9/13/08

Succah 14b by R. Gaz

Formats available: MP3 Audio (.mp3)

9/12/08

4/20/08

Pesach 5768

by Rabbi Shlomo Lagoviyer

The Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim (430) writes that the Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol - The Great Shabbos, because of the miracle that happened on it. The Mishna Berurah explains that the year of the Exodus 10th of Nissan fell out on Shabbos and on that day the Jews following Hashem's command took the pascal lambs and tied them to their beds. The Egyptians asked them what they were doing, and the Jews answered that they are taking the sheep to bring them as the Passover sacrifice to G-d as He had commanded. Needless to say that the Eqyptians, who worshiped the sheep, were infuriated but miraculously were unable harm the Jews, and because that year the 10th of Nissan was on Shabbos the Chazal decreed that every year the Shabbos before Pesach should be called the Great Shabbos. Furthermore the R'mah in the same siman brings down the minchag to recite the hagada after mincha of that Shabbos and the Mishna Berura explains that the reason is that on that Shabbos was the beginning of the miracles and the Salvation.

Both of these facts need explanation. Why is the miracle of the lambs commemorated on Shabbos regardless of the date unlike the exodus itself that is commemorated on the 15th of Nissan as well as most other Holydays that are celebrated on the day of the month on which the events that they commemorate happened. Furthermore why is this miracle so significant that it is considered the beginning of the redemption, after all it was preceded by the nine of the ten plagues, the subjugation of the Jews stopped on Rosh Hashana and the actual exodus did not happen till the 15th?

Perhaps this can be explained based on the words of R' Yitzchok Izek Chaver, z"l in his Hagada Yad Mitzraim. On the passuk "v'ehvor alayich v'ehrech misboseses b'damayich v'omar lach b'damayich chayee, v'omar lach b'damayich chayee! - I passed over you and saw you bathing in your blood, and I said to you through your blood you shall live, and I said to you through your blood you shall live!" he brings the Mechiltah (parshas "Boh", 5) that explaines that Hashem gave the Jews two mitzvos in the merit of which they would be redeemed: the blood of pesach and the blood of milah. The meaning of this Mechilta, explains R' Yitzchok Izek Chaver, is that these two mitzvos are the root of the Jewish faith, the Torah, and the Mitzvos. When the Jews were in Egypt they, like their masters, worshipped idols thinking that Hashem abandoned the world and left it under the rule of stars, constellations, and a myriad of spiritual forces, which now need to be worshiped. They corrected this mistake through the karbon pesach, about which it says in the Torah "mishchu u'kchu lachem tzon" - draw and take for yourselves sheep, which means, in the words of Chazal, draw your hands from your idol worship and take for yourselves the sheep of mitzvah. Like the karbon Pesach, bris milah is also a step towards rejection of idol worship because it is a seal of the Master on the body of the slave.

This can also be understood on a somewhat deeper level. In his hakdoma to the Hagadah R' Yitzchok Izek Chaver explains that there two ways in which Hashem runs the world: "derech hatevah" - the natural way and derech l'maalah min hatevah" or "hashgacha elyonah" - the supernatural way of the direct Divine providence.
When Hashem uses the natural way His flow of spiritual influence - the spitirual energy that powers and sustains everything that exists or happens, comes through a hierarchy of spiritual entities such as malachim, kochavim, and mazalos, the system that has been set up during the Six Days of Creation. When this system is used everything happenes according to the laws of Nature, the way it was originally set to function. Occasionally, however, G-d chooses to override the hierarchy of malachim and other forces that He established and bring His spirtual light into the world direcly. When He does that He is not bound by any laws of Nature or any other previously set up system. This is what the chazal called "chashgacha elyonah". Both ways coexist except that the natural way is the primary way in which G-d acts with the Gentiles and the supernatural way is the main way in which He deals with the Jews. The reason for this is because according to the Laws of Nature both Avrohom and Yitzchok as well as their wives were incapable of having children, thus by the Laws of Nature the Jewish Nation was not supposed to exist. The very creation of the Jews as well as much of their history is supernatural.

