Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shoftim 5771

שבת טעם החיים שופטים תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shoftim 5771

Strengthen your fellow Jew’s heart during the month of Elul
ויספו השטרים לדבר אל העם ואמרו מי האיש הירא ורך הלבב ילך וישב לביתו ולא ימס את לבב אחיו כלבבו, the officers shall continue speaking to the people and say, “Who is the man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, and let him not melt the heart of his fellows, like his heart.” (Devarim 20:8)

The month of Elul is unique that the commentators have found many allusions to the letters of the month throughout Scripture. The most famous example of such a hint is found in the verse in Shir HaShirim (6:3) where it is said אני לדודי ודודי לי, I alone am my Beloved and My Beloved is mine. The first letters of these words spell out the word אלול. This verse alludes to Elul as the month of Elul is a time when HaShem shows favor to the Jewish People. There are many more references to Elul throughout Scripture, and one of them appears in this week’s parasha. It is said (Devarim 20:8) ויספו השטרים לדבר אל העם ואמרו מי האיש הירא ורך הלבב ילך וישב לביתו ולא ימס את לבב אחיו כלבבו, the officers shall continue speaking to the people and say, “Who is the man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, and let him not melt the heart of his fellows, like his heart.” The first letters of the words ואמרו מי האיש הירא ורך הלבב equal in gematria the word אלול. Furthermore, the first letters of the words לביתו ולא ימס את לבב spell out the word אלול and the letter י. What is the significance of the letter י and what allusion is there to the month of Elul in this verse?

What is the focus of the month of Elul? We usually utilize the month of Elul as a preparation for the ימים נוראים, the Days of Awe. Throughout the month of Elul we blow the Shofar daily and we focus on repentance. On an individually level and as a collective, we strive to come closer to HaShem and repair our relationships with our fellow man. When the Jewish People went out to battle, first the Kohen spoke to the people, encouraging them to not be fainthearted. The officers then followed and declared that anyone who had built a house and had not inaugurated it, planted a vineyard and had not redeemed it, and anyone who had become engaged to a woman and had not married her, should return to his home. These declarations were then followed with the declaration that anyone who is fearful and fainthearted should return home. The Gemara (Sota 44a) cites two opinions regarding this fear. Rabbi Akiva posits that the verse refers to a literal fear of battle, whereas Rabbi Yosi HaGilili maintains that the Torah is referring to someone who is afraid of his sins. For this reason the Torah mentions other reason for one returning home from the battlefield, as this will camouflage the sinner. One who sees the sinner returning from battle will assume he has recently built a home, planted a vineyard or become engaged to a woman, and will not suspect him of being a sinner. The Ramban writes that the Baal Halachos Gedolos reckons the words “and let him not melt the heart of his fellows, like his heart” to be a negative commandment. One is prohibited from causing his fellow Jew’s heart to melt.

