Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fwd: Kedushas Levi

please enjoy excerpts from the upcoming MeOros Kedushas Levi on Bereishis and Noach

A Tzaddik, or righteous person makes everyone else appear righteous before G-d by advocating for them and finding their merits.

(Kedushas Levi, Noach Bereishis 7:1)

The Ways of Hashem are Sweet

Hashem called the light "day"...

(Bereishis 1:5)

Our Rabbis state in the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 2:5) regarding the verse "Hashem called the light 'day,' " that "this [refers to] the actions of the righteous Tzaddikim. 'And the darkness He called "night" ' — these are the actions of the wicked. Which actions does He prefer? The verse gives the answer: 'Hashem saw that the light was good' (Bereishis 1:4)."

This midrash is perplexing. How can we doubt which actions Hashem would prefer?

We can answer by paying close attention to the Rabbis' holy words. They did not say, "Light — these are the righteous" and "Dark — these are the wicked." Rather they said, "This refers to their actions." Rabbeinu Yonah explains this idea in his commentary to the Mishnah, in the ninth chapter of Berachos (54a): "[The Mishnah says:] ' "Serve Him with all your heart" (Devarim 6:5) — with both inclinations, with the good inclination and the evil inclination.' How can someone serve [Hashem] with his evil inclination? This is how: because the attribute of the good inclination is to desire and pursue peace and draw Bnei Yisrael with goodness and pleasantness to serve Hashem, while the attributes of the evil inclination are anger and hatred. The evildoer utilizes his anger and hatred to oppose the will of his Creator, to hate and rage against those who serve Hashem. However, the righteous Tzaddik utilizes this very same negative attribute of the evil inclination to serve Hashem — to hate and rage against those who transgress His will. This is what it means to [serve Hashem] 'with both your inclinations.' "

Based on this, we can explain [our verse], "Hashem called the light 'day.'" It refers to the actions of the righteous Tzaddikim. They utilize their attributes only for good, to draw other Jews close in a pleasant manner with gentle words of mussar and rebuke that the heart can accept so that they will leave the path of evil. "And the darkness He called 'night'" — this refers to the actions of the wicked. This does not refer to the wicked themselves, who are not at all desirable, but rather to their actions, which are full of hatred and anger that they utilize for evil intent. Hashem looked at their actions — because with these actions they could serve Hashem and break away from their wicked efforts. Instead, the wicked must be forced to repent against their will; Hashem takes vengeance against them until they are subjugated and pushed to the ground and repent and say, "I shall go and return and repent" (Hoshea 2:9).

Since both the attributes and actions of the wicked and the righteous can be used to serve Hashem, we can now understand how the Midrash can ask, "Which actions does He prefer?" The answer is that even though [the attributes of the wicked can be utilized to serve Hashem], He prefers the actions of the righteous Tzaddikim, since they draw the entire world close to serve the Creator in a pleasant manner, and not through anger, until all repent and return to Him.

Therefore it says, " 'G-d saw that the light was good' — this refers to the actions of the Tzaddikim," that they utilize the goodness [in His service, and not the negative attributes]. Thus the verse states the reason: "ki tov — because it is good [and pleasant]." [Hashem prefers the actions of the Tzaddikim] because Hashem's ways and His attributes are goodness, and He desires that everyone will draw close to Him through goodness, as the verse says, "Its [the Torah's] ways are ways of pleasantness" (Mishlei 3:17).

The Delight of a Mitzvah Waters the Garden

And a river came out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided into four tributaries.

(Bereishis 2:10)

Our Rabbis say, "Be as careful with an easy mitzvah as with a difficult one, since you do not know the reward given for mitzvos" (Avos 2:1). This means that we cannot fathom the pleasure and delight that HaKadosh Baruch Hu receives from our performance of a mitzvah, but we can understand one thing [about the reward for mitzvos]: that is the shefa and sustenance we receive from performing a mitzvah, which provides an opportunity from HaKadosh Baruch Hu to perform another mitzvah. When HaKadosh Baruch Hu sees how much we desire to do a mitzvah, [He sends us more] opportunities to perform mitzvos and study Torah, like when a father sees that his son understands a piece of wisdom. This spurs the father to ask his son a question to elicit more words of wisdom.

