Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Rambam (Eyin Mishpat) on Daf Yomi, Beitzah 31 (30th of Nissan, 5774)

Laws of Shevitat Yom Tov

Chapter 2


Halacha 9

When a [closed] building was filled with produce that had been designated [for use] and was opened [by natural forces on a holiday], one is permitted to take [produce] from the opening.

A person who stands and surveys fruit set out to dry on the day prior to a holiday in the Sabbatical year, when all the produce is ownerless, must make a mark and say, "I will take [the produce] from here to here." If he did not make a mark, he may not take [the produce].


Halacha 10

[The following rules apply] when a gentile brings a present [of food] for a Jew on a holiday: If some of the type of produce that he brings is still attached to the ground [in the fields], or if he brought an animal, fowl, or fish that could possibly have been snared on the day [of the holiday], they are forbidden until the evening. [Moreover, one must wait] enough time for it to have been possible to perform [the forbidden activity after the conclusion of the holiday]. Even [if the gentile brings] a myrtle or the like, one should not smell its fragrance until the evening, after waiting the time necessary [to pick it].

If none of the type of produce that he brings remains attached to the ground, or it is clear from the form [of the produce] that it was picked on the previous day, or it is clear from the form [of the fish or the animal] that they were caught on the previous day, they are permitted, provided they were brought from within [the city's 2000-cubit] limit. If they were brought from outside [the city's 2000-cubit] limit, they are forbidden.

Food that was brought from outside [the city's 2000-cubit] limit for one Jew is permitted to be eaten by another.


Halacha 12

It is forbidden to chop wood that had been placed in a pile of beams, for it is muktzeh. Nor may one [chop wood] from a beam that broke on a holiday, because it is nolad. Similarly, utensils that broke on a holiday may not be used for kindling, because they are nolad.


However, one may use utensils that are intact or utensils that were broken before the commencement of a holiday for kindling, for they were prepared to be used for purposes [other than that for which they were originally suitable] before the holiday.

Similarly, when nuts or almonds were eaten before the commencement of a holiday, their shells may be used for kindling on the holiday. If, however, they were eaten on the holiday, their shells may not be used for kindling.

There are, however, versions [of the Talmud] that read: If they were eaten before nightfall, we may not use their shells for kindling, because they have become muktzeh. If, by contrast, they were eaten on the holiday, they may be used for kindling, because they are considered to be designated for use, because of the food [they contained].

Halacha 14

We may take wood that is placed next to the walls of a hut to use for kindling, but we may not bring it from the field, even if it had been collected there on the day before [the holiday]. One may, however, collect wood lying before him in the field and kindle it there.

One may also bring [wood] that was stored in a private domain, even one that was not enclosed for the purpose of human habitation, provided it has a fence with a gate, and is located within the Sabbath limits. If even one of these conditions is not met, [the wood] is muktzeh.

Halacha 15

Although the leaves of reeds or vines have been collected in an enclosure, since they can be dispersed by the wind it is considered as if they have already been dispersed, and [using them] is forbidden. If, however, one placed a heavy utensil over them before the holiday, they are permitted [to be used].

Week 31 (Book 2): Yoel and the Rock of Israel

HAAZINU: For their rock is not like our [Mighty] Rock. Nevertheless, our enemies sit in judgment. (Deuteronomy 32:31)

HAFTORAH: [He is] the G-d Whose way is perfect; The word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield unto all them that trust (take refuge) in him. (II Samuel 22:31)




The thirty-first week of the year is the week of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, as well as Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day. Iyar represents the Tribe of Issachar, who was known for its complete dedication to the study of Torah. In the verse of Haazinu, Moshe exclaims that there is no “rock” as our “Rock”, Tzur, another term for G-d. The best description of this term is probably the way King David describes G-d in the Haftorah verse for this week: a shield in which to take refuge. The verses are also a perfect description of G-d’s protection during Israel’s difficult struggle for independence, one in which Israel faced overwhelming odds, and in which the rest of the world simply sat in judgment. This hypocritical “judgment” continues until this day.
The quality of this week is “beloved” (Ahuv). This term is also used by Rabbi Meir in the description of those that study Tora h for its own sake (Lishmah), as the Tribe of Issachar did. The victory celebrated on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut is also a sign of how beloved we are by G-d. This feeling of being beloved came shortly after the Holocaust, when so many of the Jewish people felt so abandoned.
This week’s prophet is Yoel. His prophecy parallels the destruction followed by the modern miracles and victories that took place during this time.[1] It describes the plague of the locusts that completely devastated the Land of Israel. After the Jews repent, they are promised much grain, wine, and oil. (2:18‑19)
The levitical city for this week is Kishion, which comes from the word kasheh, which means difficult, tough. These are characteristics of Issachar (a strong-boned donkey), as well as characteristics shown by the Jews in fighting and winning Israel’s War of Independence.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Rambam (Eyin Mishpat) on Daf Yomi, Beitzah 29 (28th of Nissan, 5774)

