Friday, November 16, 2018

Parshas Vayeitzei Messages 5779

בּ"ה
Parshas Vayeitzei

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And he encountered the place* (Bereishis 28:11)
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Our Sages teach us that Yaakov Avinu instituted the Maariv prayer, and that means, explains Rebbe Elimelech Biderman shlit”a, that we can connect with Hashem through this tefillah.  But there is a deeper implication too, he says:  Yaakov established this tefillah at a very difficult moment in his life.  He was running away from Esav and going to exile, to outside the Land of Israel.  He was about to meet with Lavan, and, knowing his crooked ways, was concerned about what would happen to him (see Rashi zt”l on 28:15).  By establishing a tefillah at this time, it teaches us that it is possible to connect with Hashem at all times, even during the most difficult moments of one's life.  

Tefillas Maariv is said at nighttime, furthermore, which represents hardships and difficulties.  For even then, we can pray, and Hashem will hear our prayers. Hashem isn't only present when we are living in Eretz Yisroel and life is shining and good.  Yaakov Avinu showed us that at all times, and under all circumstances, it is possible to speak with Hashem and to connect with Him.

(Torah Wellsprings)

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* See Rashi zt”l on this verse, to the word ויפגע.

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And he lay down in that place. (Bereishis 28:11)
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Explains Rashi zt”l from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah:  The phrase ‘in that place’, is a language that means to tell us that he lay down ‘in that place’, but for the 14 years that he served in the Yeshiva of [likely Shem] and Ever, he didn’t lie down at night because he was engaged in Torah study.  

Although this is not necessarily a recommended thing to try in our own lives, it shows us a great thing:  We all have such incredible potential, so much so that we do not even know the extent of it! A person would probably not even think that they are capable of not sleeping for a few years, let alone fourteen.  But here we see that Yaakov Avinu did so!

This amazing potential, capability, and willpower is within us all, and we can hardly imagine the heights we can reach and the things we can do and achieve.  Indeed think about how the people possibly survived the terrible tortures of the Holocaust. . .

HaKadosh Baruch Hu has endowed us all with such power, and if we put in our own effort, and with His Help of course, we can do amazing, amazing things and reach the highest heights.  

(Tal U’Matar)

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And he encountered the place (בּמקוֹם), and he stayed the night there, because the sun had set; and he took from the stones of the place (המקוֹם) and he put [them] at his head, and he lay down in that place (בּמקוֹם ההוּא). (Bereishis 28:11)
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As we are taught, this place was Har HaMoriah, where the Beis HaMikdash would later stand.  Now, three times in this verse, the Baal HaTurim notes, the word ‘מקום’, ‘place’ is used.  This alludes to the Shalosh Rigalim (Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos), when Yaakov’s children [the Jews] would go up to that place.

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And Yaakov awoke from his sleep, and he said; “Indeed, Hashem is in this place. . . !(Bereishis 28:16)
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A person who awakens from their sleep, says Rebbe Meir’l of Premishlan zt”l, it is upon them to strengthen themselves like a lion to the service of the Creator, His Name is Blessed, as is explained in the beginning of Shulchan Aruch.  

And this is like what it says in the (above) verse: ‘And Yaakov awoke from his sleep, and he said; “Indeed, Hashem is in this place!’ -- immediately when Yaakov Avinu woke up from his sleep, he turned to the Service of Hashem.

(Cited in Vi’Karasa L’Shabbos Oneg)

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For I am not able to rise before you because the way of women is to me. (Bereishis 31:35)
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Rachel Imeinu had stolen Lavan’s idols, and hid them in her saddlebag (see Rashi zt”l to 31:19, however, who brings that it was to keep Lavan from serving them).  

But when Lavan came, she obviously couldn’t get up, because then he would find the idols right under her!  So she told him that she was a Niddah at the time.  But, as far as we know, she wasn’t, and therefore, seemingly she was lying!

Explains the Vilna Gaon {HaRav Eliyahu Kramer zt”l}; no.  Rachel Imeinu was not lying, Chas V’Shalom.  Rather, the Mishnah (Shabbos 82a) teaches that Avodah zarah makes impure like Niddah.  Thus, he explains beautifully, when Rachel Imeinu sat upon the idols, she came into a state of tumah (impurity) almost like she was Niddah!

