Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Toldos 5777


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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Toldos 5777

Shabbos and the Opening of the Wells

Introduction

In this week’s parashah the Torah relates how Yitzchak dug wells and the shepherds of Gerar quarreled with the shepherds of Yitzchak regarding the wells. The Ramban (Bereishis 26:20) writes that the Torah relates the episode of the wells that Yitzchak dug to allude to the Bais HaMikdash. The first well was called Esek, strife and struggle, as this alludes to the first Bais HaMikdash that was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the second well was called sitnah, hatred, as this name alludes to the second Bais HaMikdash that was destroyed by the Romans. The third well, however, was called Rechovos, expansion, and this name alludes to the third Bais HaMikdash that HaShem Himself will build and there will not be any quarrel or strife involved in the building of the third Bais HaMikdash. Drinking water and drawing the Divine Spirit

One must wonder, though, why the Torah chose to hint to the building of the Bais HaMikdash specifically in the section that discusses Yitzchak’s struggles with the Plishtim. Furthermore, regarding the well that Yaakov encounters prior to marrying Rachel, the Ramban (Ibid 29:2) writes based on the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 70:8) that the three flocks of sheep alludes to the three festivals when the Jewish People make the pilgrimage to the Bais HaMikdash. The flocks drinking the water allude to the drawing of Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit that was manifested in the Bais HaMikdash. There also we must understand why the Torah chose to allude to the Bais HaMikdash with an apparently mundane episode of sheep drinking water.

The gates are open on Shabbos and one can enter those gates with preparation

It is said (Yechezkel 46:1) ko amar HaShem Elokim shaar hechatzer hapinimis haponeh kadim yihyeh sagur sheishes yimei hamaaseh uvayom haShabbos yipaseiach uvayom hachodesh yipaseiach, thus said the Lord/Elokim: “The gate of the inner courtyard that faces eastward shall be closed during the six days of labor, but on the Shabbos day it shall be opened, and on the day of the New Moon it shall be opened.” The Sfas Emes (Toldos 5643) writes that the Mishna (Avos 5:6) states that the mouth of the well was created on Erev Shabbos. The explanation of this is that Shabbos is the well and HaShem allows a Jew to prepare for Shabbos prior to Shabbos. In this way one can connect the days of the week with Shabbos. Thus, writes the Sfas Emes, according to the manner that one aspires to receive the Shabbos with joy, HaShem will show him the correct path to enter into Shabbos.

Shabbos and Yom Tov are times of extra spirituality

The Sfas Emes (Noach 5647) writes further that Shabbos and Yom Tov are the times when the gates of heaven are opened for an extra infusion of spirituality and it is at these times that one can ascend to greater spiritual heights. We can now understand why the Medrash and the Ramban write that the opening of the wells alludes to the festivals because it was specifically on the festivals that the Jewish People witnessed in the Bais HaMikdash the revelation of HaShem in all His glory. This revelation allowed them to draw from the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit.

The Shabbos connection

We have mentioned that on Shabbos one can actually experience the well of water, which is a metaphor to an in increase in spiritual influence in our lives. One must recognize that Shabbos is a well of fresh water that can literally bring the soul back to life. Throughout the week we are engaged in Torah study and performance of mitzvos. Nonetheless, our study of Torah and performance of mitzvos on Shabbos is akin to a man in a desert who discovers an oasis. He may have been drinking water from his canteen but the oasis is on a different plane. Similarly, Shabbos is on a different level than the rest of the week, and it is the Holy Shabbos that provides the spirituality for the rest of the week. HaShem should allow us to recognize the holiness of Shabbos and to prepare for the Shabbos properly so we can drink from its spiritual waters.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Kel Mistater

This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)

תּוֹצְאוֹתֶיהָ חֲמִשִּׁים שַׁעֲרֵי בִינָה. אֱמוּנִים נוֹצֵר יְ-ה-ֹו-ָה, its overflows are fifty gates of understanding – faithful ones are guarded by HaShem. The simple reading of the words אֱמוּנִים נוֹצֵר יְ-ה-ֹו-ָה is that HaShem guards the faithful ones. We can suggest an alternative interpretation, as the word אמן, besides meaning faith, also means to cultivate. Thus, we are saying that faith needs to be cultivated, and the word נוֹצֵר here means to observe the growth of faith, like one preserves and guards the cultivation of a tree.

Shabbos Stories

Kosher for now, kosher for eternity

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: This past summer 30,000 Boy Scouts joined together in Virginia for a national Boy Scout Jamboree. Among the myriad groups of scouts who attend this event that occurs every four years are many Jewish Scouts as well. Mike Paretsky, a Vice Chairman of the GNYC Jewish Committee on scouting, was the kosher food liaison to the jamboree. Special food was ordered from O’Fishel caterers of Baltimore, so that the Jewish scouts would be able to nourish their bodies as well. One of the scoutmasters, a Jewish man, caught a glimpse of the kosher offerings. He had never eaten a kosher meal in his life, yet when he saw the special meals, something stirred. He and his troops were being served pork-this and bacon-that for breakfast, lunch and supper, and all of a sudden this man decided he was sick of the monotonous treif stuff. He wanted to eat kosher. Scoutmaster Paretsky gladly let him partake in a meal, but that was not enough for the fellow. The man decided to keep kosher during the entire jamboree!

Mr. Paretsky agreed to accommodate the neophyte kosherphile, but a skeptic approached him. “Mike,” he said, “why are you wasting your kosher food on this fellow? He is not going to eat kosher after this is over, and he observes absolutely nothing! Why waste the food on him?”

Mike answered with an amazing story of the Chofetz Chaim. When Russian soldiers entered the town of Radin, Jewish townsfolk prepared kosher meals for the Jewish soldiers in the Czar’s army. Soon their acts of charity seemed to fly in their face as they saw the soldiers devour the food and then stand on line to receive the forbidden Russian rations. When they complained to the Chofetz Chaim and threatened to stop preparing kosher food, he reflected with an insight that must be passed on to generations.

“Every mitzvah that a Jew does, every good deed and every bit of kosher that he eats is not a fleeting act. It is an eternity. No matter what precedes or ensues, we must cherish each proper action of a Jew.” (www.Torah.org)

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

 כיבוס – Laundering

 The Prohibition

 Scrubbing

 It is forbidden mideoraisa (by Torah Prohibition) to scrub any wet fabric or to rub two parts of the fabric against each other.

This stage of laundering is forbidden with the use of all materials, whether absorbent or not. Thus, although one is permitted to wet a plastic tablecloth, one may not scrub it while wet (neither with one’s hands nor with an implement).

With plastic, one is allowed to brush lightly to loosen dirt; the prohibition is to rub forcefully., However, with absorbent fabric, one is prohibited even from rubbing lightly. [Note: this prohibition applies only to soft materials, not to hard surfaces such as wood.]

