Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Vayikra-HaChodesh 5775

Vayikra HaChodesh 5775

New Stories Vayikra-HaChodesh 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayikra-HaChodesh 5775

(From the archives)

Performing HaShem’s will with our will


This week’s parashah discusses the korbanos, sacrifices that the Jewish People were required to bring when the Mishkan and the Bais HaMikdash were in existence. The essence of a sacrifice is the ratzon, the will that one has when offering the sacrifice to HaShem. It is said (Vayikra 1:3) im olah karbano min habakar zachar tamim yakrivenu el Pesach ohel moed yakriv oso lirztono lifnei HaShem, if one’s offering is a burnt-offering from the cattle, he shall offer an unblemished male; he shall bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, voluntarily, before HaShem. Rashi cites the Gemara that states that the word lirztono teaches us that if one does not wish to offer the obligatory sacrifice, he is beaten until he declares that he wants to bring the offering.

HaShem’s speech is His will

Let us understand what this means When the Jewish People prepared to receive the Torah at Sinai, they declared naaseh vinishma, we will do and we will listen. Nonetheless, the Gemara (Shabbos 88a) states that HaShem held the mountain over their heads and proclaimed, “accept the Torah and if not, you will be buried here.” It appears that despite the Jewish People’s willingness to accept the Torah, it was still necessary for them to be coerced to accept the Torah. There are various explanation offered to resolve this paradox (See Tosfos Ibid; Maharal Tiferes Yisroel §32). Perhaps the idea that is expressed in the Gemara can be explained with the following statement. The Mishna in Avos (5:1) states that the world was created with ten utterances. Although HaShem could have created the world with one utterance, he chose to create the world with ten utterances so that the wicked people, who destroy the world that was created with ten utterances, could be punished, and the righteous, who sustain the world that was created with ten utterances, could be rewarded. The Ramban writes that when it is said that HaShem uttered that something should come into existence, it means that Hashem willed that something should exist. Thus, HaShem’s utterance was, so to speak, His will.

Ten Utterances are revealed in Ten Commandments

Hashem created the world for the sake of the Jewish People and for the purpose of having the Jewish People study the Torah. Thus, HaShem’s will was for the Jewish People to study His Torah. Nonetheless HaShem uttered ten utterances regarding creation, and in a similar vein, writes the Sfas Emes, Hashem uttered Ten Commandments at Sinai. The Sfas Emes explains that the ten utterances of creation were concealed, whereas the Ten Commandments were the revelation of those ten utterances. The Jewish People, by declaring “we will do and we will listen,” were revealing the ten utterances so creation. Yet, HaShem sought to demonstrate that their willingness to accept the Torah was only a mirror of HaShem’s will in this world. Thus, when we refer to someone’s will, we are ultimately tracing that will to what HaShem’s will is for the world. A person who is required to offer a sacrifice must acknowledge that he is performing HaShem’s will. One who finds it difficult to express this recognition is coerced, similar to the raising of the mountain, to express this acknowledgment of HaShem’s will. In truth, the offering of a sacrifice is merely a microcosm of a person’s life, where if one does not acknowledge HaShem’s will voluntary, HaShem will, heaven forbid, coerce the person to accept His will in ways not to the person’s liking.

The Shabbos connection

This concept of accepting HaShem’s will is manifest on Shabbos, where we constantly supplicate HaShem to be appeased with our Shabbos observance. The requirement that we observe Shabbos was not given to us a choice, yet we still make choices regarding our level of observance and how much time we spend preparing for Shabbos. It should be HaShem’s will that we acknowledge His will and perform His will, and that we observe Shabbos with great joy and love for HaShem.

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.

רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם דוּ בִּיזְט דָאךְ הַנּוֹתֵן לַיָּעֵף כֹּחַ, Master of the Universe, since You are the One Who gives strength to the exhausted. The Gemara (Taanis 27b) states that the people of the Mishmar would not fast on the first day of the week Reish Lakish explains that this was because of the loss immediately after Shabbos of the נשמה יתירה, the extra soul that one receives for Shabbos. It is thus fitting that immediately after Shabbos we invoke this prayer where we acknowledge HaShem as the One Who gives strength to the exhausted. Every Jew is deemed to be exhausted following Shabbos because of the loss of the נשמה יתירה, and we pray to HaShem that He give us strength to serve Him in the upcoming week.

 Shabbos Stories

Now I can forgive you

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: In the city of Bnei Brak there are many Bar Mitzvah celebrations every Shabbos. It became very difficult for Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievski, the elder sage known to world Jewry as the Steipler Gaon to attend every Bar Mitzvah. In fact, he was old and weak and hardly had the strength to go to shul. One week, a Bar Mitzvah boy was honored with the maftir. Immediately after the davening, the Steipler Gaon was standing there in line, waiting to wish him Mazal Tov.

The Steipler Gaon bent down and began conversing in earnest with the neophyte member of the adult Jewish community. It seemed to the hushed crowd that this was much more than a perfunctory Mazel Tov wish.

