Toldos

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”
Parshas Toldos 2017/5778

“ויאהב יצחק את עשו כי ציד בפיו ורבקה אוהבת את יעקב” (בראשית כה:כח)

“And Yitzchok loved Eisav because he had trappings in his mouth and Rivka loves Yaakov” (Bereishis 25:28)

At first glance it would appear that we are confronted here with a difference of opinion between Yitzchok and Rivka, where Yitzchok favored Eisav and Rivka favored Yaakov. However, it is not possible to say this for the previous posuk clearly states the negative traits and actions of Eisav and the positive ones of Yaakov making it clear to all that Yaakov was the tzadik/the righteous son and Eisav the evil son.

Accordingly, we need to ascertain what the Torah meant by stating “ויאהב יצחק את עשו” / “And Yitzchok loved Eisav”!?

We can suggest, with G-d’s help, that Yitzchok’s love for Eisav is expressed in the future tense to teach us that he showed him “love” by giving him tools and warmth in hope of his returning to the way of Torah in the future. This is the true definition of love – to give, as the posuk states “ואהבת את ה’ אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך” / “And you shall love the Lor-d your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might/material possessions” (Devorim 6:5). That is, true love is giving, in this case giving one’s complete heart, soul, etc. to Hashem. So too here, Yitzchok gave all that he could in order to help Eisav return to the righteous path! But certainly, just as Rivka loved Yaakov, so too Yitzchok loved Yaakov, as he was already a blossoming Torah scholar and an extremely righteous person! In this vein explains the Radak that Yitzchok loved Yaakov even more than he loved Eisav!

We find similarly, that although Hashem told Avraham that he would be blessed with a child from his wife Sarah, he immediately retorted saying “לו ישמעאל יחיה לפניך” / “may it be that Yishmael would live before You” (Bereishis 17:8), with the fear of G-d (Rashi). From this it appears that Avraham as Yitzchok searched for ways to return Yishmael to the path of Torah. And it would make sense for Avraham to do this, for the Torah tells us that Avraham sought to influence strangers to believe in G-d and to follow the Torah way of life as it states “ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן” / “and the souls they made in Charan” (ibid. 12:5), therefore certainly he would have made a serious effort to bring his own son back to the Torah way of life!

This idea that Yitzchok’s love for Eisav was in order to bring him back to the Torah way of life can be understood as well by the fact that the Torah gave a reason for this show of love, as it states כי ציד בפיו” / “because he had trappings in his mouth” whereas regarding Rivka’s love for Yaakov it is written “ורבקה אוהבת את יעקב” / “and Rivka loves Yaakov” expressing an unconditional and continuous love.

Now, the reason given for Yitzchok’s love for Eisav is “that he had trappings in his mouth”. This can be understood as follows: that Eisav had the ability not only to make his own livelihood but to help others with their livelihood as well – to put food in the “mouths of others”. Yitzchok saw this to be a great ability, and through using this ability for the good, Eisav could assume the role of Zevulun to supply Yaakov, who sat all day in the tent of Torah, with all his physical needs, allowing to learn Torah without interruption. In this manner, although Eisav was not personally involved in Torah learning, he would receive a share of Yaakov’s learning. This double portion of reward is hinted to in the wording “ויעקב איש תם יושב אהלים” / “and Yaakov was a pure person sitting in the tents”. “Tents” is written in the plural, suggesting one tent for Yaakov and one for Eisav who supports him!

Even though Yitzchok saw that Eisav was presently far from fulfilling this role of supporting Yaakov, and in addition, he knew that he had committed grave sins, nevertheless, Yitzchok felt that he could influence Eisav to return to the straight path! If you’ll say that the odds are extremely low that a person as evil as Eisav would repent, since we are dealing with a case of the life and death of Eisav’s soul, it would appear that the odds in our case are of no relevance. In addition, Yitzchok certainly davened for Eisav and we know that tefila has the power to overturn worlds as happened in the very birth of Eisav and Yaakov as stated in the beginning of this parsha, increasing the possibility of Eisav’s return to the path of good!

The Sifsei Cohen explains that it is not possible to read the posuk in its simple reading that Eisav “trapped” Yaakov with his words, for Yitzchok had prophetic wisdom and Eisav would not have been able to trap him! (Adds the Shaarei Orah [the fifth gate, the sixth sefira] my son, don’t let your mind fool you and don’t be influenced to believe that a completely righteous person such as Yitzchok would falter even in the smallest matter [and certainly not here where we are dealing with the obviously wicked behavior of Eisav], as all his actions were carefully weighed on the scales of exact truth and justice before Hashem!)

Rather he explains that the expression “כי ציד בפיו” / “for there were trappings in his mouth” means just the opposite, that Yitzchok laid a trap for Eisav! How so? He would speak to him in a soft tone in order to bring him close to him and to the Torah way of life. For example, he wouldn’t call him by his name but would say, please come here “my son”, as though he regarded him as his beloved son. And so when Yaakov first approached Yitzchok, Yitzchok, thinking it was Eisav, responded “who are you my son?” This teaches us that the love Yitzchok showed Eisav was not a true love but a means of getting Eisav to rethink his ways and return to the path of the Torah.

Alternatively, the Sifsei Cohen suggests that Yitzchok outwardly showed great love towards Eisav in order to create jealousy between the brothers in order to create a distance between them, keeping Yaakov from away from Eisav! According to this, Yitzchok’s outward sign of love toward Eisav was exclusively for Yaakov’s benefit!

The Targum Yonason adds a new dimension to this story. He says that Yitzchok loved Eisav because of the deceitfulness he had in his mouth! Can this be true!? Could deceitfulness be a virtue that would attract the love of Yitzchok!? What then can be the intention of the Targum!?

We can explain the words of the Targum as follows, with G-d’s help: Yitzchok saw that Eisav possessed a very powerful character trait – the ability to deceive! Is this a good trait!? Usually not! If it’s used to deceive G-d or to deceive people it is a terrible trait, but if it can be bridled and used in order to deceive the evil inclination, then it turns into a good trait – an excellent one! This is because the evil inclination constantly clings to a person, eyeing the moment it can bring him to sin. Now most, if not all people, cannot face the evil inclination straight on and tell him to get lost! Rather the only way a person can avoid falling in the traps of the evil inclination is to deceive him. In this way, he uses the evil inclination’s own medicine and this should serve to negate his attempts to cause the person to sin!

Alternatively, we can explain that Yitzchok saw prophetically that Yaakov was destined to have to face extremely difficult tests in Charan at the hands of the greatest deceiver of all time – Lavan Haarami! And Yitzchok understood that in Yaakov’s present state as an “איש תם” / “a pure and honest person” that he would not be able to stand up to the deceitfulness of Lavan and therefore it was necessary for Yaakov to get a taste of deceitfulness before he went to Charan.

This can be compared with present-day vaccinations where a person is injected with a small dose of the disease the vaccination is created to guard against. In this manner, if the disease attacks the person, the sampling his body contains will reject the attack. So too here, Yitzchok’s goal was to inject Yaakov with a small dose of deceitfulness delivered by Eisav so that when he was faced with a major attack of deceitfulness at the hands of Lavan, he would have the wherewithal to reject it!

For this reason, Yitzchok kept Eisav close to him, not for Eisav’s benefit and not because he thought he could change Eisav for the better as was suggested above, but in order to reduce the severity of Eisav’s deceitfulness in the surroundings of Yaakov and in this way help prepare Yaakov for his future challenges at the hands of Lavan!

According to the above, we can understand that Rivka had a similar intention when she instructed Yaakov to deceive his father and steal the blessings from Eisav, for by acting out a scenario of deceitful behavior Yaakov would have the taste of deceitfulness in his mouth which serve as a vaccine against the deceitfulness of Lavan.

In both cases, Yaakov was presented with a controlled dose of deceitfulness so that if confronted by it in the future he would not be affected by it. The above is similar to that which the sages have said that a Torah scholar should hold within him one-sixty fourth of pride (Sota 5a) and this in order to be aware of this bad trait and be able to reject the yetzer hora of pride and haughtiness when it attempts to defile or diminish his humility.

According to the above, we come to the amazing realization that Yaakov and Rivka did not act in contradiction of one another, but the very opposite – they had exactly the same intention – to prepare Yaakov for his confrontation with Lavan!

Cheshvan 5778

Have a nice Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

Avraham Transferred His Very Essence to His Son Yitzchok

Untitled 1Machon Daniel Torah Weekly

“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”

Parshas Chayei Sarah

2017/5778

Avraham Transferred His Very Essence to His Son Yitzchok

“ויתן אברהם את כל אשר לו ליצחק. ולבני הפילגשים אשר לאברהם נתן אברהם מתנות וישלחם מעל פני יצחק בנו” (בראשית כה:ה-ו)

“And Avraham gave all that he possessed to Yitzchok. And to the sons of the concubines of Avraham, Avraham gave gifts and he sent them away from the presence of Yitzchok his son” (Bereishis 25:5-6)

Now, we can discern a number of differences in the way Avraham meted out his inheritance; between that which he gave to Yitzchok and that which he gave to the sons of his concubines.

(1) Regarding Yitzchok it states “ויתן” / “And he will give” while regarding the sons of the concubines it states “נתן” / “he gave”.

(2) Regarding Yitzchok it states “את כל אשר לו” / “all that he possessed” and regarding the sons of the concubines it states “נתן מתנות” / “he gave gifts”.

(3) It is written “ויתן אברהם… ליצחק” / “And Avraham gave… to Yitzchok” and it does mention that he was his son, but later on it does mention this.

With G-d’s help we can clarify the above-mentioned points with the following explanations:

(1) Regarding Yitzchok, the posuk states “ויתן” which has the connotation of repeated or continual giving. This is learned both from the fact that the word is written in the future tense, and as well, from the additional letter vav placed at the beginning of the word. We find a similar explanation of this wording in the posuk “ויתן לך האלה-ים מטל השמים ומשמני הארץ ורב דגן ותירש” / “And Hashem will give to you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the land and plenty of grain and wine” (Bereishis 27:28) and our sages have explained the intention of this posuk (Bereishis Rabbah 66:3, brought in Rashi) that the meaning of “ויתן לך” is that Hashem will give and give again; time after time.

This means that that Avraham gave Yitzchok an inheritance similar to the water which sprouts forth from a wellspring. Just as the water sprouting from a wellspring has no end, so too the inheritance Avraham gave to Yitzchok has no end, meaning it will continue through Yitzchok to all of Avraham’s seed forever!

