Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Metzora-Shabbos HaGadol 5776
Removing the Evil Inclination from Our Midst is the Catalyst to Freedom
In this week’s parashah the Torah continues to discuss the laws of one who is afflicted with tzaraas, the biblical version of leprosy. Yet, this affliction defies our imagination, as we are not witnesses to such an affliction in our times. The Ramban (Vayikra 13:47) writes that tzaraas was only prevalent when the Jewish People were on the level that even a slight sin would be borne out by a manifestation of tzaraas on either their clothing, their homes, or on their bodies. In our times, unfortunately, our sins do not make that sort of impression on us, and we are usually left to our own devices to determine what the reason is for our severed connection from HaShem. Thus, although one can study the laws of tzaraas in detail, it is practically impossible to comprehend how this spiritual malady occurred. As we approach Pesach, however, one must begin to contemplate how we can even begin to experience spiritual reward, and regarding Pesach, we were surely the recipients of one of the greatest benefit that mankind ever received, and that was liberation from our oppressors. With the onset of the month of Nissan we begin our physical and spiritual preparations for the festival of Pesach, yet on the surface, freedom and liberation appear to be far from our everyday reality. As a nation we still suffer at the hands of our oppressors, we are degraded, injured and even, Heaven forbid, killed, and all because we are Jews, HaShem’s Chosen People. Where, then, is the freedom that the Torah and our Sages referred to over and over again in Scripture, Gemara, Medrash and in our prayers? Have we not suffered enough that we should finally be able to declare that we are truly free people? The Gemara (Megillah 14a) states that we can recite Hallel on the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos because we are servants of HaShem and not servants of Pharaoh. Yet, subsequent to the Exodus from Egypt, we have been servants of many nations, and until today, we are still subjugated to the whims of various rulers throughout the world. The subject of freedom is a lengthy one, but in this essay we will attempt to briefly provide a solution to the enigma of freedom in relationship to our current situation.
Was the First Day of Nissan a Day of Joy or a Day of Mourning?
The Gemara (Shabbos 87b) states that in the second year in the Wilderness, the first day of Nissan was a day when the Jewish People took ten crowns. The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 52:5) states that the inauguration of the Mishkan was a day when Hashem was very joyous. Yet, despite all this great joy and pomp, Aharon HaKohen’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, died a tragic death on this day. How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction, where this day was one of great ecstasy but was instantly transformed into a day of mourning and sadness? Perhaps the solution to this paradox can be found in a different Medrash. The Medrash (Magen Avraham in the beginning of Hilchos Pesach) states that although the construction of the Mishkan was completed in the month of Kisleiv, HaShem chose to postpone the inauguration to the month of Nissan. The reason for this delay was because HaShem desired that the inauguration of the Mishkan should be in Nissan, the month when Yitzchak was born. What is the association between Yitzchak and the month of Nissan?
Freedom is from The Evil Inclination
We normally view freedom as liberation and release from powers that until now have been dominating us. On a deeper level, however, the Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 41:7) teaches us that when the Jewish People received the Torah, they merited being free from the angel of death. We find elsewhere in the Gemara (Bava Basra 16a) that the angel of death and the Evil Inclination are one and the same. Regarding the inauguration of the Mishkan, it is said (Vayikra 9:6) vayomer Moshe zeh hadavar asher tzivah HaShem taasu viyeira aleichem kevod HaShem, Moshe said: this is the thing that HaShem has commanded you to do; then the glory of HaShem will appear to you. In a surprising interpretation of this verse, the Toras Kohanim (Ibid) states: Moshe informed the Jewish People that if you remove that Evil Inclination (of idolatry – commentary of Chafetz Chaim Ibid) from your midst, then you will merit the revelation of HaShem’s glory. Thus, the removal of the Evil Inclination and the revelation of HaShem’s Presence are directly connected. The Medrash (Rashi Bereishis 28:13 quoting Tanchumah) states that the Evil Inclination of Yitzchak was removed from him. Furthermore, Reb Tzadok HaKohen from Lublin writes that when the Gemara states that this matter was heard mipi haGevurah, from the Almighty, it alludes to the idea of Yitzchak.
