Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5775

Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5775

New Stories Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5775

Less joy leads to the ultimate joy


In this week’s parasha we learn of how Moshe requested from HaShem that he be granted entry into Eretz Yisroel. After entreating HaShem with numerous supplications, it is said (Devarim 3:26) vayisabeir HaShem bi limaanchem vilo shama eilay vayomer HaShem eilay rav lach al tosef dabeir eilay od badavar hazeh, but HaShem became angry with me because of you and He did not listen to me; HaShem said to me, “It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that HaShem was telling Moshe with the words rav lach, that there is much more awaiting you in the World to Come. How are we to understand this consolation to Moshe? If Moshe wished to enter Eretz Yisroel, of what benefit was there to him to know that he would earn a great share in the World to Come?

The difference between Adar and Av

In order to understand this Medrash, we first need to understand the significance of the word rav, much. The Gemara (Taanis 29a) states that kisheim shemishenichnas Av mimaatin bisimcha kach mishenichnas Adar marbim bisimcha, just like when the month of Av commences we decrease our joy, so too when the month of Adar commences we increase our joy. I heard from Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita of Monsey who quoted the Ben Yehoyada (Taanis Ibid) who writes that the difference in gematria between the words Av and Adar is 202, and the word rav equals 202. This alludes to the idea that in Av we decrease our joy and in Adar we increase our joy. Perhaps we can suggest that there is another meaning to this gematria. Let us understand the meaning of joy. When someone is anticipating something, this means that he is looking to increase upon what he currently has. A person who is going to get married or will be having a child will be increasing what he or she has at present. Conversely, one who is not anticipating something is concerned that he is going to decrease what he currently has. In the month of Av, we are not anticipating an increase, as we know that the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed on the ninth of Av, so we decrease our level of joy. In the month of Adar, however, we are anticipating the holiday of Purim, so we increase our level of joy.

The similarity between Adar and Av

The difficulty with this explanation is that while it is true that in the month of Av we are required to decrease our level of joy, it is not correct that we have nothing to look forward to. The purpose of mourning on Tisha Baav is not so that we remain in this state of mourning. The reason we mourn is so that we will be inspired to better our ways and when HaShem sees that we are truly repentant, He will have compassion on us and bring the Final Redemption. This being the case, we should really anticipate Tisha Baav, as this day is an opportunity for us to become inspired and hopefully witness the Ultimate Redemption. I would therefore like to suggest that the difference in gematria between the word Adar and the word av reflects this idea that in both months we are seeking to increase our joy. However, in the month of Adar we commence the month with joy and continue to increase our level of joy, whereas in the month of Av, we must first diminish our level of joy and only then will we see an increase our joy. It is for this reason that the Mishna states that the same way that with the commencement of Av we diminish our level of joy, so too with the commencement of Adar we increase our level of joy. The word kisheim, just like, hints to the idea that in both months we are ultimately looking to increase our level of joy.

Hashem consoled Moshe with an even greater reward

Based on this explanation of the Gemara in Taanis, we can now better understand what HaShem was telling Moshe when Moshe sought to gain entry into Eretz Yisroel. Moshe wished to be rewarded now and he wished to increase his level of joy by being able to perform the unique mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel. HaShem, however, informed Moshe that there is much reward awaiting him in the World to Come, and although for Moshe this was a decrease in his level of joy, ultimately it would lead to an increase in joy, as the reward of the World to Come is infinitely greater than the reward of entering into Eretz Yisroel. Thus, although we may feel that our current situation will cause us distress, we must know that our sadness will soon be replaced with great joy. This is the lesson of Tisha Baav, and even if we did not yet merit the Ultimate Redemption, HaShem desires that we decrease our joy temporarily, and then we will merit the great joy with the Ultimate Redemption.

