שבת טעם החיים בהר תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Behar 5771
The Return to Freedom and Holiness
וקדשתם את שנת החמשים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל ישביה יובל היא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו, you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants; it shall be the Jubilee Year for you, you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage and you shall return each man to his family. (Vayikra 25:10)
Writers are always faced with the challenge of finding a sensational topic in the weekly parshaha to expound upon. This week is certainly no exception, as the Torah discusses the laws of Shemitah, the Sabbatical year, and Yovel, the Jubilee, that do not appear to be very relevant to our daily lives. Nonetheless, a writer must persevere and discover that elusive word or phrase that will shed light on the topic matter, no matter how abstract the topic may be. This week I merited noticing the word קדש, holiness, regarding Yovel. It is interesting that the word קדש only appears regarding Yovel and not regarding Shemitah, the seventh Sabbatical year. Let us examine Shemitah and Yovel, see how they contrast, and then discover why Yovel is so important and relevant to our dally lives.
Shemitah in the simple sense is that Jews living in Eretz Yisroel allow the land to rest, and there are numerous prohibitions in the Torah regarding working the land during the Shemitah year. Yovel is similar to Shemitah regarding the prohibitions of working the land. The main difference between Yovel and Shemitah is that in the Yovel year, all slaves were freed, and all sales of land were returned to their original owner. One must wonder, then, why the Yovel year is referred to as קדש, holy, whereas Shemitah is not deemed to be holy (Halachicly speaking, fruits of Shemitah had the same sanctity as fruits of Yovel. I am merely addressing the issue of the word קדש regarding Yovel in contrast to Shemitah). In order to answer this question, we must examine the meaning of holiness and the significance of the number fifty.
קדושה is normally translated as holiness or sanctity. Regarding the sanctity of the Yovel, it is said (Vayikra 25:10)וקדשתם את שנת החמשים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל ישביה יובל היא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו, you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants; it shall be the Jubilee Year for you, you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage and you shall return each man to his family. Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch writes that the concept of דרור, freedom, is that the object or person returns to its natural state. The manner in which an object or person returns to its natural state is by having all impediments towards that transformation removed. Thus, in the Yovel year a Jewish slave is returned to his family and the land returns to its original owner. We can extend Rav Hirsch’s explanation to apply to the concept of Yovel being holy. True holiness, writes the Ibn Ezra (Bamidbar 6:7) is one who is free from his desires. Consequently, when one returns to his natural state, which is without sin, he is considered holy. The Sfas Emes asks, why does the Torah state (Ibid ) ושבתם איש אל אחזתו, you shall return each man to his ancestral heritage? The Torah should have stated the opposite, that the ancestral heritage is returned to its owner? The Sfas Emes answers that the Torah is teaching us the essence of Yovel, which is that each Jew returns to his source. This source is referred to as the World of Freedom.
Based on the words of Rav Hirsch and the Sfas Emes, we can better understand why the two unique aspects of Yovel were the liberation of the slaves and the return of each man to his ancestral heritage. Essentially, both concepts are one, as one who until now was a slave to his desires becomes free, and subsequently he returns to his source, which is a state of holiness that exists when one is free from sin and desires. We can now also understand why Yovel is in the fiftieth year. The number fifty reflects freedom, as we find that the Jewish People in Egypt were sunk in the depths of the forty-nine gates of impurity and Hashem liberated them before they were completely lost. Subsequent to the Exodus the Jewish People counted the days until they would receive the Torah, and on the fiftieth day, they received the Torah at Sinai. The Shofar that was sounded at Sinai was referred to as a Yovel, (see Shemos 19:13) Symbolizing that they were now truly free from Egypt and from what Egypt symbolized, which was the blandishments of the Evil Inclination.
As we approach the holiday of Shavuos, we should be cognizant of the fact that we are not merely counting the days to that great event of receiving the Torah. Rather, we are actually returning to our source, which the Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 32:1; see Gemara Shabbos 146a) states was when the Jewish People became free from the Evil Inclination and free from the power of the Angel of Death, and in the words of the Mishna (Avos 6:2) the true free man is one who studies Torah. HaShem should allow us to merit being truly free to serve Him properly, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos in Action
Counting Sefirah gives us an appreciation for the counting of seven, as Sefiras HaOmer is forty-nine days, resulting in a count of seven times seven. Shabbos is the seventh day of the week, and it would behoove us immediately following Shabbos to begin counting the days until we arrive at the next 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.
What does it help to daven if other people are talking?!
And there’s one more legacy that Rav Yavo maintains from his rebbe. This one is not a theological understanding; it’s a practical lesson with tangible, measurable effects. When Rav Avigdor’s wife was niftar several years ago, Rav Yavo delivered a hesped at the levayah. Afterwards, a man came over to him and said, “I have to tell you a story, and you should tell it to your kehillah.”
“Several years ago,” he began, “I was diagnosed with a serious case of cancer, and the doctors had no hope for me. They told me that it was just a matter of time. Shattered, I went to Rav Avigdor to ask him for a brachah. ‘Where do you daven?’ he asked me. When I told him where I davened, he asked, ‘Do they talk during davening there?’ I admitted that they did.
‘Don’t step into that shul ever again,’ Rav Avigdor instructed. ‘Even if you daven perfectly, your tefillos are trapped by those of people who talk by davening, and they cannot ascend to Heaven. Look for another shul where they don’t talk.’