In contradistinction to the above, regarding the inheritance Avraham gave to the sons of the concubines it is written “נתן” / “he gave”, in the past tense, and without the added vav which teaches us that he gave them a one-time gift – never to repeat itself! In addition, the posuk says “וישלחם מעל יצחק בנו” / “and he sent them away from his son Yitzchok”, hinting to the fact that he conditioned their inheritance on their moving away from Yitzchok and having nothing at all to do with him! And this was so important to Avraham that he sent them away immediately, as it says “בעודנו חי” / “while I am still alive” and the next pesukim talk of Avraham’s demise. Thus we see that Avraham gave opposite types of inheritance to his different sons!

[Now, that which is said here regarding the sending off of the sons of the concubines appears to contradict that which the Torah mentioned above regarding the sending off of Yishmael. Regarding Yishmael, Sarah said to Avraham “exile this handmaid (Hagar) and her son (Yishmael) for the son of this handmaid will not inherit with my son, with Yitzchok” (ibid 21:10). The Torah states there that Avraham was extremely upset about the idea of having to send his only son into exile, and that he only agreed to send him away because he was commanded to do so by Hashem through the prophecy of Sarah as it states “כל אשר תאמר אליך שרה שמע בקולה” / “all that Sarah tells you, listen in her voice” (ibid 21:12). Therefore here, where there is no directive from above, why does Avraham show such willingness to send the sons of his concubines into exile!? His reaction here seems to contradict his reaction above!

It appears that we can answer the above dilemma through analyzing the wording of the pesukim regarding Yishmael. There it states “כי לא יירש בן האמה הזאת עם בני עם יצחק” / “for the son of this handmaid will not inherit with my son, with Yitzchok”. There are two questions to ask regarding the above wording: (1) Why didn’t Sarah call Yishmael by his name instead of referring to him as “the son of this handmaid”? (2) Why did she repeat herself saying with my son, with Yitzchok”?

In answer to the above, we can suggest that Sarah’s words, as they were words of prophecy, included in them an additional instruction to Avraham regarding the sending away of the sons of the concubines in the future. Based on this understanding we say suggest that “עם בני” / “with my son” refers to the sending away of Yishmael and “עם יצחק” / “with Yitzchok” refers to the sending away of the sons of the concubines.

With this, we can answer as well the first question we asked why it states “כי בן האמה הזאת” / “for the son of this handmaid” without mentioning the name of Yishmael, and that is that the language was kept general in order to include in it the future sending of the sons of the concubines as well.

With this, as well, we can answer the apparent unnecessarily lengthy language in the posuk “כל אשר תאמר אליך שרה שמע בקולה” / “all that Sarah will say to you, listen in her voice”. Apparently it should have been written “תשמע לכל אשר תאמר אליך שרה” / “Listen to all that Sarah will say to you”!? According to the above we can explain that the first part of the posuk “כל אשר תאמר אליך שרה” / “all that Sarah will tell you” is referring to that which Sarah tells Avraham regarding the sending away of Yishmael, and the second part of the posuk “שמע בקולה” / “listen in her voice” is referring to the future sending away of the sons of the concubines.]

(2) Regarding the inheritance given to Yitzchok, the posuk states “את כל אשר לו” / “all that he (Avraham) possessed”. That is, Avraham gave to Yitzchok that which was “his” – meaning that which belonged to his soul and not one of his external possessions. In this vein, Rashi explains that Avraham gave the power to bless others to Yitzchok. This hints to the great holiness found in Avraham from which stemmed his ability to bless others, similar to that which is stated by Shabbos”ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי ויקדש אותו” / “And Hashem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (ibid 2:3). That is, Hashem blessed the seventh day because of its holiness. And so with Avraham, he inherited the power to bless by means of his great holiness.

However, to the sons of the concubines he gave “gifts”, that is his material possessions. See Rashi who says in the name of the sages that Avraham gave them a name of spiritual impurity. This proves what we suggested above that all the spiritual forces Avraham possessed he inherited to Yitzchok.

As an alternative explanation of “gifts” Rashi says that Avraham gave them all the gifts he received from others for he did not want to benefit from them. According to this, even Avraham’s money and material he preferred not to give to his other sons for also the possessions of a righteous person have holiness. The reason being either because they are all used in Hashem’s service or as the sages bring (Chulin 91a) on the posuk “ויותר יעקב לבדו” / “And Yaakov remained alone” (ibid 32:25) that Yaakov crossed back over the river in order to retrieve the small vessels he had left there. Why was he so concerned with small vessels? For the righteous do not steal and therefore all their material possessions are precious to them.

Another reason why Avraham gave the gifts he received to his other sons was because he didn’t want to give them to Yitzchok for it is written “שונא מתנות יחיה” / “One who hates gifts will live” (Mishlei 15:27) and he wanted to add to Yitzchok’s life and not reduce it. This is consistent with that which we mentioned above that the wording “ויתן” / “And he will give” to Yitzchok expresses a continual giving affording continual life to Yitzchok.

(3) We asked above why in the statement”ויתן אברהם את כל אשר לו ליצחק” that the word “son” was not mentioned. The answer is that Avraham not only gave to Yitzchok his internal inheritance, but “כל אשר לו” / “all that he possesses”, meaning he himself! Avraham put his very essence into Yitzchok! For this reason, it was not mentioned here that Yitzchok was his son. This is similar to that which we find that Yaakov put himself, so to say, into his son Yosef as the posuk says “אלה תולדות יעקב יוסף” / “These are the offspring of Yaakov Yosef” (ibid 37:2) and the sages teach us that there were great similarities between the two: Yosef looked exactly like Yaakov and all that Yaakov did in the house of Lava was only for Rochel who was to give birth to Yosef. Also, when Yaakov was told that Yosef had been killed, he felt that he himself had died. This teaches us that he put himself into Yosef’s very being until whatever happened to Yosef, he felt that it had happened to him! As we suggested above, I saw in the sefer Sifsei Cohen on the posuk “כי ארד אל בני אָבֵל שאולה” (ibid 37:35) that when Yaakov heard that Yosef was killed, he considered himself to have died. And so upon hearing of Yosef’s death the holy Shechinah parted from him and this was a sign of spiritual death. And so when Yaakov saw Yosef in Egypt it states “ותחי רוח יעקב אביהם”/ “and the spirit of Yaakov their father was revived” (ibid 45:27) and Rashi explains that the holy Shechinah returned to him and his soul was revived!

Based on the above we can understand the posuk”ויאמר ישראל רב עוד יוסף בני חי אלכה ואראנו בטרם אמות” / “And Yisrael said my son Yosef lives long, I will go and see him before I die” (ibid 45:28). Why was Yaakov so interested in seeing his son before he himself dies? If you’ll say that Yaakov is expressing the feelings of every father, there would be no need for the Torah to say this as the Torah comes to teach and not to record or express!? Rather we can suggest that Yaakov wanted to see Yosef in order to imbue him with Yaakov’s very essence. For this reason as well it is not written here “יצחק בנו” / “Yitzchok his son”, for Avraham put himself, so to say, into Yitzchok, until it wasn’t his son he was giving to but himself! And that which Yitzchok is referred to afterwards as Avraham’s son as it states “וישלחם מעל יצחק בנו” is only in response so to say to that which the posuk states “the sons of the concubines of Avraham”.

Another reason why the first posuk did not mention that Yitzchok was the son of Avraham is that the Torah is teaching us that even if Yitzchok wasn’t his son, he was worthy of receiving all of the great spiritual wealth of Avraham had to offer!

Be proud of your Jewish heritage! It is a sign of purity and holiness – special and unique to the Jewish people alone! A heritage that cannot be copied nor replicated with all the technology in the world! Where can you find the gift of holiness which Avraham gave to Yitzchok? In the Torah! Take a look! Through its learning and fulfillment a person can reconnect himself to the original sparks of holiness which Avraham brought into the world!

Kislev 5777

Have a great Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

Keeping the Peace is even Greater than the Seal of Truth – Vayeira 5778

Mazel Tov to Catriel and Chani Vogel and Yaakov and Sari Vogel on the birth of baby girls! May they merit to raise them to a life of Torah, chupa and good deeds!

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”
Parshas Vayera
2017/5778

Keeping the Peace is even Greater than the Seal of Truth

“והוא עומד עליהם תחת העץ ויאכלו” (בראשית יח:ח)

“And he (Avraham) stood upon them under the tree and they ate” (Bereishis 18:8)

Did Avraham’s guests actually eat the food that he served them!? Did we not learn that they were angels sent from Hakadosh Baruch Hu to Avraham; each angel with its own mission!? Therefore, how is it possible that they consumed the food of man on earth!?

The sages explained (Baba Matzia 86b) as follows: Rebbi Tanchum the son of Chanilai said a person should always act according to the custom of the place he finds himself in just as Moshe went up to the Heavens and refrained from eating bread and the ministering angels came down to earth and ate bread. Did they actually eat bread!? No, rather they pretended that they ate bread!

We can derive an additional lesson from our posuk, and that is, it is permissible for a person to alter the truth of his words if it will please another, for although the angels did not eat, the Torah clearly states that they ate, and this in order to please their host. In this manner Rebeinu Yona explains the posuk in Mishlei (10:32) “שפתי צדיק ידעון רצון” / “The lips of a righteous person know will” as follows: Since the posuk above stated “כי פי צדיק ינוב חכמה” / “For the mouth of a righteous person will produce wisdom” and cursed is a person who alters his words as it concludes“ולשון תהפכות תכרת” / “the tongue of those who reverse their words shall be cut off”, the posuk here comes to tell us that even though a righteous person speaks only the truth, he will alter his words in order to secure peace between people as his lips have become accustomed and expert to please others, as it states “מענה רך ישיב חמה” / “A soft response will recall anger” (Mishlei 15:1).

