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Machon Daniel Torah Weekly

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


Parshas Chukas

2018 / 5778

 

 

Contents:

  1. Parshas Chukas
  2. Tehillim
  3. Shabbos Kodesh
  4. Mesilas Yesharim


Parshas Chukas

The Wellspring of Life in the Merit of Miriam


ותמת שם מרים… ולא היה מים לעדה

“And Miriam died there… and there was no water for the congregation” (Bamidbar 20:1-2)

 

Water Alludes to Torah


Rashi explains that our posuk is teaching us that throughout the forty years the Jewish people traveled in the desert, the miraculous well of water which traveled with them and sustained them did so because of the outstanding merit of Miriam.

Question!? Is not the Torah compared to water as it states“לא רעב ללחם ולא צמא למים כי אם לשמוע את דברי ה'” / “not hunger for bread and not thirst for water but (a hunger and a thirst) to hear the words of G-d” (Amos 8:11)! Therefore, the well should have existed in the merit of Moshe!? Also we find that the Torah explicitly states that the well was in the merit of Moshe as the posuk reads “בעבר הירדן בארץ מואב הואיל משה באר את התורה הזאת לאמר” / “On the other side of the Jordan (river) in the land of Moav Moshe began to explain this Torah saying” (Devorim 1:5) and here we are referring to the wellspring of Torah!? If so why are we told that the well was in the merit of Miriam!?


Physical Waters and Spiritual Waters


We can suggest that here the Torah is referring to the physical waters of Torah which enable men to learn the spiritual waters of Torah. This is the wellspring which existed and sustained the Jewish people in the merit of Miriam as this is the main role of Jewish women – to take care of the home and family so that her husband can immerse himself in the spiritual waters of Torah! And in this regard the Gemora asks (Brachos 17a) with which deeds will women merit (to the reward of the World-to-Come)? It answers, with the merit of bringing their children to learn Torah and allowing their husbands to learn Torah for extended periods of time and waiting faithfully for their return.

“Eida” Refers to the Sanhedrin

The above is alluded to here in the wording “ולא היה מים לעדה” / “and there wasn’t water for the “eida”. Why does the posuk use the word “eida” and not “am”? The Medrash explains that “eida” is referring to the Sanhedrin as it states “והיה אם מעיני העדה נעשתה לשגגה” / “And it shall be that if from the eyes of the eida a mistake is made” (Bamidbar 15:24).

This is the explanation of “and there was no water for the eida”, for the main purpose of the waters of the well of Miriam was to quench the thirst of the great rabbinical scholars of the Sanhedrin. And this applies to all Torah scholars as well throughout the generations

A Woman’s Portion in the World-to-Come is Equal to that of the Man’s

We can also learn from that which the Torah revealed that the well existed in the merit of Miriam that the portion of women in the World-to-Come is equal to that of men, for both of them supplied water to the encampment, just that the men drank primarily the water of Torah and the women supplied the men and their children with their means of survival. And both are equally important, for one without the other cannot survive and prosper!

The above concept is hinted to in that which Moshe was commanded not to strike the rock but only to speak to it for the water was in the merit of Miriam and woman are to be spoken to in a soft manner as the posuk states“כה תאמר לבית יעקב ותגדל לבני ישראל” / “so you shall say to the house of Yaakov and tell to the children of Israel” (Shemos 19:3). Rashi explains that the wording “כה תאמר לבית יעקב” / “so you shall say to the house of Yaakov” is referring to the women – that Moshe should “say to them”, meaning instruct them in a soft manner and “ותגיד לבני ישראל” / “and speak to the children of Israel” is referring to the men to whom Moshe should speak to in a demanding tone.

This in turn, would explain why Moshe was unable to draw water from the well by simply talking to it for the water was in the merit of Miriam and therefore not in his realm and authority.

The Source of Miriam’s Merit

It appears that in return for her thoughtful and valiant efforts to save her brother Moshe from the hands of the Egyptians Miriam merited that the water which nourished the Jewish people in the desert was in her merit. Why such a grand reward? For she saved Moshe who is equal to the whole of the Jewish nation.

Tammuz 5776

 


How to Save Oneself from the Impending War with Amalek

 

 

“וישמע הכנעני מלך ערד יושב הנגב כי בא ישראל

דרך האתרים וילחם בישראל וישב  ממנו שבי”

 (במדבר כא:א)

 

“And the Canaani the king of Arad who sits in the south heard that the Jewish people were coming through Haatarim and he battled against Israel and took from them a hostage” (Bamidbar 21:1)

 

Rashi explains that the posuk is referring to the nation of Amalek. Accordingly, we can ask, why in this battle with Amalek does the posuk say “וילחם בישראל” / “and he fought against Israel” and above it states “ויבא עמלק וילחם עם ישראל” / “And Amalek came and fought with Israel” (Shemos 17:8)!?

