THOU SHALT NOT STEAL
The holy mechaber of the Sefas Emes once told of his first visit to Kotzk.
He observed that there was no order and no one watching or safeguarding the Kotzker's household and court. People and guests came and went and the doors were always open.
This lack of organization and supervision led to a series of "missing" objects which no doubt went "missing" along with those "missing" persons who had pilfered them.
The shamash, the Kotzker's attendant, was named Feivel, and his argument with the Rebbetzin was so loud as he bemoaned the missing – presumed stolen – silver candlesticks on that Erev Shabbos, that everyone in the house heard it – even the Kotzker Rebbe himself.
"Feivel, what is all the commotion?!" the Kotzker demanded.
Reb Feivel was yelling, "And why shouldn't they steal, eh? Why not? When everything here is hefker – open and free for all! Why shouldn't they steal?!"
"What!" roared the Kotzker. "Feivel, how can anyone steal? It says in the Torah: "Thou shalt not steal"!!!
Years later the Sefas Emes related, "When I heard the holy Kotzker roar those words it seemed to me at that very moment that there was no possibility of stealing anything at all because of the negative commandment not to do so!"
This is what the Sefas Emes took back with him from his first visit to Kotzk. (Siach Sarfei Kodesh, Yisro)
There is a fine line between "should not" and "cannot." We are given free will and are also challenged with the evil urges that try to tempt us to sin. We are free to resist and overcome temptation and thus be rewarded. We are free to give in and succumb to our desires and be punished for our misdeeds. The choice is ours. This is because we do not see or experience divine revelation firsthand. Hashem is hidden from us. We believe, and our emuna (faith) gives us the strength needed to overcome those urges, temptations, and desires. However, we do not see. If we did see or hear Hashem firsthand, we would automatically lose our free choice. There is no choice or freedom to disbelieve that which is clearly and plainly right in front of your eyes. If Hashem's presence is firsthand knowledge and you hear Him command, you are no longer free to disobey.
It seems to me that the Sefas Emes was transported on that Erev Shabbos to Har Sinai. The holy Tzaddik, the Kotzker, [RAV MENACHEM MENDEL BEN YEHUDAH LEIBISH MORGENSTERN OF KOTZK (YAHRZEIT 22 SHEVAT)] became a channel, a medium for the Shechina that spoke from his throat as he uttered the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." The Sefas Emes heard this mitzva as if from Hashem Himself, and thus, at that moment, he was transformed from a free-willed chooser to one who had no choice but to obey. This is why he felt that at that moment he could not understand how anyone could steal! How can you steal if Hashem tells you not to? It went from "you shall not steal" to "you cannot steal." It is impossible to steal, it cannot be done – it is simply not a choice.
We all go through such stages in our lives. Our intellect and our logic tell us we should not do things, yet the evil urges tempt us beyond reason to do them – and so we give in. However, at the point where we strengthen our resolve and say, "No, I cannot do this!" – at the point where we triumph and defeat the evil urge, we lose the free will to choose evil and we transform the suggestion of "you shall not sin" into "you cannot sin."
OPEN YOUR EARS
The Maamar Mordechai of Slonim related that once the holy Kozhnitzer Maggid spent Shabbos Parshas Yisro together with the Berditchever Rav, the mechaber of Kedushas Levi. Rav Levi Yitzchak announced, "Whoever has open ears shall tomorrow hear the Ten Commandments!" to which the Kozhnitzer Maggid responded, "And whoever does not…[have open ears] should ask Hashem to open them for him!"
THOU SHALL NOT COVET (20:14)
The tefillin written by the famed Tzaddik, Rav Moshe of Pshevorsk were well known as exceptional and holy. Rav Moshe was an extraordinary scribe and his safrus was reputed to be imbued with extra sanctity and devotion. A pair of tefillin written by Rav Moshe was sought after by many Tzaddikim.
When the Kotzker learned of these tefillin, he too wished to purchase a pair. Rav Moshe's widow did not have many of her late husband's tefillin left and they sold for the astronomical sum of three hundred gold rubles a pair! Rav Menachem Mendel gathered his entire savings and sent the money with a Chassid to the widow to purchase the precious, holy tefillin.
When the Chassid returned, he was visibly wary and said nervously and jokingly, "I have to admit, Rebbe, that I transgressed the commandment 'thou shall not covet' – I was over on (transgressed) lo sachmod (do not covet), and I just had to try them on! So I did. I hope the Rebbe isn't too upset."
The Kotzker had been anticipating these precious tefillin for weeks. Nevertheless, without hesitation, he handed them to the Chassid. "In that case, here, you keep them – they're all yours," he told the astonished Chassid. "Tefillin that caused another Jew to transgress lo sachmod and to borrow without permission, I have no need for." And so saying, he gave them away!
Everyone was dancing up a storm! One of the most accomplished musicians played his instrument and the music was exuberant, the dancers' enthusiasm and excitement overflowing until they were practically dancing on the ceiling! The sweet sounds of music spilled out over the dance floor as the dancers twirled and swirled, unceasingly moving to the sweet music. On and on they danced, all night long.
A new guest entered and his mouth fell open! What was this? Were these people crazy? Had they lost their minds? What were they all doing, twirling, jumping up and down, and shaking and moving in strange ways? The whole group had gone nuts!
These were his thoughts – because he was deaf. He could not hear a single note! And being unable to hear the music, the sight of all the dancers appeared bizarre and outlandish!
Explained the Ba'al Shem Tov, if he was wise, he would have surmised that even though he could not hear the music, the reason all these people were dancing was not because they had lost their minds – rather it was because they could hear music and were dancing to its lively tune. Then, even though he was deaf and unable to actually hear the music, surely he too would join the dance!