“I followed his advice, and several weeks later I went back to the doctor. They thought I was a different person. The cancer was disappearing.”
Rav Yavo didn’t have a chance to share the story with his mispallelim instantly, but on Simchas Torah, as they were about to begin Kol HaNe’orim, with all the children already under the tallis, a mispallel approached Rav Yavo with his son and begged him for a brachah. “My son was diagnosed with the machlah,” he said, “and the prognosis is not good.”
The memory brings up strong emotions even today, more than two years later. “I gave him the brachah,” Rav Yavo relates. “But I wondered what we could do for him.
“During Kol HaNe’orim, I suddenly remembered the story with Rav Avigdor. As soon as the aliyah was over, I klopped on the bimah, and told the mispallelim that there was a child in the crowd with cancer. I then told them the story, and said, ‘We’re about to start Parshas Bereishis. Let’s be mekabel to make an extra effort not to talk by davening for the next year.’ Everyone agreed to join.
“Three months later, the man came running over to me one day. The doctor informed him that the cancer was gone.”
Rav Yavo told the story at a yahrtzeit seudah, and before long, it grew wings. People now call from all over the world to inquire about the story, which has made it onto papers hung in many shuls.
But like a true chassid, Rav Yavo attributes the impact to his rebbe, ending his account with a familiar refrain, “This is all due to the influence of Rav Avigdor Miller.” (Reprinted with explicit permission from Mishpacha Magazine)
Tales of Jewish greatness
Before he would deliver a Torah discourse, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter would post on the bulletin board a list of all the sources he planned to use in his lecture. Once, after he had instructed the shamash of the shul to post the list, two brazen young men decided to play a practical joke. They took down the original list and put up one they had compiled of completely new “sources.”
Rabbi Salanter was accustomed to glance at the list on the bulletin board on the way to the podium to deliver his lecture, in order to refresh his memory before he went in to the lecture. Imagine his shock and amazement as he looked over the new outline of sources which he did not write and found a completely different list!
It is said that his face turned completely white and he stood there motionless for about ten minutes, seeming bewildered, lost in deep concentration. Then suddenly he regained his composure, ascended the podium and gave a brilliant lecture based on the entirely new sources ― which he had only seen moments before. The two culprits, now feeling embarrassed and very guilty, approached the Rav after the lecture and apologized, expressing deep regret.
It was only later that Rabbi Naftali Amsterdam revealed what had really happened. Everyone who hears the story probably imagines that the rabbi turned pale and stood there silently because he had been caught unawares and did not know what to do, as he was unable to create new thoughts on the spot from this new “list of sources.”
The truth is, however, that this was not the case at all. Rabbi Salanter was not concerned about creating a new lecture without prior preparation, right then and there, for his brilliance was such that he was able to do this if he so desired. His true dilemma at that moment was whether or not he should walk in to give the lecture and reveal his embarrassment by keeping silent, or whether he should reveal his brilliance by creating a new lecture to fit the sources on the “list.”
If he remained silent, he feared that he would lose his tremendous influence over his audience and miss an opportunity to teach them. And so, during those ten minutes while he stood there in silent concentration, he was weighing the pros and cons, deciding what to do.
In the end, for the sake of retaining his influence, he chose to “flex his muscles” by displaying his genius ― because he realized that this would have a positive influence on those who had come to hear the lecture.
Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, the Ben Ish Chai, explained a parable [about the greatness of the Jewish people]:
There was once a man who wanted to buy cloth for a suit. He entered a store and asked to see some samples of material. The owner gladly obliged and gave him several very fine pieces of suit material. In fact, they were all so beautiful that the customer could not decide among them. So the owner suggested he take the samples home with him, think it over and return the next day after he had decided which material he wanted for the suit.
After leaving the store, the man passed another store which also sold material. He considered going in, but decided that he already had what he needed to make a decision, so why waste the shopkeeper’s time. Nonetheless, he went in and looked through the rolls of material. When the shopkeeper asked the man if he could help him, he explained that he really had what he needed and he had just come in to browse.
The shopkeeper smiled and asked to see the samples of material. The man showed them to him and the shopkeeper examined each one. “They are really beautiful, but let me show you something I have.” He went over to some bundles of fabric lying on a table, and when he seemed to find what he was looking for, he cut out a piece from an old suit that was among the bundles of fabric. When the customer saw what he had done he asked for an explanation, whereupon the shopkeeper replied.
“Material should not be judged by its beauty alone. One must also see whether it can stand the wear and tear over time. In the other store they gave you samples of brand new material. At this stage it certainly looks good, but who knows how it will last. What I am showing you is material which has withstood the test of time and still retains its beauty. You can see how the fabric did not disintegrate or come apart at the seams, nor did the threads unravel. Old material is the true test of what is a good choice for a sturdy, long-lasting suit.”
“This is also true,” concluded the Ben Ish Chai, “about our religion. It is an ancient faith which has stood the test of time. Whereas other religions may have ‘fallen apart at the seams, with each generation making new innovations, ours retains the same philosophy and practice, just as it was given to Moses at Mount Sinai so very long ago… (www.innernet.org.il)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Behar 5771
is sponsored Lizeicher nishmas Yehudah Leib Nesanel ben Baruch Yaakov
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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