Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Devarim-Chazon 5775

Devarim-Chazon 5775

New Stories Devarim-Chazon 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Devarim-Chazon 5775

Mourning and Joy


Today is Shabbos, and the next day is Tisha Baav. How are we to understand the concept of going from Shabbos, a day of complete joy, to Tisha Baav, a day of complete sadness and mourning? Furthermore, how are we to comprehend the idea of mourning for a building that was destroyed two thousand years ago?

Why do we mourn for the Bais HaMikdash?

The act of mourning is normally understood as someone, Heaven forbid, losing a close relative, and he or she mourns for the person who will not come back. Yet, we pray every day numerous times for the arrival of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Third Bais HaMikdash. Why, then, are we mourning over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, if it will soon be built?

Defiance of HaShem is Darkness

In order to answer these questions, we must focus on what appears to be an unrelated incident recorded in the Torah. When the spies returned from Eretz Yisroel and delivered a slanderous report, it is said (Bamidbar 14:1) vatisa kol haeidah vaytinu es kolam vayivku haam balayala hahu, the entire assembly raised up and issued its voice; the people wept that night. The Gemara (Taanis 29a) states that HaShem proclaimed, “You have wept a weeping for nothing. By your life I will give you something to weep about for future generations.” That night was Tisha Baav and the Bais HaMikdash would be destroyed in the future on Tisha Baav. Further on it is said that the ten spies died by plague and Moshe informed the Jewish People that they would die out in the Wilderness over a forty year period. It is said (Ibid verse 39) vayidabeir Moshe es hadevarim haeileh el kol binei Yisroel vaysiablu haam meod, Moshe spoke these words to all the Children of Israel, and the people mourned exceedingly. It is then said that that the next morning they awoke and they declared that that they would ascend to Eretz Yisroel for they had sinned. Moshe responded that they should not ascend as HaShem would not be with them. They defied Moshe’s command and they ascended anyway, and they were killed by the Amalekites and the Canaanites. It is said (Ibid verse 44) vayapilu laalos el rosh hahar vaaron bris HaShem uMoshe lo mashu mikerev hamachaneh, but they defiantly ascended to the mountaintop, while the Ark of HaShem’s covenant and Moshe did not move from the midst of the camp. What is the definition of the word vayapilu? Rashi writes that one explanation of the word ofel is strong, i.e., they forced their way up the mountain. Rashi then quotes the Medrash Tanchumah that interprets the word ofel written with an ayin to be akin to the word ofel written with an aleph (the letters ayin and aleph are interchangeable) and the Torah is teaching us that these people went in darkness without permission.

Mourning for the Bais HaMikdash begins with Disobeying HaShem

This statement of the Medrash offers us an amazing insight into the meaning of destruction and mourning. Although in the general sense one mourns over the loss of a loved one, regarding the state of the Jewish People there is a different dimension to the meaning of mourning. When the Jewish People do not follow the will of HaShem, and we rebel against Him, we are already subjecting ourselves to a state of mourning. Thus, on Tisha Baav we are not merely mourning the destruction of a building. Rather, we are distressed over the lack of light in our lives, as our insubordination causes HaShem, so to speak, to hide Himself from us.

The Shabbos Connection

There can be no greater tragedy than a lack of closeness to HaShem, the Life of the world. On Shabbos and on the festivals, HaShem grants us the opportunity to bask in that light, which is akin to the light of creation. We are prohibited from forcing the redemption to come (see Kesubos 111a) but we can hasten the redemption by observing the Shabbos and performing HaShem’s will. Rather than viewing this Shabbos as a temporary state of bliss which will be interrupted by Tisha Baav, we should maximize our efforts this Shabbos to heed HaShem’s will, with intense Torah study, prayer, and praising HaShem, and then we will not have to enter into Tisha Baav, which is a day of darkness and distress. Through the observance of Shabbos we will merit the light of Moshiach, and the light of the Third Bais HaMikdash, may it happen now, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

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

אַקְרִיב שַׁי לַמּוֹרָא, מִנְחָה מֶרְקָחָה, שַׁבָּת מְנוּחָה, I shall bring an offering to the Fearsome One, a perfumed-meal-offering – Shabbos of contentment. What is the meaning here of a “perfumed” meal-offering? Perhaps the explanation is that while one can bring an offering to Hashem to fulfill his obligation of a sacrifice, the ideal offering is when one entertains pure and untainted thoughts while bringing the offering. This, then is the meaning of the words “a perfumed-meal-offering.” One who brings an offering with the purest of intentions is deemed to have brought a perfumed-offering.

