This week we are beginning a new series entitled Shabbos Kodesh!

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Contents:

  1. Parshas Shlach Lecha
  2. Tehillim
  3. Shalom Bayis
  4. Shabbos Kodesh

Parshas Shlah Lecha

Seeing Tzitzis Reminds Us of the Higher World

והיה לכם לציצית וראיתם אותו” (במדבר טו:לט)

“And you shall have tzitzis and you shall see it” (Bamidbar 15:39)

When the posuk states “וראיתם אותו” / “and you shall see it” who or what is “it” referring to?

The Gemora in Menachos (43b) gives us the answer. Rebbi Meir said, why is the color of techeles (blue-green) different than all the other colors? (Meaning, why was this color chosen to dye one string of each corner of tzitzis?) Because techeles is similar to the color of the sea, and the sea is [similar in color] to the sky and the sky is [similar in color] to Hashem’s holy throne in the heavens. Thus “וראיתם אותו” “and you shall see it” means, so to say, to see Hakadosh Baruch Hu! Also alluding to this is that the word “אותו” / “it” is written lacking a vav, in which case it could be read as “אתו” / “with it” meaning “with Him”. That is, when one eyes the string of techeles, along with seeing the string, he is reminded of Hashem!

Do we actually see Hakadosh Baruch Hu when we glance at the string of techeles!? Of course not! We don’t even see the sea before us! That is, the posuk is not referring to physical sight but to an internal “seeing”. And it is actually not a seeing at all, but a remembering. This is as the posuk continues “וראיתם אתו וזכרתם את כל מצות ה’ ועשיתם אתם” / “and you shall see it and you will remember all of Hashem’s mitzvos and you will perform them”. The posuk teaches us that we are not dealing with a general recollection but a remembering which connects us to our obligations – “to perform the mitzvos”!

With this, the meaning of “seeing Hashem” is now better defined. That is, the posuk is not saying that by looking at the string of techeles we will actually see Hashem in the heavens, but that we “see” His mitzvos before us here on earth and are reminded of our obligation to fulfill them.

This is as our sages (Shabbos 133b) explain the posuk “זה א-לי ואנוהו” / “This is my G-d and I will glorify him” (Shemos 15:2). Meaning the way one “sees” G-d is by performing His mitzvos in as honorable a way as possible! This is as we said above, that “seeing” Hakadosh Baruch Hu is accomplished through performing His mitzvos.

With this as well we can understand the requirement to double over the strings turning four strings into eight. That is, the first four strings represent the four corners of this lower world and the second set of four strings represents the corresponding “four corners” of the upper world. This is so that whenever we see the eight strings of the tzitzis we will be reminded of our connection to the upper world and its accompanying responsibility to perform Hashem’s mitzvos so that we will merit to reach those higher “four corners” after we depart from this world.

The five knots we tie in each set of tzitzis also reminds us of our “upper half”! It either reminds us of the five levels of the soul which stems from the upper world and which reside within us, or to Dovid Hamelech’s five different expressions of gratitude to Hashem for the great kindness He bestows on the world as a whole and toward him as an individual (Brachos 10a). Or it alludes to the five parallels between one’s soul and Hashem (ibid.).

In addition, the very word “tzitzis” alludes to the upper and lower worlds and this according to both its meanings (see Rashi). One definition of “tzitzis” is to see, meaning by looking at the tzitzis we are reminded of the upper world as stated above. The second definition of tzitzis is to hang from. This reminds us that we are “hanging” from Hashem and dependent on Him for our existence in this world and in the next.

Sivan 5776

The Secret Security System of the Jewish People

 

“ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר אתם זונים אחריהם” (במדבר טו:לט)

“and one shall not stray after one’s heart and after one’s eyes which you stray after them” (Bamidbar 15:39)

Rashi explains that the expression “ולא תתורו” / “and you shall not stray” is similar in meaning to that which it states at the beginning of the Parsha regarding the spies “מתור הארץ” / “from spying the land”, meaning from straying from their mission and straying after what their eyes saw. Continues Rashi, the eyes and the heart are spies for the body and lead it to sin. That is, the eye sees, the heart desires and the body commits the sin.

Of course there is also a good side to vision and feeling, only the posuk is warning us that that within every good is an evil energy which is constantly looking to prevent the good from being exposed, resulting in sin.

This is seen as well in the beginning of our Parsha when the Torah describes the spies saying ” כלם אנשים ראשי בני ישראל המה” / “they are all men, the heads of the Jewish people they are” (Bamidbar 13:3). Rashi explains that the word “אנשים” / “men” is used to inform us that they were all upstanding individuals at that point. That is, they were in full control of their eyes and their hearts. Only soon after, the evil inclination inside them (inside the good) got hold of them and led them astray. On this note, we can attempt to explain the response of Yehoshua and Calev to the words of the spies saying “טוב הארץ מאד מאד” / “the land is exceedingly good” (ibid. 14:7). Why did they repeat the word “מאד”? The answer is, one expressed the “good” of the land and the other hinted to the “good” hidden inside the spies which had been covered over by evil thoughts. Within their words of praise for the land of Israel, Yehoshua and Calev suggested to the spies that if they would make an effort they would be able to overcome their evil inclination and take back the demeaning statements they made about Eretz Yisrael.

