שבת טעם החיים מצורע תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Metzora 5771
Cleaning for Pesach: Getting rid of the Evil Within us
כי תבאו אל ארץ כנען אשר אני נותן לכם לאחזה ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם, when you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzaraas affliction upon a house in the land of your possession. (Vayikra 14:34)
This week’s parasha discusses the fascinating concept of צרעת, a malady that could appear on one’s house, clothing or body. The commentators (see Kli Yakar Tazria 13:3) write that the person who contracts צרעת is referred to as a מצורע which is a contraction of the words מוציא רע, one who emits evil. What evil did the person who suffers from this malady commit to warrant such a title? The simple understanding of this appellation is that one of the primary sins that are a catalyst for one to be afflicted with צרעת is לשון הרע, evil slander. Thus, one who is מוציא רע, speaking derogatorily, is punished with צרעת, which is an external reflection of his sin. This punishment can be understood for the person who is afflicted with צרעת on his body. How are we to understand, however, a person whose house is stricken with צרעת? In fact, we find that one who has צרעת on his house is deemed to be a recipient of a great reward. It is said (Vayikra 14:34)כי תבאו אל ארץ כנען אשר אני נותן לכם לאחזה ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם, when you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzaraas affliction upon a house in the land of your possession. Rashi writes that the Torah is informing the Jewish People that they will be recipients of the Amorites act of deception. While the Jews were in the desert, the Amorites concealed their jewels in their homes, so the Jews, upon entering the land, would not be able to locate the jewels. HaShem will therefore bring צרעת upon the Jews homes, and the homes will have to be demolished, thus resulting in a tremendous bounty for the Jews. The obvious question here is, why should someone who sinned and is punished with צרעת be rewarded with a windfall of jewels?
In order to understand this concept better, it is worthwhile to examine a long-standing Jewish tradition that occurs prior to the festival of Pesach. Jewish households toil together mightily to rid their homes of chametz, unleavened bread and its derivatives. Simultaneously, however, people get agitated when things are not cleaned properly and when other household members do not sufficiently participate in the cleaning program. Much has been written about what one is required to clean and what one is exempt from cleaning. Furthermore, people are encouraged to relax when it comes to Pesach cleaning, a difficult assignment for many, to say the least. One item, however, seems to be “swept under the rug,” and that is the idea of what chametz represents. The Zohar states that chametz represents the Evil Inclination, and our mission is to eradicate the Evil Inclination prior to Pesach. How does the Evil Inclination manifest itself? The Gemara (Sukkah 52a) states that the Evil Inclination is called רע, evil. Furthermore, regarding the Jewish slave who does not want to leave his master it is said (Shemos 21:6)והגישו אדניו אל האלהים והגישו אל הדלת או אל המזוזה ורצע אדניו את אזנו במרצע ועבדו לעולם, then his master shall bring him to the court and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with his awl, and he shall serve him forever. The word for an awl is מרצע, which, when rearranging the letters, also is an acrostic for the words מוציא רע, take out the evil. In this case, the Jewish slave is shown that because he did not wish to leave his status of slavery, he will now be a slave until the Yovel year. The slave should have taken out the evil from within him and accepted the servitude of HaShem over being a slave to another human.
I heard from Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita that the Zohar states when Esther would have a relationship with Achashveirosh, a demon from Esther would be with Achashveirosh. This was the bad side of Esther that would form a union with Achashveirosh. When Esther was with Achashveirosh willingly, however, she was giving up the good side of herself to Achashveirosh. What we can take from this teaching is that every person has in himself a good side and a bad side. When a person contracted צרעת on his house, it was a form of bad that was exiting him and attaching itself to his house. The Daas Zikeinim MiBaalei HaTosfos (Vayikra 14:34) write that the צרעת that afflicted the house was so that the homeowner would take the message to heart and repent. Thus, the צרעת would function as a מוציא רע, evicting the evil from within the person. Once a person succeeds in uprooting the evil from within, he merits great reward, and this reward was physically manifested in the Amorite’s treasures.
