שבת טעם החיים כי תצא תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Seitzei 5771
כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו ה’ אלקיך בידך ושבית שביו, when you will go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand (Devarim 21:10).
Did you ever contemplate committing a sin? Could you imagine stealing and not being punished for it? These questions may sound theoretical, and bordering on heresy, but I this week’s parshaha, the Torah informs us of the permit for one to sin. The Torah states that if during a battle one sees a beautiful woman and desires her, he can take her as a wife. Rashi writes that the rationale for this perplexing law is because if we do not allow the person to take the woman, he will take her in a prohibited manner. How can we understand this?
The conventional explanation for the Torah allowing a man to take a gentile woman for a wife during war is that when at battle, a man is at the height of his passions. The Torah recognizes this reality, and therefore allowed a man to take the woman as a wife. The difficulty with this explanation, however, is that the Gemara (Chullin 17a) and Rishonim (See Ramban Devarim 6:10 quoting Rambam Hilchos Melachim 8:1) list many other prohibitions that are permitted during war, such as eating non-kosher food and vineyards of כלאים (prohibited mixtures of seeds) and ערלה (fruit bearing tree, whose fruits cannot be eaten during the first three years the tree produces fruit). If the reason for allowing prohibitions during wartime is because of man’s passions, why would one be allowed to eat non-kosher food? [This question is primarily according to the opinion of the Rambam who interprets the permit to be because one a soldier is under duress. According to the Ramban, however, the blanket permit to eat whatever they wished was limited to the conquest of Eretz Yisroel in the time of Yehoshua.]
Perhaps we can explain this puzzling law in a greater context regarding the Book of Devarim. The Torah begins the Book of Devarim with the words (Devarim 1:5) בעבר הירדן בארץ מואב הואיל משה באר את התורה הזאת לאמר, on the other side of the Jordan in the land of Moav, Moshe began explaining this Torah, saying. Rashi (Ibid) writes that Moshe explained the Torah in seventy languages. Why was it necessary for Moshe to explain the Torah in any other language than לשון הקדש, the Holy Tongue? The answer to this question is that the Zohar states אתפשטותא דמשה בכל דרא, translated as “the extension of Moshe in every generation.” Moshe commenced his final lecture to the Jewish People with the words ה’ אלקינו דבר אלינו בחרב לאמר, (Ibid verse 7) HaShem, our G-d, spoke to us in Chorev, saying: Enough of your dwelling by this mountain. The juxtaposition of the verse that states that Moshe taught the Torah in seventy languages and the verse that states that HaShem spoke to us at Chorev (Sinai) teaches us that everything that exists in the world emanates from Sinai. The languages that the gentiles speak are all derived from the Torah. Furthermore, the power of the Jewish leaders throughout the generations is derived from Sinai and from Moshe who received the Torah at Sinai. In a similar vein, the commentators (Baal HaTurim 21:10 from Gemara Sota 44a) write that only righteous people went out to battle. Rashi (Ibid) writes that the battle referred to in the beginning of Parashas Ki Seitzei is a מלחמת הרשות, a non-mandatory battle. Nonetheless, it would appear that even for such a battle only the righteous were involved. Given this premise, we can suggest that the restrictions that were lifted during wartime were because every Jew was an extension of Moshe. The righteous that went out to battle were similar to the Chashmonaim who were victorious over the Greeks and were the catalysts for the Chanukah miracle. The Shem MiShmuel (Chanukah) writes that although the rule is that a Kohen cannot be a king, the Chashmonaim were above contradictions and they were allowed to perform the dual yet contradictory roles of Kohen and king. Similarly, a Jew going out to battle was above the constraints of time and space, and was permitted to engage in what we normally refer to as sins.
There is a practical lesson in this for us, as every week we experience Shabbos, a semblance of the World to Come. On Shabbos a Jew receives a נשמה יתירה, an extra soul, which allows him to achieve lofty spiritual accomplishments. Thus, a Jew can live once a week beyond the contradictions and paradoxes of the materialistic world. We should merit recognizing the power of a Jew who serves HaShem, as in every generation we are required to reflect the virtues of our leader Moshe.
