Friday, July 29, 2016

PINCHOS MATOS BEIN HAMEITZARIM

PINCHAS

ISH YISRAEL – THE TRAGIC FALL OF THE NASI

Rav Pintshe of Piltz asks why the pasuk calls Zimri ish Yisrael; how did a sinner merit such a lofty title?

Rav Pintshe tells in Sifsei Tzaddik how the holy brothers, the Rebbe Reb Melech of Lizhensk and the Rebbe Reb Zisha of Hanipoli wandered together in self-imposed exile, drawing many of their fellow Yidden back to Hashem as ba'alei teshuva. Once, during their many wanderings, the two holy brothers encountered the evil yetzer in the guise of a large, black, demonic visage that stood before them, towering as high as a wall, reaching from the earth to the heavens, barring their progress. It warned them, threatening that if they did not desist and separate from one another and stop journeying and working together, then it would turn away from all its other matters and instead concentrate all efforts against them to cause them to stumble, heaven forbid! From then on, the two tzaddikim separated and never saw each other again.

Using this story as a basis, the Sifsei Tzaddik creates the following formula: just as we see that the yetzer hara was able to ignore the rest of the world and instead concentrate all its efforts in waging war against these two tzaddikim, so can any tzaddik also take upon himself to battle the evil yetzer alone.

Using this deduction Rav Pintshe attempts to answer the difficult question: how could Zimri have sinned so gravely? How is it that a nasi, a leader of the Jewish people, could stoop so low? The question becomes even more difficult when we examine Chazal, who say that Zimri was really Shlumiel ben Tzurishadai, the nasi of the shevet, who, in turn, they say was actually Shaul ben HaK'naanis, which makes him the son of Shimon, the son of Yaakov, and places him as one who lived some two hundred and fifty years and who had actually known Yaakov Avinu and seen his holy face! So if this was his identity, wonders Rav Pintshe, how could he then commit such a crime?

He answers based on the above deduction, that when Zimri, aka Shlumiel, saw his fellow tribesmen falling like flies, dying and stricken because of their failure against the zenus, he took upon himself the entire mission, to stand alone to wage war against the yetzer hara. Although his valiant efforts failed, nonetheless Hashem rewards all creatures; our pasuk therefore calls him ish Yisrael. His mercy was awakened to save his brethren. In order to save Klal Yisrael he tried to enter the fray and take on the war against the yetzer alone. Surely he did them a favor, by saving the lives of some Jews who would also have fallen prey had he not engaged the yetzer in mortal combat. But because he drew all the evil to himself, he failed and could not withstand the test. Still his efforts were rewarded and the pasuk thus calls him ish Yisrael, to teach us that he did not lose that merit – the merit of having given himself for the benefit of Klal Yisrael…

Perhaps just as Rav Yehuda HaNasi, Rebbe, said of himself that the reason he was superior to his fellows was because he at least merited seeing Rav Meir, even from behind, perhaps Zimri, aka Shlumiel, also thought that the merit of having gazed at the holy face of Yaakov would have saved him from the temptation of zenus, a desire that he believed was far beneath him and far removed. Instead he thought the difficult war would be against the yetzer hara of the avoda zara of Pe'or. But he underestimated the yetzer of zenus and that was his downfall.

MATTOS – BEIN HAMETZARIM

MASHAL UMELITZA

Rav Gedlaya Schor, in Ohr Gedalyahu, teaches us some important lessons for Bein Hametzarim, the time of the three weeks between Shiva Asar BeTammuz and Tisha B'Av, when we remember and mourn the churban – the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. He quotes the pasuk in Eicha (1:3): kol rodfeha hisiguha bein hametzarim – "All who chased her caught up to her and reached her between the straits." The great Maggid of Mezritch explains this pasuk as follows: "All who chase Y"ah – all who chase after Hashem, after the revelation of Hashem and His presence, can reach and grasp Him – bein hametzarim." Specifically in these darker, mournful times, we can feel Hashem's presence and closeness more and more than ever. But why is this? The Maggid uses a mashal (also quoted by the Noam Elimelech) to explain how:

"A lowly serf can never expect an audience with His Majesty!" laughed the guards. Their horrible smirks leered at the poor farmer as their jowls quivered and their fat, expansive bellies rumbled with laughter and scorn. "Ha, ha, ha, what a fool! Be gone with you!" they cried, as they jeered and turned away the simple farmer. He had traveled to the capital to see his beloved ruler, the great king; how was he to know that the castle was guarded by such rough guards at the gates?

A kinder court magistrate witnessed the ordeal and explained to the poor farmer, "The king is extremely busy with royal matters at his court. Why, even magistrates such as myself must make an appointment weeks in advance to have a precious few moments of his time! He is surrounded by guards, courtiers, and nobles. My suggestion to you is to go back home, and perhaps when the king goes on his annual journey surveying the countryside, you will be able to catch a glimpse of the royal entourage!"

The disappointed farmer thanked the magistrate and made his way back home.

When the king did embark on his annual journey in his royal carriage drawn by stately white stallions, the entourage passed through the simple farmer's village. But on the rough country roads the carriage hit a snag and one of the wheels broke. While the carriage was being repaired by the local wheelwright, the king needed some lodgings, but where to find a clean home in such a rough village? In the cold winter, all the farmers' animals were indoors, the woodburning and coal stoves filled the homes with soot, and the stench of the animals was unbearable; the dirty straw and stinking filth was no place for a king.

Just then they passed by the farmer's homestead. He had prepared for the king in advance, hoping for just such an opportunity.

"Please, Your Majesty, my home is poor but clean."

He had cleared out all the animals, spread clean earth and sand on the filth and brought new, soft, sweet-smelling straw. The house was shabby, small, poor – but clean and pure. Wandering through such dirty and smelly places, a small, clean corner was all the king could wish for. Here he retired on the new, soft bed of straw after a hot, simple meal of soup and freshly baked bread. The farmer was delighted at the honor of having the king so close!

"Just think! At the royal palace I had no chance even to glimpse his royal visage – and here the king is my very own guest!"

Similarly, explained the Maggid, normally when Hashem, the King, is in His palace, it is difficult for most commoners to see Him or even glimpse His glory. However, when wandering in exile, even the simplest can merit an audience with Him!

Bein Hametzarim is such a time; the Shechina is exiled from her place in the palace and the galus is felt most strongly; what better time is there to catch up to the King?

The Ohr Gedalyahu also cites the teaching that rav lach sheves be'emek habacha, normally translated as "enough to sit in the valley of tears." We can now understand it as "Shabbos (which contains the same letters as sheves) is greater (rav) in the valley of tears. The Rebbe Reb Bunim taught that just as Shabbos is most lofty during these three weeks, so is the time of Mincha and Shalosh Seudos. For especially that time which, during the week, is a time of din (harsh judgment), now on Shabbos it is transformed into raava deraavin – the highest point, when the divine will is most revealed and great divine mercy and compassion are awakened.

Mattos – Nedarim

So what can we do to take advantage of all this? We cannot build the Beis Hamikdash ourselves, so what are we practically to do? He answers based on the Sefer Chareidim – let us build Hashem a mishkan, a sanctuary in our hearts! This is why we read parshas nedarim of Mattos during Bein Hametzarim. The purpose of making a neder is to draw closer to Hashem. The closest possible is in the Beis Hamikdash; we must awaken ourselves to set aside a clean, pure corner for Hashem. What sanctity and holiness can we take on? We may not be able to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash yet ourselves, but surely we can clean out and purify a corner in our hearts where we can build Him a place, a sanctuary while the King is wandering in exile, a place to rest during His journey.

That place is in our hearts.


הפרופסור פרץ בבכי: "כיצד הגראי"ל ידע שערכתי ברית מילה?"

A CHASSIDISHA MAASAY FROM A LITVISHE GADOL

Original Hebrew follows the English adaptation:

A Russian professor of Mathematics declared his desire to study Torah with a Yungerman. He was uncircumcised never having had his bris milah, and he was married to a non Jewish woman. He emphatically emphasized that while he was willing to study Torah it was on the sole condition that his study partner, his chavrusa not mention nor bring up these matters for they were not up for discussion.