Additional sources for the permission granted to a righteous person to alter his words are brought in Mesechta Yavamos (65b). Rebbi Ila’a said in the name of Rebbi Eleazar the son of Rebbi Shimon, it is permissible for a person to alter his words in order to bring peace, and he brings three different sources to back his statement: (1) as it is stated“ויצוו אל יוסף לאמר אביך צוה לפני מותו לאמר. כה תאמרו ליוסף אנא שא נא פשע אחיך וחטאתם” / “They (Yosef’s brothers) said to Yosef saying that your father commanded before his death saying. So you (the brothers) shall say to Yosef, please hold, please, the intentional sin of your brothers and their unintentional sin” (Bereishis 50:16-17). [Rashi explains that Yaakov did not truly command them, rather they altered their words in order to bring peace between themselves and Yosef.] (2) Rebbi Nasan says it is not only permissible but it is also a mitzvah to alter one’s words for the sake of peace as it states ויאמר שמואל איך אלך ושמע… שאול והרגני” / “And Shmuel said (to Hashem) how can I go!? Shaul will hear (that I am coming) and he will kill me”! [Rashi explains it says there“ויאמר ה’ עגלת בקר תקח בידך ואמרת לזבוח לה’ באתי” / “And Hashem said a take a calf in your hand and you shall say in order to sacrifice to Hashem I have come”, and in this Hashem commands Shmuel to alter his words for in reality Hashem did not command him to offer a sacrifice. (3) The Beis Medrash of Rebbi Yishmael taught, great is the power of peace that even Hakadosh Baruch Hu altered the truth. At first it says“ותצחק שרה בקרבה לאמר אחרי בלתי היתה לי עדנה ואדני זקן / “And Sarah laughed saying after this long period and (now) I have become fruitful, (but) my husband is elderly“. Then the posuk states“ויאמר ה’ אל אברהם למה זה צחקה שרה לאמר האף אמנם אלד ואני זקנתי / “Hashem said to Avraham, why did Sarah laugh saying is it true that I will give birth and I am old” (Bereishis 18:12-13). Rashi explains that Sarah said “ואדוני זקן” which is derogatory language. But when Hashem revealed Sarah’s words to Avraham, He changed Sarah’s words as though she had said “ואני זקנתי” / “I became old” in order to make peace between them.

We find as well in Mesechta Baba Matzia (23b/24a) that for additional reasons as well it is permissible for a person to alter his words. The Gemora says, Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel, in the following three things the rabbis can alter their words: (1) Meseches (2) Intimacy (3) Hosting. Explains Rashi, (1) Meseches – If a person asks you if you are familiar with a certain Talmudic Mesechta, even if in fact you are familiar with it, it is permissible to answer him that you have not yet mastered that Mesechta, as this is done in humility, (2) Intimacy – If a person asks concerning issues of intimacy, you can refute his assumptions, for it is immodest to answer otherwise, and (3) Hosting – If someone asks you if the host you ate by is generous, it is permissible to say that he was not although in fact he was generous, so that unscrupulous people do not take advantage of him.

From all the above, we learn that preserving peace is of ultimate importance – so much so that in order to preserve peace one may alter his words and refrain from telling the truth! This is so even though the sages have taught us that the world was created with truth and that it is sustained by it, for in order for the foundational truth of the world to be realized it is necessary for mans’ matters to be conducted in a peaceful manner.

And we can learn this principle as well from the manner in which Hakadosh Baruch Hu created the world. The sages teach us that in order to prevent jealousy between the upper and lower worlds, Hakadosh Baruch Hu created man partly from the upper world and partly from the lower world; the soul from the upper world and the body from the lower world. Now, if Hakadosh Baruch Hu was careful to avoid jealousy among creations which do not possess intelligence and do not have feelings, certainly regarding mankind, who is imbued with intelligence, awareness and feelings, that one should be extremely careful not to cause jealousy among people. Rather, one should foster friendliness and togetherness between people!

Marcheshvan 5778

Avraham Avinu’s Words to His Sons and Servants Dealt Mainly with the Study of Torah

“ויאמר אברהם אל נעריו שבו לכם פה עם החמור ואני והנער נלכה עד כה ונשתחוה ונשובה אליכם” (בראשית כב:ה)

“And Avraham said to the young men (accompanying him), sit for you here with the donkey, and I and the young man will go until here and prostate (before Hashem) and return to you” (Bereishis 22:5)

Questions:

(1) Why is it necessary to mention the donkey? In addition, is it proper to instruct the young men to sit with the donkey while Avraham and Yitzchok go on to worship Hashem!?

(2) Why is it written “כה” without mentioning the exact location?

(3) What is the explanation of the phrase “ונשתחוה ונשובה אליכם”/ “and we will prostate (before Hashem) and return to you”?

We can answer the above questions with G-d’s help as follows (the following numbering is not according to the numbering of the above questions):

(1) Don’t read the word “פֹה” to mean here, rather read it as though it is written to read mouth – “פֶה!

(2) In addition, don’t read the word “חמור” to mean donkey, rather as referring to that which the tribe of Yissachar was compared to a “חמור” / “donkey” as it says  “יששכר חמור גרם רובץ בין המשפתים”/ “Yissachar is a hard-boned donkey who settles down between the boundaries” (Bereishis 49:14) and Rashi explains that Yissachar accepted upon themselves the heavy yoke of Torah, similar to that which a donkey holds on its back heavy loads of merchandise, until they eventually became the instructors of the whole of the Jewish people.

According to the above introduction, we can answer the above questions as follows: Avraham said to “נעריו” / “his young men” – referring to Yishmael his son, whom he had trained in the keeping the mitzvos of the Torah and to Eliezer his servant who was referred to as “דמשק אליעזר” for he would teach his master’s Torah to others – wait here in your place and level of Torah learning as I have taught you, which includes the Written Torah (hinted to in the word חמור”” which also means basic matter and this is the Written Torah which is the foundation of all the Law which extends from it), and the Oral Torah (which is hinted to in the word “פה“) and by Hashem’s command I and Yitzchok will ascend the mountain in order to reach a deeper, more spiritual understanding of the Torah as Dovid Hamelech wrote “לחזות בנועם ה’ ולבקר בהיכלו” / “to see the purity of Hashem and to enter His Sanctuary” (Tehillim 27:4). And that is the meaning of “עד כה“, meaning to a deep, undefinable level of awareness of the concealed Torah, as we find this expression used regarding the receiving of prophecy as it states “כה אמר ה'” / “so says Hashem (to the prophet) as in Yeshaya 43:1, Yirmiya 19:1 etc. Therefore, no identifiable location was mentioned!

Afterwards Avraham said to them, “we will return to you” and continue to learn with you the revealed Law.

From another angle we can suggest that the wording ונשתחוה ונשובה אליכם”” / “and we will prostate (before Hashem) and return to you” teaches us that upon becoming aware of the concealed Torah, Avraham and Yitzchok realized that they had a need to improve their fulfillment of the revealed Torah, for they now saw the obligations of the revealed Torah in an upgraded light!

(In this, we have discovered a reference to the fact that the act of the Akeida filled the world with a spirit of teshuva/repentance. This is in line with what the sages have taught us that the mitzvah of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah unleashes the power of the Akeida allowing Hakadosh Baruch Hu to move from His throne of Justice and to sit on His throne of Mercy and accept the repentance of the Jewish people and merit them with a healthy and successful new year!)

Marcheshvan 5778

Have nice Shabbos!
Yona Vogel

A Holy Spark of Kedusha was Hidden in Lot’s Soul – Lech Lecha 5778

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”
Parshas Lech Lecha
2017/5778

A Holy Spark of Kedusha was Hidden in Lot’s Soul

“וילך אברם כאשר דבר אליו ה’ וילך אתו לוט” (בראשית יב:ד)
“And Avram went as Hashem spoke to him and Lot went with him” (Bereishis 12:4)

The Parsha begins”ויאמר ה’ אל אברם לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל הארץ אשר אראך” / “And Hashem said to Avrum go to you/for you from your land and from your birth place and from your father’s home to the land which I will show you” (Bereishis 12:1). In our posuk, “וילך אברם כאשר דבר אליו ה’ וילך אתו לוט” the Torah tells us that Avrum fulfilled Hashem’s command to him. By doing so, he willingly broke his ties not only from the physical aspects of the land but even more so from its spiritual level, for Avrum left Ohr Kasdim in order to follow the Word of Hashem and in order to come closer to Him and His ways and especially in the Holy land of Israel!

Accordingly, that which the posuk adds “וילך איתו לוט” / “and Lot went with him” is very difficult to understand, and this for four reasons:

  1. Hakadosh Baruch Hu commanded Avrum saying “לך לך” / “go to you/for you”, meaning him alone (with his wife and servants),
  2. Was Lot on the spiritual level of Avrum so he took could undertake this so difficult test of leaving all that was familiar and dear to him and depart for a land unknown to him, and all this in order to spread Hashem’s Name in the land!?
  3. And, even if we can find a legitimate reason for his joining Avrum on his journey, was Lot on the level of Avrum to the point where the wording of the posuk suggests that he was equal to or very similar in spiritual status to Avrum as it says – “וילך איתו לוט” / “and Lot went with him”!?
  4. And, more difficult to understand than all the above, the Torah informs us that Lot was a wicked person as it states “וישא לוט את עיניו וירא את כל ככר הירדן כי כולה משקה לפני שחת ה’ את סדום… ויבחר לו לוט את כל ככר הירדן ויסע לוט מקדם ויפרדו איש מעל אחיו… ואנשי סדום רעים וחטאים לה’ מאד” / “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all of the land of the Yarden as it was all well-watered before Hashem destroyed Sodom… And Lot chose for himself all of the land of the Yarden and Lot traveled from the east and the two men (Avrum and Lot) separated from one another, each person above his brother… And the people of Sodom were especially wicked and sinful before Hashem” (ibid 13:10-13).

That is, Lot went after the desires of his eyes and his heart to benefit from all the physical luxuries of this world, and this even though the connection to them presented three major lackings:

  1. The people of Sodom were very wicked toward their fellow man and rebelled against Hashem’s commands,
  2. Lot apparently understood that Hashem was going to destroy Sodom and Amora, and nevertheless he was undeterred by it and established his home in Sodom,
  3. He saw that Avrum, his righteous uncle, stayed clear of Sodom and its people and even so Lot did not go with Avrum as he went with him when they left Ohr Kasdim. And by doing, so he demonstrated that he despised the ways of the righteous until the point where he was willing to ignore all that was told to him about the wicked people of Sodom. (There are commentaries who play down the wickedness of Lot and others say he was a righteous person.)

From all the above reasons it would seem obvious that Avrum should not have taken Lot with him to Eretz Yisrael, and certainly the posuk should not have compared Lot to Avrum saying “וילך איתו לוט”! At this point we are left in a quandary!

Similar to that which we have stated above I found in the sefer Imrei Noam (Parshas Lech Lecha) who says as follows: Avraham did not want that Lot would go with him for he knew of Lot’s true low spiritual level and he did want to be negatively influenced by him, and that this was a very difficult test he was forced to stand up to – to listen to the voice of Hashem to take Lot with him.

