This Shabbos we will bless the month of Iyar. Rosh Chodesh will be on Sunday and Monday.
In our Parsha this week, Parshas Shmini, we learn about all kinds of foods which are forbid for a Jew to consume. The Torah specifically tells us about foods which we can and cannot eat in order to teach us that food is so much more than just something we eat, rather, food actually has an effect on the one eating it.
A story is told by Reb Shimon Margulis. As a young boy, he came to Eretz Yisrael after the Holocaust. Though he came from a Chasidishe family of the Hosiatin Chasidic dynasty, he was placed on a non-religious Kibutz. Those who placed him there had the intention that he would grow up as a non religious Jew. Part of the rule of the Kibutz was that permission was only granted to leave in specific cases.
Young Shimon's Madrich, the one in charge of the youth on the Kibutz, was very anti-religious. So when Shimon heard that the Hosiatiner Rebbe was in Tel Aviv, Shimon was sure his Madrich would not give him permission to leave in order to go visit the Rebbe. Sure enough, Shimon's request to visit the Rebbe was turned down. "You have no reason to go there", said the Madrich. In a final attempt to receive permission to visit his Rebbe Shimon responded that the day was the 37th day of the Omer, the Yartzheit of Rav Mordechai Faybiesh of Hosiatin, a day revered and celebrated by Hosiatiner Chasidim.
To Shimon's great shock the Madrich granted him permission to go. The Madrich explained that he had not forgotten his days when he lived in the town of Tshernovitch in Europe. Though he was not religious, he recalled how every year on the 37th day of the Omer the Rebetzin of Tshernovitch, who was a cousin to the Hosiatiner Rebbe, would host a Seuda, a festive meal, in honor of the Yartzheit. The Madrich recounted how the whole town would participate in the Seuda, even those who normally stayed out of Jewish life, in order not to miss out on a great meal. Upon recalling such a happy memory, the Madrich had no problem letting Shimon visit the Rebbe, and he even gave him money for the bus.
Young Shimon ended up visiting the Hosiatiner Rebbe in Tel Aviv and the Rebbe was successful in helping him move to an environment more conducive to Torah learning.
We see the great power that food has on those who eat it!
And now for the joke...
What is a Chasidishe Rebbe that lives in Michigan known as? the 'Mishugina' Rebbe!
Good Shabos, and Good Chodesh,
Candle lighting ('Early Shabbos'): 7:00
[Notice: the community accepts 'Early Shabbos']
Candle lighting (regular): 7:04
Shabbos ends: 8:10
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This week we read the Parshios of Tazria and Metzora. In them, the Torah explains how one who has been afflicted with Tzara'as, a spiritual disease, can cure himself, thereby returning to a state of purity. In describing the process the Torah states (Vayikra 14:11): "The Kohen Who Purifies Shall Place The Person Being Purified Along With Them Before Hashem At The Entrance Of The Tent Of Meeting." This pasuk tells us that a Kohen is in charge of the purification process. But the pasuk specifically writes "The Kohen Who Purifies". Is it not obvious that the Kohen is coming to purify; why does it have to be mentioned that the Kohen is coming to purify?
The Ben Ish Chai explains with the following story:
There was once a yeshiva student who was walking through a city and passed by a casino. He happened to look inside and saw some Jews inside gambling! The yeshiva student, knowing that gambling in a casino was not a pastime fit for Jews, entered the casino and began speaking to the Jews, explaining to them how Chazal, our sages, were against gambling as a pastime. His words were taken to heart and his fellow Jews decided to do Teshuva, they not only stopped gambling, they also did not want to benefit from the money they had made so they gave it all to him!
On another day the yeshiva student was again in the vicinity of the casino and remembered how the last time he went in to try to save Jews he ended up making a good amount of money. He figured why not do it again and make more money. So he again entered the casino, found some Jews, and attempted to convince them to leave their bad habit. However, this time, he was not successful, and the Jews he was speaking to wanted to beat him up!