The Yungerman approached Rav Shteineman and the Rosh Yeshiva told him, no problem, study the Talmudic tractate of Gemara Bava Metiza Perek Hazahav, and make no mention of either bris or his gentile wife.

And so it went, the professor was brilliant and quickly grasped the material, he was learning so well that as they progressed he could easily summarize the sugya, and even began asking question, giving answers and recording novel chiddushim. All went well until. . .until they reached the sugya known as Tagrei Lud. Here, no matter how many times they reviewed the material, the professor failed again and again to understand or grasp any of it. Frustrated he continued reviewing on his own. He even went so far as to visit the Chevron Yeshiva where he asked a student to teach and explain the sugya to him, all to no avail.

Then a thought entered the professor's mind: Its the Orlah, my uncircumcised foreskin is blocking me and preventing me from understanding the sugya! He clandestinely contacted the organization Bris Yitzchok and secretly underwent circumcision. Due to the pain and discomfort of recovery he contacted his chavrusa and not telling his study partner why, he asked that they push off their study sessions while he recovered as "he wasn't feeling well." Then once he recovered again they tackled the sugya of Tagrei Lud and lo and behold, a miracle, the professor who could not grasp the sugya not only mastered it, he began to offer new mathematics and explanations until he had masterfully written up a summary of the sugya.

Overjoyed, the two approached, Rav Shteineman to receive the Rosh Yeshiva's beracha on their success in learning. The yungerman introduced his study partner as someone who wished to review his masterful explanations of the sugya of Tagrei Lud, after the recitation which Rav Shteineman lauded, the yungerman added: "This is the chavrusa I had told the Rosh Yeshiva about previously the Russian professor who has not yet had his bris." Smiling, Rav Shteineman turned to the stunned professor and declared a statement that shocked him, "You have already had a bris!" The professor burst into emotional tears and asked, "How could the Rav know, its a secret I havent yet told anyone, I got a bris and then I understood the sugya, it inspired me so much and suffused me with such kedusha that I even left my non Jewish wife. How did you know?"

"Simple," explained Rav Shteineman, "It is impossible for an Arel, an uncircumcised Jew to grasp Torah such as this, if you have mastered it so, it is clear you must be mahul - circumcised!"



הסיפור הבא מובא בספר 'כאיל תערוג', וסופר על ידי אחד מתלמידיו של מרן הגראי"ל שטיינמן שליט"א.

http://www.hidabroot.org/article/211329 נעמה גרין - אתר הידברות

"אני אברך שלומד עם יהודים שעדיין אינם שומרי תורה ומצוות. באחד הפעמים הגיע עולה מרוסיה, שהוא פרופסור למתמטיקה, וביקש להצטרף לשיעורי התורה, בשני תנאים: הוא לא מהול עדיין, ומבקש שלא ידברו אתו על ענין זה, וכן הוא נשוי לגויה, ומבקש שלא ידברו עמו על זה, "באם אתם מסכימים לתנאים אלו", אמר היהודי, "אשמח להצטרף לשיעור".

מוסר השיעור ניגש למרן הגראי"ל ושאלו מה לעשות. תשובתו של מרן היתה: 'תלמד אתו פרק 'הזהב' בבא מציעא, ואל תדבר אתו שום דבר על מה שאינו חפץ'.

מוסר השיעור והפרופסור החלו ללמוד את הפרק עליו הורה הרב שטיינמן. "הוא היה מוכשר גדול, הבין וקלט יפה, וכך למדנו כמה שבועות".

בעל המעשה ממשיך בסיפור: "עד ששבוע אחד הגענו לסוגיא של 'תגרי לוד', וכהקדמה לסוגיא אמרתי לו אתה הרי מתמטיקאי, וכנראה מאוד תהנה ממנה. התחלנו ללמוד, אך הוא לא קלט. כך חזרנו פעם שניה ושלישית, אך הוא לא הצליח לקלוט, והיה לו צער גדול מזה. השיעור הסתיים, הפרופסור חזר לביתו, נסה ללמוד בעצמו את הסוגיא שוב ושוב, ולא הצליח להבין.

"בצערו, נזכר הפרופסור כי מוסר השיעור הזכיר את ישיבת 'חברון', בה לומדים התלמידים גם בשעות הלילה המאוחרות. הוא החליט לנסוע לישיבה, ואולי שם יסבירו לו את הסוגיא.

"הפרופסור הגיע לישיבה, ביקש מאחד הבחורים שילמד איתו. הם החלו ללמוד, הבחור הסביר לו את הסוגיה פעם אחר פעם אך הוא לא הבין.

"למחרת הגיע יום השבת. במהלכה ניסה שוב הפרופסור ללמוד ללא הועיל. 'הערלה מפריעה לי להבין את הסוגיה', חשב הפרופסור, והחליט לבצע ברית מילה", ממשיך מוסר השיעור ומתאר כיצד התגלגלו העניינים.

ביום ראשון פנה לארגון 'ברית יצחק' שמתעסק בבריתות לאנשים מבוגרים, וארגנו לו באותו יום ברית. לאחר מספר ימים הגיע יום השיעור. הפרופסור התקשר והודיע למוסר השיעור כי הוא אינו מרגיש טוב ועל כן לא יגיע. יצוין כי הוא לא סיפר מעולה על ברית המילה שערך.

בשבוע שלאחר מכן, למדו השניים שוב את סוגית תגרי לוד. "אך ראה זה פלא, הוא הבין את הסוגיה, וקלט היטב את החשבונות והיו לו קושיות ותירוצים עד כדי חבורה שלימה. השתוממתי מאוד למראה עיניי: לפני שבועיים לא הבין כלום וכעת הוא מבין כל כך טוב", מספר מוסר השיעור וממשיך. "הפרופסור אמר לי: אתה ודאי מתפלא מה קרה... הרגשתי שהערלה מפריעה לי, ועשיתי ברית מילה. שבוע לאחר הברית הרגשתי קדושה, ועזבתי את אשתי הגויה. זוהי הסיבה שאני מבין את הסוגיה".

למחרת, נסעו השניים בהתרגשות לביתו של מרן הגראי"ל שטיינמן לתפילת ותיקין. לאחר התפילה נכנסו למרן, ומוסר השיעור אמר למרן כי האיש שלידו רוצה לומר לו 'חבורה' בענין 'תגרי לוד'. מרן הגראי"ל האזין בקשב לסוגיה, ולאחר מכן העיר מוסר השיעור: "זה האיש שדיברתי אודותיו לפני כחודשיים, שאינו מהול".

שמע זאת מרן הגראי"ל, חייך ואמר לפרופסור: "אתה כבר מהול". בתגובה פרץ הפרופסור בבכי, ושאל את מרן כיצד הוא יודע. השיב מרן הגראי"ל: ''אי אפשר להבין סוגית תגרי לוד כשיש ערלה, ואם הצלחת להבין את הסוגיה ברור שאתה מהול"...

Friday, July 22, 2016

PARSHAS PINCHOS

PARSHAS PINCHAS

SPLIT SOULS – THE INNER CONFLICT

The Avodas Yissachar asks what is hinted at by the mesora that traditionally the letter vav in the word shalom (25:12) is to be split in half. The word shalom is of course read as usual; there is no discernible difference in the traditional way we read shalom – the keri remains the same as always. Yet the kesiv, the written word shalom here, is traditionally different, as the vav is split. What does this teach us?

The split symbolizes the internal conflict we all face when serving Hashem. We all know the truth: we have sinned at times, sometimes we fail and falter, and many times we have not served Hashem properly, transgressing against Him and His laws of our holy Torah. So we feel broken, ashamed, and lowly. We know that humility leads to true yiras shamayim (fear of Hashem). However, teaches the Avodas Yissachar, we would do well at lowly times such as these to remember the teaching of the Tiferes Shlomo of Radomsk on the maamar Chazal, Pesachim 64, that ein maavirin al hamitzvos, which means literally that we don't pass over mitzvos. But the Tiferes Shlomo understands this to mean that when a mitzva comes to hand not only should you not let the opportunity pass you by; you should also not remember your aveiros. Rather, push those thoughts aside; focus not on past mistakes but on future accomplishments and achievements! This is what the broken vav symbolizes; it is our brokenheartedness due to past misdeeds.