Now Lot’s behavior was not a new occurrence in his family, rather he inherited it from his father. That is, Lot was the son of Haran who died before Avrum left Ohr Kasdim (see ibid 11:28) and Rashi explains that the reason for his untimely death was that he did not stand by Avrum when Nimrod threw him into the fiery furnace. Only afterwards, when he saw that Avrum was saved from the fire did he claim that he was on Avrum’s side. This showed that he was a dishonest person, looking out only for his personal gain. This approach to life was handed down to his son Lot as he too did not accompany Avrum to Eretz Yisrael in order to fulfill Hashem’s command and was not interested as well in coming closer to Hashem. Only, when he saw that Avrum was saved from the fire, he quickly joined forces with him for his own good. Similarly, we find that Potipher only placed Yosef in charge of his household when he saw that Hashem was with him (see ibid. 39:2).

Also, the fact that the posuk states “וילך איתו לוט” and not “וילך עמו לוט” and it is known that “עמו” suggests an inner connection and “איתו” an external one, we understand that Lot did not accompany Avrum for altruistic reasons but only for his own good as stated above and as we will see again later on in this essay.

[If you’ll ask that we do find the wording of “עמו” used regarding Lot’s relationship with Avrum as it states”ויעל אברם ממצרים הוא ואשתו וכל אשר לו ולוט עמו…” / “And Avrum went up from Egypt, him and his wife and all his belongings and Lot with him…” (ibid. 13:1)!?

We can answer this question with Rashi’s commentary on the posuk”ויזכור אלקים את אברהם וישלח את לוט מתוך ההפכה” / “… and Hashem remembered Avraham and sent out Lot from the destroying… (ibid. 19:29) and Rashi explains, what did Hashem remember about Avraham regarding Lot? He remembered that Lot knew that Sarah was Avraham’s wife and when he heard Avraham say to the Egyptians that she was his sister, he remained quiet and did not reveal the truth to the Egyptians for he had pity on Avraham. Therefore, Hashem had pity on Lot and saved him from being killed with the destruction of Sodom. We learn from the explanation Rashi that [even reason why the posuk uses the wording “עמו” and not “איתו” is not meant to teach us that Lot followed in the path of Avraham, but only to give praise to Lot for having had pity on Avraham.

Behold, we find as well that Lot’s name is not mentioned along with Avraham’s when the Torah speaks of Avraham’s efforts to spread the Word of Hashem to the inhabitants of Canaan, hinting to the fact that Lot was not truly interested in the holy pursuits of Avraham but was only looking out for his own good. And so we find that he achieved his goal as the posuk states”וגם ללוט ההולך את אברם היה צאן ובקר ואהלים” / “And also to Lot who was going with Avraham there was sheep and cattle and tents” (ibid. 13:5).

Until now we have understood why Lit went with Avraham, but we still need to answer why Avraham took the evil Lot with him!?

Before we clarify this point, the Torah tells us that Lot was saved from almost certain death numerous times, and always at the hands of Avraham. For example, after Lot separated from Avraham and settled in Sodom, a war broke out between the four kings and the five kings and Lot was captured along with all the people of Sodom. Who was he saved by? Avraham (see ibid. 14:14-16)! We must ask, why was Avraham so quick and diligent to save Lot, who had proved himself to be an evil person, until he risked his life to save him!?

Now, we find that after this episode, Lot did not draw the expected conclusions that the truth was with Avraham, but returned to Sodom and continued in his old ways and ignored the terrible behavior of the people of Sodom on which the posuk states “זעקת סדום ועמורה כי רבה וחטאתם כי כבדה מאד” / “the scream of Sodom and Amora is great and their sin is tremendously heavy” (ibid. 18:20). Even so, Avraham stood and davened/prayed for the people of Sodom and Amora that they should be saved from the heavenly decree to destroy them. Now, Avraham was not able to save the people of Sodom and Amora or to prevent the destruction of the cities, but his prayers did help to save Lot and his family from death.

Now, even after having being saved again by Avraham as he watched the whole of Sodom and Amora go up in flames, this did cause him to repent. Rather he continued on his path of evil and slept with his two daughters. Was this Avraham’s intention when he fought from Lot and davened to save him from sure death – to see his nephew fall to the lowest level of human behavior!?

Why then, after all this, did Avram take Lot with him to Eretz Yisrael? We can suggest, with G-d’s help, that although the sages have taught us that Avraham through his tremendous deeds and devotion to Hashem he was able to correct the original sin of Adam and he himself returned to the state of man in Gan Eden (see ibid. 27:27 and in Rashi’s commentary), and even though he, together with Yitzchok and Yaakov merited their seed to receive the Torah at Sinai through which the Jewish people as a whole returned to the state of Gan Eden as did their forefathers, Avrum knew that a critical part of the spiritual puzzle of the redemption of mankind was I bedded deep in the recesses of the soul Lot!! The posuk calls Lot “לוט בן אחיו” / “Lot the son of his brother” (ibid. 12:5). Now in English this phrase doesn’t tell us much but the Hebrew hinds in it a hint to that which mentioned above. That is, if we expand each letter into a word it will read “”בן אחיו” – ב‘ו נ‘מצא א‘ותו ח‘לק י‘שר וקדוש / in him is found that part/spark which is straight and holy. Another hint to that we have stated above is that the numerical value of Lot equals that of Adam, meaning Lot is needed for his correction and completion.

Possibly, for this reason Avraham was so adamant in his refusal to benefit from the booty he rightfully earned when he rescued the king of Sodom and his people from the hands of the four kings, to show that his main interest in doing so was to guard the precious holy spirit which resided in the inner chambers of Lot’s soul.

Similar to this I found in the sefer Maor V’shemesh (Parshas Vayeishev) and there he says we find that Avraham Avinu sacrificed his life in order to save Lot from the four kings. Now it is very difficult to understand why Avraham would risk his life for Lot, for he certainly knew of the evil ways of Lot as the sages have taught us regarding that which the Torah states “ויסע לוט מקדם” / “and Lot traveled from the east” (ibid. 13:11) that it means that Lot “traveled” away from Hakadosh Baruch Hu who is called the One Who preceding the existence of the world (Medrash Bereishis Raba 41:7), however he saved him for he saw it a holy spirit that within Lot was the spark of Dovid Hamelech and the Moshiach!

Similar to this wrote the Bnei Yisusschar (Shabasos Essay 8) that the whole reason for Avraham’s taking Lot with him was because he saw the spark of kingship (Dovid) in him which was still in exile in his body and had not yet revealed itself in order to connect with holiness.

And do says the author of Chomas Anach (Bereishis 13:10) that the numerical value of Lot is the same as of Adam whose letters אד”ם allude to Adam, Dovid and Moshiach. And so says the sefer Igra d’Kala (pg. 92b) that the holy spark of the Moshiach was implanted in Lot. As it could not be revealed it stood in the state otherwise exile. The Yalkut Reuvani adds that this is the explanation of that which the sages have told us that Lot had the same appearance as Avraham – for he held the key to the redemption of Adam Harishon within him!

From all the above, we now have a completely new understanding of the posuk “וילך אברם כאשר דבר אליו ה’ וילך אתו לוט” / “And Avram went as Hashem spoke to him and Lot went with him”. That is, Avrum went to Eretz Canaan not as he thought to do, that is to go with his wife and servants alone, rather”כאשר דבר אליו ה'” / “as Hashem told him”. That is, Hashem appeared to Avrum and told him to take Lot along with him for within him resides a spark of holiness needed for the completion of the Jewish people as well as for the redemption of the whole world!

The posuk concludes “וילך איתו לוט” teaching us that Lot went with Avrum on his own initiative and Avrum on one hand did not encourage Lot to join him so as not be negatively influenced by him and on the other hand did not discourage him for Hashem told him to take him out of Ohr Kasdim with him as we mentioned above. According to the above, all the questions have been answered and may it be His will that our words are accepted Above!

One more question, and that is, could Hashem not have delivered this spark of holiness to Dovid Hamelech and to the Moshiach in a holier way!?

The answer from the point of view of a baal mussar (one who is concerned with improving his character) is that if a person finds himself down and out, falling from sin to sin, the story of Lot should give him a new sense of strength to know that no matter how far he falls, he contains a spark of spirituality within him to help himself overcome his present behavior and to bring upon himself a full redemption!

Marcheshvan 5778

May your home be filled with kedusha and simcha!

Have a nice Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

A Person’s Primary Obligation is to Perfect Himself – Noach 5778

This issue is presented with great thanks and praise to the Rebono shel Olam for his everlasting kindness and in particular for allowing us to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of our dear grandson Efraim Chaim, the son of our dear children Rav Betzalel and Elisheva Vogel. A hearty Mazel Tov to our beloved mechutanim, Dr. and Mrs. Heshy Jacob! A hearty Mazel Tov to my esteemed mother Mrs. Lila Vogel in New York! May Hashem continue to bestow His kindness upon us and upon all of the people of Israel!

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly

“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”

Parshas Noach

2017/5778

 

A Person’s Primary Obligation is to Perfect Himself

אלה תולדות נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדורותיו” (בראשית ו:ט)

“These are the descendants of Noach, Noach was a completely righteous man in his generations” (Bereishis 6:9)

The question begs to be asked, if the posuk tells us that it is about to list the descendants of Noach, why does it first list Noach’s personal qualities and only afterward the names of his children!? Rashi explains that this comes to teach us that the main descendants of the righteous are their own good deeds.

With G-d’s help we will try and understand this principle, and afterwards answer why this principle was taught regarding the deeds of Noach and not regarding the deeds of Avraham or Yitzchok or Yaakov or one of the shevatim!?

We can suggest as follows: if we would ask people what was the greatest thing Noach achieved in his lifetime, probably most people, if not all, would answer that he saved mankind from annihilation! Here the Torah teaches us that Noach gave something even greater than that! If you’ll ask, what could possibly be greater than saving mankind from annihilation!? The Torah answers that he “saved” himself from any type of repugnant behavior and expressed only exemplary behavior and good deeds.

This is the intention of our posuk “אלה תולדות נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדורותיו” / “These are the descendants of Noach, Noach was a completely righteous man in his generations” (Bereishis 6:9). Who are the descendants of Noach? Noach himself! “He was a completely righteous man” meaning that he and his good deeds were his main descendants!

The Torah adds the word “בדורותיו” / “in his generations”. What is this coming to teach us? It appears that it is coming to emphasize that in all of Noach’s 950 years, although he was of great benefit to his society as the Torah explains at the end of Parshas Bereishis that he invented the plow which not only revolutionized how they worked the ground but caused a complete change in the type of product which grew in the field as Rashi explains that the people would plant wheat and only thorns would grow and with Noach’s help all this changed so that when they planted wheat, the field produced wheat, and not thorns! Even though this too was exceedingly beneficial, it held only secondary value in the face of Noach’s accomplishments in his personal behavior!