The Degel Machaneh Ephraim, the Ba'al Shem Tov's grandson, uses his grandfather's mashal to illustrate the pasuk in Parshas Yisro: "And all the people saw the sounds" (Shemos 20:15). When Hashem spoke the words of the Torah to the people, not all of them heard right away. Some of them were even deaf. So Hashem healed all their blemishes and opened their eyes and ears. Even then, some were simply not on the level to hear and understand the sweetness of the Torah. But they saw the malochim (angels) dancing. Seeing the excitement and pleasure that others all around them were experiencing led them to understand that everyone was reveling in the pleasure of the sweet sounds of Torah. They too then "saw the sounds" – they witnessed a demonstration of pleasure flowing from the sweet sounds of Torah. Their eyes were opened, and once they witnessed this delight, they too appreciated the sweetness of the Torah and joined in!
FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE
In honor of Kabbolas HaTorah and Parshas Yisro, Rav Elimelech Biderman shared the following anecdotes about chizuk for limud Torah:
MUCH REWARD FOR THE WORKERS
The Mishna in Avos (4:10) tells us: "If you have neglected the Torah, there are many others who are correspondingly negligent, and if you toil in Torah, Hashem has much reward to give you."
The Chafetz Chaim asks why the Tanna, the author of our Mishna, uses the words "many" and "much" (harbeh in the Hebrew) to refer to negligence and reward? He answered based on the following observation:
There are many Yidden who toil all day long from dawn to dusk, working hard to earn a living and sustain their families. They are so busy with their livelihoods that they simply have no time all day to sit and learn in the Beis Medrash even for a short while. Now the test comes when the workday is done. What does such a Jew do once he comes home? Does he eat supper, stretch out on the couch and spend his time in idle matters of no consequence all evening till he retires? Or does he push himself – despite his fatigue – and hurry off to the Beis Medrash to grab an opportunity to study and for kevias itim – a set time for study? If he does, his actions demonstrate that he truly yearns to study all day, but his parnassa is what is holding him back; if Hashem would only provide him with a parnassa that gave him more time to study, he would do so. For this reason, the Mishna says that he receives much reward – sechar harbeh. He receives great reward because he is rewarded as if he studies all day long! If, however, he idles away all his evenings and spends them neglecting Torah, then the Mishna says that there are many others who are correspondingly negligent. These words can be read to mean that he has been very negligent, why the "very" – harbeh? Because in the heavenly court – the beis din shel maala, they consider him to have neglected the Torah all day long!
"And they came to Mara (the bitter place) and they were unable to drink the waters of Mara, for they were bitter…and Hashem showed (Moshe) a tree and he cast it into the waters and the waters became sweet" (Shemos 15:23–25). The Gemara (Taanis 7a) teaches us that water is a metaphor for Torah. Tzaddikim explain these pesukim as follows: There are those who try to learn Torah but they find it bitter to taste and derive no pleasure from learning. Hashem therefore gives them a tree (etz), hinting at the word etza – a piece of advice – cast yourself into the waters! Throw yourself into learning and the waters shall be sweetened. If you cast your entire being into the Torah, and throw yourself into learning, eventually your Torah learning will be sweet for you!
THE ELIXER OF LIFE
Chazal tell us (Yoma 72b) that if you merit it, then the Torah becomes the elixir of life, and if not, it is the elixir of death. Rashi explains this merit to mean studying Torah sincerely, purely, for its own sake – lishma – and fulfilling it. Now who can truly say of himself that he studies lishma?
The Sifsei Tzaddik of Piltz (Eikev #9) cites his brother-in-law, the Sefas Emes: If you study Torah lishma then the Torah becomes sam hachaim – a life-giving potion, an exilir of life and vitality that nourishes you spiritually! If, however, you do not merit it, the Torah is then sam hamaves. Although many understand these words to mean "a deadly poison," the Sefas Emes reads this to mean "a potion against death." The Torah either gives us life or saves us from death. He who merits studying lishma merits the elixir of life, and if someone has not yet reached that lofty level, at least the Torah is a potion that saves him from death, preventing his spiritual demise.
A TIME AND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Rav Yisrael ben Ze'ev Lipkin Salanter, founder of the Mussar Movement (Yahrzeit 25 Shevat) asked what lesson we can learn from the fact that the exact location of Matan Torah is unknown to us. Why don't we know the precise spot upon which the Torah was given? Furthermore, there is a dispute among the sages on which day (6 or 7 Sivan) the Torah was given.
The Torah is teaching us a profound lesson. Let no one say – here, in this place, here, in this community, shul, Yeshiva, Beis Medrash, or kollel, I am unsuccessful in acquiring Torah and spirituality. If I were elsewhere I would achieve success and find myself! Similarly, a person might say to himself – this time is no good, I cannot learn, or daven or find my spiritual way, this time is not appropriate, there are too many distractions and so on. A different time would be better – then I could concentrate, learn and daven to my heart's content. NO! Do not suggest that this time or this place is no good – for the Torah's giving has no time or location recorded, in order to teach us that every time and every place is the right time and the right place for Torah! May we all merit it, Amen.
