Shabbos in the Parashah
In this week’s parashah it is said (Bereishis 32:25) vayivaseir Yaakov livado vayeiavek ish imo ad alos hashachar, Yaakov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 77:3) states that the man who wrestled with Yaakov was the angel of Esav. Why was the angel of Esav wrestling with Yaakov? The Torah records the result of the struggle. It is said (Ibid verse 26) vayar ki lo yochol lo vayiga bikaf yireicho vateika kaf yerech Yaakov biheiavko imo, when he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the socket of his hip; so Yaakov’s hip-socket was dislocated as he wrestled with him. It would seem from this that the angel of Esav was initially attempting to overwhelm Yaakov completely, and when he saw that Yaakov was a formidable opponent, he merely wounded him. Yet, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 77:3) tells us that this dislocation of the hip-socket was an ominous omen for the future of Jewish life, when the Jewish People would be attacked on a spiritual front, known as the doro shel shemad, the generation of destruction. The commentators point out that this “dislocation” was manifest in the period known as the Greek Exile, which culminated in the miracle of Chanukah. The Medrash (Megillas Chashmonaim and Medrash Antiochus) states that one of the decrees that the Greeks promulgated against the Jewish People was that they could not observe Shabbos. Let us understand this decree and we will see how it has practical applications in our own times. At the onset of Shabbos a Jewish woman lights Shabbos candles, ushering in the Holy Day. We then pray in shul and we come home and eat a festive meal. On Shabbos morning we again pray in shul and eat another festive meal, and we repeat this in the afternoon by praying Minchah and eating the third meal. If the Jewish People were prohibited from observing Shabbos, does this mean that they actually were forced to desecrate the Shabbos? It would appear that the Greeks, unlike the Nazis of cursed memory, did not intend that the Jewish People should be engaged in back-breaking labor on Shabbos. Rather, the Greeks sought to remove the sanctity of the Shabbos from the Jewish People. Once the Jewish People would not be engaged in sanctifying the Shabbos through prayer, Torah study and festive meals, what else could they do but visit the theaters and entertain themselves in a manner foreign to Jewish lifestyle? This is what can also occur to us, heaven forbid, if we do not sanctify the Shabbos properly. It is insufficient to merely desist from physical labor, eat a few bowlfuls of cholent, and then assume that we have observed the Shabbos properly. Rather, we must engage ourselves in intense prayer, Torah study, and delight in the festive Shabbos meals, and then we will truly be victorious over the Esav-Greeks who constantly challenge our service of HaShem. It is further noteworthy that the words the Torah uses to describe the battle between Yaakov and the angel of Esav are biheiavko imo, as he wrestled with him. The word biheiavko contains the word avukah, which means a flame. We can interpret this homiletically to mean that the angel of Esav was attempting to remove the “fire” from Yaakov, i.e. to dampen the enthusiasm with which the Jewish People exhibit in their Torah study and performance of mitzvos. Hashem should allow us to merit that in the coming days that lead up to the festival of Chanukah we will reignite the spark within us that brings us closer to HaShem and His service. We will thus merit greeting Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
Ribbon kol HaOlamim
Published in 5401 (1641)
Melech tzach viadom, King Who is pure yet ruddy. This phrase begs for an explanation. How can we depict HaShem as being pure yet ruddy? Although HaShem certainly has no physical attributes, He is described by the Torah and the Prophets in a manner that is comprehensible to the human mind. Yet, what do we mean that HaShem is ruddy? The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 63:12) interprets these words to be referring to the vengeance that HaShem will exact from His enemies and He is thus depicted as being clad in blood–red vestments. Alternatively, the Medrash (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 5:9) interprets these words to mean that HaShem is white for the Jewish People on Shabbos and red for them throughout the week. This explanation reflects the idea that Shabbos is a time of repentance. Despite the sins that one may have accumulated during the week, with the onset of Shabbos one is cleansed from the filth and he enters into Shabbos with complete atonement.
Shabbos in Tefillah
HaKel haposeiach bichol yom dalsos shaarei mizrach uvokeia chalonei rakia, the G-d Who opens daily the doors of the gateways of the East, and splits the windows of the firmament. In a simple sense, this phrase refers to the rising sun breaking through the portals of darkness. On a deeper level, however, we can suggest based on the words of the Sfas Emes (Ki Savo 5642) that the doors here refer to the opportunities that one has every day to come closer to HaShem. The east refers to HaShem, as Hashem is referred to as kadmono shel olam, literally translated as the pre-existing One of the world, but homiletically interpreted to mean that HaShem is the kedem, i.e. east of the world (see Noam Elimelech Parashas Vayeitzei 29:1). Thus, every day when the sun begins to shine, we should use the illumination as an instruction that HaShem wishes that we should open our eyes and see the wonders that are found in His Torah and in the beautiful world that He created.