Similar to this, we find in the Mishna (Avos 4:1): Who is a valiant person? One who overrides the influence of his evil inclination, as the posuk states“טוב ארך אפים מגבור ומושל ברוחו מלוכד עיר” / “Greater is one who expresses patience than a valiant person; and (greater is) one who rules his spirit than one who conquers a city” (Mishlei 16:32). The Malbim explains the meaning of“מושל ברוחו” that one’s spirit can be compared to a fortified city filled with a great number of soldiers of the evil inclination which are the source of all negative characteristics and behavior. If a person overcomes these thoughts created by the evil inclination even before they have a chance to affect him, he thus conquers this virtual city and is considered a greater and more valiant warrior than one who conquers an actual city with powerful armies, for as great as an accomplishment it may be, it stands outside of his personal world. Here too, similar to Noach, internal personal achievement is considered greater than the greatest of external achievements, even if one is of great benefit to the society he resides in!

We find an additional example of this principle in Megilas Ester. The posuk reads “וכל מעשה תקפו וגבורתו ופרשת גדלת מרדכי אשר גדלו המלך הלוא הם כתובים על ספר דברי הימים למלכי מדי ופרס. כי מרדכי היהודי משנה למלך אחשורוש וגדול ליהודים ורצוי לרב אחיו דרש טוב לעמו ודבר שלום לכל זרעו” / “The greatness of Achashverosh and of Mordechai… are recorded in the records of the kings of Madai and Paras (Persia). For Mordechai the Jew is second in power only to King Achashverosh and is the great leader of the Jewish people and is desired/respected by the majority of his brethren…” (Ester 10:2-3). Regarding that which it states “desired/respected by the majority of his brethren” and not “all his brethren”, Rashi, quoting the Gemora (16b), explains that some of his ” brethren”, meaning his fellow scholars of the high court, parted from him because was spending more time in public affairs and less time in the Beis Medrash. From here the Gemora concludes that Torah learning is greater than saving lives. The Megila emphasizes this lesson as well in the first posuk quoted above mentioning that the deeds of Mordechai were compared to the power and the greatness of King Achashverosh, and even so, because he slightly reduced the amount of time he dedicated to Torah learning, he was only “desired/respected” by “most” and not “all” of his fellow Torah scholars. Here again, we learn that personal accomplishments precede external ones – however great they may be!

In further review of the above principle that the main descendants of the righteous are their own good deeds, we can explain that although there is a mitzvah to raise children and to educate them to perform only good deeds, children don’t always go in the ways of their parents. And even if they do in general faithfully follow their parent’s guidance and direction, they are apt to falter from time to time or to act in a compromising manner. In short, a parent does not have full control over the behavior of his children. And so is true with a Rebbi and his students.

However, there is one person in the world one can educate and direct so that he will always walk down the path of the righteous and perform all his actions without lacking! That person is you! The person himself! This is the reason that the main descendants of the righteous are their own good deeds!

Behind this lies the reason why we cannot guarantee that others will do as we request, for this alerts us to the fact that our primary responsibility is not to complete others but to complete ourselves! This concept is eloquently expressed by the Rambam (in his commentary on the Mishna at the end of Mesechta Makos) in explanation of the statement of Rebbi Chananya Ben Akashya who says that Hakadosh Baruch Hu desired to bring merit to the Jewish people and therefore gave them a deep Torah and a large number of mitzvos as the posuk reads “ה’ חפץ למען צדקו יגדיל תורה ויאדיר” (Yishaya 42:21).

The Rambam states that one of the basic tenants of Torah is that when a person fulfills even one mitzvah of the 613 mitzvos as need be, and performs the mitzvah from love and with absolutely no personal interest; solely to fulfill Hashem’s will, he will merit to the reward of the World-to-Come. From here again we see the emphasis on the pure and whole accomplishments of the individual.

This is at it states regarding Shabbos “ביני ובין בני ישראל אות היא לעולם” / “Between Me and between the children of Israel it is an everlasting sign” (Shemos 31:17), teaching us that the main work of a person is between himself and G-d! That is, the “אות” / “sign” which Hashem desires to show His people is revealed to man when he develops a personal relationship with G-d, putting his personal performance of mitzvos above before all other involvements and accomplishments!

We are left to ask why the above lesson was taught regarding Noach and not regarding Avraham, for he too was a pure and righteous man as the posuk states “התהליך לפני והיה תמים” / “Walk before Me and you shall be complete” (Bereishis 17:1)!?

We can suggest with G-d’s help, that even though the main descendants of the righteous are their own actions, there is an even higher level which is found in Avraham and not in Noach. That is, that the child of the righteous person continues in his ways, and this we find by Avraham and not by Noach (with the exception of Shem and others). Thus, the principle that the main descendants of the righteous are their own good deeds is learned from Noach and not from Avraham, for Avraham reached a higher level as his son and generations followed in his path. This, as the posuk states regarding Avraham “כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו ואת ביתו אחריו ושמרו דרך ה’ לעשות צדקה ומשפט למען הביא ה’ על אברהם את אשר דבר עליו” (Bereishis 18:19).

In addition, Avraham had additional merit because his children followed in his ways as their merits were attributed to him, as the sages explain the above verse “למען הביא ה’ על אברהם את אשר דבר עליו” that it does not say “על בית אברהם” / “on the house of Avraham” meaning the descendants of Avraham but rather “על אברהם” / “on Avraham” himself, which teaches us that one who raises a righteous son is considered as though he never died, for the merits of the son are attributed to his father! Thus the above lesson of personal accomplishment was learned by Noach, for Avraham’s level greatly exceeded the level of Noach!

Marcheshvan 5777

Wishing you a nice Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creation and Destruction of Previous Worlds and How It Affects Us! – Bereishis 5778

It’s a New Year! A new start! A new chance! Pure, clean and close to Hakadosh Baruch Hu! Don’t let it go unused! Jump to the next level! Learn more Torah or be more diligent in the fulfillment of a particular mitzvah in a way that will have a clear and strong impact on your whole avodas Hashem! Within a few months you will feel like a different person! Guaranteed!

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”
Parshas Bereishis
2017/5778

Creation and Destruction of Previous Worlds and How It Affects Us!

“בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ” (בראשית א:א)

“At first, Hakadosh Baruch Hu created the heavens and the earth” (Bereishis 1:1)

The English translation is misleading for the posuk twice mentions the word“את”  and for this there is no given translation. What is this addition  meant to teach us? The word “את” usually suggests that there is an addition to that which is explicitly stated in the posuk. In addition, it may suggest that the addition is secondary to that which is explicitly stated. Accordingly, we can understand from the additions that there are other worlds that Hashem has created. And so say our sages (Bereishis Raba 9:2 and Medrash Zuta Koheles sec. 3) commenting on the posuk“את הכל עשה יפה בעתו” / “Everything He made right in its time” (Koheles 3:11). Rebbe Avahu learns from here that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created and destroyed worlds until He created our world. This world brings Me pleasure He said and these worlds do not!

We must ask, why did Hakadosh Baruch Hu first create and then destroy other worlds before creating our world, for He knows and sees the future and He could have bypassed the earlier creations and created our world at first!? We can suggest two main reasons for this:

(1)   In order that people should not come to the conclusion that our present world is of limited importance to G-d and that there are other worlds which are more significant to Him: either those which He has previously created and whose life-span has terminated or other worlds which presently exist alongside our world but are found in distant locations in the galaxy – beyond man’s ability to see or locate. And so the Torah states in Parshas Netzvim “כי  המצוה (היינו התורה) הזאת… לא בשמים היא… ולא מעבר לים… כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו” / “For this mitzva (the Torah) is not found in the heavens… and not beyond the seas… rather it is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it” (Devorim 30:11-14). Here the Torah explicitly states that the Torah and the world it is found in are not located in some far-away galaxy and are not hidden somewhere beyond the seas but they are here with us in our very world and the Torah is easily available for all to see and fulfill!

(2)   An alternate reason for the creation and destruction of other worlds is to serve as an example for us that if we do an action which is improper, we should not hesitate to “destroy” it, meaning to uproot it from our behavior and return to the right path! This is the concept of teshuva/repentance. With this we can understand that which the Torah states earlier in the above Parsha (ibid. 30:2) “ושבת עד ה'” / “And you shall return until Hashem”. It does not say “And you shall return to Hashem” but rather “And you shall return until Hashem”. Meaning, until you reach His ways and you walk in them!

Menachem Av 5777

The Blessing and the Sanctity of Shabbos are Revealed in the Mon/Heaven-Sent Bread

“ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי ויקדש אתו כי בו שבת מכל מלאכתו אשר ברא אלקים לעשות” (בראשית ב:ג)

“And G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it for in it He abstained from all His work which He created to do” (Bereishis 2:3)

What is the blessing of Shabbos and how is it sanctified? We find in the Medrash (Bereishis Raba 11:2) Rebbi Yishmael said the Shabbos was blessed with mon and is sanctified with the mon! Blessed with the mon for on each day one omer would be provided by Hashem for each person and on erev Shabbos Hashem provided two portions of mon for all. Hashem sanctified Shabbos through the mon for it did not descend on Shabbos. See the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh who says the above explanation is referring to that which is hinted to in the posuk but it does not explain the basic meaning of the posuk.

We can suggest an explanation as to why Rashi chose to explain that the posuk is referring to the mon and did not offer a simpler explanation of the words. That is, that the mon is not only referring to a future occurrence, but it represents the very essence of Shabbos! Meaning, the blessing which Hashem gave to Shabbos is that all the blessings given to this world are for the purpose of directing them to Shabbos. This is the wording of “שבת” / “Shabbos”, meaning to return. That is, all the blessings which Hashem gives to man during the weekdays are to be used in a manner which redirects them to Shabbos. The reason for this is that on Shabbos the Torah was given to the Jewish people and the kedusha of the Torah returns to the Jewish people every Shabbos. Therefore, directing the blessings to Shabbos means to fulfill the dictates of the Torah in all of one’s dealings in this material world during the weekdays!

What best teaches us this lesson? The mon! For it states regarding the mon,“ויהי ביום הששי לקטו לחם משנה” / “And it was on the sixth day (in the desert) they (the Jewish people) gathered a double portion of bread” (Shemos 16:22). Seeing this brought them to understand that the weekday is meant to prepare for Shabbos. Similarly, it states “ראו כי ה’ נתן לכם את השבת על כן הוא נותן לכם ביום הששי לחם יומים” / “See that Hashem has given you the Shabbos, therefore he gives to you on the sixth day bread for two days” (ibid. 16:29). There is a further hint to that which we mentioned above in the fact that regarding Shabbos the posuk states נתן לכם את השבת” in the past tense and regarding the weekdays the posuk reads נותן לכם ביום הששי” / “He gives to you on the sixth day” in the present tense. This teaches us that Shabbos is so blessed that it is entrenched in the fabric of creation whereas the weekdays need constant support. Accordingly, we learn that Rashi in his commentary was not dealing with the future alone but meant to explain to us the essence of Shabbos through the laws of the mon.