We can explain the difference in the wording with Rashi’s explanation of the posuk here. He explains that Amalek altered their language in order to sound like the Canaanites in order to deceive Israel to think that they were Canaanites and not Amalakites and then pounce on them unexpectedly. The change in the wording is meant to hint as well to their deceitfulness.

Now, Amalek did not invent deceitfulness but rather inherited this terrible trait from his grandfather Eisav regarding whom it states “ויהי עשו איש יודע ציד” / “And Eisav was a man who knew to hunt” (Bereishis 25:27) and Rashi explains that the posuk is teaching us that Eisav knew how to trick his father with his speech. Thus we learn that Amalek simply continued in the evil ways of his grandfather and approached the Jewish people in a deceitful manner in order to annihilate them. May Hashem always protect us from their hands!

The way of the Jewish people is quite the opposite as it states“ויעקב איש תם יושב אהלים” / “and Yaakov is an honest person who sits in the tents (and studies Torah)” (ibid.). Explains Rashi, Yaakov is the opposite of Eisav as that which his mouth states is exactly as his heart feels.

From here we can learn how to save ourselves from the future war with Amalek – through honesty and purity of thought accompanied by a deep commitment to Torah learning and fulfillment!

Elul 5776

The Performance of Mitzvos [and in Particular Tefila] and their Purpose

 

ויאמר ה’ אל משה עשה לך שרף ושים אותו על נס והיה כל הנשוך וראה אותו וחי(במדבר כא:ח)

 

“And Hashem said to Moshe make for yourself a saraf/serpent and place it on a tall pole and it shall be that one who has been bitten shall see it and live” (Bamidbar 21:8)


T
he Mishna (Rosh Hashanah 29a) asks rhetorically, is it the serpent that kills and the serpent that gives life!? It then answers that the meaning behind the upward glance at the serpent is that when the Jewish people look upward and dedicate their hearts to their father in Shamayim/the heavens, they will be cured of all illness.


The Physical Performance of the Mitzvah and the Purpose of the Mitzvah


The above rule applies not only to sinners but to those who are careful in the performance of Hashem’s mitzvos as well. That is, before one performs any mitzvah he must reflect upon the purpose of the mitzvah and only afterward put his heart and soul into its practical application. For although the very act of a mitzvah has a most positive effect on a person’s soul, it is incumbent upon a person to be aware that the Creator is the One Who is commanding him to perform the mitzvah and that he is obligated to perform it. Through the combination of awareness, an acceptance of responsibility and the actual performance of the mitzvah, a person will merit to connect with his Creator – the ultimate purpose of all mitzvos as the posuk states“ואתם הדבקים בה’ אלקיכם חיים כולכם היום” / “And you that attach yourselves to Hashem your G-d all of you live today” (Devorim 4:4).

Tefila

The above applies to the mitzvah of tefila /prayer as well as it is very similar to a glance upward at the serpent mentioned here. Now, tefila is a powerful mitzvah, yet one must be careful not to merely read the words but, as well, to ponder their meaning and message and to remind oneself of the purpose of tefila which is to turn one’s attention upward toward Hashem in the heavens and to dedicate one’s heart to His service. When a person applies himself in his tefila as above, he is sure to be answered according to his wishes.

Belief in the Ability of Tefilah to Bring about Change

One can ask, why did the posuk choose the wording“עשה לך שרף ושים אותו על נס” / “Make for yourself a saraf/serpent and place it on a “neis” and not simply say “ותרים אותו למעלה” / “raise it up high”!? What is special about the “neis”!?
We can suggest that the wording of “neis” was chosen for it hints to us that in order for our tefilos before Hashem to be answered, one must first believe that the tefila has the ability to rise past the natural boundaries of this world and to cause a “neis” /a supernatural effect on the person’s present standing.

Similarly, it is incumbent upon a person to believe that Hashem “sits” in Shamayim eagerly awaiting the tefillos of the Jewish people and desires to answer them for their good – and that Hashem is not limited at all and can bring about a change in any situation matter how dismal it might seem to the person in a difficult predicament.

Make “for yourself” a Serpent!

Why does Hashem say to Moshe “make for yourself a serpent”? Apparently, He should have simply said “make a serpent”!?

We can suggest that the mitzvah was directed personally to Moshe in order to teach us that atonement and healing is dependent on one’s attachment to the Torah Moshe brought down to the Jewish people.

From here we learn that in order for a person’s tefila to be answered he needs to precede it with Torah learning. (See Brachos 8a where Rebbi Ami and Rebbi Asi only davened where they learned!)

