Commentary on the Haggadah based on the writings of the Chofetz Chaim Zt”l: 5773

“Tzai Ulimad” (Go out and learn)

The Hagadah is telling us that we should go out and learn about Galus.
The Chofetz Chaim asks a few questions about Galus:
What can we learn from the way the Avos went to Galus?
What was the reason the descendants of Avraham Avinu had to go to Galus?
It was a punishment to Avraham Avinu because Avraham did not believe in Hashem completely. When Hashem promised Avraham that his children will get Eretz Yisroel, Avraham asked, “How do I know that they will inherit it?”
Why did Yaakov have to go to Mitzrayim for Galus? Why couldn’t he just fulfill the gezairah  (decree) of galus and stay in the house of Lavan in Aramam Naharayim?
Yaakov kept all the mitzvos of the Torah and he was very careful to be honest in that difficult situation so he was zoche to be saved from Lavan. Lavan would have been even more cruel to the Bnei Yiseroel than Pharaoh. This is what it means when the Hagaddah said, “Lavan tried to destroy everything.”
Why was it that Yosef went to Galus in a spice caravan?
Why did the brothers of Yosef go to Mitzrayim subservient to Yosef?
Why did Yaakov go to Mitzrayim in a royal carriage?
The Chofetz syas that we learn from here that each person gets exactly what he deserves based on his words and actions.  Yosef said Lashon Harah about his brothers but was otherwise a Tzaddik so he was treated one way.
Yaakov kept all the Torah and Mitzvos so he went down royally.
However, since he spoke harshly to Rochel, Rochel’s son, Yosef, was put in a position of authority over all of Yaakov’s other children.
We learn from here that we should think twice before we say or do anything because Hashem is going to deal with us Midah K’neged Midah (measure for measure). So let’s make it all good. It’s up to us.

 “Li’ feechuch Chayavim Anachnu L’Hodose”  (Therefore we are obligated to say thank you)

Rabbi Ben-Tzion Baruk z”tl once slept in the same room as the Chofetz Chaim. He said that before he went to sleep, he heard the Chofetz Chaim thanking Hashem for every detail of his life.

He said, “Thank you Hashem for helping me when I was an orphan child.
Thank you Hashem for allowing me to print Sefarim.
Thank you Hashem for giving me good children and son-in-laws etc.
The Chofetz Chaim learns from a Medrash how important it is to have Hakaros Hatov and to say Thank you.
The Medrash asks, “Why did Moshe Rabeinu go back to Yisro after Hashem told him he should go back to Mitzrayim to take out the Bnei Yisroel?
The Medrash answers, Moshe Rabbeinu needed to return to Yisro because he had Hakaros Hatov to Yisro for taking care of him in Midyan.   Even though his mission was of such vital importance, he could not begin his journey to take Bnei Yisroel to get the Torah without good Middos. He had to first get permission from Yisro and say thank you before he went on his important mission. We see from here how important it is to have good Middos all the time.


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Purim 5774: 14 Adar 5774/ March 16, 2014

Why is Purim celebrated on two different days?  Why is there a day called Shushan Purim?  The Megillah tells of how the people of Shushan extended their battle one day longer than any other area in the kingdom.  We can understand, therefore, why the city of Shushan should keep the following day as the day to remember the salvation from the decree of Haman; it is a special day for the city of Shushan.  Shushan Purim is a day designated by our sages to remember the miracles and salvation that were unique to the city of Shushan.  There, in the capital city, the Jews had to fight for their lives on the fourteenth day of Adar.  They were not able to rest from the threat of the decrees of Haman until the fifteenth day of the month of Adar.  For them, it is appropriate to fulfill the four Mitzvohs of Purim on the fifteenth.  It was on this day that all the darkness of exile was eliminated and the love of Hashem clearly felt.  Hashem’s careful, watchful, guiding hand throughout history became readily apparent. The Jews of Shushan were now able to join their fellow brethren in issuing a collective sigh of relief from the evil plans of Haman.  If so, what does this have to do with Yerushalayim, the fighting for the Jews of Yerushalayim ceased on the thirteenth and they were able to rest on the fourteenth; so they should celebrate Purim on the fourteenth day of Adar?  The Ran expresses the reason in a single pithy statement,  “because of the honor of the land of Israel”.  Our sages found it appropriate to include all cities that had a wall around them from the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun in the same category as Shushan.  This of course begs the question: What does the honor of the land of Israel have to do with commemorating the salvation from Haman?  In order to understand this law, Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita takes us on a journey that begins with the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai and ends by bringing us to an uplifting understanding of our relationship to G-d and His Torah.