Although this hashgacha elyona started with the avos, it was not established as the primary way of dealing with the Jews until the exodus from Egypt. The exodus was completely supernatural as can be seen clearly in the Torah, and, as R' Yitzchok Izek Chaver points out, the whole purpose of the Egyptian exile was to show the Jews as well as the rest of the world G-d's power and involvement in this world (to disprove the pagan belief that Hashem abandoned the world and left it under the rule of the stars, constellations, and other spirtitual forces.) Through the Exodus and the subsequent acceptance of the Torah the Jewish nation became Hashem's Choses Nation with which He acts in a supernatural way and whose whole wellbeing depends on their observance of the Torah and the Mitzvos rather than on the natural factors that normally affect the wellbeing of a nation or an individual. The first prerequisite for this is the rejection of idol worship, which was accomplished through the bringing of the karbon Pesach. Bris milah, whose symbolism is the removal of the "klipos" - "shells", the spiritual forces "covering" the source of the Divine influence and directing it through the hierarchy of angels and other channels that subjugate it to the setup of Nature is the other prerequisite. This is why the birth of Yitzchok, which was, as mentioned before, completely supernatural, only happened after Avrohom did the bris milah. This is what the Chazal meant when they said that Hashem raised Avrom above the stars saying "leave your astrology, Avrom cannot have children but Avrohom can have children". Avrohom understood that according to the stars, i.e. the natural way of the world he cannot have children. Through the bris milah Hashem raised him above nature, making him the forefather of the Supenatural Nation. Therefore the Jews who were about to leave Egypt entering the realm of the hashgacha elyona had to do the bris milah, and it is only through the blood of karbon Pesach and the bris milah that the redemption was possible.

This was the significance of the miracle that happened on Shabbos Hagodol - the Jews regected idolatry - their first step towards entering the covenant with Hashem and becoming the Chosen Nation that lives by His direct guidance. This is why chazal consider it the beginning of the Redemption. With this we can also understand why it is commemorated on Shabbos, because Shabbos, which is the sign of the covenant between G-d and the Jews, the day whose sustenance is not included into the amount decreed for the whole year on the Rosh Hashana, the day which is the glimpse of the wold to come also transcends nature. The flow of kedusha that comes down on Shabbos is largely free of the klippos and through the proper observance of Shabbos an individual connects to the supernatural guidance of Hashem. Thus it is no accident that the Jewish people began to reject idolatry and enter the covenant with Hashem which is based on hashgocha elyona specifically on Shabbos and that is why it is commemorated on Shabbos.

May we all merit to learn the lessons of Pesach and live up to our status and our unique role as the chosen nation priviliged to have a direct relationship with Hashem.

3/15/08

Parshas Zachor 5768

by Rabbi Avrohom Yakubov

The maftir of parshas Zachor recounts the story of Amalek's brazen attack on the Jewish People and ends with the words "v''lo yareh Elokim" - he did not fear G-d: the Torah's accusation against Amalek. It might seem strange, however, that the evil nation of Amalek, the arch enemy of the Jews and indeed, the G-d Himself; the true predecessor of the Nazi Germany is accused of not fearing G-d. After all, the fear of G-d is the ultimate requirement that the Torah makes of the Jews and the end result of the lifelong process of learnign Torah and keeping mitzvos. V'atah Yisroel mah Hashem Elokecho shoel meimcha, ki im l'yirah es Hashem Elokecho" - "And now, Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d ask of you? Just to fear Hashem, your G-d".

The Brisker Rov explains that the Torah is pointing out the source of Amalek's mistake. Amalek carefully planned and prepared their attack on the Jews. They attacked at the time that the Jews were especially tired from the travel through the desert, as is pointed out in the Torah - "v'atah oyef v'yageah". They attacked first those Jews who were trailing behind, expelled by the clouds of Glory, they took into account every factor except one - the existence of G-d. All the tactical and strategic factors were favorable to Amalek, they chose the perfect time and place to attack and a perfect strategy, the only thing that they forgot was that the Jews have a G-d that protects them. This mistake was the root of their sin and the sole cause of their downfall.