HaShem Chose Nissan to Inaugurate the Mishkan as that was when Yitzchak, Who Subdued His Veil Inclination, Was Born
We can now begin to understand why HaShem chose to have the dedication of the Mishkan occur in the month of Nissan. Nissan was the month that Yitzchak was born, and Yitzchak merited completely subduing his Evil Inclination. When the Jewish People received the Torah, they merited having their Evil Inclination removed from them, and this was also HaShem’s desire regarding the inauguration of the Mishkan. Sadly, Nadav and Avihu did not live up to this task on their level, and they perished inside the Holy of Holies. Nonetheless, HaShem’s will was accomplished, and Moshe informed Aharon that Nadav and Avihu were greater than Moshe and Aharon. There is no question that Nadav and Avihu attempted to completely subdue their Evil Inclination and transform themselves to the state of Adam HaRishon before the sin of eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad.
The Shabbos Connection
In a similar vein, when we enter the month of Nissan, it is incumbent upon us to attempt the complete subjugation of our Evil Inclination. This is the meaning of true freedom. If we wonder why we are still subjugated to other powers, it is because we have not yet succeeded in overcoming our Evil Inclination. The Gemara (Brachos 17a) clearly links the Evil Inclination and the subjugation of the nations together. In this month of redemption, Nissan, we must attempt to emulate our forefather Yitzchak, who subdued his Evil Inclination, and then we will merit true freedom from the angel of death and from the nations who subjugate us. Prior to leaving Egypt, the Jews took the sheep, the Egyptian idol, and demonstrated to the Egyptians that they were powerless to prevent the Jews from serving HaShem. Every Shabbos we are granted respite from the Evil Inclination. It should be Hashem’s Will that this Pesach we merit the true redemption with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
Ki Eshmera Shabbos
This zemer was composed by the great medieval commentator and poet Avraham Ibn Ezra whose name is found in the acrostic of the verses. The Zemer focuses on Halachic aspects of the Shabbos observance.
מֵחֵל מְלָאכָה בּוֹ סוֹפוֹ לְהַכְרִית עַל כֵּן אֲכַבֵּס בּוֹ לִבִּי כְּבוֹרִית וְאֶתְפַּלְּלָה אֶל אֵ-ל עַרְבִית וְשַׁחֲרִית מוּסַף וְגַם מִנְחָה הוּא יַעֲנֵנִי, for doing desecrating work on it, one’s end will be excision. Therefore on it I shall cleanse my heart as if with soap. I shall pray to G-d Arvis and Shacharis. Musaf and Mincha and He will answer me. Shabbos is essentially a time of repentance and prayer. When one is cognizant of the Holy Shabbos, he will spend the entire week preparing for Shabbos, praying to HaShem to forgive his sins and allow him to enter the Shabbos in a pristine state, filled with joy for this special day.
Look at Their Hearts
In the years before the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the Tzaddik of Jerusalem, would visit the inmates of the British-controlled Jerusalem prison on every Shabbos. Though most of the Jewish prisoners were not observant, they would quickly don kippot before the revered Rabbi would greet them. Then they would join in the Shabbos Morning Prayer service that Reb Aryeh organized and they would read along with the rabbi, as if they were observant Jews. The entire scene agitated one particularly nasty fellow named Yaakov. He would try in every way to irritate the gentle Rabbi. Each Shabbos, he would purposely light up a cigarette in Reb Aryeh’s face in order to disturb him. Reb Aryeh was never fazed. One Shabbos, Yaakov stormed into the makeshift synagogue and snapped at the aged Rabbi. “Why do you waste your time with these liars and fakes? They are no more observant than I am. They only put the kippah on their heads when you come here. Furthermore, they only pray and open their lips to G-d when you are here. Otherwise they have no feeling in their hearts!” Reb Aryeh turned to Yaakov and rebuked him with a firm but gentle voice. “Why do you slander these souls? They come to pray every single week. I do not look at their heads but rather in their hearts. And when I hear the prayers coming from their lips, I know that their hearts are following as well.” It was not long before Yaakov became a steady member of the prayer group.
Shabbos in Halacha
ממרח – Smoothing
- To What Does this Prohibition Apply?
Liquid soap is widely used on Shabbos. The vast majority of Poskim rule that this is permitted because its fluid consistency exempts it from the prohibition of smoothing. However, there is an opinion that since liquid soap has some density, it is subject to this prohibition. To conform to this view, one should mix the soap with water (preferably before Shabbos) so that it is extremely fluid, thus positively permitting its use.
Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Metzora-Shabbos HaGadol 5776
Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.
Have a Wonderful Shabbos!
