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

The Purpose of Creation: Revelation of Hashem’s Hidden Presence – Netzavim/Vayeilech 5777

If you can, please print out a number of copies and place them in your shul so that others can benefit from the articles as well. Through this you will become a partner in the dissemination of the words of Torah! Thank you!

 

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly

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

Parshas Netzavim/Vayeilech

2017/5777

 

The Purpose of Creation: Revelation of Hashem’s Hidden Presence

“הנסתרות לה’ אלקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת” (דברים כט:כח)

“The hidden things are with Hashem our G-d and the revealed (parts of the Torah) are for us and our children forever to fulfill all of the words of this Torah” (Devorim 29:28)

We have already discussed the difficulty in this passage, that if“הנסתרות לה’ אלקינו” / “The hidden things are with Hashem our G-d”, meaning that they are not within our grasp of our understanding and responsibility, why is it necessary for the Torah to tell us this, as the Torah is a guidebook for man to fulfill his obligations!?

It appears that we can explain, with G-d’s help, as follows: Although G-d created the world and in doing so He showed the world a sampling of His great powers, He left His Presence hidden. Thus, He created the world with the name “אלקים” as it states“בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ” / “At first Elokim created the heavens and the earth” which represents G-d’s creation of a world limited and guided by a set of laws referred to as nature, while hiding the Source of these laws.

However, we must ask, if G-d’s will is that His creations should recognize Him and the good He bestows upon the world, why did He “hide” Himself inside His creation!?

The commentators explain that He did so in order that the efforts a person puts forth to search for Hashem in the world and in his personal life bring him eternal spiritual reward that he would not have been able to achieve if Hashem had outwardly revealed Himself to man. And how does man reveal Hashem’s presence in the world? Through the learning of His Torah and fulfillment of its mitzvos!

With this, we can understand the reading and the meaning of“הנסתרות לה’ אלקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם”. That is, through the fulfillment of Hashem’s mitzvos which are “והנגלות לנו ולבנינו” / “the revealed (parts of the Torah) are for us and our children” we bring about the revelation of the hidden parts of the Torah and the Presence of Hashem in the world.

This is as it’s written in the story of Creation “וירא אלקים… כי טוב” / “and Hashem saw that it is good and complete”. That is, the true “good”, meaning the possibility of the revelation of Hashem, is found in every single strand of Creation! From the above we learn that the learning of Torah and the fulfillment of its mitzvos cast a spiritual light on the world which allow man to see the Hand of Hashem behind the Creation and the running of the world! This is as we find in Chagiga (12a) Rebbi Elazar said the light that Hashem created on the first day of creation, man used it to see from one side of the world to the other. Since Hashem saw that future generations would stray from Hashem’s ways, He hid this light from them. For whom did He hide this light? For the righteous people who will live at the end of days.

The commentaries explain that even though the Gemora tells us that this spiritual light was hidden until the end of days when it will be revealed to the righteous, the righteous of each generation are able to connect to some extent with this light and see deeply into the spiritual recesses of this world. Now, since this spiritual light emanates from the Holy Torah, we too, through sincere and concentrated effort to learn the Torah and to full its mitzvos for Hashem’s sake will merit to see with this hidden light! And with this we can see Hashem’s hand in the world!

Nissan 5777

Receiving Hashem’s Blessings: It May Create a Need to Repent!!

והיה כי יבואו עליך כל הדברים האלה הברכה והקללה אשר נתתי לפניך והשיבות אל לבבך בכל הגוים אשר הדיחך ה’ אלקיך שמה. ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך…” (דברים ל:א))

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have given before you, and you will return to your heart while you are in the midst of all the nations to which Hashem your G-d has cast you to there. And you shall repent and return to the Lor-d your G-d…” (Devorim 30:1-2)

The wording is difficult to understand! While I can recognize the need to do teshuva for those actions which bring upon a person a “curse”, meaning a punishment from Hashem, but why would a person have to repent for receiving Hashem’s “blessing“!? Apparently, the opposite would be expected of man, to recognize that the blessing he received comes from Hashem and to thank Him for it!?

We can learn the answer to our question from the latter words in our posuk “והשיבות אל לבבך בכל הגוים אשר הדיחך ה’ אלקיך שמה” / “and you will return to your heart while you are in the midst of all the nations to which Hashem your G-d has cast you there”. That is, it is referring to Jews who live amongst the nations and who have received Hashem’s blessings of good health, sustenance, etc. Why do these people need to repent!? For they ignored the fact that living among the nations is not a blessing but a curse. From here we learn that a blessing given not into proper place is actually a curse. (Maybe this was the intent behind Balak’s advice to Bilaam to move to “another place” (Bamidbar 23:13, 27) in order to curse the Jewish people). And this is the idea of a mitzvah which stems from a sin which is considered a sin, even though in actuality a mitzvah was performed.