When the Torah was offered to us at Har Sinai, we accepted it willingly, with the famous words of, “We will do and we will listen.” This, however, is only half of the story.  The Talmud teaches us that G-d had to give us an ultimatum: either you accept the Torah or you will all be buried under this mountain.  He held the mountain over our heads and coerced us into complete acceptance of His law.  There are many varied interpretations, explanations and elucidations of this astonishing Talmud.  The path that Rav Moshe Shapiro takes is a path that leads us to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Jew.

“Easy come easy go”, is a cliché that would fit well to describe the nature of our acceptance of the Torah of our own volition.  The brutal truth of being coerced into towing the line was a necessary element for our fledgling nation in order to have a long term connection to Torah.  The excitement and jubilation born from the womb of an exodus with such awe inspiring open miracles was a high that would not last.  Had our connection to Torah only been under the shining light of G-d’s beneficence, then our connection to the land of Israel and G-d Himself could wrongly be assumed to only be valid under such glowing circumstances.  Such a relationship could be well understood and governed by a written law with prophets readily available to guide us through any questions.   How were we to continue this relationship when weakness and infidelity reared their ugly heads in our faith and devotion to G-d?  Would it be a calamitous end to a nice thing or could our relationship be given the power it would need to weather the storms of human impropriety?  To this end, G-d set up our relationship under the auspices of coercion.  Yes, you are my beloved and I am in this for the long haul.  The Jewish nation did not appreciate the truth of this until they were thrown into exile by Nebuchadnezzar.   It was then, for the first time, that they began to wonder if they would ever be going back to being in G-d’s warm loving embrace.  They had blown it, boy had they blown it!  After repeated warnings, admonitions and numerous prophesies, the exile came.   Never since our days in Egypt had we felt so abandoned.  Our national self-image took a nose dive.  How were we to get out of this predicament?  Our low self-esteem led many to join the party at which Achashveirosh took out the vessels of the Bais Hamikdash and declared: Shushan is now the capital of the known world.  The Jews will never return to their former glory.  Their connection to G-d, their Land and their Torah is over.  Against this trend stood Mordechai and Esther, and, with their heads held high, they declared: we will go back. Our relationship is just going through a difficult stage.  We and G-d are bound together with tethers that can be shaken but not severed.  When we entered the land in the time of Yehoshua, we entered it to stay.  Our sojourn in Persia is just a temporary crucible that is purifying us from the evils of man.  By holding steadfast to the laws of the Torah, we show that we can rise out of the ashes and reignite our souls; we are worthy of returning to our land, the land of our forefathers.  By awakening the Jews to repent and recommit themselves to Torah, Mitzvohs, and kindness, they reignited within them this everlasting eternal bond with G-d.  G-d, in turn, showed how he never really left us and He is always running the show whether it is readily apparent to us or not.   This is the lesson of Shushan, its party, its decree, and its battle.  It was a royal battle, more so in the heart and soul of every Jew then on the battle field.  When the internal battle was won; when we showed that we had faith in G-d, His Torah, and in ourselves; we showed that really, every city in Israel, from the time Yehoshua conquered it, is, was and will be in our possession forever.

