SHEMINI – PARA
CHET HA'EGEL – THE SINS OF THE TZADDIK AND HIS TESHUVA INSPIRE OTHERS TO TESHUVA AND MESIRUS NEFESH
Rashi cites Rav Moshe HaDarshan that the Para Aduma comes to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf – the Chet Ha'egel; the mother, the cow, should come and clean up the mess left by her wayward youngster, the calf.
The Rebbe Reb Melech in Noam Elimelech, Parshas Shemini, asks on the pasuk: "And he slaughtered the calf of the sin offering that was his," (Vayikra 9:8): where do the sins of a Tzaddik come from? How is it that a Tzaddik might sometimes stumble and inadvertently sin or transgress – how do such misdeeds befall the righteous?
He answers that it all comes from the Chet Ha'egel – the sin of the Golden Calf. This filth and impurity, the sin that tarnished and stained us, can cause even Tzaddikim to sin, even if ever so slightly.
Then when they express remorse over their actions, this pain, regret, and thoughts of teshuva are what aid them to "slaughter the calf of sin – to slaughter the sin of the Egel Hachatas"! The pasuk continues: "that was his – asher lo." This action is actually not a sin at all, objectively speaking, but asher lo – subjectively for him, for the Tzaddik, such an action is considered a sin because it is beneath him and his elevated stature! * When others witness the Tzaddik's actions; how much he repents and suffers from this and how he does teshuva, even over such seemingly small matters that on the surface aren't even sins, yet the Tzaddik does teshuva for them – then their hearts break and they serve Hashem with self-sacrifice and are willing to give their lives and spill their blood for Hashem.
FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE
WHAT WAS THE CHET HA'EGEL? SADNESS!
Rav Elimelech Biderman cited the following well-known teaching from the Chozeh of Lublin:
The Chozeh asks: what was the actual sin of the Chet Ha'egel that made it so terrible; after all, we know that the women and Levi'im did not participate at all? In fact, only the Erev Rav (mixed multitude) and a handful of sinners were involved! If so, why was the entire Jewish nation punished? He explains that the pasuk says afterward: vayisabalu, (Shemos 33:4) – they mourned and were saddened by the event.
When a Jew sins and instead of moving on he remains focused on the aveira, that is the worst thing he can do! Sure he sinned, but what is in the past is in the past; what was, was. Now look toward the future – how can you repent? How can you improve? What safeguards can you introduce to prevent future relapse? The sadness and depression that Am Yisrael felt as they remained focused on their past aveira held them in the grip of heavy depression. Lack of simcha means no energy to move forward and grow; how does this help avodas Hashem? It doesn't! This sadness and depression, obsessing about sin and failing to do teshuva be'simcha, to move on and grow – this was their great sin!
When a person falters and falls he should never focus on the fall. Instead he should stop, pick himself up and go on. He should not focus on how far he fell, but on how high he can rise!
Imagine a person driving from one city to another in order to get to an important meeting on time. On the highway, one of his tires has a flat and he is unable to continue on his journey. Should he stop to examine and analyze why his tire had a flat? Should he launch an investigation and invest his time and efforts to discover what happened? Or should he get out the spare tire, raise his car on the jack, and change the flat tire so he can proceed on his way?
Obviously, if he stops to investigate and examine the tire he might never complete his journey on time; he would miss his scheduled appointment. Better to change his tire and get to where he needs to go; at the end of the day, after he achieves what he sets out to accomplish, he can reexamine what went wrong and clarify what, if anything, needs fixing.
Mottel was the wealthiest man in town. He owned flourmills, lumberyards, and various other concerns. He also hired trustworthy and capable managers to run his vast business empire. His immense wealth was invested in all his properties and he tallied them up and listed them all in a ledger. This book was his most prized possession, besides his only son, Chaikel. Chaikel was the apple of his eye, his ben zekunim – the son of his old age. But Chaikel was a slow child and a simpleton. He paid no attention to his lessons and even failed to learn how to read!
Mottel was by now an old man and he felt his days were numbered. On his deathbed he summoned all his managers and created a board of trustees. Finally, he called in his only son. "Chaikel, my child, I love you and I am leaving you as a yerusha (inheritance) everything I own. These managers will be your trustees; they will run the business after I am gone, just as they did in my lifetime. Here, take this book; guard it and keep it, for its value is great." Then he called the chevra kaddisha and passed away.
