Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Pinchas 5775

Pinchas 5775

New Stories Pinchas 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Pinchas 5775

A Glimpse of Redemption


The period referred to as Bain Hametzarim, the Three Weeks, is upon us, and it is worth our while to reflect on our current situation. (This paragraph is from year 5768, but unfortunately, still applicable today) This week we heard about the Israeli and terrorist group prisoner swap, where the Israelis received the bodies of two soldiers who were killed al Kiddush HaShem, sanctifying G-d’s Name, while the terrorists received in exchange live murderers with Jewish blood on their hands. Although I normally refrain from using current events and politics as a springboard for insights in the weekly Torah portion, it is noteworthy what the terrorist declared when he reached his safe haven in Lebanon. According to news reports, the terrorist announced, “I return today from Palestine, but believe me, I return to Lebanon only in order to return to Palestine.”

Yearning to Return to Our Land

Leaving aside the intent of this murderer’s words, let us focus on how this statement can be applied to us. We have been in exile for almost two thousand years. Every day in our prayers we declare that we wish to return to Eretz Yisroel. What does it mean to return to Eretz Yisroel? Are we saying that we wish to live a life completely according to the Torah, or are we merely engaging in some form of nostalgia? Every individual must decide for themselves what returning to Eretz Yisroel means, but there is one thing that we can all agree upon. The idea that we are all still in exile is a fact that no one can dispute. The Gemara (Kesubos 111a) states that the Jewish People are cautioned from ascending to Eretz Yisroel in a forceful manner. Nonetheless, it is incumbent upon every Jew to anticipate the arrival of Moshiach and yearn for the day when we will all return to the Land that HaShem promised to our forefathers. Thus, we should also declare, “we have left Eretz Yisroel to reside in the exile, against our will, but believe me, I am only in the exile in order to return to Eretz Yisroel.”

Seeking out the Rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash

The Ramban (Parashas Korach) is of the opinion that there is a biblical commandment to seek out the construction of the Bais HaMikdash. Are we seeking to reach the point where we can be confident that the Bais HaMikdash will be rebuilt? Fortunately, we have an opportunity every week to tastes a semblance of the redemption and this occurs on the Holy Day of Shabbos.

The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 12:4) writes that the sages and the prophets did not desire the Messianic Era for the purpose of dominating the nations of the world or for the purpose of eating and drinking and being merry. Rather, they desired the Messianic Era so that we should be free from oppression and thus we will be able to study HaShem’s Torah and thereby merit a portion in the World to Come.

The Shabbos Connection

Shabbos is a day when we rest from our labor and toil of the week, and we have the opportunity to engage in praying to HaShem and studying His Holy Torah. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states that were the Jewish People to observe two Shabbosos properly, they would be redeemed immediately. We have the opportunity, this Shabbos, to observe the Shabbos as an entire nation. If we will all observe the Shabbos properly, we will not need the reminder of the Three Weeks and Tisha Baav to remind us that we are still in exile, longing to return to Eretz Yisroel. May we see today the fulfillment of the verse that states (Yeshaya 52:8) kol tzofayich nasu kol yachdav yiraneinu ki ayin biayin yiru bishuv HaShem Tziyon, the voice of your lookouts, they raise their voice, they sing glad song in unison; with their own eyes they will see that HaShem returns to Tziyon.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

לְאִסּוּר מְלָאכָה, צִוִּיתָנוּ נוֹרָא, concerning the ban of labor, the Awesome One commanded us. The association between the prohibition of performing labor on Shabbos and referring to HaShem as the Awesome One can be found in this Medrash. The Medrash (Koheles Rabbah 9:3) states: In his continuing dialogue with the great Rabbi Yehoshua, the Roman emperor enjoyed challenging the scholar with questions or other puzzling things. Rabbi Yehoshua would invariably answer him and turn back his challenges, much to the admiration of the intellectual Roman.