We now understand that the day of celebration for the Jews of Shushan was a day on which they could hope to return once again to the sights and sounds of Yerushalayim.  For us, here in exile still, it behooves us to take pause and join in on the day of Purim, number one, and on the day of Shushan Purim as well, and think about our everlasting loving relationship with G-d.  For when it may look like there is an insurmountable mountain ahead, that may just be the catalyst that we need for growth.

This Issue is Dedicated by:

 Harry and Rosalind Pomerantz

Happy Purim!!

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Dvar Torah for Chanukah 5774

In Maoz Tzur we say,

“L’ais Tachin Matbaiach Mitzar Ha’ Menabayach.” 

“We will have a new Chanukas Hamizbaiach when   we will be saved from an enemy that barks.”

What does this mean and who is it talking about?

Rav Moshe Shapiro answers that this is talking about the Exile under the kingdom of Edom.

Why is the Exile of Edom called the enemy that barks?

Rav Moshe Shapiro explains that a dog has the attribute of Azus or Chutzpah (impertinence) and that it is called a chutzpadike animal because it goes into places that it does not belong.  Edom learned this Middah of Chutzpah from Yavan, they went into places that they did not belong.  (i.e. the Bais HaMikdash)

How can we help defeat Edom and bring about the final Chanukas Hamizbayach?

There is another animal that has the Middah of Azus.  The Leopard, but it uses this attribute only for good.  As it says in Pirkei Avos, ‘you should be brave like a leopard to serve Hashem’.  The Chashmonaiim used this middah in the right way to defeat the Yevaniim.   Rav Moshe Shapiro explains that the way for Yidden to overcome Yavan and Edom is to use the Middah of Azus in the right way.  We need to use the Middah of Azus to be brave to go to places that will help us grow in our Avodas Hashem, even if it is hard.

We can understand his answer with a story about a dog.

Once upon a time there were two brothers who lived in Rochester, New York.

In order to get to their Yeshiva they had to walk through a bad neighborhood.  At the beginning of the school year their father walked with them and showed them a back way to get to school.  He hoped that by walking along the quieter roads they would avoid any danger.

When their father felt that they knew the way well enough; he asked them if they were ready to go by themselves.  The boys were a bit scared to walk through the bad neighborhood by themselves but they decided to follow the advice of the Mishna in Pirkei Avos that says, “You should be “Oz Kanamer, (brave like a leopard) La’ asose  Retzon Avicha Shebashamayim.”  They Davened that Hashem should protect them.

They were half-way to school the next day when they saw a scary looking gang walking towards them.  When they tried to turn around and go the other way they stopped.  Behind them was the largest, scariest looking dog that they had ever seen.  Now, they could not go backwards or forward.  They stood frozen in their place.  No one moved.  Then, the dog started walking towards them…. so they walked closer to the gang.  When the gang saw the dog walking in their direction they turned around and ran as fast as they could.   The two brothers kept on walking and the dog kept on following behind them.  The dog followed them all the way to their Yeshiva.

When they walked out of Yeshiva that day they found the dog sitting outside waiting for them.  The dog followed them the whole way home and was waiting by their door for them in the morning.   This continued for a number of years.  The boys were never bothered again,  by anyone.

When we use the Middah of Azus to be brave to go to places that will help us grow in our Avodas Hashem, and to do the Mitzvos the way we should even when it is different than those around us we are using the Middah of Azus the right way and Hashem will help us.

When we use the middah of Azus in the right way like the Chashmonaim we can help bring the final Chanukas Hamizbayach with the building of the Bais Hamikdash, Bimehaira Biyameinu, Amen.

Oh!  And by the way, after the boys left Rochester to go out of town for Yeshiva the dog mysteriously disappeared!!!

Tonight is the Chanukah Mesiba at The Greater Washington Community Kollel.  It behooves all of us to come and participate in this beautiful event which will undoubtedly help us grow closer to Hashem.

