שבת טעם החיים קדושים תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Kedoshim 5771
Keeping the message of freedom alive
דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה’ אלקיכם, speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, HaShem, your G-d. (Vayikra 19:2)
Now that Pesach is over, we settle back into our routine and…wait, what is our routine? Most of us go back to work, send our children back to school, and continue from where we left off. Was Pesach just a mere interlude to be forgotten until next year? It would be strange that we work so hard to clean for Pesach, eat all that matzah and then walk away from it all, saying, “See you next year.” What message can we take with us from Pesach that will endure for the entire year? While the concept of liberation from slavery is important to internalize, perhaps there is an aspect of freedom that we can all relate to and that will help us cerate a new routine in our lives.
The Ibn Ezra (Bamidbar 6:7) writes that the true free person is one who has been liberated from his physical desires. How does one become free of physical desires, especially when he is a physical being? In this week’s parasha we are instructed by Hashem to be holy. Rashi writes that the parasha of Kedoshim was said by הקהל, when the entire Jewish People gathered together to hear the Jewish king read from the Book of Devarim. This event occurred once every seven years, on Sukkos of the year following Shemitah. The fundamental purpose of הקהל was that the entire Jewish People, men women and children would gather to hear the king read from the Torah and this would inspire everyone to fear HaShem and be careful to perform all the words of the Torah (See Devarim 31:12). However, from the fact that Parashas Kedoshim was also recited at הקהל, we can infer that there was also a subtle message that the Jewish People were supposed to gain from this momentous gathering. Parashas Kedoshim is about being holy, and according to Rashi, this means something very simple. Holiness means that one must distance himself from immorality. Most people do not engage in explicit immoral activities, so what can this exhortation be referring to?
The Gemara (Sukkah 51a) tells us that when the Jewish People celebrated theשמחת בית השואבה, the celebration of the drawing of the libation waters on Sukkos, the Sages instituted that the men and women were required to be in separate areas during the festivities. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 529:4) writes that the courts are required to designate sentries in the orchards and by the riverbanks throughout the festivals so that men and women should not mingle with each other. The Gemara (Kiddushin 81a) goes so far as to say that סקבא דשתא ריגלא, the weakest part of the year is on the festivals, when people act in an immoral fashion. Many congregations recite the special סליחות בה”ב, the supplications recited on the Monday, Thursday and Monday the week following Pesach and Shavuos. One of the reasons offered for the recital of these supplications is because people are more prone to sin on the festivals, and they need atonement for those sins immediately following the holiday. These statements are clear indicators that following the festival, we need to take a moral inventory. This is what Rashi means when he writes that Parashas Kedoshim was said by הקהל, as הקהל was a time when all the Jews were gathered together, and such a gathering was conducive to people acting immorally. Reading Parsahas Kedoshim would remind the assembly that they were gather for a higher purpose and serve as a reminder to them that they should maintain their holiness and purity.
We can now have a better understanding of the message of freedom that we experienced on Pesach. While we may still be slaves in a foreign country, we can liberate our minds and our bodies from servitude to our physical desires. The way to accomplish this is by avoiding mingling of the genders and through Torah study, which the Rambam () writes is the antidote for entertaining immoral thoughts. Hashem should allow us to become truly קדשים, holy people, and in the merit of our holiness He will bring us the long awaited redemption, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos in Action
Pesach is called Shabbos, and the Gemara (Megillah 13b) states that Haman claimed that the Jews always say, “It’s Shabbos today, Pesach today!” The Pinei Menachem writes that the commonality of Pesach and Shabbos is that they both require preparation. We should remember the preparations that we engaged in prior to Pesach and prepare in that manner for the Holy Shabbos.
Please submit your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will print them in next week’s issue of Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim. I wish you a wonderful Shabbos. Good Shabbos.
A Light in Lublin
“Hey, Reb Yid, can’t you make this wagon go any faster?”
“Believe me, the wagon would love to go faster,” Yankele the wagon driver replied with a smile, “but the horse doesn’t agree.”
“Don’t worry,” someone said to the first chassid. “We’ll have plenty of time to see the Chozeh. Lublin isn’t much further. What are you going to ask for, success with that new business venture?”
The chassidim then began to speak of the various things they needed, and shared stories of how the blessing of the Chozeh of Lublin had helped others obtain a good livelihood, good marriages for their children, and a whole host of other things. They totally forgot about the wagon driver, but Yankele eagerly listened to every word that they said. Yankele had heard of the Chozeh and the Rebbe’s wondrous powers — who hadn’t? But his usual route didn’t take him to Lublin and so he had never even set eyes upon the Chozeh, let alone present a kvitl — a written request that is given to a Rebbe, along with a sum of money for charity — even though there were so many things that he and his family needed.
When they arrived in Lublin, Yankele therefore asked the chassidim, “Would you do me a favor? I have to stay with the horse. But if I write a kvitl will you take it to the Chozeh?”
They agreed, and so while the wagon driver went to the stables they went straight to see the Chozeh. One by one the members of the group presented their requests. The Chozeh warmly blessed them all. They were about to leave when one of them remembered the wagon driver.
“Rebbe, there’s one more kvitl. The person couldn’t come himself.”
The Chozeh took the last kvitl and held it in his hands for several minutes, without opening it. “This person is a very great man,” he said finally. “His name is shining with a very special light.”