The Shabbos connection

Similarly, throughout the week we cannot experience true joy, as we are saddled with the burden of earning a livelihood and we are faced with challenges and struggles in the world of materialism. On the Holy Shabbos, however, we experience true joy in this world, and we even taste a semblance of the World to Come. It is for this reason that we are instructed to prepare during the week for Shabbos, as we anticipate the true joy that we will experience when Shabbos arrives. Hashem should allow us to prepare properly for the Holy Shabbos, and in the merit of our preparations for Shabbos we should witness the Ultimate Redemption with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

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

וְשִׁיר אֶעֱרָךְ לְךָ, בְּנִגּוּן וּנְעִימָה, and a  song shall I prepare You, with tunefullness and sweetness. We often think of song as spontaneous. A tune just “popped into my head,” is the proverbial adage. Yet, regarding Shabbos, one must prepare for all aspects of this holy day. One prepares ones clothing, food, studies, prayers and even the songs one will praise HaShem with. Songs that one prepares in advance will surely have more meaning and HaShem will find them sweet and meaningful.

Shabbos Stories

Studying Torah and reviewing ones studies

Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: In his preface to Peas Shulchan, R’ Yisrael Shklover writes of his master and teacher, the Gaon of Vilna, “He reviewed all of Talmud Bavli every month. His toil in the study of the holy Torah defies description. He would review each chapter and masechta (tractate) hundreds, and even thousands of times. Out of immense love for the holy Torah, he once spent a long winter night reviewing over and over a single Mishna in Seder Taharos.” (Quoted in For Love of Torah p. 76)

Sefer Toldos HaAdam (by R’ Yechezkel Feivel of Vilna, Dyhrenfurth 1801) writes: R’ Leib, son of R’ Ber of Vilna, related to me: Once his father R’ Ber watched as the tzaddik R’ Zalman (of Volozhin, brother of R’ Chaim) paced back and forth in a room, as was his way, studying and reviewing a Torah thought with wondrous desire and powerful love, in a clear sweet voice that was music to one’s ear. The soul of the listener was aroused to love of Hashem and a desire for wisdom and spiritual guidance. He reviewed the thought once, twice, three times, fifty times, one hundred times… until one lost count! All this was with a joyous heart and boundless love, which mere words cannot describe.

R’ Ber observed in silent wonder. In his heart, he thought, “Torah, Torah, how great is the love in ‘’ Zalman’s heart for you! It is a consuming fire!” He then grabbed hold of R’ Zalman and said, “My brother, whose soul and flesh is part of me, by the love that exists between us, I demand you tell me how many times you reviewed this matter!”

When R’ Zalman saw the way that R’ Ber was imploring him to reveal the absolute truth, he told him, “In truth, I have reviewed the matter two-hundred and fifty times.” [Ibid]

It was not a light matter, as far as R’ Zalman was concerned, to review his studies four or five hundred times. He would remind himself of Chazal’s allegory (Eiruvin 54b), “Just as a hunter who captures birds, if he breaks their wings [so that they will not fly away], then they are secure with him. If not, they will fly away from him… [so too a student must review his studies as soon as he learns them, or else he will forget them].” He used to say that this allegory can arouse one’s soul from its laziness in reviewing one’s studies. [Ibid]

Sefer Menuchah U-Kedushah writes: “I have heard that the Gaon of Vilna would submit a prospective disciple to the following test (to determine if his soul had been sufficiently purified to taste the sweetness of the Torah): He would instruct him to review a given matter many times. If the more he reviewed, the more its love grew in his heart, inspiring him to continue to review without interruption – with this he found favor in the Gaon’s eyes to be accepted as his disciple.” [Ibid]

This Friday is the fifteenth of Av. Chazal say (Taanis 31a), “From now on (from the 15th of Av through the winter) he who increases (his hours of Torah study as the nights grow longer) adds (days to his life). But he who does not increase (the hours of his Torah study) decreases (the days of his life).” As our hours for Torah study increase, we must be sure to set aside ample time for proper chazarah/review.

