Friday, July 13, 2018

Parshas Mattos-Masei Messages 5778

בּ"ה
Parshas Mattos

He shall not profane his word; like all that goes out of his mouth, he shall do.’ (Bamidbar 30:3)

Our Gedolim explain:  If a person is careful with what they speak -- what goes out from their mouths; then Hashem will fulfill their blessings, etc. As the verse can be interpreted, ‘Like all that goes out of his mouth, He -- Hashem -- will do!

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And Moshe said to the children of Gad and the children of Reuven: “Shall your brothers come to war, and you will stay here?  And why do you dissuade the heart of the Bnei Yisroel from crossing to the Land that Hashem gave to them?”’ (Bamidbar 32:6-7)

The Torah describes here how the people from the Tribes of Gad and Reuven had much livestock, and they saw the land right outside the Land of Israel, which was very good for animals.  So they brought the question to Moshe Rabbeinu; could they have that land as an inheritance, instead of a portion inside of Eretz Yisroel?  And Moshe Rabbeinu replies (see the quoted verses) that if they do so, they could cause others to not want to come across the Yardein (Jordan).*

Rashi HaKadosh explains that he was saying that they would remove and hold back the hearts of the Jews from crossing over to Israel.  Because the People would be under the impression that they [the Tribes of Reuven and Gad] are afraid of war and of the strength of the towns and people.  

From this it is possible to see the great power of influence that every person holds:  Moshe Rabbeinu was afraid that the children of Gad and Reuven could influence the rest of the Bnei Yisroel to not go into Israel -- and we too must be very careful to try to never, Chas V’Shalom, give any bad example.  

But it also goes the other way:  If we can have such a negative effect on people if we act badly, Chas V’Shalom, then we also can influence so many people for good if we just make sure that we behave properly.  By acting as we should, we can help the entire world!

People often like to tell others to do good.  But perhaps just as -- or more -- important than that, is to show them to do good…

(Tal U’Matar)

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* Although, as things worked out, the Tribes of Gad and Reuven were allowed to take the portion they desired right outside of Eretz Yisroel.  On condition, however, that they come over the Jordan and conquer the Land with the other Tribes. (See 32:16-32).

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Maaseh B’Rabbi:  Once, HaRav Yisroel Salanter zt”l came to a village, and he went to the local inn.  The innkeeper, noticing that Rav Yisroel was very distinguished-looking, asked him if he was a Shochet.  Because he had an animal that needed to be slaughtered and it was a burden to bring it to the Shochet in town.  

“No.” Rav Yisroel replied, though. “I am not a Shochet.”

After some time, Rav Yisroel came to the innkeeper with a question of his own:  Could he perhaps lend him a ruble? The innkeeper replied that he didn’t even recognize him, and he should trust him?!  

Said Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l to the innkeeper, “Let your ears hear what your mouth speaks!  With money, I am not trustworthy for it, until the point of one ruble!” But yet with with Shechitah, upon which there are many laws in the Torah, he trusted him after merely inquiring after each other’s welfare!

(What a lesson Rav Yisroel imparted to that innkeeper -- and all of us, as well:  We seem to often be more worried about our money and material possessions than transgressing Commandments from the Torah!)

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Parshas Masei

These are the travels of the Bnei Yisroel -- אלה מסעי בני ישראל’ (Bamidbar 33:1)

The four Exiles [not including Egypt], explains the Chida {HaRav Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai zt”l}, are hinted to in the first letters of the words אלה מסעי בני ישראל, as they are the same as those of אדום, Edom, מדי, Maddai, בבל, Bavel, and יון, Yavan.  

(Nachal Kedomim)

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And they journeyed from Rephidim and they encamped in the Wilderness of Sinai.  And they journeyed from the Wilderness of Sinai and they encamped in Kivros HaTaavah. (Bamidbar 33:15-16)

Rephidim, Mechilta tells us, is the place where the Jews ‘loosened their grip on the Torah’ (we were given some laws before coming to Sinai).  

However, Rashi HaKadosh quotes (Shemos 19:2) from Mechilta that just as our coming to the Wilderness of Sinai was with Teshuva, so too our traveling from Rephidim was with Teshuva.  

Based upon this, we may derive a lesson from the above verses:  With Teshuva, a person can go from not doing so good (as the Jews were in Rephidim) to being on such a great level, as we were at Sinai.  

But, the flip side is also true:  We can never grow complacent, because a person can go from a very high level -- Sinai -- and come to a level of Kivros HaTaavah, Chas V’Shalom.  We must always be careful and watch out for the Yetzer Hara’s traps…

(Tal U’Matar).

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Maaseh B’Rabbi:  Someone was sick in the family of a certain man from Yerushalayim, and needed to have a particular medical procedure at Hadassah hospital.  He understood that for the success of the procedure, he had to speak with the president of the hospital.  But he was a regular person; how could he get a meeting with the “big chief”?