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Toldos 5777

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה     ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.and as a zechus לרפואה שלימה חיה דינה חביבה בת שושנה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.

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Have a Wonderful Shabbos!

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For sponsorships please call 248-506-0363

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New Stories Toldos 5777

From Baptist Minister to Orthodox Jew

Moshe Boldor’s harrowing odyssey from hunted renegade in Communist Romania to freedom in the U.S. as an observant Jew.

by Ronda Robinson

Jean Boldor was an auto mechanic and driver for the Director of Mines in Romania, in 1983. He wanted to escape the Communist country where he was born and freely study the Bible. “In a Communist country, you cannot do anything you want,” he says.

The Romanian government forced citizens to celebrate Communist holidays. Boldor thirsted for more. “For whatever reason I was attached to the Old Testament,” he recalls, “and read about the people of Israel and the prophets. It fascinated me how God took the people of Israel from the land of Egypt.”

Always drawn to Biblical learning, Boldor didn’t know until much later that he had Jewish roots. His great-great-great-grandmother was Jewish. From there, the trail grows cold. The Jewish community in his native Lupeni was decimated during World War II, when Romania became a satellite of Nazi Germany and Jews lost their shops and citizenship. At the end of the war thousands of Jews fled Romania. It is estimated that by the end of the 1960s, the Romanian Jewish community numbered no more than 100,000.

Wanting to share the joy he found, Boldor began to teach the Bible to young people. “The Communists did not look kindly upon my involvement, so I was taken to the police station many times to be interrogated, handcuffed and beaten – and given time to reflect on my activity.”

Lay people like Boldor were arrested for asserting their religious beliefs; they weren’t allowed to have Bibles. At age 20, he applied to emigrate to the United States where he could pursue Bible studies.

“From that moment on, I was followed everywhere because I was considered a threat to Communism,” he remembers. “When you applied to leave, they thought you were a danger.”

For five years Boldor lingered in Romania with no end in sight. Life was growing more difficult, so he decided to run away but was caught on a train headed toward the Yugoslavian border.

Military police put him under 24-hour arrest in a room full of screaming people with broken arms and broken feet who received no medical attention. They told him of being beaten with AK-47 assault rifles. After paying a monetary penalty, he was freed and went home.

Then in August 1988, Boldor and a friend, Ion, tried to flee again, going by train and on foot to the border. “I prayed to God to save me. I read Psalms when I had a few minutes. We went three days without drinking any water,” he says.

Villagers saw the two men and alerted the military who surrounded them. The soldiers began to beat them.

“Usually beatings were so bad that very few survived the next week,” Boldor says, “But one sergeant saw that I had a book of Psalms and ordered the soldiers not to touch me. Once again I saw the Hand of God and I thanked Him.”

He was put in military prison for two weeks. Then a friend in Austria sent Boldor $100 through his bank, which was used to bribe an Army captain to let Boldor and Ion go free.

They began plotting their third escape.

“I read in the Book of Esther that Mordechai and Esther fasted three days and three nights to save the Jewish nation from Haman, so I did the same. I fasted three days and nights and cried to God to help us this time succeed.”

Boldor’s prayers were answered. In September 1988 he and Ion took a train to the Yugoslavian border. They jumped out at a station close to the border and hid in a stand of hay. They slept by day and walked or crawled by night.

When they reached Yugoslavia they walked to Belgrade, about 500 km, 310 miles. In Belgrade they climbed atop a train to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, to avoid detection by the police.

From Ljubljana they hopped a train to Germany and Austria and at last arrived at a refugee camp near Vienna, their clothes full of dust and oil. Their treacherous two-week journey was over.

“It’s hard to describe what it means to be free and alive after such a long and dangerous trip. When we got there we found out that 180 people had been killed by the Romanian border. So God once again saved my life,” says Boldor.

He kept a promise to God to study the Bible if he survived. As a refugee from a Communist country, he obtained a visa from Canada, where he learned Biblical Hebrew and earned a bachelor’s degree in religious education at a Christian college. He also became an ordained Baptist minister.

Eventually Boldor married, had four children and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he started a small business taking care of seniors. It was during his first trip to Israel in 2004 and visiting the Cave of Machpelah in Hevron where the patriarchs and matriarchs are buried that the Baptist minister had a spiritual crisis. He had always believed Abraham was buried in Shechem, as the Christian Bible stated. Now he found otherwise. He started to compare the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and saw other discrepancies. Torah won him over.

“When I went to Israel I saw the beauty of Judaism and Shabbat. It was life-changing for me. The Torah passages came alive,” he says. He followed the murmurings of his heart as a child and decided to convert to Judaism.

Back home in Seattle he resigned his pulpit, began going to synagogue and learn Torah intensely, and started keeping the laws of Torah. The conversion process took 10 years. The former Baptist minister, who changed his name to Moshe, now keeps a kosher home and prays with a minyan three times a day.

His marriage didn’t withstand the changes. His wife didn’t want to convert to Judaism and the couple divorced. Three of their children converted, with one of the daughters making aliyah.

Boldor, 56, studies through an online yeshiva and makes Torah the center of his life. “It is really great to be part of the Jewish nation and follow in Avraham’s footsteps.” Today he owns and manages a nursing home in Seattle.

He transforms the hardships he endured to help others. “I am thankful to God because I was able to come home to Torah and Israel and I am trying to help other Jews. The time is not too late to come home and join the Jewish nation of Israel through following the Torah.

“Sometimes I cry living here in America. In Romania they handcuffed me, tortured me, put me in prison for reading and learning the Torah. Here we have freedom but sometimes it is wasted. My prayer is for God to use me to help other Jews appreciate the beauty of Torah.” (www.aish.com)

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Vayeira 5777 Inspiration


In this week’s parasha, we learn about the amazing chesed that Avraham performs for his three guests, angels in the guise of people. Avraham was in extreme pain from his recent circumcision (although the commentators say that HaShem’s visit healed Avraham), and HaShem wanted him to take a break from hosting guests. Nonetheless, when HaShem saw that Avraham was distressed about the lack of wayfarers, HaShem brought Avraham three guests so that Avraham could perform the mitzvah of הכנסת אורחים. Yet, when Avraham commenced his acts of kindness, he said (Bereishis 18:4) יֻקַּח נָא מְעַט מַיִם וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם וְהִשָּׁעֲנוּ תַּחַת הָעֵץ, let some water be brought and wash your feet, and recline beneath the tree. Rashi citing the Medrash takes Avraham to task on this directive, as Avraham passed on the mitzvah to one of his household members, and HaShem paid back the Jewish People in measure. When Miriam died, the well of water left the Jewish People, and the Jews complained to Moshe and HaShem instructed Moshe to draw forth water from the rock.