The Avodas Yissachar also cites the holy Kozhnitzer Maggid that teaches us that the pasuk in Bamidbar 19:2 – asher ein bo mum asher lo ala aleha ol – "that has no blemish and has born no burden," can be read to mean that whoever does not recognize that he has blemishes and has made mistakes, cannot become elevated and his tefillos and mitzvos do not ascend to Hashem.

We need a balance. This is the balance of the keri and kesiv of shalom. On the inside, the kesiv, we are broken like the vav; on the outside we never give up, continuing to serve Hashem with joy. This is true shalom and shleimus!

The Nesivos Shalom says that one of the explanations of the sin of Klal Yisrael at this time was that they all stood mourning and crying outside the tent. He cites the Sabba Kadisha of Slonim who explains that this grave sin of the klal was yeush – hopelessness and despair! They had given up; they thought their sins were so bad, that they had sunk so low, that there was no way back, heaven forbid. This is when the yetzer hara is strongest: when a Yid chas veshalom falls into despair and says, "I give up – there is no hope!" Then he falls even lower to worse sins!

The Sabba Kadisha of Slonim taught the meaning of the pasuk: mussar Hashem beni al timas, which literally means "My son, do not hate or disparage the mussar of your father." The Sabba Kaddisha read this as: "The best mussar lesson from Hashem is – you are my son; I shall never disparage or hate you!" Even after the worst of sins, says Hashem, you will always be My child.

With such a message of hope we will overcome the evil yetzer and rise up to serve Hashem with joy, Amen.

MASHAL

THE BETRAYAL OF THE SECRET WEAPON

There was once a soldier in the king's army who had a secret weapon. The king had granted him a precious weapon of such power and might that he alone was entrusted to safeguard and wield it in battle. What did the soldier do? He went to war; but once he had crossed over into enemy territory all his best-laid plans were foiled.

There he was ambushed by the enemy. The enemy was cunning, crafty and…beautiful and enticing. The enemy had sent a female soldier to lure and capture the king's soldier. The soldier was ensnared and betrayed the king. He handed over his secret weapon – the king's prized treasure, into the hands of the enemy! Although he was captured and held as a prisoner of war, he was eventually redeemed and brought back from captivity. Yet his judgment was not only to be court-martialed, he was sentenced to death for his betrayal, for handing over the king's secrets to the enemy!

The Slonimer Rebbe, in Nesivos Shalom, asks why Klal Yisrael were collectively blamed and punished for the actions of an individual (Zimri). He answers that their collective sin was the failure of hakaras chet – the failure to recognize the calamity and gravity of the sin in their midst. Which grave sin was this? Licentious behavior by a leader of the generation with a non-Jewish woman. What is so grave about this sin as opposed to others? Why does this crime outweigh others in its weight so that it brings about collective punishment as harsh as a plague that killed so many? The Nesivos Shalom explains that relations with a gentile woman are tantamount to taking the king's secret weapon, the sparks of holiness, and handing them over to the enemy. The penalty is death for such a grave crime, a betrayal of the King Himself.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

PARSHAS PINCHOS

HEAR NO EVIL

LeOzni Mishpachas Ho'Ozni – To Ozni, the Oznite family (26:16).

Rashi – this is Etzbon (mentioned in Bereishis 46:16).

The Shela HaKodosh learns a moshol from these words. He asks why Rashi equates Ozni with Etzbon. What's the connection? He teaches us a mussar lesson based on a play on words. Chazal teach (Kesubos 5b) that man's fingers were created shaped so that they fit perfectly in our ears. Why? So that he can place them in his ears and prevent himself from hearing anything negative. Rashi therefore compares Ozni to Etzbon: Ozen means "ear" and Etzba "finger". Thus, the pasuk, based on Rashi, is seen as a moshol telling us to team up the Ozen with the Etzba: if you wish to prevent yourself from hearing something ossur, stick your fingers in your ears!

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY

LeYetzer Mishpachas HaYitzri, LeShillem Mishpachas HaShillemi – To Yetzer, the Yitzrite family, to Shillem, the Shillemite family (26:49).

The Chofetz Chaim used to say that this pasuk teaches us mussar by way of a moshol. Yetzer refers to the Yetzer Hora, the evil inclination to sin, and Shillem refers to the acquisition of shleimus, perfection, righteousness and good. The pasuk warns us that LeYetzer – whoever chooses to listen to his Yetzer HoraMishpachas HaYitzri –will have no problem finding a large family to take him in, a family of sinners, and others who chase after their passions and desires to do evil. The opposite, however, is also true: LeShillem – whoever decides to pursue the path of righteousness and straightforwardness and become whole and pure – Mishpachas HaShillemi – he is welcomed to the family of Tzaddikim, righteous people who all share the same desire to grow in Avodas Hashem. As Chazal tell us: BeDerech She'Odom Rotzeh Leylech Molichin Oso – a person is led upon whichever path he chooses.

 

MAGGID

AD KAN – TILL HERE AND NO FURTHER

Rav Elimelech Biderman tells a story:

"Rebbe, I am worthless," complained a dejected, despondent bachur before the Steipler Gaon, "I have no connection left to Torah or Avodas Hashem. The evil one has ensnared me in his net and I cannot fight anymore." The poor talmid sat there deflated and and explained why he felt this way: "I am constantly fighting my yetzer hora and I am defeated again and again; I never win!" "Never?" wondered the Steipler. "Do you honestly never succeed? Can you truly say you never win at all?" "Well, maybe just sometimes – once in a while," admitted the bachur. "Well," concluded the Steipler, "if so, your way is clear; don't look back at your failures at all – instead focus only on your victories. This will console you, and this is how you will slowly rise back up." The Steipler bolstered his words by pointing out how many seforim illustrate the process of teshuva by prescribing various methods to atone for past misdeeds. "However, the greatest tikkun one can effect," asserted the Steipler, "is to say to yourself, 'AD KAN – stop! Till here did I stumble – but no further. From this point on, I will get up and strengthen myself.' This is the greatest tikkun you can do!"

SEGULA

SHEMIRAS EINAYIM

The Arizal teaches us that in the scheme of the head, the months of Tammuz and Av correspond to the eyes. This is the secret of the pasuk in Eicha (1:16), Eini Eini Yorda Mayim – "My eye runs constantly with water", referring to the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. It is no coincidence that in the summer months of Tammuz and Av we have a special obligation to safeguard and sanctify our eyes more than at any other time of year.

A bachur once came to the Gerrer Rebbe, the Bais Yisrael, and complained that he had visited a Mekubal who had told him terrible things. "The Mekubal told me," he said, "that I have a lot of Ayin Horas that I must rid myself of!" The Rebbe calmed him and answered him thus: "Let me explain to you the Gemara's statement (Bava Metzia 107b), that 'ninety-nine out of a hundred die because of Ayin Hora (the evil eye) and one of natural causes'. What Chazal meant by Ayin Hora is that they died because they did not sufficiently protect and safeguard their eyes!" Concluded the Rebbe.

The Zlotshuver Maggid once observed that no other organ in the human body is as delicate as the eye. Take one single grain of sand and place it on any organ, nothing negative will happen. However, place just one single grain of sand in the eye…! The reason for the exalted position of the eyes is because the Shechina Herself rests on our eyes and, because they are a vehicle or dwelling place for Her, just one grain of sand or dirt can injure them!

