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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Week 40 (Book 4): Getting to the Root of the Matter, the Torah




STORY OF CHANNAH: 12 Now the sons of Eli were base men; they knew not the LORD.     

PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: G-d acquired five acquisitions in his world. These are: one acquisition is the Torah… The Torah, as it is written (Proverbs 8:22), "G-d acquired me as the beginning of His way, before His works of yore."

ECCLESIASTES: Chapter 9

TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Menachem-Mendel ("Reb Mendel") Futerfas (4th of Tammuz), Rabbi Simcha Bunim Alter (the “Lev Simcha,” Fifth Rebbe of Ger, 7th of Tammuz), and Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam (the Klausenberger Rebbe, 9th of Tammuz)      


Week 40 is the second week of Tammuz. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli were base men who did not know G-d. The primary way of knowing G-d is through the Torah, and the behavior of Eli’s sons shows a real deficit in this area. Their lack of connection and respect for the Torah was their ultimate downfall.

The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how the Torah is the first of G-d’s acquisitions. In line with the above, we see that the way of Hashem begins with the Torah: "G-d acquired me as the beginning of His way…”

Chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes contains the same concept: everything is dependent on wisdom and righteousness (in other words, on Torah):

1. For all this I laid to my heart and to clarify all this, that the righteous and the wise and their works are in God's hand; even love, even hate, man does not know; everything is before them.

This week contains the yahrzeits of three relatively recent figures in Chassidic world: Rabbi Menachem-Mendel ("Reb Mendel") Futerfas (4th of Tammuz, 1995), Rabbi Simcha Bunim Alter (the “Lev Simcha,” Fifth Rebbe of Ger, 7th of Tammuz, 1992), and Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam (the Klausenberger Rebbe, 9th of Tammuz, 1994)

From Ascent.org

Rabbi Menachem-Mendel ("Reb Mendel") Futerfas (1906 - 4 Tammuz 1995), was a near legendary Lubavitcher chasid, even for those who knew him personally. In 1947 he was arrested for administrating networks of underground yeshivas and Jewish schools, and for facilitating the repatriation of thousands of Soviet Jews to Poland after WWII, and sentenced to 8 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps, which he went through without compromising any religious observances, despite the cruel pressure to do so. After another six years in Siberian exile he was allowed to emigrate to England, thanks to an appeal for family repatriation made by prime minister Harold Wilson during his summit meeting in Moscow with Chairman Nikita Khrushchev. In 1973 settled in Kfar Chabad, Israel, for the rest of his life.


From Matzav.com:

Rav Simcha Bunim Alter zt”l, also known as the Lev Simcha after the works he authored, was the fifth Rebbe of Ger, a position he held from 1977 until 1992.

The Alter mishpacha managed to escape from Poland during the Holocaust to Eretz Yisroel. Prior to becoming Rebbe of Ger, Rav Simcha Bunim Alter was supposedly extremely successful as a businessman, although it is not known what line of business he was in. During the time of his leadership, Ger grew greatly in Eretz Yisroel. He continued the family tradition of vigorous leadership of the Agudas Yisroel party in the Knesset.Rav Simcha Bunim instituted the daily learning of a page of Talmud Yerushalami.

From Ascent.org

Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam [1904-9 Tammuz 1994] the Klausenberger Rebbe, also became the post-war Rebbe of the Sanz Chassidim. One of the foremost Chasidic leaders of his generation, he is best known for his revitalization of the study of Talmud through "Mifal Shas" and the building of a hospital, Laniado in Netanya, that functions at the highest standards of Jewish law and medical practice.


Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Pinchas HaLevi Horowitz (brother of Rabbi Shmuel "Shmelke" of Nicholsburg, teacher of the Chattam Sofer, 7th of Tammuz) and Rabbi Boruch Frankel-Tumim (father-in-law of R' Chaim of Sanz, 7th of Tammuz).

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Week 41 (Book 4): Not Corrupting G-d's World


STORY OF CHANNAH: 13. And this was the due of the priests from the people: (whenever) any man would slaughter a sacrifice, the servant of the priest would come when (one) cooked the flesh, with a three-pronged fork in his hand.   
 
QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: one acquisition are the heavens and the earth… The heavens and the earth, as it is written (Isaiah 66:1), "So says G-d: The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool; what house, then, can you build for Me, and where is My place of rest?"; and it says (Psalms 104:25), "How many are your works, O G-d, You have made them all with wisdom; the earth is filled with Your acquisitions."  