Rabbi Chaim Berlin, the head of Moscow’s rabbinical court, lived in Jerusalem in his old age. He would read the Torah in his shul every Shabbos very beautifully and very carefully. Many people in Jerusalem came to daven in his shul just to hear him. On Shabbos during Pesach, many people streamed into his shul to hear him read Song of Songs, which he did with fervor and an outpouring of love. In particular when he reached the verse, “Behold you are beautiful my beloved, behold you are beautiful, your eyes are those of doves,” he would read with great excitement and with tears. Rabbi Aryeh Levine, as a close student, decided one year to ask his rebbi why, when he reached this verse every year, he would break down in tears. Does this verse not describe so beautifully the love that exists between G-d and the Jewish people? “Let me tell you the reason,” answered Rabbi Chaim. “Once when I was a rabbi in Moscow, a Jew came to me and asked to speak with me privately. I thought, who knows what kind of trouble this Jew is in, to the point that he is embarrassed to speak in front of strangers. We went into a side room, and I was surprised to hear that his ‘secret’ was the announcement that – mazel tov – his wife had just given birth to a baby boy. He had come to invite me to perform the bris. (Rabbi Chaim Berlin was known as an expert Mohel.) “I asked my guest what was the reason for secrecy in the matter; after all, every Jewish boy has a bris. What then is there to hide? “’Your honor should know,’ he replied, ‘that I live in an entirely non-Jewish area, and none of my neighbors or acquaintances know that I am a Jew. I own a large warehouse of Christian religious articles, and of course if it were to become known that I am a Jew, I would lose my comfortable income, and there might be danger to my life. Therefore, while I’m inviting you to give my son a bris, I ask for advice as to how to arrange the bris so that no one will be aware of what is happening.’ “Of course, in such a situation there was no room to think of fulfilling the mitzvah in an exemplary way, with a minyan and festive meal, as is the Jewish custom, and therefore I told him that he should be prepared to be the sandak (to hold the boy on his knees), and then we would be able to carry out the bris by ourselves. “’No, I will not be able to do that, Rabbi,’ replied this Jew in fright. ‘I have a soft heart and I cannot bear to look at anyone being hurt. How then will I be able to watch my young son having a bris? Perhaps my hands will shake and I will, God forbid, drop the baby from my lap.’ “I asked him for a few more details about his situation, where he lived and the like, and then I made the following suggestion: ‘Firstly, on the day of the bris, send away all the non-Jewish servants that are in your house, so they will not see what you are doing there. Secondly, since there is in the city a Jewish doctor, a famous surgeon, whose services are requested by many non-Jews as well, you should ask him to come on the eighth day to be present at the time of the bris, and you should tell your neighbors that a physical blemish was found in the baby and he needs a minor operation. And I will come with the doctor at the appointed time. The doctor will be the sandak, and I the Mohel. And the doctor will be able to come afterwards a few times to your house to oversee the healing of the bris, and everything will go peacefully.’ “On the appointed day, the Jew came to lead me to his house, together with the famous surgeon. We passed through streets and areas that in all the years I had lived in Moscow, I had never had the opportunity to pass through, because never did a Jewish foot tread there. We reached his house, which was like a nobleman’s, and there was not a single sign that this was a Jewish home. On the contrary, it had many types of idols and many Christian religious objects. We arranged the bris according to Jewish law, with the doctor serving as the sandak, and I the Mohel. When we parted I asked him to come to me on the third day after the bris in order to tell me how the baby was doing. “On the third day this Jew came to my house, and since he suspected that I had invited him so that he would pay me for my services, he offered me a bill of 20 rubles. Of course I refused to accept it. He thought that I was not satisfied with the sum he was offering, and therefore he added to it until I was able to convince him that I simply refused to accept reward for my efforts on behalf of such a great mitzvah. However I did disclose to him my real intention in inviting him to come to me, which was that I had a great desire to know what had brought him to fulfill the mitzvah of bris milah with such self-sacrifice, despite the fact that after speaking with him and visiting his home I saw that he had no connection whatsoever with Judaism. “Upon hearing these words, his eyes filled with tears. With a bowed head he said: ‘I know, Rabbi, that I have distanced myself from the Source. Sometimes my heart is broken, but with my situation I do not know whether I will be able to do a full Teshuvah (repentance)…’ And here he started weeping uncontrollably. After he calmed down somewhat, he continued. ‘I think that my tender son, who has been given the