In a similar vein, the Rokeach writes that when one is cleaning the house for Pesach, he should not declare, “what do I need to do this for?” as these are the words of theבן הרשע, the wicked son mentioned in the Hagadah. The Maharal (Derech Chaim 2:13) writes that a רשע is one who deviates from the normal manner of conduct. It follows, therefore, that one who complains about Peach preparations is classified as a רשע, wicked person, as he deviates from the normal conduct of the Jewish People who assiduously prepare for Pesach.
The words מצרע and מרצע both equal in gematria 400, and HaShem had informed Avraham that the Jewish People would be slaves in Egypt for four hundred years. The way we can get ourselves out of Egypt, i.e. the clutches of the Evil Inclination, is by being מוציא רע, removing from ourselves the evil that is within us. Preparing properly for Pesach, without complaining about the workload, is the first step in the right direction to true freedom from the Evil Inclination and his nefarious henchmen. HaShem should allow us to merit that this year we experience true freedom and liberation, when Moshiach Tzidkeinu arrives to bring us all to Eretz Yisroel, with the building of the third Bais HaMikdash, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos in Action NEW!
One reader suggested that a family discuss at least one Halacha regarding the laws of Shabbos at the Shabbos table, to enhance our observance of Shabbos. Another reader writes (edited): my sons, both in Eretz Yisroel, turn on classical music and one cleans and one cooks. As for my home in Detroit, my husband assists cooking on Thursday night, as I work in the kitchen around him, watering the plants and presetting the table, so when we awake Friday, the home already looks a bit like Shabbos. When I’m really good, I act as if Shabbos is earlier every week, and hopefully that frees me up for music and study of Parsha or other learning. A nice long walk may also promote peace and focus for our gifted day. We also set out that week’s brochos by the candles, ready for when we bench licht. P.S. when my daughter was 3, we gave her a cute tzedakah box and her own candlestick. We also light one candle per family member, so the children realize that the world has additional light, and that the world is a better place, because they are here.
Please submit your suggestions to email@example.com and I will print them in next week’s issue of Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim. I wish you a wonderful Shabbos. Good Shabbos.
Song of the Scorpions
It was the first night of Chanukah and Rabbi Yaakov Haber, with his wife, Bayle, at his side, was about to light the menorah. The Habers, who lived in the Unsdorf section of Jerusalem, were expecting their first child. They were delighted to begin their married life in Israel.
There was a knock on the front door. The Habers were not expecting anyone and their surprise turned to astonishment when they opened the door and saw a bedraggled, disheveled middle-aged man. His hat was turned askew, his clothes were filthy and his face unshaven. His right eye seemed locked shut, making him look like a pirate who misplaced his eye patch.
“Do you think you might have a meal for me?” he asked politely.
The Habers looked at each other and then back to their visitor. It was Chanukah, God had blessed them with much good, and they could only imagine how lonely the fellow must feel. He didn’t look dangerous, just sad. Why not share their bounty with others?
“Yes, come in,” said Rabbi Haber. “We’re going to eat after I light the menorah. Please join us.”
The man tried to smile but his effort failed. He seemed to grimace as he thanked them softly. As he walked past the Habers into the dining area, they could smell the stench of his clothes that probably hadn’t been washed in weeks. They would not go back on their word. He could stay for the meal and they would endure it.
He said his name was Beinish, and he seemed pleasant, though he didn’t talk much about his personal life. He did mention that he lived alone and had fallen on hard times. The meal went by uneventfully as Rabbi Haber discussed some spiritual aspects of the festival. However before Beinish left, he asked the Habers if he could come back again. They assured him he could.
Over the next few weeks Beinish began coming with increased frequency, and soon the Habers found themselves hosting him on Shabbos and a few times in the middle of the week. Mrs. Haber didn’t mind washing the soiled clothes that Beinish would bring her every few days… and he came and went as he pleased.
The Haber’s were scheduled to move to the Romemah neighborhood, where apartments were more affordable. They wondered if they were obliged to tell Beinish when and where they were moving (since they were beginning to feel his presence was burdensome). Rabbi Haber asked a religious ruling, and was told that he need not reveal his new address or even tell Beinish that he was moving. So they moved to Romemah and didn’t hear from Beinish again.