Text and notes taken from

Laws of Shevitat Yom Tov
Chapter 4, Halacha 21

A person should not tell a butcher, "Give me a dinar's worth of meat." Instead, he should say, "Give me a portion" or "...half a portion." On the following day, they should reckon its worth.

Similarly, a person should not take a [specific] measure or weight [of goods] from a storekeeper. What should he do instead? He should tell the storekeeper, "Fill this container for me," and on the following day he should pay him for its value. Even if it is a container that is used for measuring, he may fill it, provided he does not mention any [specific] measure.[1]

Chapter 4, Halacha 22

A chef[2] may measure spices and add them to a dish so that the food will not spoil. A housewife, by contrast, should not measure[3] [the quantity of] flour [to use] for dough,[4] nor should a man measure the barley groats he places before his animal. Instead, he should approximate [the appropriate amount], and give that to it.

Chapter 3, Halacha 14

Although flour was sifted on the day prior to the holiday, and its bran removed, it may not be sifted again on a holiday unless a pebble, a sliver of wood, or the like fell into it.[5] This is permitted, however, if one deviates from the norm by sifting with the back of the sifter,[6] sifting over the table, or the like.

Chapter 4, Halacha 23

It is permitted to take a specific number of eggs and nuts from a storekeeper.[7] The same is true for other similar products, provided one does not mention money or the sum of his account.

What is meant by "the sum of his account"? When a person owes [a storekeeper] for ten pomegranates or ten nuts, he should not tell him on a holiday, "Give me ten more so that I will owe you for twenty." Instead, he should take the [second ten] without any comment and make a reckoning on the following day.

Chapter 5, Halacha 1

Although the Torah allowed carrying on a holiday even when it is not necessary [for the preparation of food], one should not carry heavy loads as he is accustomed to do on a weekday; instead, he must depart [from his regular practice].[8] If, however, making such a departure is impossible, it is permitted.

What is implied? A person who brings jugs of wine from one place to another place should not bring them in a basket or in a container. Instead, he should carry them on his shoulder or in front of him. A person who is carrying hay should not sling the bale over his shoulder. Instead, he should carry it in his hands.

[1] This represents a reversal of the Rambam's ruling in his Commentary on the Mishnah (Beitzah 3:8). This change in thinking appears to result from the Rambam's understanding of Rav Yitzchak Alfasi's rulings with regard to Beitzah 29a, the Talmudic passage on which this halachah is based (Rav Kapach). (See also the gloss of the Kessef Mishneh.)
[2] The Maggid Mishneh states that this does not apply only to a chef, but to anyone. Why does Beitzah 29a, the source for this halachah, mention a chef? Because "the Sages spoke about commonplace events."
Why is a person granted this leniency? Because if he does not use the proper amount of spices, he will spoil the flavor of the food he is preparing. In the other instances mentioned in this halachah, the person will not suffer a loss from making an approximation.
Rav David Arameah differs, and explains that this law applies only to a chef, for his professional reputation depends on even a slight deviation from the desired flavor. An ordinary person, by contrast, will not be inordinately upset if the flavor is affected slightly, because he uses a slightly larger or smaller amount of spices.
Although the Tur follows Rav David Arameah's view, when quoting this law the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 504:4) mentions "a person," rather than a chef.
[3] The reason for this and the following prohibition is that it appears that the person is measuring the flour or the barley for the purpose of selling it.
[4] For the dough will not spoil if one errs in his approximation of the proper amount to use.
[5] Although there are opinions that permit removing the pebble or the sliver by hand, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 506:4 and the Mishnah Berurah 506:12 forbid removing it by hand (for this would be removing waste matter from food as in Halachah 17), and require that the flour be sifted again.
[6] If, however, the flour had not been sifted on the previous day, it may not be sifted on the holiday (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 506:2). It is, however, permissible to have a gentile sift the flour, provided he deviates from the ordinary practice (Ramah).
[7] This is permitted because even at home a person will ask for a specific number of eggs or nuts, so that he will not have more or fewer than he requires.
[8] Rashi (Beitzah 29b) explains that this restriction applies even to foods that are necessary for the holiday. The reason for this stringency is that a person carrying large loads appears to be going about his weekday affairs without awareness of the holiday.
Rashi [cited by the Ramah (Orach Chayim 510:8)] also states that these restrictions apply only in the public domain. Within a courtyard or a home, one may carry in one's ordinary fashion. Rav Kapach explains that this is also the Rambam's view, for (although it is not explicitly stated) the entire chapter speaks about passage through the public domain.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Week 30 (Book 5): Reviewing the Fifth Week of Nissan - Psalms 88-90; 90:8-10; 89:31

