant to remove his brothers' embarrassment, that people would not refer to them as foreigners." This is how Rashi explains based on the Gemara. Imagine - in order to avoid the insult of seventy people, he transferred millions of people from one place to another!
Was this because they were his brothers and the Egyptians were foreigners? Or because they were Jews and the Egyptians weren't? No, absolutely not! Rather, the Gemara teaches (Makkot 10a) that if a student accidentally killed another and must therefore flee to an ir miklat (city of refuge), his rabbi goes with him. Conversely, if a rabbi must flee to an ir miklat, his yeshivah relocates with him. As the Ritva there writes, this applies even if there is already a yeshivah in the ir miklat. The rabbi or yeshivah is nevertheless transferred in order for the one in exile to feel more at ease and learn better. The obvious question arises, why do we trouble one's rabbi, who may be a leading, renown scholar, to leave his family and relocate together with his student? And what about all his students - they must accompany their rabbi to his new city! An entire yeshivah relocates just so that this one student will feel more comfortable! Can we even imagine the extent to which the Torah values people's feelings, and how much it demands of one's friends to bear his burden with him and even suffer in order to avoid his discomfort!
This calls upon us to exercise extreme care not to hurt the feelings of another, particularly those closest and most dear to us, and treat them with dignity and respect.
This Tuesday we will observe the fast of Asarah BeTevet, the day when the siege on Yerushalayim began some 2,500 years ago. This fast is mentioned in the prophecy of Zecharyah alongside the other fasts we observe to commemorate the breaching of the city's walls, the destruction of the Mikdash, and the scattering of the remnants in Eress Yisrael with the assassination of Gedalyah. The Shulhan Aruch rules, "Everybody is obligated to observe these four fasts, and it is forbidden for one to breach the fence [i.e. violate the accepted practice]" (Orah Hayyim 550:1). Nevertheless, the fast of Asarah BeTevet is not of the same level of stringency as Tisha BeAv. Thus, someone who fell ill, as well as pregnant and nursing women, are exempt from the fast, even if fasting would pose no risk to their lives.
However, we do find a novel idea in the comments of the Bet Yossef (siman 550), who quotes the ruling of Rabbenu David Avudraham that with regard to one detail Asarah BeTevet is more stringent. If it were to fall on Shabbat, we would observe the fast on Shabbat rather than delaying it until Sunday, as we do with regard to all other fasts except Yom Kippur. Since the statement, "b'essem hayom hazeh" ("on this very day") is used in the context of Asarah BeTevet, just as it appears regarding Yom Kippur, it shares this quality with Yom Kippur, that it overrides Shabbat. Practically, however, this will never happen: Asarah BeTevet can never fall on Shabbat. This halachah was nevertheless stated in order to draw our attention to the unique importance of this day.
Wherein lies this stringency associated with Asarah BeTevet, when the siege began? The stores were still stocked to capacity, the people's cupboards were full with food, and everyone was still content. The city was surrounded - so what?
The prophetic perspective teaches us that specifically this date is the most critical. It was then that the seeds of destruction were sown, for then the siege and period of attrition began.
We don't have to go too far from our own experiences to understand this. We will bring two examples - one from the summertime, the other from the winter. Hazal determined that "the end of summer is harsher than summer itself" (Yoma 29a). We suffer more at summer's end than during the middle of the season, despite the fact that the sun begins weakening on Tu BeAv (Ta'anit 31a) and the heat gradually subsides. The reason is that just as the sun's strength dwindles, so does ours. The cumulative effect of the ongoing summer heat takes its toll over time.
In the winter, we hear all kinds of warnings urging the weaker sectors of society - the ill and the elderly, may Hashem lengthen their days with goodness and health -- to receive flu vaccinations. As far as we know, the virus has no preference for one sector of the population over another. It is in the air prepared to attack anyone. But it is far more successful attacking the weaker elements of society, whose bodies are already frail and feeble.
The same is true regarding a siege. The city becomes shut, the food supply cannot be replenished, hunger begins showing its signs, and eventually the weapons can smash the wall without resistance, and the city easily comes crumbling down.
We must remember the words of the Rambam, that these fast days are meant not only to recall events of the past, but for introspection and learning the lessons relevant for the future. Looking into ourselves, we will see that although our "cities" - our personal fortresses - have perhaps remained intact, and our "Mikdash" - our spiritual stamina - is not destroyed, we are most certainly "under siege."