The Habers settled into their new quarters and had their first child. A few weeks later, Rabbi Haber noticed a scorpion sprinting across his dining room floor. He caught up with it and made sure it would never come back.
There are 1,300 species of scorpions worldwide, and some of the most dangerous are in the Middle East. Only one species in United States and almost 20 others worldwide have venom potent enough to be dangerous to humans. Israel is home to the most deadly of all scorpions, the Palestine yellow scorpion, whose sting can be fatal to children. Rabbi Haber wasn’t taking any chances.
A few days later a number of scorpions scooted across the floor. Rabbi and Mrs. Haber were frightened. Scorpions could be lethal. Soon, scorpions came every day, so the Habers placed blankets over their infant’s crib to prevent them from crawling in. They called an exterminator, who made two visits. But eventually he announced, “There is nothing more I can do here.”
The Habers were devastated. If the exterminator couldn’t eliminate scorpions, how could they? The strange thing was that no one else on the block had this problem.
The final straw came one Shabbos morning. Rabbi Haber awoke to his wife’s screams. She was standing on a chair pointing to a corner of the room where scorpions ran alongside the baseboard…
After that harrowing Shabbos, Rabbi Haber went to see his mentor, Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg. “Rebbi,” he began, “my wife and I have been going through this terrible experience with scorpions roaming our apartment. It is frightening and dangerous. Have we done anything wrong? How should view this spiritually? Why is this happening?”
Rabbi Scheinberg is a world famous rabbinic authority to thousands of students in Israel and the United States. Rabbi Scheinberg referred to “Perek Shira,” an ancient book whose theme is that everything in creation has a role to play in God’s plan, from huge mountains to tiny ants. The book is a very ancient. Some say it was composed by King David, some say by King Solomon, and some say by Rabbi Judah the Prince.
Rabbi Scheinberg turned to Chapter 6, which contains the “psalms” of creeping creatures, such as the snake, snail and ant. He pointed to the entry on scorpions, which quotes a verse from Psalms (145:9): “The scorpion says: God is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His handiwork.”
Rabbi Scheinberg turned to Rabbi Haber and said, “We don’t know the purpose of scorpions in this world. Even though some of them are lethal, God has compassion on scorpions and supplies them with food and with what they need to survive. Perhaps you failed to show compassion to someone. The scorpion’s song is one of mercy and that’s what we must adapt in our lives.”
Rabbi Haber was stunned! Suddenly the picture was becoming clear. In a sense he had abandoned Beinish, the poor man who had been relying on him and his wife. As he left Rabbi Scheinberg, he knew he had to find Beinish somehow, somewhere.
Beinish had said he lived somewhere in Jerusalem’s Geulah neighborhood. Rabbi Haber walked through the legendary streets named after biblical prophets… but Beinish was nowhere to be found. Days went by and Rabbi Haber felt anxious. He couldn’t spend so much time searching for Beinish — he had come to Israel to study — but the scorpions were still invading his apartment.
One day as he was on a bus, he spotted Beinish. He quickly got off the bus and ran over to the destitute man who seemed to be walking aimlessly. “Beinish, we miss you and we need you! When can you come again?”
Beinish smiled and said, “I miss you, too. Tell me when and where I should come.”
Rabbi Haber gave Beinish his new address, and that night Beinish came for supper. That was just the start; once again he began coming regularly. Beinish was the Haber’s frequent guest, but the scorpions were gone. Not one returned!
Caring for Your Money
Charity saves from death — it’s literally lifesaving. When we give charity, we don’t do the other person a favor, he does us a favor. In the days of our Sages, when a poor man knocked at the door, he didn’t ask for a handout. He used to say, “Zachei bi — earn merit through me!” Instead of the poor thanking us, we should be thanking them. By giving to them, we annul a bad decree and earn merit for life. A woman who understands this can earn merit for her whole family…
Once upon a time there was a pious, wealthy man who became very poor — so poor, that in order to earn a living he would hire himself out by the day to plow fields. One day while he was working in the fields, Elijah the prophet appeared to him in the guise of a simple peasant and said, “You have six good years coming to you. When would you like them — now or at the end of your life?”