The Biala Rebbe, author of Chelkas Yehoshua, had very poor eyesight in his later years. Eventually, during the last six years of his life, his right eye ceased to function, and his left eye saw only very dimly. His grandson related how, one Shabbos morning, the Rebbe awoke before dawn, as was his custom, and asked for a Siddur so as to recite the morning blessings of Birkas HaTorah and Keriyas Shema. When his grandson said it was still too dark to see, he went into the next room with his grandfather's Siddur, and, by the last light of the guttering candles, turned pages till he reached the Berachos in the Siddur. He asked the Rebbe if he would like to sit by the candles, yet the Rebbe demurred, saying it was unnecessary. After saying the Berachos, the Rebbe turned a few pages, recited the Rambam's Thirteen Principles of Faith and began reciting Shema – all from the Siddur, as his minhag was to daven only from a Siddur. His grandson, however, couldn't help but notice that as he gazed at the Siddur, it was so dark that he couldn't make out a single word. He wondered if his holy grandfather was simply gazing at the Siddur, because it was his minhag to daven only from a Siddur, yet not actually reading anything, being that his eyesight was so poor. Afterward, he took the Siddur and checked by the remaining candlelight and – lo and behold – the Siddur was turned to the correct page for Shema. He approached the Chelkas Yehoshua and asked him, "Zeida, how can you see? I am younger than you and my eyesight is better, yet I cannot read in this darkness! How do you do it?!" The Rebbe took his einikel's hands in his holy ones and said to him, "When you guard your eyes all your life, all the Devorim She'bikedusha shine!" (Kedushas Einayim Chap. 15, #126)

The Modzitzer Rebbe writes in Divrei Yisrael (Klalei Oraisa #Hay): The pasuk says in Sefer Shmuel Aleph (16:7): HaAdam Yireh La'Einayim Va'Hashem Yireh LaLevov ("Man sees with the eyes but Hashem sees into the heart"). The word Levov is an acronym whose Roshei Teivos (initial letters) spell: Lechem, Beged and Bayis (Bread, Clothing and Home). These items symbolize all the needs of a person. If a person takes care guarding his eyes, Hashem will take care of providing for all his physical needs, seeing to it that he lacks nothing, has bread to eat, clothing to wear and a place to live.

The Ra'avad writes in Ba'alei HaNefesh (Sha'ar HaKedusha) that the first protective fence that a person must erect around himself is to safeguard the eyes. Whoever protects his eyes protects his heart as well.

The Yerushalmi (Berachos 1:5) promises us that HaKodosh Boruch Hu declares: "If you give Me your heart and your eyes, I know that you are Mine!"

OHR HACHAIM HAKADOSH YARZEIT

In honor of the Ohr haChaim HaKadosh's Yohrzeit we are re-issuing last year's parsha vort: ZYA
PINCHAS

HOW PINCHAS SAVED ZIMRI

"The name of the Ish Yisrael who was slain, who was slain with the Midianite woman" (25:14).

The Ohr HaChaim HaKodosh is bothered by the seemingly repetitive mention of the word "slain" or "struck (down)" in our pasuk, as opposed to the single occurrence of the word in the following pasuk referring to the Midianite princess, Kozbi. He tells us, therefore, that this pasuk can be read in one of two ways: either as "The name [and soul] of the Ish Yisrael was struck down [because] he was struck by the Midianite woman [spiritually]", or as "The name of the Ish Yisrael who was struck down [physically by Pinchas], he was struck by the Midianite woman [spiritually, through his relationship with her]".

The Ohr HaChaim points out that Zimri was struck twice: physically, his body was struck down and slain by Pinchas who, in a zealous act of righteousness, killed him; and his soul was also struck down by his relationship with Kozbi, the Midianite princess, which defiled his name and his inner essence, the Jewish soul. The Ohr HaChaim says that this is why the pasuk points out the name of the Ish Yisrael – because we know that a person's name influences and expresses his soul's nature (Berachos 7b, Yoma 83b). When Zimri sinned with Kozbi, he fatally wounded his own name, together with his Jewish soul, dealing himself a lethal blow even before Pinchas slew him.

Nonetheless, the Ohr HaChaim concludes in the name of the Mekubolim that "Lo Yidach Mimenu Nidach" – no one is ever left behind; there is hope and a tikkun (rectification) for every Jew, no matter what. All the sparks of kedusha will eventually be ingathered and uplifted. No matter how far a Jew might stray and – Heaven forbid – blemish or defile his soul, Hashem guarantees that it will be rectified and will return to its root source in the end.

Therefore, says the Ohr HaChaim, the pasuk still calls Zimri an Ish Yisrael – an Israelite, a Jew. The pasuk testifies that although his act was sinful, and, since he was killed in the midst of sin he surely did not have time to do teshuva, nonetheless he is still called Yisrael – he still achieved his tikkun. How? Pinchas did that for him. Pinchas' act was not a random act of vigilante justice or murder; it was a zealous act of righteousness LiSh'ma – for the honor and glory of Hashem, with pure motivations. Thus, by killing Zimri, Pinchas did him the ultimate favor and was mesaken him, thereby atoning for his sin and elevating his soul.

Friday, June 10, 2016

NASO SHAVOUS


NASO

CHASSIDUS

UPLIFT THEM & RAISE THEIR HEADS HIGH

"And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying "Naso es Rosh Bnei Gershon Gam Hem – please also uplift the heads of the sons of Gershon as well." (Bamidbar 4:21)

In his sefer Divrei Yechezkel, Rav Chatzkeleh Shinover conveys the following vort from Rav Tzvi ha'Kohen of Rymanow (also known as Reb Hirschele MeShares). The name or term "Moshe" can be interpreted as referring to a Tzaddik, because often the Gemara refers to a Talmudic sage speaking truth as "Moshe". For instance, "Moshe Shapir KeAmris," Moshe you have spoken truthfully." (Shabbos 101b). The name or term "Gershon" can be interpreted as referring to those who are "gerushin" or "megerushim", that is "sent or chased away".

Thus, we can interpret this pasuk as Hashem telling the Tzaddikim in each generation to uplift and raise the heads of those who feel distant from sanctity and holiness. The Shinover confided that when he heard Reb Hirshele MeShares' words, they uplifted him, enlightening his soul, making it shine and raising him high.

THE POWER AND HOLINESS OF WORDS

"Ko sevarchu es Bnei Yisroel Emor Lahem – So shall you bless the children of Israel, say unto them." (Bamidbar 6:23)

"Emor Lahem kemo Zachor veShamor – say to them just like "remember and safeguard [Shabbos]". (Rashi ad hoc)

It was Erev Shabbos. Rav Menachem Mendel of Rymanow was in a quandary. He had no fish for Shabbos Kodesh! What should he do? As the afternoon waned and Shabbos drew near, he turned to his faithful servant, Reb Hirschele MeShares, and asked him to prepare the cooking utensils they used to cook fish in honor of Shabbos. Reb Hirschel gathered wood, lit and stoked the fire in the stove and boiled water in the fish pot. Rav Mendel also asked Reb Hirschel to chop and cook up the carrots and the onions. With each act and task Reb Hirschel was instructed to say "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh - " in honor of the holy Shabbos. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. A guest had arrived to celebrate Shabbos with his Rebbe. Amazingly, the guest had brought Rav Mendel a gift in honor of Shabbos… Fish!


Later on during the Shabbas tisch, Rav Mendel explained to his followers and Chassidim,: "The sanctity of Shabbos comes down and draws down with it all forms of shefa (abundance) and blessings from on High. Whoever wishes to accept and receive the shefa must prepare himself by transforming his will and desire into speech by saying "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh!" Then the shefa will come down to him. Chazal( our sages) alluded to this when they said: "Zachor and Shamor (remember and safeguard Shabbos) were said together as one – Be'Dibur Echad," (Rosh HaShanna 27a) because all blessing hinges upon and depends upon speech! I based my bitachon (faith) that I would have fish for Shabbos on the fact that Reb Hirschel had prepared everything for Shabbas by saying the words "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh."

