CHASSIDUS PARSHAS TETZAVEH
It is almost 21 Adar the Yahrzeit of the Noam Elimelech ZY"A
I will imyh be in Lizensk davening by the Rebbe Reb Melech, those who wish to send me kvitelach with names for who to daven for please email me (there is no charge any donations to help defray the cost & expense of the trip are as always appreciated.)
Itinerary this year imyh includes Ukraine, Poland and Hungary, Mezibuz (the Baal Shem Tov & disciples) Berditchev (Rav Levi Yitzchok), Uman (Rav Nachman of Breslov), Lizensk (Noam Elimelech), Rymanow (Rav Mendel), Lanczut (Ropshitzer), Dynow (Bnei Yissaschar), Kerestir (Rav Yeshaya) and Uhjel.
PRESSED AND POUNDED TO SHINE
The Kuzhmirer Rebbe sat at the head of the table firring tisch – conducting his Shabbos seuda in the presence of the Chassidim. There was a large crowd and there was a lot of jostling, pushing, and shoving as the Chassidim tried to get closer to hear and see the Rebbe, each one seeking to be the closest. As the Rebbe sat there observing the Chassidim, he noticed one foolish Chassid who was working his way through the crowd by shoving everyone else and pushing them out of his way. It was almost as if he was crushing and pressing through the crowd in an effort to squash as many people as he could elbow! The Rebbe then remarked out loud:
"It says in Mishlei (27:22): 'If you crush a fool in a mortar…and pound him with a pestle, you will not remove the foolishness from him.' Now I ask you, have any of you ever seen a fool pounded and crushed with a mortar and pestle? Chazal, however, tell us (Berachos 6b) that the reward for coming to the "gathering to study Torah" known as the Kalla is duchka – the jostle and pushing of the crowd! But the fool is not spiritually moved by the crowd, or the gathering, he pushes and shoves with abandon – he gets crushed and he remains a fool!"
The Modzitzer Rebbe used this story about his grandfather as a backdrop to explain the words of the pasuk: kasis lamaor (Shemos 27:20), "crushed to illuminate and shine." Chazal tell us that eating too many olives causes one to forget his learning, whereas olive oil is a segula for wisdom (Horayos 13b and Menachos 85b). Is this a contradiction? The olive must be pounded and pressed to give its best oil. The holy Ohr HaChaim, in his commentary to this pasuk, remarks that those who seek to shine and grow in Torah must be willing to be pounded, crushed, and pressed; they need to exert and push themselves more and more. They must be willing to forgo physical pleasures, desires, and needs, to sap their strength and suffer – all so that they may acquire Torah. Rashi explains that in order to press the olives to get the most refined oil to use for illumination, we must pound and crush them with a mortar and pestle. This means to press and crush yourself in the crowd as you jostle to receive Torah from the Rebbe. A Chassid must be willing to endure the press and crush of the crowd, just as Chazal said: agra dekalla duchka –a talmid chacham who seeks Torah wisdom is rewarded when he is crushed by the crowd at the kalla where he seeks to hear words of wisdom. This is all true, however, only of those righteous individuals who truly seek insight, enlightenment, and illumination – they are pressed and crushed to shine! The fools who simply jostle, shove, and push, as the pasuk in Mishlei says, although they are ground with mortar and pestle, their foolishness never departs; they remain the same fools as before!
"On the table shall you place the show-bread – lechem hapanim – before Me, always" (Shemos 25:30).
THE MARRANO WHO OFFERED THE LECHEM HAPANIM
In the Arizal's time there lived in Tzefas an ignorant, yet G-d-fearing Marrano Jew, whose family had fled Spain. Consequently, their Jewish education was sorely lacking and he knew little, although whatever he learned he adhered to steadfastly. One day as he sat in shul, the Rav taught in his derasha about the lechem hapanim, the showbread that was baked and displayed in the Beis Hamikdash. He expanded on its miraculous freshness, and explained the delight and satisfaction Hashem had once had. "Alas, nowadays the Beis Hamikdash is no longer here," he said, and hung his head, sighing in sadness, "and Hashem no longer has the lechem hapanim!"
The Marrano Jew decided then and there to be the one to renew this great avoda. He came home and excitedly related to his wife what he had heard. "So you see, my dear wife," he concluded, "now Hashem is sad because He has no lechem hapanim. You bake such delicious challos every Friday in honor of Shabbos – this week bake two extra loaves and I will bring them to shul and offer them to Hashem as a consolation instead of the lechem hapanim."
