Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Keep on praying for the Redemption
ויבא משה ואהרן אל אהל מועד ויצאו ויברכו את העם וירא כבוד ה’ אל כל העם, Moshe and Aharon came to the Tent of Meeting, and they went out and they blessed the people – and the glory of HaShem appeared to the entire people (Vayikra 9:23)
The Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which will serve as the resting place for the Divine Presence in the Wilderness, is ready to be erected. The entire Jewish People is anxiously waiting for a fire to descend from heaven, and this revelation would reflect the love that HaShem had for them and would also demonstrate that they had earned atonement for the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf. Unfortunately, it appears as if they have waited in vain. The fire has not descended, and they voiced their complaint to Moshe. What could Moshe do that would satisfy their desire to have the Divine Presence in their midst?
“Am I also preventing the Redemption from occurring?”
The Munkatcher Rebbe, Reb Chaim Elazar Shapiro (1872-1937) had finally arrived in Jerusalem for a historic meeting with the renowned Kabbalist, Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri, known as the Saba Kadisha, The Holy Elder (1820-1930). For years they had communicated by mail and now a great crowd had gathered to witness the meeting of these two great Torah luminaries. The crowd finally dispersed and only the Rebbe’s attendant, Reb Shalom, remained in the room where the two leaders were to meet. The Rebbe gave his attendant a knowing glance and Reb Shalom left the room. Unable to contain his curiosity, however, Reb Shalom remained listening behind the door, curious as to what would transpire in this fateful encounter. At first Reb Shalom could not hear anything, and he assumed that the language barrier was preventing any communication, as the Rebbe only spoke Yiddish and the great Kabbalist spoke in his native Hebrew. Finally the two settled on Hebrew as the spoken language, and Reb Shalom heard the Rebbe ask in a slow but urgent tone, “tell me, please, when will the Messiah finally arrive to redeem us from this long exile?” The Saba Kadisha replied sadly, “there are those who are preventing the redemption from occurring.” Reb Shalom listened eagerly for further conversation, but he could not hear anything. After a few moments he heard the Rebbe crying and then through the tears, he was able to make out the Rebbe’s muffled cry, “Am I also among those who is preventing the redemption?” The Rebbe’s sincere query pierced Reb Shalom’s heart and penetrates the hearts of Jews the world over. Are we doing enough to bring the redemption?
Moshe prays for the Divine Presence to rest on the Mishkan
Moshe was confronted by the Jewish People’s disappointment that they had not yet merited the Divine Presence to rest on their new edifice. Rashi writes that Aharon was also saddened by the fact that despite having offered all the necessary sacrifices to inaugurate the Tabernacle, the Divine Presence had not yet appeared. Moshe then entered the Mishkan together with Aharon and they prayed that the Divine Presence should rest on the handiwork of the Jewish People. Immediately a fire went forth from before HaShem and consumed upon the Altar the burnt-offerings and the fats; the people saw and rejoiced at the revelation of HaShem’s Presence in their midst.
We must keep praying for the Ultimate Redemption
We are constantly praying for the Redemption, and at times we may wonder if there is something more that we need to do to hasten its arrival. In truth, however, just as Moshe did for the Jewish People in the Wilderness, we must keep praying to HaShem to bring the Redemption. HaShem revealed Himself to the Jewish People then, and He will certainly answer our prayers and bring us the Messiah and the long awaited redemption.
The Shabbos connection
Throughout the week we anticipate the Redemption. On Shabbos, however, we feel that we are so close to redemption, as we recite in the Lecho Dodi prayer, karvah el nafshi gealah, draw near to my soul-redeem it! HaShem should give us the strength to keep praying for redemption, and in the merit of our Shabbos observance, he will surely redeem us, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
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 קוּמֶען צוּ בָּנֵי חַיֵּי אֲרִיכֵי וּמְזוֹנֵי רְוִיחֵי, may this week and this month and this year arrive for…..and for children, life and expansive sustenance. These three blessings, children, life and sustenance are always grouped together. What is the connection between these three blessings? One needs sustenance in order to live. One who does not have children is considered to be not living. This is the simple explanation. On a deeper level, however, one who has children has continuity. Thus, we beseech HaShem to bless us with continued physical and spiritual lives so that e can serve Him properly.
“Say it again and again until you understand it!”
The sudden death of Reb Yosef could not have come at a more untimely time – a few days before Passover. A Holocaust survivor, he had rebuilt his life in Canada and left this world a successful businessman, with a wonderful wife, children, and grandchildren. It was difficult, however, for them all to leave their families for the first days of Passover to accompany his body, and thus his widow traveled with her son to bury her husband in Israel. After the funeral the two mourners sat in their apartment in the Shaarei Chesed section of Jerusalem. Passover was fast approaching, and they were planning to spend the Seder at the home of relatives. As they were about to end the brief Shiva period and leave their apartment, a soft knocked interrupted their thoughts. At the door to her apartment stood none other than one of Israel’s most revered Torah sages, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.
“I live nearby,” he said, “and I heard that there was a funeral today. I came to offer my condolences.”
