Thursday, February 21, 2019

Parshas Ki Sisa Messages 5779

בּ“ה
Parshas Ki Sisa

These divrei Torah are l'zechus refuah shleimah mi'heira to the 
Skulener Rebbe shlit"a, HaRav Yisroel Avraham ben Shaina Rochel,
and to my Rebbe, HaRav Elyakim Getzel ben Sarah.

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When you take a reckoning of the Bnei Yisroel according to their countings, and [each] man shall give (ונתנו) a redemption of his Soul to Hashem. . .’ (Shemos 30:12)
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ונתנו (‘and they shall give’), notes the Baal HaTurim, would spell the same word if you read it backwards.  

This tells us, he explains wonderfully, that what a person gives to charity will return to them [and perhaps more!] -- and they won’t lose anything because of it.  

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When you take a reckoning of the Bnei Yisroel according to their countings, and [each] man shall give a redemption of his Soul to Hashem. . . This they shall give, all who pass through the counting:  Half a shekel in the holy shekel’ (Shemos 30:12-13)
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Rashi zt”l quotes from Midrash Tanchuma:  Hashem showed Moshe Rabbeinu a sort of coin of fire, and its weight was half a shekel, and He said to him: “Like this they shall give.”

The Noam Elimelech {Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk zt”l} draws from this comparison a very great lesson:  We need to remember that a coin is like fire: Just like fire is able to burn and cause destruction, but it can also be used to warm things and for benefit, so too a coin:  If it is used for good purposes, such as Tzedakah, etc., then it brings much benefit.  But if it is used improperly, it is liable to cause damage.  

(Maayanah Shel Torah)

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And the Bnei Yisroel shall keep the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos for their generations as an eternal Covenant.  Between Me and between the Bnei Yisroel, it is a Sign forever. . .’ (Shemos 31:16-17)
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Says the Chofetz Chaim {HaRav Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan zt”l}, on the Shabbos being a ‘sign’: To what can the matter be compared?  To a businessman who puts on the outside of his house a sign so that people will know the nature of his work.  And the entire time that the sign is on his house, everyone knows that this businessman lives here -- even if sometimes he travels somewhere for a few days, people still see that he hasn’t completely left that house.
However, if he would take away the sign and move it to some other place, then that would show that this businessman has already moved from this house and isn’t to be found there.
So too with the matter of Shabbos, says the Chofetz Chaim:  It is the sign that testifies that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh -- Shabbos.  It is also the sign upon a Jewish person who ‘carries this splendorous banner upon themselves,’ i.e. one who keeps the Shabbos, that they believe that Hashem created the world, and thus that He is the Master of all, and we are obligated to do His Will with all our Soul and all our might.  Even if, Chas V’Shalom, it happens that they do something wrong, this sign -- Shabbos -- testifies that they are still strongly a frum Jew. . .
(Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah​)

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And the Bnei Yisroel shall keep the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos for their generations as an eternal Covenant.  Between Me and between the Bnei Yisroel, it is a Sign forever. . .’ (Shemos 31:16-17)
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Tells us HaRav Avigdor Miller zt”l:  And it’s a covenant forever and ever. ביני ובין בני ישראל  אות היא לעולם. This is a tremendous declaration: “Shabbos is a sign between Me and you -- and it will be everlasting.”  Forever! “As long as there will be a world.” Hashem is telling us, “Shabbos is our commitment to each other. You keep Shabbos by reminding yourself that I have chosen you to be Mine, and I will keep you as Mine forever.” That’s a tremendous statement!

Now, what does this Covenant mean?  Hashem says that we are together forever.  A ברית עולם. “Just like I am forever,” says Hashem, “You’re also going to be forever.”. . .