His wife readily agreed, and that Erev Shabbos, the Marrano Jew hurried to shul early in the afternoon, clutching two fragrant, freshly baked challos. He entered the quiet, deserted shul, walked up to the aron kodesh, opened it and placed the warm, fresh challos inside. He davened, "Please, Hashem, take these two challos from me and accept them as if they were Your lechem hapanim!"
The next day, during davening, the Marrano Jew watched and held his breath as the time for kriyas haTorah drew near. Someone approached the aron kodesh and opened it to remove the holy Torah scrolls for leining, and…sure enough, the challos were gone! His joy knew no bounds. With a spring in his step, he ran home after davening and told his wife the wonderful news in a voice bursting with pride. "My dear wife, Hashem has accepted our gift – He took the challos!!!" And so each week he would bring two delicious, freshly baked challos, place them in the aron kodesh on Friday afternoon, and utter a heartfelt prayer asking Hashem to accept his gift instead of the lechem hapanim, and he would watch in tearful joy each Shabbos morning, as his challos had miraculously vanished!
The truth, however, was not as miraculous. The shamash of the shul was a poor man. As part of his routine Friday afternoon job, he came to clean and prepare the shul. One of his tasks was to remove the Torah and wind the scroll to the correct place so that when it was removed to read from it on Shabbos morning it was ready. One Friday, as the Marrano left, the shamash came in, opened the aron kodesh and to his surprise he found two freshly baked, fragrant challos.
"Someone has left these here for me!" he rejoiced and so, each week, he happily took them home and his family enjoyed them.
One week as usual, the Marrano Jew entered the shul to place his lechem hapanim offering in the aron kodesh. This Friday, the Rav of the shul was there, looking up material for his derasha, when a strange sight met his eyes. The Marrano was placing challos in the aron kodesh, while davening and crying, "Please, Hashem, accept my offering as You do each week!"
"What are you doing?" asked the Rav. The Marrano smiled and explained, "You told us in the derasha about how Hashem has no lechem hapanim, so each week I give Hashem challos and He takes them and eats them!"
"What nonsense!" yelled the Rav in anger. "Surely you don't believe Hashem eats!"
"Where then do my challos go?" asked the Marrano sadly.
"Obviously the shamash is taking them – watch!"
And so they waited a while and, sure enough, a little later, the shamash came in and took out his weekly gift! The Rav confronted him.
"Of course I take them," admitted the shamash with a smile. "Someone is so kind as to offer me this great gift!"
"See!" yelled the Rav. "You fool – what a sin! To attribute to Hashem anthropomorphic traits! Hashem does not eat challos!"
The poor Marrano was told to do teshuva. He felt very humiliated, sad, and forlorn. Not only had Hashem not accepted his offering, he had sinned as well. He went home dejected and told his wife the truth, instructing her to stop baking challos each week.
The next Shabbos, a messenger arrived at the Rav's home from the Arizal. The Arizal requested his immediate presence. The Rav hurried to the holy Arizal, who told him, "Go home, gather together your family and recite the viduy confession. Prepare your will and last rites, for tomorrow you shall die and depart this world!"
The Rav's face turned white. "Holy Rav, why – what have I done?"
"Since the time when the holy Beis Hamikdash stood, Hashem has not had the lechem hapanim. But this poor Jew's ignorance did not stop him from trying to do what he could. His simple, sincere, and genuine heartfelt offering of challos was as pleasing to Hashem as if it were the real lechem hapanim – and you stopped it! You humiliated and shamed him, and now Hashem is very angry with you, for you have taken away His lechem hapanim!"
The next day the Rav passed away.
MASHAL UMELITZA – FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE
Rav Elimelech Biderman shared the following two beautiful meshalim from two other great Maggidim and Rabbanim:
THE VALUABLE DEFECT
"You shall take the two shoham stones and engrave upon them the names of Bnei Yisrael…A jeweler's craft…so shall you engrave the two stones with names of Bnei Yisrael" (Shemos 28:9-11)
The famed Rav and Maggid Shiur of Yeshivas Tchebin, Rav Avraham Ganochovsky, told:
There was once a wealthy man who purchased an exquisite gem, the largest and most magnificent of its kind. Its size, weight, and color were ideal and pure. It was truly flawless and its value was staggering. The wealthy man was so enamored of his precious stone that he feared lest anyone damage or mar it in any way.