The chassidim were astonished and slightly embarrassed by the Chozeh’s mistake. They didn’t know if they should inform the Chozeh that the writer of the kvitl was just a simple wagon driver or hold their peace. But when the Chozeh continued to praise the kvitl writer, one of the chassidim stepped forward and said, “Rebbe, you are on such a high spiritual level that it’s only natural that you believe that everyone is on a high spiritual level, too. But the man who wrote this kvitl is just a simple wagon driver. He’s a good person, in his own way, I’m sure, but he’s not a great man.”
The Chozeh replied, “And I say that at this moment the soul of your simple wagon driver is emitting a great light. Go find him and you will see why.”
The chassidim did as they were instructed. They went to the stables, but the wagon driver wasn’t there. They went up one street and down another, but they didn’t find the man they were looking for.
“Do you hear the music? It sounds like a wedding,” said one of the chassidim.
“Perhaps he’s there.”
The chassidim rushed to where the music was coming from. Sure enough, they had stumbled upon a wedding. The whole town seemed to be there, and everyone was dancing around the bride and groom with great joy. But there was one person whose face was more joyful than all the others: the wagon driver.
“Are you a relative of the bride, or the bridegroom? Is that why you are so happy?” the chassidim asked the wagon driver
“No, I never saw them before in my life.”
“So why were you dancing with such joy?”
The wagon driver then explained what he had done while the chassidim were with the Chozeh. After feeding his horse, he took a stroll through the town. He noticed that a big crowd of people was going somewhere, so he followed them — and that’s when he discovered that a wedding was about to take place. But instead of the usual joy that accompanies such an event, he noticed that the bride — an older woman — was standing on one side of the square and crying her eyes out, while the groom — who was an older bachelor — was angrily gesturing about something in the other corner. Running back and forth between the two was the rabbi, who was trying to make peace between the unhappy couple.
“What’s the problem?” the wagon driver asked one of the townspeople.
“The bride is very poor. She couldn’t come up with a dowry, but she did promise to buy the groom a tallis (prayer shawl). However, she couldn’t even do that. So now the groom is saying that the wedding is off, since she didn’t keep her promise.”
The wagon driver’s heart went out to the unhappy woman. Although he was far from being a wealthy man, he knew what he had to do. He took off his hat and stuck his fingers into the place where he hid his money. He removed everything that was hidden there — his earnings for the past several days — and saw that he had enough money to buy a prayer shawl. He rushed to make his purchase and then rushed back to the square. After giving the tallis to the groom, he disappeared into the crowd, to watch the wedding.
“When the dancing started, I danced, too,” the wagon driver explained to the chassidim. “A simple Jew like me doesn’t often get a chance to do such a great mitzvah, so I suppose that is why I am so happy.”
The chassidim returned to the Chozeh and related the wagon driver’s story.
“Yes, that is the light that I saw,” said the Rebbe. “The mitzvah was, indeed, a great one. But it was his joy while doing the mitzvah that caused his soul to fill the Heavens with a great light.” (http://libiastaire.weebly.com/the-chesed-connection.html)
An Appreciation of the Bais Yisroel, Rebbe of Ger (edited for clarity)
He did have guide lines which he concentrated on and these included the following. He was insistent that in his Bais Hamidrash in Yerushalayim nobody, and I mean nobody, talked at all during davening. And I mean during davening, from the time it started to the time it finished with no exceptions even where one may normally speak say, for instance, during the korbanos right at the beginning of davening. If he caught anybody talking, woe betides him. He also had a genius for knowing that somebody was talking.
I myself witnessed the following incident. The Bais Yisroel used to daven next to the Baal Tefillah right at the Mizrach vant of the Bais Hamidrash, he did not have a chair (at least not until the last five years, subsequent to a serious operation) but stood the whole of davening like a general with his troops. There was then a gap where nobody davened around him being sort of a half circle, say ten foot away from him. After that, there were the bochurim and yungeleit who made a wall round him which could be at times four or five rows deep, further back there were other people davening as well. One Shabbos morning as Azehu Mikoman was being said, the Bais Yisroel suddenly looked fixedly at a spot where these young men were congregated like a wall and because he was looking so fixedly the wall split like magic and there was an empty path and one could see right to the back of the Bais Hamidrash. I noticed that two people had come into the Bais Hamidrash, obviously talking and were standing right near the back door and they had not quite finished their conversation. After a few seconds, one of the two noticed that the Bais Yisroel was looking in their direction fixedly, he realized what had happened and stopped talking. The other one had not noticed and therefore carried on until he suddenly realized that something was happening and also caught the eye of the Bais Yisroel. The two of them, to put it mildly, were so embarrassed that they almost slunk out of the Bais Hamidrash.
How on earth the Bais Yisroel could have sensed that these two were talking when he could not have seen it in a physical way? It must have been a purely spiritual, emisdike (truthful) sensation that made him look there and stop the conversation. This was not the only time it happened, I have heard of many such incidents. The fact is that he was very, very strong on this point. He was reputed to have said that the reason why the churban of the Second World War took place in the Ashkenazi communities, whereas, relatively speaking, the Sephardim of North Africa etc. were not touched, is because the Sephardim gave great kavod, honor and dignity to their Shuls and the way they davened and learned therein.
I think that this is a lesson for everybody nowadays as well.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Kedoshim 5771
is sponsored by Leonard and Susan Pollack of Oak Park, MI in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of their dear son Yedidyah Yisroel נ”י. May they have much nachas from him and from all their children
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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