Regarding that which Rashi explained that the kedusha of Shabbos is explained by the fact that the mon did not descend on Shabbos, here also Rashi does not mean solely to the presence of the mon which will be revealed in the future, but also to teach us of the great holiness of the Shabbos. Meaning, because of its holiness, the mon, even though it was a spiritual-based food, could not be revealed on Shabbos. Here as well we see that explaining the kedusha of Shabbos through the mon was not intended to hint to the future alone, but to allude to the great holiness of Shabbos!

In summary, we can conclude that the blessing of Shabbos is that all the blessings and opportunities given to man in order to conduct his mundane affairs during the weekdays are to be directed to the holy Shabbos! In addition, these blessings, etc. are given to man through the Shabbos. However, the blessings of Shabbos, meaning that which is given through it to the weekdays, cannot be revealed on Shabbos for it is a completely holy day. This cannot be revealed for another reason and that is on Shabbos Hashem sends His blessings to the world and therefore on Shabbos the blessings cannot be revealed in the lower world for they are being accepted from a higher world.

Another possible reason for Rashi’s commentary is to hint to us that just as the generation of the desert merited to the mon by which they saw and felt Hashem’s Presence in their lives, so too in our generations, if we keep the laws of the holy Shabbos as required, we too will merit to see the guiding Hand of Hashem in our lives and in our affairs. Similar to this, the sages (Shabbos 118a) have said, One who fulfills the three festive meals of Shabbos will be saved from three very difficult times: (1) the difficulties which will precede the coming of the Moshiach (2) the punishment of Gehenom and (3) the loss and suffering at the time of the great war of Gog and Magog.

Tishrei 5778

Have a nice Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chag Shmini Atzeres 5778

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”
Chag Shmini Atzeres 2017/5778

Shmini Atzeres is an unusual chag! On the one hand, it is the eighth day of Succos as it states “וביום השמיני עצרת תהיה לכם” / “and in the eight day there shall be a stoppage to you” (Bamidbar 29:35). From here we learn that the kedusha of Shmini Atzeres stems from the sanctity of Succos! This is similarly stated in Vayikra 23:34-36 teaching us that Shmini Atzeres is an extension of Succos!

On the other hand, Shmini Atzeres is not similar to Succos in that the mitzvos of Suca and the four species do not apply to Shmini Atzeres. In addition, each holiday has a different set of sacrifices and there are other differences as well.

Now, the mitzva of simcha/joy is not written explicitly in the laws of Shmini Atzeres, rather the obligation to rejoice on Shmini Atzeres is learned from that which it states regarding the holiday of Succos “והיית אך שמח” / “and you shall be happy” (Devorim 16:15) where the word “אך” / “but” comes to include Shmini Atzeres. Now this statement is difficult to understand, for is not Shmini Atzeres called the “eight day” of Succos!? If so, we can say that just as in the first seven days of Succos there is a mitzva to rejoice, so too on the eighth day there is a mitzva to rejoice!?

In answer, we can suggest that the wording of the posuk in Parshas Emor”חג הסוכות שבעת ימים לה’. ביום הראשון מקרא קודש… ביום השמיני מקרא קודש” / “The holiday of Succos is seven days… and on the eighth day” teaches us that even though Shmini Atzeres is referred to as the eighth day of Succos, in reality there are only seven days to Succos and therefore Shmini Atzeres is excluded from the laws of Succos which include the mitzva to rejoice! In addition, we cannot add the mitzva of rejoicing to Shmini Atzeres by comparing it to the other holidays for it is not included in the comparisons between them (say the sages) as in all places the Torah only mentions three holidays – excluding Shmini Atzeres! From the above, we can conclude that an additional posuk or word is needed to include rejoicing on Shmini Atzeres!

In addition, regarding Shmini Atzeres the word “atzeres”/”a stoppage” is used and I would think that this word comes to teach us that we are to stop the mitzva of rejoicing upon the onset of Shmini Atzeres. Therefore, the Torah adds the word”אך” to teach us that just as on the seven days of Succos we are required to rejoice so too we are required to rejoice on the eight day!

From all the above, we are now aware of two facts and have two questions which need to be answered! The two facts are that there is a mitzva to rejoice on Shmini Atzeres and that this obligation is learned from Succos. The two questions are: One, what is the meaning of the word “עצרת” / “stoppage”? From what are we stopping? Two, why is the obligation to rejoice learned from Succos and not spelled out clearly regarding Shmini Atzeres itself?

Rashi, quoting the sages explains what is behind the holiday of Shmini Atzeres and from his explanation all our questions will hopefully be answered. He explains that the wording of “stoppage” is hinting to the love that Hakadosh Baruch Hu has for the Jewish people. When Succos comes to an end and He sees the Jewish people packing their belongings to return from the Beis Hamikdash to their homes throughout Eretz Yisrael, he reaches out to them as a father reaches out to a child who has come for a short visit and is now headed home and asks the Jewish people to stay with him just one more day. Hakadosh Baruch Hu then invites them to a small dinner he is preparing for them alone.

From the above we learn that the “stoppage” is not one of limitation, but just the opposite, it is a time of an outpouring of love for the Jewish people which greatly enhances the joy of the day! However, according to this, that the simcha of Shmini Atzeres is greater than the simcha of Succos, why it learned from the simcha of Succos; just the opposite should be true, that the mitzva to rejoice on Succos should be learned from Shmini Atzeres!? Also, we still need to understand in general why there is no mention of rejoicing of Shmini Atzeres!?

We can suggest, with G-d’s help, that simcha is not mentioned in the pesukim regarding Shmini Atzeres for the simcha of Shmini Atzeres is dependent on the simcha of Succos. That is, on Succos the priests sacrificed 70 bulls representing the seventy nations of the world. Now, even though the number and the order of the sacrifices hinted to the redemption of the Jewish people from their servitude to and dependency upon the nations, the simcha of Succos cannot be a complete simcha because of its very involvement with the riddance of the influence of the nations. Thus, on one hand, there is great simcha during Succos, and on the other hand, it is an incomplete simcha. This is the purpose of Shmini Atzeres, a time of simcha disattached to the nations and their influence upon us. However, its simcha is only derived from the work of Succos so the obligation to rejoice is derived from there. With this answer we can well understand why the Torah chose to add the mitzva of simcha to Shmini Atzeres using the word “אך” which usually means to exclude, for here the addition of simcha came through the exclusion of the simcha of Succos which was incomplete being intertwined with the influence of the nations.

From the above we learn that the simcha of Shmini Atzeres is a pure simcha, untainted by the influences of this world. The Sefas Emes says that Shmini Atzeres is the World-to-Come itself! On Shmini Atzeres, a G-d fearing Jew can see Hakadosh Baruch Hu as the Jews saw Him in His Majesty at the time of the crossing of the Red Sea. (Therefore, there too, the seventh day of Pesach, the day the Jewish people crossed the sea, is also referred to in the Torah as “עצרת”!)

From here we can understand why we celebrate and rejoice over the Torah on Shmini Atzeres, for it is a day disattached to this world and so too the Torah itself and its learning remain forever unattached to this world, keeping it eternally in a state of purity. The Torah is the soul of the mitzvos which we are obligated to fulfill in this world and so it remains eternally pure just as man’s soul is eternally pure as we say each morning, “The soul which You have given me is pure”! Thus the simcha of Shmini Atzeres is the proper time to rejoice in the Torah! While during Succos we rejoice through the various mitzvos of the Chag for that is the time of simcha while connected to the actions of this world.

An additional reason why the obligation to rejoice is not mentioned regarding Shmini Atzeres is because it is a time of close connection between Hashem and the Jewish people as Rashi explained and it is not fitting that the nations of the world should be aware of this close connection. This is similar to the law that one shall not walk in front of a person while he is davening shmone esrei because at that point in time he is connected in spirit to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and one shall not interrupt that connection!

An additional reason why the mitzva to rejoice on Shmini Atzeres is not mentioned explicitly is that Shmini Atzeres falls on the eighth day after seven days of Succos which is parallel to the eighth day after the seventh week before the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Just as there the main purpose of the day was to receive the Torah, so too here the main purpose of Shmini Atzeres is the accepting anew of the Torah and thus the mitzva to rejoice is learned from Succos.

Chol Hamoed Succos 5778

May we merit to take advantage of this very special and close connection with Hakadosh Baruch Hu on Shmini Atzeres and to rejoice with a pure simcha which will imbed this closeness into our souls in a manner in which we will be able to continue to derive benefit from it during all the days of the year!

Good Yomtov

Yona Vogel

Scach/Succah Covering: Its Material and its Purpose – Sukkos 5778

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays”

Chag HaSuccos
2017/5778

Scach/Succah Covering: Its Material and its Purpose

The Torah writes in Parshas Re’eh “חג הסוכות תעשה לך… באספך ומיקבך” / “You shall make for yourself Chag HaSuccos… from your gathering from your storehouse of grains and from your winery” (Devorim 16:13). Rashi explains that from here we learn that to cover the Succah with the branches and residue which remain from the preparation of grains and wine.

Now, these laws only apply to the scach, whereas the walls of the Succah may be made of any material. This needs explanation, for the walls as well are a necessary part of the Succah!?

In answer of the above question, we can suggest, with G-d’s help, that the four walls of the Succah represent the four sides of this world, while the scach placed on top of the Succah represents the upper, spiritual world. The idea behind Succos is creating a mind-set and as much of a physical reality as possible of leaving the confines of this world, with its imperfections, its spiritual defilement and its temporality, and to connect with a higher, more spiritual world, one embossed with holiness, purpose and permanence. Therefore, no importance is given to the walls of the Succah and thus they can be made of any material one desires. On the other hand, because the scach represents the higher world and this is our focus on Succos, it can only be made of materials which can help man connect to his Creator above.

This is the meaning of the word Succah – to look towards an upper world. And so we find that the Torah calls Sarah Imeinu “יסכה” / “Yisca” (Bereishis 11:29) and Rashi explains, that she was called so because she was blessed with the ability to see (סוכה) with great spiritual awareness!