Chaikel mourned for his beloved father and so did all of the Jews of the town. At first, life continued as before. The trustees ran the business and the dividends were duly invested and deposited on behalf of Chaikel, who lived well off the proceeds. But one day, things changed. The trustees, seeing that Chaikel had no mind for business, and instead, grown-up child that he was, played and wasted his time, decided that Chaikel would not mind if they all gave themselves a raise in salary. After this subterfuge went unnoticed, they began to take more and more leeway, investing vast sums in any idea they wished, ferreting away profits in secret, offshore corporations and Swiss bank accounts. Slowly, one by one, the trustees turned into untrustworthy swindlers and, after all Mottel's efforts, his vast fortunes were embezzled and stolen.
The day came and the board of trustees summoned Chaikel and explained, "We are very sorry but business isn't the way it used to be. All the concerns and holdings are still here but they aren't turning out enough profits for us to support you anymore." Poor Chaikel, unlettered, unlearned, and gullible, swallowed their story – hook, line, and sinker.
That afternoon found Chaikel sadly at the train station, waiting for the train to anywhereville. Perhaps somewhere out there Chaikel could find a simple, unskilled job and earn his keep. As he sat forlornly, fingering his small bundle of clothes and food, a neighbor passed by, and recognized him.
"Chaikel, how are you? Why the long face? Why so sad? What are you doing sitting here at the train station? Which train are you waiting for and where are you headed?"
Chaikel burst into heart-wrenching tears and, choking with sobs, cried out his woes to his kindly neighbor.
"I am poor and destitute. I will go and seek my fortune wherever Hashem will lead me; the directors tell me they can no longer support me and all I have left is this book!"
The directors knew about the deeds and the will and inheritance inscribed in the large volume that Chaikel now held in his hands. They knew that all their treachery could be discovered once this book and its ledgers were perused and studied; Chaikel could recover his wealth – and they could sit in prison. And so they had tried to coax Chaikel into selling them the book, arguing, "You cannot read it anyway," and offering him large sums of their "personal" money. Yet Chaikel would not part with the book that his father had entrusted to him as his dying wish.
When the friendly neighbor opened the book and quickly looked over the contents, his eyes widened in disbelief as he shouted and shook Chaikel with glee.
"Chaikel! You are a rich man!!! Do you know what this book says?"
Chaikel sadly shook his head; he had never learned to read.
"If you just read and studied this book, you would understand just how wealthy you are! This book is your inheritance and lists you as the sole yoresh (heir) to all your father's wealth. All his vast business holdings and concerns are in your name and you can now reclaim what is justly and rightfully yours!"
And so it is with us. Hashem left us a precious book, our inheritance, morasha kehillas Yaakov – the heilige Torah Hakedosha. Yet what happens to those of us who fail to study and understand it, and plumb its depth and meaning? We spend our time in worldly pursuits while the directors spend our money – until the day comes when we are spiritually bankrupt, heaven forbid. Then a Tzaddik comes along and admonishes us, reminding us of the precious book we own, left to us by our Father in Heaven. Sadly, we do not even know what treasures and spiritual wealth it contains. If we had just studied enough, we would realize how rich we are and would regain all our ruchniyusdigge (spiritual) treasure anew!
REBBE ELIMELECH OF LIZHENSK, THE NOAM ELIMELECH
THE BA'AL DAVAR'S CHASSIDIM
Rav Shlomo of Bobov told how the two holy brothers, the Rebbe Reb Zisha and the Rebbe Reb Melech, traveled together in self-imposed exile, suffering together the Galus of the Shechina (Divine Presence). They traveled, refining and purifying the air of the exile, as they wandered from place to place incognito, dressed in tatters like beggars, and drawing their lost brethren closer to Hashem. Finally, they reached Ushpitzin, which at the time bordered Galicia and Germany. In fact, the Jews of Ushpitzin claimed that the Rebbe Reb Melech had immersed himself in a particular well and Tzaddikim used to tovel there on Erev Yom Kippur.