Confused at why he had encountered such negative results even though he was intending to do a good deed, the yeshiva student went to his rabbi to ask about it. His rabbi told him that the second time he went in to the casino his intent was different. The first time his intent was to honestly help fellow Jews. Yet the second time he was motivated by money. When one's intent is pure and focused on doing the will of Hashem, his/her words are more readily internalized by others.
So too in our Parsha. The Torah says "The Kohen Who Purifies". It mentions the action he is doing even though this is seemingly redundant in context with the rest of the pasuk. The reason the action ("Who Purifies") is mentioned is to reveal to us his intent for doing the purification process. Though the Kohen could very well do the process of purifying someone with Tzara'as for the sake of eating the meat of the offering brought afterwards, that is not the true intent a Kohen should have. Rather, the intent of the Kohen who is purifying should be to purify and not for ulterior motives. One should always focus their will on being purely for the sake of serving Hashem.
And now for the joke...
There was once a lion who got married. All the animals in the animal kingdom came to see him to wish him their congratulations. One of the animals that came was a mouse. The mouse approached the lion, tapped him on the shoulder, and wished his congratulations. The lion roared at the mouse, "Who do you think you are to tap me on the shoulder? I am the king of the jungle!". The mouse responded, "I once was also the 'king of the jungle', I was a lion...but then I got married".
Tefilla of the "Shloh Hakodosh" for parents to say particularly on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan The Shloh Hakodosh prefaces this Tefilla with the words "I believe that the most appropriate time to say this Tefilla is on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, for that is the month when the Torah was given and when we are called His children. "It is proper that every husband and wife fast on that day and repent, committing themselves to improve all areas of their home life... and let them give charity to poor people of character." Here is the prayer from the Shlah with English translation.
May God accept your prayers, and you all have a Good Chodesh Nisan.
You, Hashem, our G-d, were the same before You created the world, and You, our G-d, have been the same ever since You created it. From eternity to eternity, You are G-d. You created Your world in order to make Your G-dliness known through your holy Torah, as our Sages, of blessed memory, explained: “‘In the beginning’(Bereishis 1:1) [The world was created] for the sake of Torah"; and for Klal Yisroel, for they are Your nation and heritage, whom You have chosen from all others, to whom You gave Your holy Torah, and who you drew toward your great Name. To guarantee the continued existence of the world and of Your Torah, we received from You, Hashem, our G-d, two commandments: You wrote in Your Torah “Be fruitful and multiply”(Bereishis 1:28) and You also wrote “You shall teach them to your children”(Devorim 11:19). The purpose of these two commandments is identical: “You did not create the world to be empty, but to be inhabited”(Yeshaya 45:18). It is for Your honor that You created, formed and fashioned the world, so that we, our descendants, and the descendants of all Your people, the House of Yisroel, know Your Name and study Your Torah.
And so I come before You, Hashem, King Who reigns over kings of kings, and I cast my supplication before You. My eyes are fixed on You until You favour me and hear my prayer: Grant me sons and daughters who will also be fruitful and multiply, as well as their children and grandchildren until the end of all generations — so that they and I should all be engrossed in studying Your holy Torah, to learn, teach, safeguard, perform, and fulfill all the words of Your Torah's teaching with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah and attach our hearts to Your commandments, to love and revere Your Name.
Our Father, The merciful Father, give us all a long and blessed life. Who is like You, Merciful Father, Who remembers His creatures mercifully for life? Remember us for eternal life just as Avrohom our father prayed, “If only that he might live before You!”(Bereishis 17:18) — which our holy Sages explain to mean “with awe of You”. It is for this reason that I come to ask and plead before You that my children, grandchildren and all future generations be upright offspring. No blemish or defect should be found in my children, grandchildren or any future generations. Let the eyes of G-d and of man perceive only peace, truth, goodness and sincerity in them. May they become experts in Torah, masters of Scripture, Mishnah, Talmud and of the secrets of Torah, accomplished in Mitzvos and acts of kindness, and people of sterling character. May they serve You with love and with genuine awe of Heaven, not merely outwardly. Provide every one of them with their needs with honour. Give them health, honour and strength, and give them stature, beauty, charm and kindness. May there be love, brotherhood and peace among them. Provide them with their suitable marriage partners of scholarly and righteous parentage. And may their spouses also be blessed with everything I have asked You to grant them, since one prayer can affect the lives of many.
