Friday, July 29, 2016




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.



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?"


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. 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"...

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