First and foremost, we are besieged by the yesser hara: "There was a little city, with few men in it; and to it came a great king, who invested it and built mighty siege works against it" (Kohellet 9:14). Hazal explain that the "little city" is the human body, which contains just a "few men," or limbs. The powerful king is the evil inclination, who builds a siege against us - referring to sin (Nedarim 32b).
The Gaon of Vilna said that just as there is a private, internal yesser hara within each individual, so does there exist an external yesser hara, the threat posed by societal influence. We are under constant siege from the culture around us that advocates unrestrained permissiveness and scorns values and all that is sacred. Let us not fool ourselves - a siege diminishes our strength and gnaws at our stamina.
What does a besieged city do when it cannot break the enemy blockade? It tries to dig underground tunnels to smuggle food. What must we do? Strengthen ourselves with Torah classes - with life-giving spiritual sustenance! Studying books of Torah, participating in Torah lectures and presentations - this can help us stand our ground during the siege so that our fortresses are not breached.
Can a person die from fear? Indeed, it is possible. At the height of fear, the body secretes all types of substances in order to inform the person of pending danger and set him in the proper mode to enable him to most effectively deal with the situation at hand. Large quantities of these substances can cause physiological reactions that involve significant disturbances. For example, the heart may begin convulsing. The Creator, in His infinite mercy, implanted within the human being mechanisms that allow him to prepare for, and stand guard against, both external and internal threats. Generally, the signals of fear are transferred through the autonomous, non-voluntary nervous system. Thus, for example, during times of fear a change occurs in the rate of one's heartbeat and blood pressure. A person may also sense pressure in the chest, butterflies in the stomach, dryness in the mouth, general uneasiness and tension in the muscles. The body reaches a very high level of preparedness. In effect, this is the body's emergency response system.
What kind of things do we fear? Presumably, we fear what everyone fears - the lack of self fulfillment, ailing health, aging, problems making a living, educational issues concerning our children - what aren't we afraid of? No, this is not pleasant, and, in fact, fear itself is part of the manifestation of the problem and the real danger. So what do we do to allay our fears? How do we extricate ourselves from them and live with some peace of mind? We Jews have the answer: "great fear eliminates small fears." The fear of the Creator of the world and His glory eliminates all other fears. When a Jew knows that everything begins and ends with His will, that our livelihood comes from Him, our very lives come from Him, and that everything occurs with His Providence, then all our other fears become meaningless. The single, constant fear is that of finding favor in Hashem's eyes by performing His will, the only guarantee of peace. This is the meaning of the pasuk, "Fortunate is the man who is constantly afraid."
A Match Made in Heaven (5)
Flashback: Havah Devorah was an orphan girl who worked for a living with a family in the city of Pinsk. Her boss's brother, who owned a tavern in the nearby town of Kobrin, asked that the girl be transferred to him to work in his tavern. Without asking for her consent, the brother agreed. Her new job involved grueling work throughout the week. Her one day of rest was Shabbat, when she found comfort in the tearful recitation of Tehillim without anyone around to see her.
On Shabbat, Tuvia, the simple young man who owned beehives, would go to pray in the city of Pinsk, which was situated near Kobrin. In the winter he would walk across the frozen river, while in the summer he had to walk quite a distance to a bridge that connected the suburb to the city. He was young and during the summertime he had a long Shabbat day, so the walk to and from tefilah became for him an enjoyable stroll through the wondrous world of the Creator. By nature, Tuvia had an excited and vibrant personality. He would get excited by seeing the clear, blue sky, the loose earth, the withered grass and even the irritating flies. In his eyes, everything sang the praises of the Al-mighty. So it was on this Shabbat when he made his way back from the city towards his home in Kobrin. His soul sang silently, when suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks. A soft, pleasant voice reached his ears, a voice reciting Tehillim and pleading with intense emotion and genuine spirit. It was a curious, eerie combination of song and bitter crying. Who was singing? Who was it who prayed with such intensity and concentration? Nearby stood the fence of the tavern, the orchard lying beyond it. He knew the owners of the tavern, and they were simple and coarse in their manners. Maybe there were guests in town. He felt it worthwhile to check if indeed guests had arrived, as during that period they were rare. When they did come, they brought news of what went on in the world - wars and riots, governments and kingdoms quarreling with one another - events that add a touch to the otherwise uninteresting routine of a simple villager. Tuvia decided to go the tavern at nighttime. His beehives brought him a comfortable income. He could sit down to a scrumptious meal, pay premium prices for his food, and hear what was going on in the world.