One must wonder what the meaning of this condemnation is. Avraham was running a major hospitality movement, and while it would have certainly been noble for Avraham to do everything himself, it does not appear that this approach would have been practical. In fact, further on we see that Avraham had his son Yishmael serve the guests the meat. What, then, was the fault of Avraham regarding his offer to bring his guests water? Furthermore, we must understand how Avraham’s act was connected to the Jews’ receiving water in the Wilderness?

The answer to this questions is that Avraham was essentially exempt from performing mitzvos because of his condition following circumcision. Nonetheless , his distress caused them to grant him an opportunity of performing chased for guests, and Avraham should have used this opportunity to its fullest. Certainly Avraham should have performed the first act of kindness on his own without involving others. Similarly, when  the well of water disappeared in the Wilderness, the Jewish People should have used the opportunity to pray to HaShem directly for water. After all, when HaShem created the world, the rain did not fall until Adam appeared and prayed for rain. HaShem therefore punished the Jewish People by having Moshe draw forth the water, and this episode resulted in Moshe not being able to enter into Eretz Yisrael. Had Moshe spoken to the rock and not hit the rock, the Jewish People would have witnessed HaShem’s full abilities to provide for them. When Moshe hit the rock, this perception was diminished in the eyes of the Jewish People and Moshe forfeited entering the Land. We find in a similar event that the Jewish People requested so send spies to determine the value of Eretz Yisroel, and this act of having messengers stake out the Land had grave consequences, and most of the Jewish People died in the Wilderness and we lost the Bais HaMikdash twice on Tisha B’Av.

The lesson from this act of Avraham is that we must always grasp the opportunity to perform mitzvah to its fullest and then HaShem will grant us opportunities to perform more mitzvos to the fullest.

Have a MITZVAH FILLED Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Vayeira 5777 Inspiration

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.and as a zechus לרפואה שלימה חיה דינה חביבה בת שושנה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.
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Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
For sponsorships please call 773.236.1761
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeira 5777


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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeira 5777

Avraham and Eradication of Evil

Introduction

This week’s parashah contains a theme that appears to run throughout the entire parashah. The Torah commences this week with the incident where Avraham has just been circumcised and despite his pain, he invites three strangers to partake in a sumptuous meal. Avraham himself waits on his guests and he is then informed that he and his wife Sarah will be having a child. The guests, who are angels in disguise, then depart to destroy the city of Sodom and its surroundings.

Praying for the wicked people of Sodom

HaShem informs Avraham of the tragic state of affairs in Sodom, and Avraham prays to HaShem to spare the cities in the merit of the righteous. HaShem informs Avraham that there are no righteous people in all the cities and Avraham desists from praying further. The angels then enter Sodom where they are greeted by Lot who invites them into his house. The residents of Sodom are not pleased with this act of hospitality and they attempt to harm the visitors. HaShem causes the citizens of Sodom to become blind and the angels then proceed to escort Lot and his remaining family out of the city. HaShem then destroys Sodom and its environs and Lot escapes with his two daughters. Lot and his daughters then engage in an illicit relationship, and the union bears the two forerunners of the Ammonite and Moabite nations. The Torah then records how Avraham settles in the Philistine city of Gerar and the king of Gerar, Avimelech, abducts Sarah. HaShem then punishes Avimelech and his household by restraining their orifices.

Yishmael is banished and Avraham and Yitzchak are tested by Hashem The Torah then relates how Sarah gave birth to Yitzchak and subsequent to Yitzchak’s birth, Sarah demands that Avraham banish Yishmael and his mother because of Yishmael’s evil ways. Following this incident we learn how Avraham makes a treaty with Avimelech, and then the Torah relates the spellbinding incident where HaShem instructs Avraham to offer his cherished son Yitzchak as a sacrifice. HaShem then sends an angel to repeal this commandment and Avraham slaughters a ram in Yitzchak’s stead.

The negation of evil

The theme that we see running through this parashah is what is referred to as bittul hara, negation of evil. Circumcision is essentially a negation of the Evil Inclination and the materialism represented within. Sodom was the epitome of evil, and Avraham apparently desired, in the words of the Gemara (Brachos 10a), yitamu chataim vilo chotim, let the sins cease but not the sinners. Lot acted in a self-defeating manner, bringing shame upon himself and his future generations. Similarly, Avimelech encountered Avraham and Sarah, righteous people, and HaShem punished him harshly. Yishmael was banished from the home of the righteous, and Avraham and Yitzchak were tested in an unprecedented manner. This test, in a sense, was the expiation of any doubt in their minds that they could have possibly had regarding HaShem’s Oneness and His dominion over the entire world.

The Shabbos connection

In the prayer of kegavna that is recited by Nusach Sefard on Friday night, we recite the words kad ayil Shabbsa ihi isyachadas viisparashas misitra achara vichol dinin misabrin minah, when the Shabbos arrives, she unified herself in Oneness and divests herself of the Other Side, [any trace of evil] all harsh judgments are removed from her. Thus, the purpose of creation is that the Jewish People divest itself of all evil and harsh judgments. It is incumbent upon us to recognize that every moment of our lives is a test to choose between good and evil, and when we are victorious, we merit the holiness and exaltedness of Shabbos. HaShem should allow us to be victorious in this world and to merit a portion in the World to Come, when it will be a day that will be completely a Shabbos and a rest day for eternal life.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Kel Mistater

This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)

מֵאַיִן תִּמָּצֵא וְהִיא נֶעֱלָמָה. רֵאשִׁית חָכְמָה יִרְאַת יְ-הֹ-ו-ָה,   from the Invisible One it derives, but it is hidden – the source of wisdom is awe of HaShem. Whenever one wishes to describe HaShem’s Wisdom, which is His Holy Torah, one is left without words. The reason for this is because Torah is beyond human understanding. Indeed, the Gemara (Megillah 6b) states יגעתי ומצאתי תאמן, if one says, “I have toiled and I have found,” i.e. I have achieved success in my studies, believe him. The Sfas Emes writes that the Gemara likens Torah study to one who finds a lost object. One can toil in his search for the lost object, but when he finds it, it is like a gift handed to him. Similarly, one can toil in this world in Torah study, but success in one’s studies is a gift from HaShem.

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) (www.Revach.net)

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.” (www.Torah.org)

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

 כיבוס – Laundering

 The melacha of כיבוס forbids all methods of laundering, including those that can be done without the assistance of water, such as ניעור מעפר, dusting [a garment], and הסרת הכתם, removing a stain [by brushing]. However, we will focus only on cleaning with water, for this method of laundering is most relevant to cleaning the table after a meal.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Vayeira 5777

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה     ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.and as a zechus לרפואה שלימה חיה דינה חביבה בת שושנה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.

Sponsorships $180.00

Have a Wonderful Shabbos!