The poor man barely looked up from his work. “Excuse me please,” he said, “but I am very busy and I’m being paid for my work. Please leave me alone.”
Elijah came back a second time and again the poor man paid no attention. When he returned yet a third time, the poor man agreed to consider his proposal. “If you’re so determined,” he told him, “wait here. I never do anything without first consulting my wife. I’ll go home and ask her, and we’ll see what she says.”
He went home and told his wife what had happened: “He won’t leave me alone! What should I tell him?”
His wife thought for a minute and then said: “Tell him to give us the good years now.”
The farmer went back to Elijah with the answer: “My wife said you should give the good years now.”
Elijah then began arguing with him: “Right now you’re able to work. When you get old, you might not have the strength; perhaps you should leave the good years for later.”
“I never asked you for anything,” the farmer replied. “It was your suggestion to begin with! My wife says ‘now.’ If you want to give the six years, give them now. Otherwise, goodbye.”
“Fine,” Elijah agreed. “Return home and you will find a treasure.”
When the poor farmer returned home, his children came running excitedly to meet him. They told him they’d been playing in the yard and had suddenly discovered a great treasure. In an instant, the family became extremely wealthy.
“This money is sacred,” the woman told her family. “We shall continue living exactly as we do now. We will not be as hungry as we have been, but that will be the only change.”
She called over one of her children and told him, “Your responsibility will be to write down whatever I tell you to.” She began giving money to the poor and needy, and told her son to record each charitable donation in a special notebook.
Their lives continued in this way for the next six years. They did not move to a bigger and better home, nor did they buy new furniture — they didn’t even whitewash the walls. In fact, the farmer even continued working in the fields.
One day, Elijah reappeared. “Do you remember me?” he asked the farmer. “I have come to reclaim the treasure I gave you.”
“And do you remember that I didn’t take it without consulting my wife?” the farmer replied. “I never do anything without conferring with my wife. Please wait here — I’ll go home and ask her.”
He went home and told his wife that the stranger had returned to take back the treasure.
“Here,” she said calmly. “Give him our account books. Tell him to look them over and see what we did with the money. Then ask him if he has better caretakers for his treasure. If he does, he can take it away. But if we’ve taken good care of his money, let him leave it with us.”
When God saw all the charity and good deeds they did with the money, not only did the treasure remain with them, but it increased many times over.
All in the merit of a wise woman. (www.innernet.org.il)
The Young Yehuda Lowe Plays Child Judge Before The Ruler Of The City
In the marketplace in Prague, in side by side stores with an adjoining wall, were stores owned by a crooked fragrance dealer and an honest oil merchant. The Jewish oil merchant had a good reputation and his business thrived, while the crooked fragrance dealer struggled to bring customers into his store.
One night after the market was closed the fragrance dealer drilled a small hole in the adjoining wall. He spent the next several days observing the oil merchant. He noticed that each night the oil merchant would count his daily revenue and place it into a red pouch that he would hide. This gave him an idea.
The next day he ran into the street screaming that his money had been robbed and he suspected the oil merchant since he is the only one who knew that he placed his money in a red pouch. Sure enough the police found the red pouch in the store of the oil merchant. Because of their respective reputations no one really believed the fragrance merchant but he told a good story and a trial was set to take place.
The talk of town was the big trial and the streets were full of debate as to who was the thief. Even the children talked voraciously about the upcoming trial. The ruler was in a conundrum and didn’t know who to believe.
One night before the trial, the ruler walked the streets and overheard some Jewish children playing “court”. One child presided, while arguments were made by other children pretending to be the two claimants. The ruler amusingly stood by listening to the proceedings.
After hearing both sides, the young judge asked them to bring a bowl of water. “We will put the coins in the water. If oil spots come floating to the top then we know the coins were handled by the oil dealer and he is innocent. If nothing floats to the top we will know that the rightful owner is the fragrance dealer and the oil merchant is a thief.”
The very next day during the real trial before a packed courtroom, after hearing both side, the ruler asked for a bowl of water… The oil merchant was proven innocent and the liable was discovered. When all the townspeople praised the Ruler on his incredible wisdom, he said do not praise me but the little boy who gave me the idea.