You Hashem, know all deep secrets, and before You all my heart's secrets are revealed. You know that all which I ask is for the sake of Your great and Holy Name and for the sake of Your holy Torah. Therefore, answer me, Hashem, please answer me, for the sake of our holy fathers, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov; for their sake assist their children so that they grow to be branches which reflect their roots. Do so for the sake of King David, the fourth leg of Your Holy Chariot, who sings, inspired by Your Holy Spirit: — “A song of ascents. Fortunate is everyone who fears Hashem, who walks in His ways. When you eat the toil of your hands, you will be fortunate, and good will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in the inner chambers of your home; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Look! For so is blessed the man who fears Hashem. May Hashem bless you from Tzion, and may you see the goodness of Yerusholayim, all the days of your life. And may you see children born to your children, peace upon Yisroel”. (Tehillim 128).
Please, Hashem, Who hears prayer, may the following words be fulfilled in me: “‘This is My personal covenant with them,’ said Hashem, ‘My spirit of prophesy that is upon you and My words of Torah that I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of your children's children,’s aid Hashem, ‘from now and forever’”(Yeshaya 59:21) .
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing before You, Hashem, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Right after Shabos this week is the Chag of Shavuos, where we celebrate our reception of the Torah.
Why was it that we, the Jewish Nation, mere mortal human beings, were chosen to receive the Torah and not angels instead of us?
The Midrash answers by way of a beautiful parable: There was a king going out to visit the various provinces in his domain. First he visited the cities who were more familiar with him. Due to their great fear and awe of the king when he arrived they greeted him with trepidation and kept a respectful difference. They wanted to show great reverence for a man with such power. Afterwards the king visited towns that were less familiar with him as their king. Meeting the king was not something they were used to so they did not approach with the same awe and reverence that the people of the more educated towns did. Instead, the people of this less knowledgeable town decided to throw elaborate feasts in celebration of the king's visit to their town. Because of the much closer connection he had made to the people of the second town he told the townspeople that he planned to build for himself another palace in the midst of their city.
So too with our reception of the Torah: Hashem is the king, the angels are the 'townspeople' with a great level of reverence for the king, and we, the humans, are the townspeople with less fear/trepidation before the king. The angels, who live on a very high spiritual level, have a very sensitive perception of awe and reverence for Hashem. Therefore they keep a respectful distance. Yet when Hashem comes close to us, who are not always aware of his presence, we are able to serve Hashem with less trepidation and fear and rather simply celebrate in his glory!
May we all merit this level of spiritual connection on Shavuos!
And now for the joke...
A nun walked by a drunk and told him "the source of all sin is alcohol". The drunk man replied "have you ever tried it?" "No", replied the nun. The drunk man continued "well, then you cannot make such a statement. Unless you have tried alcohol and know what it is, how can you say it is so bad?" After thinking a bit, the nun agreed that only if she first tried alcohol could she continue to preach that alcohol was so bad. But she asked, "how will I drink alcohol? I cannot just go into a bar and drink, others will see me drinking!" "Don't worry", said the drunk man, "I will ask the bartender to mix some alcohol into a cup of tea". The drunk man then proceeded to enter a bar where he gave the bartender the strange request. "Let me guess", said the bartender, "is that nun outside again?"
In this week's Parsha, Parshas Korach, we read about Korach and those who came to argue on Moshe Rabeinu's status as leader of the Jewish Nation. Moshe tries to demonstrate that he really is chosen by God. Korach causes a great amount of Machlokes, disagreement, among the Jewish People. Moshe ends up winning the feud, as Hashem intervened on his behalf, causing the earth below where Korach and his followers were standing to open up and swallow them alive.