ECCLESIASTES: Chapter 10

TZADIKKIM:  Rav Tzvi Hirsch Eichenstein of Zhidatchov (11th of Tammuz) and Rabbi Chaim Ibn Atar (the Ohr HaChaim, 15th of Tammuz)


Week 41 includes the seventeenth of Tammuz as well as the Chassidic holiday of Yud Beit/Yud Gimmel Tammuz. The story of Chanah’s verse for this week describes how the sons of Eli established a law in which any person bringing a sacrifice had to give an additional portion to them, even more than what was designated by Torah law. (See Rashi) Their actions were a Hillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s name, which denigrated the Mishkan in the eyes of the people. The seventeenth of Tammuz is, in great part, related to the corruption of the Jewish people at the time, particularly the Temple’s priests, which led to its downfall.

This week’s Pirkei Avot acquisition is the heavens and the earth. The verses related to it mention the Temple, as well as its limitations as the house of G-d. What is particularly relevant about this verse, as related to the above account, is that since everything is G-d’s (and the Temple is G-d’s house), how dare the sons of Eli take anything more for themselves of what clearly belongs to G-d, the Master and Owner of all of heaven and earth.

Chapter 10 of Kohelet contains a passage referring to the centrality of heaven and earth, and one should not abuse their contents and using them in an improper way:

16. Woe to you, O land whose king is a lad, and your princes eat in the morning.   
17. Fortunate are you, O land, whose king is the son of nobles, and your princes eat at the proper time, in might and not in drinking.       
18. Through laziness the rafter sinks, and with idleness of the hands the house leaks.         
19. On joyous occasions, a feast is made, and wine gladdens the living, and money answers everything.                 
20. Even in your thought, you shall not curse a king, nor in your bedrooms shall you curse a wealthy man, for the bird of the heaven shall carry the voice, and the winged creature will tell the matter.

Rashi: the bird of the heaven: the soul, which is placed within you, which will ultimately fly up to the heaven.

This week contains the yahrzeits of Rebbe Tzvi-Hirsh Eichenstein  (first rebbe of Zhidachov, 11th of Tammuz) and Rabbi Chaim Ibn Atar (the Ohr HaChaim, 15th of Tammuz).

From Ascent:

Rebbe Tzvi-Hirsh Eichenstein [1785 - 11 Tammuz 1831], founder of the Zhidachov dynasty, was a prominent disciple of the Seer of Lublin. He championed the position that the practice of Chasidism had to be firmly based on the study of the Kabbala of the holy Ari of Safed. He wrote and published numerous commentaries on Kabbala, including Ateret Tzvi on the Zohar, and several on the weekly readings. The Malbimwas a student of his. He was succeeded by three nephew-disciples, including Yitzhak-Isaac of Zhidachov and Yitzhak-Isaac-Yehuda-Yechiel of Komarno.

Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) Ibn Atar (1696 - 15 Tammuz 1743) is best known as the author of one of the most important and popular commentaries on the Torah: the Ohr HaChaim. He established a major yeshiva in Israel, after moving there from Morocco. Chassidic tradition is that the main reason the Baal Shem Tov twice tried so hard (and failed) to get to the Holy Land was that he said if he could join the Ohr HaChaim there, together they could bring Moshiach. His burial site outside the Old City of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, is considered a propitious place to pray.



Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Elazar of Reishe (15th of Tammuz), Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Heschel of Kopischnitz (16th of Tammuz), and Rabbi Shmuel Yaacov Weinberg (17th of Tammuz).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Week 42 (Book 4): The Importance of Giving (not Taking By Force)




STORY OF CHANNAH: 14. And he would thrust into the fire-pot, or into the pot, or into the cauldron, or into the pan, everything which the fork would pick up, the priest would take therewith; so would they do to all Israel who came there in Shiloh.

PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: one acquisition is Abraham... Abraham, as it is written (Genesis 14:19), "And he blessed him, and said: Blessed be Abram to G-d Most High, acquirer of heavens and earth."

ECCLESIASTES: Chapter 11

TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht (21st of Tammuz), Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin (22nd of Tammuz), and Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (23rd of Tammuz).  

