Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

New Stories Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

(From the archives)

Shabbos: Protection from Foreign Thoughts


In this week’s parashah the Torah records the instruction that HaShem gave to Moshe regarding the holy vestments to be worn by the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, and his sons. One of the eight garments worn by the Kohen Gadol was the Ephod, which was like an apron. It is said (Shemos 28:6) vicheishev afudaso asher alav kimaaseihu mimenu yihyeh zahav techeiles veargaman visolaas shani visheishes mashzar, the belt with which it is emplaced, which is on it, shall be of the same workmanship, it shall be made of it, of gold; turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool, and twisted linen. The Meshech Chochmah writes that the Gemara (Erchin 16a) states that the Ephod served to atone for the sin of idolatry. The Gemara elsewhere (Kiddushin 40a) states that regarding idolatry, even if one has an idolatrous thought, it is akin to having actually worshipped idols. Thus, our verse alludes to this idea, as the word vicheishev can be interpreted to mean thoughts, and the words kimaaseihu mimenu yihyeh alludes to the idea that the thoughts are considered like a maaseh, an action.

HaElokim, Malach and Sukkah are all the same Gematria

Perhaps we can expound further on this idea. Why is this idea hinted to specifically regarding the ephod? It is noteworthy that there are a few words that equal the same number in gematria, numerical value. These words are ephod, malach, haElokim, and Sukkah. All these words equal 91 in gematria. What is the association between these words? A Sukkah symbolizes protection from foreign influences. When the Kohen Gadol would enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he was required to be completely focused on his role of gaining atonement for the Jewish People. Were the Kohen Gadol to entertain one deviant thought, he would die inside the Holy of Holies. Thus, the Kohen Gadol was required to be akin to a malach, an angel. Elokim means G-d, and this Name is also used to depict one who has ascended to great spiritual heights. The manner in which one gains spiritual perfection is by not allowing foreign influences to penetrate one’s inner domain. Thus, it is fitting that the ephod served to atone for idolatry. The ephod was worn over the tunic and the robe, thus symbolizing protection from all external influences.

The Shabbos Connection

We do not currently have the Bais HaMikdash and the Kohen Gadol serving within, but HaShem has bestowed upon us His precious gift of the Holy Shabbos every week. Shabbos is the opportunity that we need to be shielded from foreign influences so that we can ascend the spiritual ladder. On Shabbos one is prohibited from performing meleches machasheves, intended labor. On Shabbos one should focus on avoiding the performance of any prohibited act. Furthermore, one should focus on delighting in the Shabbos, and he will then be spared from any negative influences.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Gott fun Avraham

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who lived from 1740-1809, recommended that this prayer be recited by men, women and children three times and that the recitation would help ensure success in the upcoming week.

אַז דִי וָואךְ אוּן דֶער חוֹדֶשׁ, אוּן דֶער יָאר זָאל אוּנְז צוּא קוּמֶען… מַאֲמִין צוּ זַיין וּבִגְאוּלָה שלימה וקְרוֹבָה בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ, to have faith in… the complete and close Redemption. What does it mean to have faith in the Redemption? Can one just declare every morning that he has complete faith in the Redemption and then go about his daily activities without another thought? The Sfas Emes teaches us that when we recite by the Pesach Seder that every single Jew has to feel as if he himself was liberated from Egypt, this refers to the faith that one must have in having left Egypt.

While this also seems to be a mere declaration, we must understand that faith is something that is cultivated. Indeed, the word אמונה is derived from the word אומן, raised. Thus, just like someone who lovingly tends his garden pays his utmost attention to the growth of the fruits and vegetation, similarly, one must “cultivate” the growth (צמח) of the Redemption, and then he will certainly merit seeing with his own eyes the Ultimate Redemption, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos Stories

Sacrifice for Torah

Chacham Ezra Attiah, zt”l, venerable Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, one of the greatest Torah personalities of his time and mentor to generations of great Sephardic leaders, came from very humble beginnings. His parents had been blessed with a son and daughter, and they prayed for another child. They took the long trek by donkey to Tedef, a small town in the Ottoman Empire, where the remains of Ezra HaSofer were interred. Yitzchak and Leah Attiah poured out their hearts, entreating Hashem for a son. Leah vowed that if Hashem granted her wish, she would name him Ezra and dedicate him to a life of Torah. She was blessed one year later, when she gave birth to Ezra. Twenty years later, Leah was left alone with Ezra when her husband passed away. Her older son and daughter had already married. It was now just the two of them with no source of material support. The normal thing would have been for able-bodied Ezra to go to work in order to support his mother. Leah would hear nothing of it. She had dedicated her son to Torah learning. She left no room for discussion. She did anything and everything to bring in a meager living to sustain the two of them. The end of the week found Leah both emotionally and physically drained. On Friday nights they would eat their meager meal, and Leah would exert superhuman effort as she sat in her chair and listened to the sweet sound of Torah emanating from her son. As her weary body relaxed and her bones cried out for sleep, she would begin to doze. Seeing his mother fall asleep, Ezra would quickly close his sefer. The Halacha was clear: One may study by the light of a kerosene lamp only so long as someone else was there. Otherwise, he might accidentally adjust the wick. Leah’s body may have been spent, but her senses were sharp, as she would quickly awaken. The sweet hum of Torah had stopped. “Do not worry, my child. I am awake. You can return to your Torah learning,” she assured him. The tears and devotion of this woman were rewarded when her son became the great rosh yeshivah.