As Rav Menachem Mendel's replacement Rebbe in Rymanow, Reb Hirschel MeShares used to relate this story and to illustrate the meaning behind Rashi's commentary to the pasuk "Ko Sevarchu…Emor Lahem" concerning the Birkas Kohanim – the priestly blessings. Rashi is troubled as to why the verse includes the additional words v'emor lahem – so shall you bless them, say to them? Wouldn't it have sufficed to say "So shall you bless them." Rashi then explains that these extra words "say to them" demonstrate the power of words. Just as with the enactments of Shabbos, the Torah included the words "Zachor and Shamor" both written in words and spoken due to the secret power of the spoken word to bring forth shefa and blessings, similarly this power of words is reflected in Birkas Kohanim as well. Just as the abundance and blessings of Shabbos can be harnessed via the words "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh", Hashem wanted the Kohenim to say the words aloud in order to harness the blessing and abundance that flows from the words themselves.

MASHAL UMELITZA

REUNITING THE CASTAWAYS AND CAPTIVES WITH THEIR FATHER THE KING

A terrible thing had happened! The crown prince had been kidnapped and captured by a band of criminals! Bound and fettered, the prince languished in a cell, a prisoner with no hope of escape. The criminals sent ransom notes to the king asking him to pay them hefty sums to free their captive.

The king had a faithful servant who was a skilled warrior. In order to save the prince, he knew he would have to descend to the deepest rankest, the foulest pits and dens below the earth. The criminals lurked in hiding amidst the scum and filth, sewers and cesspools, in darkness.

The servant approached the guarded den of thieves and criminals.

He steeled and girded himself with courage. He reminded himself of the great service he was doing to his beloved king, and how grateful and happy the king and prince would be when they were reunited. For the sake of the king, the servant slunk down into the depths and descended into the underworld, braving its dangers. Finally, he reached the cell where the prince sat, forlorn and despondent. The prince dreamed of the day when he would once again bask in the light and splendor of the king's royal visage. He longed to be reunited with his beloved father, the king. Waiting for the opportune time, the skilled warrior attacked the guards. Executing a few skilled strokes, the servant defeated the criminals and rescued the prince!

In Mevaser Tzedek Rav Yissacher, Ber of Zlotshuv uses this parable to illustrate the pasuk: "And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying Naso es Rosh Bnei Gershon Gam Hem – please also uplift the heads of the sons of Gershon as well." (Bamidbar 4:21) He teaches that there are Tzaddikim who use their prowess and skills to rescue and uplift Bnei Gershon - the cast away and captives –that is, those that have been sent away and chased away into dungeons – and reunite them with Hashem, their Father the King. These Tzaddikim draw these princes close and reunite them with their loving families to Beis Avosam - their loving Father.


THE WEALTHY SON WHO WORE RAGS

There was once a wealthy man whose only son resisted all attempts at refinement and education. His tutors and teachers could not help, all was to no avail. He simply refused to act and live a just and true life. The wealthy man disowned his son and refused to have anything more to do with him. He neglected him and did not buy him any new clothes or shoes. Eventually, the boy's appearance matched his deeds, he looked as well as acted like a homeless tramp! His once beautiful and refined garments eventually grow soiled, tattered and torn with use and lack of repair. His jackets needed mending, his knees were torn, his shoes were unpolished and full of holes and he looked like an unkempt street urchin.

One day, a former acquaintance of the boy's father saw the son in the street. Appalled by the boy's appearance, he asked , "Why do you, the son of such a wealthy man, go in such a manner, dressed in rags and tatters?!" The silly boy responded that he did not have a penny to his name to mend his clothes or buy new ones. "My father won't have any new clothes made for me!" he finished in a sulk. The man laughed. "You foolish child! I didn't ask you why you don't have new clothes made for you, I am asking why don't you behave yourself and act the way someone of your status and station ought to behave? If you lived a just and righteous life, your father would be proud of you and would care after you, including buying you shiny shoes and a new suit of clothes fitting for the son of a wealthy nobleman! You would not need to wander the streets like some lowlife ragtag. You would make him happy and would enjoy the pleasure of being taken care of and of giving him the nachas he deserves. you would have satisfaction of knowing you deserved this goodness and kindness. He only wants to bestow all his goodness, riches and wealth on you, his precious beloved son?!"

Inn Siach Sarfei Kodesh, the Kozhnitzer Maggid explains that this is the way we, the Jewish people, act. We are Hashem's beloved precious children, the apple of His eye. Hashem wishes to bestow upon us a wealth of blessings and abundance of shefa from His supernal storehouses of Beracha and Hatzlacha. However, we often act in such a way that prevents us from receiving all that goodness. The yetzer hara causes us to deviate from the path of righteousness which breaks the vessel we need to accept His blessings. In this pasuk, "Ko sevarchu es Bnei Yisroel Emor Lahem – So shall you bless the children of Israel, say unto them." (Bamidbar 6:23), Hashem is telling Moshe to tell Aharon that He wishes to bless Bnei Yisroel and they will be the vehicle to carry that out. However, there is a condition embedded in the words "emor lahem" – that is, they must tread on the righteous path of justice and truth and walk in the ways of Hashem with Torah and Avodah. They will only be worthy of receiving the berachos, that is of having a vessel with which to receive the bounty of shefa if their behavior (their sins) break their vessels and thus prevent them from doing so.

FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE

A TALE OF TWO DRUNKS

Rav Elimelech Biderman taught the following from Rav Aharon of Karlin, author of Beis Aharon.

Once when the Karliner was sitting at his tisch, he sent one of the Chassidim outside to see what was going on in the street and report back what he had seen. The Chassid reported that he had seen two drunks swaying back and forth to and fro across the pavement. They were so drunk they could not walk in a straight line. One drunk said to the other: "Here, let's hold each other and this way we won't fall down!" The holy Tzaddik, the Karliner taught a lesson from these drunks to his Chassidim, "Do you hear?! Did you hear what he said! If we each hold onto each other, then we will not fall!"

The Beis Aharon explained the statement of our Sages (Sukkah 52b) "Whoever is greater than his fellow, his evil inclination is greater than him." . If a person feels that he is "greater than", then that is from "his fellow", this greatness is achieved through his friendship and love and attachment to his fellow Jews. However if his evil inclination is "greater than", then that is from him, then he remains alone because he is by himself lacking the companionship and camaraderie of others to uplift him.


SHAVUOS

Rav Eliyahu Roth, the faithful gabbai of Rav Shlomka of Zhvill, told the following story in which he himself featured. It was Shavuos night, when Klal Yisroel stays up all night. As dawn approached, the tzadik Rav Shlomka of Zhvill turned to his trusted gabbai and said, "You should know that every year as the dawn of Shavuos approaches, Hashem Himself asks each and every Yiddishe Neshama, "Who is willing to accept the Torah?" and all the Yiddishe Neshamos answer, Naase VeNishma! – "We will do and we will hear!" Turning to Rav Eliyahu Roth, Rav Shlomka said, "Now let us together declare Naase VeNishma."

Rav Meizlish in his sefer Sichos BeAvodas Hashem cites the above story and asks, what is the purpose of declaring "Naase VeNishma" every year specifically before dawn? Would it not be more fitting for us to proclaim "Naase VeNishma" during the day when we hear these same words in Keriyas HaTorah of Shavuos? Furthermore, what is actually achieved when our souls are asked to accept Torah and they reply "Naase VeNishma "? After all, the soul has no free will, and we are not even aware that this dialogue transpires.

Rav Meizlish answers that when studying all night long, you often feel frustration as your head swims, you need another coffee, you push yourself, psyche yourself up. You try harder to keep going, another line, another blatt, another Rashi and Tosfos, another pasuk. The darkness of the night reflects the darkness of our minds, toiling and suffering to break through the obscurity and a lack of clarity.

This is precisely the type of Mesirus Nefesh in learning that Shavuos demands of us. The proclamation of Naase VeNishma is a form of oath. The Beis Avraham says that the name of the Yom Tov of Shavuos can be interpreted as a shavua (an oath) such as the pledge of allegiance that a soldier takes when he is sworn in to serve in the armed forces and fight against the enemy.

We too are soldiers in Hashem's army and on Shavuos we pledge allegiance to Hashem, our Commander in Chief, as we are sworn in with a shavua that we will serve Hashem faithfully and fight against our enemy, the yetzer hara.