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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New Stories Metzora-Shabbos HaGadol 5776
Feeding Jewish American Soldiers on Passover
Two women are mobilizing the troops to nourish, physically and spiritually, Jews in the U.S. armed forces.
by Laura BenDavid
For the past eight years Jewish members of the armed forces of the United States stationed all over the world have what they need for the Jewish holidays thanks to the remarkable efforts of Sara Fuerst and Ava Hamburger, and their KosherTroops organization.
What started as a bat mitzvah project in 2008 has taken on a life of its own. Sara’s daughter had been looking for something special and meaningful to do in advance of her bat mitzvah celebration. As it was around the holiday of Purim, Sara came up with the idea to make Purim baskets for Jewish soldiers. She made several calls and gathered 150 names.
They enlisted the help of family and friends and put together baskets for all 150 and mailed them out thinking that was that.
Suddenly she began to receive responses from happy and grateful troops. She had no idea their little bat mitzvah project was going to make such an impact. As Passover was just a few weeks they decided to send packages again. And then once more for Shavuot. At that point the momentum kicked in and Sara realized that they were filling an important hole that no one was filling. Sara enlisted her friend and neighbor Ava Hamburger and KosherTroops was born.
The mission of KosherTroops is to help improve the morale of members of the armed forces and show appreciation. They are sent holiday care packages that give them not only food but a warm connection to the Jewish community. “We want them to know that they are not forgotten,” Sara says.
Of course the food is important too. For most of us it’s hard to imagine a Passover Seder without any access to kosher food, kosher meat, matzah and macaroons. But for many Jews deployed in the military the only Passover caterer available is KosherTroops.
There are approximately 5,000 Jews in United States military stationed in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Pakistan, Kuwait, Korea, Africa, Honduras, and Alaska, as well as the military bases in the U.S. The military orders each Jewish service member a small Passover kit, that includes a meat meal, matzah, a Seder plate and grape juice. But for the full Seder experience and to keep kosher for the entire week of Passover, Jews in the military rely on volunteer support services like KosherTroops.
In many military posts the United States Defense Commissary Agency operates commissaries that are similar to supermarkets, providing service members with a way to order items available in the U.S. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out as planned… Like this doozy reported by Army Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Shulman: “The new manager assured me over the past few months that he’d ordered plenty of matzah. Well, it turned out he’d ordered a whole bunch of matzah meal as well as “matzahrella” cheese, but no matzah. Koshertroops came through with a matzah shipment that supplied the Jewish servicemen and women in Grafenwohr, Germany with matzah for the whole week!”
From the responses they get from soldiers, it seems that they are truly accomplishing what they set out to do. Like Lt. Col. David N. Rosner USMC who wrote, “KosherTroops not only fed me physically but also spiritually. The work they do is so meaningful. You find yourself alone in the desert or obscure base and your soul longs for connection to your essence. KosherTroops feeds that desire…”
This year they’ll be sending out at least 900 packages for Passover to such far-flung places as Iraq, Kuwait, Japan and Germany. This huge undertaking requires thousands of pounds of food and many volunteers to put it all together. Many have stepped up to the plate to help. Companies such as Streits, Kedem, Manischewitz and Osem have donated food. The warehouse space is donated. And volunteers of all ages and every walk of life give of their time and energy to prepare the packages for shipment.
An extra touch is the beautiful notes and cards written by the volunteers and by school children which are included in each package. The messages of love and support are heartwarming to be received, but are also teach a valuable message to the children writing them about appreciating the servicemen and women who risk their lives for all of our liberties.
Finally, there are those service members for whom the KosherTroop packages are truly a lifeline for their religious observance. Perhaps this can be best summed up by what Lt. Simpkins wrote:
“Kosher Troops was a lifesaver for me. I started keeping kosher in Afghanistan and supplies didn’t come very often to a combat outpost where I endured three months of my 10 month deployment. I actually ate nothing but protein shakes and M&Ms for two months. Thanks to the KosherTroops Passover shipment, my life was a lot better and it was possible for me to keep mitzvot. After I returned to my duty station in Germany, I was certain life would be easier and it was. Life was easier, but after a year and a half on kosher chicken and some limited dairy options, I dreaded the mealtimes. I literally cried tears of joy whenever I got a care package from KosherTroops. To feel that support from so many volunteers boosted my morale and reminded me why I signed up in the first place. I would hate to imagine how hard life would have been without them.”
For more information about Koshertroops and how you can help our troops please visit Koshertroops.com (www.aish.com)