Unyielding Faith in a Rebbe

The Machnovke Rebbe, HaRav Avrohom Twerski, zt”l, was an individual of unusual intensity, a genuine tzaddik, whose diligence in Torah study and warmth and sensitivity to every human were evidenced in his life. He never uttered an inessential word. He feared nothing that was part of this world. His shul was home to Jews of all walks of life who came to experience the presence of a truly holy man. One Yom Kippur evening, his shul was filled to capacity. Among the throng of worshippers was a man in his late sixties who had walked several miles to attend the services in the Machnovke Bais Medrash. This individual was not religious. Why was he there? Certainly, he could have found a shul that was closer to his home. When questioned why he had come, he gave the following reply. “As a young man in Russia, my father told me about the Machnovke/Moscow Rebbe. He was a great and holy individual to whom I should turn when necessary. I emigrated to Eretz Yisrael and raised my family there, regrettably distancing myself from religion. During the Yom Kippur war, my only son was called to naval duty. I remembered my father’s instructions to go to the Machnovke Rebbe when I needed a blessing. That night, I, with my young soldier son in hand, entered the spiritual realm of the tzaddik. We presented the son’s military orders to the Rebbe and asked for his blessing for a safe return. “‘Do not join your company until tomorrow morning,’ the Rebbe said. “’But I will be court-martialed if I am late,’ my son protested. The Rebbe would not yield. Under no circumstances was the young soldier to join that night. Later that night, in the midst of our anxious ferment, we were informed that the entire unit which he was to have joined had been decimated by an Egyptian warship. There were no survivors. “At first, I neither understood nor agreed with the Rebbe, but my father taught me to listen to a tzaddik. I, therefore, sided with the Rebbe and denied my son from joining his unit. This action saved his life. This is why I always come here in Yom Kippur – to appreciate, to pay gratitude, to be in the Rebbe’s presence.” [Reprinted with permission from the Shema Yisrael Torah Network. For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisroel classes, send email to]

Shabbos in Halacha

Cutting Food

Until now we discussed the melacha of tochen, grinding, under which it is prohibited to cut food into very small pieces. We will now discuss other restrictions that apply to cutting food.

  1. Breaking Apart Shapes or Words

One is prohibited from cutting apart lettering or destroying a picture under then melacha of מוחק, erasing. Thus, if a cake is decorated with frosting in the form of words, letters or any distinct object, one is prohibited to cut the cake in a way that deforms the letters or ruins the picture. However, one may cut between the words, and even between the letters, of the frosting.

Once the cake is cut, one is allowed to bite into it even though this destroys the remaining letters. Similarly, one is allowed to bite into a biscuit that is decorated with a figure even though the figure will break apart.

Nowadays, this Halacha also applies to fruits. When one is cutting fruit that has a word stamped on it, i.e. an orange, or a sticker attached, i.e., a banana, one must avoid cutting through and letters or figures.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

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New Stories Tetzaveh-Zachor 5775

Jerusalem Mayor a Hero

He ran out of his car and apprehended a terrorist. A timely Purim lesson.

by Yvette Alt Miller         

Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat, his office chief, and a bodyguard were sitting in traffic in central Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, February 22, when they noticed a commotion outside their car.

In nearby Tzahal Square, 27-year-old Avraham Goldschmidt had just been stabbed in the stomach by a terrorist. The terrorist tried to stab him again. Goldschmidt, fighting for his life, fended off his attacker with the only object to hand, his tefillin bag, and hit his assailant. While struggling, Goldschmidt shouted “Stabbing!” – he later explained “so everybody could get away.”

Nir Barkat leapt from his car and, along with his bodyguard, raced towards the armed terrorist who had by then left a bloody Goldschmidt and was now running through the street still holding his knife. Grainy CCTV footage shows the mayor, along with his guard, wrestling with the attacker. As terrified onlookers watched, the mayor and his bodyguard fought with the knifeman, staggering as they struggled across the pavement through a downtown crosswalk and into the street.