PSALMS (Introductions and Translations from

Chapter 88

The psalmist weeps and laments bitterly over the maladies and suffering Israel endures in exile, which he describes in detail.

1. A song, a psalm by the sons of Korach, for the Conductor, upon the machalat le'anot; 1 a maskil2 for Heiman the Ezrachite. 2. O Lord, G-d of my deliverance, by day I cried out [to You], by night I [offer my prayer] before You. 3. Let my prayer come before You; turn Your ear to my supplication. 4. For my soul is sated with affliction, and my life has reached the grave. 5. I was reckoned with those who go down to the pit, I was like a man without strength. 6. [I am regarded] among the dead who are free, like corpses lying in the grave, of whom You are not yet mindful, who are yet cut off by Your hand. 7. You have put me into the lowest pit, into the darkest places, into the depths. 8. Your wrath has weighed heavily upon me, and all the waves [of Your fury] have constantly afflicted me. 9. You have estranged my friends from me, You have made me abhorrent to them; I am imprisoned and unable to leave. 10. My eye is afflicted because of distress; I call to You, O Lord, every day; I have stretched out my hands [in prayer] to You. 11. Do You perform wonders for the deceased? Do the dead stand to offer You praise? Selah. 12. Is Your kindness recounted in the grave, your faithfulness in the place of perdition? 13. Are Your wondrous deeds known in the darkness [of the grave], or Your righteousness in the land of oblivion? 14. But, I, to You, O Lord, I cry; each morning my prayer comes before You. 15. Why, O Lord, do You forsake my soul? Why do You conceal Your countenance from Me? 16. From my youth I have been afflicted and approaching death, yet I have borne the fear of You which is firmly established within me. 17. Your furies have passed over me; Your terrors have cut me down. 18. They have engulfed me like water all day long, they all together surrounded me. 19. You have estranged from me beloved and friend; I have been rejected by my intimates.

Chapter 89

This psalm speaks of the kingship of the House of David, the psalmist lamenting its fall from power for many years, and G-d's abandonment and spurning of us.