One day, as the two were sitting together in the garden, the Caesar turned to Rabbi Yehoshua and said, “You know, when you consider it carefully, I am greater than your greatest prophet, Moshe, the son of Amram.

Rabbi Yehoshua looked at him in surprise. “Why do you say such a thing, Caesar?”

“Very simple. After all, Moshe is dead all these years and I am alive. And did not your Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of men, say, a live dog is better than a dead lion’?”

Rabbi Yehoshua heard Caesar’s words and said, “I understand what you are saying. Nevertheless, I will show you how wrong you are when you think that you – merely because you are alive – are greater than the great Moshe, our teacher, merely because he is dead.”

“Very well,” exclaimed the Roman. “I am willing to be shown that I am wrong.”

“If this is so,” said Rabbi Yehoshua, “and you are really so great, then surely your servants will listen to you.”

“Naturally,” laughed the emperor. “I am the Roman Caesar and my word is law. Whatever I command will be done without the slightest question.”

“That is good,” responded Rabbi Yehoshua, “because I desire you to order them to do something and see if they will obey your commandment to the letter.”

The Roman smiled tolerantly. “I just told you that they will do anything that I ask of them. What shall I command them to do?”

“Command them that for three days they shall not light fires in all their dwelling places. If you have this order sent to them and, if they indeed listen to you, then I will admit, also, that you are greater than Moshe, the son of Amram, who was our greatest prophet.”

The Roman emperor laughed aloud when he heard Rabi Yehoshua’s words.

“Surely, you are joking. Is this a difficult thing you are asking me to command? Please, give me something truly hard and I will show you that even that will be observed to the letter by my faithful servants.”

Rabbi Yehoshua shook his head and said, “No, I believe that this is quite enough for you to do. After all, I would not like you to decree things which are too difficult for your people to obey.”

“Very well,” said the Roman. “If you insist, I will command my people to observe this ridiculously simple thing.”

And calling in his secretary, he dictated to him a royal proclamation forbidding all the people of the city to light fires for three days.

“Have copies of the proclamation made up,” he said, “and have it announced in all the marketplaces of the city.”

The emperor’s servants made haste to do his bidding and within a matter of hours the entire city was made aware of the emperor’s decree.

“The deed has been done, Rabbi Yehoshua,” the Roman said, “and in three days you will have to admit that I was right and am greater than Moshe your teacher.”

“We shall see what we shall see,” was all Rabbi Yehoshua answered.

That evening, the Roman emperor and Rabbi Yehoshua went up to the roof of the palace from where they could observe the entire city stretched out before them.

As the emperor looked out toward the horizon his face suddenly darkened. There, in the western part of the city, he could see smoke rising from a chimney.

“What is the meaning of this?” he muttered. Calling to his minister, he said, “Send soldiers to that house this very moment and find out who has dared to disobey the order of the emperor and light a fire.”

Within moments, horsemen had ridden off in the direction of the smoke. When they returned to the palace some time later, they went immediately to the emperor.

“Well, what was the matter? Who dared disobey my orders and lit the fire?”

“O, great Caesar,” said the soldiers, “we came to the house from where the smoke was rising and we made inquiries. It seems that one of the residents of the house had a slight illness and he called for a doctor.

“The physician assured him that it was nothing serious but advised him to drink hot broth. The man lit the fire in order to follow the doctor’s orders.”

When Rabbi Yehoshua heard this he turned to the emperor and said, “Behold now the difference between you and the great Moshe, our teacher. You gave orders that no one light a fire and, the very same day, while you were alive, one of your servants violated your commandment because of a trifling matter.

“Moshe, our teacher, on the other hand, commanded us, ‘You shall not light fires in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.’

‘All the days that the great Moses lived no Jew violated this commandment and it still stands after all the many years since he passed on.

“Let me ask you now: Who is really greater? You, who decreed a thing and whose decree was violated the very same day or Moshe, the son of Amram, who has been gone from this earth all these years and whose law still stands?”