From here, those who live amongst the goyim are not truly living with blessing, but quite the opposite, and it is upon them to fulfill the words of our posuk “and you will return to your heart while you are in the midst of all the nations to which Hashem your G-d has cast you to there. And you shall repent and return to the Lor-d your G-d…” and return to Eretz Yisrael, regarding which it is written“ארץ אשר ה’ אלקיך דורש אותה תמיד עיני ה’ אלקיך בה מרשית השנה עד אחרית שנה” / “A land which the Lor-d your G-d searches it continuously; the eyes of the Lor-d your G-d are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devorim 11:12).

This is the meaning of “ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך” / “And you shall repent and return to the Lor-d your G-d…” as the sages explain (Kesubos 110b) that one who lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is considered as though he lives without a G-d…  and it is upon him to return to Eretz Yisrael – to Hashem his G-d!

Elul 5777


The Gift of Teshuva is Given from the Merciful Heart of the Ruler of the World

“ושבת עד האלקיך… ושב האלקיך את שבותך ורחמך…” (דברים ל:ב-ג)

“And you shall repent and return until Hashem your G-d… and Hashem your G-d shall return your repentance and have mercy on you” (Devorim 30:1-2)

The posuk seems to be teaching us that although an individual repents and returns to Hashem in fulfillment of “ושבת עד ה’ אלקיך“, from the following words in the posuk “ושב ה’ אלקיך את שבותך ורחמך” / “and Hashem your G-d shall return your repentance and have mercy on you” it appears that this repentance alone is insufficient in order to raise the person back to where he stood before he sinned, but that he is in need of Hashem’s merciful help to fully correct himself.

And so we find that even one who is clean of sin is unable to combat the evil inclination without Hashem’s help as the sages teach us (Kedushin 30b) Rebbi Yitzchok said a person’s evil inclination assaults him anew each and every day as the posuk states “רק רע כל היום” / “only bad all the day” (Bereishis 6:5). Rebbi Yehoshua the son of Levi said a person’s evil inclination overcomes him anew each and every day and looks for the opportunity to kill him as it states “צופה רשע לצדיק ומבקש להמיתו” / “The wicked one waits (in ambush) of a righteous person and desires to kill him” (Tehillim 37:32) and if not for the fact that Hashem helps him, he would not be able to push off the evil inclination (meaning he would succumb to his pleadings and fall to sin and be subject to the resulting punishment). And so the posuk states“אלקים לא יעזבנו בידו”  / “Hashem will not leave him (the righteous person) in his (the evil inclination’s) hands” (ibid 37:33).

The sages are referring to a righteous person who has not yet sinned and even so needs Hashem’s help to ward off the attacks of the evil inclination. However, in our posuk we are dealing with a person who has sinned and has now decided to repent and to uproot his attachment to the sin and its negative residue and he is need of much more help than the protection needed for one who has not yet sinned, and therefore surely he is in need of Hashem’s merciful Hand to help him complete his repentance until the original sin and its effects are completely erased!

This can be compared to a person wearing a clean white shirt who is standing next to a bottle of black ink. Right now, he has only to watch that the ink does not spill on his shirt. However, here as well he needs heavenly assistance so that he, accidently, or another person even maliciously, doesn’t spill the ink on him. However, if the ink has already spilled onto his shirt causing a deep-seated stain, he will not be able to remove the stain without the help of a specially prepared chemical mixture formulated to remove difficult stains.

And so it is regarding spiritual stains, called sins! Before a person sins, he has to be careful not to sin and thereby stain his soul. To accomplish this, he also needs Hashem’s help and guidance. However, once one sins and by doing so imbeds a spiritual stain deep into his soul, in order to remove the stain he is in need of a great amount of heavenly help! But even in this case, if he sincerely wants to change his ways and rid himself of his sins  and its effects, Hashem will help him as we mentioned above, and as the prophet Yishaya states לכו נא ונוכחה יאמר ה“אם יהיו חטאיכם כשנים, כשלג ילבינו, אם יאדימו כתולע כצמר יהיו” / “Go and see said Hashem, if your sins will be (as red) as scarlet, they will be whitened as snow; if they are red as a worm, they will be (whitened) as wool” (Yishaya 1:18).