Week 42 is the last week of Tammuz, part of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would take for themselves a disproportionate part of the sacrifice of each Jewish person. This behavior is antithetical to the Torah, which is primarily about love and about giving. The main reason the Second Temple was destroyed was because of Sinat Chinam, gratuitous hatred, caused by acts like these.

The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how Abraham is one of G-d’s acquisitions. Abraham’s entire essence was about giving and love. The quotation that accompanies the above statement in Pirkei Avot comes immediately before Abraham gives ten percent of all he has to Malchitzedek, a priest (lit. Kohen). Abraham gave to the priest out of his own will, in contrast to the the sons of Eli, who forcefully took for themselves even more than what they were entitled.

Chapter 11 of Ecclesiastes begins with the same concept: the importance of giviing:

1. Send forth your bread upon the surface of the water, for after many days you will find it.

2. Give a portion to seven and even to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.

Rashi comments:

Send forth your bread upon the surface of the water: Do goodness and kindness to a person about whom your heart tells you that you will never see him again, like a person who casts his food upon the surface of the water.

for after many days you will find it: Days will yet come, and you will receive your recompense. Note what is said about Jethro (Exod. 2:20): “Call him that he should eat bread,” and he thought that he (Moses) was an Egyptian and that he would never see him again. What was his end? He became his son- in-law and reigned over Israel and brought him under the wings of the Shechinah, and his sons and grandsons merited to sit in the Chamber of Hewn Stone.

Give a portion to seven and even to eight: If you have shared your food and your drink with seven who need kindness, share further with eight who come after them, and do not say, “Enough.”

for you do not know what evil will be: Perhaps days will yet come and you will need them all. Then you will be saved from the evil by this charity, and if not now, when?

This week contains the yahrzeits of three important figures in Chassidism and Kabbalah: Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht (21st of Tammuz), Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin (22nd of Tammuz), and Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (23rd  of Tammuz).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Avraham Mattisyahu Fridman of Shtefanesht [1848 - 21 Tamuz 1933], in Romania, was the grandson of the holy Rabbi Yisroel of Rhzhin. He succeeded his father, Rabbi Menachem Nochum, to be the second Rebbe in the dynasty, in 1869. While famed for his miraculous powers and having thousands of followers and admirers, he was also considered one of the true hidden tzadikim of his generation. In 1969 his remains -- which witnesses alive today testify were still as whole and fresh as the day he died! -- were exhumed and transferred from Romania to Nachlas Yitzchok in Tel Aviv, where his grave is still a holy site of prayer for thousands of Jews.

R. Shlomo of Karlin [1738-22 Tammuz 1792], was also a student of the Maggid, as well as of Reb Aharon the Great of Karlin, whom he succeeded in 1772. Most of the Chassidic leaders of the next generation in the Lithuanian region were his disciples. He died Kiddush HaShem, stabbed by a Cossack while in the midst of theAmida prayer.
Rabbi Moshe Kordevero (1522-23 Tammuz 1570), known by the anacronym of his name: Ramak, was considered the head of the Tsfat Kabbalists until his death shortly after the arrival of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria. Author of many major works of Kabbalah, including Pardes Rimonim ("Orchard of Pomegranates"), in which he systematized all kabbalistic knowledge that had been revealed until then.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Week 43 (Book 4): Israel, an Acquisition of G-d

STORY OF CHANNAH: 15. Also, before they would make the fat smoke, and the servant of the priest would come, and would say to the man who slaughtered, 'Give meat to roast for the priest, and he will not take from you cooked meat, but raw.    
       
PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: and one acquisition is the people of Israel… Israel, as it is written (Exodus 15:16), "Till Your nation, O G-d, shall pass, till this nation You have acquired shall pass"; and it says (Psalms 16:3), "To the holy who are upon earth, the noble ones, in whom is all My delight."      

ECCLESIASTES: Chapter 12

TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 26th of Tammuz), Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (the Yismach Moshe, 28th of Tammuz),  and Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov (Rosh Chodesh Av).  

Week 43 is the week of Rosh Chodesh Av, the second of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would take for themselves would use a servant of the priests to force the Jewish person to give a great portion of his sacrifice even before it was ready. Their behavior showed a great disdain for the Jewish person bringing the sacrifice, as well as for those that served the priests in the Tabernacle.