We can now better understand why this verse refers to Elul. The Gemara (Yoma 85b) states that Yom Kippur does not atone for ones sins between man and his fellow Jew until one appeases his friend. Mending relationships is not merely an extra in the life of a Jew. One can only be close to HaShem if is he close to his fellow Jew. Is this shocking to us? Although it may be easier to study Torah and to pray than to repair a broken relationship with one’s fellow man, the focus of Elul has to be on repairing relationships, as this what will allow us to come close to Hashem. With this in mind we can also understand the letter י that is contained in the words ולא ימס את לבב אחיו. It is said (Shmuel I 25:37) ויהי בבקר בצאת היין מנבל ותגד לו אשתו את הדברים האלה וימת לבן בקרבו והוא היה לאבן: ויהי כעשרת הימים ויגף ה’ את נבל וימת, and it was in the morning, when Naval had become sober, his wife told him of these matters, his heart [seemed to have] died within him, and he was stunned. It happened after ten days that HaShem struck Naval and he died. The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 18a) states that these ten days mentioned in the verse were the Ten Days of Repentance. It is noteworthy that the first verse states that Naval’s heart died within him. Perhaps this alludes to the fact that Naval mistreated Dovid’s men and that he was disrespectful to Dovid. The focus of Elul, prior to the Ten Days of Repentance, is to focus on relationships and to strengthen the hearts of our fellow Jews. Thus, the letter י alludes to the Ten Days of Repentance, when one must be extra careful not to melt the heart of his fellows. Rather, one must work on strengthening his fellow Jew’s heart, and then he will merit to what it is said (Devarim 30:6) ומל ה’ אלקיך את לבבך ואת לבב זרעך, HaShem, your G-d, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring. The Baal HaTurim (Ibid) writes that the first letters of the words את לבבך ואת לבב spell out the word אלול. When we strengthen the hearts of our fellow Jews, Hashem will repair our hearts to serve Him with all our heart and all our soul.
Shabbos in Action through the Prism of the Parshah
In this week’s parasha it is said (Devarim 20:10-11) כי תקרב אל עיר להלחם עליה וקראת אליה לשלום: והיה אם שלום תענך ופתחה לך והיה כל העם הנמצא בה יהיו לך למס ועבדוך, when you draw near to a city to wage war against it, you shall call out to it for peace. It shall be that if it responds to you in peace and opens for you, then the entire people found within it shall be as tribute for you, and they shall serve you. The Gemara (Shabbos 119b) states that every Friday night two angels escort a man home and if everything is found in order, then the good angel blesses the house that it should be that way the following week and the evil angel must respond amen. This idea is alluded to in these verses, as essentially, when one is preparing for Shabbos, he is waging war against the evil forces. If the city responded in peace, i.e. everything in the home si prepared for Shabbos and the evil angels must respond with peace, then the forces of evil are forced to submit to the good angel and to serve us.
Shabbos Stories
Rav Shloimke Of Zvhil’s Bottomless Cup
When the great Rebbe Rav Shloimke of Zvhil moved to Eretz Yisroel he chose to remain anonymous. He lived a simple life and no one gave him respect. Rav Shloimke would daven at the Kosel every day.
One Chol HaMoed morning there was a big crowd at the Kosel and a resident of the Old City was generous enough to bring lots of water and give out drinks to the Mispallelim. When he poured water for Rav Shloimke, suddenly the bottom of the cup broke off and the water spilled on the floor. The cup was replaced but it happened again.
After this strange occurrence repeated itself a few times, Rav Shloimke asked the man if he filtered the water from worms. This man was new from Chutz LaAretz and it turned out that he was unaware of the bugs that seep into the water of the wells around Yerushalayim. Word spread quickly about the miracle of the bottom falling cups and Rav Shloimke was ultimately revealed as the renowned Holy Rebbe of Zvhil, who could no longer quietly hide far from his homeland and many Chassidim. (Yagdil Torah – Parshas Shmini)
Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman’s Spontaneous Visit To A Long Forgotten Talmid
When you hear stories like this you get a taste of what makes our Gedolim stand apart. I heard this story first hand from someone who davens with me each morning in Shul. A few weeks ago he was sitting Shiva for his sister together with his brother-in-law in Yerushalayim. One afternoon a person walked in but seemed confused. It turned out that he was in the wrong house and needed to be at the home of someone with the same name a few streets over.
One of the family members explained to him that this was a Shiva house and now that he already walked in, he can be Minachem Avel. As it happened this person was one of the Gabbaim of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman. The husband of the Nifteres had been a talmid of Rav Aharon Leib over fifty years ago. They traded stories of Rav Aharon Leib’s greatness then and now and the gabbai was Minachem them and went on his way.
Later that day when the Gabbai arrived at Rav Aharon Leib’s house back in Bnei Brak he mentioned that he had met a talmid from Rav Aharon Leib’s youth through a crazy mix up. Although Rav Aharon was not familiar with the long forgotten name, as soon as he heard this from the Gabbai, he said that if his talmid is sitting Shiva he must go be menachem him. He asked the gabbai to get his things and please take him immediately to Yerushalayim, where he sat with the Avel for twenty five minutes before going back home.
Rav Aharon Leib is close to one hundred years old and has a schedule busier than almost anyone on the planet. His trips to Yerushalayim are not very frequent and are planned in advance. Yet when he heard that a talmid lost his wife there was nothing to discuss, only to drag his feeble body to comfort him.
The Avnei Nezer Takes Worrying To a New Level
The Avnei Nezer, Rav Avrohom Borenstein, was married to the daughter of the Kotzker Rebbe. They lived in dire poverty, yet he never seemed to be concerned with his plight. One day his frustrated wife asked him, “Tell me why is it that our poverty does not concern you at all?”
The Avnei Nezer answered, “I worry as much as everyone else but there is a big difference. Your great father took me as a son-in-law because of my brilliant mind. What takes others an entire day to think about, I can think through in a few moments. So while other poor people spend their entire day worrying and consumed with their predicament, I spend a few moment every morning thinking everything they can possibly think of the entire day. Then I can get on with the other things on my daily agenda.”
Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa Reveals the Future
One Purim after the Seudah, Rav Tzadok HaKohen told the following story with his face aflame from the Kedusha of the day. He related that one day he was walking with his Rebbe Rav Mordechai Yosef of Izhbetza and suddenly he stopped and told him the following story.
One Shabbos I was in Peshischa. Right before Havdala as Rav Simcha Bunim picked up the Kos, he said as follows. I am peering into the future of Klal Yisroel in the days preceding the coming of Moshiach. It will be a time when Yehudim will accustom themselves to extravagant luxuries and unnecessary expenses. Their normal income will not suffice them. They will be forced to find side jobs and additional sources of income. They will run day and night to earn what they need to support this lifestyle. They will invest their entire lives in a sea of toil and sweat. My hair stands on edge and my nails cut into my flesh as I imagine to myself what will be the fate of the Yehudim at that time. (Zichronam L’Vracha from “HaKohen”)
One part has already come true, now we await the other Bimheira Biyameinu Amen! (
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shoftim 5771
Is sponsored in memory of the Ohr Samayach, Reb Meir Simcha HaKohen ben Rav Shimshon from Dvinsk niftar 4 Elul 5686

Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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