Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Matos-Masei 5775

Matos-Masei 5775

New Stories Matos-Masei 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5775

A Glimpse of Redemption


In this week’s parashah, Masei, we learn about the journey of the Jewish People’s journey in the Wilderness. Let us draw a parallel between the journey in the Wilderness to the journey of the Jewish People throughout our current exile. We were exiled from Eretz Yisroel because of our sins, and we still have not merited the final redemption when the entire Jewish People will reside in Eretz Yisroel, with Moshiach as our king and when the Third Bais HaMikdash will be built.

Desecration of the Shabbos is often overlooked as a catalyst for the Exile

What is the goal of our journey in exile? According to kabalistic teachings, our mission is to draw out the Holy Sparks in every land where we sojourn. In this sense, one would think that we have fulfilled our mission successfully, as the Jewish People have settled in and subsequently been exiled from so many lands. Yet, we constantly hear about the sins that we must still rectify, such as sinas chinam (baseless hatred), Lashon hara (slander) and numerous other sins. One area which does not seem to earn the spotlight is Shabbos observance. The Gemara (Shabbos 119b) states that Jerusalem was destroyed because they desecrated the Shabbos. The Medrash (Esther Rabbah 1:9) states that when Achashveirosh made his grand party, the angels upon high protested before HaShem, claiming, “The Bais HaMikdash is destroyed and this wicked man sits and conducts parties!” HaShem responded, “place ‘days’ corresponding to ‘days,’ as here [in Esther] it is said, bayamim haheim, in those days, and regarding the Jews who ascended to Jerusalem subsequent to the Babylonian exile, it is said, (Nechemiah 13:15) bayamim haheimah raisi viYehudah dorchim gitos baShabbos, in those days I observed in Judah people treading on winepresses on the Shabbos…. Thus, we see that one of the essential reasons for the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash and Jerusalem and for our current exile is because of the desecration of Shabbos. What is it, then, that makes Shabbos so unique that our redemption from this bitter exile is predicted on its observance?

The Shabbos Connection

The Shem MiShmuel writes that one can reside in the Diaspora in a Torah environment and be insulated from all foreign influences, yet, if the atmosphere in one’s proximity is polluted, then one cannot spiritually survive. Shabbos, however, is the atonement for the spiritual deficit that one may experience during the week. Thus, Shabbos is the equivalent of Eretz Yisroel while we are in exile. The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states in stark terms that were the Jewish People to observe the Shabbos, the Jewish People would be redeemed. True, it is hard for the individual to expect the entire Jewish People to fully observe Shabbos. Yet, it is incumbent upon every individual to observe the Shabbos to the best of his or her ability, and then we will all merit observing the Shabbos collectively. When the entire Jewish People will observe the Shabbos, HaShem will have compassion upon His Chosen Nation and redeem us with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

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

אֶזְכֶּה הוֹד מְלוּכָה, אִם שַׁבָּת אֶשְׁמרָה, I shall merit kingly glory if I safeguard the Shabbos. In the Kabalistic Sefiros, הוֹד, glory, is two steps before מַלְכוּת, kingship. Here we refer to kingly glory without mention of יְסוֹד, foundation, which precedes מַלְכוּת. Perhaps we can suggests that the Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 27:10) states that an animal is required to experience Shabbos prior to its being offered as a sacrifice, and similarly a Jewish baby boy is required to experience Shabbos prior to his circumcision, similar to one who must see the empress before seeing the queen. The Taz (Yoreh Deah 265) suggests that this is the source for a Shalom Zachor taking place on Shabbos before the circumcision. Thus, here we refer to Shabbos as the kingly glory, because the attribute of יְסוֹד, foundation, which reflects circumcision, is not apparent until after passing through Shabbos.

Shabbos Stories

The Devotion of the Jews to Each Other

Reb Aryeh Levine took it upon himself to visit Jewish inmates, mostly members of the Irgun, held under British rule prior to Israel’s statehood. He became like a father to those prisoners, bringing them food, clothes and love. For years, despite sweltering heat and frigid rains, he never missed a Shabbos visit, save one.

Once, in the midst of a Shabbos service, a very excited messenger called him out of the prison. Reb Aryeh’s daughter had become paralyzed and the doctors were helpless. He was needed for support at home, immediately. After the Shabbos, an Arab messenger was sent by the concerned inmates to inquire what tragedy interrupted the weekly visit.

The next Shabbos, despite the enduring tragedy at home, the Rabbi went to the prison as usual. Normally during the Torah reading, prisoners would pledge a few coins to charity. This week the donations were far different.

“I will give up a week of my life for the sake of Reb Aryeh’s daughter,” the first convict pledged. Another prisoner announced that he would give a month from his. Each one called to the Torah upped the previous pledge until the last prisoner cried out, “what is our life compared to Reb Aryeh’s anguish? I will give all my remaining days for the sake of the Rabbi’s daughter.”

At this unbelievable display of love and affection, Reb Aryeh broke down and wept.

Miraculous as it may sound, that Saturday night Reb Aryeh’s daughter began to move and within days was fully recovered.