RAV YITZCHAK BEN MORDECHAI SHAPIRA OF NESHCHIZ
TOLDOS YITZCHAK AND ZICHRON TOV
HEALED THROUGH EMUNA
A man suffering from eye problems once came before Rav Yitzchok Neshchizer to request a beracha for a refua sheleima. He stayed in Neshchiz for several weeks and on Erev Shabbos, the Rebbe saw him as he passed by to greet all the guests. The Neshchizer asked him to stand up, called him over and told him: In earlier generations, the Tzaddikim had the power to heal the sick because they could discern a person's spiritual blemishes. They rectified the matter at its root source, healing the person from his sickness. For example, the Hebrew word for eye is equal in gematria to chochma and bina, which are known as the supernal eyes. In our time, however, no Tzaddik has the power or ability to discern such things. The most important thing, therefore, is full faith – emuna sheleima. If a person believes with full emuna, then he can be saved and healed. "This shall be my sign," said the Neshchizer, meaning that if this person were healed it would be a sign that he had true emuna and if not, that was the cause of his failure to be healed.
On another occasion, a sick person came before Rav Yitzchak Neshchizer, who told him that while in his youth he could help, now, in his older years, he no longer had the strength to help heal the sick. "I have great difficulty in bringing myself into the position to save these sick people," he explained. "However, sometimes they are saved through my beracha alone."
There came before him a sick Jew from Prussia. The Rebbe insisted that he was unable to help him, but the sick Jew asked again and again and then placed his entire money pouch before the Rebbe, begging the Tzaddik to take whatever amount he wished as a pidyon to heal him.
The Rebbe answered him, "Please believe me, perhaps you will heal, but I simply cannot commit to promising you. The reason is your own fault and shortcoming. For I see that you have lost faith in Hashem. Your emuna in Hashem is weak – you have forgotten Him because you heard that in Neshchiz there is a wonder-working Rav who saves people. You have therefore placed all your faith and trust in me alone. The truth is that it is not I who saves; salvation comes only from Hashem. Once you place your faith and trust in Hashem – from there your salvation shall come.
He then recited the following story: There once came a couple before the Kozhnitzer Maggid. They had been robbed and the thieves stole all their belongings. When the husband and wife came before the Maggid, and asked him to help recover what was stolen, he said to them, "I tell you emphatically that it was not I who stole your things! I have witnesses and a sound alibi proving my whereabouts at the time of the theft so that you can tell I am innocent!"
As the Maggid continued to protest that he had had no hand in the theft, the astonished couple insisted that they had not come to blame the Maggid.
"Why then have you come to me if you do not suspect me?"
The couple began to beg the Tzaddik to help them recover their stolen property. They placed a golden coin on the table. The Kozhnitzer then told them that it was not enough. They added another coin, then another, as the Tzaddik continued insisting that the sum for Tzedaka was insufficient. Finally, he told them that he needed sixty golden coins and not one less! The poor couple were at their wits' end! They emptied their purse but the sum fell short.
"No," insisted the Kozhnitzer, "it has to be sixty!"
At this, the wife took a handkerchief, gathered all the coins and said to her husband as she turned to leave, "Come, let us go. Hashem can help us without this as well."
This was what the Rebbe had been waiting for. "Aha!" he declared. "Now I can help you! Before, when all your emuna was to rely on me alone, I saw I could do nothing for you – you had forgotten Hashem! But now that you have placed your trust and faith in Hashem, I can help you for just that one original coin you offered for Tzedaka!"
The Rebbe was once in Ratneh and among the throngs of Chassidim and other Jews seeking his help and blessings, a woman came from Lithuania. She came in to receive the Tzaddik's blessings but left without hearing clearly or understanding his blessings and words of advice. She turned to the gabbai and begged to be let back in. The gabbai knew that the Rebbe was adamant that people should not return, because whatever beracha and words of advice were given to him from Heaven were sent only at the point of the person's departure. The gabbai refused, but she begged and pleaded relentlessly. Eventually, she succeeded in annoying and pestering him so much that he became angry and said, "Don't worry, I will find out what you need!"
"I need a teshuva," she told him – and so he gave it to her! The gabbai prescribed fasts, mortifications, and different forms of penitence that are given to those who wish to do teshuva for grievous offenses! The lady was placated and she left happily with the "Tzaddik's advice"!
After the last guest had left, someone who had witnessed the gabbai's prank brought the matter to Rav Yitzchak Neshchizer's attention.
The Rebbe called the gabbai over and rebuked him, telling him the following tale:
"There once came a poor, unlettered, country bumpkin before my father, Rav Mordechai of Neshchiz, Zt"l. He bothered and annoyed the gabbai with his repeated requests to get a beracha and for the gabbai to write him a kvittel, and so on. He pestered the gabbai so much and made him so angry that he wrote him a kvittel all right! And on the note of petition he listed all manner of horrible offenses and terrible sins – the worst transgressions! In short, he wrote that he (the peasant farmer) was asking to do teshuva for he had transgressed all the worst sins in the entire world! The foolish, illiterate peasant happily took the kvittel that he could not read and presented it to my father. My father's ruach hakodesh evaded him at that moment, and, upon reading the kvittel, he prescribed a fitting teshuva! Many fasts, rolling in the snow, and all manner of self-mortification! The foolish peasant had true emunas Tzaddikim and asked no questions. He had full faith and trust in my father, the Tzaddik. This is what the Rebbe had told him to do – and so he did it! For three full years!!!
"When he came back to visit my father, he had been transformed into a great man! For these practices had refined his soul and made him into an adam gadol. From shomayim they had withheld my father's ruach hakodesh so that this would happen. My father saw that a lofty soul, an adam gadol, now stood before him and asked him how he had reached such spiritual heights. When the simple farmer told him, 'Three years ago, Rebbe, you prescribed for me to fast and afflict myself,' my father investigated and realized what the gabbai had done.
