Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Mishpatim 5776
Shabbos is a Spiritual Day Accompanied by Physical Indulgences
In this week’s parasha we learn about the precursor to the Jewish people fashioning the Golden Calf. It is said (Shemos 24:9-11) vayaal Moshe viAharon Nadav viAvihu vishivim miziknei Yisroel vayiru es Elokei Yisroel visachas raglav kimaasei livnas hasapir uchietzem hashamayim latohar viel atzilei binei Yisroel lo shalach yado vayechezu es HaElokim vayochlu vayishtu, Moshe, Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended. They saw the G-d of Israel, and under his feet was the likeness of sapphire brickwork, and it was like the essence of the heaven in purity. Against the great men of the Children of Israel, He did not stretch out His hand – they gazed at G-d, yet they ate and drank. Rashi (Bamidbar 11:16) writes that this eating and drinking is comparable to a commoner who bites into a piece of bread while talking to a king. One must wonder, though, how it was possible that the great men of Israel could witness the greatest revelation ever experienced by mankind and then engage in such mundane acts like eating and drinking. How are we to understand this apparent paradox?
Attaining spiritual heights on Shabbos requires physical indulgence
There is a well-known statement from the Holy Baal Shem Tov of blessed memory who said that on Shabbos, we are instructed by the Torah and the prophets to indulge in eating, drinking and other physical actions and this is deemed to be oneg Shabbos, delighting in the Shabbos. The Zohar refers to Shabbos as yoma dinishmasa, the day of the souls. How is it, then, that one can view Shabbos as a spiritual day when he is involved in such physical acts? The Baal Shem Tov would say that the Satan, i.e. the Evil Inclination, does not wish that a Jew attain such great spiritual heights on Shabbos. If a Jew would not eat and drink and indulge himself on Shabbos, the Satan would thwart the Jew’s attempt to ascend the spiritual ladder. Thus, HaShem instructed us to eat and drink on Shabbos, and this would satisfy the Satan.
The great leaders of Israel sought to attain a high level of spirituality while their souls were separated from their bodies
In a similar vein, we can suggest that the great leaders of Israel witnessed the revelation at Sinai, and this experience literally took the souls out of the bodies of the Jewish people. While the soul leaving the body is an indication of great spiritual heights, the Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 7:6) posits that HaShem did not desire that the Jewish People remain at this level. Thus, HaShem instructed Moshe (Devarim 5:27) lech emor lahem shuvu lachem liahaleichem, “go say to them, ‘return to your tents.’” The Rambam interprets this to mean that HaShem desired that the souls of the Jewish People should return to their bodies. The great leaders, however, wished to retain this level of spirituality. While HaShem desires that a person lives on a high spiritual level, and this normally requires the attachment of the body to the soul, the great leaders felt that by eating and drinking at the time of the great spiritual revelation, they would somehow be able to maintain the status of their souls being outside their bodies. This concept, that one can be totally spiritual and yet indulge in physical matters, is beyond our comprehension. Yet, according to the words of the Holy Baal Shem Tov, this is exactly the dichotomy that we experience every Shabbos. The great leaders at Sinai, however, did not follow HaShem’s instructions, and by attempting to retain the level of their souls outside their bodies, they were punished later with the death penalty.
The Shabbos Connection
This fresh perspective of what we are experiencing on Shabbos should inspire us to prepare even more for the Holy Day of Shabbos, when HaShem allows us to physically indulge to thwart the schemes of the Satan. By following HaShem’s will, we should merit a day that is completely Shabbos and a day of rest for eternal life.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
Tzama Lecho Nafshi
This zemer was composed by the great medieval commentator and poet Avraham Ibn Ezra whose name is found in the acrostic of the verses
עַל כּל אֲהוֹדֶךָ. כָּל פֶּה תְּיַחֲדֶךָ. פּוֹתֵחַ אֶת יָדֶיךָ. וּמַשְׂבִּיעַ לְכָל חָי, for everything I shall glorify You, every mouth shall acknowledge Your Oneness; for You open Your hand and satisfy all living. The connection between glorifying HaShem and the fact that He sustains all of mankind is clear. When one acknowledges HaShem as his provider, it is easier to glorify Him. The Gemara (Eruvin 41b) states ת”ר ג’ דברים מעבירין את אדם על דעתו ועל דעת קונו אלו הן עובדי כוכבים ורוח רעה ודקדוקי עניות, three things cause one to violate his intellect, and, so to speak, the intellect of his creator, and one of them is poverty. Heaven forbid that one could actually violate HaShem’s intellect. Rather, the Gemara uses the term דעת, which means connection, and the Gemara is stating that often one is less aware of his connection to HaShem when he is in a state of poverty. When one realizes, however, that HaShem sustains every living thing, then he can truly glorify HaShem and appreciate his connection to his creator.
Seeing the Angels on Friday Night
The Baal Shem Tov once visited Lemberg and stayed with his relative, the Gaon, Rabbi Chaim HaKohen Rappaport, the rabbi of the city. It was the custom of Reb Chaim to pray in the town synagogue. Reb Chaim was a great and famous rabbi and he was not a follower of the Baal Shem Tov and did not appreciate his new Chasidic movement.
The Baal Shem Tov asked for permission to pray with a separate minyan of the town’s Chasidim. Reb Chaim agreed, but with the condition that his guest, the Baal Shem Tov, not pray a long Friday night service – as he usually did – as this would delay the Sabbath meal if they had to wait for him.
