Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Seitzei 5776



Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Seitzei 5776

Salvation Through Modesty


In this week’s parashah the Torah discusses the laws of going out to battle. One of the laws of battle is that the Jewish People retain a state of sanctity in the camp. It is said (Devarim 23:10) ki seitzei machaneh al oyvecho vinishmarta mikol davar ra, when a camp goes out against your enemies, you shall guard against anything evil. Further on it is said (Ibid verse 15) ki HaShem Elokecha mishaleich bikerev machanecho lihatzilcho vilaseis oyvecho lifaenecho vihayah machanecho kadosh vilo yireh vicho ervas davar vishav meiacharecho, for HaShem, your G-d, walks in the midst of your camp to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you; so your camp shall be holy, so that he will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from behind you. The Torah is telling us that the key to salvation is through modesty. When the Jewish People act in a modest fashion, their camp is deemed to be holy and HaShem allows His Presence to reside amongst them. This idea is reflected in the following teaching from the Gerrer Rebbe, the Lev Simcha. It is said (Ibid 24:15) biyomo sitein sicharo, on that day shall you pay his hire. The first letters of the words biyomo sitein sicharo spell out the word Shabbos. The Lev Simcha writes that it is said (Ibid 21:10) ki seitzei lamilchama al oyvecho unsano HaShem Elokecha biyadecha vishavisa shivyo, when you will go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture his captivity. The Lev Simcha cites a Medrash that interprets the verse as follows: ki seitzei lamilchama al oyvecho refers to the days of the week, and unsano HaShem Elokecha biyadecha refers to Shabbos. The Lev Simcha writes that this is the meaning of the verse that states biyomo sitein sicharo, on that day shall you pay his hire. On the day of HaShem, which is Shabbos, as that is when HaShem rested, you shall pay his hire, i.e. HaShem will give you a reward. Based on the words of the Lev Simcha we can interpret the verses said regarding being modest when going out to battle in the same manner. When one goes out to battle, he is warring with the Evil Inclination, who tempts a person with desires that he is not accustomed to when at home. Nonetheless, when one acts in a modest fashion, he captures his captivity, i.e. he subdues the Evil Inclination. The weekday is the battle ground with the Evil Inclination. When a Jew battles his Evil Inclination during the week and succeeds in overwhelming the Evil Inclination, then vishavisa shivyo, he will earn the reward of Shabbos.

The Shabbos Connection

It is noteworthy that in the word vishavisa is the word Shabbos. Hashem should allow us to serve him in a modest fashion, and make our camps holy, and then we will merit the holiness of Shabbos and the day that will be completely Shabbos and rest day for eternal life.

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 acrostic 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.

אֱ-לֹהִים תֵּן בְּמִדְבָּר הַר. הֲדַס שִׁטָּה בְּרוֹשׁ תִּדְהָר, O G-d let bloom on the desert-like mountain, myrtle, acacia, cypress and box tree. The commentators offer various interpretations of these words, from the simple meaning to the esoteric. It is noteworthy that the first letters of the words הֲדַס שִׁטָּה בְּרוֹשׁ תִּדְהָר spell out the word השבת, alluding to the idea that on Shabbos one experiences all the pleasures of this world.

 Shabbos Stories

The Trivialities of This World

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: One of the most poignant episodes in the fascinating life of the Ger Tzedek of Vilna, Avraham ben Avraham, came in the last moments of his life. Avraham ben Avraham was born as Count Potocki, and converted after taking an interest to Judaism while studying in the University of Paris. He eventually returned to Vilna the ranks of the perushim, those who separated themselves for a life of total Torah immersion. His family had conducted a massive search for him and when he was found he was turned over to the inquisitorial board of the church that could not persuade him to forego Judaism. He was sentenced to the auto-de- fי death by fire. An old friend of the Count from the days before his conversion was the one who was appointed to light the bonfire. As the pyre was being formed and the flames about to be set, the man approached the ger. Fearful of the terrible crime he was about to perpetrate, he asked the holy convert, “When you come to heaven are you going to ask your G-d to enact Heavenly retribution against me?” Ignoring the commotion that surrounded him, Avraham ben Avraham smiled. “Let me tell you a story,” he began. “When I was a young child, my father gave me a beautiful toy soldier which I cherished. One day you came to play with me and because your soldier was nowhere as nice as mine. You were obviously jealous. So when you thought I was not looking, you broke my soldier. I was enraged, and I swore to take revenge. “Of course when I grew older, the whole incident was a joke to me. I realized that compared to all the accomplishments I had in my life and the wealth I was to inherit, the silly soldier meant nothing to me! It never again crossed my mind.” The ger tzedek emitted a slight laugh. “I am about to enter the world of Olam HaBah. In my religion, one who sanctifies his life for the sake of Judaism is considered the greatest of all the righteous. Believe me, when I receive my awaited award, your fate will be as irrelevant to me as the fate of my toy soldier! Do not fear. I will not have the need or even desire to think of taking revenge for your inane acts of this petty world.”