(Quoted in Maayanah Shel Torah)

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|~Maaseh~| The Midrash relates a story that there were once a lot of non-Jews and one Jew traveling on a ship together.  The ship arrived at an island and the non-Jewish travelers gave money to the Jew to go buy food, etc.  

The Jew asked why he should go; after all, he was a stranger on the island as well!  And he didn’t know anyone there…

The others replied that this was not true:  He wasn’t alone. Hashem is with him. As the Torah says (Devarim 4:7), ‘For who is a great nation that G-d is so close to it, like Hashem our G-d is…’ Hashem is always close to him, so therefore, he should go.  

(Brought in Torah Wellsprings)

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Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Parshas Toldos Messages 5779

בּ"ה
Parshas Toldos

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And these are the generations of Yitzchok, son of Avraham, Avraham begot (הוליד) Yitzchok. (Bereishis 25:19)
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Explains the Baal HaTurim zt”l that the word ‘הוליד -- begot’ has the same Gematria (numerical value) as the word ‘דומה -- similar’.  This teaches us that Hashem made Yitzchok Avinu and Avraham Avinu look very alike.*

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* See Rashi zt”l on this verse, to the words אברהם הוליד את יצחק.

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And Yitzchok prayed to Hashem opposite his wife, because she was barren. . . and Rivkah his [Yitzchok’s] wife conceived. (Bereishis 25:21)
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We see that when Rivkah Imeinu was barren, what did Yitzchok Avinu (and Rivkah herself, as well*) do?  They Davened to Hashem.  And He heard their prayers and answered them, even when things seemed bleak.  

We too must turn to Hashem with our own prayers whenever we are in need, etc. for He is there, ready to answer them.

(Tal U’Matar)

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* See Rashi zt”l on this verse, to the words לנכח אשתו.

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And the children struggled inside of her -- ויתרצצוּ הבּנים בּקרבּהּ’ (Bereishis 25:23)
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Rashi zt”l quotes a Midrashic interpretation (Bereishis Rabbah) which says that the word ויתרצצוּ can also come from the word to run, רץ.  This teaches us that whenever Rivkah Imeinu would pass by a Beis Midrash, a House of Study, Yaakov Avinu would try to run to go there, and whenever she would pass by a house of idol worship, Esav would try to run to go there.

But there is a big question that some ask; if we are taught (Gemara Niddah 30) that a Malach (Angel) teaches a baby the entire Torah inside the womb, why was Yaakov Avinu trying to leave to go to a Beis Midrash?  He was learning the entire Torah with a Malach!  

There are different answers given, and they are all beautiful.  One of them that I have seen in the name of various Rabbonim is that, true, Yaakov Avinu was learning with a Malach -- but he was in the company of Esav.  It is important to have proper surroundings.  

However, there is another question, and that is the one posed by my dear brother, Yaakov, may he be well:  What about Esav? Why, indeed, was he trying to leave if he was being taught Torah by a Malach?!  How could he have been?  

And Baruch Hashem, we came to an answer and lesson from it:  Learning Torah is a great and amazing thing and should be done very much, but it doesn’t automatically make us a Tzaddik if we are, Chas V’Shalom, not going to put it into practice.  Learning in and of itself is a huge Mitzvah and an awesome thing, but with it, we must work on ourselves and try to perfect our character, and fulfill the other Mitzvos, etc.

Indeed, Shimon HaTzaddik (Avos 1:2) says, “Upon three things does the world stand:  Upon the Torah, and upon the Avodah (Service of Hashem), and upon Gemilus Chassadim (acts of kindness).

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|~Maaseh~| Rabbi Akiva zt”l taught that a person should always accustom themselves to say ‘Everything the Merciful One does, He does for the good’.  

And there is a story that goes with this teaching:  Rabbi Akiva was once walking along a road and he came to a town.  He inquired about a place to stay, but he wasn’t given any.  It might have seemed like something unpleasant, but he said and accepted ‘Everything the Merciful One does is for the good’, and he went to go stay overnight in a field.  He had with him a chicken in order to wake him up, a donkey and a candle (or lamp).