1. A maskil1 by Eitan the Ezrachite. 2. I will sing of the Lord's kindness forever; to all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth. 3. For I have said, "The world is built with kindness; there in the heavens You establish Your faithfulness.” 4. I have made a covenant with My chosen one; I have sworn to David, My servant: 5. "I will establish Your descendants forever; I will build your throne for all generations," Selah. 6. Then the heavens will extol Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness, too, in the congregation of the holy ones. 7. Indeed, who in heaven can be compared to the Lord, who among the supernal beings can be likened to the Lord! 8. The Almighty is revered in the great assembly of the holy ones, awe-inspiring to all who surround Him. 9. O Lord, G-d of Hosts, who is mighty like You, O G-d! Your faithfulness surrounds You. 10. You rule the vastness of the sea; when its waves surge, You still them. 11. You crushed Rahav (Egypt) like a corpse; with Your powerful arm You scattered Your enemies. 12. Yours are the heavens, the earth is also Yours; the world and all therein-You established them. 13. The north and the south-You created them; Tabor and Hermon sing of [the greatness] of Your Name. 14. Yours is the arm which has the might; strengthen Your hand, raise high Your right hand. 15. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; kindness and truth go before Your countenance. 16. Fortunate is the people who know the sound of the shofar; Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance. 17. They rejoice in Your Name all day, and they are exalted through Your righteousness. 18. Indeed, You are the splendor of their might, and in Your goodwill our glory is exalted. 19. For our protectors turn to the Lord, and our king to the Holy One of Israel. 20. Then You spoke in a vision to Your pious ones and said: "I have granted aid to [David] the mighty one; I have exalted the one chosen from among the people. 21. I have found David, My servant; I have anointed him with My holy oil. 22. It is he whom My hand shall be prepared [to assist]; My arm, too, shall strengthen him. 23. The enemy shall not prevail over him, nor shall the iniquitous person afflict him. 24. And I will crush his adversaries before him, and will strike down those who hate him. 25. Indeed, My faithfulness and My kindness shall be with him, and through My Name his glory shall be exalted. 26. I will set his hand upon the sea, his right hand upon the rivers. 27. He will call out to Me, 'You are my Father, my G-d, the strength of my deliverance.’ 28. I will also make him [My] firstborn, supreme over the kings of the earth. 29. I will maintain My kindness for him forever; My covenant shall remain true to him. 30. And I will bestow [kingship] upon his seed forever, and his throne will endure as long as the heavens last. 31. If his children forsake My Torah and do not walk in My ordinances; 32. if they profane My statutes and do not observe My commandments, 33. then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their misdeeds with plagues. 34. Yet I shall not take away My kindness from him, nor betray My faithfulness. 35. I will not abrogate My covenant, nor change that which has issued from My lips. 36. One thing I have sworn by My holiness-I will not cause disappointment to David. 37. His seed will endure forever and his throne will be [resplendent] as the sun before Me. 38. Like the moon, it shall be established forever; [the moon] is a faithful witness in the sky for all time.” 39. Yet You have forsaken and abhorred; You became enraged at Your anointed. 40. You annulled the covenant with Your servant; You have profaned his crown [by casting it] to the ground. 41. You shattered all his fences; You turned all his strongholds into ruin. 42. All wayfarers despoiled him; he has become a disgrace to his neighbors. 43. You have uplifted the right hand of his adversaries; You have made all his enemies rejoice. 44. You also turned back the blade of his sword, and did not sustain him in battle. 45. You put an end to his splendor, and toppled his throne to the ground. 46. You have cut short the days of his youth; You have enclothed him with long-lasting shame. 47. How long, O Lord, will You conceal Yourself-forever? [How long] will Your fury blaze like fire? 48. O remember how short is my life span! Why have You created all children of man for naught? 49. What man can live and not see death, can save his soul forever from the grave? 50. Where are Your former deeds of kindness, my Lord, which You swore to David in Your faithfulness? 51. Remember, my Lord, the disgrace of Your servants, that I bear in my bosom from all the many nations; 52. that Your enemies have disgraced, O Lord, that they have disgraced the footsteps of Your anointed. 53. Blessed is the Lord forever, Amen and Amen.

Chapter 90

David found this prayer in its present form-receiving a tradition attributing it to MosesThe Midrash attributes the next eleven psalms to Moses (Rashi).-and incorporated it into the Tehillim. It speaks of the brevity of human life, and inspires man to repent and avoid pride in this world.

1. A prayer by Moses, the man of G-d. My Lord, You have been a shelter for us in every generation. 2. Before the mountains came into being, before You created the earth and the world-for ever and ever You are Almighty G-d. 3. You diminish man until he is crushed, and You say, "Return, you children of man.” 4. Indeed, a thousand years are in Your eyes like yesterday that has passed, like a watch of the night. 5. The stream of their life is as but a slumber; in the morning they are like grass that sprouts anew. 6. In the morning it thrives and sprouts anew; in the evening it withers and dries. 7. For we are consumed by Your anger, and destroyed by Your wrath. 8. You have set our wrongdoings before You, our hidden sins before the light of Your countenance. 9. For all our days have vanished in Your wrath; we cause our years to pass like a fleeting sound. 10. The days of our lives number seventy years, and if in great vigor, eighty years; most of them are but travail and futility, passing quickly and flying away. 11. Who can know the intensity of Your anger? Your wrath is commensurate with one's fear of You. 12. Teach us, then, to reckon our days, that we may acquire a wise heart. 13. Relent, O Lord; how long [will Your anger last]? Have compassion upon Your servants. 14. Satiate us in the morning with Your kindness, then we shall sing and rejoice throughout our days. 15. Give us joy corresponding to the days You afflicted us, the years we have seen adversity. 16. Let Your work be revealed to Your servants, and Your splendor be upon their children. 17. May the pleasantness of the Lord our G-d be upon us; establish for us the work of our hands; establish the work of our hands.