Diving into Shabbos

David was driving to the Catskills for Shabbos but set out from his Manhattan office with hardly enough time to make the trip and arrive before sundown. Traffic was backed up on the Major Deegan and crossing the Hudson via the George Washington Bridge seemed an almost impossible task. Mid-span, after sitting nearly an hour in stop-and-go traffic, he realized that the red orb in the sky was about to sink below the horizon. He had never desecrated the Shabbos before and traffic on the George Washington Bridge was not going to make him violate the Sabbath now. In a panic, he pulled his car as close as he could to the guard rail, left the keys on the visor, removed his wallet and hid it together his personal effects and hoped for the best. At worst, the car would be stolen. Maybe the police would get to it first and tow it.

Feeling a little guilty about adding to the traffic delays on the bridge, David left his car, flashers blinking, and walked back toward New York City where he decided to spend the Shabbos at a friend who lived in nearby Washington Heights.

Saturday night he returned to the bridge and his car was nowhere to be seen. He went straight to the police station and asked for the desk officer. “Did anyone see the gray Honda that was on the George Washington Bridge on Friday night?”

The officer’s eyes widened. “You mean the car with the keys on the visor?”

David nodded.

“Franky, get over here,” the cop yelled to his friend,” listened to this!” By now a couple of officers moved closer to David.

The sergeant raised his voice. “You mean the Honda with the flashers on?” Again David nodded, this time more nervously. You mean the Honda with the wallet with close to $500 dollars left under the front seat!” he shouted. “Was that your car!?” David shook his head meekly. “Yes, officer, that’s my car. Where is it?”

“Where is it??” mocked the officer, “Where is it? Do you know how many divers we have looking for your body in the Hudson!?” (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Applying the Shinuim to Loose and Thick Mixtures

 Loose Mixtures

The shinui procedures described earlier area all effective for loose mixtures: The ingredients may be added together in the reverse order and the mixture may be stirred in an irregular manner (crisscross, bare handed or with the handle of a utensil) to complete the mixing. However, when combining the ingredients for a loose mixture, one should be sure to pour all the liquid in at once. Mixing the food with liquid gradually will initially result in the formation of a thick mixture which, as we shall see now, is usually not permitted.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Matos-Masei 5775

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New Stories Matos-Masei 5775

Who Got the Better Deal?

An incredible true tale of two siblings.

by Sara Yoheved Rigler        

Had I been in the hospital in Salem, Illinois, on October 1, 1987, when a baby girl was born without legs, my heart would have clenched in pity for this poor child, and my mind would have railed at the unfairness of her fate. So grotesque was her deformity that her parents chose to leave her in the hospital.

Three months later, Sharon and Gerald Bricker decided to adopt the baby. The Brickers already had three sons, ranging in age from 10 to 14. “It bothered me,” Sharon later explained, “that there was a little girl who was left at the hospital, and she had no legs. So I thought she needed a family who would love her and take care of her.” They named the baby Jennifer, and brought her home to rural Hardinville, Illinois, a town so small that it had not a single traffic light.

Gerald was a carpenter. Sharon had worked in a bakery, but was a full-time mother by the time they adopted Jen. What kind of couple adopts a legless baby? A couple who wants to give, love, and nurture. And that’s what they did.

If you’re never given limits, then you think, “I can do anything.” And she did.

Jennifer grew up in a home thick with love and laughter. Her older brothers adored her. But neither her parents nor her brothers coddled her. “Can’t” was not part of the Bricker vocabulary. As Jen would later declare: “If you put your mind to it, you can do it. If you were never given limits, then you think, ‘I can do anything.’”

And she did. Alongside her three big brothers, she would climb trees, do handstands and flips, and jump from high places. Using her strong arms, she played softball, basketball, and volleyball, and became proficient in gymnastics and tumbling. Her parents constantly encouraged her, sometimes having to adapt equipment for Jen to play a particular sport. When Jen wanted to roller skate, her parents devised skates that she could attach to her hands.

When Jen was in second grade, she announced to her parents that she wanted to become a gymnast. Her idol was Dominique Moceanu, a petite gymnast whom Jen avidly watched on television. In 1995, at the age of 13, Dominique Moceanu became the youngest gymnast to win the senior all-around title at the U.S. National Championships. And at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Dominique, 14, won a gold medal with the other members of the “Magnificent Seven,” the U.S. gymnastics team. Jen was inspired watching Dominique, the youngest and the smallest on the team, a true champion.

Sharon and Gerald enrolled Jen in a gymnastics class, then a class in tumbling. Over the next four years, Jen won several tumbling competitions. When she was 12, Jen became the Illinois State Champion in tumbling. She also competed in three national meets and one Junior Olympic meet.

I’m not handicapped. That wheelchair is just to keep me from getting dirty.

With her positive, upbeat attitude and strong self-esteem, Jen was always accepted by her schoolmates. In the early grades, whenever a child stared or asked where her legs were, Jen answered matter-of-factly, “This is the way God made me.”

Once a child in her class referred to her as “handicapped.”

Astonished, Jen replied, “I’m not handicapped.”