"He then remarked to the gabbai, 'You certainly placed your soul in danger. You are lucky – if those afflictions had harmed him, you would have been liable! Bedieved, ipso facto, fortunate and praiseworthy was that country man who reached such madreigos (spiritual levels)!!!'"
(Zichron Tov Inyanei Teinas Birchosav # 24, 25, 32)
FROM PREVIOUS YEARS:
RAV DOVID BEN SHMUEL HALEVI OF OSTROG
AUTHOR OF TUREI ZAHAV ON SHULCHAN ARUCH
KNOWN AS THE TA"Z
Rav David HaLevi Segal – Taz
Rav David Segal author of the well known commentary on Shulchan Aruch, Turei Zahav is better known by the acronym of his work, the Taz. Rav Yoel Sirkes, author of the famous commentary on the Tur, Beis Chadash, took him for a son in law as a husband for his second daughter Rivkah. He studied under his father in law's tutelage and he later settled in Cracow where he experienced personal tragedy which he wrote about in his commentary the Turei Zahav. (See comments to Orach Chaim end of Siman 151 the laws of the synagogue) "In my youth when I lived in the holy community of Cracow my home and personal house of study where located above the synagogue (this is a frowned upon location as indicated by the Shulchan Aruch ibid) and I was greatly punished when my children died and I pointed to this as the cause of their untimely death." Later he was appointed as Rabbi of several cities including Lwów.
His commentary on the Shulchan Aruch was so well respected and esteemed that many of the leading rabbis began to use his opinions, decisions and rulings as the basis for their own. This roused the ire of other rabbis such as Rav Shmuel Koidinover author of Birkas HaZevach and Rav Gershon Ashkenazi author of Avodas HeGershuni who felt that not only was it improper to rely on the decisions of such later authorities over deciding the case through the earlier works. They felt that the commentaries of the Taz and his contemporary Rav Shabsi Kohen author of the Sha"ch were full of errors and mistakes.
Just as earlier in history the Maharam Lublin had attacked the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema for what he saw were shortcomings, and was ignored, so were the attackers of the commentaries on Shulchan Aruch ignored. Their opinion was in the minority and the majority of the rabbis greatly respected and followed the rulings of the Shach and Taz to the point where today, no rabbi can earn semicha without having studied and mastered their commentaries in addition to having studied and mastered the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema.
There was once a beautiful synagogue in Lwów named the Turei Zahav synagogue where the famed Taz had prayed. It was clothed in a mysterious aura of splendor, sanctity and holiness from days gone by. Its sextons and prayer leaders were esteemed righteous people whose position was seen as important and honorable.
The history of this synagogue is rich and paints a tapestry whose backdrop is one of the Jewish struggle for rights against the Jesuits and their lies. In 1571 a fire broke out in Lwów's Jewish ghetto and the central synagogue named was burned down as well. The community leader, a wealthy merchant by the name of Reb Yitzchak Nachmanowitz began to work towards a solution and on September 24, 1580 he purchased an empty lot known as Olesko's lot for 1500 gulden. On it had stood the ruins of stables and the municipality who was short of cash was happy to sell the empty deserted lot to the wealthy merchant. On March of 1581 he received the king's license as well. He hired an Italian architect named Paulus Romano to build him a large and magnificent edifice to serve as the new synagogue. The original ancient building that had gone up in flames was too small and the new synagogue was designed to be 9 x 11 meters with two adjacent rooms. Because King Sigmund had ruled that the Jewish merchants were to be given rights and privileges, Rav Yitzchak was able to purchase and build a magnificent home in the gothic style of architecture as he wished. Building a synagogue was another matter entirely. The law forbade synagogues to be distinguished externally from any other building and certainly it forbade them from being taller or magnificent structures. To circumvent this issue as well as to bypass the lack of a permit for building a new synagogue, which Rav Yitzchak failed to receive, he had his own private home and villa attached to the new synagogue so that they were one structure and the only entrance to the synagogue was in fact through the hallway of his very own home. Thus rather than having built a public synagogue, in essence Rav Yitzchak claimed the synagogue as his own private house of worship and prayer. Off course during times of prayer Rav Yitzchak granted permission for the entire Jewish community to pass through his home and this unique feature would later be the savior of their synagogue from the hands of their enemies. In 1582 Romano completed his work and the new synagogue was complete. In 1595 Rav Yitzchak passed away and his two sons Mordechai and Nachman took over his position in the community.
In September of 1591 the Archbishop invited the Jesuits to Lwów. He gave them a small church and a private house for their quarters. They began to search Lwów for a suitable location to build a proper church and monastery, yet they could find no suitable location. The local church who opposed the Jesuits due to internal church politics would not help them and they were left without a solution. Until one day in 1600 they set their sights on the Jewish quarter and began to explore it. When they saw the magnificent structure of the synagogue their envy and jealousy was aroused and they set their sights on it to acquire it for themselves. No sooner had they hatched the plot then they set about accusing the Jewish community of building an illegal synagogue without the royal permit.
The Jews off course do not sit idly by and having roused the entire Jewish community to defend its synagogue and its honor they set about proving that they had in fact purchased the land legally and had all the documents to prove it. The long drawn out battle went from court to court and ended up twice before the king himself. This lasted between four to six long years of court cases, appeals and tribunals and the royal tribunal in Cracow handed down its final decision: "the synagogue is a public building which must be handed over to the Jesuits, however all the lots and property of the Jews must be purchased back by the municipality and the Jews were to be compensated fully for their value and any investments they had made in the property." Finally on January 1606, the king reached his decision to agree to this ruling against the Jew's appeal and to award the lot and the synagogue to the Jesuits. The complaints of the Jews fell on deaf ears and the municipality was ordered to compensate the Jews financially but the Jews must hand over the keys to the Jesuits.