The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how the people of Israel is one of G-d’s acquisitions. The verses cited in support for this concept speak of how the Jews were acquired to be G-d’s servants after being freed from Egyptian servitude. They also speak of the Jewish people’s holy and noble character.  The sons of Eli denigrate both aspects above: they use the priests’ servants in the Tabernacle for their own selfish motives, and belittle the holiness and importance of the sacrifices brought by the people.

Chapter 12 is the last chapter of Ecclesiastes. The book ends with the well known words that encapsule the above relationship that the Jewish people have with G-d:

13. The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man.

14. For every deed God will bring to judgment-for every hidden thing, whether good or bad.
These words make clear our role as G-d’s servants, followers of His commandments.  They also point to just how noble and holy is this task – “for this is the entire man.”
Rashi’s comments also reflect this:

The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God: What you can, do, and let your heart be to Heaven.

and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man: Because, for this matter, the entire man was created.

This week contains the yahrzeits of two prominent figures in Hungarian Jewry Chassidic Rebbes: Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, 26th of Tammuz) and Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum (the Yismach Moshe, 28th of Tammuz).  Also this week is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov (Rosh Chodesh Av).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum [1759-28 Tammuz 1841], known as the Yismach Moshe after the title of his book of Torah commentary, was famed both as a scholar and wonderworker. A disciple of the Seer of Lublin, he was instrumental in the spread of Chasidut in Hungary. His descendants founded the dynasties of Satmar and Sighet.

From Chevrat Pinto:

Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was born in Ungvar, Hungary in 1804 (5564). His father, Rabbi Yossef Ganzfried, died during his childhood, and this orphan was brought up by one of the great of his generation, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Heller, better known as Rabbi Hirsch Charif, the Rav of Ungvar. He saw in the boy the potential of becoming one of the great authorities of Israel. During all the years of learning next to his teacher, his soul thirsted to penetrate the depths of Halachah until a clear answer was achieved. It was this objective that was the driving force of his various Halachic books, and which pushed him to give us – us and future generations – books destined for the instruction of practical Halachah. All those that devoted themselves to the Torah and all Talmidei Chachamim received everything that he wrote in the field of Halachah with favor and love. Yet more than with any other book, each of which in itself represented a special blessing, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried acquired great merit for himself with his Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a work that greatly benefited the general public. Beginning from 1864 (5624), when it was printed for the first time in Ungvar, this book has for more than a century been reprinted dozens of times in hundreds of thousands of copies. This has never been the case with any other author or book of its kind, so much so that Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried’s Kitzur Shulchan Aruch has become one of the most popular works of all time, destined for and worthy of every Jew. It is in complete harmony with Rabbi Yossef Caro’s hope that “young students consult it [the Shulchan Aruch] constantly, studying it by heart and having this study of youth well in their mouths in order to know the Halachah in each specific case, and also so as not to distance themselves from it in their old age.” Kitzur Shulchan Aruch study groups have been formed in hundreds of cities and towns, with the goal of learning and disseminating its teachings to the public at large in synagogues and houses of study.

“Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was a man aided by Providence,” of the great masters of Lithuanian Jewry once said concerning him. In fact, none of the great men of Israel have ever seen in their lifetime, as did he, their works crowned by Halachic commentaries and new Dinim of other Rabbis. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was printed 14 times during the lifetime of the author, and at each reprint he himself added numerous new Dinim. During his lifetime, Rav Ishaya Hacohen came and “encircled” his work with a commentary entitled Misgeret HaShulchan (lit. “The Border of the Table”), which was printed, with permission from Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, together with the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. This resulted in a book that was important both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Despite the fact that Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried’s Shulchan was already vast in scope and had all sorts of sub-divisions, he decided to stay with the title Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (“Abridged Shulchan Aruch”). When a close friend asked why he incessantly clung to the name Kitzur, he responded with a smile: “In the book of Psalms, it is written, ‘You prepare [ta’aroch] a table [shulchan] before me’ [Psalms 23:5]. It not written, “You will lengthen [ta’arich] a table [shulchan] before me.’ ” May his merit protect us all. Amen.

Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov, [1907 - 1 Av 2000], survived the Holocaust along with only 300 chasidim, succeeding his father who was among those martyred. Settling in Manhattan and then different locations in Brooklyn, he served as the third rebbe in the Bobover dynasty for over 50 years, rebuilding Bobov to an even more thousands than his father had before the war. In addition to being wise and pious, he was noted for his steadfastness in not taking sides in disputes. Interestingly, he passed away on the same Hebrew date as Aharon the High Priest, who was the first Jew to be known for "loving peace and pursuing peace" (Avot 1:12).

From Ascent:



Rabbi Shlomo (ben Benzion) Halberstam of Bobov, [1907 - 1 Av 2000], survived the Holocaust along with only 300 chasidim, succeeding his father who was among those martyred. Settling in Manhattan and then different locations in Brooklyn, he served as the third rebbe in the Bobover dynasty for over 50 years, rebuilding Bobov to an even more thousands than his father had before the war. In addition to being wise and pious, he was noted for his steadfastness in not taking sides in disputes. Interestingly, he passed away on the same Hebrew date as Aharon the High Priest, who was the first Jew to be known for "loving peace and pursuing peace" (Avot 1:12).

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Week 44 (Book 4): Building G-d's House

 

STORY OF CHANNAH: 16. And (if) the man said to him, 'Let them make the fat smoke now, and (then) take for yourself, as your soul desires,' And he would say, 'No, but now you shall give. And if not, I shall take by force.'

PIRKEI AVOT ON G-D’S ACQUISITIONS: and one acquisition is the Holy Temple… The Holy Temple, as it is written (Exodus 15:17), "The base for Your dwelling that you,   G-d, have achieved; the Sanctuary, O L-rd, that Your hands have established"; and it says (Psalms 78:54), "And He brought them to His holy domain, this mount His right hand has acquired."

PSALM 127: A song of ascents about Solomon. If the Lord will not build a house, its builders have toiled at it in vain…

TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal, 5th of Av) and Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (the Chozeh of Lublin, 9th of Av)

Week 44 is the week of Tisha B’Av, the third of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. The verse from the story of Channah speaks of how the sons of Eli would threaten to take a portion of the sacrifices by force, even before they were ready. Their behavior showed a great disdain for the laws of sacrifices and for the person bringing it. Their actions are reminiscent of the baseless hatred at the time of the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av and of the corruption of the priests of those days as well.
The quotation from Pirkei Avot is about how the Temple is one of G-d’s acquisitions. The verses cited in support for this concept speak of how the Temple is G-d’s dwelling, which He established and acquired with His hands. In contrast, the sons of Eli spoke out of a sense of entitlement, as if the Tabernacle and the sacrifices were theirs. They placed their will before that of G-d, to Whom the Tabernacle truly belonged.

Chapter 127 in the Book of Psalms was said by King Solomon. The psalm is about building of the Temple, and how its success is totally dependent on G-d’s will. Failure to keep G-d’s will will lead to its ultimate destruction, as took place on Tisha B’Av. (See Rashi)
This week contains the yahrzeits of two of the greatest masters of Kabbalah and Chassidut: Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal, father of Kabbalah as we know it, 5th of Av) and Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (the Chozeh of Lublin, successor of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk,9th of Av).

From Ascent:
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-5 Av 1572), Known as "the holy Ari," revolutionized the study of Kabbalah and its integration into mainstream Judaism during the two years he spent in Zefat before his death at 38. Much of Chasidic thought is based on the Ari's kabbalah teachings, as recorded by his main disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital. (For a fuller biography) (For teachings of the Ari translated into English)

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (1745 - 9 Av 1815), known as 'the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin', was the successor to R. Elimelech of Lizensk (1717-1787), and leader of the spread of chassidus in Poland. Many great Rebbes of the next generation emerged from his followers, including: the Yid HaKodesh, Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, Meir of Apta, David of Lelov, the Yismach Moshe, the Sabba Kadisha of Radoshitz, the Bnai Yisasscher, Rabbi Naftali Zvi of Ropshitz, the Maor Vashemesh and Sar Shalom of Belz. Many of his insights were published posthumously in Divrei Emmes, Zichron Zos, and Zos Zichron.
Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Shimshon Ostropolier (3rd of Av), Rabbi Chaim Yechezkel Taub of Ozorov (3rd of Av), Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky (first Skverer Rebbe in America, 3rd of Av), Rabbi Ephraim Taub of Kuzmir (4th of Av), Rabbi Benzion Halberstam (2nd Bobover Rebbe, 4th of Av)
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