In the Megilah we find that Haman, the descendant of Amalek repeated the mistake of his ancestors. The Megilah tells us that when he left the palace after Ester's first seudah he was "somayach v'tov lev" - "happy and in good spirit". The Vilna gaon explains the reason for this happiness. Until this point although Haman's plan seemed to be working out, he had one fear, maybe Ester, who grew up in Mordechai's house would decide to protect him and his people and ruin Haman's plans, but now he saw that the only person that she invited to her feast with the king was he, which meant that she liked him better than Mordechai. She was obviously on his side and would not intervene on Mordechai's behalf. Having his last fear calmed, Haman left the palace completely worryless and happy.

On his way home, however, he met Mordechai, who not only did not stand up but did not even move or in any other way acknowledge Haman's presence. Upon seeing Mordechai's tranquility and lack of fear Haman became infuriated. The Gaon explains that until now Haman attributed Mordachai's confidence to the fact that He had raised Ester and had a good reason to rely on her protection. Now, however, that Ester sided with Haman, Mordechai had no one else on whom to rely! If so how could he not be afraid?! Haman was astounded and infurieted. It did not enter his mind that there is still someone else on whom Mordechai could rely - Hashem! V'lo yareh Elokim - Haman was a true descendent of Amalek, and as with his ancestors his lack of fear of G-d was the source of his sin and the cause of his demise, because it was not Ester, that ulitmately saved the Jews, it was Hashem that brought about the miraculous salvation of Purim.

Many commentators say that one of the reasons for reading parshas Zachor is to remember "maaseh Amalek" and to uproot the Amalek within us. Based on the above it can be said that its lesson to us is to always remember Hashem's role in our lives and never to loose sight of His Divine Providence.

2/20/08

Parshas Beshalach 5768

Techum Shabbos
By Rabbi Shlomoh Lagoviyer


Towards the end of the parsha the Torah records the following incident. Moshe informed the Jews that the mann, which had been coming down from the heaven every morning will not come down on Shabbos, instead the Friday’s portion will be double the regular daily amount. Some of the people did not believe him and went out on Shabbos to look for the mann evoking Hashem’s rebuke for their lack of faith.

What was their sin? The simple understanding is that they were prepared to collect the mann on Shabbos and bring it back to their tents thus transgressing the prohibition of carrying on Shabbos. Chazal, however, learn from the words of Hashem’s admonition “shvu ish tachtav, al yetzu ish mimekomo- each man should stay and not come out of his place” a new issur – issur techumim, the prohibition of walking outside 2000 amos of the city on Shabbos and Yom Tov. This issur is discussed in meseches Eiruvin and according to most Tanaim is rabbinic in nature with the pasuk being merely an “asmachta” a supportive verse that the Chazal found for the issur that they themselves established. Indeed the mann gatherers most likely did not leave the 2000 amah radius of the camp and did not transgress the issur techumim.

The Maharal, however, in his sefer “Beer Hagolah” explains that “asmachta” is not just a play on words which attributes a rabbinic law to a sentence of the Torah which means something completely different; rather the Chazal saw in these words a concept which is not strong enough to warrant a Torah law but is nevertheless a true concept. Based on this concept they established a rabbinic law which is by default tied to the pasuk.

According to the Maharal there must be a connection between the words of G-d’s rebuke to the mann-gatherers and the law of Techum Shabbos. It can be understood based on what I once heard in the name of the sefer “Bnei Yisoschar”. The lesson of Techumin, he explains, is that unlike the weekdays when a man has to search for his livelihood, on Shabbos he can stay in his place, Hashem will provide for him where he is. This was precisely Hashem’s message to the man-gatherers, “shvu ish tachtav” – stay in your place, do not go out to gather mann, your Shabbos sustenance has been already given to you on erev Shabbos. Thus the lesson of Techumin is one of the most fundamental principles of Shabbos, that on this day the Jew’s livelihood is provided to him in his place, without having to work extra for it; this day is “on Hashem”, may we be zochim to properly enjoy it and honor it!

