Shabbos in the Parashah
In this week’s parashah the Torah relates how the wicked Balaam sought to curse the Jewish People, and HaShem prevented him from doing so. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that the reason it was necessary to earn Balaam’s blessing was akin to the Gemara (Shabbos 119b) that states that when a Jew arrives home from shul on Friday night, he is escorted by two angels, one good and one evil. If when he arrives home and finds the lamp burning, the table set and his bed made, the good angel says, “may it be the will of HaShem that it should be this way the next Shabbos as well,” and the bad angel is forced to answer amen against his will. If the table is not set, however, then the bad angel says, “May it be the will of HaShem that it should be this way the next Shabbos as well,” and the good angel is forced to answer amen against his will. Thus, writes the Ohr HaChaim, Balaam was akin to the bad angel who concedes the blessing to the good angel and responds “amen.” One must wonder, however, why it is necessary to have the bad angel concede the blessing. It is well-known that the Alshich writes that the reason it was necessary for Moshiach to be born from relationships such as Tamar and Yehudah and Rus and Boaz was so that the Satan, i.e. the evil forces, would be appeased. Similarly, the Ramban (Vayikra 16:8) writes based on a Medrash (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 46) that states that on Yom Kippur, the he-goat was sent off the cliff to Azazel as a form of bribery to Esav and his cohorts. Thus, there are often times when the evil forces need to be appeased, and the Gemara (Brachos 7a ) states that had HaShem become angry when Balaam was attempting to curse the Jewish People, the Jewish People would have been obliterated. This thought should provoke us to recognize the importance of Shabbos, as Shabbos is not merely a holy day for the Jewish People. Rather, Shabbos is a day when the evil forces that have been pursuing us throughout the weekday are warded off by the sanctity of Shabbos, and these evil forces are forced to concede defeat, by declaring “amen” to the blessings of the Jewish People. When the Jewish People as a whole will observe the Shabbos, we can be certain that Esav, Balaam and their henchmen will all be vanquished, and we will merit speedily, in our days, the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
Adapted from Bereishis 48:20, Bamidbar 6:24-26
Yaeir HaShem panav eliecha vichuneka, may HaShem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you. The Medrash (Pesikta Rabbasi 23) states that the illumination of ones face during the weekday is not the same as it is on Shabbos. On Friday night, we bless our children that HaShem should illuminate their countenance. We then request that HaShem be gracious to you. Perhaps the idea is that once HaShem illuminates one’s countenance, the person is then a receptacle for HaShem’s grace. In a similar vein, when one is exposed to the light of Shabbos and is granted the neshamah yeseira, the extra soul, he is capable of eating and drinking more for the sake of Heaven, and on Shabbos one is also capable of studying Torah on a deeper level.
Shabbos in Tefillah
Shir ushevachah, song and praise. I have previously explained some of these words, but here I would like to offer a novel interpretation of the words shir and shevach. The commentators write that the word shir is derived from the word shur, which means a wall. The word shevach is similar to the word sheva, seven, which is also interpreted to mean proliferation. How does one truly praise HaShem? In the prayer of brich shemei that we recite upon taking out the Sefer Torah from the ark, we recite the words: beih ana rachitz vilishmei kadisha ana eimar tushbachan, in Him do I trust, and to his glorious and holy Name do I declare praises. When one is strong in his faith of HaShem, he can then declare HaShem’s praises. This, then, is the explanation for the juxtaposition of shir and shevach. When one is like a shur, a wall, i.e. he is strong in his faith, then he can offer true shir, praise, to HaShem.