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler

For sponsorships please call 248-506-0363

To subscribe weekly by email, please email ShabbosTaamHachaim@gmail.com View Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim and other Divrei Torah on www.doreishtov.wordpress.com

New Stories Vayeira 5777

God, Stay Where I Can See You

Shattered and made whole. Learning to trust God with everything.

by Lori Samlin Miller

A decade ago, I began a journey toward Jewish observance together with my husband. I embraced performing mitzvahs and keeping Shabbat. I loved the holidays, and began to see through what I previously thought were random events, God’s loving hand in my life.

But all that changed when my husband became ill. Suddenly, God’s management skills came into question. How could this random, awful thing happen to my husband? I much preferred the God I had come to feel was directing my life and orchestrating events that made sense and showed us His love for us. How could I feel God’s kindness now?

My mind split into two screens. Showing in Theater One: Numbness. I was overwhelmed, paralyzed with disbelief, unable to process, accept or absorb the severity of this new reality, let alone confront the necessary steps we had to undergo to determine the choices we now faced. How could my husband – a kind, caring, selfless physician and surgeon who’d devoted his life to caring for his patients – be so sick himself?

Playing on Screen Two: Business. Putting my emotions aside, there were practical decision to be made – lining up appointments, selecting doctors, comforting our loved ones while reassigning his patients to other doctors and grappling with the insurance company’s endless red tape.

Over the next few days, we gathered blessings from rabbis and opinions from specialists. Our journey through a maze of challenges, confusion, and fear was just beginning.

I did a lot of praying, choking back tears most times, gushing at others, finding myself frequently at God’s doorstep to petition for His mercy and healing because I didn’t know where else to turn. I felt such despair. God really cares about us, I told myself repeatedly, as I threw myself harder into my prayers. I quietly gave God my whole package.

Amongst my many fears and the confusion I expressed only to God was the puzzling fact that my husband was young and strong. He’d never smoked or drank. How could this diagnosis of throat cancer be true?

Not only did the illness seem terrifying, the recommended surgery to affect the best prognosis, a total laryngectomy (the removal of the larynx and breathing is done through an opening in the neck) is so radical and extreme. How would we learn to accept and adjust to what this new reality would bring? It wasn’t fair and I at times I felt a distance between God and me.

The next few days were a blur as we chose surgeon, hospital, and course of treatment. My battle with the insurance company began to heat up. I stopped often to pray that God would be with us every step of this journey. I experienced panic and terror when I lapsed into thinking I had to make everything work out, forgetting that God was in charge and onboard to orchestrate the best doctors, hospitals, outcomes, healing and recovery possible. I doubt I could have survived without believing that, no matter how muddled my thinking and my emotions often were.

What a journey. After each surgery, I was euphoric, full of gratitude, awed by my husband’s courage and determination. I felt God’s mercy and appreciated the skillful medical specialists He worked through. God really loves us, He really cares about us, I thought repeatedly. When the euphoria wore off, we were left to confront so many difficult adjustments in the aftermath of disease and surgical devastation. I wondered, do I really trust God? If so, why did the intense emotional pain and confusion sporadically reappear? Why did my emotions torque from one end of the spectrum to another like a kite on a windy day?

I prayed incessantly as I made my case for mercy and healing, wondering if I was being heard, yet painfully aware I had no place else to go. I’ve always been squeamish, with a deeply rooted fear and discomfort in hospitals and medical settings, yet I remained firmly planted by my husband’s side. Slowly, the shock of what happened was replaced by greater awareness of God’s presence all around us in the form of kind nurses who exhibited great compassion and care; in volunteers who bought me books and tea; and especially in my husband’s humble acceptance and appreciation of everything being done to help him. I tried to string together the minutes that were devoid of worry or fear.

What does it really mean to be a practicing, believing Jew? Would I succeed in forging a relationship with Him? Until we went through this life changing experience, I never understood how important and necessary it was for me to be able to spill out the entire contents of my mind and heart and give all my anger, disappointment, unhappiness, worry and fear to God. I held nothing back. Allowing myself to be totally vulnerable and real with God saved me exploding in rage and turning away completely and losing my faith.

Though I kept stumbling and hitting my reset button, I was trusting Him to take care of us even when we didn’t like what He was dishing, when we thought it was unfair, horrible, uncomfortable and incomprehensible. It was all true, but I came to understand that nothing I felt or expressed pushed God further away; paradoxically it only bought us closer. My honest expressions made my faith in Him stronger as I learned there was nothing I could ever say or do that would sever our relationship as long as I kept Him close and trusted in Him.

My husband’s encouraging prognosis and slow progress became palpable, exciting. Fear, worry, and doubt no longer eclipsed my gratitude and recognition of God’s hand working to heal my husband, keep our family afloat, and fuel the hospital’s competent and caring staff as we eased into our next steps. No longer was I questioning why God would allow such an evil thing to occur, but was instead clinging to Him for help to guide and direct us. I realized it had been vital for me to question God and express my anger and outrage to Him because it meant I no longer felt resentful about the challenges and pain our family endured. That was the process through which my anger, resentment and disappointment were removed, leaving a stronger relationship in their place, based on my ability to be honest with God about how I felt, and what I needed from Him.

We entered the next phase of our journey – looking forward to our new life and the next set of challenges, and the skills to grow and maximize the opportunities that God was now showing us.

I’m a Special Education teacher, a detail my husband credited God with having inserted into the equation to encourage our resilience to accept our new reality and recognize our potential. By learning to accept what we perceived as different, we slowly learned to show ourselves love, tolerance, and acceptance that emulate the way God loves us.

Not being able to speak is a challenging disability. We were told that after his throat healed, my husband could opt to learn a new way to speak, but before his discharge from the hospital, he received a mechanical device called an electrolarynx. Eager to talk rather than write, the speech pathologist asked what he wanted to say to me. I stood by his side, breathless and excited.

Fascinated, I watched him study the apparatus, place it against his throat and turn to face me. With a twinkle in his eye he didn’t hesitate to say exactly what was on his mind. “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”

That was it. I laughed so hard until the tears splashed over my eyelids and down my cheeks. I laughed so much it hurt to keep laughing, but felt too good to stop. I thought I’d forgotten how to laugh and it made me feel so alive.

We were encouraged by other people we connected with online who’d had the same surgery. After our radiation treatments were complete, a wonderful speech therapist taught us esophageal speech. As a result of my husband’s incredible determination, it is somewhat mind boggling that he learned an entirely new and different way to speak and is well understood.

Forced to retire as one of our region’s most beloved surgeons, he devotes himself to learning Torah. I am grateful for my husband’s kind demeanor and humility. Despite having gone through so much, he recognizes God as having orchestrated things perfectly. His simple faith is both stunning and inspiring.