You should think about that on Shabbos:  Shabbos is the time to utilize this great lesson.  To think about who you are, the great Nation that you are a part of.  You’re a גוי קדוש, a holy nation chosen by Hashem. You’re sitting at the table and everybody is happy and eating and talking. It’s wonderful!  But you’re utilizing your time wisely. You’re utilizing every minute thinking these great thoughts. Nobody knows what you’re thinking. But you’re looking at your children, your wife, your guests, and you’re looking at Hashem’s holy People.  You’re thinking about the words that Hashem told the Bnei Yisroel in this week’s Parsha:  כי אות היא ביני וביניכם לדורותיכם לדעת כי אני השם מקדשכם -- ‘I set this day as a special sign between Me and you, as well as your descendents forever and ever, so that you should know that I, Hashem, make you holy.’

(Toras Avigdor al HaParsha)

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And Moshe turned and he descended from the Mountain, and the two Tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. . . And the Tablets, they are the work of G-d, and the writing is the Writing of G-d, engraved upon the Tablets.’ (Shemos 32:15-16)
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Asks the HaRav Dov Weinberger shlit”a:  Why does the Torah talk about the greatness of the Luchos and the writing on them here when Moshe Rabbeinu was descending the mountain with them, right before he smashed them because the Jews sinned with the golden calf?  Why not at the time that they were given?

And he suggests:  Perhaps we can say that the emphasis on the greatness of the Luchos only now is to teach a person human nature; that only when they stand to lose what is precious to them, specifically then do they suddenly feel the importance of it.

(Shemen HaTov)

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Adds HaRav Yissachar Frand shlit”a:  Our inability to appreciate what we have before it is too late is one of the saddest aspects of human nature. . .

When the boys are in Yeshiva, they feel like their Yeshiva days will last forever.  No matter how much I lecture my talmidim on this subject, they usually do not take it to heart.  Years later I meet former talmidim, and then I hear the regret in their voices as they nostalgically remember their days in Yeshiva.  They fill me in on their lives, and they invariably say, “I enjoy my life, but I miss the days back in Yeshiva.  Rebbe, you were right; I should have appreciated my days in Yeshiva while they lasted.” If only they would have seen the forest rather than get tangled up among the trees. . .

The same applies to raising children.  When our children are young and living with us, we have a hard time paying attention to the transience of their existence in our homes. . . We are so caught up in the difficulty of raising our children that we often fail to realize how lucky we are to be spending time with them.  

Years later, when our nests empty out, we suddenly look back and wish we could hear the laughter of a two-year-old, the sound of little bare feet tapping on the floor, and yes, the sound of toys being poured out in a room that we just cleaned. . .

What does the average American look forward to?  Retirement. People spend the most productive years of their lives, from the age of 20 to 65, considering what they will do when they retire.  What a shame! By the time people reach 65, they often no longer have the energy or drive to appreciate their newfound freedom from obligation [with making a living, etc.], and they spend the rest of their lives morbidly wishing that they enjoyed their strength while it lasted.

Perhaps the most painful application of this concept is the relationship most have with their parents. . . As long as a person’s parents are alive, they seem to pose a great difficulty.  There are times that they offer unsolicited advice, or mix into our Chinuch decisions, and we become frustrated.  When parents pass away, children suddenly realize what they have lost.  They realize that they should have welcomed the friendly advice; they should have appreciated the warmth, caring, and love that was the basis for their unappreciated suggestions.  

By reserving the description of the Luchos until they were about to be destroyed, concludes Rav Frand shlit”a beautifully, the Torah warns us to appreciate our gifts in life -- our children, our strength, our parents, and the myriad other gifts that Hashem grants us -- before it is too late.

(Rabbi Frand on the Parashah 2)

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|~Maaseh~| Reb Eizel’e Charif {HaRav Yehoshua Izyk Shapiro zt”l} had a daughter of marriageable age, and he needed to find a good Shidduch for her.  So he went to the great Yeshiva of Volozhin, and posed a very difficult question.  Whichever bachur could answer it he would pick.  But none of them could answer it.

Reb Eizel’e left after some time, and was just pulling away in his horse and carriage, when suddenly, one of the Bachurim came running out of the Yeshiva.

“Forget the Shidduch.” He said to Reb Eizel’e. “But how can you leave Volozhin without giving an answer?”