However, a wind came and extinguished the candle, a cat came and ate the chicken, and a lion came and ate his donkey.  Certainly a seemingly hopeless situation! But, Rabbi Akiva yet again stood strong and said ‘Everything the Merciful One does is for the good’.  

It turned out that on that night, an army came and took the town he had originally intended to stay in, captive. “Did I not say to you,” said Rabbi Akiva [sometime later], “That everything HaKadosh Baruch Hu does, everything, is for the best?” Now, if his candle would have been lit, the army would have seen him, and if his donkey would have brayed, or his chicken would have called out, the army would have heard and come and taken him captive.  Indeed, everything that occured, was surely for the best!

(Gemara Berachos 60b-61a, with commentary by Rashi zt”l)

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Gut and meaningful Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh to all!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

HaRav Avigdor Miller zt"l on Rosh Chodesh

Rav Avigdor Miller on Rosh Chodesh


Q:
What's so special about Rosh Chodesh that we say Hallel and that it's called a מועד?


A:
There are three elements that can be easily seen in every Rosh Chodesh. And if you ignore them or just think about them in a superficial manner, then you are wasting a valuable opportunity. And many people do waste this opportunity. Yes, many people.

First of all, we must look back and thank Hashem for letting us live through the past month. Do you think that it's a small thing to live a whole month?! Many people haven't made it to this Rosh Chodesh. Boruch Hashem we're still around. Boruch Hashem! And that's why we say Hallel. Hallel is to thank Hashem for the past month.

Now, Rosh Chodesh is also a זמן כפרה לכל תולדותם (Musaf Davening Rosh Chodesh). It's an opportunity for a כפרה, atonement, for the sins we did in the past month. Look back and remind yourself of the things you did wrong during the past month. Not only the things you did wrong but even more important - the good things that you didn't do. What a loss. What a loss! Look back and do teshuva. It's a זמן כפרה, a special opportunity for teshuva and atonement.

And the third element is that it's a יום תפילה for the upcoming month. A special day for davening. At minimum you must say יעלה ויבוא. The words of יעלה ויבוא are an important tefillah for the coming month.

So these are the three elements. Again: One is to thank Hashem for the past month. And the second is to be מפשפש במעשיו - to examine your deeds of the past month and do teshuva. That's זמן כפרה. And the third is to ask Hashem for help for the coming month. These are very important ideas. And that's why Rosh Chodesh is a very important occasion.

You think that a month is a small thing in our lives?! If you look back and you see that you didn't accomplish anything in the past month then you should be worried. Yes, you should worry. And make up your mind that in the next month you're going to start doing all the good things that you hear here. At least that. Get busy doing all these good things next month. Make up your mind that a month shouldn't be wasted.

A month is not a day. It's not a week. It's a whole month. That's a big slice of life! And therefore on Rosh Chodesh we have to thank Hashem for the past month, we have to do teshuva for the things we did wrong in the past month and we have to ask Hashem for His help for the upcoming month.

TAPE E-266  (February 2001) 
(SOURCE:  TorasAvigdor.org)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Parshas Chayei Sarah Messages 5779

בּ"ה
Parshas Chayei Sarah

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And Avraham was old, coming in days, and Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything.’ (Bereishis 24:1)
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There is a very big lesson that we can learn from the word ‘everything’ in the above verse:  

Many things happen to us in life.  Some are very good and we thank Hashem for such blessings.  Others don’t seem such. . .

But what we must understand, though, is that even those things are also good and for the best.  The happenings that don’t seem so great -- and even very bad, at times -- are for our benefit as well.  Hashem only does good things. But it is just sometimes hard to realize.

You see, the verse says that Avraham was blessed with everything.  It doesn’t go and list everything we think is good.  No! It says that ‘Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything’.  Meaning also the things that we would think of as bad, because they too are blessings and messages from Hashem.  