I started volunteering at an inner-city hospital, deriving such joy at distracting and momentarily cheering up patients stuck there. While visiting as many patients as possible each week, in my efforts to give others what we most needed when we were in their place, I feel I am acknowledging and attempting to repay my debt of gratitude at the miraculous care my husband received and the healing God granted him.

It’s not that I like being back in the hospital every week; actually, I despise it. But then how else could I be there to offer others what we needed most: distraction and a moment of lightness and joy at a time when it may be the last thing you’d expect, but possibly the thing you need most. With a small flower glued to my nose, I step far outside of my comfort zone each week along with my fellow hospital clowns, performing red foam nose transplants; making children smile, encouraging anxious family and friends in the waiting rooms, distracting terrified babies with bubbles and our special light-up thumbs.

I can’t believe I get to do this work. It keeps me focused not on how low and lonely a person can be when things seem dark and stormy, but how high you can soar if you let God lift you up. I have no shame that I doubted God’s plan, and I no longer wonder if feeling angry and questioning God meant I didn’t really trust Him. I know now that in reality, my personal dialogue with God removed the distance and the interruptions I experienced in our relationship. Dislodging those thoughts brought me closer to Him. (www.aish.com)

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Lech Lecho 5777 Inspiration


In this week’s parasha the Ramban offers us a powerful lesson related to the current Presidential elections. The Torah states that there was a hunger in the Land of Canaan and Abraham left with his wife Sara and they descended to Egypt where there was food. The Ramban finds fault with Avraham’s conduct, condemning Avraham for allowing his wife to be placed in danger and also for leaving the Land when HaShem had promised the Land to Abraham’s descendants. Avraham, writes the Ramban, should not have been afraid and he should have maintained his faith in HaShem that everything would work out for the best. The Medrash (Tanchumah 9) states that מעשה אבות סימן לבנים, everything that happened to the fathers is a sign for the children. The Ramban goes so far as to posit that based on this Medrash, the Jewish People were punished in that they were required to go into the Egyptian Exile, be enslaved and persecuted, similar to what occurred to Avraham.

After the recent Presidential election, many people are filled with fear, both the fear of physical suffering that could occur to minorities and others who are vulnerable, coupled with the fear of losing their liberties. While such fears must be validated and not mocked, we must look to the Torah for guidance, not the sensational media. Avraham Avinu, our exalted Patriarch, was held accountable for making a reasonable effort in time of famine and danger to his life. We, who live in the democratic country of the United States, can certainly use this opportunity to rely on HaShem that He will continue to watch over us and allow us to serve Him freely without oppression from the outside world.

Have a SAFE and TRUSTING Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Lech Lecho 5777 Inspiration

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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Lech Lecho 5777


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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Lech Lecho 5776

No Evil on Shabbos

Introduction

In this week’s parashah the Torah records a dispute between Avraham and his nephew Lot. Avraham discovers that Lot is allowing his shepherds to graze the sheep in other people’s property. It is said (Bereishis 13:8-9) vayomer Avram el Lot al na sehi mirivah baini uveinceho uvein roay uvein roecha ki anashim achim anachnu, halo chol haaretz lefeonecho hipared na maalay im hasemol vaiminah veim hayamin viasmeilah. So Avram said to Lot; “Please let there be no strife between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not all the land before you? Please separate from me; If you go left then I will go right, and if you go right then I will go left.” The commentators wonder what happened to Lot, who at the time that Avraham set out on his journey, was righteous. How could Lot have turned sour so suddenly? The standard answer to this puzzle is that Lot was blinded by the wealth that he gained in Egypt. Once a person becomes wealthy, his worldview changes, and Lot was no different. What is interesting is that Avraham chose to abandon Lot at this juncture. Although no one seeks strife, it is difficult to understand why Avraham did not attempt to reconcile his differences with Lot regarding the grazing of the sheep. The Torah merely states that immediately subsequent to the quarrel, Avraham requested from Lot that he depart from his midst. It would seem that Avraham felt that until now Lot was dependent on him, whereas now, with his newly acquired wealth, Lot would be able to fend for himself. This being the case, Avraham decided that he could no longer tolerate Lot’s presence. This idea is reflected in the words of the Ramban (Shemos 19:1), who writes that it is likely that HaShem only gave the Torah to the Jewish People and the Erev Rav (the rabble that left Egypt-see Rashi to Shemos 12:38) were separated from the Jewish People. This teaches us that when the righteous are on a mission, they must separate themselves from evil.

The Shabbos Connection

Similarly, in the prayer of Kegavna that is recited Friday night by those who pray Nusach Sefard, it is said: when the Shabbos arrives, she unifies Herself in Oneness and divests herself of the Other Side (any trace of impurity); all harsh judgments are removed from her, and she remains alone with the Oneness of the holy light… All wrathful dominions and bearers of grievance flee together-and there is no power but she in all the worlds. Despite the fact that during the week we may encounter people and ideologies that bespeak evil, on the Holy Shabbos there is no place for evil. Given the fact that we have just emerged refreshed and purified from the Yomim Noraim, the Days of Awe, and the great joy of Sukkos and Simchas Torah, it is worth taking stock of how we honor the Shabbos. I once heard a Rav say that we are prohibited from bringing into the Sukkah utensils that will violate the sanctity of the Sukkah. Yet, are we as particular as to what we allow into our homes?! The same principle should apply with regard to the Holy Shabbos. We welcome the Shabbos by declaring that HaShem is our King and that Shabbos is the source of all blessing. In order to be true recipients of that blessing, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we do not engage in mundane talk on Shabbos and that we are preoccupied with prayer, Torah study and offering songs and praises to HaShem. In this manner we will surely merit to honor and delight in the wonderful gift of Shabbos that HaShem bestowed only upon His Chosen People, and then we will merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, and a place in the World to Come, which will be a day that will be completely Shabbos and rest day for eternal life.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Kel Mistater

This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)

בְּרֵאשִׁית תּוֹרָתְךָ הַקְּדוּמָה. רְשׁוּמָה חָכְמָתְךָ הַסְּתוּמָה, in the beginning there was Your preexisting Torah, inscribed with Your mysterious wisdom. While we acknowledge that HaShem’s wisdom is a mystery, we must be also cognizant of the fact that HaShem has granted His Beloved Nation the ability to plumb the depths of the Holy Torah. Indeed, Dovid HaMelech prayed (Tehillim 119:18) גַּל עֵינַי וְאַבִּיטָה נִפְלָאוֹת מִתּוֹרָתֶךָ, unveil my eyes that I may perceive wonders from Your Torah.

Shabbos Stories

Shabbos Food from Heaven!