The above is quite logical, for a person who sins and falls spirituality limits his ability to attach himself to spiritually. Therefore, even if he manages to raise himself to the point of teshuva, it does not mean that he can return himself to his original level of holiness.

A proof of this is the case of Adam Harishon. After he sinned, even though he repented before Hashem for 130 years, he did not merit to return back to Gan Eden as its written“ויגרש את האדם וישכן מקדם לגן עדן את הכרובים ואת להט החרב המתהפכת את דרך עץ החיים” / “And He removed Adam (from Gan Eden) and He placed east of Gan Eden the Keruvim and the fire of the revolving sword in the path of the tree of life” (Bereishis 3:24). Rashi explains the fiery sword was placed there in order to scare Adam from attempting to re-enter Gan Eden. Only when Hashem expresses His full mercy and fully cleanses man of his sins will we merit to return to Gan Eden!

The posuk continues ““ושב וקבצך מכל העמים אשר הפיצך ה’ אלקיך שמה / “And he will return and gather (all the Jewish people) from all the nations to which Hashem your G-d has sent you there”. What is this posuk referring to? It comes to teach us of the exceedingly great mercy of Hakadosh Baruch Hu. For here we are dealing with Jews who have been lost among the nations and their cultures, however in their hearts they guard a yearning to return to their people. And here Hashem promises to return these people back to the fold. In addition,  even those who have completely assimilated among the goyim until their hearts have become blocked from feeling any connection to the Jewish people, also they Hashem will save from oblivion, as the posuk states “ומל ה’ אלקיך את לבבך ואת לבב זרעך לאהבה את ה’ אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך למען חייך” / “And Hashem your G-d will do bris mila/circumcision  on your heart and the heart of your offspring (and in doing so will bring you and your offspring) to love Hashem your G-d will all your heart and with all your soul for your life”

Menachem Av 5777


The True Value of a Mitzvah is Dependent upon the Quality of One’s Speech and the Sincerity of His Heart

כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו (דברים ל:יד)

“For the thing (the mitzvah) is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it” (Devorim 30:14)

Now, if we are concerned with the doing of the mitzvah – “לעשותו“, why does the posuk mention beforehand “בפיך ובלבבך” / “in your mouth and in your heart”!?

From here we learn that the value of a mitzvah a person performs is dependent on the quality of his speech and the sincerity of his heart which precede the action. “בפיך” / “in your mouth” is referring to the learning of the laws associated with the particular mitzvah, as the posuk states “ולמדתם אותם את בניכם לדבר בם” / “And you shall teach them (the laws of the Torah) to your children to speak in them” (Devorim 11:19). Similarly it states “ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל שימה בפיהם / “And now, write for yourselves this song and teach it to the Jewish people; place it in their mouths” (ibid 31:19). “ובלבבך” refers to the heart’s desire to fulfill the mitzvah and its willingness to fulfill it according to all its particular laws. (The spelling of “לבבך” with a double letter Beis hints to these two intentions: one, the willingness to do the mitzvah and two, the willingness to fulfill the particular laws of the mitzvah.)

Now, apparently “בלבבך” / “in your heart” should have been written before “בפיך” / “in your mouth” for the thoughts of one’s heart precede the utterings of his mouth. This, as the posuk states elsewhere “ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם” / “and you shall not follow after your hearts and after your eyes” (Bamidbar 15:39) mentioning the heart before the eyes!?

It appears that the Torah is teaching us here an important tenant in G-d’s holy work. That is, the yearnings of the heart are dependent on one’s speech. Meaning, Torah learning widens and motivates the heart to desire to fulfill Hashem’s commandments. This idea is brought in the Sefas Emes (Parshas Netzavim year 5633, in the Medrash) who says that “בפיך” means that speech is the driving force behind one’s achievement in Hashem’s work. And when the heart is loaded with Torah learning it is prompted to fulfill Hashem’s mitzvos, and thus the posuk concludes “לעשות” – “to do”!

This idea is quite understandable, for the words of the Torah emanate from Hakadosh Baruch Hu and logically speaking their study will inspire a person to attach himself to the sore of those words.

However, all this applies only when one learns the Torah and accepts upon himself to fulfill its mitzvos as a G-dly command. Otherwise, studying Torah will not inspire a person to fulfill its commandments. This is as it’s written “והיו הדברים האלה אשר אנכי מצוך היום על לבבך”
/ “And these words which I command you today shall be on your heart” (Devorim 6:6).
“הדברים האלה” / “these words” are referring to the words of Torah and is parallel to “בפיך” / “in your mouth” in our posuk. “אשר אנכי מצוך” / “which I command you” refers to the Torah as a heavenly command, and “על לבבך” / “on your heart” is parallel to that which it says in our posuk “ובלבבך” / “in your heart”. That is, only if one learns Torah as a command from G-d will that learning influence the heart to yearn to fulfill Hashem’s commandments.