Meriting giving charity

Rabbi Hoffman writes further: The holy Rebbe, R’ Zisha of Anipoli zt”l would, as a young man, study Torah for hours and days on end without ever breaking for a meal. Only when he felt so weakened by his fasting that he could no longer learn, would he allow himself to ask one of the local baalei batim to be so gracious as to give him a meal. At some stage, R’ Zisha came to feel that asking someone for a meal was in some small way a breech in his faith, and that if he truly believed Hashem takes care of all his needs, then Hashem knows when he needs to eat, and could take care of him without his needing to ask for it. He decided that he would no longer ask anyone for a meal, but would rely that when the need arose, someone surely would offer him on their own accord. For a time this is exactly what transpired: Whenever R’ Zisha felt extreme pangs of hunger, someone would inevitably offer him a meal.

After a few months, however, a problem arose. There was no one around that in the Almighty’s eyes deserved to perform such a holy and exceptional mitzvah as to sustain the very life of a great and holy tzaddik! You don’t just give away such mitzvos for nothing. Lacking the right “agent,” Hashem implanted two spigots within the tzaddik’s mouth; from one he would suckle milk, and from the other honey. Thus he was sustained for three full months, until someone (evidently a very worthy individual) came up to him, threw him a few coins, and said, “Zisha, take these – you look like you need a good meal!” This unbelievable story was related by R’ Zisha himself to R’ Avraham Mordechai of Pintshov zt”l, and recorded by his son-in-law R’ Yitzchak Isaac of Kamarna zt”l in his Heichal Beracha.

Equally fascinating is the lesson R’ Yitzchak Isaac derives from the story. Imagine, he says, that given the choice, Hashem would “rather” perform an extraordinary miracle, than to allow someone the merit of performing an exceptional mitzvah he doesn’t deserve! Although there were many Jews through whom the Almighty could easily have sustained R’ Zisha, He chose to take care of the matters Himself, until such a time as someone truly worthy of this great mitzvah arose.

Having made this point, R’ Yitzchak Isaac beseeches the wealthy and magnanimous Jews of his time to realize that simply having money – and even giving generously to charity – is not enough. He encourages them to “get up early in the mornings, say Tehillim, examine their deeds, and implore the Almighty” to lead them on a path of charity and righteousness, that they may indeed merit giving generously and wholeheartedly, and that their money find its way to worthy and virtuous recipients. (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

Applying the Shinuim to Loose and Thick Mixtures

Thick Mixtures

In a case of necessity, one can rely upon the shinui in the order [of combining the ingredients] to prepare a thick mixture with a liquid binder.

Cases of necessity include:

  1. Foods which may spoil if prepared before Shabbos
  2. Foods needed for a young child or an ill person which one forgot to add together before Shabbos.

In these cases one should reverse the order of pouring and then stir in an irregular manner (crisscross or bare handed – but not with a knife or with the handle of a utensil).

It should be noted that even in a case of necessity, preparing a thick mixture is permitted only if a loose mixture will not be sufficient.

For example, one may prepare a thick cereal mixture for the benefit of an ill person. However, if the person will be sated with loosely mixed cereal, one is not permitted to make a thick mixture, but must prepare the cereal as a loose mixture.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5775

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New Stories Vaeschanan-Nachamu 5775

Dying with Faith

My father gave us the most important speech of his life.

by Rabbi Boruch Leff        

My father, Reb Marvin Leff, died a month ago from an uncommon disease called neuroendocrine cancer and liver failure.

He spent the last few weeks of his life in my sister’s home in Teaneck, NJ. He wasn’t hooked up to any machines but simply became weaker and weaker as his body was shutting down. He couldn’t get out of bed for the last few days of his life.

A number of weeks before he died we all got together for Shabbat in my sister’s house, all the children and grandchildren. We wanted to spend time with my father and show him encouragement and support.

My father with my oldest son, Avrami

He came to all the Shabbat meals, gave beautiful blessings to all of us individually on Friday night, and though subdued, was part of the discussions at the meals.