Chapter 90

8. You have set our wrongdoings before You, our hidden sins before the light of Your countenance.

9. For all our days have vanished in Your wrath; we cause our years to pass like a fleeting sound. 
10. The days of our lives number seventy years, and if in great vigor, eighty years; most of them are but travail and futility, passing quickly and flying away.


31. If his children forsake My Torah and do not walk in My ordinances; 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Week 30 (Book 4b): Sered, Nets and Chains

11. "I went down to the nut garden to see the green plants of the valley, to see whether the vine had blossomed, the pomegranates were in bloom.                       
12. I did not know; my soul made me chariots for a princely people."                   
1. "Return, return, O Shulammite; return, return, and let us gaze upon you." "What will you see for the Shulammite, as in the dance of the two camps?


TALMUD SHEVUOTH: Daf 30 – Distancing oneself from falsehood, and communal oaths.


Week 30 in the Jewish calendar is the last week of Nissan, which includes the yahrzeit of Yehoshua and Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The first verse of Shir HaShirim for this week make reference to a nut garden, green plants, a vine and pomegranites. Rashi’s comments show these descriptions refer in large part to Torah scholarship and fulfillment of the commandments. Interestingly, Rashi also specifically mentions “teachers of the Misnah,” the Oral Torah transmitted from Moshe to Yehoshua, and from Yehoshua to the elders and future generations.

Rashi also brings a second homilectic interpretation regarding the meaning of the nut garden: “Just as if this nut falls into the mud, its interior does not become sullied, so are the Israelites exiled among the nations and smitten with many blows, but their deeds are not sullied.” This is a very fitting description of the events of the Holocaust.

The second and third verses also speak of exile, specifically the Roman exile, which we are still presently in, and in which the Holocaust took place.

12. I did not know; my soul made me chariots for a princely people." 
Rashi - I did not know: The congregation of Israel laments: I did not know to beware of sin, that I should retain my honor and my greatness, and I erred in the matter of groundless hatred and controversy, which intensified during the reign of the Hasmonean kings, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, until one of them brought the kingdom of Rome and received the kingship from their hand and became their vassal, and since then, my soul made me to be chariots, that the nobility of other nations ride upon me.
The Second Temple was ultimately destroyed due to baseless hatred. Failure to learn the lessons from those events are what have kept us in exile until this day.

Of the seventy souls of the Jewish people that descended to Egypt, the thirtieth mentioned is Sered. A Sarad is a netmaker or maker of chains (Aruch). Yehoshua would capture and absorb every word of Moshe, just like a netmaker would capture fish. Yehoshua Bin Nun literally means, Joshua the son of a fish (a reference to Moshe himself). Chains are also an appropriate metaphor for this week, given the captivity we endured during the Holocaust.

Daf Lamed (Folio 30) of Shvuot starts a new chapter regarding an oath taken by a witness in a Jewish court. The daf discusses to whom this oath applies, rules regarding not favoring one party over another, and distancing oneself from falsehood. Much of this seems to apply to Yehoshua. There is also an emphasis on the collectivity of the Jewish people, with many verses referring to Am: "B'Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha" … "va'Yeshev Moshe... va'Ya'amod ha'Am.Yom HaShoah marks a time that was rife with falsehood, as well as a time when all Jews were collectively persecuted, regardless of religiosity, ethnicity or nationality.

Chapter 30 of the Book of Jeremiah contains a similar theme to the above. As many of the the other chapters in the Book, it speaks of the destruction and calamity that is to take place, but Rashi notes that it does not only refer to the destruction of the Temple and the Babylonian exile, but also of Gog and Magog. The words also make reference to pains that are like birth pangs (similar to the birth pangs leading up to the Messianic era (Chevlei Mashiach). Many believe that the Holocaust is to be considered Chevlei Mashiach. Also, different than in previous chapters, this one brings a silver lining, stating that unlike other nations, the Jewish people would not be completely destroyed.

5. For so said the Lord: A sound of quaking we have heard, fear, and there is no peace. 

Rashi: A sound of quaking we have heard: Some interpret this as alluding to the tidings of Babylon, from which those exiled there quaked. But the Midrash Aggadah explains it as an allusion to the war of Gog and Magog.   