Regarding this the sages (in Kedushin 31a) have said, greater is a person who is commanded to perform a mitzvah than a person who is not commanded to perform a mitzvah. Tosfos explain that one who is not commanded to perform a mitzvah, if he wants to perform the mitzvah he will do so and if not he will refrain from doing it. This demonstrates a weakness of heart!

In addition, we can learn from here that a person’s actions only find favor in Hashem’s eyes when he has prepared his speech and his heart before he performs the action. It appears that the explanation for this is that each fulfillment of a mitzvah has the status of a new-born child. Just as the spiritual quality of the child is determined by his parents thoughts and actions which led to his birth, so too the spiritual value of one’s actions are dependent on how much he invested in his Torah learning and the resulting desires of his heart, as they are the “parents” of his actions!   

Nissan 5777

Good Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

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The Source, the Work and the Result – Ki Savo 5777

To Stir the Mind and to Light up the Shabbos”!

Parshas Ki Suvo

2017/5777

 

The Source, the Work and the Result

“ולקחת מראשית כל פרי האדמה” (דברים כו:ב)

“and you shall take from all first fruits of the earth” (Devorim 26:2)

The posuk does not use the word “ראשונה” to describe the first fruits but rather “ראשית“. What is the difference between the two terms?

The word “ראשונה” tells us that we are now embarking on a path made up of stages and shall progress one stage at a time, and that this stage is similar in all respects to all the other stages to follow, only that this is the very first of the stages. On the other hand, the word “ראשית” teaches us that although here too we are referring to a first “stage”, but in fact it is not a “stage” for it is disconnected to that which follows, but rather it is referring to the source energy of all the following stages.

Therefore, the law of the first fruits is different than the laws of the other mitzvos having to do with the land of Israel. That is, regarding trumos and maaseros in general, each stage leads to the following stage, whereas regarding first fruits this is not the case. And so explains Rashi, a person enters his field and when he notices a fruit which has already grown, he marks it in a way in which he will remember that it is a first fruit and he proclaims, “these are first fruits”. That is, this first “stage” does not lead to following stages but stands alone. Not only does this act of labeling the first fruits standalone but the first fruit is not actually removed from the field until later time. This comes to teach us that the first fruits stand on their own with no connection with that which will follow.

We learn from here that the word “ראשית” refers to the source which “resides” in an upper world; a world free of the restrictions and borders of this world, whereas “ראשונה” refers to the beginning of the revelation of that which emanates from the source and which is therefore bound by the laws and limitations of this world. Thus, it is expressed in stages.

For this reason, the Torah begins with the wording “בראשית” and not “בראשונה” for it is not coming at this point to explain the order of Creation but rather to teach us that the world stems from a source, that source being the Torah! (See the very beginning of Medrash Raba and in the Holy Zohar at the beginning of Parshas Toldos.) And so explains Rashi on the posuk “בראשית ברא” this posuk pleads with us to understand its depth, and our sages have taught us (Bereishis Raba) that the world was created for the Torah (meaning so that its teachings would be revealed) as it states “ראשית דרכו” /  “the beginning of His way” (Mishlei 8:22) and for the Jewish people who too are referred to as “ראשית תבואתו” /  “the beginning of His wheat” (Yirmiyahu 2:3). According to this, we can understand why the explanation of the first day of Creation ends with“ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד” /  “And it was evening and it was morning, one day” and not with“ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום ראשון” /  “And it was evening and it was morning, the first day” for the Torah’s intent is to teach us that the first day stems from the Torah which created it and stands “אחד” / “alone” as the source of all Creation.

This is the “place” Yaakov our father yearned to reach as the posuk states“ויותר יעקב לבדו” / “And Yaakov remained alone” (Bereishis 32:25). “לבדו” / “alone”, meaning he longed to reach the “place” which is completely disattached from the nature and order of this world.

And so we find this concept regarding Moshe our master as the posuk states“והאיש משה ענו מאד מכל האדם אשר על פני האדמה” / “And the person Moshe (was) extremely humble more than all people that exist on the face of the earth” (Bamidbar 12:3). That is, he raised himself above and beyond the borders and limits of this world in order to reach the source of Creation. This is “מכל האדם אשר על פני האדמה” / “more than all people that exist on the face of the earth”, for Moshe rose above “the face of the earth”!