This is the meaning of "A river came out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided into four tributaries [literally, 'heads']." [These tributaries or heads symbolize] the brain, which has four areas, since the third portion of the brain is actually divided in two, and the river symbolizes the shefa, which "comes out from Eden." The word eden hints at pleasure and delight [based on the Hebrew word ma'adan]. Thus the verse is hinting that we receive shefa due to HaKadosh Baruch Hu's delight [in our mitzvos]. And [we receive the shefa] in order "to water the garden" — this is referring to the fifty-three sedarim of the Torah [since the word for "garden," gan, equals 53 in gematria] — "and from there it divides into four tributaries [or, literally, heads]." The shefa enters man's intellect, which he can then utilize to understand new and novel interpretations of the Torah and perform many more mitzvos.

This is why the mishnah above says, "Be as careful with an easy mitzvah as a difficult one..." In truth, this statement does not make sense, since we do not know the reward for mitzvos, so how can we call one more difficult than another? It seems to me that "easier" refers to those mitzvos that can be done over and over again, such as Torah study, since if one misses the opportunity to do it at one moment, he can do it another time. And "difficult," refers to those mitzvos that can only be done once a year, such as sukkah [since if he misses the opportunity, he can't perform it again until the coming year]. Based on what we said above, we can now say that one must be as careful with an "easier" mitzvah [even though he knows he will soon have another opportunity to perform it] as with a difficult one [since we cannot fathom the pleasure and delight Hashem derives from our mitzvah performance].

Two types of Tzaddikim:
Those Who believe in themselves and those Who are too humble

These are the generations of Noach; Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations...

(Bereishis 6:9)

Let us analyze Rashi's comment [on Bereishis 7:7]: "Even Noach was among those of little faith." How could this be true? As we see here, the Torah testifies regarding Noach that "Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations" (Bereishis 6:9). Also, [if he was so righteous] why didn't Noach pray to Hashem to nullify the decree [against that generation]?

There are two types of Tzaddikim who serve the Creator. There is the Tzaddik who serves the Creator and desires nothing more; he believes that he has the power to run the higher realms and worlds, controlling them as he wishes, as our Sages teach: " 'A Tzaddik rules through the fear of Hashem' (Shmuel II 23:3) — who rules over Me? [says Hashem]. The Tzaddik. HaKadosh Baruch Hu decrees, and the Tzaddik nullifies the decree for the greater good" (Mo'ed Katan 16b).

The other type of Tzaddik also serves the Creator, but he is exceedingly humble and considers himself lowly. In his heart he thinks, Who am I that I should pray to nullify a decree? And so he doesn't pray to nullify [any decrees].

This is the meaning of the Gemara's statement "Nevuchadnetzar desired to sing and praise [Hashem] — he disparaged the songs and praises of David HaMelech" (Sanhedrin 92b). It is not clear what the word ginah, "disparaged," means in this context. However, based on our explanation above it makes sense. Nevuchadnetzar was wicked and evil, and he destroyed our Holy Temple the Beis HaMikdash. But he understood that the righteous have the power to transform the divine attribute of strict justice into mercy. He was worried that a righteous Tzaddik would pray that the Beis HaMikdash should be rebuilt. He therefore said [regarding Hashem], "He does as He wishes with the hosts of heaven and earth" (Daniel 4:32) — that He does as He wishes regarding the higher realms and the Tzaddikim are unable to abolish decrees. Therefore our Sages say, "Nevuchadnetzar desired to sing and praise [Hashem] — he disparaged the songs and praises of David HaMelech." Nevuchadnetzar desired to sing songs of praise that were the opposite of David's praises. David said, "He fulfills the will of those who fear Him" (Tehillim 145:19) — that Hashem runs the worlds according to the will of the righteous Tzaddikim [meaning that Hashem does the will of the Tzaddikim, who fear Him], and the wicked Nevuchadnetzar had the opposite intention, as we explained.

Even though Noach was a perfect Tzaddik, he considered himself small and lowly. He did not believe in himself, that he was able to abolish the decree. On the contrary, he thought of himself as no better than the rest of his generation. He thought, If I will be saved by entering the ark, and I am no more righteous than any of them, this must mean that they, too, will ultimately be saved. This is why he did not pray on behalf of his generation.

