Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Sisa 5776

Ki Sisa 5776

New Stories Ki Sisa 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Sisa 5776

Savor the Shabbos Prior to Its Departure


In this week’s parashah the Torah elaborates on the mitzvah of Shabbos, the holiest day of the week. It is said (Shemos 31:16-17) veshamru vnei Yisroel es HaShabbos laasos es HaShabbos ledorosam bris olam beini uvein bnei Yisroel os hi liolam ki sheishes yamim asah HaShem es hashamayim vies haaretz uvayom hashevii shavas vayenafash, the Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever that in a six-day period HaShem made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. Rashi interprets the word vayenafash to be referring to HaShem. Despite the fact that it is not possible to state that HaShem rested, HaShem attributed rest to Himself in a way that one can possibly fathom this concept of HaShem resting. Interestingly, the Gemara (Taanis 27b) interprets the word vayenafash in an entirely different manner. The Gemara states kivan sheshavas vay avdah nefesh, once the Shabbos ends, woe that the soul is lost. The commentators understand the Gemara to be referring to the neshama yeseira, the extra soul that HaShem bestows upon every Jew with the onset of Shabbos. The obvious question on this Gemara is, why does the Torah allude to the concept of a neshama yeseira on Shabbos upon the departure of Shabbos, as opposed to what would seem more inspiring if we were informed that the neshama yeseira enters with the onset of Shabbos.

What is the Connection Between the Luchos and Shabbos?

To answer this question, it is worthwhile to examine a passage that we recite in the Shabbos morning prayers. We recite the words yismach Moshe bematnas chelko ki eved neeman karasa lo kelil tiferes birosho nasata lo biamado lefeonecho al har Sinai ushnei luchos avanim horid beyado vichasuv bahem shemiras Shabbos vichein kasuv bisorasecho, Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion: that You called him a faithful servant. A crown of splendor You placed on his head when he stood before You on Mount Sinai. He brought down two stone tablets in his hand, on which is inscribed the observance of the Shabbos. So it is written in Your Torah… We then continue to recite the passage of veshamru vnei Yisroel es HaShabbos that was quoted above. I have always been troubled by the words “He brought down two stone tablets in his hand, on which is inscribed the observance of the Shabbos. So it is written in Your Torah.” It would appear from the juxtaposition of the idea that Moshe brought down two tablets to the idea of Shabbos observance that the tablets and the Shabbos are somehow intertwined. We all know that Shabbos is one of the Ten Commandments, but why is Shabbos singled out in our prayers as having been inscribed in the tablets?

When We Are About to Lose Something, We Begin to Appreciate it

Baruch HaShem, this year I believe I found the answer to this question. Rabbi Yissachar Frand on  poses a question regarding the Torah’s description of the luchos, the two tablets. Here is an abridged version of what he writes: The pessukim in our parashah read as follows: “Moshe turned and descended from the mountain, with the two the Luchos in his hand, Luchos inscribed on both of their surfaces; they were inscribed on one side and on the other. The Luchos are the work of G-d and the script was the script of G-d, etched on the Luchos.” [Shemos 32:15-16]. The Torah explains these Luchos. They were the most unique item in all of creation! They were something written by the Hand of G-d. What does Moshe Rabbeinu do? He takes the Luchos and he breaks them! The Shemen HaTov by Rabbi Dov Weinberger makes a very interesting observation. Is this the place to describe the Luchos? The proper place to describe them would have been earlier in the narrative, when they were first given to Moshe [Shemos 31:1]. Why now – as they are being broken – does the Torah first go into the detail describing how unique these Luchos were? The simple interpretation is that the Torah is emphasizing – DESPITE the fact that the Luchos were so special and so unique, NEVERTHELESS Moshe broke them. The Shemen HaTov gives a different insight, which is a very true commentary about life in general. We rarely appreciate what we have while we have it. Only when we are about to lose something do we first appreciate what we had. Earlier, when Moshe was first given the Luchos, we thought that they were ours and that we would have them until the end of time. We hardly noticed their special quality. But now when we are about to lose them, we finally begin to appreciate them. This is the quote from Rabbi Frand.