Tammuz 5776

 

Tehillim

 

Guarding One’s Speech on Shabbos

“בדבר ה’ שמים נעשו” (לג:ו)

 

“With the word of Hashem, the heavens were made/created” (33:6)

The prohibition to speak about weekday matters on Shabbos stems from the words of the prophet Yishaya who said“אם תשיב משבת רגליך עשות חפצך ביום קדשי… וכבדתו מעשות דרכיך… ודבר דבר” / “If you will refrain from going and fulfilling your own needs on My holy day [of Shabbos]… and honor it by not doing your ways (your work)… and you speak as you should…” (Yeshaya 58:13) The sages explain (in Shabbos 113a, b) that the prophet is instructing us that your speech in Shabbos shall not be similar to your speech during the weekday. That is, one should not discuss his business dealings or talk about his bills on Shabbos (Rashi).

Now, the sages did not say that your speech on Shabbos should not be similar to your speech during the weekday, but rather that your speech of Shabbos should not be as your weekday speech.

What is the difference between these two similar sounding statements? We can suggest that the first reading stands the person center stage whereas the second language teaches a person that he has to adjust himself to Shabbos and not vice versa. That is, it is incumbent upon a person to guard his tongue on Shabbos and not utter a word unless he is sure that it is fitting to be spoken on Shabbos.

I read in an interesting sefer/book on the laws and philosophy of Shabbos that one should refrain from speaking about weekday matters on Shabbos not only in order to fulfill the decree of the rabbis, but also because the actual creation of the world was through speech [alone] as our posuk states“בדבר ה’ שמים נעשו” / “With the word of Hashem, the heavens were made/created”. Now, the Torah instructs us to rest from all work on Shabbos just as Hashem rested from His work on Shabbos as it states“ויום השביעי שבת לה’ אלקיך לא תעשה כל מלאכה… כי ששת ימים עשה ה’ את השמים ואת הארץ את הים ואת כל אשר בם וינח ביום השביעי” / “And the seventh day is a day of rest to Hashem your G-d, don’t perform any act of work… for six days Hashem made the heavens and the earth… and rested on the seventh day” (Shemos 20:10-11). That is, the posuk teaches us that we are to refrain from doing work on Shabbos because Hashem rested from His creation of the heavens and the earth on Shabbos. Thus we can learn that just as Hashem rested from His work, meaning from His speech, so too we should be obligated to rest from speaking about all matters having to do with work.

According to this, why in fact are we not obligated by the Torah to rest from speaking about work on Shabbos?

In answer, we can suggest that each is obligated to rest from the manner in which he performs his work. Hakadosh Baruch Hu Who created the world through speech, rested from speech, and Bnei Yisrael who perform work with their hands are required to rest from manual labor.

However, from the above we are left with an interesting observation, that although the Torah does not require us to “rest” from speaking about work on Shabbos, because we are prohibited from doing any manual labor on Shabbos, we are left only with our speech, raising us in some sense to the original level of creation which was created through the medium of speech alone! As a result, our speech on Shabbos holds the power to create (although not enough to equate our speech to our actions)! And so we find in the holy Zohar that the world stands on the new understandings and interpretations of Torah developed on Shabbos Kodesh!

Sivan 5778

 


Shabbos

The Relationship between the Sanctity of Shabbos and its Blessings

ויברך אלקים את יום השביעי ויקדש אותו
(
בראשית ב:ג)

“And Hashem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it”
(Bereishis 2:3)

 

From the order of things, it appears that the blessing of Shabbos precedes its sanctification. However, in reality it appears that the opposite is true – the blessing of Shabbos stems from its sanctity!? And proof of this is that the blessing of the special bread of the desert – the mon – did not fall on Shabbos because of the sanctity of the day. If so, we need to explain why the posuk first mentions the blessing of Shabbos and only afterwards its sanctity!?

We can suggest as follows: Sanctity means separation. Therefore, if the posuk would first mention the sanctity of Shabbos, the blessing of Shabbos would not be able to be realized. Therefore, the posuk mentions the blessing of Shabbos before its sanctity although the actual order is reverse!

For this reason, although the first six days of creation were created from the wellspring of Shabbos, the Torah does not mention Shabbos before it mentions the six days of creation so that the physical world could be created and exist.

Possibly for this reason, the sages instructed us to sanctify the Shabbos over wine, so that at the time we fulfill the mitzvah to sanctify the Shabbos we precede its sanctification with blessing represented by wine and only afterwards mention the sanctity of Shabbos, similar to the manner in which the world was created – as we mention in the wording of the kiddush – “a reminder of ma’ase Bereishis (the act of Creation)”!

For this reason, the building of the Beis Hamikdash does not supersede the keeping of Shabbos, for the building is the blessing which emanates from the sanctity of Shabbos and the expression of its sanctity cannot uproot the source of its sanctity which is the reason for its very existence!