Hashem knows what is best for us, and He makes thus occur.  If everything we hoped would happen happened, things would not end up as joyous and ideal as we would think. . . Hashem knows what needs to happen.  It is just up to us to accept and understand this.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l (quoted in Torah Wellsprings) gives an analogy:  Let’s say a person walked into Shul when somebody was saying the verse in Ashrei, ‘Hashem guards all His loved ones, and all the wicked He will destroy’ -- ‘שׁומר ה' את כּל אהביו ואת כּל הרשׁעים ישׁמיד’, but he happens to not hear the first word in the verse.  It would then sound like ‘Hashem, all His loved ones and all the wicked He will destroy’ -- ‘ה' את כּל אהביו ואת כּל הרשׁעים ישׁמיד’!  Or perhaps he didn’t hear the last; it would then sound like: ‘Hashem guards all His loved ones and all the wicked’ -- ‘שׁומר ה' את כּל אהביו ואת כּל הרשׁעים’; both of which would be terrible, untrue verses!

Explains the Chofetz Chaim zt”l:  Since we don’t see the whole picture, some things look very bad to us.  But that is because we “only hear part of the verse”, i.e. we only see part of the picture.  If we knew and saw the Supreme Plan behind everything, we would understand and not question that all is truly for the best.

Indeed, Avraham Avinu was blessed with everything.
(Tal U’Matar)

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In this parsha, we read about the shidduch (marriage match) between Rivkah Imeinu and Yitzchok.  Avraham Avinu sent Eliezer Damaseik, his loyal servant, to find the match, and the entire affair was guided and aided by Hashem, and there were many open miracles.

Teaches the Chiddushei HaRim {first Gerrer Rebbe, Rebbe Yitzchok Meir Alter zt”l}:  The Torah lists the many miracles that took place with Yitzchok Avinu’s shidduch so we should know that every shidduch has miracles; they don’t happen according to the rules of nature.

(Brought in Torah Wellsprings)

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And Yitzchok went out to converse [לשוח] in the field shortly before evening’ (Bereishis 24:63)
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Rashi zt”l comments from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah that the word לשוח (‘to converse’) is a language of Davening.  

Our Sages teach us that Yitzchok Avinu was establishing Mincha at that time.  And in Gemara Berachos (Daf 26), it is taught that the three Davenings of the day were set up by the Avos.  Avraham Avinu established Shacharis; Yitzchok Avinu established Mincha; and Yaakov Avinu established Maariv.  

Interestingly, the second letter in all of their names allude to the prayer that they set up:  אברהם; the ב alludes to the Davening of the בקר (morning), which is Shacharis.  יצחק; the צ alludes to the צהרים (afternoon), which is the time for Mincha.  And יעקב; the ע alludes to Maariv, the Davening of the ערבית, (evening time).
(Vi’Karasa L’Shabbos Oneg)

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And Yitzchok brought her [Rivkah] to the tent; Sarah his mother; and he took [married] Rivkah, and she was to him for a wife, and he loved her, and Yitzchok was consoled after his mother.’ (Bereishis 24:67)
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And he brought her to the tent,’ and behold, she was ‘Sarah his mother’:  Meaning to say that she became the likeness of Sarah his mother.  All the time that Sarah was alive, a light burned from one Erev Shabbos until the next Erev Shabbos; a blessing was found in the dough; and a cloud [of the Divine Presence*] was “tied” upon the tent.  When Sarah died, these things stopped.  But when Rivkah came, they returned.

(Rashi zt”l from Midrash Bereishis Rabbah)

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* Gur Aryeh zt”l.

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|~Maaseh~| One day, when HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a was young, the Kanievsky’s washing machine stopped working.  The technician said that one of the machine’s parts had broken, and they needed to buy a new spare part from a store in Tel Aviv.

Rav Chaim’s sister was sent to Tel Aviv to buy the part.  She decided that while in the city, she would take care of another matter as well.

“I’m going to Tel Aviv to buy a part for the washing machine.” She told their father, the Steipler Gaon {HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky zt”l}.  The Steipler added, “You should say, ‘im yirtzeh Hashem (if Hashem wills it)!”

After an exhausting trip, Rav Chaim’s sister returned home.  While she had, Baruch Hashem, managed to complete her other errand, she had not managed to buy the spare part for the washing machine.

From that day on, Rav Chaim and his sister paid attention to a “small”, but very significant “spare part”, that directly affects one’s success, and, if  absent, Chas V’Shalom, seems to remove success.  

From that day on, they understood to say ‘Im yirtzeh Hashem’ to every future action, as their father did.

(A Gadol in Our Time: Stories about Rav Chaim Kanievsky)

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Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!