He tried calling Rav Elimelech Firer shlit”a, who has connections in all wards of the hospital. With his help, he could probably get a meeting with its president.  He tried calling Rav Firer, but he didn’t reach him.

This man was riding in his car, thinking about these matters, when he saw a car in trouble on the shoulder, and the driver was signaling for people to stop and help him.  At first, this man didn’t want to stop, since he had so much on his mind. But then he thought, “I have nothing to do right now, anyway. I might as well see if I can help.”

He stopped his car, and almost went into shock when he saw that the owner of that car was the president of the hospital!  He didn’t need to call Rav Firer anymore. He helped the car get started as the president and him spoke.

(Torah Wellsprings)

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Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik, and a Gut Shabbos and Guten Chodesh to all!  
May Hashem help Klal Yisroel to take everything we learned in Sefer
Bamidbar with us always, and to enter with a holy enthusiasm to Sefer Devarim!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Parshas Chukas Messages 5778

Parshas Chukas:

In this Parsha, we have the פרה אדומה, Parah Adumah (the Red Heifer; see 19:1-22).  Interestingly enough, פרה אדומה has the same Gematria (numerical value) as the words הר סיני, Mount Sinai, and also the acronym של”ה, standing for שני לוחות הברית, Shnei Luchos HaBris (the Two Tablets of the Testimony).

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One who touches the corpse of any human Soul, and he will be impure for seven days.  He shall purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day with [lit. in] it [the ashes of the Red Heifer ~~ Rashi, mixed in spring water], [and] become pure; and if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become pure.’ (Bamidbar 19:11-12)

The Torah teaches us here a fundamental lesson:  If one wishes to improve -- to purify themselves, they must put in effort to do so.  It will not happen if they do not. But if, indeed, a person puts in the necessary effort to improve, then HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself will help them to.

(Tal U’Matar)

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This is the Law:  If a man will die in a tent, all who come [in]to the tent, and all that is in the tent will be impure for seven days.  And every open vessel that no lid is fastened upon it, it is impure.’ (Bamidbar 19:14-15)

In the plain sense, the Torah speaks here of the rules of Tumas Ohel -- ritual impurity that comes from being under the same roof (or tree) as a human corpse.  And the verse is teaching us that a earthenware vessel, which has special laws with regards to tumah (ritual impurity) in the fact that it can only become impure if tumah enters into its interior, as we are taught, becomes ritually impure if it doesn’t have a lid fastened onto it and it is under the same roof as a human corpse.*

But explains the Maggid of Kozhnitz zt”l homiletically:  One who speaks however they want, and doesn’t guard their tongue from speaking slander and bad words -- they leave their mouths as a vessel without a fastened-on lid -- that is impure.

(Yakar M’Paz, Avodas Yisroel, and heard from one of my Rebbeim, shlit”a)

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* As Rashi HaKadosh here brings from Sifri.

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This is the Law (Torah); if a person dies in a tent…’ (Bamidbar 19:20)

Our Sages derive from this verse that ‘Words of Torah are not upheld [alt. will not endure] except in one who kills himself over them’ (Gemara Berachos 63b).

But the question is asked; doesn’t the Torah tell us to ‘live by’ the Commandments (Vayikra 18:5), from which the Sages expound that [in most cases] saving or preserving a human life (including our own), overrides the obligation of other Mitzvos?  So how is the apparent contradiction resolved?  And furthermore, what does the statement mean? Three explanations:

1) ---- HaRav Avi Fertig shlit”a:  Acquiring Torah requires absolute dedication.  All other drives, all other needs and interests must become secondary.  The totality of our beings must be exclusively dedicated to learning Torah (Bridging the Gap).*  

2) ---- The Nikolsburger Rebbe, Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlit”a:  The truth of the matter is that everyone can learn Torah.  However, if a person truly wants to internalize the Torah’s words, if he wants the Torah he learned to stay with him throughout his life so that he should be a true Torah-person, then he must put “himself” aside.  This means that a person who is busy pursuing physical pleasures cannot keep the Torah within himself. He may be learning Torah, but he cannot “keep” it -- he cannot internalize it. Only if a person tries to eliminate [and overcome] their personal [physical] desires and quiet their body’s appetite for more and more pleasure, only such a person can properly keep the Torah within themselves (Nikolsburg.org).

3) ---- The Maggid of Kozhnitz {Rebbe Yisroel Haupstein zt”l}:  It means to say that a person must kill the “himself” within them.  We must come to understand that the reason we can do things is not from our own power, but from the fact that HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives us strength. (Yakar M’Paz, Avodas Yisroel.  Originally heard from one of my Rebbeim, shlit”a).