“But you use a wheelchair,” the boy declared, to prove his point.

With the umbrage of an insulted adolescent, Jen countered, “That’s just to keep me from getting dirty.”

Enter Her Biological Family

Jen had always known that she was adopted. When she was 16, she asked her mother if she had any information about her biological parents. Sharon took out the official adoption papers. It was supposed to have been a closed adoption, but by a clerical error the name of her biological parents appeared at the top of one page. The name was “Moceanu.”

Jen’s biological sister was the Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu.

“You had been my idol my whole life,” Jen wrote to Dominique four years later, “and you turned out to be my sister! I was in extreme disbelief… My uncle is a retired private investigator, and he got in contact with Dumitru, your father. He talked to your father, and he did not deny that I was their biological child, but he would not return my uncle’s phone calls after that. So we stopped trying to contact you for a while because I did not want to seem pushy, and I wanted to do this right.”

Worried that Dominique would think she was crazy or trying to cash in on the fame of a celebrity, Jen took four years “to do this right.” She copied all the relevant documents. She assembled pictures of herself, which eerily resembled pictures of Dominique’s younger sister Christine. And she wrote a long, heartfelt letter. Finally, as Dominique would later write, Jen “put her heart in a package and shipped it off to a complete stranger.”

Dominique’s reaction was shock – and anger at her parents for keeping this secret from her for 20 years. As a child, Dominique had longed to have siblings. She had no idea that, when she was six, her parents had abandoned their baby in the hospital. When she was eight years old, her sister Christina was born. “I treasured her from the day she was born,” Dominique wrote in her autobiography, Off Balance. “Christina was my everything, and I was so happy to have her.”

After getting Jen’s package, when Dominique confronted her father, he stated flatly that they were impoverished immigrants without money or health insurance, and a Romanian doctor at the birth told them that raising a handicapped child would involve large medical expenses. So he decided they could not afford it, and put the child up for adoption. And that was that.

As for Dominique’s mother, she painfully related what had happened:

Your father said that our little girl was born with no legs. I never saw my baby. I never held her, never touched her, never even smelled her. I desperately wanted to, but your father told me we had to give her up and that was that. … You know your father – once a decision is made, that’s the end of it. (Off Balance: A Memoir, page 23)

Two Very Different Childhoods

Indeed, Dominique knew her father. Born and raised in Romania during the oppressive, Communist Ceausescu era, Dumitru Moceanu was an abusive, controlling husband and father. Immediately after marrying 19-year-old Camelia, he, with his bride, immigrated to the United States. Nine months later, Dominique was born.

Behind the limelight lurked a dark, menacing shadow. Dominique’s father was an abuser.

By 1996, having won a series of gymnastic championships, 14-year-old Dominique had become America’s darling. She was featured in Vanity Fair and her first autobiography, Dominique Moceanu: An American Champion, hit #7 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

But behind the limelight lurked a dark, menacing shadow. Dominique’s father was a classic abuser: controlling, violent, and given to bursts of rage. As Dominique would describe him in her memoirs:

As a father and husband, he ruled our house with an iron fist. Decisions were made by him, obeyed by us, and explained by nobody… My home life throughout my childhood was turbulent, at best. Tata’s rage and temper tantrums took a toll on my family. We [she, her mother, and sister] often found ourselves hiding in separate rooms. I can barely recall a single holiday when my father didn’t make a scene or create some kind of chaos. We were always walking on eggshells. (Off Balance: A Memoir, page 21)

At the age of 17, Dominique ran away from home and filed for “emancipation” – to be legally and financially independent of her parents. It turned out that her father had taken almost all of her post-Olympic earnings from shows and endorsements – almost a million dollars. The high-profile court proceedings left Dominique free, but feeling guilty, pained, and humiliated, as she was denounced by the media, which blazoned the headline: SPOILED BRAT DIVORCES PARENTS.

Then, at the age of 26, married and expecting her first child, Dominique discovered that she had a sister she never knew. The most poignant parts of her memoir are her comparisons between the traumatic childhood she suffered and the golden, happy childhood Jen enjoyed:

As Jennifer describes it, her home life was stable and full of love and support. She says her parents had minor arguments and bickered here and there like any other family, but they always “talked out” their problems, so there was never lingering tension in their home.

Jennifer’s words, “talked out,” stuck in my mind. How I had wished my parents did more talking when I was young. I mostly remember Mama and Tata either arguing when they disagreed or not talking at all. And the tense moments in our home were far more common than the peaceful ones. Many of Christina’s and my childhood memories were plagued with fear, sadness, and occasional threats of violence. When I think about these painful times, I am happy for Jennifer that she had such a positive home life – and I can’t help but think that the Bricker home was a better place for Jennifer to grow up than mine was. …

During our first conversation, I found myself thinking, Thank God someone was watching over her, so she didn’t have to suffer like Christina and I did. (pp. 102-103)

On October 1, 1987, in a hospital in Salem, Illinois, a baby girl was born without legs. Her sister, born intact, became a champion Olympic gymnast, showered with fame and wealth. Whose life was blessed? Whose life was cursed? (

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