Toward the end of the third meal when all of the younger grandchildren had left the table to play, he began to speak. He gave the most important talk of his life.

“It is very, very difficult.

“I was lying in the hospital this week coming to terms with what the doctors were saying. What does one think about while lying in the hospital under these circumstances?

“One thinks about his life, the past, things that I could have done better, mistakes that I made. I have begun to fully internalize my situation and I am trying to accept the reality that I am totally dependent on others for all of my needs. I have been independent for my entire life, and even more so since Mom died five years ago. Now, I cannot help myself at all and the words “Master of the World” have great new meaning to me. Hashem, God, is the Master of my life.

“Of course, He always was, but when you are healthy and independent, you more or less feel as if you control your life. We give lip service to God, but we all too often feel it is all about us. Now I see as clearly as I possibly can that it is only He who controls everything, now, and He did throughout my life.

“So, I am trying to work on my faith. I am trying to accept the fact that if God sees fit to end my life soon, then this is for the best, even if I don’t understand it. One day we will understand why the pain and suffering in our lives had to occur, but we don’t know God’s ways in this world. But I am working on accepting His will

“I am also working on maintaining a pleasant disposition, especially to those who are caring for me, despite the fact that I am experiencing discomfort and it is very painful to be so dependent on others. These are the areas I am trying to work on.

“I hope that you will all remember me for good as I leave this world, and in the future we will all dance together in Jerusalem when the resurrection of the dead, occurs.”

When my father finished, we were all speechless. We never heard someone speak so openly about their impending death.

We never saw someone accept his death with such faith in God.

After a silent pause, we began singing Hebrew songs of faith, while we individually approached Dad and gave him a hug and a kiss.

I whispered in his ear, “That was the most important speech I ever heard in my entire life!”

Saying Goodbye –

My father gave blessings and parting words of advice to visitors, family and friends, speaking openly about his death. He even discussed how he wanted his funeral to go.

The last time I saw him was with my wife and eldest daughter, Atara, just a few days before he died. He hadn’t seen Atara for almost an entire year because she was studying in Israel. Atara was still in Israel for that family gathering on the Shabbat after Shavuot. So, when Atara returned to Baltimore, we drove up to Teaneck, spent some time with him, and returned the same day.

When we entered the room, my father was in bed with his eyes closed. This was the first day he had felt too weak to even get out of bed. We roused him and when my father saw Atara, his face lit up and he gave a big smile, possibly his last smile in this world.

He then said in a very weak, almost whispering voice: “I haven’t seen you for a whole year. You look beautiful! But I have to tell you that I am nearing the end of my life. I am going to the next world. We live our whole lives to get there and we can only take righteous deeds with us. Never forget that this is the entire point of life. Marry well and live your life for God and the Torah.”

Not an Easy Challenge –

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe writes,

“Even at the final moments of a person’s life he thinks all of the same thoughts which he thought throughout his life. All of his pettiness, hateful feelings, vengeful thoughts, physical fantasies and desires, and lack of serenity will be with him. They do not magically fade away simply because he is on his death bed.

“Yes, the day will come when God will take your life, and you will not have fulfilled even half of the desires on your agenda. You will feel that there is a great deal which you still want to accomplish. You will strongly want to stay in the world to see your children and grandchildren prosper. You will want to remain in order to do something which will make you world-famous. Yet, suddenly, you feel yourself slipping away without much of these goals attained.

“At these moments, when you see the angel of death before you with no hope of escaping him, you may have the instinctive desire to lash out at your Creator, even to the point of heresy.

“How is it possible to feel love toward God at the time when He takes your life away? How is it possible to feel no bitterness toward your Creator when surrendering your body and soul to Him? This can only be accomplished if one works on his faith for many, many years prior to his death.” (Paraphrased from Alei Shur, Volume 1, pgs. 300-301)

I have learned many things from my father, but the way my father died, with great courage, acceptance, and faith in God, was the most important lesson I ever learned. (



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