This point was hidden from Korach, the result being that he found himself stuck in this limited world and disattached from its source in a higher world. Thus, all his calculations were based on this world and did not take into account the higher level of Moshe and Aharon.

With this, we can understand the words of the Medrash (Bamidbar Raba 18:3) that Korach jumped and said to Moshe (in a tone of ridicule) a  garment which is dyed completely with the color of techeles (green/blue color) will it be exempt one  from dying a string of the tzitzis (hanging strings) with the techeles dye!? Moshe told him that nevertheless the string of tzitzis as well must be dyed with techeles.

Korach responded in ridicule, a garment which is completely dyed with techeles does not exempt itself, and you are telling me that four strings dyed with techeles does complete the mitzva!?

Adding ridicule to ridicule, Korach asked does a house filled with Holy books exempt the owner from attaching a Mezuza to the door post? Moshe answered that nevertheless one is obligated to attach a Mezuza.

Korach answered, the whole of the Torah contains 275 sections and yet (you are telling me that) this in insufficient in order to fulfill the mitzva of Mezuza, one section (that included in the Mezuza) attached to the door is sufficient!? Concluded Korach to Moshe, you were not commanded with these mitzvos, rather you made them up!!

In explanation of the above, we can suggest that the garment and the seven strings of each of its corners represents this world which is located on earth and runs according to a seven day week, whereas the eighth string colored techeles represents the upper world. And so it says in Gemora Chulin (89a) Rebbi Meir says, why was techeles chosen to be placed on tzitzis? For techeles is similar in color to the sea, and the sea is similar in color to the sky, and the sky is similar in color to the sapir stone and the sapir stone is similar to the “color” of Hashem’s Holy Throne. And thus the posuk states“והיה לכם לציצית וראיתם אותו וזכרתם את כל מצות ה’ ועשיתם אותם” / “And you shall have tzitzis and you shall see it (the colored string) and remember all of Hashem’s mitzvos and fulfill them” (Bamidbar 15:39). Korach was not looking to reach that point and thus fell to the pits of existence.

In a similar fashion we can understand Korach’s confusion with the Mitzva of attaching a Mezuza to the door post. We can suggest that the Holy Writings of the Torah represent their effect on this world and the Mezuza represents our responsibility to tie our efforts to their source in the upper world.

This too is the concept behind the commandment of“זכור את יום השבת לקדשו” / “Remember the day of Shabbos to sanctify it” (Shemos 20:8). Meaning, to remember that this world is connected to a higher world and that receives its nourishment from it.

And so too this is behind the need to perform Mitzvos for Hashem’s sake, meaning solely because He commanded us to perform them, disattached to any ulterior motive for their performance. For in doing so, a person atraches his actions to the source of the Mitzva in the upper world. This is especially needed regarding the building of the Mishan/Santuary for it was dedicated to Hashem’s most holy obligations given to man. Therefore, regarding the building of the Mishkan and even regarding the collecting of the materials needed to build the Mishkan, the Torah obligated to do all the above “lishma” – exclusively for Hashem’s sake!

Perhaps according to the above we can understand a difficult passage found at the end of Yaakov’s dream. There it is written“והאבן הזאת אשר שמתי מצבה יהיה בית אלקים וכל אשר תתן לי עשר אעשרנו לך” / “And this stone which I stood upright (and annointed) will become the house of G-d and all that you (G-d) will give me, I will surely tithe to You” (Bereishis 28:22). The obvious question is, what connection is there between the Beis Hamikdash and the tithing of produce!?

According to the above, we can explain, with G-d’s help, that the Beis Hamikdash represents the source of kedusha – the power of ראשית – the concept of first fruits, and the tithing of produce of the field represents our work in this lower world which extends from a higher world.

According to this, we have a better understanding of that which the Jewish people are called Hashem’s produce “תבואתה” for their purpose is to connect the order and produce of this world with its source in the upper world. This is as the Sefas Emes explains (Parshas Ki Suvo year 5637 מצות ביכורים) that the Jewish people have the ability to always attach themselves to the “ראשית“.

Elul 5777

Our Holy Forefathers: The Source of Our Growth and Expansion

“ויהי שם לגוי גדול עצום ורב” (דברים כו:ה)

“And they (the Jewish people) became there (in Egypt) an extremely great, powerful and expansive nation” (Devorim 26:5)

We can suggest that all that is stated in the posuk regarding the status of the Jewish people in Egypt was only the sprouting of the seeds planted in the Jewish nation by our holy forefathers, may their memories be blessed.