There was once a salesman from Deal, New Jersey, whose business required him to travel around the country for several weeks at a time. He was an observant Jew, and he always tried to schedule his trips around stops for the Sabbath in places where kosher food was more readily available. This way he could stock up for the coming week. One of his usual stops for Shabbos was in Memphis, Tennessee. On one of his trips to Birmingham, Alabama, he contacted the president of a company which he was hoping to get an account with. His attempts in the previous years had been unsuccessful. However, this particular year he was pleasantly surprised. The president wanted to meet with him, and he made an appointment for that day. Unfortunately, the president was in a meeting which took longer than he had expected, and the salesman was told to return the next morning, which was Friday. The same scene repeated itself the next morning, and the salesman needed to get to Memphis, pick up his food, and check into his hotel before sundown. He burst into the president’s office and told him it was now or never. He received a small order, and left. He made it to Memphis too late to get his food, but he decided to at least spend the Sabbath in the better hotel across the street. Embittered by the “mess” he had gotten himself into he took a room and began to unpack. To his utter disbelief, he found in the closet of room a certified kosher meal enough to serve ten people. He even found wine! He could not imagine where it came from, but it had obviously been abandoned. He thanked G-d for the wonderful gift and enjoyed the Sabbath. Some weeks later he was back home with some friends, and he overheard them speaking about their trip to Memphis, and how it had been cut short by a health problem. “What ever happened to all that food we brought in?” one of them said. The salesman interrupted. “I know what happened to it.” All eyes were now on him. “I ate it.” [The story is taken from the book Visions of Greatness, by Rabbi Yosef Weiss.]

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

Activities Affected by These Prohibitions 

Cleaning a Wet Surface

One may clean an area that is slightly wet with a dry rag. On the other hand, one may not clean an extremely wet area with a dry rag, as the water will saturate the rag and will, in turn, be squeezed out.

One must use discretion in this matter, as that amount of water needed to saturate varies from item to item. Therefore, one should not wipe or scrub a wet surface unless one is certain that no sechita will occur.

Note: One may never use a sponge on Shabbos, as mentioned earlier. In addition, we will see later that sponges are deemed to be muktza.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Lech Lecho 5777

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה     ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.and as a zechus לרפואה שלימה חיה דינה חביבה בת שושנה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.

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Have a Wonderful Shabbos!

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New Stories Lech Lecho 5777

My Husband’s Broken Collarbone

And my lesson in self-centeredness.

by Emuna Braverman

My husband broke his collarbone last week.

We wanted to create some really exciting story about the black diamond ski slope he was on in the Swiss Alps or the mountain he was rappelling down or the sharks he was swimming with, but he was actually just jogging in the neighborhood and tripped. He landed in such a perfectly wrong position that surgery was required in order to reattach all the tendons. It’s a long recovery with no carrying or lifting and, for the moment, no driving (thank God for Uber!), but in the end, thankfully it’s just a hassle. It’s not life threatening and it doesn’t prevent him from working.

Despite this optimistic outlook, I have to confess that I was feeling a little sorry for myself. It happened during Sukkot so I was walking around the last days schlepping tables and chairs in and out of the house and bags of garbage and recycling etc. etc. and complaining about it all. The words “I have to do everything around here!” may not have actually escaped my lips (I am able to exercise a modicum of self-control after all) but I sure thought them.

I was in that grumpy mood when I met a friend for lunch last week. She is someone with whom I have a wonderful connection but we don’t see each other that often, so I was looking forward to catching up. I told myself that I wasn’t going to say anything about my husband – it wasn’t that big a deal, I wasn’t looking for pity and/or compassion (Okay, yes I was!) and the conversation didn’t need to revolve around me.

She was busy on her phone when I arrived and asked how she was. “I’m dealing with something,” she said cryptically, “but first let’s hear about you.” I couldn’t have asked for a better opening. I was off to the races – the broken collarbone, the surgical procedure, the ramifications for my husband and for me – although I did try to keep the whiny, complaining tone out of my voice.

And it was a good thing I did. When I stopped to catch my breath she filled me in on her family news. “My husband needs a kidney transplant” she burst out.

“Whoa,” I said, “now I’m really embarrassed. You let me go on and on about this broken clavicle and you’re dealing with this?”

I was mortified. As our conversation continued it turned out that the procedure for getting a kidney is much more complicated than I realized. There are a whole series of matches and donations, all of which have to work perfectly in order for a patient to receive a compatible kidney. As we sat down to eat, she had just received a text that there was a slight glitch with one of the donors and a possibility that the surgery would be postponed.

Luckily I only ordered soup because I lost my appetite. She was calmly outlining the details of this serious medical situation affecting her family and I had allowed myself down the rabbit hole of self-pity over a broken collarbone? The Almighty is always right there, right next to me, giving me that wake-up call, that reality check, that little zetz that I need, to keep me focused on what really matters and to remind me to have a positive attitude.

I am concerned for my friend and her husband and I am praying that everything goes smoothly. Not only has focusing on her situation taken my attention away from mine but it provided me with that much needed perspective. I’m just sorry it was at their expense. I can still get a little grumpy. I can still wonder why “no one” is helping. I can still feel a little frustrated. But now I stop myself. Now I focus on how grateful I am that the accident was relatively minor, as was the surgery – and that, thank God, there is surgery available for these types of injuries.

The tendency to focus on self is so great and the effort needed to overcome it is proportionate, but the Almighty in His great love (much to my chagrin – and joy) is constantly putting me in situations where I am nudged to overcome my self-centeredness. And grumble just a little bit less. (www.aish.com)

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Noach 5777 Inspiration


In this week’s parasha we learn about the דור הפלגה, the Generation of Dispersion. The commentators struggle to understand their sin. The simple reading of the verses does not give us any indication of rebellion against HaShem. Yet, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 38:6) states that the people’s intention was to mount an attack on HaShem by building a city and a tower. Once the tower would be completed, they would hoist an idol to the top of the tower with a sword in its hand and the idol would engage HaShem in battle. Really now! The Medrash (Ibid 38:1) takes their nefarious plans one step further, stating that they also planned on placing supports for the heavens to prevent another flood. This sounds preposterous but the Medrash tells us what occurred. The Ramban cites the Medrash that states that the people of this generation were sons of Adam HaRishon, and the Ramban interprets the Medrash to mean that they were קוצץ בנטיעות, literally translated as cutting down branches, similar to the sin of Adam HaRishon eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. This is clearly a Kabbalistic teaching, but it offers us insight into how far the people were willing to go to defy HaShem’s dominion.