The Kollel’s Annual Chanukah Mesibah is today Tuesday, the 7thnight of Chanukah!  Bring the whole family to a festive celebration featuring live music and dancing, delicious Chanukah food, a magic show for children, and inspiring words of Torah from Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky.  7:00 PM at the Kollel (10900 Lockwood Dr.)  Please click for flyer.

Have A Great Chanukah!

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A Taste of The Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim:

The discussion of the sin of Mei Merivah in this week’s parashah comprises only a few pesukim, but it’s a fascinating topic. The Midrash says that Moshe Rabbeinu asked that Hakadosh Baruch Hu should specify the reason he was not allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael, so that people shouldn’t think that he’s not going into Eretz Yisrael because he angered Hakadosh Baruch Hu the way that the rest of Klal Yisrael did, through their 10 nisyonos of Hashem. The Midrash brings the parable of two women who were punished in beis din, one for immoral behavior and the other for eating Shemittah produce. The one who had eaten Shemittah produce said, “Please publicize the reason I am being punished, so people shouldn’t think that I sinned the way the other woman did.” Similarly, the Torah writes that Moshe Rabbeinu was not allowed to bring Klal Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael because of Mei so that no one should think that he sinned in a more grievous way.  What’s fascinating about this topic is that it’s very unclear what the sin of Moshe Rabbeinu actually was. The Rishonim labored to figure out how, exactly, he sinned, and they offer dozens of explanations, some of which are polar opposites of each other. The Ramban brings four explanations; the Ibn Ezra brings another four, and the Ohr Hachaim brings ten, all of which are proposed by the Rishonim. The Ohr Hachaim says that the Ramban refuted three of these explanations, the Ibn Ezra another three, and the remaining four he’s going to refute himself, after which he’ll offer his own explanation.  Some Rishonim say the sin was that Klal Yisrael didn’t sing a song of thanks for the water they received. The Ibn Ezra cites an explanation that the reason Moshe Rabbeinu had to hit the rock twice was because the first time he lost his kavanah and dveikus as a result of the tumult. The second time he hit the rock, he did it with intense dveikus, so water came out. But for a leader of Klal Yisrael to lose his kavanah and dveikus for even a second is considered a sin. The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, says that the sin was that Moshe Rabbeinu got angry at Klal Yisrael, and Klal Yisrael understood that if Moshe Rabbeinu is angry then it must mean that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is angry at them. But Hashem wasn’t angry, and therefore Moshe’s anger was out of place, and considered a sin. The Ramban challenges this, however, saying that this reason would only explain why Moshe was punished, but why was Aharon punished? The pasuk states clearly that Aharon was involved in the sin, and, as the Ramban says, “Aharon lo ka’as miyamav – Aharon never in his life got angry.” The Ramban suggests, therefore, that the sin was that Moshe and Aharon implied that they were bringing water of their own abilities; they forgot the “b’ezras Hashem” and the “im yirtzeh Hashem,” and this lack of attribution of the miracle to Hashem cost them dearly. But the Ohr Hachaim challenges this xplanation, too.

In short, we don’t know what the real sin was. When learning this inyan, I am reminded about a Midrash regarding the dor hamidbar. The Midrash says: Fortunate is someone whose sins are few enough to count. If someone’s sins can be counted on one’s fingers, that shows tremendous greatness of the person. The dor hamidbar sinned 10 times – and no more! What a shevach! I think that idea can be applied to Moshe Rabbeinu as well:  Fortunate is Moshe that even the sin he was punished for has to be scrutinized under the microscopic eye of the Rishonim, and even then we can’t figure out exactly what the sin was.

