שבת טעם החיים מסעי תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Masei 5771
Pursuing peace with Esav
ויסעו מקדש ויחנו בהר ההר בקצה ארץ אדום: ויעל אהרן הכהן אל הר ההר על פי ה’ וימת שם בשנת הארבעים לצאת בני ישראל מארץ מצרים בחדש החמישי באחד לחדש, they journeyed from Kadesh and encamped in Mount Hor, at the edge of the land of Edom. Then Aharon the Kohen went up to Mount Hor at the word of HaShem and died there, in the fortieth year after the Children of Israel went forth from the land of Egypt, in the fifth month on the first for the month. (Bamidbar 33:37-38)
Aharon and Edom? Do you see a connection? Well, according to one opinion in the Gemara (Kiddushin 18a), Esav was Jewish. Furthermore, עשו equals in gematria שלום, and Aharon was אוהב שלום ורודף שלום, he loved peace and pursued peace. Now that sounds intriguing. How can Esav reflect שלום when he was a murderer? The story is told that a concerned man came to Rav Chaim Volozhin to apprise him of an untenable situation. A chasid was proclaiming that Esav was the name of HaShem. Upon hearing such blasphemy, Rav Chaim immediately summoned the chasid and questioned him regarding the reason for his proclamation. The chasid responded, “Rebbe, our Sages teach us that the entire Torah is comprised of HaShem’s Holy Names. Esav is a word in the Torah, so Esav is also the name of HaShem!” While this anecdote may sound humorous, there would appear to be some truth to it. Every word in the Torah is a component of one of HaShem’s Names. Let us understand how this relates specifically to Esav.
It is said (Bamidbar 20:23) ויאמר ה’ אל משה ואל אהרן בהר ההר על גבול ארץ אדום לאמר, HaShem said to Moshe and Aharon at Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying. Rashi writes that because they came close to Esav the wicked one, their deeds were breached and they lost this righteous person. Although at that time Esav was no longer alive, his descendants, Edom, were also deemed to be wicked. Why, however, was this sufficient reason to lose Aharon Hakohen?
In order to answer this question, we must reflect back on an incident that occurred when Yaakov was returning to his fathers’ house and encountered his brother Esav. Rashi (Bereishis 32:23) writes that Yaakov took his eleven children with him. Dina, however, was not listed, because Yaakov had concealed her in a box so Esav should not see her. HaShem informed Yaakov that because he did not give Esav a chance to repent, he would be punished and Dina was kidnapped by Shechem. Apparently, Dina had within her the ability to arouse Esav to repentance. In a similar vein, when the Jewish People came close to Edom, they had the ability to draw Edom closer to HaShem. The Mishna states (Avos 1:12) הוי מתלמידיו של אהרן אוהב שלום ורודף שלום אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה, be among the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to the Torah. The Mishna does not say “loving Jews.” It states “loving people and bringing them closer to the Torah.” The attribute of Aharon was that he was able to love every human being, regardless of race or religion. This characteristic was already found in Dina, who was punished because she was prevented from drawing Esav close to HaShem. The Baal HaTurim alludes to this idea when he writes (Bamidbar 6:26) regarding the priestly blessings said by Aharon and his descendants that the word שלום equals in gematria the word עשו, as the Gemara (Brachos 17a) teaches that one should greet (מקדים שלום) even a gentile. שלום is not limited to the Jewish People. On some level we are required to make peace with the entire world. While we are not suggesting that a Jew go out and convert the nations to Judaism, we must be cognizant of our heritage that teaches us to love every single one of HaShem’s human creations. When we lose that sensitivity, we can be responsible for the death of someone as great as Aharon Hakohen. In recent times we have unfortunately lost three great leaders of the Jewish People. Hashem should put in our hearts the ability to love every human being, and then we will surely be granted peace and tranquility, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos in Action through the Prism of the Parshah
In this week’s parasha it is said (Bamidbar 35:2) צו את בני ישראל ונתנו ללוים מנחלת ערים לשבת ומגרש לערים סביבתיהם תתנו ללוים, command the Children of Israel that they shall give to the Levites, from the heritage of their possession, cities for dwelling, and open space for the cities all around them shall you give to the Levites. We can interpret this verse homiletically as follows: the word לוי is similar to the word לוה, borrower. The Gemara (Beitzah 15b) states that HaShem tells the Jewish People לוו עלי ואני פורע, borrow on Me [for Shabbos] and I will pay you back. The word מנחלת means heritage, and the Gemara (Shabbos 118a) statesכל המענג את השבת נותנין לו נחלה בלי מצרים, one who delights in the Shabbos will receive a boundless heritage. The word לשבת, translated as “for dwelling,” can also be interpreted to mean “for Shabbos.”