“You are right, Rabbi Yehoshua,” admitted the Roman Caesar. “I made a great error in thinking that I was greater than your prophet Moshe, merely because he was dead and I am alive.”

Thus, we see HaShem’s Awesomeness in that thousands of years ago, He decreed that we not perform certain labors on the Holy Shabbos, and until this day, Jews worldwide continue to obey these laws.

Shabbos Stories

The Prayer before the Prayers

The Sabba Kaddisha of Radoshitz, in his sefer, Niflaos (vol. 1, pp. 21– 22), recorded an amazing story about the formulation of this “Prayer before Praying.” The story goes like this: When he was a child, the Sabba Kaddisha was once visiting Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. He was conversing with chassidim from the Rebbe’s inner circle in front of the Rebbe’s home when several extremely tall men came and hurried into the house. When they reached the doorway, they had to stoop down to enter since they were so unusually tall.

The holy Rebbe closed the door behind them before the chassidim could catch a glimpse of their faces. They waited outside until the visitors left to see if they could recognize them. Again the chassidim were astonished when the men left. They did so in such a hurry that they could not make out the men’s features and just saw their backs; they left so fast they almost vanished. The chassidim realized that something unusual had just taken place, and they decided to investigate and find out what had occurred. The elder chassidim among them approached the Rebbe and asked him to explain the strange incident.

This is what the Rebbe told them: “When I realized that most people cannot concentrate properly on their prayers anymore due to the awesome burdens of earning a livelihood, and they lack the time and the understanding to concentrate fully, I decided to rewrite the standard formula for the prayers. I would write a new, short and concise version that would be equally understood and grasped by everyone. The holy Members of the Great Assembly, the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah (the original authors of the standard prayers from the time of the Talmud), realized what I intended. They came here to ask me not to change even one prayer from their established formula. I took their counsel and discussed the matter with them. They advised me to establish a prayer to pray before the formal prayer service. This would help anyone who lacks the concentration and proper devotions that are necessary for all formal prayers.” This “prayer before prayers” is the Yehi Ratzon prayer printed in many siddurim in the name of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. [Reprinted from a Free Download from the book “Mipeninei Noam Elimelech” translated and compiled by Tal Moshe Zwecker by permission from Targum Press, Inc.]

No Need for another Rebbe

There is a story told of the Rebbe’s brother the Rebbe Reb Zisha of Hanipoli. After Rebbe Elimelech passed away he was approached by his brother’s students to be their new leader. Rabbi Zisha declined and explained his reason with a parable. “The possuk in Bereishis 2:10 states “And a river went forth from Eden to water the garden and from there it split into four paths.” The Torah is eternal and alludes to all events above and below for all generations. Eden alludes to our holy master the Baal Shem Tov. The river was his student the holy Mezritcher Maggid. The garden refers to my brother the Rebbe Elimelech. This then is the meaning: a river flows from Eden to water the garden, the Torah flows as water from the Baal Shem Tov by way of the Mezritcher Maggid to the Rebbe Elimelech. From there it separates into four paths: they are 1. The Holy Rebbe the Chozeh or Seer of Lublin. 2. The Holy Rebbe Avodas Yisrael the Koznitzer Maggid. 3. The Holy Rebbe Mendel Rimanover and 4. The Holy Ohev Yisrael the Apta Rav. You need no Rebbe other than them.”

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Permitted Methods of  Kneading 


Kneading is permitted when done through a shinui, i.e. in an unorthodox fashion.