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* See in Chofetz Chaim Al HaTorah on this verse.

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Later in the Parsha, we read about the famous account of HaKadosh Baruch Hu telling Moshe Rabbeinu to speak to a certain rock* and it would give water [for the Bnei Yisroel].  But due to certain things, Moshe Rabbeinu struck the rock instead, and, although Hashem still caused it to give forth water, it was not the proper thing to do, and Moshe Rabbeinu was punished for it by not being able to enter Eretz Yisroel.

Elucidates HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l a beautiful lesson within the command to speak to the rock:  It appears that it is to teach that we need to speak words of Torah and Mussar (morals; ethics) even to those who don’t understand [like a rock], for they will come to understand from all the learning.  And a person should not despair of educating their children because they seem like they don’t understand, but rather, they should say things over to them until they come to understand…

(Darash Moshe)

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* See Ramban zt”l.

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About thus [~~ Rashi], those who give parables say: “Come to Cheshbon; let it be built and established…’ (Bamidbar 21:27)

Expounds the Gemara (Bava Basra 78b):  Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan:  What does it mean what is written, ‘About thus, those who give parables (המושלים) say, etc.’?  

‘המושלים’ -- these are the ones who rule (מושל) over their [Evil] Inclination. ‘Come to Cheshbon’ -- come and let us consider the reckoning of the world (חשבונו של עולם); the [seeming] loss of the performance of a Mitzvah against its reward,* and the [seeming] reward of a transgression against its loss. ‘Let it be built and established’ -- if you do so [i.e. take such an accounting], you will be built in This World, and you will be established for the World to Come.

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* The classic example for this is refraining from work on Shabbos.  See many sources.

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The following story was related by HaRav Nosson Meir Wachtfogel zt”l, who heard it directly from the attendant of the Chofetz Chaim zt”l:

On a fundraising trip to Bialystok, the Chofetz Chaim zt”l and his attendant paid a visit to a simple resident of the city.  The woman who answered the door drew back in surprise when seeing her illustrious guests.

“May I speak with your husband?” Rav Yisroel Meir asked gently.  

“I… I wish the Rebbe could speak with him,” the flustered woman replied, “but he isn’t well.” Her voice dropped to a whisper: “My husband has been paralyzed for several years now.”

The Chofetz Chaim was unfazed: “Then it’s even more important that I visit him!  This is the Mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the sick)!”

The woman led her guests up the stairs and to her husband’s room.  The thin, gaunt man lay motionless in his bed, appearing almost lifeless.  But his eyes opened wide at the sight of his unexpected guests, and a sudden light illuminated his features.  

“Good evening, Rebbe,” he managed to whisper. “It is kind of the Chofetz Chaim to take his precious time to visit me.  I wish I could stand up for the Rebbe.” The man dropped his eyes. “Please forgive me.”

“It is my privilege to see you this evening,” the Chofetz Chaim said warmly. “Please allow me to shake your hand.” The man looked down, embarrassed at not being able to fulfill the Chofetz Chaim’s request. “It has been several years since I’ve even held a glass in my hand.  How I wish I could lift my hand!”

“Try,” Rav Yisroel Meir urged “Give me your hand.”

The man reluctantly made the seemingly useless effort.  As he had expected, nothing happened. “Try again.” Encouraged the Chofetz Chaim.   

The man bit his lip in concentration, coordinating all his strength to lift his immobile hand.  Beads of sweat formed and rolled down his temples. His wife gasped from her place in the corner when her husband’s long-paralyzed hand began to move!  The Chofetz Chaim’s face beamed, reflecting the happiness of the Bialystok man and his wife.  He took the man’s hand warmly in his own and shook it heartily. The Chofetz Chaim’s attendant looked on in amazement.  

“How can I thank you, Rebbe?” the man asked.  The tears flowed freely from his eyes. “You healed my hand...”

Rav Yisroel Meir turned to his attendant and said: “Take his other arm.  Let’s sit him up.” Now the man began to protest: “But Rebbe, I haven’t moved a single limb for years.  It’s a miracle that I moved my hand! How can I possibly sit up?”

But the Chofetz Chaim and his attendant went ahead and slowly propped the man into an upright position.  The man looked around, amazed at the view he had not seen in so long. Tears coursed down his wife’s cheeks as she witnessed her husband’s transformation.

“Thank you, Rebbe,” he whispered. “You’re a miracle worker!”

But the Chofetz Chaim was not finished:  He proceeded to instruct his attendant to stand the man up.  Slowly, slowly, the man stood up on two feet, released from the bed that had been his prison for so long.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l humbly took his leave from the man’s house, as he was showered with thanks and praise.  It was just a few days later that the man learned to walk normally again, completely unaided -- except by Hashem in Heaven.

(Visions of Greatness, Vol. VII).

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A Gut Shabbos to all!