Rules can be Broken

Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: A brilliant young student entered the portals of Yeshiva Torah Voda’ath in the 1940s. Hailing from a distinguished rabbinic family which instilled within him a creative mind, he questioned some of the arcane dormitory rules and restrictions that were imposed with boys of less character in mind. But rules, said the dormitory counselor, are rules and he wanted to have the young student temporarily expelled until he would agree to conform. An expulsion of that sort would have left the young man (who lived out of town) no alternative but to leave the Yeshiva. They brought the matter before the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky. “True,” he said, “rules are rules, but I owe this young man something.” The dorm counselor looked stunned. “In the 1800s this boy’s great-grandfather helped establish the kollel (fellowship program for married Torah scholars) at which I would study some decades later. I owe his family a debt of gratitude. If the rules disallow his stay in the dormitory, then he will sleep in my home.” (

Shabbos in Halacha

הכנה – Preparing for a Weekday


Limitations to the Prohibition


  1. Preparing Without Extra Effort

 Under the prohibition of preparing, one is prohibited from performing even a minute act of preparation for Motz’ai Shabbos. If, however, one is able to prepare something for Motz’ai Shabbos without expending any extra effort at all, then one is permitted to do so.

For example, one is prohibited to freeze an item to preserve it for a later date as this is an act of preparing. However, one would be permitted to put any food item in the freezer when cleaning up after a meal. Since the food must be stored somewhere, there is nothing wrong with ‘storing it’ in the freezer. One is prohibited from taking an item from a different storage area i.e. a refrigerator and moving it to the freezer, as this is a direct act of preparing.

Washing dishes

 One is prohibited from washing dishes which one no longer needs for Shabbos, because by washing the dishes one prepares them for post-Shabbos use. This subject will be discussed at length later.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Ki Seitzei 5776

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New Stories Ki Seitzei 5776

Steven Hill’s Chosen Mission

The actor, who recently passed away, heard that voice that said to him: “This is your mission, should you choose to accept it…”

by Yaakov Levine

The Jewish people recently lost one of its most famous in-the-spotlight observant members, the television actor Steven Hill. Hill is best known for playing Manhattan District Attorney Adam Schiff on the NBC show “Law & Order” for 10 years.

Born in Seattle as Solomon (Shlomo) Krakovsky, Hill did not grow up observant. He served in the Navy before directing his life towards becoming an actor. He earned a stellar reputation in New York, where he was compared to his contemporary Marlon Brando as one of America’s finest up-and-coming actors.

As his career began taking off, he started having questions about his identity and role in the “big picture.” Playing Sigmund Freud in a hit Broadway show, a rewrite occurred in which an angry patient startlingly accuses him, “You are a Jew!” Night after night, Hill would receive this allegation – “You are a Jew!” – until it finally became a wake-up call that spurred him to explore his Jewish identity.

He became increasingly disillusioned with the less-glamourous elements in show business and seeking fame for its own sake. Hill began investigating Judaism and decided to start observing some of the mitzvot including Shabbos. He eventually connected with the Skverer Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twersky in 1962.

His big break came with a starring role in “Mission: Impossible.” Hill was cast as the team’s leader, Dan Briggs. His agent told the studio that Hill was Sabbath-observant and would not be available to work on Shabbos. The studio agreed but underestimated the implications of his commitment. The show was a hit. However, Hill was known to leave the set mid-filming on Friday afternoons, which left the studios scrambling to compensate. They had to patch up stories to explain why this core character had limited screen time. To compensate, other actors would play Briggs in a disguise, which became a standard motif of the show.

He would occasionally go around the studio to round up ten Jewish men, famously recruiting young William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy from the neighboring “Star Trek” set to join his minyan.

After one season, the studio decided to let Hill go, replacing him with Peter Graves. In 1966, Hill was offered top billing in a Steve McQueen military film called “The Sand Pebbles” but he would have to compromise his Shabbos observance. He was finally reaching his goals of fame and success as an actor but chose to forfeit the opportunity in favor of keeping Shabbos. Hill refused to allow anything to come before his relationship to God.

At this point, he took a decade-long hiatus from acting to focus on family and spiritual growth. When he returned to his creative passion, he said he actually enjoyed it more because he was observant. With his shift in priorities, being an actor was no longer his identity and life’s purpose.

Dustin Hoffman, who appeared with Hill in 1991’s ‘“Billy Bathgate,” once told him, “Steve, we don’t know what to do with our lives…but you know!”

All souls are sent down to this world with a specific mission. Everyone has the ability to find it, no matter their life circumstances. This requires choosing true connection to ourselves, others and God by way of our thoughts, speech and actions.

Steven (Shlomo) Hill heard that voice that said to him: “This is your mission, should you choose to accept it…” the classic catchphrase that was at the start of every “Mission: Impossible” episode. He knew that life’s ultimate mission was not impossible and he bravely chose to accept it, rising to its challenges. May we all merit to live up to our mission the way Steven Hill did. (

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