Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5776

Matos-Masei 5776

New Stories Matos-Masei 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Matos-Masei 5776

Shabbos Observance Will Bring the Redemption


In this week’s parashah, Masei, we learn about the journey of the Jewish People’s journey in the Wilderness. Let us draw a parallel between the journey in the Wilderness to the journey of the Jewish People throughout our current exile. We were exiled from Eretz Yisroel because of our sins, and we still have not merited the final redemption when the entire Jewish People will reside in Eretz Yisroel, with Moshiach as our king and when the Third Bais HaMikdash will be built. What is the goal of our journey in exile? According to kabalistic teachings, our mission is to draw out the Holy Sparks in every land where we sojourn. In this sense, one would think that we have fulfilled our mission successfully, as the Jewish People have settled and subsequently been exiled from so many lands. Yet, we constantly hear about the sins that we must still rectify, such as sinas chinam, baseless hatred, Lashon hara, slander, and numerous other sins.

Shabbos Observance as a Catalyst for Redemption

One area which does not seem to earn the spotlight is Shabbos observance. The Gemara (Shabbos 119b) states that Jerusalem was destroyed because they desecrated the Shabbos. The Medrash (Esther Rabbah 1:9) states that when Achashveirosh made his grand party, the angels upon high protested before HaShem, claiming, “The Bais HaMikdash is destroyed and this wicked man sits and conducts parties!” HaShem responded, “place ‘days’ corresponding to ‘days,’ as here [in Esther] it is said, bayamim haheim, in those days, and regarding the Jews who ascended to Jerusalem subsequent to the Babylonian exile, it is said, (Nechemiah 13:15) bayamim haheimah raisi viYehudah dorchim gitos baShabbos, in those days I observed in Judah people treading on winepresses on the Shabbos…. Thus, we see that one of the essential reasons for the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash and Jerusalem and for our current exile is because of the desecration of Shabbos. What is it, then, that makes Shabbos so unique that our redemption from this bitter exile is predicted on its observance?

Shabbos is akin to Living in Eretz Yisroel

The Shem MiShmuel writes that one can reside in the Diaspora in a Torah environment and be insulated from all foreign influences, yet, if the atmosphere in one’s proximity is polluted, then one cannot spiritually survive. Shabbos, however, is the atonement for the spiritual deficit that one may experience during the week. Thus, Shabbos is the equivalent of Eretz Yisroel while we are in exile.

The Shabbos Connection

The Gemara (Shabbos 118b) states in stark terms that were the Jewish People to observe the Shabbos, the Jewish People would be redeemed. True, it is hard for the individual to expect the entire Jewish People to fully observe Shabbos. Yet, it is incumbent upon every individual to observe the Shabbos to the best of his or her ability, and then we will all merit observing the Shabbos collectively. When the entire Jewish People will observe the Shabbos, HaShem will have compassion upon His Chosen Nation and redeem us with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrsostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

דְּרוֹר יִקְרָא לְבֵן עִם בַּת. וְיִנְצָרְכֶם כְּמוֹ בָבַת, He shall proclaim freedom for man and woman, and protect you like the apple of the eye. The connection of freedom to protection is based on what it is said (Vayikra 26:6) וְנָתַתִּי שָׁלוֹם בָּאָרֶץ, I will provide peace in the land, and Rashi writes that even after all the blessings of prosperity, we still require peace to preserve our gains. Here, too, we declare that HaShem will provide freedom for all, and He will protect us to ensure our freedom.

Shabbos Stories

They Live, or I die with Them

The son of the Rizhiner Rebbe, Reb Avraham Yaakov of Sadigora, once told this story. One Erev Shabbos the Baal Shem Tov appeared in a town unexpectedly. Declining invitations from all the locals, he elected to remain alone in the Shul after Shabbos evening davening. The wonder of the residents turned to alarm when they saw his fervent Tefilla and Tehillim continue the whole night long. Something was surely the matter. In the morning, however, the Baal Shem Tov was relaxed and joyful, and he accepted the invitation of one of the locals for the morning Shabbos meal. Naturally, all of the townspeople crowded into the house of the host to see the Holy Baal Shem Tov. As they were sitting at the table, a local peasant came around looking for a drink of vodka. They were about to drive him away when the Baal Shem Tov called out that he should be brought in, and provided with a generous glass of vodka. He asked him to tell what he had seen in the mansion of the Poritz (wealthy Polish estate owner) the previous night. The peasant’s tongue, loosened by the vodka, related that the Poritz, believing that he had been cheated in a business deal by a Jewish merchant, assembled his peasants and armed them with knives and hatchets telling them to be on the ready to avenge themselves on the Jews at his command. They would then all be able to liberate their stolen riches from the Jews. “The whole night we waited for the command,” he continued, “but the Poritz had closeted himself in his office with an unexpected visitor, an old friend that he had not seen for forty years! Finally, he emerged and told us all to go home, that the Jews were upright and honest people and nobody should dare lay a hand on them. We all went home and that is the whole story!” “This old friend,” explained the Sadigerer Rebbe, “had been dead for decades. The Baal Shem Tov had dragged him from the grave to influence his friend the Poritz.” “I always wondered, though,” queried the Rebbe, “why did the Baal Shem Tov have to travel all the way to that town for Shabbos to avert the decree? Could he not just as well have remained in his hometown of Mezdibuz?” “Now, however, I understand. The Baal Shem Tov said to himself, “if I can succeed in saving the town, fine…but if not, then I will perish together with them!”