That little boy whose name was Yehuda Lowe, said the Brisker Rov, is better known today as the Maharal MiPrague. (Zichronam Li’Vracha/Uvdos V’Hanhagos L’Bais Brisk)
Rav Eliyahu Lopian’s Strange Conversation With Rebbitzen Kook
Rav Eliyahu Lopian used to regularly visit Tiverya during a certain period when he was involving in establishing a yeshivah there. From time to time, he would visit Rav Rafael Kook, the Rav of Tiverya.
On one occasion, Rav Lopian came to visit R’ Kook, and the Rebbitzen answered the door and apologized that Rav Kook was not at home. Despite this, Rav Lopian entered the house and engaged the Rebbitzen in a lengthy conversation about the Asara Harugei Malchus. The Rebbitzen was quite surprised that Rav Lopian was sitting and talking with her, and could not understand why he was specifically discussing the Asara Harugei Malchus.
A short time later, her husband, Rav Rafael passed away, and the Rebbitzen became an almanah. Sadly, her mourning was compounded shortly later when her son and his family were involved in a terrible car accident. Her son, Rav Shlomo, his wife, and three of their children were killed in this horrible tragedy.
During the shiva, the Rebbitzen suddenly remembered the conversation with Rav Lopian on the Asara Harugei Malchus. Unfortunately, she now understood the reason for this topic, but she also gleaned strength from Rav Lopian’s words to overcome her great sorrow. She sadly murmured, “You have comforted me, Rav Eliyahu, you have comforted me.” (Shaal Avicha Veyegadcha)
Rav Moshe Feinstein Counts The Votes
The parents of a boy studying at Rav Moshe Feinstein’s yeshiva came one day to discuss with him an urgent matter. They wanted their son, who was studying full time in the yeshiva to leave yeshiva, and embark on a professional career. The son would hear nothing of this and insisted on staying, for the time being, in the Bais Medrash where his diligence was bearing fruit. It was decided among them that they would go to Rav Moshe to arbitrate this important matter.
The father began to speak and said to Rav Moshe that the Gemara says there are 3 partners that help create every child and therefore those three should decide the child’s fate. Those three being the father, the mother, and Hashem. “I am the father here is the mother” said the father “and you as the boy’s Rosh Yeshiva can act as the representative of Hashem.” With that being said the father began to make his argument. “I and the mother both vote for the boy to leave the yeshiva. Therefore even if you vote that he remain you are outvoted 2 against 1 and the boy must leave.”
Then with a big smile on his face the father turned to Rav Moshe and asked if he has any objections to his argument. Rav Moshe in his infinite wisdom replied that while that being the case, each one of them, the father, the mother, and Rav Moshe are also the product of three partners. Their two parents and Hashem. Therefore, since Rav Moshe’s three partners, as well as 1/3 of each of the two parents three partners vote that the boy should stay in yeshiva that would make it 5 to 4 in favor of him staying….and stay he did!
Rav Shach Goes To Tel Aviv
A yeshivah bachur in Bnei Brak was once found with inappropriate reading material. His Roshei Yeshivah wanted to expel him, but before taking this drastic step, they decided to consult with Rav Shach, the Gadol Hador and Rosh Yeshivah of Ponevezh. Rav Shach requested to meet the bachur before he offered his opinion. Rav Shach met with the bachur and realized that the bachur was having doubts in emunah. Rav Shach spoke with him at length, and tried to strengthen his emunah. This meeting took place at the end of the winter zeman. Rav Shach asked the bachur, who lived in Tel Aviv, to meet with him again over the Pesach break.
After Pesach, the boy’s Rebbi asked Rav Shach if the boy had actually made the effort to travel to Bnei Brak to see him. Rav Shach said that they boy did not have to come to him because he himself traveled to Tel Aviv twice to see him over the Pesach break.
At the beginning of the new zeman, the bachur returned to yeshivah and reported to his rebbe that his emunah was now strong and steadfast. He said, “If Klal Yisrael includes a person who is so caring that he traveled twice to Tel Aviv to see me, I have no more questions in emunah.” (www.Revaach.net)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Metzora 5771
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