With that introduction, I want to suggest an explanation of the sin of Mei Merivah according to the approach of Rashi.  Obviously, we have to know that when we’re talking about Moshe Rabbeinu, we have absolutely no inkling of what the criticism actually was; everything we’re discussing is purely as a lesson for ourselves, what we can take out of it for our own lives.  Rashi learns that the sin was that Hakadosh Baruch Hu commanded Moshe to speak to the rock, and Moshe Rabbeinu went and hit the rock. Why did Moshe do that?  Rashi brings down a Midrash that says that Moshe Rabbeinu did speak to the rock at first, but the rock he spoke to didn’t give water because it was the wrong rock; the “real” rock, the well of Miriam, was hiding among the other rocks. Moshe Rabbeinu decided that since speech wasn’t working, he had to hit the rock. The rock that he hit was the correct one, and water came out.  I’d like to pose two questions on this Rashi. The first question is: What was Moshe thinking?  If Hakadosh Baruch Hu said speak to the rock, and speech didn’t work, why did Moshe think he could bring forth water through a different method? Hakadosh Baruch Hu is the One bringing out water from the rock – obviously you have to follow His directions for making that happen! Furthermore, when Klal Yisrael challenged Moshe by saying, “What’s the difference which rock you bring the water from? This one, that one, what difference does it make?” Moshe Rabbeinu chastised them, explaining that he couldn’t just bring forth water with his own powers, he had to do it according to the instructions of Hashem. We’re asking the same question about Moshe Rabbeinu: If speaking to the rock didn’t work, you try a new method and you think that will work?  The second question is, the passuk says that the sin showed a lack of faith but where do we see a lack of emunah? The Gemara (Shabbos 97) teaches that when Moshe was sent to redeem Klal Yisrael from Mitzrayim and he said, Klal Yisrael is not going to believe me, Hashem rebuked him, saying, “Klal Yisrael are maaminim bnei maaminim – but at the end, you’re not going to have, sufficient emunah, as the passuk says.  But where do we see a lack of emunah in the incident of Mei Merivah, according to Rashi’s explanation that he hit the rock instead of speaking to it? Maybe he didn’t listen to Hashem fully, but does that mean that he didn’t believe in Hashem?  Unlike Rashi, most of the Rishonim explain that Hashem’s commandment was to hit the rock, not to speak to the rock.  How, then, do they explain the words, “you should speak to the rock?” The Rashbam writes that the way you speak to a rock is by striking it; a rock doesn’t have ears. The language with which you speak to a rock is the language of hitting. With this insight, we can explain both what Moshe was thinking and why there was a lack of emunah in his thought process. After Moshe Rabbeinu spoke to the rock and did not manage to bring forth water from it, presumably a beis din convened to figure out what to do. At this meeting, Moshe Rabbeinu said, “It seems that we have to understand Hashem’s instructions differently. When Hashem said to speak to the rock, He didn’t mean actual speech, He meant speaking to the rock in its own language, by hitting it.” Moshe Rabbeinu wasn’t saying, “Let’s forget about the command of G-d and find our own method”; he was simply proposing a new interpretation of Hashem’s command. This was his deficiency in emunah. Because if you believe in Hashem’s commandment one thousand percent, then you don’t have to come up with new interpretations of Hashem’s words.  If Hashem said, “and you shall speak”, it means to speak. If speaking doesn’t work, then you have to figure out what the problem is, but you don’t have to reinterpret Hashem’s command. So the root of Moshe Rabbeinu’s sin of hitting the rock was his lack of emunah in Hashem’s words.  I once heard a story that illustrates this concept. Someone came to Rav Elyashiv and quoted the Gemara that says that a person who has bad middos can’t learn Torah properly. “I know someone who has terrible middos,” he said, “and this person is a rosh yeshiva! He says shiurim, he writes sefarim, and it’s clear that he can learn. How can this be?”  The person then proposed a new explanation of the Gemara, bringing two Maharals and a Sifsei Chaim and building a whole new explanation based on remez, derush, and sod to reconcile the Gemara. Rav Elyashiv’s response was: If Chazal say that someone who has bad middos can’t learn Torah, and you have a question, there are two possibilities: either you don’t know what it means to have bad middos, or you don’t know what it means to know how to learn.  Just because you have a question about something Chazal said, that doesn’t mean that you have to come up with a new pshat in divrei Chazal, as though Chazal’s words don’t necessarily mean what they say. Of course Chazal’s words can be understood at face value! If you don’t understand it, and you break your head to come up with a new understanding, that’s a chisaron in emunah! What would Moshe Rabbeinu have done if he hadn’t had this chisaron in emunah (on his level, of course)? He would have tried to figure out what the problem was, but without reinterpreting Hashem’s command. Maybe he had spoken the wrong words? Maybe he had spoken the to wrong rock (as indeed Rashi says)? But instead of saying, “The problem is with us, we have a big question,” he decided to say a complicated pshat in Hashem’s command – that speaking didn’t necessarily mean speaking. How many times do we see Gemaras or hear Midrashim of Chazal and try to translate them our own way, according to our own understanding? Sometimes, we resort to derush because the words of Chazal don’t seem to fit into our everyday lives, so we think it can’t actually mean what it says.  A person has to have emunah sheleimah that whatever Chazal say is emes, and when we have a question, a tzaruch iyun, we can blame ourselves for our lack of understanding – but we shouldn’t come up with exceptions and new understandings of Chazal!

