Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayishlach 5772

שבת טעם החיים וישלח תשע”ב
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayishlach 5772

Studying the Hidden Torah is the Antidote for a Test of faith
וַיִּֽזְרַֽח־לֹ֣ו הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר עָבַ֖ר אֶת־פְּנוּאֵ֑ל וְה֥וּא צֹלֵ֖עַ עַל־יְרֵכֹֽו, the sun rose for him as he passed Penuel and he was limping on his hip. (Bereishis 32:32)
In this week’s parashah the Torah records how Yaakov struggled with the angel of Esav. When the angel saw that he was not able to overcome Yaakov, he struck him on his thigh, temporarily maiming Yaakov. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah) states that this blow hinted to future generations of Jews who would be tested in their faith, and this is referred to as דורו של שמד. The Medrash, however, does not offer the antidote for the Jews of those times. Can it be that the angel of Esav discerned our vulnerability and HaShem did not provide us with a counterbalance? I would like to suggest that the fact that the Medrash did not suggest a solution to the test of faith is in of itself the balm that we need to survive the assault on our beliefs and traditions. It is said (Shir HaShirim 7:2) מַה־יָּפ֧וּ פְעָמַ֛יִךְ בַּנְּעָלִ֖ים בַּת־נָדִ֑יב חַמּוּקֵ֣י יְרֵכַ֔יִךְ כְּמֹ֣ו חֲלָאִ֔ים מַעֲשֵׂ֖ה יְדֵ֥י אָמָּֽן, but your footsteps were so lovely when shod in pilgrim’s sandals, O daughter of nobles. The rounded shafts for your libations’ abysslike trenches, handiwork of the master Craftsman. The Gemara (Moed Katan 16a-b) interprets this verse to be referring to Torah study, which is compared to the thigh. Clearly the Gemara is referring to the study of revealed Torah, as the Gemara does not distinguish between revealed Torah and hidden Torah. Nonetheless, there is evidence from Scripture and Talmudic sources that one must maintain a veil of secrecy regarding the study of Torah, and this is understood to be referring to the study of the Hidden Torah. What is so unique about the Hidden Torah that it warrants its own category of study?

Yaakov concealed himself from Esav in the Torah

Let us understand the power that Esav retains over us. We must be completely preoccupied in Torah study to ward off Esav’s diabolical schemes to destroy us. We find that when Yaakov fled from Esav, he concealed himself for fourteen years next door in the Study Hall of Ever. We can assume that Esav knew where Yaakov was, as Yaakov’s sole interest in life was to study Torah and serve HaShem. The power of Torah study is so great, however, that a Jew can be studying Torah in the face of his enemy and he will not be in danger. The Hidden Torah specifically provides the antidote for the decrees against our faith, as faith is in a person’s heart. One does not know if another person is acting faithfully. Similarly, the Hidden Torah is studied clandestinely and most people are not usually aware of who studies the Hidden Torah and the extent of his knowledge in that branch of wisdom.

Yosef Revealed the Hidden Torah to his Brothers

There is another aspect of the Hidden Torah that even the unitiated can relate to. The Gemara (Sota 36b) states that Gavriel taught Yosef seventy languages and when Yosef conversed with Pharaoh in the various languages, Pharaoh was embarrassed of his inability to speak Lashon HaKodesh, the Hebrew language. Furthermore, it is said (Bereishis 45:12 וְהִנֵּ֤ה עֵֽינֵיכֶם֙ רֹאֹ֔ות וְעֵינֵ֖י אָחִ֣י בִנְיָמִ֑ין כִּי־פִ֖י הַֽמְדַבֵּ֥ר אֲלֵיכֶֽם, Behold! Your eyes see as do the eyes of my brother Binyomin that it is my mouth that is speaking to you. Rashi writes that Yosef showed his brothers that he was circumcised and as further proof that he was truly Yosef, he spoke with them in Lashon HaKodesh. The Ramban (Ibid) writes that Hebrew was the language of the Canaanites, and Egypt was in close proximity to the Land of Canaan. Given that fact, the Ramban wonders why speaking Hebrew was proof that he was Yosef. The Chasam Sofer resolves the difficulty raised by the Ramban by positing that Yosef did not merely speak to his brothers in simple Hebrew. Rather, Yosef spoke to his brothers in gematria, נוטריקון, א״ת ב״ש, and the like. These forms of language are also deemed to be part of the Hidden Torah. Based on the words of the Chasam Sofer we can suggest that Yosef was revealing to his brothers the Hidden Torah, and he did this by showing them that he was circumcised and by conversing with them in the Hidden Torah. In addition to demonstrating that his brothers that he was Jewish and he was Yosef, he was also instructing the Jewish People regarding future exiles. Yosef was a victim of anti-Semitism, as his master had him cast into a pit because of Yosef’s master’s wife accused him of adultery, and she specifically mentioned that Yosef was an עברי, a Hebrew. Yosef taught his brothers that the way to combat an assault on our faith is by delving into the Hidden Torah, as the study of the hidden Torah is what will protect us from our enemies.

