Friday, July 22, 2016




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.



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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Shalom Aleichem! My name is Keith Rosenblum and I work for Aish HaTorah NY in the campus department. I am a Baal Teshuva and also from Oceanside, OHS class of 2006. I have been looking for a hard copy of your sefer for some time with no luck and thought I might try emailing you directly. Do you know of a source that may still have copies available for purchase? Thanks so much and have a great shabbos!!