By: Harav Hagaon Elimelech Reznik Shlita

From The Mirrer Yeshiva in Yerushalayim.

Have A Great Shabbos!!


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B’Ha’alosicha 5773: A Flash of Light

Taste of Talmud

There are some actions that we are required to do which are a Mitzvah, some are an Obligation, some a Good Idea, some a Custom, and others which are merely Permissible.  Where does the act of  lighting Shabbos candles fit in?  The Mishna in Shabbos quotes R’ Yishmael as saying that one does not fulfill his obligation of lighting for Shabbos if he uses foul smelling fuel. The Talmud asks: Why not?  Rava answers:  Because he will leave the room where the light is burning due to the foul odor.   Abayei retorts: So let him leave! Rava responds:  “My opinion is that the light of Shabbos is an obligation.  Tosafos and other Rishonim grapple with this terminology and how it answers the question.  The Rosh says that Rava is saying that there is an obligation to derive benefit from the light of Shabbos otherwise one does not fulfill his obligation.  Therefore if you can not stay in the room where the light is burning you have not fulfilled your “obligation.”  Tosafos says that Rava is telling us that besides the obligation of having a light in the house on Shabbos there is an obligation to have a light burning at the Shabbos seudah.  According to the Rosh, one is not obligated to make a Brocha upon lighting the light of Shabbos.  According to Tosafos you are obligated to recite a blessing upon lighting the light of Shabbos. 

Taste of Halacha

1) When there are three or four families all living in the same house, are they each required to light Shabbos lights?  If they are, do each of them recite their own individual blessing? The Shulchan Aruch (OC, 263:8) writes that they should all light a light for Shabbos, however, only one of them recites a blessing.  The Rema writes that we do not follow this custom.  According to the Rema, and agreed upon by the Mishan B­erura, each family recites a blessing on their own individual light.  The Commentators explain that this is because every added light increases the joy of those in the house.  According to this opinion, there is not only an obligation to have a light burning in your home on Shabbos but to increase the oneg, pleasure, of Shabbos with addded lights in every place where you will be on Shabbos. 

2) When a person is away from his home for Shabbos and he is eating in one house but sleeping in another, where does he light the Shabbos lights?  By lighting in the place of your meal you are fulfilling all opinions as to where the light should be lit.  However, if you are sleeping in your own home it is preferable to bring the light of Shabbos into your own home.  (As long as you will derive benefit from them at some point in the evening and there is no fire hazard.)