The Baal Shem Tov agreed to this request. In actuality, however, he Baal Shem Tov could not control his ecstatic davening, so the Baal Shem Tov prayed for a long time, and thus arrived late at the rabbi’s house. Reb Chaim was waiting for his guest to arrive. When the Baal Shem Tov finally arrived, the rabbi began with Shabbos Zemiros, and he continued the meal without saying anything about the Baal Shem Tov’s lateness, which contradicted their agreement.
When the meal was over, the Rebbetzin asked her husband, “Why didn’t you rebuke the Baal Shem Tov regarding his tardiness?” “How could I rebuke him?” the rabbi responded. “The Talmud states that on Friday night two angels accompany a person back home from the synagogue. When the Baal Shem Tov entered, I actually saw the two angels entering with him! I certainly always believed what the Talmud said regarding the angels. Now, however, I actually saw them! That shows what my level is compared to the level of the Baal Shem Tov. Tell me, then, how could I say anything to him?”
Shabbos in Halacha
מוליד – Creating a new Entity
- The Prohibition
One is prohibited from dissolving a frozen item (or congealed gravy) manually (i.e. by crushing). If one violated this prohibition, one is prohibited from using the newly dissolved liquid until after Shabbos.
One should not cause an item to dissolve by placing it near an oven, or cause an item to freeze by inserting it in a freezer. However, if one did cause nolad, the item may be sued (unless another is available).
Solid foods that contain gravy should not be caused to freeze or caused to defrost near an oven. Those that have no gravy are exempt from this prohibition.
Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Mishpatim 5776
Have a Wonderful Shabbos!
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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New Stories Mishpatim 5776
A Holocaust Love Story
A powerful true story of Jewish heroism.
by Rabbi Yosef Wallis
Rabbi Yosef Wallis, director of Arachim of Israel, talks to Project Witness about his father, Judah Wallis, who was born and raised in Pavenitz, Poland.
While he was in Dachau, a Jew who was being taken to his death suddenly flung a small bag at my father, Judah Wallis. He caught it, thinking it might contain a piece of bread. Upon opening it, however, he was disturbed to discover a pair of tefillin. Judah was very frightened because he knew that were he to be caught carrying tefillin, he would be put to death instantly. So he hid the tefillin under his shirt and headed for his bunkhouse.
In the morning, just before the appel [roll call], while still in his bunkhouse, he put on the tefillin. Unexpectedly, a German officer appeared. He ordered him to remove the tefillin, noted the number on Judah’s arm.
At the appel, in front of thousands of silent Jews, the officer called out Judah’s number and he had no choice but to step forward. The German officer waved the tefillin in the air and said, “Dog! I sentence you to death by public hanging for wearing these.”
Judah was placed on a stool and a noose was placed around his neck. Before he was hanged, the officer said in a mocking tone, “Dog, what is your last wish?”
“To wear my tefillin one last time,” Judah replied.
“The officer was dumbfounded. He handed Judah the tefillin. As Judah put them on, he recited the verse that is said while the tefillin are being wound around the fingers: “Ve’eirastich li le’olam, ve’eirastich li b’tzedek uvemishpat, ub’chessed, uv’rachamim, ve’eirastich li b’emunah, v’yodaat es Hashem – I will betroth you to me forever and I will betroth you to me with righteousness and with justice and with kindness and with mercy and I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know God.”
It is hard for us to picture this Jew with a noose around his neck, wearing tefillin on his head and arm – but that was the scene that the entire camp was forced to watch, as they awaited the impending hanging of the Jew who had dared to break the rule against wearing tefillin.
Even women from the adjoining camp were lined up at the barbed wire fence that separated them from the men’s camp, forced to watch this horrible sight.
“Yidden, I am the victor. Don’t you understand, I am the winner!”
As Judah turned to watch the silent crowd, he saw tears in many people’s eyes. Even at that moment, as he was about to be hanged, he was shocked. Jews were crying! How was it possible that they still had tears left to shed? And for a stranger? Where were those tears coming from? Impulsively, in Yiddish, he called out, “Yidden, I am the victor. Don’t you understand, I am the winner!”
The German officer understood the Yiddish and was infuriated. He said to Judah, “You dog, you think you are the winner? Hanging is too good for you. You are going to get another kind of death.”
“Judah, my father, was taken from the stool and the noose was removed from his neck. He was forced into a squatting position and two huge rocks were placed under his arms. Then he was told that he would be receiving 25 lashes to his head – the head on which he had dared to position his tefillin. The officer told him that if he dropped even one of the rocks, he would be shot immediately. In fact, because this was such an extremely painful form of death, the officer advised him, “Drop the rocks now. You will never survive the 25 lashes to the head. Nobody ever does.”
Judah’s response was, “No, I won’t give you the pleasure.”
At the 25th lash, Judah lost consciousness and was left for dead. He was about to be dragged to a pile of corpses, after which he would have been burned in a ditch, when another Jew saw him, shoved him to the side, and covered his head with a rag so people didn’t realize he was alive. Eventually, after he recovered consciousness fully, he crawled to the nearest bunkhouse that was on raised piles and hid under it until he was strong enough to come out under his own power. Two months later he was liberated.
“I saw what you did that day when the officer wanted to hang you. Will you marry me?”
During the hanging and beating episode, a 17-year-old girl had been watching the events from the women’s side of the fence. After liberation, she made her way to Judah. She walked over to him and said, “I’ve lost everyone. I don’t want to be alone any more. I saw what you did that day when the officer wanted to hang you. Will you marry me?”
My parents walked over to the Klausenberger Rebbe and requested that he perform the marriage ceremony. The Klausenberger Rebbe, whose Kiddush Hashem is legendary, wrote out a kesubah [marriage contract] by hand from memory and married the couple. I have that handwritten kesubah in my possession to this day. (www.aish.com)