Shabbos in Action through the Prism of the Parshah
In this week’s parasha it is said (Devarim 21:10)כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו ה’ אלקיך בידך ושבית שביו, when you will go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand. We can interpret this verse as follows: When you will go out to war against your enemies, i.e. the Evil Inclination, who wages battle against the Jew during the weekday, and HaShem will deliver him into your hand, then ושבית, you will rest on Shabbos. The Zohar states that with the onset of Shabbos all harsh judgments depart and the evil forces can no longer prosecute against the Jew.
The following stories are from the website http://www.chatzos.com dedicated to women who have accepted upon themselves to be ready for Shabbos by midday on Friday.
R’ Avrohom Pam, ZTZ”L
A Rabbi just told me this true story when he was commenting to me about hearing about our group in Rabbi Frand’s shiur. He is aware of the truth of this story because his family is connected to Rav Pam. Rav Pam was expected at his grandson’s sheva brachos. The driver came to get him and arrived five minutes after the chatzos time. Rav Pam would not leave with the driver, stating, “I do not drive anywhere after chatzos.” He missed his grandson’s sheva brachos, because he wouldn’t budge on this commitment. Now, that’s a commitment to chatzos! I know that some people on the list would not agree with this decision, and that’s not for us to debate. What’s awesome is to know that a man as great as Rav Pam was committed to chatzos too!
A great Chatzos Story about Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch of Rimanov:
I read a story in Chasidic Masters. Rav Tzvi Hirsh of Rimanov had become a widower. A girl came and asked for a blessing for a shidduch. He asked about her parents and where she lived. Then he proposed a match. He suggested that the girl marry him! The girl agreed. The parents were contacted and they finalized the match. Rav Tzvi Hirsh explained. I was orphaned when I was young and I was apprenticed to a tailor. I would pick up cloth and deliver finished garments to customers. I went several times to a family to bring their repaired Shabbos clothes on Friday morning. Everything was ready for Shabbos. The table was set. The house was spotless. The father of the house reviewed the parsha of the week at the table. When I came he always had the money he owed ready unlike other customers who would tell me to come back for payment. He would say, “I am now fulfilling the mitzva of paying a worker on time.” That house felt like Shabbos already on Friday. I had always wished that I could somehow be a part of that family. That’s why I want to marry their daughter.
Rabbi Shmuel Birinbaum ZTZ”L
About three years ago my daughter-in-law and some of her acquaintances were concerned for a friend who was married for over five years and had no children. One of them went to Rav Shmuel Birinbaum ZT”L, their rosh yeshiva, and asked what could be done for this couple. He said that Shabbos is mekor habracha and they should take on to set the table for Shabbos by chatzos and to accept Shabbos (bentch licht) 12minutes early. They all accepted to do it and they did it until she became pregnant. (I believe they did it for several months). Hearing of this my daughter wanted to gather a group to do that as a zechus for her friend who had no children after many years of marriage. It was hard recruiting people to make the commitment and I told her that I would also join the group. Everyone was supposed to set the table by chatzos and bentch licht and accept Shabbos 12 minutes early. This was done until b”h her friend became pregnant. Bichasdai Hashem, each of these ladies now has a child.
Excerpt from R’ Boruch Leff’s book, Shabbos in my Soul
I’m excerpting a few sections from the book, found in the chapter entitled, Becoming an Erev Shabbos Jew (pages 40-44):
… today, thank G-d, we have many Shabbos observant Jews… but how many Erev Shabbos Jews are there? Jews who passionately yearn for Shabbos throughout the week are hard to find. Yes, many observe the halachos of Shabbos with much devotion, but few strive to inject avodah shebaleiv, true service of the heart, into their shemiras Shabbos. This can only come from feeling great anticipation for Shabbos. At the very least, on Erev Shabbos, we should be yearning for Shabbos. … An ‘Erev Shabbos Jew’ is what the Baal HaTurim had in mind in a letter to his children: All agricultural work, the plowing and planting is done in order to bring forth fruit. Similarly, all that a person does to take care of his body is done in order to sustain the soul’s existence in this world. The daily fruit of the soul are the times of prayer, and the weekly fruit of the soul is Shabbos. The Baal HaTurim is describing the experience of Shabbos as the ultimate goal for all activities of the week. The Erev Shabbos Jew knows and lives this ideal. An Erev Shabbos Jew, a Jew who fervently yearns for Shabbos.