This then is the meaning of Rashi's comment that Noach was among those of little faith. Noach considered himself small and insignificant; he lacked faith in himself as a perfect, flawless Tzaddik who could abolish the decree. He did not consider himself important at all.

This is also the meaning of the verse "I will destroy them from the earth" (Bereishis 6:13) — I will do as I will, because there is no Tzaddik to abolish my decree, and therefore I will destroy them from the earth. And later it says, "I will establish My covenant with you" (Bereishis 9:9) — even though there is no Tzaddik praying to nullify decrees, I will establish this bris with you.

Self-Sacrifice for Kosher Food Cancels the Decree

Once, the Berditchever perceived that there was a terrible decree hanging over the heads of Klal Yisrael, and he went and immersed himself in the waters of the mikveh. He was on the way to pray to rescind the decree, when he passed a Jewish woman carrying a small package of meat and cursing her miserable lot under her breath.

"Why do you utter such oaths?" the Berditchever asked her.

"And why shouldn't I? I lead a poor and wretched existence, and my cupboards are bare! We hardly have any food, but at least for Shabbos I am able to buy a little meat to give my family some nourishment. That wretched butcher gives me little meat for a great sum of money, and half of it is bones!"

"So why don't you go to another butcher?" asked her the Berditchiver.

"What difference will it make?" she spat bitterly. "They are all the same!"

"Why don't you go to a gentile butcher then? Why, I bet you could get some treife meat for next to nothing. If you are so poor, buy some treife meat. It is much cheaper!"

The poor woman had no idea who this old man was, but one thing she knew: he must be either wicked or crazy. "You old fool!" she berated the Berditchever. "Even if I knew that I would starve to death, Heaven forbid, I would rather die of starvation than eat treife food!"

Hearing this, the Berditchiver turned away and left, and immediately pled his case to the Ribbono shel olam to cancel the decree, for now he had a good argument to bring before the court.

"Master of the world! Even a poor simple woman would rather sacrifice herself for You than eat treife!"

With this argument, he succeeded in rescinding the decree.


Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim Publishing
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
Phone: 972-2-992-1218 / Cell: 972-54-842-4725
VoIP: 516-320-6022 / eFax: 1-832-213-3135
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Fwd: The Passing of the Berditchever

in honor of the Yorzeit of the Kedushas Levi - isru chag sukkos

The Passing of the Berditchever

When Rav Yitzchak of Neschiz married the Berditchever's granddaughter, the Berditchever said that under no circumstances could he promise to support the young couple for more than four years. This was quite a surprise to all, since it was customary to support a young couple for longer. It was only when the four-year period was over that everything became clear. At that time, Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev passed away.1

Not long before the Berditchever's passing, a wealthy Jew living in Berditchev was involved in a dispute with Rav Levi Yitzchak. This wealthy man had invited the Rav Yechiel Michel of Rachov (another tradition says that he was from Morchov) to serve as a rav in Berditchev. When the Rachover arrived, the townspeople were certain he and Rav Levi Yitzchak, who currently served as rav in official capacity, would clash in a difference of opinion.

It seemed that things might come to a head at a bris to which both rabbis had been invited. Since the Berditchever had decreed that all circumcisions were to be conducted in the shul to honor Eliyahu HaNavi, they brought the baby there for the bris. The shamash misunderstood his instructions and instead of inviting just one of the rabbis to the bris, he invited both of them, the Rachover and the Berditchever, to the Bris.

Both rabbis lived close to the shul, one to the right of the building and one to the left, and both set out for the bris at about the same time and ended up arriving simultaneously in front of the shul. This was their first meeting face to face in Berditchev, and each stood at the doorway, waiting to allow the other to enter first. They stood there in silence for some time until finally one of the guests came out and said, "Let the Berditchever go in first since he was the rabbi here before," and so the Berdicthever entered the shul first.

After the bris, the two rabbis parted ways, but it was clear from this incident that the Berditchever respected the Rachover as a great individual. Theirs was a relationship where reproof was out in the open while their precious friendship was kept hidden from the public eye. Nonetheless, the local populace knew of their affection for each other.