Now in saying “ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם” / “and one shall not stray after one’s heart and after one’s eyes” the Torah is expressing two different types of evil inclinations: one which stems from the heart within man and one which stems from his eyes which see outside of man. The evil inclination inside of man affects his thoughts and his feelings from within and the external evil inclination entices one to leave the mitzvos of the Torah and follow after the ways and cultures of the nations.

Dovid Hamelech informs us of these two sides of the evil inclination when he writes “לא יהיה בך אל זר ולא תשתחוה לאל נכר” / “There shall not be a foreign God within you and do not prostrate before a foreign idol” (Tehillim 81:10). The first part of the posuk “לא יהיה בך אל זר” / “There shall not be a foreign God within you” relates to the evil inclination located within a person (Shabbos 105b) and the second section “ולא תשתחוה לאל נכר” / “and do not prostrate before a foreign idol” relates to the external evil inclination, meaning the negative influences of foreign nations. For this reason, it talks of the external sign of prostration.

According to the above, we can suggest that the expression “לא יהיה בך אל זר” / “There shall not be a foreign God within you” corresponds to that which the posuk here states “ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם” / “and one shall not stray after one’s heart”, and “ולא תשתחוה לאל נכר” / “and do not prostrate before a foreign idol” corresponds to the statement “ואחרי עיניכם” / “and after your eyes”. Afterwards, I saw in a sefer by Rebbi Yechezkel Levenstein a very similar explanation to the above in the name of the Vilna Gaon who said that there are two types of evil inclinations: the inner evil inclination and the outer evil inclination which affects a person through seeing his environment and ponder being affected by it. (See also sefer Yitav Lev Parshas Vayeishev).

Through this understanding is revealed the secret of Tefillin. Regarding the hand Tefillin it states “והיה לך לאות על ידך” / “And it shall be for a sign on your hand” (Shemos 13:9) and the rabbis explained (Menachos 37b) to “you” it shall be a “sign” and it shall not be a “sign” for others. (For this reason we have the custom to cover the hand Tefillin.) Accordingly, it appears the purpose of the hand Tefillin is to protect a person from the influences of one’s internal evil inclination which is only felt by the person himself just as the hand Tefillin are only meant to be a “sign” for the person himself. Accordingly, the hand Tefillin would correspond to the first part of our posuk “ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם” / “and one shall not stray after one’s heart”. We find as well that one is obligated to place the hand Tefillin across from one’s heart, further alluding to the above.

Regarding the head Tefillin it is written ולזכרון בין עיניך” / “and a sign between your eyes”. Thus the purpose of the head Tefillin is to guard one’s eyes from the negative influences of the society around him; from the prodding of the external evil inclination.

In this vein, the rabbis explain (Brachos 6a) that the posuk “וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה’ נקרא עליך ויראו ממך” / “And all the nations of the land will see that the name of G-d is called upon you (the Jewish people) and will become fearful of you” (Devorim 28:10) is referring to the head Tefillin. That is, the head Tefillin acts as a wall of defense against the external enemies of the Jewish people by instilling fear in their hearts. And corresponding to the role of the head Tefillin our posuk states “אחרי עיניכם” / “and after your eyes”, just as the posuk states regarding the head Tefillin “ולזכרון בין עיניך” / “and a remembrance between your eyes”.

Now, whereas the Torah informs us of the specific roles of the two houses of Tefillin, we do not find a similar difference in the mitzvah of tzitzis. From here we can conclude that the main purpose of tzitzis is to offer an initial protection from all evil influences, whereas the purpose of Tefillin is to fight and ward off these influences. In this vein, the Mishna Brura (Siman 36 section 14) quotes the sefer Igeres Hatiyul that the letters שעטנ”ז spell שטן ע”ז / a powerful Satan (evil inclination) and the letters ג”ץ as well form the name of a prosecutor of the Jewish people. The tagim (crowns) placed on the above letters are swords to save the wearer of the Tefillin from all the negative forces hinted to in the above letters. (See Brachos 6a regarding the power of Tefillin to ward off our enemies.)

Elul 5776

Tehillim

Hashem’s Connection to His World

מה רבו מעשיך ה’ כולם בחכמה עשית מלאה הארץ קנינך” (תהלים קד:כד)

“Hashem, You have created great multitudes, all of which You have created with [great] wisdom, the earth is filled with Your possessions” (Tehillim 104:24)

The first two sections of the posuk seem to be written out of order and are seemingly redundant for apparently it should have said”בחכמה עשית ה’ את כל מעשיך הרבים” או “כל מעשיך הרבים ה’ עשית בחכמה” / “With wisdom Hashem you created your many creations” or “All Your many creations Hashem You created with wisdom”!?