The wording “גדול” / “great” refers to the merit of Avraham who was referred to as “גדול” / “great” as the posuk states “ואעשך לגוי גדול” /  “And I will make you into a great people” (Bereishis 12:2).

The wording of “עצום” / “powerful” refers to the merit of Yitzchok who is called “עצום” / “powerful” as the posuk states“ויאמר אבימלך אל יצחק לך מעמנו כי עצמת ממנו מאד” /  “And Avimelech said to Yitzchok go away from us for you have become extremely powerful – more than us” (ibid 26:16).

And finally, the wording “ורב” /  “expansive” is said in the merit of Yaakov who is called “רב” / “expansive” as the posuk states“ויאמר ישראל רב עוד יוסף בני חי” /  “And Yisrael (Yaakov) said, great (expansive), my son Yosef is still alive” (ibid 45:28).

Sivan 5777

The Future Redemption of the Jewish People is Dependent upon our Fulfillment of Hashem’s Mitzvos

“וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה’ נקרא עליך ויראו ממך” (דברים כח:י)

“And all the nations of the land will see that the name of G-d is called upon you and they will be filled with fear of you” (Devorim 28:10)

When will we see a fulfillment of this prophecy!?

Now, the holy Zohar states (Parshas Mishpatim pg. 105a) that in the future the Jewish people will rule over the other nations. This is the translation and explanation of the holy Zohar by the commentary Metok Midvash: Regarding the time of redemption it is written“מי אלה כעב תעופינה” (Yishaya 60:8). מ”י will combine with אל”ה and form the name אלקי”ם and all the world will see that name of G-d had reached a state of completion and at that time the Jewish people will rule over the other nations. According to the above, our posuk is referring to the days to come.

Now the Gemora in Brachos (6a) quotes Rebbi Eliezer the Elder that “the name of G-d” referred to in our posuk refers to the head Tefillin (as the name of Hashem is hinted to in the letter shin on the outside of the head Tefillin). Why to the head Tefillin? For they are visible to the eye! If Rebbi Eliezer says that we are referring here to Tefillin, what, therefore, is the role of the hand Tefillin?

We can suggest that the ability of the Jewish people to rule over the nations which is represented by the head Tefillin is only a second stage. The first stage is the fulfillment of mitzvos between the Jewish people themselves (which is not seen by others outside of the Jewish camp) as this is represented by the hand Tefillin which is only seen by its wearer. Through their fulfillment of the full range of mitzvos, the Jewish people will then be feared and revered by the nations of the world and this will bring about the joining of the two parts of Hashem’s name and thus to the ultimate redemption!

Tishrei 5777

Good Shabbos!

Yona Vogel

 

The Jewish King: A Man of Great Torah Stature and Community Service

 

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Machon Daniel Torah Weekly

“To Light Up the Shabbos”

Parshas Shoftim

2017/5777

The Jewish King: A Man of Great Torah Stature and  Community Service

“שום תשים עליך מלך אשר יבחר ה’ אלקיך בו מקרב אחיך… לא תוכל לתת עליך איש נכרי אשר לא אחיך הוא” (דברים יז:טו)

“You shall surely appoint for yourself a king whom Hashem your G-d will choose him from amongst your brethren… you cannot place upon yourself a foreign person who is not your brother” (Devorim 17:15)

What is the reason behind the requirement to appoint a king who is of Jewish lineage only? Are there not capable leaders among the other nations!? Do we not know of leaders of numerous nations who have blossomed their counties into international empires!?

It appears that we can understand the reasoning behind this requirement by analyzing the wording of our posuk. We can do so by first asking a number of questions:

(1) “You shall surely appoint for yourself a king – ““שום תשים עליך מלך – Why is the wording שימה used and not מינוי or נתינה as it states at the end of the posuk etc. “לא תוכל לתת עליך איש נכרי” / you cannot place upon yourself a foreign person”?

(2) “You shall surely appoint” / “שום תשים” – Why is the wording doubled?

(3) “whom Hashem your G-d will choose him” / ““אשר יבחר ה’ אלקיך בו – Why is it that the appointment of the king must be with Hashem’s approval?

(4) Why must the king be from Yisrael as the posuk states“מקרב אחיך… לא תוכל לתת עליך איש נכרי אשר לא אחיך הוא” / “from amongst your brethren… you cannot place upon yourself a foreign person who is not your brother”?