Greatness in our Midst
[Rabbi Simcha Wasserman was a leader of 20th century Jewry, educating thousands in France, the U.S. and Israel. Beyond his sagely wisdom, Rabbi Wasserman was known for his impeccable character, particularly his sensitivity toward others. Some anecdotes:]
Rabbi Wasserman once visited a former student who was learning in the great Mir Yeshivah in Brooklyn. He dropped in early one afternoon when the students were on their break between learning sessions. After greeting the young man, he suggested that they have lunch while they talk “so that you won’t be hungry when you return to your learning. I wouldn’t want you to miss your lunch just because of me.”
The student agreed, and while they strolled in the neighborhood near the yeshivah, they became so engrossed in their discussion that the young man automatically made his way to a local pizza shop, without thinking that the noisy and smoky place would not be an appropriate place to enter with his great rabbi.
Into the amplified music and the tightly-crowded rows of customers standing around with their orders walked the stately Rabbi Wasserman and his suddenly embarrassed companion. The young man tugged at Rabbi Wasserman’s sleeve and stammered, “I… I… I think I made a mistake. We’re in the wrong place!”
Rabbi Wasserman motioned for him to relax and as the voices in the room settled and eyes turned toward the elderly rabbinic figure parting the crowd like Moses walking through the walls of water at the Red Sea, Rabbi Wasserman walked straight up to the counter and asked the Israeli proprietor, “Do you serve soup?”
The bewildered man shook his head and apologized that they had no soup in his pizza shop. Rabbi Wasserman looked genuinely sorry, and he too apologized, stating that he would have liked to stay there for lunch but that his doctor had advised him “to stick to things like hot soup when you have lunch.”
The Israeli nodded sympathetically and commiserated with the rabbi, and they bid each other “Shalom” as Rabbi Wasserman left with his mystified student.
The young man began to apologize that he hadn’t stopped to think that a “hangout” might not be the place to bring his rabbi.
Rabbi Wasserman consoled him and told him no harm was done. “It was no problem!” he laughed. “I didn’t want to offend the fellow by just walking out. That’s why I asked about soup. This way he’ll understand that there was no problem with his restaurant. He won’t be offended that an old man didn’t stay and eat because there was no soup!”
At a wedding in New York, I encountered Rabbi Wasserman. As we made our way across the now-deserted dining hall to sit down and talk, Rabbi Wasserman kept bending over to pick up challah rolls that had fallen to the floor beneath the tables we passed. I took them from him, telling him that I would pick them up – I refused to let him bend down that way!
“We do not walk over food,” he quoted. “It is a disgrace to do so.” (Talmud – Eruvin 64b; Bava Metzia 23a)
I nodded, abashed, and placed the collection of uneaten rolls on one of the tables.
Rabbi Wasserman looked sad and said, “You know, even leaving them here is a question; they will just go to waste when the staff comes in to clean up.”
I declared, more than asked, “But what can we do? This is the standard they have. No one will re-serve these rolls.”
He nodded his head slowly in reluctant acquiescence. “You are right,” he said. “What can we do, for this is the standard that is followed these days. It is still hard to watch it happen.”
I once accompanied Rabbi Wasserman on some errands which included a visit to the dry cleaners. As he put his garments on the counter, the clerk began to fill out a ticket and asked for his name.
“Wasserman. Samuel Wasserman,” he replied.
Once outside, I asked Rabbi Wasserman if he had taken “Samuel” as his legal English name.
He smiled. “No, no. I only give that name when I know they are copying it down. You see, that fellow would never know how to spell ‘Simcha’ and he would be embarrassed. Besides that, both of us would lose valuable time. Since most people know how to spell ‘Samuel,’ I use it to make things easier all around.” (www.innernet.org.il)
Stories of Rav Chaim Stein, zt”l Rosh Yeshiva Telz Cleveland
Two summers ago, a person came to Rav Chaim and told him that he has a daughter who is about 30 years old and wishes to travel a bit to “air out” and clear her mind. The parsha of shidduchim had been a difficult one to that point, and it was thought that a trip would be beneficial for her. The question posed to the rosh yeshiva was whether embarking on such a trip during the Three Weeks was permissible. Rav Chaim responded, “Vos hertzach mit a shidduch? What’s going on with a shidduch?” The father responded that at that point nothing was on the horizon. Rav Chaim then said to the girl, “Oib du vilst, if you want, you will become a kallah this year.” The father was flabbergasted. “Rosh yeshiva,” he said to Rav Chaim, “there are only two months left to the year and, like we said, no one’s on the horizon.” Rav Chaim repeated, “Oib du vilst, if you want, you will become a kallah this year.” Indeed, a short while later, in the middle of Elul, this girl became a kallah. (www.matzav.com)
A Kosher Shofar
How we take for granted the opportunity to do mitzvos! Yet another story is told that when Rav Stein was in Siberia, they didn’t have a shofar. They bartered a huge amount of goods to get the coveted horn. Unfortunately, the farmer brought them the head of a cow whose horns are not kosher for a shofar. Not giving up, they somehow managed to put together more merchandise to barter with and on Erev Rosh Hashanah the farmer procured for them the head of a ram. However, the horns were so small that they could not remove enough cartilage to get a sound out of this shofar. Providentially, just minutes before Rosh Hashanah, they cut out the last bits of cartilage to have a kosher shofar for the Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgment.