On a practical level, however, we can suggest that the people’s approach was similar to the modern day forms of entertainment, where people get caught up in the idolization of celebrities and sporting events. Like the Tower of Bavel, where everyone was certainly cheering for the winning team down on earth, in modern times people often take their infatuations to heart. The Medrash (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 24) states that if a person involved in building the Tower would fall and die, no one paid attention, but if a brick fell, they would cry and say, “when will we able to replace the fallen brick with another?” In our times, people discuss and debate endlessly what will be the outcome of a major sporting event or similar ideas. While apparently nothing is gained or lost from these discussions, the truth is that the loss is profound. HaShem created man, and even more so the Jewish People, with the purpose of placing all their energies into serving HaShem with all their faculties. Fun and relaxation are only maidservants to Torah study and mitzvah observance.

The Medrash tells us that the people building the Tower were fiercely united in their mission. Can there be a greater expression of unity than more than fifty thousand people yelling their lungs out at a sporting event? Yet, when people lose themselves and begin to forget about their purpose here on earth, the sword in hand ready to engage HaShem in battle is not so distant. We must remember that every episode that is recorded in the Torah is here for is to glean lessons. Unity, yes, but unity for the right purpose in serving HaShem.

I once heard Rabbi Zev Leff, Shlita, comment on the luxurious lifestyles that some Jews lead in America. Rabbi Leff said, “HaShem sent us into exile as a punishment and atonement for our sins, and now we’re exploring the גלות?

Let those words suffice to bring us back to the service of HaShem, and in that merit HaShem will have compassion on us and redeem us from this long and bitter exile,with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Have a DOWN TO EARTH and HEAVENWARD ASPIRATIONAL Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Noach 5777 Inspiration

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.and as a zechus לרפואה שלימה חיה דינה חביבה בת שושנה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5777


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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5776

Noach and Shabbos

Introduction

This week the Torah discusses Noach, a person who is depicted as a righteous person and who is saved from the Great Flood that destroyed the populated world. Noach appears to be a mystery, however, as the commentators and even the Medrash struggle to understand what it was about Noach that he merited salivation. One Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 29:1) even goes so far to say that Noach himself should have been destroyed, but he found favor in HaShem’s eyes and thus he was saved.

Question:

Why does the Torah elaborate on the sins of the Generation of the Flood?

Let us understand what occurred in the Generation of Noach and then we can begin to gain an appreciation for Noach’s salvation. The Medrash and the Gemara tell us that the Generation of the Flood was corrupt and immoral. Yet, we know that the Torah does not enumerate the sins of mankind just for the sake of running a daily blotter. The Torah is coming to teach us how to act, so what lesson is there for us to learn from the behavior of that generation?

Answer part 1:

Rashi in Devarim offers us a brand-new perspective on the behavior of the Generation of the Flood.

There is an interesting Rashi that may pass under the radar screen regarding Noach and the people of his generation but it would seem that within this Rashi is the key to the whole puzzle. In the parasha of shema that we read twice daily, it is said (Devarim 11:16-17) hishamru lachem pen yifteh livavchem visartem vaavaditem elohim acheirim vihishtachavisem lahem vicharah af HaShem bachem viatzar es hashamayim vilo yihyeh matar vihaadama lo sitein es yevulah vaavaditem miheira meial haaretz hatovah asher HaShem nosein lachem, lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and prostrate yourselves to them. Then the wrath of HaShem will blaze against you; He will restrain the heaven so there will be no rain, and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will be swiftly banished from the goodly Land that HaShem gives you.

Rashi comments that from the fact that the Torah states that the Jewish People will be swiftly banished, we learn that HaShem will not tolerate the iniquity of the people. Why, then, did HaShem tolerate the misdeeds of the Generation of the Flood for one hundred and twenty years? Rashi answers that the Generation of the Flood did not have who to learn from, whereas the Jewish People had who to learn from.

Answer part 2

Two questions on Rashi in Devarim

This Rashi should strike us as puzzling. First, what does it mean that the Generation of the Flood did not have who to learn from? Were those people created wicked and without any conscience that we could say that they were helpless? Furthermore, Rashi tells us in this week’s parasha that HaShem instructed Noach to build the Ark for one hundred and twenty years so they should see him building it. When they would ask Noach regarding the purpose of the Ark, Noach would respond that HaShem was bringing a flood to the world and they should repent. How can it be said that they did not have who to learn from?

Answer part 3

Hashem only made a pact with the Jewish People.

The answer to this question is that although he Generation of the Flood could have learned from Noach how to serve HaShem, it would have been futile, because HaShem did not make a pact with that generation. In fact, it is noteworthy that it was specifically with Noach that HaShem made several pacts to ensure his survival. Regarding the Jewish People, however, HaShem had promised the Patriarchs that He would give them the Land of Israel, but this pact was conditional on the Jewish People observing the Torah. Were the Jewish People to violate this agreement, they would immediately be banished from the Land.

Answer part 4

Noach was only deserving of a pact for himself and not for his generation.

Rashi points out in the beginning of the parashah several contrasts between Noach and Avraham. One difference between them is that Noach needed HaShem to help him spiritually whereas Avraham was able to walk by himself. One must wonder, though, why there is a need to contrast Noach with Avraham. It would seem that the contrast is teaching us something regarding the reason that HaShem only saved Noach and not his generation. The explanation for this is that while Noach was seeking spiritual growth, he did not demonstrate a great concern for his generations or even for future generations. This idea is highlighted by the fact that the Torah states that he was a righteous and perfect man in his generations, i.e. he only was concerned for himself and not is generation or for future generations. Avraham, however, walked ahead, i.e. he was looking for the future of his generation. It was for this reason that Avraham prayed that Sodom and Amorah not be destroyed, as Avraham presumed that there would be some potential for good that would arise from the inhabitants of those cities. Hashem saw that Avraham was concerned for the people of his own generation and future generations, and HaShem specifically made a pact with Avraham, referred to as The Pact of the Parts.

Summary of answer

We have seen that Noach perfected himself but in a sense he abandoned his generation and future generations. Hashem will save a righteous person for his own merits, but the generation could not possibly be saved, as they did not have who to learn from. They could have watched Noach build the Ark and then reflect upon their misdeeds, but they could not learn from Noach how to save others. Although this may sound strange, the truth is that every person has a societal pull, and unless he sees people who are attempting to help others, it will be very difficult to help himself. Avraham, however, maintained that one has to be concerned about others, both in the present and in the future. It was for this reason that HaShem made a pact with Avraham only.