In answer to the above:

(1) We can suggest that the Torah uses the wording שימה regarding the appointment of a king for it is similarly used to describe Torah learning. For example, the posuk states “וזאת התורה אשר שם משה לפני בני ישראל” / “And this is the Torah that Moshe placed before the Jewish people” (Devorim 4:44); “ואלו המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם” / “And these are the laws that you shall place before them” (Shemos 21:1) andושמתם את דברי אלה על לבבכם ועל נפשכם… ולמדתם אותם את בניכם” /  “And you shall place these words on your hearts and on your souls… and you shall teach them to your children” (Devorim 11:18-19), etc. This comes to teach us that the king’s rule must be based on the laws of the Torah. In addition, from this we learn that the teachings of the Torah must be extremely clear to him as this is the basic meaning of the word שימה. (See Rashi on Shemos 21:1.)

Alternatively, we can suggest that the wording of שימה implies that the king must follow in the path of our forefathers as the same wording is found by them and in their most powerful tests. By Avraham and Yitzchok in the test of the Akeida/binding it is written “ויקח אברהם את עצי העולה וישם על יצחק בנו” / “And Avraham took the wood he had prepared for the offering and he placed them on Yitzchok his son (Bereishis 22:6) and similarly in posuk 9 it states“ויעקוד את יצחק בנו וישם אותו על המזבח” / “and he tied his son Yitzchok and placed him on the alter”. And we find the wording of שימה by Yaakov as well as it states    ““ויקח מאבני המקום וישם מראשותיו / “and he (Yaakov) took from the stones of the place and placed them around his head” (ibid 28:11).

(2) The doubling of the word שימה we can explain as follows: The first mention of the word expresses permission to appoint a king according to the accompanying conditions, while the repetition of שימה teaches us that the purpose of a Jewish king is different than that of a non-Jewish king. A non-Jewish king is usually interested in establishing his personal power base and puts the needs of his people at a far second as we see clearly in our very own generation. On the other hand, a Jewish king is not appointed for his personal benefit at all but purely for the benefit of the people. And so we find that Jewish kings gave of their precious time to take care of the needs of each and every person. By Moshe Rebbeinu the posuk states“וישב משה לשפוט את העם… מן הבקר עד הערב” / “And Moshe sat in judgment of the people’s (questions)… from the morning until the evening” (Shemos 19:13). Similarly, when Moshe asked Hashem to appoint a leader worthy of replacing him as “king” of Israel he asked “יפקוד ה’ אלקי הרוחות לכל בשר איש על העדה” / “May Hashem, G-d of souls for each life, appoint a (worthy) man (leader) over the congregation” (Bamidbar 27:16) and Rashi explains Moshe’s intention was to appoint a leader who would be able to relate to each and every individual according to his personality and temperament.

(3) We asked as well why it was necessary for Hashem to choose the king? The answer is that the purpose of a Jewish king is to connect the people to Hashem, the King of kings, and only Hashem knows who is fitting and worthy of this position. With this, we can explain the words of Dovid Hamelech“לך אמר לבי בקשו פני את פניך ה’ אבקש” / “To you (Hashem) my heart said, request before me, Your Presence Hashem I request” (Tehillim 27:8). That is, Dovid Hamelech instructed the people to follow after his leadership. Why? For “את פניך ה’ אבקש” / “Your Presence Hashem I request”, meaning that Dovid’s intention was to bring the people closer to Hashem and His ways. This is what the holy seforim mean when they say that the characteristic of kingship is epitomized by a total disconnection from all earthly possessions. Only in this manner can the king perform his true function as a conduit through which to bring down spiritual direction from the heavens, bring the good actions of Bnei Yisrael upward to stand in front of Hashem and to help through this to cause an outpouring of prosperity for the benefit of the Jewish people. All this is hinted to in the ladder Yaakov saw in his dream as it states“והנה מלאכי אלקים עולים ויורדים בו” / “And behold, the messengers of G-d are ascending and descending on it (the ladder)” (Bereishis 28:13); “ascending” in order to bring the good deeds of the Jewish people in front of G-d’s holy throne in the heavens, and “descending” in order to bring prosperity upon them. All this is accomplished through the efforts of the king. The above process is hinted to as well in the letters which compromise the word מל”ך and in their order. The letter מ”ם/mem hints to the מעשים/good deeds of the Jewish people. The למ”ד/lamed hints to the raising of these deeds upward to shamayim (as the lamed is the highest letter in the alphabet) and the כ”ף פשוטה/long kaf hints to the descending of G-d-sent prosperity from the heavens as the kaf reaches lower down than any other letter in the alphabet.