And so, that night he took some money and went to the tavern. He was greeted by a suffocating cloud of smoke that formed from the pipes of the farmers who had come to drink. The owner sat with them, laughing at their humor and occasionally adding some of his own.
"What a guest!" shouted the owner when he saw Tuvia, who wore an obvious look of confusion on his face. "Come, have a seat and join us!"
There was no sign of any guests from out-of-town.
As Tuvia was still looking around in bewilderment, a cascade of shouts reached his ears: "Look what we have here - a waitress who is a rabbanit! Instead of serving customers she sings the Mossa'ei Shabbat songs! I promise you that Eliyahu Hanavi will not appear to you!" A brief calm in the barrage of insults allowed him to hear heartfelt words of apology, before the shouting continued: "The whole day is not enough time for you to say Tehillim! If I see you once more with an open siddur, you will never forget what you will receive!"
Tuvia hurried to serve the farmers. "Give all of them beer, on me!" he said, much to the delight of the jubilant peasants, who lovingly patted him on the back. "What are these shouts I hear?" he asked.
"Nothing," came the response. "We have a lazy waitress who tries to get out of doing her work."
to be continued
How Many Souls Do We Have?
We are commanded to "live with the parashah," to find within the weekly portion lessons for life. On the pasuk, "All the souls that came with Yaakov to Egypt," Rashi comments regarding the use of the singular form, "nefesh," soul, rather than the plural form, "nefashot." He notes that in the Torah's discussion of Esav's genealogy, it refers to his sixteen-member family as "nafshot beito," the souls of his house, since they worshipped many gods. In reference to the seventy people in Yaakov's family, however, the Torah employs the singular form, because they all worshipped one G-d.
There were twelve tribes, twelve different natures, paths and ways of doing things. But their goal was the same, their direction one - to do the will of the Creator. They thus formed a single "nefesh," one, indivisible soul. They were like the various limbs of a single body, each one performing its individual role. The feet walk, the hands work, and so on, but a single brain coordinates all the different activities and unites them into a single entity. This was how our nation was at its earliest beginnings.
When we look today at this entity called "the State of Israel," let us ignore for a moment its Arab citizens, the Bedouins, Druze, the hundreds of thousands of gentiles who emigrated to Israel, and all the illegal aliens from the Philippines, Nepal and elsewhere. We respect them, and I know that there are some Jews who would want to see all of them as part of the new Israeli identity. But for our purposes, let's forget about these. Let us focus instead on the Jewish population in Israel, the millions of precious Jews residing in our precious Jewish State. Can we refer to them with the singular form, "nefesh"?
The nation is torn between right and left, the kibbutzim and townspeople, employers and laborers, residents of the country's center and those on the periphery, and the religious and secular. And each group itself divides into many different subsections and tears into smaller pieces. There are those who seek to eternalize these divisions, deepen and wide the chasms and further alienation - does this not remind us more of the family of Esav, rather than that of Yaakov...
"And he sent Yehudah... ahead of him to point the way to Goshen"
Rashi explains, based on the Midrash, that Yehudah was sent ahead to establish an institution of learning. Rabbenu Bahya zs"l writes that Hazal derived this interpretation from the word "lehorot" (literally, "to teach," translated in our citation as, "to point the way"), which implies that the shevatim involved themselves in Torah. Similarly, Hazal teach us that when Yosef left his father they had been studying the subject of "eglah arufah" (the special ceremony performed when a murder victim is discovered between two cities and the perpetrator cannot be found). For this reason Yosef sent his father "agalot" - carriages - from Egypt, which allude to the topic of "eglah arufah."
The Be'er Hetev notes that in the Sefer Torah the word "lehorot" is written "hasser," without the letter "vav," such that it contains precisely the same letters as the word "leTorah" ("for Torah" - lamed, heh, resh, tav).
"And he sent Yehudah... ahead of him to point the way to Goshen"
Rabbi David Pardo zs"l, in his work, Maskil LeDavid, writes that since the Al-mighty informed Yaakov Avinu that "I will descend with you to Egypt," and Yaakov knew of the rampant idolatry in Egypt, rendering it unsuitable for the residence of the Shechinah, he feared that Hashem will withdraw His Shechinah. He therefore sent Yehudah to institute a place of learning, as a place where Torah is studied is capable of hosting the Shechinah.