This young man may not have known the answer, but he desired very much to.  He sought it greatly.  And it was this young man whom Reb Eizel’e zt”l chose as his son-in-law (and who also would later become a Rav).

(Heard from my Rebbe, HaRav Chaim Eisenstein shlit”a)

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Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Skulener Rebbe שליט"א in NEED of Tefillos!

ב"ה

YeshivaWorldNews reports...
The condition of the Skulener Rebbe has turned critical. On Sunday morning, doctors made the decision to place the Rebbe on a respirator.
As YWN had reported, the blood pressure of the Rebbe suddenly dropped to critical levels on Shabbos, causing family members overseas to be called to his bedside. Doctors at John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore where the Rebbe has been hospitalized for two weeks were able to stabilize his condition – but on Sunday morning made the decision about the respiratory.
The Rebbe, who is around 95-years-old, has been suffering from an infection in his lungs for the past few months, and has been in and out of hospitals in New York.
Family members told YWN that the Rebbe needs “Rachmei Shomayim”, and are calling on Klal Yisroel to please be Mispallel for Yisrael Avraham ben Shaina Rochel.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Parshas Tetzaveh Messages 5779

בּ"ה
Parshas Tetzaveh

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And you [Moshe Rabbeinu] shall command the Bnei Yisroel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed (כתית), to illuminate, to raise up a lamp continually. (Shemos 27:20)
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The Baal HaTurim notes that כתית is made up of the letters ת”י (the numerical value of 410) and ת”כ (the numerical value of 420).  This alludes to us, he explains, that for 410 years -- the time that the first Beis HaMikdash stood for; and 420 years -- the time that the second Beis HaMikdash stood for, the lighting of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash would be practiced.  

Rabbeinu Bachya zt”l quotes the above teaching from a Midrash, and he says:  This Midrash hints at the two Batei Mikdash, so it should have also alluded to the future third Beis HaMikdash (may it be built speedily).  But perhaps this Midrash alludes only to the two Batei Mikdash whose time would be cut short.  And since the first two were going to get destroyed, therefore, the passuk alludes to them in the word כתית, which means crushed or beaten.  The third Beis HaMikdash, however, is not alluded to in that word because it will never be destroyed -- but rather, it is hinted to in the word ‘למאור’, ‘for illumination’ (see Yeshayahu 60:1, and commentary there).  And since it will stand forever, therefore it says ‘to raise up a lamp continually’; meaning that its kindling will be continuous and won’t cease anymore.

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To raise up a lamp continually.’ (Shemos 27:20)
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Our Sages of blessed memory taught that when the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash was lit, every courtyard that was in Yerushalayim would be illuminated by its light.

(Midrash Tanchuma; Tetzaveh 3)

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Crushed, to illuminate (Shemos 27:20)
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Says Rashi zt”l (from Gemara Menachos 86a):  ‘Crushed to illuminate,’ but not crushed for Meal-offerings (למנחות).

In an interesting take on this all, Rebbe Yechiel Danziger zt”l (the first Alexander Rebbe) explains:  When someone give a person Mussar, or rebukes them, trying to humble the person a little, they need to intend to do it only ‘to illuminate’, i.e. to help to illuminate and show the person the proper path that they should take. ‘And not for מנחות (Meal-offerings)’ -- מנחות has a very similar root to the word which means to lay down, meaning that we must make sure to not give rebuke with the intention to bring the person down and make them feel lowly. . .

(Maayanah Shel Torah)

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And you shall speak to all the wise of heart, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom’ (Shemos 28:3)
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The title “wise of heart” means a person who wants wisdom, and makes every effort to attain it.  Into the heart of a person like this, HaKadosh Baruch Hu will give wisdom.  

(Peninei HaTorah)

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|~Maaseh~| A man once came to the Noda B’Yehuda {HaRav Yechezkel Landau zt”l} and told him that he was struggling with questions in his Emunah.  

Rav Yechezkel took him into the kitchen-area, where a chicken was being cut up.  The Rav then said something quite surprising:  He told the chicken to come back together!  And, lo! All the pieces actually came back together again!  He then told it to go back to how it was, and the chicken went back into the pieces it had been in just before.  