Jewish Lwów was in a state of shame and mourning. The Jews removed everything from the synagogue. The son of Reb Yitchak, Reb Mordechai Nachmanowitz, flanked by the heads of the Jewish community, the sexton of the synagogue and two witnesses approached the Jesuits with the keys to the synagogue. He led them through his home and hallway to the outer courtyard where he opened the gate and allowed them to enter.
The masses entered and lit candles where the Aron Kodesh had stood and chanted Christian prayers, while the Jewish community was enwrapped in a state of pain, crying and mourning as on Tisha BAv. This reached a crescendo when they spotted the new cross erected on top of the building.
According to one legend through it all Reb Mordechai stood strangely serene and composed. His reason was revealed all too soon. He had not given up hope. He had a plan.
Once the keys had been officially handed over, this had all been recorded in the official protocols, and the Jesuits had left. Reb Mordechai stood defiantly and barred their re-entry. To their astonished faces he set forth a simple argument, the only entrance to the synagogue was through his own private home and through his living room. The king may have ruled that the synagogue's keys were to be handed over to the Jesuits, however no one had ruled that he had to grant them entry through his private home and domain. This he flatly refused to do. "I suggest you sell me the synagogue since you have no way to enter it anyway and build yourselves a church elsewhere." So saying he barred the door, locked the gate in their face and turned away and went home pocketing the key.
The enraged Jesuits, seeing victory snatched from their hands went on a rampage. They returned the next day yet they found the deserted gates to Reb Mordechai's home locked. Furiously they launched a complaint with the municipality. Reb Mordechai sent counsel to represent himself claiming simply that the Jesuits were now demanding something they had never been granted. They had not been allowed free access to his private home and domain. The municipality (whose heads were also at odds with the Jesuits) agreed to Reb Mordechai's argument and the Jesuits were left with no other options but to compromise. The Jews received back all their property, including the old and the new synagogue and the bath house. In return they paid an exorbitant amount to the Jesuits who would use the funds to purchase their own property. Nonetheless the Jews saw this as a clear victory and a miracle. They celebrated by re-sanctifying and rededicating the synagogue with great emotion and thanksgiving. And the Jews of the city of Lwów rejoiced.
According to another legend it was Rav Nachman's wife named Rosa who saved the synagogue. As a young girl she was a beauty with golden locks and received the nickname Golden Rosa. Others say that hers was a heart of gold, and in her piety she took care of orphans and beggars. Either way she was nicknamed the Golden Rosa and according to legend her sanctity, piety and wisdom went hand in hand. She approached first the king, then the archbishop and succeeded in persuading them of the Jew's rightful ownership of the synagogue. Her words of wisdom, framed with her piety and goodness won their hearts and her pleas were accepted on High. Legend has it that this is why the synagogue was originally named the Golden Rose synagogue. It was named after her since she succeeded in helping win it back for the Jews. Only years later when the famed Taz, author of Turei Zahav prayed there was it then called by many as the Turei Zahav synagogue in his honor.
Rav Yitzchak haLevi Segal (the Taz's older brother) wrote a glorious poem entitled "Geulah – redemption," which Maharam Lublin and the author of the Sem"a had enacted to have sung in Lwów annually on the Shabbos following Purim. This poem was written on parchment and hung displayed in a place of honor in the Turei Zahav synagogue.
In his commentary to Pirkei Avos 1:1, Ruach Chaim, Rav Chaim of Volozhin tells us the following story: "The story is told regarding our master Rav David the gaon and author of the commentary Turei Zahav (Taz on Shulchan Aruch) that once a woman came before him crying and shouting "Woe is me! Rebbe, behold my son is so weak he is at death's door!" And he answered her, "I am in G-d's place?" She responded: "I am calling out to the Torah which you learn and represent! For the Holy One and His holy Torah are one and united!" And he answered her, "I will do this for you, I will give as a gift the Torah which I am studying now together with my students for your sick son, maybe in it's merit he will recover and live, since the verse says "With this [Torah] shall you live a long life," and at that moment his fever broke. We see that through Torah study, with the power of his dveykus attaching and cleaving to Hashem one has the ability and merit to revive and resurrect the dead!" This remarkable story is found in the sefer, Toldos Gedolai Hora'ah (page 78, footnote 10).[According to the Shut Shoel Umeishiv they opened the kever of the Taz, one hundred years after his death and they found him in perfect condition, even his clothes had not decomposed. (Brought in the Shem Gedolim of the Chida)].
As is well known the Taz wrote a commentary on Shulchan Aruch. He was a Rav/Rosh Yeshiva in the big city of Posen in Western Poland, but after a few years decided that he was not cut out for the Rabbinate. He decided to go into anonymity by going to the town of Lvov, in Eastern Poland where nobody would recognize him and be able to learn in peace and quiet.
After a few weeks in this town someone came over to him in the shul and said "Rabbeinu". It turns out it was one of his former talmidim who happened to live in this town. He swore him to secrecy so that he would not reveal who he was. After a few months, the Taz was resigned to find work to support his family. He got work in the slaughterhouse skinning and cutting meat.
A number of shailos came up in the plant and they happened to ask him if he knew what the din was and he paskened a few questions. Word got to the Rav of the town and he was very upset. He called in the Taz and decided to put him in cherem for paskening shailos instead of referring them to the Rav of Lvov. He could no longer learn in the shul but would have to stay in the booth where the guard would sit.