Chanukah, the “Hidden” Miracle

We are now in the month of Kisleiv, when we celebrate the miracle of Chanukah. Rav Yitzchak Hutner writes in Pachad Yitzchak that the first דורו של שמד was in the times of the Greeks. Thus, the essential Chanukah victory was when the Jews resisted the Greek overtures that tested their faith. The parshiyos we are reading now are replete with hints and allusions to the Chanukah miracle. Regarding Yaakov it is said (Bereishis 32:32) וַיִּֽזְרַֽח־לֹ֣ו הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר עָבַ֖ר אֶת־פְּנוּאֵ֑ל וְה֥וּא צֹלֵ֖עַ עַל־יְרֵכֹֽו, the sun rose for him as he passed Penuel and he was limping on his hip. The word לֹ֣ו equals 36 in gematria, an allusion to the 36 candles that we light throughout Chanukah. Rashi writes that the wordsוַיִּֽזְרַֽח־לֹ֣ו הַשֶּׁ֔מֶש teach us that the sun shone specifically for Yaakov to heal him from the limp that the angel of Esav inflicted upon him. We can thus interpret this verse to mean that the Jewish People struggle with tests of faith but are victorious through the symbolic 36 candles of the Chanukah miracle.

The Gemara (Yoma 29a) states that Esther is the end of all miracles. The Gemara then wonders about the Chanukah miracle, which occurred after Purim. The answer of the Gemara is that the Purim miracle was given to be written down, whereas the Chanukah miracle was not recorded. This statement is another reflection of the idea that the generations of Jews whose faith was tested survived through the study and delving into the Hidden Toirah, i.e. the Torah that was not recorded.

The Shabbos Connection

Every week we merit the great light of the Holy Shabbos. Although during the week we are shrouded in darkness, on Shabbos we merit אור, light, which is in gematria רז, secret. Shabbos, the Gemar tells us, is a wonderful present that HaShem has in His treasure chest that He bestows upon the Jewish People. This statement indicates to us that although we delight in the Shabbos, it remains in HaShem’s concealed chamber, and it is ours to use as a gift from HaShem.
Shabbos Zemiros Elucidated
מַה יְּדִידוּת מְנוּחָתֵךְ authored by Menachem over four hundred years ago
בְּכֵן נָרוּץ לִקְרָאתֵךְ בּוֹאִי כַלָּה נְסוּכָה, therefore we run toward you, ‘Come, O royal bride.’ The literal translation of this passage is that we run to greet the Holy Shabbos. However, an alternative interpretation is based on the idea that the word רץ is associated with the word רצון, will. We are “running” towards the Shabbos because it is HaShem’s will that we delight in the Holy Shabbos and observe it properly.
Shabbos Stories
The Alter of Slabodka Fumbles the Davening
One day just before mincha the Alter of Slabodka ran into Shul and without missing a beat or stopping for a moment he ran straight for the Amud to be Chazan. This really shocking scene was followed by an even more peculiar one. As he started saying Kaddish he stuttered and swallowed and fumbled and jumbled the words.
After davening everyone tried to figure out what exactly that was all about. Slowly the story was pieced together and the tzidkus of the Alter was revealed. A gentleman in the town became an Aveil and due to his poor reading skills when he went to the amud he read the words with great difficulty and was terribly embarrassed. The Alter showed him that even he, the great Rebbi can have trouble before the Amud sometimes due to nervousness. In this way the Alter embarrassed himself to alleviate the pain of another. (Rav Chaim Zaitchek – HaMi’oros HaGedolim)
The Poor Feeding the Poor
During the Holocaust we find stories of amazing courage by previously ordinary people and hear sickening stories of the depths that people sink to. Desperate times call for desperate measures and people make tough decisions about how they will behave. Ask yourself, if you were there and struggling to save your own life how would act towards others? Would you rise or fall to the occasion?
Yosef Friedenson wrote that one of the most pitiful sights in the Warsaw ghetto was the hordes of homeless children wandering around in rags, barefoot, with their stomachs swollen from hunger. They would wander the streets begging for “a pizele broit” (a crumb of bread). In those precarious times, no one had a crumb of bread to spare, and people hardened their hearts to the cries of these starved children. However, his father, Rabbi Eliezer Gershon Friedenson, the renowned askan, talmid chacham, ba’al chessed, and editor, could not ignore their cries. He would cut up little pieces of bread, wrap them up in paper, and throw them out the window. The news spread quickly that a “rich man” was giving away bread, and every night, a group of children would crowd around the window.
One evening as the children were starting to crowd around like they did every night, R’ Friedenson started cutting up the last loaf of bread in the house. He handed out the whole loaf to the children. There was no bread left in the house for supper, or for breakfast the next day. There was no money in the house to buy more. When R’ Friedenson realized what he had done, he did not show distress. Instead, he began humming an old Jewish song. “Oif Morgen vet G-tt sorgen- Let the Good G-d take care of tomorrow.” He then sat down with his sons, Yosef, Shimshon, and Raphael, and gave them a shiur in Hilchos Tzeddakah. The main point of the shiur was that even the poor are obligated to give tzedakah.
The life of this spiritual giant, a man who literally gave away his last crumb of bread, was snuffed out by the Nazis in 1943. (Source: A Path Through the Ashes) (

Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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