"And he sent Yehudah... ahead of him to point the way to Goshen"
Rabbenu Ovadia of Bartenura zs"l writes that the Midrash derived its interpretation from the word, "lefanav" (ahead of him), which connotes honor and glory, as in the pasuk, "... to eat bread before G-d ['lifnei ha'Elokim']" (Shemot 18:12). Thus, the phrase "lehorot lefanav" in our pasuk suggests that Yaakov sent Yehudah on a particularly honorable mission - and what mission is more honorable than establishing a yeshivah?
"And he sent Yehudah... ahead of him to point the way to Goshen"
The Ralbag zs"l derives from this pasuk a practical lesson, that one who embarks on a journey should prepare in advance a guide as well as proper lodging. People should not leave without preparing and then assume that these basic necessities will somehow avail themselves along the way. Many of those who have done so ended up lost and helpless, while others fell prey to pranksters who directed them in the wrong way.
"And he sent Yehudah... ahead of him to point the way to Goshen"
The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l explained that Yaakov Avinu did not want to trouble Yosef. As Yosef had already informed Yaakov that he and his family will settle in Goshen, Yaakov now sent Yehudah to tell Yosef that he will travel directly to Goshen. After he settles in his new home Yosef should come visit him. But Yosef did not wait; he harnessed his carriage and went to meet Yaakov on the road and then escorted him to his home.
Rabbi Yosef Kenafo zs"l
When Sir Moses Montifore z"l visited several Moroccan cities in 5624 in order to assess the situation of the Jews and Judaism in the country, he arrived in the city of Mugdar and met the rabbi of city, its pride and glory, Rav Yosef Kenafo zs"l. Rav Kenafo devoted his life to guiding his community both orally and in writing. He delivered brilliant lectures and inspiring, soul-stirring sermons, and also composed several works of halachah and guidance. When the sadik met the renown philanthropist, who was well known for his devoted efforts on behalf of his brethren, he offered him as a gift one of his written works, still in manuscript form. Sir Moses rejoiced over the precious gift, and upon his return to London he sent the sadik a letter of appreciation and included two gold coins.
That same day, the sadik left his house to go the Bet Kenesset, and along the way he met a Jew who needed help paying for his daughter's wedding. The celebration was scheduled for that night and he was unable to make the payments. Without thinking, the rabbi put his hand in his pocket and handed the man two coins.
After the tefilah, the sadik returned home. He told his wife that he had received a thank-you note from Sir Motifore that included two gold coins. His wife was overjoyed and exclaimed, "Now we can pay our debt to the storekeeper!" He put his hands into his pocket to take out the coins, but all he could find were simple copper coins. He realized that he had given the two gold coins to the poor father who had asked for help in paying for his daughter's wedding.
His wife said, "If you had planned on giving him copper coins and mistakenly gave him gold coins, then this was a mistaken donation. You must go to him and ask for the money back!"
He sighed and said, "You are right - let us go together." His wife accompanied him and, as they approached the area, they heard the great sounds of joy and celebration coming from the wedding festivities. He looked at her questioningly, and she replied, "Let us return home... "
A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Procedure for Kiddush on Leil Shabbat
Spreading Two Cloths on the Table
Before kiddush, one should spread a nice tablecloth on his table and then add another cloth to cover the "lehem mishneh" (two loaves of bread), such that the bread is covered both on top and from the bottom. One reason for this requirement of covering the bread during kiddush is for the honor of Shabbat, that we begin the Shabbat meal honorably. Additionally, since we generally recite the berachah over bread before over wine, but on Shabbat we recite kiddush first, we protect the bread from its "embarrassment" by covering it during kiddush. Some claim that this requirement serves as a commemoration of the mann, which was covered above and below by layers of dew. According to this final reason, one should cover the bread even at se'uda shelisheet, when kiddush is not recited. One who conducts himself stringently in this regard is deserving of blessing. One may uncover the bread immediately following kiddush. (Some, however, rule that one should preferably keep the bread covered until after the recitation of the berachah of hamossi.)
This requirement applies as well in a case where one recites kiddush over bread, as the requirement of commemorating the mann is relevant here, too. One places his hand over the bread, recites "Vayechulu," uncovers the bread and then recites hamossi followed by the berachah of "asher kideshanu bemissvotav verassah vanu... " with his hands placed on the bread all throughout.