Taste of Parasha

In the Mishkan, all of the lights of the Menorah turned towards the center light.  Rashi explains that this is to teach us an important lesson.  Hashem does not need us to illuminate His  “House,” the Mishkan.  Similarly, in the Bais Hamikdash, the windows were constructed   wide on the outside and narrow on the inside so that the light from the Mikdash shone out to the world.  This too was to show us that Hashem’s house is the source of light for the world and He does not need external light to eluminate His  “House.”  What, then, is our role in lighting the Menorah?  Rav Yerucham Levovivtz Zt”L. brings out from here a beautiful lesson.  When we do our small part in bringing some light into this world we are the ones that get a lift.  When you raise up, B’ha’alosicha, you are the one that gets a raise.  This is true with the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah in the Bais Hamikdash, with the lights of Shabbos, and with all Mitzvoth.  Each and every Mitzvah, Obligation, and Custom of our Torah is another precious opportunity to use our talents and abilities to bring a ‘flash of light’ to eluminate our neshama.  When our Neshama is shining brightly then our light fills  the world and spreads Hashem’s light to the world.

This issue is dedicated in loving memory of:

Ahuva Bas Shraga Feivel Mordechai

By: The Friedman Family


Posted in Beha'aloscha | Tagged , , ,

Emor 5773: A Taste of Kehuna

Taste of Parasha

“Speak to the Kohanim.”  Who are the Kohanim, and why do they have added restrictions?  The following story, as told by Rabbi Yissochor Frand Shlita, sheds some light on the matter. When Rav Shimon Schwab (1908-1995) was a young man, he spent a Shabbos with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan Zt”l, the Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933). That Shabbos left an indelible impression on the young Rav Schwab, who told many famous stories regarding the events of that weekend. One of those stories contained the following powerful ethical lesson.

The Chofetz Chaim asked Rav Schwab if he was a Kohen or a Levi. Rav Schwab responded in the negative. The Chofetz Chaim (who was a Kohen) told his young guest that it was a real pity that he did not have that status. “Moshiach will soon come and the Kohanim and the Leviim will have a premiere function in the Beis HaMikdash. The rest of the Jewish people will all be excluded. It’s a shame you are not from the Tribe of Levi. You will miss out on all of these holy privileges.”

The Chofetz Chaim then asked Rav Schwab a very strange question: “Why are you not a Kohen?”

Rav Schwab gave the obvious answer. His father was not a Kohen.

But the Chofetz Chaim persisted, “Why wasn’t your father a Kohen?”By this time Rav Schwab grasped that the Chofetz Chaim was leading to a concept that had nothing to do with Yichus [lineage] or genealogy. The Chofetz Chaim asked, “Do you know why your father was NOT a Kohen and my father WAS a Kohen? Because there was once a time in Jewish history, when our teacher, Moshe, called out, ‘Who is for G-d? Let them gather to me.’ My great-great grandfather answered the call and your great-great grandfather did not answer the call. That is why my father was a Kohen and your father was not a Kohen.”

The Chofetz Chaim was not trying to tease, saying “Hah, hah! I am a Kohen and you are not a Kohen”. The Chofetz Chaim did not engage in teasing behavior. The Chofetz Chaim was not trying to “rub in” the fact that Rav Schwab’s ancestor did not respond to Moshe’s call. The point that the Chofetz Chaim was driving home was that sometimes there are occasions in life where the clarion call goes out to rally around G-d’s banner. If upon hearing that call, one rises to the occasion, his actions can have ramifications until the end of time. If one fails to heed the call and does not respond, that too can affect not only the person, but also his children and his grandchildren, for all generations. The point that the Chofetz Chaim was trying to teach to Rav Schwab is that one day he himself might receive such a call, perhaps not in the exact same words, but in a similar way. As a result of the Kohanim’s heightened awareness of their role as servants of G-d, they were given an exalted status Vis-a-Vis their relationship with G-d.  They are commanded to keep to a heightened sense of Kedusha, purity and holiness.  We, in turn were given the Mitzvah of, “Vekidashto,” to make them holy.  We do this by honoring them and giving them precedence.  When we do this, the Chinuch explains, we show that we recognize that service of G-d is of paramount importance in our lives, and that we too are now ready to answer the call of, “Who is for G-d? Let them gather to me.”

Taste of Halacha

Points to ponder:

Does this Mitzvah apply to a Kohen under the age of 13?