How can one reach such a level? One method to attain this spiritual level is to remind oneself of Shabbos as much as possible. The Chafetz Chaim writes that even when one refers to an event that took place in the previous week he should say, “Before Shabbos, on Thursday…” instead of just saying, “last Thursday,” in order to mention Shabbos. He also writes that there was a certain Torah giant who would somehow manage to relate the topic of Shabbos to his regular Gemara shiur, so that he would fulfill the mitzvah to remember Shabbos every day.
Of course, in order to become Erev Shabbos Jews we need to understand the value and significance of Erev Shabbos in its own right. Minhag Yisrael Torah cites Mishmeres Shalom who says that it is proper to eat a little meat on Erev Shabbos, because the sanctity of Shabbos is me’urav, combined with, and spills into Erev Shabbos. Hence, the name Erev, meaning “mixed.” In addition, Erev Shabbos is similar to Erev Yom Kippur, because the Gemara states, “Whoever observes Shabbos properly is forgiven for his sins, even if his sins include idol worship.” Just like there is a mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur, Erev Shabbos has a similar feature. Now, it is certainly not a halachic obligation to eat meat or even more than our usual fill on Erev Shabbos. In fact, one must be careful not to overeat in order to have an appetite for the seudah on Friday night, but the sources cited do give us a perspective on the prominence that Erev Shabbos should be accorded. Perhaps the most important area to concentrate on when trying to become an Erev Shabbos Jew is how to use our time and set our schedules on Erev Shabbos itself.
Let us take a peek at how some of our Torah giants arranged their Erev Shabbos. Rav Yechezkel Abramsky would make sure to have his table set for Shabbos already on Friday morning. Rav Mordechai Sharabi would sit down to learn the weekly parasha right after davening on Friday morning. He would then go to buy fresh challos, and then immerse in the mikveh. He would also avoid speaking about mundane matters throughout Erev Shabbos. The Netziv, the Chafetz Chaim, Rav Elya Lopian, and the Steipler Gaon, among others, were all known to immerse themselves in a mikveh on Erev Shabbos. The Maggid of Kelm, Rav Moshe Yitzchak HaDarshan, and the Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchak Soloveitchik, would both treat chatzos as if it were the time at which Shabbos began. From then on, they would not contemplate worldly matters, and the spirit of Shabbos permeated their homes. Rav Chaim Ozer would never sit and judge cases on Friday afternoon. The Steipler Gaon would not write on Friday afternoon. Rav Aryeh Levin would not open letters that he received on Friday afternoon, lest there be some information in the letters that might worry him over Shabbos.
It is true that we can’t fully emulate these Torah leaders. We have jobs and responsibilities on Erev Shabbos that preclude us from having the freedom to spend all day in spirituality. But perhaps we can muster the strength to accept Shabbos a half-hour earlier than regular candle lighting time or, at the very least, ten minutes earlier. Rav Yaakov Weinberg, ztz”l, rosh yeshivah of Ner Yisrael, Baltimore, would often advise people to accept Shabbos upon themselves ten minutes before candle lighting time. In this way, when Shabbos comes in we are in a calm state of mind, rather than in a frenzy. Perhaps we can start taking care of all Shabbos preparations as soon as possible, rather than waiting until the Friday afternoon rush. Maybe we can eliminate our procrastination, at least when it comes to Erev Shabbos. Then, we would have time to sit and learn a little before Shabbos or read stories to our kids. People who have begun arranging their Erev Shabbos schedules in this fashion have testified to the sanctity they feel when Shabbos comes in. By taking steps toward a meaningful Erev Shabbos, by becoming Erev Shabbos Jews, we set the stage for a powerful and meaningful Shabbos.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Seitzei 5771
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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