The Shabbos Connection

I would like to suggest that in our Shabbos morning prayers, we are mirroring the manner in which the Torah juxtaposes the observance of Shabbos to the luchos. The Torah informs us that upon the departure of Shabbos, the neshama yeseira departs as well. Subsequent to this teaching we learn about the glory of the luchos, and this precedes the description of Moshe breaking the luchos. The Torah is thus demonstrating to us that the breaking of the luchos is akin to the departure of the neshama yeseira when Shabbos ends. It is for this reason that in the prayers on Shabbos morning we juxtapose the idea that Moshe descended with the two luchos, in which the observance of Shabbos is inscribed. The juxtaposition of these two ideas teaches us how important it is to savor the study of Torah and the observance of Shabbos. Indeed, the Zohar states that a Torah scholar is in the category of Shabbos, and the reason for this is because the Torah scholar never loses his appreciation for Torah study. We should merit having a love for Torah study and for the observance of Shabbos, and then HaShem will allow us to merit the day that will be completely Shabbos and rest day 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

אֶקּוֹד עַל אַפִּי. וְאֶפְרוֹשׁ לְךָ כַּפִּי. עֵת אֶפְתַּח פִּי. בְּנִשְׁמַת כָּל חָי, I shall bow down upon my face and spread out my hands, at the moment when I open my mouth, with ‘Soul of all living!’ It appears that this Zemer was originally composed as an introduction to the Nishmas prayer that we recite Shabbos morning. What is so unique about Nishmas? The story is told that a Chasidic Rebbe heard that a count paid a lot of money so he could go sledding in the summer on sugar in lieu of snow. When the Rebbe heard this, he exclaimed, “whatever pleasure the count has in sledding on sugar pales in comparison to the enjoyment I have when reciting Nishmas!”

Shabbos Stories

Rav Aharon Kotler’s Father the Fur Merchant

HaGaon Rav Aharon Kotler told over a story about his father’s mesirus nefesh for Torah. His father was a fur merchant in Lita. At a certain period, his business dwindled, and it reached a point where his family was lacking food to sustain themselves.

Every day after Shacharis, his father would learn for two hours, and was mapkid on this learning period his entire life. One day, a wealthy merchant knocked on the door of the Kotler family, and informed them that he would like to buy a sizable amount of furs. However, it was the set learning time of Rav Kotler. His wife knocked on the door of his room, once, twice, and three times, and urged her husband to utilize this opportunity for his business.

Rav Kotler answered from behind the door, “Go tell him that if he’s willing to wait until I finish my learning, good! If not – he should go in peace. A person’s mezonos is set from Rosh HaShanah until Rosh HaShanah. If it was decreed that I will sell the merchandise, I’ll find a buyer!”

Rav Aharon concluded his story, “My father’s wondrous mesiras nefesh for Torah instilled in us the emunah peshutah, ‘When you learn Torah, you never lose out!’ All of my mesiras nefesh for Torah – I acquired from him!” (Tuvcha Yabiyu)

True humility

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Rabbi Dovid Koppleman tells the story of Rabbi Abish, the Rav of Frankfurt who was known for his extraordinary humility. In addition, he would often raise funds for the needy families of his city. Once he heard that a wealthy man was on business in town and went to the man’s hotel suite to ask him for a donation. The tycoon was arrogant and assumed that the Rav was a poor shnorrer, and after a few moments drove him out of his room. A few minutes later the man went to leave his suite and looked for his silver cane. Noticing it was gone, he immediately suspected that Reb Abish took it during his brief visit.

Quickly, the man bolted toward the lobby of the hotel where he accosted Reb Abish. “Thief,” the man shouted while pushing the Rav, “give me back my cane!” Reb Abish calmly pleaded. “I did not steal your cane. Please do not accuse me! Please believe me. I did not steal your cane!”

The man was adamant in his arrogance and began to beat the Rav while onlookers recoiled in horror. Reb Abish, despite the pain, remained steadfast in his humble demeanor. “Please believe me. I did not steal your cane!” Finally, the man realized he was getting nowhere and left Reb Abish in disgust.

That Saturday was Shabbos Shuva. The entire community, including the wealthy visitor, packed Frankfurt’s main synagogue for the traditional Shabbos Shuva Speech. Horror gripped the visitor as a familiar looking figure rose to the podium and mesmerized the vast audience with an eloquent oration. It was the very shnorrer he had accosted in the hotel! As soon as the speech ended, the man pushed his way toward the podium and in a tearful voice tried to attract the Rabbi’s attention. He was about to plead forgiveness for his terrible behavior when Reb Abish noticed the man.

In all sincerity Reb Abish began to softly plead with him. “I beg of you! Please do not hit me. I truly did not steal your cane.” (

Shabbos in Halacha

מוליד – Creating a  new Entity

  1. Circumstances in Which Causing the Creation of a New Entity is Permitted

There are some circumstances in which one is allowed to cause the creation of a new entity (nolad).

  1. Dissolving Ice Manually

Crushing ice or otherwise dissolving it manually is forbidden even in cases of necessity. However, in such a case, one may crush the ice (or stir it) while it is immersed in a liquid.