Reb Moshe Ulman from Pupa relates an incident of mesiras nefesh for shemiras Shabbos that happened when he was with Reb Ben-Tzion Hirshfeld (from Rutka). One Shabbos in the middle of a bitterly cold winter, the two were guarding a storehouse, far from the village. The two guards were staying in a hut that had been built for workers in the summer to rest in during the day. It was bitterly cold, even inside, as the flimsy hut only shielded them from the wind. There was a small iron stove that gave a bit of warmth, but because they decided not to add wood on Shabbos, the fire soon went out. What did they do? They stayed awake, standing and pacing back and forth in the room, because the minute anyone sat down, he could fall asleep and freeze to death. The entire night, they spoke about mussar and mesiras nefesh for Kiddush Hashem until gentile workers came the next morning to thresh the grain. They found them suffering from the cold with an unlit oven, and they burst out screaming and laughing, mocking them for having not re-lit the stove. Go explain to a goy that it is forbidden to light a fire on Shabbos. The gentiles immediately lit the fire and we also enjoyed it and said, “Chasdei Hashem ki lo somnu.” HaRav Yaakov Pasternak tells of a similar incident: “During the Yomim Noraim I was with my friend, Pinchas Ingberman (from Makava) who was later killed in an airplane crash on his way to Eretz Yisroel. We worked together in the ‘Mehl Stroui’ which was comprised of a few buildings where the villagers from many villages would stay when they came to grind the wheat. The Mehl Stroui was about seven kilometers away from Nizshna-Machavei, and we also slept there. Pinchas and I were separated from the group in Nizshna although our spots there were still reserved for us. Before Yom Kippur, we spoke about running away and going back to Nizshna so we could spend Yom Kippur together with the group. We tried, but when we left, we were immediately captured by the policemen who brought us back to the Mehl Stroui. That night, we said whatever piyutim we could remember by heart and spoke about mussar and Teshuvah. In the morning, we complained that we were sick. The guards rebuked us but allowed us to stay inside on the condition that we make sure the fire in the oven does not go out, so the workers could cook their meal on it. We stood to daven tefillas Yom Kippur, but did not add wood to the fire and it went out. We almost froze in the cold. When the workers came back, they were very angry at us. They also made fun of us and called us lazy.” How did they honor Shabbos under such circumstances? It is worthwhile to quote a few paragraphs of a letter from Reb Ben Tzion Hirshfeld, who was with Reb Yehuda Leib zt”l in a farmhouse in Arashau. “We yearned for Shabbos even though there was nothing to look forward to, because we barely had any food or clothing, and did not even have a minyan. Whatever we could do, we did. I remember how the Rebbetzen Etka Nekritz made sure to take salami with her to Siberia. A few pieces of it were made into soup lichvod Shabbos that had a taste of Gan Eden. The salami lasted ten weeks. (For all the rest of the years, there was no kosher meat in Russia.) We sat around the kupert, a box that served as a table, with the tzaddik Reb Yehuda Leib and sang zemiros. Today, when I sing Tzur Mishelo, I tell my family that this zemer is very dear to me, because it reminds me of the past when we sang it in Siberia.” Further on in the letter he writes: “When we were forced to work separately, the group wanted to be together on Shabbos to discuss Torah and mussar. The distance between Reb Yehuda Leib’s house and us was more than the techum Shabbos, so one of the group (Reb Hirsch Nudell) would go out on Friday with a piece of bread and put it on the path two thousand amos away. On Shabbos, we would go to that spot, and when we found the eruv, we would continue on to Reb Yehuda Leib zt”l to learn Torah with him until nightfall. Usually, we would hide the bread very well so the hungry dogs that roamed the area would not smell the bread and eat it up.”
Shabbos in History
The Minchas Elazar of Munkatch would insist that the Bais HaMedrash be completely dark during Shalosh Seudos, without even a single light shining. He would apply the verse that states (Micah 7:8) ki aishev bachosech HaShem ohr li, though I sit in the darkness, HaShem is a light unto me.
The Gemara states that when the suspected adulteress’s husband is innocent from sin, then the waters check the woman, but if the man is not innocent from sin, then the waters will not check the woman. It is noteworthy that when Chava, the first woman in history, ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, she gave to Adam, her husband, to eat, and this act brought death to the world. As an atonement for the woman’s sin, and for having extinguished the light of the world i.e. Adam, she is instructed to kindle lights prior to Shabbos (Tanchumah Bereishis 1). The goal of a marriage is to allow the Divine Presence to shine in the home. When a man and woman both aspire towards this goal, the light of HaShem, the Shabbos and the light of Torah will illuminate the home. If, Heaven forbid, they have strayed from that goal, then their home will be consumed by darkness. Hashem should allow us to achieve domestic harmony in our homes, and then the light of HaShem, the Shabbos and the Torah will illuminate our homes.
Shabbos in Halacha
If hot liquids are transferred to a fourth or fifth vessel, it is nonetheless forbidden to heat in the liquid tea leaves, eggs, and extremely salty fish which is unfit to eat due to its saltiness. As long as a liquid is yad soledes bo, the liquid is considered capable of cooking tea leaves, eggs and salted fish, irrespective of how many vessels the liquid has been transferred to.
Shabbos in Numbers and Words
On Shabbos we recite the word retzaih numerous times. The Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah cites the Zohar that states the one should recite the blessing of retzaih in Bircas HaMazon with intense concentration, as this recital causes great rectification in the heavenly spheres. The word retzaih in mispar katan, digit sum, equals 16, which is 1+6+7, alluding to Shabbos, the seventh day of the week.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Balak 5767
Chaya Hadas bas Reb Yechiel Michel ob”m niftarah 7 Tammuz 5764
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos.
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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