The Malbim asks the following question: How is it possible that of all people it is Moshe Rabeinu, the most humble of all, the one who is always praying to help the Jewish people, that asks for Korach's death, especially in such a weird way. Moshe Rabeinu is never concerned with his own Kavod and always pleads to God to redeem others from punishment, so why here do we see him asking God to take Korach off the face of the earth?
The Malbim answers that the problem that Korach caused required a special punishment. What Korach was doing was trying to uproot the reliability of Kabolas Hatorah, the reception of the Torah at Har Sinai. Korach was questioning Moshe Rabeinu's right to rule claiming that he had no legitimate claim to do so. If he continued to persuade other Jews of his convictions then eventually he and his followers would claim that even that which was written in the Torah did not need to be followed because after all Moshe wrote that also and if Moshe could not be trusted then neither could the whole Torah. Therefore, Moshe wanted the Jewish People to see not just that Korach was wrong, but to see him defeated in a supernatural way. Just like the reception of the Torah occurred in a supernatural way (with fire, lightning, etc.), the people needed to see those that attacked the truth of the reception of the Torah wiped out in a supernatural way. This was so they would realize that God and the Torah were on the side of Moshe and not on the side of Korach.
And now for the joke...
Little Rivkah Rosenberg went up to her mother one day while holding her stomach saying, "Mommy, my stomach hurts." Her mother replied, "That's because it's empty, you have to put something into it!"
Later that day, the Rosenbergs had invited the new Rabbi and his wife over for Shabbos dinner. But the rabbi seemed distracted. Holding his head he said, "I have such a terrible headache!"
Little Rivkah looked up the rabbi with her sweet smile and said, "That's because it's empty. You have to put something into it!"
Good Shabbos, Nisan.
Many times people ask all kinds of questions about Judaism. "Why do we do this?" or "Why can't I eat this?", etc. and many other such questions.
However, you never hear anyone ask "Why do we have to do a Para Aduma?" (the purification process by which the incinerated remains of a totally red cow is mixed with water and then sprinkled on someone who is impure). Very interestingly, Rashi explains in this weeks Parsha, Chukas, where it says "Zos Chukas Hatorah...", "Such are the rules of the Torah..." and goes on to discuss the Para Aduma, Rashi says that if the nations of the world were to ask us Jews why we have to do this seemingly very weird Mitzva we are supposed to answer "Zos Chukas Hatorah", "Such are the rules of the Torah" and we don't need to know God's reason behind what he does.
The questions now is why did it have to be this Mitzva? Out of all the daily Mitzvos that we do, why is it this Mitzva specifically that is the paramount example of a Mitzva that we do solely because it is the will of Hashem even without understanding it?
I heard from my friend Moishy Shain the following answer: The reason that the Para Aduma is the prime example of a Mitzva we do because it is Hashem's will even though we don't understand it is because Para Aduma has a unique aspect to it. When the ash-water of the Para Aduma is sprinkled on a person, that person becomes pure...yet the one who did the sprinkling, though he was pure, is now impure. This seems to be counter intuitive. A similar thing we see when we look out into the world: there are righteous people who have terrible things happen to them and terrible people who have excellent things happen to them. The similarity between these people and the Para Aduma is that both happen for reasons above our understanding. People ask why the righteous suffer and why the evil prosper. And therefore, this is exactly what Rashi is telling us: that the Jewish response to these situations which seem to be so counter intuitive is "Zos Chukas Hatorah", "Such is the way of the Torah", we know that Hashem, the creator of the world, knows how to run the world. We don't have to and are unable to understand all the reasons behind how Hashem runs his world. Nevertheless we are his loyal children.
And now for the joke...
A congregant asks his rabbi, "Rabbi, you're a man of God. So why is it that you are always talking about business, when I, a businessman, am always talking about spiritual matters?"
"You have discovered one of the principles of human nature," the rabbi replies.
"And what's that Rabbi?"
"People like to discuss things they know nothing about."