One time a young girl came with a question about a chicken to the Rav and the Rav paskened that it was not kosher. The girl ran out crying. The Taz, who was in the booth outside the shul saw her and asked her why she was crying. She said, "My mother is a widow and this means we will not have chicken for Shabbas." The Taz looked at the chicken and said, "the chicken is kosher. Go and tell the Rav to look in Yoreh Deah Siman 18 in the Taz in footnote 8 and he will see that the chicken is in fact kosher." The young girl went back into the shul and told the Rav. The Rav looked up the halacha and then realized that he had made a mistake and the chicken was in fact kosher. He asked the girl, "Who told you this information?" She told him, "the man sitting outside in the booth." The Rav goes outside and asks him, "how did you know that Taz?" "Because I am the Taz!!".
The Rav immediately calls the entire town together and announces in the shul that he is stepping down as Rav and handing the reigns over to the Taz. The Taz accepts. The student, who had known the whole time of the Taz's identity, asks his Rebbe, "Why did you reveal your identity and why are you accepting the position?" The Taz explained, "I really wanted to remain in hiding but when I saw the tears and felt the pain of this Yesoma (orphan). All my personal plans were no longer significant. I had to do something to prevent the pain and anguish from this poor family and any other poor family in the future."
Rav Yehuda Aryeh Rav Yehuda Aryeh Leib (Leibele Leibele Leibele)Eiger of Lublin Eiger of Lublin,22nd
The Toras Emes
A Leap of True Faith for Yiras Shomayim
A great example of Rav Leibele's yiras shomayim (fear of heaven) is a story told about him [I heard it from Rav Moshe Weinberger of Aish Kodesh Woodmere, NY] in his youth, as a young avreich in his father-in-law's home, as he sat studying Torah. Oblivious to his surroundings, he did not notice that he had a visitor. It seems that the wife of the local
duke had come to see Rav Leibele's wife about some matter. After knocking and receiving no answer, she pushed open the door and was mesmerized by the Tzaddik's singsong voice as he learned, totally absorbed.
Eventually, she grew somewhat annoyed that he had not even noticed her, and she made her presence known. Rav Leibele saw her and, not knowing who she was or why she had come, he thought of only one thing – he was now alone with a woman who not modestly attired and who was not his wife, ISSUR YICHUD! His eyes darted to the door but she was standing in front of it and seeing no other escape from the issur yichud (prohibition of being alone with a
woman), he did the only thing he could: he jumped out of the second-story window to
the ground below. I believe he limped for the rest of his life. But his immeasurable mesirus nefesh and yiras shomayim is a lesson for us for all generations.
ONE PEOPLE WITH ONE HEART
VaYachan Sham Yisroel Neged haHar - Yisroel encamped there opposite the mountain - Rashi quotes the Mechilta, KeIsh Echas BeLev Echad – they were as one person with one heart. The Kotzker explained that they reached this level by examining themselves and seeing their own flaws and shortcomings then they saw each other person as greater than themselves and that is how they became as one, with one heart. Rav Moshe Kobriner said that this is a piece of advice, neged haHar – to be used against the mountain, which is the evil inclination who opposes us like a mountain, the only way to withstand him is to be as one people with one heart.
VAYISHMA YISRO – And Yisro Heard.
Isnt it inetesrting that last week we read Shabbos Parshas BeShalach and we call it Shabbos Shirah but this week, the week of Matan Torah we don't have any special name for the parsha? You might have thought that it would be fitting to call it Parshas Aseres HaDibros, or Parshas Maamad Har Sinai or Parashas Matan Torah. But no, instead we simply call it, Parshas Yisro. Why is that?
The Tzadik Rav Leibeleh Eiger (Yahrzeit 22 Shevat) in Toras Emes asks a similar question. Why is Parashas Yisro the story which preceds Matan Torah? What message is there in the fact that the Parasha of VaYishma Yisro – Yisro heard, is the introduction to Matan Torah?
He answers that it teaches us that the way to prepare ourselves to receive the Torah is by training our ears and opening our hearts to hear Hashem's message. And that message is, no matter how far you are from Me, no matter how distant you were, you can draw close to Me, says Hashem.
For even Yisro, a non Jew who became a convert, a person who as Kohen Midian Chazal tell us that he had served and worshipped every foreign god, every idol and every avodah zarah out there! And this man Yisro, he became Moshe's father in law and one of Am Yisroel and one of the closest to Hashem. If Yisro can hear the message, all we need to do is open our ears and our hearts to hear the message as well. No matter how far or how distant you are now, or you feel, you too can draw near and close to Hashem.
Moshe, the one closest to Hashem also felt distant. For it says he approached the Arafel, the fog. The fog is a dark cloud of concealment in which Hashem is hidden. Even Moshe perceived a barrier, a concealment a hiding of Hashem. Moshe, the one closest to Hashem realized how distant and far he was. For those closes to Hashem truly are those that realize just how humble they truly are how small and infinitesimal compared to Hashem's awesome Infinity. The closer you are the further away you are. And the further away you feel, the closer you truly are! For there within the fog is G-d. Arafel equals Shechina in gematria.
In Toras Avos Rav Moshe Kobriner is quoted as teaching that Arafel – fog can be read as the Yiddish expression for Arup Fal which means to fall down. Moshe went and entered the fog, he taught Beni Yisroel that even when they fall down, even when they are small minded, when they have falls and troubles and suffer, Moshe entered the fog for there within the Arup Fall is G-d. If you stand up from your falls, and you withstand all tests and trials you will discover that within the darkness and concealment is Hashem.