Does this Mitzvah apply to a Kohen with a blemish?

Is a Kohen required to respect another Kohen?

Could this Mitzvah be extended to apply to a Talmid Chacham who has devoted his life to the service of G-d?

This issue is dedicated as a merit for the Wolf Family


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Tzav 5773: A Taste of Chometz

Taste of Talmud

Chometz comes in many shapes and sizes.  The Talmud (Pesachim 43) discusses their varying levels of prohibition.  Rabbi Eliezer says the punishment of Kares is only for one who eats Chometz that can be seen.  For eating Chometz in a mixture, a Ta’aroves, there is a negative commandment but not Kares.  Other Chachamim are of the opinion that a mixture containing Chometz does not even carry the punishment of lashes (given for transgressing a negative commandment).     The Talmud says that this dispute boils down to the question as to whether the word KOL (Exodus 12:20), should be taken to include ALL leavened material and their mixtures in whatever shape or form they may come.  The Talmud attempts to bring a proof from a verse in Parashas Tzav.  With regard to the prohibition against eating forbidden fats the word KOL is used.  In that case everyone agrees that the word KOL does include all types of forbidden fat, from all animals.   The Talmud answers that indeed the Chachamim agree in that case, because over there, there is another word that is superfluous, KI, otherwise, it would seem, their opinion is that the word KOL itself is not sufficient reason to include a negative commandment for Chometz that is only mixed into another mixture.


Taste of Halacha

In the laws of Chometz and Matzah (1:7) the Rambam codifies the law in what, on the surface, appears to be following the opinion of the Chachamim.  In the laws of the Mizbaiach (5:5) however he seems to follow the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer.  There is a law that KOL, ALL, leavened matter may not be placed on the Mizbaiach.  The Rambam writes that there is a negative commandment to have leavened matter in any amount, in any shape or in any form mixed into an offering on the Altar.  The commentators point out that this law is derived from the word KOL (Leviticus 2:11) as well.  Seemingly, this should only be according to the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer who says that the word KOL is significant enough to include all shapes and forms of a prohibition.  The Shaar Hamishpat goes to great lengths to show how the Chachamim actually do agree to the ability to derive this all inclusive nature of a law from the word KOL.  Based on the words of the Pri Chadash and the Ran he shows that it is only by the laws of Pesach that the Chachamim disagree about the usage of the word KOL due to other unique variances in the verses detailing the laws of Chometz.  One of which is the unique conjugation of the word Machmetzes; the other of which is the fact that we need a special verse to create a prohibition for eating a mixture with a high concentration of Chometz.


Taste of Parasha

The Zohar says that Chometz bears the qualities of the Yetzer Horah, while Matzah bears the qualities of the Yetzer Hatov.  By eradicating any vestiges of Chometz from our midst it is possible to come to as lofty a high as on Yom Kippur.  Why is it that we do not feel so inspired by this outward display of eradication of “Evil”?  The Sifsei Chaim says: The answer to this can be understood from an interesting observation made by Rav Yisroel Salanter, Zt”l.  He noticed that the boorish children of Russian peasants who returned from the Czars army reverted right back to their boorish ways.  While in the army they were drilled in cleanliness, order and protocol.  Why did these qualities not stay with them when they returned home?  Rav Yisroel answered that it was because they were conscripted against their will.  They were following the rules begrudgingly and with disdain.  In order for external actions to create an internal change one has to desire to change.  One has to desire to eradicate any vestige of lethargy, haughtiness and   falsehood.  Then, when one spends a period of time searching for anything that has that character and eliminating it from his midst he will be cleansed from those attributes of evil himself.  Furthermore, after spending a week imbibing the humble bread of alacrity, he too, will be filled with feelings of humility and alacrity.


This week’s issue is dedicated by:

 Mr. and Mrs. David Friedman,

Wishing everyone a

Chag Kasher Vesamayach

Have a Great Shabbos


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