Now, from the fact that the Torah instructs us to bring scach from leftover branches and residue from the field we learn that even the scach itself lacks importance. The reason for this is that the purpose of the Succah is to separate us from the lackings of this world, as mentioned above, as one’s soul which has just been purified on Yom Kippur desires to reconnect with its Creator and Master above without the interfering dividers found in this world, and even the scach, which has the most minimal connection to this world, stands between one’s soul and Hashem above. However, the scach is necessary, for all the while the soul is trapped in a body it cannot completely disconnect from this world. Therefore, although the scach is necessary, its material is limited to the simplest and most insignificant of materials found in this world.

From the above, we can better understand the three main conditions the Torah made for permissible scach: (1) that it should not be from a man-made vessel (2) that it should be made of that which grows from the earth, and (3) that it should not be used while it is still connected to the ground. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Siman 629:1). The reasons for the above limitations are as follows: (1) a man-made vessel is restricted for it has the possibility of becoming impure and this is in direct contradiction with the world above which is and can only be completely pure. In addition, a vessel is a product of man and Succos represents man’s complete submission to the Will of the upper world, (2) the scach needs to be from vegetation, so that one’s uprooting of the vegetation from the ground shows an uprooting of the influences of this world, (3) the scach must not be connected to the ground while it rests on the Succah for it signifies a connection with this lower world.

We still need to understand why the Torah specified to bring the scach from the residue of the preparation of bread and wine?

It appears that we can explain as follows: Grains and especially wheat add intelligence to a person as the sages explain (Brachos 40a) that a child does not know how to call his parents by name until he tastes a dish made from grains. And regarding the drinking of wine the posuk states ויין ישמח לבב אנוש”” / “and wine makes a person happy” (Tehillim 104:15). That is, the Torah specified these two materials to teach us that the mitzvah of Succos fills a person with intelligence or wisdom and happiness. (The truth is that wisdom and happiness go together, for a person who has wisdom has happiness, as the posuk states פיקודי הי ישרים משמחי לב”” / “The laws of Hashem are straight and bring happiness to one’s heart” (ibid 19:9).

The addition of wisdom a person receives on Succos is expressed in the posuk “למען ידעו דורותיכם כי בסוכות הושבת את בני ישראל בהוציאי אותם מארץ מצרים” / “So that your generations will know that I housed Bnei Yisrael in succos when I took them out of the land of Egypt” (Vayikra 23:43). And regarding the addition of simcha in Succos the posuk states “ושמחת בחגיך” / “And you shall rejoice in your holiday” (Devorim 16:14) and it adds “והיית אך שמח” / “and you shall be happy” (ibid 16:15) which teaches us that Hashem has imbued the holiday of Succos with great simcha to which a person merits when he fulfills the mitzvah of Succah as required!

Elul 5777

May we merit to fulfill the mitzvah of Succah as required and thereby merit to the additional wisdom and happiness which Hashem has prepared for all those who do so! And by doing so we merit as well to internalize the great achievements and purity of Yom Kippur.

Wishing you an enjoyable and inspiring Yom Tov!

Yona Vogel

The Source of Yom Kippur to Atone and Purify – Yom Kippur 5778

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly
“To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos and the Holidays
Yom Kippur
2017/5778

The Source of Yom Kippur to Atone and Purify

“כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם מכל חטאתיכם” (ויקרא טז:ל)

“For on this day He will bring you atonement to purify you from all your unintentional sins” (Vayikra 16:30)

How powerful is the day of Yom Kippur, as it brings atonement upon the person and purifies him and uproots his unintentional sins from his heart as though had he never sinned!

What is the source Yom Kippur’s great power?

We can learn the secret of Yom Kippur’s strength from that which is written regarding the punishment allotted to the people of Sedom and Amora. There it states “וה’ המטיר על סדום… גפרית ואש מאת ה'” / “And Hashem rained on Sedom… fire from Hashem” (Bereishis 19:24). Now, the name G-d mentioned in this posuk refers to His characteristic of mercy, meaning that the punishment of the people of Sedom was meeted out with this Name. From here we learn that so great were the sins of Sedom and Amora that they altered the characteristic of mercy to that of strict law and punishment.

Now, the sages have taught us that Hashem rewards a person for his good deeds in a much greater degree than he meets out punishment to those who transgress His word. Now, on Yom Kippur, a Jew not only guards himself not to transgress any of Hashem’s commandments and looks to fulfill the positive commandments he is obligated to perform, but as well he refrains from all work and submits his personal interests before the holy work of the day of Yom Kippur. In addition, he prevents himself from partaking of the most basic pleasures and even necessities such as eating and drinking, and takes upon himself to repent for all his sins and to return to Hashem with a full heart and a full soul. All this leads to a complete submission to Hashem’s will, reducing the standing of the individual to no more than a dedicated servant – without self-interests and almost without a self!

Through all the above, the Jewish people reach such a lofty spiritual level where they impact the decisions of the heavenly court – until they cause the characteristic of strict judgment to turn into mercy, bringing upon themselves atonement and purification!

Cheshvan 5776

Three Stages of Atonement and Purification on Yom Kippur

“כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם מכל חטאותיכם לפני ה’ תטהרו” (ויקרא טז:ל)

“For on this day He will bring you atonement to purify you from all your unintentional sins; you shall be purified before Hashem” (Vayikra 16:30)

From the wording of the posuk it appears that there are three stages in the process of purification on Yom Kippur: (1) “יכפר עליכם” / “He will bring atonement upon you” (2) “לטהר אתכם” / “to purify you” and (3) “לפני ה’ תטהרו” / “you shall be purified before Hashem”.

(1) “יכפר עליכם” / “He will bring atonement upon you”. The idea of atonement is to remove from the person the responsibility for the sinful act. And so explains Rashi (Yishaya 47:11) that the meaning of כפרה / atonement in all places is removal. And here we suggest that we are referring to the removal of the sin until it is no longer associated with that person.

(2) “לטהר אתכם” – to purify you”. Here we are dealing with the removal of the actual stain which penetrated a person’s heart and soul as a result of his sin. This is the idea of purification as it states “מי יתן טהור מטמא” / “Who will create pure from impure” (Eyov 14:4) and in our case we are dealing with the removal of the impure effects of the sin, revealing the pure soul man was created with.

(3) “לפני ה’ תטהרו” – “you shall be purified before Hashem”. The wording teaches us that at this stage Hashem returns the person to his original state of closeness to Hashem in which he stood before he sinned. That is the meaning of “לפני ה‘” / “before Hashem”. With this last stage, the purification process is complete!

Upon examination of the order of the service of the high priest on Yom Kippur, it appears that there as well there are three main stages of service which correspond to the three stages of purification mentioned above.

In the first stage, the high priest he enters the Holy of Holies and the posuk reads“ונתן את הקטרת על האש לפני ה’ וכסה ענן הקטרת את הכפרת… ולקח מדם הפר והזה באצבעו על פני הכפרת קדמה”” / “And he places the incense on the fire… and the cloud is smoke covered the Kapores…” (Vayikra 16:13-14). “כפרת” / “Kapores” means as well atonement and this is parallel to “יכפר עליכם” / “He will bring you atonement”.

The high priest then exits the Holy of Holies (after a second offering) and sprinkles blood on the curtain in the Hechal. In the Heichal stands the Menorah which the Torah calls “את המנורה הטהורה” / “the holy Menorah” (Shemos 39:37) and this is parallel to the second stage of purification “לטהר אתכם” / “to purify you”.

The third stage of the service on Yom Kippur is to send the designated goat which carries on its back all the unintentional sins of the Jewish people to its demise from the heights of a steep mountain in the desert. The sages explain in the Mishna (Shabbos 9:3) from where do we know that we are obligated to tie a reddish-dyed ribbon on the head of the sent-goat? For the Navi (Yishaya 1:18) says “אם יהיו חטאיכם כשנים כשלג ילבינו” / “If your sins are red, they will whiten as (the color of) snow”. The Rav Bartenura explains that they would tie half of the red ribbon to the head of the goat and the other half to the rock from which he was thrown, and when the goat was thrown below the ribbon on the rock would turn white and they would know that their sins were atoned for! This is parallel to the third stage of purification “לפני ה’ תטהרו” / “you shall become purified before Hashem”. With this, the process of purification was completed and all the sins of the Jewish people were erased and they became once again the beloved children of Hashem. Regarding this the posuk states “בנים אתם לה’ אלקיכם” / “You are children of the L-rd your G-d” (Devorim 14:1).

Tishrei 5778

The Mitzvah of Teshuva

There are different opinions regarding the number of stages in the Teshuva process, but in essence all agree to the fundamental stages of Teshuva.

The Vilna Gaon explains on the posuk “מְכַסֶּה פְשָׁעָיו לֹא יַצְלִיחַ וּמוֹדֶה וְעֹזֵב יְרֻחָם” / “One who covers over his sins will not be successful; one who admits (to them) and leaves them will receive Hashem’s mercy” (Mishle 28:13) that there are four stages in the Teshuva process:

(1) עזיבת החטא the leaving of the sin (2) וידוי – oral confession (3) חרטה – regret (4) וקבלה שלא לעשות עוד – accepting upon oneself never to repeat his sin. The Gra learns the above four stages from the following posuk “שׁוּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד ה’ אֱלֹקיךָ כִּי כָשַׁלְתָּ בַּעֲוֹנֶךָ. קְחוּ עִמָּכֶם דְּבָרִים וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל ה’… אֲשֶׁר בְּךָ יְרֻחַם יָתוֹם” (Hoshea 14:2-4).

(1) “שובה ישראלThe first stage is to leave the sin just as one returns an item which he has stolen. The second stage is “עד ה‘” which refers to regret as it states in the Zohar that the heart, from which regret stems, is closer than all to Hashem. The third stage is oral confession as it states “קחו עמכם דברים” and the fourth stage is accepting upon oneself never to repeat the sin again. Against this last stage the posuk says “שובו אל ה‘”. After completing this process, the person will merit that which is stated at the end of the posuk “אשר בך ירוחם יתום” – meaning that Hashem will have mercy upon you as one has mercy on an orphan.

Rebbeinu Yona says there are three stages in the Teshuva process, and all three stages are included in the posuk “ומודה ועוזב ירוחם” / “one who admits and leaves (his sin) will receive Hashem’s mercy”. The stages are 1. Regret 2. Oral confession 3. A lasting leaving of the sin. The first two stages are included in the word “מודה” for one who admits shows remorse and regret.

From the wording of the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (2:2-3) it appears that he lists five stages of Teshuva: 1. To leave the sin 2. To remove it from one’s thoughts 3. To decide in his heart never to repeat the sin 4. To show regret for his sin and 5. To orally state that which he has decided in his heart.