Rav Leibeleh Eiger concludes that the advice for a person seeking to draw near, seeking to draw close and open their ears and heart is "Ashrei Adam Shomeya Li Lishkod al Dalsosay Yom Yom," happy is he who listen to my advice and dwells at the gates and door of Heaven day after day, even though last time I messed up, and it didn't work out and now I feel far, I wait and seek day after day for my opportunity and I never give up! If I yearn and seek day after day one day I will see the gate unlocked and the door open and I will seize my opportunity to enter and draw near and be close, and then Hashem's light will shine forth. Never give up hope and open your heart and draw near. That is why parshas Yisro precedes Matan Torah.
Rav Leibeleh Eiger became an ardent chassid follower and disciple of the Kotzker Rebbe. The first Gerrer Rebbe author of Chiddushei haRim told the Rebbe of Alexander that just as there was lightning and thunder by Maamad Har Sinai when Bnei Yisroel accepted the Torah so it is that in Tomoshov (where the Kotzker Rebbe first held court) there is Kabbalas haTorah with thunder and lightning!
BLESSINGS FOR BUSINESS
A stranger came to the Kuzhmirer Rebbe asking for advice and a blessing in his business affairs. The rebbe apid him no heed and no attention. Just then, to his astonishment, a chassid came in to the rebbe, the rebbe greeted him warmly inquired after him and his family and when the chassid asked for none other than advice and a blessing for his business affairs the rebbe gave him advice and a beracha. "Rebbe," the stranger had the chutzpah to come back to the Kuzhmirer indignantly with his protests, "when you deigned to help me I was sure that business dealings were too mundane and earthly a matter, so you ignored them, surely you aren't playing favorites though, and just because he is your chassid you do give advice and blessings even on such mundane earthly matters as business, but why not me?" he asked.
And so Rav Chatzkel Kuzmirer told him the following mashal:
There was once a Jewish merchant who travelled to the great fair in Leipzig to do some business. There he met a gentile merchant whose wares and merchandise were to his liking. So much so that he spent the entire time at the fair dealing solely with this merchant in his store. The fair ended and the merchants packed their wares and merchandise up, rolled up their awnings, closed their booths and headed home. Still our Jewish merchant was engaged in business with this merchant, when his servant entered and complained, "You have spent all our time at the fair here in this store and now the fair is over. You have bought a lot of merchandise but how will we ever get it home? Don't you realize that we need to buy pitch and oil and grease the wheels of our wagon before the homeward journey? Now that the fair is over and everyone has packed up and gone, where will we get pitch from? Who will sell it to us?" "Do not worry," answered the gentile merchant. "I myself traveled with surplus pitch. Now let us finish conducting our business calculations together with peace of mind, no need to rush or hurry I will supply all the pitch you need." At that very moment another hapless merchant who sorely needed some pitch and was looking all over for some wandered in and overheard the gentile merchants declaration that he had some. "Please sir," he interrupted, "I too need pitch can you sell some to me, I will pay full price." "What!" cried the indignant merchant, "what do I look like to you? A pitch salesman? Don't you see I deal in fine wares and merchandise? Now this man over here, he pointed to the Jew, he is my customer and he has purchased much merchandise from me, so when he needs some pitch for to grease his axle and his wagon for the journey home, I gladly give it to him. But you? What wares and merchandise have you bought from me? We have conducted no business together at all, so I don't know you and I have nothing to do with you, begone." And so he was dismissed.
"Now, my chassid" turned the Kuzhmirer Rebbe to the stranger, "always comes to me to ask the ways of Hashem and to seek out Yiras Shomayim and Avodas Hashem and Chassidus, so when he needs some pitch to oil his axles and help the wheels of his earthly coach along I help him as well. But what do I look like to you a pitch salesman? You who never come seeking advice in ruchniyus and avodas Hashem all you want is my pitch, what dealings have we together?"
The Modzitzer, his grandson, in Divrei Yisroel applies this to our parsha, "Yisro asked Moshe why do the common people "HaAm" stand by you from morning to evening all day long," they need parnassah and help with wordly matters, why don't you help them. Moshe answered, "If they come seeking the ways of Avodas Hashem, Lidrosh Elokim," then "ki yihiyeh davar ba elay," then if they need afterwards also help with parnassah and worldly matters as well, surely I will help them. However anyone who comes solely for worldly matters and not LiDrosh Elokim I do not answer such people. (Divrei Yisroel YISRO)
FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE
ATTACKING THE AGENT OF SALVATION
Rav Elimelech Biderman told the following story:
Rav Iram who works in an organization known as Lev Shomeah – The Hearing Heart which helps bachurim in the South of Eretz Yisroel, told how someone he did not know contacted him and told him the heart wrenching tale of how his beloved son, apple of his eye is ready to get married and working to find him the right shiddush is a long arduous and difficult process, and how now finally a suggestion was posed that sounds like it might be the right match and they are close to finalizing all the arrangements, however . . .his son broke one of the rules in Yeshiva and they decided to make an example from him to teach others to beware and they summarlity kicked him out. His shiddush to be's brother learns in the same Yeshiva, and if they don't take him back and forgive his mistake, surely her brother will find out and tell their father and the entire shidduch will be off and the boy's life might be ruined! "I simply don't have the spiritual strength and stamina to withstand such a thing!" cried the boy's father, "after so many other fruitless proposals and shidduchim that went nowhere, finally to let the right one slip away like this!" the poor man sounded at wit's end, and so he begged Rav Iram to please plead his case and ask the Yeshiva to please not throw his son out.