Shabbos Stories

Nothing Fishy Around Here

Once, on Erev Shabbos, when Rebbe Hirsh Leib of Alik was still a young man living in his father-in-law’s house, there arrived in town an agent of the Ministry of Taxation to investigate if the father-in-law was paying proper taxes on liquor. The man was terrified, and he called for his son-in-law and said, “Now let’s see the power of a Chasid,” meaning Hirsh Leib, because his father-in-law was an opponent of the Chasidic movement. Could Hirsh Leib help him? Could Hirsh Leib protect him? He was desperate. Hirsh Leib asked his father-in-law if they had already cooked the fish in honor of the holy Shabbos. When he was told: Yes, he went and took the pot with the fish and put it behind the door that led to the liquor cellar. When the tax agent came and opened the door to the cellar, he smelled the fish and asked the householder, “What is this delicious odor I smell?” The man answered, “It’s the odor of the fish cooked to honor the holy Shabbos,” but the agent wouldn’t believe him, saying that he had never smelled anything so extraordinary from fish! It was like the fragrance of paradise! The householder gave the agent a taste of the fish and he was so overcome and thrilled that he said to the householder, “A Jew who cooks fish like this for the Sabbath can’t be lying about his taxes!” And he did not even bother to investigate further. (Kuntres L’Sapair Yosher Kedoshei Alik, page 37) 

Greeting Moshiach is like Preparing for Shabbos

Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov once spent Shabbos in Levov, and he sent his attendant on Erev Shabbos after midday to ascertain if the people of the town were prepared to greet the Shabbos. The attendant returned with the response that people were still busy going out about their daily affairs. The Rebbe kept on sending his attendant to see if the people were preparing for Shabbos, and the attendant continued to return with the same answer. Suddenly, immediately prior to the onset of Shabbos, the people closed the doors and the shutters of their shops and they rushed to prepare for Shabbos. Reb Menachem Mendel told his attendant, “see, as the receiving of the Shabbos is in Levov, so too will be the arrival of Moshiach. People will be preoccupied with their livelihood, completely unprepared to greet Moshiach. Suddenly, however, Moshiach will arrive, and the people will close their stores and disregard their monetary affairs, in light of the announcement that Moshiach has arrived.” (Yalkut Menachem page 219 citing Sifrei Haleket Visippurim)

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Applying the Shinuim to Loose and Thick Mixtures
  1. Thick Mixtures

The rules regarding the preparation of thick mixtures are more stringent than those for loose mixtures. The reason for this is because preparing a thick mixture involves a melacha dioraysa (Torah prohibition), whereas preparing a loose mixture is only prohibited miderabanan (by Rabbinic Decree). Accordingly, the requirements for shinui for thick mixtures are more stringent. Specifically, many Halachic Authorities rule that the shinui in the order of combining the ingredients is not valid for thick mixtures. Thus, where one uses a liquid binder, there is no permissible way to add together the ingredients. Any recipe that requires that the liquid to bind particles may only be made as a loose mixture.

One can prepare a thick mixture on Shabbos by using a coagulated substance, i.e. mayonnaise as the binder, because since in such a case one is not required to employ a shinui to add together the ingredients, as no binding occurs prior to the stirring of the mixture, as expa1liend earlier. Even in the case of a liquid, if one added the ingredients together prior to Shabbos, one is permitted to stir them (with a valid shinui) on Shabbos.

In the second stage of the kneading process – the mixing stage – not all shinuim are valid of thick mixtures. One may stir thick mixtures only by means of crisscross strokes or the bare hand. One is not permitted to stir (in the usual manner) with a knife or with the handle of a utensil, because this shinui is not deemed to be significant enough modification for a thick mixture.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Devarim-Chazon 5775

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New Stories Devarim-Chazon 5775

The Goering Brothers: Heredity is Not Destiny

While Herman Goering was killing Jews, his brother worked tirelessly to save them.

by Salvador Litvak        

Hermann Goering was Hitler’s right-hand man and the founder of the Gestapo – may that monster suffer true justice for his deeds.

Albert Goering was Hermann’s younger brother. While his maniacal sibling was killing Jews, Albert worked tirelessly to save them.

The Goering brothers, only two years apart, grew up in a Bavarian castle. From an early age, the two were obviously different. Hermann was bold, confident and obsessed with war games; Albert was shy and thoughtful.

Later, Hermann would tell a psychiatrist from his Nuremberg cell, “Albert was always the antithesis of myself.”

In the 1930’s, ruthless Hermann rose in the ranks of the Nazi party to become Hitler’s top military commander.

Albert was strongly opposed to Nazism and left Germany in protest. He moved to Vienna, where he worked in the film industry and counted Jews among his closest friends.

As Hermann’s campaign against the Jews intensified, so did Albert’s determination to help them.