6. Ask now and see whether a male gives birth. Why have I seen every man [with] his hands on his loins like a woman in confinement, and every face has turned to pallor? 

Rashi: whether a male gives birth: Whether it is customary for males to give birth, so that labor pains should seize them like a woman in confinement...   
7. Ho! For that day is great, with none like it, and it is a time of distress for Jacob, through which he shall be saved.  

Rashi: that day: The day of the assassination of Belshazzar and the downfall of Babylon. Another explanation: the day of the downfall of Gog.    .


11. For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you, for I will make an end of all the nations where I dispersed you, but of you I will not make an end, but I will chasten you in measure, and I will not completely destroy you.
12. For so said the Lord: Your injury is painful, your wound grievous. 

13. No one deems your wound to be healed, you have no healing medicines. 

Rashi: to be healed: cure. No one thinks that you will have salvation.   

14. All your lovers have forgotten you, they do not seek you, for I have smitten you with the wound of an enemy, cruel chastisement, for the greatness of your iniquity; your sins are many. 

Week 30 (Book 4a): Yehoshuah and Being Uplifted by the Torah

STORY OF CHANNAH: 2. There is none as holy as the Lord, For there is none besides You; And there is no rock like our God.     

PROVERBS: Chapter 30

TZADIKIM: Divrei Chaim of Sanz (25th of Nissan) and Rabbi Moshe Pallier of Kobrin (29th of Nissan)

Week 30 is the last week of Nissan. It includes the yahrzeit of Yehoshuah and Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the verse of the story of Channah for this week, she exclaims, “2. There is none as holy as the Lord, For there is none besides You; And there is no rock (Tzur) like our G-d.” Rashi cites the Talmud in Berachot, stating, “There is no artisan (Tzayar) like our G-d, Who makes a form within a form (Ber. 10a).” Through pregnancy, G-d shapes and gives life to each one of us. In a similar way, Yehoshua also was “formed” by Hashem through Moshe. Yehoshua is called the son of “Nun,” which is in fact a reference to Moshe. A person’s teacher is like the one who bore him.

Regarding Channah’s verse, the Talmud in Berachot further states as follows:

R. Judah b. Menasiah said: Read not, There is none bilteka, but, There is none lebalotheka [to consume Thee]. For the nature of flesh and blood is not like that of the Holy One, blessed be He. It is the nature of flesh and blood to be outlived by its works, but the Holy One, blessed be He, outlives His works.  

These words are very reminiscent of the Holocaust, when, unfortunately, so many of us were so brutally consumed.

This week’s Pirkei Avot quality is that the Torah “uplifts him.” Few have felt so uplifted as Channah with the birth of her child, and this feeling is very much reflected in the verses above. This quality of being uplifted by the Torah is certainly true of Yehoshuah as well. Yehoshua was not inherently smarter than everyone else, yet he worked on himself to the point that he was eventually chosen as Moshe’s successor because of his dedication to the Torah.[1] The Torah that uplifted so many of our communities after the immense loss and trauma of the Holocaust.

The very beginning of Chapter 28 of the Book of Proverbs addresses the characteristics of being like Joshua, completely dedicated to the Torah humbly accepting its transmission:

2. For I am more boorish than any man, neither do I have man's understanding.
3. Neither have I learned wisdom, nor do I know the knowledge of the holy ones.:
4. Who ascended to heaven and descended? Who gathered wind in his fists? Who wrapped the waters in a garment? Who established all the ends of the earth? What is his name and what is the name of his son, if you know?
5. Every word of God is refined; He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.
6. Do not add to His words, lest He prove to you, and you be found a liar.

The second part of the chapter speaks of a generation gone awry, which seems very related to the events of the Holocaust:
8. Distance falsehood and the lying word from me; give me neither poverty nor wealth; provide me my allotted bread,          
9. lest I become sated and deny, and I say, "Who is the Lord?" And lest I become impoverished and steal, and take hold of the name of my God.         
10. Do not inform on a slave to his master, lest he curse you, and you be found guilty.    
11. A generation that curses its father and does not bless its mother.           
12. A generation that is pure in its eyes, but is not cleansed of its filth.        
13. A generation-how lofty are its eyes! And its eyelids are raised.               
14. A generation whose teeth are [like] swords, and its molars are [like] knives, to devour the poor of the land and the needy of men.      
15. The leech has two daughters, "Give" and "Give." There are three that are not sated, and four that do not say, "Enough!"       
16. The grave, the confined womb, and the earth, which is not sated with water, and fire, which does not say, "Enough!" 
17. The eye that mocks the father and despises the mother's wrinkles-may the ravens of the valley pick it out, and the young eagles devour it.