1/10/08

Parshas Shmos 5768

On the topic of isur “hogeh es haShem b’osiosav”

by Rabbi Shlomo Lagoviyer

When Hashem revealed His name to Moshe Rabbeynu in this week’s parsha He added “zeh shmih leolam…” which means this is my name forever. The word leolam is written in the Torah without a “vav”, and can be read “lealeim” which means to hide. The Gemorah in Psachim (50a) learns from this that the name of Hashem is not to read the way it is written.

The Gemorah in Sukkah (5a) when describing the “tzitz” that the Kohen Gadol wore in the Bais Hamikdosh states that it was a golden plate with the inscription “kodesh laHashem” – “Holy to Hashem”, “yud key” on the top and “kodesh le” on the bottom. The tosafos points out that when referring to Hashem’s name the Gemorah only mentions two letters of the four letter name and asks that these two letters themselves constitute a name of G-d, thus the issur of pronouncing Hashem’s name by its letters still applies. Apparently the Tosafos understood that the reason why the Gemorah used only two letters out of four was to avoid the issur of “hogeh es Hashem b’osiosav” which is learned out of the aforementioned pasuk and brought down in the Mishnah in Sanhedrin (90a) where the Tannah Abba Shaul says in the Mishna that whoever says Hashem’s name by its letters does not have a portion in the Olam Haboh. The Tosafos answers that because the Gemorah in Sukkah was referring to the four letter name rather than the two letter name it did not transgress the prohibition by mentioning those two letters.

One can deduce from both the question and the answer of the Tosafos that he held that the prohibition of pronouncing Hashem’s name applies even if one just speaks out the names of the letters rather than actually reading the name.

The Radvaz in shaalos and teshuvos writes that the commonly accepted view is that the this prohibition applies only to reading the four letter name the way it is written, however Tosafos in Sukkah holds that it includes even speaking out the its letters and Rabbeynu Chananel whose opinion is quoted by the Tosafos in Avodah Zorah (18a) holds that even saying the first two letters of the “Shem Haadnus” is also forbidden because they have a special sanctity as evident from the fact that they may not be erased. On the latter he asks that even if we accept the view of the Tosafos that even speaking out the letters of Hashem’s name is forbidden, this cannot possibly apply to the Shem Haadnus, because the name itself is permitted to be said (in certain circumstances such as during davening or learning Torah). Thus he rules that ‘lamaaseh” one should be stringent and follow the opinion of the Tosafos, but one does not need to follow the view of Rabbeynu Chananel.

(Incidentally, besides the Radvaz’s kasha, one can also ask on the Rabbeynu Chananel from the Gemorah in Psachim mentioned before that says that the name of Hashem is read “b’alef dales”; according to Rabbeynu Chananel the Gemorah itself transgressed the prohibition.)

Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, z”l, in his sefer Har Tzvi on Sanhedrin (90a) asks the same kasha on the Tosafos in Sukkah, because from their answer it can be deduced that speaking out the letters of the two letter name is prohibited if one has in mind that name, which seemingly contradicts logic because that name itself may be read as it is written.

Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank answers both questions with a brilliant and profound answer. The aforementioned Gemorah in Psachim relates that Ravah wanted to darshin Hashem’s name in shiur, but was stopped by a certain old man who told him that it is forbidden to do so because the Torah requires Hashem’s name to be hidden. The Gemorah continues by bringing the drasha from the word “leolam” that teaches that the four letter name is not to be read the way it is written. From this we learn that the requirement to hide Hashem’s name includes not only the prohibition of reading it as it is written but also a prohibition of explaining its meaning and drashos. The connection is simple; all of these are forms on revealing Hashem’s name on different levels.

It is also well known that the Hebrew letters have the revealed part (the sound of the letter) and the hidden part (the rest of its name). For example the letter “lamed” is the revealed part of the letter and the letters “mem” and “dales” are the hidden part. R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank concludes that the Tosafos held that speaking out the letters of Hashem’s name is a greater revelation of it than reading it as it is written. Thus, while the issur of reading the Name the way it is written applies only to the Shem Havayah, the issur of speaking out the letters applies even to the other names, which can be read, and according to Rabbeynu Chananlel it even applies to the first two letters on the Shem Haadnus, because they may not be erased.