The Shabbos connection

What does Noach have to do with Shabbos? The Zohar states that Noach is in the category of Shabbos. In a simple sense this means that the word Noach means menuchah, rest, and Shabbos also means rest. On a deeper level, however, perhaps the association between Noach and Shabbos is that Shabbos is a part from the rest of the week. One must always seek to reach out to others, but at the same time one has to be careful not to be influenced by other’s misdeeds. In this regard Noach is compared to Shabbos, as it is logical to suppose that Noach did not wish to be influenced by their corruption and immorality. HaShem should allow us to reach out to our fellow Jews and to observe the Shabbos in a state of holiness and purity.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Kel Mistater

This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)

עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת מוּכְתַּר בְּכֶתֶר עֶלְיוֹן. כֶּתֶר יִתְּנוּ לְךָ יְ-ה-ֹו-ָה, Primary Cause, crowned with the most exalted crown – they give You a crown, O HaShem. We can interpret this passage in the following manner. The Maharal writes that the reason we pray is so that we show our dependence on HaShem. When we pray, writes the Baal HaTurim (Devarim 26:19) we are crowning HaShem, and in the future HaShem will return those crowns to us. Thus, HaShem, Who is the Primary Cause and we are dependent on Him, is crowned with the most exalted crown, the crown that we give Him when we pray.

 Shabbos Stories

Belief in HaShem

Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, Rav of Congregation Kehillas Zichron Mordechai, tells the following story. In a small town there was a severe drought. The community synagogues each prayed separately for rain, but to no avail. The tears and prayers failed to unlock the sealed heavens, and for months, no rains came. Finally, the town’s eldest sage held a meeting with prominent community rabbis and lay leaders. “There are two items lacking in our approach, faith and unity. Each one of you must impress upon his congregation the need to believe. If we are united and sincere, our prayers will be answered!” He declared that all the synagogues in the city would join together for a day of tefillah. Everyone, men women and children would join together for this event. “I assure you,” he exclaimed, “that if we meet both criteria – faith and unity – no one will leave that prayer service without getting drenched!”

There was no shul large enough to contain the entire community so the date was set to gather and daven in a field! For the next few weeks all the rabbis spoke about bitachon and achdus (faith and unity). On the designated day the entire town gathered in a large field whose crops had long withered from the severe drought. Men, women, and children all gathered and anxiously awaited the old sage to begin the service. The elderly rabbi walked up to the podium. His eyes scanned the tremendous crowd that filled the large field and then they dimmed in dismay. The rabbi began shaking his head in dissatisfaction. “This will never work,” he moaned dejectedly. “The rain will not come.” Slowly he left the podium. The other rabbis on the dais were shocked.

“But rebbe everyone is here and they are all united! Surely they must believe that the rains will fall! Otherwise no one would have bothered to come on a working day!” The rabbi shook his head slowly and sadly. “No. They don’t really believe,” he stated. “I scanned the entire crowd. Nobody even brought a raincoat.” (www.Torah.org)

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

Activities Affected by These Prohibitions

 Cleaning a Dirty Surface

One is prohibited to rub a dirty surface with a wet rag (or any other wet material) because, while cleaning, water will be squeezed from the rag. However, one may use a damp rag from which the water cannot be wrung.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Noach 5777

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New Stories Noach 5777

A True Jewish Baseball Hero

Meet the most inspiring player of this World Series season.

by Ilana Rubenstein

The Cubs and the Indians may be battling for the World Series title, but I know a young man who is this season’s true baseball hero. Meet Josh Schwartz *, a regular 6th grader at a local public school in Toronto. Only, he’s not so regular: he keeps Shabbat. Which means that even though he has a passion for baseball (and quite the throwing arm), he can’t join the local league – their games are all on Shabbat. It also means that when the school team was slated to play this fall, his parents made sure none of their games were on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

First round he pitched five games and his team made it to the conference finals. Amazing. Josh pitched a 2-hour game in the rain. And pitch he did, leading his team to a 6-0 victory. It’s the stuff baseball dreams are made of; they were going to the city tournament. But here’s the clincher: the tournament was scheduled for Simchat Torah. And suddenly Josh’s dream-come-true turned into a nightmare. How could he let his team down? How could he miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

While the school board had been aware of the “major Jewish holidays,” Simchat Torah was deemed a “minor festival”. And just like that, Josh was faced with his Sandy Koufax moment. He and his parents talked it over. Yes, some of his Jewish team mates would be at that game; he would be the only one missing. But observing the holidays was not a sometimes kind of commitment. The baseball field was over an hour’s drive away; there was no way to get to the game and play while observing Simchat Torah. Staying true to his values meant only one thing: he could not play. And so with a heavy heart, Josh told his team and school.

I’m not sure how many of us could stand by our convictions with a team depending on us and the lure of winning. Would you try to bend the rules? Find some wiggle room or make a “just-this-once” exception? But Josh stood strong. And then he received a call from the school principal: he had taken matters in hand – the tournament date was changed to Friday. And not only that, the school board was beginning a process where all Jewish holidays would be marked as “the same level of significance” on the calendar, ensuring this struggle will hopefully never be repeated.

Josh may have simply been standing by his own values, but he won a victory far beyond his 11 years.

Whichever team wins four games will take the World Champion title. Here are four winning lessons we can all take to heart from Josh’s victory:

  1. The real winning happens off the field

Josh might have been focusing on his curve ball, but just like most pro-athletes, he learned that what happens between games is also crucial. Michael Jordan knows this well. He was cut from his high school varsity team, wasn’t recruited by his choice college and wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him. Jordan remarks, “the mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have”. It’s easy to look at what happens when the world is keeping score, but it’s how we navigate the in-between challenges that defines our mental toughness. We might not be baseball players, but we can all dig deep into our hearts when life throws us challenges.

  1. When we do the right thing we inspire others

There is something truly amazing about someone who stands in their truth. No excuses. No apologies. Simply living according to their values. It is even more amazing when sticking to those values means swimming against the popular current. And that’s exactly what Josh did, and why his principal went to bat for him. When we are brave enough to do the right thing, we create the possibility for others to do so as well.

  1. Sometimes holding the line is the kindest thing

It was not easy for Josh to make this decision. It was equally challenging for his parents. It might have been tempting to compromise “just this once”. Like the child who begs for one more cookie, it’s harder to stick to saying ‘no’ than it is to give in and say ‘yes’. Sticking to the lines we draw for ourselves and our relationships is a true act of love. When we maintain the perimeters we commit to, we allow those we love to rise to the occasion. Had Josh’s parents wobbled on this point, he never would have achieved such greatness.

  1. Our greatest victories happen when no one is cheering

When Josh’s team won, the crowd went wild. Granted, it was mostly parents and friends in the stands, but the cheers and applause were infectious. Talk about a feel-good moment. We all love validation, hearing we’ve done a good job. But no one was cheering when Josh was struggling to decide he wouldn’t be playing on Simchat Torah. The truth is, most of our life defining moments will happen in the quiet of our homes, the privacy of our relationships. No one will do the wave when we are patient with a child or give us a round of applause when we struggle to take the higher road. But, like Josh, we will know our private victories.

I am watching the World Series but I already know who is the true winner this baseball season: a young man who stood up to the world and proclaimed, “I am a Jew and that comes before baseball.” Now that deserves a standing ovation.

*The family requested to use a pseudonym. (www.aish.com)

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