The sage then heard a brief history of Reb Yosef’s difficult, yet remarkably triumphant life.
Then Reb Shlomo Zalman turned to the widow and asked a very strange question. “Did you say the blessing Boruch Dayan HaEmes? Blessed are You, HaShem, the true Judge.” (This blessing acknowledges the acceptance of HaShem as the Master Planner of all events acknowledging that all that happens is for the best.) “Why? Yes,” answered the elderly lady. “I said it right as the funeral ended. But it is very difficult to understand and accept.”
Reb Shlomo Zalman, a man who lived through dire poverty and illness, four wars, and the murder of a relative by Arab terrorists, nodded. “I understand your questions. That blessing is very difficult to understand and to accept. You must, however, say it again and again. As difficult as it may be, believe me, if you repeat it enough you will understand it.”
Pesach without any questions
Once, when a student of R’ Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik zt”l (the Brisker Rav; died 1959) was leaving Yerushalayim to return to his home in Binei Brak, the Brisker Rav said, “Please tell your father that I wish him a `Chag Sameach.’ Also, please give him my wish that the holiday should pass with no shailos [i.e., that no questions should arise regarding whether chametz had found its way into the food or into the pots and pans].”
The Brisker Rav added: “Do not think that this is a small blessing. I remember that when I was a child, my father [R’ Chaim Brisker zt”l] once said to my mother after Pesach, `Thank G-d the holiday passed with no shailos.’ He spoke then the way a person speaks after successfully undergoing difficult surgery.”
The Brisker Rav also added: “A shailah in those days was not like a shailah today. I remember as a child in Volozhin that a question arose in someone’s kitchen, and all of his pots and dishes were declared chametz. Today, rabbis are so much more likely to accept a lenient opinion among the poskim / halachic authorities.”
Pesach is like winning the lottery
The 19th century chassidic rebbe, R’ Yechiel Meir of Gostynin zt”l, barely slept all of Pesach. His family was worried about his health and asked him why he would not sleep. He replied, “If I had won the lottery, would you ask me why I couldn’t sleep? Believe me! Every minute of Pesach is like winning the lottery.”
What did he mean by this? Why did he feel more fortunate on Pesach than on any other day? The Amshinover Rebbe explained: Our Sages say that chametz represents the yetzer hara. Thus, Pesach is a time that is free of the yetzer hara. Every minute of such a time is priceless. (Otzroseihem Shel Tzadikim)
A right way and a wrong way to read the Hagadah
The mitzvah of Sippur Yetzias Mitzrayim / relating the story of the Exodus requires more than just reading the story. One’s recitation of the Haggadah must be from the heart and also must penetrate one’s heart, so that the story of the Exodus will serve as the basis for strengthening one’s emunah/faith. Indeed, R’ Simcha Zissel Ziv zt”l (the “Alter of Kelm”; died 1898) used to observe that the statement in the Haggadah, “The more that one relates about the Exodus, the more praiseworthy it is,” also can be translated, “The more that one relates about the Exodus, the more improved he is.”
R’ Yaakov Levitt zt”l (Bialystok) illustrated with a parable the difference between the right way to tell the story of the Exodus and the wrong way:
A villager once took seriously ill. The doctor was called, and the doctor recognized that the villager’s illness was fully curable if treated properly. He wrote out a prescription and he told the villager’s wife, “Give your husband this prescription with water three times a day until it is finished, and he will be cured.”
The family did as it was told. Every day, the simple village wife tore a small piece off the prescription, dissolved it in water and gave it to her husband to drink. Needless to say, his condition did not improve.
The doctor was called, but he was very perplexed. “I know that this prescription works,” he said. “I have prescribed it for this illness before.”
“Let me see the prescription,” he requested finally. “Perhaps I made a mistake.” The villager’s wife explained, however, that she could not show him the prescription because she had given it to her husband as instructed.
“Fools,” he shouted. “Can a piece of paper cure your husband’s illness? It’s not the paper that makes the difference, but what’s written on the paper that would have cured him.”
So it is with the Haggadah. It is not the book of the Haggadah nor simply reading the Haggadah which illuminates one’s soul. Rather, one must absorb the contents of the story. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Shaarei Armon p. 150)
Reb Shaul Kagan zt”l
Reb Shaul Kagan, founder of the Kollel of Pittsburgh, was born in Europe. After his family fled to the U.S., his father became Rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef (RJJ). R’ Shaul studied there and later enrolled in the fledgling yeshiva in Lakewood under R’ Aharon Kotler.