One may dissolve ice near an oven (but not crush or stir it) while it is immersed in a liquid. In a case of necessity, one is allowed to freeze liquids or to dissolve frozen items in a hot area. One is allowed to freeze foods to avoid spoilage. In a case of necessity, one may crush (or stir it) while it is immersed in a liquid.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Ki Sisa 5776

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New Stories Ki Sisa 5776

Solitary Confinement in Iranian Prison

In his cell, Josh Fattal embraced his Jewish identity and turned to Jewish practice for comfort and sustenance.

by Ronda Robinson

Solitary confinement in an Iranian prison was the worst experience of Josh Fattal’s life. It lasted the first four of 26 months he spent in captivity after mistakenly straying dangerously close to an unmarked border into Iran while hiking with two friends in Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2009.

He revisited the horror during a guest appearance at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival in conjunction with a screening of “The Three Hikers,” a documentary that recounts the trio’s story.

“Every day was a new challenge. I had no blueprint for survival. When it comes down to it, it’s not really a question of physical survival as much as emotional survival,” Fattal says. “It was a matter of maintaining my sanity while being in solitary confinement, while trying to see the big picture.”

At 27, he turned to Jewish practice for comfort and sustenance in his cell, praying and observing the Sabbath – a practice he never had before. After a secular upbringing in the United States, he embraced his Jewish identity. “Jewishness put me in touch with my family and with a common history. That sense of belonging is exactly what is lacking in solitary.”

Fattal’s father, Jacob, emigrated from Iraq to Israel as a toddler in 1951. With tensions rising in the Middle East and Jews becoming displaced from Arab countries, his family reluctantly left their centuries-old homeland in what was for many a “second exile”. After growing up in Israel and serving in the army, Jacob moved to the United States. During Josh’s imprisonment in Iran, the family decided to keep those details private to help ensure his safety.

However, Josh Fattal says his captors knew the secret after the first week. He insists that his Jewishness did not affect his captivity and that he was treated the same as his non-Jewish friends.

After 30 days, the Americans were moved to Evin Prison in Tehran. Early on, Fattal declared a hunger strike and demanded to see his friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, also being kept in solitary confinement. Five days later, Iranian officials relented and let the three hikers share a meal. Then he tried another hunger strike to end the torture of solitary confinement. On the sixth night, Fattal’s captors promised he would see his friends, so he ate. But they reneged.

While Iran tried to pin the Americans as spies, Fattal drew on his sense of identity for emotional survival. As he explains, “I remembered who I was, where I came from, my family out there who loved me. It ultimately affirmed my Jewishness as part of me. For the first time in my life, I thought, ‘Why do I hold onto this Jewish identity?’ It came down to more of an emotional reason than a logical reason.”

He would have done anything for a voice to talk to. He occupied himself cleaning the floor of his cell, meditating, doing push-ups, juggling oranges, and trying to learn Arabic letters. For most of the time, he had a collection of books and a TV set. “My daily struggle was to stay human, to remember to feel, to remember to feel my body and emotions.”

Josh tries to remember the Hebrew alphabet. He teaches me the letters by writing them with sunflower seeds.

Companionship, at last, brought some happiness. After an initial meeting about 3½ months into their captivity, the three friends were allowed to visit every day in an open-air room. After four months, the guards put Bauer in a cell with Fattal, and the two remained together throughout the rest of their two-year ordeal. Recounting that time, Bauer, a journalist, wrote: “Josh tries to remember the Hebrew alphabet. He teaches me the letters by writing them with sunflower seeds. The task becomes stressful because we have to destroy the letters every time we hear footsteps, lest we give the guards ‘evidence’ that we are Israeli spies.”

Shourd was set free after 410 days of solitary confinement, without a trial or any evidence shown against her, in a move the three hikers believe was designed to ease international pressure against Iran.

The international spotlight – with pressure for their release from people like Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali and Sean Penn – shifted Fattal’s and Bauer’s status from ordinary prisoners to VIP prisoners.

Natalie Avital, “The Three Hikers” director, began filming in real time before their release. She interviewed anguished families and friends in America during the campaign to win the trio’s freedom.

Now a 33-year-old husband, father and doctoral student at New York University, Josh Fattal acknowledges her for helping others understand their experience. “I feel grateful to Natalie for making the film. She put in a lot of work to make it happen.”

After the screening, she and Fattal sit in director’s chairs on the theater stage and take questions. Every public event becomes easier for him, because more time has passed since the captivity in Iran. The audience remains quiet, attentive and compassionate. “We’re so glad you’re back,” one member says, and he seems to speak for all. (

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