One must employ a shinui for each step of the kneading process:

  1. When adding a liquid to the solids, one is required to reverse the common order of combining the ingredients. This is valid, however, only for loose mixtures and not for thick ones. Nonetheless, when a coagulated substance, i.e. mayonnaise, is used in place of a liquid, this shinui is not necessary.
  2. To mix the ingredients, one may use crisscross strokes to mix with a fork or spoon, or mix normally with one’s bare hand. It is also permitted (for loose mixtures only) to stir with the handle of a spoon or fork, or with a knife.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Pinchas 5775

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New Stories Pinchas 5775

The Unfinished Diary: A Chronicle of Tears

A rare Holocaust diary appears 70 years after being written by its doomed author.

by Chaim Yitzchok Wolgelernter, Hy”d    

As he sat crouched in a foul-smelling cowshed and hayloft for months on end, with nothing but his own bleak thoughts to keep himself occupied, Chaim Yitzchok Wolgelernter turned to his pen as a means of endurance. An unusually gifted writer, this young husband and father of two made it his goal to chronicle his Holocaust experiences as they were occurring. And so, as he wandered the countryside from hideout to hideout, worrying about the fate of his family members who were also on the run, Chaim Yitzchok wrote. And as he hid in a dilapidated mikveh building together with his terrified younger brothers, Chaim Yitzchok wrote some more. And as he sought refuge in the barn of a Polish woman, who would eventually turn her back on him, Chaim Yitzchok continued to write.

The result: a personal Holocaust journal with a rare level skill apparent in each chapter chronicled by the author.

Chaim Yitzchok did not survive the inferno of the Holocaust, but his diary made its way to North America, where it lay in a drawer, untouched, for many years.

Unfortunately Chaim Yitzchok did not survive the inferno of the Holocaust; he was brutally murdered just a few months before liberation. His diary, though, did survive. It was rescued by his brother and eventually made its way to North America, where it lay in a drawer, untouched, for many years.

In the meantime, Chaim Yitzchok’s surviving child, Feivel, grew up, married, and had children of his own. His son, Nafti Wolgelernter, was the one who pushed for his grandfather’s diary to be deciphered and translated so that the family could connect with Chaim Yitzchok’s writings.

What followed were many years of meticulous work and effort, and now, 70 years after being written, this fascinating diary is finally being brought to light, released in English to the public.

This rare, historic work can be appreciated at many levels. Each page reveals an astounding depth of emotion, coupled with a cynical, witty – at times, even humorous – literary style. The diary is breathtaking in its eloquence and scope, heartbreaking in its descriptive account of the travails suffered by the author and his family. It reveals shocking details on the reaction of the local Polish populace to the unfolding disaster. Given its unique perspective, this compelling account lends an entirely new dimension to the world of Holocaust literature.

The following excerpt from The Unfinished Diary illustrates just one of Chaim Yitzchok’s brushes with death during his time spent in hiding and on the run.

(l-r) Meir, Yitta, Chaim Yitzchok (l-r) Meir, Yitta, Chaim Yitzchok

My Miraculous Escape

At midday, I continue on. In order to avoid the main road where wagons travel, I walk through the village of Drozejowice. I am almost at the far end of the village when I hear a vehicle approaching at high speed. Turning around, I see two German army wagons. They must be the same ones that were in Szyszczyce last night, heading back from Dzialoszyce for a second round.

In a flash, I am in the fields looking for a place to hide. But no more than twenty meters behind me, one of the soldiers chases me on foot.

“Halt!” he shouts.

When I do not stop, a shot rings out.

As I continue running, I notice a peasant woman coming out of a little farmhouse with a burnt roof, closing the door behind her and bolting it with a chain – a sure sign that no one remained at home.

I stretch out flat on the floor, quickly cover myself with the straw and lie there holding my breath, fearing the worst.

Without a moment to lose, I race over to the house, silently remove the chain and enter the front room. Seeing a ladder standing there, I climb up, ducking down to make sure no one can spot me from the outside through the exposed roof.

There is a thick layer of straw in the attic, protecting the house from rain. I stretch out flat on the floor, quickly cover myself with the straw and lie there holding my breath, fearing the worst. Barely do I finish throwing the last piece of straw on myself when the door of the house is thrown open.

Chaim Yitzchok and Chayele Wolgelernter in Krakow, late 1930s

The German soldier enters, looks around for a few minutes, then leaves. A moment later, he comes back in and starts climbing up the ladder. This is it… I am doomed. He stands in the attic for a short while, scanning it carefully, then goes back down.