When the Berditchever grew ill and bedridden, the Rachover also took ill. The Berditchever passed away that night, and the funeral was scheduled for the next day. That morning the Rachover called over his son Rav Asher and chastised him for concealing the news that the Berditchever had passed away. "Why didn't anyone tell me that the rav has passed away?" he said. "In any case, I knew it in my own way."

They admitted to him that indeed the Berditchever had left this world. The Rachover asked his son to tell Rav Yisrael of Pikov, the Berditchever's son, that when they carried the bier the funeral procession should pass by his home since he had urgent matters to tell the Berditchever. His son promised, and when the funeral procession passed by, he descended from his sickbed and approached the Berditchever's bier. He whispered into Rav Levi Yitzchak ear, speaking at length. None of what he said was audible to anyone except for the last words he spoke, a quote from a verse: "Count for yourself seven weeks" (Devarim 16:9). Seven weeks to the day that the Berditchever passed away the Rachover rav left this world as well.3

There is a tradition from the Maggid of Petriva and Rav Yisrael of Vizhnitz that Rav Levi Yitzchak passed away right after Sukkos. They related that the Berditchever grew weak after Yom Kippur, and his condition was life-threatening. He prayed that he might live a little longer so that he would merit to fulfill the mitzvah of waving the four species, which he yearned and waited for all year long. His prayers were answered and he lived until Isru Chag (the day after Sukkos). He passed away on the night of the twenty-fifth of Tishrei.4

When news spread of his passing, one of the chassidim of Rav Baruch of Mezibuzh rushed to tell his Rebbe the news of the Berditchever's passing. Rav Baruch was known to criticize Rav Levi Yitzchak's ways, and the chassid thought he was bringing "good" news. Instead, Rav Baruch practically fainted and began to cry and wail in distress.

He admonished the harbinger of such terrible news. "Don't think that when I spoke against Rav Levi Yitzchak I did so in order to diminish his stature or blemish his honor! Rav Levi Yitzchak rose to the loftiest levels, to the highest spiritual realms above that of even the ministering angels, and I was afraid they would harm him in their jealousy. Therefore I used trickery and guile to hide my intentions and pretended to belittle and mock his holy ways to silence their jealous accusations."5

When Rebbe Nachman of Breslov talked about the passing of Rav Levi Yitzchak, he said, "Even the average individual should feel the loss of a Tzaddik such as Rav Levi Yitzchak. Everyone now feels that there is something lacking in the world. There is a depressed mood everywhere. One might feel it in his business, which no longer runs as smoothly as before. Another might feel it in his bones, which somehow seem displaced. If your eyes are truly open, you will see that world has become dark, for a great light has been extinguished in the world. A great candle's light has been snuffed out and the world has filled with a great darkness."6

"The Berditchever said before he passed away that when he arrived in the next world he would not rest nor give any other Tzaddik respite rest until he succeeded in bringing Mashiach." Thus spoke Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta and Mezibuzh on the day he left this world. Before he passed away, the Apter Rav cried and wailed about our bitter exile. Why does Mashiach ben Yishai tarry so long? That is when he mentioned the Berditchever's promise. "However," he concluded, "when he ascended on high, they showed him such lofty spiritual levels and engaged him in such magnificent supernal chambers that he grew distracted that he forgot his mission.

"I, however, will not forget!"7


1. Zichron Tov, Mei'Avodas Hashem 13, p. 16.

2. See the story in Vayeira entitled "In Honor of Eliyahu" above and the tradition of Rav Shalom Gutman of Yas that corroborates this ruling of Rav Levi Yitzchak.

3. Kisvei Rav Yoshe 32, p. 144; Eser Oros 3:40.

4. Toldos Kedushas Levi (Munkacz) 8:103; see also Sichos HaRan 196.

5. Toldos Kedushas Levi (Munkacz) 8:108; Eser Oros 3:22.

6. Toldos Kedushas Levi (Munkacz) 8:105; see also Sichos HaRan 196.

7. Otzar HaSippurim, vol. 18, p. 25.


Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim Publishing
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
Phone: 972-2-992-1218 / Cell: 972-54-842-4725
VoIP: 516-320-6022 / eFax: 1-832-213-3135
join the mailing list here:
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