The boy paled as he shook his head several times in amazement. “Of course, Rebbe!” he exclaimed. “Of course! There is no question. I feel terrible that the Rebbe felt he had to discuss this with me!”

The Steipler thanked the young boy, wished him Mazel Tov again, blessed him, and left the shul.

The entire congregation was shocked. What could the Steipler have wanted?

“Let me explain,” began the boy. “Six years ago I was davening in this shul with a very large siddur (prayer book). The Steipler approached me and chided me for learning Gemara in the middle of the Tefillah. I showed him that it was a Siddur and that I actually was davening. He apologized and left.

Today the Steipler came to my Bar Mitzvah and reminded me of the story. He explained to me that even though he apologized for his mistaken reprimand six years ago, it was not enough. Since, at the time, I was a child under Bar Mitzvah, I did not have the frame of mind to truly forgive him. Even if I did forgive him, it had no halachic validity. The Steipler found out when my birthday was and waited for six years until my Bar Mitzvah. Today, I am halachically old enough to forgive him, and so, he came back today to ask my forgiveness!” (

Rav Shlomo Heiman Speaks To a Packed House

Rav Shlomo Heiman, zt”l, one of the first Roshei Mesivta in Torah Vodaas, was known for the excitement and enthusiasm with which he gave over his shiurim. When he gave over his shiur he would tremble, and sweat would appear on his glowing face. More than once, Rav Shlomo would faint at the conclusion of his shiur, which he would give over to his last ounce of strength.

In 1939, on a stormy and snowy day, only four talmidim arrived at the yeshivah. In a booming voice R’ Shlomo gave over his shiur as if hundreds of talmidim were crowded in the room listening. When the talmidim saw that he was utilizing all his strength to give over the shiur, they tried to stop him. “Rebbe, there’s only four of us here.”

Reb Shlomo retorted, “You think that I am only giving over the shiur to the four of you. You should know that my words are being given over to hundreds of talmidim. You, your future talmidim, and to their talmidim after them! (Chaim Sheyash Bahem) (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

One Av Melacha with many unexpected applications in the kitchen is לישה, kneading. Kneading is defined as binding together small particles, i.e. flour, by means of a bonding agent i.e. water, to form one mass. The melacha of kneading also applies to kneading non-food items, such as clay; however, as always, our discussion will center on foods.

  1. The Melacha of Kneading
  1. The Components of a Kneaded Mixture

There are two components to a kneaded mixture – the solid food particles and the liquid that is used to bind them together. We will now define the halachic parameters of each.

Definition of a Liquid in Regard to Kneading

It is forbidden to use any type of liquid to bind particles together. Thus, one may not knead a substance with water, milk, juice, baby formula or oil.

Moreover, the prohibition is not limited to the use of what is commonly termed a liquid. The use of a thick, coagulated substance, such as mayonnaise, as a binder is also prohibited if it serves to bind together the solid particles of the mixture.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim Vayikra-HaChodesh 5775

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New Stories Vayikra-HaChodesh 5775

Close Call

Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem… (1:2)

Commentaries note that the word-order of the above verse is unusual. Translated literally, it reads, “A man, when he brings, from among you, an offering to Hashem.” The word “among you (mi-kem),” which should be at the beginning of the verse, is inserted parenthetically in the middle.

Or Ha-Chaim Ha-Kadosh writes that, aside from its simple context, the verse alludes to a different type of ‘offering.’ The Hebrew word for offering, korban, is from the root ‘le-karev/to bring near’ because part of offering a korban is the process of bringing it to the Holy Temple (Beis Ha-mikdash) and the Kohein. The concept of bringing near, he writes, is best applied to something which has become distanced, and is now being returned to its rightful place. The greatest ‘korban’ we can offer Hashem, he writes, is when we find a fellow Jew who feels estranged from G-d, and we bring him closer to Hashem!

A man—you or me or anyone, when he brings from among you—his offering is not an animal, gold nor silver; it’s something among you—your friend, neighbor, cousin…an offering to Hashem—this is the greatest offering we can give Hashem!

His interpretation brings light into an important point: Often, we focus on the material things we ‘give’ Hashem. We donate to charity, build beautiful synagogues and Yeshivos, buy the most expensive tefillin, and grace our Shabbos and Yom Tov tables with the most elegant finery we can fit into our budget.

Suppose someone have saved his money and bought a sefer Torah (Torah scroll)—no small feat. To celebrate, he invites friends, family, and anyone he knows to a lavish meal prepared in its honor. As is the custom, the sefer Torah is lead to its final destination amid song, dance, and much festivity. This is all as it should be.

And how do we treat the Torah? We stand up as it passes by. We kiss it if we can get close. The fear of, chas ve-shalom, dropping or ‘embarrassing’ a sefer Torah is immense.

Do we treat our fellow Jews with this level of respect and reverence? Listen to the following story; perhaps it will give us a new perspective on where our priorities should lie:

Unlike most Jews living under the Communist Soviet regime, R’ Pinchas Sudak did not lack much. He had an underground knitting factory, and was a relatively wealthy man. He also managed to sustain a Torah-observant life for himself and his family. When he escaped Russia in the summer of 1946, at the age of thirty-eight, it was not because of any material or even spiritual need. On the contrary, he risked being shot at the border for trying to escape. He did it for his grandchildren.