I hear many loud voices outside. It seems all the soldiers are looking for me. Straining my senses, I peek out from beneath the straw and see the peasant woman being led by the arm.

“Where is the fellow who escaped from us?” they interrogate her. “Where is he hiding?”

She has no idea what they are talking about.

“Kreuz-Donnerwetter!” they shout, slapping her. “If you don’t tell us, we’ll burn down your house!”

Chaim Yitzchok and Chayele with their firstborn child, autumn 1940; note white armband on sleeve Chaim Yitzchok and Chayele with their firstborn child, autumn 1940; note white armband on sleeve

I am in grave danger. O Merciful God! I pray. It is not yet three months since I was orphaned of my parents. Shall my two-year-old son, my one remaining child, now become orphaned, too, of a father whom he hardly knows? If I perish here in the fields of Drozejowice, there will be no witness to my death, and my dear Chayele will remain a tormented agunah for the rest of her life. Tomorrow night is our seventh anniversary. Shall our happy married life come to such a tragic end?

Today, the eighth of Adar, is the yahrzeit of my grandfather Rav Yechiel Issamar. Zeide! For whom have I undertaken this dangerous trip if not for my brothers, the children of our exalted father, your son Yeshayah! Shall your yahrzeit, a day when the soul rises to a loftier realm, be stained by the blood of your murdered son’s child?

After all, I am only living for my wife Chayele, for our one and only innocent little child, and for my rescued brothers who have not yet experienced happiness. Shall the hands of the murderers succeed in destroying all these lives at once? I want to live to avenge the blood of my parents and sister…!

At that moment, I made a decision: I would not fall into their hands alive! Taking out the razor blade I carried on me, I held it close to my throat and observed the ensuing events.

Feivel Wolgelernter, about one year old, beginning of 1942

The peasant woman crossed herself and swore by all her saints that she knew nothing. I saw one soldier hold her to make sure she did not escape, while the others tossed straw and grain out of the adjacent barn. “He’s got to be hiding right around here!” I heard one German shout.

I am still in great danger…they may decide to come up here again.

I watch as several soldiers move on to search the neighboring houses. A few continue to stand outside, holding onto the woman. I feel like my eyes are popping out of their sockets. How long the search lasts, I cannot determine.

The soldiers return, unsuccessful.

“It can’t be!” I hear one of them insist. “He must be here somewhere!”

Not only do I see death before me but I already feel it; every one of my limbs has gone numb.

Again, they begin to flog the peasant woman, threatening to demolish her house. By now, not only do I see death before me but I already feel it; every one of my limbs has gone numb.

Suddenly, it grows quiet: one minute, two, three…

I peek out again from under the straw. I do not see a soul. My heart slowly resumes beating. I wait a bit more…I do not hear a thing. I wait for what I estimate to be half an hour…still quiet. Then, I hear the crack of a whip. The wagons must be leaving. With God’s help, the danger has passed.

I lie motionless in the attic until it becomes pitch dark; I cannot be sure they haven’t left one of their men behind. Then I climb down the ladder, approach the woman and ask her what happened.

With tears in her eyes, she tells me the whole story.

“Are you sure they are gone?” I ask her.

“They did not leave anyone behind,” she assures me.

“I am the one they were looking for,” I inform her, offering her some money. After all, it was because of me that she received a beating.

She declines. “Thank the good Lord, I am glad that I truly did not know you were up there!” she says. “This way a person was saved through me. I do not want a reward for that.” She would not even tell me her name.

The next morning, back in the loft in Skalbmierz, Magda relayed the conclusion of the previous day’s events, which she had heard from a Drozejowice villager.

The Germans barged into a house where some young peasant boys were playing cards. Identifying one of the boys as the supposed escapee they were searching for, they beat him savagely, forcing him to confess why he had run away.

The fellow remained unconscious for four straight weeks. (





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