The Meor Aynaim of Chernobyl teaches in parshas Yisro that the primary virtue of Klal Yisroel's having declared Naase VeNishma is not that they accepted the pleasant and pleasurable aspects of Torah. This is taanug and neimus (pleasure and delight) in Torah study and observance. When Klal Yisroel said Naase VeNishma, they were accepting the Torah under all circumstances, even when it is an ol (a yoke and a burden), even when it is difficult and requires effort and exertion. Specifically during trying times, when Torah study is challenging, when one lacks the enthusiasm to learn and one needs to push oneself, Klal Yisroel's declaration of Naase VeNishma is relevant! Because, explains the Meor Aynaim, he who wishes to serve Hashem only when it is pleasant is not serving Hashem at all; he is worshipping himself! Such an avodah where you are focused on your own delight and pleasure is in fact a taavah like all the other taavos — a desire like any other desire! Rather, we must be faithful servants of Hashem who serve at all times and under all circumstances. This is the Naase VeNishma that Klal Yisroel accepted upon themselves at Matan Torah.

This is also why we read Megilas Rus, for Rus converted under trying circumstances demonstrating true Mesirus Nefesh, saying, "Where you die there I shall die" (Rus 1:17). Rus was ready to die for Hashem and follow Klal Yisroel even though it mean self-sacrifice and poverty.

This is our affirmation of Naase VeNishma on Shavuos night before the dawn after a long hard night of learning.

FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE

Rav Elimelech Biderman shares the following story of Hashgacha Pratis apropos Kabbalas HaTorah and Chag HaShavuos:

THE POWER OF KEVIYAS ITIM LETORAH

There was a Yid who made Torah study his primary occupation and his livelihood secondary. Although he was occupied with his business concerns for most hours of the day, nonetheless he punctiliously attended a Gemara shiur each evening. His daily attendance at the shiur was a firm commitment; nothing prevented him from attending the shiur. Nothing…until the day he received an invitation to his nephew's chasuna.

Now he was in a real quandary. On one hand, how could he miss the shiur? On the other hand, how could he miss the chasuna of his own nephew? Not knowing what to do he approached the Maggid Shiur and explained his dilemma. The Maggid Shiur listened patiently, smiled, and said, "No worries, I have a solution for you that will allow you to fulfill both your obligations. What if I told you that you could attend the shiur and still dance at the chasuna?" The Yid was at a loss — he couldn't imagine how he could accomplish both on the same evening. "I already taught this masechta last cycle and recorded all the shiurim," explained the Maggid Shiur with a smile, and with a flourish he presented the man with a recording of the shiur on the same daf that he would be teaching that evening.

Elated, our protagonist entered the car with his family, and as he drove to the chasuna, the shiur began playing. All was going well until the family found themselves behind a large, slow-moving vehicle. The truck's pace was that of a large snail, and gradually the frustration in the car grew until it reached a crescendo. "At this rate we will get to the chasuna after the last mitzvah tantz," cried the exasperated family. Finally the pressure was too much and the driver decided he had to do something about it. (Now let me make this clear, interrupted Rav Biderman, it is absolutely forbidden to do what this Yid did; it is illegal and sakanas nefashos (a deadly danger). We are commanded by the Torah to look after ourselves — "venishmartem me'od lenafshosaychem — and you shall watch yourselves very well." However, we cannot judge the pressure he was under.) Despite there being a straight and unbroken dividing line on the highway that forbids passing in the opposite lane, our driver checked for oncoming traffic and seeing none proceeded to enter the opposite lane in order to pass the truck in front of him.

As soon as he entered the opposite traffic lane, his heart jumped into his throat at the sound of a blaring police siren. "Oh no, here comes a ticket!" Instinctively he pulled back into his lane...just in the nick of time for it seems that although our driver had checked beforehand, a truck was speeding down the opposite lane. He was traveling so fast that although he had not been in our driver's field of vision before, had our driver entered the opposite lane and attempted to pass the truck in front, there was no doubt that he would have collided with the speeding vehicle head on! Amazed at the fact that Baruch Hashem their lives had been saved, our driver braced himself for the chastisement and ticket that the traffic cops would surely hand him after pulling him over. He was happy to pay, since they had clearly just saved his life. To his amazement, however, there was no siren, no police car in his rearview mirror, nor any other car behind him on the road at all! The police seemed to have somehow vanished into thin air. Well, he didn't need to actively seek a ticket and so he continued driving. At a further point the slow-moving truck in front of him pulled over a little onto the shoulder. This, combined with a now-dotted line, allowed our driver to legally and safely pass the truck and make it together with his family to his nephew's chasuna and fulfill the mitzvah of simchas chosson vekallah.

On the way home after the mitzvah tantz, the driver decided to make good use of his time and review the shiur. He turned on the tape and after a short while in the middle of his listening to the shiur his heart jumped as again he heard the loud blare of a police siren. It was then that he grasped that the siren was in fact recorded on the tape! The Aibishter had prepared the refua before the maka (the cure before the calamity). Hashem had arranged it so that a police car with shrieking sirens had passed by the shiur while this very daf was being taught, and it had all been recorded. Due to our driver's diligence and unfailing devotion to kevias itim leTorah, he had procured the tape that saved his and his family's life!

EMUNAH IN PARNASSAH FROM SHOMAYIM

After Rav Shlomka of Zvhill got married, he continued eating all his meals in his father Rav Mordechai's home, relying on him for parnassa. Each day Rav Mordechai handed his daughter-in-law a set sum for their needs, until one day Rav Shlomka thought to himself, "Isn't a Jew supposed to believe that Hashem alone takes care of all his physical and financial needs? Isn't it therefore inappropriate for me to rely on my father's help and support? Surely Hashem will send me what is due to me no matter what!" So he told his wife to no longer accept the daily income from his father, Rav Mordechai.

Several days later, there was no food left in Rav Shlomka's home. He began to doubt his decision and reasoned, "Perhaps I was mistaken. Who am I to mix into Hashem's affairs as to how He runs the world? If Hashem chose my father as the emissary, surely I must not question this or decide that my parnassa should come from some other source." And so he asked his wife to go back and accept money from his father as she had previously. When she came into Rav Mordechai he saw her and remarked, "I see you weren't here for a few days, so I shall give you the sum of one full ruble which will total a week's worth of allowance."

That day two wealthy Chassidim came to visit Rav Mordechai and afterwards they decided to visit his son, Rav Shlomka, as well to congratulate him on his recent marriage. They wished Rav Shlomka mazal tov, and one of them took out a ruble from his pocket as they conversed. Rav Shlomka realized that this was to be his wedding gift. However as their conversation drew to a close, the chassid forgot what he had wanted to do with the money and simply slipped the coin back into his pocket. After some time Rav Shlomka's Rebbetzin returned from her father-in-law with a ruble in hand. Then Rav Shlomka put one ruble and one ruble together and understood that a ruble had been ready and waiting for him from Shomayim! The chassid was sent to hand it over to him, however as he was poised to do so, his Rebbetzin accepted the ruble from his father and so the chassid pocketed the ruble.

Rav Biderman said, "Although simple people like us are not on such a high level, we can learn from this an important lesson. Whatever we receive from others is ultimately from Hashem and these people are just his shluchim (emissaries). If someone stops giving us, it is not to them we need to turn to with tearful entreaties, rather it is to Hashem, for that person neither gave nor took, rather Hashem Himself is the Source of all!"