He wrapped it in fine silks and jealously hid it away, guarding it from everyone. Even his family and friends were forbidden to see the jewel. Only when he was alone, would the wealthy man sometimes lovingly unwrap the gemstone, caressing its shiny, lustrous surfaces, and gazing with awe at its brilliance. He would then rewrap it slowly and with care in its protective silk and hide it away again. Only once it was hidden away under lock and key would he emerge from his private chamber.
The wealthy man had a good friend in whom he confided all his secrets and most private concerns – except the matter of the precious jewel. This friend, too, was forbidden from seeing the stone. Day in and day out he begged, pleaded, and cajoled – to no avail. The wealthy man simply refused to show anyone the gem for fear that they would mishandle it.
"Please, please, just this once, show me the jewel! I just want to see how magnificent it is. Come on, aren't we best friends?"
Finally, after many refusals, the wealthy man finally succumbed and relented. He agreed to show his best friend the priceless jewel. He set a date and time, and at the appointed hour his friend arrived, dressed elegantly as might befit such an important occasion. With a festive air, they entered the private chamber and barred the outside world. Then the wealthy man unlocked his vault and removed a magnificent, ornate strongbox. Inside, amid plush pillows and soft cushions, sat a bundle wrapped in fine, soft silks. Slowly, lovingly, the wealthy man unraveled the silks until he was left holding the precious jewel. The stone glinted in his palm and he cautiously handed it over to his best friend. The friend held out his hand to receive the gem. Its brilliance was blinding, and as the light shone on its many facets, the wealthy man was momentarily distracted, and dropped the gem to the floor!
It glanced off the marble tiles, and in shock, the wealthy man cried out, bending down to retrieve his fallen treasure. He lifted up the gemstone and the room swam before him. His legs felt like jello, and his entire being shook with spasms of horror! Right down the side of the gem, there was now a long, hideous scratch!!!
How he cried in dismay! He had so carefully guarded his gem, only to ruin it! How had he been so careless as to drop it? Surely now its value had depreciated a hundredfold; who knew how little it was worth now that an ugly scratch marred its once-pristine surface? In depression, the wealthy man ignored his family and friends, and closeted himself away in his rooms. He refused meals and guests and nothing would cheer him up.
One day, a sage was passing through and heard of the sad plight of the wealthy man and his grieving family. He insisted that they allow him to try to bring the wealthy man out of his deep depression. He entered the chamber of mourning and began to converse with the wealthy man about news and matters of little or no consequence. Gradually, he brought the conversation around to the matter of the disfigured gemstone.
"Please show me the jewel and let me see the problem for myself," he requested.
The wealthy man brought out the jewel and showed him the ugly scar. The scratch did indeed mar the stone's surface but it was one straight line. He then launched into a long, passionate diatribe against his former best friend.
"How could I have been such a fool to trust him and agree to show him my gem? Look what has happened – because of him, I dropped it and scratched it – and now it is ruined forever!"
"How do you spell your name?" interrupted the sage. When the surprised man answered, the sage continued, "I have an idea that will restore your jewel to its former glory. In fact, it will even surpass it! Now, your gem will be so exceptional that its value will soar even higher than its worth !"
"What? How can this be?" uttered the astonished wealthy man in disbelief.
"Take this jewel to a gemologist and craftsman – a true craftsman who knows how to cut stones and inscribe gems. Spell your name for him and have him inscribe your name onto the gemstone! Let him scratch out the letters on the surface of the gem in such a way that the first stroke will begin with the current scratch. This scratch will then form the first vertical line of the first letter of your name. Once the scratch is incorporated into the inscription, no one shall be any the wiser! Then, not only will this scratch not mar the surface of your gem, it will cause it to be valued at a much higher price and be worth so much more!!!"
Every Jewish soul is a precious jewel, whose unique stature and value is one of a kind. There is none like your soul – neither in the heavens above nor on the earth below. You are unique and priceless. Some souls undergo hardship, suffering, trials, and tribulations. Each one of us must be tested, purified, refined, and worked by the Creator as only He understands. Sometimes we fall, and that fall can scratch the surface. It can scar us and leave us with an ugly mark and blemish. The once-pristine stone now has an ugly scar marring its exterior. The foolish give up, go into depression, and lock themselves away, crying over the injustice, the pain, and the scars. The wise take the opportunity to carve out a name for themselves. They seize the hardships and trials and rise above them. They use the very same scratch as a starting point on which to build and grow! Then their value and brilliance increase, and they are even more precious than before!