Only one time in history did sanctity and its blessing appear simultaneously, and that was when the Torah was given, as it’s written“אתה הראת לדעת כי ה’ הוא האלקים אין עוד מלבדו” / “You showed (us) to know that Hashem (the source name of Hashem’s sanctity) is Elokim (Hashem’s name which represents His expression of blessing in this world)” (Devorim 4:35).That is, Hashem raised the level of awareness of the children of Israel to the point where they saw that His blessing of Creation stemmed from and were one with His Sanctity which led to those very blessings.

A similar message is seen in the posuk “וכל העם רואים את הקולות” / “And all of the people see the sounds” (Shemos 20:15) where Rashi explains they saw that which is normally only heard. That is similar to the above, for when the Jewish people received the Torah, the divisions between the different senses were removed and Bnei Yisrael saw that the structure and blessing of this world was at one with the sanctity of the Creator!

Marcheshvan 5778

 

Mesilas Yesharim

 

[That which is added within square brackets is our addition]

Chapter 1 (cont.)

 

Explaining Man’s Basic Responsibility in His World

 

[The true “good” is an all-encompassing commitment to the fulfillment of Hashem’s mitzvos]

 

And when you see [and consider the relative value of] things, you will see that true [personal] fulfillment is only found in one who is totally committed to Hashem [and His commandments]. This is as Dovid Hamelech said“ואני קרבת אלקים לי טוב” / “And for me, closeness to Hashem is good” (Tehillim 73:28). And he said as well, “אחת שאלתי מאת ה’ אותה אבקש שבתי בבית ה’ כל ימי חיי…” / “One thing I asked from Hashem, and that I request, that I [merit to] sit in the house of [study of] Hashem all the days of my life…” (ibid. 27:4) for only this is good! And all else that people consider as good is not but emptiness and thus worthless.

However, when a person merits to [involve himself with] the above-mentioned good, he should pursue it with great effort in order to acquire it. That is, he should work towards attaching himself to Hashem through fulfilling His mitzvos.

[All the happenings in the world, whether good or bad, are trials for man]


Now, Hakadosh Baruch Hu placed man in a world full of forces which pull him away from Him, blessed is He. These [forces] are the desires for earthly pleasures, and if a person will be pulled after them, he will be moving away from the true good.

Thus, he [man] has been placed into a powerful war and all the happenings in the world for good or for bad are trials for a person – poverty on one side and wealth on the other side. And so stated Shlomo Hamelech“פן אשבע וכחשתי ואמרתי מי ה’, ופן אִוָּרֵשׁ וגנבתי ותפשתי שם אלקי” / “Lest I become satisfied and deny and say who is Hashem, and (or) lest I become impoverished and steal and violate the name of My G-d” (Mishlei 30:9). Explains Rashi, “Lest I become satisfied” from [abundant] wealth and come to “deny” Hakadosh Baruch Hu from haughtiness, “ותפשתי שם אלקי” / and I catch the name of G-d” and become accustomed to swear falsely. Peace on the one hand and difficult trials on the other until one finds himself in a [constant] battle, in front of him and behind him.

If the person will wage war against these influences and win his battle from all sides, he will become a whole person who will merit to become attached to Hashem and who will [merit to] leave this corridor/world and enter the light of [Hashem’s] palace with the light of life. And, according to his accomplishments to reject his [evil] inclination and his [earthly] desires and to distance himself from those forces which distance himself from the [ultimate] good and puts forward an effort to attach himself to Hashem, he will connect with Hashem and this will fill him with [great] happiness.

[Good deeds spiritually raise a person and the whole world with him]


If you will look more deeply into this you will see that the world was created from the benefit of man. However, all this hangs in the balance. For if a person will be pulled after this world [and its pleasures] and thus distance himself from his Creator, he causes damage to himself and to the whole world with him. But if he controls his impulses and attaches himself to his Creator and uses the things in this world only to help him as he serves his Creator, he rises [spiritually] and the whole world is uplifted with him/by means of his actions. [The reason for this is that] it is tremendously uplifting for the world’s creations to be used in the service of the complete [righteous] person who has become sanctified with the sanctity of Hashem. This is as our sages of blessed memory have said (Chagiga 12a) regarding the light which Hashem hid for the [future use of the] righteous, so when Hakadosh Baruch Hu saw the light and He hid it for the righteous he rejoiced as it says “אור צדיקים ישמח” / “the light of the righteous will cause joy” (Mishlei 13:9). And regarding the stones of the place which Yaakov took and placed under his head [the sages in Chulin 91b] have said, Rebbi Yitzchok said that this teaches us that they all gathered in one place and each one said, let the righteous one rest his head on me.

 

Have a nice Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!
Yona Vogel

 

 

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