The Noda B’Yehuda asked the man, “Do you have any more questions in Emunah?” “No.” the man replied. . .

(Heard from one of my Rebbeim shlit”a)

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Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Parshas Terumah Messages 5779

בּ"ה
Parshas Terumah

Why is the part about the taking of a portion for the making of the Mishkan right after Parshas Mishpatim, which deals with monetary laws and stuff like that?  Answers the Beis HaLevi {HaRav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik of Brisk zt”l}; to teach us that there is no value to something donated for the Mishkan that came from money acquired in a way forbidden by the Torah.

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From every man whose heart motivates him, you shall take My Portion.’ (Shemos 25:2)
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The question is asked; why was the donating to the Mishkan a voluntary thing; why was it not made an order or a Command?  Answers the Avnei Nezer {the Sochochover Rebbe -- Rebbe Avraham Borenstein zt”l}; the Mishkan was something that brought closeness with Hashem; and in order to feel that closeness and love, we must have a burning desire to do so.  It cannot be forced. And so, he explains, contributing to the Mishkan was a voluntary thing -- people had to have a burning desire to do so.  

Adds my Rebbe, HaRav Binyomin Goldstein shlit”a, beautifully:  In the absence of a Mishkan or Beis HaMikdash, we are told (see below) that we must make our hearts into a Sanctuary for Hashem.  But this cannot be done without the desire to serve Hashem -- the passion and feeling. If someone has a burning desire to bring Hashem into their heart; nothing can stand in their way.  However, he says, if the desire for closeness is not there (Chas V’Shalom), it is essentially impossible to make the Sanctuary for Hashem.  We can “go through the motions” of keeping the Commandments -- but if the desire of the heart is not there, then the task of building an inner-Sanctuary for Hashem cannot be accomplished.

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And they shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell in their midst.’ (Shemos 25:9)
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Our Gedolim note that Hashem does not say ‘in its midst’, but rather ‘in their midst.’ And this teaches us that Hashem dwells also in the heart of every single Jew -- who makes in their lives a “dwelling place,” so to speak, for the Shechinah. (See further in Beis Aharon).

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And they shall make an Aron’ (Shemos 25:10)
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Why with all the other things made in the Mishkan, Hashem says ‘and you shall make’; but with the Aron, He says ‘and they shall make’?  Says Rabbi Yehuda ben Rabbi Shalom zt”l:  HaKadosh Baruch Hu said; “Let everyone come and engage in the Aron,* in order that they will all merit [a share in] the Torah.”

(Midrash Shemos Rabbah Ch. 34)

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* See Ramban and Rabbeinu Bachya zt”l.

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|~Maaseh~| There was a boy who would learn Mishnayos with his father every night, but he wasn’t able to remember almost anything.  The father was frustrated. He was hoping that his child would become a great Talmid Chochom (Torah scholar), and his son seemingly had a weak mind.  

The father’s concerns increased with the following episode:  He was walking through the marketplace on Friday morning with his son, to buy fruits and vegetables for Shabbos.  The son was looking around, spellbound by all the sights, listening to the vendors trying to outshout each other. One was yelling that he has the sweetest melons; another was shouting that he has the cheapest prices, and so on.  That Shabbos afternoon, the father overheard this son chanting; “Get your sweetest melons here. . . We have the best prices. . .” The father realized that his son was able to repeat verbatim probably a hundred words he heard from the vendors.  But he didn’t understand: His son does have a good memory, so why can’t he remember Torah? Could it be, Chas V’Shalom, that there’s some blockage in his son's mind when it comes to holiness?  Perhaps he is so attached to the things of This World, that he can’t understand anything spiritual?  That thought frightened him, and he asked his Rabbi about it.

The Rabbi wisely explained, however: “You don’t have to worry about your son.  He has a good memory, and he can learn Torah as well. If you will learn Mishnayos with your son with the same passion and excitement as the merchants sell their wares, he will remember every word of the Mishnayos as well.”

(Related in Torah Wellsprings)

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Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!