Shabbos in Halacha

Opening Food Packages

 II Practical Applications

As we mentioned previously, it is preferable that one opens all containers and packages prior to Shabbos. The following procedures should be followed in the event that one inadvertently did not open the container prior to Shabbos.

  1. Metal Cans

 One can open metal cans, i.e. tuna, tomato juice, canned fruits, only in the following manner:

  1. One should only open the can halfway
  2. One should remove the contents immediately and discard the container.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Matos-Masei 5776

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה                 ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.

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New Stories Matos-Masei 5776

Frederick Weller’s Last Call

Jeff Jacoby’s tribute to his father-in-law, a volunteer fireman for over 60 years, who recently passed away.

by Jeff Jacoby

For more than six decades, Frederick Weller belonged to the Plessis Volunteer Fire Department in northern New York State. He had joined in 1955, as soon as he and his young wife and their infant daughter had moved into the little house on County Route 3. Since the house was literally next to the fire station, he was invariably the first to respond when the siren went off.

He was the first once again on the evening of July 19, when the wail of the siren woke him from a catnap in his kitchen. At 85, Fred no longer had the strength and speed of a young man; it had been at least a dozen years since he could suit up to actively battle fires. But he could still pull on his boots, which were always waiting by the kitchen door; he could still reach the fire hall before anyone else; and he could still make sure the station bay doors were unlocked and the exits cleared so that as firefighters arrived, they could get the trucks and equipment moving without a moment’s loss.

He didn’t make it.

As he reached the steps leading from his porch down to the driveway, he momentarily blacked out – a new medicine had been giving him vertigo – and fell heavily, face first, onto the pavement. The damage was massive. Fred lapsed into a coma as an ambulance, operated by first responders he’d known and worked with for years, rushed him to a helicopter so he could be airlifted to the Syracuse Medical Center. But there was no hope of saving him. He never recovered consciousness and died the next day.

Fred Weller was my father-in-law. That infant daughter, the oldest of seven children, grew up to become my wife. She and I and hundreds of others said good-bye to Fred a few days ago, as friends and loved ones gathered in Alexandria Township to celebrate a life that was modest, hardworking, down-to-earth, and honest. It was lost on no one that his last purposeful act in this life had been an effort to serve others. At an age when some might be content to doze, he still regarded the fire whistle as a personal summons to act.

My father-in-law earned his living as a school custodian and a handyman-for-hire. He shoveled snow, raked leaves, and cut lawns. He grew vast quantities of vegetables and fruit in a garden behind the house, and gathered fallen timber that could be cut and stacked for firewood. With little formal education and a large family to feed and clothe, he never turned up his nose at a job. And he taught his kids both by example and by instruction that hard work wasn’t optional and thrift wasn’t a choice.

Yet in all his 61 years as a volunteer firefighter, he was never paid a penny. Again and again he answered the whistle, often risking his life to protect the lives and property of others. When he wasn’t responding to emergencies, he was devoting hours to training and maintenance, to fire commission meetings, even, in the old, pre-automation days, to manually turning the siren on when alarms were phoned in. Not for a salary, or a bonus, or a pension, or glory – there were none – but from a commitment to service, and from a responsibility to a community that relied upon him.

In my line of work, I normally can’t get away from the perpetual-motion machine of political dissection and prediction, but the sweaty spectacles in Cleveland and Philadelphia seemed a million miles away from the gratitude and dignity with which my father-in-law was remembered. They seemed not merely distant, but trivial. I found myself thinking that Fred Weller’s conscientious life and eloquent death had more to say about the essential goodness and integrity of American character at its simplest than all the high-flown speeches and promises by all the politicians in the presidential campaign circus.

In a famous essay, Edmund Burke wrote long ago that “to love the little platoon we belong to in society is the first principle (the germ, as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind.”

What would American society and culture amount to without the institutions and relationships that make our communities work – without countless “little platoons” like the Plessis Volunteer Fire Department, and the innumerable other associations on which our national health depends? This country would survive – it would probably thrive – without the political poobahs and media mahatmas who consume such obscene amounts of oxygen. But it would sicken and die without a steady supply of women and men like my father-in-law, who take real pride in filling their days with diligence and useful service, and don’t expect more.

The big-screen razzmatazz for the presidential nominees was undeniably flashy. But it was nothing compared with the sight on Wednesday of a giant American flag, hoisted between two ladder trucks high above Church Street in Alexandria Bay, N.Y., where Fred Weller’s memorial service took place. With mourners and firefighters lining the sidewalk in tribute, and with traffic stopped in both directions, the Jefferson County police, fire, and emergency dispatcher transmitted a “last call” over the staticky radio channel to which my father-in-law had never failed to respond.

“Plessis firefighter Frederick Weller, last call,” came the dispatcher’s no-nonsense voice on the scanner, broadcast on this occasion over a public sound system. “This is the last call for firefighter and commissioner Frederick J. Weller. Until we meet again, old friend. We’ll take it from here.

“Jefferson clear. 12:23.”

This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe. (

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