How does the king merit to all this on behalf of the people? By fulfilling the קו”ל /voice of the Torah which is the voice of Yaakov who had the dream mentioned above. And so the numerical value of סול”ם is 130 which is the same numerical value as קו”ל. (Maybe this is the reason for the repetition of the word קול in Yitzchok’s blessing to Yaakov as it states “הקול קול יעקב” / “the voice is the voice of Yaakov” (ibid 27:22); one קול is said against the ascending of Hashem’s messengers who carry the peoples’ good deeds upward to Him and one קול is said against the descending of the messengers downward to earth with Hashem’s blessings in their hands to be distributed to the Jewish people.)

(4) From the above it is obvious why the king must be from Yisrael, for only a Jew has within him the spiritual power necessary to achieve the lofty task assigned to a Jewish king.

Elul 5777

Wishing you a good Shabbos and a healthy, happy and successful New Year. May you see and feel personal growth in Torah learning and fulfillment!

Yona Vogel

p.s. I would appreciate if you were able to print a few copies of the Torah Weekly each week and place them in your respective shuls and/or forward them to your family members or friends. In this way, we can reach out to more Yiddin. Tizku lmitzvos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Hashem into Your Life – V’Eschanan 5777

 

Machon Daniel Torah Weekly

“To Light Up the Shabbos”

Parshas V’Eschanan

2017 /5777

Letting Hashem into Your Life

“ובקשתם משם את ה’ אלקיך ומצאת כי תדרשנו בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך” (דברים ד:כט)

“And you shall reach out to Hashem your G-d from there and you shall find (Him) because you searched for Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Devorim 4:29)

There are people who claim that they cannot find G-d in their lives; that belief in Him is foreign to them. Others say that they believe in G-d but feel distant from Him.

The truth is that even a superficial look at our posuk will supply a person with an array of reasons why he may lack a feeling of closeness to Hashem, and as well the tools he may need to get close to Him.

The posuk begins “ובקשתם” / “And you shall reach out”. If you don’t “reach out to Hashem” you won’t find Him. And, if one reaches out to Hashem and still does not find Him, it is because he did not “search for Him” as it’s written “כי תדרשנו“. If he searched for Hashem and still did not find Him, it is because he did not search “בכל לבבך” / “with all your heart”. If he searched with all his heart and still feels estranged, it is because he did not search “בכל נפשך” / “with all your soul”.

If he did all the above and still does feel a closeness to Hashem, it is a sign that he did not reach out to Hashem “משם” / “from there”. That is, either he did not do serious self-evaluation and was not aware of or ignored his lackings and therefore did not do teshuva in order to uproot them in order to purify himself before he attempts to approach Hashem Who is Pure or he ignored his true spiritual level and tried to jump up the rungs of the ladder of closeness to Hashem beyond his level or capabilities. Rather he has to reach to Hashem “משם” / “from there”, from his true level!

If this as well he did correctly and even so still feels distant from Hashem, he should know that his whole approach is wrong. Meaning, he has shown that he is not interested in moving close to Hashem, rather he wants Hashem to move close to him. In other words, his service of G-d is not for G-d’s sake but for his own benefit. And so says Dovid Hamelech (Tehillim 145:18) “קרוב ה’ לכל קוראיו לכל אשר יקראוה באמת” / “Hashem is near to all who call to Him; to all who call to Him in truth”. “באמת” / “in truth”, meaning for Hashem’s sake!

If all his efforts were for G-d’s sake and he still feels distant from Hashem, this is because he considers G-d to be limited by the structure and rules of this world. Against this approach the posuk says ומצאת”” / “and you shall find (Him)”, meaning that it is not possible to find Hakadosh Baruch Hu if you attempt to do so based on earth-bound rules. Rather, one has to first come to the awareness that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is beyond all earthly borders and therefore He can only be “found”! Only then can one contemplate the idea of coming close to Hashem. This is as the posuk states “ויאמר ה’ הנה המקום איתי” / “And Hashem said, behold the place is with me” (Shemos 33:21), and Rashi comments that it does not say “I am in a place”, rather “the place is with me”, for Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the “place” of the world and His world is not His “place”.

We learn from the above that before our eyes sits a clear and detailed map not only of how to “find” Hashem but also how to reach toward Him and to cling to Him. Therefore, if a person finds himself feeling distant from Hashem, he needs only to dwell on the great wisdom found in Hashem’s living words and to find the area in which he needs to strengthen himself. If he does so, he is sure to find Hashem in his life!

Menachem Av 5777

Good Shabbos!

Yona Vogel