This week contains the yahrzeits of the founders of two important Chassidic dynasties: Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz and Rabbi Moshe Pallier of Kobrin. From

Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz [1793 - 25 Nissan 1876] was the first Rebbe of the Sanz-Klausenberg dynasty. He is famous for his extraordinary dedication to the mitzvah of tzedaka and also as a renowned Torah scholar; his voluminous and wide-ranging writings were all published under the title Divrei Chaim. His eldest son founded the famous Sanzer synagogue in Tsfat in the middle 1800's. [The dynasties of Bobov and Klausenberg also descend from him]

Rabbi Moshe Pallier of Kobrin [1784 - 29 Nisan 1858] was a close follower of the Rebbe, R. Mordechai of Lechovitch and afterwards of his son, R. Noach. In 1833 he became the first Rebbe of the Kobrin dynasty, with thousands of chassidim, many of whom subsequently moved to Eretz Yisroel. His teachings are collected in Imros Taharos.[2]

Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Nachman of Tulchin (student of Rabbi Nosson of Breslov, 26th of Nissan), Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (Satmar Rebbe, 26th of Nissan), Rabbi Aharon HaKohen Rosenfeld (Pinsk-Karliner Rebbe, 28th of Nissan), and Rabbi Mordechai Shalom Yosef Friedman (Sadigerer Rebbe, 29th of Nissan).


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Week 30 (Book 3): Destruction and Conquest

BESHALACH: 7. And [in the] morning, you shall see the glory of the Lord when He hears your complaints against the Lord but [of] what [significance] are we, that you make [the people] complain against us? 8. And Moses said, When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and bread in the morning [with which] to become sated, when the Lord hears your complaints, which you are making [the people] complain against Him, but [of] what [significance] are we? Not against us are your complaints, but against the Lord.

HAFTORAH: tread down, O my soul, (their) strength. Then were pounded the heels of the horses

TALMUD SOTAH: Daf 30 - Children, fetuses, and the Song of the Sea


JOURNEYS IN THE DESERT: They journeyed from Hor hagidgad and camped in Jotbathah.

Week 30 is the week of Yom HaShoah, and the yahrzeit of Yehoshuah. The Torah portion section for this week speaks of how G-d heard the complaints of the Jewish people, and how Moshe saw himself and Aharon as nothing, Nachnu Mah. Yehoshuah shared this humble character trait of Moshe. The suffering the Jewish people underwent during the Holocaust is indescribable. Yet, we must always remember that G-d hears our complaints.

The Haftorah’s verses for this week speak of the Devorah’s soul treading down, “their” strength, and the pounding of horses. This could refer to Jewish suffering, such as the horrors of the Holocaust, and how the souls and the strength of the Jewish people treaded down to such horror. Yet, as Rashi explains, the simple meaning is that we treaded with our feet over the strength of our enemies, very much like Joshua put his feet on the neck of the Canaanite kings. The horse is a symbol of strength, the Perek Shirah animal of week 31 in Book 1. The pounding of the horses is reminiscent of how the “horse and its rider” were thrown into the sea, during the splitting of the sea in Nissan.

Daf Lamed (Folio 30) of Sotah discusses further certain purity laws regarding terumah and sacrifices. The daf ends by discussing in greater detail how it was that the Song of the Sea took place, how it was sung, and how even babies and unborn fetuses sung as well. What makes the Holocaust so tragic that it was a disaster that reached even infants, babies, and unborn fetuses. Again, we end the month of Nissan returning to the theme of the splitting of the sea.

Boaz, the son of Salmah, was the husband of Ruth. He also was the leader of the Jewish people at the time. Boaz contains the Hebrew word oz, which means strength, perhaps another reference to the strength of Yehoshua as well, and the salvation that came to Ruth after she had witnessed so much death and destruction in her life.

In the thirtieth week, the Jews journey from Hor hagidgad and camp in Jotbathah. Jotbathah means calm, peace and tranquility. The personal journey for this week is to internalize the concept of opening up our hearts to the gift of the mannah, the gift of emunah, and now focus on attaining the peace and tranquility that come with complete faith. Also, this is perhaps a reference to the relative tranquility we now experience as we return to our homeland, celebrated on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, in the coming week.