In Vienna, Albert once came upon a group of Nazi thugs, who had put a sign around an old woman’s neck proclaiming, “I am a Jewish sow.” A crowd gathered to mock the woman.

Albert pushed through the mob, and punched two Gestapo officers to save the woman. His life might have ended right there, as the crowd turned on him. The SS men demanded to see his papers.

When they saw his name, they escorted him to safety in deference to Hermann.

When Albert’s Jewish friends in Vienna were arrested by the Nazis, Albert again used his unique position to save them.

He forged documents, using his brother’s name, to help longtime pal Jacques Benbassat escape to Switzerland, and used his influence to get his former boss Oskar Pilzer, and Pilzer’s entire family, freed. Again and again, he saved Jewish lives.

Whole families owe their present existence to Albert. He saved many Jews by sending trucks to Nazi concentration camps with requests for workers. Once aboard, the trucks would take them into a forest and allow them to escape.

After the war, Albert was imprisoned at Nuremberg and interrogated for 15 months. Nobody believed his story until 34 Jews he’d rescued submitted sworn statements on his behalf.

He was freed, but soon found that his name made him an unemployable pariah. Albert sank into depression and alcoholism, surviving on a small government pension and food packages sent by Jews he had saved.

He died in obscurity in 1966.

Albert’s wartime heroism was unknown until documents were recently unearthed in British archives showing that he saved hundreds of Jews. His life demonstrates that it is our choices that define us, not our relatives.

Reprinted with permission from the Accidental Talmudist.

Hope to the Homeless

How one small act can set off a chain of kindness.

by Eliana Cline

Pam Green was having a hard week. As she drove through one of Johannesburg’s busiest sections, she was surrounded by the dozens of beggars. With an estimated 30% unemployment rate, begging at busy intersections is how many South Africans eke out their existence. And many people have become hardened to their plight after constantly being asked for money.

But one beggar named Joseph Phukubje stood out to Pam. He was holding up two pieces of paper – his high school diploma and his resume, and instead of asking for small change, he was asking for help in finding a job. As she peered in her rear view mirror something made Pam turn back, get out of her car and talk to him.

After hearing his story, Pam asked permission to post his information on her Facebook page. She shared the post with 20 friends hoping that one or two of them would be able to offer Joseph employment. Within hours the post had gone viral. Over a few days the post was shared over 20,000 times and Pam’s inbox was flooded with over a thousand job offers for Joseph, including offers for scholarships, training and clothing.

Yet the story does not end there. After helping Joseph to select the most suitable employer, Pam chose not forget about the plight of the homeless. Her social movement #SecondChances now aims to match each job offered with a homeless person looking for employment. Her email is already swamped with thousands of homeless people asking for jobs.

In a poverty-stricken South Africa rife with crime and corruption, the story about Joseph made headline news, momentarily piercing the class divide. Here are five inspiring lessons we can learn from Pam and Joseph.

  1. Every person is a human being.

Joseph has a mother, sister and grandmother, even though he lost touch with them. Pam was able to see beyond the homeless man with drugged out eyes to see someone who wanted to create a better future for himself. She ignored the internal judgments that can cloud compassion.

  1. Believing in someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Joseph’s spirit was broken. When Pam asked him what his dream job was, he didn’t have one. His existence was one of survival; all he wanted was enough money to move from sleeping on the streets to renting a room and getting food for the day. Yet when someone offered him employment, treating him as a valuable person, his buried dreams came to the surface. He now plans on furthering his education.

Often people around us have suffered so much that they stop dreaming. They don’t believe there could be something better for their lives. They have no aspirations or goals. More than advice and money the most meaningful thing you can give them is to believe in the greatness of their soul and help them uncover their dormant dreams.

  1. Don’t underestimate the ripple effect of our choices.

Pam had no idea how far her simple act would go. Every choice to do good – big or small –is valuable. It is easy to give up and think, what can I do? I’m just one person, I can’t change anything. Today it is clearer than ever that each of us is a link in the chain of humanity where kindness can take on a whole life of its own. Pam demonstrated how kindness perpetuates kindness.

  1. All it takes is one person to care.

There is so much suffering around us. It is easy to get overwhelmed and think that nothing you do will have an impact. Yet if we each choose to reach out and be compassionate to the people we encounter, the world will be different. Just ask Joseph. One person can set off the wheels of change in motion and can inspire others to do their share.

  1. Giving an opportunity to be self-sufficient is the highest form of giving.

Maimonides teaches that the highest form of charity is offering someone employment. Nobody likes being dependent on other people. We are all born with an innate desire to be productive, independent and creative. By enabling someone to find employment – with education, an actual job or skills – one can alter the future path of that individual. A job gives not only financial stability, it gives a sense of meaning and self-esteem as well. (


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