Over 30 years ago, R’ Kagan established a kollel (institute for advanced study by married men) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began with ten men who studied and taught classes (for free) to the community. An appreciation of the Kiddush HaShem that he and his kollel made on the city of Pittsburgh may be gleaned from a comment made once by the non-Jewish, then-Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caligari, “What those ten men are doing day and night in that study hall on Bartlett Street is giving hope and strength for Russian Jews far across the globe.” Asked later why he would make such a comment, the Mayor said, “Rabbi Kagan told me a little bit about the Torah. Then he explained what you rabbis do. Then he took me to the kollel. I saw from the way that he talked about your Torah and by seeing you study that whatever the Torah does, it must impact much farther than Pittsburgh.” (Based on Yated Neeman) (www.Torah.org)
Shabbos in Halacha
לישה – Kneading
- The Kneading Process
A. The two steps of the Kneading Process
Pouring a liquid onto food particles or vice versa is deemed to be an act of kneading because some bonding occurs immediately. Mixing the ingredients afterwards is deemed to be a separate act of kneading. However, when a coagulated substance is used as the binding agent, only the actual mixing can be considered kneading.
Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Shemini 5775
Have a Wonderful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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New Stories Shemini 5775
The Holocaust Torah
How did a survivor who wouldn’t buy a ticket to Israel afford to commission a Torah scroll all by himself?
by Yvette Alt Miller
“Join us for a Holocaust Torah Dedication.” The synagogue e-mail caught us by surprise. Our congregation is very small. Everyone knows each other and we’re aware of any looming celebrations months in advance. Besides, dedicating a new Torah scroll is a huge event. We’d just been part of a mammoth, two-year fundraiser for a new scroll at our kids’ school that took years of planning and the participation of scores of families to make that dream a reality. How could there be a similarly large undertaking in our own synagogue without us being aware of it?
Torah scrolls are painstakingly hand-written by specially-trained scribes. It can take a year or more to complete one scroll; consequently, commissioning a new Torah scroll is very expensive and it’s common for an entire community to band together to raise funds for it.
Mr. Friedman with the author’s son
“It’s Mr. Friedman’s Sefer Torah,” our rabbi responded when we called to ask how we could help. I thought of Mr. Friedman, an elderly member who came to synagogue every morning. With his neat demeanor and old-fashioned manors, he’s a beloved fixture in the community. Our rabbi explained that as a Holocaust survivor himself (he was an inmate at Auschwitz and Dachau), Mr. Friedman commissioned a new Torah scroll to commemorate his parents who were murdered by the Nazis, and his late wife, who was also a survivor.
My thoughts flew to a conversation I’d had with Mr. Friedman in synagogue just a few weeks before. Nearly all his relatives had been murdered by the Nazis, and his wife’s family had met the same fate. One of his only living relatives was an elderly sister-in-law in Israel who’d been blessed over the years with a large family of many children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. Though they spoke sometimes on the phone, he recalled, they could never visit. The cost of a plane ticket was prohibitive.
How did a man who couldn’t afford to buy a plane ticket to Israel commission an entire Torah scroll all by himself?
As the day of the Torah dedication drew near, other families begged Mr. Friedman to be allowed to help. Eventually, our requests wore him down. He consented to allowing his friends and fellow congregants to raise funds for the Torah mantle and crowns that would decorate his new Torah, and to throw a party in his honor. He was adamant on one point though: the fundraising for the Torah itself was entirely his own. “It’s my project,” he said, “and I don’t want any fuss.”
The day of the dedication dawned cold and brisk. As friends and congregants milled around, music began to play. A member drove Mr. Friedman slowly up to the synagogue driveway, tightly holding the Torah scroll. With difficulty, he got out of the car and held the Torah in his arms. As friends held a chuppah – a wedding canopy – over, him, Mr. Friedman laboriously walked up the drive. Just as he’d refused all help in funding his donation, he was now resolved to carry the Torah into the synagogue himself.
“I don’t want to give a big speech,” he’d already declared, but as he deposited the Torah in its home in the sanctuary, a sob escaped him and echoed through the room, more eloquent than any discourse. The Torah, dedicated in memory of his murdered parents and of his wife, was finally home.
A few months later, Mr. Friedman became ill and I called to see if I could stop by with some food. As he buzzed me into his small apartment, I looked around, taking in the modest furnishings and asked him about his parents. He showed me two black and white photos – his mother, wearing an old-fashioned wig, looked young, barely out of her teens in hers. Their names were Menachem Mendel and Raizel. Mr. Friedman talked about them tenderly. They were charitable, honorable, religious people – broad-minded and kind.
When the Nazis took his father away, a young Mr. Friedman found out that he’d been secretly supporting many other families through the years. His father’s last whispered instructions to his son were to continue this tradition, and bring them tzedaka each week.
“I always wanted to do something to honor their memories,” Mr. Friedman once told me about his parents. I gazed around at his humble apartment, at the worn cuff of his jacket, and asked him what had been puzzling me for months. “How did you save the money to buy an entire Sefer Torah all by yourself?”
Mr. Friedman glanced at the photos of his young, vibrant parents. “I’ve been saving for this Torah my entire life,” he whispered.
It is difficult to properly memorialize the countless Jews murdered in the Holocaust. In one synagogue in Chicago, one family is remembered each week now when a brand-new Torah is lovingly unrolled and read. It took decades of hard work and self-denial. But thanks to one elderly, unassuming survivor, the memory of his parents – and of his wife – has at last come home.
Mr. Friedman could use your prayers for a refuah sheleima. His Hebrew name is Mordechai Aryeh ben Raizel.