At last the terrorist was subdued and Mayor Barkat raced towards Goldschmidt lying in the road. Barkat placed his coat over Goldschmidt and waited with him until an ambulance and police arrived.

Barkat was hailed as a hero throughout Israel – and beyond. Israelis started jokingly referring to him as Batman, and putting pictures of the mayor dressed as comic book heroes on social media. Behind the joking, though, were real questions: what made the mayor forget his exalted position and ignore his own safety? What propelled him to leave the safety of his car and race out into the icy streets to confront a would-be killer?

Mayor Barkat’s courageous actions took place in the run-up to Purim, which celebrates another act of heroism performed by an earlier exalted official—Queen Esther, who put her life on the line to save her fellow Jews from murder and annihilation. Her actions give us a guide to what courage looks like today.

After a decree of genocide sentenced all Jews in the vast Persian Empire to death, the Jewish leader Mordechai asked Esther to intercede. The only problem was that Esther faced a real risk of being killed if she appeared before the king uninvited. For one agonizing moment Esther hesitated, fearing for her own safety until Mordechai helped her regain her courage. “If you keep silent in this crisis,” he declared, “relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained your royal position for just such a crisis” (Esther 4:14).

In a flash, Esther knew her purpose in life. She was in the right place at the right time to help, and suddenly understood this was no mere coincidence; her whole life’s circumstances had been carefully leading up to this moment. Realizing this erased all doubt and gave her extraordinary courage to act.

It’s easy to over-think situations, to come up with complicated reasons why it’s too difficult to take action. Recognizing that the Almighty puts us unique situations that beckon us to rise to the challenge can inspire us to act decisively and to seize those moments.

This seems to be what Jerusalem’s hero mayor intuitively knows. Subduing an armed terrorist wasn’t the only time Nir Barkat has rushed to the aid of a fellow Jew. In 2004, when he was then a member of Jerusalem’s Municipal Council, Barkat was driving behind a bus that was blown up in a terrorist bombing. Then, too, Barkat rushed to the scene, in that case helping evacuate the surviving passengers, performing first aid, even saving a woman’s life.

“I saw the bus explode in front of me.” Barkat said at the time. “I parked on the side of the road and was among the first to enter the bus. We began evacuating the injured and performed first aid. At the same moment we didn’t think, but only focused on helping the people and rescuing them.”

In both times of crisis, Mayor Barkat “didn’t think” before acting. Perhaps, like Esther, he’s already done this thinking – he recognized that finding himself in a position to help others is a gift that’s too precious ever to waste. (

Vasikin at the Kosel

“מודה ר”ש בפסיק רישיה ולא ימות…”

Rav Avigdor Neventzahl, shlit”a, goes regularly to the Kosel to daven k’vasikin on Shabbos. Once, he noticed that as someone went through the metal detector on Shabbos, it beeped. Since the light was disabled the Rav had always assumed that the machine was off, which is what the guards always claimed. Now it was clear that the machine was operating as usual even on Shabbos, and only the lights were disabled. After Shabbos, the Rav made further inquiries and found out that the guards left the security camera on as well, which captured video of all the passersby. Rav Neventzahl had serious doubts as to whether he could continue to daven at the Kosel with his regular minyan on Shabbos under such circumstances. He reasoned, “On the one hand, Tosafos in Shabbos and Kesuvos 6a permits performing a melachah where one has no interest or gains no benefit from its outcome —a פסיק רישיה דלא איכפת ליה. On the other hand, the Ri zt”l and others hold that this is Rabinically forbidden. However, there are cases in which this is permitted, such as a makom mitzvah.” For this reason, Rav Neventzahl remained in doubt about this issue. Someone suggested that they ask Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, and Rav Neventzahl agreed. “I am perfectly willing to abide by Rav Chaim’s conclusions,” he said. An emissary brought the question before Rav Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, and the gadol responded, “Tell Rav Neventzahl that there is room to be lenient since this is similar to an emergency situation, a שעת הדחק, where we permit “פסיק רישיה דלא איכפת ליה. When the response reached Rav Neventzahl, it raised a further question. “It is obvious that Rav Chaim reasons that my prayer is a tzorech mitzvah with the same halachic validity as a sha’as hadechak. However, did you tell him that there is another vasikin minyan in the Jewish quarter of the Old City that would not necessitate my passing the guard station? Perhaps Rav Chaim believes that I don’t have another minyan available for vasikin.” The emissary went right back to Rav Kanievsky and presented this new point. Rav Chaim clarified, “Davening at the kosel at any time is enough of a tzorech mitzvah to permit this!” (


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