The Customary Practices Before Kiddush
The widespread custom is to sing "Shalom Alechem" before kiddush. Some repeat each stanza three times for emphasis. This hymn was composed based on Hazal's comment in Masechet Shabbat (119b) that two ministering angels, one good and one evil, escort a person on Shabbat eve from the Bet Kenesset to his home. If he comes to a home with the lights kindled, the table set and the beds made, the good angel says, "May it be His will that there be other Shabbatot like this." The evil angel responds, "Amen" against his will. If not, then the evil angel says, "May it be His will that there be other Shabbatot like this," and the good angel responds, "Amen" against his will. Some have the practice to omit the final stanza, "BeSetchem l'shalom," as it appears as one wishes for the angels to leave. Nevertheless, the widespread practice is to include this final stanza, as it means that when the angels leave, we wish them well. The correct text is "Melech Malchei hamelachim," not "MI-Melech Malchei hamelachim."
Some have the practice to recite the Psalm of "Mizmor leDavid Hashem ro'i" (Tehillim 23) before kiddush on Leil Shabbat. Most, however, have the practice of reciting this chapter only on Shabbat morning before kiddush, not on Leil Shabbat.
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
During the time of the second Bet Hamikdash, the Greeks issued harsh decrees forbidding the Jews from studying Torah and observing misvot. They also stormed the Bet Hamikdash and defiled it. Ultimately, the Hashmonaim overthrew the Greeks. When they entered the Mikdash, they wanted to light the menorah but found only a single, small jug of pure oil. Miraculously, the small quantity of oil lasted for eight days. In commemoration, the eight-day festival of Hanukah was established, beginning on the 25th of Kislev, the day on which the small jug of oil was discovered.
The oil used in the Mikdash was stored specifically in earthenware jugs, since according to halachah earthenware utensils become tamei (ritually impure) only from the inside of the utensils, i.e. when an impure object enters the area inside the utensil. Therefore, an earthenware jug containing an unbroken seal of the kohen gadol could be presumed tahor (ritually pure). Eight days were required for oil to be imported from the region of Asher in northern Israel. The distance between Yerushalayim and that area is four days' travel, thus requiring eight days for the messengers to go to Asher and bring back the oil. The Rambam, however, writes that those who were proficient in manufacturing the oil had become tamei during battle. As the purification process takes a week long, they could not produce more oil for eight days.
The jug of oil they found in the Mikdash contained three-and-a-half "lugim" of oil, the quantity required for lighting all seven candles of the menorah each day. According to the Bet Yossef, they divided this amount into eighths and used one-eighth each day. The Peri Hadash argues, claiming that they would never have relied on a miracle from the outset by providing less oil than could have burned for a full day through natural means. In truth, however, the Bet Yossef meant that they were going to pour the entire contents of the jug on the first day, but the kohen pouring the oil noticed that the oil flowed like a fountain from the jug, such that all the oil cups were filled from only one-eighth of the jug's contents. This miracle repeated itself throughout the eight days.
The miracle occurred specifically through a small quantity of oil, despite the fact that Hashem could have had the candles burn with no oil at all. The reason is that Hashem brings about blessing only on something that already exists in the world; he does not create something from nothingness. For this same reason, Elisha performed a miracle for the poor woman by having her small quantity of oil multiply, rather than creating something out of nothing.
Hazal instituted the commemoration specifically over the miracle of the oil to show that the Jews' primary concern at the time was spiritual, given the religious oppression inflicted by the Greeks, who had outlawed fundamental misvot such as Shabbat and milah. The Hashmonaim instituted that we commemorate this victory through candle lighting because the lighting the menorah in the Mikdash testified to the residence of the Shechinah among Am Yisrael. Throughout the lifetime of Shimon Hassadik, the "western candle" of the menorah never extinguished, and the other candles were lit from that candle. This miracle attested to Hashem's residence among the nation.
Similarly, the oil with which we light the Hanukah candles symbolizes the quality of Am Yisrael that it shares with oil: it never fully mixes with the other nations of the world, and it always rises above them, just as oil rises above other liquids.
On each of the eight days of Hanukah we recite the complete hallel with a berachah. Women are exempt from the recitation of hallel during Hanukah, as it constitutes a time-bound obligation. Although they are included in the obligation of candle lighting as they, too, were included in the miracle, they are nevertheless exempt from hallel. Since the recitation of hallel was instituted over the military victory, the obligation does not apply to women who do not go out to battle. If a woman wishes to recite hallel, she may do so without a berachah.
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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