R’ Pinchas felt that his children, raised to fight for the preservation of their faith, had the strength and faith to persevere in following the path of their tradition. “They will always know that they are Jews and will remain loyal to their faith. But what will become of my children’s children? That, I do not know. It is for them that I must escape the clutches of this regime.”

Fortunate to have crossed the Russian border alive, the Sudak family found themselves in Cracow with a group of forty-six other Chassidim escaping the Stalinist dictatorship.

There in Cracow, R’ Pinchas met a Polish Jew who was offering a Torah scroll for sale, and resolved immediately to purchase the Torah. He had a heavy wooden box fashioned to carry and protect it. “Wherever this journey may lead us,” said R’ Pinchas, “how can so large a group of Jews travel without a sefer Torah in their midst?”

The group forged onwards, walking through Steczen, to cross the Czechoslovakian border on their way to Prague. They left late at night. Each person could carry only their most basic necessities; all other worldly possessions were abandoned.

In the blackness of the night, R’ Pinchas, his wife Batya, and their three children, grasping a coarse rope to keep them together, trekked silently through the dense forest. R’ Pinchas clutched his beloved sefer Torah as he walked alongside his wife, who carried their youngest child, Bracha. As time progressed, Batya grew weary, and motioned to her husband that she could no longer carry Bracha.

With tears in his eyes, R’ Pinchas took his sefer Torah out of its wooden case, and silently mouthed an apology. “Priceless Torah, you know that it is for you that I have left Russia. I am fleeing to ensure that my children’s children will know you and live with you. Forgive me, dear Torah, for betraying you now. It is either you or my child. I part with you now, so that my children and children’s children should live a life where you are a real and meaningful part.”

R’ Pinchas embraced the Torah for the last time, and gently laid it back in its case, placing it under a tree. He lifted his young child in his arms and journeyed forward.

Eventually, R’ Pinchas and his family reached the shores of Eretz Yisrael safely. His children, Batsheva, Nachman and Bracha, each grew up to become Rabbis or Rebbetzins serving their respective communities and promulgating faith in Torah.

A few years ago, his daughter, ‘Rebbetzin Batsheva,’ was visiting California where she was invited to the home of a distant acquaintance. This acquaintance was describing her own father’s escape from Russia— several weeks after that of R’ Pinchas. She said that she attributed her father’s longevity and robust health to an incident that happened over more than 50 years ago:

He and his wife were escaping Russia on a dark night. Along the way, their five year old daughter wandered away from them and was momentarily lost. Frantically, the parents searched for her, crawling on their hands and knees through the pitch-black forest.

Suddenly, her father felt a hard surface. Upon further investigation, he opened a wooden box to discover a sefer Torah. Next to the wooden box sat his young child. Kissing both passionately, he took the Torah from its box, unraveled it, and wrapped it around his body, tying it with his gartel (prayer belt). Eventually, that Torah scroll made its way to its current home, in a shul in New York City.

Concluding her story, she looked up at Rebbitzen Batsheva, and couldn’t fathom why her face had gone completely ashen and tears were streaming from her eyes. The legacy of R’ Pincha’s precious sefer Torah had come full circle.

If we were to see a sefer Torah, G-d forbid, lying in disgrace, we would run to pick it up, kiss it, hug it, and return it to its place of respect. Our hearts would be torn from having witnessed such a tragedy. Likewise, our eyes should be open to the many opportunities that grace our lives to pick up the spirits of a fellow Jew, revive his spirits, and hopefully help him return to his place of respect among Torah loving Jews. (

Gladdening the Bride and Groom

Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, was known to truly cherish the great mitzvah of making a chosson and kallah happy at their simchah. Whenever he would attend any wedding, he would always make sure to sing and dance a great deal with a lot of enthusiasm and vitality. When the Rav grew older, even though he could no longer dance as he used to, he would still tell others to dance. He would stir up the dancers so that their rejoicing would be the way it ought to—so that it could gladden the hearts of the new couple. Rav Yosef Chaim would always say, “In Kesuvos 16b the Gemara asks: keitzad merakdin lifnei hakallah? This is generally translated as, ‘How does one dance before the bride?’ But the word merakdin doesn’t only mean to dance. The proper word for dance would be rokdin. The word merakdin actually means to cause others to dance. This is why I am so careful to make sure that the dancing is up to par even though I myself am no longer capable of dancing much. I thus fulfill the mitzvah of being meraked, of being mesameach, of bringing joy, to the chosson and kallah!”

Once, the Sar Shalom of Belz, zt”l, commented on this avodah. “The Gemara asks: כיצד מרקדין לפני הכלה, how should one dance before the bride? If you look, you’ll find that the first letter of each of these words spells HaMelech. This teaches us that a person can dance before the kallah with the same attitude and the same devotion to Hashem as experienced by the chazzan as he intones HaMelech during the Yomim Noraim!” (

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