THE MISLEADING WEAVE
"They shall make the ephod of gold, turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool, and twisted linen, a weaver's craft" (Shemos 28:6).
Rav Yaakov Galinksy told the following mashal:
A person once received an exquisite, woven tapestry as a gift. When he unwrapped it, however, he held the tapestry backward, so that what he saw was that part of the woven picture of uniform bands of color. The large stretches of uniform color were pleasing to the eye. Yellows, blues, and green all stretched out to paint the scene of a magnificent sunset over green, grassy hills with a blue sky. But marring the landscape were various other threads. These woven threads and knots were seemingly haphazardly strewn, woven here and there through the bands and stretches of color. What a shame, thought the person. I received such a fine tapestry and look – the weaver ruined it with all these extra stray threads!
Just then, someone walked in and observed the person holding the tapestry backward and complaining. He marveled at the true picture which, standing opposite the man, he could clearly see. He walked over and flipped over the tapestry in his hands to the correct side. The man's jaw dropped in surprise and amazement. Now he saw that the opposite was true!!! The uniform bands of pure, unbroken color were the simple, plain, uninteresting part of the design. The true marvel and beauty of the woven tapestry was in the intricately woven threads that on the correct side of the tapestry had been woven to depict delicate flowers, ferns, trees, leaves, birds, beetles, and myriad other fine, delicate details!!! He now realized his mistake: from the opposite side, all the intricate, fine details looked like hideous knots, loose, stray threads, and haphazardly woven mistakes. The plain colors looked organized. But now he saw that the plain stretches of color were simply a backdrop. In the background, they provided a setting and a scene, but the details were the true marvel of artistry and wonder of the woven tapestry he held. The unsightly had transformed into the finest!
Sometimes we think that life should be plain and simple. Uninterrupted routines, long stretches of uniform time… We think that if only life had its simple, easy routine we could serve Hashem so much better, learn and study Torah, davening and growing with no interruptions, distractions or obstacles. How idyllic and peaceful it would then be…sigh! But the pains, sufferings, trials, tribulations, and all manner of interruptions and obstacles prevent us from achieving! They are soooo frustrating!
But if we flip our lives over, we realize that we have been looking at our picture backward the whole time. For our lives are woven with intricacy and detail, which give us bold color and relief – and when we flip it over, we see the truth. When we push ourselves, when we exert effort and toil, despite the difficulties, we press and crush ourselves and give off the finest oil, we reveal the best of ourselves, our greatest and finest traits, our kochos hanefesh, our latent talents and abilities – and then we actualize our greatest spiritual potential. Although we do not seek to be tried and tested, every wise person takes advantage of the difficulties and nisyonos that we do get in order to grow and weave a tapestry of life whose true colors shine forth.
15 ADAR – RAV ZE'EV WOLF OF ZHITOMIR, OHR HAMEIR
The Maamar Mordechai of Slonim once related:
The Kobriner once told how a Chassid was traveling in the wilderness, when a group of demons captured him. They would not release him until he wrote them a promissory note documenting his promise to come back.
After he had signed the letter, he ran away to his Rebbe, Rav Ze'ev Wolf of Zhitomir. He complained and cried bitterly to his Rebbe and related the entire tale.
"Go back to them and speak to them in my name, demanding that they return your notes and and that they should leave you alone."
The Chassid returned to them. They all appeared as frum yidden. The head demon was teaching Torah and saying over a derush from a sefer to the other demons, who likewise all appeared to be Chassidim. He then approached the Chassid. The Chassid repeated his Rebbe's demands for the return of his notes and to be left alone.
"You request and demand this in the name of your Rebbe, Rav Ze'ev Wolf of Zhitomir, eh?" the demonic Rebbe sneered. "Let's see if any of his Torahs are in our seforim. If they are, both you and he shall be ours forevermore. He began to search through his sefer until he conceded defeat, returned the documents, and let the Chassid go free, unharmed.
"You should know that in my sefer are all the Torahs of great leaders who have failed. Any gutter yid who says Torah and doesn't live up to his name – his Torah becomes ours."
The Kobriner concluded the story and related that he himself always did teshuva before and after saying Torah, so that he need not fear those demons at all. (Maamar Mordechai)