We can suggest with G-d’s help, that if the posuk would have first stated that Hashem created all His creations with wisdom, or would have mentioned His wisdom along with the act of creation, than man might have thought that although the world and all the creations within it were created with great wisdom, Hashem did not remain tied to His creations allowing them to continue to exist with the power of the original wisdom with which they were created! Therefore, the posuk first mentions the creations alone without explaining how they were created in order to teach us that also after their creation, Hashem’s wisdom did not part from them, so that, as the posuk concludes, “מלאה הארץ קנינך” / “the earth is filled with Your possessions”, meaning Hashem’s original wisdom was fully absorbed into His creations.

We can conclude from this, that each and every act done during the six thousand years of this world, whether an act of man or an act of nature, is integrally tied to Hashem’s original and pure wisdom! Man’s job is to hook into that wisdom, so that through his actions he awakens the original wisdom with which the world was created, thereby strengthening the pillars on which the world stands. Through this, as well, he becomes aware that not only are all the creations of the world the result of Hashem’s creation, but he takes notice that these creations are as well His possessions, as the posuk concludes”ומלאה הארץ קנינך” / “the earth is filled with Your possessions”. That is, through this a person becomes aware that each and every thing he deals with belongs to Hakadosh Baruch Hu which in turn greatly increases his sensitivity to Hashem’s presence on earth and to his responsibility to make sure all his actions are done in accordance with Hashem’s will!

A person who succeeds at fulfilling this obligation is considered as though he partnered with Hashem in the creation of the world. Our great forefather Avraham excelled in this to the point where his achievement is hinted to in the Torah as it states “אלה תולדות השמים והארץ בהבראם” / “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth in their creation” (Bereishis 2:4). The Medrash (Bereishis Raba 12:9) explains that the letters of the word בהבראם are the same letters of the word באברה”ם teaching us that in  Avraham’s merit the world was created, suggesting that he was a partner in creation. (This possibility is hinted to when Hashem created man as it states”ויאמר אלקים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו” / “And Hashem said we shall make man in our image and according to our likeness” – Bereishis 1:26). This is hinted to as well in Bereishis Raba (12:10) where the sages teach us that the world was created with the letter heh and Avraham reached his completion and became the father of all mankind when the letter heh was added to his name at the time of his bris. The Tiferes Shlomo said that until today, each and every righteous person as well can affect the renewal and continuance of the world.

The Mei Hashiluach (Bereishis 2:1) explains that the level each righteous person reaches is dependent on the level of his awareness of Hashem’s dominion and unity on earth.

First Day Rosh Chodesh Marcheshvan 5776

Shalom Bayis

Marital Bonding and Holiness in the Home

Rebbi Akiva explained, a man and his wife: if they merit, Hashem’s presence will reside among them (Sotah 17a)

דרש ר”ע איש ואשה זכו שכינה ביניהן (סוטה יז)

Explains Rashi, Hashem divided His name between them; He placed the letter yud from His name in the name of the man and placed the letter heh from His name in the name of the woman.

From here we can learn a great principle regarding peace and holiness in the home. Now, generally speaking, in all homes the man attempts to fulfill his responsibilities and the woman hers. However, Rebbi Akiva is teaching us that even if each party will fulfill his personal obligations to the maximum, the chores may get done, but Hashem’s presence will not reside in this home! In order for holiness to descend upon the home, the couple has to work together with mutual respect and honor and in a harmonious manner. Only then will the unique letter of Hashem’s name in each of them join with each other and cause Hashem’s presence to dwell among them. Once a couple reaches this type of relationship, all their actions in their home will be considered as acts of holiness!

Menachem Avraham 5776

Shabbos Kodesh

Can One “Make” Shabbos!?

“ושמרו בני ישראל את השבת לעשות את השבת לדורותם ברית עולם” (שמות לא:טז(

“And the children of Israel guarded the Shabbos to make the Shabbos for their generations an everlasting covenant” (Shemos 31:16)

The posuk begins “ושמרו בני ישראל את השבת” / “And the children of Israel guarded the Shabbos”, meaning that they are obligated to guard themselves from transgressing the 39 acts of prohibited work on Shabbos. This is understandable. However, the next statement “לעשות את השבת” / “to make the Shabbos” is difficult to understand for how can one “make the Shabbos” when all “doing” is prohibited on Shabbos, and there are no positive commandments or requirements on Shabbos (except for sanctifying the Shabbos upon its arrival)!?

We can suggest an answer based on that which is stated in the case of the captured woman “ועשתה את צפרניה” / “she shall make her nails” (Devorim 21:12) according to the explanation of Rashi and Onkoles that in this case “make” means to let grow. Here, although the active verb “to make” is used, there is no action man is required to perform. We learn from here that included in the meaning of “to make” is independent growth which changes the state of the nails, “making” them look long and repulsive.

Now, we can “borrow” this meaning of “to make” to our case and explain that the wording “לעשות את השבת” / “to make the Shabbos” means not to do anything to interfere with the holiness of the Shabbos – letting it “grow” naturally until it reaches its climax at the end of Shabbos!

According to this, when we fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush, we are not actively sanctifying the Shabbos, rather we are awakening the holiness of Shabbos so that we will be affected and “made” by it!

Iyar 5778

Have a nice Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!
Yona Vogel
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