The Last Drop
Excruciatingly slowly, the train to Siberia pulled out of Telz station, saving Rabbi Chaim Stein and his friends from certain death.
The train was a “local”, meaning it stopped at every “stodt and shtetl” along the way. Getting to Siberia and freedom would take many days, but for the moment they were safe. The friends sunk back in the chairs, their hearts filled with thanks to G-d for their delivery.
Several days passed. The unremitting boredom of the landscape was alleviated only by their learning of Torah and davening. Then someone remembered that the first light of Chanukah would be that night.
But how to light a candle here on this train?
They racked their brains trying to come up with an idea. Someone cut a small patch from his shirt and pulled it to pieces thread by thread and he twisted a wick from the threads. Someone else found a small discarded metal can that would do for a cup. But what about oil for the candle’s light?
They thought and thought but no one could come up with a solution. They sat in silence for many minutes, with only the sound of the engine chuffing up ahead.
The engine! Engines run on oil! Maybe there would be a way to get some of that oil?
It wasn’t long till the next stop. As soon as the train came to a rest, they all jumped down and examined the engine from every possible angle. One of them found a small venting pipe from which a minuscule amount of oil was dripping. They placed the cup under the pipe and collected as many drops as they could until the conductor blew his whistle and they hastily scampered back onto the train.
This ceremony was repeated throughout the day. They worked out that there were enough stops along the line to gather the minimum amount of oil needed to light the menorah.
With hearts full of thanks to G-d they lit the first light and made the three blessings .”Who has sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to light the lights of Chanukah;” …Who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this time;” “…Who kept us alive and given us existence, and brought us to this time.”
They repeated this daily ritual of collecting the oil (with the exception of Shabbat) throughout the days of Chanukah.
The weather was deteriorating rapidly. In this wilderness stops were few. The frosty chill of Telz was replaced by the biting cold of the Siberian wasteland. And biting it surely was, for anyone who left the train for more than a few seconds without protective clothing would suffer frostbite.
On the last day of Chanukah one of them volunteered to try and get some oil. Someone wrapped his head with his own coat. Someone else lent him an extra pair of pants even though the temperature in the railway carriage was already subzero. When train stopped he clambered down and pushed through the snow to the engine.
Nothing. Not a drop was leaking from the pipe, It was too cold even for the oil.
As quickly as he could, he made his way back to their carriage with the bad news.
As night loomed, their gloom deepened. The time for lighting came and went. There was nothing they could do.
Despair is not a Jewish thing.
If they couldn’t light the last candle physically, they would light in their hearts instead. They started to sing and dance and recount all they knew about Chanukah — including the halachic, ethical and mystical interpretations of the miraculous events of the festival.
They stayed up all night.
Around four o’clock in the morning there was a knock on the door of their carriage. They opened the door and filling the entrance was this enormous Russian with a candle in his hand.
“Do you need a candle?” he said.
Without even answering him, they grabbed the candle set it on the small table by the windowsill, made the blessings, and lit the candle.
Literally seconds later the ‘morning star’ rose – after which you can no longer light the Chanukah lights.
They had made it with only a few seconds to spare.
They turned around to thank the burly Russian, but he was nowhere to be seen.
The next day they scoured the train, but they could not find him, and he couldn’t have left the train, for there no more stops that day.
The story of Chanukah is a story of self-sacrifice. The Chashmonaim were prepared to give up their lives, and because of this, G-d gave them a miraculous victory.
But self-sacrifice doesn’t just mean being prepared to die — it means being ready to give up what we what for what G-d wants.
The more we are prepared to give up our own comfort or our desires, and if necessary even our lives, the more G-d will reveal to us the miraculous workings of His wonderful world.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Masei 5771
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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