As the two holy brothers prepared to cross the border into Germany and continue on their journey, the evil one, the Satan, stopped them and blocked their advance. The two brothers paid him no heed and prepared to go on, when he warned them thus:
"If you step foot into Germany I will transform all of Deutschland into Chassidim!"
Hearing this, the Rebbe Reb Melech turned to his brother and said, "Zisha, lomir antloifen – Zisha, let us flee! Dem Ba'al Davar's Chassidim vi lich nisht hoben – I do not wish to have the Satan's Chassidim."
They retreated, and we see that all of Poland and Galicia, wherever the holy brothers, the Tzaddikim, the Rebbe Reb Melech and the Rebbe Reb Zisha stepped foot during their travels – even though Misnagdim (opponents to Chassidus) were once present there, still Chassidus took root and flourished in those places, and there were towns and cities filled with Chassidim, and simple Jews filled with yiras shomayim, heeding the word of Hashem. And so it was up till and including the city of Ushpitzin. Yet across the border no Chassidim were to be found; it was as if someone had drawn a line, marked the border and said, "Till here." Even Katowice was known as a Deutsche Modern Enlightened place, tainted by foreign winds and influences. (Pri HaKerem Gilyon 15 p. 5)
A CHASSIDISHE MAASEH
In Etz Chaim, the Bobover Yeshiva, they used to tell how once the Rebbe, Rav Ben Tzion of Bobov, entered on Motzaei Shabbos and saw how the bachurim sat and conducted a melave malka together among themselves. It was the week of 21 Adar, the yahrzeit of the Noam Elimelech, and a bachur remarked to his fellow, "I wish someone would tell us a maaseh – a story about the Rebbe Reb Melech!"
The Bobover Rebbe heard and said to him: "Oib m'zeht heint a Chassidishe Yid mit a burd un payos, iz das a maaseh funem Rebbe Elimelech zy"a – If you witness and see today Chassidish Jews with beard and payos, this is a maaseh – a testimony and an action that was done by and achieved by the Rebbe Elimelech! (Pri HaKerem Gilyon 15 p. 5)
18 ADAR II (Accidentally left out of last week's issue)
RAV CHANOCH HEINICH BEN PINCHAS HAKOHEN LEVIN OF ALEXANDER
ACT LIKE A MENSCH
There once came before the Alexander Rebbe a simple ba'al agala (wagon driver), complaining that his horse was sick. "Rebbe, Rebbe, my horse, my sole source of income and parnassa, has become sick – please help!" he cried.
"What is the matter with the poor beast?" asked the Tzaddik.
"He has stopped his usual eating habits. In fact, he doesn't eat like a horse at all anymore! He eats as little as a person!" moaned the ba'al agala.
"Let me ask you a question, but please be honest: when you wake up in the morning do you say Modeh Ani and wash your hands and face?"
"No," admitted the ba'al agala.
"And please, answer me this, tell the truth – do you daven each morning?"
"Well, if I have time, I don my tallis and tefillin and daven at home, otherwise I rush and daven while driving my wagon," admitted the ba'al agala.
"And do you wash before bread and bensch after eating?"
The wagon driver was silent and shamefacedly, he shook his head back and forth – no.
"Well then, it's no wonder at all," explained Rav Heinich, the answer is simple, what do you want from your horse? If you behave like a beast and eat and act like a horse, your horse will behave and eat like a person. Conduct yourself like a person, act like a mensch and your horse will once more behave like a horse and eat like a horse as well!"
THE TWO ASHREIS
A Yid once came before Rav Heinich of Alexander, complaining that others mistakenly suspected him of bad deeds and wrongdoing.
"Well, what have you to say about the matter?" asked the Tzaddik.
"Me? I am totally innocent. I pride myself in Chazal's Ashrei mi shechoshdim oso ve'ain bo – 'Happy is he who is suspected but has no guilt.
"Eh," the Rebbe dismissed his words. "Choose for yourself a better Ashrei than that. Here, take this one: Ashrei yoshvei veisecha – 'Happy are those who sit at home!' Better sit at home and don't go to suspicious places. Don't haunt places of ill repute – then no one will suspect you again!" concluded the Rebbe. (Ner Yehoshua)