Monday, May 23, 2016

LAG BAOMER

LAG BAOMER
Why is Lag Ba'Omer called Rav Shimon's Hilula? What does Hilula mean? (Source:
Va'amartem Ko LeChai).
The holy Zohar (III 296b) calls the passing of Rashbi a Hilula and tells us:
During the levaya for Rashbi, his bier flew through the air and a pillar of fire
moved before it. This is how he entered the burial cave. Suddenly, all
present at the
funeral heard a heavenly voice proclaim, "Enter, come together, gather
for the Hilula of
Rav Shimon."
What does Hilula mean?
A few possibilities include:
Hallel – praise: we tell stories of praise about Rashbi, his good
deeds, miracles and
teachings;
Simcha – the simcha of Chosson and Kalla is called by Chazal a
Hilula, alluding to the
yichud, the supernal unification that Rashbi performed above and below;
Ohr – light, as in the pasuk (Yeshaya 14:12): Heilel ben Shachar,
which Rashi explains
as "The planet Venus that shines like the morning star."
Yahrzeit – The Ramak says that every Tzaddik's day of petira or
yahrzeit is known as a
Hillula: "When the soul of the Tzaddik ascends on high on the day of
his passing, his
soul unites with the Holy One and the Shechina. On this day, all the Torah and
mitzvos that he studied and performed and engaged in during his lifetime all
awaken and shine forth their light and a great yichud (spiritual
unification) occurs
on high.
THE POWER OF RASHBI
Rav Aharon of Karlin wrote in Beis Aharon that "Just as HaKadosh
Baruch Hu is for everyone, so too is Rashbi for everyone even for the
lowliest."
The Nesivos Shalom explains this to mean that a great tzadik is so
great that he not only loves the righteous Jews but he even finds
something beloved and precious even in the lowliest wicked Jew as
well. This is the level of Moshiach who will be able to love even the
most wicked as much as the greatest tzadik! He uses this to explain
the story of Rashbi in the Gemarra Shabbos when Rashbi exited the
cavern to where he had been exiled, he observed people working in the
fields and he exclaimed in wonder, "How can they leave behind the
eternal reward of Torah study for this world and its temporary
business?!" His eyes burned wherever he gazed and a heavenly voice
proclaimed, "I didn't let you out of the cave to destroy my world!"
They went back in for a year saying, 'The judgment of the wicked in
Gehinom is a 12 month sentence.'" Asks the Slonimer rebbe in Nesivos
Sholom, "why did the judge themselves as wicked and sentence
themselves to twelve months again in the cave?" He answers that their
lack of ability to love those people who were simple, lowly and worked
the fields in this temporal world as opposed to being occupied in
Torah study, that was their lack and this is why the judged themselves
wicked and re-entered the cave to atone for and rectify this failing.
When he emerged Rashbi was the epitome of the tzadik yesod olam – a
righteous foundation of the world and that is why his great awesome
light was revealed and shines on Lag BaOmer which falls out on the
sefirah of Hod she'be'Hod – the sefirah which is the lowest and most
deepest form of harsh din and judgment. For his light and love shines
down below to even the lowest and deepest depths to love every Jew,
even the wicked, and to find within even the lowest place light and
love.
Regarding such a love and such an ability my Rebbe, the Clevelander
rebbe shlita once told me the following tale: There was once an
informant, whose terrible ways constantly plagued the Jews. The
tzadikim and Chassidim gathered to put an end to him once and for all
and to excommunicate him and sentence him to death for he was a rodef!
They approached the talmid of the Baal Shem Tov, Rav Zeev Wolf Kitzes
to complete their quorum, and join their minyan, however to their
astonishment he refused! He explained himself and said, "One day in
the future the righteous Moshiach will finally arrive! He will conquer
the lands and the hearts of many. All the nations shall rush to greet
him and subjugate themselves before his reign and his might, and all
the exiles shall return. As word of his dominion spreads Jews will
flock to him from far and wide all kinds of Jews all . . .except one!
There will be one black hearted, dark obstinate fellow who will remain
in the exile scoffing to the final day. Then the nations shall send
emissaries and dignitaries bearing gifts and offerings. Gold, Silver,
precious stones and treasures, yet Moshiach will scoff at them all.
Then the Jews will also wish to bestow upon him a gift, but seeing how
he despises ordinary wealth, they will search far and wide to bring
Moshiach the most precious gift, that of a Yiddishe Neshomo – a Jewish
soul ! They will search and scour the entire exile and find none,
everyone has come, everyone except for. . .one miserable soul. They
will locate him and bind and gag him and carry him kicking and
screaming, flailing all the way to Jerusalem! There they will bring
the king moshiach the most precious gift, a Jewish soul which is
unblemished and untarnished and he will remake and reforge him anew
into a Baal Teshuva. Be it known that it is revealed to me from on
high that that precious soul resides in your informant and moser, now
I ask you. Tell me the truth are you really willing to annihilate this
most precious soul, the gift of the Moshiach of whom it says "VaYovilu
Shay LaMoreh – they shall carry and bring a gift to the master?"
STUDYING ZOHAR
When the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Mezibuz would study the holy Zohar he
would begin with the Shaar Blatt – the title page and he would explain
it as follows:
Ze HaSefer HaZohar SheChiber HaTanna Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – lit.
this is the Sefer HaZohar authored by the Tanna Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai. Rav Baruch explained this:
Ze HaSefer – Dos iz a sapir – this is a brilliant sapphire!, HaZohar –
vos er laycht in alle olomas – whose splendor illuminates all of the
worlds! Asher chiber – vos iz mechaber idishe hertzer tzum Tatten in
Hilim – which attaches and binds Jewish hearts to their Father in
Heaven! Tanna – er lernt iz az se'iz du a bashefer oif der vellt – he
teaches us that there is a Creator in the world! Mihu Zeh? He asked
himself rhetorically, who is this? and answered zehu – this is Rabbi
Shimon Bar Yochai may his merit shield us! (Otzar Yisroel 118)
A DIFFERENT WAY TO LOOK AT IT
The holy Rizhiner was plagued by an informant, a rodef and a moser,
who constantly chased after the tzadik. He used to mock him and jest,
why doesn't the holy rebbe just punish me and condemn me to die?! The
holy Rizhiner heard this and turned to his Chassidim and said, "When
Rashbi left the cave to which he was exiled and he saw the informant
Yehuda ben Gerim he said, Is he still around? He gazed upon him and
turned him into a heap of bones!" Isn't it a wonder that Rashbi was so
angry and upset at him that he would do that?! Rather Rashbi said when
he saw him, "Is this man still around?" he was asking himself a
question, perhaps he is still around because I have not yet succeeded
in rectifying all that I need to in myself. So the Talmud says he
gazed upon him – this means Rashbi gazed intently upon himself and
began to reckon through cheshbon henefesh regarding his own spiritual
standing, as he did this Yehuda ben Gerim was transformed into a pile
of bones [proving that Rashbi had now sufficiently rectified himself
and this wicked informant had no longer any reason to be here alive].
Thus, concluded the Rizhiner so long as this wicked informant is still
around it must mean that I have not rectified myself completely yet,
how will it help if I punish him and cause him to leave this world?
Another person will come to take his place, only when I rectify myself
then he will have no place here either! (Be'eros HaMayim Be'er Sheva
p60 )
INSIDE ITS YOM KIPPUR OUTSIDE SIMCHAS TORAH
Once the holy Rizhiner asked a visitor who had been Lag BaOmer in
Meron to describe the event. The chassid described how Lag BaOmer is
observed in Meron at the kever of Rashbi and he explained the way it
felt using the comparison that the great emotions inside where similar
to Yom Kippur whereas outside it felt like Simchas Torah!
This is no contradiction, for the awakening is the same awakening,
both are awakenings from Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai! Except inside it is
felt and experienced one way and outside a different way. The simcha
in Meron is also nisht kayn pashuta simcha - not a simple mundane
happiness or joy, rather it is a supernal holy joy – a hecher simcha!
(Imros Tehoros 49)
EMUNAH PESHUTA
Rav Dovid Biderman of Lelov once told how on one of his visits to
Meron on Lag BaOmer he stayed in Tzefas and walked on foot to Meron.
As he travelled he passed an older woman who was also on her way to
Meron and she was very old and fragile and accompanied by a Jew
dressed in the manner of the Sefardim. They went very very slowly, as
the path to Meron is uphill and rises higher and higher. When she
finally reached the entrance to the burial cave she sat down and began
to weep, and she cried out in Hebrew with a Sefardic accent, "Rabbi
Shimon, Shechinta BeGaluta! – the Divine Presence the Shechina is in
exile!" Afterwards she asked a petition and requested some prayer in
Arabic that Hashem should have mercy and redeem and gather in all the
exiles she then kissed the Tzion turned any made her way slowly back
to Tzefas! Rav Dovid lelover was so moved by her simple pure faith
that he declared, Epes Mit Aza Temimus Tzigegangen – She came all this
long way with such faith and she prayed her prayer! (Imros Tehoros 49)
Reb Motel Avritsher (a descendant of the Bas Ayin) once told how one
Lag BaOmer in Meron he watched a Sefardic Jew who was present at the
hadlaka – the bonfire lit in honor of the holy Tanna Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai. This Jew was so moved and excited that his pure heart was
aflame and he shouted out, Och Yah Rabbi Shimon! And so saying he
tossed his cloak into the flames to be consumed and burn in honor of
the Tanna. This did not calm him and he called out again louder Och
Yah Rabbi Shimon! And proceeded to toss into the bon fire another
article of clothing! He continued to do so, until he was left standing
in his Tallis Kattan and his breeches, at this point he began
ecstatically dancing aflame with delight and awe, moved to emotive
expression he danced and sang with such passion and fire that it
seemed that if he could have he would have thrown himself into the
bonfire in honor of Rashbi! (MiZekenim Esbonan I 102)
STORIES OF RASHBI FROM THE ZOHAR & MIDRASH
One day as Rashbi left his home he observed that the world appeared
dark and menacing like a great cloud had covered the land and blocked
the light of day. Rashbi turned to his son rabbi Elazar and said, this
is no chance occurrence, obviously Hashem wishes to do something, let
us see what He has planned to do in the world?! Rashbi and his son
exited the city limits and before them stood a terrible angel, as tall
as a mountain and from his mouth poured forth thirty tongues of flame!
Rashbi asked the angel, what are you planning to do? "I am about to
destroy the world because there aren't thirty tzadikim to be found, to
safeguard the world," answered the angel. "Go and tell my Creator that
Bar Yochai is here in the world and that he is comparable to thirty
tzadikim!" The angel went before the throne of glory and delivered
Rashbi's message. Hashem answered the angel, "go and destroy the world
and do not pay any attention to Bar Yochai!" The angel returned to
destroy the world again, once more Rashbi saw him and commanded him,
"If you do not return again to deliver a message I will send you to
descend down below to the depths from which you shall not arise to the
place of the fallen ages who were cast down from Hashem!" Rashbi
continued his message and said: "Tell Hashem that if there aren't
thirty tzadikim, twenty are enough as it says in the story of Avraham
and Sodom and Amora, and if twenty are no enough then ten suffice as
it says there and if there aren't ten tzadikim found then two should
be enough as it says, that two witnesses cangive testimony, and if you
cannot find two then there is at least one and I am that one as it
says Tzadik Yesod lam - a tzadik is the foundation of the world!"At
that moment a heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, "Happy and
Praiseworthy is your portion Rabbi Shimon, for Hashem decrees and you
cancel and abolish it, regarding you it is said, "Ratzon Yerayav
Yaaseh – Hashem fulfills the will of those who fear Him." (Zohar
Bereishis 33a)
Once Rashbi arrived in Lod and there was a plague there, he witnessed
many stricken dying and he remarked, "All this is happening here now
while I am here present in town?! I command this decree be abolished!"
A heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, "Mazikim – evil forces and
damage depart from this city immediately because Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai is in town, even though Hashem has decreed Rashbi has abolished
it." Immediately the plague ceased. Rabbi Chanina was impressed at the
greatness and stature of Rashbi and he went and told Rabbi Meir of
this. Rabbi Meir replied "Who can praise and compare to Rashbi? Even
Moshe Rabbeinu who sent Aharon with the incense to stop the plague
during Korach's rebellion, still Moshe had to have Aharon act, yet
Rashbi abolished the decree and stopped the plague by the power of
speech alone!" (Zohar Chadash Rus 103a)
In Tzidon there was a couple who lived together for over ten years,
they loved one another dearly but they had no children. They came
before Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and asked him to help them divorce
through a Get. I have just one request please do not refuse me, said
the tzadik, just as when you were united in marriage there was a
feast, please eat, drink and make a banquet now that you wish to go
your separate ways. The couple fulfilled the tzadik's request and they
held a large festive banquet and invited friends and scholars. As the
tables lay laden with food and drink and in the midst of the
merriment, when the husband's heart was glad with wine he turned to
his wife and remarked, "see all my goodness and wealth is here before
you, please choose any precious object here and take it with you back
to your father's house!" She was greatly moved by his words, and when
she observed that he had been plied with much wine and had grown
drowsy and fallen asleep she asked the servants to carry him and place
him in a bed at her father's home. When the husband awoke from his
deep slumber he gazed about and discovered that he was in a strange
bed and not at home. He turned and saw his wife sitting beside him and
asked her where he was. When she replied that he was in her father's
home he asked why she had done this? I was told that I could take any
precious object home with me, and so I found nothing more precious
than you and so I took you home! The couple came back and stood before
Rashbi and told him the entire tale. When he heard this and saw their
love for one another he stood up and prayed on their behalf for mercy
and they were blessed with children. (Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabba)
BonFires and Bows and Arrows
We will discuss two more customs for Lag BaOmer, Bonfires and Archery
with Bows and Arrows.