In Service: Holiness, Sexuality, and the Torah Portion of Kedoshim

This week's Torah portion, as its name indicates, is about holiness. It is full of mitzvot that are essential for a person to be an upstanding ethical citizen, such as keeping the Sabbath, respecting one's parents, leaving part of one's harvest for the poor, not placing a stumbling block in front of the blind, and many others. All of these mitzvot, listed in rapid succession, present us with a general picture of what is expected of us, not only in terms of following the specific commandments, but also going beyond the letter of the law, and fulfilling, as we say in America, the "spirit of the law" as well. 

Yet, despite the varied themes and wide range of mitzvot included in this Torah portion, Rashi's comment on its opening lines suggest a much narrower scope regarding what holiness is all about:

1And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, א. וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָֹה אֶל משֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:
2Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם קְדשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:

RASHI: You shall be holy: Separate yourselves from sexual immorality and from sin, for wherever one finds a barrier against sexual immorality, one finds holiness, [for example:], “[They (the kohanim) shall not take in marriage] a woman who is a prostitute or one who was profaned…I, the Lord, Who sanctifies you [am holy]” (Lev. 21:7-8); and, “he shall not profane his offspring…I am the Lord, Who sanctifies him” (Lev. 21:15); and, “They shall be holy…[They shall not take in marriage] a woman who is a prostitute or one who was profaned” (Lev. 21:6-7). - [Vayikra Rabbah 24:4-6; and see also Sefer Hazikkaron]

The end of last week's portion, Acharei, dealt almost exclusively with sexual sins. However, Kedoshim only discusses sexual sins until much much later, almost as a side note. We see that Rashi himself makes no reference to the previous portion, perhaps due to the very fact that the Torah does not to include these few verses as part of Acharei, but rather as the beginning of an entirely new parashah. (Incidentally, on non-leap years, the two portions are usually read together)

What is Rashi's reason for focusing in on the role of holiness vis-a-vis sexual sins? He is certainly not denying that all the other mitzvot mentioned lead a person to holiness. Rashi seems to be stating the following: "While it is true that all the other deeds depicted below lead to holiness, do not think that you can truly achieve it without separating yourself from sexual immorality and from sin."

Unfortunately, society today has completely distorted the role of sexuality. It is true that the Torah certainly does not see sexual relations as a sin, much less as the "original sin." Sex, within the proper parameters of a marriage, is a mitzvah, the very first mitzvah mentioned in the Torah ("be fruitful and multiply"). Yet, outside the context of marriage, sex is clearly prohibited, mainly because it lacks holiness. Because of various factors, ranging from Freud to marketing, society has greatly cheapened the concept of sexual relations in general, and the female body in particular, greatly cheapening ourselves in the process.

Again, the Torah does not advocate Victorian puritanism, burkas, or anything of the sort, yet we must understand that if we desire to have true holiness in our lives, we have to be in control of our sexual urges, and not the other way around, having them dictate our actions. This certainly applies to married couples, too, and applies not just to sex itself, but to everything we see, touch, hear, and (consciously) think about. (Perhaps that is why Rashi mentions "sexual immorality" and "sin" as two separate concepts. The Ramban explains that one can be a Naval b'Reshut haTorah - a disgusting person, acting in ways that are technically permitted by the Torah).

It might sound a little radical, but as soon as we are in control of our animal side, our soul is free to soar. It is incredibly liberating, and allows for a much stronger and heartfelt connection to G-d. The beauty of Judaism is that it advocates that once our spiritual side is in control and the Torah's precepts are followed, then pleasure is not a sin at all - it is holy, and is itself a praise of the Almighty. Rabbi Chanan Morrison writes the following in the name of Rav Kook:

What is a brachah? When we recite a blessing, we are expressing our awareness of God as the ultimate source for this pleasure. But there is an enjoyment greater than the sensory pleasure that comes from eating food. Eating entitles us to recite a blessing and thus connect with our Creator. We experience an inner joy when we realize that every form of physical pleasure was created with the opportunity to refine the spirit and uplift the soul. (

Above, Rabbi Morrison writes about eating, but, as mentioned in Rashi's comments above, it all comes back to sexuality. This concept is reflected in the writings of many other great sages, such as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk, on the topic of Shmirat Brit Kodesh ("guarding the holy covenant").  

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