First he turned to the Rosh Yeshiva and begged him to reconsider, the boy was extremely sorry and he wished to make amends and be given a second chance, he, Rav Iram was willing to act as a guarantor for the boy's behavior and he even agreed to sleep and eat at home so long as he could attend and not be labeled as "kicked out." Then Rav Iram turned to the Mashgiach and the boy's shiur rebbe and the rest of the hanhalah, they finally agreed but explained that they would hold a final meeting to discuss the issue and finalize their decision together.
Rav Iram needed to head out from Bnei Brak towards Jerusalem and so he caught the bus and as he sat down in the evening with the lights out he continued his conversation quietly on his cell phone, begging, pleading and asking them to reconsider and take the boy back and conclude their meeting with a positive answer. Meanwhile halfway through the journey the other rider sitting next to Rav Iram lost his patience and lost his temper and he jumped up and began to heap curses and angry words onto his neighbor, saying: "Why are you so inconsiderate!?" he shouted and screamed, "All the entire way chatting and chatting and disrupting my rest, you don't stop for even a second, shut up already! Let me get some rest and try and sleep stop this horrid act of Gezel Sheina and leave me alone!" he bellowed. Rav Iram tried to beg his neighbor's forgiveness but the man was inconsolable, he continued yelling and screaming so much that the bus driver, stopped the bus and turned on the lights thinking that some emergency must have happened, Rav Iram was so embarresed that he turned quickly to face the window lest anyone recognize him and he let the man continue to rain down blow after blow of wrathful words until, finally spent, the lights shut off and the bus continued on its way.
A short while later, Rav Iram felt his cell phone vibrate. Fearing his neighbor's wrath he had ended the conversation and silenced the phone. Now he looked at the display and saw the Rosh Yeshiva's phone number. He knew it was extremely difficult to reach the Rosh Yeshiva and he began an internal debate, should he answer and risk his neighbor's anger and another round of insults or ignore the pressing call, which surely had the fate of a boy and his father's sanity and health at stake? He decided to answer in a faint whisper, the Rosh Yeshiva said, "by the way you answer I can tell you cannot talk, I just wanted to tell you the good news that we decided to give the boy a second chance, Beracha and Shalom." Rav Iram was overjoyed. Now a new turmoil began within him. Should he call the boy's father and tell him the good news? Or again risk the wrath of his neighbor? Just as he decided that any insult and shame was worth saving the father's health and surely he must be anxiously waiting for an answer, the bus turned into the city of Jerusalem and the lights went on. Now knowing that his neighbor couldn't sleep anyway he turned the phone on and called the number of the boy's father to tell him the good news. As he was speaking to the overjoyed father he noticed something strange, his voice seemed to echo again and again. The reason was because the man sitting next to him on the bus was none other than. . . the boy's father! The father immediately understood what had happened, and he was so embarrassed and ashamed he wished that the ground would swallow him up that very moment. Here sitting beside him was Rav Iram who just yesterday he had begged to help him and his son, and now. . .all the nasty angry shouted words came back to him and he simply could not forgive himself. "How could I have done such a thing?! The entire time that you were on the phone for my son's sake and for the sake of my health and sanity and well being and I insulted you and berated you and yelled at you?! I feel so terrible." He tried to explain and excuse himself by telling how he had not slept a wink last night in worry and he had just now boarded the bus headed to Jerusalem to go and daven by the kosel for hatzlacha and siyata dishmaya, "please forgive me," he begged. Please make this story well known and publicize it to atone for me and act as a merit for my other sons.
So, concludes Rav Biderman, how many of us are just like that father? We beg and plead to Hashem and ask for his help in our distress. Then Hashem sends us messengers and aids and all manner of ways to help us. Instead of trusting in Hashem, we get angry and upset and we attack and berate sometimes those very messengers and agents that Hashem Himself has sent to help and aid us! We must therefore strengthen our emunah to judge other favorably to give others the benefit of the doubt, and to love all of Klal Yisroel as much as we love ourselves only then can we be prepared to receive Hashem's blessings and salvation.
In Loving Memory of
Our Dear Father and Teacher
HaRav HaChossid Avraham Chaim ben Sholom and Frumit Goldenberg, ז״ל of Micula, Satmar
A beloved talmid of HaRav Yechezkel Shraga Schonfeld, זצ״ל and of the Holy Satmar Rav, Ba'al "Divrei Yoel," זי״ע
A man of great kindness
Very learned, studying Torah daily
Ready always to offer sage advice and wisdom
Always weighing his words carefully
How greatly he withstood tests and trials like the patriarch whose name he shares
Avraham's faith and trust stood by him and kept him going
Meaning he found in the path of his great mentor and teacher, his Holy Rav, זי״ע
Caringly he educated us, his children, according to the Mesorah of our traditions
How he himself received it and was brought up in it
Always toiling in Torah study day and night with his set shiurim
Indeed his fear of Heaven always came before his wisdom, serving the Creator in perfect simplicity
Mitzvas Bikur Cholim — caring for the sick was his life's work as he cared for Hashem's children as his own, emulating Hashem's kindness and mercy
When he went in for open heart surgery in Houston, Texas in 1978 under the care of Dr. Denton Cooley, one of the fathers of open heart surgery, Rav Avraham Chaim had but one request. To bring in a copy of the holy sefer Noam Elimelech together with him as a segulah. They placed the holy sefer below his pillow during the operation, miraculously his difficult operation was a successs and the doctor reverently handed back the holy sefer Noam Elimelech which had accompanied him on the road to recovery.
May he intercede on behalf of his beloved family and return to us
May the zechus and merit of the holy Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk stand by him and his family and loved ones.
He passed away at 83 years of age on כ״א לחודש שבט תשס״ו speedily at the end of days. ת.נ.צ.ב.ה