Now, the first two stages of regret and oral confession are relatively easy to fulfill. The third stage of accepting upon oneself never to repeat his sin is quite a difficult chore. To accomplish this one needs to gather all his strength and push off all negative forces in his life and declare with a complete heart that he will never repeat this sin as long as he lives.

If this is impossible, one should accept upon himself this obligation for a limited time period and when that period is completed he should receive the obligation upon himself for another few months, for example, and so on until he gains the strength to completely uproot his desire to sin.

The Imrei Yechezkel advises that this approach can be used even if one is not ready to completely remove himself from the sin. For instance, if he has trouble controlling his eyes, he can try and exercise control over them for a couple of times a day and repeat this process daily until he eventually reaches the stage where he is in complete control of his eyes.

Tishrei 5778

Wishing you an easy fast and may all our sins be atoned for and may Hashem in His mercy purify our souls and bring us close to Him “as in the days of old”!

Yona Vogel

To Stir the Mind and to Light up Shabbos and Yom Tov – Rosh Hashanah 5778

As it is a custom to ask for forgiveness from all those one has wronged over the past year, now and before Yom Kippur, I hereby ask forgiveness from all those I may have pained in any manner! For my benefit, and as a manner of behavior to all those who are ready to forgive, it is best to verbalize the forgiveness and say simply “I forgive you”!

 

If you can, please print out a number of copies of this issue and place them in your shul so that others can benefit from the articles as well. Through this you will be a partner in the dissemination of the words of Torah – a Mitzvah worthy of generating Hashem’s mercy! Thank you!

 

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly

“To Stir the Mind and to Light up Shabbos and Yom Tov”!

Rosh Hashana

2017/5778

 

A Small Step toward Repentance Opens up Wide Gates of Repentance

The Torah writes “ושב ה’ את שבותך ורחמיך” / “And He will return your repentance and have mercy upon you” (Devorim 30:3).The wording suggests that teshuva/repentance is in Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s hands? Is this so!? Did not the posuk just state above “ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך” / “return/repent until the Lor-d your G-d”, saying that not G-d but man is obligated through his own efforts to rid himself of his evil ways and repent.

It appears that the Torah is teaching us as follows: On one hand, it is the responsibility of the individual to initiate an act of teshuva/repentance. However, because his soul has been blemished with the negative effects of his sin, he lacks the ability to complete his teshuva and reach”עד ה’ אלקיך” / “until the L-rd your G-d”. Therefore, “ושב ה’ את שבותך” / “And Hashem will take your repentance and raise it toward Him and complete it for the person”. All this with abundant mercy, as the posuk continues “ורחמך”; for without Hashem’s great mercy we will not be able to complete our teshuva.

With this we can understand the meaning of “ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך” / “And return until Hashem your G-d”. Is it possible for a person to raise himself “until Hashem”!? Through his own efforts, no! However, to understand the intention of the posuk we should read it with pauses between the words as follows: A person is obligated to reach the stage of “ושבת עד” / “And you shall repent until”, meaning to do his maximum. From that point onward “ה’ אלקיך” / “Hashem your G-d will raise up your teshuva” “עד” / “until” it reaches the source of teshuva which sits at the place of Hashem’s holy throne. All this with great mercy!

With this we can understand the apparent repetition in the posuk”טוב ה’ לכל ורחמיו על כל מעשיו” / “Hashem is good to all and affords His mercy to all of His creations” (Tehillim 145:9). Is His mercy not included in the “good” He gives “to all”!? If so, why add it!? In answer, we can suggest that the wording “Hashem is good to all” teaches us that Hashem opens the door of teshuva for each and every individual, allowing him through his own efforts to return to Hashem. This is true “good” – the effort a person puts forth to help himself, as the posuk states”החיים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים” / “the life and the death I have placed in front of you; the blessing and the curse, and you shall choose life” (Devorim 30:19). The addition of “ורחמיו על כל מעשיו” / “and He affords His mercy to all of His creations” teaches us that Hakadosh Baruch Hu grabs hold of a person’s teshuva and with abundant mercy raises it until it reaches Hashem himself, so to say – “עד ה’ אלקיך”!

The sages teach us (Menachos 29b) that the above principle is hinted to in the structure of the letter heh. That is, Hakadosh Baruch Hu opened an additional opening in the letter between its left leg and its roof showing through this His intention to help a person who accepts upon himself to do teshuva. The Gemora asks, why can’t the person return to Hashem through the opening at the bottom of the letter heh? The sages answer that it is too difficult for a person to retrace his steps in his repentance, rather he needs help in his teshuva and Hashem helps him and this is expressed in the additional opening at the side of the heh. The opening is toward the top of the heh hinting to the fact that Hashem helps the person rise upward from his sin and reach the gates of repentance.

And so we find in the Medrash (Shir Hashirim 5:3) on the posuk “אני ישנה ולבי ער קול דודי דופק פתחי לי” … / “I (the soul) am sleeping and my heart is awake, the voice of my Beloved (Hakadosh Baruch Hu) knocks – open for me…” (Hashirim 5:2) Hakadosh Baruch Hu says to the Jewish people “open for me” an opening of teshuva, even an opening as small as the eye of a needle, and I will open for you very large openings that even wagons and cattle can pass through. That is, Hakadosh Baruch Hu only asks from the Jewish people to show a sign of teshuva and He will take this sign and turn it into a powerful act of teshuva.

This principle is expressed as well in the statement brought in Tana dbei Eliyahu Raba (25) that each and every Jewish person is obligated to say, “When will my actions reach the level of the actions of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov”. The Sefas Emes asks rhetorically, is it possible for each and every person to reach the level of the Avos!? He explains rather that one should not translate “to reach” but rather “to touch”. Meaning, it is only incumbent on each and every individual to “touch” the acts of our forefathers and through this it will be considered as though one actually reached their level! And so says the Tiferes Yehonason on the posuk”ושב ה’ אלקיך” that the main act of teshuva will be done by Hakadosh Baruch Hu, only it is upon the individual to begin the process as its states פתחו לי / “open for me” an opening of teshuva the size of the eye of a needle and I will open up for you the large gates of teshuva. This is the meaning of ו”שב ה” / “And Hashem will return…” – He will accept your humble initial act of teshuva and will help you to complete your teshuva.

For this reason Hakadosh Baruch Hu surrounds us with mitzvos such as Tefillin, Mezuzos, Tsitsis, Bris Mila and Shabbos for they remind us of our obligations to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and to repent before Him for our wrongdoings and Hashem will take the teshuva which begins to stir in our hearts and turn it into a powerful force of teshuva as above. In addition, and following this rule, this small reminder will lead us to great actions!

Regarding our topic, I saw a wonderful dvar Torah in which Rav A. Y. Erentrau shlita brought in the name of Rebbi Yeruchem (Da’as Chochma and Mussar sec. 1 article 76) that although the functioning of the world is based on the principle of cause and effect, there is in actuality very little connection between the cause and the effect. For example, one seed planted in the ground can develop into a sampling and then into a tree which grows numerous branches on which grow numerous fruit and in each and every fruit there are numerous seeds. The above is not simply an expression of the laws of nature, rather Hakadosh Baruch Hu has created a world based on cause and effect where the incredible growth which emanates from a small seed implanted deep within the ground teaches us of Hashem’s hand in Nature. Similarly, regarding the development of man; from a small and seemingly insignificant seed develops a person whose body is made up of ingenious and incredibly complicated life supporting systems and whose mind can connect with the Creator! And so it is regarding the existence of man, as a small breath and a small bite to eat has a phenomenal effect on the body.

The above principle that a small action has the potential to bring about magnanimous results is expressed as well in the posuk “והתקדשתם והייתם קדשים” / “and you shall act holy and you will be holy” (Vayikra 11:44). The sages explain (Yoma 39a) the double wording teaches us that when a person does even one holy act, Hashem brings great holiness upon the person; when he sanctifies himself below, Hashem sanctifies him above; when he sanctifies himself in this world, Hashem will sanctify him in the next world! That is, the word והתקדשתם” refers to man’s efforts and “והייתם קדשים” refers to Hashem’s response.

If you’ll ask, what is the logic behind the above principle? The answer is that all existence in this world receives its life force from its source in the Heavens. Thus, when a person does even the smallest action in this world, he arouses the power found in the source of his existence. Therefore, the effect of his small action is not measured by the size and the merit of the action alone but by the source of its existence – which is vast for it sits in a world not bound by the limitations of this world. From this we can understand on one hand the great responsibility one has to guard his actions and on the other hand that even the smallest act of teshuva can connect a person with the very source of teshuva leading to the complete upheaval of one’s connection to all evil.

The above idea I saw as well in the Shlah Hakodesh (The Gate of the Letters, letter yud, yetzer tov) in the name of the Reishis Chochma (The Gate of Fear, end of 4th chapter) that when a person does a physical mitzvah and it appears to him to be a relatively unimportant act, he should know that in Hashem’s eyes it is considered as a great act for when one does a physical act he awakens its spiritual source above, and spirituality has no limits. Therefore, the sages have taught to us that one who does a physical action down below in this world will merit to great reward above. He then quotes the Chovos Halevuvos who says that a person should not belittle any of his actions for that which appears to be without significance is actually filled with great significance and reward!

From here we can understand that which Rebbi Yaakov states that there is no reward for mitzvos in this world (Kedushin 39b) rather a person will receive reward for his mitzvos in the World-to-Come. That is, this world, limited by its laws, cannot contain the holy light which is created by each and every Mitzvah. As so wrote the Chasam Sofer (Devorim 12:28). And thus it is written “מה רב טובך אשר צפנת ליראיך” / “How great is Your good that You have hidden for Your fearful ones” (Tehillim 31:20), “hidden” in the World-to-Come!

The above principle is already mentioned at the beginning of Creation as at first the Torah states “בראשית ברא אלקים” / “At first G-d created” and the name “אלקים” refers to strict justice, while in the second story of Creation, the Torah states “ביום עשות ה’ אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ” / “In the day Hashem your G-d created the Heavens and the Earth” (Bereishis 2:4) which adds G-d’s name of mercy. Rashi explains that Hashem’s name of mercy was added to teach us the above, that with justice alone man will not be able to achieve his goal. Thus, as above, man is expected to make the first step through an act of justice and Hashem will then raise the person toward Him with a wind of abundant mercy!

And so will be in the end of days, from one small, seemingly insignificant bone Hashem will recreate the whole of man! May we reach that day shortly!

Elul 5777

Wishing you a healthy, happy and successful New Year!

Yours,

Yona Vogel