Rav Avraham Yaakov of Sadigura once said regarding the hadlaka of the
Lag BaOmer bonfire that "tens of thousands of souls are rectified and
receive their tikkun through the hadlaka of the bonfire lit for the
honor and glory of Rashbi!"

The custom to light bonfires in honor of Hillula DeRashbi on Lag
BaOmer is very old. The great light and splendor of the secrets of
Torah were revealed on this day and so a great fiery light is kindled.
The bonfires were sold often to the highest bidder and the honor to
light them given to the holiest rabbis and tzadikim. At one point the
holy Rav Yisroel of Ruzhin purchased this honor and right for himself
and his descendants for all generations till the coming of Moshiach
and till this day his descendant, the current Boyaner Rebbe Shilta
lights the bonfire.

The custom to perform archery with a bow and arrow on Lag baOmer is
found amongst the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and they brought it
with them to Eretz Yisroel. Some reasons for this custom include the
Yerushalmi Berachos 65a where rav Chizkiya declared in the name of Rav
Yirmiyah that during Rashbi's lifetime, the rainbow, was not seen at
all. (In Parashas Noach Hashem says that the rainbow is a symbol that
Hashem refrains from destroying the world again as He did with the
floodwaters of Noach because of the bris He made.) The generation of
Rashbi as cited by Rashi in Noach, was righteous enough to not need
the rainbow as a reminder or sign of this bris.

The Bnei Yissaschar cites Rav Menachem Mendel of Rymanov to explain
the connection between the rainbow and the bow and arrow (Bnei
Yissaschar lag ba'omer 3:4) "The custom of the yeshiva students and
disciples of the rabbis is to shoot a bow and arrow on this day
because in Rashbi's generation the rainbow as never seen, and
therefore on the day he asceneded on high we remind ourselves of this
fact in this manner."

Rav Moshe Yechiel Elimelech of Levertov notes that the gematria value
of HaKeshes = Raban Shimon Ben Yochai.
The Magen Avraham of Trisk notes that "Lag baOmer = gematria of Moshe
and baOmer = 312 which is Shin Yud Beis, the acronym of Shimon bar
Yochai. This teaches us the two forms of Torah, Moshe's Torah, the
simple meaning of the text and the hidden esoteric secrets of rashbi's
Torah are both needed. Each one is a feature of LAG baOmer, and LAG is
the same letters as GAL, GALGAL means a wheel, half of a wheel is the
cresecent shape of the bow. When the bows are joined and both the
hidden and revealed Torahs are merged their union is like the archer's
bow, the primary weapon of war which we need to use to combat the
Yetzer Hara and wage war against him. The only way to truly due
teshuva is win the war against the yezter and so we take the weapon of
war the bow and arrow which symbolize the hidden and revealed Torah to
fight the evil one as our sages said, Hashem says "I created the evil
inclination and I created the Torah as the antidote and cure against
him."