bris, will be even more distant than I am from Judaism, for at least in my childhood I lived like a Jew. But my son will not grow up with any sign of Jewish life. Even so, it is possible that this son, when he grows up, will become acquainted with Jewish life, and perhaps the spark will ignite and he will want to be a Jew. It is for this reason that I don’t want to block the way for him to return to our source. That is why I made such a great effort to give him a bris, so that the road will be open to him and he will be able to return easily to his source’.” When Rabbi Chaim Berlin reached the end of the story, he was moved to tears once again and added: “This incident made clear to me the saying of the Sages on the verse above: ‘Behold, you are beautiful my beloved, behold you are beautiful, your eyes are those of doves,’ which I had difficulty understanding throughout my life. “Our Sages explain the repetition of words, ‘Behold, you are beautiful’ in the following way: Behold you are beautiful – before the sin, and behold you are beautiful – after the sin. And the matter is not clear at all; what is the beauty after the sin? But this incident elucidated their intention to me. The answer lies in the final words, ‘your eyes are those of doves.” “One of the unique tendencies of a dove is that she does not distance herself so far from her nest that she will not know her way back. “This is what our Sages mean by: ‘Behold, you are beautiful – after the sin.’ A Jew, despite the fact that he sinned and distanced himself from his source, still turns his head backwards and tries not to lose his way entirely back to his nest. And if not he, then at least his offspring will be able to return to Judaism. And this is the praise of ‘your eyes are those of doves’.”
Shabbos in Navi
Yehoshua Chapter 12
In this chapter the Navi enumerates the kings who were defeated by Moshe and Yehoshua. It is said (Yehoshua 12:7) veileh hamelachim asher hikah Yehoshua uvnei Yisroel bieiver hayarden yamah mibaal gad bivikas haLevanon viad hahar hechalak haoleh Seirah vayitnah Yehoshua lishivtei Yisroel yerushah kimachlikosam, these are the kings of the land whom Yehoshua and the Children of Israel smote on the western side of the Jordan, from the plain of Gad in the Lebanon valley to the split mountain that ascends to Seir; Yehoshua gave it as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their divisions. The Baal HaTurim (Bereishis 33:14) writes that the words hahar hechalak alludes to Yaakov, who was ish chalak, smooth-skinned, and the word seirah alludes to Esav, who was hairy. Perhaps the idea here is that the Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states that had the Jewish People only observed the first Shabbos in the Wilderness, no race or nation could have assailed them. The Gemara (Shabbos 118a) states that Shabbos is called a boundless heritage, which is the heritage of Yaakov. The reason that the Jewish People were victorious against the thirty-one kings of Canaan was because they observed the Shabbos, the heritage of Yaakov, and they were thus able to defeat Esav and his descendants.
Throughout history, the gentiles have attempted to destroy the fabric of Jewish life by banning Shabbos observance. What is so unique about Shabbos that fuels this drive of the gentiles to eradicate its observance? Aside from the conventional anti-Jew sentiments that the gentiles have, Shabbos is unique in that it is described in the Gemara (Shabbos 10b) as follows: HaShem said to Moshe, “I have a wonderful gift in My treasure house and Shabbos is its name.” The gentiles evidently recognize that Shabbos is a gift solely for the Jewish People, so they attempt to steal Shabbos from us so they can somehow benefit from it. Yet, what they fail to realize is that a gentile who observes Shabbos is liable the death penalty (Sanhedrin 58b). Thus, Shabbos represents a dichotomy, that it provides life for the Jewish People and death to the gentiles if they observe the Shabbos. Hashem should allow us to merit observing the Shabbos faithfully and to appreciate the life source contained in the Holy Shabbos.
Shabbos in Halacha
One should not pour hot water from a kettle or urn (kli rishon) into a cup that is wet, as the droplets of cold water that are in the walls of the cup will be cooked by the flowing hot water. If the droplets of water were previously boiled, however, one is not required to dry the cup before pouring hot water into it. Nonetheless, it is preferable that one dries the cup or shakes out the remaining liquid before pouring hot water into the cup.
In the Friday night prayers we recite the words atah kidashta es yom hashevii lishmecho, You sanctified the seventh day for Your Name’s sake. The first letters of the words atah kidashta es yom hashevii in mispar katan, digit sum, equal 9, and the word Shabbos in mispar katan equals 9.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayishlach 5768
I will iy”h deliver a class in Navi this Friday night at my home
at 26100 Marlowe Place in Oak Park.
We will be studying Sefer Shmuel, the first Perek.
The class will be 8:30-9:15 and there will be Oneg Shabbos
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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